Two former Eurovision winners are among those, who decide the winner of Eurovision 2018. The list of the 215 jury members include many familiar names from the Eurovision past.
215 people from the music industry – five from each of the 43 participating countries – will cast their votes in the Semi-Finals and Grand Final of this year’s contest. They decide 50 % of the result. Among singers, dj’s, composers, journalists and other from the music business, we have several former Eurovision entrants.
In the Irish jury we find the Eurovision winner Niamh Kavanagh. She won on homeground with the song In your eyes back in 1993. This year she’ll pick the artist to follow in her footsteps 25 years later. She is joined by another Eurovision winner, Emmelie de Forest (2013), who’s got a seat in the Danish jury.
Among others we also find those in the 43 juries: Nathan Trent (Austria 2017), Bob Savenberg (Belgium 1991), Tom Dice (Belgium 2010), Laura Tesoro (Belgium 2016), Mary Roos (Germany 1972 and 1984), Aminata (Latvia 2015), Amber (Malta 2015), Cristina Scarlat (Moldova 2014), Guri Schanke (Norway 2007), Hanne Haugsand (Norway 2000), Michał Szpak (Poland 2016) and Bojana Stamenov (Serbia 2015).
Several participants from national finals across Europe have also been selected as jury members. In Portugal all five jury seats are taking by participants form this year’s national final, the Festival da Canção. It includes Anabela, who represented Portugal in 1993 with the song A cidade (até ser dia)
In Denmark one of the jurymembers is Lasse Melding, who participated in the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2018. However, he has already been judging this year’s songs on the fansite Eurovoix as a part of the Danish jury in Eurojury 2018. That might turn out to be a problem for him, as it’s not allowed for jury members to speak public about how they will vote.
The individual votes from the 215 jury members will be reveled by EBU after the Grand Final is over.
After Mikolas Josef’s first rehearsal today, he faced some medical problems. The doctors in the arena have checked him immediately, but he was transported to the hospital, so everything is under their control.
This very early morning, Mikolas was picked up around 3 am and together with the Czech delegation, they made their way to Lisbon. After the landing, they went to Altice arena for the first rehearsals. Maybe it was a combination of this early flight and the backflip that Mikolas prepared for the end of his performance, but after he was done with rehearsing, he needed to be checked by the doctors in the arena.
See alsoCzech Republic comes bang up to date with Mikolas Josef and Lie To Me
In the beginning, it looked just like a pulled muscle or something wrong with his back, but just to be sure, Mikolas was taken to the hospital to do an X-ray. As Mikolas wasn’t at the Meet & Greet after the rehearsal, it was up to the Head of Delegation Jan Bors and Head of Press Kryštof Šámal to calm down the press and fans. It looked good and everybody hoped that Mikolas will soon be able to continue in rehearsing, maybe with a few days rest only. Unfortunately, a few hours ago, Mikolas himself published an announcement that things are getting worse and he is already in a second hospital because at that moment he wasn’t able to even move. He was going to have an MRI to find out where the problem is. It looked like there may be a prolapsed disc in the area of the neck and the spine.
Hopefully, there will be some better news soon about the condition of Mikolas. Thousands of his fans around Europe are now sending him a lot of love, energy and “Get Well Soon” wishes on his Instagram account as well as on his Facebook page. We are joining them and we hope to see Mikolas Josef on the stage on Tuesday 8th May when the first seminal of Eurovision 2018 takes place. Mikolas is set to perform his entry Lie To Me, fifth. You can watch a snippet of his rehearsal in the video below.
There was a certain frisson around ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ when it was revealed (along with the other entries) for RTP’s Festival do Cançao (FdC) 2017. That frisson built through Salvador Sobral’s appearance in its semi-final (where it ranked second): by the time Sobral performed in the FdC final, there was a genuine buzz: Portugal had something special on offer, though it perhaps seemed too Portuguese for the Eurovision Song Contest.
It is worth remembering that ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ did not win the televote in either its FdC semi-final or grand final. In other words an audience where everyone would have understood the song’s message, public support was extensive rather than overwhelming. Rather quickly the buzz around ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ got very loud within the Eurovision fan bubble.
And yet…many a Eurovision obsessive made observations like “it’s wonderful, but it’s not the sort of song that inspires a massive televote”, “I love it, but he’s too quirky for a mainstream audience” or “I think this is timeless, but I suspect a lot of jurors will see it as dated.” In other a quality entry, but not expected to do particularly well in Kyiv.
