Merry Christmas!! Or should I say, “Hyvää Joulua!” as the Road to Denmark takes us to Finland today.
As you can see, I’m fairly lukewarm with the Finnish entries. They’re generally okay, but I do not have a particularly strong affinity for any of them (at least, not these ones). Finland, though, will always have a special place in my heart because Helsinki hosted the first Contest that I watched. Speaking of which, let’s look at the first defending champion I saw.
2007 – Leave Me Alone – An attempt at pop-rock that was better than the reception it received, but ended where it probably should have in its final placing. It’s a pleasant enough entry and fun to sing along to if one is in an angry mood, but, generally, it’s rather generic.
2008 – Missä Miehet Ratsastaa – A true rock entry that slipped into the Final but then fell flat. It’s not my cup of tea, but as I said in the Czech Republic post, these kind of songs bring a much needed diversity to the running order.
2009 – Lose Control –A beneficiary of the former jury system, which allowed a wild card to move through to the Grand Final. It’s a slapdash song that is alright, but not much. The singing is better than the rapping and the presentation was a bit of a mess – it did better than it probably should have.
2010 – Työlki Ellää – A fun song and I think one of the more popular Finnish entries among the fans. It’s fun and catchy; I don’t know a lick of Finnish, but I can sing along to the chorus! The presentation was fitting, but in the end, the song just wasn’t quite memorable enough. (Finland would have done better with this song)
2011 – Da Da Dam – A song with surprising success. I think it was generally overlooked, but it brought Finland back to the Final and gave us a soothing song about a boy trying to save the planet. Again, I’m fairly lukewarm on the song, but it is rather pleasant.
2012 – När Jag Blundar – First time we here Swedish on the ESC stage since the open language rule went back into effect in 1999 and it comes from Finland! The song is quite forgettable, but it has a wonderful story behind it. Karlsson’s brother wrote the song about their mother; both were on stage to honor her with their performance. Oh, so very sweet!
2013 – Marry Me – My feelings about this performance are already documented on this blog. I will say, though, that the song is fun and a bit inventive and guaranteed that it will be remembered for quite some time, particularly if it continues to be used for gay marriage campaigns.
Let’s Take a Closer Look At: Finland 2009. As I said, despite finishing 12th in its semi-final, Lose Control qualified for the Grand Final thanks to the former jury system that was present in 2008 and 2009. I’m going to use this as a nice little soapbox to restate my love of the jury system from 2010-2012. I loved the way the old 50/50 system worked – it was simple math. This new ranking system is not ideal and it’s more complicated than it needs to be. Though, I appreciate the new steps being add in starting this year – where each jury member’s individual ranking will be revealed along with the voting results. This is not retroactive, unfortunately, but it should stay standing going forward.
Welcome back to the Road to Denmark 2014! As you may have noticed, we skipped our host country to head to Estonia. I will review Dk last as that makes the most sense to me. Disagree? Leave a comment below!
I was honestly surprised when I made this table. I had no idea just how much I liked the Estonian entries. Each one has its own unique flair. I think Estonia, much more than most others, has done a great job of sending a diverse array of entries to the Contest. They are also one of the few countries that have found more success in their native language than in English.
2007 – Partners in Crime – A fun power ballad performed by the sister of 1/2 of Estonia’s winning duo. Originally, I liked this song a lot, but over time, its appeal has lessened. Overall, its a bit one note, she’s at max level throughout most of the song. Additionally, it’s a rather simple entry without much charm.
2008 – Leto Svet – What happens when you take three old guys, two of which are politicians, and tell them to make funny song that mixes in some pandering to the host crowd: Estonia 2008. While the song is fun, it’s incredibly silly and nonsensical. There’s no meaning or depth to it. You know it’s a bad sign when you can mute the performance and not lose anything from it.
2009 – Rândajad – Perhaps the most popular Estonian entry to date, Rândajad is another song with suspect lyrics from Estonia. What redeems it, though, is how the mysteriousness of the song is captured in both its arrangement and its performance. One can actually picture oneself on the Saharan dunes, watching these nomads travel by night. The orchestration was perfect. The singing was perfect. The visual arrangement was perfect. This is how you help a song rise above its station.
2010 – Siren – And Estonia comes crashing back to Earth. I like this song about as much as I like Rândajad; however, I believe I am in the minority holding that sentiment. I think the performance fits the song and the song fits the duo of Malcolm Lincoln. I think a combination of running order, retro sound, and suspect lyrics did this entry in.
2011 – Rockefeller Street – A heavy favorite coming into the Grand Final, this song was supposed to challenge Denmark, France, and the UK for the win. We all know how that turned out. I do not think I am alone in saying the results of the 2011 Contest were one of the most surprising in Contest history when they are compared against the betting odds and public opinion preceding ESC week. Objectively, though, a bland pop song with lyrics that don’t make a whole lot of sense (“1…2…7…3”?) that had a childish performance – there should not be a whole lot of surprise that this song did not do well, except to ask why it beat out some of the competition left behind in the Second Semi-Final.
2012 – Kuula – I know I am in the minority when I say that this song is highly overrated. It’s boring, doesn’t really go anywhere, and is overdramatic. A positive, though, is that Lepland flawlessly performs it. I think it is on the back of this performance, in a year where a lot of vocal abilities were subpar, that this song succeeded.
2013 – Et Uus Saaks Alguse – An incredibly aptly titled song as Birgit was pregnant when she performed this entry. She gave Estonia another flawless vocal performance. Interestingly, though, she was not as successful as Ott Lepland, even though both songs were of equal quality. Perhaps this was due to the stronger field of entries in Malmô compared to Baku.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at: Estonia 2010. The Contest in Oslo saw a revitalization of retro sounding entries, from Estonia to Albania, to Serbia to the Netherlands, among others. This trend has continued as a few countries always seem to submit, 70s, 80s, and 90s era songs to the Contests in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Unfortunately, while these songs add some much needed diversity, they do not tend to be very successful. I say unfortunately because I tend to like these songs a lot! What’s the consensus on these kinds of entries? Do other fans like them, too, or do I stand alone? Leave a comment below!
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…
Like 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?
2007 – 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: Cyprus 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”?
Happy Thanksgiving! A moment of silence for Croatia’s withdrawal from ESC2014.
And 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: Croatia 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.