Song reviews - France and Croatia

Posted: 12/5/2006 in:

FRANCE
Song: Il Etait Temps
Artist: Virginie Pouchain
In many ways, you always know where you are with France’s Eurovision entry. For starters, you can pretty much guarantee it’ll be in French, since they seem to be one of the few countries not to embrace the ‘free language’ rule (Spain also seem to stick steadfastly to their native tongue). Secondly, with a few notable exceptions, their entry almost always seems to be a ballad sung by a winsome young thing – except last year, when they opted for something a bit more uptempo (Ortal’s Chacun Pense A Soi) and scored a major misfire as a result (only Germany prevented them from finishing in last place for the first ever time). This year’s search for a French entry hasn’t been without its problems either. An extensive talent search across three French TV networks for a suitable song and singer resulted in this year’s entrant, Virginie Pouchain, being chosen – however, her original song, Nous C’Est Vous, was ditched after TV executives declared the song unsuitable for her voice. Having been granted an extension to the deadline for submitting a song to the contest, they hastily came up with the replacement – but can we honestly say they made the right decision? Well, if this is supposed to be a better entry, then we’d hate to hear the one that was rejected, because Il Etait Temps is one of the dullest efforts in the entire contest – a bland plodder of a song which goes nowhere and is very hard to warm to even after several listens. We’re used to France sending ballads and low-key songs, and when they get it right – as in the case of Natasha St Pier in 2001 – then they get it very right indeed, but it’s a very different story when they get it wrong. Of course as one of the Big Four countries, they’re still guaranteed a place in next year’s final, regardless of where they end up on the scoreboard – but given that their fellow Big Four rivals (the UK, Germany and Spain) seem to have made a bit more of an effort this year, it’s sad to see France floundering like this. Surely they haven’t given up trying altogether, knowing that their passage into the final is safe regardless?
For It: At least it has a half-decent singer to its credit.
Against It: The odds are stacked against France making a big Eurovision comeback in 2006, from the fact it’s a weak song to its position in the running order between an unknown finalist and the very different Croatian entry. Stranger things have happened, but we’ll be very surprised if this finishes anywhere near the top ten.

CROATIA
Song: Moja Stikla
Artist: Severina
And so, after weeks of deliberating, debating and generally tearing our hair out, Team Eurovision comes to the final song review of this year’s contest (it’s actually on 20th in the final but the four songs that follow are semi-finalists, hence whoever they turn out to be they’ve already been reviewed). Although they’ve been consistently entertaining and done respectably, if not brilliantly, in recent years, fortune has definitely smiled upon the Croatians this year. They were all set to take part in this year’s semi-final – having finished 11th in last year’s contest – until Serbia and Montenegro pulled out, leaving a vacancy in the final which was offered to them, That said, we don’t think they’d have had too much trouble making it to the final even if they had been in the semis – for while Moja Stikla (or My Stilettoes, to give it its English title), might certainly be a love-it-or-loathe-it type of entry, and while we may have made many comments about how a song called My Stilettoes couldn’t possibly be a Eurovision winner, we’ve actually come to realise that this is one of our very favourite entries in this year’s contest. It’s fair to say that not everybody is going to agree with us – for this is a wildly offbeat affair, all shouty verses, nonsensical lyrics (just what is that ‘Afrika Paprika’ bit all about, exactly?) and chanting, backed up by an insanely catchy chorus – and it’s quite understandable that fans of more standard issue Eurovision fare might not take to it. Yet it’s a bold and daring entry, because quite simply there’s nothing else in the contest like this – even the other ethnopop entries sound positively conventional in comparison – and because every time we hear it, we get the urge to don a ridiculous false moustache (as sported by members of Severina’s costumed backing band) and indulge in a spot of manic dancing. And not only do we love it, but we seriously think this one has the potential to surprise a lot of people on the night, and maybe give the Croatians their best result for years. Silly lyrics aside, we wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see this one finish in the top five – and deservedly so.
For It: It’s totally unique among this year’s entries – and that, coupled with an entertaining performance and a late appearance in the running order, will really help it stand out. And coming right after France’s dull effort, it’ll be a real breath of fresh air. Watch this one go.
Against It: Apart from the semi-final dilemma (once again, we don’t know who’ll be on after them), this might be just a bit too offbeat for some - the fact she is not singing in English could limit the appeal. Also, there’s a hint of Ruslana about the whole thing – dark-haired East European singer shouts and chants her way through a thumping bit of ethnopop – which might work against it if viewers decide it’s too similar. Not that we think that’s a problem, of course.

Song Reviews – UK and Greece

Posted: 11/5/2006 in:

UNITED KINGDOM
Song: Teenage Life
Artist: Daz Sampson
What is there to say about the UK’s recent track record in Eurovision that hasn’t already been said? We’ve discussed the fact that the reason for our poor showing on the Eurovision stage is due to sub-standard songs and performances rather than our involvement in any wars in the Middle East (just how long can we continue to churn out that old chestnut?). We’ve soundly reprimanded Javine for suggesting that the event shouldn’t be taken seriously (well sorry, but we can’t help feeling that you should take it seriously if you’re actually taking part in it!) And we’ve made endless suggestions for how we can improve our standing this year – although our theory that the UK would fare best with a simple ballad all but flew out of the window the moment we clapped eyes on Daz Sampson in the Making Your Mind Up final. Yes, we could’ve gone the ballad route and chosen Kym Marsh to represent us in Athens – yet somehow we always had the feeling that Daz would win, and there are so many reasons why, ultimately, this was the best decision. For starters, he’s a fan of the contest – while other recent contenders have been decidedly lacklustre our Daz has thrown himself into the Eurovision arena with genuine passion, and is determined to do his best for le Royaume-Uni. Secondly, the track has taken a lot of people by surprise – rather than taking conventional routes or attempting to beat other countries at their ethnopop game, we’ve taken a totally different route to the one we’ve taken in recent years. Not surprisingly Teenage Life – complete with its rap, childish sounding but insanely catchy chorus and dance routine featuring backing singers in school uniform (the only thing which could make it better as far as we’re concerned would be for Daz to also don uniform in the manner of Jack Black in School Of Rock) – received a huge amount of Internet buzz within hours of being chosen, with hundreds of comments flooding into Eurovision websites, and making it one of the most talked-about entries of the year. To us choosing Daz for Athens seems to be a small gesture of defiance on the part of the British public – our way of saying that given how poorly we’ve done of late we’ve got nothing to lose by sending such a wacky track to Eurovision – but in many ways it’s an inspired choice, because if nothing else it’s certainly made an impact. Personally we love it, although whether it does herald the grand UK comeback into the top ten is another matter entirely. It seems to us to be the kind of song that either wins or comes last – but so what if it does get us another ‘nul points’? At least Daz can say he gave it a go – which is more than can be said for all those naysayers.
For It: It’s different, contemporary, has the requisite visual flourish and is being performed by someone who’s relatively well-known across Europe and is coming to the contest with the right attitude. He deserves a bit of success – let’s hope he gets it.
Against It: The ongoing theory that just because the UK got no points one year they have suddenly become rubbish at Eurovision (our previous excellent track record having clearly been wiped clean by that one incident), meaning Daz is going to have to work that bit harder to win the cynics over. And once again, we’re on right after a semi-finalist and we don’t know who it’s going to be – if Poland (who also have a rap) snag the vacancy before the UK, we could be in trouble. And let’s not even mention who’s on after us. Then again…

GREECE
Song: Everything
Artist: Anna Vissi
Here’s the point when the atmosphere in the Olympic Indoor Hall is likely to reach fever pitch, since it’s time for the host country to take to the stage. To be honest, it was only a matter of time before Greece secured their first Eurovision victory, having come close on several occasions in recent years (let’s just gloss over 2002’s bizarre SAGAPO) with Antique and Sakis Rouvas (the co-host of this year’s show) coming close to victory before Helena Paparizou finally snagged that long-awaited victory in 2005 with You’re My Number One. This time around, the Greeks have snapped up Eurovision veteran Anna Vissi (who previously represented Greece in 1980 and then Cyprus in 1982 with the moody Mono I Agapi) to do the honours – her song is hot favourite at the bookies and it’s not hard to see why. Given that ballads haven’t done too well at Eurovision recently, it would seem logical that something a bit more uptempo, such as Germany or Romania, might be the favourite – but then again there are ballads and then there are ballads. And Ms Vissi’s effort is undoubtedly one of the latter – starting off slow and moody and gradually building into a hugely, epic power ballad (albeit one with a simple yet effective melody). There’s shades of Bonnie Tyler about this, which makes it feel ever so slightly dated – yet somehow it works spectacularly well, and it certainly provides a contrast to the UK entry that precedes it – and you can just imagine Anna absolutely belting it on the night. It’s been a long while since a ballad actually won Eurovision, but this could well be the one to break the stranglehold that uptempo numbers have had on the contest of late, since it’s big, gutsy and powerful enough to avoid much of the drippiness that often accompanies the slower contenders. As for us? We think it’s fabulous. And we wouldn’t be in the least surprised if Anna scored the Greeks their second consecutive victory. Could they about to become the Ireland of the 21st Century?
For It: Anna Vissi is a seasoned Eurovision performer who, like many others this year, has done this kind of thing before and should do it just as well this time around. And let’s not forget also that host countries have a habit of doing well – especially when their song is as strong as this one is.
Against It: Although it can be done, it’s not that easy to win Eurovision two years in a row – the only countries we can think of that have actually done it are Spain (1968-9), Luxembourg (1972-3), Israel (1978-9) and Ireland (1992-4), and the Greeks certainly shouldn’t rest on their laurels, as there is a lot of competition out there. And the fact a ballad hasn’t won in years suggests they aren’t that popular with viewers – will Anna be able to buck the trend?

Ne Party Pas Parties On!

Posted: 10/5/2006 in:

One of the best Eurovision sites we came across last year was Ne Party Pas, the site which offers hints and tips on how to throw a Eurovision party as well as contest history and other useful Eurovision information. The site’s now had a bit of a makeover and is bigger and better than ever – although our favourite bit is still the party section, which offers a bunch of inspired ideas for making your Eurovision night go with a swing.

While we’re still not convinced by its suggestion that “a shrine to Terry Wogan is a must”, we’re liking the new improved fancy dress section, offering advice on how to dress like past Eurovision performers on the big night. Some of these – dressing up as Bucks Fizz, Brotherhood of Man etc, are quite obvious, but we can’t help feeling that some of the site’s suggestions, which include kitting yourself out like Slovenia’s drag queen trolley dollies Sestre, 70s Finnish legends Freddi and Friends or tent-clad Dutch singer Linda Wagenmakers might be a step too far. Still, there’s plenty of workable tips in here, from ideas for food and drink to suggestions for music and karaoke once the main event is over. Check it out for yourself at its new home.

Song Reviews – Denmark and Romania

Posted: 9/5/2006 in:

DENMARK
Song: Twist Of Love
Artist: Sidsel Ben Semmane
It’s not so much a twist of love, as a twist of fate, that Denmark’s song should come straight after Germany’s in the running order – for this is another track which seems to have been brushed with the country stick. It’s not the first time that Denmark have dabbled in this musical genre of course – it served them very well in 2001 when, as contest hosts, they finished second with Rollo and King’s bouncy Never Ever Let You Go. Since then they’ve finished decidedly lower down the scoreboard, but last year saw them do well enough to just scrape into the 2006 final. And for the second year running we have to say that we’re decidedly underwhelmed by their efforts. Denmark has long been one of Team Eurovision’s favourite countries, hitting their peak in the 80s when they continually bucked the big ballad trends and almost always opted for something uptempo and fun (and usually doing very well with them) – so a Danish entry is something we always anticipate keenly. But like last year’s effort Talking To You, there’s something distinctly average about Twist Of Love, however gutsy Sidsel’s rendition may be. And performed next to the German entry it looks even worse – to put this into perspective, if both songs were chocolate, Texas Lightning’s song would be a bar of Green and Blacks, while Sidsel’s would be a mere Malteser by comparison. Perhaps it’ll work better on stage, but we still reckon this is one of the weaker songs in the final – mind you, we were totally off the mark when predicting Denmark’s fate last year, so perhaps this one will surprise us too.
For It: It has the potential to work well live, which could rack up the votes – while its shamelessly feelgood vibe may appeal to viewers.
Against It: The song which precedes it is not only similar but much better – and as yet we have no idea what will follow it (since the tenth position in the final will see the first of the semi-final qualifiers take to the stage). If one of the favourites from the semi snags the tenth spot Denmark could be all but forgotten by the time the voting rolls round.

ROMANIA
Song: Tornero
Artist: Mihai Traistariu
While Team Eurovision prides itself on its track record when it comes to predicting Eurovision success, we’re also the first to admit when we get something wrong – and such was the case with Romania last year. Initially we were a tad lukewarm on Luminita Anghel and Sistem’s Let Me Try – and it was only as the contest loomed large that we finally realised it was rather good – yet it still took us by surprise when it actually won the semi-final and went on to finish third in the final. Romania have a habit of doing that, actually – their 2002 song Tell Me Why was appalling, yet still managed to finish ninth, while 2003’s Don’t Break My Heart completely left us underwhelmed, but made the top ten regardless. In 2004, on the other hand, we tipped Sanda Ladosi’s funky I Admit to do well, yet it racked up only 18 points. As a result, we’re not sure whether we should even comment on this year’s Romanian effort, and yet we feel compelled to, since it’s really rather good. Like Let Me Try, we weren’t too impressed on first listen, but this slice of slick Eurodisco (with just the merest hint of ethnopop) has won us over – OK, so it’s not our favourite song in the contest but it’s a strong, catchy effort nonetheless, one which you could imagine making an impact outside of the contest as well (its potential as a dancefloor filler is all too obvious). While many have tipped it for victory – it’s topped a number of fan polls and is very well liked by Eurovision devotees – we’re not sure if it’s quite strong enough to score the Romanians their first win. But it’s definitely in contention – and we’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t land them another top ten placing.
For It: Good solid Europop which already has a lot of support from fans and will likely sound great on the night, thanks in part to Mihai’s terrific voice.
Against It: It’s been a very long time since a solo male performer won Eurovision (Toto Cutugno was the last one, as far as we can remember, way back in 1990) so it’ll have to work hard to convince audiences that it’s time another male singer won. And since it’s sandwiched between semi-finalists, we have no idea who will be on before or after this one. If something similar – Slovenia for example – were to take one of those spots, the two songs could cancel each other out. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens on semi-finals night.

Song Reviews – Malta and Germany

Posted: 7/5/2006 in:

MALTA
Song: I Do
Artist: Fabrizzio Faniello
Over the past few years, Malta have become one of our favourite Eurovision countries – not because they’ve necessarily fielded the best songs, but because their enthusiasm for the whole event is so damned infectious. They seem to take it so seriously and make such an effort to come up with a decent tune that it’s about time they were actually rewarded for their efforts with a win. Last year they came very close with Chiara’s ballad Angel – proving that it is possible to do well at Eurovision without the benefit of visual trickery and a flashy dance routine, provided the song is good enough. We’re expecting a little bit of visual flair this year though, for their 2006 effort – performed by another contest returnee (Fabrizio previously represented Malta in 2001, denting the top ten with Another Summer Night), couldn’t be more different from last year’s song. I Do – the first really uptempo number in the final – is a prime bit of happy, sunny Europop that reminds us somewhat of Cyprus’ 2002 entry Gimme. The constant repetition of the title is a tad annoying, and the song itself is lightweight and utterly disposable – yet there’s something rather appealing about it too. Perhaps it’s something to do with it offering a welcome change of pace after all those ballads and other sub-standard finalists – but we can’t help thinking it’s rather likeable in spite of being such a throwaway effort. We’re not sure it’s quite strong enough to finally land Malta that all-elusive victory, but we’re beginning to think this could be another dark horse that does a lot better than people have predicted.
For It: The fact it’s the first really upbeat song of the final will ensure it stands out from the pack. And it’s sung by someone who’s had experience of the Eurovision stage in the past, which always helps.
Against It: The fact it’s on right before Germany, one of the favourites, could count against it. And while it’s a nice, pleasant song, there’s nothing particularly outstanding about it.

GERMANY
Song: No No Never
Artist: Texas Lightning
It always amazes us that Germany haven’t had more success in Eurovision – 24 years after Nicole scored them their first ever victory with A Little Peace, they’re still waiting for their second win – and yet in spite of this they’ve still been one of the contest’s most entertaining countries in recent years, largely because of their tendency not to take it too seriously (Guildo Horn and Stefan Raab both spring to mind, both of whom camped it up for the Germans and both of whom scored top ten placings for their troubles). Last year, however, it all went badly pear-shaped when Gracia screeched her way through the frankly horrible Run and Hide and wound up right at the bottom of the scoreboard with a paltry four points (yes, she did even worse than the UK, if that can be believed). Which is why it’s all the more gratifying that this year Germany could be looking at one of the most sensational comebacks in recent contest history. No No Never is, allegedly, the first country and western song ever to make it to a Eurovision stage (we still say that Denmark’s 2001 effort by Rollo and King skirted the boundaries of country and western, but that’s just us) – and as far as Team Eurovision is concerned, is one of the best songs in the entire contest. It’s not that we’re particularly big C&W fans – it’s just that somehow No No Never ticks all the right boxes as an upbeat, toe-tapping number that’ll lodge itself in your brain from the word go. While some may shun ethnopop and others dislike ballads, this one has universal appeal – we’re just hoping that the boys remember their Stetsons and lead singer Jane Comerford (who is Australian BTW) remembers to take her big pink frock and fake fur shrug to the dry cleaners before the night of the contest, as the outfits simply add to the fun here without actually being over the top. In short, this is Germany’s best effort in ages, blowing away all the cobwebs of recent years and giving them their best shot at victory since Nicole first strummed a guitar in Harrogate. Would it be presumptuous of us to start shouting Berlin 2007?
For It: No matter what your taste in Eurovision music, chances are you’ll love this – it’s proving very popular across fan sites, and is likely to be remembered by the large percentage of viewers who’ll be hearing the songs for the first time on the night of the contest. The more we hear it, the more we’re beginning to think it could be the one to beat. And the fact it’s on right before Denmark – which has a similar C&W feel but is nowhere near as good – will only make it stand out even more.
Against It: Will it prove too lightweight and frothy for some people’s tastes? We’re hoping that doesn’t happen.

