A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
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Sunday, May 15, 2022

ESC 2022: Ukraine did it again

You know the feeling when Eurovision is over and your head is boiling and you should go to bed but you really feel the need to blog a bit in order for your thoughts not to get too filtered through sleep?

So. Team Ukraine won. Big style. Like the bookmakers had thought they would ever since March. I had expected them to end in a dignified second place but the support from the televote was deafening.

In the end, the pop entries from the UK, Spain and Sweden had nothing on the etno-flute-rap served up by Kalush Orchestra. A strong entry that could have won any old year but that turned invincible by the emotional twist of cruel reality.



In case you know me, you know I am a pop kid who would want the most likely commercial hit to win the ESC. Even the slightest suspicion that something won because of anything else than hit factor is usually a big no in my book. But this is not our average year. This is a very unusual and very disturbing time. How can we expect any corner of our lives and cultures to be untouched by that?

The voting turned out to be very exciting although a bit shaky. Why was Laura Pausini absent for most of it? What happened to the countries that could not be contacted? Why did the hosts have to win time at deeply illogical places? 

A very large number of voting irregularities had been spotted in the semi finals. Would it be time to shrink the voting window down (and maybe get the voting started some ten-fifteen minutes after the last song) and see if that makes it harder to try and manipulate things? Or was it juries that behaved badly?

Speaking of irregularities but somebody has to mention Azerbaijan. The votes they received from the juries were odd to put it gently and the fact they qualified on jury vote alone while getting zero points from the viewers is astounding. For how much longer do we have to put up with their games?

Some things surprised me but I will content myself with saying how deeply sorry I am about the French fiasco. Going from a hot favourite to second last in a matter of days without really doing anything wrong is brutal. I hope the team doesn't give up - hang in there, la France. 

And then the big question... where will we go to next year? There is no way Ukraine can undertake an event like the ESC in 2023, even if the war was over tomorrow. The logical thing would be to ask the UK or Spain if they want to host, but would they want to without winning? Would they rather try to win it next year instead of hosting as a consolation prize?

Next year's contest is likely to be hosted by some EBU member broadcaster that could take it on without their budget taking too much of a hit while remaining relatively invisible and make room for a large input from Ukrainian television. I'd say the obvious choice would be Germany but what would that look like, now that they scored their third last place in ten years?

So many question and so little sleep ahead. Sweet dreams and may many of the entries live long and prosper in the charts.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

ESC 2022: Tobson takes a final guess


The time has come to put my money where my mouth is and take my final and ultimate guess at how the final of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest will end. The whole season everything felt completely wide open - between a number of strong candidates it seemed wide open - and two hours before the final the feeling remains the same.

Maybe not AS open as a few of the songs that formerly seemed like contenders have lost their momentum or ended up in the shade. Some because of disappointing performance, some because the competition proved too hard, some because they got a bad spot in the running order.

But there are still four or five songs that could easily take the victory. I genuinely think the United Kingdom and Spain will both go far but not all the way, but maybe they will surprise me. Italy could turn on all power gears and take an unusual double. Ukraine could capture enough emotion to get to the top.

Since the running order takes a few unexpected twist and turns, we also have a real chance to see a real surprise winner emerge out of the blue. Maybe France still has a chance? Maybe Norway is the fun break we all didn't know we needed?

But no - all roads lead back to the same answer for me. I think Sweden will grab its seventh victory tonight. Cornelia Jakobs and her intense performance is likely to sway jurors and viewers alike and run away with the trophy.

Poor Germany will end in another disappointing last place unless Romania or Switzerland manages to break their fall. Maybe they could get a glow up for 2023 like the UK and Spain had this time?

My attempt at predicting the top 25 looks like this: 01. Sweden, 02. Ukraine, 03. Italy, 04. United Kingdom, 05. Spain, 06. Netherlands, 07. Estonia, 08. France, 09. Greece, 10. Norway, 11. Moldova, 12. Lithuania, 13. Portugal, 14. Poland, 15. Serbia, 16. Australia, 17. Finland, 18. Czech republic, 19. Armenia, 20. Belgium, 21. Iceland, 22. Azerbaijan, 23. Switzerland, 24. Romania, 25. Germany.

