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!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tobson's Ranking: #15 Israel

Izabo really did their own thing and I love it. But somehow the entirety refused to fall into place.

Izabo - Time (Israel 2012)

For many years, Eurovision was a very square event with very firm rules concerning what you could or could not do, what you should sound and look like in order to be accepted and get points. I never really recovered from that, so whenever anyone decides to goof out and be odd and peculiar I tend to embrace it immediately.

Izabo did exactly that - they put on their own sound, a gimmicky song with a catchy chorus and a rather offbeat performance. Lovely.

But during the week in Baku, I slowly sensed and accepted the fact that this was not the recipe for success. The blend would not hit home with the voters.

I can't place my finger on what it is, but something is missing. Somehow this performance does not come together like it should. What should be easily accessible becomes ungraspable.

Not that I care. I still like this very much, as well as most of the group's other material as well. Adorable goofballs.

My grade: 3/5

Tobson's Ranking: #16 Serbia

Sticking closely to the safest of formulas is a dull thing to do, but a real professional can shake life also into a predictable entry.

Željko Joksimović - Nije ljubav stvar (Serbia 2012)

Maybe we got off a bit on the wrong foot, the Serbian entry and I. After the fun and energetic entries from Nina and Milan Stanković, I found it overly dull and safe to call in Željko Joksimović again.

And despite being the kind of bombastic Balkan ballad that should go straight to my heart, I never really warmed to this song either. It is nice, but nothing much more than a rewrite of previous, better, entries.

Not quite Lane moje, to put it nicely.

But in sharp contrast to Bosnia and Estonia, where I thought strong songs were taken down by the performances, Željko knows how to work his stuff. He is a very powerful performer - the voice is there, the gaze is there - who could blow life into any old song. Which is basically what he did in Baku.

Had he given us a tiny bit of surprise, just a fragment of a new idea in the old concoction, he could maybe even have given Loreen a run for the money. Now he just gave us the same old song, and that was not exciting enough.

My grade: 3/5

Tobson's Ranking: #17 Estonia

Another really well written ballad that I would have preferred sung in a very different way.

Ott Lepland - Kuula (Estonia 2012)

Ott from Estonia has a truly magnificent voice, which he masters almost to perfection. He can really nail some really high and demanding notes and in a different song it would have been really impressive.

What really made me enjoy the Estonian entry from the start was its simplicity, how understated and restrained it was. How all the elegant little details created a tremendous build-up in this little ballad.

Then Ott decided he wanted to show off his vocal skills instead, effectively devastating everything I really liked about the song in the first place. The musical equivalent of drowning a lovingly crafted dish in ketchup.

A matter of taste, of course. Some people loved all this vocalising, but it left me completely cold.

Ott is a fantastic performer in so many ways. I wish somebody would have told him to hold back instead. Sometimes less is just so much more.

My grade: 3/5

Tobson's Ranking: #18 Bosnia and Herzegovina

This is one of my favourite ballads of the year, but I have come to expect more from the Bosnian entrants performance-wise.

Maya Sar - Korake ti znam (Bosnia-Herzegovina 2012)

From the word go, I melted like butter when I heard this very soft, very tender, very gentle ballad in its delicate arrangement, partially whispered rather than sung by the very sensitive Maya Sar that touched me already last year in Düsseldorf (when she was part of Dino Merlin's backing group).

I'm still very fond of the recorded version, but the live performance did not quite live up to my expectations.

A female piano ballad almost always include the singer getting up from her instrument towards the end to give the end notes some extra forza. Very predictable, on the verge of forgettable. Previous Bosnians entries have always included something for the eye as well as for the ears, and I was slightly disappointed to find this ingredient missing.

Maybe Maya Sar didn't have her best day vocally either, and I was a bit surprised to see this one in the final. But it still is a lovely song. Had it had a bit more to offer visually, it would have been higher still in my ranking.

My grade: 3/5

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tobson's Ranking: #19 Romania

One of the hardest things you can attempt at Eurovision is being feather-light and get away with it. Romania almost nailed it. Almost.

Mandinga - Zaleilah (Romania 2012)

Being light and carefree is difficult since you have to be really convincing in order to get away with it.

If you sing a demanding ballad, you can allow yourself to slip on a note or two. If you sing about heartbreak you can allow yourself a little too much acting. If you do a dance act, it is OK to focus a bit more on dancing than singing.

