What if… Krista didn’t have the lesbian kiss?

Welcome to this latest installment of the ‘What if…’ series! In this article we shall journey to Finland, where we’ll contemplate whether Krista would have done better had she not kissed her backing singer at the end of her performances of ‘Marry Me’, or did Europe just not get the idea of a woman giving a not so subtle hint to her boyfriend to propose to her?

Could Finland have done better?
Could Finland have done better minus lesbian kiss?

I think it’s fair to say that when Krista was picked to represent Finland in Malmö, we were looking at a possible dark horse of the Contest. The song was a strong favourite with the fans but luckily, it avoided the pre-Eurovision ‘fanwank’ fiasco that was faced by San Marino and Montenegro, with ‘Marry Me’ coming around the top to middle of the fan rankings. So when it came to her performance at Eurovision in Concert in Amsterdam, we were looking forward to seeing what the bride had up her sleeve performance-wise. I bet nobody was expecting what was going to happen at the end!

So she kissed her backing singer and proceeded to shout ‘Love and Tolerance, Equality!’. Certainly something that’s never been seen at Eurovision before (she’s setting so many records, Krista! First, the first bride to ever go to Eurovision and now, the first lesbian kiss in Eurovision history!) and this really sparked some debate among fans. Some popular questions debated were: “Would she be doing this in Sweden?” ,”Is it just a once off?” and “What if the people at the EBU don’t let her do it on the night?” to name but a few! Krista was now one of the most controversial singers of the competition, but personally, I don’t think it bothered her as she was standing up for a cause she believed in. So it’s no wonder that by the time May 16th came around, she had amassed a huge gay following. So what did she do? Well she did it again! Now we’re not sure if they voted for her because of the song or because of the kiss, but either way, she qualified for the final and on the 18th, she gave her strongest performance of the song (well, in Malmö anyway!).

She performed the song as best as she could and she was rewarded with the crowd going absolutely wild for her, a possible aid to her chances of doing fairly well. But sadly, but the time Lithuania had finished voting, she had finished in a dismal 24th place, only beating Spain and Ireland and only managing to gather a measly 13 points, and she became the latest victim of the “Anggun/Kate Ryan Effect”. But on the bright side, she’s now known around Europe and she even performed the song in the UK on a spin-off show of the reality show Big Brother.

So would the lesbian kiss have hindered the placing of the song? Well, there are countries that aren’t that loose when it comes to LGBT rights, so when the song’s performance included the kiss, countries such as Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Ukraine may have become quite awkward with the subject and therefore, refused to vote for it, which may have been a reason why she didn’t get any points from Eastern Europe. So if the kiss wasn’t there, she may have fared better at Eurovision… maybe? For other fans, they may argue that her vocals weren’t strong enough, or the song was modern, which normally, isn’t a good sign as James already explained. The kiss, however, would be the most memorable bit of the song most fans would remember from the performance, so if it wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be any major tricks that would help the fans remember the song. Personally, I think that had the kiss not been there, the song would have been quite forgettable and lost among the 25 other contestants and it would probably have come last or possibly, it may not have even qualified! But at least it did qualify and now she’s a European superstar (DON’T start singing Turkey 2006 now!)!

Your views:

Do you think Krista would have placed better had the controversial lesbian kiss not been included in the performance?

Do you think she would have done any better without the kiss?
Do you think she would have done any better without the kiss?

Honza Sak from the Czech Republic: Nope. Possibly even worse!

Seth Wezendonk from the Netherlands:  Not really. In fact, it would have placed even lower, so I’m glad she did it, it was her choice.

Gavin A-Rainey from Australia: I do think she would have fared better from the Eastern European countries.

Michael Romano from Australia:  I think it might have improved chances from Eastern Europe, but it would also have made the performance less memorable, and when you’re drawn so early in the show its important to have something that makes the televoters remember your song so I think it would’ve placed even lower and they got a lot of media exposure out of it which opened up a lot of opportunities for Krista internationally so I think they benefited more in the long run from including the kiss.

Like me, the fans believe that had the kiss been excluded from the performance, the song would become lost in the show and would have probably come last. So it was a good choice that she did kiss her backing singer as not only would it be a memorable performance, it added a little juice to the competition and it also was a way to stand up for LGBT rights, so it really was a win-win situation, no matter what the outcome would have been. But what would you think? Should Krista have left out the kiss or would the song been fairly boring without it? Let us know what you think and comment below!

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Possible Artists: Albania

Our seventh Possible Artists article is focused on the nation which has blessed the ESC stage with Rona Nishliu, Juliana Pasha, Kejsi Tola in the past, to name but a few. No pressure, then, Albania! This article will focus on the Albanian artists which I would personally recommend for their upcoming participation in Denmark, which will be their eleventh in total.