Song Reviews – Norway and Spain

Posted: 5/5/2006 in:

NORWAY
Song: Alvedansen
Artist: Christine Gulbrandsen
Recently Norway seem to have gotten into the habit of either doing very well or very badly at Eurovision – they came fourth in 2003, last in 2004 and last year, thanks to the fabulous glam rockers Wig Wam, they bounced straight back into the top ten, thus securing their place in the final for 2006 (we still think they should’ve done better than they did since their performance was one of the most entertaining in the contest, but it wasn’t to be). This year’s Norwegian effort, however, couldn’t be further removed from the flashy theatrics of 2005. Christine Gulbrandsen (is she related to Kate Gulbrandsen, who represented Norway in 1987, we wonder?) is an angelic-looking 18-year-old with an impressive voice and a song which harks back to the folk ballad dominance of the mid-90s. We’ll be honest – we weren’t too keen on those songs then so we weren’t expecting much here – but actually this is rather good. Casting aside the fact that it’s about dancing elves (probably just as well this one is staying in the original Norwegian), it’s a gentle little number which reminds us of Urban Trad’s Sanomi from 2003 (no bad thing considering how well that did), and Christine’s haunting vocals simply add to the effect. Given the variable quality of the first four songs in the final, this is likely to be the first entry which really stands out – and it could well reap the benefits on the scoreboard.
For It: The first truly good song in the final, which can only work in its favour. Also this kind of thing has worked at Eurovision so often in the past that there’s no reason why it can’t work again. Also, let’s not forget that last time Norway won the contest they sang fifth in the line-up. Oslo 2007 anyone? It’s certainly possible.
Against It: Folk ballads and ethnopop may just have had their day in this contest, and with more diverse styles of music to choose from than ever this year, there’s a possibility it might get overlooked. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

SPAIN
Song: Bloody Mary
Artist: Las Ketchup
When the Big Four succumbed to the bottom four positions on last year’s scoreboard, Spain had the honour of doing the ‘least worst’ – racking up more points than the UK, France and Germany thanks to Son de Sol’s Brujera (OK, so it wasn’t very good but it was still ratherbetter than anything else the Big Four came up with on the night in 2005). Despite the female trio’s lack of success though, Spain seem to have decided that girl groups are the way to go, and as such they’re sending one of their most famous exports to the contest – Las Ketchup, who you may remember from that 2002 chart-topper The Ketchup Song (a track which sold an astonishing number of copies around the world and still has the capacity to lodge itself in your brain for hours on end if you so much as think about it). We can’t help thinking, however, that the girls are going to have to rely upon their worldwide fame on the night to improve upon last year’s performance – for Bloody Mary is a big disappointment, a mid-tempo, whimsical tune which goes nowhere fast. Unlike the Ketchup Song, you’ll be struggling to remember this one before the next act have even made it to the stage. In recent times we’ve accused the Big Four of simply giving up trying to make an effort in Eurovision (something which certainly isn’t true of the UK and Germany this year), but while Spain have certainly tried to create waves by sending a well-known act, the weakness of the song renders this a spectacular misfire.
For It: Las Ketchup’s fame may well work in Spain’s favour (they are a Grammy-award winning act after all, and you don’t get many of those in Eurovision).
Against It: If they’d come up with something half as catchy as The Ketchup Song they could have been in with a chance. As it is, even the best-known, most talented band in the world (which they’re certainly not despite their chart success) would struggle when faced with such a lacklustre tune. Not one of Spain’s better efforts, sadly.

Song Reviews – Israel and Latvia

Posted: 4/5/2006 in:

ISRAEL
Song: Ze Hazman (Together We Are One)
Artist: Eddie Butler
And so the run of relatively low-key finalists continues with this effort from Israel, who last year scored their best result since their 1998 victory thanks to Shiri Maymon’s corker of a performance with The Silence That Remains. Eddie Butler – who’s actually an African-American currently living in Jerusalem and converting to Judaism – is an old hand at this whole Eurovision lark, having performed at the 1999 contest in the Israeli capital as part of the band Eden. They finished fifth in that contest – but can he do better as a solo artist? Well, to be honest we’re not optimistic. While 2005’s Israeli entry was a very strong ballad which thoroughly deserved its high placing on the scoreboard, this year’s is a disappointingly bland effort which even Butler’s decent voice and obvious charm can’t save. In fact, it puts us in mind of the kind of song which might be more at home in a Disney cartoon than on a Eurovision stage – to the extent that we had to work very hard to get images of The Lion King out of our head while we were listening to it. Eddie is obviously a talented bloke, and this might win him a few votes on the night – but it’s a shame to see him wasted on such an unremarkable tune.
For It: It’s lucky for them they’re already in the final as the song wouldn’t be nearly strong enough to make it out of the semis. And as we’ve said, it does have the advantage of a decent singer. But that’s about it.
Against It: Pretty much everything else, really. It’s not a dreadful song but it’s a very dull one and as such is likely to get buried under the catchier tunes and flashier performances. Back to the semis for Israel next year, we think.

LATVIA
Song: I Hear Your Heart
Artist: Cosmos
In a contest which is full of eccentrics and offbeat performances, here’s yet another oddity – the first ever acapella song to make it to a Eurovision stage. It comes courtesy of Latvia, whose fortunes in the contest have been decidedly mixed since their victory in 2002 – having crashed and burned on home territory the following year, and missing out on a place in the final in 2004, they finally recaptured some of their former glories last year thanks to Walters and Kazha’s gentle ballad The War Is Not Over (and its attendant sign language). They may not be quite so lucky this year, however. For while the novelty factor is certainly attention grabbing, the song itself is a bit of a mess, relying on disjointed, random harmonies for the best part of a minute before finally settling into something resembling a tune. The chorus, when it comes, isn’t actually that bad, but it takes so long getting there that chances are you’ll have lost interest by that point. Which is a pity – it’s a nice idea to have something acapella in Eurovision (especially given the amount of diverse musical styles covered this year), but in practice it just doesn’t work. Unless the performance is absolutely sensational on the night, we can’t see this one making much of an impact.
For It: The novelty aspect and the fact it is a bit different might work in its favour and land it a few votes.
Against It: In a contest that states no entry is allowed to be longer than three minutes, it’s crucial for a song to grab the viewers’ attention straight away – and this one just takes too long to hit its stride. Also there are so many offbeat and diverse entries this year that this one has less chance of standing out. As such, Latvia joins the increasing list of countries that we think will find themselves back in the semi-final next year. Do we see a pattern emerging?

And so to the finalists….

Posted: 1/5/2006 in:

SWITZERLAND
Song: If We All Give A Little
Artist: Six4One
The honour of kicking off this year’s Eurovision final falls to the country that might be described as the comeback kings of the contest. Switzerland – the first ever winners of the contest way back in 1956 – have had a pretty poor track record of late, even going so far as to rival Norway in the nul points stakes (that said, who could forget Pietro and The Allstars in 2004, even though they notched up a big fat zero on the night??). Last year, however, their fortunes changed when Estonian girl group Vanilla Ninja took to the stage on their behalf with their stomping rock anthem Cool Vibes, and steered the Swiss back into the top ten (we even seem to recall they were in the lead at one point, although the prospect of Geneva 2006 was fleetingly brief). Having had success, then, from outside help last year, they’re trying exactly the same tactic this year. Six4One is a group consisting of six members from participating Eurovision countries – one is Swiss, the others come from Malta, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal and Israel, thus doubtless assuring many votes from those nations. And their song’s been written by Eurovision ubercomposer Ralph Siegel, the man behind such contest classics as the 1982 winner A Little Peace, Team Eurovision’s 1980 favourites Le Papa Pingouin and Theater and, more recently, Germany’s 1999 effort Reise Nach Jerusalem and 2002’s I Can’t Live Without Music. With all those elements in place you might expect something a bit special – but Team Eurovision’s really not sure what to make of this ‘let’s all join hands and make the world a better place’ style anthem which, for want of a better cliché, is pure Swiss cheese. We can’t decide if it’s a work of genius or complete claptrap – a decision which hasn’t been helped by a ridiculous video in which band members help little old ladies with their shopping and are nice to small children in their quest for global peace and love. For all its silliness, however, there is something very Eurovision friendly about the whole thing, and that, along with the multi-national band, may well rack up the votes. As one Team Eurovision member put it, “It’s a load of manipulative old nonsense. Bet it wins…..” The rest of us aren’t so sure, but we’re off to Tesco to carry some pensioners’ bags while we figure it out.
For It: Ralph Siegel is an old hand at this kind of thing, and the diversity of the group guarantees votes from other nations in the same way that Estonians Vanilla Ninja did last year. Also there’s no getting away from the fact that the song, whatever your opinion of it, is very Eurovision indeed.
Against It: Likely to be drowned out by the sound of viewers throwing up into the nearest bucket from the sheer cheesiness of it all. Others may be put off by the fact that the whole thing falls just on the wrong side of manipulative in its effort to tug the heartstrings. And let’s not forget that singing first in Eurovision is never a good thing. Unless you happen to be Brotherhood of Man or the Herreys.

MOLDOVA
Song: Loca
Artist: Arsenium and Natalia Gordienko
It’s a well documented fact that no country singing second has ever won Eurovision, and this year the dubious honour falls to Moldova. We were rather pleased with ourselves last year when we identified their debut effort, Bunica Bate Toba (Grandma Bangs The Drums), as a dark horse in the contest – not only did it surprise quite a few people by qualifying for the final (something which may have had a lot to do with Grandma and her drum actually appearing on stage), it went on to finish sixth, thus landing these relative newcomers an automatic place in the 2006 final. Moldova had a few hiccups in the selection process this year, when the original national final was abandoned after finishing in a three way tie. As a result all those songs were scrapped and replaced by Gordienko, singer with the Moldovan band Millennium, and Arsenium, former member of the boy band O-Zone (remember them? They scored a huge hit a couple of years back with Dragostea Din Tei, the song which inspired the Internet’s semi-legendary Numa Numa dance – more about it here:, if you’ve never actually seen it). Given last year’s success, however, it’s a real shame that their sophomore effort isn’t nearly as inspired. Instead, it’s an unremarkable, reggae-tinged number with a spot of rap thrown in (what is it about rap this year?) that puts us in mind of something you might find on a Peter Andre album (although we suspect even he may have rejected this). It’s by no means the worst song in the contest, but it’s not terribly good either – the whole thing smacks of a rush job, and while it’s understandable they had to find something in a hurry after the problems with the national final, we still can’t help feeling they could have done better than this. The rapper on the track might urge us to ‘big up Moldavia’, but we just can’t bring ourselves to do so, no matter how hard we try.
For It: Arsenium’s fame as part of O-Zone may bring in a few votes, and its contemporary sound may appeal to younger viewers.
Against It: It’s a weak song and the fact it’s on second will do it no favours whatsoever. We’re betting that Moldova will find themselves back in the semis next year.

And last, but not least…..

Posted: 29/4/2006 in:

ICELAND
Song: Congratulations Iceland
Artist: Silvia Night
And so we come to the last song in the semi-final – and if you thought the 2006 contest had enough eccentrics, what with Lordi, LT United and Bulgaria’s strange wailing transvestite, rest assured you ain’t seen nothing yet. For Iceland – one of Team Eurovision’s favourite countries, and long overdue a victory as far as we’re concerned – is another nation that seems to have its tongue wedged firmly in its cheek this year. To that end they have given us Silvia Night – who isn’t even a real person, rather the grotesque creation of actress August Eva Erlendsdottir. The star of a spoof reality TV show, Silvia sprang to small screen fame thanks to her unorthodox style of interviewing guests on the programme – and the character now labours under the misapprehension she’s one of the most famous people in the world (imagine a cross between Dennis Pennis and Chantelle from Celebrity Big Brother and you’ll get the idea). And true to form, she’s now out to conquer Eurovision – complete with a catchy little number which assures us that she’s destined to win the contest since she is clearly the best. It’s already raised a few eyebrows thanks to lyrics which include, it seems, the first ever use of fruity language in Eurovision – when she assures us ‘the vote is in, I’ll f-ing win, too bad for all the others’ – to say nothing of the point when she has a conversation with God, related entirely to her own brilliance. But in a year when the contest is full of colourful characters, just how does Silvia compare? Well, the first time we heard this it was in Icelandic so we just didn’t get it (despite being rather taken with the inevitably OTT performance), but that’s all changed since the new English translation became available. It follows the same sort of pattern as the Lithuanian entry in terms of extolling its virtues – but while Lithuania is just too blatant and obvious for its own good, Congratulations Iceland is spot-on, as much a send-up of the whole Eurovision phenemonon as it is a tribute to Silvia’s ego. Even the song itself, a kind of sub-Britney Spears pop tune, isn’t bad. By rights something this mad really shouldn’t work, but the odd thing is it does – and while we don’t think Silvia’s prophecies of victory will come true, she could find herself doing rather well.
For It: The popularity of this kind of thing in Eurovision should never be under-estimated – let’s not forget how well the likes of Guildo Horn, Stefan Raab and Alf Poier have done in recent years. And if the national final performance is anything to go by, Silvia will provide a memorable finish to the semi-final complete with outlandish costumes (we’re hoping that the blue flouncy thing from the video makes an appearance) and backing dancers whose trousers have a habit of falling off. We reckon her chances of making the final are looking good.
Against It: It might have been translated into English, but will audiences get the joke? Silvia could be in trouble if her satiric lyrics fall flat on the night, while others may be put off if the swearing stays intact. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen – the final would be a poorer place without Ms Night.

Song Reviews – Estonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Posted: 25/4/2006 in:

ESTONIA
Song: Through My Window
Artist: Sandra
There was a moment back in the early part of the decade when it looked as though Estonia would be a Eurovision force to be reckoned with, thanks to their three year run of top five finishes (the most notable, of course, being their 2001 victory). Since 2003 it’s been downhill all the way, though, and they’ve been floundering in semi-final territory ever since it was introduced. This year, however, we reckon they’ve got more chance of progressing to the final than they have done previously. Despite its resemblance to ABBA (and specifically Does Your Mother Know) Through My Window, one of the first songs to be chosen for this year’s contest, is an upbeat, likeable little number which is memorable enough to attract those voters who won’t have heard any of the songs before semi-finals night. For all its plus points, however, we sense a problem. For one thing, this is performed right after Sweden, and the similarities between the two songs – both taking the Scandi-pop route – are all too obvious (and despite our reservations about Carola, we have to admit the Swedish song is better). For another, this comes right in the middle of a batch of strongly fancied songs – with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iceland to follow – and try as we might, we just can’t picture all of the last four songs qualifying from the semi. We hope we’re wrong, because this is a nice little number (even if the choreography in the video we saw was noticeably naff) and Sandra is appealing, and we’d like to see Estonia back in the final – but right now, we’re just not sure.
For It: An uptempo, feelgood number that’s easy to like, even if it’s nothing to get too excited about.
Against It: Like it or not, Sweden will be a hard act to follow, and given this song is similar in tone it’s in danger of being swept away by the Carola juggernaut. Add to that the fact that the Bosnian song which follows is also among the favourites and Estonia could be in trouble. Once again, we’re on the fence with this one – like Poland, we reckon it could go one way or the other.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Song: Lejla
Artist: Hari Mata Hari
And so we come to the penultimate song in the semi-final – and as we’re constantly reminded by the Eurovision pundits, singing second to last is always a good place to be, whether you’re in the semi or the final (let us not forget it did wonders for Latvia in the final last year – we can only speculate what might have happened if our 2005 favourites Hungary had drawn that slot. But anyway….) To be honest, though, this year’s pentultimate semi-finalist doesn’t really need the advantage of singing second-to-last, since they seem likely to qualify anyway purely on the strength of the song. Lejla – sung by one of B&H’s most popular artists (he is known as the ‘nightingale of Sarajevo’) – was written by Zeljko Joksimovic – who guided Serbia and Montenegro to success in 2004 with the beautiful Lane Moje. Like the aforementioned, this treads similar territory – it’s a haunting, gentle ethno-ballad – and although it’s not quite as immediate as Lane Moje, it still has plenty going for it (not least Hari Mata Hari’s excellent vocals). Sandwiched between Estonia’s song and what will undoubtedly be a bizarre performance from Iceland, this should really stand out. B&H have taken the more uptempo route in recent years, so in a way this seems like a bit of a gamble for them – but it’s one that’s paid off, for this is their strongest effort for years, and not only is it a very likely finalist, but it could give them their best result yet. Let’s just wait and see whether they snag that all-important second-to-last slot in the final too – they could do a lot of damage if they do.
For It: Very different from the songs all around it in the running order, and it couldn’t have asked for a better position in the draw – plus it’s one of the better ballads in the final. Provided the performance is as good as we’re hoping, we’d be surprised if this didn’t make the final.
Against It: Might be a bit too similar to Serbia and Montenegro’s 2004 effort for comfort – and as good as this is, Lane Moje was a superior song. It might also find itself in trouble if voters have tired of ethno-pop – but somehow we don’t think that’ll happen.

