Monday, February 28, 2011

Vlatko Ilievski - "Rusinka" for (FYR) Macedonia!

(Disclaimer: I tend to refer to the nation referred to in this post as "Macedonia", and not "FYROM".  I don't mean to cause any offense, nor am I trying to make any sort of political statement.  The two nations where I have lived, the United States and Chile, both maintain the general policy of calling this nation either "Macedonia" or the "Republic of Macedonia".  I hope that you, my readers, will not turn the comments section of this article into a flame war...we're all civil and intelligent people here!  Thanks! -Samantha)

Ok, now that I got that out of the way, I can get to the real meat of this article...sadly, of which there is little.  After the Slovene National Final wrapped up on Sunday, I switched over to Macedonia's Skopjefest.  My hopes were high, considering that Macedonia was the nation that brought the world the incomparable Toše Proeski, as well as stars like Karolina Gočeva and Elena Risteska, all ESC alumni.  Well, after a seemingly endless selection, lasting a full four hours, including an interval act that would rival watching paint dry in terms of excitement, a winner was finally selected: Vlatko Ilievski with "Rusinka (Russian Girl)".

I'm not sure if it was the poor sound quality, the headache I was fighting off while watching Skopjefest for four hours, or the actual song itself, but I'm not incredibly impressed by "Rusinka".  Vlatko is an enthusiastic performer, and supposedly quite popular in Macedonia, but his voice just isn't quite on the same level as some of his competitors this year.  Furthermore, he's singing about his love for a Russian girl, yet he won't be able to count on Russia's support in the semifinals, as they'll be performing and voting on different nights.  Maybe with a significant amount of revamping, this might be redeemed, but in its current state, this one might be doomed to languish in the semifinals, with only Belarus to keep it from the bottom of the pack.

(You see, my dear readers?  I can give negative reviews!)

Maja Keuc - "Vanilija" for Slovenia

I had the pleasure of watching Slovenia's preselection show yesterday (again, thank you to for providing live links and on-demand replays to so many of the National Finals!), and, to tell you the truth, my expectations were somewhat low.  The Slovenes, while known for their beautiful mountains and the stunning Lake Bled, aren't quite as renowned for their Eurovision selections.  They used to make a fair bit of impact on the scoreboard, but they haven't cracked the Top Ten in a decade, and they've only made it to the Finals once since the Semifinals were established.  Their song last year, the clumsily-titled "Narodnozabavni Rock", was one of my least favorite songs in Oslo.  I grit my teeth and braced myself for a repeat of last year's EMA winner, a glass of wine and a pint of ice cream at my side, ready to console me if needed.

I am thrilled to say that my expectations were not only surpassed, but absolutely shattered!  (Granted, I needed the wine and ice cream later that evening to get through the Macedonian selection, but that's a story for another time.)  Ljubljana really stepped up its game, and gave a great variety of ballads, pop, rock, and comedy, many of which could have been successful Eurovision entries.  In the end, it came down to two superfinalists: the Lady Gaga-inspired April with "Ladadidej" and the eventual winner, Maja Keuc's power ballad "Vanilija (Vanilla)".

This might be not only the best Slovenian submission in recent memory (beating even 2007's epic "Cvet z Juga"), but, in my eyes, it's the best of 2011's ballads so far.  Maja's voice brings just enough of an R&B influence to keep the song fresh and modern, and the arrangement is very dramatic, which I personally like.  Supposedly, Maja and her team are planning to perform "Vanilija" in English in Düsseldorf, which I'm somewhat wary of.  If he translation is good and her English sounds fluent enough, it could work well...otherwise, we might be in for a bit of a letdown.  But this song has the potential to make people sit up and take notice, especially after a few listens. 

Slovenia, as far as I'm concerned, you've more than redeemed yourself.

Major Monday Updates!

You would think that after a massive weekend like the one we just had, Eurovision nations would let a poor blogger have a break, right?  But noooooo...

In the past half-day, we've had two official songs revealed (Cyprus and Belarus), one Preselection lineup released (Israel), rumors in Russia, and major shakeups in Georgia and Ukraine.   I'll get to Cyprus and Belarus in depth as soon as I've written my pieces on Slovenia and Macedonia, who picked their entries on Sunday, but I can definitely give you the latest news on the Russian, Georgian, Ukrainian, and Israeli news.

Russia has been one of the major Eurovision players over the past decade, not only because of the quality of its songs, but also due to the fact that they are the absolute fulcrum of the Post-Soviet Voting Bloc.  Votes from all over Eastern Europe often go to Moscow, due to a shared sociolinguistic history and culture (not to mention the omnipresent allegations of political voting).  But despite the massive weight of the Russian Bear on Eurovision, we haven't heard much in the way of their Eurovision plans for this year...until yesterday.  According to rumors, we'll hear about Russia's official plans sometime this week.  It seems that it will either come down to an internal selection or a small-scale National Final, with certain artists having been approached to submit entries for consideration.  One of those artists, much to my delight, are the Buranovskie Babushki!  Some of you might remember these singing and dancing grandmas from last year's National Selection, where their performance (in Udmurt!) of "Dlinnaja-dlinnaja beresta i kak sdelat' iz nee aishon" made my list of favorite Preselection entries.  If they end up going to Germany, I will definitely be making a beeline for the Russian delegation's cocktail party...instead of vodka and blinis, will they be serving cookies and milk?  I just want to hug them all!

Anyway, from Russia, we jump over to Ukraine, who, as per usual, has decided to scrap their preselection after allegations of corruption.  Some of you likely remember last year's fiasco, when an internally-selected singer and publicly-decided song was retracted after a political transition, and the winner of the subsequent preselection was rejected due to an early release. (It all turned out ok, though, as Alyosha's "Sweet People" ended up in 10th place in the Final.)  Confused yet?  Anyway, after a juror on this year's panel stated her dissatisfaction with the results, and Eurofans from all over the country have called, written, and petitioned in complaint, a second National Final will be held on March 3, with original winner Mika Newton, runner-up Zlata Ognevich, and fan favorite Jamala to compete against each other.  Furthermore, the decision will be made only by a televote, and only one vote per phone number will be allowed.  Let's hope that that puts an end to this madness, or else I will personally go to Ukraine, grab the Head of Delegation by the ear, and make him pick a random name out of the Kiev Telephone Directory.  (UPDATE!: Jamala has suddenly withdrawn from the second National Final, citing her unwillingness to be associated with a possibly fraudulent selection.  Excuse me while I bang my head against a wall.) (ANOTHER UPDATE!:  And now Zlata Ognevich has withdrawn, too!  So, by default, Mika Newton will represent Ukraine in Dü's still unknown if she'll sing "Angel" or a replacement entry, but I assume the news will come soon.)

Next, we've got a shake-up in Georgia!  For reasons still unknown, winning band Eldrine has decided to change their line-up.  Lead singer Tamar "Tako" Vadachkoria has been replaced by Sopho Toroshelidze, who sang backup for last year's entry, "Shine".  According to my calculations, three quarters of all Georgian Eurovision participants have been named there some sort of regional law mandating this?  Are little girls named Sopho magically imbued with musical ability?  Do Georgian men even sing?!  Anyway, they'll be filming the music video for "One More Day" next week in Tblisi.

