Friday News: 28th February 2014

In a few short hours, we will know our fourteenth song for Copenhagen, in the form of whoever wins tonight’s Irish national final. Rory will have a NF review up once the result has been announced, but until then, why not catch up on our round up of this week’s other news in brief?

So what's happened this week in the lead up to Copenhagen?
So what’s happened this week in the lead up to Copenhagen?

As dedicated readers of the blog, you all should know that here, we at ESC Views like to gather a week’s worth of stories and cram it all into one article! Obviously a lot happens in a week and we can sometimes miss a story, so if we missed something, do tell us! Also, we do wait until Friday to publish this series so if you wish to read some Eurovision websites that publish news as it happens, feel free to click any of these links! So shall we see what happened this week? I think we shall…

1: Israel reveals Mei Finegold’s three prospective entries

It feels like quite a while ago now that IBA announced that Mei Finegold would be their 2014 entrant, and with the national final to choose her entry only days away now, they finally presented her three prospective entries earlier this week: namely “Same Heart”,  “Nisheret Iti” and “Be Proud”. All three are available to listen to in this handy YouTube playlist here, and she’s gone and made full-on music videos for each one, bless her. We’ll save opinions on all three until next week’s NF preview article, but suffice it to say that we’re encouraged by what we’ve heard from Mei so far!

2: Emmelie de Forest releases “Rainmaker”

It had previously been announced by DR that the interval act would feature Emmelie de Forest performing her new single with all 26 participating finalists taking part in the backing chorus. After premiering the concept live at the Maltese national final, Emmelie de Forest (who, coincidentally turns 21 today, happy birthday Em) released the single version of “Rainmaker” this Monday. Having downloaded it straight away, I’ve been playing it a lot over the last few days and it’s safe to say I’m loving it – even with the *SUBTLE* reference to this year’s motto in the second verse… well, there had to be SOME justification in making it the official anthem of this year’s contest, right?

3: We have a song title for Georgia

It will be called “Three Minutes To Earth”. Um.. yeah, nothing much else to say on that one, if I’m honest.

4: FINALLY, an end to the UK rumours?

Off the top of my head, we have had around 576,411,965,809 names mentioned in connection with the UK’s entry for Eurovision 2014, everyone from Sarah Dawn Finer to Geri Halliwell to Nina Nesbitt to Aiden Grimshaw to Trisha Penrose to Paloma Faith to Rylan Clark to Belinda Carlisle… you get the picture. It’s been bloody annoying, as I’m sure you’ll agree. However, this week, the BBC finally broke their silence and gave us a date. March 3rd. Monday. A “special show” hosted by Scott Mills on the BBC Red Button service (oh wow, THE DEDICATION) will reveal both the selected artist and the selected song. escXtra goes into further detail on the BBC’s plans here, well worth a read if you’d like some hints with actual substance behind them!

As a British national, I should be more excited about this than I actually am… in all honesty, I couldn’t care less who is singing for us right now, I just want some respite from this endless gossip. Just give us an artist and shut them all up, please?

5: German wildcard entrant chosen

Unser Song für Danemark will be the format used to select the German entry to Eurovision 2014, and although it is loosely based on the blueprint of previous years’ selection methods, this year’s contest will see the eight artists each singing two prospective entries in a bid to become Germany’s latest representative. One of these eight, the female group Elaiza, were chosen in a club concert round this week to complete the line-up, with the other seven being pre-invited, more established acts. We’ll have more on this, of course, when we preview the national final for Germany in a couple of weeks’ time!

6: Greek national final date altered once more

Having previously confirmed their intention to use a national final format to select their 2014 entry, and then going as far as to provisionally confirm a date (March 4th), NERIT this week announced that this has been pushed back a week. Thus, we will learn the identity of Greece’s winner on March 11th, with the same four participants as previously announced taking part.

And that is where we leave it for this week! If we’ve missed any stories, feel free to tell us and we’ll add them as soon as. In the meantime, hope you enjoy tonight’s Irish national final, and the other five selections set to take place this weekend. Friday News will be back as usual next week!

NF Season: This week’s national final previews (February 24th – March 2nd)

Sooo. It’s currently Monday night. If this article is actually posted on Monday night, it will be an absolute miracle, for I have no less than SIX national finals to try and cram into this one post, and I foresee this taking a hell of a long time… So, if you find yourself reading this a little later on in the week than usual… that’s why! I do apologise… but hope you enjoy the coming marathon all the same.

