Eurovision 2015 / Semifinals 1 and 2

About a week ago, I posted my top twelve choices for Eurovision 2015 based on either their studio recordings or their performances in their respective countries’ national finals. The funny thing about watching the songs in the semifinals is that some songs that sounded great in the studio fell flat onstage (often due to the discovery that the singers can’t really sing without studio trickery) and some songs that were just so-so really soared when the singer had the electricity of a competitive live performance coursing through them. There’s also a few other songs that failed to make an impression on me even after several listens but finally began to sink in at the semifinals. Here then, are my choices for each semifinal.

Note: Italy and Austria, my #5 and #6 choices, don’t appear on the list below as they will not appear until the final.

Semifinal 1, May 19 2015
Country Pre-Contest My Choice ESC Results
Moldova 09
Armenia 02 10
Belgium 09 06
Finland 08 03
Serbia 12 02
Hungary 01 01
Belarus 08
Russia 05
Romania 04
Georgia 07
Semifinal 1, May 21 2015
Country Pre-Contest My Choice ESC Results
Lithuania 08
San Marino
Montenegro 07 02
Czech Republic 09
Israel 10 06
Latvia 03 01
Azerbaijan 07
Sweden 11 10
Cyprus 05
Slovenia 04 03
Poland 04


My choices for Eurovision 2015

It’s difficult to compare songs. If one song has a catchy tune but insipid words, while another has profound lyrics and a boring melody, which one is better? If a great song is sung poorly or a mediocre song has some amazing arrangements, which one is better? My mood can even affect the comparison: one day I might be in the mood for something slow and gentle, another day I might want something with a solid beat so I can shake my booty. And there is sometimes a difference between what I like and what I think is a potential Eurovision winner even if I don’t like it. And some songs don’t grow on me until long after the final.

With all that in mind, here are my twelve choices for best songs competing at Eurovision 2015 on May 19, 21, and 23 in Vienna, Austria. Note these choices are based on the studio versions of the songs. I’ll probably publish another ranking based on the performances of the songs that make it to the final if there’s a significant difference.

