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Düsseldorf 2011

Posted on 2011.04.30 at 13:16
It's that time of year, so here are the tracks in what I believe to be CD running order.

1. Albania - Aurela Gace - "Feel The Passion"
Albania always provides a good performance, and Aurela (singing in English) seems to have a pleasant voice. The song is roughly a ballad, but with a bit of a back-beat, which puts it as a bit of an outlier in Albanian history as they normally deliver a big dance number. Quite a catchy chorus, but on a preliminary listen it may not be enough of a killer to be memorable. A possible dark horse, depending on performances and other intangibles.

2. Armenia - Emmy - "Boom Boom"
Another must-see country, based on previous record. Emmy's a young girl with a slightly thin-sounding voice, but she's bolstered by a Swedish-style club beat and a very entertaining (if entirely meaningless) lyric in the best tradition of the Contest. I've been disappointed by songs like this before, due mainly to an absence of a big dance production, but I expect lots of hands-in-the-air moments here and a final berth at least. Armenia's form to continue, further proving that we'll be in Yerevan sooner or later.

3. Austria - Nadine Beiler - "The Secret is Love"
This is a song which has got a lot of bad press, since it beat the incredible "Oida Taunz" for the right to return to Eurovision for the Austrians. Easy to see why, as "Oida Taunz" was a hip-hop thumper, while Nadine's singing a power ballad. To be fair, she has quite a stunning voice and has been given a song which allows her to show it off - lots of melismatic bits and so on - and she ends up sounding a bit like a Whitney Houston or so. That said, this is the kind of song that someone always ends up singing at Eurovision (Malta and Iceland are specialists) and it never goes anywhere much. The goodwill towards Austria might get it into the final, but I'm not moved.

4. Azerbaijan - Eldar & Nigar - "Running Scared"
As with Armenia, history suggests that Eurovision Baku will happen sooner rather than later, so I'm always excited with these entries. We've got a duet this year, but not the club-style festival Aysel and Arash gave us two years ago, rather more a reflective ballad-y thing with the male vocalist (Eldar) and the female one (Nigar) telling each other that they're scared of being in love with each other. There's a certain "swell" to the ballad that reminds me of the surprise packet that was Denmark last year, and I suspect that's what they're going for, so this may well surprise again. In fact, over the course of the last 3 minutes, it's really grown on me already.

5. Bosnia - Dino Merlin - "Love in Rewind"
Here's one of the heavy-hitters for the year. Dino was responsible for the transcendental "Putnici" back in 1999 and is already attracting some strong support with this guitar/piano ballad thing. It's very much not what you'd expect on the Eurovision stage, but it's really very special, with a sort of singer-songwriter vibe behind it. Dino's accent is very strong (he sang in Bosnian and French last time out) and that may get in his way, but I can really see a lot of people waving flags and glowsticks to this one. It's completely a ballad, and we haven't had a 100% ballad win since Serbia, but I can see this breaking that trend.

6. Belgium - Witloof Bay - "With Love Baby"
The first band-entry of the year, we've got an acapella outfit with a rather impressive beatboxer or two making all sorts of sounds behind them. Sure, it's a gimmick, and Latvia proved a few years ago that it's possible to do it very badly, but the beatboxer/s here are really at the top of their game (there's scratching and computer sounds throughout). My taste in music is universally regarded as being horrible, but this is fun stuff. Belgium may well be onto something here, although it's not exactly got "winner" written on it yet.

7. Belgium - Poli Genova - "Na Inat"
Thankfully for language fans, not everyone's singing in English this year, with Bulgaria being pretty reliably in Bulgarian. This is a bit of a chick-rock sound here, and Poli has the voice to carry it off (I'm reminded of Avril Lavigne, but I've only heard a bit of her music). The chorus is actually surprisingly catchy, but the language barrier may well get in Poli's way here. I know there's been pressure for her to sing in English, but apparently there's no available lyrics yet, so she may end up being a victim of the language rule. Shame if she is, though, since this is easily the equal of Miro's effort last year.

8. Belarus - Anastasiya Vinnikova - "I Love Belarus"
This one's been getting a lot of coverage as well, but mainly for the wrong reasons. As one fan put it, a patriotic dance number about a totalitarian dictatorship is silly. Still, I always go into Eurovision season with a masochistic desire to see Belarus do well - either in the hope of spreading democracy (Ukraine 2004 anyone?) or just for the hell of it. This is quite a catchy little ditty, but there's a strong accent and a strong sense of the music being too "busy" for its own good. I'd be surprised if we don't see 12 points coming in here from Russia, though...

