Eurovision 2012 – Baku

ESC 2012 – Two Weeks Later

Howdy All!

I was hoping to publish this last week, but decided to wait to see if the EBU would release the split jury/televoting results.  They have yet to do so and I have grown tired of waiting.  If there’s anything significant, you can expect another post!

 

Best Dressed

Winner: France

A beautiful dress that I thought was used brilliantly throughout the performance, particularly when the wind machine was used.

Second Place: Serbia

Not just Joksimović, but the whole ensemble was dressed splendidly.

Third Place: Portugal

I like her dress; I don’t care what others think.

Honorable Mention: Bosnia & Herzgovina, Azerbaijan, Romania

 

Most In Need of Costume Change

Winner: Ireland

Really, really, do I need to explain this decision?

Second Place: Switzerland

There clothes were not too bad, but their hair was horrendous.

Third Place: Italy

I didn’t much care for her dress or her shoes, or the combination of the two items.

Honorable Mention: Belarus, Denmark, San Marino

 

Best Lyrics:

Winner: Bosnia & Herzegovina

“Nemoj mi kvariti dan, nikad mi nije bilo teže/Ti nisi živio sam u zlatu paukove mreže/Kao ja…Korake ti znam”

The lyrics tell a story of woman trying to salvage a relationship.  The tale that unfolds in the lyrics really draws you in.  Bravo!

Second Place: Spain

“Perdóname si no supe amarte, amor/No era mío el corazón/Quédate conmigo, quédate conmigo/Si no estás, no sale el sol”

Talk about trying to salvage a relationship, Quédate Conmigo poignantly captures the desperation one feels as you try to keep your love from walking away.

Third Place: Azerbaijan

“But I still wanna keep us alive/But it’s cold, cold, cold, cold when the music dies /t’s all black and white and there’s no sunrise/When the music dies”

Completing the pattern is a third song about a woman trying to save a relationship.  I love this song because of how final the lyrics are, the singer knows she’s at the end of line this is her final effort.  Also, the use of repetition is highly effective, as each time “cold” is sung it becomes more emphatic, more desperate.

Honorable Mention: Iceland, Macedonia, Finland

 

“Huh?” Award: given to the country the most questionable, lazy, or just plain nonsensical lyrics.

Winner: Russia

“Kırdžjalom žon-žon-žon, ektom mi kuaž-kuaž alji/Kırdžjalom žon-žon-žon, ektom mi kuaž-kuaž alji/Party for Everybody – Dance!”

The lyrics are rather repetitive, both the refrain and the actual stanzas.

Second Place: Ukraine

“You can be my guest!/People, be my/Guest!/Welcome People!/Na na, na na…”

Gaitana stated that she likes to write simple lyrics so that everyone can understand them.  Mission Accomplished.

Third Place: San Marino

“Oh oh, ooh oh oh…/Everybody loves you so/Ooh ooh, ooh oh oh…/Everybody lets you know/Do you wanna be more than just a friend?”

Arguably, it can be said that this was a satirical song.  However, I’m surprised that it was allowed to be performed given how many sexual references were littered throughout it.

Honorable Mention: Montenegro, Georgia, Switzerland

 

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

Winner: Latvia

Mindless pop music – check.  Simple lyrics – check.  Unbelievably catchy tune – check.  Yep, this passes all the tests of standard schlager.  Congratulation Anmary of Latvia!

Second Place: Serbia

Returning Serbia to its roots, Joksimović crafted a beautiful ballad of heartbreak that the region has become known for.

Third Place: United Kingdom

Eurovision, past, present, and future, has truly always been about the ballads.  And the UK brought a strong one this year, definitely in line with a lot of what has been successful on the ESC stage through history.

Honorable Mention: Romania, Malta, Russia

 

“This is DC calling” Award: Given to the most American sounding entry

Winner: Slovakia

Normally, upon playing entries for friends, one is bound to hear comparisons between it and the American music market.  This year, only one elicited an immediate response in this vein – Slovakia.

Second Place: Norway

From the presentation to the costuming to the composition itself, this sounds like something that could easily have been produced in New York or LA.

Third Place: Cyprus

The first time I heard this song, I couldn’t help but think of Rihanna.  I think that fact that Cypriots went completely with dance music and forewent any ethno-undertones also contributed to this award.

Honorable Mention: Romania, Germany, Denmark

 

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

Winner: Cyprus

Because Americans love dance tracks, particularly ones that are still pop-y enough to receive a lot of radio airplay.

Second Place: Austria

Because Americans love anything imploring them to shake their booty.

Third Place: Germany

Because it’s an unexpected, anti-love ballad, Loeb looks and sounds like your standard indie-pop artist, and the song is catchy enough to have wide-appeal.

Honorable Mention: Italy, France, Hungary, United Kingdom

 

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.

 

Winning Moment: Iceland finishing 20th

This, in my opinion, should have been vying for victory.  It was an amazing performance of an amazing composition with amazing lyrics.  Of all the entries this year, this one, I think, had the best combination of parts.

 

Second Place: United Kingdom getting second to last place

This was an amazing ballad, well-deserving of a spot in the Top Ten.  It’s a downright shame that this entry faired so poorly.

 

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 (with one exception), 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. United Kingdom – A wonderful ballad performed by a legend

9. Iceland – A powerful song of lost love

8. Israel – Fun, catchy, and quirky

7. Norway – Great to sing along to!

6. Belarus – This song really grew on me once I looked up the lyrics

5. Italy – The song is dynamic and exciting; not to mention it keeps jazz relevant at the Contest

4. Sweden – An emotional and haunting song, truly beautiful

3. Spain – An impassioned ballad that truly connects the listener to the singer’s pain

2. Cyprus – Fun, catchy, and easy to sing along – and dance – to

1. France – My favorite entry despite the performance on Saturday night because of the lyrics, the music, the originality of the composition; I love Anggun’s voice on this track and love how all the various elements of the song come together as one.

 

Final Thoughts

First and foremost, kudos to Azerbaijan for a job well done!  I was pleasantly surprised by how well the event went.  Even though they did run over on the Final, I thought the pacing of the performances was great.  I enjoyed the postcards (even if they were a bit repetitive) and the interval acts.

Unlike the last couple of years, I do not have any major complaints or qualms about how things ultimately went down and have not seen too much backlash.  Should Norway have been last, probably not, but hey – they’ve done it more than anyone else, so it’s not very surprising.  Did a few songs outperform where they should have ended up, yes.  Did a few songs score lower than they deserved, yes.  Was there any outrageous placements, not really.  2012 was a year with minimal controversy.  I think it’s also worth noting that the Greeks have finally fallen from grace; for the first time since 2003, the Hellenic Republic has fallen outside the Top Ten.  I wonder if this is a reflection of Europe growing tired of them sending the same song every year (I doubt that) or more a reflection of the strength of competition this time around (much more likely).

