Eurovision 2017 Previews: Ukraine

After weeks of moving from one country to the next, we have come to our final destination on this preview journey, this year’s host nation. It is a land of sunflowers, bread and Lasha Tumbai. It’s Ukraine!!!

History

Ukraine first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2003. One year after their debut, Ruslana gave Ukraine their first ever win with the song “Wild Dances”. Ukraine then went on to place in the top 10 on eight occasions from 2005-2014, four of those being top 5 placings. After withdrawing due to the crisis in eastern Ukraine in 2015, they returned to the contest last year. Jamala gave its second victory with “1944”, making Ukraine the first Eastern European country to win the contest twice. Because of Jamala’s victory, the contest heads back to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv this year.

Selection

The Ukrainian broadcaster, National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA: PBC), organised the second edition of Vidbir, due to its success in picking a Eurovision winner last year. 24 songs, one of which was selected from an online wildcard selection, competed over three semi-finals. In each semi-final, an in-studio jury (50%) and public voting (50%) selected two entries to proceed to the final. In the final, the same system was used to select a winner. Like last year, there was a tie in the final, so the public vote took preference. Much like how Jamala won the Eurovision, O.Torvald came second in both the jury and public vote but secured enough points to win the right to defend Ukrainian colours on home ground.

Artist

O.Torvald are a rock band from Poltava in central Ukraine. The current line-up consists of: Yevhen Halych – vocals, guitar (2005–present), Denys Myzyuk – guitar, backing vocals (2005–present), Oleksandr Solokha – drums (2011–present), Mykyta Vasylʹyev – bass (2014–present),Mykola Rayda – piano, DJ (2008–present). The band moved to Kyiv in 2006 to start performing live and they released their self-titled debut album in 2008. They are one of the most popular rock bands in Ukraine and have released five albums to date, with the latest one “#нашiлюдивсюди” (#ourpeopleareeverywhere) being released in September last year. The band will perform “Time” in front of the home crowd. The song was written and composed by band members Yevhen Halych and Denys Myzyuk. It is the band’s first recording in English.

Song Review

I do like a good rock song and this is one of the better examples that we have seen in the contest. This song is gritty, dark and almost serves as a commentary on the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine. However, it doesn’t instantly jump out at me. Having had a listen to some of their other songs, I find this a bit tame in comparison. A late draw in the running order and its own rocky niche may boost its chances. Besides that, I don’t think we will be in Ukraine for next year’s contest.

What Could Have Been

If the jury vote took preference in the tiebreak, Tayanna with “I Love You” would have been heading to Eurovision instead. Emotional yet sultry, fragile yet powerful, this was miles ahead of many of the songs in what was a pretty lacklustre Ukrainian selection this year. If Ukraine really wanted to try for two in a row, this should have been their choice. I think it would have been a top 5 finisher at the very least but then again, I can only think about what could have been…

                                   Успіхів Україно!

Is it time for Ukraine’s third win or has time run out for O.Torvald? Leave your comments below.

Lastly, thank you for following me on this preview journey. I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. I wish you all a fabulous Eurovision week and stay tuned for more posts from this blog about anything and everything!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, UA:PBC, YouTube)

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Eurovision 2017 Previews: France

Our penultimate preview takes us to the land of baguettes, haute couture and eternal strikes. It’s France!!!

History

France was one of the seven countries to take part in the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956. This year marks their sixtieth entry in the contest. They have won the contest on five occasions: in 1958 with “Dors mon amour” by André Claveau, in 1960 with “Tom Pillibi” by Jacqueline Boyer, in 1962 with “Un premier amour” by Isabelle Aubret, in 1969 with “Un jour, un enfant” by Frida Boccara as part of a four-way tie and finally in 1975 with “L’oiseau et l’enfant” by Marie Myriam. Amina also tied with Sweden for first place in 1991 with “Le dernier qui a parlé” but lost on a countback tiebreak rule. Last year, Amir came sixth with “J’ai cherché”, France’s best result since 2002.

