Song reviews – Ireland and Slovenia

Posted: 30/4/2005 in:

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.

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:

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.

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.

What are the chances?

Posted: 26/4/2005 in:

Now that we’re at the halfway mark on the reviews front, Team Eurovision would like to pause for a minute, and ask just what is the possibility that:

1. A foreign language song will win this year’s contest?
It’s a tough one to call, to be honest. Not since Dana International swept to victory in 1998 with Diva, has a song in any language other than English taken the Eurovision title. And if you look at the favourites for this year – Greece, Norway, Malta, Iceland, Switzerland – they’re all sung in English too. Frankly we’re beginning to wonder whether a country can ever win Eurovision again with a song performed in their native tongue – but this year, thanks to Hungary’s very strong entry, there’s actually a possibility it could happen. We would also have put Croatia into this bracket, since it’s one of a handful of tunes which have really grown on us since initial listening – but since they plan to perform in English on the night, they don’t really count. Pity, really, since that song sounds so good in Croatian that we can’t help thinking it’ll lose something in translation.

2. A ballad will emerge victorious?
If you think it’s been a long time since a foreign language song won Eurovision, spare a thought for the humble ballad – the last one to score a victory was Norway’s Nocturne in 1995. (unless, as we’ve said before, you count Love Shine A Light as a ballad, and to be honest we don’t). There’s a few possibilities this year – Netherlands and Malta being the obvious choices – but collectively, the ballads just haven’t impressed us nearly as much as the uptempo tracks and ethnic tunes. The simple fact is, if a country wants to win Eurovision with a ballad again, they’re going to have to do a bit better than some of the old-fashioned, overwrought and frankly cheesy efforts that are on offer this year. A simple, gentle number like Serbia’s runner-up from 2004, or Belgium’s haunting folk song from 2003 would do nicely. So in answer to the question – we reckon this year is going to give us yet another uptempo winner. Prove us wrong, balladeers!

3. A contemporary pop song will triumph over the ethnic tunes?
An interesting one, this. Given the recent popularity of ethnic-flavoured pop at Eurovision (and the triumphs it scored for Turkey and Ukraine), it’s no surprise to see countries going back to their musical roots and coming up with all manner of Mediterranean, middle-eastern and Eastern European sounds. Hell, even the UK is having a bash at it with the Bollywood-esque Touch My Fire. Personally we like the fact that a whole range of diverse musical styles is creeping into the contest, but the question remains – are we in danger of ethnic overkill? After all, Cyprus, Spain, Albania, Turkey, Serbia and Greece, to name but a few, have ethnic-flavoured songs in the final already – while there’s plenty more in the semis, including Hungary, Croatia, Andorra and Poland (which Team Eurovision loves – watch out for a review in the next few days!). So we have to ask – when faced with such a cavalcade of exotic sounds, will the public be enthralled or will they be so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ethnic pop that they’ll go back to basics and vote for something a little more conventional? If they do, it could spell good news for Iceland, Malta, Norway, Switzerland, or even Romania (which cleverly combines hi-energy dance with a smattering of ethnic pop) – but as with previous contests, a lot could be down to the performance on the night.

4. Sweden will be relegated to the semi-final?
Apart from the Big Four, Sweden remain the only country who have never actually been relegated from Eurovision – and so far they’ve also managed to avoid a brush with the semi-final. As we’ve said before, there’s a first time for everything – so what are the chances of it happening this year? Well, we’ve heard their effort, Martin Stenmarck’s Las Vegas – and although we’ll be posting a full review very soon, we can tell you that it’s frankly bizarre – a big, cheesy show tune that’s very different from the solid pop tunes they’re in the habit of sending to the contest. It could go one way or the other, we acknowledge that, (especially given the song’s potential for a colourful performance) – but the competition this year is fiercer than ever, thanks to some very strong songs in the semi-final. Now if we assume for one minute that none of the Big Four countries (UK, France, Spain and Germany) finish in the top ten – which is quite possible this year, given none of them is particularly strongly fancied – then Sweden would have to finish in the top ten to be guaranteed a place in next year’s final. Do we think they can do it? Well, it’s possible, but with a song that’s by no means a sure thing, and some very stiff competition, we have to say we’re really not sure. They have proved us wrong on numerous occasions in the past (notably with that ‘red Indian’ inspired number a few years back). But we still reckon they’re on fairly shaky ground this year.

5 . Cyprus and Greece will give their ‘douze points’ to other countries?
Now that’s just being silly.

Song review - Bulgaria

Posted: 21/4/2005 in:

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:

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.

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:

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.

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.

Party time!

Posted: 19/4/2005 in:

If you’re planning to throw a Eurovision party on May 21st this year (and Team Eurovision most certainly is!) then why not visit this fab website we came across for a few hints and tips on making it even more fun? Ne Party Pas offers all manner of ideas for partying on Eurovision night, from basics such as who to invite and where to host it, to serving food appropriate to the participating countries (although some of these are a bit tenuous – Viennetta in deference to Austria’s capital?), and how to decorate the venue so it’s Eurovision friendly.

