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!
2007- 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: France 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?
Merry Christmas!! Or should I say, “Hyvää Joulua!” as the Road to Denmark takes us to Finland today.
As 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.
2007 – 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: Finland 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.
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.
2007 – 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: Estonia 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!
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!
2007 – Malà 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 Turkey 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.