Monthly Archives: May 2015

EUROVISION 2015: MÅN-LY HUNK PREVAILS OVER PLUNGING NECKLINES (CONCLUSION)

Normally, I would be talking about a Top Ten but as I previously mentioned, this year’s voting patterns seemed to have the points mainly concentrated among nine countries, with three distinctive tiers/degrees of concentration.  All told, the Top Nine received 80.34% of all the total points that could be allocated, leaving the remaining 18 finalists with less than 20% of the points to battle for.   To put this into perspective, since the current point system was implemented in 1975, we have to go all the way back in 1976 to see a larger concentration of points for the Top Nine (even more for the Top Ten)–that year, the Top Nine hogged 81% of all available allocated points and the Top Ten hogged 86%).  In most other years, the points concentration of the Top Ten since the 2000s tend to be around 70%.  Another thing I noticed about the Top Nine is that these are the only countries that got points from more than half of the participating countries in this contest (all the rest this year got points from 12 countries or less).

TIER ONE:  This tier features entries that got votes from more than 20 countries but less than 30 countries and their scores range in the 90-110 level.

9TH PLACE: ISRAEL (Nadav Guedj).  No one can deny the energy delivered by this entry, with Nadav and the all-male back-up singers and dancers engaging the crowd with a fusion of hip-hop moves and belly dancing (yes, belly dancing!).  With most other entries going too classy, this is the closest thing to guilty pleasure trashy fun in the finals, and even if Nadav’s pitch went off in places (unlike in his semifinal performance), the entertainment value is such that you can easily overlook that.  It ranked high with the juries and general public alike, ranking 8th with the jury and 7th with the popular vote.  So why did it fall to 9th overall?  For starters, this seemed to exhibit the Edurne Paradox, as even if it got votes from 25 countries, it was outranked by an entry that got votes from 23 countries because its points were not as high–in fact, the highest points it received was one 8-point vote from Italy, and with the rest giving slightly lower points, it was overtaken and outranked by two entries that were only Top Ten in one metric instead of both.

8TH PLACE: NORWAY (Mørland & Debrah Scarlett).  As I predicted, this entry won the Marcel Bezençon Composer’s Award.  I was expecting this to be a Top Five contender, but its popularity was not as strong as I thought.  It ranked 17th based on points from the televotes and 7th from the juries.  It also had those crucial 10-point votes coming from Switzerland and Iceland, which allowed it to outpoint Israel even if it received points from two fewer countries.

7TH PLACE: ESTONIA (Elina Born & Stig Rästa).  In my opinion, I would’ve preferred Slovenia, Georgia, Spain, Azerbaijan or even Serbia to take this entry’s place in the elite circle, as in my opinion they ought to be penalized for constantly veering off pitch.  But the song is undeniably “cool” and the visual staging with the two singers forming long shadows were too striking that it added to the cool appeal to the general public.  The juries may have taken their pitch problems into account hence ranking them 11th place, but the general public was too enamored with the cool vibe and visuals that it ranked 5th in the televote.

TIER TWO:  This trio took 25.81% of all possible points that could be allocated, the highest ratio since 1991 (that set of 4th to 6th placers took 26.67%) that year).  Their scores range from 170 to 220 and they got votes from between 33 to 36 countries–almost a clean sweep.

6TH PLACE: LATVIA (Aminata).  Ranking 8th in the televote is not bad at all, but its ranking soared to this tier because of the juries, which ranked this entry 2nd overall.  It is fully justified as Aminata looked dreamy in her pink low-cut dress with black sheer overlay, and her singing was absolutely pitch perfect, added to the fact that her song has a coolness factor with its electronic instrumentation.

5TH PLACE: AUSTRALIA (Guy Sebastian).  Guy delivered a Bruno Mars-like presentation that obviously won over the juries (4th) and the public (not too shabby 6th), securing a Top Five finish.  A strong finish by the entry is always a foregone conclusion as Guy had his chops honed by being the first ever Australian Idol about a decade ago.  Despite receiving votes from 33 countries compared to Lativa’s 35, and Latvia receiving three douze (12) points over this entry’s two, Australia got to outrank Latvia thanks to receiving a whopping nine 2nd and 3rd place points (10 and 8 points respectivelY) compared to Latvia’s two.  If the EBU allows it, I would gladly like to see Australia back in this contest.

