ESC Insight

ESC Insight

Which National Finals Sent The Right Song To Lisbon 2018?

Which National Finals Sent The Right Song To Lisbon 2018?

Israel Was Right To Choose Netta

Put simply, when you win the Song Contest and bring the show back home with you, it’s clear that the right choice was made. But the decision to send Netta was always going to be the correct one, even if she had finished further down the scoreboard.  It introduced more people to the delights of looping, electronica, and the creative power of mixing. This was a song that had a heart, a message, and meant so much to so many people.

It arrived in Lisbon as a winner. It left as a legend.

Germany Was Right To Choose Michael Schulte

Following a run of poor results, Germany’s fourth place at this year’s Song Contest will be welcomed by the team at NDR. While the easy headlines and disco banger potential of voXXclub have been championed by many, it was the troubador-esque Michael Schulte that captured the hearts in the German National Final. That awarded him the ticket to Lisbon.

Okay, the video projection wall was against the spirit of the ‘no LED” staging decision, but it magnified a story that was delivered with excellence by Schulte. I still think that the song is a little too direct in manipulating emotion in the viewers at home, but it worked in Berlin, it worked in Lisbon, and the way is open for bigger names to trust in NDR’s National Final and take a swing at the Song Contest.

Mission accomplished.

Italy Was Right To Choose Erma Metal And Fabrizio Moro

Strictly speaking, Erma and Fabrizio were right to represent Italy at Eurovision. Sanremo may be seen as the National Selection, but it means so much more to the Italian music industry that the winners have the option of declining or accepting the challenge of making the jump from the Italian riviera to the Eurovision stage.

And this was a clear gamble. The intimate setting of the Ariston Theatre channeled the energy of the two powerful singers, and the larger stage in the Altice Arena threatened to swallow them up. And while RAI will still be wondering what exactly they need to do to get a jury vote, the revitalised Sanremo has delivered a classic that the televoters put in third place.

Finland Was Right To Choose ‘Monsters

Yes, Saara Aalto finished in her traditional second place (even if it was second to last), but ‘Monsters’ was more than a song… if you were paying attention. In that sense, getting it in front of the Saturday night audience should be considered as much of a success as the last Finnish message song (That would be ’Marry Me’).

YLE gambled that going ‘all-in’ on Aalto instead of the open selection that was stopped in mid flow would deliver a qualification and a strong finish. It achieved the first, and I hope that’s enough to placate the Finnish voices. Eurovision needs more songs to challenge the norms and speak to its diverse audience.

Serbia Was Right To Choose Sanja Ilić & Balkanika

It’s not just about the finishing position on Saturday night for Serbia. For Finland it was about sexual identity  for Hungary it was about the career benefits. For Serbia, it was about establishing Beovizija as a successful National Final. The Eurovision Song Contest is firmly back in the public’s conscious, the chosen act was a qualifier to the Saturday night show, …and it gave us Disco Gandalf.

The Czech Republic Was Right To Choose Mikolas Josef

Returning to a National Final for this year was broadcaster CT, and ‘Lie To Me’ picked up the country’s best result with sixth place. But the biggest winner might be the Czech’s selection process itself. While there was the by now expected ‘international jury’ making up part of the show, the other half was decided not by a TV audience but by votes cast online through the app (although only votes from inside the Czech republic were counted towards the selection).

No expensive television show, no live voting or auditing, just the music videos of the artists facing the world. That sixth place might just be showing the way forward to involving the public in a cost-effective and transparent manner.

Hungary Was Right To Choose AWS

Always trust the Hungarian public. AWS somehow went from topping the jury vote in the A Dal heats and Semi Finals, only to be suddenly blanked by half of the jury and given the lowest score by the other two. But A Dal’s two part system in its Final meant that AWS made the 100% televote, and the Hungarian public knew what it wanted.

It wanted fire. It wanted energy. It wanted an old-fashioned key change. It wanted metal at Eurovision.

