Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just to tide us over...Eurovision, By The Numbers!

Here we are, a month or so before delegations, journalists, and fans alike all descend on Düsseldorf, awaiting the spectacle that we've been fantasizing about since Lena took the Eurovision crown in Oslo last year.  This month, however, is generally seen as "the calm before the storm".  All of the songs have been released, and while an occasional promotional video or tour might pop up here and there, and bookies might argue amongst themselves over who will win, there's really not a lot of major news that arises between the unveiling of the final song and the start of rehearsals. 

So, what's an ESC blogger with too much time on her hands going to do?  (The same thing she does every night, Pinky...tries to take over the world!)

No...wait.  That's not it.  Tempting as it might be, I have no plans for world domination.  Yet.  What I will do, however, is crunch some numbers and try to come up with some interesting bits of trivia for you all!

- As we all know, we've got 43 nations competing against each other this year.  Out of those 43, twenty-two have previously won the competition at some point.  The nations that have competed the longest without a victory are Portugal (44 songs since 1964, never cracking the Top 5), Malta (23 entries since 1971, with two runner-up placements), and Cyprus (28 entries since 1981, with three 5th-place finishes).  The only nations to have taken a victory on their debut entry are Switzerland in 1956 (although this could be argued, as everybody was a debuting entrant that year, and "Refrain" was the second of two Swiss songs presented that night), and Serbia in 2007 (which could also be argued, as Serbia had performed in conjunction with Montenegro in the past).  Other nations to have recently won an ESC title while in their Eurovision infancy were Ukraine (winning on their second attempt in 2004) and Latvia (with a victory on their third try, in 2002).

- Out of the 43 competing nations, 10 debuted during the 1950s, 5 in the 1960s, 4 in the 1970s, 2 in the 1980s, 11 in the 1990s, and 11 in the 2000s.  Ten nations entered for the first time between 1993 and 1994 alone!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A New Version from Israel (plus, Couture!)

As anticipated, Israel has released a new version of Dana International's self-penned entry for Eurovision, "Ding Dong".

I was never fully sold on "Ding Dong" to begin with.  It paled in comparison to "Diva" and the rest of Dana's solid catalog of work.  Unfortunately, this new version doesn't inspire me to change my mind.  It will most likely be a hit at the Euroclub, but I'm underwhelmed as I listen to it at home.  It feels like the producer decided to throw every audio trick in the book at it, and it makes it feel somewhat dated.

On the bright side, though, Dana and the rest of the Israeli delegation has decided to put one major decision in the hands of her fans: her onstage ensemble.  She has picked a series of off-the-runway designs from renowned couturier Jean Paul Gaultier, and the public is invited to choose their favorite.  (The site is in Hebrew, but it's still pretty intuitive.  Just scroll down to see the eight options, and vote for the one that flips your switch!  I was a fan of the green woven number, personally...)  Fans might remember that Dana has worn Gaultier designs earlier in her Eurovison career; she famously delayed her victory reprise in 1998 as she changed into a fabulous feathered number:

No matter how the song turns out, Dana will definitely bring a great show to the ESC this year, and letting the audience determine a major factor in the performance just goes to show how much the fans matter to the artists that perform at Eurovision.  Todah, Dana!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Maja Keuc's "No One" presented for Slovenia

After a nice, long, dramatic pause, Slovenia has finally revealed the English version of Maja Keuc's "Vanilija", entitled "No One".  Maja unveiled the translation on the popular Slovenian program "Spet Doma".

Musically, there are few, if any, changes in the arrangement from "Vanilija" to "No One".  Lyrically, however, there are some differences.  While the original Slovene lyrics seem to have Maja dealing with her feelings of pain and jealousy over a straying lover, the English lyrics have more of an air of "I'm kicking your worthless ass to the curb, and you'll be sorry!"  I'm happy to see quite a few songs with this sense of empowerment (similar themes come up in the songs from Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Norway, among others).

Between the Slovene and English versions of the song, I personally preferred the original text.  There are a few errors in pronunciation in the new version that could definitely be smoothed out, but it's nothing too insurmountable.  As I've mentioned before, I'm a language nut, so whenever a song as beautiful as "Vanilija" switches to English, it tends to lose a bit of luster in my eyes.  But in general, "No One" holds up to its predecessor's standard, and as it's not being performed right before or after another ballad in the Second Semifinal, it definitely has a strong chance of bringing Slovenia to the Finals for the first time since 2007.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sam's Unranked Rankings, 2011!