Well that turned out differently.
In 2017 we had a winner that shattered some of the unwritten rules—or, if you prefer, the conventional wisdom—in terms of winning the modern, aggregate-public-and-jury scored Eurovision Song Contest. Portugal is not part of a reliable voting bloc. Its diaspora might help an entry get out of its semi-final, in a flat scoring year. Aside from some regions of Spain, there is nowhere else in the Eurovision voting area where Portuguese is a regional or official language. And then there’s Salvador himself, whose style might best be described as idiosyncratic. RTP’s decision to eschew the surfeit of LEDs or other special effects in favour of classically stripped down staging.
‘Amar Pelos Dois’ had so many things going against, in terms of convention. It still won. Which got us thinking: why don’t we unpack some of the unwritten rules of the (Eurovision) game? And which winners have flouted them?
Rules Versus Rules
In discuss rules, we are not referring to the actual rules for the 2018 Contest. Year upon year these are more often tweaked a bit rather than being wholly rewritten. Even the shifts in the scoring system (from jury to public to public with a bit of jury to blended public/jury to the current aggregate public jury system) have been incremental over two decades. The fundamental rules have been consistent. Of course participating broadcasters can add their own rules about language, nationality of artists and songwriters, among others. But we’re not interested in those broadcaster specific rules either.
We’re focused on those unwritten rules, which fans and delegations discuss from time to time, often in consideration of an entry’s potential to do well. The sorts of things that work or do not work at the Eurovision.
Play To The TV, Not The Crowd
Many a dream about winning the Eurovision ended when an artist comfortable playing arena gigs steps onto a Grand Final stage. In addition to being huge, a Eurovision audience is super passionate. Many artists get hit with that rush of Eurofan love and proceeds to give an epic performance to the crowd. For everyone in the arena something amazing has been shared.
However it often comes across really disconnected to the much larger audience watching on telly. There are a few thousand votes available in the arena: there are millions for the taking behind the camera. Many seasoned musicians, who have cultivated their performance ethos over years, have fallen into this trap and not got the result they had hoped.
Unless you’re The Olsen Brothers. If you were two middle-aged Danish brothers who’ve been trying to represent your country at the Contest for a couple of decades and finally got the ticket. You’ve already lived the arechtypal rock and roll lifestyle (and all its excesses). You walk out on stage, look at each and decide “Let’s just have a blast!” You missed the camera? No worries, there another one (and you point to it each time you find it)! The crowd’s clapping along? AWESOME! When you’re nothing singing, you’re laughing.
The Olsen Brothers – ‘Fly On the Wings of Love’ (Source: YouTube/Olsenbrother Music)
The Olsen Brother were just so damned cool! And it came across brilliantly on telly.
Comebacks Don’t Win Eurovision… Or Make Great Comebacks.
Blue tried it. Ditto No Angels, Dana International, and Bonnie Tyler. Each of them tried to leverage participating in the Eurovision to rekindle their career. Some did OK (Blue were 5th in the public vote in 2011) while others…didn’t.
A Eurovision enabled comeback is probably still a risk worth taking…if you’ve got a strong entry. If you do reasonably well, you will probably gain some new fans, perhaps even a record deal (or retain one about to be lost). Many have tried to win the Eurovision as a career reboot strategy. It doesn’t usually work out as well as hoped.
Then there’s Katrina and the Waves, whose career had stalled by the mid 1990s. After a global smash with Walking on Sunshine, they released a series of CDs and singles, none of which generated anywhere near the sales as their big hit. But one night in Dublin that changed, when the Waves—led by 37 year old vocalist Katrina Leskanich—scored one of the biggest Eurovision victories of all time.
Katrina and the Waves – ‘Love Shine the Light’(Source: YouTube/escLIVEmusic1)
‘Love Shine the Light’ became the band’s biggest ever hit. Which still couldn’t prevent the band from collapsing a year or two later. The comeback thing also sort of worked out OK for Johnny Logan.
You Can’t ‘Just Sing’
In the golden era of the Contest, viewers were treated to legions of singers standing at their mark and singing. The high tech stage setup that is the 21st century Song Contest offers a lot of options for entries. Aside from all the high tech kit, many countries’ top designers are happy to contribute a frock or outfit for an extra fabulous look. Dancing or some form of choreography is good too. Whatever you do, you don’t want your performance to seem to be too static.
