A well-deserved victory

Posted: 21/5/2006 in:

The dust has barely settled on this year’s Eurovision and already the voices of dissent are starting to make themselves heard – the ones complaining that the whole thing is political, that everybody simply votes for their neighbours and that it’s about time the whole thing was scrapped. But this year, for every naysayer there have been just as many who have said that Finland thoroughly deserved their win, that Lordi’s victory will open the door for a much wider range of musical styles to make their mark in future contests. And that’s very true. Once you cast aside the novelty value of the costumes and masks, the fact remains that a band who actually played their own instruments and performed their own songs managed to buck the trend of scantily-clad ladies winning Eurovision with elaborate choreography, that we’ve seen for the past four years.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter of course. We’ve enjoyed the recent run of winners – Sertab was especially good in 2003 and we loved Ruslana’s shouty stomping show in 2004. But what Lordi proved last night was that it is possible for other types of music to make their mark, and while their image may seem gimmicky to some, in reality there was very little gimmick to their performance – they simply did what they’ve done at live shows all across the continent, and it worked spectacularly well.

But more importantly, this is one victory which, try as the cynics might, they can’t possibly blame on political voting. When the words ‘Finland have won the Eurovision Song Contest’ were spoken last night, one member of Team Eurovision was heard to remark, “Well, that’s something I never thought I’d hear.” Because as we’ve mentioned so many times before, Finland had, up until this year, one of the worst track records in Eurovision. They first took part in the contest in 1961, but over the past 45 years the highest they’d ever finished was sixth (and that was in 1973). Recently, their fortunes had been even more dismal, constantly slipping out of the contest in the relegation era of the 90s, and failing to make it out of the semi-final for the past two years despite their best efforts.

Yet despite their lack of success they’ve always carried on plugging away, sending a song almost every year and never flouncing off in a huff and refusing to take part in the face of poor results (unlike some countries we could mention) or crying foul and blaming politics when the voting didn’t go their way. Instead they’ve just carried on trying to do better, most likely in the hope that they would, eventually, win the contest. And now it’s happened, you can’t help thinking how much they deserve it. While some countries may try to be different and innovative in an effort to succeed in the contest, Finland nailed it this year. After over four decades of poor results, they had nothing to lose by sending Lordi to Athens – had they flopped once again, at least they could say they made an impression – but as we all know now, it was a gamble that paid off quite brilliantly.

As for political voting – well, there were obvious neighbourly votes being exchanged last night (Moldova and Romania for example), but accusing Finland of winning through that method would simply be futile. Over the years, while other Scandinavian countries may have exchanged top marks, or former Soviet states voted for each other (and let’s not forget Finland’s close proximity to Russia, Estonia and the like), they’ve always neglected Finland, either throwing a small handful of points their way or, in many cases, ignoring them completely. This time around, though, only two nations (Albania and Monaco) failed to give them any points at all, and the fact that even Greece (in the absence of Cyprus) gave them top marks (instead of plumping for the more obvious likes of Romania or Turkey) further underlines the fact that this was one contest that was won on merit, rather than anything else.

Lordi have said themselves that they hope this opens the door for other styles of music at future Eurovisions, and certainly we’re looking forward to seeing whether the 2007 contest is stuffed to the gills with little Lordi clones, hopping around the stage in giant platforms and latex. But apart from the possibilities it brings, we’re also hoping that Finland’s victory, after all this time, inspires some of the other older participants who are still chasing their first win, to buck up their ideas and come up with something really exciting and innovative next year.

Portugal, for example, have been in the contest since 1964 but are still awaiting that first victory (and in fact they haven’t even troubled the top ten since 1996), and their recent entries have suggested they may even have given up trying to win. Perhaps this might spur them on to pick a stronger song next year, and follow in Finland’s footsteps. Similarly, Malta and Iceland have yet to win, despite coming close on several occasions – and while they do both have a tendency to enter good songs (not that they had much in the way of success this year), maybe this will inspire them to try just a little bit harder and really deliver the goods in future years.

For now Finland have proved that a victory is possible, even if it’s a long time coming – and that you don’t necessarily have to be from Eastern Europe or the Balkans to score a victory in Eurovision these days. When Daz Sampson started shouting about how it was “time for a change” and it had “been a long time”, who could have thought how prophetic his words would be? Obviously he was referring to the UK’s recent track record at Eurovision, yet somehow those words seem strangely true of Finland. So whatever your opinion of this year’s winner, let’s give the Finns their dues and look forward to Helsinki 2007. Because we’re already excited by the prospect.

So how did we do?

Posted: in:

As per usual, we like to make predictions as to how Eurovision will turn out, and this year was no exception. Here’s a rundown of where we were spot on and where we slipped up…..


We said: “We’re not quite sure if it’s strong enough to score the Romanians their first win. But it’s definitely in contention – and we’ll be surprised if it doesn’t land them another top ten placing.”
What happened: Well, Mihai didn’t quite manage to snatch victory from the all-conquering Finns, but he did finish a very respectable fourth, thus securing Romania’s place in the final for the second consecutive year.

We said: “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.
What happened: Hari Mata Hari managed to finish second in the semi-final and third in the final. Sounds like a pretty good result to us.

We said: “Assuming it qualifies for the final, we can’t help thinking this could do rather well.”
What happened: It did qualify for the final. And gave the Irish their best result in years, so much so they automatically qualify for next year’s final.

We said: “Its sheer awfulness may well work in its favour – it’s virtually critic-proof, and novelty tracks have a habit of outperforming expectations.”
What happened: OK, so we didn’t predict it to make the final, but based on what we said in our review this ultimately wasn’t much of a surprise to us. They finished sixth, the same spot occupied by Austrian funnyman Alf Poier in 2003 and Moldova’s drum-banging granny last year. Not bad going considering they’ve never even finished in the top ten before – now they go straight to the final next year.

We said: “This is so radically different from everything else in the semi-final we reckon it’s got a fighting chance.”
What happened: Ukraine surprised a lot of people by not only making the final but getting a pretty decent result too – Tina Karol’s seventh placing was enough to secure them a place in next year’s final. Just shows how a decent performance can change a song’s fortunes.

We said: “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.
What happened: Apart from the inevitable 12 points from their ‘friends’ Romania, there was very little love in the room for Moldova, who finished 21st with just 22 points. Back to the semi finals, indeed.

We said: “This is Germany’s best effort in years, giving them their best shot at victory since Nicole first strummed a guitar in Harrogate.”
What happened: Despite being earmarked as a potential winner (and not just by Team Eurovision), Germany finished 15th with just 36 points. Admittedly, they did rather better than other Big Four countries but it’s still far from a victory. Could it be that it’s the entire Big Four that are suffering at the hands of other entrants, and not just the UK? This really should have done a lot better.

We said: “Silly lyrics aside, we wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see this one finish in the top five – and deservedly so.”
What happened: Like Hungary last year, Croatia could only muster up a mid-table finish, coming joint 12th (with FYR Macdedonia) with 56 points. Not a bad result, but hardly an outstanding one, and not enough to rescue them from the semi-final next year. Still, we did acknowledge this was love it or loathe it stuff, and it clearly didn’t appeal across the board.

We said: “We’re beginning to think this could be another dark horse that does a lot better than people have predicted.”
What happened: We’re not quite sure, to be honest. OK, so it wasn’t a great song and Fabrizio’s performance was far from brilliant, but there were many worse songs in the contest than this, and they definitely deserved to get more than one point. Like Finland, Malta have been trying to win for ages without success – let’s hope their time comes soon, and they don’t have to suffer any more results like this one.

We said: “We’re going to stick our collective necks out and say that of all the favourites to make the final this is the one that’s most likely to miss out.”
What happened: Well Turkey did make the final, and didn’t do too badly either – although their 11th placing means they just miss out on qualifying for next year. So we were half right – and let’s not forget that if one of next year’s top ten withdraw (as happened with Serbia this year), then they’ll very likely be in.

We said: “It’s a load of manipulative old nonsense. Bet it wins…..”
What happened: It didn’t. But in this instance, we were quite relieved to be wrong.

