Live Commentary on the Night

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.


Notes on the Eurovision Song Contest 2010 – Oslo

The Grand Final

*Remember, I write these live, so there will be a bunch of typos.  I will edit for readability over the next week.*

So, having two semi-finals adds an interesting dynamic to the Contest, made more noticeable this year with so many entries being equally as good.  I find that I have had a lot of time to grow close with the Tuesday finalists, and am still working on building a relationship with those from Thursday, and I still don’t know the pre-qualified acts!  Nevertheless, I much prefer the two semi-final format to the one semi + 14 pre-qualifiers.  The only country that has earned the right to live off the previous year’s merits is the defending champion.

Even though the past three Contests have all had strong fields, there were always just two-three strong favorites.  This year, there were seven going into ESC week, with five of those remaining and two more being added going into the Final.  While Azerbaijan remains the bookies favorite to win, the press is split between Azerbaijan and Germany.  Despite this, Denmark and Israel both remain atop fan polls and forum discussions.  Meanwhile, a few bookies and members of the press are beginning to throw out Belgium and Albania as new favorites given the demise of Croatia and Slovakia.  One went so far as to say that, Belgium’s qualification in and of itself is enough to demonstrate that Tom Dice has what it takes to take the nation to number one.  While no one is outright choosing Armenis, it remains in the top three~four of just about every poll, no other country can say that.

Pre-Contest Predictions:

10. Greece (up-tempo; garnered bonus points for being in Greek)

9. Ireland (former winner; this year’s best ballad)

8. Belgium (because I couldn’t really imagine anyone else in the Top Ten)

7. Iceland (still picking up steam in popularity; up-tempo)

6. Turkey (awesome song; radically different from the others; largest Diaspora)

5. Armenia (popular song; large Diaspora)

4. Azerbaijan (popular song; huge PR campaign; but won’t be able to overcome running order position without an amazing a transcendent performance)

3. Denmark (mass appeal; potential to be passionate or lame, it’s up to the singers to choose)

2. Israel (popular among fans; passion-filled performance; will be able to woo those not connected to the ESC forums and such)

Winner: German (highly popular, wide-spread support from the experts; quirky; Lena just needs to overcome her nerves)

Now, onwards to the show!

Opening Act: I loved the walk through ESC history in the video and the greetings from each country on the screen.  I wonder why they cut out the first verse of Fairytale.  And host broadcaster NRK said that they couldn’t afford to hire the Frikar Dance Company for the opening this year, I guess this is surprise number one (we were promised a lot of surprises to come throughout the show by NRK).  I am also a little disappointed with the lack of La Det Swinge and Nocturne, though.  Oh well, I guess nothing is perfect.

Azerbaijan: Notice how they don’t show the disputed region of Azerbaijan, tonight, they hid even more of it than on Thursday.  I really don’t like that thing she does when she says “Drip drop, drip drop;” it does not fit with the lyrics of the song at all.  I like her lighted dress though – did it glow on Thursday?  It was pitchy and she did not convey all the emotions I had expected her to, so I am a little disappointed with it.  It will still be Top Ten, but I cannot see it winning after that.

Spain: I like this song, but it doesn’t as much emphasis on the music as I thought it would for a waltz.  Hey!  That dancer looks funny…oh, wait, I think it is a random guy who ran out on stage…yep, there’s security.  Any bonus points Spain earned with Daniel singing right on through the random guy appearing on stage, it lost by having the backing singer be so prominent.  This song will finish mid-teens.

Norway: Okay, this is my third time watching the Contest via the Internet, you would think that the EBU would realize by now that a crap-ton of people are watching and the bandwidth they have is not sufficient!  I missed half of the Norwegian entry!  From what I heard, it was good, but not captivating.  Sorry Norway, no repeat for you (which is good, given that NRK said that they wouldn’t have the money to host two years in a row).

Moldova: Why does the song keep skipping?  It’s like a dirty DVD or something.  This is the same as it was on Tuesday.  It was good, but nothing special.  Expect another mid-teens finish for Moldova.

Cyprus: Okay, why is Jon Lilygreen showing his stomach to Europe?  This is better than it was on Thursday, and that should be the goal, improvement!  While it is better, I don’t think he was quite captivating enough to capture votes away from other, stronger entries – expect an undeserved low placing for Cyprus.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: I was unimpressed by this song on Tuesday, and only disliked it more when the singer Brojic said that he went only 70% in the Semi-Final.  The studio version is tolerable.  It is better than it was on Tuesday, but it will still be a shame if this song gets anything over twenty (granted, there could be a lot of crappy performances to come, let’s hope not!!!).

Belgium: What a reception from the crowd for our newest favorite!  But as I have learned many, many times, the reaction of the crowd in the arena is absolutely no indication of the Final position of the song.  As Psyched Loupes pointed out, this song’s main competition is against Cyprus, and I think Belgium just won, by a lot.  The voting throughout the entire show will help this song, as I think a lot of people will begin voting for it immediately, whereas before, the soft, intimate performance would have been lost among the bright and shiny ones…

Serbia: Despite his…unique…appearance, Milan Stankvic has a really good voice and seems like a really cool guy (he’s also our fourth X-Factor/Star Factory/Idol singer tonight).  It’s still entertaining and catchy.  It still does not deserve to be anywhere close to the Top Ten.

Belarus: It’s still pretty and still pretty boring.  At least all five are in tune this time.  I expect a last place for poor, well-meaning Belarus this year.

Ireland: So awesome; truly Irish balladeering at its best.  This will get a lot of votes from those nostalgic for the Contests of the early nineties.  And, had this song been entered then, it would have won, easilly.  Unfortunately for the Emerald Isle, this is not 1993, but I would still expect a Top Ten finish for Mrs. Kavanaugh.

Greece: Exciting and electrifying.  Expect a Top Ten finish.

United Kingdom: Oh my, isn’t Josh just adorable?  This would be many times better without the backing vocals (or at least with them turned down); they are much too loud and someone is out of tune!  As I said on Thursday, this song is a bit old fashioned, but it is hardly the only one that harrows back to the late eighties/early nineties.  AHHH!!!!  Josh, when you miss a note that big, just stop singing, regroup and hit the next one, otherwise you will miss both big notes, as you just did.  Whatever votes that were won with Josh’s looks and adorable performance and the songs catchiness, were loss with the last note.  What would have been somewhere between 17-22 is now competing for the bottom spot with Belarus.  Though, you can’t blame Josh, how would you feel if everywhere you looked was more negative comments about you, your song, and your performance.  And he had more coming his way than any other country’s performers (except for maybe Slovenia).

Georgia: Not bad, it was slightly better than on Thursday.  I expect Georgia will return to its home in the high teens of the Final scoreboard.

Turkey: I don’t know why maNga was TRT’s third choice, this song is awesome!  It most definitely will be in the Top Ten.

Albania: Joining Belgium as one of the press’ new favorites, albeit less noticeably, Albania hopes to once again crack the Top Ten.  Is it just me, or does Juliana Pasha sound like Eartha Kitt and Dionne Warwick?  I really like this song, but expect it to finish in only the mid-teens.

Iceland: How disappointing, this is not as good as it was on Tuesday, come on Hera, I thought you were better than that!  If Belgium and Cyprus were in competition against each other, so is Iceland and Albania, and Bjork just ceded the victory to Pasha.  Expect Albania to be in the Top Ten and Iceland to linger in the teens.

Ukraine: I am still shocked this song moved through to the Final, I just wouldn’t expect Europe to like it.  With that said Alyosha knows how to work the stage, even when she is all by herself.  She sings with passion and emotion.  Expect a mid-teens finish for Ukraine.

France: What a high energy song!  I am also glad to see that France took the risk of putting an African on stage, it definitely leads in not being afraid to show the far reaching effects of it colonizing past.  I think it will finish low teens, but will become one of the biggest songs of the summer.

Romania: Still fun and bouncy.  Still not good enough to be in the Top Ten in my opinion.  Expect low teens finish, despite this.

Russia: My personal favorite.  The pitch problems from Tuesday seemed to have been addressed, but I think this song has too many detractors to really succeed.  Expect high teens (15-20) for Russia this year.

Armenia:  Good.  I missed most of it due to technical problems, unfortunately.  Not that it really matters, it will be Top Ten.

Germany: The highly anticipated German entry.  Awesome!  I really liked this song, and, for now, am sticking with my decision to make it my pick to win the Contest this year.

Portugal: Honestly, this should take Azerbaijan’s place as a favorite.  The singer is better, the song is more moving, the music is more inspiring, and the performance is much more passion-filled.  Unfortunately, this act suffers from the affliction of being from Portugal, so expect yet another 15th placing for the country.

Israel: Oh no, his voice cracked, but no worries, I think Harel Skaat just won the Contest for Israel.  The passionate performance and the stirring lyrics combine to make a perfect ESC entry.  Good job!

Denmark: It was during the first refrain of the second round performance when I thought that this song would move to the final round and after the key change after the bridge that I thought that it had a good chance to win the Danish ticket.  They did not get anywhere close to that performance; Chanée & N’Evergreen have disappointed me tonight.  Sorry Denmark, this duo did not bring the magic for you.

What’s this?  Spain is performing for a second time?  Because of the crazed fan?  Okay, let’s see what happens…

Spain: I checked the website, due to the disturbance caused by the fan, Spain received the opportunity to perform again after the last entry.  I think he was better this time, but only marginally.  Regardless of how Spain finishes, I predict this will be equally as discussed as the eventual winner, if not more so.

My Top Ten from Tonight’s Performances What I Think the Top Ten will be
1. Israel 1. Israel (incredibly moving performance; just great in every way)
2. Ireland 2. Germany
3. Germany 3. Azerbaijan
4. Turkey 4. Belgium
5. Portugal 5. Denmark
6. Georgia 6. Armenia
7. Belgium 7. Ireland
8. Russia 8. Greece
9. Ukraine 9. Turkey
10. Spain 10. Albania

More Predictions:

11-17: Serbia, Ukraine, Portugal, Norway, Georgia, Romania, Iceland

18-25: France, United Kingdom, Belarus, Cyprus, Russia, Spain, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Moldova

I love the emphasis on history throughout the three shows, but why was the 1991 not mentioned when they were talking about close finishes.  Yes, 1969 had four winners, but 1991 was the only year that the tie-break procedures were used.

