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Söngvakeppnin, another Swedish semi, and a mini newsy roundup!

To quote Outkast (as a new way of greeting y’all) hey ya! A week ago I promised to be back mid-week reporting on whatever happened that Saturday night, which didn’t quite work out…as in it didn’t work out at all. I blame technical difficulties and a serious case of Olympic fever. Still, I’m here now when it really counts, on another Super Saturday. Though I think we’re all using the term ‘super’ loosely on this one, because there isn’t a heap going on. We are getting one entry for Copenhagen, plus more Melodifestivalen, however, and that’s worth getting excited about.

In addition to rambles about that NF action, I’ll also be glossing over some of the news of the past seven days – again, of which there hasn’t been that much. But rest assured there’s always something happening in the Land of Eurovision. It’s just sometimes you need a magnifying glass, search party, metal detector and sniffer dog to find it.

Here’s what I managed to track down this week.

 

The titular newsy roundup

Because what else would I call this segment?

  • Malta: MESC 2014 finished in style last weekend, with Malta’s answer to Mumford & Sons (a.k.a. Firelight) scoring the ticket to Denmark with Coming Home. Forget coming home – I’m still coming to terms with the fact that they aren’t Daniel Testa with One Last Ride (who, as I suspected he might, ended the night in the top three). With the way things turned out, I don’t think our favourite tiny island will be hosting JESC and adult Eurovision consecutively, but I do like this entry. Yes, comparisons to other songs can be so easily drawn with it, and yes, the performance in the final came off a bit messy…but the former may actually help Firelight (a sense of familiarity rarely hurts) and the latter shouldn’t be an issue come May.
Firelight managed not to choke on their celebratory confetti, as far as I know.

Firelight managed not to choke on their celebratory confetti, as far as I know.

 

  • Sweden: Unsurprisingly, Sanna Nielsen sailed through to the final of Melodifestivalen at the pointy end of Saturday’s second semi with the lovely Undo (it’s been stuck in my head all week). Somewhat surprisingly, my beloved Panetoz nabbed the remaining spot with Efter Solsken, the only Swedish-language song in the final at the moment. It’s times like that when I’m happy to be a hopeless NF predictor. Joining Helena Paparizou and co in Andra Chansen was reality show alumni J.E.M, and winner of Melfest 2005 Martin Stenmarck, whose song and performance bore no resemblance to that of Las Vegas (yay or nay, depending which way you look at it). It was a pretty good result all round.
  • Romania: Paula Seling & Ovi may be in it to win it (again) in their home country, but it turned out to be a thumbs-down from fellow former rep Mihai Trăistariu, whose ballad I’m Sorry would have been a strong contender in the NF. Despite telling us all back in Athens that he’d return (via Tornero, of course) he’s not going to in 2014. Torner-NOOOO!
  • Belarus: Cheesecake is still going to Copenhagen (at this stage) but TEO has suffered a Valentina Monetta. Just as her Facebook became a social network, so too has his Google Maps undergone de-branding. The Google lyric has had to be changed as per the ESC rulebook, which is a bit of a shame as I liked how specific TEO was about his means of escape, but it doesn’t make a huge difference.
  • Russia: Okay, so this isn’t exactly current ESC news, but there is a contest connection. If you’ve been watching the Olympic figure skating (as I have, until ridiculously late at night/early in the morning) you may have seen the legendary Evgeny Plushenko injure himself during the warm-up for the men’s singles comp, and withdraw about a minute later, bringing his career to an abrupt end. It was über unfortunate to say the least. But the man has given us decades of graceful yet manly routines, including the one that, let’s face it, sealed the deal for Dima Bilan in Belgrade (see, there IS a connection!). So I hereby embed that very performance into this post in a tribute to the incomparable Mr. Plushenko. Watch with mute on if you must.

 

I may have used the word ‘news’ loosely when it comes to all of the above, but the less time we spend mulling over that, the better. Moving on…

 

Iceland – it’s time to decide!

That’s right – Thor’s Eythor’s reign is over. Iceland will hopefully be weeding the next Yohanna out of their six-strong field tonight after several weeks of Söngvakeppnin semis. I’ll admit (because you’d soon realise anyway) that I haven’t been following Söngvakeppnin at all this year. Each NF season, I’m selective about what I do follow and what I leave as a total surprise, and in 2014, I want a surprise from Iceland. With any luck, it’ll be a good one. If you’ve been paying attention, let me know. Is this a top-notch bunch of finalists?

  1. Þangað Til ég Dey by F.U.N.K.
  2. Amor by Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir
  3. Lífið Kviknar á Ný by Sigríður Eyrún Friðriksdóttir
  4. Von by Gissur Páll Gissurarson
  5. Eftir Eitt Lag by Greta Mjöll Samúelsdóttir
  6. Enga Fórdoma by Pollapönk

Looking at this list, I’m struck by two things: a) why don’t more Icelanders use stage names? It would make life much easier for the rest of us; and b) they all look promising somehow. You can’t judge a song based on its title or who’s singing it, but there’s something about stuff like Amor and Pollapönk (which I swear was a magical creature featured in the Harry Potter books) that gets me excited. As I’m in the dark save for my attraction to song and human titles, I’ll leave it up to Iceland to make the best decision.

Although…I can’t help having a stab at predicting the winner based on words alone. I’m getting vibes from Eftir Eitt Lag, guys. If it doesn’t win, I’m getting my vibe detector serviced.

 

Third time lucky for Sweden’s Melfest?

Now onto an NF I have been following and can talk about with some level of authority! Woohoo! Melodifestivalen continues this week in the city of Göteborg, and like the past two weeks, this semi’s line-up consists of a good mixture of old favourites, returnees and newbies, namely:

  1. Echo by Outtrigger
  2. Red by EKO
  3. Yes We Can by Oscar Zia
  4. Burning Alive by Shirley Clamp
  5. All We Are by State of Drama
  6. En Enkel Sång by CajsaStina Åkerström
  7. Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder 
  8. Around The World by Dr. Alban & Jessica Folcker
This is what a great semi final looks like.

This is what a great semi final looks like.

In terms of quality, it’s definitely third time lucky for Sweden. For the first time, I’ve had trouble picking my top 4, and whilst that means there will be casualties tonight, it also means Melfest is back on form. Exclamation mark!

