Eurovision reloaded: Dusseldorf 2011 – My top 10

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I got into a bit of a clash with the 2013 pre-selection posts, but it’s finally time to finish off this countdown of Germany’s Eurovision Song Contest 2 years ago. What do you think of my top 10? What were yours?

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denmark2011

Denmark Denmark

A Friend in London – New Tomorrow

#5 in the Final

Denmark seem to have got it right lately as far as MASS APPEAL goes (2012 notwithstanding). In 2011, instead of the naff-tacular inspirational pop song of 2010, they sent an altogether more American-sounding track that puts me in the mind of big college rock groups of the last 5 years.

It’s a simple song, easy to remember and sing along to – importantly within the first listen. It’s just a feelgood song really, and feels quite different to anything else this year. Not trying to be too cool or zany or anything, just a great song well-played. Not sure about the backless shirt though…

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iceland2011

Iceland Iceland

Sjonni’s Friends – Coming Home

#20 in the Final

Call me sentimental … no please do, instead of anything else. So 2009’s bridesmaid Johanna not getting a second shot at representing Iceland probably got a lot of people’s backs up, particularly with this rather ragtag darts team of an entry. I imagine you know the story already, potential entrant dies shortly before the selection shows and his musical friends perform the song in his memory.

I hate the sob stories on X-Factor but I don’t feel that this is about trading on grief to get success, I just think it’s a really touching story and I was hoping they would get that success. Considering the style of it isn’t exactly contemporary, I think it’s a lovely singalong fun bouncy song, with lyrics made all the more poignant by the back-story. I guess qualifying to the final could be considered a success, I doubt they really thought they would win, so I think we can all go home pleased how it went.

What can I say? I think this is a lovely song! Maybe not hitting the scorching heights of recent entries from a country I hold as one of the strongest in recent years, but it always makes me smile and think fondly of this year’s contest.

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Finland2011

Finland Finland

Paradise Oskar – Da Da Dam

#21 in the Final

Another schmaltzy one now, and this guy didn’t seem to go down too well, with people thinking he was smug. I think he was just a bit awkward and perhaps a little out of his depth. The song itself is rather drenched in syrup and earnest environmentalism, but again there’s just something about the gentle strumming that gives me warm fuzzies each time I hear it.

It made an impressive opening to the show with the large globe graphic showing just how striking the giant TV screen could be, but it remained a bit too unmemorable or just crap for people to remember it 24 songs later.

Obviously that’s not what I think, I think he was a rather stiff performer but the song is quite charming, maybe I’m getting soft as I get older. I’m not going to hug any trees, leave that to the Fins, but again this gives me warm memories of the show when I hear it, much in the same vein as Tom Dice and his guitar did in 2010.

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croatia2011

Croatia Croatia

Daria – Celebrate

#15 in Semi-final 1

Bollocks to the guitars, how about some nice cheap Balkan dance? Hooray!! Comely giantess Daria gave a pretty good performance I thought, with some typical Eastern European naff touches (i.e. that creepy Jack the Ripper DJ). I am STILL very impressed by the lightning-fast dress changes, not entirely sure how that’s done!

It’s a pretty full-on generic europop monster about celebrating and dancing etc etc, so in that respect I’m sure people probably didn’t think it was all that. But I mean can’t you hear this as a big holiday club hit? Maybe it is was! Upbeat, catchy, great key change … OK Daria looked a bit disoriented, but I really was rooting for her. Bah!

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unitedkingdom2011

United United Kingdom

Blue – I Can

#11 in the Final

So the big comeback eh? I’m not sure if the BBC really thought we were going to be excited by Blue coming back, but at least they tried their best to convince us we were. I’m a little disappointed they didn’t cause any major PR disasters on the promo trail, and of course I did feel a bit short-changed when – instead of coming 2nd to the French wildcard as the bookies said – we ended up losing a top 10 position to the Germans on penalties. But at least it’s a good showing for us … *huff*

The huff is not due to any patriotism, I’ve said time and again that over the last decade or so we’ve  (more or less) got just what we deserved. The song itself was really solid, anthemic, catchy, and – despite a few iffy moments – well-performed (particularly carried by Lee’s glory notes). It certainly felt good to really support a UK entry for a change. I mean Jade Ewen was all well and good, but I didn’t really get behind her until she started racking up the points.

My mum certainly remembered it after her first listen, commenting “The lyrics are very easy to remember aren’t they? ‘I can, we can, you can …'” … hmmm, perhaps not.

It’s a shame we didn’t get a much better position (if not win it), if only to exorcise Terry Wogan’s ghost of stifling pessimism about the show, which has poisoned the public’s perception of this contest. It’s self-perpetuating now, all they have to see is Cyprus giving Greece a 12 (for a Greek-language song, lest we forget) and suddenly everyone’s an expert on European politics. Nobody is out to get us, we just need to send great songs with mass appeal, this is a good start on what I fear is a long, long road to rehabilitation.