9. Switzerland - Anna Rossinelli - "In Love For A While"
One of the earlier confirmed entries, although I do sometimes wish the Swiss would take the time to work on their consistency, rather than throwing something at us in December or so. Anna's singing a sort of semi-ballad with a beat to it, and I almost expect her to break out in a swing tune with this track. Pleasant and engaging voice and a "na-na-na-na" kind of hook, too. The lyrics are rather twee, but this is Eurovision after all, so we're not exactly expecting Bob Dylan. Overall, a fair effort, but I don't think it's final-bound.

10. Cyprus - Christos Mylordos - "San Aggelos S'Agapisa"
Cyprus last year had a really slow-burning song which went from having no hope to being a potential winner (only to be hit with the Lena stick), so there's some expectation behind Christos this year. He's singing in Greek, which is a brave move since it's not a very commonly-spoken language, so he's going to have to rely on his stage presence to sing this power ballad home. It starts off very minor-key and nearly Balkan, but that's just to build to a big guitar riff. Sadly, though, I'm not sure his voice is up to the task of carrying procedings after the rock bit starts, so it may be a misfire waiting to happen.

11. Germany - Lena - "Taken By A Stranger"
Yes, this is the same Lena as last year. A risky move to have one of the most popular winners return the next year, as her reputation could easily be tarnished. This song is very much darker than "Satellite" could ever have been, with a minimalist bassline leading the way and allowing that quirky voice free rein. Some people are comparing this to Kraftwerk, in fact, and I can see where it could be done. It's a clever little entry, and it's far from bad. The problem, though, is that without a absolute demolition of a performance, there's not much that's immediately memorable.

12. Denmark - A Friend in London - "New Tomorrow"
Another of those countries suddenly finding form in Oslo last year, Denmark's given us a sort of indie-pop outfit this year, for the second band-entry. It's an inspirational power-ballad affair, and the band really tries to make a lot out of a pretty weak hook. As with the last real attempt at indie music (that horrible Swiss entry a few years ago), though, I'm not sure it'll sell itself well enough in 3 minutes. Given that many voters will only hear it the once, there's just not enough happening here.

13 Estonia - Getter Jaani - "Rockefeller Street"
After Urban Symphony and Malcolm Lincoln in successive years, I'm interested to see how the Estonians jump this year. The answer seems to be a reversion to more traditional pop fare, albeit with a slightly more angular beat than is perhaps normal. Getter's voice is actually quite impressive, although she doesn't sound too good at the start of the song. I can imagine a rather solid dance number going on behind her on his one, and it may need to be as the song does tend to drift a bit with a lot going on musically with no apparent logic behind it. Still, if we accept that we can't have an Urban Symphony every year and shouldn't have a Malcolm Lincoln every year, this may just be the start of a new dawn in Eesti.

14. Spain - Lucia Perez - "Que me Quiten Lo Bailao (They Can't Take the Fun Away From Me)"
Of course we can count on Spain to sing in Spanish. We can also count on them - more often than not - to enter a young lady with vocal sex appeal, so that box is also being ticked. Unlike some recent Latin entries, there's no immediate sense of dancing around like a maniac, with Lucia singing something closer to a folk song with a computer-aided beat. Indeed, there's a bit of flamenco in here, I think. Not a bad song at all, but there's still that "by the numbers" aspect to it that Spain desperately needs to shake if they really want to lift.

15. Finland - Paradise Oskar - "Da Da Dam"
One of the form countries of recent years, Finland's entry this year seems to have snuck under the radar a bit. We've got a singer-songwriter ballad going on here, with lots of acoustic guitar, and environmentalist lyrics about the planet dying, so there's a bit of a conscience to pick up on. The voice is quite spectacular, actually, sounding slightly British of all things. The one weakness here is going to be the lack of a real chorus - there is a refrain of sorts, but it's far too long to get that immediate appeal a winner really needs. Still, there are shades of Cyprus last year I feel, so we may have something happening.

16. France - Amaury Vassili - "Sognu"
An operatic tenor singing in Corsican. What could possibly go wrong with that on the Eurovision stage? No objections to the voice, I must say, since I'm a sucker for the tenors in the average opera, and this lyric really lets him show off his chops. Musically, of course, we're squarely in operatic territory, and that's going to be a risk as that kind of song never gets off the ground. There's a chance, though, that he might be able to surprise a lot of people with this.

