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Baku Reviews: Part 6 (Slovakia-Ukraine)

Slovakia

Don’t Close Your Eyes/ Max Jason Mai

Better than 2011: No

The good stuff: I’m thinking of starting a petition to get MJM to perform with his shirt off. Would any of you guys sign it, or am I the only pathetic person who thinks the best thing about Slovakia’s entry is this guy’s abs? I’m not saying I hate the song. I’m not a rock fan generally, but as far as the genre goes, this isn’t a bad example. It certainly stands out in a year full of ballads, and the potential for a striking performance is there – I’m seeing pyrotechnics and smoke machines and flashing lights, among which the shirtless Max head-bangs, his golden locks almost-but-not-quite catching fire as sparks surround him. Sigh.

Everything else: Some people are bored by ballads. I am bored by stuff like this. It’s just so…American. No offence to American music (which I realise is diverse). I just mean that, like last year’s Slovak song, this is very generic in an album-filler kind of way, but wouldn’t be out of place in the background of The OC or 90210. It sounds eerily similar to some of 30 Seconds to Mars’ back catalogue.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 5 points.

 

Slovenia

Verjamem/ Eva Boto

Reminds me of: Molitva by Marija Serifovic

The good stuff: Slovenia’s entries have appealed to me recently, even if it took a little time as with No One. This year, it took about thirty seconds for me to fall in love with the epic ballad they’re sending to Baku, which will be performed by another talented teenager (only there should be more clothing on this one). Co-composed by the man behind Molitva, Verjamem definitely echoes the winning song of ’07, but it has a spellbinding quality all of its own that I love. I’m also thrilled it’s being kept in Slovene when it could have so easily have been the English version chosen for the contest. I haven’t listened to that but I already know I wouldn’t be as fond of it as I am of the original.

Everything else: As we all know, this the year of the ballad, and the danger for each of those is standing out from the others. The juries should like this one, but the fans might think it’s too boring, or even too reminiscent of Molitva to bother picking up the phone for. Slovenia qualified in Düsseldorf, but had a string of bad luck prior to that, so it’s in no way a given they’ll make it this time.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points.

 

Sweden

Euphoria/ Loreen

Top 10 material: Yes

The good stuff: Having failed to get out of Melodifestivalen’s Andra Chansen in 2011 with an amazing song, Loreen’s time was now (well, in March it was her time…this year…whatever). When I first listened to Euphoria, I thought it was good, but not as good as her last MF entry. Ask me now and I’ll be more than happy to tell you that I think it’s just as good, if not better. It’s an aural snapshot of the dance craze dominating the global charts at the moment, but it’s still got quirk thanks to Loreen herself, who has that awkward-but-cool movement thing going on that helped Lena win Eurovision two years ago. The song is contemporary and catchy and just pure awesome. If the staging is the same as it was at MF, it will stand out even more. I won’t be surprised if Sweden gets the biggest round of applause of all three nights…and wins the whole thing.

Everything else: It would be nice if something (a.k.a. costume) was different. There wasn’t anything wrong with Loreen’s NF outfit, I’d just like to see that there’s been some more work put in since March. Please don’t wear shoes though, L. This is a song that needs bare feet (and that is a sentence I never thought I’d say).

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – douze points!  

 

Switzerland

Unbreakable/ Sinplus

Reminds me of: Mr. Brightside by the Killers

The good stuff: If it weren’t for the dodgy English pronunciation (which I actually find quite endearing) I’d say this entry was as all-American asSlovakia’s. It’s a decent piece of punk rock that’s more lively than the almost-acoustic number Switzerland chose last year, although perhaps not as charming (and I don’t think Sinplus would look very good in sparkly red dresses). It should stick out in the first half of semi one.

Everything else: The Swiss songs often sound great when they’re one of a few chosen, but as more and more finals produce more and more each year, they start to sound inadequate. 2012 has been no exception where that’s concerned. I think Unbreakable was one of the best songs in the quite weak Swiss pre-selection field, so congrats on that; but the fact that the field was so unimpressive when countries like Sweden and Norway had such strong potential entries in theirs is an issue.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 6 points.