The final - Team Eurovision’s verdict

Posted: 20/5/2006 in:

Well, we were expecting something spectacular and we got it. Greece have certainly spared no expense in staging their first ever Eurovision, with an elaborate stage and lavish opening performance featuring Helena Paparizou and an intro involving dancers on a large floating golden sphere. Presenters Maria Meneunos and Sakis Rouvas made quite an entrance too, flying in on wires ,and thankfully stayed in the background for most of the first half. But what of the songs themselves? Well, here’s what we thought:

SWITZERLAND – a rousing start to the show, but we’re still struggling to get over the monumental cheese factor of this one. Top marks to Israel’s Liel though whose powerful voice carried the others through.

MOLDOVA – we weren’t expecting much from this one, and to be honest Moldova did nothing to change our minds. Arsenium, Natalya and their dancers looked and sounded chaotic.

ISRAEL – another one we weren’t expecting much from, and despite his best efforts Eddie delivered a rather flat performance of a bland song. Back to the semis next year, we think.

LATVIA – please go away. Now. And take your creepy shoebox puppet with you.

NORWAY – the first genuinely decent performance of the night (as we were expecting), Christina had a decent song and did it justice. As we expected, the sheer awfulness of the preceeding songs helped it stand out even more. One to watch, if we’re not mistaken.

SPAIN – two honorary members of Team Eurovision proclaimed that they quite liked this one. The rest weren’t nearly so impressed. Could it be the fact that the Ketchup girls sounded so horribly out of tune?

MALTA – stood out as the first uptempo song of the night, but Fabrizio sounded rather out of tune. Still, we were rather taken with the energetic dance routine.

GERMANY – the Lightning lads and lasses didn’t disappoint. A real breath of fresh air after some of the earlier performances. Our only slight quibble was that Jane Comerford sounded a bit muted.

DENMARK – we’re still not keen on the song, but we have to admit Sidsel turned in a lively, spirited performance, the kind which could just turn her fortunes around. Nice dance routine too.

RUSSIA – one member of Team Eurovision quickly pointed out Dima’s resemblance to Owen Paul, but despite that he delivered the goods, turning in an assured performance. Even if it’s not the most exciting song visually (scary lady in the piano aside) it’s a definite contender.

FYR MACEDONIA – we were really looking forward to seeing FYROM again after their assured turn on Thursday night but Elena just wasn’t as good somehow, despite her best efforts. Still, we think this could be one to watch.

ROMANIA – we’d heard mixed word of mouth on Mihai in rehearsals, but we found it hard to fault his performance – he was note-perfect here, making all the earlier performances look even dodgier. Bets of the night so far.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – yet another fabulous performance from Hari Mata Hari. Sheer class. Another potential winner.

LITHUANIA – again, we think this is beyond criticism since we were surprised to see it in the final at all. Still, they looked like they were enjoying themselves even if the joke has worn off a little since Thursday.

UNITED KINGDOM – we didn’t know what to expect from Daz, but he totally blew the Lithuanians out of the water. Love the song or hate it, he surpassed even our expectations and however the UK fares, he can be proud of his performance tonight.

GREECE – we were expecting some real fireworks from Anna Vissi, but the performance was a tad subdued. Which is a real shame, given this power ballad demands a bit of power.

FINLAND – just when you thought Lordi couldn’t top the other night, they went and did it – much to the amazement of members of Team Eurovision who hadn’t seen the semi-final. We seriously think they could win now.

UKRAINE – another great performance from Tina Karol, confirming our theory that she could do a lot better than first thought.

FRANCE – after a run of good songs, this was a real let-down. This was the point when Team Eurovision headed to the kitchen for the chocolate pavlova.

CROATIA – the last non-qualifier whose performance we hadn’t seen, Severina was as lively and spirited as we were expecting. That said, it was one that really divided Team Eurovision – some absolutely loved it, others thought it was a shouty racket.

IRELAND – another classy performance from Brian Kennedy. Again as the only ballad in this section of the line-up it came as a welcome change of pace.

SWEDEN – Again, we admit Carola does a professional job but we still think there’s something clinical and over-polished about the whole thing – just as we thought in the semi-final.

TURKEY – a pleasant surprise. We haven’t liked this song up to now but thought Sibel did a really good job. A definite improvement on the semi-final performance, and we’re starting to see the appeal.

ARMENIA – a rather subdued end to the night from Andre. But we’ve said all along this could be a dark horse, so don’t rule out its chances.

Some last minute reflections

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This time last week, we were pretty certain we knew who was going to win Eurovision this year. In fact, we were all but packing our bags for Berlin 2007, so confident were we of a German victory. But fast-forward seven days, and as the dust settles on the semi-final and we gear up for Saturday’s main event, we’re not so sure.

The fact is, there were so many good performances in this year’s semi-final – several of which took us by surprise – that just a few hours before the final kicks off we’ve come to realise that this is the most wide-open contest in years. While we still reckon our favourites Germany are in with a great chance, and Greece and Croatia are still definite contenders, there are a few new ones creeping up on us that we never even considered.

For example, what about FYR Macdeonia? We’ve had our eye on their song for a while now, but Elena’s performance on Thursday night was so slick and polished that it only served to make the surrounding efforts from Monaco and Poland look even weaker than they were. If she holds it together in similar fashion tonight, then she really can’t be ruled out of the running.

Then there’s Ukraine – which is one of our favourites in this year’s line-up and always had been, but we’d resigned ourselves to the fact that it probably wouldn’t make it through. One sensational turn from Tina Karol later, however, and the song’s fortunes had completely changed. And while we’re still sceptical that she could bring the Ukrainians their second victory, we think she’s going to do a lot better than everybody first thought.

As for Lithuania – well, when the audience failed to get Silvia Night’s joke, it cleared the pathway for the year’s other ‘novelty’ entry to sneak up and pull a surprise attack, sailing through to the finals and nabbing the semi-final spot before Daz (which many think is actually a bad thing, since they’re rather in danger of stealing the UK’s thunder). We’d dismissed this song as a load of old nonsense – and let’s face it, it still is – but we’ve rather warmed to LT United in the past few days, largely because they really seemed to be enjoying themselves up there – and what’s more, they seemed genuinely shocked to have landed a place in the final (the same could be said of many Eurovision viewers, but we had a feeling something like that might happen). As silly as We Are The Winners may be, we can’t help thinking that Lithuania could turn out to be this year’s Moldova, and actually finish in the top ten. Either way, we’re looking forward to their performance in the final – in a strangely warped kind of way.

We’d been saying all along that if Ireland were to make it through to the final, they had the potential to do a lot of damage – and now they have qualified, we’re still thinking that. Brian Kennedy has a great draw in the running order, and will come as a real contrast to Croatia and Sweden, who perform before and after him – and it’s worth noting he’s the only real ballad in that part of the draw (France of course have a mid-tempo song but as one of the year’s major outsiders ,we can’t see it posing much of a threat). In other words, the Irish could get their best result in years.

Of the finalists, we should also add Norway to our list of potential contenders. Word of mouth from Athens suggests Christine Gulbrandsen has been terrific in rehearsal, and Alvedansen should really stand out as one of the few good songs in the very early part of the draw. And given that this kind of folky tune always has its fans, this could be one to watch.

And let’s not forget about Finland. So much has been said about Lordi already – we particularly liked the interview on the BBC Ten O’Clock News yesterday when they were sitting by an Athens swimming pool on sun loungers in full costume – that we’re not going to say any more, but suffice to say they were terrific on Thursday night and thoroughly deserve their place in the final, hype or no hype. At this stage, we wouldn’t put it past them to win the whole thing, given the amount of interest they’ve generated (not to mention the amount of new viewers they’ve brought to Eurovision who’ll be tuning in just to see them) – at the very least they could finally break Finland’s run of bad results.

