A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
There is always some matter to discuss or just a song I want to share
Very welcome - I hope you'll like it here!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Eurovision needed Celine (and vice versa)

I have a very exact recollection of my first impression of Céline Dion - she came onto our tv-set as the second song in the second part of the 1988 Eurovision previews and had some raw, inexplicable energy that made her stand out from the rest.

She was wearing a horrific outfit, somehow reminiscent of what the sea looks like after an oil tanker disaster, but the way she nailed the camera was very special.

I distinctly remember thinking, a couple of days after my 12th birthday, that this girl is very special.

A few years later, as Célines international career took off, it was a good thing for Eurovision to boost having launched someone like Mademoiselle Dion into the international spotlight. It wasn't entirely true, perhaps, since Céline had been recording in France since the age of 13 and was by no means any inexperienced little performer.

However, at this point in her career, Céline seems to have needed Eurovision just as much as the ESC would later need her. No longer a child, her new mature material failed to enthuse the record buying audience and the French labels seemed to be giving up on her.

Rumours - impossible to verify, but still - have it that Sony music in America were ready to give her a record deal if she made an impression at Eurovision, showing she had public appeal.

The rest is history - a few successful singles later, Céline turned into one of the most successful singers on the planet and could afford to forget about flop singles like the one below.

I still find this one an interesting choice of song, musically way more challenging than most songs she has been recording for her English-languaged repertoire. It seems to me that Céline was always better in French, where her producers were more interested in her interpretation and nuances rather than showing off her vocal capabilities.

Céline Dion - La réligieuse

24 years ago: a very tight finish

At this very night, twenty-four years ago, 12-year old Tobson decided to give Walpurgis a miss for the first time ever and instead stay home and watch the Eurovision final from Dublin (in the company of classmate who had come down with a fever and who fell asleep after five or so songs).

There was a tremenduous feeling of suspense as the Swedish entry (my entry, being Swedish and all) was marred with Tommy Körberg's throat problems leading to heavy speculation in the press as to whether he would be able to sing or not.

Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet had tipped a tight race between Sweden, Switzerland and Israel. I didn't disagree, but hoped that my personal favourites from Spain, Denmark and Iceland could stand a chance too.

All that feeling of suspense in advance was nothing compared with what we had in store before the show was over. What seemed like a runaway victory for Switzerland soon turned into a battle between Celine Dion and Scott Fitzgerald before the latter pulled away, leading with a comfortable margin as Portugal cast their votes as #20 out of 21 participants.

And then the whole thing changed again. Switzerland was suddenly just five points behind the UK as Pat Kenny and Michelle Rocca call up the Yugoslav jury in Ljubljana. The rules stated that the juries were not supposed to know the standings when called up, but it sounds like Miša Molk knows a fair share, seemingly adding to the drama.

This, the closest voting sequence I had ever seen left me speechless and every time I watch it again I feel the thriller element again. Since then, only four votings have been as tight as this one, donning the same kind of suspense up until the bitter end.

Watch the final votes coming in here and enjoy - it is impossible not to be happy for Céline Dion and the Swiss delegation afterwards. Unless, of course, you are BBC commentator Terry Wogan.

Céline Dion - Ne partez pas sans moi (Switzerland 1988)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The 2012 review: part nine

Well, this is it. Time to wrap the big review up for this time with a post containing the six songs already qualified for the big final. And it is very pleasant indeed to note that the "big" countries have all taken their positions seriously, making more of an effort than they have in the past.


Engelbert Humperdinck - Love Will Set You Free

If the BBC aimed at getting extra coverage for bringing on the oldest solo singer ever in Eurovision, they must have been sorely disappointed when the Russian babushki came on and stole their show. But there is far more to this entry than mere gimmicks.

Engelbert Humperdinck is, indeed, a star performer whose experience will come in handy on a big event like this. I surely thought Blue would handle the pressure better last year, this year's entrant will probably fare better. There is also a very well crafted song to be found here, sincerely and gently performed. Unlike most it isn't targeted at the younger viewers but at the older - they watch too, and they vote.

Potential winner:
No. It would be a huge surprise if this song came anywhere close to victory, but it is a very dignified and worthy entry that will recieve extensive airplay all summer at radio stations aimed at a more mature audience.

My grade: 3/5


Anggun - Echo (You And I)

France is keeping the high profile they have maintained since sending Sébastien Tellier to Belgrade in 2008 - maybe they are not sending in the easiest or most graspable entries, but they are certainly making an effort to keep this contest interesting. Anggun has been a star in France since 1997, and French television has seen her as a promising ESC entrant for years already.

Her song is a joyful, proud and original little pop pearl - again not taking the easiest path into the hearts of the televoters but providing something a bit more challenging for the listeners to chew on.

Potential winner:
No, unless the French manage to stage a visually supportive show around this entry to make it stand out better for the audience. Definitely a hit single, but possibly too demanding for the average viewer.

My grade: 5/5


Nina Zilli - L'amore è femmina

Last year, Italy made an effective comeback after a lenghty absence and was rewarded with one of their best placings ever. Given how much Europe had longed for the Italian temper and sense of know-how in the field of pop music, my antennae are beginning to whisk frenetically at this point.

The song Nina intended to sing at first might have been better and the current song might have sounded better in Italian only, but when this bombshell makes her grand entrance, filling her little song up with sex appeal and joie-de-vivre, it could very well be that Europe cannot resist.

Potential winner:
Yes. Europe has always had a fondness for Italian songs and performers, not always shared by the Eurovision juries. With a performer like Nina Zilli, a recognisable sound and a juicy chours like this it could very well spell victory in the end.

My grade: 5/5


Sabina Babayeva - When The Music Dies

The host country sticks to their winning formula and has bough another song by the same Swedish team who wrote Safura's "Drip Drop" as well as last year's winning entry. In this year when a large number of countries have borrowed songwriting talent from elsewhere, who is to blame Azerbaijan for sticking to a winning formula?

Too bad that the formula didn't come up with anything stronger than this, then. The song is rather a tired re-write of things heard before (most notably "Stop" by Sam Browne) and performed by a good but not particularly personable singer.

Potential winner:
No, I would not think so. If it is performed really well with an effective stage show, it could be a contender for a top ten placing, but not much more than that.

My grade: 1/5


Pastora Soler - Quédate conmigo

This could very well rate as the most positive surprise of the year. For quite some time now, Spain has sent in real non-contender entries, lacking force in all departments. Either the songs have not been good enough or the performances have not been good enough or both of these in combination.

This year, it all seems to come together when a warm, strong, big voice meets a warm, strong, big ballad that might be a bit old-fashioned but very well crafted and instantly understandable for the bigger part of the audience.

Potential winner:
Yes, I am beginning to think so. Spain will need a bit of luck - a lot depends on who gets drawn right before them in the final - but this could be the song that gets embraced by both televoters and juries alike.

My grade: 4/5


Roman Lob - Standing Still

Germany is also sticking to form, going back to the same talent show format that gave them a second victory in the form of Lena two years ago. It seems to have worked again as the winner, adorable starry-eyed pop boy Roman, has hit home with the masses and is currently enjoying solid success in the domestic charts.

I'm happy for him and I am happy for German television, but I have a feeling that the German flag will end up a little bit further down the scoreboard this time. This song is perfect radio pop that you will recognise and appreciate on the airwaves, but that possibly be a bit too streamlined and laidback to stand out in a competition like this.

Potential winner:
No. Worst case scenario is that this will be the song that falls between the seats and ends up close to the bottom. Not because it is bad, but because it will ultimately not be anyone's favourite. The thing that can save it from failure is Roman - if he really delivers on the night, I might be completely wrong here. And I wouldn't mind.

My grade: 3/5

ESC 1964: what would Wenche do?

In my last post I concluded that Eurovision (or Eurovision juries, rather) were not ready for pop and youthful sounds in 1964, explaining why the excellent Dutch entry was left with only two points far back in the results.

Of course, you can never know for sure about these things. Maybe it was just another case of "the curse of number two", as Anneke was drawn to sing as the second act on the night (and no song ever won being performed second on the night)? Maybe the juries just didn't think "Jij bent mijn leven" to be all that?