Selection

The French broadcaster, France Télévisions, organised an internal selection to select their entry for this year’s contest. Alma was selected to represent France in Kyiv.

Artist

Alexandra Maquet, more commonly known as Alma, was born on September 27th 1988 in Lyon. She started singing and playing piano at a young age. Apart from her native French, she also speaks English, Portuguese and Italian, due to her constant moving to different places. At the age of 16, she and her family moved to Miami. She moved back to France on her own at the age of 17 to study at the IESEG School of Management in Lille. During her studies, she spent a year in São Paulo, Brazil. After obtaining her Masters in Business Administration and Management, she worked as Assistant Manager in Abercrombie & Fitch in Milan, Italy. Afterwards, she moved to Brussels to start her music career and later to Paris to further it. An encounter with composer and singer Nazim Khaled on the programme Les chansons d’abord (Songs first) led to her eventually getting a record deal in 2015. She released two singles: “La chute est lente” (The fall is slow) and “Ivre” (Drunk). Both of these songs, along with her Eurovision entry, are included on her debut album “Ma peau aime” (My skin loves), which was released yesterday. She has widely been touted as one of the rising stars in the French music scene. Her entry for Kyiv, “Requiem” was written and composed by Nazim Khaled.

Song Review

Amir got France its Eurovision mojo back last year and they are still riding on that high this year! This song is light and breezy yet it packs a punch. Alma’s vocals are enchanting throughout and give the song a distinct French feel but not too French so as to alienate listeners. My only problem with it is the English. The original all-French version was full of charm and sensuality. The English adds nothing to it. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! Nevertheless, I think France has one of the strongest entries overall this year and I expect to see it high up the score board on next Saturday.

What Could Have Been

Prior to Alma’s selection, there were rumours of Florent Mothe being chosen to represent France. Florent is best known for his roles in the musicals Mozart, l’opéra rock and La Légende du roi Arthur. He was awarded the “Francophone Discovery of the Year” in 2010 for his role of Antonio Salieri in Mozart, l’opéra rock. While his musical career is flourishing, his studio career has not reached the same heights. His latest album Danser sous la pluie (Dancing under the rain) only peaked at number 73 in the French Album Charts. Eurovision could have been used to elevate his studio career, especially with offerings such as Quoi de neuf (What’s up?). Maybe another time then.

                           Bonne chance la France!

Do you in or out of this requiem? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for the final Eurovision preview for this year!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, France Télévisions, YouTube)

Eurovision 2017 Previews: Italy

We only have three previews left! Today we travel to the land of pizza, classical art and gelato. It’s Italy!!!

History

Italy was one of the seven countries to take part in the first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956. They will send their forty-third entry this year. Italy have won the contest on two occasions: in 1964 with the song “Non ho l’età” performed by Gigliola Cinquetti and in 1990 with the song “Insieme: 1992” performed by Toto Cutugno. They withdrew from the contest a number of times, most notably from 1998 to 2010. Since their return to the contest in 2011, Italy have placed in top 10 four times. Last year, Francesca Michielin came sixteenth in the final with “No Degree Of Separation”.

Selection

The Italian broadcaster, Radiotelevisione italiana (RAI) organised the 67th edition of the Sanremo Music Festival, the inspiration for the Eurovision, to select their artist for Kyiv. The winner of the Campioni or Big Artists category would earn the right to represent Italy and first refusal of the offer. After four days of the festival, Francesco Gabbani was crowned the winner of the festival. Shortly after his victory, he accepted the Italian ticket to Kyiv.

