Eurovision 2017 Previews: Estonia

Staying in the Baltics, we move on to the land of bogs, singing revolutions and Skype. It’s Estonia!!!

History

Estonia first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994. This year marks their twenty-second participation. They were the first former Eastern block country to win the contest, when Tanel Padar, Dave Benton and 2XL claimed victory in 2001 with “Everybody”. Last year, Jüri Pootsmann came last in semi-final 1 with “Play”, Estonia’s worst result ever.

Selection

The Estonian broadcaster, Eesti Rahvusringhääling (ERR), organised the ninth edition of Eesti Laul, often called “Alternative Melodifestivalen” by Eurovision fans. This format saw Estonia qualify for the final in 2009 after five straight non-qualifications and three top 10 placings. Twenty songs competed over two semi-finals. In each semi-final, a jury (50%) and public voting (50%) chose four finalists. The public then chose a fifth finalist from the remaining songs. In the final, voting was conducted over two rounds. In the first round, a jury and public voting chose three superfinalists. In the superfinal, public voting alone decided the winner. With 55% of the superfinal vote and over 20,000 more votes than second place, Koit Toome and Laura were awarded the Estonian ticket to Kyiv.

Artist

Koit Toome was on January 3rd 1979 in Tallinn. He started his music career in 1994 as half of the duo Code One. After a string of hits, the duo split in 1998. The same year, Koit Toome launched his solo career by representing Estonia in 1998 with “Mere lapsed” (Children of the sea), finishing 12th. He has released five albums in total, both as part of Code One and as a solo artist. He has also played main roles in several musicals in Estonia, such Marius in Les Misérables, Chris in Miss Saigon, Tony in West Side Story and Raoul in Phantom of the Opera. He will play the role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables from November onwards in Vanemuine in Tartu. He also provided the voice for Lightning McQueen in the Estonian dub of “Cars”. He is the best-selling male Estonian singer of all time.

Laura Põldvere, or simply Laura, was born on August 30 1988 in Tartu in eastern Estonia. Her big break came in 2005, when she represented Estonia as part of the group Suntribe with “Let’s Get Loud”. They finished 20th in the semi-final. She has released two full albums and one compilation album. She has tried to represent Estonia as a solo artist on four occasions, in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2016. Laura is also the current president of the Estonian Jazz Union and the most successful Estonian female artist of the past decade.

Their entry for Kyiv “Verona” was written and composed by Sven Lõhmus, who wrote Estonia’s entries in 2005, 2009 and 2011.

Song Review

Eesti Laul was on fire this year and was packed with great songs and this was one of the stronger ones. Koit and Laura are both powerhouse vocalists and their vocals in the chorus are superb. I have a problem with the song though. It seemed to have been pulled straight out of the 90’s and the amount of cheese is just about appropriate for Eurovision. Nonetheless, the song is sounds contemporary despite having a 90’s throwback vibe and both singers give so much life to the song. I hope they manage to find their way out of Verona actually get to Kyiv. Find a man that stares at you like Koit stares at everything.

What Could Have Been

I wanted to change this one to “What Should Have Been” but y’know, consistency. Eesti Laul always has a strong selection of songs but they missed a potential winner by a country mile. Kerli was robbed. ROBBED!!!! “Spirit Animal” is just so edgy and out there. It does not make excuses for being a little different and full of raw energy. Maybe Estonia just couldn’t handle Kerli’s shamanistic, moonchild realness. It’s really a shame. I think they just passed up their second Eurovision victory.

                                      Õnn Eestisse!

Is there a happy ending or tragedy in store for Koit and Laura? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview and a little surprise!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, ERR, YouTube)

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Eurovision 2017 Previews: Lithuania

Just hopping over the border from where we were yesterday, we go to the land of basketball, a hill of crosses and winners (well, these ones anyway). It’s Lithuania!!!