The 2010 Eurovision season had a handful of entries favoured in the betting odds. The Azeribaijan entry, ‘Drip Drop’ would be performed by the ingénue Safura. Denmark’s Chanée & Evergreen had the more schlager ‘In a Moment Like This’. And then there was Germany’s entry:
Lena Meyer-Landrut – ‘Satellite’ (Source:YouTube/Eurovision Song Contest)
Stefan Raab was the man driving that years German selection, the man who brought ‘Guildo hat euch lieb’ (7th in 1998) and ‘Wadde hadde dude da?’ (5th in 2000) to the Eurovision stage. Raab also co-wrote those ‘Can’t Wait Until Tonight’ (8th in 2004). That’s three entries, with top 10 results. Handing the reigns to Raab savvy rather than risky.
At the end of a multi-week selection there were two shortlisted singers, each of whom recorded the two short listed songs. Lena Meyer-Landrut’s version of ‘Satellite’ topped the German charts almost immediately. When it entered the Austrian and Swiss charts Eurovision fans started to take notice. In the quiescence after the mid-March Reference Group, Lena seemed to fall off the radar a bit.
When the rehearsals started in Oslo, Lena rocked up in a little black dress and just sang the song. Many wrote off her chances—except perhaps Raab and Lena. She sounded great, she looked great, she looked comfortable and she clearly was having fun. And Europe decided to join her!
Buzz Kill ≠ Victory
Many Eurovision entries have been built around an important social message, which is laudable: art is sometimes uniquely positioned to illuminate the need for change in our world. Over six decades of Eurovision Song Contests war, family violence, terrorism, and racism have been the subject of really strong entries (including several in 2018 too). While many of us appreciate it when the Song Contest is used as a platform for such aims, it does not often result in a finish near the top of the leader board.
Therefore on paper a song about Stalin’s purge of Crimean Tatars during World War Two (the Great Patriot War) would seem an obvious party killer. Unless you’re Jamala.
The magic was in the music, but the path to victory was in the maths, according to Jamala’s scientist husband Bekir Suleimanov. After the car crash that was the 2011 Ukrainian national selection, no one could blame Jamala for never again having any interest in the Ukrainian Eurovision selection. But Bekir persisted: with her talent, and a great song—one that suited her as an artist—along with strong levels of support across the public and jurors, Jamala could win the Eurovision. With something strong.
Jamala – ‘1944’ (Source: (Source: YouTube/Eurovision Song Contest)
“When strangers are coming, they come to your house, they kill you all and say ‘we’re not guilty, not guilty.’”
Not the sort of lyrics that gets the party started. ‘1944’ is neither a banger nor a ballad. It’s sort of jazz-infused, trip-hoppish song that Jamala’s catalogue has featured for years. It is contemporary; it’s just not mainstream pop. But everything—the melody, the arrangement, the vocal and the staging—were pure class. Both jurors and the public got solidly behind ‘1944’: being second favourite with both, under a new aggregate scoring system, brought Ukraine their second Eurovision victory.
Don’t Be Too Queer
When ORF announced Conchita Wurst had been internally selected as the Austrian entry for Copenhagen, many fans viewed it as a “nothing else works, why not just send…” moment. The preview video revealed a very good song, but it was very camp—and could she deliver it live? How would it be staged? Ostensibly ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’ should have been staged rather conservatively.
Then there’s Conchita herself, Austria wasn’t known for being the most socially progressive member of the European Union in 2014, particularly around LGBTQ+ rights. And then there were all the central and eastern European participant broadcasters (including former Soviet states further East) from countries for overt hostility towards gender and sexual orientation diversity. There were so many ways ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’ could have gone off the rails.
Conchita Wurst – ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’ (Source: YouTube/Eurovision Song Contest)
Except it didn’t. Styled and coiffed beautifully, staged magnificently, and performed epically, from the first rehearsal it was clear Conchita was a contender. And that the public in “western” Europe would love her. As did the public in Hungary, Lithuania and Georgia (10 points each), Ukraine and Romania (8 points), and Moldova (7 points). Austria’s third place in the Russian televote only earned Conchita 5 points because Russian juror Dominik Joker slated Conchita by putting her 21st: the others had Austria 7th, 9th or 10th (she ended up 11th with the Russian jury as a result. It didn’t matter. Conchita won. On her own terms.
