Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Eurovision Song Contest: The Grand Final, Vienna, 24.05.15

I don't know about the rest of you, but by the time Saturday night came round I was so excited that I could burst!  For viewers in the UK, the Grand Final was preceded by a Eurovision-themed edition of my favourite TV quiz show "Who Dares Wins" where the teams were Dana and Cheryl Baker versus Carrie Grant and Bruno Tonioli.  As it turned out, it wasn't as Eurovisiony as planned, although it gave Nick Knowles an excuse to put on a nice sparkly jacket.  The ESC-themed rounds proved that just because you've appeared in the contest (or a national final) doesn't mean that you know very much about it!

The 2015 Grand Final opened with an orchestra; no less than the Vienna Philharmonic, leading into a recap of the announcement of last year's winner.  And then a circle-themed intro VT.  Which was very long, and pretty pointless.  All circles and lights and balloons.  As ever, I am watching the Grand Final with mum, who has already told me that she's not going to have the stamina to sit through three and a half hours (little did she know that it was going to last just a bit longer than that).

Finally there is some music, a nice little orchestral tribute to Austria's first ever ESC winner Udo Jurgens, who recently passed away, leading into a brief "Rise Like A Phoenix" which then turns into this year's contest theme song "Building Bridges".  I quite like this song - it's bright and uptempo, although it does overstay its welcome after a while, and everything is a little busy and disjointed. The three hosts, Arabella Kiesbauer, Mirjam Weichselbraun and Alice Tumler are singing (ok, miming) and they really do look like a girl band, don't they!

Seeing the ORF radio symphony orchestra on stage brought back fond memories of the old Eurovision days when we had the orchestra.  There are kids singing.  And a rapper in a hat.

Mum: The Italian flag reminds me of the Irish flag.  Is the Irish song any good this year?
Laura: Ireland isn't in the final, they failed to qualify because their song wasn't up to much.  They need to start sending better songs! (triple underline!)

We're back to the Australia drinking game now: if you were to drink every time Australia is mentioned, well you would be wrecked by 8.30pm!

There's yet another unnecessary VT of fans across the world bridge-building, to the soundtrack of Russia's 2013 entry "What If".  The video includes a same-sex kiss (it wouldn't be the last one of the evening) and I'm guessing that the use of this song is either (a) a subliminal two-fingered gesture to Russia for their views on Conchita, or (b) a subliminal gesture to viewers to say 'vote for Russia'!

After the longest introduction in ESC history, the song contest finally begins in earnest at 8.21pm. Graham Norton has already mispronounced Maraaya.  Tut tut.

SLOVENIA: "Here For You" - Maraaya.

Two things: one is that I wasn't happy at all with the draw, because I wanted this either in the middle or towards the end of the running order, and the other thing is that there is still something wrong with the vocal mix.

M: Just what is that demented woman doing?
L: She's an air violinist!  By the way, I've never seen the point of the air violinist.  It takes away from the song, which is still one of my favourites this year.

There is something missing here though,  I can't quite figure out what it is - whether it's the sound mix or that Marjetka is coming over as a little strained, and I'm not picking up the right vibes. Everything is just falling short.  I still like this song, its very underrated but will not do as well as I once thought it would.

FRANCE: "N'oubliez pas" - Lisa Angell.  

There are macarons and a fancy tea set in the postcard.  But things don't look too good for France, even before Lisa has even sung a note, as no song placed 2nd in the running order has ever won.

M: I like French language music.
L: It was co-written by Jean-Jacques Goldman's brother.  (I then go on to tell her all about JJG)

The staging is quite spectacular; in the space of three minutes, the backdrop goes from destruction to reconstruction, and the arrival of the drummers on screen is the money shot.  Yes it's very old-school 'French ESC ballad' but she is vocally perfect and even if this is not going to do well at all, we liked it here.   

ISRAEL: "Golden Boy" - Nadav Guedj.

This is the first entry from Israel which I've liked in years.  (I didn't like "Same Heart" at the time of last year's contest but it later grew on me).

M: I like his boots.
L: Golden boots for a golden boy.

Once again mum spends the bulk of the song talking about Nadav's boots.  When she's not talking about how old he looks! The song is one of the very few lively numbers this year but Nadav's vocals aren't always as good as they should be, and he often relies on the backing singers to fill in the gaps. Nevertheless this is still one of my favourite songs this year, and one which I'll go on to play long after the contest is over.

ESTONIA: "Goodbye to Yesterday" - Stig Rästa and Elina Born.

This one has been killed by the draw.

Stig kicks off the song - his vocals have been better - and then Elina, the latest in my long line of Estonian girl-crushes,  walks in, and the magic happens. There are so many mixed emotions here - anger, sadness and regret to name three - and this is one of those songs which you should really play to a Eurovision-hater to change their mind about the contest.

M: What country is this?
L: Estonia.  Another country I would really like to visit in future.
M: I like this, I really do.  It doesn't sound like a Eurovision song.
L: There is no such thing as a Eurovision song any more.  This is great.
M: I'd like a song like this to win.

UNITED KINGDOM: "Still In Love With You" - Electro Velvet.

D-D-D-Dance!  This year the UK are represented by Bianca and Alex aka Electro Velvet, put together for the contest and once again chosen in an internal selection.

M: At least this one has a bit of life to it.
L: And wait and see what happens with the dress.
M: I like this, in a strange way.  It's lively.
L: At least they finally look as if they are enjoying it - in the lead-up I've thought that they always looked as if they'd rather be somewhere else.

And some good advice here, don't drink too much wine, just one or two will have to do.  I'm going to have a bit more than one or two tonight. I really hope that Alex and Bianca are not scapegoated for the UK's annual failure - they did the best they could, and the fault lies, and will always lie, with the BBC and the nature of our selection process.

ARMENIA: "Face The Shadow" - Genealogy.

L: That would be good old Don't Deny.
M: "Don't be nice!"
L: This isn't having as much impact for me tonight as it did in the semi final, although I like this effect where they all go to their countries on the map.
M: That guy's got a loose sleeve!
L: It's just too shouty.

It's all too shouty for us here at EuropeCrazy HQ.

LITHUANIA: "This Time" -Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila.

Now time for our other old ancestral homeland.  Leaving aside the merits of the song and the performance, there is only one question.

L: Do you fancy Vaidas?
M: No, he's not really my taste.
L: He's been very popular with both the guys and girls this year!

Meanwhile there is that "one kiss!" which goes on and on, with the result that Monika and Vaidas actually miss the next line of the song.  Vaidas has also crossed the line of playing to the crowd, (although not quite at the level of Alexey yelling "Do you feel my heart beat Europe?"). Off-topic and no offence to the flag-waving fandom, but if I ruled Eurovision I would ban flags, ok then maybe not ban them totally but at least limit the number of them.  Rant over.

SERBIA: "Beauty Never Lies" - Bojana Stamenov.

Talking of flags, they're part of the staging of this song of course. After her outstanding performance in the semi-final it's no surprise to see that the audience is going mad for this body-empowerment anthem.  Could Bojana upset the odds and take the contest to Belgrade next year?  Well, no. Tonight's performance is not as good as Thursday's. And mum is not prepared for hurricane Bojana tonight.

M: This is completely overdone.  I'd go as far as to say this is hellish.  It's not a song, it's just all shouting.
L: It's not hellish, but I agree she's doing more shouting than singing tonight.

