8 March 2020
Super Saturday became more like Sullen Saturday after surprise results at Finland’s UMK and Sweden’s Melodifestivalen, and a solemn scene at Denmark’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix when the event was inexplicably locked out to the public due to the coronavirus scare. At least the Danes selected their best song for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam when Ben & Tan won with the uplifting Yes, whereas Finland sensationally chose Aksel Kankaanranta over Erika Vikman and Sweden sent The Mamas for the second year running, albeit this time on their own, over several more fancied acts, including Dotter, Anna Bergendahl and Hanna Ferm.
Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu 2020
Heading into UMK, it seemed simply a matter of seeing Erika Vikman’s winning margin. That was until the notorious international jury got into action. While she got 12 points from the first country, Great Britain, a shock appeared when Estonia only gave her 4 points while giving 12 to Aksel Kankaanranta to add to his 10 from Great Britain. Germany awarded him another 12, while Vikman scored 8. Spain provided some hope when giving 12 to Vikman and 4 to Kankaanranta, only for Russia to flip it again. Ultimately Kankaanranta won the jury with 76 points, with Vikman only in third on 58 points. The cheap girl trio of F3M were second on 64 points. Bananas!
As we are constantly told, the public vote can change everything, and there was some hope Vikman might pull through after being awarded 99 points and hitting the lead. Tika had already scored 77 points, and even with the other three songs scoring just 50 points in total, there was hope insufficient points were left for Kankaanranta to win. Alas, there was enough, and his 94 points gave him the win with a total of 170 to Vikman’s 157.
This blog has railed against the idea of international juries for years, as far back as 2014, as they destroy local styles and languages from prospering. Indeed, in my preview, I highlighted the composition of the international jury as the wildcard at UMK: whether they are a bunch of fans and regular people (likely to go with Cicciolina), or industry experts” that could go for something more artistic. Clearly some of the juries totally rejected Vikman while others loved her. Whereas Kankaanranta got consistently good scores throughout.
This paragraph from 2017 about that year’s Melodifestivalen sums up the problem with international juries:
To compound the problem this year is the very existence of an international jury. Talk about selling out your soul merely to extract a few points at ESC. That’s the entire purpose of such an idea. In the meantime, local cultural influences are purged from your national final because the like-minded international jury only understands the derivative, generic drivel that ended up winning MF.
The cynical side of me thinks there was deliberate “down-voting” by the juries to ensure Vikman didn’t win, as their scores were all over the place. At the very least, she was second best song on the night, even if you didn’t like her much. These juries, they are not locked away for a month before UMK or anything. They know who the public want to win so can massage their scores accordingly.
All performances can be viewed on the UMK youtube channel
01 Catharina Zühlke – Eternity (4th, 66 points)
A flat opening to the show. You do expect better. Perhaps she was simply meant to get the audience salivating for the next act, Erika Vikman This was my third favourite before UMK and it just didn’t resonate, the dress was awful, and head-microphone never looks appropriate for a serious singer. On a second view, it improved. 6/10
02 Erika Vikman – Cicciolina (2nd, 157 points)
Had Erika won, you couldn’t really say it would have been a first for dancing bears at Eurovision. Suffice to say, she’d have made Eurovision far more interesting this year. Given this type of song, the stage presentation had the potential to polarise audiences, and even I wasn’t convinced at the start. By the end, I was. Being sung in Finnish and not knowing the language, you need to allow some artistic leeway, and perhaps the bears and the pink, devilish catsuit all made sense. Erika certainly looked stunning in it, and you wonder how long it takes to get in and out of it. I noticed she wasn’t drinking much in the green room. It should be noted, while we are hammering the international jury for this injustice, if the Finns were really so set on Vikman, she should have romped away with the televote rather than there be just 5 points in it. Anyway, thanks for a great song. I’ve listened to Cicciolina the most out of any songs this Eurovision season and will continue to do so. 9/10
03 Aksel Kankaanranta – Looking Back (1st, 170 points)
