A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Songs only I like: Slovenia 1996

Some fiascos you never quite see coming, do you? You see the preview, you listen to the song, you like it, you think it will do quite well.

And then it crashes and burns right in front of you. Like Regina from Slovenia did in Oslo in 1996.

It all looked very promising in the cute preview, where it all sounded very well and looked great and was a very appealing package.

Regina - Dan najlepših sanj (Slovenia 1996 preview)

Come Oslo, it looked and sounded like this:

Regina - Dan najlepšish sanj (Slovenia 1996)

I was too deeply into it back then to notice at first, but there is quite a difference between these two clips. Everybody seems a bit tired on stage. Regina looks like she has a bit of a headache coming on. She struggles a bit with some of the higher notes.

Eurovision can be exhausting enough with being eight months pregnant, that's for sure, and to add further to the exhaustion rumours have it that the Slovenian delegation had rather a turbulent week in Oslo, which must have added further to the general state of fatigue.

Maybe they were just pretty happy to go home, regardless of the outcome?

As a piece of trivia - Slovenia was extremely well prepared this year and offered the press the first ever ESC CD-ROM presentation. In a very orange packaging came a booklet along with an interactive disc containing biographies, video clips and a few extra songs by Regina.

Too bad that not at least a bit of all that ambition made its way into the stage presentation. But you can't think of everything, can you?

A fine song it is, anyhow, unfairly forgotten both on the night as well as by a large section of the eurofans. I salute Regina, who is an excellent vocalist, and proudly shout out my love for this.

If you do too - please say so in a comment.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The 2011 review, part Nine

I have made my way through all thirty-eight semifinalists, and only the big five, already in the final, remian to be examined.


Amaury Vassili - Sognu (France 2011)

This is not the first time opera has been tried out at Eurovision, but it was a long time ago that we had such a pure piece of aria. Usually, the high notes have been baked into a more eurotypical pop cake before being served to the audience. Already from the opening notes, you understand what awaits: grandness, emotion, passion and some really impressive use of the old vocal chords.

Young Amaury really does his best, and he is rather easy on the eye as well, but for me this never takes off. It just isn't as passionate as it pretends to be. This isn't Carmen, it is rather an old backdrop left in the attic of the Opera house.

It is likely to impress a large part of the audience and could very well be the winner in the end. That would be great for France, but not so fantastic for the contest. A winner without chart potential isn't quite what Eurovision needs.

My grade: 3/5


Raphael Gualazzi - Madness Of Love (Italy 2011)

If France had a typical attempt of breaking the ESC stereotype, then the Italian is almost violently atypical. Elegant jazz with more than a light hint of, well he said it himself, madness.

Raphael is a fantastic performer with a great presence and a great integrity, and he is certainly a dark horse in the running. This could also be a possible winner, but I don't think any person alive could appreciate the panic that would spread at RAI if that prospect came true.

My grade: 4/5


Blue - I Can (UK 2011)

And here we go - at number 14 we find the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2011. At least if I have to select a winner beforehand, before having seen any rehearsals. This is the one song that will be obvious and understandable for most people after just one listening. It is perhaps not the best song, but the most instant.

And it comes in a very nice package with a modern arrangement and sung by an act many in the audience will remember.

It will be a tight race, of course, as there are somewhere around ten songs or so that stand a realistic chance of winning. Incredibly enough, four of them come from the big five countries.

My grade: 4/5


Lena - Taken By A Stranger (Germany 2011)

While the UK is my anticipated winner, then Germany is, for the second year running, my dream winner. Had Lena offered a Satellite-clone, I would have sighed an found the whole project completely pointless. Now this is something completely different.

The German song is more of a statement than a song. They know they have our full attention, so they put in a song that would normally stand no chance at all at the ESC. And what a fantastic song it is. Minimalist, sophisticated, clean-cut, artistic.

Not everybody's cup of tea at all, but many people will fall as madly in love with this as I have. And the people who understand nothing can't award it any minus points. It is not likely, but more than possible, that Germany takes a double this year. And I would really love them to.

My grade: 5/5


Lucia Perez - Que me quiten lo bailao (Spain 2011)

Had this been Andorra's entry I could have showed some indulgence and just been happy about their presence. As for Spain, with a fantastic pop environment and a large number of outrageously talented singers and songwriters, there is no excuse in the world to send in something as toothless and pointless as this.

A serious contender of becoming the first nul-pointer in a final since Jemini back in 2003.

In a year where all the other biggies defend their right to a free spot in the final, Spanish television only demonstrates their own grand disinterest in the whole thing.

Send them to the semis next year. Goodbye!

My grade: 0/5

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The 2011 review: part Eight

Four songs are all that remain from the second semi, and they are a varied bunch indeed.


Anastasiya Vinnikova - I Love Belarus (Belarus 2011)

For Portugal, I wrote something similar to this: For a cat exhibition, you enter a cat. For a baking competition, you enter a cake. For a song contest, you enter a song. Belarusian television must have got it all wrong, as they think this is the Eurovision Propaganda Contest.

I am trying really hard not to get political in these reviews, but with this song there is no way around it since the entry in itself has absolutely nothing to do with music. This is a statement from a regime that rigs elections, throws opposition in prison and states that democracy makes people ill.

This entry has many fans online, celebrating its kitsch and camp value. I can hardly even judge it as a song, outside the political context. All I know is that the EBU rule stating that no entry may bring the ESC into disrepute is worth nothing since this one got the green light.

And for the record - I really like Belarus. I think their people would deserve better than this.

No. I really hope not. (And I don't really think so either, in all honesty.)

My grade: 0/5


Musiqq - Angel In Disguise (Latvia 2011)

Latvia has a very interesting music scene and has an impressive eurovision record with three placings in the top five since their debut in Stockholm 2000. The last few years have been more inconsistent and two rather original entries have been left last in their respective semi finals.

This year's entry is less original. A lot less original. And unfortunately not very good either. Another one of those entries that keep going and going, where nothing happens, where three minutes feel very long.

No. It would be about time that Latvia entered a real contender again. I miss them in the final.

My grade: 1/5


A Friend In London - New Tomorrow (Denmark 2011)

My first reaction to this was that it's a shame that when Lise Cabble (one of my favourite Danish songwriters and one of the women behind Denmark's wonderful entry back in 1995) finally scores a victory, it is with a relatively weak song.

A few listenings later, I realise that it's not as weak as I thought at first, it just doesn't measure up to her former production. But Europe won't know that. And the lead singer of A Friend In London makes up for it really well, him being the real asset in this package.

Pleasant and airy, and the last chorus is really effective.

Yes, and with a bit of luck Denmark will find themselves in the top ten again.

My grade: 3/5


Jedward - Lipstick (Ireland 2011)

I don't know where to start, really. The 2011 Irish entry is like a hysterical disaster movie on wheels that will roll through the Eurovision Song Contest and create hysteria and disorder wherever it shows up. And I mean this in a very positive sense.

Jedward are the X-Factor offspring that are loved by their fans, ridiculed by media and generally seen as a passing phenomenon that will be forgotten sometime really soon. This has all ingredients of a real drama in other words - will it be the revenge of the underdogs or the last dance of the has-beens?

I'm all for them. I think their song is one of the best of the year, full of hooks and modern sounds, and the twins themselves are totally loveable in their own little right. Also, for Ireland this song constitutes a smaller revolution, being the first really modern entry they send in. Ever.

Yes! Unless it all goes horribly wrong and falls apart on stage. But that would really be a shame.

My grade: 4/5

Monday, April 25, 2011

The 2011 review: part Seven

Halfway through the second semi final, time to have a look at starting positions 11 - 15.


Vlatko Ilievski - Rusinka (FYR Macedonia 2011)

Another one of these entries that we have a few too many of this year. It is not exactly bad, it is just rather pointless and goes nowhere. When the first minute is through, nothing more of importance happens until it ends. Unexpected that a good composer like Grigor Koprov would put his name on a song this weak.

