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, April 30, 2013

2013 Finalist: Germany

Eine kleine Dance Musik? That could be a good idea also in Eurovision. It sort of worked for a certain Loreen last year.

Cascada - Glorious (Germany 2013)

Right after the German final, there was plenty of talk about whether Cascada's winning entry was a plagiarism of "Euphoria" or not. As usual with that kind of discussion, most of what was said was uninformed rubbish. The songs are similar in style, and that's all there is.

The question is rather if lightning can strike in the same place twice in a row. Can two dance songs win after one another? Of course they can. Nothing ever stopped similar songs to win on consecutive years in the past.

Germany's problem is really that Loreen had more than a fresh sound under her arm - she also had a strong visual identity and a simplistic, tasteful performance that stood out from the rest. In the German final, Cascada offered a stage show that was indeed simple but also bland and forgettable.

There is work to be done here, many things to shape up. The more power, geist and punch they can add, the better the score. It's far from impossible that they will succeed.

Potential winner:
Perhaps not after all. This song is designed to be a chart hit rather than a eurovision winner, but most probably this will be another top ten result for Germany.

My grade: 3/5

Germany gave us up-to-date trendy dance music already in the past and was a highly tipped winner back in 1977. Unfortunately the contest was postponed five weeks and their entry peaked in the charts and passed its sell-by-date before the final. But this is perhaps the best disco anyone ever brought to the ESC.

Silver Convention - Telegram (Germany 1977)

Monday, April 29, 2013

2013 Finalist: France

Amandine Bourgeois promises to give you all hell on that eurovision stage. I really hope she will. I really hope France will pull this one off.

Amandine Bourgeois - L'enfer et moi (France 2013)

France has been running against the wind for the last couple of years. Every year since 2008 has seen a brave French attempt at bringing something new, something fresh and something exciting to this old song contest without much success. Only Patricia Kaas managed a top ten finish with her chanson deluxe in Moscow.

Given the family viewing nature of this show, the 2013 French entry is almost shockingly dark - suggesting some rather kinky exercises in love as well as a palpable punishment for heartbreakers. In the clip, Amandine is providing her scariest look and crazy eyes as well as a poisoned sensuality of a most intriguing sort.

Personally, I think this is ace. It's lethal, it's hypnotic and it's addictive. But then I see a number of problems as well.

The song takes a while to fully unfold itself. The last minute - where the marching boots come on and Amandine truly howls her chorus - is very strong, but will the audience stick around long enough to notice? The people voting at eurovision are not exactly renowned for their patience.

What will this look like on stage? With the exception of Patricia Kaas, most French acts have been a mess on stage and puzzled the viewers enough to miss out on points aplenty. Will they manage to keep it clean and clever this time?

Is it too dark? I'm sure the juries will approve but what will the televoting masses make of this?

Potential winner:
No. It is too demanding and too gourmet to win, but hopefully it can at least improve the French statistics a bit.

My grade: 4/5

The French are no strangers to bringing a dark mood and an acerbic lyric to Eurovision - their 1967 entry is perhaps the most bitter reaction to a love story gone wrong through ESC history. Even darker than Amandine's attempt.

Noëlle Cordier - Il doit faire beau là-bas (France 1967)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Semi 2: 17 Romania

Opera and Eurovision has proved to be rather a cumbersome combination in the past, but maybe the Romanian counter tenor is the right person to turn things around?

Cezar - It's My Life (Romania 2013)

Cezar seems to be a well established singer, trained in Milan and with steady work around the continent. My idea is that he simply doesn't know what makes a good pop song and decided to hop on the train when the pop producer called and suggested him to do the national final.

Many people have spoken badly of his singing abilities, but as far as I can understand he is a good counter tenor. With David Deor lingering in my memory, I also conclude that counter tenors are the musical equivalent of oysters or marmite - not to everyone's taste.

A quaint singing style could work at Eurovision, but then you need a strong song to back it up with. Unfortunately the song writer really let Cezar down with a pretty bland and enemic little ditty in a very dated arrangement.

Cezar really struggles to breathe life into his number but probably to no avail.