 

Turkey

Love Me Back/ Can Bonomo

Best lyric: ‘Baby love me back today, never ever sink my ship and sail away…’

The good stuff: Turkey is back, and should be back in the final too this year, although I’d no longer bet my life on it. They’ve recruited an eccentric, cape-wearing young man called Can to perform a song in a wonderfully Athena-like vein (does anyone else still get a kick out of For Real?) and I’m very pleased. After last year’s frankly boring soft rock effort, this quirky, ethnic and thoroughly enjoyable contribution is a welcome change. I’m interested to see what Turkey have worked out for the live show.

Everything else: I think this deserves a place on Saturday night, but it could easily miss out. No country is bombproof – we know that now – and if there aren’t enough people in the mood for a bit of wacky during semi 2, Turkey could be sent packing for the second year in a row.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 10 points.

 

Ukraine

Be My Guest/ Gaitana

Better than 2011: No

The good stuff: Jessy Matador – if you’re out there – listen up. Your fraternal twin has been located! Well, technically it’s the twin of your Year Oslo bum-shaker Allez Ola Olé that’s been found, but whatever. It’s representing Ukraine in Baku, it’s called Be My Guest, and it’s officially my second-favourite song of that title (nothing beats Disney). Like Jessy’s song, Gaitana’s is a soccer theme as well as a Eurovision entry, which makes me think soccer is more fun and exciting than it actually is, because I find these kinds of songs über fun and exciting. Maybe I’m easily pleased, but a bit of trumpeting, tropical dance music never hurt anyone (unless a CD single of BMG has been thrown at someone’s face and given them a black eye and I just don’t know about it). This song represents what the ESC is all about – people coming together to have a good time and shout ‘NANANANANANANA!’ as often as possible. I am honoured to be your guest, Gaitana.

Everything else: This woman has a powerhouse voice that works perfectly with her song, but if she talks too much in a press conference or gets too shouty at a party, the croak she’s left with will let her down when it comes to the performances that matter. This is an entry that needs energy, so I recommend Gaitana takes it easy in the rehearsals, drinks lots of water and gets eight hours of beauty sleep per night so she can really let rip on stage. I’m no doctor, but I’m all for doling out unwanted advice so I get to watch a good show.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – 8 points.

 

NEXT TIME: Holy Poli Genova, Baku is close!! It’s well and truly time I reviewed the final six songs from Azerbaijan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

 

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?

Time-Warp Tuesday: Symphonic Switzerland

As I’m sure you all know by now, early bird (who never can catch that worm) Switzerland have chosen their entry for the 57th ESC in Baku – Unbreakable by Sinplus. Already the song has divided opinion into three distinct categories: “Omigodomigod. LOVE it!”; “Not bad”; and “I would rather be strapped into a La-z-boy and forced to watch Jemini perform Cry Baby in surround sound one hundred times in a row than ever listen to this again”. I’m sitting precariously in the first category right now, and am well aware that once other songs start cropping up, the comparison will send me over the edge and hurtling down into one of the others, depending on the ability of the 39 other countries to bring it.

This is an unfortunate occurrence that seems to happen most years, which makes me sad because Switzerland is one of those countries that I want to root for. Still, they have provided Eurovision viewers with some rootable (ahem) entries in the past, and that, ladies and gents, is the point of today’s TWT. I thought I would count down my top 3 Swiss songs in celebration of when they get things right – because when they do, it’s magic (although it doesn’t guarantee a ticket to the final).

 

#3. Moi Tout Simplement by Annie Cotton (1993)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7P1LTVR-us&feature=related

 

#2. Cinéma by Paola (1980)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hT_ArM0Pt5Y

 

#1. Era Stupendo by Paolo Meneguzzi (2008)

Paolo’s failure to qualify will forever lie in my heart (jostling for a comfy space amongst the ventricles and Christos Mylordos) as my Kate Ryan moment. It was all there: stunning song, super spunky singer and eccentrically endearing choreography. Mr. Meneguzzi was even born in Lugano, where the very first Eurovision took place, which is a sign if ever I’ve seen one. But, in 13th place, he almost-just missed out. Travesty alert! Still, you have to feel a little sorrier for Macedonia, who finished the semi in 10th place, but were overlooked for qualification thanks to the jury (who, as dictated back then, got to choose any entry outside of the top 9 to go through). They picked Sweden, who had come in 12th.

