Pre-Blog Contests

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!!!


Notes on the 2008 Contest in Belgrade

SEMI-FINAL I

Prior to the Contest, I selected these countries to make it through:

-Russia

-Greece

-Armenia

-Norway

-The Netherlands

-Estonia

-Ireland

-Andorra

-San Marino OR Azerbaijan, but not both.

And now onwards to the First Semi-Final!

01  Montenegro Stefan Filipović Zauvijek Volim Te

Not a bad start to the contest, not at all.  A nice little rock song, but I am afraid that it will not make much of a dent in voters’ minds.

02  Israel Boaz The Fire In Your Eyes

A very heartfelt ballad from Israel.  Though, the singer sounds ten year younger than he actually is.  A Dutch style performance, in that it was a minimalist performance with the hope that the singer will be captivating enough to get votes.  And like the Dutch entries of the past decade, this one will flop, unfortunately.

03  Estonia Kreisiraadio Leto Svet

Like France’s entry last year, this comedic performance might just go over everyone’s head

04  Moldova Geta Burlacu A Century Of Love

A beautiful song that will not make it through because it’s jazzy and slow (but not emotionally moving enough).

05  San Marino Miodio Complice

A good debut, but it seems like a song that gets better the more times you here it.  Unfortunately for the principality, they only have one shot to impress.

06  Belgium Ishtar O Julissi

Another *unique* entry from the Belge.  I liked the infusion of classical sounds, but the performance was more self-indulgent than captivating, it might place well in the semi, but I’m not sure if it will make it to the next round.

07  Azerbaijan Elnur & Samir Day After Day

This entry immediately makes me think of Austria 2007.  It plays on that line of being so crazy it might do great, or so crazy it will fail miserably.

08  Slovenia Rebeka Dremelj Vrag Naj Vzame

A bouncy pop song with an intriguing performance.  The first entry I will confidently predict to make it through to the Grand Final.

09  Norway Maria Hold On Be Strong

An alright song.  It might be able to slip into the Final in the lower spots of semi-final qualifiers.

10  Poland Isis Gee For Life

Things I remember from this pop ballad entry: a beautiful dress, a bad tan, really long blonde hair, a quartet, and a piano.  The song was ok, however, as the hosts ramble on, it is fleeting from me.

11  Ireland Dustin the Turkey Irelande Douze Pointe

A definite Grand Final entrant, unfortunately.  Though, I can imagine this song being a club favorite for years to come, at least in Cork and Dublin.  But I did laugh at the end, “And don’t forget the Swiss!”

12  Andorra Gisela Casanova

What is wrong with her hair?!  And why is she wearing copper foil?!  Otherwise a pretty good pop song, and I guess that’s what we are supposed to be judging, so it should get through.

13  Bosnia & Herzegovina Laka Pokušaj

Another zainy performance, but a decent song, I guess.  This will probably just make it into the Grand Final (where it will probably be crushed by everyone else).

14  Armenia Sirusho Qele, Qele

A good song with weak vocals.  It will probably benefit from the fact that a majority of tonight’s entrants will make it through to Saturday.

15  The Netherlands Hind Your Heart Belongs To Me

After Ireland, Russia, and Andorra, this has been the most hyped song this year, and it more than lives up to it!!!  By far my favorite on the night, and my favorite from Les Pays-Bays.

16  Finland Teräsbetoni Missä Miehet Ratsastaa

Another nostalgic rock song from a Nordic country (think WigWam NOR2005).  I don’t particularly care for this year’s Finnish rock song, but I think Europe might.

17  Romania Nico & Vlad Pe-o Margine De Lume

A lovely entry from Romania, it won’t win the contest, but I would be highly disappointed if it doesn’t do well on Saturday.

18  Russia Dima Bilan Believe

The much hyped return of 2006 Runner-up Dima Bilan (which overshadowed the hype of the return of 1999 winner Charlotte (Nilsonn) Perelli) failed to live up to the hype.  It would be foolish to suggest that it would not sail through to the final, but the Russians may find themselves coming up short once again.

19  Greece Kalomira Secret Combination

Forget Bilan or Perelli, Greece seems to have reentered My Number One (2005 winner)!  A bad pop song with decent music, and a cool dance performance, it will sail through to the Final.  Unfortunately, I think I will put it on my short list of favorites to win the whole thing.