Song Reviews – Portugal and Sweden

Posted: 23/4/2006 in:

PORTUGAL
Song: Coisas de Nadat
Artist: Nonstop
Like Finland, Portugal have a rather unfortunate track record in Eurovision – one of the longest participating countries, they’ve yet to actually win the contest, and since 2004 they’ve yet to even make it out of the semi-final. However, unlike other countries who are given to flouncing off in a huff when the results don’t go their way, Portugal have kept gallantly plugging away, remaining a constant presence in Eurovision (even if it is one that tends to show up in the lower reaches of the scoreboard). This year, however, we can’t help wondering if, following decades of disappointment, they’ve simply given up trying to make an effort. Coisas de Nadat (or Useless Things to give it its English translation) is one of the rank outsiders in the contest – one bookmakers we came across has been offering odds of 610-1 on it scoring a victory – and it’s not hard to see why. Although by rights it should be upbeat and fun – the melody reminds us a little of Bosnia’s 2005 entry Call Me – it’s messy and lacklustre, and there’s a general feeling of ennui about the whole thing, as though they’re resigned to the fact that they’ll never win Eurovision. Well, to be blunt, they won’t win if they keep on entering dull-as-ditchwater songs like this. Given that this is the year in which the likes of Finland and Iceland – other long-time entrants who have never won – have really pulled their socks up and made an effort to send decent, interesting songs (which will at least get them some attention even if they don’t do well), it’s all the more disappointing to see Portugal floundering like this.
For It: Try as we might, it’s almost impossible to come up with any plus points on this one.
Against It: Not only is the song weak, but its position in the semi-final does it no favours either – coming right after Lithuania (which will be a talking point despite being rubbish) and right before Sweden, one of the favourites to win the semi outright all but destroys its chances. In a year which has produced more than its fair share of strong songs, there’s one thing we are sure of – Portugal’s chances of qualifying are almost non-existent.

SWEDEN
Song: Evighet (Invincible)
Artist: Carola
Eurovision viewers of a certain age should be familiar with this lady, since she already represented her home country twice before – once in 1983 when she finished 3rd with Framling, and again in 1991, when she controversially snatched victory from under the nose of France (the two tied for first place, but Sweden were awarded victory because they scored more top marks than the French did) with Captured By A Love Storm. Now she’s back, hoping to ‘do a Johnny Logan’ as it were and win the contest for a second time. Back in Sweden, Carola was the hot favourite to win the country’s national final, or Melodifestivalen – an event almost as big as the Eurovision itself – despite some stiff competition from the likes of Andreas ‘Glorious’ Johnson, 1985 participant Kikki Danielsson, and Bodies Without Organs (a band featuring Alexander Bard from camp Swedish disco favourites Army Of Lovers). So what of the song itself? Well in many ways Invincible (to give it its English title, since we gather she’ll be singing in English on the night) is classic Eurovision – upbeat, Abba-esque Scandi-pop with a chorus which quickly sticks in your head – and we have no doubt that Carola will belt it out on the night and progress to the final with ease. She’s even got a pretty decent chance of winning the entire contest. Yet for all the song’s plus points, we can’t help feeling there’s something a tiny bit dated about the whole thing – granted, we don’t dislike it, and we wouldn’t be at all unhappy if it won – but there’s a definite sense of déjà vu about this one. Good, yes, original no.
For It: Carola is a seasoned Eurovision performer who should deliver the goods on the night, and she couldn’t have asked for a better place in the draw (especially coming straight after the lamentable Portugese song) – plus it’s bound to be popular with fans of more conventional Eurovision tunes and those hearing the songs for the first time on the night (since it’s so memorable). It would be a major shock if this one didn’t qualify.
Against It: Good but nonetheless a tad old-fashioned for our liking. It’s been a while since a song as blatantly Eurovision-esque as this actually won the contest – and that could well count against the Swedes.

Song Reviews – Netherlands and Lithuania

Posted: 20/4/2006 in:

NETHERLANDS
Song: Amambanda
Artist: Treble
The Netherlands may be one of the longest-standing participants in Eurovision but they haven’t had too much luck recently – they scraped through the semi-final in 2004 but made little impact on the final itself, and last year missed out on the final completely even though Glennis Grace’s big ballad My Impossible Dream had been tipped as one of the favourites to qualify. This year, they’ve gone for a slight change in direction from the relatively gentle efforts of recent years – Amambanda is an uptempo, ethnic-sounding number performed partly in a made-up language (well it worked for Belgium in 2003 so why not?) – yet the overall effect is strangely underwhelming. It’s not a bad tune – it’s pleasant and catchy enough, while the band’s drumming skills should ensure a spirited performance on the night – yet there’s something strangely unmemorable about the whole enterprise, as if a lot of effort is being put in to no avail. There are certainly far worse songs than this in the contest, but with some very stiff competition in the semi-final we can see this one being overlooked.
For It: It’s far from terrible, and there’s scope for a lively performance. And of course the made-up language gives it a bit of added novelty.
Against It: The semi-final line-up is stronger than ever this year and this just isn’t distinctive enough to stand out. It reminds us a bit of the Estonian entry from 2004, and like that we think this is likely to miss out on a place in the final.

LITHUANIA
Song: We Are The Winners
Artist: LT United
Every so often, a Eurovision song comes along which is so blatantly ridiculous that you can’t decide if it’s the worst entry ever or a sheer work of genius. Pietro and The Allstars managed it in 2004 with the Swiss clunker Celebrate (and scores a big fat nul points for their troubles), and lo and behold, this year the Lithuanians have done it. Having notched up one of the most unimpressive track records in Eurovision – they debuted in 1994, scored no points and immediately disappeared again for five years, only to have very little success since (the best they’ve managed so far was 13th in 2001, and last year they came last in the semi-final), it seems that this year they’ve decided to take it a bit less seriously. Thus we’ve been treated to a song which consists of little more than LT United chanting repeatedly about how they’re the winners of Eurovision and so we must vote for them – which, if the national final is anything to go by, will be accompanied by a performance featuring silly dancing and all manner of general lunacy. And sure enough, it’s divided audiences, with some proclaiming it a satiric masterpiece and others – rather more sensibly we feel – dismissing it as a load of old claptrap which is fully deserving of the inevitable last place that it’s going to get. And what of Team Eurovision? Well, the first time we heard it we couldn’t stop laughing – and we do appreciate the fact that at least you know where you are with a song that has as blatant a title as We Are The Winners – but in hindsight, we have to admit it’s not very good really (even if it is a damned site more entertaining than the likes of Belarus and Cyprus). However, we can’t help thinking that however hard they may have tried to come up with the silliest song possible, there’s a very slim possibility that the Lithuanians’ efforts may backfire and they might find themselves doing rather well. This is, to be honest, extremely unlikely to happen. But if going down the novelty route worked for the likes of Alf Poier and Stefan Raab (after all, who really saw Austria’s success in 2003 coming?) then whose to say it won’t work in this case? Stranger things have happened.
For It: Its sheer awfulness may well work in its favour – for one thing, it’s virtually critic-proof (it’s knowingly bad so any more insults you fling at it are likely to have little effect), and novelty tracks have a habit of outperforming expectations. Highly unlikely to make the final – but you never know….
Against It: Pretty much everything else really, since this bypasses the cleverness of previous novelty entries and just winds up being silly.

Song Reviews – Ukraine and Finland

Posted: 19/4/2006 in:

UKRAINE
Song: Show Me Your Love
Artist: Tina Karol
Of all this year’s entries, Ukraine’s effort has to be one of the least talked about – something which came as a surprise to Team Eurovision, given the impact they’ve made on the contest in the short time they’ve been taking part. Yet, while the likes of Sweden, Belgium and Iceland have had the fans locked in furious debate, we came to the Ukranian entry knowing absolutely nothing about it – except that its performer, Tina Karol, is a pretty big star on home territory. As you can imagine from the above, the lack of buzz surrounding the song meant our expectations weren’t terribly high. All the more reason why we were so very pleasantly surprised by this one. Admittedly, Show Me Your Love is probably an acquired taste – it’s a quirky little number, which blends dance beats with accordion riffs, twanging balalaika and Tina’s distinctive, sharply accented vocals – and a combination like that isn’t going to do much for those who prefer their Eurovision entries to be a bit more, shall we say, conventional. But like Poland last year, we loved this from the first time we heard it, and it’s fast become one of our favourites in the semi-final, not only because it’s irresistible and insanely catchy, but quite simply because there’s nothing else in the contest like it this year. The question is, however – will all this be enough to convince the voting public? Well, it’s probably a bit too offbeat to score Ukraine their second victory, but we’d absolutely love to see it qualify for the final – and the more we hear it, the more we think that’s not out of the question.
For It: There’s always one surprise qualifier in the semi-final – and this is so radically different from everything else on offer that we reckon it’s got a fighting chance of making the cut. Could also benefit from neighbourly voting (not that this helped the Ukranians last year)
Against It: Its status as a genuine love-it-or-loathe-it track may not do it many favours – and we’ve yet to see how Tina tackles the English translation on the night. It sounds fine right now – but then again so did Belarus last year before it took to the semi-final stage.

FINLAND
Song: Hard Rock Hallelujah
Artist: Lordi
And so to one of the most talked-about songs of the semi-final, courtesy of the perpetually unlucky Finland. Much as you have to admire them for trying, the Finns just can’t keep up with their Scandinavian cousins in Eurovision terms – while all around them Sweden, Denmark and Norway clock up top ten placings and even the occasional victory, poor Finland are left trailing with one of the worst track records in Eurovision history – the best they’ve ever managed was sixth place, and that was way back in 1973. This year, however, all that could change. For Lordi are like nothing else that’s ever set foot on a Eurovision stage – one of the many heavy metal bands that seem to be endemic to that part of the world (Finland has also brought us The Rasmus, HIM and Nightwish to name but a few), they’re renowned for an image which features monster masks, outlandish costumes and videos that look like outtakes from a horror movie. But if you thought perhaps they might tone it down for Eurovision, then think again. For Hard Rock Hallelujah couldn’t be further removed from the glam rock antics of last year’s Norwegian entry (which looks positively tame and almost a novelty effort by comparison). While its lyrics may be a little – how shall we say this – bizarre (‘the day of Rockoning’, anyone?), there’s no arguing with the track itself, a positively barnstorming piece of stadium rock enlivened by growling vocals from Mr Lordi himself. Just to further add to the fun, we’re told that they never remove their masks in public and will be staying in character for the duration of their time in Athens, which could prove interesting for those poor members of the press trying to interview them. But novelty aside, this is one of our favourite entries of the year – not only is it a damned fine tune but it’s actually inspired us to check out some of Lordi’s other work (cue much Team Eurovision singing along to the likes of Would You Love A Monsterman and other gems available at www.lordi.org). The question is – will it bring Finland the success that’s eluded them for so long? Hard to say really – for like Ukraine before it, this won’t be to everybody’s taste – but one thing’s for certain, whether it hits or misses on the night, it won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
For It: It’s so radically different that it might just work in Finland’s favour, and while it’s probably a bit too left of centre to win the entire contest, we reckon it’s a very likely qualifier for the final. Could well be one of the performances of the night too.
Against It: It won’t have universal appeal, and while it’s credible enough to bring in new viewers and voters, those with more conventional Eurovision tastes may be less impressed. And let’s not even think about those viewers who might be, er, scared off by the band’s unusual taste in facewear.

Song Reviews – Russia and Turkey

Posted: 17/4/2006 in:

RUSSIA
Song: Never Let You Go
Artist: Dima Bilan
Up until now, Russia were one of only a small number of countries who had yet to encounter the semi-final, having had a decent run of results in recent years (the best being with Tatu’s much-hyped but ultimately disappointing performance in 2003). Last year, however, their luck ran out and as such they’re facing the semis for the first time. But what have they come up with this year? Well, as far as Team Eurovision is concerned Russia is one of the most consistently interesting new countries in Eurovision (they’re usually worth watching even when they miss the mark), and it’s surely only a matter of time before they score a victory – so naturally we had very high hopes for this year’s effort. And we haven’t been disappointed. With all the wackiness that seems to be punctuating this year’s contest – whether it’s Finland’s metal mayhem, Lithuania’s self-promotional nonsense or Iceland’s satirically inspired effort – it’s all too easy to overlook some of the more straightforward entries. And as such, we had to listen to Dima Bilan’s mid-paced rock ballad several times before we realised just how good it is. OK, so perhaps it’s not the most exciting song in a contest which is certainly full of excitement – but this is a slick, very contemporary tune with a memorable chorus, and there’s something very appealing about Dima too (although that mullet haircut has got to go). We’re still not convinced by the video, which features a veritable chorus of tutu-ed ballet dancers and some rather over-enthusiastic dancing which seems a tad out of place given the leisurely pace of the song – but we have no doubts that this will sound very effective on the Eurovision stage and should score a lot of votes. Barring any last-minute upsets (a terrible performance on the night, for example, and we’re sure that won’t happen), expect this one to breeze through to the final.
For It: A decent song which wouldn’t sound out of place in the charts, this is one of those entries which has universal appeal.
Against It: In theory, its place slap bang in the middle of the running order should help its chances, but the fact it’s right in the middle of a string of good, potential qualifiers (Macedonia and Poland on one side, Ukraine and Finland on the other), might mean it gets a bit lost in the pack.

TURKEY
Song: Superstar
Artist: Sibil Tuzun
Oh dear. Turkey are another country making their debut in the semi-finals this year after a run of great results (Sertab’s winner in 2003, Athena’s bouncy ska tune in 2004), and given how much fun they’ve been to watch in recent years we naturally had high expectations for this year’s effort. Unlike the Russians, however, the Turks have left us a tad underwhelmed on this occasion. They’ve certainly spared no expense in bringing us their entry – at least if the video is anything to go by – but beneath the glitz and visual flashiness that’s on offer here the song itself is very little to write home about. We wanted to like this, we really did, but after repeated listens we just can’t get excited about it. For Superstar is little more than a mish-mash of styles – a dose of Jamiroquai here, a dollop of Madonna’s Vogue there, all mixed up with a bit of ethnic drumming – which when thrown together just don’t work. Sibil Tuzun does her best to give the whole thing a bit of spark – complete with sexy spoken bits and lots of posing and posturing in the video – but the whole thing ultimately feels like a triumph of style over real substance. As you might imagine – for this is a country who’ve done consistently well in Eurovision in recent years – Superstar is being heavily tipped for a place in the final, but we’re going to stick our collective necks out here and say that of all the favourites to make the final this is the one that’s most likely to miss out. Given just how much of an effort Turkey have made to deliver consistently decent tunes in recent years, this has to rank as one of 2006’s biggest disappointments.
For It: It’s commercial enough, and a decent visually flashy performance may help its cause. Plus let’s not forget the large Turkish population living in Europe who’ll be able to vote for it.
Against It: There’s no disguising the fact that the song just isn’t that good, and as with Russia, it’s right in the middle of a run of strong potential finalists. Bearing all that in mind, it’s going to have to rely on a great performance even more so than some of its rivals.

Song Reviews – FYR Macedonia and Poland

Posted: 14/4/2006 in:

FYR MACEDONIA
Song: Ninananja
Artist: Elena Risteska
It could be argued that nobody has benefitted from the introduction of the semi-final more than the Macedonians have – so far they have a 100% record of qualifying for the final from the semi, even though they have yet to field a song which truly deserves that all-important spot. Tose Proeski made more of an impact in 2004 for his beribboned backdrop than his song while Martin Vucic’s ethnic disco tune Make My Day was overshadowed somewhat by his pink jacket last year. True to form, just as FYR Macedonia seem to slip through to the final with no problems, they seem to slip back into the semi just as easily. This year, however, they’ve actually come up with a song which is worthy of the final – and even though we’re not convinced that it’s going to be the one to bring the contest to Skopje for the first time, it’s certainly a big improvement on previous years. While Ninananja (this year’s contender for the silliest title, it has to be said) feels a tad derivative of last year’s Greek winner, and owes more than a debt to J-Lo, it’s a catchy and ultra-contemporary little number which uses ethnopop to enhance the song rather than allowing it to dominate completely. OK, so it’s not without its cringe-making moments (the lyrics for example – what does ‘if you want to Ninananja with me’ mean exactly??) but if you can overlook that the result is probably one of the best entries ever from the Eurovision nation with the prettiest flag – and one which might finally qualify on its own merits rather than relying on the kindness of neighbours.
For It: It’s not bad at all – modern, sexy and a lot better than we’ve come to expect from the Macedonians. Like the Slovenians, it seems they’ve made a real effort this year. And its position slap-bang in the middle of the running order could give it a boost too.
Against It: Not the most original of entries – especially given the ethnopop glut of recent years – and we’re still waiting to see if Elena can cut it live. It’s a very likely qualifier anyway simple because of FYR Macedonia’s habit of making it through – but since nothing in this contest is certain they should beware of complacency.

