Aina Mun Pitää, by Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (Finland 2015)
After a lifetime of hoping and waiting fruitlessly, a boyhood dream was finally realised with this song. Constantly derided, marginalised, pushed to the fringes and meant to feel like society’s rejects, my people had finally been represented at Eurovision… the punks.
But a funny thing happened upon their selection. People who would previously call any pretty boy pointlessly waving a guitar about in front of them a heavy metal singer, or anyone with a banjo a bluegrass act, suddenly became full-blown, university educated experts on punk rock. “I know punk rock, and this isn’t it!” they’d bark authoritatively, before citing the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks or Nina Hagen, and very little else that has happened over the last 30 years of this manifold and wondrous genre. One would almost sense that they were using it as an excuse to slag PKN off, seeing as they boys weren’t entirely like you and I, and they had to try and find an excuse to hate them in a more publicly palatable flavour. Not that I’m cynical or anything.
“They’re not even a real band!” I heard a few people bleat. A not real band that up to that point had been putting out records regularly since 2010, had toured the world, and even had an incredible, award-winning rockumentary made about them? There’s a good seventy-five percent of the acts who were on the Eurovision bill this year who could never ever dream of being that real.
But what really disappointed me about the ESC community this year was that less than 12 months after heralding how #Together we all were, as soon as someone with a bit of different difference came along, they closed ranks and spat out some really spiteful invective. But all I can say is that when the boys stepped up there for their semi-final performance I felt as proud as any father could if it were their own kids up there. Not because I was being all PC and patronising to some funny little disabled lads, but because some true punks were up there and giving it large – and we punks are a bit more inclusive aren’t quite so quick to judge, despite our seemingly gruff exterior.
Fair play PKN, you played a blinder, no matter what he snooty judges thought!
Wounded Swan, by Sasha Bognibov (Moldovan Selection, 2015)
I know, I know, I bring this fella up every year, and you must be getting bored of him by now. Except… ‘Wounded Swan’ was one hell of a good song, and it was as near to tragedy as a silly little song contest can muster that it never got heard by a wider audience.
I don’t know how Sasha did it, but this three minute opus of gloom is one of the finest songs that I heard in the last 18 months, Eurovision or not. From the beautiful symbolism of the swan’s broken wing, to the dark allegories to suicide, this for me is second only to ‘Seasons In The Sun’ in the “I’m about to cark it” death ballad stakes – and then not by a long way.
And Sasha’s broken, wispy voice suited it perfectly – although I’d love to hear some gravel-larynxed American troubadour give it a go too. Imagine hearing someone like Mark Kozelek or Bonnie Prince Billy having a go on this. Oh, how joyfully gloomy that would be.
‘Heroes’ by Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden 2015)
Jag älskar Melodifestivalen, och jag älskar Måns. So, when the two hooked up yet again in 2015 (after a five-year, post-host hiatus), the result was inevitably going to make an impression on me. Having set the standard for innovative, intimate staging at both Melfest and Eurovision in 2012, Sweden managed to wow us with more of the same via ‘Heroes’, without cultivating unfavourable comparisons with said game-changing presentation of Euphoria, thanks in part to Måns’ lack of crab-dancing. Wearing tight leather trousers isn’t conducive to pulling off choreography like that.
Right from that very first public performance of ‘Heroes’ in Örebro, I was captivated…and I don’t (just) mean by the leather pants. The song’s accompanying projections, and the way Måns interacted with them? Nothing short of magic. Even now, many months and about a hundred viewings later, I remain mesmerised by those visuals. Such originality – pilfered cartoons aside – is the kind of thing that gets great results, and grabs the attention of the masses with both hands.
Of course, we are here to discuss musical moments. While it can easily be argued that the staging of ‘Heroes’, not the song itself, won Eurovision 2015 for Sweden, the song is also a winner as far as I’m concerned. Writers Anton Malmberg Hård af Segerstad and the Deb duo tapped into Avicii-esque country-dance trends to craft a track with the power of an arena anthem, the infectiousness of a karaoke favourite, and lyrics that don’t make you want to crawl into Trijntje Oosterhuis’ voluminous jumpsuit and die. This song, in less elaborate terms, soars. Every time I hear it, I feel buoyed – and convinced that we really are the heroes of our time, et cetera. Sad, isn’t it.
FYI, the victory of ‘Heroes’ also marks the first time in history that my favourite song took the Eurovision trophy home. If that’s not memorable, then I don’t know what is!
