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ESC Insight’s Musical Moments Of 2018: Part One

ESC Insight’s Musical Moments Of 2018: Part One

Ewan Spence

‘You And I’, by Asmik (Armenian National Final)

In one sense the biggest musical moment of 2018 was ‘Electric Prelude‘, the new theme tune for the Insight podcast (and we’ve heard the full-length version, not just the short snippets on the podcasts), but that’s not what these moments are for.

Mind you, let’s double up on the music that powers the podcast, because the one track that has contributed the most energy to my creativity this year is from Armenia’s National Final…Asmik’s ‘You And I’.

From the opening note of Depi Evratesil you could hear a legion of Eurovision fans let out an exasperated sigh. This was not going to Portugal. But not me. At that point the song was nothing more than a cute little bit of 90’s dance, a genre I’m not particularly excited about (not even in the nineties). But in the month after the first studio version dropped, it snuck into my ‘warm-up for podcast/broadcast’ playlist. These are a handful of tracks that get me in the right zone to let loose with a “Hello Internet!

Not only did ‘You and I’ sneak onto the playlist, but it quickly worked its way up to be the lead-in track. The electronic riff and heavy piano notes start a Pavlovian three minute clock, until the vocal-echoed mic-drop at the end leads into my recording light turning on. It’s the musical moment of the year that kicks off everything you hear.

‘Lost And Found’, by Eye Cue (Macedonia)

I’ll sneak in two songs for my second pick as well with Macedonia’s two Eurovision entries. Its Junior Eurovision entry ‘Doma‘ drips in the luxury of a Balkan Ballad, and I’m a sucker for this style. It’s a strong song in the genre, but doesn’t quite get my musical heart thumping as the reggae infused ‘Lost and Found‘ managed to do so earlier in the year.

Eye Cue’s banger never settles into a comfortable space; there’s a constant shifting of tempo, melody, and bassline; it switches between a number of musical styles; and it’s always interesting. Some might think that makes it a bit busy as a song, but it hooked me on my first listen and continues to keep me engaged months later.  As a mash-up of music, I love it for all of these reasons.

So why did it not do any better at the Song Contest? As witnessed by the choices made for the live version, Macedonia’s staging superpower of completely missing the target was once more on show in Lisbon. A curious sartorial choice for lead singer Marija Ivanovska meant Eye Cue’s slim chance of reaching Saturday night was thrown away… before the costume change sealed its fate.

No matter. This is a musical moment, not a fashion parade.

Sharleen Wright

‘Fuego’, by Eleni Foureira (Cyprus)

I’ve found, more often than not in the last few years, thats its the second placed position that I genuinely feel is more deserving of the win. Of course, that is a personal gut feeling that clearly is not in line with the jurors’ and televoters’ wishes, but the song ‘Fuego’ this year, managed to be a winner of sorts anyway. It broke through in charts across Europe, gaining Eleni a following beyond her native Greece, and now enjoys superstar status in Spain.

The entry literally set the stage alight as soon as it hit Lisbon for rehearsals. The combination of a pumping dance track, infectious chorus, energetic dance routine and a crazy amount of pyro all came together in a way no-one expected following the studio release, wowing the press – before the Contest it only managed a middling status on the gambling sites and online previews.

It’s the song that remains most foremost in my mind when I look back at May 2018, and shall likely remain on my playlist for years and decades to come. But ‘Fuego’ has given me even more than just a tune to bop along to – I will never be able to look at a pineapple in the same way, and it’s created arguably the best meme since the Epic Sax Guy… Yeah… Yeah… Fire….

‘Champion’ by Jael (Australia, Junior Eurovision)

I’ve always struggled with the idea of being nationalistic, and in particular the idea of popping an Aussie flag around my shoulders and proclaiming my heritage makes me a little tense. Put it in the world of the Eurovision Song Contest and I feel even more ill at ease. For those who haven’t followed my narrative through the years, I subscribe to the idea that Eurovision is about Europe – the Euro says it all. I may have been the President of the Fan Club in the land down under, but to me, it’s about the appreciation of the Song Contest, not our participation in it.

But if the song is right – no matter where its from – give me a little hand waver and I will clap and cheer loudly. When Jael took the stage in Minsk last November for this years Junior Eurovision Song Contest, I did just that. She wowed the jury with a vocal ability beyond her years, and gave an impassioned performance delivering every lyric with emotion. When the votes came rightly rolling in, people looked to me as the only Australian in the press centre for a reaction. I admit I shed a tear or two in excitement.

