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2012 Review

Eurovision 2012 Review & Analysis

Here goes my personal opinion & analysis on Eurovision 2012. I know this has long been promised by me ad I haven’t delivered in an entire year. It’s true that I’ve taken a lot of time off the contest because I believe it’s very important to take a stand back that’s quite necessary to judge things clearly, to put things in perspective. And it helps a lot to have watched esc 2013 to write this. A lot of things that I had in mind for esc 2012 came back differently to me once looking at esc 2013. Of course, I’ll try to discuss esc 2012 not really “knowing” what esc 2013 is but it did help and once redoing entirely esc 2012 I believe it’ll also help to comment then esc 2013. I will now remind you of my usual ideal behind this ranking & analysis : through the years I’ve tried to maintain a certain critical level on my commenting Eurovision. Tonight, still under esc after glow and all into the Eurovision hype, I wanted to keep going so I rewatched all of the 2012 edition. I have rewatched and relistened to the songs. To be fair, a great deal of them do not interest me. I would not have listened to them by myself, and not because they’re foreign but because they are light years away from me: for instance, my favorite album from 2012 is A Awesome Wave by Alt-J. Because, as so many of our friends who hate esc do, I could just go “this is crap, I don’t want to hear it again” to all the songs I don’t care for, and I don’t end up with an actual ranking, but more or less groups of songs. No, I must take an objective look at these efforts. I won’t get into philisophical debate, to prove that beyond taste there is common sense and the objectivity that one’s opinion must reach. What I try to do is make a list that would reflect both the objective quality of songs and then put my whole heart and self into the subjective list I will get then.
 

Introduction

I. First of all, I salute all 42 entries for taking the courage of the big stage to represent a country, an esc history, and a culture even in its most graphically bad modern aspects. Yes I will be terribly harsh towards many of you but I do not forget that I do not hate any countries or any cultures that you represent. That this is ONLY a very very small eurovision aspect of a culture and it has no impact on the greater scale of things. With that being said, and even if it may sound typical and expected, it must be said and remembered: we hear and see way too much hatred and violence in esc forums all around the net to not emphasize this. We are here to comment entries, and sometimes singers, but NOT people. Whatever money or geopolitical aspect behind them, which I will comment of course, we do not forget that, to this day, this is just a song contest. A lot of these are exactly the same words I used for esc 2011; however, there it was in Germany and nobody thought of bringing the contest into the geopolitical sphere beyond the usual critics towards the votes awarded to friends, neighbours, allies, etc. Now it was in Baku and I’ve never seen such a fiercy debate on the contest than during this edition. Dictatorship where censorhip was still in use, a lot of broadcasters participating, or their representatives and delgations, felt awkward participating there. It’s funny to see that Eurovision, just like the Olympics, seemed to have given up on the money makers, Beijing 2008 and Baku 2012 had the same sort of reasonings, with the ideas of boycott (which Armenia ended up doing in this year’s esc) or trying to find a way to express concerns while still participating (Loreen meeting the opposition). I find this, just quite, insane. Yes there are things to be said about Azerbaijan’s politics. But which country is perfect? Can you imagine Farid meeting the Swedish opposition because he disagreed with the current Swedish party in power? Or saying he disaproves it’s still a monarchy? What would the World, let alone the esc community, have said then? Boycotting the contest and then take away your singers chance to participate or punish the actual azeris who wanted the contest there, that we know by any geopolitical specialists that bringing big events to host is a light put on a country that actually in the long run helps through norm instead of force and therefore the hosting in Baku was actually a chance? Also, in the wave of extreme right movements all over old Christian Europe, a lot of things were said on “rich because of oil”, when nothing was said in 2010 of Norway rich because of gas? The way things are handled with Azerbaijan and the contest bring a lot of questions, true, but I do think that, because it’s a rich far east and muslim country there is so much emphasis on it that it’s just down unfair. It’s one of the few countries that take the contest seriously enough and we truly want to destroy that. I’ve heard the concerns on unfair voting, and I myself believe that if the EBU gets actual proof we’ll hear more of it, but as is, Azerbaijan won the contest in 2011 and the EBU let them be part of it, there was then no reason to not have the contest in Baku. Apart from two things, the fact the stadium built had people removed from their home in ways some associations considered barely legal and that there was the shadow of the president, including a member of his family in the show, the Baku hosting was on the same pattern of others, like Moscow when Putin himself visited during the Azeri rehearsal while forbidding any form of gay parties.

II. Second I will discuss the overall show before we get one on one with the year’s hopefuls. Because of my formation as a university professor, and almost as important, a french university professor (this thing seems to be really “our thing”): we always try to look for “the unity”. Someways to bring everything down to one idea that will unite the show, the overall impression. A governing principle that will make sense to this commentary and analysis. To me, esc 2012 has one word to sum it up, “grandeur”. A French word that means “greatness” and is used in English in the expression “delusions of grandeur” (something to bear in mind). Grand, yes that’s what the show wanted to be. A huge stadium was built for the occasion and, just like Beijing 2008, the country wanted to prove it had nothing to be ashame of when compared to the big Western countries, especially coming from Düsseldorf. A little bit like Turkey when, after 1923 it was finally a country that needed to prove it could resist its USSR neighbour, and unlike his Ottoman Empire ancestor, could compete with the Western European powers, when actually they were the one going downhills. Düsseldorf too, imo, was a really bad show overall for the Eurovision Song Contest and therefore should not have been set as an example. its huge stage was copied and got even bigger in Baku. Simply everyone there agreed it was just too big. Interestingly enough, a lot of artists played extremely smartly with that, and 3 of the four artists performing alone on stage managed to qualify to the final (but then had terrible draws just one after another as spots 3 through 5 with Albania, Lithuania and Bosnia & Herzegovina) while the fourth one from Bulgaria, expected to crash burn and die in the semi managed a very strong 11th spot, tied in points with the horror and Eurovision garbage from Norway which everyone knew would qualify. Proof that, in such a huge stage, you either should go very big, or very intimate (also two entries in the top 10 only had two people on stage, including the winner Sweden who even managed to minimize by bringing its own stage on the stage, and Estonia). Grand the led screens which were even more crushing than the Düssldorf ones to the point that you’d look incredible small on that stage. Is that good? Well it surely didnt matter to Rona Nishliu who did not use them. Others haven been smart as well (they were down to the bare essentials for Sweden). It’s not that you always have to go to the opposite to do well, but in a year when everything was stretched to the maximum, you need to play with that. Eurovision remains something where being smart is very important indeed. Well now, postcards: as usual, they showed the country’s best bit. Or they’re supposed to. But this time around it was a huge failure, it felt like there were only these two flame towers in all of Baku, we had countless of these horses shots. No connection whatsoever it felt to the song or country they were presenting. I reckon if you wanna show your country’s greatness, you dont focus just on one or two aspects but show also its diversity. Likewise in the hosts, I hate when hosts are former esc singers, it gives an idea that Eurovision is a world of its own where you cant escape known faces. No you need to go out and show either great tv hosts (Léon Zitrone was a legend in France when he did esc 1978) or why not, comedians, actors… In the end, that’s why Leyla Aliyeva did the best job of all three. She had a natural smile, seemed to have fun and had the less phony French. But it felt very flat overall as far as hosting goes, like if they were doing a gig where the overall expectations are more important than the gig itself. In the end, Baku still managed to do a great job for everything surrounding the contest. You are all very aware how terrible that was handled in Malmö, no wifi for journalists, rehearsals forbidden, a lot of Björkman’s new rules… Baku didnt want to bring the contest any of its ways, it just wanted to make sure everything went smoothly so no one would complain of a contest held so far East. On that part, they succeeded. It was grand, it felt grand and many times it felt flat because we could see what they were doing which is being too grand for their own sake. But it actually came off, in the end, rewatching now, very genuine in “we’re trying to give you eurovision” and since many entries were actually made more beautiful by that hosting and a lot of fans enoyed thouroughly this experience both there and at home, it’s hard to dismiss completely this hosting. It’s not Helsinki in terms of everything around the contest, it’s not Belgrade in terms of the actual broadcast show (two of the best of the past 15 years), but it’s not god awful as feared and on this one occasion (there are other occasions when it’s the other way around, I’m not taking side here), Armenia was the one wrong to ignore the party.