Finally, we should cast a speedy eye over the UK’s chances. Well, coming so soon after Lithuania, and so close to Greece and Finland isn’t necessarily going to do Daz any favours, but he still seems on course to give the UK a distinctly better result than they’ve enjoyed recently. To be fair, we said the same thing last year with Javine, hence the reason we’re so hesitant about predicting his fate in the contest – but we still think Teenage Life is one of the better entries we’ve sent in recent years, and we’re keeping everything crossed for a good result. In fact, given our recent track record, we’d even be thrilled if he were to finish around 11th or 12th – again, it would probably bring the naysayers out against our chances in the contest, but it would still be a considerable improvement on the past few years. A top ten finish, meanwhile, would probably shut those people up for good – but for now, we’ll just wish Daz the best of luck and see what happens.

But to be honest, this is such a wide open field that who’s to say the winner won’t turn out to be a song we’ve completely overlooked?? With the possible exception of a handful of countries (France, Moldova, Spain, Latvia) it really is anybody’s race this year. We’ll be back after the contest with a review of the event plus other thoughts and statistics – but for now, Team Eurovision hopes you enjoy the final. Because we know we’re going to.

The semi-final – Team Eurovision’s Verdict

Posted: 18/5/2006 in:

And here’s what we thought of the show:

ARMENIA – is it just us or did Andre sound ever so slightly out of tune tonight? We so wanted Armenia to do well on their very first try but coupled with dodgy sounding vocals and some just plain weird dancing, we’re not so sure. What a shame.

BULGARIA – having gotten over all the initial jokes about Mariana Popova being a character on Rentaghost, she took us by surprise by being not half bad. The song is still far too screechy and whiney for our liking though, especially when the transvestite backing vocals kick in.

SLOVENIA – we’ve been rooting for this one from the very beginning, and Anzej certainly didn’t disappoint. Best performance so far, one which only served to highlight the weakness of the previous two.

ANDORRA – another letdown. We really liked Jenny’s song when we first heard it, but her voice just didn’t seem up to the task on the night. And we can only assume that the underwear-clad backing dancers have had their dresses impounded by Greek customs.

BELARUS – Polina certainly gave it her all with a spirited performance, but it wasn’t enough to cover up the fact that the song just isn’t very good. And we still have no idea what language she’s singing in.

ALBANIA – again, a weak song, but nonetheless a nice, if unspectacular performance from Luiz. We don’t reckon he has much of a chance of qualifying though.

BELGIUM – anticipation has naturally been running high for the first of the evening’s favourites, and despite mixed word of mouth from Athens Kate Ryan did pretty well (and fab dress too). On the basis of this, we’d be very surprised if she didn’t qualify.

IRELAND – is it just us, or was this slowed down considerably on stage? Nonetheless, a classy performance from Brian Kennedy, and one which certainly surpassed the expectations of many.

CYPRUS – we’re still not keen on the song, but we have to admit Annette sold it pretty well. Could still qualify on the strength of that performance.

MONACO – lots of colour and vibrancy as we expected, but spoiled by Severine’s wildly unpredictable vocals. One member of Team Eurovision pointed out the resemblance to Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini early on. We’ve been wondering what it sounded like!

FYR MACEDONIA – one of the best of the night so far. Elena looked great, sold the song superbly and the dancers complemented her performance rather than dominating it. Puts some of the other weaker performances to shame.

POLAND – very rarely are Team Eurovision rendered speechless, but Poland’s performance, complete with its extravagant costumes and fireworks , just about did it for us. So mad that it could just work in the Poles’ favour.

RUSSIA – his dancing’s still a bit peculiar, but otherwise Dima lived up to our expectations and did very well indeed. Can’t see this one missing out on a place in the final.

TURKEY – like the song itself, there was something missing from this performance for us. Maybe it was that the vocals sounded a bit flat, or perhaps it was Sibel’s rather tacky outfit and scary tattoos. We just don’t know.

UKRAINE – the contrast between Sibel and Tina wasn’t hard to spot. Quite simply, Tina was fab and turned her fortunes in the contest round with this performance.

FINLAND – the one we’ve all been waiting for, and they so didn’t disappoint. Lordi combined fireworks, pyrotechnics and bat wings to deliver the performance of the night.

NETHERLANDS – Finland was always going to be a hard act to follow, and although the Netherlands tried their best there was something curiously flat about this performance. Which brings us on to…

LITHUANIA – who in turn made Poland look quite sane. They’re not going to qualify, surely??

PORTUGAL – not quite as bad as we first feared, but it’s still not great by any stretch. Can’t see this one making it out of the semis.

SWEDEN – couldn’t quite make out Carola’s Bacofoil outfit but performance was nonetheless as slick as we had expected. Is it just us though or is the whole thing a tad clinical?

ESTONIA – this was always going to fare poorly next to Sweden and the average but unremarkable performance just highlighted the fact the song isn’t really that good.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – very classy performance from Hari Mata Hari that didn’t let us down (even if he seems to have borrowed Serbia and Montenegro’s band from 2004). A very real contender to win the semi-final, we think.

ICELAND – arriving in Eurovision territory amid a wave of hype, we didn’t know what to expect from Silvia Night. But for all the sparkliness of the performance we can’t help thinking the joke has worn off.

Our final semi-final prediction

Posted: 17/5/2006 in:

OK, OK, we know we made predictions for the final a few weeks back – but based on our changes in opinion, what we’ve heard from the rehearsals so far, and the fact that we reserve the right to change our mind at any time, here are Team Eurovision’s final predictions for who’ll be qualifying from the semi on Thursday night. In no particular order…

FINLAND – we’ve predicted this one from the first time we heard it, and we’re more certain than ever now that Lordi will be taking their place in the final come Saturday – and very favourable word of mouth from Athens, suggesting their performance is spectacular, seals the deal. In fact, we wouldn’t put it past them the win the semis outright – and possibly give Finland their best ever result in the final while they’re at it.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – we’ve heard nothing but good things about Hari Mata Hari’s rehearsal performances, and the song is one of those ones which improves with every listen. Not only almost certain to qualify, but a potential semi-final winner too.

SWEDEN – it would be a big shock if Carola didn’t make it through to Saturday (and she’d have to screw up big time in the semi-final to damage her chances – which she won’t). She’s the favourite to win the semi, and is in with a chance, but we think one of the above might beat her to the top spot.

RUSSIA – another strong song, which apparently has been going down very well with rehearsal audiences in Athens, and should make it to the finals quite easily. It’s also another contender to win the semis, although to be honest we reckon it’s a long shot.

BELGIUM – early word on rehearsals has been mixed, and it remains to be seen whether Kate Ryan will ‘do a Selma’ and fail to make the finals on the strength of Thursday’s performance. We’re putting her in here because we think she’ll be lucky and squeak through regardless – but she’s going to have to live up to pre-contest expectations on the night.

FYR MACEDONIA – again, mixed word of mouth from Athens – some are saying it’s slick and polished, others reckon it lacks a certain something. However, given FYROM’s 100% success record in the semis, we reckon it’s in regardless.

SLOVENIA – we’re keeping everything crossed for this one – it might be an outsider but we really think it has a shot.

IRELAND – leaping from our potential spoilers into the qualifiers list, word of mouth suggests Brian Kennedy’s performance is strong enough to take Ireland back to the finals, despite previous suggestions that it was a bit of a no-hoper. We, however, have said it all along – this stands a very real chance of qualifying and could do a lot of damage if it does.

UKRAINE – this one temporarily slipped from our top ten, not because we don’t love it, but because we thought it was a genuine outsider. However, Tina Karol’s reportedly excellent performance has turned it into a real contender, so we’re sticking with our original prediction and saying it’ll make it to the final.

ICELAND – tricky one. Apparently Silvia Night is being loved and loathed in equal measure in Athens, and was even booed when she took to the stage for the dress rehearsal. And we can’t help feeling that the whole phenomenon has backfired a bit and caused her to lose some of her sparkle. That said, the voting public watching the semi-final are unlikely to be aware of her shock value antics in Athens and will go on the basis of what they see in the night. And her reportedly flamboyant performance should still see her go through – but we can’t see her winning.

