The 2011 Eurovision That Almost Was — Part II

Unhappy with any of the songs in the second semi-final?  Here’s what nearly came to pass.  We continue our look at the second place finishers in the national final season.

Semi-final Two:

Bosnia & Herzegovina.  Internal selection, not applicable.

Austria. Trackshittaz ft. Lukas Plöchl, “Oida Taunz.” How’s this for “what might have been” — goofy Austrian hip hop instead of Nadine Beiler with her big voice. Trackshittaz put out a high energy number with catchy choreography and stage props. When it came to the final 3, Trackshittaz managed 36% of the public vote, compared with 46% for Nadine and “The Secret is Love.” Between two good entries, we can’t fault the Austrians for making the more mainstream choice. We do love this one, though.

Netherlands. 3JS, “De stroom.” There wasn’t much question that 3JS would be singing “Never Alone” at ESC.  They saved the best for last and it received 63% of the vote.  The next closest finisher, De Stroom, was a feel-good soft rock number that received only 26% of the vote.  It was amiable enough, but lacked “Never Alone”’s anthemic quality.

Belgium. Sarina, “Rien En Apparence.” French pop. Sarina played the piano well, but her vocal was sometimes shaky and unfortunately she had the stage presence of a grapefruit.  Easy pickings for Witloof Bay.  Sarina finished 2nd with the public and 3rd with the jury.

Slovakia. Internal selection, not applicable.

Ukraine. Zlata Ognevich, “The Kukushka.”  A throwback to Vanity 6.  From the stapled together costumes to the cuckoo clock backing vocals, this was a mess of a package. It would have needed an awful lot of work. Zlata had the bad luck to go first in the Ukrainian national finals but still finished 2nd in the SMS and Jury vote. Ironically, in the Internet vote, where draw didn’t matter, she finished 6th. In the selection controversy that followed with Mika Newton and “Angels,” Zlata was the classier of the competitors offered a second chance, thanking the organizers and withdrawing due to a “scheduling conflict.”  Perhaps she knew she had a dud.

Moldova. Natalia Barbu, “Let’s Jazz.” Moldova did not have a consensus winner this year — Zdob si Zdub finished second from both the jury and the public. They barely edged out former Eurovision competitor Natalia Barbu, who was the jurors’ choice but only managed a mid-table finish in the public vote. Natalia went 2nd in a field of 25 contestants (Zdob si Zdub, in contrast, went 24th) with a cleverly staged Chicago-the-Musical-inspired bank heist. Interestingly, the overwhelming winner of the Moldovan public vote, Karizma, “When Life is Grey,” was completely spiked by the jury. On this one I’m with the jury.  Natalia’s song, while pastiche, was entertaining without crossing the line to eccentric.  And Karizma was awful.

Sweden. Danny Saucedo, “In the Club.” All along, Melodifestivalen was shaping up to be a two-horse race between Danny with “In the Club” and Eric Saade with “Popular.” Danny was a good performer and had a fanbase, but he didn’t have a song from Frederik Kempe or Eric’s placement in the final (Danny went first, Eric went last).  My issue was that Danny’s song was too repetitive–I didn’t want him to tell me 27 times (I counted) he was “In The Club, The Club.” Danny finished just behind Eric in the jury vote, but Eric was strongly favored by the Swedish public.

Cyprus. Internal song selection, not applicable.

Bulgaria. Milena Slavova, “Fire In My Hair.” Frankenstein makeup, guitars shooting fireworks, fire baton twirling, and sumo wrestlers. But forget about all of that. What I think Milena really needed to make this song work was one more gimmick. Poli Genova and “Na Inat” look pretty damn good after this one.  OMFG.

FYR Macedonia. Martin Srbinovski, “Ram Tam Tam.” With 20 entries, it seemed unlikely that the Macedonians could come to consensus on a song, but somehow Vlatko Ilievski managed to finish 1st in both the public and jury vote with “Rusinka.” The field dropped off dramatically after that.  Martin Srbinovski managed second place overall by scoring 3rd with the juries and 6th with the public.  On balance, I think I prefer “Ram Tam Tam” because Martin manages to scream out a melody (unlike Vlatko), and I do appreciate the inclusion of bagpipes in a hard rock number.

Israel. Idit Halevi, “It’s My Time.” Idit served up a traditional Eurovision ballad that displayed some decent songwriting but was severely hampered by a stale arrangement and a traditional staging (ballroom gown, pianos, candles, etc).  Preselection favorite Dana International received 270 points for “Ding Dong,” Init finished with 235 points.

Slovenia. April, “Ladadidej.”  In the Slovenian national final, we rather liked “Ladadidej,” even though April was little more than a Lady Gaga knockoff. However, Maja Keuc and “Vanilija” smoked April in the superfinal, receiving 2 ½ times as many votes.

Romania. Distinto, Ianna & Anthony Icuagu, “Open Your Eyes.”  An over-the-top pop-opera outing from 5 “classically trained” (meh?) vocalists. It would have been fun to see this one pitted against the likes of Amaury Vassilli (my guess is Amaury would have made mincemeat of them.)  They won the public vote but only finished 6th with the jury.  In contrast, Hotel FM and “Change” won the jury vote and came in 2nd place with the public.

ESTONIA!!!!! Outloudz, “I Wanna Meet Bob Dylan.” In a packed field, Outloudz stood out with their introspective and thoughtful lyric, even though this song was not really my thing. However, after seeing Jon Cryer-lookalike Stig Rästa‘s look of heartbreak when Getter Jaani was announced the winner, I did feel a little bad for him. In the superfinal, Getter received 62% of the vote, Outloudz received 38%.

Belarus. Internal selection, not applicable.

Latvia. Lauris Reiniks, “Banjo Laura” The forced happiness, the fist pumping, the bouncy choreography…“Banjo Laura” emerged as one of our camp favorites from the 2011 season.  In the general round, “Banjo Laura” was actually ahead of “Angel in Disguise” thanks to the public televote.  In the superfinal, however, the public rallied around Musiqq (12,539 votes versus 8,495 for Lauris).  Ah well, it sure would have been a hoot to see Lauris following Belarus.

Denmark. Anne Noa, “Sleepless.” Of all the preselection songs here, I think the Danes had the biggest missed opportunity. Anne Noa’s look and sound was Taylor Swift adapted for a European audience, and I thought she was fresh and accessible. Instead, the Danes went for A Friend in Tomorrow, who was blessed with a late draw and offered an anthemic song that plays particularly well on a late draw.

Ireland.  Nikki Kavanagh, “Falling.” This was a very close one. Going into Eurosong, the Irish were genuinely divided on whether Jedward at ESC would be a good thing or a bad thing. The most plausible alternative, Nikki Kavanagh, was regarded as a good singer, but detractors felt “Falling” too closely resembled Safura’s “Drip Drop.”  On the night the Eurosong judges criticized her staging.  In the end, Nikki Kavanagh was favored by the jury, but Jedward eked it out on the public vote.  Jedward won with 98 cumulative points, barely edging out Nikki’s 96 points.