Finally, we've got the official line-up and songs for Israel's 2011 preselection, "Kdam", scheduled for March 8.  Ten artists will duke it out for the ticket to Düsseldorf, including Eurovision legend Dana International.  The songs represent a number of genres, and almost all of them are bilingual (either in Hebrew/English or Hebrew/French).  The candidates are:
Adi Cohen - "Al Ahava"
KNOB - "Ohev et ze"
Chen Aharoni - "Or"
Idit Halevi - "It's My Time"
Hatikva 6 - "Hakol Sababa"
Niki Goldstein - "Amri itach"
Sivan Bahnem - "Kach Oti"
Michael and Shimrit Greylsummer - "Tu Du Du"
Dana International - "Ding Dong"
Carmel Ekman - "El Gagoai"

More about Slovenia, (FYR) Macedonia, Belarus, and Cyprus shortly!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"A New Tomorrow" in Denmark

The last of Saturday's additions to the Eurovision 2011 Roster was Denmark.  The Dansk Melodi Grand Prix was, as usual, chock-full of finely-crafted pop songs, as is standard for the Scandinavian/Nordic bloc's National Finals.  After ten performances (including one by Jenny Berggren, the former lead singer from Ace of Base!), we have a winner!  "A New Tomorrow", performed by A Friend in London.

Denmark seems to have cornered the market on upbeat pop with positive messages over the past few years.  Especially in 2008 and 2009, when Simon Mathew and Niels Brinck took Denmark to 15th and 13th place, respectively...will a similarly-themed tune hover around that placement, as well?  Another thing that the boys from A Friend in London will have to contend with is the possible conflict with Romania's "Change", another uptempo song with a message to send.  Furthermore, Denmark will have to contend with Ireland in their semifinal...who's hair will reach the highest heights?

Latvia sends Musiqq - "Angel in Disguise"

Continuing on with the theme set by Ukraine's "Angel" and Cyprus's "San Aggelos S'agapisa (I Loved You Like an Angel)", Latvia also chose a heavenly theme for their representative to Germany this year: "Angel in Disguise" by Musiqq. 

Musiqq, formed by Marats Ogļezņevs and Emīls Balceris, formed back in 2009 and had a hit album last year back in Latvia.  They beat ten other songs to get the ticket to Düsseldorf, including "Banjo Laura" by Eurovision alum Lauris Reiniks and the disco-tinged "You Are" by Pieneņu Vīns (Dandelion Wine).

Compared to Latvia's offerings from 2009 and 2010, "Angel in Disguise" is a marked improvement.  For the past two years, the nation's come in last place in their respective semifinal, and they haven't made it into the Top Ten since 2005.  Will Musiqq make it out of the Semis?  It's tough to tell at this point, but it's entirely within the realm of possibility.  At the very least, they can likely leave their last-place days behind them, as there are definitely weaker entries in their division. 

Mika Newton: An Unlikely "Angel" for Ukraine

The next song selected for Düsseldorf was the Ukrainian entry.  After months of preselections, heats, semifinals, rumors, and innuendo, most observant Eurofans had assumed that the golden ticket would fall into the hands of one of three women: Zlata Ognevich, Jamala, or Anastasiya Prikhodko.  Zlata's upbeat "The Kukushka" was a perfect dance-pop number that fit in nicely with Ukraine's Eurovision history (think "Shady Lady", "Be My Valentine", "Show Me Your Love", etc).  Jamala's quirky "Smile" was an imaginative and unique offering unlike any other song in the National Selection (or any other, for that matter).  And the lure of bringing in Anastasiya, who had represented Russia back in 2009, was a pretty big temptation, as well, even if her song "Action" didn't show off very much of her vocals.

So, did the victory go to Zlata, Jamala, or Anastasiya?

Turns out, it went to none of the above!  In a shock win, Mika Newton's ballad "Angel" took the maximum points from the jury, audience text voting, and the online vote.  I'm still not sure what to think of this turn of events...I had been rooting for Zlata, in all honesty.  The Ukrainians had a number of unique, catchy, and creative songs that might have landed them at the top of the leaderboard in Germany, but they went for a slow ballad with little standalone personality.  It's still unclear whether Mika will sing in English or Ukrainian (she's recorded the song in both, although she performed the English version at the Preselection yesterday).  I personally hope she goes for the Ukrainian, as her English isn't quite intelligible, and keeping it in her native language might give the song some measure of authenticity.  Regardless, she looks lovely and sings well, it's just that the song doesn't make it up to par.

(UPDATE!: Continuing with the longstanding tradition of confusion and possible corruption in Ukrainian Eurovision proceedings, the validity of Mika's victory as been thrown into question.  Allegations of power-voting from the televote and online poll have arisen, and even one of the jurors wants an in-depth investigation of the weekend's proceedings.  Complicating matters even further, Mika herself has said that she wants to switch her song "Angel" out for a new one, written by "My Heart Will Go On" producer Walter Afanasieff.  So, will the ticket go to Zlata or Jamala after all?  Everything's still very much up in the air in Kiev, and I'll try to keep you all as informed as possible as quickly as possible!)

Zdob şi Zdub is "So Lucky" in Moldova!

Moldova burst onto the Eurovision scene back in 2005, when ethno-punk band Zdob şi Zdub stormed their way to a 6th place finish with "Boonika Bate Toba (Grandmama Beats the Drum-ma)".  Their performance was not only memorable for their catchy hooks and Anthony Keidis-lookalike frontman, but also for the fact that they brought in the Boonika herself to beat the drum live on stage in Kiev!  In fact, due to the six-person limit on Eurovision performances, one of the official band members relinquished their spot on stage to give Lidia Bejenaru her moment. 

Zdob şi Zdub entered the Moldovan National final this year with their folk-influenced rapcore song "So Lucky", and ended up winning a nail-biter of a preselection, beating runner-up (and fellow ESC alum) Natalia Barbu by a single point after Jury and Audience scores were totaled up.  So, how did the boys from Chişinău top themselves?  Well, if Boonika's unavailable, how about bunch of pointy hats and a girl on a unicycle?

I can almost feel how divisive this entry is going to be among Eurovision fans...some people are going to proclaim this the "ESC Party Anthem of 2011", and others are going to scream "Where's the singing?  Where's the music?  This is chaos!"  A third group will remember that this is the country that brought us all "Run Away" and all of its epic awesomeness last year, so they'll roll their eyes, shrug their shoulders, and embrace Moldova's unique qualities.  I've got one foot in Group One, and one in Group Three.  Zdob şi Zdub have made their careers on blending rap, punk, rock, and ethnic sounds into a big, chaotic pile of entertainment, and considering the success that they've had, they're obviously making people happy out there!  This is going to be a true wildcard on the ESC stage...Romania's voting in their semifinal, so that's a big boost for them, but fans are generally going to either love or hate "So Lucky".  What do you all think?

Oh, and just as a side note: I can't remember the last time we've had so many returning Eurovision participants in a single Contest, but in 2011, we've got Lena, Dino Merlin, one of Sigurjón's Friends, and now Zdob şi Zdub!  Not only that, but Dana International is in the running for Israel, and a number of other previous participants took part in national selections with no this some sort of record?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Nina - "Čaroban" for Serbia!

Serbia was the next nation to select their song for Germany, and the 2007 champions had an interesting concept up their sleeve for their preselection.  Last year, as some of you might remember, legendary composer Goran Bregović provided three songs which were matched with three singers, the best of which went on to represent Serbia in Oslo.  This year, local broadcaster RTS wanted to continue that general idea, but with a twist: instead of having one composer write a series of songs, it was decided that one family of composers would submit songs to the network.  Kornelije Kovač and his daughters Aleksandra and Kristina would write one song apiece, each hand selecting who would interpret their composition. 

