It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here! And what better way is there to spend the time between now and Te Deum than going through the finalists for some thoughts, comments and personal wishes? This time I consulted with my friend, the Eurovision sorter, and made a final ranking of the 26 competing songs in tonight’s finals. That’s a personal ranking – that is, not a prediction, especially as I already can guess that there won’t be much overlap between my taste and the final results, but I’ll keep that depressing talk for tomorrow’s final post-mortem. Meanwhile, I am going to pretend that everything is open and everything can happen.
26. If you read my posts, it should come as no surprise that this place belongs to Poland. Michal, if you ever decide to come back to Eurovision with a song I don’t completely hate, I promise to be nicer – you are really very lovely. Color of Your Life? Less so. Listening in to the jury rehearsal, he did not have a great night, and his draw between France and Australia isn’t good news either, so I’m not expecting this to do much – although with a better vocal he can get some televotes, especially with a little help from his friends. And Poland’s.
25. With so many songs that I really like in this year’s final line-up, I would be absolutely OK with my bottom 5 personal songs actually finishing there, but here’s one I’m already sure will finish way higher. Yes, it is the Netherlands. The man, the guitar, the neck tattoo and the awkward break. On the bright side, it’s third in the running order, so at least I get to be done with it quickly.
24. I have to admit that when I first heard Donny’s song in the Lithuanian national final, way back when, I actually thought it was pretty decent. Perhaps it’s just one of the songs you get tired of very quickly – a problem viewers will not have. Still, I care little for it now and that what matters. I do expect the European (and Australian) public to agree with me though. There are quite a few better options, so I’m not going to spend a wish on that one.
23. All signs suggest Serbia will do very well, and I will at least be happy for her because I like her a lot, when she’s not busy getting spasms on stage. The song will keep doing little for me despite finding the lyrics very meaningful. Overall, if I need to choose something from my bottom five that I will be the least bothered seeing doing well, it’s that one. Not that I really care that much about songs I don’t like doing well (as long as they don’t win, obviously), but I would rather keep up the top spots for my favorites, obviously.
22. Azerbaijan is the biggest loser of my final ranking. All the way up in second place just before rehearsals started, I couldn’t in good faith put this anywhere near the top, despite thinking the song is excellent and that it is after all a song contest. And that will teach you that a great song is a good start, but it’s still really wise to actually hear the singer perform it before you announce them as your representative. This is also the first entry in my “missed opportunities” list – a song with so much potential that will do so little. I assume. I hope. Too many artists bringing their A-game for this to go anywhere.
21. Cyprus is another one that dropped a little on my list, after I was let down by their performance. Make that Missed Opportunity #2. A very accessible song, much more so than their competition in the rock niche, Georgia, but watching it gives you the opposite impression. Maybe now that Ivan went home they can borrow his wolves?
20. I have warmed up to If I Were Sorry. It helped a lot that Frans sorted his vocals out and started smiling, which makes him look a lot nicer and a lot less obnoxious than I initially thought. While Sweden is pretty early in the line-up, it definitely does come as a contrast to everything else around it, and I might not care so much anymore if this does well.
19. Performance-wise, I probably should have Malta lower, but I still like the song and Ira herself quite a bit, so this is where it ends up. Sadly though, while the song is nice and the vocals are great, this one has little else going for it and its staging still baffles me in the most basic YOU THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA WHY? way. Malta also got Norway’s semi draw, and for the second time I don’t quite understand why would anyone think that putting any female singer who is supposed to be belting her song right after Jamala is useful for anything.
18. My home country, Israel, was never among my favorites this year, although my opinion of it improved a lot seeing its performance. The problems I have with the song’s structure and development still exist, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many people in Europe felt the same way. Coming right after Italy does it no favors also, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it doing (relatively) well, considering how little support this got initially. I also have to place this song on another mental list I am making, of countries that managed to get everything could out of their song. I would never have thought I’d see the day Israel appeared on that list, but wonders never cease.