4TH PLACE:  BELGIUM (Loic Nottet).  I’m pleasantly surprised how well the public and the juries connected to the abstract, avant-garde staging and choreography of this entry.  The memorably striking presentation and Loic singing very well (well, diction, that’s another story, but you know that he’s not a native English speaker so you expect him to sing English with an accent) were key factors that led all but three (Montenegro, Malta and Azerbaijan) participating countries to grant this entry points, and three countries (France, Hungary and Netherlands) granting this the coveted 12 points.

TIER THREE:  This top tier decisively dominated the entire pack, eating up a record 41% of the available total allocated points.  The points amassed by this trio–290 and above–would’ve been enough for any one of them to become the winner of this contest in other years.  Obviously, these three entries got the lion’s share of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place votes–and early in the disclosure of the points, it was a neck-and-neck battle among these three, that they kept of swapping the lead until about the 30th country’s results were read out when one entry started to pull away for the win.  Two of these entries actually got points from all the participating countries, and the third only missed two countries–in a typical year, a winner will probably have at least three countries not voting for it, so this sort of near-consensus among all participating countries for three entries is very rare.

3RD PLACE: ITALY (Il Volo).  This entry actually won the televote, but was pulled down by the juries, which ranked them 6th.  Even if the juries pulled them down, this trio scored high enough that it earned points from all the participating countries (of course with the exception of the home country, since they are not allowed to vote for themselves).  This hunky trio delivered the operatic vocal fireworks and they looked elegant in their Armani suits, so this high placement is well-deserved.

2ND PLACE: RUSSIA (Polina Gagarina).  Before I discuss the merits and performance of this entry, I have to discuss a trend among female soloists in this year’s contest–it seems to appeal to male viewers, several of them wore clothes with plunging necklines.  This entry is of course a prime example of that trend, which you can also see on Latvia (Aminata), Albania (Elhaida Dani), Greece (Maria Elena Kyriakou), and Germany (Ann-Sophie–in her case, in a black jumpsuit).  There were female soloists who bucked the trend and went demure, though, like Poland (Monika Kuszynska), France (Lisa Angell), and Georgia (Nina Sublatti–though take note she’s in a miniskirt).  Serbia (Bojana Stamenov)’s neckline is actually a “V”-line but it can still pass in the modesty department.  Spain (Edurne) is a special case as even though her neckline didn’t go as low as the aforementioned five ladies, she was a dazzling sexy vision as her dress looked sheer when bathed in extremely bright klieg lights.

Plunging necklines, from top to bottom: Russia (Polina Gagarina), Latvia (Aminata), Albania (Elhaida Dani), Greece (Maria Elena Kyriakou), and Germany (Ann-Sophie)
Plunging necklines, from top to bottom: Russia (Polina Gagarina), Latvia (Aminata), Albania (Elhaida Dani), Greece (Maria Elena Kyriakou), and Germany (Ann-Sophie)
Not quite plunging, but sexy:  Spain (Edurne) with hunky dancer
Not quite plunging, but sexy: Spain (Edurne) with hunky dancer

The hosts likewise joined in the plunging neckline trend–during the first half of the show, Arabella Kiesbauer sported a lacy black number with that trend, and to a lesser extent Mirjam Weichselbraun’s black gown could also be classified as low-cut.  Then in the second half of the show, it was Alice Tumler’s turn to show a bit more of her chest.  Some of the female spokespersons announcing their country’s votes also joined in the fray–two most notable examples were Finland’s Krista Siegfrieds (who competed two years ago with the Katy Perry-ish “Marry Me”) and Netherlands’ Edsilia Rombley (who competed twice in this contest back in 1999 and 2006).

