A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
There is always some matter to discuss or just a song I want to share
Very welcome - I hope you'll like it here!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Funky Eurovision Idents, part 1

This is another very nerdy side of me... But when I was little, I got all excited every time the Eurovision ident would show up on our tv set. Most of the time when it came on it indicated skiing events (these were the glory days of Ingemar Stenmark) and it wasn't until many years later that I connected it with the ESC.

But still - the sense of event and importance! I have always cherished it. Especially the old version where Te Deum seemed to go on forever and a day, and where the recieving country showed its logo first before changing for the logo of the broadcaster in question.

SVT always had a pretty plain and unspectacular version of the Eurovision ident, and this is what it looked like.

Some other countries made more spaced out versions of it, and here are a few of my personal favourites:

This one was perhaps never used during any EBU broadcast, I think it was designed exclusively for the 1992 Yugoslav national final. But it looks very nice and colourful.

This one was used by Swiss television to open the 1989 ESC for Lausanne, very stylish and clean cut.

Austrian broadcaster ORF sported this very space age version in the late 70's / early 80's and I find it breathtaking (in a generally positive sense).

And this is how ORF designed their Eurovision ident in the late 80's / early 90's. Also most lavish and not as old-fashioned as the old SVT version.

This is my all time favourite, the very progressive logo made by RTBF to suit the opening film, beginning with Tintin's space rocket heading from the moon back to earth.

Is there anybody else out there paying attention to things like these...?

Scoreboard extravaganza: Lausanne 1989

Well, why not put another scoreboard in French while I am at it? Swiss television (or rather the French speaking division of Swiss television) played host after contributing the winning entry the year before.

I must add that when it comes to graphic presentation, the Lausanne contest stands out as one of my all time favourites. The postcards and the banners presenting each entry float in and out of the picture very neatly and all look very elegant and stylish.

Oddly enough, none of the graphics used in the rest of the show are reflected on the scoreboard. Yet, that looks pretty stylish as well.

I like the choice of colours, the big flags and the fact that also this version of scoreboard can show individual placings for each country (even if that function is only used twice during the entire voting sequence).

This is only the second scoreboard ever to be computer made and not "physical". In other words almost shockingly modern back in the day.

As a member of Team Finland, it is also easy to love a leader board that looks like this. A rare and welcome sight for sore eyes.

Mrs Peace from Belgium

One more blog entry about Belgium 1987 before I knock it off... But the winner of the 1987 BRT Eurosong really deserves a special mention.

Aged 11, Soldiers of Love knocked my socks off, to be honest. I loved it from the word go, from the opening seconds of that precious preview clip.

Liliane Saint-Pierre - Soldiers Of Love (Belgium 1987 preview)

There were many things in this entry that easily appeal to children - most notably the presence of kids in the clip, but also the easily retainable chorus and the very distinct choreography. Me and my friends copied it and made the same movements everytime we heard the song or sang it ourselves in fake Flemish.

When the final came around, Belgium was one of my firm favourites and the live performance didn't let me down. It was slick, dramatic and very likeable. And yes, the guitars were still used as rifles.

Liliane Saint-Pierre - Soldiers of Love (Belgium 1987)

Most adults seemed not to be as blown away as me and my friends, however. The commentators expressed a bit of doubt over our beloved choreography and ridiculed the lyrics that hit a note within our childish minds. Swedish radio commentator said that "now the song is over, Mrs Peace from Belgium can march on home and go to bed".

These days I can see how Liliane and friends over emphasise the peace theme and their naïve approach can obviously be a bit too much for the average viewer. But on the other hand, Liliane has stood the test of time surprisingly well.

In the long run, the things that stand out as a bit too much are often the ones that survive in the long run. Today, this entry stands out as a charming child of its time, and feels more fresh than several more polished entries from 1987.

And I still sing along in fake Flemish when I am sure nobody can hear me.

Runner-up: Bart Kaëll almost made it

Let's stay in Belgium 1987, but go back a few months to the Belgian national final. Interest was high and BRT put on a good show with many strong candidates in what must rank as one of the best Belgian national finals ever.

Of course the Flemish needed to impress - their entries had done rather badly all through the eighties, while the walloons had managed three consecutive top five placings - including a victory.

Now BRT had to follow up the victory and, as the head of delegation would say in Brussels, be visitors in their own country. (1987 is the only Eurovision ever where the hosting broadcaster did not have its own entry - RTBF hosted the event, BRT sent in the participating entry.)

In Eurosong 1987 one of the hot favourites to win was young Bart Kaëll, who took part for the second time after a few years of struggle in the business.