This was a surprise when watching the show. While I noticed during the preview that the song was pleasant, I just looked past it because it is the sort of song we’ve heard a million times before, and do we need another solo male in this year’s Eurovision? Hell no. Once Aksel started singing, hearing his voice live, and seeing his innovative presentation, it was a great package. It’s really that it’s another sausage at the Eurovision BBQ when we were all after a prime steak. 8/10
04 F3M – Bananas (4th, 84 points)
It was fun. It was cheap. Something to fill in time until the next song. Popcorn music. 5/10
05 Sansa – Lover View (6th, 36 points)
Always the weakest entry, being quite lame club/dance whatever it was. Nothing much to it, and even less to it on the UMK stage. 4/10
06 Tika – I Let My Heart Break (3rd, 157 points)
My other big favourite coming in, it was so difficult to split Vikman and Tika. At UMK it was easy because Tika was a mess. The solo male dancer added was unnecessary, and the overhead camera while she was levitating only showed her from chest down (the video above is footage from the rehearsal mixed with vocals from the live broadcast). Vocally she wasn’t to the standard as expected either. Perhaps it was nerves. 7/10
My Top 3
01 Erika Vikman – Cicciolina
02 Aksel Kankaanranta – Looking Back
03 Tika – I Let My Heart Break
No disrespect to Aksel, who was only my fourth favourite before UMK, this loss by Erika Vikman and Cicciolina is the greatest national final injustice of the year, if not ever. You can’t remove international juries, or even a national jury, because they’re important to encouraging a diversity of artists and styles of songs. The logical solution is a super final, which allows the public to have the final say. Finland’s Baltic Sea neighbours, Estonia, has used one for ages, and in the past two years it reversed a wayward international jury to allow the people’s clear preference to succeed.
Full story and performances from UMK 2020 here
Sweden hadn’t sent a woman to Eurovision since Sanna Nielsen in 2014, and the fear heading into this year’s Melodifestivalen was the four strong entries by solo women might steal votes off each other and (cough, cough) another man gets through. Part one was right. Part two saw the soul/gospel female trio of The Mamas triumph with Move instead. They beat Dotter with Bulletproof by just one point. Both scored 65 points with the jury (technically Dotter won it with more 10s, not that she got a bonus point or anything), while The Mamas won the televote by 1 point, to win overall.
Sweden finally sends a female act again, not that I’m sure it strictly qualifies. First, it’s three women that appeared the previous year with John Lundvik – a man – and capitalised on this fame and exposure to earn another spot. Second, and worse, this American/Swedish trio denied three individual solo Swedes that truly represent the country. After Dotter in second it was Anna Bergendahl third and Hanna Ferm fourth. So we wait another year!
Check the Melodifestivalen youtube channel for all performances
01 Victor Crone – Troubled Waters (9th, 57 points)
Trying to represent his home country at Eurovision this year after representing Estonia last year, Crone performed admirably and deserved better than ninth. He was crucified by the international jury with only 19 points before the public gave him 38. 7/10
02 Paul Rey – Talking In My Sleep (6th, 68 points)
A reprise of his excellent semi-final performance of his infectious, big ballad. It’s actually more a dance ballad, if there’s such a thing. Groovy! 6/10
03 The Mamas – Move (1st, 137 points)
The line “moving mountains” was apt as they certainly weren’t molehills. The performance was entertaining enough, and they have great voices. The question is, do we need them at Eurovision when you can hear this sort of music all day long in America? Move on. 6/10
04 Mohombi – Winners (12th, 26 points)
Added some dancers to elevate his song, and he needed to, as the more I heard it, the less I liked it. Outside the refrain, there was nothing much there. 5/10
05 Hanna Ferm – Brave (4th, 94 points)
Faultless performance by my favourite this year. She had the best song and I especially love that she did it all her own. No dancers or fancy lights or anything. Just Hanna alone. I love her voice too, especially that sultry/raspy lower tone. She was third on the televote with 69 points – just two behind the winner. The jury stiffed her with only 25 points. A disgrace. 9/10
06 Mendez & Alvaro Estrella – Vamos Amigos (11th, 40 points)
The most fortunate entry to progress from the second chance round, and the result was as expected for a decent, if uninspiring, song. 5/10
07 Dotter – Bulletproof (2nd, 136 points)
