Eurovision reloaded: Dusseldorf 2011 – #20 – #11

ESC2011banner

I feel I should get a move on with this, seeing as selection season for 2013 is well and truly here. So without further ado, let’s start on my top 20 entries that came to Germany in 2011 to compete on the European stage.

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slovenia2011

Slovenia Slovenia

Maja Keuc – No One

#13 in the Final

Another grower, even if it just seemed to be a ripoff of one of Christina Aguilera’s rockier “I’m stronger without you” moments. To be honest, I have flip-flopped with this one, it does build nicely and has some nice production flourishes. I can’t say I was really rooting for it to get through, but it was a pretty strong success when it came out it.

The dramatic staging and wonderful vocals really worked on both nights, so good luck to her, the success was well deserved. That last 30 seconds really is dramatic isn’t it? I love it! I’m almost tempted to nudge it up a few spaces.

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greece2011

Greece Greece

Loukas Giorkas ft Stereo Mike – Watch My Dance

#7 in the Final

Oh and after all the stick I gave Turkey … but against my better judgement I have to give credit to Greece. They might get certain benefits from traditional voting patterns, but they always put the effort in and you could never accuse their entries of being anonymous. Somehow they are unmistakeably Greek entries aren’t they?

So the main problem people had was with the mid-90s rapping in the verses. Well I didn’t really like it that much, but that put me in a predicament. Would I have preferred the other guy on his own? Well, not really, that would’ve been pretty boring. But what else would I have put with him? I have no idea! So let’s just go with it. Soaring vocals, fit frontman, pounding synth percussions, and a goosebump-inducing dramatic pyro show. The way he was lit up by some of those massive flamethrowers (and as an eyewitness I can only vouch for how huge they were) on the TV was an amazing effect.

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ireland2011

Ireland Ireland

Jedward – Lipstick

#8 in the Final

So what do we do about Jedward? Certainly it got everyone talking, with a massive buzz after they closed the second semi-final that made me seriously consider the prospect of an Irish win. It undoubtedly got viewing figures up (along with Blue) in the UK. But it’s JEDWARD. Does this devalue the contest, undoing any progress (if there was any) in the UK (and increasingly bitter Ireland) about the validity of this contest as anything other than ‘laugh at foreigners, then blame them when we don’t win’?

Personally as terrible as they are (I’m starting to wonder HOW terrible though), they really brought the house down. The song was catchy, the visuals were brilliant, they even performed better than I’ve EVER seen them. Should their origins count against them? I’d hope not really. It might have been put forward by the Irish as a joke entry by many, but I think they did their country proud, and as I expected, it led to some decent success in Europe, even if it didn’t really happen in the UK, ironically in the place that made them into what they are now.

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norway2011

Norway Norway

Stella Mwangi – Haba Haba

#17 in Semi-final 1

*puts on protective poncho* I know I’ve probably committed a CARDINAL SIN for not loving this to bits, but I’m being as honest as I can. Not that say that I DIDN’T love it at one point, it really is a glorious summery song, and driving around with this on and the sun out, it really fitted nicely. My problem is that the performance just didn’t really deliver. She was beautiful and smily, but it just felt very small and weak on a big stage. That performance should have been a CARNIVAL, but instead we got an average dance routine and that was about it.

It just didn’t communicate the joy of the song, and to first-time listeners I guess that cost it dearly. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the song, but the execution really threw water on the fire. It did NOT deserve such a bad result though … but it was a year of surprise qualifiers (or more like surprise non-qualifiers), so I guess you have to take the bad with the good.

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austria2011

Austria Austria

Nadine Beiler – The Secret Is Love

#18 in the Final

A real grower, and I can see why people might have dismissed it as a rubbishy Disney ballad. But that girl knew how to SING and totally command the spotlight. So it’s a welcome return to Austria with a really adorable sentimental love song.

The Germans I sat with when we were watching the final from a biergarten were muttering to themselves about “Whitney Houston schiesse” (!) … all I can say is that it was a long while since Whitney did something I enjoyed as much as this (obviously I don’t hold out a lot of hope for that changing in the forseeable future). A great climax, a soaring key change, surprise gospel choir, what’s not to love?