Maya Aliçkaj - worth a shot?!
Maya Aliçkaj – worth a shot?!

So, in their brief but frankly brilliant Eurovision history, Albania have never strayed once from the December “Festivali I Këngës” selection format – which can prove to be entertaining in itself, owing to the incomprehensible chit-chat between performers and presenters, the Microsoft Office scoreboard and the abundance of “ë”s which are all staples of the competition each year. In spite of all this, they’ve managed to come up with a diverse set of entries which pretty much all hit the spot for me one way or another (can we all just take a step back and have a “” moment please? … … … good. Moving on.)

The Albanian entry – even when translated into English or taking stylistic influence from more Western genres – always seems to come across as an authentic portrayal of Albanian music in some way… not surprising when you consider that Festivali I Këngës has been a household name in the country for over fifty years, and has become something of a cultural year-end ritual; its association with Eurovision now attracting a wider pan-European audience. However, for all that they have sent ten authentic entries, I wouldn’t say they’ve ever gone as authentic as this…

Cue Maya Aliçkaj. This lady could be described as the queen of Albanian traditional folk music; and unlike the Bulgarian chalga stars I wrote about last week, there isn’t any attempt at genre fusion here. This is just straight down the line folk, complete with chanting and insane flute solos. As a vocalist, Maya stays true to her regional singing style, showcasing her contralto voice in its element. She has evidently been brought up around the genre, as she has such a rapport with her backing band that she can pull off charming improvised performances like this – in Philadelphia of all places. Her charisma and enjoyment of the music would undoubtedly create an almost Flor-de-Lis-esque charm to any prospective Albanian entry she would front, however the genre is more than a little left-field.

That’s where infectious melodies like this one would come in handy:

I do believe this one isn’t an original, but it demonstrates the sort of thing that I would hope for in a Maya Aliçkaj ESC entry. The focus is on the melody, both in the vocals and the sublime violins. There’s an interesting percussion section, and clever incorporation of the traditional male backing choirs (who, for some reason I’m imagining would look a bit like Nelly Ciobanu’s hora dancers?!)

Of course, I fully appreciate that this genre is a “love-it-or-loathe-it” kinda thing. I am part of the former, but judging by the dire results of Bulgaria, Macedonia and Croatia in 2013, it could be inferred that folk isn’t exactly the best route to go down in the modern-day contest. Have we ever had anything as folky as Maya before? No. Have Albania ever tried anything along these lines before? No. Would it work? Jury’s still out.

So, if I were to suggest a more reliable proposal for Eurovision 2014, I’d hope that RTSH would turn to an artist like Blerta Gaçe:

Before you ask, yes: she is related to Aurela – and as I’ve only just discovered, they are in fact sisters. (thanks to Rinor for that one XD)

This song, which was entered into last year’s “Kenga Magjike” festival in Albania showcases a much more Westernised sound than her sister’s 2011 ESC entry – and indeed Maya. Such an internationally popular RnB/Dance song such as “Sky Is The Limit” would undoubtedly be installed as a fan-favourite, which would at least give some momentum to the Albanian entry. And, who knows, if Blerta’s live vocals are anywhere near as stunning as those of her sister, then she would certainly be able to perform the socks off a song like this. Give her a bunch of ripped male dancers to provide the energy and eye candy, allow her to concentrate on the vocals, and we would have an Albanian entry like none they have ever sent before. Bang up to date, and catchy as hell.

Although, Blerta, Alenka Gotar called and she wants her hand-light thing back. Tut tut.

From an outsider’s point of view, you’d assume that Blerta’s participation in “Kenga Magjike” would indicate that she is open to the idea of other music festivals such as FiK – however there is a difference between the calibre of artists who take part in both of these festivals. “Kenga Magjike” produces music specifically aimed at the charts, and generally features more well-known signed artists. In FiK, a more traditional stage, the majority of singers are unsigned or less renowned in Albania, indicating that perhaps Blerta would be above such a show. However, Aurela’s 2011 participation shows there is precedent for a big name at FiK, so I wouldn’t rule her sister out just yet!

If you have time, have a listen to these other Albanian artists who we would both recommend!

Leonora Jakupi – “Se Ndaloj”
Yll Limani – “A E Din Ti”
Lori – “Pse?”
Poni – “Dale Dale”

Your Views:

What do you think of my suggestions for Albania?
Who would you like to see Albania send in 2014?

Rinor Nuhiu from Albania: Elvana Gjata, Samanta Karavello, Alban Skenderaj or Kamela Islamaj for me! Even though, none of them will compete in FiK! I haven’t heard Blerta Gaçe live yet but maybe, who knows…

Shelly Eurovision from Germany: I love such songs. (Maya) But for ESC perhaps too traditional folk. Unfortunately.