The Golden Rule
These rules have all been broken. There is one, however, that trumps both the unwritten and written rule books: artist self-belief. Every one of these artists believed in themselves, their song, and how to present it. It is very difficult to win a 40+ entry song contest. But if you don’t believe in yourself and your entry, if you don’t walk out on that stage supremely confident (all four times), it is so much harder to convince jurors or the public to put their confidence in you.
These entries all appeared on the Eurovision stage on their own terms. They were presented in ways that allowed them to be confident, and thus were able to deliver great performances when it mattered. As the rehearsals start this week it will be readily apparent who isn’t comfortable and confident. That can improve over the fortnight—Blanche’s ‘City Lights’ in 2017 comes to mind—but we haven’t recently seen that lead to actual victory.
Class of 2018
Sending something amazing is better than sending something safe, if you want to win the Eurovision Song Contest. Most years. We thought it would be fun to consider who might be this year’s rule breaking winner. In the end we have four.
Georgia’s Iriao, which combines polyphonic singing with jazz on ‘For You’. A group of middle-aged guys singing in a language no one else understands.
The Netherlands’ Waylon, who has gone full-on country with ‘Outlaw in ‘Em’. He finished second as half of the Common Linnets with ‘Calm After the Storm’ in 2014, so it is something of a comeback too.
Hungary’s AWS, who have aspirations to be the first metal and post-hardcore Eurovision winner with ‘Viszlát nyár’. Performing a song about a father’s dying words to his son.
Portugal’s Cláudia Pascoal, who aspires to make Portugal the first Eurovision host to complete the double since 1994, with the airy, chilled and moving ‘O Jardim’.
Mind, we aren’t predicting any of these will win. Yet. Let the rehearsals begin!
At their first rehearsal Equinox reveals a dark, futuristic and mysterious performance. It leaves us all wondering if Bulgaria might be on to another great result this year.
Bulgaria is competing in the first semi-final as start number 10. The country is represented by Equinox and their song Bones, which is written by Borislav Milanov, Trey Campbell, Joacim Persson and Dag Lundberg.
1 First rehearsal
2 How Equinox was selected
3 Bulgaria at the Eurovision Song Contest
Bulgaria has been a favorite even before the song or artist were selected. When Equinox was chosen Bulgaria was still in the group of favorites this year and now we have seen their rehearsal they still are.
The first Bulgarian rehearsal reveals that Equinox has a very dark and futuristic performance with light flashing constantly in the beginning and group members disappearing in the dark and appearing again. At the same time, it sounds and looks like a message from the future about how you can and will lose the chains holding you down. At the end of the song the members of Equinox are all shown very short and quickly and there is some sort of light from above – like the light of God.
During the song the five members of Equinox are standing on a big glass podium. Later they are walking around and shifting places. They are very good vocally and sing in perfect harmony.
How Equinox was selected
In the past, Bulgaria has used both national finals as well as internal selections to find their Eurovision repesentative. This year, they used an internal selection, but a more open one of its kind. An open call for submissions resulted in 202 possibilities. They were cut down to 13 projects, which were announced by song titles.
On the 12th of March, broadcaster BNT presented Equinox and the song Bones as the Bulgarian participants for the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest.
See alsoIs Bulgaria aiming for another top 5 result with Equinox' Bones?
Bulgaria at the Eurovision Song Contest
12 Eurovision appearances, but only three times in the final. Statistic clearly tell that things hasn’t been easy for Bulgaria when it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest. When they do qualify however, they are guaranteed a success. All three times, Bulgaria made it to the final, they ended in top 5.
First Bulgarian success came in 2007, in the country’s third participating year. Elitsa & Stoyan’s Water charmed Europe into awarding them a 5th place. They were followed by six years in a row where the country failed to reach the final.
Due to financial difficulties, Bulgaria did not take part in 2014 and 2015. They however came back stronger after that. Poli Genova finished fourth in 2016, and the year after Kristian Kostov secured a second place with his Beautiful Mess.
Mysterious and dark. Those are the two best words to describe Belgium’s first rehearsal and soon to be Eurovision performance. The vocals were on key and it would be shocking not to see Belgium qualifying.
1 First rehearsal
2 How Sennek was selected
3 Belgium at the Eurovision Song Contest
Belgium is competing in the first semi-final as start number 4. The country is represented by Sennek and her song A Matter Of Time, which is written by Alex Callier and Maxime Tribeche, together with Laura Groeseneken aka Sennek herself.