Overall, a good (but not great) year for the ESC.  There were strong entries that were beautiful examples of artistry and there were entries meant more for entertainment purposes.  The entirety of the Big Five seem to be taking the Contest very seriously and are seeing the fruits of their labor.  In fact, just about every country seems to be taking it seriously, and those that don’t seem to be competing with gag entries that actually stand a chance of doing well.  Overall, I’m pleased with the outcome as well as the trend that Sweden’s victory sets.  Serious entries with heartfelt performances are still winning and the results are diverse enough that no one can complain of bloc voting.  Of the Top Ten, three were from the former USSR, one was Nordic, and one was Yugoslavian (the three blocs considered to be the most powerful).  Of the remaining five, three hailed from Western Europe, one was Turkey, and one was a country with one of the most unremarkable ESC records out there (Albania).  While I don’t think this Contest was particularly historic, I do think it will be remembered as one of the smoothest and least controversial ones to date.


ESC 2012 – Grand Final Live Notes

It’s finally here!  The Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012!!!  For the first time in a long while, there will be a parity of non-English entries in the Final.  There are nine non-English entries in the Final this year, the most since 2008.  Seven are in national languages, one is in a minority language (Udmurt for Russia), and one is in a foreign language (Spanish for Romania).

The running order also seems to have put the big favorite, Sweden, at a decided advantage.  Not only is she performing 17th, behind a rather weak Greek entry, but her primary rivals, Iceland, Russia, and Norway are all in the first half of the show.  Her biggest threats seem to be Turkey (performing 18th, so a good performance by Loreen can obscure Can Bonomo), Spain (performing 19th with only moderately strong support from the bookies), and Germany (performing 20th and could be wiped out by a strong Spanish performance).  In fact, the biggest fear Sweden should have is if Joksimović and the rest of the Serbian team have an amazing performance in the 24th spot.  I know that I previously said this was going to be a two-horse race between Sweden and Iceland, but the latter’s high starting position just might knock them out of contention.  Whereas Serbia’s prime position between two glitzy, campy, weak entries (Ireland and Ukraine), will only make it standout that much more.  I would bet that we will see Serbia and Sweden duke it out all night on the leaderboard.

Both countries can expect 12s from steady sources.  Serbia will get maximum points from its former Yugoslav companions (Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Macedonia) and friend Russia (who will be looking for a place to stick its 12 now that Armenia is nowhere to be found).  Sweden will get theirs from its Nordic friends (Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland) as well as at least two of the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania).  Both can also probably expect about the same number of 12s from surprise sources that don’t consistently vote for the same countries each year (such as Georgia, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Hungary, and Israel).  The difference will be in the small point values, the 1s, 2s, etc. that will be given by because each country was able to impress the juries and televoters just enough to get something.  Five points from Azerbaijan, or three from Malta, or 7 from Portugal might just make all the difference this year.  I anticipate this one coming down to the wire!

Other than Sweden and Serbia coming out on top, how do I see the rest of the field shaping out?

3. Iceland (despite its early time slot, it will still do pretty well for itself)

4. Spain (it’s one of the stronger ballads this year in a great position)

5. Russia (unless the juries hate this song and sink it (like last year), then expect a Top Ten finish)

6. Turkey (this song is too popular not to be in the Top Ten)

7. Italy (like I said on Thursday, I think this song could really sneak under the radar to the top)

8. France (I expect Anggun to give one heck of a performance tonight and convince folks the la France is for real)

9. Norway (this song just has mass appeal that will field it many mid-point values)

10. Azerbaijan (the host country bump will help an already amazing song and performer)

In the next five, I would anticipate the United Kingdom (who has a great song, but will be brought down by going first), Ireland (because, for some inexplicable reason, Jedward is popular despite their lack of singing ability and dated-song), Romania (the song is quite popular and will draw points from unexpected places, namely Spain, Portugal, and Finland), Germany (it’s a strong effort from the Germans), and Bosnia & Herzegovina (it’s the best artistic effort this year).

The remaining ten entries, Macedonia, Estonia, Hungary, Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Denmark, Malta, Ukraine, and Moldova, will come in the bottom simply because someone has to.  Like last year, the competition is fierce and evenly matched and no one really deserves to come in last (other than Ireland, but we all know that they won’t).  It will be interesting to see how everything shakes down in the end.

So, shall we begin with the actual live notes?  I think we shall!


Opening Act:

Wow!  All those fireworks just to start the show!  I wonder what it’s gona look like afterwards!

This must be the guy who is singing with Sabina Babayeva tonight, cool!

That was awesome!  How those two guys just flew up into the air like that!

That great dancers and drummers.  I especially like the guys in the black coats, they’re great!  Nice transition into Running Scared.  And nice that it was in short form as opposed to long.

Why are they showing this now?!  I don’t want to see it being built, I want to see the entries!  Save this for an advert break!

Why are they playing the Olympic Theme?  Are they even allowed to?

The Entries:

1. United Kingdom – Love Will Set You Free performed by Engelbert Humperdinck

Truly beautiful staging UK!  What an amazing way to start off the night!  Humperdinck was not necessarily in the top form, but still pretty good.  I hope his early starting position doesn’t hurt him.  The crowd seems to really like it, though.

2. Hungary – Sound of Our Hearts performed by Compact Disco

He looks different than he did on Tuesday, am I just imagining things?  He does look less smug, so there’s that.  No one has ever won from the second position and Hungary does not seem as if they will break that tradition.  Make it 57 losses in a row for the those in the 2 spot.

3. Albania – Suus performed by Rona Nishliu

One of my favorite entries this year.  I can’t wait to hear how she does!

Oh no, just when I was about to say that this was better than Tuesday’s performance, she goes and misses BOTH of the high notes and the big not afterwards.  That may have just bought her last place.  Oh well, I have a feeling the juries liked her very much.

4. Lithuania – Love is Blind performed by Donny Montell

Montell is so freaking adorable.  Too bad he is also off-key.  He was also off-key on Thursday and he made it through, so maybe it won’t matter so much.  I still can’t see this one overcoming all of its averageness (even if the singer is incredibly attractive) and making an impact on the scoreboard.

5. Bosnia & Herzegovina – Korake Ti Znam  performed by Maya Star

I maintain that this is the most artistic entry this year and has the best lyrics by far.  The vocal performance fits it perfectly and the staging is exactly what the song needs.  If only it wasn’t a tad bit boring.  I predict a respectable finish for BiH.

