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100,000 hits & stats blowout

Hi guys,

It’s not quite been 2 years since I started this blog, and somehow I’m managed to amass 100,000 views! It’s a number I never imagined I would get – to be honest I hadn’t really given it much thought, and frankly I thought I might give up after a month. But here I am, and striving to post once a day. That work seems to have paid off at least, and here we are celebrating a milestone.

For this, I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone who has read anything on here, whether you’re a friend or a stranger. I’m easy to put off things, and this constant ego massaging is what has kept this blog going.

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Eurovision reloaded: Dusseldorf 2011 – My top 10


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?



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…



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.



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.



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!



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.



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!



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.



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…



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.



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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Eurovision reloaded: Dusseldorf 2011 – #20 – #11


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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?



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.



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?



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.



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.



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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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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Eurovision reloaded: Dusseldorf 2011 – #43 – #31

I’ve been sitting on some of these Eurovision write-ups for a while, as I’ve written about previous Eurovisions on a messageboard before now. I hope that over the next year or so I can fill in the blanks between Istanbul 2004 and Malmö 2013. To further confuse things, I’m looking at Riga 2003 at the moment! But anyway, let’s cast our minds back slightly to 2011.


For a large part of the 00’s, it seemed like a Big Four win was totally out of the question. Indeed, Germany, France, Spain and the UK had all suffered a long period of disappointing results, and fell into a vicious cycle of lazy entries, convinced they would fail whatever happened. But a few decent results in the later years (UK & France in 2009, for example) seemed to snap Germany out of this funk and they went all out to find a contemporary pop song to blow the competition away. In Oslo they did just that, and Lena’s “Satellite” become Germany’s long-awaited 2nd victory.

After having possibly my best ever holiday, largely driven by being in Oslo for the 2010 contest, my friend and I resolved to go to Germany the following year. I did manage to go to the second semi-final, happily sparing me another night of utterly terrible BBC coverage by Sara Cox. We were right at the back, and we did have to make it from the airport runway to our seats within 50 minutes, but it was only 5 Euro for an ‘everything must go’ ticket, and we got a good view of the massive TV screen onstage.

Also, as we did in 2010, rather than spend £170 for Grand Final tickets (and good luck, the booking system crashed for 4 hours and reopened with most of the tickets sold), we went for the Jury final on the Friday night, and got given THE WORST tickets. I’m still annoyed about THAT. But we got a great view of the backs of the performers’ heads (when we weren’t seeing the backs of the audience’s heads). We made up for it by spending the final in a lovely biergarten, drunkenly chatting to some natives as the UK’s hope of a win was dashed for another year.

ANYWAY, I would say that the show was as flash as could be expected from a Big Four host, though I couldn’t help but feel that Oslo put on a better show with more personable presenters, and the show didn’t quite hit the bombastically extravagant look of Moscow’s show. I would agree with early criticism that a stadium wasn’t well suited for the show. The walkway was a nice idea but it was SO big that it took a large part of the 3-minute songs just to get there!

But what of the MUSIC? Well I’ll do my usual and count down the 43 entries.



Portugal Portugal

Homens da Luta – A luta é alegria

#18 in Semi-final 1

Hmm well someone has to come last, and it was a surprisingly easy decision to come to. In fact, Europe nearly agreed, placing them just ahead of Poland in the first semi final, not least by virtue of 8 points from Spain. How the fuck in these days of anti-political voting separation did Spain end up voting in Portugal’s semi??

Anyway, a novelty/protest song that managed neither definition. If there was a message, it was mostly lost on the viewer by being in Portuguese. Of course there were some signs in various languages but God knows what that was about. The song itself was quite uninteresting, the sort of thing I could imagine hearing in Nandos. No wonder they’ve never won it.

I just hope it’s not about their financial situation, because this was NOT worth paying the entry fee for.


Latvia Latvia

Musiqq – Angel in Disguise

#17 in Semi-final 2

Oh actually, maybe the last place wasn’t so clear-cut. These guys managed to make 3 minutes feel like slow death, and here was me lucky enough to see them perform live! What an ungrateful cuss I am.