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germany2011

Germany Germany

Lena – Taken by a Stranger

#10 in the Final

So here are the hosts, and by a hair it’s the highest Big Four entry. The common criticism I heard from anyone who had heard this song (even the Germans – who generally seemed to be very proud of her, an attitude we should consider here with our own acts) was that it was a great song, but not a Eurovision song. By that, it was meant that it shouldn’t really work in 3 minutes as an instant hit.

It’s certainly an oddity in the year’s entries, which probably helped – being memorable is key to this contest (just ask Jedward). It had an established performer – after all, who else was better proven to be popular to a Eurovision audience than the defending champion?

The vocals weren’t quite there, but the unusual staging (silver-clad dancers reflected in a dazzling mirror-themed backdrop) really was captivating on the night. I guess all this (and more) guaranteed a much better finishing position than many expected. I find this really intriguing and quite frankly I’m interested to hear more of her stuff now. Well played, Germany.

PS the big explosion at the end frightened the shit out of me, we were too close!

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belarus2011

Belarus Belarus

Anastasia Vinnikova – I Love Belarus

#14 in Semi-final 2

Oh BOO, joke entry I’m sure you’ll say. Were you all supporting this ironically, because I seem to remember this being rather popular?

Anyway, I guess if it was a joke, Europe didn’t get the punchline, thus sealing its status as a lost gem in 2011’s crop. Too nationalistic? Well if you are representing your country, why shouldn’t you be nationalistic? God knows, no other nation is likely to sing a song extolling the virtues of Belarus are they? Certainly not after recent efforts from them at least.

This just really hit the spot for me, an outrageously memorable chorus, totally bombastic and full of energy, and even some traditional instruments mingled in seamlessly. There are about three key changes too! On the night I think she performed really well, I love her. Plus the pyrotechnic effects were full-on, they really pulled out all the stops…

… was I stupid for thinking this would ever make it to the final? I mean that cruddy Butterflies song qualified for them in 2010, and all they HAD were some pop-up butterfly dresses, it certainly wasn’t about the vocals or the song then!

Sigh… if anything, I love Belarus now a lot more than I did before I heard this, so I consider that mission accomplished.

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estonia2011

Estonia Estonia

Getter Jaani – Rockefeller Street

#24 in the Final

Wow, talk about a fall from grace. You thought France’s crash from heavy favourite to 15th place was humiliating (actually that probably is worse), but over a slightly longer period Estonia were favourites to win, and yet found themselves right near the bottom on the night.

Even the intro gets me smiling and excited, a weird backwards glockenspiel affair as Getter sets the scene with some great lyrics mixed up with some more nonsensical ones. The drumrolling bridge is great, the chorus is catchy as hell. Every stage of this song has a quirky character to it, I think it’s a really well put-together track.

The staging was on the decent side of cheap, with some striking visuals. I love that girl too, I did get a childish rush of excitement when she turned a hanky into a stick at the start! Poor cow, she deserved much better than 24th place…

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hungary2011

Hungary Hungary

Kati Wolf – What About My Dreams?

#22 in the Final

Undoubtedly the breakout debut of this year’s contest (at least for me), though it disappointingly didn’t deliver the amazing moment I was hoping for when she got to the final. I mean Hera Bjork had a “wow” moment in Oslo’s semi-finals, this just didn’t measure up.

But the SONG! I love her voice on the studio version, and the chorus lyrics really are amazing, especially twinned with the thumping eurodance backing. Her vocals are powerful and not swamped by the production, hitting some really heavenly notes.

At the end of the day everyone loves an underdog, and Kati is certainly fits the template, plain-speaking (which I’ll attribute to the language barrier), slightly wonky looking, with some ridiculous Hungarian X-Factor performances on Youtube, it was hard not to love her. And it’s Hungary! Who saw THAT coming?

I think the performance cost her a number of places on the night, but I will be enjoying this song for many years to come.

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sweden2011

Sweden Sweden

Eric Saade – Popular

#3 in the Final

I’d be amazed if people are going to be shocked and appalled … this became my most-played iTunes song of all time before the contest, so talk about your headstarts!

This is precisely the stuff I love about Sweden. Hungary, Iceland, whoever, they can pull some amazing pop songs out of the bag, but Sweden cook up mounds of these EVERY YEAR as a matter of course. Thank God they made the right choice this year, and after 2010’s humiliating defeat in the semis they came back with their best result since their win over 10 years ago.

So Eric … I LOVED Manboy last year but it was a bit too tacky and strange to translate to the mass audience I think but there was definitely something there, and I’m very pleased he was back with an even more powerful track. I’m not totally sure what I think of him as an artist, but he’s surely a great dancer and presumably did some great singing at some point somewhere (even if it wasn’t on the stage…).

The song means business from the first second, harsh rattling beats to open the song and a wall of synths for much of the remainder. They had the gimmick, the smashing glass – somewhat neutered by the need to clean the stage quickly – but still a showstopping performance. I still can’t get enough of this song, the key change, the glory note (I’ve managed to hit it a few times in the car, though my forehead went all cold, I think that’s a warning sign). A bit shitty that Italy swooped in at the last second to steal the silver medal, but I hope they were very pleased to be back in the top 3 after such a long time, because my GOD they get top marks for trying.

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