Category Archives: Country profiles

Spotlight on…Georgia (+ what do I think of their entry for 2015?)

As we approach the end of January (what IS this madness?) Eurovision 2015 has only *counts on fingers* six decided-and-heard entries to its name. That’s six as long as a) Uzari and Maimuna make it to Vienna against the odds (the odds being that Belarus’ national final is rarely the be-all and end-all of their entry) and b) Malta sticks with Warrior.

The latest song to be selected – speaking of Warrior – is from Georgia. Waaaay back on the 14th, in news that shocked absolutely no one, Georgia revealed that it’s Nina Sublatti (or Nina Sublati, depending on where you look…if anyone finds her birth certificate, let me know) who’ll be flying their flag this year. Following that news was the immediate flood of opinions on whether Nina’s Warrior is “better” than Amber’s. Cue catfight, not between Nina and Amber, but between us fans, who at the moment seem to be split down the middle. At least the massive street fight we have will be evenly matched, then.

And what team will I be brandishing a bazooka for, I hear you ask? Well, if you saw my top 5 ranking you’ll know I do see the hot in the hot mess that is the Maltese Warrior, and I firmly believe Amber and her team can pull a Ukraine and overhaul it into a showstopper by May. However…I have to say, in spite of the level of craposity among the Georgian hopefuls this year, I’m pretty impressed. Nina’s Warrior may be the best song Georgia’s ever sent. It strikes a nice balance between mass-appeal edgy pop, and the off-the-wall sound that I always hope to hear from this country – whereas last year’s entry was 110% bonkers, this one is considerably more sane but still interesting. I’m not saying it’s a shoo-in for the win or anything, or even that it’s memorable enough to qualify (time and other entries will tell) but Georgia have made the smartest choice possible, IMO.

In summary, I think I like Georgia more than I like Malta. But the fact that the only similarity between their songs is the title makes it hard to say for certain. I’ll fight on Team Nina for now…but don’t be surprised if I make flower garlands and place them gently on the heads of Team Amber instead of bashing those in favour of Malta repeatedly with the Buranovskiye Babushki’s pie tray. You know, in this brawl we’re all gonna have over the Warriors.

Now I’ve laid my cards (and potential weapons) on the table, it’s time to get cracking on the main course of today’s post. As we ponder Georgia’s chances in the 60th contest based on very little, I thought it would be timely to put Georgia’s Eurovision history in the spotlight. They’re not a country I normally scream girlishly for (Junior Eurovision excepted, because Georgia freaking RULES at JESC) but then again, they haven’t had as many chances as others to make me do that. Read on for some stats re: Georgia’s time in the adult contest, and my opinions on their bests and worsts during that time. And, cast your vote in my ‘Favourite Georgian entry, like, ever’ poll. All the artists, from Sopho to well, Sopho, plus Miss Sublatti/Sublati, are waiting for your decision!*

 

* In my mind, that is. A lot of stuff happens in there. I.e. I’m also representing any country that’ll have me this year with an incredible self-penned song, in spite of the fact that I can’t sing and write terrible songs that should NEVER see the light of day.

 

GEORGIA: THE STATS

Flag_Georgia

Debut 2007 – 12th with Visionary Dream by Sopho
Entries 7 (+1 disqualification)
Wins 0
Silver medals 0
Bronze medals 0
Best result 9th – 2010, 2011
Top 10 finishes 2/7
Top 10 success rate 28%
Top 5 finishes 0/7
Top 5 success rate 0%
Wooden spoons (last places!) 1 – 2014 semi final
Semi final qualifications 5/7
Qualification success rate 71%

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Visionary Dream by Sopho (2007). The original and the best! This is the Georgia I like to see competing – the unique, interesting, off-the-wall Georgia. The Georgia who wouldn’t dream of purchasing a stale ballad from the bargain bin of the Melodifestivalen Reject Shop to put forward. In this case, I do actually like the song. It’s ethnic and up-tempo without a trace of cliché ethno-pop, which couldn’t be said about the likes of Greece (though Yassou Maria, too, is a personal favourite). It’s the kind of song that, when you hear it for the first time, makes you want to know where it’s going, and I dig that.

 

My least favourite entry
I’m A Joker by Anri Jokhadze (2012). I just…no. I have no words. Okay, that’s a lie, I have some words. And they are: good singer; bad, bad song. Enjoyable in parts if you’re drunk enough. But any lyricist who thinks it’s acceptable to rhyme ‘joker’ with every word possible in the space of twenty seconds should be hit over the head with one of Homens Da Luta’s placards.

 

More of the memorable
Peace Will Come by Diana Gurtskaya (2008) – Granted, the new level of costume change is the most memorable thing about this, but…no, actually, there isn’t a but. MASS COSTUME CHANGE FOR THE WIN!

FYR_5359_fine

‘God, it’s hot under these stage lights in all this black leather! I wonder if we could strip down to our undergarments and pass it off as a costume change…’

One More Day by Eldrine (2011) – Eurovision rock is usually the most acceptable kind by my standards, and I rather enjoyed this number with its head-bang-tastic chorus. Lead singer Sopho (so many Sophos, so little time…) attacked her performance with rage-tinged enthusiasm.

Three Minutes To Earth by The Shin & Mariko (2014) – Say what you want about this big box of bonkers, but you have to admit it’s unforgettable. If you can’t recall the lyrics, you must at least be able to picture the parachute.

K1024_04georgia-430x286

They could have at least matched the parachute with Mariko’s dress. Or vice versa.

 

Their best stage show
Visionary Dream. HELLO! It had dancers with SWORDS! We all know the best kind of staging is when there’s the chance of somebody losing a limb. Fortunately, Sopho #1 left the stage in one piece, having fulfilled her destiny of fronting this entry with style, charisma, and an awesome red dress while the dancers made her look even better. Sometimes, all it takes to create interest is some choreography that perfectly complements the song.

 

Their best costume/s
Eldrine. I know I’m in the minority here, because I don’t think I’m picking the best of a bad bunch. I genuinely liked the bin-bag-with-colourful-quilled-appliqués look these guys had going on. Then again, I also loved what Gisela, Milan Stanković and Vilija wore on their respective ESC outings, so my taste may have a questionable edge. But, to those of you who’d say it’s more than just an edge, I ask you: how would YOU have dressed these artists? I believe that weird is wonderful…to a point.

Eurovision Song Contest - First Semi-Final

‘No, I did not roll in glue and then lock myself in a ribbon factory! Why would you say that?’

 

Their best vocalist/s
Sophia Nizharadze. I never really warmed to Shine (though it sure beats The Toppers’ Shine from the year before) but Sophia/Sopho #2’s vocal performance – wow. Even when she was being thrown all over the stage, her voice was on point. And speaking of points, she gets extra for that Christina Aguilera growl she had going on. Rarrrgh.

 

So that’s Georgia, in something of a nutshell. They haven’t been at this ESC game long, but they have had their moments of glory, and I reckon this year might mark another one. What do you think? Is Nina Sublatti sublime, or was Sopho of Shine fame Georgia’s finest? Have you fashioned a voodoo doll of me for suggesting that I’m A Joker was anything but a musical masterpiece? Let me know by partaking in this poll:

 

The next entry to be added to the 2015 collection will arrive next Saturday courtesy of Switzerland, but sadly, as usual, their national final is sub-par (no doubt they’ll pick the best of the bad bunch yet again, but I still wish they had a better bunch in the first place). So, I’m going to skip reviewing it this year in favour of posting that instalment of my Vienna Wishlist I promised last time. Stay tuned if you want to know who I’d rope in to represent the UK if I had a very, very long rope.

