ESC Insight

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.

Categories: ESC Insight


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


Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Chilled Tunnocks

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Chilled Tunnocks

As the Altice Arena returns to normality and everyone recovers from Lisbon 2018, our hearts and minds look forward to the rest of the year. With Young Musicians and Junior Eurovision on the horizon, plus planning for Israel 2019 under way, there’s a lot of Eurovision to go round.

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Chilled Tunnocks

Spain’s viral miss, Eurovision legends for the summer, and advice from the press room Tunnocks wafer. Ewan Spence and ESC Insight catch up on news from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest.

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.

Categories: ESC Insight


Remembering Teddy Johnson: Bringing The Fun To Eurovision

Remembering Teddy Johnson: Bringing The Fun To Eurovision

There are very few songs that are remembered from the Eurovision Song Contests that were held in the fifties. Naturally the winning songs from each year are at least recognised by all, you have the utter powerhouse of ‘Nel Dipinto Di Blu’… and then you have ’Sing Little Birdie’.

Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson’s second-place entry at Eurovision 1959 is a key song in the development of the Song Contest. It was the first song that was… fun!

In an era of static singers and locked off camera angles, the UK’s second entry was a revolutionary song. When you look at the portrayal of relationships on television at the time, Sing Little Birdie’ is one of the most quietly subversive two minutes in Eurovision history.

With arguably the first ‘surprise prop reveal’ in Song Contest history, it showed a couple who connected both to the audience and each other on stage. It handed the secondary passive role to the male singer, it was playful, whimsical, carefree, and most of all, it was genuine.

Defining Variety

Teddy Johnson’s career in the public eye effectively started with his broadcasting on the English-language side of Radio Luxembourg, which is regarded as the forerunner of both commercial radio in the UK and the influx of pirate radio stations that pushed musical boundaries in the fifties and sixties.

He joined the station in 1948 and ran the English output in partnership with Geoffrey Everitt until 1950. Johnson helmed the UK Top 20 show for the then marathon duration of two hours every week, and when Johnson returned to the UK to work primarily on his singing career, the slot was taken over by another institution… Pete Murray.

For those keeping track, Pete Murray hosted the UK’s Eurovision selection show in 1959 and was the commentator for both the TV and radio broadcasts of the Song Contest from Cannes that year.

Breaking The Rules

Johnson is noted as recording one of the earliest ‘remote duets’ recording his harmonies in the UK while American Jo Stafford would record her side in America. Covering older songs meant this innovative new technique wasn’t an immediate hit, but it handed Johnson another first.

As with many entertainers plying their trade in the fifties, television and radio work was about exploring a new medium and taking chances. A true man of variety, Johnson was happy to take one for the team, including what can only be described as a rite of passage as he took to the boards at the Glasgow Empire acting as the stooge to another legend, US comedian Jack Benny.

The new medium of broadcasting was also drawing its lead from the variety shows and multi-billed theatre shows that packed venues every weekend in every major town and city around the world. If you had mastered the art of fitting in with a rotating cast, were happy to work in a live environment, and could connect to an audience down the camera, then success was within reach.

1950 saw him meet Pearl Carr on the set of the BBC variety show ‘Black Magic’. It was suggested that the two pair up to do a duet, as he explained to Paul Jordan in an interview last summer:

“I didn’t want to do it, I was a solo singer, I didn’t do duets,” he said laughing. “I was offered a variety tour after Black Magic. I told Pearl that I’d be away for the summer and that I wouldn’t see her for a while. She replied saying that she would come with me on the tour. At the time she was in a band called The Keynotes, that’s how we started.”

Although Carr & Johnson continued to record separately, they worked on their double-act. Their first joint-billing was at the top of the bill at the London Palladium. If ‘Black Magic’ was their ‘Bonnie and Clyde, this first run at the Palladium was effectively Carr & Johnson’s ‘Dangerously In Love’.

Which leads us back to the Eurovision Song Contest. The call from the BBC to appear in the Song for Europe selection show came from the Head of Light Entertainment, but Eric Maschwitz forgot to mention that if they won, they’d need to be free to pop over to Cannes to fly the flag for the United Kingdom a few weeks later.

As Johnson recalled, that led to a moment of panic:

“I said: ‘What? What do you mean?’ I didn’t know we had to represent the country. We had no idea whatsoever. He gave me the dates for Cannes and I just hoped we had them available. As it happened, we did. Pearl flew out with three guys from the BBC but I was doing a small show for ATV and got a later flight.”

Given their status in light entertainment circles, the BBC were sending one of the most formidable musical acts to the Song Contest in its short history, and its return would be the first of fifteen second places in the Contest. It also established Carr & Johnson in the public eye, gifted them a signature song that they would continue to sing for decades to come, and create one of a handful of songs in the formative years of the Contest that changed the direction of the Contest.

Teddy Johnson was a true pioneer of entertainment, willing to try anything, and always respectful of his audience. But most of all, he was a kind, fun, and loving partner to Pearl Carr.

Edward Victor “Teddy” Johnson, entertainer, born 4 September 1920; died 5 June 2018.

Categories: ESC Insight

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