Eurovision 2015: Feb 21 Update

It’s time to bathe in Baltic waters this weekend. Estonia and Lithuania hold their deciding shows on Saturday, Latvia on Sunday. Elsewhere, there are further heats in Sweden, Finland and Hungary.

It’s usually unwise for Eurovision punters to count their chickens with regards any national final. Nonetheless, given how far ahead ‘Goodbye To Yesterday‘ is in Estonian polls, it would be a major shock if it’s somehow scuppered tonight. A superfinal of three rather than previous Eesti Laul head-to-heads should calm the nerves of those who very early jumped on Elina and Stig to take the big prize in Vienna.

We know the song already in Lithuania, what’s to be decided is who will perform it in May. All the signs suggest Monica and Vaidas will duet on ‘This Time‘ in Vienna. That leaves Latvia offering the most intrigue this weekend, in an above-average event that pits semifinal televote winners MNTHA and Aminata against each other, though ElektroFolk and Markus Riva do more than make up the numbers.

In Sweden, we’re at the third of four Melodifestivalen heats in Sweden. Once again, the snippets point towards the pimp slot offering the best package – Jon Henrik Fjallgreen’s full-on ethno number ‘Jag ar Fri’. The winner of ‘Sweden’s Got Talent’ last year is from the Sami community, the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia. Meanwhile, the second Hungarian semi-final sees Kati Wolf continue her bid for another bite at the Eurovision cherry.

Elsewhere, three more entries have been confirmed since our last update. Of most interest to punters was the news that Italian mini-tenors Il Volo will take their Sanremo-winning song ‘Grande Amore‘ to Vienna. That was enough to see them cement favouritism on Betfair.

We’re yet to hear how the composition will be cut down from 3m45 to 3m – no easy task for a number that sees three vocalists take turns, gives most pleasure in its build, and fits only two verses and choruses into the extended version. Ben Gray gave it a brave attempt in our comments section, fashioning a perfect fit by cutting all but the refrain from the initial chorus. But he showed what a difficult job this is because the effort builds and builds to very little first time around.

I should point out the many strengths of the Italian package. Three hugely accomplished and telegenic performers offer what should be a far more effective popera effort than the contest has previously witnessed. The need to cut is not ideal, but Ukraine’s Zlata showed in 2013 that a song’s structural defects mattered less when the execution and overall feel was so strong (if schmaltzy), as this promises to be, though ‘Gravity’ was more an exercise in pithy hooks than the slow build of ‘Grande Amore’.

We’ve not had a foreign-language winner since 2007, though popera in Italian promises to have appeal in many parts of the Continent. I respect it a great deal but at current prices would rather wait for the edit, and indeed the staging without the Sanremo orchestra that provided the ideal backdrop last weekend.

I’m glad to feel positive about the Italian entry, because I don’t hold out too much hope for the Icelandic and Serbian entries having an appreciable impact on the Saturday-night scoreboard. Starting with the former, I think ‘Unbroken‘ becomes quickly repetitive in English, and I’m not convinced that Maria’s vocals hold up well under pressure. I’d be surprised if this breaks the 15th-place-in-the-final ceiling that has afflicted Icelandic entries since 2010.

Serbia at least offers us something bold and different. Thanks to Eurovicious for the information that Bojana Stamenov will probably switch to English in Vienna, which means we should hold off on making a definitive conclusion for her chances there. However, the two-songs-in-one format has a history of failing on the Eurovision stage, despite the fanwank appeal of a disco beat suddenly kicking in. The notable recent example is San Marino’s ‘Crisalide (Vola)’ in 2013, though Bojana does have a better voice than Valentina Monetta.

Do keep your comments coming below about the ongoing selections and news, they’re always appreciated.

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47 comments to Eurovision 2015: Feb 21 Update

  • Music video for the favourite (“A Monster Like Me”) in Norway’s selection is out

    • I do hope they sort out Debrah’s hair and make-up. She looks vaguely like Lauren Harries in this video – she looks a lot better in other pics I’ve seen her in so it’s just bad styling, but very off-putting.

  • What on Earth was that? I hope that’s not their staging.

  • Vaidas and Monika have won it in Lithuania.

  • dicksbits

    It’s the battle of the duets this year (potentially): San Marino, Czech Republic, Norway (poss), Estonia (poss), Lithuania, Belarus.

  • annie

    Hungary’s NF is next week. I think this year’s line up was way weaker than last and 2013s but I do like one act : PASSED. I hope the audience will get behind them as they did with Byealex. Hungary can be very trendy sometimes :))
    their performance from last night :
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4WBLDxvxMQ

    and their official video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjIi5pRHQ9M

    • Interested to hear people’s thoughts about this. I didn’t like it the first two listens but it’s grown on me incredibly to the point I like it a lot now (I’ve still only listened to it 4 times). It’s rare for a song to do that with me. As such I have concerns about its immediacy, though it’s effective and contemporary and I now think it does stand out. It’s certainly a cut above the other generic female ballads in terms of impact and relevance, but the market hasn’t really reacted to it. What do other people think – love/hate/indifferent?