III. As for the overall level, I get an average of 47,79/100 which is the highest average since 2009 and 2008 and third best esc year since the 1998 year, meaning since televote and the new language rule. But this must be qualified, there are usually two types of contest. One with overall averagy good songs but lack of masterpieces and the contest with lots of masterpieces and lots of craps. Many contests tend to be in the middle but go either way. The contest that was held in Baku was, and that is very well accepted by the large majority, extremely great in terms of great songs: my 19th is already above the 50/100 mark! But it’s evidently gotten worse in terms of joke acts, stupid acts, awful acts and lots of clichéd shaky craps. I think esc 2012 marked a turning point when many of these awful entries (except for one) did terribly and most of the very best, professional and simple acts scored amazingly (Serbia, Albania, Estonia, Germany, Spain to name a few). Loreen’s win being the symbol of that, considering it was both an old fashioned gayish europop tune (courtesy of G:son) but delivered in an unique authentic (as in Loreen’s authentic) fashion that brought new edge to the contest. 2013 will definitely remember that as almost of its top 10 shows. We’ve had Sandie Shaw going barefoot, now it’s two years in a row with Loreen and Emmelie! Definitely something going on there as both were eurovisiony by a lot (hence their OGAE wins) but both tried to go beyond. But I digress and will stop about 2013 now but writing this now also helps putting that perspective. Loreen win did help bring to the table and to the top 10 in particular entries that wouldnt be there without her. The run away win proved it put together the esc-lovers and those who vote “in a certain idea” of esc in mind and the others. 100 more points than Emmelie though while a lot of songs were crushed inside similar points from fourth to eleventh. It was just a very dense contest and even though it got filled a tad too much of the shaky for my taste, it also was interesting to see the diversity and looking at my top 10 i havent seen that much diversity in one for a long time. It’s that diversity people fear we can lose knowing that the past what, 5 winners or so, were all or partly written by scandinavians. The contest just cannot enclose itself in its own stereotype or it would collapese under it. It was very important therefore that Albania or Estonia could get in the top 10, proving that national languages, daring performances and looks but more importantly strong vocals, could do well. It’s also paid off in 2013. The question is, if the winning songs start to repeat a formula, can that diversity, in the end, just give up? Last year (2011 that is), the televoting and juries had never been so divided. In 2012 they ended up liking more or less similar things and there wasnt anything as huge a gap as Blue (top 5 televote, last in jury). Which does also tell a story, one that says that common sense would work out in the end. There’s always going to be the unfair thing à la mode, in the fashion, the buzz, the story to tell, the thing to look back with an angry smile, and that in the end time smoothes out. It’s very rarely the winner (except in the long run of the 80s when it seemed that bubbly pop would always win), but it’s all these other bits and pieces that dont quite come together: Russia’s grandma, something that now has been done and cannot be repeated, a thing for the buzz, for the story around them and their village, to get as high as second, a place many people wanna get, it’s respectable, it’s great and prevents you from hosting, France’s first televoting nil, Cyprus doing better than Greece, Macedonia’s only qualification with two semis, Turkey, Bosnia and Portugal possible last participation… it’s also all of these, which we dont know how far the story will go in the esc world, that one has to look at very closely. In a year where everything wanted to be so grand that there was this whole charade of a gold ticket in the semis for entries people thought would definitely qualify and would doubt til the last minute (Jedward as a reward to everything esc stands regretably for and in Baku who else but Turkey so the crowd goes wild), every story felt like THE story to tell. It’s what’s so interesting in this contest that culiminated in one of the biggest esc masterpiece and a grand win for the fans’ favorite esc nation: but in the end, Baku and its in-the-end typical contest could be the last of a kind when SVT decided to bend it forward its MF formula. End of a story arc, it’s definitely better to go in a bang! SVT has roughly shown a pattern with many flaws but that can get edged out by DR. Now, it’s no time to overdo this and get back to all 42 songs we lived with for many months and beyond.

So, I will now discuss it more further with each song. They will be shown in my ranking, from last to first. I do believe that, even if we can disagree on this or that, overall, i have made a very objective list. Last year I said that “I don’t think anyone would have my bottom songs in their top or vice-versa” but I do know how insanely divisive my esc winner this year is. So when we’ll get to it, I’ll take a deep breath and a very long time to make my case, hoping that if I couldnt convince you maybe time will tell. I will sometimes stop to make an analysis on geopolitical things, or a specific trend in the contest, a country’s history in the contest but overall I will try to make it a simple flow of ranking songs one by one on a steady pace, going all the way back to national finals (since I’ve followed each and every one of them since 2005) to end up on their 3 minutes lifetime on the esc stage.

Bottom 5

In 2010, my bottom entries were simply terrible tacky songs (Latvia, Slovenia, Bulgaria…) and in 2011 it was the clichéd awful shaky stuff (Croatia, Armenia, Israel…), so I am sad to report my entire bottom 5 of the 2012 edition is actually what one could call “joke” entries. Are they joke entries by definition? I wouldnt call them that necessarly. A joke entry is different than a funny entry or an alternative entry (France 2008 is for instance alternative musically and funny, or trying to be funny, on its delivery). Joke means that it does not take the contest seriously and actually takes the contest itself as reason for its own existence. We can of course think of Lithuania or Iceland 2006, who both in their lyrics and performances showed that this is what they aimed at. The list of joke entries is sadly getting longer almost every year and it’s very striking that the years with the most great songs are often the ones with the most joke entries, as if it was related some way, that Europe in unison decided to counter balance its own good taste. In 2008, when Serbia, Portugal, Finland, Iceland, San Marino, Turkey or funny acts like Bosnia and France took part, we also had to deal with Estonia, Spain and god awful Ireland, often taken as the symbol of all joke entries (the fact it came from sevent-times winnr Ireland is part of what makes it specific). In 2012, another great esc year musically on many standards, has an entire bottom 5 of songs that are either trying to be funny but arent or simple joke acts. Five is a lot in just one year. Usually, only one out of many does well becuse creating the buzz in the world of modern Internet and fast communication is a key to success. Of course, does my hatred toward the one that does best explains why it would be last? I’m not sure, but no doubt that this is a possible explanation. So let’s see.

