Category Archives: Baku 2012

Single: Jedward – “Luminous” (2012)

Yeah Yeah I know, Jedward right? In their defence I thought they did great at Eurovision, moreso their 2011 entry “Lipstick” than 2012’s “Waterline”. After a few years of bothering the British Isles with various irritating covers and reality TV appearances, they finally found their niche.

jedwardIreland were happy with their top 10 finish in 2011 and thought “That went better than expected, let’s just try that again”. Jedward were happy too, thinking “That went better than expected, now let’s show Europe we aren’t just a gimmicky act”. Stripped of their usual novelty – and often their clothes, seriously, a press-up won’t kill you – the result was enjoyable but lacked that spark we’d grudgingly grown to appreciate from them.

Their reception in Baku was lukewarm, but they’d seen the potential that Eurovision exposure offers and had carved out a decent little career in Europe, particularly Sweden. But without the hair, the backflips, the novelty, where are they? They aren’t great singers, so the obvious direction to take was dance-pop. If it goes well, they could have a decent thing going as Swedish celebrities, like A1 did in Norway. They’ve already performed at Melodifestivalen, a pretty huge gig for them. Could this happen? Continue reading

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Filed under Baku 2012, Eurovision, Melodifestivalen 2012, Music, Reviews, Songs

Album: Loreen – “Heal” (2012)

It can’t be easy, being the saviour of the Swedophiles. Their capacity for hyped-up expectations, and equally powerful hate (or hugely unconvincing apathy) is a tough obstacle when you’re releasing a long-awaited debut album. Worse still if you’ve finally won Eurovision for Sweden, for the first time in 13 years. Particularly if the winning song delivered on its potential to be a huge European hit, transcending the usual indifference that many Eurovision winners get.

So Loreen has a lot to live up to, and certainly needs to seem justified in only releasing her debut album 5 months after her victory. Admittedly, she could easily have thrown a single out before now, especially if the European follow-up single to “Euphoria” was a remix of her 2011 Melodifestivalen entry “My heart is refusing me”. With this and its follow-up single “Sober” on the tracklist, you have to wonder if the album wasn’t mostly ready by the time “Euphoria” won victory in Baku. If that’s the case, what took it so long?

Anyway, no matter the convoluted journey to get here, we are here now. Will this just be a string of Euphoria clones? If that’s what you wanted, then brace yourself for disappointment. Loreen is an ARTISTE, don’t you know!

08 In my head – OK the Euphoria sound wasn’t totally unrepresentative, as you may have expected given her dark dancey previous singles. This simmers nicely for the first minute, with Loreen’s distinctively breathy vocals setting the scene. Is it just me, or does that bridge remind me a little of “My Heart Will Go On”?! The track doesn’t have a fast tempo, which I think works out well, with different layers of production filtering in smoothly. The repetition can make me question the 4 1/2 minute runtime, but there’s a nice mix in here, a strong opening track.

08 My heart is refusing me – I was very familiar with this from last year’s Melodifestivalen, so it takes a little adjustment to get used to this remixed version. Her gentle vocals on the verses soar when they hit that huge chorus. Thankfully all this remains, but we’ve got a more Clubland feel to the production. Not sure I totally get on board with it in comparison, but it stands up well as an album track.

07 Everytime – The dance anthems take a break now, and we get an almost acapella heartbreak track. It blossoms after the first minute into an atmospherically dark slow-burner. I can’t say this does much for me, even if she is trying to display some versatility. I’ve no doubt some people will love this, and (perhaps contrarily) say this is one of the best on the album, but Robyn does this sort of thing better.

10 Euphoria – Getting a gorgeous orchestral intro, this the max track of the album, and she’s teased us long enough. I love the intro, but it does feel a little disjoint with the horn-klaxon intro to the usual track. What can I say? This was an incredible moment for Eurovision, a brilliant performance and proof that the contest has the capacity for wide-reaching relevance. It’s a perfect blend of atmospheric verses and soaring chorus vocals over a state-of-the-art dance track. This is something really special.

