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Guess who, Baku: my action-packed 2012 prediction special!

The delegations have arrived, the rehearsals are well underway, there’s a wind machine repairman on standby and I have bought out my local supermarket’s entire supply of bite-size junk food. What does this all mean?? That Eurovision 2012 is here, of course!

I’ve got my flags and I’ve got my Minipops…come at me Baku!

The first semi final of this year’s contest is on a) tomorrow, b) the day after that, c) at 4am on Wednesday morning, depending on where you are in the world. Basically, it’s so close I could ask it for an autograph. Being down here in Australia means I have to wait until Friday to see this semi on TV, so I’m about to embark on a period of media abstinence to rival that of the Amish. Before I do, though, I’ve got some serious predicting to do, based on what I’ve heard from those on the ground in Baku, all of whom I hate with a passion.

Without further ado, here’s my take on the events to come for both semis and le grand final!

 

SEMI FINAL 1

Who will qualify: Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Moldova, Romania and Russia

I-vi phoooone hooooome…to tell your mum you qualified

Who I want to qualify: Albania, Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Moldova and Romania

Who is most likely to…

Win the semi: Iceland. I could so easily say Greece, because it’s Greece (and I believe they won their semi in 2011 with a song that many of us tipped to get left behind) but with a song that’s at least five years past the Eurovision use-by, an unreliable vocalist and some cringe-worthy lyrics, I can’t see it out-pointing the drama (and pretty lights) and magic (and pretty Jónsi) from Iceland. If anyone can, it’ll be Mandinga from Romania.

Lose the semi: Montenegro. Need I say more? Surely, as “clever” as this apparently is, it’s not getting votes from anywhere.

Get the biggest round of applause: Russia. The grannies will be clap-happy when they shuffle off stage, for sure. If you’re in the Crystal Hall, don’t worry about the volume of your Babushki applause, because I’m pretty sure they’re all deaf (or more specifically, tone-deaf…boom boom tish!)

Sing best live: Denmark, Iceland, Israel and Latvia – 5+ reliable singers with few difficult notes to navigate.

Sing worst live: Cyprus and Greece. At least they’ll give each other a good helping of points whether Ivi and Eleftheria suck or not.

Make the best use of the background: Albania, Cyprus and Iceland. I have high (and quite specific) expectations for Iceland in particular. I think I speak for all of us who’ve seen Greta and Jónsi’s preview video when I say that the aurora borealis better make an appearance on the LEDs.

Have the most boring stage show: Belgium. Let’s face it, what can be done with this? You can’t really use a prop or have a troupe of backup dancers, and a wind machine just isn’t appropriate. Dry ice? No. Pyrotechnics? Yeah, right.

Have the best costume/s: Albania and Denmark. Rona has worn some crazy-cool stuff in her dreadlock mountain since she’s been in Baku, so I can only imagine what she’s going to wear from the neck down. Soluna, I hope, hasn’t decided to get rid of her I-just-raided-the-dress-up-box outfit from the Danish final, because I dug it big time.

Have the worst costume/s: Montenegro and San Marino. I’m envisioning safari prints and rhinestones and nothing that really fits. Who knows, maybe Valentina will come out dressed as Mark Zuckerberg.

 

SEMI FINAL 2

Who will qualify: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Estonia, Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine

“Mwahahahahahaha…told ya’s I’d make it!”

Who I want to qualify: Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden and Turkey

Who is most likely to…

Win the semi: Norway or Sweden. I think Scandinavia’s got this semi in the bag, be it via a more traditional extravaganza or a pared-back performance.

Lose the semi: Portugal. This semi is the toughest of the two as usual, and whilst I think Filipa may get votes from the juries, I don’t reckon the voters will go for her song at all – not with powerhouse artists, acts and songs from the likes of Serbia and Ukraine to pick up the phone for.

Get the biggest round of applause: Sweden, for the second year running (probably in a crab-like sideways manner like Loreen).

Sing best live: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Lithuania and Serbia. I’m yet to hear a live solo vocal from Maya, but she was a great backup for Dino Merlin last year. Donny Montell has proven his worth as a singer and showman more than once, as has Željko, who is one of the most reliable.