History

Lithuania first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994 and will make their eighteenth appearance in the contest in this year. Their first entry was not successful at all, failing to score a single point. Lithuania withdrew the year after and did not return to the contest until 1999. Their best result came in 2006, when LT United came sixth with “We Are The Winners” (ironic). Last year, Donny Montell finished ninth in the final with “I’ve Been Waiting For This Night”, giving the country its second top 10 placing ever and best result since 2006.

Selection

The Lithuanian broadcaster, Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LRT), organised the mammoth national selection Eurovizijos to select their entry. 49 entries competed over 10 weeks. In the first four shows, half of the entries in each heat were eliminated. In weeks 5 and 6, eight songs qualified to the next round from each show. In weeks 7 and 8, four songs from each heat qualified for the semi-final. In the semi-final, six songs were selected for the final, where they were joined an online wildcard. In all rounds, the voting consisted of 50% jury vote and 50% public voting. Although they did not start out as the favourites, Fusedmarc gained momentum over the weeks and were eventually awarded the Lithuanian ticket to Kyiv.

Artist

Fusedmarc are an electronic band from Vilnius. They were formed in 2004 by lead vocalist Viktorija Ivanovskaja, multi-instrumentalist Denisas Zujevas, and visual designer Stasys Žakas. They have won several awards of their career: Breakthrough of the Lithuanian Alternative Scene in 2005,  Best Experimental Band in 2007 and Best Lithuanian Electronic Band in 2008. They are known for their live performances, combining high energy with a combination of musical styles, which they have already taken all over Europe. Their entry for Kyiv “Rain of Revolution” was written and composed by band member Denisas alongside Michail Levin. Lead singer Viktorija also aided in the composition.

Song Review

We had a “Beautiful Mess” from Bulgaria yesterday but today we have a hot mess from Lithuania. Aggressive trumpets, shouty yeahs and a song that doesn’t really go anywhere, all these elements should not be in the same song together. There were worse songs in the selection but this certainly isn’t the best Lithuania had to offer. I feel this is a bit too alternative and random and I see languishing at the bottom of the leader board in semi-final 2. It’s not your brightest hour, Lithuania.

What Could Have Been

For a while, it seemed like hope was not lost for Lithuania. They had a few gems in their selection, namely Greta Zazza with “Like I Love You”. With the same team behind Donny Montell’s song last year, Greta brought an extremely current and fresh offering that stood out from the masses at the start of the selection. But somehow she lost that momentum and only finished sixth in the final. I really think Lithuania missed out on a big chance to get their best result in history.

                                   Sėkmės Lietuvą!

Is the rain of revolution raining on Fusedmarc’s parade? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, LRT, YouTube)

Eurovision 2017 Previews: Bulgaria

Today, we head to the land of roses, yogurt and where a certain flying car ended up (sorry, wrong place!). It’s Bulgaria!!!

History

Bulgaria first took part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005, when the contest was last held in Kyiv. Their first final appearance came in 2007, when Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankulov came fifth with “Voda”. They had to wait until last year for their next appearance in the final. After a two-year break, Bulgaria made a very successful return to the contest. Poli Genova finished fourth in the final with “If Love Was a Crime”, the country’s best result to date.

Selection

The Bulgarian broadcaster, Bulgarian National Television (BNT), internally selected both the artist and song. Kristian Kostov was selected as the Bulgarian representative for Kyiv.

Artist

Kristian Kostov was born on March 15th 2000 in Moscow, Russia to a Bulgarian father and a Kazakh mother. He is this year’s youngest contestant and the first Eurovision Song Contest participant ever to be born in the 21st century. In 2014, he took part in the first season of Golos – Deti (The Voice of Russia – Kids) and made it to the finals. His mentor during the show was Eurovision 2008 winner, Dima Bilan. In 2015, he decided to visit his father’s home country and audition for the fourth season of X Factor Bulgaria. He eventually finished second on the show. In 2016, he released his debut single “Ne si za men” (You’re not for me). This was followed by an English version “You Got Me Girl”. His entry for Kyiv, “Beautiful Mess” was written and composed by Borislav Milanov, Sebastian Arman, Joacim Persson,Alexander V. Blay and Alex Omar.

