Belarus - Jose Luise Abaya

As this will be my first time reviewing a national final, I was originally nervous on which country will be assigned to me. I wanted to have an uncomplicated, straightforward national final that I can easily write something about. Then, I got the Eurofest--the contest that will decide for Belarus. Hmmm, I thought that it was a nice choice for me as Belarus does not usually stir the pot in terms of Eurovision drama. Boy, I was in it for the ride. Controversies and news happened weeks leading up to the final night. There was a contestant who withdrew, lyrics had to be changed in order not to violate the rules, a song previously performed in a different language, and a startling live auditions that was streamed online. Alas, I had to remind myself to only focus on the national final. 

 

Eurofest 2018 took place on Friday, the 16th of February with 10 competing songs vying to represent Belarus in Lisbon. The show was hosted by Teo (who sang Cheesecake) and Olga Ryzhikova. Last year's winning duo, Naviband, served as performers while the scores of the jury and the public votes were being tallied and validated. There were also other singers who performed throughout the competition, who dragged the show longer than it should have been. Anyway, here are my thoughts of the songs:

 

Song 1: Ty i ya by Adagio

A pop-opera song performed by the country's version of Il Volo. I was not sure if this was the right song to start the competition. Maybe it was set the tone how the night will be--long and dragging. 

Total jury and public votes and position: 4 points, 10th place

 

Song 2: Forever by Alekseev

I do understand why he was the favorite to win: clean vocal performance and on-point staging using lights. But all I can say is that I have seen a performance like this before(i.e., Måns and Sergay). I do want that outfit though. 

Total jury and public votes and position: 24 points, 1st place

 

Song 3: Khmarki by Shuma

Ethnic meets electric, with a DJ too. One might argue that they have the ingredients of a perfect Eurovision song (cue Love Love Peace Peace by Måns and Petra) but this won't go beyond Minsk's dance clubs. I was not even sure if the audience were having fun or making fun of Shuma. 

Total jury and public votes and position: 14 points, 3rd place

 

Song 4: Chasing Rushes by Napoli

I actually had to watch this act twice because I was so blinded by the singer's shiny outfit when I first saw this. Moving past the faux leather, the lyrics pulled some heartstrings. It is a feel-good, awakening song for those people who are tired of ‘chasing rushes’ (whatever that means). The song gave Napoli a chance to show her vocal power.

Total jury and public votes and position: 13 points, 5th place

 

Song 5: World on Fire by Anastasia Malashkevich

It seems that this is the type of song that will be given to the once-famous singer in an attempt to make her still relevant. I think this was the case.  There was nothing special with this performance and the song is forgettable. 

Total jury and public votes and position: 12 points, 6th place

 

Song 6: I Won't Cry by Gunesh

For awhile, I thought I was watching a Scandinavian show. Schlager anyone? Her performance was so emphatic that I wanted to give her a hug after she finished her song. You go girl, you can surpass this pain!

Total jury and public votes and position: 16 points, 2nd place

 

Song 7: Subway Lines by Radiovolna

The beginning pose, all-white outfit, fedora hat, and an all-male band—you’ll probably discount this song and move on to the next. But that sultry voice (and smile) will make you want to hear more (I might have even said ‘I do’ at one part of the song). This won’t go far in the Eurovision arena, but I will choose this lead singer over Alekseev. 

Total jury and public votes and position: 12 points, 7th place

 

Song 8: I Don’t Care by Alen Hit

This is an upbeat, hip song that has the potential to be a favorite in the clubs and parties. Besides, Alan can appeal to the young adults. But as Alen told me to say this, “I don’t care.” 

Total jury and public votes and position: 6 points, 9th place

 

Song 9: Ain’t You by Lexy Weaver

This did not work for me. I waited and waited for the “aha!” moment, but it never arrived. I really wanted this song (and the show) to end real quick. 

Total jury and public votes and position: 7 points, 8th place

 

Song 10: Déjà vu by Kirill Hood

Definitely a good song choice to wake everybody up. I guess the audience might have been falling asleep after that ninth song and, to be honest, the contest itself was unnecessarily stretched out by this time. But in all fairness, I will save this song in my playlist and listen to it over again. I won’t mind if this song ended up winning. 

Total jury and public votes and position: 13 points, 4th place

 

In the end, the forecasted winner, Alekseev, ended up being the juries’ and the audiences’ top choice. I do wish Belarus and Alekseev all the best and I hope that this song will do well come May.

 

Iceland - Tony Peter

The 2nd Semifinal of Söngvakeppnin 2018 was held on Saturday 17 February with six songs competing for the remaining 3 spots in the Final.

 

Aron Hannes – Golddigger (Gold Digger)

This is a dated, funk song that has somehow managed to find itself as one of the favourites for Söngvakeppnin. I get a Laura Tesora’s What’s the Pressure type vibe from it. Aron struggles vocally, has no stage presence and can definitely not dance. Even his back-up singers/dancers cannot save this hot mess.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-VoUwCgUVo

 

Aron Hannes - Golddigger (Söngvakeppnin 2018 - Semi Final 2)

www.youtube.com

Aron Hannes performing Golddigger at the second semi final of Söngvakeppnin 2018, the Icelandic national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon. ALL RIGHTS TO RUV!

 

Rakel Pálsdóttir – Óskin mín (My Wish)

Rakel gave us a very sweet, quiet little song. Almost like a lullaby, as it certainly put me to sleep.  Simple staging with organza silk covered stairs to lounge on, a cello and 3 backing singers that wander on stage two thirds of the way in. It’s all very Disney, no doubt. The jump suit was pretty glam though. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okLvl8AjkMU

 

Rakel Pálsdóttir - Óskin mín (Söngvakeppnin 2018 - Semi Final 2)

www.youtube.com

Rakel Pálsdóttir performing Óskin mín at the second semi final of Söngvakeppnin 2018, the Icelandic national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon. ALL RIGHTS TO RUV!

 

 

Stefanía Svavarsdóttir, Agnes Marinósdóttir & Regína Lilja Magnúsdóttir – Svaka stuð (Heart Attack)

A bit of disco ball fun from these three ladies. The song is titled “Heart Attack” but it’s more a heart murmur than anything, especially with some of the dance moves. Dj Disco Ball’s black see-through vest is something to behold.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8vQ95AmQgI

 

Stefanía, Agnes og Regína - Svaka stuð (Söngvakeppnin 2018 - Semi Final 2)

www.youtube.com

Stefanía, Agnes og Regína performing Svaka stuð at the second semi final of Söngvakeppnin 2018, the Icelandic national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon. ALL RIGHTS TO RUV!

 

Þórir Geir Guðmundsson & Gyða Margrét Kristjánsdóttir – Brosa (With You)

A little folksy number set in a lounge room with an awful lot of lamps. This duo are awkward!  I get the feeling that Gyða is on a blind date with Þórir and she is just singing with him to be polite before she does a runner at the end of the three minutes. Overall, the song lacks any real substance to progress further.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgbr6xu9cug

 

Þórir Geir & Gyða Margrét - Brosa (Söngvakeppnin 2018 - Semi Final 2)

www.youtube.com

Þórir Geir & Gyða Margrét performing Brosa at the second semi final of Söngvakeppnin 2018, the Icelandic national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon. ALL RIGHTS TO RUV!

Dagur Sigurðarson – Í stormi (Saviours)

A big guy attempting to channel his inner Meatloaf in a big old ballad. He has a strong enough voice but the song just plods along. He puts a lot of energy into the performance but I have no idea why he was so mean to his microphone stand.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAYgNHhuL70

 

Dagur Sigurðsson - Í stormi (Söngvakeppnin 2018 - Semi Final 2)

www.youtube.com

Dagur Sigurðsson performing Í stormi at the second semi final of Söngvakeppnin 2018, the Icelandic national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon. ALL RIGHTS TO RUV!