When Belgium first announced Sennek as their Eurovision act, the singer promised an emotional song and performance but her ideas did change and the very first rehearsal of A Matter of Time do proof it. With a nice and mysterious dark light in her eyes, Sennek’s face starts being unhidden word by word. By the end of the first verse, the face is showing along with her entire dark outfit.
Dark is the colour of this intimate performance that takes place in the catwalk and easily catches the viewer’s attention as its main focus is the singer itself. Mixed with this mysterious and dark looks and mood, Sennek’s stage presence is fierce and sexy.
Vocals were also on key, yet a little alert should be made for when the second verse kicks in and more elements are brought into the song as Sennek’s vocals can easily be stuffed by the song itself. Nonetheless, it will be shocking if Belgium doesn’t make it through even with such an intimate performance.
How Sennek was selected
Belgium has two broadcasters, Flemish VRT and Walloon RTBF. The Eurovision participation rotate between the two countries. This year, it was VRT’s turn. They have before used national finals to select their participant, but this time, Laura Groeseneken was internally selected. Later it was announced that she would perform under the name Sennek.
Following the presentation of the singer back in September 2017, it wasn’t until March 2018, the song was released.
See alsoDoes Sennek's Bond-style song “A Matter Of Time” have what it takes to win Eurovision?
Belgium at the Eurovision Song Contest
In the 10 years from 2005 to 2014, Belgium failed to qualify for the final a total of 8 times! Since that, things have been different with the country scoring top 10 results ever since. In 2015, Loïc Nottet scored a 4th place performing Rhythm Inside. Blanche repeated that 4th place two years later.
The country is one of the “original” countries as they took part in the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956. Over the years, Belgium have won once, in 1986 with Sandra Kim and her J’aime La Vie. Controversy followed as it later was revealed, she was younger than first claimed. Her being 13, makes her the youngest ever winner, a record which can not be broken as now participants must be at least 16 in the year, they take part.
Eugent Bushpepa brings something unique to the Eurovision stage. With professionalism and lots of experience he showed us just that at his first rehearsal today.
Albania is competing in the first semi-final with start number 3. The country is represented by Eugent Bushpepa and his song Mall, which is written by Eugent himself.
1 First rehearsal
2 How Eugent Bushpepa was selected
3 Albania at the Eurovision Song Contest
Third country to enter the stage at the Altice Arena is Albania. Today the Albanian rock singer Eugent Bushpepa had his first rehearsal.
The performance of Mall starts rather dark in blue lights, however, when the song kicks off in the chorus the stage turns red and yellow. The camera work seems a bit confusing though, with several close ups in the beginning of the song of the guitar player. The close ups seem a bit random, but it would probably be fixed for their second rehearsal in the following days.
Eugent Bushpepa himself is wearing a jacket and an open shirt. The jacket turns out to be some sort of straight jacket, when the camera shows him from behind. The members of the backing band are wearing different types of “rock-bad-ass” outfits with leather pants and black t-shirts.
The first rehearsal was good and Eugent Bushpepa made a fine impression. His professionalism and experience can easily be detected, and it was a well delivered pop-rock performance.
How Eugent Bushpepa was selected
Festivali i Këngës is the longest running television show in Albania. It started in 1964, decades before Albania joined the Eurovision Song Contest in 2004. Since it’s Eurovision debut, the Albanian broadcaster has used this TV show to select their entry.
Two semi-finals held on the 21st and the 22nd of December 2017 featured a total of 22 entries. 11 of them made it to the final 23rd of December. A professional jury consisting of five people chose Eugent Bushpepa as winner over, among others, 2006 Eurovision participant Luiz Ejlli.
See alsoRock singer Eugent Bushpepa to represent Albania in Lisbon
Albania at the Eurovision Song Contest
Eugent Bushpepa will be representing Albania in their 15th Eurovision appearance. The country is yet to win, and have a 5th place from 2012 by Rona Nishliu as best result.
It has been a struggle for Albania to gain any consistency as they in average have failed to reach the final every second year. In 2016 and 2017, the country was left out and not even close to qualifying ending 14th and 16th in the semi-finals.
When Albania joined the Eurovision Song Contest in 2004 nothing indicated that things would get tough for the country. Anjeza Shahini sang The Image Of You and finished 7th, after a 4th place in the final.