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Flashbaku: Naming and shaming the doppelgangers of 2012

Not that there’s anything shameful about having a lookalike. In fact, if I had one I’d be honoured. But apart from my nose bearing a slight resemblance to Roberto Bellarosa’s from the right (or wrong) angle, I’m yet to stumble upon my sister from another mister. So it’s lucky I can at least live vicariously through the doppelgangers that abound in the ESC.

Having kicked off my Flashbaku series last week (with a side-splitting recap of the 2012 contest which you simply MUST read if you missed it then…pretty please?) this particular exposé of long-lost twins is naturally centered on the 42 artists who competed in Azerbaijan. There are a few included here you may remember from previous posts, or just your own observations, but the rest are brand new. Give or take a few years and/or cosmetic procedures, and these resemblances are uncanny. Kind of.

 

Albania’s Rona Nishliu looks like animated Snow White’s Wicked Queen

fbalb

I’ll admit, I didn’t notice this resemblance until the collective Twitterverse saw fit to point it out about 0.35 seconds after Rona had opened her mouth to sing (I guess I was distracted by that errant dreadlock). But there was definitely something about her unique look that screamed ‘villainous Disney bitch not only willing, but eager, to off you and eat your heart if you happen to be prettier than she is’.

 

Bosnia & Herzegovina’s MayaSar looks like Australian media personality Mia Freedman

fbbh

Coincidentally (or maybe not?) Maya also settled on a witchy, evil queeny-type outfit for her Eurovision performance. But when the dangerously pointed shoulder pads are nowhere to be seen, I reckon she could play Mia’s sister in a heartwarming telemovie in which one of them can’t get pregnant and the other offers to be her surrogate. Just as an example.

 

Cyprus’ Ivi Adamou looks like American actress Liv Tyler

fbcyp

Here’s one you’ve seen before; but in my opinion, there are never enough occasions on which one can say how much Ivi and Liv look like they were separated at birth. Even their first names are similar. And Ivi being Steven Tyler’s secret daughter would explain where her musical genes came from.

 

Estonia’s Ott Lepland looks like UK singer and X Factor judge Gary Barlow

fbee

Matching suits, facial hair, intense browlines and brands of hair gel? What more proof do you need that these two share a resemblance? I bet a morning hasn’t gone by since Baku when Gary didn’t roll out of bed, go to the bathroom to brush his teeth, see his reflection in the mirror and think to himself, ‘My God, I look a little bit like Estonia’s own Ott Lepland!’.

 

Greece’s Eleftheria Eleftheriou looks like former ESC hostess Maria Menounos

fbgre

There’s nothing better than an inter-ESC pair of lookalikes, and to top this one off, they’re both part Greek. Maria stood alongside/flirted with Sakis Rouvas as co-compere of the 2006 contest, and Eleftheria stood alongside/probably flirted with him when she participated in Greece’s X Factor a few years ago. So it’s not just appearances that these two have in common.

 

Hostess Leyla Aliyeva looks like Spanish actress Penelope Crúz

fbhos

Let’s face it, the only difference between Leyla and Pene is that, to my knowledge, Leyla has never cavorted around on a pirate ship with Johnny Depp. Unfortunately for her. They clearly go to the same hairdresser and dress for formal events with funerals in mind.

 

Iceland’s Jónsi looks like Frankenstein’s monster

fbice

I never thought I’d be comparing the chiseled magnificence of Jónsi to something made up of multiple people’s body parts, but that monster of Dr. Frankenstein’s has got some serious cheekbones on him. The likeness doesn’t stop there, however – check out the mouth, and that intense brow (again with intense brows!) AND the stiff tailoring of the suits. Don’t worry Jónsi. If you were in fact stitched together by a crazed GP then he sure chose some good-lookin’ bits to work with.

 

Moldova’s Pasha Parfeny looks like Irish actor Colin Farrell

fbmol

This pairing rivals Ivi and Liv’s (Livi’s?) as the most striking of 2012. I can’t even say for certain that Pasha and Colin aren’t one and the same, especially since Colin is a big fan of the ladies and Pasha appeared on stage with the entire female population of Moldova. We haven’t heard much from the Irishman lately…could that be because he’s been busy composing and playing piano for Aliona Moon?

 

Russia’s Buranovskiye Babushki look like this set of matryoshka dolls

fbruss

I bet you didn’t see this coming. NOT. We’ve all thought it – does the teeniest Russian granny fit inside the next size up, and so on? Did they only take up one plane seat on their flight to Baku because of this? Maybe we’ll never know. The grannies are 100% as cute as these wooden creations though, and much more huggable.

