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Eurovision 2014: The final May 10

The time has almost come to find out who’ll be crowned this year’s Eurovision Song Contest champion and there are plenty of countries being tipped. Will it be the early favourite Armenia? Can Sweden retake the title two years after their last victory? Momentum is building for the Netherlands after Tuesday’s semi-final, while Austria’s entrant wowed the arena on Thursday. Could Hungary achieve their first win? Or will our strongest entry in a decade bring the competition back to the UK in 2015?

In semi-final 1, we said goodbye to Latvia, Estonia, Albania, Belgium, Moldova and Portugal, and in semi-final 2 we lost Israel, Georgia, Lithuania, Ireland and Macedonia (so my prediction was 80% right!). One of the down sides of the semi-final process is that some of the more characterful, extravagant, ridiculous or comically bad entries for which Eurovision is notorious get weeded out – but don’t worry, there’s still plenty of idiosyncrasy in tonight’s show.

  1. Ukraine – And the idiosyncrasy starts here, with a cunning ruse to distract us from the song using an attractive man performing gymnastics in a giant hamster wheel. It works and this song, with lyrics as Eurovisionly banal as its possible to create, came off better than I expected during its appearance in the first semi-final. It’s a fun bit of nonsense but even extra geopolitical sympathy votes are unlikely to propel this to the top of the table.
  2. Belarus – While Latvia’s cake song was relegated on Tuesday, Teo’s Cheesecake made it through to the final two days later, ensuring bake-off fans still have something to slaver over. It would benefit from losing the very dated pop culture references and the air of Robin Thicke.
  3. Azerbaijan – It’s the Year of the Classy Ballad, and Dilara is the first of several female vocalists vying for that vote. Start a Fire is hard to criticise but it has some stiff competition and, despite the name, the fire never quite gets going.
  4. Iceland – Iceland’s cartoonish Pollapönk were a surprise qualifier for the final. Their message of tolerance is very welcome but the song itself is a bit of a mess, jumping jarringly from reasonable verse to laboured chorus, then diverging, to its credit, into a disco break and a key change. My favourite lyric is indicative of the rest of the song: “Even if you’re taller / Or someone who is smaller / Or perhaps you’re thinner / Or one who loves his dinner.”
  5. Norway – I have warmed to Carl Espen’s ballad over the last few days. A strong performance in the second semi-final saw this rightly through. It’s sung well and nicely put together but it remains at the duller end of tonight’s spectrum.
  6. Romania – Paula and Ovi attempt to distract us with a hologram and a novelty keyboard (Ovi’s fingerwork fooling nobody), but it detracts from rather than enhances this middling track. It’s an OK song but OK just isn’t going to cut it.
  7. Armenia – Armenia was the early favourite and while Aram MP3’s odds may have lengthened, he is still definitely in the running. I wasn’t too impressed by his performance on Tuesday which contributed to my view that this is style over substance: it’s the crescendo, the build, the dramatic final minute, the fireworks on stage – but cut that away and the song has little to it.
  8. Montenegro – With Norway, this makes up the pair of male vocal ballads in the final. It comes alive towards the end but is the weaker of the two songs and could well be forgotten – and with most other Balkan countries not taking part this year, it can’t rely on its neighbours for easy votes.
  9. Poland - This was the one I didn’t expect to go through on Thursday, when it was notably popular with the live audience, but I hadn’t counted on the vote-winning attractions of live, busty butter churning. Or maybe it was the music. (Or maybe it was the butter.) It’s fun and bawdy but not much a song.
  10. Greece – I was worried for this in its semi-final after some sound issues at the start but I needn’t have been: the boys done good and now find themselves in the final. It’s upbeat, it’s positive, it’s funky (I still feel embarrassed to use the word) and there’s nothing else like it in the contest. It could sink or it could do extremely well. I hope it’s the latter.
  11. Austria – There was an almighty roar in the area on Thursday night when Conchita Wurst was announced as the last act to reach the final. The crowd loved her and another strong performance tonight would definitely put her in contention for the prize. Rise Like a Phoenix is another ballad but with a James Bond theme sensibility. It oozes with style. Conchita will appeal to viewers for her singing voice and for her beard, which will ensure no-one forgets her when it comes time to decide who to vote for. What’s the Wurst that could happen?
  12. Germany – As one of the Big Five moneyed countries, Germany automatically qualifies for the final. This is the weakest of the five. The lyrics are banal but there’s a folksy, middle of the road charm to it. It shouldn’t trouble the top ten.
