Friday, September 2, 2011

Eurovision 2011: The Best of the Rest (Part 4)

Ireland: Like them or not, you simply can not deny that Jedward were an unstoppable force at Eurovision.  Even if they didn't take top honors this year with "Lipstick", they were really the talk of the Press Center.  From their knee-high Converses to their now-iconic hair, you couldn't resist this year's Irish entry.  Even I fell victim to their charms:
But despite the Grimes Brothers' popularity and infectious energy, they only made it to Düsseldorf by the slimmest of margins; only two points separated them from runner-up Nikki Kavanagh's R&B ballad "Falling":

Nikki sang backup for last year's Irish entry, and "Falling" was written by a team that included Jonas Gladnikoff, who was the composer of "Et Cetera" and "It's For You", Ireland's 2009 and 2010 Eurovision submissions.  Sadly, Jonas and Co. were unable to pull off the three-peat, but who knows what 2012 will bring?



Israel: Speaking of return performances, Dana International was one of five lead artists coming back to Eurovision this year (the others being Dino Merlin, Lena, Zdob si Zdub, and Gunnar Ólasson).  Sadly, she was also the only one of those five to not qualify for the Finals.  "Ding Dong" might have not have been the triumphant return Dana might have been hoping for...

For me, there were two other true standouts in this year's Kdam.  The first was Chen Aharoni's "Or (Light)", which may have had everything but the kitchen sink thrown into it:

Pretty face?  Check.  Slow, moving opening?  Check.  Tempo change?  Check.  Panflute?  Check.  Costume change by an unnecessary dancer?  Check.  A highly entertaining three minutes?  Check!

My other favorite from that night had to be Michael and Shimrit Greylsummer's sunny French-Hebrew folk jam "Tu Du Du":

My knowledge of French is pretty rusty, and my Hebrew is even worse (even though I'm pretty sure I hear the words "bottle of rum" and "Bob Dylan" somewhere in there...), but this song never fails to make me smile.  It's this perfect blend of Middle Eastern tonal structure, danceable club beats, Rybak violins, and Woodstock joy!

Italy: Ok, so any devoted reader of mine probably knows by now that Raphael Gualazzi's "Madness of Love" claimed the top spot on my own personal 2011 scoreboard, as well as a soft spot in the cockles of my heart.  If you haven't read my post-Eurovision interview with Raph yet, by all means, check it out!  It's ok, I'll wait.

Raphael was chosen by an internal jury during the San Remo Festival to carry the Tricolore for Italy's return to Eurovision, so we can't really say who would have gone in his place had he refused.  That being said, San Remo 2011 was full of fantastic songs that would not have seemed out of place for Eurovision.  For example, there was Emma Marrone's stirring collaboration with the rock group Modà, "Arriverá (It Will Come)":


I was also a big fan of Anna Tatangelo's "Bastardo (Bastard)", Nathalie Giannitrapani's "Vivo Sospesa (I Live Suspended)", and Giusi Ferreri's "Il Mare Immenso (The Immense Sea)".  I don't know what it is about these dramatic, female-led numbers, but Italy seems to have cornered the market on them.  Knowing the quality of the entries at San Remo, and seeing the high benchmark set by Raphael this year, I really can't wait to see what RAI sends us in 2012 (assuming they don't wait another thirteen years...).

Latvia: Hmmm.  Compared to the National Finals from Italy and Israel, Latvia doesn't stick out to me as much.  It's not that it was a bad preselection by any stretch, it's just that the songs didn't grab me by the heartstrings and eardrums in the same way that the Kdam and San Remo did.  That being said, Musiqq's "Angel in Disguise" was a fun number, and possibly my favorite Latvian song since 2005's "The War is Not Over". 

Speaking of "The War is not Over", songwriter Mārtiņš Freimanis submitted an entry for this year's National Selection, but passed away about a month before "Hop" could be performed.  Unlike Iceland's Sjónni Brink, Freimanis was not going to be performing the song itself (rather, deferring to the group Blitze), but it was still a sudden and tragic loss to the Latvian music community.

"Angel in Disguise" was not the odds-on favorite to go to Düsseldorf; most people were betting on Lauris Reiniks's "Banjo Laura":

"Banjo Laura" is definitely enjoyable, but I do have to say that the line "La-la-la-la-Laura the banjo girl/ Who was she? What did she play?" bothers me to no end.  Lauris, you just answered your own question.  She's Laura, and she plays the banjo.  'Nuff said, end of story.

In our next installment, I'll pick out the best from Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, and Moldova...stay tuned!

8 comments:

  1. I really did like the folky Israeli song, the Italian im not so sure. Ireland it was a better song that Jedward but Jedward had a far better stage presence. Banjo Laura great song shame it was dreabful on stage.