Ok, I fold.  Some of my readers (I'm looking at you, Jack!) have been asking me for my personal ranking of this year's Eurovision songs.  Out of all of the articles I've written, this might be the toughest!  I've been putting it off, hemming and hawing about how to organize my thoughts.  It's really quite difficult to chew up and spit out 43 songs from 43 nations, stretching from Iceland to Azerbaijan to Malta and back again.  Complicating the venture even further is the knowledge that my opinions change as often as the weather (and in a Minnesota spring, that says quite a lot!); I can barely pick out an area rug for my apartment without second-guessing myself eleven thousand times.

So, in order to make my "ranking" somewhat easier (as well as to cover my ass when I invariably change my mind), I've decided to break the songs down into groups.  With the songs in my "favorite" group, my absolute favorite can morph and change with my mood: if I'm feeling wistful and philosophical, it's Dino.  If I'm channeling my inner dramatic diva, I reach for Aurela.  When I'm craving a night out at my favorite wine bar, curling up with a taste of Pinot Noir, I'll queue up a little Gualazzi.  And for those time when I want a full-on, hands-in-the-air, sing-into-my-hairbrush dance-fest, I turn on "What About My Dreams?" (and I hope nobody's watching!).  As an officially accredited journalist for this year's Eurovision, I know that I'm going to have to choose a favorite when I eventually give my nomination for a Marcel Bezençon Press Award.  I might just have to wait and see how the rehearsals hit me...

Anyway, after the jump, I'll give you my own personal ranking/groupings, as of the night of Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011!  (Ask me again on April 22nd, and you might see a completely different list...)

And remember...all songs are available here: Eurovision Song Contest - Düsseldorf 2011 Preview Player

Monday, March 21, 2011

Eurovision 2011: A Trail Guide

For those readers who are either completely new to Eurovision or just picking up the 2011 trail now, it can be a bit overwhelming to pick through 43 countries' songs without a bit of guidance.  To help with the journey, I'm taking the liberty of breaking up the songs into loose categories and themes.  Some songs might fall into more than one category (and others seem to defy all logic and reason!), and some of these definitions are a bit loose and floppy, so take them with a grain of salt.  But if you're just getting into the contest, and aren't sure what to listen to first, here's a quick primer on this year's offerings (and if I've overlooked anything, please let me know!):
All of the songs can be heard through the Eurovision Song Contest - Düsseldorf 2011 Preview Player

Friday, March 18, 2011

New Videos from Ukraine, Turkey, Moldova and Macedonia

As is customary after the Semifinal Draws, many ESC nations are rolling out their entries' videos.  Over the past few days, we've seen the official debuts of the Ukranian, Turkish, Moldovan, and Macedonian videos...let's check them out!

The Ukrainians, as per usual, have revamped their entry and officially submitted their song "Angel".  Who knows if it will continue to evolve by the time it hits the stage in Germany?  I'm half expecting an unfortunate flat tire to hit Mika's car on the way to the venue, with Zlata Ognevich or Jamala just serendipitously hanging out in the arena...

Regardless, I do prefer this edit a bit to the original, as it has a somewhat stronger beat and isn't quite as sleep-inducing as the ballad that we originally heard in Kiev.  That being said, it's still not one of my absolute favorites; Mika's English is often tough to parse.  I am, however, looking forward to the onstage presentation of "Angel"...with all of the circus themes in the video and the National Final performance, and considering Ukraine's history of over-the-top staging (Svetlana Loboda, anybody?), things could definitely get interesting. 

Next up, the Turks have presented their video for Yüksek Sadakat's "Live it Up":

Not really sure what to say about this one...the song's fun, with a bit of an 80's Hair Band throwback feel (despite the lead singer's baldness) and a touch of an ethnic sound from the string section.  It's Turkey, so chances are pretty good that it will qualify for the Finals, but there are other pretty good rock songs in this competition that might give Yüksek Sadakat a run for its money if more than one makes it to the show on the 14th.  Turkey has made the Top Ten every year since 2007, and has never failed to qualify for the's a lot for "Live it Up" to live up to!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Running Order for Semifinals and the Big Five

In a press conference held today, the running order for both of the Semifinals was held, as well as the singing positions for the Big Five nations automatically qualified for the Final (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom).

Monday, March 14, 2011

More new versions and videos released!

