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Eurovision 2009 May 08

The Eurovision Song Contest is nearly upon us, so I have taken the bullet for you and watched videos of all of this year’s entries on the BBC Eurovision website. If you visit the site, do take a look at some of the breathtakingly sincere contestant biographies – for example this gem from Russia.

If you want detail and musical insight, Jon Jacob has reviewed the songs much more thoroughly than I have – I’m going to limit myself to a sentence or two for each. (For some even shorter comments, see Mike’s tweet-splurge.) I’ll also try to avoid commenting on the videos as we’d be here all night (some of them deserve posts of their own), but it’s hard not to let my view of the songs be swayed by them.

By way of introduction, I should add that, in this hyperconnected modern world, it’s possible that at least one of the entrants might Google for themselves and end up on this page only to find me being less than positive, so: if you catch me being mean about your song, don’t take offence – everyone else in Europe might like it.

I apologise in advance for my limited critiquing vocabulary, which will likely result in the overuse of some words and phrases, in particular: catchy, OK, nothing special, fun, dull, enough, Europop, forgettable, key change, better than X’s usual standard.

The Good
The songs that caught my eye, in alphabetical order:

  • Estonia – Some nice strings, effective backing vocals and a strong rhythm drive this atmospheric track. A dark horse. (10th favourite on Betfair.)
  • Germany – Germany goes swing and ends up with their best Eurovision song in goodness knows how long. Not a fan of the silly bit in the middle, but there’s a key change!
  • Greece – What’s this? Sakis Rouvas is back! 2004’s third placed Greek entrant (he was robbed) and 2006 co-host is once again representing Greece. It’s a fairly standard dancy pop track – I prefer Shake It from five years ago – but not worse for it. Could be in with a chance (and it’s the 2nd favourite on Betfair).
  • Hungary – Sakis is given a run for his money by Hungary’s own dancy pop from Zoli Ádok, which is a little catchier (although possibly only because the version on the BBC site was about a minute longer than it’s allowed to be on the night). Oh, I know I said I wouldn’t comment on videos but Hungary’s is the campest of the lot.
  • Norway – Habitual Eurovision failures attempt to claw back some credibility with a child-faced male Norwegian Vanessa Mae. Alexander Rybak wrote the theme tune and sings the theme tune and I can see it getting lots of actual points. (Bookies’ favourite on Betfair.)
  • Slovenia – More strings, with Quartissimo – a string quartet Il Divo – centre stage with Martina Majerle. It may be a bit of a gimmick but when did that ever cost you votes at Eurovision?
  • Sweden – You will see further down that I diss pop opera when Bulgaria did it, but Malena Ernman kind of pulls it off. Will be interesting if it catches the imagination of the audience, ‘cos if it does… (8th on Betfair.)
  • Ukraine – And nestling away in the penultimate position was this pleasant surprise. A fresh sounding production for a strong song. (5th on Betfair.)

Also worth a mention here are Belgium (with a traditional Belgian Rockabilly track that’s strangely endearing), Croatia (pretty good, as sweeping Eurovision ballads go), Ireland (girl guitar pop delivers Ireland’s first decent song in years), Montenegro (unexpectedly upbeat, energetic and fun), and Spain (another nation’s strongest song in some years, La Noche es Para Mi is a down-the-line euro dance thing so there’s something stiff competition for the down-the-line euro dance thing bloc)

The Bad
The trend for there to be relatively few abysmal entrants continues (disappointly). Nevertheless, there are some:

  • Czech Republic – First (and only?) properly off the wall act of the year. Alas, can’t see this having any success.
  • Denmark – Denmark’s answer to Ronan Keating turns in a song that’s only slightly more interesting than your average Ronan Keating track. (The correct answer to Ronan Keating is “Sorry, there’s no-one here at the moment.”) And after making that observation, I learnt from Jon Jacob’s blog that this song was actually co-written by Ronan Keating. That. Explains. Everything.
  • Netherlands – OK, so whose idea was it to squeeze some permatanned middle-aged men who seem strangely familiar but who you know you’ve never seen before into white suits and give them a silly light ray special effect on their hands? And let them record a song? And then put Obama in the video? Sheesh.
  • Serbia – I think there may have been an administrative mix-up. The Serbian entry appears to be a Two Ronnies sketch. (OK, it’s not that bad, but this section would be quite threadbare without it.)

