20 April 2019
After a fast and furious national final season that saw many countries wait until the mid-March deadline to decide their songs, it’s the year of the solo men with nearly half the field comprising of such artists. They also fill the top 5 places in the betting, so if you want to see women exert their dominance, this is the page to see.
One woman that did exert her dominance sadly won’t be in Tel Aviv. That was MARUV from Ukraine. Without a Ukrainian entry, that leaves the weak first semi final with only 17 songs and even weaker, and the competition in general lacking further in uptempo songs. The second semi final is easily the hot one this year with four of the top 5 favourites there, with another sharing fourth place with Italy. Overall, six of the top 10 favourites are in the second semi compared to three in the first.
On with the show! As per previous years, each song is categorised under the 5-star rating system, and I’ll reveal each of the Fab Five at the break of each category.
Zero Stars (Dreadful)
41 Portugal – Conan Osiris – Telemoveis
This is just plain bad. It’s random noise with weird dancing. Apparently understanding the lyrics (about the intrusion of mobile phones in our lives) would help. No, the next time I listened, I hated it even more. This is the first time I’ve had a zero star category, and Portugal can count themselves lucky at that. When I listen through all songs for the final time, I scored them as -2.
One Star (Poor)
40 Poland – Tulia – Fire of Love (Pali Sie)
This high-pitched folk style of singing destroys any interest in the song for me. I can barely listen to it all. A shame, because the song seems ok underneath all that shrill noise.
39 Italy – Mahmood – Soldi
Not sold on Soldi at all. There’s a bit of a buzz for this, and I suspect it’s similar to France last year with Merci that it’s about refugees or immigrants, in a sense. Mahmood has an Egyptian father and part of the song is in Arabic, and the song seems to be about a derelict (muslim) father. Musically there’s a nice vibe to it; it just doesn’t project any feeling onto me. Perhaps that could change with live performance. Over 2 million youtube views suggests it has some following and it’s in the top 5 of betting.
38 Latvia – Carousel – That Night
This is promising before becoming so repetitious. Just when you thought the song is over and there’s no more “Love, where are you. Love, I need you.” you get hit again. Arghh!
37 Iceland – Hatari – Hatrio Mun Sigra
In English it’s Haters with Hate Will Prevail, and don’t worry, hate will prevail. I’ll continue to hate it right through Eurovision. If there was some semblance of singing instead of the growling in it, there would be some appeal to it. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time, and if it does well, it’s likely from some perverse novelty factor. Most interest will be from their media interviews, as they are really a joke act raging against capitalism and “unveil the anomie of neoliberal society, the pointlessness of every minute spent in the futile race, and the low price for which man now sells himself ever more blatantly”. Despite their controversial nature that gained them much initial attention, general interest in them has waned, and youtube views of their national final performance are at 1.2 million.
36 Hungary – Joci Papai – Az En Apam
Don’t you hate when previous Eurovision artists return and bring a worse song than before? That’s saying something because I never much liked Origo in 2017 anyway. Joci is in the weak first semi so actually could qualify.
05 Malta – Michela – Chameleon
Curiously, this song has been advertised when watching other songs on the official Eurovision channel, so how much the 5 million views is attributed to that or to the song itself, who really knows. Obviously I love it with its quirky chorus and superb production. Malta changed their selection pattern this year too, to find a winning artist, then assign a song later. Previous years of simply sending their national final winning song and singer to Eurovision hasn’t worked as hoped. Personally, that’s more because they go crazy with the staging rather than let the song do the talking. Let’s see if they change that this year because they do have a great song that can stand alone, even with it being in the tough second semi final.
Two Stars (OK)
35 France – Bilal Hassani – Roi
When news came through Bilal won his national final thanks to a mammoth public vote compared to the jury, initial thoughts were he had some sort of massive celebrity profile already. That’s true, as Bilal, gay of Moroccan descent, has a wildly successful youtube channel and is known for his variety of wigs, and this has crossed over into views of his song with 1.6 million of the official video and 6.6 million of his national final performance, which even beats Russia (at the time of writing) with 6 million views. This fame was pivotal in his win as Roi is a rather dull song and Bilal’s live vocals are seriously lacking. Doubtful he’ll be king in Tel Aviv. More like pauper.