After much internal debate, here are my personal favourites:

Red – I have to wonder if EKO have a thing for Margaret Berger, because this song has echoes of I Feed You My Love for sure. Is that a problem? Um, no. Not at all.

Yes We Can – Oscar Zia is precious (think a snack-size Eric Saade) and his song is like all the High School Musical soundtracks rolled into one, only without all the cheese. Cute, catchy, and most likely endorsed by Barack Obama, it gets my stamp of approval.

Busy Doin’ Nothin’ – Nothin’ but giving us a great, current addition to the line-up, that is. This dance-fest (with a slight country edge) is pretty ace, Ace.

Around The World – Dr. Alban was big in the 90s, so it’s not surprising that his entry brings Ace of Base to mind. It also brings to mind OMG I LOVE IT PLEASE LET IT QUALIFY.

You know what comes next: predictions. It is a tough ask, guessing Melfest. Unless there’s two runaway standouts, how do you draw the line between what ought to go straight to the final and what deserves a second chance? That’s a serious question. Please, would somebody let me know?

To the final: Outtrigger and Oscar Zia

To Andra Chansen: Ace Wilder and Shirley Clamp

 

With only one more batch of Melfest entries left unheard, we could already be acquainted with the winner. I don’t think the same goes for Eurovision itself. There’s the possibility of success, but not victory, amongst the teensy group of entries chosen. Could the winning song come from Iceland? Sweden, after a year’s break? Or maybe even Hungary, heading towards the climax of A Dal with semi finals on tonight and tomorrow? All will be revealed…well, in May. But the coming month will give us all the options, at least.

 Enjoy what this evening brings, fellow ESC-ers, and leave me your thoughts on pretty much anything below 🙂

EBJ Signature

 

A tale of two cities, and JESC in jeopardy – what’s making news in the world of Eurovision

I don’t do breaking news – there are way too many ESC sites out there that do it already, and I am both too unwilling and too lazy to compete with them. However I do occasionally do collective news, and that is what’s on the agenda today. Here’s an overview of the JESC12/ESC13 story so far.

 

Junior Eurovision twenty twelve – the stats

This year’s JESC will be the 10th edition, and is scheduled to take place on December the 1st in the Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam (there’s no sponsor for a children’s song contest quite like an alcoholic one). The Netherlands will be the first country to have hosted it twice, after the 2007 edition in Rotterdam. I hope they make the most of it, because they aren’t likely to be hosting big Eurovision any time soon…#harshbuttrue.

Similarly, Kim-Lian van der Meij will become the first person to co-compere the show twice. Let’s hope she can refrain from telling us that she’s so excited she could wet herself this time. Either that, or that she and Eric Saade get together. Apparently they both enjoy making mention of their full bladders on live television.

8 countries have confirmed participation so far – Armenia, Belarus, Belgium, Georgia, the Netherlands (I should hope so), Russia, Sweden and Ukraine. Italy, Moldova, San Marino, Serbia and Spain are still mulling it over. Unfortunately, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia have withdrawn, which means no superheroes, no clouds and no moondogs for Amsterdam (and possibly no Amsterdam either, but I’ll get to that in a minute).

2 songs have been selected, with Russia recruiting last year’s Moldovan entrant Lerika to sing Sensatsiya, which roughly translates as ‘I’m still pissed that I didn’t wipe the floor with everyone else in Yerevan so I’m back for revenge’. Sweden, upgrading to Lilla Melodifestivalen from last year’s non-event national final (a la Greece’s shopping centre showcase for Baku) will be sending a less familiar face in Lova Sönnerbo, and a humble ballad in Mitt Mod. I will be reviewing all the songs in full when the time comes, but for now I will say that Russia has the edge, and not just because Lerika is hell-bent on getting her hands on the trophy and will probably run over all of the competition with her scooter. Lova doesn’t stand a chance.

‘Hey you!! No looking anywhere except at me during my performance!’

Ukraine, who always bring it to JESC and ESC but have flailed over the last few years in the former, will pick their entry this Sunday from a selection of approximately a gazillion. I personally could not muster up the strength to listen to them all, so the winner will be news to me; but Annika (www.sternenstaub-esc.blogspot.com) did (impressive) and has also reviewed them (double impressive!) so head here to check out what’s on offer from the 2009 host country in 2012: http://www.sternenstaub-esc.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/jesc-2012-ukraine-2012-reviews.html.

 

What will be, will be…but will there be JESC?

I feel a little strange talking about Junior like it’s definitely going ahead, because the reality is that Yerevan may have hosted the last one, for a while or even for good. The reason for this is a general lack of interest that’s so far resulted in too few countries confirming participation. This is a real shame, especially because it is the 10th anniversary, and you’d think that would make it bigger than ever. But while big Eurovision continues to expand (I expect there’ll be about eighteen semi finals by the year 2283), Junior, it seems, is shrinking. Well, maybe not consistently, but certainly over the last couple of years. See for yourself:

Copenhagen 2003 – 16 entries

Lillehammer 2004 – 18

Hasselt 2005 – 16

Bucharest 2006 – 15

Rotterdam 2007 – 17                                                        

Limassol 2008 – 15

Kiev 2009 – 13

Minsk 2010 – 14

Yerevan 2011 – 13

Amsterdam 2012 – 8?

At this point, the number of confirmed countries is half the number that competed in the inaugural contest in Denmark, and positively paltry in comparison to the record number of 2004. Even worse is the fact that eight is not enough (no matter what that old TV sitcom said) to keep the traditional Eurovision point system of 12, 10 and 8 to 1 in use. Sure, the system could be altered to fit, but I get the feeling the organizers wouldn’t view the show as worth putting on at all if that had to be done. I think it’s up to at least three of Italy, Moldova, San Marino, Serbia – who last entered in 2010 – and Spain – who last entered in 2006 – to confirm in order for the show to go on. There really needs to be eleven participants, so come on! It can’t be that hard to find some precocious singing child to send to the Netherlands for a few days in December, can it? If you’re short on cash, drive them there yourself and make them a costume out of takeaway food containers. Just MAKE IT HAPPEN, so Lerika and Lova and whoever gets selected to represent Ukraine this weekend don’t have their fragile hopes and dreams destroyed. And so that I have an excuse to buy a truckload of sugary crap to consume at 3am whilst watching the contest on my laptop.