At least it sounded vaguely modern, but the lyrics were hugely shit and it just felt flat and rubbish. Even the rap bit was a slight improvement but pretty dated. Kill me with killer kiss? The main guy had a weird face too, like an overinflated balloon.

Well done Latvia on failing to deliver on my already low expectations. THAT WAS SARCASM


Turkey Turkey

Yüksek Sadakat – Live It Up

#13 in Semi-final 1

One of the selling points of this year’s show was the number of interesting stories coming out of it. First of these in this countdown was the rather shock fall from grace for the Turks (is that the proper term? It sounds strange, I hope I’m not being racist). I think practically everyone was cynically (and understandably) assuming that Turkey would qualify this year, someone even suggested that they could armpit-fart their way to the final (which of course they did with Hadise in 2009).

Trotting out some REAL MUSIC, particularly some dated RAWK heightened our cynicism further. Given Turkey’s massive success last year with MaNGa taking 2nd place in Oslo, history seemed set to repeat. Except then it didn’t! Well I don’t think many people cried for the loss of this pretty uneventful crud, despite the contortionist shoe-horned into the staging. The group just didn’t have the command of the stage that MaNGa did, nor the quality of song.

At least it feels like justice was done in some measure during that shocking first semi-final.


Belgium Belgium

Witloof Bay – With Love Baby

#11 in Semi-final 2

Acapella must sound like such a good idea sometimes. Put some faith in the talent of the performers instead of relying on flashy performances and gimmicks, YEAHHH! Indeed there is an almost annual appearance of vocal groups at Eurovision in recent times, and for a few moments this even sounded like it was going to work.

I did quite like this at one point, perhaps due to my low expectations of how good it would be. Very divisive I’d imagine, at least to begin with. After several listens I was getting a bit sick of it, but that was before the performance. To give them credit, they NEARLY squeezed Moldova out of the final, though that’s not much of a tradeoff.

But the point with putting your faith in a vocal group is that they don’t fuck up the vocals, because that’s ALL YOU HAVE. It wasn’t a total disaster, but surely it didn’t go to plan. Keeping it simple paid dividends for Tom Dice in 2010, but I think they took the wrong lesson out of that success … better luck next time Belgium.


Moldova Moldova

Zdob şi Zdub – So Lucky

#12 in the Final

Goodness me! I lost my train of thought there for a moment… It was at LEAST better than Turkey for having some vaguely interesting music and visual, and some TUNE to it (in places). My irrational hatred of unicyclists was tested here, as well as shouty Eastern-bloc rock music that I don’t give a shit about. Watching the performance I can imagine why some ironic viewers might have picked up their phones, which I guess partly explains their 12th placing in the final despite being the lowest-scorer qualifying from the semi-finals.

I’m not even sure if this was a gimmicky novelty entry, seeing as they are a quite established act in that part of the world, in fact they even represented Moldova in 2005 too. Maybe this is what all the Moldovans listen to… but not me.


Cyprus Cyprus

Christos Mylordos – San aggelos s’agapisa

#18 in Semi-final 2

It’s a bit of a struggle even referring to Cyprus as Eurovision hopefuls, because goodness knows they rarely seem to have a hope of qualifying. While last year their entry seemed to have a lot of good feeling about it, even that only just squeaked into the final. This Greek-language song had a few good moments in the choruses, and that whole Smooth Criminal-esque leaning routine, but it does have a feeling of “toilet break song” doesn’t it?

Even the wailing woman swinging her balls around on the front stage didn’t really do much for me, and Europe placed them second-last in the second semi. Whoops.


Bulgaria Bulgaria

Poli Genova – Na inat

#12 in Semi-final 2

Right, just to announce to you all, I don’t really dislike anything from this point onwards, but we are now entering the AMBIVALENCE ZONE. So pardon me if I end up cutting corners in my commentary.

So Bulgaria, they’re always a bit of a wildcard aren’t they? Hardly a glittering history of success, at this point only qualifying once in the 7 years since their entry to the contest. After trying some eurodance last year, and some … well I’m not quite sure how to describe their 2009 entry, they entered a middling rock-pop track with a lesbianesque frontwoman.