NORWAY: "A Monster Like Me" - Morland and Debrah Scarlett.

M: We will need to be calmed down after that last song.
L: I just hope she doesn't sing too weird.
M: Is she singing "bye bye the noo"?
L: (!)

We both love Debrah's hair, and she might just win our prize of best hairdo which is usually a default win for Estonia.  But just what did he do in his early youth?  Alas we shall probably never know, but all this mystery and darkness completely elevates this song and even though I have read some criticism that they don't know how to fill that mid-song instrumental break, I have no issues at all with this song and want it to do very well.  For the past three years, Norway have sent some cracking songs to Eurovision, and it's about time they were rewarded for it.

SWEDEN: "Heroes" - Måns Zelmerlöw.

M: I know this song.
L: Indeed you do.

I am doing his little 'dancing with the demons in our minds' dance. Mum is just looking at me as if I've lost the plot :)

M: This song is far too repetitive for me.  But I understand why it'll do well, with the distraction of the cartoons.
L: I think it's totally blown everything away so far.  Yes there are the visual gimmicks but I think the whole package is just superb.

By the way, at this point I'd just like to say that this producer-chosen draw is working very well so far, bringing some nice contrast between the ballads and the more uptempo numbers.

CYPRUS: "One Thing I Should Have Done" - John Karayiannis.

Aww, John!

M: Good!  No dancing, no stupid stuff.
L: No fancy lights, just lovely.

We both listen to the rest of this song in silence.

AUSTRALIA: "Tonight Again" - Guy Sebastian.

I have to explain to mum again about why Australia is appearing as a special guest in this year's contest.  And they've sent one of their best-known singers.  Watch and learn, BBC.

M: I've heard this one before as well - I know this.

L: I've played it a few times before. He is a very good singer. 

Guy and his backing singers dance and strut around the streetlight-themed staging.  The guy is a real star and he takes Eurovision up another level with his professionalism.  Imagine if the UK sent someone as good as this, with a real catchy song?  This is definitely one of my big favourites this year although I still can't see it winning for some reason.

BELGIUM:  "Rhythm Inside" - Loic Nottet. 

Mum is nodding her head to this one.L: This is very, very well staged.  And he has given us a new word for our vocabulary: rapapap.

M: He is very young.  This is different!
L:  And he does a great twirl.  I think he's really talented and has a lot of potential - I can't wait to hear how his career goes from here.
M: The lighting is hurting my eyes.  But he's done well.  Good job done son!

The staging of this could be described in Loreen's words as 'an everlasting piece of art'.  More than any other song this year, you could play this to someone who hates Eurovision and they would never guess it was a Eurovision song.

Right so I really need a comfort break but this will have to wait because the running order has determined that there are a lot of songs which I like, all in a row.  And here is another one.

AUSTRIA: "I Am Yours" - The Makemakes.

I've liked this song a lot since it was chosen to represent Austria.  It's the kind of retro-flavoured piano pop which we both like, and mum has decided who her favourite guy of the night is - the beardy, hat-wearing lead singer of The Makemakes.

M: He's nice!  I like him,  Best looking guy so far.
L: The smoke alarm will be going off any minute....now!  Fire! Fire!
M: Why did they have to set the piano on fire?

I explain to mum that this is not a particularly original effect as it had already been done by Ralf Gyllenhammar in Melodifestivalen 2 years ago, and I thought it suited that song much better.  As it turned out, this silly visual effect didn't make any difference to the song's score....

I really, really need a comfort break, so I skip Conchita and take some time out.

GREECE: "One Last Breath" - Maria Elena Kyriakou.

After a run of good songs, we're back to a boring ballad.  As I said in the semi-final, didn't the backdrop remind you of the old schools TV clock?

M: This is so mundane, it would put you to sleep.
L: They always do quite well though, but I can't see this one getting a great result.
M: Too many gestures.
L: Too much drama, and not in a good way.

It's a no from the EuropeCrazy HQ jury for this one.  I've enjoyed so many of the Greek songs over recent years, so can we please have something more uptempo next year?

MONTENEGRO: "Adio" - Knez.

I give mum a brief introduction about Zeljko Joksimovic and the type of songs he sends to ESC. Mum is more interested in the staging.

M: I hope that water's not real.
L: Don't worry, it's just an effect.  There was real water on stage last year though.
M: I don't want to hear about last year.
L: Big dancey bit!  Big Balkan drama.  Me like.
M: What language is this in?
L: Montenegrin?  Or is it Serbian? I'm not sure.  I'm only just getting into Balkan music so I have a lot to learn.

GERMANY: "Black Smoke" - Ann Sophie.

A.K.A. The one which isn't "Heart of Stone" by Andreas Kummert.  Andreas of course won the German selection and then controversially decided this whole Eurovision lark wasn't for him, so he defaulted the win to Ann Sophie who looks as if she could be Lena's big sister.   This song was written by Ella Eyre and a bloke who used to be in Ultra.  (Remember them? "Say You Do"/"Say It Once"/"The Right Time").  I liked those Ultra songs, but I don't particularly like this song.

M: I quite like the staging of this.
L: Her styling's much improved since the German final, but there is still something missing.  It's one of those songs which I don't listen to all the way through.

Torrential rain has just come on and we spend the remainder of the song talking about the weather. (See what I mean about not listening all the way through?)  I can't see anything other than right side of the scoreboard for this one.

POLAND: "In The Name of Love" - Monica Kuzynska.

I explain to mum about the wheelchair and the back story.  IMHO this was a major factor in her getting to the final, sorry but that's just what I think.  The song is nice, but not much more than that, and I can't see myself ever listening to this song again.  We are both agreed on the loveliness of the staging, though.

LATVIA: "Love Injected" - Aminata.

Graham Norton calls this "one of the worst titles".  By the way we've not really been listening to Norton's commentary tonight so I can't really comment on what he's been saying.  The staging is perfectly in line with the song - jarring and experimental.

M: This sounds like someone hammering a nail in.
L: My ears, my ears are bleeding. No, no, a million times no.

But if I can say one thing in its favour - it's unusual, original and like the Belgian entry, as far removed from the ESC stereotype as you'll get. So can someone please drag the British media's preconceptions of the contest out of the mid 20th century?

ROMANIA: "De La Capat/All Over Again" - Voltaj.

L: He still reminds me of someone but I don't know who?  Oh I've got it - Fabien Barthez!  That French goalie from years ago!  Doesn't look exactly like him but anyway...
M: This is quite a nice song.  I'd have preferred the full song in English though.
L: I disagree!  But then I'm just an old-school native language geek.

SPAIN: "Amanecer" - Edurne.

I miss most of this because mum's sent me into the kitchen to make her a hot chocolate, but the bits I do manage to catch don't convince me to change my view that it's all drama and ultimately empty with no substance.  Quedate Conmigo it ain't.  And not even a topless male dancer will make me change my mind.

HUNGARY: "Wars For Nothing" - Boggie.

Nice dress, clever staging but the song's just zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......

M: This would put you to sleep!

GEORGIA: "Warrior" - Nina Sublatti.

M: Is she wearing an ostrich?
L: Whatever, you don't mess with Nina.

This is one of the best examples this year of superior staging boosting a song which I never really cared much about before the contest.