Michael Romano from Australia: I would personally like to see Juliana Pasha representing Albania again

Bessa Halimi from Kosovo: PLEASE RTSH SEND ELHAIDA DANI NEXT YEAR!!!!!

The views on Albania have, I think more than any other country we’ve featured so far, highlighted how many popular artists could potentially be chosen. It seems like I’m alone in the Maya camp, but it’s a very niche choice and I wouldn’t expect many people to share my enthusiasm for her music. In this case, the fans have come up with a wealth of other names that Albania would do well to consider in 2014! Do you agree with them? Feel free to leave your opinion below!

Editorial: Are “modern” songs cursed at ESC?

Well, I’m gonna have to start by apologising for the fact we haven’t had any articles up over the weekend! It’s been a busy few days for both of us, but normal service is resuming as of today. And, if it’s any consolation, I have one hell of a debate to post today, so fasten your seatbelts: I will be investigating the purported curse hanging over the more modern entries at ESC – why do so many of them end up with disappointing results if they push the boundaries of contemporary music?

"12 points go to the AMAYZIN CYPRUS!" ... but it wasn't enough
“12 points go to the AMAYZIN CYPRUS!” … but it wasn’t enough…

Australian ESC fan Jordan pointed out to me a few weeks ago that his personal favourite “Glorious” was just the latest of many modern songs which have fallen flat at Eurovision; suggesting there could be some sort of disadvantage to sending an up-to-date genre of song. I did a little digging and found that whilst I wouldn’t necessarily attach a full-on “curse” to the phenomenon, there is definitely an issue at play here with the apparent mis-alignement between the contest and the charts.

First of all, I should attempt to define what I’m referring to as a “modern” song – for it doesn’t necessarily have to be an up-tempo electro-dance number to qualify as modern. I’d simply describe it as a song which wouldn’t sound out of place in the charts at the time of its release. So much as I adore it, I accept that a song like “Gravity” is never going to set the international market alight. Neither is “Quédate Conmigo”, neither is “What About My Dreams?”, neither is “Hero”. Fabulous though they all are, they’re all a little too dated or generically off-centre to challenge for top 10 positions worldwide.

The contest has had no shortage of such songs, especially in the last fifteen years; and these are the ones which – in the interests of this article – I am referring to as “modern songs”. Any of the following would, in my book, have easily stormed the charts if they had the Eurovision tag removed:

Gina G – Ooh… Aah… Just A Little Bit (UK 1996) – 8th place
Paul Oscar – Minn Hinsti Dans (Iceland 1997) – 20th place
Marlain Angelidou – Tha’ne Erotas (Cyprus 1999) – 22nd place
Malene Mortensen – Tell Me Who You Are (Denmark 2002) – 24th place
Nicola – Don’t Break My Heart (Romania 2003) – 10th place
Natalia Podolskaya – Nobody Hurt No One (Russia 2005) – 15th place
Ortal – Chacun Pense À Soi (France 2005) – 23rd place
Elena Risteska – Ninanajna (FYR Macedonia 2006) – 12th place
Hanna Pakarinen – Leave Me Alone (Finland 2007) – 17th place
Anonymous – Salvem El Mon (Andorra 2007) – SF 11th place
Waldo’s People – Lose Control (Finland 2009) – 25th place
Christina Metaxa – Firefly (Cyprus 2009) – SF 14th place
Jessy Matador – Allez! Ola! Olé! (France 2010) – 12th place
Femminem – Lako Je Sve (Croatia 2010) – SF 13th place
Alexey Vorobyov – Get You (Russia 2011) – 16th place
Getter Jaani – Rockefeller Street (Estonia 2011) – 24th place
TWiiNS – I’m Still Alive (Slovakia 2011) – SF 13th place
Yüksek Sadakat – Live It Up (Turkey 2011) – SF 13th place
Ivi Adamou – La La Love (Cyprus 2012) – 16th place
Trackshittaz – Woki Mit Deim Popo (Austria 2012) – SF 18th place
Cascada – Glorious (Germany 2013) – 21st place
Krista Siegfrids – Marry Me (Finland 2013) – 24th place
Who See feat. Nina Zizic – Igranka (Montenegro 2013) – SF 12th place
Hannah Mancini – Straight Into Love (Slovenia 2013) – SF 16th place

(of course, this is far from an exhaustive list, and I apologise for any glaring omissions!)