Until then…

nsig

Spotlight on…Russia

You know, I know, we all know Russia isn’t in the global good books right now. But seeing as they were the very last country to reveal their Eurovision entry this year (having originally planned to be one of the first) and that this is a blog about music, song and a competition in which you never can predict where such participants as Spain will get their douze points from (not) I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take this time to make Russia the focus of my latest spotlight. Why not read about them/discuss them before it becomes totally taboo to do so?

*Insert nervous laughter here*

So, that said, let the trip down memory lane begin. From 1994 to now (one pre-qualifying round from the 90s and the Tolmachevy Sisters not included) this is Eurovision, Russia-style.

 

RUSSIA: THE STATS

russia

Debut 1994 – 9th place with Vechni Stranik by Youddiph

Entries 17

Wins 1

Silver medals 3 – 2000, 2006, 2012

Bronze medals 2 – 2003, 2007

Best result 1st – 2008

Top 10 finishes 9/17

Top 10 success rate 53%

Top 5 finishes 7/17

Top 5 success rate 41%

Wooden spoons (last places!) 0

Semi final qualifications 6/6

Qualification success rate 100%

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (2006). Two years before he had a white shirt, a bare chest and an Olympic figure skater, Dima had a singlet, a mullet and a penchant for stuffing women into pianos. His less stylish (oh god, the mullet!) but just as effective presentation in Athens, plus the fact that NLYG was/is an epic R & B-cum-ballad that I still love to watch and listen to as much as ever, makes Dima’s first Eurovision attempt the real winner in my mind. Not that he deserved to beat Lordi (and I’m not just saying that so they won’t kill me); it’s just that Believe, to me, is an inferior song that happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Dima sings the praises of his epic mullet.

Dima sings the praises of his epic mullet.

Fun fact that you probably already knew #354216: Dima has tried to come back to the contest a third time, accompanied by t.A.T.u’s Yulia Volkova. That was back in 2012, when he was beaten out not by a bunch of Finnish monsters, but by a bunch of precious grannies from Udmurtia. They say if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, so expect to see Mr. Bilan frocked up in a shawl and baking wood-fired treats with the Babushki any day now.

 

My least favourite entry

Nobody Hurt No One by Natalia Podolskaya (2005). This just did nothing for me. Well, nothing except make me pine for a more grammatically pleasing song title. Middle-of-the-road chick rock evidently did little for Europe too, because Natalia finished 15th, giving Russia one of its lowest placings on record.

 

More of the memorable

Vechni Stranik by Youddiph (1994) – it’s not so much the song, but Youddiph’s, may I say, totes cray outfit, that made Russia’s debut one to remember. See below for more info…

Solo by Alsou (2000) – Russian pop is in a league of its own, and the sixteen-going-on-twenty-six-year-old Alsou gyrated her way through a great example.

Ne Ver’, Ne Bojsia by t.A.T.u (2003) – clearly inspiring Dima’s wardrobe choice of three years in the future, t.A.T.u’s questionable talent and offstage antics kept ESC fans in horrified fascination.

Yulia and Lena: pushing the boundaries of the ESC dress code.

Yulia and Lena: pushing the boundaries of the ESC dress code.

Song #1 by Serebro (2007) – sex sells. That is all.

Believe by Dima Bilan (2008) – yeah, he won, blah blah blah. What I’m really interested in is how you can create a surface that can be figure-skated on and stood on in bare feet. Also, how good of an idea it is to be barefoot in close proximity to someone who has figure skates on.

Party For Everybody by Buranovskiye Babushki (2012) – thoughts on the song aside, you can’t help feeling warm and fuzzy for these adorable grannies. The whole world fell in love with/was confused by them.

 

Their best stage show

Believe/Get You by Alex Sparrow (2011). You could easily argue that the performance of Believe, and not Believe itself, won Eurovision, and I’d be inclined to agree with you. It wasn’t flashy, and there were no costume reveals (unless you count Dima showing the world he’d had his chest waxed that week) but it was organic, eye-catching and full of star power.

Not that I don’t enjoy flashiness…Alex Sparrow’s stage show was that and a half. The lighting, acrobatics and slick dance moves were great, but the coolest aspect was obviously the light-up leather jackets. Where do I get me one of those babies?  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-3ohaRN3MM (Apologies, but my embedding function had a nervous breakdown halfway through posting this. #techfail.)

 

Their best costume/s

Youddiph. Never has a costume elevated an entry so much. Nor has a costume ever been so versatile – it was like the Blu-Tac of the fashion world. You can’t appreciate the magic via still photography, so watch as Youddiph’s seemingly simple red number becomes the star of her show.

 

Their best vocalist/s

Dina Garipova (2013). Say what you want re: the schmaltz, but you can’t deny Dina’s got a voice. She is, after all, The Voice of Russia. She belted out What If, which doesn’t seem an easy song to sing, with ease last year in Malmö. If you want proof, check out this (often hilarious) recap of the 2013 contest with the music stripped out. Dina’s turn starts around 1:40.

 

I hate to be Russian off like this, but that’s all I have to say about this country at the moment. It remains to be seen how the Tolmachevy twins will do in Copenhagen, but I think it’s safe to say the girls won’t be the first act to win JESC and ESC. What about you? 

 

What will Russia’s result be in Denmark? Have they impressed you or disappointed you throughout their ESC history?

 

NEXT TIME: I’m going back in time again, on this occasion to re-rank the songs that graced the stage ten years ago in Istanbul – or as we now refer to it, Year Ruslana. But Ruslana’s not my #1 of 2004…stay tuned to find out who is!

 

(An extremely overdue) Spotlight on…Slovenia

Once upon a time, there was a girl from Australia who had a blog devoted to the amazeballs Eurovision Song Contest, and she loved to post hilarious articles there on a very regular basis. Then, one January – a month usually peppered with selections for ESC entries – she found herself faced with four weeks of emptiness, with barely a national final to be seen anywhere. But, rather than leaving her blog as empty as this January, she made a vow to herself that she would fill it with many more hilarious yet random posts to entertain all one of her readers, up until February when NF madness was scheduled to resume.

Yeah…that didn’t work out too well, did it?

I know this because the aforementioned Australian girl is me (I bet you didn’t see that coming) and I’ve had such a chaotic start to 2014 that I haven’t graced this blog with my presence for more than two weeks. That’s like, six months by my standards. For that, I apologise to a totes cray extent, and to anyone who does not follow me on Twitter (where I have actually made an appearance over the last fortnight) and thought I was dead, I’m also very sorry. I’ll send the sympathy cards and floral wreaths back ASAP.

I want y’all to know that I am back with a vengeance and pumped to cover the upcoming craziness of February, beginning with the finals of Finland and Switzerland and the first semi of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen (!!!) all happening this coming Saturday. So I hope you’ll join me for the season, and if you’re doing something similar, let me know so I can join you back. It’s all about #JoinUs this year, remember?

Now that the crappy excuses and apologies are out of the way, allow me to introduce my penultimate non-NF-themed post.

