Broadcaster RTS held the ninth edition of Beovizija to select its Eurovision representative.  And it’s grander than ever as 24 entries compete in two live semifinal rounds culminating to a grand final.  I’ll be discussing the ones that garnered the most buzz amongst the internet fandom, including a couple that missed making the finals, starting with…

“Boje [Colors]” – Gipsykord. This entry is noted for its disco groove (think the 1999 hit from Australian band Madison Avenue, “Don’t Call Me Baby“) and the revealing jumpsuit sported by the lead singer.  Despite the potential for the visual to have the hetero dudes voting furiously, it wasn’t enough for this to qualify, hurt by the juries not giving it any points and its seventh place finish with the televote not enough for it to make the finals as they were only selecting the Top Six for each heat.  It finished ninth overall in the second semifinal.

“Čudo [Miracle]” – Goga Stanić.  This modern electro-pop number was well regarded by the internet fandom, but because the vocals were far from pitch perfect, it only ended up eight place overall in the second semifinal.

“Viktorija” – Jana Šušteršić. This dramatically arch art ballad has its adherents, and Jana was sufficiently crazily committed in her performance that it’s compelling.  It was undoubtedly a jury darling, though the Serbian public didn’t dig it as much.

“Aritmija [Arrhythmia]” – Sofija Perić. This is a nice electro-pop ditty that also has a significant following amongst the internet fandom.  I do like this number, too, and felt it deserved to finish better than its ninth place finals finish.

“Radnički sin [Worker son]” – Lord.  This artist specializes in fusing upbeat Slavic folk music with electro-pop beats and packaging them in an engaging cabaret show and him showcasing some breakdancing moves.  He made a splash last year with “Samo nek se okreće“, which placed fourth and this entry is in the same vein, with even more energetic dancing.  He deserved to finish higher than his eighth place finish here, in my opinion, for the sheer entertainment level.

“Moja bol [My pain]” – Ivana Vladović & Wonder Strings.  This can be classified as a traditional Balkan ballad, and this is a high quality example of that much-missed genre.  It was third with the jury, but the Serbian public were not as into this so they only ranked this sixth, resulting with this entry finishing fifth place overall.

“Samo bez straha [Just with no fear]” – Nataša & Una. The Serbian public dug this female empowerment number that they overwhelming made this their favorite.  Unfortunately the juries were not that into this that they only ranked this ninth, hence this entry ended up fourth overall.

“Da li čuješ moj glas [Do you hear my voice]” – Sashka Janx. This lady was a veteran who had previously tried to represent this country in 2009, 2013, and last year.  She finished eighth in her first foray but never finished below the Top Three since then, coming closest last year by finishing second.  This is a quality rhythmic pop entry, but as much as it’s beloved by the juries (finishing second), it finished fifth with the televote and hence ending up in third place overall.  Sure, she did set foot on the big Eurovision stage back in 2010 as a backup singer for Milan Stanković (“Ovo je Balkan”) but when will she be given a spotlight for herself?

“Nema suza [No fears]” – Dženan Lončarević.  Here is another good Balkan ballad entry with a presentation featuring a grieving mother knitting.  It finished second with the televote and fourth with the jury, enough for this to finish as runner-up.  Honestly as much as I appreciate this entry and its presentation, I would’ve preferred the other finalists I previously mentioned to outrank this, but I understand how this struck a chord with the Serbian public.


The national selection staged by this country featured an audition process that featured the return of UK rap artist Daz Sampson, who previously represented his home country with “Teenage Life” in 2006   He came to this audition with Nona and their song was “Kinky Boots.  Their entry was undeniably a trashy pop piece that could be considered a guilty pleasure, but it is understandable why it missed making the list of 10 finalists.  Another 2006 Eurovision alumni also joined the fray as MIHAI also submitted his entry meant for the Romanian national selection, “Baya“, but eventually backed out and was a no-show in the audition.  The final was decided solely by seven-member jury, which scored each entry a score from 1 to 10 points, but most of them did not submit a score below 7 points, which is why we witnessed a three-way tie for fourth place.  Here are the most notable finalists.

“No Love Lost” – Keysi. It’s a well-sung martial pop entry, but well, perhaps issues with her diction may have caused her to be marked down a bit.

“Can We Dream” – Alyona Gorbachova. This is a listenable but cliche pop ballad that is well sung, but again, the diction is just too thick.

“Humanize” – Michael Soul. There are a significant amount of fans who were expecting this would be the entry that would represent Belarus, but the juries were not as into this that it also is in a three-way tie for fourth place.  This is an edgy pop ballad and again this has diction issues.  But it’s pretty edgy, and generally wsell-sung.  It deserved to have been runner-up at least instead of a fourth-place finisher.

“Champion” – BLGN & Mirex. It’s so surprising to see a black singer attempting to represent the country that some have dubbed as “White Russia”.  But it seems this artist has been plying his career in these shores for quite a while now.1This R&B pop number is the surprise runner-up for this final

A note for the third placer, “Never Getting Close” by Sebastian Roos–now it’s a headscratcher why the jury scored it this high as ti’s just so mediocre and even amateurish.


This country did not stage a national final per se, but the Italian-language broadcaster RSI disclosed its three finalists publicly that featured an alumni from 2014.  The French and German-language broadcaster also had pooled its own shortlists but did not disclose their finalists, and the eventual winning entry turned out to come from the German-language entity, SRF.  THe three shortlisted entries from the Italian side are all worth checking out.

