Before I had a looksee at my play stats of the Baku 42, I had zero expectations. What with my ever-changing moods and the bias my iPod seems to have towards particular songs when it’s on shuffle mode (I swear those things have minds of their own and will one day rise up and take control of planet Earth) there was no guarantee that the entries I rated the highest a year ago would make equally high appearances on this list. It turns out that, while some of them clawed their way up, songs that I didn’t realise I had a penchant for bumped others way down. I’ll let you decide which are which, as I present to you the 20 entries of 2012 that I’ve listened to most since May.
#1 | Love Unlimited by Sofi Marinova
If you happened to be drinking when you read this, I apologise for the liquid you just spat out all over yourself in shock and/or horror. Then again, if you’ve read me before you should know that I am probably the #1 fan of this song, worldwide. I don’t think Sofi herself loves it as much as I do (although she has had to sing it a billion times, so the boredom must have set in by now). So why have I played it more times than any other of the 2012 entries? Well, I just think it’s incredibly catchy (great to dance wildly to in the comfort of any place where there are no other humans present), I love the mixed languages in the chorus (great for singing along to in the same situation) and I find it super motivating (great for jogging to, etc). What a useful song it is.
#2 | Waterline by Jedward
#3 | Euphoria by Loreen
#4 | Zaleilah by Mandinga
#5 | Kuula by Ott Lepland
#6 | När Jag Blundar by Pernilla Karlsson
I want to compare this to Hungary ’13, being the simple, quiet and pretty but not too well-liked song that it is, that I and a few others I know LOVE. But Kedvesem has actually proved itself more popular than I expected, so you’re on your own, Pernilla. I think this song is really beautiful, well constructed and has a lovely sentiment (having been written by Pernilla’s brother for their mother and all). It gets me all misty-eyed even though I have no idea what she’s singing about because I never bothered to translate the lyrics #mybad. But they say music is the universal language, so if I can get the emotion without knowing what’s being said, that’s acceptable, right?
#7 | Love Me Back by Can Bonomo
#8 | Aphrodisiac by Eleftheria Eleftheriou
#9 | Verjamem by Eva Boto
#10 | Be My Guest by Gaitana
#11 | La La Love by Ivi Adamou
Here’s a song I didn’t think douze-worthy at first, but have gotten more and more obsessed with over the last year. It’s a good thing we’ll have this genuine Cypriot gem and the awesome stage show that accompanied it to cling on to while Despina Olympiou takes to the Malmö stage and bores us all to death (more on that in my upcoming reviews). La La Love wound up 16th in the final, which is an excellent result for Cyprus (it’s practically a win, like it would be for Austria, Switzerland, and co) although once it had qualified I was predicting it to do better. Maybe Ivi’s average vocal was to blame; though that didn’t stop Eric Saade from coming 3rd…
#12 | Quédate Conmigo by Pastora Soler
#13 | Standing Still by Roman Lob
#14 | Woki Mit Deim Popo by Trackshittaz
#15 | Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović
#16 | Sound Of Our Hearts by Compact Disco
#17 | We Are The Heroes by Litesound
This, even in its post-NF disco-lite version, is SO much better than the tropical trash (albeit damn catchy tropical trash) Belarus are sending this year. The unfortunate thing is that Alyona will likely be much more successful than Litesound, and then she’ll knock on their doors and point and laugh at them because they “stole” her ticket to Eurovision 2012 and she’ll have gotten her revenge. Or perhaps not. Anyway, back to We Are The Heroes: another song written expressly to motivate me when I’m on the treadmill and this close to bailing. Thanks, guys.
#18 | Nebo by Nina Badrić
#19 | Laŭtar by Pasha Parfeny
#20 | When The Music Dies by Sabina Babayeva
Rounding out my most-played list is Baku’s host entry. I have long suspected that Sabs was referring to Running Scared as the thing that made the music die. But that’s irrelevant. This isn’t my favourite entry from Azerbaijan, but it’s one I’m still liking all these months later. I didn’t think it was going to do as well as it did, but I think we’ve all learnt that the power of Azerbaijan-representing, Swedish-penned ballads cannot be underestimated.
I’ve showed you mine – show me yours? Which entries of last year have you been playing on repeat?
There are less than three weeks to go until Sweden’s Melodifestivalen kicks off, and that makes Jaz a very happy lady. MF is arguably the most awesome of all the national finals, inarguably my personal favourite, and this year, the one that will select the host entry.
Whoever wins the title of The Act Who Has To Live Up To Loreen on March 9th can go into the big show knowing one thing – they’re bound to get one of the biggest rounds of applause on final night, whether or not their song is any good. The thing is, some countries thrive on choosing their own entry when they have the responsibility of hosting. The pressure of trying to win is off, and so they don’t try so hard, and often what result from that is a really good effort. Other countries either don’t care at all about succeeding in front of the home crowd or, I suspect, purposely pick something average/rubbish to make sure they don’t win again (it’s kind of tough on the wallet, the old ESC). But rest assured, we will get something douze-worthy from Sweden this year. My psychic told me so.
The point is that MF’s nearness got me thinking about all the host entries past – the good, the bad, and the ‘meh’. For today, I’m only focusing on the good. So without further ado (as if there could be much more) here are my top 10 host entries of all time.
#1. Israel 1999
Yom Huledet by Eden (in Jerusalem)
I have tried and failed to get my family to sing this to me on my birthday instead of the usual song, I love it that much. In case that comment made no sense to you because you don’t know what Yom Huledet means or haven’t heard the bilingual version, a) it means ‘birthday’ and b) Eden repeat that quite often in the bilingual version. My scientific Eurovisiony studies have found that this song is guaranteed to increase your happiness level by 43%, so if you’re feeling a little Rona Nishliu today, you know what to do.
#2. Turkey 2004
For Real by Athena (in Istanbul)
I didn’t know ska could be so good until Turkey brought it to the ESC stage on home ground. Actually, I didn’t even know what ska was (and still don’t) but that’s irrelevant. What I do know is that this song is super catchy, energetic and a little bit bonkers, which is what makes it so good (the trumpeting also helps). It was great to see the hosts go for something so different to Everyway That I Can in…well, every way.
#3. Denmark 2001
Never Ever Let You Go by Rollo & King (in Copenhagen)
If you’re a country holding Eurovision, and you don’t want to fall flat on your face in front of the local crowd but you by no means want to win again, coming second by a small but not too small margin of points would be a dream come true. Denmark made that dream a reality in ’01 with this bluesy toe-tapper, which was in many ways a stronger entry than winning Estonia’s. For one, the lyrics did not refer to carpet.
#4. Serbia 2008
Oro by Jelena Tomasević (in Belgrade)
Neither Serbia nor Željko Joksimović can do any wrong when it comes to Eurovision (Željko especially is perfect in every way) and the two combined made magic in Belgrade. There’s something about his compositions that always wins me over. They aren’t infectious earworms, but they are ethnic, atmospheric builders. That trademark style, plus the body (not prop) focused staging and Jelena’s engaging performance did the hosts proud. Oh, and so did the expertly poofed dry ice.
#5. Ireland 1993
In Your Eyes by Niamh Kavanagh (in Millstreet)
Ballad haters, avert your eyes – I’m about to get all gushy about the middle win of Ireland’s triple whammy. For me this is a classic entry, at least of its decade, and it’s ten times better than the winners that came before and after it. Niamh’s vocal was flawless, adding punch to the big notes in the chorus and elsewhere that could’ve gone sour in the wrong hands (or vocal cords). All in all, a great song in the mould of what Ireland used to do best.
#6. Azerbaijan 2012
When The Music Dies by Sabina Babayeva (in Baku)
The top 5 probably came too easily to Sabina last year, but I have to commend Azerbaijan for the effortlessness with which they choose polished pop songs – cough, almostalwayswrittenbySwedes, cough – as their entries. Watching this performance back recently, I found I’ve even gotten used to the last-minute Azeri-ness thrown in to distract us from the fact that the song was written by Swedes. Shh, don’t tell anyone!
#7. Yugoslavia 1990
Hajde Da Ludujemo by Tajci (in Zagreb)
It was all about having fun for The Bunch of Countries Formerly Known As Yugoslavia when the Croatian capital hosted the contest. Needless to say, Tajci’s performance of this effervescent entry got the most enthusiastic ovation of the night (according to those who had been born at the time). I definitely would have given it a vigorous clap.
#8. Israel 1979
Hallelujah by Milk & Honey (in Jerusalem)
Before Ireland got in on the act, it was Israel that specialised in winning on home soil. This was a classic entry that deserved to win no matter where, and still makes as good a singalong song today as it did in ’79 and again in Jerusalem in ’99, when all the contestants came together at the end of the show to sing it (obviously – what else were they going to do with it?). A real Eurovision anthem.