Sing worst live: Malta. Kurt is adorable, and I admit it was hard to choose a potential disaster from this lot (so I settled on him) however I have heard he’s had trouble in the rehearsals with certain areas of TITN. I hope I’m wrong and he pulls it together on the night…after all, this is the night to not stuff up (see what I did there?)

Make the best use of the background: Norway and Ukraine. I’m envisioning flashing lights and lots of colour – though hopefully not colour that nauseates, as Serbia’s did in Düsseldorf (and I’m not at all prone to motion sickness).

Have the most boring stage show: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Serbia. I love all three of their songs, but again there isn’t that much that can be done with them when it comes to choreography etc.

Have the best costume: Ukraine. When you’re singing such a summery dance song (and you’re from Ukraine) you’re pretty much required by law to wear something amazing that looks like a rainbow vomited on you.

Have the worst costume: Georgia. I can’t even begin to imagine what Anri will wear. Or do I just not want to?

 

THE GRAND FINAL

Who will win Eurovision 2012: I’ve been through all 42 entries numerous times, hoping not to be blindsided by a random win two years in a row, and finally, I’ve narrowed my potential winners down to Norway, Italy and Sweden. All three countries have in their possession great songs and charismatic artists, and from what I hear have polished up their stage shows nicely. They are bringing it big time.

Norway’s ethno-pop awesomeness and dynamic presentation could be let down by an off vocal from Tooji – but then again, a winner doesn’t have to have the best voice in the competition, do they Nikki? Anyway, I have a feeling he’ll pull everything together.

Italy has all they need to snatch the trophy. Nina and her song ooze vintage cool, and her performance will no doubt be flawless. When you combine the points that will roll in as a result, with the points Italy will get because they’re still being welcomed back…well, you get a lot. I’ll be shocked if there isn’t a win or a top 5 placing in store for Nina.

Sweden has been the bookies’ favourite and the one to beat since Loreen took to the Melodifestivalen stage for her reprise, way back in March. I know the bookies aren’t always right (we have that in common) but I can’t discount Euphoria from my picks. It stands out from the crowd both in sound and staging. Those of us familiar with it will vote for it (well, the 99.99% of us who love it will) and those who are watching/listening for the first time will get it immediately, I think. The juries aren’t as fuddy-duddy as they used to be either, so don’t expect them to rank the ballads higher than this. Sweden are going u-u-u-u-u-up!

Who will make the top 10: Azerbaijan, Germany, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Sweden and Ukraine. I couldn’t bring myself to put Greece down despite the fact they’ve been in the top 10 every year since the introduction of the semi finals. I just can’t see the dated Aphrodisiac washing with voters or juries in 2012.

Who will be left at the bottom: France, Israel and Latvia. But you never can tell. Didn’t we all think we could be headed to Tallinn pre-Düsseldorf?

How the final 6 will end up: I think Italy, Germany and hosts Azerbaijan will place the highest, in the top 10. Spain and the UK should be somewhere in the 12th – 20th range. As for France…well, you can see just above where I think that one is headed.

 

 

There. I can shove my crystal ball and tarot cards and tea leaves back in the cupboard until Junior Eurovision now, and step away from my computer for the first time since…well, I suppose this time last year. Whether you’re watching the show live or waiting it out like me, I hope you enjoy your Eurovision experience. I also hope you get über depressed afterwards like me so we can all wallow in our misery together. Seriously, don’t make me go through it alone! 

I’m going to attempt some semi wrap-ups over the weekend, so look out for those. For now I’m going to wrap up this long and obnoxious post by saying goodbye, aurovoir, auf wiedersehen, um…

I really need Sofi Marinova to teach me ‘goodbye’ in a few more languages… 

 

What do you expect from Eurovision 2012? Where do you think we’ll be heading next year?

 

 

Baku Reviews: Part 7 (the final six)

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

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

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

Now, on with the important stuff:

 

Azerbaijan

When the Music Dies/ Sabina Babayeva

Reminds me of: Falling by Alicia Keys

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

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

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 7 points.

 

France

Echo (You and I)/ Anggun

Top 10 material: No

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

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

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.  

 

Germany

Standing Still/ Roman Lob

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

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

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

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points

 

Italy

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

Top 10 material: Yes

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

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

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.

 

Spain

Quedate Conmigo/ Pastora Soler

Reminds me of: En Una Vida by Coral

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

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

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – douze points!

