Eurovision 2011 – Düsseldorf

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.


ESC2011: Notes on the Grand Final

Eurovision Song Contest 2011: Düsseldorf

The Grand Final!!!

After a very eventful year, in which we saw one of the most active Supervisors step down, a new Supervisor be appointed, the return four countries to the Contest – including Italy!, and the fielding of a record-tying 43 entries, and two winners coming returning with the hopes of being the next Johnny Logan, the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 is here, live from Düsseldorf, Germany!

Looking at the running order, it looks as if most of the favorites to win (Estonia, Sweden, France, even Ireland and Hungary) fall in the first half of the running order.  Which doesn’t necessarily spell doom – except for dark horse candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina who landed in the deadly number two spot, but it does give a bolster to the United Kingdom, the only favorite to fall after the halfway point (it’s number 14).  Additionally, Austria (#18) and Serbia (#24), both of which have been picking up steam since qualifying, could benefit the most from the running order and both may end up surprising a lot of fans throughout Europe.  After consulting the blogosphere, reviewing history, and watching the recap of songs from the second dress rehearsal, I think this year’s winner will be either Sweden or France.  I think the rest of the Top Ten will include UK, Ireland, Estonia, Denmark, Austria, Serbia, Germany, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I have this feeling, and I’ve had since even before the semi-finals just from looking at fan sites and bookies, that this year will be the first in which the juries and the televoters disagree.  This will mean one of three things will happen.  1) The televoters’ favorite will win, leaving those who prefer juries outraged.  They will most likely shout something about how the winner is of low quality or something like that.  2) The juries’ favorite will win, leaving conspiracy theorists and teenyboppers whining about the Contest being rigged or some other nonsense like that.  3) The juries’ favorite and the televoters’ will cancel each other out and an entry that received a top five placing on both lists will come out the winner.  Resulting in no one being happy or satisfied – except those of us who like the 50/50 system and realized this is exactly the sort of thing that’s supposed to happen with it.

And now, it’s 3 PM on the East Coast (that’s 17:00 CET) and the Grand Final is beginning!!!  Onward to the show!

Opening Act: Hosts!  Where’s the reprise of Satellite?  We were promised Stefan Raab’s band reprising the song on Lena’s behalf!  Oh, here it is.  Hmmm….I’ll bet you anything that the producers had to talk Raab out of wearing his gold outfit from 2000.  The German’s really don’t do humor all that well (though, tonight was better than the other two nights), but they have picked up Big Band quite well.  I love the flags on stage!!!  LENA!  I didn’t think she would be allowed to open the show since she’s also a competitor. HA!  It’s a good thing I don’t get seizures.  That was quite a fun opening, yay!  It puts Satellite in a whole new context, it was great!

It always gives me chills to think that hundreds of millions of folks are watching this along with me, all throughout Europe, and all throughout the world.  I love it!

01. Finland – Da Da Dam performed by Paradise Oskar

I love how volatile the crowd is in the arena – they’re singing along!  In my notes for the Second Semi-Final, I remarked on how the crowd might make it hard for BiH to stay on beat.  An article posted this morning on eurovision.tv confirmed this with the artist’s own words.  The solution was for Dino Merlin to wear two ear pieces instead of just one, I see Paradise Oskar has decided to do the same.  This was quite a pleasant way to start off the Contest.  The crowd obviously loved it and the singer also seemed to enjoy himself, I hope he places well.

02. Bosnia & Herzegovina – Love in Rewind performed by Dino Merlin

Awesome!  Minus the miscued clapping at the end.  I absolutely love this song!  It sucks that its second in the running order and not twenty-second, then it could actually stand a chance of winning.  I hope that he is at least able to pull off a Top Ten finish.

03. Denmark – New Tomorrow performed by A Friend in London

I guess the event crew said no to the ball idea.  Having just one is quite lamed compared to the bunches they had at DMGP, especially since that one ball fell to the ground.  He also took a different route back to the stage then he used on Thursday, was that a security issue or did he just forget which catwalk he was supposed to use?  It was alright, not as good as Thursday, but it will still do respectable – but it definitely leaves the door open for someone to nab its Top Ten spot.

04. Lithuania – C’est Ma Vie performed by Evelina Sašenko

I am assuming she is using Estonian sign language, or is that English Sign Language as well?  Sašenko’s voice is definitely stronger now than it was on Tuesday.  I always love it when the performers improve from semi-final to final, it’s just great!  Go Lithuania, go!

05. Hungary – What About My Dreams? performed by Kati Wolf

Better than Tuesday, but still not all that great on stage.  I think that she will end up in the mid-teens – people will vote because it’s an awesome club track, but her weak vocals will hamper Hungary’s chances of returning to the Top Ten.

06. Ireland – Lipstick performed by Jedward

Having gone back and watched the music video for this song, and paying more attention to the LED show, I realized something.  This goes beyond the normal gag act.  It goes beyond the normal desire to just bring ridiculousness to the ESC stage.  This whole entry isn’t about humor and fun, it’s about Jedward.  The whole point of this is to bring more attention to the twins; it’s a self-glorifying and pompous entry.  I hope it fails.

07. Sweden – Popular performed by Eric Saade

I don’t like this song anymore than I like Lipstick, but at least this entry is about the performance and the Contest, not the artist himself.  Saade, who generally has very weak vocals, is much sounding much better than he did on Thursday and when he was in Melodifestivalen.  Honestly, they still mistimed the breaking glass?  Why didn’t he just bring the demolition team with him from Stockholm?  I, personally, don’t think that was a winning performance – but hey, I said that three years about Russia and had to eat my words.   Either way, Sweden will do very well despite their position in the running order.

08. Estonia – Rockerfeller Street performed by Geeter Jaani

Come on Jaani, I know you have a magician in your delegation; now prove that he is worth the money that y’all are paying him – I want to see more tricks and illusions than we did on Thursday!  Grrr….lazy illusionist.  Jaani definitely sounded better than she did two days ago, but I am still disappointed with this performance on a whole.

09. Greece – Watch My Dance performed by Loucas Yiorkas featuring Stereo Mike

I am still in disbelief that this was able to win the Greek national selection.  I really like the staging of this entry, but I still don’t get it.  I think this song could really have been so much better.  Oh well, it’s Greece, so I’m sure it will still get plenty of points (and I know one country that will definitely be giving it 12 points), though, I don’t think that it will achieve a Top Ten placing.

10. Russia – Get You performed by Alexey Vorobyov

Wow, much better than Tuesday!  Oh, that was great!  And loved the flip and the how the lights on their backs spelt out Alex.  I think Mr. Vorobyov just bought himself a place in the Top Ten.

11. France – Sognu performed by Amaury Vassili

Another favorite takes the stage.  It’s funny, because this isn’t a song that particularly strikes someone as something that could Eurovision, regardless of what era of the Contest we’re talking about.  But it’s impeccably arranged, except the ending, which was just awkward.  Hmm….I’m not feeling too strong about this one either.  Let’s see what the rest of the night has to offer.

12. Italy – Madness of Love performed by Raphael Gualazzi

AMAZING!  I literally got chills from that performance!!!  I’m speechless.  Why is this not a favorite to win the Contest.

13. Switzerland – In Love for Awhile performed by Anna Rossinelli

Her voice is a thousand times clearer, stronger, and more accurate than it was on Tuesday.  The Swiss are in it to win it!  While I don’t think the Helvetica Confederation will be hosting the Contest again next year, I think they are definitely showing some real signs of fight this year, more so than in years past, despite the fact that the Swiss has been sending its best performers to the last few Contests.

14. United Kingdom – I Can performed by Blue

The screens with their faces are a little much, don’t you think?  Are they trying to prove they’re still attractive despite their age?  I don’t know if this entry is all that much different than Sweden’s.  The choreography and staging isn’t as strong, but the vocals are many times better.  Despite my love for Italy and Switzerland, I think this was really the first performance that could win on the night.  The test is to see whether Moldova’s ADHD performance can erase Blue’s memory or not.

15. Moldova – So Lucky performed by Zdob şi Zdub

I absolutely love the horns in this song.  Interesting, the outrageousness of this song serves almost like a palate cleanser.  It will most likely overpower any lingering thoughts and reflections about the preceding acts (who should all thank their lucky stars that voting goes throughout all the performances) and reset folks for the remaining ten.  I still liket his song, but think that Zdob şi Zdub will be unable to repeat their success.

16. Germany – Taken by a Stranger performed by Lena

I loved the postcard, and how it focused on the hosts.  Why would people compare this to Satellite, they’re two completely different songs, though I think both are perfect for Lena.  Satellite was the perfect song for the young, bright-eyed girl she was last year and Taken by a Stranger is the perfect song the mature, alluring young woman she is now.  I LOVED THAT ENDING!  The shattering lights into sparks, the intersecting spotlights, that sexy look at the end.  GREAT!  Not Johnny Logan great, but Carola great – I think Lena will definitely find herself in the Top Ten.

17. Romania – Change performed by Hotel FM

While many performers are better in the Final, some are better in the Semi-Final – Hotel FM falls into this latter category.  I don’t know if they were nervous following the host country (which can definitely be intimidating), or if they were afraid Taken by a Stranger would make Change seem unsophisticated and immature in comparison (which it does), if they are just tired and fatigued from the endless rehearsals, or have spent too much time at the EuroClub – but the vocals were weak (not bad, just weak) and Romania will find itself outside the Top Ten once again.

18. Austria – The Secret is Love performed by Nadine Beiler

Beiler’s voice is definitely better tonight which should make her entry seem even stronger when juxtaposed against the preceding act (sorry Romania).  If this was the early 90s, I would say that we just witnessed a winning performance.  For better or worse, it is not the early 90s, and thus, this song will probably not win.  But I think Beiler and her backing singers have done Austria proud and will get at least a respectable placing.

19. Azerbaijan – Running Scared performed by Ell/Nikki

Ell and Nikki are fighting to avoid becoming AZR’s first entry to fall outside of the Top Ten, which they are in danger of doing given the strength of the favorites and the surprise success stories (SUI, AUS, etc…).  I like this song and the fact that AZR continually brings the most American sounding entry, year after year.  But I don’t know if this song, let alone the performance, is strong enough to carry the Land of Fire into the Top Ten.

20. Slovenia – No One performed by Maja Keuc

This song could definitely benefit from its running order position.  Her voice is so much stronger than it was on Thursday, though I wonder if this song would be even more effective if she had performed the original Slovene version Vanijia.  I thought it was a well-done performance but it’s impossible to predict where she will fall when the dust settles.

Hmm, the voting numbers…I have vague memories regarding Italy, Ireland, Sweden, and Bosnia & Herzegovina.  The rest are quite fuzzy.

