‘The top three is the place to be’ – Jaz, 2016. That’s a quote that that must hold truth because it rhymes. And because it just does. I mean, if you entered a contest and neither first nor second was on the cards, third wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize (and there’d probably be an actual consolation prize involved too. Bonus!).
What I’m trying to say is that the upper echelons of the Eurovision scoreboard are the spaces every act wants to be occupying by the end of final night. Making the top 10 is awesome; the top 5, even better. But it’s the bronze, silver and gold positions that everyone aims for, and that have been secured by countless douze-attracting songs since the ESC’s early days.
As such, I thought it was about time to shine the spotlight on the best of the best in that department – at least as far as I’m concerned (as always, you’ll get your chance to disagree with me afterwards). So, with that in mind, here’s a countdown of my favourite top three trios from the entirety of Eurovision history *insert trumpet fanfare feat. dubstep breakdown here*.
By the way, this post was inspired by the Rio Olympics (gold, silver and bronze medals, reaching the “podium”…you get the idea), and yes, it was supposed to be published in August. Oops. Well, if orange is the new black and forty is the new thirty, then I guess October can be the new September. So it’s not even that late, really.
Let’s get into it!
#10 | Harrogate 1982
Ein Bißchen Frieden by Nicole (Germany), Hora by Avi Toledano (Israel), Amour On T’Aime by Arlette Zola (Switzerland)
A little peace, a little dance and a little love kick off my countdown based on their collective strength. Sometimes less is more (yes, even at Eurovision), and that was extra evident in 1982 when the Bucks Fizz Skirt-Ripping Schtick™ was succeeded by Nicole’s sentimental ballad. That’s not to say that an in-your-face, high energy piece of pop didn’t have its place – it snapped up second, as a matter of fact. Hurray for Hora! Subtlety sandwiched Israel, however, with Germany on top and Switzerland’s Arlette in third. The ranking was right, I reckon.
My personal top pick Ein Bißchen Frieden
#9 | Brighton 1974
Waterloo by ABBA (Sweden), Si by Gigliola Cinquetti (Italy), I See A Star by Mouth & MacNeal (The Netherlands)
I don’t doubt that the right song and act won Eurovision in Brighton. Anyone who does deserves to be decapitated with a vinyl copy of Arrival, to be honest. But ABBA had some stiff competition snapping at their platform heels back then, in the form of some great songs that have stood the test of time. Gigliola’s comeback Si nearly secured her a second contest win, with its grandiose sophistication proving she wasn’t ‘too young’ anymore. I See A Star is serious fun that didn’t have quite the same earworming ability as Waterloo, but made a wonderful impression nonetheless. All three songs are Seventies gold (ABBA pun possibly intended).
My personal top pick Waterloo
#8 | Dublin 1995
Nocturne by Secret Garden (Norway), Vuelve Conmigo by Anabel Conde (Spain), Se På Mig by Jan Johansen (Sweden)
Mystery and drama were the buzz words of the ’95 top three, with Sweden and Spain having one apiece up their respective sleeves and Norway boasting both (massive sleeves were clearly the go back then). I must admit that Vuelve Conmigo, the fan favourite, pales in comparison to the songs that surrounded it on the scoreboard, in my opinion. But that’s not an indication of how inferior I think it is. It’s actually an indication of how deep my love is for Nocturne, and in particular, Se På Mig. Ja, my Swedish bias is still alive and kicking.
My personal top pick Se På Mig
#7 | Copenhagen 2014
Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst (Austria), Calm After The Storm by The Common Linnets (The Netherlands), Undo by Sanna Nielsen (Sweden)
Once again, two broadly similar songs were divided by something totally different with Copenhagen’s highest-scoring trio. Austria = a big, Bond-type ballad performed to perfection by a hot woman in a stunning dress. Sweden = a big, electro-tinged ballad performed to perfection by a hot woman in a stunning dress. The Netherlands = the sleeper hit that few of us saw coming until we saw it on the Hallerne stage. To sum up, that’s three awesome songs with charismatic artists and impressive staging elevating them even higher.
