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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 5: Lights, camera, action action action…

Here we are yet again at one of the most active evenings on the pre-Eurovision calendar. It’s Saturday night, and I’m doing what every self-respecting contest obsessive does – not leaving the house in favour of listening, watching, nodding and/or gasping in horror at all the national final action.

Tonight that action is as follows: Croatia presents its song for Nina Badrić; Italy’s San Remo Song Festival ends with a winner and a representative for Baku; Latvia and Ukraine make their final decisions; and Sweden heads into week three of competition with the 3rd semi final of Melodifestivalen. All that plus a few little somethings extra is what I’ll be covering on this warm/cool evening (I’m trying to cover all bases and reader locations here, people). Here we go.

PS – I would also like to mention that this is my 200th post *cue balloons and streamers falling from the ceiling*. Feel free to send me congratulatory gifts. You don’t expect any to you from me, right? I mean, I’m not Oprah.

 

All my life I’ve been standing still

I’m going to start with a brief mention of the most recent songs to be added to the Baku pile. On Valentine’s Day while I was cruising on a yacht in the Mediterranean with my oil heir boyfriend Pierre (that may be a lie) Belarus chose Alyona Lanskaya and All My Life to represent them. Having previously heard three of the Belarusian finalists, one of which was Alyona, I was hoping for a win from Litesound, but they could only manage second place. I think Belarus has taken a forward step by picking All My Life – they’re obviously taking things more seriously this year (although let’s wait and see if this one gets disqualified for breaching some sort of code of practice, e.g. the one brought in for 2012 that states no artist should wear a mullet dress because they are so last year).

Having said that, I’m not jumping for joy over the song. It’s a ballad of the dramatic-but-depressing variety, much like Lithuania’s 2011 entry, and though I like it more than I liked C’est Ma Vie, it’s already a dud in comparison to the songs from Norway and Cyprus, for example. I’m not going to discount it from qualifying just yet, because I was certain Evelina would be stuck in the semi and that turned out not to be the case.

Moving on to Germany now, and last year’s hosts finished up Unser Star für Baku on Thursday by making Roman Lob and Standing Still the last one standing (don’t pardon the pun – it was totally intended). It’s a song with credentials, having been co-written by the UK’s jazzy Jamie Cullum who features prominently in my mother’s CD collection, but it does come across a bit too ‘I’ve just won American Idol and this is my winning song that will be shoved down your throats for the next month’. Maybe I’m just confused having experienced two straight years of Lena and I don’t know how to react to anyone else or their music. I think Roman needs to wear a wig and an LBD on stage to wean us all off Miss Meyer-Landrut.

Roman tries to explain that no, he is not Lena in disguise

 

Let the ranking begin!

In lieu of the above songs bringing the heard total to 11, I thought now would be a good time for my first 2012 ranking. Here’s my scoreboard so far…

  1. Norway – 12
  2. Cyprus – 10
  3. Denmark – 8
  4. Iceland – 7
  5. France – 6
  6. Switzerland – 5
  7. Hungary – 4
  8. Germany – 3
  9. Malta – 2
  10. Belarus – 1
  11. Albania – 0

Thoughts?

 

Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Ukraine and Georgia: it’s decision time

Amazingly, I have nothing to say about the above five finals due to a combination of not listening to the contenders, not knowing who the contenders are (in Italy’s case) and not having enough information to even form a sentence (in Croatia’s case). I will say that I did not accidentally omit Georgia from my intro – their final is taking place tomorrow night, so it’s still part of the weekend, just not of this Super Saturday.

 

Melodifestivalen

Now it’s time to discuss my favourite part of the evening, courtesy of the Land of IKEA and ABBA. Sweden’s marvelous Melodifestivalen continues with eight more acts competing for four coveted spots (two more coveted than the others). This week’s acts include the lone winner of the Webjoker section, Maria BenHajji (I was fortunate enough to hear her song back in November before SVT ripped it off Youtube faster than a wax strip off a cyclist’s shin) as well as 1/3 of my favourite Swedish boy band EMD, Love Generation, and Eric Saade’s lady love Molly Sandén.

The show:

  1. Youngblood by Youngblood
  2. I Mina Drömmar by Maria BenHajji
  3. Förlåt Mig by Mattias Andréasson
  4. Just A Little Bit by Love Generation
  5. Sanningen by Carolina Wallin Pérez
  6. Lovelight by Andreas Johnson
  7. Why Am I Crying by Molly Sandén
  8. Mirakel by Björn Ranelid feat. Sara Li

My picks: Förlåt Mig, Just A Little Bit, Why Am I Crying and Mirakel

It will be interesting to see what happens if both Mattias and Danny Saucedo (who’s in next week’s 4th semi) make the final as former members of EMD. I don’t think Mattias could outshine Danny when it comes to the crunch, however he has got, for me, the best song of this semi. It’s a Swedish-language R & B track that he wrote and composed himself, which is always appreciated.

Love Generation are back minus one member, and RedOne has written them a song that’s a little more pop-rock than dance, and probably more accessible. It’s not an absolute standout but it’s catchy enough to make the top four, which is where everyone wants to be (unless somebody’s life goal was to lose a Eurovision preselection).

After hearing Molly’s latest single at JESC I was expecting great things from her Melodifestivalen entry. Why Am I Crying didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it’s a nice ballad with nice lyrics that will no doubt show her voice off. I’m a bigger fan of this than of the song Molly performed the last time she entered MF, which got her straight to the final.

Let's hope Molly keeps this face for backstage

As for Mirakel, there’s only one teensy problem – the dude. Get rid of the dude! For those who don’t speak 1990s, I’m referring to Bjorn, who does some kind of middle-aged rap throughout the song that ruins Sara’s awesome choruses. If it was ‘Sara Li feat. One or Two Very Quiet Words From Bjorn Ranelid’ this would do well.

My predictions: I think this is the weakest semi so far, which makes it just as hard to predict as a good one. My guess is that Love Generation will get all the way to the final this time round, as well as Andreas Johnson. As for who’ll make Andra Chansen, I’m going to say Youngblood and Mattias. I’m actually hoping to be wrong…

 

Voila! Another weekend overview done and dusted. Don’t forget to attach yourself to whatever device you use for your social networking tomorrow, because we’re going to need to talk. In a completely non-serious way.

 

Do you think tonight will produce a winner? What’s your favourite song for Baku so far?