The broadcasters to make their decision this week: RTÉ (Ireland), France 3 (France), TVR (Romania), LRT (Lithuania), ERR (Estonia) and Ictimai TV (Azerbaijan)
The broadcasters to make their decision this week: RTÉ (Ireland), France 3 (France), TVR (Romania), LRT (Lithuania), ERR (Estonia) and Ictimai TV (Azerbaijan)

As you should hopefully know by now, we are previewing the national finals in weekly instalments, offering our opinions on some of the songs wherever possible, and predicting the entries we think are most likely to win the ticket to Denmark. Following the results of each National Final, we’ll get a review article up for you, giving you our opinions of the show and the selected entry, and assessing its chances at Eurovision this year. And, as always, your opinions are most welcome throughout, we would love to know what you think!

This week’s calendar:

28th February 2014: Irish National Final

1st March 2014: Eesti Laul 2014 (Estonian National Final)

1st March 2014: Selecția Națională 2014 (Romanian National Final)

1st March 2014: Lithuanian National Final

2nd March 2014: Azerbaijani National Final

2nd March 2014: French Results Announcement

Ireland:

Ireland will pick their song on February 28th
Ireland will pick their song on February 28th

“Eurosong” is the moniker under which the Irish national selection has existed in some shape or form since 2008. A special edition of “The Late Late Show” has been the vehicle for the selection in the last few years, with the whole show being turned into something of a Eurovision special. 2014, of course, is no exception: we have five mentors who have each nominated one act for the competition. A diverse range of genres are on offer once more, all vying for the chance to represent the Emerald Isle (incidentally, one of Eurovision’s most successful nations) in Copenhagen. All five prospective entries can be listened to here on Eurovision Ireland.

If there’s one thing to criticise about this selection, of course, it’s the fact that Rory wrote to RTÉ asking if they’d consider him as one of the “Eurovision experts” featured on the show, and they declined. Eesh. They don’t know what they’re missing!

Reviews and Predictions:

James – What is it about X Factor 2008, ey? All we need now is the BBC to send Diana Vickers (please… pleeeease) and Copenhagen will be a full on class reunion! The Irish selection features yet another alumni of the ‘Class of Ruth Lorenzo’ in the form of Eoghan Quigg – that fuzzy-haired blonde pointless one who ran on in hysterics after Diana got eliminated, remember him? Yaaaah, he’s morphed into an equally unremarkable 21-year-old who looks more like he belongs in a cheap One Direction tribute band at Butlins than on the Eurovision stage. Needless to say, his entry “The Movie Song” is contrived, sickly and lacklustre. Please don’t pick him, Ireland?

I do have an awful feeling that they will go for him, though, given their apparent penchant for ex-UK X Factor acts. However, that would be an absolute travesty when you consider that there are two other songs in the field which are not only my personal favourites, but are undeniably leagues ahead of Quigg in terms of musical quality and vocal ability. These two songs are the euphoric “Heartbeat” by Kasey and Can-linn and the old-fashioned but charming “Don’t Hold On” by Patricia Roe. Both of these entries offer completely different things for Ireland, with Patricia’s entry being almost archetypal of their phenomenally successful 90s ballads and “Heartbeat” being that fabulous fusion of Irish folk and ethereal modern electropop. If you know anything about my music taste then you’ll know that kind of thing is right up my street.

Unfortunately, owing to the fact that Ryan Dolan’s modern fusion effort last year earned such a disappointing last place, I fear that Ireland may not quite be in the mood to send something so similar again this year, so whilst “Heartbeat” is without a doubt the best song out of the five, I’m not as confident of its chances as I’d like to be. Patricia’s song would be my second choice, but I don’t see her picking up the votes either if I’m honest. I am really nervous for Ireland, to be perfectly honest.

Rory – Ireland is the only country from the two of us that is actually having a national final and to be perfectly honest, I’m still very ‘meh..’ on the entire lot.

Here’s why: I have never really liked any of my country’s efforts at Eurovision (to be honest, I’m probably the most anti-patriotic person in the world when it comes to Eurovision) and this year is no exception. There’s two songs at most that are even remotely worth sending to Eurovision and the best of those is Kasey and Canlinn. If you know me, you’ll know that I absolutely adored her last year in Eurosong with ‘K-K-K-Kiss Me There’ and fair play to her for coming back and with a really strong song. It’s actually the best out of them all and if the public don’t go for it, I swear I am literally going to do a Silvia Night.

Andrew also has a reasonably good song (not too big of a fan of it) and the obvious one, Eoghan Quigg. His song…it’s very much…just blegh, in my opinion. As for who should win, it has to be Kasey and Canlinn. The song is not only the best of a bad lot, it’s actually a song I would be proud to see representing us at Eurovision! So please RTÉ, don’t let me down. I will relinquish my Irish citizenship if you fail to do so. Okay? Good.

Context:

As Ireland is Rory’s country of residence, he took the lead in suggesting artists to represent them in our Possible Artists article from last summer. Perhaps we set our sights a little too high in wishing for Imelda May or Enya, but that’s not to say the five artists in the national final are particularly disappointing, in any conventional sense of the word. Okay, as we both highlighted, the overall standard is pretty low, but there are definitely a couple of stand-out songs that would do Ireland proud were they to make it to the Copenhagen stage.