M: How many hours has this song been on?
L: You're a bit grumpy tonight.
M: No I'm not!  I'm not grumpy!

AZERBAIJAN: "Hour of the Wolf" - Elnur Huseynov.

For the land of fire it's an appropriately fiery postcard.  Unfortunately the choreography overshadows Elnur's impressive vocals.

L: If I ruled the world I would BAN CONTEMPORARY DANCE!! (goes into angry rant)
M: He is a very good singer but that dancing or whatever you want to call it just spoils the song.
L: Those dancers are annoying the life out of me.

RUSSIA: "A Million Voices" - Polina Gagarina

Another faultless performance from Polina, and some, er. enhanced applause/cheering - please please please, EBU, don't make a habit of this in future contests.

L: This is a serious contender to win, but I hope it doesn't.
M: I've had my fill of this show by now.  I don't care who wins.
L: Oh you know that's not true!
M: How many more hours to go?

ALBANIA: "I'm Alive" - Elhaida Dani.

And here's Elhaida in yet another new dress, slashed to the waist, trying to challenge Trijntjtjtjtjtjtjeje for the Barbara Dex.  Vocally she's crossed the line over to the dark side of shouty and screechy.

M: What is that she is wearing?  How did this song make the final?
L: I don't like the dress, and I don't like the song.  Her hair is awful too.  This is a complete no from me tonight.  Hope Albania make a better choice for next year.

ITALY: "Grande Amore" - Il Volo

And now....my winner.  The three guys who make up Il Volo get a very warm reception - and I think the applause is real this time and not fake!  And if Italy has developed a reputation for not really going that extra mile in the Grand Final, then they finally got the memo this year.

Il Volo certainly have stage presence, and even do something almost approaching choreography (if walking off and walking on counts).  And that little wink from Gianluca gets the EuropeCrazy douze points.  In fact everything about Gianluca gets our douze points :))

At this point I'm starting to speculate about Italy winning and what kind of contest RAI would produce, *visions of Toto and his clipboard being wheeled out just one more time*

So that's it for the songs then.  This year's interval act to entertain us is none other than Martin Grubinger and the Percussive Planet (nope - me neither).  Bongos are being, er. bonged.  Demented xylophonists do their thang.  There's a tuba duet.  They're building hearts and bridges in the green room.  IMHO this is not one of my favourite interval acts of all time, but it's a decent enough display of musical virtuosity and Martin himself seems to be enjoying it.

I guess though that I didn't give it my complete attention as I was too busy casting my votes - for Estonia, Sweden, Italy and Norway!  Very proud as ever to take part in the democratic process, in-between making some mighty fine home-made cajun spiced potato wedges :)

The countdown is on till the lines close.  The voting is over, the lines are closed and it's time for a Conchita mini-concert featuring "You Are Unstoppable" and "Firestorm". (I really like that song - it reminds me a little of "Dance With Somebody" by Mando Diao).

Vienna 2015 won't go down as the most memorable contest ever, although it was adequate enough. I was glad to see Conchita being such a big part of the final.  She means so much to Austria - after all they wouldn't be hosting Eurovision if it wasn't for her.

There follows an appearance by the current Junior Eurovision champ - Vincenzo from Italy.  Could it be an Italian junior and 'senior' double this year?

But the night is getting on, it's 10.30 already and mum has decided to have another little snooze and she's told me that she doesn't have much stamina for the voting marathon ahead.  Alice and Mirjam reappear in drab beige gowns.  Let the results begin!  But before that, there's a little montage of past winners.  Jon Ola Sand's also got an announcement - ESC has made the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-running TV music competition in the world.

As in previous years there are some ex-contestants as jury spokespersons: Andrea Demirovic (Montenegro), Julie (Malta), Krista Siegfrids (Finland), Helena Paparizou (Greece), Teo (Belarus), Basim (Denmark), Tinkara Kovac (Slovenia), Edsilia Rombley (Netherlands, wearing that infamous Trijntje dress), Valentina Monetta (San Marino), Suzy (Portugal) and Tanja (Estonia).

Montenegro kick off with a predictable 12 to Serbia.

Malta give 1 point to the UK and 12 to Italy.

Finland's shy, retiring and understated Krista slips in a 'ding dong' and announces 12 to Sweden. Judging by the look on Alice's face, she's not too familiar with the whole Krista concept.

But anyway it's on to Greece and the first shock of the evening.  Gasps in the hall.  No 12 to Cyprus - only 10 points with the 12 going to Italy!

Portugal - what the wawawe is going on?  Suzy makes a brief appearance then disappears.

Romania - after a display of her knowledge of German, the spokeswoman announces 12 to Italia! Presumably in the absence of Moldova.

Belarus - twerpy hamsters at the ready, cause it's Teo announcing the results culminating in a not entirely unexpected 12-points-go-to-Russia!  You can hear the booing in the hall.

Albania's jury spokesman has some, er, interesting clothing going on.  It's a 12 to Italy.

You'd expect Moldova to give 12 to Romania, and you'd be right!  This 12 lifts them off the bottom of the scoreboard.

Azerbaijan - 12 points go to "I'm not surprised at all" says the jury spokesman - Russia (boo-boo-boo-boo).  We're not surprised at all either, that they overlooked Armenia.

Latvia don't give 12 to Russia.  This is like breaking serve in a tennis match.  But it's early days.

Top 3 time: Russia, Sweden and Italy.

Alice gives a little speech about equal treatment and respect.  Presumably the subliminal message here is 'stop booing Russia!"

Serbia - 12 to Montenegro - quelle surprise!!  Yay for neighbour voting :)  This takes Montenegro over to the left hand side of the scoreboard.

Estonia - Tanja disappears.  Graham Norton: "are there tin cans and string connecting these countries?".  That's a major disappointment tonight - the number of connections lost to the various countries.

Denmark - 12 to Sweden.

Switzerland - with only 7 to Russia and 12 to Sweden, is this the game changer?

Belgium - 12 to Sweden.

France - Italy surprisingly voted down, only 8 to Sweden and a 12 to Belgium!

This is not going to be a runaway victory for anyone at this stage - it's very close and it's anyone's game.

Armenia - both Italy and Sweden voted down, and the 'Anne Hathaway impersonator' (says Graham Norton) announces 12 to the 'beautiful and talented young lady from Russia'.  And nul points to Azerbaijan.

Ireland - well hello there lovely Nicky Byrne.  Only 1 point to the UK but better than nowt.  We're desperate now, we'll even just accept 1 point.  8 to Russia, 10 to Sweden, and 12 to....Latvia!
Cat?  Pigeons?

Top 3: Russia / Sweden / Italy.

Sweden - Mariette Hansson announces the Swedish vote.  Both Norway and Russia are voted down and the 12 goes to Australia!  Their first 12 of the night.  It's clear they're not going to win but they're picking up votes from almost every country.

Germany - Italy voted down, and 12 to Russia.

At this stage both Austria and Germany are still on the dreaded nil points.  At the top end of the scoreboard it's all to play for.

Australia - cheers drown out the Aussie spokesperson giving those historic Aussie votes.  It's 12 to Sweden and nothing to the UK.  The Queen says: "cheers for that, Australia, you're off the Christmas card list and won't be invited back to the Commonwealth Games".

At this point Conchita's interviewing Polina, she's crying and it's all too much. What will she be like if she wins?  Polina is lovely but I do not want Russia to win tonight.