Please hang with me and tell me how wrong I am over at Twitter. Let's hope for a very entertaining evening and maybe for a surprise or two?

ESC 2022: what the final looks like from here


The final lineup is completed and as every year it feels like everything went through a major earthquake. Everything looks different and everything you believed all through the season has been turned upside down. 

Loads of the songs who looked like contenders still in the semi final have been put in the shade - some because of the new mix, some because of their spot in the running order - and some new favourites may have emerged.

This is not my final prediction - you'll get that later today - but this is what the twenty-five songs in the final feel like with the new running order.

01. CZECH REPUBLIC
A good and energetic opener that has a retro electronica beat that I am very fond of. This was never in the running for victory in any way but opening the ball could possibly make it stand out in a better light than it would have at, say, spot 12. 
Grade: 3/5

02. ROMANIA
The finalist where I really totally and completely fail to see what the rest of you see and enjoy and judging from its spot in the running order, host broadcaster Rai is with me here. Regardless, I am genuinely happy for Romanian tv to be back in the final. Hopefully this will inspire them to send more solid entries again.
Grade: 1/5

03. PORTUGAL
Wonderful singing but maybe not enough action to convince the audience this early on in the running. The average viewer isn't yearning for an oasis just yet but this is a high quality entry and further proof what good shape the Portuguese national final is in right now.
Grade: 3/5

04. FINLAND
Energetic commercial radio rock with a nerve, presented with experience and a certain amount of gravity. A bit too much of a shout out to what was hot in the charts two decades ago to be a real contender but it is always a victory of sorts for Finland to be in the final.
Grade: 3/5

05. SWITZERLAND
Sometimes it's nice to be surprised and I honestly never thought Marius Bear would surprise us like he did in the semi final. However, I can't see this very gentle little song and its slightly clumsy performance break through the same way on a Saturday night. 
Grade: 2/5

06. FRANCE
Sometimes you look too closely at the running order in itself and forget how a strong song can break through on its own, regardless of where it comes during the night. Having said that, it feels like the producers failed this French piece of etno rave, dropping it very early without having anything properly building up to it. 
Grade: 4/5

07. NORWAY
The fun novelty song of the year, featuring anonymous wolves and dancing bananas, that would probably have landed a bit better some other year when the state of the world had a bit less gloom and doom about it. Will it be the relief the audience is longing for or just ultimately too lightweight? I have a good time but still lean towards the latter of the two.
Grade: 3/5

08. ARMENIA
A sweet little moment but the video clip feel of the performance came across as more alienating than impressive in the semi final. Maybe we just want singers to seem more close, accessible and present after the pandemic? A right hand finish in the final.
Grade: 2/5

09. ITALY
The best song in the final performed by two singers with a presence that can burn through a camera lense. Whenever they decide to turn it on. If everything comes together like it should, Italy could be the first host country to win since Ireland 1994. Maybe not the most probable outcome but far from impossible.
Grade: 5/5

10. SPAIN
Has emerged as one of the biggest favourites to win during rehearsals and this could be the point when I stand correct but I fail to see this one running away with the jury vote. Professional and a beat you can dance to but if the jurors do their job - they are explicitly told to favour originality - there should be other, stronger candidates. Top five is definitely within reach, though.
Grade: 3/5

11. NETHERLANDS
Intense and sincere but runs the risk of coming across as the quiet moment that lowers the tempo once we got the party started. Definitely not helped out by the running order.
Grade: 3/5

12. UKRAINE
A good song is a good song but Ukraine obviously has an emotional edge few others can compete with. Not everyone seems to get their head around this the way I had expected but in televote that won't matter much. One of the most likely winners.
Grade: 5/5

13. GERMANY
I thought the producers might flog poor Malik in the second slot - the disaster position - but maybe this is even worse. After four favourites in a row it will be blindingly obvious what a bleak effort this is, in spite of its spirited performance. 
Grade: 1/5

14. LITHUANIA
A very personable and original cabaret ditty in a national language making it to the final in a year when a lot of polite little numbers in English lost out is a very encouraging thing. Could get quite a bit of jury love but most importantly its presence makes the final better.
Grade: 4/5