Ireland are coming off a run of four consecutive qualifications, and an eighth place which is still not too distant a memory. This is by far the most successful lead-in they’ve been able to give a prospective entry since the introduction of the semi-finals in 2004, and all they need to do is select the right song *cough- “Heartbeat” -cough* and this string of qualifications should be set to continue. They do have the benefit of being in semi-final two, up against only fourteen other songs. However, it’s shaping up to be a very competitive show, with many of the second semi-final nations coming up with fantastic entries which would give Ireland a run for their money, especially if they pick the wrong song on Friday. Nothing is safe yet…

Estonia: 

Estonia will pick its song on March 1st
Estonia will pick their song on March 1st

Estonia’s national selection Eesti Laul – this year in its sixth edition – has fast become one of the highlights of the Eurovision national final calendar, and with good reason! The Baltic nation, known for its proud singing heritage, has used the format to showcase an extraordinarily high quality of songs, some of which have been criminally cast aside at the national final stage too (I would reference “Hopa’pa-rei” and “Päästke Noored Hinged” in particular in this light.) Whilst the Estonians are still waiting to return to the phenomenal levels of repeated success they enjoyed at the turn of the millennium, it cannot be denied that their recent ESC record – which includes two top ten finishes and four qualifications since 2009 – is positively glowing when compared to it’s regional neighbours Latvia and Lithuania.

So, have they come up with the best of the Baltics again this year? Two semifinals held in the last couple of weeks have whittled the original twenty shortlisted songs down to Saturday night’s final ten, all of which can be listened to here. (or if you’d like to check out all twenty, including the failed semi-finalists, head over to ERR’s website)

Reviews and Predictions:

James – So, when I first saw the Estonian previews had been released, I did what I reckon 95% of Eurovision fans will have done. Listened to Sandra. Loved Sandra. Stopped at Sandra.

Shame on me. Shame on us, whoever else did the same as me.

Because, although this year’s Eesti Laul line-up feels like it’s ever so slightly weaker than the last couple of years, it is still going to be a musically diverse and brilliant year. Aside from the returning Ms. Nurmsalu, I love Norman Salumäe’s “Search”, a quirky little ballad which is performed in an innovative way whereby the backing singers (some of whom are almost as cute as Norman himself) appear at random intervals and form a sort of arrowhead shape, singing at each other rather than out towards the cameras. Like I said, quirky. Other highlights are Traffic’s “Für Elise” (THAT’S how you do contemporary country music, *ahem Malta, Switzerland et al*) and Maiken’s lovely but haunting ballad “Siin Või Sealpool Maad” (which is endearing even if only for the fact that the title conjours up images of a pool full of seals, always a good thing, right?). There’s a FABULOUS key change in that one too, if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

I hate to be cliché, though, but I’d say that in all honesty, Sandra Nurmsalu’s song is still my honest-to-god favourite from the final 10. It’s a close-run thing, but I can’t help loving “Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad” in all its waify glory. I love the way that my Estonian musical ear has evolved to the point where I can recognise a Sven Lõhmus song before I know he composed it – like, it’s got all the chords he seems to like to use, and the structures he finds most effective. This one has all the hallmarks of his previous gems “Rändajad”, “Rockefeller Street” and the aforementioned “Päästke Noored Hinged” without feeling like a rehash in any shape or form.

To look at Sandra, nothing’s changed in the intervening years since Moscow. She’s still rocking the general colour scheme of *blue*, she’s still got THAT fringe, she still looks like she belongs in Rivendell more than anything… but standing on a stage performing that song, she just seems right at home. Unassuming, endearing and vocally flawless. She is something of an enigma, and when she sings, it’s impossible to not stop and listen. Sending her to her second Eurovision would be a smart move by Estonia, especially considering she’s accompanied by the most unique and inspired song I think we’ve seen in any 2014 national final so far.

Rory – Estonia has a good choice of songs to pick from this year too! Wow, a lot of countries have got sense this year *ahem* not in Latvia though *ahem*.

There a good few in amongst the finalists as to who I think are actually really good. Tanja has a really good dance track, although judging by the way how Hypnotica was shelved by juries in Malta, I don’t know if the juries in Estonia will do the same, if there are any. Sandra Nurmsalu…what have we here?! She’s changed so much since Moscow and I really like this song of hers. It’s traditional sounding, but with the modernity of that beat, I actually think that’s a huge transformation since Randajad..for the better! As well as that, I actually really like Brigita too, for the sole reason the song is just adorable. I’d love that to do well!

As for who should win, I think Estonia should be bold and send Sandra Nurmsalu. The song isn’t the norm for Eurovision and it’ll be pretty cute to see on stage in Eurovision. Either her or Brigita should go. Yes, it would probably be Gianluca – part II, but she has an adorable song and if she does well, I’ll be so happy. Go Estonia!

