Posts tagged “esc 2007

RtD14: Looking Back at Georgia

In its short history, Georgia has had varied success at the Contest.  While they have two victories at the Junior version – where it has submitted very unique and experimental entries, its songs for the ESC have generally been much more formulaic.  In my opinion, the songs have declined in quality since their debut in 2007.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

GeorgiaGeorgian Flag Map2007 – Visionary Dream – Georgia’s debut at the Contest, it definitely tried to show its unique style with this entry.  The music is hot and the singing was outstanding.  I think Sopho and Georgia took Europe by surprise with the strength of this song.  Though, the lyrics leave much to be desired.

2008 – Peace Will Come – The only female singer for Georgia not named “Sopho,” Gurtskaya is one of the country’s biggest stars. The song was nice; the costume change was well done and I am still looking for where the clothes went.  Irony!  Right after a song about peace and maturity, Georgia withdraws because they’re political, anti-Putin song did not qualify to compete.

2010 – Shine – A formulaic song that won the hearts of the juries, I think that the performance outshone the actual elements of the song.  Nizharadze’s voice was strong and pure – very well done.  I thought the staging was a bit over the top, but the singing was right on target.

2011 – One More Day – In an unexpected turn of events, Georgia broke into the Top Ten with a rock song (and incredibly ugly outfits).  I still do not quite understand how this song managed to be so successful among such a strong field of contenders, but it is what it is.  I do not think that the composition was all that compelling nor the lyrics all that moving – the performance wasn’t even all that interesting.  One of those results I just do not quite understand.

2012 – I’m a Joker – The only Georgian entry, thus far, to fail to qualify for the Final.  It was a hot mess – it’s lyrics, it’s composition, it’s performance: it was nowhere near quality.  It was not even a decent joke entry as it took itself too seriously.  Just…poorly done.

2013 – Waterfall – Big ballad: Check!  Swedish song author: Check!  Wind machine: Check!  Key change at just the right moment: Double check!!  ESC victory: nul.  This is, as ESC Insight would say, “Eurovision by numbers;” however, it failed to impress the fans or garner the jury support that everyone figured it would.  In fact, it barely slipped into the Grand Final ahead of San Marino’s effort.  This reminds us all that it may be time to reexamine what makes a “perfect” ESC entry.

Let’s Take a Closer Look at:Georgia Georgia 2013.  Painting by numbers is when one is able to recreate a painting by matching colors to a number on a canvas.  When applied to ESC “Eurovision by numbers” is the concept that an entry encapsulates all the stereotypical elements of songs that have traditionally been successful in decades past – a power ballad with a dramatic key change and overly sentimental lyrics that involves a key change and uses a wind machine in its performance.  Waterfall had all of these, plus a bonus point for having a big name Swedish songwriter.  Unfortunately for Georgia, the song fell flat, with the fans and the juries.  I think it’s an indication that we must rethink what we deem as the “ideal ESC entry.”  Ever since the involvement of televoting in 1998, the strength of the performance (the singing as well as the staging) became more important.  With the victories of Estonia, Turkey, Greece, and Sweden 2012 – the influence of dance music has multiplied tenfold.  In fact, since 1998, only three true, ballads (in this case, ballad is defined as a slow, emotional song) have won – Denmark’s surprising folk entry from 2000, Serbia’s megaballad from 2007, and the 2008 winner performed by Russian megastar Dima Bilan.  Otherwise, pure pop tunes or dance hall tracks have lifted the trophy at ESC.  Maybe, instead of asking if a song is stirring enough, we should ask “can I dance to this beat?”  What this means for the future of the Contest, I’m not quite sure.  But with similar failures like France 2009 and Spain 2012, we really have to challenge what we believe are the conventions that define a strong entry.

Check back for the next stop on the Road to Denmark: Germany!  You can also look for previous stops as well.


RtD14: Looking Back at France

For those of you that celebrate it, Happy Boxing Day!  Aujord’hui, nous examinons le premier pays de la groupe «la Grand Cinq» : la France!

FranceSome real gems in there!  Also, some duds.  France also brings us the first of four perfect scores we’ll see in this series.

New French Flag Map2007- L’Amour à la Françoise – A fun song that is very “French” – it’s artsy, slightly nonsensical, and a whole lot of guys wearing pink.  It took a couple of years to grow on me, but this song isn’t half-bad.

2008 – Divine – the infamous entry anglais; the only French entry to be performed in English (save for two lines).  Again, it’s “very French” in that it’s rather artsy (check out the beards on the backing singers!) and a bit nonsensical, like there’s some kind of inside joke that we’re not privy to.  It’s fun; I’ve always liked it, but as far as a song goes – it’s average.

2009 –Et S’il Fallait le Faire – the first of the four perfect scores (check the tables) that we’ll see.  Musically, the composition is perfect – it’s French cabaret (which is Kaas’ style), and constantly pushes the song forward, it invokes the sound of a clock that magnifies the growing sense of urgency in the lyrics.  Speaking of which, the lyrics are so heart-wrenching, they’re so passionate, and Kaas performed them beautifully. I thought that the staging was absolutely perfect for the song, just the singer and a microphone on a darkened stage, really captured the cabaret feel and the camerawork, again, added to texture to the words.  One of the best entries to date and I completely understand why a mere eighth place was seen as a disappointment.

2010 – Allez! Ola! Olé! – Bravo to the French for not being afraid to embrace, not only its colonial past, but also its diverse present – yay Black people on the ESC stage!  The song is a bit nonsense, but its the definition of a party anthem.  Too bad Les Bleus did not perform in the World Cup as well as their anthem did at ESC.

2011 – Sognu – One of the biggest flops in recent history, this song was a huge favorite to win in Düsseldorf, but finished a mere 15th due to a timid performance and stiff competition.  2011 was a strong year and this song, as nice as it is, was lost in the fray.

2012 – Echo (You and I) – I.  LOVE.  THIS.  SONG!  The staging was TERRIBLE!  The song, though, is quite lovely.  The lyrics harken back to this dying love and the music is well orchestrated.  Anggun’s singing was fine, but the staging was horrendous, the pure definition of a mess.

2013 – L’Enfer et Moi – An amazing song that was screwed by the producers because, r some reason, someone thought it was wise to put it first in the running order.  Bourgeious was amazing in her performance of this intense rock song.  The constant building throughout the song in both the music and the lyrics is beautifully done; it’s such a well-written song!

Let’s Take a Closer Look at: FranceFrance 2010.  I would love to take this opportunity to blast off on the producer chosen running order that was introduced in 2013, but I will bite my tongue.  Instead, I will look at what will hopefully be a continuing trend – the submission of soccer anthems to the Contest.  Allez! Ola! Olé! was written to be the French world cup song in 2010.  Be My Guest from the Ukraine in 2012, while not officially said to be a soccer anthem, definitely had that sound.  Both songs were high energy and a ball of fun.  While neither finished in the Top Ten, both brought a much needed spark to the ESC stage that I hope countries continue to send.  Who knows, maybe Valentina Monetta’s third attempt will be a foot stomper for San Marino.

What do you think – do we need more anthems on the ESC stage or is one every few years enough?

Check back tomorrow for our next stop – Georgia!  You can also check out previous stops along the Road to Denmark.


Rtd14: Looking Back at Finland

Merry Christmas!!  Or should I say, “Hyvää Joulua!” as the Road to Denmark takes us to Finland today.

FinlandAs you can see, I’m fairly lukewarm with the Finnish entries.  They’re generally okay, but I do not have a particularly strong affinity for any of them (at least, not these ones).  Finland, though, will always have a special place in my heart because Helsinki hosted the first Contest that I watched.  Speaking of which, let’s look at the first defending champion I saw.

Finnish Flag Map2007 – Leave Me Alone – An attempt at pop-rock that was better than the reception it received, but ended where it probably should have in its final placing.  It’s a pleasant enough entry and fun to sing along to if one is in an angry mood, but, generally, it’s rather generic.

2008 – Missä Miehet Ratsastaa – A true rock entry that slipped into the Final but then fell flat.  It’s not my cup of tea, but as I said in the Czech Republic post, these kind of songs bring a much needed diversity to the running order.

2009 – Lose Control –A beneficiary of the former jury system, which allowed a wild card to move through to the Grand Final. It’s a slapdash song that is alright, but not much.  The singing is better than the rapping and the presentation was a bit of a mess – it did better than it probably should have.

2010 – Työlki Ellää – A fun song and I think one of the more popular Finnish entries among the fans.  It’s fun and catchy; I don’t know a lick of Finnish, but I can sing along to the chorus!  The presentation was fitting, but in the end, the song just wasn’t quite memorable enough.  (Finland would have done better with this song)

2011 – Da Da Dam – A song with surprising success.  I think it was generally overlooked, but it brought Finland back to the Final and gave us a soothing song about a boy trying to save the planet.  Again, I’m fairly lukewarm on the song, but it is rather pleasant.

2012 – När Jag Blundar – First time we here Swedish on the ESC stage since the open language rule went back into effect in 1999 and it comes from Finland!  The song is quite forgettable, but it has a wonderful story behind it.  Karlsson’s brother wrote the song about their mother; both were on stage to honor her with their performance.  Oh, so very sweet!

2013 – Marry Me – My feelings about this performance are already documented on this blog.  I will say, though, that the song is fun and a bit inventive and guaranteed that it will be remembered for quite some time, particularly if it continues to be used for gay marriage campaigns.

Let’s Take a Closer Look At: FinlandFinland 2009.  As I said, despite finishing 12th in its semi-final, Lose Control qualified for the Grand Final thanks to the former jury system that was present in 2008 and 2009.  I’m going to use this as a nice little soapbox to restate my love of the jury system from 2010-2012.  I loved the way the old 50/50 system worked – it was simple math.  This new ranking system is not ideal and it’s more complicated than it needs to be.  Though, I appreciate the new steps being add in starting this year – where each jury member’s individual ranking will be revealed along with the voting results.  This is not retroactive, unfortunately, but it should stay standing going forward.

Previous stops along the Road to Denmark!  Come back tomorrow for France!


RtD14: Looking Back at Estonia

Welcome back to the Road to Denmark 2014!  As you may have noticed, we skipped our host country to head to Estonia.  I will review Dk last as that makes the most sense to me.  Disagree?  Leave a comment below!

I was honestly surprised when I made this table.  I had no idea just how much I liked the Estonian entries.  Each one has its own unique flair.  I think Estonia, much more than most others, has done a great job of sending a diverse array of entries to the Contest.  They are also one of the few countries that have found more success in their native language than in English.Estonia

Estonian Flag Map2007 – Partners in Crime – A fun power ballad performed by the sister of 1/2 of Estonia’s winning duo.  Originally, I liked this song a lot, but over time, its appeal has lessened.  Overall, its a bit one note, she’s at max level throughout most of the song.  Additionally, it’s a rather simple entry without much charm.

2008 – Leto Svet – What happens when you take three old guys, two of which are politicians, and tell them to make funny song that mixes in some pandering to the host crowd: Estonia 2008.  While the song is fun, it’s incredibly silly and nonsensical.  There’s no meaning or depth to it.  You know it’s a bad sign when you can mute the performance and not lose anything from it.

2009 – Rândajad – Perhaps the most popular Estonian entry to date, Rândajad is another song with suspect lyrics from Estonia.  What redeems it, though, is how the mysteriousness of the song is captured in both its arrangement and its performance.  One can actually picture oneself on the Saharan dunes, watching these nomads travel by night.  The orchestration was perfect.  The singing was perfect.  The visual arrangement was perfect.  This is how you help a song rise above its station.

2010 – Siren – And Estonia comes crashing back to Earth.  I like this song about as much as I like Rândajad; however, I believe I am in the minority holding that sentiment.  I think the performance fits the song and the song fits the duo of Malcolm Lincoln.  I think a combination of running order, retro sound, and suspect lyrics did this entry in.

