Austria - Luis Omar Chong Lopez

Austria is like a rollercoaster , struggling  in the beggingin of the decade in Eurovision, offering a huge variety of music genres and languages (german, english, french and spanish)  

After the unexpected 3rd place of Cesar Sampson in Lisbon ORF repeated the same formula for this 2019, selecting internally the song and perforemer to represent Austria in Tel Aviv.

The expectations were big, as Pænda was know as an electro pop performer,however ORF surprised us with a ballad called Limits which will be included in the new album of her.

The videclip s was aired on March 8th,  showing in the videoclip some images of Viena and presenting   Pænda singing with such an emotive expression (even rolling a tear) that literally it make you feel chills.

The song is an intimate ballad, very emotional and artful and as stated by Pænda the song expresses the  importance to belive in onself in order to find our own way, breaking the limits:

Yeah I’m talking 'bout you, you, you...

And the luck you try to find

You, you, you...

And how hard you try to hide it

Sumarizing, Limits has a great quality and voice, but needs a good stunning staging in order to qualify as Austria will be competing with the Netherlands and Russia. Anyway whichever may be the result, we'll not be disappointed.

Denmark (final) - Luis Abaya

This year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix was extra special because it coincided with my birthday. My friends planned a viewing party in Copenhagen which was filled with tons laughter, music, food, and alcohol! Although I wanted to watch it live, the viewing party was something that is meant for the record books. Besides, DGMP (and Eurovision) is always better seen with friends.

The Jysk Bank Box in Herning hosted the 49th edition of this song competition. It was hosted by Johannes Nymark (his third time in a row) and Kristian Gintberg. The ever famous Stig Rossen and Jesper Groth were featured in videos talking to the contestants before they took over the spotlight with their songs. This year’s format was similar to the recent years’: the same stage set-up, ten songs competing for the 3 spots in the superfinal, the top three songs sing again to determine the eventual winner, and juries and public votes share half of the of percentages in the total points.

The top three songs that went to the superfinal were “Say My Name” by Sigmund (song number 5), “League of Light” by Julie and Nina (song number 7), and “Love is Forever” by Leonora (song number 9). At the end of the night, “Love is Forever” was declared the winner of the competition, therefore, having the right to represent Denmark in the Eurovision Song Contest in May. The following day, DR released the official results given by the juries and the public. It turns out that “Love is Forever” was favored the most by the juries, while the public voted “League of Light” as their favorite. The juries designated “Say My Name” and “League of Light” as second and third place respectively. Meanwhile, “Love is Forever” and “Say My Name” had the second and third most number of votes respectively. This year’s competition can still be considered as a very close fight with Leonora having 42% of the total votes while Julie and Nina garnered 35%.

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I consider “Love is Forever” a light, fresh, and sweet jazzy song that is uplifting and bubbly enough for anyone not to dislike it. I can see this song pulling the heartstrings of the younger audience, but this can be forgettable in the Eurovision stage. I just wish that there is more to look forward to for this song, aside from Leonora’s warm voice, the humungous chair, and the added French lyrics. Who knows, those three components might just be what Denmark needs to get everyone’s attention and votes. Truth be told, simple can get far in Eurovision. When I asked my Danish friends and colleagues what they felt about their song, I did not hear negative comments either. They are contented with their choice and hopeful that this will be in the finals of Eurovision.

Denmark will be performing in the first half of the second semifinal and I wish Leonara and Denmark all the luck!

Iceland (final) - Belinda Conn

132 songs were entered into Söngvakeppnin 2019, but on 2 March just five songs were left standing, vying for the chance to represent Iceland in Tel Aviv. The line up in the final was as follows:

  • Friðrik Ómar – Hvað ef ég get ekki elskað

  • Hatari – Hatrið mun sigra

  • Hera Björk – Moving On

  • Tara Mobee – Fighting For Love

  • Kristina Bærendsen – Mama Said

Four of the songs were drawn from the two semi finals, with the fifth (Kristina Skoubo Bærendsen) being a wildcard chosen by the judges.

Contestants were asked to choose in which language they wanted to present their song at Eurovision and were required to perform that version in the final. Two acts chose to stick with Icelandic (Hatari and Friðrik Ómar), whilst the other three acts performed in English.

The voting for the grand final consisted of 50% televote and 50% jury vote, which resulted in a two-song ‘super-final’. That was between Hatari and Friðrik Ómar – the two acts that chose to stay true to performing in Icelandic. In a change from previous years, each act did not have their score reduced to zero in the super-final, but instead got to keep the televoting points they had earned in the first round. This put Hatari at a distinct advantage – their first round televote score was almost double that of Friðrik Ómar.

Following an interval act that featured everything from a reprise of Ari Ólafsson’s 2018 Eurovision entry to an Icelandic version of “Shallow” from A Star is Born to a little bit of Fuego from Eleni Foureira, Hatari were crowned the winner with a convincing margin.

Hatari (which translates to Haters) were formed in 2015, but announced in late 2018 that they planned to dissolve the band as they “had failed to topple capitalism”. They scrapped those plans just weeks later when they were announced as one of the acts competing in Söngvakeppnin. Their selection has not been without controversy, an Israeli activist called on the Israeli government to ban Hatari from performing at Eurovision due to their public stance on Palestine.  In addition, the band were just one of a number Icelandic musical acts who signed a petition in mid 2018 asking Iceland to boycott Eurovision in Israel and have indicated they may use their 3 minutes of Eurovision fame to make a political statement.

The bookies are suggesting that Hatari have a chance to make it to the top 10 in Tel Aviv. Whilst we will need to wait until mid-May to see if they are right, there is no doubt the band’s distinctive style and outspoken nature will certainly generate a lot of attention between now and then.

Belarus - Michael Jones-Gomez

After an infamously long audition process where 113 songs were submitted, and 73 were screened – including an ode to everyone’s favorite tuber, the potato – the Belarusian jury selected 10 songs to reach the final. The act would be decided exclusively through a jury vote.

Many of the songs in the final - Never Getting Close, Run, No Love Lost, Can We Dream, Let It Go and Humanize – would not have represented the country After an infamously long audition process where 113 songs were submitted, and 73 were screened – including an ode to everyone’s favorite tuber, the potato – the Belarusian jury selected 10 songs to reach the final. The act would be decided exclusively through a jury vote.

Many of the songs in the final - Never Getting Close, Run, No Love Lost, Can We Dream, Let It Go and Humanize – would not have represented the country well, as they lacked any distinctive features to set them apart in this eclectic year. A few other songs, including Charavala, had strong vocals, but felt predictable. The runner-up, Champion, was unique for its hip-hop influence and featured a Nigerian-Belarusian artist, but became the center of controversy, as many judges deducted points simply because of the artist’s Nigerian heritage in a gross display of nationalism.

