We wrap up our “what might have been” series with the Big 6, countries who have already been afforded spots in the Final. They get the free pass, so it’s nice that these countries are bringing songs this year that actually belong in the final. Germany is the only one that had an open selection process, and several others used a hybrid of internal and public selection, thus giving their fans some choice. Looking at the 2nd place finishers, it seems these countries generally got it right. Considered together, the standard of songs from the Big 6 is a cut above what we have seen from them in past contests.
1. United Kingdom. Internal selection, not applicable. The BBC is rumored to have approached many artists before finally settling on The Hump. Jason Donovan has said he turned it down. Plenty of other names were rumored prior to the announcement, including Pixie Lott, the Darkness, Atomic Kitten, a Spice Girl reunion, Charlotte Church, Katherine Jenkins, and JLS. It’s unclear how many of these were actually approached by the Beeb.
- France. Internal selection, not applicable.
Italy. A committee selects Italy’s Eurovision entry from the pool of artists at the annual San Remo festival. Last year, the organizers selected the newcomer winner. This year’s newcomer winner, Alessandro Casillo, was ineligible due to his young age. The winner of San Remo’s Big Artists category was Emma Marrone with “Non è l’Inferno”:
However, this year the committee opted for Nina Zilli, another competitor in the Big Artists section. Nina Zilli’s song at San Remo was “Per Sempre.” For a short while this ballad was going to be Italy’s song at Eurovision, but prior to the deadline organizers switched the song to “L’amore è femmina,” an upbeat Duffy-style number which they felt was a better fit for the contest. Both songs would have represented well for Italy, but for our part, in this ballad-heavy year we are glad they made the switch.
- Azerbaijan. Unknown. Azerbaijan held a competition to determine the singer, but other than announcing Sabina Babayeva as the winner final placements were not revealed. Her song was selected internally.
Spain. Pastora Soler was an internal selection, but the public helped select her song. In Destino Eurovision Soler presented 3 songs off her latest album. All songs were performed with just Soler on stage. That worked fine for the ballad “Quedate conmigo,” which was the consensus choice of both the public and jury. The staging worked less well for “Tu vida es tu vida,” which finished 2nd in the public vote and 3rd with the juries. “Tu vida es tu vida” was a bombastic Latin pop song. Soler’s voice was particularly shouty here, and because the camera had nowhere else to look, we saw that she was trying too hard. The tacky green dress didn’t help. The song might have been better showcased by a more sophisticated staging.
- Germany. The final of Unser Star fuer Baku pitted the top two artists from the series against each other with 3 songs, giving the voters 6 options for Eurovision. Though Roman Lob emerged as an early favorite in the series, the superfinal was very close. “Standing Still” took only 50.7% of the superfinal televote, and 2nd place finisher Ornella de Santis received 49.3% of the superfinal televote with “Quietly.” With a twee nasal soprano similar to Jane Wiedlin, I can’t say I was a big fan of de Santis’ vocal tone. Yet in “Quietly” de Santis showed good control of her instrument. It’s difficult to sing a quiet song and keep the breath support, particularly when you’re as nervous as she was. Unfortunately, “Quietly” was done in by a poor arrangement with relentless piano arpeggios that made the song feel dull and plodding. Because Unser Star’s site won’t let us embed, check out the track here.