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Which National Finals Sent The Right Song To Lisbon 2018? Written by on May 15, 2018 | 9 Comments

As the team returns home from the 63rd Eurovision Song Contest, Ewan Spence looks back over the National Final season to find out which broadcasters sent the right song to Lisbon 2018.

Israel Was Right To Choose Netta

Put simply, when you win the Song Contest and bring the show back home with you, it’s clear that the right choice was made. But the decision to send Netta was always going to be the correct one, even if she had finished further down the scoreboard.  It introduced more people to the delights of looping, electronica, and the creative power of mixing. This was a song that had a heart, a message, and meant so much to so many people.

It arrived in Lisbon as a winner. It left as a legend.

Germany Was Right To Choose Michael Schulte

Following a run of poor results, Germany’s fourth place at this year’s Song Contest will be welcomed by the team at NDR. While the easy headlines and disco banger potential of voXXclub have been championed by many, it was the troubador-esque Michael Schulte that captured the hearts in the German National Final. That awarded him the ticket to Lisbon.

Okay, the video projection wall was against the spirit of the ‘no LED” staging decision, but it magnified a story that was delivered with excellence by Schulte. I still think that the song is a little too direct in manipulating emotion in the viewers at home, but it worked in Berlin, it worked in Lisbon, and the way is open for bigger names to trust in NDR’s National Final and take a swing at the Song Contest.

Mission accomplished.

Italy Was Right To Choose Erma Metal And Fabrizio Moro

Strictly speaking, Erma and Fabrizio were right to represent Italy at Eurovision. Sanremo may be seen as the National Selection, but it means so much more to the Italian music industry that the winners have the option of declining or accepting the challenge of making the jump from the Italian riviera to the Eurovision stage.

And this was a clear gamble. The intimate setting of the Ariston Theatre channeled the energy of the two powerful singers, and the larger stage in the Altice Arena threatened to swallow them up. And while RAI will still be wondering what exactly they need to do to get a jury vote, the revitalised Sanremo has delivered a classic that the televoters put in third place.

Finland Was Right To Choose ‘Monsters

Yes, Saara Aalto finished in her traditional second place (even if it was second to last), but ‘Monsters’ was more than a song… if you were paying attention. In that sense, getting it in front of the Saturday night audience should be considered as much of a success as the last Finnish message song (That would be ’Marry Me’).

YLE gambled that going ‘all-in’ on Aalto instead of the open selection that was stopped in mid flow would deliver a qualification and a strong finish. It achieved the first, and I hope that’s enough to placate the Finnish voices. Eurovision needs more songs to challenge the norms and speak to its diverse audience.

Serbia Was Right To Choose Sanja Ilić & Balkanika

It’s not just about the finishing position on Saturday night for Serbia. For Finland it was about sexual identity  for Hungary it was about the career benefits. For Serbia, it was about establishing Beovizija as a successful National Final. The Eurovision Song Contest is firmly back in the public’s conscious, the chosen act was a qualifier to the Saturday night show, …and it gave us Disco Gandalf.

The Czech Republic Was Right To Choose Mikolas Josef

Returning to a National Final for this year was broadcaster CT, and ‘Lie To Me’ picked up the country’s best result with sixth place. But the biggest winner might be the Czech’s selection process itself. While there was the by now expected ‘international jury’ making up part of the show, the other half was decided not by a TV audience but by votes cast online through the Eurovision.tv app (although only votes from inside the Czech republic were counted towards the selection).

No expensive television show, no live voting or auditing, just the music videos of the artists facing the world. That sixth place might just be showing the way forward to involving the public in a cost-effective and transparent manner.

Hungary Was Right To Choose AWS

Always trust the Hungarian public. AWS somehow went from topping the jury vote in the A Dal heats and Semi Finals, only to be suddenly blanked by half of the jury and given the lowest score by the other two. But A Dal’s two part system in its Final meant that AWS made the 100% televote, and the Hungarian public knew what it wanted.

It wanted fire. It wanted energy. It wanted an old-fashioned key change. It wanted metal at Eurovision.

And just like that, A Dal’s reputation for continuing to showcase the best of the Hungarian music scene, continuing to be daring and different, and choosing the best possible entry, continued. An unbroken streak of qualifications to Saturday’s show, plus an invitation to Wacken Open Air in August? AWS might just be the biggest winner of the 2018 Song Contest.

Those are some of our choices for the National Finals that got it right. Who else caught your eye as being in the right place at the right time? As for the National Finals that got it wrong. that’s coming tomorrow, keep your powder dry for that debate!

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 “Which National Finals Sent The Right Song To Lisbon 2018?”

  1. Misky says:

    And the UK was right to select Surie, after the brave and professional way she handled the stage invasion.

  2. 4porcelli says:

    As someone living in Germany I’d like to say that I don’t hope that Michael Schulte’s success will inspire bigger names to enter the German pre-selection: The song, while not my cup of tea (personally I hate Ed Sheeran), worked because it was authentic, an impression that was enhanced by the singer’s (again not my cup of tea) DTE styling. Germany – like other countries – does best when it sends artists who are (Michael) or seem authentic (in Lena’s case, the song may have been generic but it fit her personality). Bringing “stars” in would lead to either generic disconnected “we and our friends stand together” songs so beloved by the German public or – less likely – roided-up rappers. So authenticity rather than big names seems to be key. Of course you can’t create lightening in a bottle or I’d be a movie star but it seems like a good route for Germany.

  3. 4porcelli says:

    @Misky – I agree, SuRie’s reaction was highly impressive (and certainly part of the reason for some of the points she gained after widely being predicted to finish last). I don’t know if she also has exppeirence in songwriting, but involving her more in the process would certainly have been beneficial. I think if she returned with a song that feels more organic/authentic rather than an X-Factor reject, she could do very well.

  4. Martin HH says:

    Do you think that e.g. the light wall of Sweden was against the “No LED” spirit as well, Ewan?

  5. Ewan Spence says:

    That’s a tougher one Martin, because many delegations brought props that lit up. On balance I think no, because it was still ‘physical’… that said the tight angles and removal of any ambience from the stadium was probably the biggest cause of lost televotes. More on that in ‘who got it wrong…’

  6. Hans says:

    Living where I live today, I’ll have to mention our Vikings. They won MGP with a Swedish reject ( !!! ), was disliked by 41 national juries (Hungary awarded the song douze points), and won Scandinavia in the popular vote. In contrast, Sweden garnered a 43rd place among tele voters, worse than SuRie. So there’s that.

  7. Shai says:

    I will add Lithuania to the list.
    The combination of song and singer was the right one and it felt right in so many ways

  8. Shai says:

    Austria – although the televote results is again under par, ORF follows a path of matching the right song to the right singer. I don’t think there is anyone who thought that Austria will be leading the pack at the end of the juries’ vote.

    Cesar and SuRie are also showing that having experience in the contest can be a great asset, even if the experience is “just” being a backing singer

  9. dimitris esc says:

    I agree on everything except A Dal.One of the strongest selections of the season featured at least 2 songs that could do better than AWS,imo namely the entries of Tamas Horvath and Danielfy Gergely.

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