A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
There is always some matter to discuss or just a song I want to share
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

ESC 2014 - Tobson top 37, part 2

There is no better way to end a year than to make your own personal ranking of all the songs taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest of the same year. Don't you agree? I was sure you would!

In my last post I ranked the songs placing 21 - 37 in my personal list - you can see them here.

So here we go - counting backwards down to first place in hope of seeing a surprise there.

20. San Marino
I must admit feeling touched when the Sammarinese made it to the final with this very nicely produced ballad. The airy arrangement makes it sound a bit better than it is, but I'd rather have that than the other way around.

19. Iceland
Energetic and colourful with a positive message, what is there not to like? It does get a bit too repetitive in the end but not more than the group can cover up with their good spirits.

18. Malta
Pretty much the serious equivalent of Iceland's entry. Would have needed a tighter performance in order to convince more people but still a good effort that feels genuine.

17. Israel
What could have been a real contender fell apart largely due to the very clumsy English lyrics and the  very poorly directed live performance in Copenhagen. Still this year's best non-qualifier.

16. Azerbaijan
A beautiful soft ballad with an intimate atmosphere and lyrics that really would have needed somebody more fluent in English to make them justice. Dilara is a real personality but she would have needed another song for the occasion. Or lyrics in her own language.

15. France
There is nothing wrong in not taking this contest seriously or participating just for a bit of fun. But what you absolutely must do is to believe in your own material. The French came across as smirking at their own act and then no catchy chorus in the world can save you.

14. Greece
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when the Greek team discussed how they would stage their entry and decided hopping on a trampoline while singing would be a great idea. How to take a lightweight but fun dance track and ruin absolutely every chance of making a positive impression.

13. United Kingdom
I must admit I was taken by the hype for a while and thought this could be a potential winner. It isn't an outstanding song but benefits from a strong hook and an interesting chorus. The best UK entry in a long time but not spectacular enough to stand out among stronger candidates.

12. Italy
Italy - very much like France - has regularly had significant problems staging their eurovision entries properly. In this case a big singing star with an intriguing voice and stage presence managed to sing for three minutes without really going through the screen.

11. Norway
Soft and understated, given an emotional but slightly too insecure performance. Under different circumstances it could easily have been the ballad of the year, but that competition proved very stiff indeed this time around.

10. Belarus
I am surprised too but the Belarusian cheesecake proved to be the ear-worm of the year. Catchy and easy, silly in a good way, never trying to be anything more than it is. Which is most unusual for a Belarusian entry indeed.

9. Finland
Seriously impressive how a band of teenagers from a small city somewhere out there could collect themselves for the big occasion and make their little song grow immensely just at the time when it needed it the most.

8. Hungary
A good contemporary pop song perhaps scared a few off with its lyrics, dealing with the subject of child abuse. Personally I think the verses are a bit too long and slow, making the song feel a bit like it starts and stops between the powerful choruses, but yet another solid entry shows Hungary could probably win this contest any day rather soon.

7. Ukraine
Like in the old fairytale, where they make a delicious soup out of water and an old button, Ukraine always manages to take whatever they can find and turn it into a feast. Admittedly, the song in question is rather weak but what does it matter when the show number on stage is so perfectly put in place, making this three very enjoyable minutes. Ukraine will be sorely missed in Vienna.

6. Sweden
When you have a stylish and elegant but slightly cold ballad it is not a bad idea to ask a Sanna Nielsen to perform it. Suddenly it turns from being just another ballad into a contender.

5. Spain
Ruth Lorenzo is nowhere near as safe a bet as Sanna Nielsen is but as she managed to keep her vocals under control without overdoing her performance, this ballad also grew a couple of sizes in my estimation. And it made people in my social media feeds occasionally erupt into "The Rain! The Rain! The Rain!" for no apparent reason.

4. Armenia
Has there even been a build-up as long and slow and efficient as this one, waiting almost two minutes before unleashing a relatively short but most effective chorus? Sophisticated and very engaging. Had Aram Mp3 been a slightly stronger performer, this could easily have gained one or two placings still.

3. Poland
Nowhere near being sophisticated and that's the whole point. Some good old provocation can still be entertaining, especially when delivered to a song as hit friendly as this one. I loved Army of Lovers back in the day and this entry borrowed most of its aesthetic from them, to great success.

