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Athens calling – ESC 2013 Greece pre-selection

It’s obviously been a difficult year for Greece. Struggling to hold its economy and government together, many were betting Greece would add to the tally of countries pulling out of Eurovision for financial reasons. Indeed national broadcaster ERT tried and failed to secure financial support from major record labels to fund an entry, but an agreement was made with private channel MAD TV to host a national final and send its winner to Malmö.

It seems support for Greece in Eurovision has been solid since their win in 2003 and subsequent hosting of the contest the followng year. They’ve had one of the strongest records at the contest in the last decade too, only breaking a chain of eight top 10 finishes last year when “Aphrodisiac” came 17th last year in Baku. They’ve also never failed to qualify for a semi-final since that system arrived in 2004. Can they keep up that streak? Four hopefuls wanted a ticket to Malmö, but only one could win, decided by a typical 50/50 jury & televote split. Continue reading

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Eurovision reloaded: Dusseldorf 2011 – #30 – #21


After a day off, spurred on by my hard drive being a bitch last night and really pooping on a terrible week, I’m back with some more retrospectives on Germany’s selection of Eurovision hopefuls from the 2011 contest.



Poland Poland

Magdalena Tul – Jestem

#19 in Semi-final 1

Poor doomed Poland, winning the wooden spoon of this year’s contest by coming dead last in the first semi-final. It’s hard to say if that sound problems that plagued the start of the show were totally to blame, Magdalena didn’t seem QUITE able to carry off the vocals, so it might have been a blessing in disguise.

It’s a pretty good euro-dance track, even if it’s all Polish, which somewhat limits the karaoke potential for me. It all looked like quite a polished (tee hee) entry, just didn’t really seem to work out, did it?



France France

Amaury Vassili – Sognu

#15 in the Final

Yeah, great, thanks France, you lost me £20 quid (well not really, it was a freebie bet I got after betting on Blue). After all, the last decade has shown that it pays to back the bookie’s favourite, and at 2/1 odds compared to the next closest (Blue at 8/1) it seemed like a sure thing that it would win.

Well, a sure thing to everyone except those who had listened to it. How could so much faith be put in an unknown quantity like a Corsican opera song? No self-fulfilling prophecies were going to convince the European populace to pick up their phones though, and before you could say “I told you so”, it came in at a rather humiliating 15th place. Well it wouldn’t have been that humiliating had so many people not thought it was going to win, but hey.

It is what it is though, I can appreciate it as much as I can an opera song. It was memorable, and well sung (for the most part), but still … that’s not really why I came to Eurovision. I’m glad that there is such variety, but I won’t pretend this is the stuff I love.



Italy Italy

Raphael Gualazzi – Madness of Love

#2 in the Final

I swear, I was going to put this dead last at one point. What happened? This is nothing compared to the rather shocking turnaround for returning heavyweight Italy during the course of the voting results, coming from the very bottom quite far into the results to a truly shocking 2nd place.

I won’t pretend I see that level of appeal, but it has grown on me. There are points I still really hate, the dog-bothering shrieks for a start, but he did put on a decent performance. The chorus stayed with me after the show too, it’s quite old-fashioned. God knows, some of the San Remo stuff I saw by chance on Belgian TV was BEYOND PAINFUL, so count this as a lucky escape.

I just felt a bit aggrieved that this stole the silver medal from Sweden in the last set of votes …



Armenia Armenia

Emmy – Boom Boom

#12 in Semi-final 1

Oh I know, I know, I shouldn’t like this. It’s such a weak-assed excuse for a pop chorus, and some of the vocals on the night were a total train-wreck.

A crying shame too, Armenia have been responsible for some great entries over the last few years. It seems their ambition for mainstream success meant that they dispensed with any of the usual cultural angles they often include, and it seems they threw the baby out with the bath water.

That said, Azerbaijan did pretty much the same thing but managed to win the bloody thing, so what do I know? Weak as it is, this IS a very catchy song, even if it only seems to work on record instead of being performed.



Malta Malta

Glen Vella – One Life

#11 in Semi-final 1

Oh dear, what a hot tranny mess this guy was. This seemed to feel like a much better idea when I was only listening to the final studio version than when he flounced onto stage in the semi-finals.

