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Archive for April, 2007

Song Reviews – Albania and Denmark

Posted by DINRIL on April 12, 2007

ALBANIA

Song: Hear My Plea

Artist: Frederik Ndoci

And so to another contender for the title of ‘Scariest Looking Eurovision Performer 2007’. Albania’s Frederik Ndoci might sing beautifully, but on sight he caused several members of Team Eurovision to shriek and hide under the desk. Now don’t get us wrong – we’ve been very supportive of Albania’s efforts in Eurovision so far, and we still count Anjeza Shahini’s Image Of You as one of our favourite Eurovision songs of the decade – but this year these relative newcomers seem to have gotten it wrong in every way possible. Not only by fielding a man with a pudding bowl haircut and the kind of moustache that 14-year-old boys grow in an attempt to attract girls at the youth club disco, but also with the song itself, which is as whiney and dull an effort as you’re likely to hear in Eurovision this year.

Admittedly, the English version works a little better than the lengthy Albanian version we first heard, and Frederik certainly can sing, but in a year which has some of the strongest Eurovision songs we’ve heard in a while, we’re finding it hard to believe that anyone could misfire on so many levels. Yes, Frederik, we’ve heard your plea. Now go away.

For it: A good singer who might well deliver a good performance. And given it’s sandwiched between two disco numbers, a ballad might just stand out.

Against It: Apart from the fact it’s not very good? Well, being followed by the oh-so-flamboyant Denmark is going to ensure that nobody remembers this.

Prediction: Better luck next year, Albania. If this gets through to the final then we will – er, we won’t do anything except be very surprised. You can’t catch us out that easily.

DENMARK

Song: Drama Queen

Artist: DQ

This year there are two drag queens taking part in Eurovision. One, Denmark’s DQ, is a glamorous drag queen with spangly frocks, giant feathered headdresses, satin gloves and perfect make-up. The other, Ukraine’s Verka Serduchka, is basically a fat bloke in a dress. Who looks a bit like Su Pollard. No prizes for guessing which one we prefer….

That’s not to detract from Denmark though, whose fabulously colourful performer delivers a bit of upbeat disco nonsense about, er, well, life as a drama queen. And while he may not necessarily be the best singer in the contest, this is catchy and commercial, and a breath of fresh air after the stodginess of the Albanian song. How well he’ll do remains to be seen – this is the kind of thing which tends to either do very well at Eurovision or fall flat on its face – but we can’t help thinking he’ll give a performance that viewers will remember. Just as long as he remembers to pack his halterneck gown and feathered headdress.

For It:  It’s fun and colourful, which is what Eurovision should be all about. Plus being on between two of the weakest songs in the semi-final (Albania and Poland) can only work in its favour.

Against It: Might be a bit too over-the-top for some people. And DQ might be an accomplished performer and lovely to look at, but can he actually sing? Also, two drag queens at Eurovision could be one too many – or alternatively they may just cancel each other out.

Prediction: Once again, our jury is out. But we’re inclined to think that has a pretty good chance of making it to the final.

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Song Reviews – Moldova and Netherlands

Posted by DINRIL on April 12, 2007

MOLDOVA

Song: Fight

Artist: Natalia Barbu

Moldova were the first country to actually choose their song for this year’s Eurovision, having the whole process neatly wrapped up before Christmas (normally Albania get in first but this year they were beaten to it). It’s the Moldovans’ third attempt at Eurovision – following their smashing debut in 2005 when Zdob Si Zdub’s drum-beating pensioner propelled them into the top ten, last year they faltered badly, scoring even less points than the UK (and when that happens, you know things must be bad) with a bit of faux reggae so frankly appalling that even Peter Andre would have rejected it on the grounds of taste and decency.

So, what of this year? Well, let’s just say it’s a distinct improvement on last year. At first listen Natalia’s song didn’t really do much for us (apart from make certain members of Team Eurovision shout, “My God! It’s Love Is A Battlefield for the 21st Century!”) but we have to admit this one has grown on us with repeat listenings – it’s a catchy little rock number with a nice shouty chorus and growling guitars, and even if it does sound a tad dated, it does make us want to thrust our fists in the air and yell. Which can only be a good thing.

For It: Not a bad little tune, as it happens.

Against It: We had to listen to it several times to realise this – and given the amount of people that hear the songs for the first time on semi-finals night, this might be a major stumbling block. It’s memorable, certainly – but not that memorable.

Prediction: Again, we’re not sure. We’re not convinced it’s a qualifier, but at the same time it’s one of those songs that could surprise us. We are staying firmly on the fence.

NETHERLANDS

Song: On Top Of The World

Artist: Edsilia Rombley

Remember Edsilia? She represented the Netherlands at the Birmingham contest in 1998 with Hemel En Aarde (this of course being the year before the ‘free language’ rule came in) and did very well indeed, finishing fourth on the night. Now she’s back, and hoping to restore the fortunes of a veteran Eurovision country who, like the UK, seem to have had a run of bad luck recently. So much so, that they haven’t reached the final since 2004.