POLAND
Song: Follow My Heart
Artist: Ich Troje
Remember this lot? If you don’t you probably weren’t paying enough attention to the 2003 contest, because the lead singer’s bright scarlet locks and weird throaty voice (the sort most people might end up with after suffering from a chesty cough) were permanently etched on Team Eurovision’s collective memory after that contest – the fact they managed to finish a very creditable 7th with the dirge-like ballad No Borders also left them lingering in our minds. Anyway, whether you remember them or not they’re back for another go this year – with the scarlet-headed, throaty-voiced one present and correct once more. Now, our biggest Eurovision disappointment in 2005 was the fact that Polish entrants Ivan and Delfin missed out on a place in the final by just four points with their insane gypsy-themed effort Czarna Dciewczyna – so part of us would love to see them do well this year, just to make up for missing out last year. The problem is, we’re not sure what to make of their 2006 effort – for while there’s definitely a good song hidden somewhere here, Follow My Heart feels like a bit of a mish-mash – lots of different musical styles all thrown together in a big heap – and we just can’t decide whether we like it or not. It’s all held together by a rap from German performer The Real McCoy – which is interspersed between the song itself – but there’s something very shambolic about the whole thing. The chorus is actually quite catchy but the rap sits uneasily alongside it – and by the time it all finally pulls together and hits its stride the song is practically over, leaving us wanting. For us this is one of those ones that could go one way or the other – we like it a lot more than we did when we first heard it, and certainly think it’s got the potential to do rather well, depending on performance – but similarly, its offbeat nature may do it no favours on the night. And of course if it does make it through, we certainly don’t want to see it being performed anywhere near the UK entry.
For It: It’s certainly different, and if the band keep the original format of the national final performance – in which they perform most of the song in Polish before lapsing into English for the final chorus – they could be on to a good thing.
Against It: This is going to be one of those songs that people either love or hate – which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Also, being squashed in between likely qualifiers FYR Macedonia and Russia isn’t necessarily the best place to be. We’re staying on the fence with this one since we really can’t decide which way it’s going to go.

Song reviews - Cyprus and Monaco

Posted: 10/4/2006 in:

CYPRUS
Song: Why Angels Cry
Artist: Annette Artani
Cyprus are another one of those countries that are still awaiting that elusive first victory, and having stumbled badly with the catchy but unremarkable Ela Ela last year they’re back in semi-final territory this year. And opinion is certainly divided on the effort they’ve come up with for 2006. Annette, a Greek-American who’s toured with Britney Spears, has impressed some with her big power ballad, with many thinking that Cyprus could see a repeat of their 2004 success with Lisa Andreas. Team Eurovision, however, isn’t one of them. Because as far as we’re concerned, this is one of the most turgid, dated songs in the entire contest – one which, bizarrely enough, sounds like two tunes awkwardly stapled together, since halfway through it changes tack and attempts to add a touch of rock guitar into proceedings (something which makes it sound even worse than ever). Annette certainly tries to give it her best, but her vocals are more overwrought than emotional, and we wouldn’t be remotely surprised if she ended up screeching this rather than singing it on the night. The result feels like a bad American Idol audition more than anything else – Annette clearly fancies herself as some kind of Eurovision answer to Mariah Carey, but she ends up sounding more like Jim Carrey. Don’t get us wrong – we’re all for ballads in Eurovision, and it would be no bad thing if one won this year, but Cyprus seem to have forgotten the fundamental rule of Eurovision balladry that they nailed in 2004 – less is more. While other slower numbers in the contest, such as Ireland, succeed in this respect, Cyprus totally misses the mark.
For It: We don’t really have anything for it, to be honest, but it does have its fans and they may help it sneak a place in the final. There are songs we’re less keen on which we think will make the final nonetheless, but this isn’t one of them.
Against It: Everything about it is wretchedly old-fashioned and over-the-top where something simple would have worked so much better. At least they’ll get 12 points from Greece but they may not be so popular elsewhere.

MONACO
Song: La Coco-Dance
Artist: Severine Ferrer
Now here’s a refreshing change of pace – both in contest terms, following two ballads, and for Monaco, who’ve delivered rather more low-key songs than this since their return to the contest in 2004. They’ve deliberately gone out of their way to deliver something a bit more upbeat and fun last year after crashing and burning in 2005 with the rather dour, less-than-successful Tout de Moi – and the Tahiti-inspired La Coco-Dance certainly fits that description. On the surface, it sounds almost scarily like one of those 1980s style summer Europop hits that used to always plague the top 40 around July – the kind that would have drunken holidaymakers dancing away on the beaches in Benidorm (and on the piers at Radio One Roadshows) – one Team Eurovision member even suggested Agadoo, which frankly just doesn’t bear thinking about. However, after a few listens Team Eurovision rather likes it – sure, there’s something rather twee and silly about it all, but it’s very cute indeed (as is Severine, who sings it). That said, it’s perhaps a bit too lightweight to take on the major players in this year’s contest – there are a lot of strong songs this year meaning that competition to make the final cut is even bigger than ever – and this is one of those nice-but-ineffectual tunes which might just get buried in the rush. We certainly like it and we’d love to see it do well, something which certainly can’t be ruled out (given it’s an uptempo number coming after two slower songs) – but we’re not getting our hopes up.
For It: It sounds like nothing else on offer this year, which might just work in its favour, and Severine is very appealing – plus there’s scope for a fun stage show – completely with men in grass skirts – which may help it stick in voters’ minds.
Against It: Monaco is a little fish in a very big Eurovision pond and is going to have to turn in a spectacular stage show to get noticed. We’re not totally ruling out their chances – we reckon it’s an outside bet for the final, and there are songs with less chance of making it – but they certainly have their work cut out for them.

Song Reviews – Belgium and Ireland

Posted: 6/4/2006 in:

BELGIUM
Song: Je T’Adore
Artist: Kate Ryan
And so to one of this year’s favourites, which is hotly tipped not only to win the semi-final but also to potentially bring the contest back to Brussels for the first time since 1987. Since finishing narrowly missing out on victory in 2003, Belgium have had a bit of a rough ride – Xandee’s 2004 effort 1 Life was strongly fancied but floundered on the night, while they failed to make it out of the semi-finals last year. But it’s not surprising their hopes are high this year. Kate Ryan comes to the contest with a bunch of hit singles and a lot of fans, and Je T’Adore fits the Eurovision mould perfectly – it’s a good, solid pop song complete with a bouncy catchy chorus that you’ll be singing after just a couple of listens and plenty of potential for flashy onstage antics – while the video, featuring Kate frolicking on a beach in a bikini (we assume this was shot by the English Channel in October) adds to the happy, sunny feel. So why does Team Eurovision feel ever so slightly underwhelmed by the whole thing? Well, don’t get us wrong – we like the track, and we’d be perfectly happy to see it do well – yet we can’t help feeling there’s something a bit manufactured about it, as if it had been squeezed out of a machine labelled ‘perfect Eurovision song formula’. In other words, it ticks all the correct boxes, but just lacks the little bit of sparkle that makes it truly special. It may well gain that little something extra and come alive on the night – but we’ll reserve judgment until we’ve seen that for ourselves.
For It: Commercial, very catchy and instantly memorable – giving it an advantage with those viewers who’ll be hearing and seeing the songs for the first time on the night of the contest.
Against It: As we said, it seems to be a bit lacking in real soul – and while it has the potential to do very well indeed, we also think it’s one of those ones that could flop spectacularly if the performance isn’t up to scratch (remember what happened to Iceland last year?). Fingers crossed Kate can deliver the goods – otherwise we could have another Xandee on our hands.

IRELAND
Song: Every Song Is A Cry For Love
Artist: Brian Kennedy
Before Team Eurovision casts its verdict on Ireland’s effort, a quick bit of trivia – this is, we’re told, the 1000th Eurovision Song Contest entry, and we can’t help thinking it’s appropriate that Ireland should have this honour, given that they’ve won the contest more times than any other country. However, that last victory – Eimarr Quinn’s The Voice in 1996 – is beginning to look like a distant memory now, so what chance do they have of triumphing again this year? Well, their track certainly comes with decent credentials – Brian Kennedy is a huge star in Ireland and is known to UK audiences too, having sung at George Best’s funeral and scored a top five hit with his version of Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up. However, his Eurovision effort has divided audiences, with some hailing it as the country’s big contest comeback, others – somewhat wittily, saying it’s not so much a ‘cry for love’ as a ‘cry for help’ (if only we had thought of that one….!) Based on advance word, our expectations weren’t that high – so we have to say we were pleasantly surprised by this one. While Every Song…isn’t really our cup of tea – it’s all a bit too Boyzone-esque for that – it’s a very effective little ballad, which sticks to sparse, simple instrumentation and allows Brian’s vocals to shine through (and compared to the overwrought Cypriot song which follows it’s very nice indeed). Ballads have fallen out of favour at Eurovision in recent years, but the success of Chiara, Shiri Maymon and, to a certain extent, Latvia’s Walters and Kazha last year (which this reminds us of) proved that if you are going to field a ballad, less is more. And this certainly fits that criteria, reminding us of the songs that Ireland used to do so well with back in their glory days. Assuming it qualifies for the final – which to be honest, isn’t a sure thing at this stage – we can’t help thinking this could do rather well.
For It: We know already that Brian can sing, and we’re sure he’ll do it justice on the night – which for a song of this nature can make the difference between qualifying for the final or failing to make it out of the semis. Could well win the granny vote.
Against It: A bit on the old-fashioned side, which might do it no favours since it’s on straight after Belgium’s bright, ultra-modern pop song. It’s got far more chance of making it through than some of the songs – but it’s by no means a definite qualifier.

Song Reviews – Belarus and Albania

Posted: 3/4/2006 in:

BELARUS
Song: Mama
Artist: Polina Smolova
Here at Team Eurovision, we can’t help feeling a bit sorry for Belarus. While other 2004 debutants, including Albania and Serbia and Montenegro, have already made their mark on the contest, they’ve been stuck squarely in semi-final territory. To be honest, they really should have made it through last year – Angelica Agurbash’s Love Me Tonight was a thumping bit of Eurodisco and one of our favourite semi-finalists to boot – yet it was let down on the night by a somewhat sub-standard performance (perhaps if she’d sung in her native tongue instead of attempting a poor version of English things might have been a different story). And sadly, we think it’s going to be the same story this year. Mama is already down as one of this year’s rank outsiders – and while occasionally those underdogs have a habit of surprising everybody (think Moldova last year for example), we’re pretty convinced that’s not going to happen in this case. Because Mama, sung by what seems to be Belarus’s answer to Rachel Stevens, is little more than a horrible screeching racket, one in which poor Polina’s vocals are so overshadowed by over-zealous guitars and backing track that we can’t even tell what language she’s singing in half the time (we think it’s English but we’re not sure). She and her dancers certainly put a lot of energy into the performance – with lots of frantic dancing both in the national final and the preview video – but ultimately it’s all a big waste of time. Which leaves us wondering whether Belarus, after two years of disappointing results, just couldn’t be bothered to field a decent song this year. Let’s hope not – it would be a shame if, after such a short Eurovision career, they had already given up trying. As it is, with some very strong songs in the semi this year, it would be a big shock if this progressed any further.
For It: Er, we’re being hard pressed to think of something. It’s short. Er, that’s it.
Against It: Don’t get us started.

ALBANIA
Song: Zjarr E Ftohte (Fire and Cold)
Artist: Luiz Ejili
And so to another country making their third Eurovision appearance this year – although Albania have had rather more luck than Belarus, having scored a top ten finish on their very first attempt with Anjeza Shahini’s Image Of You (still one of Team Eurovision’s favourite entries of the decade so far).They’re back in the semi-final this year, however, following Ledina Celo’s disappointing result in Kiev – but will they be staying there this year? Well, there’s plenty to like about this song which, as usual, was one of the first to be chosen for this year’s contest – it’s a pleasant enough slice of ethnopop, sung by an appealing lad (although we have to admit that the hat Luiz is wearing in some publicity shots makes him look a bit like a garden gnome). And kudos to him for choosing to sing in his native language rather than switching to English – for this is the kind of song that would probably lose something in translation and sounds far better in Albanian. Yet, like Tomorrow I Go, it lacks the little extra something that really makes it stand out. A few years ago this might have sounded radical and different but these days ethnopop tracks are two a penny in Eurovision, and this one just doesn’t have the necessary spark. Given a strong performance, it might have an outside chance of qualifying – and let’s face it, anything is bound to sound good after Belarus – but with the double whammy of Belgium’s hotly-tipped entry and Ireland’s strong ballad to follow, it’s likely to be lost in the pack.
For It: The fact it’s being sung in the original Albanian gives it plenty of authenticity, and there’s scope for a colourful stage show if the backing band appear on the night, complete with their regional costumes.
Against It: It’s nice but not outstanding. We’ve heard this kind of thing on a Eurovision stage so many times in recent years, and we’ll be honest – it’s been done better.

Song Reviews – Slovenia and Andorra

Posted: 30/3/2006 in:

SLOVENIA
Song: Mr Nobody
Artist: Anzej Dehan
We’ll be honest with you. To date, Slovenia have never really made that much impact on Team Eurovision’s radar – but then again that could be because, with the possible exception of Nusa Derenda’s barnstorming Energy in 2001, they’ve never actually made that much impact on the contest itself (we do have a soft spot for Sestre’s 2002 effort but that’s probably more to do with their mildly diverting drag act than the song itself). Last year they sailed perilously close to the final with Omar Naber’s Stop – a song we just couldn’t make our minds up about (and in fact, we still haven’t decided if we like it or not!). This year, however, we’ve had no such problems – because for the first time ever, Slovenia have fielded a song that we just can’t get enough of. Coming to us courtesy of the appealing 18-year-old Anzej Dehan – who for some reason reminds us of a teenage version of Kenny Everett – Mr Nobody is one of those deceptive little numbers that doesn’t turn out quite the way you expect it to. Remember Albania in 2004? Well, you’ll know what to expect here – it starts slowly enough, but just when you’ve become convinced you’re listening to just another run-of-the-mill ballad, things take a very different turn. A wildly over-the-top, kitsch, camp turn, to be precise. There’s shades of disco-era Abba here, with a chorus that seems to boast more than a passing nod to Phantom Of The Opera – and by rights, this really shouldn’t work. Yet amazingly it does. OK, so the lyrics are a tad dodgy and we’re still baffled by Anzej’s ever-changing hairstyles and his awkward, bizarre dance moves, but we’re liking this one so much that we really don’t care. This is a breath of fresh air after Bulgaria’s ineffectual melodramatics – and it’s one which, with the focus on other tunes from some of the larger nations, could end up taking everybody by surprise.
For It: It’s kitsch theatrical, and so damned catchy you won’t forget it in a hurry – and the fact it’s surrounded by ballads in the running order will help it stand out all the more. Another potential dark horse and a definite contender for the final.
Against It: Singing so early in the line-up is never an advantage – and a lot will depend on the performance. Also, let’s hope Anzej’s command of English is good enough to carry the song through – we’re still convinced that Belarus, who really should have made it to the final last year, lost out due to Angelica’s, er, dubious command of the language, and we’d hate to see the same thing happen to Slovenia this year.

ANDORRA
Song: Sense Tu
Artist: Jennifer
And so to Jennifer the singing waitress, who’s hoping to take the tiny principality to their first ever final. Andorra have yet to make much of an impression since arriving in the contest in 2004, although we rather liked their song last year, Marian van der Wal’s La Mirada Interior – and their entry this year isn’t half bad either. In fact, we reckon this is their best effort to date – we weren’t too keen at first, but it’s a real grower, and the fact that Jennifer has an impressive pair of pipes on her helps too. For all its plus points, however, we’re not convinced that this one’s going to make much of an impact on the Eurovision audience – with several strong ballads in contention, it could easily be lost among the pack, plus its status as a grower, and the fact it doesn’t make an immediate impact (or at least as far as we’re concerned) could leave it at a disadvantage with the millions of viewers who’ll be hearing the songs for the first time on the night. Jennifer can certainly sing, and we’ve no doubt she’ll do the song justice – but she’s still going to have to pull a strong performance out of the bag to stand any chance of progressing to the final.
For It: There’s always a place for strong,classy power ballads at Eurovision, and this is certainly one of those – and the fact it’s being sung by a talented performer is a distinct advantage.
Against It: Pretty much everything else really, from its place in the running order after Slovenia’s strong (and no doubt visually flashy) entry, to the fact that it takes several listens to really get under your skin. Shame – but at least they’ll get some points from Spain.

Here we go again…

Posted: 27/3/2006 in:

It’s that time of year again, when here at Team Eurovision we start casting our verdict on this year’s entries. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be offering our thoughts on all of this year’s 37 hopefuls, including the UK’s very own Daz Sampson – in the run-up to semi-finals night on May 18. So without further ado, let’s get underway with the contest debutants…

ARMENIA
Song: Without Your Love
Artist: Andre
Opening the song contest is never an easy task, but it must be all the more daunting when you’re making your debut on the Eurovision stage. The past few years have seen the likes of Bulgaria, Belarus, Serbia and Montenegro, Albania and Moldova join the contest – but none of them have ever had the task of kicking things off. Instead, that honour falls to this year’s newcomers Armenia, who have risen to the Eurovision challenge by sending one of their biggest stars. Andre has won numerous awards in his home country and has toured all over the world, playing shows everywhere from the US to Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Iran. But what’s he given us for Eurovision? Well, we’ve come to the conclusion that there seem to be two types of contest debutants these days – those that do pretty well their first time and those that, er, need a little longer to get the hang of things, shall we say – but as far as we’re concerned, Armenia fall squarely into the first category. Without Your Love is a lively, spirited, and very contemporary offering, combining Turkish and Arabic rhythms with a catchy, danceable pop tune that lodges itself in your brain after just a couple of listens and refuses to let go. While the whole Eurovision ethno-pop thing is beginning to wear just a tad thin (as further evidenced by the range of different musical styles creeping into this year’s contest), Armenia have struck the perfect balance here – yes, it falls squarely into the ethno-pop category but sounds fresh and modern with it, and is yet another prime example of a debutant country showing the others exactly how it should be done (are you listening, Bulgaria and Belarus?) OK, so we don’t think it’s quite strong enough to score them a victory on their very first try, but we certainly think they’ve got a bit of a dark horse on their hands here, one that could surprise a lot of people and do rather well on the night.
For It: It’s catchy and memorable, and Andre’s clearly an experienced performer. As long as he does puts on a good show, we reckon Armenia could be gracing the final at their very first attempt.
Against It: Being the first on stage is never easy, and might prove a disadvantage if voters have forgotten about them by the end. They’ll have to make sure the performance is really strong. Also – and it’s a small point – we’re a little scared by what can only be described as Andre’s monobrow. Someone get the man a pair of tweezers before the big night!