God knows how old he was under all that makeup, but he seemed endearingly enthusiastic just to make it to the semi-finals, so I was rooting for him. Coming a single point from qualifying was still a lot more successful that I was expecting, but I will be waiting a bit longer for Malta’s hard-earned victory.

Oh I haven’t mentioned the SONG have I? OK it’s at least a departure from the usual tactic of sending some empowered Maltese woman out with a ballad and a nice dress (or just Chiara if she’s up for it – and she always is). People seemed to hate this but I thought it was a nice message, even if it was delivered with the overbaked vocals of a drag act. At least it sounded VAGUELY contemporary.



Bosnia Bosnia and Herzegovina

Dino Merlin – Love in Rewind

#6 in the Final


Another odd grower, though it earned that status quite a while before the contest itself. That probably burnt it out a bit for me, it’s a bit of a drag now. Maybe it was the rather uninteresting staging that took forever to get going. It was clear that it was a good group of musicians though, and the song managed to be appealing and relevant without having to be a dance-pop song.

Popular with the crowd, presumably as a returning entrant to Eurovision, though that didn’t seem to do Dana International much good did it?

It could have troubled my top 10 at one point, a thought that seems quite incredible right now, but it’s memorable, good key changes, stands out from the rest. What else can I ask?



Albania Albania

Aurela Gaçe – Feel the Passion

#14 in Semi-final 1

MEGAVOX time. After the first two semi-finalists faltered, this fierce bitch really melted some faces with a VOX BOMB. The song itself has wobbled a bit for me, loved it originally, then cooled off, but that performance just gave me goosebumps. I imagine people were put off by HER, sadly, and probably didn’t even notice some of the FILTHILY suggestive lyrics “I DAB my lips with your morning DEW”

The bridges are great though, “Like an eagle in the OPEN SKY”, and the brief manic bit of Albanian. I really liked this, shame it didn’t make the final. I suppose that much is obvious if I put it in the top 25!



Spain Spain

Lucía Pérez – Que me quiten lo bailao

#23 in the Final

Spain! Who’d have thought it? They didn’t even need to send a boyband to get me paying attention. This was a late bloomer, VERY late really – the night before the final I realised how much I love this.

OK so she doesn’t have the glamour of Serbia’s entrant, the fierce confidence of Albania or the megavox of Austria. But GOD what a catchy wonderful song this is. Can’t understand a word of it, but what does that matter? That’s part of the appeal to some of the foreign language hits, it’s in the delivery. This somehow manages to be even more joyful than Haba Haba and Caroban, particularly thanks to that lovely middle 8 and the key-change for the final chorus.

I can see why it didn’t really work on the night, but at least I enjoyed it (and probably Portugal did too)



Ukraine Ukraine

Mika Newton – Angel

#4 in the Final

I’m at a bit of a loss with this one, I’d not really grown too attached to it before show. That performance was certainly memorable but didn’t really help me that much – it was definitely inventive to have that Mystic Meg woman doing her sand pictures on the giant TV screen, but I found it quite distracting from the performer.

She was a beautiful girl too, and without the distraction of the sand-art, this is a real grower. Obviously I didn’t feel the 4th place finish was entirely deserved but it’s got a really memorable chorus and it’s still growing on me, so… well I’m willing to be proven wrong. I always love Ukraine’s entries one way or another, even if they send something as unappealing as 2010’s entry.



Lithuania Lithuania

Evelina Sašenko – C’est ma vie

#19 in the Final

Surely someone liked Lithuania, seeing as Evelina blind-sided many people by qualifying from her semi. I mean, who else thought it could have easily come last?

Luckily she was a great singer with a largely unopposed straight-up ballad (Malta must be pretty pissed off). It’s syrupy and dated, but it’s such a lovely sweeping melody. She didn’t look like she thought she’d do well, but she gave it her best and was almost bemused that she’d got through!

I think I like this so much because it could easily be a classic Japanese piano-ballad, the sort they use on Final Fantasy games. Powerful but controlled vocals and a charming song. That’s all I wanted!



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Album: Madonna – “Like a Virgin” (1984)

Continuing on my journey through Madonna’s studio albums, we get to her pop breakthrough, Like a Virgin now. For some reason I never thought I liked this very much, it’s certainly not the first choice if I want to listen to an Madonna album. But here I am, listening away. It’s not that BAD, in fact I suppose with my low expectations it was quite pleasing. Some of the fan favourites from this though, I still can’t get on board with.