As expected, Albania has revamped their entry for Düsseldorf.  What was once Aurela Gaçe's "Kënga Ime" is now "Feel the Passion":

I feel like I'm in the minority here, but I loved Aurela's song the first time I heard it, and this revamp only solidifies my position.  Aurela is this year's diva, and whether she wins or not, she is making this her show.  (It's funny, though; I was talking with my friend Slavi yesterday before we saw the new video or heard the translation, and I told him how I imagined that the clip would somehow involve Aurela standing on top of a mountain or other high point, a wind machine fluttering around some epic dress, and an eagle soaring.  I should have placed money on it!)

Anastasia Vinnikova: "I Love Belarus"

Getting their entry into the EBU right before the deadline, Belarus has just released their official replacement for the disqualified "Born in Bielorussia" and "I am Belarussian".  Imaginatively, it's called "I Love Belarus". 

Now, I love a dulcimer just as much as the next girl, but even that can't save this one.  I don't mind a song with a touch of national pride (as we see with the revamped Albanian entry), but when it's coming from the last dictatorship in Europe, it comes off as forced.  This is a bit of an improvement over the songs that it replaced, but I can't shake the indelible aura of "Stockholm Syndrome" that surrounds it.  Anastasia's voice isn't bad, and if given the right song, she could have done something really special, but I would personally be shocked if this qualified for the finals.

Hopefully, this means that the Belarussian soap opera will be least, until ESC 2012!

Ell & Nikki - "Running Scared" for Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has been competing in Eurovision since 2008, when the over-the-top "Day After Day" came in a respectable 8th place.  The next year, the fiery, uptempo "Always" snagged the bronze in Moscow, with Safura's diva-licious "Drip Drop" coming in 5th place the year after that.  Ever since entering the contest, Azerbaijan has made a considerable effort to make a splash, using everything in the traditional ESC arsenal: pretty girls, costume changes, explosions, gowns with LED lights, ear-splitting high notes, million-dollar promotional campaigns, Beyoncé's choreographer, even going so far as to have the police question people voting for rival Armenia (I'm not kidding!).  After such a series of entries, I was bracing myself for an equally epic spectacle from Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Jamal, who had won Ictimai TV's preselection a few months ago.  And boy, was I wrong...

Never in a million years would I have expected to write "Azerbaijan" and "subtle" in the same sentence, but Baku has completely proven me wrong.  Eldar and Nigar (who will be going by "Ell and Nikki" for the purposes of this competition) really pull off this sweet R&B-kissed duet.  It's got a nice hook, and they don't seem to have the same issues with English pronunciation that some of their predecessors struggled with at times (I still can't understand half of the lyrics in "Day After Day, even three years after the fact...).  This is also the only romantic duet in the competition, and it offers a nice bit of eye candy for everybody.  All in all, this should be a pretty solid lock for the finals, especially considering that constant allies Turkey are in their semi.

(UPDATE: Due to EBU restrictions, Eldar and Nigar will be using their real names for this year's ESC.  It's possible that the same restriction will apply for Russia's Alexey Vorobyov/Alex Sparrow, but as "Sparrow" is the actual translation for "Vorobyov", the final decision is still unclear.)

Russia's Alexey Vorobyov ("Alex Sparrow") - "Get You" released

After weeks of speculation, Russia's 2011 Eurovision contribution has been officially presented to the public.  Written by international hitmaker RedOne and performed by Alexey Vorobyov (who will go by the stage name "Alex Sparrow"), "Get You" was premiered on the opening night of a Russian reality show:

On a first listen, I kind of enjoyed "Get You".  It's the kind of sexy, catchy pop entry that Russia has had some pretty major success with in the past (like what we saw with Alsou, tATu, and Serebro).  It will, undoubtedly, be a big hit in the Euroclub!  However, when I listened to it the second time around (when I generally try to pay more attention to the lyrical content, as opposed to my first impressions of the music), I got almost immediately creeped out.  I know, as a woman, that I generally like a guy with some measure of confidence, but the song sounds as if the Big Bad Wolf were being interrogated on an episode of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit".  "I'm coming to get you...I know you want me to...If you really want to have fun tonight, just scream!"  I know that's not Alex and RedOne's intent, but for me, the fun of the song has now been overshadowed by some sketchy lyrics.  I admit that I'm probably being just overly sensitive here, and reading too deeply into the words of a pop song, but I'm a bit too skeeved out to really enjoy this song for what it is.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Eric Saade's "Popular" for Sweden