Recently, Slovenia became the final country to confirm that they’ll be in Copenhagen, taking the total of competitors up (or should I say down?) to 37. It’s been a year of casualties, with not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR countries withdrawing – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Serbia. On the plus side, we are welcoming two countries back into the family, with Poland and Portugal returning after brief breaks. But it’s Slovenia I want to focus on today, for without them, we’d be sitting un-pretty at 36 – which sounds a lot less impressive than 37.

So to thank Slovenia for obeying the command to #JoinUs, I’m devoting a whole post (minus this super-long intro) to their time in the ESC. Since 1993, they’ve had more than their share of musical misfortune, but there have been some diamonds amongst the rough. Here are the Slovenian stats, and my picks of their bunch.

 

SLOVENIA: THE STATS

hbslovenia

Debut 1993 – 22nd place with Tih Dezeven Dan by 1X Band

Entries 19

Wins 0

Silver medals 0

Bronze medals 0

Best result 7th – 1995, 2001

Top 10 finishes 3

Top 10 success rate 17%  

Top 5 finishes 0

Top 5 success rate 0%  

Wooden spoons (last places!) 1 – 2013 (semi final)

Semi final qualifications 2/10

Qualification success rate 20%

 

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Cvet Z Juga by Alenka Gotar (2007). Before Krassimir Avramov and Cezar, there was Alenka (and before Alenka, there was Sertab Erener opening the 2004 final, but let’s not get into that now). Alenka lent her operatic vocal to a mystical, dramatic and eventually thumping ethno-dance number that had me at hello – or at least, the first word of Slovene. Even if the wind-machine heavy, palm-lit performance is discounted, I love this entry, and I guess I’m not alone – it’s one of only two Slovenian songs to qualify since the introduction of the semi system.

Two very honourable mentions must go to:

  • Stop by Omar Naber (2005), a beautiful builder of a ballad marred by an overly-casual outfit choice, and;
  • Vrag Naj Vzame by Rebeka Dremelj (2008), an infectious Europop track marred by staging resembling BDSM vampire porn.

 

My least favourite entry

Narodnozabavni Rock by Ansambel Žlindra & Kalamari (2010). ‘Narodnozabavni’ is a fun word to say, but that’s about the only plus to this unfortunate hybrid of folk and rock. I can’t help thinking a straight folk song would have been infinitely better, because not only did the two genres not mesh pleasantly in this instance, but the rock dated the whole thing by about thirty years.

 

More of the memorable

For A Thousand Years by Darja Svajger (1999) – known for that line, which in Darja’s accented English sounded like “I trample in your arse”. I really hope she doesn’t.

Samo Ljubezen by Sestre (2002) – the song was fine. Quite catchy, but not that notable. It was the three men in glittering flight attendant outfits singing it that made things interesting.

Sestre pulled off red lipstick better than I ever could.

Sestre pulled off red lipstick better than I ever could.

Stay Forever by Platin (2004) – depending on how you feel about PDAs on the Eurovision stage, this was either sweet or gross. Personally, I like this song, and the smooch was an understandable warm-up for the wedding these two apparently had a few days later.  

No One by Maja Keuc (2011) – with this killer song, that killer voice and those killer boots, I wouldn’t want to cross Maja.

Verjamem by Eva Boto (2012) – many fans labeled this Molitva 2.0, but I think it captures the best aspects of 2007’s winner. A.k.a. the mystique, atmosphere and snazzy costumes.

“Moooolitvaaa...ah, I mean...verjameeem.”

“Moooolitvaaa…ah, I mean…verjameeem.”

 

Their best stage show

Straight Into Love by Hannah (2013). I think Slovenia stepped up the staging with this one. It was slick, contemporary, and in no way did those metal masks remind me of Vrag Naj Vzame. As a former taker of dance lessons, I always pass judgment on choreography, and the dance moves that Hannah’s man posse busted were top-notch. A nod of approval also goes to the lighting guy/gal, who lit this to perfection. All in all: #NAILEDIT.

 

Their best costume/s

Maja Keuc. The girl was walking fierceness in her metal-plated, chain-covered minidress, accompanied by leather accents, including those infamous boots. I don’t know how she managed to walk or sit down, let alone strut around the Düsseldorf stage the way she did, but I do know she would have been well prepared for a sexy battle with all of that body armour on.

No fridge magnet was safe with Maja on the scene.

No fridge magnet was safe with Maja on the scene.

  

Their best vocalist/s

Darja Svajger/Alenka Gotar/Maja Keuc. Slovenia almost rivals Ukraine as the sender of powerhouse female vocalist (if not in a string of successful results). Despite her accent issues, two-timer Darja delivered one heck of a ballad, with the humbler notes and epic screamers coming equally as easy to her. Alenka took things to a new level – as in a key so high it had never been heard by the human ear before – and somehow made it pleasurable. And Maja proved herself the Slovenian teenage version of Christina Aguilera with her pitch-perfect performance of the tricky (as it is when I attempt to sing it in the shower) No One. They’re all pretty different voices, so I can’t pick between them, but sharing #1 shouldn’t be a problem for a country that’s never made the top 5 IRL.

 

So that’s Slovenia, 1993-2013, as I see them. Well, me and the official numbers. I wonder what they’ll serve up for Copenhagen? Being the last country to say oui may give you the impression that it was an “oh, alright, I suppose we’ll be there” kind of decision, rather than a well thought-out one. But the fact that they’re going ahead with the old faithful NF EMA says otherwise. Perhaps they just wanted to keep us all in suspense so we’d realise how much we’d miss them if they withdrew…though apparently, the real reason was stalling so they could look under their collective couches and scrimp together the loose change needed to fund participation.

All that really matters in the end is that magic number – 37. It may not indicate that the ESC is getting bigger every year, but it is at least a solid number that’s giving us two substantial semi-finals. Don’t be depressed about it. Make like Ping Pong, and *sings tunelessly* “ooooohh ohhhhh, be HAPPY!”.

 

Let’s talk Slovenia. Whether it’s highlights, lowlights, or expectations for 2014, I want to hear them!

 

NEXT TIME: In my last post before the madness of February begins, I’m traveling back in time to rank the Class of Riga ’03…and just to warn you, Jemini are NOT getting zero points from me.

 

Spotlight on (and welcome back!)…Poland

Eurovision 2014 is still months away, but there’s already been casualties, and some major ones at that. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, and (worst of all, if I may pick one) Serbia (NOOOOOOOOO!) have all said non to Copenhagen, and it sucks. But with a lack of cash being a popular reason for withdrawal, no amount of EBU bribery (unless, of course, the bribe is of the monetary variety) is going to get them back. So instead of dwelling on who won’t be buying airfares to Denmark, let’s focus on who will.

Back in the competition next year we have Bosnia & Herzegovina (which eases the pain of Serbia’s exit a little bit), Portugal, and Poland. Whilst it’s only been a year’s break for B & H and Portugal, Poland hasn’t shown up since failing to qualify for the third time in a row in 2011. Evidently, they’re ready to give it another try (and I don’t mean not qualifying), and I for one am super glad to have them back. To celebrate what will hopefully be a worthwhile return on the twentieth anniversary of their debut, I’m casting a spotlight on their ESC history right here, right now. Refresh your memory or get to know Poland as they were, 1994-2011.