21. Iceland – Coming Home performed by Sjonni’s Friends

This is one of those songs that make you feel good as you listen to it, but leaves you as soon as the song is over.  I think this song will fall to the bottom of the scoreboard, even though it deserves to be in the Top Ten.

22. Spain – Que me quiten lo bailo – They can’t take the fun away from me performed by Lucía Pérez

And the children’s hit parade continues…like Denmark’s song, the Spanish entry sounds like something you would sing with four year olds.  Though, I find this entry much less annoying than the Danish one, in fact, it’s somewhat enjoyable.  Though, I would have thought there would be more color and dancing and a party atmosphere on stage, so I was a bit disappointed with the staging.  Expect another middle of the pack finish for the Spanish.

23. Ukraine – Angel performed by Mika Newton

Technical difficulties?  Or were they just late in getting the sand table out on stage?  Ten to one, the table was positioned incorrectly and the aerial camera was not picking it up.  Newton’s voice was many times better tonight than it was on Thursday.  Ukraine will probably find itself outside of the Top Ten because I think this song is just too…difficult…for most people and jurors.  I think musically and lyrically it is a song that must be digested slowly, and thus it is not an easy pop song to grab hold to.

24. Serbia – Čaroban performed by Nina

😦  I’m disappointed.  This is a great song that had the chance to make a really big splash.  But, like Romania, Nina seems to have shot her wad in the Semi-Finals.  While this performance is still good, it’s not as electrifying and exciting as the one on Tuesday.  I am not quite sure where this one will fall on the scoreboard.

25. Georgia – One More Day performed by Eldrine

Whew, Sophio’s pitch throughout the first verse is quite flat.  That was alright.  Not as good as Tuesday, and it provided a bit of a flat ending to the show, though. It should have been a much more electrifying.  Oh well, Georgia will finish in the middle of the pack.

What is Anke wearing?!  It’s not bad, it’s just, different. Checking the clock now…whoa!  It’s already five!  This show is running long!  We’re about a half hour behind where we should be.  Listen to those crowd reactions during the recap, Switzerland and the UK have, by far, gotten the loudest cheers – discounting Germany of course.  Moldova and Ireland also got some noteworthy cheers.

My Top Ten on the Night My Predicted Top Ten
 1. Italy 1. United Kingdom*
 2. Switzerland  2. Sweden
 3. Bosnia & Herzegovina  3. Bosnia & Herzegovina
 4. Iceland  4. Switzerland
 5. Germany  5. France
 6. Russia  6. Estonia
 7. Moldova  7. Russia
 8. Estonia  8. Ireland
 9. Spain  9. Moldova
 10. Austria  10. Germany

*normally, I go on to predict further results, those I think will end up in the teens and those I think that will be at the bottom, but I just can’t do it this year, I think there are too many unknowns this year and that all the entries are just so close to one another in quality.

**whenever I change my prediction for winner (2008, 2010) my original guess wins.  So, I guess even though I think the UK will win, France or Sweden probably will because fate likes making me eat my words.

Interval Act: That was alright.  It seemed as if it was a little short.  And, apparently, it was, as Jon Ola Sand is not ready to authorize the hosts to start calling the participating countries to receive their votes.

Stalling for time….HAHAHA – Anke screwed up the line, twice.  I love how Stefan is using Te Deum to “tear down” the wall separating the stage from the green room. Oooh, they are keeping the Green Room open for the voting sequence, exciting!

The Voting Sequence!  This year, instead of randomly revealing the votes, they are arranged to help maximize the suspense of the voting sequence.

Russia – Dima Bilan!  Low points for UK, France, and Sweden.  Boos abound for Ukraine.  Hmmm, 12 points to AZR, I guess because Armenia wasn’t there and they hate Georgia.

Bulgaria – the UK’s first 12 of the night, and unexpected one from Bulgaria, that has to bode well for Blue’s chances.

The Netherlands – Denmark gets the Dutch twelve?  Whoa.

Italy – It’s been a long time since Rome has called in.  10 to UK and 12 to Romania?  Wow, I my mind is boggled.

Cyprus – I predict yet another 12 for Greece.  Yep…a let the boos reign down.

Ukraine – Ruslana!  Azerbaijan is doing much better than expected.  And an unexpected 12 to Georgia.

Finland – 12 to Hungary, which makes sense, given the Finns love of dance tracks.

Norway – no surprises here!

Armenia – Only ten for Georgia?  Without Israel around who gets the 12?  Oh, the Ukraine.

Macedonia – Do I hear a 12 for Serbia? Whoa!  Only 8.  Ah, that makes sense, 12 for BiH.

Iceland – no surprises.

Slovakia – yay!  The Swiss are saved from null pointes land.

United Kingdom – why no boos for the predictable 12 to Ireland?

Denmark – only 10 for Sweden, where do the 12 go? Ireland?!  boo

Austria – Only 10 for Germany, for who are the 12?  BiH?  That’s definitely a surprise!

Poland – Lithuania?  how random.

Sweden – ireland, eww.

San Marino – italy gets 12, of course

Germany – no surprises

AZR – Safura! nothing exciting here

Slovenia – that’s a new guy, equally as annoying, though.

Halfway point – Sweden is in the lead, Azerbaijan is surprisingly in the second, and Denmark is, inexplicitly, in third.

Turkey – Of course, 12 to AZR, but what about 8 and 10?  Georgia, no surprise.  BiH, no surprise.  12 to AZR, no surprise.

SUI – Wow, BiH just might pull this off!

Greece – 12 to France, beginning of a comeback or too little too late?

Georgia – Sophia! they always have such random points.

France – Spain gets 12 and France stays true to the alliance.

…I am preparing for my own Eurovision Party this evening, so I can’t comment on each country’s votes as they come up.  I am noticing Azerbaijan and Greece are both doing unexpectedly well and France is not.

Malta –This Contest is officially over, Azerbaijan has won.  Baku 2012!

With one country left, the Azerbaijani performers are just now freaking out and getting excited, apparently, while both seem to be music folks and know about languages, neither one seems to be good at math.  They won a long time ago.

Yay, Italy is welcomed back to the Contest with a second place finish!

Hmm…Nikki seemd to have grabbed the wrong flag.   I know Azerbaijan and Turkey are close, but gosh darn it!  Celebrate the victory for your country – the trophy that you are bringing to Azerbaijan.

Final Thoughts on the Grand Final:

So, a few things to note, this is only the sixth duo to win the Contest.  It will be the farthest east the Contest will have ever traveled.  Estonia and Hungary were stomped, and became this year’s favorites to be shown as drastically overrated.  France also proved itself to be quite overrated as well.  Two Big Four countries came in the Top Ten – Italy (2nd) and Germany (10th).  While this victory for Azerbaijan was completely unexpected by most folks out there (including me), I am very happy that an entry that was truly about the song (not it’s artists, not its performance, not even its historical significance) won.  It will help continue this trend of the ESC being about good music more than about being a good show – besides, when the music is good, the entertainment value follows.  Congrats Azerbaijan, I am sure you made many, many people very rich with your win tonight, as did Italy with its second placing.  I look forward to the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 – Baku (or any other city that might host it).  I guess this makes up for the Eurovision Dance Contest folding right before it was supposed to go to there.  I can’t help but think back to my thoughts before the Contest.  I genuinely think that Azerbaijan was probably second or third on both the juries’ list and the televoter’s list, that Sweden won the televote (but was ranked low with the juries) and that Italy won the juries (but was ranked low with televoters), and that Azerbaijan was able to split the difference and take the crown.  We’ll know for sure once they release the split votes next month.  Though, I guess that should be taken with a grain of salt, I was only 4/10 for the Top Ten and WAY off for the winner, though, I am pretty sure this is the worst I’ve ever done in predicting a Top Ten.

While I can’t say that Azerbaijan was my favorite entry, I am satisfied with the results.  Though, I am rather afraid of the kind of hate speech and ignorance that will be splashed all around the ESC fan sites by those who hate any country east of Germany not called Greece.  I am also very happy that Italy got second, hopefully it will continue on in the Contest.  I also think it is a good sign that Switzerland and Austria both made the Final, hopefully both of those countries will continue on as well (though, I don’t think the Swiss ever had plans of discontinuing participation).

Y’all can expect a final wrap-up article (“ESC2011- One Week Later”) sometime in the next week or so.  There I will have my thoughts regarding the finishing positions of the various countries, hand out my annual awards, and take a look forward to next year.


ESC2011: Notes on the Second Semi-Final

Eurovision 2011 – Düsseldorf

SECOND SEMI-FINAL 2!

Tuesday was a hoot!  While I don’t think that this year has presented songs as strong as the past few years, surprises and entertainment still abound!  Congratulations to Switzerland and Lithuania for making the Final, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if they made it on the backs of the juries.  The blogosphere is still rocking from the absence of Turkey, Norway, and (for the first time since it joined in 2006) Armenia in Saturday’s Final – better luck next year, y’all!

That is a point I want to make before the Semi-Final starts.  I think (and was thinking about this even before Tuesday) that this will be the first time since the new voting system was introduced in 2008 that there will be a strong discrepancy between the juries’ votes and the televotes.  I don’t know why, I just have a hunch.  Hopefully, I am wrong because any major discrepancy (for instance, if the two groups have different winners) might lead to a change in the voting system, which I think is really as good as it can get.  Only time will tell.

One more note, we have this year’s first controversy.  Five broadcasters (Armenia’s for sure and probably, Turkey’s, Norway’s, Poland’s, Albania’s, and Malta’s) have filed a grievance, saying that technical issues prevented many countries from casting votes throughout the first thirty minutes of Tuesday’s semi-final.

My final pre-show predictions.  I think the ten qualifiers will be: Estonia, Denmark, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ukraine, Moldova, Israel, Sweden, Slovenia, Austria, Romania.  I think Israel almost has a free pass since it is being represented by a Contest icon.  Austria, like Lithuania and Switzerland, is jury fodder and will most likely woo the professionals enough to make it to Saturday.  I have a similar feeling about Slovenia.  I know Ireland is picked to do really well, but honestly, I have a really hard time believing that.  Sweden, who is a heavy favorite, has been having lots of technical issues in rehearsals, not to mention has a very taxing dance routine, so everything must work near-perfectly for it to move through.  The issue with starting voting at the very beginning is that people will vote based upon who they like without figuring in performance, so it almost defeats the purpose of having a televised show at all.  As always, the songs that are able to master the Contest as it is (and not as it should be, or was, or will be) are the ones that deserve to win.

So, onward with tonight’s semi-final!

