ESC 2011 – [Three] Weeks Later

Howdy everyone!  Sorry that this post is a little later than usual – this entry took much longer to write than it was supposed to.  Without further ado, here are my ESC Awards and Final Thoughts for this year’s Contest.

Best Dressed Award:

Winner: Iceland
The guys looked oh so classy in their vests and ties.

First Runner-Up: Slovakia
What the TWiiNS lacked in vocal power they more than made up for in style. I loved the gold and silver dresses that they had on.

Second Runner-Up: The Netherlands
More classy apparel – there’s something about suits that just make people look nice.

Honorable Mention: Norway, France, Italy, Azerbaijan

“Most in Need of a Costume Change” Award:

Winner: Ireland
If this was any act other than Jedward, those hideous red jackets would have derailed that song’s chances of even getting out of the semi-finals.

First Runner-Up: Croatia (Dress #1)
What a hideous garmet!  Her costume change didn’t come fast enough!  I liked the pink dress, though.

Second Runner-Up: Israel
Dana International made this list not just because she wore a very questionable dress, but because she’s known for being on the cutting edge of fashion and this thing that she wore was just…ish.

Honorable Mention: Slovenia, Albania, Romania

I’m scrapping the “Cutest Boy” and “Cutest Gal” categories because they’re somewhat pointless.  Instead, I will be replacing them with the “Best Lyrics” and “Huh?” Awards.

Best Lyrics:

Winner: Albania
“Let me share my song with you, just feel the passion/Love’s the message shining through, a chain reaction…Zot, qe këngën ma ke fal, më lerë të ndarë [God, you who has given me the song, let me share it]/Nuk ka ngjyrë e nuk ka fjalë, muret s’e mbajnë [It has no colour and no words, walls can’t hold it]”
Any song that sings about the glory of God and how much the singer wants to spread the message is a-okay in my book!

First Runner-Up: Bosnia & Herzegovina
“If you take this life from me today…You’ll just find two, three songs of mine/Hundred worries of mine/Your love, your love in rewind…”
Is he talking to a partner?  To the mirror?  To God?  All three?  Someone else?  Is this at the end of a relationship or on a deathbed?  We don’t know because they are endless possibilities – that’s what makes these lyrics so great.

Second Runner-Up: San Marino
“Oh, this life, something so beautiful but hard at the same time…Tonight, can we pretend there’s no more time?/Let’s lock our doors and leave this endless world outside”
While there aren’t groundbreaking lyrics, they are well-written and go far beyond the typical ESC lyrics.

Honorable Mention: Italy, France, The Netherlands, Serbia

“Huh?” Award: Given to the entry with the most questionable, lazy, or just plain nonsensical lyrics

Winner: Armenia
“Boom, boom! Chuka, chuka! Your kiss is like a-, like a-.”
Not only is this lazy writing, but it’s just silly.  “Chuka” is not a word.  “Your kiss is like a, like a,” “like a” what?  You can’t just end a sentence there without any hint to what you’re referring to.  Being a feel good pop song is no excuse for pitiful songwriting.  Somebody should be ashamed of him/herself.

First Runner-Up: Israel
“Ding dong, say no more./I hear silent prayers and they take me high…and fly/I know where to go and I’m coming now!”
Normally, I love Dana International’s songs, but Ding Dong is simply weak. From the verses I get an idea of what the song is about, but this refrain (lyrics above) makes absolutely no sense!

Second Runner-Up: Norway
There are only about eight unique lines of text in this song!
This song is quite lazy lyrically, but at least it’s fun to dance to.

Honorable Mention: Ukraine, Sweden

“Spirit of ABBA” Award: Given to the most stereotypical ESC entry

Winner: Spain
Feel good beats and a pleasant message; a surprisingly original song that continued the Spanish’s tradition of sending authentic entries to the Contest – Spain takes home the ever-so-prestigious Spirit of ABBA Award for 2011.

First Runner-Up: Estonia
Complete with pop-tastic beats, vapid lyrics with some questionable aspects (“One, Two, Seven, Three”), and a fun stage performance.

Second Runner-Up: Belarus
One reason I love the ESC is because of the intense nationalism; however, this song fails because it’s about loving Belarus but is completely in English.

