Meet the ESCXTRA Team! Part 28 – JAMES

This summer, we are running a series of feature articles that is slightly different to the norm. We think this is the perfect time for you (and us!) to find out more about the ESCXTRA team! Twice a week we’ll meet two of our team members. What is our personal Eurovision story? Why did we want to be a part of this website? What are our favourite Eurovision songs of all-time? How can you get in touch with us on social media? Read on to find out!


Hey! I’m James, a 21 year old writer, cocktail enthusiast and Eurovision nerd from the UK. I’ve just finished a degree in Creative Writing at Edge Hill University and I’m currently in the process of looking for a job so I can move to London. I joined ESCXTRA in June 2017. Feel free to follow me on Twitter – the occasional Eurovision tweet tends to pop up alongside all the selfies, Drag Race quotes and weird things my dog does.
Twitter: @JamesonSayer

Your first Eurovision memory?

My first encounter with Eurovision was actually the Junior contest in 2003, which my parents put on TV to keep me and my sister quiet for a few hours. I don’t know why it took me quite so long to work out that adult Eurovision also existed, but it was only in 2007 that I watched it for the first time – purely for the reason that I knew the United Kingdom had selected Scooch, and I wanted to laugh at how badly we did (yes, I am the least patriotic person you’ll probably ever meet.) Of course, I got hooked on so many of the other songs that I bought the CD, then the DVD, and then started looking into previous contests, and from that point there was no turning back!

Your Eurovision journey?

In the first few years, being a Eurovision fan was quite a solitary experience for me – especially in the UK, which as I’m sure you are aware generally treats Eurovision as a bit of fun, and nothing more. It was a way to connect with music I love which most of the people I saw day-to-day didn’t.

Having already discovered so many new artists and genres thanks to the contest, I started following the national finals in 2010, and then around 2012, I started making friends with other fans online and really getting chance to share the excitement of following every stage of the contest.
I’m still waiting for the day when one of my beloved Bulgarian chalga stars gets chance to take to the Eurovision stage – Desislava came closest in 2012 with the slice of genius that is ‘Love Is Alive’. I mean, okay, she essentially forgot how to sing on the night of the national final, but THE SONG. THE SONG WAS FAB.

waits to be judged

Why is Eurovision special to you?

For me, Eurovision is about two things: bringing people together, and most of all, the music. I am ALWAYS on the lookout for awesome new stuff to listen to. I honestly don’t care where a song comes from, if it’s one of my favourites, then I want it to do well. This is why I’m not so keen on being really involved in a lot of the fan discussion around the contest anymore, as it can get really confrontational at times. In the last few years, Eurovision has introduced me to some wonderful friends from across the globe, and I prefer to discuss everything with them.
In the past couple of years whilst I’ve been at uni, it’s also been an opportunity for me to introduce the contest to my real-life friends through my annual Eurovision parties. Alongside the inevitable drinking games involved, there have been certain songs that have really connected with my friends, and that’s been so lovely to see. One which has become a particular running joke in our group is Ira Losco’s 2016 entry, which my friend Hannah desperately wanted to win, prompting her to scream ‘MALTA! MALTA!’ whenever a country was about to award its 12 points… including Malta itself… (she’d had quite a bit of vodka that night…) Or of course Alexander Rybak’s ‘Fairytale’, which inspired a spontaneous wave of overenthusiastic air violins whenever it came on at any party.

What attracted you to ESCXTRA?

Along with Rory who still runs the blog, I co-founded ESC Views back in 2013, and wrote regularly for the blog for a year and a half – to the extent where it sort of took over my entire life for a while. I’ve actually taken a bit of a step back from religiously following Eurovision in the last couple of years, but ESCXTRA is one of the few sites that I do still visit a lot. I was invited to write for the site by my close friend Nick a few weeks ago, and jumped at the opportunity to be involved.

And finally, your top 5 Eurovision songs of all-time?

As a number of our other team members have said, PICKING JUST FIVE IS SO DIFFICULT!! After much deliberation, here’s what I’ve come up with:
5.  Katy Garbi – Ellada, Hora Tou Fotos (Greece 1993)

I’ve swapped this one round with the Greek entry from 1992 ‘Olou Tou Kosmou I Elpida’ so many times whilst deciding on my top 5! I adore so many of Greece’s classic entries, but right now at least, this is my favourite. So dramatic and unique, I honestly can’t believe how this only managed NINTH. In 1993. Really.
4.  Kristina – Horehronie (Slovakia 2010)

This, ever since it competed in 2010, has held the title of my all-time favourite Eurovision song. However, I haven’t found myself listening to it as much as the other songs in my top three recently, so I’ve had to rank Kristina fourth. Still quite clearly the most undeserved semi-final exit ever in my opinion!
3.  Poli Genova – If Love Was A Crime (Bulgaria 2016)

This is just pure joy in every way isn’t it. As soon as it was revealed as Bulgaria’s comeback entry, I was massively on board with this. It both maintains that fun Eastern vibe I loved so much in the Eurovision noughties, and fits in perfectly with contemporary pop right now, which is something I think is so important for the contest.

2. Zlata Ognevich – Gravity (Ukraine 2013)

In general, I think 2013 was a pretty weak year, with a lot of my favourites being criminally underrated. But then along comes Zlata to save the day. If we forget the opening ten seconds, then there’s just one word for this entry: flawless. Zlata’s vocal outshone every other performer on the night, she looked amazing, the staging worked so well, and there are no words for how powerful the song is. I’ll always love this.
1.  Ani Lorak – Shady Lady (Ukraine 2008)

Another flawless Ukrainian entry takes my number one slot: the shady lady who SHOULD HAVE WON IN BELGRADE ahem… more commonly known as the incomparable Ani Lorak. This, to me, is Eurovision. Sultry, campy, brassy, ridonkulously catchy diva-pop, with the most iconic performance we as fans have ever been blessed with. The routine was executed without a single slip-up, and the vocals are just awe-inspiring. This song was an anthem back in 2008 and it’s still an anthem now, I’ll never get bored of it. How the hell Ani Lorak did not win, I will never understand.
Stay tuned for the next part in our Meet the ESCXTRA team series. On Wednesday we will meet Emanuel! Remember you can share your Eurovision stories with us in the comments section below or via the comments sections on our Facebook page @ESCXTRA. We would love to hear them!

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