 

United Kingdom

Love Will Set You Free/ Engelbert Humperdinck

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

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

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

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 5 points.

 

 

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

 

Selection Season Day 12: The beginning of the end

Oui, we are getting closer and closer to having a full 42 (which may turn into 41, but more on that later…) with only Belgium, Azerbaijan and the UK still to choose/reveal their songs for Iris, Sabina and Engelbert. I’ve been very busy this week, and so today’s post is jam-packed with all I couldn’t cover as it happened. Better late than never, right?  

 

More songs, more reactions

The last seven days have continued the gap-filling for Baku in spectacular fashion, with nine more songs now part of the 2012 family – a family with more offspring than the Brady Bunch and the Octo-Mom combined.

Now, before you read my reactions and abuse me because I forgot to mention Sweden, I must tell you that I always feel the need to give Melodifestivalen a segment all of its own. It is, after all, almost as huge as Eurovision itself (technically huger if you consider the amount of shows/weeks/locations/wind machines involved). So you’ll have to wade through my verdicts on Bosnia, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania, San Marino AND Serbia’s entries to get to Sweden (if you don’t know what happened there a) where have you BEEN? Holidaying in an Amish caravan park? and b) here’s a clue: even a blindfolded Donny Montell would’ve seen it coming). Commence your wading.

 

Bosnia &  Herzegovina (Korake Ti Znam by MayaSar): When I was researching Maya, I listened to her Bosnian hit Nespretno. I was both surprised that she is already an established artist and not just the tartan keyboard lady from Dino Merlin’s performance in Düsseldorf, and taken with how interesting the song was. Interesting is again how I would describe Korake Ti Znam, and not in a bad way. It’s a song that makes you pay attention to figure out where it’s going. I don’t know quite where that is myself, but I know I enjoy the journey. If Maya sounds as good live and solo as she does in studio, hers will be three minutes to look forward to.

Greece (Aphrodisiac by Eleftheria Eleftheriou): With Cyprus in the same semi final, I wonder if Ivi and Eleftheria will cancel each other out (I also wonder why someone would name their daughter ‘Eleftheria’ when their surname was ‘Eleftheriou’, but that’s another matter). With these two countries you’ve got two young and pretty girls singing catchy dance-pop, and though Aphrodisiac has the ethno-pop thing going on, the sameness is present. Will it lead to the downfall of one or both? I personally like Greece’s song better, and I think if only one were to qualify, it would be Greece because it always is. Still, Cyprus does have another strong entry that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked, so hopefully there’s a chance for both to go forward.   

Moldova (Lăutar by Pasha Parfeny): This reminds me so much of one of my favourites of Year Oslo – Ovo Je Balkan from Serbia. Consequently I’m loving it. It’s one of those songs verging on the novelty (based mainly on the NF performance) so it has that element of fun, but it’s not a joke of an entry. I’m not easily impressed, but I’m easily pleased, and anything that’s catchy AND ethnic will get my vote. Not literally, of course. Sadly, that is impossible…sob.

Milan Stankovic - Lego hair = Pasha Parfeny?

Montenegro (Euro Neuro by Rambo Amadeus): This was everything I expected and more, and that’s all I can say. Apart from WHY, Montenegro, WHY?

Portugal (Vida Minha by Filipa Sousa): The fact that I listened to this for the second time about five minutes ago and I can’t remember how it goes is not a good sign. I do remember liking it a little more this time, but I could still take it or leave it, which surprises me since the song was written by Andrej Babić, a Croatian who has written five ESC entries since 2003, all of which I am a fan of.

Romania (Zaleilah by Mandinga): Now this is what I’m talking about – Romania doing catchy, ethnic pop and doing it so well. It’s everything I want in a song really, and it should get the Crystal Hall audience going. I’m not expecting the Zaleilah to become the Macarena of the 2010s, but I’d shake my thing to it if it came on at a party, for sure.

San Marino (Facebook Uh, Oh, Oh  by Valentina Monetta): Uh oh indeed. German Ralph Siegel is responsible for some Eurovision brilliance, but this is not an example of that. I do think that if its subject matter was anything, and I mean anything, else, it would be a nice, poppy if not groundbreaking number. But as it stands, Mark Zuckerberg is soon to be mentioned on the ESC stage for the first time. That is if disqualification isn’t on the cards, as many fans are hoping it is, in which case will San Marino be able to come up with an alternative, or will it be bye, bye, Italy Junior? The next few days will tell.

