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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:


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.


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?


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


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?).


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.


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.


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.


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:


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.


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.


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 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?


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. 


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.


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.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

ESC 2022: Winning isn't easy

This image belongs to the EBU

One week to go until the big final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 in Turin and I've been keeping an eye on what's going on over there. In a way.

Since I am not on location, I am avoiding rehearsal footage. I don't have to report for anyone, so I prefer getting surprised on the night. I don't want to know every camera angle in advance. So I already reviewed all participating songs based on their preview versions, you can read that here, here and here

Instead I've been following people's reactions to the rehearsals on social media. That is always quite the ride but this year has been unusually intense and not necessarily in a good way. The general tone has been fairly negative and sometimes even hostile towards the EBU in general and host broadcaster Rai in particular. 

Alright, having one large stage prop not work out like it was supposed to is of course a big miscalculation but I can't help but asking myself how all this vitriol might influence the EBU:s desire to keep rehearsals open at all in the future.

When it comes to the performances themselves, views have been as varied as always. If someone has given an energetic performance they have often been labelled a sure qualifier, if someone holds back or hesitates their chances are "gone".

Which makes me think of Blanche from Belgium who was more or less unanimously hailed as the fallen favourite bound to lose out in the semi and then finally ended 4th in the final. This is a guessing game and it's not easy getting it right.

Today's second rehearsal of the Big Five countries was also intense as most of them made quite an impression on most people watching. Will one of them win for a second year running?

I find myself thinking of Christer Björkman, a divisive figure in Eurovision World but nevertheless someone with a great deal of insight into this game. He once talked about the chances of winning two years in a row and he said it was as good as impossible. The competition these days is much more difficult and way more unpredictable compared to what it used to be.

The key thing - according to Christer Björkman - is how being good isn't enough. You need to be good on all levels but you also need a lot of luck. You can never know in advance what is That Thing that will work in any particular year. An impeccable entry and an impeccable performance will get you far but in order to go all the way, you need to be That Thing.

2022 has quite a few strong contenders and many songs have a lot of supporters that are convinced their favourite is the one that will win. However, only one team can win. I hope the others - the ones that will go far or maybe not even all that far - won't be too disappointed.

In a week from now, we will know what is That Thing in 2022 and I look forward to getting surprised. 

If you want to talk Eurovision with me, I'll be hanging on Twitter as usual.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Tobson speaks up: ESC 2022, the finalists

The best thing about the ESC being hosted by one of the big five countries is that we will have twenty-five songs in the final, which is a pretty ideal number.

I don't know why that one song makes such a difference but it does. It's as if there was some sort of invisible line between twenty-five and twenty-six, where many become too many. Maybe it won't be as much of a negative singing last in the final this time?

Anyway, it's not impossible also next year's final will have twenty-five entries since the Big Five have overall made big efforts (most of them) and it's not entirely unthinkable that one of them would run away with the trophy again.

Here are my (slightly longer) opinions on the songs already in the final.

Mahmood & Blanco / Brividi
The burning question ever since Måneskin won last year has been if Italy would now be the first county to secure a home victory since Ireland in 1994. Sanremo has been in good shape as of late - thoroughly updated but still firmly focusing on songs and singing over visual gimmicks - something that seems to have slowly trickled back to the ESC as well. So, will there be a double? It is definitely not out of reach. "Brividi" is an outstanding song, superbly performed, and especially Mahmood has an incredible way of working the cameras. At least it will be the first host country act to place top five since Frans and if it isn't I will have to ask to talk to the manager.
Grade: 5/5

Alvan & Ahez / Fulenn
Pretty wild to go from French having its best showing in the contest for many a good day to the first year ever without a single song in the language of Voltaire. Instead we get a mashup between a rave party and a fest-noz in Breton and I'm very happy with that too. Musically, this is top crop with a lot of catchy elements and a really convincing backing track. If it hadn't been for the rather poor visuals and messy camera work we've seen so far, this could be a potential winner too. If we are given a tighter production, this could be a dark horse.
Grade: 4/5

Malik Harris / Rockstars
The last decade has lead me to think that the people in charge of the German participation has no idea what the ESC is, how it works and what you need to be successful there. Given what it looked like from the outset, Germany somehow got it surprisingly right this time. Malik isn't bad and the song has its inspired moments and has won a number of fans in the lead-up to the contest. Seriously, though. Germany has the potential to go top five every year and with that in mind, this just isn't good enough.
Grade: 2/5