I wonder what they would have made of Wenche Myhre, had she won the 1964 Norweigan final with the almost violently up-to-date "La meg være ung".

Wenche Myhre - La meg være ung (Norway 1964 national final)

Composer Arne Bendiksen (who happened to sing the winning song of that selection) blames the failure on NRK - every song was performed twice by different performers and the second version, by a male pop band, was (according to Bendiksen) impossible to recognise and only confused the juries.

Anyhow, this song was the start of Wenche's long career in Germany (where she spelt her name Wencke Myhre to facilitate pronounciation) where she, among many other things, sang the 1968 German entry to a sixth place in London.

Wencke Myhre - Ein Hoch der Liebe (Germany 1968)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Song of the Day: Netherlands 1964

I went through my blog statistics and noted that I have faithful readers both here and there.

One of the countries I had not expected to see on top ten when it comes to number of pageviews is Indonesia, but it is wonderful to see that you keep coming back.

I think that deserves some recognition, so my hommage to the readers in Indonesia is this song - the first Eurovision entry ever performed by an Indonesian-born singer.

Anneke Grönloh was (and is) a huge star in the Netherlands and sang a modern pop song one year too early. The juries were not ready and only awarded a grand total of two points for this fantastically catchy little ditty. One year later, France Gall was to go all the way to victory with another really modern entry.

So here's to lovely Anneke, and here's to Indonesia! Tobson bows to you!

Anneke Grönloh - Jij bent mijn leven (Netherlands 1964)

(As most of you are aware, there is no known video copy of Eurovision 1964 in existence. But the studio version is smashing too.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Song of the Day: Norway 1992

Some songs just have everything against themselves, and one of them fell over poor sympathetic Merethe Trøan in the 1992 Norweigan final.

It really is a strange creation of a song, and it had the indecency of beating the two red hot favourites in the national heat, supposed to be a two horse race between Tor Endresen and Wenche Myhre.

It is really badly constructed, it has a clumsly verse that just goes on and on and on forever before the chorus comes into the picture.

It also has a really lamentable set of lyrics that are not only cliché-ridden on the verge of self-destruction but also dances in an off-beat fashion that gets in the way of the melody.

All of this delivered in such a good mood and with the widest smiles around.

It all should be unbearable, horrible and detestable, but somehow Merethe makes the whole thing work. I don't know how she does it, but she does and she deserves some kind of medal for it. All of these flaws and yet I am not bored once throughout three minutes. Well done.

Merethe Trøan - Visjoner (Norway 1992)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The 2012 review: part eight

I'm almost through all the entries for Baku, this post will deal with the four last songs to go through the semi finals, closing the Thursday night run-through.


Max Jason Mai - Don't Close Your Eyes

Eurovision has perhaps never provided the perfect stage for real rock music. "Hard Rock Hallelujah" was - in all honesty - a typical eurosong disguised as a rocker with some guitars and, well, monsters. The Slovakian entry is by far the heaviest piece of metal since their Czech neighbours tired their luck with Kabàt in 2007.

This could be a turning point for rock, though. This might be sharp and noisy, but also melodic and easy to get a grip on. Max Jason Mai is a likeable performer and this song stands very alone - nobody is trying to steal their points and they will stand out by a mile from the other entries in this semi.

Yes. This is the year when Slovakia will get something back for all the effort they invested during the last few years. I am not sure how high a placing they might get in the end, but it would be a big negative surprise if they don't qualify this time around.

My grade: 3/5


Tooji - Stay

You know what? We need to talk about Tooji.

He is a real personality, he looks good and he has something deeply interesting about him, something enigmatic and mysterious. He is quite a good singer and has a good way with the camera. He really is a strong asset for Norway.

The big question is why he has opted to perform a song as weak as this one. It has a lot of promise and good ideas and good little hooky things, but it doesn't help much as there is no melody line and no structure. This song would need to grab me by the hand and lead me through this musical landscape and explain what is going on. As a listener, I feel very much left on my own as the whole package dances on without me.

Probably. Confidence comes a long way in a competition like this, and Tooji has plenty of that. But it is surprising that Norway, for the third year in a row, enters with a good singer and a song that is nowhere near as good.

My grade: 2/5


Maya Sar - Korake ti znam

Bosnia has really proven themselves as one of the strongest countries in the ESC, contributing quality entries year after year - well-crafted songs, elaborate performances and very good artists. Maya Sar has been part of the Bosnian team twice before, behind Deen in 2004 and as part of Dino Merlin's cheerful gang last year. This time around, she is going with a far more laid back effort.

The song, written by Maya Sar herself, is a tender and delicious little ballad where every syllable feels like a gentle touch, sung in a most delightful and sensual way. A real gem, but perhaps slightly too ethereal to work wonders in a televote.

Hopefully. It contains so many good ingredients, but is anything but instant. Should hit home with the juries, if they aspire to be of any use to the contest.

My grade: 4/5


Donny Montell - Love Is Blind

It's a hard life when your song is ready and you can't shake the feeling that it just isn't interesting enough. At that point, it is easy to start adding extra things, special effects, that might seem like a good idea at first but that don't really contribute anything in the end.

It could be a complicated bridge between the verse and a chorus. It could consist of adding some long notes that just distract from the actual melody. It could involve putting a blindfold on to underline the words you are singing. And in the end, you'll find yourself with a whole lot of superfluous rubbish and not so much of a song.

That is exactly what has happened in Lithuania, where the composer and the performer have joined forces to make it impossible for the audience to find the somewhat decent melody line they have hidden under several layers of over-production and stage antics.

No. This song would need some serious cleaning up, but not even that would help. The chorus, when Donny finally gets there, is OK but not original enough to make a difference.

My grade: 1/5

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Song of the Day: Belgium 1971

I could be wrong here - please correct me if I am - but I think there is only one case in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest where the performer of a song had to be replaced at such short notice that there are different singers in the preview clip than live on stage.

Nicole and Hugo had won the 1971 Belgian national final and made a breathtakingly charming video clip, when Nicole fell ill and found herself unable to go to Dublin.

Nicole & Hugo - Goeiemorgen morgen (Belgium 1971 preview)

Instead old-timers Lily Castel and Jacques Raymond stepped in at short notice, famously rehearsing their choreography on the plane for Ireland. When arriving at the Gaiety Theatre, they realised the stage was too small for their act anyway, resulting in a somewhat drier, stiffer version of the song. Despite having many supporters beforehand, the Belgian song found itself in a lucklustre fourteenth place.

Jacques Raymond & Lily Castel - Goeiemorgen morgen (Belgium 1971)

In all fairness, the stage would have been too small also for the flamboyant steps of the original couple but maybe Nicole and Hugo had been able to add that final punch and extra bite that the performance would have needed to convince the juries. It is a very fine song, in a brilliant arrangement, and a shame that it is somewhat forgotten in the eurovision archives.

Nicole & Hugo would get a second chance at Eurovision - two years later they represented their country with the true evergreen "Baby Baby", landing in a highly undeserved last place. I think these two were pioneers within Eurovision showbiz - talented, funny, good-looking and daring - and they would deserve so much more respect for their craft.

Hats off for both of them!

Nicole & Hugo - Baby Baby (Belgium 1973)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Song of the Day: Netherlands 1997

I would really like to continue my review tonight, but I have had a very long day at work and will have an equally long day tomorrow, so I don't really have the time for lenghty updates.

Luckily, there is a eurovision entry that speaks about this problem, that nobody finds the time for important matters anymore.

Back in the day, I thought for a long time that this could be a contender. I thought the mix-up with the "Live And Let Die"-theme was funny and I thought Mrs Einstein to be an entertaining bunch of ladies straight out of Cougar Town.

Europe did not agree with me the slightest, and this catchy number and its jolly performers had to content themselves with five points and only the shared nul-pointer of Norway and Portugal behind them.

Mrs Einstein - Niemand heeft nog tijd (Netherlands 1997)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Song of the Day: Portugal 1967

In my 2012 review, I ask myself why Portugal keeps sending in songs in a style that Europe keeps rejecting time after time. But in all fairness, the Portuguese have tried very different sounds and styles through the years.

The fourth Portuguese entry was really something extravagant at Eurovision back in 1967 - a very deep, rough and interesting soul vibe that felt raw and unpolished in comparison to what other r'n'b reached the charts back in the day.

