Posts tagged “esc 2010

ESC2014 – Contender or Pretender: Episode Two

Hello Readers!  If you are just joining us, I am reviewing the top six entries according to the bookmakers and determining whether they are legitimately in the running for the crown (contenders) or merely overrated (pretenders).  I previously anointed Sweden as a contender and Ukraine as a pretender.  Today, we’re looking at Denmark and Armenia.  I had to think long and hard about both of these entries and have actually reversed my original thoughts on both.

Denmark

Danish Flag MapSong: Cliché Love Song     Performing Artist: Basim

Why it is a contender: Basim has a million-dollar smile and delivers the song well.  He also capitalizes on the Bruno Mars style music (I like to call it “Pop & B”) that is quite popular right now.  The song also has a trademark big note that allows it to really quite stick in the viewers’ and judges’ minds (for better or for worse).  Not to mention that this entry will be running in the 23rd spot, a prime location and DR has plenty of time to strategize how to best pad it with weaker entries on either side.

Why it is a pretender: The song, while catchy, can be rather annoying.  The lyrics are not that strong, either.  Plus, that big note can come back to bite Denmark in the butt if Basim botches it (think Israel 2010).

Final Verdict: Contender While the song gets continually less likeable with each listen, the stars are aligned for Basim to lead the Danes to the ever-so-rare back-to-back victory.  This will hold doubly true if predicted favorite Norway stumbles in the second semi-final (but more on Norway in the next C.or.P episode).

Armenia

Armenian Flag MapSong: Not Alone     Performing Artist: Aram MP3

Why it is a contender: This song just sticks out.  In a year full of ballads, country/folk, and dance, Armenia sticks out as a modern piece of music.  In that regard, it needs to draw comparisons to Sweden 2012 – an entry that stood out from the field for being so unique and ear- (and eye) catching.

Why it is a pretender: There was another modern piece of music that year in Baku – Montenegro’s entry Euro Neuro.  While Montenegro surely did not have the same expectations as this year’s Armenian entry, it, too, drew attention for the same reasons: off-centre song that pushed the limits of how music is defined.  Not Alone does not follow typical melodic patterns, lyrical traditions, and is much darker in its performance interpretation than most ESC entries.

Final Verdict: Pretender This is probably the hardest one to call.  Every strength that this song has could be equally argued as a weakness – at least as far as ESC success is concerned.  With the added news that it will be Aram MP3 alone on stage for the performance; it makes me think that this song will go over the heads of most who are viewing and voting.  I still love this song, though.


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 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 Azerbaijan

Welcome dear readers!  I have returned!  Sorry for my absence, I will be posting on the daily in order to complete this series before news for ESC2014 hits us in earnest.

As a reminder, I will be talking about each country that has competed since I began following the Contest in 2007. The next stop on the Road to Denmark 2014: Azerbaijan!  The “Land of Fire” could also just as well be called the “Land of Pop Music” – or should I say, “Land from which Money Flows to bring in Europe’s Top Music Makers.”  Azerbaijan, except for its very first entry (and, arguably, its 2012 entry) has always presented very Western, very mainstream pop music with little ties to actual Azerbaijani culture or heritage.  In forsaking its history, the Caucasian country has been rewarded with Top Ten placings each and every year that it has competed, including first, second, and third placings.  Let’s do a quick recap of their entries.

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Azerbaijani Flag Map2008 – Day After Day – Azerbaijan debuted with a song that tied tradition mugham singing with pop music.  Despite the use of a countertenor for part of the song, some freaky light effects, and strange staging – the song finished 8th.  To date, Azerbaijan’s worse placing.  Not too  shabby!  Personally, it took about a year and a half before I actually enjoyed listening to this song.  It’s still a little too out there for me.

2009 – Always – Probably Azerbaijan’s most popular entry thus far.  Not sure why, though.  To me, it’s generic and not all that appealing.  It takes more than some ethnic drums and a wind machine to impress me!