 

Slovakia’s Max Jason Mai looks like US talk-show host Chelsea Handler

fbslov

Since MJM is a guy in his twenties and Chelsea is an almost-forty-year-old woman, this is more a case of the possibility that she’s his mother than anything else. They both have trademark blonde locks, although I’d have to say that Max’s are more impressive. Chelsea does tend to wear more clothing on a regular basis, but apart from that, they could totally be related.

 

Sweden’s Loreen looks like Canadian model/actress Hannah Simone

fbswe

Yeah, I know it’s the hair. I think we can all agree though, that there are a heck of a lot of people who look less like Loreen than Hannah does, and that’s got to count for something.

 

Switzerland’s Ivan Broggini looks like American actor Eric Mabius

fbswi

I could have cheated and put the frontman of Sinplus next to a photo of his brother Gabriel, but I wanted to put in a bit more effort than that for you guys (plus, they don’t even look very similar). Strip away the differing hair and eye colour – as well as a whole bunch of other stuff – and you’ll see the similarities here. I hope… 

 

Did any of these have you seeing double? Which doppelgangers did you spot in the class of 2012?

 

MY 300TH POST!!! And other Eurovision-related milestones

‘Celebrate, oh celebrate, everybody let’s celebrate’…ugh, no.

‘Celebraaaaaate, every single step you take’…nope.

‘Congratulations, and celebrations’…yeah, that’ll do.

Via the wonderful words of Piero and the Music Stars Daria Kinzer Sir Cliff Richard, I welcome you to what is officially the 300th post I’ve made here at EBJ, since way back in 2009.

EBJ 300!

That’s 300 installments of mildly amusing Eurovision ramblings, occasionally read and commented on by you (yes, that’s you. I love that shirt you’re wearing, by the way). Coincidentally, I’ve also recently reached the big 50 000 hit mark, so I’d like to thank you for making the decision to read me more than once. I mean, I’m assuming that 50 000 isn’t due to 50 000 individual people landing on this blog, reading a post, finding themselves instantly bored/disgusted/confused because they thought Eurovision was something else, and clicking off, never to return. So thanks, merci, danke schön, hvala and all that jazz, for motivating me to get to these milestones of bloggery.

As you may or may not be aware, another milestone was reached on Saturday night when Sweden’s Melodifestivalen was won by Robin Stjernberg and You. His win is the first by an act to come from the Second Chance round, which has been running since 2002, and was made even more spectacular when it was revealed that he’d been the second-placed qualifier from Andra Chansen, below Anton Ewald (who ended up placing 4th in the final). I’m still reeling from this victory, but in-between my extended periods of disbelief I’ve been contacting T-shirt printing companies, asking if they can make me a TEAM ROBIN WOOHOO! shirt to wear during the final. I’ll let you know how that pans out.

The three stages of Melodifestivalen victory: obliviousness, realisation, and über-shock

The three stages of Melodifestivalen victory: obliviousness, realisation, and über-shock

Yes, I was thrilled to see this adorable, vocal demon of an underdog win MF (not so thrilled that I almost cried or anything. As if…) and to those peeps who won’t stop yammering on about how Yohio was the real Swedish winner, I say, remember how things went the last time the Swedish votes and the international jury votes disagreed, and the Swedish choice went to Eurovision? Two words: no qualification. I realise that having an entry represent your country is about more than raking in the points – it’s also about having a home-grown song you’re proud of. But Sweden, do you really want to embarrass yourself on your own turf? The Robin + song package obviously has more international appeal than the Yohio version (as beautiful as he is) and that will translate into votes at Eurovision. So thppppthhhhhergh.*

 

* The highly mature sound of me blowing a raspberry.

 

Anyway, what with the EBJ achievement/s and Robin’s amazing win, I’ve had milestones on the brain over the last few days. So I thought I’d compile a list of some of the ESC’s latest and greatest firsts and records, some serious and some not-so-much. I hope you like it, and I hope I can keep talking about Eurovision long enough to keep you entertained to post #600!

 

2003 | The year the UK realised that Nicki French’s 16th place in 2000 = not too shabby

When poor old (not quite in the Humperdinck sense) Nicki only managed to score 28 points in Stockholm, she gave the United Kingdom their worst result of all time. The people despaired – what had gone so wrong? It could have been the BBC sending a badly-dressed female with a dated dance song that was the problem, since that’s what they chose to do again in 2001, coming 15th. But after coming back to form the following year, it seemed such a lowly ranking as 16th was all in the past.

And then came Jemini. Oops.

 

2004 | The first year audiences were terrified by somebody on stilts jerking around on stage, having no obvious relevance to the song itself

Jonatan was hesitant to go near the stilt lady in case she FELL ON HIM.

Jonatan was hesitant to go near the stilt lady in case she FELL ON HIM.

