Back to one of the Big 4 then – soon to be Big 5 by the look of things as Italy has manoeuvered itself back into the game by taking advantage of the ‘free spot’ in the final. Some clever negotiations over at EBU headquarters I suspect but I hardly think anyone minds as The Boot has been missed in the past 13 editions of the Contest: they dropped out after a Big 4 win, it only seems appropriate they return after another one. Makes you wonder if they’d have returned sooner.
It’s a pretty big thing, this ‘one of the big 4 winning’ – they need some motivation after all to keep participating (read: contribute) and Germany taking the trophy seems to have injected some adrenaline into their veins. But more on that later on. The Germans clearly took the opportunity to organise the Contest for the first time since ’83 with both hands, they seemed to fully realise it might just take them another 28 years before they’d get another shot at it. Düsseldorf is but a two hour drive from my home town so I popped over there for the dress rehearsal of the final (I prefer the magic on screen so I don’t miss a thing) and I can attest to the fact it was all very well organised. Which was to be expected, the Germans have a reputation to uphold when it comes to their Gründlichkeit! It all looked and sounded great as well, even though the direction was a bit busy at times, and personally I was very happy to see the video screens return to the stage. Didn’t need to be thàt big though, at times it took away the attention from song and performer but it did provide a lovely dynamic. Again we get three hosts – Anke Engelke, Judith Rakers & Stefan Raab – and while I understand why herr Raab was there he wasn’t exactly an added value. Rather on the contrary. Cool version of Satellite to open the show though.
Musically this edition is all over the place – Lena‘s victory clearly confused Europe and we’re getting everyone’s interpretation of what a fresh pop song should sound like. Interesting to see the differences though. Especially in the not all too brilliant semis. Though these two should have made it through to Saturday:
The One That Got Away in Semi 1: Poland – Jestem
A close call between this and Turkey, both pre-Contest faves of mine, but this is so strutalicious I can’t resist. Awful direction going on here which makes it come across clumsy although the choreo in the verses is quite clever. It doesn’t look and sound powerful enough to convince sadly but I still think Jestem is a great electro pop song that could have gotten further than it did.
The One That Got Away in Semi 2: Bulgaria – Na Inat
While our own Belgian entry came together much better than I had feared I still think Poli Genova deserved a place in the final though I have to admit I had hoped this would come across much better than it actually did. The power in the studio version didn’t really translate here, for some reason it all feels a bit drawn out. I had her down as Bulgaria’s own P!NK but after this showing I think she needs a bit more practice to really get there.
Over to the final then where King Average rules – there are a lot of tunes in there that hardly get me excited and the way they’re performed doesn’t help at all. Only a couple of really bad ones though: I still don’t understand how the Lithuanian outdated pile of clichés could have reached the final (long live the FFWD button, c’est ma vie et moi je dis non), Romania rubs me the wrong way on every level (empty production, shrill voices, poor styling) and Austria is really not my cup of tea (did I mention I’m not that into Mariah Carey yet?).
In the middle field I’m shrugging my shoulders at the mediocrity: a lot is promised but there is little delivered. Take Hungary for example, with their wannabe schlager that’s butchered by poor lighting ideas (has Safura taught you nothing?) and the singing secretary that is Kati Wolf. Or Estonia with their overly active presentation that makes their fresh pop song too busy – and the vocals could have been better as well. Others that missed the mark for me were Sweden (it all sounds very empty to me and I frankly don’t care if you want to be Popular), Denmark (so middle of the road and I hate the rhyming – much better on mute if you catch my drift), Russia (three words: tone it down!), United Kingdom (very repetitive and quite empty plus there’s the ego-thing) and Spain (the usual cruise show).
There are a couple of songs I quite liked but just the one time was enough – they’re no playlist material at all: Greece was interesting as a combination of two styles but fails to excite me (unlike Loukas Giorkas…), Italy may have provided an unusual sound for the Contest but this jazzy blues style is not my cup of tea (and while Raphael Gualazzi does a solid job he pulls one too many faces), Slovenia had a modern sounding pop song but Maja Keuc had a high Christina Aguilera (whose sound I don’t like at all) level, Moldova is slightly brilliant but a tad too busy to really grab me (with those hats they’re like the Smurfs from hell) and completing the middle field is poor Amaury Vassili, crumbling under all the pressure – watching this was almost as painful as Josh Dubovie in 2010. Almost. Still, kuddos for France for at least trying to think out of the box.
Not a fantastic field, to say the least. Even in my top ten there are a couple of songs that didn’t entirely convince me – here are the points of the Dimivision jury:
1 point: Azerbaijan – Running scared
I have to say I completely disregarded this beforehand and I still think it’s rather underwhelming. It sounds quite modern, yes, and the entire set-up is frighteningly (haha!) perfect – almost mathematically so. They finally hit the Magic Formula and well done to them but it feels too calculated to me – can’t really put my finger on it, I like my dish with more spice and/or real emotions. They do an impeccable job however, even though I appreciate Ell much more than the Barbie that is Nikki. I understand why it won but it does little for me.
2 points: Iceland – Coming home
I’m a real softie underneath it all and I’m easily touched by genuine emotional stories and the tragedy surrounding this entry really gave it an extra dimension – especially with those lyrics (I just wanna see your face again…). It must have been an extremely difficult situation for the six of them and they pull it off very well. Even without the background story I still think this stands on its own very easily, the approach they took with the simple setting really works. Hate that backdrop though.
