Zack: We at ESC United love to network with other Eurovision websites and blogs. With all the great contacts people have out there, why not network?!
One of my personal favorite blogs that I follow on Facebook is from Jaz in Australia. Eurovision by Jaz provides some nice thoughtful editorials on the Eurovision scene. And much to my delight, I had the opportunity to interview her!
I’d like to emphasize that I asked Jaz for her thoughts of many different aspects of Eurovision. Although her opinions may not reflect the views of everyone reading this, I ask that people be respectful of them and Jaz herself in the comments and forums.
Also, please check out Jaz’s website and LIKE her on Facebook!
ZACK: Hi Jaz. First of all, thank you for agreeing to the interview! Will you tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got interested in Eurovision?
JAZ: Hi! My name is Jasmin, but in ESC circles I’m known as Jaz. I’m twenty-one and I’m Australian, but I wish I was European (and not just because I’d have easier access to the ESC, although that is a big part of it). I don’t have the most impressive Eurovision fan history – I first came across it in 2006 when I was channel surfing. Suddenly I found myself looking at a bunch of monsters on a fancy stage being handed a trophy, and naturally it piqued my interest. I did a little (by which I mean, a LOT) of research find out more about Eurovision, and the love blossomed from there. I’ve been obsessed ever since!
ZACK: Tell me about Eurovision-fever in Australia? Just how popular is it, despite it being on the complete opposite side of the world?
JAZ: It certainly has a big following over here, and we get rewarded with our own commentary team and more often than not, a shoutout from the hosts. But it isn’t something that stops the whole nation – it’s more of a cult thing. The mainstream media take pride in making fun of the ‘kitsch’ and ‘cheese’ of the contest which is a bit sad, but I think it’s a similar situation in the UK, and even the US. But there are definitely a lot of dedicated fans here, as well as those who tune in just for a bit of fun. And of course, there are those of us who make the pilgrimage over to Europe to see the show in person (it’s on the top of my bucket list).
ZACK: So tell us about “Eurovision by Jaz.” How did you first come up with the idea of the blog?
JAZ: I started blogging shortly after the Moscow show, mainly because I’d just learnt how to blog thanks to a university class and thought ‘why not?’. There was never any doubt as to what I’d be writing about! I didn’t think it was possible to run out of things to say about Eurovision, and three-and-a-half years later, I stand by that.
ZACK: One thing I love about your website is the thoughtfulness put into your editorials. They are really well thought out, and make some interesting points! Do you have a writing background of any sort?
JAZ: I graduated from university with a Bachlelor of Writing last year, and I’m going back this year to write about Eurovision, no less. I’d like to think those years of study made me a better writer than I was before. I have always liked writing, though, and humorous, observational non-fiction is my favourite kind. That lends itself pretty well to Eurovision.
ZACK: So as a blogger, I’m gonna ask you about the topics that typically come up when it comes to Eurovision controversy and debate. First off… Live orchestra or backing tracks. Which do you prefer and why?
JAZ: I probably can’t give a totally informed answer to this, since I became a fan long after the end of the orchestra. I don’t have a problem with the backing tracks, and I think we all know it isn’t feasible to have an orchestra in this age of 40+ entries. But live music is always enjoyable, and when you see an artist on stage ripping into a solo on a clearly unplugged guitar, it makes the absence of it more painful…
ZACK: Should entries have to be sung in one of their national languages?
JAZ: I think the freedom to choose whatever language in the world you want to sing in is brilliant. It is better if the artist understands and can feel what they’re singing (some entries seem to be in English just for the heck of it) but as someone who as yet has only attempted to learn a LITTLE, I don’t mind the English dominance. And just think, if the native language rule was still in place, songs like “Sanomi” may never have existed.
ZACK: What do you think about the implementation of the ‘Big Four/Big Five’? Is it fair?
JAZ: The Big countries pay a lot more money than any of the others to appear at the contest, and I guess it wouldn’t seem worth that if they weren’t guaranteed a place in the final. You could argue that it isn’t fair, but you could also argue that there would be no Eurovision (or at least a less grand Eurovision) without the presence of Spain, Germany, etc. Plus, how often do Big Fivers finish in higher positions than semi qualifiers these days?
ZACK: Do you think “bloc voting” exists?