“Playground” – Scilla Hess. This is a quirky uptempo pop ditty that is a catchy bop.  Though it’s not likely to lift Switzerland’s recent semifinal doldrums it’s still a treat worth checking out.

“Carry the Light” – Sebalter.  The last time Switzerland made the finals was 2014, and representing them was this artist, with “Hunter of Stars“.  This is a poppier, more contemporary sounding number than his previous entry.  It’s uncertain if this would’ve lifted Switzerland’s doldrums, but it’s also worth listening and would’ve had some adherents if this were chosen.

“Mama (I Walk Alone)” – Julie Meletta.  This is also another acoustic-laced boppy ditty that actually topped the Italian pre-selection.  It’s listenable and pretty catchy and would also be considered a well-regarded entry like Switzerland’s two previous entries, but again, there would’ve been no guarantee that this entry will lift Switzerland’s doldrums like the eventual chosen entry.


Of course for most EUrovision fans, the national final to watch was Sweden’s Melodifestivalen. It is a grand six-week extravaganza feature 28 entries competing in four semifinal heats solely determined by popular vote, with the Top Two of each heat automatically advancing to the final.  The third and fourth placer of each heat have a chance to make the finals via the Andra Chansen (Second Chance) round, and four of them would join the eight previously selected automatic finalists.  The typically epic final would then be decided by a combination of jury and televote.  This year did feature a strong field (much better compared to last year in my opinion) though I have to note that I found Australia and Sweden’s national selections more compelling than this one.  Still, there are a host of worthwhile treats to check out, even among the non-finalists starting with…

“Stormbringer” – Pagan Fury. There are a significant amount of Eurovision internet fans who dig this hard rock entry, but unfortunately the Swedish public was not one of them, as this placed dead last in its heat (the fourth semifinal).  I do agree that there is a bit of injustice here, as it deserved better than its last place finish, but them’s the breaks sometimes, as it is pitted against what turned out to be the eventual Top Two finalists.

“Habibi” – Dolly Style.  This is a danceable boppy dance-pop tune with an infusion of Middle-Eastern pop instrumentation.  There is a significant fan base for this act and this is undeniably catchy.  I think what hurt is that people would’ve wanted to see a bit of ethnic visual to accompany with this ditty, but all we see is their typically plastic Barbie doll-style presentation, and hence it ended up fifth in the third semifinal heat.

“Tempo” – Margaret. Speaking of an act with a big fanbase, many were expecting that this Polish singer would’ve been gotten at least a slot at Andra Chansen but it missed the cut and was shut out.  There is nothing to fault this bright, boppy tropical-laced number, but somehow the Swedish public just favored four other entries over this during the second semifinal heat.  For many fans, this was the biggest injustice in this year’s Melodifestivalen.

“Mina bränder [My fires]” – Zeana featuring Anis don Demina. This Swedish-language tropical dance number is high energy and also has a significant amount of adherents, but well, despite garnering enough votes to make Andra Chansen in other semifinal heats, this fell short in the first semifinal heat.

Now, there is one Andra Chansen shut-out that I felt should’ve made the final.  And that is…

“Who I Am” – Rebecka Karlsson.  This pop empowerment ballad was beaten by the older-skewing retro-Motown styled “I Do” by Arvingarna.  Sure, Arvingarna has better credentials since it actually made it to the big Eurovision stage 26 years ago with “Eloise” finishing seventh that year, but this entry is such a powerful treat that for me this should’ve knocked out those veterans.  But well, the Swedish public probably had a soft spot for the older guys that is why they knocked this entry out of the finals instead.

Before I discuss the finalists, I’d like to give a shout-out for the following finalists that took up the rear:  both “I Do Me by Malou Prytz and “Victorious” by Lena Hedlund could be considered danceable empowerment anthems, the former in a more contemporary electro-pop style and the latter in a 1990s-2000s-era bombastic style.  Both entries deserve to outrank Arvingarna, in my opinion, but there seems to be an anti-female bias by both juries and most especially the Swedish public for this particular year.

“Ashes to Ashes” – Anna Bergendahl.  She previously won Melodifestivalen nine years ago with “This is My Life” and she ended up a “goat” as her nervous, tentative performance caused this country’s only semifinal shutout thus far.  She garnered more confidence since then so even if she didn’t win again, this entry could be considered her vindication.

“Torn” – Lisa Ajax. She generated a significant fan following with highly regarded uptempo pop entries in 2016 (“My Heart Wants Me Dead“) and 2017 (the sassy “I Don’t Give A“).  This year, she slowed things down with this stark, moving ballad.  But the anti-girl bias this year pushed this down to a ninth place finish, and many fans felt this deserved to rank much higher.

“Chasing Rivers’ – Nano.  He finished second two years ago with the dramatic drum-and-bass ballad “Hold On“, which placed second that year.  This entry dropped the drum-and-bass and replaced it with an electro-pulse, but it also plumbs similar territory like that entry.  This is a quality entry, but it’s not as compelling as “Hold On” and as such it finished in a sixth place tie with Arvingarna and…

“Not with Me” – Wiktoria.  Like Lisa Ajax, she is renowned for her uptempo pop ditties in an electro-pop-meets-country style in 2016 (“Save Me“) and 2017 (“As I Lay Me Down), and she slowed things down this year with an R&B-tinged ballad inspired by her recent romantic breakup.  It’s terrific and was rooting for this to win or at least fare Top Three, but then again, there is an anti-girl bias this year for some weird reason.