17. Freddie has been dropping slowly in my rankings, starting the season just inside my top 10. I guess that since this was performed many times in the Hungarian national final in a very similar way to how it is performed in Eurovision, it was hard to get really excited about this. But I am sure my opinion will shift drastically as soon as his face shows up on my screen in the song’s first close-up, because I’m shallow.
16. Germany’s Ghost is another one that has been inside my top 10 and gradually slipped down the rankings. This is definitely the worst case of overexposure for me from everything on this list: I’ve known and loved the song since she won The Voice with it, a few months before the national final. I am mentally preparing myself for this doing absolutely nothing, but I am still secretly wishing there would be enough people recognizing the good song and/or just being intrigued by the look of it all for her to at least get some points and know that there were people who love that song.
15. When I first heard Australia, I liked it a lot – didn’t love it – but guessed it would win. Later, I started liking it less, and changed my prediction of it to second place. Having watched it live, I was really disappointed with it as I didn’t enjoy it at all and the performance highlighted too many things that were on my initial list of issues I had with the song anyway. Now it is the big favorite to win all of a sudden, and having had it in my predictions from early on I am actually hoping I was wrong, and that there will be enough people who also find this performance utterly boring. In fairness, I still wouldn’t mind Sound of Silence if it came up on my MP3 shuffle, but I care little for it when it plays on the screen in front of me.
14. Georgia makes a surprising steep climb up my initial rankings, in yet another case of a country getting everything possible out of their song. My main question about this all season long was whether it would feel completely out of place in Eurovision. They proved me wrong. Not only does it fit right in, being in the final made the final better and more varied. And it’s one of the coolest things we have in the line-up. Thank you for proving me wrong, Georgia; I really don’t mind being wrong from time to time.
13. I spent a lot of words in my reviews complaining about Russia, but interestingly it has gone up in my rankings a little bit. I still think the song is outdated and sounds like a track that didn’t make the cut for an album back in 2009, and the performance is still really over the top, but having watched it, I forgot how much I like Sergey, and I am having a hard time really wishing him to fail. I still don’t want this to win, though – I haven’t gone THAT soft.
12. In Missed Opportunity #3 we find Spain, whose song I absolutely loved all season long. It still makes me want to dance – even with THAT performance – but its main problem right now is that it has THAT performance. Why? And how did Barei, who is a talented singer and musician, end up with those backing singers? Were Pastora’s backings unavailable? Also, in the Great Mysteries of the Running Order, why is this after Russia? It’s not like this final is exploding from uptempo overload.
11. Oh, we’re already at Missed Opportunity #4! And it’s Croatia. One of the most beautiful songs and voices this year, and also one of the most stereotypical Eurovision performances here, and I’m talking Eurovision 1999 at that, not 2016. In a way, it works a little bit because I think people still tune in to watch some of their good old-school Eurovision nonsense, but this song and singer had so much potential to do better with a bit of creativity. Although I suppose her costumes are creative, at least. Yes, creative, that’s a good nice way to put it.
10. The top 10 starts with Italy and this I have mixed feelings about. I love Francesca, but the song took me a while to get into. I like the idea of her staging in theory but I really am not sure it works for me, or at all. But do I want to see this inside the top 10 by the end of the night? Yes, I do. So here we are. And in another episode of Running Order Mysteries, why is this before Israel? I get it when the producer running order screws over songs that they already know did poorly in the semis so they don’t care (or alternatively did so well they don’t think it matters), but Francesca didn’t compete yet, and putting another ballad right after her ballad, even if there’s a contrast in staging, is still not helping her get the most out of her position. I think it’s a little unfair.
9. Justs has been hovering just outside my top 10 for a while now, but his performance in Thursday finally got his foot in the door. I suspect Latvia did really well in the semi, but have a feeling that being where it is in the final running order he could get lost tonight. I am hoping to be wrong! But if he brings that same amount of passion he brought to stage on Thursday, it will be harder to ignore him. Even with Jamala coming up right after him. However, it’s one of the few songs that I still can see finishing almost anywhere.