Context:

Estonia was the one country for whom we could have suggested possible artists but we never quite got round to it in time for this season. Of course, as many international fans would probably predict, our main focus would have been on the inimitable Kerli, who is both a very unoriginal choice and faaaaar too big an international star to seriously consider participation. In saying that, she participated in Melodifestivalen in 2003 and in Eurolaul (the predecessor to Eesti Laul) in 2004, finishing in second place, so it’s not like she’s diametrically opposed to the contest… I just reckon she’s moved on since then, ey?

That said, the participation of big local stars like Lenna and Sandra proves that Eesti Laul’s reputation is still as positive as ever within Estonia, and this will hopefully result in a continuation of the format in future. As for the prospects of the final ten were they to be selected for Copenhagen, I think there is a hell of a lot of potential here. If they want to REALLY stand out, the field is missing a proper ballad so far, plus there’s nothing like Sandra’s song too. All will be revealed come Saturday!

Romania: 

Romania will pick their song on March 1st
Romania will pick their song on March 1st

Romania’s song will be chosen through the Selecția Națională format again in 2014, as has been the case with every single one of their previous contributions to Eurovision. The winner will be decided through a mixture of jury voting and televoting, who will each award points in ESC style to ten of Saturday night’s twelve competing entries. Of course, if you’ve been within a fifty mile radius of any of the various Eurovision groups on Facebook, then you’ll be more than familiar with one of those participants, but remember that there ARE still 12 songs in the running: this is a national final not an internal selection, and it ain’t over till the catsuited lady sings.

See what I did there? Neh, it was a crap pun anyway. That’s what happens when you have six national final events to write about at once. Your sense of humour just evaporates. Here are the Romanian songs if you haven’t heard them yet.

Reviews and Predictions:

James – My inner sceptic is looking at this line-up with the distinct suspicion that TVR selected the eleven shittest songs possible, in order to make Paula & Ovi look better, and thus leave the Romanian public with no choice but to pick them.

There you go, I’ve said it.

If I’m honest, a lot of them just don’t sound ‘finished’. Which, considering that most ESC entries tend to undergo a bit of a revamp between their selection and the eventual contest, is not exactly surprising. It’s entirely plausible that the twelve songs in their current forms are simply demo versions, which would be vastly improved in the scenario that they were selected for Denmark. However, we don’t have vastly improved versions to judge. We have demos. From these demos, the song by Renée Santana has the most going for it, in that the chorus is really rather good, but aside from that… I find every single other song either dull or downright horrendous.

So: Paula and Ovi have quite clearly been engineered as the winners of this selection, that’s plain to see. But what about the song? Well, it’s definitely the best one in the field, and it can’t be denied that the pair have come up with a decently modern (and by ‘modern’ I mean ‘post-Euphoria’ modern, interpret that how you will) Eurovision entry. But my god it’s contrived, isn’t it.

The very reason “Playing With Fire” worked so well was because it was that little bit different. The song couldn’t quite be pigeonholed into any exclusive genre, and therein lay its strength. The two singers – separate artists in their own right, we must remember – fused well as a duo because that song allowed them to do so: the dialogue effect to the lyrics made the alternating lines not only sensible but effective, the two-sided piano being a visual representation of the two different sides to the song.

“Miracle”, on the other hand, is a formulaic Eurovision entry, complete with a trademark octave-scaling big note from Paula and a keychange shoehorned into the proceedings which serves no real function other than ticking another Eurovision box. *sigh*. The thing is, I do quite like it as a song. It could do with more in the way of a proper bassline, but that aside, it’s a perfectly passable slice of EDM. I just know I will get bored of it very quickly. And for a Eurovision entry, I’m looking for more than that.

They had it in the bag anyway, but TVR have handed it to them on a silver plate by pretty much removing their competition. We WILL see these two in Copenhagen, there is no question about it.

Rory – It seems as if Romania has a good variety of songs this year, but the winner just seems inevitable in my opinion. We have twelve songs in the NF and of those twelve, there are three main songs that are getting fanwanked on and you can see why.

These are also the main songs I actually like. The first is ‘Hearts Collide’. It is a good track and she sings it really well. Plus she offers a bit of a soul element in there and I actually feel like I can connect with it pretty easily. Of course, ‘Breathe’ is another song of the show that I like. It is a bit..different to the others, but that’s what helps to make it a stand-out song, because it’s so different. Plus both Stefan and TeddyK sing it well…and finally, the obvious one is ‘Miracle’. Now, I must admit, I do like myself a bit of Paula and Ovi, but this is like…woah. It’s actually just as good as ‘Playing With Fire’, if not – better. The others don’t really compete as much as these three, hence I believe they’ll be forgotten come the show.

