This is it! The last one!! Belgium’s decision on 16 March was the last contestant selection for Eurovision that the public had anything to do with, and marked the end of the pre-selection season. Thank God for that, I’m sure you’re all sick of it by now, aren’t you? Is there anyone left?
Belgium were here from the start, a founding father of Eurovision and only absent from three contests – forcibly removed after being relegated for bad results. They’ve only got one win to their names, all the way back in 1986, and had victory cruelly snatched away in Riga, coming a very close 2nd in 2003. But since the semi-finals have come in, things have been tough.
Of its 9 entries put through the semi-final process, only two made it to the final, though last year’s 12th place finish for the delightful Roberto Bellarosa made it clear that they can still get noticed with the right song. 2010’s Tom Dice even won his semi in Oslo, though had to settle for 6th on the night.
Eurosong decided the Belgian representative, with an extensive audition process governed by three jurors, and later on also the spirited Ukranian winner Ruslana. 30 competitors were thinned down to 12 semi-finalists (4 via a second-change ‘callback’ round), who finally performed their songs in 3 semi-finals. Six acts survived to the final, where a Belgian jury, several international juries and a televote decided the winner. I like when the televote scores are proportional to the votes, I’m just like that. Let’s hope this was worth the wait though, this contest is still wide open.
Welcome back, Portugal. They’ve only been away for a year, avoiding 2013’s contest in Malmö for financial reasons, but they are back. They have a score to settle – Portugal debuted at Eurovision 50 years ago, and so far have yet to pick up a victory.
Even worse, they’ve never even managed to get to the top 5 in all that time, and haven’t even seen the top 10 since 1996. What are they doing wrong? Perhaps their insistence on performing in Portuguese – their prerogative of course – is maybe stopping Europe enjoy the intricacies of Portuguse song-writing. Or more likely they haven’t sent many great songs in recent memory.
Sure, they’ve never been that bad, but I don’t think I’ve ever been blown away. Festival da Canção hopes to resolve that, with a semi-final thinning the herd from 10 finalists to 5, where a televote decides the final winner.
Norway! One of the most beloved of Eurovision nations – at least to me. That Scandinavian bloc can’t stay out of trouble lately, Sweden is the poster child for Eurovision success, but in the last decade Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway have all tasted Eurovision victory (come on Iceland…). Sure, Norway have also tasted their fair share of disasters over the year, still holding that nul points record that’s unlikely to ever be broken now the semi-finals are here, but they are consistently a good bet for some top quality Scandinavian pop.
They’ve been in Eurovision almost since it started, and have picked up three wins – most recently Alexander Rybak’s landslide victory in Moscow, winning the 2009 contest. Last year was a good year too, with the amazing Margaret Berger picking up 4th place. Norway have tasted defeat enough to keep them on their toes though, and qualification isn’t handed to them as readily as other nations.
Three semi-finals whittled 15 competitors down to nine, with a national final held at the Oslo Spektrum once again. A 50/50 mix of a jury vote and a public vote decided who was flying the Norwegian flag in Copenhagen, and trying to keep Eurovision in Scandinavia for a third year.
Five more national finals to cover, and amongst these was the last of the “Big Five” – the five largest contributors to the EBU: Italy, France, Spain, United Kingdom and today’s focus Germany. They are able to lord it up over the other Big Five, as it’s been a LONG time since another of the others won. Germany recently took home the Eurovision trophy when Lena’s “Satellite” won 2010’s contest in Oslo. Since then they’ve been doing rather well, with a further two top 10 finishes, and a bit of a rude awakening when Cascada were less than Glorious in Malmö.
Germany are a pillar of Eurovision, the only nation to apply for every show since its beginnings in 1956, though they missed the 1996 final after failing an untelevised qualification round. To their name they’ve only picked up two victories – Nicole’s memorable “A little peace” in 1982, and Lena’s “Satellite” in 2010. Could they manage it again?
Unser Song für Dänemark is Germany’s national final, again staged in a large arena to a huge crowd. Eight artists were selected for the final, with a totally unique and bizarre setup for selecting the winner. Each act was asked to bring TWO songs. After performing the first one, the top 4 acts were voted through by SMS. In the second round, these acts’ second songs were performed, and the public again voted across all eight songs. The top 2 songs then went to a final showdown by SMS, but only if they were from different artists. If one act got the two highest voted songs, they’d sacrifice the second-place for someone else’s third place.
Totally bonkers, meaning the acts invariably put their better songs on first, and making you wonder why they ever needed two songs in the first place! Well I’m sure the Germans know what they are doing… let’s see, shall we?