Possible spoilers

Armenia – with the appearance of Ireland in our final line-up, someone had to go and sadly we think it might be Andre. Still think he’s in with a chance though and if any of our chosen ten don’t make it then we reckon he’s in.

Turkey – we’ve said before this one’s not our favourite, but a decent performance could help it sneak into the final nonetheless.

Cyprus – we like this one even less than we like Turkey, but word from Athens is favourable, so much as we hate to say it, Annette could well be in with a chance.

Poland – dropped slightly in the rankings, once again due to mixed word of mouth from the rehearsals, but the song still has its fans – as to Ich Troje – and that could help its cause.

Netherlands – again, not getting a favourable reaction from Athens – but this one’s grown on us a little in the past week. Right now we reckon it’s borderline but a top ten placing isn’t out of the question.

BBC Celebrates Eurovision

Posted: 16/5/2006 in:

The BBC kicked off its week of song contest coverage on Tuesday night with Boom Bang-A-Bang: 50 Years Of Eurovision. Hosted by Terry Wogan – well, who else? – the show took an hour-long trawl through the past five decades, from the black and white, orchestra-led days of the 1950s right up to Greece’s 2005 triumph. Daz Sampson also showed up to perform Teenage Life, offering Team Eurovision its first chance to hear the schoolgirl-clad backing vocalists sing live (and very good they sounded too).

For the most part, the show was yet another opportunity to wheel some of the best, worst and tackiest clips out of the archives, with the likes of Nicole and Hugo and Freddi and Friends putting in an appearance alongside Bucks Fizz, Johnny Logan and other contest winners. We’d seen quite a few of these on previous clip shows yet some – Jemini’s disaster in Riga, for example, are always entertaining no matter how many times you see them.

There was also the chance to see interval acts (remember the Wombles in 1974?), presenters breaking into song and even the odd gaffe (our favourite being presenter Toto Cutugno’s inability to count at the 1991 contest in Rome). The whole thing was a bit on the hurried side, and it would’ve been nice to hear some more of the songs accompanying the clips (since many simply appeared for a few seconds in compilations), but there was still plenty to enjoy here. If nothing else, it’s gotten us in the mood for Thursday’s semi-final.

Some predictions…

Posted: 15/5/2006 in:

Now that we’ve had a chance to hear all of this year’s entries – repeatedly – it’s time for Team Eurovision to make a few predictions. We’ll be posting our final semi-final qualifiers list in time for Thursday night’s show, but for the time being here are the countries we expect to see fighting it out for the top spot come finals night….

GERMANY – to be honest we think the contest is pretty wide open this year but if we were forced to pick a likely winner this is the one we’d go for, quite simply because a) it’s one of the best songs in the contest – simple, effective yet tremendously appealing and b) everybody seems to love it. They’ve waited 24 years for a second victory but we think it may finally be time.

GREECE – host countries traditionally do well but then it tends to be because they come up with a damned good song (let’s just forget about the Ukranian effort last year) – and 2006 is no exception. The best ballad in the contest, it should land comfortably in the top five, if not win altogether.

CROATIA – bit of a dark horse, this one, but the East European voters will love it – how well it does will depend on what the rest of the continent thinks. That said, we reckon that as long as Severina delivers a good performance on the night, she’s in.

ROMANIA – took us a while to warm to this one, but we’re loving it now. A good solid dance track that should do very well indeed – not sure it’s strong enough to win completely but should score the Romanians their second consecutive top five placing.

FINLAND – early word from Athens is that Lordi’s performance is superb, so much so that many are now tipping them to win both the semi-final and the final itself. Not sure about that, but if they’re as good as everybody’s saying, we see no reason why they shouldn’t give the Finns their best result yet.

Possible spoilers

Bosnia and Herzegovina – as we saw with Serbia and Montenegro in 2004, voters find this kind of ethnic ballad hard to resist – and he’s a great performer, which should help.

Russia – another good solid effort, again probably not a winner but has the potential to create an upset in the top five.

Sweden – we’re certain Carola will finish in the top ten, but we’re not sure about the top five – she’s definitely in with a chance but could just as easily miss out.

Belgium – one of those songs that’s likely to work with those viewers hearing the songs for the first time on the night. As long as Kate’s performance is up to scratch she should get plenty of votes.

UK – we’re not in the least bit sure about this, to be honest. But word from Athens is that Daz delivers the goods, so who knows – it could actually happen.

Early predictions

Posted: 29/4/2006 in:

Ok, we know there’s still a few weeks to go and we’ll probably change our mind, but now Team Eurovision has had a chance to review all the semi-finalists, these, in no particular order, are the ones we think – or in some cases hope – will be joining the line-up on May 20…

BELGIUM – not our favourite song but Kate Ryan has a big following, and this kind of mainstream pop has a habit of doing well. A lot will rest on performance though – if she doesn’t do well on the night she could be in danger of going the way of Iceland’s Selma in 2005.

SWEDEN – again, not our favourite but it’s a good solid track, very Eurovision friendly and sung by a familiar face to the contest (who will likely deliver a faultless performance). It would be a big shock if this didn’t make the final.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – a lovely song that’s growing on us with every listen. Likely to follow in the footsteps of Serbia and Montenegro’s similar entry from 2004.

FINLAND – not only is it a cracking tune, but Lordi have had so much pre-contest hype (even XFM’s Lauren Laverne has announced her support for them) that qualification looks very likely, as long as people aren’t put off by their scary appearance. The fact this is likely to be the performance of the night should help too.

ICELAND – one of the favourites to qualify last year, Iceland shocked a lot of people when they missed out on the 2005 final. This year, however, we reckon Silvia’s colourful performance and clever song should see them through.

RUSSIA – another one we’re liking more and more every time we hear it, and it’ll provide a nice contrast to some of the more uptempo offerings. Female members of the team, meanwhile, will have no objections to seeing Dima in the final (despite the dodgy haircut)

FYR MACEDONIA – to be honest, this is one of those ones that could go either way. But FYR Macedonia have made the final for the past two years even though they didn’t really deserve to – and since Elena’s song is much better than its predecessors, we reckon she’ll make it.

SLOVENIA – one of two mad random predictions we’re going to make this year – we love this and would absolutely love to see it in the final, and we reckon a charismatic turn from Anzej could help it stick in voters’ minds despite its early position in the running order.

ARMENIA – the odds may be stacked against them (first time in the contest, first on), but debutants have a habit of qualifying, and the song is definitely good enough. Armenia have taken their entry into Eurovision very seriously and we’re optimistic their efforts will pay off.

UKRAINE – mad random prediction number two. Tina is going to have to work hard not to have the impact of her performance blown away by Finland, but the song sounds like nothing else that’s on offer in the semi-final, and we reckon that could help. We’re keeping everything crossed for them.

Possible spoilers

Ireland – a polished ballad sung by an experienced performer, this could well cause an upset. Might be a bit too traditional for the global audience, but definitely has a shot at the top ten.

Poland – we still can’t make up our minds whether we like this one or not, and the national final performance was chaotic, but Ich Troje’s popularity could well land them a final spot.

Estonia – heavily tipped to qualify but we’re not sure, simply because of its position between the strongly fancied (and similar) Swedish song and the Bosnian song. Could go one way or the other, as far as we’re concerned.

Turkey – a definite possibility for the final simply due to the amount of Turkish support from other countries, but we still think it’s a weak song, and that could count against it.

Andorra – a very strong ballad that, with a good performance, could garner support in the same way that Israel did last year. This is their best effort yet and, as such, gives them their best chance of getting to the final for the first time.