No. Romania is another of those countries that always make it to the final, but this year should be the exception to underline the rule. Unless the Counter Tenor Appreciation Society mobilises itself to come to his rescue.

My grade: 1/5

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Semi 2: 16 Switzerland

After the success of the Russian babushki last year, Switzerland thought they had found a clever follow-up by sending an entire bunch of Salvation Army members to Malmö. If only they had read the rules first.

Takasa - You And Me (Switzerland 2013)

The EBU rulebook clearly prohibits any commercial, political or religious messages on the eurovision stage and the band formerly known as Heilsarmee had to ditch their uniforms as well as their band name.

A good move, I must say. I wouldn't want the ESC flooded with "messages" that the respective broadcasters might find useful. No thank you.

At least the Swiss band got to keep one gimmick - the oldest performer ever in the ESC - and their winning song is in tact. For what it is worth.

The song starts quite well and the simple chorus has obvious singalong qualities that could rock an audience after a number of songs that could be harder to hum in the shower the next day. However, the verses are mawkish and the song displays a complete lack of development.

As this little number never takes off it makes three minutes feel more like seven.

Only if Europe is in desperate need of a sweet and cheerful ditty at this point. Otherwise this is a big no.

My grade: 1/5

Friday, April 26, 2013

Semi 2: 15 Georgia

Maybe it was a shock for Georgian tv not to qualify for the first time last year in Baku. If so, who could blame them for playing safe? But there must be a limit for everything.

Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani - Waterfall (Georgia 2013)

For the last few years, it has grown increasingly common to simply call up some international composers to craft an entry for you. It will leave you with a song that is likely to do well but just as likely not to have any link to anyone or anything in your local music business. Which is pointless.

If the Eurovision Song Contest is more about the best song you can buy rather than the best song you can produce, I find it questionable whether it is worth the effort of organising the contest at all.

Calling last year's winning composer and have him do the job for you must qualify as one of the cheapest tricks in the book. I'd almost like to deduct points for this lack of creativity.

But then again, Thomas G:son sure knows what he is doing. At first Waterfall looks like the meek little cousin of Quédate conmigo, but it is powerful, breezy and melodic. As well as the only love duet in the entire line-up.

That could carry quite far. Perhaps even further than it deserves.

Yes. A qualifier and probably even quite a heavy scorer in the final.

My grade: 3/5

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Semi 2: 14 Albania

Following up your best placing ever is not the easiest thing to do. Albania decided to meet the challenge with two rock males armed with leather pants and a dramatic song in their own language.

Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko - Identitet (Albania 2013)

When Bledar Sejko started making music, rock was forbidden in the Socialist People's Republic of Albania and he and his band mates had to give concerts in secret. I guess very few of the other people taking part in Malmö ever had to show a similar kind of commitment to their art, thank heavens.

Together with the younger talent Adrian, they are proposing a grand and bombastic rock hymn drowned in strings and sprinkled with funny little details in the arrangement. Not a red hot favourite with the bookmakers in all fairness, but musically interesting.

I really like the long intro, the dramatic strings and the conviction shown by these gents, but I doubt they will be able to make a visually appealing presentation. My guess is they will just stand there and sing and play the guitar and very few people are likely to vote for that.

But I do like the song.

No, it will be hard for them to make it to the final. But remember - I had doubts about "Suus" as well. So who am I to predict anything at all?

My grade: 3/5

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Semi 2: 13 Norway

For the last few years, ever since Alexander Rybak, I have said the same thing about the Norwegian entries: good performers with weak songs. But this year they got it all right.

Margaret Berger - I Feed You My Love (Norway 2013)

Margaret Berger became known through an early edition of Norway's Pop Idol and then made a sharp turn towards a more demanding, cold and polished sound. More electronica, less family entertainment, and her eurovision entry takes that direction even further.

Given Norway's usual taste and preferences, I'd classify it as a smaller miracle that a song like this could win. I'm most impressed.

This is the kind of daring and modern effort that almost never wins national finals and that could encounter problems in enthusing the televoters, but in my mind it stands out as close to perfect.

