Monthly Archives: May 2013

RESULTS REACTION: EUROVISION 2013 FINALS

As expected, Sweden hosted a fabulous Eurovision contest.  It began with a video package featuring a caterpillar touring around Europe that we all know would then transform into the butterfly logo representing this year’s contest.  Then, we get to listen to a choir singing a solemn hymn that I confirmed later was composed by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus with electro-dance musician Avicii, and a parade of nations with the 26 finalists marching behind their respective flags.  I hope the song becomes like an anthem to be sung in subsequent Eurovision finals and I hope the parade of nations ritual becomes a permanent fixture.

I have to give major compliments to the host of the proceedings, Petra Mede.  You might assume from her poised demeanor that she’s just a conventional host, but she has a killer droll wit (one line she uttered about the rabid, flamboyant, campy fans in the front-rows: “You just have not found the right girl, yet”).  It turns out she is like Sweden’s version of Kathy Griffin, a more sophisticated, upper-class version of that famous US comedienne (she even physically resempbles her).

Eurovision 2013 host Petra Mede (image sourced from theage.com.au)
Kathy Griffin (image sourced from aceshowbiz.com)

In one of the intervals before the results are announced, Petra performed a funny number that skewers and pays tributes to the stereotypes, products, and people that made her nation famous.  Not only was she as hilarious as Kathy Griffin, she has the performance chops of a Neil Patrick Harris at the Tonys.  Check out her “Swedish Smorgasbord” number:

Carola made a cameo in this number singing the title line of the English version of her 1991 Eurovision winning song, “Fångad av en stormvind [Captured by a Lovestorm]” before falling off the stage–a nice gag and she still looks and sounds terrific.  For complete lyrics of this witty number, check out the article from the U.K.’s Daily Mirror.

Petra also narrated a humorous history of Eurovision song contest, interspersing herself in some moments (like as a phone operator in the early 1960s, or as ABBA’s Anni-Frid Lyngstad in their “Waterloo” performance) or providing cheeky comments like Johnny Logan’s three Eurovision wins, the last one supposedly in drag as Linda Martin (actually Johnny wrote the winning song; his first two wins he performed the songs).  It was a comic treat.

Besides the comedy number, another major highlight for me was last year’s champion Loreen’s performance–it’s a medley of her current single “We’ve Got the Power”, and previous hits “My Heart is Refusing Me” and “Euphoria”.  I love th fact that she finally gets to fly onstage, and she looked resplendent in a huge robe as she sang Euphoria as the stage rose underneath her.

The entries that ended up in the Top Six were amongst the expected favorites.  My personal favorites were the numbers from Azerbaijan and Ukraine, and I was not surprised that they ended up in the Top Three.  Azerbaijan’s Farid Mammadov mastered the art of seducing the camera via close-up, while I was riveted by his male back-up dancer who seemed to represent the singer’s inner soul (that is why he was encased in a plastic box).  Yes, I ended up swooning like a fangirl over him.  It was not surprising why 10 countries gave this entry douze (12) points.

Meanwhile, I can’t help but swoon over the transcendent Oxana-Fedorova-meets-Shania-Twain beauty of Zlata Ognevich, with her terrific Basia-esque singing voice.  I want to hear Zlata sing Basia’s “Time and Tide” (or at least Basia’s cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back to Me”).  It’s an off-the-hook performance for me.

Denmark‘s win has been bandied about by the press for several days prior and I have no serious objections over its win as it’s a consistently strong entry anyway.  Even if it got less douze point votes than Azerbaijan (8 compared to Azerbaijan’s 10), it garnered points from every participating country with the exception of Latvia.  Let’s see how Copenhagen can top Malmö’s hosting this year.

Norway‘s 4th place is a tribute to its strong songcraft, and well Russia‘s 5th place finish is also expected.  Greece deservingly fared well for top-notch showmanship alone (but not the song as the song is actually crap).

Italy is the sole “Big Five” entry to land in the Top 10, ranking seventh, as only former X-Factor champion Marco Mengoni delivered a solid (though imperfect) vocal.  The “Big Five” entries turned out to be disappointing, delivering mostly rough and pitchy performances.  Spain was off-key (though the ending line translating the song title into English was a nice touch), Germany fell off the favorites’ perch with pitchiness, and though Bonnie Tyler remains a well-regarded legend, she also sounded rough in her performance representing the United Kingdom.  I actually found France‘s performance solid, with Amandine Bourgeois evoking both Tina Turner and Courtney Love, but that number needed a trussed up hunk to make more serious inroads.

France’s Amandine Bourgeois (image courtesy of Eurovision)
Tina Turner with Mick Jagger at Live Aid 1985 (image courtesy of morrisonhotelgallery.com)
Courtney Love (image courtesy of US Magazine)

Malta‘s eighth place finish was a pleasant surprise, as it is indeed a refreshingly likeable feel-good song.  I’m glad for the support Netherlands has received that it earned it strong ninth place finish after a nine-year absence in the finals.