For that brief period, I thought we could actually win our first ever Eurovision-related contest.

Alas, just like the Adult Contest in 2016, we were beaten by Poland (who were languishing far below) in the televote and denied a win.

Jael nevertheless was a champion, gracious throughout Junior Eurovision, and proving to be popular with everyone. And I gave her my flag to wear on stage around her shoulders, so she could be proud of representing my country, as she should.

John Lucas

‘Monsters’, by Saara Aalto (Finland)

Saara Aalto is one of those artists for whom Eurovision seemed to not be a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’. A couple of near-misses at UMK established her as a fan favourite among dedicated national final watchers, but it was her odds-defying run on X Factor UK in 2016 that really established her as one to watch.

With Finland wisely revamping the UMK format to focus on finding a great song for a seasoned, high-profile performer, Saara was an obvious choice to test out the format. Of the three songs the public had to choose from, the jury friendly power-ballad ‘Domino’ was probably the safer choice, but I was pleased that they took the riskier, more ambitious route with ‘Monster.

Did the gamble pay off? The 25th placing at the final was tough, but the quirky-pop vote that year clearly went to eventual winner Netta, and getting to the Grand Final at all is always an achievement for Finland. Ultimately, for me it was a joy to see a genuine Eurovision enthusiast finally getting her moment, and I strongly suspect that ‘Monsters’ will enjoy an afterlife far above some of the songs that placed ahead of it on Saturday night. As for Finland, they now have a solid foundation to build on – and if they can keep attracting high grade talent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them back on the left hand side of the leaderboard before too long.

‘Higher Ground’, by Rasmussen (Denmark)

2018 was a mixed year all round for the Nordic power-bloc. With the exception of Iceland, they all managed to advance to the Grand final, but despite high pre-contest expectations, Sweden, Norway and Finland all fell surprisingly short on the televote.

It’s sort of fitting that Denmark emerged as the dragon slayers of the year with their heavily Game of Thrones inspired entry. Never really considered a major contender, Rasmussen nevertheless managed to score more televote points than Alexander Rybak, Benjamin Ingrosso and Saara Aalto combined – a pleasant surprise that hardly anybody saw coming.

Never underestimate a Danish viking.

Ben Robertson

‘Lie To Me’, by Mikolas Josef (Czech Republic)

Czech Republic and contemporary are not words that sit comfortably together glancing through their short Eurovision history.

Not only did Mikolas smash Czech Republic’s previous best ever placing (25th in the 2016 Grand Final with nul points from the televoters) but Eurovision has provided a springboard into a music career in lands far away from Prague – mission accomplished.

I highlight ‘Lie To Me’ because I expect many songs in future Eurovision Song Contests will be echoing its unique traits. A music video styled staging. A sexy instrumental post-chorus. European youth not understanding the lyrical boundaries caused by the British watershed.

And, furthermore, the soap opera will he/won’t he of beforming his somersault flip after injuring himself in rehearsals. More than ever a good result at the Eurovision Song Contest requires artists to create a narrative after all…

‘You’, by Jaz Ellington (United Kingdom, National Final)

Big claim here. The UK missed genuinely being in the fight to win the Eurovision Song Contest in May by picking SuRie.

You’ simply wasn’t a Eurovision style of song. Jaz Ellington wasn’t a Eurovision style of singer. This was ‘real music’. Depending on your viewpoint, that term was being used as a complementary or derogatory term.

But this was British music. A rich smooth soul voice. A storyline through a journey of complicated romance. A verse-chorus structure that wasn’t simply the ABAB format ABBA perfected.

Jaz Ellington was authentic real British music. He was our Salvador Sobral and we blew it.

The UK’s new National Final format, with three songs for six artists to sing, means songs like ‘You’ won’t be hitting Eurovision anytime soon. Whatever is chosen I suspect it is going to sound more ‘fake music’ than ‘real music’, to the detriment of the artist, the BBC, and the Eurovision Song Contest itself.

I don’t think I’ve ever missed one that got away more.