This particular stilt woman was used to “compliment” France’s Jonatan Cerrada during his performance of A Chaque Pas. Now, I know that song title translates to ‘with each step’, but nowhere in the lyrics does it say ‘with each precarious step I may come crashing down and break my nose on the fibreglass stage’. I’m all for spicing up a dull ballad with something or someone, but this was just distracting. A similar thing would happen again in 2009 with Bulgaria, but in that case the distraction was appreciated. By EVERYONE.

 

756 | The approximate duration (in hours) of the 2005 final (this figure also applies to any Maltese national final)

Alright, that was a slight exaggeration. But at 3 hours and 26 minutes, the final in Kiev was the longest Eurovision episode in history, mainly thanks to the voting sequence. Whoever thought it was a good idea to keep the ‘1 point goes to…(ten years later) and fiiiinaallllly, 12 points go to’ thing going obviously had no issues with getting a numb bottom after sitting on the couch for too long. I’m just grateful that Helena Paparizou’s winning song was a danceable one, because it gave me an excuse to stand up. I hate to think what would have happened to my rear end if Chiara had won.

 

999 | The entry number of Kate Ryan’s Je T’Adore, performed in Athens in 2006

Everybody knows that Ireland’s Brian Kennedy presented the 1000th Eurovision song during this semi final, so I thought I’d acknowledge Kate, who not only just missed out on such an honour, but also failed to qualify to the final against all betting odds. When you think about it, 999 is a much cooler number than 1000. I bet Brian was super jealous that he didn’t get drawn in her position.

 

43 | The record number of countries to have participated in any year, set in 2008 and 2011

Malmö 2013 had the potential to be the biggest, fattest contest ever in terms of participation, but one thing led to another…and so that title remains with both Belgrade and Düsseldorf. It’s incredible to think that that’s more than seven times the amount of countries that showed up for the first ESC. Life in general is supposed to be about quality, not quantity, but I do hope the 43 is eclipsed one day.

 

11 | The number of seconds Rona Nishliu managed to scream for during Suus (in every chorus) without taking a breath

Would someone get the woman her damn chai, already??

Would someone get the woman her damn chai, already??

I say ‘scream’ in an affectionate way, as someone who still adores Suus and Rona’s ability to yell for spiced beverages. The second “chai” is the most impressive, just edging past Pastora Soler’s epic money note as the most jaw-dropping vocal display heard on the Baku stage. In fact, if a vocal gymnastics category happens to be introduced to the next Olympics, Albania has a gold-medal contender right here.

 

2012 | The first time someone managed to simultaneously win and lose the contest

If you’re thinking ‘WTF? Loreen was actually Tooji in a wig?’ then allow me to clarify: it was songwriter Peter Boström, co-responsible for both Euphoria and Stay, who achieved this applause-worthy feat. It was an undeserved feat, in my Tooji-loving opinion (it’s been almost a year and I’m still not over it), but it’s still so unlikely, you shouldn’t expect it to happen again anytime soon. Until about 2025, when I expect Thomas G:son to be writing and composing every single entry.

 

5 | The number of times Azerbaijan has placed in the top 10, over 5 years of participation

Everything seems to come so easy for some people, doesn’t it. Azerbaijan is like that when it comes to Eurovision. They may make an effort when it comes to choosing their artist, but more often than not their song is an off-the-shelf Swedish job that somehow impresses its way into the top 10. I’m not trying to diss them – they’ve found a formula and they’re sticking to it (namely consistently good pop songs). But I would like to see them fail just once, just for the shock value.

 

4 130 000 | The viewing figure for this year’s Melodifestivalen final

And that’s not including all the people on the planet (like myself) who tuned in to the web stream…or the extra few hundred thousand who dropped by for the results. To put it into perspective, the Swedish population currently sits at 9.5 million, which means nearly half the country plonked themselves down to cheer the ten competitors on. I can’t think of many TV shows that would get 11 million Australians watching – although if we had our own version of Melfest, I would watch it with enough enthusiasm for 11 million people. FYI, the rating at result o’ clock was the highest ever.

 

2 | The number of times Malmö will have been the host city of Eurovision in the near future

Times have changed...and thankfully, so have logos

Times have changed…and thankfully, so have logos

The third largest city in Sweden will join an exclusive club consisting of Copenhagen, Stockholm, The Hague, Oslo, Jerusalem and Cannes by doing a double. It’s not that impressive when you consider Luxembourg and London, both five-time hosts. Then there’s Dublin, a capital that has seen not one, not two, not even three…but SIX contests, mostly thanks to Johnny Logan. Showoff.  

Which Eurovision milestone (mine or not) has impressed you the most?