I’m still mystified by Hungary‘s strong 10th place showing–sure we can tag it as “refreshingly” different, but Malta has beaten that to the punch.  Also mystifying are the people voting for Romania‘s crappy number (it landed a respectable 13th place)–at least Moldova and Belgium fared decently at an 11th place tie, and Moldova did not automatically award its douze points to its neighbor (as a courtesy it still awarded it 10 points) but to Ukraine instead.

I’m saddened by Ireland‘s last place finish in the finals, as it was better than the entries by Hungary and Romania, by the very least.  I think it bubbled under in various countries overall but unfortunately that wouldn’t count as you only earn points if you rank in a country’s overall Top 10.

I have a couple of notes for two other finalists:

* Some of my peers I chatted with noted that Belarus’ Alyona Lonskaya looks like Paraguay’s Miss Universe 2012 representative and Miss World 2010 semifinalist Egni Eckert.  Anyway, I like her glittery fringed dress in her performance, though her singing was pitchy that is why it didn’t get to rank higher.

Belarus’ Alyona Lanskaya (image sourced from zimbio.com)
Egny Eckert at Miss Universe 2012 (courtesy of Miss Universe LP, LLLP)

Estonia’s Birgit Oigemeel’s pregnancy led her to wear a loose fitting empire-waist gown as she performed her ballad.  Many pageant fans and pundits realize she is wearing the gown sported by Russia’s Vera Krasova when she competed in the evening gown finals of Miss Universe 2008.

Birgit Oigemeel (image courtesy of eurovision.tv)
Vera Krasova at Miss Universe 2008 (image courtesy of Miss Universe LP LLLP)

* I didn’t know Finland featured a gender-bending costume change gimmick for its number–observe how the groomsmen changed into bridesmaids 2/3 into the song.  There is also the girl-on-girl kiss, too.  So Katy Perry, isn’t it?

I’ve got seven of my Top 10 prediction correct, with one bubbling under making it.  An improvement over last year’s weak prediction.  Anyway, congratulations to Denmark on its victory.  Hope to see a grander Eurovision with stronger entries next year.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

RESULTS REACTION: EUROVISION 2013 2ND SEMIFINAL

I’m a bit upset about the results of the second semifinal of this year’s Eurovision.  My favorite entry was eliminated!  And two of the weakest entries are through!

Sure, San Marino‘s Valentina Monetta sounded pitchy in the uptempo portion of her song, and she sounded rather winded, and yes, the presentation was underwhelming, but the song was just too good for people to ignore and pass up.  I’m outraged by this elimination!

Another entry I thought deserved to go through is Israel.  The Nana Mouskouri deadringer delivered most of the time (though she seemed to be off-key at the climactic note).  I wonder if she needed to jazz up her relatively no-frills presentation with that gratuitous speedo hunk in her music video?  It would ruin the stage mood in my opinion.

If you read my Eurovision reviews over the years, I normally love the entries fielded by Romania.  But this year is a major exception–sure the singer Cezar is classically trained, and yes that talent of being able to sing a classical falsetto is an admirable feat.  But that doesn’t detract the fact the techno-laced song is a complete piece of incomprehensible crap, and the falsetto is a major turn-off in this context, reducing the entire piece into low-grade camp.  Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake can deliver falsettos with masculine swagger and unfortunately Cezar is just trashy camp to my ears.  And that range showcase in the early part of the song?  It was better executed by Julie Andrews in her “Le Jazz Hot” number in Victor/Victoria or even Chris Colfer’s version of the same song in Glee.  But I suppose he won the audiences over with those body-painted/nude-leotarded male and female dancers.

I’m also baffled by Hungary qualifying.  The lead singer’s vocals are raw.  Sure the visual backdrop is nice, but I think Malta (another surprise qualifier for me, but I’m okay with it) did a better job with their lyrics-laced backdrop.

Now on to positive notes.  Azerbaijan has asserted its possible frontrunner status as besides the singer being dreamily hunky (though I still quibble about his eyebrows), the presentation was enhanced with an incredible male backup dancer encased in a glass box acting as the singer’s shadow or perhaps alter-ego (the female dancer acting as the lover was also a lovely sight, too).

Norway delivered as expected, but the presentation was basically identical to the national final.  I wish she wore a jumpsuit instead of a gown, but well, it worked then and it worked now.  Remember that last year’s winner also did not change anything from the national final to Eurovision.