15. AZERBAIJAN
Perfectly polished as always but also anonymous and surprisingly screamy in the semi final. Will probably pick up the odd vote from here and there but is hardly top ten material.
Grade: 1/5

16. BELGIUM
One of the best voices this year sang his way to the final and rightly so. Very impressive singing, and while the song maybe doesn't rise to the same level it's good to see Belgium getting rewarded for sending in young talent.
Grade: 2/5

17. GREECE
A well staged and well sung piece of drama that maybe lost a bit of its momentum with this running order. Four slow songs in a row was an ill-advised idea and Amanda is probably the one losing the most from it. 
Grade: 4/5

18. ICELAND
Too bad for Iceland but by now the viewers will have run out of snacks while waiting for the tempo to pick up again. 
Grade: 2/5

19. MOLDOVA
This seems like a golden (train) ticket: finally something fun and crazy and upbeat that will make everyone sit up in their armchairs. Nowhere strong enough to be a surprise winner but could maybe have chance at a top ten finish.
Grade: 3/5

20. SWEDEN
Maybe not an ideal spot right after wacko Moldova but Cornelia has an intensity and a presence forcing people to pay attention. One of tonight's most probable winners.
Grade: 5/5

21. AUSTRALIA
Another really good voice but a performer that doesn't always know when to hold back rather than to give full gas. This is a bit too much for my taste but will probably tickle the senses of more than one juror.
Grade: 1/5

22. UNITED KINGDOM
The winner? Has the UK desert walk come to an end? Yes and no. This running order wrecks its momentum a bit - coming after Sweden and the emotional storm that is Australia - and I have not been a huge fan of Sam Ryders performance style and wish also he knew how to hold back a bit. This will be by far the best UK placing in over a decade but I would be very surprised if it was enough to go all the way.
Grade: 4/5

23. POLAND
And a third consecutive entry with a male vocalist giving his vocal chords a wild ride. What were the producers thinking? A very good voice in a song that maybe resembles a few other songs just a bit too much for comfort.
Grade: 3/5

24. SERBIA
Known by the whole continent as the hand wash song, it now finds itself sandwiched in between a lot of boys at the end of the final. Probably not as good a spot as it looks on paper but just like Lithuania its main purpose is to make the final a better and more diverse place.
Grade: 4/5

25. ESTONIA
Hunky Stefan gets to close the presentation of entries with his country-flavoured little song that is solid but never really rises beyond being nice. A wide smile and good energy could prove to go a long way as Estonia has a lighter touch than the five songs proceeding it. Just how far will be very interesting to see in the end.
Grade: 2/5

Friday, May 13, 2022

ESC 2022, semi 2: what about the songs that left us?


The two semi finals are done and the lineup for Saturday's final is complete. The second semi final saw an unfortunate amount of awkward pauses where the hosts had to improvise like there was no tomorrow and ended with a few surprises.

Eight entries lost out and in my prediction I got eight out of ten finalists right. I should feel pleased but some things surprised me as well.

Let's get back to the finalists before the final but who lost out and why? 

The saddest thing for me is that the force of nature that is Achille Lauro didn't take San Marino to the final. Admittedly "Stripper" was not the strongest number in his catalogue - far from it - and he should have entered something stronger. But still. Having one more Italian stage in the final would have been nice for Rai.

The other familiar face for the home audience that lost out was Malta's Emma, which was less surprising. Not an exactly spotless performance of a very anonymous song. I was way more disappointed to see Cyprus go but Andromache had very low energy and didn't break through the cameras. What a pity.

North Macedonia and Montenegro both performed well. The former had a weak entry and the latter just missed the beat on what the audience wanted. The Big Balkan Ballad's comeback moment isn't just yet.

Ireland had a trashy 80's energy that would have been welcome in the final but it came across as a tiny bit tame and disorganised. On a similar note, what could have been a piece of splendid and explosive madness from Georgia just turned surprisingly static. 

The one exit I must admit to being very pleased with - proving myself really petty at the same time - is Israel. Not only was the song a thin soup with few nutritious elements, his performance in the green room was one of the cringiest things I have seen in a long time. You do not disturb the hosts during a live show and that is the first rule in the book. Unbearable.