“Hello” – Mohombi.  This guy competed in the same semifinal heat as Wiktoria, and at that time Wiktoria ranked first and he finished second.  For the finals, somehow the Swedish public somehow preferred this entry over Wiktoria.  Sure, it’s a quality pop entry, but in my opinion, Wiktoria and Lisa Ajax deserves to outrank this entry.

“Norrsken (Goeksegh) [Northern lights]” – Jon-Henrik Fjällgren. This Colombian adopted by a Swedish Sami couple has been promoting traditional Sami joik music in this competition, and came close to representing Sweden back in 2015 with “Jag är fri (Manne liam friije) [I am free]“, beaten by the unstoppable Måns Zelmerlöw who eventually won Eurovision 2015 with “Heroes“.  He also ranked high in his second attempt in 2017 with “En värld full av strider (Eatneme gusnie jeenh dåaroeh) [A world full of battles]” in a duet with Aninia, placing third.  He couldn’t quite top those finishes this time, as he placed dead last with the international jury.  At least the Swedish public still love him enough that the points he garnered with his fourth place finish with them helped him secure a fourth place pverall tie with Mohombi.  Wonder what will it take for him to finally see action on the main Eurovision stage?  A dance pop collaboration a la KEiiNO?

“Hold You” – Hanna Ferm & LIAMOO. Hanna could be considered the highest-ranked female act in this year’s contest, but it took her being part of a male-female duet to do that.  This is a romantic pop number that had a significant following.  Me, I think I prefer Lisa Ajax, Wiktoria, or even Joh-Henrik Fjallgren to outrank this entry, which finished in a tie for second place alongside…

“On My Own” – Bishara.  I would’ve loved to call him “Swedish Bieber” but he’s of Syrian descent, so perhaps “Syrian Bieber” is more apt?  Many have criticized that the song doesn’t seem appropriate for this 16-year-old, and I also find this a tad overrated and undeserving of its second-place-tie finish.  But those kiddie demographic propelled him to this high a finish.




Like what they did last year, instead of a multi-artist competition the Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu [New Music Competition] (UMK) internally selected a superstar artist who would then present three songs that an international jury and general public would select as their choice to become the Finnish entry to Eurovision.  This year, the Finnish broadcaster Ylesradio (Yle) selected DJ Darude, who is most famous for his 1999 instrumental smash “Sandstorm”, and Darude recruited actor/singer Sebastian Rejman, who could be dubbed the “Finnish George Clooney” as he is currently starring in a hospital drama similar to the classic 1990s US TV series ER and he is playing a hunky pediatrician.

The first entry presented was “Release Me” and it’s a solid number with a mid-section that though is all synths, seemed to have a reggae-styled rhythm.  It has a significant amount of adherents among internet fans, who tended to prefer this over the one eventually chosen.  But interestingly, this was overtaken by…

…”Superman”.  It seems obvious that this entry was supposedly more of an after-thought.  It shows with the way the artists regarded this song and most of the internet fandom.  But interestingly, the international jury and the Finnish public preferred this over “Release Me” and ranked this their second choice.  Perhaps it’s those little triple-time blips peppered throughout this song that recalled “Sandstorm” that made the juries and public take notice.


This country took a talent show path to select its entry this year, tying it in with Georgian Idol.  Unlike what was done in Malta’s version of X-Factor or Israel’s own search, they also selected the song simultaneously with the artist.

“Me mjera [I believe] – Georgi Pruidze. This long-haired teen sang a Coldplay-styled (think “Clocks“) rock ballad.  It’s actually well-sung and pretty melodic, but this act was not favored much by the Georgian public and placed last among the four finalists.

“Sul tsin iare [Go ahead]” – Giorgi Nakashidze.  A hint that there was favoritism about this song was that this song was performed by two finalists, including the eventual winner.  He can be classified as a hunky heartthrob, but his vocals are no match to the eventual winner and there are some pitch issues especially towards the end of his performance.  To be blunt I found this the weakest amongst the four finalists but his good looks may have gotten enough votes to edge out his namesake and place third.

“Sevdisperi zgva [Silent sea]” – Liza Kalandadze.  The only female finalist in this group offered a dramatic goth ballad.  She was actually leading in prior weeks prior but ultimately lost out and became runner-up in the end.  I doubt if she can improve her on her rival’s current buzz in the regard of Eurovision fans, but still, much respect as it’s well-sung even if most people won’t get it.


For this year’s Söngvakeppnin (Song Contest) they had 10 entries that were divided into two semifinal heats solely determined by popular vote, and the Top Two of each heat advanced to the final, plus a wildcard (the next highest vote-getter of either heat).  This country almost always requires its entries to be performed in native Icelandic, but since 2015, after they are performed in the national language in the semifinal, they allowed the finalists the option to choose preferred language to be performed in the finals.  From there, the Top Two would then go head-to-head in a superfinal and the winner is based on that final round of popular voting.  The quality of this year’s batch is leagues better than last year, with the entries I would cite below likely to easily beat last year’s chosen entry if that entry was to compete this year.  It helps that two of the entries were by artists who previously saw action in the big Eurovision stage.

