National Final season, is that period between Late December and middle March where every Eurovision fan becomes a music critic. I hold my hand up and say the same for myself. Yet we all love it, and in previous years we have seen some great songs leave before they ever got the chance to highlight their potential to the whole of Europe (and beyond).
For this reason, I don’t think we should forget some of the gems that left us at that stage. I have compiled my top 10 national final songs.
10. Mimi Werner- “Ain’t No Good”
Melodifestivalen is one of the most anticipated national finals of every Eurovision season. Sweden love the contest and have, over the years, developed their biggest music show into the largest Eurovision National Final. It is unsurprising then that a song from this national final has made my top 10.
Mimi Werner was a relatively unknown singer in Sweden when she was announced as one of the acts to compete in Melodifestivalen. I remember the first time I heard this song, I loved it instantly and I think that is mainly down to the great hook the song has. It is country disco done so well and sang fantastically although I knew it wouldn’t win, more due to her status as an artist, but she should have at least made Andra Chansen. She was robbed by ending 5th in her semi-final.
9. MIHAI- “Paradisio”
In 2006 when I was getting more in tune with Eurovision, I started to listen to the songs, pre-contest. I can remember hearing MIHAI’s Tornero and loved it from the start, I was convinced it would win and I am still a bit miffed almost 11 years later, that he didn’t. It should come as no surprise then that all these years later I loved his song again when he revealed “Paradisio” and that he would try to represent Romania.
This is a great dance track with and other-worldly vibe and fits his voice perfectly, even in the live performance. I was convinced ‘again’ that he would win and head to Stockholm. I am sure I am not the only one surprised at the eventual winner, yet for me there was still one song that I enjoy slightly more all these months later. MIHAI must secretly be happy that he didn’t win as we all know what happened with Romania a few weeks after the National Final.
8. Saara Aalto- “No Fear”
Now known as the 2016 UK X-Factor Runner Up, Saara was little known out of Finland, where even there she was trying to make more of a name for herself. She had previously entered UMK and finished Runner-Up with her self-penned entry “Blessed with Love”, but wanted to go one better this year.
“No Fear” is a great dance song with oriental flare and I do enjoy music that would fit nicely in the World category of music in HMV. There is no denying she has the voice, everyone at least in Finland and the UK know that now and maybe it was a sign not to win again in UMK, as she has now signed a 5 Album worldwide contract and is working with Sia. I would have loved to see Saara on the Eurovision stage with “No Fear”, yet if it was at the expense of her fulfilling her dreams, then I am happy we had Sandjha, whose song I did enjoy.
7. Salvador Beltran- “Dias De Alegria”
I will be the first to say that I really thought that Spain and Barei would reach the top 10 at Eurovision. I was bitterly disappointed when not only did they fail to do that but almost came close to last (TRAGEDY). I still believe Spain made the best decision, yet this was the other song I would have been very happy they sent.
Salvador is a talented singer, and that was apparent from his National Final performance. I love a song that creates a mood, be that from the music or the lyrics and this song does that for me. “Dias De Alegria” is quintessentially Spanish, no denying that and when I went to Madrid earlier this month I had to make sure this was on my playlist for travelling. It is a typical Latin pop song well performed.
6. SaRaha- “Kizunguzungu”
Is this Tanzania or Sweden? Little known Swedish/Tanzanian singer SaRaha came to Melodifestivalen with very little expectation from fans. “Kizunguzungu” was thought of as a filler song at the 30 second snippet during the week of her heat, yet that changed as soon as Saturday night turned around.
This is very African in style, similarities to Shakira’s “Waka Waka” and Stella Mwangi’s “Haba Haba”, yet I feel that “Kizunguzungu” would have fared better than Norway’s 2011 African inspired effort.
5. SunSay- “Love Manifesto”
This passed me by completely at the National final, I was fixated by the deep vocals of NuAngels and the ‘fanwanking’ over The Hardkiss. Yet, after the National Final season was over this was stuck in my head.
It gives me the feel of an early Calvin Harris song, I understand that the lyrics are somewhat repetitive in parts, although I still feel it is a great dance/pop song and would have done well in the contest, it is Ukraine after all. I am sure this won’t worry to many Ukrainians as they went on the be victorious in Stockholm.
4. Vanotek feat The Code & Georgian- “I’m Coming Home”
I did say that there was one song in the Romanian National Final that I enjoyed more that MIHAI and it is this one. I remember first hearing this song on ESC Radio and wondering, ‘what is this?’ Yet by the time I got around to looking at the screen the name had changed to the next song and I didn’t find out. I then had to look online. I was very pleased when I eventual got a hold of it. I will put my hand up and say that the Live performance was less than adequate, yet we have seen cases were National Final performances are like this but by the time they get to Eurovision they are transformed. Isn’t that right Georgia, 2007?
Again, this song has a world music vibe to it, yet it has a modern beat and the production is great on it. It has a great narrative and the strong accent coupled with the English lyrics give the song an extra dimension.
3. Margaret- “Cool Me Down”
I’ll admit that I didn’t like this song the first time I heard it, yet I quickly changed my mind. This was possibly the most contemporary song on offer in any National Final of 2016.
“Cool Me Down”, could have easily been a song straight out of Rihanna’s latest album and has had such fantastic success this year. It was a shoe-in to win in Poland and bookies even had them as Odds-on favourites to win the whole contest before it was even selected to represent Poland. So how did it not win? Well your guess is as good as mine. It might have been Polish music tastes or the impressive vocals of Michal Szpak, yet Margaret will forever be the what could have been for Poland.
2. Wiktoria- “Save Me”
Another Melodifestivalen entry, and ultimately the one that should have went to Stockholm. Wiktoria is a great vocalist and performer.
“Save Me” is a throwback to the songs topping the charts 3 or 4 years ago, more than a Whiff of Aviici’s “Wake Me Up” and “Addicted to You” yet just as rousing and the lyrics are fantastic as well. With all its positive attributes and its fantastic stage show Sweden could have been on course for their 7 win, to tie them with Ireland. They ultimately went for name over talent and Sweden sent Frans to the contest. Reaching the top 5 was a great achievement, although I do believe with Wiktoria, Sweden would have fared even better.
1. Simone- “Heart Shaped Hole”
How could it be anything else?
The now three time Dansk Melodi Grand Prix Finalist has made the top of my list. From the moment, I heard this I ‘knew’ it would win and go to Eurovision. Then reality struck and it ended up 3rd in Horsens. She still reached the super final, but it is totally ridiculous that this failed to reach Stockholm. Simone has a great voice and it suits this song impeccably, the lyrics are beautiful if a little dubious in parts. The song is dark in its narrative and the production is as good as you will find on any Adele or Sia track. I am still flabbergasted, and this means it has to be my number one song that got away.
I hope you enjoyed my countdown and stay with me as we start a new national final season. With one song chosen and several artists announced already it is shaping up to be a great couple of months. Let’s go folks, Bring on the next ‘Euro-fix’.