Moving on…

 

The who’s who of Eurovision 2013

This is more like it: 21 countries have already confirmed that they’ll be gracing Sweden with their presence next May, which means we’re guaranteed at least one semi final. They are Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Yes, Sweden will be there. What a relief! It’s also great to see Armenia back on the list after an understandable hiatus this year. I couldn’t help noticing how quickly they confirmed, which makes me think they want to remind Azerbaijan that they were the problem…but let’s not get too into that issue.

It’s also worth noting that many of the countries above had a bad time in Baku, results-wise, i.e. Austria, Belarus, Norway, France and the UK. Kudos to them for getting back on the horse, and better luck next year.

On the ‘possible’ front, it looks like Andorra won’t be making its first appearance since 2009, if the prime minister is to be believed – but since when could we believe the declarations of political figures? (That was a joke. Please don’t kill me.) Anyway, there is a chance that Liechtenstein will make a debut, so keep your eyes peeled for developments there. If only Poland and the Czech Republic would give it another go. Then we’d be on track to the biggest ESC of all time, which would make me feel a little better about the whole Junior debacle.

 

When and where?

The preliminary dates of the 58th ESC are May 14th, 16th and 18th, and that’s probably how things will stay. As for where – well, we’re going to Stockholm!

Or Malmö.

Yes, the battle is still raging between the two cities left standing, but apparently the decision is to be made within the next week. I suspect I know which one will be The One, but in the meantime, here’s a look at what each has to offer:

–  Stockholm hosted the contest the last time it was in Sweden, in 2000. If they nab it again, it’s goodbye Globen and hello Friends Arena. Formerly known as Swedbank Arena, this venue is currently under construction and will reopen in October with a measly 67 500-seat capacity for concerts to its new name.

I’m sure there’s a more glamorous angle of Friends than this…

–  When I say ‘measly’, I of course mean freaking massive. Even if that amount were slashed in half to accommodate the stage/green room/wind machine storage facility etc, it would still offer the largest ever amount of seating for an ESC. To give you some perspective, the largest offering to date was 25 000, shared between the Telenor Arena in Oslo, the Olympic Indoor Arena in Moscow, and the Belgrade Arena.

–  The Friends Arena has been pre-booked for the Melodifestivalen final in March, and is supposed to host the Svenska Cupen final a few days after Eurovision, but apparently that can be postponed to the end of May to make way for the contest. What a refreshing change to have Eurovision put before (yawn) a sporting event! I think it’s safe to say that Stockholm wants it bad.

–  More proof: in addition to renovating the Friends Arena, hotels, parking areas and only the largest shopping mall in the Nordic vicinity (swoon!) are being built nearby. Stockholm: can accommodate Eurovision much?

–  Malmö is humbler by comparison, but as they say, it’s quality, not quantity. The city has put forward Malmö Arena (I wonder why they called it that?) as their venue, which has a capacity of 15 500 for concerts. It may be smaller, but it works – the arena has played host to many a Melodifestivalen semi.

–  It’s also said to resemble Helsinki’s Hartwall Areena, the location of Eurovision 2007 which was a big success (and will always be my most-loved edition).

 

Whew! I don’t know about you, but I’m all newsed out, so I’ll end this post with something new, but not newsy. Does that make sense? Ahh, just geddon with it.

Basically, in a week or so I’m going to start posting a countdown of my top 50 Eurovision songs of all time. This is something I never thought I’d do because I figured it would be impossible – and believe me, it has not been easy. But I have finally completed my list, and I’m pretty excited to share it with you.

I thought it would be even more exciting if you guys did it with me, so if you’re interested, get listing! I’ll be going backwards from #50 all the way to #1, so with each installment, I’d love to see yours. This is a challenge I’m issuing to anyone reading this, but it’s ultimately a fun one, not a Hunger Games-type one where you may not make it out alive, so please join in. I can’t wait to see how diverse the rankings are. With 1000+ songs to pick from, they’re bound to be.

Until next time…

 

Jaz x

 

Selection Season Day 10: March Madness!

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

Told you.

 

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.

Donny, under the impression he's at a party playing Blind Man's Bluff when in fact he's at the Lithuanian final

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.

No, it's not the drum-beating grandmama from Moldova and her sisters - it's Buranovskiye Babushki!

* 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.

  1. Spain
  2. Norway
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Slovenia
  5. Croatia
  6. Finland
  7. Estonia
  8. Turkey
  9. Hungary
  10. Latvia
  11. Belarus
  12. Lithuania
  13. Austria
  14. Ukraine
  15. Iceland
  16. France
  17. Italy
  18. Denmark
  19. Cyprus
  20. Ireland
  21. Malta
  22. Netherlands
  23. Slovakia
  24. Germany
  25. Switzerland
  26. Macedonia
  27. Israel
  28. Albania
  29. Georgia

 

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.

 

Eurovision 2012: by the numbers!

  • 1 controversy surrounding the construction of the venue: I’d say that there should have been a tad more planning put into this project so that nobody had to knock on the doors of a bunch of Azerbaijanis and say ‘I’m terribly sorry to interrupt your breakfast/lunch/dinner/grandmother’s funeral, but I’m afraid we have to build a gigantic stadium on the top of your house now.’ Or something like that. There’s no doubt the Crystal Hall will be amazing, but no amount of amazingness can justify making people homeless. Unless it’s made of actual crystal…NO. Not even then!
  • 42 participating countries so far: Every year, around September, I make a point of having a nervous breakdown. Why? Well, it’s not because my birthday is in that month and I am freaking out about getting older (which would be understandable because last September I turned twenty and found a grey hair). It’s actually because the number of confirmed ESC nations is hovering around the 31-34 mark and I panic that it won’t get any higher. Thankfully, it always does. This year’s contest has the potential to have 44 entries, but if it’s 42, I’ll be more than happy, especially since last year’s returnees, Austria, Hungary and Italy (allegedly) are back once more.
  • 1 comeback country: Give me an ‘M’! Give me an ‘O’! Give me a…oh God, I cannot be bothered. It’s Montenegro, okay? In the past I’ve found it odd that Serbia kicks bottom at Eurovision whereas its former spouse struggled three times in the semis before calling it quits. But, perhaps inspired by the changes being brought about by the presence of juries in the voting, Montenegro are back, and despite my being less than fond of their entries, I’m glad. 2012 will be another chance for them to pick a winner – or at least a qualifier (with their artist being called Rambo Amadeus, the latter is all I’m hoping for).