6. Russia – Party for Everybody performed by Buranovskiye Babuski

This song might do well with the televoters, but I honestly cannot see the juries going for this.  I know I predict it being in the Top Ten, but there are so many other entries that are more deserving.  With that said, it is a fun a song.

7. Iceland – Never Forget performed by Greta Salóme & Jónsi

I am in awe every time I hear this song.  It’s such a shame that they had to come so early on the night – they should win easily, but most won’t.  This is the best overall entry this year in terms of composition, lyrics, and performance.

8. Cyprus – La La Love performed by Ivi Adamou

Adamou’s voice sounds kinda low; I hope she’s not flat for the entire song.  I’m am glad, though, that they fixed the issue with the loud backing singer.  Seems like someone read my blog and made the necessary improvements.  Always nice to know that you’ve made a difference.

9. France – Écho (You and I) performed by Anggun

I like half-naked men doing gymnastics as much as the next person, but don’t really see what they add to the performance.  That’s a nifty effect with her dress and the wind machine.  It seems this performance had a lot of distraction to it, maybe, perhaps, because Anggun was not in top form tonight.  That was definitely not a Top Ten performance.  Sorry.  Extra sorry since this is my favorite song this year.

10. Italy – L’Amore È Femmina performed by Nina Zilli

Speaking about disappointing performances of my favorite entries, what’s going on Ms. Zilli?  She’s off pitch, off-beat (at times), and seems to be adlibbing – Disappointing (with a capital D).  Also not a Top Ten performance.  And, she may even find herself in the Bottom Ten with that.

What a waste.  This was the first time in a while that all Big Five entries were solid and they could have taken over the Top Ten.  Opportunity wasted.

11. Estonia – Kuula performed by Ott Lepland

Not as good as the first time.  But it sounds a lot better given that it was following France and Italy.  Same comments, pleasant song but forgettable.

12. Norway – Stay performed by Tooji

Much better than Thursday in terms of his vocal performance.  I think it was solid enough to land him in the Top Ten.

13. Azerbaijan – When the Music Dies performed by Sabina Babayeva

Amazing!  Amazing!  Amazing!  Best Azerbaijani entry by far!  Best performance thus far.  I feel bad for Romania to have to follow that.

14. Romania – Zaleilah performed by Mandinga

I think the choreography and vocals are much tighter than on Tuesday, which is a big improvement.  And, given that France and Italy both will be outside the Top Ten, I think that Romania just might sneak into it.

15. Denmark – Should’ve Known Better performed by Soluna Samay

I still don’t like her voice much.  And I still think this is a rather pleasant entry.  But, this is quite forgettable and will fade away from memory as it falls between two very uptempo numbers.

16. Greece – Aphrodisiac performed by Eleftheria Eleftheriou

Unlike Cyprus, Greece did not look at my blog.  The backing singer is still up way too loud.  I think Greece is just used to doing well that they forget that there are others around this year to soak up the ethno-pop, dance numbers points that usually go straight to them.  Expect them to be outperformed by both Norway and Cyprus.  This is result in an irate Greek population that will post and spam message boards across the internet whining that they were robbed and that there’s no justice in the world.  Then send the same exact song again next year.

17. Sweden – Euphoria performed by Loreen

Here it comes…Loreen can end the competition right now with an outstanding performance, or, she can do what she did on Thursday night and leave the door open for someone to usurp the victory.

I think we just saw a winning performance.  She sung with passion.  She fixed the mumbling issues she was having on Thursday, and everything was just on target.  Spain, Germany, and Serbia will each have to do something truly special to unseat the Swedes.

18. Turkey – Love Me Back performed by Can Bonomo

I like the staging of this entry very much.  Maybe Top Ten, with the large contingency of Turks in the crowd, it’s hard to get a proper audience reading for the performance.

19. Spain – Quédate Conmigo (Stay with Me) performed by Patora Soler

The sheer power of her voice made those backing singers appear out of thin air.  Just when I thought that Sweden had shut the door on the competition, Spain goes it blows it back open…wide!  What an amazing performance!  If that’s not Top Five, then there is something seriously wrong in the Eurovision world.

20. Germany – Standing Still performed by Roman Lob

That was a nice performance of a nice song.  Nothing overly remarkable about it, so not quite sure how it will place.  Maybe 11th or 12th?

21. Malta – This is the Night performed by Kurt Calleja

meh.  Better than Thursday night, still a rather average entry.  Still baffles me as to why that female singer gets to sing and why she does it so strangely.  If they’re trying to incorporate traditional Azerbaijani style, then they should have done it throughout the song.  Doing it in such an isolated instance just sounds strange.

22. Macedonia – Crno i Belo performed by Kaliopi

Another flawless performance from Kaliopi.  I am still not quite sure what to make of this one’s chances, but I rather like the song.

23. Ireland – Waterline performed by Jedward

I still fail to see the appeal of this entry.  It’s so 1995.  Not to mention Jedward doesn’t really have the vocal chops to do it well.  It’s just, bad.  I hope it falls flat in the voting tonight.

24. Serbia – Nije Ljubav Stvar performed by Željko Joksimović

Let’s see if Serbia and throw its hat into the ring with Sweden and Spain.

Am I the only person that had a skip in this performance?  Like it just skipped.  Like there was a scratch or something.

Joksimović just showed the world that he is tired of losing at ESC.  He wants to win.  Whether the entry is strong enough to survive the mind-numbing, sensory overload that will be the Ukrainian performance, not sure.  If it does, then it will definitely be a contender for the title!

25. Ukraine – Be My Guest performed by Gaitana

I like the song, but it still sounds rather strange without any backing vocalists.  This song should fall somewhere in 20s, but I have the sinking suspicion that it won’t.

26. Moldova – Lăutar performed by Pasha Parfeny

Whoa!  They forgot to light the Crystal Hall in Moldova’s colors – fail!

Such a fun song and well performed, too!  Ah, there you go, the Moldovan colors.  Nice way to end the night.

Too bad I can’t vote, otherwise I would votes for My Top Ten Favorites on the Night

1. Spain

2. Sweden

3. Moldova

4. Azerbaijan

5. United Kingdom

6. Serbia

7. Iceland

8. Bosnia & Herzegovina

9. Turkey

10. Cyprus

Who I think will win: As well as I think Spain, Serbia, and Iceland did, and believe me, I think they gave winning performances, I am not confident enough to say that any of them were able to overcome the hype and popularity of Sweden.  I think Loreen’s performance was enough to push out in front of the pack, but not by much.