‘Ne Engedj El’ by Kati Wolf (Hungary, National Final 2015)
If ‘Heroes’ hit me in the head – i.e. had me thinking, ‘Now this is winning material…take note, every country that isn’t Sweden!’ – then Kati Wolf’s almost-comeback to Eurovision at A Dal hit me in the heart – i.e. had me insisting there was “dust” in my eyes that was making them water. Funnily enough, I wasn’t enthused when I saw her name on the national final’s 2015 participant list. ‘What About My Dreams?’, and Kati’s questionable styling at the time (there was something painfully Dynasty about that dress and that hair) had never managed to park all the way up my street, and I assumed we were to witness the sequel this year.
I was wrong… it happens occasionally. Come Kati’s time to compete in Hungary, gone was the garish blue satin, the bling and the Michael Bolton wig. Sans all of the above, she simply stood on stage and emptied herself of emotion, without a trace of cliché or cloying faux-sentimentality tarnishing her performance. ‘Ne Engedj El’ may have been a plea in ballad form, much like the eventual Hungarian entry ‘Wars For Nothing’ – but while the plea within Boggie’s song screamed ‘Donate a dollar a day, and me and my backing singers will be able to pay for our own schnitzel dinners at the hotel this evening!’, Kati’s was a pared-back plea for her lover not to let her go. The effect of that, plus the beautiful melody and mysterious allure of the wholly-Hungarian lyrics, meant the song really stuck with me.
I wanted ‘Ne Engedj El’ to win A Dal – though truth be told, I wanted pretty much anything other than ‘Wars For Nothing’ to win – but I can see that it wouldn’t have stayed afloat in the sea of ballads that was Eurovision 2015. And the fact that Hungary didn’t like the Wolf doesn’t matter much now anyway, because – and prepare yourself for some cheese here – her song did win a special place in my heart.
Þú Leitar Líka Að Mér, by Hinemoa (Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin)
Söngvakeppnin is always one of my favourite national selections. It has a joyeous, slightly homespun charm with an eclectic mix of acts. Sometimes one of the leftfield candidates end up on the international stage (see: Pollapönk in 2014) but this year those acts were left behind as a generic pop princess stomped to victory.
It was a shame that Hinemoa did not make it out of the Icelandic semi-final. ‘Þú Leitar Líka Að Mér‘ is a lovely, lovely song with ukuleles, a jolly Icelandic brass section, and a sweet boss nova-esque rhythm. If Etsy did music, this would be it. Would ‘Þú Leitar Líka Að Mér‘ have made a huge impact in Vienna? No, but it would have warmed the souls of more people than the relatively small number of people who saw the performance back in January.
Pass me the elderflower & lime martini in a jam jar.
Love Injected, by Aminata (Latvia 2015)
Anybody who likes following Eurovision beyond that last glitzy week of finals knows that this was the year of Frozen clones. Pretty much every National Final had Disney princesses in big frocks warbling a heartfelt song with emphatic hand gestures.
I loved how Latvia’s Aminata subverted this trend with a song that may have looked like it was straight from the generic Disney princess handbook, but which sounded like nothing else on the night.
‘Love Injected‘ was the feral love child of Elle Goulding, FKA Twigs and Kate Bush – its minimalist beats and Aminata’s big voice was all it needed to sell itself. I was overjoyed that it did so well for Latvia and Aminata who wrote it herself. Taking chances pays off.
(It’s also worth noting that ‘Love Injected‘ saw the memorable and unique ‘Ewan’s just thrown a great big queenie fit of rage’ across the press room in Vienna.. I was expecting even more from the choreography and thought Lativa had blown its chance of success… I was thankful wrong — Ewan).
Garrett Mulhall (Eurovision Ireland)
Réalta na Mara, by Aimee Banks (Ireland, Junior Eurovision 2015)
For as long as I can remember one of the joys of watching the Eurovision Song Contest was the excitement and wonder at listening to a song sung in a language that I couldn’t understand, yet fully enjoying and comprehending the meaning of the song in my own mind. So as the Song contest has evolved in many aspects, it’s refreshing to see that the Junior Eurovision Song Contest still celebrates the wonders of the foreign language.