Opening Act:

Hopefully, the opening banter will be better than on Tuesday – it is slightly better.  The comedienne’s outfit is much better, though.  And again the tv journalist lady is dressed beautifully.  Why is Stefan Raab there?  He adds nothing!

01. Bosnia and Herzegovina – Love in Rewind performed by Dino Merlin

Why is there no yellow in the BiH heart?  Why, oh why, do audiences never clap on beat?  I hope they don’t make it too difficult for the performers to stay together.  As someone who’s performed in front of 60,000 people clapping off-beat, it’s not easy to avoid being swept up in their wrong rhythm.  I really like this song!  I was weary given how awful his previous entry was, but I really, really, really like this – Go BiH!  And it was so beautifully staged – why is this not a bigger favorite than it is?  (Right now, I think it is supposed to be lower Top Ten – but it should be a contender for victory!)

02. Austria – The Secret is Love performed by Nadine Beiler

A capella!  Interesting, she didn’t start going off-key until after the music started – but she does have a really great voice.  I understand why the bookies (and probably the juries) like this, but I couldn’t imagine a slow song like this winning over many televoters.  This is nice; a really strong entry.  If this was the mid-90s, I would say that she absolutely had a chance of doing great!  But it’s not, so I think she should count herself lucky if she makes it to the Final, really lucky if she gets a finish in the top fifteen.

03. The Netherlands – Never Alone performed by 3JS

The 3JS are huge in the Netherlands, but have never done anything in English.  They should have stuck to Dutch; they just sound really nervous and I’m sure the language has something to do with it more so than the size of the audience.  In the end, I did really enjoy this entry, though I think, like most Dutch entries, it’s fairly forgettable.

04. Belgium – With Love performed by Witloof Bay

A capella!!!  I think the song is a bit corny, but they are definitely a great group.  The beatboxer is definitely awesome.  Fan reactions are so dubious, they cheer for everything, and the songs with the biggest reactions don’t always do well.  So it’s hard to really judge how well this entry will do, though, they are quite talented and the arrangement was pretty amazing.

05. Slovakia – I’m Still Alive performed by TWiiNS

I just want to point out that the drum beat we here was created by the Belgian beatboxer just moments earlier.  With a title like “I’m still alive,” one would think that this would be a high energy foot-stomper or a slow, somber song of survival; instead, it’s awkwardly between the two extremes.  I guess that’s the reason why this song has been under the radar…or is it because of the twins’ shaky vocals?  I think it is a pleasant enough entry, but I like it the least so far.

06. Ukraine – Angel performed by Mika Newton

Oh yes, this is the entry with the famed sand artist. She definitely adds a unique and intriguing element to the stage show – which is good because Mika’s vocals are a bit suspect.  I also like the fashion for this entry.  I really liked the music and the performance, but am lukewarm about the lyrics.  It’s an alright entry for me and may fall prey to the same wave that got typical qualifiers Armenia and Turkey.

07. Moldova – So Lucky performed by Zdob şi Zdub

diggiloo.net tells me that this song is in English, I don’t think I believe it.  The staging freaks me out, especially when juxtaposed against Ukraine’s.  I doubt any other act will be able to match their energy, though I am Eric Saade will try.  I definitely like the composition; this sounds like something from the mid-90s Ska-era.  I like it, but I don’t love it, though, I am really confident that this will move through to Saturday.

08. Sweden – Popular performed by Eric Saade

Here I am, thinking that Saade’s voice would have improved since last year when he perofrmed Manboy at Melodifestevalen, how disappointed I am.  And apparently, he is still mourning the loss of the Eurovision Dance Contest, as he seems to try to be bringing it to the ESC stage.  That’s interesting lighting choices, the last thirty seconds all you really see are shadows moving about, effectively hiding the thing that made him “popular” last year when giving the Swedish votes.  It was definitely an electrifying performance, but I think the song is generic and trite, not to mention “I will be popular” is not necessarily a line that will endear you to the hearts of the average middle schoolers who will be voting.

09. Cyprus – San Angelos S’Agapisa performed by Christos Mylordos

And now, a complete 180 degree turn from the last two entries, Cyprus brings a ethno-rock!  Actually, the song was better before the wailing lady and the rock riffs started.  I tend to love songs of heartache, but am underwhelmed by this act.  I think that the performance was good, but comes off a bit amateurish after Saade’s, though I like this song a lot more – and in the end, that’s what it’s all really about.

10. Bulgaria – Na Inat performed by Poli Genova

These last two acts are definitely much more in line with the ESC of the past few years, for better or for worse.  I like this, though, I don’t know how I feel about doing things “for spite.”  I definitely see how this song won the Bulgarian national selection, though, I do miss having the club anthem that the country typically sends.

11. Macedonia – Rusinka performed by Vlatko Ilievski

I thought his voice was strange because he was singing in English, nope, that’s just how he sounds.  And why have that English part?  It’s the only thing not in Macedonian.  Wouldn’t it have made much more sense to put it in Russian, particularly given the song’s story?  I like the staging of this song very much.  Once again, the Second Semi-Final is proving itself to be the stronger of the two – why is this the case year after year?  I like it a lot, but I don’t think it has a shot of moving through.  Also, I am pleased that Macedonia brought back its trademark “lai, lai, lai”s to its song this year; it has been too long since they’ve last sung those on the ESC stage.

12. Israel – Ding Dong performed by Dana International

Dana International is in an uncharacteristically subtle outfit.  Ding Dong is definitely no Diva, though I do really like this song.  It’s not as strong as I would have hoped it to be, in composition, lyrics, or performance – but it’s hard for me to think that Dana International won’t go through to the Final.

13. Slovenia – No One performed by Maja Keuc

The big note should have been bigger.  I would feel better about this song’s chances if the crowd reacted to that big note – but they didn’t.  Talk about a spiteful song, “No one will ever, ever touch you…” that cuts deep.  I think it was ably performed, but was it ably performed enough to get through?  Probably not.

14. Romania – Change performed by Hotel FM

Wow, yet another corny song.  Despite the lyrics…and the cheesy performance…and the shaky vocals, I like this song.  I think it’s terribly overrated, but I do indeed like it.

The advert break medley of ESC songs was alright, but still cheesy and over-the-top.  I guess the Germans really aren’t all that funny.

15. Estonia – Rockefeller Street performed by Getter Jaani

Oh yay! The magic hanky from Eesti Lauul, surely there’s going to be more tricks, as everyone expected that to happen (notice the lack of audience reaction to the trick).  I liked this song, certain parts more than others, but I am left with one question: Why is this song a favorite to win?  I wouldn’t even immediately predict to move through to the Final, let alone win.  Can you say: “Overrated?”

16. Belarus – I Love Belarus performed by Anastaiya Vinnikova

In a quintessential exercise of irony, I Love Belarus is sung entirely in English!  Belarus has its own language and Russian to choose from to show its patriotism, yet they choose English, a language I am pretty sure most of its residents don’t speak.  Apparently, this is popular at the Euro-club, which makes sense – it’s a vapid dance track – but it has zero chance of progressing through to the Final.

17. Latvia – Angel in Disguise performed by Mussiq

I am beginning to think that I could make a killing teaching English to Latvians; “Kill me with killer kiss” – seriously?!  You want to convince millions of Europeans from Iceland to Siberia to vote for you, and you come with “Kill me with killer kiss?”  Seriously?  The actual verses are much better, though I will say, this sounds more like a sex song than a love song (“Kill me with luscious thighs!”).  Despite the rapping, I am not quite sure why this song is not predicted to go through to the Final, it is certainly better than Denmark, Estonia, Moldova, and (presumably) Ireland.

18. Denmark – New Tomorrow performed by A Friend of London

If you’ve read anything I’ve posted about this year’s Danish entry, you’ll know that I don’t like this song at all.  I think it is corny and meant to appeal to four year olds.  I have no idea why this song is predicted to be Top Ten – and I consider Denmark to be my second home (after the USA of course!).  Once again, I am baffled by the popularity of a subpar Danish entry.  Where are the beach balls, that was the one cool effect that this song had at DMGP, and I only saw one – we were promised hundreds of balls bouncing around Espirit Arena, where are they?!

19. Ireland – Lipstick performed by Jedward

Continuing the stupid haircut portion of the show, the twins from Ireland take to the stage.  What are they wearing?  If it was anyone other than Jedward, than I would say this is a prime candidate for DEDF status (decent entry derailed by fashion).  Yes, I said “decent entry,” I actually don’t hate this song despite the fact that I think Jedward’s entry is a gag act (and yes, Latvia’s song is better than this).  You forget that these guys are 19, because looking at how they act, you think they’re more like 9.

My Top Ten on the Night Who I Think Will Progress on to the Final
1. Bosnia & Herzegovina Sweden (of course, and it has a good chance of winning)
2. The Netherlands Ireland (it didn’t suck and people already like Jedward)
3. Romania Austria (the juries will make their voices heard)
4. Moldova Moldova (they’re too crazy not to move through)
5. Austria Israel (it’s an ESC icon!)
6. Belgium Bosnia & Herzegovina (it’s an intensely popular song)
7. Ukraine Romania (it’s a catchy, feel good song)
8. Latvia Denmark (it’s inexplicitly popular despite controversy)
9. Slovenia Estonia (it’s inexplicitly popular)
10. Israel Latvia OR Slovenia (but not both)

Interval Act: I really enjoyed that.  Not quite as much as I did Cold Steel Drummers from Tuesday, but I enjoyed the dancers and their music.

The ten that actually made it to the Grand Final:

Estonia – of course, she’s a heavy favorite to win (I am 1 for 1 so far)

Romania – of course, it’s catchy and fun (2/2)

Moldova – of course, it’s fun gibberish! (3/3)

Ireland – of course, a big change from Tuesday when everyone was shocked by the first few winners announced (4/4)

Bosnia & Herzegovina (5/5)

Denmark – why?  why is this song so popular? (6/6)

Austria – yay, the jury has spoken! (7/7)

Ukraine – not too surprising given that’s its UKR and the amazing stage show (7/8)

Slovenia – awesome, let’s hope she’s even stronger on Saturday (8/9)

Sweden – of course, he’s another huge favorite to win (9/10)

Final Thoughts on the Second Semi-Final:

So, Dana International becomes the first winner to return to the Contest and fail to qualify for the Final.  It’s just as well, as she said so herself, she didn’t care about the competition this time around.  I don’t like the direction that the Contest will take if Sweden wins; however, I have to admit that it is the clear favorite to win in my eyes right now.  I would bet money that he won this semi-final.  Also, it’s a true shame that the Netherlands did not qualify, they had a great song with strong music and strong lyrics, but like most Dutch entries, it had an underwhelming stage show.  Finally, Slovenia, in my opinion, has all the makings of a dark horse candidate this year.  It has been fairly below the radar, yet it is a strong song with the potential of an even stronger performance.  Hopefully, Maja Keuc is up to the challenge.

