Eurovision 2015 Automatic Finalists: A Tiger Sorceress and Italian Nerds

It’s here! It’s tomorrow! It’s the Eurovision Grand Final!!

There are seven entrants this year who don’t have to fight through the semi-finals process: the “Big Five” (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK), the host country (Austria for 2015) and as a special guest this year, Australia, because apparently they’re all big Eurovision fanboys?

Sometimes the automatic finalists kind of seem like they’re not even trying, like since they get a pass to the finals no matter what they just kind of send something that is not the top of the game. (Engelbert Humperdinck, I’m looking at you.) This year, though, they mostly seem like pretty good entrants — good songs, and where there aren’t good songs, there are good (or at least interesting) videos.

Australia — Tonight Again — Guy Sebastian — If Australia wins this year, they get to be in next year’s contest, too. With this song, they actually have a chance. This is such a fun dance song, with broader appeal than some of the other ones and a really good feel to it. I also love a good brass line, too.

Austria — I Am Yours — The Makemakes — OK, I lied. This is neither a good song nor a good video. It seems kind of retro but in a not great way? I guess they do set the piano on fire there at the end, but it’s not totally engulfed so it’s sort of like, why bother?

France — N’oubliez pas — Lisa Angell — This is the Frenchest of French entries. She’s in the sky? People are on a beach? It’s super arty and makes no sense because I’m not French enough and they’re not going to deign to explain it because I should just really learn French already.

Germany — Ann Sophie — Black Smoke — I think I’m thrown off by her bad outfit, but I can never get into this song too much. It’s singable, though, and that’s something.

Italy — Grande Amore — Il Volo — I love this. I love everything about this. I love the song, I love the conceit of the video, I love these guys, I have a great love for this entry.

Spain — Amanecer — Edurne — This song is highly forgettable but the video is AMAZING. She’s some crazy singing sorceress who turns into a tiger in a fantasy world! I would watch the heck out of the TV show for which this would be the theme song.

UK — Still in Love With You — Electro Velvet — Another one of my very favorites this year. They’re both so super adorable in a super British way. I really dig the weird blacklight rave in the middle, I love the awkward scat session, I love that “Oh yes?” he does. This is just great. I know a lot of people don’t like this one but it really is in my top 5 of songs that just make me happy when they come up.


Eurovision 2015 Semi-Final 2: A Werewolf, A Hipster, and An Invisible Violin

Well, friends, the second round of semi-finals for Eurovision is on Thursday and I could not be more excited. Watching the first round on Tuesday was super fun. We’ve never watched the semis before, and while the grand final is obviously the main event, there are some really neat things that happen throughout the week and it was great to get to watch everyone perform, not just the ones who made it to the finals. Most of our favorites made it through on Tuesday, so we’re really anxious to see who makes it tomorrow! Here’s my rundown for those contestants.

Lithuania — This Time — Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila — We really like this song. It’s so fun and cute, and has such great energy! The original preview video was really adorable, too. I like this video less, but I’m hoping that the stage show will be more like the first video. They had so much chemistry that we were pretty convinced they were a real couple, although we can’t find anywhere that says they are. Totes. Adorbs.

Ireland — Playing With Numbers — Molly Sterling — It’s not a bad song, it’s got kind of a nice rhythm and parts of it are pretty singable, but I don’t feel like it was a standout in any way. Just kind of a nice performance, no more or less.

San Marino — Chain of Lights — Anita Simoncini & Michele Perniola — This entry continues San Marino’s love affair with technology. (See their 2012 Eurovision entry, The Social Network Song, by Valentina Monetta.) These kids (and they are kids, they are YOUNG, y’all) are too cute, and this song is way too cheesy, but I can’t help but smile when I watch it. The only part I object to is that mercifully short rap interlude. No, San Marino. Don’t. Just don’t. (Also the credits are really long, like “list everyone in San Marino” long.)

Montenegro — Adio — Knez — Another song that I completely forgot existed. It always feels like it’s building toward a climax and just never gets there. I don’t understand the women in the video. I really dig the singer’s snakeskin jacket and torn jeans look. That’s ridiculous enough to almost work.

Malta — Warrior — Amber — Warrior song #2! The first one made it through to the finals so I think it’ll be interesting to see if this one does, too. This is my favorite of the warrior woman songs — I actually really like the song — but the video is less great than the others. Amber makes some weird faces when she and the camera are on that tracking dolly. It’s…odd.