Taking turns: The hosts (Arabella Kiesbauer, Mirjam Weichselbraun and Alice Tumler) during the first half (top) and second half (bottom) of the finals.
Taking turns: The hosts (Arabella Kiesbauer, Mirjam Weichselbraun and Alice Tumler) during the first half (top) and second half (bottom) of the finals.
Krista Siegfrieds announcing the Finnish results.
Edsilia Rombley relaying the Dutch results.

.

Now, let’s discuss Polina’s song and performance.  I have always maintained that this song is good, but not really something that I love with a passion.  Yes, its world peace sentiments are noble, but since this is coming from a country lately notorious for war-mongering, it feels hypocritical.  Also, the presentation reminds me of how Michael Slezak bash Season 10 finalist Thia Megia for being too “pageant-y”, as this is the sort of song that you would expect to hear sung in a Miss America pageant, or lately, Miss World (it will be interesting if there will be a contestant this year or in the next few years who will cover this song for her Talent performance).  Yes, Polina’s singing is unimpeachable, and the presentation undeniably polished, but she already has a built-in advantage going into this contest that her entry will rank very high, and even if San Marino and Lithuania didn’t give her any points, that advantage allowed her to outrank Italy even if the latter garnered points from all countries and got nine douze point votes compared to this entry’s five douze point votes (from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, and Germany).

CHAMPION: SWEDEN (Måns Zelmerlöw).  I’m so stoked that my favorite to win indeed won this contest.  I’m pleased he overcame all those little controversies and merits won out.  Though he was trumped a bit by Italy and Russia in the popular vote, he ranked first with the jury, and by all metrics, his overall points and ranking averages all point to him becoming Sweden’s 6th win in this contest.   Though 365 points is a staggering total, it’s only the third highest total amassed by any Eurovision  entry in this era, behind countrywoman Loreen’s “Euphoria” back in 2012 (372 points) and Norway’s Alexander Rybak’s “Fairytale” in 2009 (387 points).  I don’t need to talk about his performance anymore as I’ve already raved about it in my song preview and in my results reaction on the second semifinal and all I’ll say about his finals performance is he remained consistently at peak form from his semifinals stint (while most others who competed in the semifinals we tend to see a bit wear-and-tear).

In some ways, the see-saw battle between Sweden and Russia became like a “good-vs-evil” battle to the eyes of many fans (especially those in the Wiener Stadthalle), with war-mongering homophobic Russia threatening to take over and the more politically liberal Sweden becoming the “hero” that prevailed in the end after a suspenseful fight to the finish.  This, despite Russia being represented by a pretty blonde with a pretty song about world peace.

Considering his controversy last year, it’s so wonderful to hear his reaction message, “We are all heroes, no matter who we love, who we are, or what we believe in.”  It’s a beautiful message, almost at the same level as Conchita’s message when she won last year.  Now, will Mans make serious inroads in the European charts the way Loreen’s “Euphoria” did?  Early indications seem to point to that direction.  Congratulations to a very deserving winner, and hope that like ABBA, this can be a springboard to a serious international career.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

The thrill of victory: Mans Zelmerlow right after winning the Eurovision Song Contest

P.S. Also looking forward to Sweden hosting next year’s contest–most likely Sweden’s answer to Kathy Griffin, Petra Mede, will return to host, but I wonder how will she top her previous spectacular hosting stint?

EUROVISION 2015: MÅN-LY HUNK PREVAILS OVER PLUNGING NECKLINES (PART 2)

I only got five of the Top Ten correct in my “fearful” forecast, but the five that I didn’t get were all in my bubbling under list.  Sure, it was a broad bubbling under list (there were nine), but then again with a relatively worthy competitive caliber of entries, I had to make my bubbling under list relatively large.