So. Let's recharge some batteries (and do some other things in between) and then it's time to pick a winner.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

ESC 2022, semi 2: Tobson takes a guess


 

It is time to complete the Saturday lineup with the final ten songs and the question is always if predicting the second semi is easier than the first. Can you look at what worked on Tuesday night and make some waterproof conclusions on what works or not this specific year?

No. You can't. Sorry.

Thursday night has different jurors. Different viewers. And a completely new set of coicidences.

We have for instance no idea what songs advanced because the viewers loved them or the juries loved them and who just scraped by in a lucky accident because of a solid average. 

Worth noticing is however that the mid-tempo songs didn't eat each other's points the way I would have thought and if there's anything the final is beginning to lack a bit, then it is tempo and beats. But the people voting tonight won't necessarily know that and even if they knew I'm not sure they'd care.

Eight acts will leave the show tonight and I think it will be the following:


ISRAEL

Loud and without a melody, pretty much what was Albania's downfall on Tuesday. Michael does what he can but no. The Israeli qualification streak ends here.


MALTA

Emma is well known in the host country and it is sad she won't make it to the final. But if Maltese tv felt the need to go shopping for an entry elsewhere, why did they settle for this very bleak ditty? Who would stand up and cheer for this?


NORTH MACEDONIA

Another good singer with very little to work with. The song is competent but never takes off and goes nowhere.


ROMANIA

Very much like Latvia, this has caught the attention and liking of many a Eurovision fan. It has a pretty nice instrumental thingy and a compellingly gay atmosphere but it never rises beyond being endearingly rubbish. This year's Slavko (or was that Albania?).


IRELAND

This is where I'd hope to be wrong. I'd love a piece of slightly trashy 80's pop in the final but Ireland rarely knows how to row this sort of boat into the harbour. Strong "Et Cetera" vibes here. The Austria of this semi final.


MONTENEGRO

I thought this would be a qualifier and with a solid performance it still has its chances - the juries are never averse to a strong voice - but I put my finger in the air and feel the time for the big updated comeback of the Balkan ballad isn't here yet.


GEORGIA

An early fave of mine that I still ugly dance to in my kitchen but it has grown off me ever so slightly and I doubt the visual choices of the band will convince the average voter. I'd love to be wrong but I don't think I will be.


ESTONIA

Look, I don't want to have to do this. If it was up to me I'd leave out impeccably produced but anonymous Azerbaijan or overly theatrical Australia. It could just as well be Finland missing the mark, leaning too much on routine instead of connecting with the audience. It could be Belgium sounding slightly too aggressive. Stefan is a great singer but Estonia going all "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" comes very much out of the blue. I think people will enjoy it but not vote for it enough.


This would mean my final ten qualifiers are: Finland, Serbia, Azerbaijan, San Marino, Australia, Cyprus, Poland, Belgium, Sweden and Czech republic. (Personally, I'd gladly swap Azerbaijan and Australia for Georgia and Ireland but I don't see that happening.)

You agree? You disagree? I'll spend the semi final on Twitter, feel free to join the conversation there.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

ESC 2022, semi 1: what about the songs that left us?

 


The first semi came to an end and here we stand with ten finalists. I am pretty pleased with having predicted nine of them correctly and at one point I admit I let out a tiny happy yahoo during the revelation segment.

I had already resigned to the fact that we'd lose Lithuania - one of my big personal favourites this year, but one I feared was too demanding to hit home on a first listen. I'll focus more on the tremendous Monika Liu and the other finalists later in the week, but what went wrong for the seven songs that left us?

Albania and Latvia - the two first to take to the stage - both wanted a lot but were visually all over the place. Frenetic while lacking a certain focus at the same time, difficult to pick up on if you heard the for the first time. Probably no jury favourites and left to the mercy of the viewers.

Bulgaria and Denmark both tried to rock the house down but both were let down by very basic songs. The Bulgarian rock uncles were doing the same poses that Denmark made with more conviction but both entries were surprisingly un-heavy in the end.

Slovenia's lads were awfully sweet but never stood any sort of chance and the same goes for Croatia. I can't even put my finger on what didn't work for Croatia - there was a polished song in a polished performance by a likeable singer - but probably the whole thing got a bit anonymous. I would not be surprised if Croatia ended in 11th place again.

