Hej hej, ladies and gents. You are reading the first installment of my annual trip back to the Eurovision that was. Was seemingly very recently, but in reality was just about a year ago, at that. Holy crap, right?
There’s less than a month to go until Copenhagen’s first semi, and we bloggers have a lot to cram in to such a short period – i.e. mass reviews and predictions – especially if we’re juggling uni assignments and a new job, as I am. But I’m going to make it all happen, because Eurovision is priority #1. Just don’t tell that to my lecturers or employers.
I’m beginning my re-coverage of last year’s contest right now with the Malmö Memories series (it’s not as catchy as Flashbaku, but what can you do?). During the next week I’ll be revealing my top 10 moments and top 10 entries, one year on, of 2013. But first, it’s recap time, in case anyone out there is having a brain snap and can’t remember what the heck went down in May. For those of you who can and just want a refresher, or even if you recall it all but are totes bored at the moment, this is also for you.
EUROVISION 2013: THE BASICS
When May 14th, 16th and 18th, 2013
Where Malmö Arena, Malmö, Sweden
Motto “We Are One”
Broadcaster Sveriges Television
Hosts Petra Mede, Eric Saade (green room)
Returnees 1 – Armenia
Withdrawals 4 – Bosnia & Herzegovina, Portugal, Slovakia, Turkey
Opened Austria – Shine by Natalia Kelly
Closed Serbia – Ljubav Je Svuda by Moje 3
Interval act “Northern Lights” dance piece
- Slovenia: No, Hannah didn’t qualify. And no, she didn’t hang on to her vocal as well as she could have ideally. But did she give it her all? Did she look freaking fierce? Was her staging and choreography top-notch? Um, yes, yes and YES. This was the first performance of the night that impressed me.
- Ukraine: Part of me wanted Zlata to be plonked on her boulder only to stack it and spew forth a stream of expletives. One person shouldn’t be allowed to be so stunning, talented AND graceful. But as it turns out, she was, and she gave a perfect performance of Gravity as always. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She’s like a female Ott Lepland, only without the risk of impregnation via a smoldering gaze.
- Montenegro: Igranka was and still is epic in studio, but could so easily have been the car-crash live act of the year. Fortunately for Who See, not only did Macedonia take out that title, but the boys and Nina managed to pull off a great performance of the tricky dubstep number. The fact that this didn’t qualify still makes me weep.
- Moldova: This was just…everything. And I mean that. Moldova threw a lot at Aliona – the hair, the gown/projector screen, the dancers, the hydraulic lift – but she and her powerful voice complemented all of that rather than clashed with it.
- Ireland: Having avoided listening to Ryan live until Eurovision itself (for fear that a song I really liked would go straight on the ‘going nowhere’ pile) I was nervous about how he’d go in a massive arena in front of a huge live audience and an even huger TV audience. But somehow, Mr. Dolan went from amateur at best to a totally competent and on-pitch performer. Bravo.
- Belgium: Also proving the haters wrong was Roberto Bellarosa, who, despite being dressed like Donny Montell at a funeral, turned out a slick performance of Love Kills that made me as proud as if I were his mother. Weird but true.
- Denmark 167
- Russia 156
- Ukraine 140
- Moldova 95
- Belgium 75
- Netherlands 75
- Belarus 64
- Ireland 54
- Lithuania 53
- Estonia 52
- Serbia 46
- Montenegro 41
- Croatia 38
- Austria 27
- Cyprus 11
- Slovenia 8
- Denmark more than improved on 2012’s narrow qualification by winning the first semi, defeating the country that did the same in Baku.
- Belgium may have qualified for the first time since 2010, but Roberto’s advancement also marked the first qualification for an act selected by RTBF (Belgium’s French-language broadcaster) since the semi-final system was introduced.
- The Netherlands made it to the final for the first time since 2004.
- Six countries in total qualified for at least the second year running, whilst the other four appeared in the final after previous failures to do so.