My Top Five:

1. The Netherlands

2. Romania

3. Moldova

4. Slovenia

5. Israel

Those that I think will make it into the Grand Final:

1. Greece

2. Russia

3. The Netherlands

4. Ireland

5. Slovenia

6. Andorra

7. Armenia

8. Finland

9. Romania

10. San Marino

Honorable Mention to Azerbaijan: a “strong” debut and this year’s first costume change!

Grand Final Preview Now!

I predict another poor showing from the Big Four countries—with them going in descending order, France, Germany, UK, then Spain.  But I think that Serbia has a decent shot of joining Spain, Israel, and Ireland (twice!) to go back-to-back in victories.

Finalists:

-Greece (no surprise there!)

-Romania (hurrah for the prettiest song of the night!)

-Bosnia & Herzegovina (not a surprise, but I guess that Armenia or Slovenia may not make it now)

-Finland (told ya so!)

-Russia (as expected)

-Israel (big surprise here!  Totally unexpected, but I am happy about it)

-Azerbaijan (creepy Heaven/Hell performance, oh well)

-Armenia (a nice little pop song)

-Poland (a surprise victory for the stirring pop ballad)

-Norway (WHOA!  I know what I said in the review, but I am shocked that it made it in)

Travesty of the Night: The Netherlands fall short again, but why?  It was very clearly the best song on the night.  Oh well, I still love you Hind!  Thank you for giving me a new artist to investigate.

As far as my predictions go, 50% of my post-contest list made it through. As far as my pre-contest predictions…Azerbaijan, Greece, Russia, Armenia, Norway all made it through, so that’s at 50%, not bad for guessing sight unseen/sound unheard, or whatever the appropriate idiom would be.  Unfortunately, 50% also means that my guess were as good as random chance, which essentially means that I need to step up my game on Thursday and Saturday if I hope to finish out the Contest with a passing grade.

SEMI-FINAL II

NEWS RELEASED ON WEDNESDAY: In case you didn’t hear, Svante said that 9 by vote, 1 by jury rule for the Semi-Finals will become a permanent thing.  He also revealed that for Tuesday, the jury and the voters were in 100% agreement over the top 10.  Lastly, Lys Assia and Marija Serifovic presented the permanent trophy for the contest winners, a classic-style microphone made of glass (or maybe it’s crystal).

Pre-Contest Predictions:

-Sweden—as a returning champion, I think she is pretty much entitled at least a shot at the Championship.

-Bulgaria—if you so much as thought about Eurovision while on YouTube over the past three months, your searches would have come up with at least ten different videos for DJ Take Me Away, if that’s not good publicity, I don’t know what is.

-Ukraine—aside from its debut and title defense efforts, the Ukraine couldn’t be unsuccessful if it tried.  So look for another strong showing from Kyiv.

-Croatia—Croatia has also had on-again, off-again success, and I think the tide is shifting for another “on” year.

-Georgia—The bookies seem to like Georgia’s sophomore effort, so look for this Call to Action song to do well.

-Hungary—Another popular one amongst the bookies, Hungary might be able to return to the Final for the third time in a row.

-Turkey—Turkey has been creating a lot of buzz in ESC forums, not to mention the large amount of Turks abroad who vote for their home country (for instance, France is the second highest contributor to Turkey)

-Cyprus—Because, as I said a few weeks ago, the rest of the Eastern Mediterranean has seen success as of late, now it’s Cyprus’ turn.

-Latvia—I am hesitant to place what seems to me is going to be a gimmick entry after seeing what happened to Ireland and Estonia on Tuesday, but I still think that Spain won’t be enough to tithe Europe over on Saturday, so look for this one to sneak in.

-Malta OR Portugal, but not both—Portugal has the record for most entries without a victory, and Malta isn’t too far behind them.  After their entries from last year, both of which were projected to do well, flopped, these countries have been somewhat mum about their entries.  Despite this, I think that one of them will benefit from a sympathy vote of sorts.

01  Iceland Euroband This Is My Life

For a song that has been getting a lot of negative press, it was pretty good.  Actually, I know that there are 18 more songs to go, but I have a pretty good feeling that this song is going through to Saturday.

02  Sweden Charlotte Perrelli Hero

How does someone age so much in only nine years?  She must have really pissed off her make-up artist.  A decent song, I think it was just enough to get into the Final.

03  Turkey Mor ve Ötesi Deli

Another great song from the Anatolia region.  And another song I think has a good shot at making it past tonight.

