43 Songs - some of them rather good, actually!
OK then, so before the events in Dusseldorf begin to unfold I thought it might be nice to have a run through the 43 runners in this year's contest. These are my thoughts on the songs prior to the start of rehearsals:
Semi Final 1
Poland – This is a cool, funky start to the 2011 proceedings. Magdalenda is great live, so I’m expecting good things from this contemporary sounding Polish entry.
Norway – who cares if Stella has slight tuning problems – this is Afro-Schlager and it’s fabulously catchy! I think this will sail into the final.
Albania – Aurela is a statuesque lady who doesn’t look like she’s gonna tolerate any nonsense from anyone! She’s also passionate in her vocal stylings...very passionate! Nice in a bizarre ethnic kind of way.
Armenia – Boom Boom indeed! Where’s Basil Brush when you need him?... being that its from Armenia expect bucket loads of votes from across Europe, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.
Turkey – Oh my - How the mighty have fallen! This is just cheap rocky trash of the kind you might have heard on a flexi disc given free in the NME in 1978. Next!
Serbia – Oh, now I’m LOVING the whole 60’s psychedelic-Dusty vibe that Nina’s got going on here! After years in the wilderness of song Serbia gets a kick in the Balkans and comes up trumps!
Russia – He might be cute but his dodgy English vocals make Dima Bilan sound almost palatable... It’s a good song, though – very modern thanks to the RedOne production. Of course he’s gonna end up Top 10.
Switzerland – Rather like driving through a long tunnel in the middle of a Swiss mountain... bland, banal and uneventful .
Georgia – Well it’s certainly lively – sadly though it’s also complete pants! Next!
Finland – Bless! A contrite little ditty about one wee boy’s mission to save the planet (possibly from Jedward). This is just simple and engaging enough to do great things in the final. A definite dark horse.
Malta – It’s Ugly Betty’s camptastic nephew Justin...only with less talent, and a very very average song.
San Marino – Senit looks like she’d be a right old party girl down the Euroclub, and I’m loving the rock chic anthem. I like this one. Lots!
Croatia – OK so “Break a leg” was a much funnier title, but you can’t beat a good bit of Euro cheese, and Daria’s serving up a veritable fondue of Croatian fromage with this jolly little belter!
Iceland – Hmmm, I think this has all the makings of a shock winner. It’s bouncy, the guys look as though they are enjoying it, and there’s a moving back story which is very cleverly reflected in the lyrics. Certainly worth an each-way bet.
Hungary – The one song guaranteed to send the whole of Europe’s queendom into a major hissy-fit if it fails to qualify. For me this has the qualities Lena had last year, a fabtastic, modern pop song – straightforward and well delivered. Fab!
Portugal – Oh Dear God! Next!
Lithuania – Sounds like it might come from a dodgy Eastern-European remake of a live-action Disney Classic, where all the wood nymphs are wearing slightly too little in the way of undergarments...
Azerbaijan – Same writing team as last year, but thankfully a far better song! However, if the engaging Aysel and Arash couldn’t win with a much stronger song two years ago, then I fail to see how the less than captivating Ell & Nikki are going to claim the title this time.
Greece – Oh how the (other) mighty have (also) fallen! This song reminds me of Cheryl and Ashley Cole – a bad marriage following an ill-conceived idea generated to achieve maximum interest, but in the end no-one really cared...
Semi Final 2
Bosnia & Herzegovina – A pleasant, cheerful little sing-along pot of Balkan homeliness, this is 10 times better than his horrid ’99 effort. Providing he ditches the naff dance performance from the presentation show then this should do very well.
Austria – Nadine looks like such a wholesome girl, full of natural goodness, rather like a bowl of Alpen. Pleasant harmonies and soulful Gospel influences make this a refreshing and different song.
Netherlands – Now you see, I hated this on first listening, but it’s really grown on me – and therein lies its trouble – it’s just not instant enough to grab voters on first hearing. The English version helps, but I think poor Holland will be stuck in the Semis once again.
Belgium – There are not enough foul words in the English language to describe my feelings towards this song. Technically competent it may be. But it’s horrible. It’s like some horrid mélange of the Swingle Singers and The Flying Pickets... Vile.
Slovakia – The first set of Twiins (sic) in this year’s contest may be the more attractive ones, but their mid-tempo American Idol reject song is insipid and dull.