There is just one detail I'd like to tweak a little bit: Margaret should decide whether she wants to be arty and restrained or allow herself to dance along merrily to the track (as she does in the second verse). Either or would work better. But that's a tiny detail.

Yes, I think so. It has sharp edges but should be captivating enough to make top ten in a semi. As far as I'm concerned, this should be a potential winner in a perfect world.

My grade: 4/5

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Semi 2: 12 Hungary

Ever since their latest comeback in 2011, Hungary has developed an intriguing taste for well-crafted and quirky quality pop songs that add a certain spice to the contest. This year's entry is no exception.

ByeAlex - Kedvesem (Hungary 2013)

At a first glance, I found the Hungarian winner slightly disappointing, un-catchy and lacking most kinds of punch or attack, but soon enough it opened up like a flower. Like a big, beautiful, rare flower.

ByeAlex is not like any other performers in this line-up. Understated and almost introvert, whispering his ode to his loved one in smooth, poetic Hungarian words. Light, artistic and appealing.

To my big surprise I am far from alone in liking this gentle and pleasant little effort, and if Hungary keeps up to this standard also in the future they could grow in to being the quality guarantee that Poland used to be back in the day.

Yes, if there is any justice in the world. But this one could also be the critic's darling that passes way over the heads of the televoting masses.

My grade: 4/5

Monday, April 22, 2013

Semi 2: 11 Armenia

It makes me very happy that Armenia is back in business after last year's break. It makes me less happy that their comeback entry is not stronger than it is.

Dorians - Lonely Planet (Armenia 2013)

On paper everything looks very promising: one of the country's top rock bands with a powerful vocalist performing a song penned by an international rock legend - Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath - must be worth something.

Unfortunately, this entry is as flat as a pancake. It isn't bad but it never develops into anything at all. After a minute, you have heard all there is.

Maybe lead singer Gor Sujyan can shake some life and soul into the whole thing live on stage and make it work, but in its current form this entry is just plain, polite and inoffensive. Too much so for its own good.

No, unless they manage to add some life, soul and attitude to this blend. And more than just a little, please.

My grade: 1/5

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Semi 2: 10 Israel

A strong and heartfelt ballad could be the recipe for success at Eurovision. Israel pulled it off in the past, and they would surely like some revenge after missing the final two years in a row.

Moran Mazor - Rak bishvilo (Israel 2013)

A big ballad in Hebrew is not a bad idea. It led to Israel's best showing in the last ten years, with the lovely Shiri Maimon in Kyiv in 2005. Israel has managed to hammer out good ballads in the past and Hebrew is a lovely language to sing in.

Moran Mazor is also an intriguing performer. She has a good voice, an interesting look and a strong presence. I'd love to hear more from her.

And yet her song never really takes off. It does grow, it has a little bit of a vocal happening, but it never really erupts into any kind of climax. Every time I hear it, I wish for all the pieces to fall into place and every time I find myself disappointed.

Perhaps. The question is how many ballads or midtempo entries will make it into the final. Israel could find themselves on the right side of qualification. Or they could equally well see themselves beaten by Iceland.

My grade: 2/5

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Semi 2: 09 Greece

Honestly, I've been a bit tired of the Greek eurovision entries for a while. Similar songs and similar performers most of the years. So I should be really happy now that they changed track completely.

Koza Mostra & Agathon Iakovidis - Alcohol Is Free (Greece 2013)

Instead of the neverending beach party tunes, Greece opted for something pretty different. Rebetiko meets ska meets a deeply political lyric that mixes Greek mythology and Alexander the Great with the current Greek crisis - everything crowned by a chorus consisting only of chanting a catch-phrase stating that alcohol is, indeed, free.

Maybe the Greeks did not make it excessively easy for themselves.

But the whole package works surprisingly well. It is engaging and convincing, underlining the fact that there is a reality waiting for us all out there when the songs have been sung and a winner elected.

My only objection is that I wish the song could be longer. The last chorus is so intense, I wish they would have had time to let it develop even further.