Artist

Francesco Gabbani was born on September 9th 1982 in Carrara in Tuscany. His parents owned the town’s only instrument shop. He started off his music career with the band Trikobalto and left the band in 2010 to pursue a solo career. His first album Greitist Iz was released in 2014. He was on the verge of quitting performing in favour of composing but he was encouraged by his record label to enter a song for the Nuove Proposte (Newcomers) section of the Sanremo Festival in 2015. He won with the song “Amen” which peaked at number 14 on the Italian Singles Chart. His second album Eternamente ora (Eternally now) was released in 2016. He also composed the soundtrack for the comedy film Poveri ma ricchi (Poor but rich). This year, he won the “Big Artists” section of the Sanremo Festival, becoming the first artist ever to win different categories of the festival in consecutive years. His third album Magellano was released at the end of April. The song he will represent Italy with in Kyiv is the song he won Sanremo with “Occidentali’s Karma” (Westerners’ Karma). Francesco wrote and composed the song, alongside his brother Filippo and Luca Chiaravalli. The video for this song broke the record for the highest number of single-day views for an Italian song on Vevo and is the first ever Eurovision entry to get over 100 million views on Youtube.

Song Review

This is the favourite to win this year and it’s easy to see why. Catchy and memorable tune, deep and scathing lyrics criticising Westerners’ attempt to “westernise” Eastern cultures and the Anglicisation of the Italian language, musicality, lots of charm and to top it all off, a dancing ape! This song does not try to be anything else but itself and it is such a breath of fresh air. Standing out from the crowd can get you places and it looks to be taking Francesco all the way to the top. Honestly, unless there is a major slip-up, I can’t see anyone stopping this. Better start brushing off on my Italian then….

What Could Have Been

The songs in Sanremo were of an extremely high standard, as always. Many songs would have made fine representatives for Italy, including Ermal Meta with “Vietato morire” (Forbidden to die). This Albanian-Italian singer came with a drama-filled pop-rock offering that got him to third place on the final night of Sanremo. The song is beautifully crafted, intense and would have continued Italy’s stellar reputation in the contest over the last few years. While I think Italy were right to choose Francesco, it would have been interesting to see how Ermal would have fared.

                             Buona fortuna Italia!

Can anyone stop Francesco and his dancing ape? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, RAI, YouTube)

Eurovision 2017 Previews: Spain

As journey draws ever closer to its end, today’s destination is the land of siestas, Sangria and Eurodrama (I’ll explain why in a bit). It’s Spain!!!

History

Spain first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1961. This year marks their 57th entry, having participated every year since their debut. They have won on two occasions, in 1968 with “La la la” by Massiel (albeit controversially) and in 1969 as one of the four winners with “Vivo cantando” by Salomé. Their last top 5 result was in 1995 when Anabel Conde came second with “Vuelve conmigo” and they have failed to place in the top 10 in the last 10 contests, except for Pastora Soler in 2012 and Ruth Lorenzo in 2014, who both finished 10th. Last year, Barei finished 22nd in the final with “Say Yay!”, the very first Spanish not to contain Spanish lyrics.

Selection

The Spanish broadcaster, Televisión Española (TVE), organised Objectivo Eurovisión (Objective Eurovision) to select their entry. The final consisted of six participants, five chosen by record labels and one from the online wildcard selection Eurocasting. The winner was chosen by an in-studio jury (50%) and public voting (50%). As there was a tie, the jury chose the winner, who was Manel Navarro. This is where the Eurodrama begins. The studio audience and many Twitter voiced their dissatisfaction at the jury breaking the tie as in previous years, the public vote took preference and accused the selection of being rigged. They also accused one of the judges, Xavi Martinez, for having a conflict of interest as he had promoted Manel’s song on his radio show before the selection. The whole debacle was even brought to the Spanish parliament! But in the end, Manel remained as this year’s Spanish representative.

Artist

Manel Navarro was born on March 7th 1996 in Sabadell in Catalonia. He first came to prominence after winning Catalunya Teen Star in 2014. He released his debut single “Brand New Day” at the end of the year. Last year, he released the single “Candle”. His entry for Kyiv, “Do It For Your Lover” was written and composed by Antonio Rayito and Manel himself.

Song Review

I like the chilled and summery vibe in this song but that’s about it. In the context of Eurovision, I think it’s far too chilled to pose any serious challenge for the title. It gets a little tedious after a while and it isn’t enough to last three minutes. It is somewhat memorable though but happens when your chorus just consists of you repeating the title of your song over and over again. The whole drama surrounding his selection doesn’t exactly help his cause either. Bottom of the leader board again for Spain methinks. ¡Lo siento España! 