Interval Act: The highly anticipated Interval Act, I can’t wait to see it!  That…was…awesome!!!  I loved how they were able to mix the actual arena, the flash mobs, the live, in-home cameras, and the annual outdoor gathering in Hamburg (event the green room).  Best Interval Act I’ve seen since Birmingham 1998.  I am just so happy by that, how lovely, truly, truly lovely!

The Voting:

ü  Romania: 12 to Denmark – oh, dear, maybe the Danes will take it.  Let’s see.

ü  Ireland: another 12 to Denmark from a country that traditionally doesn’t vote for it.

ü  Germany: Why is the crowd singing the riff from Seven Nation Army?  12 to Belgium!  I just realized that the jury may ruin my predictions!

ü  Serbia: Mixed reaction from the audience about that ill-gotten 12.

ü  Albania: 12 to Greece, surprise, surprise.  The 10 to Germany is a little unexpected.

ü  Turkey: I would have thought that Armenia would have gotten more points.  Why did they show Belgium for Azerbaijan’s 12?  And no points for Cyprus?

ü  Croatia: No big surprises, maybe the fact that Bosnia & Herzegovina got fewer points than Turkey.

ü  Poland: No surprises

ü  BiH: no surprises

ü  Finland: 8 points to France?  hmm… No surprise for the 12 to Germany.

ü  Slovenia: Surprising that Serbia and BiH got so few points. 12 to Denmark, hmmm…

ü  Estonia: With 12 countries reporting, I am calling the Contest for Germany.

ü  Russia: 12 to Armenia; yay, Belarus won’t get nul pointes.

ü  Portugal: gee, I wonder where their 12 is going…oh wow, Spain, I never would have guessed

ü  Azerbaijan: No big surprises.

Let’s look at the board.  Germany has a strong lead over Turkey/Denmark who are in 2/3 place. Israel is floating around in the mid-teens, Ireland at the bottom!  What is up with this?

ü  Greece: It’s been a long time since they were able to give 12 points to Cyprus

ü  Iceland: no surprises

ü  Denmark: hmmm, Iceland and Norway are quite low.  Germany strengthens its lead, this time of Belgium.

ü  France: whoa, the French are all over the place, big points to Portugal and Serbia, crazy!

ü  Spain: so few for Portugal?

Recap of top 5: Romania, Turkey, Denmark, Belgium, Germany – The Germans have a hefty 38 point lead going into the halfway point.

ü  Slovakia: like last year, this is a competition for number two.  Belgium, Turkey, and Denmark are fighting it out!

ü  Bulgaria: no real surprises, except the complete blanking of Romania and Moldova

ü  Ukraine: another 12 for Azerbaijan.  Do I smell a late comeback?

ü  Latvia: I’m glad this guy likes the sound of his voice, it allows me time to catch-up.  These votes are going crazy fast!  No surprises in the results

ü  Malta: Chiara!  I guess she doesn’t have to worry about her outfit, but some thought if could have gone into it.  Biggest surprise, no points for the UK.

ü  Norway:  Only 8 for Denmark, well I guess the 12 is going to Germany.  Yep.  I know Tom Dice is cute, but they shouldn’t keep showing him when other countries get 12 points, that’s just rude.

ü  Cyprus: And the Greek/Cypriot lovefest continues

ü  Lithuania: 8 to Spain, hmm… 12 points to Georgia?  What?  Okay, that’s nice, just highly unexpected.

ü  Belarus: no surprises

ü  Switzerland: Both Turkey and Belgium are lower than I expected.

ü  Belgium: Only 10 for the Germans, where will the 12 go?  Greece!  Interesting…  No points for France, interesting…

ü  United Kingdom: Whoa!  Only 7 for Ireland?

ü  The Netherlands: no real surprises

ü  Israel: no surprises

ü  Macedonia: low points for Serbia and BiH.

ü  Moldova: gee…I wonder where their 12 is going…Romania.

ü  Georgia: Even the speaker was confused by only 10 to Armenia and the 12 to Belarus.  The biggest shock in this year’s voting.

ü  Sweden: Little points for Norway, hmmm…

ü  Armenia: no surprises

And the winner is…Germany!  For the second straight year, the winner gives a thorough whopping of the second place entrant.  This year, Lena garnered a massive 76 points, making Germany 2010 second on the all time list of Margins of Victory (six points ahead of UK1997).

Final Thoughts: So Germany returns to the Winner’s Circle, hurrah!  It seems only fitting that the country with the most participations wins the 55th Contest.  Like in 2008, I changed my opinion of who would win.  I’ve been choosing Germany to win up until after all 25 performances.  Oh well, congratulations Germany!  I look forward to next year’s Contest in Berlin…Hamburg…Bonn, wherever the Germans decide to host it!  What’s amazing is that she was a no one before the Contest; she auditioned for Unster Star fur Oslo on a whim (eurovision.tv reported that she didn’t even tell her friends she was auditioning because she figured she would be booted in one of the earlier rounds) and won, not only Unster but the entire ESC.  She just finished her final exams for high school!

Lena’s triumph set the Contest in yet another new direction.  This year’s Contest definitely had a propensity toward younger singers.  The Top Ten’s average age had to be below thirty; Germany, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine all have singers under this bar.  Not only does there seem to be a hunger for youth, but a rejection of the past, look at the reception that the UK, Estonian, and Dutch entries got for their retro sound, not to mention Ireland’s low placing despite having a classic Irish ESC ballad.  Expect next year’s Contest to have even more young faces and more contemporary music.  I am very interested to see the jury vs. televoting breakdown for the Contest.

While this wasn’t the best Eurovision, it was the most evenly matched in a long time.  More on this will come in the next post when I discuss the results and hand out awards.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Contest.  Norway did a lot with a tight, tight budget.  I applaud them for such an entertaining show, despite the technical and security glitches.  I am a little sad that the Contest is going to be swinging away from heartfelt ballads for the next couple of years, but that is life.  I look forward to next year’s Contest in Germany.  I am happy that a Big Four country won (and another got 11th place – France), it will go a long way to shutting up people who whine about the West’s poor results in recent years.  I wonder, will that mean that next year’s Final will just have the Big Four pre-qualify, as one of them is the winner, or will runner-up Turkey get to prequalify, too, as it is the highest placing non-Big Four country?  Nah!  This isn’t 2005, next year’s Final will just have 24 countries.  Or…maybe…they might create a new wildcard, the song with the most points between the two Semi-Finals will get the twentieth spot.  Haha, yeah right.  I think the only way ESC 2011 will have 25 countries in the Final is if Italy decides to return to the Contest.  With that said…I can’t wait to see the 24 songs that will be battling for next year’s crown.

I want to say one more thing, I think that Azerbaijan will win within the next couple of years, as this young, modern genre seems to be the country’s specialty.


Notes on the ESC 2010 – Oslo: Second Semi-Final

Semi-Final Two:

Pre-Show Predictions for countries that will move forward: Armenia, Israel, Denmark, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Romania, Ireland, Croatia, Turkey, Cyprus

Opening Act: Same video as last time, boo.  The hosts’ outfits improved from last night to tonight.  Therefore, we should expect great things on Saturday!

Lithuania: What a great way to start the night!  Pop-ska, cheesy choreography, and a well timed costume change!  I really liked this one, too bad it won’t make the Final.

Armenia: The first of several favorites tonight.  I thought this was a slow song, guess not.  I like it, though.  It’s not as moving as I think it should be due to the tempo of the song.  However, Eva has a nice voice, the staging is perfect (despite the creepy tree), there is no reason this should not move through to Saturday.

Israel: Is it me, or did Harel Skaat look quite nervous during the postcard?  The second favorite to perform tonight, and another shoo-in for the Final.  I think Skaat has a lovely voice, I really do, but all of his songs sound the exact same!  Essentially, a pretty song that is sung very well, great staging, and an overall moving performance, well done Harel!

Denmark: Whoa!  Go Danes!  And the streak of bookie favorites extends to three.  Chanee and N’Evergreen merely needed a decent performance to make it through, and they did slightly more than that.  If they want to carry the day on Saturday, they need to show the heart and passion they did during the Second Round of the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, otherwise it will be another near miss for Denmark.

Switzerland:  I see why it has such a strong and vocal following.  And I also see why it will probably linger behind in the Semis.  It’s up-tempo and kind of fun, but it is forgettable.  Sorry Switzerland, hopefully we’ll still see you next year!

Sweden: The official website kept saying Sweden would have light staffs, those are just glow sticks!  The song is alright, it sounded like it was too low for the singer.  It will pass through because it is Sweden, but expect another disappointing finish for the Land of ABBA.

Azerbaijan: Safura is showing herself to be the weakest singer among the favored acts.  The song is alright, it will definitely make the Final.  However, like last year, Azerbaijan’s song is too American and too dispassionate to win.  She will definitely have to step up her game if she hopes to carry that microphone trophy back to Baku.

Ukraine: This is so different than anything that the Ukraine has ever done!  A “Call to Action” song dressed up as a rock ballad.  It’s actually not that bad of a song, and doesn’t deserve a lot of the crap people say about it (on a musical level, as you recall, the crap I say about it is more based on the controversy surrounding its selection).  I am tentatively changing my vote and saying that it will go through.

The Netherlands:  One of the most talked about entries this year!  This is so catchy and fun; why do people hate this song?  By no stretch of the imagination is it the only old-fashioned thing this year.  It’s so cherry; I hope it goes through just to spite all of its critics!

Romania: I really like this song, but it is probably the most overrated song this year.  It will move through, but it will probably finish in only the lower teens (11-14) on Saturday.  I do really like the two sided piano, though.

Slovenia:  This was a great concept that was very poorly executed.  First, it should have just been Ansambel Roka Zlindra, without any vocal input from Kalamari.  Second, the polka parts should be expunged, and it should just be like how the refrain is, folk sound with rock music underneath.  No way, no way, no way will this song make it through to the Final.

Ireland: This is what made Ireland the winningest country in the Contest; beautiful ballads like this.  She will definitely make the Final, every previous winner is almost guaranteed this (and past favorites – Chiara, Sakis Rouvas, Dima Bilan, etc…).  Mrs. Kavanaugh merely needs to tweak some spots vocally, and nothing that will be able to stop Ireland from returning to the Top Ten.