Song Review

After their fourth place last year, Bulgaria is going all out for the win this time around. Contemporary, cinematic and cleverly thought out, the song is arresting from start to finish. What Kristian lacks in age, he more than makes up for in talent. He breathes soul and shades of darkness into the song. This is easily one of the best not just in semi-final 2 but in the whole competition. Poli set the bar very high last year for Bulgaria but Kristian is more than capable of matching or even surpassing it. There’s a chance we could be heading to Sofia next year…

What Could Have Been

According to rumours, people were expecting another X Factor Bulgaria alumna to represent the country in Kyiv, namely Gery-Nikol. The 18-year old took part in the show in 2014 as part of the trio “Sweet 16”. She later landed a solo record deal and her first single “Ela i si vzemi” (Come and Get It) topped the charts in 2015, as did her 2016 singles “I’m the Queen” and “Gotina & Luda” (Cool and Crazy). She has publicly stated that she wants to go to Eurovision. It remains to be seen whether BNT will offer her that chance.

                                 Успех България!

Is Kristian’s song a masterpiece or a hot mess? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, BNT, YouTube)

Eurovision 2017 Previews: Belarus

The contest is drawing closer each day but we still have previews to get through! Our next stop is the land of bison, ice hockey and a tennis player that sounds like an owl. It’s Belarus!!!

History

Belarus first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2004 and will take part for the thirteenth time this year. Their best result and only top 10 placing was in 2007, when Dmitry Koldun sang “Work Your Magic”. They have only appeared in the final on four occasions, the last of which was in 2014. Last year, Ivan did not get through to the final, finishing 12th in semi-final 2 with “Learn to Fly”.

Selection

The Belarusian broadcaster, National State TV and Radio Company of the Republic of Belarus (BRTC), organised a national selection to select their entry for this year’s contest. Thirteen songs competed in the final and the winner was decided by jury voting (50%) and public voting (50%). After endless interval acts, and despite only finishing fifth in the televote, top marks from the jury were enough to secure NaviBand the Belarusian ticket to Kyiv.

Artist

NaviBand are a Minsk-based duo made up of Arciom Lukjanienka (vocals, guitar) and Ksienija Žuk (vocals, keyboards). They perform in Belarusian. Their debut single “Abdymi myane” (Hug me) was released in 2013. Last year, they attempted to represent Belarus and finished fourth in the national selection with “Heta ziamla” (This land). They are currently touring around Belarus. Their entry for Kyiv “Historyja majho žyccia” (Гісторыя майго жыцця – Story of My Life) was written and composed by band member Arciom. This is the first Eurovision entry ever to contain lyrics in the Belarusian language.

Song Review

Hey, hey, hi-i-ya-ya-oh! What an unbridled bundle of joy this song is! It sticks out among a sea of ballads in English. The pair have great chemistry and energy and it should translate well onto the big stage in Kyiv. The song makes me feel very happy, even though I don’t understand the lyrics. Belarusian is such a sweet-sounding language! With a guaranteed 12 points from Russia now gone, Belarus faces more of a battle for a final place than usual. However, I could see this in the grand final.

What Could Have Been

Belarusian national selections often feature a mixture of meh and questionable songs with gems often being overlooked. Luckily, NAVI were not overlooked but I would like to show some appreciation for the second-placed finisher, Nuteki. Their song “Take My Heart” is a very polished rock song with great vocals but the staging was a bit….cagey. This was Nuteki’s fourth attempt to get to Eurovision. Maybe fifth time lucky?

               Поспехі ў Беларусі! Удачи Беларуси!

Are you singing hey-ya-ho or hey-ya-no? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, BTRC, YouTube)

Eurovision 2017 Previews: Switzerland

The next preview takes us back to where Eurovision began, the land where cheese has holes, watches are precise and chihuahuas are everywhere. It’s Switzerland!!!

