The Best Of The Rest – The Final
Posted by Caroline on May 6, 2007
Continuing our round-up of this year’s Eurovision entries, we now come to those countries which are directly qualified for the final.
This year, we kick things off with BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA, fresh from their 2006 success with Hari Mata Hari’s rather beautiful Lejla. They’ve come up with a similar effort this year, the ethno-ballad Rijeka Bez Imena (River Without A Name) by Maria Sestic – although sadly it’s not nearly a good a song as its predecessor – pleasant, certainly, but a tad, how shall we put it, unremarkable, and destined to start the final with a whimper rather than a bang. Still, it’s the kind of thing that the former Yugoslav nations tend to vote for by the truckload, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see it do rather well regardless.
It falls to SPAIN, therefore, to pick up the tempo, which they do in fine style with I Love You Mi Vida, by boy band D’Nash. The Spanish haven’t done too well in the contest over the past couple of years (although this could have something to do with the somewhat substandard songs they’ve sent) but this year they are right back on form. The song is pure Eurovision – a Mediterranean tinged dance number with the kind of chorus that sticks in your head and refuses to leave – while Team Eurovision maintains that at least two members of D’Nash (winners of the popular Spanish show Operacion Triunfo, which has spawned previous Spanish participants Rosa and Beth) are fanciable, which can only be a good thing. They’re on second, which isn’t, of course (since no song performed second has ever won Eurovision), but even if I Love You…isn’t strong enough to win the contest, it should provide the Spaniards with a considerably better result than their recent efforts.
Having recaptured some of their former contest glories in 2006 when Brian Kennedy defied political voting trends and finished in 10th place, IRELAND are hoping that their good luck continues in 2007. Well, they can carry on hoping as far as we’re concerned because Dervish’s twiddly folk tune They Can’t Stop The Spring sounds like the kind of thing you’d hear in a quirky smalltown Irish movie (the sort whose story generally focuses on a bunch of harmless eccentrics doing something like hiding a dead body or trying to marry off the village postman). This kind of thing used to win the contest for Ireland back in the mid-90s but it takes a bit more than that to score a Eurovision victory these days. Of course we could be wrong and its inoffensive harmonies may rack up the points – but frankly we’re not convinced.
Something very different comes in the shape of contest hosts FINLAND who ditch the death metal this year in favour of former Finnish Pop Idol winner Hanna Pakarinen. And while she may not be quite as attention-grabbing as Lordi (no retractable wings for example), her song Leave Me Alone is still a bit of a belter – a grinding, noisy rock tune which manages to sound far more contemporary than many of the other rock efforts in this year’s contest, and as such works far better than most of them. We don’t think it’s strong enough to bring the contest back to Finland again in 2008 but with a decent performance we wouldn’t rule out another top ten finish.
Speaking of memorable 2006 performances, who could forget LITHUANIA’s effort last year? Love it or hate it, LT United’s We Are The Winners was utter nonsense, but ultimately so entertaining that it finally gave the Lithuanians the decent result they’d been waiting for (after years of floundering around at the bottom of the scoreboard). You’d think after that they’d come up with something equally weird and wonderful, wouldn’t you? Wrong. In fact it’s back to business as usual in the Lithuanian camp this year, with 4Fun’s bland-as-they-come mid-tempo ballad Love Or Leave. Possibly the least memorable song in this year’s contest, the fact it’s due to be performed right before Greece and right after a semi-final qualifier does it no favours – if something flamboyant such as Denmark, or Serbia’s powerful ballad were to be drawn in the eighth spot, it would just about kill off whatever small chance Lithuania have of being noticed this year. Back to the semi-final in 2008, we think.