My personal top pick Undo
#6 | Rome 1991
Fångad Av En Stormvind by Carola (Sweden), C’est le Dernier Qui a Parlé Qui a Raison by Amina (France), Kan by Duo Datz (Israel)
If I must momentarily hop off the top-three train at Justification Station for this one, then I’ll do so in numbers. 1 – Carola. 2 – Dreamy, ethnic pop from France with an exotically long title. 3 – Carola. 4 – Duo Datz upping the fun and the size of their shoulder pads. And 5 – CAROLA! Let’s face it (if you’re reading this as a fellow Carola enthusiast, you’ll agree): the entries below hers could be utter crap and she’d still drag up the quality because she’s so fabulous. However, they weren’t. In fact, France’s was so magnifique, it lost to Sweden’s entry on countback rather than by points.
My personal top pick Fångad Av En Stormvind
#5 | Istanbul 2004
Wild Dances by Ruslana (Ukraine), Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović & Ad-Hoc Orchestra (Serbia & Montenegro), Shake It by Sakis Rouvas (Greece)
There’s a clear weak link in this top three for me, and I can’t just Shake It off (#seewhatIdidthere). But the mind-blowing brilliance of the other two entries more or less cancels that out. Ukraine’s first winner (I’m so happy we can say that now) is iconic on Planet ESC for being whip-cracking ethno-pop perfection that stood head, shoulders and skimpy leather outfits above the rest. Apart, of course, from a little thing I like to call MY ALL-TIME FAVOURITE EUROVISION SONG WITHOUT QUESTION. Sometimes, I even call it Lane Moje. It’s the pinnacle of Balkan ballads, and I refuse to hear otherwise.
My personal top pick Lane Moje
#4 | Riga 2003
Every Way That I Can by Sertab Erener (Turkey), Sanomi by Urban Trad (Belgium), Ne Ver, Ne Bojsia by tATu (Russia)
One of the most tense voting sequences ever – possibly the most nail-biting in the era of random point-giving orders – took place in 2003, if you can remember that far back in time (I know it seems like five years ago, but it was actually THIRTEEN). Favourites Russia had the least impressive entry of the three fighting for first place, but even when they’re not brilliant, they’re far from bad. In a turn of events echoed in 2016, Russia finished third. Ahead of Ne Ver were the epic Sanomi and the oh-so-Eurovision ethnopop of Every Way That I Can, both of which helped make this a tremendous top three.
My personal top pick Every Way That I Can
#3 | Brussels 1987
Hold Me Now by Johnny Logan (Ireland), Lass Die Sonne in Dein Herz by Wind (Germany), Gente Di Mare by Umberto Tozzi & Raf (Italy)
I’m not about to dispute a win by Mr. Eurovision himself (not to be confused with Mr. Lordi, who prefers distressed leather and hard rock to white suits and power ballads). Hold Me Now is my number one – the only treasure I’ll ever haaaaave – of Johnny Logan’s three ESC winners, no doubt. Still, there was some great stuff mere points behind it. German reggae totally works when Wind are responsible for it, and LDSIDH always has me searching for sunshine and craving piña coladas. Gente Di Mare just makes me admire the effortless class of Italian music.
My personal top pick Hold Me Now
#2 | Vienna 2015
Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden), A Million Voices by Polina Gagarina (Russia), Grande Amore by Il Volo (Italy)
Last year’s gold, silver and bronze-winning musical masterpieces were another example of vastly different songs fighting for first place. It was dance-pop with an Avicii-esque country twang (SHRN…or at least SHAYA, meaning so hot a year ago) that topped the table, followed by a peace ballad feat. the traditional Eurovision key change, which in turn was followed by the sexiest Italian opera I ever did see. That’s variety, my friends, and I for one LOVED it.
