Category Archives: Music

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2017: TRIUMPH OF THE UNDERDOGS, PREVALENCE OF Y-CHROMOSOMES (CONCLUSION)

Normally at this juncture I will be discussing and highlighting the Top Ten.  But this year, I have decided to focus on a Top 12, because the two entries that officially bubbled under the Top 10 looks like would’ve made the cut if the 2013-2015 composite score system was used.  Without further ado, let’s begin with…

12TH PLACE:  FRANCE (Alma, “Requiem”).  A few days after the contest, Alma was interviewed stating she was disappointed that she was not able to duplicate Amir’s Top 10 finish.  There is frustration particularly since the entry is a well-regarded quality entry–it seemed to have been pulled down by the low jury scores it received (ending up a lowly 19th) as it ranked 10th with the televote.  But if we examine the full ordinal rank and apply the composite score system, it turns out it endured the Edurne Paradox with the juries.  The ordinals reveal it was actually 15th with the juries and overtook Croatia to be 9th with the televote, and its overall placement would’ve been 9th place.  It got jury votes from 12 countries, more than what Greece (7), Hungary (8), Belarus (11), and Romania (11).  Its disadvantage was the highest points it got from any one country is only six,  courtesy of Italy and Israel.

11TH PLACE:  NETHERLANDS (OG3NE, “Lights and Shadows”).  There is no doubt this act was a major jury darling, placing 5th, and had a big disadvantage that it wasn’t as strong in the televote, languishing in 19th, shored up mainly by Belgium’s 10 points, and a few points from four other countries.  The full ordinals reveal that overall it ranked 13th with the televote, which indicates that even if it received points from a mere five countries, it bubbled under below the Top 10 in many other countries–a demonstration of the Ryan Dolan Conundrum.  If the composite scoring system was applied, it would’ve ranked 10th, but the fact that it exceeded many Eurovision fans’ expectations when they performed live and ended up equaling the result of similar underdog, Douwe Bob’s Tight Pants Slow Down”, it’s a feat still worth applauding.

10TH PLACE:  NORWAY (JOWST featuring Garth Brooks Alexander Walmann, “Grab the Moment”).  It was 6th behind the Netherlands in juries but a relatively respectable 29 points with the televote (making it rank 15th) helped pip the Dutch sisterly trio to snag 10th place.  I’m okay that this underdog did better than what most fans expected thanks to the jury love, though I know there are sentiments that felt that France, Netherlands, and perhaps even the United Kingdom deserve to belong in the Top 10 over this entry.  Speaking of which…

9TH PLACE:  AUSTRALIA (Isaiah Firebrace, “Don’t Come Easy”).  Much has been said about the massive jury love for this entry despite a clearly flawed live performance in both the semifinal and final–for the final, Isaiah may have avoided squawking as he delivered the song’s climax, but he also obviously dodged the climactic high note by singing in a lower key.  It was officially 2nd to last in the televote with a stunningly low two points, pipping past Austria’s nil points.  To some observers, it deserved to rank this low, but I examimed the full ordinal and discovered the televote ordinals actually placed him at a slightly more respectable 18th place–yes it still shows that the public were not that into him, but it showed that the public actually preferred his act better than, say, Germany and Spain.  Using the composite system, it would’ve ranked 12th and be out of the Top 10 to make way for France and Netherlands.

The Top Eight overall also happened to be the Top Eight in the televote, demonstrating the high concentration of televote points amongst these top finishers were crucial in bringing forth these entries’ overall placements.

8TH PLACE:  HUNGARY (Joci Papai, “Origo”).  He was the only one who changed wardrobe between semifinal and final–he was wearing a black leather jacket with blue shirt and beaded vest during the semifinal but he changed to a gold embroidered jacket and black collarless undershirt for the final.  I personally preferred his semifinal outfit.  It was a mere 17th with the juries, but the 152 points he amassed with the televote (ranking 7th) helped shore up his fortunes to finish 8th overall.

7TH PLACE:  ROMANIA (Ilinca & Alex Florea, “Yodel It!”).  The juries were not fond of this entry, with only 10 countries giving it points.  It ranked 14th in the juries thanks to high marks from traditional ally Moldova (12 points) and Montenegro (10 points), but certain entries that ranked below this in points actually garnered top 10 placements from more countries, like 15th place Armenia (15), 16th place Belarus (11),  and 19th place France (12).  The full ordinals reveal it would’ve ranked 19th with the juries.  Still, the massive love it received from the general public with a massive 224 points (5th place) helped give this entry a strong 7th place finish.