Melodifestivalen (a.k.a. the Mother of All Preselections) just wrapped up from the Globen Arena in Stockholm, after four Semifinals, a Second Chance round, and a Grand Final.  Tonight, we saw classic schlager (in both English and Swedish!), rockabilly, and even a song that may have, in fact, been a lost track from the Magical Mystery Tour.  But after votes were tabulated from eleven international juries and the Swedish public, the winner was 20-year-old Eric Saade with "Popular":

Eric, despite his age, is already a pretty well-established performer.  He actually placed third in last year's Melodifestivalen with "Manboy", which then proceeded to reach #1 on the Swedish Singles chart.  Fredrik Kempe, the songwriter behind "Popular", has contributed two songs to Eurovision in the past: 2008's "Hero" and 2009's "La Voix".  However, Sweden has seemingly underperformed over the past few years.  They haven't made the Top Ten since 2006, and failed to reach the Final last year for the first time in their history of Eurovision participation.  Eric is undoubtedly adorable, and might take away a small handful of the "screaming pre-teen fangirl" vote from Blue, but I wouldn't personally count this as a major player in this year's event.  At the very least, though, it's an entertaining three minutes, and knowing Sweden's recent penchant for barely changing the Melodifestvalen staging for Eurovision, I'm looking forward to seeing if the Swedes are able to bring their show to Germany, shattered windows and all.  (I'd hate to be the singer that goes after "Popular"...or the cleanup crew, for that matter!)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Blue's "I Can" finally revealed

After months of waiting, the United Kingdom's entry "I Can", performed by veteran boy band Blue, was revealed tonight after a performance on the BBC's "Graham Norton Show".  Graham is not only an avid Eurovision fan, but he's also been the network's commentator on the ESC finals since Terry Wogan's departure after the 2008 event.  The song's studio version was leaked yesterday, but it wasn't until tonight that we saw Blue perform their entry live:

I normally am not a huge fan of boy bands...I grew up surrounded by screaming hordes of Backstreet Boys and N*SYNC fans, and I generally just rolled my eyes and put on my Dave Matthews Band or La Ley CDs.  Plus, while Blue was huge in the UK, Ireland, and parts of continental Europe, they never really made much of an impact on the charts here in the US.  So, when people started flipping out over Blue's reunion and the fact that they'd been chosen to represent the UK in the ESC, I was interested, but skeptical.  Frankly, I had been unimpressed by many similar acts in Eurovision over the years.  When I saw Lena Meyer-Landrut's adorable reaction to Blue's participation (which has unfortunately been removed from Youtube...bummer!), I was intrigued.  But after seeing "I Can" performed live, I'm completely convinced.  This might be the UK's best hope for a Eurovision win since Katrina and the Waves.  It's instantly memorable and performed well by a group with a decade of experience under their belts (displaying strong harmonies, and Lee Ryan's high notes are golden).  Also, the fact that they already have an established fan base all over the continent gives them a major leg up, even over nations in a larger voting bloc.  I have a very difficult time imagining this not hitting the Top Five, and may very well bring the UK their first victory since 1997.

I might not go running out and tattooing Duncan James's face on my right bicep, but if "I Can" wins the whole thing this May, I won't feel the need to hide under my bed in a fetal position with my Ben Folds Five albums and Foo Fighters t-shirt, rocking back and forth and whimpering.  And for a staunch former hater of boy bands, that says a lot.  Very well done, UK!

Kati Wolf's "What About My Dreams?" (Hungary) released!

As anticipated, Kati will be singing primarily in English, with part in the original Hungarian.  I had been worried that cutting the song from over four minutes to three would damage its integrity, but it actually flows really well, and I'm happy that they kept the final section with the choral contribution.  This could really make a major impact on the scoreboard, especially if the presentation matches the high energy of the song.  At the very least, we've got a hand-waver at the Euroclub, and Poland's "Jestem" has some heavy competition.

Senit will "Stand By" for San Marino

SMRTV just aired a brief program (also viewable on finally presenting Senit's song for San Marino this year.  After a quick interview, we have discovered that the Eritrean-Bolognese perform "Stand By", an English-language ballad, in the first Semifinal on May 10th.

This is San Marino's second appearance at Eurovision; the first, with MiOdio's "Complice", sadly came in last place in its semifinal back in 2008.  I think Senit's voice is really beautiful in "Stand By", and it will be one of only two ballads in her semi (unless Azerbaijan produces one, as well, but we've yet to hear from them).  It doesn't have as much of a "pow" factor as some of the other tunes in this half of the competition, but Senit comes off as so positive and cheerful that her personality might be the key to this performance.