Kornelije, who represented a then-united Yugoslavia in the 1974 ESC, came up with "Ring Ring Ring", and matched it with local band The Breeze, who could have easily stepped out of a time capsule from 1964.  The Beatle-esque tune came in third place with the televoters.  Aleksandra decided to take matters into her own hands, and sung her creation, the ballad "Idemo Dalje", on her own.  But it was youngest sister Kristina who had the winning formula, pairing the Swinging 60's throwback song "Čaroban (Magical)" with newcomer Nina Radojčić.  Here's the result:

I mean, is this adorable or what?!  In Serbia's first two outings at Eurovision as an independent nation, they reached for beautiful ballads sung by powerfully-voiced women, landing them with a victory and a 6th place.  The next two years, they went for more upbeat songs sung by men, and missed the finals one year and only made it to 13th place the next.  (Then again, "Cipela" was a pretty unique entry, and "Ovo Je Balkan" was one of those love-it-or-hate-it songs.) Čaroban brings in the uplifting energy from 2009 and 2010, brings in a great female lead vocal like 2007 and 2008, and infuses it with that great throwback feeling that's so popular on charts worldwide.  (Amy Winehouse, anybody?)  Nicely done, Kristina, Nina, and Serbia! 

Estonia sends Getter Jaani - "Rockefeller Street"

As expected, the Estonians delivered one of the most entertaining, high-quality, and competitive of the National Finals.  Since the change over from "Eurolaul" to "Eestilaul" three years ago, the quality of the Baltic nation's Eurovision selections has gone absolutely through the roof.  In the span of one event, audiences heard rock, pop, ballads, electronica, alternative, and even a waltz.

But, of course, there could only be a single winner, and that honor went to 18-year-old Getter Jaani and "Rockefeller Street"!

Getter, like many of this year's Eurovision performers, is a veteran of one of her country's televised talent searches (in this case, she came in 4th place on season three of Eesti otsib superstaari, the Estonian version of "Pop Idol").  In fact, her season of Eesti otsib superstaari was hosted by Tanel Padar, who sang as part of Estonia's winning Eurovision entry from 2001, and Ithaka Maria, who Getter actually beat in Eestilaul this year (more on her later, though).  Furthermore, the winner of Getter's "Idol" season, Ott Lepland, was on the judging panel for tonight's event.  Small world!

I definitely enjoy "Rockefeller Street" (although, as someone who grew up right outside of New York, I hate to point out that there is no actual Rockefeller Street in Manhattan!  Rockefeller Center is fabulous, though...).  It was written by Sven Lõhmus, the composer behind one of Estonia's greatest Eurovision songs, 2009's stunning "Rändajad", among other tunes.  There were other songs that I preferred in this year's Eestilaul, but I can definitely support "Rockefeller Street" in the ESC this year, even considering it's geographical misdirection.  It's youthful, catchy, and instantly recognizable. Just as importantly, it's simply fun!  I can easily imagine the Estonians putting together some sort of fantastic stage show for their three minutes on stage in Düsseldorf...this one has potential.

I would be amiss to omit some of my other favorite songs from my review of Eestilaul tonight, so here are a few of my favorites from the Final:

Nadine Beiler's "The Secret is Love" for Austria!

...and another name is added to our ever-expanding list of participants!

Tonight, the second of our four returning nations revealed their song for Eurovision 2011 (we already know about Italy's "Follia d'Amore", and while we know that Senit will be representing San Marino, her song has yet to be officially announced.  As for the Hungarians, we're still waiting!).  Since leaving the competition after a disappointing score in 2007, Austria has been biding its time on re-entering the ESC, citing a frustration over the bloc voting that helped Serbia, Russia, and Norway to victory, among other frustrations.  However, when Germany won a resounding victory last year, the Austrians had no reason to argue, and they rejoined the fray.

This year, Austria served up a pretty extensive National Selection, with thirty songs competing in an online component, fighting it out for ten spots in the televised final.  Making it to the final were local stars, including two winners from the talent show StarMania, the winner of "Germany's Got Talent", and even Joe Sumner, the son of British musical legend Sting.

After all of that, who gets to cross the border into Düsseldorf?

Nadine Beiler was the winner of the third season of StarMania (a season that also showcased Eric Papilaya, Austria's 2007 ESC representative).  The 20-year-old singer has had a few Top-20 singles in her homeland, and her debut album cracked into the Top 5 (she is expected to release her follow-up album later this year).

Compared to the Lithuanian entry that we saw yesterday, this is a major improvement in the ballad department.  When I heard "C'est Ma Vie", I thought of "Butterflies", last year's Belorussian representative.  "The Secret is Love", however, reminds me more of "Há Dias Assim" from Portugal.  Instead of treacle, Nadine gives some measure of substance.  However, I have a feeling that detractors will claim that she's trying too hard to be like certain American pop or R&B divas (Christina?  Beyoncé?), and I can definitely see where they'd be coming from.  I doubt that "The Secret is Love" is this year's new front-runner, but it's definitely a respectable return from a nation that we've missed in the competition.  Welcome back, Austria!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Yüksek Sadakat will "Live it Up" in Düsseldorf!

After two months of waiting, TRT has finally released their highly anticipated song for Eurovision: "Live it Up" by rock band Yüksek Sadakat (High Fidelity).  The name of the band was released back in late December, with mixed reactions coming from Eurovison fans everywhere.  Some people were thrilled to see the continuation of the strong tradition of Rock from the Turks, who had sent impressive entries in the genre back in 2004, 2008, and 2010.  Others were disappointed to see a lack of hip-shaking pop, and still others were confused about why TRT picked a band that was well-known, but not quite as monstrously high-profile as maNga.

After a half-hour question-and-answer session aired live on TRT's music station and broadcast through's live stream, we finally have some clarity on what the Turks are going to be serving up.

"Live it Up" is, as its title suggests, an upbeat song with a message: let loose and party!  In that way, it's not too dissimilar to Athena's "For Real" from a few years back.  Only instead of the ska vibe we got from Athena, Yüksek Sadakat's going for more standard, straightforward rock.  The lyrics might be a bit simple, but the song is a lot of fun, and I definitely expect it to survive the semifinals (especially considering that brothers-in-arms Azerbaijan are in the same semi).  Does it make as much of an instant impact as "We Could Be the Same"?  I'm not sure.  But with time, I'm cautiously optimistic that "Live it Up"'s popularity will grow, as it does for most Turkish entries.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Evelina Sašenko - "C'est Ma Vie" for Lithuania

Another day, another hole filled on the Eurovision 2011 list of players!

After last year's near-miss with InCulto's lighthearted, fun-spirited, trouser-ripping ditty "Eastern European Funk", the Lithuanians decided to go in another direction for 2011...

Evelina Sašenko will be singing "C'est Ma Vie (It's My Life)" in Düsseldorf for the Eurovision Song Contest 2011, but this could have just as easily been inserted into 1994, 1962, or almost any other ESC year.  I want to like it, and I'm happy to see the first official ballad of the year, but this is just...syrupy.  I feel like I need to take a shower just to rinse the treacle out of my hair.  Evelina has an undeniably lovely voice, and I wish her all the luck in the world, but she'll be going up against high-energy tunes from Poland, Norway, Georgia, not to mention perennial powerhouse Turkey, among others, in her semifinal.  "C'est Ma Vie" is pretty, but so far it looks like it's getting my "Cotton Candy Award" for the year: incredibly sweet, and enjoyable for the three minutes you have it, but as soon as you consume it, it dematerializes and is gone.

