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Baku Reviews: Part 4 (Lithuania-Netherlands)

Lithuania

Love is Blind/ Donny Montell

Reminds me of: I’ll Be Back by 2PM

The good stuff: Who says disco is a no-no? Well, probably many, many people in this day and age. But I don’t pay any attention to those people, not any more – Donny has ignited in me a new appreciation for the genre. His song begins in a ballad-esque way, with the first chorus hinting at what’s to come. Then BAM! With a discarded blindfold and a cartwheel, Love is Blind is off into Disco Heaven. Sure, from then on it’s a big wedge of vintage cheese, but I’ve always been a savoury girl. Donny himself has it all – he can dance, he can sing, he’s probably wanted by the 2012 Lithuanian Olympic gymnastics team, and he’s not too unfortunate to look at. And so I’ll be hunting through my parents’ wardrobe for some flares and platform boots (and I might even find some of my mum’s) to don(ny) for Lithuania’s three minutes in the spotlight.

Everything else: Here’s a random question – why did Donatas Montvydas decide to adopt a rather Irish-sounding stage name? For all I know his real name means Donut Mountain, and that was the motivation, but to my non-Lithuanian understanding ears, ‘Donatas’ has a lovely ring. I’d say it was an attempt to snag more votes fromIreland, but he’s been Donny for years.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.

 

Macedonia

Crno I Belo/ Kaliopi

Better than 2011: No

The good stuff: Kaliopi, as you may or may not know, failed to advance from Eurovision 1996’s version of a semi final. Will she have better luck this time around, representing a country notorious for just missing out? We’ll soon see. This woman is a huge star in former Yugoslavia. She’s also got a powerful, gravelly voice to rival Nina Badrić’s, and that voice is well suited to this rocky number that has grown on me a lot since my first listen. I find the first part, which is the less rocky part, more listenable, but at least it goes somewhere (not unlike Lithuania) when it makes the transition. I’m expecting a well-rounded performance from Macedonia.

Everything else: Like many of this country’s entries, Crno I Belo lacks a certain special something that makes it a shoo-in to qualify. It’s good, but not great. It’s memorable, but not overly so. I guess, as Hera Björk would say, it’s missing je ne sais quoi. Maybe that will change when we come to the live show, with costume and staging coming into play.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.

 

Malta

This is The Night/ Kurt Calleja

Reminds me of: Everybody by Tanel Padar & Dave Benton.  

The good stuff: Poor Fabrizio Faniello again failed to win a third ticket to Eurovision this year, but his fans will be pleased to know he’ll be there in spirit. Kurt’s TITN is not only a reincarnation of 2001’s Estonian winner – it also bears more than a passing resemblance to Faniello’s entry of the same year, Another Summer Night. For all I know, Malta 01 and Malta 12 were composed by the same people (the tiny island is forced to recycle artists and songwriters all the time). In its own right, it’s a summery, fun song with a catchy chorus (who doesn’t love a bit of ‘eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh’?) that won’t be lighting any fires (the Azerbaijani tourist bureau will be disappointed) but should be mildly entertaining to watch on the night.

Everything else: This is the cheesiest entry of 2012 – sorry, Donny Montell – a fact ESC haters might latch on to when they launch their annual ‘Eurovision is crap’ campaigns. I think that is mainly thanks to the lyrics, which are on the Greece level of clichéd-ness. Also, as Maltese entries often do when they aren’t performed by Chiara, it’s lacking in something that would make it outstanding. I’ll be surprised if it qualifies.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.

 

Moldova

Lăutar/ Pasha Parfeny

Top 10 material: Yes

The good stuff: Bravo, Moldova, bravo. I am actually slow-clapping right now. This song is so much fun! It’s everything I look for in a Eurovision song (or listen for, I suppose): it’s infectious, it’s happy, it doesn’t take itself too seriously but it’s not a novelty song, it’s ethnic, you can dance and sing along to it…the list goes on and on. I’m expecting it to go down fantastically in the Crystal Hall, and likewise in my lounge room.

Everything else: Is there anything else I can say? I’ve pretty much laid all of my cards on the table. Although I should mention that, as you can see below, I haven’t given this the douze. That’s because, as much as I love it, there are a bunch of songs that just edge it out of my top 10 of the moment. I think the 2012 field is a strong one, and pretty much everything in my top 30 is much-loved, so Pasha, if you’re reading this, a) you must be desperate for stuff to do, and b) don’t be disheartened by the tenner!

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points.

 

Montenegro

Euro Neuro/ Rambo Amadeus

Reminds me of: A drunk guy at a wedding doing karaoke.

The good stuff: If I had to pick out one redeeming feature, I’d say the chorus. As much as the ‘eero neero’ irritates, it is part of the most listenable section of the song. As a result, the final thirty or so seconds are not eardrum-shrivelingly bad. Another positive, I guess, would be that Rambo lived up to expectation with the song. Having listened to some snippets of his back catalogue (I can’t bring myself to say ‘past hits’) when he was announced as Montenegro’s representative, I expected a song exactly like this – a.k.a. Man Rambling Incoherently To Music For The Longest Three Minutes You’ll Ever Experience (Oh My God, He’s Opening Eurovision 2012!).  

Everything else: Oh my God, he’s opening Eurovision 2012! That will surely be the strangest first act in a long time, if not ever. I’m sure you’ve figured out how I feel about this, but I’ll reiterate: it’s three minutes (though it seems more like 180 seconds) of a man rambling incoherently to music, about God knows what – or as Aisha would say, about what, only Mr. God knows. What is with Montenegro? If they withdrew from the contest because they weren’t getting anywhere, only to come back with a prime example of why they never got anywhere, then it was probably a waste of time.

Winner, loser or grower: Loser – 1 point.