 

My all-time ESC 50: The Countdown (Part 3)

Bonjour, and welcome to the third chapter of my all-time countdown. You know the drill by now, so I won’t embark on a huge rambling intro; all I’ll say is that you may have some serious doubts about my sanity in a few minutes’ time. I apologise in advance, but only for making you recoil in horror – not for my particular (and in my eyes, perfectly acceptable) taste in music!

 

 

 

 #30 – Every Way That I Can by Sertab Erener (Turkey 2003)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJksu8XxZCo

After two years of winning songs that were regarded as more ‘meh…’ and ‘OH DEAR GOD!’ than douze points by fans, a pint-sized Turkish singer wearing harem pants and body glitter gyrated into the contest with a cracking ethno-pop number and changed the game. EWTIC is Turkey in their finest form. The core riff never fails to get me up and hip-shaking.

 

#29 – Diamond of Night by Evelin Samuel & Camille (Estonia 1999)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fV3xhRffg6Y

I have a soft spot for Estonia in the ESC (excluding the “song” they sent in 2008) which well and truly extends to this entry, a mystical ballad that could have been lifted from the Prince of Egypt soundtrack. Evelin’s vocal in the chorus is verging on glass-shattering, but the fact that she performs it so on pitch makes it spine-tingling rather than eardrum-bursting. I particularly love Camille’s violin solo, more so in the extended studio version.

 

#28 – Suus by Rona Nishliu (Albania 2012)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=671tCjePT3w

This is the first of a few songs in this group which I assume will have you all gasping in disbelief, but trust me – a few months ago I would have done exactly the same thing. The first few times I heard it, I hated it; but then I watched the preview video, and something changed. Then I saw it live in the semi and I was spellbound. Rona is a spectacular vocalist, and actually moved me to tears with her emotional performance. Pure class.

 

#27 – This Is My Life by Anna Bergendahl (Sweden 2010)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH5cowCvCX4

Again, please respect my right to have an opinion. This song is one of the most-played on my iPod, simply because…well, just because. Contrary to many fans, I don’t find it depressing or boring at all – I’d say it’s more anthemic. Anna didn’t quite pull it off live, but she and her party-dress-and-Converse combo will always be much loved by yours truly.

 

#26 – Rock Me by Riva (Yugoslavia 1989)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UW9Xbwn8kwo

Yes, you read that right – the much-maligned winner of ’89 is this high on my list. Why, you ask? Because it’s catchy, it’s fun, and I get a kick out of listening to it. It’s as simple as that. I will add that it was very well performed on the night, and I do love the red/black/white colour scheme (a popular choice for Eurovision success).

 

#25 – Hemel En Aarde by Edsilia Rombley (Netherlands 1998)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkLJd9p8Xgc

Edsilia kind of crashed and burned in Helsinki, but almost a decade earlier she’d brought the Netherlands one of their best results ever with this quite frankly amazing up-tempo ballad. She’s a powerhouse singer (if you watch this performance, listen out for the growl) and engaged the audience so well. The Dutch should be proud of this one.  

 

#24 – Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović (Serbia 2012)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9x9VbJzaDQ

Ah, Željko, the master of the slow-burn Balkan ballad. I had high expectations of him coming into this year’s contest, and boy, were they met! The beauty in this song is everywhere, and like Suus it was one of the classiest entries this year. My favourite parts are the instrumental break after the first chorus, and the final thirty seconds, although I am pretty much infatuated with everything from 0.00-3.04.  

 

#23 – Rändajad by Urban Symphony (Estonia 2009)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGiVnhfXs0

Estonia crop up once again (and not for the last time) at #23, with Sandra “Perfect Hair” Nurmsalu and her fellow urban symphonists. What makes their song so special for me is partly the atmosphere, and partly the Estonian, which sounds so beautiful and mysterious. I suppose the mysteriousness has to do with my not remembering what the heck the lyrics mean. Ignorance can be bliss after all.

 

#22 – Quedate Conmigo by Pastora Soler (Spain 2012)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8J1b62wOao

I waved a Spanish flag for the first time this year, all thanks to the powerhouse that is Pastora and the song-writing machine that is Thomas G:son. As a sucker for a big ballad a la several recent Spanish national finalists (Nada Es Comparable A Ti by Mirela, En Una Vida by Coral etc) there was zero chance of my disliking the one that made it to Baku. That money note gets me every time.

 

#21 – Od Nas Zavisi by Karolina (Macedonia 2002)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLMWrBzyDQ8&feature=related

It’s not just the costume reveal that makes me love Karolina’s first contest foray, though I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of it (who can go past a good piece of body armour?) Od Nas is a hard one to describe – is it a ballad? Is it ethnic soft rock? Or is it a hybrid? Maybe it’s that very uncertainty that I’m attracted to…

 

The End. For the moment, anyway. Next time the countdown will continue, but until then please keep the feedback coming! I’m really enjoying all the varying verdicts, as well as hearing which songs you guys would name as your most loved. It’s amazing how different opinions can be. Obviously, mine is the right one, but I will humour you with yours.