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serbia2011

Serbia Serbia

Nina – Čaroban

#14 in the Final

Onto another massive grower. I sort of liked this by the time we eventually reached the contest; it JUST squeaked into my top 10 at the time. But what a great performer! Striking 60s outfit and an infectious smile. OK, the visuals might have made me want to throw up at time, but I don’t think I was alone in really starting to love this at the time when it counted most.

It’s apparently NOT about a caravan, and I don’t think it sounds like Gabrielle’s “When a woman” as much as I did, so that’s a win on both fronts. Gorgeous, fun, a wonderful pop song.

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russia2011

Russia Russia

Alexey Vorobyov – Get You

#16 in the Final

OK a cheap trick really, just wheel in RedOne and a hot tall Russian and see where you get. I can’t say I’m being TOTALLY impartial on the looks side, I really did love that guy… he even does a backflip, he won me over.

The performance was a bit rubbish visually, didn’t have much identity to it. But it’s always good to get a contemporary pop song in the contest, that’s the sort of thing to get people interested. Would have been interesting to see how Love Generation’s RedOne song would have fared instead, but I think the guy was a big part of this song’s appeal. OK it’s generic, but there’s a REASON RedOne is so popular at the moment, can you blame them for trying?

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israel2011

Israel Israel

Dana International – Ding Dong

#15 in Semi-final 2

Last one for now… and what a disappointment of a result. I thought she would at least get SOME support for being one of the highest-profile winners for several years, but it just didn’t happen. A real shame too because I really loved the song, and the clubbier remix that she ended up performing on the night. Israel are usually good bets for an interesting entry, and I LOVE the sound of Hebrew in a pop song.

I just don’t really get WHY it did so badly, I think it was probably the biggest shock of the semi-final results, even more than Norway or Turkey missing out. The performance was great too, that finish on the catwalk too, that really worked well in my opinion. All the pieces were there, a simple catchy tune, a clubby beat, a great performer, a FAMOUS performer (one of the few non-UK entrants your average person on the street would recognise the name of)… I just don’t get it. Especially when lumpy old Niamh Kavanagh croaked her way into the final last year.

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azerbaijan2011

Azerbaijan Azerbaijan

Ell and Nikki – Running Scared

#1 in the Final

Are we ready for the winner? Well I certainly wasn’t… After pulling out all the stops (and roubles) to win last year, but ending up falling some way short, it was a bit of a surprise to see them scooping the big prize from under the noses of several bookies’ favourites. But the more I heard it afterwards, the more I understood its appeal.

I don’t REALLY see why people voted for it on the basis of its performance, which I found just to be OK (aside from that lovely spark shower at the end). But ultimately it appealed across the board, it wasn’t trying too hard to be a frantic pop song or make a statement, it was just a solid midtempo song. OK sure it wasn’t my pick of a winner, but then Lena wasn’t last year, and that all worked out for the best. The whole contest doesn’t hinge on the winner does it? Do we all watch this just to watch (with disappointment usually) who wins? I certainly don’t.

I’m just content that winning MEANS SOMETHING to them. We’ve been fortunate to have a string of winners that have really developed the show. Serbia showed how good a relatively poorer country could put on a great show, Russia showed just how lavish the show could be. Norway focused more on the moments and itself delivered some really memorable moments (the flashmob for one). Maybe Germany didn’t do anything particularly groundbreaking but it showed that maybe it wasn’t all about the politics, and a great contemporary song could turn around the Eurovision fortunes of any country, even the ill-fated Big Four, which in turn lured back Italy and several of its neighbours.

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netherlands2011

Netherlands Netherlands

3JS – Never Alone

#19 in Semi-final 2

As I feel the wheels falling off any fleeting credibility this countdown might have gathered (who am I kidding!?), I can imagine this will raise an eyebrow or two. I mean it’s a midtempo soft-rock track by some rather lumpy Dutch guys.

BUT I REALLY LOVE IT! I don’t care. The melody is great, the bridges are ROUSING, his vocals are strong but still quite lovely. It’s difficult to get a real fix on why I like this so much, but I do. I think it builds really wonderfully and while the performance in the semi-final wasn’t really that good, causing them to come DEAD LAST in their semi, I’m still quite taken with it.

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