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The Best Of The Rest – Semi-Final

Posted by Caroline on May 5, 2007

It was, of course, just our luck that we happened to have technical problems right in the middle of Eurovision season – but we are back now. Unfortunately, with just one week to go to the contest, we just don’t have the time to review the rest of the songs in detail – but here is our verdict anyway:

CROATIA, who we loved last year, are badly letting the side down this year with the dull-as-they-come rock grinder Vjerujem u Ljubav from Dragonfly featuring the veteran rocker Dado Topic (a man who appears more cro-Magnon than Croatian, but anyway…). They may of course benefit from neighbourly voting, as they have done with sub-standard songs in the past, but with some very stiff competition we reckon even that won’t help them much this year.

POLAND have come so near and yet so far to the final for the past two years (we’re still smarting from the marvellous Ivan and Delfin missing out by just four points in 2005), and it doesn’t look like their luck’s about to change. Time To Party by The Jet Set is a bizarrely dated, disjointed dance number that sounds like two songs glued together. The fact that it reminds certain members of Team Eurovision of MC Hammer should give you some idea of what to expect.

Technically, SERBIA are a debutant country even though they have entered twice before as Serbia and Montenegro. Their first solo effort, however, is superb. Marija Serifovic may look a bit like Stephen Fry in a Ramones T-shirt, but she has one of the best voices in the contest, and Molitva is a classic Eurovision ballad – combining soaring choruses with twiddling ethnic flutes and a genuinely dramatic feel. Not only do we expect this to sail through the final, but we reckon it could even win the whole damn contest – if, that is, viewers can be persuaded to vote for a) a ballad and b) a song that (gasp!) isn’t in English. Let’s hope they can.

There are of course two types of debutant country in Eurovision – those who come up with something brilliant on their first attempt and do very well, and those who come up with something utterly dreadful and finish nowhere. Sadly CZECH REPUBLIC fall into the latter category. We’ve been wanting them to join the Eurovision family for years, but now they’re finally here, we’re not so sure. Their attempt to cash in on the current Lordi-inspired trend for rock music is a brave one, but mouldering metallers Kabat just don’t compare. Their song Mala Dama (Little Lady) not only sounds frighteningly like Chris Rea’s The Road To Hell, but is also the type of grungy East European rock that suggests the collapse of Communism was just something which happened to other people.

Since Finland’s victory last year, the mantle of ‘longest serving Eurovision country without a win’ now belongs to PORTUGAL. And frankly, we don’t think they’re about to break their duck this year. That said, Sabrina’s Danca Comigo (Vem Ser Feliz) is one of the better Portuguese efforts of recent years – a bright, breezy, Latin-tinged pop song that’s a welcome breath of fresh air after the grunginess of the Czech entry. We don’t think they’ll qualify – but we do think they’ll do a bit better than usual.

And so to FYR MACEDONIA, who are once again fielding Karolina Goceva (the lady who wore the suit of armour and big red lampshade in 2002). We can’t actually remember the song she sang last time, but we’re loving Mojot Svet, the dramatic mid-tempo ballad she’s performing this year. FYR Macedonia have qualified from ever semi-final so far – only to perform below par on the night and go straight back into the semis – suggesting that they, more than anyone, have benefitted from so-called ‘neighbourly’ voting. Like Croatia, though, we’re not sure if they’re going to be so lucky this year, but we hope they are since we’d love to see this one go through.

NORWAY, meanwhile, are continuing the Latin theme started by Portugal, with Guri Schanke’s bright n’cheerful Ven A Bailar Conmigo. All of which we rather liked until we copped a glimpse of the video, which sees the 45-year-old singer (since dubbed ‘Granny Schanke’ by some less than charitable members of Team Eurovision) awkwardly working her way through the kind of dance routine that even a younger woman might find challenging (complete with cringeworthy costume change). When Latvia’s Marie N did it it worked; here however it just looks a bit like someone’s mum doing a turn at a Barmitzvah.  Still, it’s not a bad tune and probably stands a reasonable chance of qualifying.

Let’s get this out of the way now since we say it every year: isn’t it about time MALTA won this thing? Yes, of course it is, and several members of the team wouldn’t bet against this being their year. Olivia Lewis – who has tried seven times to represent her country without success – finally gets her moment in the spotlight with Vertigo, which to put it mildly is marvellous – a big, swirly, dramatic flamenco number that’s quite unlike anything else on offer this year. Provided Olivia can sort out her wardrobe (since the, um, taste-free frock she wore in the national finals put us in mind of Remedios Amaya, and we all know how well that did) and turn in a performance that does the song justice, then we envisage this one qualifying with ease – and potentially doing very well indeed in the final.

