Another weekend in February, another National Finals frenzy. You choose, you lose!
Saturday proved to be impossible, what with my unconditional (and admittedly incomprehensible) loyalty to Melodifestivalen. Estonia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Hungary and Denmark all held their final and I wouldn’t be able to tell you what was going on – except for the Danish Super Final which had the most evident of all outcomes. Luckily there are broadcasters who realize there’s three evenings in one weekend, so YAY for NDR going for a Friday slot so I was able to follow Unser Lied für Israel. But before we do a deep dive in the German selection and MF’s 4th semi, I’d like to launch this highly subtle plea:
PLEASE UKRAINE KEEP THIS AS YOUR ENTRY!! It is EVERYTHING! Especially THAT move at 2:12 *insert GIF of Meryl Streep yelling YES at the Oscars* I know there’s A LOT of discussion surrounding MARUV and I don’t want to go into detail because I simply don’t feel comfortable enough to utter any argument, but political sensitivities aside this simply needs to be Tel Aviv.
There, I’m glad I got that off my chest.
UNSER LIED FÜR ISRAEL
Now on to what our neighbours were up to. The Germans almost always manage to come up with a nice mix of styles and some surprising choices and Friday was no exception. It all made for swell entertainment, topped off by a duo of presenters that I wouldn’t mind seeing in every NF around Europe to be honest. Seven seems like an odd (ha!) number of participants for a final though, but hey: at least Lucky Number Seven lived up to its name.
- Gregor Hägele – Let Me Go: I can’t really remember how it goes, but I can remember that I don’t even want to remember it. So there you go. Gregor seemed sweet enough, but no.
- Aly Ryan – Wear Your Love: Channeling some Dua Lipa here and obviously in it for exposure, Aly Ryan served up some true fanwank material. The visuals were drop dead gorgeous, so it was highly annoying that she was ever so slightly off center. If you’re gonna do it, do it right. Or in this case, slightly more to your left, darling. Anyway, I wouldn’t have minded seeing this in Israel, even if the lyrics were a bit meh.
- Makeda – The Day I Loved You Most: Vocally probably the stand-out of the night but that song was so dreary even Isis Gee would’ve been like ‘erm…how about no?’
- BB Thomaz – Demons: I see what they’re trying to do, but sometimes you’ve got to kill some darlings before you end up with something effective. Or as Coco Chanel has put it fashion-wise: before you leave the house, take one thing off. The censored F%CK, the vocal trickery, the giant stairs with the falling ‘demons’… Dunno, sometimes less IS more. Also, BB? *insert obvious gay slang remark here*
- Lily Among Clouds – Surprise: A surprise this definitely was. This is the kind of thing that makes me love the German NF so much but it hardly ever gets the attention I think it deserves, and that’s exactly what happened on Friday. Granted, it IS a bit too out there and it’s debatable whether this kind of Kate Bush/Tori Amos drama would actually work on the Eurovision stage but I love it for being there. Too bad Lily sounded as if she’d actually inhaled clouds rather than simply be among them.
- Linus Bruhn – Our City: Much like his bromance counterpart that kicked off the show I can’t seem to remember how this goes. I do remember thinking it sounded very on trend, I also remember thinking he’s got a high ‘gosh I wanna slap his face’ factor. Sorry ‘bout it, Linus.
- S!sters – Sister: Cue Belgium 2002 trauma. Obscure ghosts of ESC past aside, this quite fits the Zeitgeist. It’s got a touch of Frozen, a whiff of Glee and a lot of World Peace dipped in some really dark drama and it all works…at times. Loving the harmonies, I just wish it was a tad less in-your-face as far as the theatrics go. I know, I’m surprising myself here as I type away! Quite surprised this won, to be honest – but it should fare well enough to keep them from getting an extra stamp on their last-place-loyalty-card. Damn, did I just jinx them?
Side note: why were all guest performers lip-syncing for their lives? So freaking weird in a show where all participants have to sing live! German logic, anyone?
