Finland - Aaron Paraiso

1-4 September 2017: UMK (Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu) opened up for song submissions from the public. The day after submissions closed, they posted a picture of a hard drive on their facebook page. This hard drive supposedly contained all of the songs submitted. So far, things seemed fairly similar to the past 6 years, since Finland introduced the current selection format. The dates for the two semi-finals and final were not announced yet.

7 November, 2017: There was a surprise announcement that Saara Aalto would be representing Finland in Eurovision 2018, certainly leaving a few people confused after the first step of usual preselection had already taken place. Saara has been growing in popularity over the last few years. Not only in Finland, but also abroad. Particularly in the United Kingdom, where she placed 2nd in their edition X Factor in 2016. Clearly, 2018 was going to be a very different year in the Finnish selection.

The general reaction to choosing Saara to represent Finland was mostly very positive. Many see the potential with her since she has experience, charisma, excellent stage presence and has a powerful voice. It was announced that there were be three songs released, one at a time. The public would then vote for the one they like the best in the final, ultimately selecting the entry song for Finland.

9 February, 2018: The first song ”Monsters” was released, along with the music video. The feedback on the song was great. Monsters is a catchy pop song,  about overcoming obstacles in your life. The music video shows her in what is probably supposed to be her house, surrounded by various monsters. It has lots of potential. Being so well liked, it left many wondering what else she has in store for her next two songs.

16 February, 2018: ”Domino” was the next song released, with lyrics describing a relationship in trouble. The music video featured Saara singing as well as two women dancing intimately. The melody is catchy and is memorable, but it does not have the same wow factor as the previous song.
22 February, 2018 The third and final song to be revealed was ”Queens”, about putting the past behind you and being stronger now. In the video, Saara is shown with various looks, alongside four male dancers and two cats. The song definitely impressed quite many people. It has a great, catchy melody and grabs you from the first listen.
3 March, 2018 The Final of UMK took place. Saara performed all of her 3 songs. Krista Siegfrids opened with a funny number using the melodies of other ESC songs. 

 

’Monsters’ was up first. Saara had black winged angels (or demons) dancing with her on stage. Next up was ’Domino’. There were large props on stage along the lines of the title. Following this was ’Queens’ where Saara sang on small prop stage with several dancers. Mel C performed ’I Turn to You’ as an interval act, as well as a trio with Krista and CatCat performing a very different version of ’Bye Bye Baby’.

The international jury gave their half of the points first, with ’Monsters’ getting the highest amount of points, followed by ’Domino’ and then ’Queens’. When the same exact thing happened with the public vote, ’Monsters’ was declared Finland’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018!

Overall, it was a very entertaining show to watch. Despite the final being shorter in length than previous years, at just over 1hr20min, YLE did a great job at keeping it funny, entertaining and captivating the whole time. Good luck in Lisbon Saara!

France - Michaela Sowden

France

Programme title:   Destination Eurovision

Date:                         January 27, 2018

Venue: Studio Visual – Bât 210, St Denis. Aired on France 2, TV5 Monde and TV5 Québec Canada

Presented by:         Garou

Number of entries: 8 finalists out of a possible 18 selected from 1500 overall entries

Artists and songwriters were able to submit their song entries starting 21 June 2017. On 11 December 2017, France 2 announced at a press conference at the headquarters of France Television that 1,500 songs had been submitted. 18 entries were selected to compete in the televised shows. France Television revealed the selected acts and their entries gradually via social media from 29 December 2017 to 7 January 2018.(TVFrance2, Wikipedia)

The format of the competition consisted of three shows: two semi-finals, on 13 and 20 January 2017, and a final on 27 January 2017. The two semi-finals featured nine entries each, from which four were selected to advance to the final from each show .  Results in the semi-finals were determined by a Francophone jury panel and an international jury panel. The Francophone jury panel consisted of:

·      Amir-Singersongwriter represented France 2016 (replaced by Alma during the final.

·       Isabelle Boulay – Singer

·       Christophe Willem – Singer

The international jury panel in the semi-finals consisted of:

·       Christer Björkman – Head of Delegation for Sweden at Eurovision, supervisor of Melodifestivalen

·       Nicola Caligiore – Head of Delegation for Italy at Eurovision

·       Olga Salamakha – Head of Delegation for Belarus at Eurovision

Results in the final were determined by public televoting (50%) and a ten-member international jury panel (50%). The three members of the  international jury panel in the semi-finals were joined by others who represented the delegations  from  BulgariaArmeniaSwitzerlandRussiaIsraelFinland and Iceland

The songs in the final

No. Performers Song Composers/Writers Duet
1 Louka "Mamma Mia" Maïtre Gims, Vitaa, Renaud Rebillaud, Luca Bennici Caméléon ( Maïtre Gims)
2 Igit Lisboa Jerusalem (Lisbon Jerusalem) Antoine Barrau, Alex Finkin L'amour est la machine ( with Alian Souchon)
3 Emmy Liana OK ou KO (Ok or KO) Olivier Schultheis, Zazie , Jean-Pierre Pilot, William Rousseau Viens on s'aime ( with Simane)
4 Madame Monsieur Mercy Emilie Satt, Jean Karl Lucas Reine ( with Dadju)
5 Lisandro Cuxi Eva Felipe Saldivia, Fred Savio, Freddy Marche Zombie ( with Nolwenn Leroy)
6 Max Cinnamon Ailleurs (Elsewhere) Max Cinnamon, Stéphanie Petrequin Où je vis ( with Patrick Fiori)
7 Nassi Rêves de gamin ( Dreams of a kid) Nassi, Raphaël Nyadjiko Elle m'a aimé ( with Gipsy Kings
8 Malo Ciao Malory Legardinier Sirens call (with Cats on Trees.

The Voting

No. Song Jury Televote Total Plce
1 Mamma Mia 8 7 15 8
2 Lisboa Jerusalem 60 50 110 5
3 OK ou KO 82 30 112 4
4 Mercy 68 118 186 1
5 Eva 90 72 162 2
6 Ailleurs 54 36 90 6
7 Rêves de gamin 30 18 48 7
8 Ciao 28 89 117 3

Madam Monsieur

Madame Monsieur is a French duo consisting of vocalist Émilie Satt and producer Jean-Karl Lucas. They will represent France in 2018 with the song Mercy.

Emilie Satt was born Emilie Sattonnet on November 30, 1984. She hails  from Nice. Jean Karl Lucas was born June 22, 1982 and originates from Amiens. The couple first met In 2008 and formed Madame Monsieur in 2013.

In 2015, they composed the song Smile for the French rapper Youssoupha, and later participated in Taratata. They also married in September of that year.

The duo released their debut album Tandem in 2016.

At Destination Eurovision they advanced from the second semifinal after placing first with the international jury and tying first with the francophone jury. At the final they placed third with the jury but won a landslide share of the vote from the French public, thus winning overall.

Mercy is a song about the true story of a little girl born aboard the SOS Meiterranee France in March 2017 to Nigerian refugees. Mercy was written and produced by Emilie Satt and Jean Karl Lucas. Post Destination Eurovision the single started at number 8 in France, before peaking at number 3 the following week.

 

References

https://www.google.com.au/url?q=https://www.facebook.com/MadameMonsieurMusic&sa=U&ved=0ahUKEwibnKmzrejZAhUHVLwKHTgmD5UQ7XIICygA&usg=AOvVaw3sUO5X8O0wK_K3SdMhPYoT

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madame_Monsieur

https://eurovoix.com/2018/01/21/france-destination-eurovision-viewing-figures-fall-400000/ Granger Anthony

Senkishev, Georgi, http://esctoday.com/156723/france-results-second-semi-final-destination-eurovision-2018/

 

Sweden (Final) - Mirko Hernandez

Melodifestivalen  2018 Final

·        “Everyday”, Mendez. He have the best chance to open the show with a strong Latinamericans rhythmic song at the start I thought was a “Despasito “ second part. Mendez was born in Chile 42 years ago but has moved to Sweden from along, have him a background of get the best position in Spanish/Swedish song with “Adrenaline” in 2002 and got repeat Spanish/English  in 2003 with “Carnaval”.After a while he back to get a ticket and represent Sweden in a great Scenic show with a perfect choreography created by Zain Odeltål. He as a great singer  explot the stage full of LED lights, Smoke and colorfully gold and Lila. This song since the beginning makes you dance and tells about a guy from  sudamerican  who feeling in love with a European girl. I hear a lot comments about Mendez since how stereotypical and normative but hearing from him in a interview he is full of life and positive vibes. Tonight he show on the stage we will have more from Mendez. As he said at the middle interview was full of nervous and just wanted Åke dance all Sweden people.