Final Thought on the two semi-finals:

It once again seems that the Second Semi-Final had the stronger performers and more acts picked by fans and bookies to be successful.  This has happened every year the two semi-final system has been in use.  There has to be something that can be done about this, maybe waiting longer before assigning semi-finals (for instance, waiting until the March Heads of Delegation meetings, where they normally draw the running order).

There also seems to be a stark divide in entries this in the Final this year.  Of the twenty entries that have qualified from the Semi-Finals, seven (Sweden, Moldova, Estonia, Ireland, Georgia, Russia, and Hungary) seem to be weaker artistically speaking (music and lyrics) but appear to be designed to soak up televotes and win fans over.  Conversely, seven (Slovenia, Ukraine, Austria, Iceland, Switzerland, Lithuania, and Finland) seem to be meant more to appeal to juries.  Leaving the remaining six entries (Greece, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Denmark, and Romania) to either be crushed by both groups (particularly Greece and Romania) or to be able to split the difference (particularly Denmark and Bosnia & Herzegovina).  Either way, Saturday is up for grabs especially when you throw in additional favorites France and the UK, and the home field bump Germany will receive.  The official list of favorites to win on Saturday is: Sweden, Estonia, UK, France, Hungary.  Only one of those will continue the recent tradition of song-centered winners (France).  That’s not to say that the UK’s and Hungary’s entries aren’t song-focused, just not as much as France.  Furthermore, Estonia and Sweden are generic pop songs trying to win on performance alone, which was the problem with many of the Contests of the early 2000s.  But this is why they brought the juries back, to help deal with this problem (among others), so hopefully, they do their job!

**UPDATE: Bosnia & Herzegovina just pulled the second position for the Final on Saturday, so I am going to go ahead and say that it will not win.  Sorry Dino Merlin; it’s a shame because I really like that song.  Denmark got position three, not much better.  These were probably the two non-favorites that had the best shot of pulling off an upset victory, now that seems so much less likely.  In case you’re wondering why I’m saying this, no country has ever won from the second position…or the third.***


ESC2011: Notes on the First Semi-Final

Eurovision 2011 – Düsseldorf

FIRST SEMI-FINAL!

At long last the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 is finally here!  And, for the first time since 1997, taking place in Western Europe outside of a Nordic country (something I will explain more in-depthly in a later blog).  A bit of history now, 2011 marks the 50th Anniversary Luxembourg’s first victory (1961), Nous les Amoureux performed by Jean-Claude Pascal and the 25th Anniversary of Belgium’s only victory (1986), J’Aime la Vie performed by Sandra Kim.  How awesome would it be if Luxembourg had returned this year, on the golden anniversary of its first victory?  Surely that story would have outshines Italy’s return (or at least shone as brightly).  I am bursting with excitement and anticipation to see if the bookies are right to pick France, Sweden, and Estonia as the three countries to battle it out for the top spot.  Personally, I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be the first year since the new scoring system was introduced that there will be a difference between the jury selection and the televoting.  I think fans will go with the electrifying performance from Sweden that Mr. Saade has promised us while the jury may go for the classical and reserved entry from France. Who knows, maybe Estonia will be able to split the difference and reclaim the crown. I will be saving my revised prediction of the winner for my live commentary notes on Saturday.

As always, please remember that I write this commentary live, the first time I see the Contest.  Also, I do not mean to offend any person, peoples, or countries and try to be tactful yet entertaining in my notes.  I also want to point out that each of these performers, all 43 of them, are already winners, having won their country’s national selection process, whether it be wooing voting audiences, professional juries, or clandestine television executives.  They all deserve respect and appreciation just for making it this far.  So, without further ado – Enjoy!

As usual, being the fan of wild speculation that I am, I will present to you my predictions for the ten qualifiers from tonight’s semi-final. Again, please remember I am basing these predictions off of 30 second preview clips, the bookies’ numbers, and the ever-so-important web chatter.  My prediction is that: Armenia, Turkey, Greece, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Hungary, Russia, Norway, Poland, and Albania will make it through. I think, despite the huge promotional tour and EuroClub party, San Marino just won’t be able to keep up with the countries that most can place on a map (for those who don’t know, San Marino is an enclave country within Italy).  I think Serbia shot itself in the foot with its retro-sound this year.  And Finland and Georgia just won’t be able to charm the audiences as much as the web folk think they will.  All others never stood that good of a chance of moving through anyway – but I do wish everyone the best of luck!

The Opening Act: 😦 Another semi-final without an opening act.

Wow! Could Stefan Raab’s accent be anymore generically German?  Wow, what a high percentage of jokes to fall flat in such a short amount of time.  I think Italy got the same amount of (if not more) applause than Germany. Really, did they let Raab write all of these jokes?  Please tell me that they will have better jokes and banter on Thursday and Saturday.  Another year with voting at the beginning of the show; I still don’t like this.

Looks like the postcards will return to the theme of presenting the host country, but at lest they incorporate folks from the upcoming country and the slogan in that country’s language.  Not to mention the shot of the performers at the very beginning.

01. Poland – Jestem performed by Magdalena Tul

This is a pleasant enough song and a decent way in which to start off the show, but the performance is a little lackluster…the little dance break was a nice touch, but I think it is too little, too late. She has to hope that others will put up an equally as tepid performance, which I don’t foresee, especially with the up-tempo Norwegian act that will most likely obliterate any memory of the Polish act from viewers mind.

02. Norway – Haba Haba performed by Stella Mwangi

You can definitely tell that she is a rapper turned singer – and I can understand the Norwegian people’s disappointment that she won (though, she won in a landslide, so they can’t complain too much). I will say it’s nice to see black people on the ESC stage, especially one that is favored to do well.  Despite Mwangi’s weak vocals, the performance is pretty exciting and the song is well-arranged to give the backing singers a bigger role. It’s just such a pleasant song, it definitely felt like a Stella Mwangi concert, not a one song performance.

03. Albania – Feel The Passion performed by Aurela Gaçe

This is a bubble song (one that has an equal chance of moving through or staying behind) so she needs a really strong performance to convince the televoters as this does not sound like something the juries would like. She definitely gets stronger as the song goes on.  I really like this but I don’t think she is quite powerful enough to grip Europe (think of her as a lite version of Ukraine’s Svetlana Loboda from 2009).

04. Armenia – Boom Boom performed by Emmy

Yuck! Her voice is grating – how did this win the Armenian selection?  The other songs seemed to be a much better match for her weak voice.  “Boom boom, chucka chucka, you kiss is like a, like a” what is this dribble?  This sounds like some UK rubbish!  Or better yet, something from the wasteland years of the Contest in the early 2000s.  Armenia, I suppose, wants to test the strength of their diaspora. This song shouldn’t move past tonight (though it probably will), but I think it will definitely be Armenia’s first entry to fall outside the Top Ten.

05. Turkey – Live It Up performed by Yüksek Sadakat

After Lena’s success last year, I guess Turkey thought it would be a good idea to send a singer with a heavy accent.  I don’t understand why he just didn’t sing in Turkish.  I also am very confused by the dancer in the sphere.  For those with any doubt that the music is piped in, the keyboardist pretends to play his notes on the camera.  Oh, I see, the dancer “breaks” out of its shell.  It’s an alright song.

I liked the little video during the advert break, it was great to see all the different artists singing the same song.  It reminds you that ESC is a friendlier competition than most.

06. Serbia – Čaroban performed by Nina

I love the retro sound and I positively love the lyrics.  I think the staging is also quite cute and perfectly fits the song.  My biggest fear is that televoters will whine about the retro-ness of the song, despite its awesomeness.  My favorite song thus far.

07. Russia – Get You performed by Alexej Vorobjov

What a cute boy!  I dig the intro, though, I’m not quite sure what he said.  This was good until the refrain began, then it turned into a Justin Beiber song, complete with lazy lyrics and cheesy kid-bop choreography.  This is okay, the staging (particularly the glowing lights on their backs) is by far better than the song itself.

08. Switzerland – In Love for a While performed by Anna Rossinelli

Hahaha!  That was awesome – they had all four Swiss languages represented in the postcard!

The dress is much too sexy for this song and staging.  Oh, I think the Swiss had a really strong chance of charming Europe this year, but I think Rossinelli is letting her nerves get the best of her because I refuse to believe that if her voice was this shaky when she was performing on the streets, the songwriter would have continued walking past her.  At this point, the Swiss’ only hope is for some major catastrophes to arise throughout the next few performances, particularly Georgia’s.

09. Georgia – One More Day performed by Eldrine

From little kids on the playground to a screeching rock band – quite the transition!  I didn’t want to like this song because I thought Eldrine’s lead singer got a raw deal, being replaced for unknown reasons after she led the group to victory.  But I do like this despite myself.  Rapping!  Oh, no, no, no!  Georgia doesn’t have the diaspora of Armenia, Greece, Turkey or any of those other countries that can send whatever they want and still do well.  Georgia has to work for votes and nothing stops European votes faster than rappers.

10. Finland – Da Da Dam performed by Paradise Oskar

Welcome back?  Welcome who back?  Finland has always been here.  Welcome back to people who took a 30 second advert break?

Let the parade of cute boys continue!  The melody and the harmony don’t seem to fit together all that well.  “Call to Action” songs tend to be received with high applause or stern consternation, I’m not sure which this will receive.  It helps that it is contrasted against two up-tempo numbers.  I’m not sure what to make of this one.

11. Malta – One Life performed by Glen Vella

Has any song with this message or title ever done well?  Let’s see, Belgium 2004, nope!  Macedonia 2004, not really!  Austria 2007, nope!  Malta 2011, nope!  This song is okay; I think Vella’s vocals could be better for a renowned vocal coach.  I do want to give Malta props for a relatively subdued stage show as I am sure the was great temptation to make it wild and exuberant.

12. San Marino – Stand By performed by Senit

Yay!  Welcome back San Marino!!!  I think this song has an awkward arrangement.  It doesn’t know if it wants to be a rock ballad or a pop ballad or an R&B ballad and it’s this weird mix of all three; I think it would have behooved the Sammarinese delegation to take advantage of Senit’s jazzy voice and arrange this song to be a jazz ballad.  Putting it in Italian would have made it even better.  With that said, I think this song is about one to two years late, and would have fared much better in Belgrade or Oslo then hear in Germany.  Oh well, hopefully San Marino will continue to find money for the Contest and come back next year.

