The 2014 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal One

It’s time for our annual posts that take a look at the Eurovision that could have been by reviewing the second place finishers at the National Finals. (You can find the previous Eurovision That Almost Was posts on our 20112012, and 2013 pages.). Putting this post together, we feel a twinge of regret and even some anger. For our money, this alternate universe of near misses would have been a better show than what we’ll get in May.

Armenia. Internal selection, not applicable.

Latvia. Dons, “Pēdējā vēstule.” The structure of Dziesma did Latvia a disservice this year. With “Pēdējā vēstule,” Latvia had a big Eurovision song and a professional, competent vocalist.  Dons was getting regular radio airplay in Latvia, and he has since had multiple charting singles on the Latvian pop charts. “Cake to Bake?” Not so much. At Dziesma, Dons won the jury and narrowly the public vote to take him to the Superfinal. Though he again won the jury in the Superfinal, Dons lost his bid to Copenhagen because the public went for “Cake to Bake” by a margin of 97 votes. In Latvia, tiebreak goes to the public.

Estonia. Super Hot Cosmos Blues Band, “Maybe-maybe.” In the first round of Eesti Laul voting, this bluesy rock singalong emerged as the surprise #1 pick of the Estonian jury and the televote. The song proved to be highly divisive with fans, however, and in the Superfinal the televoters turned out in droves, ultimately tipping the scales toward Tanja.

Sweden. Ace Wilder, “Busy Doing Nothing.” What a missed opportunity this was: a multi-week Swedish chart topper, with genuine potential to be an international hit. “Busy Doing Nothing” was catchy, cheeky, and immediate, and stands toe-to-toe with anything Kesha puts out. However, Ace Wilder was largely unproven–especially in comparison to long-time entrant Sanna Nielsen–and it would have been a bitch to get the vocals and staging right with the six person limit. Ace missed the win by only two points.

Iceland. Sigríður Eyrún Friðriksdóttir, “Up and Away.” An unholy mashup of Beyonce’s “Single ladies” and “Big Spender” from Sweet Charity, performed by Hayden Panettiere + 40 pounds. How did this make it to the Superfinal? Dire.

Albania. Klodian Kaçani, “Me ty.” An old-fashioned Balkan ballad that was bombastic but lacked any real impact. There was a big gap between Kaçani’s result and first place finisher Hersi Matmuja.

Russia. Internal selection, not applicable. Russia’s process was pretty chaotic this year. They first announced a national final to be held in December, then postponed it to March. But then in March, they pulled back and announced it would be an internal selection. Russia finally revealed their song right at the entry deadline, which was by all accounts a rush job. The rumor (denied by Philip Kirkorov) was that Russia had plans to send Sergey Lazarev, a well-known Russian pop singer, and a current judge on the Ukrainian The Voice. This was, of course, before all the…ahem…unpleasantness.

Azerbaijan. Khana Hasanova. “Start a Fire” was an internal song selection, but Azerbaijan held a television series to select the artist. In Boyuk Sehne, Hasanova proved herself an able vocalist across different music styles. She was good on camera as well. Still, Dilara Kazimova had a connection that left no doubt in our minds that she was the better choice.

Ukraine. Viktoria Petryk “Love is Lord.” Viktoria Petryk knows a lot about finishing 2nd. After all, she placed 2nd for Ukraine in the 2008 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. In the Ukraine selection this year, she trailed far behind Mariya Yaremchuk with the public, ultimately only managing 4th. Her 2nd place placement can be attributed to a boost from the judges. But because this is Ukraine, there were allegations after the contest that the phone lines were blocked for other contestants, which is what caused Yaremchuk’s runaway public victory. For what it’s worth, “Love is Lord” is an overwrought, oversung ballad, but it would have been a better choice than “Tick Tock.”

Belgium. Bandits, “One.” Ugh. I thought we had moved past the Arctic Monkeys. Of course, in the end it wasn’t really much of a contest. Axel Hirsoux’s victory was decided by 57% of the public televote, while second place Bandits received only 17%.

