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London Eurovision Party 2016 Review

Let me begin by saying that this has been the first time I’ve ever attended a Eurovision Preview Party and I have therefore little real life experience in keeping a cool head and not getting lost in total fanboy frenzy.

This is the reason my initial 3.000 words piece about Zoe and heading back to Austria in 2017 went straight to the trash bin, and following a good night’s sleep, I’ve since tried to come up with a more informative report.

(I’m kidding, of course. The Zoe essay, including the three poems and drawings didn’t get trashed but went straight into the folder with my other fan art right below the newly built Loin d’ici shrine obviously)

First up was Ireland’s Nicky Byrne with Sunlight. It’s not the first time that there are concerns over an Irish Eurovision act’s vocals at the pre-contest stage, but in 2013 it eventually came together for Ryan Dolan, so I’ll give Ireland the benefit of the doubt, especially since Nicky’s vocals in London – backing track assistance – were not by any means embarrassing. He’s a handsome fellow who doesn’t look nearly as washed up as his music career. And he’s definitely rocking one of the neatest leather jackets at this year’s contest, so he has that going for him I guess.

Let’s talk about the other recurring leather jacket from Latvia and the guy who seems to have sleeping with it for the last couple of months. My initial reaction to Justs performing Heartbeat in Supernova was that it looked a bit too static for selling its unique electronic beat convincingly. After having the chance to witness the performer a bit closer on and off the stage in London, I feel like I have a better understanding of him now. He is simply a very humble person whose body language will always look a little introverted. Terms like “non-threatening” and “likeable” have often been highlighted as positive factors here and seem particularly appropriate in this case. I would be very surprised if Latvia’s presentation style changed drastically in Stockholm with Justs bouncing around the stage building up to an epic stage diving finale. So let’s get that picture out of the head.

Coming on right after Latvia during the later stages of the concert was Amir from France who also received a very strong reception at the London venue. Have you ever wondered if the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy applies to Eurovision odds? It seems like Amir is fully aware of his status as one of the hot favourites with fan polls and bookmakers. I haven’t seen a more confident performance of J’ai cherche prior to the one he gave in London. He really believes in his song and it visibly elevates it.

“Remember when that awesome bilingual French song won Eurovision in 2016” is a statement I still have trouble to imagine being said in a few years time.

Another act that looked more comfortable on stage in London than in previous performances was Italy’s Francesca Michielin. The song itself might be a tad underwhelming for first time listeners so I think a really intense and confident performance that holds viewers’ attention will be particularly crucial for Italy this year. Every Italian act that hasn’t crawled around the stage has finished in the juries’ top-10 since re-entering the contest in 2011, so it seems plausible that Francesca could continue that trend if she keeps it classy.

Classy isn’t an appropriate description for what Spain are aiming for. Barei has taken every opportunity to promote her song to date, and there’s not much to add to the general debate, other than I felt as if Barei added an extra dollop of kinkiness to her performance, which if memory serves, didn’t exactly work out for Germany’s Ann-Sophie last year.

An act that seems to have suffered in the markets recently based on a variety of questionable or ill-advised creative choices is Nina Kraljic from Croatia. #TragicKraljic? Nina certainly has a distinct voice, but as soon as she appeared on the London stage the uninformed attendants might have wondered if she is one of the participating artists or just a quirky Eurovision fan with a weird fashion sense. Her lack of mainstream star appeal is something that becomes quite obvious in a small venue line up with more telegenic performers. Lighthouse is a decent tune that seems very much Eurovision-by-numbers to me. I’ve heard people in London comparing it to Ellie Goulding. Let me just say that I believe in a hypothetical universe where Ellie Goulding would release Lighthouse and her career in the music industry would be finished overnight. On a brighter note, the song certainly has its fans and there might be quite a few jurors who realise how vocally challenging that song is and reward Nina accordingly.