2010 – Drip Drop – Azerbaijan’s first song that was heavily favored to win.  And, had it been performed some time in the second half of the show, it might have.  Safura was waaaaaaay off-key throughout her performances; I’ll just chalk that up to stage fright.  Otherwise, I like this song a lot!

2011 – Running Scared – I still contend that this song would not have won had Turkey been competing in the Final.  It’s bland, boring, and a bit creepy when you consider the age difference between Ell and Nikki.  Still, it deserves respect for pulling off a victory despite being what many consider the country’s weakest entry to date.

2012 – When the Music Dies – Azerbaijan’s attempt to bring some of its own culture back into the Contest. This is my favorite entry by far.  It’s emotionally gripping, musically interesting, and beautifully performed.  A valiant effort to defend the crown – Everyone involved in this entry should be very proud of themselves; except for the decision to do the song in English as opposed to Azerbaijani.

2013 – Hold Me – From a musical standpoint, this song is fairly generic and sounds like any other pop ballad you might come across in the 90s.  However, the staging for this song was phenomenal!  Phen – nom – men – nal!!  The use of that guy in the box to shadow Farid Mammadov, then reflect him to set up the connection, then use him to show his inner turmoil once Mammadov stepped to the front of the stage – awesome!  That’s the kind of artistry and choreography that should earn your song a higher placing than it deserves!

Let’s Take a Closer Look At: AzerbaijanAzerbaijan 2012 (you didn’t think I was going to choose Running Scared, did you?).  The only entry that was originally in Azerbaijani (this year’s entry, Hold Me, did have an alternate version, but it was in Turkish, came after the original English, and sucked), When the Music Dies truly displays what happens when you blend traditional sounds with modern pop balladry.  However, as I said above, Gəl (the original Azerbaijani version) was just as powerful, if not more so, than the English version and should have been performed in Baku. You would think that, after finishing fifth, this proved that Azerbaijan could be successful with an entry that’s true to its culture.  For better or worse, the small nation reverted back to generic, Western pop in 2013.  What will 2014 bring?  Probably more of the same.  Here’s to AZR 2012 – a true gem!

Check back tomorrow when I will be looking back at Belarus!  Wanna see the past stops on the Road to Denmark?  Click here.


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.


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.


Eurovision 2010 – Oslo: One Week Later

Howdy Folks,

It has been a week since Germany has won “Europe’s favorite tv show” and I thought it would be a good idea to post some of my final opinions about this year’s Contest.  The following are “awards” I give to the various acts as I see fit.  Feel free to agree, disagree, or post some of your own “awards.”

Awards for This Year:

Best Dressed:

Winner: Iceland (I loved the whirling effects her dress added to the performance)

First Runner-Up: Belarus (very classy; neat butterfly wings)

Honorable Mention: Malta, Poland, Israel, Macedonia, Georgia, Spain

Most in Need of a Costume Change (Worst Dressed)

“Winner”: Lithuania (I could have done without the sparkly shorts)

First Runner-Up: Armenia (really, it looks like it was pulled out of Eva Rivas’ closet at the last second)

Cutest Boy: The hardest category this year, as about a third of the countries entered one

Winner: Harel Skaat (Israel)

First Runner-Up: Marcin Mronzinski (Poland)

Second  Runner-Up: Josh Dubovie (UK)

Honorable Mention: Belgium, Belarus, Norway, Estonia, Russia, Turkey, Cyprus

Cutest Gal:

Winner: Eva Rivas (Armenia)

First Runner-Up: Sofia Nizharde (Georgia)

Second Runner-Up: Safura (Azerbaijan) (as you can see, there seems to be a Caucasus theme)

Honorable Mention: Belarus, Ukraine (though, she scares me a bit), Portugal

“Spirit of ABBA” Award:  Given to the most stereotypical ESC song

Winner: It’s for You (Ireland) – What’s more ESC than an Irish ballad?

First Runner-Up: That Sounds Good to Me (UK) – C’mon, is this a surprise?