Congratulations – The Line-up

Posted: 20/6/2005 in:

As Eurovision fanatics will already know, a special show celebrating the 50th anniversary of the song contest is set to take place in Copenhagen on 22st October. The show – called Congratulations after the Cliff Richard entry - will offer viewers the chance to vote for the best Eurovision song of all time, based on a list of 14 classics which will be performed on the night. And earlier this week Danish broadcast DR officially confirmed the list of songs – which is as follows:

1958 Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu (Volare) - Domenico Modugno (Italy)
1965 Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son - France Gall (Luxembourg)

1968 Congratulations – Cliff Richard (UK)
1973 Eres tu - Mocedades (Spain)
1974 Waterloo – Abba (Sweden)

1976 Save Your Kisses For Me – Brotherhood of Man (UK)
1980 What’s Another Year – Johnny Logan (Ireland)
1982 Ein Bisschen Frieden – Nicole (Germany)

1987 Hold Me Now – Johnny Logan (Ireland)
1988 Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi – Celine Dion (Switzerland)

1998 Diva – Dana International (Israel)
2000 Fly On The Wings Of Love – Olsen Brothers (Denmark)
2003 Every Way That I Can – Sertab (Turkey)
2005 My Number One – Helena Paparizou (Greece)

Team Eurovision’s Verdict On The Line-Up
While there are certainly some classics here (Waterloo, Save Your Kisses For Me etc. etc.) we can’t help thinking this list doesn’t go far enough. Having just 14 songs on the list simply doesn’t do justice to 50 years’ worth of contest history, as far as we’re concerned – for example, why only one song from the 90s?

Granted, we know that wasn’t exactly a golden age as far as Eurovision is concerned but it is significant for being the decade in which Ireland won four times – and given that’s a yet-to-be-repeated achievement, why isn’t one of those winning songs in there (instead of having both Johnny Logan songs, perhaps)? If you’re going to have all those 21st Century winners in there it at least makes sense to have a few more from the 90s. Strange, too, how none of the recent East European winners have gotten a look-in – Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine are nowhere to be seen. Surely it would have been nice to include at least one of those in the line-up, just to demonstrate the changing face of the contest in recent years?

Also notable by its absence is Katrina and The Waves’ Love Shine A Light – and yes, we know the UK is already well represented here but let’s not forget that not only did that song win, it scored more points than any other song in the history of Eurovision at the time (until the advent of the semi-final saw a whole lot more countries voting and subsequently a whole lot more points at stake). Seems like quite an achievement to us – at any rate, one that deserves a spot on the show. And why no entry from France? Again, we know they haven’t won for a while but they are still one of the Big Four countries (the others all seem to be represented here), and they have a good track record in the contest.

Ultimately, it’s a shame that only 14 songs are included here – perhaps if organisers had opted to feature just a few more (brought the total up to 20 for example) perhaps a few of those mentioned above could have got a look in. With some good performances and archive clips it should still be a good show, but it would’ve been great to see some other classics and recent winners return to the Eurovision spotlight.

So what happens now?

Posted: 26/5/2005 in:

Team Eurovision knew that 2005’s main event was over once and for all when it found itself playing the Kaiser Chiefs the other day instead of listening to Helena Paparizou for the 900th time. But just because the contest is done and dusted for another year doesn’t mean to say that Eurovision Blog is following suit!

The fact is that Eurovision has gone from being an annual event to a year-round concern – winners Greece are already starting to plan the 2006 contest, while the less successful countries are beginning to think of ways in which they might be able to do better next year.

And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the 50th anniversary celebration show that’s due to take place in Copenhagen on October 21st – or Junior Eurovision, which will be held in Hasselt, Belgium, in November, and gives those pint-sized popstars from all over the continent a chance to shine. And no sooner will that have finished than countries will begin selecting their songs for next year’s main contest.

So over the summer we’ll be taking a look forward to the plans for 2006 – and a look back at the past 50 years of Eurovision, discussing some of our favourite – and least favourite – moments of the contest. We may even continue to lament the fact that our beloved Polish gypsy song lost out on a place in the final to Latvia by a mere four points. But then again we may prefer to speculate on what might happen next year rather than what did happen in 2005.

All of which should be enough to keep even the most hardcore Eurovision fan happy – but if you’re still suffering withdrawal symptoms now that the contest is finished, the good news is that the official DVD of Eurovision 2005 is released on June 6, and will feature both the semi-final and final in full. So now you can relive the highs and lows of the 2005 contest to your heart’s content….

Javine cannot be serious - maybe that is why she lost?

Posted: 22/5/2005 in:

While mulling over Javine’s disappointing performance at Eurovision (finishing 22nd for the UK with Touch My Fire), Team Eurovision came across this recent quote from the singer on the BBC News website.

“It would be a bonus to win, but it’s going to be an experience. It’s a singing competition which shouldn’t be taken that seriously.”

Sorry to say this Javine, but maybe the fact you think it shouldn’t be taken seriously is the reason you didn’t do very well in the contest? Because we couldn’t help noticing that the countries that did do very well last night are the ones that actually do seem to take it seriously – the ones that not only went out of their way to deliver a decent song but then actually performed it well on the night, such as Romania, Malta and of course the winning country Greece. Even Latvia put on a good show while Norway were fun, and both scored top ten placings as a result.

The reason the UK used to do so well at Eurovision is because we used to do the same thing – we often used to enter established artists (although this practice waned in the 80s) and gave them a damn good song to sing as well. Yet these days we seem to think it’s OK to enter reality TV show rejects and tabloid glamour models while the rest of Europe is putting forward some of the best local talent it has to offer. In other words, they’re taking it very seriously indeed – so why don’t we do the same?

There’s only so much longer that we can deliver a sub-standard performance and then cry foul when we finish near the bottom, using political voting or the Iraq war as a scapegoat. How can we blame Eastern European block voting this time around when only two of this year’s top five countries – Romania and Latvia – were actually Eastern European? As for the others, the fact is that most of those other countries put more thought and effort into both song and performance – and deserved to do better than the UK, regardless of whether or not their neighbours were voting for them.

It’s true there were parallels between the UK performance and the winning song from Greece, yet the two couldn’t have been more different on the night. Helena’s performance was slick and polished where the UK’s was shambolic, their choreography was tight where ours looked as though it had been made up on the spot, and her dress suited her perfectly, whereas Javine’s didn’t work at all. Perhaps most importantly, Helena engaged the audience and really looked as though she wanted to win the contest. Javine, on the other hand, looked as though she couldn’t care less.

Cynics have of course been quick to say that the UK will never win Eurovision again as long as the neighbourly countries are on hand to vote for each other – but personally we think we’ll only ever stand a chance of bringing the contest back to Blighty if we actually begin to take it as seriously as they do. The fact we came joint third in 2002 shows that with the right song and the right singer, we still have the capacity to do well if we actually put in a little thought.

Perhaps next year we should go right back to basics and opt for a simple ballad like Malta fielded this year, or maybe enter an actual band that plays its instruments instead of a bunch of dancers and a backing track. Or perhaps we should just consider pulling out of Eurovision 2006 altogether to rethink our strategy, and return in 2007 with a new approach to the contest. Either way, we need to change our current attitude towards Eurovision – and we need to do it fast if we want to prove our critics wrong.

Big Four No More?

Posted: in:

Glancing at this year’s final scoreboard, Team Eurovision can’t be the only people to have noticed that the bottom four countries – Spain, UK, France and Germany – are also the Big Four of Eurovision. In other words, they’re the ones that automatically get a place in the final every year regardless of how well – or how badly – they do, simply because of their financial contribution to the European Broadcasting Union.

Call us picky, but on the strength of their performances last night, are we the only people who think this really isn’t fair? OK, fair enough if any of those countries finish in the top ten or even mid-table – we can even justify the four of them getting through automatically if one of them does badly and all the others did OK (as happened in 2003, the year of the UK’s ‘nul points’ fiasco – Spain landed a top ten placing that time, while Germany and France didn’t exactly disgrace themselves).

But given that those four were left propping up the scoreboard this year, the question remains – how can the EBU justify giving them an automatic bypass into the final next year? Not one of those countries deserves to be in next year’s final on the strength of their performances last night – yet they will be, at the expense of such nations as Hungary and Croatia, who did a lot better and should really be given an automatic place in next year’s final.

If Team Eurovision was running the contest, we’d be having a rethink of that rule right now, and we’d seriously consider having 25 countries in next year’s and putting through the top 15 from last night instead – thus meaning some very deserving nations would get through, while the UK, France, Spain and Germany would have to fight it out in the semi-final along with all the other also-rans. That way, they might actually make a bit more of an effort and come up with some slightly better songs.