They have managed to beat quite some life and attack into the Austrian orchestra and Eduardo himself sings his heart out, investing all he's got into this song.

The earned him three little points in the end, but this is a musical eruption of a kind I wish Portugal would give us more often.

Eduardo Nascimento - O vento mudou (Portugal 1967)

The 2012 review, part seven

Four more songs from the second semi, including some of the best and one of the absolute worst of this year's crop.


Loreen - Euphoria

Not since Alexander Rybak in 2009 has there been such a consensus about a probable winner as this year. Loreen is the sky high favourite everywhere - not everyone's top choice, of course, but the eventual overall winner in most polls and rankings around the internet.

There is a danger in that, too. Many songs have been named probably winners and then not recieved the expected response from televoters or juries. Sweden also has an added complication as their numbers are so meticulously planned and perfected already in the national final that there is no room for improvement for the international final. The best possibility is that Loreen performs almost as well as in Melodifestivalen.

All those objections aside - this is one of the strongest entries of the year. Simple and yet powerful, minimalistic and artistic, well sung and with a stylish look.

Yes. Without the shadow of a doubt. And, unless it has a maximum of bad luck in the draw, it will surely make top five. And possibly win the whole thing.

My grade: 5/5


Anri Jokhazde - I'm A Joker

Where do I begin? When a song is bad, you can start the review by pointing out the flaws in the song-writing. That is very hard to do here, as there has been very little song-writing going on. This is just a parade of pointless sounds with no goal, no aim, no point. If the "song" had not been bad enough in its own right, the lyrics are a very cheap re-write of "The Joker" by Steve Miller Band.

And, to add insult to injury, the performance is completely on the same level as the melody and lyrics. How a country that gave us Sopho Khalvashi can decide to inflict something like this on us is a mystery.

No. Georgia has qualified every year, but if this mess hops out of an envelope there must be something severely rotten in the Kingdom of Eurovision. Horrific beyond description.

My grade: 0/5


Can Bonomo - Love Me Back

Luckily the contest takes a sharp turn back to really good entries again as Turkey seems determined to take revenge for last years debacle in Düsseldorf. Exit the rock, in with a song full of oriental, Turkish and Jewish influences. As well as a hint of Pirates of the Caribbean, to be honest.

A fairytale story about pirates and ships set to very jaunty music, performed by the breathtakingly endearing Can Bonomo. He is all smiles and in a very playful mood. Not everyone's cup of tea, perhaps, but surely captivating enough to make into the safe haven of the final.

Yes, oh yes. The sails fill up with ravishing rhythm and this ship will have a very pleasant journey over the Sea of Eurovision.

My grade: 5/5


Ott Lepland - Kuula

There is always room for a big ballad, especially when it is as well-constructed, gripping and stylish as this one. Ott is also a rare asset, as he manages to hold back his notes, delivering it well, singing his heart out without making the vocal chords go pop.

Estonia has also had a way to make lyrics in their own language appeal to the voters. I have a feeling Ott will reach out also to the people who have no idea what he is singing about.

Yes. I didn't believe in it at first, but now I think the final needs Ott and a song like this to find harmony and balance.

My grade: 4/5

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The 2012 review, part six

The first five contained some good and some not so good... In this bunch of songs, the line-up will take a turn for the better, at least in my book.


Filipa Sousa - Vida minha

Portuguese television really tried to shake up their national final this year by auditioning vocally secure performers and then commission suitable songs from them. All that effort, and still we end up with a song very much like many others that RTP contributed in the past.

There is nothing wrong with Filipa, there is nothing technically wrong with the song, but I can't help but wonder when the message will start sinking in. When will the Portuguese realise this is not the sort of entry that anyone votes for? They had a good string of entries a couple of years ago, but now I wonder if they even want to win.

No, most probably not. The people who voted for "Senhora do Mar" in 2008 will still like this, but the competition for ballad points in this semi final is absolutely crushing. A Portuguese qualification would, and should, be a big surprise for most.

My grade: 1/5


Gaitana - Be My Guest

If there is one country that never lets us down completely, then it must be Ukraine. Every year, they send in good songs by good performers and on top of that they stage something really effective on stage, to further enhance their entries.

This year is no exception, as the Ukrainians take the opportunity to promote the upcoming football championships with a hit tailormade to be the official Uefa song of 2012. Gaitana is also a sparkling and exciting presence, who is sure to blow extra life, energy and conviction into this, and I can't wait to see what this will look like in Baku.

Yes. The song is maybe not the best one Ukraine ever sent to Eurovision, but this entry will surely be bigger than the song come May.

My grade: 3/5


Sofi Marinova - Love Unlimited

Had this song contest been an arena where only musical aspects had been taken into consideration, then Bulgaria could be sure of success this year. This is a very pleasant house-light-production that you can enjoy both listening to and dancing to, and Sofi Marinova is a vocal asset that feels steady and reliable throughout the entire number.

But this is a televised event where people are also able to see what songs look like and that is where this team has to start working. The performance in the national final is static and uneventful, the dress is ill-advised and whenever Sofi has no singing to do she starts feeling lost on stage. This clip also contains dancers, but it is not obvious that Sofi and her dancers will look good together.

This could turn out to be a real mess, and then nobody will listen to the song.

Yes. I want to believe that the Bulgarians will get on top of things and sort their performance out. I really want to see them back in the final again. I feel they belong there.

My grade: 3/5


Eva Boto - Verjamem

This entry manages to pinpoint the problem in using a casting show as eurovision selection. You find an excellent girl like Eva Boto, who sings fantastically and has a very fresh appearance, but then suddenly you need to find a song that will suit her.

I might be old-fashioned, but in a song contest you need a strong song coupled with a performer that can deliever it in the best way possible. In this case, I feel that Eva and the song (written by the man behind "Molitva" as you can tell) never completely embrace each other. She sings it brilliantly, but it doesn't feel like her song. It feels like it was written for somebody else, somebody different, and I can sense that.

I think Eva would have been better off with something slightly more youthful, slightly more in tune with what she knows and where she is in life.

Possibly. It is still a well-crafted song and Eva is a real talent. If the televoters won't play ball, the juries should recognise the vocal qualities here. But it could just as well end up a few points short of qualification.

My grade: 2/5


Nina Badrić - Nebo

When your national final keeps giving you dismal entries and bad results, it is never a bad idea to scrap the whole thing and call up a real star and ask them to do the job for you. Nina Badrić is a real star and her mere presence will probably make it easier for Croatian television to convince real talent to give the ESC a shot next year.

Just too bad that the star in question seems to have selected a song that means a lot to her personally rather than finding the best possible entry. This is a fine song with a clever construction, and a good showcase of her own songwriting talent, but it takes too many listenings for the chorus to truly impose itself for this to be a real contender.

Yes, anything else would be a big surprise. But this star might have to content herself with a place a bit further down in the final.

My grade: 3/5

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The 2012 review, part five

One semi down, one more to go. Here are the first five songs of the second semi, complete with predictions and all.


Željko Joksimović - Nije ljubav stvar

Being the first song out can be a bit tricky these days, but Dino Merlin showed last year that it isn't a major problem when you are a Balkan star. Given how popular this kind of entry has been for the last eight years (since the success of "Lane moje") and what a convincing performer Željko is, this one will have no major problem in convincing the audience it deserves a spot in the final.

Surprisingly enough, it has a tougher job convincing me. I, who should be won over already by the first note, hear how well-crafted the whole thing is but find myself lacking something. A bit of a surprise element, perhaps? This is really Željko by the numbers, which is not bad. Just a tiny bit... predictable.

Oh yes. Nothing can stop Serbia at this point. The question is how far this will carry in the final. Top five? Top ten? Or is the whole formula in for an unpleasant surprise?

My grade: 3/5


Kaliopi - Crno i belo

In a parallel universe Kaliopi would already have represented her country once in Oslo 1996, but that weird preselection mode used as a one-off that year kept her out of the running. This time she is back with a vengeance, with a song slightly more likely to hit a chord with the voting masses.

Sometimes it has proven a bit too demanding for the general audience when your entry changes its pace midway through, but Kaliopi's mere appearance and presence should be enough to keep all the bits and pieces together.

