Friday, December 31, 2010

It's Hotel FM for Romania!

After a MARATHON of a preselection, spanning over five hours (and technically, two years!), the Romanians have come up with their representative to Eurovision for 2011.  After coming in 4th place during last year's Selecţia Naţională with their song "Come as One", Oradea-based band Hotel FM will go to Düsseldorf with their song "Change".

It's a light, poppy song that reminds me a bit of Simon Mathew's "All Night Long" for Denmark from a few years back.  It's got a light, happy message that often fits nicely into Eurovision, and it's completely inoffensive.  (Plus, it seems that the lead singer is British, which would explain why his English is so flawless!)  I'm not sure if it's as much of a standout as Paula and Ovi's "Playing with Fire" from last year, which took Romania to a 3rd place finish.  But this will likely crack into the finals, with 12 points from Moldova, as per usual. 

This is likely my last message to you all in 2010 (although it's already past midnight in Europe!)...I just want to wish all of my readers the happiest, healthiest, and most prosperous year for 2011!  I hope to continue bringing you all the best in news, opinions, and predictions...and I hope you're along for the ride with me!


This just in: Yüksek Sadakat for Turkey

Within the last few moments, Turkish network TRT has announced that rock band Yüksek Sadakat (literally, "High Fidelity") will be representing the nation in Germany.  The group was formed in 1997, but really hit the big time in early 2006.  They're known for blending pop-rock with traditional Turkish sounds.  This selection not only defies the rumors of either Atiye Deniz or Tarkan's participation in the contest this year (then again, rumors surround Tarkan nearly every year), but it also goes against the recent trend for the Turks to alternate between rock and hip-shaking pop!

More information is coming...but from all indications, this is not a bad way to kick off the New Year!  (You know how I love it when the Turks rock the house!)

43 Nations in Düsseldorf

We all knew that the EBU would be releasing the official list of participating nations sometime after Christmas, and, as anticipated, they came through for us on New Year's Eve!  After the dust has all settled, it looks like we will, in fact, have 43 nations competing in Eurovision 2011.  Slovakia, after hemming and hawing over their decision, has decided to join the party in Germany, along with the aforementioned returns from San Marino, Hungary, Italy, and Austria.  Also, this will be the first ESC since Kiev in 2005 where there have been no withdrawals!  Furthermore, as Italy has been such a major financial contributor to the EBU, they automatically qualify for the final as a member of the newly-minted "Big Five", alongside France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and hosts Germany.

The complete list of participating nations, along with their national broadcasters, is after the jump:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Another country returns to Eurovision!

...And the good news continues to come in!  Adding to a string of nations returning to the ESC stage, today brought news of Hungarian broadcaster MTV (no, not that MTV...we're talking Magyar Televízió!) confirming that they will, in fact, be represented in Düsseldorf!  That makes the 4th nation returning to the competition (including Austria, Italy, and San Marino).  Hungary's last participation was back in 2009, with stage performer Zoltan "Zoli" Ádok's disco-pop number "Dance with Me", which didn't qualify for the finals.  (Zoli's performance did, however, win the infamous "Barbara Dex Award", a dubious honor presented to the evening's worst-dressed performer.)

The jury is still out on Slovakia, so to speak.  They had said back in early December that 2011 was a no-go, but rumors of their participation still hovered around them.  Supposedly, they had applied to be on the provisional list of participants, with the option of withdrawing their names by Christmastime.  We haven't heard any confirmations one way or the other, so we'll have to wait for the EBU's official verdict on who's in and who's out, which should come any day now.  If Slovakia rejoins the competition, that means that the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest will be tied with 2008 for the record as the biggest event ever, with 43 participating nations!  Unfortunately, applications from Liechtenstein and Qatar to join the EBU were rejected for the time being, so we won't see any debuts from them (or any other nation) at the moment.  But there's always 2012!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Look for the ESC Insider on Facebook and Twitter!

Just a quick note: I've just created a Facebook page for the ESC Insider.  Look us up, "like" us, and join in the fun!  Start a discussion, ask questions, and write up reviews and opinions of your own!  I also just created an account on Twitter (@escinsider), which I'll try to sync up with the facebook updates.  (I'm new to the world of Twitter, so bear with me as I learn the basics!)

I look forward to seeing you there!  Spread the word, and join the party!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's Aurela Gaçe for Albania!

