We like a lot of the songs on this list. It’s just… where do we begin? We don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that these folks were performing like they think star performers should perform, and they didn’t quite keep it real. So much the better for us.
1. Musiqq—Angel in Disguise (Latvia 2011). We’re tough on Musiqq, but we do quite like this song. Singer Emīls Balceris was only 18 when Eurovision rolled around so perhaps his Latvian music career up to that point hadn’t prepared him for the size of the live and television audience. Their performance felt like two buddies sitting on their parents’ barstools at home. The shit-eating grins said, “Look Ma, I’m on international television!”
2. Aisha—What For (Latvia 2010). “What For” is “deep.” (Well, at least they think it’s deep, although XTC did it better in the 80s with “Dear God.” But never mind that.) Bless her heart, Aisha really wants to make sure you understand that she’s asking tough life questions. She even asked her Uncle Joe, but he can’t speak. In fact, these questions are so tough that she can’t ask them and sing in tune at the same time. What for do people live until they die? What for are we living? What for are we crying? What for are we dying? Only Mr. God knows why.
3. Donny Montell—Let Me (2011 Lithuanian National Finals). Okay, he didn’t actually make the contest in 2011 (he would find his way to the Eurovision stage the following year). But humor us for a minute because Donny is special. We’ll begin with his semifinal performance in the 2011 Lithuanian song contest. “Let Me” is a bedroom ballad, where Donny asks us to “let me love you twice”. It’s all Barry White and Luther Vandross. Donny is dressed in a shiny suit and tie. He got a haircut. He looked at a language translation, and he really thought about the meaning of the lyrics. He even does a key change. I mean, he’s asking nicely here. Let me love you… twice. Please?
We don’t know what the judges said to him, but whatever it was prompted Donny to rework the arrangement and his approach to song. In the final, “Let Me” was upbeat dance number intended for the clubs. Determined to fit a square peg into a round hole, he gives a performance that he probably rehearsed at home in the bedroom mirror. He is the sexiest beast around, breaks it down for us, and gives us his Michael Jackson dance moves. He ditches the suit for a white shirt, black crew top, and suspenders (which give him trouble during the performance). Who knows what the scrolling green arrows are doing there, but they feel masculine. Unfortunately, he’s not in his bedroom at home, he’s on live national television. And oh my does it fail. Hilariously.
4. Martin Vučić—Make My Day (FYR Macedonia 2005). Macedonia offers us this important cautionary tale: make sure your crew has a bit of rhythm. The dancers aren’t particularly good, but I don’t get around to noticing because I can’t take my eyes off of the backup singer on the right. I never get tired of watching this one. Little known fact: this song was so good that Spain reentered it in 2009.
5. Prime Minister—Northern Girl (Russia 2002). As you’re watching this keep in mind the year is 2002. Also keep in mind that Backstreet Boys peaked in 1999. Doesn’t stop Russia’s Prime Minister from trying to tick off the boxes of the boy band formula. Problem is they don’t execute the formula very well: the guys are pudgy and generally not cute, the solos aren’t in tune, the harmonizing isn’t great, the dancing is worse, and the wardrobe is awkward. The lyrics–”northern girl, frosty eyes, I want to melt you baby”–speak for themselves. And the choreo…well, there is a particularly special moment at 1:05. In spite of it all we love this song. Our fave is Lance.
6. Krassimir Avramov—Illusion (Bulgaria 2009). Eurolemur has done enough music and theater to know that every group has its share of backstage drama. Most set the drama aside when it’s showtime. Not so with Krassimir Avramov and company. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during those rehearsals. We don’t know the backstage story, but we can guess. The name on the card says Krassimir Avramov, but it’s easy to see that several alpha personalities are sharing the stage (because the camerawork spends a lot of time showing the supporting cast). In particular, watch Petya Bouklieva, the woman with the inappropriate Elvira wig. By golly she was going to wring everything she could out of her big moment. Throughout she just performs bigger than everyone else (including the lead singer). Perhaps someone gave her a note to tone it down, but if they did it doesn’t show. Vocally she starts to stick out by 1:45, and any singer can tell you that this happens when you aren’t listening to others. Doubt what we’re saying? She even has the last word–the final “thank you”–after Krassimir.
7. Sofi Marinova—Love Unlimited (Bulgaria 2012). We’re picking on Bulgaria, we know, but if you really want to see someone without a clue, look no further than Sofi Marinova and her performance of ”Love Unlimited”. “No no, I don’t need back-up singers or back-up dancers or anything. I will not share the stage! I’LL DO IT ALL MYSELF!!!!” She probably designed her costume and lighting as well.