After three years of sending winsome female singers with little success (to the extent that they finished last in the whole world in the 2006 contest), ANDORRA are another country who have changed tack this year, sending Busted-a-likes Anonymous with a bit of leap-up-and-down pop-rock called Let’s Save The World. It’s actually very appealing (far  more so than the Catalan-crooning divas), if only because it sounds so remarkably like the ton of identikit music that tends to clog up the charts these days. With a decent performance and the potential to win votes from the teenage audience, we reckon this could do far better than expected.

Following the Andorrans is a very different offering from HUNGARY, returning to the fray after a year’s absence. Unsubstantial Blues is an odd little song, all melancholy piano and smoky vocals from Magdi Rusza (who is actually Serbian-born, thus assuring votes from that part of the world), together with the kind of ‘why did you leave me’ type lyrics that are so synonymous with this kind of music. A Eurovision entry for grown-ups, this one could be a bit of a dark horse.

ESTONIA, meanwhile, are sending the sister of 2001 winner Tanel Padar. Pink-lookalike Gerli delivers a very different song to her sibling, in the shape of lite rock track Partners In Crime. Of all the songs this year, this is the one we’re finding it hardest to say anything profound about, since it’s perfectly acceptable yet somehow strangely ordinary. Yet this kind of safe, bland music often does surprisingly well at Eurovision – so we’ll reserve judgment for now.

And so to BELGIUM, who started as one of the pre-contest favourites last year with Kate Ryan’s Je T’Adore, only to be left floundering in the semi-final. If it’s any consolation, we much prefer their entry this year – Love Power, by the KMG’s, is a jolly, upbeat slice of Jamiroquai-esque retro disco that probably doesn’t have a cat’s chance in hell of qualifying given the competition, but is rather good fun nonetheless. We’re not giving up on it completely, however – it looks as though it comes across well on stage and we reckon it could still surprise everybody.

Few of this year’s songs have divided Team Eurovision as much as SLOVENIA. Depending on your opinion, Alenka Gotar’s Cvet Z Juga (Flower Of The South) is either marvellous or a load of old claptrap – but since the editor is a fan, it does of course have Team Eurovision’s unequivocal seal of approval (not that the rest of us are scared of losing our jobs or anything, you understand….). A kind of ‘opera-disco’ number, it takes this year’s fondness for dramatic songs to new levels, and despite sounding scarily like the music from a certain British Airways ad from a few years back, is quite simply marvellous. As long as Alenka can keep the operatics in check and doesn’t screech like an out-of-tune cat on the night, then we think Slovenia could be in for their best Eurovision result yet.

So near and yet so far, last year TURKEY finished 11th in Athens, so this year they’re back in the semi-final – and we have to say we like their 2007 effort far more than we liked their 2006 one. Shake It Up Shekerim, by pretty boy Kenan Dogulu, is a funky, ultra-modern dance track which provides a sharp contrast to some of the more dated efforts on offer this year and owes more than a debt to Justin Timberlake (who Kenan clearly appears to think he is, if his shape-throwing in the video is anything to go by).  Not a cert to qualify, as far as we’re concerned, but we reckon it has a pretty good chance of making it through to the final.

Another returning country who were absent last year, AUSTRIA flounced off in a huff after doing very badly in 2005 with their bizarre folksong Y’Asi. They might have stayed away for good, if Austrian Eurovision fans hadn’t protested to such an extent that they had no choice but to come back. Unfortunately, we don’t think they’re going to make much impact on the scoreboard this year either. Eric Papilaya’s Get A Life, Get Alive is another one of the many soft-rock songs populating the semis this year – and like many of its rivals, it’s OK but really nothing special. Likely to be lost in the pack, we fear.

And finally, the job of closing the semi-final goes to LATVIA, who after all that nonsense with acapella singing and stick puppets last year, have come up with something equally unconventional for 2007 – only this year it’s a gamble which pays off. Questa Notte is a lite-opera track (if you’ve ever heard Il Divo or G4 you’ll get the idea), sung entirely in Italian by a bunch of Latvian blokes (and one Italian) called Bonaparti.lv. It sounds awful, right? Well, actually – and to our amazement – it works. Yes, it’s cheesy, sentimental nonsense which sounds like the kind of thing you might hear from the house band in an Italian trattoria, but it has real charm thanks to a lilting melody and real singalong chorus (think gondoliers seranading you in Venice and you’ll get the idea). Of all this year’s entries, this is the one that we were most surprised to find ourselves liking (and playing far more often than is entirely necessarily). Unsurprisingly Team Eurovision’s mums like it too, and this is where the song could well benefit – the granny audience will no doubt vote for it in droves, all of which should see it comfortably through to the final. And we wouldn’t rule out a finish near the top of the scoreboard either.

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