Czech Republic - the Italian victory slips away and it's a surprising 12 to Azerbaijan.  Hmmm...

Spain - 12 to Italy.

Top 5: Russia/Sweden/Italy/Belgium/Latvia.

Austria - they do what-do what-do what they want and award 12 to near-namesakes Australia!

Nil Points watch: Germany and Austria are still there....

FYR Macedonia: FYROM pull a not too surprising vote vote here: the top 3 are voted down and it's a 12 to one of their favourite recipients of 12s....Albania.

Slovenia - if we're talking game-changers here is another one.  Only 5 to Russia, only 8 to Italy and a big 12 goes to Sweden.

Hungary - both Russia and Italy are marked down here and their 12 goes to Belgium.

United Kingdom - it's a weird and wonderful choice for the UK's jury spokesperson this year - only the 'domestic goddess' herself, Ms Nigella Lawson, who shows off her multi-lingual skills and delivers 8 to Italy, 10 to Australia and 12 to Sweden.  A low mark to Russia makes it a real game-changer as Sweden finally leapfrogs Russia and takes the lead.

Georgia - further lolz here as they only give 5 to Russia, prompting a massive cheer.  And then she disappears.

Lithuania - it's bad news for Italy (1 point), 10 to Sweden and 12 to....Latvia.  And crucially, nil points to Russia.  The Swedish lead opens up.

Netherlands - both Italy and Russia are marked down whilst it's a not too surprising neighbourly love-in with a 12 to Belgium.

Poland - Russia and Italy marked down again and Sweden stretch their lead with another 12.

Top 3: Sweden, Russia, Italy.  By this point I'm hyperventilating, whilst mum's oblivious to all this
excitement as she is having a snooze.

Israel - 12 to Italy.

Russia - boo, boo, boo....Dmitry is not attention-seeking in the least, is he?  "12 points from Russia go to....Russia".  This might be remotely funny had Bjorn Gustafsson not already done this already, back in 2008.  (They actually give 12 to Italy, which is quite surprising).

San Marino - oh look, it's Valentina.  Well she had to be involved somewhere after 3 years representing her homeland!  Russia is by-passed here, and the UK even picks up 3 points.  Only 10 to Italy though, with their top marks going to Latvia.

Italy - like Russia, they're generous to their rivals giving 10 to Russia and 12 to Sweden.  Can we call it yet for Sverige??  Actually, Italy give votes to the top 9 countries apart from themselves so as voting patterns go, that's pretty accurate.

Iceland - a low mark for Russia and a 12 to Sweden, but according to Graham Norton, we still can't call it!

Cyprus - headlines of SHOCKA!!! as not only do they give Russia a low mark but they only give 8 to Greece.  Yes that's right.  Graham Norton: "That is unprecedented, I think".  Italy get the 12 from Cyprus.


Yes, in the great tradition of recent years the winner is announced before all the voting is completed. Sweden have won the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest!

Norway - a low mark to Russia and 12 to their "Heroes" from Sweden.

Now we're retrying the countries which 'broke down' earlier.
Portugal - there's only 3 points to Spain, and Suzy announces the 12 from Portugal to Italy.
Estonia - here's Tanja in Tallinn again, with 12 points to Russia.
And finally - Georgia - marking down both Sweden and Russia, with a 12 to Armenia.

Mum finally wakes up to discover that Sweden have won.  She seems pretty happy about this, although disappointed for Italy.  I tell her that the voting's been much more exciting and even dare I say unpredictable than usual.  She's annoyed that she's missed it, but thanks to recording the contest she manages to catch up the following day.  But before the show ends tonight I get a final "how long's this been on for? 4 HOURS?  4 HOURS????" Yes this year's contest was certainly a record breaker - the longest ever Eurovision night.  Now I know that we Eurovision fans can be very greedy and want as much of the contest as we can, but for me a 4 hour final is not the way to go.  From the far too lengthy introduction, to the interviews and unnecessary time-wasting, ESC seems to be falling into the modern-day TV trap of 'more is more'.

So that's it for another year. Måns Zelmerlöw has won the Eurovision Song Contest this year for Sweden with "Heroes".  It's Sweden's 2nd win in 4 years and their 6th win overall.  But the Swedish win hit a sour note as it quickly emerged that they only came 3rd in the televoting result behind Italy and Russia. As for the jury vote this was won by Sweden, with Latvia 2nd and Russia 3rd. When the split results were revealed this prompted the now annual calls for the reform of the voting system.
At the bottom of the scoreboard we had our first nil-pointers in 12 years - not just one, but two (neighbouring) countries, Austria and Germany, with an even sadder statistic as Austria is the first host country to score nil points. But before you get the hankies out to wipe away those nil-points tears, at least the Makemakes and Ann Sophie both managed to have a laugh about it, with their own versions of "We are the zeroes of our time" Makemakes - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAgcqZNwgb0
Ann Sophie - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTpZPwmu9P8

For post-final comments please read a post which I wrote on the day after the contest - http://europecrazy.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/eurovision-day-after.html


"Heroes" did very well indeed across Europe - hitting no. 1 in several countries, even making it to no.11 in the official UK singles chart and I'm proud to say that it did even better here in our Scottish singles chart, making it to no.7. Måns released his album "Perfectly Damaged" on the back of his win, and the follow-up single to "Heroes",  "Should've Gone Home" is getting lots of airplay on Swedish radio and is in the Swedish top 5 at the time of writing. Måns is also hotly tipped to host next year's contest which will take place at the Globen complex in Stockholm, with Petra Mede as another rumoured host although no announcement has been made yet regarding the presenter(s).

 SVT are promising a "cheaper" contest, half of the grossly over-budgeted Copenhagen 2014  but I'm sure they won't skimp on the production values which we expect of them by now.  There is one shocking potential change which will have all us old purists in an uproar though - SVT want to change the start time of the contest, to start an hour earlier.  I guess this is presumably an answer to the increasingly late running time of the show, which this year didn't finish until 1.00am central European time and even later the further east you go. Or is SVT planning a 5-hour extravaganza next May, and they're not telling us?

Meanwhile Guy Sebastian went on to enjoy success in the European charts with "Tonight Again" and all these months later, it's still a fixture on Swedish radio playlists. At this point there's no news from the EBU on whether (a) there will be a 'guest country' in 2016, and (b) who it will be.  I'd be very happy to welcome Australia back, if they keep up the standard of their debut.

Song submissions are now being invited across the continent, and the 1st September deadline has now passed, meaning that anything released from now on is technically eligible for Eurovision 2016. So on-season is....on!  We are also coming into that time of year when countries are gradually confirming their provisional participation.  Be gone PED (Post-Eurovision Depression), because ESC 2016 is on the way!!

So I finally got round to posting my backlog of ESC posts.  Hope you enjoyed them.  I'm now heading off on a long-awaited holiday and am hoping to get back into blogging after I return.  Really looking forward to getting this blog up and running again.  

Eurovision 2015: Semi-Final 2, Thursday 21.05.2015

For the first time since 2008, if I remember correctly, I had to miss a Eurovision semi-final.  That year I was on holiday, but this year it was due to a very enjoyable evening out at a prior engagement with mum, so I had to set my Sky+ and avoid Twitter until later in the evening when we finally sat down to watch the show.  Of course I now have a new annual tradition of taking Eurovision Eve off work, so I could stay up as late as I wanted to!