Yes. I do hope so. This is my favourite Greek entry in many years, I hope their courage and will to experiment will be rewarded.

My grade: 4/5

Friday, April 19, 2013

Semi 2: 08 Iceland

Me and Iceland used to get on like a house on fire in the world of Eurovision, but lately they've been playing it safe in a way that seems to work but that doesn't spark any greater deal of emotion in me.

Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson - Ég á Líf (Iceland 2013)

This year, Iceland decided to send a clean-cut young man singing a clean-cut ballad and I don't have an awful lot to say about it. But let's focus on the positive parts of it.

It's inoffensive.
That's not really a selling point in my book, I think it is better to make a splash and try to challenge the audience a bit. But nobody can be angry with this song, nobody can hate it. It is too pleasant.

It's in Icelandic.
The most beautiful language of the Nordic countries, it is a relief to hear it again on a eurovision stage for the first time since Paul Oscar's latex fantasies back in 1997.

It is catchy.
Either you want to or not, this song will eat its way into your ear and make a comfortable home for itself somewhere close to your central nervous system. And you will not get rid of it.

On the negative side, I find it a bit too sweet and ingratiating. Also, in the national final Eyþór showed a tendency of over-vocalising his song, just like Ott Lepland did in Baku last year when "Kuula" crumbled from being a personal favourite to a tiresome shoutfest in my ears.

Who can tell? Iceland are good at narrowly making it across the qualification line. But I would not bet all my money on this particular song making it in this line-up.

My grade: 2/5

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Semi 2: 07 Bulgaria

If you only had success once, it is easy to conclude that a repeat run of that very entry would automatically lead to a new success. But lightning seldom strikes twice in the same place at Eurovision.

Elitsa & Stoyan - Samo Shampioni (Bulgaria 2013)

Just to make one thing perfectly clear - I am not poking fun at Bulgaria. I often find myself liking their entries, hoping they will break into the final and often feel their pain as they often miss out with very small margins. I liked Elitsa and Stoyan back in 2007 and can't blame Bulgarian television for trying to repeat their own success.

And yet.

When Voda was a surprising and creative entry, the new song feels like a very tired copy. It has the same drumming, the same singing and the same structure. However, it lacks everything that made Voda original, modern, progressive and suggestive. An added bagpipe is hardly enough to make up for that.

No. I very much doubt Europe sat and waited for a Voda follow-up. And if they did, they will find themselves bitterly disappointed.

My grade: 1/5

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Semi 2: 06 Malta

The Maltese entry is a simple and almost aggressively laidback and uncomplicated little song. Sometimes that is all you need. That and a big smile.

Gianluca - Tomorrow (Malta 2013)

When Gianluca won the national final, I instantly liked both him and the song - thinking this was a very pleasant package full of sunshine - without considering them serious contenders for Malmö.

A pleasant little break, not much more.

And then the song kept growing and growing. It found its way into the back of my head and kept popping out when I least expected it. Then came the very sweet video clip and I was won over completely.

I'm not promising Malta anything, but if Gianluca breaks through the cameras - which I think he will - this could be their finest moment in years. If they manage to keep the whole thing as easy, light hearted and uncomplicated as it is now, then I think many people will find themselves seriously smitten by this.

Yes. If there is any justice in the world, Gianluca will smile his way into the final and perhaps gain quite a respectable amount of points there.

My grade: 4/5

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Semi 2: 05 Finland

Usually it is very hard to rate the entry of your own country, but this year I feel sure. Finland had very good luck when SVT sequenced the running order.

Krista Siegfrids - Marry Me (Finland 2013)

Never before has Finland entered anything like this. Krista will storm to the stage with dancers, a wind machine and - rumour has it - at least one wardrobe effect to come. And she has a very infectious chorus as well.

Simple but very catchy, everyone can sing along to the "oh-oh-ding-dong"-hook and Krista has confidence aplenty. Confidence usually works well in this contest.

Then there has been a fair amount of objections to the lyrics and I do agree that Krista could have made life a lot easier for herself by singing something else. On the other hand, I can't see how anyone can take these lyrics seriously and literally. And Miss Performer herself could not care less what anyone thinks.