Bulgaria: Are those male dancers oiled up enough, I think I can see my reflection on one of their shoulders, and I am watching online!  The Bulgarians took a page out of Greece’s book by sending a generic pop song with an awesome dance routine.  Problem is, this song has a weird ending, and doesn’t come from Greece.  Expect it to linger behind in the Semis.

Cyprus: Another strong with a strong fan base.  I see why, it’s a captivating song.  It’s a shame so many heavy hitters were stacked up tonight, it forces these medium songs to fight it out for two spots.  Cyprus competes for the golden ticket against Sweden, Georgia, Ukraine, Lithuania, even Bulgaria and the Netherlands for one of those spots not taken by a sure bet (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Turkey, Croatia, Ireland, Romania, and Israel).

Croatia: The final favorite of the night.  Wow!  This is awesome.  Feminnem is in it to win it this year.  I can definitely see why they are one of the favorites!  I don’t quite understand why they make a heart at the end, since the song is about a woman cheating on her lover; maybe to show remorse and that she is still in love?  We will definitely see this one again, and, depending on its draw and the draw of some other acts, there odds could sky rocket.

Georgia: This is alright.  I really like the choreography and how it interprets the song.  Too bad the song is generally forgettable.  Due the strength of tonight’s competition, I will predict that this will be Georgia’s first time lingering behind in the Semis.

Turkey: As is typical for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the Turkish entry.  It will obviously move through, as the Turkish Diaspora is probably the largest in Europe.  Not to mention that it is just an awesome song and is quite different than all the other entries.

My Top Ten Who I think will be moving through to the Final
1. Israel Armenia
2. Turkey Israel
3. Croatia Azerbaijan
4. Ireland Denmark
5. The Netherlands Turkey
6. Bulgaria Ireland
7. Denmark Romania
8. Lithuania Croatia
9. Cyprus Cyprus
10. Armenia The Netherlands (it will probably be Sweden, but maybe Europe has fallen in love with the happy tune, let’s hope “Sha-la-lie”)

Interval Act: Was that one of the drag queens from Slovenia 2002 in that video with the sound effects choir (playing the part of the flight attendant waling past the main character)?  Oo, Norwegian hip hop dancing.  By the way, that was an awesome Interval Act!  Yay!  They brought back the tiny version of the hosts, and this time with the senior versions, too!

I realized that I didn’t give my opinion of the Big Four and Norway last time from the short clips: Spain – a waltz!  How awesome, definitely the leading candidate to be this year’s dark horse.  Norway – not bad, but i think it wouldn’tbe getting the kind of favor it has if it wasn’t the host country.  UK – so the song is a little corny, it’s Eurovision, songs are allowed to be corny, get over yourselves all you who hate the entry!  In fact, the UK has won and done quite well with corny songs, like Ireland, the BBC has just returned to its wheelhouse.  France – I agree with a comment from the official website, this is going to be a great summer song, especially with the World Cup coming, but it’s not meant for Eurovision.  It will probably finish in the mid-teens.  Germany – this sounds like it’s gonna be an awesome song, I see why it’s a favorite.  It’s quirky but not too eccentric

Songs that Actually Qualified for the Final

  • Georgia (I guess Cyprus is not going to move through)
  • Ukraine (really?  I guess the controversy wasn’t as big a deterrent as I thought it would be, does that mean Sweden isn’t moving through?)
  • Turkey (1 for 3 so far; no surprise here!)
  • Israel (2 for 4 so far; no surprise here, either!)
  • Ireland (3 for 5 so far; yay!  First Irish entry in the Final since 2007)
  • Cyprus (4 for 6 so far; whoa!  I’m happy, but I think another favorite may fall tonight.)
  • Azerbaijan (5 for 7 so far, no surprise, but now things are getting tight!)
  • Romania (6 for 8 so far; it’s official, another favorite will be going Slovakia on the sidelines on Saturday)
  • Armenia (7 for 9 so far; no surprise, let’s see who wins between Croatia and Denmark)
  • Denmark (8 for 10 so far; too much press to fail)

Final Thoughts: Five favorites to win the Contest performed tonight.  Of those five, two came to win, Israel and Croatia.  I get the idea that Harel Skaat (Israel) hit his ceiling tonight and will only decline on Saturday (or at least only maintain), whereas Croatia seemed like they still had a whole lot more to give.  Unfortunately, Croatia will not have a chance to show this; I cannot believe that Croatia failed to move through!  Oh well, such is life at the Eurovision Song Contest.  I am shocked Ukraine moved through, as it is a very off-center song that I wouldn’t think would get much attention in Europe.  Georgia’s success is not a surprise (especially with Azerbaijan and Armenia on the same night), but I don’t know if I think it should be moving on.  Following that, Sweden had a lot of online support, and it failed to go to the Finals.

To recap, a bookie’s favorite (Croatia) failed to progress tonight as well as a fan favorite (Sweden).  Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Denmark all still have some tweaking to do in order to pose a serious threat to Israel, Germany, or Iceland (who I think stand a great chance of winning given its draw in the running order).  I know on Saturday that all of the singers and dancers will up their game tenfold!  I look forward to this year’s Grand Final with much eagerness and anticipation!!!

Looking Ahead to Saturday: So, two favorites have fallen by the wayside, Croatia and Slovakia.  Slovakia was not that big of a surprise, but Croatia, after the press that Feminnem received, the fact that they were returning to the Contest after having a popular song in 2005, and the fact that they were stellar, was a big surprise.  But, such is life.  Denmark, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Israel, and Germany all still remain in the hunt, along with 20 other countries looking for an upset. Since the second semi-final, Belgium and Albania are both strong contenders according to esctoday.  I don’t know how much I buy this.  I honestly think, given the running order, Germany, Iceland, Armenia, Israel, and Denmark are the top entries to beat, with Germany and Denmark being my the two I have the most faith in.  The last three countries to give votes are Georgia (big points to Armenia, medium points to Germany), Sweden (big points to Denmark, medium points to Germany and Armenia), and Armenia (could shoot themselves in the foot by giving medium/big points to Germany and/or Denmark).  This means that we can see a situation similar to 1998 and 2001, when the final countries to give votes determined the winner.

*So, I just read an interesting article on esctoday about the shifting of power in this year’s Contest.  The Nordic countries are held to only three finalists (apparently, it’s the first Final without Sweden since 1976!), and the former-Yugoslav countries are held to only two (Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina).  Meanwhile, Belgium, Ireland, and Cyprus have all returned to the Final after multi-year absences.  So this could mean…well, a few things, actually.  The selection pots are working at lowering rates of diaspora and same geographic bias in voting by splitting up statistically supported voting blocs.  However, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan were all together on Thursday (whereas Greece was by itself on Tuesday) and that whole little “Barely Europe” bloc is quite strong.  Then there’s the idea that all three countries is putting up entries that are far superior (in the majority’s eyes) than anything from those countries in the past few years.  But then, look at Switzerland.  That country has put up its best acts for the last four years running, gained a strong fan base, and lingered behind in the Semis each time.  A post dedicated to the Swiss will be the one of my first after the Contest is over.  One more possible answer, people.  Niamh Kavanaugh is a former winner, so she was pretty much expected to make it to the Final.  Tom Dice and Jon Lilygreen are both cute, young, emotive singers, which plays well with the large teeny bopper (think 8-16 year old girls) that like that sort of thing — and their style speaks to the 16-25 year old population that seems to be really into this acoustic movement that is sweeping into pop music.  I don’t know, but then Sweden would have moved trough with this logic.  Who knows?  What do y’all think?

(A link to the article: http://esctoday.com/news/read/15869)


Notes on the ESC 2010 – Oslo: First Semi-Final

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2010 – OSLO!

It’s finally here!!!  ESC 2010, live from Norway!!!  I am beside myself with excitement.  As always, I will be writing these notes as I am watching the Contest for the first time.  Remember, I have not heard anything more than thirty seconds of each song or seen anything more than one still picture each on the Eurovision website.  I do not mean to offend or hurt anyone or any people with this; I wish only to express my opinion.  As always, your feedback and comments are welcome!  So, shall we begin?

Semi-Final One:

Pre-Contest Predictions for countries to move forward: Iceland, Greece, Albania, Moldova, Slovakia, Belgium, Portugal, Latvia, Russia

Opening Act:  Lovely opening sequence to introduce the concept of sharing the moment!  The stage is a bigger than it had looked in the pictures, hooray.  However, I would have liked to have seen some kind of performance.  I don’t like the “clang” sound that is ringing throughout the opening section before the hosts began speaking.  I am happy to see a Black host; it is very unexpected that there would be one on the ESC stage, regardless of the country, let alone a Scandinavian one.

Postcards: So, this is what was meant by lights being used to create a portion of the postcard in the arena, nifty!  And I like to incorporation of live, on-stage footage.  And I love world flags!  THESE POSTCARDS ARE AWESOME in so many ways!!!

Moldova: Awesome violin, decent sax, the female singer is good, the act would be better without the male singer.  I wouldn’t vote it through on that performance, but, given who they are up against, they probably will performing again on Saturday.

Russia: I am reminded of San Marino 2008 and Switzerland 2009, a really good song – it sounds like something from a musical – but the live vocals leave much to be desired.  Though, his voice improves as the song goes along, especially for that high note.

Estonia: This sounds like some generic 80’s pop song.  Which is appropriate as this stage seems like a retro ESC stage, like something from fifteen-twenty years ago.  It’s funny, what would be typical then is eccentric now.  I really like the camera effect when it spins with the blue dots behind the singer’s head during the refrain.  I like this song – the lyrics, the music (especially the music), even the performance (remember, it’s a song competition, not a talent search!), but it has no shot of passing through to the final.

Slovakia: The first projected top ten song to be performed.  I like the effect of having the singer sing slowly on top of fast music and fast dancing.  I don’t think it has what it takes to get to the Top Ten, so it will be interesting to see what the online comments say.

Finland: What a fun song!  And the duo really seems to be enjoying themselves!  It should move through, it’s folksy, uplifting, and about cherishing relationships and beautiful days, but I worry that Europe will not be as enthused as I.

Latvia: How awkward Aisha looked during the Latvian postcard.  As soon as I learned about this entry, I wondered if the writer team realized that “What for” is not a proper English term (and I’ve never heard “Mr. God” before, either).  I thought Aisha was supposed to be one of the better voices of this Contest, no no!  Or, I at least hope not!  This was also billed as a gospel-esque entry.  The refrain is in this style, but the verses are not nor is Aisha’s voice up to the challenge of gospel singing, at least not tonight.

