Eurovision 2018 Previews: Slovenia

Our penultimate entry in semi-final 2 comes from the land of ski slopes, lush forests, clear lakes and a certain First Lady who totally didn’t copy a speech off anyone else. It’s Slovenia!!!

History

Slovenia first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest as an independent country in 1993, having previously participated as part of Yugoslavia. They will make their twenty-third appearance in the contest this year. Their best result has been seventh, which they achieved twice; first in 1995 when Darja Švajger sang “Prisluhni mi” and then in 2001 when Nuša Derenda sang “Energy”. Last year, Omar Naber represented for the second time with “On My Way” but only finished 17th in semi-final 1.

Selection

The Slovenian broadcaster, Radiotelevizija Slovenija (RTVSLO), organised the 22nd edition of EMA (Evrovizijska Melodija – Eurovision Melody) to select the country’s Eurovision entry. 16 songs competed across a semi-final and a final. In the semi-final, public voting selected four finalists and a jury selected another four. All songs also had to be performed in Slovene. In the final, the language restriction was lifted. Five professional juries (50%) and public voting (50%) decided the winner. After coming first in the jury vote and third in the public vote, Lea Sirk was awarded the Slovenian ticket to Lisbon.

Artist

Lea Sirk was born on 1st September 1989 in Koper on Slovenia’s small coastline in the southwest of the country. Lea was interested in music from a young age, as she began learning how to play the flute at five years old. She professionally began her career in 2006 as a singer and songwriter and released her first single Povej mi, kdaj  (Tell me when) a year later. She went on to release many other singles throughout her career, as well as her 2014 album Roža (Flower).

Lea has attempted to represent Slovenia three times before her most recent successful attempt. She first took part in EMA 2009, where she placed 9th in the final with her song Znamenje iz sanj. (Sign of a dream) She took part a year later, finishing 10th with Vampir je moj poet (The vampire is my poet). In 2017, she participated with her song “Freedom” but failed to qualify from the semi-final. She also performed as a backing singer for Tinkara Kovač in 2014 at the Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The song that Lea will sing in Lisbon, “Hvala, ne!” (No thanks!), was composed by Tomy DeClerque and Lea herself. Lea also wrote the lyrics.

Song Review

EMA has a habit of screwing over the song that should win, mostly due to jury votes. This year though, I think the right choice was made. This song gives off contemporary vibes and a whole lot of sass. Lea is not taking any of your shit and she wants you to know it! Although the chorus is a bit repetitive, there isn’t a dull moment in this song. Slovenia may be back in the final after two years of despair.

What Could Have Been

The favourites of the public vote for the second year running, the brother duo of BQL ended up in second place due to them not getting much love from the juries. Although I prefer their offering from last year, “Heart of Gold”, their entry this year “Promise” (originally Ptica – “Bird”) was fresh, catchy and an overall good package. They would have been better off keeping it in Slovene for the final but y’know, choices. Third time lucky next year lads?

 

                              Srečno v Sloveniji!

Are you saying “Yes please” or “No thanks” to Lea? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, RTVSLO, YouTube)

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Eurovision 2018 Previews: Montenegro

The rehearsals have begun in Lisbon but we still have some previews to go through! Today, we head to the country with the most biodiversity in Europe, black mountains (hence the name) and Le Chiffre’s favourite casino. It’s Montenegro!!!

History

Montenegro first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest as an independent nation in 2007 and will make their tenth appearance in the contest this year. Previously, they took part as part of Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro (a Montenegrin boyband caused the country to fall apart). Their best result is 13th place, achieved by Knez in 2015. Last year, Slavko Kazelić failed to qualify for the final, finishing 16th in semi-final 1 with “Space”.

Selection

The Montenegrin broadcaster, Radio i televizija Crne Gore (RTCG), organised Montevizija to select their entry for Lisbon. This was the first national selection in Montenegro since 2008. Five entries took part in the final, in which the winner was chosen by public voting over two rounds. In the first round, the top three entries were selected. In the second round, the winner was chosen. Despite finishing third in the first round, Vanja Radovanović overcame that deficit and was awarded the Montenegrin ticket to Lisbon.