  13. Sweden – I’ve liked Undo more every time I’ve heard it and Tuesday night’s performance was a stonker – aided but some extremely effective stage lighting. Sanna Nielsen is a veteran of the Swedish Melodifestivalen, qualifying after numerous attempts, and her set in Copenhagen’s “Eurovision Village”, which I caught on Wednesday afternoon, proved she’s a very talented singer. Expect a strong placing.
  14. France – We move into the second half with the second of the Big Five, and the most eccentric. You don’t need to speak French to understand that TWIN TWIN’s song is about a man’s desire for a moustache. Whether or not that’s a euphemism, only they know, but the choice of syllable to emphasise does needlessly bug me. It’s a simple but infectious number and I’m looking forward to seeing if the staging is as odd as the song.
  15. Russia – The audience applauded Russia’s performance politely on Tuesday but it was the announcement that the Tolmachevy Sisters had made it to the final that brought boos. Away from the geopolitical context, there is of course nothing sinister about two clean cut, photogenic blonde girls singing about a star rising in the east. In context, though… It’s one of the weaker vocal performances (although perhaps, ahem, assisted from the wings) and the song itself sounds like a hundred Eurovision entries before it.
  16. Italy – The third automatic qualifier is Emma Marrone’s upbeat and rhythmical La Mia Città. It’s not at all bad but will struggle to stand out.
  17. Slovenia – Tinkara’s successful semi-final appearance on Thursday confirmed my view that this is a cracker, the (admittedly obvious) rotating camera work and stage images effectively reinforcing the song (Round and Round). It begins with a flute, played, as is now required, by the singer, but don’t worry – it’s a cunning ruse! The song is a thoroughly modern pop track and deserves to do well.
  18. Finland – High school students Softengine are the only guitar band in the contest so their brand of Brandon Flowers will be looking to conquer that section of the audience. Something Better does that competently but it’s rarely been a winning approach at Eurovision.
  19. Spain – The fourth song from the Big Five is performed by Ruth Lorenzo, who was apparently on The X-Factor when Softengine were still at primary school. It’s another classy ballad from a female solo artist whose lungs will be going full whack at the end but it’s now a crowded market.
  20. SwitzerlandHunter of Stars is a jolly, catchy song you can whistle along to and Sebalter is a charismatic singer. I’m glad this reached the final but it did feel a little lost in the huge arena on Thursday. Switzerland haven’t broken the top 10 since 2005 and last won with Céline Dion back in 1988 so this could give them one of their better results of the last 20 years.
  21. Hungary – Now this has to be in the Running to win. Andr´s was the last to perform on Tuesday and his energetic performance and strong song immediately leapt into contention. Like Armenia, it starts gently and builds but, unlike Armenia, it gets to the point quickly and has proper depth. Dark lyrics with an upbeat dance backing? One for an each way bet.
  22. Malta – Turn down your Mumford detectors unless you want to break them – here’s Malta and the twee-est song of the night. It’s cheesy but it stands out and you might find your foot tapping despite yourself.
  23. Denmark – As last year’s winner, Denmark also gets a free pass to the final – which is good news for the hosts as this song would have been at risk of not qualifying. It’s a wannabe Timberlake performing nonsense lyrics that quote Katy Perry. As clichéd as its title suggests, its closest competition is Belarus, whose laid back approach makes it the better of the two. I heard some drunk Danes singing this in the streets of Copenhagen but the only two who expressed an opinion to me were embarrassed by it.
  24. Netherlands – I misunderestimated the popularity of Calm After the Storm, which is up against with Malta for the country music audience. It’s a perfectly respectable track but more calm than storm. It’s absolutely perfect for Radio 2, which you may interpret as you will.
  25. San Marino – It was fantastic to see Valentina Monetta reach the final on her third attempt. Two years ago she tried with The Social Network Song (urgh) but it’s Maybe that’s done the job – and guess what? It’s a classy ballad. It’s not going to win the Battle of the Ballads but top marks for effort.
  26. There’s one more song to go and one more of the Big Five left. Yep, it’s the United Kingdom with our best song in years – and possibly our best chance since 1997, although there’s some stiff competition. After two unsuccessful attempts to mine the Singers’ Retirement Home, the BBC has found in Molly Smitten-Downes a talented singer-songwriter – which is what they should have been looking for all along. I was at the first public performance of Children of the Universe and there was genuine excitement when the audience realised this year’s entry would be a song that is, you know, actually good. Plus we’re trumping all those old Eurovision songs about us being children of the same world by going for the whole universe. A good performance tonight – and word is that’s what we got in the jury final yesterday – and we could be top 5 for onl the second time since 2002. Touch wood.