Serbia: Is it just me, or does the singer look like he is made of plastic?  At least he is happy!  This is definitely true to its “Balkan” title.  I don’t dislike it, but I don’t prefer it.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: I don’t like this.  Maybe the studio version is better?  I cannot see this making the Final.  It’s not poppy enough for pop folks, not rock enough for rock folks, it’s just a middle ground lingerer.

Poland:  Hey!  All you people who whined about the overrepresentation of ballads this year, we are getting our first one at number 9!  Supporters of this song would say that it is the story of a love struck knight trying to convey this love to his wannabe love.  Critics would say that it’s about rape.  I think it is no better or worse than any of the fairy tales or folk stories from Central Europe (Brothers Grimm, HC Andersen, etc…).  It’s an alright song, the performance is better than the lyrics/melody; it actually stands a decent shot of moving through to the Final in my opinion.  Special note – this act features the first jESC singer to perform on the ESC stage, Weroniką Bochat (pol2005), she was the featured backing singer with black hair.

Belgium: I like this.  His voice was shaky at the beginning, but I think it only adds to the genuineness of the performance.  It should be a shoo-in for the Final.

Malta: Oh my goodness; Thea is on fire!  Oh wait, that’s just an oddly placed smoke machine.  The wings, if they have to be used, could have been better utilized for the time they were behind the singer, there were questionable camera angles and choreography.  I don’t think Malta will be performing again in the Final.

Albania:  Okay, this Contest, the staging, the performers, the music, the costuming, it’s all very eighties/early nineties!  The entire Contest this year is retro!  I like this song, and, as you recall, this is the one I listened to by accident.  It is slightly better in English, but I think they could have left it in Albanian and accomplished the same thing.  But listen to that crowd reaction, definitely will be performing again on Saturday.

Greece: One of the most polarizing acts this year; everyone either loves or hates this song.  I like it.  It’s very high energy and once again, Greece sends another well-choreographed number to dance its way into Europe’s hearts.

Portugal: Will Filipa be able to bring Portugal’ reign as “king of most losses” to an end?  Probably not.  But I think this is a pretty little number, though.  It helps that it has a very American sound, and the Filipa is incredibly cute, though I think Portugal will be regulated once more to the mid-teens come Saturday.

Macedonia: Anyone else notice how Skopje was in Cyrillic; did they do that for Belgrade, too?  I don’t understand why everyone hates this song.  Other than the blatantly misogynistic (putting down women for men’s perceived gain) performance, it is one of my favorite entries thus far.  Even the rapping and the overzealous guitar solo don’t ruin the act for me.  Though, they will probably damn the Macedonians to another Semi-Final finish.

Belarus:  Oh no, four of them are perfectly in tune, one of them is not (and it’s neither of the boys)!  It’s amazing, these are five of Belarus’ most prominent rising stars, and they sing about peace and beauty, not love or rivalry or some other passion-producing topic.  Though, this song is so cheesy, I would be afraid to play it to my lactose intolerant friends.  It’s alright, but will probably linger behind in the Semis.

Iceland: The favorite to win the first semi-final (I know, Slovakia is a favorite to win the whole thing, but it’s been going down in the rankings lately while Iceland has been moving up!).  This is great!  And it probably will return Iceland to the top ten on Saturday.

My Top Top on the night: Who I think will be moving through
1. Iceland Iceland
2. Russia Serbia
3. Macedonia Albania
4. Portugal Portugal
5. Greece Greece
6. Estonia Slovakia
7. Finland Latvia (FIN is better, but LAT is more popular)
8. Albania Belgium
9. Belgium Russia
10. Poland Poland (replaces Moldova from pre-show predictions)

The video with the rabid fans…hilarious!!!  The Norwegians most definitely know how to make a great show on a tight budget!

Interval Act: How lovely!  What a great way to incorporate the Contest’s theme.  The video of “Finding Eurpoean people’s voice.” And the funny video clips of “People trying to come to Oslo for the Contest” was also amusing.  And the mini-hosts, so adorable!

The Ten that Actually Made the Final

  • Bosnia & Herzegovina (this is a travesty, but not a big surprise)
  • Moldova (d’oh!  I guess Poland will not be moving through)
  • Russia (1/3 so far; yay, it’s a great song, very 70’s)
  • Greece (2/4 so far; it’s a foot stomper from Greece)
  • Portugal (3/5 so far; a well deserved qualification!)
  • Belarus (WHOA!!!  this is a shocker!)
  • Serbia (4/7 so far; it’s not terrible and it’s catchy as all get out)
  • Belgium (5/8 so far; their first qualification from the Semis (in 2004 they pre-qualified), yay!)
  • Albania (6/9 so far; nice up tempo number, no surprise at all)
  • Iceland (7/10 on the night! Good job Hera!)

Final Thoughts

Two things: One: Never trust the bookies — so much for Slovakia being a favorite to win.  I can’t wait to see the results of the televoting and jury.  Two, I guess Hera is the magic touch for Iceland – she did backing vocals for both of the two previous Iceland that have qualified for the Final, 2008 – It’s My Life & 2009 – Is it True?, the latter of which was runner-up and set a record for points achieved by Iceland.

The “Nordic’s Knot” on the final that developed over the past two years has come undone.  This will be the first time that all five Nordic countries will not be in the Final since 2007.  Which is unfortunate, as Finland had a s great song and deserved to be in the Final.

Overall, a great show!  I don’t fully agree with the results.  Finland should be going to the Final and Bosnia & Herzegovina should not be.  Belarus is pretty and I don’t dislike the song, but Poland and Macedonia both had better songs in my opinion.  The important thing is that Belgium did make it through, as there was a lot of pressure on Tom Dice to turn around the country’s recent misfortunes and qualify, so good for him!  Overall, I feel bad for good songs like Portugal, Albania, Belarus, and Moldova who will be pushed to the bottom of the scoreboard on Saturday by the superior qualifiers from Thursday night and the highly anticipated pre-qualified acts (Germany, Norway, and Spain).


Notes on the 2009 Contest in Moscow

Once again, this was written live, as I am watching the contest.  The Semi-Finals were written live with the contest, but I had to watch the Final later as I had social obligations during the day (as the Contest comes on at three in the afternoon for me).  I had someone else access the site for me so that I could not see who won ahead of seeing the Contest.

Pre-Show Predictions

I don’t mind taking a step out on a limb and making a few predictions prior to the show on who I think will be going on and eventually win.  Like last year, I am using various polls and bookies sites from around the web.

From the first semi-final: Belarus, Sweden, Armenia, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, Iceland, Macedonia, Portugal, Malta

From the second semi-final: Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Slovenia, Azerbaijan, Greece, Lithuania, Albania, Ukraine, the Netherlands

Top Ten Prediction: Russia, United Kingdom, Norway, Ukraine, Turkey, Israel, Switzerland, Malta, Sweden, Lithuania

Shortlist of Victors (in order of how much I believe in them): Malta, Norway, Ukraine, Sweden, United Kingdom

First Semi-Final

Montenegro: Just Get Out of My Life Andrea Demirović

Like last year’s Montenegrin entry which led off the contest, this was a nice way of starting off the contest, but honestly, no chance of moving through, and look, it didn’t!

Czech Republic: Aven Romale Gipsy.cz

BLAH!  This is entertaining, but once again, I expect the Czech Republic to be at the bottom.  I mean, don’t Europeans generally dislike Gypsies not named Carmen?

Belgium: Copycat Patrick Ouchène

I must say, the huge stage allows for a lot of awesome LED work.  This song wasn’t bad, even though it was in the style of Elvis.  I don’t think it will go through, but it was entertaining none the less.

Belarus: Eyes That Never Lie Petr Elfimov

If Diaspora and neighbor voting were to come into play, it would most definitely be for this song.  It’s okay, but not really worthy of the Final.

Sweden: La Voix Malena Ernman

I really like her dress, her upper-body blends into the background, and the bottom part looks like it’s flowing.  Whoa, what was that gurgling sound she made?  It won’t hurt her tonight, but Saturday it may be the difference between top five and top fifteen.

Armenia: No Par (Jan Jan) Inga and Anush

It sounds like something from Turkey – so naturally, I love it.  It’s dark and slightly spooky.  It will probably be strong enough to continue Armenia’s dominance, and land them once again in the Top Ten on Saturday.

Andorra: La Teva Decisió (Get a Life) Susanne Georgi

This entry is okay, but once again, Andorra will not progress to the Final, despite their use of an internationally known star.  Maybe next year will be their year…

Switzerland: The Highest Heights Lovebugs

A nice soft rock number from the Swiss in the Keane/Fray tradition.  Like San Marino last year, due to the singer’s voice, this song may take a few listens to really appreciate.  It might benefit from the fact that two more countries make it through than don’t.  But it will depend on the strength of acts following it, particularly Bulgaria, Macedonia, Finland, and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Turkey: Düm Tek Tek Hadise

Unlike her bff (best friend forever) Kate Ryan, Hadise chose to compete with a song that sounds just like rest of her successful singles.  How smart of her.

Israel: There Must Be Another Way Noa and Mira Awad

I really like this, it’s upbeat, and inspirational.  I like Come Dance with Me a lot more, but this is great, and the message alone will probably get them to Saturday.

Bulgaria: Illusion Krassimir Avramov

Countertenor = spooky!  And unlike Azerbaijan last year, this guy isn’t nearly as attractive or charismatic.  I see this song not progressing pass tonight.

Iceland: Is It True? Yohanna

Dubbed this year’s “dark horse,” I am a little disappointed with this.  While this is a great song and performance, the website billed Yohanna as a soul singer, but she sounds like any other pure-singing pop artist, along the lines of LeAnne Rimes or Dusty Springfield.  She should be a shoo-in for Saturday, but it all depends on her performance then.  Like Sweden, I think she has the possibility of being top five or top fifteen.

Macedonia: Neshto shto ke ostane Next Time

This song isn’t much, pretty forgettable actually.  It has a very nineties feel to it as well.  I think it will move through simply because 10 out of 18 move through, but it will be stomped in the final when it goes up against the superior pre-qualified and Thursday night acts.