But if you want to be light and carefree, you must be perfect. The audience must get the feeling that your performance is born in the moment, that it is the easiest thing, that it just comes to you.

Romania did this perfectly until the semi final, when lead singer Elena had problems with her in-ear and struggled to sing in tune and in the right rhythm. There and then the illusion was lost, for the audience as well as for her.

The performance never got back to feeling as carefree as it would have needed to be and a real contender lost most of its bite. Too bad.

My grade: 3/5

Tobson's Ranking: #20 Greece

It has been years since the Greeks last sent in a really strong song. But they certainly know how to make their stuff work.

Eleftheria Eleftheriou - Aphrodisiac (Greece 2012)

This song isn't much to start with, it sounds like the rather washed-out melodifestivalen-reject that it probably is, and most countries would have failed miserably when entering something as unoriginal as this.

But Greece is not just any old country, they know their stuff. Their sound is distinctly modern pop with a local flavour and their dance routines are wacko enough to raise a certain interest around the song in question.

This year's stage show - where Eleftheria and her dancers recreates "The Birth of Venus", the famous painting by Botticelli - is also more elaborate and sophisticated than most.

Had all of this been accompanied by an equally ambitious song, then this could have resulted in another Greek spot in top three. Now it was to be the first Greek entry in nine years not to place among the ten best instead.

And maybe rightly so. This is a song contest, after all. And then the song should matter as well.

My grade: 3/5

Tobson's Ranking: #21 Portugal

I used to consider this as nothing but a snoozefest... and then I saw the light.

Filipa Sousa - Vida Minha (Portugal 2012)

I thought this to be just a poor man's "Senhora do Mar" (which I wasn't particularly fond of in the first place), but sometimes being surrounded by the right group of people will make you see a song differently. As one of my colleagues really liked this one I decided to give it another shot.

Filipa and her backing singers deliver a very polished package with a fair share of real pathos and emotion.

Too bad it didn't break though to the greater part of the audience, but quality isn't always enough in a competition where you also need a certain amount of luck.

(And I am still waiting for the day when the Portuguese will bring us a convincing and heavy-scoring modern pop entry that could bring the contest to Lisbon. What is taking them so long?)

My grade: 3/5

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tobson's Ranking: #22 Ireland

Sometimes it is great to make a quick comeback, sometimes it is better to stay away. As for Jedward, I have no idea whether this was clever or not.

Jedward - Waterline (Ireland 2012)

I can easily conclude two things: 1) "Waterline" is a much weaker entry than "Lipstick" was. 2) The real Jedheads could not care less about this.

It is interesting to note that the low score and lack of success the Irish twins had in Baku seems not to have influenced their popularity at all. Their fans seem to stay loyal, maybe even thinking the brothers showed themselves versatile proposing something different compared to last year's entry.

In a way they did. They reminded the audience of their presence, they were sweet and witty and funny, and they looked striking in their new hairdos. 

I just think they could have achieved that very effect, even stronger, with a better song. Why they went for a washed-out Saade-reject remains a mystery to me.

My grade: 2/5

Tobson's Ranking: #23 Malta

This is still a pretty weak song but a likeable performer and a silly dance routine can go a very long way.

Kurt Calleja - This Is The Night (Malta 2012)

Before the contest, I didn't believe in Maltese success - there just wasn't enough of a song going on to make anyone happy. But Kurt Calleja had more energy and dedication that I had foreseen.

Armed with a silly but effective little dance routine, he managed to fill his tiny chorus with plenty of feelgood and a presence that made quite a few televoters melt. Enough of them to secure a spot in the final, for the first time since 2009.

All of Malta can rejoice in that achievement. But the success comes down to Kurt and his team, and nobody else. Very well done. Imagine how well he could have scored with a better song.

My grade: 2/5

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tobson's Ranking: #24 Iceland

My eyes can see and my ears can hear that this is a neat and proper tune with a duo that does everything right. And yet it doesn't provoke a single emotion in me.

Greta Salóme & Jónsi - Never Forget (Iceland 2012)

There are so many good ingredients here, really. I like the slight feeling of menace in the arrangement of the verses. I like the build-up. I like the way their voices gel. And I even like the violin, and it doesn't make me think too much of Alexander Rybak.