The victor was sixteen-year-old ZENA with Like It. ZENA is no stranger to Eurovision; she competed in the Belarusian National Finals for Junior Eurovision in 2015 and 2016, and co-hosted the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2018 in Minsk. Her career as a TV presenter and reality star (she placed third in Russia’s “Fabrika Zvyozd” 2017, their version of “Operación Triunfo”) helped her reach a younger audience and win over the juries with a near perfect score in the final.  

Her entry brings Belarus to a more current stage in the Contest, with previous entries failing to resonate with audiences at home. Like It borrows from European pop trends to create a song that sound like it could belong on a Dua Lipa or Zara Larsson album. The hook’s repetitive “Is he gonna like it?” fails to age well in the era of #MeToo, with the young singer focusing on her partner’s needs over her own, and the disjointed lyrics are reminiscent of last year’s Azeri entry.

ZENA does have stage presence for such a young age, and her choreography skills are strong. During her final presentation, she did have vocal issues, which could affect her outcome in Tel Aviv, but she also provided an entertaining performance that would represent the country well.

well, as they lacked any distinctive features to set them apart in this eclectic year. A few other songs, including Charavala, had strong vocals, but felt predictable. The runner-up, Champion, was unique for its hip-hop influence and featured a Nigerian-Belarusian artist, but became the center of controversy, as many judges deducted points simply because of the artist’s Nigerian heritage in a gross display of nationalism.

The victor was sixteen-year-old ZENA with Like It. ZENA is no stranger to Eurovision; she competed in the Belarusian National Finals for Junior Eurovision in 2015 and 2016, and co-hosted the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2018 in Minsk. Her career as a TV presenter and reality star (she placed third in Russia’s “Fabrika Zvyozd” 2017, their version of “Operación Triunfo”) helped her reach a younger audience and win over the juries with a near perfect score in the final. 

Her entry brings Belarus to a more current stage in the Contest, with previous entries failing to resonate with audiences at home. Like It borrows from European pop trends to create a song that sound like it could belong on a Dua Lipa or Zara Larsson album. The hook’s repetitive “Is he gonna like it?” fails to age well in the era of #MeToo, with the young singer focusing on her partner’s needs over her own, and the disjointed lyrics are reminiscent of last year’s Azeri entry.

ZENA does have stage presence for such a young age, and her choreography skills are strong. During her final presentation, she did have vocal issues, which could affect her outcome in Tel Aviv, but she also provided an entertaining performance that would represent the country well.

 

Russia - Osmar Valdebenito

Sergey Lazarev is back and looking for revenge.

Continuing its tradition of internal selection in the past years (the last time Russia organized a national selection was in 2012), Russia decided to pick its entry for Eurovision 2019. In January, the first rumours regarding its representative included known Russian pop stars, like Aleksandr Panayotov, Egon Kreed, and the potential return of Sergey Lazarev. After a leak in a few days before, Channel One announced Lazarev as the Russian representative on February 7th.

Sergey Lazarev, born in 1983, is one of the biggest music stars of Russia. Formerly part of the child group Neposedi, he was a member of the pop duo SMASH!! (with fellow Vlad Topalov). In 2003, SMASH!! was one of the rumoured representatives for Russia, before Channel 1 announced t.A.T.u. (who were also part of Neposedi). Sergey Lazarev officially tried to get the ticket to Eurovision in 2008, when he joined the national selection with the song “Flyer” where he ended in 4th place. Finally, he participated in Eurovision 2016, where he was one of the front runners. In the end, Sergey Lazarev won the televote with “You are the only one”, but it was not enough to surpass eventual winner Jamala from Ukraine. At the end, Sergey ended in third place with 491 points in one of the closest results of the ESC.

Trying to get revenge after that third place, Sergey will sing “Scream” in Tel Aviv. The song was written by Philip Kirkorov and Dimitris Kontopoulos. Both authors were also part of the team behind “You are the only one”. The song is a ballad with epic intentions, and speaks about our most deep fears and how you face them. The video was directed by Konstantin Cherepkov and shows Sergey accompanied by a representation of himself as a small kid.

Sergey Lazarev will be in the second semifinal and probably will be one of the favorites in the weeks before the contest.

San Marino - Andre Durham

2019 marks the tenth entry from the Serene Republic. This year, they will be sending Say Na Na Na written, composed, and performed by Serhat Hacıpaşalıoğlu – the 2016 representative from San Marino. He returns to Eurovison with another uptempo dance song in hopes of bettering his previous attempt – twelfth place in the First Semi-Final. 

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Who is Serhat?

Serhat, who goes by just his first name, is a singer, producer, tv show host, and actor. He is most known for producing and hosting Riziko, the Turkish version of the American quiz show Jeopardy! as well as his rousing dance numbers. His biggest hits include Je M’adore, his first charting hit. The remix of his 2016 Eurovision entry I Didn’t Know featuring Martha Walsh charted on the US Dance charts. His most recent version of Total Disguise featuring Greek Eurovision winner Helene Paparizou was released last year to great reception. Serhat brings his experience, charisma, and trademark voice to Tel Aviv with the self-penned song Say Na Na Na.

What about the song?

Say Na Na Na is an uptempo dance track with a light disco feel. In addition to Serhat’s vocals, we can hear a chorus of backing singers that help create a sound of everyone in a dance club singing along. f The lyrics tell a story of Serhat encouraging a friend to overcome their hardships and self-doubt by adopting a care-free attitude captured by the phrase “na na na.” He offers himself as a source of support for this friend. We can expect to see another lively stage show from Serhat in Tel Aviv with bright lights and dancers, much like the song’s music video and his 2016 staging.

We wish San Marino and Serhat good luck! Say Na Na Na will be performed in the second half of the First Semi-Final on 14 May. We know that SMRTV “dares to dream” of a return to the Grand Final for a second time (the previous being in 2014).


 

North Macedonia - Luc Spencer-Gardner

With the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s agreement to rename to (the Republic of) North Macedonia, ending a long standing disagreement with Greece, could this bode well for their chances at Eurovision?  Since the start of the decade, North Macedonia have only qualified for the grand final once, in 2012, with Kaliopi’s “Crno I Bello”.  Coming in 13th for the year however was quite the triumph!

This year, they have again internally selected their artist.  Representing North Macedonia is native singer Tamara Todevska, who previously represented her country in 2008 (despite coming 10th in the semi-final, was ousted by the juries who, as were the rules of that year, selected alumnus Charlotte Perrelli instead).  Tamara, age 33, has dedicated her incredibly strong stand-and-deliver powerhouse song to her daughter, Hana, and to anyone fighting for their own brilliance. 

