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ESC Insight’s Musical Moments Of 2019: Part Two Written by on January 5, 2020

The Eurovision Song Contest is kicking into high gear for 2020, but we’re not quite finished with last year just yet. It’s time for the second part of our Musical Moments of last year. Check out Insight’s picks from yesterday here, and today it’s the turn of ‘The Friends Of The Parish’ to pick out their highlights.

Roy Delaney (Eurovision Apocalypse)

Telemóveis’ by Conan Osiris

Sometimes a few years will pass before you get a new entry onto your all time top ten list. But then, all of a sudden, two will pop up at once to knock your socks off and challenge ideas of the way the Eurovision Song Contest could develop over the next few years. Hatari were the obvious groundbreakers this season, but this understated little slice of marvellousness was the song that really got under my skin and demanded that I quickly absorb the artist’s back catalogue.

Telemóveis’ was always going to be highly divisive. People saw either a complex yet sparse song with dark themes and a eye-meltingly unhinged dance routine, or a pretentious three minutes of twaddle and prat-falling. But the lad Conan had me from the release of his first audio clip, and only filled me with more wonder with each new retelling.

It was never going to end well when presented to the wider European population, but the fact that it even got there is a testament to the artistic leaps and bounds achieved by Portugal since our scruffy boy hero melted the continent’s hearts in Kyiv. And the clip below of the winners reprise from FdC is my favourite performance of the whole lot, as the rest of the 2019 contestants join in the random interpretive dancing with massive honest grins on their faces. For me, one of the very best moments of the year.

Pogledaj U Nebo’ by Lana i Aldo

This one will blow your post-New Years cobwebs off!

A fixture in Balkan song contests for a good quarter century now, Lana and Aldo are nothing if not triers, and this latest performance appears to have crammed an entire seventies hippy space musical into a hectic three minute nugget.

There are big ‘woo’s, strangely timed claps, a girl visibly struggling not to whack the big drums too hard, some communal walking to the front with their arms in the air, and a random bloke leaping about as he fancies. This is Eurovision of the ages condensed, and could have come from any Song Contest from the last 50 year – and it’s what the National Finals at this Contest are all about. Beautifully bonkers and sonically massive, it might be cheesy as all heck, but you’ll have a great big grin on your face as you watch it!

Emily Herbert (Eurovoix)

Superhero’ by Viki Gabor

It was the 24th November 2019. My good friend Anthony and I were sat in our seats at Gliwice Arena, eagerly waiting for the show to start. Going in to the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, our favourites were clear: France, with their energetic and catchy ‘Bim Bam Toi’, and hosts Poland with a song that we predicted would do extremely well from the moment that it was chosen.

Before each act entered the stage, a member of the production team would tell the audience to show their support by cheering and clapping. There was no hesitation, everyone in the Arena were extremely hospitable for all nineteen countries, which was so lovely to see. And of course, once the acts had finished their performance, the crowd weren’t shy in showing their appreciation for the young singers. Two performances, however, received the most cheers. One being Kazakhstan, mentioned by Ben in Part One, and the other being host country Poland. Little did we know that the latter were going to make Junior Eurovision history that afternoon!

Viki Gabor sang her song ‘Superhero’ to the home crowd and to the millions watching across the globe in 11th position that afternoon. With her five backing dancers in colourful suits and Viki centre stage in her two-piece scantly decorated with what seemed to be small mirrors, the crowd were dancing along as soon as the backing track started, and joined in on the “na na na”’s. Once the song was over, I believe the audience members were thinking the same thing as us – “Could Poland win again?”

And they did just that, becoming the first country to win two consecutive Junior Eurovision Song Contests. The arena erupted into huge cheers and people were jumping for joy when the final points revealed that Kazakhstan had achieved 2nd place, meaning that Poland had won again. That moment was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before – to see the host country and its people absolutely ecstatic that they’d deservedly won for the second time was simply amazing. This song will be one that I’ll remember for a long time, not only because it’s a fantastic song by a singer who I think will go very far with her career, but also because of the memories it’s brought along with it.

En Livredd Mann’ by Mørland

Another song that holds a special memory for me this year is ‘En Livredd Mann‘ by Kjetil Mørland.

Eurovision fans may remember Mørland, as he represented Norway at the 2015 alongside Debrah Scarlett with their song ‘A Monster Like Me‘. This year he attempted to represent his country once again, but this time as a solo artist. He entered Melodi Grand Prix with ‘En Livredd Mann‘ (A Terrified Man), written by Mørland himself.