- Serbia failed to qualify for the first time, ending the night in 11th place with Montenegro right behind them.
- Slovenia lost the first semi, but they scored themselves a better placing than 2012’s 17th.
Opened Latvia – Here We Go by PeR
Closed Romania – It’s My Life by Cezar
Interval act Darin performing Nobody Knows/So Yours and Agnes performing One Last Time/Release Me
- Azerbaijan: Here is a prime example of a country that really entered the Eurovision Staging Contest, but still managed to do damn well in the song equivalent. Hold Me did grow on me a lot, and it may or may not be one of my top 10 entries of the year (drop by later this week to find out!) but it was that nifty glass box and all that accompanied it that won me over. PS – can you buy those on eBay?
- Greece: In Baku we got cliché Greece, but thankfully Malmö gave us fun Greece. Koza Mostra were a definite personal highlight because, from the moment Agathonas plucked his first bouzouki string, they got the audience going, and you could feel the atmosphere from your couch. Bonus points for having the ultimate sing-along chorus under their kilts.
- Israel: I won’t mention That Dress (again). Instead, I’ll take a moment to bask in the sheer power and range of Moran’s glorious vocals. Pardon my French, but she sang the shit out of Rak Bishvilo, putting more emotion into her three minutes than the average cast member of Days of Our Lives puts into their entire career. That probably explains her reaction to not qualifying, proudly sponsored by Kleenex.
- Hungary: What a gem you are, Kedvesem. I love this song to bits. Like Montenegro, however, Hungary could have come undone in the arena setting. But the quiet beauty of it managed to come through in that less-than-intimate context. My favourite part was when the audience began to clap along, because that’s when I knew ByeAlex was connecting and had a chance of moving on.
- Norway: Girl crush alert! Margaret took to the stage looking like a sexy White Witch of Narnia, and gave an equally magnetic rendition of IFYML. It was Margs, and not an assortment of props, that did most of the vote-capturing.
- Azerbaijan 139
- Greece 121
- Norway 120
- Malta 118
- Romania 83
- Iceland 72
- Armenia 69
- Hungary 66
- Finland 64
- Georgia 63
- San Marino 47
- Bulgaria 45
- Switzerland 41
- Israel 40
- Albania 31
- Macedonia 28
- Latvia 13
- Azerbaijan topped their semi for the first time, having come 2nd in 2009, 2010, and 2011 – the year they went on to win the whole contest.
- There were some close calls in this semi: Greece just pushed ahead of Norway to qualify 2nd; Hungary, Finland, and Georgia were in a battle just to make it through; and Israel came very near to nabbing the highly sought-after (not) 13th place from Switzerland.
- Hungary made it three for three qualifications since their 2011 comeback. Armenia went through for the first time since 2010 (having sat out the Baku contest) and Finland and Georgia were back on their game after DNQs in 2012.
- San Marino scored their best result ever with Valentina 2.0, but it wasn’t quite good enough to give them their first ticket to the final. She joined Bulgaria’s Elitsa and Stoyan as previous entrants that didn’t make it.
- Latvia lost this semi, marking their fifth consecutive failure to advance.
Opened France – L’Enfer Et Moi by Amandine Bourgeois
Closed Ireland – Only Love Survives by Ryan Dolan
Interval act Loreen performing a medley of We Got The Power/My Heart Is Refusing Me/Euphoria; Petra Mede performing Swedish Smörgåsbord; Sarah Dawn Finer performing The Winner Takes It All
- Belgium: Yet again, Le Bellarosa floated my boat, mostly because seeing him in the final meant Belgium was in the final – and that was a shock. He did his country proud, and he must have known it too because OMG THAT ADORABLE LITTLE JUMP FOR JOY AT THE END! I don’t even ‘aww’ at babies, but THAT was heart-melting stuff.
