Break out the crackers, wine, and vodka, because the Eurovision Song Contest, Europe’s annual cheese-fest and search for the “best song in Europe,” is happening this week. This year, national representatives from 43 countries have descended on Oslo through a cloud of volcanic ash courtesy of Iceland. Alexander Rybak’s fiddling and puckish grin linger in the air as Europeans look to crown a new champion. Norway needn’t worry—their entry is competent but they won’t be hosting next year. The semi-finals are May 25 and May 27. The final will be held on May 29.
Who are the contenders?
In the days leading up to the contest, Azerbaijan has the momentum. Safura’s “Drip Drop” is a pop-ballad with RnB influences; it’s relevant, soulful, and catchy. It’s the buzz entry and the bookie’s choice.
Other entries poised to compete this year:
- Germany “Satellite,” a cute, quirky pop tune, made cuter and quirkier by Lena’s odd English pronunciations. She’s an engaging performer and has the influential support of Stefan Raab behind her.
- Armenia “Apricot Stone,” a singer-songwriter story song. The staging will feature a tree growing out of a giant apricot pit. Roald Dahl would be proud.
- Israel “Milim.” This year’s best ballad, gloriously oversung by Harel Skaat.
- Denmark “In a Moment Like This,” an uber-pop duet. The shine is off slightly because Chanee and N’Evergreen have struggled in rehearsals, but if they can execute the song is just like candy—sweet, irresistible, and goes down real easy.
Which are this year’s guilty pleasures?
Let’s face it, this is why we watch. At the core of an unhealthy Eurovision obsession is a deep affection for kitsch, train wrecks, and pop culture gone horribly awry.
- Iceland “Je ne se Quois.” In the capable hands of Hera Bjork, Iceland’s perennial Eurovision entry back-up singer, this song is a disco diva masterpiece.
- Serbia “Ovo je Balkan.” This year’s shout out entry to the Balkans is damn catchy. It’s sung by someone who’s taking his fashion cues from Jimmy Fallon and/or Mike Flowers.
- Belarus “Butterflies.” The song is saccharine dreck. But in the staging, the 3 women in band 3+2 grow butterfly wings. We eagerly await the semifinal to determine if their metamorphosis vaults them into the pantheon of legendary Eurovision kitsch.
- Malta “My Dream.” It has a man dressed as a bird flapping behind singer Thea Garrett. A Maltese falcon, if you will.
- ESTONIA!!!!! “Siren.” There’s one entry every year that is actually cool; that is to say we genuinely like it. Unfortunately, the entry is often too offbeat to find a wide audience from a 3-minute listen. Malcolm Lincoln’s vocalist does a funny dance, but it’s probably not enough to get them into the finals. “Siren” draws comparisons with the likes of Simple Minds, but more austere, progressive, and melancholy.
Is anyone at risk for a nul points humiliation?
The United Kingdom had a successful 5th place finish last year with an entry penned by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Dianne Warren. UK organizers attempted to replicate the model this year by bringing in another songwriting heavyweight. Who they found was Pete Waterman, a songwriter who achieved success in the 80s by penning hits for Rick Astley, among others. After what was undoubtedly a lot of coaxing and ego grooming, organizers persuaded Ol’ Pete to go to his filing cabinet and dredge up “That Sounds Good to Me.” Unfortunately, the selection is ridiculously dated, a not-so-subtle echo of Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America.” It cannot be saved by amiable singer Josh Dubovie, nor by the UK’s attempts to develop a more contemporary arrangement. But, hey, our 2-year old likes it.