I started to like this more and more, and when Hanna Ferm was knocked down early by the jury, my allegiance went to Dotter. A good bulk of the appeal of Bulletproof is the light show. There’s so much bouncing off her chest that I wondered if she could see. Indeed, Swedish TV posted that she had to memorise camera positions because the lights (and extra were added for the final) were blinding her. 8/10
08 Robin Bengtsson – Take A Chance (8th, 63 points)
Former winners often get compared to their other songs, and this was no match to his 2017 entry. While I got more out of on the second listen when previewing the final, I was over it by the final. 5/10
09 Mariette – Shout It Out (10th, 51 points)
Results since her debut in 2015 have become worse and worse. Take a break, Mariette! Sweden (as did Finland) read the televote in order of place after the jury vote from lowest to highest (instead of the traditional assign points lowest to highest) and Mariette exposed the key flaw I don’t like about this system: setting the artist up for humiliation. She did well after the jury with 42 points, so she’s saying to herself, “What juicy score do I get from the public?”. Bam, 9 points. Ouch! With a band, she might have got a better result. Being handed a guitar near the end to add some animation didn’t work, and the sloppy handover caught on camera obviously wasn’t good either. 7/10
10 Felix Sandman – Boys With Emotions (7th, 67 points)
This was the entry of dread. Something I knew the despicable international jury would like, and something that could exploit the solo women stealing each other’s vote. After 53 points from the jury it was just 14 from the public. Thank YOU! A dreadful excuse for a song. 2/10
11 Anna Bergendahl – Kingdom Come (3rd, 107 points)
It wasn’t to be. The redemption story of reversing her Eurovision semi-final exit 10 years ago must wait another 10 years, I suppose. Nothing really wrong with the song and performance other than the song itself was mostly a rehash of many we’ve heard before. 7/10
12 Anis Don Demina – Vem är som oss (5th, 82 points)
Changed the purple outfit to a gold one, and added some English to the magazine prop for the international audience to get more out of it. Always fun. Always bound for a slightly above mid-table result. That was the outcome too with the jury and public scoring it almost the same with 40 and 42 points respectively. 6/10
My Top 5
01 Hanna Ferm – Brave
02 Dotter – Bulletproof
03 Victor Crone – Troubled Waters
04 Mariette – Shout It Out
05 Anna Bergendahl – Kingdom Come
From the preview, Dotter and Bergendahl switched positions. No other changes. Hanna Ferm clearly stood out for me, with Dotter in second and the other three about the same. Perhaps Sweden should introduce a super final too. The results seem to suggest Dotter lost points to Ferm and Bergendahl in the televote, and that allowed The Mamas to win. In a reduced contest of the first 3 songs, you’d think Dotter would win easily.
Dansk Melodi Grand Prix
01 Isam B – Bølger
02 Ben & Tan – Yes
03 Maja og De Sarte Sjæle – Den eneste goth i Vejle
04 Benjamin Kissi – Faith
05 Emil – Ville ønske jeg havde kendt dig
06 Sys Bjerre – Honestly
07 Jamie Talbot – Bye Bye Heaven
08 Sander Sanchez – Screens
09 Kenny Duerlund – Forget It All
10 Jasmin Rose feat. Roxor Loops – Human
All performances are on the DMGP youtube channel
This was so depressing to watch without an audience and it’s mind-boggling with just 23 coronavirus cases in Denmark that authorities decided to take such drastic action. Even though the virus is highly contagious, it’s still only a slightly more fatal version than the common flu. Most healthy people that get it suffer mild symptoms, so perhaps simply encouraging older or weaker people to stay home instead of shutting everyone out would have been enough. It was an even worse response to the coronavirus than Australians stockpiling toilet paper. That was largely ignorance because they saw local Chinese buying in bulk to ship to China. China had shut down factories (for many things) because of the virus, which created a shortage. Denmark’s response was simply irrational.
Halfway through, it became a drain to watch the acts, that many became a blur. It was never a great line-up anyway, so perhaps it was best no one saw it live. Once all the performances were done, I skipped to the announcement of the winner. It was pleasing to see Ben & Tan in the super final and ultimately win. My other favourites in the preview were Sys Bjerre and Jasmin Rose feat. Roxor Loops. Bjerre came across as too preachy and her vocals were a bit off. Staging was nice. Actually, the entire stage was spectacular. Sad to see it mostly go to waste. Jasmin Rose & Roxer Loops were victims of no crowd. They just felt so flat. Indeed, the more intimate songs, where artists were close to the camera, were the better ones. Emil with Ville ønske jeg havde kendt dig was the obvious one, and made the super final. Sander Sanchez was the other super finalists. Neither mattered as Ben & Tan won with 61% of the vote.