6TH PLACE:  ITALY (Francesco Gabbani, “Occidentali’s Karma”).  Sure a 6th place overall finish was nothing to sneeze at, but many prognosticators (including myself) thought it’s a given that this would be the winner.  Little did we know that the juries decide to seriously mark it down, with 22 juries not placing this in their Top 10 (and Estonia, FYR Macedonia, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Ukraine, and the UK even ranking it 20th place or below).  True, being forced to remove a couple of lines from the first verse and the entire, more biting second verse may have diluted the song’s power, but I also heard criticism that some people found the brightly lit presentation rather “frantic”.  As a result, it finished 7th with the juries.  The public also seemed to also tire of this entry’s hype a bit, but they still love it enough to give it 208 points, to make this finish 6th overall.

5TH PLACE:  SWEDEN (Robin Bengtsson, “I Can’t Go On”).  This is clearly a jury darling, and it finished 3rd there with 218 points.  But it ranked 8th in the televote, which made its overall ranking drop a bit to 5th.  On the surface, it could mean that backup singer/dancer Alvaro Estrella’s 3rd place streak is broken.  But if you examine the ordinals and if the composite system was employed, it turns out Alvaro’s streak was preserved as it swaps places with the actual third placer in this scenario.

4TH PLACE:  BELGIUM (Blanche, “City Lights”).  To her credit she overcame most of her wobbling issues in the final but because she got her act together, instead of the jurors shutting her out of the Top 10, this finished 9th.  But the public just simply adore her number and are more forgiving.  Hence, with the whopping 255 points it received from the televote, those points help make this entry’s overall rank equal its televote rank.  Anyway, at least it managed to hold on to the strong pre-contest hype and post-Eurovision managed to have a bit of impact in the European charts.

There are two characteristics about this year’s Top Three.  First, all three are male actss.  Second, all three are from countries who have a checkered history in this contest, with a host of weak prior finishes and never placing as high as they did this year.

3RD PLACE:  MOLDOVA (Sunstroke Project, “Hey Mamma!”).  The jury appreciated enough the unadulterated fun, polished presentation to rank it 8th.  But the massive love from fans of “Epic Sax Guy” all over Europe help this band vindicate its 22nd place showing back in 2010 and bring forth Moldova’s best finish ever, finally overtaking overrated Zdob si Zdub’s 6th place finish in the country’s debut showing in 2005 with “Boonika Bate Toba“. Like Belgium, the massive 264 points it received from the public helped it finish overall at the same rank as its televote rank.  Interestingly, if we employ the ordinal rank it would’ve been 4th and the composite system would’ve made it 4th or 5th–taking its place, as I earlier mentioned, would be Sweden.

2ND PLACE:  BULGARIA (Russian Bieber Kristian Kostov, “Beautiful Mess”).  Well, it’s no surprise this entry would rank high and even if I still prefer Poli Genova‘s breakthrough entry last year over this one, I could see why this entry ended up beating Poli’s already remarkable 4th place showing. Many pundits thought this would have been stronger with the public, probably even win the televote.  Well, that actually rang true as it garnered 337 points in the televote over 278 in the juries, but those massive scores were only enough for second in both categories.  Still the points it amassed would’ve been enough to win in other years; using the composite system it would’ve gotten 350 points, which only the Scandinavian triumvirate of Alexander Rybak, Loreen, and Måns Zelmerlöw have previously exceeded.  But in this contest, it turns out the juries and the public were way more enamored towards…

1ST PLACE:  PORTUGAL (Salvador Sobral, “Amor pelos dois [Love for both]”).  I appreciate this classy retro ballad, and am aware of the rising buzz it has been receiving as the competition was underway, though I didn’t expect that this entry will end up dominating the contest the way it did.  But it’s refreshing that a quality, old-fashioned ballad can still be relevant and connect to the modern public.  It’s so dominant, that if you employ the composite point system, it will beat the 389-points record set by Norway’s Alexander Rybak (“Fairytale”)–in fact it would hit above the 410 level using this system.