Áttan – Hér með þér (Here for You)

If you ever wanted to see the musical version of boy meets girl at Hillsong, then this is it.  Boy meets girl while being chaperoned by their friends to ensure that they don’t get up to any mischief.  The song has a modern feel but is not memorable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baZ79keutuk

 

Áttan - Hér með þér (Söngvakeppnin 2018 - Semi Final 2)

www.youtube.com

Áttan performing Hér með þér at the second semi final of Söngvakeppnin 2018, the Icelandic national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon. ALL RIGHTS TO RUV!

And through to the Final by popular vote were: 

Aron Hannes – Golddigger (Gold Digger)

Áttan – Hér með þér (Here for You)

Dagur Sigurðarson – Í stormi (Saviours)

 

 

Youtube links are not official RÚV but from a fan site. 

 

Latvia - Nathan Mountford and Chris Hockman

Welcome to Semi Final 3 of Supernova 2018. This was the last semi before the final next weekend. It was an interesting mix of songs, some great, some not so good! Please enjoy our reviews below. Chris Hockman (CH) and Nathan Mountford (NM).

 

Jenny May – Soledad

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-DAR-m6EHI

 

Coming in I figured this would be the Despacito rip off with a name like Soledad, and it’s even worse than I’d imagined. I don’t remember the recorded version of this being quite so terrible, but my goodness, it’s a bad rip off of Despacito and she cannot sing live at all. The staging was at least interesting, but we, mercifully, won’t have to hear this in Lisbon. CH

 

Ed Rallidae - What I Had With You

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZJ0RC1wcP4

 

Nice beat but the tempo change is a bit jarring. Vocals not great. Doesn’t feel natural. A bit disappointing because the studio version of this is actually good. NM

 

Katrine Lukins - Running Red Lights

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icMPSotz52M

 

Red and black is a solid colour combo, running well with the theme of the song happening, and some unique staging but she got off to a poor start here which really cost her. It’s a shame because, apart from some pronunciation issues, she was pretty decent, and the beat is really great and modern, and modern beats is something Latvia is becoming known for. Unfortunately, that slow start which kept coming back on the choruses, sending Lukins to the eliminated list. CH

 

Lauris Valters - Lovers Bliss (Qualified)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Xtdw5mrc8s

 

He definitely has his own style but like last year I just find something cringeworthy and very daggy about this guy and his music! What is that choreography? OMG! NM

 

MIONIA - You

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

 

My hatred for ballads has been well documented, but this is something unique, with the unique vocals of MIONIA. I hate ballads but I could have really liked this one. Unfortunately, MIONIA’s unique vocals could have been too much for the voters, which eliminated her. There were some cool ways to stage this (like maybe a full grand instead of a baby grand) and they tried, but it would have been interesting to see what they did with this in Lisbon, alas we’ll never know. CH

 

Kris & Oz - Morning Flight

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDrFtRwd9mM

 

A very ‘quiet’ retro performance. A fairly unremarkable song and a bit hard to understand. What is with fashion in Latvia? NM

 

Laura Rizzotto - Funny Girl (Qualified)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMxQuU5dQcM

 

A modern beat, with someone that can actually sing! This is the gold that Supernova can produce, there’s a definite Aminata vibe from the Brazilian born Latvian here and she could have an impact with this modernized jazz sound. She handles the stage well, plays with what she has it’d be interesting to see how they stage this in Lisbon. Rizzotto has a real shot. CH

 

Please stayed tuned for our review of the final next week.

 

Estonia - Edward Okulicz

VAJÉ - “Laura (Walk With Me)"
Two boys. One with a guitar, and one sings. It's a light dance pop number, actually, not far removed from the 1,000,000 trop house songs you hear on the radio. But it has a sleepy, late evening feel to it. The performance has an oddly creepy gimmick with the singer's hands and body being touched by an arm and hand behind a screen. Presumably this is the same dancer who comes out during the middle bit of the song as the guitar-wielding boy flails around largely off-camera. There's a locked in audience for this sort of thing, but while a superior example of its form, I don't much care for it.
QUALIFIED.

IIRIS & AGOH - “Drop That Boogie"
Another very contemporary entry, somewhere in the middle of Ina Wroldsen and Tove Styrke, with the minimal bleeps and blurts being a bit like Lorde's first record. The singer has a distinct squeaky voice that makes her stand out. She straps on a guitar towards the end and at that point loses a lot of her stage presence as she's rooted to the spot. I don't think it's melodically very strong but it has a terrific sound.  The song ends fairly abuptly and maybe you can have too much use of bright pink lighting, but the singer's voice has enough character that after listening to all of the songs I can still hear her, which I think helps come voting time!
QUALIFIED.

ETNOPATSY - “Külm"
This is the kind of quite lovely, ethereal sort of thing that I like and Eurovision voters treat with complete disdain. It's a very un-Eurovision like piano folk song with some slightly jarring doubled beats popping in every so often. I mean, yes, it's formless and aimless but the harmonising is lovely.

SIBYL VANE - "Thousand Words"
This is a somewhat proper rock band looking performance in a fake-indie-but-actually-not way. The most important thing about the song is that Sibyl is wearing a superb, wide-brimmed red hat. The riffs chug pleasantly in the verses but the "say. a. nother. thou. sand. words" rhythm of the chorus is unconvincing. Like it was meant to be a shy, fey little Sarah Records indie pop thing and it's got louder than can handle.
QUALIFIED.

ADEN RAY - "Everybody's Dressed"
Bizarre staging alert! Is he singing inside a very small bathtub, or a very large ramekin or gravy boat?, It's hard to tell in the blue lights. Then the backing singers come, possibly to drown him in the small bathtub, but then he gets out. The song is a bit, no, a lot of a wet blanket, as it's ponderous with not much of a melody but an aimless booming beat behind it because... reasons? "I have never felt so blessed/Everybody's dressed/Everyone say yes" is certainly an unusual lyric. Nothing involved in this production makes any sense whatsoever.

TIIU x OKYM x SEMY - “Näita oma energiat"
It's a party rap song. The female rapper uses almost the exact same flow Nicki Minaj used on "Super Bass in one of her verses" and the backing track is trying to get in on some hot Sunstroke Project disco action. In fact if you told me this was a Moldovan entry I would believe you. It has to be said that it isn't a lot of fun to listen to, though.

STIG RÄSTA - “Home"
Ah here's the 900 pound gorilla in the contest. His slightly square but nonetheless handsome face is nice to see. It's a much more straightforward guitar-led ballad than "Goodbye To Yesterday", or last year's "Play" which he also wrote - strums and strings before a big sweeping chorus. Think "Me and My Guitar" if it had a big cheesy lurch into chorus-land like "We've Got The World Tonight". But it's much better crafted than either of those songs to these ears. I mean, it helps that Stig is so damned cute, like Louis Tomlinson's older brother, though this is more in Niall Horan's area. I will however dock it a bit for the bit where he suggests that after he builds them a home, they will "watch a little GoT".
QUALIFIED.

MILJARDID - "Pseudoprobleem"
An actual rock band, with a song particularly dominated by a bassline that someone thinks is funky. The very dry sound of this brings to mind the Young Georgian Lolitaz from a few years back, only these guys can't even strike a cool pose. The lead singer's awkward foot swivels are what I was looking out for in preference for trying to find a melody of note in this one.

DESIREE - “On My Mind"
The studio version of this is pretty good, though all the effects and backing vocals are a bit cluttered. With a bit of a re-tweak you could easily imagine this as a hit single in the US. Even better, on stage she has a bit of a Dua Lipa look about her, but her live performance was very disappointing. There is a good tune in here but Desiree couldn't find it on the night, which is a pity as otherwise this looks the part.

ELINA NECHAYEVA - “La forza"
If your idea of an ideal Eurovision entry is "Suus" from Albania a few years back, you'll probably want to fly to Estonia to vote for this. It's got a majestic string sweep and big drums and a girl who crushes the big notes. The last note could turn a medium sized stadium into rubble. The staging is really good too, her dress appearing to turn into a liquid under the lights. If this were to make it out of this and into the contest itself, I feel like it would be a guaranteed top 10 for Estonia.
QUALIFIED

The Estonian televoters have chosen pretty well, going for four songs that wouldn't sound out of place outside the contest (Sibyl Vane strikes me as a step below the others, but you could imagine it on, like, an iPod commercial) and one that's an eye-popper and an ear-popper. In fact, I'd expect any of them - except for Sibyl - to qualify pretty easily should they be selected, making up for Estonia's last-place disappointment in 2016 and failure to qualify in 2017.