8. I am as surprised as you are to find the United Kingdom all the way up here, when they’ve spent much of the season at around 18 on my list, but I fell in love with them as the season progressed, and they are also a surprising entry to my Countries Who Got the Most out of Their Songs list. They make me happy when I watch them, and at the end of the day that is all that matters! I still expect this to not do great things, but how much do I want to be wrong….
7. France seemed to have disappointed many people this week, but for me it went the other way. Initially well outside my top 10, it is now all the way up here. Watching it on screen, I really liked the atmosphere and the look of it. I actually liked that he looked alone on stage – I think it works with the concept of both the art and the lyrics of the song. It is nice, warm, easy to like and despite its simplicity, leaves a visual impression. It might not win for France, but could and should still be their best result in a very long time.
6. The Czech Republic is doomed. I know this. We all knew this as soon as we saw that damn awful camerawork (Where are we on the Missed Opportunity list? #5?) and we definitely knew it when we saw the running order. I suppose it’s baby steps for the Czech Republic. They finally picked the right song, now they have some catching up to do on how to stage things and what the word “camerawork” even means. Either way, I still think the song is beautiful, and Gabriela is still a stunning singer, and I hope that even with the drunk cat camerawork and that draw, some people (yes, juries, I’m looking at you) will recognize it, even if just a little bit.
5. If you told me two weeks ago that this is where Belgium would end up in my final ranking of the season, I would have thought you insane. I mean, seriously? Belgium? But the winner of this year’s Country that Got the Most out of its Song award is easily Belgium, and they’ve shown that you can still do a completely old-school sort of performance with limited budget – visible backing singers and a lot of choreography – and still manage to get everything out of a song that is even not that good. It’s also a case of being in the right place at the right time – this year needed a few minutes of pure fun that doesn’t try too hard nor take itself too seriously.
4. I rooted for Zoe since her first appearance in the Austrian selection last year, was delighted to find out that she’s in the selection this year and even more delighted to discover I liked her song this year so much better. Then I spent a long time trying to convince people that she would qualify easily, and now my last target is a top 10 placing. You can do it, Zoe!
3. Ridiculous sci-fi dress and all, Bulgaria’s song is still awesome, and Poli is still the most kickass performer this year. And while this definitely wins my Missed Opportunity award for this year, I still – perhaps completely delusionally – think it can do really well tonight. Not as well as it could have done (top 5, goodbye) but I haven’t given up on that top 10 spot yet.
2. Ukraine is everything I never thought would become a Eurovision favorite of mine – I normally really struggle with entries that scream themselves to death for three minutes, but one of the many things I love about Eurovision is that it opens you up for things that are out of your comfort zone. The emotion in this got me in a way very few Eurovision song have done before, and I am actually surprised that despite watching and hearing this many times, I am still not tired of it. I initially guessed this would finish around 7th, assuming that the West will largely not get this, but my biggest wish for tonight is being wrong about that and finding out that while some musical styles are more difficult to get in different cultures, emotion is universal.
1. Armenia wasn’t my number 1 song before the semi finals, but at #3, it was close enough. Out of everything I watched this year, nothing left me quite as speechless as watching this, and even though I know it’s a difficult song to get in first hearing (or fifth for that matter), I do hope that the courage of going for something that is so out-there will be appreciated, as well as the incredible work that went into getting this amazing presentation of it.
And that is it. 26 songs. A wonderful line-up of songs – I don’t even really truly hate anything in my bottom 5, which is a rare thing. I just like them less relatively to the rest of the list. I think this is the strongest line-up we’ve had for a long long time, and despite the odds showing a few clear frontrunners, I hope the results actually reflect the quality of the songs across the board. I hope that we all have a wonderful night, and that you’ve supplied yourself with enough bottles of wine for what will be a very long evening. I will admit I am a little relieved that this is the penultimate piece in this San Francisco series – I’m definitely running out of interesting things to say!
The countdown to PED starts in 10… 9…. 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…