Now, it’s possible that we could have another tie (as there was one on Thursday night for tenth place), but then again, ties only happen in the Final if France is involved in some way, and Anggun most definitely did not turn out a winning performance.  So, Sweden for the outright win.

My prediction for the remaining Top Ten:

2. Serbia

3. Spain

4. Iceland

5. Germany

6. Russia

7. Azerbaijan

8. Romania

9. Turkey

10. United Kingdom

Other Predictions and Comments:

I think that the next five will be Cyprus, Norway, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Greece.  Italy, France, and Lithuania have outside chances of landing in this group if they gave strong performances to the juries last night, otherwise, all three will be relegated to the Bottom Ten.

Interval Act:

The super postcard, particularly the ending, was pretty amazing!  Definitely makes me want to visit Azerbaijan, which I believe is the point.

As awesome as Azerbaijan’s folk tradition is, they never send it to the Contest.  They always choose some Westernized pop tune when they could probably do very well with folk-inspired music.  Look at Greece, they always send something with distinct ethnic flair and always seem to do well (but not this year, I hope).

Whoops, spoke too soon.  This guy that descended from the ceiling is fairly Western.  For the headliner for the Interval Act, he had such a small amount of time on stage.  Probably for the best.

The Votes: Israel is voting last, they’re always a wild card!  One never knows where their points are going.

  1. Albania – let’s see – 12 to Greece, no surprise there.
  2. Montenegro – absolutely no surprises there
  3. Romania – 12 to Moldova, right?  yep
  4. Austria – hmm, interesting votes, Albania and Serbia getting big points.  12 to Sweden – bound to become a refrain tonight, I think.
  5. Ukraine – only 10 to Russia?  12 to Azerbaijan, not expected, but not surprising.
  6. Belarus – Lots of love for Azerbaijan so far.  No surprise.  Sweden still has a twelve point lead, though.
  7. Belgium – ooh, Normally the Belgians give 12 to Turkey, so I think I will call it for Sweden right now.
  8. Azerbaijan – 8 to Malta, what?!  no surprise for the 12 points.  Iceland, Norway, and Denmark are all sitting there without any points.
  9. Malta – Ooh, the UK must have done something bad to get completely blanked by their steady supply of points from Malta.  12 to Azerbaijan, that’s surprising.
  10. San Marino – whoa!  Italy only gets 7 points!  23 to Albania?  that’s different and highly unexpected.
  11. France – 12 to Sweden, which seems to be soaking up every point headed northward, as Denmark, Norway, and Iceland are still sitting on goose eggs.
  12. United Kingdom – 12 to Sweden.  If you didn’t think this was over by now, I’m letting you now that it is.  Next year in Stockholm (or Gothenburg or Malmo or …)
  13. Turkey – This has become a race to third place as Russia has a strong grasp on second, but the night is still young.  Sweden becomes the first to crack 100.
  14. Greece – 12 to Cyprus, I’m sure.  Yep.  Those are some halfhearted boos, Azerbaijanis.  I expect you to do better when Cyprus gives their 12 to Greece.
  15. Bosnia & Herzegovina – ooh, only 10 to Serbia, 12 to Macedonia (ok, that’s not surprising)
  16. Moldova – Oriental?  She must not know the meaning of that word.  And the duel between Serbia and Azerbaijan for third place continues.
  17. Bulgaria – hmm, Serbia, interesting.
  18. Switzerland – another wild card country.  Who knows where their top points will end up.
  19. Slovenia – Iceland is rescued from null-points land!
  20. Cyprus – 12 to Greece and 8 to Turkey, where is the rest of their points going?  Oh, I was wrong, 8 to Azerbaijan.  No love from Cyprus to Turkey?  The northern part must not have been watching tonight.
  21. Croatia – No surprises, though, Serbia overtakes Russia for second place!

Halfway through, and am pleasantly surprised by Albania’s and Macedonia’s success.  Disappointed by the lack thereof from Iceland, Norway, and the United Kingdom.  Mathematically, every country could still win.  Realistically, unless Serbia stages some kind of comeback of the century, this is Sweden’s fifth win.  And, I think, demonstrates that Ireland should be worried about Sweden catching up to it’s seven wins within the next decade.

  1. Slovakia – another wildcard country gives their 12 to Sweden.
  2. FYR Macedonia – ooh, only ten for Serbia.  Ah, not too surprising, 12 for Albania.
  3. The Netherlands – no surprises  Sweden hits 200 points.
  4. Portugal – no points for the Swedes.
  5. Iceland – And Denmark is saved from null-point land.  Cyprus and Estonia getting big points from Iceland?  What!  Madness.
  6. Sweden – only three for Norway.  Sweden never votes in their bloc.  Serbia and Cyprus take the points that one would expect would have been sent to Denmark and Iceland any other year.
  7. Norway – Serbia is getting a lot of love from unexpected places.
  8. Lithuania – only 6 for Russia.  Ooh, 12 for our hosts, Azerbaijan.
  9. Estonia – Shocked, only 3 for LIT, 2 for Denmark, none for Norway – and the UK is last?!  What is going on?
  10. Denmark – No points for Norway?  Craziness!
  11. Ireland – where’s Ireland?
  12. Latvia – No surprises.  Russia breaks 200.
  13. Spain – 12 to Romania, I bet you!  Whoops, only ten!  I guess 12 for Sweden?  Yep.
  14. Finland – Mr. Lordi surely is a ham, ain’t he.  12 to Sweden.
  15. Georgia – Sweden tops 300!  Another surprise 12 from Georgia, this time to Lithuania.
  16. Italy – Albania is doing really well!
  17. Serbia – Even Serbia is giving points to Sweden!
  18. Germany – was that just a warning to Azerbaijan?  About Europe watching it?  Serbia cracks 200.
  19. Russia – no surprises
  20. Hungary – no surprises at this point
  21. Israel – no real surprises.
  22. Ireland – here they are!

The Winner is: Euphoria from Sweden performed by Loreen with a whopping 372 points.  This is now second all time in point total, second only to Norway’s 2009 victory (387 points).  That’s interesting, normally the camera angles are the same during the reprise as they are during the performance, but that is definitely not the case this time around.  Also, there’s no Swedish flags!  Why did no one have a Swedish flag?