The way this year’s points are distributed is very interesting.  First, it seems the majority of the participating countries tend to concentrate their points to nine finalists, and among those nine finalists there are three tiers–a tier that competes for the Top Three, a tier for fourth to sixth place, and a tier that battles for seventh to ninth.  Second, the remainder had to scramble for the remaining points, and in general if they have established bloc-mates, they will have the upper hand.  Third, thanks to the EBU’s current transparency policy that allows us to see the full rankings (instead of the Top Ten) of the finalists and analyzing the ordinal rankings, many of the low-ranking entries exhibited the “Ryan Dolan Conundrum.“*  This conundrum may help ease the concerns one might have over how some entries seemed to fare so dismally.  For readers to follow me with the analysis, I’ll be attaching a spreadsheet file containing the table of the raw ordinal totals and the split-vote points ranking.

ESC-2015-grand_final-full_results

* Named after the Irish entrant in 2013 that ranked in last place in the final, despite a terrific presentation featuring hunky drummers.  When one analyzes the full ordinal rankings, the entry actually ranked middle-of-the-pack–it only had the misfortune of not having enough countries ranking it within the Top 10 that caused it to score low, as the jury and televote actually ranked other entries much lower than this.

Let’s start with the entries that had the misfortune of garnering the dreaded nul points, Austria (the Makemakes) and Germany (Ann-Sophie).  Based on the raw ordinal ranking and in the split votes, they weren’t actually ranked last.  In the case of Austria, it actually ranked in the upper half of the jury vote in 13th place, but was offset with a dead-last ranking in the televote.  Germany was more middle-of the pack ranking 20th in the jury and 25th in the televote.  If we based their overall ranking strictly on ordinals, Germany would’ve been 19th and Austria 23rd.   The score (or lack thereof) garnered by these entries are not reflective of the caliber of their performances, or the actual raw rankings they actually received.

The ones who actually ranked in the bottom based on raw ordinals?  It’s actually France (Lisa Angell) and the United Kingdom (Electro Velvet).  But they were spared the ignominy as there were a couple of countries that granted them points–in the case of France, it had Armenia and San Marino, and the UK also had San Marino with Malta and Ireland granting them points.  I also need to give them compliments as there are positive things to say about their presentation–I find the visual backdrops used by France visually stunning plus the virtual army of pink-sweatered martial drummers were a nice touch, and the UK had those lighting effects on the duo’s wardrobe and basically a bright and flashy set overall.  More about the UK entry–I notice the features of the female singer, Bianca Nicholas, seem to be Asian–I wonder if she is of Filipino descent or other Asian nationality?

Another entry that could be said to also have exhibited the Ryan Dolan Conundrum is Spain (Edurne), but the twist is she actually got a lot of countries ranking her in the Top Ten that I’ll probably define her particular scenario with her name from hereon.  I personally loved her presentation, as she brought out a lot of flash with the unveiling of the red robe to a glittering sheer pink bustier evening gown, some dancing, and that hunky backup dancer.  Her 21st place ranking does not reflect the fact that she got eight countries giving her points–more than the entries that ranked 13th to 20th above her (with the exception of Slovenia).  The only bad thing is that those eight countries only granted her a low amount of points, as most of them were fixated on the Top Nine, and she was unfortunately overtaken by countries that have bloc partners granting their entries higher points even if the rest of Europe wouldn’t grant them any.  In fact, if she was ranked based on raw ordinal points, she would’ve actually been 11th overall.

There would always be entries that polarized the jury and the viewing public, and we have six prime examples this year, including Austria, that I have mentioned above.  Four of these entries clicked with the voting public but ranked low overall with the juries.  I partly expected that to be the case with Poland (Monika Kuczynska) and Armenia (Genealogy).  Both those entries suffered from pitch problems that I can understand the low score with the juries–Poland was dead-last with the juries and 15th with the public, and Armenia was 22nd with the juries and 11th with the public.

Two entries that I found surprising that they didn’t win favor with the juries were Serbia (Bojana Stamenov) and Albania (Elhaida Dani).  I liked both of these entries and enjoyed their live performances.  But Serbia only ranked 24th with the juries and Albania 26th.  But fortunately they shored their rankings with the general public, as they were 10th and 9th respectively.  It’s interesting that despite the weak jury vote, Bojana still ended up 10th overall–her Balkan allies helped pull her through in this case (with 12 points from Montenegro), but she also got some scattered support elsewhere, like Australia’s 5 points.  Interesting note with Elhaida Dani–she changed outfits from her semifinal to her final performance; she ditched the caped gown from her semifinal (which I personally loved).