Bart Kaëll - Carrousel (Belgium NF 1987)

His self-penned entry is nothing short of a mega schlager - the kind that eats its way inside your head and stays there until you feel the need to go and take a shower. Too bad for Bart, there was a second, even stronger, song of the same genre in the running. Liliane Saint-Pierre was sent to Brussels, where she managed an 11th place.

Liliane Saint Pierre - Soldiers Of Love (Belgium 1987)

Bart didn't have to stay sad for long - Carrousel turned out to be a big hit and the real start of a career that still goes on.

And to add something juicy at the end - these days he is in a long-standing relationship with Luc Appermont, the very presenter who introduces him in the clip above. (At least if Wikipedia is to be trusted.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Scoreboard extravaganza: Brussels 1987

It will come as no news to faithful followers of this blog that I am a tiny bit of a eurovision nerd. Along with that title comes a love for all details that could seem insignificant, but that will send me into a spin.

Scoreboards are one of these things I love more than most.

Hereby, I kick off a series where I share some of my favourite scoreboards through the years, and the first one is the first one I remember at all.

The 1987 ESC, produced by RTBF and held in Brussels, was the first one I saw from beginning to end, aged 11. It was the first voting I followed live and this scoreboard left a lasting impression.

It looks modern in the old-fashioned way of the mid-80's, and it showed the placing for each country after each round of voting. It had flags and was above all very easy to read.

I can't help but wonder how it looks in the eye of the younger fans. Does it have a certain charm à la curiosity shop or does it only look old?

Also - note that the countries are written in French! A nice touch, and it has only been done once again since 1987 (two years later in Lausanne). I wonder if even France would have the scoreboard in French these days...?

When is a great clip too great?

Quite a few of the participants of 2011 have made really nice video clips for their songs. These days, when most tv companies upload the previews on their web and some present them on primetime television, a good preview can mean a lot of good to you.

But a friend asked me the other day if there isn't a risk that the strategy backfires. If you make a clip that is so great and so much fun and so fantastic so that the live performance can not live up to it?

Of course there is a risk like that. If your clip is a lot better than your actual song, then you are walking on thin ice. If you sing a lot better in the studio version compared to what you can pull off live, then you have a problem.

However, it is pretty scarce that songs impress loads of people in the previews only to crumble into dust once they enter the stage. Here are a few exceptions, though.

Like for instance Germany 2003 , which was colourful, bouncy and fun in the preview but which paled into a very average schlager entry on stage in Riga.

Sixteen - To Takie Proste (Poland 1998)

Poland 1998 managed to come across as both slick and catchy, modern and folksy in its clip and was highly tipped online to be a top contender for victory. While the live version wasn't bad, it didn't contain quite the same sparkle and this entry crashed and burned at the end of the results. Underservedly so.

La Década - La chica que yo quiero (Spain 1988)

This was a clip of a kind rarely seen in the previews at the time - a "real" clip, made to promote the song commercially, not to make your local tourist board happy. The Dublin performance was cheerful enough, but not enough to convince the conservative juries that a modern simple pop song was the one to vote for.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1994

One of the worst choices one would have to make during a national final would, according to me, be the choice between really good and really original.

The 1994 UK national final, where Frances Ruffelle sang all eight songs on offer, was in all honesty a really lousy event. Most of the songs had nothing going for them, making Frances look pretty limited in terms of interpretetation instead of having her stand out as a versatile pop star.

The top two songs, however, were modern, original, bold. The runner-up seems almost frighteningly complicated given the almost ridiculous user friendliness displayed by the UK most years in the past.

Frances Ruffelle - Sink Or Swim (UK NF 1994)

Firstly, had this been an entry this year, the lyrics would probably have had to be rewritten. Given the recent news events, I don't think a lyric about the flood coming to take us all away would have been greeted with any particular enthusiasm.

That aside, this is a very bold effort - demanding but catchy once you get a grip on it. Something tells me the juries would have struggled with it and maybe placed poor Frances even lower had she been sent to Dublin with this one.

Not that I weep too bitterly about the outcome. The eventual winner is one of my favourite UK entries of all times, also modern, rather sophisticated and not to badly desperate to be liked.

Frances Ruffelle - We Will Be Free (UK 1994)

It didn't really work out with the RTÉ orchestra (show me one song that sounded better played by them, anyone?) and in the end the juries only placed it in a pale tenth place. For you kids, who were not around back then, that was about as bad as the UK ever placed. The last places of recent times were simply unthinkable.

Frances Ruffelle - We Will Be Free (UK 1994)

But of course the best version of them all is the studio version. Top marks from me anytime.

Frances Ruffelle - Lonely Symphony (We Will Be Free)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Art of downgrading

There has really been very little activity going on here, but I blame the Swedish preview shows for that. They are great fun to contribute to, but afterwards I feel a bit short on words. It feels like I don't have so much to say anymore once they are over.