42 Russia | “Party for everybody” – Buranovskiye Babushki (000 pt)
Yes of course my last is Russia. We knew it was going to do well, but win in its semi and second of the whole thing just makes you feel extremely glad Loreen took part. They recieved 189 points in a semi when 216 was the max possible! They were only down 11pts from Loreen in televote in the final! In other words, this was the huge buzz of the year. We could have seen it coming when in the Russian NF they managed to beat Dima and Yuliya which should have marched easily to the win. For those who do not know this, the grandmas already tried to take part in the contest in 2010 with a song entitled ” Long-long birch bark and how to make ayshon from it” and it was sounded a lot more like a traditional bit of music, though it had its modern remix, nothing electro, just a few drums and their voices singing something that did sound very genuine. So let me ask you this: was their village already at risk in 2010? Their 3rd place there should have brought them the publicity enough. Then why return in 2012? and more importantly, why return with something that was emptied of all traditional substance? Well, because they were asked to! I believe this is not only a “joke” act in the sense that a delegation was smart enough to know thiw would make a huge buzz, but also wouldnt win with the juries. Yes, hats off to the Russians who played the contest extrmely easily and the sad part is that it worked. After the first 40s of traditional music, you have these ladies singing “boom boom everyvody dance”, the lines which I found unacceptable in Emmy last year shouldnt be accepted just because you’re now under menopause. Ageism works harsh on the shallow Eurovision world (UK has now made that experience twice) and especially since your voice starts to go at a certain age (again the UK proved it) and the vocals here were never right. Does it matter to sing in tune? Actually no, what matters is that it works and here nothing works coz their voices are meant for a whole different kind of music. This is a travesty made of the contest and worse made of their original traditions customs, shown, broadcasted for the laugh, for the joke and for the cheap votes. I’m sad for all of Europe this went insane in televoting and sad and insulted the juries had it 11th! Televote, I can get since the non-esc fans would want to kick some ass out of it, juries, unacceptable! And what it would have been if this won! It’s what makes this the worst joke act ever, not that it got second after all, but that it’s not only a joke made out of the contest, it’s a joke made out of the entrants and singers themselves by a cynical delegation!

41 Montenegro | “Euro neuro” – Rambo Amadeus (002 pts)
Where to begin? Austria 2003 is the only one that managed to make cardboard animals look fun on the esc stage. Montenegro really got unlucky with the draw after opening the contest in 2008 and 2009, they were up to it again upon their returning. The first sounds and notes you wonder what’s going to happen. The rest is where, I believe, music is going to die. The idea of cardboad animals is to make a sense but it’s so dumb and stupid that you need a second layer to bring a new edge to it. Somehow, Austria 2003 brought that to the esc stage because behind the satire, there was their own self-irony going on. Here you have a horse of Troy because it represents nothing else than this,a  horse of Troy. No depth whatsoever. Just like Portugal 2011 this feels a lot like someone wanted to sh*t all over Europe in Europe’s grandest contest and one of the rare still popular events from the old 1956 year of creating something that would be European. That I admit doesn’t seem like anything else but a joke entry. Vocally there was nothing there, he talked, and I could have talked. And I dont mean like rap, he totally was a comedian “pathetik” is what he said, funny it matched what I thought of him. And please at least try to look o, he definitely looked like a hobo going “i hate the euro” like any stupid jacka$$ who doesnt get a thing about politics, economy or anything that yells once drunk late in a bar. That never should have come near the esc stage and should not again, Montenegro wanted really much to take a direction that Serbia or any other balkan country was taking then: and it’s courageous not to go the balkan ballads that worked well for Bosnia and Serbia or the cheeky shaky craps of Slovenia and Croatia that often failed. But I’m not sure they quite found what they were looking for in 2012 and while upgrading their standards in 2013 they still showed a lot of amateurism in that approach. Will we even see Montenegro in 2014?

40 Georgia | “I’m a joker” – Anri Jokhadze (003 pts)
Another mismatch affair when someone with that kind of voice would sing that kind of piece of grabage. In other words, vocally 8th with the juries, songwise last by the televote. Which explains that I dont have this with nil points. But again it’s not about being in tune it’s matching your vocals to the song (check out Caroline af Ugglas vocals for instance). In this case, this manages to make his vocals sound awful, so you really have to be a god awful piece of cr*p of a song. For those who have no idea how far this came from, you could check out his NF performance which was terrible in every aspect, shallow and stupid and a mess. It was already an insane and bad surprise it won there. But the funniest part was that the original title was not “I’m a joker” but “I’m joker” in an obvious grammatically incorrect English. The revamp here went a big big way to make this sounds the least awful possible. They rewrote most of the lyrics to make it sound like it wasnt that big of a joke (and ended up giving a paragraph in Georgian to make it sound cool at first, but I’m sure they just couldn’t make it work in English). And visually, they worked on his image to make him seem camp and not like the gayest thing we ever saw since Wizard of Oz. But still, by polishing so much we ended up with something that wasn’t quite himself and what made it (admitedly disturbingly) charming. In the end, in this grand stage, it came off extremely messy going from one genre to another, from one style to another, from one song to another and therefor it was a visual mess that went along a piss-poor song to begin with. Georgia’s tradition of qualification, just like Armenia’s the year before, ended there rightfully so. The thing is, I do recognize how insanely hard they worked on this and you do need to give them credit, we now know countries like Bulgaria or Macedonia or Belarus would have just changed the song all together. They at least tried on that crap the televote gave them in their NF. They however did not repeat the mistake with an internal selection of something extremely eurovisiony next.

39 San Marino | “The social network song” – Valentina Monetta (006 pts)
I said it this year, but that of course worked even more in 2012: Siegel songs should start with a -100pts score and then we see if they deserve to get anywhere. His latest (and thankfully nowadays rare) entries are just pieces of garbages that don’t make any sense whatsoever. The scary thing is, they were outdated in the 80s when he shockingly won the contest, once, but they are now even more so. Because in the 80s they felt old fashion, but nowadays they feel both old and old fashion. And whoever wrote those lyrics! I do believe though that the whole delegation wanted to play the cheeky fun youth card and therefore appointed someone who was extremely willing to go to Eurovision (by now I don’t think it’s just a Eurovison love, I think it’s more of wanting to travel for free for two weeks in May), Siegel, who could put two notes together and a few people who could make some English rhymes (“if you wanna get to my house / click on the mouse”, I swear my cat made that same joke the other day). People often say Valentina is a good singer who did a few good songs beforehand and shouldnt be put to shame for this. Now we even know she managed to convince people (well OGAE fans and a few easy to convince) by singing something very different the year afterwards, well not entirely different, still a Siegel crap but at least without “googling, giggling, gaggling” in its lyrics. But still, Valentina as a person can at any point say “I refuse to sing this piece of crap my name will not be ridicule at the end of Times with having done this” but she did it. I’m sure for a young singer who has a hard time meeting the month’s end with her struggling career an esc gig, what am I saying, two esc gigs, are a great deal of money you can’t refuse. Still I put Valentina in the same bag as all of those who though this deserved to be performed. I am sure whoever we did NOT get in esc 2009 and 2010 were actually better. At least, they have the benefit of the doubt…

38 Austria | “Woki mit deim Popo” – Trackshittaz (008 pts)
Likewise, this is often regarded with a soft spot because of their 2011 effort. Like many esc singers, they ended up doing esc after a failed attempt and, as it’s ALWAYS the case, they ended up getting worse until they got to the esc stage (we’ll do PeR in 2013 and I’ll have tears reviewing it). To put some background here, one of my closest friends working on a phd on austrian literature ended up living in Vienna for that entire year and I went to visit her in April that year and when I showed her this, she thought it was exactly Austria. So in a way, it’s a good thing, definitely better than Georgia singing Swedish music. But when we watch that incredibly high level NF that year, you can tell there is much more of Austria. In 2011, even if they had a better entry I still wouldnt have had them in the superfinal against old fashion Nadine. But in 2012, the Popo song against the bearded man in a dress, that was just an insult to the 8 other acts (out of which Valerie must be pointed out as one of the best songs of the entire year). To sum it up, Austria is a country that is filled with incredble quality but when it comes to it, makes the worst possible choices. I’m not going to quote Austrian cultural history but that sounds about right, for the country of Haneke, Jelinek and Seidl. This was a sexist piece of garbage but at least they were genuinely rapping not like Montenegro. And lucky them they got one of the best looking postcards with the ballet in Shirvanshahs Palace. That’s like insane for the Popo song. In the end, however awful this is, this felt like a very Austrian effort of 2012, and wile extremely unfunny, at least not joky trying to exploit the contest or its singers. And as usual with the song that got last of the whole contest with its 8pts, the song managed to be one before last in both televote and juries, maybe a sign it wasnt the biggest disaster ever.