13. Croatia – Celebrate performed by Daria

Whew!  This intro is too low for her.  Wow!  Daria is bringing back the costume change!  Interesting, at one point, costume changes came standard with most entries, now it a rarity and makes Croatia stand out.  However, I don’t think the two stunning costume changes are enough to push this through to the Final.  That second costume change was dazzling, by the way!

14. Iceland – Coming Home performed by Sjonni’s Friends

Come one Iceland, now’s your chance to capitalize on following two weaker entries.  I like this, though I think that the performance is a bit hammy.  There are some vocal issues to take care of, but these are six professionals and I am sure they will tighten up their performance come Saturday.

Is it appropriate to interview an entrant while voting is going on?  I think not.  Come one Germany, you’re better than this!

15. Hungary – What About My Dreams? performed by Kati Wolf

The biggest favorite tonight, she has a lot of support from fans and bookies alike.  So many comments remark on her voice.  I think there’s a reason she only got sixth on X-Factor.  I think this is probably one of the more overrated acts this year (though, time will tell on that).  The song isn’t bad, and it probably sounds great as a studio version, just not live.  I like the costuming (not Wolf’s but her backing performers).  The longer this song goes on, the more she hurts her chances.  I think it would have been a stronger entry had the last ten seconds or so been omitted.

16. Portugal – Luta É Alegria performed by Homens Da Luta

They’re not so much singing as they are chanting.  The music is quite pleasant, but the chanting gives it a preschool song vibe…a socialist preschool.  Though, the lyrics themselves are not pro-socialist, the performance is.  How did the Portuguese vote for this?  Haha, a Twitter person on eurovision.tv page quoted her husband as saying, “They look like protesters outside a children’s TV show,” I couldn’t agree more.  The question isn’t whether or not Portugal will make it to the Final, the question is whether or not Portugal will get nul points or not (I think they will).

17. Lithuania – C’est Ma Vie performed by Evelina Sašenko

I like this, but the “C’est ma vie” should have been a much bigger note!  Hopefully it is the next time is comes up.  Oh, sign language, nice!  They copped out; adding in the rest of the backing arrangement when Sašenko should be hitting a big note.  People are right, though, it definitely sounds like something out of a musical, which the singer said she takes as a compliment.

Is anyone else getting part of the screen cut off?  Is a NDR technical issue or a Eurovision.tv issue?

18. Azerbaijan – Running Scared performed by Ell/Nikki

Once again, Azerbaijan brings American pop to the Contest.  The staging really lets you see just how big the stage and arena are.  I really like the staging, actually including the sparks, the lights and the backing singers wandering around the stage – it all kind of makes you forget that this is the song sung by a kept boy and cougar.

19. Greece – Watch My Dance performed by Loucas Yiorkas feat. Stereo Mike

More “rap.” Interestingly enough, Stereo Mike has not only won Best Greek Act at the MTV VMAs, but is now a professor at a London university.  This reminds me of Slovenia’s act from last year; it’s attempting to mix two styles that are normally at odds with one another (this time it’s folk music and rap).  And again, poor execution proves that fusion songs are good ideas but are rarely done well by its artists.  Honestly, this was a Stereo Mike song featuring Loucas Yiorkas and it was disappointing; for a song called, “Watch My Dance” I expected another Greek foot-stomper.  They should have performed a remix of the song.  I will give it to the choreographer, though, the dance routine was pretty solid.  It will move through because it’s Greece, but I think that it may be Greece’s first song outside the Top Ten in the Semi-Final era.  All good things come to an end, right?

My Top Ten on the Night Who I Think Will Progress on to the Final
1. Serbia (great lyrics & music) Turkey (will probably win tonight)
2. Albania (I feel the passion!) Greece (will move in b/c it’s Greece)
3. Lithuania ( Azerbaijan (it’s a nice American style pop song)
4. Norway Iceland (sad story and benefitted from its lead-in entries)
5. Iceland Hungary (it’s a favorite to win and is a pure dance tune)
6. Georgia Finland OR Poland (not both – will move in due to juries)
7. Switzerland Georgia (enough weak competition to move it through)
8. Azerbaijan Norway (it’s popular and fun)
9. San Marino Russia (duh, it’s Russia and it’s a cute boy)
10. Finland Lithuania (I think the juries will carry this through as well)

I like the use of the postcards as filler during the voting period.

The Interval Act: Hey! A black drumline from the US!  How about that!  And from North Carolina A&T at that – my brother attended that school.  For those who don’t know, marching band is a fairly American tradition, originally established for military bands and parades, Notre Dame University were the first to bring marching bands to football games.  The tradition grew from there.  And in the Black colleges and universities, the marching bands really excelled, creating dazzling shows, bucking the traditional marching styles seen at most schools.  One of the major sections of any marching band, particularly Black bands is the drumline – or the percussionists who march on the field playing snare drums, bass drums, tom-toms, and cymbals.  This tradition of Black marching bands of the South was the subject of the movie Drumline.  The school that was the focus of the movie “Atlanta A&T” does not exist – the band they used was actually from the school North Carolina A & T – where the Cool Steel Drummers met and started playing together.

This Jan Ola guy is no Svante!  We want Svante!  (only joking, of course…or not) I wish and hope that Mr. Sand has a long and successful tenure as Supervisor of the ESC and that he is able to take the Contest to newer highs and new frontiers.

The Ten that actually make it into the Grand Final:

-Serbia!  Huzzah!  This was my favorite!  I didn’t think it would move through, but it did – yay!

-Lithuania! Another one of my favorites I didn’t really expect to see move through, that had to be due to the juries.

-Greece – of course

-Azerbaijan – of course, but they actually did deserve to move through, though

-Georgia – and the rocking rappers move through

-Switzerland – WHOA!!! WHAT!!!  I mean, yay! But this is highly unexpected!  Dare I say Hungary and Armenia may be kept on the sidelines come Saturday?

-Hungary – well, there’s Hungary, and there’s three spots left.

-Finland – well, there goes Poland’s chances. Interesting, Russia, Turkey, and Armenia, three heavy hitters, are left with only two spots remaining.  Also left, fan favorite Norway.

-Russia – of course, it’s hard to say no to a cute boy, especially if he’s Russian.

-Iceland! – WHOA! I cannot say that I expected Iceland to move through with Norway, Turkey, and Armenia yet to be called.  Wow.

Final Comments: I am happy that Switzerland is finally returning to the Grand Final, a place they haven’t been to since 2006.  And they’re going with such a charming song – Bonne Chance la Suisse!  I am also pleasantly surprised that Lithuania and Serbia moved through, both are more-than deserving of a spot on Saturday and they should give the other 23 entries a run for their money.  I am also incredibly happy that Armenia got left behind; even with a large diaspora (many of whom participated tonight) a crappy song still fails.  I am utterly shocked that Turkey didn’t move through; not because I thought it was a great song (it was alright) but because it’s Turkey and it has definitely moved through on the backs of weaker entries.  Not to mention Sadakat is one of the country’s biggest stars.  I wonder if he would have been left behind if he had sung in Turkish instead of English.  One thing to note, four out of five of Turkey’s biggest vote givers (Germany, France, Belgium, and Bosnia & Herzegovina) were not voting tonight; I bet that had a huge impact on why Turkey is now going home as opposed to gearing up for Saturday.  Lastly, I am mildly surprised that Norway failed to make the Final; recently, it just seemed to have picked up so much steam that I thought it was going through for sure.  That just goes to show you, even a popular act can’t overcome the Number 2 starting position.  It also didn’t help that Mwangi’s singing left much to be desired.

Let’s see, eight out of ten for my post-show predictions, only six out of ten for my pre-show predictions.  That makes me feel good, I tend to be about the same on both, so it’s good to see that televoters are seeing what I am seeing and are not simply voting by name of the country.


ESC2011: Semi-Final Two

Here’s Part Two of my preview for this year’s Contest.  Once again, it looks as if the Second Semi-Final will be the stronger of the two heats, how does this always seem to happen?  From a returning champion (Israel) to one of ESC’s most beloved novelty acts (Moldova) to a singer who garnered international attention after reading results last year (Sweden).  Oh, it’s going to be an awesome show, of that I am sure.  While the Ukraine, Sweden, Moldova, Israel, Denmark, and Ireland all seem like sure things this year, I think this Semi-Final will bring us a few surprises.  Also in this post, I will discuss the three automatic qualifiers who will be voting in Semi-Final 2, France, Germany, and…ITALY!!!

Bosnia and Herzegovina – Love in Rewind performed by Dino Merlin

Typically, former Top Ten placers tend to be a shoo-in for a spot in the Final, even if their previous song was terrible (which Mr. Merlin’s was).  Funniest online comment: “This guy is like a mix of Cat Stevens and Ringo Starr.  The coolest grandpa ever.”  And the bookies predict this finishing in the top ten.  I’m not convinced from the lyrics and internet buzz that this entry has what it takes to make the Top Ten, but I definitely think that it will pass through to the Final.

Austria – The Secret is Love performed by Nadine Beiler

When it comes to Austria, the entries I like do poorly and the entries I hate do well, judging by the competition Beiler beat out to make it to Düsseldorf, I am assuming she is going to do well.  Okay, that’s not fair, as there were several songs I did really like from this year’s Austrian selection.  Most of the buzz focuses around her powerful voice, not so much around the song, and we all know that this is a SONG contest not a talent search – better luck next year Austria.

Netherlands – Never Alone performed by 3JS

Not all things are better with age.  Having done a little research on the 3JS when they were first selected to represent the Netherlands, I liked a lot of their stuff, now, hearing the four songs that failed to win Nationaal Songfestival 2011, I don’t have much faith in the Dutch this year and neither do the bookies.  But the fans (all 20 of them) seem to love it – which, given their small numbers doesn’t mean much, but an interesting point came up, this song should be fodder for the juries and this prediction might just ring true.

Belgium – With Love Baby performed by Witloof Bay

An a capella group, how exciting!  In the US, a capella is predominated nowadays by university students, so it’s a very different experience for me to see a group of middle aged folks performing a capella, but they’re really good.  I hope and pray that they make it to the Final (apparently, LAT2006 is the only other entry to ever be done a capella, it got 16th).  The bookies think that this entry will do horribly, but it’s Belgium – the only country to succeed with a song in an imaginary language (though, they also failed with a similar concept six years later).  So, if any country can pull this off, it’s Belgium.

Slovakia – I’m Still Alive performed by TWiiNS

So, the TWiiNS bring us Slovakia’s first-ever English language entry and it’s reception is….piss-poor.  People don’t seem to necessarily love it, with the general consensus being, “it’s good enough for the Final.”  With such lackluster support I turn to the bookies who seem to feel similarly.  Songs that fall in this position tend to finish right outside the top ten of their semi-final.  So I would expect Slovakia to get 12th or 13th place in the Semi-Final, narrowly missing its first trip to the Finals.

