Daz to dazzle competition in 2007?

Posted: 26/5/2006 in:

Despite his failure to drag the UK out of its Eurovision doldrums, 2006 participant Daz Sampson has said he’d be prepared to do it all over again. “I feel it’s my destiny to win it, and I simply have to go back and try it again,” he said on his website shortly after finishing 19th in Athens last weekend. “How many UK entries do you know who, having been the victim of a touch of neighbourly voting, have come back to these shores saying ‘I want to go and do it again’?
“I have what it takes to win this. I have learned lessons from the week which will stand me in good stead for next year. I have to go again.”

While we’re quick to admire Daz’s determination, we should just point out one thing to him, which is that in order to take part in next year’s contest he has to be voted in by the British public – and having finished so low down the scoreboard this year, would they be prepared to give him a second chance? It’s hard to say, really since Teenage Life divided audiences so sharply – it seemed to be one of those love it or hate it kind of entries – but one thing we do know is that despite his low score Daz certainly didn’t disgrace himself on the night. Team Eurovision thought he gave one of the best performances a UK act has given in recent years, and it’s a shame that didn’t translate into a few more points – although it’s worth noting that those points did seem to come from a wider spread of countries than in recent years. Perhaps our low finish was less to do with other countries not liking us, and more to do with Teenage Life being the wrong song at the wrong time? Daz’s love of Eurovision has endeared us to him, and it makes a refreshing change to see a UK representative being so enthusiastic about the contest after the apathetic competitors we’ve fielded recently, but if he does want to make an impact next year he’s going to have to come up with something completely different.

Still, it’s not all bad news for Stockport’s finest – according to midweek sales figures Teenage Life is set to rocket up the charts to number five on Sunday, giving him the highest chart placing for a UK entry since our 1997 winner Love Shine A Light. He may soon find himself up against some stiff Eurovision competition however, since Lordi’s winning entry Hard Rock Hallelujah, is released here on June 6 – and we smell a hit.

Meanwhile, Daz isn’t the only person who’s expressed an interest in representing the UK next year. Former Smiths frontman and self-confessed Eurovision fan Morrissey has suggested that perhaps the BBC should approach him about taking part if they want to improve their current standing in the contest. “I was horrified but not surprised to see the UK fail again,” he said during a gig at the London Palladium earlier this week, “And there is one question I keep on asking: ‘why didn’t they ask me?’ That question is going round in my head.” Morrissey for Helsinki 2007? Now that we would like to see.

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.

In other news

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In other news…

The ten countries who have automatically qualified for the 2007 final are as follows:

FINLAND (host nation)

They’ll join the Big Four (the UK, France, Spain and Germany) in the final, while as per usual the remaining ten countries will be chosen in the semi-final. Provisional dates for next year’s are 10 May for the semi-final and 12 May for the final.

Meanwhile, Finland not only won the final convincingly but also scored a victory in the semi-final as well (winning Team Eurovision a spot of extra pocket money into the bargain). The top five in the semi was completed by Bosnia and Hezegovina, Russia, Sweden and Lithuania – all of whom scored top ten places in the final.

So how did we do?

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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.

It’s Finland

Posted: 20/5/2006 in:

After 45 years of trying, Finland have finally won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time. Heavy metal act Lordi scored a whopping 292 points with their song Hard Rock Hallelujah, fending off competition from second placed Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, who finished third.

The UK, meanwhile, finished in 19th place with 25 points.

More to follow.

The final - Team Eurovision’s verdict

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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 Final Running Order

Posted: 19/5/2006 in:

Following Thursday’s semi-final, we now have a complete running order for this year’s final. And it’s as follows:


Our thoughts on the running order

Before we start, a few words on the qualifiers themselves. Our final predictions saw us correctly predict seven of the finalists (and we did have Armenia as a possible spoiler and qualifier in our original predictions, so we claim that one too!) Despite reservations over Belgium, we really thought Kate Ryan would make it after her performance tonight – however, while we’re surprised not to see her in the final, we’re certainly not shocked. Our main disappointment is the absence of Slovenia, who we think really did deserve to go through – but we’re thrilled to see Ukraine make the cut – we loved Tina Karol’s song from the first time we heard it and it was a fine example of how a great performance can turn an outsider into a definite qualifier. We now feel that she’s definitely one to watch on the night.

The semi-finalists joining the line-up are at something of an advantage this year – the fact that the first nine slots have already been filled by finalists means that they all steer well clear of the dreaded second spot (poor Moldova!) and none of them have to kick proceedings off either (this is probably good news for Armenia’s Andre, given how nervous he looked at having to start the semi-final).

Russia have snagged the first final spot – singing tenth – and it’s not a bad starting position (let’s not forget Ruslana won a couple of years back from tenth place in the running order) While there’s a strong performance from FYR Macedonia to follow, he’ll benefit from coming right after Denmark’s forgettable effort.