“Samt ekki [Not Really]” – Daniel Oliver.  English version is entitled the cringe-inducing “Licky Licky“.  The first semifinal heat was front-loaded with strong entries, that even if this entry finished last in its heat it was actually well-regarded in the internet fandom, albeit as a catchy guilty pleasure.

“Nú og hér [Now and Here]” – Þórdís Imsland.  The English version is “What Are You Waiting For?”  This lady has a sweet high innocently girlish voice and it is befitting this catchy and lilting pop number.  Admittedly its stage presentation is a tad dry, and in a highly competitive first semifinal heat, it couldn’t get much headway.  It came close to being granted a wildcard, but one entry beat her to it.  Another interesting note is that the amount of votes she garnered would’ve been enough to advance if she performed in the second semifinal heat.

As sorely I missed seeing her perform in the final, at least we have the consolation of hearing her very pretty acoustic version of the winning song.  For those who speak Icelandic, hearing her lilting voice singing the lyrics is unsettling.  But for us non-Icelandic speakers, it’s an awesome treat.  Anyway, I’m rooting for her to see action in the main Eurovision stage in the future.

“Fighting for Love” Tara Mobee.  The Icelandic version is entitled Betri án þín [Better without you]“.  It’s not a usual sight to see a performer of color in this relatively lily-white country, but anyway it’s nice to see diversity from this country.  This is a very likable club jam and Tara has a sweet soul voice that sells the song.  She advanced to the final by placing second in the less-competitive second semifinal heat.

“Moving On” – Hera Björk.  The Icelandic version is entitled “Eitt andartak [One moment]“.  Many fans were excited learning she’ll be seeing action in this national final and are rooting for her return to the big Eurovision stage after her 2010 stint with “Je ne sais quoi“.  But unlike the Euroclub jam of her previous entry, she opted to compete with a ballad this time and unfortunately it backfired as even she was an automatic finalist in the highly competitive first semifinal heat, she was edged out by the wildcard entry in the final.

“Mama Said” – Kristina Skoubo Bærendsen.  Icelandic version: “Ég á mig sjálf [I own myself].”  This sassy retro-Motown-ish entry wasn’t an automatic qualifier to the final as it was beaten by Hera Björk and the eventual champion in the first semifinal heat, and needed a wildcard to make it to the final.  She was the only one who significantly changed the staging from her semifinals to the final, as during the semifinals, it was a tentative affair with her in a gold jacket and leather miniskirt with four backing dancers.  She changed her styling in the final as she sported straight hair and then wielded a guitar instead of joining in the choreography,  It actually worked as she generated a badass presence in her new look, and that helped her outrank Hera in the end.  Still, the juries and public preferred to reward the two finalists that opted to still perform in Icelandic.

“Hvað ef ég get ekki elskað? [What if I can’t have love?]”Friðrik Ómar.  He previously saw action in the main Eurovision stage eleven years ago as part of the techno-pop duo Euroband which placed 14th with “This is My Life”.  Like Hera, he decided to come with a ballad this year, and it’s a lovely, soulfully sung waltzing retro-pop ballad.  He also exuded sex appeal with the tight all-white outfit he sported showcasing how well he has maintained himself after all those years.  I have a feeling if he won, he would opt to perform the English version in Tel Aviv, but I have to salute the savvy strategizing on his part to stay Icelandic during the national selection,  But the winning entry was undeniably unstoppable and deservingly so.


This year’s Melodi Grand Prix was chock-full of high quality entries, that I’ll shine a spotlight on eight of the 10 finalists.  And those two I didn’t cite, I’ll still give a couple of notes:  Erlend Brattland (“Sing For You”) physically resembles Adam Lambert if he decided to let himself go and be pudgy, but he’s saddled with a so-so song, and I doubt if he has Adam’s powerful vocal range, while “Fake It” by Hank von Hell was a highly entertaining glam rock number, but his staging was a tad cheesy.  Now, the more notable finalists:

“Hold Me Down” – Carina Dahl. This is a nice danceable empowerment pop anthem.  In a lesser year this could make it to the “silver” final round, but with such a strong field this year, and with her vocals not that pitch-perfect in the middle sections, this couldn’t make serious inroads.  Still it is well-regarded by a few fans.

“Feel” – Ingrid Berg Mehus.  She has a connection to Alexander Rybak as they were a couple as teenagers, both studying and perfecting their musical craft in school.  It could be said that Alexander’s Eurovision-winning song from ten years ago, “Fairytale“, was actually about their romance.  And like Alexander, she is blessed with youthful genes that even if she’s in her early 30s, she could still pass as a teenage ingenue.  This sophisticated classical-music-infused electro-pop is a lovely listen and could’ve been a worthy entry on the main Eurovision stage.

“We Try” – Chris Medina.  American Idol fans would remember him for his Season 10 (2010) human interest story involving his then-fiancee, how she was suffering from a brain hemorrhage after a car accident that took place two months before they were slated to be married.  He didn’t make it to the live rounds, but he has been generating a greater profile than those who ranked ahead of him.   He actually has Norwegian heritage, and after breaking up from said fiancee five years ago he has been residing in this country since then.  This is a well-crafted pop song and would’ve been super-final worthy in another year.

