The 2011 Eurovision That Almost Was — Part I

Before the semifinals begin, we’d like to do one last set of columns on the national finals. We were originally planning to write up favorite songs we won’t be seeing, but we’ve already called out a lot of our favorites in the national song posts.  Instead we decided to highlight the second place finishers, in order of the draw.  As it turns out, several of our favorites were runners up, and some of these songs we like better than the song that was selected.

I’m sure that all the artists, songwriters and producers behind these songs look at their efforts and wonder “what if.”  For this moment, let’s join them.

Semi-final One:

Poland.  Anna Gogola, “Ktoś taki jak ty.” Poland had an undisputed winner this year.  Anna Gogola was a distant runner-up, receiving only 23% of the televote, compared with the 45% received by Magdalena Tul for “Jestem.” However, Anna did receive twice as many televotes as the third place finisher.  The song had an odd staging and musical arrangement, but it had a good hook.

Norway. BlackSheeps, “Dance Tonight.” Going into the MGP semi-finals we figured the BlackSheeps, previous Junior Nordic Melodi Grand Prix winners, would be in the mix.  Their ’80s-inspired rock song isn’t really my thing, but lead singer 17-year-old Agnete showed a lot of composure and presence on stage for someone of her age.  As it turned out, the BlackSheeps were just shy of Stella Mwangi on the jury vote, but “Haba Haba” pulled way ahead on the public vote, receiving nearly twice as many televotes.

Albania. Alban Skënderaj & Miriam Cani, “Ende ka shpresë.”  Albania’s runner up was an emotional, Balkan-style male/female duet, which as it turns out we didn’t get in the contest this year.  Alban and Miriam are young, extremely attractive, and good singers. They were the clear second place finisher, but it wasn’t a blowout.  Aurela Gace received 82 points, Alban and Miriam got 66 points, and the third place finisher trailed behind with 48 points.

Armenia.  Emmy, “Ayo.” “Ayo” was the other credible song choice for Armenians, but it finished behind “Boom Boom” in both the jury and public vote.  I prefer “Boom Boom” myself, however, since being selected the song has not had the warm reception Armenian entries have typically enjoyed in years past.  If Armenia underperforms this year, many will be wondering “what if we had picked Ayo instead.”

Turkey.  Internal selection, not applicable.

Serbia. Aleksandra Kovač, “Idemo dalje.”  We watched this one live.  The other songs weren’t really a threat to Nina and “Magical.”

Russia.  Internal selection, not applicable.

Switzerland.  Bernarda Brunovic, “Confidence.” Bernarda had the sympathy vote behind her – she’s blind and had written and sung a song about “confidence.”  Though a positive message is timeless, the staging was dated, and I was put off by her vocal histrionics.  Anna Rossinelli’s “In Love for a While” was the clear Swiss winner with 23% of the vote, and with 13% of the vote Bernarda Brunovic led the rest of pack.

Georgia.  Second place unknown, Georgia did not release the results of the vote.

Finland.  Saara Aalto. “Blessed with Love.” Christian pop from a Getter Jaani look-alike/Minnie Ripperton sound-alike. I thought nothing could be more annoying than Paradise Oskar–I was wrong. Saara’s vocal line would have gotten annoying very fast. When it came to the final 3, Paradise Oskar received 47% of the televote and Saara finished just behind with 41% of the televote. Slim pickings for the Finns this year.

Malta.  Richard Edwards, “Finally.” Richard Edwards did significantly better than Glen Vella with the jurors. However, he managed only 3rd place in the televote.  Not an entirely surprising outcome–with this modern country ballad, Richard Edwards is better suited to Nashville than Malta.  I don’t think “Finally” would have served Malta any better than “One Life,” but at least it would have been a different sound for ESC voters.

San Marino. Internal selection, not applicable.

Croatia. Jacques Houdek, “Lahor.” The Croatian final asked voters to select between 2 artists and 3 songs (6 entries in all).  Croatia’s second place finisher was the song that eventually became the Croat entry (with the same staging), but from the other artist.  Jacques Houdek is a talented singer, but the song simply didn’t suit him as well as Daria Kinzer.  Jacques received 5,090 votes in the superfinal, compared with Daria’s 9,000.

Iceland. Magni Ásgeirsson, “Ég trúi á betra líf.”   Iceland this year was asked to pick between several talented singers with mediocre songs — a situation where a dark horse spoiler can come into play.  The second place finisher in Iceland was not Yohanna, but former Rock Star Supernova contestant Magni Asgeirsson.  His power ballad wasn’t particularly powerful, but Magni was a charismatic performer, and he went second-to-last in the Icelandic national finals.

Hungary. Internal selection, not applicable.

Portugal.  Nuno Norte, “São os Barcos de Lisboa.” This one couldn’t have been closer.  Homens da Luta won the public televote, but finished mid-pack with the jury.  Nuno Norte won the jury vote, and finished mid-pack with the public.  Nuno wound up trailing Homens da Luta by only one point.  On balance, we think the Portuguese public got this one right. Norte’s song comes and goes without making an impression, and at least Homens da Luta gives us some theater.

Lithuania.  Linas Adomaitis, “Floating To You.” Linas finished 2nd with the jury and 3rd with the public. This quirky Maroon 5 knockoff, while cute, wasn’t really a threat to Evelina Sašenko, who was the only competent singer in the dreadful Lithuanian final.

Azerbaijan. Internal song selection, not applicable.

Greece. Second place unknown, Greece did not release the results of the vote.