Just kidding!

 

Lessons that can be learned from Eurovision 2012

I am a firm believer in education for all, and that includes the artists of Eurovision. If they could only take something valuable away from their time at the contest, to pass on to their successors, their countries could potentially be looking at decades of improved results.

As Baku 2012 has just been and gone, and many of us are still scrubbing flags off our faces (I blame Sharpies) and trying to get all the popcorn kernels out of our shagpile carpets (I blame Jedward) I thought, why not start some lessons now? There’s plenty of time for Rona, Loreen, Engelbert and the rest of this year’s entrants to look back at their own successes/complete failures and learn from them so the artists of 2013 get to experience the same highs, or at least avoid the same plunge to the depths of the scoreboard. So listen up, Europe…

 

Albania

Dreadlocks will get you far in the contest (just ask Beth, Spain’s 2003 representative) so the more obvious you can make it that you have them, the better. Wearing one around the neck is a good start, but why not make an entire costume out of dreads?

If that is a little too out there for you, then just stick with the vampiress look, because that works just as well (just ask Kseniya, Mika Newton’s sand artist from last year). Don’t go completely Twilight on us though. You must vamp it up in moderation (just ask DJ Bobo and his Swiss bloodsuckers).

It’s not exactly warm in winter, but the dreadlock scarf spells Eurovision success

 

Azerbaijan                                                                        

No matter how hard you try to ensure you won’t win Eurovision two years in a row – for example, if you hire someone to vocally drown you out for the last half of your performance – you will always find yourself challenging for the title. Just accept it. Even if you sent a baboon dressed as Verka Seduchka you’d make the top 10.

PS – please do not send a baboon dressed as Verka Seduchka to Sweden.

 

Estonia

Estonian-language songs tend to get you more points, especially when they are sung by hot men with very expressive eyebrows. I suggest you continue to send both of the above, and feel free to try and upgrade the hotness of the man by year. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as bettering yourself (and giving pathetic fans such as myself someone to drool over).

 

Greece

You are not invincible. Just because you made the top 10 every year during the period of 2003-2011, 90% of the time with the same ethno-pop song (you just gave it a remix, a new title and a new singer with a clothing allergy) does NOT mean you’re a shoo-in. I have no idea why that is. It just…is.

 

Ireland

There is only so much tin foil and Jahn Teigen air jumps a continent can take, particularly two years in a row, as evident in your disappointing result. If you must return to the contest in the future, give us all at least a decade to forget about you (that’s about how long it will take your costume designers to construct a new set of shoulder pads for you both, anyway).

 

Lithuania

It turns out that rhinestone-encrusted blindfolds are not as silly as they look.

Okay, maybe they are, but they also get votes – votes which may not lift you to a winning position, but get you commendably far. If you bring the blindfold back next year, you might want to go totally crazy with the bling. Why not add some feathers (I hear Joan Franka is selling them by the bundle) or fairy lights? The more tacky and garish it is, the more people will pick up the phone for you, and the more jury members will think to themselves ‘this person has to be blind to have picked out such a heinous accessory! I simply must give them douze points in sympathy.’

Donny was just a few glitter pens away from the top spot

 

Norway

Never, ever tell anyone that you are going to come first. Trust me, if Loreen had insisted to some journalist that she was going to win, we would all be looking forward to St. Petersburg 2013 and wondering if all the grannies will be alive by then to give a reprise.

 

Russia

Speaking of the grannies…when sending someone to represent you who witnessed the discovery of fire, make sure you provide them with a posse of other advanced-agers. Plus a couple of spares in case of emergency.  

 

Slovakia

Flesh-flashing does not guarantee you a place in the final, whether the flesh belongs to super-hot female twins or a twenty-something wannabe rock star in a Farrah Fawcett wig. Neither does performing your song five notes south of its original key, come to think of it…

 

Slovenia

Marija Šerifović is an evil witch who will place a curse on anyone attempting to bring a Molitva-esque song to Eurovision. She will never allow another uplifting but mystical non-English ballad featuring an uprising of coordinated backing singers to succeed in the contest, especially when it is co-composed by the man behind Molitva (her archnemisis). Not unless someone defeats her by forcing her to listen to the considerably more popular ABBA’s entire back catalogue, that is.

 

Sweden

The 177464673910th time’s the charm. In the future, always find a songwriter who has sent a ridiculous amount of songs to the contest and its preselections, but never quite hit the heights, to mastermind your entries. If you can find artists who are willing to crab-dance in front of a live audience of thousands and a TV audience of 120 million, that helps too.