“En livredd mann [A terrified man]” – Mørland.  This guy previously represented Norway at Eurovision four years ago with his duet with Debrah Scarlett, the Marcel Bezençon-award winning ballad “A Monster Like Me“.  He plumbs a similarly haunting classical style with this entry, but it is now in the Norwegian language, and it had a few pulsing avant-garde uptempo electro-synth touches.  I thought this entry would’ve been in the gold duel with the eventual winner, so I’m slightly upset that this didn’t even advance to the silver final.  I can only console myself that at least one jury gave it its douze (12) points–did the other international juries mark this down because it was sung in Norwegian?  Anyway, he technically still made it in the gold duel, as he co-wrote the runner-up entry, but still, I love this number, even if I don’t understand or speak Norwegian.

“Holla” – Anna-Lisa Kumoji. We have to hand it that this trap-infused entry is loaded with sass and that probably what caused it to garner high mark with the international jury and that made it edge out Mørland and reached the super-final.  It is a highly entertaining entry, and I do like this number.

“Mr. Unicorn” – D’Sound. Many Eurovision fans are surprised that this turned out to be the jury darling, garnering four douze (12) points out of ten.  Interestingly, if this was the winner, it would’ve had the opportunity to tap a previously uncatered audience to garner votes its way on the main Eurovision stage.  You see, this jazz-pop act is a major fixture in Philippine radio airwaves for over 20 years now, with mellow songs like “Do I Need a Reason” and “Tattooed on My Mind“, the latter now a staple of many a debut, prom, or wedding setlist in our shores.  They even collaborated with a Filipino artist, Up Dharma Down frontwoman Armi Millare on the 2018 single “Lykkelig [Happy]“, which despite its Norwegian title, its lyrics were entirely in Tagalog.  For their Eurovision foray, they went with a catchy Daft Punk-style uptempo ditty.  I think the sound was catnip to the international jury, but in the superfinal, it’s dependent solely on televote, and this entry lacked that televote support within Norway.  If only there was enough of the Filipino diaspora residing in this part of the world, imagine them flooding phone lines to vote for this entry.

“The Bubble” – Adrian Jørgenson.  Not only did Mørland co-write this Ed Sheeran-style acoustic rock entry, but another Eurovision veteran lent a hand–Garth Brooks, er, Chris Gaines, er Alexander Walmann (“Grab the Moment” with JOWST back in 2017) was also co-writer.  It got great marks with the international jury as it got three douze (12) points, and has enough support to advance to the gold duel.


Originally, this country’s broadcaster TRM intended to have 28 shortlisted entries compete in a two-heat semifinal stage before the grand final, but abruptly decided to immediately whittle down the list to ten and just hold one single final.  Admittedly the pickings are slim, but here are the most worthwhile ones from the list.

“Gravity” – Lemonique. This electro-pop entry finished in a three-way tie for third place, finishing fourth with the jury and third with the televote.  It’s an interesting, intriguing listen and arguably would’ve helped Moldova make more inroads in the admittedly crowded Eurovision second semifinal.

“Cold” – Vera Turcanu.  This is an avant-pop EDM entry and for the final it was presented with four male dancers in long skirts.  If Moldova was drawn in the first semifinal instead of the second, this would’ve fit in with the risky entries in that bracket.  It traded places with Lemonique, placing third with the jury and fourth with the general public.

“Lies” – Diana Brescan.  Diana has a powerful voice, but this waltzing ballad is a cliche.  Yet her powerful vocals won over the jury which ranked this second.  But the general public didn’t dig it, ranking it sixth, hence the total points she garnered made her tie with the more intriguing and listenable entries from Lemonique and Vera Turcanu.

“I Will Not Surrender” – Maxim Zavidia. Amongst the internet fandom this cheesy, cliche, poorly-enunciated rhythmic pop ballad was not highly regarded.  The juries didn’t have a high regard for this, ranking it sixth.  But oddly, it won the televote and actually beat the eventual champion here by a four-to-one margin.  But since points are determined by ranking and did not factor in the proportion of votes garnered, this entry only ended up second overall.  Anyway, I’m glad this didn’t win, and to be blunt, I would rather have Lemonique and Vera Turcanu outrank him.


I find it intriguing that the key standouts of this year’s Festival da Canção are acts of color, as three of the highly regarded favorites were not white.  I’m all for diversity, and this country featured a host of them this year.

“A dois [For two]” – Calema.  There are a significant amount of fans who dig the R&B style of this brotherly duo.  It’s a strong number, indeed, and is radio-friendly.  But while it finished a solid fourth with the general public, the juries didn’t quite dig this and ranked it second-to-last among the finalists, making this entry finish sixth overall.

“Pugna [Struggle]” – Surma. The winning entry was not the only avant-garde number in this roster as this one is also off-the-beaten-track.  It’s a challenging listen but it’s rewarding for those who are open to this kind of sound.  It finished third with the jury but second-to-last with the televote, resulting in a fifth-place finish overall.

“Munda a mudar [World is changing]”.  This is a very traditional acoustic entry, so it’s expected why it finished in a tie for fourth place with the jury.  The general public ranked this fifth, but this results with this finishing fourth overall.  To jazz up what could’ve been a quite presentation, the performers sported face paint.