And just like that, A Dal’s reputation for continuing to showcase the best of the Hungarian music scene, continuing to be daring and different, and choosing the best possible entry, continued. An unbroken streak of qualifications to Saturday’s show, plus an invitation to Wacken Open Air in August? AWS might just be the biggest winner of the 2018 Song Contest.

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 tomorrow, keep your powder dry for that debate!

Categories: ESC Insight


ESC Insight’s Reader Survey For 2018

ESC Insight’s Reader Survey For 2018

It’s been just under a week since the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018, and the ESC Insight team has caught up on enough sleep to look back at another successful year. Hopefully you’ve caught up as well, as we’d like your help with our annual Reader Survey. We like to use the summer months to improve ESC Insight, and we’d love you feedback to help guide us.

To do that, we need to know what you – our readers and listeners – think of ESC Insight. In our time honoured tradition, we have some questions to ask you in our Annual Reader Survey. Tell us what you love, what you hate, what you would change, and what we should keep on doing.

We’ve got a small collection of prizes gathered during our time in Lisbon, the various National Finals, and the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. We’ll pick some of the responses out at random to send out some gifts as a thank you.

How To Take The Survey

You can open up the questions in your web browser by clicking on this link, or you can answer the same questions in the embedded form below.

We’d stress that the the answers from this survey will only be used by the ESC Insight team to improve the site and how we cover the Contest, and we’re not planning on selling them on.

Categories: ESC Insight


Which National Finals Sent The Wrong Song To Lisbon 2018?

Which National Finals Sent The Wrong Song To Lisbon 2018?

Spain Should Have Sent ‘Lo Malo’

As a reality show built around music (with a dash of Big Brother), Operacion Triunfo was a success. As a selection show for the Eurovision Song Contest, it falls a bit short. The months of time the public spends with the artists builds up familiarity in the viewer and there is a sense of voting for story momentum rather than an accessible song. Alfred and Amaia had their reality TV story and it dragged ‘Tu Cancion’ towards Portugal..

Meanwhile, another song from the show didn’t have the character momentum, but has stormed the Spanish charts and is ready to be the viral MedPop hit of the Summer. ‘Lo Malo’ was in full view, but young love got in the way.

The Netherlands Should Have Sent Any Other Track From Waylon’s Album

If you want my absolute guilty pleasure of the year, then Waylon’s ‘Home’ is breaking my post-Eurovision depression fuelled heart that misses my extended family:

From the top of the mountain, to the bottom of the ocean,
The places that we’ve been, or the places we’re going
The miles that we’ve travelled, the stones we’ve been rolling
The fires that I burned, and the world of uncertain
The one thing I know is… When I’m with you, I’m home

Instead they had five songs presented in a ‘National Final over a few days’ format for everyone to watch, with a ‘one man one vote’ system. The one man was Waylon, and the one vote was for ‘Outlaw in Em’. I realise that Waylon used Eurovision as an opportunity to promote his Nashville tinged album, but just like Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Rocks and Honey’ album with ‘Believe in Me’, he ended up choosing the wrong song. He then compounded the mistake with some misguided staging choices, arrogant press conferences, and an inability to listen to anyone with a viewpoint that wasn’t his own… much like his decision to not listen to anyone else and choose ‘Outlaw In Em’.

Sweden Should Have Sent Felix Sandman

If there’s one song that has been my earworm from the National Finals… that had a legitimate chance of winning the Song Contest, it was ‘Every Single Day’ from Melodifestivalen. Felix Sandman may have lost in the Friends Arena, but the subsequent domination of the Swedish chart, stopping ‘Dance You Off’ reaching number one, and Felix’s love for the Euovision fandom, highlights a performer that was more engaging and authentic. While the tight focus on Ingrosso’s “lean mean Sweidh pop grilling machine” may explain the poor televote, the real answer lies in Melodifestivalen’s app voting.

The MF jury aped the Eurovision juries, while the public voice (which signalled that Felix was stronger) was flattened out by the tight spread of online votes. The problem is clear, can SVT address it for 2019?

