In our never ending bid to overcome PED (Post Eurovision Depression), we continue our Wednesday Wishlist series. If you missed the previous lists click here. The premise is simple – for the next few Wednesdays our correspondents from across the world will be bringing you their ultimate choices for Austria 2015. As this is all fantasy, we’ll also be taking a look at absentee countries, both long and short term. Because in our dream contest everyone comes to the party!
To make sure that no one gets left out, it was our intention to work through countries in alphabetical order, but just as this was about to be published we realised that we’d skipped Moldova. D’oh! Fear not, this isn’t a sly attempt to brush away the land of rising dresses and dodgy hair extensions, merely an accidental oversight. They’ll be top of the list next week. In the meantime, here’s Iceland through to Monaco.
Iceland: Retro Stefson
Kristin: Retro Stefson are a relatively young group, founded by brothers Unnsteinn Manuel and Logi Pedro Stefánssynir. Born in Reykjavik to an Angolan mother and an Icelandic father, they are one of Iceland’s most respected and popular bands. Aside from Retro Stefson, both brothers have their own side-projects. Logi recorded a duet, “Highlands”, with Karin Sveinsdóttir and Unnsteinn Manuel recently launched a solo career under the alias Uni Stefánsson. He has already released a number of tracks including “Enginn grætur” and the official soundtrack to the Icelandic World Cup coverage. While talented apart, they are better together, and along with their bandmates, they would undoubtedly put Iceland back in contention for Eurovision glory.
Padraig: Ireland needs to accept that Celtic kitsch just doesn’t work at Eurovision. It’s time to bin the bodhráns, burn the gúnaí and focus on what they’re best at – folk tinged rock. From U2 to the Cranberries to The Script, almost all Ireland’s musical superpowers have incorporated some element of the genre in their music. The latest act to find success with this approach is Andrew Hozier-Byrne, aka Hozier. He has experienced an almost meteoric rise, to become one of Ireland’s best known voices. His debut single, “Take Me To Church”, spent months in the Irish Top 10, and his follow up singles – “From Eden” and “Sedated” – have maintained the upward momentum. He has already charted in Luxembourg, Iceland, and the Netherlands, and performed on both Ellen and The Late Show With David Letterman in the States. And in a bit of interesting Eurovision related trivia – he’s a former member of the choral collective Anúna, who’s most famous alum is a certain Eimear Quinn. For the love of Johnny Logan – RTÉ please internally select Hozier for 2015!
Israel: Eden Ben Zaken
Ori: Israel is one of those countries who try too hard. They love Eurovision, but lately they seem to be doing everything wrong, desperately trying to return to the glory of their seventies heyday. It’s time for something authentic, fresh and natural. Step forward Eden Ben Zaken – a young girl who burst out laughing during her X Factor Israel audition, she didn’t speak a word of English and couldn’t even pronounce the title of her song. Cue dropped jaws and wide eyes from the judges when she started to sing Christina Aguilera’s “Hurt” like a goddess. All four said “yes” immediately. Throughout the season, she gave many more breath-taking performances, constantly showcasing her many talents. She ultimately came third, behind Shiri Maimon’s Filipino protégé Rose Fostanes. She hasn’t released any music since, but she’s still sweeter than sugar, cuter than Kalomira and sings like an angel… well, a diva-angel.
Italy: Raffaella Carrà
Egemen: Raffaella Carrà is definitely an OAP who breaks all the stereotypes – sassy, feisty and full of zest, you’d never find her dancing around a clay oven. The 73 year old has been in showbiz since the fifties, but she’s showing no signs of retiring. In fact, she’s arguably busier and bigger than ever! She has conquered Italian television as a judge on The Voice of Italy (the show which discovered Sister Cristina Scuccia), while her music dominates the airwaves. Her biggest hit of late is “Far L’Amore”, a Bob Sinclair aided revamp of her biggest hit “Do It, Do It Again”. But she doesn’t just rehash past glories, her newest single, “Replay”, is quite the head banger. People may complain that she’s past her sell-by date, I ask how many music veterans of her ilk can still cause you to go crazy and freak?