Honorable Mention: Armenia, Norway

“This is D.C. Calling” Award: Given to the most American sounding entry

Winner: Azerbaijan
I think Azerbaijan has either won or placed for this award each of the last three years.  Yet again, the Azerbaijanis send a generic pop song to the Contest and it serves them well.  In fact, it makes me a little proud that it won, and then I remember that there were a slew of entries that were more deserving.

First Runner-Up: Sweden
Aside from the fact that Eric Saade is a pop star due to his looks (and most definitely not for his voice), this song’s questionable lyrics and egocentrism (how many love songs do you know that includes the word “I” more times than it does “you”) would make it feel right at home in the American pop scene.

Second Runner-Up: Switzerland
This pleasant song sounds like something that would grace the indie scene – possibly an indie artist’s one hit song.

Honorable Mention: Russia, Serbia

“Pond Leaper” Award: While I think every song would be able to find a niche here in the USA, these are the songs I think would be the most popular.

Winner: Hungary
Kati Wolf actually sounds like everyone’s favorite diva-to-hate: Celine Dion, except she’s singing a disco-esque song.  This would be eaten up over here!

First Runner-Up: Iceland
An incredibly sincere and heart-warming ballad with a sob story to go along with it that make the lyrics that much more poignant.

Second Runner-Up: Slovenia
A powerful R&B-pop song about a woman scorned that could just have easily been sung by Christina Aguilera, yeah, this song would do quite well on the Billboard charts.

Honorable Mention: Italy, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina

The “Shiri Maimon Travesty of the Year” Award: In 2005, a true work of art was entered into the ESC; Israel was being represented by Shiri Maimon with the song Hasheket Shinish’Ar.  Not only did this song not win, but the winning song that year was not even worthy to be performed on the same stage as the Israeli entry.  For me, that was the biggest travesty in Eurovision history.  Each year, I hand out this award to the biggest disappointment of the Contest.

Winner: The Netherlands getting last place
First off, this was a really hard award to hand out this year, as I am not gravely offended by any of the results this year (not even Sweden’s third place or Ireland’s eighth).  However, the Dutch presented a well-written song with a strong arrangement; I understand that no one in Europe likes the Dutch, but the juries could have at least given the 3JS more points.  This was an undeserved last place for the Netherlands (unlike some of their others).

First Runner-Up: San Marino failing to qualify
I know the Sammarinese have set the goal, at least for now, of using Eurovision as a way of proclaiming their existence, but they had a decent shot of progressing through to the Final this year (and would have if the jury votes had stood alone).  I hope the tiny country keeps trying to qualify.  How awesome would it be to have a Contest in San Marino!

Now, the big award…My Top Ten Award: Given to my ten favorite songs from the Contest.  Like last year, I liked every song enough to put it on my iPod, but only ten of them can make this list.  The winners are ranked from tenth to first (most favorite).  These songs were the ones good enough to grab my attention and affection from the first moment I heard it at the Contest and have gotten the most plays on my iPod.

10. Iceland – powerful lyrics, light melody, great performance

9. Serbia – the lyrics are well-written and authentic, the music is fun, and the performance was strong and energetic

8. Belgium – despite the cheesy lyrics, the arrangement of this song was phenomenal

7. Slovenia – the lyrics are original and tell a story, the music captures the mood as the song progresses, and the Kuec is a powerful singer.

6. Norway – it’s fun, it’s easy to sing along to, it brings a new language to the ESC stage.

5. Germany – Lena 2.0: sexier and more mature than the previous model, this eerie song is as unique as it is captivating

4. Switzerland – how can you not like this song? It sounds like something that a person might sing to their partner before proposing.

3. Albania – it’s a powerful song about the awesomeness of God.

2. Bosnia & Herzegovina – great lyrics, great music, great performance – even more so, it’ll help me introduce the Contest to more of my American friends.

1. Italy – this song is well written, well composed, awesomely performed; very few songs give chills when the first time I hear it performed, but this one did. Bravo Italy!