12. Serbia / Bojana Staminov, “Beauty Never Lies”
Lyrically, the nod to self-empowerment will be popular, but the song itself is good but not great; it may just squeak through the semi-finals, if at all.
11. Sweden / Måns Zelmerlöw, “Heroes”
For years, American singer Donna Summer was plagued by accusations that she had made homophobic remarks during a concert. Both she and several of her gay associates denied she’d made them or said she’d been quoted out of context. Zelmerlöw too has been accused of the same, and both he and some of his gay associates have said he is not homophobic. Will this hurt his chances at Eurovision? The song is catchy with good energy, but Eurovision voters can be fickle about techno songs, particularly with Zelmerlöw’s unusual pronunciation.
10. Israel / Nadav Guedj, “Golden Boy”
This seems like a somewhat grim year for Eurovision songs; usually there’s a handful of “naffy” songs, but “Golden Boy” seems to be the only one. Israel has failed to qualify for the final the previous four years, and as much fun as this song is, it’s probably not strong enough to qualify, either.
09. Belgium / Loïc Nottet, “Rhythm Inside”
A very striking song reminiscent of “Royals” by Lorde but may be too dark for Eurovision tastes. Could make it past the semi-finals on Nottet’s somewhat Bieber-like image and the song’s unique sound. As for me, I’m a sucker for good modulation, and the change from A minor to A major in the stanzas is what grabs me each time I listen to it.
08. Finland / Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, “Aina mun pitää”
This song has every reason not to make it past the semi-final—it’s too short; it’s punk; it’s not sung in English. And there have been plenty of hateful remarks made about the fact the band members have developmental disabilities. However, this song also has ever reason to be a very dark horse winner: everyone loves an underdog story, plenty of people have rallied in defense of the band, and Finland’s only victory was from another song that was definitely not typical for Eurovision: a heavy metal song in 2006.
07. Montenegro / Knez, “Adio”
Gently pleasing song with nice arrangement. I like the odd beat count in the chorus, but the fact it’s not sung in English will probably keep it out of the final.
06. Austria / The Makemakes, “I Am Yours”
A solidly written and well-performed song in a similar spirit to 2014’s Dutch entry (“Calm After The Storm”). Has the advantage of being the home team so the crowd will definitely love it. Good contender for the top ten in the final.
05. Italy / Il Volo, “Grande Amore”
This song has all the ingredients necessary to win: Il Volo has already achieved a degree of recognition, the guys are cute, they have great voices, and the stanzas surge to an epic chorus. It’s sung in Italian, but I don’t think that’s a handicap here—it just adds to the songs operatic nature. I must say, though, the music video is pretty lame.
04. Slovenia / Maraaya, “Here For You”
Part of the attraction is singer Marjetka Vovk’s unusual voice, but it may be a turnoff for the audiences. I’d lose the violin woman; she’s too distracting.
03. Latvia / Aminata, “Love Injected”
Another striking and dark entry that reminds me of both Albania’s 2012 entry (“Suus”) and Norway’s 2013 entry (“I Feed You My Love”). Not a typical Eurovision song, but I suspect its uniqueness will work in its favor and place it in the top ten at the final.
02. Armenia / Genealogy, “Face The Shadow”
This will be a very divisive song; the producers say it is about unity and tolerance and not a call for recognition of the Armenian Genocide—Armenia’s neighbors, Turkey and Azerbaijan, say otherwise. But Turkey isn’t participating in Eurovision this year and Azerbaijan would never cast a vote for an Armenian song even if it were about puppies and ice cream. Expect a few boos at Eurovision. Otherwise, a strong candidate for the top ten.
01. Hungary / Boggie, “Wars for Nothing”
This was my choice for best song at Hungary’s A Dal competition, and I’m glad to say it is also my overall favorite for Eurovision 2015. I first heard it not too long after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and with other problems happening in the world, its gentle but anthemic call for peace is sorely needed. It’s quite the sublime song, without the flash and pizazz that often characterizes most songs at Eurovision. If it were to win, it would definitely become a timeless classic. Alas, its quiet nature may be too subtle for audiences, so as much as it pains me to say so, it may not even make it past the semi-final, though I’ve got my fingers crossed.

If America entered Eurovision

What would happen if The United States of America suddenly found itself eligible to compete in The Eurovision Song Contest?

1. With 50 states and assorted territories, there would have to be semi-finals.

2. Alaska and Hawaii would never make it past the semi-finals because they have no neighbors to vote for them.

3. Some people would think it unfair that Georgia also gets to compete in the main Eurovision semi-finals.

4. Washington would send grunge music, Kentucky would send bluegrass, and Michigan would send Eminem.

5. The most significant voting bloc would be the Southern states, because heaven forbid a Yankee state should win.

6. Some Americans wouldn’t watch because they couldn’t find Europe on a map.

7. Indiana wouldn’t compete because Eurovision is “too gay.”

8. A no lip-syncing rule would disqualify 95% of potential artists.

9. Most of the English lyrics would actually make sense!

10. Americans would be mystified by foreign-sounding phrases like “dew spwah” and “noel pwah.”

Eurovision Song Contest 1993

Here are my choices for best songs at the 1993 Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in Milstreet, Ireland on May 15. Except for the winning entry from Ireland, I had not heard any of these songs until now.

My Rank Country Title, Artist Eurovision Final Ranking
1 Denmark “Under stjernerne på himlen”, Tommy Seebach Band 22
2 Italy “Sole d’Europa”, Enrico Ruggeri 12
3 Ireland “In Your Eyes”, Niamh Kavanagh 1
4 Greece “Ellada, Chora Tou Fotos”, Katerina Garbi 9
5 Germany “Viel zu weit”, Münchener Freiheit 18
6 Malta “This Time”, William Mangion 8
7 Slovenia “Tih deževen dan”, 1X Band 22
8 Cyprus “Mi Stamatas”, Zimboulakis & Van Beke 19
9 Netherlands “Vrede”, Ruth Jacott 6
10 United Kingdom “Better The Devil You Know”, Sonia 2

Due to the increasing number of countries wishing to participate in Eurovision, there was a pre-qualifying round for the seven countries which had not competed before. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia made the cut, with Croatia finishing the highest in the contest at 15th place. The other four countries which did not pass the pre-qualifying round were Estonia, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.

