NF Season: ESC Views’ National Final awards 2014!

The 2014 National Final season drew to a close just over a week ago, and as we now have our 37 songs for Copenhagen, it’s time for us to take a nostalgic look back at the last three months, and give some well-earned recognition to the shows we enjoyed the most! Ladies and gentlemen, welcome along to the first ever ESC Views National Final Awards! 😀

Looking back over the NF season and giving out a few little awards!
Looking back over the NF season and giving out a few little awards!

Just a quick little note on how we’ve organised this – each of our sixteen categories will feature five nominees, one of which will be the award winner highlighted in red. We will explain our choices below each one! And of course, we would love to hear which shows would receive your personal awards in each category, so do feel free to comment and get involved!

Let’s make a start on the first award then!

HIGHEST OVERALL STANDARD OF ENTRIES

Finland – UMK

Denmark – DMGP

Germany – Unser Song Für Danemark

Ukraine

Sweden – Melodifestivalen

We picked out the five above as nominees for this award based on the general overall quality which pervaded their national selections – so many great songs in each show made for very difficult decisions, but in the end we went for Sweden… In all honesty, how could we not? We’re talking about a 32-song multi-night contest featuring specifically chosen pieces of music composed in the songwriting capital of the world. If Sweden didn’t have the highest overall standard, it would be rather embarrassing, right? Coming close behind, we’d like to give special mention to Germany and Finland!

BEST VOTING SYSTEM

Albania – Festivali I Këngës

Sweden – Melodifestivalen

Belgium – Eurosong

Hungary – A Dal

France – Les Chansons D’Abord

As Rory noted in our NF Review for Belgium, the method of inviting international juries to announce their votes live on screen owed a lot to the method used by Sweden in Melodifestivalen. However, there was just something about the Belgian system which just felt a little less pretentious and a whole lot more exciting. If they repeat the format in years to come, and they don’t have such a runaway winner, I’d hope that this system would produce an extremely interesting viewing experience – especially if they pick another set of STUNNING (note the sarcasm) spokespersons!

BEST PRESENTER/S

Ula Furlan (Slovenia)

Despina Vandi & Giorgos Kapoutzidis (Greece)

Natasha St-Pier (France)

Anne Igartiburu (Spain)

Moira Delia, Ira Losco & Gianluca Bezzina (Malta)

2014’s national final season featured presenters which varied from boring to exuberant; from chatty to formal, from professional to downright crazy. The five nominees above feature the lovely Anne from Spain who took it upon herself to hand out gifts to every performer; the charismatic Ula from Slovenia who ingratiated herself with the competing artists and established a real rapport with the viwers; and the Maltese trio who presided over an inimitably long show with style and ease. However, anyone who saw the Greek National Final will know that the adorable antics of superstar Despina Vandi and her co-presenter Giorgos Kapotzidis cannot be outdone. Not only did they make the show a really enjoyable experience for us, they seemed to be having a great time themselves throughout – Efcharisto!

BEST GRAPHICS

Azerbaijan – Boyuk Sehne

Iceland – Songvakeppni

Sweden – Melodifestivalen

Germany – Unser Song Für Danemark

Slovenia – EMA

The brilliant thing about Germany is that the graphics used for their last two national finals have basically been reincarnations of those used when Düsseldorf hosted the 2011 contest. Some might say that’s unoriginal. We say it’s endearing. Watching the show, you immediately know you’re watching a German national final, as everything feels very comforting and familiar. They’ve got the same graphics just with the colour scheme altered to reflect the flag of that year’s host country. Really lovely idea!

BEST STAGE/SET DESIGN

Switzerland – Die Grosse Entscheidungsshow

United Kingdom

Slovenia – EMA

Albania – Festivali I Këngës

Finland – UMK

I raved about the Slovenian stage in our review article, but honestly, I think it was a genius concept, hence why the two of us have decided to dedicate this award to it! The main performance area was circular, with the artists seated in little booths around the outside. As Ula Furlan filled the space between the songs with lively artist interviews, all the action took place on and around the stage. In their successful mission to mash together a music contest and a chat show, Slovenia’s set design really enhanced the effect! Living proof that a stage doesn’t necessarily need to be Moscow-2009-level flashy in order to stand out and be unique!

BEST INTERVAL ACT/S

Ciubul – Moldova

None*- Norway

ByeAlex – Hungary

National superstars including Sofia Tarasova, Kamaliya and Masha Sobko – Ukraine

Emmelie de Forest premièring “Rainmaker” – Malta

Emmelie de Forest popped up at a number of national finals this year, each time either languidly miming her way through “Only Teardrops” or – from February onwards – treating us to an energised rendition of “Rainmaker”. As the new song is to be the official theme song of Copenhagen 2014, and will be the interval act in the grand final, the NF season served as a series of rehearsals for our Emmelie – bringing all the contestants out to join in the song is what she’s planning for May, so it was nice to get a few previews of how it will eventually look!