So there are the 26 songs. The organisers have revealed the voting order, which is supposed to make the voting as “exciting as possible” based on the jury results already in. This has put Slovenia last – which could be a sign that it’s between Austria and Hungary.

While we can expect some of the usual tit-for-tat voting (which exists of course, but only impacts on the lower orders), there are some interesting differences from past years. With Cyprus not taking part this year, Greece loses a bankable 12 points. None of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia qualified, so where will their votes go? And will the female-led ballads split the votes, opening the way for Hungary, Armenia or even the UK?

Answers from 8pm.

Eurovision 2014: Semi-final 2 May 08

Hello from Copenhagen!

My first experience of Eurovision up close on Tuesday was terrific fun and we found ourselves sitting right behind the “green room” with a great view of the acts. The favourites got through, the main surprise qualifiers for me being Iceland and the Netherlands. I was gutted to see Moldova go, but there’s a replacement Bond theme waiting in the wings tonight, ready to rise from the ashes…

In one sense it’s marginally easier for the acts in the second semi-final as only five, rather than six, will be knocked out of the contest. But on balance I’d say the competition is tougher, with more strong songs in the running. Let’s look at who they are.

  1. Malta – We start with this year’s obligatory tribute to Mumford and Sons, for Malta do love their tweeness. It’s cheesy – even more so when you add the schmaltzy video – but at least it will differentiate itself from everything else.
  2. Israel – Mei Finegold delivers toe-tapping anger with a big-lunged key change. And that’s all I really want from a Eurovision song.
  3. Norway – It’s worthy and your man can sing. So no, it does nothing for me. A little bit haunting and a little bit boring.
  4. Georgia – So. Based on the video, a group of ageing hippies got drunk at a barbecue and decided to put together a Eurovision entry, couldn’t agree on a song so decided to play three at the same time, and coerced a family friend – who felt too polite to refuse – into improvising some vocals on top. Based on the song itself, I reach the same conclusion. It has moments of musical interest but overall it’s rather baffling.
  5. Poland – This one’s fun and insistent if a little bawdy. Will split the audience down the middle. Possibly with an axe.
  6. Austria – With Moldova gone, the path is clear for this year’s other Bond theme – and you can hear the style from the opening note to the final sting. It’s Conchita Wurst, the bearded lady, and that alone will help this to stick in the voters’ collective memories. Plus she’s got a good set of lungs on her. With a strong staging, Rise Like a Phoenix could do very well indeed.
  7. LithuaniaAttention grabs exactly that, but not for the right reasons. The official recording is better than the national final recording, which was pretty awful. This could well go the way of Latvia and Estonia – i.e. home.
  8. Finland – The contest is light on guitar bands this year but Softengine do a creditable, sub-Killers job of filling the gap. Cornering the market may see it through.
  9. IrelandHeartbeat starts off somewhere south of the Corrs but it’s enjoyable, if forgettable, once it gets a pulse. Not a patch on last year’s Irish entry but that came last in the final, so what do I know?
  10. Belarus – Return of the cake! This reminds me of Pasha Parfany’s Lautar, Moldova’s 2012 entry, although it’s not as good. The clumsy pop culture references in Cheesecake will date badly but it’s laid back and fun – although I could do without the touch of Robin Thicke. As it were.
  11. Macedonia – An OK bit of Eurodance.
  12. Switzerland – You do know how to whistle, don’t you? If you do, now’s the time to join in. Sebalter is massively endearing and the song is good, catchy fun. I hope it makes it to the final.
  13. Greece – I should hate this. Really, I should. It’s funky (although I feel embarrassed to use the word), it’s upbeat, it’s positive, and while it might not be the absolute freshest sound, it’s certainly within its Use By date. If you told me this was a new act from London rather than a Eurovision entry, I’d believe you, and that’s high praise indeed.
  14. Slovenia – This is a cracker. It kicks off with a flute that will make your heart sink, but fear not – it was a cunning ruse! It bursts into life as a thoroughly modern pop track. Tinkara deserves a place in the final, but if not, at least there’ll be a place in the Sugababes.
  15. Romania – And finally, it’s an above average pop track, boosted by some powerful vocals. I can’t remember how it goes but there’s a circular keyboard to distract you.