Yes, I really hope so. A fine song meets an excellent singer and stuff like that should be rewarded.

My grade: 4/5


Joan Franka - You And Me

It really took me a while to make my mind up about this entry, as it contained several components that I liked. I kind of like the folksy feeling in this song, there is something enjoyable in the rhythm, and I sense talent under all those feathers. Joan has a quality of Joan-Baez-meets-Cher-at-a-funfair that is pleasant enough.

What really bothers me is the song - bursting full of tiny things that start to annoy me as the whole thing trots along. And whenever it leaps into the falsetto register, I reach for my remote control.

No. The Dutch have seen stronger songs than this pass unnoticed in the past. But I think the Dutch would deserve a bit of happiness, and if Joan would make the final cut I would be all smiles for them.

My grade: 1/5


Kurt Calleja - This Is The Night

After Malta had made its comeback in 1991, I just kept waiting for them to win. They felt like serious contenders for victory almost every year, but now it feels like a while ago. The last couple of Maltese entries have felt a bit pale and washed-out, and this ditty is no exception.

What saves this entry a bit is Kurt himself, a cheerful chap with positive energy and perhaps the kindest eyes of all contenders. But what good will kind eyes do you when your song is not stronger than this?

No. This is too lean and uninspired to do really well, unless it stands out as a welcome little pause in the middle of more ambitious songs. I'd say that is pretty unlikely to happen.

My grade: 1/5


Litesound - We Are The Heroes

My first impression of this one was pretty positive - there is a clear sustainable chorus going on here and the group seems competent enough. And yet, when I have heard it a couple of times, the air starts leaking out. Like soufflé, it finds itself flat on the bottom of the baking tin.

There really isn't anything wrong with it. It just isn't engaging enough. Also, not everybody should wear trousers like those.

No. The unlucky draw, in the middle of some less remarkable entries, is probably sealing the fate of this group.

My grade: 1/5

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Today is a special day

April 19 1980, thirty-two years ago today, was a special day in many ways. It saw the last Eurovision final to date hosted in the Netherlands, in The Hague to be precise.

Johnny Logan landed Ireland's second victory, Ralph Siegel got closer than ever before to winning the whole thing, Tomas Ledin of Sweden dropped his microphone chord during the performance but managed to plug it back in before he had to start singing again.

Morocco made its only appearance to date and remains the only African country ever to participate, surprisingly not recieving a single point from Turkey, the other muslim country taking part that year.

And Belgium, inspired by the fact that it was the 25th ESC, sang a song to celebrate the occasion. A kind of "happy birthday" to this beloved contest.

And perhaps for tiny Tobson, who had his fourth birthday that specific day. So happy birthday, Eurovision. And happy birthday to me.

Telex - Euro-vision (Belgium 1980)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The 2012 review, part four

Here they come, the last four songs to complete the line-up for the first of the two semi finals in Baku, complete with my grade as well as my prediction.


Compact Disco - The Sound Of Our Hearts

I have really conflicting emotions about this entry, to be honest. I find Compact Disco a most competent electro pop band with a credible sound and an attractive frontman and would really love to love this. Problem is that the song never takes off quite the way I would have wanted it to.

It sounds a bit like a marriage between Hurts and some of the later a-Ha output, complete with a reasonably strong chorus, but it isn't until the last thirty seconds or so that the song really gains momentum. And that might be too late.

Possibly. The first semi final should not be too difficult to crack, and the juries should be able to recognise the quality of their craft. But it could also be the song finding itself in eleventh place, two points short of qualification.

My grade: 3/5


Trackshittaz - Woki mit deim Popo

Last year, these to tractor-gangsta-rappers aus the Austrian countryside were runners-up in the national final, landing a huge hit with a far better and far wittier song. This one is still catchy and fun-loving, but there are too many awkward details here to turn viewers away.

What should be goofy and entertaining leaves a little bit of a bad taste at least in my mouth. Where the video clip is funny the live performance is just tired and sexist. If they manage to polish the presentation a bit, then the song will get more appreciated by merit.

Yes. A mentally out-washed little party stomper might be just what the final needs this year.

My grade: 2/5


Pasha Parfeny - Lăutar

Straight from one party to another - if Austria offered an after-ski atmosphere, then Moldova wants us to dance along to their happiest band, fronted by the happiest vocalist they could find, complete with an energetic brass section and something that could be confused for a kind of reggae vibe.

For me, Pasha Parfeny is one of the best performers in the contest this year - he loves what he is doing and, unlike Switzerland, he gets away with his dodgy English simply by being so happy and upbeat, apparently not taking himself too seriously. That certainly works for me.

Yes. Pasha will be bang in the final, where he belongs. With a bit of luck in the draw, he could even take his country back to top ten for the first time since 2007.

My grade: 4/5


Jedward - Waterline

The semifinal ends with a three-minute lesson in how not to conduct your eurovision comeback. This contest is a treacherous beast that could easily take away the fame it brought you and rip you to shreds and leave your career in bits. Jedward's second entry makes me think of poor Thomas Forstner who had done everything right and then came back to have his reputation crushed.

That is not exactly what will happen to Jedward, given their following and what a phenomenon they have grown into, but coming back so soon with an act as similar as you first one as well as a considerably weaker song is not a good idea. I still adore these two obnoxious madhats, but they are not fantastic singers and this new song requires more singing and less bouncing.

Yes. But I doubt the juries will back these two up in the final this year. I would not bet my money on a top ten finish.

My grade: 1/5 

Monday, April 16, 2012

The 2012 review, part three

The review goes on, this time with the four songs performing in the spots 11 - 14 in the first semi final.


Valentina Monetti - The Social Network Song

I think I have made my opinion on this song pretty clear in the past, so I will try to be brief here. Out of all the things that are horribly wrong in this entry, what pains me the most is how cynical and calculating the people behind the whole thing have been. If you don't have a good song, then try to be a bit controversial. Mention something "new", "modern" and "youthful". Mention "sex".

An abomination more than an entry. San Marino was so nice last year, whatever happened on the way from Düsseldorf?

Surely not. My jaw would not drop if this one ended with nul points in the semi.

My grade: 0/5


Ivi Adamou - La La Love

Sometimes when a song gets thrown at you, you will just want to rub it off and never hear it again. Sometimes it starts growing on you and you will start liking it a lot. In the last couple days, the Cypriot ditty has grown from an OK dance entry to a full-fledged candidate in my eyes.

I still think the song consists of a collection of bits and pieces that don't necessarily fit together, but I feel more and more confident that Ivi and her team will make this work. Unless she falls into the Kate Ryan-trap of trying too hard, she could be a pleasant surprise in the final.

Yes. This song has the same kind of hit potential as Romania and I refuse to think that Europe will let this one get lost so early in the game.

My grade: 4/5


Soluna Samay - Should Have Known Better

Just like Greece, I think Denmark has stretched their formula a bit further than I would have wished for, trying similar things over and over again during the last years. Therefore, I am genuinely happy that the Danes sent in something different this time. This is a piece of simple but appetising radio pop with a soft and laidback feel to it. Catchy in a pleasant understated kind of way.

But then there is the stage presentation that ruins the whole thing for me. Who are all these people in the backing group? Why are they all trying to take the focus away from the lead singer? If they don't get this show properly on the road, the Danes could find themselves bitterly disappointed in the end.

Possibly, but that would require work. The televoters have not shown any mercy with acts that mess up their own presentations, and Soluna has a lot of cleaning up to do in her own act.

My grade: 2/5


Buranovskiye Babushki - Party For Everybody

This isn't quite Christmas Eve for vocal perfectionist and perhaps this is not the sharpest entry in competition this year either. But who cares when the Udmurt grannies are so adorable and overall fantastic? Even the cats and dogs are invited to their party, and I'm sure the televoters will want to join in as well.

Yes. Of course. The tv-viewers will love this entry, especially in the semi. The juries might be a bit less amused, and in the final the grannies might have to content themselves with a placing further back. As if that would matter a single bit? Come on and dance!

My grade: 4/5

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Song of the Day: Israel 1985

In my review I mentioned Izhar Cohen and his impossibly cheerful backing group from Gothenburg 1985, so I felt like showing them to you all as well for reference.