Now, I still regard Greece as this year’s “Lager Lout” entry, but just like Moldovan band Zdob si Zdub in their two Eurovision appearances, they have a high energy presentation moving across the stage with choreographed dances and singing at the same time without sounding winded.  The band members of Koza Mostra are also surprisingly swarthily hunky in my eyes, so I’m starting to actually like them.  “David Crosby” (actually, Agathon Iakovidis) actually has a more active singing part than I could recall when I watched their official music video, which fully justifies his presence onstage.

Now, another strong performance from a non-finalist was FYR Macedonia.  It is interesting that even though they rehearsed the English version, they shifted back to the Macedonian version, “Prad da se razdeni” for the semifinal.  It’s interesting that Lozano changed his image a bit as he removed his eyeglasses.  It’s actually a strongly sung performance, but well, it seems this year is a Balkan lockout.

I got six out of ten out of this semi-final plus Armenia in my “Bubbling Under” list.  Since my favorite was eliminated, I would need to revise my finals forecast as follows:

TOP 10:  DENMARK, RUSSIA, UKRAINE, NETHERLANDS, AZERBAIJAN, GREECE, NORWAY, GEORGIA, SWEDEN, GERMANY

BUBBLING UNDER:  MOLDOVA, IRELAND, FINLAND, ICELAND, ITALY, SPAIN

RESULTS REACTION: EUROVISION 2013 1ST SEMIFINAL

For most part, the favorites in the first semifinal got through.  I got seven out of ten correct, but if you include my “bubbling under” choice, Ireland, my tally would go up eight out of ten.

It is interesting to note that it seems bloc voting seems to be in place–six of the ten finalists were former constituents of the Soviet Union.  Though most of the ex-Soviet countries (like the Baltic nations and Moldova) would refuse to be associated with Russia these days, this is probably the only exception to the rule and it generally works to their benefit.  The ex-Soviet bloc had effectively deflected the Balkan bloc as this year, none of the ex-Yugoslav republics made the cut.

But then again, all of the ex-Soviet bloc finalists were worthy of qualifying, with the exception of one–I still maintain Lithuania remains the weakest link in the first semifinal, and nothing about Andrius’ performance could convince me it’s worthy of belonging in the finals.  I would rather have Croatia or Montenegro qualify in his place.

The big highlight in the first semifinal for me was Ukraine–oh, Zlata Ognevich is so dreamily gorgeous and she has such a beautifully nuanced and powerful voice.  The “carried by a giant” gimmick worked to put us in a fantasy forest world as evoked in the music, but again what most people would marvel would be her transcendent beauty and her terrific singing. I could forgive her accent that makes “butterfly” sound like “batterfly”.

The next highlight for me was Moldova.  Aliona Moon’s performance was flawless, and I love the special effect where her gown grows bigger as the ramp underneath her elevated to make her about 15-20 feet tall.  It was also nice to see Pasha Parfeny (the performer from this country last year–also qualified to the finals then) at the piano playing the song he composed.  I mentioned previously that Aliona performed back-up to Pasha last year.

Among the other qualifiers, I’m pleased with Ireland‘s performance–Ryan Dolan delivered on the vocals, as expected, but what I love much better were the hunkily gyrating tattooed and shirtless male drummers/dancers–what energy they delivered to make such a memorable impact.

I have to say in a similar vein, Belgium benefited from dancers–this time the slick and tight choreography by the two female back-up dancers in little black dresses (a pancake makeup away from looking like those Robert Palmer “Addicted to Love” girls).  I have no objections seeing this qualify.

Favorite front-runner Denmark also delivered, though if you ask me this is overshadowed by Ukraine for me.  But still, it is on track to be among the front-runners in the finals.

I have to note that I love the new innovation the production team made with the postcards this year–this year they show slice-of-life videos of the artists in their own land, which refreshingly humanizes them.  I wish they continue with this in subsequent editions.  I have to note this because it’s fascinating to see Netherlands‘ Anouk attending boxing classes in her video postcard.  I’m very glad that after nine long years Netherlands finally would see action in the finals.  And good the staging makes her song not seem like a retro throwback but more of a timeless number.  And her distinctive voice does make the performance even more special.

Most of the non-finalists failed to qualify justifiably as I hear pitch problems in their performances.  Which is sad but that was why the likes of Austria, Slovenia, and Serbia failed to advance.  Croatia is a bit of a different story–it’s more because of the ex-Soviet bloc overshadowing their bloc.  A performance I would wish should’ve seen in the finals was Montenegro–not because of the rappers in astronaut costumes, but the fiercely powerful vocals of Nina Žižić.  It’s such a shame we would miss that awesomeness in the finals.

Every year there is this dubious honor called the Barbara Dex award, which goes to the worst-dressed performers in the contest.  I think we have a front-runner for that award with Serbia‘s entry.  Those outfits are disastrous as it turned out.

Now let’s see how the second semi-final unfolds this Thursday (Europe time–early morning Friday Manila time).  I hope no dreadful entries advance.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH