I must admit: I wasn’t all too keen on this year’s edition beforehand. It seemed very difficult to compose a top ten, with only a couple of (semi) interesting songs in a sea of grey ballads. But as always it’s the live version that needs to convince, and thanks to a truckload of decent/good/great singers this rather beige edition luckily got a bit of colour variation. Not in the least thanks to the experts @ SVT. Då kör vi!
All those years of trotting around Sweden with the circus that is Melodifestivalen resulted in a well oiled machine @ SVT which clearly shone through in the three shows we got from them this year. Every song was wrapped neatly on stage with great lighting, nice direction and the variation in stage set-up countered possible yawns from afar. And the choice for a smaller venue was spot on, as the atmosphere was tangeable in living rooms across Europe. But I was excited the most on the fact that they were able to keep the tongue-in-cheek humor that is so typical for MF ànd that it translated well. I’m sure half of Europe was baffled by Lynda Woodruff, but I loved the fact she popped up – all the way from Aserjeb…Bakoo. Much like that FANTASTIC caterpillar, very well animated indeed, and the butterfly it turned into – it provided for a nice link throughout the show. But the star of it all has to be the fantastic Petra Mede, outshining all presenters in the last 18 years and proving one person is enough to carry it all. Her sense of humor is simply delicious, from the gay puns all the way to that baffling interval act (with just a slight hint of Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend). In short: I loved the show(s) and was happy to see it all run so smoothly – bar the voting in the final…
Back to the songs then – and let’s start with the Ones That Should Have Made It To Saturday:
Semi 1 – Who See feat. Nina Žižić – Igranka
I *think* we might have some Trekkies on our hands here – space suits and a 7of9 impersonator, I mean come on! Montenegro seems to want to assimilate us here, and the Borg that is Nina Žižić blows me enough away to let them. I’m not overly keen on rap @ Eurovision (or in general, actually) but this is so out of the box that it works. On all levels. It sounds highly contemporary and rather futuristic even and I think the performance is spot on. This would have been a breath of fresh air in the final, those wankers on the juries should all have their eyes and ears checked. Vodim te na igranku, na nanana igranku!
Semi 2 – Valentina Monetta – Crisalide
Before you accuse me of being your average fanboy: I actually didn’t want any of the non-qualifying entries to get through to Saturday. I only liked 7 entries in semi 2, so this was a tough choice. Latvia did better than expected – I didn’t want to turn off the tv, so they certainly surprised me – but the reason I’m going for San Marino is purely based on its entertainment value. This is carcrash television at its best, with a cheap presentation for a cheap song, and would have provided extra comedy on Saturday. That’s all.
Over to the final then where, much to my own surprise, I only flunked 6 songs! Right at the back of the pack is the Jesus In Jeans from Armenia with his ecological message. Noble, yes, but to get a message across you need something that sticks and this mediocre rock song was just…there. It’s joined at the bottom of the list by two ballads that did absolutely nothing for me. Georgia‘s G:Son drama already felt forced and plastic in composition, and the soulless belting by Sopho & Nodiko only emphasized how empty this entry really was. Not unlike Russia actually, where Dina came across less doll like than I had suspected but those lyrics (leave the worldpeace speeches to Miss Universe contestants) and the icky Israel-in-the’90s vibe secured a bottom placing for me. And we continue on the sugar overload with the ode to Cliff Richard Christmas Hits from Iceland. Kuddos to Eythor for keeping it in Icelandic, but to make me shake in my boots I need a bit more freshness and a bit less days of yesteryear. At least he could sing, a feat poor Andrius from Lithuania could never be accused of. Excrutiating, those poor vocals, and if it wasn’t for that semi decent chorus he would have given Armenia a run for their money. And the last country to get red marks is the UK, falling into the same trap as last year. Poor Bonnie lost the plot from the start, losing timing and moving as if she was mopping the windows with that rag of a dress. The foggy camera was supposed to give it all a sweet little feel I suspect, but I still startled every time that butchered face appeared on screen. This is what you get when your song just floats by, dear. Somebody at the BBC needs a good spanking – and not the good kind.
Over to the grey zone that is the middle field then, where Bonnie’s neighbour from Ireland didn’t convince either. Sure, Ryan did a decent job (even though he sounded a tad sharp) and those dancers can pound my drum anyday but that chorus got lost somewhere between Tiësto and Tetris and never found its way back. In fact, both of the entries that tried to follow in Loreens steps lost the plot a bit. Germany‘s Cascada went all Kate Ryan and suddenly a potential candidate for the title was reduced to something that would have gotten stuck in the semis. Nathalie’s experience did not exactly shine through in her vocal performance, even though she staid up those (highly redundant) stairs way too long – by the time Her Grace decided to descend, the song had already fallen flat on its arse. Not unlike the Greek boys and man, who had a bit of a party on stage but somehow it didn’t come across as vibrantly – perhaps I had been too enthusiastic about the semi performance but suddenly I didn’t feel the vibe entirely. Or perhaps I was too distracted by Koza Mostra’s lead singer.