2011 – Rockefeller Street – A heavy favorite coming into the Grand Final, this song was supposed to challenge Denmark, France, and the UK for the win.  We all know how that turned out.  I do not think I am alone in saying the results of the 2011 Contest were one of the most surprising in Contest history when they are compared against the betting odds and public opinion preceding ESC week.  Objectively, though, a bland pop song with lyrics that don’t make a whole lot of sense (“1…2…7…3”?) that had a childish performance – there should not be a whole lot of surprise that this song did not do well, except to ask why it beat out some of the competition left behind in the Second Semi-Final.

2012 – Kuula – I know I am in the minority when I say that this song is highly overrated.  It’s boring, doesn’t really go anywhere, and is overdramatic.  A positive, though, is that Lepland flawlessly performs it.  I think it is on the back of this performance, in a year where a lot of vocal abilities were subpar, that this song succeeded.

2013 – Et Uus Saaks Alguse – An incredibly aptly titled song as Birgit was pregnant when she performed this entry.  She gave Estonia another flawless vocal performance.  Interestingly, though, she was not as successful as Ott Lepland, even though both songs were of equal quality.  Perhaps this was due to the stronger field of entries in Malmô compared to Baku.

Let’s Take a Closer Look at: EstoniaEstonia 2010.  The Contest in Oslo saw a revitalization of retro sounding entries, from Estonia to Albania, to Serbia to the Netherlands, among others.  This trend has continued as a few countries always seem to submit, 70s, 80s, and 90s era songs to the Contests in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  Unfortunately, while these songs add some much needed diversity, they do not tend to be very successful.  I say unfortunately because I tend to like these songs a lot!  What’s the consensus on these kinds of entries?  Do other fans like them, too, or do I stand alone?  Leave a comment below!

Check back tomorrow for Finland.  See previous stops along the Road to Denmark here.


RtD14: Looking Back at the Czech Republic

The short-lived Contest life of the Czech Republic is definitely not one of note.  Three entries that all fell flat for various reasons, though, you cannot blame a poor performance for any of their failings.  Let’s discuss, shall we!

CzechRepublic

2007CzechFlagMapMalà Dama – A rock entry that tried to capitalize on Finland’s win the previous year.  It was just a bit too out there for your average ESC fan.  Lordi won, not just because of the music, but also due to the gimmick of these rocking monsters.  Kabàt was all hardcore without a bit of humor about them.  Thus, they finished dead last with a single point.

2008 – Have Some Fun – While this song was ably performed, it was a bit over-the-top with the lights and the dancing and the dj on stage.  The song is also fairly vapid.  Not to mention, they tried to use cheap sex appeal to sell it.  Shame, shame, shame.  The folks behind this entry can take some solace, though, in the fact that it is the highest scoring Czech entry at the ESC, beating the other two’s combined score.

2009 – Aven Romale – The infamous nul pointer of recent years.  This song received zero points in its semi-final, becoming the first to achieve this dubious honor since Switzerland in 2006.  The song was fun and creative, but it glorified gypsies, not even Greece could get away with that.

Let’s Take a Closer Look at: Czech Republic 2007.  The state of rock in the ESC is a tenuous one.  It seems that only SlovakiaTurkey and Finland can pull it off well, and even that is not guaranteed as their two most recent rock entries both fell flat.  Rock music is one those things that, many ESC fans claim to like.  I think in reality, they like the diversity it brings to the stage, but ultimately, no one really wants to see it win unless its a gimmick (see Finland 2007) or is fronted by cute singers and is heavily popped up (see Turkey 2010).  I think a prime example is the band Winnie Puh from Estonia.  They almost got the ticket to Malmô this year, but narrowly lost.  This is not a bad thing.  While many bemoan the lost of musical diversity that the band surely would have though, there was no chance that it would have succeeded on stage in Sweden.  Regardless of this fact, I think that rock bands should continue to fight to be at ESC.  The diversity that they bring not only adds to the strength of the show, but also to the quality of the brand.  The ESC is a song contest first and foremost, not an exhibition of pop music.  Rock songs help achieve that mission.

Check back tomorrow as the Road to Denmark takes us to Estonia!  Find previous stops on the Road here.


RtD14: Looking Back at Cyprus

I got my tickets for the both Semi-Finals, though couldn’t get a Grand Final ticket.  Hope you were able to get yours!  Hmm…the Road to Denmark just got a little more real.  Onward to Cyprus!

Oh Cyprus – like Croatia, the tiny island has also decided to withdraw from next year’s Contest due to financial reasons.  Again, a moment of silence…

CyprusLike Bulgaria, the Cypriot entries are all over the place – including one in French!  However, their performances are much better and tend to be on the more tasteful side of things.  Let’s dive a little deeper, shall we?

Cypriot Flag Map2007 – Comme Çi, Comme Ça – The ever-so-rare non-native language/non-English entry.  This French-language number from Contest veteran Evridiki surprised many with this rock song.  It was quite popular among the fans and seemed to make an impression on the audience, it even won an award from ESC Today for best song not to qualify for the Final.  I think I agree with that choice.

2008 – Femme Fatale – A sexy song that’s a bit repetitive.  The performance was a little over-the-top, but not bad.  I think it finished about where it deserved.  The song is entertaining, but nothing special.

2009 – Firefly – A sweet song written by a brother for his little sister.  Unfortunately, what sweetness the song had was lost with Metaxa’s very shaky performance.  Though, I think in a few years, she’ll be strong enough to try again and do a lot better her second time around.  At 16, the Moscow stage was just a little too big for her.

2010 – Life Looks Better in Spring – Cyprus looked outside itself to Wales and offered the opportunity to lead a band of Cypriot songwriters to an up-and-coming singer they found on the small venue circuit in Britain.  The song is great and had a chance to capitalize on the younger, singer-songwriter vibe.  Unfortunately for Cyprus, Belgium beat them to the punch and outperformed Jon Lilygreen to outplace them.

2011 – San Angelos S’Agapisa – I don’t quite understand the point of this song – “I loved you like an angel.”  The song is a poorly mashed together combination of folk ballad and rock.  Granted, the marriage isn’t as poorly done as Slovenia 2010, but it could definitely be better.

2012 – La La Love – Cyprus surged to their best finish in years with this lively pop song.  It’s so much fun and was amicably performed.  Given its spot between the epic Icelandic entry and the hot mess that was France, one would think that it would have finished higher than 16th.  It has left a legacy of commercial success and was the first time Cyprus outperformed big brother Greece in quite some time.

2013 – An Me Thimase – This is a truly beautiful entry, and it was performed so well.  It’s powerful, it’s moving, it is a truly wonderful work of art.  Sadly, it did not do as well as I think it should have.  Even the English and Spanish versions are well done, which is a rarity for translated entries.  Olympiou showed herself to be a force and I hope she returns.

Let’s Take a Closer Look At: CyprusCyprus 2013.  It seems that, no matter what Cyprus tries, pop, ballads, rock, indie, it cannot succeed.  For as popular as La La Love was, it still only finished mid-table.  Some blame the Greek language, as Cyprus has yet to qualify for the Final with a song in Greek, but, truly, songs have transcended their languages before.  Essentially, 2008 was unremarkable, 2011 was a mess, and 2013 was considerably less enthralling than its competition.  Cyprus needs to continue sending artful entries, like 2013, and begin to play with the song’s energy until they have a winning competition.

What do you think?  Is Cyprus doomed to always by an “also ran”?

Past stops on the Road of Denmark.  Tomorrow, we’ll visit the short lived participation of the Czech Republic!


RtD14: Looking Back at Croatia

Happy Thanksgiving! A moment of silence for Croatia’s withdrawal from ESC2014.

Croatia

Croatian Flag MapAnd we’re back!  Croatia, a country that I consistently like (though, not love), is withdrawing from next year’s Contest (along with several other countries, sadness!) but they have left a legacy of some nice, heartfelt songs.

2007 – Vjerujem u Ljubav – A unique song that doesn’t neatly fit the ESC mold.  It sounds a bit sloppy to me, like it didn’t quite come together correctly.  It’s an alright song, I suppose.

2008 – Romanca – One of Croatia’s more popular entries.  Apparently, this was a group of street performers before they competed at ESC.  I loved the feel of this song – it’s so cool.  And they were so stylish!  It’s a shame this song didn’t do better.

2009 – Lijepa Tena – This song was a beneficiary of the jury wild card spot for the second semi-final in 2009.  It’s a bit melodramatic, but generally is a nice listen.  The singing is passionate, though a bit screechy at times, the music could be better, but it fits the overall tone of the song.

2010 – Lako je Sve – A big favorite going into the Contest, the return of a much more mature Feminnem to the Contest, this time for the homeland.  This song is amazing, the story of a woman crawling back to her husband after cheating, the composition is moving, and the performance was gripping.  It suffered from being in a very strong semi-final.

2011 –Celebrate – A fun, lively song that’s a bit on the daft side.  There’s not much to this fluff song – just fun.

2012 – Nebo – A stirring song.  A bit of discord among the fans, as they generally like the original composition and performance better than the Contest version, but I like both versions.  The song is purposefully underwhelming, aiming to move the soul as opposed to appeal to the shallow vanities as many entries try to do.

2013 – Mižerija – Croatia, once again aiming for a high brow entry, presented a piece of high culture with this entry, as klapa style is considered a part of the world heritage.  While ESC is most definitely the stage where a nation should be displaying its unique cultures, when this is done, one must remember that great success should, unfortunately, not be expected.  A truly beautiful work of art stymied by its entrance into a pop music competition.

Let’s Take a Closer Look At: CroatiaCroatia 2010.  This song is a part of a bigger point that I’ve made before in my live notes.  One semi-final always seems much stronger than the other.  Some how, some way, more of the favorites and other strong contenders end up together while the other semi-final remains weak.  In 2010, favorites, Croatia, Denmark, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Armenia, Israel, and Turkey, not to mention Georgia, Sweden, Ukraine, and Ireland, were all in the second semi-final, along with the Netherlands (which had developed quite the cult following).  It’s no wonder that a song as strong as Lako je Sve failed to move through to the Final.  How do we balance this?  How do we ensure that both semi-finals are equally balanced in quality?  Especially, since it’s usually the second-semi-final that is stronger.  It will be interesting to see how the two semi-final format continues to stabilize as we move forward it continues to establish itself.

Check back tomorrow for Cyprus!  Other stops along the Road to Denmark 2014!


RtD14: Looking Back at Bulgaria

Hey! Welcome back to the blog! I’m doing alright. Hopefully, there will be no more pauses. We continue on our journey along the Road to Denmark 2014 with a stop in Bulgaria!

Bulagaria

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Bulgarian Flag CountryMuch like the efforts of Bulgaria, my preferences for their entries are all over the place. Oftentimes, it takes me a few months before I come around to liking them. But, I like Bulgaria; it’s got spunk! They keep trying and trying; hopefully it’ll find its swing in Denmark.

2007 – Voda (Water) – This was the very first song I ever heard at the Eurovision Song Contest; it opened up the semi-final in 2007 (the last year of a single semi-final). I remember thinking, “What is this strange European thing?” Little did I know it was the first of 26 musical strings that would tug on my heart with immense gravity. I thought that this song was a train wreck the first time I heard it. It has since grown on me immensely.

2008 – DJ, Take Me Away – Perhaps the best Bulgarian entry in recent memory. It’s distinct, memorable, and unlike anything else that year. It’s a great song! I think that it is a perfect balance between uptempo dance and pop.

2009 – Illusion – I am assuming that Krassimir was sick because the performance of this song was awful. The staging was way over the top. The singing was way off. The lady screeching was unwanted. Awful. Which is a shame because it’s a great song!