Norway Should Have Sent Alexander Rybak With Another Song

This is a tricky one to call. Looking at the options as presented in MGP, Norway didchose the package that had the best chance of winning. I think Rebecca would have struggled to escape the Semi Final, Stella & Alexandra would be fighting for the same audience as Eleni Fouriera and Netta, and Aleksander Walmann was a risk-free choice that would have made Saturday night but not reached the Top Ten.

The answer was always going to be Alexander Rybak. He did win the second Semi Final, but illness saw ‘That’s How You Write A Song’ slip down the rankings on the Grand Final. Norway needed a Rybak at full power to make up for a weak song. If the song had been stronger, then a Top Ten would have been within reach.

Latvia Should Have Sent Something From Aminata

As we have discussed before, the Supernova format used by LTV only works when Aminata enters, as Ben Robertson noted in 2016:

Supernova makes the winners even feel like losers, with the jurors critiquing each performance with such seriousness – they have to find flaws in the artistry. This doesn’t bring your big names back, missing part of its mission objective in restoring Latvian Eurovision glory.

Win or lose in May, Latvian Television needs to look at Justs’ margin of victory and realise the disaster their format almost created.

Nothing has changed. With a flawed format, you get a flawed winner. ‘Funny Girl’ wasn’t suited towards Eurovision, and that’s the fundamental issue with Supernova. Even ‘Soledad‘ would have stood a better chance.

Montenegro Should Have Sent An Internal Selection

It probably would have been best not to do Montevizija at all. Bradcaster RTCG could have taken the limited budget and made sure it was all available for the Eurovision staging.

The National Final had all the hallmarks of a big show, but with a number of issues. Having a super final when your entire final only consists of 5 artists to begin with seems a excessive. With a venue that did not have enough space for an audience, but not even enough space for each artists family to watch them did not help the atmosphere.

Why pick a hotel conference room when literally down the road is the Montenegrin National Theatre. Ok it’s not huge, but it’s at least built for putting on shows and an audience would have totally lifted the performers energy.

Or go with Slavko again…

Iceland Should Have Sent Dagur Sigurðsson

Iceland’s issue is the timeslot of its National final (and Eurovision itself). Because of the timezone difference, Söngvakeppnin is an early evening show with an audience that skews towards the younger generation. I’d argue that ‘Our Choice’ has a huge amount of potential but only if it was entering Junior Eurovision. As for the Adult version, it’s hard to look past Dagur Sigurðsson for 2018… and we hope to see Ari return in 2023.

San Marino Should Have Sent, Er, Well, We’re Not Sure…

All we can say is that if ‘1 in 360’ returns as the selection method, the rulebook needs to be written in ink and not changed multiple times during the journey. Then we’d get a National Final that San Marino could be proud of.

In the meantime, here’s some Valentina Monetta. Because.

We’ve already looked at the National Finals that got it right – read that article here. As for the big mistakes of the year, do you agree? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: ESC Insight


Ask ESC Insight: What Has Eurovision 2018 Added To Your Summer Music Playlist?

Ask ESC Insight: What Has Eurovision 2018 Added To Your Summer Music Playlist?

Ewan Spence

The World Can Wait’ by Waylon

The question is about music not about the man. Because if it was about the man, I’d be lobbying AVROTROS to give Ilse DeLange the 2019 ticket so she can bring the Glass Microphone back to Amsterdam. Waylon was perhaps the biggest disappointment of my two weeks on the ground in Portugal.

Yet ‘The World Can Wait’ (this year’s ‘Rocks And Honey’) is an intriguing album of shifting moods, with high tides of excitement, and low tides of loss and despair. In other worlds it’s a very gentle slice of Americana, put together with a twelve strong writing team, some fantastic musicians, and lyrics that catch in my throat.
So thank you Eurovision, you’ve handed me a fantastic album which leaves a curiously bitter taste in my mouth.