And that’s your lot, apart from an interval act that will see Autralia’s first participation in the contest – discounting Olivia Newton-John’s fourth place for the UK in 1974, of course.

I’m not one to predict but I could see the eliminated five including Georgia, Poland, Lithuania, Ireland and Macedonia. I may be live tweeting (on @willhowells) but I’m in the standing section this time so I may be busy dancing. Or just be too hemmed in by gays enjoying the semi.

Eurovision 2014: Semi-final 1 May 06

It’s Eurovision time!

Of course you have Saturday’s final circled in your calendar, but don’t forget that before we can tackle the main event, we have to whittle 31 countries down to 20. With two fewer countries taking part this year, the entrants stand a marginally better chance of making it through to their semi-final – but all the more gutting for the 11 who don’t. The 10 successful countries from each semi-final will join the Big Five – France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK – alongside last year’s winner Denmark in the final.

The UK can’t vote in the first semi-final – so don’t even try – but the show will be broadcast live on BBC Three. I won’t be watching on BBC Three though because – touch wood – I’ll be sitting in the Alexander Rybak stand in the hall watching it in person. Oh yes.

Contenders, ready!

  1. Armenia – And we’re straight in with one of the favourites. If you didn’t know already that this song is called Not Alone, you will once you’ve heard the phrase repeated – and I’ve counted – 32,000 times during three minutes. It’s a builder and its popularity rather rests on a textbook crescendo – although this also means that a third of the song is pretty dramatic, but only a third of it. I’m not a fan of Aram MP3’s voice (or his questionable views) but this will surely make it through to the final.
  2. Latvia – Eurovision is, of course, famous for its more eccentric entries and you don’t have to wait long to find one of this year’s. It’s called Cake to Bake. It’s about baking a cake, alongside an eclectic range of other activities (including working with Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones) that a less charitable commentator might suggest add up to a nonsense song. There’s an outside chance that Cake to Bake could be a euphemism but it genuinely seems to be about baking. The music uses one of the most hackneyed chord progressions there is, giving the overall impression of a song thrown together at the last minute when someone woke up hung over and realised the deadline was about to pass. My jaw dropped when I first heard this. And yet, you’ll still be humming it tomorrow.
  3. Estonia – An OK, upbeat ditty from Estonia, although you may tire of it before it ends.
  4. Sweden – Sanna Nielsen’s Undo is another favourite and particularly popular among the Eurovision fan clubs across the continent. It’s an upmarket ballad, performed well and, like so many songs every year, livens up once it gets going. I like it much more now than I did the first time I heard it – but at Eurovision, first impressions count.
  5. Iceland – There is a specific category of Eurovision song: the well-meaning polemic. There is another category: the “fun” band. Draw the Venn diagram of the two and Iceland’s Pollapönk sit squarely in the intersection. The song is called No Prejudice, which may give you the subtlest of hints what its message is. Its intentions are good and the verses are passable but – after an uncomfortable segue – the chorus makes it sound like a theatre group performing a morality play at a primary school. A disco breaks and a key change can’t make up for that.
