Monday, January 31, 2011

The (Nordic) Weekend Update, 1/30

We've had a lot happen this weekend from all over the Eurovision world, so I'm going to break my Weekend Update up into bite-sized regional chunks.  And away we go!

The last Finnish Semifinal was held on Friday evening, with three songs qualifying for the final via viewer votes, and one song saved by a jury wildcard.  (Makes me feel a bit sorry for the fifth performer that night, as he was the only one not to qualify!)

Voted into the Final: 
Saara Aalto – Blessed with Love (Remember what I said about Iceland's Yohanna being the personification of a Disney Princess?  Forget it; this girl is so treacly-sweet that I became a diabetic just by watching her!)
Stala & So – Pamela (The lead singer, Sampsa Astala, is actually the former drummer for a certain well-known Finnish Eurovision legend...)
Image from
(Sampsa Astala as "Kita" from Lordi...ain't he cute?)
Saved by the Jury's Wildcard: 

The Finnish representative will be ultimately determined on February 12th.

As expected, the Icelandic semifinal on Saturday was not only full of talent, but also highly emotional.  After the sudden passing of Sigurjón Brink about two weeks ago, there was a bit of doubt whether or not his song "Aftur Heim (Home Again)" would be performed.  Not only was it sung on Saturday night by a group of six of his personal friends, but it easily qualified for the final. 

Also qualifying:
Jógvan Hansen - Ég Lofa (I Promise) (This winner of Iceland's version of the X Factor is actually a native of the Faroe Islands, a Danish territory.  This is his third attempt to represent his adopted homeland in Eurovision.)
Magni Ásgeirsson - Ég trúi á betra líf (I Believe in a Better Life) (This rock ballad, written by an Icelandic/Maltese team, really impressed me.)

As in Finland, the Icelandic final will be decided on February 12th.  There has been a lot of momentum behind Yohanna, but between Jógvan's popularity and the sympathy vote behind Sigurjón's final song, the field is more open than I think people give it credit for.  We'll see in a few weeks!

The last of Norway's semifinals happened this week, as well.  As per usual, two songs qualified directly to the final, and two will move on to next week's Second Chance round.  And the winners are...
The Blacksheeps - Dance Tonight (This teen pop-rock group has quite a bit of experience on the song-competition front; they won the youth-based MGP Nordic competition back in 2008 with their song "Oro jaska, beana!".  Agnete and Emelie come from the extreme north of the country, and often mix their Norwegian lyrics with both English and Sami.)
Stella Mwangi - Haba Haba (Stella infuses this song with her Kenyan roots.  She's been active in the music scene in both Scandinavia and West Africa for a while, but this is her first venture towards Eurovision.)

Going to the Second Chance round are:

More news to come, of course!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Je Vecht Nooit Alleen" in Düsseldorf

The Dutch National final wrapped up this evening in Hilversum, and it looks like we have a winner!  Local pop-rock band the 3Js were selected internally by broadcaster TROS all the way back in July, and they were given the opportunity to write five unique songs to present to the public.  Snippets of the top five were revealed a few days back, but today the Dutch public heard the tunes for the first time in their entirety.  (If you'd like to see the full special aired by TROS today, check out's video archive.)

After a 50/50 vote from the viewing public and an expert jury (which included two recent Dutch ESC participants), the winning song was "Je Vecht Nooit Alleen (You Never Fight Alone)", a mid-to-uptempo tune with a soaring chorus and a positive message.

By the time the chorus rolled around, it was basically a given that this would be the winning entry.  The crowd was engaged more during "Je Vecht Nooit Alleen" than any of the other performances, and it received top marks from both the jury and the televoters.  When the short excerpts of the song were released last week, chatter from the Eurovision forums leaned more towards the eventual winner than any of the others.  The runners-up weren't bad by any stretch, but with the exception of "De Stroom (The Stream)", they might not have been as good of a fit for Eurovision.  Here are links to "Ga Dan Niet (Don't Go Then)", "Toen ik jou vergat (When I Forgot You)", and "Weelderig Waardeloos (Luxuriously Worthless)".

