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Baku Reviews: Part 7 (the final six)

Hello there. Have you missed my little words of welcome over the past few weeks? No? Fair enough. Unfortunately for you, I just wanted to say a few things before I get into the last lot of 2012 reviews for EBJ.

Firstly, I cannot believe this is the last lot, because that means it’s almost ESC o’ clock, and I can’t believe that either. Where has the last year gone?

Secondly, I hope you enjoyed all six previous installments in one way or another. This was my first time doing pre-contest reviews rather than retrospective ones, and I think I might be doing it again in 2013. And you better like it!

Now, on with the important stuff:

 

Azerbaijan

When the Music Dies/ Sabina Babayeva

Reminds me of: Falling by Alicia Keys

The good stuff: Azerbaijan has the Midas touch when it comes to Eurovision. They may have only been competing in the contest for four years, but in that time they have never missed out on a top 10 placing, having been in the top 5 the last three years running. For the last couple of contests they’ve succeeded so with radio-friendly, r & b influenced pop ballads, and in 2012, it seems that the phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is behind their first entry on home soil. When the Music Dies is a good, solid example of that Top 40 stuff the Azeris do so effortlessly, and I would say it’s easily a better song than Running Scared. Regardless of its final position, you can expect it, and its stunning singer Sabina (Azerbaijan has no shortage of attractive ladies, does it?) to get a massive round of applause.

Everything else: When you’ve won the ESC and the time comes for you to host it, you don’t have to be too picky with your own entry. What’s the point in sending a winner two years in a row? Unfortunately, I feel that this ‘we really don’t care’ attitude is evident in the very effortlessness of WTMD. I don’t mind a country that focuses more on perfecting their show than their entry, as many do, but the fact that Azerbaijan will probably make the top 10 as usual with a song that, IMO, deserves to finish around 14th or 15th, irritates me.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 7 points.

 

France

Echo (You and I)/ Anggun

Top 10 material: No

The good stuff: Whoever can predict what sort of song France is going to send each year deserves a croissant-shaped medal. Some countries have a formula and they stick to it, but the French will apparently try anything once to see how it goes, making them ridiculously unpredictable. I don’t even know how to describe Anggun’s Echo (echo, echo, echo…). The best I can do is say it’s a Frenglish mash-up of military, Gaga, and 80s pop that leaves me unsure of my own opinion. The staging could be as interesting/strange as the song (and, ironically, the stage itself – have you SEEN that thing?) so I’m looking forward to see how much so.

Everything else: I’m confused by this song, and as a Eurovision obsessive I’ve listened to it more than a few times. What does that mean for the seasonal fans who tune in for the contest and tune out straight after (who I’m told make up a significant portion of the televoters)? Surely they won’t get it instantly enough, which means fewer votes and another year of less-than-impressive results for France. I can’t imagine the juries regarding it too highly either. Then again, maybe I’m the only one who’s a bit lost here. If you “get” it, please let me know.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.  

 

Germany

Standing Still/ Roman Lob

Best lyric: ‘I can put my arms around the emptiness I found…’

The good stuff: Here’s another song that has made the transition from ‘hmm…’ to ‘mmm!’; from ‘I’m unsure’ to ‘I want MORE!” Basically, I wasn’t sold at first, but now I’m loving it. The Unser Star für… format has done wonders for Germany over the last few years in discovering both new artists (some of whom are recyclable) and new songs. I think the best song and singer possible were chosen in 2012. Roman’s cute as a gingham button and Standing Still is a lovely ballad that’s less in-your-face than some of the others on offer. It was co-written by Jamie Cullum, a rather famous British jazz artist (he has his own Wikipedia page and everything!) who takes pride of place on my mum’s CD shelf, so it’s got cred too.

Everything else: That first time I heard this, I thought it sounded very much like an Idol/X Factor winner’s single. There’s nothing particularly wrong with those – in fact, they usually sell by the truckload – but they can be a little bland. I personally (no longer) find this song bland, but if other people do, Germany may make a return to the bottom of the scoreboard. I really don’t want to see that happen, ladies and gents, so if you have a conscience and don’t want to hurt Roman’s feelings, vote for him!

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points

 

Italy

L’amore é Femmina (Out of Love)/ Nina Zilli

Top 10 material: Yes

The good stuff: It seems that Amy Winehouse is living on in sassy Italian songstress Nina, or at least in her entry. Here we have a retro, swinging, big band-type song that’s much more accessible than Italy’s 2011 effort, but is still likely to tickle the juries’ fancy. L’amore wasn’t originally Nina’s song – her San Remo Song Festival gem Per Sempre was the first pick, and although I was a huge fan of that, I think they made the right choice in switching. If I had to use one word to sum up Italy at Eurovision, it would be ‘classy’, and as classy as Per Sempre was, what is going to Baku is classy AND fun…a potentially winning combination.