Second Runner-Up: Ik ben Verferlied (Sha-la-lie) (NET) – See above

“This is D.C. Calling…” Award: Given to the most American sounding ESC song

Winner: Drip Drop (Azerbaijan) – it’s not hard to imagine Rihanna or Miley Cyrus singing this one

First Runner-Up: Sweet People (Ukraine) – edgy, modern style, implores environmental and social action, this entry has California written all over it

Second Runner-Up: We Could be the Same (Turkey) – If I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was Hoobastank representing the Turks

Honorable Mention: It’s All About You (Albania) – soulful number that actually has three American backing singers

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

Winner: Drip Drop (Azerbaijan) – powerful R&B~pop number

First Runner-Up: It’s for You (Ireland) – adult contemporary is one of the most popular genres for radio stations

Second Runner-Up (Tie): Me and My Guitar (Belgium)/Life Looks Better in Spring (Cyprus) – I can’t decide between these two, singer-songwriter types have always been big here

The Shiri Maimon Travesty of the Year Award: In 2005, a true work of art was entered into the ESC; Israel was being represented by Shiri Maimon with the song Hasheket Shinish’Ar.  Not only did this song not win, but the winning song that year was not even worthy to be performed on the same stage as the Israeli entry.  For me, that was the biggest travesty in Eurovision history.  Each year, I hand out this award to the biggest disappointment of the Contest.

Winner: Fourteenth Place for Israel — It’s one thing to argue whether or not this song should have won, there are valid arguments on both sides of that debate, but there is no reason this song should not have been in the Top Ten.  It is a downright shame and travesty that this song finished just outside the bottom ten.

First Runner-Up: Bosnia & Herzegovina making the Final — The first semi-final was weak!  But still, Finland, Poland, and Macedonia all had superior songs and performances than BiH, yet they failed to make it through.  BiH undeservedly slipped through to the Final this year.

Second Runner-Up: Croatia being left behind in the Semi-Finals — pegged to be a winner and one of the most moving ballads this year, Lako je Sve should have been a shoo-in for the Final.  Instead, come Saturday, Feminnem was watching the show from the sidelines instead of the Green Room.  Not to take anything away from any of the ten qualifying acts from the second semi-final, but there is no reason this song should not have made it through.

Honorable Mention: 23rd place for Ireland — not only is Niamh Kavanaugh a former winner, but It’s for You was the best ballad this year.  It’s an egregious affront that the Emerald Isle finished so low on the scoreboard.

Now, the big award…My Top Ten Award: Given to my ten favorite songs from the Contest.  Like last year, I liked every song enough to put it on my iPod, but only ten of them can make this list.  The winners are ranked from tenth to first (most favorite).  These songs were the ones good enough to grab my attention and affection from the first moment I heard it at the Contest and have gotten the most plays on my iPod.

10. Switzerland: Il Pleut de l’Or – Michael van der Heide – MvdH has won me over, what an enjoyable song!

10. Turkey: We Could be the Same – maNga – awesome pop-rock number, though, I don’t know if a second place finish was right

9. Estonia: Siren – Malcolm Lincoln and ManPower 4 – it’s so unique and captivating…and so much fun to sing along, too

8. Bulgaria: Angel Si Ti – Miro – one of the few dance songs I can listen to regardless of my mood

7. Norway: My Heart is Yours – Didrik Solli-Tangen – a passion filled song with a disappointing performance on the night, nonetheless, I love it anyway

6. The Netherlands: Ik ben Verliefd – Sienke – so it is a little old fashioned, so what?  It is fun and cute, and Sienke does a great job with it

5. Ireland: It’s for You – Niamh Kavanaugh – I loved Niamh Kavanaugh’s first song, and I love this one even more

4. Croatia: Lako je Sve – Feminnem – another passionate ballad this year, it’s a shame they didn’t move through

3. Lithuania: East European Funk – InCulto – it’s so much fun, and high energy, and catchy!

2. Israel: Milim – Harel Skaat – probably the best song and performance artistically speaking (and the fact that Israel became the first country to take all three Marcel Bezençal Awards speaks to that fact)

1. Russia: Lost and Forgotten – Peter Nalitch & Friends – can someone please explain to me why everyone hates this song.  Is it because they beat those six grandmothers?  The song is so moving and so passionate!