Turns out Salvador has a tendency to be a bit outspoken to the point that he ruffles other people the wrong way.  For instance after being declared the victor, he made this now-controversial remark:  “We live in a world of disposable music — fast-food music without any content,  I think this could be a victory for music that actually means something. Music is not fireworks. Music is feeling.”  Unlike the memorably gracious remarks delivered by Conchita Wurst in 2014 and  Måns Zelmerlöw in 2015, both of which emphasized unity and compassion, Salvador’s speech threw shade at the state of modern pop music, and of course other contenders did not take that well, like Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson declaring his statment is not a statement of a true winner, and Romania’s Alex Florea outright denouncing him for using “cheap theatrics”.  I do agree Salvador’s speech is not gracious at all, but well, he probably has his own convictions of what quality music should be, but well, we have to also realize that one person cannot be the sole arbiter of musical taste–there should be room for commercial pop and flashy spectacle as keeping things all slow and dignified would make a musical event like Eurovision boring.

It was a kinda stormy path on the way to this year’s contest, with all those controversies and recriminations.  Portugal was a welcome winner, and we look forward to what Portugal would bring to the table as it hosts next year’s contest.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2017: TRIUMPH OF THE UNDERDOGS, PREVALENCE OF Y-CHROMOSOMES (PART 2)

For me, the fun part of reviewing this contest is to dissect and analyze the points that were disseminated, as the EBU graciously discloses all rankings and breakdown of the numbers.  And there are interesting stories that can be found here.  For instance, on the televote side, the Top 10 took a whopping 87.64% of all the available points to be allocated, leaving the bottom 16 to scramble for a measly 12.36%–this beats the record set in 1976 in terms of point concentration of the Top 10 vis-a-vis the rest of the entries.  The heavy concentration of points help explain how this year the televote points were the most crucial determinant for the final ranking.  I’ll of course discuss the entries that were found on the right side of the scoreboard…

To no one’s surprise, holding up the rear were Spain (Manel Navarro, “Do It for Your Lover”) and Germany (Levina, “Perfect Life”).  Besides the weak regard by the fans for these entries, both vocalists were not in great form during the finals–Manel notoriously squawked as he tried to hit the high note in the otherwise flat-leaning song’s climax, and Levina sounded ragged through most of the song.  Even though in the televote Spain was officially in a tie for 22nd thanks to five points given by Iberian neighbor Portugal, examining the full ordinals reveal that other countries ranked it in dead last, and was actually last in the televote ordinals.  Now, an interesting tale could be told about Germany’s performance with the juries as based on ordinals it actually outdid Greece, Croatia, and Ukraine on average.  It seems in this case, Germany exhibited the Ryan Dolan Conundrum with the juries.

Ukraine (O. Torvald, “Time”) garnered its worst performance in this contest ever, finishing 24th overall.  It shows the broadcaster’s gambit to shake things up by fielding a male entry backfired horribly (again), proving they should have stuck with a tried-and-tested diva.  Though officially 24th in the juries, it actually was second-to-last ahead of Spain when you examine the ordinals.  On the televote side, the ordinals are also lower than the official rank (17th place) as ordinals place this at 22nd.

Israel (IMRI, “I Feel Alive”) interestingly was third in its semifinal, but suffered a severe loss in points when the finals came in and hence ended up in a lowly 23rd overall.  One might attribute its severe drop from its semifinal performance to the fact it opened this year’s final and others may also cite that his vocals are not as strong in the Grand Final as it was in the 2nd Semifinal, but one also has to note that from that second semifinal only Bulgaria, Romania, and Norway were able to sustain their points (Romania on the sales side and Norway on the jury side) while most of the love is lavished towards Italy and the finalists from the 1st Semifinal.  I would also like to note that yes, it garnered a measly five points on the televote side, but if you examine its ordinal average, it turns out it also exhibited the Ryan Dolan Conundrum as it actually averaged in 15th place, not 22nd.  This means televoters liked his entry better than what the points would indicate.

Poland (Kasia Moś, “Flashlight”) was a rare case of showing how a grittier live voice actually improved the performance, as it unlocked a deep passion that was muted in the recording.  Many people expect that this entry would’ve made a big splash with the televote just like what happened with Michal Szpak last year.  But it seems the Polish diaspora weren’t that into this entry and were not that motivated to vote this time.  Sure it garnered enough televote points to rank 12th, but as I mentioned above, that 12th place rank only corresponds to a measly 41 points.  I suppose it’s consolation enough that the 23 points it received from the juries is a big improvement over her predecessor’s measly 7 points in that round.