34 Croatia – Roko – The Dream
Very old fashioned, and wings are so 2008 when Azerbaijan displayed them for their debut appearance. Wait! Eleven years on might make them more fashionable again and help get some votes. This would be better if not for Roko trying to sing as loud as possible rather than sing as well as possible. Perhaps his team will sort him out and he could surprise us.
33 Albania – Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju Tokes
Presented much better live at their national final last year; in this slickly produced video it’s all a bit too artificial.
32 Israel – Kobi Marimi – Home
It took quite a few listens to get much out of this, and that’s typically not a good sign. Nice vocals and message, it will need a quality presentation to do well at home.
31 North Macedonia – Tamara Todevska – Proud
A decent ballad about female empowerment. Personally I’d rather see actual empowerment with a better, and less cliche, song.
30 Slovenia – Zala Kralj & Gasper Santl – Sebi
There’s a nice sound and style to this; it just doesn’t go anywhere.
29 Georgia – Oto Nemsadze – Keep On Going
Georgia brought the most forgettable song last year, and sadly this year’s entry hasn’t been sighted on many people’s radars. Even with the song’s name changed into English hasn’t helped anyone notice. Perhaps Oto should change his own name to Gonzo Wankalot for attention? When I ran through all the songs for the first time, I wasn’t even sure I had the right one in the playlist. Alas, it was, and it wasn’t so bad. Even now I like it a little. It’s just all so forgettable and will needed an amazing presentation to excel.
04 Armenia – Srbuk – Walking Out
This is one that slowly crept up on me, and the song itself is much the same. Relying on big, powerful vocals, most of the drama comes during the final minute. Before that Srbuk takes you on a rollercoaster ride through her vocal abilities and if she’s this good live, it’s an easy ride the final, even from the tough second semi final. While the song doesn’t automatically engage like some others do, it’s easily one of the most impressive tracks vocally, and success at Eurovision is often about big moments. It’s reminiscent of LoveWave by Iveta Mukuchyan in 2016 for Armenia: a bit of a sleeper song until the brilliant vocals blasted it off the stage. At 4 million youtube views, Walking Out is one of the most watched too.
Three Stars (Good)
26 Montenegro – D mol – Heaven
If there’s one thing consistent about a Montenegrin Eurovision video, it’s mountains. They love showing off their country! Heaven sort of goes through a few stages: nice start, gets a bit bland with the repetitive chorus, then finishes nicely, especially the music. Will be thankful to be in the weak first semi final, and being a group and getting the vocal harmonies right, could help it. The downside is groups can be tough to getting work on stage and can look like competing for attention.
27 United Kingdom – Michael Rice – Bigger Than Us
The song John Lundvik apparently entered into Melodifestivalen for himself, and producers suggested he perform Too Late For Love. Bigger Than Us was handed to Michael Rice, and gained him selection to Eurovision. Both songs are a similar style with a gospel feel and big voices. Michael has a nice voice; does he have the charisma? It would be funny if he beat Lundvik in Tel Aviv.
26 Spain – Miki – La Venda
A decent fun, party song from Spain. No doubt it will get the arena jumping up and down. No doubt very few votes will come Spain’s way. Europe simply doesn’t vote for Spain even when they bring good songs.
25 Finland – Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman – Look Away
The 9 minute song split into three separate ones, and it was a unanimous win for Look Away with every jury member, and the public, voting for it. Darude was mega famous for Sandstorm (actually, I couldn’t recall it) and any ideas of another global anthem were quickly quashed upon release of his candidate songs. All were good without being anything special. This is the second straight year Finland chose an artist in advance to present three songs, and it hasn’t worked. Look Away is more a mudsplash than a sandstorm, and would be thankful to be in the weak first semi final. Name recognition and really lifting the arena will be the key.
24 Ireland – Sarah McTernan – 22
Nice, infectious country vibe, it’s the sort of song that will need a soft, evocative performance to do well, especially from semi final 2.