10 Crying out your name – The Swedes had heard plenty of “My heart is refusing me” last year, so they got this as their album lead single. We should be jealous, as this is an amazingly strong track to follow up such a massive hit as “Euphoria”. It follows a broadly similar structure as that track, but it doesn’t feel like a clone. THIS is how she should do heartbreak tracks. She emotes really well, better than she copes with the breakdown of this relationship, opting for some good old-fashioned breakdowns and hysteria. The first new track so far that shows that “Euphoria” wasn’t doomed to be a one-off.

06 Do we even matter – Let’s not get over-stimulated, time for another bleak slow track. She knows how to have a good time, doesn’t she? Really this feels much in the same vein as “Everytime”, which doesn’t really help. Her vocals get a bit of a stretch, but it’s a pretty dismal thudding dirge.

08 Sidewalk – Heartbroken again? Much be a tough year. But thankfully this has got a bit more punch to it, and while she sounds a bit despondent, she sounds like she’s getting over it. She needs to enunciate a bit though, it took me a few double-takes to hear she was saying he had “no more CARDS to show”. It’s a downtempo track but there’s plenty of jolting electronic flourishes to give the track a jump-start. It knows when to give a bit of subtlety, and plays to Loreen’s strengths.

07 Sober – Another former single from last year, which also gets a remix. While I thought this was the weaker of the three previous singles, I can’t say I feel this remix has helped matters. This takes all the event out of the chorus, in fact the production barely flinches when she reaches it. It all feels curiously off-key too, and homogenises the track with the rest of the album sound. A shame, as it makes me appreciate the original single version more. This is just a bit neutered.

08 If she’s the one – Heartbreak time again! But she’s taking it well, and being surprisingly understanding about losing her lover to some harlot. But only if this other woman really means something. How progressive! There’s something missing from this, I can’t quite put my finger on it, the beat sounds ever so slightly out of time, and needs a bit more beef to it. She gets her standard-issue chance to stretch her vocals towards the end (does she do this every track?). I quite like this generally, but that chorus just needs a bit more energy.

07 Breaking Robot – What a title! Some echoey minimal dance production – why break the habit of a lifetime! A pulsing beat quickly joins the mix, which really does help, and a distorted voice effect actually breaks the vocals up quite nicely. Loreen’s a great singer, but her tone is just the same mournful tone throughout this album, you’d think she’d never smiled once in her life. It’s listenable but it feels a bit directionless and lacking in substance. But it’ll do.

09 See you again – Finally! For a woman so famous for her Euphoria, finally we get some positivity. I’m sure someone will describe this as vaguely Guetta-like, but I think that doesn’t hurt at all, there’s a reason he’s so popular at the moment. This is a breath of fresh air, just the key it’s all pitched at is uplifting and irresistible. Sounds a bit like similar songs by Usher, which in my books is a good thing. Could do with a key change or some sort of variation in chorus at the end, but it’s a good package.

08 Heal – Closing the album (what do you mean, we could go out on a high?), we get another slow-burner. It’s easier to get into though, that almost acapella intro has a real gravity, and when the chorus arrives, it’s a lot more polished and layered than similar tracks I’ve heard on this album. That glassy effect throughout the track is really memorable and unique, love that. OK it flounders a little outside the choruses, but those choruses are worth the effort.

I won’t pretend that I got into this album immediately, and I think it’s a bit of an arrogant attitude to purposely make a ‘grower’, demanding that the listener give it multiple attempts before it will dispense any pleasure. But sometimes that’s how these things pan out in any case. I won’t say I completely ‘got’ this album, and while it would have been easy to try and fill the album with “Euphoria” clones, in avoiding this it ironically ended up sounding a bit samey in places. There seems to be more versatility to be had in dancier uptempos than there is in minimal miserable heartbroken ballads, and I am left wishing she’d explored that avenue more thoroughly.

But still, it’s a decent listen, and there are a handful of tracks that are worthy successors to the post-“Euphoria” hype, and that’s more than a lot of people get. I just hope she lightens up one day.

Keepers for the iPod: In my head, My heart is refusing me, Euphoria, Crying out your name, See you again, Heal


Filed under Albums, Baku 2012, Eurovision, Melodifestivalen 2012, Music, Reviews

Eurovision 2012: Dansk Melodi Grand Prix

Time for a little more retrospective Eurovision 2012 action I’m afraid, as I delve into Denmark’s pre-selection. It’s a lot smaller scale than Sweden’s Melodifestivalen, and even Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix, but there’s plenty to be interested in here.

I might have made it quite clear that I didn’t think much of their eventual selection by Soluna Samay, and so much is clear that I don’t see eye-to-eye with the Danes, considering one of the songs that got missed off. But what about the rest?

There were some tracks I just didn’t really get on board with. Soluna‘s winning song “Should’ve known better” is a dreary midtempo ballad with an annoying inflection in her voice that I hate. The outfits were gross, and it was just all a bit nasty. Fellow “super-finalist” Christian & Patrik’s “Venter” was equally nondescript. It has a nice climax, but it’s just a bit dull, can’t believe these two songs were in the top 3! Kenneth Pompa’s “Reach for the sky” is also a bit of a wet lettuce, just nondescript acoustic blah to me. It’s nice enough but I’d never think twice if I saw it in Eurovision.

Valentine’s “Nowhere” was disqualified because it broke the rules on release dates, coming out too early to be eligible. Not that it’s a great loss, a bit of a ripoff of Pink’s “Perfect”, which I was never that fond of already. Speaking of rip-offs, Jesper Nohrstedt’s “Take our hearts” bears more than a passing resemblance to the Leona/Avicii track “Collide”, but this is no bad thing as that was a hot track. It’s easily my favourite of the three super-finalists, but would have been a bit weak to go to Baku.

Karen Viuff’s “Universe” has a nice feel to it, very… I don’t know, I want to say ‘big’ but I’m not sure what I mean. Very Scandinavian anyway, it’s got a nice rousing chorus, even if her vocals are a little too rushed to get very impressive. Aya’s “Best thing I got” has an interesting style, quite quirky in a 60s throwback way. Reminds me a bit of Dragonette, or even some Macy Gray with that weird croaky voice. It’s got a pretty good chorus too, quite flamboyant and cheesy but it works pretty well.

Suriya’s “Forever I B Young” is a very unusual one, a bit of female rap over what keeps threatening to be a dubsteppy dance beat. Not my cup of tea at all, especially with that strange halting tempo to it, it feels like it never quite flows the way it should do.

Emilia & Philip’s gently piano-led ballad has really worked its way into my mind though. Quiet, tender vocals on both sides communicate some really delicate little moments. It’s about a relationship that didn’t quite work out, and while both sides want it, they realised that it won’t happen. There’s a real sweetness to the tone, but such a strong feeling of bittersweet sadness too. A deceptively simple song, but a real ear-worm that I’ve grown to love.

Finally, my favourite of the lot. It’s a crime that this didn’t get further in the competition, but Ditte Marie’s solo entry (she was in 2011 Dansk GP act Le Freak) is a thing of towering greatness. Not miles away from the sort of music Robyn would make, it’s a fiercely electro pop song, that kicks right into a constant buzzing electro-bassline. The dazzlingly platinum blonde Ditte pulls no punches with the hot vocals, totally nailed in the live performance. That chorus is just euphorically full-on, and so simple to remember and sing along to. But just when you thought you were enjoying a great pop song, BOOM!, there is that death-defying key change. Truly amazing, and a massive shame this didn’t make it to Baku.

Keepers for the iPod: Take our hearts, Universe, Overflow, Baby love me

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Eurovision 2012: My top 10

eurovision 2012 baku banner

God, it feels like a long time ago now doesn’t it? I had a whim to write about Eurovision on this blog, and 6 months ago today (total accident), I gave my thoughts on Melodifestivalen’s first heat in Växjö in February. It feels strange to think how events unfolded since then. At the time, my blog had just over 500 views, and Loreen took to the stage to perform “Euphoria” on stage for the first time. I think Eurovision 2012 was the story of my blog, and of Loreen.

I was pleased by the reaction to my Melodifestivalen post, and those that followed. So I posted an entry about all 42 Eurovision entrants, and the three shows in Baku. I was astonished and grateful for the massive reaction I got from these posts that now see me over 20,000 views, peaking just after the show with over 2,000 views in one day. It’s now settled nicely to about 50-100 views per day, and I am trying to do my best for this blog after this amazing jump-start. Thankyou everyone!

Loreen didn’t do badly for herself either, after a huge victory in Växjö, she fought closely with an unlucky Danny Saucedo in March to take a decisive victory at Stockholm’s Globen to represent Sweden in Azerbaijan’s first Eurovision Song Contest. In a hotly contested final, it was looking iffy, but Loreen pulled well clear of Russian grannies to get a landslide victory, bringing the contest back to Sweden for the first time since 1999 and breaking a chain of 16 unique countries to have won the contest most recently. Next year should be amazing, and I hope to do all this again – and more. But before that, I need to finally draw a line under this year’s contest with my top 10 entries.


Ott Lepland Kuula Estonia Eurovision 2012

Estonia Estonia

Ott Lepland – Kuula

#6 in the Grand Final

Oh I’m not made of stone, I can occasionally be influenced by a sensitive-looking Baltic guy pouring his heart out. It’s difficult at the moment to think of a better example of this as dear Ott Lepland. “Kuula” means “Listen”, and the pleading tone to his voice really made this stand out as one of the more powerful ballads of the contest. He really raised it to another level on stage, with some amazing vocals that totally captivated the audience and secured humble Estonia one of their best results in a long time. I love this guy! *sigh*. Got through that without talking about his erection at least (whoops).


Donny Montell Love is Blind Lithuania Eurovision 2012

Lithuania Lithuania

Donny Montell – Love Is Blind

#14 in the Grand Final

Lithuania!! I’m as surprised as you. A very hit-and-miss country in terms of entries, I feel a little bad that most of its neighbourhood have won the contest in recent years: Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Ukraine, Sweden… and occasionally its entries are a little hard done-by. Poor Laura and her lovers, for example. But conversely I had no idea little Donny would do as well as he did. I chalked up his shock qualification to performing last in his semi, but he showed the song could feel pretty contemporary. He sang it brilliantly, even though the blindfold gimmick was a bit naff, but not as much as his shocking dance moves. That backflip was impressive though. Sounds great turned up loud in my car.


Maya Sar Korake Ti Znam Bosnia Herzegovina Eurovision 2012

Bosnia Bosnia and Herzegovina

MayaSar – Korake ti znam

#18 in the Grand Final

Wow, didn’t see this coming really either. While I was reviewing each entry in the contest run-up, this was pleasant but nothing special. A gorgeously classy video, but generally a nice but boring Balkan ballad. Even the stage performance was a bit staid, Gaga shoulder-pads aside. But something just triggered off for me and I really have fallen in love with it. It’s just so gentle and beautiful: the strings, her voice, it all blends so well. The quiet storms of the bridges into the choruses are sudden and powerful, and the climactic final minute is just a fairytale with a princess’s voice.


Netherlands Joan Franka you and me Eurovision 2012

Netherlands Netherlands

Joan Franka – You and Me

#15 in Semi-final 2

Never mind, maybe next year. Netherlands are certainly one of the more aggrieved of Eurovision nations, never yet qualifying from a semi-final since they came in nearly 10 years ago. The song was an early favourite, also endearingly described by Sweden’s Måns Zelmerlöw as the “Smelly Cat of this year’s contest”. It totally fits – weird affected accent, kooky mannerisms and adorably quaint bluegrassy banjo music. It’s a little barn-dance in my heart, with a song about lost childhood love that poor Joan will never let go of. It’s a gorgeous singalong song, but she totally trashed it live, it was so off-key it broke my heart. Maybe with a less bizarre setup (or dare I say it, performer), it might have had a shot… there’s always another year.