Personally, I think this year’s Melodi Grand Prix was strong. We had D’Sound and their song ‘Mr. Unicorn’ that appealed to the younger audience, Adrian Jørgensen, who had a sweet song penned by Aleksander Walmann (Norway 2017), Hank von Hell, who certainly rocked the Oslo Spektrum, and of course, KEiiNO, who went on to win the National Final with their schlager-tastic ‘Spirit in The Sky’.

However, I think Norway really overlooked Mørland. His performance was dark, but very artistic. I have to say that I was convinced that the competition would be close between him and KEiiNO, but unfortunately this wasn’t the case. Mørland hadn’t made it through to the superfinal round, which was upsetting at the time, although my other favourite did go on to win.

This song is important to me this year as it shows that Norway aren’t scared of considering sending an entry in Norwegian, something they haven’t done since 2006, mind you. Almost every year Melodi Grand Prix features a song in their official language. Even their 2019 entry ‘Spirit in The Sky‘ features Northern Sámi, something which I, and I’m sure many others, would love to see more of at the contest.

I still regularly listen to ‘En Livredd Mann’, and although it’s sad that it didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, I believe it’s one of the best tracks of the year and really showcases Mørland’s musical talents.

Robyn Gallagher (Wiwibloggs)

Your Cure’ by Alen Chicco

He wasn’t even supposed to be there. X-Factor star Alen Chicco had been eliminated from the Lithuanian National Final in the Semi Finals. There his journey would have ended if it hadn’t been for Monika Marija withdrawing one of her two songs from the Grand Final, necessitating another finalist.

While the other acts in the Lithuanian Final were content to trot out slightly more polished staging of their songs, Alen Chicco made sure that he delivered something totally different from previous weeks.

Amid a line-up full of sharp suits and glamorous gowns, Alen and his posse took to the stage in Lithuanian folk costume, aided and abetted by avant-garde makeup and metre-long hair extensions. They blended the traditional with the modern(-ish), vogueing to the classic pop sound of ‘Your Cure‘.

Let’s not forget about the song – the performance wouldn’t have been anywhere near as powerful without a strong song. ‘Your Cure‘ had a 1960s pop swing to it, given an edge with Alen Chicco’s charisma, sass and those rich, soaring vocals.

In the end Alen placed sixth, well behind the non-threatening Jurijus. But regardless of the result, Alen Chicco’s ‘Your Cure’ extravaganza brought thrilling visuals and pop perfection to the Eurovizijos Atranka stage. Something any national final is always in need of.

She Got Me’ by Luca Hänni

It’s no fun when a country isn’t doing well at the Eurovision Song Contest, year after heart-wrenching year. At the past twelve contests, Switzerland had only achieved one decent result (Sebalter’s 13th place for the catchy ‘Hunter of Stars in 2014. The Swiss broadcaster tried hard to remedy this, experimenting with changes to their National Final format. But it turns out the key was to ditch the National Final entirely and go internal.

Broadcaster SRF put the emphasis on finding a good song first and then getting the singer right. Their 2019 search led them to the Swiss winner of German Idol, Luca Hänni. He was paired with ‘She Got Me’, written by a Canadian-Swedish team of songwriters, along with staging by the in-demand Swedish choreographer Sacha Jean-Baptiste.

And yes, in an ideal world, Switzerland wouldn’t have to outsource to foreign creatives, but frankly using local talent hadn’t previously worked out. In the end, Luca Hänni – lit in the bold red colours of the Swiss flag – gave a showstopping performance, complete with a little yodelling. The energetic delivery elevated the last section of the Tel Aviv grand final and gave Switzerland a fourth-place finish — its best result in over 25 years.

And it has to be a good feeling for the Swiss broadcasters. They now know that they actually do have what it takes to do well at the Song Contest (and being a politically neutral country doesn’t count against you).

May this serve as a reset, to discard the awkward years of the online submissions, the National Final where a singer could win mainly from doing a knock-out Sia cover. Despite the fact that ‘She Got Me’ relied on an imported dream team, if the 2019 success can encourage more local Swiss artists, songwriters and other creatives to get involved, it can only be a good thing.

Monty Moncrieff (Second Cherry)

Siren Song’ by Maruv

Some you win, some you, well, win but lose at the same time.

Maruv’s ‘Siren Song’ was already causing quite a stir as we first heard the audio track, and it was no surprise when it won the ticket to Tel Aviv for Ukraine. So far so good. Events began to take a turn shortly afterwards when Maruv began talking about the unreasonable demands being placed upon her by the broadcaster, including concerns about her planned gigs in Russia. It wasn’t long before she put her integrity ahead of becoming the latest pawn in a local geo-political game of Eurovision tit-for-tat.