Everything else: I did prefer this song in 100% Italian. It’s not that it doesn’t work in Italinglish hybrid form, but the transitions are too random for my liking. A final chorus in English may have been better. Regardless, I’ll be surprised if a right-side finish is on the cards for this one.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.

 

Spain

Quedate Conmigo/ Pastora Soler

Reminds me of: En Una Vida by Coral

The good stuff: I’m sure y’all know I love this song (though you probably didn’t know I sometimes talk like Miley Cyrus). I’ve been praying to the Eurovision gods that Spain would send something like it for years now, which they’ve had the chance to do multiple times – e.g. with Mirela in 2009, and Coral in 2010. Not by coincidence, their songs and Pastora’s were all written by Thomas G:son, the superstar songwriter from Sweden who has two entries in the contest this year (he must be euphoric about that). He has a way of making songs with ‘moments’ that give you goose bumps, and in Quedate Conmigo the moment comes when Pastora lets rip on an epic, key-changing note before the final chorus. This lady is likely to deliver the best female vocal of 2012, on a ballad that I’ll be waving a flag for like nobody’s business.

Everything else: Surely Spain is waiting to do a Germany– that is, suddenly win Eurovision and then bask in the successful aftermath. I wish it would happen, but this is Spain we’re talking about. Despite the fact that a dramatic, brilliantly performed ballad has a better chance at success than a cheesy, I’m-on-a-cruise-ship number á la Lucia Perez’s, this country does not have the touch or the bloc support. For me, it’s top five, but forEurope…well, only Mr. God knows at this point.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – douze points!

 

United Kingdom

Love Will Set You Free/ Engelbert Humperdinck

Best lyric: ‘Love comes once, if you’re lucky enough…’

The good stuff: Ah, the Hump – another man who made it onto my mum’s CD shelf. It was great to have another big name announced as the UK’s rep this year, although the actual name may be big enough to tongue-tie the commentators. The Hump checks quite a few boxes on the checklist of Eurovision desirability: he’s internationally famous, can sing like a champ, and has the ‘Aww!’ factor that will probably get Russia’s grannies to the final. His song is a classy number produced by a strong songwriting team, and should ease us nicely in to the final. The chorus is my favourite part, mainly because the “follow your heart” lyric reminds me of Thumbelina, which I may or may not still own on VHS and may or may not watch like, once a month.

Everything else: I was told I’d grow to love this, but ESC week is almost upon us and it’s still too boring to seduce me. As we all know, 2012 is the Year of the Ballad, and without the drama or superstar backup of My Time – the last UK ballad to succeed in the contest – I think this song will get lost. Being drawn to open the final was probably better for the Brits than, say, in the midst of a half, but I don’t think any performance position will give LWSYF a leg up past mid-table.  

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 5 points.

 

 

NEXT TIME: My 2012 prediction special will let you know exactly what will happen I think will happen over the course of the best three nights of the year…before I am forced into internet quarantine. So much for Australia being the ‘lucky country’…sigh.

 

Baku Reviews: Part 2 (Croatia-Georgia)

Croatia

Nebo/ Nina Badrić

Reminds me of: Wonderful Life by Hurts

The good stuff: I’m a little bit obsessed with Croatia, so I generally have a soft spot for their entries, many of which I feel do not get the points they deserve (I’m thinking Lako Je Sve, not Celebrate *shudder*). But I swear I’m not being biased when I say I love Nebo. I know it hasn’t been that well received, but there’s something about it that just gets to me. Nina’s voice is really raw, like she often breakfasts on gravel, which works well for the rocky style of the ballad. I think the chorus is strong, and the bells/gongs/dropping of cookware onto a tile floor (whatever those ding-dongs are, basically) are the cherry on top.

Everything else: Croatia are in the second semi alongside most of the other Balkan countries, who as we know manage to swap decent amounts of points between each other in spite of the jury influence. But there’s still a lot going against them. I mean, it’s Croatia – one of the less fortunate of this bloc in terms of qualification. Then you have to consider what Nina has to overcome to make the final (e.g. Željko Joksimović) and the fact that as usual, the second semi is going to be the toughest to escape. All of this won’t faze non-fans of Nebo, but it does worry lil’ ol’ me.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points.