BULGARIA
Song: Let Me Cry
Artist: Mariana Popova
One of last year’s debutant countries, Bulgaria crashed and burned with their feeble ballad Lorrain in 2005, sparking rumours that they wouldn’t be fielding a song this year – but nonetheless they are back for another try. And much as we’d like to be impressed by their sophomore effort, we’re sad to say that we’re struggling to find much we actually like about it. Let Me Cry falls into the ever-popular Big Ballad category, complete with some dramatic, plaintive wailing and a stage show that bizarrely seems to include rhythmic gymnastics. To be fair, it’s an improvement upon last year – but that’s not really saying much. On the plus side, Ms Popova has a decent enough voice, and there is of course the added novelty of camp-as-tents Bulgarian singer Azis on backing vocals – but we’re all still finding it rather underwhelming. Sorry, Bulgaria, we love that you’re taking part in Eurovision and we’d love to see you do well, but we’re just not convinced you’re going to make it out of the semi-finals this year.
For It: Visually, it could be interesting, with all manner of things going on around Mariana (gymnasts etc.) while she gets on with the business of standing there and singing – while Azis is bound to spark some interest.
Against It: The song just isn’t very strong, and however good the performance it’s unlikely to make much impact – plus no song performed second in the line-up, either final or semi-final, has ever gone on to win Eurovision. With a strong opener from Armenia and the over-the-top theatrics of the Slovenian entry which follows, Bulgaria are almost certain to get lost in the crowd. Better luck next year, chaps.

Making Your Mind Up – our verdict

Posted: 4/3/2006 in:

The show’s over, and the UK’s 2006 Eurovision representative is due to be revealed very soon – but while we’re waiting for the result, here’s Team Eurovision’s verdict on the show:

Goran Kay – Play Your Game
OK, so we haven’t rated this one up to now, but it wasn’t a bad start to the show, to be honest, even if Goran did display that slightly terrified ‘rabbit caught in headlights’ look for much of the performance. Still don’t think the song is strong enough to see him through to Athens – but it worked a lot better on stage than off it, thanks to a few nifty visuals.

Kym Marsh – Whisper To Me
Despite all our protestations that we should send a ballad to Athens, we haven’t exactly been championing this one – but there’s no denying Kym gave a classy performance, one which could be enough for her to see off the competition and grab that all-important spot for le Royaume-Uni. Trouble is, we’re still not convinced by the song – if other countries were to enter better ballads, it could just get lost among the pack no matter how well she sings on the night. And a word of advice, Kym – if you do decide to wear a full-length evening gown, cover your tattoos up first love.

Daz Sampson – Teenage Life
Oh gosh, where to start? We had expected something a little bit different from DJ Daz, being one of the more offbeat contenders – and we certainly got it, in the shape of backing singers dressed in school uniform sat behind desks. Strictly speaking, this song is a load of old rubbish (the fact that Daz appears to be about 45 years old doesn’t really help matters either) – but we have to admit this performance stuck in our minds more than any of the others tonight. It would be a very bold move, but on the strength of what we’ve seen we can’t help thinking that this could see off the competition.

City Chix – All About You
Daz was always going to be a hard act to follow, but given this was our pre-show favourite we were hoping the Chix would be able to pull it off – and sadly we were a tad disappointed. The song is solid enough, but given how small and lost the pair looked on the BBC stage, we shudder to think how they might look in front of a huge auditorium full of people in Athens – and not sure, singing-wise, they’d be strong enough to stand out. Possibly not as much of a contender as we first thought, although the Scottish vote is guaranteed.

Four Story – Hand On My Heart
‘Unimpressive’ is probably a polite way of summing this one up. We don’t doubt that the quartet can sing, we’re just a little sceptical of their ability to sing when placed next to each other on a stage. Add to that their rather dull suits, which made them look more like a bunch of bank clerks on loan from their day job, than a proper boy band, and you’re looking at the dullest effort of the night. We would be very surprised if this one took top honours.

Antony Costa – It’s A Beautiful Thing
This has been the hot favourite all week. And we like it. Really, we do. Yet we can’t help thinking it was a tad ruined by Antony’s performance. Not only are we unconvinced by his singing abilities, but there was something so not right about his shiny grey suit and white shoes. They might have looked nice on a member of Duran Duran in 1984 but seemed curiously out of place in a 2006 Eurovision song contest bid – and if he was making an attempt to camp things up a bit, it didn’t work. We still think he might sneak a victory simply because he’s a known name and the song isn’t half bad, but if he does take the title he’s going to have to do a bit better than that in Athens.

In short? Hard to predict a winner on this one although taken purely on what we saw tonight, a battle between Daz and Kym wouldn’t be out of the question. And we’re not ruling out Antony’s chances either. Whatever happens, we’ll know very soon.

Oh, and memo to the member of Team Eurovision who tried to vote for Helena Paparizou following her performance at the show: you can’t….

Second Impressions…

Posted: 22/2/2006 in:

When clips of the UK’s Eurovision hopefuls first surfaced on the BBC website, we were a little disappointed to discover that we could only listen to 30 seconds of each song.

But no sooner had we discovered that Antony Costa and Kym Marsh will be among those making their bid for Athens on March 4, than we came across a place where we could indeed hear all six songs in full. Thanks to Hoteyes.net we’ve now had the chance to listen to the songs, and we don’t mind admitting it’s changed our perceptions a little bit. Here’s what we reckon on first full hearing:

Antony Costa – Beautiful Thing
Likeable and catchy with a memorable chorus, although as we suspected after hearing the first clip, the verses don’t really stick in the mind on first listen.
For It: Sweet and inoffensive can sometimes work wonders on the Eurovision stage (remember Latvia in 2005?). And the fact that Blue were big in Europe could well win Antony a few Eurovision-viewing fans across the continent.
Against It: Might be a bit too bland to really stand out – and his ability as a charismatic live singer has yet to be proven. We weren’t impressed with his singing skills in the jungle – but then again he won’t be attempting to sing during Making Your Mind Up while being pelted with a stream of cockroaches. We’ll reserve judgment until the night.
What It Sounds Like: Jason Donovan circa 1991.

Kym Marsh – Whisper To Me
This is the standout big ballad, and after listening to the entire track our opinion hasn’t changed – we still reckon it’s a solid effort and a genuine contender.
For It: The UK did very well last time it entered a female singer with a ballad, and Kym does have proven singing ability.
Against It: We might have done well with a ballad, but when was the last time one actually won Eurovision? And with very little scope for the visually exciting stage show which has become a staple of the contest, this would have to rely even more on a strong vocal to carry it through.
What It Sounds Like: A slowed-down version of Hold On by Wilson Phillips

Goran Kay – Play Your Game
We weren’t very impressed by the short clip we heard but were taken by surprised by the full version of this track. As the only really uptempo effort it really stands out from the pack – but does it actually sound like it would be at home on a Eurovision stage?
For It: Uptempo songs are in favour at Eurovision at the moment if the winners of the last few years are anything to go by. Flashy stage show could be a distinct possibility too
Against It: Goran is very much an untapped talent – we don’t yet know if he can even sing in tune in his own shower, never mind perform in front of a huge audience and millions of TV viewers.
What It Sounds Like: Jamiroquai crossed with Bosnia’s 2004 effort In The Disco. Then again, that didn’t do so badly…

Four Story – Hand On My Heart
Our least favourite of the pack, simply because it sounds like a million other boyband tracks – it’s sung nicely but just ambles along without really going anywhere.
For It: There’s potential for it to come across well live, depending on whether the boys can handle those harmonies.
Against It: Made very little impression on us, so we can only assume it would have the same effect on Eurovision viewers. Sounds distinctly like the kind of mid-show track that Team Eurovision uses as an opportunity to have a toilet break or stock up on munchies.
What It Sounds Like: Blue meets N*Sync meets Backstreet Boys meets Boyzone meets – oh, you get the idea.

Daz Sampson – Teenage Life
The oddity of the bunch, as we’ve said, and our opinion hasn’t changed from hearing it in full. The only difference now is that against our better judgment, we’re starting to quite like it – at least it’s a bit more distinct and, dare we say, it, contemporary than some of the ballads.
For It: It’s such a radical departure from anything the UK has entered in recent years that it might just work in our favour if this went to Athens – it strikes us as the kind of track that will either sink without trace or do really, really well. Of all the entries it also has the most potential for some flashy stage antics – and given it’s a rap, we don’t have to worry about whether or not Daz can sing live….
Against It: Three words – Love City Groove. That was the UK’s last attempt at sending a rap song to Eurovision and that didn’t bring the contest triumphantly home to Blighty (although admittedly it did finish in the top 10 – just about). In fact, rap’s never been that popular at the contest, if recent efforts by Denmark and Ukraine are anything to go by. True, it could do very well, but we could be looking at another disastrous result if the viewers don’t buy into it. So why is it that certain members of Team Eurovision are being plagued by images of it on the Athens stage – while they can’t picture any of the other entries up there? We’re confused…
What It Sounds Like: Last year’s Ukrainian effort Razom Nas Bohato. Minus the shouting.

City Chix – All About You
Our early favourite, we’re still rooting for this one now we’ve heard the whole thing. Looking forward to seeing it on the night though.
For It: Upbeat and fun without being silly or over-the-top, while the promised bagpipes on the live version will most likely add a touch of quirkiness without actually turning it into a novelty song.
Against It: Once again, we don’t know if they can cut it live – and while the Scottish vote may be guaranteed, the fact the Chix are relatively unknown south of the border (or anywhere else in Europe for that matter) might be a disadvantage.
What It Sounds Like: The Corrs crossed with any number of Estonian efforts from the early part of the decade. This does not, of course, include Everybody.

The UK Makes Up Its Mind

Posted: 17/2/2006 in:

After weeks of rumour and speculation, the artists who’ll be competing in this year’s Making Your Mind Up have been revealed – and there isn’t a Scott-Lee or Chico in sight! The six artists – and songs – who’ll be competing for the chance to represent the UK at Eurovision 2006 are as follows:

Antony Costa – Beautiful Thing
City Chix – All About You
Daz Sampson – Teenage Life
Four Story – Hand On My Heart
Goran Kay – Play Your Game
Kym Marsh – Whisper To Me

In other words, the line-up is a mix of established artists – including ex Blue man-turned jungle celebrity Antony Costa and former Hear’Say star Kym Marsh – alongside relative newcomers Goran Kay and boyband Four Story. Completing the sextet are Daz Simpson, who’s scored UK chart hits with the bands Bus Stop and Uniting Nations, and City Chix, a duo featuring two stars of the BBC Scotland soap River City.

And our first impressions? Well, based on the 30-second clips we’ve heard on the BBC website it seems that we’re playing it very safe this year – no sign of any of the middle-eastern influences or faux operatics of 2005’s Making Your Mind Up. Instead, we have a bunch of ballads and mid-tempo efforts, with only Goran offering something a bit more upbeat. Although it’s hard to tell from such a short clip, these are our initial thoughts:

Antony Costa: Pleasant enough but a bit forgettable. A possible contender, depending on how he performs on the night.

Daz Sampson: The genuine oddity of the bunch, reminding us of Ukraine’s 2005 rap effort, only with a children’s choir thrown in. Downright bizarre, to the point that it’ll either crash and burn or go all the way – but surely the kiddie backing band might be a problem, given we were under the impression you had to be over 16 to take part in Eurovision?

Four Story: If they can pull it off, this ballad could sound really good on stage, but the song itself is a little bland, meaning they’re going to have to work much harder to make it stand out.

Goran Kay: The fact it’s the only uptempo number of the bunch may give it more of a chance – but it just doesn’t sound very Eurovision friendly to us. Once again, we’ll have to wait and see how it comes across on the night.

Kym Marsh: We weren’t expecting great things from this but were pleasantly surprised – it’s a decent enough ballad, which could well nab top honours if she gives a good performance.

City Chix: This seems to be an early favourite among Eurovision fans, and to be honest we’d have to agree. Not only is it catchy and likeable, but apparently it features bagpipes, giving it more of a distinctive twist without being gimmicky. Provided the Chix can deliver on the night, and provided the British public sees fit to vote on the basis of the song, rather than just going for an artist they’ve heard of, this could be the one to beat.

Whatever happens, we’ll find out on March 4….

We love Ron’s Eurovision!

Posted: 27/11/2005 in:

How many times has Team Eurovision found itself wishing there were a website where they could hear all those contest classics from the past? Well, the good news is that we’ve found one!

Ron’s Eurovision is a fan’s dream – not only is packed full of Eurovision info, history, pictures and other fascinating facts, but for £10 a month you can have access to the site’s MP3 database, where you can indeed download and listen to every song that’s ever set foot on a Eurovision stage.

Of course, having extensively researched the site (we had to, you understand), Team Eurovision can now confirm what it’s feared all along – namely that a lot of the Euro-flops of the past few decades weren’t very good at all! But it’s also given us a chance to revisit some of the gems of contests past – so far our highlights include:

A pair of favourites from the 1980 contest (the first one many of Team Eurovision clearly remembers) – namely Luxembourg’s Le Papa Pengouin and Germany’s runner-up Theater

Some of the Maltese and Israeli tracks from the early 70s (previously unheard by Team Eurovision in some cases)

Germany’s 1979 ‘classic’ Gschingis Kahn in full (although the novelty of hearing this has somewhat worn off from seeing it on countless clip shows)

The best of the ‘nul pointers’ – our current favourite for sheer awfulness is Finland’s 1982 stinker Nuku Pommin (a song which makes Jemini’s Cry Baby seem positively competent by comparison)

A trio of efforts from the 80s Danish duo Hot Eyes (quite how they lost to the Herreys in 1984 is beyond us) – and sticking with 1984, some seriously dodgy mid-80s lyrics (listen to the entire Irish entry Terminal Three for evidence)

Our realisation that 2002 is probably the best year in recent Eurovision memory – who could forget Spain’s fabulous Europe’s Living A Celebration, Estonia’s shamelessly poppy Runaway, Germany’s I Can’t Live Without Music (great on record, very disappointing on stage), Malta’s charming Seventh Wonder, Greece’s insane SAGAPO (which was put into an unexpected early lead simply because Cyprus got to vote first), and the UK’s big ballad Come Back (which marked the last time we did really well in the contest – take note organisers, perhaps we should try for a similar song next year?). And having listened to it again, we’re even prepared to admit that Latvia’s I Wanna was a worthy winner (we’re just bitter after all this time because we didn’t put a bet on it!)

While you do have to pay for the privilege of hearing all these songs, the database is so comprehensive that Team Eurovision has decided it’s well worth the money. Although we should point out that if you’re a Eurovision fan then this fantastic site can become very addictive, very quickly. Don’t say you haven’t been warned….

Jolly Good Show!

Posted: 23/10/2005 in:

It came as a surprise to absolutely none of Team Eurovision when Abba’s Waterloo was voted the best Eurovision song of all time at last night’s 50th anniversary special Congratulations.

The track, which swept to victory for Sweden in the 1974 contest, fought off competition in a public vote from 13 other songs at the show in Copenhagen. Runner-up was Italy’s 1958 entry Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (aka Volare), originally sung by Domenico Modugno, while Johnny Logan’s 1987 winner Hold Me Now took third place.

Brotherhood Of Man’s Save Your Kisses For Me, which won in 1976, and this year’s winner, Helena Paparizou’s My Number One, also made the final stage of the voting, which saw the 14 songs whittled down to a top five.

Only a handful of the top 14 were actually performed on stage by the original singers, with Dana International, The Olsen Brothers, Johnny Logan, Sertab Erener and Helena Paparizou among those who made their presence known. Each song was introduced by a Eurovision veteran (including Lys Assia, the very first winner of the contest for Switzerland in 1956), and the original performance was shown on a big screen, accompanied by a Pan’s People-like collective of dancers.

Fronted by Katrina Leskanich (of ‘And The Waves’ fame) and Renars Kaupers (frontman of 2000’s Latvian entrants Brainstorm and co-presenter of 2003’s contest in Riga), the show was a spirited affair.

Since the BBC decided not to show it, Team Eurovision had to resort to watching the Spanish coverage on TVE (via Sky Digital), which also meant having to sit through the over-enthusiastic Spanish commentary – so enthusiastic in fact that it actually drowned out a lot of what Katrina and Renars were saying. They managed to shut up during some of the songs but annoyingly also talked through the montages of clips from contests gone by (which was a shame, as it would’ve been nice to have heard some of those obscure songs again).

That said, this was a great, if overlong, nostalgia trip which offered a welcome chance to see some of those long-forgotten Eurovision favourites again – and also see how different some of those past winners looked (thumbs up to the organisers as well for squeezing in a clip of our past favourites Baccara). If nothing else, it gave us something to plug the Eurovision-free gap between one contest and another. And for that, at least, we’re grateful.