Hungary - Wayne Ralph

Time for the Second Semi-final at A Dal 2018….yes it’s still going ;)

As per Semi-final One, it’s 9 contenders fighting it out for the Final with 3 going through on a combination of jury and public vote and 1 being “saved” by the public.

1. Cintia Horváth & Tomi Balogh - "Journey (Break Your Chains)”
Looking on point but still some bung notes just as in the heat.  It certainly is “hard some times”, Cintia.  Score: 8-8-8-8-4=36 (did not qualify)


2. AWS - "Viszlát nyár”
Pretty epic sort of song and between this and Leander Kills (the other rock/metal song), I think this is better.  The Jury are loving it more than the public though.  Score: 10-10-9-10-7=46 ( 1st qualifier)


3. Odett - "Aranyhal"
Very hard for the Hungarian Duffy to follow AWS, definitely chalk and cheese.  She’s sweet but pretty flat and underwhelming. Score: 8-8-8-8-5=37 (did not qualify)


4. Viktor Király - “Budapest Girl”  
Viktor’s hair got a bit taller since the heat and his song still has more cheese than a 70’s fondu party.  Got to admit he sings it well. Score: 7-8-10-8–7=42 (3rd qualifier)


5. Nikoletta Szőke, Attila Kökény and Róbert Szakcsi Lakatos - "Életre kel"
Both singers started off a bit more nervous than in their heat.  And they finished nervous as well. And the middle was nervous too. Oh my. A 4 from the public vote says it all.  Score: 9-8-8-8–4=37 (did not qualify)


6. Tamás Horváth - “Meggyfa”
A few changes since the heat with some of the ad-lib being taken out at the 1 minute mark. Really, Hungary need to pick this one. The song is beautiful. Tamás is beautiful. It’s what we deserve in Lisbon. But alas, the Jury decided to make Tamás work for it (again).  Luckily the public came through with the save. Score: 8-7-7-8-8=38 (second chance qualifier)


7. Tamás Vastag - “Ne hagyj reményt”
This Tamás is not so beautiful especially with him sporting a hideous new growth on his lip.  He’s obviously tried to “dirty up” his look since the heat but “wedding singer” has turned to “porno actor”.  The song itself clips along sweetly but it’s all one note (no build at all). Score: 8-7-8-7-6=36 (did not qualify)


8. Ceasefire X - “Satellites”
Still a very static performance but at least they ditched the plastic chair at the start for a bedroom scene.  He looked better in the plaid jacket too but unfortunately sung better in the heat. Score: 9-9-8-8-6=40 (did not qualify)


9. yesyes - "I Let You Run Away”
This one is a favourite amongst the “fans” but I don’t see it on that performance. That accordion quickly gets awkward after he’s finished playing it and he’s very hard to understand. Score: 10-9-9-9–8=45 (2nd qualifier)


Overall, a pretty expected result even if it was a cliffhanger for my fave “Meggyfa”.  Both Ronny and I will be having a crack at the Final next week.  I think we’re both looking forward to FINALLY seeing who’s going to represent Hungary in Lisbon this year.  Now, I’ve got a week to try some gentle persuasion on the Hungarian Jury ;)

 

Slovenia - Sevket Yigit

I truly love EMA, Slovenia’s national song selection for Eurovision Song Contest. They always have outrageous, colorful, sometimes very abstract acts with all kinds of different sounds. There is always high energy on stage. This year is no different. Here is my review for the semifinal.

The stage had a center piece which looked like the throne from “ Game of Thrones”. The LED floor was the main attraction if not a distraction during most acts. The host Vid Valič was quite funny although I did not understand the language. The green room was like a subway car packed with sardines. After seeing all the familiar faces from last year’s EMA, my eyes were looking for “ Raiven”. She apparently took the job of “Effie Trinket” from Hunger Games and announced the eight finalists.

First of all, the eight finalists are:

Ina Shai   "V nebo”                         

Indigo  "Vesna"

Lara Kadis "Zdaj sem tu"

BQL "Ptica"

Proper  "Ukraden cvet"

Marina Martensson "Blizu"

Nuška Drašček"Ne zapusti me zdaj"

Lea Sirk"Ne, hvala!"         

This week I would like to review the unlucky eight acts we are leaving behind.

1          Anabel "Pozitiva"

This is really like a gospel from 25th century, black and yellow church outfits from the future but the song itself is quite messy and I see nothing “positiva “about it.                                            

2          Tanja Ribič      "Ljudje"

We see an ice cold blond on stage in a white dress with a lot of help from wind machines. Some Balkan tones are blended in the song, very subtle but lifting up the otherwise quite boring song .I think this deserved better.

3          KiNG FOO     "Žive sanje"   

This group is a veteran from last year. Three guys and a gal singing in a circle with a slow start followed by some build up but comes to a plateau with no excitement at the end.

4-         ManuElla        "Glas" .

Well you can’t remember a thing as soon as the song is done. I was never a fan of ManuElla and her song “ Blue and Red” from 2016. This one is not an exception.                               

5-         MILA "Svoboda"

She looks like a creepy prom queen from a horror movie. The trapeze circus act is way too tacky. Song is mid-tempo and very forgettable.

6-         Orter   "Kraljica"

I was really hopeful about this. His flamboyant looks and charisma seemed he could bring a lot to stage. He was only able to bring a half gorilla half human with two supernatural looking back vocals/dancers. I have to admit his vocals are strong but not a superb song at the end.

7-         Nika Zorjan     "Uspavanka"-Lullabye          

She has an outrageous hair color I can’t even describe. The choreography starts with Nika laying on bed, then you see shadows of arms on her which turns out to belong to two guys with manbuns. The whole act goes in between a slumber party and a threesome- you wish- The song is mid-tempo and catchy. I think this had to go to final but somehow flunked.      

8-         Gregor Ravnik "Zdaj je čas"

Gregor is a very cute guy with dreamy eyes, nice to look at. But the song is like a piece of elevator music, tries to aim high with a strong voice but falls flat. Wait where did the back vocals come from just 20 seconds before the ending?

You can watch all the acts at RTV SLO app in the archives section. If you had to watch just one act, my recommendation is Nika Zorjan- Lullabye. It is fun.

And my top 3 for the next week:

 Indigo  "Vesna"

Lara Kadis "Zdaj sem tu"

Lea Sirk"Ne, hvala!"

 And I am leaving out BQL from top 3. This year’s song is a little letdown compared to their song” Heart of gold” from last year. They may very well win this year as they missed out very close last year.

 And I think my personal winner is Lea Sirk “ Ne, hvala”. This song for me is a “yes, thank you” although it translates as “no, thank you.”

 Next weekend we will know who is getting the ticket to Lisbon. I will review the eight finalists and the winner.

 

Iceland - Nikke Allen

The Icelandic semi final 1 took place last Saturday night. Six entries performed, three of which would advance to the final on March 3rd.

1.  Ég mun skína – Þórunn Antonía  is a popular pop singer and founder of a huge fb movement.... so she should have a lot of support  She and two female backing singers are dressed very skimpily in futuristic silver foil outfits and glitter silver eyeshadowThe song is very light and doesn't have much of an impact.   It's pleasant enough and she does acrobatics on a ladder as well whilst singing but that does detract from the song. It seems more of a show/act than a song.

2.  Ég og þú – Tómas og Sólborg   This is a cutesy lovesong performed very intimately and she has the largest hoop earrings I've ever seen.  They tend to circle around each other on the dark stage and sing to each other. However their vocals are decidedly off key when ascending to a higher scale.  For those wondering about her skinhead look, she and a group of friends promised to shave their heads if they would be able to raise 1 million ISK for Children at war.  The song reaches its crescendo and they are still painfully off key.   Thank goodness that's ended!

