I promise to get this done soon, it feels like so long ago since Eurovision, to the point where there is plenty of news already about next year’s Danish contest, including the amazing and shocking news that San Marino’s two-time representative confirmed she is going for a third attempt.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, how about dealing with the 2013 contest? I loved this year’s entries. It may have been difficult to zero in on a winner, but even the mid-table songs on my countdown are pretty good, and I imagine I’ll keep a lot of them for the iPod after this is all over. So without further ado…
Klapa s Mora – Mižerja
#13 in Semi-Final 1
Eurovision is brilliant for exposing me to these sorts of things. I won’t say uncommercial, just uncommercial in the UK. Klapa isn’t a style of music I’m very familiar with – at least by name – but this is a big step above the Eurovision tradition of dour acapella numbers. It’s got a rousing orchestra sound and harmonies to die for.
I have to be in the right mood for it, it clicked with me on a bright Spring day walking around London, and it STIRRED me. Sadly it didn’t stir Europe (nor me) on the night, it just didn’t seem to quite work. A shame as I think Croatia are generally quite hard done-by in the contest. But maybe next year.
ESDM – Contigo hasta el final
#25 in the Grand Final
Spain on the other hand, aren’t really hard done-by. OK Pastora deserved much better than 10th place last year, but it was still the first Spanish entry to see the top 10 for quite some time. Not that they don’t send good songs a lot of the time, but they hardly fall over themselves trying to appeal to the wider public.
ESDM are a big act in Spain, but outside it? This was perhaps a bit too timid a song to make an impact, and it took a LONG while before it grew on me. It’s still a lovely little song now it’s a bit more familiar. The performance was doomed though, the vocals were a bit off and performing so early only compounded the problem of having such a slow-burner.
Eythor Ingi – Ég á líf
#17 in the Grand Final
Another slow burner that took me until the actual performance in the semi-final to click with me. I honestly thought this had no chance of qualifying, and brought to an end a long string of amazing Icelandic entries. But somehow it turned it around … when that gentle piano intro starts, my heart melts a little bit.
Sentimental as you can be, the visuals played on Iceland’s sleepy landscape and perpetual darkness that gives it such a strong identity. The song is about being grateful for life, once this was explained I fell in love with it a bit. Sure it’s not even a particularly distinctive ballad, but he performed it so well, and there was an appreciative hush over the audience that made the whole thing quite magical. It made me want to go back there, I love those guys!
Who See – Igranka
#12 in Semi-Final 1
They might as well have been called “Hard Sell”. I mean Montenegrin rap performed by astronauts and a toaster-popping Borg diva over a grubby dubstep background? Montenegro certainly know how to distinguish themselves, and it almost paid off for the nation that has yet to see a grand final. And you know what? It grew on me too.
It was easy to write it off as “not my thing”, but the rap segments have such a great rhythm and urgency, as well as showing how unusual a language Montenegrin is. Lessons were learned after last year’s Euro Neuro fiasco, and it looks like they spotted that they can send a song that stands out but still appeal to the voters. I hope they make it next year, one thing’s for sure, both years the non-fans have picked up on Montenegro.
Moran Mazor – Rak bishvilo
#14 in Semi-Final 2
Another year, another “Israllad” (I don’t think that’s catching on). Much phlegm was expelled as always, but Israel always (/usually) sends such classy stuff. This year was no exception, even if Moran was rather oddly styled as a breasty librarian Lynda Woodruff. She was very demure though, I’m sure she’s lovely.
“Rak Bishvilo” is full of melodramatic words of love for her beau, it’s such a tragi-drama, and she’s got some big… lungs. I love Hebrew-language songs, or at least Eurovision ones that I’m basing that on. It felt like she would qualify just by being a powerful and memorable singer but I suppose this might have just been too by-numbers for the public.
Bonnie Tyler – Believe in Me
#19 in the Grand Final
Well it was a lot better than we thought it would be. Her vocals on the night might have been as croaky as we all feared, but some big support from the backing singers saved the day. Even the Brits were pragmatic, with the general feeling that – instead of being shafted by Europe again – while Bonnie gave it her best, the song wasn’t a winner and in fact 19th place was better than we had expected. Is this progress? I knew the turnaround for the Brits in Eurovision would be a long road, but it’s not clear yet where we are on it.
The studio version suits Bonnie well, and it’s really quite a lovely song. Desmond Child’s hand in writing this made a difference, and Bonnie did well with a dignified and likeable song. More likeable than Engelbert’s song anyway – though while there was a lot wrong with last year’s entry, Bonnie at least had a good attitude towards the contest. This was an opportunity for her, not a gamble, and it was refreshing for her to see it that way. I just hope others follow suit.
Hannah – Straight Into Love
#16 in Semi-Final 1
Another grower, largely down to her performance. Sure it was a bit screechy in places but that’s a difficult song to sing, so many big notes. A great dance intro followed by that gorgeous “Faster than light” opening verse. I’ve still not quite got over my main criticism of the song, i.e. the melody on that chorus. That “loooooove” note just doesn’t sit right. It’s not her fault, it’s the composer.
But still they sent an impressively contemporary pop song with a dubstep twist and some precision choreography. If I wasn’t entirely convinced Hannah and the song were the right choices for Slovenia’s possible last gasp at Eurovision for a few years, then I was won over on the night – that’s a good time to do it. Deserved better than 16th in the semi-final though.
Andrius Pojavis – Something
#22 in the Grand Final
Poor Andrius got a lot of stick, and it’s a bit disrespectful to mock someone in this contest. I mean if I wanted to represent any nation in Eurovision, Lithuania wouldn’t be my first choice, but they didn’t shame themselves this year. The song sounded transparently like a watered-down Killers song, even Andrius’s voice reminded me of Brandon Fowers.
The lyrics flip between basic and weird, with most people picking up (and focusing on) the line about his shoes, but really I’m fond of the chorus. It’s simple, “If you don’t know, I’m in love with you” has a nice warm feel to it, and Andrius was effortlessly likeable. Sure his eyebrows moved, a lot of people’s eyebrows do the same. He was confident and relaxed, and it was easy to watch as a result.
Cezar – It’s My Life
#13 in the Grand Final
If there was any performance that everyone was talking about, Romania’s Cezar brought it. Easy to mis-classify as a novelty song, but Moldova’s towering inferno of a dress meant it didn’t have to be a comedy gimmick, even if a falsetto vampirical man was wearing it.
“It’s my life” has a lot to it – the operatic vocals could not be faulted, the spectacle made him look like a volcano burning villagers below, it just all came together. Sure it was unusual and many would have laughed along with it, but I don’t think the spirit of it was supposed to be a novelty entry at all, and I think on some level people got that, even if they affectionately trotted out the “Only in Eurovision” mantra. It’s only a matter of time before Romania win, mark my words!
Takasa – You and Me
#13 in Semi-Final 2
It’s probably only a matter of time until Switzerland win again too, though that’s more likely to be decades. Of course they’ll probably win in 2014 now, with the unsinkable Lys Assia at the helm too. I really loved “You and me”, but it just flopped on the night because it was just so static. The spirit was fine, the song was catchy and rousing, but it just needed more going on.
The removal of the Salvation Army uniforms and name would have had no impact on that I think, it just didn’t catch the attention despite its penultimate performance slot. It’s got a great chanting quality to it, a strong melody hook and a sense of togetherness with the band really raised it up for me, but yeah, I think it just wasn’t enough to stand there and sing, sadly.