From Moscow to Oslo then and with Norway’s solid financial resources it promised to be another overwhelming and impressive show. They were quite on target the last time round so surely they’d hit the nail on the head again. And with a fresh little popsong like ‘Fairytale’ winning things looked bright for Lady Eurovision on a musical level as well. Or are we getting ahead of ourselves?
Bubbles, bubbles everywhere! Representing the Eurovision bubble, I presume that’s a silly coincidence? They provide a great dynamic, certainly in the introduction movie which builds up the Europe-is-having-a-celebration atmosphere very well. And they’re used very effectively in the logo and other visual materials. But by the end of the show I had just a bout enough of them in the country shapes and flags, a little bit more diversity would have been great. Which is a valid remark for the entire show as well NRK decided to tone things down after the Russian bombast because of the European financial crisis but I say: give the people their bread and games! Such a demure approach was a bit sad to watch really. Not that NRK didn’t provide quality tv, on the contrary: I think the show went very smooth (except for the intruder during Spain, such a DISGRACE for such a big event), the direction was dynamic and the lighting nothing short of fantastic. It had to be really, there was little else to provide a bit of dynamic – not counting those limited props in the same bubbly style that gave a strange ’80s vibe. Three hosts this time (Haddy N’jie, Erik Solbakken & Nadia Hasnaoui) and I fail to see why: the one’s even more charmless than the other. Not enough spontaneity for me – just think of that lame interview with Graham Norton mid-show which sums it all up. I expected more to be honest – or were we just too spoiled by the Russians?
Musically we were quite spoiled in 2009 as well and in Eurovision a good year is usually followed by a lame one, though we hoped with a winner like Alexander Rybak the tides would turn. They didn’t entirely but some improvement was noticed anyhow. In the final anyway, both semis did contain a lot of dumpbin material but again I’d have to say Europe eliminated the right ones. Except for these two perhaps:
The One That Got Away Semi 1: Slovakia – Horehronie
A lovely composition with a lot of potential that didn’t translate at all in this live rendition that is simply too demure. And how Ruslana is that act? A bit more of an own identity would have done the trick, both for the act and the almost shy Kristina Pelakova.
The One That Got Away Semi 2: Croatia – Lako je sve
A toss-up between this one and Lithuania (Sweden was rightfully out for me with their sterile lullaby) and as the Lithuanian funk was too repetitive I’m going for this screamfest. One of my favorites beforehand but Femminem (still hate that name) butchered it live. And I’m not even talking about the timing issue at the start. The visual package is just a mess and they’re screaming to be the loudest of them all – less is more, ladies. I still like it in studio though.
Luckily the final provided much more solid entertainment than both semis – if not for all the right reasons. Take, here they are again (!!!), the United Kingdom for example. Have you ever seen carcrash television this tragic? Josh Dubovie was in way over his head really. I love how dead silent the audience is from the get go and how desperate Josh tries to win them over while losing confidence with each passing note – until those awful closing notes. Shame on you, BBC, shame on you. Not that Belarus and their outdated tune were much better (just iemaygien those butterfly wings). Or that other Brit, the sympathetic Jon Lilygreen, who packed a simple song with a flat chorus – I hate the cliché way the backings are integrated and those synthesizer strings that come up halfway through sound very artificial. My, the synths are quickly replacing the electric guitar solo as my pet peeve!
France might work in a football stadium or at a party but in Eurovision? It came across très weird to me with that peculiar choreo – everything was a bit all over the place really. Jessy Matador and his enthusiasm were cute enough, but alas. The third one of the Big Four that didn’t cut it for me is Spain with a snooze of a song and a snooze of a performance – kuddos to Daniel Diges though for keeping his professional cool through the disturbance first time round though. As per exception (…) one of the Big Four actually did get it right. Surprise surprise!
At the back of the middle field we find Portugal (she’s got music student written all over her + there’s the chin), Norway (John Stamos in a Cheesier-than-Cheesy Ballad), Ireland (this ain’t 1993 no more, not very exciting at all) and Serbia (I don’t think this is what Goran Bregović had in mind). A lot of ballads there, was Yohanna thàt influential? Israel’s Harel Skaat did a bit better but his Milim was a bit heavy at hand (and thàt note didn’t help him). Other ones that were heavy but more on a visual level were Georgia and Armenia, ruining rather decent mid-tempo songs by throwing so much in the performance mix nothing worked anymore. I repeat: less is more.