JAZ: Yes! It’s only natural. And the fact is that people from a country in a bloc will be inclined to like the music coming from other countries in their bloc, because it’s the same music they grew up with and identify with.
ZACK: Do you agree with the decision to have results be based on half jury votes and half televotes?
JAZ: I think it strikes a good balance. The previous system (with the jury wildcard) wasn’t good, so the current one is a big improvement. As long as the juries are voting with the right intent, which we can only assume, I think it’s perfectly fine.
ZACK: This year, the 33 countries in the semi finals will have their first rehearsals closed to the press. The press and fans are very upset – do you think this closed first rehearsal gives the country and their entry maybe more time to get it RIGHT without the prying eyes of the press and fans? Or should the first rehearsals have stayed open?
JAZ: As someone who never watches the rehearsals (I love a surprise) I can’t sympathise too much with the press and fans on this one. I don’t see why the delegations shouldn’t have some ‘alone time’ when they are stepping on to the ESC stage for the first time and getting a feel for what’s what. Then again…I guess it does make it hard for the press to keep their audiences informed. But if all the subsequent rehearsals are open, it should be okay.
ZACK: Tell me about your thoughts of Turkey, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovakia, and Portugal withdrawing from Eurovision this year. Who do you think will be back next year?
JAZ: I’m tearing up just thinking about it! Slovakia and Portugal didn’t come as much of a shock to be honest, but Bosnia & Herzegovina and Turkey withdrawing was upsetting. Bosnia in particular has produced some of my all-time favourite entries, so I am going to miss them so much in Malmö. I suspect they’ll be back next year, and Turkey too, but I wouldn’t count on the others.
ZACK: Which country would you like to see return to Eurovision the most? Luxembourg, Andorra, Morocco, Czech Republic, or Monaco?
JAZ: I’d have to say Morocco, because we got to hear the least from them. They’d probably bring a really ethnic flavour to the line-up – especially in the absence of Turkey.
ZACK: What are some of your favorite Eurovision songs?
JAZ: My absolute number one is ‘Lane Moje’ by Zeljko Joksimovic, because it gave me chills the first time I heard it and has done ever since. The same goes for ‘Lejla’ by Hari Mata Hari (ZJ has the magic touch). I also love ‘Why Do I Always Get It Wrong’ by Live Report, ‘Bistra Voda’ by Regina and ‘Keine Grenzen’ by Ich Troje, to name a few. I love a dramatic ballad, especially Balkan-style.
ZACK: Any guilty pleasures? My co-editor Matt loathes that I love Czech Republic 2008 “Have Some Fun”.
JAZ: I’m with you on ‘Have Some Fun’ actually, despite the horrendous performance. Speaking of which, I have a soft spot for ‘Cry Baby’ by Jemini and ‘100% Te Ljubam’ by XXL, which I try not to admit to. The very cheesy ‘Stay Forever’ by Platin is another one, as is ‘Pao Sem Enginn Ser’ by Daniel, which I know I shouldn’t like because literally nobody else did!
ZACK: What is your least favorite Eurovision song of all time?
JAZ: This is much harder for me to answer than my favourite of all time. I don’t think I could pinpoint just one, but Switzerland 2002 is up there. Or should I say, down there.
ZACK: Are there any particular countries that you can’t help but cheer for?
JAZ: I’m always crossing my fingers for the UK, being the ‘Mother Country’ and all that. I just feel that’s the closest country to Australia I can possibly cheer for. Otherwise, it’s Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia because I always love their entries, and Sweden, because I’m just plain infatuated with Sweden.
ZACK: I know we still have many entries yet to be announced, but at this point, what is your favorite 2013 entry so far?
JAZ: Germany, Norway and Ukraine all have very strong entries, but Ukraine has the edge for me at the moment (a very slight edge). After more than one attempt, Zlata’s finally going to Eurovision, armed with a great song, her amazing voice, and big potential for something special to happen onstage. I can’t wait to see her in action.
ZACK: Thank you again! Any closing thoughts and words for your readers and ours?
JAZ: I hope you’re at least mildly entertained by my blog if you decide to check it out. Don’t forget to keep up the Eurovision party all year round, and enjoy the lead-up to Malmö!
ZACK: Thanks Jasmine for your time!