37th-31th

Now the shaky stuff. Usually the europop ogae fanwanks and shaky shaky craps are in my absolute bottom but thanks to the five horrors of the year, we got them all packed in now. Actually looking at this, doing this now, I just realized that there are some more in the 21-30 group (Cyprus, Bulgaria, France…) so this is going to be the worst shaky songs first, and the dullest ballad of the year coming up. As for the countries we’ll see, two where in my bottom 10 last year so that’s a let down, but Slovakia, Ukraine, Greece… a lot of these countries are not the ones I used to be looking out for in the contest so I will say this, there isnt going to be a huge surprise down that road. That’s also why I think esc 2012 ends up being the last of a kind, esc 2013 has shifted a lot of things I thought, while esc 2012 felt like the obvious conclusion and follow up for the countries’ usual esc entries and level. As usual, the overall paragraphs will be get shorter now. Not because I don’t feel like writing them, but simply because it will be very straight forward “this is bland and typical, let’s move on”. There are always more to say on the best and the worst. Even if these are below average, they won’t bring anything memorable to esc history.

37 Ukraine | “Be my guest” – Gaitana (011 pts)
At first I was glad that Max didn’t win the Ukrainian final because it felt like a huge OGAE fan ****, a sexy boy shaking it for three minutes, another Eric Saade. But when I look at it now, gosh do I regret this. Gaitana can sing in tune. That’s about all I can say nice in this. Does that alone explain why the juries had her third in the second semi, above Estonia, thus explaining its qualification when it was all the way down to one before last in televote? No one thought this would miss the final just because it was Ukraine, and when we were proven right no one complained hard. But looking at the split results, it’s an insane scenario that the juries saved the most repetitious song of the year, lyrics written by a three years old (and I am sad to report Gaitana wrote them), a music that is repetitious, childlish and possibly takes some brain cells out of you (and I am sad to report Gaitana wrote it), a visual that ended up being one of the messiest and ugliest, bright pink, flashy colors, flowers in the hair, MORE led screens on stage? Its party vibes and the super lucky late draw could explain the climb to 20th in televote, but not the 7th place (this time right below Estonia) in the jury’s vote! People say vocals matter a lot for juries but that’s just insane that simply being in tune would be enough, for instance Azerbaijan and Germany are the entries right behind it in the jury’s vote and they didnt sound out of tune and definitely stronger better songs? It’s a mystery, as if Ukraine is meant to be there every year in the final even when it sends something totally forgettable. And indeed, while it’s not as awful as a joke entry, it’s the least likable of all the normal entries of the year and I’m sure when people will talk in ten years of Ukraine 2012 they’ll take a little minute just remembering what, between “Angel” and “Gravity” that both scored top 5.

36 Greece | “Aphrodisiac” – Eleftheria Eleftheriou (014 pts)
Greece is ike the grand pumba of the shaky craps arent they? It’s like there is this awful scary shadow of Sakis behind almost every entries they sent from 2004 to 2012 when MAD TV thanfully took over. So now that hopefully MAD might have put an end to this, we can look back to the two the secret night of maria’s opa-ish shaky combination: lots of legs and leather, very sexy male dancers, absurdly dumb lyrics of sexual undertone that is not subtle and a tons of onomatopeia “oh oh oh”s and someone who can smile and dance. Not sing though, there’s always going to be that 6th person on stage, all the way on the corner without a single camera shot towards her or him, who will cover up your barely put vocals. When Britney does it, everyone mocks it on youtube but the Greek esc mafia has made sure we cant discuss that without being put to the ground: as I can testify being banished from esctoday’s commenting for a week for mentioning Sakis doing this in 2009. It’s insanely catchy and the Aphrodite’s shell was the one thing that pushed this even more over the limit of campness, hence it doing not as great as usual. Sure it qualified, sure it did more than it should because when people think Eurovision this is sadly what they expect and even more sadly what they want. But it’s a oy this one didn’t get top 10.

35 Norway | “Stay” – Tooji (015 pts)
So as soon as this was only third in the third semi of NMGP I sighed in relief that this wouldnt get the final nod, but you never know once everyone picks up in the final and this got the extra push to go through. Insane. But NMGP is definitely the weakest edition I’ve ever seen and even though I liked a few like “Euphoria” (yes there was an Euphoria there too), there was definitely no masterpiece as usual and you end up with the most professional shaky song going through. Is Tooji hot? Well to tell you the truth he isnt my type at all and our very campy gay Bruno Berbérès was all over him during the semi commenting, so I’m assuming he’s hot for some people. I prefered the blonde dancer, who was at the end saluting way more than Tooji like he was the star lol. He had that bad boy rough cut they wanted to give this song. But the autotune and fake backings that worked so great in NMGP were insanely hard to recover and this time around, Norway went “greek” in having a sixth person in the shadow, on the fa right-hand side doing most of Tooji’s singings. Even when in the chorus he shouldnt need it, it’s there and it just gets you super mad. For many people this felt like a Saade-bis but most televiewers had already forgotten about Saade since he hadnt won and it ended up picking up a huge 5th in televote which helped him recover from being dead last in jurys. Bulgaria was one before last with the jurys and only 2pts above and since it was only 9th in televote, it’s the one that got cut off because both songs got tied in terms of points but the rule states the song with more countries voting goes through, and this is the type of crap that gets small points from more people. It’s sad and Eurovision final could have done without but someone had to be last and I’m glad it’s a shaky fake song that does, even if Tooji was a nice cute gay boy outside the contest, not everyone that dreams to be a singer can be a singer, even if you’re a former model with good backing singers.

34 Belgium | “Would you” – Iris (024 pts)
There is no doubt this is the dullest ballad of the year and quite possibly one of the dullest ever. I can actually redo the melody of something like “Laat me nu gaan” but “Would you” always gets me puzzled when I try to think over with it. She was vocally fine enough, but the melody was a rushed work that didnt have anything a simple song should have, an identity. The problem of this was also it never got to the right edge. She was playing the broken little girl, and sometimes she broke her voice to play along the line but then in the chorus her voice is supposed to explode, then ok I get it she’s starting to grow? but no we go back to small girl, and then she started shaking on stage without knowing why, and then… and it’s not even cut in a cycle, or thanks to a supportive melody or anything, so you just dont get what the hell they were trying to do? An anonymous rather nice background, good backing singers but an ugly dress, vocals that are too imature and dont fit the “song” if we can call it that and… well, sigh, the lyrics. Now I’m still mad that some countries would want to sing in English when they actually just poop the lyics. In Belgian Dutch this wouldnt have been such a booger to me, but when a country’s most violent political parties ask the supremacy of dutch language (to the point that the Flemish parliament recently had an exhibit of comic strips and one image from a french-speaking one was censored out of its French!) wouldnt even dare sending it to the contest! The lyrics are the biggest laugh from me: she runs from him and wants him to find her but then she asks him what he would do if she would go missing but then she tells him any other guy would do? Now i get it! The melody, her vocals, those lyrics, there were TWO teams working on this and they just kept conflicting and we ended up with two songs piled at one, right? Belgium was twice in my top 10 in a row, but this one is way down there. Last with 2pts in televote. That says a lot.