Of course that is not a state that will stay on for long.

But one very positive side effect is that I have a reason to put each and every song under very strong scrutineering (eat your heart out, Frank Naef!) so I can finally get down to what I really think about them. And the hardest job is actually the dirty job of taking OK songs and ripping them to shreds.

Since the ESC is not only a hobby of mine but also a job, I need to be able to keep a healthy relationship to these songs and I can't go around liking songs that are barely acceptable.

So I have been putting my most critical eye to use, and several songs have fallen from grace in my personal list. For many years, I used to defend lukewarm entries because I found one phrase I liked or because the singer seemed like a nice person or because they came from a country I usually liked. Those days are gone. If something is bad, I must be able to define it as bad.

The likes of Croatia and Latvia have now been reduced to the "bad" section even if I almost liked them at first, while some others have gone down from "good" to "OK". And so on.

So now I know a lot better what I like and dislike, and can more easily define my opinions from now on. How about you people, have you made your minds up?

Monday, March 21, 2011

I'm still here...

It has been a week since my last update, but don't give up on me. This very same thing happens every year at around this time. When all entries are ready and the draw is completed and I would have a million things to say, then there is no time.

Last week was a busy one and then there were things to prepare as I fly off to Stockholm in a few hours to assist the recording of the preview shows produced for Sweden and Finland.

So many things to do, so little time. But there will be a lot more activity on this blog again come the end of the week, so don't give up on me just yet...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Belarus changed their entry

When Belarus presented their first entry, I was amazed by how much bad taste you could assemble in a mere three minutes. Then, as the original song proved to be a year too old to be eligible and had to be replaced, they came up with something even worse.

Anastasiya Vinnikova - I Love Belarus (Belarus 2011)

Subtle, eh? The mere thought of the aggressive regime in Minsk getting three minutes of global air time to celebrate themselves and their "free" nation is nothing short of appalling.

I don't want Belarus out of the ESC - au contraire, I think it is important that they get to see at least one show per year that has not passed through the local censorship.

Of course you can disregard the political aspect and just see it as a fun piece of trash, but this song is laughing in the face of basic human rights and democratic values. It laughs in the face of the people thrown in jail for no other reason that entering the presidential elections.

Like it if you want to. I can keep from laughing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Running Scared for Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has official presented its entry for Düsseldorf and now we have heard all entries but one. As I listen to the Azeri duet I feel plenty of frustration bubbling under the surface, to be perfectly honest.

When Eldar and Nigar were selected, I was wondering how on earth anyone would make these two look credible as a duo. I found Eldar sweet and likeable while I thought Nigar was overenergetic and slightly annoying.

Now, in the new fashion, this is what they look and sound like:

Ell & Nikki - Running Scared (Azerbaijan 2011)

What I find awfully frustrating about this entry is that Azerbaijan, again, clearly is trying to secure success and hopefully victory and in this quest they pay no attention neither to domestic song writers nor local flavours.

They just take their big purse and go out and shop the best song they can find and have someone dress it up to look international.

It's frustrating that they made Ell & Nikki wipe out most of their personalities in order to suit the song the tv company bought for them.

And most frustrating of all: I really, really like it. I think it is a great song that could very well score well in the final.

What can't life ever be just black or white? A little more easy, please?

The Russian is coming to get you

A version with bad sound leaked on the net already a week ago, but tonight Russia had the official showcase of their 2011 Eurovision entry. And this is what is looks and sounds like.

Aleksey Vorobyov - Get You (Russia 2011)

Russian television opened the purse in a big fashion and commissioned a song from Red One, the man behind several massive pop hits, most notably performed by Lady Gaga.

Oh, and last week he was rejected in the Swedish final. Long face for Sweden if Russia does better than Eric Saade.

However, this entry proves that success does not come automatically with a renowned song writer. Gaga herself plays a big part in her success, and without a grand personality to fill it up, the song is just a song.

Aleksey is a pretty boy, he has a good voice and does almost everything right. Still, he feels a bit too polite and nice to do this song justice.

If somebody could scare a bit of attitude into him and teach him to be more dangerous and less clean-cut, then Russia could go far.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sweden could get popular this year

The people of Sweden have spoken and, to my great surprise, they agreed with the eleven international juries and Sweden sends Eric Saade off to Düsseldorf.

Eric Saade - Popular (Sweden 2011)

Popular is something Sweden has failed to be lately and has not made top ten since 2006. Last year, Anna Bergendahl was a few points short of reaching the final.

Eric Saade is a much better choice for a number of reasons. He is young, he is handsome, he can dance and he can sing reasonably well during his über-choreographed number.

He is also determined to do well and make an impression internationally, which is way better than most Swedish performers who just say it is fun to take part.