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I dedicate 'Proud' to my daughter and to everyone out there fighting for their dreams and believing in their greatness. On the 16th of May, we will break the rules and at least for one night in the year, we will show the world that I AM PROUD is always stronger than their YOU WILL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH!”  - Tamara Todevska on “Proud”

Tamara Todevska was born in Skopje. She was raised in a musical family. Her father, Velko Todevski, is a Macedonian professor in a music school and her mom, Branka Todevska, is a Bosnian-Serbian opera singer. Tamara's mom influenced her deep, operatic vocal style.

On 27 June 2015, Tamara married former basketball player Aleksandar Dimitrovski.  They have one daughter named Hana and one son Daren.

You may well know Tamara’s older sister, Tijana Dapčević, who represented their homeland in 2014 with “To the Sky”, which placed 13th in the semi-final.  Tamara was there too, as a backing vocalist.

Her first official song is a duet with her sister Tijana called "Igra luda" (Crazy game), released in 1997. Her music career broke through in 2003 when she sang "1003" at the Montenegrin festival Suncane Skale, where she placed 2nd.

In 2005, her first album was realized under the title Sino (English: "Blue"). The music producer and composer of this album is Aleksandar Masevski with whom had Tamara cooperated since 2004. The album won Album of the year (2005). Hits from that album are: "Sino", "Molci, molci" (ft. Ronin), "A,shto ako?", "Ljubovna prikazna" (ft. Ugro), "Najverni prijateli", "Ljubi, ljubi" (duet with Tuna), and "Shetaj".

In 2007, Tamara was successful during the Macedonian Eurovision selection, Nacionalen Eurosong. She gained 105 points, placing second with the song "Kazi Koj Si Ti" ("Tell Me Who You Are")

In February 2008, Tamara won the Skopje Fest 2008 with the composition "Vo ime na ljubovta" featuring Rade Vrchakovski and Adrian Gaxha. The song was a hit in the Balkans, and was predicted to do well in the ESC 2008. The song was sung in six languages (Macedonian, English, Serbian, Turkish, Russian and Albanian) and the quality video was made by Dejan Milicevic. In the Eurovision Song Contest they sang the English version of "Vo ime na ljubovta" called "Let me love you" and reached 10th place in the semi-final. As aforementioned, with the decision of the jury they failed to qualify.

With soaring, powerful vocals delivering a message of strength and belief in oneself, Tamara, and North Macedonia as a whole, can be Proud of their effort this year regardless of the outcome. Good Luck!

Armenia - Sevket Yigit

Armenia was one of the first countries who selected their performing artist very early on. On 11/30/2018, a young artist, Srbuhi Sargsyan known as Srbuk was announced to be the Armenian hopeful for the Eurovision Song Contest 2019. Her song “Walking out “was released on 3/10/2019 as the 40th country to present its song to the Eurovision audience.

Artist:

Srbuk is a graduate of Conservatory in Yerevan and quite accomplished at playing the traditional string instrument called qanun.

Armenians first met with Srbuk in 2010 when she finished the Armenian X Factor as runner up. She subsequently placed 4th in The Voice of Ukraine in 2016.This achievement sadly will not help Srbuk as Ukraine is out of the competition this year.

In any case,2019 is the year when she meets with the international audience.

Song:

Armenian television AMPTV opened a song submission period for composers to send their entries. “Walking out” composed by Lost Capital and Tokionine was selected as the Armenian song for the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.Garik Papoyan, who previously co-wrote Armenia’s 2014 entry for Aram MP3 is the lyricist. Considering the huge success of 2014 entry, this is a great track record for “Walking Out”.

Song is quite intense even starting out with an intense question of “Who are you?”. The sound is contemporary and reflects a mixture of strong chaotic emotions when combined with lyrics.

This song is not something I would expect from Armenia. Armenia has always been quite good at mixing local traditional notes with contemporary tunes. This clearly lacks the local traditional flavor which I enjoyed in the past and still enjoy. I would have loved to see Srbuk‘s qanun skills showcased with a different entry. One thing I can say for sure is she has an outstanding powerful voice and will definitely impress the crowds when she is on Eurovision stage. Good luck Armenia!

Serbia - Steve Stigwood

RTS is Serbia's national broadcaster and each year Beovizija is held to select Serbia's entrant for ESC. Serbia has only won Eurovision once, and this was in its debut year in 2007. Of course the winning song "Molitva" has become a classic Eurovision favourite and I hope soon to see another Serbian winner on the Eurovision stage.

This year, 76 song submissions were received and 24 of these songs were chosen for competition. In a spectacular event held over 2 nights these songs were narrowed down to 12 songs for the final held on  3  March. It is a long show with multiple hosts, interval acts and interviews but finally the Jury and televotes were tallied and the winner was announced.

The Winner for 2019 is Novena Bozovic with "Kruna" ( combined Jury and televote 20 points) - Novena is a 24 year old Music graduate from Belgrade University. She is a singer songwriter and she has written and composed "Kruna" (Crown) and she describes this song as "from my heart". She is no stranger to Eurovision stage as she represented Serbia in Junior Eurovision 2007, and was part of the trio that represented Serbia at ESC in 2013. Now it's time for her to step out alone.

The song is a bilingual modern ballad with a background of orchestral and traditional music. It starts slowly and builds to a powerful rock chorus that also includes orchestra and piano. Novena is a stunning performer, owning the stage and is able to bring an emotional pull to this song. The audience was spellbound, as was I. Her vocals were excellent, probably the best in the final.  Staging was simple and just a few pyro fountains to highlight the climax towards the end of the song. Costuming was elegant, modern and sexy. I'm predicting a top 10 finish for Serbia with this song.

Runner- up was Dzenan Loncarevic ( combined Jury and televote  17 points) with his dramatic performance of " Nema Suza". I can recommend that you take a look at this entry because what's happening on stage will not be repeated again- hopefully. Dzenan is a mature singer who presents Balkan drama at its best. It's a theatrical and powerful performance at times, and then verging on melodrama at other times. His vocals are excellent. The staging and support performers included a teary older woman who is knitting,  a concerned young man( possibly her son), a very large ball of wool, and the longest knitting scarf/rope/plait that has even been seen on any stage, I am sure. So long in fact, that it needs 3 ballet dancers to circle the stage with it and then lasso Dzenan: until finally he is ensnared. It was a very popular act.

Third place ( combined Jury and televote 16 points) was secured by the first entrant of the final Saska Janks, with her song " Da li cubes moj glas". Saska is a singer songwriter entering with her own material this year. She is a polished performer, well known to the Serbian audience, and was in fact  Beovizija runner-up in 2018. She has also been a back up singer for ESC in 2010, 2011 and 2015. I remember her being the overwhelming audience favourite that year and was not surprised that she again entered this final as the favourite. She is arresting on stage with her pink hair adventurous dress sense and signature raspy vocals. The song has a early introduction of traditional Balkan music and then opens into a faster "pop vibe". Saska described her song as " Pop soul Balkan fusion". It was an energetic performance.