My personal top pick Heroes
#1 | Athens 2006
Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi (Finland), Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (Russia), Lejla by Hari Mata Hari (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
None of these three entries are my favourite of all time, but their overall awesomeness sent them shimmying straight to the top of my list (Lejla is up there with my most beloved Balkan ballads, anyway). Hard Rock Hallelujah was a winner that opened the minds of non-rock lovers and surprised those who didn’t think something so heavy could succeed in the contest. Dima Bilan’s first ESC trip displayed Russia’s talent for fusing R&B with pop (and their talent for stuffing people into pianos). And Lejla…well, let’s just say that Željko Joksimović is capable of working his magic (in a way that would have impressed Koldun) for countries other than just Serbia and/or Montenegro.
My personal top pick Lejla
That brings me to the conclusion of this countdown – and let me tell you, it’s reminded me in a big way of what it takes to enter top three territory at Eurovision (I was asking for a friend). In case you didn’t get the memo, ‘it’ = stuff like lots of white, whips, horns (the musical and monster kind)…basically, anything lifted from the lyrics of Love Love, Peace Peace. Who would have thought?
Now, since I’ve showed you mine, it’s time for you to show me yours. Which top three entries from ESC history have impressed you the most – a collection of classic chansons, or a more modern first, second and third? Let me know in the comments so I can judge your poor taste as much as you’ve judged mine. It’s more fun if we all get to bring out our inner bitches so they can party together!
Until next time,
PS – If you suspected that Stockholm 2016 might make it on to my list, then you should know that I purposefully omitted it. That’s because I didn’t think enough time had passed since Ukraine, Australia (!) and Russia topped the table to determine whether they make up a classic top three; one that holds its own against the rest and will do for years to come. For the record though, it would have made my personal top 5.
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
Debut 1994 – 9th place with Vechni Stranik by Youddiph
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 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.
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.
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!
For the first time in a looooooooong time, here’s a post that doesn’t require an intro. The title pretty much says it all, don’t you think?
#1 / Dyshi by Serebro (Russia 2007)
This has got to be one of my favourite songs of all time, possibly because the lyrics make no mention of anyone tasting anyone else’s “cherry pie” but probably because it’s got a haunting quality that gives me goosebumps every time. One of the singles from Serebro’s debut album Opiumroz (one of the few albums I own on which no song needs to be skipped over) what makes it particularly memorable is the video, which is beautifully shot…but seriously random.
#2 / Mechtateli by Dima Bilan (Russia 2006/2008)
Here’s another Russian pop ballad that, I have to admit, could sound less like Dyshi. What can I say? I have a type. It’s the almost-title track from Dima’s most recent album, coincidentally (or not) another one that requires no skip button. For those of us who would argue that the guy is at his best when singing in Russian, it could also be Exhibit A in the case for.
#3 / Skorpion by Urban Symphony (Estonia 2009)
* The version below is shortened. Give the full one a listen if you haven’t before – you won’t regret it!
Italian may be regarded as the world’s most musical language, but I’ve got a soft spot for Estonian. When it’s sung by the amazingly/annoyingly talented Sandra Nurmsalu and backed by pretty much every string instrument ever created, the magic reaches a whole new level. Skorpion is the second single US released post-Moscow, and it’s the same blend of classic and contemporary that got them to 6th place back then.
#4 / Broken Angel by Arash (Azerbaijan 2009)
Arash swapped Aysel for Swedish singer Helena Josefsson on this track, which was more of a homage to his Iranian ethnicity than his more distant Azeri. For me this song is better than Always, though it would no doubt have done worse at Eurovision (mainly because it doesn’t scream ‘I need to be danced to by very flexible women in revealing Lycra!’). Side note: Arash calls Malmö home, so here’s hoping he crops up somewhere in the contest next year.