3.  Heim – Ari Ólafsson   Personable young guy with shining eyes and big smile sings an angsty ballad.  He stands at the mike, with guitarists  and drummer backing him on stage. His voice is is full of feeling and gathers strength along with the song, although a bit screetchy towards the end.   The last line is delivered with quivering emotion and the song is well received

4.  Kúst og fæjó – Heimilistónar   Four actresses/comediennes dressed up as desperate housewives might be the surprise of this years NF. They are standing on little podiums onstage and (pretending to?) play drums,  keyboard, and guitar, all dressed in floor length gowns of different colours and have enough necklaces around their neck to sink Belgium.  It's a typical knockabout ESC song that almost appears like a parody, with a honking sax.  Their performance is pretty bland for all that.  it's also the only song that will be for sure in Icelandic should they go to Lisbon.

5. Aldrei gefast upp – Fókus   This 5 piece vocal group look a bit mismatched onstage.   Their song starts off slow and a bit shaky but when they all sing together the song really gathers strength and energy.   They are a bit static onstage at first and a bit nondescript but their harmonies are good and they seem a fun bunch of people.  Towards the end of the song they loosen up and move around a bit more but they could do with some sort of complimenting or co-ordinating outfits if they get to Lisbon.   Just some sort of cohesive look to tie the song in with the performance.

6. Guðmundur – Litir   He is probably the most surprising contestant this year as he is well known as a footballer.  He  is dressed casually and sings sitting on a bench, acting out the song with a woman.   He performs with sincerity but the song feels very flat and uninspired, almost plodding, and lacks sparkle.

Through to the final are Fokus, Ari and Heimilstonar.

Latvia - Chris Hockman

Latvia Semifinal 2

Hypnotic – Pray

Well they’re definitely interesting outfits, and I really enjoyed the modern beat of the song, felt like an Aminata style beat, unfortunately the dinging doesn’t match up to that at all. It got better as it went on but you only get one chance to make a first impression and they couldn’t do it.

MADARA – Esamiba (Qualified)

It’s haunting, it’s beautiful, and it’s different. If you’re into ballads this is the song for you, has a real calm feel to it. She manages to stage the song well despite the constraint of the cello, it’s hard to see how it will be staged in Lisbon but it’s a very nice song and deserved to advance.

Markus Riva – This Time

The man can sing and his staging had a real “I can’t go on” vibe to it, the black and white opening may have been a bit much. I could see the song doing well but unfortunately the voters disagreed and Riva will be staying home.

In My Head – Sunset

A solid blend of styles in this entry with a bit of the “Rain of Revolution” to it, which probably counted against it, the staging was nice, and the costuming is cool but the vocals just weren’t strong enough, at some point we have to remember it’s a song contest and In My Head fell just short.

Ritvars – Who’s Counting (Qualified)

Getting a real 80s and jazzy feel to this one with that Yamaha synth, but I have to say I’m not feeling his voice, it’s just not very strong and not hitting the notes well. Even he seems bored by this song, which is rather dull but somehow qualified.

Monta – 1000 Roses

Facing side on is definitely an interesting move to start on, it would have been interesting to see this concept develop for the stage in Lisbon. She can definitely sing, she’s got a good voice that would fit well in a girl group and could actually have done well in Eurovision I’d like to see her back again.

Riga Reggae – Stop the War U2

So I’m a big ska fan, the idea of this one excited me, with peace and love a big reggae theme it could definitely fit in Eurovision. Unfortunately this isn’t the band to do it there’s just not a good enough vocal here to carry it through especially when it’s a new concept for many Eurovision fans.

Join us next week for the third semi-final where you will get to hear from both myself and Nathan Mountford for the last two qualifiers for the final.

United Kingdom - Darren George

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This year Eurovision You Decide (EYD) took place at the Brighton Dome the very place where in 1974 a Swedish Band called ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest.

Mel Giedroyc was back presenting the show and was joined by none other than the Swedish hunk himself and the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2015 Måns Zelmerlöw.

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What a perfect way to start the show with a wonderful tribute to ABBA. Måns started with a beautiful piano version of Waterloo. He was then joined by last years Eurovision You Decide winner Lucy Jones who of course went on to represent the United Kingdom with the song “Never Give Up On You” where together they performed a mashup of some of ABBA’s classic hits.

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The professional panel were selected by the BBC they were Tom Fletcher from band McFly, Rochelle Humes from pop band The Saturdays and finishing the panel was Eurovision Fan Rylan Clark Neal a television presenter. They were there to give the artists advice and judge on all of tonight's performances.The winner is going to be decided by the public and a professional jury consisting of nine professionals so the vote will be split 50/50.

First up was RAYA with the song Crazy - The feel good uptempo pop song was an awesome opening to the show, I did feel that she was a little nervous as she was the first up but she had lots of energy and did deliver a good performance. It had great choreography and having hot male dancers helped. I think RAYA may have lost out on a few votes as she did sound a little nervous in her voice at times.

Next we had Liam Tamne with the song “Astronaut” - Liam has a good vocal range as he is a musical theatre performer, he did give us a bit of drama tonight but overall his performance was just too simple just him on a platform with a few moving lights. I would be very surprised to see this as the winning song tonight.   

Asanda with the song “Legends” was the third to perform. Legends is the fan favourite to win tonight. It’s very now so if it was to be released as a single it would do very well so I’m sure it could do a pretty good job on the Eurovision stage in Lisbon.

Asanda gave us an outstanding performance tonight with excellent choreography but if I’m honest there was a few times where she sounded out of breath which may cost her a few votes. I also feel that with Asanda being sixteen she was there to bring in a younger audience to the show and at the moment EYD is not being viewed by young views which could be another valid reason for Legends not getting many votes tonight.

Jaz Ellington with the song “You” was next to perform. This soulful singer gave us a bit of dull performance tonight. His vocals were amazing but the staging was horrific, he was wearing all black which made it feel very depressing. The song for me was my least favourite out of the six and his performance did not change my opinion. I think the British public will agree with me on this.

Singing next we have SuRie with the song “Storm”. This was the performance of the night for me. The crowd went mental for this. Storm has a powerful message in it which everyone can relate to so I am expecting the public to get behind this song.  SuRie’s vocals were on point tonight and she gave us a very entertaining performance.

This is a typical eurovision song with all the right ingredients, I feel that this will do very well in Lisbon.

Closing the show we have girlband Goldstone singing I Feel The Love which has a little mix feel to it. Three girls with all different vocal abilities coming together to give us a catchy pop song with a loveable message. They gave a strong performance on the night with good choreography but will it be enough to win the show.

The winner of Eurovision You Decide 2018 was of course SuRie with the song Storm.

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I am happy with the result as I do think it was the best performance of the night. SuRie has the experience (Eurovision Belgium 2015 and 2017) and knowledge of the contest,  I know she will do a good job at representing the United Kingdom this year.

Lets hope Storm goes down well in Lisbon.

Thanks to Belgium in advanced for the 12 points!!!!

Good Luck SuRie.

Hungary - Ronny Addamo

A DAL 2018 Semi-final one

This week we reach the first semi-final of Hungary’s Eurovision selection A Dal. The format for this week is much the same as the heats, only the jury members only put three acts through to the final, and the home audience, as always puts through another act after the jurors have delivered their result. As I have had the (dis)pleasure of seeing some of these acts already, I’ll try and add something new. It’s literally, whatever pops into my head whilst watching. So here goes

Ham ko Ham- Bármerre jársz

Our resident gypsy band are still colourful and fun as ever. They again, call lots of ‘hey na naaas’ and….. yeah, that’s about it. It feels like a merrier version of last years Joci on a very tight budget.

NON-QUALIFIER

Gábor Heincz Biga- Good Vibez

Once again, the desired ‘vibez’ are delivered from our middle-aged Mr Nice Guy. The song delivers on pretty much every level, and he even plays with balloons! Bless! Still a big fan of this one

QUALIFIED TO FINAL

SativuS- Lusta lány

Mr Eyebrows and his band of merry people are back and sadly, this is still a not so hot mess. I Think jacket pins were on special in Hungary this week. Two acts in a row. Yes, it was that exciting.