"Please PLEASE perform for us at Eurovision again, Andrea! We really...oh wait. We have Rambo!"

  • 1 withdrawing country: Poland is out and the mourning is well underway. There’s not much to say on this matter apart from ‘I sure hope Poland come back in 2013, preferably with Edyta Gorniak or Ich Troje (now with yellow or purple hair!)’. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
  • 2 ‘will they, won’t they?’ countries: No, neither of them is Slovakia, although you can expect Slovakia to start messing with us again any day now. It is, in fact, Armenia and Morocco. I have a bad feeling they may be missing in Baku. As far as Armenia goes, I find this uncertain status very sad, because they are a trusty Eurovision nation and the idea that they may have to sit this year’s contest out because they can’t be guaranteed safety in Azerbaijan, to be blunt, sucks. Even more so because Eurovision was created to unite the continent.
  • 26 participants in this year’s final: Wow, that means it’ll be almost as marathon as the 2007 semi during which my entire bottom half went numb from sitting on the couch too long! Awesome! But why is it so? Well, that’s because not only do we have the Big 4 (the UK, Spain, Germany and France) but we have the newest member of that exclusive set, Italy (obviously making it a Big 5. I may not have done any maths since high school, but I can count up to ten), and the host country. Add that to the 20 semi final advancers and you have the magic two-six.
  • 26th of January (when the semi final allocation draw will take place): I don’t honestly believe that any particular performance position – except for maybe last – helps a song to qualify, but that doesn’t stop me from immediately setting about predicting once the draw is done. This January draw will determine who sings in each semi, as well as in which half, and that alone is enough to get speculation going.
  • 2 selected songs: I think it’s safe to say that right now, Switzerland is the favourite to win. Unbreakable by Sinplus would definitely deserve the honour and shiny trophy in my book when compared with the “interesting” “song” that is Suus by Rona Nishliu, Albania’s pick. I’ll leave my spite for some proper reviews later in the year (although, if Suus is reworked enough – i.e. completely – the spite level may have decreased by then).

Rona Nishliu: bringing back the dreads we have missed so much in Eurovision since Beth

  • 8 selected artists: Here’s the role call – Iris, Maya Sar, Ivi Adamou, Anggun, Kaliopi, Rambo Amadeus, Zeljko Joksimović and Pastora Soler. I’ll assume you already know which country they’ll be representing (if you don’t, see if you can figure it out by the names…consider it a fun little game!). It looks like Belgium and Cyprus are going down the Lena route by choosing someone young and fresh, whereas France, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Spain are bringing out the big guns with chart-topping, established artists. As for Bosnia & Herzegovina? Well, they’re taking a leaf out of Iceland and/or Georgia’s book by kidnapping last year’s backing singer and forcing them at glitter-gunpoint to sing this year (but without the violence, I guess – I hear Maya was fully consenting). Personally, I’m hanging out to hear what Zeljko will come up with, as he is the creator of two of my favourite Eurovision songs of all time, and another cracking one. He’s under a heap of pressure to deliver the goods, but I reckon he can.
  • 7 national selections scheduled for January: As I write this, here’s the go – Bosnia & Herzegovina, France, Slovakia and Turkey will have both songs and artists by the end of the month; Denmark’s MGP will be on the 21st; Cyprus will pick a song for Ivi on the 25th; and Belarus will make their decision on the 28th. As you read this, none of the above is likely to be true. NFs are so very fickle!
  • Today’s final number is a triple-digit 100, for the amount of times per day I think about how excited I am for Melodifestivalen. The list of entrants for 2012 reads like a who’s who of Swedish music (which is kind of what it is). I’ll be keeping my eye on…

–          Loreen and Danny Saucedo, two of my favourites from last year

–          The Moniker, since last year he came third (like a certain Eric Saade did back in 2010 before coming back and winning!)

–          Timoteij, because they are amazing. Obviously.

–          Ulrik Munther, the Swedish Justin Bieber (there’s one in every country. Australia’s is Cody Simpson. Who’s yours? Unless you live in Canada in which case your Bieber IS Bieber, and I’m very sorry for that).

–          Afro-Dite, Andreas Lundstedt, Molly Sandèn and Charlotte Perrelli, because they have all graced the Eurovision stage in the past – some once, some 7564 times (and it’s still not enough is it, Charlotte?) and others on a smaller scale.

 

So that’s my overblown numerical take on the stale 2012 news that everyone had known about forever. I hope you enjoyed it, and do come back, because I promise to post more regularly and be more hilarious than ever this year. Well, I did at about 11.58pm on December 31st anyway.

Happy New Year!

 

What are you most looking forward to in the 2012 Eurovision season? Who are you excited to see in the national finals?

What to expect when you’re expecting (JESC and ESC, of course!)

‘Tis the season to be keeping up to date with every last Eurovision-related development! You may not think there’s much happening at the moment, but planning the ESC is pretty close to being a year-round job – and don’t forget the fact that we’re not too far away from December, when the 9th Junior Eurovision will take place in Armenia. As such, there IS facts and figures about both events piling up already. In case you’ve not had the time or you just want a second opinion, here’s my role call of what we can expect…so far!

 JESC 2011

– It’ll be a trek to win JESC this year, what with the logo and the slogan (“Reach for the top!”) having been selected, both of which are musically mountainous.

– The show will take place on December 3, at the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex in Yerevan, Armenia. The venue can seat 8000 – 11 000 people, and has previously had the likes of Eurovision representatives André (2006) and Hayko (2007) as well as Deep Purple (if all you know about them is Smoke on the Water, you are not alone) pass through its doors.