What do you think of the 3Js' entry for Düsseldorf?  Was "Je Vecht Nooit Alleen" the best choice?  Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It's Blue for the United Kingdom!

And the news from the Big Five is coming fast and furious this week (well, except for Italy...but they've been out of the game for fourteen years, so I suppose we can forgive them for being a bit slow on the uptake, right?).

After months of teasing and rumors from the United Kingdom, with names as varied as Mika, Charlotte Church, Pixie Lott, and Katherine Jenkins being tossed around as possible representatives, the BBC just threw Eurofans a massive curveball by announcing that the recently-reunited boy-band Blue would be the British flag bearers for Düsseldorf!  Not only that, but the BBC has taken all of the fun out of the Preselection completely eliminating the Preselection in the first place!  This is the first time since 1994 that the UK has gone for an internal selection, and the first time since...well...ever...that the British public will have no say over either the singer or the song!  It's hard to tell if this is to cut down on costs, or if Blue's selected song "I Can" is just too good to pass up.  (The song has yet to be released, so it's still a bit of a mystery for the time being.)

Blue first formed back in 2001, broke up in 2005, and reformed in 2009.  They've had a string of hits that charted not only in the UK, but also all over Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.  They've even released some of their songs in Italian to a positive reception.  They're not as well-known in the United States, but one of their first major hits was a remake of R&B group Next's "Too Close".  They've also had some fantastic collaborations, with artists from Lil' Kim to Stevie Wonder, Angie Stone, and Sir Elton John.

This might be Blue's first trip to Eurovision, but some of the individual members of the group have toyed with the ESC in the past.  Member Lee Ryan wrote a song that was submitted to the 2005 Preselection (Andy Scott Lee's "Guardian Angel"), Antony Costa performed in the Preselection the following year ("It's a Beautiful Thing"), and Duncan James was a member of the panel that helped select Jade Ewan in 2009. 

For me, though, as soon as I heard that Blue would be the British representative this year, my mind automatically went to a scene from one of my favorite movies, "Love Actually".  Sadly, I can't embed the clip in this post, but here's a link!  Enjoy (I hope the members of Blue, at least, have had a good laugh about it...if not...::awkward!::)!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's Amaury Vassili for France!

It looks like we have our second name out of the Big Five for Düsseldorf!  As we already knew, defending champion Lena Meyer-Landrut will be representing her homeland again this year (her new album "Good News" will be released in February, with all of the songs considered for her participation on it).  Today we got news of France's choice for the ESC: 21-year-old tenor Amaury Vassili.  Here's a clip of one of his earlier live performances (details on his song for Eurovision have not been released yet).

Vassili, despite his young age, is already an accomplished performer; he has released three successful albums that have made some significant impact on the charts in France and Wallonia (the French-speaking portion of Belgium).  His style tends more towards "popera", and while his song has yet to be announced, it's more than likely that he'll stay in this general genre.  One minor caveat: Amaury tends to sing in either Italian or English, and France, more than any other nation, tends to be a stickler for their language to be featured in their Eurovision entries.  (Some ESC fans might remember the uproar back in 2008 when Sebastien Tellier wanted to sing "Divine" entirely in English; the French Parliament basically forced him to include at least a few lines in French!)  We'll see what Amaury decides to do when his song is presented to the public.

More after the jump!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Weekend Update, 1/23

Another day, another update...Semifinals have continued this weekend in Finland, Iceland, and Norway, and Croatia's preselection has kicked off, as well.  There are also further updates from Azerbaijan, Portugal, Moldova, and Malta!  And away we go...

Three more acts have moved on to the Finnish Final after this Friday's semi.  After a public vote, this week's winners are:
Paradise Oskar - "Da Da Dam" (Reminds me a bit of Belgium's Tom Dice from last year, don't you think?  If Tom were a member of Greenpeace Suomi, this might have been the result.)
Milana Misic - "Sydämeni kaksi maata (Two Countries of my Heart)" (Milana is the daughter of a Croatian father and a Finnish mother who actually represented her nation fifty years ago in Finland's debut ESC entry.)
Father McKenzie - "Good Enough" (Yes, they're named for the character in "Eleanor Rigby"!)

