So, it is almost the end of 2009, and several countries already have selected artists, songs, or both! Let’s take a look, shall we!
Belgium - the first country to release official news regarding its representative to the Contest (unlike the daily ruors coming out of Turkey), Tom Dice was selected to represent the nation. Dice’s career started on Belgium’s version of X-Factor, with his most famous song being a cover of Leona Lewis’ Bleeding Love. He is attractive and has a folksy-rock kind of voice, but I think he won’t do well. Aside from being from Belgium, he seems to be the type that works best when performing an unexpected version of a song (think Kris Allen, this year’s winner on the American version On the show he seems revolutionary, but his original stuff is not as impactful.) Sorry Belgium, expect another year of sitting on the sidelines come Saturday evening.
(on a side note, why has the ESC seem to turn into a dumping ground for Pop Idol (X-Factor‘s original name) and Star Factory losers? First it was just Shiri Maimon (ISR2005) and Kate Ryan (BLG2006), but we have since had many more: 2007 – Koldun (BLR), Magdi Rúzsa (HUN), Hanna Pakarin (FIN); 2008 – Boaz (ISR), Gisela (AND), Kalomoira (GRE), Ruslan Alekhno (BLR), Andy Abraham (UK); 2009 – Alexander Rybak (NOR), Hadise (TUR), Igor Cukrov (CRO) — I’m sure I’ve missed people from various countries and years, but these are the ones that I know, please feel free to leave others in the comments section. It’s not as if I find it annoying that many participants are from X-Factor/Star Academy, but it does make it slightly harder to draw a line between those type of shows and the Contest when introducing it to new people.)
The Netherlands – the first song to be revealed, the Dutch will send Ik be verfliefd, Shalalie, a song written and composed by Pierre Kartner (for Kartner’s most famous work, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WS5ER8HaIhU). Hopefully, this effort will do better than his previous Eurovision attempt in 1973, which got 14th place out of 17 entries. Though, at this point, the Netherlands may just be happy to qualify for the Finals (which it has a shot of doing with the selection of the right singer).
Switzerland – The Swiss complete the “failing Western Europe block” for next year’s Contest (since Andorra is not competing and Portugal has been relatively successful lately). They have both a singer (Michael von der Heide, who sounds like a cornier version of The Wiggles) and a song (Il Pleut de l’Or aka: “It’s Raining Gold” (which I guess is slightly better than it raining men) – a song in French, despite the singer’s predisposition for German), but not final version of the song yet. Expect the Swiss entry this year to suffer from being from Switzerland. It will linger behind in the Semi-Finals. How can I predict the finishing position without having heard the song, you may ask. The previous two Swiss entries have been great, and both of them were left in the Semis.
Bulgaria – The least successful Balkan nation (though, Montenegro may own that title) has already selected an artist Miro. He sings a variety of pop styles, and the selection program for his song will reflect this. I honestly can’t pick this one just yet, but I have a feeling it will be like Bulgaria’s selection last year, at least one certain top ten song (fx: Chance to Love You) will be overlooked for a less appealing, but more unique song (fx: Illusion). This technique worked in 2007 (Water) but one out of five is not good odds.
Albania – Traditionally, Albania is the first to hold a selection program, and this year was no different. Juliana Pasha will represent her country with some version of the song Nuk mundem pa ty aka: “I Can’t Without You.” I will admit, I messed up and listened to this song by accident. I was listening to the entries that failed to win, and was just blindly going down the line. Her’s was about twelve or fifteen songs down the line (a line that had only yielded about two or three songs I deemed worthwhile) when I heard the song, and was like, “Now this is a good song, this one should have won.” And, low and behold, it did. CRAP! Oh well, it’s not like I can unlisten to it, and I can’t recall how the tune went, so it will be like I never heard it (until the Contest, when I recognize the song when it is performed). Though, I do remember thinking that the song would sound better and be more effective in English than in Albanian (despite the face that I almost always prefer the original language version to a translated one). In the end, I am not even sure the version I heard will be a final one, so I am not sweating it too much. I will just have to be that much more careful in the future. I think this song will continue the trend Albania has been on as of late, be moderately successful in the Semis, but fall somewhere between 15th and 20th on the night of the Final, despite being a fan favorite.
Ukraine – Selected to represent the Ukraine: Vasyl Lazarovich, a tenor-baritone. Many people whine that the Ukraine unfairly benefits from its geographic location and political history, this year’s entry will go a long way to disprove that. Ukraine has been quite successful when sending ladies (who all seem to be able to crush men through pure sexuality) or lady-impersonators (i.e. Verka Serduchka), finishing in the top twelve each time (often in the top five). However, both entries by men have left them on the wrong half of the scoreboard, and I don’t foresee this attempt being much different. Lazarovich is a good singer, but he has already gone on the record saying that he wants something that reflects the whole of his singing ability, which is either pop OR classical, as I haven’t heard him do a song that I would consider to be popera. He doesn’t seem to be overly enthralling in his live performances, either, something that every Ukrainian woman who took the ESC stage has been. I honestly don’t think he will make it out of the Semis, especially since the jury no longer have an independent vote, and even if he does, he will fall in the bottom ten of the Finals. But then again, they may prove me wrong, it is the Ukraine for goodness sake.
Israel – Harel Skaat was chosen to represent the tiny Middle East country (bringing our X-Factor count to 2). I am going to repeat what I said on the eurovision.tv page displaying the official announcement. Israel seems to have noticed that the two previous Contests were won by cute boys and have decided to send their own. The only difference this time is Harel Skaat can sing much better than Dima Bilan and Alexander Rybak. I expect that he will do quite well, and have the highest placing among the acts that we already know about.