In stark contrast, winning favor with the juries but not with the general public were Austria and Cyprus (John Karayiannis).  At least in the case of John, he still got a big 10 points from Greece and that one point from Slovenia to shore up his fortunes.

Oddly enough traditionally, Greece and Cyprus typically trade douze (12) points with each other but this year they didn’t–they both have one big favorite that trumps them, which was Italy (Il Volo).  Cyprus also preferred another entry that it only granted its bloc partner eight points.  Anyway, it’s interesting that Greece (Maria Elena Kyriakou) only got votes from three countries (Albania, Armenia, and Cyprus), but she was granted high enough points for her to outscore Spain.  Another interesting note is that I noticed it seems Celine Dion is her idol as I hear Celine’s inflections in her singing.

I know Lithuania (Monika Linkyte and Vaidas Baumila) only ranked a middling 18th place, but I’ll still make mention of them as I just love their sunny performance (with an LGBT twist from the backup singers).  I do note it’s a tad sloppier than in the semifinals, with some missed cues (especially since they extended the kiss-pause), but I still adore this puppy dog couple.

Another sentimental favorite of mine was Slovenia (Maraaya) whose 14th place standing is respectable, but if you ask me they should’ve taken the place of one of the “Favorite Nine”.  I think performing first was what cost them a higher ranking.

I was expecting higher placements for Georgia (Nina Sublatti) and most especially Azerbaijan (Elnur Huseynov), as I thought they would be Top Ten shoo-ins.  Instead, they bubbled under at 11th and 12th respectively.  In Nina’s case, if she was ranked based on raw ordinals, she could’ve been 10th instead of Serbia.  Also, it’s interesting that though Azerbaijan and Armenia loathed each other (they mutually ranked each other’s entries last), they both granted Nina 10 points each (and, well, Mother Russia 12 points).  Now, Elnur is a headscratcher as I found no fault with his performance but the ordinal rankings would reflect worse than his actual points ranking–ordinal ranking would have drag him down further to 17th place overall.  I thought Europe would dig his type of stuff, but what didn’t connect?

COMING UP: THE TOP NINE

 

 

I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EUROVISION 2015: MÅN-LY HUNK PREVAILS OVER PLUNGING NECKLINES (PART 1)

The finals of the 60th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest delivered on entertainment, pomp, splendour, musicality, and suspense.  There were also some hiccups in this journey, too–I guess with this contest you would never expect anything to be done smoothly or perfectly, and that is perhaps part of this contest’s charm and intrigue. Eurovision 2015 presenters Alice Tumler, Mirjam Weichselbraun, Arabella Kiesbauer, and Conchita Wurst

The entire event has three main presenters, all female–Alice Tumler, Mirjam Weichselbraun, and Arabella Kiesbauer.  It’s the first time that an all-female main presenting team was hosting this event, and it seems befitting as pop culture is a bit female-dominated at this moment, what with last weeks biggest box office hit movies being female-oriented: Pitch Perfect 2  and surprisingly, Mad Max: Fury Road (yes, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa character is the actual main protagonist of this film with the titular character played by Tom Hardy more of a partner to Furiosa’s mission, not to mention that the film has a strong feminist bent to the point that an organization of male chauvinist pigs actually called for a boycott).

Despite their very German surnames, the appearances of the three main presenters are actually more reflective of a rainbow tribe instead of an all-Caucasian one as one might assume–two of them are bi-racial.  Mocha-complexioned Alice Tumler (her mother is from the French Caribbean island of Martinique) played the role of the liaison between several other cultures, because of her multilingual skills (fluent in English, German, French, and Italian plus proficiency in Spanish and Portuguese).  Nappy-haired dark-complexioned Arabella Kiesbauer (whose father is Ghanaian) served as the voice of maturity and reason among the trio.  Finally, the Caucasian blonde Mirjam Weichselbraun provided a bubbly, innocent vibe to the proceedings.