But somehow, the end product doesn't do much for me. Maybe it is just too predictable, too eurovision by the numbers, too much schlager factory.

The musical equivalent of a fresh and tasty standard salad that will do nicely for a quick lunch on a week day. Good for as long as it lasts, but nothing you will remember once it's over. Even if it comes in a very nice package.

My grade: 2/5

Tobson's Ranking: #25 United Kingdom

One of the reasons you would opt for an established, experienced performer at Eurovision would be that you wouldn't have to worry that they would sing badly. Or something.

Engelbert Humperdinck - Love Will Set You Free (United Kingdom 2012)

To set one thing straight - Engelbert is one of the biggest stars ever to grace a eurovision stage, he has sold tons of records and he has been highly influencial in many ways. Nobody can take that away from him.

But this entire entry relied on his voice and his performance and sadly the Grand Old Man did not deliver.

The performance in the grand final was not too bad, but a song like this was always more likely to collect high points from the juries rather than the televoters. And during the jury final, Engelbert was nothing short of disastrous.

His timing was off, he was out of sync with the backing track and he came nowhere close to nailing the more demanding notes of his song. This, in addition to the dubious honour of being the first act in the running order, left the UK entry without a chance in the world.

Shame on a sweet song. As for Engelbert, the legend will live on and his fans will forget. Pretty quickly too, I would guess.

My grade: 2/5

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tobson's Ranking: #26 Norway

This song really needs a Tooji. But Tooji would deserve a better song.

Tooji - Stay (Norway 2012)

So, Norway got the last place in the final. It means they have eleven last places in the final - more than any other participating country. But since the semi finals were introduced, the map has changed. A last place in the final is a lot better than staying in the semi.

Tooji got a lot of positive attention in Baku and he really is an explosive little package. He sings OK, but he is a delightful presence on stage who manages to fill his little song with some edge, some temper and some nerve.

His little song really needs it, by the way. In fact, it is a very bleak sketch of a song where the songwriting team has only thrown in some rhythms, some sounds and some hooks, hoping that would be enough. It is not.

There isn't even a proper chorus - the part intended to be a chorus sounds like a promising bridge, and suddenly the whole thing goes back to the verse again.

Norway needs to take greater care when it comes to selecting their songs. For the last three years they sent in good singers with weak material. A shake-up in the songwriting department and the Norweigans won't have to worry much about last places anymore.

My grade: 2/5

Tobson's Ranking: #27 Croatia

This entry did everything almost right. Which is the wrong thing to do.

Nina Badrić - Nebo (Croatia 2012)

It all looked so promising when Croatia decided to scrap their no longer hit-making national final and select a star internally for Baku. And Nina Badrić is a huge name - not just any old star at all. A very good choice.

Unfortunately, the choice of song wasn't as clever. Nina opted for the title track of her latest album, which is, admittedly, a fine track penned by Nina herself. But there were more chart-friendly, hit-sounding, distinct pop songs on that album that would have suited the occasion better.

In Baku, Nina sang well but the song got lost in the middle of it all. The background dancers don't compliment the song and most viewers were probably more puzzled what those two guys in skirts were up to. Unless they just went to the kitchen to fetch more coffee.

In all fairness, Croatia wasn't helped by the fact that no less than five ex-Yugoslav states were drawn into the same semi final. But this pleasant-but-anonymous entry would have had a hard time even during better circumstances.

The sad part is that Croatia might have a hard time convincing another star to go to Eurovision after this debacle. But if they manage, maybe the star in question should not be given full freedom when it comes to selecting the song?

My grade: 2/5

Tobson's Ranking: #28 Austria

Catchy, fun and wacko or just plain silly and sexist? Well, the televoters showed quite clearly what they thought...

Trackshittaz - Woki mit deim Popo (Austria 2012)

This is by all means rather sexist in a way that leaves a bit of a bad taste in your mouth. It is 2012 after all and Austria is probably supposed to have come a bit further than this when it comes to equality. I never thought I would defend an entry like this, but...

I think the Trackshittaz are quite sweet and I have interpreted their whole act as mocking a certain section of Austrian society rather than celebrating it. I could be wrong, but that is how I thought of them. I also find the chorus catchy enough and as for the performance we have clearly seen worse at Eurovision.