Take a look at Bosnia-Herzegovina for example, playing mainly on the sinister atmosphere with the lighting and superb backing vocals. Pity about that contrived electric guitar solo (insert look of eyes rolling into back of head). Or the Greek performance, focusing on the power in their cleverly produced entry – quite homo-erotic really and i’m sure that wasn’t a coincidence. Hate the bridge though. Good performance from Turkey as well but the thing with the robot’s a bit forced (love the alternative fireworks mid song though) and while I really like the chorus and the production something’s lacking for me in the verses. Call me picky anytime you want.
Some quality stuff there but for great entertainment we need to take a closer look at the top ten – here are the points of the Dimivision jury:
1 point: Belgium – Me & my guitar
They really did a great job on focusing on Tom Dice‘s natural charms – everything that felt forced about the presentation of the song mid February was resolved in a clever way and Tom comes across exactly as I remember from interviewing him in Zaandam at Eurovision In Concert. Very down-to-earth, much like his song really and the combination was a great match. Not too sure about the high bits I have to say but I was happy to see him standing there with so much confidence and getting that reception. Pity about the sweat stains though… But he remains a hero over here for getting us back in the final and getting such a fab result.
2 points: Moldova – Run away
Does anyone actually get what they’re singing about? Again a disturbing accent ruining what could have been a very powerful entry but I iemaygien (got it?) all over Europe eyebrows were lifted in support to a staggering “what the hell?”. Great vocals on Olia Tira but Sergei Yalovitsky blows her out of the water. Great styling as well I have to say, it all comes across quite modern, certainly for – dare a say this – a country like Moldova (prejudiced much?). And of course there’s Epic Sax Guy. Great three minutes of entertainment basically.
3 points: Albania – It’s all about you
I interviewed Juliana Pasha in Zaandam as well and I remember her feeling out of her comfort zone and I see that hadn’t changed by the time she got to Oslo. Why is she standing so still, feet firmly fixated to the floor? Does much harm to this dynamic pop song I have to say, much like her severe black outfit. Does her strict faith prohibit her to dress up more lively? I suppose she wanted to put the focus on her vocals and while she’s a very powerful singer she does sound a tad sharp at times and that heavy accent (“joe aar de wan”) doesn’t help either. GREAT backing vocals though (dressed in black as well!!). Could’ve done with a breath of fresh air.
4 points: Iceland – Je ne sais quoi
There’s always room for a bit of schlager and leave it to Hera Björk to come up with a prime example of the genre. After her sad silver place in the Danish final in 2009 with the fab Someday this feals a bit like a cheap rip-off but it still has me tapping along. She’s an impressive appearance and I see what they’re trying to do with the styling but a reference to the at-the-time active Eyjafjallajökull is simply inevitable. I love how they put a bit of movement in the choreo (though every time she moves my brains automatically adds the sound of the approaching T-Rex in Jurassic Park – I know, bad Dimi, but I blame the styling) and the whole thing simply bounces off the screen for me really.
5 points: Azerbaijan – Drip drop
You can just feel their hunger to win, can’t you? It’s as if they’re trying to create this magical formula and this time they’re not too far off the mark actually, even though it’s got too much going on to really get it over the finish line. The stairs with the lighting effect, the backings and the dancer are all adding to the atmosphere, which is supported in a fantastic way by a terrific light show by NRK I must say, but the interaction between Safura and the dancer feels forced, the running up and down the catwalk was unnecessary and the light effects on the dress are simply cheap/stupid/over the top (scratch what doesn’t fit). But don’t we all love Safura? Sure, she’s the handpuppet of the team team behind this entry but the way she throws herself at the song is slightly Diva-esque – those sideway glances and the swooshing of the hair: top notch. And they masqued the disastrous high note very well in the soundmix. Again: great entertainment – maybe not the way they intended it, but hey.
6 points: Denmark – In a moment like this
Copy paste of that last sentence for Azerbaijan. With all the fuss about the relation between Chanée & N’Evergreen (competing with Feminnem for worst artist name) – are they lovers/haters/friends/frenemies – this came across rather standard actually. Loving the thing with the shadows and the screen (Lithuania 2007 in a more dynamic and effective setting) and the moving plates covered by dry ice (more effective in the semi though) but once they’re walking hand in hand it all dies a bit for me. Loving the harmonies though and I’m still waiting for this to make it to Singstar on PS3 *tapping fingers impatiently* Schlagertastic all in all.