Updates and Videos and Translations, oh my!

Not sure what's in the water in Europe today, but today we're not only officially hearing the songs from the UK and San Marino (although the British song "I Can" was leaked yesterday, I'll wait until after their official performance on "The Graham Norton Show" to post the clip), but revamped songs from Croatia and Georgia, a translated Dutch song, and the videos from Ireland, Spain, and Italy have all been released!

From Croatia, we have Daria Kinzer's "Celebrate", the former "Lahor" and "Break a Leg":

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dana International returns for Israel!

Hold on to your hats, people...the Diva is coming back!  The Kdam, Israel's national selection, was held this Tuesday, and the competition was pretty fierce.  However, it might be physically impossible to "out-fierce" Dana International, who won Eurovision back in 1998.  As I mentioned in my post about Israel last year, Dana is possibly the world's most famous male-to-female transsexual, and her career has extended far beyond her Eurovision experience.  She has released 8 albums, a few "best-of" collections, and was even one of the judges on Kokhav Nolad, the Israeli version of the "Idol" franchise, for two seasons.

Going up against nine other songs, Dana's song "Ding Dong" won the ticket to Germany:

This will actually be Dana's third trip to Eurovision, as she was the author of Boaz Mauda's 2008 entry "Ke'ilu Kan".  I have an immense amount of respect for Dana, not only as a former Eurovision champion, but also for having come through the personal struggles that faced her as she made her physical transition.  That being said, I don't think that "Ding Dong" makes as much of an impact as "Diva" or "Ke'ilu Kan" did back in 1998 and 2008.  The song is fun, and she will definitely garner votes for simply being the ESC legend that she is , but I don't think that Dana International will become the next Johnny Logan (the only two-time winning singer in Eurovision history).

(As for the other songs in the Kdam, my personal favorite was the folksy, yet funky "Tu Du Du", by Michael & Shimrit Greilsummer!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kati Wolf's "What About My Dreams/Szerelem miért múlsz?" for Hungary!

After a one-year absence, we finally have news on Hungary's return to Eurovision.  A brief press conference was held at 11:00 CET (so, 4 in the morning here in Minnesota...I admit it, I set an alarm to watch it, tweeted, and promptly went back to sleep!), and possibly the worst-kept secret in this year's Eurovision was confirmed: X-Factor alum Kati Wolf's "Szerelem miért múlsz?" would carry the Hungarian banner to Germany this year.  Rumors about Kati had been swirling for months, but broadcaster MTV refused to confirm or deny anything, much to fans' consternation!

The song will be partially performed in English (as "What About my Dreams?"), and pared down from its full length of over four minutes, but here's the original studio version:

As soon as I had heard the rumors about Kati Wolf (or, in Hungarian, Wolf Kati...the name order is reversed), I held out hope that this would be the official entrant that would welcome back the Magyars.  It's high energy and catchy, with a bit of a retro dance feel that Eurofans will likely love.  Their last two entries failed to make the finals, but this one has potential to bring Hungary back to the upper echelon of the ESC scoreboard.  My only concern is that "What About My Dreams" will be performed in the same semifinal as Poland's "Jestem", Armenia's "Boom Boom", and Croatia's "Celebrate", which could be seen as similarly uptempo, female-driven pop songs.  This will all come down to the presentation, I think, and whoever gets the advantage of a merciful draw number.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Homens da Luta "A Luta É Alegria" for Portugal

This past weekend, Portugal held their annual "Festival da Canção", the National Selection for Eurovision.  Portugal, as you might remember, holds the dubious distinction for the longest ESC losing streak, with 44 appearances and no wins.  Despite some brilliant and beautiful songs over the past four and a half decades, nothing has even cracked into the Top Five.  More than any other country, the Portuguese hold very steadfast to their language and local musical styles in their Eurovision entries, often influenced by fado or other folk traditions.  Their entry this year is no exception...but it goes even further than that!

