Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #5 Written by on April 11, 2017 | 9 Comments

We continue to review the songs for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest 2017. You can listen to Juke Box Jury and the ESC Insight podcast online. Add the RSS Feed to your favourite podcast application, or click here to follow us in iTunes and never miss an episode.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #5
…with Emma Backfish (Meanwhile In Europe) and Matthew Kerr (Majiker.com).

Belgium: City Lights, by Blanche.
Austria: Running On Air, by Nathan Trent.
Iceland: Paper, by Svala.
Belarus: Story Of My Life, by Navi Band.
Serbia: In Too Deep, by Tijana Bogicevićc.

Don’t miss an episode of the Eurovision Insight podcast by subscribing to the RSS feed dedicated to the podcasts. iTunes users can find us in the iTunes Store and get the show automatically downloaded to your computer.

About The Author: Ewan Spence

British Academy (BAFTA) nominated broadcaster and writer Ewan Spence is the voice behind The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast and one of the driving forces behind ESC Insight. Having had an online presence since 1994, he is a noted commentator around the intersection of the media, internet, technology, mobility and how it affects us all. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, his work has appeared on the BBC, The Stage, STV, and The Times. You can follow Ewan on Twitter (@ewan) and Facebook (facebook.com/ewanspence).

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9 responses to “Eurovision Insight Podcast: Juke Box Jury #5”

  1. Ben Pitchers says:

    Belgium: HIT. Despite having lots of faith in RTBF’s recent track record I didn’t know what to expect from Blanche and was very pleasantly surprised. This is a great, contemporary entry. She has an unusual singing style. The only problem this could have is that this is a song that needs something to bring it to life live at the contest. The song doesn’t require a huge amount of vocal gymnastics from Blanche to maybe she can be doing something visually interesting on stage. I’m sure RTBF have something good up their sleeves. Could be yet another top 5 for Belgium and a dark horse for winning the whole thing if it has a great stage presentation and a good starting position in the final.

    Austria: MAYBE. I find it quite charming. I was slightly disappointed when I first heard it because I had quite high hopes for Nathan. I like his voice and it seems like he’s a good live singer. I think it’s good enough to qualify but it has the death slot in the bigger (for now) semi-final and might be too middle of the road to be memorable enough from that slot. I’ve heard lots of positive things about him and how likeable he is from the live events, so maybe there’s enough there to creep into the final.

    Iceland: MAYBE. This is one of favourite songs this year. It’s very contemporary and has a enjoyable cold, Nordic sound to it. The lyrics are thoughtful and poetic. Svala’s an experienced and talented singer/songwriter. The NF performance needs to be improved for Eurovision and must be more accessible for viewers. I agree with Matthew that a less aggressive performance would be much more appropriate for the song. If she can improve this I’m sure she’ll be in the Final. If not, she’ll probably just miss out which would be a big shame.

    Belarus: HIT. I was so happy when this won the NF after thinking they should have been last year’s winners. It’s not like any other song in the contest and the duo have such a positive, warm energy that it’s easy to be seduced by their charms. Even though it’s in Belarusian you can understand the main point of the song from the English title and the way they perform it. They have a good draw in SF2 but could suffer a bit without the votes of Russia if they aren’t at the contest. However, I think there’s enough there for qualification. The energy and “hey hey” parts make me think of Moldova’s 2009 entry which didn’t do too badly. Songs like this are sorely needed in the final, if not just to convince that non-English entries can do well. I completely agree that it’s their best entry so far.

    Serbia: HIT. Another great, contemporary entry. It’ll make a distinctive start to SF2. Serbia tends to stage their entries well. The success of this will be Tijana’s vocal performance. Her previous experience at Eurovision 2011 should be beneficial. Like Matthew, it reminds me of what Malta was trying last year. Ewan’s point about the lack of a hook might foreshadow just how well it does in the final.

  2. HarrietKrohn says:

    Belgium – From what I’ve read, Blanche’s live performances so far have not been all that promising, but I admit that’s only second hand rumours. I don’t usually follow all those pre-competition concerts, so I can only judge the studio version. That’s really good, but even if Blanche can nail the vocals on the night, they have to find a really impressive way to stage this or it might just stay a little anonymous. It’s cool and modern, but there aren’t only cool and modern people watching (and voting). HIT

    Austria – Pleasant enough song, but that’s really all I can say about it. Apparently Nathan has lots of charme and if he bring that on stage, there might yet be a Saturday showing for him. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he was already back home by then. MAYBE

    Iceland – I want to love this because it’s Iceland (ég tala svolitla íslensku), but I don’t. I don’t hate it either, not by a long shot, but (mis)matching performance or not, this isn’t more than mediocre for me. Will struggle to reach the final because I actually don’t think Iceland know how to stage a song impressively at all. MAYBE