Chanel / SloMo
What a lift the Benidorm Fest turned out to be for the Eurovision brand in Spain. It gave the audience high production values, loads of entertainment, a high rate of engagement and loads of media coverage. The one thing they have to improve for coming years is the lineup: while most songs were good, few felt like potential contenders at the ESC. Chanel is working hard and "SloMo" has a hit single kind of air to it, but is also fairly linear and lacking in climax. It will do better than Spanish entries have done of late but probably nowhere near as good as many fans expect.
Grade: 3/5

Sam Ryder / Space Man
Seeing the UK enter a song that could potentially score points and end up on the left side of the scoreboard is such a seismic event these days that it made many people lose their heads a bit. It is a compelling piece of songwriting, very competently performed, put together from some very familiar bits and pieces (a pinch of Bowie, some late-60's psychedelia, and I swear that bridge is Something that The Beatles recorded at some point). But then there is one fact that applies also to the UK: you don't always get a good score just because you made an effort, you also need luck. In other words, this could place anywhere between 5th and 15th in the final. Unless Sam hits a bulls eye and knocks it out of the park on that Saturday night, then anything is possible. Best UK entry since Imaani either way. 
Grade: 4/5

Feel free to check out my reviews of the songs in semi one and semi two as well. 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Tobson speaks up: ESC 2022, semi 2

After I published part one I realised I am doing it all wrong. In this review I should of course have listed the ten songs I myself would have wanted to make it to the final, not the ones I predict.

You see, these two things are not the same. When making predictions you should try to avoid wishful thinking as much as only possible, while some wishful thinking can be amusing to read too.

Hey ho, it doesn't matter all that much, it's just a blog after all and we have eighteen songs of the second semi to take a closer look at.

The Rasmus / Jezebel
One of the biggest names in this years line-up even if their biggest hit happened almost twenty years ago. It's no "In The Shadows" but an explosive opener all the same and very recognisable for the band's fans as well as for the people who had forgotten they were Rasmus fans as well.
Grade: 3/5

Michael Ben David / I.M
Being gay and proud in the public eye always took a certain amount of audacity, not least now the way things have turned out lately. I would love to fully support this but while the performance has a shameless over-the-top-quality to it, this is one of my least favourite songs of the year. Three minutes of nothing, basically.
Grade: 1/5

Konstrakta / In corpore sano
The sharpest teeth in the contest come in the shape of a woman constantly washing her hands in a subversive piece of satire that refuses to be cute or whimsical. Catchy and almost hypnotic but possibly a hard sell to a mainstream audience. I hope everyone will see the brilliance but I could be hoping for too much.
Grade: 4/5

Nadir Rustamli / Fade To Black
Azerbaijan does what always worked for them: they opened up their large wallet and bought an impeccably produced song with no connection what-so-ever to anything local. Maybe this time the strategy came back to bite their own behinds: in a year where so many acts try to do their own thing, this song is so polished it is hard to remember in the end. Surprise non-qualifyer? Not impossible.
Grade: 2/5

Circus Mircus / Lock Me In
Spaced out psychedelia not unlike the last song Georgia qualified with back in 2016. Just like that one, this will be saved or crushed by what the audience can see on their screens. Reports suggest this band isn't all that live on stage but maybe that could be sorted with nifty camera work. Let's hope so since the actual tune, while not as clever as it thinks it is, is a gem.
Grade: 4/5

Emma Muscat / I Am What I Am
Why do they keep doing this to their singers (and to their songwriters)? Is this the best song they could come up with? While technically not a melodifestivalen reject, it sure sounds like one and will score like one.
Grade: 1/5

Achille Lauro / Stripper
One of my biggest questions marks of the year. I have enjoyed Achille a great deal in Sanremo over the years and he has an intensity that can melt tv cameras from quite a distance, but the song he settled for here is way more album filler than hit single and the star himself comes across as a tad uncommitted to the whole thing. Will this light up when it needs to or are we looking at the shock NQ of the year?
Grade: 3/5

Sheldon Riley / Not The Same
Sheldon pours his heart out in front of us and while I'd like to respond to that, this entry does nothing for me. Just like last year, the theatrics get in the way and this just ends up being a lot of voice with no real chorus to work with. All things on display here are obviously the artist's own choices, but while I respect that I can only state that for me the package never comes together.
Grade: 1/5

