In this edition of what might have been, brace yourself. You think the 2nd Semifinal is stuffed with ballads, but what was left behind was a boatload of Eurovision ballads. The musty kind that went out of favor in the ’90s. Add to that some nutty train wrecks. We count our blessings most of this ragtag bunch didn’t make it through, because if they had May 24th would have been damn near unwatchable.
- Serbia. Internal selection, not applicable. In the song presentation, Željko Joksimovic gave us two versions of his song, in Serbian and an English translation. Organizers decided (wisely) to send the Serbian version. Here’s the English version, “Synonym.”
2. FYR Macedonia. Internal selection, not applicable.
3. The Netherlands. Pearl Jozefzoon, “We can overcome.” Your standard Eurovision overwrought ballad. We give some credit to Pearl, because in the hands of lesser singer this would have been beauty pageant fodder. Even with her at the mike this song was as stale as week old bread, and no “Running Scared” shower could hide that. In the end, Pearl managed 2nd place by finishing 2nd with the jury and the televote. Joan Franka got the win not with the jury but with a plurality of public support.
- Malta. Claudia Faniello, “Pure.” Faniello has competed in every Maltese national selection since 2007, and many folks thought she was finally onto a winner this year with “Pure.” Written by veteran composer/lyricist Phillip Vella and Gerald James Borg, “Pure” was another overwrought Eurovision ballad, albeit a pretty good example of the genre. Unfortunately the Maltese national selection is a cutthroat affair of 16 songs with no superfinal, and Faniello went 5th. From that difficult draw she won the jury vote but only managed 4th in the televote. Kurt Calleja, who went 13th, got the win by placing 1st with the public and 2nd with the juries. Better luck next year my dear.
- Belarus. Alena Lanskaya, “All my life.” For a brief time “All my life” was Belarus’s entry. But 10 days after the Belorussian national final, President Alexander Lukashenko cried foul play, accusing her producers of rigging the televote to favor “All my life.” An investigation confirmed vote tampering. “All my life” was disqualified and Litesound were named the rightful winners. Another overwrought Eurovision ballad bites the dust.
- Portugal. Cúmplices, “Será o que será.” This male-female duet set to Argentine tango rhythms was a missed opportunity for Portugal. Sexy and engaging, it had more energy than “Vida Minha” though less drama. “Vida Minha” was the consensus choice of the Portuguese jury and public. “Será o que será” finished 2nd with the jury and 5th with the public.
- Ukraine. Max Barskih, “Dance.” This was a fun one–a big, manly club dance track. We haven’t seen this much machismo since Greece’s “Opa!” Gaitana got the win by finishing 1st with the jury and 2nd with the public. Barskih finished 2nd with the jury and 4th with the public.
- Bulgaria. New 5, “Chance for a better life.” Remember the episode of Glee where New Directions competed against the deaf show choir? Yup, I’m going there. New 5 sounds like a deaf show choir. Unbelievably, this song finished 1st with the jury and 3rd with the public. Sofi Marinova did us a big favor by saving us from this Up with People nightmare.
- Slovenia. Nika & Eva Prusnik, “Konichiwa.” The Prusnik sisters’ oddball sensibilities were on full display in “Konichiwa,” a cute but wrong pop confection. It’s politically incorrect, but so over the top that it’s obvious they are laughing at themselves rather than Japanese culture. In the Superfinal, Eva Boto cleaned up the televotes; 28,000 compared with just under 13,000 for the Prusnik sisters. Call me crazy, but Joan Franka and “Konichiwa” would have been just a little too much cultural cannibalism for one semi-final.
- Croatia. Internal selection, not applicable.
Sweden. Danny Saucedo, “Amazing.” For the second year in a row, Team Danny came up short at Melodifestivalen. His performance here is top notch, but Loreen was very nearly a social movement in Sweden this year and no one can carry off the lyric “I’m feeling great, I’m feeling awesome.” Danny finished 2nd with the juries and the public televote.
- Georgia. Unknown, 2nd place not disclosed.
Turkey. Internal selection, not applicable.
Estonia. Lenna, “Mina jään.” Following Getter Jaani’s disappointing result, Estonians seemed to have an appetite for ballads this year. It’s easy to imagine “Mina jään” over the opening credits to a James Bond film. Its hook is one of the few that I could remember from first listen and has stayed with me through the national final season. Ex-Vanilla Ninja member Lenna was trumped by Ott Lepland, who in the Superfinal received two-thirds of the public televote.
- Slovakia. Internal selection, not applicable.
Norway. Nora Foss al-Jabri, “Somewhere beautiful.” Not an overwrought Eurovision ballad per se, just a saccharin sweet ballad meant for a Disney Princess. “Somewhere beautiful” swept the jury vote. Thankfully, the Norwegian public was the voice of reason at MGP, elevating Tooji to the win and placing her a distant 3rd in the public televote. That said, 16-year-old Foss al-Jabri is a talented vocalist. I suspect we haven’t heard the last of her.
- Bosnia & Herzegovina. Internal selection, not applicable.
Lithuania. DAR, “Home.” “Home” is pure pop, inconsequential as can be and goes down easy. DAR is a 3-member guy group but they included two female backing singers so their sound was more like Steps or S Club 7 than EMD. The orchestration and staging of “Home” was pretty tacky, but DAR gave us a well-tuned vocal and some harmonies that turned my head. Donny Montell was the winner of both the jury and public televote, DAR was the consensus 2nd place.