When it comes to who I think will take the title, I have an inkling that it will be Paula and Ovi. They managed to equal the country’s best placing and so, Romania must regard them as being national heroes. However, Luminita Anghel tried to go to Eurovision again last year and failed…but seeming as ‘Miracle’ is getting fanwanked so much, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing them in Denmark. Good luck Romania!

Context:

Back in October, Rory explored the Romanian music scene and came up with Andra and Antonia as two possible artists for Romania, and whilst neither of them stepped forward for Selectia Nationala, a number of the preview videos feature their Cat Music label-mates, so perhaps that would bode well for them in the future.

If we labour under the assumption that Paula and Ovi will indeed get the ticket to Copenhagen, then the real question of how well they could potentially do must be saved for the NF review article. However, no matter which entry takes the victory in Romania, there is no doubt that they have a massive responsibility on their shoulders, in that they will be representing one of the few remaining countries with a 100% qualification record. We all thought this would come crashing down for Romania last year when they selected that monstrous entry by Cezar, but for some reason this didn’t come to pass, so the potential to drop the baton passes to whoever wins on Saturday. No pressure then, ey?

Lithuania:

Lithuania will pick the artist for their song on March 1st
Lithuania will pick the artist for their song on March 1st

Lithuania’s selection process for 2014 has most certainly been a drawn-out one! God knows what they’ve been doing for the last twelve weeks, but from what I’ve been hearing LRT have been overwhelmed by the positive response from the Lithuanian public and the impressive ratings they’ve been receiving, so if they’re happy, we’re happy too.

With the selection process, that is.

For we have a bit of a unique situation going on here, in that the song and singer have been chosen separately. We already have a song, as you may have picked up in the last few days, and Saturday night’s show will – somehow – culminate in Lithuania choosing which version of it will go to Copenhagen. We have three singers left, who have survived the last twelve weeks of talent-show style eliminations, and have each now come up with dramatically different interpretations of the selected song “Attention”, which can be listened to here, here and here.

Reviews and Predictions:

James – You know what… I actually really like this song. I kinda shouldn’t like it, because in its three current forms, it IS a bit of a mess, but I just can’t help it. Yes, the lyrics are a complete cringefest at times “you saw me chatting with my girls at bar, true, we’re all pretty”. Ouch. There’s something about it which has caught hold of me, and that’s very rare for a Lithuanian Eurovision entry. So, to be honest, whoever they pick to sing it, I’m gonna be fairly happy this year *yey*!

If I had to pick a favourite, I would go for Mia’s version of the song. The two female interpretations are fairly similar, but on a very simple level, I just prefer her voice and her singing style. You know what it is, it’s the way she delivers that “I’m gonna make you make you fall// down d-d-down down on your knees” bit. Sassy as anything, and she has the whole attitude of the song down to a T. She outshines Vilija ten to one, which is rather ironic considering that Vilija actually composed the song itself! Say Mia or Vaidas wins… it will be sooo awkward for her going to Copenhagen as the songwriter when she could have been the singer, right?

Speaking of Vaidas though… he may be the spanner in the works for Mia. Working under the assumption that the two women may cancel each other out somewhat, we’re left with a completely different song the way Vaidas sings it. It’s more acoustic, it’s smooth and sexy – and the lyrics have been edited to pose them from a male perspective. It sounds clumsy at first when you’re used to Mia’s version, but the average Eurovision viewer wouldn’t have a clue, and would just take it at face value. I do honestly think that Vaidas would give them the best chance of success in the contest, although I’d be much happier if Mia became their representative. Still, at the end of the day, “Attention” is a good song in all three incarnations, and I’m really really happy to be able to say that for once about Lithuania. Well done guys, and best of luck!

Rory – Seeming as we’ve already discovered which song will represent Lithuania at Eurovision this year, it now only leaves the artist left to find – half the battle over! Like Azerbaijan, I’m absolutely unfamiliar with the artists, so let me just have a look at the performances….

*ten minutes later*

Hmmm…right, well first of all, thank God that there’s only three artists in the running, but the song in general is just….meh. From the three performances, I kinda have to say that Vilija is my favourite, but that is purely as a result of how I saw it on the show and the quality of vocals. Of course, Vaidas is a great singer, but the song doesn’t really work for his voice. And Mia…well, she’s just Mia isn’t she..to be honest, it’s a poor choice from Lithuania in terms of the song.

In my opinion anyway. As for who should win…..it should probably be Mia. I know it’s not exactly my favourite, but when it comes to the performance, she’s the one that comes out on top for me, although her accent will need major work. If not, then Vilija should take the title, as she has very distinct vocals and she can also put on a show. Good luck with the small choice you have, Lithuania!