But not for reference only.

It is a jolly good and catchy litte song, one if Israel's best ones in the 80's if you ask me. And the performance is a bit of a thriller as well.

Keep your eyes on the blonde backing singer, the one wearing what I'd call blue. Or green. You'd probably call it something else. The girl not wearing pink. She is happily dancing and happily smiling, but when she gets to the chorus you suspect she was hired for her dancing skills alone.

Her voice cuts through the first chorus like a chainsaw, and the reason I'm sure it must be her is because of what happens next.

During the second verse, her tiny microphone breaks free from her dress and starts living a life very much of its own. It takes a while before she notices it and decides to do something about it... and she hides it well. Blink and you will miss it.

A highly entertaining entry on many different levels indeed.

Izhar Cohen - Olé Olé (Israel 1985)

The 2012 review, part two

Here goes, another five entries from the first semi final, complete with my grades and my predictions. Feel free to give your own opinion in a comment!


Mandinga - Zaleilah

Here comes the first serious contender of the year, I feel. This one has a lot more gravity than the five songs preceeding it, and Romania has apparently set its aim at becoming the summer hit of the year. This is easy to retain, it has a very summery flavour with the drums, the bagpipes and the accordeon and the chorus has a very graspable hook.

This will do very well, surely, but personally I'm not completely convinced. I feel the verses lack something and the bridge is too much of a let-down for this to be a personal favourite, but rest assured that won't bother the large masses a bit.

Yes. Romania goes bang into the final and can, with a bit of luck in the draw, aspire to quite a high placing there.

My grade: 3/5


Sinplus - Unbreakable

A brave attempt of creating a piece of modern radio-friendly rock along the lines of The Killers, and that is a good initiative in my book. These two brothers are likeable and, pronounciation aside, deliver their entry in the best possible way.

The problem is that this song would have needed some more complex writing in order to stay interesting for three minutes. There is too little going on and I find myself tiring of it when there is a whole minute left.

No. It is never an easy ride for Switzerland to get into the final these days and when the song isn't stronger than this it will be close to impossible. Swim against the stream, indeed.

My grade: 2/5


Iris - Would You?

Two years ago, Flemish television sent a sweet lad with a sweet song and landed their best placing since 1959. Now they wanted to repeat the trick with a sweet lass named Iris instead, and she shares quite a few of the qualities Tom Dice had: young, fresh, equipped with a good voice and an ability to nail the camera.

Just too bad that everyone involved forgot that you need a decent song as well.

No. This half-ballad-half-pop-hybrid never takes off and poor Iris is left with nothing to work with. What good is a pleasant voice when you have nothing to sing?

My grade: 1/5


Pernilla - När jag blundar

Finland keeps exploring its softer side with another ballad entry, this time in the second national language Swedish (mother tongue for six percent of the population). Singing a song about how lovely your mother is could easily turn into a large chunk of musical cheese, but Pernilla pulls it off very nicely. Warm, sincere and appealing, and judging from online reactions it seems this song has a way of reaching also people who won't understand the words.

Hopefully. It is always hard to judge your "own" entry - especially when your entry is Finland, well known not to do so well every year. But Pernilla, with her strong presence and likeability, would very much deserve a spot in the final.

My grade: 4/5


Izabo - Time

Israel does what Israel does best - a fun, quirky and upbeat entry complete with a cheerful delivery and strong melody line. (All that is missing to make this the perfect Israeli entry would be Izhar Cohen's troop of dancers from 1985, but I guess you can never have it all.)

This was an early favourite of mine and it still stands out in a very positive light, even if it seems to be way more divisive than I would ever have imagined at first.

Yes. This group is confident and fabulous, and so is the song. That must break through to juries and televoters alike.

My grade: 5/5

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The 2012 review, part one

It doesn't feel like too long ago that I did this while warming up for Düsseldorf - now it is time to start going through the entries before heading off to Baku...

These reviews are purely my personal point of view, including my prediction about how I think the song will fare in the contest. All these views are, of course, going to change when I see the entries on stage and all and then I'm free to change my mind again et cetera. You know all this.

But let's kick off, shall we?


Rambo Amadeus - Euro Neuro

When I first heard this song, I didn't know what to think as I couldn't quite make head nor tail of it. Humour is a difficult art form at the ESC, and I'm not too convinced that Rambo Amadeus will have the same effect on Europe as Verka Serduchka had, for instance.

Which is a bit of a shame, really. There is more to this song than just the joke. It is quite original, inspired, poetic and obnoxious, as well as catchy. You can dance as this at the same time as you try to sing along to the gibberish of the verses.

No. It is hard enough to convince Europe to vote for comedy songs, even harder when you are the first performance on the night. People have nothing to compare it to and are probable not to see the brilliance of this.

My grade: 3/5


Gréta Salóme & Jonsi - Never Forget

A bit of mystery and a bit of drama in a passionate duet, based on Icelandic folklore. Their voices blend nicely together and the slightly heavier arrangement gives an extra touch to this entry, but I can't help feeling that something is missing. It is good, but perhaps not good enough. I find myself entertained for the moment but there are other songs that tickle my senses more than this one.

Possibly. Iceland has had a remarkable ability to make their songs work lately, especially in the semis.

My grade: 2/5


Eleftheria Eleftheriou - Aphrodisiac

I don't know about you, good people, but I feel like Greece has taken a good idea a bit too far already. The neverending beach party goes on and on, with yet another catchy chorus and yet another happy performer, and there is no doubt in my mind that a fresh and exciting stage show will be in place to cover up the fact that this song is really rather bleak. This is the kind of game that Greece used to play to perfection, but I would want something different for next year.

Probably. Unless the average tv-viewers also find themselves with a too distinct taste of déjà-vu at the sight of this.

My grade: 1/5


Anmary - Beautiful Song

When Anmary won the national final, I dismissed the whole thing as just another silly entry. But then again, Latvia is quite good at being silly in a good way - they pulled it off before. As neither the song nor Anmary seem to take themselves too seriously, this turns into a pretty enjoyable little bagatelle that will have you hum along for three minutes. If they manage to come across as happy and carefree on stage in Baku, maybe Europe will still be humming this when it is time to start voting.

Probably not. Had Latvia been drawn later in the running, there would be a fair chance of this one standing out in a positive light after too many serious entries. Now it will probably just be a (very pleasant) pause.

My grade: 3/5


Rona Nishliu - Suus

Last year I had a hard time deciding what I really thought of the Albanian entry, but that was piece of cake compared to this time. What we have on our hands here is a very demanding entry without a trace of a hook, not for a second trying to be easy or inviting. The kind of song that has usually turned televoters away in a most brusque fashion. But Rona sings it so well and invests so much emotion into the song that I'm willing to believe at least the juries could fall for it.

Possibly maybe. Last year, the juries pushed Lithuania into the final on the strength of a vocal delivery only. If the juries are similarly composed in 2012, this one could be the one entrant to appeal to their more artistic side.

My grade: 2/5

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nul points: United Kingdom 2003

After Gunvor's defeat, it took another five years before anyone had to face the grim reality of ending with nul points in the protocol. But in Riga, one of the giants of the contest was to recieve a most concrete slap on the face by a united Euroland.

Arguably, the UK is the strongest competitor ever through eurovision history. They won five times, they were runner-up no less than fifteen times, and they produced more commercial hit singles than any other country in the running.

In the mid-90's, the BBC made a brave effort to keep the ESC alive by upscaling the national final, sending more modern and chart-friendly songs into a contest rapidly running out of steam. After hosting the 1998 contest however, the BBC commitment ebbed away and the UK entries became less and less spectacular.

And in 2003 it happened - what I had seen as completely unthinkable before - the UK ends in last place without a single point. The UK always used to attract some votes and attention and somehow managed to ride on their own reputation as the sole real pop nation of Europe.

With an entry like Jemini the last pieces of that reputation crumbled to dust. If the UK is such a pop nation, how can they cough up something like this? How can the nation of Beatles, Rolling Stones, Oasis and Dusty Springfield have themselves represented by people like these?

Nul points?