Homens da Luta (literally, "Men of the Struggle") and their song "A Luta É Alegria (The Struggle is Joy)" might look like Les Miserables performed by the cast of the Village People, but the song is actually a slightly tongue-in-cheek homage to the musical motifs of the mid-1970s, when songs about politics and the socioeconomic climate were common.  Some sample lyrics in this entry include "Night or day, the fight is joy/And the people move on by shouting in the street...Come and celebrate the situation and sing against reaction".  To many fans, this song toes the line; the EBU prohibits songs with overt political messages, but politically-influenced songs have been seen on the main stage before (think Ukraine 2005 and Israel 2007, for example).  I don't think the song goes as far as previously disqualified entries, such as what was supposed to have been Georgia's 2009 entry, "We Don't Wanna Put-In" (a thinly-veiled dig at Russia, the hosts of that year's event).  I personally speak Portuguese, and know about the history of the Carnation Revolution, so I understand the context of the song, and feel like I'm in on the joke.  However, if someone from Azerbaijan, for example, turns on this song, doesn't understand the lyrics, and fails to get the message, this song will likely fly directly over their heads.  No matter how hard they fight, Homens da Luta might just stay in the Semis. 

Portugal, eu te amo muito, and a victory for RTP is on my personal Eurovision Dream List, along with the return of the orchestra, welcoming back the nations that have withdrawn, and a permanent job in the EBU (Sietse?  Jon Ola?  Jarmo?  Call me!).  However, there were other songs in this year's Festival da Canção that could have brought the nation a bit more hope for glory.  Runner-up Nuno Norte's "São os Barcos de Lisboa", Rui Andrade's "Em Nome do Amor", Wanda Stuart's "Chegar à Tua Voz"...all of these options are unmistakably Lusitanian, and they would have been more easily embraced by a wider audience.  But again, this is all just my opinion.  ;-)

Amaury Vassili's "Sognu" finally released!

...and I think I might be in love.

As expected, France has taken a complete 180 degree turn from last year's Afro-Caribbean club jam "Allez! Ola! Olé!"  "Sognu", performed in Corsican, is a operatic bolero performed by one of the world's youngest professional tenors.  Twenty-one-year-old Amaury, a native of Normandy, rarely sings in French, preferring to record songs in Italian or English.  France, however, being France (remember, this is the country that argued in Parliament over whether their 2008 entry should be performed in English or not), will have their song performed in Corsican, the language spoken on the island where Napoleon himself was born and raised.  This will be only the second French ESC entry where not a word of the French language will be heard, the first being 1996's "Diwanit Bugale", performed in Breton.

I am not a musicologist, or even an aficionado of opera.  I am a proud Josh Groban fan, and I took a few trips to Lincoln Center as a schoolgirl, but that's really the extent of my experience in this genre.  I am, however, very impressed by Amaury's talent, especially considering his age, and I hope he's as good live as he is on the studio recording of this single.  Obviously, "Sognu" is not the typical Eurovision entry, and it will not be to everybody's liking.  However, between Amaury and Italy's Raphael Gualazzi, we're seeing a few songs that step outside of the expected ESC mold of Schlager, Ballads, and Europop and take a risk by bringing unexpected genres to the event.  Many "mainstream artists", especially in Western Europe, tend to pooh-pooh Eurovision, claiming that it's no longer a musical competition, but rather a popularity contest or a political event.  If Amaury or Raphael make a big enough impact on the scoreboard, we might see opinions like that start to shift. 

Or at least I can hope, right?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Daria Kinzer for Croatia: "Break a Leg"

Croatia's Dora 2011 finally drew to a close this weekend, after weeks of semifinal heats where 24 singers belted out covers of Croatian and international hits in order to reach the finals, where the top two performers would each get to sing the three candidate songs for Eurovision.  A combined jury/audience vote decided which song each singer would present, and then those top two performances were compared against each other to determine the ultimate winner.

The final two singers were the German-born newcomer Daria Kinzer and Dora veteran Jacques Houdek, with the song "Lahor (Breeze)" selected for both, even though the audience overwhelmingly favored ballad "Stotinama godina (Hundreds of Years)" for both Jacques and Daria.  After a second vote, Daria was selected as the winner, although Jacques rendition of "Lahor" was nothing to sneeze at, either!

I am a bit disappointed in the final result of Dora 2011.  While Daria is a completely capable singer and performer, I almost feel like she's just another pretty face.  During the interview portions of the program, Jacques seemed more personable and animated, and he also has a larger following both in Croatia and the greater Balkan region.  Considering that a lovely performance from Feminnem wasn't enough to get them out of the semifinals last year, Croatia needed something that would set them apart, and I just don't think "Lahor" is the song to do it.  Even if they plan on singing it in English (with the less-than-elegant title of "Break a Leg", an idiom that might not translate easily for non-English speakers), they will need an absolutely unforgettable stage show to really boost them back into the high results that they enjoyed back in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Update!: It seems that the song will be revamped, including a much-needed name change.  What once was "Lahor" and then "Break a Leg", will now simply be called "Celebrate".