·        “All the Feels”Renaida. She is one of four  debutant in Melodifestivalen this year to get the final.With just  20 years she is originally from Tanzania. Nowadays she lives in Nyköping with a lovely family, she got a experience in Sweden Idol 2016. Seen like a great promise in the music business carismatic and charming girl with much energy as she said this song tells about to “get what you really want”, in the stage are six guys dancing with orange outfit in a white and black colors and Led lights of course a led stairs. Consider a Urbam/modern song with a mix of speed a ballads touche full of energy and a  dance part tonight she promise a song with cheerfully effect. Well after the technical problems But accorden to the rules she might stop it But as We know in show lives always anithing could happens.

·        “A bitter lullaby” Martin Almgren, this third enter also in English are a great example how great and talented singer coming from Sweden to present around the world. Martin was born in Orebrö in 1987 he won Swedish Idol 2015 . This fantastic song have completely midtempo with a strong voice and rich lyrical makes interesting from a modest point of view, I can say this country pop have Martin alone in the stage with full of lights and a Nordic outfit style tonight he makes a really great job I hope he get better result next time.

·        “My Turn” John Lundvik, He is one of my favourite  from the very first time. John with 34 years old he had participated before in the show as a writer in 2014 but this is his Turn this  year with  a amazing song, he had as background also being part of the wedding ceremony of the crown princess of Sweden Victoria singing :“When you tell the world – You are mine”. This modern Ballad have a lot from the  beginning of  hin playing a piano and with collaboration of Lotta Fereback and Mari Ryberge creating a solo choreography his have the styling of any Klaus Berglud in a stage full of lights of pyrotechnic makes more authentic but not too extremely. This melody is a modern ballad as a said but with modern flavours with much show to offer and tempo.i do love the last touché he give in the full of emotions presentation.

·        “Party Voice” Jessica Andersson. I read this song are consider in the kategory as  upptempopopshlager modern…sound too much for me just as a good Eurofan might could saying “Shalger”. We can recognising she and Magnus was in Riga representing Sweden in 2003 getting a great fifth position with their song “Give me your love” not too far she back into the melodifestivalen in the year after but couldn’t success and few more participation. She said this opportunity are the best to make everyone dance “as a mother” and age doesn’t  matter. I do really got a great impact on the stage Jessica and four dancer with the very good working  choreographed is also from Zain Odelsål combine with the black outfit she wear and the Lila and blue colours on the stage don’t forget the famous glitter what is really common in this music contest have protagonist too. Jessica enjoy being in the show with a lot of adrenaline.

·        “Last breath” Liamoo, I read he had said this song mean a lot to get into deep and positive motivation riding off all the bad experiences in our life’s. This electronic hip hop music is presenting Hin alone at the stage with a LED lights effects (black and red)  smoke creates the perfect combination to consider a great enter tonight . From Christer Bjökman said “ It’s a very modern pop song” I consider it’s he right at all. We had seen a lot of show in this presentation with change tempo and almost not Dans. He was so nervous after he was at the stage.

·        “Shuffla” Samir and Viktor. They back to this opportunity after got a great experience in past years  Samir with 27 years old seen more able to deal with this presion of the stage as he said and Viktor with 22 have more in easy going to deal with the fans. This song are quite full of energy pretending to makes every one dance as they did to night with this perfect show  and 100% of tempo and of course don’t fortet to talk about the Saxophonist Guy. I had remember in 2015 with “Groupie” and “Banda Nakna” in 2016 they bring the same melodi and this kind of presentation they are Really know as take(running) all the stage and focuses  in a Young market  with those dans step.

·        ”For you” Mariette. I was in friend arena yesterday Friday for one of the general rehearsal and I see a Really mature Mariette with a lot to offer as she did tonight, her voice and all the complements in stage make this special song a great chance to take the Price  of Eurovision. Mariette 34 years old its Well know in the melodifestivalen for  being participated before But this year she took the risk of being alone with this LED pyramid and with this modern pop, the entire three minutes on the stage are really focus with this visual efects  to make a magical performance.  Don’t forget to mention the clearly choreography by Zain Odelstål.

·        “Every single day” Felix Sandman. Another solo in the show and with something interesting as beginning his performance in the dark stage and big microphone well after at all we seen David the host taking as parody, with at least 20 years old  Felix was born in Värmo he had experience taking part in the contest the last year with a group of guys calling FO&O. Back to this Ballad  have a well done choreography combined with this LED Ligths  on red, yellow and blue what it’s. Insider the favorite in this show. Having a touché of drama he was consider one of the favorite today afternoon but was not his year.

·        “In my Cabana” Margaret. With only 19 years old this Polish girl coming to conquer all Sweden with this tropical dancing and fresh melody. I consider myself one of the guys who like to see a performance in the stage with danseur and surprise I do love all the well done work in her outfits  what it’s perfect with added in this LED scream  what having a sand & solen inviting you to have a piña colada. I could said this perfect song are ready for the coming summer, se I catchy and full of dance. Lovely the Poland jury give then the 12 points.

·        “Dance you off” Benjamin Ingrosso. The winner this year had not easy at all with this strong list of competitors but it’s was coming since he appear in the stage with this minimalist and club vibe song, alone with this  LED lights lines on the back and this sexy jacket were Sweden couldn’t resist and make his represent in Lisabon. I keep talking about the choreographer because I do focus in the show and all what are involved. Only three minutes needing to impress as we all know it’s more about. I feel like some retro style and he is a young guy with a lot of potencial what we could said about his background and family have a lot to said.

·        “Fuldans” Rolands. This group have as singer to the well know actor and comedian Roland Järverup, what it’s honor because makes this show more interesting in Swedish said *Herregud /Oh my God* and move all their humanity on the stage makes fuldans a great performance. I hope could Sweden could bring more of this in the future.

 

Ukraine (Semi 2) - Luis Braga

#1 : “Save my planet” Ingret

In the postcard, Ingret (runner-up in The Voice of Ukraine 2017) has scenes of tornados, wind and open fields behind her. It all ends up with a lovely Samoyedo beside. The song itself is hop-hop turning into pop. Ingret’s voice sounded very shaky and the whole performance is a bit of a mess, with holograms of fish and other sea creatures floating around while she tries to sing.

#3 : "Hto ya?" Julinoza

Julinoza is a Ukrain­ian alt­ernative music band and on the postcard Juli, the lead singer, opens a door to some unknown blue space. “Hto ya” (who am I) is performed on stage by Juli playing the piano and it is a melodic ballad that could have been very pleasant if she was more consistent, voice wise.

#6 : "Stop Killing Love" Yurcash

This rock band was the runner-up in the Ukrainian X Factor 2017, and brought on stage a very catchy rock song. They are dressed like ancient pilgrims and “Stop killing love” has nuances of opera singing in between the rock parts. In a way, very amusing and with a more polished performance, could have done better.

#7 : “I see you” Mountain Breeze

Mountain Breeze was formed in 2014 and ended up in third place in the Ukrainian X-Factor 2016. This song starts as a very nice pop ballad, with some vocal harmonization, but getting into the first chorus it looses a bit of charm… and then… surprise! It gets more pop, more catchy. Maybe it would have qualified if they kept the pace of the upbeat parts instead of slowing down every now and then.