Notes on the Eurovision Song Contest 2010 – Oslo

The Grand Final

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

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

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

Pre-Contest Predictions:

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

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

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

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

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

5. Armenia (popular song; large Diaspora)

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

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

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

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

Now, onwards to the show!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Predictions:

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

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

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

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

The Voting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ü  Poland: No surprises

ü  BiH: no surprises

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

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

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

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

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

ü  Azerbaijan: No big surprises.

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

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

ü  Iceland: no surprises

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

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

ü  Spain: so few for Portugal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ü  Cyprus: And the Greek/Cypriot lovefest continues

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

ü  Belarus: no surprises

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

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

ü  United Kingdom: Whoa!  Only 7 for Ireland?

ü  The Netherlands: no real surprises

ü  Israel: no surprises

ü  Macedonia: low points for Serbia and BiH.

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

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

ü  Sweden: Little points for Norway, hmmm…

ü  Armenia: no surprises

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Semi-Final Two:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Songs that Actually Qualified for the Final

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2010 – OSLO!

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

Semi-Final One:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ten that Actually Made the Final

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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


Pre-Contest Predictions: 2010

It is my understanding that there are seven “favorites” this year, i.e., songs that have a high chance of winning the Contest: Denmark, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Germany, Croatia, and Slovakia.  Each of these countries have a more than fair shot at winning , and compelling reasons that they will fail.

Denmark: Probably the top favorite this year, the Danes are sending a middle of the road contemporary pop song in A Moment Like This performed by Chanée & N’Evergreen.  This has a wide appeal, but for every fan who likes this song or hates this song, there are two that are tepid.  That’s a whole lot of lukewarm people!  The Danes will probably get votes because people feel that they have to vote for them, not necessarily because they have the best song, not to mention N’Evergreen is a big star in Russia, meaning that bordering countries probably also love him.

Armenia: One of the more anticipated entries due to the uncommonly high interest the Armenian national selection.  Eva Rivas carried her nation’s national selection with the song Apricot Stone, with the support of Lys Assia.  The song seems to be an unoffensive ballad (in the traditional sense, in that it is a song that tells a story); however, it seems to be a call to arms for diaspora voting.  The singer, herself, said that the song is about not forgetting one’s roots and returning to one’s homeland, if just in your heart.  But maybe I am reading too much into this interpretation.

Azerbaijan: Often referred to as the most overrated act this year, the “Land of Fire” will be represented by Drip Drop performed by Safura.  All of a sudden, any female who wants to sing R&B is a Beyoncé rip-off?  What a joke!  R&B has been around long before Beyoncé was born and will survive long after she’s dead and forgotten.  People are trying to find ways of putting down the Azerbaijani entry without any real evidence of the song being poor; this should stop!  However, there is a lot of money and publicity being thrown at this entry, meaning that it is probably weaker than the bookies are letting on.  What’s the old saying, “the more something’s advertised, the less you need it.”

Israel: The Middle East nation is being represented by Milim performed by Harel Skaat.  He’s a cute boy singing one of this year’s many ballads.  Has anyone else noticed that all of Skaat’s songs sound the same, or is it just me?  I listened to the four songs that lost at K’dam, and had a hard time telling them a part from one another.  With that said, no one’s stock has dropped hotter than Israel’s.  When Milim was first selected, just about every news outlet predicted that it would be a winner; now you would be hard pressed to find this prediction outside of the Harel Skaat fan club.  However, the song remains popular on fan sites and among the bookies, and hey! I like Mr. Skaat.