NON-QUALIFIER

Gabi Knoll- Nobody to die for

Gabi, with her cape, glitter and disco ball still misses the mark. I’m trying to pin point what’s gone wrong here. The vibe, hmm, semi sexy, could be it? The phrasing sounds off, maybe? Her diction is all over the shop, perhaps? I just don’t know, but I should LOVE this. I don’t. But points for being the lone female lead vocalist of the entire show.

NON-QUALIFIER

Maszkura és a tücsökraj- Nagybetüs szavak

Cruisey hat dude brings his um…. Interesting sounding Hungarian words that I dare not spell in English. I feel if this were the entrant it would need a R Rating for mature audiences. That is still the most entertaining aspect of this song, the rest leaves me vacant.

NON-QUALIFIER

Zsolt Süle- Zöld a május

Glasses and chins!! That’s what I’m calling this one. Did Hungary go for a circus theme this year that no one told me about? So dull! I couldn’t care less about this

QUALIFIED TO FINAL!!?

Roland Gulyas- H Y P N O T I Z E D

Oh Roland, so pretty, so Freddie wannabe. At least it’s not a circus song and I could actually see it on a Eurovision stage. Oh, I repeat, Roland, so pretty, but so very bland

NON QUALIFIER

Gergely Dánielfry- Azt mondtad

I do really like this heartfelt little ditty. But Boy, open up those peepers and look into that camera! It’s like television staging 101. Why has no one told him this? This song could do big things with some fine tuning. It has improved since the heats but I fear it won’t be quick enough.

QUALIFIED TO FINAL

Leander Kills- Nem szól harang

This is a lovely piece of ethno grumble rock. I’d actually love to know the story of this song as they seem to be telling it really well. Sadly, the lead singer is being left behind by that magnificent music around him. It’s a very solid entry though.

QUALIFIED THROUGH PUBLIC VOTE

To sum things up I'd say it wasn’t a great semi-final, but I’d have picked three of the four qualifiers. I’d add some Gabi Knoll in there for some gender equality. I’m hoping Wayne will have a much more positive report of next weeks semi as I’m struggling to see Hungary get past semi-final two at this point.

Sweden - Dennis Flores

The Swedish National Selection, Melodifestivalen, travels to Göteborg this week for the second heat. 

Former competitor and host, David Lindgren, opens the show with a performance of Bee-Gees classic, "Staying Alive," complete with a pole dancing routine and water.

As usual, seven songs compete tonight, televoting lines open after all the entries perform and the top five entries advance to the next round of televoting. From these five, one wil be eliminated, two will go to the Andra Chansen (Second Chance) round on 3 March in Kristianstand, and the final two will go direkt till Final on 10 March in Stockholm. 

The second heat featured an exciting mix including former Mello competitors and a host, a Eurovision fan favourite.

Samir & Viktor - "Shuffla" (English Translation: Shuffle)

Samir & Viktor return with their third entry for Melodifestivalen. The song itself is very similar to other Samir & Viktor songs "Fick Feeling" and "Saxofuckingfon;" however, it sounds more well-rounded in its production. With moveable LED panels and backing dancers, Samir & Viktor call upon all of Sweden to dance with them. Repetitive, but definitely something you would expect to hear inside a club. 

Result - DIREKT TILL FINAL!!

Ida Redig - "Allting som vi ska" (English Translation: Everything as we said)

This singer-songwriter from Göteborg makes her Melodifestivalen debut dressed in a sparkly military-style jacket and a Swedish flag backdrop wall made out of CDs. A song with slow verses that builds up to an upbeat chorus. It sounds very happy, light, and positive. It sounds radio-friendly, it would be interesting to hear this song translated into English to perhaps reach a wider audience. 

Result - ELIMINATED (5th Place)

Jonas Gardell - "Det finns en väg" (English Translation: There is a way)

Jonas Gardell hosted Melodifestivalen 2003. This screenwriter and comedian was more recently featured on the in-between comedy segments in Melodifestivalen 2016. The song starts out dramatically with Jonas alone on a darkened stage and later joined by a mini-choir of backing singers and gold lighting as the song progresses. The song comes off uplifting; however, the vocals make it seem like it is a novelty act. Given Jonas' background, I'm not too sure if this is a comedic piece or serious; its strength is in its performance elements and not his vocal capabilities. 

Result - ELMINATED (7th Place)

Margaret - "In My Cabana"

Eurovision fans will recognize Margaret as the front-runner of the 2016 Polish national selection with her song "Cool Me Down," which was successful in Sweden. Staying true to her urban pop style, this summery song is simple in its structure, but very easy to get it stuck in your head. There is always room to improve on her vocal abilities, but overall, I did find this song contemporary and fun. 

 Result - Qualified to Andra Chansen round

Stiko Per Larsson - "Titta vi flyger" (English Translation: Look, we're flying)

Stiko Per Larsson won the P4 Nästa competition over the summer which granted him a spot in the competition. The folky song is positive could appeal to a wide audience of all ages. Vocally, I feel that the verses of the songs were a bit garbled and slurred, but I do enjoy the chorus. To me it seems like something was lacking in the performance. I wanted to be drawn to the song more, but feel that it was quite catching my full attention. 

Result - ELIMINATED (6th Place)

Mimi Werner - "Songburning"

Mimi Werner and her frayed clothing returns to Melodifestivalen having last competed in 2016 with "Ain't No Good" which placed 5th in her heat. "Songburning" has even more of a country influence compared to her previous entry. The anthem-like song is very strong in its presentation. I could see this song being played on US country radio. The only thing I did not enjoy was Mimi's adlibs towards the end of the song and the last note. Nevertheless, she was one of the entries I was looking forward to this heat, as I thought she should have placed better in 2016.

Result - Qualified to Andra Chansen round

LIAMOO - "Last Breath"

LIAMOO won the 2016 edition of Swedish Idol. A mix of rap and singing elements, this song is the most contemporary entry of this batch of entries tonight as it sounds very similar to songs on mainstream radio stations. Paired with strobe lights and smoke machines, the entire performance comes off very well-produced and quite obvious why the producers placed this song to close the show. 

Result - DIREKT TILL FINAL!!

Overall, I found tonight's entries more appealing that last week's heat which is a nice change because I would I always find myself struggling to watch the second heat of Melodifestivalen. 

It was a nice nod to Lill Lindfors shining moment in Eurovision 1985 which was also hosted in Göteborg when David Lindgren had his own wardrobe malfunction.

On 17 February, Melodifestivalen returns to the home of Eurovision 2013, Malmö.

Malta - Belinda Conn

Malta is hoping that success will not be a Taboo in Lisbon.

On 3 February 16 songs (chosen by the national broadcaster from a field of 129 submissions) competed to represent Malta in May. The national selection was not without some controversy. One of the 16 songs (“Dai Laga”) needed to be reworked after it was found to include some instrumental music that was suspected of being in breech of the contest rules.

There was a very clear winner on the night with both the public and the jury.  Christabelle Borg’s performance of “Taboo” was a standout with the jury, each of whom gave her with the maximum 12 points for a perfect jury score of 60 points.  Voting was a little closer in the public vote. Whilst Taboo was awarded 73 points (putting it in first place for the public vote), Richard & Joe Micallef’s “Song for Dad” was a close second on 67 points (helping it to an overall second place despite a mixed result with the jury). Joe has graced the Eurovision stage once before as a member of Firelight.

This was not Christabelle’s first attempt to represent Malta at Eurovision. Those that are fans of the Maltese national selection would have seen her on stage in both 2015 (with “Rush”, which came second) and 2016 (with “Kingdom”, which came fourth).  Her win in 2018 proves the third time really is a charm!