17. UK - Blue - "I Can"
Yes, this is the boyband of "All Rise" fame (that song I wish wouldn't have been played all over the place years ago). Given the recent appearance of Scootch for the UK, it's possible to argue that the Brits still don't really know what they're doing (come back, Andrew Lloyd Webber!). Perhaps needless to say, this is traditional boyband fare, as if we were 10 years ago or even longer. Lots of harmonies and computer-aided notes here, but importantly there's nothing that really sounds like a hook. I don't see another infamous "null points" debacle, but perhaps the UK needs another one just to demonstrate that success isn't a given and that mediocrity sucks.

18. Georgia - Eldrine - "One More Day"
Georgia's already surprised me by entering a band, and a rock outfit at that. We have female vocals, a bit of nu-metal sounding guitar and apparently a DJ somewhere in the background, capped off with some rather earnest rapping. The female vocals are a nice touch, as they give the song a slightly more soaring quality (something the rap does its best not to do). The overall effect is a sort of watered down Evanescence, which at least is something we haven't seen on the Eurovision stage to date. Whether it's going to work, though, is a different matter. Of the three Caucasian republics, it looks as though Georgia's the one falling off the pace.

19. Greece - Loukas Giorkas feat. Stereo Mike - "Watch My Dance"
Apparently this one's rather ironically-named, since Loukas seems to be immobile on stage. That being said, full marks for being a Greek song that doesn't immediately start with a big dance beat and six blokes with no shirts. Instead, we have a menacing pseudo-rap that gets replaced by a sort of tenor ballad. Neither of those things particularly works, and this is the first Greek entry in a long while (probably since they hosted in '06) that doesn't get me interested at all.

20. Croatia - Daria - "Celebrate"
This went by the name of "Break A Leg" in an early incarnation, and has been given the treatment of being recorded in a bunch of different languages. Daria's got the traditional thick accent everyone from the Balkans seems to sing with, but is usefully singing something vaguely turbo-folky. Given the dire state of the recent Croatian ballad entries, this is the best news from them in a very long time. There's even a clap-along part mid-song, which is bound to work well. It's a middling year so far, so this may work as a kickstart for the Croatian chances.

21. Hungary - Kati Wolf - "What About My Dreams?"
Hungary's back! I always knew they would be soon enough, now to work on Montenegro and the Czechs. Kati starts off singing a ballad, before she realises she wants to sing a Eurodance anthem, and she does that in style. The voice is superb and the music behind her is quite impressive too. This has grabbed me right from the word go, and the fact that she then starts singing in Hungarian doesn't seem like a major risk either. This is damn good stuff, and deserves to do very well.

22. Ireland - Jedward - "Lipstick"
This, in contrast, is horrible. Jedward are for some reason a big phenomenon in the UK and Ireland, despite the notable problem of not being able to sing worth a damn. If Blue's entry is a bad example of boyband music refusing to die, this is a worse one. If The Great Wogan were commentating here, I'd give anything to hear his take on this sonic travesty. Ireland really needs to go back to the drawing board and remember what made them great, since ballads are back in fashion in a big way.

23. Israel - Dana International - "Ding Dong"
The second former winner in the field this year, and one I've been expecting to see onstage since the 50th anniversary show, when she announced that she wanted to return. Dana's voice is remarkably thin, and I'm not sure she's really up to it anymore as a result. She's helped along no end by a pounding beat in the chorus, but the feeling I get is of someone living off her past glories, rather than someone having moved with the times. This would've done just fine about 1998 or so, which is of course when "Diva" won.

24. Iceland - Sjonni's Friends - "Coming Home"
We begin with an acoustic folk/country sound, with a couple of rather engaging male vocalists sharing lead duties. This is an atypical ballad by Iceland standards, as there's really no schlager aspect to it, but if anything that makes it a better entry than many. I'd be amazed if we don't get glowsticks waving all over the place here, and the chorus just cries out to be sung or clapped along to. If this is well-performed, Iceland may just be able to sneak up the leaderboard. Definitely a song with no real fanfare to it.

