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Which National Finals Sent The Right Songs To Tel Aviv 2019? Written by on May 25, 2019 | 10 Comments

As the ESC Insight team return to normal life after the 64th Eurovision Song Contest, we look back over the National Final season to find out which broadcasters made the correct song choice for Tel Aviv 2019.

Netherlands Were Right To Choose Duncan Laurence

It won. Simple.

But looking beyond that, the internal selection of Duncan Laurence and the move away from Americana into something that feels ‘of the moment’ was a great move. Having spoken to Laurence, it looks like the initial push to submit ‘Arcade’ came from his Voice mentor Ilse DeLange, who was sure it would do well at the Eurovision Song Contest even though Laurence was sure it was a song better suited to Spotify.

Arcade’ has topped the Spotify charts as well as the Eurovision scoreboard.

Iceland Was Right To Choose Hatari

With no qualification to the Grand Final since Pollaponk in 2014, RUV came into the season needing to break a run of four non-qualifications. Although Söngvakeppnin featured a number of familiar names and songs that were built from the same mould as ’Unbroken’ and ‘Our Choice’, there was an alternative that could break the dead-lock.

Step forward Hatari.

In addition to the light they were able to shine on the darker areas of both Israel’s hosting and the limits of the ‘non-political’ Song Contest rule; Klemens, Matthias, and Einar created a passionate international fan-base and brought an under-represented genre to the Contest.

You can be sure that Hatari’s impact on the Contest will be remembered across the community in the same way as Iceland will remember its return to the Top Ten.

Norway Was Right To Choose KEiiNO

Because sometimes you just need three minutes of happiness.

Last year’s MGP was a wonderful TV show, but in Eurovision terms Norway was essentially coronating Alexander Rybak. But a bit further down the playbill you found Tom Hugo singing ‘I Like I Like I Like’ and Alexandra Rotan duetting with Stella Mwangi (Norway 2011) on ‘You Got Me’. Looking back, those appearances felt like a try-out for the main event – and it was noticeable that Stella and Alexandra too to the 2018 preview circuit ‘You Got Me’ as a warm up act for the various concerts.

They both knew how the circus worked. All it needed was a song that matched their infectious energy… at which point our musical Aragorn of the North comes into focus. Fred-René Buljo brings his mix of Sami and rap to the pop and schlager of Tom and Alexandra.

Schlagerjoik is born (please let it live long enough for at least one album) and Norway go on to (a) beat Sweden (err…  maybe not) and (b) top the televote with Spirit In The Sky.

Albania Was Right To Choose Jonida Maliqi

Given that Festivali i Këngës chooses a song for Albania (the ticket to Eurovision is a bonus, not a mission), the decisions isn’t necessarily about choosing Jonida Maliqi, it’s about the decision to not fiddle with the song (beyond the three-minute rule and sorting out a backing track) and trust Maliqi to bring all of her talent and power to the stage in the Tel Aviv Expo.

Authenticity is a word that gets thrown around a lot when discussing Eurovision performance, but this is a classic example of just that. In hindsight it was always qualifying.

Malta Was Right To Choose Michaela Pace

Much like Iceland, Malta’s PBS has been on a run of poor results, with Ira Losco’s ‘Walk On Water’ the only highlight in the last few years. The National Final system under MESC continued to sport the same faces with younger singers building up skills and experiences, but when you can call the winner of MESC by working out ‘who’s turn it is’ when the entry list is released, then something needs to change.

That change was The X-Factor. The long-running franchise debuted on PBS during the 2018/19 season, with the winner getting the Eurovision ticket. The rules of X-Factor also pushed out many familiar faces from MESC, clearing the way for Michaela Pace to break the cycle with a youthful sound and a ‘Post-Margaret’ Eurovision banger in Chameleon.

As for a training ground for future singers, having Destiny Chukunyere (the winner of Junior Eurovision 2015 with ‘Not My Soul’) on backing vocals in Tel Aviv points to a prosperous future.