Yes. Temper and attitude will pay off at this point in the show, the tempo will wake the people up and the audience will not be forgetting Miss Siegfrids anytime soon.

My grade: 4/5

Monday, April 15, 2013

Semi 2: 04 Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan seems to have found themselves a formula: get a song that does not stand out too much and a fairly good performer and then you're done.

Farid Mammadov - Hold Me (Azerbaijan 2013)

If that is the formula, then Azeri tv is really staying true to style. Hold Me is a very typical eurovision ballad with no sharp edges or anything disturbing or threatening anywhere in sight. A clever musical arrangement makes it stand out as a little more interesting than it really is, but it still is quite some way from sensational.

The real selling point in this entry is Farid himself. He is a good singer and looks rather pretty and trustworthy. He rather reminds me of a certain Eldar who scored quite heavily the other year in Düsseldorf.

I just hope they don't drown him in special effects of any sort in Malmö. Then my already humble grade will drop further.

Yes. This will be ballad heaven for a certain section of the audience and eye candy for another. But I'm yawning a bit.

My grade: 2/5

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Semi 2: 03 FYR Macedonia

For some time, I was convinced FYR Macedonia would be one of my favourites this year. Then they had a change of song and I had a change of mind.

Esma & Lozano - Pred da se razdeni (FYR Macedonia 2013)

To have a living legend and iconic superstar like Esma Redžepova represent you at Eurovision should qualify as a major accomplishment and something to be proud of. Somehow I get the idea that these people do not share my sentiment.

The original song choice was pop-goes-etno by the numbers, predictable but good and easily accessible, placing Esma firmly in the centre of attention, using Lozano more as a sidekick. Like it should be.

The new song, then? Biggest problem - it isn't really a song. It is two songs crammed into one without fitting together the slightest. Lozano does a generic Balkan ballad thingy without any disturbing amount of conviction, then Esma crashes the party with a very ethnic breakdown.

I've been trying really hard to like this song but to no avail.

The transition between the two parts is about as smooth as two trains crashing into each other. The last chorus, where they are trying to merge the two parts together is not pretty at all.

But the worst thing is still that the new song diminishes Esma, who finds herself reduced to a special effect or an ethnic alibi. And that's no way to treat a Lady.

No. This is too much of a mess to hit home with a wide audience.

My grade: 1/5

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Semi 2: 02 San Marino

For two minutes I was fully convinced that Ralph Siegel had found a trace of his old self and that he wrote the confident entry that would shut his critics up once and for all. And then came the tempo change.

Valentina Monetta - Crisalide (Vola) (San Marino 2013)

I was not too thrilled as San Marino opted to go for the duo of Ralph Siegel and Valentina Monetta for a second consecutive year, as I still think their social-networking-ditty of last year stands out as one of the most cynical entries in many years.

But then I decided to give them the benefit of a doubt. Valentina seemed determined to be more true to herself this time and Siegel has written many good songs during his career, let's not forget that.

And for two minutes, Crisalide is magical. A big, dramatic ballad where Valentina really gets to show off her qualities as a singer. A sure qualifier and the best song Siegel wrote in years.

Then, unfortunately, our composer lost his confidence again as he changes the song from classy ballad into a disco stomper instead. The disco part is not all bad, but the pieces don't fit together and what could have been an excellent entry is reduced to something considerably smaller.

Siegel the effect seeker gets the better of Siegel the composer. Again. Still - a lot better than most of us expected.

Difficult to say. The fans like this one, but the tempo change is sure to disencourage quite a few people to vote. In secret, I'm crossing my fingers this one will make the final but I'm far from sure.

My grade: 3/5

Friday, April 12, 2013

Semi 2: 01 Latvia

Here we go with the songs of the second semi. And here we go with another happy Latvian entry of a sort that had problems imposing itself lately.

PeR - Here We Go (Latvia 2013)

Being the first song in a semi final is always a tough job. If you have a good song, you open the party and set the tone for the rest of the show but chances are also that the voting audience will forget you before the telephone lines open.