A funny point of fact, France's song will be performed in Corsican, and both Belgium and Switzerland will be singing in English, the only bits of French that we're likely to hear in Eurovision 2011 will be from...Lithuania?!?

Preview: Super Saturday!

This upcoming weekend is truly going to be a bit of an embarrassment of Eurovision riches, so to speak, with eleven nations picking or announcing their songs between Thursday and Sunday.  (Of course, I'll be trying to update the blog as much as I can, considering I only have one pair of eyes, one computer, and no international stations on my satellite dish...grrr...)  What will you be watching?

Here's a quick run-down of what we all can expect this weekend:
Thursday: National Final in Lithuania
Friday: Song revealing in Turkey (to be performed by rock band Yüksek Sadakat), and a National Final in Austria, returning to the contest for the first time since 2007.
Saturday: National Finals in Moldova, Ukraine, Latvia, Denmark, Estonia, and Serbia, plus semifinals in Sweden and Croatia.
Sunday: National Finals in Slovenia and (FYR) Macedonia.

(The Armenian National Final was also originally scheduled for this weekend, but due to the sudden passing of singer Emmy's father, the event has been understandably postponed.  I believe I speak on behalf of Eurovision writers and fans everywhere when I express my sincere condolences to Emmy and her family in this difficult time.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's Poli Genova for Bulgaria!

The next song and artist to enter the official 2011 Eurovision line-up comes from Bulgaria.  After a 19-song marathon of a National Final in Sofia, young Poli Genova took the title with her song "Na Inat (Stubborn)".

Poli is no stranger to competition; she was the runner-up for the Bulgarian National Selection back in 2009 with the song "One Lifetime is Not Enough", and she was also part of the group that represented Bulgaria in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest back in 2007.  They grow up so quickly, don't they?

Last year, Bulgaria failed to reach the Finals with local star Miro and his song "Angel Si Ti".  In fact, Bulgaria has only managed to reach the Finals once in their entire Eurovision history (2007's "Voda", which reached an impressive 5th place).  Do you think Poli will take "Na Inat" back to the heights that Elitsa and Stoyan took Bulgaria four contests ago?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Dino's "Love in Rewind"

Well, the Bosnian presentation show just wrapped up a few minutes ago, and after a number of great performances from last year's representative Vukasin Brajic, 1997 Italian representatives Jalisse, and Turkish superstar Mustafa Sandal, we finally got to hear what we had been waiting for:

Dino Merlin, who represented Bosnia and Herzegovina back in 1999 with "Putnici" and wrote the nation's 1993 entry "Sva Bol Svieta", will sing, surprisingly enough, in English this year with "Love in Rewind".  This mid-tempo song has a positive's really quite lovely, actually!  But that being said, I'm not a huge fan of the choreography.  I loved Laka's childlike performance back in 2008, but somehow it doesn't quite work as well for Dino. 

Watch his performance below, and let me know what you think!

All in all, I think that Dino Merlin's done Bosnia and Herzegovina proud once again.  He's a well-respected veteran performer known all throughout the region, and I would be shocked to not see him not qualify out of his semifinal on May 12th.  (But, in all honesty, I would have loved to have heard "Love in Rewind" sung in Bosnian...)

(Edit: I've had a few days to let "Love in Rewind" sink in, and as I review the song and the video, I've come to the realization that in a strange way, the carnivalesque atmosphere presented this week with the song actually works really well.  The song and performance keep steadily growing on me, and it doesn't even matter anymore if he's singing in English, Bosnian, Esperanto or Korean.  In my eyes, this song is absolutely beautiful as it is.  I disavow my previous doubts and congratulate Dino on a masterful composition!)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Raphael Gualazzi - Follia d'amore for Italy!

After fourteen years of absence, Italy has finally given us an entry for Eurovision!  Going on at this very moment (or, as I'm writing this article, anyway) is the final night of the San Remo Song Festival, one of the most popular musical traditions in Europe.  In fact, Eurovision itself was modeled on this Italian song competition over fifty years ago.

A few weeks ago, it was announced that the Italian singer would be selected form the pool of San Remo entries and determined by a special jury including network representatives, the Mayor of San Remo, and performer Gianni Morandi, who was one of the event's hosts.  The winner of the festival wouldn't necessarily be the Italian representative to Eurovision, so rumors and hopes began flying everywhere.  Would it go to Nathalie Giannitrapani, the singer-songwriter who won the Italian version of the X-Factor last year?  Would it possibly go to Al Bano or Ana Oxa, two veterans with Eurovision experience?  Would it go to Giusi Ferreri or Anna Tatangelo, two young and promising performers?  Or would it go to one of the unknown performers from this year's "Giovani (Newcomers)" category?

It looks like the answer came from the latter question; the winner of this year's Giovani Competition, jazz singer-songwriter Raphael Gualazzi, will represent Italy with his song "Follia d'Amore (Folly of Love)".

The 29-year-old Gualazzi has been active in the Italian jazz scene for a few years now, but he only just released his first full-length album, "Reality and Fantasy", this past year.  He's undoubtedly talented, and definitely has that Michael Bublé vibe about him, but I'm not sure if this song was the right choice for Eurovision.  As good as the song might be, there's often a distinct separation between "good songs" and "good Eurovision songs".  Will this have the far-reaching appeal to get to voters from Moldova, Sweden, Malta, and Ireland?  I'm not sure yet...

But, then again, Eurofans have been drooling all over themselves once the news broke that Italy would be returning to the ESC...RAI could probably send a drunken man in a chicken suit to sing a polka off-key and dance the Macarena, and they'd probably do half-decently!  Viva Italia!

It's Eldrine for Georgia!

Next up on the long list of Eurovision decisions was the Republic of Georgia, giving us either their fourth or fifth entry to the ESC, depending on if you count songs that were selected, or songs that actually made it to the competition!  (Check out my entry on Georgia's history in the contest for more information...)

After seven performances, the eventual winner was the electro-rock group Eldrine and their song "One More Day" (I'm including the studio version of the song along with the live National Final Performance, as lead singer Tamar Vadachkoria was suffering from the flu...)

This is a complete departure from what we've seen from the Georgians; instead of reaching for an emotional ballad, it seems that the country has taken the lead of maNga, last year's runner-up from Turkey, and have selected something completely modern, infusing rock, electronica, and hip-hop into their entry.  Of course, it wouldn't be Georgia without a big-voiced female lead singer, so we've got Tamar!

We haven't heard the entry from Turkey's Yüksek Sadakat, but we can expect that to be rock, as well.  Both Turkey and Georgia are performing in the first half of the first Semifinal in this year's Eurovision...will they cancel each other out, or stand up against one another and both proceed to the Final?  Only time will tell, I suppose...

Lucía Pérez - "Que Me Quiten Lo Bailao" for Spain!

After weeks of Eurovision covers from twenty-four different artists, we finally have a winner in Spain. Auryn, Lucía Pérez, and Melissa each sang three potential Eurovision entries, which was then narrowed down to the top song from each artist.  Those three songs then went head-to-head against each other, with the winning song carrying the Spanish flag to Eurovision this year.