The song is OK, not revolutionary. But like Hungary, a simple pop song, easy to grasp and get a hold on, could work wonders in a year where many countries have sent slightly more complicated songs. Or soothing midtempo numbers.

The things that could really work against this entry is the composer Fredrik Kempe, who until now has been cursed in the ESC, getting dismal placings three years in a row.

When we get the final versions of all songs, it is easier to guess how far Eric Saade will get in the end. But I almost dare promising that Sweden will at least make it out of the semi this time.

Melodifestivalen - Tobson predicts

After ten years on the road, it seems a certain fatigue has installed itself within the Melodifestivalen team. Not only has there been more than a fair share of hiccups during the tour, but the songs selected don't really measure up either.

The final line-up contains quite a lot of candy for the domestic audience, but not all that money songs suitable if a victory in Düsseldorf is what SVT wants.

There is hope, though. Eleven international juries (in France, Greece, Ireland, Croatia, Malta, Norway, Russia, San Marino, Germany, United Kingdom and Ukraine) will judge the songs, in order to give the televoters a hint of what Europe what enjoy.

And with the new rules - if the juries have one runaway favourite, the outcome of the televote will have very little, if any, impact on the results.

Which also makes this final very hard to predict. But here goes.

1. DANNY - In The Club
One of the red hot favourites to win, pop star Danny puts on a very slick show in the first song of the evening. Many people see a potential winner in this one and maybe they are all right and I am wrong. I just find the chorus too square and repetitive, and I'm not wild about the eternal flirting with the camera. Possibly an OK choice, but not the one I would select.

2. SARA VARGA - Spring för livet
A sweet little bossanova in Swedish that will stay in the domestic charts for a long time to come, touching a string with all the people who loved Lisa Ekdahl's debut back in 1994. Pleasant, but wasted on a european audience.

3. THE MONIKER - Oh My God
Happy. Bouncy. Psychedelic. Like Beatles on a trip back in 1967 or so. Very divisive - some people love it, some people hate it. If Sweden (and the juries) find themselves in a funny mood, this could be a surprise winner, but I still think that is highly unlikely.

4. BROLLE - 7 Days And 7 Nights
No. No. No. Brolle can be as popular as he wants to be, this would be a disastrous choice. Oldfashioned and relies far too much on Brolle's own charm. This is where the juries should step in and put the foot down.

5. LINDA BENGTZING - É det fel på mig
Energetic and easily recognisable. For the domestic audience, that is. I can not understand how so many songs lacking in international potential managed to find their way into the final. And Linda, who can't keep her act together in a Swedish semi, would fall apart under the pressure in Düsseldorf.

6. NICKE BORG - Leaving Home
How about a rock ballad? Well, why not? I was just surprised that this singer, coming out of a rather hard and edgy band, came up with such a gentle little song with no sharp edges at all. Pleasant, but not a contender for the top points tonight.

7. SWINGFLY - Me And My Drum
Finally a song I could support all the way - Sweden has never sounded anything like this in the ESC. My only objection is that the record sounds so much better than the live version with its many voice effects, but maybe that could be mended in time for Germany?

8. SANNA NIELSEN - I'm In Love
Sanna is my outsider for tonight. She would definitely deserve better songs this one, but boy - can she sell what little she's got. She has that certain something that could make any song work. If the juries and televoters would like something safe and old-fashioned, this is the one.

Like Brolle, but worse. Rockabilly and a Baseballs-ripoff wrapped into one. If this is the King, I shout: Republic now!

10. ERIC SAADE - Popular
This one will be popular indeed, the question is how popular. For the second year running, young Saade is better than his song, but this time around he is more convincing and has a determination you seldom see among Swedish singers.

So what do I think?

On a good day, three modern songs will fight it out and the victory will go to Eric Saade, Swingfly or Danny (mentioned in the order I prefer them).

On a slightly less good day, these three will divide the points between them and see themselves beaten by a bright and shiny Sanna Nielsen gathering enough points from everywhere to win through.

On a very bad day, one of the six other candidates win and then Sweden will struggle in the semi again.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Daria got herself a new set of lyrics

When Daria Kinzer won the Croatian national final, it was decided that "Lahor" should be performed in English at the ESC and the song was reprised as "Break A Leg" at the end of the show.

The lyrics contained a bit too much of the creative English that is so common at the ESC, and soon the decision was taken to give the song a re-write.

No time went to waste and the new version is already done and recorded.

Daria Kinzer - Celebrate (Croatia 2011)

I'm not really applauding this change of lyrics, I must say. Even if the original English lyric was a bit homemade in parts, it possessed a certain charm and a touch of originality.

The new lyrics are just plain and banal. So you like dancing? Good for you! Not so interesting for us.