Yes. It was not the weakest song on offer in Riga (I still find this chorus pretty catchy) but there are different standards for different countries and Europe could no longer turn a blind eye to how the UK was treating their pop heritage.

In a way it stands out as the perfect end of an era. This was the last year of the old formula with no semi finals, new countries were emerging and the old giants had to struggle.

To have the biggest giant score zero looks almost like a monument and a farewell to the old times of Eurovision.

Jemini - Cry Baby (United Kingdom 2003)

Nul points: Switzerland 1998

Swiss starlet and media darling Gunvor won a comfortable victory in the national final, the first public selection organised in Switzerland for many years. She went to Birmingham with a song she had written herself, backed by former entrant Egon Egemann (Switzerland 1990) and four backing singer, attracting notable media attention from her domestic press.

What she didn't know was that the Swiss press was about to go all dirty on her and disclose spectacular details of her private life during eurovision week. The details, far too many and un-appetising to be re-told here, as well as the entire passage of events can be found in the excellent Tim Moore book "Nul Points".

Given the pressure suddenly put on her, Gunvor stepped out in style and gave a brave, almost heroic, performance of her entry. In this year, the first with full televoting, she however failed to make it into top ten in any country.

Which means nul points in the end.

Nul points?

Even without the story of how viciously Gunvor was treated by the Alpine tabloids and gossip mags, I always found this nul-pointer particularly inexplicable.1998 had its fair share of odd and underwhelming entries (Greece, Spain, Turkey, the list goes on) and I never understood quite why Switzerland would deserve the nul points.

It does prove a point of mine, though. If your entry is horrible or bad in an outstanding way, it will appeal to at least a certain number of people for its entertainment value. If your entry is nice, people will nod their heads, smile and think to themselves "That's nice", but nobody is going to vote for it.

In the world of televoting, "nice" means "bad". Tough luck for Gunvor.

Gunvor - Lass' ihn (Switzerland 1998)

Nul points: Portugal 1997

Dublin 1997 offered us another double nul-pointer, just like in Munich 1983. If Norway's entry really deserved its fate altogether, I can't help but feeling a bit sorry for Portugal.

The Portuguese entry is a fine and slightly experimental ballad with a big, breezy chorus and an atmospheric, tense verse with a suggestive spoken response from the backing singers. Normally the juries should have recognised the musical qualities of this composition.

But you have to deliver also. And neither Célia nor her boys delivered.

The backing group has a most unfortunate lack of timing in their delivery and according to press reports Célia was completely out of tune during many rehearsals, including the one the juries listened to. Why would a jury invest their points in somebody who sings badly?

Nul points?

No no no. Shaky delivery or not, this is still a very pleasant and slightly original ballad entry in a year that still saw too many ballads in the line-up. And if a song as dull, predictable and formulated as the Irish could end in second place, then Portugal would deserve at least a tiny complimentary point or two.

Célia Lawson - Antes do adeus (Portugal 1997)

Nul points: Norway 1997

Almost every country with a national final did this at some points: award the victory to somebody because he/she had bravely taken part so many times, regardless of the song on offer.

It is never a good idea, not for anyone involved.

Tor Endresen had been offering entries that were old-fashioned but delivered with a touch of class, still. There was always something forgiving about his entries and he came across as quite easy to like.

So why Norway decided to send him off with his weakest effort is a mystery that remains to be solved. This song is even more old-fashioned but also rather simple-minded, not to mention retro in a bad way in a year when Eurovision decided to look forward and become modern again.

1997 stands out very clearly as the year when the ESC decided to save itself and start looking and sounding relevant again. It was obvious from the word go that "San Francisco" would float like a solid piece of rock under these circumstances.

Nul points?

No doubt. Norway came last undeservedly on many occasions, this is not one of them. This song lacks severly in every department and is clearly one of the worst songs of the year. It doesn't look good, it doesn't sound good and it has nothing to say. A well deserved zero.

Tor Endresen - San Francisco (Norway 1997)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nul points: Lithuania 1994

It is quite logical, actually - the more countries take part, the bigger the risk of not gaining any points. In 1994, fourteen countries were left with zero by each jury compared to only seven in 1982.

Halfway through the voting, it seemed Dublin would see not only the first winner ever to gather more than 200 points, but also the first multiple last place since the 70's. No less than eight countries were still left with nul points before Malta started scattering their points all over the place.

The 90's were sad days for Eurovision in many ways: low ratings, no entries became hits and, in order to avoid relegation, some countries traded points with each other. You can spot this very easily by comparing voting patterns, and it went on until the EBU decided to centralise all televoting in 2003.

The only one clinging on to the big zero at the end of the voting was poor Ovidijus from Lithuania, whose delegation clearly had not been to any points-trading-parties during that week.

Nul points?

Oh no. This song is maybe not the best entry under the sun, but there were many weaker ones who got saved by their trading partners. When this sweet and melodic lullaby was left with nothing it was largely due to tricks and games, and had very little to do with music. Which was shameful for the entire contest.

Ovidijus Vyšniauskas - Lopšinė mylimai (Lithuania 1994)

Nul points: Austria 1991

In Zagreb there were points for everyone, but in Rome it was back to humiliation again. And quite some humiliation, to be honest.

Thomas Forstner landed Austria's best placing for many years in Lausanne 1989, and had, in spite of a less than active recording output, become a well-loved pop star on home ground. Now he came back to show, once and for all, that he was more than just a one-hit-wonder.

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea after all. The rather sophisticated pop arrangement used in the national final was replaced by a very square and old-fashioned sound when getting the RAI orchestra treatment, leaving Thomas with a pretty undynamic entry. He tried to compensate with a nervous smile, but the juries would have nothing of it.

Austria's second nul-pointer in three years was a fact.

Nul points?

Clearly not a masterpiece on any level, it was hardly the only song best filed under "flat and square ballad entry" of 1991. Why would Thomas and Austria deserve the nul-pointer more than Luxembourg, Ireland or Germany?

Sometimes bad luck is a more important factor than what you sing and how.

Thomas Forstner - Venedig im Regen (Austria 1991)

Nul points: Iceland 1989

After the first three Icelandic entries had all ended in sixteenth place, the Icelanders went to Lausanne hoping for basically any outcome except being sixteenth.

As always, be very careful what you wish for.

Young and inexperienced Daniel has later admitted he was not too keen on going to Lausanne in the first place, and when he got there he found himself being one of a large bunch of ballads. Clearly, the ballads were stealing points from each other, leaving the jury craving uptempo so much they voted Yugoslavia into first place.

In a situation like that, being mysterious and introverted did not help much and Iceland found itself last with no points.

Nul points?

A bit harsh, indeed, but in the long run a good thing. This fiasco saw Iceland make a change of tactics and send more easily accessible entries to Eurovision, and Daniel focused on other kinds of music that suited him better.

In my mind, Iceland did not have the weakest entry in the 1989 line-up, but you also need luck to gain points. This team had no luck and just came across as one ballad too many.

Daníel - Það sem enginn sér (Iceland 1989)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Nul points: Austria 1988

It was a confident Austrian delegation that arrived in Dublin in 1988. The national entry had been well recieved on home ground, was a commercial success in the domestic charts and was tipped, by the local press, to do really well in the competition.

Austria had not made top five in twelve years - now the newspapers were confident that all would end well.

They were wrong - very wrong. Austria fell between the chairs and ended with not a single mark on the scoreboard.

Wilfried made an unsuccessful attempt at blaming politics for his failure - referring to the current Waldheim scandal - resulting in the press, who had tipped him to do really well, labelling him a sore loser whose career took a Finn Kalvik-esque turn for the worse.

Nul points?

Well, I don't think so. There is a certain tension and atmosphere in this song that appeals to me, and there is a raw quality in Wilfried's voice that adds to the drama.

But on the other hand, I can see all the jurors in a room thinking this song nice at the same time as they easily find ten songs they like more. This song is nice, and nice will never win at the ESC.

Wilfried - Lisa Mona Lisa (Austria 1988)

Nul points: Turkey 1987

After the spectacular double-zero in Munich 1983 came a few leaner years in Euroland where no song was left without points. If it was because the juries were more understanding or because the competing countries became less daring may be debatable, but all entries were awarded for their efforts.