The Final Scoreboard:

2. Russia

3. Serbia

4. Albania

5. Azerbaijan

6. Estonia

7. Turkey

8. Germany

9. Spain

10. Italy

11. Moldova

12. Romania (Romania and Macedonia tied, but Romania places higher after the tie-break procedure is implemented)

13. Macedonia

14. Lithuania

15. Ukraine (Ukraine and Cyprus tied, but Ukraine places higher after the tie-break procedure is implemented)

16. Cyprus

17. Greece

18. Bosnia & Herzegovina

19. Ireland

20. Iceland

21. Malta

22. France

23. Denmark

24. Hungary

25. United Kingdom

26. Norway

Final Thoughts:

I would say this year could be summed up by the word: “disappointment.”  Disappointment that sub-par songs, like Malta and Ireland, made it to the Final when better stuff (like Switzerland or Slovenia) got left behind.  Disappointment that my favorite entries, France, Italy, and Cyprus, all turned out weak performances.  Disappointment in the United Kingdom’s second to last finish.  Disappointment in my “home” country’s abysmal placing at 23rd.

I’m also pleasantly surprised by some things.  Albania (despite a less than stellar performance tonight) and Estonia both finished in the Top Ten.  I am pleasantly surprised that three out of the top five, and five out of the Top Ten, are not in English.  Cyprus not only beat Greece this year, but Greece fell way out of the Top Ten.  This is the first time since 2003 that Greece has been outside the Top Ten.  Pleasantly surprised that Macedonia not only made it back to the Final, but finished in a respectable 13th place.  Glad that Kaliopi could find much more success this time around than in 1996.

Congrats are in order to Spain, for making its triumphal return to the Top Ten, even if they did just sneak in.   And, I do want to point out that I correctly predicted the winner (both before and after the performances) and 8 out of 10 for the eventual Top Ten.

Not really sure how I feel about the Contest as a whole, though.  I like the Swedish song very much and love the performance.  And, having seen Melodifestivalen a few times now, I know that the Swedes are going to put on a fabulous show, but this win was so easy to predict.  I was really hoping for more drama this year.  There were a lot of strong entries this year (by now, I’m sure that you know which ones I am going to name) and a lot of would-be strong entries had the performances not fallen flat (again, by now, you probably know the ones that I will name).  I just thought one of them would provide a challenge to the Swedes.

Poor Željko Joksimović, though, he said this was his last time as a soloist at the Contest and that he was really aiming for victory.  Instead, he fell a distant third to an artist who barely has a career and a pack of old ladies who succeeded on novelty alone.  Not the best of ways to finish a storied Eurovision career.  I bet you anything that he breaks his pledge and returns again in a few years time.

More will come next week after I have had some time to process my feelings and review the results more deeply after they (hopefully) release the split votes from the juries and televoters.


ESC 2012: Second Semi-Final Live Notes

And we’re back for Semi-Final number 2!  Unlike most years, when one semi-final is vastly superior to the other (the Thursday one always fits this description), both of this year’s semi-finals are pretty evenly matched, both within themselves and between them.  of course, I think, as a whole the six automatic qualifiers are stronger than either semi-final, and I expect to that all six countries will find themselves in the top fifteen, at least.  But more on that on Saturday.  Tonight, it’s about celebrating these eighteen entries!

So, just to recap, I think the ten qualifiers will be:

Serbia              Sweden

Belarus            Turkey

Ukraine           Slovakia

Slovenia          Norway

Croatia             Bosnia & Herzegovina

Let the fun BEGIN!

Lead-in:

Why are they making such a big deal out of French?  It’s not that hard of a language.

Wow, they really do talk like a bunch of preschool teachers.  And why is it always “Az-zer-bai-jan” as if it’s four words?

And that was a miscue – “sit down…music!”

Serbia – Nije Ljubav Stvar performed by Željko Joksimović

Of course, Joksimović has a small orchestra on stage with him.  Ooh!  Twin lady violinists.  Not exactly the most electrifying way to start off the semi-final, but it’s an awesome song, nevertheless.

Macedonia – Crno i Belo performed by Kaliopi

I like this!  It’s a greast rock song, and the backing singers are well utilized.  I actually prefer this version with the backing vocals and a little less intensity (but more passion) from Kaliopi to the studio version.  I hope she does well, this could actually qualify, even though many think it won’t.

The Netherlands – You and Me performed by Joan Franka

People said this had an outside chance of qualifying due to its charm and understated nature.  Franka would have to nail the performance for this to happen, and she is quite flat throughout the entire song.

Malta – This is the Night performed by Kurt Calleja

That thing Calleja is doing with his legs during the refrain is kinda creepy.  Why, on earth, would you let some random backgin singer take the shining moment of the song?  What was Calleja thinking?  That killed what little chance this entry had of getting through to the Final.  See you next year Malta…hey, isn’t Chiara eligible to compete again in 2013…

Belarus – We are the Heroes performed by LiteSound

This seems like something that would be popular but the singer isn’t that great and they’re dressed like goons.  How did the backing guys go horizontal like that?  I think I will be giving away their spot to a more worthy contender by the end of the night.

Portugal – Vida Minha performed by Filipa Sousa

Nice, pleasant song with a nice, pleasant performance.  Notice I did not say captivating or enthralling.  Sorry Portugal, another year in the semis for you.

Ukraine – Be My Guest performed by Gaitana

Already, the most entertaining entry before she’s even started singing.  Is she really taking this song on by herself?  Oh wait, there’s dancers with trumpets…oh, and now there’s more dancers.  This song works because there’s a crowd like atmosphere on the studio track.  This just sounds like one loony lady out there trying to advertise her little bed & breakfast on a cheap budget.  Disappointing.

Bulgaria – Love Unlimited performed by Sofi Marinova

I rather like this.  Marinova is doing a great job, the stage looks great (I love the sparkler fans).  I think that this entry just might surprise a lot of people and sneak into the Final.

Slovenia – Verjamem performed by Eva Boto

The attack of the teenage girls!  They’re pretty good though.  Definitely one of the better Slovenian entries to date.  Boto will definitely carry Slovenia back into the Grand Final.

Croatia – Nebo performed by Nina Badić

Was I the only expecting her costume to change when the dancers got closer and the song hit a big note?  I don’t quite understand the use of the white sheet in the performance.  Otherwise – good stuff!  I hope this makes it through.

Sweden – Euphoria performed by Loreen

With all the pyrotechnics in use this year, leave it to good ol’ Sweden to let everyone know that the wind machine is still here and not going anywhere!  I’m glad that kept things minimal like the Melodifestevalen performance.  I definitely think, though, that Loreen is holding back tonight – I expect her to bring it, and hard, come Saturday.

Georgia – I’m a Joker performed by Anri Jokhadze

Wow.  That was a mess.  This is why Georgia has never sent a man to be the lead performer before.  I really don’t think that they will make it to the Final this year.

