Don’t Close Your Eyes/ Max Jason Mai
The good stuff: I’m thinking of starting a petition to get MJM to perform with his shirt off. Would any of you guys sign it, or am I the only pathetic person who thinks the best thing about Slovakia’s entry is this guy’s abs? I’m not saying I hate the song. I’m not a rock fan generally, but as far as the genre goes, this isn’t a bad example. It certainly stands out in a year full of ballads, and the potential for a striking performance is there – I’m seeing pyrotechnics and smoke machines and flashing lights, among which the shirtless Max head-bangs, his golden locks almost-but-not-quite catching fire as sparks surround him. Sigh.
Everything else: Some people are bored by ballads. I am bored by stuff like this. It’s just so…American. No offence to American music (which I realise is diverse). I just mean that, like last year’s Slovak song, this is very generic in an album-filler kind of way, but wouldn’t be out of place in the background of The OC or 90210. It sounds eerily similar to some of 30 Seconds to Mars’ back catalogue.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 5 points.
Verjamem/ Eva Boto
The good stuff: Slovenia’s entries have appealed to me recently, even if it took a little time as with No One. This year, it took about thirty seconds for me to fall in love with the epic ballad they’re sending to Baku, which will be performed by another talented teenager (only there should be more clothing on this one). Co-composed by the man behind Molitva, Verjamem definitely echoes the winning song of ’07, but it has a spellbinding quality all of its own that I love. I’m also thrilled it’s being kept in Slovene when it could have so easily have been the English version chosen for the contest. I haven’t listened to that but I already know I wouldn’t be as fond of it as I am of the original.
Everything else: As we all know, this the year of the ballad, and the danger for each of those is standing out from the others. The juries should like this one, but the fans might think it’s too boring, or even too reminiscent of Molitva to bother picking up the phone for. Slovenia qualified in Düsseldorf, but had a string of bad luck prior to that, so it’s in no way a given they’ll make it this time.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points.
The good stuff: Having failed to get out of Melodifestivalen’s Andra Chansen in 2011 with an amazing song, Loreen’s time was now (well, in March it was her time…this year…whatever). When I first listened to Euphoria, I thought it was good, but not as good as her last MF entry. Ask me now and I’ll be more than happy to tell you that I think it’s just as good, if not better. It’s an aural snapshot of the dance craze dominating the global charts at the moment, but it’s still got quirk thanks to Loreen herself, who has that awkward-but-cool movement thing going on that helped Lena win Eurovision two years ago. The song is contemporary and catchy and just pure awesome. If the staging is the same as it was at MF, it will stand out even more. I won’t be surprised if Sweden gets the biggest round of applause of all three nights…and wins the whole thing.
Everything else: It would be nice if something (a.k.a. costume) was different. There wasn’t anything wrong with Loreen’s NF outfit, I’d just like to see that there’s been some more work put in since March. Please don’t wear shoes though, L. This is a song that needs bare feet (and that is a sentence I never thought I’d say).
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – douze points!
The good stuff: If it weren’t for the dodgy English pronunciation (which I actually find quite endearing) I’d say this entry was as all-American asSlovakia’s. It’s a decent piece of punk rock that’s more lively than the almost-acoustic number Switzerland chose last year, although perhaps not as charming (and I don’t think Sinplus would look very good in sparkly red dresses). It should stick out in the first half of semi one.
Everything else: The Swiss songs often sound great when they’re one of a few chosen, but as more and more finals produce more and more each year, they start to sound inadequate. 2012 has been no exception where that’s concerned. I think Unbreakable was one of the best songs in the quite weak Swiss pre-selection field, so congrats on that; but the fact that the field was so unimpressive when countries like Sweden and Norway had such strong potential entries in theirs is an issue.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.
Love Me Back/ Can Bonomo
The good stuff: Turkey is back, and should be back in the final too this year, although I’d no longer bet my life on it. They’ve recruited an eccentric, cape-wearing young man called Can to perform a song in a wonderfully Athena-like vein (does anyone else still get a kick out of For Real?) and I’m very pleased. After last year’s frankly boring soft rock effort, this quirky, ethnic and thoroughly enjoyable contribution is a welcome change. I’m interested to see what Turkey have worked out for the live show.
Everything else: I think this deserves a place on Saturday night, but it could easily miss out. No country is bombproof – we know that now – and if there aren’t enough people in the mood for a bit of wacky during semi 2, Turkey could be sent packing for the second year in a row.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points.
Be My Guest/ Gaitana
The good stuff: Jessy Matador – if you’re out there – listen up. Your fraternal twin has been located! Well, technically it’s the twin of your Year Oslo bum-shaker Allez Ola Olé that’s been found, but whatever. It’s representing Ukraine in Baku, it’s called Be My Guest, and it’s officially my second-favourite song of that title (nothing beats Disney). Like Jessy’s song, Gaitana’s is a soccer theme as well as a Eurovision entry, which makes me think soccer is more fun and exciting than it actually is, because I find these kinds of songs über fun and exciting. Maybe I’m easily pleased, but a bit of trumpeting, tropical dance music never hurt anyone (unless a CD single of BMG has been thrown at someone’s face and given them a black eye and I just don’t know about it). This song represents what the ESC is all about – people coming together to have a good time and shout ‘NANANANANANANA!’ as often as possible. I am honoured to be your guest, Gaitana.
Everything else: This woman has a powerhouse voice that works perfectly with her song, but if she talks too much in a press conference or gets too shouty at a party, the croak she’s left with will let her down when it comes to the performances that matter. This is an entry that needs energy, so I recommend Gaitana takes it easy in the rehearsals, drinks lots of water and gets eight hours of beauty sleep per night so she can really let rip on stage. I’m no doctor, but I’m all for doling out unwanted advice so I get to watch a good show.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.
NEXT TIME: Holy Poli Genova, Baku is close!! It’s well and truly time I reviewed the final six songs from Azerbaijan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.