Well, the 2010 Festivali i Këngës has just wrapped up, and with a commanding victory, Albania has decided that their representative in Düsseldorf will be Aurela Gaçe, with her song "Kënga Ime (My Song)".  The 36-year old Aurela is no newcomer to the Albanian music scene; she won the FiK in 1999 and 2001, soon before her nation took part in Eurovision.  Albania, in the past, has taken advantage of the long time frame between their National Selection and Eurovision itself to edit, remix, and even translate their song into English (which shouldn't be difficult, as Aurela currently resides in New York), so it's hard to say what Albania's final version will look and sound like.  As it now stands, the song is over the 3 minute time length that Eurovision rules enforce, so something will have to change from the original version to the one we'll see on stage in Germany.

(I'd normally post the video of the song here, but it seems that most of the versions of "Kënga Ime" that were on YouTube or DailyMotion have either been removed or have disabled embedding...but here's a link!)

What do you think?  How does it stack up to last year's entry, "Nuk Mundem Pa Ty/It's All About You" from the lovely Juliana Pasha?  It came in 16th place in Oslo's final, after a 6th place semifinal finish.  Do you think Aurela will be able to best Juliana's benchmark, or even the national-record 7th place, set by Anjeza Shahini's "The Image of You" back in 2004?  I like the drama that Aurela brings to the song (not to mention her incredibly strong vocal prowess), and I'm still looking for lyrics to connect to the powerful melody.  Let's see what the future holds for this one!

Happy Holidays!

I just wanted to take a quick moment to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas, Happy (Belated) Hanukkah, Festive Yule, and best wishes for every other holiday that I might be missing.  I still feel so honored and touched to see my flag counter grow, adding another country to my list.  (I'd still love to know more about you, my readers...feel free to leave comments!)  No matter where you are, or who you are, I hope the joy and spirit of the season reaches you.

Albania will be giving us their customary Christmas gift in a few hours with the announcement of the winner of the 49th Festivali i Këngës, which has become their national preselection for Eurovision.  As soon as it's announced, I'll pass along the news to you all!  (And I know that I'm supposed to be impartial, but if you must know, I'm supporting Kamela Islamaj all the way!  She rocked the FiK last year with Gjëra të thjeshta, and she's following it up with more rock...I'd love to know more about her, so if anyone from Albania or Kosovo has more information on her biography or singing career, please share it with us!  Any album out, possibly?)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Welcome Back, San Marino!

I hope you can pardon the bit of a pause between my last post to now (what can I say...between my full-time job and the craziness of the Holiday season...).  But I'm back in full force, and thrilled to deliver some wonderful Eurovision News to you all.  As of today, Eurovision 2011 will welcome at least 41 competing nations to the stage in Düsseldorf, as we've just heard that San Marino will return after a two-year absence.  The tiny nation made their first (and, until now, only) appearance on the stage in Belgrade back in 2008, with local band MiOdio's slinky, sexy "Complice (Accomplice)", a song that I could easily imagine being played over the opening credits of a James Bond movie.

"Complice" was incredibly underrated in Serbia that year, ending up in dead last place (having only received five points in total, split between the Andorran and Greek audiences).  San Marino, therefore, joined the ignominious club of last-placed Eurovision debuts, alongside Portugal, Turkey, the Czech Republic, and Lithunania.

MiOdio has had continued success in San Marino and Italy, having competed in the San Remo festival with their song "Perdo Contatto" and releasing quite a few great singles beyond that, including the catchy "It's OK" and "Oltre e Nuvole", a take-off of Romania's debut Eurovision entry, of all things.  But we haven't seen a representative from SMRTV since the Belgrade contest.

Now that Italy is back in the game, San Marino will finally have an ally in the competition.  Time will tell who the Sanmarinese representative in Germany will be, but considering that the entire Republic has only about 30,000 residents, they may be prone to scouting out foreign artists, like the Swiss, Luxembourgish, and Monegasque have done in the past.  If they do, that might bring in even more foreign points to the microstate.  As soon as I get more information on the Sanmarinese selection, I'll serve it up to you!

Interesting point of trivia: unless the Vatican joins up, which is highly unlikely, San Marino is the smallest nation, by population, that can possibly take part in Eurovision.  By area, however, Monaco is still smaller (about 1/30th of the size)!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Major news from Armenia!

Another day, another confirmation...

Armenian broadcaster ARMTV announced that an internal selection process has chosen Emma Bejanyan (better known to the Eurovision world as "Emmy") as their representative in Düsseldorf this May.  I've mentioned Emmy in an earlier post; her duet with Mihran "Hey (Let Me Hear You Say)" came in second place in last year's National Final to Eva Rivas's "Apricot Stone".  While Eva did perform well in Oslo, coming in 7th place, it seems that Armenia didn't want to let Emmy go by the wayside.  A public call for songs has been established, and we should know what she will perform within the next few months.