2010 – Angel Si Ti – I loved this song from the first listen. Unfortunately, Europe did not. Again, another over the top performance; the half-naked, glittery angels were way too much. The song is fun, the music is upbeat, and the lyrics are quite positive. It’s a fantastic entry – a bass singing an uptempo disco number, what’s not to like?

2011 – Na Inat – Bulgaria took a rare break from the dance floor to try a pop-rock number. Poli Genova gave it everything she had, but was lost in a night full of strong entries and performances. An average song performed admirably.

2012 – Love Unlimited – Probably the most beloved Bulgarian entry among the fans. It broke the record for number of languages within a single song to be performed on the ESC stage (11); it was disco at full power! However, the one time that an over-the-top staging was called for, Bulgaria gave one lonely woman on a colorful stage. It just doesn’t make sense.

2013 – Samo Shampioni (Only Champions) – Hoping to repeat the past, Bulgaria sent the country’s top percussion duo in Editsa and Stoyan. Unfortunately, this was the case. Once again, the performance was over the top and scared off the voters. Why, on earth, would we need to see a random guy jumping around in a giant tribal mask?

Let’s Take a Closer Look At: BulgariaBulgaria 2009
So, this actually is what caused my delay. I spent so much time agonizing which one of these songs to focus on. I finally decided upon 2009 due to the rabid success of this year’s Romanian entry. In 2009, a countertenor making his first foray into pop music won the Bulgarian national selection with an uptempo, slightly bizarre song. This entry was maligned as another piece of rubbish from Bulgaria. It was unpopular and looked over; deemed too weird to be successful. The negative thoughts combined with a poor performance made that prophesy come true. However, in 2013, Romania sent a countertenor making his first foray into pop music won the Romanian national selection with an uptempo, slightly bizarre song. But this time, things were different. People heralded the song as revolutionary and amazing. While a lot of the ESC press thought the song to be too out there, the populace jumped on board. When the song failed to reach the top ten of the final – the press and public yelled, “Foul!!” What I don’t understand is, what made this song so much better than the Bulgarian entry from 2009? They’re essentially the same song – and as bad as Krassimir’s performance was, it doesn’t warrant the wide disparity between the two receptions. Perhaps you fair readers can shine some light on this.

Tomorrow – we look at Croatia!
Past stops along the Road to Denmark, click here!


RtD14: Looking Back at Bosnia & Herzegovina

And we keep moving on!  Next stop – Bosnia & Herzegovina…aka Bosna i Hercegovina…aka BiH – home to my all-time favorite ESC entry (2006’s Lejla) as well as some of my favorites over the span of this retrospective. As you can see in the table below, there are no real low points (except for this year since they did not enter anything) but a few high ones.

BiH

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Bosnian Flag Map2007 – Rijeka bez Imena – This is the song that inspired me to learn Serbo-Croatian.  It is amazing – Maria’s heartbreak overwhelms the listener and you have no choice but to mourn along with her – and that’s without understanding the lyrics!  Once you translate them into English, you get words of desolated anguish.  For example “Unfaithful sorrow/I would still go anywhere for you/May this pain bind to soul, for I am dying for you” – seriously, moving stuff!

2008 – Pokušaj – A fun song, though a bit nonsensical.  I’m not quite sure why this song was successful, but hey, the masses seemed to enjoy it.  The staging was high energy and captured the mood of the song quite well.

2009 – Bistra Voda – A slow march that still stands out as one of the most unique and powerful compositions in recent years.  Regina brought a whole different sound to the Contest – a rock march that perfectly fit the song (hmmm…I’m noticing a pattern here).  The Bosnian entries, in my opinion, tend to be well composed, and this one is up there as one its best.

2010 – Thunder and Lightning – A rare English language entry from BiH.  It’s also one of its rare duds.  The song has never really done much for me.  If it means anything, the most compelling thing, to me, about this entry is that Vukasin Brajić is a school teacher and I could imagine how excited his students must have been to watch him on television.

2011 – Love in Rewind – On the opposite end of the awesome spectrum, you have this masterpiece from Dino Merlin, who not only competed previously for BiH, but also wrote its original national anthem – now that’s the guy I want representing me!  This song is fun, but the lyrics go deeper – it’s about an older couple looking at the past, recognizing that their time here is drawing to a close.  Beautifully done!

2012 – Korake Ja Znam – Back to the beautiful Bosnian language.  While the song is well composed, ably performed, and possesses a heartfelt sentiment – it’s just a bit drab.  Artistically, it’s a masterpiece, entertainment-wise….not so much.  But Maya Star gave it her all and left a positive taste in everyone’s mouth as we wait for BiH to return to the ESC.

Let’s Take a Closer Look At: Bosnia & HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina 2009.  I’ve talked a lot about the composition – and it was awesome, it even won the Composers Marcel Bezeçon Award – but let’s look at the lyrics.  “Give birth to me at dawn in May/Bathe me in the clear water/I guard one world, when all others leave/I guard you as long as I’m alive.”  So, to the casual reader, those lyrics may seem a bit…silly.  But let’s keep in mind that the lyricist has told us that it’s a song or reminiscing about love and the illusions to better days gone by elsewhere in the song, and these lyrics make so much more sense.  May is the month most closely associated with the season of spring, which represents new life and happiness.  “Bathe me” in other words – fully envelope me, in the “clear waters” of those better days of life and happiness.  “Guard” is synonymous with “hold” – so he’s saying that he is holding on to “one world” (i.e., the past) despite the fact the rest of the world has carried on (“when all others leave”).  He does this because it’s a way how he shows his love – whom he’ll hold for all of his days.

Such a lovely song!

What do you think?  Do you think “Clear Water” sounds more like muddy puddles?  Do you absolutely love the storm brought forth by Thunder & Lightning, or do you think it’s more of a drizzle?  Leave a comment below!

For the previous stops on the Road to Denmark 2014, click here.  Check back tomorrow for our next stop: Bulgaria.


RtD14: Looking Back at Belgium

Howdy friends!  We’re back on the Road to Denmark today.  This time, we’re heading to one of the founding members of the ESC – Belgium!  A country that has generally underperformed at the Contest – whether its due to poor performances, low televoting, a lack of love from the juries, or a mixture of the three – Belgium just can’t quite find its groove.  Personally, I like a lot of the Belgian entries and think that, generally, they deserved better than what they placed.  Let’s dive in!

Belgium

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Belgian Flag Country2007 – Love Power – A fun, throwback number.  Actually, I love this song a lot!  It’s one of my first favorite entries from my first ever Contest.  Unfortunately, the performance was rather poor.  But hey, the music video is pretty awesome!

2008 – O Julissi – After missing its second victory by only one point in 2003 with Urban Trad’s boundary-breaking , invented language hit Sanomi, Belgium tried to send another eclectic act with a made-up language.  It’s a fun song that got the Belgrade crowd cheering and clapping; unfortunately, that energy did not transfer through onscreen.  I like this song – it’s so fun!

2009 – Copycat – When I heard this song for the first time, I thought “that’s crazy.”  Who would have thought any European country would have submitted an Elvis song – but it was ironic and humorous.  But I don’t think anyone thought this song had a chance of succeeding.

2010 – Me and My Guitar – Belgium’s most successful entry since 2003; I always found the song a bit dull.  Don’t get me wrong, Tom Dice is a looker and his whiny voice fits the song really well; not to mention the fact that the song was beautifully staged.  Could Tom Dice work his magic a second time…I don’t know about that; I think that this was a perfect storm in Oslo, which seems to be a lucky city for the Belge.

2011 – With Love – A rare entry from the West that had public support to move through to the Final, but not enough jury love.  I love this song!  My favorite Belgian entry thus far – they got robbed from the Final!  But, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.  I would love to see Witloof Bay return to the Contest.

2012 – Would You? – I thought this song was horridly boring.  Until I heard it performed live during the semi-final.  It was moving!  Still a bit trite and ultimately finished where it probably should have, but Iris did an indomitable job and deserves to be commended.

2013 – Love Kills – Who would’ve thought this song would have finished 12th in the Grand Final, beating the more popular (and higher regarded) Romania, Georgia, the UK, and Germany.  This song improved a thousand times over since it was first performed and showed that Western Europe can succeed without a big name or gimmicks.  Take note United Kingdom.

Let’s Take a Closer Look At: BelgiumBelgium 2012.  I think this song was probably one of the most overlooked and underrated acts in its year.  Iris was this small, mousy girl with little experience with a cheesy little song with weak lyrics and insipid music.  But, her performance was amazing.  She sung her heart out and won fans for herself.  While, on its merits, the song clearly deserved its 17th placing, Iris performed like a contender.  Well done!

What do you think?  Am I making too much of Iris?  Can you feel the Love Power? Do you think Ishtar got what they deserved?  Leave a comment below!

Other stops along the Road to Denmark.  Check back tomorrow for our return to the Balkans with Bosnia & Herzegovina!


RtD14: Looking Back at Belarus

Welcome back dear readers.  Finally!  We move on to the B’s with “White Russia”…I mean Belarus! A country that has sent an eclectic mix of entries to the Contest.  I do not think I could pick a “stereotypical Belorussian sound” based on their entries – and even if I did, it would probably be changed after a few weeks.  Anywho, despite the repeated song changes – these are the Belorussian entries along the “Road to Denmark 2014”!

Belarus

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Belorussian Flag Map2007 – Work Your Magic – The country’s most successful entry thus far.  The popular and charismatic Koldun used nifty stage tricks to wow audiences across Europe to Belarus’ only Top Ten finish.

2008 – Hasta la Vista – A song that was just not very good.  The lyrics were uninspired, the vocals were unremarkable, and the staging was cheesy.  Just…not a very strong entry.

2009 – Eyes that Never Lie – The overwhelming commentary on this entry was that it sounded like a Bond theme.  Unfortunately, it did not live up to expectation – though, the camerawork won the production team a prestigious award.  For the song itself, it’s alright.  I am not overly enthralled by it, but it is fun to rock out to every so often.  Not too many ESC songs are genuine rock like this one is.  Yay diversity!

The winning camerawork is from 2:41-3:09.

2010 – Butterflies – So, what happens when you take five of the top classical vocal talents in your country and force them to perform together in a language none of them speak?  3+2, of course!  Belarus is not exactly known for having singers with the clearest articulation, but this group takes the cake in terms of singing with accents.  And, the song really makes no sense!  Also, why did Georgia give them 12 points?  To this day, I refuse to guess the way Georgia votes because of this.

2011 – I Love Belarus – As I said in my live notes, I am so confused as to why this song is not, at least partly, in Belorussian.  The whole point of the entry is nationalistic pride, but the country’s language does not even feature once throughout the entire song – it doesn’t make sense.  My question is – did the producers honestly think this song had a chance of doing well or were they just hoping to get a club hit they could sell the rights to for years to come?  Or, were they just trying to get 3+2 out of everyone’s minds?

2012 – We are the Heroes – Okay, so many folks complain that the pop version is not nearly as good as the original alternative rock one.  I disagree!  The pop version that Belarus competed with was more generally accessible and, given the success of similar entries, made more sense to compete with.  The issue with the song was the lackluster performance.  It was kinda just there.  It was too gimmicky for the band to be taken seriously, but not exciting enough for the act to be considered memorable.  Definitely one of my favorite entries from Belarus.

2013 – Solayoh – So, my distaste for this song is well documented on this blog.  After a few months – I still am not impressed by it.  It’s fun, I guess – but the giant disco ball and half-naked singer were not appreciated.  It was just a generic song that, in my opinion, over-performed and finished much higher than it should have.