– It looks like there’ll be 12 countries stepping on the stage, 2 down from last year. They are: Armenia (I should hope so!), Belarus, Belgium, Georgia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine and…San Marino! Italy might not be in it to win it (or lose it, since they really are not in it in any way) but us fans will get to hear Italian after all. Let’s cross our fingers that SM can rake in a few more points than they did in Belgrade and Düsseldorf. Do you remember Düsseldorf? It was such a long time ago now…

– Unfortunately, neither Latvia, Malta nor Serbia will be participating. The lack of Serbia makes my face a particularly sad one as they always have me picking up the phone to vote in Junior Eurovision. Of course, I immediately put it back down again since I’m in Australia and can’t vote…but the mere fact Serbia makes me forget that says a lot! Come back in 2012, all three of you!

– 2 very strong songs have been selected so far: Kak Romeo I Dzhulyetta (which translates to Like Romeo and Juliet) by Katya Ryabova for Russia; and Candy Music (which, believe it or not, translates to Candy Music) by Candy for Georgia. Russia is my favourite so far, but it cannot be denied how up-to-the-mainstream-minute both of the entries are. It’ll be a fab show if these are any indication of the standard.

– The next entry we’ll hear belongs to the Ukraine, who select on July 31, followed (at this point) by the hosts and Lithuania in September and the Netherlands in October.

 

ESC 2012

– May 22, 24 and 26 are the preliminary dates set for the Baku show, which means that the EBU is making us all pay for having to wait less than a year between the 2010 and 2011 contests. We’ve now got a fortnight extra to wait, but remember: it’s July, which means there’s less than 45 weeks to go (I think…I don’t often check things twice, unlike Santa Claus). That must be a scary thought for the Azerbaijani organizers, who did promise a show to rival Moscow!

– Debates continue over where the contest will be held, which is a fairly important detail to determine. Rather than “to be or not to be?” the question seems to be “to use a stadium we already have or to build a brand spanking new one?”. If a 20 000 seat venue doesn’t get built especially for Eurovision (oh to have such power!) then it looks like the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, which seats a mere 35 700 people, could be the one.

– After just 2 years, voting during the show had been abandoned in favour of the previous voting window system. And just when I was warming to the new one! It definitely made voting for songs rather than performances more likely. Oh well, I should know by now that one of the ESC’s favourite things is change – not the Hotel FM kind either.

– 17 countries have confirmed their 2012 participation so far, which means we’ll have at least one semi final! They are: Austria, Azerbaijan (again, I should hope they’d make an appearance at their own show!), Belarus, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. I’m hoping the UK confirms soon and isn’t thinking, ‘If Blue couldn’t do it, and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber couldn’t do it, what’s the bleeding point?’. It’d be nice to have the Czech Republic, Andorra and Montenegro back as well.

– The participation of Israel and Portugal is in jeopardy, with the preliminary final date clashing with a Jewish holiday for the former, and some serious broadcaster issues for the latter. NOOOOOOOO!  

– On a happier note, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden have all begun their selection processes – albeit tentatively. Sweden is calling out for Melodifestivalen entrants, with one small requirement: NONE of the songs can feature the word popular. I am, of course, joking. But really, I think we’ve had enough repetitions of that word to last us a hundred years. Perhaps then Eric Saade can make a triumphant return to the contest via live satellite feed from his nursing home singing (I Used To Be) Popular.

 

So cheer up, because it is certainly not all quiet on the ESC front! If you’re not a JESC fan then keep your eyes on Baku, and if you are, enjoy the upcoming selections and the fact that I like you way better than those people who aren’t JESC fans! Ha ha. Eurovision can last 365 days a year if you really want it to…

What’s next for twenty-eleven?

Hello all!   

I hope you’re doing well wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. I’ve spent the last few days “studying” for my exams next week and wishing I could be blogging instead. I’m determined to keep doing so (the latter, that is, not pretend to study) all year round, but it’s a bit hard at the moment.

This is especially frustrating when I’m wanting to put up my retrospective reviews for you! I’ve been putting them together in bits and pieces, looking at the songs, artists and performances from 2011, in between doing what I’m supposed to, and I’m hoping to post them in installments from early next week – the first being countries A to B. So please come back to check them out and share your own opinions (subscribe to EBJ to get alerted…pretty please? Just go to the bottom of the page). In the meantime, why not relive my 2010 retrospective reviews from here: https://eurovisionbyjaz.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/retrospective-reviews-a-to-b/

In the (350 or so) days before Baku, here are some of the other posts I’ve got planned:

– Top 10’s: JESC to ESC, songs that shouldn’t have come last, and anything else I can think of!

– Articles: What does it take to be a runner-up in Eurovision? What have the last decade’s winners been up to lately? Plus, some contest questions that have to be asked…

– Time-warp Tuesdays: I’ll be shining the spotlight on a personal classic moment from the glittery ESC history every week, courtesy of Youtube, just for nostalgic fun!

– And of course, my take on all the developments from Armeniain the lead up to 2011’s other contest, Junior Eurovision.

To conclude, I’ll continue the randomness of this particular post by saying:

a)      I picked up my copy of the Electric Pictures documentary The Secret History of Eurovision today. From an actual shop. Finally, we Australians get something Eurovision easier! I haven’t watched it yet, but I remember how good it was from the broadcast in May, and if you do, or if you didn’t get the chance to see it, you can get it online right now. It’s stocked at www.dymocks.com.au and http://shop.abc.net.au/ for $30AUD, and both ship overseas. What are you waiting for?

b)      My first Time-warp Tuesday begins…now! Yes, I am aware it’s more like Forgotten Favourites Friday, but who’s caring? Let’s go back to 1989 and one of those runners-up…one that really should have gone all the way. It’s the United Kingdom, who back then asked themselves the question that they should be asking themselves more often now (the answer can be found in song form in their 2010 entry): why do I always get it wrong? This is from Live Report, and it’s one of my all-time favourites. Talk to you soon!

 

The 2011 split results revealed, and ranked!

THE FINAL

 
It wasn’t until July last year that the split results were released, so to wake up this morning and see that the EBU had made them public just a fortnight after the contest was a great surprise!
 
I’m wondering if you’ll be as shocked as I was by some of the entries that both the juries and televoters decided were worthy of their highest points…here’s a brief look at the final stats as seen above.
 