Latvia would have the odds against them as they have not been in a final since 2008, but I must admit the bouncy and jaunty boys of PeR win me over every time I hear this entry.

The chorus might be silly, but it's also infectious and effective. The silly toy saxophone solo sticks in your ear. And the lads are almost energetic enough to be labeled a Baltic light version of Jedward.

Yes, I hope so. The second semi is weaker than the first one, and Latvia would deserve to be back in the final. Not least because of the good mood they share.

My grade: 3/5

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Semi 1: 16 Serbia

Serbia and pop is usually the perfect combo in my world and their 2013 effort starts just as promising as I would expect. Problem is that not a great deal happens after that.

Moje 3 - Ljubav je svuda (Serbia 2013)

The three girls of Moje 3 have already declared that they are just a trio for the occasion and will be solo singers again as soon as Eurovision is over. The big problem is that they act like solo singers already.

There is no chemistry between these ladies as they try to push their little song ahead on stage. As a viewer, it is hard to make head or tails of the performance. What are they up to? Why the devil horns? Does that make the girl in white an angel? And the third one - what is she?

And when you find yourself thinking so much about these things, it is also an indicator that the song is not captivating enough. A harmless little tune that is not bad at all but can't make its own mind up what kind of song it wants to be. Not bad but not good enough either.

I am not so sure. Serbia usually does well, but usually has more convincing entries. There are stronger contenders fishing for the pop points in this semi. Will there be enough points for everyone?

My grade: 2/5 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Semi 1: 15 Belgium

Perhaps Belgian broadcaster RTBF was scared stiff back in 2003 when Urban Trad almost won the contest in Riga, as they mainly sent in pretty toothless contenders since. Until this year, where they might get scared again.

Roberto Bellarosa - Love Kills (Belgium 2013)

After things like a Love Boat disco number, a frighteningly cheerful a cappella group and an Elvis impersonator, Wallonia decided to send in some uncomplicated, straightforward and rather likeable pop for their Malmö appearance. Well done.

Despite being the winner of the local version of The Voice, Roberto Bellarosa himself has however seemed like a bit of a question mark for some people. For being a talent show winner, his sound is surprisingly atypical. He is not your typical big-voiced powerhouse performer, that is true. But he has other qualities.

Roberto does sound like he could crack up, like his voice could break, like he could fall to pieces. It adds drama and emotion to what could otherwise have been just a slick but cold little song.

The Belgian entry is both catchy and moving and could turn out to do very well in the end.

Yes, especially given this excellent spot in the running order.

My grade: 4/5

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Semi 1: 14 Cyprus

There are good news and bad news concerning this song. Good news: Cyprus is sending in one of their bigger stars for Eurovision. Bad news: she doesn't have a whole lot of a song to work with.

Despina Olympiou - An me thimáse (Cyprus 2013)

Perhaps there is something I should know to appreciate this entry more. Perhaps it falls very well into the standard repertoire of Despina. Perhaps it has lovely lyrics or touches a string with the home audience.

All I hear is a polished little ballad that is very pleasant but never quite takes off. It does nothing wrong, it is clean and enjoyable but bound to fall into oblivion as soon as the next song starts.

Despina is a good singer that manages to add some temper and colour, but there are limits also to what a skilled performer can do to save an unspectacular entry.

No. It would be a real surprise if this one managed to capture the audience enough to qualify.

My grade: 2/5

In fact, this song always make me think of another Cypriot ballad entry that was pleasant and did nothing wrong but failed to have any impact in the end. I believe this year's entry will share the same fate.

Lia Vishi-Piliouris - To katalava arga (Cyprus 1985)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Semi 1: 13 Ireland

It isn't unusual that a song is almost invisible in the preview speculations and then does really well in the end. In 2013, it wouldn't surprise me if that very song turned out to be Ireland.

Ryan Dolan - Only Love Survives (Ireland 2013)

I don't know why, but at first this song failed to impress. I thought it was the best one in the Irish final, but the performance and production in that RTÉ studio felt a bit lacklustre and at least I was left with the feeling that these people tried to make their own Euphoria without really knowing how.