Beating Auryn's "Volver" and Melissa's "Eos", the 2011 Spanish entry to Eurovision will be Lucía Pérez with "Que Me Quiten Lo Bailao"!

"Que Me Quiten Lo Bailao" literally means "may they take away from me what I've danced", but it really means something along the lines of "they can't take away the good times".  This sunny pop song definitely ticks a lot of's catchy, youthful, and memorable, with a singer who is both sweet and experienced.  (Lucía is a two-time veteran of the Viña Del Mar Festival in Chile, a competition known for not only the quality of the music performed, but also for the passion of its crowd.  If you don't perform well on the stage of the Quinta Vergara, the audience, known as "El Monstruo", will let you know!)

Generally, I enjoy "Que Me Quiten Lo Bailao"'s very sweet, but it lacks a certain impact.  It almost reminds me of Train's song "Hey, Soul Sister".  It was a huge success (in the American market, at least), but yet it still faded a bit into the background (probably why it was used in so many commercials here last year).  What are your thoughts? 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lena's been "Taken By a Stranger"!

After an exciting final, we finally know which song Lena Meyer-Landrut will be presenting on the home stage in Düsseldorf...

...drumroll please?

And the winner is "Taken By a Stranger", written by the American songwriting team of Gus Seyffert, Nicole Morier, and Monica Birkenes.  (Incidentally, last year's winning song for Germany, "Satellite", was written by an American/Danish team.)  This surprisingly understated electropop number was a huge favorite among the German audience and foreign Eurofans alike, although it's not without its detractors.  I think it plays into Lena's quirky style quite nicely!  It's interesting to envision the stalker-ish images that come up in "Taken By a Stranger" next to the puppy-love sweetness of "Satellite"...

As I've mentioned earlier, the German broadcasters are pretty stringent on what gets to stay up on YouTube, so you might have to check out the official network webpage for the National Final performances of "Taken By a Stranger" and runner-up "Push Forward".

(Update: Found one!)
Lena - Taken by a Stranger, 18.2.2011
Uploaded by verac388. - See the latest featured music videos.

The Weekend Preview, 2/18

And another big weekend kicks off for Eurofans everywhere!

First, we've got the Finals of "Unser Song Für Deutschland", Germany's national final.  Lena will sing the six remaining songs from the two semifinals, and within the next few hours we should know the song that will represent the home country this year.  And the finalists are:
Maybe (Daniel Schaub, Pär Lammers) 
Taken by a Stranger (Gus Seyffert, Nicole Morier, Monica Birkenes) 
What happened to me (Lena Meyer-Landrut, Stefan Raab) 
A million and one (Errol Rennalls, Stavros Ioannou) 
Push forward (Daniel Schaub, Pär Lammers) 
Mama told me (Lena Meyer-Landrut, Stefan Raab)

Also tonight, Spain will select their Song/Singer combination.  Last week, the performers were narrowed down to Lucía Pérez, Melissa, or boy-band Auryn.  Each act will perform three unique songs each, and after a 50/50 jury/audience vote, we will know who will carry the Spanish flag to Düsseldorf!
El sol brillará (Rafael de Alba)
Evangelyne (Kjell Jennstig, Dejan Belgrenius & Kristin Molin)
Volver (Primoz Poglajen, Jonas Gladnikoff, Camilla Gottschalck & Christina Schilling)
Lucía Pérez:
Abrázame (Antonio Sánchez-Ohlsson & Thomas G.son)
C’est la vie! It’s allright (W&M, Nestor Geli, Susie Päivärinta, P. Andersson & M. Lindberg)
Que me quiten lo bailao (Rafael Artesero Herrero)
Diamonds (Nestor Geli, Susie Päivärinta, Pär Lönn)
Eos (Jesús Cañadilla & Alejandro de Pinedo)
Sueños rotos (Primoz Poglajen, Jonas Gladnikoff, Camilla Gottschalck, Christina Schilling)

On Saturday, Georgia will select their entry.  From seven entries,  only one will have the honor of becoming their nation's fourth official Eurovision entry (fifth, if you count their withdrawn 2009 entry!).  You can listen to the songs here.
Temo Sajaia - Soldier song
Salome Korkotashvili – Love
Sweet Pills – Face to face
Dito Lagvilava and November – New day
Nini Shermadini – Rejected
The Georgians –  Loved, seen, dreaming
Eldrine – One more day

It's the TWiinS for Slovakia!

After a game of hot-and-cold that would make Katy Perry's head spin, Slovakia decided to participate in Eurovision 2011 (as opposed to paying a hefty fine imposed by the EBU for a late withdrawal).  In order to save money and resources, the Slovak broadcaster decided to go with an internal selection this year, as opposed to the full preselections that we've seen from them in 2009 and 2010.  After a few weeks of rumors that last year's runner-up Mista or the local "Idol" winner would represent the country in Germany, it was officially announced today that 24-year-old sisters Daniela and Veronika Nízlová, better known to the world as "TWiiNS" would represent their homeland with the song "I'm Still Alive".  (Sadly, my favorite, Tomáš Bezdeda, wasn't on the shortlist this year.)  Daniela and Veronika are no strangers to the Eurovision experience; they were backup singers for the Czech Republic's 2008 entry, "Have Some Fun" by Tereza Kerndlová.  (Then again, knowing that "Have Some Fun" came in second-to-last place in its semifinal, I'm not sure if the Nízlovás would willingly admit their prior participation...)

The song will be premiered on March 5th, when the girls will perform during the Miss Slovakia Universe Pageant.

To hold us over until then, here's another single from the TWiiNS:

So, it looks like we're up for an epic battle between the TWiiNS and Jedward: which pair of genetic doubles will reign supreme?!

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Magdalena Tul for Poland!

As a Valentine's Day gift to Eurofans everywhere, the Polish delegation decided on their representative to Eurovision 2011 today.  After ten performances and a public televote (which, unlike many other national finals, was what the decision was entirely based on, rather than splitting the choice with a professional jury), the Polish decision was made, loud and clear.  With a full 44.47% of the vote (twice as much as the runner-up), the winner was Magdalena Tul's "Jestem (I Am)":

Magda, a 30-year-old Gdansk native, is an experienced performer (she's appeared in local productions of "Miss Saigon", "Cats", and "Grease", among others).

Now, I generally have terrible luck when it comes to having my favorite songs from a preselection actually make it through to Eurovision itself.  "Jestem", however, immediately stood out to me when I heard it for the first time.  Even though it's in Polish (a language I don't speak in the slightest), it's instantly catchy and memorable, with a great beat.  Poland's debut entry, "To Nie Ja!", came in second place back in 1994, but the nation has only made it back into the Top Ten once since then.  In my opinion, this is the best song that Poland has sent to an ESC in years, and if Magda keeps the energy high, this might just end up turning into 2011's "Shady Lady".

It's Glen Vella for Malta!

