Highlights and lowlights from 2012

Who put on the biggest diva performance in Baku? Who entered the annals of camp this year? How least self-aware was Donny Montell? (Answer: not least self-aware enough.) Here are the performances from 2012 that, for better or worse, should be remembered.

Legitimately Good Song

For our consideration:
Euphoria,” Sweden
Time,” Israel
Echo (You and I),” France
Don’t Close Your Eyes,” Slovakia
Sound of Our Hearts,” Hungary

Our pick:  It was hard for us to decide between “Time” and “Euphoria.” Since there’s no rule saying we have to pick just one song per category, we just said to heck with it and picked them both.

Jangly and Bowiesque, “Time” was this year’s too-cool-for-Eurovision entry. The song needs to be considered on its merits separate from the performance. Izabo performed it with a charmingly disinterested air that probably did the song no favors when it came time to vote.

Meanwhile,  “Euphoria” is not still in the top 40 on a lot of European pop charts (number six in Germany as of this writing) for no reason: it is a terrific Swedish pop song masterfully staged.

The Runners-Up: Max Jason Mai’s performance during the second Semi was pretty rough, but “Don’t Close Your Eyes” was a terrific slice of old school metal. “Sound of Our Hearts” came together live, but early placement during the final relegated Compact Disco to the bottom of the table. “Echo (You and I)” is a great song probably hurt by an odd staging (more below). Of course, it’s not our favorite “You and I” from the 2012 Eurovision season; that would be Minnie Oh’s “You and I,” which didn’t make it out of Melodi Grand Prix semis.

Biggest Misfire

For our consideration:
Woki Mit Deim Popo,” Austria
Echo (You and I),” France
You and Me,” Netherlands
Stay,” Norway

Our Pick: It pains us to say this, but Trackshittaz’ “Woki Mit Deim Popo” is our pick for biggest misfire. It was kind of uncomfortable to watch the pole dancers during their performance. But the bigger issue is that they couldn’t let go of the glow-in-the-dark bit that was so effective during the Austrian national final. When the delegation found out they could never get the Crystal Hall dark enough for it, they should have restaged it, rather than go for the tacky sewn-on lights on the performances. The cheapness of it all destroyed all chances of a butt-shaking performance in the Final.

The Runners-Up: “Echo” is one of those “how could you mess this up” stagings. You have a strong song and a strong singer, and you surround her with bare-chested gymnasts and a ridiculous train that only was really effective during the big wind machine blast. It was just a whole lot stuff getting in the way.

“Stay” was hurt the most by the vocal performance. Good song, decent staging, flat singing. The big victory for Tooji was making it to the Final despite a really poor Semi.

Not that “You and Me” was ever going to be staged spectacularly while Joan Franka was still wearing the headdress, but why weren’t the back-up singer and musicians dressed as cowboys? Why was the background video all fire? It made it look like she was singing from hell. If they had just gone with the childhood memories motif captured in the official video, it would have made a world of difference.

Campiest Performance

For our consideration:
Be My Guest,” Ukraine
Love Is Blind,” Lithuania
I’m a Joker,” Georgia
The Social Network Song (Uh oh oh),” San Marino
La La Love,” Cyprus

Our Pick: There is the top. And then there is over the top. And then there is way over the top. Then there’s Ukraine, where subtlety goes to die. Gaitana’s “Be My Guest” had it all: big diva performance, mad dancing, ridiculous backdrop graphics, and then its own flash mob acting like a glitter-covered cherry on top.

The Runners-up: Ivi’s performance of “La La Love” seemed inspired by Elizabeth Berkley’s dancing in Showgirls. Donny Montell’s blindfold and spastic dance moves added kitschy bits of flair to “Love Is Blind.” Anri Jokhadze and Valentina Monetta were both seemingly going for intentional camp, which is usually not as good as unintentional camp.

Least Self Aware

There is no competition this year. If you really want to see someone without a clue, look no further than Bulgaria’s Sofi Marinova and her performance of  “Love Unlimited.” “No no, I don’t need back-up singers or back-up dancers or anything. I will not share the stage! I’LL DO IT ALL MYSELF!!!!” She probably designed her costume and lighting as well.

Biggest Diva Performance

For our consideration:
Euphoria,” Sweden
Be My Guest,” Ukraine
Crno i blo,” Macedonia
Suus,” Albania

Our Pick: It seems like an obvious winner now, but think about how gutsy Loreen’s performance was: she is doing weird tai-chi-like dancing in dim lighting with the occasional snowstorm and a back-up dancer who only appears with 38 seconds left in the song. If that is not the definition of a diva performance, what is?

The Runners-up: That Ukraine could have such an over-the-top staging and Gaitana still emerges as the star of the performance is a sign of how bad-ass she is. Note, too, that while she shared the stage with dancers, Gaitana delivered that powerhouse vocal with no backing vocalists. Rona Nishliu brought Albania back to the Final with some really big, long high notes, while Kaliopi only needed one powerful screech of a high note to get Macedonia out of the Semis.