Let’s Take a Closer Look At: BelarusBelarus 2011.  Fun, upbeat, and entirely way too nationalistic (and this is coming from an American).  I am much more amused by the reaction than by the song itself.  People seemed to think “Oh, there goes that silly Belarus, being all irreverent again.”  or “That poor country is ruled by a tight-fisted government that use stuff like this as propaganda” (because, no other country does that, of course!).  What I didn’t see was anyone complaining about the presence of such blatant national-pride.  Could you imagine if the UK, France, or Russia tried to sing this song (with their name in title, of course!)?  Or Germany?  Oh yeah, I’m sure  Ich Liebe Deutschland would have been über-successful.  Which brings us to my bigger point, all jokes about dark histories aside, there’s an air of haves and have-nots.  Those from the bigger countries that “are actually worth bragging about” would be seen as jerks if they subjected us to “I Love the Netherlands” or “I Love Sweden” but those small, poor countries, awww, they’re just trying to put on their big boy pants and be seen as equals even though we know they’re not.  That is just patronizing and disrespectful.  The beauty of the Contest is that every country gets at least three minutes on stage to display why they’re awesome.  Until the fans are ready to be equally engaged by (or angered by) each country, the EBU will have work to do to accomplish the mission of the Contest – to unite Europe through song.

What’s your thoughts – am I being overly idealistic in my call for equality?  Do you, indeed, not love Belarus?  Did this Eastern European country “work its magic” on you?

Check back tomorrow when I will be looking back at Belgium!  Meanwhile, check out the previous stops on the Road to Denmark 2014!


RtD14: Looking Back at Austria

Hey hey – I’m back!  I’m so stoked to be going to Eurovision next year, that I’m reflecting back on my years of ESC fandom, country-by-country, entry-by-entry.  Let’s continue our series looking back at the Eurovision entries of each country since 2007 by turning our gaze to Austria!

Austria

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Austrian Flag MapOh, Austria.  As we all know, this central European nation is not as good at ESC as most other nations, but it’s not the worst.  Excuse me if I am not as reverent towards Austria as I am to most participating nations; I dislike the fact that they have set out several times because they didn’t think the others played fairly.  I have very little sympathy for whiners and quitters.

2007 – Get A Life – Get Alive – A very decent entry that was derailed by an absolutely abysmal presentation.  The outfits, the feathers, the bright lights – it took a year before I was able to watch this all the way through without cringing or turning away.

2011 – The Secret is Love – Austria returned from a few years of pouting with a powerful ballad that was wonderfully sung with a magically appearing choir.  And Nadine Beiler joined an elite group of performers who performed a capella (the first verse was sung without accompaniment).

2012 – Woki Mit Deim Popo – Party rap in a fairly unknown dialect of German: only at Eurovision.  This song won the Austrian selection due to its bright spirit, stage act, and raunchy performance – all of which were toned down to comply with EBU standards – taking away the awe and leaving us just with the shock.

2013 – Shine – A fairly typical pop song performed admirably.  Unfortunately, it’s early spot in the running order and lack of any kind of major catching point made it quickly forgotten in the First Semi-Final in Malmö.

Let’s Take a Closer Look At: AustriaAustria 2011.  So far, this is the only time that Austria has qualified out of the semi-final into the Grand Final. Granted, though, Austria has set out of four Contests since 2004.  In my opinion, The Secret is Love is probably the strongest Austrian entry in recent memory – the lyrics are not as trite as Shine, the performance is understated and appropriate, unlike Get A Life – Get Alive, and no one can be offended about love – something that can’t be said about Woki Mit Deim Popo.  If Austria hopes to qualify for the Final again, it needs to go back to basics, like they did in 2011.

Austria has now competed three consecutive times – let’s all hope and pray that they keep up their participation!

See previous entries here.  The next country we’ll reflect on is Azerbaijan.


RtD14: Looking Back at Armenia

Hello Dear Readers!

We continue on in our Road to Denmark 2014 series with a look back at Armenia 2007-2013.  As a reminder, this retrospective is looking back all the entries that have competed since I first started following the Contest in 2007 in tribute to my return to Denmark for the 2014 edition of ESC.

Armenia

Armenian Flag MapClearly, I’m a fan of the Armenian entries (save for 2012).  As always, you can get a better view of the table by clicking on it.

2007 – Anytime You Need – A haunting ballad of desperate love.  It proved that Armenia’s success the previous year was not a fluke as the country landed in the Top Ten with their sophomore effort as well.

2008 – Qele, Qele – Armenia’s most successful entry to date.  Personally, I find it rather repetitive and simplistic, but it’s fun to dance to.

2009 – Jan Jan – One of the best examples of ethnopop at the Contest.  The sisters seamlessly blended traditional folk music with a dance beat, but still landed Armenia’s lowest finish at the time (10th place).

2010 – Apricot Stone – A fun song about the seed of Armenia’s national fruit, it calls us to return to our homeland.  A heavy favorite to win, the sixth place finish was considered a disappointment by many.

2011 – Boom, Boom – Proof that Armenia is not bulletproof.  Not only did Emmy become the first Armenian entry to fall outside of the Top Ten, she failed to even get out of the semi-final.  The song is fun…and that’s about it.

2013 – Lonely Planet – Armenia returned to the Contest with the country’s leading rock band and a song written by a rock legend.  Unfortunately, it was an average song with an average performance that resulted in a mid-table finish.

Let’s Take a Closer Look At: ArmeniaArmenia 2011.  This entry is remarkable for more than just the fact that it was an epic fail that dropped Armenia from the 100% Qualification Club; it’s remarkable as it is an example of something that happens to several countries each year – the weakest song in the national final comes out the winner.  Boom Boom beat out three songs that were miles better.  Goodbye is a heartbreaking ballad that, in the hands of a stronger singer, could have been a contender for victory; in the hands of Emmy, it would have at least continued the qualification streak.  Hi had as much energy as Boom Boom but had stronger lyrics and was generally more mature – it too would have gotten Armenia to the Final and threatened for the Top Ten.  Ayo, in my opinion, was not only high energy, but also utilized Emmy’s voice the best between the four options.  This song would have been a serious contender for the win!  Way to miss the boat Armenia.

What is your favorite Armenian entry and why?  Do you think if Emmy presented Ayo, she would have been more successful?

See previous entries here.  The next country we’ll reflect on is Austria.


RtD14: Looking Back at Andorra

Welcome to the second installment of my “Road to Denmark 2014: A Retrospective” where I am looking at each entry that has competed since I started following the Contest in 2007.  After briefly recapping each song, I will choose one or two to focus on.  Today, we’ll be looking at the three entries of Andorra from 2007-2009.

AndorraClick the table to see it larger.

Andorran Flag Map2007 – Salvem El Mon (Save the World) – Andorra’s most successful entry (to date), a pop rock number that’s half Catalan and half English.  Probably my least favorite Andorran entry (and really, one of my least favorite in all).

2008 – Casanova – Probably the mircostate’s best chance at qualifying for the Final derailed by one of the WORST outfits to grace the ESC stage (Gisela won 2008’s Barbara Dex Award).  Not a bad song, as long as you don’t listen to it too many times in a row.

2009 – La Teve Decisió (Get a Life) – Susanne Georgi actually competed in the first Dansk Melodi Grand Prix that I saw back in 2007; after losing, she moved to Andorra.  Actually a fairly pleasant song, it suffered from being amongst a strong field including a Contest legend (Chiara), Belgian popstar Hadise (representing Turkey), and two of the top songs that year (Iceland and Bosnia & Herzegovina).

Let’s take a closer look at: AndorraAndorra 2006.  I know it falls outside the bounds that I set up, but honestly, I don’t find any of the three entries above all that remarkable.  And, generally, find Andorra to be a somewhat weaker competitor (though, I do want to see the small country return).  My favorite entry is Sense-Tu – it’s sexy, it’s powerful, and it’s unexpected.  I think the only reason the song didn’t do well was because Jenny is a bigger girl (really, she’s healthy-sized, but that might as well be obese by pop-star standards).

Despite my harsh words – I want Andorra back!  Come back Andorra!  We want you to return to the ESC (Spain especially does)!

Go here to find past posts in this series.

Our next country to be highlighted: Armenia!


Road to Denmark 2014: Looking Back at Albania

Welcome to the first in my series “Road to Denmark 2014: A Retrospective” in which I am looking back at all the entries between when I first started following the Contest in 2007 to now as I prepare to see the Contest live in Denmark next year.  I’m going through each of the 46 countries that have competed over the past seven years alphabetically starting with Albania!

Albania

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Albanian flag countryAs you can see, I rate the Albanian entries fairly high.  Given that I am American, we generally view 75% as “average” and that is the mentality that I am bringing to these ratings.  Elements that I generally view as generic received a “7” with songs that I consider strong or weak having their scores adjusted accordingly.  A brief look at seven Albanian entries, then I’ll provide a deeper focus on a few select entries.

2007 – Hear My Plea – I actually really liked this song, it was so unique and stood out for everything else in the field. You could feel the longing in Ndoci’s voice.  I think that these entry suffered from being a bit too different without being memorably so.

2008 – Zemrën E Lamë Peng – An understated song that was aptly sung by one of the youngest artists to be on the ESC stage.  While I think the song is artistically valuable, it’s not really my cup of tea – it doesn’t really go anywhere musically.

2009 – Carry Me in Your Dreams – A fun song that is easy to sing along to.  This song seems to have a bit of a cult following, but RTSH seems to have clamped down on this song more than any other and it’s hard to find online (and the 80’s style music video has essentially disappeared from the internet). I like it and can’t wait for Kejsi Tola to make it back to the ESC stage.

2010 – It’s All About You – As you can see, this is my favorite Albanian entry thus far.  It is one I sing in the shower on a regular basis.  It’s fun, modern, and sung beautifully.  It’s a great, up-tempo love song.

2011 – Feel the Passion – Another personal favorite, despite the fact that the performance could have been stronger.  I like being able to shout at the top of my lungs when singing along with a song and this definitely provides those opportunities, not to mention the vaguely religious undertones of the lyrics.

2012 – Suus -The most successful Albanian entry to date.  Rona Nishliu is an amazing singer, though, I still maintain that her vocals were a bit off on the night of the Grand Final.  Whether I am listening to the original or the jazzed up English version, this song gets me every time.

2013 – Identitet – It’s always nice to see a genuine rock number at ESC; they add a bit of spice to the disco/ballad melange that the Contest typically is.  I am not a big fan of this particular song, but think it’s a valiant effort.

With that said, I do want to focus on one particular Albanian entry – 2012’s SuusAlbaniaThe reason that the Contest utterly captured me from the very first time that I watched it was the fact that I could understand the exact sentiments of the singers without knowing their language.  I could feel the heartbreak, I could celebrate the joy, I could lose myself in the frenzied state induced by certain entries.  Rona Nishliu exemplifies this.  This song is pure art, which does not have the best record at ESC.  But she was able to secure Albania’s best placing to date because her vocal performance transcended style and language.  During her semi-final performance, tears were brought to my eyes; I could feel my heart break when she kicked it up a notch in the Final.  Many casual viewers complain that the ESC lacks artistic merit and doesn’t make valuable contributions to culture (I vehemently disagree, of course) this song, and entries like it, strengthen the argument that ESC is a valuable aspect of pan-European culture.  Thank you Albania for sending Suus!

 

You can find all the entries here.  Next up in the series: Andorra


Preparing for Summer

Hello Dear Readers!

You may remember that I was in Denmark when I first discovered the Eurovision Song Contest, all the way back in the spring of 2007.  The 52nd Edition remains one of my favorite, but of course, nothing compares to our first time.  I have vowed to return to Denmark in the event that they won ESC – and it did! So, I will be on my way back to Denmark come May 2014 (hopefully with a press accreditation).  What that means for the blog:

1. I will still have live notes for the semi-finals and Grand Final.  Instead of doing them during the televised shows, I will write them based on the second dress rehearsals (the ones in which the juries vote).  This, of course, would ideally happen if I can somehow manage to gain access to the press center so that I can type while watching – otherwise, we’ll have to move to a Plan B.