In general, songs about people being happy, dancing, feeling careless, not being able to live without music and so on make for dull listening. To get away with it, you need the energy of Romania's Elena in 2009. The Croatian entry is a bit too slick and laidback to be a club anthem.

I think I liked it best in the original Croatian version, but I still hope they can make the package come alive in Düsseldorf. I have somehow warmed to Daria Kinzer and her entire person. The girl is lovely, even when she sings cheesy lyrics.

Hungary cut their entry short - and I love it

Hungary has presented the shortened Eurovision version of their entry, and I had worried a bit about that.

I really, really enjoyed the original version that clocked in on a bit more than four minutes and sometimes when you cut songs down they lose a lot in structure as well as in the drama department.

So my relief and joy is all the greater to see the official clip tonight.

Kati Wolf - What About My Dreams (Hungary 2011)

There are just so many things I love about this. You can hear echoes of Lara Fabian ("I Will Love Again" in particular) and Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody", and the clip blinks an eye towards Kylie's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head".

It is also very elegant to keep one verse in Hungarian. Now they get to show what a lovely language this is, but the audience can sing along every time the chorus comes around.

I am officially upgrading Hungary from a personal favourite into one of the hot contenders. And I assure you - you would all love Budapest in May.

Stand by - San Marino sends in a ballad

San Marino announced early on that they wanted to make a splash at the Eurovision Song Contest - the purpose of their participation was not only to get a good placing but also to secure chart success all over the continent.

A good way to play the game for a small broadcaster putting in a relatively big part of their yearly budget into this project.

I had expected something modern and a bit dance-friendly, especially given some of Senit's earlier singles, so my first reaction to the selected entry would be a quiet disappointment to find it is a ballad.

Not the slowest ballad, but more midtempo wasn't really what we needed this year.

Senit - Stand By (San Marino 2011)

But once the initail disappointment is gone, I realise this is quite a good ballad. If Senit can induce some extra life and emotion in it, it could maybe make it to the final.

And if most ballads drop out already in the semi and San Marino has a bit of luck in the draw, then this one could suddenly look much more like a real contender than it does at a first glance.

Blue could be what the UK needs

It's a little bit funny... For years, I have suggested that the BBC should scrap their national finals and start selecting internally.

If you pull the right strings, I said. There are so many stars who hasn't had a hit for some time and who would love the exposure, I said. You could easily convince a credible chart act, I said.

And finally, the Beeb did exactly what I wanted them to do. What good does it do to organise national finals that nobody wants to take part in and that does no good for anyone's career?

Internal selection seems to have done the trick as Blue, with rather a large international following before disbandning a few years back, has come up with a modern-sounding song that could have clear hit potential.

Blue - I Can (United Kingdom 2011)

It is possibly not the pop record of the year, it is perhaps not the best song in the Blue catalogue. But just like "Love Shine A Light" fourteen years ago, it sound familiar and yet a tiny bit edgy (without really being it), old-fashioned in a modern way that could convince quite a few people to vote for it.

Back in the day, before the UK had their Eurovision breakdown, they could present rather weak number and still score heavily, mainly because they have that internationl pop vibe that can appeal to everyone all over the continent, at least a bit.

If the singing falls into place neatly on stage, then the UK could go very far indeed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Quite a comeback for Hungary

Few countries have had as much of an on-off relationship with the ESC as Hungary. (Another one is their dear neighbour country Austria, of course.) First they were in, then they were out for several years, then they were in, then out, then in again, the out again.

After one year of money-saving absence, MTV is back with an entry selected internally in order to save some more money.

The selection committee decided to nominate Kati Wolf for the job, and if saving money was the main prospect, then these people may get a lot to answer up to before the show is over.

Kati Wolf - Szerelem, miért múlsz? (Hungary 2011)

The song may not be the ultimate composition, but in a line-up very much lacking strong choruses and easily retainable melody lines this one could happen to stand out quite a lot come May.

The song will be shortened by more than a minute and re-written so that half the lyrics will be in English. The title used in Düsseldorf will be "What About My Dreams".

Hungary is one of these very uneven countries that produce real contenders when you least expect it. I am very happy to have them back, especially with an entry as strong as this one.

Viktor Rakonczai and Gergő Rácz, the men behind the music, are no strangers to this contest, as they sang for Hungary back in 1997 as part of V.I.P.

They scored a 12th place back then and together with Kati, who emerged from Hungary's X-Factor, they could possibly manage an even better result this time around.

V.I.P - Miért kell, hogy elmenj? (Hungary 1997)

Ding Dong - Dana is back

I'm not sure if it was expected or not, but Dana International won the Israeli final on Tuesday night with her self-penned song "Ding Dong".