Vlatko is probably doing the best he can, but I can't help wondering what happened to the edge and wit that FYR Macedonia used to contribute with some years back? Where is Karolina Goceva when we need her?

No. Just like the last two years, they will get enough points from their good neighbours to avoid the very bottom of the ranking, but this will not be a heavy scorer.

My grade: 1/5


Dana International - Ding Dong (Israel 2011)

Dana International is very brave to come back after winning Eurovision. Fellow winners Charlotte Perrelli and Niamh Kavanagh could tell her a thing or two about how ungrateful the audience can be when you offer them your company. Also, she could have been in need of a more direct entry, a real smash hit.

Her song this time around is a mature and elegant song, which is rather fitting as Dana herself has transformed from sharp dressed showgirl into a warm and motherly presence. I'm very fond of her and cross my fingers for Europe to warm to her as well.

Hopefully. But I fear the song isn't catchy enough and that too many people will be disappointed by the fact that this is not Diva part 2.

My grade: 3/5


Maja Keuc - No One (Slovenia 2011)

I must admit that my unconditional love for Slovenia has been slightly strained for the last few years. I used to love whatever they sent in, but the opera, string and yodel experiments has made me wonder what we first saw in each other.

Maja is a step in the right direction, but this song is more difficult than anyone would have asked it to be. I thought it would be easier to find a melody line to hold on to once the lyrics were changed into English, now I find myself longing for the Slovenian version instead. Maja works and works, but it doesn't help. This ballad is complicated rather than good.

No, unless Maja pulls off the performance of a lifetime and qualifies on the strength of her vocal abilities only.

My grade: 2/5


Hotel FM - Change (Romania 2011)

Given the usual standard of Romanian entries, this entry is a complete let-down. It starts out nicely, but the chorus is as flat as a pancake and the whole thing sounds more like a jingle on children's television than a eurosong.

Then it doesn't help that the lead singer is charming, the whole thing just annoys me. The silly lyrics don't help much either.

Yes. Romania has a strange ability of making their stuff work when they need it the most.

My grade: 1/5


Getter Jaani - Rockefeller Street (Estonia 2011)

I have been very keen on most Estonian entries since their debut back in 1994, and I am very happy to see them back in form. Young Getter really shines and delivers this ingenious and clever piece of pop candy in a most convincing way, and I can understand that most eurofans salute this one as one of the best songs of the year.

I don't quite share the sentiment. It is very good, yes. But not one of the best. Somehow there is a little bit too much calculation and too little heart in it for my taste, but all in all this is a very good year for the Ugric.

Yes, unless something goes very wrong during rehearsals and the whole thing falls apart in Düsseldorf, just like Iceland's entry in Kyiv 2005. But that seems quite unlikely to happen.

My grade: 4/5

Songs only I like: Austria 1979

This one usually provokes a deep sigh from most eurofans. Too slow. Too long. Boring and depressing. Pathetic and pretentious. It's not that I don't see what they mean.

Christina Simon - Heute in Jerusalem (Austria 1979)

It is indeed too slow to be a hit in Eurovision. Had this been a bike, it would fall over before the first verse is over, due to the lack of speed.

And sending a song to Jerusalem, urging for peace, trying to be the voice of reason? Rather a cheap trick, isn't it?

But I can't help being very touched by the whole thing. I think Christina Simon is sincere, I think she means what she is singing. And she sings it beautifully. There is an air of honesty and dignity around the whole thing that the juries ignored completely.

To add insult to injury, it wasn't only shared last with Belgium, it was also beaten by at least one truly awful song. (If that was the best Monaco could cough up in 1979, they did us all a favour by withdrawing.)

But in many ways it is better to be last than 16th out of nineteen. You are more visible in the history books if you end in last place. And time has been kind to Christina and her song. If you like them too, please say so in a comment.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The 2011 review, part Six

Part six out of nine, reviewing all 43 entries of the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf, and we are going through the second semi final.


Mika Newton - Angels (Ukraine 2011)

I have no idea just how they do it. Maybe they get special classes at school, maybe they have a secret button on their remote controls. But Ukraine has a fantastic ability of making their entries come to live when they have to.

Followers of this blog will know how unimpressed I was with the entire national selection in Ukraine, as it turned into a farce for the second year running. How I would have preferred another song, the one that actually recieved the larger number of votes. And here we stand with the song I had labelled as dull and pointless, and I have to admit that it is actually rather good.

Above all, Mika Newton is a sensational performer, the kind that seems to be growing out of each and every bush in Ukraine. Where do they find all these talented people? When she nails all the notes and fixes the camera with her eyes, this song could rise even further and the votes will flow in from all over. Again.

Yes. No doubt in my mind that this will look fantastic and sound great. Then you easily forget that the song is maybe not all that to start with.

My grade: 3/5


Zdob si Zdub - So Lucky (Moldova 2011)

Maybe it is something in the water? Or how do you otherwise explain the sense of sheer madness that often lives and thrives in the Moldovan entires? This is completely bonkers, hard to make head or tail of, and yet it is so entertaining.

Best described (perhaps) as an etno-punk version of Petula Clark's "Don't sleep in the subway" with a breathtaking instrumental break that sound remotely similar to the end of the world, this must be distinct enough to make it to the final. At least if good old Europe has any sense of humour.

Probably. It is a mess, but a very entertaining one.

My grade: 3/5


Eric Saade - Popular (Sweden 2011)

Young master Saade had a bit of bad luck in the draw. Had he entered stage after the succession of Austria - Netherlands - Belgium - Slovakia - Ukraine, he would have seemed to young and potent and popstar-like that most viewers would have just fallen over and surrendered. Now Moldova steals his thunder a tiny bit, but that should constitute no large problem.

A much bigger problem is the fact that the song is so obviously aimed at the youngest segments of the audience. I believe the vast majority of the audience is older than seventeen, and they may not necessarily understand the greatness in this. I don't think the juries will swallow this with hook and all either, they could be looking for something slightly more sophisticated.

Yes. This snappy young pop singer will have enough fans to make it to the final rather easily. But then there is always the risk that he pulls a Perrelli there. Which, given Sweden's recent track record, wouldn't be so bad.

My grade: 3/5


Christos Mylordos - San aggelos s'agapisa (Cyprus 2011)

In all fairness, I didn't fall head over heels when I heard this the first time. I thought it sounded like a reject from some local musical, but after repeated listenings and a very direct recommendation from a friend whose taste I respect, I found my way inside this pretty complicated construction of a song.

Once you get a grip on it, it is a delicate little piece of drama, sensibly performed by young Christos, whose soft voice really marries the entirety of this song. That won't help much, though. If I needed ten listenings, determined there was something to be found somewhere if I listened carefully enough, then hardly more than a fragment of the audience will find that certain something by accident.

No. But it is a pleasant praline for the precious few who will understand the craft.

My grade: 3/5


Poli Genova - Na inat (Bulgaria 2011)

Many people claim that the second semi final is way stronger than the first, but I would not be so sure. Possibly these people are confused by the impressive amount of very distinct performers in this bunch. Poli Genova is another one of those really energetic and enigmatic young people who will just blow up in your face and leave you wondering who they are and why they are not on your screen more often.

Bulgaria's own P!nk has a song that is both demanding and accessible at the same time, but maybe the aggressive song will prove a bit too aggressive in the end.

Possibly. Bulgaria has had a hard time convincing Europe of their talent, despite putting on many impressive entries. This is running the risk of being another good Bulgarian effort left in the semis.

My grade: 3/5

The 2011 review: part Five

Are you all ready? Take a deep breath and we will dig into the second semi final. Here is the first bite!


Dino Merlin - Love In Rewind (Bosnia-Herzegovina 2011)

The rhythm of this song reminds me of the Bosnian eurosong from exactly thirty years ago (representing Yugoslavia in Dublin 1981), just proving that the musical tradition goes like a red thread through most of the Bosnian contributions. Many things have changed with time, and these days Bosnia-Herzegovina are often considered top contenders with their quirky but catchy entries.