33 Romania | “Zaleilah” – Mandinga (027 pts)
Speaking of cheap lyrics… “Zaleilah leilah lei, everyday, everybody / When you love you say, everyday, everybody” is definitely heading towards a pulitzer in the esc world! So I’m sure this is the first controversial entry I’m tackling. The 9 songs I’ve already ruled out, I’m sure, are recognized by everybody with full sanity as the bad ones of the year. This one got its fans and it got as high as 12th (with 71pts, just like Moldova and Belgium in 2013…) I am not fan of the kitschy spanish latino stuff and to me, only Spain 2004 seems genuine in the genre, everything else feels like crappy rejects (however, Poland 2004 imo isnt “just” that but also an ironic turn of the genre, making it more subtle). This was as spanish as much as “Vamos, vamos, vamos, vamos allá Ay! Así! (Vamos) Muévete” could be taken seriously. Add that pyros are supposed to add a specific touch, not be thrown in our face for 3 minutes entirely, and that yes, she does have hot legs but once I’ve seen them there isnt more for me to do. I get that the televote would support this, Romania has never missed an esc final so they’ve got their usual supports even when they send something that’s the least Romanian possible in 2011, and the televote often likes the summary fun cheeky songs (they ended up buying France 2010 after all…) But I find nothing likable in this. It’s sunny and sweet but can only go as far as being better than the other 9 songs. No less. But no more!

32  Slovakia | “Don’t close your eyes” – Max Jason Mai (030 pts)
Oh well there is this too to deal with. It’s sad he got last when he was actually 15th of both televote and juries so that he was never a bottom 3 to anyone. But lots of small points ended up in being killed with the old system. Would be itneresting to see, but this could have been 13th or so overall with the new voting formula. Which is a sign that this wasnt the disaster everyone said it would be. Boy yes was it camp! Rock? No way, but in the Eurovision world, a leather and a guitar pass at rock, and credibly too. And unlike Romania or Norway who ended up falling for the cheap tracks of the Eurovision downfalls, Slovakia who missed in 2009, 2010 and 2011 was trying something very different to qualify and that’s something that we have to acknowledge when we keep asking for diversity in the contest. I also think the esc fans are absolutely strayed sheeps when it comes to stuff like this: in MF Dynazty was superly welcomed as “diversity, good to have rock” even if it only got to second chance, but then this doesnt belong on the esc stage and should die? When both are fake rocks with similar haircuts and looks? To me, this was bad on every level but managed to not be disaster in any. Lyrics are typically bad, the melody is catchy in its own rockabilities, vocally he was poor but only had to deliver his rock song and it worked, visually it fitted. Everything was there, working with one another, ust not working overall. Last is definitely undeserving and if Slovakia had gotten its fairer 15th or so they probably would have reconsidered but now they’re out all together after trying 4 different genres since their return. It’s sad really.

31  Ireland | “Waterline” – Jedward (031 pts)
Well let’s get on with Jedward twins now and be done with them. I have the strange feeling Eurovision is not yet done entirely with them. First, let me congratulate Leanne Moore, Shane Creevey, Julian Edwards and Claire O’Malley who are apparently excellent singers. They managed to be great backing supports and at times, great copycats of what Jedward should sound like. In most cases like the Greek or Norwegian ones (see above), you can hear the differences, you can hear the main singers struggling and it’s kinda hilarious for us and annoying when people don’t pick up on that. Here? it’s not even like that, the vocals remained close to flawless through the entire show, so ok at first the twins were at standing mic, so far so good, but when they started their “routine” (which almost consists of them jumping around stretching their legs and shaking their bums) the vocals just kep on going just as good, and then in the fountain soaked wet, still the same flawless vocals. I’m sure that the vocally monsters of the year Pastora and Rona would even break a crack when entering a fountain that soaks them wet on the spot if they had to not only sing but keep up an upbeat tune after having shaked entirely for 2 minutes and a half prior to that. My conclusion? Leanne Moore, Shane Creevey, Julian Edwards and Claire O’Malley did an awesome job. Besides that, I absolutely loved “Lipstick” which was the most modern song last year, with all the negativity you can say on what it is to be modern. But that song worked on many levels. This one just didnt, it sounded like a 90s boys band group, its metaphore was dumb, the melody was barely catchy and was extremely fomulastic (i know ireland won like 4 times using that formula alone but still…) and everything kitschy cute about them was brought one step further that made them go from grand to dumb: those silly costumes? did they go with the waterline storyline? at all? lipstick had it all to go with it and even their bad vocals, here it was polished to the extreme by Linda Martin whose intentions were good but they couldnt possibly think they’d win or do better than with the rough around the edge “lipstick” the year before. Still it did good with televote but juries had it one before last. There’s no recovery from that and it felt well deserved.

30th-21st

It is now time to look at countries in the midtable. The points go from 32/100 (it was 26 last year) to 47/100 (it was 48 last year) and on a very tehnical level, that means we get out of the way the songs from my bottom half (21 songs out of 42) just as we reach the 50/100 margin or so; however, unlike last year, this bunch is a tad closer from one another with only 15pts actually separating them. Last year I pointed out that overall, there are definitely “good esc countries” and “bad esc countries”. So following that idea, let’s see how last year these 10 countries were ranked by me: 43rd, 40th, 39th, 34th, 28th, 27th, 23rd, 22nd, 19th, 3rd, in other words 5 were already midtable, 4 climbed on my list a bit, only one was in my top 10 and went to the second half of the scoreboard. It does seem like we repeat a similar pattern, with its short possible climbs and downfalls but with only one country really falling down, it’s easy to point out which countries have taken the habit of being there in the midtable, even one of them managed to remain 28th both years, while another one stayed 27th. I don’t do these on purpose, I rank all songs and evidently from year to year, the quality shifts, some countries do better others disappoint, but noticing these patterns help clear our ways to see where the contest is heading for many of these countries.

30 Cyprus | “La la love” – Ivi Adamou (032 pts)
I wasnt very convinced the first time they showed it around: it was messy, annoyingly tacky and most of all, worst of all, very greek in the eurovision sense of the word. Eurovision 2012 was followed with a few of my gay friends and that one was just extremely popular with them, shaking to it in the shower and what not. So I guess it had something even catchier than the Greek or Norwegian ones and indeed it did better. But what I think made this one better overall was the show. So ok, looking at the lyrics they should learn to read books and not sit or dance on them. And yes there is a singer in the far right hand side again supporting Ivi a lot (who by the way remains still now a very gorgeous “full-of-lips” lady). But there was something that came off more as sensual than sexual about her. It felt less slutty and dirty than the Greek one for instance, so I guess they found the right balance and I think the backing singer and dancers with an extremely simple yet efficient routine helped a lot and their very 50s look helped adding that little extra edge. Not much more to say except this really isnt for me, but there are tiny things here and there to save it up the way to 30th.

29 Bulgaria | “Love unlimited” – Sofi Marinova (035 pts)
There was this little war between two “Bulgaian” queens back in 2012 and one had a typical eurovisiony crap that would have died like Poland 2011 and the other one was Sofi, who represented a Bulgarian minority and performed in a more traditional way something that still was, erm, modern? It was an awful piece of music but Sofi really uplifted these miles beyond its actual level. The bashing she took even if she got Bulgaria higher than almost anyone else they sent to the contest was insulting and gave you a lot of pity towards Sofi. She really truly did a wonderful show alone on stage and took a stand for her musical integrity. Sure the song remains awful but there was something entirely genuine, simple, effective there all the way to the televote top 10 and I wish the juries hadnt been so harsh in having her one before last so she could have taken out Norway. Her singing wasnt false, just different and it created this bizarre and quite unique jist to this entry overall that still has a very old fashioned eurobeat dance track. A lot of “fan journalists” there were really having fun with her and said how great and cool she was then so she became quite an icon with them and that shows a lot of personality. So I really upgraded this all the way to 29th, which is a lot considering how much I dislike Bulgaria in esc usually even if this came right after Bulgaria gave us one of their strongest efforts. So a let down that turned out to not be one.