Dana International - Ding Dong (Israel 2011)

The song has a quiet sophistication about it, and Dana herself said after her victory that this version is only a demo. Some major changes will be done to it before she presents it in Düsseldorf.

Dana has two top ten finishes to her credit, since she not only won back in 1998, but also wrote the 2008 Israeli entry for Boaz Mauda.

Winners who attempt comebacks have not been particularly successful lately in the ESC. Carola made it to fifth place in 2006, which proved really impressive compared to Charlotte Perrelli's 18th place (2008) or Niam Kavanagh finishing 23rd last year.

What I hope for the most is that Europe will have gone on since 1998 and only pay Dana attention as the successful performer and songwriter that she is, and refrain from cracking any tired jokes about transsexuals.

We have progressed a bit since 1998, haven't we?

Will the aria take us to Paris 2012?

After a few years of sending in a slightly unbelievable range of musical styles, and definitely taking the ESC more seriously than in a long time, France is this time offering us another surprise.

Instead of running with the current contemporary trend, France sends young opera singer Amaury Vassili with a bolero in Corsican language.

Amaury Vassili - Sognu (France 2011)

The boy can sing, that is for sure. A powerful voice paired with a youthful appearance paired with the bolero rhythm which, thanks to Ravel, probably is as catchy as classical music gets for an audience used to drums and beats.

If the French have a bit of luck in the draw, this song could create a cosy little oasis of calm and serenity in the final and that should attract at least the votes of the juries.

The bookies have already tipped France as a very likely winner, which would be about time. No French entry has won since 1977, as you may remember.

But I secretly wish them a dignified second or third place in that case, while I hope for something slightly more commercial to win. Something that could hit the charts in the big fashion that the fine art of Amaury Vassili is unlikely to do.

Marie Myriam - L'oiseau et l'enfant (France 1977 - their last winner so far)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Daria Kinzer for Croatia: Break A Leg

Croatia, another of these countries sporting a selection modus that seemed to never end, has settled on their entry for Düsseldorf. Daria Kinzer, born in Germany and raised in Austria, will defend the country with "Break A Leg".

Daria Kinzer - Break A Leg (Croatia 2011)

It is a pleasant little low key disco number that will keep you pleasantly entertained for as long as it goes on without disturbing you by building in tension or throw in a key change or anything similar.

Given how the general standard of songs is shaping up for this year's ESC, maybe slightly pleasant will be all you need in the end. At least to score a decent placing.

The biggest question here is really the choice of language. Didn't it somehow sound more relaxed in Croatian?

Daria Kinzer - Lahor (Croatia 2011)

And was Daria the best choice? Also Jacques Houdek, who has taken part at least half a dozen times in the Croatian selections, sang the song before the viewers had their say. Which version would have been the better choice in the end?

Jacques Houdek - Lahor (Croatia NF 2011)

Surely a finalist come May, but then I am not sure how high it will sail in the final ranking. And I still miss the good old days when Croatia felt like winning material most years.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Portugal and the Struggle

One must understand the Portuguese - after three successful years in a row it easily gets a bit tedious to always be in the final. It is easy to long for the bad old days when nobody understood what you were up to and you could enjoy feeling sorry for yourself as you failed to score.

I suppose that is what happened on Saturday night as Homens da Luta knocked out all competition and won the golden ticket to Düsseldorf.

Homens da Luta - Luta è alegria (Portugal 2011)

The title roughly means that the struggle will bring you joy. Good, because struggle they will.

This comedy group has made it their special thing to parody the special brand of culture that appeared following the 1974 revolution. Possibly a bit fun if you were around at that time. And very informed about the domestic matters of Portugal.

For the rest of us, this contains absolutely nothing. No much tune, no much fun. Even the singing is pretty flat.

The only tiny amusement I can find is that the lead singer looks a bit like this former Portuguese participant:

Duarte Mendes - Madrugada (Portugal 1975)

But in no way does that make up for the three minutes the Portuguese take off my life and that I will never get back.

Humour almost never works in Eurovision, since it is usually very local. What makes people laugh in Portugal will not make other people laugh.

Can everyone please take notes for future reference, please?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Andra Chansen: how wrong can I get?

Tonight, Sweden will offer a last chance to the eight lucky losers placing third and fourth in the respective semi finals of melodifestivalen. In duels, they will knock each other out until only two remain, and these two take the last two spots in the final.

I must admit that I find the final line-up pretty bleak so far. Not at all the hit-packed pop fest I would have hoped for.

Maybe tonight's round can shuffle the cards a bit. But predicting the outcome is not the easiest. Here is my brave attempt, how wrong could one possibly get?

Duel 1
Jenny Silver vs Love Generation

A very interesting meeting between the new and the old. The old Abba-formula versus modern dance pop.

