EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2015 SONG PREVIEW: AUTOMATIC FINALISTS

Three of the seven non-English language entries are found among the automatic finalists, which this year consists of the “Big Five”, the host nation Austria, and “guest” competitor Australia.  Which of them will crack the Top Ten in the finals?  Since the running order will not be known until the finalists are selected, I’ll present them in alphabetical order as follows:

AUSTRALIA: “Tonight Again” – Guy Sebastian.  Eurovision fans were hoping that this country would be represented by superstar Kylie Minogue.  Many of them were let down that it was another person instead.  But then again, one must need to consider that this fellow knows all about competing, as he is the first winner of Australian Idol.  There was talk about the possible scenario on who would host if this entry wins, but though it is a strong entry, I think Sweden, Italy, Norway, and Azerbaijan are more formidable.  I’ll expect a strong Top Ten to Top Five showing for this pop/R&B jam.

AUSTRIA: “I Am Yours” – The Makemakes.  Bo Bice, what are you doing representing Austria in this contest?  Doesn’t the lead singer of this band physically and vocally resemble that American Idol Season 4 runner-up, albeit singing in a more R&B style than what you would expect from the soulful Southern-fried rocker.  This is not expected to duplicate Conchita’s victory, but it will fare respectably.

FRANCE: “N’Oubliez pas [Don’t forget]” – Lisa Angell.  After the debacle that was Twin Twin’s “Moustache” last year, this country is expected to shore up its fortunes with this entry.  It’s clearly more tasteful and respectable, but though I don’t expect this to languish in the bottom like last year, I think its best prospects is a middle-pack showing.

GERMANY: “Black Smoke” – Ann Sophie.  On its merits, it’s a well-written pop song, and also well sung.  Many Eurovision observers and pundits feel this has what it takes to place in the Top Ten overall.  I agree with their assessment.  Not bad for an entry that was actually the runner-up in the national finals.

The national finals is an interesting story.  The actual winner was  Andreas Kummerz, who previously won The Voice of Germany in 2013, with “Heart of Stone”.  Listening to the actual winning entry, I feel that there is a good basis why it won–it’s a catchier song, and Andreas Kummerz is a soulful force of nature.  So why did he decline the “honor” to compete for Germany immediately after being declared the winner? My speculation is Andreas was not really aiming to win but simply to showcase this wonderful, soulfully sung American-style number, and besides that, he probably feels he’s not the sort who can create a good visual image that is needed to make serious inroads in this contest.  But then again, I have a feeling his “anti-charismatic” image may actually work to his benefit if he actually competed in this contest.  His singing chops are just too formidable, and the song is so deliciously good, he could’ve probably have a near-guaranteed Top Five placement with that song.  Such a shame we are only left with a “what-if” scenario.

ITALY:  “Grande Amore [Great Love]” – Il Volo.  I was aware of this operatic trio a few years ago as they promoted their debut album on an episode of American Idol.  Their album made the Top 10 in America and elsewhere around the world.  I think they felt since then they needed an extra kickstart for their career, so they competed at famous San Remo Song Festival, won, and got the right to compete in this contest.  With this lush pop operatic ballad, they might even win it all judging from the buzz amongst Eurovision observers and pundits.  So far it looks like there is a North-South divide in terms on choice of winner: the Northern European states tend to prefer Sweden, while the Southern European states tend to prefer this entry.  Let’s see how this all plays out when the finals come.

SPAIN: “Amanecer [Dawn]” – Edurne.  Again Spain decides to field a female soloist with formidable vocal chops.  But unlike Pastora Soler’s “Quedate Conmigo” and Ruth Lorenzo’s “Dancing in the Rain”, this one is not really a ballad.  It’s a bit too fast to be a ballad, but I can’t say it’s an uptempo number either.  I’ll just call this a classically tinged epic piece instead.  For the performance in the finals, the Spanish contingent will feature a hunky male dancer to accompany Edurne and interpret the lyrics of the song.  A Top Ten placement seems to be assured–but now the question is, can it rank above 10th place?

UNITED KINGDOM: “Still in Love with You” – Electro Velvet.  I have a gnawing feeling the BBC has given up in frustration after Molly’s “Children of the Universe” fell short of pre-contest expectations.  Okay, so this entry is actually entertaining in its 1920s-Charleston-meets-electro-pop fusion, but many Eurovision pundits and observers are concerned that this entry could languish in last place and probably even get the dreaded “nul points” earned by Jemini (another male-female duo) back in 2003.  For their sake, I hope that dire fate will not materialize.

Here’s how I think the finals will end up:

TOP TEN:  RUSSIA, GEORGIA, NORWAY, AZERBAIJAN, ICELAND, SWEDEN, SLOVENIA, AUSTRALIA, ITALY, SPAIN

BUBBLING UNDER:  ESTONIA, SERBIA, BELARUS, ALBANIA, ROMANIA, ISRAEL, AUSTRIA, GERMANY

As I mentioned before, what I predict to make the Top Ten may not necessarily be my personal favorite choices, so let me trot out my own personal favorites.

PERSONAL TOP 10:  1) SWEDEN 2) GEORGIA 3) SLOVENIA  4) SERBIA 5) ICELAND 6) AUSTRALIA 7) BELARUS 8) ALBANIA 9) SPAIN 10) ITALY

BUBBLING UNDER:  F.Y.R. MACEDONIA, AZERBAIJAN, ROMANIA, LITHUANIA, AUSTRIA, BELGIUM

This year’s Eurovision final is looking to be a showdown of hunks–who will win between the Swedish pop hunk or the trio of Italian operatic hunks?  And can Norway, Azerbaijan, Slovenia, Georgia, or Australia overtake those two and pull off an upset?  I’m generally satisfied with the qualities of this year’s entries.  Hope merits will indeed prevail.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

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