When a TVR producer called me in January and invited me to be on the Romanian jury for Selectia Nationala as a Eurovision journalist and expert, I told them, “Let me call you back in one day, so I can think about it.” I hate to see myself on television and to be exposed to the media attention in general, not to mention to fans’ and artists’ criticism. I thought to myself, “I am not a music critic, I am not a producer, I am not a songwriter and I can’t sing to save my life. How am I going to justify being on the jury?” But, after consulting with my partner (who said “YES! Go for it!”), I called the producer right away and I was like, “OK, I’m down.”
Then I had to come to Bucharest and meet with the rest of panel. I was relieved to see Ovi there, simply because I knew him and respected him tremendously but also because I knew I wasn’t the only Eurovision expert at the table. The rest of the jury was composed of a songwriter, a singer-songwriter and a producer/promoter. We then all had to sit through 93 songs, some of which we listened to more than ten times. We narrowed them down to 18 songs, and then we shortlisted 12 songs. From the 12 finalists, I personally gave top marks to Voltaj and Lara Lee.
When the finalists were announced, I was there at the press conference as a blogger and took video bites of some of the entrants. Luminita was very gracious, she knew wiwibloggs and she was happy when I set her up with Sopon for an interview. Lara was nervous, but excited about her song. Calin Goia from Voltaj hadn’t heard about wiwibloggs and we had to do several takes of his fan message because he kept messing our name. Tudor Turcu is so tall, I had to raise my hands so that the camera was at the level of his head. Of course, none of them knew I was also on the jury because it was supposed to be a secret so we couldn’t be approached by the contestants for support.
Romanian fans’ reaction to the 12 finalists was mostly positive, basically agreeing that this was a better line-up than last year’s. Quite quickly, they split into #TeamAnghel, #TeamSuperman, #TeamVoltaj and so on. I enjoyed watching them debate the songs ferociously day in and day out. However, because I was not allowed to give my opinion about the songs ahead of the final, just in case the jury names were leaked beforehand, I never joined any team – officially. That’s why I also was not on the Wiwi Jury and my input for the Selectia Nationala articles was minimal. (I have to thank Sopon for covering for me, conducting interviews and heading the Wiwi Jury.)
A few days ahead of the final, the jury names were leaked to the press by a group of fans who got ahold of the list and wrote a petition to the TVR president, warning him that head of delegation Liana Stanciu allegedly was in cahoots with the jury and that they all plotted to have Voltaj win regardless of what happened. As I said before, this absolutely did not happen. Personally, when I heard the English version of “De la capat”, I stopped rooting for the song despite giving it a top mark at the preselection, because “All Over Again” sounded wrong for many reasons.
At the national final, several things went wrong for the “Superman” performance – the sound was messy and Lara’s vocal performance sounded shouty as a result – but I still gave Lara Lee a good mark because the poor sound mixing on the night was not her fault. Luminita Anghel was vocally superb, but I still didn’t like the song, and the dancers blocking her all the time and stealing her spotlight made me drop one point as well. I gave an even lower mark to Voltaj, thinking that they would perform the song in English in Vienna, which would be a poor decision in my view, plus I thought the staging looked cheap with all those bags. I gave a good mark to the a capella group Blue Noise, who surprised me the most and sounded the best vocally, despite fears that they would mess it up. I also liked Cristina Vasiu’s spectacular firework dress. I loved that she put a lot of effort into this – and she didn’t sound bad either.
I put a lot of thought into my points. Knowing the full results now, had I given 12 points to Luminita, she would have gone to Vienna instead. This decision was not taken lightly and is likely to follow me around for a long time. I have already received hate mail from her fanatic supporters. Nevertheless, I am confident that I made the right choice because the song, although beautiful in parts, is dated and formulaic, with cliché lyrics and, as my colleague Robyn said on the Wiwi Jury, it wouldn’t have any life after Eurovision.
In the end, when the televoting results were announced, I knew that Voltaj would win and I was relieved: the jury decision coincided with the decision of the people at home. I was even more relieved at the press conference, when I heard Calin Goia, Voltaj’s singer, announcing that they had changed their mind and that they would most likely perform “De la capat” in Romanian with an English chorus. In retrospect, I wish I had given them a better mark — not that it would have made any difference.
On a personal note, I loved “De la capat” from my very first listen, back in November. Last year, my brother had to leave his three-year old daughter and pregnant wife so that he could work in the UK to pay the mortgage on their house and ensure them all a better life. Luckily the children (his wife meanwhile gave birth to a son who is also my godson) are not alone and they are lovingly raised by their mother and grandmothers, but for my brother it’s a constant inner struggle and of course the kids miss their father, both consciously and unconsciously. Recently, since he’s got two jobs and is now able to rent a bigger home near London, they have decided that they will all move to the UK, where they will start their life all over again, as a reunited family. That is why “De la capat” touched me and has touched so many viewers – everybody in Romania knows somebody who left their children behind with a heavy heart. Hopefully, the Eurovision audiences will get the message and will support the song as well.
You can watch the entire national final of Romania’s Selectia Nationala here.
PS: Apart from Sopon, I would also like to thank my other colleagues, especially Will and Robyn. Thank you Catalina, Sasha and Victor for being there for me. Special thanks go to TVR staff members Ana Maria, Carmen and George, stylist Puca for lending me her son’s jacket when I forgot mine in Arad, PR Bianca, as well as Ovi and the other jury members for being so welcoming, and last but definitely not least Romania head of delegation Liana Stanciu for advising TVR’s Selectia Nationala team to invite me on the jury as a Eurovision journalist and expert. I am grateful and honoured to have had this opportunity.
Photos: TVR, Alexandru Iedu (wiwibloggs)