It would surprise me if this would turn out to be their first winner, though. It is probably a bit too demanding for the average voter, but what a fantastic entry it is. Artistic, ambitious, surprising. This one has everything you could ask for, in addition to a very appealing melody line. A firm favourite of mine.

Yes. Dino Merlin is a superstar in the Balkans, but this is also a super song.

My grade: 4/5


Nadine Beiler - The Secret Is Love (Austria 2011)

I have really missed Austria in Eurovision and would really love to love this one. This girl is so sweet and is so talented, she sings so well, and the gospel chorus really provides a lift towards the end.

And yet, the whole thing is just so predictable and nice. Nice in a bad way. Nice in a dull way. Nice as in elevator music. Thinking how much Trackshittaz or Klimmstein would have stood out in this semi, it is a shame how Austria threw away a great chance. Then again, many people are fond of this genre and not all hope is lost.

Probably not. Coming on as song number two, not including more memorable moves than this one does, even the people who liked it will remember it well enough when it is time to cast the decisive votes.

My grade: 2/5


3JS - Never Alone (Netherlands 2011)

Not only is this one just as nice as Austria, it also begins with the worst lyrical faux pas I know. Anyone who rhymes "heart" with "start" gets about one hundred points deducted at once in my book, but after that the song actually takes quite a nice turn.

Indeed, it is a pleasant little pop number, tailormade for the softer radio stations, well performed by this Duth Jan Johansen and his clones. Yet, it faces the same problem as the Austrian entry. Who will remember this one long enough to vote for it?

Possibly, if the Dutch would have the kind of luck they have not had since 2004. But I seriously doubt it.

My grade: 2/5


Witloof Bay - With Love Baby (Belgium 2011)

A capella doesn't have to be a bad idea. Latvia did it quite nicely in 2006, and the entry by Ba'Six in the 2001 Danish final is really sweet. What they both had was a good tune to begin with. This is just an unsufferable display of what fantastic sounds (according to themselves) a group of singers can make using no instruments.

Great. We know. But why didn't you bother writing a song? Now all we get is a very smug performance without a trace of charm anywhere.

Probably not. But it does have one advantage compared to Austria and the Netherlands: you will not forget this one. It moves into your head and stays there, even though you just want it to leave.

My grade: 1/5


TWiiNS - I'm Still Alive (Slovakia 2011)

Same case as Austria - I would really want to like this one more than I do. It reminds me quite a lot of Azerbaijan's entry, but unlike that one this never really takes off. It keeps going, wagging along, without any major surprises or climaxes. The twin sisters really do their best, and maybe they can make this one light up the sky on stage, but they had really bad luck getting drawn so tightly together with a whole bunch of other midtempo songs.

No. I'm afraid not. I would really want Slovakia to have some success in order for them to want to stay in competition, but this is pretty unlikely to happen.

My grade: 2/5

The 2011 review: part Four

And to wrap it up, here are the four last entries of the first semi, all viewed with my critical (but reasonable) eye.


Homens da Luta - Luta é alegria (Portugal 2011)

Of course you can get a bit confused as to what kind of competition this really is. Is this a forum for the eternal eurosongs? Should you send in material with chart potential? You never know these things for sure. But Portugal has been in it long enough to know it is not the place to send bottom-of-the-league sketches that would be rejected by the local village revue.

There is a possibility that every fragment of this entry is sheer brilliance if you are Portuguese, fluent in Portuguese and pretty aware of Portuguese culture and history. I can assure you that the vast majority of viewers and voters will not understand what goes on, and will not be bothered with these people in strange clothes.

In a cat fair, you enter a cat. In a baking competition, you enter a cake. In a song contest, you enter a song. Take notes, Portugal.

Nope. Estonian Kreisiraadio showed that humour with no humour will not work at the ESC. Possibly even a nul-pointer in the end.

My grade: 0/5


Evelina Sašenko - C'est ma vie (Lithuania 2011)

Just like Armenia's Emmy, poor Evelina has been robbed. She has an excellent voice and a good stage-presence, and radiates not only confidence but also intelligence. So whatever made her accept such a bleak, pompous non-entry is beyond me.

Entries like this one were in abundance during the mid-90's and were one of the main reasons why Eurovision started lacking in popularity and ratings. I can't see why Europe would have changed its mind since then. Lithuania could gladly send Evelina again, some other time, but with a decent song. She would deserve that.

No. Not even Disney wants ballads like this one anymore.

My grade: 1/5


Ell & Nikki - Running Scared (Azerbaijan 2011)

I do have a few strong words to say about Azerbaijan's policy of buying their way to success (and their way of ignoring their own composers and sounds) but after Portugal and Lithuania I won't argue anymore as this is one of the strongest songs of all 2011.

It is breezy, atmospheric and emotional and while this couple does not strike you as the most obvious love birds ever (so to speak) they come across as very likeable. My only slight reservation is that I want to hear what this sounds like live. This chorus contains some really difficult passages that are very hard to pull off, and worst case scenario is that this lovely chorus turns into the musical equivalent of a horror movie before three minutes are over.

I am keeping my fingers crossed for that not to happen.

Yes. If these two hit the notes properly, then they will sail all straight into the final and make a respectable showing there.

My grade: 4/5


Loucas Yiorkas Feat. Stereo Mike - Watch my dance (Greece 2011)

The Greeks have been dancing around merrily on the Eurovision stage almost every year since 2004, and of course that is bound to wear you out sooner or later. I have wished for a Greek change of direction for a long time already. Which reminds me, you should always be careful what you wish for.

Stereo Mike and his rap paired with Loucas and all his pathos could have been a good idea in theory, but the pieces of this song won't gel and the final result is surprisingly lacking in dynamics and melody. It is not bad as such, but I don't feel anything listening to this song. It starts, it goes on, it ends, it passes me by.

No. Greece has been a steady feature in the final every year since the semis were inagurated, but I think they will have a hard time keeping up with their own reputation this time.

My grade: 1/5

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The 2011 review: part Three

Halfway through the first semi, time to attack five more songs fighting it out for ten spots in the final.


Glen Vella - One Life (Malta 2011)

It is so easy to love the smaller nations in Eurovision (there will be no less than three of them only in this review) - how they struggle, how much they invest of themselves into making a splash, how important it is for them to be seen.

It is very easy to love Malta for all the reasons mentioned above. It is also quite easy to warm to Glen Vella. He is so happy. He is so energetic. His trousers are so bright. Just too bad his song is not up to standard in any way. As soon as the intro ends and the static drumbeat takes over, this is a battle lost for poor Glen.

Malta used to send in quite good songs in the past, often ruined by nervous performances. Now that the singers seem to be up to the task, it would be time to bring out the strong melody lines again.

No. Glen can smile as sweetly as he wants, people will find better songs to vote for.

My grade: 1/5


Senit - Stand By (San Marino 2011)

I missed San Marino ever since they pulled out after their 2008 debut, and hope for them to stay put this time. Their atmospheric ballad has slowly grown into something of a personal favourite of mine. I realise it is probably a bit too soft and fluffy to grab the voters on a first listening, but more than one radio station around the continent could find a late night playlist favourite here.

Also, Senit delivers beautifully and would deserve every drop of European attention she could get. Maybe she would have been better off with a more distinct song, however.

No. I hope I am wrong, but it would be more than a slight surprise if San Marino makes the final cut.

My grade: 4/5


Daria Kinzer - Celebrate (Croatia 2011)

A basic lesson in how not to treat your Eurovision entry. From the start, we had a slightly anonymous but pleasant disco song in native language, sung by a slightly anonymous but likeable girl. So what does one do?

One way is to make the disco beat more square, write a ridiculously pointless lyric in English that in no way suits the performer and let the most evil stylist in the country loose on the poor girl. Then you get Croatia's entry this year.

No. Croatia has had a tendency of doing reasonably well even with weaker entries, but when the brilliance of Feminnem missed out last year this should, in all fairness, not stand a chance.