Or is it so modern? Here and there in "Dance Alone" I hear echoes of "It's Raining Men"; in the beginning of the chorus I am semi-expecting a "hallelujah". Would we have found this as modern had someone else than Red One written it?

Jenny Silver sings awfully well, but her performance is a bit too busy and over-worked for my liking. The song is good, but when I see her on stage I feel a bit exhausted before the whole thing is over.

I predict that Sweden has had enough of going gaga over Abba. I think Love Generation will win the first duel.

Duel 2
Loreen vs Sara Varga

According to the papers, Loreen has been dissatisfied with her own stage show and was rumoured to change everything about it for tonight. I can understand her - her song is difficult and would need to help the listeners, guiding them to the point where everything falls into place and explodes in your face.

Sara Varga has the whispering bossa nova in Swedish, and manages to create an intimacy between her and the viewers. Closeness when Loreen offers distance.

Swedish viewers tend to favour things they can embrace easily. I would be surprised if Sara Varga didn't win this round.

Duel 3
The Moniker vs Linda Pritchard

The Moniker is fun and wild and quirky, but not too much. Not enough to scare the average viewer off. He still feels like a one-man-version of Rongedal, only three years later.

But then Linda Pritchard sings so wonderfully. Long, difficult notes bound to impress people, especially if she nails them despite the flu the papers are reporting that she battles with.

Usually, vocal chords beat cheerfulness. Sweden will prefer Linda Pritchard in this duel.

Duel 4
Shirley's Angels versus Pernilla Andersson

Just like Jenny Silver, I can't help feeling that Shirley and her angels are trying too hard. The dancing might be impressive in its own right, but it doesn't match the song. The ladies sing about their hearts being broken, while they look more like they were in the middle of an aerobics class.

And then Pernilla Andersson comes in with her guitar and is simplicity itself. A small oasis where the viewers can breathe and focus on the lyrics in Swedish.

I predict the large audience will select Pernilla Andersson. Shirley's hope is that the large audience is tired of televoting at this point of the programme and only the hard core fans are still at it.

If I am right (what are the odds?), then Love Generation would battle it out with Sara Varga, and at this point Sweden might start thinking of the international final that lies ahead.

Then Linda Pritchard would take on Pernilla Andersson, a very close race indeed. Maybe the Swedes would feel more comfortable with the singer/songwriter on their couch after all. By now they will be able to sing along with her song, while Linda still sings well but nobody has any hang on her song as yet.

My final tip is that Love Generation and Pernilla Andersson will make it to the final. Either that or that my prediction will go belly-up already after the first duel.

Slovakia sends in the twins

Slovakia was a bit of a neverending old-fashioned chapter story when it came down to Eurovision in Düsseldorf. First they withdrew, then they came back, then they pulled out, then they were on the list, then they claimed they shouldn't be on the list at all.

And now they are in, anyway.

Which I am very happy about. Eurovision is an all-european event that loses something as soon as some country pulls out. (Did you catch that, Czech Republic and Montenegro and Monaco and Luxembourg?)

Slovakia figured they could at least save some pennies selecting internally instead of organising a national final, and in the end they settled for pop duo TWiiNS.

TWiiNS - I'm Still Alive (Slovakia 2011)

This audio version was posted on the duo's official YouTube but nobody knows whether it is the finished version or just a demo. The song will be officially presented this weekend during the Miss Slovakia gala.

It is a modern piece of radio pop that maybe could have needed a bit of a key change by the end (to give it some extra punch), but which definitely seems to fill a gap in this year's line-up.

The twins already know what Eurovision is about, as they provided backing vocals for the not too successful Czech entry of 2008. If they manage to keep their act together and sing well, they could probably do more than a bit better this time around.

Greece 2011: watch my rap (and dance)

After spending the better part of the last ten years in the musical landscape of an eternal beach party, the winner of this year's Greek final is clearly changing tracks.

Loucas Yiorkas feat Stereo Mike - Watch My Dance (Greece 2011)

Instead of hips shaking, Greece offers us a rather large dose of passive-aggressive rap developing into a very slow, very folksy chorus which is elegant but un-catchy. Not a party invitation in sight.

Since I started finding the beach party formula a bit tired already many moons ago, I should be thrilled with this choice. But while Loucas is a terrific singer, the song is really introvert and difficult. Despite repeated listening, I can't find my way into it, and before I connect with it, it is already over.

Greece, the only country to place among the ten best every year since 2004, will maybe need more luck than usual to reach a good placing. Maybe even to reach the final.

I always used to care more for Greece back in the day when they were original and no one understood. But "Mou les" was far superior to this one.

