The Best Of The Rest – Semi-final 1
Posted by Caroline on May 16, 2008
Oops! Looks like we forgot to do our reviews again! Actually, we have been far too busy checking out the dancing ferrets on Britain’s Got Talent to be bothered with the likes of Eurovision, but anyway….here’s what we make of the rest of Tuesday’s semi!
It’s a warm welcome to the contest for San Marino, a territory so small we actually don’t even know where it is (although one of Team Eurovision claims to have found it on the map underneath a biscuit crumb the other week). Many Eurovision-philes are saying that this is the closest thing we will ever get to an Italian return to the contest, and indeed the San Marinese representatives Miodio do number several Italians among their members. And what of the song? Well, we first heard the acoustic version of Complice and to us, it sounded a little bit like a singalong round a pub piano, but the polished version with plugged in musical instruments isn’t actually that bad – a bit of standard boy band-ish ballad fodder, it’s pleasant but forgettable. Sadly we fear San Marino may suffer a similar fate to last years ‘un point’ debutants Czech Republic, but we kind of hope we’re wrong.
And so to Belgium – which we have written about before and which is one of our very favourite songs in the whole contest. OK, so O Julissi – their garbled folk song in a made-up language (hang on, haven’t the Belgians done this before?) is as daft as a brush, OK so it sounds ever so slightly like Dominique by The Singing Nun (just ask your mum…..), but it’s fun, perky and reminds us of the kind of songs that used to dominate the Eurovision stage in a more innocent, dance routine and puppet free era. More importantly it sounds like absolutely nothing else that’s out there this year. And as such will either get no points or win the whole damned thing. Fingers crossed for the latter!
And so to another debutant country, Azerbaijan (we didn’t have any problems finding this one on the map, we just had problems spelling it). The Azeris have been threatening to join the Eurovision fold for some time now and sure enough they are finally here, with the frankly weird ‘rock opera’ Day After Day from Elnur and Samir. One of them wears wings and sings in a falsetto voice, the other doesn’t. A lot of people seem to rate this track but however much Team Eurovision listens we just don’t get the appeal. Can’t help thinking it might do rather well due to its loyal following – but this doesn’t stop us thinking it’s nowt but a big old noise. Next!
Slovenia impressed us last year with their opera/British Airways commercial soundalike entry, and we were a bit disappointed they didn’t do better than they did in the final. No matter, they’re back this year with another strong song, the disco-tastic Vrag Naj Vzame by Rekeka Dremelj. While we’re not convinced that she won’t screech like an out of tune kitten on the night, this is still a deceptively catchy number which should comfortably make it through to the final. We think.
Next up it’s Norway, who having gone all Latin last year and failed miserably (with the singer rather uncharitably referred to by some members of the team as ‘Granny Schanke’) have taken an altogether different approach this year. Actually, it’s a considerable improvement, for Maria’s Hold On Be Strong is a striking, anthemic song with a very strong chorus. One of the more serious entries of the contest, we reckon this could surprise a lot of people and do very well indeed.
And so to Poland. One of the countries who have yet to make it out of the semi-final, we would love to see the Poles get through this year – but once again we are sitting on the fence. Isis Gee’s For Life fills the Big Ballad slot in the first semi-final which Hungary occupies in the second – but as pleasant as this is, the Hungarian song is far stronger (plus Isis just doesn’t seem to have Czesy’s pleasing mole-shaking kookiness). Having come so near and so far on many occasions, we fear the same fate could befall the Poles this year, since this is a perfectly decent song but nothing really special.
And so we come to the song which has filled more column inches than any other this year – the Irish entry. Yes, the most successful Eurovision nation in history, the country who have scored seven victories, won four times in the 90s, produced two-time winning performer Johnny Logan, gave the world Dana – have turned their back on all the previous success stories and are sending rubber puppet Dustin The Turkey to Belgrade. And we’re still not sure if this is a good thing or bad thing. Half of us think this is actually a brilliant protest song (if you actually listen to the lyrics) and if it wins it may force Eurovision organisers to rethink a return to jury voting to prevent the public from going quite so mad over such a pointless novelty. The other half of us find it intensely irritating and would quite like to lock Dustin in a room with wacky Laka, the chicken-eating Bosnian, and see who emerges in one piece. We will however say this – it might be one of the favourites but we remain unconvinced it will make it out of the semi-final. Why? Because the rest of Europe just won’t get the joke, quite frankly, and may even find Irlande Douze Points a tad offensive if they take a moment to listen to the lyrics (since it kind of insults all of them). And because the UK isn’t voting in their semi final so they won’t get any points from us. And, honestly, because it’s just not very good! Do we really need to elaborate further?