04  Ukraine Ani Lorak Shady Lady

Another hot, big voiced diva out of the Ukraine, but she lacks the fire of Ruslana and the energy of Tina Karol, so it will be interesting to see how this places on the night.

05  Lithuania Jeronimas Milius Nomads in the Night

Where will ESC2009 be, St. Petersburg?  Reykjavik?  Paris?  One thing’s for certain, it won’t be in Vilnius.  I have a feeling that this song has a good studio version, but this live performance just doesn’t cut it.

06  Albania Olta Boka Zemrën E Lamë Peng

A good song, but I don’t think it has enough “umph” to move on to the Final.

07  Switzerland Paolo Meneguzzi Era Stupendo

The Swiss are fighting hard to reclaim their past glories.  While I think this song was a bit overrated, the audience seems to love this guy, as they gave him a standing O before he even opened his mouth (and notice how the arena is full tonight as compared to Tuesday).

08  Czech Republic Tereza Kerndlová Have Some Fun

The Czechs’ sophomore entry will do better than their first, in that I think it will get more than one point in the voting.

09  Belarus Ruslan Alehno Hasta La Vista

When will people learn?  This is the second or third song by this title, and every time it does not do well, and this time will be no different.

10  Latvia Pirates Of The Sea Wolves Of The Sea

I HATE PIRATES, ESPECIALLY THE ONES THAT SING!!!  This goes down as the WORST gimmick I’ve seen in my Eurovision travels, it even beats out IRE2008 or ICE2006.  If this song goes through, they would have robbed a more deserving act (i.e. any of the previous 9 we’ve already heard, or the any of the next 9 we have yet to hear) of a spot.

11  Croatia Kraljevi Ulice & 75 Cents Romanca

Everything about this act dripped cool…the outfits, the hot dancer, the pimp cane the old guy had.  I was about to say bravo to Croatia for another great folksy song, and then the older gentleman had to start scratching, and I think that might have been the kiss of death for them.

12  Bulgaria Deep Zone & Balthazar DJ, Take Me Away

Was I the only one expecting her dress to change, it’s so rare for a dress that long to make it through an entire performance nowadays.  I was highly anticipating this song due to its vicious YouTube campaign.  It’s alright, I think it has a decent shot of making it through.

13  Denmark Simon Mathew All Night Long

See what I said about the Danish entry.  It’s an ok song, but it doesn’t have an ice cube’s chance in Hell of making it through to the Final.

14  Georgia Diana Gurtskaya Peace Will Come

A Costume Change!!!  Who would have thought it would have taken 14 songs before we finally got to one (unless there have been others and I am unobservant)?  Anyway, the bookies are excited about this entry.  I liked it, especially the message.  I am not sure if it will be enough though.

15  Hungary Csézy Candlelight

My favorite so far.  Normally, I wouldn’t think it stood a good chance of getting through, but after the success of Norway and Poland on Tuesday, I am optimistic.

16  Malta Morena Vodka

From Peace and Love to alcohol, only at the ESC.  An alright song, though I don’t think it lived up to all of the hype.

17  Cyprus Evdokia Kadi Femme Fatale

I’m glad the two halves of the island cold stop fighting long enough to put together a great entry.  Which, if I might have to add, is probably the most Cypriot entry I have ever heard.  I think this is a shoo in for Saturday.

Antics from the hosts’ side-kicks down in the green room, should the participants be allowed to advertise themselves like that during the intermission?

18  F.Y.R. Macedonia Tamara, Vrčak & Adrijan Let Me Love You

Not a bad song, I wasn’t convinced that it had the ability to move on until after hearing the complete song, but the important thing is that I was convinced.

19  Portugal Vânia Fernandes Senhora Do Mar (Negras Águas)

Poised to take the travesty of the night award, this is my favorite of the night.  It *should* go through, but everyone seems to hate Portugal.  Will Fernandes be able to get Portugal to its first Final since the inception of the Semi’s?

My Favorite Five:

1. Portugal

2. Hungary

3. Cyprus

4. Turkey

5. Iceland

The Ten I think that will be moving on to Saturday:

-Sweden (Because people are ready for another Johnny Logan—as in a two-time winner)

-Switzerland (Because people are ready for another Johnny Logan—as in an overrated singer)

-Hungary (A great song that should make it through)

-Portugal (Another great song, that if it fails, should get the Portuguese crying “Conspiracy!”)