PS I think I must have a re-issue because I didn’t think Into the Groove was on this originally…

08 Material Girl – Now what I said about fan favourites doesn’t really apply to this. While I still think it’s a bit naff, it is a great song with a definite image to it. I suppose my main criticism of this album is that it just isn’t as COOL as its predecessor. This feels a bit gimmicky in order to shift a few records and get people talking. I mean, of course it worked, but it just makes me roll my eyes a bit. As an aside it’s a little annoying that this became her nickname for some time (maybe it still is), despite this obviously being a bit tongue-in-cheek, or at least I hope so.

06 Angel – Only looking now at her chart history, she had SEVEN Top 5s in 1985, this coming about midway through. It’s always been a bit of a lost single to me, not one I was familiar with (i.e. it wasn’t on The Immaculate Collecton). It’s alright, I don’t dislike it but the chorus is just a bit blah. The whole THING is a bit blah. BLAH BLAH BLAH. “Oooh, you’re an angel”. I just don’t get why people rave about it. The production is quite nice but in such honourable company as her big singles of this era, it just doesn’t stand up.

07 Like a Virgin – As with “Material Girl”, I can’t criticise it too much because it was pretty much where the whole Madonna show really started taking off. Moreso than “Material Girl” this was really going for the publicity, but now it makes me cringe a bit. I like the song itself to a point, but what was a bit risque at the time just doesn’t mean the same now. It’s classic Madonna so people are going to love it whatever I feel, but it’s not one of my favourites. The re-working of it on the Confessions Tour was pretty special though.

08 Over and Over – I’m not a huge fan of these album tracks, but I do like the tempo of this. The chorus doesn’t do much for me but it’s quite energetic and fun. The middle 8 is pretty good, and to be fair I would rate it highly among the non-singles. I suppose I can’t really complain too much abut repetition, given my raving over the first album.

09 Love don’t live here anymore – This throws me off a bit, as I first met this song on the “93:99” DVD, featuring a video made during her Evita shoot. Was this a single in 1985/6 and also on Something to Remember? Either way, it curiously seems to fit into both eras for her, even stranger since it was a cover of a Rose Royce track from the 70s. Either way it has been a (very) slow burner, I rather like this, really stands out from some of the fluff that’s been on so far.

10 Into the Groove – And YOU CAN DANCE. OMG I love this, drenched in 80s but still feeling fresh. Makes me remember how much I loved “Desperately Seeking Susan”. In fact I only just twigged that DSS was made so early into her career, I always thought she had been pretty established before she turned her attention to films… well whatever. Anyway, it’s a STONE COLD CLASSIC.

10 Dress you up – One of my many little nudges towards Madonna in the early days was a GAP advert where various models covered this. For something that really stuck in my mind, and came around the same time I picked up “The Immaculate Collection” I think. This picks up where “Into the Groove” left off, really 80s but totally great today. I had the Thin White Duke remix before, and he really didn’t have to do much to this apart from beef up the backing (which worked great). I hate to throw out 10s there’s no tomorrow, but what can you DO?

09 Shoo Be Doo – Apart from an atrocious title, I always quite liked this. Really builds up, quite a sweet little ballad that gradually picks up the pace into an amazingly catchy chorus. GORGE. I love the music behind it to, less is MORE. That bit where the beat comes in after the practically acapella first chorus is glorious.

07 Pretender – Oh well it couldn’t last… I never really liked this. Where some of the songs are totally 80s but really fresh, this just feels dated, like a Five-Star cassette album in my attic (I wonder if it’s still there). That lends a certain charm to it, but it’s a pretty cliched formula to a song, with some pretty clumsy lyrics scoring highly on the Des’ree-o-meter of tacky rhymes.

08 Stay – Oh I LOVE the backing, but again the lyrics feel a bit cliched. I can’t imagine it was much different back in 1985 either. Still, I can just pretend not to hear all that… bit of an indifferent ending to the album though. That “True love” bit she keeps saying just makes me thing of “True Blue” so much. SKOO SKOO SKOO SKOODALLY BEE BAP.