28 Latvia | “Beautiful song” – Anmary (036 pts)
So Latvia stays 28th but goes up from 34 to 36 points. The reason being this is incredibly catchier than Musiqq. I’m probably not the only one who believes 16th is extremely harsh and considering the jury is supposed to like good vocals, there isnt any reason that this would be their last and yet it was so it had nothing to do with the vocals. Two things were wrong in this and they actually matched one another so that it made this whole entry looked simply awful overall (and it only got 15th in televote so I’m not only talking about juries’ appreciation). The lyrics, god these lyrics, and guess what? if you weren’t there in 2012 with us, they actually were worse the first time we heard this they rewrote them to make them less stupid. And I’d like to get this out of the way right away, my sister was born in 1980 and I was born in 1987 so it really feels like we were both born in distant years when Johnny Logan won the contest. Apart from that, lyrics about your own song being written and composed and you becoming a star with it, it’s like a bad Hollywood script all over again, but in order to make it work (anyone here should see “Adaptation”, plus that movie got an incredible performance of Meryl Streep as the vilain I kid you not), you need layers and not just one of irony. And that’s when the other problem came in, that performance. At first it was a joke act in the latvian NF (when it never should have beaten “Disco Superfly”) with an extremely messy but at least coherent to its own shallow self performance, but when they polished this to look like desperate housewives coming to get you, this lost its extremely small appeal. It just came off as pretentious and utterly dumb. Still it’s got a catchy melody, a cute smile and quite nice vocals. But it can’t bring them much further really.

27 Slovenia | “Verjamem” – Eva Boto (037 pts)
I am quite puzzled how any of us could have thought this would make it. I’m still extremely glad that in 2012 I did my best ever with a 19 out of 20 prediction, missing on Malta when I had put my money on Netherlands (and I wasn’t that far out!) I never thought this had a shot and people called me crazy. Out of five ex-yugoslav countries in the same semi (I thought they were drawing pots to prevent such a stupid ufair draw, like having all three caucasus countries in the second semi in 2013 pushed Georgia in instead of San Marino), we always knew two wouldnt make it and considering Serbia was always going to head to the top 5, it was down to two spots for four and people thought that Kaliopi and Nina being the most famous ones it could be them. Bosnia was seen as the darkest horse since this one had “Moltiva” song writers. That’s like forgetting that Niamh, Charlotte and Dana International (and to some extend Chiara) all made incredibly bad come backs late in the 00s long since their 90s good fortunes. So ok this isnt similar to that, but one year of goody goody doesn’t mean the next one will be the same. And if the fact that Verjamem is incredibly more formulastic than Moltiva wasnt enough, Eva who is like what? 19? 17? I forgot but Slovenian fans were going wild about her age back then as a kind of merit (by the way I was once 19 too and no one applauded me for it) is absolutely no match for Marija who almost single-handedly gave Serbia its win. So you have a little girl, instead of like chanting her praises shouldn’t you paternize her a bit and NOT let her have her ways and getting dressed like a little princess then? God that dress was the true BD award and definitely not Rona! Gosh are esc fans stupid sometimes! It literaly looked like a pigeon pooped all over her. And to make the mess complete, her backing was astonishingly loud and kept cover her up. In the end, the whole white fairies didn’t work because it never felt genuine: they were trying too hard to shove down her throat that story line. Still that song handed to someone incredible could have been quite nice, so I wont quite kill this.

26 Croatia | “Nebo” – Nina Badrić (038 pts)
When I first heard this, I had a huge sigh in relief, Croatia wasn’t going to be my last two years in a row. After that 2011 disaster (of a Germany 2010 copy cat selection), an internal selection felt like the right recipe to me and Nina was definitely the woman up for the job. Imo this is the first (out of many more, especially one in my top 10) of the songs that got lost on the big stage by not finding the right angle to master the “grand” theory. Everything around Baku was grand and if you didnt play that card or overplay it, counterplay it, you came off terribly. This was the case for this, it’s probably the best song in my bottom half, as a song to listen to, its cello bits are just great, but the way the backings were dressed, like if they were waiting garbage bags, at least white, while she was wearing the black one, that was incredibly stupid. And then this song is supposed to be on the underwhelming on purpose, then why bring the white flag bit on the performance and two dancers doing almost nothing than distract us from any emotion? Worse, the storm and clouds on the back, that could have worked great didnt work at all because they decided to have the lights very low so we could see them throughout the performance. And sometimes you have to show off the “behind the curtain” to make a point, sometimes you just cant or it kills it all (just like the disappearing guitar was the worst thing ever for Sweden 2010, simply because it didnt work from an outsider point of view). This one was just all wrong, never at the right size for its own sake. With something extremely simple and efficient, it would have worked definitely better. But I guess Bosnia is the only Balkan county that gets that quite right. Obviously Maya here took all of Nina’s extra points.

25 Malta | “This is the night” – Kurt Calleja (039 pts)
Probably the biggest achievement of the night. As you read above, this was the only one I didnt see qualifying of the 20 songs that did. And what’s impressive about that is, they didnt even have a huge performance to go with it. But in the category of simple straight forward europop, I guess the semi 2 didnt have much more going on (except for Lithuania, on which we’ll talk more at length later on). Malta has now made it an habit of singing straight forward pop songs and they did so I believe since 1997 which is their last folkish entry. Since then, apart from the disneyish ballads of Chiara, everything else was bubbly pop or pop-balladish, well until 2013. Usually it never paid off and somehow this turned around in 2012. Why? Better vocals? Nope since Malta also made an habit of good strong vocals. Better performance? Look back at 2011 to see they really worked super hard on that one to make it look better than it sounded and by a lot. The yellow pants? That stupid leg routine? The backdrop? All of these are a yes, but what you need to add most of all I think is he was having fun. Most of the times, Maltese singers win a very big grandiose NF and have a lot of pressure to do well, since the 90s were an excellent (and by many standards overrated) period, everyone since then wanted to do too good (and that climaxed in Olivia’s horror show in 2007) when Malta had no more pressure coz it seemed doom, it finally picked up an unexpected qualification: good vocals, good performance, yellow pants, cool backdrop, memorable leg routine and the fun with it. 11th in televote with 12pts behind the Netherlands, it was extremely helped by the juries who had it 5th, in other words they reworded something that they felt was much more wholehearted than Norway. I find this listenable, almost guilty-enjoyable when I watch the 3mns in the final and never wanna hear or watch again. At least there’s nothing to hate there.

