Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fairytales and Fireflies: The Weird World of Eurovision

Eurovision is officially looming on the sequin-clad horizon, ready to engulf everything and everyone in its veritable inferno of theatricality. This past Monday saw the deadline for each country to find its entry this year. Some (including the UK) have had theirs sorted for quite some time now, and others (i.e. the Swedes) waited until the eleventh hour to make the big decision.

So far all of the headlines have been about Georgia's entry, "We Don't Wanna Put In", fairly blatantly a political statement aimed at Vladimir Putin, the president of rival country Russia. They were forced to withdraw under dated regulations, stipulating that distasteful and overtly political songs are forbidden. What is it with Eurovision and politics? There's a different controversy every year.

There are 42 participating countries this year, ranging from Romania to Montenegro to Azerbaijan (!), of which 24 will compete in the final of the contest on Saturday May 16th. They've kept the semi-final system that has proved such a tiresome but generally effective system in the last couple of years, and only 5 countries have a free pass to the final: Russia (the holders), and the countries that continually plough their money into the event (to little benefit), France, Spain, United Kingdom, and Germany.

The big change this year is the jury system, which -- it has been agreed -- will be comprised of "music experts" from the various participating countries. Whether our representative will be Simon Cowell or someone equally obnoxious has yet to be revealed, although I'm betting they send someone like Edith Bowman or Fearne Cotton; such is life. Their vote will count for 50% of the overall tally, which will still probably leave the balkan countries with an advantage (taste and culture cannot be eroded) but will hopefully pave the way for the Western European countries with a decent song to be in with a chance of winning.

As a rule, I generally try not to listen to too many of the songs before Eurovision night. Part of the brilliance of the experience is being surprised by the weird and appalling wonderful concoctions on display. I will however give a quick rundown of the more interesting offerings this year that may or may not make the cut, and my opinions on the 5 that already have.

Already Qualified

1 France
Patricia Kaas - "Et s'il fallait le faire"

A bit of a french female Placebo, no? The mood, if not the grunge. This woman would eat you up, spit you out, and most probably light up a fag afterwards. Lots of mirrors. This woman loves herself. And I love that the name of her album is Kabaret. Could you get more Eurovision? It's a shame the song is DULL as dishwater. Awful follow-up to probably the best song in years, last year's "Divine".

2 Russia
Anastasiya Prikhodko - "Mamo"

Typically very heavy -- not that I'm stereotyping Russians at all. The black certainly doesn't help her, considering she's got jet black hair, and the design is totally unflattering. The song is repetitive and not very exciting. Worse than last year, and I'm not a Dima Bilan fan. Surely they can't win again? Ouch she just started shouting. She's hysterical. Somebody help her.

Alex Swings Oscar Sings - "Miss kiss kiss bang"

Deutschland have really got an identity crisis. The country song a couple of years ago was totally random and now they're going back to the swing and jazz era. Bizarre. I thought it was gonna be a bit more fun when I read the title but it's a bit middle-of-the-road. Camp though. How white are his teeth? "Do the dip de dip de dee"? Oh dear.

United Kingdom
Jade - "It's my time"

Blah. Sickly sweet, banal, and totally unoriginal.

Soraya - "La noche es para mi"

This is more like it!! Fit men, a choreographed routine, an upbeat tune. It's fiery like you'd expect of the Spanish. "No more taboos. I wanna nail you to my cross." This chick wants it all. I love it.

A Couple of Contenders

Montenegro (Semi Final 1)
Andrea Demirovic - "Just get out of my life"

There's nothing much funnier than foreigners trying to write an English language song. "Everybody's trying to help me to come free"... "For all their reasons I must agree". Pretty basic stuff. They even managed to slot a lil' bridge in. It's quite a standard Eurovision song as well, but in a good way. You can dance to it at least -- if you're that way inclined.

Romania (Semi-Final 1)
Elena Gheorghe - "The Balkan girls"

Sweet jesus. What are the fans for? If they're trying to be classy I'm not buying it. The backing music is lacking punch, but the woman's singing isn't that bad. They're singing about girls who like to party but they don't really seem to be enjoying themselves and the song isn't begging me to leap into action. A bit limp.

Norway (Semi Final 2)
Alexander Rybak - "Fairytale"

Believe it or not, this is the odds-on favourite. I have to admit it's really catchy and different. It's kinda got that folky tone to it but there's enough going on there to keep you interested. I especially love the instrumental bits. The guy is super adorable, but not a great singer, and I'm not entirely convinced he's playing that violin live. No idea what the song's saying but I like it.

Cyprus (Semi Final 2)
Christina Metaxas - "Firefly"

Cyprus have been known to go for this china doll act before but this time it seems like they're going for atmosphere, fantasy and imagery rather than elegance, sweetness, and light. What is this firefly supposed to be? Very odd. I almost feel like this girl should be wearing a pair of wings to hammer the point home. She has a good voice but really, is anyone gonna go for this? I guess stranger things have happened. Case in point: Serbia 2007.

Eurovision Song Contest 2009 - 1st semi final

1 Montenegro Andrea Demirovic - "Just get out of my life"
2 Czech Republic - "Aven romale"
3 Belgium Patrick Ouchène - "Copycat"
4 Belarus Petr Elfimov - "Eyes that never lie"
5 Sweden Malena Ernman La voix
6 Armenia Inga & Anush Arshakyanner - "Nor par"
7 Andorra Susanna Georgi - "Get a life"
8 Switzerland Lovebugs - "The highest heights"
9 Turkey Hadise - "Düm tek tek"
10 Israel Noa & Mira Awad Einaiych - "There must be another way"
11 Bulgaria Krasimir Avramov - "Illusion"
12 Iceland Jóhanna Guðrún Jónsdóttir - "Is it true"
13 FYR Macedonia Next Time - "Nesto sto ke ostane"
14 Romania Elena Gheorghe - "The Balkan girls"
15 Finland Waldo's People - "Lose control"
16 Portugal Flor-de-Lis - "Todas as ruas do amor"
17 Malta Chiara - "What if we"
18 Bosnia & Herzegovina Regina - "Bistra voda"

Eurovision Song Contest 2009 - 2nd semi final

1 Croatia Igor Cukrov - "Lijepa Tena"
2 Ireland Sinead Mulvey & Black Daisy - "Et cetera"
3 Latvia Intars Busulis - "Sastregumi"
4 Serbia Marko Kon - "Cipela"
5 Poland Lidia Kopania - "I don't wanna leave"
6 Norway Alexander Rybak - "Fairytale"
7 Cyprus Christina Metaxas - "Firefly"
8 Slovakia Kamil Mikulcík & Nela Pocisková - "Let tmou"
9 Denmark Niels Brinck - "Believe again"
10 Slovenia Quartissimo - "Love symphony"
11 Hungary Zoli Ádok - "Tánclépés"
12 Azerbaijan AySel - "Always"
13 Greece Sakis Rouvas - "This is our night"
14 Lithuania Sasha Son - "Pasiklydes zmogus"
15 Moldova Nelly Ciobanu - "Hora din Moldova"
16 Albania Kejsi Tola - "Më merr në ëndërr"
17 Ukraine Svetlana Loboda - "Be my Valentine"
18 Estonia Urban Symphony - "Rändajad"
19 The Netherlands De Toppers - "Shine"

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