A bit of a lumpy start and end, but WHAT a run in the middle. Overall it’s a pretty decent pop album, though there are a number of moments when I am eyeing the “skip” button. I wouldn’t say it’s a classic by any means, more like a fun fluffy 80s album with some TITANICALLY AMAZING tracks holding it all together. Feels like the “X” of its day, like they knew they would have a hit on their hands so just threw a load of songs at it and hoped something would stick. Luckily it paid off more than “X” did and turned Madonna into an A-List megastar, but it just feels a bit flimsy.

Keepers for the iPod: Material Girl, Love don’t live here anymore, Dress you up, Into the Groove, Shoo be doo


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Eurovision reloaded: Kiev 2005: My Top 10

10. Walters and Kazha – The War Is Not Over (Latvia )
#5 in the Grand Final

Speaking of the Baltic bloc, as we enter the top 10 here is Latvia. It should be the naffest load of dreck ever. The styling looks just as you would expect from a Latvian Eurovision entry, and they’re strumming away on their little guitars.

Oh wait, the one with the shit hair got up, HOLD THE PHONE. It’s just a really sweet song, and I’m a sucker for a good falsetto, which is exactly what we get on that last little glory note. Or it is if you saw the semi-final. They mysteriously bottled it on the final performance, but still made it to the top 5. OK it’s not the strongest note every, and I imagine if he tried to push it, it would have gone horribly wrong.

9. Gülseren – Rimi Rimi Ley (Turkey )
#13 in the Grand Final

Turkey time, another country that can rarely do wrong in Eurovision. This time they went for the full-on ethnic bonanza, there are sitars and drum, costumes with tassles and beads, even some weird bongo priest.

I’m not that familiar with the sound of Turkish, so for all intents it reminds me of some sort of Bollywood soundtrack. It’s gloriously sunny and energetic. For all the spectacle of the performance, the vocals aren’t really great, but I really do love that recorded version, very upbeat.

How many drum solos did the participants indulge in this year, feels like LOADS.

8. Javine – Touch My Fire (United Kingdom )
#22 in the Grand Final

Who’s that in the slot of death? Yes, poor Javine got the fabled 2nd slot in the running order, that has never produced a winner. But let’s make the most of it, and throw as much ethnicity at it as we can to try and make up for our Eurovision sins of recent years.

I really loved this at the time. Is she referring to her vagina in the title? Who can tell. She managed to at least avoid another nip-slip during this dazzling performance. She looked amazing, and there’s more than enough Eastern promise thrown in to please our distant European cousins.

At least that was the plan. I’m used to us doing badly in Eurovision, ever since we started sending shit like Gemini, but by and large I don’t think we’ve really been short-changed in the last decade, except in this case. It felt to me to be the most accomplished and appealing entry we had until Jade in 2009, and perhaps this is a more fitting victim to the running order than lumpy old Engelbert this year was.

7. Shiri Maimon – Hasheket Shenish’ar (Israel )
#4 in the Grand Final

Time for an Israeli Barbie singing another lovely Israeli song that I can’t understand a word of. I love the Hebrew sounds though. HAHGHHH.

At first glance it seems like a pretty standard Disney ballad that we’ve seen a handful of already, but she really brought this one alive. That chorus really builds nicely doesn’t it? And she’s so PRETTY. Lebanon tried to entry in 2005, with a rather lovely French ballad, but they couldn’t accept sharing the contest with Israel. If it comes down to the songs, I think the right song ended up on stage.

6. Vanilla Ninja – Cool Vibes (Switzerland )
#8 in the Grand Final

What the hell are Switzerland doing in contention for a win? Or at least ANYWHERE near a top 10. I’m so used the the recent Swiss disasters that it’s a bit of a surprise to see them doing well. But just as they did to secure their last win with Celine Dion, they had to import Vanilla Ninja in from Estonia.

I’m not really sure what to make of it, the title doesn’t quite convey the serious tone of the song, nor does the flippancy of the lead singer when she sings “why don’t you kill me?”. It’s a real slice of drama isn’t it? The lead singer is pretty kickass too, I think she beat up Lithuania’s Laura for that jacket too. Why weren’t they representing Estonia though?