The last song to be selected this weekend for the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest came from Malta's Preselection.  A highly competitive National Final with many experienced performers, including two-time ESC participant Fabrizio Faniello, "Malta Eurosong" was definitely packed with a number of strong performances.  After sixteen songs and a close finish, the winner was Glen Vella with "One Life":

Vella, who will turn 27 on the night of this year's Eurovision Final, came in second place after last year's Malta Eurosong with "Just a Little More Love" (which, if you close your eyes, you could easily imagine being sung by Michael Jackson).  "One Life" is a catchy, danceable number, quite a departure from the inspirational ballads that TVM has given us over the past few years.  Malta hasn't sent a solo male singer to Eurovision since Fabrizio's 2006 performance (which, incidentally, came in last place in the Finals that year).  In fact, in Malta's 23 Eurovision appearances, they've sent songs performed by solo males only seven times, with two of those performances bringing up the rear of the leaderboard.  However, three of those male-driven performances ended up in the Top Ten.  That hit-or-miss track record for Maltese men makes Glen's chances hard to predict this year.  "One Life" is positive and energetic, and they have the benefit of having the United Kingdom (the closest thing the island nation has to a Bloc voting ally) casting their ballots in their semifinal.  But will it stand out enough?  We might have to see what other nations send before a prediction can be made...

A Quick Holiday Message from the ESC Insider...

To all of the lovers out there, here's a sweet little holiday message from Svetlana Loboda:

If you're in a relationship, Happy Valentine's Day!  If not, Happy Singles Awareness Day! ;-)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It's Witloof Bay for Belgium!

Belgium was the next nation to pick their representative this weekend, and after a 14-song final, both the professional jury and the public audience gave their maximum points to acapella group Witloof Bay and their song "With Love Baby".

While Witloof Bay's performance is strong, considering they're depending purely on their voices and have no musical backing track to fall back on, acapella has traditionally been a risky move at Eurovision.  I can only think of one other acapella song that has been performed at the ESC (2006's "I Hear Your Heart" by Latvian group Cosmos), and it only reached the finals that year because of automatic qualification.  Granted, I think "With Love Baby" is a better song than "I Hear Your Heart" (and you know that people will be comparing the two over the next few months!), and Wallonia has definitely taken some risks at the ESC over the past few years.  (Remember, this is the network that sent an Elvis impersonator, a song in an imaginary language, and one of the first Eurovision songs to actually sing about Eurovision (how very meta!). 

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Belgium's lone win in Eurovision, with Sandra Kim's "J'aime a la Vie (I Love Life)".  I don't think that this silver anniversary portends a victory for the Belgians, but at the very least, you've got to give them credit for creativity!

Oh, and for the record, my favorite entry in this year's Belgian selection was "Elle Merveille (She Wonders)" by Alexandre Deschamps, which came in 4th place.

It's Stella Mwangi for Norway!

The last of our swing through the North this weekend comes courtesy of our friends up in Norway, who, as usual, pulled out all the stops for the Finale of their Melodi Grand Prix.  There were eight songs in this final round of competition, with two from each of the three semifinal heats and two songs from the Siste Sjansen (Last Chance) round.  From those eight performances, four would be selected to move on to a so-called "Golden Final", where jury and audience votes would determine the ultimate winner.

Making it to the Golden Final, ironically, were both of the two songs from the Siste Sjansen round, along with the two qualifiers from the third semifinal.  And the final tally, after all of the votes had been counted...

4th) Sie Gubba - "Alt Du Vil Ha (Everything You Want)"
3rd) The Lucky Bullets - "Fire Below"
2nd) The BlackSheeps - "Dance Tonight"
1st) Stella Mwangi - "Haba Haba (Little by Little)"

Despite her young age, this Kenyan-Norwegian performer has had experience and chart success performing all over Scandinavia and Africa.  In fact, only one day after "Haba Haba" took the MGP victory, it knocked Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" off of the top spot on the Norwegian iTunes chart.  Stella's high-energy performance and easy-to-remember hook made this song a no-brainer for the victory.  If she can keep this momentum up, she might end up as a front-runner for this year's ESC title...

And, as a point of trivia, "Haba Haba" will be the first time that Swahili will be heard on the Eurovision stage!  "Haba haba hujaza kibaba" is a proverb meaning "little by little fills up the measure".  According to Wikipedia, this will be the 53rd language heard at the ESC (52nd if you don't count imaginary languages).  Needless to say, this makes the linguistics nerd in me very happy...

It's Sigurjón's Friends for Iceland!

The second of the trio of Nordic entries revealed this weekend came from the finals of the 2011 Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins in Iceland.  Out of all of the finals that happened this weekend, this was the one that I was looking forward to the most, not only for its quality of entries, but also considering the emotional force behind one of the entries, "Aftur Heim (Back Home)".  It had been co-written by Sigurjón Brink, and was originally intended to be performed by him as well, but his sudden passing from a heart attack at the age of 36 threw the song's participation into flux.  After a bit of time and soul-searching, Sigurjón's family decided that a group of his friends would take up the mantle and soldier on in his honor: Gunnar Ólason, Vignir Snær Vigfússon, Pálmi Sigurhjartarson, Matthías Matthíasson, Hreimur Örn Heimisson and Benedikt Brynleifsson.

"Aftur Heim" went up against a very strong set of opponents in Iceland's final, including Eurovision 2009 runner-up Yohanna, X-Factor winner Jógvan Hansen, and well-known rock singer Magni Ásgeirsson.  In the end, though, it was the song with the sunny melody and the tragic story that won the whole thing, with Magni's "Ég trúi á betra líf (I Believe in a Better Life)" coming in the runner-up position.

Here's the winning performance out of Iceland:

I'm not sure if the emotional impact that the Icelandic selection felt with this song will carry over in the same way in Eurovision as it did for the preselection, but standing on its own merits, I think that "Aftur Heim" is a beautiful song, and the singers' voices work very well both together in harmony as well as individually.  Many Eurovision fans are still reeling a bit from the fact that the lovely Yohanna wasn't selected to represent her country again, but as that shock wears off, and fans start listening to "Aftur Heim" in depth, I have a feeling that it will grow on people, and maybe become an underground favorite, as "No No Never" was back in 2006 for Germany.  Will it find success in Düsseldorf?  It's very hard to say at this stage of the game, but at the very least, I think the guys did their late friend very proud.

One last comment, and it's simply a personal opinion: I honestly hope that Sigurjón's friends choose to honor his memory in one final way by keeping the lyrics in Icelandic.  Now, if Sjonni kept English lyrics on standby in case it won the National Selection, that's one thing, but if that's not the case, I think that it would honor the integrity of both the artist and the song to keep this version of the song as intact as possible.  Again, this is just me, and I recognize how much of an advantage it can be to sing in English for Eurovision, but I think the song (and what it reflects) is beautiful and poignant as it is.

Paradise Oskar for Finland!

Yesterday was a long one on Eurovision-land, and we've got a lot of news to share with you!  Let's get cracking...

Euroviisut 2011 wrapped up last night with ten finalists trying to snatch the golden ticket to Germany.  After the first round of voting, a "superfinal" was announced for the three highest vote-getters, and the voting began again.  Here are the Finnish Top 3:
3) With 12.6% of the superfinal vote, "Good Enough" by Father McKenzie
2) With 40.7% of the superfinal vote, "Blessed with Love" by Saara Aalto
1) And, with 46.7% of the superfinal vote, the winner is "Da Da Dam" by Paradise Oskar!

Paradise Oskar is the stage name of 19-year old Axel Ehnström, who wrote "Da Da Dam" on his own.  It's been drawing a lot of comparisons to last year's Belgian entry, "Me and My Guitar" by Tom Dice.  I can definitely see why: both Tom and Axel are polished young men with similar sartorial style, standing alone on stage with their guitars, singing simple, sweet, self-penned tunes that address important issues (in Tom's case, following your dreams; in Axel's, the environment).  I don't think that Axel went out to copy Tom, but I think it's simply further proof of my hypothesis that what's successful in one year will carry over to the next.  Tom brought Belgium their highest placement in years, and gave the Flemish their highest scores ever.  I can't imagine Axel going out there saying "I'm going to copy this formula and take it to the top", but I can see how a young singer-songwriter could look at Tom's success and think "maybe there's a place for me and my message out there in Eurovision...I could give this a shot".