Cyprus awarded 12 points to Greece, but Greece only gave 10 points back, awarding its 12 point score to Norway instead.

Music from Ireland / Ceol ó Éirinn

In celebration of St. Patrick’s today, here are ten songs from Ireland (in no particular order).

1. Terminal 3 by Linda Martin (Eurovision 1984)

2. Never Get Old by Sinéad O’Connor

3. Raggle Taggle Gypsy/Tabhair dom do laimh by Planxty

4. Gathering Mushrooms by Clannad

5. Waiting For An Alibi by Thin Lizzy

6. Jiggery Pokery by The Duckworth Lewis Method

7. Lipstick by Jedward (Eurovision 2011)

8. Bullet the Blue Sky by U2

9. Evacuee by Enya

10. Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard w/ Markéta Irglová

New Music from Japan — March 2015

Artist: Kenji Takaoka

Location: Tokyo 東京
Title: ペンシルロケット (Pencil Rocket)
Genre: pop

Toshihisa Yamada

Location: Osaka 大阪
Soundcloud / Twitter
Title: Sound Diary 2015.3.8
Genre: piano

Artist: Kiyomitsu Miyashita

Location: Tokyo 東京
Title: Cookies Ear
Genre: electronic

Artist: DJ mijinko3

Location: Tokyo 東京
Title: 夜明け-dawndaybreak-
Genre: piano

Artist: Mion

Location: Sendai 仙台
Soundcloud / Twitter
Title: Until morning Mion Track by Young beat’s Instrumental
Genre: rap

Previous New Music from Japan entry: Jan 2015

My first SVG website

I recently discovered Scalable Vector Graphics, or SVG for short.  For the non-web-developers out there, SVG is a way to create shapes or images on a webpage without having to use jpgs or gifs.  SVG allows developers to describe these shapes mathematically; it is not unlike plotting points on a Cartesian coordinate system in math.  SVG can be infinitely complex, and thus is not restricted to only the most basic geometric shapes.

In my first attempt to use SVG, I designed a website that had a set of “blocks” arranged in a checkerboard pattern.  But something wasn’t right; despite the fact these blocks were placed side by side, there were odd “fringes” around some of the edges.  Thinking I had miscalculated my coordinates, I checked and doublechecked, to no avail.  I also noticed some fringes would disappear if I resized my browser window, while new fringes would appear.  Since I was also using a considerable amount of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS for short; it’s a method for placing and formatting elements on a webpage) for the first time as well, I just kept thinking I had made a mistake somewhere.

checkerSVG222 checkerSVGzoom

Left: example of the blocks. Right: a closeup showing the “fringes” between the squares.

Finally I realized what was happening.  Because I wanted the set of blocks to appear centered on the browser window, fractional differences were causing these fringes to appear.  Adjacent colors or the webpage’s background color would peek through “gaps” between the blocks.  If a browser window is 1000 pixels wide and the block set is 501 pixels wide, the browser can’t render half a pixel to center the blocks, and so “fringes” would appear as the browser tried to compensate.

The solution seemed obvious; SVG can be programmed to “stack” shapes in order (the “top” appearing “closest” to the viewer’s eye, for example).  All I needed to do was extend the edges of the shapes that were “underneath” others so there would be some overlap, which would at least prevent the background page color from showing through.  Alas, the extensions would peek around the perpendicular edges of the adjacent shapes “above” them.  I still had the same problem.

Finally, I hit upon the idea of using angled extensions; they wouldn’t show around the perpendicular edges of the blocks but would fill in the “gaps” between them.


The angled extensions eliminate nearly all the fringing between the blocks when they are overlapped.