Either way, it really stood out in a field of poppy turbo-sluts and pretty Disney princesses, and really held its own.

5. Luminiţa Anghel and Sistem – Let Me Try (Romania )
#3 in the Grand Final

Time to turn the FEROCITY up to 11 as Romania bring another solid hit to the stage with the big-voiced and big-chested Luminiţa. Is that another drum solo? Honestly guys, what was going on?

She needed a strong voice to get over that noisy percussion, she she certainly had that. With such full-on vocals she even had space for a hair-raising key change too. The props were a bit overkill, I mean angle grinders really shouldn’t be used as percussion should they? What a racket!

It certainly went down well with the public though, giving Romania their best result to date.

4. Nuno Resende – Le grand soir (Belgium )
Did not qualify, #22 in the Semi-Final

OK so I can expect to meet some resistance on this one, but I don’t CARE ANYMORE. The slightly vampiric Nuno really nailed those vocals though, and did his best to take my attention off that vile jacket, and his unfortunate facial hair decisions.

French just sounds so nice, and he certainly stretched his rhyming dictionary as far as it would go. It’s naff, especially when that hidden electric guitar screeches away quietly.

But it’s really that vocal that won me over, especially that gorgeous final note. You can tell the audience don’t really give the tiniest shit though, can’t you. Ultimately it was doomed, and Nuno was forced back into his coffin for driving Belgium into a losing streak only matched by their neighbour Netherlands.

3. Chiara – Angel (Malta )
#2 in the Grand Final

THAR SHE BLOWS. The royal yacht Chiara is cruising into view, with her mightiest Disney ballad to date. I really want her to finally win this contest for Malta one day, it would be such a lovely story. Just get some Swedes in to write the song please.

It could easily have stalled as a pretty boring ballad, but her voices really elevates this into something really glorious. She even gets to give it a bit of SASS halfway through, before resuming her task of blowing away all the other vocalists in the contest.

Christ knows why Malta are mothballing her with a 5-year ban for all previous Maltese entrants, and leaving her to sing the shit out of some plus-sized hits on Maltese TV. Put her in a nice dress and do her hair please, she looks like Dr Robotnik’s sister at the moment.

2. Selma – If I had your love (Iceland )
Did not qualify, #16 in the Semi-Final

I did think long and hard about who I’d eventually pick as my 2005 favourite. It was a close-run thing, but Selma has to settle for 2nd place, as she did in 1999 when she first entered. I’ve just notice that my top 3 were all former participants – former top 3 finishers, no less! while Chiara and Helena managed to reflect this in the leaderboard, Selma got a raw deal crashing quite heavily in the semi-final.

It’s a shame really, Iceland have produced some of the best entries of the 7 contests I’ve counted down, perhaps better even than Sweden (we’ll forget 2007 happened). Selma’s song ultimately didn’t quite have the OOMPH that Helena mustered, but it was still a great performance.

A vaguely Toxic-sounding string riff, and a full on euro-slut sound was present here, but Selma herself was utterly gorgeous, like Amanda Holden might look like with her original head. The routine was simple but effective, with the golden motif throughout the performance really setting off the whole thing.

I can see why it might have got lost in the pack, but it really did deserve much better than it got.

1. Helena Paparizou – My Number One (Greece )
#1 in the Grand Final

So yes, there we have it. It’s one of those rare occasions where my favourite track of the contest actually WON. In fact judging by Greece’s record in recent years, it’s almost unthinkable that they’ve only won it once.

But what a win, it just has the gravity of a winner, and while they realised that Helena’s vice was strong, it couldn’t compete with some of the ballads, so they threw plenty of gimmicks at it. A hot dance routine, the human string-section (!), the stick dance, that naff but inch-perfect ‘1’ design laid out in Greek dancers.

I think the planets just aligned to secure the Greek victory, it was closer than I imagine it would have been, but Chiara at least didn’t have to suffer such a nail-bitingly close defeat as she did in 1998.

Some great lyrics in there though, that I’m sure you would only ever find in Eurovision “You’re my passion, my relief, my crucifixion”. In a short space of time, Greece certainly learnt the secret combination (…) to Eurovision success to become one of the untouchable for the best part of a decade, and I can’t imagine it’ll be long before they win again (unless they destroy Europe).

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