  • If the outcome of Eurovision was still decided by 100% televoting (as it was up until a few years ago), this year’s top 10 would have consisted of Azerbaijan, Sweden, Greece, Ukraine, UK, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Russia, Germany, and Ireland. So not too different country-wise, but quite different position-wise!
  • And in a fantasy land (not mine) where Eurovision is decided by the pros alone, Italy would have won, followed by Azerbaijan, Denmark, Slovenia, Austria, Ireland, Ukraine, Serbia, Sweden and Germany.
  • That means the J’s and TV’s have just 50% of their top 10’s in common.
  • Azerbaijan and Sweden were very close with the fans, with just 2 point separating them.
  • The UK might take some comfort in the love they got from the televoters – all 166 points worth –  despite the fact that the juries didn’t rate them.
  • Fan favourite Denmark shockingly owe the juries their 5th place – not the televoters, who pushed them down to 18th!
  • The countries on the most equal footing are Lithuania, Iceland, Romania, Germany and Azerbaijan, who attracted a similar amount of attention from both sides.
 
 
Check out the split semi finals below (click them bigger):

SEMI FINAL 1

  • The juries got 80% of the qualifiers they wanted; the televoters got 70%.
  • You can see two very different winners from each group…both more than a bit stereotypical! The juries lavished the love on Lithuania, a grand, old-fashioned ballad belted out with gusto (and a bit of sign language, which was a nice touch, albeit stolen from Latvia’s 2005 performance) whereas the televoters couldn’t get enough of Greece’s ethnic-modern fusion (and perhaps their absurdly attractive singer).
  • Also expected is the popularity of Norway with the TV’s in comparision to its rear-end-of-the-scoreboard relegation with the J’s.
 
SEMI FINAL 2
  • Here, the juries, got 80% again, whereas the televoters got 90%. It seems the compromise is working out fair!
  • Once again, we can see two very different, but not surprising semi winners. The powerhouse vocals of Maja from Slovenia won out with the pros, whilst the Popular powerhouse performance/party anthem of Sweden got the TV’s dialling.
  • The viewers shared Anastasia Vinnikova’s love for Belarus, it seems.

 

What do you think of the split results? Were you shocked or surprised, or did you expect what you saw? Let me know down below!

1 to 43, down the Eurovision street…

My manicure's still intact...unfortunately, "Baku" doesn't fit so well. Lucky "Azerbaijan" does!

It’s the morning after the morning after, and there’s still so much 2011 to talk about! I need a bit of time before I crown this year’s winners of the EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence (your invitation should be in the mail), but in the meantime, let’s go through the Düsseldorf results once again – this time all the way from 1 to 43, with a little bit extra!  

1. Azerbaijan (221) – Now that I’ve had a few hours to mull this victory over, I’m seeing it as a ‘Russia 08’ win – right country, right time…but not necessarily a memorable song and maybe not the one that’ll be seen as the right winner in the future. That is just my personal opinion, of course, and I’m still just as happy for Ell, Nikki and Azerbaijan as I was last night! Last year they threw everything at their entry with Safura (including Beyoncé’s choreographer, who’s still in traction), desperate to win, and now they’ve done it by trying a little less hard. Still, I think their triumph was a surprise to a lot of people.

2. Italy (189) – I get the feeling Raphael wasn’t overly excited by such a great result. That’s okay, because I’m excited enough for the both of us! To come back to the contest after more than a decade with a song few expected to make an impact, only to rake in the points and score one of the most coveted positions on the board is an über awesome achievement (sorry, I’m still feeling German). I think Mr. Gualazzi gave the best performance out of the Big 5, one that made me want to scat loudly in my living room even though I’m SO not a jazz fan – despite my name. Fingers crossed for Italy to grace Baku with their presence next year!

3. Sweden (185) – Sweden won the 2nd semi, and for a while during the voting, it looked like Eric Saade would be the most Popular act of the night, and though I’d previously thought to myself that if Sweden won, I’d just die, all of a sudden I was cheering them on. Alas, it was not to be. But I think this is a place well deserved. Eric may not have the best live vocal (although maybe if they let him stand still and sing rather than making him run up the walls/smash glass/run marathons and sing, he’d do better) but he had a cracking song and show that got the Düsseldorf Arena going, and he sold them both to the max.  

 4.Ukraine (159) – I love this song, but I can’t help thinking…how did this happen? I didn’t know Europe loved sand so much.

5. Denmark (134)

6. Bosnia & Herzegovina (125) – Way to show the Curse of No. 2 who’s boss, Dino Merlin! This fan couldn’t be happier for B & H. Their entries are usually hit-and-miss for me, but when they hit, they hit with something really unique that stands out – Putnici, Lejla, Bistra Voda…sigh. I’m adding Love In Rewind to that list of wonderful-ness for certain.  

7. Greece (120)

8. Ireland (119)

9. Georgia (110)

10. Germany (107) – Lena put in one of the most polished performances of the night – very sultry, very mysterious, and just plain eye-catching! It’s clear she’s really grown as a performer since the Satellite days of yesteryear (or last-a-year, in this case). And yet, she was 19 then and is still 19 now. I’m actually hoping Germany makes her their permanent representative.

11. United Kingdom (100) – Blue didn’t quite live up to expectation, but with 100 points – 10 times their 2010 result – and 11th place, they shouldn’t beat themselves up about it. Though Lee Ryan could do with a minor beating for choosing the moment theUK sang for real in the final to have his voice break. And we could have done without 2D-Blue in the background. Ireland and Slovakia gave us enough doubles to last a lifetime. Still, it was a commendable performance, so close to the top 10.

 12. Moldova (97)

13. Slovenia (96)

14. Serbia (85)

15. France (82) – Speaking of not living up to expectation! There were a lot of fans and journalists convinced that France would run away with the glass microphone in 2011, and as you probably know, the bookies had them instilled as the firm favourite most of the way. I hate to brag, but I never saw Amaury on top. And yet I didn’t think he could possibly leave Germany with anything less than a 10th place under his belt. I have to say, his vocals weren’t as breathtaking as they were on the French variety show where Sognu premiered, and so I spent the last half or so of the song wondering how many hours it had taken to maneuver his hair into that ‘I just rolled out of bed into a vat of styling gel (Schwarzkopf, naturally)’ arrangement. Better luck in Baku.