Romania: The Balkan Girls Elena Gheorghe

Well, I can think of five countries that will vote for this song tonight, hmm…they all seem to be from the same region of Europe….  I think I would like this more as a dance number that emphasized the music more than the singer than as this indiscriminate pop song.  Another forgettable performance, Switzerland’s chances get better and better…

Finland: Lose Control Waldo’s People

Ooh!  Fire twirlers!  Usually rap/spoken word is the kiss of death in this Contest.  But this song has been getting so much press…I don’t know, the song isn’t bad, and provides some much needed pep after a long string of slower acts.  And who doesn’t like the idea of helping homelessness?  I’m not sure, I’m on the fence about this one.

Portugal: Todas as Ruas do Amor Flor-de-Lis

How colorful!  What a pleasant entry!  I hope that it moves through, but I don’t think that it will.  But I hope it does.  It is one of those songs that one can’t help but smile when listening to it.

Malta: What If We Chiara

Chiara, Chiara, Chiara!  No, you are better than this!  Despite this not being one of her stronger performances, I stand by my earlier prediction when I said that as soon as she won the Maltese selection special, she had her hole punched through to the Final.  I will say, though, this is her best outfit out of the three she has worn in competition, but the strong is not as strong as Angel.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Bistra Voda Regina

I like this, I didn’t think I was going to, but I did.  This will most likely move through to the Final, it’s stirring and emotional. – Did you notice the people chanting “Malta!” after their performance, though?

My favorites on the night:

1. Armenia

2. Sweden

3. Portugal

4. Bosnia & Herzegovina

5. Switzerland

Who I think will progress on to the Grand Final:

1. Sweden

2. Armenia

3. Turkey

4. Iceland

5. Macedonia

6. Israel

7. Portugal

8. Malta

9. Bosnia & Herzegovina

10. Switzerland OR Finland (Not both!)

Results:

1. Turkey (big surprise there)

2. Sweden (another shocker)

3. Israel (yay!  Go songs about peace!  I was really hoping that they would go through; wouldn’t it be great if Israel continued to send Arab artists?)

4. Portugal (yay!  happy songs deserve to go through)

5. Malta (didn’t I say that she was going, this semi-final performance was a mere warm-up exercise – and from the way it sounded, she needed it)

6. Finland (there’s goes Switzerland’s chances)

7. Bosnia & Herzegovina (another good choice)

8. Romania (WHOA!  Where did that come from?  Those aforementioned five countries I suppose)

9. Armenia (yay, spooky sisters!)

10. Iceland (again, not a surprise…it looks like this dark horse has legs!  I wonder, given the fact that this country essentially just collapsed from mismanagement, if they win, would they have the money to host it?)

General Comments

Hosts: These are definitely the JV hosts, now I see why they are bringing in new folks for Saturday.  Not that these two are bad, but I’ve never seen a host have to stop and read the cards in the middle of hosting.  Let’s hope she’s a bit more fluid on Thursday!  Haha!  Wow, they’ve had two dress rehearsals, one of which was earlier today, and they still weren’t sure how to start the voting together?!  Putin cannot be happy with this.

Postcards: I think the cityscapes are of the country, not Russia, right?  I felt like I saw that famous bridge in Sweden, but that’s really the only landmark I could make out.  I guess I have to brush up on my sightseeing guides from lesser traveled countries.  I was wondering if they would incorporate the Miss World pictures, apparently they did!  Aren’t computers great?  I do wonder, if Kosovo had gotten EBU status and competed, if their “beauty” would have looked like a fat man, just to spite them, or do you think that they would have been fair?  Same for Georgia, would they have had one of those high-maintenance, controlling looking beauties to demonstrate that Russia thinks that they’re self-centered ingrates?

Greenroom: Why are the greenroom hosts always such cheesy fast-talkers?!  Why can’t we have better greenroom personalities?

Interval Act: I thoroughly enjoyed the interval act.  It was a massive male military choir and drummers paired with a gypsy dance troupe (oh, the irony!).  It was quite entertaining, they sung what I can only assume to be classical-icized Russian folk songs.   And look at this, former pop superstars and the Russian ESC 2003 representatives T.a.T.u shows up, and has the military choir sing backing vocals for them!  While I think all five pre-qualifiers are really great and that the Big Four will all do better than they have been recently, I think that only France and Spain have what it takes to win based off of those preview clips.

Generally Speaking:  This reminds me of the 1998 contest.  I like every, or just about every, song but I don’t really love any of them.  There’s a lot of greatness this year, but awesomeness is scarce!  If I had to guess, than I would say that either Bosnia & Herzegovina or Romania was the jury’s selection, and they probably displaced either Switzerland or Macedonia.

Second Semi-Final

Croatia: Lijepa Tena Igor Cukrov ft. Andrea Šušnjara

Is this seriously the first costume change of the contest?  I feel like I had to have missed one in the first semi-final, even though I’ve seen it like, three times already.  Anyway, a pretty song with a very disappointing performance, more practice is needed!  This better not move through, despite the fact that I think it will get a lot of plays on my iPod.

Ireland: Et Cetera Sinéad Mulvey and Black Daisy

Not bad, a typical girl rock number.  The internet polls predict a poor outcome for this song, but I don’t believe that Ireland will miss the final two years in a row (which would be a first, by the way).

Latvia: Probka Intars Busulis

Probably one of the best comedic songs in ESC history, he has a great voice and the act is entertaining.  I don’t know how this one will play out, I think it depends on some of the other border acts, Serbia, Cyrpus, Denmark, and Estonia.  Though, right now, I am feeling positive about this one.

Serbia: Cipela Marko Kon and Milaan

Yay for funky accordion!  I’m on the fence about this one, too!

Poland: I Don’t Wanna Leave Lidia Kopania

This will not move through due to a poor vocal performance (though, the judges rate the second dress-rehearsal, not the live performance, so if she was amazing in rehearsal, she might still make it to Saturday).

Norway: Fairytale Alexander Rybak

Yay for fiddlin’ Norwegians.  I can’t seem to recall what happened the last time Norway sent a violin player…maybe you could refresh my memory…. 😉  I will say, for the favorite, his singing isn’t all that great.  On Saturday, his vocals will have to be much stronger if he hopes to wrestle the trophy away from Chiara, Patricia Kaas, or Sakis.

Cyprus: Firefly Christina Metaxa

I don’t know if she’s dating a writer or what, but the website constantly talked about this song and how pretty it is, and how pretty Christina is, how sweet it was that her brother wrote the song for her, how she is the youngest person this year, etc…  Maybe it’s like professional athletes, the ones who are the nicest to the press get the most coverage.  Anyway, this song didn’t have much hope coming into tonight, and she most definitely did not help her case with that vocal performance.  All she can do is hope that her rehearsal was strong enough to impress the judges.

Slovakia: Let’ tmou Kamil Milulčik and Nela Pocisková

Why does Slovakian sound so angry when it is sung?  Another pretty song that must rest on the jury’s involvement, their vocal performance (especially the female) is not up to par.  What a shame, like Croatia, Poland, and Cyprus, this was a pretty song that was not justly served by its performers.

Denmark: Believe Again Brinck

Go Denmark!  After the first eight songs, this one better progress to the Final and complete the Nordic family.

Slovenia: Love Symphony Quartissimo ft. Martina Majerle

I’ve been looking forward to this song ever since I learned that there was a group called “Quartissimo” playing a song entitled Love Symphony in the Slovene national selection program.  This song sounds like a sexed up Nocturne.  A little disappointing when gauged against my excitement, but I think it will move through.

Hungary: Dance with Me Zoli Ádok

Oh yes, this was Hungary’s third choice.  I’m sure it will do very well. Yeah, now I know why it was MTV’s third choice, and am wondering why it was that high.  It’s not bad, and I am sure I will be dancing to it in the not so distant future, but it will be stomped come voting time (at least it should be).

Azerbaijan: Always AySel and Arash

This popular song comes from the Land of Fire (how ironic that “snow boots” is the term paired up with this country)!  Apparently, it was supposed to just be AySel, but Arash decided that since he wrote and composed the song, he deserved to perform it, too.  He also cited the fact that he was already a big international star as well.  I don’t know, I think I would have like it better had she performed alone as originally planned, though, that’s not to say that her vocals weren’t flawed, too.  This song had too much press coming in not to progress to Saturday.

Greece: This Is Our Night Sakis Rouvas

He could come out, fall flat on his face, and walk off the stage and progress to the Final.  Like Tuesday for Chiara, this is a mere warm-up for the real thing for Sakis.  Obviously a better song than Shake It (this one has more than six unique lines!), but not nearly as entertaining or fun.  Though, at least he’s not growling or snarling this time.  This is the first favorite I am willing to remove from my list of possible winners.  Despite some really cool stage props (A moving walkway and a giant stapler with a Greek flag on it, oh boy!), I just don’t think this song has what it takes to win.

Lithuania: Love Sasha Son

This would be termed “blue-eyed soul” here in the US, a white person singing R&B, well.  Apparently he’s one of the biggest stars in Lithuania, and an important figure in their music history.  I like it, this song should move through, but I don’t know if it will.  I look to Albania or Estonia to stumble to let this one in.  Actually, I think I take back what I said about Slovenia, this might make it through instead.

Moldova: Hora din Moldova Nelly Ciobanu

Awesome music!!!  Many times better than Balkan Girls, unfortunately, tonight’s competition is much stiffer than Tuesday’s and this will probably be a casualty to that fact.  And the muddling of the English lyrics definitely does not help her case.

Albania: Carry Me in Your Dreams Kejsi Tola

Like Iceland and Cyprus, Kejsi is a mere teenager, barely eligible to compete in the real ESC.  More so than Iceland, and less so than Cyprus, Kejsi is showing her age, and not taking control of the 50m stage.  I will be surprised if this moves on.

Ukraine: Be My Valentine!  (Anti-Crisis Girl) Svetlana Loboda

A female from the Ukraine, gee, all she has to do is exist and she will be in the top ten Saturday.  A good performance might result in a top three placing.  Another performance like this one and she will be the Ukraine’s first sub-top10 since 2005.  Nix that, everything from the drumming on will put her in the top ten, easily.  She better not win, though!  There are too many great songs this year for this one to take the trophy.

Estonia: Rändajad Urban Symphony

Another dark horse competitor, and another entrant for best dressed.  I really like this song, it’s dark and intriguing.  And continues the tradition of having a very strong instrumental aspect.  I hope this moves through to Saturday.