I mean it’s ALRIGHT, but it’s not really breaking new ground, a bit of a mid-00s-sounding noise but doesn’t do a lot for me. One where I remember the background visuals more than the song, not a good start…


FYR FYR Macedonia

Vlatko Ilievski – Rusinka

#16 in Semi-final 2

Here we have a track that promised to be more interesting than it ended up being. Actually this isn’t too bad, it starts off sounding like some sort of eurodance rock hybrid, but emerges as a pretty straightforward modern rock track with a vaguely Soviet folksy feel to it.

FYR Macedonia again hardly have the best track record, generally because the juries twice booted them out of the final in favour of Sweden and Finland despite coming 10th in their semis. I won’t get too upset for them because usually they are pretty hopeless, and we at least know they got a decent result in Baku. But this was at least LISTENABLE, and I quite like the word Rusinka. I feel like 16th place in the semi was a bit harsh, but then I guess I’m only giving them 36th place from 43 songs so maybe I don’t feel that bad.


San San Marino

Senit – Stand By

#16 in Semi-final 1

Right, on we go! I was quite fond of this one for a while, it is placed firmly in the middle of the road, but it’s quite sweet isn’t it? I always have a soft spot for the tiny countries, and the reappearance of Italy was enough to bring San Marino back for a second attempt.

She’s an interesting-looking character isn’t she, and perfectly pleasant. But sadly on the night, maybe it was sound problems but she was painfully off key on several occasions, which no doubt cost her what little hope she had of qualifying. Shame (sort of, I’m over it)


Romania Romania

Hotel FM – Change

#17 in the Final

Hmm well after the poptastically amazing Romanian entry in Oslo, and the surprise widespread success of Romanian dance music in the previous year, I was disappointed that they didn’t try to capitalise on that in 2011’s entry. Instead we got an English guy singing a rather weedy, slightly-more-uptempo Ronan Keating song.

It only got this high because it is insidiously catchy, I can imagine a National Lottery audience clapping along to this with their dead eyes. That is a catchy rhythm, but I found the frontman rather too cheesy, with some major dimple action going on there. Those TROUSERS too, I don’t think skin-tight pinstripes were really the way forward, were they?


Slovakia Slovakia

TWiiNS – I’m Still Alive

#13 in Semi-final 2

I had to admire the attitude of these girls, very proud to represent their country but realistic that it was a country that had never qualified for the finals since they returned to the contest. Also they had to put up with plenty of rather pointless observations by interviews that yes, they are twins, and so are Jedward, so… how about that then?

The chorus is quite lovely and catchy, but my GOD is three minutes of it a drag? Sitting at the back of the Esprit Stadium, all I could hear was the plodding bass to this, which is a shame because they were decent performers. Maybe one year, Slovakia!

Eurovision Song Contest - First Semi-Final

Georgia Georgia

Eldrine – One More Day

#9 in the Final

RAWK! Well not as simple as that really, there’s a GIRL in the mix too, who’d have thought it? I’ve long been a fan of the Georgian entries, so maybe their low placing is more down to a bit of disappointment that they haven’t sent through another masterpiece.

I has a nice melancholic feel, and the choruses aren’t too shouty. She was a great singer, even though those awful ruffled outfits they all wore were pretty repulsive. Pair that up with their luck at being the last to perform all helped them to breach the top 10 this year, particularly in the absence of the rockier tracks by Turkey and FYR Macedonia that didn’t make it through.


Switzerland Switzerland

Anna Rossinelli – In Love for a While

#25 in the Final

After half a decade in the wilderness, Switzerland pulled off a bit of a coup by finally making it to a grand final, edging out Armenia. So far, so empowering. It felt like a bit of an earworm, the more I heard the jaunty Jack Johnson-esque nursery rhyme melodies, the more I liked it.

She did look like a massive freak when she had to fill time for a large part of the song with la-la-las and what I can only politely put as retarded dancing. If that wasn’t bad enough, they only showed the la-la-la segments on the voting recaps! It finished last in the final, expected for the lowest-scoring qualifier, so I guess they should just be happy with qualifying.

That bassist was HOT too. Not that it matters (it does).

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