Final Thoughts:
The biggest story that seems to be coming out of this year’s Contest isn’t the fact that Azerbaijan won but this issue with the juries that seems to continually pop up – Italy won the jury voting, Russia was utterly destroyed by the juries, and the UK didn’t fare too much better.  Let’s not forget that the juries judge songs based upon their hit potential AND their artistic merit.  People complain that Italy’s song has no hit potential, well, they’re overlooking the fact that his album hit number one in Italy, France, and Germany – three of the largest music industries in Europe and the album charted elsewhere.  It really irritates me that people are still whining about them after all this time (case in point, an Oikotimes blog article: http://www.oikotimes.com/eurovision/2011/06/03/jury-system-must-be-abandonded/).  I am ignoring the article, as it’s misinformed and frustrates me (the juries were brought back for the 2008 Contest after complaints – dating back four years – that the semi-final system introduced in 2004 was effectively shutting out Western countries from the Final, Russia’s victory in 2008 merely prompted the EBU to move the juries into the Final.  Macedonia’s two consecutive shut outs at the hands of the jury prompted the body to move 50/50 system into the semi-finals in 2010).  Additionally, yes, the constant rehearsals and PR demands can wear out a performer, but that’s a part of the Contest.  There are four performances that matter for songs that qualify into the Final, if singers and dancers can’t perform four times at 100% then they really don’t deserve to win.  Eric Saade and co. of Sweden was able to give four strong performances and they probably had the most demanding performance of any of the forty-three entrants.  I agree with a few of those who left comments, the juries should have to vote on the night of the Final, simply so that they are judging the same thing as the viewing audience – though, I don’t mind the idea of making performers be consistent.  Additionally, someone complained about bloggers, journalists, lawyers, and producers being allowed to be on juries.  Let’s not forget, while the musicians are the ones who make the music, it’s the media and executives that determine what songs become hits and which ones do not.  Trust me, if the juries were purely artists and researchers, then there would be many more disagreements between the juries and televotes than Italy and Lithuania. I also want to remind one of the comment leavers that in 2008 they having the juries in the semi-finals only, and it resulted in even more anger and controversy when Russia won. If anything, the variance between the two groups that we saw this year only demonstrates how important it is that this 50/50 system stays in place; it seems to be doing its job.  How else would weak songs from popular countries such as Turkey, Armenia, and Norway be kept out so that higher quality entries could go through to the Final?

Speaking of which, one of the Eurovision Radio contributors raised an interesting point on the June 1st show – did Azerbaijan win because Turkey was not in the Final?  It makes sense that AZR was able to pick up votes that otherwise would have went to Turkey, particularly from the televoters.  Conversely, the two songs were so different, maybe it would not have made a difference if Turkey had qualified or not – at least not when it came to the jury side of things.  It will be very interesting to see the legacy that Running Scared leaves behind.  I think it definitely continues the trend of more serious entries winning over more frivolous ones.  However, it is the definition of generic pop song, hopefully, next year won’t be full of robotic acts that try to repeat AZR’s success.  I do hope that inspires more broadcasters to ship their acts around the continent to promote their entries, particularly for Eastern songs to go out West and vice versa.

I think this year a very distinct line was drawn in the sand between the performance entries (Ireland, Sweden, Russia, Estonia, etc) and the entries of artistic merit (Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, etc), and I think this is why the jury issues seem to be louder than anything else, especially with this being the first time that the juries and televoters disagree.  It will be very interesting to see if this divide continues to grow next year, or will the entries start to converge back towards the middle; let’s hope for the latter!

I will leave you with a note about the entry I think that was the most overlooked and downright ignored.  Spain’s Que Me Quiten lo Bailao – They Can’t Take Away the Fun from Me performed by Lucía Pérez was a fun entry that was among the favorites of all in attendance at my Eurovision party.  Its lyrics offered a refreshingly different message than any other song for quite a few years, the music was bouncy and lighthearted, and the performance was just perfect for the song.  I hope the result doesn’t discourage Ms. Pérez; though, she’s a seasoned professional, so I doubt that it will.  Either way, Muy Bien España!

With that, I close out my blogs on the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 – Düsseldorf.  In the upcoming year, I will be posting entries about Svante Stockselius, his legacy and the challenges he left to be faced by Jon Ola Sand, news and thoughts about the upcoming Contest in Baku, the Junior Eurovision Song Contest (held in Yerevan, Armenia this year), and news and thoughts about entries as they become available.

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