There are probably other ways to solve this problem (such as a “resist-dyeing” method of stacking shapes), but I’ve already spent several days trying to solve this problem so this solution will do for now.  I’ll know next time to take into account that despite the fact SVG uses exact coordinates, browsers can’t always oblige them.

Here is the finished site!  There are still a few problems with gaps where shapes cannot be overlapped (such as the left side navigational buttons “Main”, “Music”, etc.).  I sure learned a lot about SVG and CSS, though, and feel much more confident in my ability to use both in the future!


Eurovision Song Contest 1992

Here are my choices for best songs at the 1992 Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in Malmö, Sweden on May 9. Except for the winning entry from Ireland, I had not heard any of these songs until now.

My Rank Country Title, Artist Eurovision Final Ranking
1 Greece “Olou Tou Kosmou I Elpida”, Cleopatra 5
2 Italy “Rapsodia”, Mia Martini 4
3 Cyprus “Teriazoume” , Evridiki 11
4 Finland “Yamma, yamma”, Pave Maijanen 23
5 France “Monté la riviè”, Kali 8
6 Norway “Visjoner”, Merethe Trøan 18
7 Ireland “Why Me?”, Linda Martin 1
8 Yugoslavia “Ljubim te pesmama”, Extra Nena 13
9 Israel “Ze Rak Sport”, Dafna Dekel 6
10 Denmark “Alt det som ingen ser”, Kenny Lübcke & Lotte Nilsson 12

It was a tough decision between Greece and Italy; both had very good songs, with Italy’s Mia Martini delivering a passionate, heartrending ballad. But I’m a sucker for good modulation, and the unexpected F#m chord in the Greek chorus is what stuck in my head and tipped the scales in its favor.

Cyprus awarded 12 points to Greece, but Greece gave 12 points to Ireland, and 10 to Cyprus.

Winning Eurovision songs ranked by percentage of points

Note: this article does not take into consideration the various voting systems used over the years in the Eurovision Song Contest, nor does it address voting irregularities and disputes, or regional bloc and diasporic voting.

Note: this blog was amended July 2016 to incorporate the results of the 2015 and 2016 contests.

In 2009, Norway’s Alexander Rybak won The Eurovision Song Contest with his entry “Fairytale” and scored a record-breaking 387 points. Sixteen countries awarded Norway the maximum number of twelve points. Three years later, Sweden’s representative Loreen broke this record when eighteen countries awarded twelve points to her song “Euphoria” (her final score, however, was 372).

All very impressive, but it doesn’t take into account the fact that when Eurovision began in 1956 there were only seven countries competing, and now there are usually about forty. There are another twenty or so countries that are either members of the Council of Europe or that fall within the European Broadcasting Area (as defined in the International Telecommunication Union) that are eligible to compete in Eurovision, so there’s the potential that these records may be broken in the future.

Here are the top songs ranked by points only.

Rank Year Country
Song Title, Artist
1 2009 Norway
“Fairytale”, Alexander Rybak
2 2012 Sweden
“Euphoria”, Loreen
3 2015 Sweden
“Heroes”, Måns Zelmerlöw
4 2006 Finland
“Hard Rock Hallelujah”, Lordi
5 2014 Austria
“Rise Like A Phoenix”, Conchita Wurst
6 2013 Denmark
“Only Teardrops”, Emmelie de Forest
7 2004 Ukraine
“Wild Dances”, Ruslana
8 2008 Russia
“Believe”, Dima Bilan
9 2007 Serbia
“Molitva”, Marija Šerifović
10 2016 Ukraine
“1944”, Jamala
11 2010 Germany
“Satellite”, Lena
12 2005 Greece
“My Number One”, Helena Paparizou
13 1997 United Kingdom
“Love Shine a Light”, Katrina & The Waves
41 1973 Luxembourg
Tu te reconnaîtras, Anne-Marie David

*In 2016, the voting system was changed so that jury votes and televotes would each be tallied separately.  The winning song from Ukraine earned a total of 534 points, which has been halved to adjust it for the purposes of this table.

The 13th ranking song (Love Shine A Light) is significant because there were roughly half the number of countries voting in 1997 as there are today and it still managed to acquire points comparable to those of more recent winners.