 

Unlike in the 1st Semifinal, Greece (Demy, “This is Love”) was able to hit the high notes in the Grand Final.  Despite this improvement, though, Demy only ended up a mediocre 19th place.  It gets worse when you examine the ordinals as based on rodinals she would’ve ranked 23rd overall.  This means the points that shored her up to 19th place was concentrated on a few countries–well, there is the usual suspect, Cyprus, which granted it douze (12) points from both juries and televote along with dix (10) points from the Armenian jury.

Speaking of Cyprus (Hovig, “Gravity”) on the televote side it exhibited a Ryan Dolan Conundrum as the ordinals showed it actually finished 11th even if based on actual points it ranked 14th–meaning across the countries it wasn’t as polarizing as the entries that ranked above it.  Based on ordinals it would’ve ranked 17th overall instead of 21st.

If the composite system employed in 2013-2015 was employed in this year’s contest, Switzerland (Timebelle, “Apollo”) would’ve advanced instead of Denmark (Anja Nissen, “Where I Am”).  And it mirrored its semifinal outcome from the semifinals to the finals–it ranked 13th with the juries and 21st with the televote.  The televote story would’ve been worse if we use ordinals as actually it would have been 24th.

Belarus (Naviband, “Story of My Life”) was truly middle-of-the-pack by every measure, officially 17th overall, 16th with juries and 13th with the public, and slightly a notch lower in all measures using the ordinal system.  Overall, a respectable performance.  I also would like to compliment this entry for its sunny spirit, and yes, the comparison of Ksienija Zuk’s hairdo to the Japanese anime character Sailor Moon.

It’s interesting that two adversarial countries, Azerbaijan (Dihaj, “Skeletons”) and Armenia (Artsvik, “Fly with Me”) garnered heavy raves from the media for their quality performances (which I agree) but ended up with disappointing finishes, 14th and 18th respectively.  Azerbaijan earned douze (12) points from the juries in Italy and Portugal, and from the televoters in Georgia, but it’s not enough to return back to the Top 10 after last placing in that level with Farid Mammadov’s “Hold Me” back in 2013.  Armenia, meanwhile, just simply couldn’t catch a break with juries or televoters though it did fare a little better with the juries with a 15th place ranking there.  It doesn’t help that unlike the neighborly bloc-voting pattern as exhibited by the likes of Greece and Cyprus, for instance, Armenia and Azerbaijan made it a point to mark each other in last place, whether in televote or the juries.

United Kingdom (Lucie Jones, “Never Give Up on You”) had its best finish since Blue’s 11th place finish back in 2011, finishing 15th overall.  It’s a jury darling as it garnered enough points to land 10th, but well, it got a measly 12 points with the televotes and ranked 20th there.  There is a bit of a Ryan Dolan conundrum on the televote side for this entry as if we use ordinals, it ranked higher to 16th there, and the combined ordinal overall it would’ve ranked higher to 13th place.

I also like to give a shoutout at the awesome 7th Heaven remix for this song, because it actually did a more effective job as a ballad-to-dance-track than the actual entry that does this, Greece.  It made me wish that like the permission granted to San Marino last year to make the remix the official number, they should’ve done the same thing for this entry.

Though officially ranked 11th with the juries, Austria (Nathan Trent, “Running on Air) turned out to be a bigger jury darling than its ranking suggest based on ordinals.  It actually encountered the Edurne Paradox as not only did it actually rank 6th in ordinarls, but garnered votes from 24 countries, more than the number of countries giving points for , Italy (21), Moldova (19), Belgium (20), and the United Kingdom (21) and equaling the number of juries that voted for Norway, all of which ranked above this entry.  But of course it’s pulled down by the zero points it got from the televote.  Though officially this made this entry last place in televote, based on ordinals it actually wasn’t last on average, but was actually 23rd.  This means this one also exhibited the Ryan Dolan Conundrum, this time for the televote.

Another polarizing entry was Croatia (Jacques Houdek, “My Friend”), whose 13th place overall finish was buoyed mostly by its 9th place ranking with the televotes (it ranked 22nd with the juries).  Ordinals made the picture worse as it dropped to 24th with the juries and 10th in televote, with the UK taking its place in the overall ordinals.