#5 / Hasta Que Me Ames by D’Nash (Spain 2007)
If you wanted to like Spain’s entry in Helsinki, but found it too shouty and/or too Spanish, I have two things to say to you. Firstly, what is wrong with you? That entry kicked butt. Secondly, this song may be more to your liking being by the same quartet of hot men, just with a more mainstream boyband sound. I imagine a music video would feature them wearing white and dancing energetically yet mournfully on majestic cliff tops.
#6 / Vysoko by Julia Savicheva (Russia 2004)
More proof of Russia’s talent for producing haunting ballads, coming right up! I never thought that much of Julia’s Eurovision entry, but once she’d stopped dancing with clumsy men who’d obviously fallen into a massive paint puddle, her musical stylings suited me better. This song would make a great backing track for a Russian tourism campaign.
#7 / Solo by Milan Stanković (Serbia 2010)
I was torn between including this, from Milan’s debut album of the same name, or the more recent Perje – a Balkan ballad in the Željko Joksimović mould – but ended up going for the upbeat one since there’s been so many ballads already (I have a weakness). Solo makes Milan out to be a bit of a ladies’ man, which is hard to believe given that haircut, but it also makes me want to shake my thing. Sometimes that’s all you need.
#8 / Moon of Dreams by Ruslana (Ukraine 2004)
I thought Ruslana, champion of Eurovision and human rights, could do no wrong. That was until she decided that teaming up with T-Pain was a good idea. Overly-autotuned rappers aside, it’s another cracker that doesn’t stray too far from her formula of ethno-R-and-B-pop. Nor does the video give any indication that she’s ever strayed from using Xena Warrior Princess as her style icon.
#9 / Baby It’s Over by Helena Paparizou (Greece 2001/2005)
Helena is arguably the second-most glamorous lady in ESC history (nobody out-glamours Dana International) as well as a supremely successful recording artist. This track comes from her epic Greatest Hits and More album, and if it’s the first you’ve heard of her since she won the contest, you may be surprised at the lack of Greek-ness involved. Unsurprising is the radio-friendliness.
#10 / Break of Dawn by Eric Saade (Sweden 2011)
Speaking of radio-friendly fodder, here’s something from Sweden’s favourite manboy before he was Popular. The song’s excellent, if you like this sort of thing (which I do) but the video is even better, because Eric does more ‘intense face’ in the few minutes of running time than anyone I’ve ever seen. You can’t say the guy’s not talented.
Got any favourite random songs from ESC artists? Let me know below…
A busy week has/still is leading up to a ripper weekend in a faraway land I like to call EurovisionNationalFinalville. Who’d have thought that Mad March would take over from Frantic February as the craziest four weeks on the ESC pre-selection calendar? There’s so much happening I don’t even have time to finish this senten
Estonia, Italy, Lithuania, Spain and Slovakia: my thoughts
This past week has been one of few surprises* (on the national final front, anyway), with Lithuania selecting the odds-on favourite for Baku, Spain picking their song for Pastora Soler from a choice of three (ergo, nothing too shocking there) and Italy deciding that si, Nina Zilli will perform her San Remo Song Festival entry in the final come May 26th. Estonia’s choice was again, unsurprising, but that may be because I didn’t manage to have a listen to all of the finalists and so could not honestly say ‘OMG, what HAPPENED? Whatshername Thingie’s song was soooooooo much better!’ or something like that. What I didn’t expect of these countries was to be generally thrilled with their decisions.
* Slovakia actually announcing their entry & entrant when they said they would was a bit of an unforeseen event. Perhaps the age of us all making fun of their ever-changing mind is over?
Estonia (Kuula by Ott Lepland): You can go ahead and say this is boring, it’s going nowhere, blah blah blah, but I won’t care. I am a ballad-loving lady – under most circumstances – and I sure love this one. There’s something about the chorus that is truly spine-tingling (and no, I wasn’t sitting on a fuse box when I listened to it), and I think it might be part due to the language, so my fingers are crossed for it to remain in Estonian. The last time Estonia sent a song in their native tongue, it came 6th, whereas their last few entries, both in English, have flopped…is that an indication of what’s to come?