History

Switzerland hosted the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 and will take part for the 58th time this year. They won the first contest as well with “Refrain” by Lys Assia. Their second, and so far last victory came in 1988, when an unknown Canadian singer called Céline Dion sang “Ne partez pas sans moi”. Last year, Rykka failed to get Switzerland to the final with “The Last of Our Kind”, which finished last in the second semi-final.

Selection

The Swiss broadcaster, Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG SSR) organised the seventh edition of Die Entscheidungsshow, a process which has seen Switzerland reach the final twice. Six songs were selected to participate in the final. Public televoting decided the winner. With 47.88% of the vote, Timebelle won the Swiss ticket to Kyiv.

Artist

Timebelle is a band from Bern, currently consisting of Miruna Mănescu (vocals), Samuel Forster (drums) and Emanuel Daniel Andriescu (saxophone, clarinet, piano). Miruna and Emanuel are both originally from Romania while Samuel is from Switzerland. The band’s name comes from the Zytglogge, a famous clock tower in Bern, but also from the “beautiful time” when they all met while studying in the University of Bern. They originally started out with six members but just three remain today. They previously tried to represent Switzerland in 2015 with the song “Singing About Love” but finished second in the national selection. Their entry for Kyiv, “Apollo” was written and composed by Elias Näslin, Alessandra Günthardt and Nicolas Günthardt.

Song Review

We have Swiss yodelling from Romania, so it’s only fair that we have Romanian singers from Switzerland! As for the song itself, it was good in the national selection but the revamp just lifts it up even more and makes it sound light, breezy yet powerful. This is a rare revamp where nothing is taken away but just the right things are added to create a wonderful finished product. This should save Switzerland from their last place despair and send them sailing through to the final.

What Could Have Been

Timebelle were my personal favourites from the Swiss national final because they were heads and shoulders above everyone else. Well, almost everyone. Ginta Biku from Lugano (a place I have much love for!) was also a close contender with “Cet Air-Là” (That Tune). She brought a strong performance and some holographic realness but only finished fourth overall. I think Switzerland would have also been okay with Ginta.

Viel Glück die Schweiz! Bonne chance la Suisse! Buona fortuna Svizzera! Bun cletg Svizra!

Is Apollo taking you to the moon or is there no lift off? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, SRG SSR, YouTube)

Eurovision 2017 Previews: Norway

Next up on our journey is the land of oil, fjords and the birthplace of skiiing. It’s Norway!!!

History

Norway first took part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1960 and will take part for the 56th time this year. They have the dubious honours of finishing last and failing to score any points more times than any other country in the contest’s history. Fortunately for them, they have also won three times, in 1985 with “La det swinge” by Bobbysocks, in 1995 with “Nocturne” by Secret Garden and in 2009 with “Fairytale” by Alexander Rybak, the latter holding the record for the highest winning total and biggest winning margin under the old voting system. Last year, Norway failed to qualify for the final for the first time since 2011, as Agnete finished 13th in the semi-final with “Icebreaker”.

Selection

The Norwegian broadcaster, Norsk rikskringkasting (NRK), organised Melodi Grand Prix for the 55th time in order to select Norway’s entry. Ten songs from ten different genres were chosen to participate. In the first round of voting, ten international juries and the public chose four gold finalists. In the gold final, public voting alone decided the winner. With 36.14% of the vote in the gold final, JOWST feat. Aleksander Walmann won the Norwegian ticket to Kyiv.

Artist

Joachim With Steen, commonly known as JOWST, is a Norwegian producer. He was born on June 26th 1989 in Trondheim in central Norway. At the age of 15, he developed an interest in punk rock and songwriting. After finishing his studies in sound and music production in the Noroff Institute in Oslo, he returned to the institute as a teacher. He joined Red Line Studio in 2011 as a sound engineer and began creating his own music.