The Boring
Some songs don’t particularly have anything wrong with them, but you still want them to be over please:

  • Bulgaria – I am not, in turns out, a fan of pop opera. Sorry, Bulgaria. I’m as disappointed as you are.
  • Israel – Just as you thought we might be spared Eurovision’s traditional outbreak of lyrical peace, love and understanding, Israel saves the day. All very worthy but I’ll be checking my watch for the next act with sequins.
  • Lithuania – Oh, it’s another worthy ballad. Next.
  • FYR Macedonia – Macedonia’s Bon Jovi fail to grab the attention with their dreary rock song.
  • Poland – My lazy comparison for Poland’s Lidia Kopania is Christina Aguilera. Dull ballad.
  • Portugal – Nice to see the band enjoying themselves. I wish I could say the same for myself. Still, nice to see an accordion out in public.
  • United Kingdom – The moment you’ve all been waiting for, where I try to be polite about the UK entry. It’s not dreadful. The afraid of/made of couplet is probably the best bit. But while Jade Ewen puts in a good performance, it’s rather shrill, all a bit one note (despite there being lots of notes in it) and, yeah, a bit dull. (6th on Betfair.)

The Rest
The rest were neither particularly good, nor particularly bad, not dull enough to be in the third group. Here are comments on a few:

  • Albania – Catchy enough, although the lyrics are pretty bland. Better than Albania’s usual standard.
  • Armenia – Starts well (is this what eastern European dance music is like?) before descending into cliched “everybody move your body” fare.
  • Azerbaijan – Very Europop. Catchy and not the first with a Shakira vibe, but ultimately forgettable. (But don’t take my word for it: it’s the 4th favourite on Betfair.)
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina – Nice little song that repeatedly hints that it’s going to take off into something great but never quite does. (Tipped by Popbitch to give Norway a run for its money, it’s 9th on Betfair.)
  • Finland – Self-proclaimed 1990s style dance pop. Which is just what the world needs more of. Does what is claims.
  • France – After surprising the world with a very good entry last year, France have returned to safe territory with this ballad. Still better than many of their entrants, with a Patricia Kaas giving it a bit of Piaf.
  • Iceland – Sweet and nicely performed but unremarkable. Best they don’t win anyway – could they afford to host it?
  • Moldova – It’s bouncy, I guess. I admit that I was starting to flag at this point. I imagine this song (“Dance of Moldova”) will have some Moldovan dancing on the night. (You can have that prediction for free.)
  • Russia – Unfortunately named singer Nastya apparently won Russia “Star Factory” competition, one of several reality TV graduates in this year’s Eurovision. It’s a plague. It’s certainly more catching than this song which demonstrates only intermittent virulence in the chorus, but not for lack of effort from Nastya.
  • Slovakia – Nice enough little duet with more of the increasingly popular string backing and a dutifully include key change.
  • Turkey – A typically competent entry from Turkey but I suspect this won’t achieve much. (I expect to have egg on face for saying that as it’s 3rd on Betfair and I’ve seen much more positive comments about it.)

So who’ll win? While I’ve based my comments on the videos, much of what happens on the nights (the semi-finals are on May 12th and 14th; the final is on the 16th) will depend on whether the performers do the songs justice and the spectacle of the performances, which can make a song memorable amongst a crowded field. I hope it’s not stating the obvious to say the outcome of the final will also depends on who gets through from the semis: will there be one big dance number for votes to coalesce around, or will they be made to split between lots of similar songs?

That said, Norway must be the favourite, and this is why:

8 Responses

  1. 1

    I gotta say my Brit Brother I agree of most you wrote.

    You forgot Croatia, Spain, Malta, of course Ireland.

  2. 2

    What a shame you didn’t like Turkey…I’ve been Dum Tek Tekking ever since I heard it! A very entertaining and comprehensive blog.

  3. 3

    Yeah, noticed on your blog that you liked that much more that I did. Maybe it will grow on me for Saturday…

  4. 4

    Will, you haven’t said A WORD about Romania, throughout your entire post… It’s a bit sad you’ve skiped it

  5. 5

    I skipped quite a few countries to avoid my duller comments. Here’s what I wrote in my notes about Romania’s entry: “More dancy europop. I can see what its merits might be but it entirely failed to win me over.”

  6. 6

    Though Sweden is my home, I can’t agree that it should belong in the ‘best of’ section. Her opera singing is of course top notch, but she did insist on doing the pop singing herself, which is a huge mistake as she absolutely cannot pull it off. Her voice won’t naturally go into the lower tones. The studio version does sound a little better, actually quite passable.
    Ahh, Portugal. It turns out be to be my favorite. It’s so genuine, and when you listen to it a few times it so grows on you. I think the acoustic version (on youtube) really shows the beauty of it. Far from boring. The lyrics are stunning as well, despite the cliche theme.

  7. 7

    I’d say this is a good run down of the acts! And I agree with most of them!
    I also had a giggle reading the finals run down from last night on this site:
    Don’t know if you’d be interested, but I found some of it quite amusing.

  8. 8

    What a shame you didn’t like Turkey…I’ve been Dum Tek Tekking ever since I heard it! A very entertaining and comprehensive blog.