25. Italy - Raphael Gualazzi - "Madness of Love"
Welcome back Italy! Apparently the piano we can hear throughout this track is self-performed, with Raphael being inspired by the ragtime and stride styles. Regardless, he's got a good voice and it's just wonderful to know that we have a Big Five for at least this year. There's a strong sense of Dixieland-goes-Italian here - not quite sure it works 100% of the time, but it should do at least 75% of it. A very engaging little song, and with a fair bit of goodwill behind it (although I'm sure there are just as many who would argue that Italy needs to get used to not winning before they can win again), so this could be one to watch.

26. Lithuania - Evelina Sasenko - "C'est Ma Vie"
Quite why a Lithuanian-Polish singer is performing an English-language song with a French title is probably yet another mystery of Eurovision. Evelina's a jazz artist, I'm told, and she does have rather an impressive voice. The song doesn't have an awful lot going on, though, rather like Austria's entry, so it really becomes a question of which girl has the better voice there, and my vote is actually against Evelina as she sounds rather faint at times. Still, a well-performed rendition of this (even if it is about "Ever-lastink Lorv" in the chorus) might surprise with a moderate result.

27. Latvia - Musiqq - "Angel in Disguise"
Apparently we're listening to a hip-hop/RnB/pop outfit here, so you can imagine my surprise when we begin with a guitar track. Still, the song does eventually resolve into a thumping beat and a rather unorthodox chorus. I'd really like to see more of the hip-hop and RnB elements here, though, as the song tends towards the bland pop style until the rather phoned-in rap bridge. There is a fair bit to hang your hat on here, to be fair, so don't take my review as being entirely negative. I do quite like this, although it may be more of a "grower" than a winner.

28. Moldova - Zdob si Zdub - "So Lucky"
Everyone's favourite Moldovan gypsies are back, this time with something sounding a lot punkier and rockier than the fan favourite "Boonika Bate Doba" (indeed, there's no real indication that Boonika's making the trip this year). In a sense, this is a rather disappointing song, as we already know many of the band's musical tricks and hearing them again we kind of know how they're going to resolve. The madcap gypsy aspects seem rather muted this time overall, in fact. In saying that, though, we do still have wonderful horn riffs and a singalong hook to look forward to, and I'm sure the boys are going to tear the stage up in some way or another, so it's not all doom and gloom here.

29. Macedonia - Vlatko Ilievski - "Rusinka"
The Balkans are back, I think. Vlatko's song begins squarely in Turbofolk territory, even though his vocals are much rockier than the style normally mandates. By the chorus, though, we're absolutely in that wonderful style, and one could be forgiven for thinking that we were listening to some of the leading Serbian exponents of the style (Zeljko, Milan, etc). This is an absolute ripper of a song, and something tells me that Vlatko should have a good stage presence to back it up, with several dancers. Love it!

30. Malta - Glen Vella - "One Life"
I'd love to expect more from Malta, but after Fabrizio's second tilt a few years ago I've learned not to. Still, Glen may be on the verge of changing my mind. We have a strong beat, a catchy chorus and a rather attractive vocal presence going on here. Unlike many songs with this recipe, we're also not looking at a song which tries to be all things to all people - this is a club hit and nothing else. If anything, it gets better over the course of the 3 minutes, too. So I'd say this is one to watch.

31. Netherlands - 3JS - "Never Alone"
A band of three vocalists whose names start with J, hence the band name, takes the stage for the Netherlands. The Dutch are another country desperately searching for success, and I can see what they're trying for here with the vocal styles. It's not exactly an earth-shattering entry, being more in the mid-paced ballad territory, but the voices are engaging enough and it may well get a good performance on the night. Not necessarily one to watch, but a possible surprise packet in the lower reaches of the final.

32. Norway - Stella Mwangi - "Haba Haba"
Stella was born in Kenya, and the hook of this song represents the first appearance of Swahili on the Eurovision stage, so history is being made there. Importantly, though, Stella is a rapper by trade, so we get a strong American accent. What doesn't make sense to me, though, is that they've got her singing, which is very much not her strong suit and really shows up her vocal weaknesses. The verses really aren't anything to write home about, but the chorus is strong enough to make me wonder if something might happen. Just as long as the performance overcomes the voice.

33. Poland - Magdalena Tul - "Jestem"
She's described as a singer-songwriter, but I think Magdalena is a pop singer when not on the Eurovision stage. She's singing in Polish, which is quite a big risk as it's a tough language to understand and has lots of unusual sounds, but the song is a big one and the beat should carry it beyond any language-barrier issues. She seems to have big hair in many of the publicity pictures, too, which should help with this sort of disco-ish number. This may well be a contender, particularly if some of the others fall over.