What Could Have Been

So if the public vote took preference, who would be going to Kyiv instead of Manel? The answer is Mirela with “Contigo” (With you). After multiple attempts at representing Spain, many thought that this was finally her year. “Contigo” is a summery and genuinely catchy offering of Latin pop. Just to calm Spanish Eurofans down, I’m not saying you let a potential winner slip through your hands. I’m just saying that Mirela would have placed a little higher, maybe around 18th-20th. Still though, she would have been a better choice than Manel.

                                      ¡Suerte España!

Does Manel do it for you or not? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, TVE, YouTube)

Eurovision 2017 Previews: United Kingdom

Continuing our preview journey, we move on to the land of royals, queuing and the EU’s ex. It’s the United Kingdom!!!

History

The United Kingdom first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1957. This year will be their sixtieth participation. Having not missed a contest since 1959, the United Kingdom holds the record for the longest uninterrupted participation in the contest. They have won five times. Their first victory came courtesy of Sandie Shaw with “Puppet on a String” in 1967, then Lulu with “Boom Bang-a-Bang” in 1969 (tied), Brotherhood of Man with “Save Your Kisses for Me” in 1976, Bucks Fizz with “Making Your Mind Up” in 1981 and finally Katrina and the Waves with “Love, Shine a Light” in 1997. They also hold the record for most second places with 12 and most hostings of the contest with 8, as they stepped in when other countries could not host. In the 21st century, they have fared badly, only finishing in top 10 on two occasions. Jessica Garlick finished joint third in 2002 with “Come Back” and Jade Ewen finished fifth in 2009 with “It’s My Time”. Last year, Joe & Jake finished 24th in the final “You’re Not Alone”.

Selection

The British broadcaster, BBC, organised Eurovision: You Decide for the second year running to select their Eurovision entry. Six songs competed in the final, all sung by former X Factor participants. The winner was chosen by a jury (50%) and public voting (50%). Lucie Jones won the British ticket to Kyiv.

Artist

Lucie Jones was born on March 20th 1991 in Pentrych, just outside Cardiff. She auditioned for the sixth series of The X Factor and was controversially eliminated in week 5 of the live shows, in a showdown against Jedward, who would go on to represent Ireland in 2011 and 2012. After her appearance on The X Factor, she began a career in musical theatre. Her credits include playing Cosette in Les Misérables, Kelly in The Prodigals, Meatloaf in the We Will Rock You World Arena Tour, Victoria in American Psycho The Musical and Molly Jensen in Ghost, The Musical. She is currently starring as Maureen in the 20th anniversary UK tour of Rent and will reprise her role as Elle Woods in the upcoming UK and Ireland tour of Legally Blonde. She has also appeared on television in “Midsommer Murders”, “The Sarah Jane Adventures” and was a participant in S4C’s “cariad@iaith” (love4language), in which Welsh celebrities were challenged to learn Welsh in two months. Her entry for Kyiv “Never Give Up on You” was written and composed by Emmelie de Forest, Daniel Salcedo and Lawrie Martin. Emmelie de Forest won the Eurovision in 2013 for Denmark with “Only Teardrops”.

Song Review

When I first heard this in the national selection, I thought it was good, not great. Ballad 101. But with the revamp, my expectations grew immensely. The new version has an atmospheric quality and Lucie sings with such emotion and releases her full vocal power towards the end of the song. It’s nice to see the UK actually putting in an effort over the last few years (let’s pretend 2015 didn’t happen though) and sending an entry full of class. I remember watching Lucie on the X Factor years ago and was devastated when she was sent home in favour of Jedward. I’m glad to see that she is finally getting recognition and the UK can be very proud of her, regardless of the final result.

What Could Have Been

A lot of British Eurofans were initially unhappy with Lucie winning, saying that they preferred Olivia Garcia with “Freedom Hearts” instead. I can see why. Strong vocals, a modern power ballad and some oversized flags at the end, this was the most Eurovision-friendly of the entries in the selection. I’m still a bit confused as to what exactly a “Freedom Heart” is though.