#8 : "Syla" Illaria

Illaria has been singing since 2006 and in 2012 entered The Voice of Ukraine, being eliminated in the semi-finals. She came second last in Vidbir 2017, with the song “Thank you for my way”. This time, performed against a fire-gold background, “Syla” (Power) is a pop-ethnic song, to which Illaria lends her confident and strong voice. This is catchy and the use of traditional instruments gives it some charm and would have resulted well in Lisbon.

#9 : "Na Party" Dilemma

This is all bright colours starting with the postcard and ending up on stage. A five elements band, three guys and two girls, one of them dressed as a pink dog (?). Before the performance, it looks like they are ready to dance at the party. And “the party” starts with the lead singer and the “dog” sitting on top of the dog house. This was dead last, both with the jury, the televote and the combined results. And the reason is that it is somehow awful… Lots of colours, LED silhouettes… but nothing more than a bland beep-bop-beep.

It is worth to watch again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SSKezVE96Y

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Ukraine (Semi 1) - James Lindley

#1 : “Misto” Constantine

 At the beginning, there is not only one Constantine but seven on stage! The real one is in the middle and all the special effects disappear as he starts singing. This was the favourite of Filatov and third favourite for Jamala, but the televote made it end up in 6th place. It is a nice pop song to which Constantine gives a safe performance. He sings about a city, about the cities, but this time won’t be Lisbon.

#2 : "Kriz tvoyi ochi" Serhiy Babkin

Serhiy Babkin has been a judge in The Voice Ukraine since 2017. Probably the most experienced singer of this selection, he was Jamala’s favourite in this semi-final and ended up in 3rd place, missing the qualification due to the lower points received from the televote. He delivers his ballad with a very strong performance in a white and red stage. Would have done well in the final, had it qualified.

#4: "Dyva" Kazka

Kazka is a music duo from Ukraine announced in 2017 that took part in the Ukrainian X-factor 2017. Aleksandra and multi-instrumentalist Nikita are joined on stage by a third element and deliver their pleasant electro-folk song, about a girl that has a power to make the snow melt, with a confident and catchy performance. The background shows traditional signs and designs and this song, with some improvements, could have been a good addition to Lisbon’s 2018 playlist.

#5 : “Ng'a-Ng'a” The Vyo

Next on the non-qualifiers list for this semi-final is pop-reggae band The VYO. This band, active from 1991 until 2000 and back again since 2008, takes us to the Caribbean, in a very colourful stage and relaxed performance that makes Jamala stand up and dance. It is nice, but nothing more than nice… last place justified.

#6 : "Syla" Kozak System

Kozak System is a very well known rock band from Ukraine, formed in 2012, that has been traveling the World performing in several countries. The performance reminds us a bit of “Alcohol is free”, Greece 2013, and this is a very catchy song with lyrics in Ukrainian and English. The band is having a blast on stage. Second last place in this semi-final was somehow unfair.

#8 : "Fire" Pur:Pur

This Ukrainian indie-pop trio tried in 2016 to represent Ukraine in Stockholm, finishing up in 4th place and loosing to Jamala. This is such a good and well performed song, lifted by the amazing voice of the lead singer and the confident back singers, and it is a shame that they failed the qualification due to the televote, ending up tied in third with Serhiy and qualifier Vilna. One of the best songs, if not the best, from Vidbir 2018.

It is worth to watch again: https://youtu.be/UITvMADHILA?t=1m42s

 Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ireland - Niall Drennan

Ireland’s recent showing at Eurovision have been a far cry from their heyday in the 1990’s.  A failure to qualify for the last 4 years has left many fans wondering what is going on at the Irish broadcaster, RTE.  Following the fourth consecutive failure to qualify in Kyiv, RTE regrouped and in August 2017 they held a forum to try to work out where it went so wrong.  The forum was attended by Irish music industry professionals, fans, a representative from Eurovision.tv and the Austrian Head of Delegation who shared his experience of internal selections.  After lengthy discussions about options for the future, it was widely agreed that the focus should be on the song, not necessarily the singer.  By partnering with the Irish music industry, RTE hopes to attract established song writers to submit songs for consideration. In September 2017, RTE invited submissions from “accomplished songwriters and performers with a proven track record of success in the music industry”.

All went quiet after the call for songs was announced but this didn’t stop the rumour mill from spinning.  First up was pop star Samantha Mumba who tweeted that she would “love” to represent Ireland following the failure to qualify in Kyiv.  This was followed up by a rumour that former Sex Pistol frontman, Johnny Rotten was in contention with reports that he had submitted a song called “Pleased to Meet You”.  This rumour turned out to be true with Rotten confirming that he was interested in representing Ireland.  RTE, however, had other ideas and declined the offer. Perhaps the memory of Dustin the Turkey was still too fresh in their minds.

Fast forward to January 2018 and speculation mounted that RTE were about to make an announcement related to their Eurovision entry.  It was widely speculated the electro pop duo, Heathers, were going to represent Ireland in Lisbon.  However, it soon emerged that negotiations had fallen apart over the song choice.  As experienced song-writers, Heathers were not keen on performing song penned by another songwriter.  RTE then said that they had secured a “male solo singer with TV experience” and would be making an official announcement in due course.  A few hours later, eagle eyed fans spotted a tweet from singer-songwriter, Ryan O’Shaughnessy with the caption “Big announcement coming tomorrow” and an Irish flag emoji.  The cat was out of the bag.

After 24 hours of speculation, RTE announced that Ryan will represent Ireland at Eurovision 2018 in an official press release.  RTE announced that over 300 songs were submitted for consideration and the song “Together” was chosen after being selected by a panel of music industry professionals who listened to and judged the shortlisted final entries.  Ryan is a former child actor turned pop star who is no stranger to competitions.  He appeared on both the Voice of Ireland and Britain’s Got Talent and has released 2 singles that reached the top 10 in Ireland and the UK.  He also has a Eurovision connection with his uncle, Gary O’Shaughnessy representing Ireland in 2001.  Following the official announcement, Ryan provided further details about “Together”.  It was co-written by Ryan, Mark Caplice and Laura Elizabeth Hughes and is a nod to the one of Ireland’s winning entries, “Rock and Roll Kids”.  Together is a gentle ballad that showcases Ryan’s vocals and the music video is very cute.   If RTE can get the staging right then maybe, just maybe, Ireland can break their recent streak and sneak into the final. 

“Together” music video

 

 

 

Italy - Nicolás G. Mancini-Suárez

Italy selected their entry for Lisbon 2018 a few weeks ago, when the iconic Sanremo Music Festival 2018 (68° Festival della Canzone Italiana di Sanremo 2018) took place in the Teatro Ariston of Sanremo between February 6 and February 10, 2018, organized by the Italian broadcaster RAI. The contest was hosted by the singer-songwriter and musician, Claudio Baglioni, alongside with two co-hosts, Michelle Hunziker and Pierfrancesco Favino.

As usual, there were two sections: Newcomers, also split into two separate contests: Sanremo Giovani and Area Sanremo; and the Campioni (Big Artists) section, this year featuring 20 entries. The winner of the Campioni section has the right to represent Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest. The hot favorites, according to the polls, YouTube views and Spotify streams, were the duo formed by Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro, with “Non mi avete fatto niente” (“You haven’t done anything to me”), followed by Lo Stato Sociale, with “Una vita in vacanza” (“A life on vacation”).

There were also several former Italian Eurovision representatives feature in the Campioni category this year. Nina Zilli came 9th in 2012 with "L'amore è femmina (Out of love)". Riccardo Fogli came 11th in 1983 with "Per Lucia". Enrico Ruggeri, the lead singer of Decibel, came 12th in 1993 with "Sole d'Europa" and Luca Barbarossa also came 12th in 1988 with "Vivo (Ti scrivo)".

During the grand finale show, the Campioni 20 candidates battled for the Leoncino, the coveted Sanremo grand prix. The overall combined results consisted of televoting (50%), the press jury (30%) and the expert jury (20%). After the first round of voting Anna Lisa, Lo Stato Sociale, Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro proceeded to the superfinal. In the end, it was the duo who emerged triumphant, receiving 44,66% of the votes. The winners announced that they will represent Italy in Lisbon during the traditional press conference after the final.

