My douze points for 2014

About half of the eleven Eurovision predictions I did earlier today came true. That didn’t diminish any of the joy, however. This year, there is a winner who more than deserves it, my entire country is happy because it came in second – the greatest Eurovision success in a long, long time – and Graham Norton’s commentaries on the BBC were thoroughly enjoyable. Between his sarcastic remarks, there were even some words of sincere admiration for the Dutch entry. Personally, I think the Netherlands sent a better delegation last year, but I have a weak spot for Ilse de Lange with her cute smile and sympathetic charisma.

The fact that this year’s entry from the Netherlands was less satisfying for me than last year’s is more or less in line with the level of the entire Eurovision Song Contest. There were more good songs and the vocal efforts were much, much better on average in 2013. Nevertheless, this year’s winner was nothing short of fantastic and I’ve seen some enjoyable acts. Some of them more intentionally than others, as always.

So like last year, I will share with you – my dear readers – my own top 5 of the festival. Or my six, sept, huit, dix et douze points if you will. It was slightly more difficult to gather five acts that I actually really liked this year, but they exist and these entries all deserve my honorable mentions.

Russia: Tolmachevy Sisters – ‘Shine’

Judging from the enormous amount of booing the audience emitted for the 17 year-old twin sisters representing Russia, I may be getting a lot of crap for mentioning this song, but I’m looking at this from a musical angle, not a political one. In fact, looking at this politically may give the lyrics an ironic aftertaste, but the fact is that ‘Shine’ a strongly written Pop song with bombastic strings backing a big, hooky chorus. That’s just the way I like it. The voices of the Tolmachevy Sisters work very well together and their vocal symbiosis lifts the chorus to its larger than life status, although I suspect there are some extra backing vocals on the backing track. The sister who does the higher part every alternate line does an amazing job. In the semi-finals, this was the first song to leave something of an impression on me and although a few songs surpassed them, this song definitely has some lasting value after the contest. And let’s be honest: these girls are just adorable.

Switzerland: Sebalter – ‘Hunter Of Stars’

With me being an outspoken hater of whistling in recorded songs, this may come as something of a surprise to those who know me, but Sebalter’s song was a delightful breath of fresh air in this year’s contest for me. Not the best vocal effort, but ‘Hunter Of Stars’ is a lightweight, upbeat Pop song without having the annoying electronic Europop bombast of majority of this year’s entries. Sebalter’s backing band contained a badass banjo player and the singer himself proves why he should be taken seriously as a musician by playing an awesome violin solo which could have been a guitar solo on any neoclassical Metal song. Once again, Switzerland surprises with a song that is free of pretense, but not without its musical value, just like Anna Rossinelli’s fantastic ‘In Love For A While’ three years ago, which sadly finished last at the time.

Slovenia: Tinkara Kovač – ‘Round And Round’

A lot of criticism has been projected onto Tinkara Kovač for consistently holding her flute during the performance of her song ‘Round And Round’. Being more interested in the music than the actual performances, I couldn’t care less. In fact, I think Kovač performed one of the most consistently amazing Pop songs in this year’s contest. Slovene and English mix remarkably well and Kovač strong alto fits the song perfectly. I think the song is extremely well written as it works towards several emotional climaxes with such ease that you’d almost forget that the song is relatively complex with all the subtle changes in the accompanying parts. Also, ‘Round And Round’ has been bugging the hell out of my father and me because the song’s chorus strongly reminds us of another song and we can’t figure out which one. Those of you who have suggestions are cordially invited to leave them in the comments section.

Italy: Emma – ‘La Mia Città’

One of the very few songs to be sung in the native language of the performer and the only decent Rock song – no, Finland’s horrible, horrible song doesn’t count – was delivered to us quite surprisingly by Italy. Emma Marrone has a great, powerful voice and the musical backing is somewhat typical Italian Poprock, albeit with a greater deal of force than you’d expect based on what can be heard on their mainstream radio. Emma proves herself as a strong performer and I am definitely tempted to check out one of her albums after what she did here. The dual vocal harmonies gave me goosebumps and have sort of an Alice In Chains vibe in their darkness. This is probably the most impressed I have ever been by Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest and that’s not just because Emma’s a good looking lady. She’s a Rock monster in the guise of a goddess.

Austria: Conchita Wurst – ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’

As I’ve said before: Austria’s “lady with a beard” – technically, I’d say Conchita’s a guy in a dress – is the only one who would have deserved to win the contest this year. Of course, a lot of media coverage was on the unlikely combination of the beard and the dress, but Conchita had both the best song and the best voice of this year. ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ sort of reminded me of Shirley Bassey’s ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ in its structure and orchestral backings and the vocal delivery is powerful, heartfelt and just downright impressive. The song actually nearly brought me to tears. Despite the relatively sober presentation, the camera captured Conchita’s emotional gestures perfectly, but even without that, it’s just a relief to see that the jury and audiences have decided the best man or woman should win this year. ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ is by far the best song of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest and Conchita Wurst owns the best voice. Congratulations!

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