  6. Albania – This is straightforward although the melody comes and goes. There’s a nice if outdated guitar solo then the whole thing goes a bit Evanescence.
  7. Russia – Ah, Russia. Everyone’s favourite European country at the moment. No surprises that they’re going as clean cut and photogenic as possible with the Tolmachevy Sisters – who would want to boo them? The song itself is gentle and inconsequential – and sounds like a hundred Eurovision entries before it.
  8. AzerbaijanStart a Fire is another simple, classy ballad. It’s perfectly pleasant enough but, despite its name, the fire never catches light.
  9. Ukraine – I really shouldn’t like Ukraine’s Tick-Tock. The lyrics alone – “Tick-Tock, my heart is like a clock” – should be enough to send them packing. And yet it’s a by-the-numbers pop track so it’s difficult not to enjoy despite yourself. There’s a bit of whistling, of which more later in the contest, and a hamster wheel reminiscent of Svetlana’s 2009 entry. Catchy nothingness.
  10. Belgium – Ah, yes. So, Belgium. Axel Hirsoux seems like a nice chap. He’s got a tailored dinner jacket and a great singing voice. This is a heartfelt ballad. But everyone – and I mean everyone – is going to go away thoroughly disturbed and wondering about the exact nature of the his relationship with his mother. After all, a boy’s best friend is his mother.
  11. Moldova – “Let the sky fall…” Wild Soul is the first of the contest’s two wannabe Bond themes and it’s lucky for Moldova that the other is in Thursday’s semi-final. Like a good Bond theme, it’s an echoing ballad with some darting strings, a syncopated chorus and a strong female vocal. Like a good Eurovision song, it’s got a cracking key change. It might not be a favourite but I want it to do well.
  12. San Marino – Valentina’s back, for the third year in a row representing San Marino, a country so small it only has one singer. Received wisdom is that this doesn’t reach the dizzy heights of 2011’s The Social Network Song. It doesn’t exactly stand out but this is actually my favourite of her three songs and it’s about time she finally made it to the final. Despite the spoken bit.
  13. Portugal – This conjures up the feeling of sipping cocktails on a cheap package tour on the Iberian peninsula, which you can take either way. It might be the lacklustre production but the song doesn’t quite gel – but at least has the decency to end on a high.
  14. NetherlandsCalm After the Storm is the Netherlands’ answer to Islands in the Stream. Tired now. Next.
  15. Montenegro – Ethnic flutes. Middle aged man singing lonely ballad. Come on, Balkans, it’s time to break the cycle. And this is one of the better ones.
  16. Hungary – It might sound facetious but I’m being completely serious when I say that András Kállay-Saunders has pulled off the impossible: a dark, depressing song about domestic abuse that you can dance to. Any questions about the subject matter are dispelled by the official video, which pulls no punches. What’s more, it’s a pretty good song and should do well.

There we go. Only 6 of these well be sent packing. The other 10 we’ll meet again on Saturday. And on Thursday 15 more songs will vie for the last 10 places…

Eurovision 2012: The final May 26

It’s today! It’s the final! I have booze, I have Euro snacks, and I have time for some snark before it all kicks off.

We’ve come this far together. One more night. Let’s see at who’s made it through the rigours of the two semi-finals (I mean the acts, not you and I) and look at the line-up for tonight’s Euromusic spectacular. No pussyfooting about – this is Truth.

