Category Archives: Eurovision 2008

Song Battles, Round #2: Then VS Now

Good evening/afternoon/morning, Europe/rest of the world, and welcome to a competition between Eurovision entries that is not Eurovision itself (as much as I’d love to sell tickets and slogan t-shirts on behalf of this post). A few months ago I held my first round of song battles, in which I pitted the songs certain countries sent to Baku against their counterpart candidates for Malmö, to see which ones you and I thought were better. Why? Well, there was no particular reason – I just thought it’d be fun. It was, so I’m totes doing it again. Hooray?!?

This time around, I thought it would be slightly less fun but more interesting to make entries from 2013 battle it out against those the same countries sent five years ago, a.k.a. in 2008. How do the Albanian and German songs of Belgrade, for example, compare to the Albanian and German songs fresh from Malmö? Were Croatia and Romania better back then or have they improved with age?

Am I the only one who wonders about this stuff?

There’s only one way to find out – by letting the battles of 2008 VS 2013 commence! I’ve already picked my winners, so check them out and then let me know which songs you would choose.  

 

Albania’s Zemrën E Lamë Peng by Olta Boka VS Identitet by Adrian & Bledar

sbal

If you ask me to pick between a ballad and a rock song, chances are I’ll go for the ballad (unless it’s between a ballad and Turkish rock…there’s something about the Mor Ve Ötesis and MaNgas of the world that gets me). So Olta’s unique take on the average female ballad trumps this year’s rockiest entry in my opinion. I always found her song an interesting one, and I think Albanian comes off really nicely in it. Don’t you worry though, Adrian and Bledar. Anytime I feel like headbanging I’ll turn to you.

 

Bulgaria’s DJ Take Me Away by Deep Zone & Balthazar VS Samo Shampioni by Elitsa & Stoyan

Sound the guilty pleasure alarm folks, ‘cause here’s a biggie! Back in the time of Belgrade, I was pretty happy with the choice Bulgaria made…only to discover that nobody else was (it’s happened a few times since). I know it was dated even for 2008, and had a ridiculously long intro, and that Johanna was only there to repeat the same lyrics over and over and OVER again. But it was catchy, and as you probably know that’s my main criteria in a good Eurovision song. Plus, Samo Shampioni has a lot more wailing.

 

Croatia’s Romanca by Kraljevi Ulice & 75 Cents VS Mižerja by Klapa s Mora

This is a tough one. So tough that if they were physically fighting each other, I’m not sure who would win (75 Cents has unfortunately passed away, so you can’t say he’d be a disadvantage to the former). They’re in a similar ballpark in terms of being instrumentally rich, ethnic songs from Croatia, but I have to give the edge to Mižerja because it’s Just. So. Beautiful. It makes you feel like you’re watching the sunrise on a rugged Croatian mountaintop even if you’re actually standing in the supermarket trying to decide which brand of toothpaste to buy.

 

France’s Divine by Sebastian Tellier VS L’Enfer et Moi by Amandine Bourgeois

I’d rather have more ditsy, cruisy ditties from France in the future than slightly sleazy retro numbers, merci very much. Even if it means helium becomes an onstage fixture. It’s not that I didn’t like what France served up this year; I just adored what they did five years ago. Divine was one of my favourite entries of the year, and I can’t say that about L’Enfer. Please don’t hunt me down and strangle me with a feather boa, Amandine.

 

Germany’s Disappear by No Angels VS Glorious by Cascada

sbde

For some of you, this would be obvious. But if we’re talking about songs as opposed to live performances, then I’m a huge fan of both. Cascada wins based on the Glorious level of dance-a-bility and anthemic-ness (I’m sorry, but sometimes you need to hyphenate to get your point across). Disappear is a bit limp in comparison. Although Natalie Horler could have done with some of the angels’ chiffon stapled to the back of her dress. It really needed some extra oomph.

