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International Eurovision Fan of the Week - Justin from Hawaii

Our International Eurovision Fan of the Week is Justin from Hawaii aka @justin__kanda

What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Justin, and I am from Honolulu, Hawaii.

What do you do or tell us something interesting about you?

I currently work in communications/digital marketing for a not-for-profit, but also coach tenpin bowling (both paid for a high school and volunteer). I’m also fluent in Japanese, so I end up doing informal translation and interpretation between Japanese and English. Whenever I find something I like, I become obsessive: I’ve bowled myself for about 20 years, studied Japanese for about 15, and have been baking now for about three years.

こんばんは Justin san! We love ten pin bowling and we don't think you're alone in being obsessive in this fandom ha! ~ Aussievision

When did you first get into Eurovision?

A former coworker at my first job introduced me to ESC in 2009 when a small group of us decided to exchange CDs. I got him into Girls Aloud; he got me into Eurovision and Melodifestivalen with two songs: Svetlana Loboda’s “Be My Valentine (Anti-Crisis Girl)” and EMD’s “Baby Goodbye”. I followed the contest by downloading the CDs and finding out the results after the contest ended, so I actually didn’t start watching live until 2015 and following National Finals until 2016.

What got me into ESC more was the emphasis on songwriting and songwriters. The Song Contest credits them onscreen (which to me is rare in a Western environment); the fans are particular about songwriters, their tendencies, and triumphs/failures; and I personally observed ESC to be a microcosm of songwriters who end up being employed by multiple countries (sometimes in the same contest!), so it was great to see and learn about the Contest (and the EBU-area music scene) more deeply at a relatively fast pace.

That same emphasis on songwriting is the norm in Japan: when there’s a musical performance on TV, you’ll see the credits for the lyricist and composer just under the title/singer. That made the transition for me, who grew up listening almost exclusively to Japanese music, a lot easier.

I'm still trying to get Mike into Girls Aloud, I've yet to convince him ~ Dale

For someone living in the US, tell us about how you usually watch the contest?

When it was available on the website, I streamed it directly from them. Now, I’m thankful that Sweden’s SVT doesn’t geoblock their stream since I’m able to stream it through their site. For National Finals, I try to use the official streams (whether it be on their website or Facebook/YouTube channel), but will figure out a way if that doesn’t work either.

Which is your favourite Eurovision year and why?

In terms of an entire package, I loved Copenhagen 2014: it still felt flavourful in terms of genres, and the production was the usual Scandinavian standard. However, Lisbon 2018 is slowly becoming my favourite in the “free language era” because of how fully varied the genres and languages were. 2018’s a year I wouldn’t want to see anyone slagging off because there had to be something in there for everyone: hard rock, popera, soul, jazz, reggae, and the standard pop.

So true, it was such a diverse year, think people will appreciate it even more in a few years.

If you could change one thing about Eurovision what would it be?

It’s controversial (especially for the smaller countries like San Marino), but I’d love to see at least one credited person (singer, lyricist, and/or composer) to have citizenship of the country they’re representing. ESC’s gotten a lot better with staying within country lines, but I think with the gravitas of the delegation representing a country in front of ~200 million viewers, someone credited on the song should have citizenship so not everything is outsourced and there’s an even deeper sense of pride.

If you could only listen to three Eurovision songs for the rest of time, what would you choose?

Amar pelos dois (Portugal 2017): When it first came out during Festival da Cancao, I thought just as a fantasy, “wouldn’t it be nice if this won the whole contest?” When it actually did it and won in Kyiv? I was beside myself, haha. The funniest part is I had my commencement for my MA that same morning (which even started the same time!), and was more excited about Portugal winning than my own graduation.

Non ho l’eta (Italy 1964): I’m quite keen on Romance language ballads, and to me this didn’t age a day in almost 55 years. Even though I’m past the ideal age for the song’s lyrics, in a way we’re all inexperienced and figuring out how love works for ourselves.

Satellite (Germany 2010): Since this was my first year finding songs on my own, this will always have a special place on my playlist and in my heart. It was catchy then (enough for people to just start humming when I sang this in karaoke), and I loved Conchita’s jazzy ballad version as well. That kind of versatility in a song excites me, no matter how it’s remade!

Three really interesting choices, nice!

Which Eurovision song:

Had the best staging?