  1. Arnold DorseyUnited Kingdom – As Arnold Dorsey (call him by his name) himself points out, Love Can Set You Free is a grower. Unfortunately, most of the voting public will see it just once, plus a few recaps. I’m still no fan of the key change in this but on a night with a shocking shortage of key changes, it’s more than welcome. I’ve no doubt Arnold (call him by his name) will belt it out of the arena, in one of the most understated productions of the night, but will that be enough for us to see the contest coming the UK next year? No, no it won’t.
  2. Hungary‘s song Sound of Our Hearts is one of my favourites and I was most pleased to see it get through to the final. While Tuesday’s live performance didn’t quite bring the power of the recorded version, this is still a nice catchy number from the oh-so-wittily named Compact Disco.
  3. Rona Nishliu from Albania has quite the pair of lungs on her. That epic shrieking was very much present in the semi-final and clearly impressed the voters. If you have ear defenders, I’d put them on before she gets going..
  4. Speaking of health and safety, I hope there’s been a proper risk assessment of wearing a blindfold on stage. Lithuania – Donny Montell is a tricksy little man. “Look at my power ballad” he says, tempting you in, and then BOOM he’s swiping you with his up tempo song about the blindness of love. This was one of the two I voted for in the second semi-final Watch out for some seriously sub-Fizz attire removal.
  5. Bosnia and Herzegovina rightly made it through the final but there’s not much memorable about this perfectly creditable piano number to suggest it will win through. MayaSar is one of several female acts competing in the parallel game of Who’s Got Servalan‘s Best Outfit?
  6. It’s no surprise that Russia made it to the final with their heady mix of crap singing and crap dancing. At least the grannies appear to be having fun, but bear in mind that they want to lure you to their gingerbread house and then bake you in their oven. You don’t want that, do you? No, of course you don’t. (On a side note: when I suggested on Twitter on Tuesday that homophobic Russia may not be an ideal host country for the next Eurovision, someone replied that they didn’t think Russia was homophobic. This from Human Rights Watch is just one quickly Googled reason to disagree with them.)
  7. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love Iceland‘s atmospheric duet, with its dramatic lyrics and vibrant fiddling. Sadly, the foreboding silence in the middle of the song that’s in the video didn’t make it to the (tough) live realisation, but it is another song to feature one of tonight’s rare key changes, so cherish it.
  8. Cyprus‘s own Catherine Zeta Jones has gone up in my estimation thanks to her performance on what looked like a dry stone wall in the first semi-final and I was pleased to see this get through. It’s pretty standard Eurodance but catchy and fun and I wouldn’t be surprised if it does well.
  9. Whistle and I’ll come to you, my France. The song is strong, original and interesting. The performance is very much targeted at the gays. The danger for Anggun is that eyes are on the topless gymnasts when ears should be on her singing. Well, that’s one danger. The other is that she gets concussion. You’ll see why.
  10. France is immediately followed by another of the Big Five nations, the recently returned Italy. Nina Zilli has picked a style that will stand out from the crowd, although I’m still finding the transition from verse to chorus jarring. I hope this does well, as it’s been tipped, not least because I’ve drawn it to win in the office Eurovision sweepstake.
  11. Estonia was the other country I voted for in the second semi. It’s a nice little ballad, with no snazzy production of gimmicks, carried by a strong performance from Ott Lepland. That said, I’d be surprised if it finishes very high and you may be happy never to hear the word “Kuula” again by the end.
  12. I can picture the discussion at Norway Eurovision Towers (every country has a Eurovision Towers): “That guy from Sweden was good last year.” “Eric Saade.” “Yeah. Do you think he’d enter for us this year?” “I doubt it.” “Oh, why not?” “Well, for one thing he’s Swedish.” “OK, then. Launch a national Eric Saade lookalike contest, give the winner Eric Saade’s clothes and make the him represent us at Eurovision singing a not-quite-as-good-as-2011’s-Popular pop number. Do you think you can do that?” “Actually, I think I know just the man…” This track sounds like something Madonna rejected a decade ago. It’s fine, although I’m still not a fan of the rasping synths and I’d happily exchange it for a Popular or a Manboy.
  13. Azerbaijan were last year’s winners and so automatically qualify for this year’s final. I’m not sure When the Music Dies would be hear otherwise. Look out for the old man sitting on the glass coffee table. I kid you not.
  14. Romania present three minutes of unremarkable jollity. The bagpipe player appears to be a scientist from The War Games.