Speaking of typical Eurovision songs that seem to have very little relevance outside of the contest, you could make the case that Austria’s Zoe is fishing in the same pool as Croatia. Zoe once again went into innocent cutie mode and it comes across as fake and overdone to me, but that is highly subjective and perhaps even irrelevant. Actually, it might sound a bit controversial, but in terms of charming stage persona for televoters to instantly fall in love with, Austria rather than Croatia looks like the healthier prospect out of the two in semi 1. The big question mark surrounding Austria must be how juries will react to the magic mushroom inspired Princess Peach staging witnessed during the national final, as it very much underlines the clichéd nature of the song.

As could have been predicted, the majority of people in London weren’t nearly as enthusiastic for Frans from Sweden. In fact, right before his performance the hosts informed the audience that the upcoming performer loves the city and has a special relationship with the UK, having lived there for some time of his life, which seemed like a clear attempt to prevent the inebriated members of the audience from booing. Considering the hostile environment Frans should get a pass for a slightly defensive rendition of If I were sorry. I still find it very puzzling how a song with such strong domestic commercial success receives so little love from the Eurovision fan community. [ed. because they’re obsessed with rainbows, butterflies and OGAE-friendly schlager]

I was looking forward to seeing Albania’s Eneda Tarifa with hopes of her getting nearer to qualification territory. Helped by a late draw, it would make the semi 2 qualifier market more interesting for opposing some of the shorter priced entries less favourable draws. Vocals were very strong for Fairytale, but her expressions are still off-putting at times, and unfortunately, the revamp of the song offers very little to work with.

Michal Szpak once again delivered a very confident performance of Color of Your Life. This entry has an impressive list of supporters out there and I think I understand the case being made for it. He won his national final against two big names and the song offers strong emotional impact. On the other hand, I can’t overlook the impression I get is that of an extroverted, camp singer who is essentially giving out a life lesson. But Poland’s fate at the contest will ultimately lie in the hands of juries who have a history of being pretty harsh with old-fashioned ballads.

The rockier segments of the show were provided by Cyprus, Montenegro and Romania.

You have to respect Cyprus‘ Minus One for the professional production G:Son provided and their position in fan polls, which is based on a well-produced video clip. I’m afraid, however, that the whole entry comes across rather flat when live, which prevents me from considering it a sure qualifier at this point. The boys from Montenegro looked very charismatic and I realised in London that I hadn’t listened to The Real Thing much so far. I still find it a very difficult song and seems ta little out of place at Eurovision. Romania’s Ovidiu Anton displayed his secure vocal technique and the warm reception in London indicated that there’s an audience for this kind of operatic rock song. It is up to the Romanian delegation to come up with staging that allows him to really leave a mark in Stockholm.

Kaliopi from Macedonia was also well received and even gave an encore performance. It’s fair to say she really enjoys the overall Eurovision experience. Personally, I can’t decide what would be needed to make me enjoy Dona a little more. A bottle of single malt? A pack of antidepressants? Probably a combination of the two. Nevertheless, her vocals had the usual raspy quality.

Bulgaria’s Poli Genova brings a well-structured hook-laden song to the contest and the London audience seemed way more supportive of it than her 2011 song. She also joined Amir on stage when he was on for a little song exchange, which the crowd lapped up. I really can’t decide where I stand on Bulgaria’s chances after seeing her in London, but the concerns that were raised after her Riga appearance are pretty much a thing of the past.

Iceland’s Greta Salome and Malta’s Ira Losco were the two other returning artists who delivered competent and professional performances, especially in comparison to the more inexperienced acts. I couldn’t possibly add anything else that hasn’t already been mentioned before.

The UK’s Joe and Jake closed the show with a charming performance of You’re not alone. It’s not a standout song by any means, but I don’t think the British have any reason to feel embarrassed this year.

Overall I had a really good time in London and might be coming back for next year’s event. You could even find me dancing to a little bit of Kizunguzungu during the after-show party. I apologise for not going into greater detail about what exactly happened there, I haven’t entirely figured it out myself.

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About Substantshell

Fake Social Media Expert   I'm Shell. I'm here for giving mediocre betting advice and writing very mediocre comedy editorials.