Honourable mention goes to the upbeat fourth placed Wonderstrings with Irana Vladovic and their song "Moja Bol". It was a entertaining song with major string elements and drums. Irana's vocals were powerful and this song was a real surprise and I enjoyed it's unexpected quality and professional presentation. I hope they return in 2020.

In summary, I am hopeful that in 2019 Serbia should shine with Novena and I would be shocked if she does not make the final with this powerful song, her skilled interpretation and performance.

Ireland - Niall Drennan

One step forward and two steps back – this appears to be the Irish broadcaster, RTE’s strategy when it comes to Eurovision.  After making the final in 2018 for the first time in 5 years with Ryan O’Shaughnessy, there was a high sense of expectation that RTE were back on track.

In October 2018, RTE opened up their song submission calling upon “accomplished songwriters and performers” to submit songs for Eurovision 2019.  Everything went quiet in the following months but, in typical Eurovision fashion, the rumour mill went into overdrive.   First up was a report in the Irish Mirror newspaper in January 2019 with speculation that Niall Horan of One Direction fame had been selected to represent Ireland.  RTE didn’t confirm nor deny the rumour with the Head of Delegation, Michael Kealy saying “at the moment we are still going through the 430 songs we received, so it’s a bit early to rule anything in or out definitively”.  As it turned out, the article in the Irish Mirror was fake.  Several other rumours popped up over the course of the following months with names such as Una Healy, Janet Devlin, Aimee Fitzpatrick and the perennial rumour of Samantha Mumba thrown into the mix.

On 8th March 2019, RTE finally confirmed the artist who would represent Ireland.  Sarah McTernan had been chosen and will sing the song “22” in Tel Aviv.

Whilst Sarah may not be widely known she does have a previous connection to Eurovision.  In 2018 she submitted a song to San Marino’s online selection “1 in 360”.  Her entry was a cover of an entry by Karlotta Sigurðardóttir called “Eye of the Storm” in Iceland’s 2016 Söngvakeppnin. Unfortunately, Sarah did not make the next stage of the San Marino selection.

She also appeared on The Voice of Ireland in 2015, finishing in third place.  The Head of Delegation for Ireland, Michael Kealy said “Sarah has an amazing voice which stood out the minute I heard it and she fits perfectly with our chosen song”

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The song is called “22” and was written by Dutch songwriters Janieck, Marcia “Misha” Sondeijker and Roulsen.   “22” is about a ex-boyfriend of Sarah’s – the “one that got away”.  The number refers to his house “number 22”.

Ireland perform in the second semi-final in May and face stiff competition from regular qualifiers such as Sweden, Norway, Russia and Azerbaijan.  Similar to last year, the staging will be key. If they manage to get it right, hopefully Ireland can qualify for the final again and it does end up being another step forward for RTE.  Time will tell.

“22” Music Video

 

 

 

Poland - Edward Till

Since its debut in Eurovision in 1994, Poland has switched between a national final and internal selection.  For the last three years, a national final (Krajowe Eliminacje) has been the chosen method, which initially gave the country strong results.  Last year’s disappointment saw the usually loyal Polish diaspora fail to back a commercial dance track produced by a Polish DJ and sung by a Swede.

It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that TVP opted not only to return to internal selection, but to pick a very Polish group to fly the red and white flag in Tel Aviv.  Who can forget those Polish milkmaids in Copenhagen, the last time TVP adopted this approach?

Tulia is an all-female ensemble from the north-western port city of Szczecin.  There are four members, Joanna Sinkiewicz, Dominika Siepka, Patrycja Nowicka and Tulia Biczak, whose name was given to the band.  Their style mixes traditional Polish folk music, including “white voices”—a vibrant Eastern European singing style, with more commercial music.  The group has a large following among Poles, thanks in part to their unusual reworking of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence, which has notched up over 3.5 million views.  The group shot to fame in Poland after winning the prestigious Opole music festival in 2018 and released its first album, also called Tulia, shortly thereafter.

Much like “My Słowianie” in 2014, “Pali się” was already a hit single in Poland, having been released in September 2018.  For Eurovision purposes, the song has been adapted to have some English lyrics with a renamed bilingually as “Pali się (Fire of Love)”.  The concept is essentially an extended metaphor comparing love to fire.  A reference to the fire brigade is picked up in the music video, which has not been changed for Eurovision.  The moody, black and white images capture life in the Polish countryside and is a stark contrast from the fire of the lyrics.  Pali się would literally mean “it is burning” suggesting perhaps that beneath the seaming drudgery of everyday life in a small Polish town there lurks deep passion.

Will the Polish diaspora turn out and vote for something so reminiscent of home?  Can the staging in Tel Aviv convey the message of the song?  Will Europe be captivated by folk music from a little known corner of Central Europe?  We’ll find out in May.  What can be said is that Poland has picked an unusual entry and will introduce Europe to a different musical style.

Netherlands - Sascha Stolp

As has been tradition for The Netherlands since 2013, The Dutch broadcaster AVROTROS again opted for an internal selection for their Eurovision representative, and on the 21 January 2019 it was announced that Duncan Laurence would fly the Dutch flag in Tel Aviv.  On the 7th March 2019, the song was eventually announced to be “Arcade”.

About Duncan Laurence 

Duncan Laurence (real name Duncan De Moor) is a 24 year old singer-songwriter from Spikenisse in The Netherlands.  He became known in The Netherlands in 2014 when he participated in the 5th season of The Voice of Holland where his coach was Ilse DeLange, half of the 2012 Dutch artists at Eurovision, The Common Linnets.  Coincidentally, this season was eventually won by the 2017 Dutch Eurovision representatives, O’G3NE.  

When interviewed about his representing The Netherlands at Eurovision, Duncan said “In the past years, very well-known A-artists partook in behalf of the Netherlands. That’s not the case with me, but that’s also the beauty of it: there are so many young musical talents in the Netherlands. My participation proves that you can just get the chance to show what you are worth on such a big stage. I am very proud that I will be representing the Netherlands and I will give everything I have.”

About the song 

Name:  Arcade

Composers & Lyricists :  Duncan de Moor, Joel Sjöö & Wouter Hardy

Arcade is a moody, suspenseful and haunting  love song and according to Duncan who co-wrote the entry, it is a story of longing, loss and love against all odds.

Duncan said, “Love can be a crazy thing. We run into it, we dance, we fall… blindly. And when it’s gone, all we do is hope for it to ever come back.”