                         Good luck United Kingdom!

Do you have faith in Lucie or have you given up on her? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, BBC, YouTube)

Eurovision 2017 Previews: Germany

There is only one week left before it all kicks off. THE EXCITEMENT!!! Bringing us into the final stretch of previews is our last group of countries; the automatic finalists. This group includes the Big 5, the five largest financial contributors to the Eurovision, and this year’s host nation. Kicking it off is the home of lederhosen, precision engineering and roads with no speed limits. It’s Germany!!!

History

Germany was one of the seven countries to take part in the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956. Apart from an absence in 1996, Germany has taken part in every single contest to date. They have won on two occasions, in 1982 when Nicole sang “Ein bisschen Frieden” and in 2010 when Lena sang “Satellite”. Last year, Jamie-Lee Kriewitz came last in the final with “Ghost”, landing Germany with its second consecutive last place.

Selection

The German broadcaster, ARD, used the format Unser Song 2017 to select this year’s German entry. New solo artists were invited to complete an online application or attend a live casting show. 2,493 singers were whittled down to just five for the national final. An in-studio panel were able to give comments on the performances, as well as international viewers through the Eurovision Vibes app, but the decision was solely done by public voting in Germany. The voting was conducted over four rounds. In the first round, the five candidates performed a cover song of their choice. The top three advanced to the next round. In the second round, the remaining contestants performed their version of “Wildfire”, one of the two candidate songs for Eurovision. The top two contestants advanced to round three. In the third round, the two remaining candidates performed their version of “Perfect Life”, the other candidate song. The public then picked their two favourite combinations of both artist and song. In the final round, Levina battled herself to determine which song she would sing in Kyiv.

Artist

Isabella Lueen, known professionally as Levina, was born on May 1st 1991 in Bonn in North Rhine-Westphalia but was brought up in Chemitz in Saxony. She won the Jugend Musiziert contest at the age of 9 and started writing songs at the age of 12. After finishing secondary school, she went over to London and obtained a bachelor’s degree from King’s College London. She now splits her time between Berlin and London, where she currently studies music management at the London College of Music. Her debut album “Unexpected” was released last week. Her entry for Kyiv, “Perfect Life”, was written and composed by Lindy Robbins, Dave Bassett and Lindsey Ray.

Song Review

If this is Germany’s attempt at not finishing last again, I’m not holding out for much. The song is sweet and it does sound a lot like what you would normally hear on the radio today (most notably “Titanium” *cough cough*) but it’s very flat and there is no journey. Instead of going for something spectacular, Germany have opted to send something very safe and cookie-cutter. If they want to get out of the last-place rut they have been in for the past few years, they will have to do a lot better than this.

What Could Have Been

Germany’s selection this year was chaotic, for a lack of a better word. (Well, at least the winner is actually going to Eurovision!) We didn’t get to hear some of the versions of the candidate songs but of those we did hear, I think Levina’s rendition of “Wildfire” would have been a better choice for Germany. It has what “Perfect Life” lacks; feeling, a journey in the song and no allegations of plagiarism. It’s no winner but to me, it had a better chance of avoiding last place.

                          Viel Glück Deutschland!

Will Levina have a perfect time at Eurovision this year? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, ARD, Wikipedia, YouTube)

Eurovision 2017 Previews: Israel

Yesterday, I mentioned that I had a surprise for today. Well today, I’m handing over preview duty to my good friend and fellow Eurovision fan, Luke Nolan, for one day only. For his sake, and everyone else’s, I’ve limited the amount of times he can say “Dip me”. (You can thank me later.) I want to thank Luke for writing this and I hope all of you enjoy it as well. Take it away hun!