Artist

Vanja Radovanović was born on 28 October 1982 in Belgrade, Serbia (formerly Yugoslavia). His musical career kicked off in 2004, where he made his first appearance  at the Budva Music Festival where he competed with the song Dripac (Jerk), where he also won the award for the Best Debut. He participated in the same festival a year later with the song Krila olovna (Wings lead), which became a hit in Montenegro and Serbia. In 2006, he performed at Beovizija, the Serbian semi-final for Evropesma, the Serbian-Montenegrin selection for Eurovision 2006, with his song Kad me jednom za te ne bude (When I’m not there for once) but did not qualify for the final.

At the end of 2007, he released and promoted a new single called Pričaj dodirom (Talk with a touch) and a few months later he released an album with the same title, which went on to be one of the best-selling albums in Montenegro. Over the last decade Vanja has released numerous new singles, composed songs for other artists, performed at countless concerts, and also became the lead singer of the band called VIII2. In 2017, he released his second solo album, titled Svi životi moji (All my lives).

The song that Vanja will sing in Lisbon, “Inje” (Frost), was written and composed by Vanja himself.

Song Review

I have to admit, this song passed me by when it first came out. It has grown on me since then. This is your quintessential Balkan ballad; traditional sounds, the singer crying out for lost love and a big climax to round it all off. The orchestral elements give a more dramatic feel to this song, as if wasn’t dramatic enough already. Montenegro’s only two final appearances were songs like this, so there’s nothing to say that they couldn’t make it to the final again!

What Could Have Been

If there had only been one round of voting. Lorena Janković would have been heading off to Lisbon with “Dušu mi daj” (Give me soul). Although she was the youngest of the five finalists, she proved to have a talent beyond her years. Her sweet and emotional voice shone through in this song. Although she only finished third in the second round of voting, I can see Lorena representing Montenegro a few years down the line.

                              Sretno u Crnu Goru!

Are you warming towards Vanja or are you feeling cold? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, RTCG, YouTube)

Eurovision 2018 Previews: Sweden

For today’s Eurovision preview, we stay in the Baltic Sea area and head to the country of meatballs, flat-packed furniture and a band that’s finally getting back together. It’s Sweden!!

History

Sweden first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1958 and will make their 58th appearance in the contest this year. They are the second most successful country in the contest’s history with six victories. Their first win came in 1974, when a little-known band called ABBA won with “Waterloo”, which was later voted the best Eurovision song of all time. Ten years later, the Herreys won for Sweden again in 1984 with “Digiloo Digiley”. The 90’s gave Sweden two more wins, “Fångad av en stormvind” by Carola in 1991 and Charlotte Nielsen got the last win of the 20th century in 1999 with “Take Me to Your Heaven”. In 2012, Loreen broke the record for the most sets of 12 points under the old scoring system with the epic “Euphoria”, collecting 18 sets of 12’s on her path to victory. Måns Zelmerlöw claimed Sweden’s sixth win in 2015 with “Heroes”.  Last year, Robin Bengtsson finished fifth with “I Can’t Go On”, which was Sweden’s fourth consecutive top five placing.

Selection

For the 58th year, the Swedish broadcaster, Sveriges Television (SVT), organised Melodifestivalen, the biggest and most famous Eurovision selection of them all. 28 songs competed over four semi-finals. Public voting was used to send two songs directly to the final. The third and fourth placed entries in each semi-final went sent to the Andra Chansen (Second Chance) round, where they were paired off in duels. The winner of each duel advanced to the final. In the final, the winner was chosen by a combination of eleven international juries (50%) and a public vote (50%). After winning both votes, Benjamin Ingrosso was awarded the Swedish ticket to Lisbon.

Artist

Benjamin Ingrosso was born on September 14 1997 in Danderyd, just north of Stockholm. He was born into a musical family, as his mother is famous singer Pernilla Wahlgren, and his father Emilio Ingrosso is a former dancer. He is also a cousin of Swedish House Mafia member, Sebastien Ingrosso. He is of Italian descent on both sides of his family. At just 8 years old, Benjamin won the children’s competition show Lilla Melodifestivalen with the song “Hej Sofia” (Hi Sofia). He then went on to represent Sweden at MGP Nordic 2006, where he finished fourth. Throughout his childhood, he acted in several musicals and plays.

In 2007, he participated in Allsång på Skansen alongside his mother, and seven years later he won Let’s Dance 2014, the Swedish version of Dancing With the Stars. In 2016, he announced a return to the music scene with the release of his single “Fall In Love”. In 2017, he placed fifth in the final of Melodifestivalen with his song “Good Lovin’”. By winning this year’s Melodifestivalen, Benjamin has become the first person to win both the junior and adult versions of the competition.