My grade: 1/5


Sjonni's Friends - Coming Home (Iceland 2011)

You all know the sad but touching story: the composer and original performer dies before the national final, and his best friends perform the song as a tribute to him.

There is a fine line between a tribute and an unpleasant riding on a sad situation, though. For instance, the English version can't make up its own mind as whether it is directed to an ex-lover or towards somebody who died. And if it is the latter, then what does the line "I can't wait for tomorrow [...] I'm coming home to you" mean exactly? There is something mildly disturbing about the whole thing.

But it is a pleasant little song that grows on you. It could very well be that I find myself liking it a lot come Düsseldorf.

Possibly. One of those really hard songs to predict. Will it come across as touching on stage, or will it just be old-fashioned. My guess is yes, it will make it. But not by a large margin.

My grade: 2/5


Kati Wolf - What About My Dreams (Hungary 2011)

Hungary is back with a bang after a year of absence, and here comes one of the strongest candidates for victory. Whatever some net rumours say, Kati is a strong live performer (check out her stuff from X-Faktor, if you don't believe me) and her song is a little masterpiece. A danceable, elegant disco knockout and by far the best dance track of the year.

I'm trying not to be political in this review (I will fail that mission with two more countries, wait and see), but it would also do Hungary a lot of good to be invaded by a large troop of journalists and Eurovision fans next year. They all need a bit of fun, it seems, and I can hardly think of anything more fun than ESC 2012 in Budapest.

Yes yes yes! If this does not make it, it is the biggest disappointment since Selma's failure in Kyiv 2005.

My grade: 5/5

Songs only I like: Bosnia-Herzegovina 1997

In many ways, 1997 is one of my absolute favourite ESC years ever. It was the year when modern Eurovision really started, with more contemporary sounds, a more modern stage set and more innovative camera work.

It is also crammed with good songs, many of which have stood the test of time very well. And then there are a few others, as well.

Alma Čardžić - Goodbye (Bosnia-Herzegovina 1997)

Bosnia-Herzegovina had, due to the civil war, had a certain amount of sympathy and politeness surrounding them since their debut in 1993. Even when some of their songs were lacking in certain respects, the commentators stayed very friendly and emphasised that the important thing was that the Bosnians could be with us at all.

In 1997, the war was over and the sympathy gone with the wind.

The rules back then stated that Alma and her team needed something like 158 points in order to keep their country in the running for 1998. I think there was not a single commentator who did not snigger at how unlikely that was, adding how appropriate it was for Alma's song to be called "Goodbye".

Swedish commentator Jan Jingryd went as far as saying that if Bosnia collected the points needed, that would be a bigger sensation than a discovery of intelligent life on the moon.

Maybe people were tired of being polite, but I can't quite understand why everyone had to be so harsh. Dated, surely. But I never thought this song was so bad. It's pleasant and easy-going, very well delivered by Alma.

An excellent song to sing in the shower, for instance. And one that always puts me in a good mood. If you like it too (or sing it in the shower like I do), please say so in a comment.

Also note the original flag of Bosnia-Herzegovina, used for the last time at Eurovision this year.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The 2011 review: part Two

It is good getting properly started, so here goes with part two and five more countries from the first semi final.


Nina - Čaroban (Serbia 2011)

Song number six is a real surprise to me - bubbly and fantastic Motown-esque pop straight from the Balkans, performed by a lovely vocalist, two fun instrumentalists and three adorably cheeky backing singers.

This is catchy and colourful and very close to being a bull's eye in my list. Had they used the English version - which is a million times better than most English versions - it would have been a complete hit. But a tiny detail like that can't get in the way of a positivity pill like this one, can it?

Yes. It is also helped by standing very alone in a line-up that does not believe in soul at all.

My grade: 4/5


Alexey Vorobyov - Get You (Russia 2011)

Possibly the biggest disappointment (but not the worst entry) of the year, when an established hit maker like RedOne coughs up a song as bland as this one. Not bad, only lukewarm. And the performer doesn't help.

Alexey looks good and was charming in the 2008 Russian pre-selection where he was dancing around with an accordeon, but here he is not very likely to charm that many. A song like this needs to contain a certain amount of danger and sexuality in order to work. Alexey seems as dangerous as a ladybird and as sexual as a Ken doll.

It would take a Lady Gaga to make this work, but there is no Gaga in sight.

Possibly. My instincts tell me that Russia could qualify with almost anything, but this could be the exception that underlines the rule. I would not be so sure that this one pops out of an envelope on May 10th.

My grade: 2/5


Anna Rossinelli - In Love For A While (Switzerland 2011)

Soft, pleasant and laidback, Switzerland's Anna sounds like a female Jason Mraz and offers a very strong and instant hook for everyone to hold on to. Just too bad that Switzerland has no friends in this contest.

For the last three years, I have predicted Swiss success and now I have given up. This might be attractive in its preview version, but I very much doubt that the live version will burn through the European tv screens. The viewers will hear it, enjoy it, hum along with it, and then forget about it. Very unlikely to be many people's top favourite and risks a placing further down the result than it would deserve.

No. Had it been another country's entry, possibly, but Switzerland needs stronger stuff to make the final cut.

My grade: 2/5


The whole thing starts so promising, with menacing guitars of a kind we seldom hear in Eurovision, and this could have been a Georgian version of Linkin Park. Believe it or not, but that would be a positive thing according to me.

Unfortunately, this whole thing is standing on a very shaky foundation (in other words - there is not enough of a song going on here) and the whole thing collapses long before three minutes have come to an end. Full of good intentions, bound to leave the voters confused.

No. Too noisy, too messy. Nothing to hold on to. And there are too many strong candidates in this semi for Eldrine to stand a real chance.

My grade: 1/5


Paradise Oskar - Da Da Dam (Finland 2011)

Of course I want Finland to do well. Of course it is difficult to judge this in a fair way. Having said that, I think this song is really good. Divisive, yes. It seems the average eurofans have a bit of a problem with it, but it has had a much warmer reception from other directions.

I believe Paradise Oskar will suit the average Tuesday viewer pretty well with his melodic little song. Anything but a spot in the final would be a huge disappointment.

Not that Finland would not be used to it, but still.

Yes. I really want to believe that Finland makes it to the final.

My grade: 4/5

The 2011 review: part One

Here we go, five songs at the time, with my analysis and doom. We start with the first semi and go through the songs in the established running order.


Magdalena Tul - Jestem (Poland 2011)

A very good opening number. Trouble is that few people will understand how good until way later in the evening. Easy, contemporary radio pop has proved to be a difficult genre for most - many are attempting it, most fail miserably. Magdalena's song is slick and elegant, and if delivered with gusto and vocal perfection it could prove more successful in the final than in the semi. Such a shame it will need more luck than most to qualify.

Possibly. On a good day, with a bit of luck.

My grade: 3/5


Stella Mwangi - Haba Haba (Norway 2011)

A happy little chorus in Swahili that oozes positivity, hope and happiness - who could ask for more? That would be me, then. Knowing this is a favourite for many people, I just hear a very standard schlager entry given a bit of an African flavour that goes on circa thirty seconds longer than it should. Surprisingly square given how original it wants to be. But Stella is a real asset and makes the whole thing a bit better than it really is.

Yes, I think so. But I am not so sure about how well it will fare on a Saturday night.

My grade: 2/5


Aurela Gaçe - Feel The Passion (Albania 2011)

I must admit to quite liking this song when it won the national final back in December, and Aurela knocked me out with her presence and vocal abilities. So I am pretty disappointed that the polished version in English fails in bringing out the raw power she clearly possesses.

The chorus won't take off until she makes a brief change of language by the end and throws in a few lines in Albanian, giving me the idea this entry would have fared better in its original version.

I'm pretty confident that Aurela's presence will be there again once we go live on air from Düsseldorf, but this version is a bit of a let-down.

Possibly. In the end, Aurela will convince us that she knows what she is doing and we will believe her.

My grade: 2/5


Emmy - Boom Boom (Armenia 2011)

Armenia usually sends in catchy and captivating entries, but this year I have to be harsh. Seriously, did all songwriters go on a collective coffee break instead of writing songs? Emmy, who seems like a sweet lass, would have deserved decent material to work with but these three minutes are painfully pointless.

