Best of the 2020 National Final Season!

How have you been this weekend? Missing flicking between any number of shows as we hope that our favourites survive the National Final season? Us too!

So it’s time that we look back on the ones that got away for 2020. The editors of ESCBubble have got together and found what we believe to be the pick of the National Final season, from Albania at the beginning, all the way through to Festival da Canção which signalled the end of the selection shows.

Back in December it all started getting a bit real as we headed towards 22 December and the final of Festivali i Këngës in Albania. A big fan favourite was the ethno-banger “Me Tana” sung by Albanian Superstar Elvana Gjata. This ultimately finished 2nd to Arilena Ara’s “Shaj”

Fouad: I think that in a year where everybody tries to be the new Duncan Laurence and send yet another Ballad Elvana could have stood out for good in the contest and with her song, qualification to the final would be a much easier task for Albania.
Kyle: Wow wow wow, this is how to PERFORM! This is such a catchy track and is so on trend with the rich Albanian music scene that would have provided a great platform to this amazing artist if she had gone to Eurovision. Sadly not to be but this will be a playlist staple for years to come at many a party.

Next up was the second edition of “Australia Decides” held on the Gold Coast and with it’s very acceptable Saturday morning slot for those of us in Europe, it’s a must watch for many fans! One of the participants was Australian superstar Vanessa Amorosi, who’s single “Absolutely Everybody” was a worldwide hit after she performed at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in 2000, so her appearance here was a big deal!

Cain: While I’m glad an unknown is representing Australia this year, when I heard the revamped version of this song to include more of Amorosi’s powerhouse vocals, and then saw the stage presentation with the rain and car crash my thought was: ‘This is our clear winner!’ Surprised it only came 3rd in Australia’s national final.

Moving on to Norway, who, to celebrate their 60th appearance at Eurovision, organised a series of semi finals around the country, culminating in Grand Final in Trondheim on February 15th. One of the acts to qualify from Heat 1 was Rein Alexander with his Viking-banger “One Last Time”, ultimately he didn’t qualify for the Gold Final, but is still loved by fans for the visuals as much as the music!

Matt: Loved the songs in this National final. For me many of the songs were on par with Melodifestivalen and if Norway keeps up this standard I think we could see the country winning again in the next few years. I loved how the song was a mix of a Nordic sounding song with an almost techno beat, and I think this could’ve done really well at Eurovision. A song that for me stands out much more than ‘Attention’ does.

On the same night as Norway’s final was a fantastic show in Kaunas, Lithuania called “Pabandom iš naujo 2020” (Let’s Try Again!)  If there was a contender for “Glow Up Of The Year” then surely the Baltic Nation of Lithuania would be included.  From the bizarre and confusing selection processes of years gone by, Lithuania upgraded in selection, and songs. Lithuanian pop princess Monique played the game to perfection, with her powerful performance on the big stage in Kaunas, ultimately finishing 2nd to The Roop.

Anne: Wow Lithuania, where have you been hiding all these years? A fantastic selection and I could have chosen 4 or 5 songs to be worthy for inclusion here. Monique’s emotional performance with a song questioning what it is that actually makes you feel alive in this world, can’t be overlooked.  Ačiū Lietuvai, more of the same in 2021 please

Four songs in and it’s probably about time we had a little interval act isn’t it? National selection shows are the perfect vehicle for the broadcaster to please themselves in that inevitable gap between voting closing and results being revealed. Some countries are experts in the field (Hi Sweden!), others unexpectedly pull out a blinder. Step forward Romania’s Selecția Națională, and a 10 minute retrospective of some of Romania’s best by the fantastically versatile Dora Gaitanovici.

February 29th bought us 7 shows in one night, and one of them became an unexpected joy for Eurofans, with bop after banger after bop to enjoy. I only have room for one, but honorary mention must go to Valentin Uzun & Irina Kovalsky – Moldovița for bringing us exactly what we expected!

Sam: Dianna was set to become the new Eurovision meme, the natural successor to epic sax guy, with her incredible dancing. Dale was the fresh turbo-folk inspired track we never knew we needed until Dianna stole our hearts with her iconic performance on chat show Vorbe Bune leaving host Lilia Ojovan speechless as Dianna pulled out some amazing moves! Always in our hearts forever
Nick: “I remember in the coldest part of winter, before coronavirus was really a thing, I felt a strange sensation in my body where I wasn’t sure why I was feeling so differently but I just had this realisation that I’d been infected with something. I was on YouTube and it was my first time watching the Moldovan Queen herself Dianna Rotaru, in a tv studio on a show called ‘Vorbe Bune’ and performing her epic banger ‘Dale Dale’. My lower body went into a uncontrollable frenzy when during the third chorus she decided that dancing around the studio in a black lacey number wasn’t enough and she magnificently went down to her knees and crawled around the studio floor with her derrière perked up as it waved itself joyfully at the camera. National Final season can be very joyless at times (try watching Sanremo for four nights in a row) and this incredible I don’t care attitude of Dianna just caught my mood and fired up my body. Please never play this at any party I attend, I will not be responsible for my actions….”