Over to my standing appointment on Saturday, where all vocals actually were live. Well, the lead vocals at least. Side note: what was up with that ‘Ljus’ song at the end of the semi? It felt like it should have been in the competition, but then it wasn’t… Anyway, I’m totally here for a Sarah-Eric duet in a future MF edition. And before we switch to the actual participants, I need to highlight the presenters fashion choices. It was a bit of a mixed bag, with Marika Carlsson looking all glammed up like she stepped off of the Oscars’ Red Carpet (and kinda wearing it at the same time), Erica Saade following the current 80s trends (leaving Casa Dimivision flabbergasted and divided) and SDF looking as if she was auditioning for a part in Trixie & Katya’s ‘floating heads’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqmGbQBQkT8) segment. Anywhore, let’s dive into the musical part of the shenanigans:
- Pagan Fury – Stormbringer: Textbook Melodifestivalen ten years ago. The Game Of Thrones vibe was nice-ish but the song really was too ‘been there, done that’ on every level to really have any kind of impact. Instant, but in a way that makes you question just how many times this was heated up in the microwave before this was served. The fury herself did sing it extremely well though.
- Anton Hagman – Känner Dig: Kinda surprised that this didn’t make it, actually. It ticked a lot of boxes, no? (goes back and checks) Hm, ok, the song IS pretty uneventful. I guess I was distracted by the visual trickery and Anton’s cute little face. Shallow bitch, table for one!
- Lisa Ajax – Torn: Djeez, lighten up, my dear! Your heart wanted you dead, you didn’t give a **** and now you’re torn… I’m all for emotions and not everything has to be bubblegum happy but this was downright depressing. So was that high note. Pity, everything was going great vocally until that point. Apparently the Swedish press was saying how this would be the winning son if only Loreen would have sung it… I don’t hear it. A tad too wanna-slit-my-wrists for my liking.
- Arvingarna – I Do: Someone was comparing this to The Toppers and that is the best way to describe it really. It’s a better version though, but that’s not saying a whole lot. Fine, let’s say The Herreys then. It’s your typical dansband entry and I shouldn’t like this but the chorus simply has that catchy something. I smell a whiff of ‘Sweet Caroline’ but I’ll glance over it. Also, the vocals are to die for. They all hit it bang on, especially lead singer Casper. I’d love to see them make the Final, just for the fun of it all. I do. I actually do.
- Bishara – On My Own: Let’s start with the positives: it’s kinda really impressive what he can do at this early stage in life. Especially for a guy who claims to be so shy he can’t even sing in front of his own parents at home. But. That song is not a match for him. The lyrics and the feeling of it all is way too mature and heavy handed for a boy that doesn’t seem to have hit puberty just yet. The credibility of it all suffers tremendously and I don’t really get why this is so hyped in Sweden. I’ll gladly see him win in five years or so though.
- Ann-Louise Hanson – Kärleken Finns Kvar: My soft moment of the evening, to be honest. I was genuinely touched by what she said in the postcard, dedicating this to everyone who’s lost a friend and still misses them. I liked the simplicity of it all, even if it was over-emphasized in the laidback stage set-up. Or maybe that made me like it even more, I don’t know. This made my cold black heart melt a little, so kudos to her. I would have loved seeing this in Andra Chansen at least.
- John Lundvik – Too Late For Love: So SVT did what I suspected they would do and saved ‘the best’ for last. This has got ‘The One To Beat’ written all over it, really. I love how different it is from his 2018 entry which was more cliché gospel ballad. Loving the beat in the verses, adoring John’s confidence and he sings SO naturally my pores are dripping with jealousy. Bonus points for having all live backings (even if the balance was slightly off), the power of it all was tangible. Style wise not entirely my cup of wine, but it’s executed so freaking well. Seriously, who’s gonna beat this in Stockholm?
One of the entries in Andra Chansen maybe? Highly doubtful, even if a couple of entries are quite lovely. Here are the duels, and how I see them play out next week:
- Andreas Johnson vs Anna Bergendahl: Pity, two of the better ones against each other. Don’t have a clue actually – but my gut is telling me it’s gonna be Andreas. As I said before: I think ‘Ashes to Ashes’ is the new ‘Something In Your Eyes’
- Vlad Reiser vs Nano: It should be Nano, but if he’s as nervous as he was in his semi then it’s gonna be Vlad. Yes, I’m still saying that with a thick Russian accent in my head.
- Martin Stenmarck vs Lisa Ajax: Martin all the way for me. So it’s probably gonna be Miss Dutch Football Team.
- Rebecka Karlsson vs Arvingarna: Should be The Töppers, just for the fun of it. I think they’ll make it. We’ve already got Wiktoria in the final, and Rebecka needs a couple more years to really be full blown MF material. So, Arvingarna: I do.
Just ran through all the winners of this weekend and I have to say this is shaping up to be a great Eurovision year. There are only two songs I really don’t like, a decent number! I’m almost looking forward to doing the previews – keeping in mind the amount of work that entails, that IS saying something! Now bring on the internal selections already!