Song reviews – Bosnia and Herzegovina and France

Posted: 16/5/2005 in:

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Song: Call Me
Artist: Femminem
One of the first Eastern European countries to make their appearance in Eurovision after the fall of the Berlin wall, Bosnia have yet to score the victory that has been afforded some of their Eastern European neighbours – but it’s quite possible that all that could change this year. When Team Eurovision first heard this bright, bouncy, shamelessly upbeat number from the female trio Femminem, our initial thought was that it was about 20 years out of date – had this been the 1986 contest, the Bosnians would be looking at a landslide victory, but these days? Not a hope in hell. But the more we hear it, the more we think that it’s rather a clever choice of song. OK, so it’s cheesier than an entire rack of Edam, it has a chorus that wouldn’t be out of place on an S Club 7 greatest hits album, and the lyrics, to be honest, are a load of old tat. But even in these ethnic-fuelled, contemporary pop-filled days of Eurovision, clichéd-as-hell songs like this have a habit of doing very well indeed – remember Take Me To Your Heaven, Sweden’s bright n’ breezy 1999 winner? So while on the surface Call Me might be daft as a brush, its simplicity is actually its major selling point – it’s a very catchy little number that first-time listeners will remember, and that will doubtless strike a chord with older viewers who can’t quite work out where all the jolly tunes have gone – and coming so late in the running order, especially after the less than memorable Russian song can only improve its chances. We still think there are songs in the contest that are more likely to win – and there are certainly songs we would much prefer to see win – but like it or not, we have a sneaking suspicion this is going to do very well indeed.

FRANCE
Song: Chacun Pense A Soi
Artist: Ortal
And here it is – after weeks of heavy-duty listening, late nights slaving over the keyboard and general arguments about the merits of Ireland over Bulgaria, we finally come to the last song in the competition. But is the contest destined to end with a bang or a whimper? Well, somewhere in between as it happens. The honour of closing proceedings falls to France, who as one of the Big Four countries have the honour of being in the final every year no matter how badly they do. Their track record has been variable recently, to say the least – a couple of brushes with the top five, a couple more with the bottom end of the scoreboard – and an alarming tendency to enter what sounds like the same song every year, a moody ballad sung by an equally moody looking young thing. But this year – shock horror – they’ve actually tried something different. For one thing their entrant, Ortal is actually Israeli – for another, Chacun Pense A Soi (Everybody Thinks Of Themselves) is an uptempo disco number (and who can remember the last time France entered one of those? We can’t). However, just because it’s different doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any good. Chacun Pense A Soi is pleasant enough, and Ortal has a nice clear voice, but there’s something wholly underwhelming about the whole thing – it’s solid rather than spectacular. And the fact that it’s performed right after the last semi-final qualifier leaves it at a disadvantage too, since we don’t yet know what that qualifier is going to be – if it’s one of the favourites, such as Iceland or Hungary, the results could be disastrous for France. In short, this one looks likely to be swiftly forgotten as all across Europe viewers rush to put the kettle on before the voting kicks in.

Song reviews – Greece and Russia

Posted: 15/5/2005 in:

GREECE
Song: You’re My Number One
Artist: Helena Paparizou
Maybe we’ve said this about a lot of countries already, but isn’t it about time Greece actually won this contest? They’ve come very close in recent years, losing out to Estonia in 2001 with Antique’s fabulous (I Would) Die For You, and of course who could forget Sakis Rouvas’ hip-wiggling antics in Istanbul last year with the catchy Shake It – which put up a brave fight but ultimately couldn’t fight off the combined powers of Ukraine and Serbia? This year they’re going into the contest as hot favourites, with You’re My Number One – sung by Antique’s frontwoman Paparizou – but can they live up to expectations? Well, as far as we’re concerned this is one of the few sure things in what’s shaping up to be a very unpredictable contest – and in a year where most countries have opted either for contemporary pop or something a bit more ethnic-sounding, Greece have cannily plumped for an upbeat song which combines both. You’re My Number One is not only insanely catchy, with a chorus that lodges in your brain and refuses to go away, but it also throws in a whole bunch of big booming drums, ethnic violins and Mediterranean sounds, resulting in one of the handful of songs in the contest that makes an instant impact. On the down side, it’s been a long time since the favourite actually won Eurovision, and we can’t help thinking that it’s a bit too much of an obvious winner (which could be a disadvantage, given the Eurovision audience’s fondness for picking unlikely champions in recent years) – but it’s bound to go down a storm on the night, and those who are hearing the songs for the first time at the contest are unlikely to forget this one in a hurry. In short, it’s one of the strongest contenders, and certainly Greece’s best effort in years. At least when it gets its 12 points from Cyprus this year it’ll be entirely justified.

RUSSIA
Song: Nobody Hurt No-One
Artist: Natalya Podolskaya
Russia are yet another one of those relative Eurovision newcomers who (like Bosnia and Croatia) have performed perfectly respectably without actually scoring a victory yet. The closest they came was in 2000 when Alsou’s Britney soundalike Solo came second, only to be felled by Denmark’s Olsen Brothers with Fly On The Wings Of Love (we much preferred Alsou and thought she should have won, but that’s beside the point). And two years ago they grabbed more headlines than any other participant when they were represented by teenage chart-toppers Tatu, although the pair eventually came third with Ne Ver, Ne Bojsia. Impressively, they’ve also managed to avoid relegation over the past few years (even scraping the top ten with 2002’s Northern Girl, by ‘boy band’ Prime Minister), and automatically qualified for this year’s final by the skin of their teeth after finishing 11th last year with Believe Me (the presence of ‘big Four’ nations Germany and Spain in the top ten in 2004 ensured their place). But we reckon that 2005 is where their lucky streak ends. Nobody Hurt No-One (possibly the most grammatically dodgy title in the entire contest – surely it should be Nobody Hurt Anyone?) follows in the rocky footsteps of Germany and Switzerland, although it’s a tad more contemporary – try and imagine Russia’s answer to Avril Lavigne and you’ll get the idea. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t exactly scream ‘winner’ – and with stronger rock tracks from the likes of Norway and Switzerland (both of which are expected to qualify for the final) and its position in the running order just after the strongly fancied Greece, it’s quite likely to get lost altogether. Oh well, there’s always next year’s semi-final.

Song reviews – Ukraine and Germany

Posted: in:

UKRAINE
Song: Razom Nas Bohato
Artist: Greenjolly
And so we come to the host country, a performance that will doubtless induce mass hysteria in Kiev’s Palats Sportu when it takes to the stage. Host countries always have a habit of doing very well indeed at Eurovision – last year, for example, Turkey came fourth with Athena’s bouncy, ska-inspired For Real, while Estonia’s Runaway tussled with the UK’s Jessica Garlick for third place in Tallinn in 2002. The only recent exception to this rule was Latvia’s Hello From Mars, which scored just a handful of points in the 2003 contest (we cannot for the life of us think why, since there were plenty of far worse songs that year). This year, however, we can’t help thinking that Ukraine’s effort is going to go the way of the unfortunate Latvians a couple of years back. Greenjolly’s rap tune has already created controversy – a surprise winner of the national final, it was also the unofficial ‘anthem’ of last year’s Orange Revolution (the one which led to a re-run of the country’s elections and Victor Yuschenko eventually becoming president), and in its original form contained some rather political lyrics (not least the band yelling “Yuschenko! Yuschenko!” repeatedly to get their point across). However, Eurovision organisers decided that just wasn’t on – this not being a political contest – and demanded they rewrote it. So what do we have instead? Well, minus the impactful words, what remains is a rather naff rap that might distinguish itself from sounding totally different to everything else that’s on offer but still sounds harsh and repetitive, and really doesn’t work. It may well pick up quite a few points simply from the fact that it’s Ukraine and the contest is taking place there, but the fact that in the betting it’s one of the lowest ranked host countries for years is quite telling. On the strength of this, a return to Kiev next year looks highly unlikely.

GERMANY
Song: Run and Hide
Artist: Gracia
Germany are one of those countries you always expect to have done a lot better at Eurovision than they actually have. In fact, they’ve only ever won the contest once – in 1982, when the winsome teenager Nicole swept to victory with A Little Peace (which also topped the charts in the UK). They’ve come close in recent years, but to no avail, although personally we’ve enjoyed their approach in recent years – half the time we’ve been convinced they are just having a laugh rather than trying to take it seriously, and they’ve certainly provided some of the most entertaining Eurovision moments of the past decade. After all, who could forget Guildo Horn, in his crushed velvet turquoise suit, clambering all over the lighting rigs on stage, or Stefan Raab’s jacket lighting up (while the rest of the auditorium was plunged into darkness) during their 2000 entry Wadde Hadde Dudde Da? This year, however, they’re remining steadfastly straight-faced. Gracia hit the big time on the German version of Pop Idol Deutschland Sucht Den Superstar and Run And Hide has already been a chart hit over there. It’s something of a throwback to the Poodle Rock genre – the kind of uptempo ballad beloved of Pure/Soft/Precious Metal Rock Chick compilations. It’s all there - a smoky vocal with emotive yelping on the chorus, plus a slowish tempo lifted by a guitar riff vaguely reminiscent of Van Halen’s Why Can’t This Be Love? Lyrically, it’s standard fare too – one-time woman-who-loves-too-much decides enough’s enough, although she still feels pangs about the bad boy she’s finally giving the elbow. Curiously, the last straw appears to be the 25 dollars she’s just paid to get him out of trouble - just how pants a criminal would he have to be to warrant bail being set at such a derisory level? Not abysmal by any means, but a tad forgettable.

Song reviews – Serbia and Montenegro and Sweden

Posted: 12/5/2005 in:

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
Song: Forever Mine
Artist: No Name
Serbia and Montenegro made an impressive debut at Eurovision 2004, entering the beautiful ballad Lane Moje and coming pretty close to snatching victory from under Ruslana’s leather-clad nose. Which of course means that they’re automatically into the final this year – but can they possibly go one better with their sophomore effort. Well, to be honest, we think not. Like last year’s effort, Forever Mine is both ethnic and dramatic in tone – kicking off with big bombastic orchestrals (putting Team Eurovision in mind of the theme from Black Beauty for some reason) the track then resorts to mournful fiddles, over-the-top orchestrals and some emotive singing from No Name – yet it left us completely cold. In a contest full of ethnic harmonies, this one stands out as being the dullest of the lot – something which the band can’t possibly disguise despite their best efforts to make the whole thing sound epic. There’s a possibility it might work better on stage than on CD – and of course the country’s status as a former Yugoslavian nation may result in some love from the neighbouring territories – let’s hope so for their sake, otherwise you can expect to see Serbia booted straight back into the semi-final.

SWEDEN
Song: Las Vegas
Artist: Martin Stenmarck
Sweden are of course one of the most successful Eurovision performers of all time, winning the contest four times and bringing the world Abba – and they’ve managed over the past decade to avoid both relegation and the semi-final. With such a pedigree, we’ve come to expect a certain degree of quality from them when it comes to Eurovision entries, especially given the back-to-back fabulousness of Fame’s Give Me Your Love in 2003 and Lena Philipsson’s It Hurts in 2004. So what do they have for us this year? Well, overlooking the fact that Martin Stenmarck is a firm favourite with Team Eurovision’s female contingent (which alone is enough to give him a top five placing in our book!) Las Vegas is a cheeky showtune-style number which takes a rapid romp through the gambling capital of the world. It suffers from some seriously naff lyrics – Stenmarck tells us he’s ‘got a room at the Mandalay Bay’ (silly boy! Doesn’t he realise the Mandalay Bay is miles away from the rest of the hotels on the Las Vegas strip?) and goes on about ‘picking a fight’ with other visitors, and is as cheesy as hell but it’s actually rather good fun. And as silly as the whole thing is, we have no doubt that Stenmarck will deliver a great performance on the night, thus sealing Sweden’s path into the final for another year. At the very least we’ll enjoy watching him strut his stuff on the night.

Song reviews – Cyprus and Spain

Posted: 8/5/2005 in:

CYPRUS
Song: Ela Ela (Come Baby)
Artist: Constantinos
Although they’ve yet to score a victory in Eurovision, Cyprus haven’t done too badly of late, notably last year when Kent-born singer Lisa Andreas came fifth with the rather sweet ballad Stronger Every Minute. Given their notoriety for political voting (‘and the 12 points go to our good friends Greece…..’) and vice versa), it’s nice to see them getting into the top ten on their own merits for a change – but what of this year’s entry. Well actually we rather like it, in spite of its uncanny resemblance to last year’s Greek effort Shake It (crossed, bafflingly, with K7’s mid-90s hit Come Baby Come). And Constantinos himself (who entered the contest in 2002 as part of Cypriot boy band One) has certainly scored a few brownie points with Team Eurovision’s female contingent. The problem is though, that as we’ve said so many times already, there’s an awful lot of ethno-pop this year – and this is just one of the crowd, and while it’s certainly likeable and will doubtless be entertaining on the night, it’s also trapped right in the middle of a long run of ethnic and Mediterranean flavoured pop. Under those circumstances, we can’t see it standing out enough to score anything higher than a mid-table placing. Shame, because we’d like to see it do well.

SPAIN
Song: Brujera (Witchcraft)
Artist: Son de Sol
Just how many girl groups are there in Eurovision this year? There’s Estonia, Switzerland (via Estonia, since that’s where their entrants Vanilla Ninja hail from), Bosnia (later on in the contest) and now we have the female trio Son de Sol, representing Spain. And to be honest, this is another one of those entries we really can’t make up our minds about. Quite aside from its uncanny resemblance to that ‘classic’ Spanish hit The Ketchup Song, it’s an altogether peculiar little number, all frantic vocals and tinkly xylophone (and a shouty bloke who shows up for no reason in the middle). We can’t work out if we like it or not – we weren’t at all impressed at first but that hasn’t stopped us from breaking into spontaneous dancing and hand gestures whenever we hear it. A grower, in other words, which is fine if you’ve had the chance to listen to all the songs repeatedly but given it’ll be first impressions that count on the night (when much of the viewing public will be hearing the songs for the first time), this doesn’t bode too well for Spain. Of course, being one of the Big Four countries that’s automatically guaranteed a place in the finals each year, they don’t have to worry so much about reaching the top ten – but they have done quite a bit in recent years. This time around, however, we’re not so sure.

Song reviews – Turkey and Albania

Posted: 6/5/2005 in:

TURKEY
Song: Rimi Rimi Ley
Artist: Gulseren
Following a run of sub-standard efforts, Turkey took everybody (except for the astute minds at Team Eurovision, that is) by surprise when they swept to victory in the 2003 contest with Sertab’s fabulous Every Way That I Can. Having performed in a manner befitting for a host country last year, coming fourth with Athena’s For Real, many are now tipping them to drop comfortably back into the lower reaches of the scoreboard this year and seal their place in the 2006 semi-final. But Team Eurovision isn’t quite so sure. Granted, the Rimi Rimi Ley may sound as though it’s waltzed straight off the set of a Bollywood movie (Bride and Prejudice springs immediately to mind), but there’s something rather infectious about it – and what’s more, it’s the kind of track which will doubtless lend itself to a spectacular stage show on the night – which, in this performance-driven Eurovision era, may give the Turks a distinct advantage come voting time. Personally, we love the offbeat feel of this track and reckon it could be one of this year’s ‘dark horses’ – in other words, a track that does a lot better than everybody’s predicting. Let’s hope so.

ALBANIA
Song: Tomorrow I Go
Artist: Ledina Celo
If we’re being honest, few people really expected Albania to make their mark on Eurovision when they made their debut last year. Except for Team Eurovision that is, who immediately spotted that their entry, The Image Of You, was a cracking track that would do very well indeed – and so it did, breezing through the semi-final and scoring a very respectable seventh place on the night itself. But how can they follow it up? Well, we’re not sure they can actually. Tomorrow I Go was the first song to be selected for this year’s contest, with the Albanian national final all done and dusted before Christmas – but getting in there early isn’t necessarily a sign of quality. It’s another entry into the ever-increasing canon of ethnic pop that seems to be dominating this year’s contest, and as it stands is perfectly pleasant – but there’s very little about this track that makes it stand out from the pack, and its position in the contest, coming so soon after Turkey’s striking effort and so near Mediterranean sounding tracks from Cyprus and Spain, is potentially disastrous. Much as we’d like to see Albania qualify for 2006, we have a feeling this is going to get buried under the mound of similar tracks jostling for attention this year. Which is a shame, but we’re sure they’ll bounce back in 2006.

Song reviews – UK and Malta

Posted: 2/5/2005 in:

UK
Song: Touch My Fire
Artist: Javine
Since the now infamous ‘nul points’ incident of 2003 the UK’s presence in Eurovision has become a bit of a standing joke. Bookies no longer make them the hot favourites to win, while fans and non-fans alike make wry comments about the Iraq war and political voting (never mind the fact that Jemini were seriously out of tune on the night and the song wasn’t much good to start with) and our general uselessness when it comes to all things Eurovision.
Somehow the fact that the UK remains one of the most successful countries in the contest’s history seems to have been all but forgotten. While Team Eurovision has a sense of humour (and let’s face it, to get through this contest you need one) we can’t help thinking that the ‘nul points’ joke has been taken just a little too far. Fair enough, the reason we haven’t done too well of late is because we’ve had a run of pretty duff songs, but let’s not forget it’s also harder to win the contest now because so many more countries take part (many of whom, as proven by the recent run of East European winners, are pretty good at it too). With the right song and the right performance, there’s no reason why we can’t triumph again in the future – and we’ve got no doubt it will happen at some point. And last year the UK did the right thing by picking James Fox’s gentle ballad Hold On To Our Love – it wasn’t a strong effort by any means but it was bland and harmless enough for us to avoid total embarrassment in Istanbul.

But what of this year? Well, if one good thing has come out of the whole Jemini debacle it’s that UK performers no longer boast quite so loudly about how they’ll bring the contest back to Blighty – and indeed Javine has remained refreshingly non-committal about her chances so far. But Team Eurovision actually thinks this is our strongest effort since Jessica Garlick’s Come Back in 2002 (which finished a very respectable joint third) – and with a good performance it could do a lot better than cynics are predicting. True, Javine is going to have to work hard to impress given she is on so early in the competition, but she is at least a singer with a proven track record and it’s a decent, catchy pop tune that’s clearly been inspired by the recent run of ethnic-flavoured hopefuls (aside from anything else, she isn’t Jordan, and for that alone we can be grateful). If we’re being honest, we don’t think she’ll win. But we wouldn’t rule out her sneaking into the lower reaches of the top ten, if she does a good job on the night. If nothing else, Touch My Fire should claw back some of the credibility the UK lost by sending Jemini to Riga.