2. In honor of my return to the land where I first developed my “Eurovision Obsession,” I will spend the summer looking back at all the entries, country by country, from the past seven Contests, in alphabetical order – from Albania to the United Kingdom.

3. It seems like everyone and their mother are talking about the voting this year and the various controversies surrounding this year’s results.  I do not feel the need to dive into that conversation – but if there is some kind of official word from the EBU or they do release more information (like, the complete country-by-country split votes) then I will post something.  That has nothing to do with my travel to Dk next year, but just thought that I would let you know!

Also, I am embarking on the path of developing a logo – if anyone out there is able to help me with this endeavor, definitely let me know!


My Top 100 from 2001-2010

Happy New Year everyone!  What better way to celebrate the new year than by looking back?  Even though selections for this year are well underway (welcome back Italy, Austria, Hungary, and San Marino!), I thought that the ending of the New Millennium’s first decade deserved it’s own Top 100 list, so here we are.  I am currently wrestling with YouTube to get the accompanying videos posted.  I will add the links into this post as I get them posted.  Secondly, as an act of consecration, I will be fasting from Eurovision for the next 36 days (think of it as kind of Lent come early).  As such, this will be my last post until early February.  But best believe that I will come back with my reviews and predictions for the all the countries that have selected artists up to that point, including a full write-up on Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2011.  So, without further ado, here is My Top 100 Entries to the Eurovision Song Contest from 2001-2010.

100.  Switzerland 2009 – Highest Heights performed by Lovebugs

A great rock song, it demonstrated that the Swiss are more than just makers of trendy ballads or vampiric dance songs.

99.  Lithuania 2007 – Love or Leave performed by 4Fun

A song that really grew on me, Love or Leave tells a the story of a woman who is no longer wants to be in the yo-yo relationship she is in.  Quite moving.

98.  Switzerland 2008 – Era Stupendo performed by Paolo Meneguzzi

Despite a less than stellar performance (this will be a recurring element throughout this list), I still enjoyed this song from the first listening.  I think Meneguzzi (on the studio version, at least) has the perfect voice for this song and the lyrics are pleasant.

97. Greece 2007 – Yassou Maria performed by Sarbel

What a fun dance number!  I am a little ashamed to say that I actually know the entire choreography from the live performance.  This song is simplistic and very entertaining.

96.  Cyprus 2007 – Comme Çi, Comme Ça performed by Evridiki

I love this – a song performed in a non-national language that’s not English.  2007 brought three acts with this interesting characteristic and I commend Contest veteran Evridiki for doing such a good job and creating one of the biggest fan favorites of that year.

95.  Ireland 2007 – They Can’t Stop the Spring performed by Dervish

This is a song best appreciated in its studio form; for one reason or another, the singer just didn’t seem to have it together on the night of the Final.  Despite this, the song itself is a lovely display of Celtic folk tradition in a contemporary form.

94. Germany 2009 – Miss Kiss Kiss Bang performed by Alex Swings, Oscar Sings!

A truly appreciated both of Germany’s big band numbers from the past ten years (with 2007 being the other one), the thing that sets Miss Kiss Kiss Bang apart is perspective.  2007’s entry is the stereotypical, “I do what she says because I have to” type of song whereas 2009 brought us more of a “I do what she wants because she lights passions within me” piece.  See the difference?

93.  Israel 2003 – Milim Iaahova/Words of Love performed by Lior Narkis

Can a love song be chauvinistic; Lior Narkis seems to think so.  Despite its unnecessarily sexed-up performance, this song still represents a successful implementation of a nifty idea.  It’s a shame, in my opinion, that multi-language songs tend not to do well.

92.  Turkey 2005 – Rimi Rimi Ley performed by Gülseren

The first cheerful song of heartbreak I’ve heard.  She sings about how much she misses her love, and how she wants him to come back, but the song is up-tempo, bouncy, and Gülseren performs with a big ol’ smile on her face the entire time.  It’s an interesting combination of melancholy and pep.

91.  Romania 2007 – Liubi, Liubi I Love You performed by Todomondo

In my opinion, this is one of the most innovative songs ever to be on the Eurovision stage.  You have a nice, simplistic verse translated into six languages, then stapled together so that those languages can be presented next to one another.  The concept of each singer presenting a little of the culture of their language’s speakers is even better!  What a great song, a great concept, and a prime educational opportunity.

90.  Denmark 2002 – Tell Me Who You Are performed by Malene

In my opinion, this song is of the same caliber of Never Let You Go and better than Fly on the Wings of Love; however, instead of bringing Denmark more glory, she got last place!  I think this is a beautiful song that is tastefully understated.

89.  Georgia 2008 – Peace Will Come performed by Diana Gurtskaya

This is a powerful call to action with one of the niftiest costume changes in Contest history.  Ironically, it would be “military aggressions” at the root of Georgia’s withdrawal the following year.

88. Poland 2008 – For Life performed by Isis Gee

When I get married, I think that this might be my wedding song.  It’s a beautiful, heartfelt ballad (Gee wrote it with her husband in mind) that was admirably performed, twice!

87. Bulgaria 2009 – Illusion performed by Krassimir Assimov

An exhilarating popera entry from a countertenor who is able to not be creepy when he hits those ridiculous high notes.  Unfortunately, he was sick during the performance and so his ill-equipped and overzealous backing singer had to fill in for a lot of what, on the recorded version, Assimov had sung.  Though, I think this is a good example of an awesome song that, had it stuck to its studio version in competition, would have done a lot better.  Instead, the backing vocals were overly emphasizes (above and beyond what was needed to cover for the sick Assimov) and destroyed a great song.

86.  Switzerland 2010 – Il Pleut de l’Or performed by Michael von der Heide

I didn’t like this song much the first time I heard it, but it really grew on me.  From the sung drum beats to the exaggerated slide to von der Heide’s overly-flamboyant choreography, it is just a fun song.

85.  Russia 2006 – Never Let You Go performed by Dima Bilan

Once Mr. Bilan won in 2008, his runner-up performance in Athens was all but forgotten.  But I think Never Let You Go is superior to Believe.  While the latter was able to finally lift Russia to the Winners’ Circle with an inspirational message of believing in oneself, the Athens effort from 2006 is a haunting love song.  The composers and lyricists were able to combine intimate lyrics with spine-tingling music.  Unfortunately, the choreographer couldn’t come through.

84.  Slovenia 2005 – Stop performed by Omar Naber

Another song with killer music, the composers were able to take a simple scale motif and turn it into a haunting melody.  The lyrics are so-so and bit repetitive, hence, why it’s only number 84 on my list.

83. Bulgaria 2007 – Water performed by Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankoulov

One of the most inventive and creative entries in Eurovision history!  Too bad the live vocals were not up to par.  The performance was amazing though; they showed why they are Bulgaria’s top percussionists.

82. Spain 2005 – Brujeria performed by Son del Sol

Thanks to my blind stumbling around YouTube, this was the first Eurovision song I heard after watching ESC 2007.  It’s a fast tempo, very-Spanish style entry from the Big Four country – I don’t know why it is so often forgotten when Spain’s recent entries are discussed.

81. Spain 2009 – La Noche Es Para Mi (The Night Belongs to Me) by Soraya Arnelas

What a great song from Spain!  It’s a fun dance tune, but I think it suffered from trying to do too much.  There was no need for the “C’mon and take me, c’mon and shake me”; there’s a pure Spanish version out there and that’s what should have been performed.  And the intro at the beginning – why on earth would they mess with a song that was already popular?  Had Spain left the song that won its national final alone, then they wouldn’t have earned one of the worst results of a song performing last in the running order.

80. Latvia 2009 – Probka performed by Intars Busulis

The best gag act in Eurovision history!  It is musically intriguing, the lyrics tell an interesting story, and the staging is quite well done.  This song suffers from being serious non-serious entry, fans just didn’t know what to make of it.

79. Latvia 2007 – Questa Notte performed by bonaparti.lv

Talk about popopera, I don’t know why Eurovision.tv heralded Sweden 2009 as the first popera on the Eurovision stage, 2007’s Slovenian and Latvian acts definitely came first.  Anyway, this act brought a lot of class to the ESC stage and was beautifully performed by six very talented tenors.  One more thing I love about this act, it was in Italian, even though it was from Latvia…beautiful (see entry #96 for explanation).

78. Croatia 2008 – Romanca performed Kraljevi Ulice & 75 Cents

Such a fun song.  It took me a few times to understand the lyrics, but I think I finally understand the meaning of the song to be that love stories never change through time; that it is fact that people have fallen in love, are falling in love, and will continue to fall in love until the end of time.  I also love the dancer and her beautiful dress.

77. Ireland 2010 – It’s for You performed by Niamh Kavanaugh

If all else fails, go back to you’re wheelhouse, or so must have gone the logic in Ireland in 2010.  Kavanaugh, the second in the Emerald Isle’s historic three-straight victories in the 90’s, took us back to 1992 with It’s for You, a classic, Irish style ballad.  Unfortunately, Europe was looking ahead, not behind, and the unthinkable happened – Kavanaugh (and her Irish ballad) ended up near the bottom of the scoreboard.  It didn’t help that her vocals weren’t as strong as they were seventeen years before, but it was still a shock for me.

76. Norway 2008 – Hold On, Be Strong performed by Maria Haukaas Storeng

What a great message of hope for those of us struggling with loneliness.  Though a little cheesy, it propelled Norway back into the Top Ten with a heartfelt performance.

75. Armenia 2008 – Qele, Qele performed by Sirusho

I will admit, I don’t love this song as much as I used to.  I think seeing in the context of the Contest, and how of all the acts, it improved the most in terms of its performance from semi-final to Grand Final.  I still think the lyrics are bit simplistic, but, gosh darn it, it’s such a fun song to dance to.

74. Albania 2009 – Carry Me in Your Dreams performed by Kejsi Tola

This song was immediately one of my favorites because it had one of the best translation jobs I’ve seen in the Contest, too rarely does a song keep so much of its original lyrics when translated into English. The song was inventive, but the performance and music video were quite lacking.  I got the idea that the stage show was supposed to be a dream, but why was Tola wearing a tutu?  I realize that she’s young, but come on, a lot more could have been done.  And the music video, soooooo outdated!  It was like something out of the 80s.

73. Slovenia 2002 – Samo Ljubezen performed by Sestre

Another song of hope, only delivered much more entertainingly.  I enjoy this song, but it just doesn’t make a lasting impression when listened to.

72. Belarus 2005 – Love Me Tonigh performed by Angelica Agurbash

A love this song, it is ridiculously fun to sing along to and can provide a song for the intimate nights with the spouse.  If only the vocal performance during the live performance wasn’t so…horrid.

71. Slovenia 2007 – Cvet Z Juga performed by Alenka Gotar

Of the four opera inspired acts I have seen on the ESC stage, this was probably the most well done musically.  It has that classic, stereotypical spooky opera sound with the staging to go along with it.  Not to mention that Gotar has an amazing voice.  This, along with a few other entries in my top 100, suffers from the 2007 curve – Serbia’s victory set the trend for higher quality music, leaving songs that were vastly superior in their own time in the dust.  Hence, two years ago, this would have been in my Top 20, and now, it is only number 71.

70. Slovenia 2006 – Mr. Nobody performed by Anžej Dežan

Slovenia has a way with music, another simple music motif turned into an intriguing and layered melody.  And the lyrics told quite the story, from meeting to heartache.  Oh, “tell me, who’s the lucky hero?!”

69. Greece 2009 – This is Our Night performed by Sakis Rouvas

One of many of the high energy dance numbers sent by Greece, not to mention a stellar performance to go along with it.  I also like this song because it is so much fun to sing along to – it’s no surprise that this is one of my favorite Greek entries of the past decade.