 

poland

POLAND: THE STATS

Debut 1994 – 2nd place with To Nie Ja! by Edyta Górniak

Entries 16

Wins 0

Silver medals 1 – 1994

Bronze medals 0

Best result 2nd – 1994

Top 10 finishes 2/16

Top 10 success rate 12.5%

Top 5 finishes 1/16

Top 5 success rate 6%

Wooden spoons (last places!) 1 – 2011 semi final

Semi final qualifications 1/7

Qualification success rate 14%

 

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Keine Grenzen, Zadnych Granic by Ich Troje (2003). Not only is this my favourite from Poland, it’s also one of my favourite Eurovision songs of all time (let’s just say that when Poland are good, they’re really, really good). Who would have thought that a message song largely carried by a guy who, in his own words, can’t really sing – and in my own words, sounds like he lives on a diet of gravel – would be so beautiful? I think it works because it isn’t a cheesy kind of message song, á la What If and a million others from ESC history. If you check out the translation you’ll see it’s not sickeningly sweet, and is actually very pertinent to the contest created to unite Europe. Plus, it has a stunning melody and structure, and builds into something worth waiting two-and-a-half minutes for.

 

My least favourite entry

Time To Party by the Jet Set (2007). Most of the Polish entries I don’t like are boring, not bad. But this terrible piece of trash (if you know what I mean…I’m being incredibly subtle here) I file away in the ‘Why, God, Why?’ category, alongside such gems as Switzerland 2004. Okay, so the chorus could be less catchy, but lyrically and just generally – yeuch! If you’re not convinced, allow me to present you with a few lyrical samples:

“Every little moment is so special for me. I’m a little bit crazy, crazy, like a baby, uh.” BRB, off to puke.

“Hey guys, you really know what I like, just like that…you know that I’m really hot.” Modesty is always appreciated. Unfortunately, the Jet Set has none.

If you still think Time To Party has some redeeming features, then I respect your right to have your own opinions, but at the same time, I’m afraid there is NO HOPE FOR YOU.

 

More of the memorable

To Nie Ja! by Edyta Górniak (1994) – A close second-favourite of mine, this spectacularly-sung ballad gave Poland an epic debut result. In my mind, it should have beaten Ireland, but since there was an (inexplicable) sixty point winning margin, I can’t really justify that.

Ale Jestem by Anna Maria Jopek (1997) – This didn’t make much of a splash on the scoreboard, but I reckon it’s an interesting, pleasantly folksy number that’s definitely memorable in comparison to some of Poland’s other entries.

Follow My Heart by Ich Troje (2006) – They didn’t qualify on attempt #2 (it still hurts…) but Ich Troje rocked my socks yet again in Athens. I really dug those elaborate outfits, too.

For Life by Isis Gee (2008) – I really like this, based on everything except Isis’ oompa-loompa spray tan (if that was her natural colour I apologise, but I find it hard to believe anyone could have come into the world so orange).

Legenda by Marcin Mrozinski (2010) – Memorable mainly because Marcin had one of his backup dancers in a headlock at one point. That’s what you get when you try to overshadow the main artist, I guess.

Jestem by Magdalena Tul (2011) – A prime example of a great entry ruined by chaotic staging, inappropriate lighting and unsuitable costumes. The visuals should have been slick, sexy, and heavy on black leather and studs. Still, Mags wasn’t the only one to be let down by staging in Düsseldorf, was she…coughBluecough.  

 

Their best stage show

For Life. Poland brought out the dry ice and string instruments (which were played by people who hopefully didn’t choke on said dry ice) for this soaring ballad, which was performed to perfection by Isis in her striking blue gown with matching, lusted-after-by-Jaz bracelet. The aspect I really liked about this performance was Isis’ move down the catwalk to the mike stand, just in time for the first of several money notes. I don’t think catwalks are used often enough in the ESC when they’re available, so I applaud anybody who does elect to use them – especially when that person is wearing massive high heels.

 

Their best costume/s

Ich Troje. Like I said, these babies were elaborate, and like something out of a period drama (I think they also served as inspiration for Eric Saade’s Masquerade video). Maybe they distracted a little from the song, which is always a danger when you give your seamstress free reign over the fabric bolts AND bedazzler, but you can’t say they weren’t eye-catching, particularly with Michał’s festive green hair setting things off.

You know your costume's a big deal when you have to hang on to someone else in case you fall over.

You know your costume’s a big deal when you have to hang on to someone else in case you fall over.

 

Their best vocalist/s

Edyta Górniak. Who cared that she had forgotten to change out of her nightgown when she was attacking the song like that? Only someone who lives to rally against sleepwear on the ESC stage, that’s who. Edyta’s vocal was full of light and shade, i.e. soft ByeAlex moments and epic Pastora Soler moments (only she pre-dated both of those guys) and she nailed all of them without breaking a sweat. Sometimes it’s the singer that makes a song great, and in this case, top-notch vocals certainly made To Nie Ja! what it was/is. I can’t imagine it having the same impact with a lesser vocalist in charge.

 

Just because they’re not a hotshot kind of country when it comes to Eurovision, don’t assume Poland won’t be in it to win it next year. You never know when a country will surprise you with a cracking song – and if they do happen to send one, they may even not screw it up with crappy staging!

While we’re waiting for Poland (and everyone else) to choose their song, here’s something to think about…

 

Are you happy to have Poland back in the contest? What have been your highlights and lowlights from their past participations?

 

Spotlight on…FYR Macedonia

FYR Macedonia (as I continue to call it because I don’t know what will happen if I don’t) is one of those countries that I feel gets a raw deal at Eurovision*. Not all the time, but on a few occasions, I think they’ve been robbed of either a place in the final, or a better result in the final – think Karolina 1.0 and Gjoko Taneski (who totally should have qualified instead of Vukašin Brajić). Still, you couldn’t call them a country with a knack for the ESC, a la Azerbaijan and Ukraine. If you personally couldn’t call them anything because you’ve got zero recollection of their contest history, or if you just want a take a walk down Macedonian memory lane, then here’s a look at their past hits and misses, in numerical and opinion form.

 

 

* They’re also a country I desperately want back in Junior Eurovision, but I’ll leave my moanings about that for another time.

 

 

 

FYR MACEDONIA: THE STATS

 

fyrmacedonia

 

Debut 1998 – Ne Zori, Zoro by Vlado Janevski, finishing 19th

Entries 13

Wins 0

Silver medals 0

Bronze medals 0

Best result 12th – 2006

Top 10 finishes 0/13

Top 10 success rate 0%

Top 5 finishes 0/13

Top 5 success rate  0%

Wooden spoons (last places!) 0/13

Semi final qualifications 5/10

Qualification success rate 50%

 

 

 

MY PICKS

 

My favourite entry

Od Nas Zavisi by Karolina (2002). Why? I can pretty much sum it up in three words: dramatic Balkan ballad. Karolina’s first Eurovision experience came with a song that is (almost) right up there with the Lane Mojes, Lejlas and Bistra Vodas of the world, in my opinion, and it’s a shame it didn’t score a little better. You can’t tell me it didn’t deserve to beat Belgium, at the very least (though I will allow you to tell me off for reminding you of the piece of junk they sent in ‘02). Especially with that costume reveal, which taught us that two gowns are better than one. Love it.

The pained expression of someone wearing two layers of clothing under hot lights.

The pained expression of someone wearing two layers of clothing under hot stage lights.

 

My least favourite entry

Neshto Shto Ke Ostane by Next Time (2009). The emphasis here is definitely on ‘least favourite’, because I don’t hate this, or even dislike it. It just happens to bring up the rear from my perspective of everything FYROM has sent over the last fifteen years. It’s nice enough, catchy enough, and the twins are attractive enough to stare at for three minutes without getting bored. Still, their hair and their song was and is dated, rather than retro. Learn the difference, boys…and everybody else.