Christabelle wrote the lyrics for “Taboo” with another Maltese performer (Muxu), with the music written by someone that will be familiar to Eurovision fans – Thomas G:Son. This will be Thomas’ 14th Eurovision entry (he of course won with Loreen in 2012). Christabelle is quoted as saying that the song is about encouraging people to be open and discuss mental illness, and to encourage others to offer help (and not judgement) to those who need it.

Good luck to Christabelle in May!

Hungary - Wayne Ralph

We had the 3rd and final heat of A Dal 2018 on the evening of Saturday 3 February (Hungary time). Once again it was 10 acts with 6 going through to join the 12 qualifiers from the previous 2 heats in the semi finals.

First things first, the stage is still fabulous and Freddie is still beautiful.  Now on with the show…

Scoring was probably the most controversial in this heat with a more noticeable disconnect between the jury and public vote and a 3-way tiebreak for the 5th qualifier position.

Nova Prospect - "Vigyázó"
Felt like the lead singer turned up to the wrong party. She didn’t have the voice or the outfit for this rock song. A very flat opening to the night. Score: 7-7-8-7-8=37 (did not qualify)

Cintia Horváth & Tomi Balogh - "Journey (Break Your Chains)"
A blend of jazz and soft rock maybe? A nice enough song that was spoiled by some pretty bad notes along the way. Score: 8-8-7-8-6=37 (5th qualifier)

Maszkura és a Tücsökraj - "Nagybetűs szavak"
The public were right about this one, 6 is all it deserved. There’s a lot of strange “f” words in those lyrics. I suspect there may be a story that I’m missing with this one. Score: 8-8-8-8-6=38 (equal 3rd qualifier)

Roland Gulyás - "H Y P N O T I Z E D"
Roland could easily be mistaken for Freddie’s younger brother.  A shame he sang this country/soft rock song like he was actually hypnotised, no emotion at all. The public must have been hypnotised as well as he got their second chance vote. Score: 7-7-7-6-8=35 (second chance qualifier)

Reni Tolvai - "Crack My Code"
OMG, watch this! Crack up laughing more like it. Although, the studio version is much better than what was served up tonight. Chinese restaurants must be a hoot in Budapest. Score: 8-7-8-7-7=37 (did not qualify)

Ham ko Ham - "Bármerre jársz"
These guys have recycled Joci Pápai’s milk jug and bought a few extra instruments along to come up with a jaunty little drinking song.  It’s fun. Score: 7-8-7-8-8=38 (equal 3rd qualifier)

#yeahla feat. Viki Eszes - "1 Szó Mint 100"
Viki struggled with her vocal with this lounge/chill out song. She did not seem confident at all. Score: 6-7-7-8-7=35 (did not qualify)

Andy Roll - "Turn the Lights On"
In that outfit I think we need the lights turned off please. Apparently András is a seasoned performer in Hungary but he was another one who struggled with their vocals tonight. And lets be frank, the song is dated and deadset boring. Score: 7-6-7-6-7=33 (did not qualify)

Tamás Horváth - “Meggyfa"
To me it feels like a happier version of Joci Pápai’s ethnic song from last year. Tamás sings it well and adds a few tricks to the live version. If Hungary come to their senses and don’t choose those heavy rock songs, then this will be the winner for 2018. Lets just say those spoons are stirring something in me. Score: 9-8-8-8-9=42 (2nd qualifier)

Nikoletta Szőke, Attila Kökény and Róbert Szakcsi Lakatos - "Életre kel"
A lounge number straight from the ballroom of “Fairstar the FunShip”. The jury may have been on a cruise ship or two but the public can tell this one is the next Titanic.  Score: 10-9-9-9-7=44 (1st qualifier)

Overall, a night of voting and vocal performances that were all over the place but I think we saw the A Dal 2018 winner tonight.  Now back to Ronny for first semi final next Saturday.

 

Sweden - Eduardo Lobo

And Sweden kicked of the first heat of Melodifestivalen, one of the most waited national selectives, which this year was rebranded as “Mello”.

The show was hosted by David Lindgren, who also did the job last year, and featured 7 hopefuls to get the golden ticket to Lisbon in May.

The selective voting is also the same as the previous years, on the 4 heats and the Andra Chansen (the second chance round) all the power goes to the Swedish public at home, and on the final we have a mix of 50% of the voting from the Swedish public and 50% by the international jury.
 

This heat featured unicorn masks, Dirty Dancing, dancing grapes, lots of light bulbs and of course, songs! (which is the reason we’re here, right?)

So, let’s move on with the candidates:

Sigrid Bernson - "Patrick Swayze"

Sigrid is a professional dancer turned to singer. Well, she is indeed a good dancer and nice performer. Her vocals were not strong enough, but the song style helped as there was a lot of backing vocals on it. The song itself sounded, and looked like, an Ace Wilder’s song made for a younger age public, even that most of the people under 16 years old don’t know who Patrick Swayze was.

Well it was fun, but not a candidate strong enough for Lisbon.

RESULT: Through to the Second Chance round

John Lundvik - "My Turn"

Lundvik is known in Sweden as a good ballad songwriter, he even did the official song for their Royal Weddings! But he had few chances to be on the spotlight himself. And that’s all his song is about. “My Turn” sounded to me as the most honest song on this heat, Lundvik is really telling his story and it was perfectly (for not saying that is was too literal) translated to the public. It was a good ballad, a bit outdated, like the ones we heard at the 90’s, but it was effective.

RESULT – My Turn is through to the final!

Renaida - "All the Feels"

And the tempo go up again on Mello, as Renaida enters the stage with her song. “All the feels” is modern and it was something close of what we can hear on the radios today. But, for me, the lyrics sounded a bit off form the instrumental part, sounding a bit confusing and less catchier. But Renaida’s vocals were on point and the performance was great visually.

RESULT: Through to the Second Chance round

Edward Blom - "Livet på en pinne"

Most of the people asked why this kind of song appears on the lineup every year. Well folks, comedy music is a thing too! The song, besides it’s subject and bad vocals, is well composed. The staging was very impressive and funny, the problem was that Edward didn’t seemed comfortable on the stage, everyone could see a bit of nerves on his face. Then, why should we vote on a comedy number when the own singer seemed nervous on it?

RESULT: Eliminated

Kikki Danielsson - "Osby Tennessee"

And the good vibrations queen Kikki Danielsson comes back to the Melodifestivalen stage with the second autobiographical song of the night. Doing what she knows best, country. Last year we had the same thing, but with Charlotte Perrelli (“Mitt Liv”), and the swedish public didn’t bought this idea yet. Kikki song was great and she was feeling it, but it was not enough fo get a ticket to the final.

RESULT: Eliminated

Kamferdrops - "Solen lever kvar hos dig"

Kamferdrops had a hit in Sweden this year, which was a update to an old Kikki Danielsson schlager song. With "Solen lever kvar hos dig", she keeps the same “dreamy” style and the saxophone. The performance featured magic, pyrotechnics (on the saxophone!), lot’s of pink and lot’s of clones of the singer. The song was nice, but, before the heat, it was on the news that the song was published on the internet since 2009. The Mello organization haven’t disqualified the entry, but then, the public did the job.

RESULT: Eliminated

Benjamin Ingrosso "Dance You Off"

Benjamin comes back after the 5th place on last years Melodifestivalen with Good Lovin’. Being the most waited performance of the night, Pernilla Wahlgren’s son delivered a fantastic performance with lots of light effects and dancing. The song is very current and something what we can see Justin Timberlake singing  (the staging even reminds me of Justin’s Rock Your Body). Well, everything was on point and perfectly done. Then, he got deserved place to the final.

RESULT: Dance You Off is through to the final!

Is one of the two winners of this heat, Benjamin and John, heading to Lisbon? We’ll have to hear the other 21 songs on the next 3 heats to know!

Latvia - Nathan Mountford

LTV Supernova 2018 is here. This year there will be 3 semi-finals with 7 songs in each competing for 6 spots in the Grand Final on the 24th February. Voting consists of 50% audience, 50% jury. The shows will be hosted by Justs Sirmais, whom you may remember from 2016, and Dagmara Legante. The set is clean and stylish with obvious similarities to Eurovision 2014. The graphics tie in well with the overall visuals.