The winning song was written in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing and is an authentic complaint against global war and terrorism, its lyrics being referred to cities which have witnessed this kind of violence, such as Barcelona, Cairo, London, Nice and Paris.

Overall ranking:

1.       Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro – Non mi avete fatto niente

2.       Lo Stato Sociale – Una vita in vacanza

3.       Annalisa – Il mondo prima di te

4.       Ron – Almeno pensami

5.       Ornella Vanoni con Bungaro e Pacifico – Imparare ad amarsi

6.       Max Gazzè – La leggenda di Cristalda e Pizzomunno

7.       Luca Barbarossa – Passame er sale

8.       Diodato & Roy Paci – Adesso

9.       The Kolors – Frida (Mai mai mai)

10.   Giovanni Caccamo – Eterno

11.   Le Vibrazioni – Così sbagliato

12.   Enzo Avitabile con Peppe Servillo – Il coraggio di ogni giorno

13.   Renzo Rubino – Custodire

14.   Noemi – Non smettere mai di cercarmi

15.   Red Canzian – Ognuno ha il suo racconto

16.   Decibel – Lettera dal Duca

17.   Nina Zilli – Senza appartenere

18.   Roby Facchinetti e Riccardo Fogli – Il segreto del tempo

19.   Mario Biondi – Rivederti

20.   Elio e le Storie Tese – Arrivedorci

Sweden (Second Chance) - Fred Medeiros

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Kristianstad, a very tiny Swedish town, which is completely new to the glitter of Europe’s biggest national selection, hosts this year’s second chance round.  The entire town welcomed the competition with open arms with celebrations happening as far as the eye could see.

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 really strong and fun with a lip sync battle between our hosts, David Lindgren and FAB Freddie Svensson which gets Kristianstad Arena on its feet ready for the all important duels.  SVT chose the battling duels as:

Duel 1  - Margaret “In My Cabana”  Vs.  Moncho “Cuba Libre”

Duel 2  - Renaida “All The Feels”  Vs.  Olivia Eliasson “Never Learn”

Duel 3  - Felix Sandman “Every Single Day”  Vs.  Mimi Werner “Songburning”

Duel 4  - Sigrid Bernson “Patrick Swayze”  Vs. Mendez “Everyday”

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The first duel is actually a good match up between 2 latin inspired songs.  Margaret’s “In My Cabana” is a latin dance pop number fresh from her runner up 2016 Polish national final song “Cool Me Down”.  Popularity wise Margaret is known all over Europe but her song is a childlike novelty one which even has a app game which accompanies it.  Moncho on the hand is a rapper and a reggae band member which fairly unknown. Calling “Cuba Libre” a novelty song is like calling sugar a little sweet.  It feels like it was written after too many Cube Libres. Not surprisingly Margaret won this duel.

In the second duel, Renaida gave us “All The Feels” with urban dance pop number.  She exudes her hip divaness decked out in orange. Olivia unfortunately came across nervous and uncertain in her performance even with her dayglo dancers.  Renaida easily wins this battle.

The third duel should of never happened.  Both of these songs should of qualified from their semifinals.  Why would you put them up against each other? Former boyband member, Felix sang his emotional ballad about not getting over a break up was simple yet beautifully performed.  Mimi’s country pop “Songburning” was an exciting and instantly catchy tune but it wasn’t enough to over take Felix.

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The last duel between Sigrid and Mendez was interesting.  Sigrid, Swedish Dancing With The Stars Pro, gave us her Dirty Dancing tribute song which was fun but not strong enough to beat Mendez’s Everyday even though he had the worst vocal performance this year.  Mendez has had many successful albums in Sweden, so his popularity and the fact that the song is good has overiden his pitchy vocals.

Here’s my video review:https://youtu.be/Xuyeu7M_1Go


 

Portugal (Semi 2) - Rodrigo Romero Hidalgo

Maria Inês Paris - "Bandeira Azul"

A very Portuguese voice with a very Brazilian rhythm. Maria Inés performed extremely well vocally but somehow there was always a feeling that she was not fully comfortable on stage. While the song is pleasant enough, there is nothing particularly special or groundbreaking about it. Feels like something you would hear at a hotel reception and wouldn’t be misplaced.

Maria Inês Paris - "Bandeira Azul"

A very Portuguese voice with a very Brazilian rhythm. Maria Inés performed extremely well vocally but somehow there was always a feeling that she was not fully comfortable on stage. While the song is pleasant enough, there is nothing particularly special or groundbreaking about it. Feels like something you would hear at a hotel reception and wouldn’t be misplaced.

Diogo Piçarra - "Canção do Fim"

This is simply perfect. It captures perfectly the Portuguese spirit and sounds as honest as they can be. This was the hot favourite to win and would have been a worthy successor to Salvador. Diogo’s voice, the lyrics, the music and the whole ensemble are magical.

David Pessoa - "Amor Veloz" 

There is really nothing memorable about this. David’s voice is not exceptional, the song is tried and tested and sounds dated and trying too hard to be something it’s not… Not the type of song that leaves you wanting to hear more or play on repeat. Is it awful? No. Is it special? Also no.

Cláudia Pascoal - "O Jardim"

An understated performance and a song that is simple but beautiful. I love the honesty and peace of this performance, and particularly like the moment when the backup singer joins in to give it a life for the final chorus. The atmosphere that Cláudia manages to create during her performance is magical. Not quite the level of Salvador, but in a different way she kind of gets there.  Peace, peace, peace.

Minnie e Rhayra - "Patati Patata”

The song is awful, and the performance is no better. The transition to multi-language is clunky, and the English part is just cringe-worthy. Not much else to say. Nothing of value in this one.

Susana Travassos - "Mensageira"

Like many songs to have featured in FdC throughout the years, the biggest problem with this song is its lack of memorability. The added problem is that Susana really struggled with her performance during the semifinal and was off key for a considerable part of the song. Her voice is also too nasal for my taste, so overall this was rather disastrous for me.

Lili - "O Voo das Cegonhas"

If there is anything that particularly stands out about this song, without a doubt, that is its remarkably beautiful lyrics. Lili delivers a good performance with a beautiful voice and the overall package works quite well for me.

Peter Serrado - "Sunset"

This is not a genre that we are used to seeing in a Portuguese selection, but Peter’s North American connection translates to this wonderful country entry. His voice blends perfectly with the style and the overall result is wonderful. He performed it confidently and competently and it was surprising to see the juries almost completely ignore him.

Dora - "Arco-Íris (assim cantou Zaratustra)"

The very tired transition from black and white to colour is the first disaster of this song. The rest is that it really goes nowhere, it’s three minutes of blandness… which was reflected in the dreaded nul points. A very poor effort, there really was nothing close to being memorable about this entry.

Sequin - "All Over Again"

Sequin managed to deliver some of the weakest vocals that I’ve heard in the entire season. Her voice was shaky throughout the performance and she never seemed to be properly at ease on stage.  This felt more karaoke than professional singing! The song itself is pretty poor, which at various times seems extremely disjointed. One of the poorest efforts of this year’s FdC.

Tamin - "Sobre Nós"

When this kicks off, it is very promising. And the song itself is quite alright without being anything amazing. But Tamin´s performance, particularly when singing what with a bit of good faith can be considered a chorus, is lacking. Her vocals are poor and she struggled to stay on key.

Rita Ruivo -"Anda Daí"

This is what I imagined a fancy karaoke would have looked and sounded had karaoke been a thing in the glorious 80s. Rita’s singing is lackluster, her voice is tediously nasal and weak as they come. Her presence on stage is close to none, and she seems to have forgotten for most of the song that this is a TV show and interaction with the camera is important. The song itself sounds dated in the worst possible way. To me, this is the worst song of FdC 2018.

Daniela Onís - "P'ra Lá do Rio"

I actually quite like this and think it would have been a more worthy finalist than many from this (and the other) semi that did make it. Probably a better interaction with the camera would have helped her with the televote, but Daniela’s voice is beautiful and the lyrics of the song are great. So this is one that I intend to continue listening even if it was not recognised by the Portuguese.