 

More of the memorable

100% Te Ljubam by XXL (2000) – A guilty pleasure of mine, this is memorable mainly for being one of the worst-sung entries of all time (not even Kanye West would interrupt me to disagree). It is infectious, though. Note that I could also be talking about the Israeli entry right now.  

 

Life by Toše Proeski (2004) – I was never the biggest fan of this song, but I think the costumes and presentation were striking. It’s always bittersweet to watch Toše in action, knowing he’s no longer with us.

 

Ninanajna by Elena Risteska (2006) – This is trashy in the best way possible, and if it wasn’t for my Balkan ballad weakness, it would be sitting pretty as my favourite Macedonian entry to date. Who can resist a song which name-drops Beyoncé AND Shakira?

 

Crno I Belo by Kaliopi (2012) – Europe’s friendliest female was understated yet badass in Baku, and it worked in her country’s favour, securing them not only a qualification, but one of their best results in years.

 

Pred Da Se Razdeni by Esma & Lozano (2013) – In studio, I can get down with this. Live, it was a shambles. It was like neither Esma nor Lozano were aware that the other was there (apart from when they hugged it out towards the end) and were just going about their business, singing their own, very different songs. Oh dear.

 

Their best stage show

Mojot Svet by Karolina (2007). It wasn’t OTT, but the dramatic lighting and simple choreography was effective. I can’t help wondering if Karolina and the ballet girl had a catfight over the ballet guy the second they got backstage, ‘cause I’m not sure where his loyalties were at.

 

Their best costume/s

Toše Proeski/Elena Risteska. Ah, the two extremes. Toše went ethnic, white, and demure, whilst Elena went sexy and blingy and matched the material on her denim hotpants to that of her sleeveless, mostly frontless bustier. As a heterosexual woman, I was most drawn to her shoes. They didn’t match anything, but I WANT. Both these varieties of outfits were perfectly suited (so to speak) to the songs.

You could say one's trash and the other's treasure, but I dig both.

You could say one’s trash and the other’s treasure, but I dig them both.

 

Their best vocalist/s

Kaliopi. Low and husky one minute, freaking out dogs everywhere with a piercing-but-completely-in-tune shriek the next, this woman has pipes, and well-functioning ones at that. I’m glad she finally got the chance to show them off at Eurovision, having been knocked back all those years ago and then time and time again in FYROM national finals.

 

 

 

So, now you’ve had a refresher course on Macedonian history (whether you needed/wanted it or not) let me know what you think. Has this country been wronged time and time again at the ESC, or do they need to try harder? What have been your highlights and lowlights since they first appeared onstage?

 

 

Spotlight on…Ukraine

If you’re not wearing a watch at the moment, I’m more than happy to tell you what time it is. It’s COUNTRY PROFILE O’CLOCK, PEOPLE! A.k.a. time I gave another country its own post, because I’m generous like that. Plus, we’re in the off season so there’s not a whole lot to talk about.

Unfortunately, I’ve already profiled all the countries that would’ve been relevant to do at this stage (Sweden, the hosts past; Denmark, the hosts-to-be…) which you can find here. But wait! There is a little thing called Junior Eurovision on its way, or so we hope, and for the second time it’s heading to Kyiv. So on that basis (an explanation that was really unnecessary when I could have just got on with things, but you know me) I’m shining my spotlight on Ukraine right here, right now. This is an overview of their relatively short, but very sweet time spent showing a lot of other European countries how the ESC is done.

 

 

hbukraine

UKRAINE: THE STATS

Debut 2003 – 14th with Hasta La Vista by Olexander

Entries 11

Wins 1 – 2004

Silver medals 2 – 2007, 2008

Bronze medals 1 – 2013

Best result 1st – 2004

Top 10 finishes 7/11

Top 10 success rate 63.6%

Top 5 finishes 5/11

Top 5 success rate 45%

Wooden spoons (last places!) 0

Semi final qualifications 8/8

Qualification success rate 100%

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Wild Dances by Ruslana (2004). If this isn’t a dead-set modern Eurovision classic, then I’m not someone who can’t stop blogging about continental song contests. I doubt that sentence made any sense, so let me rephrase it: Wild Dances rocks everybody’s socks. I’ve never encountered anyone who doesn’t at least like it, and only one or two silly folks who don’t think it should have won in Istanbul. In my opinion, Ruslana embodied Ukraine at their very best, with infectious up-tempo ethno-pop and a (whip) cracking stage show.

Not to mention that she didn’t give an oversized horn about her hair getting messed up.

Not to mention that she didn’t give an oversized horn about her hair getting messed up.

My least favourite entry

Hasta La Vista by Olexander (2003). You’re allowed to be rubbish on your first try, so I won’t be too cruel here. Not that this entry was that bad. Not, like, Switzerland ’04-level bad. But it didn’t give us any hints of the awesomeness that was to come, that’s for sure. I think what I disliked most was Olexander/Oleksandr/???’s voice, which was kind of…unusual, to say the least.

More of the memorable

Dancing Lasha Tumbai by Verka Seduchka (2007) – I bet you’ve got this in your head right now. I also bet you have no questions about why I feel it was memorable.

Shady Lady by Ani Lorak (2008) – One of Eurovision’s most polished performances led to a second consecutive silver medal for the hosts of 2005.

Be My Valentine (Anti-Crisis Girl) by Svetlana Loboda (2009) – Hell machines, Roman soldiers, mobile drum kits and glittery thigh-high boots…yeah, you could say Ukraine went a little OTT in Moscow.

Sweet People by Alyosha (2010) – Then, we had a very pared-back version of Ukraine, which actually served them better. All you need is a costume knitted by your drunk grandmother and a girl who can sing the leg off a chair to succeed.

Angel by Mika Newton (2011) – I love this song, but I’m under no illusions as to why it did so well. Three words: the sand lady.

Their best stage show

Show Me Your Love by Tina Karol (2006)/Shady Lady. This country wrote the book on how to stage an ESC entry (I believe it’s called Whip-Cracks and Jump Ropes and Hell Machines, Oh My!) and here are my two top examples of perfection. Tina had her schweet backing troupe on hand to make her look good with their costume alterations, tambourines and dance moves, and she intermingled with them very well. Ani, on the other hand, had a backing troupe consisting entirely of masculine eye candy and some fun light boxes to play with. And pose in front of. And climb on top of. They’re so versatile. Can you buy them on eBay?

Backing dancer #4 gives a thumbs up to a great performance.

Backing dancer #4 gives a thumbs up to a great performance.

Their best costume/s

Alyosha. As I said earlier, her outfit did look a bit ‘thrown together by grandma after she had a few too many brandies and got hold of some red wool, nude Lycra and a hot-glue gun’. But against all odds, it really worked for the song and the simplicity of the staging. An extra-special touch? The hood Alyosha wore in the beginning and then shed at just the right moment.

Someone had better tell her that a ball of yarn is trying to devour her.

Someone had better tell her that a ball of yarn is trying to devour her.

Their best vocalist/s

Zlata Ognevich. She does alright. OMG JUST KIDDING SHE IS AMAZING PLEASE FORGIVE MEEEE!!!!! I will say that because she can belt out whatever she’s given so effortlessly, she can come across as going through the motions sometimes. But that doesn’t change the fact that her voice is incredible – powerful when it needs to be, but capable of basically anything.