It was great to see Justs, Agnese and Aminata revisit their songs and support the event. Check them out here.

Katrina Gupalo & The Black Birds - Intoxicating Caramel

Wow, what is that outfit? I imagined this as a classy jazz number. Katrina’s movements and facial expressions are distracting rather then enhancing. The Black Birds seam rather uninterested! Vocally and musically everything sounds good. My first reaction to this song before the semi-final “Old fashioned jazz number”, afterwards “Tackarama”

Rahu the Fool - Oh, Longriver

Hipster realness. Repetitive and not very original but somehow maintains an element of authenticity. Great to see people playing musical instruments. I enjoyed the violin solos. Well performed but this never really takes off. I guess it follows on from last year, stuck in the past!

DVINES - More Than Meets The Eye

Visually looks stylish, gold with a bit of sparkle always looks great. I like the camera angles and graphics (on the screens behind them and in the venue). I didn’t like the 1944 graphic reference. They sing well together and overall this looks professional compared to the previous two. More Than Meets The Eye starts out promising but doesn’t deliver what the title suggests! 

Agnese Stengrevics - You Are My World

Dance tracks get a hard time at Eurovision. This would have too. The lighting and tv graphics really give this song its edge. Her vocals are ok but she looks wooden and scripted, like “ok, go here, now do this” etc. I personally don’t like what her dancers are wearing, they look too casual and distract from the package. The song stands out but the performance is average.

Sudden Lights - Just Fine

At the beginning, and end, the longing in their eyes draw you into the performance. They look smart and have obviously all worked on producing this song and show. I like the lead singer’s wispy voice although I think he should have changed keys for the chorus.

Edgars Kreilis - Younger Days (QUALIFIED)

Justs 2018! This is by far the most ‘now’ song. The graphics look good and create enough visual quality to keep you watching. I’m not so sure about his vocals and the pronunciation of certain words need to be polished! But he looks confident and uses the stage well to engage the audience and create movement.

Liene Greifane - Walk the Talk (QUALIFIED)

Sandhja (Finland 2016) 2018! Liene is a confident performer and it shows. Visually, I personally think it’s a mess (she should have warn a glittery gold top instead of black)! I also think this song probably had a strong following post semi. The drum solo is cool and gives it a bit of dynamics.

Overall the show was better than I expected. I think Edgars and Liene had the most confident performances and therefor deserved to qualify. Next week stayed tuned for the review of Semi Final 2 with Chris Hockman.

Hungary - Ronny Addamo

As Wayne was in charge of heat one last week it’s my turn to take the reigns and give you my subtle as a sledgehammer point of view on this week’s contenders.

To start things off I’d like to make the observation that Hungary was obviously watching very closely last year to Mr Sobral’s win, and indeed did take note of his ‘fast food music’ comment. Nearly all the songs featured real instruments, and steered clear of what may see as ‘Eurovision pop’. Now to the acts.

Peet project- Runaround

A loungey number, complete with man bun, hipsters and dueling violin and saxophone! Yes, it sounds exciting doesn’t it! Despite its happy vibe, good presentation and decent vocals, it just didn’t really work. Seemed to be lacking something.

Scores- 7-7-8-7-7 did not qualify

Odett- Aranyhal

Hello, It’s Hungarian Duffy! Second song in, and second song with real instruments. The song itself just swings along, with sweet Odett purring over the music, with no real elevation. It’s cute but I can’t see this wowing on the Eurovision stage.

Scores 8-9-8-8-6 Qualified to semi final

Yesyes- I Let You Run Away

Fine looking young man. Heavy accent. This turns very quickly in to a Freddie errr, tribute. Well, minus any real singing gusto. Oh, and memo to the drummer, the 90’s called, they want their jacket back. Oh, he pulls out an accordion in the middle! Wow, tick!

Scores- 10-8-8-8-9 Qualified to semi final

Maya ‘n’ Peti- Nekem te

Was just thinking, this feels really frenchy. Then I notice the backing screens, DUH! I suppose that’s a good thing. Theses guys light up the camera with their smiles, and general cuteness that I genuinely missed the whole Paris reference. It’s a sweet love song (I think) , but ultimately, is lacking some pizzazz.

Scores- 6-6-6-6-6 Did not qualify

Viki Singh- Butterfly House

Last minute addition after a withdrawal and it shows. This is dated, tacky and almost Eurovision by numbers. At times Viki looks bored, and she over sings the entire song. Not good!

Scores- 7-7-7-7-6 Did not qualify

SativuS- Lusta Lány

Impeccable eyebrows Mr lead singer! This is just messy. It sounds more like a group of uni student hipsters jamming together, than anything nearly, remotely ready for Eurovision. Next…….

Scores- 6-7-7-6-8 Viewers choice qualifier (no, I don’t know why either).

Gergely Dánielfy- Azt mondtad

Hungarian mash up of Salvador Sobral with a Ott Lepland chaser. This comes complete with pre-teen facial scruff, Bless. Woah, hold the phone, the boy can sing. This is a very nice, tidy performance. The only turn offs were that our young man failed to connect with the camera, like, at all, and the elderly rather unfortunate looking instrumentalists. A chance if he can correct these two by finals.

Scores- 10-10-8-9-8 Qualified to semi final

Nene- Mese a királyról

Very young performer, in every way. She’s clearly either very inexperienced, or very nervous. Many many bum notes, and pitchy. It’s quite a shame because the song itself has promise. I just kept thinking this kind of ‘Zoe is lost in wonderland’ staging wise.

Scores- 7-8-8-8-6 Did not qualify

Gábor Heincz Biga- Good Vibez

Yes! This one! A very simple, guitar groove fest. As the title suggests this fellow is indeed bringing the good vibez in spades! Great vocals too! This has serious potential!

Scores- 9-9-9-8-8 Qualified to semi final

AWS- Viszlát nyár

Ooh, some heavy rock, scream fest. Look, it’s not badly done, but it’s your average Euro rock number and performance, nothing more, nothing less. If this was to become Hungary’s Eurovision entrant they’d seriously want to find an interesting edge or totally out there staging, otherwise this will be filed as ‘this year’s forgettable rock song, brought to you by Hungary’

Scores- 9-9-9-9-9 Qualified to semi final

Well, there you have it. My personal take on heat two. I feel Hungary may struggle this year, as I’m not hearing anything screaming out with originality or mass appeal. But that’s just me I guess…

Now back to Wayne for heat three……

Hungary - Wayne Ralph

Ronny and I will be taking you through all that is A Dal 2018, the national selection for Hungary.  It’s a similar format to previous years; there will be 3 heats of 10 acts with 6 going through from each to 2 semi finals with 4 going through from each of those to a grand final which will be held on 24 February.

The first 5 qualifiers in the heats are selected by a 5 person jury (which includes a Danny DeVito doppelgänger) with the 5th jury member being the public vote.  There is then a “runoff” round of public voting for the remaining acts to select an additional qualifier which gives us the 6 to go through to the semi.  Easy huh.  Just wait till we try to explain the grand final voting.

So I had the “pleasure” of getting up at 5:30 on a Sunday morning to watch the first heat.  The stage was a forest of LCD screens and Freddie of “Pioneer” fame from the 2016 ESC was a co-host.  I’m happy to report he remains easy on the eye, his eyebrows are still as caterpillar’y as ever and there was no awkward stomping in sight. Haha.