Italy (Per Sempre by Nina Zilli): And so the bleating begins about what is ‘too good for Eurovision’. What haters don’t realise (considering the only Eurovision they know saw Bucks’ Fizz, Verka Seduchka and Dustin the Turkey battling it out for the trophy) is that nothing is too good for the contest. Obviously there are some songs too bad for it, a fact that all but several countries each year seem to be aware of. Sure, Per Sempre is a classy, classic song without a whiff of schlager or bouzouki, but it’s actually very Eurovision – it just harks back to an older era. That’s not to say it’s dated. I like to think of it as being a compromise between the classic and the contemporary, with the Penelope Cruz-esque Nina giving it some extra spice.
Lithuania (Love is Blind by Donny Montell): Donny – who I thought was an Irish immigrant, but actually uses a stage name – entered the Lithuanian selection in 2011 with Best Friends, a duet with Sasha Son that IMO should have won. Fast forward twelve months and Donny’s got himself a solo spot in the big show; although he sounds so much like Sasha they may as well be doing another duet. My thumbs are up for his song, which starts off as a ballad before becoming a funky disco tune to which, as Donny is testament to, you can do one-handed cartwheels. However they are down for that blindfold. I get the symbolism, but D, you look more ridiculous than Eric Solbakken in his Milan Stanković wig.
Spain (Quedate Conmigo by Pastora Soler): In my years of Eurovision watching, I have enjoyed some of the Spanish songs, but never enough to manufacture and then wave a flag to support them. Well, folks, consider me a changed woman, because in 2012 I will be donning the red and yellow and yelling ‘Viva la Spagna!’ at the top of my lungs until my parents tell me to shut up, at which point the flag will make an appearance, because I LOVE this song. It’s one of exceptional quality that starts humbly, but builds into an anthemic, powerful, punch-packing ballad sung perfectly by the phenomenal Pastora. It’s amazing how she sung so well at the NF, seemingly without worrying about wardrobe malfunctions (if you check out the dress she wore at the weekend you’ll know what I mean). I’m fully prepared for you all to trash this since I have just gabbed on for an eternity about how much I adore it, by the way.
Slovakia (Don’t Close Your Eyes by Max Jason Mai): The OCD part of me is not happy with the rest of me reviewing Slovakia after Spain, but this one is hot off the press (at the time of writing, that is). Just a few hours ago, the Slovak broadcaster announced Max as the artist and DCYE as the song that will represent them this year. The reaction has been positive so far, but I’m not sold – on the song, anyway. It’s mainstream soft-rock, not unpleasant to the ear, but lacking that special, catchy something. Max, on the other hand, is very, very pleasant to the ear…and the eye. Call me shallow, but I bet there’s a gajillion ladies and gents who will agree with me, and on their behalf I plan to start a petition to get him to perform topless.
Russia: will they pull out the big guns or the grannies?
Like Melodifestivalen, Russia’s national final has become a two-horse race, but instead of Loreen-and-Danny, the names have way more syllables. In news that made me squeal in a frightfully girlish manner, Dima Bilan is back with ½ of Tatu, Yulia Volkova, by his side in a bid to take on Eurovision for the third time. I know some of you will be sick of Dima and every other artist who just won’t leave the contest alone, but I’m a huge fan of his, so I’m hoping it won’t be much of a challenge for him and his lady friend (presumably one of many) to kick some Russian butt tonight (I have also heard a snippet of the song and it’s right up my street).
I am aware of nana power, however. Without wanting to offend the other finalists, the only real Dima/Yulia competition* comes in the form of a gang of grannies who won many fans over in the 2010 NF, mainly, I assume, because they were grannies. Though the song did have something…anyway, Buranovskiye Babushki are back, and I reckon they could do some damage to Dima’s chances.
* If someone other than Dima/Yulia or the grannies should win, I apologise in advance, and commend them for beating such heavyweights. You go girl/boyfriend!