You can imagine my surprise and then delight when Ireland decided to make their debut at Junior Eurovision and realising that a huge breath of new life was going to be breathed into the Gaelic language. Me, like the majority of Irish people my age (the ’30 plus’ age box to be ticked), had lost touch with the splendour of our national language that played a huge part in our founding identity.
When a young 13 year old girl called Aimee Banks, stepped onto that international stage in Bulgaria and sang like an angel in Irish, it was more than just us entering into a new contest from the Eurovision family, it was a reawakening of pride and a new found love in what it means to be Irish and how important it is for all of us in Europe to not lose sight of where we have come from while we still strive to our future. I’m just happy that I managed to play a small role in that musical and national moment for Ireland and Europe.
Love And Let Go, by Ekklesia Sisters (Maltese National Final, 2015)
Malta maybe a small island but it has the biggest and most passionate Eurovision heart. Each year they serve up a national selection that is worthy of a Eurovision contest itself. Twice Junior Eurovision winners, they have come close to winning the adult contest on several occasions and they will do it – Trust Me!
Why do I say that? Simply they take chances in their national selection competition and leave any pre conceived notions of ‘What is a Eurovision style song?’ far behind. So this year when they were selecting their entry for Vienna they made the brave and inspired choice of selecting the Ekklesia Sisters (or to me ‘My Six Pack’) the opportunity to represent their country.
We all know that Amber was the eventual winner yet the enduring memory for many in Malta and across Europe, is that of 6 nuns in their white habits performing full of joy, joy for singing, joy for performing and joy in celebrating the now!
They were different from what we deem the norm (whatever that is), they sang a song that is different from what most countries send to Eurovision and they were different in that they broke all notions of what it is to have faith. My interview with them is possibly one of the happiest eighteen minutes I have ever experienced in my life as 6 ‘Singing Nuns’, 6 Singers, no 6 women, reminded me what the contest is all about – bringing us together in music and breaking down those stereotypes. So eighteen minutes in my life – plus their 3 minutes on stage – showed me that Malta and the Ekklesia Sisters truly know what it means to say ‘I love Eurovision’.
Kylie Wilson (Eurodummies)
Fjaðrir, by Sunday (Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin 2015)
Here’s something a bit different from the Icelandic national final. A dark electronic ballad that uses feathers as a metaphor for a failing relationship. It’s atmospheric, it’s ethereal, it’s mournful, it’s all-round wonderful.
They performed an English version in the final, which is equally amazing, but the original Icelandic version wins out as the language gives it more of a mystic quality.
A part of me still thinks that it would’ve been a great addition to the 40-strong lineup in Vienna, it might’ve even qualified and saved Iceland some embarrassment. Oh well, that was the past, and maybe they’ll have learnt their lessons and come back fighting to celebrate their 30th Eurovision anniversary in 2016.
A Monster Like Me, by Mørland & Debrah Scarlett (Norway 2015)
Yes, I’m well aware that it’s pretty obvious by now that I have a strong Norway bias.
March 2015 saw me head out to Oslo for my first national final (I know, very late), fearing that none of my favourite songs in the lineup would not see victory. ‘A Monster Like Me‘ was my number one, hands down, favourite. I was impressed by their performance in the dress rehearsal but I still worried. That carried on through the voting, resigned to seeing my pet country send a lame Swedish import, until the very last vote when the underdogs took victory. To say I cackled and jumped around like a maniac was an understatement, much to the bemusement of the typically reserved locals.
The Japanese have a type of aesthetic they value called “wabi-sabi”, which views beauty as something imperfect or incomplete and simple. That would be the best word to use for this entry: it’s simple, it’s staging is imperfect/incomplete, and that’s the beauty of it.
Richard Taylor (Eurovoix)
Jag Är Fri, by Jon Henrik Fjällgren (Melodifestivalen 2015)
‘Jag Är Fri‘ (translated as ‘I Am Free‘) was performed by Jon Henrik Fjällgren, a Swedish-Sami performer. For me, ‘Jag Är Fri‘ is a traditional Swedish/Scandinavian song, that had probably represented the country/region one hundred years ago, had the Eurovision Song Contest existed back then.
Melodifestivalen isn’t always about Schlager and if you can look beyond the average pop song, you can understand why I’ve chosen ‘Jag Är Fri.‘ It is unique and this uniqueness is what grabbed me from the outset. Jon Henrik himself and his dancers are dressed in traditional colonial outfits that match the overall performance of the song.