68. Malta 2007 – Vertigo performed by Olivia Lewis

Probably the biggest sufferer of the 2007 Curve that resulted in so many of my favorite songs from Helsinki being pushed to the bottom of my playlists as 2008, 2009, and 2010 supplied superior musical quality.  For the first year the Contest was in my life (essentially, up until the 2008 Contest in Belgrade) this was probably my favorite entry, even after I had retroactively watched 2004-2006 by the time the Contest was staged in Belgrade. Once I became more experienced with the Contest, I saw just how weak the lyrics and stage performance was for Vertigo. Unfortunately, its intriguing melody alone was not enough to keep this one-time favorite in my top 50.

67. Estonia 2010 – Siren performed by Malcolm Lincoln & ManPower 4

What a lovely throwback to the 80s!  The song is lacks in lyrical complexity, it more than makes up for in sheer quirkiness of music and performance.  Not that the lyrics aren’t worth merit, I definitely credited the duo for writing a song with as sophisticated a double entendre as Siren – you have the literal siren that sounds at various throughout the song as well as the figurative meaning of a siren being an alluring woman who leads men to their doom.

66. Macedonia 2005 – Make My Day performed by Martin Vučić

It’s about time a man made a song about standing up to a controlling girlfriend that is up-tempo and empowering.  Vučić performs ableably and the music is textured enough so that its simplicity isn’t noticed.  The reason I don’t rank this song higher is that it is generally forgettable, despite it’s infectious “Lej la, la la, lej la” refrain.

65. Germany 2010 – Satellite performed by Lena

In one of the most evenly matched Contests to date, Germany was able to pull off a decisive victory with Satellite.  It’s a fun song that fits Lena perfectly.  I definitely like this arrangement more than the original that Lena’s competitor sung – it sounds more genuine, like someone who’s only 19 would actually say these things to their boyfriend.  I particularly love that Lena was an amateur and that she went from average high school student to international superstar over the course of six months – it truly inspires us all.  With all that said, I don’t think this was the strongest song in 2010 and think that I can name at least four other songs of higher quality that competed, as well as about six songs that I liked better.

64. Russia 2001 – Lady Alpine Blue performed by Mumiy Troll

Many belie this song because of its nonsensical lyrics, but I find this song inexplicitly hypnotic.  I don’t know quite know if it’s the music or the singer’s voice or just the way how everything comes together on this song – it’s just a captivating song.

63. Moldova 2009 – Hora Din Moldova performed by Nelly Ciobanu

I will spare you the details of how much fun I have singing and dancing to this song.  It’ll suffice to say that this I think this is one of the most fun entries in the history of the Contest.  And the staging was just adorable.  I think I would rate this song higher if I could more easily distinguish between her Moldovan and English.

62.  Norway 2010 – My Heart is Yours performed by Didrik Solli-Togen

This was a decent title defense effort, though I agree with a lot of the chatter online that says that the song may be better suited for a musical than a music competition.  I also think the original arrangement during the Norsk Melodi Grand Prix was better, when it was just Solli-Togen and violins, and I think that this song fell into the trap of adding backing vocalists and a bigger instrumentation in order to make the song more ‟dynamic and dramatic.”  I truly enjoy this song but think that the second verse could have been written better.  As much as I hate to admit it, “I watch you at night” is not necessarily the best line to put into a love song.

61. Estonia 2004 – Tii performed by Neiokõsõ

Another captivating song without much reason to be. The style and staging are too close to pagan tradition for my tastes, but it’s a moving song nevertheless.  The lyrics seem to take a generic message of feeling as if one lacks control over one’s own life and turns it into an homage to fate.  However, because the song is such that it is a chant, it just comes off as five girls singing to themselves and not a real pop song.

60. Ukraine 2009 – Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl) performed by Svetlana Loboda

This is the ultimate guilty pleasure song, something that you like but don’t tell others that you like it.  It’s fun, it’s allows you to sing at the top of your lungs, and try to exude the power that Loboda did during her stage performance.  The reason this song isn’t higher on the list is because of the lyrics.  Aside from going “Boom” whenever a word couldn’t be thought of to fit into a line, the lyrics come off as “Be my valentine…or else!”  Violence is never sexy.

59. Norway 2007 – Ven A Bailar Conmigo performed by Guri Schanke

The Spanish flair to this Norwegian entry is what initially drew me to this song.  It’s fun to dance and sing along to and the lyrics make sense.  I even liked the staging where the costume change did the ever-so-rare short dress to long dress change.  This song is just so bubbly!

58.  Belgium 2003 – Sanomi performed by Urban Trad

A historic entry for the Contest, this was the first (and so far, most successful) entry in a “constructed” language.  I would argue that it’s one of the most important entries of the past ten years, if not in the history of the Contest (at one of the more historic Contests).  It’s a very relaxing song to listen to and is a quintessential example of what Americans consider “trendy Euro music.”  This is quite an enjoyable entry.

57.  Armenia 2009 – Jan Jan performed by Inga & Anush

One of the more memorable stagings of an entry since the Contest started becoming more elaborate in its presentation.  Despite the songs suspect lyrics, it is still a great dance tune and quite original.  The songwriters were able to successfully combine traditional Caucasian folk elements with modern Western pop music (which I think is the reason why the sister pair was chosen).  I thoroughly enjoy this song.

56.  Lithuania 2010 – Eastern European Funk performed by InCulto

I think the theme of enjoyable, fun songs has been well established on this list.  What sets this song apart is its ska sound, not something I would expect from Europe, let alone Eastern Europe.  Not only that, the song’s quirky and clever lyrics, which narrowly slipped by the EBU censures, gives the song an esoteric spin.

55. Albania 2010 – It’s All About You performed Juliana Pasha

Talk about an unexpected power, Pasha really showed her pipes with this song.  The song was well written, well composed, and, in its final form, well orchestrated.  The addition of the background vocals was an amazing decision that greatly enhanced the entry and helped Albania continue its streak of making it into the Final.

54. Turkey 2008 – Deli performed by Mor ve Ötesi

This is a strong rock entry from Turkey and is one of the country’s rare Turkish-language entries since 1998.  Not to mention, it’s quite fun to sing along to.  Again, this is an entry with “interesting” lyrics, but the music and performance more than make up for this shortfall.

53. Lithuania 2001 – You’ve Got Style performed by Skamp

What a cool song.  This retro entry just makes you want to throw on some bellbottoms and an applejack and hit the local roller rink!  The song was well performed on the night; though, the stage was huge, so it is a little confusing as to why the band seemed to be crowding each other.

52.  Greece 2003 – Never Let You Go performed by Mando

An awesome, R&B style song that should have done much better than it did.  Mando has an amazing voice and this song was well suited to her.  I can only say that the staging was quite boring, especially given the competition Greece stood against that year.  Though, it’s important to note that Greece has since sent only titillating entries (save for 2006) since 2003 and have yet to fall outside of the Top Ten since 2003.

51.  Belgium 2008 – O Julissi performed by Ishtar

Belgium’s second attempt with a constructed language, O Julissi is much more fun and entertaining than Sanomi, but a lot less successful.  One thing that hurt Ishtar was the transition from the Belgian national qualifier (a small stage with a supportive audience) to the stage in Belgrade (a much bigger stage with a neutral audience).  While they seemed to have gotten the crowd in Belgrade excited, the energy just didn’t seem to transfer to the television viewers.  Not to mention, the lead singer got quite winded during the song, diminishing its effect.  Despite all this, I still love this song.

50.  The Netherlands 2010 – Ik Ben Verliefd (Sha-la-lie) performed by Sieneke

One of the most divisive songs from 2010, people either hated or loved this song; I fall in the latter camp.  For starters, its the first Dutch entry in Dutch in ages.  Secondly, it’s so infectious.  Thirdly, it’s old-fashioned tune and staging set it apart from the competition, not disadvantage it.  This entry was the most popular Dutch entry in a long time, both in the Netherlands and abroad, so something must have been done correctly.

49.  Finland 2002 – Addicted to You performed by Laura Voutilainen

Another disco-esque song from the past ten Contests makes my list.  This song is surprisingly soulful for any entry from the ESC, let alone from the land of hard rock, tango, and accordion folk.  I’m quite “addicted” to this song.

48. Ukraine 2004 – Wild Dances performed by Ruslana

This song won the hearts of Europe with its electrifying performance and incredible musical arrangement (but surely not its lyrics).  I was captivated from the very first time I watched the winning performance – and I am still held captive by this song.

47. Greece 2006 – Everything performed by Anna Vissi

A truly stirring song; I didn’t fully appreciate it until a few months after I watched the 2006 Contest.  Vissi so poignantly transmits the heartache of the lyrics.  The performance lived up to the level of drama that this song demanded.  This is just a great song all around.

46. Israel 2008 – Fire in Your Eyes performed by Boaz

This is another song with a great musical arrangement and dramatic performance.  The lyrics are a little confusing, particularly the few lines in English, but Boaz and his backing singers did such a great job of delivering the song that no one seemed to notice.

45. Croatia 2004 – You Are the Only One performed by Ivan Mikulić

In my opinion, Mikulić has one of the biggest notes of the decade during this performance.  Who hasn’t daydreamed of singing this song to a special someone, especially those of us who don’t exactly have a long list of ex-partners?  What really makes the song special is that, despite it’s lyrics, the music still has that former-Yugoslav sadness in it.

44. Armenia 2007 – Anytime You Need performed by Hayko

Another powerful ballad, I especially like the addition of the Armenian language lyrics thrown in at the end.  This song had a flawless performance, with flawless lyrics, and flawless music – it’s so tender and genuine.

43. Croatia 2006 – Moja Štikla performed by Severina

Talk about fun songs, this has to be one of the most fun entries to date (not to mention one of the funniest).  It perfectly encapsulates folk music with pop while delivering a message of empowerment while pulling off some incredible dance moves in crazy high stilettos.  If you’re a woman and some undesirable guy starts to hit on you, make him tuck his tail and run by proudly proclaiming that, “Not a single blade of grass has grown where I’ve stuck my high heel!”

42. Bulgaria 2008 – DJ, Take Me Away performed by Deep Zone & Bathazar

Bulgaria is known for sending kind of off-the-wall, experimental entries, so who better to grace the ESC stage with a dance house track than the Balkan nation?  Especially since it worked out so well for them the previous year.  For as cool and inventive as the song was, I thought that the performance left something to be desired.  But, this song is just so much fun to sing and dance to, it’s all right.

41. Belgium 2007 – Love Power performed by The KMG’s

When I saw this song live, I literally said, “What was that?!”  The live performance is unforgettable, but not in a good way.  When I listened to the studio version for the first time the following day, I automatically fell in love with the song.  It’s light and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It’s the perfect fluff piece that, had it been executed properly, could have provided some break to the monotony of ballads and power ballads that flooded the ESC stage in 2007.  Normally, I think the music videos for ESC entries are, well, lame – but this one is hilarious.  If you have yet to see it, I suggest that you hightail it back over to YouTube to check it out!

40. Turkey 2006 – Süperstar performed by Sibel Tüzün

Talk about a song for seduction, if you weren’t the least bit melted by this sizzling song and Tüzün’s sultry performance, then you must not have been paying attention.  One of the sexiest songs to grace the Eurovision stage and my music collection.

39. Ukraine 2006 – Show Me Your Love performed by Tina Karol

Not to often will I say that the live performance of a song is better than the studio version, but this is definitely the case.  Free of the studio’s technology, Karol has a chance to really let her voice soar and bring a whole new power to the lyrics.  The music is also well done; it’s always nice when an accordion can be worked in tastefully.

38. Switzerland 2005 – Cool Vibes performed by Vanilla Ninja

Lyrical issues aside, this song is great.  From the soft oboe at the beginning to the ghouly backing vocals of the refrain to the timpani that sounds at the finale, this is a beautiful musical piece.  Not to mention, Vanilla Ninja give an amazing performance of the song.

