Greetings once again, Head Over Feels!
Rachel calling, for this year’s Eurovision Song Competition!
If you haven’t yet caught on to this pop culture phenomenon, don’t worry! It’s never too late to discover this musical extravaganza. Check out my post from last year’s competition for a brief primer on what Eurovision is and how it works. You might then find yourself in a YouTube spiral for hours as I often do, but I promise you it is time well spent.
Portugal 2018 – All Aboard!
When we last left our preeminent world entertainment spectacle, we were in Kiev, Ukraine where politics, controversy, and drama unfolded. Going into the competition, Italy’s “Occidentali’s Karma” by Francesco Gabbani was favored to win, but when the confetti settled, Europe was left with an unusually sincere, simple jazz infused ballad from Portugal as the champion, Salvador Sobral’s “Amar Pelos Dois”.
And so, as is tradition, we find ourselves in Lisbon for the 2018 Eurovision Song Competition!
In the era of #MeToo, and elevating women in entertainment, the Portuguese have selected an all women presenting team, of Filomena Cautela, Sílvia Alberto, Daniela Ruah and Catarina Furtado. American viewers might recognize Daniela Ruah from NCIS: Los Angeles. (She’s a great Twitter follow for behind the scenes action!)
The political nature of the contest this year is slightly more subtle, professed mostly through issue-oriented lyrics and themes such as France’s entry, “Mercy,” which takes on the dangers taken on by refugees crossing the Mediterranean. Other tunes talk generally about unity in these uncertain times.
However, if you recall from last year, dear viewers, host Ukraine (who itself had won the hosting gig from winner Jamala’s politically charged song obliquely referencing the Crimea) had banned Russia’s Julia Samoylova, from performing in the competition. She’d sung in Crimea, a disputed territory between the two nations, and was prevented from even entering the country. Ukraine later was fined by the European Broadcasting Union for this perceived slight against the image of the contest.
Well guess what, everyone? SHE’S BACK! Portugal has no such beef with Russia, and Russia naturally was going to be petty about this and send her this year. I’ve gotta say, her song from last year, “Flame is Burning” was far superior to this year’s entry, “I Won’t Break.”
This year’s odds on favorite to win almost since jump is Israel, with Netta Barzilai’s Mizrachi-meets-club-hit style, take no prisoners, women’s power pop song “Toy.” She has an amazing, varied background with formal training at the Rimon School, time in the military band, camp song leader, and member of the Improv Singing Troupe The Experiment. She frequently uses a looping machine and percussive vocal intonations to create her sound. I don’t usually fall in love with a favorite this quickly but I LOVE HER and would absolutely give her my Douze Points.
The Other Contenders
Another strong country is Estonia, whose “La Forza” is an Italian Opera style piece sung by Elina Nechayeva. The thing that makes this such a powerful entry and SO EUROVISION is the staging. Elina is wearing a huge dress onto which the lighting is projected, creating a quite remarkable presentation.
There’s always at least one adorable young dude just doing his best pop thing and this year’s guy is Norway’s Alexander Rybak with his catchy bubblegum tune “That’s How You Write a Song.” He does it all well: the interaction with the animation, the dancing, the infectious smile, and of course the inevitable violin solo from our boy.
If you’re looking for your hot lady autotuned club hit entry, Cyprus has you covered. Eleni Foureira is on fire (sorry I had to) with her track “Fuego.” I’ll be interested to see how this one makes the jump to the live stage from the hyper-stylized video.
France has been moving up in the rankings as the contest approaches, so don’t count out the aforementioned “Mercy” from Madame Monsieur. It has that nice Eurovision combination of a slow build throughout the song, a strong message, and a sad-looking turtleneck-wearing dude in the background playing guitar.
Best of the Rest, According to Me
Of the remaining entries, I liked “You Let Me Walk Alone” by Germany’s Michael Schulte. He’s a simple, scruffy guy being earnest in the best way possible. I think Adele could have written this song. Mikolas Josef tries his darndest to be too cool for school in “Lie To Me” from the Czech Republic. It’s a fabulously hot mess of what he thinks jazzy hip hop and R&B should be. But you absolutely have to watch the video linked for the absurd dancing in a bathtub. OH. And I’m not kidding about this: a random camel shows up near the end.
Australia’s Jessica Mauboy has been a star in her home country for a long time, coming up through the Australian Idol ranks over ten years ago. Her song “We Got Love” is a radio-friendly pop hit with generically inspirational love-is-the-answer lyrics, but dammit it’s great. Apparently she’s got some vocal strain and a slight injury from rehearsal, but I hope she pushes through and does well!
How to Watch
The schedule is as follows (with links to participants in each):
Semi-Final 1: Tuesday, May 8th
Semi-Final 2: Thursday May 10th
Grand Final: Saturday, May 12th
All shows are scheduled at 9 PM CEST which is 3 PM EDT / 12 PM PDT.
The Grand Final will again be broadcast in the US on Logo TV and streaming on the Logo website (much to my chagrin). I hate this broadcast team (Ross Mathews and Shangela from RuPaul’s Drag Race) and their commentary has been generally off the mark in tone with too much talking and cutting the fun between act banter of the actual broadcast, but it’s what we’ve got.
Since the Semi-Finals are during the work day here in North America, you may not see them, but if you can only watch on Saturday, not to worry! The Final lineup (linked above) will be updated with the entries that make it to the big show. You’ll still get your fill of wind machines, dramatic lighting, and fashion like you’ve never seen before, and it’s sometimes better to go into the Grand Final not knowing what to expect!
If you’re a Eurovision vet like myself or simply need to know EVERYTHING, I’d recommend digging for performance previews of the acts. Sometimes the official videos are studio cuts and you can’t get a sense of how they’ll hold up live. In addition, the video may not translate to staging well, or conversely, a song with a boring video might blow your mind on the contest stage!
But most importantly, have fun, snark like you’ve never snarked before, watch with nervousness as your favorites move up or down the scoreboard, shed tears of joy for the winner, and bask in the glory of all these people living their best lives for one magnificent moment.