#9. Finland 2007
Leave Me Alone by Hanna Pakarinen (in Helsinki)
Unlike Turkey in Istanbul, Finland’s mentality was ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ when they hosted the show. Sure, they got a real person and not a creature of the undead and co to represent them in Helsinki, but that real person was singing yet another rock song. The lack of gamble didn’t pay off, but I have to say I rate this as a rock number. It takes itself more seriously than Hard Rock Hallelujah, but Hanna had the right voice, intensity and ability to look both frightened and mental at the same time to carry it off. I guess she really did go crazy just to stay sane.
#10. Luxembourg 1973
Tu Te Reconnaîtras by Anne-Marie David (in Luxembourg)
Before Ireland or Israel, there was Luxembourg, and before Luxembourg…well, I could go on, but let’s just stick with Luxembourg. Anne-Marie (who has apparently come out of hiding to submit a song for Malmö) won for the host country with this dramatic ballad that I love equally in French and English. If it wasn’t for those pesky EBU rules and regulations, we could be seeing a dance remix representing France this year.*
* That is really not what I’d like to see representing France this year.
EBJ extras (a.k.a. the ones that just missed out)
Rock Bottom by Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran (1977, London, UK), Everything by Anna Vissi (2006, Athens, Greece), Mamo by Anastasia Prikhodko (2009, Moscow, Russia) and Taken By A Stranger by Lena (2011, Düsseldorf, Germany).
Which host entries would you rate as the best?
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:
When the Music Dies/ Sabina Babayeva
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.
Echo (You and I)/ Anggun
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.
Standing Still/ Roman Lob
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
L’amore é Femmina (Out of Love)/ Nina Zilli
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.
Quedate Conmigo/ Pastora Soler
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!
Love Will Set You Free/ Engelbert Humperdinck
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.
I’ve already given thanks to San Marino this week, when I voiced my gratitude for their permanent instilling of an annoyingly catchy tune and terrible, TERRIBLE lyrics into my head (and the heads of countless others worldwide. ‘Facebook, uh, oh oh’. Sing it with me! No? Okay, fair enough…). But now I am forced to thank them yet again, in a way that is 100% sarcastic, in case you hadn’t realised. Because they are now the one country standing in the way of me making my top 42, something I couldn’t wait to do/to put in this very post so you could disagree with it and we could have a lively debate that ended in us never speaking again. But now, I can’t technically do that.* SM have been given a few extra days to come up with a new song, or re-write the lyrics of the original so they no longer involve the word ‘Facebook’ (and hopefully ‘cybersex’).
Despite this little hiccup, everything else has gone to plan with the last three empty song-spaces filled and the running order draw done and dusted – and that’s why I’m here. Welcome to the second-last Selection Season post for 2012!
* I’m still going to do it, basing San Marino’s position on the Facebook song. Let’s face it, what are the chances of the new song if there is one) blowing us away with its amazing-ness? Exactly.
Azerbaijan, Belgium and the UK pick their songs for Europe
Two were hotly anticipated, and one was…well, one was Belgium. The (again, almost) final three have been decided. All three had selected their artists beforehand, so it was just a matter of waiting for the songs, which as we now know are When the Music Dies, Would You, and Love Will Set You Free.* As my annual reviews are approaching (feel free to be excited by that thought) I don’t want to ramble on about these entries, but I’ll give you a vague idea of my initial impressions, in alphabetical order of course.
You can tell Azerbaijan doesn’t care about winning now they’re hosting. I’m not saying Sabina Babayeva’s song is bad, it’s just got a middle-of-the-road effortlessness about it that says ‘We’re Azerbaijan and we’re going to do well. We don’t need to try too hard.’ I like WTMD better than Running Scared, but that’s not saying much because, nearly a year on, I’m one of many still trying to accept that Running Scared won Eurovision.
You must excuse my rude-ish comment about Belgium earlier – it’s just that it’s a country one can’t expect too much of in the ESC. In JESC, sure, but not in the big show. Iris is a nice singer, and the song is a definite improvement on last year’s, but I just can’t see it going anywhere.
As for the UK…well, I’ve been surprised by the positive reactions Love Will Set You Free has been getting since the video premiered on Monday, because I’m not feeling it. Not yet, anyway – I’m prepared to give it time. There are some good elements there, the main one being that the song isn’t That Sounds Good To Me (automatic points for that), but if I had Tweeted my thoughts on it, I would have used the hashtag #takeitorleaveit. To see what hashtags I actually use on the actual Twitter thingy, why not follow me? If you already are, merci! If not, I’m @EurovisionByJaz and I am HILARIOUS. And I am sorry for that shameless promotion of this blog’s associated social networks.