23 Sweden – John Lundvik – Too Late For Love
While it was the “anointed one” right from the start, Too Late For Love is no token winner, being an incredibly uplifting and powerful song, with a superb use of a gospel choir, and with a brilliant charismatic performance by Lundvik himself. He’s a class act, has a great voice and the “hear me” parts of Too Late For Love are so compelling. The problem is it’s a song that doesn’t scream originality, is a bit hollow without the peripheral factors, and now becomes the fifth year in a row Sweden is sending a male with a rather generic song to Eurovision. He’s top 5 in the betting mostly because it is Sweden and for the dominant win at Melodifestivalen.
22 Serbia – Nevena Bozovic – Kruna
Part of the trio Moje 3 in 2013 that ruined a great song with disastrous outfits, Nevena is back, this time on her own, and with a big ballad, and some big vocal moments. It’s one that takes a while to warm to, so will need enough people to stay awake until the end of her song for the momentous latter stages to gain enough votes to push her to the final. Being in semi final 1 will help.
21 Lithuania – Jurij Veklenko – Run With The Lions
Running with the lions would be so much fun! This is actually quite a pleasant song. You need to stick with it until the end. Although, they did let an even more pleasant song slip away with Monika Marija and Light On.
20 Belgium – Eliot – Wake Up
This one promises so much and then doesn’t really deliver as you hope. There’s a hint of Blanche’s City Lights from 2017 in this. Indeed, it would be so much better with her voice. As one of the plethora of solo males this year, Eliot’s only salvation is being in the weak first semi final.
19 Moldova – Anna Odobescu – Stay
One of the very few female ballads this year (I really miss them), this invokes a bit of Fight from Natalia Barbu (love that name!) in 2007. Although, it never really brings the fight, petering out as more a really nice song than something epic.
18 Cyprus – Tamta – Replay
I first knew of Tamta when she covered Tornero by Eurovision 2006 alumni, Mihai, and 13 years later, while Mihai can’t get back to Eurovision after several attempts, here’s Tamta. This is a bit similar to Fuego last year that saw Cyprus finish second, except it’s bigger and bolder, and I much prefer it. Tamta seems to say “I’m shitzing my body” just before the 30 second mark. Not sure what that’s about.
17 Czechia – Lake Malawi – Friend Of A Friend
Aren’t there any decent lakes in Czechia? Why is the country still referred to Czech Republic by the official site anyway? If you can switch to North Macedonia, you can switch to Czechia. Anyway, Friend Of A Friend is a decent friend of mine. It does its stuff, I love the female voice saying “I’m only your friend”, and preview video is so cool. The song reminds me of a New Zealand guy I met in Los Angeles years ago and we hung out all day. That was nice enough, now move on. Mysteriously I bumped into him again in Washington DC 3 weeks later. A bit of a chat again, then move on. That’s Czechia this year. Enjoy the listen. Move on.
16 Greece – Katerina Duska – Better Love
Canadian-born of Greek parents and moved backed when a child, Better Love is all about a big sound and rich vocals. Unfortunately it doesn’t do much beyond that with the song not reaching any high watermark. In the first semi, it should be safely through, along with Cyprus, as they are both in the same semi for the fourth straight year (the EBU still can’t get pot selections for their semi final allocations right) and exchange the usual 12 points.
03 Netherlands – Duncan Laurence – Arcade
One of the songs that really embeds itself into your mind, while watching the preview video provided some attraction to Arcade, it wasn’t until a live performance I saw that I felt a sense of wow. This is a seriously nice, and infectious song, and sung so beautifully. Curiously, it was Duncan’s mentor from The Voice, Ilse DeLange (one half of The Common Linnets) that suggested Duncan submit Arcade, and with the artistic decisions, and you can see how this minimalist effect works just as it did for The Common Linnets’s surprise second placing in 2014. The question is whether simply a really nice song can win Eurovision. You really need a bit more, even if it’s a brilliant piece of simple and thematic staging like the Linnets brought in 2014. Arguably, Duncan has a much nicer song, so perhaps he won’t require the same amount of help. He’s currently one of the favourites and Arcade has 5 million youtube views. Duncan Laurence Interview
Four Stars (Excellent)
15 Romania – Ester Peony – On A Sunday
The controversial winner in Romania because the jury had so much power, personally, the right choice was made. This is a really funky, groovy kind of song with a hypnotic beat. It was really well presented too, and Ester has a lovely voice. Even in semi final 2, I expect to see On A Sunday in the Eurovision final on the Saturday.