Diogo Piçarra - "Canção do Fim"

This is simply perfect. It captures perfectly the Portuguese spirit and sounds as honest as they can be. This was the hot favourite to win and would have been a worthy successor to Salvador. Diogo’s voice, the lyrics, the music and the whole ensemble are magical.

David Pessoa - "Amor Veloz" 

There is really nothing memorable about this. David’s voice is not exceptional, the song is tried and tested and sounds dated and trying too hard to be something it’s not… Not the type of song that leaves you wanting to hear more or play on repeat. Is it awful? No. Is it special? Also no.

Cláudia Pascoal - "O Jardim"

An understated performance and a song that is simple but beautiful. I love the honesty and peace of this performance, and particularly like the moment when the backup singer joins in to give it a life for the final chorus. The atmosphere that Cláudia manages to create during her performance is magical. Not quite the level of Salvador, but in a different way she kind of gets there.  Peace, peace, peace.

Minnie e Rhayra - "Patati Patata”

The song is awful, and the performance is no better. The transition to multi-language is clunky, and the English part is just cringe-worthy. Not much else to say. Nothing of value in this one.

Susana Travassos - "Mensageira"

Like many songs to have featured in FdC throughout the years, the biggest problem with this song is its lack of memorability. The added problem is that Susana really struggled with her performance during the semifinal and was off key for a considerable part of the song. Her voice is also too nasal for my taste, so overall this was rather disastrous for me.

Lili - "O Voo das Cegonhas"

If there is anything that particularly stands out about this song, without a doubt, that is its remarkably beautiful lyrics. Lili delivers a good performance with a beautiful voice and the overall package works quite well for me.

Peter Serrado - "Sunset"

This is not a genre that we are used to seeing in a Portuguese selection, but Peter’s North American connection translates to this wonderful country entry. His voice blends perfectly with the style and the overall result is wonderful. He performed it confidently and competently and it was surprising to see the juries almost completely ignore him.

Dora - "Arco-Íris (assim cantou Zaratustra)"

The very tired transition from black and white to colour is the first disaster of this song. The rest is that it really goes nowhere, it’s three minutes of blandness… which was reflected in the dreaded nul points. A very poor effort, there really was nothing close to being memorable about this entry.

Sequin - "All Over Again"

Sequin managed to deliver some of the weakest vocals that I’ve heard in the entire season. Her voice was shaky throughout the performance and she never seemed to be properly at ease on stage.  This felt more karaoke than professional singing! The song itself is pretty poor, which at various times seems extremely disjointed. One of the poorest efforts of this year’s FdC.

Tamin - "Sobre Nós"

When this kicks off, it is very promising. And the song itself is quite alright without being anything amazing. But Tamin´s performance, particularly when singing what with a bit of good faith can be considered a chorus, is lacking. Her vocals are poor and she struggled to stay on key.

Rita Ruivo -"Anda Daí"

This is what I imagined a fancy karaoke would have looked and sounded had karaoke been a thing in the glorious 80s. Rita’s singing is lackluster, her voice is tediously nasal and weak as they come. Her presence on stage is close to none, and she seems to have forgotten for most of the song that this is a TV show and interaction with the camera is important. The song itself sounds dated in the worst possible way. To me, this is the worst song of FdC 2018.

Daniela Onís - "P'ra Lá do Rio"

I actually quite like this and think it would have been a more worthy finalist than many from this (and the other) semi that did make it. Probably a better interaction with the camera would have helped her with the televote, but Daniela’s voice is beautiful and the lyrics of the song are great. So this is one that I intend to continue listening even if it was not recognised by the Portuguese.

Estonia - Kyle Woods

Eesti Laul 2018 Final – March 3, 2018 – held at Saku Suurhall in Tallinn, Estonia

Entries:

1.         “Young” by Karl Kristjan & Karl Killing feat. Wateva

Not a fan at all.  I never like when they use they lyrics as a backdrop, and I found that long coat a bit distracting.  This one really started the show off wrong and didn’t really bring anything special to the table.

2.         “Taevas” by Eliis Pärna & Gerli Padar

This one was endearing.  I love the sound of Estonian, and the ladies were just so charming on stage.  Some of Estonia’s best entries have been soft, understated, Estonian-language songs.  I liked the mirror-reflection thing they had going on too.

3.         “Knock Knock” by Nika

I was halfway through the song when I realized she was singing in English!  I really didn’t understand what was going on here.  The contortionist was quite distracting and took me away from the song.  However, the song was strange enough to do well at Eurovision!

4.         “Thousand Words” by Sibyl Vane

I found the performance kind of distracting.  Too many visual tricks with lights superimposed on the performer.  However, I loved that hat!

5.         “Home” by Stig Rästa

I know Stig is a hometown favorite and a veteran of Eurovision, but I was not particularly blown away by this performance.  It felt a bit too subdued.

6.         “Laura (Walk with Me)” by Vajé

Something was wrong with the sound in this one and I could hardly hear the singer’s voice over the music.  I’m not sure what was going on with the hands reaching through the screen to grope him either.  The song itself wasn’t exactly bad, but it kind of felt old fashioned, at least until the random guy came out and started shooting the fire-extinguisher.

7.         “La Forza” by Elina Nachayeva

This was the clear winner, not only in terms of votes, but in terms of quality.  The song screams class, and Elina is a beautiful and committed performer.  The screen-dress is a Eurovision staple, though this version hearkens mostly to Moldova 2013, but this song is better than that particular entry.

8.         “(Can’t Keep Calling) Misty by Frankie Animal

I was pretty underwhelmed by this song.  I don’t know what it’s about, and the singer had no energy at all.  It was hard to hear her and I couldn’t really understand her words either.  Even when the song wakes up at the 2:30 mark, it really just served to add a grating guitar track to an otherwise unengaging and disturbing song.

9.         “Drop That Boogie” by Iiris & Agoh

Um...I am not sure how this one made it to the final, actually.  Even though the singer was adorable, the song itself was dull, and the Bioshock Splicers dancing in the background didn’t do much to help.

10.        “Welcome to my World” by Evestus

And the circus came to town to wrap things up.  Though I doubt I would seek this song out, it certainly did its job of being memorable.  Whether it was the keyboards on springs or the Mars Attacks cast rejects, the whole affair was one to be remembered.  I don’t like it, but I’m glad it happened!

Summary of Voting

The ten entries were awarded points by a jury as well as by televote.  The top three placers were “Home,” “Laura (Walk with Me),” and “La Forza.” 

These three entries advanced to the Super Final, which took place later that same evening.  The Super Final is decided entirely by televote, and “La Forza” won by a significant margin, taking approximately 70% of the votes.

Reactions

I noted my own reactions above.  On the whole, I was kind of underwhelmed by this year’s crop of finalists, though there were a few I did enjoy.  However, the final lineup was on the whole less-memorable that what Eesti Laul has brought in recent years. 

Coming into the show, the general consensus was that Elina would win, and I think objectively she had the best song.  I am satisfied with the choice, for once, actually.  I hope to be able to Eesti Laul live some year.

However, I felt it would be meaningful to get a sense of what Estonians thought of the show and the winning song.  Therefore, I requested the input of several local spectators. 

Siim Kornel of Tartu, Estonia wrote: I liked the show. It centered around magic and comedic performances from the hosts, including tricks and clips full of both surprises and straightforward humor.  This provided useful contrast to allow the songs to shine. My biggest question was whether the result will be as expected or some peculiar twist could happen. There were so many songs with too much show and too little musical expression. Some disturbingly bad English in lyrics and undistinguishable pronunciation made me feel ashamed about our pop culture.  Ultimately, there were only few well-produced songs and too many attempts at experimentation with disconnected elements which created a good degree of disconnect between the story of the song and an unconnected performance.  Sometimes there was more of an attempt to shock than to shine.  Luckily the Super Final songs were all decent with only minimal gimmicks. I am satisfied with the result but confused generally about the competition itself.