In the meantime, here's a little sampling of some of Emmy's other work:

So, what do you think?  Does Emmy have a shot at besting the 4th-place finish set by Sirusho back in 2008?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

We Have a Winner!

...And, it starts!

The first official Preselection of the year has just finished in Switzerland, and so the first official entry for Eurovision 2011 has been hammered down.  Out of twelve songs, sung in English, French, Italian, Swiss-German, and even Albanian, with genres ranging from teen-pop to country to rock to acapella and back again, one winner reigned supreme:

Congratulations  go out to Anna Rossinelli and her song "In Love for a While"!

Following my hypothesis that last year's winner creates next year's trend, Anna's sweet, youthful brand of pop isn't a far cry from Lena Meyer-Landrut's carefree style from last year (and, come to think of it, this year, as well!).  "In Love for a While" reminds me of Colbie Caillat's monster hit "Bubbly" (which, incidentally, hit #11 on the Swiss charts).  Honestly, this might be a bit of a strike against her; whenever I try to think of this song, "Bubbly" pops into my head instead.  This 23-year old native of Basel seems to be unsigned at the moment (which I doubt will stay the case for much longer).  Let's see if she can finally crack back into the Finals, a goal that the Swiss have missed since 2006 (when they automatically qualified for it).

Best of luck, Anna!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Even Bigger Breaking News than What I Told You Yesterday!!!

More details are to come, I'm sure, but it looks like the wishes of Eurovision Fans for over 13 years have finally come to fruition...

Welcome back, Italy!!!!!!

The EBU has announced within the last hour that Italian broascaster RAI has received a bid to participate in Düsseldorf.  While they reserve the right to withdraw before Christmas with no penalty, this is a much bigger step towards ESC participation than they have taken in many, many years.  Furthermore, as RAI is one of the largest financial contributors to the EBU, they have clinched a spot in the Finals as a member of the newly-minted "Big Five", along with France, Spain, the UK, and hosts Germany.  This means that the 2011 Final will have 25 participants, instead of 24 (the host gets an automatic bid to the Final, but because that's Germany this year, they were down one entrant).  Remember, the last time we saw Italy was in 1997, with Jalisse's "Fiumi Di Parole", and they have two victories under their belt: 1964'a "Non Ho L'eta" and 1990's "Insieme: 1992".

More information to come, as the EBU is having a huge meeting over the next few days to hammer out details (including the possible admission of channels from Hungary, Liechtenstein, and Qatar...more debuts, possibly?), but I'm so happy to share this bit of news with you all!

Baci e benvenuti, Italia!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Quick Breaking News from Bosnia-Herzegovina!

Within the last half-hour, Bosnian broadcaster BHT-1 announced that this year's representative for Eurovision will be:

Dino Merlin!

It looks like Germany's Lena won't be the only ESC veteran on stage in Düsseldorf; Dino was the composer and co-lyricist for BiH's debut entry, "Sva Bol Svieta (The Whole World's Pain)", back in 1993, and he performed onstage in Jerusalem in 1999 with the beautiful ethnic-infused "Putnici (Travelers)", a bilingual R&B song sung with French singer Béatrice Poulot.  "Putnici" gave Bosnia and Herzegovina their second-highest result ever, a very respectable 7th place out of 23 entrants.  Here's their performance (with a bit of German commentary).

Over the past few years, Bosnia has become one of my personal favorite ESC contributors.  The song will be revealed at a later date, but with the recruitment of Dino Merlin to the fray once again, we might see echoes of Bosnia's best-ranked song, 2006's stunning "Lejla".  By bringing back a veteran of the local music scene (and of the ESC), and the hope of reviving the ethnic flavors that nearly brought the country victory, it seems that Bosnia-Herzegovina is more serious than ever about taking the trophy to Sarajevo in 2012.  I can't wait to see what Dino serves up!

(EDIT:  The plot thickens...Hari Mata Hari, who sung "Lejla" in Athens, was originally supposed to have sung for Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1999.  However, because their entry had been released to the public too early, they were disqualified, giving Dino and Béatrice their ticket to Jerusalem with "Putnici".  Furthermore, Dino has worked with and produced songs for Hari Mata Hari.  Even more, he has collaborated with Željko Joksimović, who was the Serbian & Montenegrin representative to the 2004 ESC with "Lane Moje", host of the 2008 contest, composer of Serbia's entry that same year...and the author of "Lejla"!  If things keep connecting like this, we might end up seeing Kevin Bacon as a backing singer...) 
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