“Perfeito [Perfect]” – Calema. During the first semifinal heat, this entry actually beat the eventual champion as the narrower set of juries cotton to this conventionally traditional classical ballad with an R&B twist (coming from the singer’s soulful, James Ingram*5-esque voice..  But with a larger jury pool in the final (arranged across regions), it turns out this doesn’t have as much support as initially perceived, ranking in a tie for fourth with the jury.  But it was popular with the televote, placing second behind the champion.

*5 James Ingram recently passed away.  May God bless his soul.

“Igual a ti [Same as you]” – NBC.  NBC in this case doesn’t stand for the US TV network, but for “Natural Black Color”, since this singer is black.  I love this song, and I like this singer’s charisma and stage moves as he performed this pop ballad.  But he has even flyer dance moves, as you would witness as he joined in when the champion reprised his winning song–could he join them in Tel Aviv as an additional backup dancer?

Coming up:  the Week of March 4-10.




For this year’s national final, dubbed Unser Lied für Israel (“Our Song for Israel”) they fielded seven finalists, one of whom was a “wildcard” that came in late in the game.  It turns out that wildcard became the champion.  The weightings of this selection is unique as on top of televotes and an international jury, they also factored in votes from a 100-member panel of “superfans” as a third component.  It led to some interesting stats–though the eventual winner won both televote and international jury, the superfans marked it down to fifth place.  This resulted in a closely fought contest…

“Our City” – Linus Bruhn. Linus has a dreamy teen boy appeal that can get hormonal teenage girls a tizzy and this entry is a likable electro-pop ditty.  He didn’t finish below fourth place (with the superfans) and actually finished third with both jury and televote.  But he was pushed down to fifth place overall as the entries ranked above him turned out to have polarizing reactions with each component.

“Wear Your Love” – Aly Ryan. The superfans (and many of the YouTube fan rankings I encountered) ranked this dance ditty as their favorite to win, and hence it topped the superfan vote.  However, the international jury were not as fond of this, placing it fifth and this entry placed fourth with the televote, resulting in a fourth place overall finish.

“Surprise” – Lilly Among Clouds.  I have a feeling she is highly inspired by Kate Bush as she is very much like a clone of that legendarily iconoclastic artist if Kate’s voice is a mezzo instead of a soprano with a throatier register.  Televoters particularly loved this placing it second, while it finished third with the superfans and fared the weakest with the jury, who marked her for fourth.  I would’ve preferred that this or Aly Ryan won, to be honest, and those two would’ve given Germany a chance to sustain the high finish delivered last year by Michael Schulte and not return to the bottom doldrums.

“The Day I Loved You Most” – Makeda.  This is a pretty, simple ballad that is well-sung and it tugged the hearts of the superfans and jury, who placed this second.  However, this is marked down by the televote, who placed this in fifth.  I’m not as bullish as the prospects of this entry at the big Eurovision stage, but I would’ve also preferred this to win over the eventual winner.



Like what happened in Romania’s Selecția Națională, Hungary’s A Dal jury had a heavy say in the results.  In a protracted process lasting three weeks, the 30 shortlisted entries were divided into three groups of 10 competing against each other in an initial heat, and the judges select their top five for each heat and one of the remaining entries can join these five via popular vote.  The resulting 18 would then be divided into two groups of nine and the jury selects its top three entries of each semifinal round to advance automatically to the finals and the fourth finalist for each heat determined by popular vote.  Like last year, for the finals, the jury would then decide their four favorites who would then compete in a superfinal that is determined solely by popular vote.  The jury here serves as gatekeepers and this year, their “peculiar” tastes undermined the prospects of many fan favorites, like…

“Incomplete” – yesyes.  Many fans (including myself) have a high regard for this entry, pegging this the favorite to win A Dal, especially since many are hungering for vindication as this act was also the favorite to win last year with “I Let You Run Away“.  This entry is the same high-quality electro-accordion-laced pop-rock that may not be as brilliant as the previous entry, but still terrific.  Unfortunately, for some odd reason, the four-person jury are just not that into this entry–this struggled in the first heat as it had to win the televote to advance to the semifinals and then since the jury is in full control of the semifinals, they marked this down so much that it ranked in a tie for seventh in its semifinal heat.  Another, even more outrageous injustice was committed against this duo, and I’m not alone in thinking this.

“Help Me Out of Here” – Petruska.  The jury actually dug this entry and selected this lilting guitar folk ditty to the finals.  However somebody noticed that the ditty sound so similar to US band The Vampire Weekend‘s “White Sky” so glaringly that after an expert examination it was deemed to be a plagiarism and this entry was disqualified.  Listening to the songs concerned, I agree with the disqualification, despite vehement denials from the band they copied the song.  So advancing to the finals in its place was…

Hozzád bújnék [I want to snuggle with you]”Gergő Oláh.  I find his swarthy features kinda appealing even if I heard other fans deem him homely.  It’s a pretty listenable pop ballad.  Interestingly, while the disqualified entry was from the first semifinal heat, this entry was from the second semifinal heat and was chosen to advance because of its high total score.

“Kulcs [Key]” – Fatal Error. Here is a hard rock act who wanted to follow AWS‘s win last year.  This entry had mellower passages than AWS’s entry but the hard rock was undeniable.  The jury were not that impressed that it took the popular vote for this entry to advance to the finals.