Maybe the Turks were lured into a fraudulent feeling of security, that you were among friends at eurovision, and that among friends you would dare show your real self.

Think again, Turkey.

Seyyal Taner, backed up by Melis Sökmen and her band Lokomotif, were apparently the light of every party in Brussels and started to stand out as something of a dark horse beforehand. Could a knockdown contribution like this be the sensation of the year?

Of course not. The juries didn't understand anything. Who did those Turks think they were?

Nul points?

I don't understand what the juries were thinking. In my book, it is always better to stand out from the others and be brave, bold and different. Seyyal's melody was clearly one of the best of the year.

Had entries like this managed to win jury approval instead of rejection, and had the juries dared to encourage the more spectacular entrants, it is quite possible that the audience interest in the ESC would not have dropped like it did during the 90's.

Seyyal Taner & Grup Lokomotif - Şarkım sevgi üstüne (Turkey 1987)

Nul points: Spain 1983

By 1983, the press had picked up big time on the "pick the nul-pointer"-game, trying to predict the non-scorer with the same zeal as identifying potential winners. In Munich, the journalists had a field day as they predicted not only one but two nul-pointers.

Turkey's pseudo-operatic madness was really easy to spot, but so was the exotic-flavoured number from Spain.

What made Spain eligible in the nul-points department was neither a lack of courage nor talent, rather the complete inability to conform to the standards of the contest. Back in the day you needed to sound like everybody else in order to score, or the juries would have nothing of it.

Bold and daring entries usually got an ice cold reception and the tempestuous flamenco-inspired performance of Remedios stood out way too much to gain approval. The press had their way and two songs shared the fate of not getting a single point from anyone.

Nul points?

The mere thought of this exciting and intriguing entry being in any way comparable to the Turkish fiasco makes me feel a little bit ill. It was a sign of the times - the bright and shrill 80's - that anything different and slightly off-beat was thrown into the garbage without further consideration.

A wonderful entry, very well performed by a tremendous singer. Could have been winning material in another time and another place.

Remedios Amaya - Quién maneja mi barca (Spain 1983)

Nul points: Turkey 1983

When the 1983 entries were presented in my local newspaper, the description of the Turkish entry went something along the lines of this: "After the national final, the national press was disappointed as they believed it could be hard for the selected song to win in Munich."

That could very well qualify as the understatement of the century.

From beginning to end, this creation is a complete mess that can't make its mind up whether to be a parody or a hommage, or indeed whether to be opera or something completely different. Nobody in their right minds could for a single moment have thought this song capable of anything but a splendid and complete fiasco.

In many ways, it is the eurovision equivalent of a disaster movie, a three minute all-singing all-dancing version of "The Towering Inferno" . Terrifying and very entertaining at the same time.

Nul points?

Oh yes. This is the stuff that real nul-pointers are made of. Hysterical and bouncy, calculated but misconcieved, humourous and yet deadly serious. A masterpiece in its own little way.

I only wish Çetin Alp would have been able to see the whole thing from a distance and see all the adorable and naïve charm of this musical shipwreck, but I very much doubt he ever did.

Çetin Alp & The Short Wave - Opera (Turkey 1983)

Nul points: Finland 1982

Joking successfully is not easy, since humour has a tendency of translating rather badly.

The 1982 Finnish entry is said to have been an attempt at writing the worst eurosong ever, and the national final expert jury (probably finding themselves slightly above average taste and a bit too posh for a contest as simple as this one) thought it would be funny to send the protest song off to Harrogate.

It was a bad idea for many reasons. First of all, this bunch of "experts" overlooked some really good quality songs (most notably "Mitt äppelträd" by Ami Aspelund) in the national heat. Secondly, it is nothing but a waste of time and money to enter a song you don't even believe in yourself to a contest like the ESC.

And, perhaps most notably, the attempt failed. "Nuku pommiin" is nowhere near the worst eurosong ever.

In fact, it is a brave attempt at doing something radically different on a eurovision stage. A noisy relative to the 1967 Monegasque entry, also dealing with the risk of the world getting blown away in a nuclear disaster, dressed up in the heaviest rock gear ever heard until then at the ESC.

Nul points?

Well, why not? If you send in something bold and daring, you always run the risk of displeasing the audience. Taken that into consideration, it is better to be edgy and pushy on last place than bland and mediocre in the middle.

Mission accomplished, I guess.

Kojo - Nuku pommiin (Finland 1982)

Nul points: Norway 1981

The old saying goes that thunder never hits the same spot twice, which is both true and not true.

The shock of a country failing to score had just about ebbed out when the very same country failed to score a second time. What was up with Norway? What made them fail not just once but twice?

In 1978, Jahn Teigen had managed to turn failure into success and build himself a neat career thanks to his failure.

Finn Kalvik had done the complete opposite - he had managed to build a very firm career in both Norway and Sweden and had a prestigious collaboration going on with Benny Andersson of Abba (who had produced Finn's album as well as his entry - Agnetha and Frida sang the backing vocals on the studio version).

He had stood up against Abba's famous record label manager Stikkan Andersson, insisting to go to Eurovision with "Aldri i livet" and no other song. He had everything to lose from this devastating result and his career never fully recovered afterwards.

Nul points?

Absolutely not. 1981 is not a particularly strong year, but none of the songs in the line-up would have deserved a no-score. Finn's song is gentle, poetic and melodic, but suffering from a visually lacklustre and vocally uninspired performance.

Finn lets his own song down, but the juries were still way harsher than what was called for.

Finn Kalvik - Aldri i livet (Norway 1981)

Nul points: Norway 1978

The good people of EBU really thought it would be impossible not to score with the new points system introduced in 1975, and it did work well until Jahn Teigen bumped into the construction and wrecked the whole thing.

Possible sensing that his song lacked international appeal to score in its own right - there is quite a good song going on here with a pretty nice set of lyrics - Jahn decided to add a few extra touches in order not to get forgotten by the juries.

Legend has it he also managed to enrage certain important people at Norweigan television, who swore he would never be allowed back on screen if he went ahead with his planned performance.

I seriously don't think Jahn aimed not to score. I think he seriously expected just to stand out from the rest and gain a few more points than the Norweigan contributions tended to do at the time, but as the end of the voting came closer and he was still yet to score, the air lifted in the green room - Jahn has told the tale himself afterwards.

Since everybody knew Israel was going to win and could not be beaten anymore, everyone started cheering for Norway, hoping for Jahn to keep the zero, thus writing himself into the history books. Not even neighbour country Sweden, last country to vote, had any points to spare and the success was a fact. Depending on how you see it.

Nul points?

Absolutely! The song is pleasant and catchy and completely eclipsed by the flamboyant performance. Under normal circumstances, a song like this would have scored 14 points and nobody would remember it apart from the real hardcore fans.

Being the first "real" nul-pointer of all time, it has been given eternal life and it keeps popping up here and there as soon as anyone makes a collage of memorable moments at the ESC. Well done, Jahn.

Jahn Teigen - Mil etter mil (Norway 1978)

The dreaded Nul Points...

Part of the Eurovision legend is of course the risk of scoring zero in the final, getting a place in the history books as being the song nobody liked even a little bit.

Nul points. No points.

To be fair, only nul-pointers from 1975 and on count - before that, the system of points varied a lot. Some years it was extemely easy to be left with nothing, while some years it was impossible.

Most countries up until 1971 saw each country having a jury of ten members, each one giving one point only to their favourite song. If you were everybody's second fave, you would score zero. A very hard world. Especially 1962 - 1965, where four countries per year were mercilessly left without points.

1971 - 1973 saw a different system, where the lowest score possible was two points per country judging you, created to ensure that nobody was left with no points. However, this system was hard to follow (and generated a fair share of tactical voting), so it was scrapped too.

From 1975 and on the system has remained unchanged - every country awards points to their top ten countries, and this is where it gets interesting. This system was, partially, introduced to spare countries from the shame of not scoring.

It worked so-so in all fairness.

But it certainly added to the entertainment value. Some years it was more exciting to see who would score a big fat zero than who would win. Since 1975, a total of fourteen songs had the misfortune of being left without points in a eurovision final.