* – as noted in our NF Review for Norway, they employed the unorthodox idea of showing a completely different TV programme between the end of the performances and the announcement of the results. Very unique idea.

BEST DRESSED PERFORMER

Viktor Király – Hungary

Daria – Belarus

ULI RUD – Ukraine

Markus Riva – Latvia

Anton Ewald – Sweden

I am going to attempt to talk about Viktor Király without getting unduly excited. It won’t be easy. Because DAYUM BOY WOULD YOU LOOK AT HOW HE WEARS DAT SUIT. OMFG. BREATHE. He’s stunning as it is, but hoooooly shit, that outfit showed him off in his best light, didn’t it! Such a lovely fit, if you get what I mean…

On a more aesthetic level, we both loved Daria’s throwback shoulder pads, ULI RUD’s leather bird costume (sorry Rory) and Markus Riva’s flawless jacket. Which I still want, btw.

MOST UNDERRATED ENTRY

Jasmin Michaela – “Kertakäyttösydän” (Finland)

ULI RUD – “Tsvetok” (Ukraine)

Olga un Ligo – “Saule Riet” (Latvia)

Sandra Nurmsalu – “Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad” (Estonia)

Curly – “Your Recovery” (Moldova)

We are planning to start posting a countdown of the best songs of all time to be left in the national finals soon, so you’ll be hearing a lot more of our opinions on this particular topic! However, for the purposes of this award, after selecting our five collective favourites, we simply went for the one who was furthest away from actually winning – which in a clinical sense, is technically the most underrated. Step forward ULI RUD, who was unceremoniously lumped with LAST place in the Ukrainian national final, being beaten by no less than NINETEEN other songs. Ouchie. 😮 If anyone has Rory on Facebook, then you’ll know he’s a mahoosive fan of this song… so justice is finally served. Happy Rory is happy.

MOST OVERRATED ENTRY

Yazmina Huntzinger – “I Still Believe” (Switzerland)

Brequette – “Más” (Spain)

Rebekka Thornbech – “Your Lies” (Denmark)

Ace Wilder – “Busy Doin’ Nothin'” (Sweden)

Eoghan Quigg – “The Movie Song” (Ireland)

Look right… “The Movie Song” was just nauseating and cheesy. On SOOOO many levels. And yet it finished SECOND!? No explanation needed for why it’s *won* this award really!

MOST AWKWARD MOMENT

Linda Martin’s infamous GOBSHOITE moment (Ireland)

Redrama switching to English and dropping the F-bomb (Finland)

Belarussian presenters – “3, 2, 1 … *nothing*” (Belarus)

Eva Rivas’ apparent inability to speak Armenian during her interview (Armenia)

Host/performer chatter during Festivali I Këngës (Albania)

Not only was Linda Martin’s now infamous outburst the singular most awkward moment of the entire 2014 season, it was also the most epic piece of spontaneous accidental television gold I have EVER seen. If you missed it, the video is below. It is glorious. Everything shall be made clear.

LOWEST OVERALL STANDARD OF ENTRIES

Switzerland

Albania

Romania

Belarus

Belgium

There were many strengths to the Romanian national final… unfortunately, the quality of the songs was not one of them. When we previewed the show, we both remarked on how pathetic the majority of the field appeared to be, with only three songs out of the twelve appealing to either of us. The line-ups in Belarus and Belgium both provided stiff competition on the diabolical front, but nothing could surpass the sheer dross which constituted 75% of Romania’s show. Apologies. The show was nice, just not the majority of the songs. Right one won!

MOST DIFFICULT SHOW TO WATCH

Romania – Selectia Nationala

Belarus – Eurosong

Albania – Festivali I Këngës

Malta – MESC

Moldova – O Melodie Pentru Europa

If you read our NF Review of the Maltese show, you’ll know that the two of us have been plagued with NIGHTMARES where “ROCS GROUP” and “Voh-dah-fone” serve as a perpetual soundtrack to daily life… so many times were these phrases repeated within the BILLIONS of ad breaks during the Maltese national final. It really is a shame, because the general level of the songs, and the production values were both very high during the show… but the adverts were quite honestly ridiculous. Seemingly every ten minutes, and lasting what felt like an hour each time. Everything from insurance to kitchen utensils to hair products from Ira Losco’s own stylist… once or twice, fair enough, but THE SAME ONES EVERY TIME? That’s why MESC was so so difficult to get through. *sigh*

MOST APATHETIC SHOW

Portugal – Festival Da Canção

Belarus – Eurosong

Moldova – O Melodie Pentru Europa

Albania – Festivali I Këngës

Israel

Maybe we all got the wrong end of the stick when we heard that Mei Finegold’s song for Israel would be selected through a “three song national final”. We’ve seen similar events from Israel before, and the very least we were expecting is that there would at least be some kind of show to watch, right? Um… not really. Three videos were played. Bit of chit chat with the lovely Mei.. and then “oh by the way, your song is “Same Heart”, good luck”. Definition of apathy.