3 points: Georgia – One more day
Oh my gawd, Chandler Bing! Janice from Friends moved to Tbilisi and joined a band, nice carreer switch! Sopho Toroshelidze (is Sopho the national name?) sounds a tad shril in this powerful entry which makes it a bit much to take at times but I like the tempo in this apocalyptic entry. Even the rap bits work, just iemaygien! Suck a sucker for rock. Her outfit draws away too much attention I feel – I don’t know what she’s trying to convey but that piece of moss at the hight of her crotch could be taken metaphorically. Tim Gunn would die.
4 points: Finland – Da da dam
Much in the style of our own Tom Dice but with – I smell a running theme here – an environmental message. It’s all very sweet and Paradise Oskar does a great job here. He comes across quite at ease and nails it vocally and I LOVE that backdrop by the way! Simple but effective, that’s how I like it. Too bad mister Paradise decided to wear that ‘authentic’ outfit – the set-up is noble but it makes him look like a dork which frankly undermines the entire nature of his song and performance. Very unlucky draw as well, would have been a nice and welcome resting point somewhere mid show. Pity.
5 points: Ukraine – Angel
Clever, Ukraine, very clever. On its own this entry is solid but rather uneventful – even though Mika Newton does a great job vocally – but that act lifts it to another level. It could have been too much but the synergy between the images from the sand drawings and the song’s atmosphere is spot on. I even like the wings on Mika’s dress. Well balanced and intriguing, this.
6 points: Serbia – Čaroban
I’ve been waiting a long time for a country to come up with something retro and finally my prayers have been answered. I love the bounciness of it all and even though it shows Nina isn’t all that experienced she does bring a lot of the necessary cheerfulness to the table which was crucial for it to be succesful. Vocally she’s not always on top of things and she’s out of breath mid song which hurts her high notes and her timing toward the end but it doesn’t spoil the fun for me. That backdrop could have been less dominant but all in all a very enjoyable entry.
7 points: Ireland – Lipstick
And suddenly the Green Island is popping up in my top ten, for the first time since 1996! They’ve finally managed to connect to the contemporary music scene – sure took them long enough – and give us a strong anthem that might not be the most complicated in lyrics and build-up but it sure is catchy and memorable.The combination with the hyperkinetic Jedward is golden and the quirky choreography – which leaves enough room for some chaotic improvisations – works like a charm. I especially like the trompe-l’oeuil effect at the start. Not keen on those costumes though, the entire set-up was extravagant enough without them. And a specific mention for the backings who absorb Jedward’s weak vocals professionally. A great package.
8 points: Bosnia-Herzegovina – Love in rewind
Dino Merlin is back and he still looks as though he should be in a retirement home – give that man a night creme, quick! Sure didn’t lose any of his songwriting abilities because much like his 1999 entry this is bulls-eye. A strong build-up which is almost moving towards the end, I get goosebumps with the floating oh-oh’s in the last 30 seconds. I hate the guy that walking around the stage, he has no function in this set-up and I wish they’d left him in Sarajevo. But the rest of it is borderline magical.
10 points: Switzerland – In love for a while
Nice and simple approach here which is exactly what this lullaby needs. Loving the bubbles which provide that extra touch of playfulness, underlining the sweet nature of the song. Anna Rossinelli might not posess all of Lena’s natural confidence but she comes across very charming and vocally she’s doing a great job. Those steps she’s taking are a bit weird perhaps but that’s about the only remark I can give really. I wonder why this ended up so low – is it due to draw, coming right behind the commercial break? It deserved better.
12 points: Germany – Taken by a stranger
Absolute pop genius for me – this is by far the most modern entry we’ve ever gotten in Eurovision and musically it’s extremely intriguing. It was never going to be really instant though and that’s perhaps its only flaw: it’s thankfully not tailered for Eurovision but it doesn’t take its limitations (ie. three minutes to be remembered) into account. But screw that: I love this to bits. Such a different style to her winning entry but Lena pulls it off brilliantly with those sultry looks and sideway glances – sheer pop genius. The lighting and direction isn’t entirely up to scratch: you can see what they wanted to do but the timing is slightly off and it’s a pity. Still works like a charm though. All time top 5 material! Lav lav lav it!
A visually stunning but musically underwhelming – bar my winner obviously – edition. Sad face.
A surprising end spurt by Germany in my top 25 which, I’m flabbergasted honestly, makes them end up in my top 5! Serbia makes an appearance in the nick of time, bumping out Cyprus – Ukraine’s waiting right outside as well. Curious to see how things will evolve in the future.
1 France 226 (1960 – 1977 – 1991)
2 Netherlands 193 (1970 – 1971 – 1993)
3 Finland 180 (1962 – 1979 – 1985 – 1988 – 1989 – 2006 – 2007)
4 Belgium 170 (1968 – 1983 – 1986 – 1990 – 2003)
5 Germany 160 (1959 – 1975)
6 Norway 158 (1966 – 1982 – 2000)
7 Portugal 157 (1972 – 1998)
8 Sweden 151 (1974)
9 Italy 149 (1958 – 1964 – 1978 – 1992)
10 United Kingdom 132 (1961 – 1965)
11 Spain 130 (1973)
12 Ireland 126 (1969 – 1980 – 1984 – 1996)
13 Israel 118 (1976)
14 Turkey 105
15 Denmark 90 (1957 – 1963 – 2001)
16 Switzerland 90
17 Greece 87 (1981)
18 Bosnia-Herzegovina 66
19 Russia 59 (1994)
20 Iceland 59 (1987)
21 Austria 59
22 Slovenia 58
23 Croatia 49
24 Serbia 42
25 Estonia 40
There we have it, all reviews of the past done! Happy thàt’s out of my system – now bring on 2012!!