Though we do regard her as a female even if she isn’t in the anatomical sense of the word, the one with the role of interviewing the performers at the green room was last year’s champion Conchita Wurst.  But her role actually went beyond that, as during the now-traditional parade of nations she was the one announcing the names of the countries competing.  On top of that, she also sang two songs from her latest album as the results were being compiled (which is what a reigning champion would traditionally do in this day and age).

But her finest moments were when she behaved like the gracious ambassador of goodwill towards people who for one reason or another, were associated with controversies that seem to attack people of her kind.  For instance, halfway when the results were announced and Russia was in the lead (with the crowd at the Wiener Stadthalle booing), she interviewed the Russian singer, Polina Gagarina, praising her performance and assuring her that she deserved to be in the lead at that moment.  Then, the final moment when the eventual winner was declared, it was a lovely sight when Conchita and the hunky winner hugged each other–remember that the winner garnered some flak last year over misconstrued homophobic remarks that has since been forgiven.  Conchita was so refreshingly classy that I can’t help but contrast it with the contenders of Rupaul’s Drag Race, which usually involves the drag queens confronting and/or throwing shade at each other.

Let’s talk about the non-competitive-related highlights.  First, there was the awesome opening number.  It started a female violinist playing a few strains of Udo Jurgens’ 1966 winning entry “Merci, Cherie”, followed by orchestral strains of Conchita’s “Rise Like a Phoenix”.  It then segued to the techno beat of the opening theme song, “Building Bridges” and Conchita rising to the stage.  The three hosts then came in black gowns singing the chorus (chirping like a lost 1980s perky Stock-Aitken-Waterman pop act), and Conchita flying across the Wien Stadthalle while hitting soaring high notes.  After seguing to an instrumental featuring the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra, onstage were a choir of children singing the chorus followed, and then Austrian rapper Left Boy leading said chorus to a call-and-response chant that includes rhyming “We would be on” with “Celine Dion” (1988 Eurovision champion for Switzerland, if you could recall), and then all the protagonists gathered together, and immediately following that, the parade of nations.  The parade of nations is a bit of a mess as the artists tend to walk a bit too casually and not really in an orderly manner, but, well, at least we get to see them being introduced and entering the stage.

As part of the “Building Bridges” theme, they also asked fans to send videos of them and a partner from another country where one would do one action and the other would continue it.  One of those submissions was a guy from Turkey sending a paper plane that is then received by a guy from Armenia, and when he opened the message, it seems to be a message of love and peace–this is pretty poignant considering the continuing contention within Turkey about the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Then, there is the interval act.  Martin Grubinger with the Arnold Schoenberg choir.  Their mainly instrumental and mostly wordless highly rhythmic orchestral number was a worthwhile way to pass the time as the audience waited for Europe to complete transmitting their televotes.  Musically and stylistically it provided listeners everything including the kitchen sink.  Bravo to them…

The process of tallying the scores is a long process that lasted about an hour.  Compounding matters was that there were technical gaffes, with disconnections when Portugal, Estonia, and Georgia were about to announce their votes, forcing them to have them announce last instead of their intended sequence.  But there are some good moments like seeing former Eurovision contestants announcing their country’s votes.  Highlight announcers include:

* Finland’s  Krista Siegfrieds referencing her 2013 “Marry Me” declaring she’s engaged.

* Denmark’s Basim (2014 competitor) singing the chorus of the song they gave their 12 points to.

* San Marino’s three-time competitor (2012-2014) Valentina Monetta singing her three songs as she announced her country’s Top Three.  This led to Mirjam jokingly quipping that she’ll see Valentina perform for San Marino again at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest.

* UK’s food goddess Nigella Lawson speaking German (in greeting the hosts), Italian (to announce Italy as one of the Top Three) and French (to announce her country’s top choice) when announcing the results was a major treat–utterly delectable, so to speak.

COMING UP: ANALYSIS AND TRIBUTE TO THE LOWER-RANKED FINALISTS