As we're still figuring out who Finland will be competing against in the First Semifinal, it's hard to say how "Da Da Dam" will stack up.  But the song is well-written and well-performed, with a universal message that almost everyone can support.  There are always at least a few "message songs" in Eurovision, whether it's about world peace, saving the planet, or having faith in yourself.  This one checks the box nicely.

Stefanos, my dear, I await your thoughts! ;-)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's Jedward for Ireland!

As prayed for by many, feared by just as large an amount, and expected by most, RTÉ's 2011 Eurovision hunt has resulted in a win by Jedward and their song "Lipstick".  For those of you who haven't seen it yet, or for those who are inexperienced in the world of the Grimes brothers, brace yourself.

I hate admitting this, but after a few listens to "Lipstick" (and particularly the studio version), it's actually beginning to grow on me.  John and Edward's voices might not be the second coming of Johnny Logan, but they're incredibly energetic and high-spirited, and they have cannonballed completely into Eurovision's campy deep end.  Love them or hate them, you know that they'll put on a massive show in Germany, and the cameras will be following them around religiously at the Euroclub.  Whether this means that they'll turn into the next Silvia Night or the next Verka Serduchka, who knows?  But, then again, Silvia and Verka were both considered joke entries, while Jedward (and their fans) aren't.  Granted, I don't want to go so far as to call them "serious musicians"..."serious entertainers" might be the better choice of phrase, don't you think?  Will they win Eurovision?  I doubt it (although they'll probably get maximum points from the UK if they reach the Finals).  At the very least, their enthusiasm is infectious.

The biggest drawback that I see here is that a hole in the ozone layer might open up right over Düsseldorf due to all of the hair products the boys use to construct their trademark coifs...please be careful, boys!

Azerbaijan has decided...

...and in a sudden twist, the Land of Fire has decided to send not one, but two singers to Germany in May!  After months of semifinals, winnowing 77 contestants down to only five, broadcaster İctimai Television made the executive decision to send both Eldar Gasimov (the only remaining male contestant) with Nigar Camal (an Azeri-born singer now living in London) to sing a duet, which will be announced hopefully sometime in the near future. 

Here's the baby-faced Eldar:

...And here's Nigar:

Remember, last year Azerbaijan put literally millions of dollars behind Safura's entry to Oslo, hiring world-class choreographers, producing a high-end music video, and even advertising their entry on ESC blogs in order to gain more momentum.  It resulted in a somewhat disappointing 5th place for "Drip Drop", considering the effort they put into it.  What do you think will happen this year?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Weekend Preview, 2/10

We've got another busy weekend ahead of us, so let's dive right into what we can expect from all over the Eurovision world over the next few days!

On Friday, Azerbaijan will finally make their decision on who they'll send to Germany this year.  Their preselection process started back in mid-November with 77 candidates, and they've finally been narrowed down to five final performers: Aynishan Qulieva, Ilgara Ibrahimova, Eldar Gasimov, Ilhama Gasimova, and Nigar Camal.  It's still a bit unclear how the song will be selected; last year, the top three candidates sang three different songs, and while the winning performer was selected the night of the finals, the winning song wasn't confirmed until over two weeks later.  Considering Azerbaijan's penchant for flexibility on their preselection processes (their dates have been moved around many times, for example), who knows what answers we may find tomorrow night, or what questions will remain!

Also on Friday, Ireland will pick the artist and song that they hope will bring the nation to the top of the Eurovision heap for an eight year.  Brief snippets of the songs were released last week, but they were heard in their entirety for the first time just today.

Don Mescall - Talking with Jennifer (written by Ronan Hardiman, Don Mescall)
Nikki Kavanaugh - Falling (written by Christina Schilling, Camilla Gottschalck, Jonas Gladnikoff, and Hanif Sabzevari)
Bling - Shine On (written by Patrick Mahoney)
The Vard Sisters - Send Me an Angel (written by Liam Lawton)
Jedward - Lipstick (written by Dan Priddy, Lars Jensen, and Martin Larson)

Ironically, "Lipstick" is the only song that has been removed from YouTube for copyright reasons.  Why ironically?  Well, first, as its considered the frontrunner in tomorrow's competition, and second, as a portion of the song was "accidentally" released on too early, prompting RTÉ to make the decision only one third in the hands of the audience's vote, rather than fifty percent.  The remaining part of the decision will be in the hands of regional juries throughout Ireland.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lena's Second Semifinal in Germany

Today, Lena presented the final six candidates for her Song for Düsseldorf (also, the final six cuts on her new album, "Good News", which is being released on February 8th...nice timing, PR people!).  After another entertaining show (including a parade of adorable outfits on Miss Meyer-Landrut), we've got the top three songs that will be moving on to the Finals on February 18th.

Qualifying to the next round and joining "Taken By a Stranger", "Maybe", and "What Happened to Me" in the finals:
"A Million and One" written by Stavros Ioannou & Errol Rennalls
"Push Forward" written by Daniel Schaub & Pär Lammers (who also wrote "Maybe")
"Mama Told Me" written by Stefan Raab & Lena Meyer-Landrut (who also wrote "What Happened to Me")

Eliminated in this round were:
"Teenage Girls" written by Viktoria Hansen, Lili Tarkow-Reinisch and Yacine Azeggagh
"At All" written by Aloe Blacc
"A Good Day" written by Audra Mae, Todd Edgar Wright and Scott Simons

Now, some rumblings have been coming up recently claiming that if either of Raab's songs goes to Eurovision, that he should step down as host, likely to be replaced by Hape Kerkeling.  No further confirmation of this has come up, either from the EBU or the German broadcasters, so I honestly doubt that he will be forced to recuse himself as host.  Furthermore, when Belgrade hosted Eurovision back in 2008, host Željko Joksimović was the author of "Oro", Serbia's entry that year, with no major outcry or claims of malfeasance.  But, of course, we'll see what happens!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Weekend Update, 2/6

Another weekend has come and gone, with tons of Eurovision news to report!

The Second Chance round, or "Siste Sjansen", has wrapped up, with eight songs battling against each other in a series of tournament-style knockout rounds.  After all of the carnage subsided, we were left with two songs standing, and going to the finals next week.  And they are...
Sie Gubba - "Alt Du Vil Ha" and
The Lucky Bullets - "Fire Below"
Next week is the Norwegian Final...who are your favorites?

Yesterday, the top twelve contestants (including Daria Kinzer, selected as last week's Wild Card) returned to the stage, fighting for six places in the next round.  Five of those placements were decided last night, while the sixth will be announced on next week's show. Daria Kinzer, Mirko Švenda, Jacques Houdek, Katica Marinović, and Ana Eškinja.  Next week, those Top 6 performers will try to make it to the Top 4.

The first round of Eurovizija 2011 kicked off this weekend in Lithuania.  A total of fourteen songs vied for only three spots in the final, and here are the victors:
Monika - Days go By
The Independent - 7th Bus
Sasha Song - The Slogan of Our Nation  (Eurofans might recognize Sasha from his beautiful, yet undervalued 2009 ESC entry, "Love")

Recap: Second Semifinal in Spain

Last night, a dozen more candidates broke out their best Eurovision Song Covers and fought it out in Barcelona for one of only five coveted spots in the Final of "Destino: Eurovision".  Here's a quick recap!