Friends thought I was mad when I chose this as one of my favourites up there with Måns for this year’s Swedish National Final. Until I actually got to the Friends Arena, I didn’t realise how much the Swedish audience had actually taken to this entry and for a moment, I actually thought Måns was going to lose out on representing his country yet again! Whether this would’ve taken victory as well at the Eurovision Song Contest, we will never know.
A Million Voices, by Polina Gagarina (Russia 2015)
“We are the world’s people, different but we’re the same” are the opening lines and sums up ‘A Million Voices.’ This year Polina Gagarina won everyone over in Vienna and brought something to the Contest that Russia would’ve hoped for – universal love.
Through the emotion she managed to display, Polina managed to bring everyone together, forgetting about the politics that Russia has engulfed itself in over recent years. Fans both in Vienna and around the globe fell in love with this song throughout the week. It is just a shame a few decided to boo, bringing politics back into the fray during the voting in the Grand Final and you could visibly see the upset on Polina’s face while this was happening.
Since Vienna, Polina has released a Russian version of her Eurovision entry. This has been played on several Eurovision related radio shows and anyone who hadn’t heard the English version, would’ve fallen in love just as much as we did in Vienna. I do wonder had Polina taken ‘A Million Voices’ to Vienna in Russian, could she had gone on to be the hero?
Gavin Lambert (ESCTips)
Suitcase, by Anne Gadegaard (Danish Selection, 2015)
Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2015 is a fine example of that well used trope ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ On February 7th in Aalborg, Anti Social Media won the chance to represent Denmark in Vienna, beating the favourite, Anne Gadegaard, by six-points. The untelegenic foursome were always destined to struggle in that unfriendly semi-final.
The Danish public, who actually preferred Gadegaard, can blame the new regional jury system on their nation’s failure to qualify for the first time since the two semi-final format was introduced. Anne Gadegaard’s more ‘Eurovision-jury-friendly’ ‘Suitcase‘ will be forever lost in Eurovision’s baggage reclaim.
Ostarilla, by Shava (Finnish Selection, 2015)
When Lordi won for Finland in 2006 with ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah‘, there was a sense of novelty and fun for viewers to invest in. The fist pumping celebrations following Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät’s national final win were somewhat premature, as was the optimistic ‘Helsinki 2016’ chatter. Fans were slow to acknowledge the obvious impact of national juries (reintroduced in 2009) and the new ranking system (introduced in 2013) and the ability of it overcoming any potential sympathy vote.
Having been disappointed by Satin Circus’ live performance of ‘Crossroads‘, I favoured the zany originality of Shava’s ‘Ostarilla’. And if the Finnish public didn’t care too much about qualifying, surely a big bhangra banger would have stopped half of Europe scrambling for the mute button.
Planet of the Children, by Krisia ft. everyone in the Arena Armeec (Junior Eurovision 2015)
It’s not often that you can pinpoint a country’s Eurovision interest being down to one person entirely, but in Bulgaria Krisia most definitely holds that honour.
In November BNT put on a spectacular Junior Eurovision Song Contest a year on from taking home the silver medal, thanks in most part due to the huge popularity of Krisia, Hassan, and Ibrahim following their result. Of course she was then to star in the halftime show on home soil, but for me it was spine-tingling to have the entire 7,000 seater arena singing along with her every word!
Save Your Kisses For Me, by Brotherhood of Man (Eurovision’s Greatest Hits)
Yes, I know this song isn’t strictly from the 2015 Contest, but it did come from a Eurovision event this year, so it counts!
Throw back to April and the BBC’s sixty year celebration of Eurovision at the Hammersmith Apollo. Brotherhood of Man were the first Eurovision interview I did back in 2005, and while I’d seen them perform live in Herning (of all places!) in 2013, this performance just stuck in my mind. Whilst on the TV show you could hear the crowd singing along, what you didn’t get in the BBC final edit of the show was the huge noise at the end of the song that lasted for minutes – literally! None of the four members wanted to leave the stage, and nor did the public want them to go.
There was just something very special in that moment for me as still forty years later not only did everyone know all the words, but this band can still hold the audience in the palm of its hand. I wonder if any of our recent winners will still be so beloved when we’re celebrating 100 years?
Don’t Forget To Tell Us Your Moment!
A quick reminded that the ESC Insight’s core team members have contributed their Musical Moments in part one of this feature, and we’d love to hear what you would nominate! Let us know in the comments…
…and Happy New Year!