Ukraine – Angels performed by Mika Newton

Again, the Ukraine has a controversy around its national selection, but at least this time, it was all taken care of prior to the entry submission deadline.  With that said, Ukraine had a stereotypically strong national final this year, I predict that this song will do what all but three Ukraine entries have done before, finish in the Top Ten on Saturday (but it won’t win).

Moldova – So Lucky performed by Zdob şi Zdub

Another returning artist that I wished had stayed home; the Moldovan rockers are back at the ESC, though this time they are minus the grandma.  It’s interesting to see how the tide turns in online comments.  The same people who have been routinely trashing the ballads and the poppier entries seem to love this and vice versa.  With that said, I just can’t see Moldova succeeding with this kind of level of negativity going on.  I expect them to make the Final (partially because people will recognize the band’s name, partly because Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine are all in this Semi-Final) but to not do all that well once they get there.

Sweden – Popular performed by Eric Saade

I remember this guy from last year; he had a wretched song that got second place in Melodifestivalen.  I also remember that his stunning good looks while reading the votes for Sweden last year helped that same wretched single land on some top 100 charts around Europe.  This year’s Melodifestivalen reminded viewers why the Swedes had the biggest, most watched, most popular, and most successful national selection year after year, and I think it will continue it’s role as a kingmaker.  Expect Eric Saade to restore some honor to the Swedish throne and land a Top Ten placing for the land of ABBA.  With that said, I have a feeling I will dislike this act and its show.  Saade has openly stated that he wants to cheapen ESC by promoting an increase in stage performers so that there can be “big pop acts” apparently six people isn’t enough for him.  He also dislikes the fact that he can’t use backing vocals.  I think how successful he is come the Grand Final will dictate a lot about where the ESC goes in the future, particularly since there is a new Supervisor at the helm who will be looking for ways to make his mark on the Contest.  I plan on doing a blog entry regarding this topic in the weeks following the Contest, regardless of how the Swedes finish.

Cyprus – San Aggelos S’Agapisa performed by Christos Mylordos

Like many other songs, this entry seems to have a high percentage of positive comments, but a low number of comments overall.  CyBC has done a very poor job of promoting this song and that, and only that, is the reason Cyprus will be left behind in the Semi-Final despite an easy 12 from Greece.

Bulgaria – Na inat performed by Poli Genova

Okay, I can’t even bear to make it through a recap of the Bulgarian selection (don’t worry, I went back and finished it); this does not bode well for its winner. With that said, there seems to be a healthy level of support for this entry so Bulgaria just might sneak into the Final after all, I think it will come down to how she does in the Second Dress Rehearsal, actually, when the juries cast their votes.

Macedonia – Rusinka performed by Vlatko Ilievski

Time for another funny comment from the web: “song is bad…video is funny…boys are cute.”  If you think seeing Azerbaijanis and Armenians (or Serbs and Albanians for that matter) whine amongst themselves on the various ESC forums was annoying, you haven’t seen anything you’ve read the dialogue between Macedonians and Greeks – sickening is what it is!  Anyway, Macedonia never seems to be able to get any love; it has always been an “also ran” at the ESC and I don’t foresee this entry changing that.  Short of some sort of miracle, Macedonia will most likely be sent home in the Semi Finals yet again.

Israel – Ding Dong performed by Dana International

The fabulous diva returns to the Eurovision stage after winning it all for her native Israel back in 1998.  Back then, she made herself an icon and a heroine for many queers across Europe, not only that, but her victory helped lead a revival for the Contest into the new era of exciting stage shows, and televoting.  Winners are all but guaranteed a spot in the Final, so I don’t expect the Semi-Finals to be that big a hindrance for her.  Though, like many returning artists from pre-2004, she needs to be ready to handle how much the Contest has changed over the last decade, including the more elaborate stage performances, the advent of the semi-final (which, for those that make the Final, mean nine rehearsals on top of the two performances), and the return of the jury something Dana International didn’t have to contend with in 1998 or in 2008 when she returned as a song writer (while the juries voted in the semi-finals of 2008, Israel was a clear favorite to progress that year and easily sailed through to the Final).  Though, she has stayed fairly involved over the years, so I imagine these changes won’t affect her too much.  I am inclined to listen to the fans and my own personal preference for Ms. Dana International – I expect this to be in the Top Ten.

Slovenia – No One performed by Maja Keuc

Hmmm, for the first time in a long while, Slovenia seems to have garnered a lot of positive interest from the bookies and from the fans.  Honestly, I must say that I am a little surprised at how well Slovenia is being predicted to do this year.  I expect this song will move through to the Final, but I dare not venture a guess on it’s final placing.

Romania – Change performed by Hotel FM

Romania seems to be getting similar coverage as the Slovenian entry, just less of it.  So I think that this song will also progress on to the Final, but I feel confident in saying that it will not be a Top Ten hit barring some kind of miracle.

Estonia – Rockefeller Street performed by Getter Jaani

Surprisingly, this is a big bookie favorite, something that is new for Estonia (even when it won in 2001, it was quite a surprise)!  The lyrics seem very interesting, and I have seen the magically appearing wand from the National Final.  There seems to be a lot of negative feedback about her voice, but a lot of positive feedback about the song otherwise.  What she lacks in voice quality can more than be made up in a stage show – and they’ve already promised us a good one.  I think this will be Top Ten for sure.

Belarus – I Love Belarus performed by Anastasiya Vinnikova

What is this, the jESC?  That’s the only place for outright patriotic songs; there is no way Europe will stand for this, I don’t care how catchy a tune it is.  Interestingly enough, it’s not biggest longshot to win the Contest according to the bookies.  Also curious, it’s a song about her love for her motherland, but it’s in English, can you say “неконгруэнтность”?  Expect this song to finish near the bottom of the Semi-Final.

Latvia – Angel in Disguise performed by Musiqq

This song seems to not be getting much attention from anyone, fans or bookies.  My impression is that it is a pleasant song, but not memorable, which is a kiss of death for this competition.  Not to mention, R&B/hip-hop tends to not do very well at ESC; so I expect this song to flounder behind in the semi-finals.

Denmark – New Tomorrow performed by A Friend in London

It’s a pretty lousy song, but the bookies seem to like it.  Fan forums are dominated by the plagiarism/not plagiaism controversy.  For an in-depth look at my opinions regarding this entry and the controversy, click here.

Ireland – Lipstick performed by Jedward

Once again the Emerald Isle disappoint with another gag act.  Despite the trend towards more serious ballads and elaborate pop entries over the past few years, Jedward comes this year to strick another blow for comedic acts.  Due to the twins prior success on X-Factor (leading to massive name recognition), this song will probably go through to the Finals.  Hopefully, it will fail, but I think it stand a decent shot at Top Ten.

With that, I now conclude my coverage of the Second Semi-Final.  For those who like summaries, I predict the following ten entries will move forward to the Grand Final: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ukraine, Moldova, Sweden, Israel, Slovenia, Romania, Estonia, Denmark, Ireland.  Sorry, no real surprises here, there is just too much evidence to go against the popular opinion.  Now, looking ahead to the automatic qualifiers who will be voting on Thursday.

Italy – Madness of Love performed by Raphael Gualazzi

WELCOME BACK ITALY!!!  Yay, it’s always good when a previous winner (not to mention a founding ESC member) returns to the Contest, it’s even better when that former winner is a Contest titan!  Fans have been begging Italy to return since the day it left and will jump at the chance to vote for Italia come Saturday.  The bookies, too, are showering Italy with much love with the general consensus pointing to a Top Ten placing.  With that said, there seems to be a small, but LOUD contigent that really hates this song – but that is the same contigent who seem hate anything that not a fast club thumper, so I am not quite sure how much we should worry about them.  I think Italy will be in the Top Ten.  Many fans of the song fear that they will be in the bottom ten.  I hope regardless of its finish, Italy doesn’t withdraw from the Contest again.

Germany – Taken by a Stranger performed by Lena

So, Dana International is not the only winner trying to pull a Johnny Logan this year, Lena is back and becomes only the third artist (behind Lys Assia and Corrie Brokken) to attempt to defend her crown in the year immediately following her victory.  If she wins again, does that mean she will continue competing for Germany?  It’s amazing to see how much Lena has grown and matured over the past year.  She still has that funky accent, but who cares?  It’s become a part of her performance at this point.  Interestingly enough, the runner-up song, Push Forward appears to be much more popular among the fans, but domestic and international, than Taken by a Stranger.  I think Germany will have a respectable finish (somwhere in the top fifteen songs), but it will not win again.

France – Sognuperformed by Amaury Vassili

France, for only the second time, enters a song employing Corsican, a language closer to Italian than French.  France is entering the Contest as the favorite among bookies and fans, not a heavy favorite, as Estonia, the UK, and Sweden are expected to battle it out for the vicotry.  I just don’t quite see it.  He’s not the first opera singer to take on Eurovision and he won’t be the last.  One thing every opera-inspired entry seems to shar in common: overratedness.  Remember SWE2009 – Malena Ernman was supposed to be an easy pick for the top ten; she finished in the bottom five.  And what about SLO and LAT2007?  They were both heralded as the first to bring opera to the Contest, both received a lot of fan love and support and neither one made it to the Top Ten.  I’m not saying that France can’t win, I just wouldn’t put money on it.

My predicitions for the Top Ten come the Grand Final on Saturday:

France, UK, Italy, Sweden, Greece, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Estonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina.

In terms of a winner, I just can’t say.  The fans are all over the place, and I just can’t see any of the current top three (France, UK, Estonia) winning right now.  I also doubt Sweden will be able to give a winning performance given the rigor of the stage show they plan to put on.  So we will see.

I now bid you adieu.  My next posts will be my Notes from the Contest – live commentary I write as I am watching the Contest for the first time.  Until then, happy readings!  Only 14 days left until the Grand Final!


ESC2011: Semi-Final One

Finally, I am getting around to posting my thoughts on this year’s entries.  These posts (this one and the next one) will also serve as this year’s predictions articles – so pay attention!  As a reminder, I base my thoughts upon Internet chatter, bookies, history, and the competition that the entries had to overcome in order to reach the Contest.  As a matter of personal beliefs, I do not listen to the entries before their first appearance at the Contest.  If you want to know why, look at any of the previous prediction articles or leave a comment asking why.  Also, as a reminder, please don’t take offense at my opinions – and feel free to leave your own.  I will approve any comment that is respectful; I will not allow any rude or insulting comments.