“Roses” – Middletonz.  This is András Kállay-Saunders‘ fifth time competing here.  He had previously won the right to represent Hungary five years ago and delivered this country’s second best showing thus far with “Running“.  Since then, he competed in A Dal in a band setting, like in 2016 and 2017 in his eponymously-named band, and now as part of a duo with Dutch rapper Farshad Alebatool.  With yesyes missing the finals, many fans were rallying behind this entry but the jury don’t dig this reggae/electro-rock/rap fusion and did not receive enough marks to advance to the superfinal.

“Madár, repülj! [Bird, fly!]” – Gergő Szekér.  Sensing that the jury might prefer a native-language entry, some fans felt this is the best bet (besides the eventual winner) among such entries.  It’s a quality narrative electro-pop ballad.  Again, the jury seem to have other ideas as this is probably a tad too dynamic for their tastes and hence this missed advancing to the superfinal.

“Holnap [Tomorrow]” – Bogi Nagy. This artist is different from the singer who represented Hungary four years ago, who went by the name Boggie.  But it’s understandable why some fans might make the confusing as both acts fielded quiet sleeper ballads.  To distinguish between these girls, this one performed a more pop-oriented Hungarian language ballad.  It’s a pretty pop ballad, but well, it takes a certain temperament to appreciate this, and most fans wouldn’t put this in as high a regard.

“Szótlanság [Speechlessness]” – Bence Vavra.  This is a well-sung, well-presented pop ballad entry, so this making the superfinal is acceptable.

“Nyári zápor [Summer rain]” – Acoustic Planet.  This year, the jury tend to prefer mellower entries than the more dynamic entries delivered by yesyes, the Middletonz and even Gergő Szekér. The jury ranked this second, and for some fans’ ears (including myself) this act was way overrated especially since the lead singer missed a few notes during the finals that they should’ve been penalized and have Gergő or the Middletonz advance instead.


If you think Hungary’s six-week format was a slog to go through, it has nothing on Lithuania which has a seven-week schedule, featuring four weeks of heats, followed by a two-week semifinal and then the finals.  The big story of this national selection was Monika Marija, who fielded two entries that were so good they were big instant fan favorites and many (including myself) believed she would’ve been the shoo-in winner and the question would only be for which song.  But somehow, a big upset was in the offing.

“CTRL ALT DELETE” – Jurgis Brūzga.  “Funky Seth Green” is back after his runner-up finish last year with “4 Love“.  This time, he slowed the tempo down a bit but the groove is still undeniably funky and we are still treated to his tightly choreographed posse trio.  Unfortunately the song is not as strong as his previous entry and it showed in the results, as this ended up in seventh place in the finals.

“Your Cure” – Alen Chicco. His multiple facial (and cranial) piercings may frighten some people but once you look past that, along with the unusual folk costuming, you can appreciate this otherwise conventional pop number.  The interesting story is that he only got to advance to the finals because after Monika Marija‘s “Criminal” advanced in the second semifinal, she chose to withdraw that song so she can focus her energy on her other song.

“Sing!” – Jurgis DID & Erica Jennings. Jurgis DID actually previously made it to the big Eurovision stage as part of the band InCulto back in 2010 with the amusing “Eastern European Funk“.  Now in a couples act with his Irish-Lithuanian wife, we are still treated to his cabaret theatricality and loopy humor and this entry is actually an enjoyable treat, so its fourth place showing is laudable.

“Mažulė (Babe)” – Antikvariniai Kašpirovskio Dantys.  There is a term for the Eastern European (typically Slavic) lower-class person:  gopnik.  This act brought some gopnik realness with their performance and yes, it’s fun and catchy.  They came pretty close to winning as they placed third–they would’ve been the “novelty/troll” act for this year if they won.

“Criminal” and “Light On” – Monika Marija. I’m baffled and upset that despite fielding arguably the two strongest entries in this national final, Monika didn’t win.  Both entries are beautiful, high-quality ballads. “Criminal” is a dramatic, orchestral piece about a mea culpa for a slight she committed towards someone and “Light On” a soulful number (yes, it has a few similarities with Sam Smith’s Stay with Me” but I won’t take that against her) with a personal human interest story as it’s about her recovery from a life-threatening illness.  EIther song would’ve almost secured this country a slot in the Eurovision grand final, but well, it turned out the winning entry had a larger fan base and favoritism with the jury so he was chosen over her.  Oh well, a major missed opportunity here, if you ask me.


There is a lot of politics-fueled drama in this year’s Vidbir as the broadcaster NTU, realizing the line-up featured acts who have strong ties with its nemesis Russia, decided to impose additional rules including that the winner of the contest is not guaranteed to compete in Eurovision, especially if that act doesn’t agree with the onerous contract it chooses to impose.  It’s shameful this happened and all the goodwill this country garnered when Russia invaded its eastern portion and annexed Crimea dissipated by the act of this broadcaster.  It is also interesting that the winning act was actually a replacement for a previously shortlisted, highly regarded act with a great track record in this national selection…

“Ochi [Eyes]” – Tayanna.  For past two years, Tayanna competed in this contest and came pretty close to representing Ukraine, finishing a close runner-up in both occasions.  Many fans felt this time should be her vindication and that she could finally be the winner.  Unfortunately, she then announced on 22 January that due to “unforeseen circumstances” and to make way for other worthy artists, she would withdraw from this competition.  Now that we got to hear what would’ve been her entry, could she have been the winner?  Well, this ethno-pop piece with orchestral and tropical elements is a strong entry, but as it turns out it’s a highly competitive field this year that not only I’ll discuss all the six finalists but a couple of notable semifinalists.  Boy, what a messy pot Tayanna had stirred with her withdrawal…

“Hate” – Tsesho.  This is an avant-garde piece that can polarize listeners, but I found this entry extremely entertaining, and I think it is meant to make you think about what’s going on in today’s society and interpreted in multiple levels, like political or personal.  The three-person jury (featuring Andriy Danilko a.k.a. Verka Serduchka and Jamala) marked this down in fourth place, while the public placed this in its Top Three.  But it missed the cut as it was beaten by the jury darling in this heat, as its first place ranking offset its fourth place finish with the public.