Our three hostesses Arabella, Mirjam and Alice - or their stylists, to be more precise, must have read some of the negative comments online about their outfits on Tuesday night, as the ladies’ styling was much more agreeable tonight, and they certainly look more relaxed and comfortable.  As in the first semi-final, all the contestants are called to the stage and there's that flashmobbing-dancing thing going on, which I don't really understand.  Now - songs!

LITHUANIA - "This Time" -Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila.

In a year of very few uptempo songs - and you'll wait a long time for them in this semi-final - it was inevitable that this would open the show.  It's a lively performance with an equally lively backdrop to match.  And of course there is "one kiss".  Not only that but there is a same-sex kiss between the two sets of dancers.  That’s the ‘demographic’ vote sorted then eh?

IRELAND - "Playing With Numbers" - Molly Sterling.

Molly, Molly, Molly.  In the middle of a forest too, for some reason.  She is still not connecting enough to the viewers, it's the second spot of death in the draw, and I always get the feeling that despite being the co-writer of the song, she's singing about playing with numbers and she didn't know what it meant.  On the plus side, it's a very mature song and performance for such a young artist and even if she doesn't qualify, this will be an unforgettable experience for her.  

SAN MARINO - "Chain of Lights” – Anita Simoncini and Michele Perniola.

In keeping with the song's title, there are lots of lights but this awful song just can't be redeemed.  It’s a chain of s***e for you and a chain of s***e for me.  If San Marino's continued participation is to be held to ransom by Ralph Siegel's songs, then the country would be as well packing up and going home.  Michele and Anita should have been given a more ‘youthful’ song than this.  Never was that ‘no’ at the start of the song so appropriate. 

MONTENEGRO: "Adio" - Knez.

After that opening ceremony, here is the man who is now known at EuropeCrazy HQ as “K-nees”.  After a couple of 'meh' songs this brings back the quality.  It's a Zeljko song and there is beautiful staging here, which looks like they're walking on water.  His performance is faultless and then we hit the dance bit. Wow, wow and wow.  

M: I don't understand what he's singing about but he is very professional.

MALTA: "Warrior" - Amber.

After Nina from Georgia won us over with her warrior performance the other night, Amber had a lot to prove.  There is very busy staging and lighting effects going on, busy to the point of ruining the song and performance. This is like 'Rise Like A Phoenix' on steroids.  I like her lace dress which reminds me of Helena Paparizou in Melodifestivalen, but I have a new fave warrior in this year’s ESC and it's not Amber.  

M: Don’t know about break through the silence, but she’s screaming through it!
L: There’s a much better song coming next.

NORWAY: "A Monster Like Me" - Mørland and Debrah Scarlett.

So there was a lot of soul-searching after the MGP final about how this was going to be staged, particularly that long instrumental section before the final chorus.  In the end it was simple and effective.  And this is bloody special.  

M: This is good, in an odd kind of way.
L: Odd is good.

PORTUGAL: "Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa” – Leonor Andrade.

One of this year's (very few) absolute no-hopers, which is really sad as I always want Portugal to be wonderful and most of the time they just let me down. There's lots of wind (machines) and attitude from the Portuguese, gothic....

M: Cheryl Cole!  That's who she looks like.

I'm not sure what this song is supposed to be.  Is it a rock song? A pop song?  If faithful travelling companion was watching this (which he isn't) he would be asking "where's the fado?".  If the Suzy shake couldn’t make the final, this has zilch chance.

CZECH REPUBLIC: "Hope Never Dies" - Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta.

They're back, back, back after 5 years and was it worth it?  Their postcard features knights and a creepy big bridge - could this be a subliminal 'building bridges' reference? This was one of the songs which I haven't played too much before the contest, and I hadn't really paid any attention to their rehearsals so it was all new to me.  And my first thought is "bloody hell Vaclav, why didn't I notice you before?"  It's been a long day though, and I'm not sure how much longer my Vaclav-appreciation will last.  This is a very theatrical ballad which culminates in Marta chucking off her shoes.  And it's all too much for mum.

M: This is far too high class.  Far too high-falutin'!
L: You'll like the next song though :)

ISRAEL: "Golden Boy" - Nadav Guedj.

One of my most-anticipated songs of the night.  Lots of enthusiasm and entertainment value which should overturn Israel’s recent poor qualification record and ensure it won’t be bye bye after their 3 minutes in the semi-final.  But there’s only one talking point at EuropeCrazy HQ…

M: He's WHAT age?
L: 16 I think.
M: He's awfully old looking for 16.  I wouldn't like to see what he looks like by the time he's 21. But he's the king of fun.
L: Indeed he is!
M: And you’re never too old for fun, even if he is really an old guy.

LATVIA: "Love Injected" - Aminata Savadogo.

Sorry Aminata, and Latvia, because I love your country and I love Latvia being in ESC every year, but I'm never going to like this non-song in a million years.  Although it is very well-staged, and Aminata is recalling Diana Ross' "Chain Reaction" with that frock, the song still fails to connect with either of us.  She is very good at what she does though, and it's all very mystical.  It should get marks for originality, I will say that.  But at the end of the day Latvia 2015 was all really about Rigas Bebrs, wasn't it?  

M: This isn't a song at all.  I thought this was called the Eurovision Song Contest?
L: I don't like this song, never have done. 

AZERBAIJAN: "Hour of the Wolf" - Elnur Huseynov.

It's a shame really that when I think of Aserjeban (apart from thinking of Lynda Woodruff) I think of sim cards for all (allegedly of course) and the songs are inevitably overshadowed by, um, external factors.  This year we have Elnur, who is very able to deliver this type of anthemic and dramatic ballad, and then they go and spoil it all with theatrical bunkum.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the hell that is 'contemporary dance'.  Was this really needed?  I was quite captivated by this song but that was quickly overshadowed by an overwhelming thought "NOT F*****G CONTEMPORARY DANCE, NO NO NO NO NO!!" and that tells you all you need to know.  Have you not learned from the hell that was Robin Stjernberg's staging 2 years ago?

M: The dancing, if you can call it that, is wasting this song.
L: Indeed.

ICELAND: "Unbroken" - Maria Olafs.

Now here comes the unexpected car crash moment of semi final 2.  Maria leaves her 'steps' across the stage, and the northern lights staging is quite exquisite.  But the beautiful staging can't save this, because she then starts "singing" and we very quickly discover that there are no redeeming features about this manic pixie rubbish.  She probably doesn't deserve the class line-up of backing singers which include Hera Bjork and the guy who came runner-up in Songvakeppnin,Friðrik Dór....I wonder if he could have done better?  But of course they should really have sent "Feathers", shouldn't they?   

And now for viewers in the UK, on BBC Four, we have a VT about this year's UK entrants Electro Velvet.   Break time over, and time for a little country you may have heard of, called Sweden!

SWEDEN: "Heroes" - Måns Zelmerlöw. 

So the question was finally answered – the scene-stealing cartoon guy has been redesigned with a balloon replacing his umbrella.  “Heroes” is a lively song - and boy do we need one of those! - performed in a slick and professional manner which you expect from Måns by now.  Sometimes it comes across as maybe a little too clinical and sanitised, although there is no doubting its international hit potential.  Tonight's performance is maybe not the best ever performance I've heard of the song, but it succeeds.  The backing vocals work too, thus calming pre-contest questions about whether they would be able to recreate the taped Melfest backing vocals. A confident performance....just don't get too confident though! 