And to think, this photo is the least scary thing about this year's Sammarinese entry...

Serbia (Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović): Since the split of Serbia and Montenegro, Serbia has flourished in Eurovision whilst Montenegro has floundered. That is not about to change in 2012. Željko’s entry was the most anticipated, and so had a lot to live up to. For me, it has well and truly succeeded in that mission. I love the instrumental start, the way it builds, ZJ’s always-reliable vocals, and the epic second half. I love it all!

 

A brief mention of Melodifestivalen

I mean, I want to go on and on about it, but I want you guys to stay awake more. Speaking of staying awake, I managed to do so a week ago as I watched the live stream of the MF final at 3am on Sunday morning. I use the word ‘stream’ very loosely in this context, considering that mine was pausing every ten seconds before catching up with itself (sometimes it’s so hard living in Australia and having a dodgy Internet connection). But all the pixilation was worth the thrill of seeing my favourite final live for the first time. The show was amazing, from Eric Saade’s all-dancing, semi-miming opener, to Sarah Dawn Finer’s hilarious sketch in which she put on such a convincing British accent I did not realise it was her, to Helena Paparizou’s de-schlagered rendition of Popular, the voting, and everything in between.

The real winner of the night was of course Loreen, whose surprise when the final points put her on top was so genuine it made me love her even more. She should have been in the final last year, so I reckon her predictable but deserved win with Euphoria was fated. The song is dance gold (and from the buzz, could be ESC gold also), but the pared-back staging and perfect vocals are what really make the entry special – at least, they will if they are carried through to Baku, which I think is likely. Loreen’s sitting pretty on top of both the digital and physical charts in Sweden right now, but can she get that high at the big show? Stockholm 2013 does have a ring to it.

 

Sweden's entry for 2012: Wind Machine 34D001F featuring Loreen

PS – I have to mention my beloved Danny Saucedo, who was forced to look happy and applaud as he was pipped into second place for the second year running. I wonder if SVT will make him announce the Swedish votes wearing a Loreen t-shirt just to keep things consistent. Poor, poor Danny. Come back next year with an unbeatable song, please!

PPS – If you want to relive Melodifestivalen (and who wouldn’t) the official CD is available online now. I recommend the Scandipop Facebook store for fast shipping and good prices. There you can also pre-order the DVD, set for release on the 30th, something I was quick to do being desperate to see the show sans stoppages.

 

Forever no more

First, it was ‘We don’t know about Per Sempre’. Then it was ‘Si, si, that’s the one!’. Now, in what we hope is a final decision but understandably may not be, Italy have announced that Nina Zilli will be singing L’amore é Femmina instead of her San Remo Song Festival entry at Eurovision. And just when I was really getting into it!

I do have to say, though, the change of mind is not an entirely horrendous change to have made. L’amore… is very catchy (and dare I say, swinging) and a lot more instant than Per Sempre, so it may have a better chance in the final; although I don’t think many of us saw Raphael Gualazzi’s song making waves last year, and lo and behold, it came second. Perhaps Nina will fail miserably in Baku while, in a parallel universe, Per Sempre Nina will flourish.

Perhaps I should save my predicting for later?

 

Is that all there is?

No, but there’s not a whole lot more. As mentioned way back in my intro, there are just three countries left who are yet to finalise their entries. Belgium and the UK are pretty set on what they’re doing, but the hosts are not – there’s a rumour of a song tonight and a video Monday, among others. Considering the deadline, this is what should be happening:

Belgium– Saturday the 17th

Azerbaijan (song announcement tonight)/ UK– Monday the 19th

Whether that happens or not, we are coming to the end of Selection Season for another year. I’ve got to say that I’ve really enjoyed it, in all its craziness.

 

But don’t worry – if, by chance, you like reading EBJ, I’m not going anywhere. In the few months left before Baku, I’ll be taking a look at the best of the 2012 national final runner-ups, reviewing all 42 (or 41) entries and bringing you a month of Düsseldorf in Rewind to recapture the magic of the 56th contest before we arrive at the 57th. Oh, and there is the all-important prediction special, of course. It’s going to be a hectic few months, but I’m always willing to push aside study for blog’s sake!

 

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.