The song that Benjamin will sing in Lisbon, “Dance You Off”, was written and composed by MAG, Louis Schoorl, K Nita and Benjamin himself.

Song Review

Slick, polished and catchy, what else did you expect from Sweden? The neon lighting and Benjamin’s buckets of charisma and showmanship do this song wonders. Sweden have tended to focus more on the show, so that even a song that isn’t brilliant can do well in Eurovision. I may not like it, but hey, it works for Sweden. That being said, I do like the song because it mixes old school vibes with things you would hear on the radio today. This is a definite qualifier for me. Could this win as well? Maybe…

What Could Have Been

Many people found Melodifestivalen to be a bit sub par in terms of songs this year. That’s not to say that there weren’t other good songs. Take for example the runner-up, Felix Sandman with “Every Single Day”. Felix previously took part in the competition as part of the boyband FO&O in 2016 but this year was his first solo attempt. His song “Every Single Day” was dark, heartbreaking and intimate, something Sweden doesn’t normally go for. Perhaps if Sweden chose feeling over fireworks, Felix would have been heading to Lisbon.

 

                                   Lycka till Sverige!

Is Benjamin making you dance on or off the floor? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned for another preview tomorrow!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, SVT, YouTube)

Eurovision 2018 Previews: Latvia

As we draw closer to the end, we head to the land where amber washes up on the beach, where the world’s first portable mini camera was made and where wolves are found at sea. It’s Latvia!!!

History

Latvia debuted in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2000 and will make their nineteenth appearance in the contest this year. They began their time in the contest successfully, with “My Star” by Brainstorm finishing third on their debut. Only two years later, Marie N gave Latvia its first, and so far only win with “I Wanna”. After six years of semi-final failure, Aminata brought Latvia back to the final, finishing seventh with “Love Injected”. Last year, Triana Park finished last in semi-final 1 with “Line”, breaking Latvia’s qualification streak.

Selection

The Latvian broadcaster, Latvijas Televīzija (LTV) organised the fourth edition of Supernova to select their entry. 21 songs competed over three semi-finals. In each semi-final, an in-studio jury (50%) and a combination of televoting, Internet voting and Spotify streams (50%), chose two entries to advance to the final. However, in the second semi-final, three entries advanced due to technical faults during the voting. In the final, the same method was used. After winning both her semi-final and the final with the highest possible score, Laura Rizzotto was awarded the Latvian ticket to Lisbon.

Artist

Laura de Carvalho Rizzotto was born on 18th July 1994 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her father is a dual citizen of Latvia and Brazil while her mother is Brazilian of Portuguese descent. Laura spent her childhood between Rio de Janeiro and the United States, attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 2013, she graduated from the California Institute of the Arts with a degree in musical arts. She then went on to receive her master’s degree in music from Columbia University.

Laura began her musical career in 2009, going on to sign with Universal Music Brazil and releasing her debut album Made In Rio in 2011. A year later she performed as the opening act for Demi Lovato in her performances in Brazil, and later went to work with Jennifer Lopez as a Portuguese language coach for a few years. She released her first EP, RUBY, in 2017, the first in an intended series called Precious Stones. The second installment, Amber, will honour her Latvian roots.

The song that Laura will sing in Lisbon, “Funny Girl”, was written and composed by Laura herself.

Song Review

If last year’s winner taught us anything, it’s that a intimate performance can work just as well as a bold and brash one. This song is bittersweet and heartbreaking, yet Laura gives a sultry and elegant performance, that draws the listener in even more. Latvia has gone for high quality entries over the last few years and it has mostly paid off. Laura can provide the vocals, so if her stage performance can stay up to scratch in Lisbon, Latvia could be back in final again.

What Could Have Been

Supernova offered a wide variety of songs to choose from this year. One of the standouts was MADARA with “Esamība” (Existence). Accompanied with just her cello, MADARA gave a captivating and otherworldly performance that gave her third place in the final. Latvia has only ever sent one entry in Latvian, way back in 2004. Seeing as this year is the 100th anniversary of Latvia’s original independence, it would have been fitting to have an entry in Latvian.

                                 Veiksmi Latvijā!