Austria's last place in the semi final came as a bit surprising to me, but if Europe really is rejecting sexism in entertainment that is a good thing.

But perhaps it came more down to the fact that Austria had really bad luck in the live show. The camera work is considerably shakier than in any of their rehearsals and their special effects dress trick suddenly didn't work at all.

Austria has tried humour in so many ways for the last ten years. Maybe they should opt for a solid pop act next year instead?

My grade: 2/5

Tobson's Ranking: #29 Switzerland

These guys have so much potential but their song would have needed some processing first.

Sinplus - Unbreakable (Switzerland 2012)

The Broggini brothers came really close to qualification and landed in the dreaded eleventh position in their semi final. That must have been mainly on the strength of their own presence, energy and determination. They are really rather good, you know.

Unfortunately, their own song didn't really help as much as it should have.

There is a good, but slightly too repetitive, chorus in there but the whole package would have needed more development, more drama, more geist. There are several holes in this bucket and that is where the points kept leaking out.

If someone had paid some attention and helped the boys re-write some sections of the song (the second verse is really sub-standard) and add some excitement (an extra bridge? some sort of instrumental break?) - then Switzerland would have been in the final for the second year running. Easily.

This is, after all, a song contest and sometimes I wish the contestants would pay a bit more attention to the actual song writing.

My grade: 2/5

Tobson's Ranking: #30 Latvia

A nice try, but you need more than a beautiful song to make it at Eurovision.

Anmary - Beautiful Song (Latvia 2012)

The Latvian entry grew into a bit of a pre-contest favourite of mine, thanks to the rather sweet preview. It was easygoing and didn't seem to take itself too seriously.

The good thing about the live performance in Baku is that it didn't take itself too seriously there either. Anmary and her friends sang well, but acted more like a couple of socialities at a cocktail reception rather than a group eager to convince the world of their greatness.

It felt like a little break in the programme, like a premature interval act put on while most countries switch to commercials. It would have needed more punch, more colour, more vibe and more life in order to stand out.

As it is, it is pleasant but bland. And would you vote for that?

My grade: 2/5

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tobson Ranking: #31 Azerbaijan

It's cold, cold, cold. (It's their words, not mine!)

Sabina Babayeva - When The Music Dies (Azerbaijan 2012)

As every year, no expense was saved in order to make Azerbaijan's entry stand out from the rest. Sabina Babayeva was given a state-of-the-art high-tech dress with an advanced light show on it (as well as an extra dose of collagen in her lips) to enhance her performance.

It does look fantastic (the dress, that is) and adds an extra piece of drama.

The ethnic touch, added by the famous backing singer and some local instruments, failed to gel with the song, however. The whole package came across as a bit too loud for its own good.

And above all - while Sabina hits the notes correctly (despite being a bit shaky in the lower register), she fails to deliver a single trace of emotion throughout her performance. There is no heart in it. It's just... cold.

And I fail to believe that was how a song about heartbreak was supposed to be.

My grade: 2/5

Tobson's Ranking: #32 Denmark

Another sweet girl with another piece of sweet radio pop. But it does nothing for me.

Soluna Samay - Should Have Known Better (Denmark 2012)

In many ways, the Danish offering is falling into the same trap as the Dutch lass. When you start having doubts that your song is strong enough in its own right, you want to add a visual element as well.

While Joan Franka had her plumage steal the show, Soluna not only decided to put on the largest hat she could find but she also invited along a hip-hop cello player, an energetic piano/xylophone player and a backing singer on an armchair.

As none of these elements had anything to do with the song, they mainly distracted focus away from Soluna herself. A bunch of people with no coordination performing a song that is nice but not remarkable. Not a recipe for success.

My grade: 2/5

Tobson Ranking: #33 Bulgaria

Having all the main ingredients for a good dance track doesn't help at all when the performer doesn't rock at all.

Sofi Marinova - Love Unlimited (Bulgaria 2012)

Had this ranking been based on studio versions alone, this entry would end up a lot higher on my list. It has most of the key elements you'd like to see in a dancey eurovision song.

Bulgaria has juggled with this genre before and come up with credible, well-sounding pop songs without much success. This year, the backing track seemed really promising while the visual presentation was a bit of a question mark in the preview.