14 Austria – Paenda – Limits
A lovely haunting song. It should stand out enough to attract some votes in the second semi. The three stars on her shoulder and one for her blue hair could comprise the four-star rating too.. Random thought: if not for an errant “e’, we’d have a Pony (Ester Peony from Romania) and a Panda (Austria) at Eurovision.
13 Russia – Sergey Lazarev – Scream
Back after being sabotage by the juries in 2016, Sergey will be hoping for redemption. Wisely he’s brought a ballad as another uptempo song would immediate create comparisons to You Are The Only One. No doubt trying to create an epic moment on stage, this epic song, at least musically, should do well, perhaps win. Personally the song doesn’t quite hit the mark, especially the chorus, so it will be about delivering that big moment on stage some other way. The song’s strength are the final stages with a dramatic bridge section running into the final big chorus moment. At 6 million youtube views across the official and his personal channel, he certainly has the public’s interest so far. Sergey is among the top 5 favourites, mostly due to it being Sergey and Russia. In fact, he the betting plunge started before Scream was even released.
12 Azerbaijan – Chingiz – Truth
Azerbaijan rarely disappoint, and here they are again with another highly polished and infectious pop song. It was so infectious I had it stuck in my mind for ages without even realising the country it was. Shut up about it!
11 Australia – Kate Miller-Heidke – Zero Gravity
It’s lift off for Australia when Kate Miller-Heidke won their first ever national final with Zero Gravity. It was clearly the best song at Australia Decides, and the one with the most potential to do well at Eurovision. Comparisons to other “popera” are invalid because Kate is an original, and Zero Gravity is more a quirky pop song with opera elements, than opera turned into pop. Classically trained, Kate’s only misstep vocally was the finale wasn’t as rousing as per the recording. She’s been in vocal training so hopefully that will be rectified. Complaints of unoriginal staging by use of a giant projection dress is valid, and it’s something she’s addressing with news of a revamp to the staging. Personally she needs to stay on the ground and use dancers instead of the woman on the pole, then possibly lift off at the end. We’ll see in Tel Aviv. Being in the weak first semi, and with the traditional love the juries show Australia, she shouldn’t be too troubled reaching the grand final.
10 Norway – KEiiNO – Spirit In The Sky
A blonde woman, a gay man and a Sami walked onto the NRK Melodi Grand Prix stage, and won. Alexandra Rotan appeared last year at MGP as part of Alexandra and Stella, while Tom Hugo appeared as himself. Along with Fred Buljo, Spirit In The Sky gave KEiiNO, formed in 2018, instant success. It’s no surprise too, as it’s an incredibly positive and energetic song, complete with some indigenous elements of some Sami chanting throughout, particularly the build up through the bridge. The concern is whether there’s enough to it, as if you remove the Sami elements and Northern Lights staging effects, it’s quite generic. Also problematic is groups are notoriously difficult to choreograph into a cohesive routine and ultimately it just looks like standing around and randomly singing to each other. Even the music video itself, it looked a bit messy. Perhaps move the Sami to a separate part of the stage and leave Alexandra and Tom as a duo. With 5 million youtube views, that suggests this should do well.
09 San Marino – Serhat – Say Na Na Na
I say yeah yeah yeah to this! Serhat is back after 3 years, and this time with an original disco-themed song, not a song turned into one, and the effort shows. This works right from the start, and now with Serhat’s cult following, it could be San Marino’s second time in the final, especially being the weak first semi. The only questions are Serhat’s ability live, and those verses sound eerily familiar and somewhat generic.