It’s been a long night and by now Mum has fallen asleep and missed Måns.  I make sure she sees the clip of the song later though, so she doesn't miss out!

SWITZERLAND: "Time to Shine" - Melanie Rene.

Right all you Allo Allo fans, let's get the "ooooooh Rrrrrrrreneeeeee" thing out of the way now. Done? Good.  Melanie is very good too, and makes the best of the song she's got.  The staging is effective, there are backing drummers and trees and a costume change and I love the use of "mucking around" in the chorus, but the biggest problem I have with this is that (a) it's not Sebalter, (b) it's not Sebalter, and (c) it's not Sebalter.  She is very talented though and is probably better than the song; and on this performance she deserves to qualify.  But at whose expense? 

CYPRUS: "One Thing I Should Have Done" - John Karayiannis. 

It’s time for John! He is so loveable isn't he.  You just want to give him a great big hug.  This is staged very simply but effectively, beginning in black and white and John in a solo spotlight. This deserves great things. 

At this stage I am mulling over my pre-show predictions and wondering how many I'll get right. Wondering if Switzerland should qualify in place of Iceland.  Or anyone else for that matter, because Iceland certainly don't deserve to qualify on that performance.

SLOVENIA: "Here For You" - Maraaya.  

Aah here come lovely Maraaya and their trademark headphones.  I will be down down low if this doesn't qualify, as it's one of my top 5 favourites of this year's contest (along with Italy, Sweden, Norway and Estonia).  Yet this is missing something in the echoey sound mix as Marjetka's vocals are disappearing at times - I hope this doesn't ruin their qualification chances.

POLAND: "In The Name of Love" – Monika Kuszyńska.

There is a nice pastel pink and green backdrop here, which is a rather drastic change from some of the “busy” backdrops we’ve seen over the 2 semi-finals. The song lacks the ‘killer touch’ but she is very charming and I think the draw placing combined with the back-story should guarantee qualification.

After the voting recaps there’s a little VT about ESC’s famous voting moments including the legendary “I don’t have it!”.  There’s also interviews with some of the finalists including the UK’s Electro Velvet.  I’m still not convinced by Alex’s body language – he still appears reluctant and confused and I still don’t know how to take him.

Fast forward to the results.  Who's going to the final?


and the last country to qualify is...

I'm very happy to say that I predicted 9 out of 10 qualifiers correctly tonight, I got Iceland wrong and hadn’t predicted Latvia to make the final.  Oh well, 9 out of 10 ain’t bad!

Next stop, the final.  For the first time ever, there are 27 countries competing in the final so it's a) going to be tougher than ever, and b) gonna be a long night on Saturday.....

Eurovision 2015: Semi-Final 1, Tuesday 19.05.2015

So here we go!  No more rehearsals, no more speculation - it's time for the real thing.  And here in the UK that means enduring rather than enjoying the BBC3 coverage; this year's commentators are Scott Mills and Mel Giedroyc, and it can only be an improvement on last year, although I continue to have a real problem with BBC3's coverage.  Too much chit-chat and unnecessary video clips etc etc.  On your marks, get set, bake!  (Sorry, wrong show.....!)

As is now the tradition, the show opens with a tantalising glimpse of what could be, if the orchestra was brought back - but it's only a brief appearance by the ORF symphony orchestra to back Conchita - a.k.a. the artist formerly known as Conchita Wurst - "the queen of Europe" - on what, for me, was a surprisingly muted recap of last year's winner, "Rise Like A Phoenix".  Conchita is all dressed in white.

Conchita is followed by the now-standard parade of countries, each country is called and their contestants make their way from the green room down the catwalk lined with random dancing/flashmobbing people - I don't get the point of them, but that's just my opinion.  Conchita finishes her song, by which time all the contestants are on stage.

For the 60th ESC, ORF are going for some record-breaking: why have one host when you can have four?  Arabella, Mirjam and Alice are this year's main hosts, with Conchita working the green room. The multiple host phenomenon seems to be a scourge of modern television these days unfortunately. My other main gripe, apart from the unnecessary number of hosts, is the poor styling on show.  In particular, poor Alice - what did she do to deserve that?

Mum: Why is she wearing a towel?  Is she just out the bath?  Did they not have enough money to buy her a nice dress?

The three hosts look very uncomfortable in the opening minutes.  With those outfits, no wonder!

This year's postcards are clearly not going to be anywhere as good as last year's make-your-own-flag exercise.  In 2015 the contestants have a parcel delivered to their home country which gives a clue to their Austrian activity which makes up the remainder of the postcard.

MOLDOVA: "I Want Your Love" - Eduard Romanyuta.

So this year's Ukrainian entrant in exile blends Liberty X, Britney Spears, every 90s boyband and George Michael's "Outside" video and the result is an energetic if dated slice of pop.  And there's certainly a lot worse this year.  As it's one of the few remotely uptempo songs tonight, I wasn't surprised to see it first in the running order.  And they are definitely aiming for the demographic with those cops in tight leather shorts :) In recent years Moldova has carved its very own particular niche at Eurovision, but they're missing something for me this year - probably because there's nothing particularly Moldovan about it at all. Time to bring back Pasha Parfeny, I reckon. And maybe even his trumpet.

ARMENIA: "Face The Shadow" - Genealogy.

This is a surprisingly well-staged, dramatic and sincere rendition of a song I haven't really been excited about since it was chosen as the Armenian entry.  Of course despite the change of title, the whole concept is designed to make a statement, what with the various singers of Armenian origin, and then there is this very nice effect towards the end where a map of the world appears and all the singers go to their particular area of the map. The performers make the best of what is not a great song.  But then mum goes and says something which will probably redefine this song for me for ever.

Mum: Are they singing "Don't be nice?"
Laura: "Face The Shadow" will hereafter be known at EuropeCrazy HQ as "Don't Be Nice"!

BELGIUM: "Rhythm Inside" - Loic Nottet.

So I get very excited at seeing Brussels (where I've just been on holiday) in the Belgian postcard.

This very minimalist song starts off with stark white staging before the lasers erupt all over the place. The choreography of the backing singers is exquisite, Loic performs the life out of this song and that little spin after the first chorus is terrific!

L: Do you like this?
M: It's very,um.....different?  Definitely not a "Eurovision song".  The lights are a bit too dazzling for me though.

NETHERLANDS: "Walk Along" - Trijntje Oosterhuis.

So....Ms O has attracted rather more unwanted attention over the past week after, let's just say, some attention-seeking styling (to say the least) in rehearsals.  So with a continent on the edge of our seats, we wondered: just what would she wear tonight?

The answer: a black pantaloon-ensemble which even MC Hammer in his heyday wouldn't have given house room to.  She starts off with her eyes covered by a veil, which she pulls off to reveal messy hair....and don't start me on the backing singers' outfits which are awful and Trijntje herself looks as if she's in pain all through the song.  As the viewers probably are at this time.  Not since Serbia in 2013 has styling killed a song so much.