Unfortunately, things went from debetable to outright disastrous. Having no act to support the dance rhythms as well as an outfit leaving quite a lot to be desired, Sofi herself seemed to struggle with her song, not easily finding the right tempo nor the right cue to start singing.

If you want to know how to ruin a promising entry, look no further. This is the schoolbook example of the year.

My grade: 2/5

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tobson's Ranking: #34 Slovenia

A really lovely girl meets a fairly decent ballad. But they were never meant to be.

Eva Boto - Verjamem (Slovenia 2012)

Eva Boto is both young and angelic, she sings like a dream and she handles the stage remarkably well given her age and inexperience. A real star in the making.

So why Slovenian television, after spending a whole winter and half a spring selecting her in a never-ending talent show, decided to set her up with a song like this is beyond me.

There isn't any major flaw in the song - a little bit of a Molitva-rewrite, but people have gotten away with worse on a Eurovision stage in the past - but it doesn't suit poor Eva at all. She would have deserved something more youthful, something more vibrant, something less deadly serious.

Second last place in her semi-final was unnecessarily cruel, but I see what the voters mean. The singer and the song must compliment each other, otherwise you will fail. Just like this package did.

My grade: 2/5

Tobson's Ranking: #35 Netherlands

The Indians might be coming, but they didn't quite conquer Europe, did they?

Joan Franka - You And Me (Netherlands 2012)

Given that this was the eight consecutive Dutch entry to fail qualification, one should maybe be a bit kind here. And I am. I have twisted and turned this song around and upgraded it from "atrocious" to "acceptable". A big step for an entry like this.

Joan has a certain likeability and the set-up in Baku with her backing band felt really nice.

Just too bad that she lost her nerves and sang quite badly in the live show. She would have needed to sing more than excellently to win people over, as the very ill-advised plumage clearly worked to her disadvantage.

There was a story to the feathers, everyone who heard it would probably find it a bit touching. But the people at home - the televoters, the people with the power - they had no clue what was going on and probably found the whole stunt a bit ridiculous.

My grade: 2/5

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tobson's Ranking: #36 Montenegro

I still find this funny and clever - but there are limits to how much of a stage breakdown you can allow yourself in this contest.

Rambo Amadeus - Euro Neuro (Montenegro 2012)

From the word go, I thought the Montenegrin comeback to Eurovision was really something extra. I thought Euro Neuro was a clever and daring little song. Obviously political, but what was it mocking, really?

Excellent preview clip, a catchy chorus and a beat you could dance to had the thought crossed your mind.

I really defended it for as long as I could, but by the time the first semi final came around not even Rambo Amadeus himself seem to enjoy this any longer. Even though the stage show is quite funny (I love the end bit where one of the dancers gets kidnapped by the other two), Mister Amadeus himself decided to run amoch and ruin most of it with his truly erratic appearance.

Maybe his fans at home will love him even more for it. But for me it ruins what could have been the gem of the year. Too bad.

My grade: 1/5

Tobson Ranking: #37 Slovakia

This is a mystery I will never get my head around - why do people go to Eurovision with a song they are unable to perform properly?

Max Jason Mai - Don't Close Your Eyes (Slovakia 2012)

I really thought Slovakia had done the right thing this time and sent in an entry that would stand out by a mile and gather all the rock votes. The preview version sounded very promising, combining the heardest piece of rock heard at Eurovision since Kabát entered the stage in 2007 with a most melodious chorus.

Maybe not entirely my cup of tea but a sure qualifyer, I thought.

Then the rehearsals started and long turned my face as the long-haired Slovak proved totally unable to deliver the notes required. At first I thought it was a case of bad nerves, but no improvement came along during the week and the live performance sounded just as unconvincing as the rehearsals. And a pretty edgy rock entry was scattered to pieces and left in ruins.

I still hope Slovakia won't take this defeat personally and withdraw from the competition. This failure was nobody's fault but their own.

My grade: 1/5

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tobson Ranking: #38 Belarus

You can say a lot about Belarus, but at least they remain true to their own style.

Litesound - We Are The Heroes (Belarus 2012)

The Belarus Style in Eurovision would above all be a neverending urge to adapt your own entry into all various kinds of directions in the vain hope that as many people as possible would find something they liked in it.

This year, that meant taking a rather goodlooking and pretty well-sounding rock band (at least if 80's rock à la Bon Jovi is your bag) and forcing them into a disco makeover that did not suit them particularly well.