Moldova. Boris Covali, “Perfect Day.” You really have to wonder if the Moldovan organizers have it out for Boris Covali. “Perfect Day”–think Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” if it were a showtune–convincingly won the public televote (which, in the Moldovan national selection, is announced first) only to be spiked by the jury. The same thing happened to him last year. Too bad, because “Perfect Day” is far more coherent than “Wild Soul.”

San Marino. Internal selection, not applicable.

Portugal. Catarina Pereira, “Mea Culpa.” In 2010, Catarina Pereira convincingly won the public televote with “Canta Por Mim” (a more enjoyable song than Festival da Canção winner “Há dias assim”) only to have her song quashed by the jury. Pereira’s 2nd place finish in 2014 was deja vu, not in the least because “Mea Culpa” is basically the same song. This time, however, Pereira managed only 24% of public vote, well behind Suzy’s 42%. Pereira’s fans were livid, and after the contest, Pereira and another finalist launched complaints about the outcome.

Netherlands.  Internal selection, not applicable.

Montenegro. Internal selection, not applicable.

Hungary. Bogi, “We All.” We don’t definitively know who finished second in Hungary’s incredibly competitive national final because the results of the public SMS votes weren’t released. However, Bogi performed strongly throughout the A Dal selection process, and after the first round of voting in the final, her catchy, feel-good anthem (with special added bonus lemurs) managed a 2nd place ranking with the judges.

 

The Eurovision That Almost Was: The Big Six

We wrap up our look at what might have been with a gander at the Big 5 countries and Sweden.

United Kingdom. Internal selection, not applicable.

Sweden. Yohio, “Heartbreak Hotel.” It takes some guts to name your song “Heartbreak Hotel,” but any 17-year-old who can craft a perfect androgynous anime character look is not short on guts. Yohio overwhelmingly won the Swedish public vote. However, he couldn’t overcome placing second from last in Melodifestivalen’s international jury vote to snag the win. Robin Stjernberg came second in the public vote and first in the jury vote, which was more than enough to book his place in the Eurovision Song Contest Final. Frankly, we’re not complaining since we felt like Yohio’s stunning style couldn’t prop up a sub-par HIM-meets-The Ark pop-metal number.

Italy: Internal selection, not applicable. However, since Italy picks its Eurovision entry from any of the artists who perform at its Sanremo Music Festival, it could have done what it did in 2011 and selected Sanremo’s Young Artist award winner,  “Mi servirebbe sapere” by Antonio Maggio (who sports a similar quiff to Samremo winner Marco Mengoni). On the other hand, Maggio’s song is a bland slice of quirky Italian pop, so we’re not going to suggest the selection panel made the wrong decision.

France. Internal selection, not applicable.

Spain. El Sueño de Morfeo, “Atrévete.” ESDM was an internal selection, but a vote was held to pick the band its song. If you can imagine Dervish rocking out, then you might conjure up something like “Atrévete.” It was the wild card pick chosen online before the Spanish National Final. However, when it came time to choose, “Contigo hasta el final” received 53.4 percent of the public vote and the first place vote from all three judges on the jury. “Atrévete” was the clear runner-up, with second place votes from the three judges and 33.7% of the public vote.

Germany. LaBrassBanda, “Nackert.” The voting structure for this year’s Unser Song combined votes from a public televote, a live jury that included last year’s German representative Roman Lob, and a vote conducted of radio listeners who registered their choices online after all the songs aired on nine radio stations around the country. Cascada was the favorite going in (since they were already an established pop act), and they scored 12 points from the televote, 10 from the radio listeners, and 8 from the jury.

LaBrassBanda were the clear choice of the radio listeners, who gave their horn-driven beer hall rave-up 12 points. They also captured 10 points from the televote. However, their chances to win were demolished by the jury, who only gave them 1 point. It almost makes you wonder if the jury knew the radio vote going into the final. Cascada won by seven points, and if the jury vote had been consistent with the other two groups of voters, Germany would have had a far different sound gracing the Malmö Arena.

UPDATED 24 APRIL 2013: Ospero points out in the comments section that my analysis there doesn’t quite work out, mathematically speaking. Still, it is worth noting that the jury was absolutely not impressed with LaBrassBanda.

The Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal Two

We continue our look at a Eurovision Song Contest Fringe universe, one in which Bulgarian copyright law is not used to avoid performing a hated song and in which the song from Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix that was a number one smash actually goes to Malmö.

Latvia. Samanta Tīna, “I Need A Hero.” The scoring system for Dziesma is a bit confusing, but once you realize that the songs the jury and the televoters liked the most were given the rank of 1 and the ones they liked the least were ranked 12, it starts to make sense. There was much agreement between the jury and public in the Super Final: PeR’s “Here We Go” was ranked first by both and Samantha Tīna was ranked second. We were pulling for PeR, because Tīna’s dreary, generic ballad would have passed unmemorably by during the second Semi.

San Marino. Internal selection, not applicable.

FYR Macedonia. Esma & Lozano, “Imperija.” Although Esma & Lozano and their song were internal selections, the original pick to represent Macedonia was “Imperija”. However this song was rejected after its public release due to the overwhelming negative reaction to it. And by rejected, we mean, Macedonia has tried to scrub the song from existence. Even now, it’s really difficult to find “Imperija” online, so enjoy the link we have now, because it will probably get pulled soon.

Azerbaijan. Unknown, 2nd place not disclosed.

Finland. Mikael Saari, “We Should Be Through.” Krista Siegfrids was the clear winner of the Finnish televote. However, she finished in a three-way tie for first among the jury votes, along with Mikael Saari and Great Wide North. Saari came in second in the televote, giving him the runner-up spot. (Great Wide North finished fourth with 12 percent of the public votes.) As grating as Siegfrids’ performance is, at least it has a pulse, unlike Saari’s dirge ballad.

Malta. Kevin Borg, “Needing You.” Borg finished in first place with Malta’s televoters, but in second with the jury. Gianluca Bezzina’s large point tally from the jury and second place finish with televoters booked his ticket to Malmö. And, for the third time this Semi, we are saved from a dreary ballad; Borg’s is so bland you’ll forget about it as you’re listening to it.

Bulgaria. Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankoulov, “Kismet.” Elitsa and Stoyan were internally selected, but Bulgaria held a selection show to choose the song they would perform at Eurovision. As we detail in our post about Bulgaria, officially the song was changed due to copyright issues, but unofficially, the switch may have had more to do with Elitsa’s rumored dissatisfaction with the song selection.

Iceland. Unnur Eggertsdóttir, “Ég Syng!” Iceland didn’t reveal any points totals during the 2013 Söngvakeppnin but did pick “Ég á Líf” and “Ég Syng!” for its 2-song Super Final. Fortunately, “Ég á Líf” finished first, which meant we didn’t have to suffer through “Ég Syng!” more than we had to. The only way this song would be more annoying is if it were a Junior Eurovision Entry.

Greece. Alex Leon featuring Giorgina, “Angel.” It wasn’t particularly close in Greece this year: Koza Mostra and Agathonas Iakovidis took the Eurovision Song Contest slot handily. Leon and Giorgina finished second by virtue of a strong jury showing, but they didn’t do well enough with the public vote to even come close to challenging Koza Mostra. “Angel” is a pretty bad-ass ethnic ballad with a diva performance, staged in the Greek final with lots of shirtless dancers. Even so, we’re pleased Greece sent “Alcohol Is Free” (Kieran’s version: “Abbawon Ifree”) to Malmö.

Israel. Ron Weinreich, “Love is One.” In this year’s Kdam, Moran Mazor tied for first in the jury vote with paralyzed-soldier-turned-singer Ron Weinreich. Weinreich, however, finished fifth in the televote, which killed his chances of winning. (Interestingly, the song that finished first in the televote, Shany Zamir’s “Forever,” received zero points from the jury.) “Love Is One” is decent enough, if not particularly memorable in and of itself. Weinreich flavors it with a dash or three of hair metal operatic vocal theatrics. Plus there’s a keytar. At least we finally have the answer to that age-old entertainment question: what do people respond to more, ex-soldiers in wheelchairs or side boob?