Germany: Satellite performed by Lena is the German entrant this year.  From what I gathered, this is a very contemporary song without being weird, which accounts for its high popularity; is it finally time for the Teutonic colors to fly during the ESC winner reprise once again?  How can the only country with the most particpations (54 this year) have only a single victory?  Germany has a tendency to send things that are very American in sound.  From big band (2009, 2007) to girl group bubble gum pop (2008) to country (2006) to blue-eyed soul (2004), Germany seems to be searching for the right answer on this side of the Atlantic.  Just last year, they shook two half-naked Americans at their troubles, and still failed to get past 20th place.  That’s not to say that USA spells trouble at the ESC.  This year, the Germans are looking to taking advantage of the “indie” sound that has become so popular in the US over the past five years.  However, this year, the German entry has been very well received despite its American sound.  There is concern regarding whether Lena can handle the pressure of performing on the ESC stage, only time will tell.

Croatia: Feminnem returns to the Eurovision Song Contest, with a new style and a new flag.  Representing Croatia this go ’round, the three ladies have slowed things down a bit with the song Lako je Sve.  Due to a heart tht is made at the end of the performance, there are cries that the group is copying the end of the 2007 winner Marija Šerifović (SER – Molitva).  Again, this is an example of fools blowing smoke.  Whether or not Feminnem was influenced by the 2007 performance is irrelevant, what about the song?  There seems to be nothing but positive things being said about this song, however, there are far fewer comments being made than for most of the other favorites.  All positive is good, but a lack of attention is not.

Slovakia: For me, this is the most unexpected favorite this year.  Slovakia has few neighbors participating this year (Poland and Ukraine (which is a completely different diaspora for the most part)) and has not had much success with any previous entry.  Despite this, Herhronie performed by Krisitna is among the most well-received songs this year.  It is an up-tempo number that differs dramatically from the other entrants and is in the weaker (much weaker) semi-final of the two.  Not only that, voting for Slovakia would be a novelty for most people.  Though, to be a novelty, it would mean that people are not used to voting for Slovakia in the first place.  Therefore, there’s no guarantee that people will magically start voting for the country this year, despite the popularity the song is experiencing.

My predictions:

Can the “Queen of Backing Singers” Hera Bjork take her country “back” to the Top Ten?

First Semi-Final Qualifiers (in no particular order): Iceland (quickly becoming a fan favorite), Greece (it’s Greece!), Albania (up-tempo; benefactor of a weak semi-final), Moldova (up-tempo; benefactor of weak semi-final), Slovakia (a favorite to win), Belgium (nothing but positive reviews), Serbia (benefactor of a weak semi-final), Portugal (benefactor of a weak semi-final), Latvia (different enough to make it unique), Russia (it’s Russia, benefactor of weak semi-final)
Left Behind: Estonia (too eccentric for most people), Finland (maybe too folksy for most people), Bosnia & Herzegovina (poor reviews), Poland (small, yet strong fan base – key word is small), Malta (it’s Malta), Macedonia (poor reviews), Belarus (reviewed as boring, yet pleasant – key word is boring)

Does Jon Lilygreen & The Islanders have what it takes to keep the other border entries at bay?

Second Semi-Final Qualifiers (in no particular order): Armenia (it’s Armenia and a favorite to win), Israel (Harel Skaat = cute boy!; it’s a favorite to win), Denmark (wide audience appeal; Russian pop star; it’s a favorite to win), Sweden (big and strong fan base; it’s Sweden), Azerbaijan (it’s a favorite to win; too much money thrown into it to fail), Ireland (it’s a past winner; one of the more popular ballads), Croatia (it’s a favorite to win; one of the more popular ballads), Turkey (it’s Turkey), Romania (big and strong fan base), Cyprus (strong fan base; benefactor of the fact that more than half of the songs get into Final)

Will Sweden return to the Top Ten after a three year absence?