The Netherlands: Shine The Toppers

A great message from the most reported on artist this year.  I don’t think it will be enough to get the Netherlands through, but I think it would be a nice touch if it does go through.  I will say, this is probably the most glitzy, most attention-grabbing Dutch entry to date.

My favorites on the night:

1. Estonia

2. Moldova

3. Denmark

4. Slovenia

5. Lithuania

Who I think will progress on to the Grand Final:

1. Ireland

2. Norway

3. Denmark

4. Latvia

5. Azerbaijan

6. Greece

7. Ukraine

8. Estonia

9. Lithuania OR Poland (but NOT both)

10. The Netherlands OR Albania (but NOT both)

Results

1. Azerbaijan (told you so!)

2. Croatia (!!!  Not overly unexpected, but not deserved)

3. The Ukraine (surprise, surprise)

4. Lithuania (yay! But there goes Poland’s chances)

5. Albania (again, not a big surprise, but I don’t think the performance warranted progression)

6. Moldova (!!! wow, that was highly unexpected!  Does this mean Ireland won’t go through?)

7. Denmark (go Denmark go!)

8. Estonia (yay!  Probably the best performance tonight)

9. Norway (gee, one favorite through, I wonder who will be the last country revealed)

10. Greece (and the other favorite is through)

General Comments

Opening Act: Yeah, what a nice opener!  Crazy cool LED matryoshka dolls, an awesome musical act, and dancing bears!  All that was missing was Stalin and Putin look-a-likes doing a sabre dance and oro!

Advert Breaks: I love ESC history, the first one looked back at past winners (‘56, ‘75, ‘98, ‘04, ‘07, ‘08) and had them talk about the Contest during their time and the Contest today.  Our second advert break takes us back to the greenroom and our greenroom host, his corny jokes, and his lack of articles.

Hosts: These two are much better than on Tuesday night.  It seemed that the solution was to have them speak less French, ironic, since this is the semi-final in which France votes.  But still, more work needs to be done.  Let’s hope that Saturday’s duo is better.  I will say that I am impressed with Andrej’s knowledge of geography, he always manages to name a major city in each country that qualifies.

Interval Act: A ballet with very familiar sounding music.  I can’t believe we have had two opening acts and two interval acts, and still none of that squat-kick dance that the Russians are so famous for.  Another word on the UK entry, with both Lloyd Weber and Warren, you think that the lyrics would be a little less repetitive, in the 30 second clip they played of the song the phrase “my time” must have been repeated at least a dozen times.

Generally Speaking:  Tonight, I think, is more reminiscent of the 1999 contest, I liked fewer songs, but the ones I do like, I really, really like.  Though, I will say, this is the first time in which I have liked every song in the contest (assuming that the five already through to the final are as good throughout as their clips portray them being).  Which would make this the most favored Contest I have seen.  One thing I would really like to see incorporated for the two semi-finals are tributes to the gold anniversary (50 years) and the silver anniversary (25 years) winners.  The songs could easily be adapted into the folk tradition of whatever country is hosting.  Een beetje, despite being annoying, could have been incorporated, even if just instrumentally, during the journey parts of the fairytale story.  And how easy would it have been to play Diggi-loo, diggi-ley instead of Waterloo or Diva, or just add it to the list of songs in the medley.  Though, given the fact that both of these songs are quite annoying, maybe it’s a tradition that should be started next year.  Luckily, there’s no annoying song in the Final this year to continue the tradition.  I also see there’s a trend towards the folk this year (Romania, Moldova, Norway, Croatia, Armenia, Portugal).  If one is to believe the bookies and fan polls/sites, one of the favorites (Norway, Malta, Turkey, France – remember, I already struck Greece off this list) will to take the crown, but expect the unexpected in a strong placing from Iceland, Portugal, and Estonia, the three remaining so-called “dark horses.”  So, now the questions is, what countries will NOT do well?  In a Final with 25 strong entries, it is a shame that ten countries will have so few points that their final placing will not even be dubbed “respectable.” Here’s my unfortunate bottom ten, all of which I think have the potential to be top ten songs in any of the contests after 1995 (when current music trends first started to develop): (in no particular order) Moldova, Romania, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Finland, Portugal, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Armenia.

Grand Final

Preshow Predictions: Listed in no particular order

-Top Ten: France, Malta, Norway, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Spain, Turkey, Iceland, Greece, Sweden

-Bottom Ten: Moldova, Romania, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Finland, Portugal, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Armenia

-Contenders for the Trophy: Malta, Norway, France, Turkey, Iceland

Lithuania: Love Sasha Son

A roar of applause before he even starts, that’s a good sign.  That was really good, and I still like the fire in his hand at the end.  I just don’t know if it will be good enough to overcome being first.  I would say this song has a chance of being in the top ten if the competition wasn’t as notable and/or it was later in the night.  Oh well.

Israel: There Must Be Another Way Noa and Mira Awad

That’s a new dress for Noa, isn’t it?  I think, overall, this is better than it was on Tuesday, though, it still had a lot of pitch problems.  If this song is anthing higher than 15, than it is entirely due to its message, and not the performance.

France: Et s’il fallait le faire Patricia Kaas

Wow, with her composure and the crowd reactions, it almost feels as if the first two acts were just the opening acts for her.  And, I think it is worth noting, for a forty-something, she oozes sex appeal, maybe it’s her cabaret style and voice.  Wow!  This song is so haunting, and her dancing just adds to it.  Listen to the crowd!  If this isn’t a top ten, I will be shocked, and say that France has a legitimate reason for withdrawing next year.

Sweden: La Voix Malena Ernman

The two most seasoned performers perform one after another, and both are struck down by their early appearance in the evening.  Both women look like they could be femme fatales in a film noir.  I must say, as good as this was, it will fall under the first disappointment of the evening; it was not as good or as dynamic as it was on Tuesday, and the last note was slightly sour.  Hopefully, she still gets top ten.

Croatia: Lijepa Tena Igor Cukrov ft. Andrea Šušnjara

Much better than Thursday, but I still can’t help but feel as if this is a “poor man’s version” of Lejla or Lane Moje.  Just a generic Yugoslav heartbreak ballad, guaranteed some votes, but probably not too many.

Portugal: Todas as Ruas do Amor Flor-de-Lis

I have to say this before they start, I love the LED for this song!  Another beautiful performance of this delightfully cheery song, too bad I don’t think it is strong enough to compete with the others, just look at what’s next on the docket, Iceland and Greece, two favorites to win entering tonight!

Iceland: Is It True? Yohanna

I was about to write this off as another disappointment, but the last 45 seconds or so definitely saved this song.  However, despite its status as a favorite, I think it will suffer from the same problem as Lithuania, a great song and performance, just not quite good enough to receive the placing it deserves because it has come so early in the night.

Greece: This Is Our Night Sakis Rouvas

Like when France performed, Sakis makes Yohanna seem like his opening act.  However, unlike Patricia, his performance (despite its flawless choreography) isn’t worthy of a victory.  If it wasn’t for the judges I would say we might have another Ruslana win on our hands – in which an exhilirating performance outweighs other aspects of the entry, in 2004 it was the poor lyrics, this year would be the subpar vocals.

Armenia: No Par (Jan Jan) Inga and Anush

Not as good as Tuesday night, and will probably result in Armenia’s lowest placing to date (dear I say it, a non-top ten finish for the Armenians!).

Russia: Mamo Anastasiya Prykhodko

An entry in Ukrainian for the Russians!  How about that!  The singing faces are kind of eerie, especially since her backers make it sound as if they are a part of this creepy clone choir.  I assumed this song is about a woman trying to seek comfort from her mother after heartbreak, but the crying older version of the singer makes me think that she is crying for her mother and her situation, in which case the LED shows that the singer is now old and in the same situation.  Either way, a creepy LED with a ghostly/eerie song, that was sung decently.  Russia + being host country = a better placing than deserved.

Azerbaijan: Always AySel and Arash

I see a new contender for best dressed, Miss AySel.  Arash’s vocals are much better than they have been.  While the fact that this song is from Azerbaijan means that it will do well, I can’t think of a single mixed-sex duet that has won, or even placed that well – excluding the married pair from Denmark in 1963, but that was different, only the woman sung then.  It will be top ten, but it will not win; I will go so far as to say that it has no chance of winning.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Bistra Voda Regina

This song keeps popping up in top ten polls across the internet, and I really like it, but I just don’t think it has what it takes to be in the top ten this year.  Another good performance, but I still don’t think that it is a dynamic enough of a song to be in the top ten, especially this year.

Moldova: Hora din Moldova Nelly Ciobanu

Interesting that “chudo” (miracle) was the word for this entry, as in, it was a miracle for it to make it to the Final, and it will be a miracle if it finishes higher than 20th.  Though, I do love this song; it’s high energy and a lot of fun.  I am happy that her enunciation is much better tonight than it was a couple of days ago on Thursday.  She and this song remind me of a de-sexed Severina (CRO2006).

Malta: What If We Chiara

High hopes for Malta, as I am, apparently, the last person who still has faith in Chiara at this point.  This is definitely her weakest song, and probably the hardest to sing of the three.  I think she was a thousand times better than she was on Tuesday, and that the jury votes will buoy her back into the top ten.  However, I think that she will fall short, yet again.

Estonia: Rändajad Urban Symphony

It is unfortunate that this song follows the one entry that they don’t contrast against, I definitely think that it will dampen their ability to garner televotes.  But it is a really strong performance, just like Thursday’s, maybe a nudge or two better (I think that she was slightly more into it tonight than she was last time).  I think this is another one that will be helped out by the juries’ presence this year.

Denmark: Believe Again Brinck

Go Denmark!  Oikotimes said that this song could benefit from the “Dora Effect,” in which neither the juries’ favorite nor the televote favorite wins, but a song that did moderately well in both does, as what often happens in Croatia (“Dora” is the name of the competition to select a song for ESC).  I think that he sounds better tonight, but more removed, more robotic.  It should get a respectable finish, but not top ten.

Germany Miss Kiss Kiss Bang Alex Swings, Oscar Sings

This updated big band song is “extra ordinary.”  I like it, but it is a bit forgettable.    Though the Germans are trying to use double sex appeal by shaking half-naked Americans at their ESC inadequacy.  Too little, too late.  Now, had Alex and Dita been prancing around like that from the beginning of the song, it might have been a bit more effective.