Then at some point this song starting growing on me. There is something very suggestive and appealing about the arrangement and build-up, and the verse works as a terrific teaser for an effective chorus.

And Ryan Dolan is a very likeable singer too, with a vulnerable and dramatic tone in his voice. If the Malmö Arena inspires him in a way the RTÉ studio failed to do and young Dolan manages to sing his heart out without over-acting his song, then Ireland could stand out as one of the best pop acts on the night.

Yes, unless somebody totally manages to wreck the stage presentation this one should easily convince the audience at this point in the running order.

My grade: 4/5

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Semi 1: 12 Moldova

After his feisty performance in Baku, Pasha Parfeny felt the urge to write a slower number for one of his backing singers, showing that he can pull off ballads as well.

Aliona Moon - O mie (Moldova 2013)

Pasha is a good songwriter and this ballad is building up nicely for a big finish. Aliona Moon is a likeable presence and delivers well in a dress inspired by last year's Azeri entry. This is a good entry and Moldova usually does well at Eurovision.

And yet...

Yet I have a feeling that this entry could face problems. Is this the first song to become one ballad too many in this semi? Will it stand out enough to be remembered by the televoters? Is it startling enough to remain in people's minds?

And even though I like the idea that the Moldovans change their lyrics and opt for singing in their own language, I will surely miss the line about the Maya not being so wrong after all.

Perhaps. I would definitely select it for the final if I was in charge. I'm just not entirely sure Europe will.

My grade: 3/5

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Semi 1: 11 Belarus

There will always be a market for silly songs. But then there is good silly and then there is bad silly. You can never guess which one Belarus went for.

Alyona Lanskaya - Solayoh (Belarus 2013)

I watched the Belarusian final for Malmö and thought Alyona Lanskaya was one of the better performers they ever selected. I also found "The Rhythm of Love" a more than decent little song.

But then, Belarusian tv is very anxious to do well at Eurovision. Who can blame them, given the close to aggressive interest their president has shown the event, poking his nose into most things, personally replacing singers and songs in the past?

So - exit the winning song. Instead they opted for a little number penned by Belgian Marc Paelinck who has competed three times before, always failing to achieve the predicted amount of success.

The new song is a happy-clappy pseudo-latin number with clumsy lyrics. It wants to be tempesteous and sexy but ultimately lacks every kind of passion. Alyona is still a good performer, but the preview suggests even she is struggling to find any real purpose or ambition in this ditty.

Belarus is very eager to please as many as possible. If they dared to rely on their singers and allow a bit of artistic integrity, they would probably do better.

Possibly, but I would not bet my last money on it. Who is going to love this song enough to vote for it?

My grade: 2/5

Friday, April 5, 2013

Semi 1: 10 Lithuania

I keep getting Lithuania wrong - when I predict them to fail, they qualify and vice versa. Which should be excellent news for Andrius Pojavis.

Andrius Pojavis - Something (Lithuania 2013)

Actually, I quite like the Lithuanian entry. The radio-friendly guitars, the knowingly stumbling verse before the melodic verse. Andrius himself.

He seems very happy to be on stage, his eyes are sparkling and twinkling and the enthusiasm spills into his voice.

Unfortunately, the enthusiasm spills into the whole performance. As a performer, you should always identify what your real job is and do it as well as you can. When you sing on television, you should focus on the viewers at home.

Judging from the preview clip, Andrius has a hard time focusing on anything at all. He flirts with the audience as well as his backing singers. He gets carried away, improvises and tries to make people clap along.

He does almost anything in his power to distract the viewers from his own song.

Unless he sharpens up and gets his priorities straight, he will not stand a chance. Neither with viewers nor with jury.

No, not as it is. He would have had much better chances in the second semi.

My grade: 2/5

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Semi 1: 09 Montenegro

Just like last year, Montenegro is providing the entry with the sharpest edges and the least amount of adaptation to the ESC formula. It seems they don't care at all whether we like them or not. Which is great.