 

Israel’s The Fire In Your Eyes by Boaz VS Rak Bishvilo by Moran Mazor

No contest. I’ve come around on Rak Bishvilo, but if you remember my all-time top 50 countdown, you’ll know that Israel’s Dana International-penned entry of ’08 is one of my absolute favourite Eurovision songs. Like I said earlier, I’m a fan of ballads. Yes, I know they’re both ballads…but there is a clear distinction here as far as I’m concerned.

 

Romania’s Pe-o Margine De Lume by Nico & Vlad VS It’s My Life by Cezar

sbro

To this day, I think Romania was robbed of a better placing in Belgrade. I blame Nico’s decision to swap the fierce leather/feather dress she wore in the semi for that blah silver thing in the final (bad costumes ruin lives, people). I can’t say the same about Cezar – I’m just relieved he didn’t finish higher. Pe-o’s opera-pop vibe, mix of musical languages, and male-female dynamic is still much more appealing to me.

 

San Marino’s Complice by Miodio VS Crisalide (Vola) by Valentina Monetta

Here we have two Italian-language ballads, one of which becomes disco out of nowhere. They are San Marino’s two best entries IMO (not that there’s a lot of competition) but I’ve always had a soft spot for their very first. I figure that’s mostly because it came dead last in its semi final (I seem to be drawn towards losers) but there is definitely a smidgen of genuine love in there for this classy, mysterious ballad.

 

Slovenia’s Vrag Naj Vzame by Rebeka Dremelj VS Straight Into Love by Hannah

Poor Slovenia can’t catch a break once they make the decision to put their backing dancers in heavy-duty masks. I do think they improved on that formula this year, with a considerably less…shall we say, controversial performance. But I’ll never get over the dodgy staging that ruined the awesome Vrag Naj Vzame. I LOVE this song, darn it.

 

Ukraine’s Shady Lady by Ani Lorak VS Gravity by Zlata Ognevich

sbuk

Let’s end with a gut-wrenchingly difficult decision, why don’t we? This year, just as they did five years ago and pretty much every year in between, Ukraine brought it to Eurovision. Ani Lorak did a little better than Zlata in terms of placement, and I do like to get my Shady Lady on quite often…but…no, I can’t go past the Disney-but-not-cheesy beauty of Gravity. It’s all sunlight and majestic clifftops and CGI unicorns, and that makes it unbeatable.

 

Aaaaaaaaaaaaannndddd fin. This round of song battles is over, peeps. Though for anyone who cares, here are the stats of my picks.

Then (2008): 70%

Now (2013): 30%

Well, it looks like I generally preferred the musical buffet of Belgrade to what Malmö served up. How about you?

 

2008 VS 2013, country by country – who gets your vote?

 

Time-Warp Tuesday: Symphonic Switzerland

As I’m sure you all know by now, early bird (who never can catch that worm) Switzerland have chosen their entry for the 57th ESC in Baku – Unbreakable by Sinplus. Already the song has divided opinion into three distinct categories: “Omigodomigod. LOVE it!”; “Not bad”; and “I would rather be strapped into a La-z-boy and forced to watch Jemini perform Cry Baby in surround sound one hundred times in a row than ever listen to this again”. I’m sitting precariously in the first category right now, and am well aware that once other songs start cropping up, the comparison will send me over the edge and hurtling down into one of the others, depending on the ability of the 39 other countries to bring it.

This is an unfortunate occurrence that seems to happen most years, which makes me sad because Switzerland is one of those countries that I want to root for. Still, they have provided Eurovision viewers with some rootable (ahem) entries in the past, and that, ladies and gents, is the point of today’s TWT. I thought I would count down my top 3 Swiss songs in celebration of when they get things right – because when they do, it’s magic (although it doesn’t guarantee a ticket to the final).