Turkey – Love Me Back performed by Can Bonomo

Right, Azerbaijanis basically consider themselves Turkish.  That would explain the huge crowd reaction.  I’m not gonna lie, I wish I had his coat; that a nice piece of fabric. Am I the only one that thinks that this could be a villain song in a cheesy musical?  Guy wants a girl who doesn’t want him and takes her captive on his boat saying that she must clearly love him.  All sinister undertones aside, this will easily make it through.

Estonia – Kuula performed by Ott Lepland

Lepland had a real chance to capitalize on weak performances by some of the more popular entries, and I think he’s blowing it.  I’m not quite sure if he’s sick or what, but he’s off-key.  As the song goes one, he’s getting better, but it’s still generally off.  And he definitely botched some of the lyrics, a major no, no!

Slovakia – Don’t Close Your Eyes performed by Max Jason Mai

Mai is rather off-key as well.  Such a shame.  This is probably Slovakia’s best ever entry and their best chance of qualifying, and I think they’re blowing it.  At least the staging was rather nice and the backing singers did their jobs.

Norway – Stay performed by Tooji

The staging of this song is rather nice, but I never did think Tooji was much of a singer.  I this will easily progress to the Final; not sure how it will fare once it gets there, though.

Bosnia & Herzegovina – Korake Ti Znam performed by Maya Star

Probably the best artistic piece tonight, and maybe in the entire Contest this year.  It should move through easily; though, just because something exemplifies all the qualities that should the key of a strong ESC entry, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will do well (just look at Israel 2010).  I do expect her to win at least one Marcel Bezaçon Award.

Lithuania – Love is Blind performed by Donny Montell

Montell is freakin’ adorable, especially when he tries to be cooler than he actually is, like, when the tempo picks up and he starts dancing and saying “oh, yeah.”  That was rather pleasant.  And, as I always say, never underestimate the power of a pleasant song being delivered by an attractive young person – which this entry clearly exemplifies.

Looking at the recap of songs, Joksimović (Serbia) and Kaliopi (Macedonia) really make the other 16 artists look like amateurs.

My Top Ten

1. Serbia (quite clearly the best act tonight)

2. Bosnia & Herzegovina (great song and great performance)

3. Macedonia (awesome job Kaliopi!)

4. Sweden (I just really like this song, but was generally disappointed and expect a lot more on Saturday)

5. Croatia (strong performance of a decent song)

6. Bulgaria (better than expected performance)

7. Lithuania (better than expected, one of the few to stay mostly on pitch through the whole song)

8. Turkey (fun song with a fun performance)

9. Slovenia (nice, not quite sure if I understand all the hype around this entry, though)

10. Portugal (overall, very pleasant)

The Ten I think will make it through

Serbia – this is not a question

Bosnia & Herzegovina – it’s a strong entry and has a lot of hype

Sweden – again, this is an unquestioned assumption

Lithuania – I think he did enough to win over voters

Turkey – c’mon, no way Turkey’s missing two years in a row

Slovenia – there’s too much hype around this one not to qualify

Ukraine – despite her less-than-solid performance, it’s hard to bet against the Ukraine

Norway – I think this song is too popular not to make it, plus Persians around Europe will be voting for Tooji

Bulgaria – I’m sure I’m not the only fan that she made tonight

Croatia – I think she did enough to make it through, not to mention she is bound to get points from each of the other former Yugoslav countries voting tonight

Interval Act:

I love Eurovision medleys, particularly when done by the actual artists.  But will we really have to sit through Running Scared again on Saturday?  It’s not that captivating of a song and I was not anticipating having to hear so often this week (I don’t know what I was thinking).  At least where El was for the past fifteen minutes.

Love the crowd shots (and the one of Joksimović in the Green Room) during Marija Šerofović’s part.  Is it just me, or does the instrumentation during her section still sound quite Balkan?  Alexander Rybak is in top form tonight and Lena just can’t stay away from the ESC stage.  I have a feeling she’s gonna be like Lys Assia and try to come back in her eighties.  Satellite sounds kinda weird in this arrangement.

Waterloo!  The “Oh No!” is right as Nikki has lost both the words and the pitch.  And Dima Bilan shows Europe that his mic has been turned off.  What a nice touch – and, we didn’t have hear Running Scared, double bonus!

Honestly, after tonight and Tuesday, I really want to think that all six automatic qualifiers will make the Top Ten.

The ten that actually make it to the Grand Final

A. Lithuania (1 correct for 1 total qualifier)

B. Bosnia & Herzegovina (2 for 2)

C. Serbia (3 for 3; did you see his face, not an ounce of concern there)

D. Ukraine (4 for 4)

E. Sweden (5 for 5; you know, the camera folks should really stop showing the qualifiers before they are revealed.  they did the same thing in Germany last year)

F. Macedonia (5 for 6; nice! of course, there goes my perfect record)

G. Norway (6 for 7)

H. Estonia (6 for 8; hmm, interesting, definitely helps that he followed some weak vocal performances)

J. Malta (6 for 9; what!  I did not expect this at all!  How did this make it through?)

(Surely Turkey will not be left behind again!  But, I could not imagine Slovenia failing, either)

K. Turkey (7 for 10; of course)

Final Thoughts

I am rather shocked that Slovenia did not make it.  I know she was picked to do well with the bookies and was receiving a lot of good press.  Less surprised by Bulgaria and Croatia coming up short, though.  Rather shocked that Malta made it through, but now that I think about it, I assume that the UK gave the tiny nation its 12 points for the night.  I wholly expect This is the Night to come in dead last, though, come Saturday as the UK will have its usually suspects (Ireland, Greece, France, and Germany) to dole points out to.  As for the Netherlands, that was everyone’s trendy pick for making it through unexpectedly, her early spot in the running order did her in.

Honestly, though, I don’t think tonight did anything to change the landscape for the top contenders (except Slovenia, who some thought could make a big move this year for the top).  We will still expect to see Sweden, Iceland, and Serbia duke it out for the victory, with Spain, France, and Norway nipping at their heels – that is, if you can believe the bookmakers.  Cyprus and Greece proved themselves to be highly overrated on Tuesday and I no longer consider them serious contenders for the crown.  I wholly expect Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, Germany, and the UK to get decent placings as well.  The only country that I think could really surprise people and make a big move without a lot of attention beforehand is Italy.  The bookies have L’Amore É Femmina as potential Top Ten finisher without the Internet chatter really being there to back it up.  We shall see, we shall see.