Context:

You think Lithuania, you think Eurovision failure, don’t you. And let’s face it, when you compare them to nearest neighbours Estonia and Latvia, they do come across as the poor relative overall. However, despite sending some pretty dire songs in recent years, 2013 was their third consecutive qualification in a row, to add to previous appearances in the 2006, 2007 and 2009 finals. Not actually as bad as you’d first think, right?

I personally would describe the majority of their recent entries as complete and utter tripe (with the exception of “Eastern European Funk”, which, ironically, is the only one in the last five years to miss out on the final.. MENTAL.) but this year, “Attention” is definitely a step in a completely different direction for them, and I most certainly hope it pays off, because I’d love to see more of this kinda thing in the future. They find themselves in semi-final two, which as we keep saying, presents a slight advantage in that there are only fifteen countries in total, and a total of ten places available in the final. Statistically, it’s more likely they’ll make it than miss out. But these are songs, not statistics. And with songs, you just never know…

Azerbaijan: 

Azerbaijan will pick their song on March 2nd
Azerbaijan will pick their song on March 2nd

Having dallied in several national final formats over the short duration of their Eurovision career to date, Azerbaijan have this year decided to select their entry through the talent show Böyük Səhnə. Even if this really is the end of Mili Secim Turu (RIP), I still predict this new show will still allow us to *enjoy* hideously bad covers of past ESC songs, dubious voting results, lots of people with the surname Aliyeva and an abundance of those upside-down “e” things seemingly in every word. Oh, Azerjibban, what would we do without you?

This year’s final will be held on Sunday, with the remaining three singers battling it out to win the right to be Azerbaijan’s seventh Eurovision representative (yes, it really has been six years since they joined the contest… that’s scary, isn’t it). I have no idea how the song will be decided, and precisely when this decision will be made, so for now all the two of us can really do is pass judgement on the singers themselves.

Reviews and Predictions:

James – You know I’m not their biggest fan, but I shall endeavour to approach Azerbaijan’s 2014 challenge on the Eurovision title with renewed impartiality. After all, the last few years, my main problem with them has been the fact that their entries have been absolute crap, and still managed to achieve decent results. This year is their opportunity for a fresh start, an opportunity to break away from the controversy. An opportunity to potentially send a decent song, for the first time in what feels like ages.

Anyway, that’s all still a long way away. First of all, they need to choose between Dilara Kazimova, Xana Hasanova and Erkin Osmanli. Two laydees and a bloke. We have a few weeks’ worth of talent show footage on which to judge their vocal ability, and from perusal of these videos, I can quite categorically confirm that Dilara seems to have the best voice among the three, and if they want to send yet another Swedish ballad snoozeathon, then she would be the perfect candidate to screech her way through it.

Xana would be a complete hot mess in Copenhagen, which is the main reason I hope they choose her. I mean, come on, give her an uptempo camp glittery dance number (I’m thinking “La La Love 2.0”) and then make her perform it in the same way she tackled Jennifer Lopez’s “Dance Again“.. wow, that will be hilarious. And epic. Mainly because LOOK AT THAT BIT WHERE SHE DOES A HAIR SWISH AND IT GETS IN HER FACE AND SHE CANT EVEN GET IT OUT OF THE WAY AND OMG. Louisa Baïleche suddenly looks polished and perfect by comparison.

Not a fan of Erkin. At all. Basically. “Every day I sick with them…

Rory – Azerjibban… sorry, Azerbaijan. We have no clue what your songs are, so we’re just going to have to go out on a limb and look at the artists themselves and just assume what we like from these.

We have three artists in the show, don’t we? So hopefully, it will be a show that’s just as short as France, although that’ll be pretty unlikely. From my understanding, there’s only one guy in the show *correct me if im wrong*, so it’s most likely going to be a girl going to Eurovision for Azerbaijan.. they all have really good voices and they perform well, I’m sure it’s going to be a really good show..let’s just hope they don’t rig the voting so someone BLATANTLY wins.. Good luck Azerbaijan…maybe!

Context:

Azerbaijan have finished in the top ten every single year that they’ve been in the contest. They’ve finished first, second, third, fourth, fifth and eighth. And they’ve only deserved about 25% of that success, but hey ho. Can’t change the past. All I’m hoping is that their 2014 entry gets the result its musical merit deserves. As we don’t even have an inkling of what the songs will eventually sound like, it’s hard to assess how this year’s Azeri entry will fit in to their back catalogue, so we will leave that until the review article. All that is certain right now is this: every single country in the first semi-final is going to regard whoever wins in Azerbaijan as one of their biggest competitors, if only by precedent. The singer will have a hell of a lot of pressure on their shoulders, and whilst I don’t think wishing them luck is really called for, I can’t help but pity whoever this singer turns out to be. They have no idea what they’ve let themselves in for…

France: 

France will announce their song on March 2nd
France will announce their song on March 2nd

Fans had been clamouring for it for YEARS, but finally, in 2014, we are witnessing the first French national selection since Year Helsinki. This is a momentous occasion people, and for France 3 to feel confident enough to do it again, whichever entry they choose MUST work.