34. Portugal - Homens Da Luta - "Luta E Alegria"
Musically, this sounds like Flor-de-Lis Mk2 (and well it should, as that was a high-water mark), but this band is actually parodying the 1974 revolution and its music. To be frank, most of this is probably going to be lost on everyone apart from the Portuguese who can't vote for it anyway, as it's actually quite a catchy song. Being sung in Portuguese isn't going to help it, mind you, and if they perform the way I'm told they sometimes do then it may come across more as a novelty song than perhaps it really is. An interesting concept, at least.

35. Romania - Hotel FM - "Change"
Another band, and unlike many from this region they seem to prefer real music rather than synthesisers. In fact, there's more than an element of Britpop going on here, with a very upbeat chorus setting things off very well. It's a lot of fun, but I fear that the band may be stuck behind their instruments too much to really sell this one. Keep an eye out, though, as we may be onto something with this.

36. Serbia - Nina - "Caroban"
It's in Serbian, but it's not Turbofolk, which is rather a shame. Nina does have a pleasant voice, and the music actually has a bit of a swing feel to it if anything. The chorus is really something, as it seems to come out of nowhere on a first listen. The weakness is that it sounds as though it goes from nothing to a big song and then back again far too quickly. I prefer the ones that have a clearer roadmap going on.

37. Russia - Alexej Vorobjov - "Get You"
If last year proved anything, it's that I'll never understand how Russian entries work, since Peter Nalitch sang terribly and did very well. Alexej seems to have a ballad mutating into a club hit this year, and it really doesn't work for me. That probably means it will do very well, of course. The chorus is actually not too bad, but it takes far too long to arrive and seems to feature Chipmunks at one point. Not for me.

38. Sweden - Eric Saade - "Popular"
It's been just a matter of time for this boy to get onto the Eurovision stage for Sweden, and frankly he should've done last year. This is utterly brilliant from the first note, being complete and utter club-schlager, and it should leave a lot of other contenders for dead. I hear tell that he's a reasonable looker as well, according to people who know these things, so that's going to help the Swedish case. We have a genuine contender here, no doubt about it. That bridge alone is to die for.

39. Slovenia - Maja Keuc - "No One"
A young Balkan pop singer, although of course Slovenia isn't as Balkan as some, so we shouldn't necessarily expect the fun of Croatia and friends. What we get, in fact, is a marvellous voice. The song starts off rather unimpressively, but by the time the chorus arrives it's actually served up very nicely indeed. Not only is it a pop song, there's even a bit of guitar that adds to things later in the piece as well, so that's going to work quite well. I like what I hear, and it's been a few years since I could say that of Slovenia.

40. Slovakia - TWiiNS - "I'm Still Alive"
As the name suggests, the girls on stage are twins, and they in fact backed the disastrous Czech entry "Have Some Fun" a few years back. Performing for themselves, they're not too bad, although at times they seem to be overwhelmed by their backbeat. It's a pleasant enough little ballad, and the fact that it's in English may help in comparison to last year's daylight robbery. Nothing too special, though.

41. San Marino - Senit - "Stand By"
Not only is Italy back, they've brought San Marino back as well. Unlike their last entry, the tiny mountain republic has borrowed an Italian singer of Eritrean descent to give us a ballad. She's got a nice voice, if a bit husky, and carries the song pretty well. It's not an overly spectacular song, though, and I'm not entirely convinced that her vocals are going to be enough for a love ballad like this.

42. Turkey - Yüksek Sadakat - "Live It Up"
The second Turkish rock act in succession, and the third in 4 years. There's a vague indie sense to this, but the music does still sound a bit oriental, and that's not just the accent of the vocalist. Unlike MaNga last year, this actually has the hallmarks of a song, rather than just a performance, which is both a good thing and a bad one, as it may not have the immediate impact that songs need these days. Still, very catchy and I'm sure it'll be performed very well indeed.

43. Ukraine - Mika Newton - "Angel"
Presumably this isn't the same angel that was in disguise for Latvia. Mika's got a pleasant voice for this sort of pop-ballad affair, but there's really nothing special about it. The chorus seems enjoyable enough, but I know I'm going to have difficulty remembering it at the end of the song.

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