Spain Was Right To Choose Miki

Of all the contestants at Operación Triunfo’s Eurovision Gala, Miki was the one who looked hungry for the win. There may well have been a buzz around María’s ‘Muérdeme’, but on the night when the scores were being kept, María looked like she wanted to be anywhere else and Miki wanted to be in Tel Aviv.

Let’s put aside the staging choices made by TVE for May (a giant-sized Ikea Billy bookcase knocked over by a Wickerman?) and remember how effortless Miki became one of the party songs of the season.

Portugal Was Right To Choose Conan Osiris

While Conan Osiris did not qualify for Saturday night’s Grand Final, I still think that RTP’s Festival da Canção made the correct decision. Telemóveis’ is a challenging song, mixing art and statement through three minutes of music. It’s not as accessible as a slice of schlager, it takes time to understand the nature of Osiris’ composition and that, along with the stylistic choreography on stage, made qualification a difficult task.

But I would rather see challenging songs at Eurovision than a raft of formulaic three minutes with little to differentiate them.

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 soon, 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 (

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10 responses to “Which National Finals Sent The Right Songs To Tel Aviv 2019?”

  1. Cal says:

    Norway did not beat Sweden after all, following the whole Belarussian jury vote thing.

  2. pene says:

    Portugal was more 3 minutes of wank. it works well for Chardonnay sucking toffs who write wank about ‘interpretations’, but it was not enjoyable to watch.

    Albania picked the right person for Albania, but not the right for Europe. Albania has given me one of my favourite Eurovision songs (‘Its All About You’), and one of my favourite performances (‘Suus’). This was not in the ball park.
    Malta similarly gives us their favourite, but not a good song for Europe, but they rarely do.

    The rest I agree on. Iceland, the more I see of those guys, the more I love them. I saw the clip on John Oliver and also a clip SBS did with them and Kate Miller-Heidke, and Hatari really have personality. I love them and I hope to see more of them.

    Germany should have also been on the list. The background image for their performance was rubbish, but everything else came together right on the night and they should have got a higher score. Serbia also got it right, but Europe got it wrong.

  3. Phrase of the season contender….
    “Post-Margaret’ Eurovision banger”

  4. Ewan Spence says:

    It’ll always be fifth in my heart! (link added though, thanks).

  5. Martin Palmer says:

    Agree with all but Portugal on a competitive level – Conan was always struggling when up against Kate and Hatari in the same half of their SF. Culturally perfect but NBC probably better bet for qualification…

  6. Ewan Spence says:

    That’s Ellie’s phrase, background here “Cool Me Down One Year On“.

  7. Anne Helen Houg says:

    Italy did right to choose Mahmood over Ultimo. North Makedonia and switserland did a pretty good job! Czech republikk and Slovenia vil se right and brougt both indie and trip hop/down tempo electronica to the contest.

  8. Eurojock says:

    I see Australia is not on the list. Electric Fields had a cracking song, but I,m not sure they had the experience or the staging to better Kate Miller Heidke. Whatever you think of the song, that staging and Kate’s performance will live long in the memory.

    I agree on Conan. Although I long doubted it’s qualification chances, at least Eurovision Semi audiences got to hear a masterpiece. The low jury score was scandalous. These are supposed to be music professionals.

  9. Shai says:

    When it comes to the Portuguese entry, this year, it seems you were bending the rules and criteria’s a bit.

    It all started during JBJ, where the song got 3 “HITS”. As one reader noted – were they 3 Hits because all 3 member of the panel liked the song or did the panel members really think it has any chances of winning?
    It continues here, when you claim that Portugal was right to sending Telemóveis because it takes risks. And I thought the only rule here is the song’s success in the contest. According to this cretiria, Portugal should be placed under the “which national final got it wrong” article

  10. Ewan Spence says:

    It’s clear in almost every JBJ episode that there is no definition of Hit, there’s a section at the end on ‘can a song win’ which brings the focus on a song’s actual chances. The question here is “were Portugal right to send Telemovis’ and the editorial answer is yes. Context is key.

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