 

To sum up, the Ukraine is one strong competitor. What with a win and multiple other successes (such as that 100% qualification record) under their Swarovski-encrusted belt, they’ve done brilliantly for a country that hasn’t been a part of Eurovision as long as it may seem. I don’t always love what they send, but 2003 excluded, I never dislike them, and I get a kick out of knowing they can be relied upon to stage a song in the best way possible. Even when they hire giants to carry their artists into the arena in a cringe-worthy move, it ultimately works. Be afraid, Europe, be very afraid. Ukraine can, do and will do things you can only dream of.

 

What have been your highs and lows of Ukraine’s years in Eurovision? And which country would you like to see profiled next?

 

Spotlight on…Moldova

Ciao a tutti!  There may as well be a little Italian in this post, since I kind of promised it last time via a very easy clue. Si, si, I had intended to cast my spotlight onto Italy today. But let’s just say it wasn’t coming together, like a pasta dough with too much flour in it. Not that I’d know, never having made a pasta dough in my life, but hey – I watch cooking shows on TV. So I’ll keep working at it until it’s ready to be premiered in public, and go for the country known in 2013 as the lucky last to choose their entry instead.

O Mie by Aliona Moon (why aren’t they sticking with A Million?) will be Moldova’s 9th ESC entry, and for me it’s up there with the best of what they’ve sent, ignoring that pesky language switch. Apart from one or two blips, I think this country has kept up a certain standard of unique awesome-ness over the years they’ve participated. If you can’t remember what you had for breakfast, let alone Moldova’s eight-year contest history, here’s a refresher, complete with my picks of the best and worst from that back catalogue.

 

hbmoldova

MOLDOVA: THE STATS

Debut

2005 – Boonika Bate Doba by Zdob şi Zdub

Entries

8

Wins

0

Silver medals

0

Bronze medals

0

Best result

6th – 2005

Top 10 finishes

2/8

Top 10 success rate

25%

Top 5 finishes

0/8

Top 5 success rate

0%

Wooden spoons (last places!)

0

Semi final qualifications

6/7

Qualification success rate

86%

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Fight by Natalia Barbu (2007).

This was the first Moldovan entry I was really familiar with, and at the time I was obsessed with it…and kind of obsessed with her leather outfit as well (and the hood! What a hood!). Though I’ve left the cut-out cowhide love behind, I’m still a huge fan of the song. It’s all drama and epic violining (which Moldova has a penchant for, apparently) and my giddy aunt, is it the perfect motivation song for a workout! I listened to it on the treadmill the other day, and I swear I lost five kilos in those three minutes alone.

I can’t help also mentioning Hora Din Moldova by Nelly Ciobanu (2009). If you can sit through this without throwing caution and most of your dignity to the wind in order to leap up and dance like Loreen on steroids, then I fear for you, because you are not a normal person. This is 110% irresistible.

 

My least favourite entry

A Century of Love by Geta Burlacu (2008). Isn’t this everybody’s least favourite offering from Moldova? Excepting those few who can’t see past the horrifying staging of Loca to enjoy it as a guilty pleasure song, of course. As much as I hate to disparage anything from the jazz genre (‘cause of my nickname and stuff) this is jazz gone oh-so-wrong. Plus, Geta’s voice is unusual to say the least, and even though she could clearly hold a tune it was impossible to make out what she was singing. And the staging? Don’t get me started.

Sofa, so good? Not in Geta’s case.

Sofa, so good? Not in Geta’s case.

 

More of the memorable

Boonika Bate Doba by Zdob şi Zdub (2005) – the original and the best, in terms of results at least. Moldova made a stunning debut with this number, and made an entire continent say ‘aww!’ when they caught sight of that drum-beating grandmamma rocking away in her chair. Adorbs.

Loca by Arsenium & Natalia Gordienko (2006) – oh yes, this was memorable…in the same way that a particularly pungent trash bag is memorable.

Run Away by Sunstroke Project feat. Olia Tira (2010) – the act that introduced Epic Sax Guy to the world deserves thanks. Great song too.

So Lucky by Zdob şi Zdub (2011) – ZsZ recaptured almost all of the charm of their first Eurovision foray in Düsseldorf. Is it wrong to wish they’d brought the granny back to do some tutu-clad unicycling?

Laŭtar by Pasha Parfeny (2012) – ethnic, effortless fun that puts a smile on my face every time.

 

Their best stage show

Boonika Bate Doba. Yeah, the granny was the main drawcard of this performance, and if artists are going to continue to choose props based on their song titles then I would really like a song called 100 Metres of Bubble Wrap to go to the contest ASAP. But it was the energy and stage presence of ZsZ themselves that made their time in front of the cameras so enjoyable for us.

 

Their best costume/s

Laŭtar. This goes out to Pasha’s backing posse, the dresses of whom I have no words to describe. Apart from these words: I WANT. These are works of art, people!

I never considered coordinating my underwear with my clothes until THIS.

I never considered coordinating my underwear with my clothes until THIS.

 

Their best vocalist/s

Natalia Barbu. I think singing in English did her a disservice if we’re talking about her vocal chops. But that spectacular high note before the last chorus and the show-stopping end note are more than enough to convince me of classically-trained Nat’s prowess.

Speaking of this song and English, I have to ask (even though it has nothing to do with singing ability) – what is WITH the line ‘itch people will gnaw our wishes no more’? Not only is it nonsensical, but it’s disturbing. Is there some kind of spray I can get to fend off those itch people? I prefer my wishes sans teeth-marks, thank you very much.

 

What’s your top (or bottom) song from Moldova? How do you think they’ll go this year?

 

Spotlight on…Serbia

This upcoming weekend is a busy one, and there may be some hard decisions for you guys wanting to watch as many finals as possible. But those are first world problems, people, so quit your complainin’.

If you’re someone who has always wanted to see a singer make the transition from Junior Eurovision to adult, might I suggest the final in which that may actually happen – Serbia’s Beosong. Opening the 15-strong semi final on Saturday night will be a trio made up of, among two others (duh) Nevena Božović, who represented her country at JESC 2007 and ended up in 3rd place.

Even if you don’t give a failed backup dancer’s two left feet about JESC alumni, you should be interested in watching Beosong, because let’s face it: Serbia have never sent a bad song to Eurovision.* Sure, their history only extends back to 2007, giving them less opportunities to have royally screwed up…but plenty of other relative newcomers to the contest have proven themselves inconsistent (or consistently rubbish) when Serbia has not. In light of that, and the fact that entry number seven is on its way, let’s take a look at that short but sweet history while you’re deciding whether or not to take my advice and watch Beosong. Or just watch it of your own volition.

 

* This is my opinion, of course. But if you disagree, YOU ARE WRONG, WRONG, DAMMIT!

 

 hbserbia

SERBIA: THE STATS

Debut 2007 – 1st with Molitva by Marija Šerifović

Entries 6

Wins 1 – 2007

Silver medals 0

Bronze medals 1 – 2012

Best result 1st – 2007

Top 10 finishes 3/6

Top 10 success rate 50%

Top 5 finishes 2/6

Top 5 success rate 33%  

Wooden spoons (last places!) 0

Semi final qualifications 4/5

Qualification success rate 80%

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry Ovo Je Balkan by Milan Stanković (2010)/ Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović (2012).