7 points: Germany – Satellite
I wanted a breath of fresh air and surprisingly enough it’s Germany providing it. After a couple (a lot) of outdated/desperate attempts they suddenly saw the light it seems. Now I have to be honest: at the time I placed this mid table as I was just far too distracted by Lena‘s accent (what the hell are townaids?!) but now I can see what the fuss was about. Lena’s such a natural talent and the embodiement of ‘less is more’ – so I’m happy now it won. A little black dress, a lot of self confidence and a very strong happy pop song – that’s all you need basically. I now officially lav, oh lav this. But there are still three I lav even more, even though I don’t necessarily think they would have made better winners – on the contrary perhaps, For The Good Of The Contest! Lav!
8 points: Russia – Lost and forgotten
The Russians seem to have got a couple of things they need to get out of their systems don’t they? Riding on they sad wave of Believe and Mamo is this beautiful melancholic entry, drenched in a sadness that’s spread out all over its rich musical production. I’m not that keen on Peter Nalitch‘s sound but I guess that’s a matter of personal taste as he translates the lost and forgotten feeling quite well, helped by the styling and setting making you believe he’s singing this wandering the streets somewhere, wondering about past and future. No criticism? Only one: a photo that ain’t and that drawing comes across foolish which doesn’t do the concept any good. But I forgive them.
10 points: Ukraine – Sweet people
We managed to ignore Alyosha completely in Zaandam as we felt there was no relevance in interviewing her – the circus in Ukraine with the switching of entries had robbed her of all credibility in our eyes and we decided to focus on more relevant contestants. What a mistake-a to make-a! Once I saw this in the semi I realised I should have given this a proper chance beforehand – my and my (occasional) biased opinions! The message is so true and Alyosha translates the feeling of desperation extremely well, both vocally and in presence. My my, who would have thought. Apocalyptical really, much supported by a fantastic lighting show (again). I hereby apologise officially: Alyosha, you fracking ruled.
12 points: Romania – Playing with fire
I am not kidding you: it took me three viewings of this performance before I even realised they were using this kind of mini pyro to emphasise the ‘playing with fire’ theme. Not very effective now. What is effective is the chorus in this cleverly composed pop song and the interaction between Ovi & Paula Seling didn’t hurt it either. Ovi’s facepulling isn’t very attractive and I’m not keen on the rather forced choreography once they get up from behind the piano (I would have preferred them going at it in a more spontaneous way) but it’s all just so professional – this comes across VERY well. The backings could have been a bit more enthusiastic perhaps but sound great but the real star here is obviously Paula Seling whom I’d like to see return to the ESC stage thank you very much. With or without the first ever leather pants that didn’t make me want to scratch out my eyes, up to her. Oh, and: fire-desire, can’t beat it!
A demure Contest but with a couple of brilliant highlights. But really NRK: next time we want to see some video screens!
Apart from Gremany launching a surprise attack in the top 10 my top 25 isn’t changing radically – the real fight is between ‘new’ nations out of sight – Ukraine and Serbia are waiting impatiently to overtake Cyprus – with the exception of Russia which is climbing rapidly:
1 France 226 (1960 – 1977 – 1991)
2 Netherlands 193 (1970 – 1971 – 1993)
3 Finland 176 (1962 – 1979 – 1985 – 1988 – 1989 – 2006 – 2007)
4 Belgium 170 (1968 – 1983 – 1986 – 1990 – 2003)
5 Norway 158 (1966 – 1982 – 2000)
6 Portugal 157 (1972 – 1998)
7 Sweden 151 (1974)
8 Italy 149 (1958 – 1964 – 1978 – 1992)
9 Germany 148 (1959 – 1975)
10 United Kingdom 132 (1961 – 1965)
11 Spain 130 (1973)
12 Ireland 119 (1969 – 1980 – 1984 – 1996)
13 Israel 118 (1976)
14 Turkey 105
15 Denmark 90 (1957 – 1963 – 2001)
16 Greece 87 (1981)
17 Switzerland 80
18 Russia 59 (1994)
19 Austria 59
20 Slovenia 58
21 Bosnia-Herzegovina 58
22 Iceland 57 (1987)
23 Croatia 49
24 Estonia 40
25 Cyprus 37
One of the Big Four won! Rejoice! But when will any of them take a top spot in Dimivision’s list again?