M: This song is far, far too repetitive.  What's all that "i-i-i-i" about?
L: I thought this was ok at first when it was chosen as the Dutch entry but after tonight the only thing people will remember will be the outfit.
M: 3 hours later and she's still singing why-i-i-i-?
L: Why aye man!  Actually I'd probably prefer the Mark Knopfler song to this right now.

FINLAND: "Aina mun pitää" - Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät.

But now here come the Finnish punks to blow away the cobwebs. I briefly give mum a very quick summary of the back-story but she's briefly decided to go and do something else so she misses this song.  It's certainly different, and I'm very happy for them that they got their chance to represent Finland and also raise their own profile along the way.  But on the other hand, if they are to qualify, will it be for the back-story or will it be on the song's musical merits?

If you are having your own little drinking game going, every time they mention Australia, then take a drink at this point of the evening.

Conchita's changed into a dark blue trouser-suit and has her first green room interlude, where we get a lesson in how to pronounce Trijntje.

GREECE: "One Last Breath" - Maria Elena Kyriacou.

Power ballad alert.  The one which for me is more derivative of last year's winner, than any other song this year.  You could probably sing Rise Like A Phoenix over it.  Maria Elena's a dramatic diva in a slashed-to-the waist silver gown.  The backdrop reminds me of the ITV Schools and Colleges countdown clock from my school days by the way!  (younger readers - this will probably go over your head!)

Mum has returned, she has spoken and she doesn't like this.
M: Where's this from?  It doesn't sound like a Greek song, does it?
L: I prefer my Greek entries to be more uptempo and bonkers and, well, Greek.
But you'll like the next song.
M: Are you sure??

ESTONIA: "Goodbye To Yesterday" - Elina Born and Stig Rästa.

Right, so let's get the obvious stuff out of the way: Estonia is one of my favourite ESC countries. Estonian women who enter ESC are all fabulous and gorgeous and have fantastic hair.  Elina is yet another of those women, and Stig is never going to be anything else than mega-cool.  Oh, and this song and this duet is one of the country's best entries in years and earlier in ESC season was being tipped as a possible winner.

L: Don't you remember this from the national final which we watched?
M: That was too long ago to remember.  But I like this.  Is he quite young?  He's got that kind of face it's hard to tell his age.
L *Checks the internet* He's 35.
M: 35?  I thought he was younger than that.  She's a nice looking girl too.
L: I really like them - I hope this does well.

There's some major intensity being thrown around during this performance and by the end of the song Stig is gone, leaving Elina all alone on stage.

L: Macedonia next!
M: Don't know anything about Macedonia?????
L: I like this song.

FYR MACEDONIA: "Autumn Leaves" - Daniel Kajmakoski.

Way back in the mists of time, in late 2014, Daniel won Skopje Fest.  Somewhere along the way, "Lisja Esenski" was re-imagined as OneRepublic and Timbaland's "Apologize", with the help of Blackstreet (yes the 'No Diggity' Blackstreet, now known as Merj for some reason).

In the long lead-up to the contest this has been one of my favourite entries - I like both versions of the song by the way!

Unfortunately Daniel's vocals lose it a little bit and he goes off key a couple of times.  I'm worried for his qualifying chances, it has to be said - and if FYROM fails to make it again, I worry if they may decide to quit the contest altogether.  Which would be a real shame.

SERBIA: "Beauty Never Lies" - Bojana Stamenov.

I'd have preferred if this had stayed in its original language but qualification is vital, and Bojana performs as if her life depended on it.  And then you have that moment when it turns into the biggest, gayest anthem of the year. ("Here I Aaaaammmmmmm!")

M: This is just a bit too over the top for me.  A bit too much screaming (covers ears).
L: Serbia had to come back with a big showstopper though.

HUNGARY: "Wars For Nothing" - Boggie.

I'm completely worn out after the last song but things are really being taken to extremes now - from the stompiest song of the evening to the sleeping pill of the night.  Very effective staging though, it must be said, as the tree of guns turns into a real tree.  And I like her very understated dress.  But that's about it really.

M: (zzzzzz.........)

BELARUS: "Time" - Uzari and Maimuna.

M:  Ooh he's quite nice looking!
L; Yes he's had a bit of a makeover since I saw him last. (I explain to mum that the Belarus final took place around Christmas time).

Maimuna meanwhile is a very striking and classy presence on stage and I end up enjoying all this more than I thought I would.  The most negative thing about this is that it's just too repetitive. What really surprises me is that for the 2nd year in a row, Belarus has stuck with its national final choice!

RUSSIA: " A Million Voices" - Polina Gagarina.

*OK, listening very carefully for boos!*
It's another Gabriel Alares co-write for Russia, and he's also on guitar in her band.  And yet again it's another song about how we should all get along blah blah blah....

I'll be honest here - if Polina wasn't representing Russia, I'd probably feel more positive about this entry, as she seems likeable enough.  She's a powerful vocalist with strong stage presence.

Conchita's interviewing again and finds out that Stig from Estonia has tried 9 times to represent his home country.  Oh, and check out the Serbian delegation - isn't that a certain Marija Serifovic among them??

DENMARK: "The Way You Are" - Anti Social Media.

The winners of one of the more lacklustre Danish finals of recent years.  But it's uptempo, and let's face it folks, we need all the uptempo we can get!  The staging hasn't changed too much from DMGP, with 60s styling and Beatles-type microphone-sharing.

M: This is quite catchy, I quite like it.  Sounds familiar.
L: Don't you remember it from the national final?
M: Maybe that's the reason.

They do the best with what they have, although it's one of those songs which really doesn't stand up to repeated listening.

ALBANIA: "I'm Alive" - Elhaida Dani.

This song and singer, have a lot of support within the ESC fan community.  I tell mum that this replaced the song which Elhaida initially won FiK with, back in December.

M:  If this is a better song I wouldn't have liked to hear the other one!

I have never seen the appeal of this song and it really doesn't deserve to qualify.  She is better than the song though,  But I then go on to spend the rest of the song talking about Lindita Halimi and Rezarta Smaja....

ROMANIA: "De La Capat" - Voltaj.

Although this is a rarity - a Romanian entry in its own national language (well partly anyway) this song has a clear emotional pull, with the suitcases on stage symbolising the theme of the song - Romanians moving abroad to work, and the children they leave behind. In other words, it's the antidote to all those Channel 5 documentaries....

Aww and they've brought the little guy from the video too!

M: I don't know what they are singing about but it's quite a nice tune.
L: (explains the theme of the song)

GEORGIA: "Warrior" - Nina Sublatti.

Nina does some sewing in her postcard.  I wonder if she could give me some tips as my sewing's not going too well at the moment....but I digress.  Everything about this turns out to be wonderful. The staging, her outfit, those feathers, and well, just her.  She is great, and probably the nearest that ESC is ever going to get to Evanescence's Amy Lee.  Although I still don't know what oximated means....anyway the ESC voters don't take kindly to feisty females if Mei Finegold was anything to go by last year, but this is a real vote-grabber.

M: It's not much of a song but I love her look!

Voting recap time and then BBC3 being BBC3 it's time for a VT.  Of course given that Mel Giedroyc is one of the presenters of "The Great British Bake-Off" then we've got her working in a cake shop serving cake to Monika and Vaidas, Anti-Social Media, Nadav Guedj and major Macedonian flirt-magnet Daniel Kajmakoski.