“2 dni [2 days]” – Laud.  Last year, he made it to the finals with the Rag’N’Bone Man-inspired song “Waiting“.  This native language balladic entry is a tad more original and won over the three-person jury who ranked this third.  Unfortunately the Ukrainian public were not that into this number, as it ended up in sixth place with the televote, and as a result finished fourth in its heat and could not advance to the final.

“My Road” – Anna Maria.  This rhythmic number performed by a pair of red-haired twins impressed many fans (including myself).  However, during the finals, the jury marked this down as last mainly because of political reasons, since the twins’ parents work for the Russian administration in occupied Crimea.  Not even a fifth place showing in televote was enough for it to rise above last place.

“Galyna Guliala” – YUKO.  This rap-pop number reportedly featured passages lifted from an ond Ukrainian folk song.  This was a jury darling, as the juries placed it first in the semifinal heat and in the finals ranked it third.  The public beg to differ as this placed fourth in the semifinal and last in the final.

“Houston” – Brunettes Shoot Blondes.  This is a pretty boy-band pop ballad that is actually a very pleasant listen.  The multi-gadget piano gimmick is also a very interesting sight.  Ranking fifth with the jury and fourth with the televote, it was actually tied with Yuko in points, but the tie was broken as this entry had the higher popular vote rank, so this was officially fourth.

“Apart” – Kazka.  This band actually has an international profile as it had already charted throughout Eastern Europe, especially with their 2018 hit “Plakala [She cried]/Cry“. Their ethno-infused electro-pop sound continued with this entry, and many fans thought this was the biggest rival to the eventual winner to represent Ukraine.  But the juries were not as fond of this number, ranking this fourth.  It was second with the public vote, and this helped salvage a strong third place finish for this entry.

“Cupidon” – Freedom Jazz.  This all-female retro-jazz band were not in many fans’ radars, but when I saw footage of their quirky high-energy semifinal performance, I became a bit obsessed with them.  First thing that would catch your eye is the glaringly obvious baby bump on the lead singer, who resembles Dixie Chicks‘ lead singer Natalie Maines and was reportedly eight months pregnant during this national selection.  Secondly, the retro-style vocal harmonies are very much on-point.  Finally, their showmanship was undeniable.  With all that I realized it was a three-way race and there’s a side of me that was rooting for this to win–in what was turning out to be a quirky year for Eurovision overall, this would ratchet up that quirk factor.  Two members of the three-person jury, Jamala and producer Yehlen Filatov (Onuka) were also rooting for their win and their first place votes made this the top-notcher with the jury.  If you know Jamala’s 2011 national finals entry, “Smile“, you would understand why she would particularly adore this entry.  The Ukrainian public, though, placed it third, and that allowed the eventual winner to eke out a victory.

Since Ukraine eventually withdrew from this year’s Eurovision since the winner did not agree to the onerous contract being offered by the broadcaster, and all the other finalists opted not to agree to replace the winner, I would normally discuss the winner in this portion of this essay.  But I choose to pay tribute to this entry in my main Eurovision song review article.


The Dansk Melodi Grand Prix this year was deemed a relatively low-key affair, but there are a few entries worthy of your attention…

“Kiss Like This” – Jasmin Gabay.  There is something about her features that made me think if she has Filipino blood in her veins, but then when I listen to this tropical pop number I wonder if her heritage leans more Latin American instead.  I like this entry, but if this was chosen as the entry it would’ve been drowned by the three “Fuego” semi-clones.

“Anywhere” – Simone Emelie.  Many fans adore this sweet electro-pop ditty, that it’s shocking it fell short of advancing to the superfinal at least.  Sure this ingenue has the occasional bum notes, but it’s still a fine listen.  I have a feeling this actually did well in the televote but the jury marked this down.

“Say My Name” – Sigmund.  It’s interesting that the highest ranked male entry in this year’s national final was an effeminate LGBTQ act.  I can understand why this ranked high with the jury as there was flash in this presentation and he hit his notes better than Simone Emelie.  There was also consolation that there are leather clad male backup dancers for some eye candy.  Still, I prefer Simone Emelie to advance over this guy, but I can tolerate him.

“League of Light” – Julie & Nina.  The jury missed the opportunity to bring Greenlandic Inuit realness to Eurovision as they marked this entry down to third, that even if it won the popular vote, its points were not enough to beat the eventual, cutesy winner.  Yeah, their staging was a tad too simple to the point of being forgettable (and hence this might be why the jury penalized them), but it’s a special entry that deserved to see action in the big Eurovision stage instead of something that we have already seen before.  I feel frustrated for this entry.

Coming Up:  Week of March 2-4