24 France | “Echo (You and I)” – Anggun (040 pts)
It’s always hard to talk about one’s country and I believe I did my best when I finally put everything in perspective in my article on French history of the Eurovision Song Contest. For the record, 40 / 100 is the lowest I ever had a French entry (Jessy was at 43) so that says a lot: it’s our worst entry. Is it our worst song? I actually think “Allez ola olé” is a worse song, this one is extremely catchy and the whislting bits are both fun and annoying but at least memorable. But that live! What an incredible disaster. Another one that didnt make the right choice and wanted to pack too many things at once. After trying all the genre, France and most of all Bruno Berbérès who worked alongside Björkman in MF many years, wanted to have its own eurodance entry in the contest. As a song, it delivered just that and managed to bring someone who didnt want to shake it but was willing to sing it. Anggun is not the best singer in the world but she does have a very warm voice that’s extremely pleasing to listen to I admit. And that dress was beautiful and sexy but not in a slutty way. But she could have gotten that “I’m a classy eurodance” act together without the necessity of half naked male dancers? Because that ended up ruining the whole show and making no point especially since they were wearing gymnastic official jerseys? What was the point? It probably wanted to relate to that “male-object” clip but then the entire performance should have gotten that edgy polemical way. Nothing worked with one another but the simple song and its memorable tune and Anggun’s beauty got France 85 points from the juries (Jessy and Amaury both ended up with 82 overall for instance), but a big fat and first ever 0 from televote. Thanks to the formula, France still hasn’t gotten last and still hasn’t gotten an official zero but that was close. This was the last of Bruno Berbérès as head of delegation and the new one brought Amandine, meaning they totally disregarded the usual contest and songs to do their things. It paid off with fans, not with result. Not like when France tries to copy the contest, like here, it pays off either…

23 Belarus | “We are the heroes” – Litesound (042 pts)
I said it about Austria, I’ll say it later with Lithuania and I’ll say it now for Litsound. Why do these singers we want to hear in the contest always get the final nod with their worse entries? Do they really have to downgrade their own levels to be noticed by televoters and/or juries back home just to be ridiculed in the contest? Litesound lost the 2012 NF like they had lost every single one of them they took part in. But then someone (erm erm) cheated and finally it was going to happen, Litesound in the contest! With their weakest song ever but who cared? And then the Belarussian delegation brought in someone (erm erm) and he totally ruined the pop rock song into pop boys band who dress cheap with ugly microphones to be “90s cool” and that was just terribly lame. I was almost ashame for 3 minutes to have supported them for so long. How can anyone do that to the great Litesound? They were the most amazing pop rock group in so many of their NF, the most genuine simple and yet strong musically group. The one who should have brought credibility to Belarus in the contest. And instead people managed to pee all over it and ruined it. I still think Dmitriy Karyakin looked adorable with hi cute little hair and blue eyes (and that bum in those skinny jeans, yum) but apart from that, there’s little going on with them: everything worked ok except nothing was Litesound or genuine. And its not ok to make me look at Litesound sounding like this at all. So it’s right there below average. 11th witht the juries and 12th with televote, this ends 16th! Almost crime! At least this is the first time Belarus is higher than France in my rankings! I guess that’s something. And now Nuteki started taking part and coming close right? Wait in 5 years when Nuteki finally goes to the contest, watch how they’ll destroy those too. But I’ll never forget that through Petr, Ruslan, 3+2 (gosh just typing that is a joke) and many more I had in mind Litesound cool simple gigs. Never!

22 Portugal | “Vida minha” – Filipa Sousa (045 pts)
When I did my “mathematical” ranking (I do it all by points without looking who is going to end up where), I was surprised to find this one outside the first half entries. Isi t bad? By no means no. Is it good? One can’t quite say it is. But when Portugal (who was seen as many similar to the Netherlands or Belgium in the 2004-2007 era) came qualifying three years in a row, it felt like Portugal was just part of the gang now, and then they sent a huge joke horror in 2011 so it was hard to grasp how this would end in 2012. Vocally fine, musically fine, it looked and sounded a bit too typical of what a simple Portuguese song should sound in esc. It was genuine but not in a cute way. In a boring way. I believe it wasnt hated at all, but wasnt loved either. It’s one of those songs that picks up the votes from people willing to acknowledge its simplicity but that cant really go as far, this is more for us fans to keep saying it’s better than what it sounds like. But it would be obvious it wouldnt qualify. There isnt much more to say. It’s not dull, it’s not stupid, it’s not bad there just isnt going on for it and in a contest when 3 minutes mean your entire esc life, this was sure to be doomed. I was glad to see it wasn’t last of its semi at least (there was a risk!) and Portugal shouldnt be ashame of this as they should be of 2011. Even as I type this I recognize I havent much more to add, even in its NF there wasnt more to add (it really wasnt the best song there to begin with, but what’s new). There is something that bugs me or thrills me in most any other songs, even the ones I hate. This is there because it wanted to be there and I get that a country just doesnt want to participate if it cant add anything more to the recipe. I want Portugal back next year and with something unexpected, even if it means they’re be doomed by votes but loved by us, like Dora back in the 80s.

21 United-Kingdom | “Love will set you free” – Engelbert Humperdinck (047 pts)
I am typing this trying to pretend I know nothing of Bonnie Tyler coming. So, to pretend “so it seems that the BBC wants to bring known names trying their come back on the esc stage: after Blue, the Hump”. Ok yeah, now in 2013 we definitely KNOW that’s all the BBC did. They wanted someone who was at least willing to do the contest, who would be known and recognized by the british audience, who wouldnt be considered as BBC giving up on the contest and who was never going to win the contest. Remember back when the BBC told us it was a grammy winner and we all started speculating. And then this was announced? And guess what, as a song it turned out it was pretty good. And ageism can work both ways in the shallow world of the contest as Russia proved. And I believe this could have done better than most of us expected if this was done quite differently. As a ballad it works good for 2 minutes and actually suits an old crooner’s vocals. And the Hump had a few ways to look at the camera and ways to own the stage that I believed were quite masterfully executed. There was talent there, there was experience. But then the last minute went all disney and the song got boring for that last minute and his vocals werent the one needed for such a song and performance. It’s like they wanted to put Pastora up for that job. And I also think the dancers were unnecessary and felt very clichéd of an esc performance and therefore not something we wanted to hear and see on the esc stage when you take the risk of an old crooner. On the other hand, the guitar player in the back all in the shadow was a great picture. In other words, this had all the premise of a surprise goody that turned to pot because BBC just didnt give the damn enough to look at what works and what doesnt in the contest. Even a first draw can get good results (5th in 2010) or an early draw in general (2011, 2012) but that lost all of its points when he shouted. The juries just put him last, so they judt never bought this. Televote was extremely low too and it ended under its standards. But noy by much.

20th-11th

Already getting to the top 20 I cant believe it. So how about some geographical analysis now? Four nordics, two central/eastern, one caucasus, two baltics, four balkans, two mediterranean and five western europeans. I had noticed that while even I shifted the power to the Eastern European countries through the 00s (my winners are among others Latvia 2000, Russia 2001, Montenegro 2005, Bosnia 2006, Georgia 2007, Serbia 2008, Estonia 2010, Bosnia 2011 and well, another balkan win in 2012), it shifted back to the West through the 2010s and this shows, with five big West countries in my top 20 (Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Italy, three of them being Big 5 members while the other two are 21st and 24th), four of the five scannies (only Norway went wrong but will redeem itself in 2013), the central Hungary or to some extend Israel, none of these show that the East has taken over, even if most of the best esc countries of the moderne era come from there, not only in the actual contest with results (Russia, Azerbaijan…) but also in actual quality (Bosnia, Serbia, Moldova, Turkey…) So that’s why the contest can take pride in being diverse. It’s not great because of its diversity but because it’s got good diversity (if all the diverse entries turned out to be crap, we’d wish for a very layed out contest of simple radio friendly stuff). And it is now to say it, even if I had said it before and implied it, but Eurovision is getting more and more divided between the best countries and the worst ones. The twenty countries in my top 20 this year were ranked like this last year: 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th 8th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 20th, 24th, 25th, 26th, 30th, 36th, 37th, 38th. 13 of my top 20 last year are again top 20 this year, including 6 of my old top 10, and 16 were n my top 26. Insane really. And I’m even surprised by some of those, Azerbaijan, Switzerland, a lot of these countries don’t come to my mind as my favorite esc countries of the modern esc, but then when you know with all the craps we deal that a country that takes esc seriously enough to send something “respectable” with some thoughts put into it, you end up getting a fair top 20. Again I know there are a lot of subjectivity in my list, but I do think that these 20 are among the best songs of this year, just like last year’s and etc. So I do think there are just better countries than others (just like Macedonia has gotten one of its best results this year both in the contest and in my list simply because it indeed sent its better entry). Most of the time, the countries that do well start the contest well in the long run as soon as the delegations and broadcaster make announcement on their selection process. Of course people complain that the Nordics get too well every year (1999, 2000, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2013) but then their national final selection processes are regarded as the best ones, in technical level and therefore bringing in the musical level. And success brings new interest and new success. Just like Germany’s third year in a row doing well. Internal selection is again doing wonders (Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Serbia, Turkey, Macedonia…) and as soon as you bring someone good on the table and deciding to do well with that person (unlike for instance the UK’s approach in their internal selection) you know it’s going to either do well or if it’s underrated, get its recognition from fans like me. So now the songs in the bottom half of top 20.