Turkey: Düm Tek Tek Hadise

People said that this song went through purely via Hadise’s name, as her vocals were poor on Tuesday, I disagree.  I think her vocals are poor tonight!  Okay, not poor, but definitely absent; she relied on the backing vocalists a lot more than I have ever heard.  She better not win!  Though, she will probably get twelves from Germany and France thanks to their Turkish immigrants, and from Belgium and the Netherlands, where she is a huge star.

Albania: Carry Me in Your Dreams Kejsi Tola

Not bad, but not dynamic.  I already like this song, and this performance hasn’t made me like it anymore or any less.  Not only that, but I have a feeling that the next songs (bookie- and ESCToday-favorite Norway and the overpowering Ukrainian woman of the year) will make one forget about poor little Albania.

Norway: Fairytale Alexander Rybak

Favored over Greece and Turkey among bookies and on ESC Today’s fan poll, I expect a lot out of young Mr. Rybak.  Who, I have just noticed, isn’t that much older than Albania’s Tola.  I really like this song, even though his live vocals aren’t as good as the studio version.  Cute boy + good stage act with tumbling and folk dancing + cute backing singers with well-balanced vocals + Norwegian violin = a really strong feeling that we will hear this song again tonight.  Patricia and Sakis might have a strong case against him, but I think that it is really up to Jade (UK) and Soraya (Spain), at this point, to keep Alexander from reprising Fairytale.

Ukraine: Be My Valentine!  (Anti-Crisis Girl) Svetlana Loboda

I really like the thing where they spin her upside-down.  This act puts Ruslana to shame, she’s more commanding, the choreography is more stunning, and the song doesn’t have nonsensical lyrics!  Though, I don’t think she has the vocal power that Ruslana had, and thus isn’t quite as captivating, the act just comes off as a bit too busy, and slightly desperate.

Romania: The Balkan Girls Elena Gheorghe

I still have no idea how this song made it to the final over Switzerland, Macedonia, or Belarus (all three were songs that experts said had a lot of potential).  I think that in the future, this song will be seen as a nice commercial from Romania: it’s pleasant, she’s nice to look at, but in the end, the song just isn’t strong enough to fit into the contest, it will probably join Germany on the bottom of the final scoreboard.

United Kingdom: It’s My Time Jade Ewen

The much awaited UK entry, from two of the biggest people in the world of music.  Maybe pop lyrics +  musical theatre will equal a return to the winner’s circle for the UK.  Sir Lloyd Weber did his part, he chose a good talent and the arrangement is beautiful.  Ms. Warren failed, this song is so repetitive.  Though, honestly, no more repetitive than a lot of other songs, it’s more noticeable because I understand what she is saying.  Jade did a decent job, it just wasn’t stunning or exhilarating, though, it did get a really good response from the crowd. I think the Lloyd Weber name and the hype surrounding the entry will propel it into the top ten, but it will not win.

Finland: Lose Control Waldo’s People

Like Romania, Croatia, Moldova, etc… a really good entry that I genuinely like, but there is zero chance of the Finns (or any of the others I mentioned) winning.

Spain: La noche es para mi Soraya

Now for the rainbow coalition’s song, written by Swedes, Greeks, and Spaniards, this song stretches from all over Europe.  Really hot music, but Soraya’s vocals do leave one wanting, I think that she probably has just been waiting too long to perform.  One thing she has going for her, since she is last, she will probably steal a lot of Sakis’ votes from people who like the up-tempo dance numbers.  I like the disappearing trick, it makes the performance a bit more memorable.

My favorites on the night:

1. France

2. Estonia

3. Norway

4. Malta

5. Moldova

6. Bosnia & Herzegovina

My Shortlist of Possible Winners (in the order of my belief in them):

1. Norway

2. Spain

3. Greece

4. France

5. Malta

Rounding out the Top Ten: United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Turkey, Iceland

Results: Rules regarding the jury: http://www.eurovision.tv/upload/press-downloads/2009/2009_juryvotingfinal.pdf

1. Norway 387

2. Iceland 218

3. Azerbaijan 207

4. Turkey 177

5. United Kingdom 173

6. Estonia 129

7. Greece 120

8. France 107

9. Bosnia & Herzegovina 106

10. Armenia 92

20. Germany 35

21. Sweden 33

22. Malta 31

23. Lithuania 23

24. Spain 23

25. Finland 22

Awards:

Best Dressed

Estonia, United Kingdom – Elegant dresses from both countries

Most in Need of a Costume Change

Czech Republic – “Super Gypsy,” c’mon!

Cutest boy & girl

Boy: Norway, Lithuania – a virtual tie, I would say Norway has the slight edge because he’s only one year older than I am.

Girl: Azerbaijan, Portugal – Both AySel and the Portuguese gal are cute, I think the Flor-de-Lis singer gets the edge because she keeps crying, apparently she only started singing with the band eight months ago, and now look, she took Portugal back to the Grand Final.

Spirit of ABBA Award

Romania – fun girl time!

Andorra – bubblegum to the extreme!

This is D.C. Calling… (the most American entry):

1. Azerbaijan – standard pop song here

2. Iceland – she sings with a power that I don’t often see in Western European girls, and without the underlying threat of violence of Eastern European girls

3. Germany – c’mon, they had two Americans on stage!

Songs that Americans would like (if they were in English):

1. Lithuania – Blue-eyed soul from the Baltic

2. Iceland – A powerful, well-sung ballad that I think anyone would enjoy

3. Azerbaijan – a generic pop song, I don’t think there’s too many places this would fail

The Shiri Maimon Travesty Award

While I think that Sweden & Spain both deserved at least a top 15 placing, the biggest travesty has to go to Turkey, Hadise should NOT have been in the Top Ten!  This is an example of big names garnering points at its worst.

Worst in Show

It is hard for me to choose a song for this award, as I liked all 42 of them, so I will be basing this off of the performance.  I think the weakest performances came from Poland and Turkey.  Poland was lackluster on Thursday night, and Hadise never really showed why she was a pop superstar, though she did demonstrate why she didn’t win Belge Idol.

Best in Show

It is hard not to choose Norway after those dominating results, but I think I will have to choose either France or Estonia.  Both countries gave powerful, stunning performances that launched them into the Top Ten.  In France’s case, what should have been the top three, but a poor draw in running order hampered her chances.

General Comments:

Opening Act: A human matryoshka doll, cool!  The narrator, was he speaking Russian?  It didn’t sound like any Russian I have ever heard before.  Cirque du Soleil is crazy, I saw them in an Imax theatre on a school field trip once, and it was mind boggling, though, a little boring – “oh, they’re doing another impossible contortion/acrobat thing, great.”  I really like the thing with Dima Bilan, having him fly in, then walk through the door/wall/paparazzi to a techno mix of Believe.  I just want to reiterate my love for winning song reprisals as the Final’s opening act (take that ESC 2003 – Riga (and a slew of others)!)  I wonder if any entrants next year will be flying around during their performance.

Advert Breaks: The first one comprised of a lady on the street getting people to sing for her, including some soldiers.  It was funny and cute, and a good way to spend time as many countries showed commercials.  I really enjoyed the Russian myth debunking segment during the fifteen minute voting time.  Whoa!  An advert in the middle of voting!  What is this, the United States?!  Hahaha!  t.A.T.u.!  That’s hilarious!

Interval Act: This is nuts!  Not only is it some kind of crazy 2D-water-ballet, but they are smashing the audience and the participants.  Wait!  Where is the green room that they can have one of these aquariums come down on them?  Is it merely just behind the stage where fans can’t get to them?  I guess that’s better than having it way off somewhere, especially at the end, when they are trying to have the reprisal and they have to wait for the winners to come to them.  I think that this act was a little weak, especially compared to those over the past few years, it definitely seemed like one of those things where you had to be there to really enjoy it.

Voting: (After the first country) With Spain giving their 12 to Norway, I am ready to call this contest already for the Norwegians.  (After the two countries) This is only strengthened by Belarus giving them their 12.  He has to have won if he was able to sway these two countries who normally wouldn’t give Norway anything.  (After ten countries) The Russians surely know how to keep the votes rolling, I’ve never seen the voting go this quickly.  I like how the votes come from within the arena.  (After all 42 countries have reported) Okay, I will not bore you with all of my various notes, comments, and witticisms from the voting process.  Here are a few of my more interesting notes.  Sweden did the unthinkable – they gave Denmark 0 points!  And several other countries broke rank and gave their traditional allies few points: UK, Spain, Andorra, and Belgium each gave France 3 or fewer points.  There were more, but these were the ones I noticed.  Like clockwork, Cyprus gave 12 points to Greece (at a point that was too little, too late, I might add) and the audience booed.  General Comments – Spain deserved to be higher.  Her performance was adequate, certainly better than a certain Benelux artist representing Turkey, there is no reason she should have been 23!  Sweden, while it is a great song, had a compartively lackluster performance, and Europe as a whole doesn’t seem to be crazy for popera (remember Slovenia and Latvia from 2007?).  One last note, Norway may have broke the record for most points in a single Eurovision with 387 points, shattering Lordi’s (FIN2006) record of 292, and the record for biggest margin of victory – 169 points, shattering Katrina and the Wave’s (UK1997) record of 70 points.  And Norway may have broke the records for most top points (16-twelves) breaking Katrina, et al. & Helena Paparizou’s (GRE2005) shared record of 10 “douze pointes.”  Norway did not break the record for highest percentage of points available.  He received only 79% of the maximum points available to him (482) which falls about a percentage point and a half short of Brotherhood of Man’s (UK1978) mark.  Despite this last shortcoming, I think this will go down as one of the best Eurovision winners ever, up there with UK1978, UK1997, GER1982, IRE1980, etc… and some of the other more dominating victors.

Generally Speaking: Aside from my notes above (liking all the entries, Norway going down in history) I do have a few more comments.  This year seemed to mark a bit more of a return to old Eurovision, with more ballads, fewer up-tempo songs, and more folksy songs.  Not only that, I really like the inclusion of the jury, now we have countries who previously ignored others giving them twelves (case in point, Serbia, Spain, Slovenia, Ukraine, Israel all gave Norway 12 points, and a slew of others gave the eventual winners 10 and 8 points).  Norway might be the first country, ever, to receive points from every other country in the contest.  And with the exception of Turkey, Portugal, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic, Norway received at least eight points from everyone (TUR-3, POR-5, ROM-5, ALB-7, BUL-2, CZR-3).  Also, we had our first null points since 2004, as the Czech Republic finally, after twice receiving only single digit points, received no points from anyone in the first semi-final.