We already knew that artistic integrity means nothing for Belarusian television when it comes to Eurovision, but if they tried it once or twice they might find that it has a tendency of paying off.

Their 2012 entry, on the other hand, is not bad. It just doesn't make a difference.

My grade: 1/5

Tobson Ranking: #39 Lithuania

Lately, Lithuania is making it to the final more often which is great for them. Too bad their songs are not better.

Donny Montell - Love Is Blind (Lithuania 2012)

Last year a good singer lifted the incredibly pretentious Lithuanian Disney ballad into the final, and this year the blindfolded Disco King followed suit. And I understand nothing of this.

Lithuania had a good starting position in the semi, so maybe I could understand their qualification. But the mid-table placing in the grand final? The only thing I hear and see is a very weak and dated disco track performed by an over-excited young man, so convinced of his own greatness that it almost hurts.

I love passionate performers, but there is nothing attractive about somebody almost jumping out of his stagewear with pure enthusiasm. Apparently the televoters found something they were longing for, while I just wanted these three minutes to end.

My grade: 1/5

Tobson Ranking: #40 Belgium

If you see a sweet girl singing a forgettable ballad, then it is most probably the entry of Belgium.

Iris - Would You? (Belgium 2012) 

Belgium has done this stunt so many times that I, for one, am losing track. Sending in solid singers with dull entries that nobody will ever vote for. Linda Lepomme, Ingeborg, Barbara Dex, Nathalie Sorce, Nuno Resende... The list is even longer, really.

The 2012 project started out really well: in an attempt of copying the success of Tom Dice in 2010, the record industry was asked to find a young, likeable talent that could be selected internally. So far, so good. Iris seemed like a good choice.

And then the poor girl is left with nothing to sing. She is given two remarkably disengaging songs to song on national television before the televoters decide for her to go to Baku with the arguably weaker of the two.

The eurofans were smitten by young Iris and her likeable persona, but it can not have been a real surprise to anyone when this entry failed to qualify. A dull song is a dull song, and a dull song seldom gets voted into the final.

Maybe one day even Belgian television will learn this.

My grade: 1/5

Tobson Ranking: #41 Georgia

The boy has got conviction, I have to give him that.

Anri Jokhadze - I'm A Joker (Georgia 2012)

I have heard rumours that Georgian television would have a difficult time enthusing the bigger names of their national showbiz to enter Eurovision for them. This entry suggests that it would be time to do something about it, then. How about selecting a singer and a good song internally for next year?

This is such a complete anti-song, with too many different elements that clearly do not fit together. A little bit of opera, a little bit of glam rock, a little hint of musical and perhaps an air of Freddie Mercury? I'm not sure that latter would be all to pleased to be named in this context.

In Baku, however, I began to see it a bit differently. Anri is a born show man and not a bad singer. He is truly convinced of his ability and his confidence is quite contagious.

Up until a limit, though. Because, ultimately, this is a horrifically bad composition. You should not go to a song contest without a song. End of.

My grade: 0/5

Tobson Ranking: #42 San Marino

Growing old gracefully was never a Ralph Siegel thing to do. But I never thought he would go this low. Seriously.

Valentina Monetta - The Social Network Song (San Marino 2012)

I guess we should have seen it coming ever since he made Lou sing the infamous line "let's get happy and let's be gay" in Riga 2003. Ralph Siegel was always a man of speculation who happily exploited young talent and hopeful musicians in order to grab some attention.

Back in the day, at least, he would dress his performers up with a hit and the chance of going on in the business. He used to be good, Ralph. He has written and produced loads of really good songs, let's not forget about that.

But at some point, the whole thing just slipped through his fingers and these days he keeps knocking out truly bottom-of-the-league material of the kind he would never have touched with a long stick back in the day.

The Sammarinese entry of 2012 is bad, yes, but above all it is a very cynical and calculated attempt at cashing in on what Team Siegel considers "modern" and "edgy" themes. Mention the internet, namedrop a famous website, mention "cyber sex".

Cynical, calculated and without the slightest hint of warmth, intelligence or humour.

Poor Valentina Monetta, dressed up like a teenager despite knocking forty, is just a visitor in her own entry. You can almost see the panic in her eyes, maybe it dawned upon her - far too late - what a train wreck of an entry she is lending herself to?