Left Behind: Lithuania (too eccentric for most people), Switzerland (small and strong fan base – key word is small), Ukraine (too much controversy; poorly received song), Netherlands (poorly received song), Slovenia (poorly received song), Bulgaria (might slip in, but most likely won’t; it’s Bulgaria), Georgia (not strong enough to displace one of the ten qualifiers)

Final Top Ten (in no particular order): Denmark (see above), Germany (see above), Armenia (see above), Azerbaijan (see above), Iceland (popularity is going uphill at just the right time), Sweden (there’s usually at least one surprise in the Top Ten each year, this is my prediction for it), Croatia (see above), Israel (see above), Greece (it’s Greece), Norway (big fan favorite; home turf bump)
Winner (Question that must be answered to secure victory): Denmark (Can the Russia-based pop star N’Evergreen secure some votes from the East?), Germany (Can Lena turn her nervous energy into star power?), or Armenia (Can Eva Rivas be as convincing to all of Europe as she was to her own country?)


Predictions!!!

Howdy Readers!  I realize that last time I wimped out; I didn’t give you all solid predictions.  Now that I can say that the Contest is later this month, I wanted to provide my updated predictions.  I also wanted to give you all a road map to the remaining pre-Contest posts.  It will start with the prediction post.  Next week, I will add my commentary from the Eurovision 2008 Contest, and the following week I will add my notes from the 2009 Contest.  I wanted to do this so you all would get an understanding of what I like and expect from the Contest; so you know what to expect from my live commentary on this year’s Contest.  The final pre-Contest post will be updated predictions for each of the semi-finals.  I will then have live commentary for each semi-final and an updated prediction for the Grand Final.

So, onwards to these predictions!

First Semi-Final

Qualifiers: Slovakia (it’s actually a favorite to win by many fans and bookies!), Belgium (the song has been generally well-received; it’s time for them to qualify out of the semis), Greece (because it’s Greece, and its a party song), Iceland (another well-received), Finland (Europe likes folk music), Estonia (I truly believe that this will be a dark horse entry-an entry that gets little attention before the Contest, but does really well, like ICE2009), Latvia (the jury will boost her score), Albania (another up-tempo song amidst ballads), Bosnia & Herzegovina (another one that will be boosted by the jury…and diaspora voting), Russia (because it’s Russia).

Going home: Moldova (they’re starting the show!), Serbia (the comments have been almost universally negative!), Poland (comments rate it as boring), Malta (critics say that her voice isn’t strong enough for the song), Portugal (see Poland), Macedonia (I haven’t found much of anything on this entry), Belarus (generally received as pleasant, but not great)

Second Semi-Final

Qualifiers: Armenia, Israel, Denmark, Azerbaijan, Croatia (these are five favorites, along with Germany and Slovakia), Sweden (also fairly popular), Ireland (c’mon, she’s a former winner!), Georgia (Georgian entries tend to be well-received), Romania (not necessarily popular, but it is doing surprisingly well in online polls), Turkey (because it’s Turkey)

Going home: Lithuania (too far out for many fans), Switzerland (because it’s Switzerland – though, like their last five entries, this will probably be a big fan favorite after the Contest), Ukraine (too much controversy this year), the Netherlands (even the Dutch hate this song), Slovenia (just not a lot of positive response), Bulgaria (most reviews = too boring), Cyprus (too many guys with guitars, and BiH and Belgium are getting a more press — could qualify at the expense of Georgia or Romania)

Grand Final

Finish with a respectable placing (Top 14) – Germany (it is already a favorite), Norway (nothing but positive comments), France (it’s vastly different than any other entry)

Finish with shame (Bottom Ten) – Spain (really bad draw position, poor reception from fans), United Kingdom (one of this year’s biggest stories is how most Britons hate this entry)

Top Five:

Denmark, Armenia, Germany, Israel, Croatia

There you go, my predictions, I am sure they will change as we get closer to the Contest, but here is where I stand now.  Comments?  Questions?  Concerns?


Notes on the Reference Group Meeting

So, the Heads of Delegation, that is, the three or four leaders (producers/sponsors) for each individual entry, meet annually before in the host city to learn about the host broadcaster’s plans for the event and for the official drawing of the running order for the two semi-finals and the Grand Final.