ESC2012 – Semi Final One – Live Notes

Hello lovely readers!  I may not have been able to do my usual round of pre-Contests posts as thoroughly or as often as I would have liked, but I am here now for the live notes – which are really the best part of the blog, in my opinion.  Per usual, I am writing these notes live as I am watching the Contest.  A few things to note, I have the lyrics for each song pulled up, because, how can you judge a song contest without knowing the lyrics.  Secondly, I know that, traditionally, I do not listen to the songs before they premiere live at the Contest, but this year, due to the extreme tightness of my schedule, I had to in order to get my prediction pieces done.  So, I am actually quite familiar with the songs which is a major shift from how I normally write these live notes.  Additionally, unlike previous years, I have not read about the stagings of the songs.  Normally, I don’t listen to the entries and read about the rehearsals, this year, I am doing the reverse.  Also, look for my tweets – #eurovisionobsession.

 

With that said, here are my pre-Contest predictions for who will qualify:

Greece             Iceland

Cyprus             Denmark

Romania          Switzerland

Russia              Hungary

Ireland             Moldova

Since these have not changed since my previous post, I will not go into detail as to why I chose each of these songs.

 

So, let’s begin!

 

Opening Act:

What an interesting arena!  So many diamonds; definitely the most unique arena I’ve seen thus far for a Contest. The stage is rather nice, though!  Looks like there’s not going to be an opening act for the semi-finals this year again.  Did that third host say that she’s a lawyer?  Why is a lawyer hosting?  Did she remember to say Spain in the Big Five?  (“France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom” I don’t think she did).

 

No, El, Azerbaijan is not in Europe.

 

I see that Azerbaijan has returned to showing off the country for the post cards.

 

On to the entries:

Montenegro – Euro Neuro performed by Rambo Amadeus

Crna Gora has been saving up money for two years, and this is the best staging they could afford?  I guess it works for the song.  Speakin of which.  It’s interesting, but I don’t quite think Europe will get it.  Hopefully, Mr. Amadeus can avoid a null point.

 

Iceland – Never Forget performed by Greta Salóme & Jónsi

Gereta’s voice is a little off.  I think that she put down the violin, or least wait until the instrumental break.  Not necessarily a winning performance, but I think good enough to get them through to the Final.

 

Greece – Aphrodisiac performed by Eleftheria Eleftheriou

Is the background singer so loud on purpose?  This just feels so…cheap.  This song had the potential for a really amazing performance, but instead, they settled for depending on a background singer to provide the majority of the vocal support, a scantily clad singer, and some weak dance moves.  I know I said that this was My Number One rebirthed, but it’s not, it’s nowhere close.  As much as I dislike My Number One, it won because it was fresh and well-performed.  This was just stale.

 

Latvia – Beautiful Song performed by Anmary

She might have been born in 1980, but this entry and its staging is rather 1970.  At least she and her backing singers are modestly clad. So, aside from the fact that this song is fairly forgettable, it’s rather presumptuous.  I hate when entries declare themselves the winners and talk about all the fame that will result.  But, I guess, what more could we expect from Latvia?

 

Albania – Suus performed by Rona Nishliu

I don’t know why the press give artists so much flack for performing in their own language, I rather prefer it.  Excellent use of lights for the high notes!  If only she remembered to hold the microphone up to her mouth the entire time.  Did you hear that crowd reaction?  They loved it!  What a heart-wrenching performance – woohoo!  This is one of my favorite entries – and this is why!  Great job!  She should move through, but she probably won’t, unfortunately.

 

Romania – Zaleilah performed by Mandinga

The moon walk would have been so much better if the mouthpiece of the bagpipe was actually in his mouth.  Fire!  Romania, right now, is the country to beat.  I know that they can count on twelve points from Moldova and Spain, and probably several others.

 

Switzerland – Unbreakable performed by Sinplus

Whoa, that was a cool camera effect – that long shot to close up to long, again at the start of the first chorus.  I wonder why he isn’t using the catwalk – this seems like the perfect song for that ­– oh, there goes his brother, he took off down that thing!  I wonder why they didn’t really show it.  Fire!  This is, what, the third or fourth pyrotechnics of the night?  But, where is the wind machine?  I do believe the Swiss are headed back to the Final.

 

I like these postcards – they’re doing a great job of showing off the country.  I just thought of something, are those little diamonds in the audience this year’s green room?  That would be rather interesting and I imagine rather frustrating for the artists who want to relax and decompress after their performance.

 

Belgium – Would You? performed by Iris

This is a sweet song, but ultimately rather forgettable.  But she’s giving her all.  I love it when a competitor, who probably realizes that she’s outmatched, still gives her all.  Way to go Belgium!  There’s no reason for you to feel bad about the outcome, Iris, you did the best you could with a weak song.  Hold your head up high!

 

Finland – När Jag Blundar performed by Pernilla

I love how they make the flags on the Crystal Hall’s exterior!  This song has a sweet story.  The singer’s brother wrote it in honor of their mother (who’s there in Baku with them).  I assume that’s him on the cello.  What a wonderful sight for their mother to behold.  I hope all three of them cherish these three minutes, because I doubt they will happen again.  Thank you Finland for singing in NOT English, even if it isn’t your official language.  I find it funny that we have to go to Finland to get an entry in Swedish, the first time the language has been on the ESC stage since 1998.  A pretty song, but will be forgotten, much like Belgium.

 

Israel – Time performed by Izabo

Anyone else find it interesting that they talk about Azerbaijan being a “holy land” right before Israel’s performance?  I like the 70’s sound of this song; I could totally image roller skating to this song.  Unfortunately, even though Europe is behind the times, it’s not so far back that it will appreciate this entry to the fullest.  The guitarist has his own mic, why is he coming over to the lead singer’s?  What an interesting use of the backing singers.

 

San Marino – The Social Network Song (Oh Oh Uh Oh Oh) performed by Valentina Monetta

This postcard fits nicely, as Monetta is a jazz singer by profession.  Her eyes are so big!  And her voice is so small!  I’m sorry, but this sounds like something adults make to entertain children (the lyrics referring to sex aside, of course).  Why is there a pilot and a doctor?  Sorry, San Marino, another year in the semi-finals for you – better luck next year!  How much more fun would this performance be if they had actual Facebook pages and Tweets floating around behind them, of fans from the 42 participating countries?

 

Cyprus – La La Love performed by Ivi Adamou

This always reminded me of something that Rihanna could sing.  And like the Bahamian singer, Ivi is stunningly beautiful and sings just flat throughout her song.  Again, we have the issue of backing singers who are too loud.  Is the dance routine so rigorous that we need to have all four ladies at full blast to help Ivi out?  The dance break and the bridge had some amazing camera direction – good job whoever directed this performance.  While I like this song, the overbearing backing singers gave it a bit of an amateurish sound.  It was more like something you would expect at a local community musician expo, not a continent-wide song pop contest.  Hopefully, it’s better on Saturday.

