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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?

 

Welcome to Junior Eurovision month! JESC Challenge 1, 2 and 3

As they often do, the title of this post pretty much says it all. This is November, and from now until December 3rd, EBJ will be bombarding you with so much Junior Eurovision-related fun that you may need a holiday afterwards. Perhaps one to Yerevan? You know, where JESC 2011 will be in JUST FIVE WEEKS?

Excuse me, I’m a little over-excited, because on the agenda today is the 30 Day JESC Challenge, the brainchild of Annika from Sternenstaub (check out her site —–>) who also put me on to the 20 Day Eurovision Song Challenge that I completed recently (check that out from here: https://eurovisionbyjaz.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/eurovision-challenge-day-1/). For the uninitiated, both of these challenges are meant for Facebook, and they are a series of questions that are to be answered each day – but as it turns out, it’s a great blog filler to post them..well, on your blog, obviously. So here we are. With so much of my own JESC stuff to post for you this month, I’ve decided to combine the 30 installments into 8, and right here, right now, it’s Days 1-3! Here we go…

 

Day 1: Winner of the first JESC you watched

Vesenniy Jazz by the Tolmachevy Twins (Russia 2006)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOxvDDasnn0&feature=related

You always remember your first! Although I have to confess that what I really remember most vividly about my first JESC is not the twins, but ‘Harry Potter, Spiderman!’ – thanks for the memories, Romania. In spite of that, I still listen to the twins’ winner today. In fact, any Eurovision song performed by twins seems to appeal to me.

 

Day 2: Least favourite winner

Bzz… by Bzikebi (Georgia 2008)

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

No contest (pardon the pun), this is my most despised. Its what I Wanna by Marie N is to big Eurovision: the most WTF winner of all time. Sure, they’re bees, and they’re buzzing about the stage and oh, it’s lovely…but my god, if I had a human-sized fly swat (and had happened to be in Cyprus at the time) I would have been forced to use it, just for some peace and quiet! Can this really be classified as a song?

 

Day 3: Favourite winner

Almost there: Antes Muerta Que Sencilla by Maria Isabel (Spain 2004) / Mama by Vladimir Arzumanyan (Armenia 2010)

But my favourite is: Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav by Dino Jelusić (Croatia 2003)

The original and the best, in my opinion. How anyone can write songs this good when they are eleven is a mystery to me; I have written my fair share of musical, ahem, masterpieces, and none of them compare. Ti Si has it all – the up-tempo that kicks in, a key change, AND a garish jacket! Though I have to say, there is something off about Croatia’s intro postcard. Was JESC encouraging kids to commit criminal activities (like stealing dogs) or what? Dino certainly stole a few hearts (another pun! I do apologise) as the first ever  winner.

 

That’s it for today folks. But believe me, there’s plenty more to come…

THIS WEEK: Part 1 of my 2011 song reviews, and The Challenge: 4, 5, 6 and 7!

 

Time-Warp Tuesday: Stellar San Marino

Contest: 53rd – Belgrade,Serbia

Song: Complice

Artist: Miodio

Representing: San Marino

Result: Last in semi final

 

And the gong for “Least Deserved Placing in a Eurovision Song Contest, Like, Anywhere, EVER!” goes to…San Marino, and their debut entry back in Belgrade. Well, maybe it would if this was an awards ceremony, one where I had all the power choosing who got what statuette. But I defy anybody out there to argue that Miodio and their haunting rock-ballad/dinky piano riff/slightly-too-old-to-be-a-believable love-interest-for-the-lead-singer-who-looks-about-twelve combo deserved as little as 5 points AND the utter humiliation of losing to both Belgium and Estonia (the generally regarded doozies of 2008). I have one word to describe San Marino in Eurovision – UNDERRATED. If you’re a Complice fan, perhaps you could show that you rate it by pressing play on this three minutes once or twice!

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.