 And now to the acts themselves:

1. LivingRoom - “Kirakat élet”    A little bit Maroon 5-esq.  The lead singer looked nervous and didn’t really connect with the camera. Coupled with quite simple staging it was all a bit underwhelming. Score: 8-7-7-7-7=36 (did not qualify)

2. Tamás Vastag - “Ne hagyj reményt”  A song with likability that builds but then disappoints when it just goes back to the beginning.  The background graphics were good but Tamás was dressed like a wedding singer and his feet seemed glued to the stage floor. Score: 7-7-7-7-8=36 (second chance qualifier)

3. Noémo - “Levegőt!”   It’s a sweet song but another one that was just too underwhelming.  Very timidly performed and for a song about air she seemed to run out of puff by the end.  Strong fringe game though. Score: 7-8-9-8-7=39 (did not qualify)

4. Leander Kills - “Nem szól harang”
A heavy, energetic performance.  Sure it was rock by numbers with the staging but it worked.  And the lead singer dressed as a priest was a nice touch, lol. Probably an assault on the ears for many though. Score: 9-9-9-9-8=44 (equal first qualifier)

5. Zsolt  Süle - “Zöld a május”   Look, at least he tried.  It’s a ballad that harks back to earlier times.  I found it to be a snooze-fest but Zsolt appeared to wake up the jury who gave some surprisingly good scores. Score: 8-10-10-9-7=44 (equal first qualifier)

6. Gabi Knoll - “Nobody To Die For”   She has a husky voice that didn’t quite hold up during the live performance.  The song itself is repetitive and doesn’t really go anywhere but it’s alright ;)  Staging was the most adventurous of the night where Gabi starts off standing on a giant projected disco ball and then later busts out the steel drums. Score: 8-9-9-8-6=40 (5th qualifier)

7. Fourtissimo - “Kisnyuszi a kalapban”    They call their style “electro swing” and we’ve all seen this before - think the UK’s Electro Velvet in 2015 ESC. The lead singer sounded a bit flat during her performance and the jury agreed to the disappointment of the fans. Score: 7-6-6-6-8=33 (did not qualify)

8. Ceasefire X - “Satellites” A nod to Charlie Puth and probably my favourite song from this heat.  The studio version was good but as I suspected he struggled to deliver the vocals live, especially at the start where he unusually chose to sit in a plastic chair on stage. Score: 8-9-8-8-8=41 (4th qualifier)

9. Viktor Király - “Budapest Girl”   You really need a sick bag with these lyrics but it was saved by Viktor’s sweet vocals and a good chorus.   Score: 9-9-8-8-9=43 (3rd qualifier)  

10. Patikadomb - “Jó szelet!”   A late replacement for the band “The Matter” who withdrew for personal reasons.  A cute “teenager” type song that turned into a bit of a hot mess on the stage. Score: 7-7-6-6-7=33 (did not qualify)

Overall, not a bad heat and for mine “Satellites” by Ceasefire X looks to be the strongest chance of going all the way.

The 2nd heat is to be held on Saturday 27th January….over to you Ronny.

 

France - Djamel Adja

First semi-final:

For the first national selection in more than 8 years, France has decided to organize 2 semi finals and 1 final to select the French representative for the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon.

In the first semi-final (January 18th), 3 international judges from Sweden, Belarus, and Italy, along with 3 french judges (including Amir) decided to send 4 candidates (out of 9) to the finals.

After 2 performances for each candidate (one cover and the original song they want to perform in Lisbon in May 2018), it is Lisandro Cuxi who arrived first, receiving twice 12 points from international judges (Belarus and Italy) receiving 66 points total. Followed by Lisandro were Emmy Liana performing OK ou KO, Malo with Ciao, and Louka performing Mamma Mia.

The overall level of performances was very diverse and interesting from french pop, to more international sounds.

While some consider Lisandro as the favorite to win destination Eurovision with a catchy melody and an opportunity to demonstrate his great performance capabilities and voice, I am afraid his song (Eva) is too common for a Eurovision show with high expectations.

Emmy Lyana presented a very interesting song, but I am not sure it "Eurovision" enough.

Malo delivered a very "vocal" performance where he was able to literally welcome us in his universe and create a surprise by getting 12 points from 2 out of 3 French judges.

Louka delivered on a song (Mamma Mia). Very modern and fresh song, I have no doubt the French public will love it. The question is to whether europeans will be seduced by a light french song.

Spain - Enrique de Vallejo

"After an erratic path during more an a decade, last 4th of December Spanish broadcaster announced that have bet for ‘Operación Triunfo 2017’ as the formula to choose the Spanish entry in Lisbon.

RTVE did it in a badly planned way, by surprise and after months of speculation. In fact, the own contestants of this talent show edition showed faces of stupefaction when they received the news that one of them would be Spanish Eurovision representative.

This was not the first missed opportunity to try to restore credibility to the Festival in Spain. Because, while it is true that Operación Triunfo was the way to choose Spanish singer and song in 2002, 2003 and 2004, there are huge differences as regards those past editions. It is clear that, in this case, the final decision was taken only by audience results (RTVE didn’t trust in this new edition), demonstrating again the traditional Spanish improvisation regarding Eurovision Song Contest.

On the one hand, when the candidates of those previous editions decided to take part in the talent show, they knew in advance that they could be chosen as representative of Spain in Eurovision. I mean, there were rules since the very beginning.

On the other hand, in the occasions where RTVE decided that 'Operación Triunfo' was Spanish pre-selection, the final show to attend the festival was made after the final of the talent show, to the point of seeing how Beth being second runner-up, and Ramón third, went to Riga and Istanbul. Furthermore, 'OT 2002' had three galas to choose Rosa and her ‘Europe’s living a celebration’ to be in Tallinn. By 2018, according to the news (in Spain everything can be changed until the day before the show), we will have only one show and with five candidates (the finalists), compared to three of those years. So, the pre-selection will be reduced to a single television gala (29th of January) to determine representative and song. Faced with successful and long-lasting formats such as Melodifestivalen, Sanremo or A Dal, RTVE proposes a single date and the allocation of the proposals as if they were an assignment for any other gala in the hands of the contestants (they will have the theme just seven days to embrace them).

Finally, the audience will not have a studio version to assess the proposals beforehand, or even a clean listening with which to vote. This factor, coupled with the fact that the vote is given in a single night, will also avoid any reflection, giving us a format where fanaticism towards one contestant or another will be more important than the song itself. And Eurovision, it should not be forgotten, is a Song Contest. One more thing, according to the chief of Gestmusic (Operación Triunfo production company), the songs will be only in Spanish.

From Spain, eurofans hope Gestmusic can overcome the obstacles raised by RTVE and finally Spain can go to Lisbon with a worthy representative, at the level of the event. Only in this way confidence can be regained in a Festival that gives Spanish public television its best audience data every year."

Albania - Mike Whalley

The Festivali I Këngës is an Albanian song contest which has been running in various forms since 1962. In 2003, it was used for the first time to select the Albanian entry for the ESC. Whilst in recent years a combination of jury and public voting chooses the winner, this year it returned to a jury only decision.

The structure has provided two Top Ten Eurovision hits - in 2004 (7th) and 2012 (5th), but it’s interesting that with 5 of the last 7 entries not making it through the ESC semi-finals that they continue to use this method. Anyway...

Late December 2017 sees the contest take place over three nights - two semi finals, each hosting 11 performances. At the end of the first semi final there were no announcements - who the finalists would be were only announced after the second semi final, and there were 8 from the first semi, and just 6 from the second, leaving 14 performances to take part on the final the following night.

After the 4hour extravaganza (even longer than the ESC Final!), third place went to Inis Neziri, 2nd to Redon Makashi, and the winner was Eugent Bushpepa.

‘Mall’ by Eugene Bushpepa is an upbeat soft rock number performed in Albanian. Lyrics include “nothing in this world can express the feeling when hearts join and beat like one. I’m away from you, let me fight when my powers are exhausted, I even dream it when I’m awake…”

He’s a handsome chap, who cleaned his act up from a tattoo’d disheveled look dressed in black for the semi, to slick hair and a sharp white jacket for the final. It’s simple but stirring, with some ‘big notes’ scattered throughout (which got bigger for the final - he went a bit Mariah!) The chorus has a somewhat catchy lilt and the backing singers give it a bit of a war-chant feeling. The live orchestra version played in the final is heavy on the strings, drums and guitar. The ending does drift away a little, but I’d imagine in the edit from 4m31s to 3m they’ll fix that. All in all a solid song. The big question though- will it make it to the Saturday night in Lisbon?

You can check out the performance here.