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  2. "Banjo Laura"... where to start!? Yes the lyrics are crap - "so, she walks, into a bar and talks. this and that, nice and slow, here we go..." Genius. Somebody clearly just purchased an English dictionary.
    The chorus is annoyingly catchy, the banjo-y bit is too. Then the performance was dreadful, and now after seeing this video ("I'm addicted to... this banjo." - awkward turtle) I seem to have gone off this one for good.
    I liked the Israeli ones though - this being the first time I've watched them. Their selection was so predictable, I didn't bother following it at the time...
    As for Italy - am I the only one who really just doesn't get Madness of Love? I was amazed when it started to sneak up the scoreboard - let alone when it only went and came second! Looking at San Remo, it seems they were never going to pick a "normal" ESC song, and if they bother returning for another year in a row (shock horror) I doubt they'll send one next year. I'm just going to have to get used to Italy...

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  3. Yeah, there was a reason I put the official video for "Banjo Laura" on here instead of the NF performance...

    And James, I officially love you for using the "awkward turtle"! ;)

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  4. James I never undestood why Italy did so well, it was okay live, it was different but then why have all the other Jazz songs gone so horridbly wrong at eurovision. I think a bit of make sure Italy stays in the contest may have something to do with it.

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  5. James the Awkward Turtle ;)September 7, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    There should be more awkward turtle in the world. Especially when describing THAT video.

    Eurovoix - you're definitely right there. If Italy hadn't done that well, it would almost certainly have been bye-bye for another 13 years. There's really nothing else that separates it from all the previous jazz mistakes that have gone to ESC...

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  6. I disagree, personally..."Madness of Love" was a self-penned piece that also highlighted Raphael's piano skills and vocal versatility. Granted, we all know that the music was piped in, but casual viewers might not have realized that. I loved "Frauen Regeir'n die Welt", and thought it should have scored higher back in 2007, but it didn't have the same genuine, intimate, jazz-club quality that Italy brought this year (what other jazz entries were you thinking of?). Plus, it was sandwiched in between the sadly disappointing "Sognu" and the sweet, but vanilla "In Love for a While", so the bombastic arrangement might have stood out more.

    I can't speak for the juries' decisions, of course, but with the televote alone, Italy came in 11th place (only 2 points behind Jedward!), which is very respectable considering how unique of a song it was, and considering how much people had underrated it before the contest itself.

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  7. Oh of course - I was only talking about my feelings for the song itself. There's no denying it was "technically" a very good song, and that Raphael is a really talented musician. I just wasn't keen on the trumpety bit and the repeated use of the Italian word which sounded like "pukey". And also, I see what you mean about the authentic, "real" atmosphere to the performance.
    As to other jazz songs, I was thinking obviously "Frauen Regeir'n die Welt" but also "A Century Of Love", "Words for Love" etc.

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  8. Bastardo was clearly the best of the lot as far as Italy goes, perhaps even as far as Eurovision this year goes (giving my Dino a run for his money). I really would have loved Italy for it. Anna Tatangelo was also incidentally best dressed! That performance there is what it means to have good taste.

    I can understand Italy wanting to sending something lesser, abiding by the "Bastardo maybe was 'too good for Eurovision'" philosophy, but I am just not sure if I can get behind the principles by which the Eurovision juries decidedly fawned over Italy's ultimate entry this year.

    I first encountered Bastardo through this virtual song contest in which I compete. I gave it 12 points in the semi-final and 10 in the Final (12 went to Hopa'pa-rei, who eventually came in 14th, needing every single point I had to offer to make it there), and Bastardo landed an honourable 2nd (30 points behind Nott, so two more points would not have made a difference, meaning my voting pattern was just right, I am happy to say!)!

    If Eurovision were the simple sum of all the best in the world, surely Bastardo would have been part of it. It is not that simple, though.

    I must also say that Anna Oxa was of note as well; I did not love it outright, but I was certainly intrigued.

    As for Giusy, I love Non Ti Scordar Mai Di Me and Novembre more.

    Wow that Or performance is so awful. Another victim of bad taste, possibly? Neat song, but that performance?

    I read somewhere that people in the music industry are more likely to have bad taste, and the more I think about it, the more I think it is true. The music industry of today is pretty much the worst run (certainly not a reason to hate music itself, of course; we can still hate the industry, though). I do not know if the issue of how unequal the music world is is on everyone's mind, but it is certainly on mine. Whenever I am on youtube, they wave it in my face all the time, no? If I am watching Bastardo, why should I be interested in On The Floor by JLo (that total Timoteij rip-off of a number, no less)?

    Just my thoughts.

    -Finland

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