Then again, we have the Armenian diaspora and the big question is how they will react to this entry. Will they give a patriotic vote, blind to the fact that this is a pretty lousy representative of their proud nation, or will they vote for somebody better?

Yes. But it really doesn't deserve to be one. This could be the song kicking Poland out, for instance. Which would be deeply unfair.

My grade: 1/5


Yüksek Sadakat - Live It Up (Turkey 2011)

I'm not really sure how Turkey does it, but they have managed again. At first, I didn't think much of this song. Found it inspired and without anything particular going for it. Then I saw the clip, and the whole thing opened up like a colourful flower.

Contemporary rock that is easily accessible without sounding like Toto and oriental without sounding like Sertab could be bound for a very respectable placing in the end. And not only because there are Turks voting for it in all the countries.

You bet. One of the most obvious qualifyers in the entire semi.

My grade: 3/5

I also review these songs in Swedish for Svenska Yle together with my colleagues Eva Frantz and Johan Lindroos. If you read Swedish and want to see their opinions as well, check us out here .

The 2011 review is about to start

On May 5th, I will depart for Düsseldorf early in the morning. It is my intention to review all of 2011's forty-three ESC hopefuls before I leave, as all your impressions are turned on the head the moment you start watching rehearsals.

So here we go, short and snappy (at least that's the intention) and very honest. I pass my personal mark as well as a prediction on how the song will fare in the contest when everybody else's taste matters more than mine.

But before I take off, I can just say about the line-up in general that it contains more than a fair share of pointless filler material. Even some really good singers who enter with hopelessly dull entries. They are mainly likely to be gone in time for the final.

There are more than enough of real pop songs, impressive performance and chart potential to give us a worthy final on May 14th.

There is a possibility that the victory goes to one of the big five for the second year running.

There is a possibility that we find ourselves with a country winning for the first time.

There is a possibility we could have the first victory on home ground since 1994.

The 2011 review is just about to start.

Scoreboard extravaganza: The Hague 1976

This is the scoreboard used in my year of birth, but that is not the main reason for showcasing it like this.

First of all - it is in Dutch. A nice touch that would probably be unthinkable today. The last scoreboard in another language than English was used in Lausanne 1989 , and only very few scoreboards have been presented in other languages than English or French through the years.

Of course that is better - the scoreboard is there to be clear and easy to understand, and having the countries written in, say, Hungarian or Finnish would confuse the greater part of the audience.

It looks a bit basic, perhaps, but it indicated the country giving their points by letting the country's name flash nicely.

It was also close to becoming the first scoreboard ever to mention Liechtenstein, as the tiny country made a brave effort to enter. As their bid was rejected due to them not having any national broadcaster, hence not being a member of the EBU, Switzerland offered to enter under the name Switzerland & Liechtenstein.

Dutch television refused, however, as this would have taken too much space on the scoreboard. (In all fairness, it would.)

And for extra bonus value: the presenter beneath the board is no other than Corry Brokken - winner of the 1957 Eurovision Song Contest in Frankfurt.

Songs only I like: Spain 2006

This is a song I don't just like - I love it. Out of the songs of the 2006 Eurovision, this is the one that has been spinning the most in my iPod since and I never grow tired of it.

Las Ketchup - Bloody Mary (Spain 2006)

It wasn't love at first sight, though. And who are to blame but the good people at RTVE?

They decided internally to send Las Ketchup to Athens, but as a PR-stunt (and possibly to give some credibility to the choice of a has-been one-hit-wonder) they stated they were selecting between them, Azucar Moreno, David Civera and some more act.

Trouble is that the managements of Azucar Moreno and David Civera promptly denied any involvement in Eurovision - and RTVE stood there looking ridiculous. Given this media circus (and the fact that I was beyond fed up with The Ketchup Song), I didn't pay much attention to the song until the cute preview arrived.

Las Ketchup - Bloody Mary (Spain 2006 preview)

Perhaps the live vocal performance was a bit of a let-down, but I still adore this song. If you are with me on this one, please be kind and leave a comment.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The five best winners ever... according to Tobson

For the people who know me, it will come as no surprise that I am hopelessly down with old, bombastic and dramatic eurosongs in French. And when I compile my all-time top five of winners, that the French dominate completely.

The most surprising and unpredictable thing about my list is that it includes six songs, not five. Silly, I know. But these six songs are so clearly above the rest of the winners in my list, it would be blasphemous not to include them all.

Sixth place:

Corinne Hermès - Si la vie est cadeau (Luxembourg 1983)

Wonderfully breezy, airy big ballad - the last winner representing this genre - in a great vocal delivery by Corinne Hermès. It wasn't a huge commercial success at the time and is a bit forgotten among winners these days. Which is ridiculous. Fantastic stuff!

Fifth place:

Séverine - Un banc, un arbre, une rue (Monaco 1971)

This is such a fantastic evergreen - a mega hit at the time, translated into most languages. In Finland, for instance, I'm sure more people think of this as a Finnish song rather than an ESC winner because the domestic version was so popular. Classic but not dated.

Fourth place:

Marie Myriam - L'oiseau et l'enfant (France 1977)

This could be a bit old-fashioned in the sense that it keeps growing on me and the older we both get, the more I love it. In my eyes, it keep unfolding and growing intro something bigger, better and more beautiful every time. Also this one made it big in various versions around the continent, and maybe nothing can be better praise than people thinking your song is their own.

Third place:

France Gall - Poupée de cire, poupée de son (Luxembourg 1965)

It is beyond me how a song written in 1965 can still sound so modern and up-to-date as this one. Shockingly modern at its time and the first song with a pop sound ever to win the ESC. Do not think we are not grateful! France herself has had a bit of a problem accepting this older part of her career, but I hope she also recognises what a fantastic song this is. The ever-growing number of cover versions of it just underlines how indestructible this masterpiece is. If you want to see the performance from Naples (impossible to imbed for some reason) it can be found here .

Second place:

Vicky Leandros - Après toi (Luxembourg 1972)

When the sun sets in Euroland, it is never to rise again. When the heart is broken, no glue can put the pieces back together. The emotion of this song is strong enough to knock down an elephant, and the performance by Vicky is almost frighteningly spot on. Surprisingly, and disappointingly, it works very badly in its English and German versions, where some silly lyricist made happy, cheerful lyrics for it. How do you ever come up with such a bad idea, when it is so clearly a song about heartbreak?

Number one:

Anne-Marie David - Tu te reconnaîtras (Luxembourg 1973)

What can I say? Every time I hear it, I am surprised at just how good it is. The powerful intro, the fantastic verse, the explosive chorus... And then the marvel of the piano bridge between the chorus back to the verse. I am totally blown away. Both by the song and by Anne-Marie. The best winner ever in my book, and very likely to stay at that number one spot for a long time to come.

Out of these six, all but one is produced in France ("Après toi" is a German production), and all of them won before I became an active follower of Eurovision.

Maybe I am a bit hard on the newer songs - there are many brilliant winners after 1983 as well - but they don't have the same magic and shine about them.

What are your favourite winners? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Songs only I like: Slovakia 2009

Slovakia came back to Eurovision after an absence of eleven years. Maybe they forgot a bit about the ESC during this long time, since the song they offered us was very atypical.

Kamil Mikulčík & Nela Pocisková - Let' tmou (Slovakia 2009)

The person who created the term "dramatic ballad" had no idea just how much drama you can actually squeeze into a mere three minutes. It is a small wonder that not a single vocal chord goes pop during this orgy.

The last forty seconds is the musical equivalent of standing under a waterfall, I believe.

And I love it. I love the passion, the drama and the sheer madness about it. (To be honest, it took a while. The first times I heard it, I wanted to take a painkiller and lie down in a dark room for a couple of hours.)

On the night of the semi final, I even predicted it to make top ten as I thought the juries would appreciate the vocal exercises. They didn't, so Kamil and Nela had to content themselves with eight points and a second last place.