 

Denmark – Should’ve Known Better performed by Soluna Samay

I don’t understand the bassist’s outfit – it seems rather out of place.  Aside from that, this is nearly identical to the MGP performances of this song.  There’s something that can be said for consistency.  Well, actually, her voice is a little less whiny this time around, which is a very good thing.

 

Russia – Party for Everyone performed by Buranovskiye Babushki

Didn’t we already see that Baku is a sunny city?  That’s a giant oven they have on stage!  Which I guess makes sense since the song is about a them preparing a party for their children and grandchildren.  The audience seems to be getting really into it! I wonder if they have enough pastries for everybody?  That little short one has some nice moves!

 

Are they allowed to use the term “Golden Girls”?

So, I was right about the green room being out in the arena.  Wow!  Valentina Monetta has a rather deep voice!

 

Hungary – Sound of Our Hearts performed by Compact Disco

I wonder, if for the Final, every postcard is just going to say “Azerbaijan: Land of Fire!” and show things burning throughout the country.  This entry is so…smug.  Like the singer is saying, “Look at me!  I am singing about the human condition!  Aren’t I so artsy!  Be inspired by me!”

 

Austria – Woki Mit Deim Popo performed by Trackshittaz

Whew!  They’re keeping this thing moving – it’s only been 70 minutes since they’ve started and we’re already just about done with the presentation of the entries.  Uh oh, I think the timing was slightly off with lighting effects.  I’m glad they went with pole dancers as opposed to just three girls who shake their butts while holding poles.  I’m glad that they toned down the entry from the National Selection performance, but they may have went a little too far – it definitely lacked a lot of the electricity it had during when they won in Austria.

 

Moldova – Lăutar performed by Pasha Parfeny

So, I’m a HUGE fan of the song he took to the Moldovan national selection last year, Dorule.  This song cannot touch the awesomeness that is Dorule.  Though, this is pleasant and has a decent shot of moving through to Saturday, I think.  It would have been more effective if there was an actual trumpet on stage somewhere, either one of the backing dancers could hold it or just a giant trumpet on the LED screen, something!  There’s one at the end, at least.  The choreography was really great, though.

 

Ireland – Waterline performed by Jedward

Hey, their hair is even worse than it was last year!  WHAT ARE THEY WEARING?!?!  I think we have this year’s Barbara Dex award.  Perhaps they were aiming to get the infamous title renamed for themselves.  Why are they jumping around, this is not that kind of song.  They’re singing is not awful, but this song is dated and forgettable.  If they didn’t have the name recognition that they did, this song would be dead last tonight.  With any luck, Albania did enough to displace them from the projected Top Ten.

 

My Ten Favorite from tonight:

1. Albania

2. Romania

3. Iceland

4. Belgium

5. Denmark

6. Cyprus

7. Finland

8. Russia

9. Switzerland

10. Moldova

 

My Predictions for who will qualify to the Final (in no particular order)

Romania (probably the strongest performance of the night, all things considered)

Denmark (mass appeal soft ballad that was well sung)

Iceland (it’s a contender for victory and was performed well-enough to make it through to Saturday)

Cyprus (not a strong performance, but benefits from the fact that more than half make it through)

Greece (it’s Greece)

Russia (this song is immensely popular and makes people smile)

Ireland (yuck! but Jedward is popular enough to move through)

Switzerland (they had a strong performance)

Hungary (good enough song to move through, despite the singer’s smugness)

Albania (I think she did enough to earn a spot and Moldova did not)

 

Interval Act:

That’s amazing!  I see why this guy was awarded the highest Azerbaijani honor for a musician.  It’s amazing, though, how similar musical and dance traditions can be across regions.  His drumming is not far off from what one would expect in an Afro-Cuban tradition.  And the dancing is not dissimilar from Balkan and Middle Eastern dances (which makes sense given Azerbaijan’s location).  It’s amazing how different we all are from one another, yet so like each other at the same time.  I love it!

 

All six of the pre-qualified entries are amazing and have a legitimate shot of being Top Ten (with Spain, in my opinion, having the best chance of winning among them).  This year has yielded many great entries; unlike last year where there were many entries that were all equally average, this year we have a lot of songs that are equally strong.

 

I see that Jon Ola Sand is still not yet comfortable speaking on camera.

The actual qualifiers:

A. Romania – I am 1 for 1 in predicting the finalists, thus far

B. Moldova – 1 for 2

C. Iceland – 2 for 3

D. Hungary – 3 for 4

E. Denmark – 4 for 5

F. Albania – 5 for 6 (ooh!  I wonder whom else I got wrong in addition to Moldova, hopefully Ireland)

G. Cyprus – 6 for 7

H. Greece – 7 for 8

I. Russia – 8 for 9 (and the audience goes wild!)

Either Ireland or Switzerland will get left behind, I’m guessing it’s the latter of the two, unfortunately

J. Ireland – 9 for 10 (yuck!)

 

Final Thoughts:

First, El talks like a Kindergarten teacher.  I don’t know if it’s intentional or just his accent, but it’s a bit annoying.

 

Second, I was 9 for 10 with the pleasant surprise of Albania making it through to the Final and the unpleasant correct prediction of Ireland moving through.  The song is weak, the performance is weak, and I hope it gets crushed on Saturday.

 

Other pleasant surprises: Belgium was surprising good.  I was not expecting much from since the song was so lackluster, but Iris gave a great performance.  She gets my award for best on the night!  Also, three out of the five non-English entries (Romania, Russia, and Albania) made it through – good for them!

 

Drawing for starting positions for the Final

Romania – 14, so, we can expect at least a decent placing for them

Moldova – 26, lucky man, that will definitely give him a boost.  Maybe even top 15.

Iceland – 7, <insert sad trombone sound here> that might just slay there chance of contending for victory, but it will open the door for Spain (and possibly even Italy)

Hungary – 2, looks like Hungary will be back in the bottom five with that spot

Denmark – 15, dare I say a Top Ten finish for Ms. Samay, depends on who’s around her, I think

Albania – 3, well, she did say she’s just happy to be there and have the chance to sing again

Cyprus – 8, she still has an outside chance of winning, but should still finish Top Ten

Greece – 16, Top Ten is assured for the Hellenic Republic

Russia – 6, they come right before Iceland, which might actually help Iceland’s chances

Ireland – 23, blah! now they will get a placing much higher than they deserve

What we know now:

1. United Kingdom

2. Hungary

3.

4.

5.

6. Russia

7. Iceland

8. Cyprus

9. France

10. Italy

11.

12.

13. Azerbaijan

14. Romania

15. Denmark

16. Greece

17.

18.

19. Spain

20. Germany

21.

22.

23. Ireland

24.

25.

26. Moldova