When talking about the creation of Arcade, Duncan continued “I went searching for stories that are moving and that mean something, from my own life or that of someone else. I found the inspiration in the story of a loved one who passed away at a young age. She lost her love, but always hoped that he would return one day. That hope I put into the song that was created then, which I christened Arcade – the words and chords came of their own volition, from the heart. That’s why it sounded, despite the variations in the song, so organic. In the creation of Arcade I received help from Joel Sjöö and Wouter Hardy, and it became not only my story but also a shared story. Arcade is a story about the search for the love of your life. It is the hope for that which seems unattainable.

There are no reports as yet to the staging of Arcade, but initial reviews to the song itself have been very positive.  The Netherlands have shot up the list of betting odds to win the contest and Arcade has probably given The Netherlands their best chance at success at Eurovision since 2014.  We wish them and Duncan all the best in Tel Aviv.

Azerbaijan - Phill Beames

On 8th March Azerbaijan revealed their internally selected choice for this years Eurovision entry – 27 year old Chingiz Mustafayev singing “Truth” written by Bulgarian-Austrian composer Borislav Milanov of Symphonix International.

The ethnically Azeri singer was born in Moscow and moved to the smaller Azeri city of Qazax in north-west of the country when he was 6, later moving to Baku with his mother and sister at age 13. Musical from a young age he won the Azerbaijani reality music show New Star (a version of Idol) at age 16. In 2013 he represented Azerbaijan at the New Wave music competition in Latvia (later won in 2017 by DoReDos). In 2016 he entered The Voice Ukraine and was part of Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s team until he was eliminated in a battle round.

Since then he has continued to release music with a distinctive flamenco sound with his band Palmas and more recently as a solo artist.

He was shortlisted late last year by Ictimai TV along with Tofiq Haciyev, Leman Dadasheva and Samira Efendi as the countries representative.

Local and international composers submitted songs for consideration up until Feb 7. After this all shortlisted artists recorded demos of a selection of submitted songs with Chingiz and Truth emerging the victors. Since then the song has evolved as more Azeri elements were added to the sound. Truth is about a dishonest, toxic relationship and exploring the response to betrayal and was co-written with Trey Campbell (Equinox), Bo J, Hostess and Chingiz.

Milanov is a Eurovision veteran who has been part of the songwriting team for Poli Genova’s “If Love Was a Crime”, Equinox’s “Bones”, Kristian Kostov’s “Beautiful Mess”, Tijana Bogićević’s “In Too Deep”, Jana Burčeska’s “Dance Alone” and Cezar Sampson’s “Nobody But You”. Last year he got engaged to former Georgian entrant Tamara Gachechiladze.

Of the choice of Chingiz, Milanov admits he was uncomfortable at first "Initially, I was a little nervous about how Chingiz would perform the song, since he comes from a different musical background. But meeting him totally changed my mind. He's so passionate about music and his own culture. We even added some unique elements of traditional Azerbaijani music, which worked brilliantly to make the song an authentic fusion of Azerbaijan and the West".

The video clip was filmed and produced in Kyiv by Forside production and Front Pictures studio (Eurovision famous for creating the tree backdrop for Jamala’s winning entry) and features a shirtless Chingiz singing to the camera. Not sure what the rest of the film clip has to do with the rest of the song but its great eye candy.

Ukraine (semi 2) - William Fedor

As usual, Ukraine held its national selection Vidbir, in three parts: two semi-finals and a grand final. This review will be focusing on the second semi-final. The three judges present were Andriy Danylko (aka Verka Serduchka), Yevhen Filatov and Jamala.

First up was Ivan Navi with “All For The Love”. The song had a 90’s boyband feel to it. The performance was fairly simple, Ivan singing on stage with four backup singers/dancers. Ivan was wearing black and the others in white. The melody was quite catchy, and they harmonised well together. The host, Serhiy Prytula, likened the song to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t stop the feeling”.

Next up were the Crimean twins known as Anna Maria with “My Road”. Their performance was quite dramatic with the lighting as you could only see one of them at a time at some moments during the song. They were wearing short dresses with see-through black coats on top. Quite a memorable performance.

Then Kazka performed their song “Apart”. Leading up to when Vidbir started, they were the public’s favourite to win. In their performance, the lead singer surrounded by the three back up singers, to the side were the two guys in the group playing various instruments. Unfortunately, her voice was not as strong as I was hoping for, and that took a lot away from the performance.

After that came Kira Mazur with “Dykhaty”. She was on stage with an accordionist, with four back up singers off to the side. She was wearing a gothic looking outfit. The backing LED’s were showing a white and red pattern with dead trees. This combination of things made the performance slightly eclectic, but still very interesting.

Then it was Laud’s turn, with his song “2 dni”. The staging was very simple, with him alone on stage with a grey suit and red lighting everywhere. The song was a bit on the slow side, yet still catchy. It did not seem like a winning song however, despite his popularity.

Next on stage was Khayat with “Ever”. He performed with a long red coat, and red and white lighting. His unique sounding song cannot easily be categorised into a genre. I was hoping for a more memorable performance, but this was a great first attempt. The host Serhiy cracked a joke about Khayat’s unique appearance being the reason why he was recently attacked on the metro, quite distasteful.

Following this, Braii performed their song “Maybe”. There wasn’t much that stood out in this performance for me. The indie-rock song felt quite dated. The band was all in black. The backing LEDs depicted red phones floating around. Not much happened in the three minutes.

Then came Freedom Jazz giving us “Cupidon”. I could immediately tell that this was going to be a fun performance. A great 20’s swing song, with six of them on stage, I loved the addition of the wind instruments too. Their costumes were black and white with various patterns. I’m glad that the lead singer didn’t go into labour on stage, as she obviously wasn’t far off! I loved their serenading of Andriy afterwards, as they sang their version of ”Dancing Lasha Tumbai”.

As an interval act, Lake Malawi from the Czech Republic performed their song ”Friend of a Friend”. I have to say, I like the song more after seeing their live performance. They did really well and Jamala seemed to enjoy jamming along to it as well! Andriy could also be seen enthusiastic flicking his pencil back and forth.

Then they got all of the contestants back on stage for the jury to give their votes. They went one by one from lowest to highest. Freedom Jazz won the jury vote, followed by Kazka and then Laud. Following a long break, they came back to announce the public votes. Freedom Jazz came first again, then Anna Maria and Khayat. The three acts with the highest points who went on to compete in the final were Freedom Jazz with 16 points, then Anna Maria and Kazka who tied with 12 points each.

At the very end, they had the acts not going to the final leave the stage, and the acts who succeeded in the first semi-final to join them on stage where they all drew numbers, which were their performance order in the final.

