Friday, August 26, 2011

Eurovision 2011: The Best of the Rest (Part 2)

Continuing on through our tour of the 2011 Preselections, we move straight on from Bulgaria to...

Croatia: Few people who were in the Press Center in Düsseldorf will soon be able to forget Daria Kinzer's "Celebrate", complete with two costume changes and a special appearance by a creepy Willy Wonka impersonator.  But only the most hardcore of ESC fans remembers that the lovely Daria had some serious competition in this year's Dora: Jacques Houdek.  Daria and Jacques went head-to-head on three songs, with a public televote and jury vote selecting the best option for each singer.  The interesting thing about this, however, was that the scores were tied after the jury and televote was added together during the song selection, with the public favoring "Stotinama Godina (A Hundred Years)" for both Daria and Jacques (by a landslide), and the jury selecting "Lahor/Break a Leg/Celebrate" for the two.  Most national finals used the public vote as the prevailing factor, but Croatia deferred to the jury.   The uptempo number seemed better-suited for the lovely Daria, and so Jacques' fate as runner-up was sealed.  But we were tantalizingly close to having this, instead:

"Stotinama Godina" reminds me of the classic Croatian ballads of years past: songs like "Neka Mi Ne Svane", or "Nek' ti bude ljubav sva" (which, interestingly enough, Jacques performed during the national selection process).  It's hard to say if this would have made it into the Final (I'm sure that some would have argued that it sounded "dated"), but I personally preferred it to "Celebrate".  As for Jacques, I wouldn't count him out.  In a commercial for this year's UK version of "X-Factor", eagle-eyed viewers can catch a quick glimpse of Houdek auditioning for the show that introduced the world to Jedward.  Brace yourselves, my friends.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eurovision 2011: The Best of the Rest (Part 1)

Like many Eurovision fans and fanatics (myself included), the period between the end of May and the beginning of December is often a melancholy bit of time while we wait for news on the next year's edition and constantly re-hash the events of the past.  For me, this is the perfect time to look back on the songs that didn't quite make it to Düsseldorf this year; some of these also-rans are just as entertaining or endearing as the tunes that made the journey to the main event.  Out of the forty-three nations that sent songs to Germany this year, thirty-four of them had national selections (and the rest, like France, Belarus, Turkey, et cetera, were internal selections made behind closed doors).  Needless to say, there's a lot of ground to cover!  So, starting alphabetically...

Albania: For me, the Albanian Preselection (or Festivali i Këngës) is one of the more underrated events of the Eurovision year.  It occurs early in the ESC cycle (generally falling around Boxing Day), and it tends to involve both young, fresh faces as well as veteran performers.  This year's FiK winner was Aurela Gaçe's "Kënga Ime", which eventually became the epic, aquiline "Feel the Passion".  However, in second place this year was the lovely duet "Ende ka shpresë (There is Still Hope)", written and performed by Alban Skenderaj and Miriam Cani.  

I don't know if this song would have been translated into English (as so many other Albanian entries have been over the past few years), but if it had, it could have possibly given Azerbaijan's Ell and Nikki a run for their money.  
(And, for the record, another personal favorite of mine was Kamela Islamaj's "Jetova per te dy (I Lived for Us)", which came in 10th place in the FiK.  While it might not have gone over as well in the ESC as "Ende ka shpresë", I absolutely love Kamela's soulful, bluesy, voice.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ivi Adamou picked for Cyprus

I don't know about all of you, but I'm still recovering from my post-Eurovision funk.  Coming down from the high that Düsseldorf provided is an arduous process, especially considering that ESC news goes so suddenly from a fire-hose to a trickle after the main event.  We've seen an occasional follow-up single (as I've highlighted in a few past entries), some speculation about who's in and who's out (still no confirmation on Armenia, as of right now, and it seems that both Morocco and the Czech Republic are still out for the moment), and fanciful rumors about our hosts in Azerbaijan (will a new venue be constructed in eight months, or will people just wise up and put a roof on the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium?), but little concrete news has been confirmed.

Until now, that is!

CyBC, the broadcaster from the island nation of Cyprus, has not only confirmed the country's participation, but they've also given us our first official name for the event in Baku: 17-year-old "X-Factor" alumna Ivi Adamou.  (And yes, that's the same series that brought us 2011 participants Loukas Giorkas, Kati Wolf, and Jedward, so take that as you will.)  Since Ivi's appearances on the show back in 2009 and 2010, she has released 2 EPs, a full-length album and a handful of singles.  Here is a link to one of her more popular hits, "Sose Me (Save Me)", and the video to her first single, "A*G*A*P*I (L*O*V*E)":

More details are still to come from Cyprus, but it seems that a small National Final will be held around the New Year, with Ivi performing somewhere between three and five songs. 

And for those of you who might be surprised that news is already coming in, just remember that the Netherlands confirmed the participation of the 3Js back in mid-July of 2010, and we knew Cyprus's plans this early, as well.  So much for post-ESC Withdrawal!  Once more unto the breach, dear friends...
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