As we all witnessed at the end of January, the three competing songs were presented live during a special edition of “Les chansons d’abord”, hosted by none other than the charming 2001 representative Natacha Saint-Pier (who is still fabulous and ginger and lovely). The voting lines were opened during the show and remained that way throughout most of February, so France has had more than enough time to make their decision. Now, on Sunday, the same show will feature the announcement of the result of the vote, and thus which song will be representing France in May. Refresh yourself on the three songs here, if you’ve forgotten them!

Reviews and Predictions:

James – France is one of my favourite countries in the world, both culturally, musically, and in the Eurovision Song Contest. It won’t come as a surprise to you then, that I absolutely rejoiced at the notion that France would be selecting their entry through a national final in 2014, giving us the opportunity to hear more new French music than we would normally have chance to.

Unfortunately – and rather ironically, I guess – there’s only one song from the three that I genuinely like. And that song is, of course, TwinTwin’s “Moustache”, a bombastic, energetic and instantly catchy modern electro number, which has an infectious performance to go with it. Undoubtedly taking inspiration from the formula which produced Stromae’s massive summer smash hit “Papaoutai”, this is a sound which truly reflects a niche in the modern French music market. It’s relevant, it’s unique, and it’s something Eurovision hasn’t quite seen the like of before. I would love to see this one in Copenhagen.

Joanna’s ballad is bland and forgettable – French ballads can be absolutely stunning, as past contestants and other popular French artists have proved beyond contention, however, there’s just nothing in “Ma Liberté” to grab onto, and it leaves the listener feeling thoroughly underwhelmed in my opinion. Same with Destan. What a pile of crap that one is. Someone send that song back to 1995 where it belongs please. And meanwhile, vote TwinTwin.

Rory – Dear France, you have it tough this year, don’t you? Can they actually pick a song that’s so amazing, it could actually do as well as Patricia Kaas and Jessy Matador? I should bloody well hope so.

Thank God there’s only three songs in the NF, but still it’s a tough choice to pick a song from. They all have their own distinctive qualities. Destan have the typical clean-cut boyband look with a good indie-ish track in both English and French. Joanna is so sleek in her performance and her voice is just sublime, with a fabulous ballad and she a good sense of hairstyle. And TwinTwin…well they’re just the biggest ball of amazingness France has seen in a very, very long time singing the most random song that Eurovision 2014 will have seen. Man….I love them all!

As for who I think should take the title, it’s a tough decision, but TwinTwin should be the winner in France methinks. They have an incredibly catchy song that, not only is a big ball of fun, they sing it really well and amongst a rather ballad-populated bunch of songs, it’s bound to stand out. Plus Lorent’s hair is just amazing. Please France, send this!

Context:

France was one of the first countries we covered in our Possible Artists series, with M Pokora and Nolwenn Leroy being my top two choices. The eventual three artists to take part in the selection process are decidedly ‘smaller’, more ‘up and coming’ names on the French music scene, which may reflect how the contest is viewed in France as a whole. They’re still brilliant though (and by that I mean TwinTwin are brilliant, the others, slightly less so…) and I do believe that this whole process is a positive step in the right direction for France.

After the temporary high of Moscow 2009, France have gradually slipped further and further down the rankings year on year at Eurovision, to the point where great songs like “Echo (You And I)” and “L’enfer Et Moi” were ignominiously discarded by juries and televoters alike, leading to disappointing 20-something placings in the last two contests. Should France pick TwinTwin, I can’t see that happening. Is a return to the top ten possible? I certainly hope so: TwinTwin would deserve it.

Your Views:

Which of the Finnish or Swiss songs stand out to you?
Which of this weekend’s songs stand out to you?

Okay, don’t shoot me, but the prospect of now going fishing for views is causing a great deal of pain and despair, considering it’s taken no less than THREE DAYS to get this far in writing the article. 6059 words, if you were wondering. If you’re still reading by this point, then can I just say I actually love you. Thank you so much for sitting glued to your screen for so long, and I hope that you’ve been able to leech some kind of enjoyment from the experience.

In the absence of views here, we need your comments more than ever, people! Which countries’ selections are you most looking forward to this weekend? Are there any songs which particularly stand out to you? Do you agree with our assessments and predictions? Please let us know in a quick comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

TVP confirm: Donatan & Cleo will represent Poland!

There I was, limping my way through this week’s monster NF preview article (seriously, SIX national finals in one weekend, it’s tough… more on that when I finally finish it and post the article for you guys…) when the news broke about Poland’s selection for Copenhagen. Obviously, that takes precedence! Hence, here we are, with one more song confirmed for 2014, and a whole lot of discussion to be had! Care to join?