    Belarus – I understand everyone who loves this, but I don’t. Very authentic, very interesting, very unusual for the contest, native language, all of that, yes – but it’s not really my thing. All the “hey”s make me aggressive and towards the end I find myself hoping someone will pull the plug on that woman. Belgium will not only do better than this, but far better, I hope. MAYBE

    Serbia – I agree it’s pleasant when you’re listening, but completely forgotten just a minute later. As I’m trying to remember it right now, I hear Svala singing “Paaaaaaper” in my head instead. Not bad, but not good enough either, and not really my kind of song (again) either. MAYBE

  3. Shai says:

    Belgium – It’s a wonderful song.Moody and modern alike. It draws you in and keep you interested. There is not a moment when you feel bored and at the end of the contest it will one of the songs staying on my play list. It should really do well – HIT(with a big question mark,see below)
    That’s said – You all have criticized Iceland for her aggressive live performance, but said nothing of the lack of live performances from Blanche(admittedly-this JBJ was recorded before her no show at EIC in Amsterdam).
    There is no shred of evidence that she can sing this live. There is no evidence that she has a charisma to get the audience vote for her. And we really do not know how this will look on TV. If she fails on all 3 counts, this going to be a huge MISS and a shock NQ .

    Austria – It’s a pleasant song and he is quite likeable. It is something you hear on the radio and say this is nice and than it finish and you just forget it. that’s a problem in Eurovision contest. During EIC in Amsterdam he was trying to oversell the song, he shouldn’t. It’s a simple song who need a simple staging. The staging should play on his charms – MISS/MAYBE

    Iceland – The more I listen to this song, the more I like. That is part of the problem for this is song:it’s a grower and time to appreciate what the song is doing. I appreciate the build up and the sound of it. I like the fact that it take its own way to tell a story and that the song remain truth to himself and not trying to please the audience with some cheap tricks – HIT(for me) / MAYBE(for the contest)

    Belarus – It’s this year Austria 2016. Cheerful and inoffensive and make me smile every time I hear this. The last 30 seconds are bit of a let down, as it seems they run of idea’s of how to finish the song and just drag it for another 30 seconds for the 3 minutes mark. Other than that it’s a very enjoyable listen – HIT

    Serbia – A Modern dance track. that can and should do well. The thing is that I am not convinced she is the right singer for this kind of song. There is potential for this to go wrong live or just falling flat because of this mismatch between singer and song- MAYBE

  4. Eurojock says:

    Belgium – Very strong radio friendly song although for Eurovision the build may be too subtle. On first listen I remember waiting for it to hit top gear and being disappointed when that never quite happened. Blanche’s showings (or no showings) at the pre-parties have been a disaster. It could well be a case of ‘great video, shame about the live’. Potential shock non-qualifier. MAYBE.

    Austria – The semi running order is a big hurdle for this. Ewan, you mentioned Malta’s Gianlucca, and for me the key to Austria qualifying this song is for the staging to capitalise on Nathan’s cheeky chappie persona. At the moment the balance is slightly against qualification. MAYBE

    Iceland – I agree with most of the panel’s comments. It’s a good song but it may be more respected than loved. As for viewers not being able to point out what is wrong with the staging let me try to help them – too dark (I mean the lighting), too cold, too aggressive, the swept back hair, she looks aged 60, the ridiculous wedged boots etc etc. Yes, they could improve the staging but as the national final was very late in the day, have they got the time to do that? As things stand at the moment, likely non-qualifier. MISS.

    Belarus – It’s a fun song and it stands out from the other entries. My concerns are that, live, the voices don’t entirely blend and the singers will play to the hall rather than to the television cameras. Nevertheless, the semi-running order should ensure it’s a fairly safe qualifier but for me no higher than 11-16 in the Grand Final. But for Belarus that’s a HIT.

    Serbia – It’s an incredibly well produced song which ticks all the Eurovision boxes, but there is something not working (Matthew’s comments about it being too complicated for Eurovision were interesting). Add to this the number 1 running order slot in the semi and In Too Deep could disappear down the memory hole. Serbia may be relying on voting allies to get through the semi. If it does, like Ewan, I can’t see it doing much in the Grand Final. MAYBE.

  5. Alex C says:

    Belgium – HIT – loved this the moment I heard it and it’s not dulled since. She was a little disappointing in London (although someone I know from behind the scenes said that her in ear monitors completely failed on her so maybe we have to just write that one off altogether) but really the club/theater environment is just totally wrong for this kind of song (whilst it’s perfect for something like Say Yay from last year and look where that ended up), it’s far more suited to a music video or a live performance of a music video if the staging is as stunning as I hope it’s going to be. If it wasn’t the Wallonians in charge of it and I didn’t know that they know what they are doing then I might waver a little bit on my optimism but I agree with the panel, if they nail the staging then I think this could landslide the jury vote so hard that even Italy won’t be able to catch it (I recognise that’s a big if though!)