The one I got wrong was Austria and I was a bit surprised to see it go. Maybe Pia Maria is not the most precise vocalist we have ever heard but the whole thing had energy and joy - Lumix is possibly the happiest DJ I have ever seen - and a sense of 90's nostalgia I thought would overcome the cascade of sick notes.

I'm especially surprised to see Switzerland being the one taking the spot I thought was Austria's. I like the song but thought the performance was stiff and a bit awkward. I can only suppose the jurors saw qualities in Marius Bear while tanking Austria completely. But I don't want to take the happiness away from Switzerland that now qualified for the third consecutive edition. Well done.

More drama coming up on Thursday with ten new finalists to predict in what I find the weaker of the two semis this year.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

ESC 2022, semi 1: Tobson takes a guess

So, here we are. Loads of rehearsals have lead up to the big moment when we are about to start losing some of this year's entries. Time for the first of two semi finals.

Following rehearsals - or rather following people's reactions to the rehearsals as I try to save myself some surprises for the live shows and avoid rehearsal footage - what unfortunately stands out this year is the very negative vibe surrounding the whole event this year.

It is fine to be vocal about things that don't work or when things don't live up the acceptable standards - boy, am I getting flashbacks to Baku or what - but there are different ways to voice your opinions. Until now it feels like Rai can't do anything right and that this goes down as the worst edition on record.

My big hope is that we will get served an okay semi final that is entertaining and engaging and fun to watch. Also I hope my prediction won't be completely disastrous.

Since there have been so many opinions flying about - many of which are VERY sure about how things are going to go - and I feel seriously confused by most of them, I am going to go with my gut feeling and also my initial emotion. Remember, to the crushing majority of the people voting these songs will be spanking new and will get judged on their three minute impression only.

So. In the first semi final we will unfortunately have to say goodbye to the following seven countries:


SLOVENIA

The lads are really doing their best and they look very sweet and feel very likeable but even though I enjoy this, I admit the song feels beige and overly complicated on a first listen. Simply too tame with no real hooks, this will probably fail to bring in serious points from any direction.


SWITZERLAND

Another one I personally enjoy but that I can't see collecting enough points to go through. Mainly because competition is fierce in among the emotional ballads in this semi. It's not possible that they all qualify and some of them will fall short. Switzerland is the easiest one to pick out of that lot.


CROATIA

A bit of a personal favourite with its gentle touch and light feel. Mia is very good but I don't know how Croatia keeps sending in these songs that lacks that final little something to make them qualify. I'll be sad seeing this one go.


DENMARK

Denmark has a way of sneaking into the final somehow ahead of songs that would deserve it better but can it really happen this time? This song comes across as trying to artificially connect two songs of different genres and end up being something I can't see anyone having as their favourite. Too constructed and not engaging enough. Surely?


LATVIA

It's a fun song that is dearly loved by many fans who love to shout that word the lead singer isn't allowed to pronounce, but for all the people seeing and hearing it for the first time I think it will appear to be your typical lightweight Latvian ditty that is nice for as long as it goes on and then too lightweight to be remembered once the phone lines open. 


ALBANIA

This is possibly where my prediction turns horribly wrong but ever since I first heard this, my thought was that it's mainly a fun rhythm track without a lot of melody to support it. It's fun and danceable but not very easy to get a hold of on one listen. Ronela seems lovely so I wouldn't mind being wrong for her sake.


BULGARIA

The only rock lads in the semi could appeal to a rather large demographic that listen to radio stations where anemic standard formula rock is the largest staple but do these people vote? Flawless production but not an outstanding song. How far can you go with cool pyro, aren't those days long gone?


This is a very tight race where many songs are pretty similar and fighting for the same pool of points while the standard is generally high. If my prediction is right, our ten finalists will be: Lithuania, Ukraine, Netherlands, Moldova, Portugal, Austria, Iceland, Greece, Norway and Armenia. 

Out of these ten, the one I worry for the most is my personal darling Monika Liu from Lithuania but I keep telling myself a good song and a strong personality must break through. 

I'll spend the semi final tweeting away so feel free to give me your hottest takes.