New Features for the 2010 Contest (some we knew already):

  • Following the procedure used in the Junior ESC, voting will take place throughout the entirety of the performances plus an additional 15 minutes after the final song.  (I, personally, think this is a bad idea and doubt it will do anything but aggravate the tendency to vote the songs towards the end of the night.)
  • Because of the aforementioned change, there will be a song recap after every five songs (so, after the fifth, tenth, and fifteenth, and twentieth (for the Grand Final) entries) in addition to after the last act of the night.  (I don’t know how I feel about this, but I am cautiously optimistic.)
  • The advert breaks will occur between songs 12 and 13 during each semi-final.  (I don’t know the statistics for the songs immediately preceding or following the break, but Oikotimes made it seem like a bad thing.  For the four entries that fall in that position – Albania & Greece in SF 1, Ireland & Bulgaria in SF2), Bulgaria will be the worst affected by this decision.)
  • The juries’ wildcard for each semi-final will no longer be in effect as it was in 2008 and 2009.  Instead, the semi-finals will follow the same 50% televoting-50% jury voting system of the Final.
  • The postcards (for those of you who don’t know, those are the thirty second vignettes between songs) this year will feature the artists in their home country and the artists with host families in Norway.  The nifty thing is, NRK reported that part of the postcards will be displayed over the heads of the audience – in the air!
  • The complete details of the interval act have yet to be disclosed, but it was stated that the interval act of the Grand Final will incorporate scenes of flash mobs dancing in ten different European cities.  So if you’re fortunate enough to live in one of the chosen places, participate!
  • The preliminary stage design was also reveled.  Though, interestingly, Oikotimes is the only news outlet with a picture of it.  AS you can see, it looks like it is going to be on the smaller side and somewhat reminiscent of the stage in Riga (ESC2003).  Which shouldn’t be too bad, given the fact that there are a lot of soloists with ballads this year.

We also learned the running order of the two semi-finals and of the five automatic qualifiers to the Final.

First Semi-Final Second Semi-Final
1 Moldova Lithuania
2 Russia Armenia
3 Estonia Israel
4 Slovakia Denmark
5 Finland Switzerland
6 Latvia Sweden
7 Serbia Azerbaijan
8 Bosnia & Herzegovina Ukraine
9 Poland Netherlands
10 Belgium Romania
11 Malta Slovenia
12 Albania Ireland
13 Greece Bulgaria
14 Portugal Cypress
15 Macedonia Croatia
16 Belarus Georgia
17 Iceland Turkey

Once again, it looks like the second Semi-Final has been heavy loaded with favorites and strong contenders, while the first Semi-Final is weaker.  I will now offer my first predictions for the Semi-Final qualifiers, these will probably change and shift as the Contest grows closer.

Countries that should already be preparing for the Grand Final:

From the first Semi-Final – Russia, Greece, Iceland;  From the second Semi-Final – Armenia, Israel, Denmark, Azerbaijan, Ireland, Turkey

Countries that might slip in, given that a majority will qualify for the Final and the juries get 50% power:

From the first Semi-Final – Belgium, Serbia, Albania, Portugal, Bosnia & Herzegovina;  From the second Semi-Final – Cypress, Georgia, Croatia, Sweden

Countries that should be preparing their 2011 entries:  Actually, while I would normally have an opinion on this, I think it is a bit too early to call this one just yet, given the fact that so many entries are so similar.  Though, I think I would say Ukraine would fit in the category.

For the Final, the five automatic qualifiers received the following spots:

2. Spain (anyone else notice the gasp that ranged out at this announcement?  One can only assume that it was from the Spanish delegation, perhaps already seeing a lower placing for their entry on the final scoreboard.)

3. Norway (well, at least no one can say that the drawing was rigged.  Norway will probably still do alright, host countries tend to receive at least some courtesy votes.)

12. United Kingdom (smack-dab in the middle of the running order.  The UK can either be an electrifying start to the second half or the whimpering close to the first.)