  15. I was surprised Denmark‘s tiresome entry made it to the final. This is just a middle of the road as it was on Tuesday, except this time I’ve already sat through it once. It’s called Should’ve Known Better and yes, Tuesday’s voters, you should’ve. On the plus side, one of her backing singers has a lovely armchair.
  16. Good news if Denmark left you slumping in your own armchair – it’s Greece! This is Eurovision by the book and is all the better for it. Catchy, upbeat and fun. I wonder if any wags on Twitter will manage to come up with a joke about the Greek debt crisis when this is on? Maybe a suggestion that Greece couldn’t afford to host the contest next year? I doubt anyone’s thought of that yet so it’ll be pretty funny.
  17. Won’t somebody rid me of this euphoric Swede? The Eurovision fans have apparently been in quite the priapic state about this for months and I genuinely don’t know why. Is it because she has frizzy hair? Is it because this is the most generic “euphoria” track ever recorded and also called Euphoric? Bring back Eric Saade (see above). I shan’t eat my words if this wins, because I’ll still be baffled, but I don’t believe it will win so ner. Britain, DO NOT VOTE FOR THIS.
  18. I expect the next song to produce a fairly poor result for Turkey, although it will pick up some votes from fans of capes and stereotypically gay leather caps. It fills three minutes but the only thing memorable about it is a particularly create piece of nautical choreography.
  19. Spain is another Big Five country with a bye to the final. It’s pretty good, although it might stand a better chance if Spain would accept the hegemony of the English language rather than stubbornly entering song after song in whatever their national language is. Extra points will be available for potentially the best key change of the night.
  20. Our final Big Five entry is from Germany, whose track is the one that would sound most at home in the British charts. This isn’t surprising when you learn that Jamie Cullum is now working against the UK, having written this ditty for singer Roman Lob. It’s one of the last ballads in the contest, which may stand it in good stead, and Not Being Very Eurovision did no harm at all to 2010’s German winner Lena.
  21. MaltaThis is the Night reminds me of Sakis Rouvas’s Greek entry This is Our Night from 2009, which isn’t a big problem. Malta have a habit of entering tedious ballads so this marks a pleasant change of tack, although you may, like me, feel like slapping everyone on the stage and shouting into their stupid faces that there is no Hoxton in Malta.
  22. FYR Macedonia – This faux ballad kicks into gear just in time, turning into a nicely rocky number with some electric guitar and strings to drive it home. With all of the big guitar bands knocked out, this may fill a niche.
  23. 1980s training montage! It’s Ireland and yes, it’s Jedward. For some reason, despite them representing a country that is not the UK (their own choice), the BBC presenters keep encouraging us to get behind Jedward. I might get behind them if they were standing on some kind of high ledge, but otherwise, no thanks. This song could do well if they manage a reasonable live performance – and they have quite the outfits and staging, not to mention the backing singers, to distract from their singing.
  24. Serbia‘s misfortune at being early in their semi-final is offset but healthy late position in the final. This is another ballad that takes a while to get going – many of its brethren having been cast aside in the qualifying round – but it could do all right if the voters are in the mood. I doubt I shall care much by this point.
  25. Ukraine – This one’s not for me. It’s upbeat enough but I don’t like the syncopated synths and fake strings. It’s also mostly the same three words over and over again.
  26. It’s the last song! And thankfully Moldova have a good one. It’s cheerful, fun, has a nice ska jazz thing, a good instrumental bit and is all about how he’s going to a woo a lady with his trumpet. Also, the singer looks like he could do a bit of DIY if you needed it. The only points off are for a teasing almost-but-not-a-key-change moment (plus Moldova’s another country with issues.)

To assist in any scoring you wish to do, I have prepared a Eurovision 2012 scoresheet. You may find this useful if you wish to shun such nonsense categories as “Costume” or “Choreography” and focus on what the content is really about.

And that’s that. See you at 8pm on BBC One. In the immortal words of Delia Smith: “Let’s be ‘avin’ you! Come on!”

Update: So congratulations to Sweden for winning. I’m still bemused but it’s a nice, progressive country and one that takes its Eurovisioning seriously. I’d happily spend a bit of May there next year given half a chance. At least it wasn’t the Russian grannies. And very bad luck to Arnold, who came undeservedly second from last but did a great job on the night.

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