      • Daniel

        A similar experience for me, EV. First few listens I thought it shouty and leftfield in an unappealing way. But by the time of the national final, I was rooting for it. The question is: will it take more than one listen for the casual viewer too?

      • As I wrote over on ESCtips, this sort of music is usually up my street. Atmospheric, quirky electronic stuff with good voices. Bearing that in mind, I honestly don’t think this song is very good. I’m the opposite of you EV, I liked it at first and after a few listens have gone right off it. I think lyrically it’s lacking in depth and complexity, the staging is unimaginative it doesn’t build or go anywhere after the sign language bit in the second verse, and the ending just makes me cringe. They could chop that horrible noise off and use the spare time to add more lyrics to the refrain. In the same way as the Dutch entry, the song is basically finished with plenty of time to spare, so they just fill it up with an empty hook. That’s really inexcusable IMO. Eurovision deserves better than hastily scrubbed up demos.

        I count Malta, (second verse is the same as the first, but in past tense) the Netherlands, Iceland, (too many steps) Latvia (got a corker in mind for my comedy vids) and to a much lesser extent, Lithuania all with songs that are disappointingly underwritten. I do hope this isn’t to become a trend.

      • Boki

        I rarely fall for an esc song on a first listen but in case of Aminata it happened. This kind of music is normally not my cup of tea so I can explain it as kind of strong visceral reaction, probably not to the song only but to the total package. Even the ending suits it perfectly, wouldn’t change a thing. I expected a price crash which didn’t happen but it stands out for sure…

  • David

    Regarding Australia, I still think they are value at this stage given the novelty factor. Reading up on the potential representative they have a lot of big names, one name that interests me most is Dami Im, she is of Korean descent and won XFactor Australia. If she gets picked to represent then the novelty factor increases, you’ll have an East Asian artist performing at the contest representing Australia. Europe might go crazy for this.

  • Just listened to Italy for the second time and I absolutely don’t think it’s what European audiences go for in any shape or form. We’ve seen popera bomb at Eurovision time and again in various manifestations – the group (Bonaparti.lv), the solo heartthrob (Amaury Vassili), the duo (Nico and Vlad <3), as well as kitschy techno-opera (Malena Ernman, Alenka Gotar, Cezar) that tends to do slightly better with televoters (certainly in semis) than regular popera. Il Volo are the regular kind and I just don't see it appealing to people. The genre and language act as barriers (a language change is unlikely) and the on-stage narrative/visual storytelling is pretty much de facto gonna be limited to "3 young fellas belting out opera", give or take some female dancers and emoting. There's no sense of relevance. It's no match for Goodbye To Yesterday and I expect a few of the other songs chosen so far to finish higher than it on the scoreboard too. That's not even addressing the question already discussed by Ben Gray and Daniel of how to lop 45 seconds off it (plus another 180 if I had my way).

    • Agree with the above. The only valid counter-argument is that this is by far the most commercially relevant and strongest entry within the genre the contest has ever seen. It’s online popularity and the group’s previous international success can’t be ignored. Whether that’s enough to push it to first place is still up for debate.

    • One other quick thought, I have to say I have never seen so many people express so much concern over a song coming down to meet the three minute rule before. Certainly nobody was bothered with L’Essenziale which was of a similar length originally. Then again I suppose this is the only time recently that a longer song has been perceived as a contender, isn’t it?

    • PurpleKylie

      Thank you, that’s my big argument against Italy as well. This doesn’t deviate in any way from the other popera entries that have bombed in the past. I guess fans and punters tend to massively overrate the chances of popera songs, possibly because a big voice automatically means lots of votes, it don’t work like that.

      Also, I’m not convinced we have The Winner out of the songs selected so far.

    • George

      Personally I’ve never been a fan of popera at Eurovision but Grande amore hits the right note. It’s just a lot more accessible than anything we’ve ever seen from the genre before. After last year’s top two I don’t think any genre can be written off as long as it is a good song and staged well.

      I do agree with Kylie though, I expect more competitive songs to come around. It will be quite an underwhelming year if the competition is Grande amore vs Goodbye to Yesterday (perhaps factoring A Monster Like Me into the mix too if it’s staged well).

  • Chris Bellis

    L’Essenziale was a great song though and it’s still played all the time on Italian music channels. I wouldn’t under-rate Italy, although I personally don’t care for the Il Volo performance. It will come about seventh at a guess. It’s not got the grab your attention factor. Harmonic male pseudo classical voices haven’t done well in Eurovision iirc. I’m not putting any money on it, at least not now.

    • L’essenziale benefited greatly from the Balkan wipeout in the final. They couldn’t vote for each other as usual so they voted for Italy.