 

#3. Moi Tout Simplement by Annie Cotton (1993)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7P1LTVR-us&feature=related

 

#2. Cinéma by Paola (1980)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hT_ArM0Pt5Y

 

#1. Era Stupendo by Paolo Meneguzzi (2008)

Paolo’s failure to qualify will forever lie in my heart (jostling for a comfy space amongst the ventricles and Christos Mylordos) as my Kate Ryan moment. It was all there: stunning song, super spunky singer and eccentrically endearing choreography. Mr. Meneguzzi was even born in Lugano, where the very first Eurovision took place, which is a sign if ever I’ve seen one. But, in 13th place, he almost-just missed out. Travesty alert! Still, you have to feel a little sorrier for Macedonia, who finished the semi in 10th place, but were overlooked for qualification thanks to the jury (who, as dictated back then, got to choose any entry outside of the top 9 to go through). They picked Sweden, who had come in 12th.

Thanks to the wonders of DVD and internet, we can at least relive Paolo’s performance as often as we wish, pretending that we are doing so purely for the song and act, and not because we enjoy admiring his pleasing aesthetics…or is that just moi?

 

The Eurovision doppelgangers exposed: Part Deux!!!

 Yes, they’re back, and looking more like each other than ever before…or less, depending on the quality of your vision/computer monitor. These are the Eurovision lookalikes who thought they’d escaped from being discovered in the first installment (https://eurovisionbyjaz.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/exposed-the-eurovision-doppelgangers/). Silly, silly people.
 

75 Cents (Croatia 2008, RIP) looks like Hugh Hefner

Eric Papilaya (Austria 2007) looks like r & b singer Jay Sean

Ich Troje lead singer Michal Wisniewski (Poland 2003/2006) looks like this troll doll

Mika Newton (Ukraine 2011) looks like Aisha (Latvia 2010)

Natalia Podolskaya (Russia 2005) looks like Kejsi Tola (Albania 2009)

Verka Seduchka (Ukraine 2007) looks like The Wizard of Oz's Tin Man...and this Christmas tree

Nikki (Azerbaijan 2011) looks like DJ Havana Brown

 
Got any twins-separated-at-birth from the ESC that I’ve missed??? Comment me and let me know. Together we can reunite the lost siblings!

The winner takes it all…but what happens next???

Here’s a few questions for you: do you keep up to date with the careers of any Eurovision winners? Are you still listening to their music? Have you become enough of a fan to like them on Facebook? Or have you forgotten all about them (shame on you)?

My answers vary, so I decided to do a little more research to see how some of the last decade’s champions have fared since they earned enough douze points to earn them a place in the history books (the ESC history books, that is: the most interesting history books out!). Here’s what I discovered…

 

Sertab Erener

Sertab in Riga, 2003; and her latest album Rengarenk

Winner of: 2003 (Riga, Latvia) with Every Way That I Can

Since her win, Sertab has released 6 albums and 11 singles. Her winning song went to #1 in Turkey, Sweden and Greece, but she has made limited chart appearances in the last few years – despite such prolific musical activity. Her singles that have topped the charts are Here I Am (2003) and Bu Böyle (2009), which both made it in Turkey. Sertab’s last official release was Açik Adres in 2009, which reached #3 there.

My pick for Sertab: Here I Am http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8atJYRVFWmc&ob=av2e

Listen to her latest single: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ke8xhFUr7k

 

Ruslana

Ruslana in Istanbul, 2004; and her latest album, Wild Energy

Winner of: 2004 (Istanbul, Turkey) with Wild Dances

Since exchanging her Xena, Warrior Princess leather for…well, more leather, Ruslana has released 4 albums and 12 singles. Her winning song went to #1 in Greece, Ukraine and Belgium, and #2 in Turkey. The majority of her releases since have been Ukrainian singles and have charted consistently, with Ring Dance with the Wolves (2005), Skazhy Meni (2005), Dyka Enerhiya (2006), Vidlunnia Mriy (2008) and Moon of Dreams (2008) all reached the #1 position. Her latest release is Wow (2011) which peaked at #7.