The other day the editor of this very blog was witness to the question, “Andorra? Are they in Eurovision?” They are indeed, and have been for five years now – but have yet to make it out of the semi-final (they should have qualified last year really but oh so narrowly missed out). We think, however, that this could be their year, for Casanova by Gisela is a cracking piece of Eurodisco nonsense – upbeat, lively and far more fun than a boatload of Dustin and his turkey siblings. See you in the final, Andorra…
Now then…what to say about Bosnia and Herzegovina that we haven’t already said? On the surface this looks like another one of those novelty efforts – witness Elvir Lakovic Laka looking like a demented Willy Wonka, singing tenderly to a chicken while his sister twirls around on stage like a clockwork doll. Oddly enough though Pokusaj is actually a very good song indeed, which starts off slowly before breaking into Coldplay-esque guitars and dramatic singing, tapping into the indie-pop sensibilities we love around these parts. The only thing it doesn’t have in its favour is that it’s not the most immediate tune in the semi (took us a while to get into it, that’s for certain) but apart from that we see no reason why this won’t sail through to the final. And possibly do rather well there as well. All together now: “I’m going to try to wake you up, but you’re acting like you already are….”
Another tune almost certainly destined for the final is the Armenian entry, Qele Qele. As one of the countries whose national final we paid attention to, we’d heard this one before it was chosen but having heard the other options, we were screaming “Armenia! Choose! This! NOW!!!!!!!!!” before a note of the contest had even been sung. Coming over as Shakira crossed with a healthy dose of Helena Paparizou, only an entirely tone-deaf performance from Sirusho can possibly stop this one from bringing the house down on the night.
Another country who have surprised us this year are the Netherlands – after last year’s huge disappointment we were beginning to wonder if they would come back at all, but they are here with their best entry for several years. In the crush for final places, we have a horrible feeling that Hind’s song, My Heart Belongs To Me, might get overlooked, which is a damned shame as it deserves to be there. Still, whatever happens to it, it is a top tune and confirms that the Dutch still have the knack of churning out rather fine Eurovision songs.
Now then…what to say about Finland? Having brought heavy metal kicking and screaming to the Eurovision stage with Lordi’s winning song Hard Rock Hallelujah a couple of years back, the Finns are clearly hoping for a repeat performance. Except let us not forget part of the appeal of Lordi was the masks, the costumes, the retractable wings…and this year’s entrants Terasbetoni have none of those. They just have guitars, drums and the ability to make noisy metal mayhem with them. Now actually we kind of like Missa Miehet Ratsastaa – as this kind of music goes it is pretty solid and we have no doubt they’re an accomplished band who will give it their all on the night. We’re just not sure that this kind of music, minus the gimmicks, will go down too well among Eurovision voters, and as such we can’t see this one qualifying. Shame though.
And bring on Romania, another country we thought should have done better last year and another country who are clearly desperate for their first Eurovision victory. This year they’re fielding a duet, between boy girl singers Nico and Vlad, and it isn’t half bad – Pe-o Margine De Lume, one of several tunes this year to feature Italian lyrics, kind of starts slow, tries to speed up, changes its mind and goes slow again, but it actually works rather well, and benefits from the duo’s very strong singing voices. Could be a contender, we reckon.
And the contest closes with two countries you can always count on to do well (at least in the current neighbourly voting climate). Russia, another country clearly desperate for a win, are sending Dima Bilan (who finished second in Athens with the fine tune Never Let You Go) once again, this time with the Timbaland produced ballad Believing, and as classy as it is, it kind of leaves us a bit cold. However Russia are the favourites, so we kind of have until next weekend to learn to like it as we begin to accept the possibility that it’ll be our next Eurovision winner. We’re more interested in the fact however that Dima nearly lost the rights to his name in the run-up to the contest (and have taken to calling him Vincent instead as an acceptable substitute name). A finalist, regardless.
And last but not least it’s Greece, who are another sure thing for the final, even though we are slightly disappointed with this year’s song. Kalomira’s Secret Combination follows the kind of winning Greek formulas of recent years – a bit ethnic, a bit dancey etc. etc. but it lacks the sparkle of You’re My Number One, Yassou Maria and our personal over-the-top Greek favourite Shake It. Could it be that Greece’s Eurovision bubble is finally about to burst?