COMING UP:  THE TOP 12

 

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2017: TRIUMPH OF THE UNDERDOGS, PREVALENCE OF Y-CHROMOSOMES (PART 1)

BLOGGER’S NOTE:  Apologies this came a full month after the event.  Work commitments and other matters prevented me from posting this earlier…

Besides the brouhaha over Russia (which, as expected, ultimately led to their withdrawal), one key characteristic I observed about this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is that contrary to its “Celebrate Diversity” slogan, the Ukrainian broadcaster NTU wanted to reassert the dominance of the male species.  This is demonstrated by the choice of their entry, an all-male rock group, instead of its usual series of female singers over the past decade, along with an all-male hosting trio.  Are they able to advance their agenda?

Most observers (including myself) sense that there is no way this year’s edition can top last year’s acclaimed stellar hosting and production.  And with all that talk about issues in the preparation prior to previous year’s producer Christer Björkman entering the fray.  The question was how much of Christer’s touch would be reflected in the contest, along with if overall we would be treated to a worthwhile show.

Christer’s touch was obvious with the glossy, sleek production values delivered in this edition.  It started with a taped sequence featuring those stylized beads from the logo going all around Ukraine.  Then, came the parade of finalists.  Unlike the way it was done since 2013, they eschewed the flags, and even if the countries’ names were announced with the nice illusion that the artists emerge as if they were teleported, it kinda reduced the splendor that the ceremony was supposed to entail.  Also making this sequence a bit of a letdown was that perhaps due to a technical glitch no one could hear the names “Belarus” and “Armenia” announced.

What about the three presenters, Oleksandr SkichkoVolodymyr Ostapchuk and green room commentator Timur Miroshnychenko?  I have been acclimated to the Eastern European style of hosting ever since I watched Miss Supranational four years so unlike most people I can tolerate their accents.  But they are aware of that, so it led to a filmed sequence played halfway through the competition where these three hosts were subject to a bootcamp led by previous co-host (and 2015 champion) Måns Zelmerlöw.  Why not include his much more heralded co-host, Petra Mede?  One might cite NTU’s male directive, but I suppose another consideration is Måns was slated as one of the commentators for his country’s TV network, SVT.  Anyway, it’s a fun and amusing sequence.

It’s interesting that despite the male directive, the interval acts for the final are all female.  First was 2004 champion Ruslana, who performed her latest single, “It’s Magical”.  It’s almost as lively as her winning entry “Wild Dances”, with a dash of gentle folkloric touches.

The next itnerval act was the Ukrainian all-female ethno-electronica group ONUKA featuring the folkloric touches of the NAONI Orchestra.  The vocalist has an ethereal quality in her singing and it’s indeed a display why the female musical acts from this country are the fiercest around.

Then, finally we have last year’s champion, Jamala who of course performed a new single, “I Believe In U”.  She’s more in a romantic mode in this number, and it is a worthwhile listen.  It’s just a shame that her number was trolled by notorious Ukrainian prankster Vitaly Sediuk, who invaded her stage clad in an Australian flag (so some people initially presumed it was an Australian prankster) and mooned the audience before being whisked off.  His antics are very much un-called for, and there is a side of me that wish he be shipped off to Chechnya and be sent to those notorious concentration camps they set up for gay people in that territory.

Like last year, the announcement of the jury results are done where the points from 10, and 8-1 are shown on screen and the spokepersons only announce the country that got their douze (12) points.   Besides seeing the various meme-worthy reaction shots from Portugal’s Salvador Sobral,  a big highlight for me was seeing the gorgeous Zlata Ognevich  (2013 Eurovision 3rd placer) announcing the Ukrainian votes.  At least three of the four*1 most important Ukrainian entries have roles in this year’s contest and helped prevent the proceedings from becoming a sausage-fest.  Anyway, there is also a fun three-minute “Verka break” where midway through the announcements the audience (and hosts) dance along with Verka Serduchka to her 2007 Eurovision 2nd placer “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”.

*1 Besides Ruslana, Jamala, and Zlata, the fourth fierce female I was referring was Ani Lorak (2nd place, 2008).  Oh I wish there was room for her to appear.

This new scoring format does deliver on the suspense as many presumed Bulgaria’s Kristian Kostov would win this round and one would wonder if it would be enough to overcome Portugal’s 100+ point lead.  But for me the biggest shocker was the extremely low amount of points allocated for the acts below the Top 10 in televote.  More on that in my scoring analysis.

COMING UP:  SCORING ANALYSIS