Boo for the juries, I say. What do you say? If you like this one too, please leave a comment.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Songs we never got to hear: Greece 1986

The 1986 ESC in Bergen could have had twenty-two participating countries, which would have been a record at the time, but both Italy and Greece pulled out.

Italy seems to have withdrawn relatively early, before the running order was established. Rumour has it that RAI had approached Ricchi e Poveri to do the job, and as they turned it down Italy stayed at home altogether.

Greece pulled out at a later stage after being drawn to sing as number 18 (some sources say 17 - does anyone know for sure?). Eurovision clashed with the orthodox Easter and ERT deemed it impossible to combine the two.

Many sources claim that Greece had already decided its representative before throwing in the towel.

Polina - Wagon-lit (Greece 1986)

Polina already had ESC experience as one of Elpida's backing singers in Jerusalem 1979 and would surely have made a good impression in Bergen.

But I'm not so sure I buy the story. ERT had organised public selections almost every year of participation and kept on doing so for a number of years to come. Why would they have decided to go for internal selection this year?

It is quite a good song, however, but possibly not the song to change Greek ESC history. I think it would have landed somewhere just below tenth place or so, what does everyone else think?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Songs only I like: Belgium 1979

For me, the 1979 entry from Belgium is a real little gem, but the juries didn't agree with me. Neither did the performer of the song, who actually hated it.

Micha Marah - Hey Nanah! (Belgium 1979)

When Micha Marah was selected to perform all songs in the Belgian final, she was also given quite a lot of influence over the songs selected. A bit too much, thought members on the jury, who on purpose dressed her up with the song she liked the least.

That's not the way to play the game if you want to win, but that is what happened. Micha was furious and threatened to withdraw, then BRT in turn threatened to bring her to court for breach of contract.

So she went to Jerusalm, put on her bravest smile, belted out the song, landed in shared place with Austria and was happier with this than most people in last place. She never recorded the song and probably focused on leaving the whole matter as far behind her as she possibly could.

Which is a shame. To me, this is a very cheerful little number: upbeat, energetic, somewhat silly but in a good way. I think the last place was really undeserved and would have placed it somewhere around the middle instead. At least it should have scored better than the likes of Monaco and Ireland.

Do you agree? I'm waiting for your comments.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Scoreboard extravaganza: Munich 1983

This is a very basic old-school scoreboard with no spectacular details - it shows the points, a light indicates the country voting, another flashing light indicates the country in the lead (Luxembourg for the greater part of the voting).

It does showcase one thing I love about the old school scoreboards, though. In sharp contrast to the computer rendered scoreboards of today, the old ones are very physical. Just look at this.

Marlène Charell could have extended her hand and touched it, had she wanted to. This is big, large, solid and very much a part of the stage set.

This particular scoreboard even had an impact on the venue. The originally selected Deutsches Theater , where several national finals had been hosted, proved to small to host both the stage and the scoreboard and ARD had to move the whole shebang to the Rudi-Sedlmayer-Halle instead.

Possibly the Düsseldorf scoreboard will be slightly more sophisticated. We will know in about a month from now.

Songs only I like: Netherlands 1982

Dam dam doo bi doo! The girls in the backing group are almost as jolly as the song itself and yet the juries showed no mercy for the 1982 Dutch entry.

Bill van Dijk - Jij en ik (Netherlands 1982)

Bill is a bouncy lad himself, giving it his all as well in the vocal delivery as well as in taking those cleverly co-ordinated dance steps.

The song has also gone through some major facelifting since the national final in order to make it feel less old-fashioned and more of a contender.

Bill van Dijk - Jij en ik (Netherlands NF 1982)

Nothing helped, and the Dutch delegation had to travel back home with a mere eight points and a 16th place under their arm. These days, they are well used to results like those, but back in the day they had not scored so poorly since 1968.

I find it catchy, sweet and very easy to like and I am happy to note that Bill's career survived this slight miscalculation. He has had major roles in several musicals and provided vocal talent for Sesame Street as well as the Dutch overdub of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

In short - I really, really like it (and happily dance along when nobody is around to see me do it) and if you do too, leave a comment.

English was surely an advantage

The other day I had a look at how dominating the Nordic countries have really been through the years. I think it is time to take a look at the three countries who always had the right to sing in English: United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta.

Under the old language rule where all participating countries had to sing in (one of) their official languages, these three had a clear advantage.

Not particularly because people understood what they sang (sometimes that would be a huge disadvantage - also, large parts of the audience are not fluent enough in English to understand the lyrics anyway) but more because English sounded familiar.

Everyone is far more likely voting for things familiar rather than anything exotic. This list shows all years where these three made it into top five and what placings they had there.

United Kingdom entered the ESC in 1957, Ireland in 1965 and Malta in 1971 (but didn't start participating regularly until 1991).

1959 - UK (2nd)
1960 - UK (2nd)
1961 - UK (2nd)
1962 - UK (4th)
1963 - UK (4th)
1964 - UK (2nd)
1965 - UK (2nd)
1966 - Ireland (4th)
1967 - UK (1st), Ireland (2nd)
1968 - UK (2nd), Ireland (4th)
1969 - UK (1st)
1970 - Ireland (1st), UK (2nd)
1971 - UK (4th)
1972 - UK (2nd)
1973 - UK (2nd)
1974 - UK (4th)
1975 - UK (2nd)
1976 - UK (1st)
1977 - UK (2nd), Ireland (3rd)
1978 - Ireland (5th)
1979 - Ireland (5th)
1980 - Ireland (1st), UK (3rd)
1981 - UK (1st), Ireland (5th)
1984 - Ireland (2nd)
1985 - UK (4th)
1986 - Ireland (4th)
1987 - Ireland (1st)
1988 - UK (2nd)
1989 - UK (2nd)
1990 - Ireland (2nd)
1992 - Ireland (1st), UK (2nd), Malta (3rd)
1993 - Ireland (1st), UK (2nd)
1994 - Ireland (1st), Malta (5th)
1996 - Ireland (1st)
1997 - UK (1st), Ireland (2nd)
1998 - UK (2nd), Malta (3rd)
2002 - Malta (2nd), UK (3rd)
2005 - Malta (2nd)
2009 - UK (5th)

From 1973 - 1976 as well as from 1999, there has been a free choice of language at Eurovision and it is enough to be fairly perceptive to see that the placings of these three countries have gone straight downhill since anyone could use English.

Note for instance that at least one of either United Kingdom or Ireland is present in the top five every year from 1959 - 1981. Impressive!

But clearly the tables have turned and the domination is broken. Will they be able to take it back? Will Blue, Jedward or maybe Glen Vella take them back the top placings again?

Azerbaijan made a new clip

On the official Eurovision YouTube channel, there has now been a new clip presented to accompany this years Azeri entry. I have a tiny suspicion that the local tourist board has had a say in the choice of scenery.

Ell & Nikki - Running Scared (Azerbaijan 2011)

This is still one of my top contenders for victory on May 14th, but I must admit to liking the original clip better. Not only does this one look too much like the old tourism-friendly previews Turkey made in the 80's to suit their pretty contemporary song, but I still have doubts about the chemistry of this couple.

Them acting like lovebirds on a mountain outing falls flat, I don't find them credible for a second. Do they look good? Yes. Do they look in love? Not at all.

I hope they take that in account for the live performance. If they focus more on singing and less on trying to convince Europe they are smitten by each other, then this one could go very far.

Songs only I like: France 1986

France was in the midst of a free fall in Euroland during the 80's - after having completely dominated the ESC in the 60's and 70's, the decade started with an unfortunate change of broadcaster (TF1 dumped Eurovision, largely due to the new French minister of culture calling it a monument of drivel) after which notable singers decided to call it a day and go nowhere near the national final.

Of course this reflected in the French placings, that rapidly went from pale to disastrous. Worst of the worst (or so they thought) came in 1986 when Cocktail, a group composed of four backing singers, won the tickets to Bergen.