Switzerland - Chris Zeiher

Well, well, well…welcome back to the competition Switzerland.  In a brilliant mic drop moment Swiss broadcaster SRF have announced that talented Luca Hänni will represent the central European nation with the ethno-infused “She Got Me”.   This year the broadcaster opted to drop their national selection competition in preference of an internal pick in the hope this act would reclaim them a spot in the final...a place they’ve not been since 2014 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Having won the very first contest in 1956 and having produced, arguably, the most successful winner to ever emerge from the competition (waving to Celine) the Swiss’ recent history at the contest has been pretty ordinary.   And that makes Luca an inspired choice. 

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The sexy Swiss brings a decent fan following into the contest.  He’s a seasoned performer, having won Germany’s version of Idol in 2012, has a healthy Instagram following and is no stranger to a contest either.  Alongside his German Idol win he also competed and won another German reality contest Dance Dance Dance in 2017 proving he has dance chops to match his singing ability.

You can follow Luca here

“She Got Me” cleverly combines handsome Mr Hänni’s two passions, singing and dancing, and the ethno-infused chorus is a clever little touch given the location of this year’s contest in Tel Aviv, Israel.  The song was partially penned by Laurell Baker, who’s already got two songs in the 2019 contest Germany’s “Sister’s” and the United Kingdom’s “Bigger than Us”.   And the song itself will leave the audience THIRSTY. 

Luca has the looks, the talent and a ripper of a song that will not only take Switzerland back to the Grand Final but could mount a massive assault on the claim for the 2019 prize.  Zurich or Geneva in 2020 is a real possibility.   

See how low you’ll go for Luca by checking out “She Got Me” here

Sweden (second chance) - Fred Medeiros

Nyköping, a sleepy, tiny Swedish town, is now the third time hosts of the second chance round.  It’s not a big city but the lovely castle and the picturesque landscapes are worth the trip.

The Andra Chansen round is always an interesting week as you don’t know what is going to happen.  We eagerly await for the results of the four semifinals but then it’s down to SVT to decide who will duel who.  In my opinion, I do think SVT has a bit too much control over this, as you end up with potentially poor songs in the final based on the duel selections.  This year is no exception, as SVT put the two strongest songs against each other.

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The show starts off with Sarah Dawn Finer doing a mash-up of songs because she is sick of singing ballads.  It is a great all-inclusive number and has the entire audience joining in.

The Duels

(bolded songs are the duel winners)

Duel 1  - Andreas Johnson “Army of Us” Vs.  Anna Bergendahl “Ashes to Ashes

Duel 2  - Vlad Reiser "Nakna i Regnet"  Vs.  Nano “Chasing Rivers”

Duel 3  - Martin Stenmarck "Låt Skiten Brinna"  Vs.  Lisa Ajax “Torn”

Duel 4  - Rebecka Karlsson “Who I Am”  Vs. Arvingarna “I Do”

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The first duel is actually a good match up between 2 Melfest veterans.  It is rock versus schlager. Although I think this is Andreas’ best entry for ages he hasn’t exactly been mainstream popular for awhile.  Not that Anna has a fan base to shout about. Since her Melfest win and her non-qualifying at Eurovision her music has done recently either.  She has had a change in style and this country-pop schlager seems to be gaining her a few fans. Which is why she has won this one easily as she ticked more of the different age profiles then Andrea has.  

In the second duel, Vlad Reiser is trying to win us over with his non-song against one of the best vocalists in the competition, Nano.  Vlad is only here due to his Instagram fame, his lack of talent and the poorly written song should of gone out in his semi. Whereas Nano is a pure class.  In 2017, a lot of people thought Nano would win actually. Although Chasing Rivers isn’t Hold On it is still the better song in this duel by a mile. Using his son as the younger version of himself is a great touch.  Again another easy win for Nano. Nano wasn’t available for interviews or photos due to his little brother being seriously injured in a car accident this past week.

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The third duel is almost a repeat scenario of the first.  Rock versus mainstream pop ballad. Again this is one of the best songs that Martin has done for Melfest but this is also the most authentic song that Lisa Ajax has done.  Her dramatic performance of the song and emotion makes this her best performance to date as well. Martin’s song has grown on me but it just doesn’t have the emotion that Lisa’s does. Lisa takes this duel and deserves her place in the final.

The last duel was the duel that shouldn’t of happened.  They are both strong songs that deserve to be in the final.  Rebecka delivers a heartfelt story of her life and shows she means business. Her vocal is a little shaky in parts and sometimes shouts as well.  Arvingarna will completely steal the show with their camp dansband number complete with stage floor animations. Which has the dansband comfortable progressing to the final.

We had some special guests for the interval including Eurovision legend, Johnny Logan, singing Hold Me Now.  We also were treated to the first performance of Måns Zelmerlöw & Dotter’s new duet single, Walk With Me.

Cyprus - Dennis Flores

After weeks of rumors, the Cypriot broadcaster CyBC confirmed that Tamta Goduadze (or simply, Tamta) was internally selected to represent Cyprus in Tel Aviv as announced on December 21, 2018. Previously Tamta has expressed her interest to represent the Mediterranean island nation since 2008.

Tamta was born and raised in Tbilisi, Georgia. Following a divorce, she immigrated to Greece where her mother and brother lived and started off as a housekeeper in Athens. In 2004, she auditioned for Super Idol the Greek version of Idol and finished in second place. In 2007, she participated in the Greek National Final for Eurovision with the ballad “With Love” ultimately finishing in third place; however, the song went on to reach Number 2 in the Greek Singles Chart. Tamta then went on to become a mentor for both the X Factor Georgia and the X Factor Greece for two seasons each. Tamta has also done some projects in musical theatre.

Since November, CyBC released cryptic hints about their Eurovision entry for this year. Tamta will represent Cyprus with the song “Replay” written by popular Greek-Swedish songwriter Alex P along with other Swedish songwriters Teddy Skye, Viktor Svensson, Kristoffer “Bonn” Fogelmark, and Albin Nedler. Sacha Jean-Baptiste will also be in involved with directing the visual staging. Both Alex P and Sacha Jean-Baptiste are no strangers to Eurovision. Alex P was behind Sarbel’s “Yassou Maria” (2007 Greece), Aysel & Arash’s “Always (2009 Azerbaijan), Ivi Adamou’s “La La Love” (Cyprus 2012), and last year’s runner-up Eleni Foureira’s “Fuego” (2018 Cyprus). Sacha Jean-Baptiste has been involved in staging for numerous recent entries including Loreen’s “Euphoria” (Sweden 2012), Nina Sublatti’s “Warrior” (Georgia 2015), Donny Montell’s “I’ve Been Waiting for this Night” (Lithuania 2016), Kristian Kostov’s “Beautifull Mess” (Bulgaria 2017), and also Eleni Foureira’s “Fuego”.