Knocked out at this round of the competition were Jimi Constantine's "Party to Party" and Soma Manuchar's "Strong".  An interesting point of trivia, courtesy of reader Stefanos in Finland: Soma's outfit was designed by Mert Otsamo, a finalist on the first season of "Muodin huipulle", the Finnish version of "Project Runway".  According to Stefanos, "I liked his work on Muodin Huipulle more than I did Soma's outfit."  I haven't seen any of Otsamo's work, but after seeing Soma's outfit, I'd be hard-pressed to imagine I'd disagree.

Next, we move on to Iceland:
It's been a week of highs and lows for Iceland this week.  On Tuesday, we heard the sad and sudden news of the passing of Sigurjón Brink at the age of only 36.  He was supposed to sing in the third semifinal next week, and it has been decided by both the network and his family that his entry, "Aftur Heim (Back Home)" would be performed as a tribute by a group of his friends and fellow musicians, and will therefore remain in the competition.  Next week's semifinal heat is sure to be an emotional one.

In the second semifinal, which aired last night, we had five songs competing for two slots in the final.  The victorious tunes were:
Yohanna - "Nótt (Night)" (As I mentioned last week, Yohanna came in second place back in the 2009 competition with "Is It True?"  I try to stay as neutral and impartial as I can, especially during the preselection phase of the Eurovision year, but I honestly think that Yohanna might, in fact, be the personification of a Disney princess.)
Matthías Matthíasson & Erla Björg Káradóttir - "Eldgos (Eruption)" (I speak no Icelandic, but I'm pretty sure I recognized the word "Eyjafjallajökull" at the start of the this a tribute to the epic volcano that covered half of Europe in ash last year?  Any Icelandic readers wish to comment?)

We've got more news after the break!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reise Nach Düsseldorf: Altbier!

Hey, everyone!
Like I've mentioned before, 2011 will mark my first official in-person Eurovision experience.  I'm incredibly excited to be working with my OGAE chapter (Rest of the World) and the chapter's official site,

Anyway, as I'm preparing for my ESC trip, I thought I'd share the moment with you all.  Starting today, and going through my trip to Germany, I'll be occasionally putting up videos of my own personal "Reise Nach Düsseldorf".  It's nothing fancy or high tech at this point (what can I experience with video editing is less than copious!), but I'm looking forward to being able to interact with my readers on a whole new level.

If you're either from Düsseldorf or will be joining me at Eurovision this year, let me know!  How should I prepare myself for the trip?  What are some of the local sights that I should take in?  How about the best local restaurants to check out, or places to see and be seen?  I've got two full weeks in North-Rhine-Westphalia...let's make it fantastic together!

Here's my first entry, where I test out the local brew...Altbier!

Again, major thanks go out to the Ale Jail in St. Paul (and their vinicultural counterpart next door, the Wine Thief), my local go-to-spot for hard-to-find beers from all over the world!  If you're anywhere near the area, check them out!

Monday, January 17, 2011

An Open Letter to Slovakia

Dear Slovakia,

Seriously?  You're toying with our emotions here!  First you say you're out, then you're back in, then you're out again...and this morning, you shock Eurovision fans by having your name appear in the Semifinal Draw in Düsseldorf.  The officials at Eurovision didn't say very much one way or another, leaving us all bewildered and more than a little confused.  Now you say that it's just easier to send a performer to Germany than it would have been to pay the fine that the EBU would impose on you for a late withdrawal.


So, that's settled, then?  You're in?  Not going anywhere?  We're at 43 nations again?  We're all cool?




(PS: If you end up doing an internal selection, please consider sending Tomáš Bezdeda...his songs for the 2009 and 2010 Slovak Preselections were quite've nearly sent him to the ESC twice already, and if you're going to continue playing with my heart the way you have been, sending a cutie like Tomas would make me feel at least a little better.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Weekend Update

Well, another weekend has come and gone, and while we don't have any new songs added to the roster of Official Eurovision entries, we had a lot of activity over the past few days in the realm of Preselections, especially from the Nordic region.  Here's what went down up North!