My top two-nine
Normal people would wait until tomorrow and then do a top 30, but as you would have gathered if you’re a regular reader, I am not normal (not when it comes to Eurovision). Already I’m finding it hard to separate the good ones from the other good ones, so much so that those I love go pretty much from #1 to #18.
My top 10 is full of ballads, including one that has succeeded in knocking Norway(sorry Tooji) off the premier spot. Take a look and let me know which songs are your favourites at the moment.
Coming up: Super Saturday!
Not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR countries – Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Sweden – will select on Saturday, with Sunday bringing us the NF from Moldova. Naturally all that is very exciting, but for me, the most exciting events are Zeljko Joksimovic’s song presentation in Serbia and Sweden’s grand finale. I’m planning to stay up to the wee hours of the morning and watch Melodifestivalen live for the first time. Anyone else crazy enough?
Please tune in (or log in…I suppose that would be more appropriate?) on Saturday for my thoughts and predictions on all of the above. I promise they’ll be worth a look!
Which country are you excited to see select this weekend?
PS – I almost forgot to mention Armenia’s withdrawal from the competition today. I’m sure most of us are saddened but not surprised by this news…let’s hope the country will be back and ready to win in 2013.
We are, of course, in national final mode at the moment, but there are still lulls in the action which mean I have nothing to talk about. This current lull is thanks to Belarus, who decided to change the date of their selection for the second time last week (as of my writing it’s now February 14th). I can’t talk about something that isn’t happening, which only leaves France’s song presentation from Sunday. Since I’m not sure how I feel about that yet, I have one option, and one option only. I didn’t want it to come to this, but it’s time for…ANOTHER TOP 10!
Today, it’s all about the songs that had to settle for silver, but to me are pure gold. Read the title, read the list, then tell me below which second-place songs are your most loved. If you want, I mean…I’m not forcing you. ???
Lane Moje by Zeljko Joksimović (Serbia & Montenegro 2004)
The 2004 winner from Ukraine was a whip-cracking, hair-flicking, leather-rocking wild woman known as Ruslana, and there’s no doubt she deserved her victory. The entry she beat (possibly literally, and into submission) to nab first place was a much more understated but still dramatic affair, from a multitalented Serbian we all know as Zeljko Joksimović; an entry I am proud to call My Favourite Eurovision Song of All Time – even if Kanye West interrupts me and tells me that actually, it was Ruslana who had the best entry ever. Whatevs, Kanye – Lane Moje never fails to give me goosebumps and that’s how I know it’s the one.
Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (UK 1989)
‘Why does she always mention this song?’ is the line most of you would sing on reading this. Unfortunately I don’t have a proper answer for you, because I can’t explain my undying love for the man with the braid and the oh-so-eighties power ballad he and his band brought to the ESC before I was even born. It just is.
Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (Russia 2006)
The 2006 contest was my first Eurovision (gasp!) and so I have many fond memories of the acts and songs – not all of which include latex monster masks, surprisingly. Dima Bilan, his mullet, and the piano that was suffering from a serious infestation of painted lady definitely stick in my head, as does his song. Yes, I actually do talk about the music sometimes. Russians know how to do pop, that’s for sure.
Is It True? by Yohanna (Iceland 2009)
I have a bit of a girl crush on Yohanna, I must admit. I think the moment of realisation came in Moscow, not with that dress, but with that note – the clear-as-crystal money note that may as well have been subtitled with ‘Iceland is going to rake in more points than Carola has had visits to the Fountain of Youth.’ The pitch perfection of her voice helped make Is It True? a ballad extraordinaire that would have topped the ‘09 lot had Alexander Rybak never been born/given a violin.