Thanks to the wonders of DVD and internet, we can at least relive Paolo’s performance as often as we wish, pretending that we are doing so purely for the song and act, and not because we enjoy admiring his pleasing aesthetics…or is that just moi?

 

Hits and Swisses in the first national final for Baku

Unbelievably, it’s that time again: the time for national selections to kick off for Eurovision! And you know what that means – besides a gazillion opportunities for me to come up with pun-tastic titles for posts á la the one above – it’s also time for reviews and predictions aplenty here at EBJ. First on the chopping block (as usual…they like to get in first, unlike another certain country beginning with SW who relish being the last to pick their entry) is the home of holey cheese: Switzerland!

Listening to the 14 Swiss finalists recently, I have to say I felt an overwhelming sense of, ironically, underwhelming-ness, which is sadly not unusual for the country’s selection. I don’t know what it is about the songs that does it, but I know that every time I go through the Melodifestivalen or MGP entries I’m bound to love at least 80% of them. But with Switzerland…I can’t help thinking ‘all those submissions, and these are the songs that made it?’ (especially in Lys Assia’s case, but I’ll get to that). Still, I have managed to suss out some good stuff after a few listens, and found perhaps too much enjoyment in trashing the bad stuff. There’s also enjoyment to be found in the fact that, before the weekend is out, Baku’s first entry will be known!

So…

What are the Swiss candidates for 2012? 

Here they are, in all their running-order glory.

  1. Real Love by Patric Scott feat. Fabienne Louves
  2. She by Emel
  3. Anima Nuova by Chiara Dubey
  4. Baby Baby Baby by Guillermo Sorya
  5. Shining by Macy
  6. Quand je Ferme Les Yeux by Sosofluo
  7. Black Symphony by Atomic Angels
  8. Peace and Freedom by Ivo
  9. L’autre by Ze Flying Zézettes Orchestra
  10. The Song in My Head by Raphael Jeger
  11. Fragile by I Quattro
  12. Unbreakable by Sinplus
  13. C’était Ma Vie by Lys Assia
  14. Wrong to Let You Go by Katharine St-Laurent

 

My top five:

  1. Black Symphony by Atomic Angels (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duhk1_fjpL8)

The Top 40 radio devotee in me (which is about 5%. Another 15% is devoted to Asian pop whilst the remaining 80% is a slave to Europop) is a big fan of this song. It’s very mainstream, but at the same time I reckon it’s catchy and current, unlike certain recent Swiss entries (cough, Il Pleut de Lor, cough). Should it win, it may not be ear-catching enough to qualify, but it would be something different for Switzerland to send. Songs with ‘symphony’ in the title don’t tend to flourish at Eurovision – just ask Slovenia’s Quartissimo) – but artists do – just ask Urban Symphony from Estonia. With Black Angels by Atomic Symphony, who knows how far this could go.

 

  1. Unbreakable by Sinplus (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3vUIoqwHTM)

This song suffers only in how the vocals sound, either as the result of the singer, who doesn’t spend a lot of time speaking English, singing in it; or the singer doing what he always does no matter the tongue and me finding it strange to listen to. Still, I can get past that, because I really like everything else. The chorus gets a big thumbs up. I feel like Unbreakable is what would happen if Andorra decided to participate again and secured a day release from the old folks’ home for Anonymous (assuming they had gone a bit emo since Helsinki).

 

  1. Wrong to Let You Go by Katharine St-Laurent (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZU5YtzRsy0)

Rihanna’s Umbrella meets…well, pretty much any middle-of-the-road love ballad by a female singer of the last twenty years. But don’t get me wrong; I’m liking the combo. Sure, it ain’t no groundbreaker. But it’s a solid pop song with a strong chorus and singer, and IMO on about the same level as this year’s winner from Azerbaijan which I dare not name for fear that I am not over it winning yet, and will burst into tears which will drip onto my keyboard and I will be electrocuted and die, hence missing Baku altogether.