Being an old hand at this sort of thing, you would of course expect great things from Edsilia – so how does On Top Of The World fare? Well we first heard this song – which we were informed was originally written for Anastasia – in its native language and it kind of passed us by. Translated into English, however, it works much much better – almost transforms the whole song, in fact. It’s one of those annoying ones which starts off as a ballad before turning all shiny and disco-tastic – and while it’s far from the best song in the contest it has a bouncy mainstream pop feel which could actually work in its favour.

For It: It’s in the hands of a Eurovision veteran who gave one of the best performances of the 1998 contest – and there’s no reason to believe she can’t do it again.

Against It: Being a Eurovision veteran is no guarantee of a ticket to the final, as Iceland’s Selma discovered in 2005 and Poland’s Ich Troje last year.

Prediction: Oh gosh, this is far too difficult this year. Another one which could go either way – with a good performance on the night we reckon this one might scrape in. But then again it might not. Confused, us?

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Olivia’s Dizzying Blog

Posted by DINRIL on April 10, 2007

Writing my blog gives me vertigo…..(copyright YLE/Eurovision.tv)Seems that we’re not the only people who have had the idea of writing a blog in the run-up to Eurovision. Maltese performer Olivia Lewis (pictured left), who’ll be competing in the semi-final on May 10 with the fabulously flamboyant Vertigo, has also put finger to computer keyboard to create her own blog, chronicling her life in the run-up to the contest in Helsinki.

From reading this, we now know more about Olivia’s life, family, friends, and in particular her dog Milly than we had ever thought possible. Fab stuff. Now how about blogs from a few more Eurovision hopefuls? DQ’s Drag Queen Diaries, perhaps?

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Song Reviews – Montenegro and Switzerland

Posted by DINRIL on April 6, 2007

MONTENEGRO

Song: Adje Kroci

Artist: Stevan Faddy

And so to yet another country making its Eurovision debut. Hang on a minute, we hear you cry, didn’t Montenegro come second in Eurovision in 2004? Well, yes, they did, but it was as part of Serbia – and since Montenegro voted to become an independent nation just days after last year’s contest (the good people of Montenegro clearly had Eurovision participation on their minds when casting their vote…..) they are making their debut in their own right this year. Which, given all the kerfuffle over whether to send a Serbian or Montenigrin act to Athens last year (something which caused so much bother that it resulted in the country withdrawing from the contest altogether), is probably no bad thing.

However, while we’re on the subject of bad things, let us turn our attention to Stevan Faddy’s song, which is about as unremarkable a piece of boy band-esque fodder as you’re likely to come across in the contest this year. Reminding us of last year’s Belarussian effort Mama (which, quite frankly, is something we would prefer to forget), Faddy growls his way through this utterly forgettable three minutes and achieves very little in the process. Given that Serbia have sat down, thought about this whole Eurovision lark and come up with a superb entry, we can’t help feeling that the Montenegrins have let the side down just a little.

For It: Faddy may well score the teenage girl vote, although the fact there are far better looking performers in the contest doesn’t help much.

Against It: Pretty much everything really. The standard of songs in the semi-final is high this year and this just doesn’t come up to scratch.

Prediction: The Montenegrins had better hope for some friendly neighbourly voting, because right now that’s the only thing that might just land them a passage to the final. But even then we doubt it’ll happen.

SWITZERLAND

Song: Vampires Are Alive

Artist: DJ Bobo

“Vampires are alive?” remarked one member of Team Eurovision upon hearing the title of Switzerland’s effort. “Don’t be silly, everybody knows vampires are dead.” Well, not according to DJ Bobo, who would have us believe that Dracula and his be-fanged friends are in fact living, breathing entities that actually warrant an entire song of their own. And as if that’s not enough, this insane bit of Europop nonsense is currently favourite to actually win this year’s contest. How, we’re wondering? True, there are many many worse songs in the contest than DJ Bobo’s effort – but in a year which has brought us so many potential winners (Belarus, Sweden, Ukraine, Serbia, Greece, Malta, and many more besides) we’re left wondering in whose world this could possibly be the favourite.

Still, it’s not a bad little tune, even if we’re not buying Bobo’s insistence in the lyrics that he is in fact a vampire (people who make such grand claims tend to be big old wusses who actually still live with their mothers) – it starts off sounding a bit like the Star Wars theme before heading into fast-paced Eurodisco-and-catchy-chorus territory, with a female singer joining Bobo on vocal duties. If we’re being honest, it’s as daft as a brush, but it’s kind of fun even if it is one of the most preposterous Eurovision songs we’ve heard in quite some time.

For It: With a title like Vampires Are Alive, viewers are unlikely to forget it in a hurry – while the chorus does have an annoying habit of lodging itself in the brain and staying there.

Against It: Being the pre-contest favourite isn’t necessarily an advantage – Iceland and Belgium found themselves in similar positions in 2005 and 2006 respectively, and look what happened to them.