Qualifying to the next round via the audience's vote:
Esmeralda Grao - This seasoned performer was actually a backup singer for Spain's 1998 entry, and has been working the local scene ever since.  She took on Nina's "Nacida Para Amar", the 1989 Spanish entry that ended up in 6th place.
Melissa - what we've got here is a Spanish singer who took on Vicky Leandros' "Apres Toi", a song performed in French by a Greek-born artist and won the 1972 contest for Luxembourg.  Confused yet? 
Sebas - This self-proclaimed Eurovision fanatic lived his dream by not only performing in an ESC Preselection, but making it through to the final by the will of the public vote.  His Spanish-language interpretation of Marija Serifovic's winning Serbian ballad "Molitva" might not have been flawless, but knowing that a fellow Eurofan made his dream come true makes me feel a bit warm and fuzzy...

Making it through via the jury's vote:
Don Johnsons (yes, like the "Miami Vice" actor...) - Following the lead of "Da Igual" last week, this band took "Yo Soy Aquel", the 1966 Spanish entry by Rafael, and adapted it for a modern audience.
Mónica Guech - Mónica proved that one can sing Dima Bilan's 2008 winner "Believe" without having to resort to figure skaters or Stradivariuses!  

Eliminated by the Jury: Alazán (who covered "Bandido", originally performed by members of their own family), Pau Quero (who might have become Spain's answer to Josh Dubovie with his cover of "A-Ba-Ni-Bi"), "Sometimes" (who did an acapella cover of Abba's legendary "Waterloo"), and Valeria Antonella (who came in from Mexico and covered "Save Your Kisses for Me").

Eliminated by the audience's vote (or lack thereof): Lorena Rosales's cover of "My Number One", Sergi Albert's version of "Hold Me Now", and Miami-based band "We"'s rendition of "Enseñame a Cantar".

Next week, we'll see all ten semifinalists duke it out for only three spots in the final, where we'll finally get to hear some of the possible songs that will represent Spain in Germany this year.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In other cool news...

Various ESC websites are reporting that France's representative, the 21-year-old tenor Amaury Vassili, will be singing his song not in French, but rather in Corsican!  If these rumors pan out to be true, it will be only the second time that this Romance language (which is more closely related to Italian than French) will have been heard in a Eurovision performance.  The first appearance of the tongue was in 1993, when Patrick Fiori sang the bilingual "Mama Corsica".  His fourth-place result remains the highest placement for a song in an actual minority language in Eurovision History (and I'm not counting 2003's "Sanomi" from Belgium...imaginary lexicons don't count!!!)

Here's Patrick and "Mama Corsica":

As soon as we have information on Amaury's song, I'll pass it along to you!

(Edit/Update: Yep, it's been officially confirmed by the's "Sonniu (Dream)", a Corsican-language Bolero for Amaury!)

Friday, February 4, 2011

It's Senit for San Marino!

Yesterday, we received the official confirmation of news that had been floating around the ESC Rumor Mill for quite a while: Italian singer Senit will be representing the tiny Republic of San Marino in Düsseldorf this year. 

Photo courtesy of

The 31-year-old Senit (born Senhit Zadik Zadik) was born in Bologna to Eritrean parents, and has released three successful albums so far, including one in English.  She's also done a fair amount of stage work on Switzerland and Germany.  We're not sure if she will be singing in Italian, English, both, or something else entirely, but the San Marinese broadcaster will be revealing more information shortly on the country's second-ever Eurovision entry.  SMRTV says that in choosing Senit as their representative, they are reflecting the nation's own history as a location with an international flavor.  (Then again, with only 32,000 residents, they might also just be running out of available singers...)

Here are a few of Senit's hits:

What do you think of Senit representing San Marino?  Will she do better than MiOdio in 2008?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Recap: First Semifinal in Spain

Better late than never...This weekend, we also saw the first semifinal in the Spanish quest for Eurovision Domination.  "Destino: Eurovisión" kicked off with twelve acts (either solo singers, duos, or groups) vying for three audience-picked tickets to the next round, or two jury-selected wildcards.  In a fun twist, singers were asked to sing Eurovision classics from yesterday and today.  Some stuck to tradition, while others put modern twists on old favorites.  Acts performed in groups of three, and then the jury immediately eliminated one of the group, and left the rest up to the mercy of the audience.  (The actual pool of songs that might go to Düsseldorf have also been selected, but we won't get to hear any of them until the finals on February 18th.)

Moving on via the audience's televote:
David Sancho (who sung a big-band cover of "Estando Contigo", Spain's debut entry from 1961.)
Lucía Pérez (who sung the Spanish-language translation of Gigliola Cinquetti's winning 1964 song, "Non ho l'eta")
Auryn (who sang a harmonious version of the Olsen Brother's winning 2000 Danish entry "Fly on the Wings of Love")

Moving on via the Jury's Wildcard:
Da Igual (who rocked out a new version of Sergio Dalma's 1991 song for Spain, "Bailar Pegados")
Gio (who, in my personal opinion, destroyed Lena's "Satellite", and not in the good way...)

The jury eliminated acts covering "Wild Dances", "Ding-a-Dong", "Gwendolyne", and "Tu te reconnaîtras", and the audience passed on covers of "Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi", "Fairytale", and "Vuelve Conmigo". 

We'll hear a dozen more covers next week!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Second Heat in Croatia's "Dora 2011"

The second heat of Croatia's preselection, "Dora" was this weekend, and we've got six more names moving on to the next round of competition.

Qualifying from last week's round of performers via viewer televote was Tina Vukov.

Making it through to the next heat from this weekend's round are Doris Teur, Mirko Švenda, Katica Marinović, Ana Eškinja, and Saša Lozar.  We'll get another name next week, when the results of the long-term public vote wrap up, and from those Top Twelve, only six will proceed on to the following round.  From those six, the top four will compete, and the contestant-whittling will continue until we have our Croatian winner on March 5th!

Lena's First Semifinal in Germany

As we all know, last year's winner Lena Meyer-Landrut will be defending her title on home soil this year, and Stefan Raab is at the helm of the National Selection once more.  This time around, Lena will be competing against herself; the twelve songs up for the golden ticket are the twelve cuts off of her new album, "Good News" that will be released on February 8th.

Image source

On Monday, we heard the first six of those tracks, with three of them moving on to the next round.
1) "Good News" (written by Americans Audra Mae & Ferras Alqaisi)
2) "Maybe"(written by Germans Daniel Schaub & Pär Lammers)
3) "I Like You" (written by American Rosi Golan & Northern Ireland-born Johnny McDaid)
4) "That Again"(written by...surprise surprise...Stefan Raab)
5) "Taken By A Stranger" (written by Americans Gus Seyffert, Nicole Morier, Monica Birkenes)
6) "What Happened to Me"(written by Lena and Stefan)

Normally, I'd place a link to YouTube videos of each of these songs, but Germany's broadcaster is pretty stringent about copyright violations, and many of these videos have been taken down (or will be in the near future).  The best place to check the songs out is on the official "Unser Song für Deutschland" website here.

The winners on Monday, determined purely by a public vote, were:
"Taken By a Stranger"
"What Happened to Me"

We'll hear the final six songs on February 7th, and the Finals will conclude on February 18th.
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