 

Ukraine

If you were going to dress like a ShamWow, you should have at least offered your services to Jedward after they’d soaked themselves in that fountain. You could have dried them off in a jiffy!

‘If you could just empty that pitcher of water on the floor, sir, I’ll demonstrate the amazing absorbence level of my outfit…’

 

United Kingdom

As mentioned under “Russia”, one geriatric singer = failure. Six to eight = success. No matter how much the fame of the former exceeds the latter. Also keep in mind that older men do not go down as well as older women (although neither of them go down well on their knees because they’re all riddled with arthritis). 

 

What lessons did you learn from Eurovision this year?

 

NEXT TIME: Forget about the Marcel Bezençon Awards – it’s time for the annual EBJ Awards for Eurovision Excellence. In 2012, they’re going to be bigger and better than ever!

 

Victory is Swede: looking back at a euphoric Eurovision 2012!

Just like that, the 57th contest is over, and the PED (Post-Eurovision Depression) has set in. My strategy to combat it is to keep myself busy, a) by getting back to work on the freaking massive uni assignment I have due this week that I should have been working on all weekend, and b) by writing this post which will be a mighty long one, I’m thinking. Be prepared!

As we all know, it was the fan/bookies’ favourite Sweden that took out the title with a not-so-narrow margin over the Russian grannies (who I think may turn their attentions to MasterChef now. If they can bake a tray of pies while performing in front of thousands, they can certainly produce a ten-layer gateau with deconstructed fruit salad sauce). The more I think about it, the more excited I am that we’re off to Sweden in 2013. Melodifestivalen is one of the highlights of the preselection season, and I imagine the first Swedish Eurovision since 2000 will be just as fabulous, especially if it incorporates ABBA in some way (surely SVT won’t be able to resist).

Anyway, enough about the 58th contest – there’s still plenty of Baku to discuss. I’m mainly going to cover the grand final here, so if you want to read/reread my verdicts on the semis, you can find them just behind this post.

 

Impressions of the show

I think we all got the impression that Azerbaijan would try to match Moscow in terms of an epic Eurovision. I don’t think they pulled it off, and I don’t think the show quite matched last year’s either, generally. Nonetheless, it was a great show, with one of the strongest fields of competition I’ve ever seen.

There were a few absolutely outstanding things about the production, for me.

–  The Crystal Hall: Despite the controversy surrounding its construction, the hall was amazing, outside and in, and will probably serve Baku well in the future (it’ll definitely come in handy if they win their Olympic bid). In particular I loved the way it was lit up in the image of each country’s flag at the end of the corresponding postcard.

–  The stage: When I first saw it in photos, I thought it was a bit out there, a bit messy, even. But for the live show, it worked like a ginormous fibreglass charm.

The green room: Plonking this among the audience instead of behind the stage was a nice idea. I’m sure for the people in the arena there was nothing quite like seeing the facial expressions of joy (e.g. on Sweden) and of horror (e.g. on Norway) up close as the points came in.

–  The star power: Lys Assia was dragged out again, the last five contest winners took to the stage together to sing the wrong lyrics, and the Azeri president’s son-in-law descended from the roof like a puppet on a string (get it?) Combine that with artists like Amaury Vassili, Getter Jaani, Safura and Mr. Lordi announcing their respective nations’ voting results, and you’ll find that Baku was one of the most high-caliber contests of all time.

 

The semi-final scoreboards

I’m moving on now to something I couldn’t cover in my semi wrap-ups – exactly how the qualifiers, and non-qualifiers, were ranked.

Here are the results of the first semi:

  1. Russia –  The Babushki must have found favour with the juries as well as the televoters in winning this round.
  2. Albania
  3. Romania
  4. Greece
  5. Moldova
  6. Ireland
  7. Cyprus
  8. Iceland – I thought Greta and Jónsi would blitz the competition here, but I was wrong. It happens all the time every now and then.
  9. Denmark
  10. Hungary
  11. Switzerland – Poor Switzerland just missed out on a place in the final with a commendable performance from Sinplus.
  12. Finland
  13. Israel
  14. San Marino
  15. Montenegro
  16. Latvia
  17. Belgium
  18. Austria – You mean San Marino AND Montenegro managed to pip the popo shakers? What has the world come to?

 

And now the second:  

  1. Sweden – No surprises here.
  2. Serbia
  3. Lithuania – For the second year in a row, Lithuania has put my jaw on the floor by sailing into the final. Perhaps it’s because they’re sensitive to the disabled – first with sign language, and then with a blindfold. A blingtastic blindfold.
  4. Estonia
  5. Turkey
  6. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  7. Malta
  8. Ukraine
  9. Macedonia
  10. Norway – How this ranked so low I will never understand. Great song, great performance, great hip movements…it was all there!
  11. Bulgaria – Sofi scored the same amount of points as Tooji, but obviously received a few less top marks.
  12. Croatia
  13. Portugal
  14. Georgia
  15. Netherlands
  16. Belarus
  17. Slovenia
  18. Slovakia – Here in Australia we put MJM in our top 5 (I had nothing to do with that). Luckily Europe knows when someone is doing a Jemini, and puts them in their rightful place.