Andromache / Ela
Let's ignore that fact that a ridiculous ten people are listed as having written this song and just listen on the actual song. Cyprus let go of the party vibe and settled for a song that sounds international and very Greek at the same time, impeccably performed by a good voice. I'm smitten and I'm sure more people will be come Eurovision week.
Grade: 4/5

Brooke / That's Rich
Ireland goes pop and usually when they do it does not bode well for a great result. I find myself thoroughly amused by both the song and the performance but predict this will go down a bit like "Et Cetera" did. Unless being the first uptempo pop stomper in a while makes it catch the audiences attention, that is.
Grade: 3/5

Andrea / Circles
They do nothing wrong. The singing is good and the songwriting is technically fine. But nothing happens and this entry stands still for a solid three minutes. Nobody can afford doing that at this point in this semi.
Grade: 1/5

Stefan / Hope
"The Good, The Bad And The Ugly" performed by The Handsome from Viljandi. It's a bit of an odd choice coming from Estonia but it is perfectly pleasant and lives very highly on Stefan's charm. A real borderline qualifier, like so many others in this semi. Maybe we are in for some big surprises?
Grade: 2/5

WRS / Llámame
I have really tried - I mean really really tried - to get into the vibe of this one. I like that little instrumental thingy, you see. But the rest of it is very basic and uninspired and amateurish and unworthy of anyone's attention. Romania used to be so good at this game, where did they go wrong? Fourth NQ in a row, for sure.
Grade: 1/5

Ochman / River
Clearly the best Polish entry in quite some time but I'm not quite as sold as many others. Ochman has a good voice but never really connected with the cameras in the national final. The song is also a patchwork of bits and pieces from songs that already exist, which is fine in itself until it becomes too obvious and takes your attention away from the actual performance.
Grade: 3/5

Vladana / Breathe
Montenegro making quite the comeback with a catchy midtempo ballad that is not without chances, an updated take on the big so-called Balkan Ballad that used to create havoc in this contest in the previous decades. The big question is if people have missed this style or find it a leftover from times gone by? If Vladana nails her vocals, my guess is the first alternative.
Grade: 3/5

Jérémie Makiese / Miss You
Every year there is at least one entry that you intellectually recognise as a quality entry that will go down well even when it doesn't really do much for you personally. For me, that is Belgium this year. Jérémie is clearly very talented and there are hooks aplenty in here. Not my cup of tea but I don't think that will constitute any major problem at this stage.
Grade: 2/5

Cornelia Jakobs / Hold Me Closer
After years of impeccably polished if not terribly exciting entries, Sweden finally got it right. Cornelia offers drama, intensity and a beating heart, showing how you can be both polished and engaging at the same time. Easily Sweden's best attempt since Loreen and a very possible winner in the end.
Grade: 5/5

We Are Domi / Lights Out
The second semi ends on a tricky note for me. This moody electro pop is just the kind of thing that makes my heart beat to its very BPM but I still suspect this style could prove to be a bit too unspectacular to hit home at this stage. Fingers crossed this isn't a disappointing 11th place in the making.
Grade: 4/5

In conclusion, this semi feels much more open and a lot less easy to predict. I think Finland, Serbia, Cyprus, Poland, Montenegro, Belgium and Sweden can sleep easy but the rest will have to do their best to impress. In the end I say Georgia, San Marino and Czech republic will steal the final tickets to the final which would leave Israel, Azerbaijan, Malta, Australia, Estonia, North Macedonia and Romania out.

Please check out my predictions for semi one here and feel free to leave a comment or two.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Tobson speaks up: ESC 2022, semi 1

It is the time of year when I shake some life into this old blog of mine - usually I blog my way through the Eurovision history in Swedish here - to focus on the upcoming contest in Turin.

In this first blog post I will write my personal opinion about the songs in the first semi and then predict the top ten qualifiers based on the preview versions alone.

It's not a bad year we have ahead of us: if it is one lesson people seem to have learned from last year, then it is how being personable and having a song that sounds like it means something to the people performing it is a clever trick.