I'm about to go through them and judge them - did they deserve their fate? (Spolier alert: a few of them truly did.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Eurovision for Americans

One of the great big problems in the world today is the lack of visions, of engagement, of commitment... So how wonderful isn't it to see that it least someone has it in them?

I always wonder how non-european eurofans percieve the magic of the Eurovision Song Contest. It must be exotic with all the flags and all the countries and all the languages, then calling all the capitals up to collect the points...

So, it feels good to see that there is a blog devoted to explaining Eurovision for Americans, trying to make the whole package a little bit more understandable. Go in there, read it and applaud the initiative.

And all you other non-European fans - if you feel like it, I would love to hear what makes the contest special to you. Leave a comment and tell me.

And, to celebrate the American blog, one of the Americans that have taken part at the ESC through the years.

Jeane Manson - J'ai déjà vu ça dans tes yeux (Luxembourg 1979)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bad Draw Day: Bosnia-Herzegovina 2006

So - the moral of today's stories is that the draw has been over-analysed (by people like myself) and that there really are no jinxed starting positions bound to ruin your chances.

And yet - there are at least two starting positions that really seem to wreck a song's chances since televoting was introduced.

Being drawn first in the final seems to do you no favours. Ask Azerbaijan's Safura or Finland's Paradise Oskar if they felt singing first enhanced their chances.

The other real shipwreck of a starting position is being the first song after the commercial break. It is not necessarily a position that will make you crash and burn, but it is like the short break ruins the focus of the viewers. Could it be that the break distracts just enough people for your song to lose its chances?

Hari Mati Hari felt like a strong contender for victory, like the song able to gather all possible ballad points in one basket. Its draw, right after the commercial break, changed the whole thing.

It was still bound to score well - it still holds the best Bosnian result to date - but it didn't feel like a potential winner anymore.

Sometimes the draw can make a huge difference, indeed.

Hari Mata Hari - Lejla (Bosnia-Herzegovina 2006)

Bad Draw Day: Turkey 1997

Typical Turkish bad luck, the way it used to be at Eurovision. Turkey had been drawn early on in the running order most of the years, usually going back home with dismal placings and a few complimentary points in their suitcase.

Most people agreed that the Turkish entry was the most user-friendly one for years, but then again being drawn in the dreaded #2 slot would do it no favours.

What did we know? The biggest underdog there ever was in the contest (since Norway shaped up in the mid-80's) surprised everyone and scored their by far best placing until then. Şebnem Paker recieved three top marks and came in third.

This proves beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a bad draw can make things a bit harder for you. But a good song is still a good song, a convincing performance is still a convincing performance, and when it is time to vote nobody cares what starting position you had.

Once you break through to people, you will score. A good starting position just makes everything a little easier.

Şebnem Paker & Grup Ethnic - Dinle (Turkey 1997)

Bad Draw Day: Italy 1989

I'm not sure if the draw is really to blame here. Something must have been fundamentally wrong in the universe when a song like this enters Eurovision only to recieve nul points from thirteen out of twenty-one juries possible.

One would think that a skillful jury would be able to recognise a sophisticated and well-crafted ballad in an ocean of slightly less striking entries, but these juries failed big time. On the other hand, they gave the victory to a jaunty but lightweight little ditty from Yugoslavia, so the Italian ballad probably never entered their radar.

Clearly calculated on their successful Sanremo entry "Ti lascerò" from the same year, Anna Oxa and Fausto Leali reunited to do Eurovision together. For many years, Italy struggled to get any kind of recognition from the juries and 1989 was no exception.

Blame it on the draw or not, this was a most unexpected and undeserved flop.

Anna Oxa & Fausto Leali - Avrei voluto (Italy 1989)

Bad Draw Day: Romania 2008

Very much the same case as Finland 2011 - a ballad that stood out as very attractive in its semi-final and counted as one of the pre-contest favourites. A classy little bilingual Italian-style song, where pseudo-classical singing meets up with a pop voice in close harmony.

This is the kind of song that is designed to come as a healthy break after loads of dancing and singing and uptempo and Finnish bare-chested rock groups. Performing first on the night can never do it any favours, regardless of how well you sing.

Nicola & Vlad - Pe-o margine di lume (Romania 2008)

Bad Draw Day: Yugoslavia 1991

Opening the contest should, in theory, make you stand out and be a strong advantage in a long lineup of songs. But it doesn't always help.

After doing really well for a couple of years with their joyful uptempo numbers, Yugoslavia was predicted to score fairly well in Rome with samba-flavoured "Brazil" performed by Baby Doll. However, all juries made thumbs down and only Malta awarded it one poor little point in the end.

A bit strange, given that the 1991 ESC could stand out as one of the slowest ever with huge quantities of ballads, several of which being sopoforic rather than beautiful.

On some level I can understand if Baby Doll failed to reach the quality requirements of the jury, but then - in all fairness - so should the likes of Luxembourg, Ireland and Germany too.

I wonder if Baby Doll hadn't scored a bit better had she had the chance to storm in with her kitschy number after a row of seriously dull ballads instead of singing first?

Baby Doll - Brazil (Yugoslavia 1991)

Bad Draw Day: Finland 2011

It all started out so nicely, with the best possible draw for a song like this. In the semi final, Paradise Oskar came in as a breath of fresh air with a relaxed and scaled-down little number. Easy on the ear as well as the eye, with a chorus everyone could sing along with.

The song stormed into the final, ending third in its semi, with top marks from no less than three countries.

That is where the good luck ended, as getting drawn to perform first in the final ruined the whole act. The appeal of "Da Da Dam" is that it is simple and uncomplicated, standing out from many of the other entries. For that to work, you need other songs to compare it to.

Coming first, the Finnish entry was reduced to just a pleasant song by a pleasant performer. Nice, in short. And nobody votes for nice.

Had it been #24 instead, anything could have happened. Probably.

Paradise Oskar - Da Da Dam (Finland 2011)

Bad Draw Day: Luxembourg 1984

When Luxembourg hosted the 1973 ESC, they won on home ground and several people involved rated their chances quite highly of repeating the trick when hosting eleven years later.

Their song was seen as a fresh and modern piece of very catchy pop, more bang up to date than the very classical ballad they had won with the year before.

Unfortunately, they were drawn at the dreaded #2 spot, right after the sensation of the year - the synchronised singing and dancing boys from Sweden - and what was expected to be a candidate for victory had to content itself with a lacklustre tenth place.

In all fairness, maybe the draw wasn't the only thing pulling this one down. Model-turned-singer Sophie Carle apparently sang flawlessly in all rehearsals but lost her plot completely on the day of the final, not exactly standing out as the Maria Callas of Luxembourg.

Sophie Carle - 100 % d'amour (Luxembourg 1984)

Bad Draw Day: the importance of a good draw

I'm going to try to make up for the recent lack of updates here by running a special theme. Ever since the draw was established, people have analysed and over-analysed the importance of these magical numbers and jumped to some rather far-stretching conclusions already.

It is clear to me that the draw is far from unimportant. In order to make you a potential winner, you need to come in at the right spot where people will notice you and where you will stand out in a good light.

It is also clear that some parts of the running order are better than others. If you sing closer to the end, the televoting masses are more likely to remember you than if you sing as number six.

But I don't believe in the importance given to specific numbers. That it would be better to be #17, while #16 would be worse off.

A song performed as #2 on the night never won a final, that is true. There must be some kind of explanation for that. And I suppose the biggest reason is the short attention span of the audience - there is such high focus on the first song and the viewers/voters can't keep that up. That means that the second song needs to be very strong and convincing to stand a chance.

If your pop song gets drawn at #22 after a row of sleep-inducing ballads, that is of course and advantage. But that has more to do with those ballads and less with #22 as such.

You get my point, right? There is no such thing as an impossible starting position, and there are no automatically great positions either.

It should be good to sing first or last - given the extra attention and how that makes you stand out in the presentation - but song #1 has only won three times (and not since 1984), while the last song has won six times (and not since 1989).

So let's not over-analyse this running order. I realise it made it easier for some and harder for some, but what really counts is how people deliver on stage come May. (But it would be a bit of a thrill to see red hot favourite Sweden drawn as #2 in the final - that would add some tension to the mix.)

And then the theme of the day: a number of songs that might (or might not) have lost their battle due to bad luck in the draw.