Keeping up the momentum, we reach the halfway point of my Istanbul countdown. I won’t pretend this is an amazing year, but there aren’t really any songs I’d say I hate. Sure, some are really crap, but at least you can enjoy their crapness.
Either way, we’re on to the better stuff now.
Knut Anders Sørum – High
#24 in the Grand Final
Sounds a bit like a Cliff Richard song but I won’t hold that against it. It’s a nice uplifting little ditty that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the Irish mid-tempo hall of fame.
It’s got a great feeling of mid-90s Radio 2 about it, in a GOOD WAY. OK it’s not going to show up on many radars, and indeed it did come last in the final (after an auto-qualification) giving Norway yet another wooden spoon. And I swear that’s (probably) not a poorly-advised salute in that photo…
Blue Café – Love Song
#17 in the Grand Final
Craptacular might be the word you’re struggling for. While Switzerland went with the kids TV-style nonsense, Poland went a bit more Latin American with their drivel. That chorus is pretty hopeless, “Sweeeet song, Laaaaahve song”, but I do like the random Spanish outbursts.
Her voice is… distinctive, reminds me of something (Gabriella Cilmi?), and while it feels like it should be terrible, I’ve grown quite fond of it. Particularly when that mental Spanish breakdown hits you in the middle, CHA CHA CHA!
Fomins and Kleins – Dziesma par laimi
Did not qualify, #17 in Semi-final
Oh who doesn’t love a bit of Baltic cock-rock? OK don’t all answer at once, and surely I wouldn’t count myself as a fan of this ‘sound’. But in a weird way – maybe it’s my age – this has a pretty cool little chorus.
OK Latvian might not be the karaoke language of choice (particularly for voters who dumped it at 17th in the semi-final), I really like the melody and weird Latvian sound of the words.
Proud to stand in the mainstream, where others are merely floating face-down in it, I think this is one of the unsung heroes of ESC 2004.
Neiokõsõ – Tii
Did not qualify, #11 in Semi-final
Boing, doing, bloing. Is this Estonia or Australia? Estonia are usually good for a bit of captivating regional music, and they haven’t disappointed this year. Christ knows they didn’t exactly give their performance much welly.
Dressed in organic beige peasant clothes, they shriek, they do the hokey-cokey, they harass a drummer (who faceplants in an ill-advised stage-dive) and try a dance routine that looks decidedly like a stroppy teenage girl.
But the song’s really good, honest! Well it’s alright.
Julie and Ludwig – On Again… Off Again
#12 in the Grand Final
Is it hot mess time already? Of course, Malta are always welcome in Eurovision as the perpetual bridesmaid of the contest. This time they offer a duet in a sort of happy-clappy dance beat. Seriously, this defies genre.
They cheerfully sing in varying levels of melodrama and operatics about their difficult relationship. They don’t sound too cut up about it, though Christ knows why they are still together. Maybe it’s all his operatics that annoys her.
Except then he suddenly decides he can sing like a normal member of society and she picks up the ridiculous opera role. As ever it’s a very light-hearted and lovable entry, and I dearly hope one day to go to a Valletta Eurovision.
Sanda – I Admit
#18 in the Grand Final
Who in Hell styled this one? The fragrant Sanda struts on to the stage, presumably from the new Mad Max-themed strip club in Bucharest. Not fazed in the slightest at forgetting her proper outfit (or any outfit of any description), she competes with her backing singers who insist they know the lyrics better than her.
Fortunately the song is pretty cool, and the chorus is catchy as hell. A surprise quiet moment in the middle gives a bit of a break from the non-stop gallop of a dance routine, it might have got a bit lost on the night, but it’s another entry in Romania’s impressive Eurovision songbook.
Serbia and Montenegro
Željko Joksimović & Ad Hoc Orchestra – Lane moje
#2 in the Grand Final
Time to get serious, and look who it is! It’s only the debut of Eurovision heavyweight Zeljko, last seen once again propping up the top 3 in Baku. He wrote a few top 10 finishers at Eurovision in the intervening years, and he certainly knows what Europe respond to.
It’s not easy to get strong finishes from non-English entries, but he’s got the knack, and we get a tasteful and powerful Balkan ballad that very nearly nabbed Serbia & Montenegro a debut win, only beaten out by Ukraine with a margin of 17 points.
I don’t know WHY this stirs me the way it does, but he can keep stirring for many years to come.
Toše Proeski – Life
#14 in the Grand Final
Love that weird ethno-beat intro! Always keen to see FYR Macedonia in a final, if only to hear the long-form country name in two languages, what a mouthful! They showed off the country’s knack of only JUST qualifying but somehow always securing a mid-table finish in the final.
It’s a grower for me, with that slightly unbalanced beat of the chorus really doing it for me. It’s a shame poor Tose died only a few years later in a car accident, as he’s surely one of the better FYROM performers we’ve had since their debut.
Sakis Rouvas – Shake It
#3 in the Grand Final
Banal lyrics? Sakis is your man, and to stop them being too obvious, he can only breathlessly pant the song out inbetween stripping.
Sakis had a very Eurovisiony 00s, hosting the Greek contest in 2006 and returning to represent his country in 2009 with a superior but no less shamelessly attention-grabbing performance.
They know how to put on a show anyway, an irresistible beat and a ridiculously catchy chorus. Throw in some Greek dancing and a few nipples and you’ve got yet another top 10 finish. Bravo!
Thomas Thordarson – Shame on You
Did not qualify, #13 in Semi-final
Oh God I love this so much. The performance feels like it should be a key moment in “Charmed – The Musical”, with heavy-set Thomas as the understudy for the part of Cole. He draws on Denmark’s rich history of Latin music and dons a revolting red suit befitting a TV-drama demon.
The song has a great chorus, but you can’t leave these things to chance. He pops out the wheels on his Heelies for about 5 seconds, getting a whoop of delight from a bored audience. He spots a casting agent in the audience and suddenly starts singing the shit out of this song, hitting some impressive notes.
The backing singers, also roused by the casting agent, make a frantic dash for the spotlight and rip their bras out through their sleeves in celebration. Incredible.