- Germany: Glorious and all that surrounded it – Natalie’s dress, the props, the timing of the wind machine – lacked the impact we saw at the German final last year. However, that song was made for the stage (and the club) and as it was one of my favourites at the time, I still think it worked in a totally non-biased way.
- Sweden: Home (country) boy Robin also did his country proud in what I thought was an architectural award-winning jacket. I never get tired of the special reception host entries get from the audience.
- Hungary: ByeAlex and his two musketeers seemed to have gained confidence from their qualification, and that showed through in a performance that was just as quietly wonderful, but more polished than it had been in the semi.
- Denmark 281
- Azerbaijan 234
- Ukraine 214
- Norway 191
- Russia 174
- Greece 152
- Italy 126
- Malta 120
- Netherlands 114
- Hungary 84
- Moldova 71
- Belgium 71
- Romania 65
- Sweden 62
- Georgia 50
- Belarus 48
- Iceland 47
- Armenia 41
- United Kingdom 23
- Estonia 19
- Germany 18
- Lithuania 17
- France 14
- Finland 13
- Spain 8
- Ireland 5
- Denmark won the contest with a decent score, but definitely not by a landslide. Emmelie was helped along by 8 sets of douze points, none of which came from Denmark’s neighbours. Finland and Sweden elected to give theirs to Norway, whilst Norway sent theirs to hosts Sweden.
- In 2012, Loreen won Eurovision with 18 sets of douze, her nearest rivals in that department being Albania, Azerbaijan and Serbia, all on 4 sets. Emmelie scored a meager 8 sets in comparison, two less than Azerbaijan. Ukraine scored 5, and Italy and Norway 3 apiece.
- Let’s talk language: the 2013 top 10 featured three songs not performed entirely in English, with just two being completely native. Greece was the highest finisher of the three, in 6th place. In 2012, twice as many songs in the top 10 were, at least in large part, in a language other than English.
- The Netherlands’ top 10 finish was their first since 1999.
- Moldova once again proved their prowess at not quite making it when they ended 11th for the second year running – after coming 12th in 2011.
- Countries making the biggest drops from good results to bad included Estonia, who went from 6th in 2012 to 20th, and Spain, who followed up Pastora Soler’s 10th place with 25th.
- On the upside, Hungary went from 24th to 10th, Malta 21st to 8th, and most impressive of all, Norway from last place to the top 5.
- Last-placed Ireland received points from three countries – the UK (1), Sweden (2) and Cyprus (2). Spain, in 25th place, received points fro, just two countries – Italy (2) and Albania (6).
Somebody stop me! I could probably pick out “fun” stat facts until the dawn of Eurovision 2099 (which, btw, will be held in San Marino for the fifth year in a row and be hosted by a cyborg in the likeness of Valentina Monetta). I think I’ve recapped Malmö enough for now. Or ever. So I’ll finish off by saying tack for reading, and by asking you…
…what were your highlights (or lowlights) of Eurovision 2013? Was there one performance that blew you away, or a result that shocked you to your very core (how dramatic!)? Let me know below.
NEXT TIME: Speaking of highlights, I’ll be expanding on that by counting down my top 10 Malmö moments. That’s everything from money notes to point revelations, interval acts, final poses and…other stuff. I don’t want to give it all away now, do I?
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:
When the Music Dies/ Sabina Babayeva
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.
Echo (You and I)/ Anggun
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.
Standing Still/ Roman Lob
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
L’amore é Femmina (Out of Love)/ Nina Zilli
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.
Quedate Conmigo/ Pastora Soler
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!
Love Will Set You Free/ Engelbert Humperdinck
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.