"My Slowianie" will be the Polish song for Copenhagen!
“My Slowianie” will be the Polish song for Copenhagen!

Donatan & Cleo have been rumoured in connection with the contest for – quite literally – MONTHS. Seriously, they’ve been almost as much of a staple in the rumour mill as Geri Halliwell and Ruth Lorenzo at times. Their track “My Slowianie” was released back in November, and has since become something of a viral hit in Poland, with the official video below having been viewed over 38 million times as of the end of February. Quite a success story, wouldn’t you say? If you haven’t already seen and heard it, the video is here:

Undoubtedly the biggest thing to come out of Poland in a long time. And now, it’s been confirmed that this is the song which will herald their return to Eurovision. Regardless of your opinions on the composition itself, you can’t deny that this is something of a genius move from TVP.

The song:

If I had to use just one word to describe this song, it would be *Sassy*.

It just oozes that kind of carefree, confident, sexy attitude that was the staple of turn-of-the-millennium American R&B. Think early Destiny’s Child. Think “can you keep up? baby boooy, make me lose mah breath“. That’s the kind of feel I’m getting from “My Slowianie”. Except it’s set against a completely different background – that of accordion-heavy Polish folk. On paper, that’s something that just shouldn’t work. But – to my ears, at least – it most certainly does. This is not your run-of-the-mill ghetto diva sass, oh no. This is SLAVIC sass, which – somewhat incongruously – is even more epic than anything Beyoncé could ever come up with.

You may be getting the impression that I’m a bit of a fan of this one. Which I am, of course. But it didn’t start that way. I had to listen to this piece of music four or five times before it finally clicked with me – similar to how I didn’t quite *get* “Igranka” at first, but grew to adore it. The first impression is that it’s a weird shouty mess, as I’m sure a lot of fans are currently thinking. But please, people, give it time. It’s like that pet your sister got for Christmas that you never really wanted. It’s the most abominable thing ever to exist, and you vow to yourself that you shall resent its presence in your house for the rest of eternity… but eventually, after months of it following you round with unignorable pleading stares and offering you its paw, you start to come round. And then you fall in love with it. It will just take time.

I can't believe I've just compared "My Slowianie" to my dog.
I can’t believe I’ve just compared “My Slowianie” to my dog.

My one fear with this song is the fact that they have promised us a bilingual version for Copenhagen – which is a problem because the English version, quite frankly, is shit. The lyrics are clunky and jar somewhat with the fab clappy rhythm which so energises the original Polish version. Plus, the whole concept of the song is about Slavic unity and singing it in English somewhat defeats the object, no? Of course, I can see the logic behind a language change, because something this unique is going to struggle to connect with a mass European audience, and understanding what the hell they’re singing about would be a step to bridge that gap. I just hope it’s a minimal language mix, if it has to be one at all.

Context:

The last time we saw Poland on the Eurovision stage was in 2011, when the fabulous Magdalena Tul sang the uptempo electronic number “Jestem” all in Polish. On that particular occasion, they finished dead last in their semi – albeit an extremely undeserved placing. Having then proceeded to take two years out of the contest, Poland aren’t haunted by the ghost of this failure all too closely anymore, and 2014 is a fantastic opportunity for them to make a fresh start.

Rory compiled our Possible Artists list for Poland, and although Donatan-Cleo weren’t among our suggestions, I would hazard a guess that TVP have gone one better than we dared to hope by getting them on board. They are sending what might well be THE biggest song in Poland right now, which is exactly what I think the contest needs as a whole. This is contemporary and modern, it’s a country with a patchy recent record throwing caution to the wind and sending an organic challenge which the entire nation can get behind with enthusiasm. If nothing else, TVP are pretty much guaranteed a hell of a lot of domestic viewers thanks to this decision.

It could be the start of a new era in Poland’s Eurovision story.. this just needs to work. They need a qualification. I SERIOUSLY hope “My Slowianie” doesn’t suffer the same fate as last year’s ill-fated but brilliant Montenegrin entry.

Your Views:

What do you think of the Polish song?
What do you think of the Polish song?

Oliver Draveneau from France: It’s not my cup of tea and I am not sure if it will be a success in Europe like in Poland

Marco Muntean from Romania: Top ten for Poland,hope so ❤

Krzysztof Czmok from Poland: AMAZING!!!! Love it, hopefully they still sing their song in Polish 🙂

This news has literally broken in the last hour or so (as of writing) so the fan-sphere hasn’t yet had chance to properly react to this song, but from what I’ve read so far, it’s getting the mixed reviews I would expect. Some love it, others can’t stand it at all. See earlier point about the dog. It will grow on you. Just imagine Cleo with puppy eyes or something. I’m hoping and praying this is enough for Poland to sneak into the final, it’s certainly one of my favourite entries to date!

But what do you think? Feel free to leave us a comment below!