Ronela Hajati / Sekret
A fine opener with ambitions to blend dance music and traditional lore together. Perhaps it ends up being more of a rhythm track than a functioning song and maybe people will find other songs they will like more before the semi final is over, but we will surely have a good time together with Ronela during these three minutes.
Grade: 2/5

Citi Zēni / Eat Your Salad
For a while it felt like Latvia really had a buzz going and would be the viral wonder of the year, but now the temperature has gone down considerably. A fun track that will have its fans, but ultimately the whole thing is probably too silly to stand a real chance.
Grade: 2/5

Monika Liu / Sentimentai
The first of my personal favourites to take the stage this year. France 2021 meets a very sensual and totally bonkers cabaret performer and magic happens. Not sure at all Europe will embrace this on a Tuesday night but I love it.
Grade: 4/5

Marius Bear / Boys Do Cry
A sweet song about comforting your inner child (I guess), sensitively performed by a likeable singer, but a most unfavourable spot in the running is likely to keep Switzerland in the semis after two strong showings. Unless Marius really works the cameras, then this could be a surprise in the making.
Grade: 3/5

LPS / Disko
If this was the talent night at the local high school, LPS would charm everyone and have us eating out of their hands. A charming little effort but the lack of experience becomes too evident in the end.
Grade: 2/5

Kalush Orchestra / Stefania
Of course the entry of Ukraine was bound to be brilliant. They often are and this year it actually means an awful lot for them to be represented in the best possible light. And they are, reaching musical and emotional heights few others can compete with. The most obvious qualifier in this semi and not at all an unlikely eventual winner.
Grade: 5/5

Intelligent Music Project / Intention
Not as bad as some people want to make out. An okay slice of a very beige version of rock that some people like a lot. Måneskin it is not and a qualifier it is not, but it is technically competent.
Grade: 2/5

S10 / De diepte
This one ticks a lot of boxes in my list: an emotional song that seems to mean a lot to its performer with the added bonus of being sung in the local language. There are other strong contenders with a similar approach in this semi, but S10 has the big advantage of being the first of them. 
Grade: 4/5

Zdob și Zdub feat Frații Advahov / Trenulețul
If one act really got so lucky with the running order, then it is this happy rock/folk mashup that balances skillfully on that thin line between adorable and ridiculous. The ESC version is arguably less effective than the original mix but little does that matter at this point. Moldova will choo choo their way straight into the final with ease.
Grade: 4/5

Maro / Saudade, saudade
Lucky break for the next female emotional ballad to have Moldova between herself and the Netherlands. This is full of harmony and is pretty much balm for the soul. A wonderful little oasis with its very radio friendly take on traditional music.
Grade: 4/5

Mia Dimšić / Guilty Pleasure
Another radio friendly song with a solid performance. Competent but I'm afraid Croatia could again find themselves south of the relegation line, only by a couple of millimeters. Competent but definitely running the risk of not being striking enough on a first listen.
Grade: 3/5

Reddi / The Show
I see what is happening here, Denmark think they are going out on a limb and doing something daring and unexpected. Not a bad song but the whole package feels so constructed and calculated and not a bit like the punk pop they themselves think it is. 
Grade: 2/5

Lumix feat Pia Maria / Halo
Bang! Suddenly Austria came out of nowhere and hit me over the head with their entry and made me feel nostalgia for a genre I never in a zillion years thought I'd feel nostalgia about. Very catchy indeed and unless they make a complete mess of this live, then this should be a very safe qualifier.
Grade: 4/5

Systur / Með hækkandi sól
Musically very appealing, very First Aid Kit and very easy to enjoy. Not really a visual feast, perhaps. Will have to fight it out with Armenia over the same points. Borderline qualifier.
Grade: 3/5

Amanda Tenfjord / Die Together
A very slick studio production and its biggest problem is exactly that - how super studio produced it is. What is this going to sound like live? I'm very fond of Greece sending entries that sound like real pop singles - I absolutely LOVED the studio version of "Better Love" - but it will be a challenge to make this one flow effortlessly on stage.
Grade: 3/5

Subwoolfer / Give That Wolf A Banana
Amusing, silly, catchy and the song that will end all hope Latvia ever had of qualifying. Almost as amusing as this song is watching all those eurofans hate is (mainly because it is amusing). 
Grade: 4/5

Rosa Linn / Snap
Contemporary country vibe by another likeable singer - there are many of them in this lineup - and this could very well be the song that causes Iceland to miss the final. 
Grade: 3/5

My prediction at this point is that Ukraine, Netherlands, Moldova, Portugal, Austria, Greece, Norway, Armenia, Lithuania and Iceland will make the cut and that Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Denmark will leave us. But what do I know? And how many times will I change my mind before the semi actually takes place?

Semi 2 review coming up soon.