The girls had been at it before, backing more French-languaged entries than most, but despite adding some very colourful outfits as well as a Chic to their group name, they failed to impress the juries.

Cocktail Chic - Européennes (France 1986)

They recieved a grand total of 13 points, sufficient for a 17th place on the night. Not nice for the French, who had been in top ten every year but one since 1975.

That marked the end of Cocktail Chic's career as a group, but the girls went back to back others, and some of them have been visible again at Eurovision (for instance behind Céline Carzo for Luxembourg in 1990).

In its recorded version, this is quite a fun little song, and I never thought it deserved its fiasco in Bergen. If you agree with me, please leave a comment and say so.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Songs we never got to hear: Cyprus 1988

My last post was about Afroditi Fryda who only scored ten points in Dublin 1988 - the lowest score for any Greek entry ever (discounting the 1974 entry, when another points system was used).

Had Cyprus taken part, I am sure they would have awarded some points for her. But the Cypriot Broadcasting Corporation felt obliged to withdraw from the 1988 ESC with rather a short notice since their selected entry broke the rules.

It broke their own domestic rules, that is. The song in question had been entered in the mainly internal Cypriot selection of 1984 where it had reached the third place. It had never been performed in public, but was indeed heard by rather a large jury at the time.

RIK found that more than enough and disqualified it even though it didn't seem to break any piece of EBU regulation. Possibly it was also encumbered by the fact that the composer John Vickers was not a citizen of Cyprus, but that is mere speculation.

Yannis Demetiou - Thimame (Cyprus 1988)

Cyprus had been drawn at the dreaded second slot in the running order, but would that have mattered? What kind of result do you think they would have had with this song had it stayed in the competition?

Songs only I like: Greece 1988

Inspired by my series of songs that only I and no other sensible people alive seem to like, my dear friend Kris reminded me of this song. It hadn't even crossed my mind, but he made me remember what a fantastic and uplifting entry this is (maybe he didn't use those exact words).

After 1987, when their own high expectation resulted in a disappointing tenth place, the Greeks were left with the feeling it didn't matter what they sent, the jury would reject them anyway. And so they decided to send this to represent them in Dublin.

Afroditi Fryda - Clown (Greece 1988)

It is claimed that the jury was reluctant to select a winner out of the songs in the national final, suggesting a Greek withdrawal instead. The preview was partially made up of images from old commercials and the song was never commercially released apart from on the 1988 Eurovision sampler album released in Norway on the Continental Consult label.

In Dublin, Afroditi Fryda and her backing group met little enthusiasm and the song ended in 17th place after gathering a humble ten points.

However, it did recieve the first three points ever awarded to Greece by their neighbours in Turkey.

I always like it, however. There was something sad and enchanting about the whole thing, and I found a strange melancholy in the very same ha-ha-ha's most people would be more likely to describe as manic.

I was sorely disappointed when I first saw a translation of the lyrics and found nothing of the multi-layered, enigmatic words I had hoped for and found a rather flat and nonsense-like lyric.

But I prefer to turn a blind eye to such small things. I wish Afroditi Fryda and her dancing friends all the best. I hope they look back on their Dublin experience and remember a fun-filled week and that they cherish those ten points - seven more than Finland managed to score.

Do you like it too? I highly doubt you do, but if so - please leave a comment. Both I and Afroditi would appreciate it.

Songs only I like: Austria 1988

I could run a parallel series called "Austrian songs only I like". Just like Portugal, Austria has had certain difficulties in touching the hearts of the Eurovision mainstream. Quite a few years have seen viewers, jury and fans alike make thumbs down and reach for their remote controls.

Which I find a bit unfair, honestly. Austria have sent in so many original entries and I have learned to love quite a few of them.

Like this one. But it took a few years, to be honest.

Wilfried - Lisa Mona Lisa (Austria 1988)

Back in the day, when I was 12, I didn't care much for this one, to put it mildly. Apparently, the bookies in Ireland saw and heard something I didn't, and according to press sources the nul points came as a bit of a shock for the Austrian delegation.

Their song was doing well in the charts back home and in his general disappointment, Wilfried let a political comment slip and all hell broke loose. He said at a press conference that nobody wanted to vote for Austria due to the Waldheim scandal (google it, kids!) and that his song was a victim of this.

Not a particularly popular thing to say. The papers had a field day ripping Wilfried to shreds, labelling him a sore loser, and it took many years to wash off that label.

What about the song, then? I find it pretty touching, if slightly repetitive, but heartfelt and honest. Wilfried sings his heart out (with maybe not every single note in tune) and this could certainly have deserved a few little points from somewhere.

Those points could possibly have saved Wilfried's reputation.

If you like this song too, or at least doesn't think it should have been a nul-pointer, please leave a comment as usual.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

So much for Nordic domination

Take a look at this picture. It doesn't tell the truth.

Well, of course it tells the truth in one way. The 1995 voting started out well for the Nordic countries, and on this leader board three out of four Nordic countries taking part were in the top three positions.

The Nordic countries have done well through the years, especially since the 80's, but have never dominated like this. No year has the top three been all Nordic. Never has a top five consisted of more than three Nordic countries.

Only twice has both the winner and the runner-up been a Nordic country.

Let's entertain ourselves and see what years had Nordic countries in top five, and what countries made it there:

1957: one (Denmark 3rd)
1958: one (Sweden 4th)
1959: one (Denmark 5th)
1960: one (Norway 4th)
1961: one (Denmark 5th)
1963: one (Denmark 1st)
1966: two (Sweden 2nd, Norway 3rd)
1968: one (Sweden 5th)
1973: one (Sweden 5th)
1974: one (Sweden 1st)
1983: one (Sweden 3rd)
1984: two (Sweden 1st, Denmark 4th)
1985: two (Norway 1st, Sweden 3rd)
1986: one (Sweden 5th)
1987: one (Denmark 5th)
1988: two (Denmark 3rd, Norway 5th)
1989: two (Denmark 3rd, Sweden 4th)
1990: one (Iceland 4th)
1991: one (Sweden 1st)
1993: one (Norway 5th)
1995: three (Norway 1st, Sweden 3rd, Denmark 5th)
1996: two (Norway 2nd, Sweden 3rd)
1999: two (Sweden 1st, Iceland 2nd)
2000: one (Denmark 1st)
2001: two (Denmark 2nd, Sweden 5th)
2003: two (Norway 4th, Sweden 5th)
2006: two (Finland 1st, Sweden 5th)
2008: one (Norway 5th)
2009: two (Norway 1st, Iceland 2nd)
2010: one (Denmark 4th)

Quite impressive figures, but still quite some way from domination. When will we see the first all-Nordic top three? And will we ever see an all-Nordic top five?

How far will the Nordic entries go in Düsseldorf?

Songs only I like: Switzerland 1998

As this song won the first national final organised by Swiss television for six years, I already doubted its winning potential. I thought it was nice, maybe a bit too plain, but saved by a pretty convincing delivery.

Come Birmingham, I had actually grown to like it quite a lot. Enough to accept the presence of Egon Egemann and his white violin. Enough to ignore the dress. Enough not to find the choreography of the backing group ridiculous.

Gunvor - Lass' ihn (Switzerland 1998)

I also thought you have to love somebody called Gunvor Guggisberg - what a fantastic name!

So you can safely say I didn't see that nul pointer coming. Last place when there were things like Greece and Turkey and Hungary on offer? Never! Mind you, I never thought France would come in second last either.

If you read Tim Moore's book "Nul points" (which I think you should) you will find that the nul points was the least humiliating thing Gunvor had to go through in connection to her ESC experience. A fate so painful I can't bear to tell the tale - check out the book and you will fully understand.

In short - this song is possibly not the ultimate epos, but it certainly did not deserve nul points. And Gunvor certainly didn't deserve the treatment she got in the Svizzerian press.

I really hope I'm not the only one to like this one. If you like it too, please leave a comment.

Songs only I like: Belgium 1972

How about a little waltz in French? About how you should fall madly in love before you know what love is at all? No? You don't feel like dancing at all?