Latvia: Fox Lima
Zach: Latvia, the very definition of a country that wastes its national final. It seems that every year, they have Grand Final quality songs, and yet they consistently select something everyone hates. By sending Fox Lima, Latvia would show that it’s back in the game, and playing for keeps. Her 2013 song “Tirpini” was an amazing dark ethnic pop number, and I still listen to it constantly. Latvia, please stop the drivel and send her. I promise you’ll be pleased with her result!
Lithuania: Jurga Seduikyte
Liam: Poor Lithuania, as the only Baltic country to have never won Eurovision they have things tough. They tend to send misses more often than hits, which is a shame, particularly since the country is packed with eligible talent, including Jurga Seduikyte. This 34 year old, occasionally blonde, bombshell isn’t just a singer – she’s an artiste, who transforms her music into aural masterpieces. Of her many tracks, I have a soft spot for “Breaking The Line”. It’s eight minutes of pure, raw and passionate emotion. However, it’s an acquired taste – personally I cried when I first heard it, alas other wiwibloggers were less impressed. Perhaps a more accessible introduction to this enchanting chanteuse would be her track “5th Season”, which helped her win an MTV EMA. From the suitably bonkers video alone, it’s clear that the lady is destined for Eurovision.
Luxembourg: Angel At My Table
Robyn: Despite winning the contest five times, Luxembourg hasn’t participated since 1993. Yeah, it’s a small country but it has 15 times the population of San Marino, so if Valentina can make it to the finals, Luxembourg doesn’t really have any excuse. The search for a suitable Luxembourgian act turned up a whole load of jazz ensembles (!) but there was also Angel At My Table, an indie rock band fronted by the sassy Joelle. Their track “Eclipse” is full of energy, with a hook-laden chorus. But most importantly – it’s highly danceable, something that always goes down well with an ESC performance.
Macedonia: Natasa Malinkova
Patrick: In recent years, Macedonia have sent vastly different songs to Eurovision, a folk-pop
duet mess between a young man and his sugar mama, the stunning Kaliopi with her deafening screech and a dance-pop song from the bespectacled Tijana. Sadly, none of their efforts were overly successful. But what about next year? I would pick the beautiful Natasa Malinkova. We know she’s keen for Eurovision – she tried to represent the country in 2011, but only placed 11th in the National Final. That hasn’t set her back, she’s kept releasing new tracks and “Daleku Od Tebe” is one of her latest. It’s a special song, with rapping provided courtesy of Snoopy MC (and no, it’s not one of Snoop Dogg’s many aliases). This urban ballad may be roughly 70% rap, but you can still discern Natasa’s wonderful voice. If given the right song she’d surely storm the Eurovision leader board.
Malta: Kevin Borg
Noel: Ah Malta, Malta, Malta – the country which wants to win the most. However, due to a mixture of poor song choices and a lack of neighbours, they have failed to reach the top. Mary Spiteri, Chiara, Ira Losco… and Chiara again, may have come close to victory, but if Malta is to ever grab that glass microphone, it will need to approach the contest more intelligently. One way would be to send someone with an established career in the big Eurovision countries – I nominate Kevin Borg. Having tried his luck in the Malta National Final a few times, he found love in Sweden, got married, entered Swedish Idol… and won! After countless number ones, he gave Malta’s Eurosong another bash in 2013, with “Needing You”. The public wanted Kevin but the jury opted for Gianluca Bezzina’s “Tomorrow”. I can only imagine how well Kevin would have done in Sweden… thankfully, there’s still time to send him to Austria.
Monaco: Vlad Scala
Robyn: Monaco departed Eurovision after the 2006 contest, having failed to qualify for the finals since their 2004 return. The country’s music scene doesn’t exactly have much of a reputation beyond Princess Stephanie’s pop career in the mid-eighties. But it turns out the tiny principality has a small yet lively scene. This leads us to R&B singer Vlad Scala aka “The Kid of Monte Carlo”. Not only is he “the Principality’s artist representative of new urban music” but he’s also a friend of Prince Albert. Here Vlad has teamed up with Italian group La Lobby to provide vocals on their cheesy Eurodance ode to fashion. Because the song is mostly rap, it’d be unlikely to do all that well with the juries, but Vlad and his harem of hotties would certainly shake things up.
What do y’all think? Have we chosen the best of the best? Or would y’all have chosen differently? As always let us know below. And check back next Wednesday to read our choices for Moldova through to San Marino.