Sabina Babayeva When the music dies azerbaijan eurovision 2012

Azerbaijan Azerbaijan

Sabina Babayeva – When the Music Dies

#4 in the Grand Final

I called Azerbaijan as a potential candidate to defend the host nation’s title this year, and it certainly pulled out all the stops to do itself proud. Sabina was a little … cold (cold cold) but she performed the shit out of that song. A powerful ballad, in the usual Azeri standard of blending traditional instruments with a decidedly western sound, is that even Motown I hear? She had the poise and attitude to totally smash that song, especially that killer final note that still gives me chills. Then there was THAT incredible dress, such a simple idea but executed so brilliantly. They were the first (I think) with 2010’s light-up dress, and we’ve seen plenty of that from other countries since, and they even trumped that! Astonishing performance.


Roman Lob Germany Standing Still Eurovision 2012

Germany Germany

Roman Lob – Standing Still

#8 in the Grand Final

The rehabilitation of Germany’s Eurovision fortunes almost seems unnecessary now. After years in the doldrums with the other Big Four, they made the effort and have been rewarded with three top 10 finishes in as many years, with three very different songs. Lena made way for Roman this year, another sensitive soul, doe-eyed and tattooed singing a song written partly by English musician Jamie Cullum in a year when a massive share of the songs (including the British one) were written by Swedes. It’s a simple song, very MOR but really memorable with some really great lines in it. He sang with real feeling, even if he insisted on that grotty hat. Long may Germany be an example to the other Big Five on how to earn their place in this contest.


Spain Pastora Soler Quedate Conmigo Eurovision 2012

Spain Spain

Pastora Soler – Quédate conmigo

#10 in the Grand Final

Say what you like about the Big Five, most of them really smashed it out of the park this year, and reversed a losing streak for those countries by having three of them finish in the top 10 this year, not sure the last time that happened! Spain were mooted for a time as one to watch, and while it didn’t quite reach the heights some fans felt it deserved, it still did well for a Spanish entry.

This is such a beautiful ballad, with some killer money notes that Pastora to her credit totally owned every time I saw her perform it. It’s so bloody uplifting, especially when you hit that second half. The keychange, THAT big note, that OTHER big note, it’s a totally overblown ballad of Celine proportions, and yet it doesn’t feel hammy, it’s dignified and graceful. Those Russian grannies beating Pastora (and the rest) feels like such an injustice, but she should certainly be damn proud of herself.


Ivi Adamou Cyprus La La Love Eurovision 2012

Cyprus Cyprus

Ivi Adamou – La La Love

#16 in the Grand Final

Oh after all that heartwarming stuff, let’s have some FUN! Cyprus haven’t had a great Eurovision performance for a long while, let alone beating Greece (however marginally). Enter Ivi: statuesque, buxsome and grinning from ear to ear. This performance was terrific fun, with a full-on dance routine not draining her power at all. The song is a total Eurodance marvel, perhaps one Lambada sample away from a lawsuit, but a brilliant summer song, and I think certainly my favourite of the underdogs this year. At the very least, Cyprus should be very happy with their result.


Anggun Echo You and I France Eurovision 2012

France France

Anggun – Echo (You and I)

#22 in the Grand Final

Ooh la la, the final of the Big Five might have been one of the more shocking flops on the night, but I am totally bewitched by hitherto-unknown (to me) Indonesian artist Anggun. I’m told she’s the biggest French-language artist outside France, or something. Anyway, she’s got a gorgeous tone to her voice, and sang a wonderfully uplifting French pop song, that felt totally modern, fun and perfect for the Spring and Summer. France might not always get the results they want, but they certainly keep trying to send a good variety of tracks, can you define the standard French entry? In only the last few years we’ve had African-inspired arena anthems, rousing Corsican opera, and painfully artistic chanson theatre.

Anggun was stunningly beautiful, as were her gang of half-naked athletes. And God knows, there are few things in this life better than half-naked French athletes. That early gear-shift in tempo twinned with that string of backflips really blew me away as one of many ‘moments’ of that song. Maybe their gymnastics distracted a little (though those millisecond-perfect somersaults after the last note still get me), Anggun herself and that astonishing floating dress really raised the performance to something phenomenal.