Judging by this list, it would appear that the data not only highlights that the problem exists, but suggests that it is becoming more and more common. In 2013 alone, there were four entries I’d describe as modern which met disastrous results; whilst the top 10 featured a number of less commercially viable numbers. Now, the contest is not exactly supposed to be a contest of commerciality, but even when accompanied by stellar vocal performances and stunning visuals, some of these modern numbers still fail to impress.

So: why is this!?

I’m going to use Ivi Adamou as an example here. “La La Love” was undoubtedly one of the most modern sounding songs of the 2012 contest. It managed to avoid the dubious “fanwank” label in the run-up to Baku, and once it reached the stage it was accompanied by a bizzare yet polished stage show which emphasised the energy of the song. It cruised through the semis, yet once in the final it slumped to a disappointing 16th place.

In the months following the contest however, it became one of the songs of the summer across the globe, officially charting in thirteen countries and reaching the top five in Greece and Sweden. It’s phenomenal post-contest success cements the fact that the song was a contemporary hit single, however it raises questions as to its final placing in the contest.

Why did it fail then?

With Ivi Adamou, let’s be honest, the vocals weren’t brilliant. She held the tune, and that was about it. You’d expect a jury evaluating “vocal capacity and performance” to mark it pretty low – but the genre and energy is pretty much tailor-made for a televoter. And yet… when the split results were revealed, it turned out she had been ranked higher in the jury scores than the televoting. So we can’t blame the “outdated views of the juries”… Was the performance just a little too weird? There’s no denying that the whole dancing on a pile of books thing didn’t exactly match the hyperactive electronic music, yet there’s no way we’ll ever know if this was to blame for the disappointing result.

No, the reason I personally think “La La Love” finished so low is that it was simply too modern for Eurovision.

I know ESC doesn’t go out there to deliberately regress European musical taste, and has in the past shown signs of attempting to embrace more up-to-date styles, but we have to consider that to be crowned Eurovision winner, a song has to have a universal appeal. Every song has upwards of forty nations to impress, and sometimes what one person considers to be the cutting edge of musical innovation can come across as an absolute atrocity to others.

Take “Igranka” for instance. I personally adore it. The majority of the Balkans apparently love it. Hell, the majority of YouTube apparently loves it. But it wasn’t even deemed worthy of a place in the Eurovision final. You couldn’t fault Nina’s live vocal, and whether you’re into rap or not, the boys conveyed the energy and rhythm of the song through the spoken sections too. The song was just too experimental and, again, too modern for the contest. It’s aimed at a very niche market, and it would appear that Eurovision is just not ready for dubstep yet. The middle-8 of “Love Kills” seems to be the closest thing to dubstep we can handle at the minute. But this three-minute Montenegrin-language spacesuit-clad atom bomb seemed to be a little too far.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and just because there are so many modern failures doesn’t mean that we haven’t had a single modern success in recent years. Look at “Euphoria” for example; a bang-up-to-date slice of dance music which catapulted Eurovision back to the forefront of chart music. We had “Satellite”, we had “Drip Drop”, we had “Diva”… but for every “Euphoria”, there are at least five or six “Running Scared”s… Just look at what else rounded out the top 5 in 2012… three piano-led lounge ballads and a pack of Russian grannies. Point proven, methinks.

So, in answer to the question concerning modern entries to Eurovision, I’d say the answer is pretty straightforward. There isn’t exactly a “curse”, but there is certainly an issue with songs being ahead of their time at the contest. We’ve had emulations of American teen rock in “Firefly” and “Nobody Hurt No One”, we’ve had what appears to be a purpose-built chart hit in “Get You” or “Rockefeller Street” and we’ve had Rihanna-esque R&B ballads in “I’m Still Alive” and “Lako Je Sve”… but the thing with modern songs is that they are, by definition, new and different. New and different isn’t always everyone’s cup of Eurovision tea.

Your Views:

What do you think the problem is with modern songs at ESC?
What do you think the problem is with modern songs at ESC?

Michael Romano from Australia: I’d say it’s because of the juries, juries don’t really like modern songs as opposed to ballads. They tend to have the mindset that the only type of entry that can be judged on vocal talent is a ballad and the rest isn’t worth giving points to.

Mattias Pålsson from Sweden: At least Sweden gives modern songs 12p: germany 2010, ireland 2011, cyprus 2012 and norway 2013 🙂

Svana Lístí Agnarsdottir from Iceland: Eurovision is typically a place that’s filled with cheese, but when modern genres are entered, we feel a little invasive.. 😛

Jordan Alexander from Australia: I just find it disappointing that the contest will never move forward or be taken seriously by the music industry. I mean 90% of modern songs rarely do well in the contest. I don’t expect a modern song to win every year. I just think that it deserves a better result.

So, there’s definitely a disadvantage for some kinds of modern songs, but does it constitute a curse? Feel free to share your opinion below!