Having sung eleventh in the semi-final, FYR Macedonia have landed the exact same spot in the final, and it shouldn’t do them any harm at all. Elena was terrific in the semi-final and should do well from this starting position also. Could be one to watch on Saturday.

Coming just after the halfway mark are Bosnia and Herzegovina, who gave a superb performance in the semis. The fact that Hari Mata Hari is sandwiched between two very different songs – from Romania and Lithuania – should help this classy effort to stand out even more. We’re increasingly beginning to see this one finishing in the top five.

We’re still not quite sure what Lithuania are doing here – but we can only think it’s at the expense of Iceland, since there was only ever going to be room for one novelty song in the final, and since Silvia Night appeared to be less than popular in Athens it paved the way for LT United to slide through and steal her thunder (the fact they seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely on stage probably helped). To be honest, wherever they are in the final is unlikely to make a difference – we can’t see them doing particularly well and they should just be happy to be there – but it’s definitely good news for our Daz, who performs right after them, when you consider some of the finalists he could have followed.

Ukraine and Finland were two of the highlights of the semi-final, singing one after the other – and they’re performing consecutively in the final, only this time the other way round. We originally thought that Tina Karol would be all but forgotten once Lordi took to the stage, but she was so good in the semi that her close proximity to the Finnish rockers shouldn’t make a whole lot of difference. The only thing is, this time she’s on stage straight after them, and we now know what a hard act they are to follow. Will be interesting to see how she fares, but we have a feeling that both of these are going to do rather well.

And so to the last four, all of which are qualifying semi-finalists – and they should all count themselves very lucky, since a late spot in the running order is always considered an advantage. This could be good news for Ireland, whose gentle ballad comes as a stark contrast to the lunacy of finalists Croatia (singing right before them). Sweden’s Carola has a great draw which should only further cement her chances of doing well, while the penultimate slot – often thought of as one to watch – falls to Turkey. Since we’re still quite surprised they qualified, we’re not entirely sure that having such a great spot in the running order is going to help them. And as for Armenia, who get to finish things off – well, we can’t help thinking that like Lithuania, Andre should just be happy to be there. But with a few shocks and surprises in the qualifying list, who knows what’ll happen on Saturday night?

And the qualifiers are….

Posted: 18/5/2006 in:

These are the ten countries – in the order in which they were drawn out – who will be joining the the 14 other countries in the final on Saturday….


The semi-final – Team Eurovision’s Verdict

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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.

We Are The Winners??

Posted: in:

It seems that Team Eurovision aren’t the only ones with an opinion as to who’ll be taking top honours on Saturday. A panel of Eurovision experts organised by the BBC News website has tipped Belgium to win this year’s Eurovision. The jurors - including former Eurovision winner Jorgen Olsen, Maltese diva Chiara, legendary ‘nul points’ Norwegian Jahn Teigen, and the UK’s very own Nicki French and 1982 host Jan Leeming - listened to all 37 of this year’s entries and selected the 10 they believe will do well in Athens. The UK and Ireland both made the chart:

1. Belgium
2. Greece
3. Sweden
4. Romania
5. Malta
6. Russia
7. Switzerland
8. Germany
9. Ireland
10. United Kingdom

The full story and profiles of the panel can be found here

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.

No change in semi-final

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With just 24 hours to go until the semi-final kicks off in Athens, it’s been revealed that the format for next year’s qualifying round is set to stay the same. Initial reports had suggested that only 10 countries – the top six from this year plus the UK, France, Spain and Germany – would automatically receive a place in the 2007 final, with 14 countries going through from the semi. However, the EBU’s Eurovision organiser Skante Stocksvelius has told a press conference in Athens that it’ll be business as usual next year, with 14 countries qualifying automatically and 10 making it through from the semi-final. Apparently logistics for rehearsals has been cited as the reason for keeping everything the same.

Stockselius also explained how the change in voting this year – in which each country announces only its 8, 10 and 12 points – will work. Apparently a scoreboard will appear on screen as countries are being called up to vote, and their points from 1-7 will flash up on the board rather than being announced by the juror – but even though they’ll appear faster than they would be if they were announced, the audience will still have enough time to see them and react accordingly. The final three countries to vote, meanwhile, will announce their results in their entirety. So in other words, even though the new voting sounded like it would put a dampener on one of the highlights of the contest, it might not be quite so bad after all – and the new, speedier system might even stop it from becoming dull. But we’ll reserve judgment until we’ve seen it for ourselves on Saturday.

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.

Daz Hits The Charts

Posted: 14/5/2006 in:

We’ll have to wait until next weekend to find out how Daz Sampson fares in Athens, but right now he’s not doing too badly in the UK charts. His Eurovision entry, Teenage Life, has gone into the UK Top 40 at number 13 – and although it might have missed out on a top ten placing, it’s still scored the highest chart position for a UK Eurovision song since Precious’ Say It Again, which reached number six in 1999.