Armenia. Unknown, 2nd place not disclosed.

Hungary. András Kállay-Saunders, “My Baby.” The story of A Dal this year is the story of what the jury wanted versus what the public wanted. In A Dal’s second Semifinal, ByeAlex’s “Kedvesem” tied for fourth place in the jury vote with Gergő Baricz’s “Húz.” The jury picked “Kedvesem” to go through. In the Final, the jury voted for four of the eight songs to be brought to the public vote. Kállay-Saunders’ doo-wop earworm “My Baby” had the highest jury total of the four songs, with 46 points from the five judges. “Kedvesem” sneaked the final four with just 16 points (but consider that the four songs that didn’t make it scored a total of 12 points between them). The public liked ByeAlex more and he won A Dal, although the second place finisher in the televote was never revealed. Either way we were happy; “Kedvesem” and “My Baby” were two of our favorite songs from the entire national selection season.

Norway. Adelén, “Bombo.” Margaret Berger’s victory in the Melodi Grand Prix was decisive: she finished first in both the jury and the televote, and by wide margins. Adelén was a distant second. Then something funny happened: “Bombo” became a hit in Norway, reaching number one during its nine-week stay on the charts. “I Feed You My Love,” on the other hand, topped out at number four and only lasted three weeks on the charts. Buyer’s remorse in Norway? We’ll have to see. Frankly, we find “Bombo” shrill and annoying, so we’re fine with the MGP result.

Albania. Anjeza Shahini, “Love.” Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko’s “Identitet” was the clear winner of Festivali i Këngës with 72 points. Shahini finished second with a respectable 62 points. “Love” smacks of a late 1970s Broadway musical number, when the female lead in the show has discovered she really is in love with the leading man and has to belt out her feelings while people in bell bottoms do an interpretive ballet down the streets of Tirana. Maybe that’s just us.

Georgia. Internal selection, not applicable.

Switzerland. Carrousel, “J’avais rendezvous.” Takasa (the artist known as Salvation Army, or Heilsarmee if you’re Swiss) was the overwhelming public favorite in the Swiss National Final, taking 37.54 percent of the televote. The aggressively twee tune from Carrousel could only muster 17.26 percent of the vote when it finished second place.

Romania. Electric Fence, “Emilia.” Electric Fence just missed being Romania’s Eurovision representative. They lost by one point to Cezar. While Electric Fence was the jury’s favorite, it could only muster fourth place in the televote. Cezar won the televote, and that was enough for him to overcome finishing third in the jury vote. As mentioned in our recap of the Romanian final, this is the second year in a row that Electric Fence have placed second. They are becoming the Magni Ásgeirsson of Romania.

The Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal One

It’s time for our annual posts that take a look at the Eurovision that could have been by reviewing the second place finishers at the National Finals. (You can find the previous Eurovision That Almost Was posts on our 2011 and 2012 pages.) They’re fun to write, especially because songs that stood out to us before the National Finals aren’t necessarily the ones that get the majority of votes with their countries’ voters. Fortunately, Estonia’s three-way tie for second gives us another chance to talk about Winny Puhh.

Austria. Yela, “Feels Like Home.” Natalia Kelly emerged as the clear winner in Österreich rockt den Song Contest thanks to overwhelming public support, but Yela edged out Natalia in the jury vote. Complete with a thrift-store sofa, this twee little number was precious beyond compare, like if Lauren Hill covered Anna Rossinelli. In all, we think the public got this one right.

Estonia. Grete Paia, “Päästke noored hinged.” Second place was a 3-way tie between Grete Paia, Winny Puhh, and Kõrsikud, but Paia won the tiebreak based on public televote and went head-to-head against Birgit Õigemeel in the Superfinal. This power-pop song, co-written by Paia and Sven “Rockefeller Street” and “Rändajad” Lõhmus, featured Paia on the piano and strong backing harmonies. In the Top 2 Superfinal, Grete Paia received 49% of the televote, edged out by Birgit Õigemeel by only 1,319 votes.

https://youtu.be/8rv6EOnJdZM

Slovenia. Internal selection, not applicable.