On 24 February 2019, a demo was leaked online of the song “Replay,” with an official teaser being released later that day. The official music video was released on 5 March 2019. The song is a mainstream pop song with heavy beats and horns that is instantly catchy. The music video gives off an urban/industrial artsy vibe featuring Tamta and others in various scenes (ex, surrounded by BMX riders, a party with confetti and champagne, in a metal workshop, and a shower.

Already having 221K views on YouTube within 7 hours of being released, many Eurovision fans must already have the song on “Replay!”

Finland - Aaron Paraiso

The Finnish broadcaster YLE decided to do Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (UMK) in the same format as in 2018, where an internally selected artist would present 3 songs. Of those 3, one will go on to represent the country in Tel Aviv this May.

On the 29th of January, the well known Finnish DJ Ville Virtanen (stage name ‘Darude’) was announced, along with Finnish singer Sebastian Rejman, as Finland’s representative this year. The songs were to be presented one by one at later dates.

On the 8th of February, the first song ‘Release Me’ was released. The general feedback received was fairly mild. I was hoping for a similarly catchy song like the very one, which brought him to worldwide fame - Sandstorm. This was far from that. Strike one!

On the 15th of February, ‘Superman’ was released. This one was received a bit more enthusiastically than the first, but it was still clearly not a Eurovision winner.

On the 22nd of February, ‘Look Away’ was released. By this time, there were many hoping (including myself) that they were saving the best for last. After much anticipation, Darude revealed a song, which in my opinion, was the best of the three. It still did not feel like a winning song, borderline qualifier at best.

Perhaps my expectations were too high. I don’t think Darude’s fame will help him at all either, since it normally doesn’t in ESC. That being said, an absolutely amazing performance in Tel Aviv could lift the song up to a new level, but it would have to be pretty great to do that.

On the 2nd of March was the UMK final. Darude alongside Sebastian performed their three songs. First up was ‘Release Me’. The stage had some cool light props similar to SuRie in 2018 but there wasn’t much else that stuck out about the performance.

Second up was ‘Superman’. This performance was a bit more interesting as they had people passing around balls of light (hopefully not containing kryptonite) to each other.

Last was ‘Look Away’. This is the song I personally wanted to get through, which is why I was glad they gave it the best performance. There was a very cool prop box with LEDs and a dancer on top with Darude inside. It was a lot more interesting to watch, as there was a lot happening on the back screen as well. It seems as though they themselves wanted this to get through the most.

In the end ’Look Away’ won with every single international jury member and the largest public vote, so it was a landslide win for the song. However Sebastian needs to step up his game as his voice sounds too weak for the song. We will definitely see them both in Tel Aviv, but whether or not they will be performing on the saturday as well is yet to be seen.....



Moldova - Matthew Passmore

On Saturday March 3, broadcaster TRM in Moldova held the “O Melodie Pentru Europa” in Moldova to choose their Eurovision contestant for 2019.  10 songs vied for the place to represent Moldova in Tel Aviv.    Originally, TRM received 28 songs for potential Moldavian Eurovision entries which were distilled down to 10 performers for the final instead of 2 semi-finals as originally scheduled.   Each of the performers in the final and a summary of their performance are given below:

Aurel Chirtoacă performing “La Cinema”

Aurel was the first participant and performed a modern blues inspired song.  Although a perfectly nice song, it was very melancholy and didn’t stand out amongst the other later contestants.   Aurel sang dressed in a fedora hat and beige checkered jacket.

Vera Țurcanu performing “Cold”

Vera’s pop song felt different starting slow and picking up tempo at the chorus.   There was initially some issues with the audio and so Vera was allowed a second chance to perform her song “Cold” after the last performance of the night.  Vera wore a white dress and performed 4 male dancers lifting her up on a platform towards the middle of the song before the white dress change to red.

Marcela Scripcaru performing “Meteor”

Marcela’s performed a pop ballad.   It felt something Sia would write or sing.  The song built up to the chorus.  Although not a super power ballad, it was definitely likeable and catchy.    Marcela was dressed in a black dress with the stage changing color from white to a warm red with Marcela’s hair matching the background color.  The background singers were equally dressed in black.  Once the song hits the chorus, the background darkens to blue but progresses back to red.

Siaj performing “Olimp”

The fourth song in the Moldavian final was Olimp by Siaj.  Olimp was another pop song although this time with Romanian lyrics.  It had a semi rock edge with some guitar backing.  Overall, the performance did not seem to have the depth of some of the other performers.  Siaj wore a metallic-look long overcoat and high red boots, matching the red pants worn by the two guitarists. 3 background singers provided some more depth to the performance.   

Maxim Zavidia performing “I Will Not Surrender”

Maxim brought a more contemporary rock/pop song to the competition.  The song built to a strong bridge towards the end of the song highlighting his vocals.   Definitely one of the standout performances in the final.  The background displayed a giant clock that spins backwards at a very fast pace.   Maxim is initially joined on stage by 2 dancers, performing a routine with sticks.  Later in the song, additional male and female singers join him.

Diana Brescan performing “Lies”

Diane performed a simple ballad.  Although a perfectly acceptable and pleasant song, it didn’t have the power punch that we have learnt to expect from a lot of Eurovision ballads.  Diana wore a white pants suit with a bench used for staging although she ends up rolling on the floor to the end of the performance.   

Tinna Gi performing “Virus”

Tinna Gi starts off the performance with 4 dancers dressed in blue Arabian costumes.  Tinna is attached to one of the dancers with a ribbon when she tries to walk away from them.  As the performance continues, all dancers seem more stuck to her.   The song is pop with an interesting instrumental rip through the chorus creating some additional texture.

Lemonique performing “Gravity”

Lemonique’s song Gravity would appeal to the modern pop Electro Dance Music (EDM) fans.  It sounds like something Calvin Harris or David Guetta would produce.  Lemonique wore a short white tutu dress and was joined on stage by a cymbal player wearing a welding helmet decorated with bunny ears, a guitarists dressed in black leather and two female backing dancers.

Anna Odobescu performing “Stay”

Anna performed a more typical Eurovision pop ballad belting out this song dressed looking like goddess in a metallic top, and a white long flowing dress.  Listening to the performers, this was definitely one of the standout performers for the night.

Che-MD feat. Elizaveta Ivasiuk performing “Sub Pământ”

The last song of the evening is another semi rock ballad.  The song was staged using a drum player, both acoustic and bass guitar and a violinist.  The song never quite reaches the level or more heavy metal songs and almost has a folky sound especially during each verse. 