2019 was the fourth consecutive year to be affected by Russian-Ukranian relationships, ultimately denying Eurovision viewers of a potential classic, and in my eyes a potential winner. Maruv served this bold, brassy and ballsy pop number up with sass and a whiff of lesbian chic. Yes, that chic still had something of the male-gaze about it, but unlike former Eurovision entrants t.A.T.u. you never felt for a moment that Maruv wasn’t completely in charge of her own image on stage. It struck a chord with fans, and with Ukraine’s well-documented ability to choreograph something special could have been an unforgettable Eurovision moment. But some things just aren’t meant to be.

The song has remained close to my heart, and was our chosen Ukrainian representative in our revived Second Cherry Song Contest, a place where we give also-rans a second chance, which this year we relaunched with an accompanying “Almost a Eurovision” podcast looking back at some of the season’s National Finals. The song went on to win this year’s prize. Just like our podcast, it’s not quite Eurovision, but it’s some justice at least for those of us who want music and not politics to dominate in our favourite show.

Spirit in the Sky’ by Keiino

They told us schlager was dead. Even it’s biggest exponent, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen, spoofed its decline with a pastiche by the singer of 2008’s schlagerfiasko Charlotte Perrelli delivering a comedy cover of German schlagerista Helene Fischer’s classicAtemlos durch die Nacht. It’s a moment of genius from the pen of Edward av Sillen. But dead it remained.

What they didn’t tell us was all it needed was for somebody to give schlager a good old joik.

Spirit in the Sky’ is pure, unbridled Eurovision fun. It’s as old-fashioned as hell, yet the simple addition of some traditional Sami lines made this feel fresh. So fresh in fact that it topped the public vote, only to be pegged back to sixth place overall by the enormous chasm between televoting and jury results: viewers gave it 291 points, whilst jury members only 40. Such a difference only reignites the arguments over the respective merits of each system.

But Keiino sensed their moment, and have spent the remainder of 2019 firmly seizing the mantle of “The People’s Champions”. Rather than waste valuable opportunity to build on their Eurovision momentum with an album they’ve played the modern music industry incredibly cannily, releasing a string of songs to streaming platforms and travelling the world, making the most of Eurovision’s three-minute equivalent of Warhol’s famous fifteen.

They’ve done it by resonating with the disenfranchised, speaking out about the discrimination each group member has experienced based on their identity; a resonance that has also seen them tie up indigenous music via Fred’s Sami to the native Australian of Sam’s pick yesterday of Electric Fields. Whether the trio has enough to sustain a longer career, or ends up as a one-season project they have already left an indelible mark in Eurovision’s rich history.

Plus we don’t have to fork out for a fortnight in Norway.

Matt Baker (EscXtra)

Nadie Se Salva’ by Miki Núñez & Natalia Lacunza

Having had the enviable / unenviable task (delete as appropriate) of having to watch and review pretty much every National Final of the 2019 season for the “Almost at Eurovision” Second Cherry podcast with Monty, I thought I might highlight the two somewhat surprise packages for me. The first comes from the Spanish national final and Operación Triunfo. The show was an X-Factor-styled competition, the format of which we are all very familiar with. Once the winner of the main show was announced, however, there was an additional special edition show… The Eurovision Gala.

It was here that Miki was selected as Spain’s representative for Tel Aviv, but Miki had a second song duetting with fellow contestant Natalia. ‘Nadie se salva‘ was a fun bit of Spanish pop that benefitted, much like Miki’s winning performance of ‘La Venda‘, from being in a small studio with a low roof so the audience were picked up through the microphones. Miki’s somewhat awkward dancing with Natalia notwithstanding, every stomp, hair toss, hip thrust and glance into camera was met with boisterous cheers and applause. It elevated what was an already strong song and finished in 3rd place.

As a National Final, Operación Triunfo really delivered. It’s a shame Spain have gone for an internal selection this year, but Operación Triunfo has certainly given me a new favourite Eurovision party banger in ‘Nadie se salva‘.

Mr. Unicorn’ by D’Sound

The Norwegian national final, Melodi Grand Prix, was one of my favourite pre-selection shows of the 2019 season. The standard of songs and artists, the production, and the seemingly purposeful decision to situate a younger crowd at the front of the stage area, all contributed to a lively show. What can I say about KEiiNO that hasn’t already been said? Worthy winners of Melodi Grand Prix and as we came to learn last May, the people’s champion!

But I must confess that it initially took me a while to get my head round the fact that there were two groups with a boy-boy-girl setup. D’Sound were the other group with their catchy electronic funk pop ditty, ‘Mr. Unicorn‘. The surprise was the way in which the song grew on me over the 2019 season and quickly became one of my most played tracks of last year.