Loreen Euphoria Sweden Eurovision 2012

Sweden Sweden

Loreen – Euphoria

#1 in the Grand Final

Well, part of me almost wanted to put someone else as my pick of Baku, but who was I kidding? This was a rare moment of victory for those long-suffering Swedophiles, longing for this to deliver on the amazing promise Loreen had when she stormed Melodifestivalen in March. It’s a unique marriage of interpretive dance and up-to-the-minute modern dance music, with a twist of that hearty crowdpleasing feel that the big 90s dance anthems have. The staging had a lot to do with this, almost to the point that I can’t even imagine how else this could have been performed!

As the title suggested, it’s euphoric, it’s a ride, and it’s only going up-up-up-up-uuuup. Pitched so perfectly, and staged in a way that no other nation could have competed with. It revived Sweden back to full power after hitting rock bottom in 2010 (which for Sweden was 11th place in a semi-final – something Netherlands would struggle to hit at their peak). Sweden always have the potential to totally blow this contest away, and I’m overjoyed that they’ve done it again. I don’t think any other nation tries quite as hard to succeed in Eurovision, and I’m expecting something incredible in Malmö next year. I just hope I can get tickets!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my Eurovision 2012 coverage as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. There will be plenty more to come, both with upcoming contests and pre-selections next year, and previous contests that I’m only just discovering now!


Filed under Baku 2012, Eurovision, Melodifestivalen 2012, Music, Reviews

Eurovision 2012: My #20 – #11

On to the top 20 now, and things are getting much better already – but where will it end?

Ukraine Ukraine

Gaitana – Be My Guest

#15 in the Grand Final

I hadn’t really thought too much of this before the show. It was pleasant enough and full of modern-sounding synths, with a late-90s twist to it. Not much to it, Gaitana is certainly keen for you to be her guest. So lyrically it’s a bit thin, but by God did she bring it alive on stage. She’s got a huge voice, and some shrewd choices of props really make for a dazzlingly colourful display. She even brought her own flashmob, via slightly naff computer graphics. Bright, upbeat and joyous, I loved it in the end. The big mystery was why the public seemed to hate it, but the juries loved it so much? Also, how could she hear what she was singing when that trumpet guy was right in her ear?


Serbia Serbia

Željko Joksimović – Nije ljubav stvar

#3 in the Grand Final

The dark horse of the contest certainly lived up to his impressive Eurovision CV and nearly beat the Russian grannies out of a second-place finish. I knew this would do well with Eastern Europe, but for all the moaning about bloc-voting, I think it was a really good song, performed well and with a pretty epic climax. Sure it was a Balkan ballad-by-numbers, but just like Molitva, it had something about it. Performed with class and pitch-perfect vocals. That last segment with the drums really raises it up wonderfully.


Latvia Latvia

Anmary – Beautiful Song

#16 in Semi-final 1

While the last two songs left the show on a high, Latvia fills the role of an early favourite that faded a little. It’s an endearingly tongue-in-cheek pop song about this song being amazing, winning the contest and launching Anmary’s huge worldwide career. We’ve had this self-aggrandising theme before, in less palatable forms certainly (hello, Lt United), but this is actually a massively catchy song, performed with warmth and fun. If anything it’s a little too catchy, so overplay got the better of this one when I wrote this countdown. Shame Europe didn’t really play along with the joke, but you can’t have everything.


Greece Greece

Eleftheria Eleftheriou – Aphrodisiac

#17 in the Grand Final

I feel for Greece sometimes. Much like Turkey, they have been subject to a continuing hate campaign from some quarters because of their 100% track record of qualifications. This takes a qualifer spot away from some female gay icon, down on her luck, and they are an easy scapegoat for this perceived injustice. But in contrast to Turkey, I feel that Greece have always made the effort to send something varied, or at least representative of Greece. Even if this is often (but certainly not always) an ass-shaking Eurodance track, it’s at least got some winner’s instinct about it.

It’s no secret that Greece are in deep shit financially, and perhaps winning Eurovision might not be top of their agenda now, but they are undeterred from sending something typically Greek. Aphrodisiac is perhaps less strong than some of their entries, but it’s certainly catchy enough, sung well by Elifitherifia or whatever she’s called, and plate-smashingly Greek. I’m glad Cyprus stole a very rare (and narrow) victory over the Greeks this year, but I’m also pleased they are still trying.