Apparently, the jury in Edinburgh 1972 had forgotten their dancing shoes at home, since this little ditty (the word "ditty" is seldom more suitable for a song than it is in this case) had no impact at all on them and ended second last out of eighteen entries.

Serge & Christine Ghisoland - À la folie ou pas du tout (Belgium 1972)

The Ghisoland couple, both born in 1946, were fairly recently married when they entered the stage and I find them a very charming couple. They look like they really enjoy themselves and each other's company. When he starts picking petals of her hand, she gives him the kind of amused look only lovers can give their partner when he/she does something really ridiculous.

There is a certain discrete charm and catchiness about this entire package and it puts me in a very good mood. I hope the Ghisolands stayed happy ever after and kept giving each other amused looks even as their singing career failed to take off.

Again, I will believe I am the only one who likes this until your comments prove me wrong.

Scoreboard extravaganza: Irish variations

In the 90's, Ireland won Eurovision four years out of five consecutive years (which, frankly, made me develop a certain allergy towards Irish entries which lasted for at least ten years after their last victory) and also made history by hosting it after each victory.

In the past, countries had always handed over the task of hosting to someone else had they won two years in a row (or even if they won too often - Netherlands gave it up after winning in 1959, France after winning in 1962).

What surprised me and many others is that RTÉ managed to stage very individual contests, that did not feel like repeat runs. New stage designs, new hosts, new creative teams.

They even managed to make the scoreboards look fairly different to one another, even if they are clearly all variations on the same look.

Millstreet 1993

Dublin 1994

Dublin 1995

Dublin 1997

They all follow the same pattern and are all programmed the same way, but connect nicely to the colours and themes of each year. Clean-cut and easy to follow.

It would really be rather nice to see a new RTÉ scoreboard again someday. But then they have to break their trend and start winning again...

Songs only I like: Portugal 1987

To put one thing straight from the start - it is not like I'm not used to standing alone with my love for Portuguese entries. It seems they almost always go way over the heads of the typical eurofan, and just as often they hit the bull's eye with me.

There are so many Portuguese entries I really adore and would have wished a lot more points as well as fans.

As for this one, I could perfectly well be the only person alive thinking this is a wonderful little song as I can't remember a single person speaking up in its favour ever.

Nevada - Neste barco a vela (Portugal 1987)

At least three juries liked it as well, giving it a grand total of 15 points and an 18th place among 22 competitors.

I find this original, ethnic, melancholic and beautiful. There is something very attractive about the melody line and the whole thing being very much in minor. I also really like the deep voice of the male vocalist.

Of course this one was doomed from the word go, especially back in the 80's where you had to look and sound like the mainstream to have any chance of good scores, but maybe that is only one more factor that works in its favour in my book.

Again - if anyone out there thinks this is a good one, please leave a comment and let me know. I'm sure Nevada would appreciate it as well.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Runner-up: Finland 1988

The 1988 Finnish final almost saw a huge breakthrough as one of the entries in Swedish came closer to victory than ever before. The fantastic "Mitt äppelträd" also finished second back in 1982, but this time around the candidate was only two points short of winning.

Helena Miller - Svart och vitt (Finland NF 1988)

There had been a bit of discussion in Finland as to whether the local entries would stand a better chance in the European final if they were performed in Swedish instead of the more exotic-sounding Finnish lingo.

These discussions would finally culminate in Finland selecting a (considerably weaker) entry in Swedish and send it to Zagreb in 1990, where it would end shared last and lead to an almost complete absence of entries sung in Swedish.

Had Helena won, she would probably have scored quite a respectable number of points in Dublin and Swedish could have become a more prominent ingredient in future editions of Euroviisut.

So why didn't Helena win? There were a number of juries, located around Finland, who all voted tactically - giving full points to their favourite and giving very low scores to other highly tipped entries.

So what happens? A song that was nobody's favourite and didn't get a single set of top points won on a strong average. That's not the way to go, and in Dublin Boulevard crashed and burned with only three points (given by the jury in Jerusalem) to their credit.

Boulevard - Naravat silmät muistetaan (Finland 1988)

Songs only I like: Austria 1981

This kicks off another series on this blog, where I celebrate my odd favourites. In short: I put the spotlight on songs only I like.

The first one is a lovely ballad, but most people fail to notice as they get distracted by the rather odd stage performance.

Marty Brem - Wenn du da bist (Austria 1981)

Marty had already represented Austria the year before as part of Blue Danube and opened the 1981 ESC in Dublin in style by drinking the national drink of the host country in his postcard and smiling sweetly into the camera.

On stage, he is helped (if that is the word I am looking for) by four ladies of which one sings and the others... well, they interact.

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at the meeting where the radical decisions concerning this performance were taken. Who decided the dresses? Who decided the choreography? And why didn't they listen to the song before doing so?

After three minutes, the audience is left confused and the juries only gave it a total of twenty polite points.

Too bad that nobody ever got to notice what a sweet song this really is, heartfelt and sincere, with a very fine vocal delivery by Marty, whose career never really recovered after this.

I like it anyway, and I could be the only one. If you're with me on this one, please leave a comment to let me, Marty and all the Austrians know you are around.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bucks Fizz were better outside the ESC

There are some ESC acts that I love - but not so much because of their eurovision output. Is there anyone out there who seriously thinks "Waterloo" is the best track Abba ever came up with?

Eurovision is often a good start and a good springboard, and the ones who manage to go on to lasting fame then develops into something bigger and better than they were at the time of going into their eurobattle.

Another one of those bands is clearly Bucks Fizz, who could celebrate the 30th anniversary of their victory a couple of days ago. To make myself perfectly clear - there is nothing wrong with Making Your Mind Up. It's a good winner, bubbly and happy and clappy stuff. But it is absolutely not the best track of the Fizzes.

Bucks Fizz - Making Your Mind Up (UK 1981)

After winning, Bucks Fizz achieved what nobody would have expected them to do - the group assembled to win the British final and nothing else merged into a real band that started putting out hit singles. With several songs in the UK top ten, they were one of the most consistent chart acts of Britain in the 80's.

Bucks Fizz - My Camera Never Lies

Bucks Fizz - Run For Your Life

Bucks Fizz - Easy Love (not a hit single, but a personal favourite)

Bucks Fizz - New Beginning

In fact, Bucks Fizz go down in history as one of my favourite Eurovision acts, and if you are not familiar with their career it is not too late to check them out.

(But don't mind the clips of them still going around touring. Stick to the 80's and all will be fine.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

40 years ago - Séverine

Yesterday, it was exactly forty years since teeny tiny Monaco scored their one and only Eurovision victory with the real evergreen "Un banc, un arbre, une rue". One of the best winners ever, if you ask me.

Séverine - Un banc, un arbre, une rue (Monaco 1971)

But then again, old dramatic eurosongs in French are unbeatable in my book. My six favourite all-time winners are sung in French. Four of them represented Luxembourg.

I'm not the only one madly in love with this one, though. This is one of those classic, big, breeze Eurovision numbers that went down a storm all over the continent and was recorded it local versions all over the place.

Given that the 1971 ESC was the first one preceeded by official previews, it was also the first winner to have a preview clip. Not a very advanced one, but still.

Séverine - Un banc, un arbre, une rue (Monaco 1971 preview)

Despite the massive success, Séverine remained a one-hit-wonder in her native France. According to an interview she gave to OGAE France, this was largely due to her getting offered better songs in Germany, where she kept recording all through the 1980's.

She even took part twice in German finals without ever getting close to winning.

Séverine - Dreh dich im Kreisel der Zeit (Germany NF 1975)

Séverine - Ich glaub' an meine Träume (Germany NF 1982)

According to the same interview, Séverine was never too keen on returning to the contest but was happy to get to sing these two songs without challening her fairytale victory of 1971.

I'm particularly fond of her 1982 effort, but I have to agree - sometimes it is better for winners not to return to the big stage. You can never be sure if the audience will love you a second time around.