Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 Eurovision Song Contest Sampler

Eurovision Song Contest. It's my pop culture guilty pleasure... that I don't feel remotely guilty about. Broadcast every year since 1956, it's one of the longest-running television programs in the world. In 2014, Eurovision drew an audience of nearly 200 million. All active members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) can take part -- 40 countries are sending artists to compete in Vienna, Austria this year. The 2015 winner, chosen via a combination of televoting and juries, will be announced May 23rd. It's all done live for the contest, but you can find performance clips or music videos for all the songs online. I can't show you all 40 acts, so I picked seven -- personal favorites, one surprising entry, real contenders and the odds-on favorite to win.

Australia: "Tonight Again" by Guy Sebastian. Eurovision has been broadcast in Australia for 30 years. It's wildly popular there even though they don't compete. This year, in honor of the 60th anniversary and in recognition of Australia's fandom, the country was invited to participate. Their choice is enormously popular Guy Sebastian, the first winner of Australian Idol in 2003. My prediction: The song is semi-funky dance pop that should easily propel Sebastian into the Top 5. Goodwill towards Australia will help. His website is here.

Russia: "A Million Voices" by Polina Gagarina. It was only a few years ago that Russia took second place with a gaggle of grandmothers in traditional garb singing "Party For Everybody." Last year they sent two wholesome blonde sisters who performed with their hair tied together. I'm not making this up. This year's entry is a shameless, calculated feel-good anthem about the world's people believing in a dream because we all shine like stars and our hearts beats like drums. To be fair, Polina Gagarina sings the hell out of it. Won't win, but if someone ever imprisons Vladimir Putin for crimes against humanity or something, I hope they make him listen to this until he gets the dry heaves. (And the video is like the longest life insurance ad ever made.) My prediction: It will go -- bafflingly --Top 10.

Israel: "Golden Boy " by Nadav Guedj. This is a personal favorite that doesn't have the slightest chance of winning or even landing in the Top 10. But Nadav Guedj is having a blast as it coyly builds to an irresistibly goofball dance song. Also, he's adorable. My prediction: Might squeak into the Top 20.

Serbia: "Beauty Never Lies" by Bojana Stamenov. 

Bojana Stamenov
Another personal favorite. Basically, if you're going to write a dance-pop anthem, this is how you do it. Stamenov goes full diva before it's over and just owns this song. Lots of people can relate to these lyrics:

Finally I can say
Yes I'm different 
And it's okay
Here I am

This video was created by editing together footage of Stamenov and fan submissions recorded on cameras and smartphones. An alternate video, featuring her in a smashing red dress is here.  My prediction: Regrettably, it won't make the Top 10. But it will probably make some queer folk happy.

Finland: "Aina Mun Pitaa" by Pertti Kurikan Nimipaivat. I'll let bass player Sami Helle explain: "The members of our band are four middle-aged, mentally handicapped men. The music is, of course, Finnish punk." All they want to do, the band claims, it raise awareness of people with learning disabilities and "have a fucking good time along the way." Eurovision purists may be squirming, but I think it's pretty cool. English translation of the song's title: I always have to. It's assertive and brisk -- clocking in at about a minute and a half. I really want to see this done live. My prediction: Top 10.

Italy: "Grande Amore" by Il Volo.  They're an Italian pop opera trio consisting of Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto and Gianluca Ginoble. English translation for their name: The Flight.

Il Volo
One of only a handful of acts that will perform in their native language, these guys are becoming very popular outside Europe. "Grande Amore" (translation: great love) is one of those ballads that gradually and skillfully swells into an effusive track that sucks you right in, even if you can't understand a word they're singing. My prediction: This seductive blast of popera with go Top 5, maybe even Top 3. Their website is here.

The video essentially concedes that what we have here is a pop opera boy band, then brazenly riffs on a trio of famous Hollywood movie scenes. It's silly, gorgeous and, well, a little bit operatic.  

Sweden: "Heroes" by Mans Zelmerlow. He's a native Swede that the news/media website BuzzFeed described as, "so handsome it hurts."

Mans Zelmerlow
This one has winner written all over it. It pretty much defines the state of modern pop music. And it's got one of those killer hooks that lodges in your head and periodically demands to be sung out loud. My prediction: Barring an upset or surprise, here's your winner.

Examples of why BuzzFeed declared Mans so handsome it hurts...

Usually when I see a photo like this I think, "sunscreen." Not this time.

For a 2014 Swedish awards show, he did a playful parody of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" video.

UPDATE: Sweden won!

Thanks for indulging me with this one!


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