Prediction: It seems that there’s always one strongly-fancied song which fails to make it out of the semi-final – and we haven’t ruled out Switzerland falling to that fate. That said, it’ll probably qualify. Or will it? Oh, we’re confused now. Let’s just say that it has a good chance of making it to the final but we don’t think it’ll do as well as the bookies are predicting. Draw your own conclusions.

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Song Reviews – Iceland and Georgia

Posted by DINRIL on April 3, 2007

ICELAND

Song: Valentine Lost

Artist: Eirikur Hauksson

This year’s semi-final has such a strong opening quartet of songs that it was only a matter of time before something came along to spoil the party. And sure enough, here it is, in the shape of Iceland’s latest effort. Eirikur Hauksson (whose exotic sounding name translates as plain old Eric Hawk) is another Eurovision veteran, having first represented the country in 1986 (as part of the group ICY) – and it doesn’t look as though he’s changed his hairstyle since then. In fact, he’s one of the scariest looking people in this year’s contest – quite an achievement given some of the truly terrifying performers stepping up to the plate this year. Imagine a vacuum-packed version of David Coverdale and you’ll get the general idea.

But enough of this – what of the song? Well Valentine Lost is a pretty standard bit of soft rock Jim Steinman-esque mush, blessed with portentous lyrics about acid rain and the like (we think it’s about lost love rather than global warming but still trying to work that one out). It would appear to be the Icelandics’ attempt to cash in on Eurovision’s sudden infatuation with rock, following on from Lordi’s 2006 victory – the only problem being that lots of countries have had that idea this year – and most of them have come up with something far better. There’s no denying Eirikur is an accomplished performer, and he’ll probably deliver the goods on the night, but try as we might we really can’t find an awful lot to like about this one. Which is a shame, as Iceland have been plodding along in Eurovision for years now, still chasing that elusive victory – and we’d really like to see them do well. Not this year, however.

For It: Eirikur is an experienced Eurovision performer and will doubtless give it his all.

Against It: He’ll be fighting a losing battle with a very weak song which, sandwiched between four of the strongest songs of the semi-final, and Georgia’s uber-quirky effort, is likely to slip through largely unnoticed.

Prediction: Stranger things have happened. But can’t see Iceland making it out of the semis this year.

 GEORGIA

Song: Visionary Dream

Artist: Sopho Khalavashi

And it’s a warm welcome to one of four countries making their Eurovision debut this year (the others being Serbia, Czech Republic and Montenegro). Georgia have been threatening to join the Eurovision family for some time now, so it’s no surprise to see them in the line-up. And singer Sopho has already attracted some attention (and her fair share of Youtube impressions) for her performance in the national final, in which she wore a giant pink blancmange masquerading as a dress, from which several dancers emerged mid-song.

But fashion sense – of lack of thereof – aside, what’s the song like? Well, unusual is probably the best way of putting it. It mixes ethno-pop with uptempo dance beats reminiscent of Madonna’s Ray Of Light, all bound together by Sopho’s ethereal voice. While her national final performance and the video for the song would suggest she is as mad as a bag of spanners, she is also one of the better singers in the semi-final, and it’s her vocals which ultimately make the track stand out. Personally, we really like this – and it’s a breath of fresh air after Iceland’s turgid effort – but it’s so quirky that we’re not sure if anyone will agree with us.

For It: Sopho can certainly sing, and it’s a striking song which sounds like little else this year. Newcomers always tend to do very well or very badly on their first attempt – fingers crossed this will be one of the former. And its place in the running order between two of the weaker songs in the semi – from Iceland and Montenegro – can only be a good thing.

Against It: Might be too weird and wacky for voters’ tastes – and with so much competition this year, something has to miss out.

Prediction: This is a really tough one to call. Our heart says that this will qualify, our head isn’t so sure. But we love it and really want it to do well. We are keeping everything crossed. 

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Ukrainian Uproar

Posted by DINRIL on April 3, 2007

Verka - the village idiot? (copyright Eurovision.tv/YLE)Every year, it seems, Eurovision brings us a fresh batch of controversy, and this year is no exception. For no sooner has the fuss over Israel’s nuclear-themed entry Push The Button died down, than Ukraine has landed in trouble over their – how shall we put this – unique entry.

According to the BBC News website, it appears that Ukrainian nationalists are none too happy about their country being represented by drag queen Verka Serduchka, and have taken to the streets to protest. Serduchka – the spangly-frocked alter ego of comedian Andrey Danilko – is a cult icon in his homeland, and popular across the rest of the Soviet Union, and is being tipped to do very well at Eurovision with the quirky little number Danzing.

However, the protesters aren’t so fond of Verka, and have started a petition calling for Ukraine’s withdrawal from the contest this year for fear of damaging the country’s reputation abroad. According to the BBC, they claim that Verka is little more than “a grotesque stereotype of a stupid Ukrainian villager”.

All of which has left us a tad puzzled (surely they’re not implying that Ukrainian villagers wear shiny dresses and big star-shaped hats at all times?) but hasn’t really changed our opinion of the fabulous Verka. It may be an acquired taste, but we think Danzing is fab, and as far as we’re concerned, the more bizarre characters in Eurovision, the better…..

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