 

Final highlights

This year’s final was of an incredible standard, which was both a plus and a minus (the constant BAM! BAM! BAM! of one great song after another was exhausting). Here’s a few of my performance picks.

–  Albania’s Rona was flawless yet again, and had all the intensity and emotion you could ask for. Amazingly, she got rewarded for it, but I’ll get to that later.

–  The host country’s song wasn’t one of my favourites by any means, but boy, do they know how to put on a show with an unforgettable visual! In this case, it was using Sabina as a projector screen. I wonder if she serves the same purpose at family reunions when Grandma Babayeva wants to look through the family photos?

–  Spain’s performance was everything I was hoping for, and I’ll readily admit it made me tear up a little. Pastora looked stunning and sang like nobody had ever asked her to deliberately throw the contest. I must also commend their expert timing with the wind machine.

–  Serbia drew a good spot in the final which gave us a few minutes to breathe after Ireland and before Ukraine with Željko’s slow-burning Balkan ballad that I fall more in love with every time I hear it.

 

The final results

  1. Sweden – Loreen was a deserving winner. I was hoping for a less predictable victory, but ultimately, she was the favourite for a reason, and I don’t think I’ll need a year to get over this one.
  2. Russia – I assumed that the grannies would sail to the final, and then the novelty would wear off and they’d end up 19th, or something like that. For me, a low top 10 placing would have sufficed.
  3. Serbia
  4. Azerbaijan
  5. Albania – this result made me a very happy camper. The fact that an artist and song so out there, from a country that struggles to succeed in the contest, made the top 5 is just brilliant. This is Albania’s best result ever.
  6. Estonia – the last time Estonia sent a native-language entry, they also came sixth. As Kuula is one of my most-loved songs this year, I’m super pleased with the position.
  7. Turkey
  8. Germany
  9. Italy
  10. Spain – Pastora just made it into the top 10, and just missed out on breaking 100 points, but I hope she knows what a great finish this is for her country. The last time Spain made it to 10th place was in 2004.
  11. Moldova
  12. Romania
  13. Macedonia – Again, 13th was a good result for Macedonia. Qualifying alone was a good result for Macedonia, actually.
  14. Lithuania
  15. Ukraine
  16. Cyprus
  17. Greece– Greece didn’t make the top 10 for the first time since 2003, and I think it’s justified.
  18. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  19. Ireland – I really hope a result like this discourages Jedward from coming back next year. I don’t think I can take any more of those two sober.
  20. Iceland
  21. Malta
  22. France
  23. Denmark
  24. Hungary
  25. United Kingdom – All I can say is, 11th with 100 points doesn’t look so bad now, does it?
  26. Norway – In 2009, my favourite song came last in the final. I didn’t think I was in any danger of that happening this year, but it turns out I know NOTHING. How on Earth did this happen? And on Tooji’s birthday, of all days. The poor guy! Apparently Europe’s gift to him was an extraordinarily low amount of points.

 

That’s my overview of Baku done and dusted! But wait – there will be more. There’s still the split results to be dissected, and in the period between now and then I’ve got some annual awards to give out, among other things.

For now I’ll leave you with this year’s winning act: Euphoria, by Loreen, from Sweden with love (and fake snow).

 

Baku 2012: My semi final 1 wrap-up

So last night, approximately a hundred years after the rest of the world, Australia got to witness the first semi final from Baku. It took me at least ten minutes to stop hyperventilating (because I was overexcited, not because I was terrified of Montenegro being first up) and start enjoying it all. Despite the fact that the stronger semi and the one with most of my favourites in it is number two, which I’ll see tonight, I did have a good time watching and flag-waving at my party for one (as usual, nobody else in my household showed the least flicker of interest – there is definitely something wrong with them) and I thought that, generally, the performances were strong. Here’s my more detailed take on the first 2012 installment, direct from the land Down Under…

 

LE HIGHLIGHTS

–  Montenegro being act 1 turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the song (I mean, the “song”) was over in a flash and made way for Iceland, who I feel were the real competition beginners since Rambo never had a chance of qualifying anyway.

–  Speaking of Iceland, their dramatic three minutes was a definite highlight, mainly because there were many close-up shots of Jónsi over which I could freely drool because I was by myself.