 

Netherlands

You and Me/ Joan Franka

Best lyric: ‘Our love couldn’t handle time…’

The good stuff: For the first time in forever, the Dutch song has been labeled one to watch – that is, one that could possibly win the contest this year – and all thanks to a former The Voice contestant with ridiculously chiseled cheekbones and a penchant for Native American headwear. Joan’s You and Me is a charming, up-tempo, almost country-style song about her cougarish childhood tendencies (hello, she was five and he was three!). It reminds me a bit of Switzerland last year – it’s sweet, humble, and a little quirky. I hope it doesn’t suffer Switzerland’s 2011 fate in qualifying and then flagging in the final, but surely a ticket out of the semi alone would be like Christmas coming early for the Netherlands, who haven’t qualified since 2004 and who came dead last in their Düsseldorf semi.

Everything else: I want this, more than any other song, to do well – or at least to get somewhere. But I wonder if it isn’t one of those all or nothing entries that will either rake in the votes and blitz into the top 10, or fail miserably (kind of like Italy last year, and France last year if you count what people were saying before the contest). If you’re living in Europe (but not the Netherlands) please send a vote Joan’s way. Can’t you imagine how great it would be for them to be announced as one of their semi winners?

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 7 points.

 

NEXT TIME: I shower a lot of love (and a smattering of ‘what were they thinking?’) on Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino and Serbia!

 

Selection Season Day 8: A week of results and my top 23

Bonjour and wilkommen to Day 8 of the EBJ selection calendar. On today’s agenda is my take on the latest five competitors from around the continent (if you’re European, I mean your continent. If you aren’t, I mean Europe. Obviously…) as well as the latest yays and nays from my end as I rank the songs so far. Don’t forget to let me know which songs are lighting your fire (slogan pun!) at the moment.

 

Finland, the Netherlands, and Slovenia: the weekend wrapped up

Last weekend saw the first three aforementioned nations pick their winners, and naturally, the only one I decided to predict I predicted completely wrong – but let’s not dwell on that.

After what was a surprise qualification for me in 2011, I don’t want to discount the Finns from qualifying in Baku, no matter how humble/unlikely-to-get-anywhere the song may seem. När Jag Blundar by Pernilla Karlsson seems like the kind of song that would have been left behind in a Melodifestivalen semi a few years ago, and not just because it’s in Swedish. Having said all of those things that may lead you to believe I hate it, I actually quite like it. This is partly because I love Swedish, and since we’re unlikely to get any of that from Sweden in the near future, Finland is filling the gap (provided the song does not undergo the usually dreaded English rewrite), and partly because it’s a quirky but sweet little ballad.

I’m also not going to say that the Netherlands will fail to make the final, because, to make things even more confusing with all these countries picking up each other’s languages/habits, they picked You and Me by Joan Franka which could well turn out to be the In Love For A While of 2012. If that’s the case, it would mean the Dutch would qualify only to limp along in last place when it comes to the final – but this is the Netherlands. They’d probably be happy with that outcome.

Birds of a feather stick together...apparently all over Joan Franka's head

Now we come to Slovenia, or as I am now referring to it, sLOVEnia, who thankfully decided not to send a pair of twins with a song called Konichiwa (the title pretty much indicates the quality of the lyrics) although it would have been fun to have two sets of twins in Eurovision for the second year in a row. Instead they chose Eva Boto, another teenage prodigy who makes me feel both old and talentless, and what is IMO an amazing ballad called Verjamem. The song was composed by the composer of Serbia’s 2007 winner, which does comes across a bit, but Verjamem has a drama and magic of its own. Again, I’m praying that it’s kept in Slovene, but my hopes aren’t high considering Slovenia’s history.

 

Two more make up their minds mid-week 

On Wednesday night it was Bulgaria and Macedonia who selected/presented their entries, and for me the feelings are mixed. Sofi Marinova and Love Unlimited will be flying the Bulgarian flag in Baku, and after just one listen, I have to say I’m pretty pleased about that. The song bears more than a passing resemblance to Mr. Saxobeat by Alexandra Stan (which would be representing Romania in my dreams) which means it’s dance and current, but still something different from Bulgaria. Will it be their first entry to advance since 2007?

Macedonia are also part of the Unqualified Since ’07 club, and as much as I want that dry spell to be over, I’m not sure about Kaliopi’s ability to end it with Crno I Belo. It’s not a terrible effort, but I just didn’t ‘get’ it the way I ‘got’ Bulgaria, and both of them I have heard just once. I’m labeling it a potential grower.

 

All of the above means…

…it’s time for another ranking, and THAT means it’s time to agonise over who goes where. It’s rarely hard to decide which songs you would be happy to never hear again as long as you live, but when it comes to the ones you actually like…well, it’s a different story. However, I think I’ve cracked it (for this minute, at least; my mind has already changed more times than Daria Kinzer did in Düsseldorf, although hopefully with less hideous results)  having excluded Israel (I have heard the alleged song, but I plan to wait until it becomes the actual, confirmed song before I slot it in to a ranking), Italy (who may take per sempre to decide whether Per Sempre is their song or not) and Montenegro (the song of whom is apparently floating around the web but has so far eluded me. I don’t consider that a great loss).

  1. Norway
  2. Croatia
  3. Slovenia
  4. Turkey
  5. Latvia
  6. Hungary
  7. Bulgaria
  8. Ukraine
  9. Austria
  10. Finland
  11. Iceland
  12. Ireland
  13. Belarus
  14. Denmark
  15. France
  16. Cyprus
  17. Netherlands
  18. Switzerland
  19. Malta
  20. Germany
  21. Macedonia
  22. Albania
  23. Georgia

What are your douze/nul pointers at the moment?

 

COMING UP: Two more songs, three more imminent finals, and a second chance in Sweden…