My grade: 0/5

ESC 2012: the official Tobson ranking

Just like last year, I will keep myself amused by ranking all the entries of this year's Eurovision Song Contest according to my own liking. This is also pretty fair to the readers, I think. In the run-up for the contest, we put so much emphasis on how we think the songs will fare, what we think will work, what we think others will like... But what do we really like ourselves in the end? Impressions change - a song you liked very much in the preview might fall flat live and affect your overall opinion. And the other way around. So, here we go. Forty-two songs, forty-two posts. Brace yourselves and please comment when you agree, when you disagree or when you have something to add.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

ESC 2013: Malmö it is

I must admit that it came as a tiny bit of a surprise when Sveriges Television announced that the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest would be held in Malmö as I, pretty much like the rest of the world, was convinced that the selected venue would be the new Friends Arena in Stockholm.

But hey, welcome to Malmö!

When the news had sunk in, and you had time to think about it, the choice should only come as a moderate surprise. There are at least four good reasons for this decision.

Reason One:
Stockholm is hosting the Ice Hockey World Championships which, partially, occurs at the same time as Eurovision. This would put a strain on the availability of hotel rooms and it is - arguably - a bit silly to place to high profile events in the same city at the same time.

Reason Two:
There is more to Sweden than just Stockholm. The capital is the obvious choice, but why not shine a light on other parts of the country as well? I wouldn't mind Linköping as a future host city, for instance.

Reason Three:
Malmö needs the good publicity. For the last few years, Malmö has had loads of negative attention in the domestic press as a place with social and ethnic tension, which has also spilled over into international media. This is Malmö's time to shine.

Reason Four:
Surely one of the more important factors for SVT: the EBU wants a smaller Eurovision Song Contest. They stated in no uncertain terms that the ESC needs to grow smaller in the next years to come: smaller venues, smaller press facilities, fewer people with accreditation. All of this to keep it possible for smaller countries to host the contest in case of victory, but also for the sake of the image of the ESC: given the financial situation it is not credible to put as much money into the hosting as some recent host countries have.

Many fans have already (loudly) stated their discontent with the choice, but it should come in handy for most delegations to be able to easily promote their entries in two countries at the same time: host country Sweden as well as nearby Denmark.

It should be a win-win situation for most, then. Bring it on, Malmö - host city for the second time around.

Eurovision Song Contest 1992 Malmö - opening sequence

Nul points: United Kingdom 2003

Today, as I was preparing breakfast, I took out the old compilation tape of the 2003 Eurovision from Riga. I think I bought it in Estonia, since we were going hiking with a friend who only had a cassette player - not a CD - in his car.


It has been nine years from Riga, which means that the contest has gone through most of its ageing process already. Most of the songs have survived quite well, to be honest. Even the songs that used to annoy me for being too simple feels OK (Cyprus, for instance).

Even the big nul-pointer sounds quite good. On the day of the final I predicted that Ireland, Malta or the UK would be the nul-pointer of the year, but my jaw dropped when it actually happened.

The UK had always been unbeatable and whatever they sent in, they seemed to earn a bucket full of points, even when it didn't deserve much.

To start with, "Cry Baby" didn't even sound like a disaster entry. It had a clear hook, a useful handle, and it felt somehow more inspired than many other UK entries. Definitely a step up compared to Lindsay Dracass.

Even the preview felt OK. A bit anemic, but OK.

Jemini - Cry Baby (United Kingdom 2003 preview)

The real disaster started on location in Riga. Sending in an inexprienced act isn't necessarily a bad thing in itself - an artist in the making can use the experience to grow and make progress during the week - but Jemini seemed to have none of the qualities needed.

The final kiss of death came with the final performance: so out of tune it could make ears bleed, so over-excited it almost became awkward to watch. (The BBC delegation only made things worse by suggesting that the poor result was due to politics, as anyone with ears and eyes easily understood the real reasons.)

Still - the UK had always collected points in the past, also with dismal entries. But this time everyone made thumbs down. Nul points. The last nul pointer to date in a Eurovision final.

An important event, proving that nobody is safe in the new world of Eurovision. Everyone has to make an effort. A good point, indeed.

(And yet, Israel would have deserved last place even more in 2003. But that's a different story.)

Jemini - Cry Baby (United Kingdom 2003)