* An EBJ Fascinating Fact: Engelbert Humperdinck’s entry takes the number of songs with ‘love’ in the title to seven, putting him alongside Bulgaria, Cyprus, Italy, Lithuania, Serbia and Turkey. In 2011 there were also seven, but in 2010 there was just one.
The running order draw: the last big event before Baku
Do you remember how I said most things went according to plan over the last week or so? Yes? Well, I lied – something you’d know if you watched yesterday’s running order draw. I had looked forward to it all day, especially since it was due to start at 6pm my time (usually if I want to watch any pre-ESC stuff it’s at a 3am timeslot. Ew.) so when 6pm arrived only to turn into 6.40 before anything actually happened. I (and the entire online universe) was naturally irate. The show must, and did, go on, however, and my excitement level was high as the first hand was thrust into the first fishbowl…and then my computer died.
To cut a long story short, when I’d finished sobbing into the keyboard and screaming ‘Why, God, WHY?!’ I got the PC restarted, caught up on the draw for Semi final 1, and got through the rest without incident.
I won’t type out the results, as I’m sure you’ve already seen them/know where to visit to see them. I do have a few things to say about it all, though. How unusual…
– How’s this for one of the weirdest contest openers ever: Montenegro’s Euro Neuro will be the first song performed in Baku in position 1, semi 1. As strange as it’ll be, I do count it as a blessing since it’ll be gotten over with in record time. Plus, Iceland will look practically like musical genius coming after it.
– Greece and Cyprus, in positions 3 and 12, are far enough apart to make me feel less like one of them will suffer as a result of their similarities.
– Finland and Ireland were the wildcard recipients of this semi, meaning their performance place was up to them. Finland chose 9 and Ireland picked 18, the final spot. Interestingly, Ireland also drew the wildcard in 2011, when they also chose last place for Jedward to perform in. Déjà vu much?
– Serbia has the honor of opening semi 2, and with such a strong artist and song it should work in their favour. It certainly did for fellow Former Yugoslavians Bosnia & Herzegovina in Düsseldorf.
– Ukraine and Lithuania were the wildcards this time. The former nabbed lucky number 7 and Lithuania decided on 18. That means we have to wait all the way ‘til the end to laugh at Donny Montell and his blindfold. Damn it!
– The UK drew the first spot in the final. How courteous that Europe is allowing the senior citizen to go before everyone else, just like on public transport! If Russia qualify, maybe they should be allowed to go second?
– The final will also see two lots of back-to-back Big Sixers – France and Italy in positions 9 and 10, and Spain and Germany in 19 and 20. Spain got to pick their place as the last wildcard country.
– Finally, it’s lucky for some and not so much for others, but what will 13th place do for hosts Azerbaijan? Time will tell…
For the first time, my top 42
You can’t stop me, San Marino! The lead-up to Baku is all booked out on this blog, so it’s now or never.
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- San Marino
I will say that a lot of the songs are on the same level for me right now, e.g. Croatia – Iceland, and so the only songs I really dislike are the bottom three. I think we can all agree on the hideousness that is Montenegro. Why do Serbia always get it right when their old partner-in-geography get it so wrong?
A little ramble re: Language
With the official deadline past, all 40+ countries have had to decide which language they’ll be singing in come May: a.k.a. English or no English? For example, Serbia and Croatia have chosen to stay native, whilst Bulgaria’s Sofi will continue to sing in every language ever invented.
Only two songs have undergone changes at this point: Italy, who have settled on a similar English-Italian hybrid to their last entry, and Iceland, who have decided on the fully English version of Mundu Eftir Mér, Never Forget. I’m not a fan of English versions per se, but this year things aren’t too bad. I’m all for a hybrid, so Italy, bravo. And Iceland – well, it was always going to happen for you, wasn’t it? Last year I fell in love with the Icelandic version of Aftur Heim and then had trouble accepting the English one, but I’m not finding the situation as difficult with Greta and Jónsi. I still prefer the original, but you can tell the new lyrics have been thought about as they fit in nicely and even make a neat reference to the original title. The song is so full of instrumental drama it doesn’t rely too much on lyrics anyway.
NEXT TIME: My final SS post of 2012 focuses on the songs that almost got the golden tickets to Baku. Yes, it’s time for another Best of the Second Best list!