Siim stated that his least favorite entry was “Welcome to my World” by Evestus, which he found to be “too weird for my brain to call it a song.”  He was also underwhelmed Nika’s “Knock Knock.”

Reimo Sannik, an Estonian living in Hämeenlinna, Finland was very excited by the show and writes that he is ecstatic about the result.   He finds the winner to be classy and classic, and said he got chills when he watched her.  He expects Elina will do Estonia proud in Lisbon, claiming this is the best choice Estonia has ever made!  He states that the biggest surprise for him was Sibyl Vane’s “Thousand Words” which he said really grew on him once he saw it performed on the program.  When asked about his biggest disappointment, he said that there were too many bad songs, but that “Young” by Karl Kristjan & Karl Killing feat. Wateva was his least favorite.

Rauno Otsing, of Tallinn, Estonia, says that he was excited about La Forza from the beginning and stated that he spent the entire evening encouraging his friends to vote for it.

Erik Põder, of Tallinn, Estonia, stated that “Usually I don’t care about Eurovision because Estonia always picks a stupid song!  But this year I am excited and I wish I had tickets to go see it live!”

In general, there was a good degree of excitement about Eesti Laul 2018 in Estonia and the Estonian people seem generally satisfied by the results. 

 

 

Croatia - Roy Van der Merwe

MY FRIEND OR MY ENEMY

That was the question in my mind when Croatia announced they will again (like 2017) select internally. Jacques Houdek with MY FRIEND was my top song for 2017 and I really wanted another good song from Croatia.

It did not turn into a my friend for me but also not into my enemy.

On November 27, 2017, Franka Batelić confirmed via social media that she will release her comeback single S TOBOM on December 4, 2017. The song was first played on Nives Čanović's 385 Show on Narodni radio on 4 December with Batelić interviewed live. The accompanying music video for the song was directed by Sandra Mihaljević and Igor Ivanović and premiered on RTL Televizija's HR Top show on 10 December 2017. It was announced on 13 February 2018 that Batelić will represent CROATIA  in the Eurovision Song contest in Lisbon, Portugal with CRAZY. Batelić is a LGBT rights advocate, and an animal rights activist. She was the face of the Croatian 2009 "Animal's Friend" campaign. Franka is in a relationship with Croatian football player Vedran Corluka. 

There were some rumours that she was selected due to influence from her boyfriend who seems to be very rich.

Last year Croatia was the only country from Ex Yugoslavia to qualify to the final. This year they seem like a borderline qualifier to me.

Two photo's - one of Franka and one with boyfriend Vedran.

The actual entry CRAZY

 

Russia - Osmar Valdebenito

After its first absence in more than 17 years, Russia hopes to return to the good results it has obtained in Eurovision the last decade.


Yulia Samoylova was chosen as the Russian representative to Kyiv 2017 with the song "Flame is Burning". However, her selection generated controversy due to her visit to the disputed territory of Crimea and Ukrainian authorities forbade her entry into the country. Immediately, the representatives of Rossiya 1 and Channel One affirmed that Yulia would be their representative the following year if she wasn’t allowed to participate, which was what finally happened.
Despite this announcement, the Eurovision managers in Russia delayed for several months the confirmation of their promise. Even some rumors mentioned the possibility that Sergey Lazarev was going to take revenge after his 3rd place in 2016, mentioned even by famous composer Philip Kirkorov.


Yulia's participation was finally confirmed in late January 2018 and her song was finally released on March 11th. "I Won’t Break" was composed by Leonid Gutkin, Netta Nimrodi and Arie Burshtein, the same team behind "Flame is Burning". According to the authors, this song reflects the life of Yulia, who has fight a spinal muscular atrophy since childhood. "This is a song about me”, said Yulia. “It's not so much a tender ballad as a song about strength".

The lyrics reflect on how Yulia has been able to be successful despite her physical struggles (“Those so-called broken wings are soaring through the sky, I've flown against the winds with freedom in their eyes”) and how she has been hopeful even in difficult situations (“'Cause even in the darkness, I can see a light”).

After the controversy in 2017, Yulia will finally be able to show her talent when she enters the Altice Arena on May 10th for the second semifinal of Eurovision 2018.

 

Portugal - Vincent Colagiuri and Rodrigo Romero Hidalgo

The Final of Portugal's Festival da Canção
by Vincent Colagiuri and Rodrigo Romero Hidalgo

The Final took place on the 4 March 2018, in the Pavilhão Multiusos at Guimarães in northern Portugal. Following the plagiarism controversy over the song "Canção do fim", the song's composer and interpreter, Diogo Piçarra withdrew from the final. His place was taken by Susana Travassos with the song "A mensageira". The winning song was decided by a 50/50 combination of points from regional Portuguese juries and public televoting. In the event of a tie, the winner was the song which ranked highest in the the televoting.
The evening included a tribute to one of Portugal's great divas of song, Simone de Oliveira, who represented Portugal in the 1965 and 1969 ESCs. She sang her 1969 song - "Desfolhada Portuguesa" proving at the age of eighty, she's still got it. At the end, the audience honoured Simone with a lengthy standing ovation and cheers.


1. Rui David - "Sem medo"
Vincent: Rui looked much better and sang with much more confidence and conviction than in the semi-final. Even though he came across as a cool performer, that didn’t stop the song “Sem medo” being a rather pedestrian experience.


2. Susana Travassos - “A mensageira”
Rodrigo: I think I would repeat word for word what I said for the semifinal. With particular focus on the performance, where she struggled to be on key most of the song.


3. Peter Serrado - “Sunset”
Rodrigo: Peter once again delivered a memorable performance, one that came as a breath of fresh air amongst a great deal of similar songs. His performance was impeccable, and I still don’t understand why the juries didn’t like this at all.


4. Joana Espadinha - “Zero a zero”
Vincent: Joana was back with her spangly suit and five backing singers. But this time she looked more like she was enjoying herself. The backing arrangement of the song had more oomph, which gave the whole performance a more positive vibe.


5. Lili - "O vôo das cegonhas"
Rodrigo: For the duration of the song it felt as though Lili was singing out of tempo with the music. This made this performance awkward and ruined a song with potential and remarkably beautiful lyrics. It is a shame because Lili’s voice is remarkably beautiful and she could have done much better than she did.


6. Catarina Miranda - "Para sorrir eu não preciso de nada"
Vincent: Catarina was the darling of the crowd and received a massive response from the Guimarães audience at the end of this tender, expressive ballad. In fact Catarina was such an engaging performer that no one seemed to care about her at times wobbly vocals. This song tied with the winning song on twenty-two points, but according to the rules, it took second place as it received fewer televoting points.


7. Joana Barra Vaz - "Anda estragar-me os planos"
Vincent: Joana’s song was expressive, melodic and heart-felt, but unfortunately Joana never looked comfortable on stage, continually offering meaningless gestures towards the camera and rocking from side to side as she sang.


8. David Pessoa - "Amor veloz"
Rodrigo: Somehow being drawn between one of the better and one of the weirder songs made this seem even less memorable. It was hard to remember he had been on stage by the end of it all.


9. Minnie & Rhayra - "Patati patata"
Rodrigo: If possible, this was even more disjointed in the final, where the performance was even worse than in the semifinal. Not quite sure how this managed to be in the final, let alone score any points!


10. Janeiro "(sem título)"
Vincent: Janeiro did not start singing this very quiet song as securely or intensely as he did in the semi-final but he warmed up by half way through. One of the favourites, this song came fourth.


11. Maria Inês Paris - "Bandeira azul"
Rodrigo: Maria Inês, while being a very competent performer, seemed to be taken over by nerves or something else, but her performance was lacking. Somehow the bigger stage made this feel a bit lost in the middle of a massive space, which was probably not the case in the smaller studio of the semifinal.


12. Anabela - Para te dar abrigo"
Vincent: What a joyful performance Anabela gave of this sunny song. Her perfect vocals and experience on stage really shone through. Delightful, but unfortunately this song wasn’t able to rate higher than sixth place.