All Out of Luck by Selma (Iceland 1999)
Selma was Gina G when Gina G should have been Gina G. I.e. had the real Gina G performed Just A Little Bit in the ’99 contest, it would have done a whole lot better than it did three years previously, and possibly would have had to battle All Out of Luck for a top-end finish. As things stand, Selma had the right song at the right time, a song that still has the power to get people (a.k.a. me) up and dancing (a.k.a. flinging my arms about and knocking ornaments off my shelf).
To Nie Ja by Edyta Gorniak (Poland 1994)
Another ballad? Well, these babies have a knack for getting close, but not close enough, to the Eurovision trophy.Polandgot their best ever result on their first ever attempt with this cracking ballad. Thinking of it now makes me wish they would change their minds about withdrawing, go and fish Edyta out of her nursing home and give her a similarly ear-pleasing tune to perform in Azerbaijan.
Sanomi by Urban Trad (Belgium 2003)
Does anyone else compulsively mimic the onstage hand movements when this song comes on? I’ll assume yes to make myself feel less weird. Anyway, I think Urban Trad and their imaginary-language ethnic entry surprised everyone in Rigawith second place. Sanomi may have been pipped by Sertab Erener’s glittery belly button back then, but to this day it remains a favourite of mine. That’s despite the fact that it reminds me of a sewing machine (you know, Janome? The well known brand of…ah, forget it).
Solo by Alsou (Russia 2000)
Speaking of glittery belly buttons, here’s one that apparently wasn’t glittery enough to ooutshine two middle-aged men with a vocoder. It did beat a bunch of skinny college guys in flares though, which counts for something. ‘It’ is also known as the torso of Alsou, whose 2000 runner-up is yet more proof of the Russian pop prowess.
Rock Bottom by Lynsey De Paul & Mike Moran (UK 1977)
These days you can enter a song in the ESC called, oh, I don’t know, My Number One or We Are The Winners, and good things can happen. In the past, however, you had to sing Last Place or This Is Going to Fail Miserably…or Rock Bottom, if you wanted to do well. I guess it was about not jinxing yourself.
Are You Sure? by The Allisons (UK 1961)
Yes I am sure. Sure that I love this song (boom tish). It may seem like a random addition to this list, but I am a girl of eclectic taste – sometimes – and so here we are. It’s a catchy little number that was sung, not by a trio of poofy-haired, synchronised teenage girls as the group name would allude, but by two grown men with more product than poof in their luxurious locks.
A little something extra…here are the ones that just missed out:
Eres Tu by Mocedades (Spain 1973), Better The Devil You Know by Sonia (UK 1993), Never Ever Let You Go by Rollo & King (Denmark 2001), Shady Lady by Ani Lorak (Ukraine 2008) and We Could Be The Same by MaNga (Turkey 2010).
COMING UP: Another Saturday brings a song from Malta and semis from Scandinavia, and I put the spotlight on a record-breaking ESC country.
ARTIST: Dima Bilan
ALBUM: Mechtatel (2011)
- Ya Prosto Lyublyu Tebya
- Rocket Man
- On Hotel
- Ya Sil’ney
- Lovi Moi Tsetnie Sny
- Po Param
- Get Outta My Way
- Slepaya Lubov
- Ya Prosto Lyublyu Tebya (DJ Fisun & i-DEA remix)
- Safety (Disco Fries remix)
I hate to begin with a cliché, but I can’t help comparing Dima to a good wine – he just gets better with age! My basis for saying that is all down to the saying itself as I can’t confess to being a wine person…but that’s irrelevant. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that Dima’s music appeals to me more and more with every album, although this is the first album of his I have gone (online) and paid money for, so you can guess where this review is going.
Mechtatel is Dima’s 6th studio album, and his 3rd since winning Eurovision in Belgrade. It starts off very strongly indeed with five slickly produced, catchy tracks. The first is my favourite of the whole album – the almost-title-track Mechtateli (Dreamers), a high-quality pop ballad in the mould of one of my all-time favourite songs by fellow Russians and Eurovision participants Serebro, Dyshi. It’s what sold the album to me in the first place. Zadyhayus (I’m Suffocating) is also an excellent song, one of several on the disc that make R & B and club sounds work together in perfect harmony (awful musical pun 100% intended). Safety, Dima’s unlikely duet with US songstress Anastacia – who, in a fascinating fact, performed the soundtrack to several of my school socials – is a little too Americanised, but I still get a kick out of it, and I do think his and her voices sound good together.