Will you be laughing with or at Laura? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview, as we start looking at the second semi-final entries!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, LTV, YouTube)

Eurovision 2018 Previews: Hungary

For today’s preview, we head to the land of spas, goulash and Rubik’s Cubes. It’s Hungary!!!

History

Hungary first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994. That year also provided them with their best result ever, a fourth-place finish by Friderika Bayer with “Kinek mondjam el vétkemet?”. They took a hiatus from the contest from 1999 to 2004 and again in 2006 and 2010. In 2015, András Kállay-Saunders finished fifth in the final with “Running”, their second best result ever. Last year, Joci Pápai came eighth in the final with “Origo”, giving Hungary their fourth overall top ten placing

Selection

The Hungarian broadcaster, Media Services and Support Trust Fund (MTVA), organised the seventh edition of A Dal (The Song), to select the Hungarian entry. This method has seen Hungary qualify for the final every year. 30 songs intially competed over 3 heats. In each heat, the jury and public chose five qualifiers. A sixth qualifier was chosen by the public from the five entries that did not originally win the vote. 18 songs competed over two semi-finals, with three qualifiers decided by jury and public voting and one additional qualifier by public voting alone. In the final, the winner was selected over two rounds of voting. In the first round, the jury selected four songs to advance to the superfinal. In the superfinal, public voting alone decided the winner. Eventually, AWS won the Hungarian ticket to Lisbon.

Artist

AWS (Ants With Slippers) is a metal band from Budakeszi, just outside Budapest. Formed in 2006, the band is made up of Bence Brucker, Dániel Kökényes, Örs Siklósi, Áron Veress, and Soma Schiszler. The group is well known for their style, which fuses metal, psychedelic rock, alternative and post-rock. Throughout their career, they have released three singles, three albums and produced seven video clips. AWS has toured beyond Hungary. They have performed to Austria, England, Romania, and Slovenia, and have played at festivals such as the world-famous Sziget Festival. They have also won the MTV Brand award for New Winning Band.

The song that AWS will sing in Lisbon, “Viszlát nyár” (Goodbye summer), was written and composed by the band members.

Song Review

A lot of people are quick to write this song off but I think this could be the dark horse of this year’s contest. I’m not the biggest metal fan but I can appreciate the emotion in the song. When you realise that the song is about the death of the lead singer’s father, the raw anguish and frustration in the growls become all the more evident. Props to Hungary for sending a song in a genre that’s not very common in Eurovision. Keep your eye on this one…

What Could Have Been

One of my favourites from A Dal was Tamás Horváth with “Meggyfa” (Cherry tree). The happy-go-lucky vibe is contrasted by the desperate love in the lyrics. The live performance let me down a little bit but it was still enjoyable overall. In fact, Hungary had quite a strong selection this year that it was hard for me to just choose one song for this section!

Sok szerencsét Magyarországra!

Will AWS say goodbye to summer and hello to victory? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, MTVA, YouTube)

Eurovision 2018 Previews: Malta

The next stop on our preview tour is the land of megalithic temples, falcons and gleech. It’s Malta!!!

History

Malta first took part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1971. They will make their thirty-first appearance in the contest this year. After three appearances, two of which were last places, they withdrew in 1971 and did not return until 1991. From then, they started a very successful run of top 10 results between 1991 and 1998. They are the most successful country that has never won the contest, with two third places (Mary Spiteri in 1992 with “Little Child” and Chiara in 1998 with “The One That I Love”) and two second places (Ira Losco in 2002 with “7th Wonder” and Chiara in 2005 with “Angel”). Last year, Claudia Faniello finally got to Eurovision after eleven attempts but could only manage 16th in the second semi-final with “Breathlessly”.

Selection

The Maltese broadcaster, Public Broadcasting Services (PBS), organised the Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2018 to select this year’s entry. 16 songs competed in the final, where a five-member jury of music professionals (50%) and public voting (50%), decided the winner. After receiving maximum points from the jury and winning the public vote, Christabelle was awarded the Maltese ticket to Lisbon.

Artist

Christabelle Borg was born on 28th April 1992 in Mġarr in northern Malta. Christabelle studied music in college where she graduated in 2014, alongside hosting the TV shows Teen Trouble and Teen Traffic. 2014 was also the year she made her debut in the Malta Eurovision Song Contest. On her debut, she placed 8th with her song “Lovetricity”. She tried again in 2015 and 2016, with “Rush” and “Kingdom”, which placed 2nd and 4th respectively. After a year’s break, she returned to the Malta Eurovision Song Contest and won.