But in the same way that box office earnings for movies are sometimes adjusted for inflation, I have adjusted the ranking of winning Eurovision songs based on a percentage of maximum points awardable. For example, in a contest where forty countries participate and cast votes based on the current 12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 system, the maximum number of points a song could earn is 468 (39 x 12). If a song earned 351 points in this contest, it would have received 75% of the maximum points awardable.

Here is a complete list of winning Eurovision songs ranked by percentage of points. The voting results of the first contest, held in 1956, have never been officially released; the winner was merely announced, and so there are no points to be calculated.

Rank Year Country
Song Title, Artist
# of voting
Max. Possible Points Points
1 1973 Luxembourg
Tu te reconnaîtras, Anne-Marie David
17 160 129 80.63
2 1976 United Kingdom
Save Your Kisses for Me, Brotherhood of Man
18 204 164 80.39
3 1982 Germany
Ein bißchen Frieden, Nicole
18 204 161 78.92
4 1997 United Kingdom
Love Shine a Light, Katrina & The Waves
25 288 227 78.82
5 2009 Norway
Fairytale, Alexander Rybak
42 492 387 78.66
6 1994 Ireland
Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids, Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan
25 288 226 78.47
7 2015 Sweden
Heroes, Måns Zelmerlöw
40 468 365 77.99
8 1986 Belgium
J’aime la vie, Sandra Kim
20 228 176 77.19
9 2012 Sweden
Euphoria, Loreen
42 492 372 75.61
10 1971 Monaco
Un banc, un arbre, une rue, Séverine
18 170 128 75.29
11 1972 Luxembourg
Après toi, Vicky Leandros
18 170 128 75.29
12 2001 Estonia
Everybody, Tanel Padar, Dave Benton, 2XL
23 264 198 75.00
13 2000 Denmark
Fly on the Wings of Love, Olsen Brothers
24 276 195 70.65
14 1975 Netherlands
Ding-a-dong, Teach-In
19 216 152 70.37
15 1978 Israel
A-Ba-Ni-Bi, Izhar Cohen & The Alphabeta
20 228 157 68.86
16 1987 Ireland
Hold Me Now, Johnny Logan
22 252 172 68.25
17 1984 Sweden
Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley, Herreys
19 216 145 67.13
18 2014 Austria
Rise Like A Phoenix, Conchita Wurst
37 432 290 67.13
19 1977 France
L’oiseau et l’enfant, Marie Myriam
18 204 136 66.67
20 2004 Ukraine
Wild Dances, Ruslana
36 420 280 66.67
21 1980 Ireland
What’s Another Year, Johnny Logan
19 216 143 66.20
22 2006 Finland
Hard Rock Hallelujah, Lordi
38 444 292 65.77
23 1964 Italy
Non ho l’età, Gigliola Cinquetti
16 75 49 65.33
24 1993 Ireland
In Your Eyes, Niamh Kavanagh
25 288 187 64.93
25 2002 Latvia
I Wanna, Marie N
24 276 176 63.77
26 1983 Luxembourg
Si La Vie Est Cadeau, Corinne Hermès
20 228 142 62.28
27 1999 Swedeb
Take Me To Your Heaven, Charlotte Nilsson
23 264 163 61.74
28 2013 Denmark
Only Teardrops, Emmelie de Forest
39 456 281 61.62
29 1996 Ireland
The Voice, Eimear Quinn
23 264 162 61.36
30 1998 Israel
Diva, Dana International
25 288 172 59.72
31 1981 United Kingdom
Making Your Mind Up, Bucks Fizz
20 228 136 59.65
32 1990 Italy
Insieme: 1992, Toto Cutugno
22 252 149 59.13
33 1992 Ireland
Why Me?, Linda Martin
23 264 155 58.71
34 1991 Sweden
Fångad av en stormvind, Carola
22 252 146 57.94
35 1979 Israel
Hellelujah, Gali Atari and Milk and Honey
19 216 125 57.87
36 1962 France
Un premier amour, Isabelle Aubret
16 45 26 57.78
37 1988 Switzerland
Ne partez pas sans moi, Céline Dion
21 240 137 57.08
38 1985 Norway
La det swinge, Bobbysocks!
19 216 123 56.94
39 1995 Norway
Nocturne, Secret Garden
23 264 148 56.06
40 1963 Denmark
Dansevise, Grethe & Jørgen Ingmann
16 75 42 56.00
41 2003 Turkey
Everyway That I Can, Sertab Erener
26 300 167 55.67
42 2007 Serbia
Molitva, Marija Šerifović
42 492 268 54.47
43 1989 Yugoslavia
Rock Me, Riva
22 252 137 54.37
44 2016 Ukraine
1944, Jamala
42 984 534 54.27
45 2008 Russia
Believe, Dima Bilan
43 504 272 53.97
46 2010 Germany
Satellite, Lena
39 456 246 53.95
47 2005 Greece
My Number One, Helena Paparizou
39 456 230 50.44
48 2011 Azerbaijan
Running Scared, Ell & Nikki
43 504 221 43.85
49 1965 Luxembourg
Poupée de cire, poupée de son, France Gall
18 85 32 37.65
50 1966 Austria
Merci, Chérie, Udo Jürgens
18 85 31 36.47
51 1957 Netherlands
Net als toen, Corry Brokken
10 90 31 34.44
52 1958 France
Dors, mon amour, André Claveau
10 90 27 30.00
53 1967 United Kingdom
Puppet on a String, Sandie Shaw
17 160 47 29.38
54 1970 Ireland
All Kinds of Everything, Dana
12 110 32 29.09
55 1960 France
Tom Pillibi, Jacqueline Boyer
13 120 32 26.67
56 1959 Netherlands
Een beetje, Teddy Scholten
11 100 21 21.00
57 1961 Luxembourg
Nous les amoureux, Jean-Claude Pascal
16 150 31 20.67
58 1968 Spain
La, la, la, Massiel
17 160 29 18.13
59 1974 Sweden
Waterloo, ABBA
17 160 24 15.00
60 1969 Spain Vivo cantando, Salomé