There’s also ideas on what to wear – including wearing national costume or dressing as a former Eurovision artist – but we have to admit we were a tad perturbed by the site’s suggestion that “everyone comes as Terry Wogan, complete with tweed suits, face masks and Irish accents”. Rest assured, there will be none of that round Team Eurovision’s place on the night, although we did quite warm to Ne Party Pas’ idea to “set up a stage in your garden for performances of famous old Eurovision acts (why not recreate the skirt-stripping routine from Bucks Fizz classic ‘Making Your Mind Up’?)”

The site’s also packed full of info about this year’s contest and past contests and is also promising an ‘ESC Big Brother’ style tournament, coming up in June. Well worth a visit.

Song reviews – Hungary and Finland

Posted: 18/4/2005 in:

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.

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:

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.

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.

Monaco stays in the contest

Posted: 14/4/2005 in:

Rumours that Monaco are set to withdraw from this year’s Eurovision following the death of Prince Rainier appear to be unfounded. The rumour spread after Ukraine’s Eurovision 2005 website printed a story earlier this week suggesting that Monaco would be dropping out of the contest, but the ever-reliable ESC Today swiftly scotched the rumours, with Phil Bosco, head of Monaco’s Eurovision delegation, telling the site that the royal family had asked him to continue with the preparations for the contest.

So it looks as if Lise D’Arly will get her moment in the spotlight. She’ll be singing Tout de Moi in the semis on May 19th and will clearly be hoping for a better result than last year, when the principality returned to Eurovision after a lengthy absence, but failed to make it through to the final.

Song reviews – Belgium and Estonia

Posted: 11/4/2005 in:

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.

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

Posted: in:

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.

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:

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!

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 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:

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.

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.

Athens 2006?

Posted: 3/4/2005 in:

If the bookmakers are to be believed, it won’t just be Cyprus giving Greece ‘douze points’ at this year’s Eurovision. According to bookmaker Coral, Greece’s Helena Paparizou is 11/2 favourite to win the 2005 contest with her track My Number One. Greece have never won Eurovision before although they’ve come close in recent years, both with Antique’s (I Would) Die For You in 2001, and of course last year with Sakis Rouvas’ Shake It. But Norway’s glam rockers Wig Wam are snapping at their heels – their song In My Dreams is second favourite at 8/1, while Malta’s Chiara and Switzerland’s girl troupe Vanilla Ninja are joint third favourites at 9/1 each, followed by Iceland’s Selma at 10/1.

As for the UK, well Javine is currently floating around the 20/1 mark, along with the likes of France, Estonia and Sweden. And the rank outsiders, at 66/1, include newcomers Bulgaria and Moldova (oh well, we liked them anyway), as well as Belgium, Macedonia and Poland. Surprisingly, host country Ukraine isn’t too heavily favoured by the bookies either, with Coral currently offering odds of 50/1 on them bringing the contest back to Kiev (given the track record of host countries at Eurovision, we’d say they’ve got to be worth an each way bet at least with such high odds).

As for the others, well it’s no surprise to see Malta and Iceland in there, given the return of experienced Eurovision performers Chiara and Selma, while it’s even less of a surprise not to see the UK among the favourites given our poor performances in recent years. But perhaps the most welcome return to the favourites fold is Switzerland, who haven’t made much of a mark on the contest since Celine Dion won in 1988 (in fact they have scored the dreaded ‘nul points’ twice since then, including last year with Pietro and The All-Stars’ sub S Club 7 nonsense Celebrate).

Before you all rush to the betting shop though, a word of warning; both 2003’s winner Sertab Erener and 2004’s victor Ruslana began the Eurovision betting as outsiders, as did 2003 runners-up Belgium and 2004 runners-up Serbia and Montenegro. So be sure to have a listen before you have a flutter….

Song reviews – Portugal and Moldova

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Song reviews – Portugal and Moldova

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.

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.

April Fools….

Posted: 1/4/2005 in:

Here at Team Eurovision we wouldn’t dream of trying to catch anybody out with a Eurovision-themed April Fool joke (largely because we’re too busy trying to listen to all 39 songs at the moment!), but that hasn’t stopped other people from having a go.

According to the website Doteurovision the main news agency in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, reported that the country would be taking part in the 2005 contest along with other Central Asian states – with a view to the contest becoming a “Eurasian” affair next year. Eurovision organisers quickly denied there was any truth to the story, and it vanished from the Internet as quickly as it had appeared, but not before fans all across the world had been fooled.

But it doesn’t stop there. Doteurovision also decided to have a bit of April Fool’s fun, posting a story that suggested Italy would be returning to the contest to replace the recently departed Lebanon – although they would only be allowed to appear as guests and not actually take part in the contest. Team Eurovision, we’re happy to report, wasn’t taken in for a second – although we did think it was quite funny…