37. Estonia 2009 – Rändajad performed by Urban Symphony

I think this entry is an example of effective use of simplicity.  The lyrics, the music, the performance, they were all very simple – but the song made a huge impact, both on the night and among fans.  This is Estonia’s best entry, from a popularity standpoint and from a quality standpoint, thus far.

36. Slovenia 2001 – Energy performed by Nuša Derenda

This song is an effective dance tune (with dance being techno’s more pop-friendly brother), if only Slovenia had been able to make the piano fly like in the music video – it would have won for sure!  I love the lyrics of this song and think that Derenda had a near-flawless delivery.

35. Israel 2010 – Milim performed by Harel Ska’at

One of the biggest travesties of the decade, if not the entirety of the Contest’s history, Milim should have been the winning entry at the 2010 Contest.  I mean, c’mon, it is the first entry to win all three Marcel Bezançon Awards – doesn’t that count for something (I know it doesn’t)?  This song is beautiful in every way.  The lyrics have so much more meaning than the average run-of-the mill ESC song.  The music is perfectly timed.  And the Final performance was unbelievably heartfelt and genuine (yes, even the cracked note) – not to mention that Ska’at is easy on the eyes.  There’s no reason why Skaat shouldn’t have been hoisting the crystal microphone at the end of the night.

34. Sweden 2008 – Hero performed by Charlotte Perelli

I want to start by saying that I like the idea of having the performance start in black and white, but, while the Melodifestelaven folks were able to effectively arrange this effect, those in Belgrade were not quite as successful.  Issues with the performance aside, this is a quintessential Eurovision song, schaleger at its best.

33. Croatia 2010 – Lako je Sve performed by Feminnem

In my notes from the 2010 Edition, I say something along the lines of “One’s thing is obvious after that performance: Feminnem came to win.”  Despite the results, I stand by that statement, I think it was one of the most perfectly executed, perfectly sung entries of the decade.  This song achieves to delicate balances: it tells the rare “woman cheats on man and begs for forgiveness” story, and it is done tastefully and the music is dramatic without being melodramatic.  Also, this is miles better than Feminnem’s other entry, Call Me (despite the latter’s built-in tribute to the Contest).

32. Portugal 2009 – Todas As Ruas Do Amor performed by Flor-de-Lis

I don’t have much to say about this entry, other than: What a sweet song!  The lyrics to this song are just adorable and the music and performance fit them perfectly.

31. Turkey 2002 – Leylaklar Soldu Kalbinde performed by Beket Bengisu & Grup Safir

The refrain alone is enough to get this song on this list.  The reason I have ranked this song so highly is because the way in which the music and the singer’s voice fit together; I think Bengisu’s deep alto is perfect for the arrangement of this song.  I think that the arrangement also heralds back to the early 90’s, which fits impeccably with the style in which the lyrics are written.

30. Russia 2009 – Mamo performed by Anastasia Prikhodko

I am not quite sure why so many people disliked this song – it is a heartbreaking ballad that is painfully sung by Prikhodko, not to mention the nifty aging trick on the CGI screens.  Speaking of a great use of the screens, the performance is staged in such a way that it’s almost as if a chorus of Prikhodko heads are singing, until the lights shine upon the backing singers.

29. Andorra 2006 – Sense-Tu performed by Jenny

There’s only one plausible reason as to why this song finished last, Jenny commuted a cardinal sin of European entertainment, BBWBS: Being Big While Being Sexy.  In the US, the sizzling lyrics, the tantalizing performance, the epic music – this would have been a hit (if in English).  This song is, by far, Andorra’s best entry to date.

28. Ukraine 2007 – Dancing Lasha Tumbai performed by Verka Serduchka

Probably the most fun song on this list, definitely something that catches one’s attention!  It’s loud, it’s glitzy, it’s hilarious – one of the most well done gag acts in the history of the Contest and one of the most successful.  The song is just so infectious, it’s impossible to resist!

27. Romania 2005 – Let Me Try performed by Luminiţa Anghel & Sestem

A powerful love song that helped bring sparks to the ESC stage, what’s not to love about this entry?  Sestem’s music provides the ideal accompaniment the lyrics.  You can feel the desperation coming through in the musical arrangement and in Anghel’s voice – flawless.

26.  Iceland 2008 – This is My Life performed by Euroband

I liked this song a lot when I heard it for the first time during the second semi-final; I loved this song when I heard it at the Final.  There was a tangible improvement from Thursday to Saturday, and it made the big notes seem that much bigger and the lights that much brighter.  While I am a little dismayed that the English lyrics don’t really match the Icelandic ones, I still enjoy them and prefer their message to the song’s original one.  I also love the dance beat that this song has.

25. Bosnia & Herzegovina 2007 – Rijeka Bez Imena performed by Marija

This is the song that introduced me to the soul stirring power of the former-Yugoslav’s heartbroken ballads.  The lyrics are indomitable – “with this heartache I will die,” how powerful!  The music seals the deal, though, not just creating an ebb and flow for the singer’s voice to follow, but doing so in such a way that draws the listener into the song as an undertow draws in a swimmer.

24. Ireland 2003 – We Got the World Tonight performed by Mickey Joe Harte

I will go to my deathbed saying that this song should have won the Contest back in 2003.  It combines sweet lyrics with an unassuming melody – just a perfect meeting in the world of pop music.

23. San Marino 2008 – Complice performed by Miodio

If there ever was an epic pop-rock song to grace the stage of ESC, this is it.  The boys of Miodio take melodrama to a whole new level with this song, but in a completely awesome way.  The desperation and persistence with which this song is sung only make the words come alive that much more.  I think it is also worth noting that the music, and how it kind of trails off at the end fit the song quite well.

22. Serbia 2007 – Molitva performed by Marija Šerifović

It was this song’s victory that made me fall in love with the Contest.  Had Serbia not won in 2007, I probably would not have become the obsessed super-fan that I am now.  I remember thinking halfway through Šerifović’s performance, “This Contest is over; she has just won it for Serbia.”  It was the perfect song winning off of a perfect performance.  The music was dramatic, the lyrics were personal and moving, and Šerifović’s ability to belt out the notes was unmatched, probably the clearest cut, and most deserving, victor of the decade.

21. Ukraine 2008 – Shady Lady performed by Ani Lorak

A former goodwill ambassador to the United Nations, Ani Lorak tore up the Eurovision stage unmercifully.  She continued the Ukraine’s tradition of powerful divas with this stunning dance number.  The lyrics are words of empowerment and the music makes the heart beat faster.  While I think the staging could have been better, this song still wows listeners, even in its studio version.

20. Azerbaijan 2010 – Drip Drop performed by Safura

I really do think that Safura let her nerves get the best of her, especially on the Final night.  Listening to her in the Azerbaijani national selections, she was amazing.  Listening to her doing the promotional performances, amazing.  Listening to her at the actual Contest…not so much.  Pitchy performance aside, the song tells a compelling story and the music is properly arranged.  The reason this song makes my top twenty is because of how dramatic it is, especially the bridge, “I don’t cry…And be lost in myself, again…”

19. Germany 2006 – No No Never performed by Texas Lightening

Apparently, this is the most popular German entry in Germany…and it’s quite understandable as to why.  It’s a sentimental love song without being sappy, “My loves burns just like eternal flame, and you feel it when I’m calling your name.”  It’s a wonder as to why this song didn’t finish better than it did.  The reason this song is in my top twenty is because it’s easy to sing along to, the lyrics are deceptively simple, and the style is unexpected.  Who would have thought that the Germans would send a country act?

18. Turkey 2009 – Düm Tek Tek performed by Hadise

“Can you feel the rhythm in my heart?  The beat is going: Düm Tek Tek!” Come on, when a song pauses so that everyone can shout together it’s deserves to be in a Top 100.  When that same song consistently delivers itself in a sexy package with a hot choreography, it deserves to be in the Top 50.  When that same song has a killer dance beat wrapped up in an ethno-pop package, it deserves to be in the Top Twenty.

17. Iceland 2009 – Is It True? performed by Yohanna

Talk about deceptively simple, this song has a very basic melody with very basic lyrics, but it’s stunning.  Yohanna’s performance is what knocks this song into my top twenty.  The way how she belts out the notes and the way how the song builds and builds until that huge note third time through the chorus, “Is it true, Is it over? Did I throw it all awa…y?”

16. Portugal 2008 – Senhora do Mar (Negras Águas) performed by Vânia Fernandes

This song is impossible not to love.  The performance of this song, particularly during the Semi-Final, was breath-taking.  The fact that this was the first Portuguese entry to qualify for the Final since 2004 and remains one of the country’s most popular entries makes the song that much more remarkable.  What makes this song deserve a Top Twenty placing for me is how dark the song’s music is and how the music helps paint the image of this whaler’s wife waiting on the edge of the sea for her husband to return.  The winds, the waves, they’re all there.

15. The Netherlands 2008 – Your Heart Belongs to Me performed by Hind

At the time, this was my favorite entry from 2008 and remains as my favorite Dutch entry to date.  The reason why this song is so good (other than Hind’s great voice and looks) is because this song grabs you from the first beat and doesn’t let go (literally, when she sings, “Your belongs to me,” she means it!).  Unlike other dance-y pop numbers, this song steps above them with its intricate musical style.  The musical arrangement harks back to almost, kiddie music (just look at the music video) while Hind’s voice and the lyrics provide a mature tone to the song.  Well done Netherlands, well done.

14. Hungary 2009 – Dance With Me performed by Zolí Adok

Bet you didn’t see this one coming!  This is in my top twenty because 1) it’s my favorite dance number from the Contest. 2) It’s insanely infectious “C’mon dance with me, make me lose my way!  Dance with me, make my body sway…”  Tell me the song isn’t now stuck in your head.  3) It’s just a sexy song (not the performance, but the music, the lyrics, the music video).

13. Serbia & Montenegro 2004 – Lane Moje performed by Žečjko Joksimović & The Ad Hoc Orchestra

This is the song that really defined the former Yugoslav countries’ heartbreak ballads.  Molitva (SER2007), Lejla (BiH2006), Lijepa Tena (CRO2009), Rijeka Bez Imena (BiH2007), Oro (SER2008), etc…  Lane Moje is in my Top Twenty because, while it may not have been the very first one of it’s kind, it certainly set the stage for all the ones that followed.

12. Serbia 2008 – Oro performed by Jelena Tomašević featuring Bora Dugić

This song is in my Top Twenty because the way how everything fits together.  The circular motion of the music and the lyrics perfectly reflect the title Oro (a circular dance that has a unique variant in each Balkan culture).  The way how the melancholy lyrics play off the affectionate good night wish, “Nuna ney…[Wake me on St. Vitus Day, to look at him again].” (translated from the original the Serbian lyrics) is genius.  What a perfect title-defense effort and I hope that Serbia can find its way again (not that I dislike 2009 and 2010, but it’s no 2007 or 2008).

11. Norway 2009 – Fairytale performed by Alexander Rybak

Never before in history has a song so dominated the competition as Fairytale dominated the other 41 songs in Moscow.  The song itself packages folk music in a nice, cute package, from the innocent lyrics (“But when I do, We’ll get a brand new start!”) to the bubbly backing singers’ “Duh, do, dah.”  The fact that Alexander Rybak wrote, composed, and performed the song virtually all by himself (the first to do so and win, I think) top off the reasons as to how this song earned its way into my Top Twenty.

10. Hungary 2008 – Candlelight performed by Csézy

A song that could dominate the Adult Contemporary charts in the US if given the chance, Candlelight is a perfect example of what makes that genre so compelling.  The lyrics, the music, the way in which they fit together to form this large, aural sweeping motion – it’s the utter definition of a romantic ballad.  This earns a spot in my Top Ten because of how transcending the song is, no matter how many times I hear it – I’m transported to a romantic scene (“I will fly tonight, forever keep you in my heart/Make it feel so right when you love me by sweet/Candlelight, hold me till the morning shine/All my fears subside when I look into your eyes.”)  Anytime a song can inspire such vivid imagery so consistency, it deserves a spot at the top.