Emmy sends "Boom Boom" for Armenia

This weekend, Armenia finally made its decision for Eurovision.  Singer Emmy was internally selected by broadcaster ARMTV back in December, but it was only this weekend that the four candidate songs were fully presented to the public and voted on by a 50/50 audience/jury split.  After all of the ballots were tallied, the winner was "Boom Boom":

"Boom Boom" beat out two other upbeat songs, "Hi" and "Ayo", and the ballad "Goodbye" for the victory.  Frankly, out of all of Emmy's potential entries, this was actually my personal least favorite. The beginning reminds me of "I Wanna", the Latvian winner from 2002, and while the bridge seems promising, the chorus seems clichéd.  However, Armenia has an incredibly strong track record in their short Eurovision history; since their debut in 2006, they've made the Top Ten each year.  I anticipate that Armenia will put together a very high-energy stage show, and considering that traditional voting allies Russia, Georgia, and Greece are in their semifinal, they should be a pretty strong bet to pass into the Finals on May 14th.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The TWiiNS (Slovakia) reveal "I'm Still Alive"

This weekend, the representatives from Slovakia, TWiiNS, finally revealed their entry.  And, surprisingly, it's not half bad!

Unlike the tarted-up pop numbers that we had seen from the Nízlová sisters in their earlier singles, "I'm Still Alive" is a pleasant, harmony-laden, and (dare I say) pretty tune that surpassed my expectations.  (Granted, in all fairness, my expectations were somewhat low, considering that the TWiiNS were an internal selection from a country that may or may not have wanted to participate in Eurovision this year in the first place...minor details!)  This will be Slovakia's first ESC entry sung in English, and Veronika and Daniela seem to have no trouble with the language.  However, after a few listens, the song does become a bit repetitive, and tends to blend into the background pretty easily.  Furthermore, the only time we've seen the song performed, it was lip-synched during the Miss Slovakia pageant, so I have no idea how the sisters actually sound live.

So, in our TWiiNS vs. Jedward battle, who takes the crown at this point?
Entertainment: The Slovaks have a nice tune, but it's just that.  Nice.  The Irish, however, have taken two ferrets, dressed them in red suits, and injected them with Speed.  Advantage: Ireland 
Physical Appeal: Not taking gender into consideration, if you're under fourteen, Jedward takes it.  Post-puberty, you've got to hand it to the Nízlovás.  Then again, considering the propensity for tweens to power-dial for their favorites... Advantage: Ireland
Annoyance Factor: Slovakia's song can get a bit repetitive, but Jedward's Jedward.  'Nuff said.  Advantage: Slovakia

So, will the simply pleasant win out over the love-it-or-hate it?  It's a close one, but my money's on Jedward for the qualification, with Slovakia on the fence, depending on how their live performance stacks up.  What are your thoughts?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Alexey Vorobyov for Russia!

According to credible sources, Russia has just made the announcement that singer Alexey Vorobyov will represent Eurovision's largest nation in Germany.  The song, which will be publicly introduced to the world during the March 12th, the season premiere of "Star Academy". 

That's not where the news ends, however: the song has been written by the world-renowned hitmaker RedOne, who has produced hits for artists such as Lady GaGa, Enrique Iglesias, Usher, Jennifer Lopez, and many others.  Here's what RedOne had to say about the collaboration:

Sadly, there is no news on whether or not the Buranovskiye Babushki will be his backup dancers.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Anastasiya Vinnikova for Belarus

The word "Belorussian" literally translates to "White Russian", which is exactly what I'll need after listening to the entry that the nation has internally selected for Eurovision 2011.

Now, in all fairness, the version of the song seen in the video is not exactly what we'll be seeing on the stage in Düsseldorf.  The original version, "Born in Byelorussia", will have its lyrics revamped a bit, going from USSR-romanticizing to simply extolling the wonders of living in Belarus, a nation known for its oppressive dictatorship.  "I Am Belorussian", the new version, really sounds like an advertisement to check out a post-Iron Curtain state that isn't really known for its status as a tourist's paradise.  Or, evidently, its strength in English-language education.  (Lyrics to the new version are after the jump.)  Belarus has tried this sort of thing before, with Dasha, Alina, and Karina's Junior Eurovision entry "Sertse Belarusi" back in 2008.  The JESC entry came in 6th place, but I doubt that the same strategy will work for Belarus this time around.