Ellie Chalkley

‘Lo Malo’, by Aitana & Ana Guerra (Spain, National Final)

There was a lot of fuss about a pair of exciting young artists who rocked us with their sizzling chemistry in Operation Triunfo 2018. Sadly, Aitana and Ana Guerra lost out in the Spanish Eurovision selection process, and had to make do with having an enormous radio hit instead. ‘Lo Malo‘ is a summery, danceable ode to enthusiastic consent (“but if you touch me: I decide where, when and with who”) and moving on from the bad boy in your life.

It also snaps, as the young people say.

I’ve played it all through the summer and I’ve put it on my winter party playlist and I can see it sitting happily between Eleni’s ‘Fuego’ and Inna’s ‘Gimme Gimme’ for years to come. Because this song didn’t get selected for Eurovision and have to conform to the compressed production schedule, Aitana and Ana got the chance to reswizzle the track and film a particularly fun music video for it.

And yes, I know, it would have been a total shambles at Eurovision.

‘Scandilove’, by Ida Maria (Norway, National Final)

This was the year that my younger obnoxious indie kid self finally merged with my outrageous Eurovision self, when I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Ida Maria triumphantly arse up her Melodi Grand Prix performance. The ten years since I first heard her records have been eventful for both of us (she’s done the full rock star breakdown, rehab, sobriety, marriage, a baby, reality TV thing and I’ve done… a lot) but it’s wonderful to see her back on stage, happy and free.

But back to Scandilove: the song was a ridiculous burst of joy, wordplay and a judicious bit of swearing, the costume was polka dots in excelsis deo and the stage show was an absolute mess. But she had a great time. I love Ida Maria and want to be half as wise, daring and exuberant as her when I grow up.

We’re Not Finished!

ESC Insight is more than our core team of writers, so naturally the call for Musical Moments went out to many of the ‘friends of the parish’ who contribute throughout the year, from Juke Box Juries and daily podcasts to articles and opinions. Want to know what they thought of the year of music? Part two of ESC Insight’s Musical Moments Of 2018 is coming very soon.

And if you want to support ESC Insight as we cover the Song Contest, please visit our Patreon page,

Categories: ESC Insight


Newsletter: Our First Look At The Stage For 2019

Newsletter: Our First Look At The Stage For 2019

Also in this week’s newsletter, discover the most streamed Eurovision entry of 2018 and check out another round of highlights from forthcoming national selections in Estonia, France, Lithuania, Romania and more.  You can read the newsletter in full here, or subscribe for a regular dose of Eurovision insight and analysis delivered direct to your email inbox.

ESC Insight National Selection Playlist

Kaia Tamm – Wo sind die Katzen (Estonia)

If you’re on the lookout for this year’s obligatory novelty entry, you could do worse than this curious competitor from Estonia. Delivered in a deadpan German monotone against an 80s new wave backing, Wo sind die Katzen? (Where are the cats?) isn’t the kind of thing the generally sensible Estonians are likely to rally behind, and that’s probably for the best. Maybe they should have tried for Latvia…

Ugo – Ce qui me blesse (France)

France have enjoyed a Eurovision revival in recent years thanks to a string of modern, radio-friendly but unmistakably French entries. This soulful hopeful from their forthcoming National Selection could very well continue the trend and land them another left hand leaderboard placing.

Joci Pápai – Az én apám (Hungary)

Joci Pápai took Hungary into the top ten in Kyiv 2017 with the powerfulOrigo. He returns to A Dal in 2018 with the gentler but equally affecting Az én apám (My Father). Could he deliver another hit for his homeland with this?

Monika Marija – Criminal (Lithuania)

One of Lithuania’s most talented young singers, Monika Marija placed second in her national selection this year, and returns hoping to go one better in 2019. There’s a strong whiff of Sanna Nielsen’s Undo around Criminal, and while you can never take the tastes of Lithuania’s televoters for granted, they’d be in with a strong chance of another finals appearance if they chose this.

Nicola – Weight of the World (Romania)

Nicola represented Romania in 2003 with the forward-thinking club track Don’t Break My Heart. She’s evidently remained true to her dance roots in the intervening years, as evidenced by the infectious Weight of the World, recently confirmed as her comeback entry for Selecția Națională 2019.

You can stay up to date with all of the latest Eurovision news and analysis right here on ESC Insight. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Categories: ESC Insight


Eurovision Insight News Podcast: There Arose Such A Clatter

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: There Arose Such A Clatter

A full roster for Sanremo, Romania confirms its line-up, and we have a winner at Festivali i Kenges. And it’s not even Christmas yet!