Because right now it seems that they can get away with entering any old rubbish, safe in the knowledge that they can come right back and claim their place in the final no matter how badly they do – and no matter how much their competitors really should be taking their place in the final instead. And as far as we’re concerned, that just doesn’t seem right.

So how was it for you?

Posted: in:

Well, it’s all over for another year, and while Team Eurovision would hate to say we told you so, we weren’t in the least surprised to see Greece take top honours on the big night with Helena Paparizou’s You’re My Number One. As a result, we’ll all be off to Athens for the 2006 contest, which has already been given a provisional date of May 20 2006 (with the semi-final on May 18).

And as the dust settles on Eurovision 2005, here’s what we made of the performances:

HUNGARY – great start to the show. As on Thursday, Nox gave it their all – pity they had to go on first. Perhaps with a different draw in the running order they might have won? Still, they didn’t disgrace themselves.

UK – much as we hate to be unpatriotic, and while we acknowledge Javine had a sore throat, was this really the best she could do? She barely sold the song at all and the dancing looked seriously uncoordinated.

MALTA – we were never fans of this but we have to admit Chiara did a good job here. A great performance, and she really looked like she was enjoying herself. In an era when flashy performances tend to be the order of the day, she ought to be proud of the fact she came second with little more than an empty stage and a microphone.

ROMANIA – a great contrast to the Maltese ballad, it might not have been the best song of the night but it was hugely entertaining. Not surprised to see it do so well on the strength of this performance.

NORWAY – this was always going to be a good one, and the boys from Wig Wam certainly didn’t let us down. Although we have to say all that business with the microphone stand looked a little hazardous.

TURKEY – bit of a disappointment. We liked this song so much when we heard it that we were expecting great things, but it didn’t come across nearly so well on stage. Mind you, it did pick up quite a lot of points. So we were half right.

MOLDOVA – is it just us, or has the novelty of seeing Granny and her drum worn off a bit since Thursday? Nonetheless, this was still great fun, not least when the body-painted singer ended the song with a screech of ‘Let’s make love!’ Er, no thanks.

ALBANIA – not good. Ledina sounded like she was screaming the song rather than singing it. No surprise to see this one floundering about in the lower reaches of the scoreboard.

CYPRUS – we were suffering ethno-pop ennui by this point and Constantinos did very little to drag us out of our slump. A competent performance, but hardly an outstanding one.

SPAIN – a universal thumbs down from the whole of Team Eurovision for this one. Although one of our number was heard to remark on the recap “actually, this is quite catchy”, confirming everything we said about it pre-contest. Yes it is once you’ve heard it 38 times but since you only get one chance to make an impression on the night, Spain just about sealed their fate with this unremarkable performance.

ISRAEL – this played so unexpectedly well in the semi-final that we’d been expecting it to be one of the dark horses of the contest, and we weren’t disappointed. Shiri wasn’t quite as good on Saturday as she was on Thursday but the song still came across really well.

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO – we never really took to this song and thought the performance was pretty shambolic, it almost looked as though they were making the dance steps up as they went along. Baffled that this did so well.

DENMARK – pleasant but dull. We can only think the reason this scored a top ten placing is because it was so darned inoffensive. Those red shoes, however, have got to go.

SWEDEN – we had high hopes for this one but the performance was a disaster – where was the charisma Mr Stenmarck displayed in the Swedish national finals? No surprise to see Sweden tumble into the relegation zone for the first time.

FYR MACEDONIA -Team Eurovision was in the kitchen getting ice-cream during this one so we can’t comment. However, we caught the tail end of it and we have to say it didn’t look as though it had improved since Thursday. The horrible pink jacket was still very much in attendance.

UKRAINE – bizarre. Really, really bizarre, and strangely underwhelming reaction for what was after all the host country. A brave attempt to do something different but this felt really out of place among everything else. Team Eurovision was left wondering exactly how this song managed to incite revolution.

GERMANY – possibly the only thing we got right in our entire predictions for 2005 was that Germany would come last. And we weren’t disappointed. Absolutely awful.

CROATIA – thought this sounded better in the semi-finals to be honest, but not bad. Couldn’t help noticing how much the Croatian singer looked, er, like last year’s Croatian singer, mind you.

GREECE – a total no-brainer. It might not have been the best song in the contest but Helena gave such a good, slick performance there was no way it wasn’t going to shoot straight to the top of the leaderboard. That said, it did divide those Team Eurovision guests who hadn’t heard it before – some were charmed by it, some weren’t so sure.

RUSSIA – seriously dodgy. This was the point when Team Eurovision decided to put the Ceefax subtitles on and sing along. Didn’t actually make any difference to the quality of the song, mind you.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – the cheesiest song in the contest, but it came across really well. Feminnem really looked like they were having fun – and their pale pink frocks fitted in perfectly with the mood of the song.

SWITZERLAND – another one that divided the room. It came across reasonably well but still can’t help thinking it’s one of those ones that sounded a lot better on the CD.

LATVIA – why do we not get the appeal of this song? It’s sweet, simple – and left us completely cold. And still can’t get over how gimmicky the sign language was. Certain Team Eurovision members came up with their own sign language during this song – although since this is a family website we’ll leave the details to your imagination. Knew it would do well, but we have to admit we were quite relieved it didn’t win.

FRANCE – A very dull way to round off a hugely entertaining contest – one which was reflected in the voting.

So how did we do?
We’ve been predicting and speculating for weeks over finalists, winners, losers and everything else in between – but how accurate were we?


We said: “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.”
What happened? The Moldovans came 6th thanks to the winning combination of a quirky song and a memorable performance.

We said: “A top five placing is a distinct possibility.”
What happened? Indeed it was. They may not have been strong enough to fight off Greece but Malta should be very pleased indeed with their runner-up position.

We said: “Expect to see this one in the final, and expect to see Switzerland making their mark on the leader board come finals night.”
What happened? Well they didn’t win – and their early lead was quickly eroded by Greece and Malta – but they still gave Switzerland their best placing in years – good enough to guarantee them a place in the 2006 final.

We said: “he 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.”
What happened? Greenjolly’s peace anthem made little impact on the night, thus sending Ukraine straight back to the semi-finals next year.

We said: “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.”
What happened? Athens 2006 just about sums it up.

We said: “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.”
What happened? Oops. Iceland came 16th in the semis and didn’t even come within sniffing distance of the final. But we think this may be the one prediction that everybody got wrong, so we weren’t overly concerned.

We said: “Not only is it a very safe bet for the final, but the prospect of Budapest 2006 is actually a very real one.”
What happened? We were half right. Hungary got though to the final but finished a disappointing 12th, enough to send them back to the semis next year. Perhaps if they hadn’t been on first, things would have been very different.

Bosnia and Herzegovina
We said: “We have a sneaking suspicion this is going to do very well indeed.”
What happened? If finishing 14th can be regarded as doing very well indeed, then we were spot on here. Or perhaps not.

Serbia and Montenegro
We said: “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.”
What happened? Clearly the voting public disagreed – this did far better than we could ever have suspected, the result being that Serbia and Montenegro go straight through to the 2006 final. They’re turning out to be rather good at this!

We said: “We reckon this will do well enough to automatically see the Netherlands through to next year’s final.”
What happened? Netherlands failed to qualify from the semis, never mind make next year’s final.

Enjoy the show…

Posted: 21/5/2005 in:

With Eurovision 2005 just hours away, Team Eurovision would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a pleasant final, and say thanks to everyone who’s written in for your kind words and comments about Eurovision Blog.

We’ll be back here on Sunday with a full review of the final, including our verdict on the performances, the winner, the losers and everything else in between. As for tonight, we’ll be on the Eurovision sofa, Bucks Fizz cocktail in hand, ready to cheer on our favourites (and even some of our least favourites).

And one final thought – if it all gets a bit too much to bear, then you could always turn to the Eurovision Song Contest Drinking Game to help your evening go with a swing! And even if you don’t, it still makes for fun reading….