08 Estonia – Victor Crone – Storm
Victor had easily the most dramatic ride of the national final season, finishing only 8th after the jury vote, before the public snuck him into the super final and then onto winning Eesti Laul. Storm is one of those songs that’s really polished, sung well and presented well. While it doesn’t break any moulds, it does everything else right.
07 Denmark – Leonora – Love Is Forever
My favourite from Dansk Melodi Grand Prix and so catchy and quirky it should do well enough to reach the grand final, even from the tough second semi. Perhaps its main problem is it’s one of those “seen it once, seen it enough” songs. I went off it for quite a while before getting back on it again. Credit for not only singing a bit in French, also in Danish. Let’s hope she doesn’t get pinged for cultural appropriation for her French-style outfits.
02 Belarus – Zena – I Like
Zena was one of the co-hosts at Junior Eurovision in Minsk last year and she had me fooled. Sixteen years old, going onto to 26, I never recognised her at all in Like It. At 16 years old, she has the voice, looks, song and style, and could be the Belorussian Britney Spears – except for the degenerate boyfriends, rehab sessions and a shaved head. No surprise I like, liked Like It, like, ok, right from the start because the energetic chorus and Zena working the moves really stood out. Since then, Like It has, like, really, like, grown on me and revealed itself as quite complex with several transitions through the verses before bouncing into that chorus, and provides a tasteful, bridge section, complete with a big note from Zena. Like it? Love it!
Five Stars (Outstanding)
06 Switzerland – Luca Hanni – She Got Me
A big star across the German speaking countries of Switzerland, Germany and Austria, Luca brings some superb Latin flair to the Eurovision stage and a strong chance for Switzerland to return a good result since Vanilla Ninja finished 8th in 2005 – another act, albeit from Estonia, with a broad appeal across those countries. It’s a song that’s been stuck in my head at times, and with Switzerland changing their selection process to an internal one, and finding this great mix of song and artist, it looks like they are serious to do more than just reach the final (they haven’t done since 2014 despite two recent excellent entries).
01 Germany – S!sters – Sister
It was goosebumps the first time I heard Sister, and it still causes emotions to roll when I watch the performance. It’s such a rousing song, and while it’s about sisters, it really could be about any close family relationship, that with all the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs, ultimately it’s love that’s the most important and pivotal factor to an everlasting bond. Lines like “see flames in your eyes” and “shine like city lights” are the perfect lyrical metaphors for this, so too is the epic music and impassioned, dramatic performance. Beyond that the chemistry between Carlotta Truman (19 and blonde) and Laurita Kästel (26) is so good, and the use of the revolving platform at the national final is the perfect stage to exhibit the swirl of emotions and explosion of love the song generates. Please bring it to Tel Aviv.
This is the first song since ManuElla’s Blue And Red for Slovenia in 2016 I’ve really felt a pulse with, and it works similarly with its rawness, and artists that really feel the song. Personally in my life, this song has come at just the right too. It provides so much reflection, comfort and salvation for some seriously tough and painful times. There’s barely a day that passes that I don’t recall this song to cope with the sudden bout of emotions trying to rip me apart. Whatever happens in Tel Aviv, you are my winner. Best of luck, S!sters!
S!sters win Unser Lied für Israel
This is easily Germany’s best result in the history of the Fab Five, with the 9th place by Levina and Perfect Life in 2017 the next best. Had this blog been around in 2010, Lena and Satellite would have been number one. Six songs finished with one star (or less), which is a bit more than average, while six songs with 5 stars is about normal. Nine songs with 4 stars is below average when comparing to 11, 19 (inflated due to only two 5-star songs) and 13 of the past three years. The feeling of relatively weak year is confirmed.
From the National Final Injustices post, the big change in the rankings would have been Norway possibly in as high as second if D’Sound and Mr Unicorn had won. If Ukraine had participated, MARUV would have been niggling at the top 5, as would Tsesho and their song about Hate had they won instead. Lithuania would likely be top 10, with Sweden not far behind. Romania and Australia would drop a few spots.
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