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: There Arose Such A Clatter

Our first song for Eurovision 2019, Cyprus lines up the follow-up to Fuego, and more tickets for Tel Aviv… but not in the Hall. Ewan Spence and the Insight team cover this week’s news from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.

Find out more about Ne Party Pas Sans Moi at

As we enter the new calendar year, the Eurovision year continues as the National Final season kicks up a gear. Remember you can stay up to date with all the Song Contest news by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

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Eurovision Insight News Podcast: It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Eurovision!

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Eurovision!

As Italy’s Sanremo Giovanni begins, and the final rehearsals are under way in Albania, we’re less than a week away from the first National Final winner of the season.

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Eurovision!

Glasgow’s new Eurovision event, Madrid’s Pre-Party details, and Tirana prepares for Festivali Kenges. Ewan Spence and the Insight team cover the latest news from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.

Find out more about Ne Party Pas Sans Moi at
Spanish Pre-Party details and tickets at

As we work through the first stages of the National Final season to select the performers for the Eurovision Song Contest 2019, remember you can stay up to date with all the Eurovision news by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight


What Next For Wales In The World Of The Eurovision Song Contest

What Next For Wales In The World Of The Eurovision Song Contest

Wales’ long fifty-year wait to hoist the Red Dragon over a Eurovision Song Contest came to an end on Sunday November 25th in Belarus, with its historic debut on the Junior Eurovision stage. Despite a brilliant effort from Manw, ‘Perta’ could only pick up 29 points from the public, a classic ‘nul points’  from the jury, and ultimately finished twentieth out of twenty

But it’s not a bad result. In my opinion, not at all.

Every Loser Wins

S4C worked on a top-notch advertising and promotion campaign around Wales to raise awareness of Junior Eurovision, the debut of Wales, and the platform offered to numerous young performers in the county. The question is what happens with that investment? Will Wales be seen in Junior Eurovision 2019 in Poland? Will there be an option to add a Welsh flavour to the Adult Contest in May? And what of the future?.

Executive Supervisor Jon Ola San was clear in the EBU press conferences; as the lead National Broadcaster, the BBC has absolute priority over S4C. With over eight million people tuning into the Grand Final in May and handing the BBC the number one show of the evening, don’t expect the BBC to hand over the Adult Contest to S4C (although I’m sure S4C would be happy to pick up May’s entry slot, even if it did mean singing through a Semi Final).

But having the BBC running the entry shouldn’t mean that the Welsh language is ignored. As well as the Welsh commentary from Trystan Ellis-Morris, November’s red button offered Stifyn Parri’s English commentary for those watching the Contest from Minsk. Could a similar arrangement in May allow for a Welsh commentary team to be an option alongside Graham Norton and Ken Bruce on Saturday 18th May from Tel Aviv?

You never want a blank monitor during a broadcast (image: Ewan Spence)

Preparing for another Eurovision commentary (image: Ewan Spence)

Why should the BBC go through with an opt-in red button to provide Welsh language commentary?

Wales has participated in two different Eurovision shows and is now an active member in the EBU’s Eurovision family. As well as their debut to the Junior Eurovision Song Contest this year they also competed in the Eurovision Choir of the Year in 2017, finishing second. And there’s more. During the early nineties Wales competed in the EBU’s ‘Jeux Sans Frontieres’ and were even voted the best runner up for the 1994 edition.

Providing multi-language options is not unknown at the Song Contest. Aside from Belgium and Switzerland who have broadcast the Contest in their respectful state broadcasters since the Contest began in 1956, smaller countries, especially on the Baltic side have supplied opt-in commentary teams for their minority language respectively. An example is Finland who since 2005 have sent a Swedish language team to the Contest alongside the Finnish team, both provided by their countries state broadcaster Yleisradio.

Though many could be wondering, what difference would this make and why it should be option for the United Kingdom?

As a country, Wales is ready to show Europe and the world what it can bring to the world of the Eurovision Song Contest. S4C has proven this over the years with Junior Eurovision and Choir of the Year. It’s unlikely that the BBC would consider sharing the TV broadcast with S4C (but not impossible), but as a national public broadcaster, the BBC should consider alternative viewpoints for the Contest, and the Welsh view is one of the most visible.

The next step is surely to have a Welsh commentary team covering the music from Tel Avi in May. Even if they’re following it from a studio in Cardiff it can still show up on the red button for TV viewers potentially with a simulcast on BBC Radio Cymru.