16. Russia (77)

17. Romania (77)

18. Austria (64)

19. Lithuania (63)

20. Iceland (61)

21. Finland (57)

22. Hungary (53)

23. Spain (50)

24. Estonia (44) – Speaking of not living up to expectation…again. Poor Getter failed to make the splash many thought she would, although she did bring the Peter Pan collar to the Eurovision stage. Her vocals weren’t the best, and I guess that coupled with being the filling of a dramatic Sweden/Greece sandwich led her to the second to last place.

25. Switzerland(19) – Would someone give the Swiss a break? I fell in love for a while with this sunny song after seeing it in the first semi, thinking if it qualified it could make the top 10. Amazingly, it did qualify – but fell flat in the final. As much as just reaching the final must be an achievement for the country, nobody wants to be last.

Then again, Anna Rossinelli didn’t technically come last. Here’s the rest of the scoreboard, with the semi 1 acts in blue and the semi 2 acts in red:

  1. Malta (54)
  2. Armenia (54)
  3. Belgium (53) – As talented as they are, I can’t believe Witloof Bay were so close.
  4. Bulgaria (48)
  5. Slovakia (48)
  6. Albania (47)
  7. Turkey (47) – Not only did the Turks not qualify, but they weren’t even on the border! Major shock.
  8. Belarus (45)
  9. Croatia (41)
  10. Israel (38)
  11. FYR Macedonia (36)
  12. San Marino (34) – 37th may not seem like an impressive result, Senit – but it makes you the singer of San Marino’s most successful entry ever!
  13. Norway (30)
  14. Latvia (25)
  15. Portugal (22)
  16. Poland (18)
  17. Cyprus (16) – IMO, this is one of the least deserved positions of 2011. The staging and choreography was up there with Germany’s in terms of professionalism, and the song just gets me. If the performance had mimicked Germany’s in choice of outfits, I wouldn’t be surprised with 16 points (Christos could not carry off that onesie) but as it stands, I don’t understand what went wrong.
  18. Netherlands (13) – Yes, it was 3JS from another unlucky ESC country who have the dubious honor of being 43rd out of 43. Was it deserved? I don’t think so. But it has to be someone. Or three someones, in this instance. A problem shared is a problem halved!

 

More this week, so stay tuned…just because Eurovision’s over doesn’t mean we have to stop discussing it!

The chaos comes to a close, and the countdown continues to number 56!

It seems like yesterday we were all celebrating Germany’s win of 2010 and imagining where we’d be tuning in to one year on. But that year has almost passed already, and the host city, stadium, and of course, all forty-three songs, are locked in place! There’ll be a bit of a lull in action from now as behind-the-scenes work carries on until May – but before that, there’s a whole lot of fun stuff for me to cover, having been otherwise occupied for just a few days. Let’s get to it!

The running order has been decided…

And I was a lot more anxious to find out what happened than I thought I would be! I won’t list the full results as I’m sure you’ve already seen them (if not, check out eurovision.tv or the 2011 Wikipedia page), but I will skim over the crucial info – such as  Poland opening the first semi final, and Greece closing it. Both of those countries are in these positions as wildcards, meaning they were randomly selected to have the advantage of choosing their slots (in the first and second halves). You can imagine why they would have picked these – going first has its perks, and being the last flavour on everybody’s tongue does too.

What is harder to imagine is why the wildcards in semi final two, Slovakia and Latvia, chose the 5th and 17th positions respectively. I’m sure they had their reasons, but you have to wonder why they didn’t mimic those of Poland and Greece. Still, Latvia’s lateness in the draw pleases me (a HUGE fan of Angel In Disguise) despite the fact that I don’t really believe any particular draw helps an entry to qualify/prevents them from doing so. In any case, Bosnia and Herzegovina is numero uno in SF2, whilst Jedward will be the second set of twins to perform that evening at the end.

The dreaded “curse of number two” has befallen Norway and Austria this year, two countries that have been predicted to advance since early in the piece. It’s a curse that has been less evident in recent years than in the past, so if I were Stella or Nadine, I wouldn’t lose any beauty sleep over it. Stella, especially, should sail through to the final even if the curse floats through the air conditioning vents and slaps her in the face during the seventeenth ‘Haba haba!’.

None of the Big 5 have to worry about that either, with all of them being drawn (almost) in the second half of the final. France will be the first of them to grace the stage in 11th position, followed directly by Italy (12th), then the UK (14th – a fairly good slot for them), the host country (16th), and the wildcard of the final, Spain (22nd).

 

Whilst Azerbaijan is running scared.

After keeping us in suspense for slightly longer than intended, one of Eurovision’s newest but most successful countries revealed its entry earlier in the week. It’s titled (as alluded by the hilarious pun above) Running Scared, and whilst in my opinion, it makes Drip Drop look like a winner, it isn’t a bad effort.

For a fairly generic ballad with no ethnic influence, the chorus is strong and after only one listen, I could still remember how it went. Praise has been very generously doled out online for this entry, which I don’t quite understand…but it’s nice. In a 6-point kind of way.

 

Belarus is feeling the love…

As you probably know, Belarus was forced to cobble together a new song for Anastasia Vinnikova when it was revealed that the original, Born In Bielorussia (a song I loved for its fun Junior Eurovision-like qualities) had been publicly performed prior to the allowed date. The newbie, I Love Belarus also sounds like a JESC song, though not such a good one.

Short of hanging a neon sign around Anastasia’s neck in the video clip that flashes “Written in five minutes!”, it couldn’t be any more obvious that this was written in five minutes in a mad dash to meet the deadline (well, maybe more than five. Seven at least). In an apparently desperate effort to pen a song about how wonderful Belarus is – as I’m sure it is – those responsible for this entry have taken the old song, put in a blender with copious amounts of predictable soft rock and poured the contents into a glass only to find it half-empty. And yet…I kind of like it. Why, I don’t know. Nonetheless, it’s not a likely qualifier, being in the second semi. But I give it 6 points, having given the original song 10.  

 

As a handful of countries go English…

Whilst I see the pros of rewriting a song in English for Eurovision purposes, I wish there weren’t so many countries so quick to do it. I love European languages, and having learnt to love the likes of Poland in its native one, the recently released English translations sound very clichéd. When thought is put into the rewriting, and it isn’t just done for the sake of doing it (Albania, Slovenia, and Iceland) it can turn out quite well. As for Poland and the Ukraine…all I can say is, for Bucks (Fizz) sake, go back to Polish/Ukrainian! The translations of those have turned two great songs into two average ones. I should say that it isn’t 100% settled whether or not these two will go with the English versions. Poland has said they’ll see what the fan response is…I could tell you right now the verdict.