      • Chris Bellis

        True, but it’s still a personal favourite, and has already become a classic in Italy. It’s one of the most popular songs to be played at weddings for example – probably funerals as well for all I know. It’s all over the Italian airwaves. It’s one of Berlusconi’s favourites too….
        If he’d performed it in a Eurovision style rather than as a serious performer he would have done better in Eurovision, but maybe less so for the longer term. It still made me money, as I predicted where it would be placed.

  • David

    I really like this from Sweden’s pot:

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2hs4jt_jon-henrik-fjallgren-jag-ar-fri-manne-leam-frijje-melodifestivalen-2015_music

    A song with no lyrics, it’s different. The singer Jon Henrik won Sweden’s Got Talent singing in this style. I watched his first audition and these noises moved the judges to tears lol.

    • I’m sure Jon Henrik is great but I think the song is totally inauthentic and facile to the point of absurdity: https://twitter.com/eurovicious/status/569222386903445504

      Also agree with this – it’s very Dick Byrne: https://twitter.com/raquelita411/status/569848972187205632

      • I agree, I didn’t like that song at all, and I’m actually quite taken with the Sami sound. You’ll notice my own tweets in EV’s first link there talking about Andagassii by Ann-Mari Andersen from Norway’s’ MGP in 2008 which I think is much better. That song and her album aren’t facile, and it’s downright silly to say that any attempt to mix traditional music with pop or simply make it modern is dumbing it down and materialising it for the masses, because traditional music isn’t, and shouldn’t be eternally stuck in the past.

        Having said that, Jon Henrik’s song is an empty, overproduced mess. He’s been dressed like an Elvin Power Ranger and the dancing couple and floating whatsits above him are ridiculous and irrelevant. The yoik, (Jon’s style of singing, heard also in Andagassii and from the mum in Solju of UMK 2015 in Finland,) cannot carry a three minute song all by itself.

        The Sami people have their own flag, languages and dialects which aren’t all even mutually intelligible and completely unintelligible to speakers of Swedish/Norwegian. It sounds more like a breathy hybrid of Icelandic, Finnish and Greenlandic to me. Why they didn’t write any Sami lyrics for Jon’s song is baffling to me, unless the yoik is just a strict USP for Jon’s fame that he’s been ordered to stick to.

        • David

          The first time I heard this song I found it uplifting, and the power of the singing came through well, it was pleasantly unusual. I think it will be well received.

        • SirMills

          I agree with you on Jon Henrik Fjallgren, I just don’t get the fetish the Swedes has for yodeling or whatever it is what he is doing. The song doesn’t irritate me though it’s got a warm feeling and all that, but a favourite to win MF, really?
          It looks like JHF will win the televote but what about the juries?

          Sweden knows they are not to be trusted to chose the song with the best potential to do well in esc, and that’s the reason they so wisely hired the international jury in order to try to save them from them selves. It will be really interesting to see how the juries will react to this.

          • David

            The reason why it did so well in Sweden was because his original yodel song had a story behind it relating to his deceased friend. The original song is passionate, powerful and haunting. I can see why it touched a lot of people.

            However in the context of Eurovision non of this is relevant. I still think it sounds great and will pleasantly surprise viewers if it makes the finals.

          • It’s a way for people to feel good about themselves, feel a connection and feel like they’re helping/doing something good by voting for a minority or member of a disadvantaged group that’s been appealingly packaged and served up to them for mainstream consumption, whether Jon Henrik in Sweden or the learning-disabled group in Finland. People vote for the story. Samiid Aednan in 1980 was a headfuck of a song but represented a genuine collaboration between a Norwegian and Sami singer, each performing their own style of music, had meaningful lyrics, and was a protest song for Sami rights and autonomy and against the planned construction of a hydroelectric power plant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alta_controversy). By contrast, Jag är fri is a content-free zone that merely inauthentically fetishises the Sami and tries to be vaguely and generically mystical while the SILF singer makes sure the camera catches his best side.

            I agree with everything Ben said – I love it when traditional music is effectively modernised (I’ve seen Global Kryner live 7 times) but this fails. Ergo: the Swedes will love it.

        • Ben Gray

          For anyone who would like to learn a bit. more about the Sami people, I encourage you to watch this excerpt of a BBC documentary starring a famous British actress. Might even help you see just how ridiculous Jon Henrik’s song really is. Skip to 3:14 http://youtu.be/Md7rU7vNvSA

  • David

    The couple dancing really cracked me up, well and truly tickled my funny bone.

  • Daniel

    The final version of the Belarus entry has been aired on TV tonight:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BrupbyJKbTY

  • Ande

    What do you think about this entry from Melodifestivalen? It’s supposed to be good derivate of Beyonce’s 2011 Billboard Awards live performance….
    http://www.svt.se/melodifestivalen/mans-zelmerlows-nya-grepp-som-ska-ta-honom-till-final-i-melodifestivalen-2015

    I personally feel that with clutch staging it has greater potential than the sami joik-dude.

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