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.

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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.