MALTA
Song: Angel
Artist: Chiara
We’ll be honest – of all this year’s Eurovision entries, this is possibly the one we were least looking forward to hearing. It’s not that we don’t like Malta – if anything they’re the country we’d most like to see win the contest in the near future, since they have an almost fanatical devotion to Eurovision and it’s about time they scored a victory. And let’s not forget, they’ve given us some of the most entertaining songs of recent years, culminating in 2004’s terrific On Again Off Again. No, our total lack of anticipation for this year’s offering has everything to do with the return of Chiara – the Maltese answer to Michelle McManus – who we didn’t care for that much when she represented them in 1998 (as we’ve mentioned before, her big ballad The One I Love lost out to Israel at the very end of the contest and she looked none too happy about it). This year, true to form, she’s gone for yet another schmaltzy slow number – and yet, to our immense surprise, we actually don’t mind it that much. OK, so it’s entirely as we predicted – all soppy lyrics and (heaven forbid) Celine Dion-esque flourishes – but it’s oddly sweet and lilting, thanks to a smattering of flute and a backing track that stays simple and sparse rather than attempting to go for the big overwrought finish. We wouldn’t go so far as to say we liked it, but it’s not nearly as bad as we had feared, and it’s certainly a good deal better than some of the other ballads in the contest. But could it give Malta that all-elusive win? Sadly for Chiara, we think she may once again be left standing in the green room looking a bit bereft – for one thing she faces competition on the ballad front from the Netherlands and Israel (both with very strong songs by female soloists), for another it’s just a little bit too old-fashioned for its own good. But a top five placing is a distinct possibility. At the very least, it may have a sparkling future as opening dance music at Maltese weddings for years to come.

Song reviews – Ireland and Slovenia

Posted: 30/4/2005 in:

IRELAND
Song: Love
Artist: Donna and Joseph McCaul
Ah, Ireland. The most successful country in the entire history of Eurovision, they’ve won the contest seven times (four times in the 90s alone), as well as spawning two-time winner Johnny Logan (and let us not forget he also wrote 1992’s victor, Linda Martin’s Why Me?). But lately they haven’t been doing quite so well – they scored a top ten placing in 2000, and they scraped through to last year’s final – but a disastrous 2004 saw them finishing second from bottom with their drab ballad If My World Stopped Turning – and only the generosity of the UK ensured they scored any points at all. Thus the grandes dames of the Eurovision stage find themselves in the position of having to get through the semi-final first – and frankly we’re not sure they can do it. Love? is a downright bizarre effort – at first you think it’s going to be another big Irish ballad, but after a few seconds it swerves (rather abruptly, we thought) into uptempo territory, complete with some rather bitter lyrics about the downside of falling in love and some seriously shouty vocals from the McCaul siblings. Hard to know what to make of it, ultimately – it could squeeze through the semis purely on the strength of it being Ireland, but we’re inclined to think they’ll miss out on the final this year. As 2004 proved being all-time Eurovision champions doesn’t automatically guarantee you’ll do well all the time.

SLOVENIA
Song: Stop
Artist: Omar Naber
As if the Irish song wasn’t odd enough, here’s another semi-finalist that’s left us scratching our heads in bewilderment. Slovenia remain one of the few Eastern European countries (along with Macedonia) who have yet to make much of an impact on Eurovision, and we’re not sure they’re going to have much luck this year either. Stop, performed in Slovene by the undeniably pretty Naber, starts off well enough – in fact, it stands out as one of the more powerful ballads of the semis, with a gentle beginning that builds to the inevitable big chorus. Yet suddenly it rocks out completely, opting for squealing, noisy guitars that seem hellbent on drowning out Naber’s vocals and all but ruin what might otherwise have been a good solid entry. We can’t work out if it’s brilliant or just a horrible racket – and while we’ve made up our minds about most of this year’s semi-finalists by now, a big question mark hangs over this one for us. Will it get through to the final? We honestly don’t know – ask us again on May 20.

Song reviews – Denmark and Poland

Posted: 27/4/2005 in:

DENMARK
Song: Talking To You
Artist: Jacob Sveistrup
As far as Team Eurovision is concerned, Denmark were one of the countries who were unfairly robbed of a place in last year’s Eurovision final. Shame On You might not have been potential winner material but it was certainly strong enough to take its place on the finals stage alongside some of the others that did make it through (Croatia’s Chris de Burgh lookalike, for example). This year, however, we can say with all confidence that Denmark really shouldn’t be allowed to proceed beyond the semi-final stage – because Talking To You (which astonishingly fought off competition from previous Eurovision winners the Olsen Brothers to have the chance to represent Denmark) is quite simply one of the worst songs in the semi-final. It’s the kind of mid-paced audible wallpaper which suggests that the composer listened to every one of the faceless, bland boy bands that were in the habit of clogging up the charts in the late 80s (imagine Curiosity Killed The Cat, Johnny Hates Jazz, Climie Fisher and Living In A Box rolled into one glorious whole and you’ll get the idea). What’s really baffling us is that we can’t understand why we dislike it so much – but it could be something to do with the fact that Denmark have been one of the most consistently entertaining countries in Eurovision over the past couple of decades, and we just know they can do a lot better than this. Still, the fact we were so spectacularly off the mark with last year’s prediction can only be good news for the Danes – knowing our luck, they’ll probably go through to the final.

POLAND
Song: Czarna Dziewczyna (Black Haired Girl)
Artist: Ivan and Delfin
The task of rounding off this year’s semi-final falls to Poland – whose entry, performed in their tongue twisting native language, is a real love-it-or-loathe-it affair. Team Eurovision’s verdict? Well, personally we love it to bits. There are a lot of ethnic-flavoured entries in this year’s contest – but few are as manic and downright demented as this bit of straightforward, no-nonsense gypsy music, which kicks off at a frantic pace and barely lets up (except for a few brief seconds towards the end). There are some incomprehensible lyrics in there too, but Ivan and Delfin quickly give up on those in favour of an endless stream of ‘lai lai lai’s’. This does of course do nothing to convince Eurovision sceptics that the songwords have improved in recent years – but when entries are this much fun, who cares? In terms of its chances – well, we’re being realistic here, the Poles are ranked as outsiders at the bookies and to be honest have a cat’s chance in hell of being crowned Eurovision champions 2005. But we would absolutely love it if they were to make it through to the final – and we certainly wouldn’t rule out their chances. For one thing, it’s one of the most original, fresh songs in the line-up, for another it’s the last song to be performed in the semi-final, meaning it’ll be fresh in people’s minds when they pick up the phone. We’re keeping everything crossed for them. Just one question though – since Ivan and Delfin claim to be a trio, we’re just wondering what the third member of the group is called. And, perhaps? Not that it matters what their name is when their song is as fabulous as this.

Song review - Bulgaria

Posted: 21/4/2005 in:

BULGARIA
Song: Lorrain
Artist: Kaffe
Every so often a Eurovision entry comes along that is so monumentally awful that it even makes die-hard fans of the contest want to weep in despair – and such is the case with the debut effort from Bulgaria. Along with Moldova, they’re one of two countries making their first appearance this year. But while their fellow newcomers have opted for a quirky, very likeable bit of pop rock, Bulgaria have chosen to make their mark with a ballad so creaky and dated sounding that it actually makes some of the contest’s other outsiders (Belgium and Portugal for example), look like masterpieces of modern songwriting. What Team Eurovision can gather from this is that it’s a profound little number about remembering a girl called ‘Lorrain’ in ‘the rain’, and the result is quite comically bad – or at least it would have been if we could have brought ourselves to listen to it more than once. While the debate over which country might win this year’s contest continues to rage, there appears to be one thing which pundits, fans and bookies all agree on this year – the fact that Bulgaria, for all their best efforts, are hot favourites to finish last. Whether they can go one better and actually achieve the much-coveted ‘nul points’ accolade remains to be seen, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed for them. Must try harder next year, chaps.

Song reviews – Switzerland and Croatia

Posted: 20/4/2005 in:

SWITZERLAND
Song: Cool Vibes
Artist: Vanilla Ninja
And so to the second Estonian girl group in the contest – this time representing Switzerland, in an effort to revive the flagging fortunes of the first ever Eurovision winners. The Swiss used to be very very good at Eurovision indeed – their last triumph coming in 1988 when a then unknown Celine Dion beat the UK by just one point with her track Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi (Dion has of course gone on to sell out arenas all around the world and generally drive people to distraction with her Titanic theme). However recent efforts have been nothing short of disastrous, culminating in last year when Pietro and the Allstars scored a big fat nul points with Celebrate (except it was in the semi-final so nobody noticed). And so on to the 2005 effort – and we have to say that of all the Eurovision entries we’ve heard so far this one has surprised us the most. When your band has a name like Vanilla Ninja and your song is called Cool Vibes, you can’t help expecting to hear a happy, poppy Beach Boys kind of track – yet it’s been a long time since something sounded so unlike what we were expecting. Far from being bright and sunny, this starts slow, before building into epic choral harmonies and finally rocking out completely – sounding for all the world like a Jim (Meat Loaf) Steinman song might sound if it were performed by someone like Pat Benatar (it also reminds us a bit of 80s rockers Heart only without the enormous hair). That said, it’s actually very good indeed – the fact we’ve been unable to get it out of our collective Team Eurovision head since we heard it is testament to just how well it works, despite catching us by surprise. Expect to see this one in the final, and expect to see Switzerland making their mark on the leader board come finals night. It’s one of the favourites to win the contest, and we certainly wouldn’t rule out that possibility.

CROATIA
Song: Vokovi Umiri Sami
Artist: Boris Novkovic featuring Lado Members
And so, the Team Eurovision award for longest and most complicated title in this year’s contest falls to Croatia (although we understand they’ll be singing in English on the night, although no-one’s actually told us what it means in English yet and since our Croatian is a little rusty we won’t attempt to translate it). We’re just as tempted to say that this is likely to be the only award to even come within sniffing distance of this song, an ethno-folksy number which is oddly reminiscent of last year’s Serbian runner-up, only not nearly as good. That said, Croatia have a habit of doing very well at Eurovision (even though they’ve yet to actually win the contest), and they managed to get through to the final in 2004 even though their song wasn’t actually that good. Every year, there is one song which always does far better than everybody thinks it will, and much as we would love it to be Moldova this year, we have a sneaking suspicion that it’ll be this one (even though we have to admit it’s not one of our favourites). Like many of 2005’s borderline semi-finalists (Lithuania, Romania etc.) we’ll be watching it with interest come May 19th.

Song reviews – FYR Macedonia and Andorra

Posted: in:

FYR MACEDONIA
Song: Make My Day
Artist: Martin Vucic
Macedonia (or the Former Yugoslavian Republic Of Macedonia, to give them their full title), are a bit of an odd one in Eurovision terms. They’re one of the few Eastern European countries to make any real kind of impact on the contest, and yet despite gamely trying each year they’ve yet to come up with anything that’s not crashingly average. Last year they were one of the surprise finalists in the contest and despite giving it their all on the night, slipped straight back into the semi-final (one of the few semi-final qualifiers from last year to do so). And we suspect that’s exactly what’ll happen this year. Make My Day isn’t a bad tune – it’s just unmemorable, unremarkable Balkan disco (as done far better by plenty of other performers). They’ll have to be even luckier this year than they were in 2004 if they want to stand a chance of qualifying. Still, they can take comfort in the fact that whether they make it to the final or not, they still have one of the prettiest flags in the contest – which is at least some consolation.

ANDORRA
Song: La Mirada Interior (The Inner Glance)
Artist: Marian de Wal
Andorra made their debut in the contest last year, scored only 12 points in the semi-finals (all of them from their Spanish neighbours, curiously enough) and slunk away quietly. This year’s effort, performed by Dutch singer de Wal, is a serious one indeed – not quite ballad, nor uptempo stomper, it sounds a bit like a slowed-down, Catalan version of Wild Dances. It’s a grower, that’s for certain, (Team Eurovision wasn’t at all impressed when we first heard it, but now we quite like it), but we’re still not convinced it’s strong enough to score that all-important place in the final – and bearing in mind that a large percentage of the audience will be hearing these songs for the first time on the night of the semi-final, delivering a song which is a grower rather than instantly likeable may not work in Andorra’s favour. The fact it’s on right after Macedonia’s profoundly average effort may give it a boost, but we still think its chances of making the top ten are pretty slim.

Song reviews – Hungary and Finland

Posted: 18/4/2005 in:

HUNGARY
Song: Forogj Vilaj (Spin The World)
Artist: NOX
When we confidenly declared, in an earlier entry, that Iceland’s Selma was cities ahead of the competition, we hadn’t of course heard all of the competition. Given the unquestionably fickle nature of Team Eurovision, we knew it was only going to be a matter of time before something came along we rated just as highly as, if not more highly, than Iceland, and sure enough, just five songs later, here it is. Hungary haven’t taken part in the contest since 1998, but their comeback has been well worth the wait – from its opening bars of medieval-style flute accompanied by what sounds like a didgeridoo (but probably isn’t), it proceeds to throw everything bar the Hungarian kitchen sink into the space of its three minutes – from East European gypsy and Jewish influences through to a spot of drumming and clapping that could easily have waltzed off the set of Riverdance. The video, featuring extras in national costume and a row of dancers dressed as Hasidic Jews, is even better. It’s fair to say, there’s an awful lot of this kind of thing in the contest this year – almost too much, if we’re being honest – and the song’s already attracting comparisons to Wild Dances, which might be a disadvantage on the night if the voting public is in the mood for something a bit different. But the sheer exuberance of Hungary’s entry – to say nothing of the fact it’s not being sung in English, meaning it actually sounds like an authentic East European folk tune – sets it apart from the crop. It is, in short, quirky, catchy and so infectious you’ll want to hear it over and over again. By which time you will of course have decided that not only is it a very safe bet for the final, but the prospect of Budapest 2006 is actually a very real one.

FINLAND
Song: Why
Artist: Geir Ronning
Hungary is undoubtedly going to be a hard act to follow, and the unfortunate lot falls to Finland, whose track record in this contest rivals Portugal for sheer awfulness – it’s the 39th time they’ll have taken part, yet the best they’ve ever done was 6th place in 1973. Since the relegation rule came in their Eurovision participation seems to have resembled the contest equivalent of a revolving door – in one year, out the next, and so on – even though some of their entries haven’t been half bad. Technically, countries like Finland should benefit from the introduction of a semi-final – at least they now get to take part every year once again instead of sitting on the sidelines – and frankly, we think they were robbed last year with the fabulously camp It Takes Two To Tango (which would have been a shoo-in for the final had the performance not been a bit weak on semis night). As for this year, they’re playing it safe with yet another entry into the increasing canon of pleasant but bland ballads – this one has a bit more oomph than some of the others (a chorus that actually sticks in your brain for example), and Geir Ronning sings it well, but there’s a lot of this kind of thing around this year and we’re not sure how it’s going to distinguish itself, especially coming after a Hungarian entry which is so strongly fancied (and not just by Team Eurovision). Not exactly a no-hoper for the final, but we still reckon it’s an outsider. And we’re still baffled as to why Finland should have such a poor track record in the contest, given the continued success of their Scandinavian neighbours – Norway, Sweden and Denmark have all won in the past while Sweden are one of the few countries never to be relegated (although there’s a first time for everything!). Maybe Finland needs to take a few hints and tips from them?

Song reviews – Norway and Romania

Posted: 15/4/2005 in:

NORWAY
Song: In My Dreams
Artist: Wig Wam
Ever since Team Eurovision first clapped eyes on this bunch of Scandinavian rockers, we’ve been curious to hear just what they have planned for Eurovision – possibly to a greater extent than any other song in the contest. After all, ethnic songs and dancefloor fillers are two a penny in Eurovision – but when was the last time someone entered a no-nonsense rock song, complete with guitar solos, shiny catsuits and really big hair? If it’s ever happened, we can’t remember it. And that’s exactly what makes Norway’s effort so great. OK, so the song has a whiff of mid-80s Bon Jovi album filler about it, and the band’s catsuit and mullet get-up has prompted Team Eurovision to dub them, er, the ‘Poundstretcher Darkness’ – but so what? There’s nothing else like this in the contest this year, and that’s why we should cherish it. And that’s why, even though rock and metal is a bit of an unknown quantity at Eurovision, this track could do very well indeed. With practically all of this year’s entries falling into one of three categories – contemporary pop, ethnic pop or big ballad – this stands out as something unique (in Eurovision terms at least), which could spell great things on the night just as long as Wig Wam can turn in a memorable performance. And we’re pretty sure they will.

ROMANIA
Song: Let Me Try
Artist: Luminita Anghel and Sistem
Discounting 2002, when they scored a very surprising top ten finish with their daft, operatic duet, Romania have gotten into the habit of sending likeable but ultimately unremarkable songs to Eurovision. And this year’s effort is no exception. Let Me Try is upbeat and catchy, mixing dance beats with some ethnic sounds and drums a la Belgium 2004 – the result is perfectly pleasant but, dare we say it, just a little bit bland. Like some of the earlier songs (Lithuania springs immediately to mind), it’s neither a dead cert nor a dead loss – if the performance goes well on the night, it could well scrape a place in the final, but could just as equally be one of the countries that narrowly misses out. Will be interesting to see which way this one goes.