United Kingdom Boom Bang-a-Bang, Lulu

Netherlands De troubadour, Lenny Kuhr

France Un jour, un enfant, Frida Boccara

16 150 18 12.00
61 1956 Switzerland
Refrain, Lys Assia
7 n/a n/a

Luxembourg’s 1973 entry “Tu te reconnaîtras”, the 41st highest song in points alone, now ranks as the highest song.  Only three countries that have competed in contests with the current number of roughly forty countries made the top ten. “Fairytale” has fallen to the fifth position, while “Heroes” and “Euphoria” have fallen to the seventh and ninth positions, respectively. Curiously, what is arguably the most famous song ever to win Eurovision (ABBA’s “Waterloo”, which won for Sweden in 1974) sits nearly at the bottom of the list. There were 17 countries voting that year. Each country had a panel of ten jurors who each cast a single vote for his or her favorite song. This made a total of 160 points a song could earn; out of those 160, “Waterloo” earned 24 points, or a mere 15.00 percent.

New Music from Japan – January 2015

Artist: Himuro Yoshiteru

Location: Tokyo 東京
Title: Beats Log 20150114
Genre: electronic

Artist: OYMS + Kyosuke Takayasu (Totokoko label)

Location (of Totokoko): Saitama さいたま
Soundcloud / Twitter
Title: Inside of a Wind
Genre: pop
Free Download

Artist: Hizmi (Bunkai-kei label)

Location (of Bunkai-kei): Tokyo 東京
Soundcloud / Twitter
Title: Nue
Genre: electronic
Free Download

Artist: Hidekazu Wakabayashi

Location: Osaka 大阪
Soundcloud / Twitter
Title: No Coward Soul is Minë
Genre: microtuned piano
Video (YouTube)

Artist: Ryuei Kotoge

Location: Kobe 神戸
Soundcloud / Twitter
Title: Life
Genre: electronic