With almost 100 days to go until Europe turns its eyes and ears toward Oslo for the 55th Eurovision Song Contest, the 39 participants are getting into the swing of things by selecting the songs they believe will take them to the top, and take the continent to their nation in 2011. Other key aspects are also starting to take real shape; the logo and slogan, the venue, and the semi-final running orders have all been finalised, the latter only this week. But the steadily exposed songs are what excite me most and confirm to me that ESC is coming straight for us, whether we like it or not. And I like it!
Last year, I found myself thrilled with the song choices of many nations from the get-go (Iceland, Finland, Germany, Turkey etc etc), pretty happy with others after a few listens (Malta and France to name a few), whilst for a select several, it took the contest’s occurrence and a whole lot of repetitions on the old iPod for me to warm to them. But by this time, I had decided that 2009 was the best year yet. Having thought this about 2008 at that time, I had high hopes that Oslo 2010 would be nothing if not better than 2010!!!
But, reverting back to my opening paragraph, as we travel towards the end of February, many countries are revealing their choices of song, and I have to say, that so far, I AM NOT OVERLY IMPRESSED!
Finland (‘Tyolki ellaa’, Kuunkuiskaajat) – 6/10
This one is a duo of pretty girls singing a sweet, lilting, folk tune which is nice – too nice perhaps. Whilst it is quirky and fun, it is bordering on bland, and without a particularly catchy hook to remember I fear that the Fins may find themselves at the bottom of the scoreboard once again.
Albania (‘Nuk mundem pa ty’, Juliana Pasha) – 7/10
Pasha’s modern dance/pop track is not brilliant, but not terrible either. But that is not the formula for a winning song. It is very reminiscent of several songs lurking in today’s top 20, at times, like a hybrid of them all, and with that comes catchiness. As much as it pains me to say this, I think Juliana will get further if she sings in English, or at least partly.
Iceland (‘Je ne sais quoi’, Hera Bjork) – 5/10
For the second time in recent years Iceland has gone for a dance track, which would be perfectly acceptable if it didn’t pale in comparison to the sentiment and power of 2009’s ‘Is It True?’. There’ll be no silver medal for Hera with this one, but there might be a few Eurovision-goers dancing in their seats.
Denmark (‘In a moment like this’, Chanee & N’evergreen) – 8/10
The Danish song for this year opens in a manner so closely resembling ‘Every Breath You Take’ by the Police that I would be surprised if they weren’t arrested pre-contest for plagiarism (and if this is my fault, I apologise, however the similarities are obvious). However look past that and you have a nicely constructed pop ballad in front of you, with a powerful chorus and fail proof subject matter. Also to their advantage is the fact that the artists sound brilliant live, as you can see they did at the Danish final last week. This is stuck in my head, and I’m hoping that’s a good sign.
Switzerland (‘Il pleut de l’or’, Michael von der Heide) – 7.5/10
The poor Swiss cannot seem to get a look in at Eurovision, as they do in tennis (Federer, cough!). This is partly because they usually send bad or bland songs to represent them. The French-language IPDL sung by Michael is not an absolute standout, but it has potential, starting strongly and sustaining a good beat and tune throughout. I’ll have to wait and see what the other semi final two nations come up with before I decide Switzerland’s likelihood of reaching the final, but at this point I would say that they may JUST miss out.
Cyprus (‘Life looks better in spring’, Jon Lilygreen & the Islanders) – 9/10
For me, this song is the saving grace so far – great voices, great song, and good chance of going places. As long as they really amp up the power in the chorus and think very carefully about their stage ‘show’ (and gimmick), I believe Cyprus could make the final.
Netherlands (‘Ik ben verliefd, Shalalie’, Sieneke) – 1/10
The Netherlands must have taken all of their entries from about 1969 to 1978, dropped them all into a bowl, mixed them together and undercooked them to produce this old-fashioned load of drivel. All I can say is that I’m disappointed. My thumbs are well and truly down.
Norway (‘My heart is yours’, Didrik Solli-Tangen) – 5/10
Let’s face it: in 2009 Norway broke a record with their triumphant third win, everyone loved Alexander and still do, and no one really cares what happens to them this year because their glory will last for at least another five. This is lucky, because if it really mattered, this song would be a let down. It is just another boring ballad sung by a generically good-looking European, probably in a suit with a trio of violinists swaying behind him as the verses make way for an anticlimactic chorus.
Keep in mind that these are my initial impressions, and that in a few months time I may come back raving about how much I love the ones I have so harshly hated here. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting on one of the countries who will choose their song this Valentine’s Day to blow me away.