WORST DRESSED PERFORMER

Vilija Mataciunaite – Lithuania

Ilaria – Ukraine

Pöllaponk – Iceland

Josh Standing – Finland

Cristina Scarlat – Moldova

It would seem that Europe has a penchant for choosing the worst-dressed performers to represent them in Eurovision, as three of our five nominees actually won their respective national selections, in spite of their hideous outfits! Nah, to be honest, although we made countless comments on the fashion sense of the performers we watched this year, many of them have been completely forgotten unfortunately. The ones left most certainly left a negative impression, none more so than Josh Standing, whose otherwise beautiful appearance was RUINED by the election to perform wearing an oversized football kit from 1998. I’m scarred for life.

BEST OVERALL SONG PRESENTATION

United Kingdom

Macedonia

Montenegro

Armenia

The song presentation shows from Macedonia and Montenegro came extremely close to acquiring this award, as both were really endearing and personal shows which demonstrated a lot of enthusiasm for the contest itself, and gave an interesting insight into the composition of the respective entries. However, the prime purpose of a song presentation is to present a song. Ten minutes, bosh. The BBC did just that, managing to shoehorn a trademark emotional elderly family member and a STUNNING stage setting into their airtime. If only this had been a live TV event rather than a shitty red button affair, ey? It did what it said on the tin, and the short and sweet approach gave Molly’s entry even more gravitas when it was finally unleashed!

BEST OVERALL NATIONAL FINAL

Honourable mentions go to Slovenia, Spain, Ukraine, Latvia and Norway. However, we ranked the following national finals as our top five favourites!

5th place: Sweden – Melodifestivalen 2014

4th place: Iceland – Songvakeppni 2014

3rd place: Greece – Eurosong 2014: A MAD Show

2nd place: Germany – Unser Song Für Danemark

1st place: Finland – Uuden Musikiin Kilpailu 2014

Sweden was big brash and glitzy, as ever. Great quality of songs. Iceland was quirky, unique and endearing, interesting format. Greece proved that a four-song national final from a cash-strapped broadcaster can still be a fantastically entertaining event. And then our top two proved IMPOSSIBLE to decide between… Germany’s impressive stadium show was without a doubt the most ambitious and original television broadcast of the entire 2014 season, and they pulled it off admirably. Rory’s review of the show demonstrates how much we enjoyed it!

However, in the end, by the smallest of margins, we decided to go with Finland as our National Final winner from 2014. It managed to bridge the difficult gap between being professional and feeling personal at the same time. Alongside the twelve well-selected quality songs, we were treated to entertaining segments of comedy and culture, interesting opportunities to learn more about the artists, and personal input from the jury members, offering genuinely helpful comments about each competing entry. At the same time, the stage was magnificent, the crowd were energetic and the artists themselves put their all into their performances. The whole thing felt as though a lot of care had been put into it, and the resulting show was thoroughly enjoyable as a result. If you watched it, I’m sure you’ll know what I mean.

Well there you go guys, that’s what we thought of the 2014 national final season – but what do you think? We asked a selection of fans their opinions:

Your Views:

Which national final was your favourite and why?
Which national final was your favourite and why?

Nick van Lith from the Netherlands: Mixed feeling for that. A Dal was good, but in song quality, Unser Song Für Dänemark was so much better… And weirdly, I still get sick when I think back of Unheilig losing that brilliant show…. So I’d sadly have to say A Dal 😛

Roman Frank from Germany: Greece, because of the many former ESC-artists singing their Eurovision songs in a new arrangement. And they did show, how you can make with a nice show with a small budget.

Vardges Shahmenendyan from Armenia: MGP, because i had more favorites than in any other national selection. Dansk MGP could me my favorite if Basim didn’t win.

Nadine Glöck from Germany: Finland, Estonia and Germany. Reason: In all 3 NFs the Quality of the songs was very high. All 3 also had a good mixture of musicstyles.

You’ve heard what we think; you’ve heard what some other fans think… now it’s over to you! What do you think of our choices for each award? Who would be your personal winner in each category? Any other thoughts on the 2014 national final season? Feel free to leave a comment below letting us know!

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