Christie Stassinopoulou - Mou les (Greece 1983)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Belarus changed the lyrics

The good people of Belarusian television are a clever bunch, as they managed to sense that quite a few people around the continent might object to their choice of Eurosong. Therefore, they have commissioned a new set of lyrics in order to be liked better.

They failed.

The new lyrics no longer make reference to USSR and the obvious influence Soviet culture has had on the state Belarus is now. All fair and square.

But the new version is still glorifying this nation that rigs elections and throws opposition into jail. "I am Belarusian / friendly and so kind", as the song goes. Would the beaten-up protesters agree?

There is even a bit of menace here and there: "I'm gonna make it my way / Just getting stronger each day" or "Here is my time / I'm gonna take it anyhow".

In short, these lyrics are the sociopathic voice of somebody who will "beat you up to show he cares".

I'm still not amused. The new lyric does not make this any less of a propaganda tool than before.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sweden, semi 4: safe beats modern

We already knew it, didn't we? Sweden has always had a tendency of favouring the safe and the familiar over the modern and progressive.

Semi four showed no signs of the Swedes thinking in new ways.

Bang into the final went the happiest chicken on the farm as well as a rock ballad so kind it would not be progressive anywhere anymore.

The modern dance tune by one of the world's hottest songwriters right now was sent to Andra Chansen instead.

Oh, well. We all knew it in advance, didn't we?

I'm just happy about Lasse Stefanz not advancing further than they did, and slightly surprised that Melody Club didn't make it past place seven.

However, I can't see this semi final shuffle the cards much before the grand final. These two new finalists will most probably stand no chance when the high points are distributed on March 12.

No super final in Ukraine

It is not easy to organise a successful national final, but in Ukraine it seems much harder than elsewhere, as their big final has resulted in confusion two years in a row now.

After this year's final, critical voices were raised among the competitors as well as among the member of the jury about the result not being fair.

NTU decided to declare the results invalid and let the top three battle it out again in a new "super final" this week.

However, this final will not take place as both runners-up have withdrawn. Jamala in anger, stating on her website how she refuses to let herself get ridiculed again on live television. Zlata Ognevich meekly, excusing herself by being very busy anyway but praising NTU for it's "far and transparent" final.

How fair and transparent are things when the final needs to be held a second time, I ask?

So the only one left in the running is Mika Newton, the debated winner, with a song she doesn't like herself and which she insists on replacing.

After three months of quarter finals and semi finals, what remain is a highly questionable winner and most probably a song that never took part in the national final in the first place.

I hope they are all very happy at NTU.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Preview clip: Hungary 2007

I am so happy about Hungary being back at the Eurovision Song Contest this year. Not that the Hungarian entries always went down very well in the competition, but most of them were original and added an air of something different.

Very much so in 2007, when MTV produced not only a highly unusual entry but also one of the best preview clips ever.

Magdi Rúzsa - Unsubstantial Blues (Hungary 2007 preview)

Lavish, tasteful, artistic. Three minutes of pure art. And it didn't lose anything when translated to the live stage either.

Magdi Rúzsa - Unsubstantial Blues (Hungary 2007)

Next week, MTV has promised to disclose their candidate for Düsseldorf. I keep my fingers crossed for more unusual, bold and different songs coming up.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ukraine is messing it up... again!

I couldn't quite believe my eyes at first, but it seems Ukrainian television has managed to turn their own ambitious national final into a complete farce. For the second year running.

Last year the new head of NTU kicked out the established entry and organised a new national selection in a matter of hours before the EBU deadline passed. The new winner was violating the EBU rules, the final choice was delayed and the NTU had to pay a rather large fine for not delivering on time.

What did the NTU learn from this? Absolutely nothing. Instead, this grand circus act of a song contest has resulted in a spectacular fiasco again.

After months of semi finals, they actually got down to picking Mika Newton in a final held Saturday night. But hardly had the cameras been turned off before the whole thing collapsed.

The two runners-up, pre-favourites Jamala and Zlata Ognevich, questioned the results and when even members of the professional jury voiced their doubts openly, the NTU declared the selection void.

A new final, consisting of the top three of Saturday night, was announced for March 3rd. That could turn out to a most bizarre event as well, and the question is how many songs will be involved. And how much the songs will matter in the end.

The Saturday night winner Mika Newton has written an open letter to the president of Ukraine (whatever he has to do with a simple song contest), asking them to defend the first result. She also declared her wish to change her own entry, as she has laid hands on another song she feels suits her better.

Jamala, on the other hand, seems to have withdrawn from the competition, stating on her webpage that she wants to play no part in this corrupted event and that she has no intention of getting ridiculed a second time on national television.

It remains to see who wins the new final, then. And with what song. And how long it takes before anyone else complains about the outcome of the second final.

Luckily, there are deadlines imposed by the EBU. If not, Ukraine would never get an entry selected.