-Turkey (A fun pop rock song, my kind of rock)

-Cyprus (A feisty song in cool Mediterranean style, this should definitely make it)

-Georgia (I think people will be moved by the message enough to overlook the overzealous background singer at the end of the song.  That, and it had an awesome beat and melody.)

-Bulgaria (I think its YouTube campaign was a brilliant PR move, and that it was already marked down for Saturday a month ago)

-Ukraine (because every hot singer from the Ukraine, heck, every female singer (or impersonator) from the Ukraine has done great)

-Iceland (a fun bouncy song that didn’t deserve all the negative words coming its way before the contest, and I think that Europe will see this, and vote it through)

Honorable Mention goes to…Macedonia; it was convincing, just not quite as much as the other ten.  Malta; the island gave it the old college try, but I don’t that they will make it through.

Is it me, or are the hosts more incompetent tonight than they were on Tuesday.  They weren’t horrible, but things definitely could have been a lot smoother.  Hopefully, they will step up their game for Saturday.

The Ten Finalists Are:

-Ukraine (they can’t stop being successful, even if they tried!)

-Croatia (not surprising, yelling old people must be popular in Europe)

-Albania (WHOA!  I did not think this act had what it took to get through, guess I was wrong)

-Iceland (Hurray for redemption!)

-Georgia (c’mon, how could world peace not make it through?)

-Denmark (WHOA!!!  Well, at least my adoptive country is doing well)

-Sweden (of course)

-Latvia (BOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!)

-Turkey (that was fairly obvious)

-Portugal (one step closer to breaking the curse!)

Travesty of the Night goes to…Latvia.  Why?!  Why?!!  Why?!!!  What a horrible song!!!  Just when I thought the Baltics would have a reason to reconsider their staunch position on entering gimmicks only, this goes on to move through to the Final.  I am utterly angered by this.

On my accuracy…hey, 70% on the pre-show guessing, 60% on the post-show.  I have definitely improved since Tuesday.  But if this little exercise has shown me anything, it’s that I seem to be more objective before hearing the songs, than after (imagine that).  It should be interesting to see what happens on Saturday, as I will be choosing a much shorter list of who I think might win it all (since top 10 really doesn’t mean anything anymore, I will not include a full list of who I think will place in the top 10).

Final Thoughts on the two Semi-Finals:

I was quite surprised on Tuesday when the most solid songs, Norway, Armenia, Israel, and Poland made it through, in lieu of the sending of pop acts like the Netherlands, Andorra, or Slovenia.  I was shocked that Azerbaijan made it through while San Marino did not, I guess Europe prefers countertenors and sexy demons over rock ballads.  I expected Russia to make it through with another song from Mr. Bilan, and as soon as I heard Greece’s entry, I knew that it was going through.  Belgium and Moldova kept up their tradition of sending irrelevant entries to the Contest; sometimes they succeed (BLG2003 & MOL2005, 2007), but for the most part fail to impress the voting public.  Though, I, personally, enjoyed both entries and know that they will be getting a lot of mileage on my iPod.

Thursday brought better songs, but less entertainment.  I figured that Vodka (Malta) and Shady Lady (Ukraine) would have been a bit more exciting.  Though, I think I enjoyed this interval act more so than Tuesday’s (though, Tuesday had the superior Intro Sequence).  The real shocker was that Hungary and Switzerland didn’t go through.  Especially with the way how the crowd was carrying on when the Swiss guy came up to perform.  Another disappointment was Cyrpus’ failure to move through, I thought that the uptempo Mediterranean beat would have won it a spot.  How funny would it be if Sunday, when they release the results of tonight, they failed to make it by 11 points, highlighting their dependency on Greece’s sure 12.

Overall, I think the voters sent out a resounding rejection of gimmick acts, as Ireland, and Estonia were both eliminated (though, the jury is still out on where Azerbaijan’s entry falls).  Has Serbia’s victory reset ESC on the track of the serious entries that dominated the early years of the contest, and made a resurgence in the early and mid 90’s?  Despite the success of Latvia’s entry, and the failure of Switzerland’s and Hungary’s, I think that gimmicks might finally be viewed as immature and not funny, at least until the next eight-costume-changes-to-an-act (LAT2002), latex mask wearing rockers (FIN2007), or Xena lookalike (UKR2003) wins the contest.