Distraction aplenty for the Romanian entry, where Cezar went full out on the Drama to disguise what a shit song he actually had. The vocals, the outfit and the bizarre stage performance provided enough talkability to ignore the weak production and cliché lyrics anyhow. Right above it in my ranking is the one song that’s the most unlike the Romanian entry: the campfire song from Malta was sweet and the smiley in the flesh that is Gianluca sure performed it very well, but it somehow didn’t stick. Too goody-two-shoes? Might be! Spain‘s ESDM suffered the opposite faith. I loved the song, which had a bit of a different build-up (perhaps not the cleverest approach with a 3 minute limit, but I liked it nonetheless) and was very cleverly produced but it went all Titanic from the get go with those very shaky vocals by Raquel. She managed to pull herself together towards the end of the song, but by then the ship was already down at the bottom of the ocean. No, then I’d rather have the dated sound from Belarus – chanelling her inner Xandee and Paparizou it was Alyona and her inwards chachaclap to provide three minutes of fan..eum…fun. Empty, yes, but rather enjoyable! Strange to hear this sanny…eum…sunny entry come from Belgium…eum…Belarus though.
Then we come to three entries that could have made my top ten easily if their approach would have been a bit different. I didn’t particularly like Ukraine‘s entry beforehand, but in the great scheme of things this actually came across very well. The fairytale atmosphere worked, even though the giant was flabbergastingly Over The Top, and the song didn’t feel as empty as I thought it might. Zlata’s a very confident performer on top of that, and the only things that bugged me were her relentless belting which sucked the feeling out of it a little bit, and her incomprehensible English. Butterfly, high and gravity were basically the only words one could hear simmer through. Just keep it in ukrainian next time, dear.
Sweden went wrong on a totally different level. Robin Stjernberg did a splendid job, coming across very confident and singing very well, but that stage act was simply ridonkulous. You’ve got modern dance and you’ve got modern dance – and then you’ve got pointless gymnastical movements. What exactly was the main idea behind this? I guess we’ll never know. Pity, cause this contemporary song deserved more. And finally, falling right outside the top ten is Italy. I felt this was a serious contender, even though it sounded a tad too Ramazzotti for me. The lacklustre way Marco Mengoni performed it strangled it for me though – he’s a very confident performer but it felt like he just didn’t give a damn and that is unforgiveable in my book.
Let’s take a look at the ones that did make it, here are the points of the Dimivision jury:
1 point – Azerbaijan – Farid Mammadov – Hold me
Following in Dima Bilan’s footsteps, are we? A dramatic song with a catchy chorus, reasonably well sung in hairy English and an act that makes people raise their eyebrows (haha, eyebrows!!). Even though the trick with the shadow is neatly done it’s all a bit too forced for me, especially when Lady Red Carpet makes her appearence. I liked the (slightly gay) interaction though, even though I was highly distracted by the stains on the glass – the least they could have done was clean it now. Farid is a confident performer and he handled the song and all the fuss really well – and the fact that he’s a bit of eye candy sure didn’t hurt his chances. It just all feels too calculated to really rattle my cage.
2 points – Denmark – Emmelie de Forest – Only Teardrops
Talking about calculated: this one is so by the book it’s dangerously close to being a tad boring. Every note, every move is formulaic down to the T and I can’t help but be a little bit underwhelmed. The atmosphere is spot on though, and that’s what saves this entry for me. Not that the Kate Bush look does Emmelie any favours – on the contrary, she could have at least put her feet straight instead of going all Hobbit cluncky – but the sum of all factors (the flute, the drums, the fireworks, the desperate tone in the vocals) delivers. It IS somewhat repetitive however: how many times can you sing ‘how many times’ in a three minute song? I can understand why it won, but I have never been a very big fan and I fear this will join Azerbaijan 2011 in the meh-corner of my ESC library.
3 points – Belgium – Roberto Bellarosa – Love Kills
I’ve been a bad patriot all season long, shrugging my shoulders at our own entry because of an underwhelming performer with a song that did nothing for me. I’m still not overly keen on the song by the way, but I did feel it came across rather well on a bigger stage. The reason why I’m awarding this my 3 points is because it came together very well in the final – Roberto suddenly delivered: no shaking in sight, looking straight into the camera and singing full of confidence. He seemed relax and less freaky and sold this rather standard entry very well – credit to the backing vocals as well. The rather simple set-up worked in its favour as well, with the basic colour coding and the lyrics on the screens behind. And of course there are the dancers, seemingly out of place but deliciously entertaining. The way these ladies moved was simply ace – take a lesson, Sweden.
4 points – Finland – Krista Siegfrids – Marry me
Despite the underwhelming subject I absolutely adore this. Marriage is a bit yawn, but those dynamic lyrics and the lively stage performance sure injected a bit of fire into it all. Could I have done without those hyperactive dancers? Perhaps. Could Krista’s cleavage have been more flattering? Absolutely. But I love the tongue-in-cheek humour here, and Krista’s simply a delight to watch. A very good singer as well, and all those references to Katy Perry are spot on. It’s not very groundbreaking, but it’s a nice piece of pop and 3 great minutes of entertainment. Uh oh, uh oh oh ding dong!