 

Cyprus

La La Love/ Ivi Adamou

Reminds me of: Titanium by David Guetta

The good stuff: I’m not quite in la la love with this one, despite the fan frenzy and good odds for it to win. It’s a decent dance track with a chorus more infectious than the Black Plague, and it’s certainly something different for Cyprus. It’s like the composers took three or four songs from the top of the iTunes charts, spliced them all together, wrote some new lyrics (nothing too deep or meaningful) and voila, this was the result. For me, Cyprus’ last three entries have been better.

Everything else: The elephant in the room here – although nobody seems to be shy in discussing it – is the mystery of Ivi’s vocals. You would think that having been on The X Factor would guarantee she could at least hold a tune (although Jedward were on theUK version…) but the performances of hers I’ve watched from her time on the show were less than impressive. Plus, having lip-synced at the national final and pulled out of Eurovision in Concert, there’s no record of her singing this song live (that I know of). She has the potential to crash and burn when it comes to the live show.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.

 

Denmark

Should’ve Known Better/ Soluna Samay

Best lyric: ‘Feels like I’m always living out of my suitcase, what about all the years in between, just trying to find my place…’

The good stuff: Has Anna Bergendahl had plastic surgery, changed out of her Converse and upped the tempo on This Is My Life in order to represent Denmark this year? As possibly the only fan of that entry from 2010, for moi that is not an unpleasant possibility. This song surprised me by winning Dansk MGP, but it really was the best choice. It’s cruisy and catchy and has a very reliable, charismatic artist at its helm (an appropriate term considering the nautical theme of Soluna’s NF costume). There’s definite winner potential here, and even more definite top 10 potential.

Everything else: I’m hoping the Danes take inspiration from Sweden, and turn up in Baku with exactly the same outfits as those they wore in the NF. Yeah, I know I’ve already mentioned the clothes, but what can I say? Aesthetics play a big part in the contest, and the hat and the shoulder pads were a seriously striking visual.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 7 points.

 

Estonia

Kuula/ Ott Lepland

Top 10 material: Yes

The good stuff: A year ago, I just did not get the whole thing with Rockefeller Street, and in the end neither did Europe. This year, Estonia has got me good with this amazing ballad – their first native-language entry since 2009. Back then, Urban Symphony cracked the top 10, and I think Ott deserves to do the same. Each individual section of Kuula is magic: the verses, the chorus, that other bit before the last chorus that nobody knows the name of…sigh. Also, we should get a great vocal performance from this guy, which is always a plus. Unless you’re listening to Mariah Carey sing Gangsta’s Paradise or something.

Everything else: This is another entry that could be a little boring, presentation-wise. I hope Estonia at least use the inevitable LED background to their advantage, so there is something else going on.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 12 points.

 

Finland

När Jag Blundar/ Pernilla Karlsson

Reminds me of: Love by Sasha Son

The good stuff: I love Swedish, so I’m thrilled that in the day and age where Sweden are unlikely to send a song in it, another country has decided to do so. This is a humble ballad in a year of epic ones, but I really like it. It did take me a few listens to develop such affection, but it happened. Finland are rather hit-and-miss in the ESC, and you never know what they’re going to come up with, unlike more predictable (and successful) countries such as Greece. This year, they’ve come up with a gem, although it does beg the question: who do we listen to – Pernilla, who closes her eyes? Or Max Jason Mai who doesn’t want us to? Confusing.

Everything else: Is this song too humble to advance? It is in the first semi which consists of the weakest competition, but it’s no way a cert to make it out. I can’t see the televotes flooding in for it, nor the juries rating it extra high. Then again, coming directly after Belgium in the running order may make it sound like the most exciting thing since Steps announced they were reforming. Then again, again, coming before Israel may make it instantly forgettable.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.

 

Georgia

I’m A Joker/ Anri Jokhadze

Better than 2011: No

The good stuff: If there’s anyone out there who can help me pad out this section, please – DO! I just don’t know what to say, Congratulations, Georgia, you have made me speechless. I guess I feel like this song would only be useful as the background music in an acid trip (which would in turn be enough to put anyone off drugs for life).

Everything else: What is this? Seriously. Anri, it’s very apt that you’re a joker because your song is a complete joke – an unfunny one with dreadful wording. The only reason I’m not giving it nothing is because there is another song that somehow manages to be worse, but I’ll get to that in another lot of reviews. And I will admit to liking the instrumental bits. Mainly because they have no lyrics…

Winner, loser or grower: Loser – 2 points.

 

NEXT TIME: Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel and Latvia become the next nations to be slid under my microscope and examined in the lab of this blog…and I stop describing EBJ in scientific terms.