My other highlights would be Po Param (In Pairs); Zvezda (Star), which features Dima’s sister Anya; and Slepaya Lubov (Blind Love), which are all very different songs – one acoustic-driven pop, the next a haunting ballad, and the last a dance track that adds a Eurotrance flavour to the dance sounds that are dominating the US/UK charts at the moment.
Another bonus of the album is the accompanying DVD that features five music videos, plus a rather narcissistic photo montage of the man in various poses and stages of hair-poofiness. Watching it, you can learn a lot, including:
- The fact that Dima obviously attended the Niamh Kavanagh School of Inter-Videoclip Self-Promotion, as the Eurovision trophy has a cameo and later, as he watches the music video for Believe
- If you ever accidentally run him over with your car, he will not take you to court and sue you for every penny you’ve got, but will sleep with you instead
- And that Bon Jovi must be a hairdresser on the side, because nobody else in the world could create the bouffant poodle-do that Dima sports in the Changes video.
There isn’t much I don’t like about Mechtatel – I do prefer Dima singing in Russian, for one, and I feel like the two remixes tacked on to the end are unnecessary. I also think the track Get Outta My Way is a bit contrived and lacks the ethnic edge that often attracts me to Russian pop. But all in all, I’m loving the album. It’s a polished and modern effort that was a while in the making, and that really shows. The DVD (minus photo montage) adds another fun element to the album, despite the fact that in this day and age we can go to Youtube and watch anything, anytime, anywhere. I’m giving it four stars!
Interested? Grab your copy of Mechtatel online at eBay or Amazon.co.uk, or if you live in a country that actually devotes more than one miniscule shelf of its music stores to world music (and that shelf contains 20 copies of The Lion King soundtrack) head there.
COMING UP: Turn away, JESC haters! EBJ’s Junior Eurovision month is about to kick off big time…
Artist/band you now love because of Eurovision
Helena Paparizou (Greece 2001/2005) – e.g. Light In Our Soul, Heroes and Baby It’s Over
Dima Bilan (Russia 2006/2008 – e.g. Not That Simple, Safety and Dreamers)
Milan Stanković (Serbia 2010 – e.g. Solo, Face and Perje)
Mika Newton (Ukraine 2011 – e.g. Anomaliya, Lunapark and Moscow Calling)
But my most loved is:
Serebro (Russia 2007)
Sigh…Russians just know how to do pop music. I’m not sure about Serebro’s tendency to get naked/all over each other in every video clip, Tatu-style, but their music more than makes up for that. Their first album OpiumRoz is one of the few I have that I love every song on, and it looks like their upcoming second one, which is more dance-inspired, will be the same.
I love Opium, Skazhi Ni Molchi and Like Mary Warner (to name a few) but my favourite (and one of my favourite songs EVER!) is Dyshi, or Breathe.
Favourite song from a solo singer
Solo by Alsou (Russia 2000)
Tell Me Who You Are by Malene Mortensen (Denmark 2002)
Heaven by Jónsi (Iceland 2004)
Lejla by Hari Mata Hari (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2006 – technically a band, but as their name is the lead singer’s stage name, and he is practically the only original member, I’m classing their entry as one from a soloist. Plus, wait ’til you see how long my group/band favourites list is…)
Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (Russia 2006)
This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010)
But my favourite is:
Lane Moje by Željko Joksimović (Serbia & Montenegro 2004)
There aren’t many songs that still give me goosebumps on the 150, 094th listen (just an estimate). That’s how I know that this is The One! Three minutes of perfection.
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…
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
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
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
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
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
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.