  1. Were they really almost about to boo Frans? I don’t understand why the fanboys should actively dislike it. I can at least understand the animosity to Russia in previous years even if I didn’t agree with it.

  2. Regarding Frans’ reception, I’d like to think that in London of all places, we can spot a mockery, affected wee nyaf from a mile out. So I’m actually quite heartened to hear they had to employ anti-booing measures!

    I still don’t get the Austria love.

    • That was supposed to say mockney. I’m not crazy about Swedens entry, but it ain’t quite a mockery. A mimicry maybe.

  3. The only good thing about no borders travel in the EU,we get a review from Germany’s finest.)
    I can confirm if id been there this year i would of been cheering Austria and Zoe as well.Her wonderful chanson reminds me of halcyon days gone by in ESCs of old.She just needs a pink dress to finish the staging for the fans.Her arm shaking as she wipes away the tears is just perfect.I dont care if its false.
    Poli looked on top of her game from the videos,so good to hear she was.Im really looking forward to seeing the staging for her.
    Frans will get his revenge on grown men who think its ok to almost bully a child.
    My daughter,niece,aunt,sons partner,my partners sister in law all love Frans.They wouldnt have a clue what bilingual or a chanson is.

  4. Thoughts on the Frans situation. Is that it was maybe just precautionary after bjorkmans comments could have rubbed up the uk fanbase the wrong way. I don’t believe there is any hostility towards Frans himself.

  5. Great review shell 🙂

  6. Great review shell – I too was at London and pretty much agree with your review word for word. Personally I thought Frans was very strong considering the fan bubble only had eyes for Zoe and Amir. At 17, he has decent stage presence, and an endearing package which I feel will stand him out among the bombast on May 14.

    Poland impressed me. Michael belts it out though it can’t help disguise something that would have felt old fashioned three decades ago. My other big gainer was Latvia, which I always compare unfavourably to Aminata, but as a more mainstream, more accessible but still cool tune, perhaps has the legs to improve her result.

    Finally I thought Francesca for Italy was seriously impressive. Disclaimer here* I really like the song – but how the market only sees this as a 2.5% chance remains unfathomable. I see staging is being handled properly too so with jury love guaranteed, this remains firmly on my shortlist.

    • She seems to be really growing in confidence Matt doesnt she.At Sanremo it was obvious she was nervous,yet that result seems to of given her the confidence back.Sony see her as one of their key Italian acts and no doubt she is part of the future of Italy contemporary pop.Rockart onboard is a big plus thats for sure.Whatever happens its obvious both Sony and RAI intend to give her the best they can,no surprise seeing as ESC is back on RAI1 for the first time.

    • I know Gav will disagree, but I think Francesca is jury catnip. She’s got the same staging director as Conchita, and if they really nail the package I wouldn’t discount her being in the top 3 after the first round of voting. As for the televote it is unknown territory, but all I’ll say is have you ever seen such an adorable face in your life?

      • Whenever I’ve seen Francesca she’s been the living dead but I haven’t really followed her closely. Have you an example of her singing her eurosong with any sign of human life. The juries don’t give marks to corpses.

      • Have you seen this delivery Black n Blue and Henry? .Its much much stronger than the Sanremo performance.Camera connection is spot on and she pushes much more emotion through the verses.I think Daniel over at Sofabet mentioned the hand movements etc in London and the same here.Francesca is gaining confidence delivering this and its obvious her team are working hard to get it right,unlike other years.
        Il be backing her top big 5 i think.France should make sure she is a decent price and might be a good way to play her.

    • Personally I was getting a bit emotional during her song, I don’t know, I think it was because that day was a rather emotional day for me in various ways, but the English part was really clicking for me that night, in a “I know what you mean” way

      • Or can you Kylie (see above)? At least you can’t be brain addled by the “adorable face” like Black & Blue.

  7. Which juries do you know that have a track record of being harsh to old-fashioned ballads – surely it’s the complete opposite? They had Lithuania as their favourite in the 2011 semi for example!

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