Sat 29 May 2010
It’s a sort of review … kinda
OK, so here’s how this works. On the left there’s a list of all the countries in the final. Five secured their places before the competition began by virtue of paying the most money (UK, Spain, France and Germany), Norway because they won last year.
The remaining twenty places have been allocated to the countries qualifying from the two semi-finals held during the week.
What follows is review of the semi-finals come heads-up for the final. Although if you’re pushed for time you could just make a note of the summary illustrated in this handy photograph.
Tuesday 25 May 2010
Qualifiers: Albania, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzigovina, Iceland, Moldova, Portugal, Russia
The first batch of qualifiers included some personal surprises. What follows are the ones which stick in my mind the most.
I didn’t anticipate Moldova going through to the final with their dull pop number, thinking that Estonia’s daring retro feel a considerably more worthy qualifier.
Belarus‘ qualification too was a jaw-dropping announcement. Yes there was a melody, yes there were some schmaltzy chords and absolutely the relatively gentler camera shots were pleasing, but Belarus’ song Butterflies left quite a sour taste in the mouth. The group’s vocal range doesn’t come anywhere near to surpassing the overblown character of the backing track (maybe this was merely a matter of balance in the final audio mix for TV) and the inclusion of butterfly costumes in the final triumphant chorus just felt like a last resort. You didn’t see it? Oh, I’m sorry for ruining the surprise.
The real stars of the show however were – undoubtedly – Portugal‘s singer Filipa Azevedo with her song Há Dias Assim (I love it the more I see it – and I’ve been watching the live version too) and everyone’s favourite, adorable and not-really-that-diva-ish Hera Björk with Iceland‘s song Je Ne Sais Quoi, the latter maintaining the same style and pose in terms of presentation evident from the national selections. Both these song eclipsed what at times felt like an overtly contrived performance from Belgium‘s qualifying performer Tom Dice and his song Me and My Guitar. I’m sure he does actually play the guitar, even if his miming skills make it look as though he’s got a twitch in his right arm.That said, there’s a lot of interest in Dice at this year’s Eurovision. I really wouldn’t be surprised if he walks it and we’re all left thinking “What the hell just happened there?”
People will undoubtedly laugh at when Russia‘s Peter Nalitch & Friends make their appearance in the final with their song Lost and Forgotten. The sing-speak and strange bit with the ‘photograph’ still makes me wriggle uncomfortably in my seat, but still the melody is rather beautiful, his voice adding an ethereal quality to the whole thing.
And whilst I’m not entirely surprised that Greece‘s fundamentally annoying Opa! did end up with a place, I am impressed with the way Serbia‘s Milan Stanković has worked his androgynous charms, transforming his song Ovo Je Balkan into something which is sure to be worth keeping an eye on in the final running order. People watching it on Saturday night will think it a bit strange, but I’m liking it more and more.
I will almost certainly be taking a toilet break during Bosnia’s song. Just so you know.
You may also be interested to learn that of the ten songs I predicted to qualify, five secured their place. So, that’s reasonably OK then.
Thursday 28 May 2010
Qualifiers: Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey, Israel, Ireland, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Romania, Armenia, Denmark
The second semi-final was a considerably more polished TV show compared to the show on Tuesday 25. The songs were (with the exception of a disappointing bought of atrocious intonation from Israel’s singer) better performed and looked better on stage too.
But it took sometime before I felt suitably enthralled/overwhelmed/excited by one particular act. The opportunity to vote all the through the programme (the first time this has happened) didn’t as I expected lead me to want to vote lots of times. Nor did it encourage me to vote as soon as I’d seen the song I liked. It seems my obsessive-compulsive tendencies still insist I’ve seen everything before I commit to dialling the number.
On that basis the Netherlands’ Sha La Lie song was my personal favourite. Yes, it was corny, but it was also a foot-tapper and it made me feel good in amongst a sea of ballads and disco beats. It didn’t get through. Despite my enthusiasm for it, I can’t say I’m surprised.
Of the ones which did get through – there’s not a huge amount to say given that most of my predictions turned out to be right I now realise – Denmark‘s song is the one to keep an eye on. It’s not especially good. It’s not overwhelmingly memorable. In fact, it’s just that little bit bland. But what was reasonably arresting during the second semi-final was how the competencies of the singers delivering a plausible performance was unexpectedly satisfying. Denmark’s song could do well because its polished. Keep an eye on it.
Cyprus is being hailed in the UK as our B-story because of the connections with Wales and Scotland. We have someone else to focus on other than the UK’s Josh Dubovie. But while Cyprus’ song is sweet and there’s clearly a lot of love being dished out for the act, I fear it will do battle with Belgium’s Tom Dice. True Cyprus has a band on stage, but still both acts are essentially a bloke with a guitar – one instrument slightly rougher looking than the other. They could both suffer because of it.
For all the hype over Eurovision-favourite Azerbaijan (the repeat references to the choreography being done by the same person who did Beyonce’s act seemed like a desperate attempt to shore up support for the act, personally speaking), the final on-screen presentation didn’t in any way live up to the video production. It’s a great song. But it doesn’t stand out especially.
Nor Romania‘s song. The “specially made” two piano thing jarred on stage. Why bother going to all that trouble when it was clear the instrument was nothing more than two keyboards encased in a perspex box with no visible connection to mains electricity or any audio feed either. Again, a great song. But really, nothing like the buzz surrounding it.
Quite why Sweden didn’t get through but Turkey did, I don’t know. And although I predicted Ukraine would go through, really and truly that song is way too worthy an effort for a Saturday night’s entertainment.
I did slightly better on this show. Nine of my ten predictions went through to the final. What does this mean? You can trust me.
Saturday 29 May 2010
Of the final four songs in this years competition already in the Saturday night show, the only real contender for the crown is Germany‘s Satellite sung by adorable Lena. I’ve yet to see the stage act (its been rather nice to deliberately avoid the rehearsals this year, saving the surprise for the shows) but it is far and away the most infectious song in this year’s competition. And despite the change to the phone lines opening and closing times, if people across Europe do the same as we did in terms of waiting to hear all of them before voting, then Germany’s place in the last group of songs will be a godsend for them.
It will also be interesting to see whether Spain can halt their dismal performance in the results table with their Cirque de Soleil-esque song (I have a soft spot for it) and just where the UK will come in the final ranking. I have a suspicion that for all my moaning about the song That Sounds Good To Me, that the presence of a well-presented stage act may well take off some of the saccharin edge to the song and make it pretty much OK. That doesn’t make the lyrics OK – merely speaking them sees me break out in a cold sweat – but seeing it on TV might just make it OK. At least it’s not Scooch.
France? The least we say about their deeply annoying song the better.
And Norway ? I always dismiss the host country’s song because … well they won it the previous year. It’s a smashing example of efficient manipulation of the emotions. It will do well because there are no other Scandinavian countries in the final but I hope to God it doesn’t win.
And the winner, if you please …
It’s difficult to see a clear winner – this might because I’m crap at predicting winners because I let bias trample all over such judgements – but if we don’t end up going to either Iceland, Germany or Portugal for next year’s Eurovision, I’ll be livid. It would be nice to have a nail-biting finish (see to it Europe and spread your votes wide this year). And remember, I think it’s OK to laugh at Belarus’ butterfly outfits. I don’t think they’ll mind.