–  Rona Nishliu’s performance for Albania was my favourite of the night. As you may or may not know, I initially hated Suus, but made a swift and unexplained turnaround after I saw the preview video. The live staging did not disappoint, as it was minimal enough to keep the focus on Rona and her insanely amazing voice (seriously, someone needs to put a straight jacket on that thing. It is CRAZY). Her intensity and emotion was all there, and her costume was just as weird and wonderful as I’d been hoping for…although that stray dreadlock did gross me out a little.

–  I’ve never seen a moonwalking bagpiper before, so thanks for that, Romania. I wonder if he’ll go on to enjoy the same fame and hilarious Youtube remixes of the epic Moldovan sax guy of Year Oslo?

–  Cyprus put on a great show. I loved their outfits, I loved their choreography, and I loved the book-stack prop (once the commentator had informed me that’s what it was. I thought it was a pile of brick pavers at first). I can’t say I loved Ivi’s vocal, but she was far from dreadful. She pulled it off.

–  Ireland’s water fountain – the second most literal prop being used this year after Donny Montell’s blindfold – was put to very good use. It was certainly a more fluid mover than either of the Jeds.

 

LE LOWLIGHTS

–  I don’t actually have many of these to talk about. I will say that I wish Austria had incorporated more popo into their act. There was too much pole dancing in my opinion, and not enough shaking of bottoms. Yes, I am a twenty-year-old female who advocates sexist lyrics and accompanying dance moves. You got a problem with that?

–  I also feel that the whole show went by very quickly. Eurovision often does, because time does fly when you’re having fun as people who like to talk in clichés say, but I think there was a genuine rushed feeling about it all. The transitions between acts were blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rapid, and the digital enveloped were opened so fast that, has they been real, they would have caused more than a few paper cuts.

–   There was no interval act during my broadcast, and I was curious as to whether that was the case in Baku, or if the Australian broadcaster SBS had cut it out. Either way, I was disappointed.

 

LE SHOCKS AND SURPRISES

–  For some reason I expected Anke Engelke to welcome us to Azerbaijan. Last year she made the steadfast hosting script genuinely entertaining, which Leyla, Nargiz and Ell couldn’t quite manage. They looked pretty, though.

–  I was pleasantly surprised by the Crystal Hall’s involvement in introducing each country. Whoever came up with the idea to light it up to resemble all 18 national flags deserves a high five.

–  Greece’s Aphrodisiac worked very well in the arena – better than it worked in the shopping centre that housed their national final, anyway. I always forget what an impact the traditional music, and the traditional dancing, and the slightly less traditional skimpy dress of the quintessential Greek frontwoman has when you stick it all on a stage in front of thousands of excitable and/or drunk fans.

–  Two performances I didn’t expect to enjoy/am ashamed to admit I did came from San Marino and Russia. I don’t know why I liked San Marino’s. Valentina can sure sing, but the costumes were frightening and made no sense, and we all know the song is as high-quality as something a dog would do on the lawn – but I liked it. Go figure. Russia, on the other hand, I suppose is easier to justify. As I predicted, the Babushki received the biggest round of applause of the night, probably because they managed to sing, dance and bake at the same time (and they’re so cute!) Plus, now we know where they found the time to cook those pies for everyone in the press room: during their first rehearsal.

 

LE RESULTS

In order of callout, the lucky ten qualifiers were Romania, Moldova, Iceland, Hungary, Denmark, Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Russia and Ireland. This was an easier semi to predict, so I can’t really gloat about getting 8/10 correct. I didn’t think Hungary or Albania would make it, but I’m glad they did – especially in Albania’s case.

I’m very happy for Cyprus. They’re one of those countries that often try so hard but never get anywhere, so I’m thrilled they’ve booked a place for Saturday night.

It did give me great pleasure also to see the powers that be make Jedward sweat it out, and wonder if they were in fact as popular as they thought. I don’t think we would have seen quite as many cartwheels (an amount that puts Donny’s lone one-hander to shame) had they been announced earlier.

To finish off, I’ll just mention the results of the unofficial Australian vote, conducted at www.sbs.com.au/eurovision. Unsurprisingly, it was the grannies who took out the top spot, followed by Ireland and Denmark. Rounding out our top 5 were Iceland and Cyprus. We may well have agreed with Europe, although I can’t imagine that the Babushki scored highly enough with the juries to win the semi. Time will tell who triumphed, who just slipped in and who just missed out…

 

That’s about all I’ve got to say re: Semi #1, which I suppose was quite a lot. When it comes to Eurovision I can go on for days, so you should count yourself lucky this post wasn’t that excessive. I’ll be back tomorrow with a wrap-up of the second semi, so please don’t tell me who the winner is when I’m still getting over the fact that “Insert Country Name Here” didn’t qualify. In the meantime:

What were your highlights/lowlights of Semi 1???

 

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?