Ukraine – Poor Ukraine... 17 attempts at selecting a song and they still get it SO wrong! Whilst Mika might be a reasonable singer, her song is a woefully bad, dull as ditchwater rock ballad that deserves to go nowhere other than back to Kyiv by express delivery.
Moldova – Completing what may well be the worst EVER run of four consecutive songs in any Eurovision this charmless cacophony of noise from Zdob Si Zdub (minus Granny and her Drum) is simply abhorrent...
Sweden – 8 songs in and suddenly Semi 2 kicks into gear! A high octane, breathtaking slice of perfect pop from Schlager God Fredrik Kempe, excellently delivered by Sweden’s favourite pop prince of the moment, Eric Saade. In a relatively weak year this stands out a mile as a fab entry!
Cyprus – Ooh! Now this could be interesting. I think we may well have our first final for many years without either Cyprus or Greece being present. Again, there is just nothing instant or interesting enough about this turgid ballad to make people vote.
Bulgaria – Poli is trying, rather unsuccessfully in my opinion, to be Pink. Whilst the energy and enthusiasm is there in her performance, I don’t think the song is strong enough, which is a real shame.
FYR Macedonia – Oh bless – Vlatko just fancied a couple of weeks drinking German Beer at the expense of his TV company, didn’t he? Whilst some may consider his song to be turbo-folk with an ethnic twist, I consider it to be a waste of three minutes...
Israel – The Return of The Diva! OK, so Ding Dong isn’t a great song, but Dana International is a fun and flamboyant character and Eurovision 2011 is a richer contest for that simple fact. In a weak semi final her name alone should carry her to the final.
Slovenia – This is a great song, powerfully performed by an excellent singer – it’s just such a pity that it takes almost two minutes for the song to really get into its stride.
Romania – Hoorah! An uncomplicated, instantly catchy song – well sung, great backing... Romania consistently do well in Eurovision these days, and no wonder, when they enter well pitched songs like this!
Estonia – This is superb! A quirky, twee little verse coupled with a stonking great belter of a chorus, charmingly performed by an engaging singer and you have all the ingredients of a Eurovision winner. This is a very serious challenger!
Belarus – Oh dear! This is going to be embarrassing, isn’t it? I think we know which country will give this votes...and I think it will be the ONLY country to give it votes! I’m really not sure why such blatant propaganda is being allowed. The whole concept is just daft!
Latvia – A badly dresser hairdresser and his straight pal doing Karaoke down the working men’s club on a Thursday night. Nasty 80’s trashy flashback.
Denmark – We haven’t had a good Eurovision anthem for a while now, and this is more than good. The band perform this feel-good track well and I expect to see this well up the Top 10 on the Saturday night.
Ireland – Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, Jedward are going to bring a media frenzy to Dusseldorf, and let’s face it, the song is WAY better than anyone was ever expecting! If Dana could win with a catchy song and whole load of press coverage, then there is no reason to believe the Grimes brothers can’t!
France – This is class! A classically trained tenor with a superb voice belting out an aria that is so different to anything else in this contest. I predict Top 3, and a close fight for the Grand Prix for La Belle France this year.
Italy – I like this is a nostalgic 40’s jazzy, bluesy kind of way – but for Eurovision in 2011 this just doesn’t have a prayer. What on earth were RAI thinking when they selected this as their big comeback?
United Kingdom – The first time I saw this performed on Graham Norton’s show the hair stood up on the back of my neck... The last time that happened to me with a UK entry was in 1997... I think this is the PERFECT song for the UK after the past few years. I only hope it gets the result it deserves (which, secretly, I think it will!)
Germany – Wow! This is a fantastic slice of pure 80’s electro-pop which is just the right side of sinister to keep the audience transfixed. I thought Satellite was good, but this – this is SUPERB!
Spain – Joyful, harmless, Mediterranean fun from our Iberian cousins. This will have the punters downing the sangria and kicking up their flip-flops in all the tavernas of Benidorm!
I think it’s gonna be a tight one this year, but I see the Top 5 on the Saturday night comprising of France, Denmark, The United Kingdom, Estonia and Azerbaijan. If I was to predict how they will finish then I’m going to suggest the following:
1st United Kingdom
So there you have it. Dust down the Union Flags and get ready to wave them proudly in Dusseldorf chaps... I think Eurovision’s coming home!