Daz has a fair way to go up the charts before he matches the success of past Eurovision entrants such as Katrina and The Waves, who made number three in 1997 with their contest winner Love Shine A Light – but he’s done better than Javine, who only managed number 18 last year with Touch My Fire. The last UK Eurovision hopeful to top the charts was Gina G’s Ooh…Aah Just A Little Bit in 1996 – but of course Daz could go higher if he does well in Athens. Let’s see what happens next Sunday….

Tune In On Tuesday….

Posted: 13/5/2006 in:

….and kick off your week’s worth of Eurovision viewing with Boom-Bang-A-Bang: 50 Years of Eurovision, BBC One’s own tribute to the Song Contest which is being shown this Tuesday at 10.35pm on BBC One.

Hosted by Eurovision stalwart Terry Wogan, the show promises a celebration of the contest’s five decades, including a performance from the UK’s hopeful Daz Sampson, and some of the best – and worst – Eurovision moments ever. We’re told this will include all of the UK’s wins, Abba’s victory in 1974 and a look back at the last time le Royuame-Uni hosted the contest, in 1998.

Not sure what else it’ll include, but with 50 years worth of clips at their disposal, there’s bound to be a few choice gems in there. We’d like to think the likes of Guildo Horn and Dana International will make it into the highlights – and let’s hope that old clip of Freddi and Friends gets pulled out of the archives too. As for the worst?? Well – as overplayed as it may now be – Jemini seems almost inevitable….

Song reviews - France and Croatia

Posted: 12/5/2006 in:

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

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

Lordy! It’s Lordi…

Posted: 11/5/2006 in:

You wouldn’t normally associate indie music station XFM with Eurovision (although it is Team Eurovision’s channel of choice when we’re not in contest season), but this year they seem to be taking the contest a bit more seriously – thanks to the presence of Finland’s Lordi. Breakfast Show presenter Lauren Laverne – a self-confessed fan of the contest – loves the death metallers’ entry Hard Rock Hallelujah so much that she’s even started a campaign to help Finland secure their first ever Eurovision victory.

Visitors to Lauren’s section of the XFM website have the chance to show their support by emailing a message to Terry Wogan, urging him to switch allegiance from Daz Sampson to Lordi (one of Team Eurovision tried it only to receive an auto-responder from the man himself, so we’re not quite sure if he even read our email). Lauren, meanwhile, has taken her own loyalties a step further by actually featuring a phone interview with Mr Lordi himself on her Thursday morning show. Obviously most of Team Eurovision get up far too late to have actually heard this but one early riser did catch the interview and was a tad disappointed to hear just how “normal” the masked Eurovision hopeful actually sounded.

A Fever Over Night?

Posted: in:

She’s already caused a stir thanks to her flamboyant costumes, over-the-top stage show and enormous ego, but now it seems Iceland’s Silvia Night has landed herself in a spot of bother with the European Broadcasting Union. According to Dot Eurovision, Skante Stockselius, executive supervisor of Eurovision, is none too happy that Night’s song Congratulations features the f-word (as in the line ‘the vote is in, I’ll f-ing win’) and has written to the EBU to complain.

Stockselius’ letter, which is also available at the singer’s official site suggests that any use of ‘foul expression’ in the song would bring the contest into disrepute and might even lead to Iceland being disqualified (but let’s face it, Silvia Night might actually enjoy that kind of publicity). And the singer’s response? “I’ll f-ing say what I f-ing like,” she unrepentantly declared on her website. Indeed.

Song Reviews – UK and Greece

Posted: in:

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

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

Ne Party Pas Parties On!

Posted: 10/5/2006 in:

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

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

Song Reviews – Denmark and Romania

Posted: 9/5/2006 in:

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

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

Song Reviews – Malta and Germany

Posted: 7/5/2006 in:

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

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

Two Weeks And Counting….

Posted: 5/5/2006 in:

Two Weeks And Counting….

…..and with just a fortnight to go until the semi-final, things are hotting up in the betting. Greece’s Anna Vissi is still the favourite – according to Sky Bet, she’s 11/5 to land the home nation a second consecutive win with the power ballad Everything. Sweden and Romania aren’t far behind, at 5/1 and 6/1 respectively, while our very own Daz Sampson is 9/1 to bring the contest back to the UK. At the other end of the scale Israel, Moldova, Andorra and France are rank outsiders at 150/1, while poor old Portugal are floundering right at the bottom of the heap with odds of 200/1.

Turning to the semi-final, Sweden’s Carola is the favourite to win at 2/1, closely followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina at 3/1, Belgium at 4/1 and Russia at 13/2. FYR Macdeonia are just behind at 11/1, followed by Finland’s Lordi at 12/1.And once again Portugal are propping up the list – they’re 125/1 to take top honours in the semi. As for Team Eurovision, we’ve already put our bet on Croatia in the final – with odds of 20/1, and a fabulous tune from Severina, they’re looking like a very good each-way prospect….

Song Reviews – Norway and Spain

Posted: in:

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

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

Song Reviews – Israel and Latvia

Posted: 4/5/2006 in:

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

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

And so to the finalists….

Posted: 1/5/2006 in:

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

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