18. France (how lovely for the French, statistically, they have the best placing of the five countries, as four out of the last five winners all won from a position within 17-19.  Not that I think France has a shot at winning, but it definitely has a shot at doing better than initially predicted)

22. Germany (self-chosen, hoping to benefit from being near the end without any of the pressures of having to close the show.  I think they should have chosen one of the last two slots, but maybe 22 will work for them.)


Finally, the Ukraine has selected! (Part Two)

After a controversy-filled week and a half,  the Ukraine has finally submitted their entry to this year’s Contest, Sweet People by Alyosha.  As with any major controversy, there are several points of interest, let’s take a look at them now.

_The self-disqualification of Vasyl Lazarovych and the song I Love You on the grounds that an internal selection process is “unfair.”  Many countries use internal selections, surely the Ukraine realized that by saying the internal selection process is unfair, it risked angering other countries (such as France, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Israel, and this year, Belgium).  So, what are some other reasons the new management at NTU might have for wanting to send another entry?

I Love You is not that great of a song.  There’s not doubt in my mind that this was a last ditch attempt to find a better song.

-The new management probably wanted to show itself as being different from the previous regime, and such, wanted a clean slate and a new start in every way, including with Eurovision.

-*This is wild speculation* Perhaps, the goal was to get Alyosha to the Contest in the first place, and this was a covert attempt of making the ploy seem legitimate.  Speaking of which…

_The scandal around the top two songs being previously released.  Surely the NTU had to expect this, given the short time frame, which is probably why they decided to find a whole new song for Alyosha, as opposed to kept moving the down the list of finalists until a song was finally found that meant the requirements.  There was one more, much more pertinent issue regarding To Be Free, that would have disqualified it regardless, but was pushed to the wayside due to the early releasing of the song.  The music for To Be Free was blatantly plagiarized from the Linda Perry/Grace Slick song Knock Me Out.  Okay, maybe not blatantly, but the music is nearly identical.  This is definitely the most legitimate charge of plagiarism in recent Eurovision histroy.  Knowing that it was written and released two years ago and that its music was eerily similar to another song, it makes one wonder why Alyosha entered To Be Free in the first place…

_Speaking about disqualifications, there was a bit of an uproar when it was announced that NTU would be granted an extension with fines, as opposed to being out-and-out disqualified.  Especially since the running order would be decided prior to the submission of its entry.  Here, I will offer several reasons why I think that the EBU made this decision.

-It seems to be standard measure that songs aren’t really fully scrutinized until after they are selected to compete.  Since NTU, technically, had picked its new entry prior to the deadline, it was not fully at fault for the late entry.

-Let’s recall two previous entries that pulled out after the December deadline.  First, let’s look at Lebanon, who “withdrew” from the ESC2005.  Not only was the broadcaster fined, but was banned from competing for four years.  Second, let’s look at Georgia, who was “disqualified” from competition in 2009.  They had to sit out in Moscow (but were not fined) and are back in the game for Oslo.  Ukraine seemed pretty dead set on not withdrawing and suffering the four year ban, so the EBU probably wanted to get as much money as possible from NTU before formally disqualifying them.

-The Contest shrunk from 2008 to 2009, and shrunk by even more from 2009 to 2010.  The EBU probably didn’t want to see anymore countries leave the Contest, even if it meant overlooking an egregious breaking of the rules.

_So, now that the three main points of the biggest Eurovision 2010 scandal thus far, I want to give my opinion on how I think the Ukraine will do in Norway this year.  That opinion: bad!  I am sticking by my first appraisal for several reasons.  First and foremost, Alyosha’s type of music, pseudo-folk-electronic-rock (which doesn’t make much sense, but the term I want to use: “indie,” is not well understood outside the US), is not typically well-received at the Contest.  Secondly, many fans are fed up with the Ukraine, and will not vote for them out of spite.  Third, I’m sure Vasyl Lazarovych will be sending a lot of bad voodoo towards Alyosha for taking his spot, and negative feelings tend to be a bad things.