 

  1. Real Love by Patric Scott feat. Fabienne Louves (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_Bhl5Dm8LQ)

It’s official: Switzerland loves its Top 40 pop ballads long time (no research was conducted by yours truly to reach this conclusion. In the immortal words of Spice Girl Mel B, ‘I’m just sayin’…X Factor Australia reference people!). I wouldn’t say there’s real love for this song in me, but I’m pretty attracted to it. The verses sound better than the chorus which is a bit of a worry, and I’m not sure what kind of stage show could be put on for it, but I still wouldn’t place the back of my hand on my forehead and crumple dramatically to the ground in a dead faint if it won.

 

  1. L’autre by Ze Flying Zézettes Orchestra (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5MFVGzPIms)

And now for something completely different…something whimsical and quirky and interesting. This is the kind of music one would expect to hear in a French cabaret bar, and that’s not my usual thang (yes, I said ‘thang’. I’m not proud of it), but I can’t help feeling a little fondness for it. Would it do well at Eurovision? Probably not. But many of my favourite entries have been those that floundered in the final, or didn’t even qualify.

 

My bottom five:

  1. C’était Ma Vie by Lys Assia

Maybe Israel picked Dana International to represent them in Düsseldorf because she is Dana International. So what? I, at least, was a fan of Ding Dong. However, in picking Lys Assia to possibly represent them in Baku because she is Lys Assia (as I suspect than to have done) Switzerland have made a mistake. Lys is probably a lovely woman, and is undoubtedly an ESC legend, but her song is stuck firmly back in her glory days of 1754. I mean 1956. She’s even allegedly planning to wear the same dress she won in back then! Therein lies the problem I have with this whole thing – apart from a few (hundred) wrinkles, her performance on Saturday will be a dead ringer for the one she gave over half a century ago in Lugano. Then and there, it was enough to win; but Eurovision has well and truly moved on from chanson.

 

  1. Fragile by I Quattro

I know a lot of people, come Eurovision time, have a designated ‘toilet break’ song that is worth leaving to be unheard in order to take care of a little business. I, on the other hand, am glued to the television for every second – mainly because I went to the loo just before the show started, but also because I’m terrified of missing something. Should this song be picked, come Baku time, I think I’d have to reconsider this ‘no-piddle’ policy. Yawn.

 

  1. Anima Nuova by Chiara Dubey

This does absolutely nothing for me. I can’t say I hate it, but it just leaves me…well, a bit sleepy, to be honest. What really annoys me about it is the apparent attempt to fit as many words as possible into the chorus (if it is the chorus – I can’t tell, it all blends into one) despite the fact that they don’t fit. Unremarkable.

 

  1. The Song in My Head by Raphael Jeger

Someone should write a cheesy, 80s-style sitcom for which this can be the theme. Otherwise, it’s going to disappear into the black hole of vanilla national finalists and will never be heard again (is that a good thing?). I shudder to think what the song in Raphael’s head was if this is the one outside of it. Not that it’s dreadful. Just so cliché!  

 

  1.  Quand je Ferme Les Yeux by Sosofluo

Okay, so I don’t hate this. I just don’t want it to win, which is unfortunate as I suspect it to be just the type that could win. It’s just so dated, and although I hate to repeat myself repeat myself repeat myself, also has the potential to be used as a sitcom theme. No song with that ability should be seen/heard at the ESC. Not in 2012.

 

My dream winner:

My Love by Ultra Naté. As Katharine St-Laurent would say, the Swiss were wrong to let her go. As if the fact that the intro sounds like Gimme Gimme Gimme by ABBA, and in turn Popular by Eric Saade, wasn’t reason enough to hang on to her for the final! Look out for signs, people, SIGNS! Anyway, somehow her song got the boot in an earlier culling and I personally shall mourn the loss for minutes to come.

 

Spit it out – who’s going to win?

Taking into account that the decision will be made by 100% televoting, I’d say Black Symphony, Unbreakable, or heaven forbid, C’était Ma Vie. I think Sosofluo, Zézettes or Katharine St-Laurent could just miss out, whilst Guillermo or I Quattro will be at the bottom. 

 

What do you think? Which song will Switzerland send to Baku? And which should they send?