It still makes me weep a little that Milan didn’t make the top 10, by that much (which wasn’t actually that much, I suppose, but enough to mourn the loss). OJB was and still is everything I look for in a Eurovision song – it’s ethnic, catchy, fun, and allows you to dance on your kitchen table without looking completely stupid. Not to mention the performance, which opened my eyes to a whole new world of bubble-wrap wear.

It doesn’t get much better than that, which is why I have to tie it, not better it, with Željko’s latest piece of genius for Serbia. This song was basically all I love about his compositions stuffed into three minutes, albeit stuffed in a very elegant way. Epic, atmospheric Balkan ballads are my weakness, and nobody does them like ZJ (except maybe Regina).

mszj

I can’t pick between their songs, but I can tell you who has the better haircut.

 My least favourite entry As you may have gathered from the intro, those words do not compute with me where Serbia is concerned. I can’t pick one. I have loved everything they’ve ever sent, and if we were factoring in Serbia and Montenegro’s entries as well, that would not change. If we were factoring in just Montenegro…well, let’s just say two heads republics were better than one. But Serbia has the magic touch. Čaroban.

More of the memorable

Molitva by Marija Šerifović (2007) – winning Eurovision on your first go as an independent nation? Now that’s something to impress your friends with at dinner parties. Marija’s victory was unexpected and proved that English isn’t always the best bet for success. Ya hear that, Iceland?

Oro by Jelena Tomašević (2008) – knock, knock, who’s there? Why, it’s Željko again! He worked his magic for the third time on home turf, also finding time to co-host the show. Jelena did him justice, and gave the dry ice machine industry a real boost.

Cipela by Marko Kon & Milaan (2009) – this came so close to qualifying it isn’t funny (honestly, this not making the final was the most upsetting event of 2009) but I have consoled myself by playing it to death over the years.

Their best stage show Čaroban. If you’ve got a retro-sounding song, you may as well run with it. The Serbian delegation went all out in Düsseldorf, matching their costumes, choreography and slightly nauseating backdrop to their Sixties-inspired number. That was what I call entertaining.

Their best costume/s Marija Šerifović and the Beauty Queens. Is red, white and black not THE greatest colour combo on the planet? These ladies made me want to hire a suit for my school ball that year. I reckon if they’d worn double denim or something, they wouldn’t have won anything, unless it was the Barbara Dex award.

I dig the 'feminine groomsman' look.

I dig the ‘feminine groomsman’ look.

 

Their best vocalist/s Marija Šerifović. It really all came together for her, didn’t it? Her voice was great, but it was the emotion that made it greater. You’d never guess she’d sung it too many times to count during rehearsals and whatnot; it was like she was feeling every lyric for the first time. *Insert mock-vomiting here*.

 

 

So, will you be watching Beosong this weekend? Which Serbian entry has been your favourite so far?

 

Spotlight on…Iceland

It’s nearly February, so naturally we’re about to experience our first mad weekend of national finals. Among the 1, 784, 322 events taking place on Saturday is the final of Söngvakeppnin 2013 – a.k.a. the decision show for Iceland – and whilst that isn’t the most exciting thing on the agenda (I have to hand that gong to the first semi of Melodifestivalen) I felt it was only appropriate to remind y’all of Iceland’s Eurovision history, before they add another stat to it. With a massive amount of luck, the song they choose this year will be absolutely amazing and pave the way for Reykjavik 2014. I for one am desperate to see the contest there in my lifetime.

Anyway, it’s time to switch the spotlight on *metaphorical switchy noise*

 

ICELAND: THE STATS

iceland

Debut

1986 – 16th with Gleðibankinn by Icy

Entries

25

Wins

0

Silver medals

2 – 1999, 2009

Bronze medals

0

Best result

2nd – 1999, 2009

Top 10 finishes

5/25

Top 10 success rate

20%

Top 5 finishes

3/25

Top 5 success rate

12%

Wooden spoons (last places!)

1 – 1989

Semi final qualifications

5/8

Qualification success rate

62.5%

 

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Is It True by Yohanna (2009). This was perfection, so long as we’re talking about everything but Yohanna’s dress (which looked like haphazardly stitched-together dishrags garnished with raggedy pom-poms). The song is one of my favourite ESC ballads ever, her voice was/is incredible, and the fantastical backdrop used the frigging massive LED screens of the stage to full, atmospheric advantage. That note (you know, THAT note) gives me chills every time.

My least favourite entry

Tell Me! by August & Telma (2000). Okay, A & T, I’ll tell you – your song is rubbish. Iceland has had some amazing entries over the years, but it’s like they lifted this one straight out of the Book of Eurovision Unoriginality. It’s just…nothing. At least Israel’s entry was so bad it was entertaining. PS – the English lyrics are dreadful.

More of the memorable

Það Sem Enginn Sér by Daníel (1989) – I do not understand how this not only came last, but scored a big fat zero too. I love this song! Sure, his outfit wasn’t great, but this was the 80s, and I don’t think anyone had the right to discriminate against someone else for their “fashion” choices.

Minn Hinsti Dans by Paul Oscar (1997) – another fan recently reminded me of this one. The song’s catchy, but the most striking thing about it is the staging. I bet you’d never seen a Eurovision participant sitting on a couch and suggestively stroking their own thighs before this (or if you had, I bet it wasn’t onstage…).

All Out of Luck by Selma (1999) – having a rubbish day? Listen to this and I promise you’ll be feeling better within seconds. I can’t say the same for Selma’s other entry, but it’s best we just don’t go there.

Congratulations by Silvia Night (2006) – if we’re talking Iceland and stuff that’s memorable, Miss Night has to be included. Her performance was like Britney Spears in drag and on crack.

This Is My Life by Euroband (2008) – I was surprised this didn’t do better in the final. Still, it got there, unlike a certain other TIML.

Coming Home by Sjonni’s Friends (2011) – the sad story behind Sjonni’s friends and not Sjonni himself going to Düsseldorf overshadowed how good the song really was. The Icelandic version, as always, is the best.

Their best stage show

This Is My Life. It was the choreography that made the performance pop. I especially like the “reveal” of Regina when she appears to sing her verse, and the little combination right before the money note.

Their best costume/s

Selma (2005). Okay, so we are ‘going there’ after all, but not to dissect the song, so it’s okay. I’m a woman of simple tastes – I like burnt orange, I like the MJ one-glove  look, and I like sparkly things – particularly when you can hot glue gun them to your head. So it’s no wonder I’m a fan of the playsuit and accessories worn by returnee Selma in Kyiv.

Their best vocalist/s

Yohanna, without a doubt. I think I may actually be in love with her voice, and if I could marry it, I would. And before you say anything, yes, I know that’s creepy.

 

As I said, I’m hanging out for an Icelandic Eurovision, and since I haven’t listened to any of the potential entries for 2013 (not even Birgitta’s – that’s taken serious restraint) I haven’t given up hope. The fact that Yohanna is now out of the race doesn’t bother me, as much as I love her, because I did listen to her song and it’s safe to say she’s gone downhill since her runner-up Is It True? and her last NF song Nótt. But I guess we’ll always remember her as one of those who nearly nabbed the victory for Iceland (had it not been for a few hundred points, Oslo 2010 wouldn’t have been). Anyway, whatever wins this weekend would have to be absolutely shocking to be the worst thing Iceland has sent, so I’m staying positive.

Please don’t tell me if I shouldn’t bother.