My pick for Ruslana: Moon of Dreams http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFkJLhgyQag&feature=related

Listen to her latest single: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFEDBrgYbkM

 

Helena Paparizou

Helena in Kyiv, 2005; and her latest album, Greatest Hits and More

Winner of: 2005 (Kyiv, Ukraine) with My Number One

Helena has released 5 albums, 22 singles and numerous EPs since triumphing in Kyiv. Her chart successes have been almost countless! Her winning song went to #1 in Greece and Sweden and she has barely been out of the top 10 in Greece since. Lately, she hasn’t charted charts as solidly as she did in the few years post-win, but nonetheless continues to be a hugely popular artist. She’s topped the charts in Greece and Cyprus with Mambo! (2005), and in Greece with Heroes (2006), Fos (2007), Mazi Sou (2007), To Fili Tis Zois (2007), Porta Gia Ton Ourano (2008), I Kardia Sou Petra (2008) and Baby It’s Over (2011). Her latest single is Love Me Crazy.

My pick for Helena: Baby It’s Over, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jBuniWjsgw&feature=fvwrel

Listen to her latest single: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEmFeyaS9GQ

 

Dima Bilan

Dima in Belgrade, 2008; and his latest album, Dreamers

Winner of: 2008 (Belgrade, Serbia) with Believe

Dima has produced 3 albums and 10 singles since ripping his shirt open in Serbia. Believe failed to make an impact on the charts, only just making the Top 30 in Sweden, and slipping in to the Top 100 in Belgium and Germany. Several of his other singles have reached #1 in Russia. His latest album, Dreamer features a duet with singer Anastacia, and the title track was the latest to be released in March 2011.

My pick for Dima: Changes, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tayy4Hiyn28&feature=related

Listen to his latest single: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3cd0OkaPP0

 

Alexander Rybak

Alexander in Moscow, 2009; and his latest album, Visa Vid Vindens Angar

Winner of: 2009 (Moscow, Russia) with Fairytale

Alexander’s record victory saw him catapulted to the top spot in Norway, Ireland, Russia, Finland, Greece, Sweden and Denmark, as well as making the Top 10 in the UK (an honourable achievement for a modern Eurovision entry!) and charting in Australia. He’s since released 3 albums and 7 singles. His first single after Eurovision, Funny Little World, went to #1 in Norway, but his latest Swedish-language single Resan Till Dig has failed to chart anywhere, unfortunately. Still, Alex scored a whopping great legion of loyal fans alongside his whopping great score in Moscow.

My pick for Alexander: Fela Igjen (feat. Opptur), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaH-VAC-fxs

Listen to his latest single: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elj2rrnqY7Q

Vote, vote, vote for the winners!

DON’T BE ALARMED! This is not a post devoted to Lithuania’s Eurovision entry from 2006. Though it was apt to borrow some lyrics for this title, so LT United – cheers.

This is what it’s really about:

Happy voting =)

(PS – Just in case your wondering, my pick is a tie between 2006 and 2010…but I love them all really)

Remember…Belgrade 2008

 

Eurovision landed on the mighty Danube in Belgrade in May of 2008, and so too did a record number of delegations from all over the continent. It had been decided a while before the contest that there would not be one semi final in 2008, but two, in order to accommodate the growing number of nations. The tiny principality of San Marino came to join the party for the first time, but unlike other first-timer Azerbaijan, did not mange to secure a place in Saturday’s final. Hosted by television presenter Jovana Jankovic, and 2004 entrant Zeljko Joksimovic (who had not only penned songs in the past, but written Serbia’s 2008 song for Jelena Tomasevic), it opened with, as usual, a reprise of the reigning winner Marija Serifovic, who welcomed Europe to Serbia and the Belgrade Arena – one of the largest on the continent with the potential to seat around 23 000 people. The stage was an epic creation of organic screens which were placed to symbolise both the Danube, and the Sava, Serbia’s other main river.