The performance of the song is quirky and ever so slightly jarring, but in an engaging manner. I say bravo to D’Sound and bravo to NRK for an excellent national final. More of the same in this year please!

Phil Colclough (On Europe)

Too Late for Love by John Lundvik and ‘Bigger than Us‘ by Michael Rice

You don’t get anything for a pair… Not in this game. Bruce Forsyth might no longer be with us, but the Eurovision Song Contest certainly gave us a look into precisely what his catchphrase meant, all in glorious technicolour.

John Lundvik decided to not only to submit his better song for Sweden but he also decided to throw one of his alternates to feed the BBC’s seemingly increasingly desperate attempt to find a winning formula. Or at least something that could garner some points. This is a risky strategy because the Song Contest has a nasty habit of biting people in the behind to those who it thinks are not treating it with the reverence it deserves.

As we all know, both of the songs went to Tel Aviv (despite my level best to kick John’s Diet Coke can over after his exuberant celebrations spilled out of the Green Room into the corridor of the BBC’s Media City) and for two months the Contest’s self awareness bubbled away, letting John think that he could be the seventh Swedish winner and he, and many so-called fans bought into the hype.

However, those of us who know, and detach themselves from fandom, we realised something far darker as the rehearsals went on. Looking smug in performances is a recipe for failure (see Sergey Lazarev) and the Contest’s conscience kicked in massively when John was set up for the big win on the night….

Only for the Contest to have left him with not enough points to win, let him think he’d won, and then spectacularly deflated his pumped up ego in front of a hundred million people. That look on his face will be etched in my memory for as long as I am a fan because it confirms what I already knew. Eurovision has a way of bringing everyone back down to earth. Fans, Press, organisers, televoters and even broadcasters have no way of knowing what’s going on but if you treat her right, the Contest rewards you.

His other song? – Predictably predictable. If you throw the chaff out to someone desperate enough, they’ll take it – even if their singer is talented enough to carry off what some call a typical BBC Staging, the fact that the song is wafer-thin and held up by one word (“Bigger!”) will show in the end.

In a final twist of the Eurovision knife, the UK lost six of it’s sixteen earned points on the night due to a counting error. John Lundvik angered the gods of Eurovision, they take swift retribution.

Laura Clay

Say My Name’ by Sigmund

I’m as guilty as anyone else of overusing ‘That act was robbed!’ in Eurovision qualifier season, but in these two cases I’m defending my frenzied yelling at the TV.

First up, I firmly believe that the Danish police should have been called on Leonora’s sickly advert-friendly tweefest. The moment Sigmund rose from his sci-fi coffin like some queer saviour, resplendent in a low-budget tinfoil spacesuit, I knew we were in for a treat. Sure, the lyrics won’t win any awards and the vocals are so-so, but Sigmund’s boyish Troye Sivan good looks and funky beats a la Years And Years would get me on the dancefloor. And that beats pining after an overpriced artisan tagine while a manic pixie dream girl warbles about love on a health-and-safety-defying giant seat.

So, what would I rather have.. a John Lewis advert reject or a camp space Jesus? Do you even need to ask?

Parmumäng‘ by Cätlin Mägi & Jaan Pehk

Nobody could argue that Caitlin Magi’s performance was forgettable. A small man trapped in an instrument rack, duetting with a woman twanging a Jew’s harp and performing looper magic, jostled for attention in a semi-final that included an Alice In Wonderland cosplayer dancing with furries and asking after her cats in German. It was so disappointing, then, to see a by-the-numbers song represent Estonia, after such a fun mix of genres in the Semi Finals.

I was lucky enough to see Caitlin live at Tallinn Music Week in March. Despite a heavy cold, she wowed the audience at the folk strand with a set that included an improvised song about Tallin Music Week itself. Barefoot, she had us in the palm of her hand with her blend of traditional folk instruments and modern tech. Mesmerising stuff.

Caitlin, for me, embodies the diverse spirit of Eurovision. Quirky folk can find its niche alongside schlager and hard rock, and the contest is all the richer for it.

Over To You

Don’t forget you can read the Editorial Team’s Musical Moments of 2019 here on ESC Insight.

And that, pretty much locks in our coverage of the 2019 Season. We’ll look back on it, just as we do with other Contests, but now it’s time to take a closer look at the Eurovision Song Contest, bring you our regular podcasts, and to look forward to Rotterdam. We look forward to you joining us on our journey.

If you want to give us a little bit of support as we cover the Song Contest, please visit our Patreon page, patreon.com/escinsight, where you can make a small monthly contribution to our running costs in exchange for some exclusive content.

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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