Junior Eurovision 2019

The ESC Insight team would love to see S4C continue at Junior Eurovision, but as noted Jon Ola Sand has said that the BBC would have absolute priority for the UK spot if it wished to enter Junior Eurovision.  I personally don’t want to see Wales and S4C forced out of Junior Eurovision.

The Junior Eurovision Song Contest is the only Eurovision show which still has a rule regarding national languages, it gives countries with minority languages an equal platform to share their culture, music and language on a Eurovision stage . Where  the Adult Contest has relaxed its language rules Junior continues to enforce a certain amount of discipline in keeping to a distinctive multi-cultural vision.

I don’t think Wales’ appearance will be a ‘One Hit Wonder’ at  Junior Eurovision, I have high hopes that next year S4C will flying the Red Dragon on stage in Poland, with an entry selected through another heavily promoted national final.

And The Future

Well what does the future hold for Wales in Eurovision? I think come 2022 with the rapid popularity of countries such as Australia and Kazakhstan in both Eurovision and Junior Eurovision I can possibly see more of  Europe recognising the Welsh language in music and quite possibly in the next three year, especially if Wales can either achieve a top 5 placing or indeed a victory, then we could quite possibly see the BBC showcasing Welsh language entries into the ‘You Decide‘ National final.

And if that happens for Wales, perhaps Northern Ireland and Scotland won’t be too far behind.

Categories: ESC Insight


Newsletter: A New Season Begins…

Newsletter: A New Season Begins…

In this week’s newsletter, the first artist for Tel Aviv is confirmed, national selection lineups for France, Sweden and Australia are unveiled and Poland prepare to host the 2019 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. You can read the newsletter in full here, or subscribe for a regular dose of Eurovision insight and analysis delivered direct to your email inbox.

ESC Insight National Selection Playlist

So far, confirmed hopefuls for Eurovision 2019 have been released in Albania, Estonia, France, Hungary, Latvia and more. Here are a few selected highlights from what we’ve heard so far. Could any of them lift the trophy in Tel Aviv?

‘Ktheju tokës’, by Jonida Maliqi [Albania]

As has become tradition, Albania will become the first country to publically choose their song for Tel Aviv when Festivali i Këngës airs from 20-22 December. This moving entry from Jonida Maliqi is a step above the Albanian template for female-fronted power ballads, featuring interesting production choices and plaintive lyrics that reference the human impact of the country’s ongoing struggle with mass-emigration.

‘Soovide puu’, by Sandra Nurmsalu [Estonia]

The voice of Urban Symphony returns to Estonia’s Eesti Laul as a solo artist for the first time since 2013. A delicate ballad that makes the most of Nurmsalu’s crystalline vocal tones, Soovide puu may prove a little too subtle for Eurovision glory, but it’s a perfect soundtrack to a crisp winter’s day, and a welcome addition to one of Europe’s most reliably diverse national selections.

‘Hazavágyom’, by Leander Kills [Hungary]

Metal band Leander Kills have rapidly established themselves as major fan favourites after their previous appearances at Hungary’s A Dal national selection. Hazavágyom represents a change of pace for the group, incorporating a softer delivery and a notably folkier sound, while still retaining the group’s knack for strong, dramatic hooks. Will 2019 finally be their year?

‘Là-haut’, by Chimène Badi [France]

French national selection Destination Eurovision looks set to go from strength to strength in 2019, with a notable uptick in established stars compared to the 2018 edition. One of the biggest names on the list is Chimène Badi, who topped the French charts in 2003 with the ballad Entre nous and has been a reliable presence in the domestic charts ever since, with album sales topping 2.5 million. A midtempo stomper that mixes the classic French ballad style with some Adele-style grit, Là-haut is likely to be a frontrunner when Destination Eurovision airs in January.

‘Tautasdziesma by Dziļi Violets feat. Kozmens [Latvia]

You can always rely on Latvia to provide something completely different in their national selections. Kozmens – he of the moustache and impressive kilt – is probably best known to Eurovision fans as the man behind the iconic ‘Riga Beaver’. He’s shed his furry costume this year to contribute vocals to this oddball effort. It’s probably not competitive for Eurovision, but Latvia have made offbeat selections in the past, and they’d certainly stand out from the crowd with this…

You can stay up to date with all of the latest Eurovision news and analysis right here on ESC Insight. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Categories: ESC Insight

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