 Points were awarded from seven jury members in the typical Eurovision-style 1-8, 10 and 12 points for each of the contestants.   Combined with the televotes, a single combined vote was produced for each performer. 

In the end per the jury and televote, Anna Odobescu won the O Melodie Pentru Europa singing “Stay” and will represent Moldova in Tel Aviv this year for Eurovision 2019.Anna received a total of 22 points (12 from the jury and 10 from televotes) making her the clear winner ahead of the second place getter Maxim Zavidia on 17 points.Maxim was the audience favorite (receiving 12 points from the televoting) but did not get the support from the jury voters.

Norway (final) - Cindy Zhang

On March 2, the Norwegian entry for Eurovision 2019 was selected through the 57th edition of the Norwegian national final,  Melodi Grand Prix, which took place at Oslo Spektrum. Hosting the show were Kåre Magnus Bergh, a familiar face since the 2015 edition, and actress Heidi Ruud Ellingsen.

The show opens to Alexander Rybak on stage, who energized the audience with a mash-up performance of last year’s entry “That’s How You Write a Song” and his 2009 winning entry “Fairytale.”

The Songs:

Chris Medina - We Try

First up was Chicago-born Chris Medina, a former American Idol star who has since relocated to Oslo. We Try is a convincing pop song, though his vocals could have been better. The staging starts with a striking image of Medina at the piano, which reflected the sea of lights from the audience, but the accompanying dancer, who was positioned far from the main stage, felt out of place and made the performance feel disjointed.

D’Sound - Mr. Unicorn

Jonny Sjo and Kim Ofstad, who have been together as a group for 25 years, was joined by Mirjam Omdal to present us with Mr. Unicorn. Again, the vocals failed to impress, but the masterful staging certainly did. The three members, all in white, performed in metal cubes that visually interacted with images on the LED backdrop to make for a futuristic, sci-fi-esque spectacle.

Mørland - En Livredd Mann (A Terrified Man)

Kjetil Mørland of 2015’s “A Monster Like Me” returned this year with his self-composed “En Livredd Mann,” whose all-Norwegian lyrics was already a massive plus in my (albeit biased) books. The staging took inspirations from the music video and used it to great effects to complement the dark tones of the song, and Mørland’s effortless vocals were simply a treat to listen to.

Anna-Lisa Kumoji - Holla (Live video link not found)

The fourth entry brings a complete change of tone with its down and dirty hip-hop number, complete with a bold, energetic performance which was in-your-face in all the best ways possible. Kumoji certainly filled the stage with her powerful voice, and not to mention the eye-catching pink furry coat and the sleek black leather get-up underneath. I was at time baffled by the camerawork during this performance though, which seemed to have been making a valiant effort at losing her among the crowds at times.

Erland Bratland - Sing For You

Erland Bratland was another returnee from the 2015 edition of MGP. There wasn’t really any staging to speak of on this one, just the singer at the mic against a suitably atmospheric LED backdrop. Oh, and cello accompaniment that came in halfway. Bratland’s vocal performance, arguably the best of the night, was the only thing that needed to carry the song though.

Ingrid Berg Mehus - Feel

If Eurovision and MGP returnees weren’t enough, this year we also saw the participation of the girl Rybak’s winning entry was allegedly inspired by. And sure enough, there was violin-ing aplenty in this number. In all seriousness though, In all seriousness though, “Feel” was soft and elegant, but not without an underlying feeling of strength. The vocals were good too, even if the diction could have done with a bit more work.

Hank von Hell - Fake It

Who doesn’t love an entry that pulls off dramatically over-the-top with conviction? Also, props for trying to bring more rock entries to Eurovision. The song did get a bit repetitive after a while, but for the most part I was just enjoying the much welcomed change of pace.


Carina Dahl - Hold Me Down

In Carina Dahl we had yet another MGP veteran, whose song was frankly overshadowed by the overwhelming onslaught of  orange  (the color, not the fruit, thankfully) in her staging, imho. I also couldn’t help but to applaud the backing singer(s), who seemed to have done a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of the vocalsAdrian Jørgensen - The Bubble

A backing vocalist for JOWST and Aleksander Wallman in 2017, Jørgensen returns to take center stage this time around with a song co-written by Wallman and Mørland. Both the song and the staging seemed to have taken its cues from Michael Schulte’s successful entry from last year, but lacked the raw emotional sincerity that gave “You Let Me Walk Alone” soul (even though it did succeed in being a catchy pop number with an intimate performance). The addition of the female singer and the tambourine percussions did take the song to the next level though.

KEiiNO - Spirit in the Sky

Saving the best for last, we have the fan favorite “Spirit in the Sky.” The two main singers, Alexandra Rotan and Tom Hugo, both competed in MGP last year, and they were joined by Sami rapper Fred Bujlo. Despite this being my favorite across all of the national finals this season, I actually found myself a bit underwhelmed by the live performance tonight. The staging started off intimate and atmospheric with the trio in close formation and two dancers close behind them, but as the drummers moved in the stage got a bit busy. You can also literally hear their nerves creeping into their vocal performances and derailing them at times too.

After all the entries performed, Bratland performed his song again due to some technical issues during the initial performance, and then we were on to the voting. The first stage of voting consisted of a split 50/50 jury and televote system: in the jury voting, 580 points were distributed by ten international juries (Italy, Georgia, Spain, Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland, Macedonia, Ireland, Hungary, and Israel), who ranked each entry and awarded 12, 10, and 8-1 points; in the televoting, a same total of 580 points were given based on the percentage of televotes each entry received (e.g. the entry receiving 10% of televotes would get 58 points, and so on). The douze points given by each international juries were presented first, which concluded with “Mr. Unicorn” receiving four, “The Bubble” three, and “Holla,” “En Livredd Mann,” and “Spirit in the Sky” one each. The detailed breakdown of the jury points were not released during the live show (or yet at the time of writing).

After an interval act where host Heidi Ruud Ellingsen performed a medley of Eurovision songs, the four entries going on to the Gold Final were revealed to be: “The Bubble,” “Holla,” “Spirit in the Sky,” and “Mr. Unicorn.”

In the Gold Final,  KEiiNO  and  Adrian Jørgensen  both won the 100% televotes face-off and performed their songs again for the final Gold Duel. Jørgensen performed first and pulled off a good repeated performance, but as KEiiNO came on stage it was becoming clear that they would take home the win for the night, if the chanting crowd in the arena was any indication. They also seemed a lot more confident in their performance this time around, as their vocals were a lot more on point this time and the energy of the performance seemed to be on another level compared to the first showing.

The audience was treated to  a performance of last year’s winning song “Toy” by Netta  as the final voting was underway. Then, sure enough, the fan favorite  KEiiNO  with “Spirit in the Sky” was announced the Norwegian entrant for Tel Aviv in May.