Location: Esprit Arena, Düsseldorf, Germany
Hosts: Anke Engelke, Judith Rakers & Stefan Raab
SEMI FINAL 1
When: May 10th, 2011
Opening song: Jestem by Magdalena Tul (Poland)
Closing song: Watch My Dance by Loukas Giorkas & Stereo Mike (Greece)
Interval act: Cold Steel Drummers
My highlights: The walking, talking hilarity that is Anke Engelke; Finland’s amazing backdrop that was simple but stunning; Sjonni’s Friends proving they had more than just a tragic back-story through their charming performance of Coming Home; and Greece once again demonstrating their Eurovision invincibility with a song that few saw qualifying, but made magic happen when it came to the live show (Loukas & Stereo Mike turned out to be the Alyosha of 2011).
My favourite performance was from: Serbia
Shocks and surprises: Poland ditching the leather and grunge of their MV in favour of white and silver nappies – a big mistake; Alex Sparrow and his posse fooling us into thinking their performance was over, then launching into an epic choreographed curtsey; Kati Wolf’s frighteningly bouffant hairdo (a definite shock); Lithuania and Switzerland qualifying, and Norway and Turkey NOT qualifying.
SEMI FINAL 2
When: May 12th, 2011
Opening song: Love in Rewind by Dino Merlin (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
Closing song: Lipstick by Jedward (Ireland)
Interval act: Flying Steps
Qualifiers: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Austria, Ukraine, Moldova, Sweden, Slovenia, Romania, Estonia, Denmark, Ireland
My highlights: Belgium, believe it or not – Witloof Bay’s a cappella vocals were terrific, even if the song created by them was not; hearing the ROOOOOAAAARR of the crowd before, during and after Eric Saade’s turn onstage; Dana International’s last-minute catwalk strut that got me wondering how she acquired such supreme stiletto skills; Maja Keuc, her suit of armour, and those boots…and the Flying Steps, whose interval show was so attention-grabbing I did not blink once while it was happening and consequently needed to be fitted for a pair of bionic eyeballs shortly after the contest.
My favourite performance was from: Bosnia & Herzegovina
Shocks and surprises: Sand artist and Ukraine’s Got Talent winner Kseniya Simonova accompanying Mika Newton in one of the greatest gimmicks ever seen at the ESC; and Cyprus’ knockout performance, one that I think deserved a place in the final.
THE GRAND FINAL
When: May 14th, 2011
Opening song: Da Da Dam by Paradise Oskar (Finland)
Closing song: One More Day by Eldrine (Georgia)
Interval act: Jan Delay
Winning song: Running Scared by Ell/Nikki (Azerbaijan)
Losing song: In Love For a While by Anna Rossinelli (Switzerland)
Completing the top 5: Italy, Sweden, Ukraine, Denmark
Completing the top 10: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Greece, Ireland, Georgia, Germany
My highlights: The inventive opening reprise of Satellite, featuring a surprise cameo from Lena ML, who emerged from a seething mass of look-alikes; Judith’s bang-on imitation of Lena before said reprise; Blue, one of THE acts of my girlhood, on the Eurovision stage (albeit in dreadful shiny suits and in front of massive headshots of themselves that gave off a rather narcissistic vibe); Italy’s triumphant, trumpeting return after 14 years of contest absence and/or disdain.
My favourite performance was from: Germany/Sweden
Shocks and surprises: The grand (and highly symbolic) unveiling of the green room pre-voting; Italy raking in the points during the latter half of the voting and reaching a well deserved but completely unexpected second place; Eric Saade being Popular enough with the juries and televoters to nab the bronze medal and secure Sweden’s best result since 1999; and finally, Azerbaijan topping the scoreboard with a song that wasn’t even close to being on my winning radar.
A year on, I still can’t believe Running Scared took home the prize, but I’m ultimately happy it did, because in eight weeks time Eurovision will go somewhere it’s never been before, and I have no doubt that the Land of Fire will put on a spectacular show for all of us.
What was your favourite part of the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest?
COMING UP: A month of Düsseldorf in Rewind continues with my top 10 most-played entries of 2011. Plus, it’s time for another exposé of doppelgangers…they can run (scared) but they can’t hide!