Whilst all the big names were having their shows on February 29th, Croatia quietly went ahead and did what Croatia do. No songs were released prior to the final, so we went in blind, but wow! The eventual winner, Damir Kedžo has a fantastic song, but we couldn’t take our eyes of our next choice.

Ervin: Even though I really like “Divlji vjetre”, Indira is someone who’s music I was listening to for years, from the time she was the lead singer of Colonia. I love her voice, and whenever she is on stage, it just blows up with energy. It was the case in Dora as well. Full choreography, not a single tune sung badly, catchy song, great fireworks, and just energy! She’s too big of a name to enter Dora again, but I still hope she will do it again.

Fast forward to March 7th and Finland were next up to have an incredible fan favourite in their line up. When the lyrics videos were uploaded to YLE’s youtube channel, fans immediately lept upon Erika Vikman’s “Cicciolina” and whilst the eventual winner, Aksel Kankaanranta, has notched up an impressive 350k views, he’s not even close to Erika’s 1.4M… Trust me, we’ve ALL got something to say about this one!

Fouad: SERIOUSLY?! DO I EVEN HAVE TO EXPLAIN MYSELF??? Well maybe…Erika had the perfect sticky and sweet song that gets stuck in your mind forever. Her show was great and funny in some place and it just served it all like it should
Sam: This song meant a lot to the various feminist movements in Finland having a woman sing openly about a sexuality she owns, whilst having the greatest staging that Eurovision has been denied this year, a tongue more than firmly in cheek.
Jan: That song should be ready to be selected internally and going directly to the Eurovision stage. My douze points is for braveness, for keeping it the song in Finnish and still delivering the great stage performance that many countries would ask for.

Sweden always produce one of the best shows of the season, with a well known format and slick production, you kind of know where you are with Melodifestivalen. After many years of sending a male solo performer it suddenly occurred to us all, do you know what? The women have delivered this year! Another honourable mention for Anna Bergandahl, but the one that had the most cries of disappointment when she lost out to The Mamas by a single point, is the magnificent Dotter.

Kyle: This song had it all – emotional vulnerability, stagecraft, vocals and lyrics. It’s not often from Mello that we get a song that actually has lyrics that connect with listeners on such a deep level but the “Shoot me in the middle, where my heart’s supposed to be” line is just perfection and her emotional vocally delivery of it provides chills. Regarding the performance, it was next level, she BECAME the light show and it was stunnning both in the arena and on camera, just beautiful.
Nick: It’s easier to over exaggerate when one talks about a love for a particular entry but I was completely invested in this from day 1 – the song, the performance, and mostly importantly of all, Dotter herself. For her to comeback from ‘Cry’ with such a monster like this was one of the better redemption arcs of the season. Being sat in the Friends Arena last week anticipating the final televote score was agony and feels difficult to get over, but Dotter’s own positivity and delight from having done so well makes me believe she’ll come back stronger from this. She really is Bulletproof

The final final came a couple of hours after Melodifestivalen had finished, and saw the fall of yet another fan favourite.  French doesn’t sound like the most obvious choice of language to be the Portuguese representative, but despite winning the televote at a canter, Bárbara couldn’t convince the juries and ended up second to Elisa.

David: The televote winner which got buried by the juries to stop her winning. For me, this is the ultimate feel good song and performance of the year. The vintage Parisian vibe, the cute staging which wouldn’t look out of place in the musical La La Land. Not to mention that transition from slow to the boppy accordion uptempo parts. Undeniably, at best the song makes you want to stand up and jive, at worst the song puts a smile on your face and you have a little bop. The juries really buried the only act in the final that would’ve guaranteed them a great result in Rotterdam. ROBBED.
Kyle: This just gives me such a joyous happy feeling, it’s a beautifully structured song musically which has a lovely retro feel from the classic film era. The tempo increase during the song is great and provides a lovely path for the song to grow throughout. J’adore the French/Portugese feel throughout!
Cain: In the semi-final Barbara was wearing yellow, her hair was up and the whole thing reminded me of Bjork’s music video for ‘It’s oh so quiet’–cute, ‘singing in the rain’, musical theatre kind of adorable. And then for Portugal’s national final, she chose a less eye-catching green with hair down. Maybe what you wear isn’t the main thing, but changing your presentation too much might affect votes?

So that’s our National Final highlights here at ESCBubble!

What do you think? Has it been a good season for your favourites? Let us know in the comments below and keep following us in these times of uncertainty that are upon us now, we will bring you all the news you need to know as soon as we get it

Stay safe everyone, follow the advice you are being given in your respective countries, and keep well x

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