With all that said, I think that this year was significant in a number of ways.  First, music…next year we will probably see a lot more folksy entries, and a lot more serious entries from the West.  Look at France and the UK, they finished in the Top Ten for the first time in ages because they took the contest seriously this year.  Let’s hope they continue showing this kind of effort in the future.  Moldova and Romania both had surprised success with their very folksy, very culture specific songs.  Second, the event…the Russians threw an ESC unlike any seen before; they had the largest stage, the most extravagant opening and interval acts, four hosts plus two extra personalities for advert breaks, and the largest draw of press peoples.  Oslo (or some other Norwegian city) will have a heck of a time trying to top this year!  Third, bitterness…ESC fever is waning in Switzerland, Germany, and Spain, all of which put a lot of effort in their entries this year.  Unfortunately, someone had to come in the lower positions on the scoreboards, and it was them.  I don’t think Germany or Spain are going anywhere, but Switzerland (along with Cyprus and Malta) all worry me for withdrawal in the next couple of years if their fortunes don’t turn around.  Just look, the mighty Chiara fell to the bottom five this year!  Malta may not recover from that blow.  Lastly, history…I already said that Fairytale will live on for quite some time, but this year’s Contest as a whole will as well.  The Russians, aside from their first two hosts, put on quite the show, and the 42 participants were strong.  The drama was high and the end result was surprising, Norway set multiple records, Iceland returns to the runner-up spot, and returning entrants from Greece and Malta, the two that everyone thought would be dueling in the Final, came nowhere close to top position, they didn’t even come anywhere close to any of the Top Five.  The contest is shifting, and hopefully for the better.  The juries definitely brought a new dynamic, and I can’t wait to see the extracted votes in the near future as eurovision.tv publishes them par the rules.

All of this to say, THIS YEAR WAS AWESOME!!!


Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2010!!!

So, for those of you who did not read the “About” section, I discovered the Eurovision Song Contest while studying in Denmark.  As such, I consider Denmark my “home country,” and thus, it is the only selection process I watch in its entirety and the only competing song that I listen to ahead of time (this is explained in my post “My History with the ESC“).  Additionally, one thing I like to do is write live commentary as I watch the ESC and have decided to write ones for this year’s DMGP.  So presented here are my notes I wrote as I was watching the contest live.  As we get closer to the Contest in May, I will post my live notes from past runnings of the ESC.

Dansk Melodi Grand Prix!

Wow!  What a lovely opening act, short, yet powerful!  And what a beautiful stage!  This has to be the best stage in DMGP history, look at the design, the LED backdrop, the water!  This is going to be one of the best DMGP to date!  Now we have clips of each of the songs as the artists walk out on stage.  There seems to be some problems with the web cast, as some of the clips are skipping and slowing down.  Hopefully this problem does not persist when the competition starts!  My first impression, songs 1, 2, and 9 have a shot at winning.  1 is a lot like the past two winners of DMGP, 2 is co-written by Ronan Keating (who co-wrote last year’s winner, Believe Again).  Song 9 is Sukkerchok! of course they have a strong shot at winning.  Though, I am pretty sure that song 7 will be my favorite one tonight.

Song One: Breathing by Bryan Rice

This is okay, nothing special, but neither of the last two DMGP winners were, either.  I do like it, though.

Song Two: All About a Girl by Joakim Tranberg

This song is the definition of hokey.  From the backing vocals “do, do, do’s” to the lyrics (“It’s all about a girl and how she came and changed my world,” to the cheesy smile at the end of the song (which made him look like a used car salesman*).

*In the US, a “used car salesman” is representative of someone who is trying to sell an inferior product as if it is the greatest thing ever made, and are willing to employ any tactic to do it.

Song Three: Panik! by MariaMatilde Band

This was the back-up song, if I remember correctly, that came to replace the one that had withdrawn.  Let’s see if it can prove that it should have been an original contender.

***TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES ENSUE!!!*** The song is skipping and slowing down to make the ladies sound like baritones!  I will have to look this song up afterwards, as I don’t think we will be hearing it again today.

Song Four: How Will I Know by Simone

Someone seems to have taken a page from Yohanna’s (ICE2009) book (though, I am sure Simone has been around longer than the Icelandic singer).  I like the song, but she should have reframed from trying to hit that big note near the end.  The fate of this one lies in whether the other songs are able to outperform it.

Song Five: Gloria by Jens Marni

More technical difficulties, but I have little hope for this song, regardelss.

Song Six: In a Moment Like This by Chanée & N’evergreen

A nice little ballad duet, but sounds a little uninspired.  It has what it takes to get to the next round, but I doubt it will make it to tonight’s final round.

Song Seven: Only Tonight by Kaya Brüel

I like this song very much!!!  And I love the performance, awesome dress, awesome stage effect (the rising up into the air, the only shame is that I wanted to be the first person to do this at DMGP and Eurovision, haha, if I ever make it there!).  I don’t really like the dancer, though; he detracts from the performance.  They could have done without him, or at least gave him a female partner to interpret the song better than a single person could.  By far my favorite, but I am not too hopeful for its prospect for moving through to the next round, it would do better in Sweden or Finland than in Denmark.

Song 8: Just Like Rain by Thomas Barsøe

Grrr…I wanted to be an American who represented Denmark, my thunder is being stolen* on all sides tonight!!!  Too bad he’s not representing the States too well; his voice is so whiny!  He should fail, miserably.  I know that we will not hear this song again tonight!  Though, he is the first to employ the water around the stage.

*To “Steal someone’s thunder” is to reveal a secret or important aspect of a person’s presentation or performance (or something else like that) directly ahead of that person’s presentation/performace/whatever.

Song 9: Kæmper for Kærlighed (Camp/Fort for Love) by Sukkerchok

More technical difficulties, no!!!!  But it’s Sukkerchok, and the song favored to win, so I am sure that I will have a chance to hear it again.

Song 10: Come Come Run Away by Silas & Kat

This was a little unexpected after there little, corny pre-performance clip.  A futuristic performance for a pseudo-futuristic song.  Yet more technical difficulties!!!!!!  Though, I would still say this song has a strong chance of making it through.

Prediction for the Semi-Final Songs:

All About a Girl (It’s Ronan Keating)

Kæmper for Kærlighed (It’s Sukkerchok with a nice little diddy)

Come Come Run Away (It performed last and is unexpected)

How Will I Know (because people still love ballads, and this is the best one)

The Moment of Truth!

First announced – How Will I Know

Second announced – In a Moment Like This (I guess Come Come Run Away will not make it through)

Third announced – Come Come Run Away (I guess it will move through!)

Fourth announced – Breathing (I thought this would move through initially, but I am still a little surprised it moved through while Sukkerchok lingered behind)

So, I am batting .500, not too bad for missing so many songs due to technical difficulties.  I am just a little surprised that neither of the favorites, Sukkerchok or Joakim Tranberg, moved through.  I guess it makes a little sense, Danes don’t like military imagery (which Sukkerchok had a lot of), but they do like hokey (Trandberg’s song) so I am surprised that All About a Girl didn’t move through.

Interval Act!

I seem to remember finding Felix a distinctly average singer last year.  He has not changed my opinion.  His co-host is not too much better.  But I guess they’re presenters, not singers, right!

Back to the Show!

How Will I Know v. In a Moment Like This

When this match-up was announced, I thought that Simone had an easy path to the Final, but the duo is putting up a good fight.  While Simone’s performance was relatively the same both times, the Chanée & N’evergreen’s performance was markedly better.

Prediction: I will go with the upset*, and say that the duo will take out the popular songstress.  Chanée & N’evergreen showed that they clearly wanted to win in their performance, much more than Simone did.

*An upset in this context means that the underdog (the less strong competitor) will beat the stronger competitor.

Winner: Chanée & N’evergreen A Moment Like This.  This was the clear winner of this round.

Come Come Run Away v. Breathing

The first performance sounded a lot like the first, in that is was riddled with technical problems (the same slowing down).  The second song was slightly better than the first performance (I don’t remember seeing rain at the beginning of the song the first time he performed).

Prediction: I think Breathing was better performed than Come Come Run Away, but again, I missed most of the latter’s performance due to technical issues.  However, I find it hard to believe that there will be two ballads in the Final, and Breathing sounds a lot like Believe Again, last year’s winner, and I don’t think that the Danes will vote for the same thing two years in a row.  With all that said, I think Come Come Run Away will sneak through to the Final Round.

Winner: Bryan Rice Breathing.  Okay, so I was wrong, but this was a hard choice.

FINAL ROUND: Chanée & N’evergren In a Moment Like This v. Bryan Rice Breathing

I definitely did not see this match-up coming, but I am not overly surprised.  Both songs are the soft rock/adult contemporary style that has won the last two DMGP’s straight.  How have I not noticed the large wall between them before, I just thought that they were sing fog machines and crazy lighting to get that effect.  This performance is not nearly as good as the Second Round performance, methinks that they shot their load just to make it to this point.  It looks like Bryan Rice’s rainstorm has increased in intensity, though his singing hasn’t.  It sounded like it did the first two times he sung tonight.

Prediction: Chanée & N’evergreen wore themselves out in the second round, and thus, their final performance fell flat compared to Bryan Rice, who hovered around the same throughout the entire night.  I would put my money on Bryan Rice, he was consistent and firmly stands in the genre that won the last two years, solo males singing average songs in adult contemporary style.

WINNER OF DANSK MELODI GRAND PRIX 2010

Chanée & N’evergreen In a Moment Like This

Not very surprising, both finalists were evenly matched, but I am a little shocked that they won after the performance they had in the Final.  I guess Denmark was ready for a change after the last two years, not in genres, just in artist.

Prediction for ESC2010 – This song has a lot of potential, especially if they perform it like they did in the second round tonight.  It will make the Final, and then their fate is in their own hands.  This song can be uber-powerful and emotionally stirring and take a top five placing, or it can be flat and boring and skuttle around on the bottom of the scoreboard.  That is the blessing/curse of having the juries cast their votes during the second dress rehearsal, the performers have to be top notch two nights in a row, which is a tough feat.  I think they will be top ten, but not top five.

Congratulations Chanée & N’evergreen, I look forward to cheering you on AT THE 55TH ANNUAL EUROVISION SONG CONTEST IN BÆRUM, NORWAY!!!