Aleksander Walmann Åsgården, known simply as Aleksander Walmann, is a Norwegian singer. He was born on January 12 1986 in Porsgrunn in southern Norway. His first foray into the music industry came in 2012, when he took part in the first season of The Voice – Norges beste stemme. He made it to the final.

Their entry for Kyiv, “Grab the Moment”, was written by Jonas McDonnell and composed by JOWST.

Song Review

To be honest, I didn’t like this song at all when I first heard it. I thought it was a bit bland. But it has grown on me since then. It sounds modern and has enough grit to make it sound edgy. The only problem I can see with this song is the pre-recorded vocals. All vocals have to be live on the night, so I don’t know if they can find a solution without sounding cheap. We could see Norway heading back to the final once more!

What Could Have Been

In my opinion, Melodi Grand Prix was quite sub par in terms of songs this year. The only song that stood out for me was Elin and the Woods with “First Step in Faith (Oadjebasvuhtii)” (Safety). The combination of Sámi culture and modern sounds make for something special. It would have been the first Eurovision entry in a Sámi language and to be honest, we all need some Arctic realness in our lives.

                                  Lykke til Norge!

Is JOWST making your grab the moment or grab the remote? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, NRK, YouTube)

Eurovision 2017 Previews: Croatia

Today, we head off to the land of checker, King’s Landing and a museum of breakups. It’s Croatia!!!

History

Croatia first took part in the Eurovision Song Contest as an independent nation in 1993. This year will be their twenty-third participation. Prior to 1992, they took part as part of Yugoslavia and provided the only Yugoslav winner “Rock Me” by Riva in 1989. Their best result in the contest is fourth, which they have achieved twice, in 1996 with “Sveta ljubav” by Maja Blagdan and in 1999 with “Marija Magdalena” by Doris Dragović. Croatia has not reached the top 10 since 2001. Last year, they returned to the contest after an absence of two years. Nina Kraljić got Croatia to the final for the first time in seven years but only finished 23rd with “Lighthouse”.

Selection

The Croatian broadcaster, Croatian Radiotelevision (HRT), internally selected both the artist and song. Jacques Houdek was announced as this year’s Croatian representative.

Artist

Željko “Jacques” Houdek was born on April 14th 1981 in Velika Gorica, just outside Zagreb. He first came to public provenance when he participated in the Croatian national selection in 2002 with the song “Čarolija” (Magic). He also participated in the selections in 2003, 2004 and 2006. He was almost chosen to represent Croatia in 2011 but finished second in the selection. Since his debut, he has released 10 studio and 3 live albums. He was a coach on both seasons of The Voice – Najljepši glas Hrvatske and mentored the winner of the first season, last year’s Croatian representative, Nina Kraljić. His entry for Kyiv, “My Friend” was written by Ines Prajo, Arjana Kunštek, Fabrizio Laucella and Jacques himself. He also composed the song alongside Siniša Reljić and Tony Malm.

Song Review

Who says you need two people to sing a duet when you can sing both parts by yourself? It is a stroke of genius! You have an inspirational pop song on one hand and a determined Italian opera singer on the other. Those two things shouldn’t go together but they surprisingly do. I’m curious as to how this will work out on stage because it can either make or break the song. We’ll see how it plays out in two weeks time.

What Could Have Been

A firm fan favourite among Croatian Eurofans, Franka Batelić is someone I would like to see at Eurovision. Her song “Ruža u kamenu” (Rose in the stone) won the OGAE Song Contest in 2008, a contest organised among the national Eurovision fanclubs in each country. She was approached by HRT to represent Croatia in 2013 was ultimately was not chosen. In 2013, she released the song “Ljubav je…” (Love Is…), in support of a same-sex marriage referendum. Keep your eyes peeled for when she does make it to the Eurovision stage.

                              Sretno za Hrvatsku!

Is Jacques your friend or your enemy? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, HRT, YouTube)