And so to GREECE, who have been one of the most consistently good countries in Eurovision in recent years, with fab songs from the likes of Antique, Sakis, Anna Vissi and of course 2005 winner Helena Paparizou. This year is no exception – Yassou Maria is a lively Living La Vida Loca knock-off which comes to us courtesy of Sarbel, a cute Greek lad whose eyebrows are in danger of taking over his entire forehead. (Incidentally, if you run ‘Sarbel’ through a spellchecker it suggests you change the word to ‘Parcel’, and the fact we know this clearly indicates we have far too much time on our hands). Awkward facial hair aside, we love this – it’s daft as a brush, but enormous fun, and we’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t give the Greeks another top ten placing. Which leaves us asking the question: when, exactly, did they get so good at this?
Which brings us swiftly on to another one of the favourites (and our favourites for that matter), SWEDEN. Of course it’s no surprise to see the Swedes up among the front-runners, since they seem to be there every blinkin’ year (their relegation to the semis last year being merely a temporary blip), and while glam rockers The Ark haven’t charmed every member of Team Eurovision with their track The Worrying Kind, the majority think it’s a thing of wonder. Sounding like a cross between the Scissor Sisters and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day, this insanely catchy little number taps into the current trend for 70s retro without actually sounding dusty and dated – and is one of a handful of songs in the contest that you’ll actually remember after one listen (which of course is crucial given a large percentage of the audience on the night won’t have been scouring Eurovision clips on Youtube for weeks). With a twinkly, flamboyant performance a near certainty, another Swedish victory is a very real possibility. Or they might just finish fifth. Again.
FRANCE, meanwhile, have come up with a genuine oddity this year after realising that entering winsome ballads was getting them absolutely nowhere. L’Amour A La Francaise, by man band (because they don’t seem to fall into the boy band category somehow) Les Fatals Picards, is a more uptempo effort than we’ve come to expect from the French, and reminded Team Eurovision of the kind of song that you’d hear on the soundtrack of a Wes Anderson movie (the one that’s played when Bill Murray’s jaded middle-aged professor falls in love, or something similar). It’s not bad, but we can’t help feeling its Gallic wit might be lost on all but, er, the French. Who of course can’t vote for it.
It took us a while to warm to this year’s entry from RUSSIA, especially since it all seemed so hastily cobbled together – from the title, Song #1 (can’t help thinking they came up with that one at the last minute) to the band, female trio Serebro, who apparently gave their first ever live performance to the internal jury who chose the song. All of which leaves us wondering whether they’ll fall flat on their faces on the night (in the face of some far more experienced competition), but fortunately Song #1 is the kind of track which doesn’t necessarily need perfect vocals to succeed – coming across as Sugababes meets Girls Aloud, it’s a sassy, sexy pop tune that wouldn’t sound out of place in the UK charts. And we have to admit, we’re hooked. How well it will do remains to be seen, of course, but it’s likely to be popular with the teen audience as well as, er, any blokes watching the contest simply for the prospect of a bit of totty.
For us, one of the biggest disappointments of the 2006 contest was that GERMANY’s country and western combo Texas Lightning didn’t do better – at one point we were convinced that they were all set to give the Germans their long overdue second Eurovision victory. Sadly, it was not to be – but they still made their mark with one of the more offbeat songs in the contest – and they’re set to do the same this year. Frauen Regier’n Der Welt (Women Rule The World) is a Rat Pack-esque swing tune from one Roger Cicero (the mittel European answer to The X Factor’s Ray Quinn), and while initially it sounds a bit gimmicky it’s actually rather good. Quite how it will go down on a Eurovision stage, however, is another matter entirely.
Every Eurovision brings with it a handful of songs which defy description, and this year is no exception. Which brings us on nicely to this year’s entry from UKRAINE. Chances are you may have heard about this one already (particularly since we’ve already covered it on Eurovision Blog) since it’s caused a bit of controversy – from Ukrainians being none too happy about being represented by Su Pollard-alike ‘bloke in a dress’ Verka Serduchka, through to the (wo)man himself (a popular comedian/satirist across the region) ruffling a few feathers with a chorus which allegedly included the phrase ‘Russia goodbye’. Turns out of course he wasn’t singing that. He was in fact singing ‘Lasha tumbai’, which is Mongolian for ‘churned butter’ and has even proven this by changing the name of his song from Danzing to ‘Danzing Lasha Tumbai’ (which of course makes no sense whatsoever unless of course that’s the way Mongolians churn their butter). But aside from all this, is the song actually any good? Well, this is a real love it or loathe it track, with its mad accordionist, nursery rhyme style melody and Verka yelling ‘DANZING’ on a regular basis while screeching out a load of other lyrics which make no sense whatsoever. Personally, we think it’s a work of genius. No, really. It might sound like utter rubbish, but this is a deceptively catchy little number which we can’t help thinking will do rather well on the night. At the very least, the performance will be one that you’ll remember.