 

You know the drill – let me know what you think about Iceland in the ESC!

 

Spotlight on…Bosnia & Herzegovina (and Turkey!)

A little while ago, we learnt that the upcoming ESC would be a battle between 39 countries, though I think I can speak for us all when I say we were hoping to break the record of 43 set in Belgrade and Düsseldorf. We would have, if it wasn’t for Bosnia & Herzegovina, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Turkey all RSVP-ing with a big fat ‘NO’.

To me, there are two countries in that rolecall that do not fit. Is Poland one? Nope. I was half expecting them to return, but wasn’t shocked when they didn’t. Portugal? Not really, with the run of “luck” they’ve had of late. And Slovakia? Well, we’re all well acquainted with the game of hokey-pokey they like to play with Eurovision every year.

No, it’s Bosnia & Herzegovina and Turkey who flabbergasted this fan when they declared, within hours of each other, that they would not be gracing Sweden with their presence. It was one blow after another that fateful evening, and I’ve been a little depressed ever since. But instead of continuing to mourn the losses in 2013, I thought I’d celebrate the time of both nations in the contest – both for my benefit and for any of you who are already missing one, the other, or both. Read on (if you want, no pressure) and cross your fingers that a miracle will see at least one of them onstage in May.  

 

  hbbosniaandherzegovina

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: THE STATS

Debut

1993

Entries

18

Wins

0

Silver medals

0

Bronze medals

1 – 2006

Best result

3rd – 2006

Top 10 finishes

6/18

Top 10 success rate

33%

Top 5 finishes

1/18

Top 5 success rate

5%  

Wooden spoons (last places!)

0/18

Semi final qualifications

7/7

Qualification success rate

100%

  

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Lejla by Hari Mata Hari (2006)/ Bistra Voda by Regina (2009). I couldn’t choose between them if my life depended on it, so it’s a good thing it doesn’t (as far as I know). Sure, they were #3 and #4 respectively on my all-time ESC 50 countdown, but little did you know that meant I love them equally. Both give me goosebumps no matter how often I listen to them – it’s the magic of Lejla and the drama of Bistra Voda, I think. Plus, both were performed faultlessly. Bistra Voda in particular should have placed higher.

My least favourite entry

Ne Brini by Mija Martina (2003). I just find this so unoriginal, which is out of character for most Bosnian entries. The fact that there was no Bosnian-ness about it also does nothing for me. As the Dutch commentator said that year, it’s pretty much Tom Jones’ Sex Bomb, but I doubt anyone would throw underpants onto the stage for Mija. 

More of the memorable

Sva Bol Svijeta by Fazla (1993) – a poignant reminder of war-torn Bosnia, composed by the one and only Dino Merlin.

Putnici by Dino & Beatrice (1999) – Mr. Merlin’s second ESC effort, with French singer Beatrice.

In The Disco by Deen (2004) – camp catchiness (with hip thrusts) that squeezed into the top 10.

Pokušaj by Laka (2008) – both originality and madness levels were high in this one, and that’s why we loved it.

Love In Rewind by Dino Merlin (2011) – looking back, my favourite song of the year, and yet more magic from the aptly stage-named Merlin.

Their best stage show

Lejla. A good stage show doesn’t always consist of mile-a-minute choreography and pyrotechnics so forceful that the first three rows of spectators get their eyebrows burnt off. Sometimes, clever lighting, subtle movements and the perfect backdrop to set the scene (as well as spiffy white outfits) are all you need to get the ‘wow’ factor.

Their best costume/s

Marija Sestic (2007)/ Regina. I have professed my love for Marija’s dress before, but it’s worth declaring again. And Regina’s elaborate militaristic getups couldn’t have been more suitable.

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Their best vocalist/s: Hari Mata Hari. As I said, faultless. No other adjectives are necessary.

 

I don’t know about you, but just getting all nostalgic over B & H has got me missing them even more, from a contest that hasn’t even been held yet. If anybody out there has the power to get them to Eurovision this year, speak now or forever feel my wrath (seriously, I’m going to come back from the dead and haunt you). Sarajevo 2014 has such a nice ring to it, it would be heartbreaking to go into Malmö knowing there’s no chance of it being bandied around for the next twelve months.

Before I actually break down and start sobbing into my keyboard, let’s move on to the other shock withdrawer – a country that has had mixed fortunes over the years and that it is pointless writing clues about because you’re well aware from my title and intro which one it is. 

 

hbturkey 

TURKEY: THE STATS

Debut

1975

Entries

34

Wins

1 – 2003  

Silver medals

1 – 2010

Bronze medals

1 – 1997

Best result

1st – 2003

Top 10 finishes

10/34

Top 10 success rate

29%

Top 5 finishes

6/34

Top 5 success rate

18%

Wooden spoons (last places!)

3/34 – 1975, 1983, 1987

Semi final qualifications

6/7

Qualification success rate

86%

 

MY PICKS

My favourite entry

Everyway That I Can by Sertab Erener (2003)/ Deli by Mor ve Ötesi (2008). I’m yet to come across someone who doesn’t love Sertab’s winning song. It’s the perfect fusion of ethnic and pop and never seems to date. And Deli is probably my favourite Eurovision rock song. I’m not really a rock music fan, but somehow this is right up my street.

My least favourite entry

Superstar by Sibel Tüzün (2006). I don’t detest it, but it’s such a strange song, and I’m not quite sure how it managed to qualify. The high-pitched shrieks in the chorus are not kind on one’s eardrums. Bana Bana by Pan (1989) is also not dreadful, but annoying.

More of the memorable

Sarkim Sevgi Üstüne by Seyyal Tanner & Lokomotif (1987) – manic, and Turkey’s second nul-pointer in five years.

Dinle by Sebnem Paker & Grup Etnic (1997) – a fan favourite that probably should have beaten Ireland.

For Real by Athena (2004) – this is one of my most-loved songs from Turkey, and one of the best host entries of all time (not even Kanye West could change my mind about that). Three minutes of epic ska fun.

Düm Tek Tek by Hadise (2009) – ethno-pop is one of this country’s various fortes. Hadise’s vocals weren’t the best, but her song was a cracker.

We Could Be The Same by MaNga (2010) – this was my top song of Oslo at the time, and gave Turkey their best result since Sertab’s win.

Their best stage show

Love Me Back by Can Bonomo (2012). You can never dish out enough praise for costumes that become props, and then go back to being costumes. And then become props again! The nautical theme wasn’t too understated or OTT, and the choreography was entertaining. Can’s charisma rounded things off nicely.

Their best costume/s

Kenan Dogulu (2007). The credit goes to him for the striking red coat and Colonel Sanders bow tie, and to his backup dancers for their big hair and gold hardware. Even though the actual credit should go to the wardrobe and hair people.

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Their best vocalist/s

Sedat Yüce (2001). A dramatic ballad like Sevgiliye Son needs a decent vocalist to carry it off, and luckily, Sedat fit the bill.

 

Yep, it’s going to be a strange year if Turkey are 110% out. The most irritating thing about their sudden withdrawal was that, up until that point, there was a flesh-and-blood artist in talks with the powers that be to represent them in Malmö. I have to wonder when exactly it was decided that they were going to give the show a miss. Hopefully before that artist had phoned his ailing grandmother to tell her the wonderful news, news that cured her Alzheimers, arthritis and terminal pneumonia.

 

What have been your Eurovision highlights from B & H and/or Turkey?