Norway — A Monster Like Me — Mørland & Debrah Scarlett — What a confusing and ultimately disappointing video! The song is weird, and the video is even more so. They’re hosting a dinner party? And they maybe poison everyone but with a crazy drug or something? And the chick looks like Ginny Weasley? Usually Norway is one of our favorites but we just aren’t sure what to do with them this year. It’s so strange that…I kind of love it now. But boy is it strange.

Portugal — Há um Mar que nos Separa — Leonor Andrade — This chick thinks the song is way more hardcore rock than it is. It’s a pretty standard easy listening song but she is rocking the HOUSE in her mind. I love her whole look, her whole thing is awesome, but she deserves a much better song for as much passion as she is giving it.

Czech Republic — Hope Never Dies — Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta — My favorite part of this video is when they put the key words on the screen in a burning font. That just cracks me right up. The song itself is pretty good, though, and I do love a duet in Eurovision.

Israel — Golden Boy — Nadav Guedj — I know my husband disagrees with me, but I really enjoy this song. I like the sound, I like the beat, and I really like jamming to it while I’m cooking dinner. It is fun to dance to! As long as the stage show is solid I feel pretty positive about this dude getting into the finals, and I’ll be pretty happy about that.

Latvia — Love Injected — Aminata — This one wins my vote for the absolute craziest song of this year’s show. The style changes so abruptly it kind of gives me whiplash. The original preview video was just her standing there singing, and while I loved her look a whole ton, it made the song seem even more disjointed. The new preview video actually helps with that a little, but still. I am not sure what to do with this crazy thing.

Azerbaijan — Hour of the Wolf — Elnur Huseynov — In my mind I have decided that, because of the title, this song is about the guy waiting to find out if he’s been turned into a werewolf. The video has nothing to do with that — it’s just the guy in an apartment where he is alternately having and not having a party — but I like my head cannon better. I do really enjoy this song, werewolf or no. It has good drama and I find myself singing the chorus pretty frequently.

Iceland — Unbroken — Maria Olafs — My husband likes to say that this is pretty much the same song as “Hour of the Wolf” and it really comes down to whether you prefer a girl or a guy singing it. He’s not wrong. While this is a perfectly fine song I don’t have a fun werewolf-related head cannon for it so I prefer Azerbaijan.

Sweden — Heroes — Måns Zelmerlöw — This one is getting really good press and seems to be a front runner for ultimate winner. I don’t really get it myself. It’s a good song, but I wouldn’t put it ahead of some of the others (SERBIA) and while it’s probably in the top half, it’s pretty solidly in the middle of my top.

Switzerland — Time to Shine — Mélanie René — I have no feelings about this song one way or another. If you played this (no video, just the song) next to Iceland’s entry I’m not sure I could tell the difference?

Cyprus — One Thing I Should Have Done — John Karayiannis — This guy! This guy is so hipster! And this song is so hipster! And it makes me laugh because it’s all so hipster! Look, he’s in black and white while the background is in color! Ahahahaha! ❤

Slovenia — Here For You — Maraaya — I don’t understand why she’s naked in the beginning, or what’s up with the ice bath thing, but I do really love this song. SO catchy, very singable, good energy. Also I love the techno invisible violin thing, that’s pretty sweet.

Poland — In the Name of Love — Monika Kuszyńska — I’m not a huge fan of the song but I found the story of the video really interesting. Look up Monika Kuszyńska, her story is pretty fascinating, and I think it’s really cool they way they presented that in the video. I feel like the song is pretty boring right now but that I’ll warm up to it after playing the album in the car a few times.

Eurovision 2015 Semi-Final 1: Techno Elves, Punk, and A Body Positive Ballad

YOU GUYS Eurovision is happening again on SATURDAY and I am SO EXCITED!!

As with many cool/weird things in my life, I have my sister Amanda to thank for introducing me to the wonder, the beauty, the magnificent madness that is the Eurovision Song Contest. We love every bit of it, every bearded woman and gout of fire and tricycle-riding fairy and whatever. All of it is gold.

This year we seem to have a particularly good batch of contestants. More than most years, my husband and I have been pulling up the videos on YouTube and listening (and listening and listening and listening) for weeks now. The songs have been getting stuck in our heads. We even made brackets! (For the record, Serbia was the bracket winner for both of us.)

The first round of semi-finals is broadcasting tomorrow, and it’s indicative of how much we love this thing that we’ve arranged our day so that we can drop everything at 3:30 and watch. (The longest break I plan to take is heating up leftovers for dinner.)

Here’s my take on the folks who will be competing tomorrow, based on their preview videos (and the fact that I’ve listened to their songs SO MANY TIMES in the last few weeks.)