Though, look for Spain to do well on Saturday, it and Latvia will probably be the two “funnest” (I know it’s not a word, but it’s applicable here) acts, and will probably get votes for breaking up the monotony that having ballad after ballad will create.

One thing to say about the hype, it doesn’t seem to be working too much, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and Andorra were all supposed to be shoo-ins, and what happened, they fell by the wayside.  And Iceland persevered against the counter-hype (as I call it) and pushed through to the Final.  How I think this will translate, well, I don’t have nearly as much confidence in Russia as I did before, and I think that Sweden is out of it.  But I guess we will see on Saturday!

THE GRAND FINAL

My Short List of Possible Winners:

-Greece—as I said, Greek pop seems to hypnotize folks into voting for the ancient nation.

-Russia—less confident about Bilan’s return now then I was last week, look for Russia to break their streak of near misses.

-Portugal—they have made it to the Final for the first time since semi’s were introduced in 2004, I hope that they can translate that momentum into breaking their curse of never winning, passing on the record for most unsuccessful attempts to Iceland or Malta (I forget which one it would be)

-Armenia—A fun pop song that just might have enough umph to win the contest.  If Sirusho can tighten up some of her dancing, and sing with a bit more conviction on Saturday, there ain’t nothing that can stop her from taking the crystal mic.

-Serbia—with a great 30 second preview, and the bookies proclaiming that it has a great shot of defending its throne, I think there is a good chance that the Contest will be in Belgrade again next year as well.

-UK—I was originally only going to have five songs on this list, but after tonight’s (Thursday) results, I think that Europe has spoken that they want a more serious song to win again, and Andy might be in the right place at the right time, I think it will come down to his performance.

Intro Act:  *Due to technical difficulties, this performance was missed live.*

How disappointing.  I liked how it opened up with Marija singing a cappella, but it was all downhill from there.  The remix of “Molitva” was an injustice to the song, and the scantly clad dancers cheapened the purity of last year’s victory performance.

01  Romania Nico & Vlad Pe-o Margine De Lume

*Due to technical difficulties, this performance was missed live.*

Another beautiful performance from these two.  I have no idea why it didn’t get more than 45 points.

02  United Kingdom Andy Abraham Even If

*Due to technical difficulties, this performance was missed live.*

A good song.  I think it ends kind of abruptly, which might account for some of its low score.  But, as I have said before, Europe doesn’t seem to like American style music very much (with a few exceptions, HUN2007 is the first that comes to mind), especially when that style is R&B, so I understand why this came in last, but strongly disagree with it.

03  Albania Olta Boka Zemrën E Lamë Peng

*Due to technical difficulties, most of this performance was missed live.*  From what I saw of this performance, she sounded a lot better than she did on Thursday.

Seeing it on the replay, I still think it is better than Thursday, but I still think it’s boring and uncaptivating.

04  Germany No Angels Disappear

What are they wearing???  Hmmm….a poorly sung pop song from Germany, unfortunately, I think it will do better than some of their recent entries, despite not being nearly as good.

05  Armenia Sirusho Qele, Qele

I had high hopes for this song, and she did not disappoint.  Even the dancers were better.  Though, I do not think it was strong enough to win the Contest, it will have a good placing.

06  Bosnia & Herzegovina Laka Pokušaj

Another good performance for the Bosnian entry.  It will end in the middle of the pack when all the voting is said and done.

07  Israel Boaz The Fire in Your Eyes

A beautiful performance, even more moving than on Tuesday.  There is no reason why this song shouldn’t do really well tonight.

08  Finland Teräsbetoni Missä Miehet Ratsastaa

The first of the Nordic countries (all of which made it to the Final)…hey, it’s more tolerable than it was on Tuesday!  I still don’t really like it though.  It will probably do well though, as it’s different enough to gain enough support for being so (unlike Turkey, which is a pop rock song).

09  Croatia Kraljevi Ulice & 75 Cents Romanca

I guess the drumming Granny’s boyfriend (MOL2005), the yelling old guy (who one assumes is 75 Cents) trots the line between gimmick act and peasant sound.  As it was Thursday, the singing and the melody, and the dancer were all superb.

10  Poland Isis Gee For Life

Equally as pretty as Tuesday, and equally as boring.  I think this will fall victim to not being as captivating as the other ballads, and not as entertaining as the pop songs.