FYR FYR Macedonia

Kaliopi – Crno i belo

#13 in the Grand Final

Now I hadn’t really had this on my radar for much of the contest’s buildup. Indeed FYR Macedonia hardly have a glittering history of amazing songs, but bless them for trying each time. Kaliopi missed out on representing her country over a decade ago when FYR Macedonia debuted but failed an untelevised pre-qualifier, but she’s back.

I’m so pleased she did so well for her country, she seemed like a great personality. She brought this song alive, not an easy thing for a Western viewer not keen on Macedonian rock music. Her voice isn’t as pure as some of the vocalists, but she’s got this great expressive tone to her voice, as well as THAT scream.


Malta Malta

Kurt Calleja – This Is the Night

#21 in the Grand Final

I’ve always had a soft spot for Malta, and I pray that one day they will surprise us all and take the contest to Valletta, something they’ve come tantalisingly close to on several occasions in their long Eurovision history. I thought Kurt might have a good chance at doing well after this seemingly popular semi-final performance was much better than it should have been. It’s a rich, fun and upbeat track and he’s got a great voice. Seeing the post-semi press conference he just seemed so happy to have qualified where his small nation have failed so regularly in recent years. A strong Maltese entry, and I’m glad he had some success.


Norway Norway

Tooji – Stay

#26 in the Grand Final

I wasn’t sure where to put Norway’s Tooji in my countdown. On one hand I feel it was one of the catchiest and more contemporary songs in the contest this year, and he certainly seemed to be a confident performer. But on stage I felt the vocals and staging were a little lacking. The frantic dance routine stopped his vocals operating at their full capacity, and something about the staging just felt a little cheap. I could use one of these feelings to expect pretty much any result, but as it stood he only just got through to the final by a tie-break with Bulgaria, and somewhat inevitably came last in the final. It looks worse than it was, after all, 16 countries didn’t even get that far. A missed opportunity but still a great song.


Bulgaria Bulgaria

Sofi Marinova – Love Unlimited

#11 in Semi-final 2

Speaking of Bulgaria, and indeed of rather dull staging, here is Sofi. This too felt like a really contemporary dance track, playing on the popular sounds of the region, with Inna and whathisname from Romania having big hits recently. It’s got that melancholic feel to it, really works for me. Her vocals were totally brilliant, tackling a difficult song really well. It’s an impressive roster of languages too, perhaps they might have done well to have made more of that in the visuals. A weird bouncy landscape with Sofi wandering around an empty stage felt like a strange artistic choice, but the catherine wheels were pretty. I laahvve you so muuuch!


Iceland Iceland

Gréta Salóme & Jónsi – Never Forget

#20 in the Grand Final

Time for another of my favourite nations, perhaps my favourite in recent years. They have also fashioned a real image in their entries, mixing icy but passionate ballads such as this and Johanna’s 2009 entry, with ultra-hi-NRG dance pop to rival Sweden in 2010 and 2008, and even space for more traditional fun in 2011. This one has a classically Nordic drama to it, in the same vein as Evanescence and Nightwish, albeit in a much more mainstream way. Making use of Iceland’s dazzling scenery in its visuals, this really was a big track. I’m sad it didn’t quite live up to its promise, even a place lower than Jonsi’s 2004 entry (though that was a less competitive time).


Romania Romania

Mandinga – Zaleilah

#12 in the Grand Final

Picking the top 10 was very tough, and Romania pulled the short straw, despite it really growing on me post-show (oddly not even as a result of the song). The staging was fun and eyecatching as I expect from Romania, one of my favourite nations in that part of the world. Curiously in Spanish, it’s a really fun party track, complete with moonwalking bagpipe players. It has a typical fun Mediterannean feel, and a really together performance between the whole band (apart from the unlucky 7th member who had to sit it out). The female vocalist did a great job in the semis despite a broken earpiece, and I am very pleased they did well in the final.

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