Who See - Igranka (Montenegro 2013)

The production is hard and heavy, this sounds more like a local hit sampler than a eurovision entry. Which is exactly what I'd wish more countries would do - push the limits and challenge the rules.

Hiphop and dubstep may not be the two things closest to my heart to be perfectly honest, but the mix turns out to be energetic and fairly engaging. The guys are real rappers and the girl can belt out her chorus most convincingly.

If it hadn't been for the tired sexism of the video clip, I would have been even more excited than this.

And if it hadn't been for the hard, cold reality that will most probably smack Montenegro in the face before this contest is over. It is great to be daring, but I don't see how they well be able to sell this to a wide, family-based audience.

No, most probably not. Their target audience will probably be doing something else - clubbing? partying? washing laundry? - rather than watching a eurovision semi final, not to mention voting. But a very interesting try nevertheless.

My grade: 3/5

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Semi 1: 08 Netherlands

"The Dutch entry is a wonderful little song with great potential to do well in the final." See there, a phrase I have not used for many years. But now the Dutch got their act together.

Anouk - Birds (Netherlands 2013)

Out of the long-time participants of eurovision, the Netherlands has one of the poorest showings since the semi finals were introduced. Only once did they manage to qualify and have not been in a final since 2004.

Not really surprising either as their entries have been far from convincing. They have often been pale, half-hearted, kitschy little songs with far too little heart and what seems like a fear of looking too serious.

What a good thing then that they finally got around to asking Anouk to do the job for them. Not only is she an experienced singer with a timbre of her own, she has also been around long enough to figure out that people who stay true to their own style tend to get rewarded for that.

So out goes the typical eurosongs and in comes an atmospheric number, sounding more like an inspired part of a 60's movie score rather than anything else. Rich, sophisticated and a little bit demanding. Not completely unlike last years Albanian entry.

The only thing that holds my grade down a tiny bit is the hope that this song will develop even a little bit further live. Anouk has said in interviews that she is thinking very much of the visual presentation, what colour this song should be. Sounds very promising to me.

Yes. Perhaps not everybody's cup of tea but more than enough people will love this to make it sail safely into the final. First Dutch entry doing so in a long, long, long time.

My grade: 4/5

By the way, am I the only one who is reminded of this other Dutch entry - also an ambitious and demanding entry that happened to do quite well in the end?

Saskia & Serge - De tijd (Netherlands 1971)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Semi 1: 07 Ukraine

Dear Ukraine. How do you do it? I think most other regular Eurovision participants would be eager to know. Again we stand here with a song that is likely to go far, very far indeed.

Zlata Ognevich - Gravity (Ukraine 2013)

This is clearly the kind of song that Russian Dina should have had on her hands instead: a strong uptempo ballad that quickly unfolds from a delicate, almost whispered, start and starts building. And building and building and building into an impressive ending.

My only real concern here is that it took me forever to identify anything similar to a chorus, but even before I did this song worked really well thanks to a complete set of clever vocal gimmicks and a very polished performance by Zlata.

Given the usual Ukrainian ability of setting their songs alight on a eurovision stage, even in the years when the song itself is weak, this pearl could very well grow into a complete powerhouse before the rehearsals are over in Malmö.

Yes. And a very strong contender in the final.

My grade: 4/5

Monday, April 1, 2013

Semi 1: 06 Russia

There is always somebody who wants to save the world and bring joy and understanding to people at Eurovision. This year's ambassador for peace comes from Russia.

Dina Garipova - What If (Russia 2013)

This is the kind of song you have heard many times before. A big, atomspheric "American" ballad with a plea for everyone to take better care of each other, be kinder to other people, give them the strength to be who they are.

Nothing is really wrong with this song - it has a pleasant arrangement and sounds... well... right - but the overload of warm and "positive" words is more than I can handle. "Sincere" is hardly the word that strikes you when listening to this.

Too bad for charming Dina Garipova who sings very well and would deserve a better song to work with, instead of this sugary coated piece of fluff.

Then again, many people will love this and find it irrestistible. Good for them.

Probably, mainly because Russia always qualifies But this song won't really contribute with anything unmissable in the final.

My grade: 1/5