How on earth can anyone follow that, you might ask? Well, the task falls to the UNITED KINGDOM. And for the first time in we can’t remember how long, we just can’t bring ourselves to root for le Royaume-Uni. Why, you may ask? Where is our patriotism, our sense of loyalty? Well don’t get us wrong, we want nothing more than to see the United Kingdom get another good result at Eurovision, even if only to silence those naysayers who are still bleating on about how we never get any points because of some war which happened, er, four years ago (as opposed to the fact we’ve been sending any old tat to the contest lately and hoping for a result).
But when we listen to some of the other songs – Russia, for example, Serbia, Belarus, even Sweden to a certain extent – we find ourselves asking ‘Would it have been really so difficult for us to send a song like this?’ Well yes, apparently, because instead of going for something fresh and contemporary, the great British public have opted to send Scooch, a kind of Steps knock-off band hoping to capture the imagination of their rival nations by namechecking them in their song (can just see the Estonians thinking ‘Ooooooh, they’ve mentioned Tallinn! Better vote for them then…..’ er, perhaps not).
The song in question is a very silly bit of fluff called Flying The Flag, which our lads and lasses have given an airline theme to, dressing up in shiny steward outfits and peppering the lyrics with Carry On-esque double entendres (‘something to suck on for landing sir?’ one of the male members of the band utters with lascivious hopefulness towards the end, as a nation drops its collective jaws in despair). It’s bright. It’s cheerful. And it doesn’t work.
For one thing, the bubblegum pop thing has been done far better this year by Switzerland (who actually manage to keep their similarly ridiculous vampire tune just the right side of tongue-in-cheek). For another, nobody is going to remember your air hostess act while Verka Serduchka is still fresh in their memory. And for yet another, Flying The Flag is a RUBBISH song. Sorry, but it is. Half of us thinks we may be proven wrong, that choosing it is a stroke of genius and we’ll end up with our best result in years. The other half, meanwhile, predicts yet another lower end of the scoreboard finish and yet more blaming our failures on political voting, Middle Eastern conflict etc. etc., while we sit back and say, ‘well perhaps if you wanted a better result you should have picked a better song’. And no, we don’t want something to suck on for landing. But thanks all the same.
Far better is this year’s song from ROMANIA, a country we reckon are long overdue their first Eurovision win since they’ve come so close in recent years (and since 2005’s Let Me Try was, on reflection, one of the best Eurovision entries of the decade so far). This year, they’ve opted for a change of pace from the dance-tastic tracks they’ve been churning out lately, with a gypsy-tinged effort from male combo Todomondo (there do seem to be a lot of them this year). Liubi Liubi I Love You, which starts off slowly and gradually builds to its all-singing, all-dancing conclusion, is a real charmer – folksy, catchy and great fun. Possibly a bit too quirky for some tastes but one of Team Eurovision’s favourites nonetheless. Now would yet another top ten finish be out of the question?
And finally (ironically since they actually kicked things off last year) we come to the sophomore effort from ARMENIA. Hayko’s Anytime You Need is, like others in the contest, a sweet if unremarkable ballad, although we can’t help thinking it has a certain something which sets it apart from its peers. For one thing, there aren’t that many slow songs in this year’s Eurovision, for another the penultimate position in the contest is widely regarded as a very good place to be (and in fact the canny Armenians chose to sing second last after getting one of this year’s ‘wild card’ spots in the draw). It’s far from our favourite, yet we have a funny feeling this might be one to watch.