11  Iceland Euroband This Is My Life

Probably one of the least remembered countries of Europe, Iceland’s Euroband had an unforgettable performance; outdoing their Thursday performance by miles.  I have a lot of faith in this entry; they will have to be outdone in order to lose, as I think they are the best on the night so far.

12  Turkey Mor ve Ötesi Deli

*Due to technical difficulties, this performance was missed live.*

Wow!  Even better than on Thursday!  But I think that 12th was definitely an accurate placing for this song.

More antics with the wannabe hosts down in the green rooms.  More free advertising for countries they happen to walk past.  Though, I do think that they may be marginally better than that girl in pink from Helsinki last year (I can’t remember her name, but I do know that she is a comedian in Finland)

13  Portugal Vânia Fernandes Senhora Do Mar (Negras Águas)

Oh no!  This was not nearly as good as on Thursday night.  I guess she poured all of her heart out just to get here, and didn’t have enough left to do it again.

14  Latvia Pirates Of The Sea Wolves Of The Sea

I don’t remember that middle part with only the music (between the part with the lady in the bubble and the last two times they sung the refrain) from Thursday.  I will have to say, this song seemed to drag on even more than it did the other night.  They seemed to be forcing the song, taking away the playfulness it had originally.

15  Sweden Charlotte Perrelli Hero

A good showing from the former champ.  I think she just put herself back into the running for victory, even though she did look like an alien for the first verse of the song (before the lights came on)

16  Denmark Simon Mathew All Night Long

My opinion about this song has not changed.  I am not quite sure how it made it to the Final, and I do not think it will do well (though, I don’t know if I will go as far as to say it will get last).

17  Georgia Diana Gurtskaya Peace Will Come

A good performance, very moving, and a great message.  I expect this song to do well.  But I don’t think that it will win.

18  Ukraine Ani Lorak Shady Lady

More exhilarating and better executed than on Thursday, and it’s a female from the Ukraine, so it should do very well.

19  France Sébastien Tellier Divine

* Due to technical difficulties, most of this performance was missed live.*

Not a bad song, I understand its placing though.  If he had controlled his voice a bit more (especially when it was lowering after he sucked on the helium) I think this new age song would have done better.  Oh, I thought the golf cart entrance and the background singers being disguised as him were pretty cool.

20  Azerbaijan Elnur & Samir Day After Day

I don’t care what anyone says, countertenors are just plain creepy!  But I guess it fits in with the creepy performance.  There seemed to be a little trouble with the costume change this time.  But that’s just another thing to add to the heap of reasons why this song shouldn’t win.  A lot of high pitched wailing, and disoriented background dancers, some kind of blood colored liquid being poured over someone, etc….

21  Greece Kalomira Secret Combination

Another cookie cutter pop song, but for some reason, I have a feeling it will do ridiculously well (ridiculously, as in much better than the other cookie-cutter pop songs performed tonight)

22  Spain Rodolfo Chikilicuatre Baila El Chiki Chiki

*Due to technical difficulties, this performance was missed live.*

What a fun song!  And have you noticed something, it seems like every Spanish entry (that’s in Spanish) has way more words than any other country could possibly fit in its song.  Not the best of entries, but it was a fun song in the midst of ballads, so that is probably why it got the highest placing of any Big Four country.

23  Serbia Jelena Tomašević feat. Bora Dugic Oro

Great song, great performance, this song was awesome.  My only negative remark is that she had some pitch problems near the beginning of it.

24  Russia Dima Bilan Believe

A better performance than on Tuesday, I think that this will do well, but I will have to go against the bookies (and my earliest predictions) and say that I do not think that this one will win.

25  Norway Maria Hold On Be Strong

Another good performance for Maria.  I think it will do moderately well (maybe a middle of the pack finisher) but I do not think it has enough steam to win.