Sharleen Wright

Сберегу’ (‘I Will Save’), by Alekseev

He was already well on my radar with many thanks to our little jaunt to Ukraine in 2017, but our unsuccessful Belorussian entrant has already moved very much on from his Eurovision foray and back into his comfort zone with more modern Russian-language beats.

The very latest offering in ‘Сберегу’ shows him to be a far more confident artist than what we saw live in Lisbon, and the video provided of a recent concert below demonstrates that he doesn’t need a ridiculous rose gimmick to gain audience attention.

Lisa-Jayne Lewis

Wild Wild Wonderland’, by Saara Aalto

Aalto’s latest album is a piece of pure, unadulterated pop at its most glorious! I can’t pick a single track off of it because they just come thick and fast.

There is one track in the middle that slows things down a bit, it’s kind of like Ireland in the second half of this years Grand Final, it’s called ‘Dance Like Nobody’s Watching’ but the slightly slowed down tempo doesn’t hamper the enjoyment of the album in any way. I will say I sort of get the feeling this was the long list of songs in the mix for Saara at this years Song Contest (with the exception of ‘Dance Like Nobody’s Watching’), and after many meetings and discussions ‘Monsters’, ‘Domino’ and ‘Queens’ came tumbling out the bottom and into UMK, but probably there are others that could have equally have made the cut.

It’s not an album to make you question life, the universe and human existence, it’s a bunch of fun, uplifting songs to enjoy in your car, driving through London with the roof down while the sun shines in the sky (well that’s how I intend to enjoy it anyway!)

John Lucas

Moura‘, by Ana Moura

When I wasn’t furiously analysing rehearsal footage or dancing like a fool at the Euroclub, I spent many a beautiful night wandering through the cobbled streets of Lisbon, just soaking in the relaxed romanticism of one of the most atmospheric Eurovision host cities I’ve yet to pay a visit to.

The soundtrack to my holiday was primarily ‘Moura’, a beautiful 2015 album from local Fado sensation – and Grand Final opening act – Ana Moura. It’s a summery, full-bodied slice of Portuguese soul from a singer at the peak of her powers. Wherever you’re reading this from, I recommend playing it loud while the sun’s still shining. It’ll instantly transport you to a balmy afternoon in Portugal.

I miss it already.

Eleanor Chalkley

Vu D’ici’, by Madame Monsieur

One of the joys of Eurovision is discovering a fully formed musical act that has just been waiting for their moment of wider public attention. Madame Monsieur have graced the 2018 Eurovision season with such French concepts as elan, panache, joie de vivre and amour. The album is an hour of the excellence you got with ‘Mercy‘ – emotive storytelling, chill beats, songwriting craft and a certain je ne sais quois.

Now we’ve started the summer playlist, what do you want to add to it? National Final singers, deep cuts in the archives of this year’s performers? Or something more left field? Let us know your 2018 treasures in the comments – and don’t forget to link to choice tracks!

Categories: ESC Insight


Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways Live, with Slavko Kalezić

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways Live, with Slavko Kalezić

Welcome to the second year of trips out to the mysterious Île de Bezençon, where the time is always May, where the sun is always shining, and for thematic reasons you can only bring along eight Eurovision songs and a Song Contest luxury.

We’re going to be inducting the rest of the ESC Insight team and some friends that we’ve met along the way. Before you reach the island, you have to pass through customs, and the watchful eye of Ellie Chalkley, who brought the customs desk to the Lisbon Embassy for a live recording at the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways Live, with Slavko Kalezić

Our first guest for the summer of 2018 is Slavko Kalezić, who brings us his Song Contest love story, multiple songs from Montenegro and leaves us in a world of divas.

Keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast as we face the summer months between season. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

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How Our Patreon Supported ESC Insight During Eurovision 2018

How Our Patreon Supported ESC Insight During Eurovision 2018

As our crowdfunding pages were launched (at we emphasised that ESC Insight was in good health, and that everything was under control. As the off-season looms, that remains the case. We’re not in desperate need of funding, and ESC Insight is all set to cover the 2018/19 season.

