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
#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
#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.
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.
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
#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 – 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.
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 – 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)
#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
#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!