So who’ll win?

Posted: 20/5/2005 in:

After weeks spent speculating over the semi-final, we now know which ten countries have made it into the Eurovision final this weekend – which means that talk is now turning to who might actually win the contest. But what do we think?

Well, if we’re being honest, we’re loath to actually pick a winner, simply for the fact that this now seems to be the most wide-open contest in years. Any one of about seven or eight songs has a very realistic chance of taking top honours – and given the sheer unpredictability of the semi-final, it’s impossible to know which way the audience will vote. The fact that rank outsiders Macedonia snagged a place in the final over the likes of Iceland and the Netherlands shows just how weird this year’s contest is shaping up to be.

So who do we think is in the running? Well, we reckon Hungary and Greece are still in with a great chance (although Hungary’s status as show openers puts them at a distinct disadvantage), while Norway are a force to be reckoned with at the moment. If the audience decides it’s the year of the ballad then Malta could be taking the crown, and based on Shiri Maymon’s fabulous semi-final performance Israel are definitely in with a chance too. Meanwhile, Switzerland and Latvia’s positions in the draw – both very late in the running order – has given them a bit of a boost (in particular Latvia, whose song has quietly but steadily been gaining a following in recent weeks). And although we think it’s unlikely, Moldova can’t be ruled out for a surprise victory – while Sweden are always a good bet, especially if Martin Stenmarck’s performance turns out to be as charismatic as we’re all expecting.

And that’s what’s going to make this year’s contest so much fun – because even if one of the favourites does win, we have a feeling that there’s going to be one or two surprise countries joining them at the top of the leader board. And let’s not forget that even though the semi-finals are over, there are still 14 finalists who haven’t had a chance to strut their stuff for the viewing public yet – and one of them could steal the show from the others. In short, anything could happen – and it probably will.

What’s in a name?

Posted: in:

Israeli singer Shiri Maymon may well be celebrating at getting through to the final, but here at Team Eurovision one thing is bothering us about the singer – just how is her surname actually spelt? According to the official Eurovision to some websites it’s spelt Maymon as above, but Wirenet News, a leading Israeli website, spells it Meimon, while the website Totally Jewish goes for Maimon, as does the official Eurovision website (www.eurovision.tv) and The Official Israeli Eurovision site (http://eurovil.iba.org.il/)

So the question is – just which one is it? Frankly we’re baffled. And we’re going to stick to Maymon for the time being – just to be different…

Eurovision Finals Running Order

Posted: 19/5/2005 in:

It’s all over bar the shouting, and we now have the line-up for the Eurovision 2005 final. And it is as follows:

Serbia and Montenegro
FYR Macedonia
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Our thoughts on the running order
While we’re thrilled to see our favourite song from Hungary in there, we’re not at all pleased to see them kicking off the show. The first song tends to get lost among the crowd and it’s a very difficult position to actually win the contest from (although as Sweden proved in 1984, it can be done). They will have to turn in a very strong performance on the night to be in with a chance. On the other hand, now that the other favourites Iceland are out of the running, they could well have a clear route to victory. Or perhaps not.

Romania have the spot that saw Turkey swoop to victory in 2003, and coming after Malta’s big ballad they’re bound to provide a bit of contrast. On the other hand, they’re on right before Norway, and if they do as well on Saturday as they did in the semis they could well blow the competition away.

Norway have a fabulous position in the running order as far as we’re concerned. Given the heavy concentration of ethnic pop in the first part of the show, the fact that they’re steaming in with something completely different is bound to make them stand out.

Given they weren’t heavily tipped to qualify until grandma turned up (except by Team Eurovision), Moldova should be thrilled to even be in the final, no matter what position they hold in the running order. They should go some way to livening up the run of identikit ethno-pop around this point in the contest, which ultimately could benefit them. Top ten finish, perhaps?

Israel’s position in the draw isn’t half bad, after a comparatively weak song from Spain and an equally unfancied one from Serbia and Montenegro. If Shiri gives as strong a performance on Saturday as she did in the semi-final she could do a lot better than predicted.

We were surprised to see Denmark go through, and we’re not sure the mid-table placing will do them any favours, especially since they’re on right before fellow Scandinavians Sweden (who should deliver a very flamboyant show). Still, we’re sure their neighbours will vote for them in droves.

We’re still not quite sure how FYR Macedonia made it through (we’re still not sure how they made it through last year but that’s beside the point). Not sure their placing in the draw will make any difference since we’re still amazed that they went through over the likes of Iceland and Belarus. Will be watching with interest to see how they do.

We’ve been saying all along that if Croatia does get through it’ll do very well and we still stand by that, especially given how good it sounded on stage. One problem though is that it comes before the favourite, Greece – this may well have a negative effect on Croatia but it could just as easily have a negative effect on Greece if they turn in another strong show. One to watch, we think.

Switzerland should be very pleased with their position in the draw. True, they’re on right after another girl group from Bosnia, but with a very different song, and they have the chance to make a real impact given the Latvian entry that follows it is very gentle. Another one worth keeping an eye on.

Latvia’s position is very interesting indeed. This song will be fresh in people’s minds when they go to vote, and its simplicity could be a distinct advantage. Could they possibly pull a sneak attack and bring the contest back to Riga? Stranger things have happened – and let’s not forget it was from the penultimate position that they won the 2002 contest. It all depends really on how Switzerland perform on the night since France really pose no threat.

Semi-final – the results!

Posted: in:

One down, one to go. The semi-final is done and dusted, and now we know which ten countries will be joining the 14 countries that have already qualified for this year’s Eurovision final. And they are as follows:


Our verdict on the show

AUSTRIA – bit of a flat start to the show given the weird and wonderful novelty factor of this track. It sounded interesting on CD but not sure it worked so well on stage. Perhaps if the men had swapped their trackie bottoms for more traditional lederhosen.

LITHUANIA – Solid but dull. Which kind of sums up our feelings about this song really.

PORTUGAL – the media have been saying it in Kiev, but we have to agree. Portugal’s duo are 2005’s answer to Jemini. Truly shambolic.

MOLDOVA – we’ve had our eye on this one for a while now, and the performance was everything Austria’s wasn’t – manic, energetic and utterly insane.

LATVIA – not unpleasant, but the sign language made it far too gimmicky.

MONACO – we were expecting this one to be dull. We weren’t disappointed.

ISRAEL – very strong performance from Shiri Maymon although the decision to sing partly in English let it down a bit – it sounded far better in the original Hebrew. It did highlight how weak the previous ballads were, however.

BELARUS – first truly great perfomance of the evening. Angelica’s voice sounded a bit weird but they really pulled out all the stops to make this one entertaining. You can never go wrong with multiple costume changes in the space of two and a half minutes.

NETHERLANDS – is it us, or did Glennis not sound nearly as good live as she does on CD? Bit disappointing.

ICELAND – didn’t let us down. It’s one of the strongest entries and Selma sells it well.

BELGIUM – dull, dull, dull, dull!

ESTONIA – Suntribe danced around behind record decks, coming across as a kind of Eastern Bloc answer to Girls Aloud. Not nearly as strong as that other Estonian girl group.

NORWAY – as we suspected, one of the performances of the night. We’re beginning to think this is the one to beat.

ROMANIA – not sure all that business with the giant oil drums and electric saws worked as well as it should, and it wasn’t helped by being sandwiched between two of the semi-final’s best performances.

HUNGARY – sheer class. It didn’t let us down.

FINLAND – looked very colourless and ordinary after Hungary’s bright, polished performance.

MACEDONIA – all we could see was that garish pink jacket, so can’t even comment on the performance itself.

ANDORRA – still love this song, and a nice performance using feathers in the way that Macedonia used ribbons last year.

SWITZERLAND – blew that other Estonian band off the stage with this very strong powerhouse performance.

CROATIA – we said this was one of those ones that could go either way and the performance was very strong indeed. Sounded great on stage.

BULGARIA – nothing wrong with the performance but even stage presence can’t disguise a truly appalling song.

IRELAND – was Joe’s body popping the comedy high point of the night? We think it’s a contender.