My Top Five Songs:

1. Portugal

2. Iceland

3. Israel

4. Turkey

5. Croatia

Post-Contest Prediction, The Five Songs I would put money on:

1. Greece (begrudgingly, I will admit that the Greeks seemed to have perfected the generic pop song, and so, despite my lukewarm feelings for the song, I think it has the best chance of winning)

2. Sweden (a good performance, an ex-champ, and a catchy song, it should do well)

3. Iceland (a good song, a great performance, and marked improvement from the Semi to the Final, they have earned that crystal mic)

4. Israel (such a moving song, and the travesty of 2005 needs to be avenged!)

5. Serbia (a beautiful song plus a beautiful singer plus the host country bump equals a good chance at a title defense)

6. Portugal (I know it says five, but I am not ready to give up hope yet.  It is still a good song and had a great performance)

Honorable Mention goes to…The Big Four, all of them put forth good entries, at least it appears that way from the recap.  Two good songs, an entertaining song, and another strong pop song.  Way to go!  –After seeing the four entries, I realize that I may have acted prematurely to hand them kudos, especially since none of them did overly well.  But I do stand by my words, I enjoyed Spain’s, France’s, and the UK’s entries, and thought that Germany had a decent pop song that would have done better than it did.  Oh, well.–

Additionally, I don’t think any of the songs should finish below the top ten (except for maybe Latvia), but unfortunately, 15 of them have to and an additional 9 will also fall short of the crown.  Despite all of the circumstances, all the performers should be proud of themselves for making this one of my favorite years of the ESC.

AND THE WINNER IS…….Russia!  How many times have I predicted that Russia would win?  Three, Four, Five times?  It figures that the one time I don’t bet for them to win it all, they do.  Oh, well, it’s a decent song, and Russia has surely earned the hosting honors after so many top five finishes in the past decade.  As far as my pre-contest selections, Greece, Armenia, and Serbia all finished in the top ten, and Portugal had a respectable placing, but the UK flopped horribly, finishing tied for last with Germany and Poland.  I didn’t get to hear this entry, but from the short clip I have heard, this seems like a grave injustice.  My post-Contest predictions didn’t fare so well.  Israel got tenth, but Sweden and Iceland finished down in the middle of the pack.  I guess Bilan wanted it more than Perilli, but I guess she already had a championship under her belt and so this was just fun for her.

Note:  Sweden and Poland were the recipients of the jury selection from the Thursday and Tuesday Semi-Finals, respectively.  In Poland’s case, it was tenth, and would have qualified anyway, Sweden, though, finished thirteenth and wouldn’t have made it through without the jury.  It will be interesting to see the trend in jury selections’ performance in finals; if they continue to not do well, they may just go back to straight up televoting all ten.

AWARDS

My Top Five Songs:

1. Portugal

2. The Netherlands

3. Hungary

4. Cyprus

5. Moldova

Best Dressed: The Netherlands (a sexy black number that showed enough to entice, but not enough to give away the secret), Poland (would have won if she didn’t have that horrendous fake tan), Croatia (from the black suit and fedora to the dancer’s wine colored dress, a very classy and snazzy looking group)

Most in Need of a Costume Change: Andorra (not so much because of the clothes, her hair was horrendous though), Ireland (I guess all the backers were dressed to look like giant, kindergarten made turkeys, but it just didn’t work), Belgium (she looked like a giant peppermint)

Best Performance: Bosnia & Herzegovina (did a great job of telling the story behind the words), Azerbaijan (good interpretation of the lyrics) Switzerland (it was the whole package in terms of singing talent, song, and entertainment (when are indoor fireworks not fun?))

Worst Performance: Estonia (they seemed lost and confused throughout the performance—whether this was the point or not, I do not know), Belgium (she was out of breath for a lot of it, and for such a happy, cheery song, everything was quite bleary and drab)

Most Attractive:

Woman: Netherlands—Hind is quite attractive, and on Tuesday, quite sexy as well.

Man: Switzerland—This was a blowout, I don’t think any of the other guys in the competition came close to him.

Spirit of ABBA Award: This was a really hard category to pick a winner for, in that there were not a lot of campy acts this year.  If I had to choose one though, I’m thinking…maybe the Czech Republic, it was fun, bouncy, and not incredibly deep in meaning.  That and it was a nice change from the yelling, screaming men from last year.

Final Thoughts:  I think a lot can be said about the lack of gimmicks and campy acts this year.  Maybe the ESC is regressing back to the more mature, pre-1967 era, when camp first started to become popular.  I loved this large collection of ballads and more serious pop entries.  And the more poppy songs lacked that corniness that would cross the line into ABBA-esque.  I am interested to see what kind of consequences this will have next year in Russia.  Speaking of which, I wonder if they will host it in their capital, Moscow, or in St. Petersburg, both because St. P. is where Russia’s largest arena is as well as the historical significance (Peter the Great established St. P. to be a Western city, to endear Russia to the rest of Europe).