5 points – France – Amandine Bourgeois – L’enfer et moi
My fave before the Contest and it was always going to fail wasn’t it? This kind of retro song simply feels a bit out of place, and for it to work it should have been performed in a less manic way than what we got from miss Bourgeois. I mean, crazy eyes alert! This would have been better off with a more understated performance with contained anger instead of this angry stalker chick attitude – there’s one shot where she’s walking sideways and bends over as if she’s the hunchback of Notre Dame, not flattering at all. The fact that she got to open the show didn’t do her any favours either, this would have worked better somewhere in the second half of the show. But I still love the vibe and I still love her voice, I’d pick this over the countless ballads any day.
6 points – Estonia – Birgit – Et uus saaks alguse
Oops, what did I just say? Nevermind, this is just so lovely and enchanting! Not too keen on the black & white start there, but there’s enough dry ice and effective lighting to sweep me off my feet anyway. I LOVE the moonlight stroll feel they created here, and Birgit’s flawless vocals only add to the fairytale atmosphere. The shower curtain looks very gracious as well, and the only thing I would have changed is the backdrop that could have enhanced the atmosphere. This was already so Yohanna, why not take it to the next level as well? Oh, and look up those lyrics – they’re poetic. I admit, I fell head over heels in love with this simple but effective entry.
7 points – Hungary – ByeAlex – Kedvesem
Mish moesh maash – and I’m sold. there’s not a lot going on this entry, except for that relaxed laidback flow that provides for three dreamy minutes. No unnecessary keychange, no redundant arty farty dancers, just a simple and straight to the point performance for a simple troubadour song. The visuals add nicely to the vibe, and the combination of the almost whispering lead vocals and the soft female backing works miracles. And if that wasn’t dreamy enough there’s also the guitar player. Hi Daniel. *purrrrr* Simply lovely, and lovely simple.
8 points – Moldova – Aliona Moon – O mie
The Drama, The Drama! Combining the best of Azerbaijan and Albania last year, this: very effective lighting on stage and very effective use of the dress – the addition of the rising platform is simply genius and the way this entry is sold is a benchmark for many entries to come. Brilliant move tokeep this in Romanian, as Aliona is clearly more at ease which helps this entry a lot. She had a bit of a hick-up in the final, but immediately rectified and that vocal performance was actually to die for. The music filled the arena extremely well and all in all this had a high musical feel to it. Brilliant stuff this – the grower of the Contest for me. No pun intended.
10 points – Netherlands – Anouk – Birds
Having followed Anouk’s carreer from the start I was very excited when she announced she wanted to represent the Netherlands and I was very curious to see whether she’d go for a rock song or a ballad – both genres have brought her success and both would showcase her powerful voice very well @ ESC. When she eventually released Birds I was over the moon, as it takes ballads @ Eurovision to a whole new level with its particular structure and iery atmosphere. This is the kind of stuff you hear on alternative channels and I’m ever so happy she took the risk to enter this. I wouldn’t have opted for the satellite stage as those overly present flags almost ruined the magical atmosphere but this still came across extremely well. Biggest risk factor for me to get this across were the backing vocals but they were flawless, much like Anouk’s. More glances into the camera might have done this mesmerizing entry a bit of good, but this is a real highlight for me. Chills down my spine.
12 points – Norway – Margaret Berger – I Feed You My Love
Bjork meets Goldfrapp in this very contemporary entry and I LOVE it. The electronic vibes are right up my alley and I love the fact they went for a straight to the point performance. Margaret sell this really well, even though I could have done with the Ice Queen vibe all the way through the performance – the moment she starts to losen up it all loses a bit of power I feel. The threatening atmosphere and the slightly bizarre lyrics are very intruiging however and I hope this inspires comparable artists around Europe to have a go @ Eurovision. Magical.
Even though this was a very mediocre Contest songwise I thought it was a very entertaining evening. May Denmark live up to it!
Now let’s take a look at what this does to my all time top 25:
France reinforces its leading position, while Netherlands is the second country to cross the 200 points mark. No noteable changes, except for Norway climing its way into the top 5 (coming from 8) and Estonia gaining 2 positions down at the bottom of the list.
1 France 231 (1960 – 1977 – 1991)
2 Netherlands 203 (1970 – 1971 – 1993)
3 Finland 184 (1962 – 1979 – 1985 – 1988 – 1989 – 2006 – 2007)
4 Belgium 173 (1968 – 1983 – 1986 – 1990 – 2003)
5 Norway 170 (1966 – 1982 – 2000 – 2013)
6 Sweden 163 (1974 – 2012)
7 Germany 161 (1959 – 1975 – 2011)
8 Italy 159 (1958 – 1964 – 1978 – 1992)
9 Portugal 157 (1972 – 1998)
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 92 (1957 – 1963 – 2001)
16 Switzerland 90
17 Greece 87 (1981)
18 Bosnia-Herzegovina 66
19 Iceland 63 (1987)
20 Russia 59 (1994)
21 Austria 59
22 Slovenia 58
23 Estonia 49 (1999)
24 Croatia 49
25 Cyprus 44
Bring on 2014 already!