 After a love ballad from Romania came the UK, who had drawn slot 2 once again. Andy Abraham, who had been runner-up in one season of ‘The X Factor’, had not been the favourite in his national selection, but was equipped with a higher quality of song than his country had participated with in 2007. ‘Even If’ was an up-tempo Motown-inspired anthem which used flashing lights and live music to complement Andy’s strong voice. There was really nothing to complain about until after the voting when the UK found themselves in last place with Germany and Poland. Speculators wondered if it was Abraham’s ethnicity that had done it, but the more likely explanation was that the UK had once again become the victim of the partisan voting that had been dominating Eurovision since the dawning of the televoting age. Germany had sent one of their most popular bands to Belgrade, who had sold millions of albums, and had more than one top ten hit, but they too ended up at the bottom, with no allies to back them up.

 The closest thing to a novelty act in the final was that of Laka from Bosnia & Herzegovina. The first indication was his emergence from a washing basket as the first verse began. His sister accompanied him by dancing madly down the catwalk in a skirt covered in apples, and by throwing bouquets from the backing vocalists who happened to be dressed as brides, into the audience. This was discovered not to be that unusual when it came to light that Laka had used live chickens as part of his entertainment in the Bosnian final. Despite the chaos, the song, ‘Pokusaj’ (meaning ‘try’), was quite good quality pop-rock, and perhaps the performance’s eccentricity helped it be memorable and rise to a respectable 10th place.

Sending an artist who has already done well at Eurovision was becoming a reliable formula in the naughties. Sweden decided to cash in on this by bringing in their most recent winner, Charlotte Nilsson, who, since 1999 in Jerusalem, had married and now went by the name of Charlotte Perelli. Her song ‘Hero’ was refreshingly un-ABBA like, but still in the genre of schlager pop, which has become a Swedish stigma, and so was similar to many before it. The star looked just as luminous onstage as she had nine years previous, wearing a mini-dress in silver (one of two must-have colours seen in this year’s contest) and sky high stilettos. As always, the Swedes had provided a polished and well-choreographed performance. But although she got a substantial round of applause, it was not to be for Charlotte a second-time around.

Georgia’s second entry was about peace and was sung by a blind woman called Diana Gurtskaya. Her and her backing singers and dancers achieved an amazing costume change which involved enveloping themselves in a giant sheet to transform from black leather to white satin, in a matter of seconds. Azerbaijan also used this symbolism to great effect with their debut ‘Day After Day’. Elnur & Samir appeared on stage as an angel and a devil respectively, singing in English about the battle between good and evil. Towards the end Samir was disrobed by a dancer to reveal a white suit and a ‘heavenly’ version of his character. The voters were impressed.

US raised Kalomira was Greece’s selection for the 2008 contest. Having done admirably until 2007, they had evidently decided to stick with the three-part pop, one-part Greek rhythm fusion that had served them so well in the past. Picking a female soloist similar in appearance to their only winner seemed to be part of the plan also, and fortunately, it was a good combination. The song was called ‘Secret Combination’ which was a sign in itself. Kalomira altered her costume (which was a design of the one and only Jennifer Lopez) during the performance, which added to the spectacle of props and dancers. Greece tends to put a lot of thought into the ‘show’ aspect of Eurovision and usually it pays off. This year was no exception. Whilst they received the obligatory 12 points from Cyprus,more than a few other countries also felt that Kalomira was worthy of taking out the top prize.

Another participant who was well supported in his Eurovision campaign was Russia’s Dima Bilan, who had missed out to Finland in the 2006 contest. Not wanting to lose again, he had produced a song with Jim Beanz, a top American producer and songwriter, which would appeal to the masses. It had a message, and he had the goods. Barefoot and dressed all in white, he began the song sitting on the edge of the stage, before making his way to the centre, at which point a renowned Hungarian violinist and Olympic medallist ice-skater Evgeni Pluschenko joined him. This was a clever and high-quality gimmick which only served to increase his chances of winning.

Dima did better his 2006 position – not too shabby when you think about it. Ukraine also continued their run of successful entries, coming second for the second consecutive year. A big surprise came from Norway, who as one of the worst performing Eurovision nations, were not accustomed to being anywhere near the higher end of the scoreboard. For the 54th edition of the contest, another new country was to be visited, in what was continuing to be the strongest era of Eurovision ever seen.