Croatia. Internal selection, not applicable.

Denmark. Mohamed Ali, “Unbreakable.” For the 3rd year in a row, we have preferred Denmark’s runner-up to who they actually sent.  “Unbreakable” was a contemporary, radio-friendly song a la Taio Cruz, and Mohamed Ali was a cutey, not unlike Eric Saade in charisma and dance ability (and unfortunately, ability to deliver live vocals). In the Top 3 Superfinal, Mohamed Ali received as many votes from the judges panel as Emmelie DeForest, but she secured the trip to Malmö with a significantly larger share of Danish public support.

Russia. Internal selection, not applicable.

Ukraine. Dasha Medova, “Don’t Want to Be Alone.” The Ukrainian selection is a cutthroat affair of 20 songs, done straight through with no Superfinal. Zlata Ognevich and “Gravity” was the choice of both the jury and the public. Dasha Medova finished 2nd with the jury and 3rd with the public. Medova has some power, but “Don’t Want to be Alone” lacked the necessary hook for a viable ballad, and let’s face it, it was Zlata’s turn.

The Netherlands. Internal selection, not applicable.

Montenegro. Internal selection, not applicable.

Lithuania. Girmantė Vaitkutė, “Time to Shine.” In the Lithuanian national selection, the public and jury equally weigh in to select the Top 3, and then the jury selects the winner. Andrius Pojavis was the jury darling throughout, finishing 1st with the jury in the round robin and in the Top 3 Superfinal. However, the Lithuanian public gave their 12 points to Adele-meets-Estonia Gerai Gerai and Miss Sheep with “War in the Wardrobe.” These two songs received the same number of points to secure their spots in the Superfinal. In the 100% jury Superfinal, though, Girmantė Vaitkutė ultimately took 2nd place, and Gerai Gerai and Miss Sheep had to settle for bronze. Girmantė Vaitkutė offers a Chiara-inspired diva turn with a soprano vocal and a sweeping melody. She’s goes a little crazy on some of the runs but could have easily scaled it back. Ironically, though the Lithuanian jury favored Pojavis, Vaitkutė would have likely done better with the international juries at Eurovision.

Belarus. Nuteki, “Save Me.” In the Belarussian selection, alternative rock group Nuteki managed a 2nd place finish with the public but only 4th place with the jury. This year both public and jury agreed that Alyona Lanskaya had the better song. Of course, the other Belarussian entry that might have been was the song Alyona Lanskaya actually entered at Eurofest: “Rhythm of Love.” You know, the song on which the public and jury had an opportunity to vote.

Moldova. Boris Covali, “Runaways.” The Moldovan national selection is another cutthroat affair: 14 songs up and down. Though the decision is 50% public and 50% jury, the public votes first and the jury submits their votes second, which in essence offers the jury a veto over the public’s choice. If such a veto existed this year, however, it was quite subtle. The public voted overwhelmingly for two entries: 2nd place finisher Boris Covali and winner Aliona Moon. Despite a significant disadvantage in the draw (Covali went 2nd, Moon went last) Covali won the public vote with his 80s-inspired tribute to escapism, but he managed only 3rd place with the jury. When Aliona Moon received 12 points from the jury, her trip to Malmö was secure.

Ireland. Aimée Fitzpatrick, “Crashing Down.” Once the votes started to come in, it was clear the Irish national selection was a 2-horse race between Ryan Dolan and Aimée Fitzpatrick. Dolan had the radio-friendly pop song and last year’s delegation head supporting him, while Fitzpatrick had the advantage of an emotional ballad with strong lyrics. Fitzpatrick was narrowly the preferred choice of the regional juries, but Dolan secured the win from the public televote.

 

Cyprus. Internal selection, not applicable.

Belgium. Roberto Bellarosa, “Reste toi” and “Be Heroes.” Singer Roberto Bellarosa was an internal selection by Belgian broadcaster RTBF. To decide the song, the public and jury voted on 3 songs performed by Bellarosa on a radio show. We know that “Love Kills” was the winner, but RTBF has not released the results of the voting. We aren’t missing much.