SLOVENIA – would this have worked better if Omar had actually had a band on stage behind him? We think so.

DENMARK – we’re not fans of this song but it came across a lot better than we thought it would.

POLAND – insane. There’s no other word for it.

Our verdict on the qualifiers
The first question we’re going to ask is the same one everybody else asked – what the hell happened to Iceland? This song was among the favourites and the fact that it didn’t qualify can only be regarded as a major shock – or perhaps it’s the case that this kind of contemporary pop doesn’t sell as well as we thought. The absence of Belarus from the final line-up would also suggest that you never can tell what a Eurovision audience will go for! On the other hand, we weren’t quite so surprised to see the Netherlands fail to make the cut. In ballad terms, it didn’t sound nearly so good live, and to be honest we thought the Israelis blew them off stage.

On the plus side…..just how long have we been tipping Moldova to go through? From the very first time we heard it we thought this one had the potential to surprise everyone and even though we might ultimately have plumped for Poland in our top ten we never completely ruled out the possibility of a Moldovan coup. We’re not entirely sure how well they’ll do on Saturday but getting through to the final must surely rank as a major achievement for them.

We’re also thrilled that Hungary went through, given our fondness for that song, but the fact they’re on first is potentially a disaster. They are going to have to work extra hard to create an impact on the night if they want any chance of winning from a starting position. On the other hand, the Latvians must be rubbing their hands together in glee to have the penultimate spot – it’s a very good position for a potential winner and given the French song that comes before isn’t nearly so good, they have a real chance of making an impact. Alternatively they also have the chance of being squashed flat by the sheer silliness of the Bosnian entry.

And just one more question – how on earth do FYR Macedonia keep on getting through?

Final Predictions……

Posted: in:

With the semi-final just hours away, Team Eurovision presents its final predictions as to who we think will qualify for the grand final on Saturday….

HUNGARY – we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. This is our favourite song in the contest and as far as we’re concerned there is a place in the final with their name on it. If they don’t make it we won’t be the only people asking why.

ICELAND – another sure thing, this song is still strongly fancied to give Iceland their first ever Eurovision victory (even though it’s fallen back a little in the betting). Its place in the final looks assured.

SWITZERLAND – their strongest entry for years, it remains to be seen how well the epic choral harmonies will be reproduced on stage but it still looks like a very likely bet for the final.

BELARUS – Anzhelika Agurbash’s performance is rumoured to be spectacular, complete with a spot of Bucks Fizz-inspired skirt ripping. We love the song but Anzhelika’s onstage posturing should seal the deal.

NORWAY – we’re beginning to understand just why the glam rockers Wig Wam are among the favourites. Not only do we reckon this will sail through to the final but we suspect it’ll be up amongst the leaders come finals night. And expect a memorable performance.

NETHERLANDS – early rehearsals have been rumoured to be a bit shaky but Glennis Grace’s ballad is well liked by pundits. We still reckon they’ll make it through.

ROMANIA – their use of bizarre onstage instruments (including, we’re told, an electric saw), has intrigued us. Should be interesting on the night and the song is definitely strong enough to qualify.

POLAND – still in there as our mad random prediction – it might be an outsider but there’s always got to be one unexpected qualifier, and we think they might just surprise a few people. Fingers crossed…

ESTONIA – we originally had Israel down in this spot but suspect they may fall short now. And so what if there are a lot of girl groups in this year’s final? We reckon there’s room for one more.

LATVIA – Team Eurovision isn’t a huge fan of this one, to be honest. But it seems to be gaining in popularity. We suspect it’ll snag the tenth spot over our previous favourites Croatia.

Possible spoilers

ANDORRA – call us mad, but this song has really grown on us in recent weeks. Stranger things have happened – and with a strong performance you shouldn’t underestimate this one. A real dark horse.

AUSTRIA – gaining ground, it’s so bizarre and offbeat that the voting public might just go for it, like they did with Alf Poier a couple of years back. If anything is going to cause an upset on the night, it’ll be this one.

MOLDOVA – we’ve had our eye on this one from the start, and the performance is rumoured to be strong. Since they’re on right after rank outsiders Portugal this could well stick in people’s minds.

CROATIA – hanging in there, could still get through but we’ve cooled a bit on this one – there are definitely better songs out there and we think this could narrowly miss out.

ISRAEL – has slipped out of our top ten but with a good performance we think it’s still a possible qualifier.

We will of course be tuned into the semi-final tomorrow night and we’ll be offering our thoughts on the show as it unfolds together with post match analysis – plus we’ll be seeing just how many of the above predictions were right! In the mean time, Team Eurovision wishes you all a pleasant semi-final, and let’s hope it’s as much fun as last year’s!

Team Eurovision’s verdict…

Posted: 17/5/2005 in:

Now that we’ve had a chance to listen to and review all of the 39 songs taking part in this year’s Eurovision, the question remains – just what do we think of the line-up as a whole? A lot of people have suggested that this year’s crop of songs aren’t nearly as good as they’ve been in recent years – but we beg to differ. Because we reckon this is one of the most interesting, diverse Eurovision line-ups we’ve heard for ages – which probably explains why we’re even more excited than usual about the forthcoming contest. But just why do we think this year’s line-up is so great? Well, we have our reasons, and here they are:

1. Ethnic pop rules. OK, so the whole shift towards ethnic sounds and more traditional music might be starting to wear a bit thin, given the amount of songs in this year’s contest fitting that description. But personally we think this makes for fabulous diversity in the music itself – after all, when was the last time you came across a song in the contest like Hungary’s, with its Argentinian and Jewish influences, or Poland’s full-on gypsy music, or Turkey’s Bollywood-esque tune? The great thing about this year’s line-up is that so many of the songs sound like nothing else you’ll have heard in Eurovision before. Even the more straightforward ethnic efforts – Croatia and Cyprus for example – are well worth a listen, while others (Greece and Romania to name but two) have combined ethnic influences with modern pop to winning effect. OK, so there are a couple of naff efforts (Serbia’s mournful, overly pompous ballad springs to mind), but for the most part the diversity – together with the potential for colourful performances – is what’s going to make the contest so much fun this year.

2. The rock connection. We’re still not convinced that the Norwegian effort has what it takes to win this contest – but the prospect of seeing a bunch of satin-trousered rockers take to the stage on semi-finals night, belting out a song that bears more than a passing resemblance to 80s-era Bon Jovi, is one that we’re relishing. Colouful and offbeat performers make this contest what it is – and they’re the ones we can’t wait to see. And let’s not forget the other rockier songs on offer this year, specifically Switzerland, who are set to score their best placing in years with Vanilla Ninja’s overblown anthem Cool Vibes.

3. Cracking contemporary pop. OK, so there’s a lot of ethnic stuff going on this year but that’s not to rule out some of the more traditional entries which, for the most part, bypass the cheesy Eurovision clichés of yore and drag the contest kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. The likes of Iceland and Belarus promise to be very entertaining on the night – we’re especially looking forward to seeing Selma’s ‘Matrix’ inspired performance – and with all the ethnic goings-on, it’s not unfeasible that a contemporary pop tune could sneak in and take the title.

4. The guilty pleasures. There’s something for everyone in this year’s line-up, including those songs you know you oughtn’t to like but you do anyway. This year we’ve got a very soft spot for Sweden in that regard – how can you possibly dislike something so blatantly ridiculous – and although we know we shouldn’t, we have been caught sneakily listening to Bosnia and breaking into spontaneous dancing when we think no-one’s looking. We would also throw Austria into this category – quite the most bizarre Eurovision entry in years, yet it has a strange pulling power.

5. The staying power. Perhaps the most important factor of all in determining just how strong this year’s line-up is, is that after most Eurovisions we only ever revisit a handful of the entrants. This year, however, we can see ourselves listening to most of the songs all the way up to the 2006 contest, because we’re enjoying so many of them so much. How many of them continue to thrill us once the contest is over remains to be seen – but we reckon we’ll be listening to a lot more than usual once the dust has settled on Eurovision 2005.