13. Cláudia Pascoal "O jardim"
Rodrigo: A worthy successor of Salvador Sobral, which will probably make the audience go mad in May but won’t likely set the scoreboard on fire. All in all, another solid entry from our hosts.


14. Peu Madureira "Só por ela"
Vincent: Peu took the intensity to new heights in this melodic and highly expressive song. Happily, he’d bought a new jacket for the final and looked calm and assured throughout. This song was another favourite and came in at third place.

Belgium - Nigel Bond

So these national reports are, as the name suggests, supposed to be all about how the national broadcaster selected the song and the artist.  I am not saying Belgium is dull, but in its selection process it does not give much to report.  

Way back in in September last year the Belgian broadcaster Vlaamse Radio en Televisieomroeporganisatie (VRT) announced it had made an internal selection of Laura Groeseneken.  It was the first country to announce who will be going to Lisbon.  At that time it had not decided if she would be singing under her own name or under her stage name Sennek - that decision would take another four months.  You may think that "Sennek" sounds like the latest brand name for an Ikea bookcase, well, Laura's day job is as a visual merchandiser for Ikea.  Belgian Euroviz broadcasters (yes, it is plural as Belgium being Belgium the ESC broadcasters alternate each year between Flemish and Walloon) have previously had a bit more excitement in artist selection; this year there is none.

Although Belgium was the first country to announce its artist, it was one of the last to announce the song.  With the excitement building VRT was all set to reveal Laura's song (which she wrote herself, perhaps why it took 6 months) on a breakfast radio show.  And at this point we finally got some interest, intrigue, and scandal in the process as the song was leaked online  two days early!  Wow!  How exciting?  The song is A Matter of Time.  It is described by Laura as a unique pop song with a mysterious feeling.   She is a top 5 favourite according to the bookies;  I have no idea why.  I'll leave any comment to the reviews. 

The next mystery is what will Laura wear!  It is reported that she will wear fresh underwear, and her dress will look “pretty” and "It will be something special” but the rest it is still a tantalizing secret.

 

Azerbaijan - Michele Acott

28 year old Aysel Mammadova known professionally as Aisel will be competing for Azerbaijan in semi final one of Eurovision 2018.

Aisel will be singing “X My Heart” (the ‘X’ means ‘cross’)– a very radio-friendly pop song.  Aisel is a consummate performer with a beautiful singing voice. She has strong jazz roots and loves to sing soul, lounge music and many different genres. She has a great ‘live’ singing voice – which will set her well for the competition.

Sandra Bjurman who wrote the Azerbaijani 2011 winning song “Running Scared” and Dimitris Kontopoulous who wrote the extremely successful “You Are The Only One” that gave Russia a third place final finish in 2016 teamed up to write “X My Heart” for Aisel. What a fabulous team – I’m expecting great things from Azerbaijan again this year!

Apparently the stage design will be done by Fokas Evangelinos of “This Is Love” (Greece, 2017).

The song is upbeat and danceable, but it contains some really weird lyrics ‘Misty moon I’m in your loon” and “I’ll never stop, luna moon me up to the top”, What does that even mean?  I don’t think it matters – the song is great and has a really catchy chorus “I cross my heart, I tear down the firewalls. I cross my heart, I’m stronger than cannon balls….”  I’m sure the audience will really get into this song and sing along during Aisel’s performance.

A really great song that I think will definitely go to the finals and will be a popular song in the Euroclub.

 

Bulgaria - Alan Wilson

After much hype and anticipation, Bulgaria released their song, Bones, for the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest.  The release date of 12 March meant it was one of only a few songs left to be revealed for Lisbon….adding to the “drama” I guess.

Bones is performed by Equinox, a five-person group that has very obviously been manufactured for the sole purpose of Eurovision.  The group is made up of Zhana Bergendorff, Georgi Simeonov, Johnny Manuel, Trey Campbell and Vlado Mihailov.  Basically the group is a mixed bag of X Factor people, America’s Got Talent people, Bulgarians and Americans. 

The song composers are Borislav Milanov, Joacim Bo Persson, Trey Campbell and Dag Lundberg.  Borislav and Joacim both have writing credits for Bulgaria’s two most recent Eurovision songs, Beautiful Mess and If Love Was a Crime.

The Bulgarian national broadcaster, BNT, used an internal selection process that shortlisted 13 songs from hundreds of submissions and then had an expert panel finally select their song.

The Bulgarian delegation have claimed that Bones is a dark and soulful ballad that has deep emotions and a powerful chorus.  Well they would say that wouldn’t they.  It's a moody little number, I'll give it that.

Following the betting odds, Bones tumbled out of overall favouritism after it was released, albeit with a little help from Israel’s popular song.  It’s clear the “fans” are underwhelmed but there’s hope that things could revived with some good staging in Lisbon, something that isn’t out of the realms given Bulgaria’s past efforts. 

It’s obvious their desire to win “goes beyond the bones” but the question is with the “manufacturing” and the “hyper PR game”, have Bulgaria inadvertently sucked the life out of their chances in Lisbon?

 

Greece - Anj

They say Eurovision reflects politics.  If that’s correct, take a guess which country’s national selection was characterised by frantic last-minute u-turns, economically-unwise decisions and elements of rising populism?

You guessed it, it’s Greece.  Settle down with a nice glass of ouzo and bowl of taramasalata while I tell you a story.

Greece’s public broadcaster ERT decided late last year that it needed a change of tack for Eurovision.  Since the heady days of My Number One, Greece has been steadily slipping in the rankings and Something Needed To Be Done.  So ERT decided to revert from internal selections - which had been used for the last two years - to a national public televote to select its participant.  So far, so normal.

However, they complemented this with three inexplicable decision.  First, they set €20,000 as the ‘entrance tag’ to take part.  In a country still recovering economically, I’m not convinced that was sensible.  Second, they set up a ‘manel’ of 8 distinguished male Greek music professionals: great if you’re deciding the next national anthem, but perhaps a narrow demographic when trying to appeal to a pan-European audience.

And third, they decided that the Greek song should be sung in Greek.  With a ‘Greek sound’ too. Oh dear.

Now I have no problem with that decision from an artistic point of view.  It’s absolutely their right, and it brings welcome diversity to an English, pop-dominated Eurovision.  Indeed, it’s also not necessarily a vote-losing decision: see Portugal last year, or Serbia 2007, for example.

My issue is more that by making its Eurovision entry ‘Greek’, Greece made it’s Eurovision entry not very ‘Eurovision Greek’.  For ‘Eurovision Greek’ doesn’t mean lilting cadences, haunting Greek vowels and ancient instruments evoking the gods of Mount Olympus.  'Eurovision Greek’ means white, tight-fitting crotch-hugging trousers (for the topless boys), and fabulous wind-machine-created vortexes of luscious hair and sequinned dresses (for the girls).  It means all the drama and passion of a Eurozone crisis channeled into the 2:15 minute key-change moment.  It means lyrics you scream at the top of your voice in the stadium, and can’t remember by the time you get to the Euroclub.  Indeed, my love of ‘Eurovision Greek’ is exactly why I volunteered to write up the Greek national selection.

Enough, I digress.  You get my point.

Anyway, these decisions had an interesting outcome.  Instead of getting a strong field of ethnic music challengers, Greece ended up with, er, one option.  All but five were rejected by the ‘manel’.  Two were then dismissed by ERT for being ‘insufficiently Greek'.  And two more didn’t stump up the €20k and were disqualified.

And then there was one: Yianna Terzi, singing Oneiro Mou (‘My Dream’).  In other words, the world’s cradle of democracy didn’t have a democratic decision this year. Then again, given the recent track-record of democracy I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

What’s it like?  Well, I can’t really tell.  Having listened to the video-less song on YouTube, it seems pleasant enough, with the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus arrangement.  But it does feel a little, well, slow; and there are lots of dramatic pauses (1:12 for example) which make it sound like Yianna’s just bored.  How it’ll look on stage and on screen I’ve no idea - perhaps she’ll be able to convey the passion she no doubt seeks.  But it’ll be a hard sell: being in Greek it’s already at a disadvantage; and similar songs which won (Portugal, Ukraine, Serbia) had a real emotional tug which I can’t envisage in this one.