This Friday marked the first Semifinal in the Suomen Karsinta (Finnish Qualifier), with five songs battling it out for three places in the Final.  And the winners are:
Johanna Iivanainen - Luojani Mun (My Lord)
Cardiant - Rapture in Time
Marko Maunuksela - Synkän Maan Tango (Troubled Country Tango)

So, in the three songs listed above,  we've got a ballad, metal, and tango, and the rejected songs were pop and can't say that the Finns lack variety!  We'll see five more songs next Friday.

We've got more after the break!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Eurovision 2011: Feel Your Heart Beat!

Ok, folks...this just got real!

Every year, the country that has the honor of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest gets to put their personal stamp on the event.  Through branding and design, the nation has the opportunity to make Eurovision their own!  Last year's theme for Oslo was "Share the Moment", which carried through not only in the advertising, but through the whole contest itself.  The "postcards" used to introduce artists showed groups of fans gathering together in the nation's capital or largest city, and the interval act was described as the "World's Biggest Flash Mob", involving dancers throughout Europe, as well as in the Telenor Arena itself.  It was incredibly sweet, and I felt like it really embraced the ideals that the ESC stands for.

The official logo and motto for the 2011 Contest has just been revealed:

(Logo copyright of NDR)

According to the website, "The theme refers to the great emotions which music can evoke – and which belong to the distinctive character of the Eurovision Song Contest: enthusiasm, heart beating, excitement, love and passion.  There are no limits to these emotions, there are no language barriers. The theme also refers to the fact that every song has its individual rhythm."  It also alludes to Lena saying "I heart you!" to her fans and supporters during an interview...ain't she cute?

We also have the official confirmation of this year's hosts: Anke Engelke, Judith Rakers, and Stefan Raab.  Anke is an experienced television and radio personality born in Canada, and Judith is a well-known news presenter and writer.  As lovely as Anke and Judith may be, however, Stefan Raab may the true star of the show.  He's basically the German Mister Eurovision (or, should I say Herr Eurovision?), as he wrote the songs performed in 1998 and 2004 (you can see him as the conductor and lead guitarist, respectively, in the two performances), performed the unforgettable song from 2000, and set up the popular (and obviously fruitful) preselection for 2010, "Ünser Star für Oslo (Our Star for Oslo)", the competition that picked Lena and "Satellite" to represent Germany.  In Oslo, he acted as Lena's nearly-omnipresent mentor.  Raab doesn't just sit at home and obsess about Eurovision all day long, however; this jack-of-all-trades also hosts the wildly successful "TV Total", a comedy/variety show.  He's also the originator of the Bundesvision Song Contest (an all-German song competition), as well as the International Wok Racing Championship.  I kid you not.

Between the 42 countries competing in this year's event, the obvious passion that Stefan Raab has for Eurovision, and his propensity towards the ridiculous and hilarious, I have a feeling that Düsseldorf 2011 will truly be one for the ages.

And I'm thrilled to say that I'll be there!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

RTVS is such a Slovak-tease!

Ok, Slovakia...make up your mind!  After months of will-they-or-won't-they, the Central European nation proclaimed at the end of the year that they would be present in Düsseldorf, delighting Eurovision fans worldwide and making ESC 2011 the largest competition since 2008.  Even though their results in Eurovision have been less than stellar over the years, the competition still has an approval rating of 87.5% among Slovak viewers.  Suddenly, however, broadcaster RTVS announced that due to the after-effects of a major merger, Slovakia would be unable to afford their Eurovision participation without the help of a major sponsor.  Despite the EBU's decision to grant the broadcaster extra time to cobble together the dough, a fairy godmother failed to appear, leaving Bratislava high and dry, and leaving a depressing, Czechoslovakia-shaped hole in the 2011 Eurovision Participation Map:
Well, Slovakia, the other 42 competing nations and I will miss you in Germany, and we hope you can get your ducks in a row for 2012.  (And while we're at it, convince your neighbors in Prague to come back, too!)
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