The song that Christabelle will sing in Lisbon, “Taboo” was written and composed by Johnny Sanchez, Thomas G:son, Muxu and Christabelle herself. Thomas G:son composed “Euphoria”, the winning entry of Eurovision 2012 and Muxu composed “Not My Soul”, which gave Malta its second Junior Eurovision victory in 2015.

Song Review

In keeping with Malta’s passion for Eurovision, this song is ambitious. The heavily charged lyrics about mental health are coupled with a mid-tempo dance beat. While I think the revamped version lifts the song ever so slightly, it’s touch and go as to whether Malta will qualify. If the staging is a bit more..ahem…out of the box than the national final, and Christabelle goes all out in her performance (which she is perfectly capable of doing), then Malta may be back in the final.

What Could Have Been

While Christabelle had a resounding victory in Malta Eurovision Song Contest, that doesn’t mean that the other songs were bad. The second-placed song “Song for Dad” by Richard & Joe, also got a huge reaction from the audience. Richard has already been to Eurovision, with the band Firelight in 2014. This time round, he teamed up with his Dad for what was a heartwarming performance. It was one of my favourite performances of the night and would have been a worthy Maltese entry.

          Xorti tajba Malta! Good luck Malta!

Will Christabelle break the taboo or stay silent? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, PBS, YouTube)

Eurovision 2018 Previews: Poland

There are just two weeks to go until the main event, but we still have places to visit! Our next destination is the land of Chopin, Copernicus and butter-churning girls. It’s Poland!!!

History

Poland first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994. The same year they also got their best result in history, when Edyta Górniak came second with “To nie ja”. This year they will make their twenty-first appearance in the contest. Poland have only reached the top 10 on two other occasions, in 2003, when Ich Troje came seventh with “Keine Grenzen – Żadnych granic” and in 2016 when Michał Szpak came eighth with “Colour of Your Life”. Last year, Kasia Moś finished 22nd in the final with “Flashlight”.

Selection

The Polish broadcaster, Telewizija Polska (TVP) organised Krajowe Eliminacje 2018 to select the next Polish entry. Ten entries competed in the national final, in which an in-studio jury (50%) and public voting (50%) decided the winner. Despite finishing third in the jury vote, a win in the public vote secured Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer the Polish ticket to Lisbon.

Artist

Andzej Gromala (Gromee) was born on 14th December 1978 in Kraków. He is a DJ, record producer, remixer, and songwriter. He currently owns Kingztown Music and has been signed to Sony Music since 2016. Last year, he received an award for Best DJ/Producer at the Eska Music Awards. He also recently got married. Since 2011, he has released many singles featuring various different artists including Lukas Meijer.

Lukas Meijer was born on August 21 1988 in Ulricehamn in western Sweden. He is a rock musician, singer, guitarist and songwriter. He is also the vocalist of the band No Sleep For Lucy. He became very close to becoming a professional hockey player, like his brother, but ultimately decided to go with music instead. Lukas was the featured vocalist on Gromee’s song “Without You”, which was a top 10 hit in Poland in 2017. The pair decided to team up again for Krajowe Eliminacje, which brought them success once more.

The song that Gromee and Lukas will perform in Lisbon, “Light Me Up” was written by Mahan Moin and Christian Rabb and was composed by Lukas and Gromee themselves.

Song Review

Guys, gals and non-binary pals, here is this year’s summer song! It’s got all the ingredients, a carefree vibe, lyrics you’ve probably heard somewhere before and a beat drop after the chorus. It is the most contemporary offering from Poland in quite a while. This type of music is quite popular now, so it should have no problems getting to the final. Will it challenge for the win though? I don’t think so.

 

What Could Have Been

Had the jury gotten their way, Happy Prince would have been heading to Lisbon. Ultimately, they were beaten by Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer by just one point. Despite the band name sounding like a Korean drama, their offering “Don’t Let Go”, coupled early 2000’s vibes with contemporary dancing. While I don’t think this would have been lighting up (hehe) the scoreboard in Lisbon, it’s a nice song either way.

 

                           Powodzenia do Polski!

Will the path to victory light up for Gromee and Lukas or will they remain in the dark? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, TVP, YouTube)