This song can go in one of two ways: either it stays in more or less its current format, which will likely end up with "I Am Belorussian" at the bottom of the scoreboard, or they can revamp its presentation, camp the hell out of it, recycle Verka Serduchka's old outfits from Ukraine 2007, and turn this outdated and awkward song into a tongue-in-cheek ode to a Post-Soviet state whose main exports could be disco balls and glitter.  But, then again, Belarus isn't known for its self-deprecating humor, is it?

UPDATE!: A video uncovered by my friends and colleagues over at shows "Born in Byelorussia" being performed at a university function back in May of 2010, months before any entries are allowed to be revealed.  Last year, a similar situation happened with the Ukrainian entry, resulting with the song being replaced.  Will the same thing happen to Belarus?  The author of the updated song is claiming that, because of the change in lyrics, the song should be considered a new entry altogether, but EBU rules explicitly state that no song should be performed, in whole or in part, before September 1 of the previous year, even if the lyrics, arrangement, or staging are changed dramatically.  Failure to comply with this could lead to disqualification.  This story is still developing, and I'll try my best to stay on top of it for you all.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Loucas Giorkas feat. Stereo Mike - "Watch My Dance" for Greece

Tonight, the Greek National final was held (odd that it was a Wednesday, as opposed to a weekend event...).  After a six song national final (all sung by artists who were recent X-Factor or Greek Idol participants), a combined jury and televote came up with a somewhat unexpected winner: Loucas Giorkas and Stereo Mike's "Watch My Dance", a song blending a Greek ballad and English rap.

So, if you mixed this year's Cypriot entry with a slower version of Finland's "Lose Control" from 2009, I kind of imagine that it would sound a bit like this.  If we just had Loucas or Stereo Mike up there on their own, I think that this could have been a somewhat stronger entry.  But by trying to blend the two together, it feels sort of like somebody sewing a quilt made of silk and burlap.  It just doesn't sit well with me yet.  (That being said, the Cyprus-born Giorkas, the winner of the Greek "X-Factor" is a pleasure to watch, to say the least!)

In all fairness, however, I hated "OPA!" the first few times I heard it last year, but it grew on me after a few listens (and after the song had been refined and remastered for Eurovision audiences).  I hope that "Watch My Dance" follows that pattern.  It's Greece, so they're just about a lock to qualify for the Final, but I think their Cypriot brothers have the stronger song, judging after the first few listens.  At this point, I would be more than happy to "Watch My Dance"...but I'm not sure if I'm so psyched to listen to it in its current state.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Christos Mylordos - "San Aggelos S'agapisa" Released in Cyprus

Although Cyprus was one of the first nations to announce their singer for the 2011 ESC, they only released their song and promotional video just yesterday.   Christos Mylordos, a native of Nicosia, will sing "San Aggelos S'agapisa (I Loved You Like an Angel)":

So, we've got an ethno-rock-ballad from the Cypriots with a video that could have been ripped from a Colombian telenovela!  This one was a bit tough to catch onto at first, partially because it has no real definable chorus, and partially's in Greek.  But as I trolled through YouTube videos trying to find a high-quality version to post on the site, I got to re-listen to the song a handful of times, and it's actually been growing on me!  Christos is a newcomer to the Cypriot music scene, having recently won a nationally-televised music show.  His winning performance on the program was of a song in English, which left many ESC fans underwhelmed.  Fortunately, the powers that be (whether that was the network, the record company, or Apollo himself) have him singing in Greek (the first Cypriot entry since 2008 to be in the language).

All in all, this is a well-constructed, albeit dramatic song, that everything but the kitchen sink has been thrown into.  However, "San Aggelos S'agapisa" is a lot stronger than I think people were expecting from Cyprus, and depending on the staging, this might end up being a shock qualifier.  From this perspective, though, things might be a bit tough for Mr. Mylordos.  Although Cyprus made it to the Finals last year with "Life Looks Better in Springtime", singer John Lilygreen was actually Welsh...if Christos makes it out of the Semis, he'll be the first Cypriot-born performer to do so since 2005, and no singer from the nation has qualified for the Final while singing in Greek.  Stacking the deck even more harshly against Christos is the fact that constant ally Greece is performing in the first Semi, while Cyprus is in the second.  This one could go either way, folks...
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