Serbia. Dušan Svilar, “Spas.” Beosong, the Serbian selection show, is determined by 100% public televote. Moje 3 was the convincing winner with 42% of the televote, but Donny Osmond-lookalike Dušan Svilar was the convincing 2nd place finisher with 33% of the public vote. His ethnic-tinged power ballad may have been a better choice for Serbia, but given our disdain of “Ljubav je svuda,” a chorus of cats in heat would have been a better choice for Serbia.

The Eurovision 2012 That Almost Was: Semifinal 2

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.”

FYR Macedonia. Internal selection, not applicable.

Continue reading “The Eurovision 2012 That Almost Was: Semifinal 2”

The Eurovision 2012 That Almost Was: Semifinal 1

One of our favorite set of posts from last year was looking at the 2nd place finishers. It’s fun to trash Eurovision for its bad pop culture moments, but from time to time we like to be reminded that the people behind these songs are passionate about their music, work hard, and care about the results. Here are the songs that barely missed the contest. If the stars had been aligned just a little differently, this is what might have been.

Montenegro. Internal selection, not applicable.

Iceland. Blár Ópal, “Stattu upp.” The visual was a boy band, but the sound was all summer party anthem a la Taio Cruz or LMFAO. Blár Ópal offered us lighthearted fun, but Icelandic voters preferred the sweeping drama of Greta and Jonsi.

Continue reading “The Eurovision 2012 That Almost Was: Semifinal 1”

The 2011 Eurovision That Almost Was – Part III

We conclude our review of “what might have been” by discussing the 2nd place finishers and/or high-scoring alternatives from the Big Five. Three of Big Five nations opted to have some sort of a public vote for their Eurovision entries this year. Of course, for all the transparency involved in a public vote, it didn’t feel like they were all that up front about the results.

For example, Italy used as candidates all the songs at the San Remo Festival, but then made an internal selection. Spain held an open selection, but teased us by not telling us the runner up. Both countries showed us the alternatives, but their selection processes did not identify who was in 2nd place.

Meanwhile, Germany put the Lena’s songs up for public vote, but they were carefully vetted by Lena and the producers beforehand. In this case, it’s just a necessary part of the selection process, but it certainly guaranteed that Lena wasn’t going to be stuck for weeks with a song she hated.

France and the UK, on the other hand, simply made internal selections, which probably was a good idea given public opinion of the ESC in these countries.

The Big Five:

France. Internal selection, not applicable.

Italy. Roberto Vecchioni, “Chiamami ancora amore.” The Italians used a jury to select their Eurovision entry, and they could pick from any of the entrants in the established artists and the new artists category at the San Remo Festival. Raphael Gualazzi, the Eurovision pick, won the new artists category.  Roberto Vecchioni is the obvious “what might have been” because he won the established artists category–top billing at San Remo. “Chiamami ancora amore” is a big ballad with a diva star turn that we don’t often see from men these days. It has a similar character and scope to “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” Given Patricia Kaas’s result for France, Italy would probably have been better served if they’d sent him instead.

United Kingdom (Oooh!). Internal selection, not applicable.

Germany. Lena Meyer-Landrut, “Push Forward.” Lena was always going to defend her title; the challenge was finding her a song. “Push Forward” was the other song that rose to the top and gathered momentum. A ballad, the song had more gravitas and a more meaningful message than “Taken by a Stranger,” but our read is that it wasn’t as good a fit for Lena’s quirky style. When it came down to the final 2 songs, Germans overwhelmingly preferred “Taken by a Stranger” (79%), and “Push Forward” managed only 21% of the televote.

Spain. Second place unknown, Spain did not release the results of the vote. We do know, however, that Lucia Perez received 68% of the televotes for “Que me quiten lo bailao”, compared with 20% and 12% with 2nd and 3rd finishers in the superfinal. The other superfinal competitors were Melissa, who had a well-staged, big Eurovision-style ballad with “Eos.”and 5-member boy band Auryn with “Volver,” who led going into the superfinal. Auryn would have been particularly interesting — Blue comparisons anyone? But frankly, either of these songs would have been better than what they wound up with.

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.

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.