And then another VT about Electro Velvet.  And then yet another VT this time with Scott Mills interviewing devoted fans and then an interview with Dr Eurovision and John from Cyprus.

Right, on with the drinking game - an Australian-themed VT followed by interviews with Guy Sebastian, Lisa Angell and Edurne, then videos of the automatic qualifiers....oh come on, let's get on with the results!  Also, Mel is prattling just a bit too much over the songs.  The BBC3 coverage irritates me but as the years go by I'm getting irritated by commentary in general, that's why I love getting the commentary-free official DVD in June!

So, which 10 countries are going to the grand final?  Well, you'd think that they'd take a little bit more time over the announcement, rather than a dismissive 2 minutes at the end of the show.  I'm not asking for interminable X Factor-style pre-announcement pauses but after so much time-wasting and interviews and gratuitous mentions of Australia *GOOD MORNING AUSTRALIA KLAXON!* I don't think it was too much to ask for a little bit more time to just build up the right amount of tension to announce the finalists, who are....


So there is only one more spot in the final, and it goes to...

So it's a great big yay!!!! for Loic - I wondered if it was maybe a little too experimental but obviously not!  I got 7 out of 10 predictions right - very sad that Daniel won't be in the final, and disappointed for Denmark but this may be the jolt they need to improve the selection of songs in their national final.

Up next: semi-final 2 - better songs and tougher competition ahead.

The Eurovision 2015 blog posts: an introduction

Almost 4 months have passed since the Eurovision 2015 semi-finals and grand finals took place. Even by my standards, these are beyond late!  As I said in a previous post, I had misplaced my notes and had been unable to find them for a long time, before they finally turned up.  I haven't had the time to post these as the weeks following my mum's death have been hectic.  I returned to work full-time, there was so much official/life-stuff to be done, and I was basically too exhausted to blog.

Despite the delay, I really wanted to post these as a tribute to my mum.  Even though she used to wind me up by saying every year that she hated Eurovision and would never watch it again, she loved it really and would never miss it.  Little did I know back in May that this would be the last time we would ever watch Eurovision together.  But I know that she will always be with me in spirit when the contest comes around.  

So here, finally, are my Eurovision semi-final and final reviews.  Enjoy :)

Summer rewind 2015: the (All)sång remains the same....or does it?

Petra Marklund's second year as host of SVT's great summer tradition didn't start well.  The last thing an outdoor show needs is bad weather, and the series premiered in a dull, grey, rainy, overcast Stockholm, the opposite of what we expect from Allsång: the beautiful Stockholm landscape bathed in evening sunshine. 

Something which has been creeping into the show over recent years is the inclusion of ever more 'VIPs' and celebs in the audience.  This went to ridiculous lengths in week 1 as the Swedish prime minister turned up with another fellow minister.  But no matter who you are, the weather does not differentiate.  So the PM and his government chum had to don their Skansen cagoules too...

The politicians' appearance attracted a lot of criticism with many online comments that SVT seems to care more about who's in the audience than who's appearing on stage.  Maybe it was just the weather, but week 1 fell flat, despite the efforts of the much-loved Hasse Andersson, this year's (other) big Melodifestivalen success story.Anyway we had the usual 'understated' performance from Carola (although it was worth mentioning for eagle-eyed fans of my other - mainly dormant these days - blog, Planet Salem, that Adam Hagstrand, Salem's former guitarist in his touring band, was in Carola's backing band). 

One new innovation we could have done without during this series: Petra singing her introduction of the artists to the tune of "Stockholm i mitt hjärta<. No, no, a thousand times no. It's not even acceptably cheesy, just cringeworthy.

Week 2 brought the triumphant return to Skansen of a certain ex-Allsång presenter who just happened to win this year's Eurovision Song Contest, but the Swedish press was just full of Norlie and KKV's "F word" controversy.  Meanwhile Tomas Ledin was back - now you all know that he's one of my all-time fave Swedish singers but if I'm honest his material of recent years doesn't come close to his classic songs.  "Livs levande" is certainly no "En del av mitt hjarta". 

In week 3 we had Isa, who had her breakthrough in this year's Melfest and I could predict her returning to Melfest and even representing Sweden at ESC in the next couple of years.  She is a very professional young performer.  The highlight of week 3 for me was Danny Saucedo performing the excellent "Brinner i Bröstet".  Like a lot of other Swedish stars, Danny has gone down the native-language route with his latest material.  He is such a star - I wonder if we will ever see him back at Melfest again? Talking of Melfest, Magnus Carlsson was rejuvenated by making the final this year and I enjoyed his energetic performance of "Gamla Stan" in week 3.

Week 4 was all about the summer hits.  Zara Larsson's "Lush Life" - a song with massive international hit appeal - has been judged the 'hit of the summer' in Sweden while "Fan Va Bra" by Jakob Karlberg has also been a big summer hit although if I'm honest it has a whiff of the 'one-hit-wonder' for me....unlike Darin (above), who has established a brilliant career which has completely been reinvented with his Swedish-language material. He performed the gorgeous "Ta Mig Tillbaka", (a song which always managed to bring me much-needed calm during my horrible summer) and its fine follow-up "Juliet".  And on a completely shallow note, isn't he just getting better and better-looking?????

Week 5 brought us the return of the rain, see-through raincoats and Ulrik Munther.  Just like Danny and Darin, he's turned his back on English-language music in favour of Swedish.  He performed "Nån gång", which I found a disappointing and irritating song. He still retains the youthful look but at least he doesn't look as if he should be in Junior Eurovision any more.  Dinah Nah's "Make Me (La La La)" was one of those songs which I've played a lot since Melfest and I think we can confidently say we'll see her back there next year, if only to prolong her 15 minutes of fame.  I'm pretty confident we'll also see Ida Lafontaine at a future Melfest too.

Not much to say about week 6 apart from Alcazar, who were also this year's chosen artists for the Allsångsscenen är din" special which directly followed the show. The 'Zar didn't disappoint, the show was packed with energy, discotastic fabulousness and all the hits and more .  A major highlight was a particularly memorable duet of "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)" by Andreas and special guestPeter Jöback.  Alcazar really did put on an entertaining show. I missed week 7 but did manage to catch the Four Seasons medley on YouTube performed by the Swedish cast of Jersey Boys, including David Lindgren and Bruno Mitsogiannis (again, I can imagine either or both of them in a future Melfest).

On 11th August, the final episode of this year's series was a very grand occasion, to commemorate 80 years of the Allsång tradition at Skansen, with a spectacular backing group - no less than the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.  Lena Philipsson was among the artists with her new song "Jag är ingen älskling".  A big finale then, with a big surprise.  For no-one was expecting that big announcement from Petra Marklund (above) that she was quitting the show after just two series to concentrate on her own solo music career.  An emotional farewell, one final dramatic performance of Kent's "Musik Non Stop" and then she was gone.

Presumably to avoid a whole summer, autumn, winter and spring of speculation in the Swedish tabloids over who the new host will be, SVT moved quickly to announce that Sanna Nielsen will present the 2016 series.  She gained good experience co-presenting Melodifestivalen 2015 with Robin Paulsson, where she emerged as a professional and fun presenter; if she can reach out to the public at Skansen as well as the TV viewers then SVT will have done the right thing appointing her as Petra's replacement.  But I'm sure the Swedish media will have lots to say, as always, when next July comes around....