    Austria – MAYBE – If this is going to qualify then it’ll qualify entirely on the back of his charisma and charm (the granny vote essentially) to which I’m fairly comfortable with saying it’ll do that fairly comfortably. Agree with the panel that it’s not going to do anything amazing in the final (hence the maybe) but given that would mean Austria being in four Saturday Night shows in a row, I think they’ll take that.

    Iceland – MAYBE – I don’t get that it’s as off-putting as you’re suggesting (her movements at least look like “oh I get it that’s choreography” which is far less unappealing than some guy in a man bun being all Golem from Lord of the Rings at the mic from Portugal but we’ll get to them later) but by the same token I think this could just get crowded out in such a competitive semi. Hopefully the jury pulls this up and they refine the imagery enough for it to at least qualify.

    Belarus – HIT – A bit like Austria really, just so frigging charming and uplifting with a hook that is positively contagious. Plus if Russia don’t turn up I can see the “lost” diaspora votes finding their way to Belarus quite easily.

    Serbia – MAYBE – With the first half of Semi 2 so cutthroat I can believe this is a potential non qualifier. If you buy the “no more than 5 from the first half” then I think Romania, Netherlands and Denmark are all likely to outscore it and the balkan votes and uptempo balkan votes may likely fall more behind Macedonia (which would be some nice karmic revenge for Serbia stealing their song!). Plus it doesn’t have as strong a hook which is potentially even harder to manage to overcome from opening the show. Will only be able to know for sure once we see everybody’s staging.

  6. I have to say that this was a great selection of tracks and a couple of superb guests! It was a pleasure to briefly meet Emma at the London press event and I loved Matthew’s musical analysis – very informative, make sure he has a guest slot every year!

    Belgium : HIT. My number 2 this year. RTBF have done it again – “City Lights” would not sound out of place on Radio 1. Blanche’s distinctive vocal style and the electro pop interspersed with the breaks and relentless drum beats gives us this year’s most interesting song. Non-fans loved “If Love Were A Crime” last year – they’ll flock to this one in 2017. I was at the LEP and the room’s acoustics did not suit this or Blanche’s voice at all – I think that she was a little bit stage struck too, judging from when I spoke to her on the balcony afterwards. If the staging can be something like the video and just have her face the focus at times throughout, this can still be the dark horse entry I can see it being.

    Austria : HIT. These melodic tones of Nathan Trent are in the realms of John Legend. “Running On Air” is so laid back and mellow that this could stand out in Kyiv in a totally unexpected way. Power ballads, stand aside – the way to grab attention this year is with a smooth dose of soul! I know that Matthew was unsure he could sing live – his Youtube vidz just prove that without doubt (watch his cover of Stevie Wonder’s “As”) and he performed a flawless acapella of “Running On Air” at the LEP.

    Iceland : MAYBE. I totally agree with Emma and Matthew on on thing here, why do most Icelandic Eurovision entries sound better in their native tongue than in English? I much preferred the tone and content of “Ég veit það” but visually Svala definitely owns the stage, although I’m not sure about the platformed heel chav look. Hopefully the laser show won’t be the only highlight of this in Kyiv – it was interesting to get the comment about the paradox between aggressive staging and submissive lyrics too.

    Belarus : HIT. Hooray for Naviband, bringing Belorussian to Eurovision, along with THE crowd pleaser of 2017. This folky earworm has great harmonies, a superb rhythm and of course ‘hey’ is understood in every language! I love the Dr Who reference to the video even though the duo themselves won’t – or will they? Try that question out in Kyiv, Ewan :)

    Serbia – MISS. “Cause baby you’re a firework”….oh, not that one? It might been in there as “In Too Deep” sounds like so many other songs all in one package, continually changing up pace up and down throughout, becoming another genre of song for thirty seconds and then onto the next. Such a ball of confusion.

    No duff JBJs yet this year…

  7. Martin says:

    Great commentary from Emma (particularly her first about Southern States).

    I think Matthew is correct – Iceland should revert to Icelandic for Eurovision. I would be really sad if Svala doesn’t make it to the final. I also agree that whether it’s English or Icelandic, she needs to tone down the harshness of her performance. I am not sure that Iceland selected the best song from the Songvakeppnin final – it was exceptional.

  8. Marc says:

    I can’t believe that someone as incisive as Matthew Kerr is in the BBC’s Eurovision bubble. It needs a bit more of him and a bit less Guy Freeman.

  9. Matthew Ker(r) says:

    Ha, cheers guys! :-)

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