Luckily, there are a few countries that have gotten it right: the Netherlands’ 3JS, whose rewrite is both meaningful, and so seamless that there isn’t much difference from the Dutch version; and Italy, who have gone for a combination of the original Italian, and English, which is very effective (Madness of Love, as it is now referred to, has really grown on me over the last few weeks). So I will be applauding these songs, as well as the few countries who will sing in their own language – Cyprus, Bulgaria and Serbia for example – extra vigorously in May.  

 

And more Düsseldorf details are revealed.

A sneak peek of the stage has been released (only in writing unfortunately, as construction is yet to get underway), as well as the postcards and interval acts, on eurovision.tv. The mystery of the reprise has been solved therein, with co-host and my favourite German, Stefan Raab’s Big Band set to perform Satellite in Lena’s place (whilst she’s backstage experiencing a severe case of déjà vu). With 53 days to go until the first semi, the organizers will be going full speed ahead. They’re sure to have the Esprit Arena and its trimmings ready on time if German train schedules are any indication (you know what they say about the punctuality of public transport).

I’m so excited, and I really can’t hide it – can you?

Eric Saade, Alexey, and the mysterious absence of Azerbaijan…

So we thought we’d be ringing in this fine Sunday (depending on where you are in the world) with all 43 songs picked in preparation for the running order draw on Monday, right? But this is Eurovision, and since when did things ever go 100% smoothly in the lead-up? Exactly. But before I get to the issues and absentees, there are two more songs to be dissected after last night – one from Sweden, and the other from Russia.

Let’s begin with Sweden, and the genetically blessed homosapien that is Eric Saade, who managed to beat out fellow repeat-offenders like Linda Bengtzing and Sanna Nielsen in the Globen Arena with Popular.

I didn’t particularly rate this song at first, but was still cheering it on (for reasons I’m sure you can hazard a guess at). After a few listens, however, I have been won over to the point where right now, I’d give it 10 points. Manboy I would have given the douze, but if I deem a song worthy of the 8 or 10 it still means I’m loving it. You can guarantee that Eric will give it all he’s got onstage; hopefully deviating a little from the Melodifestivalen performances (he may have to deviate a lot if the consequences of shattered glass are any indication). He’s in the first half of the second semi, so it will be a tough battle to qualify, but if anyone can do it, he can. Good luck, I say!

For anyone interested/who hasn’t seen them yet, here are the results of the Melodifestivalen final:

  1. Eric Saade/ POPULAR/ 193
  2. Danny Saucedo/ IN THE CLUB/ 149
  3. The Moniker/ OH MY GOD!/ 124
  4. Sanna Nielsen/ I’M IN LOVE/ 114
  5. Swingfly/ ME AND MY DRUM/ 93
  6. The Playtones/ THE KING/ 79
  7. Linda Bengtzing/ E DET FEL PÅ MEJ/ 58
  8. Nicke Borg/ LEAVING HOME/ 57
  9. Sara Varga/ SPRING FÖR LIVET/ 50
  10. Brolle/ 7 DAYS AND 7 NIGHTS/ 29

It’s interesting to note that neither of the Andra Chansen qualifiers came last – in fact, The Moniker managed a commendable third place, higher than both Sanna and Linda who both qualified first in their semis. I’m not surprised by Brolle’s last place, as that was the song I had been least impressed with this year for Sweden. It is a shame for Sanna, though, to miss out AGAIN by a short distance. I don’t think she’ll give up though – she’ll be croaking her way through the schlager on day release from the nursing home.

Now for a quick word on the Russians, who enlisted RedOne to pen a song for them this year, performed by Alexey Vorobyov. After yet another early leak, the song was presented for us all to see without getting into trouble last night:

I have to say, if I didn’t already know who was behind this song, I never would have guessed it to be the man responsible for a chunk of Lady Gaga’s back catalogue and Love Generation’s MF entry. It doesn’t sound very RedOne-ish at all. Do I like it? Yes. It’s not a real boat-floater for me, but it’s quite catchy. Alexey’s heavy accent does get in the way a bit, but I suppose to no greater an extent than Koldun’s did in 2007, and remember how well he went down (FYI – Work Your Magic is my ringtone at the moment – how vintage!). I wouldn’t be shocked if it missed out on a place in the final, unlike last year when I was flabbergasted that Russia did make it (and only narrowly lost out on a top-ten finish). It gets 6 points from me, right here, right now.

While you’re figuring out how you feel about Saturday, here’s some more Düsseldorf dribs and drabs to consider.

–          A song we all should have been rating today is from Azerbaijan, who were down to reveal it yesterday, but for some reason did not. They’re cutting things a bit fine, with the 14th being the selection deadline, so let’s hope that there’s some news on that in the very near future. The website of the Azerbaijani broadcaster doesn’t reveal any more than is already known by us fans…

–          Another country putting us on edge is Belarus, who initially picked the song Born In Bielorussia for Zooey Deschanel…er, Anastasia Vinnikova (the resemblance is uncanny). The lyrics were soon deemed too controversial and so were rewritten, with the song’s title changing to I Am Belorussian. But wait, there’s more! It was then revealed that the song had been publicly performed before the 1st of September 2010, against the EBU rules, and so now, it has been disqualified, and a new song, called I Love Belarus, will (allegedly) premiere on the 14th, just in time. Watch this space to see if that is actually what happens!

–          English versions of this year’s native-language entries are slowly emerging, with the Netherlands and Iceland now set to use the former. Part of the charm of these two entries for me was the Dutch and Icelandic they were sung in, so naturally I am disappointed. I haven’t heard Sigurjon’s Friends’ Coming Home (as it’s now known), but I have heard Never Alone from 3JS, and I have to say it hasn’t lost much in the transition from Dutch to English – it still appeals as much as ever.

A day before the deadline, and there’s still two entries MIA. Will they both make it on time? Or will there be prices to pay? (Quite literally – a hefty fine or two). It’s more dramatic than a soap opera cliffhanger. Don’t you just love it?