Be that as it may, great that she’s entering and that Greece is putting up a Greek-language song. All the best to Yianna and Oneiro Mou!

Lithuania - Matt MacDonald

The national-final season finally came to a close in Lithuania on March 11, a day that was doubly celebrated there as it took place on that country's Independence Day. The Eurovizijos final was held that evening in Lithuania's largest indoor facility, Kaunas' Žalgiris Arena, and the winner was to be selected half by jury votes and half by public votes with each awarding points on a 12-10-8-7-6-5 scale. Any tie would be broken by the jury. 

Monika Marija – "The Truth"

This was a beautiful ballad. Personally, I loved her voice. The song wasn't all that standout-ish, but her delivery of it was. I saw it described on social media as a "nice inoffensive ballad." 

Kotryna Juodzeviciute – "That Girl"

She wore memorable 1970s-esque red-tinted glasses while performing some energetic, mildly catchy music that several viewers said should have been left in the 2000s. Bottom line, it seemed to be missing something. 

The Roop – "Yes, I Do"

Personally, I disliked this song and would have put it at the bottom of my top 41 if it had won, but many liked it. The performance gave off a 1980s vibe that connected with many. His vocals were shaky at the beginning but improved. 

Paula – "1 2 3" 

So much to say here. There was a lot of anticipation on social media for this one, but it just fell flat. She went with an acoustic version due to, from what I could tell, suggestions from the judges. Doing so just left this as an empty performance. And a dramatic breaking of a chair ended up being way too tentative. 

Jurgis Bruzga – "4love" 

This one really reminded me of Robin Bengtsson's "I Can't Go On." Some compared it to Benjamin Ingrosso's "Dance You Off" too. His performance had flashing lights, was high energy and did have some catchy elements to it.  

Ieva Zasimauskaitė – "When We’re Old"

She performed the first two-thirds of this song while sitting on the floor before a brief film clip jarred the viewer from her performance, and she's on her feet for the rest. Touching images were shown behind her in that last minute. However, to me, this song was dull although I could tell that it was looking to be soulful and emotional. I saw on social media some saying that they got chills watching it while others were bored. 

Online voting took place throughout the acts, and Ieva took over the lead shortly after she finished singing and ended up winning that relatively easily. Her 20,335 votes outpaced second-place The Roop and "Yes, I Do" and the 16,491 that that entry had garnered. Monika Marija and "The Truth" came in third in the televoting with 13,755. 

However, Ieva did not win the jury vote, coming in second behind Jurgis Bruzga and "4love," 71 jury votes to 70. But finishing second there was enough for her to win the competition with 22 points, and she will represent Lithuania in Lisbon. Jurgis had come in fourth in the televoting, and that kept him from winning the combined vote. He finished in second with 19 tallies. In third with 17 points – 10 from the televoters and seven from the jury – was The Roop and "Yes, I Do." 

Australia - Beth H

On 9 March 2018, Australia announced that Jessica Mauboy would be representing Australia in Lisbon with the song “We Got Love

 Jessica is no stranger to the main stage, having started Australia’s ESC train rolling back in 2014 when she performed “Sea of Flags” at the second semi final.  Sadly, these were the dark days before Australia was allowed to officially compete, but I think it’s safe to say that Jess’ performance was in 2014 helped convince the EBU that it should officially welcome Australia to the ESC fold in 2015.

 Given that ESC is still in its fledgling stages in Australia, unlike other countries, Australia does not have a formal or public selection process, and the means by which the songs and artists are selected are somewhat vague. I would like to think that as the competition continues to gather both momentum and popularity in Australia that we will soon see the adoption of a process that is a little more transparent, and encourages the participation of the viewers and voters, rather than just another Sony starlet.  Having said that, Jess is not just any Sony starlet; she is a consummate performer who first cut her teeth as the runner up for season 4 of Australia Idol in 2006.  In the last 12 years, Jess has established herself as a stalwart of the Australian music scene and a fantastic ambassador not only for Australian music generally, but also Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander artists.

 “We Got Love” song is arresting from the first couple of seconds, and I only hope that it is staged appropriately to take advantage of this, and Jess’ energy and vivaciousness, as, in my view, in the past the Australian acts have tended to suffer from some questionable staging decisions (Isaiah’s treadmill, Dami’s box) which detract from the song and the performer. While it’s not the best song I’ve ever heard, the mere fact that is a catchy, upbeat pop number made it stands out among 2018’s sea of ballads and other, more low key, tracks. For this reason alone it is bound to be a real contender in the competition, and when you factor in Jess’ powerhouse vocals and personality, I would be surprised if this doesn’t make it to the top 10 in the grand final.

Germany - Phill Beames

After the poor performances of the last few years Germany tried to improve their national selection show in an attempt to remedy this. They refreshingly replaced the music industry experts reminiscent of every single other talent show with a front row panel of international jury members, several of whom were ex-Eurovision entrants and a group of 100 Eurovision fans with bloc voting rights.

This meant that the international juries, the fan bloc and the televoters all had equal say in the result – no doubt trying to select a more Eurovision-y entry.

The show was much more subdued with smaller stage and more intimate setting than previous years and the hosts were much more casual and genial. Some jokes missed the mark and others brought some politics into the scene: “a German could win the Greek final with enough Euros”.

The 6 final contestants had been selected by a mix of international and local fans to attend a boot-camp where several songs would be written with them and the best selected for the night. This is much improved over last year where two generic songs were presented to the contestants to attempt to own as their own.

Nadia Todua

-       Georgian native who moved to Germany and won Voice of Germany 2017

-       Performed “My Own Way” about her moving to Germany and her difficulties and experiences around this

-       Ok but boring staging and lacklustre performance. Nice outfit though

Ryk

-       Made a name for himself as the composer and musical director for the German answer to Cirque de Soleil - “Feurerwerk der Turnkunst” (Fireworks of Gymnastics)

-       Performed the emotional ballad “You and I” sitting at the piano with a dancer on a turntable on top

-       Lovely song but not enough to captivate the audience

VoxxClub

-       Bavarian schlager group decked out in lederhosen and refreshingly performing in German/Bavarian

-       “I mog di” is a fun song and was a relief to the audience after two serious songs but was sillier than a serious contender when the international jury was in play

-       A favourite of the audience but vocals and performance were average

Xavier Darcy

-       Scotsman who grew up in Bavaria and has spent some time in London

-       Folksy rock song that was enjoyable but beige. Needed to chill out with his ADHD performance a little bit. Energy is good, but this was a tad excessive for the genre of song

Ivy Quainoo

-       Berliner with Ghanaian roots who was the winner of the 2012 version of “The Voice of Germany” who has since moved to New York

-       Her song “House on Fire” was definitely the most visually pleasing performance of the night with amazing makeup, a burning house frame and fire pits but the first 2:30 were monotonic before getting really good in the last 30 secs. Too late to save it unfortunately

Michael Schulte

-       YouTuber with over 200,000 subscribers and 50million views to his name after turning to the site following his 3rd place against Ivy in the 2012 “The Voice of Germany”

-       Emotional but fast paced song “You let me walk alone” about growing up without his deceased father complete with a backdrop of photos of fathers and children

-       Clearly the audience favourite and performed with heavy emotion and strong presence

Interval act of Mike Singer – Germany’s attempt at a Bieber was a great song and performance but he seems like his huge following of 12-year-old fans are the only ones who know he exists. It might have been better if the young white adolescent wasn’t acting so gangsta.

Votes were presented by Margaret Berger (Norway 2013) on behalf of the international jury, a spokesperson for the 100 selected fans, and Jon Ola Sand announcing the televoting results with some hilarious attempts at German.

The clear winner with 12 points from every group was Michael Schulte. VoxxClub was popular with the televoters, getting 10 points from them but performing poorly with the juries. Nadia received view votes but otherwise there was reasonable spread.

The Ed Sheeran of Germany (Michael Schulte) looks set to take on Lisbon!