(Links to the videos are in their titles because if you haven’t watched the videos yet, you really really should.)

Moldova — I Want Your Love — Eduard Romanyuta — The music is sort of catchy in a typical on the radio way. I’ll jam to it, I probably won’t skip it when it comes on in the future, I won’t search it out intentionally. I don’t dig the video very much, and the singer looks like he’s 12. I’m not sure how this is going to translate into a stage show.

Armenia — Face the Shadow — Genealogy — What a great song. It has this wonderful drama to it, even discounting the history that it is clearly invoking. I fully expect this to do very well. I really like how many people get involved (I tend to like groups over soloists) even though — or perhaps because? — in the video it seemed like singers just kept coming out of the woodwork.

Belgium — Rhythm Inside — Loïc Nottet — I did not love this song at first but let me tell you, it has gotten stuck in my head maybe the most of all of the songs. I will find myself “rap-ap-ap”ing at random moments just because I can’t make it go away, in a good way. I don’t understand the video — Why is he wet? Why is everyone covered with red paint? What is going on? — but I have come around to enjoying the song.

The Netherlands — Walk Along — Trijntje Oosterhuis — Singable, but not outstanding. I won’t skip it when it comes on, but I may get distracted while it’s playing. A good, solid entry but I don’t expect a win here.

Finland — Aina Mun Pitää — Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät — Haha, I love these guys. Punk isn’t my favorite style but they do a solid job with the song and are clearly having fun. I love that they’re straight up bringing the punk to Eurovision, and I feel certain they are going to have the time of their lives.

Greece — One Last Breath — Maria-Elena Kyriakou — I have already forgotten that this song is part of the lineup. It has some sort of spell on it, I think, where I remember that it is a thing for the three minutes while it’s playing and then as soon as it’s over I’ve forgotten it again.

Estonia — Goodbye to Yesterday — Elina Born & Stig Rästa — I dig this song a lot. It’s got a catchy beat to it, sort of a retro feel that makes me happy. If we listen to it long enough to learn the lyrics I suspect Hubband and I will pause talking in the car to sing along with it. I think these guys have a good chance of taking it, and I would be fine with that. I hope they have an interesting stage show, though.

F.Y.R. Macedonia — Autumn Leaves — Daniel Kajmakoski — Good song! I like the illustration preview video, although I’m not sure how that would work for a stage show or if they’d even try it. Still, it’s a really solid song, very singable. This is another one where I’d be fine with it taking it all.

Serbia — Beauty Never Lies — Bojana Stamenov — This was the winner of our brackets. I adore this video, with all the fans singing along: so fun! It’s a great power ballad, super easy to sing along to, and Bojana is just lovely. I don’t think it’s going to win, which makes me a little sad, but she makes a great showing and I will sing this song forever, haha.

Hungary — Wars for Nothing — Boggie — I like the song way better than I like the video. The super long intro and the hipster flash mob setup turned me off at first. The song minus the video, though, is fantastic. It’s a protest song, basically, and is a beautiful one.

Belarus — Time — Uzari & Maimuna — This is the opposite: I like the video way better than the song. The song is kind of meh, not terrible but not great. But the video! There’s a girl with a fiddle stuck in an hourglass! The singer is some sort of techno elf! There’s a snake! What’s not to love here?? THIS is what Eurovision is all about — a kind of mediocre song with a freaking insane show.

Russia — A Million Voices — Polina Gagarina — I really like this song. Last year Russia got booed: I wonder if that will happen again this year. I feel bad for the singer if so: it’s not her fault that the leaders of her country are crazy! Anyway, it’s a good song and a cute video.

Denmark — The Way You Are — Anti Social Media — Throwback band, haha. Super catchy, very “That Thing You Do”. What a fun, upbeat song. Our favorite part of the video was the guy playing guitar dressed like a greaser. Everyone else is standing in place like a good old-fashioned band and that guy just wanders all over the stage. It’s great.

Albania — I’m Alive — Elhaida Dani — I feel like this song and video will have more impact for other people. It just doesn’t resonate with me. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just don’t love it.

Romania — De la capăt / All Over Again — Voltaj — The sads!!! 😦 But it is a good song, really. I love the mixed languages, and the music is just lovely.

Georgia — Warrior — Nina Sublatti — This is the first (of several) songs about warrior women. This one isn’t my favorite song of that group, but it is my favorite music video. These chicks are awesome. I would watch a buddy movie with every single one of these amazing warrior women in it.