2. Netherlands
The moment I saw the Dutch performance in the semi final I felt sure this must be one of the top competitors for victory. Such an exquisite performance - understated and effective - and I marvelled at how well a song as quiet as this could work in the ESC. A most deserved second place.

1. Austria
The Queen of Austria was my favourite as soon as I heard the song for the first time and it didn't lose any of its magic. A touching performance from a touching performer who rightly turned into one of the biggest internet phenomenons of the year. Divisive, but I like my favourites like that. A bit of bite and a bit of crunch. And a fabulous final note.

Happy New Year, dear blog readers. All the best for 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

ESC 2014 - Tobson top 37, part 1

It is time to bid farewell to the year 2014 and what better way than to finally do away with ranking all of this year's entries once and for all?

I graded them already back then, in their preview versions, but as you live with them for the rest of the year things will start happening. Some of them will crumble to nothing and some of them will be slow growers.

So here we go, in this part one I will rank the songs that placed 21 - 37 in my personal list.

21. Montenegro
A wonderful break to finally see Montenegro make it all the way to the final. A warm and pleasant voice managed to breathe some extra life into a ballad that is pretty but in no way spectacular. Balkan by the numbers.

22. Estonia
Good vocals and an ambitious stage show came to nothing as the director had nothing more than long shots of the stage to offer the Estonians. Once all closeness and intimacy removed, all that remained was a song that ultimately wasn't distinct enough to stand out.

23. Slovenia
A good performer and a flute added well needed flavour and temper enough to raise this rather average pop/rock entry all the way into the final.

24. Latvia
I really would have wanted this happy little campfire ditty to work, but ultimately the performance was too lean and amateurish (and really not helped by being placed that early in the running order). Charming but without the final impact needed.

25. Switzerland
I still don't think this is much of a song but it does go out to prove that a bit of personality can go quite a long way. Extra plus for the violin and the catchy whistling.

26. Denmark
A silly and rather sexist piece of cheerful nonsense that somehow makes its way into your system and makes you hum along either you want to or not. I'd rather not but I have to admit it's efficient.

27. Lithuania
Despite this being a song contest, you can get surprisingly far without a decent song. If you have the right stage presence, stage show and attitude you can get people's attention anyway. Lithuania almost gets away with it, it's almost working. The performance is almost powerful enough to make you forget what a hopeless song this is. Almost.

28. FYR Macedonia
We've been here before - we are well aware of FYR Macedonia's ability to find decent songs and ruin them with messy stage presentations. How a stage personality like Tijana can leave as little of an impression as this after three minutes remains a mystery.

29. Georgia
Another one of those entries that make you stop and wonder what they were actually thinking when they wrote it. Musically challenging and I always welcome that. Up to a point. Intriguing but chanceless.

30. Portugal
Pleasant and likeable but ultimately not much more than a washed-out version of their 2007 entry. And I liked that one just a tiny bit more.

31. Russia
Well staged but cold and calculated. Also relying too heavily on special effects and with political undertones I just can't pretend are not there. If the Russian entrants wish not to be judged on political grounds, they themselves need to keep politics out of the game.

32. Germany
Just a matter of taste, I guess. Elaiza managed to attract lots of attention on home ground and had a respectable breakthrough, but to me this just feels lukewarm and shouty. So not my cup of tea.

33. Ireland
Possibly the most insipid entry of the year. There is nothing wrong with the various bits and pieces it is made up of, but it doesn't feel original, leaves no impression and is very swiftly forgotten.

34. Albania
Could have been a really good one but lost everything it had on its way to Copenhagen. Should have stayed in in its original language but not much could have helped this overly complicated composition to hit home with the voters.

35. Romania
A complete car crash performance that leaves you with the impression that not even the people involved like the song and desperately try to hide it underneath as much effect-seeking as possible. It's only redeeming feature is its own wish to at least be happy and cheerful. And the gorgeous Paula Seling, of course. But not even she can save this ship from sinking.

36. Moldova
Pretty much like Romania, but without the slightest attempt of being fun. Gloom and doom all over.

37. Belgium
If you ever read this blog during the last season this last place won't come as a major surprise to you. I didn't like it then and I didn't warm to it since. Aggressively pompous platitudes about a mother/son-relationship that doesn't feel healthy at all. Poor Axel didn't give his best vocal delivery, but he isn't the problem here. A distinct lack of taste reigns every aspect of this - down to the magnificently creepy dancer. Entertaining in its own little way, but it wasn't intended to be.