Semi-Final One: There are 19 entries competing on Tuesday night for a berth into the Grand Final.  Unlike last year, this year’s competition seems much less competitive in that there seems to be a wider range of quality among the acts (this goes across all 43 participants).  The first semi-final has six countries that probably could not even show up and will still make the final based upon historic voting trends: Greece, Turkey, Russia, Serbia, Armenia, Azerbaijan.  The real questions are: Will Poland’s popularity translate to votes? (maybe) Will Portugal & Iceland continue their streaks of making the Final? (probably one, but not both) And will Switzerland finally be able to pass through to the Final? (probably not)

Poland – Jestem performed by Magdalena Tul

So, Poland this year had a slew of…“interesting” entries this year.  However, Tul seems to be getting a lot of positive reception around the boards, particularly for the fact that she’s singing in Polish.  I think this act will make it through to Saturday and then flounder.  Though, I could definitely see this becoming one of those acts that do poorly yet remain popular among fans (think POR2008, CYP2007, or POR2009).

Norway – Haba Haba performed by Stella Mwangi

It’s never a good sign when the performer defends her victory with the words, “I never promised that I could sing well.”  Nor does it bode too well that the tv station is sending her to a vocal coach to prepare her for Düsseldorff.  With that said, this song seems to really polarize the folks, most either hate it (and there are a lot of folks who do) or like it (there are fewer folks who like it).  While there’s a strong possibility that Mwangi will continue Norway’s legacy of bottom-dwelling, I think it will land somewhere in the middle of the semis, popular among the fans, hated by the jury.

Albania – Feel the Passion performed by Aurela Gaçe

I’m sorry, but Europeans just don’t know how to make music videos, and Albania seems to be the worst at it.  With that said, people seem to enjoy her voice much more than the song.  I’ll be the first to admit, the Festivali i Këngës  is one of my favorite national selections for ESC, but I don’t know if the right song won this year.  If Feel the Passion truly is better than those other entries, then it should be a big hit.  However, there just doesn’t seem to be enough popular support for it.  It may slip into the Final, but it will depend on how strong the other border acts are.

Armenia – Boom-Boom performed by Emmy

I won’t spend too much time on this.  It’s Armenia, it’s a catchy tune sung by a pretty girl.  It beat out four equally as catchy tunes, and there is generic internet chatter about it.  Expect yet another top ten from Armenia.

Turkey – Live it Up performed by Yüksek Sadakat

Again, it’s Turkey – should easily move through to the Final.  It’s essentially more generic rock from Turkey.  I expect a strong performance and a Top Ten placing.  One interesting thing to note, it seems to be getting very little buzz, so I think it will probably be lower top ten – gasp, maybe even only 11th or 12th!

Serbia – Čaroban performed by Nina

Serbia’s selection this year was a family affair that yielded some hit or miss songs.  This one seems to be raising more questions (will it be performed in English? what decade does it make you think of?) than actually yielding opinions about the entry.  So, I will be looking to the bookies for help with this one – pretty much what I thought, it should make the Final and finish somewhere in the middle to bottom (15-22).

Russia – Get You performed by Alexej Vorobyov

It’s Russia, it should move through and finish in the top 15.  Internet chatter seems to say that the guy is hot (which he is, very hot!) but the song is crap.  Expect yet more outrage at a perceived ill-gotten respectable placing for Russia.

Switzerland – In Love for a While performed by Anna Rossinelli

Once again, Switzerland seems to have chosen a song that’s gathered a strong fan following, but is generally making a small splash.  What’s interesting is that there’s relatively few negative comments about this act.  Though, the comments seem to follow the trend that the song is really good, but isn’t memorable and will probably end up in 11th place in the first semi-final; I am inclined to agree.

Georgia – One More Day performed by Eldrine

This is an interesting choice from Georgia, though it’s not a country known for it’s mainstream entries to ESC and jESC.  It’s interesting; the official ESC site calls it a “refreshing combination of rock and rap.”  What’s more interesting is that the lead singer was switched out for a new one at either the band’s behest or, more likely, the broadcaster’s.  I don’t expect this song to do much, rap rarely goes over well at ESC.

Finland – Da Da Dam performed by Paradise Oskar

People seem to like this song, but have very little faith in it.  Finland had an unusually weak National Final this year, but, as the last few years have shown, shaking a cute boy at your Eurovision woes tends to yield favorable results.  Expect this one to make the Final, but end up somewhere in the teens.

Malta – One Life performed by Glen Vella

Whereas some countries had an unusually weak national final, Malta had an unusually strong one, so I have high hopes for Glen Vella in Düsseldorf.  Judging from the comments, this song hints back to Austria’s Get A Life, Get Alive! from 2007.  It is a decent song with a good message, but it has all the potential of a horrendous staging to destroy any chance of moving through (remember, Austria lived up to this potential and had the horrific living AIDS ribbon on stage, it was so bad I had blotted it from my memory for about a year).  Malta, now’s your chance to prove your more than Chiara alone.  Give this song a decent shot by having a great stage performance and you just might be surprised with the result.  I expect Malta to not heed this warning and dwell in the semi-finals for yet another year.

San Marino – Stand By performed by Senit

First things first – WELCOME BACK TO THE CONTEST, SAN MARINO!!!  Well, on the bright side, it’s not in the bottom five on the consolidated bookies rankings.  Also, the grand majority of comments online about this song are either positive or “Where is San Marino?”  Too bad Italy isn’t voting in Semi-Final One, I would say that this song actually stood a chance of sneaking into Saturday.  Barring some kind of awe-inspiring, makes you forget every other entry performance (or a music-induced jury orgy) this song will most likely linger behind in the Semis.  Hopefully, though, San Marino will continue to find the funding to continue participation.

Croatia – Celebrate performed by Daria

There seems to be very little faith in this song, from the fans and from the bookies.  The general trend is that the song is okay, but the singer is cold and that the English translation doesn’t live up to the original, Croatian lyrics.  I don’t foresee this song moving through.

Iceland – Coming Home performed by Sigurjón’s Friends

I was looking forward to this year’s Icelandic selection and the potential return of Yohanna, not to mention Iceland tends to have a pretty strong selection each year.  The fans, and the bookies, seem split on this.  So the question is, “Is this song good enough to slip into the Finals?”  I think the story behind this song’s trip to Eurovision (how the lead singer died a few weeks before the Icelandic selection process this year, ironic considering the lyrics of the song) alone is enough to take Iceland back to the Semi-Finals.  Many fans are thinking that this might be a dark horse entry this year, and I am inclined to agree.

Hungary – What About My Dreams? performed by Kati Wolf

Hungry comes roaring back to the Contest (Welcome back Magyar!) with a bookie favorite, a new position for the Hungarians.  The fans also seem to love her and the song (despite it’s translation into English, sadly no one seems to care when Hungarian is not brought to the ESC stage).  I have watched her X-Factor videos, and remain unimpressed.  I can definitely see this song falling to the same fate as CRO2010, a lot of build up, but ultimately, fails to live up to the hype.

Portugal – A Luta é Alegria performed by Homens da Luta

Portugal apparently seems to be sending a small army to try to conquer the ESC stage this year.  I will say this about Portugal, the best song from their National Selection tends to win, unfortunately their best tends not to be as good as a lot of other country’s third or fourth best.  In 2008, fans were excited and surprised by the awesomeness of POR’s entry and enraged when it didn’t make the Top Ten.  In 2009, fans were again surprised by how good the song was, but were not angry when it, too, reached only 15th in the Final.  Last year, fans were surprised that POR reached the Final – which was mainly due to weak competition.  This year, unfortunately, Portugal has lost the advantage of surprise and will most likely return to it previous days of failure.

Lithuania – C’est Ma Vie performed by Evelina Sašenko

Like Malta, Lithuania had an unusually strong National Selection this year.  The bookies don’t seem to like this song, nor do the fans.  Pretty much every thinks Sašenko has an amazing voice, but that the song is corny and boring.  Sorry Lithuania, the people have spoken another year in the Semi-Finals for you.

Azerbaijan – Running Scared performed by Eli and Nikki

Greece – Watch My Dance performed by Loukas Giorkas featuring Stereo Mike

Honestly, do I really need to do any research?  Both will be Top Ten songs.  Azerbaijan will outperform Greece simply on the merit that Greece uses a rapper.  Moving on…

So, my predictions for qualifiers from the first semi-final: Greece, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Finland, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Armenia, Albania, and….San Marino, why not?  The qualifiers will move on to the Grand Final, where they will meet the ten qualifiers from the Second Semi-Finals, and the Big Five, including the two that will be voting on Tuesday night, Spain and UK.

Spain – Que me Quiten lo Bailao performed by Lucía Pérez

I like Pérez’ voice, but Spain has a history of selecting good entries that just don’t seem to captivate the audience or the juries.  I think the Spanish fans will once again be disappointed, but I am not sure why.  Like Switzerland, Spain has chosen some pretty bomb-diggety songs over the last few years that have all fared average to poor.  Maybe this year will yield different results, but probably not.

United Kingdom – I Can performed by Blue

Not since 2009 has the UK had a song that has garnered a lot of interest from the bookies.  And what has-been boy band doesn’t get garner a lot of interest from the fans?  I predict Blue’s interest to maintain through the Final, expect a respectable placing from the country where boy bands and pop music originated.  Finally, the UK’s old-fashioned approach to the Contest may pay off for the country.  I expect a Top Ten finish.


A Word on Denmark’s 2011 Entry

Every year, one or two entries at the ESC stir up a bit of controversy due to claims of plagiarism by fans.  This year, Denmark’s entry New Tomorrow by A Friend in London is the center of the controversy.  So, in lieu of my typical review of Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, I want to use my annual post about the Danish entry to discuss this situation.

To set the stage for this post, I will recap my thoughts about this year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix.  I was vastly disappointed in this year’s DMGP.  The production, the staging, the songs, the outcome – no where as good as the last two years were.  Not to mention the whole thing was a sham; New Tomorrow was slated to win from its announcement as a contender and it destroyed the competition.  With that said, I strongly disliked the song, and already know that 2011 will be the first Contest since 2008 in which I will have to suffer through having to listen to an entry – unfortunately that entry comes from my own Denmark.  New Tomorrow is corny, generic song with lyrics better fit for a classroom of four year olds than the stage of a major international song competition.

After A Friend in London’s victory, fans around Europe screamed in outrage, claiming that the song was plagiarized.  There are allegedly four songs from which  the band has “borrowed”: Face 2 Face by Future Trance United, Shine by Take That, Yasashii Uta by Mucc, and Sing For Me by Andreas Johnson.  Despite the fact that I love Shine, I will admit that all of these songs are horribly generic and they all have an eerily similar refrains to one another.  Undoubtedly, all four songs share a similar progression throughout the melody in question.  The questions is: do these notes progress exactly the same between New Tomorrow and any of these (or other) songs?