9. Austria 2005 – Y Así performed by Global.Kryner

Before this entry, who ever would have thought of trying to meld Latin music with polka?  This song is innovative and catchy, poppy yet intriguing, and has a yodeler!  This song makes my Top Ten because of its effective use of polka (not an easy feat), its use of Spanish (“Bailar como Latina/El ritmo puro de la música alpina/Y así, y así /Y así baila la chica del Caribe”,) the unique story that it tells, and this is one of the most fun songs I’ve seen at the Contest.

8. Georgia 2007 – Visionary Dream performed by Sopho

Talk about epic entries!  The performance (with those swords), the music, Sopho’s voice – this song is just so powerful!  Everytime Sopho sings the words, “Sailing thorough my story!  Sharing my history!” I’m just blown away.  The reason this song is in my Top Ten is because it’s incredibly cathartic; every time the song explodes in musical array, I explode with it.  It’s arranged in such a way that it always takes me by surprise each time that I listen to it.

7. Israel 2005 – Hasheket Shinish’Ar performed by Shiri Maimon

To those who regularly follow the blog, you know that I often invoke the name of Shiri Maimon when talking about “travesties” at the Contest; times when I so vehemently disagree with the results that I feel an injustice has occurred.  There is absolutely no reason this song should have lost, especially to that Greek mess that was My Number 1.  But the reason this song is in my Top Ten is because it is unbelievably stirring and heartbreaking – even before I knew what the lyrics meant.  What makes the song even more astounding is that Maimon is generally a sexed-up pop singer, so she really steps out of her comfort zone and showcases her pipes.  Lovely job!

6. Turkey 2003 – Every Way That I Can performed by Sertab Erener

Talk about a dominant personality!  This is a Top Ten song because the lyrics are those of a heartbreak ballad, “I’ll cry, I’ll die, to make you mine again!  I’m in love with you, I’ll do all you want me to…,” but it is delivered in an aggressive, powerful way – as if the man who broke Erener’s heart is the sorry one.  It’s this contradiction that intrigues me so, that makes me love this song so much, and probably what helped Turkey win in 2003.

5. Moldova 2008 – A Century of Love performed by Geta Burlacu

A jazzy love song.  I think the music video does a great job of showcasing why I love this song; it is effective and applicable at every level of a relationship – from puppy love to ageless romance.  “This is all I mean, be my everything, and remember, our dreams together…” what beautiful lyrics.  The music can take you to an intimate jazz lounge or a cozy night a couch with a that special someone.  This is a Top Five song because I listen to it every day.  I listen to it everyday because, to me, it’s a quintessential romantic song that should be a part of every couple’s soundtrack.

4. France 2009 – Et S’Il Fallait le Faire performed by Patricia Kaas

This is the ultimate love song – a tale of a love so fanatic, so impassioned that the singer is willing to do anything for her beloved, “Until being nothing more but the shadow of your nights/Until being nothing more but a shadow that follows you/And if it had to be done” (translated from the French lyrics).  Not that I advocate for this kind of devotion, but Kaas so beautifully sings the song that it’s all right.  Her vocals and her performance are breathtaking; there’s a reason why she won the Bezençon Artist Award in 2009.  Another reason this song is in my Top Five, how unmistakably French this song is.  In an era of the Contest when songs are starting to sound more and more like each other, this song sticks out as a distinct ethnic fingerprint.

3. Russia 2010 – Lost and Forgotten performed by Peter Nalitch & Friends

In my opinion, this is one of the most misunderstood acts out there.  It’s a genuine heartbreak ballad delivered so painstakingly that it’s impossible to resist.  Also, like many other songs from 2010, Lost and Forgotten is done in a style that harks back to an earlier time in music history, this time to the 1960’s.  The reason I love this song so much that it’s number three on my list is because of how genuine the group delivers the song – from the woeful lyrics, “Would you believe, Lord of Mercy?,” to the simulated phone call, “ ‘What are you doing man?’ ‘I’m looking at her photos…’,” to Nalitch’s painful wail near the end of the song.  From the first listening, this song touched me in ways that few have.

2. Sweden 2009 – La Voix performed by Malena Ernman

Popopera at its best.  While I have all four opera-inspired entries on this list, this song blows them away with its clever lyrics and Ernman’s stunning performance.  La Voix blows away the 98 preceding songs on this list because of its originality (it’s opera…from Sweden!), its musical arrangement (dynamics, texture, contrast!), and Ernman’s singing prowess that makes the song come alive.  This song made an immediate impact on me, so much so, that I quickly was able to memorize it and have performed it on several occasions.  Not to mention that this is, by far, the most popular song among those I introduce the Contest to.  There’s something special about La Voix, and that’s why it’s number two.

1. Bosnia & Herzegovina 2006 – Lejla performed by Hari Mata Hari

Interesting, all three of the Željko Joksimović composed songs made my Top Twenty; that man is talented!  I love this song so much; within three months, I had listened to it over 100 times, at least thirty more times than the next song, which I had for three years prior to adding Lejla to my music library.  I love this song so much, I wrote and directed a short movie based upon it (can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEnGcdWi2xA)This song is number one on my list because it master’s each of the three things I look for in an ESC entry, lyrics, music, and performance.  Lyrically, I was instantly moved by the sorrowful words, “Dove, my dove/Bring her tears instead of a song/I’m leaving, as if I’m guilty/For loving the one who I am not allowed to.” (translated from the Bosnian lyrics).  Before I understood the lyrics, I understood the music.  The music is so unbelievably fitting for this song – the music swells at the right moments, it pauses at the right moments, it suddenly gets loud and softens at just the right moments.  The music is just impeccably timed.  Hari Mati Hari’s performance is subtle yet makes a lasting impact.  The stark white clothing against the black backdrop, the use of mixed sex backing singers, the way how they all come together at the end.  The performance looks so effortless and is enacted smoothly.  What really sells me is the end, everything comes together at the final line.  The six performers walk forward in the a line during the last stanza to build up to the final line.  In marching band, they will tell you that one of the most powerful motions a band can do is march forward in a horizontal line.  Then the music drops out as the lead singer utters those most painful words, ‘For loving you…” all the pain and anguish the song talks about is summed up in those words.  And then, those explosive final word, the name of the cursed beloved.  The singer is left all alone, the music comes roaring back, and we hear the singer’s pained cry, “Lejla!”  There’s has yet to be better entry to the Eurovision Song Contest in my opinion.


My Approach to the ESC

I take the ESC very seriously and in its entirety; its history, its flaws, and its awesomeness!  I will try to breakdown my views of each aspect.

  • ESC…History – There are certain winners that I hate (GRE2005, EST2001, SWE1984, and NET1959).  And certain other victors that I don’t quite care for (FIN2006, LAT2002, ITL1990, UK1969, etc…).  And certain ones that I like, but don’t think should have won (RUS2008, UKR2004, etc…).  Regardless of how I feel about the victors, I accept them because there is nothing that I can really do about it.  That means I try not to let myself get drawn into the online bickering of whether a song “deserved” to win or not; I take the view that if a song is able to woo the televoters/jury into awarding that country’s points, then it is deserving of the victory.  Though, I do like discussing whether other songs should have won, I prefer lifting up songs as opposed to knocking them down.
  • ESC…Flaws – If there was one aspect to the Contest that has irked the fans the most, and caused the most heated of discussions, it is the voting system. From the “undemocratic” juries to the “uninformed and biased” televoters to the seemingly unsatisfactory compromise that is the current voting system. Personally, I like the voting system in place from 2013 – 2015; I think it strikes a healthy balance between the jury and the televoters. But the biggest issue seems to be diaspora voting (obviously, not political (except for Malta’s votes in 2007; Armenia and Azerbaijan’s non voting for one another) since most of the Balkan nations hate one another – as do most of the former Soviet states and Russia). This is when countries with similar cultures vote for one another (UK/Ireland; Nordic/Baltic Bloc, former-Yugoslav Bloc, former-USSR Bloc) and large immigrant populations voting for their home nation (Turkey’s votes from France, Belgium, Germany, and Bosnia & Herzegovina, for example). This obviously happens, whether we are using juries or televoting. The only way around this fact is to have participants participate without revealing the country from which they are from and all singing in the same language. This will never happen. However, under the blended systems, most of the same countries get big points from traditional friends, a lot of the smaller and medium point values seem to be adjusted. All of a sudden, Spain is giving points to Norway, Norway is giving points to Croatia, and Croatia is giving points to Estonia, all of which are rare occurrences. I say the ESC reverts back to this scoring system.
  • ESC…Awesomeness – In order to truly bask in the glory of the Contest, I believe that it must be approached as it once was, without the listening to any of the entries other than one’s own home country. This way, one can more accurately judge the performance on the night and not the one that has the best studio version; part of a victorious song must be the performance on the night, and this is lost when everyone can listen to the song ahead of the night. My slate should be as blank as possible prior to the running of the Contest. However, I am weak. So, I wait until the all the entries are submitted in their final forms – the Heads of Delegation Meeting in March. This is the longest I can wait. The good news is, my prediction accuracy was not negatively impacted by this, hahaha.

As I said, I am a Eurovision purist and probably (I think) one of the biggest fans in the world. Is it perfect, no, but I can move past this because its flaws and history cannot mar its awesomeness.


My History with the ESC

I was 19 and studying abroad in Denmark when I discovered the Eurovision Song Contest, and never before in my life had I felt an innate yearning toward something.  Not having any idea as to what the ESC was, I had no expectation for what was going to happen beyond my host family saying “It’s just like American Idol” (a statement that I loathe, and is a pet peeve of mine) and the one semi-final I saw of that year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix (which I did not quite grasp the purpose behind when I viewed it).  Learning that DQ won over the more deserving James Samson a few weeks later, I had low hopes for the contest for which he qualified himself.

Imagine my surprise on Thursday, May 10th when the first semi-final came on.  I was captivated from the start of the Opening Act!  I was so intrigued by the concept of countries competing against each other with original songs; I was hooked from the first notes of “Water” through the final chords of “Questta Notte.”  So hooked, that the next day, while buying souvenirs for family, when I heard a song from the Contest playing over the store’s loud speaker, I ran to the clerk and demanded to know where the store had purchased the album.  Twenty minutes later, I am on the train heading back home (having canceled my evening plans in the city) with my brand new CD.  Eighty minutes later, I am listening to my favorites from the previous night and listening to the fourteen contenders I had yet to hear.  Come Saturday, the evening of the 12th, I was more than ready to watch the Grand Final!  The only problem was that my host parents were not too keen on watching it, given that Denmark did not qualify for the Final.  After some back and forth, I convinced them to turn it on right as Te Deum was starting.  I was once again mesmerized.  But it was seeing Marija Šerifović’s performance, and seeing Molitva win, that made me a true fan.  Had any other song won, I do not think that my obsession would have developed.

With that said, had I saw any of the previous additions, I do not think that my passion for the Contest would have grown to the heights that it has.  I would know, thanks to YouTube, I have seen each of the 51 winning performances preceding 2007, as well as the full running of the Contests from 1998-2006 (and I am continuing to work backwards through time).  In addition, I watched the 2008 and 2009 via the website (and many, many times after that via the official DVD).  Recently, I began watching the Junior edition of the Contest, but both times, only after knowing who won.

I look forward to what the future has in store for the Eurovision Song Contest: possibly an Arabic nation fixture in Qatar, possibly the return of Italy or one of the other countries whining on the sidelines, possibly even the political headache of a possible entry attempt from Kosovo.