But Patreon was able to offer our community an exciting and voluntary way to support the site. We want to be as transparent as possible, so this is how our community helped us cover the season.

Keeping The Lights On

Insight’s hosting costs are generally paid a year in advance, so even as Patreon launched, our hosting package was already in place through to February 2019. Our first milestone was raising enough support to be able to buy another year of hosting in advance. On reaching that goal, we were able to extend our annual IT support contract with Ross Barber and Electric Kiwi, which includes a commitment to keeping the website code up to date, maintaining regular backups, running our cloud-based audio archive, and being on call when we start getting database errors in Lisbon!

From a back-end point of view, ESC Insight is now good until 2020.

National Finals

For various reasons, ESC Insight did not cover as many National Finals ‘on the ground’ as in previous years, but we made an effort to cover Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix (including a very special ‘docu-podcast’ of Ellie’s transformative time in Olso). A number of expenses incurred by the team were covered by the Patreon supporters.

The sound bounces all around the Oslo Spektrum (Photo: Ben Robertson)

Lisbon’s Pineapples

On the ground in Lisbon, Patreon supporters helped us in a few ways. We were able to help out a little with living costs and expenses for the Insight writers on the ground and those doing sub-editing back at home away from the bustle of the Press Centre. We did have a team night out to enjoy the Lisbon food…. and how could we have a live recording from the Ilse de Bezençon Customs Desk without some Patreon Pineapples?

Eurovision Castaways Live (image: Lisa-Jayne Lewis)

Eurovision Castaways Live (image: Lisa-Jayne Lewis)

What Next?

Insight will not be disappearing over the summer ‘off-season’ period. We always listen to your feedback (as this article is posted our Reader Survey for 2018 is still open for submissions), so we’re delighted to confirm that Ellie’s ‘Eurovision Castaways’ podcast series will be with you right through to September 1st. We’ll also be running a new series from guest writer Marcus Keppel-Palmer looking back at some of the unsung heroes from Eurovision’s history.

We’ll also take the time to look back over your replies to our Reader Survey, listen back to all our podcasts and re-read all our contest, and decide where we need to improve for the 2018/19 season… plus we’ll dip into Eurovision Young Musicians in Edinburgh, and continue our detailed coverage of Junior Eurovision in Minsk.

A Word About Our Rewards

We’ll be sending out a double sized ‘physical rewards’ package during June to all of our higher tier supporters, but I do want to say a little note about the extra Patreon content, because it has not been as extensive as promised when the crowd funding rewards were set in December.

ESC Insight is run by volunteers, and that means real life can get in the way. This year real life caught up with Insight in a big way when Ewan was diagnosed with Epilepsy in late January (more on that here and here). That led to a reshuffling of duties during both the National Final season and our time on the ground in Lisbon, which had a knock-on effect on the content that was planned for Patreon.

In short, we decided to prioritise the content on ESC Insight, but we failed to communicate that clearly enough to our supporters on Patreon.

We’re in a better place to understand what’s needed now, and we shall do better on this over the summer ‘off-season’ and during the rest of 2018.

Final Words

To re-iterate once more, ESC Insight is not going anywhere. We’ve just completed a successful season in Lisbon 2018, we are planning out the next year, and the basic running costs of the website are covered.

At the same time, we don’t hide that covering the Contest is an expensive thing to do. While everyone loves free content, the content isn’t free to make. Our community can help in many ways – interacting with us, leaving comments, sharing on Facebook and Twitter, leaving reviews in iTunes and other podcast directories, these are all incredibly helpful.

But if you want to support us, then a monthly donation through Patreon is one option – and for those of you who would prefer to make a one-off payment, we’re going to work out the best way to do that during June and let you know.

Our Patreon page can be found at, please go there for more details on what Patreon means to us, the reward levels offered, and how to sign up.

Categories: ESC Insight

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