I think the Eurovision Times blog best describes the process for musical plagiarism to be determined. “We have to remember that one can not accuse a song of being plagiarism if it just resembles another song. Plagiarism

is not a sentiment of ‘Déjà vu’ and there are clear rules to determine whether something is plagiarism or not. First a complaint by the other song’s authors has to be filed. Then the song will be analysed. For a song to be plagiarism it has to have a sequence of eight notes that are exactly identical with the other song.”  As a musician, I have a better ear for this kind of stuff than the average person, but I am still no expert.  I think the strongest case comes in the form of Andreas Johnson’s Sing for Me (though, there is also a strong resemblance to Mucc’s Yasashii Uta).  The key, I think, lies in melody when the lyrics are: “In this crazy, crazy world” – it is at this point that New Tomorrow (and the other songs) separate from each other.  A Friend in London follows this progression in their song (the words in parenthesis indicates the direction the pitch moves between syllables): “In (up) this (up) cra- (same) -zy (same) cra- (same) -zy (down) world.”  Andreas Johnson: “sing (up) for (up) joy (same) sing (same) for (same) eve- (up) -ry (down) man (same) wo- (same) man (same) boy (same) and (same) girl.” Notice the slight difference.  Due to my lack of knowledge of the Japanese language, I can’t do a similar thing for the Yasashii Uta, but I can tell that around where “crazy, crazy world” occurs in New Tomorrow, instead of going downward pitch, Yasashii Uta goes upward.  Again, I am no expert in these things, but that’s how I hear it.  Shine and Face 2 Face deviate enough in the second half of their refrains that there is less ambiguity regarding those cases.

My verdict: New Tomorrow is unoriginal and generic, but in the end, does not meet the requirements for plagiarism as there is no way to prove (or disprove) whether A Friend in London heard these other songs and were influenced by them.  If anything, all of these songs were influenced by Kitarō’s Silk Road Suite (1979).  If you agree or disagree with my opinion, leave a (civil) comment and check out this video on YouTube, where someone has spliced together the similar melodies from Silk Road, Yasashii Uta, Sing for Me, and New Tomorrow so that listeners can judge for themselves whether there is plagiarism afoot.  Obviously, the video’s creator’s opinion is incredibly self-evident (you can see it in the title alone) but I suggest you close your eyes, give the video a few listens, and reach your own conclusion.


BIG NEWS!!!

Let’s see, it’s December 2nd, we’re six days past the deadline for countries to declare their participation in ESC 2011 (in which Italy declared its return and France has yet to issue an official statement either way) and about a week away from the EBU meeting set to determine the fates of Lichtenstein broadcaster 1FLTV and Qatar broadcaster Qatar Radio (as well as Kazakhstan’s Kazakhstan 1 and Kosovo’s RTK-1, both have expressed at least moderate interest in participation in the ESC), and a couple of weeks ahead of the Reference Group meeting that decides the Big 4(5) and whether Hungary’s DunaTV can compete for the country.  We only have five artists decided (The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Cyprus, and Bosnia & Herzegovina) and no songs selected, yet this is already shaping out to be a historic Contest.

For starters, Mr. Svante Stockselius, the heralded head of Eurovision who is stepping down from his position, is going out with a bang.  After making it one of his administration’s top priorities, he finally got Italy to quit pouting on the sidelines and rejoin the fun that is Eurovision (expect an entry regarding Stockselius’ legacy in the coming weeks).  Italy is back, but is hemming and hawing about whether they want to become automatic qualifiers.  Given their history, they probably feel as if they don’t need to pay the extra dues, but in not doing so, they deny another country the chance at victory.  The Reference Group will be meeting in mid-December to discuss this issue.  And while we’re talking about the big money countries, why has there not been any official word from France?  They had a top ten placing in 2009 and got 12th in Oslo – why would they not participate?!

Also returning for certain in 2011, Austria – who have so often whined about the voting at the Contest – is returning.  They left the Contest, again, after a dismal showing in 2007.  But before I launch into a rant about Austria…

Hungary, a much belied but passionate country, nonetheless, is trying its darnedest to return after an absence last year.  The former ESC broadcaster in Magyar, MTV, no longer has the budget to participate or even broadcast the Contest (hence Hungary’s withdrawal in 2010) and private broadcaster Duna TV took over the role of ESC provider in the Central European country.  Now, Duna TV is trying to get approval from the Reference Group (the very same one that is weighing Italy’s level of participation).

Also awaiting the approval of ruling bodies, Lichtenstein and Qatar.  Lichtenstein should easily be in as long as they can pay their dues.  Qatar presents an interesting conundrum for the EBU.  I am sure they would love to expand their market in the the Middle East, especially with a country that’s willing to play nice with Israel.  The issue is: the bounds of the European Broadcasting Area is 30ºN and 40ºE, which come together somewhere in Saudi Arabia, to the north of and to the west of Qatar…i.e., Qatar is outside of the EBA.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, if there’s money to be had – then it won’t matter.  BUT the EBU have used these boundaries to deny Kazakhstan’s K-1 entry. The official website and OikoTimes have both said that Qatar magically fits within the EBA, but have simply said that because the southern boundary of the EBA is 30ºN runs through several countries in Northern Africa and Saudi Arabia, and Qatar is north of the southern boundaries of these countries, it is within the EBA.  Confused? So am I!  Regardless of how this works out, I would be happy with the decision.  If they deny entry to Qatar Radio, then they will be sticking to their rules and regulations.  If they allow Qatar in (and, thus, they will have to let in K-1, too) then I would welcome the addition of a fixture country from the Middle East into the Contest.  Both Lichtenstein and Qatar have pending ESC debuts on the line and eagerly await the EBU’s decisions.

By Christmas, we should know just how historic the Contest in 2011 will be!


Eurovision 2011 – Germany: First Blog Entry!

One thing that I love about the Eurovision Song Contest is that it never sleeps.  The 2010 edition was not even fully wrapped up (we’re still waiting for an official release of all the countries’ individually split votes) and news about next year’s Contest has already started coming out

As we all know by now, the Contest will be held in Germany next year following Deutschland’s victory in Oslo.  And no fewer than eight cities are said to be in the running to host the Contest, including previous hosts, Frankfurt Am Main and Munich, as well as Lena’s hometown of Hanover.  While Germany has the resources to make Moscow’s record spending in 2009 look like chump change, I have a feeling that they will stick closer to the minimalist route taken by Oslo this year, though, hopefully not quite as minimal – it would be lovely to bring back the opening acts to the Semi-Finals (hmmm…I seem to remember a handsome blogger making a suggestion for these a few months back here).  What I think would be really cool, and make it appear as if it costs more money then it actually does, would be to host all three nights in three different cities.  Germany has two broadcasters, ARD and NDR, one could easily take over each semi-final and they could come together for the Grand Final.  They could go for a north/south thing, as NDR is literally “Northern German Radio.”  Or, better yet, they could go for the East/West thing, having a big city on each side host a semi-final and then have the Grand Final be in Berlin to emphasize Germany coming together.

Germany was the first to announce their representative for 2011.  In a feat not seen since the first years of the Contest, the winning performer will be trying to defend her crown.  Lena will become only the third performer (after Lys Assia and Corry Brokken) to compete in the year immediately following her victory.  No performer, aside from Irish golden boy Johnny Logan, has ever won more than once.  So, this could make for an interesting event, as traditionally, the winning performer opens up the Final with a reprise of the previous year’s winning song and whatever new thing they want to do.  I predict that letting Lena open up the Final will be out of the question, though, she may open up the first Semi-Final.  This will uphold tradition (sort of) without letting Lena perform twice in one the night.  Though, the EBU may not allow this unless the other automatic qualifiers get to do something similar…can you say medley!

Not to be outdone, the Netherlands has already announced its performer as well: 3JS (that’s the Three J’s, not 3-J-S).  This seems to be a smart decision on TROS’ part, as the group makes inoffensive adult contemporary music.  It also looks like they will continue the Dutch language streak, as that seems to be their language of choice.  Information regarding their song selection will be released at a later date.  I will say, we can probably expect something along the lines of a Me and My Guitar (BLG2010)/Life Looks Better in Spring (CYP2010) type of song.  Last year set two precedents for the Contest, a youth movement which hasn’t been seen since Sandra Kim’s controversial win in the mid-eighties, and a movement towards unadorned entries.  Molitva started this trend back in 2007, but it seems to have really caught on now.  Anyway, look for these guys to return the Netherlands to their frill-less entry ways.

Israel may withdraw in 2011 due to possible conflict between the rehearsal dates & first Semi-Final and two major Israeli holidays.  Apparently, a similar situation occurred in 2008, but it did not stop the nation from competing then.  However, Israel has set out once before due to conflicts with holidays, 1980.  Originally, IBA was just supposed to relinquish hosting duties, as it could not afford to host two contests back-to-back.  However, when the Contest date was announced, Israel withdrew completely because it conflicted with a national memorial day.  The Netherlands and France have both also withdrawn due to conflicts with national happenings.  The Dutch withdrew in 1985 and 1991 because the date of the Contest coincided with the Dutch day for Rememberance for the Dead and France withdrew in 1974 due to the death of President Georges Pompidou.  Something else also happened in 1980, Morocco competed.  While they claim to have withdrawn due to a poor result (after finishing 18 out of 24, the king of Morocco is quoted as saying that as long as he lives, the country will never compete in ESC again).  Many in the ESC world believe that Morocco actually refuses to return due to Israel’s presence.  Let me ask you something, if Morocco had finished in the Top Ten, do you really think Israel’s presence would have stopped the nation from showcasing it’s musical greatness at the next Contest, I think not!  Anyway it does raise the interesting notion that if Israel does indeed sit out, Muslim nations (i.e. Lebanon) might make formal debuts at the Contest – an interesting prospect.  I expect the debate over this topic to rage until Israel either announces its intent to compete or formally withdraws.

Speaking about withdraws, Hungary’s new ESC broadcaster Duna TV is said to be making great efforts to ensure participation in Germany, while Andorra and San Marino are both still crying poor.  Additionally, one country that has just been crying for the last few years has announced its intention of returning.

Austria, which last graced the Eurovision stage back in 2007 when the Contest was in Helsinki, announced its intention to return to the Contest.  Yay!  I always like it when countries return, especially former winners.  Apparently, Germany’s victory was enough for them to stop whining about the voting system and compete again.  Maybe they can bring Luxembourg and Italy back with them…  Especially since, without Italy, there will only be 24 countries in the Final next year.