Song reviews – Belgium and Estonia

Posted: 11/4/2005 in:

BELGIUM
Song: Le Grand Soir (The Big Night)
Artist: Nuno Resende
Oh dear. We thought things had improved a bit with the spectacular double whammy of Glennis and Selma, but Belgium’s effort, one of the last songs to be selected this year, has brought us back down to earth with a bump. Belgium’s track record in Eurovision has been variable to say the least (Sandra Kim remains their only winner to date, in 1987), but they seemed to have finally found their groove over the last couple of years, missing out on victory in 2003 by the narrowest of margins, and returning with one of the btter songs in last year’s contest (even though it crashed and burned quite bafflingly on the night itself). This time around they’ve entered a Portuguese crooner with an overwrought, dull-as-they-come ballad that pales in comparison to the likes of Israel and Netherlands. Nuno does his best to make it interesting but in the words of a certain Pop Idol judge, it’s just not good enough. And given it comes right after Selma and right before some bright and breezy nonsense from Estonia, chances are it’s going to be swiftly forgotten. Back to the semi-final for Belgium, we suspect.

ESTONIA
Song: Let’s Get Loud
Artist: Suntribe
With a title like Let’s Get Loud, you kind of know that Estonia aren’t about to continue the run of ballads – and sure enough, this is one of the most upbeat songs in the contest so far. And if Iceland owe a debt to Britney Spears’ Toxic, then it has to be said that Estonia owe one to Girls Aloud’s Love Machine, especially in the opening bars. Quite aside from reminding us of that though, it also put us in mind of the songs Denmark had a habit of sending to the contest in the 80s – bright, upbeat poppy nonsense that usually involved someone dancing around on stage in big frilly knickers. Somehow, against the odds, these songs always used to do quite well – but we’re not so sure about the Estonians. It’s a very likeable tune, there’s no denying that – but at the moment there seem to be two major obstacles standing in its way. Firstly, let us not forget that the Swiss have also sent an Estonian girl group, Vanilla Ninja, to the contest this year – and their song Cool Vibes is one of the favourites not only to qualify from the semi-final but also possibly to win the whole contest. Which beggars the question – is there really room in the final for two Estonian girl groups singing upbeat pop-rock? Not so sure about that one. Secondly, as fun as this track is – especially coming after the dirge that is Belgium – it’s just not that memorable. Team Eurovision had to listen to it about seven times for it to really stick in our minds, and even then it started to fall away again as soon as we listened to something else. A bit of a mixed bag for Estonia then – depending on their performance on semi-final night, it could well qualify, but we think they could just as easily do a repeat of last year and finish 11th or 12th. That said, we like it a lot more than we liked the song they actually won with in 2001 – and if that can actually score a victory, then who knows what this might do?

Song reviews – Netherlands and Iceland

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NETHERLANDS
Song: My Impossible Dream
Artist: Glennis Grace
Now this is a bit more like it. After a brief burst of disco in the shape of Belarus, the Netherlands might be bringing the tempo down yet again with their effort, but it doesn’t really matter because this is one of their strongest entries in years, and certainly the strongest of the many ballads in the first half of the semi. To be honest, it’s not so much the song itself – which sounds like the kind of standard fare you might find on a Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey album – as it is Glennis, who is clearly blessed with a fabulous set of tonsils and belts it out as though she really means it. It’s been years since a ballad last won Eurovision (1994’s Nocturne, if we’re not mistaken, unless you count Ireland’s 1996 winner The Voice as a ballad), and it’s been even longer since a female soloist did the honours (you have to head back to Ireland’s early 90s winning streak, and the likes of Linda Martin and Niamh Kavanagh for that kind of thing). In other words, a big epic slow song is long overdue a Eurovision win and this probably has a far better chance than many of its rivals – the fact it keeps everything nice and simple rather than going for old-fashioned orchestrals is a big plus too. On the down side, it’s sandwiched between two very strong uptempo songs – which to be honest, are few and far between in the early part of the contest – and given the potential they’ll have for flashy performances, Glennis is going to have to work even harder to stand out. On the strength of her voice alone she should make it through to the final with ease, but in terms of winning the final we have a horrible feeling this is one of those songs which will be right up there on the scoreboard all the way, only to narrowly miss out at the last minute (remember 1998, in which Dana International won at the last minute, leaving Malta’s Chiara standing in the Green Room looking a bit lost and puzzled?). Even if this does happen, we still reckon this will do well enough to automatically see the Netherlands through to next year’s final.

ICELAND
Song: If I Had Your Love
Artist: Selma
OK, let’s get this out of the way first. Selma should have won in 1999. There, we’ve said it. We say it a lot, you might have noticed from previous entries, but the fact is All Out Of Luck was the best song that year – and the one with the most apt title. Nonetheless, she’s back for another go this year – and just as we championed her in 1999, we’re going to do exactly the same this time around. Because (with the possible exception of Netherlands) If I Had Your Love is not only streets ahead of the competition thus far, it’s whole cities ahead. As Eurovision entries go, it’s an eccentric little number which throws everything bar ethnic sounds into the pot – one minute it’s mid-tempo, the next it slows down to ballad speed, then suddenly – as if someone had hit the speed on the record player from 33 to 78 – it goes all frantic and Euro-disco like. Yet it works superbly (even if it does, on occasion, sound a bit like Britney Spears’ Toxic) – and it’s not just because it happens to be by a singer previously championed by Team Eurovision. We’d have loved this whoever was singing it, because it’s such an infectious track that lodges itself in your head after about two plays and refuses to leave (which is more than can be said for some of the earlier entries) – and it certainly goes a long way to livening things up after a run of slow numbers. We’re going to stick our collective necks out here and say that not only are Iceland a dead cert to breeze through the semis, they’ll do even better than that and finish in the top five of the final itself. Of course we wouldn’t be so reckless as to actually predict they might win the whole contest. But hey, anything is possible….

Song reviews – Israel and Belarus

Posted: 7/4/2005 in:

ISRAEL
Song: Haskeket Shenishar (The Silence That Was Left)
Artist: Shiri Maymon
Yet another ballad, following on from Latvia and Monaco – but we reckon that Shiri Maymon’s got a far better chance than those two of making it into the final. OK, so this is one of those corny-as-hell Eurovision entries, all dramatic flourishes and close harmony singing, but in spite of all this it’s not half bad – and it’s certainly a lot more contemporary than some of its big ballad rivals. And, we’re pleased to report, it’s a dramatic improvement on 2004, when David D’Or’s falsetto stylings narrowly failed to win the Israelis a place in the final. This time around though, we suspect they may have more luck, for this is one of the stronger slow songs in the semi-final. One thing does strike us as curious though – with the recent Eurovision craze for all things ethnic and Middle Eastern sounding, we’ve always been baffled as to why, over the last few years, Israel has persisted in sending very Western-sounding ballads and disco numbers to the contest. There’s some great Israeli artists out there doing superb Middle Eastern music, so why not let one of them have a shot at Eurovision for a change? You never know, they might even score the Israelis a fourth victory!

BELARUS
Song: Love Me Tonight
Artist: Anzhelika Agurbash
And so on to the sophomore effort from Belarus, whose performers last year, Alexandra and Konstantin, made more impression for their perfectly-coiffed tresses than they did for their song (My Galileo, for anyone who remembers). Love Me Tonight didn’t start out as their entry this year – it actually replaced the original track, Boys and Girls, just a few days before the deadline for entries – but the Belarussians have done themselves a huge favour by switching songs at the last minute. Because this is a very solid entry indeed – the kind of classic disco-tastic nonsense that works really well on the Eurovision stage and improves with every listen – and certainly promises to be a lot of fun to watch on the night. And the fact that Anzhelika does look a tad scary in some of her promotional pics (we especially like the one on esctoday.com in which she looks like a cross between Ruslana and, er, Marilyn Manson) hasn’t put us off either. We’re still not sure it’s quite strong enough to win the whole contest (Minsk 2006, anyone?), but it’s definitely one of the more memorable songs in the first half of the semi-final – and since it’s sandwiched between four ballads in the running order, seems very likely to stand out from the crowd, which will come in very handy when securing one of those all-important final spots.

Song reviews – Latvia and Monaco

Posted: 5/4/2005 in:

LATVIA
Song: The War Is Not Over
Artist: Walters and Kazha
And following on from the madness that is Moldova, we have this gentle, sparse ballad from the Latvians – and sadly it’s every bit as unmemorable as the track they entered last year. The problem with this song is that it goes nowhere and seems to be over before it’s really begun (it clocks in at well under three minutes, at least in the version we heard – which might explain it), resulting in a tune that’s not unpleasant but is forgotten within about five seconds – and as with Lithuania, coming so soon after something so unusual (which offers the potential for some interesting stage visuals), it’s in danger of vanishing without trace. If the Latvians want to bring the contest back to Riga they’re going to have to do a bit better than this.

MONACO
Song: Tout de Moi
Artist: Lise Darly
Continuing the ballad theme, we have this elaborate number from the recently returned Monaco – which attempts to add an ‘epic’, nostalgic side to the contest with its soaring orchestrals and big vocals. Sadly, it’s an attempt which fails – for like so many similar songs before it, it just sounds dated. Had they entered this song 20 years ago (when artists could soar to the top of the scoreboard with any old slow number) they’d probably have had a fighting chance, but nowadays – and in the face of some stiff competition from a clutch of far stronger ballads – they’re going to have an uphill struggle to secure a spot in the final. If you need a toilet break or want to stick the kettle on at any point during the semis, some time during these two songs would be a good time to do it.

Song reviews – Portugal and Moldova

Posted: 3/4/2005 in:

Song reviews – Portugal and Moldova

PORTUGAL
Song: Amar
Artist: 2B
Poor Portugal. They’ve been taking part in Eurovision since 1964 yet that elusive win continues to evade them (as far as we can tell, only Finland have been taking part for longer without ever actually winning). So will this be the year in which they break their duck? We don’t think so. Amar, with its big, scarf-waving chorus and quirky harmonica backing, is the kind of thing which might have done well in the 70s or 80s, but in these days of ethnic-sounding winners and experimentation with different musical genres, it sounds ever so slightly dated. Looks like the contest won’t be heading in Lisbon’s direction just yet.

MOLDOVA
Song: Bunica Bate Toba (Grandma Plays The Drums)
Artist: Zdob si Zdub
And it’s a warm welcome to the first of this year’s newcomers. Moldova were originally meant to be one of four new countries taking part this year, but following the withdrawal of Czech Republic and Lebanon, it’s now just them and Bulgaria making their debut on the 2005 Eurovision stage. But what of the song itself? Well, if you thought Austria’s song was just a brief moment of insanity in an otherwise routine contest, then think again because the fabulously titled Grandma Plays The Drums is about as demented a Eurovision effort as it’s possible to get. It’s a frantic, fast-paced little number full of drums (predictably), screeching guitars, preposterous lyrics and a few instrumental riffs that sound as though they’ve taken a cue from the Ruslana book of Successful Eurovision Songwriting, but amazingly enough, it works. Its chances of winning are probably quite remote, but it’s so infectious and fun that it could turn out to be the surprise package of the evening and do a lot better than anybody expects. And it’s certainly our favourite song so far.

So here we are….

Posted: 31/3/2005 in:

…and after weeks of speculation, it’s time for Team Eurovision to begin delivering our verdict on this year’s entries. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be offering our thoughts on all of this year’s 39 hopefuls, including the UK’s very own Javine. So without further ado – and in the order they’ll perform at the semi-final, followed by the confirmed finalists – it’s off to our first country….

AUSTRIA
Song: Yasi
Artist: Global Kryner
If nothing else, we can guarantee this year’s Eurovision will get off to a memorable start – because this song, performed in English and Spanish, sounds like nothing else we’ve ever heard in the history of Eurovision. In the course of three minutes this lot manage to fit in Latin rhythms, catchy choruses and – oh joy of joys – yodelling – making this possibly one of the most genuinely bonkers songs ever to grace a Eurovision stage. No idea why we’re so surprised about this – Austria are, after all, the country who gave us Alf Poier in 2003 – but of course there’s a real risk involved with entering something this way out. It’s so unusual that it’ll either breeze through to the final and land itself a top three placing on the night, or it’ll score a big fat zilch, forcing Global Kryner to slink back home with their tail between their legs. We couldn’t possibly say which – but we’ll be VERY interested to see how it does

LITHUANIA
Song: Little by Little
Artist: Laura and the Lovers
Sadly, the task of following Austria’s rather unique track falls to Lithuania, who remain one of the few Eastern European countries to really make a mark on this contest (let us not forget, after all, that they first entered in 1994, scored no points and didn’t reappear for five years. Personally we liked them in 2002 when they entered that song that sounded like the Lightning Seeds, but that’s just us). Little By Little, an upbeat bit of pop-rock, is one of their stronger entries to date – but doesn’t really stand out from the crowd, and coming so soon after something do damned unusual is liable to leave it at a disadvantage. A place in the final isn’t out of the question, but we suspect this may be one of those songs that narrowly misses out. Better luck next year, perhaps?

Eurovision comebacks we’d like to see

Posted: 21/3/2005 in:

With the return of Malta’s Chiara and Iceland’s Selma to the Eurovision stage this year, here are the top five Eurovision comebacks we’d like to see….

1. Paul Oscar – Iceland. Because his leather-clad dominatrix act was by far the most memorable thing about the 1997 contest (and that in a year when Katrina and the Waves scored a record number of points to grab victory for the UK). And in these performance-driven days of Eurovision, where the stage show counts for as much as the song, he’d probably go down a storm.

2. Corinna May – Germany. The blind singer representing L’Allemagne in 2002 had a corker of a song in I Can’t Live Without Music – one which, in an ideal Eurovision world, would have stormed to victory and brought the contest back to Germany for the first time in nearly 20 years. (and, in Team Eurovision’s opinion, was rivalled only by Spain’s pop-tastic Europe’s Living A Celebration). But the poor lass sounded decidedly out of tune on the night – thus dampening all hopes of a German victory and condemning them to a spot near the bottom of the scoreboard while Latvia took top honours. Should she have another chance? Well normally we’d say no, but if she can come up with another song as good as that one, then why the hell not?

3. Baccara – Luxembourg. Simply because Parlez-Vous Francais was one of the best things about the 1978 contest (as far as Team Eurovision can remember, for we were of course all in nappies at the time) and we want to see them take part again!

4. Jahn Tiegen – Norway. This red-braced Scandinavian legend is to Eurovision’s nul points what Johnny Logan is to multiple victories, having scored a big fat zero in the 1978 contest with Mil Etter Mil – and amazingly enough he did almost make a comeback this year, making it to the Norwegian national final. We need more people like him back in the contest because, well, they make it fun – and having a ‘nul points’ veteran in the contest might bring a stop to all those jokes about the UK scoring a duck (which, let’s face it, stopped being funny around June 2003!)

5. Luxembourg and Italy – two of the original Eurovision entrants, now, at least for the time being, consigned to history – the former, for financial reasons, the latter for reasons which we can’t quite work out! But both gave us a whole gallery of memorable entrants, from 1980’s La Papa Penguine through to Toto Cutugno’s Insieme in 1990 (the last time Italy made a significant mark on the contest), and both are much missed.

Spanish Eurovision on Sky

Posted: 6/3/2005 in:

If you thought the UK’s search for a Eurovision song seemed to last for a long time, then spare a thought for viewers in Spain.

While channel-hopping through Sky Digital on Saturday night, Team Eurovision came across their very own equivalent of Making Your Mind Up on Spanish channel TVE (which is now carried by Sky Digital). And even though none of us actually speak the language, it was oddly compelling viewing – over-excitable host nattering on for hours on end, bizarre random performances from people who weren’t actually competing but decided to sing anyway, and a scoring system that seemed to consist of very technical, multi-coloured graphs (backed by the Eurovision theme played on what sounded like a Casio keyboard). All this and a man called Francisco, performing a Spanish language version of My Way.

The whole thing seemed to go on for hours, before they eventually announced the winners – girl group Son de Sol, who beat a trio of heavily permed ladies into second place. We didn’t get to hear the song, sadly, and we’re still a little disappointed that the big-haired runners-up didn’t take the title. But the show itself was so entertaining that we didn’t mind missing out. The question now is – can we expect similar treats on Sky Digital’s French and German channels in the next few weeks? Fingers crossed ….

Javine goes to Kiev

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Much as we would hate to say we told you so, our tip for the top Javine romped to victory on Saturday night’s Making Your Mind Up show on BBC One. The former Popstars hopeful triumphed over nearest rival Katie Price (aka Jordan) with her Bollywood-inspired dance number Touch My Fire. As such, she’ll now represent the UK at this year’s contest, which takes place on May 21st in Kiev.

It was pretty obvious from the start of the show who the front-runners were going to be – Javine, wearing an orange frock that didn’t leave too much to the imagination, kicked things off with a cracking performance that showed she meant business. Operatic trio Tricolore and balladeer Andy Scott-Lee were solid if unremarkable, while Gina G did little to impress voters despite an energetic routine. As for Katie Price – well, her skintight pink catsuit was memorable, which is more than can be said for her performance.

Despite all the pre-contest banter about how this year’s Eurovision would see appearances from Israel, Lebanon and, er, Jordan, UK viewers ultimately went for the strongest song rather than allowing themselves to be influenced by the cult of celebrity and the all-too-obvious hype. Had Katie had the best song then there would have been no question of her winning, irrespective of who she was. Ultimately though she was outclassed on the night.

But now that Javine has triumphed, can she go one better and win the contest itself? Well since we haven’t actually heard any of the other entries yet (we’ll be listening to them all over the coming weeks and will of course be posting our opinions on them) we don’t have anything to judge her against. What we do know is that she’s had plenty of experience in singing live, which should help a lot come the big night – and given it’s one of the stronger entries we’ve had for a while, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t do very well indeed.

Mind you, that’s what we said last year….