Rise Like A Phoenix (Austria 2014) is probably the best example of how to use all the quintessential Eurovision staging components at the same time without being obnoxious: the LEDs, dramatic lighting, pyrotechnics, and wind machine all worked together to elevate an already winning song to (what seems to be) legendary status.

Sometimes the best staging is the simple but super effective rather than all the bells and whistles.

Best live vocal?

Mall (Albania 2018) was miles better live than it was in the studio version. The soaring vocal runs felt natural and even from watching it on TV and my iPad, Eugent’s vocals seemed like they filled the arena.

Was robbed?

C'est le dernier qui a parlé qui a raison (France 1991) for obvious reasons (losing a tie that it would have won with the current rules), but I also wondered just how different the Contest may have been if it had won and had its place amongst the rest of Eurovision winners…

From before 2000 is your favourite?

Since the Hawaiian flag has the Union Jack in the corner and the frontwoman is American, I’ve got to go with Love Shine a Light (UK 1997).

Do you enjoy more now, than when they performed?

I’ll admit they were my last place those year and I skipped them countless times, but I think I’ve finally gotten the charm in Three Minutes to Earth (Georgia 2014) and Igranka (Montenegro 2013).

Still trying to find the charm of Three Minutes to Earth here...

Did you last play?

I’m not too sure, but it might have been Cool Vibes (Switzerland 2005) or Nocturne (Norway 1995). I’ve been slowly adding songs I usually just listened to on YouTube to my iTunes library, and those are in my “Recently Added” playlist.

Is your guilty pleasure?

Definitely Party for Everybody (Russia 2012), Alcohol is Free (Greece 2013), or It’s My Life (Romania 2013). I would probably never rank it highly enough to put in my ESC250 submission, but it’s always lurking as a fun time machine back to that time in my life, haha.

Alcohol is Free is the bomb! ~ Dale

Any other interesting honourable mentions?

Playing with Fire (Romania 2010) reminds me of that 2010 summer when I first started working as paid staff at a summer program I attended as a child, which I never thought I’d do but was a surprisingly special experience; I Feed You My Love (Norway 2013) also reminds me of the year (2012-2013) I spent in Tokyo studying abroad; and I love Puppet on a String (UK 1967) because of its huge gap between the lyrics and the music—I always have to remind friends when it comes on to listen to the lyrics!

What national finals are you most looking forward to?

Recently, I’ve been looking forward to Festival da Cancao (Portugal), Destination Eurovision (France), and Vidbir (Ukraine). Based on the songs I’ve heard, I’m really looking forward to the Unser Lied fur Israel (Germany), too! These are all NFs that have a high hitting percentage, so I usually end up downloading a good amount of the songs that don’t make it.

Do you already have a favourite song for 2019?

Out of the confirmed songs as of 21 Feb, Sebi (Slovenia) has become a “sleeper hit” for me: I was lukewarm at first, but it’s such an earworm. That Night (Latvia) is also a favourite of mine, and has been since the initial Supernova auditions.

Out of the ones still in National Finals, Telemoveis (Portugal) has me extremely excited because of its innovation and lyrics; I’d be even more excited if it wins and influences next year’s crop of songs. Other honorable mentions include Siren song (Ukraine), Ashes to Ashes (Sweden), and En livredd mann (Norway).

What did you think our national final Australia Decides?

As Australian fashion designer Alex Perry would say to compliment girls on Australia’s Next Top Model, it was “expensive”. The production value looked high, and the selection of songs was nicely varied without sounding forced: I thought everything was believable and authentic enough fit in Eurovision, but it didn’t sound like producers were stuck trying to find a lacklustre variation of songs to present. If this is what you folks are capable of in your first year, I’m excited to see what the next few years has in store!

Haha didn't expect to see an Alex Perry reference!

And finally...

Tonight Again, Sound of Silence, Don't Come Easy, We Got Love or Zero Gravity?

Definitely Zero Gravity. As special as Tonight Again was for you folks as your first ever proper Eurovision entry and as well as Sound of Silence, I love the fact that this is the entry Australia decided on as a nation (and unanimously, as well!). It’s unique and divides opinions, which to me is a mark of a successful choice!

And personally, I’m a fan of the vocals and the composition as a whole—I’m excited to see how it’s presented in the arena!

Wahey, glad to see some love for Zero Gravity!

Thanks so much for your time Justin.

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