We’ve finally arrived at the last of the second semi-final entries, the ‘Land of Milk and Honey’ – Israel. My name is Luke and I was given the offer to guest-write this piece, due to my semi (if not complete) obsession with the absolute Adonis that is Imri Ziv, their entry this year. Unfortunately, I’ve been limited to the exact amount of times I can express this, so here goes nothing…

History

Israel made their début in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1973 and have competed 39 times since, every year except 1980, 1984, 1994 and 1997. Of these, they have reached the final 33 times. They have one the contest 3 times. Firstly in 1978 with Izhar Cohen and The Alphabeta with the song “A-Ba-Ni-Bi.” The next time was the following year (1979), with Gali Atari and Milk and Honey with their song “Hallelujah”. It’s important to note at this point that Israel is a country that for many years sang in only Hebrew. Their first song completely in English was “Golden Boy” by Nadav Guedj in 2015!
We can’t go much further into an Israel at Eurovision article without referencing the queen herself, winner of Eurovision 1998, Dana International. Her song “Diva” was commercially successful in many European countries, even reaching the Number One position in the Spanish charts. Her amazing career, as well as her openness about her life, has made her an icon for the LGBTQ+ community in both Israel and further afield. Unfortunately, Israel had a bit of a dodgy run following this win, failing to qualify from 2011 to 2014. Fortunately, recently, they have been having more luck, placing 9th and 14th in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Selection

The Israeli broadcaster this year has been changed to KAN, replacing the IBA. The selection of the entrant is done through the reality TV show “HaKokhav HaBa” (The Next Star), in which people at home vote on an app in real-time to see if he will go through to the next round. 14 singers then move on to a section where the judges and the audience at home vote. This selection method was off to a rocky start in 2013 and 14, with their failure to generate a qualifying act. However, in recent years, it has proven to be a valuable method for choosing a successful entry.

Artist

Oh where to begin…
Imri Ziv was born on September 21st 1991 in Hod HaSharon, Israel. He’s the descendant of both Romanian-Jewish and Ukrainian-Jewish parents. He was in the musical band of the IDF during his compulsory military service. In 2012, he auditioned for The Voice Israel, which launched his career. In 2015 and 2016, he was a backing singer for Nadav Guedj and Hovi Star. I mean, I’m not exactly saying the success is linked to him being there, but…
He also did voice over for the 2016 film Trolls in Hebrew. Proving versatility if I do say so myself… In 2017, he auditioned for HaKokhav HaBa, reaching an approval rating of 73% in the final. This win is the reason he is representing Israel this year. I also highly recommend you have a flick through his Instagram, @imriziv. ‘Tis quite the view. Dip me.

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Song Review

Alright, let’s get technical.

The song as far as it goes is pretty generic. The music itself is typical of Eurovision, the same four chords with some ethnic-sounding instrumentation during the chorus, just so you don’t forget where it’s from. He however has a nice voice and it seems that his performance is improving every time. The progress he has made from Israel Calling to this point is commendable and that is hopefully a good sign of things to come.

Will this qualify? I’d say yes. Israel has won the Eurovision lottery in many ways. To begin, they have been placed in the second semi-final, which does contain some of the weaker songs in the contest. *cough*Lithuania*cough*. Also, they have been placed in the final spot, which generally proves to be a successful position. Their song is also a very upbeat, lively song in a contest with a lot of ballads and slower songs. I’m hoping that they can be like Laura Tesoro from Belgium last year in the semi-final and knock it out of the ball-park in their semi-final. If they can do this, they should qualify.

What Could Have Been

Regarding Israel, it’s very difficult to tell what celebrities would be interested in competing, because well… they all do compete. The Eurovision holds very high status in Israel so many celebrities compete to take part.

One person who definitely could have been the winner was second-place in HaKokhav HaBa, the winner of Kokhav Nolad 8, Diana Golbi. Her rich deep voice would have lended itself wonderfully to the contest. It’s an original voice that I can really only compare to Blanche, at a stretch. However, in a contest filled with slow songs, I don’t think it would have fared as well as it could in other years and therefore, I still feel that Imri was the best choice that they could have made this year.

 

                            !בהצלחה לישראל

Will Imri still feel alive after the second semi? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for more Eurovision previews!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, KAN, Wikipedia, Youtube)