20 Hungary | “Song of our hearts” – Disco Compact (050 pts)
The great selection that A Dal is doesn’t give in the secrecy rules of the nordics. Once the selected entries are announced (and sometimes even before) some artists put their songs on youtube, sometimes a clip, sometimes remixes. It’s way more Estonian come to think of it. Before A Dal opened up, we already knew and loved “Song of our hearts” which was the most fresh sounding song of the whole national final. It didnt feel cold-hearted and typical euro dance clichéd as OGAE popular “what about my dreams” that flopped (but still managed to qualify to the final) and felt like Hungary never dared to go to something that modern, that different since 2007, a year when they actually got their second best placing ever since the 1994 first entry coup. So we all supported it but it turned out he was quite poor vocally on the night. The song still went through (and it’s to be said a singer like Gabi did much better vocally and performance wise with another good song) and so we wanted to see what would come out of it once on that big grand stage. Getting through 10th and then doing a bottom 5 is something Hungary was content with it seems as they repeated the A Dal formula that was even more so packed with modern entries. But back to 2012, I was quite happy that Hungary went through because, as I’d expect, it meant Hungary was going to push in that direction instead of getting strayed like Croatia for instance did. But when it turned out it was between Hungary and Switzerland I also felt sad because no one believed in Switzerland and seeing it fail so close is heart breaking. This is a very catchy enjoyable song that’s well written and put together but as still a poor vocal delivery and a very unconfident performance. Obviously they were asked to up their standard for the contest and once more the esc stage was too big for them, they didnt feel and look natural and it felt awkward seeing them take two steps down and then back again. Overall this is basically the average song of the year.

19 Azerbaijan | “When the music dies” – Sabina Babayeva (051 pts)
I am a tad surprised this isn’t my highest ranked Azerbaijan entry ever since their 2011 winner is my 17th and this is only 19th. However, points wise this is very close, as 2011 is at 53 points. By the way, last year my 19th already had 51pts so I guess that, besides the ups and downs from every year, we get an idea that every year we have 19 or so songs above the 50/100 limit, which means that there are a tiny bit less of half of the entries I can live with, which means 10 more or so than the darkest era of the contest (2002-2007). What I like in this? Well Sabina’s vocals, the best ever from an Azeri entry, that’s for sure. I also liked the gracious melody and its built up. Nonetheless, that doesnt cover up for the fact they definitely pushed the supposedly Azeri instruments and bits at the very end so that they’d get the crowd going crazy. I still remember the first time they showed this song it had none of it. So obviously they rewrote and pushed an agenda that is extremely fake and that’s annoying. By the way, for the second year in a row the song that gets 4th is a very strong yet formulastic ballad with strong vocals, feathers on the shoulders and one big visual gimmick : the sand lady and the changing color dress. By the way, I watched this with a good friend of mine who was being cynical in almost every entry and the way he commented on that dress made it super hard to focus on it since he said “wait she’s having her period” when the dress turned red all suddenly, and then there’s this bubbling black dots which truly make no sense and he said “now she’s pooping in her dress”. I admit that it killed the visuals for me completely. And I admit I’m not crazy of visuals unless they make sense for the songs or tell something. To me, just like “Angel” really wouldnt have gotten that far without the sand lady, this really could have done without (still as the home country it could have picked up points but maybe not these 4 that pushed it over Rona). In other words, a good ballad with strong vocals, but a fake folk bit and an ugly dumb visual. It was technically superbly done, but it’s not about technical master work, it’s about getting the best out of what you do have, yes, but based on what you wanna say. When all you have to say is “we can do this”, I tend to get bored.

18 Spain | “Quédate conmigo” – Pastora Soler (052 pts)
After the 2007 gig, I didnt think Spain would turn once more to a Swedish team to write its music. Here in France, where our South West sometimes likes to think itself as “part Spanish”, but also thanks to the wave of immigrations following the civil war, there is a lot of appreciation for Spanish culture in general, the sports, the music, the fiesta spirit. It’s of course often stereotypical, but it’s something that makes us think very much of Spain as one of our friends and allies. Whereas our relations to Italy, Germany, the Uk or Belgium are more difficult, with a lot of history. So when Spain goes all the way to pick something so remotely anti-Spanish as Swedish europop, it just seems even more awful to me than when Georgia does, simply because I’m not that personally attached to anything Georgian (I mean personally Stalin is the most famous Georgian I know still to this date…) But unlike Georgia, at least Spain kept singing in Spanish so that was a plus. This song remains extremely typical, you’re just never surprised by the next note as one could be with some other songs and if it wasn’t for Pastora’s incredible vocals this wouldnt be as high as this (they really push this over the 50 marks almost all by themselves). I also liked the very clinical performance. On this big stage, you always need a way to own it and going alone on stage paid off a lot that year but Spain wasnt going to do that coz vocally there is a big part played by supporting vocals (in the song, not that Pastora needs any). So they brought movement, they brought in many travelling shots with the camera, and a very simple light effect show, it created a sense of rhythm and pace that delivered the ballad perfectly. Overall, this song as a song was in my bottom 10 as such, but Pastora and the clinical (even if I can a bit too easily analyze it to make it that enjoyable to me) performance ends up making it a great joy to see in the top 10. Especially since Spanish esc fans have often been there and supportive of their entries, in the best and the worse (2009 getting like one before last), in a party light mooded that can not be said about other countries’ fans. The Top 10 was of course handed thanks to juries alone, but that’s what they’re there for, to caliber back the stupidty of televote. To be entirely fair, there is one thing I didnt like is the dress. Spanish dresses have often that issue that for many reasons (like body temperature), they use a skin-colored stretch to cover up the body parts that the dress unveils. It looks like figure skater costumes and it’s very annoying, this is supposed to be sensual since she’s crying for her love to stay, why then add these? In 2009 I noticed them too and thought it completely killed the sexual look too. But yeah, above average, by not much, stuff.

17 The Netherlands | “You and me” – Joan Franka (053 pts)
When the six entries in the Dutch national final were presented, this one got me hooked right away. It’s one of those songs I still today, one year later, have pop up in my head and Id go “you, and me, and everybody in betweeen” (even if that’s not the correct lyrics that’s still what pops in my head lol). It’s got that alternative hipster sound that I was sure would do well, better than people expected. So I had it as the surprise qualifyer. I thought the over the top performance and look would get the televote going for them and I thought its hipster and fine delivery would keep the juries interested. I had no idea she would kill the vocals by that much and had the juries destroy her. She did deserve that with such awful vocals. The whole performance was again having to deal with the issue of the big stage and how to fill it. So the flames all around the stage, pushing four male musicians all the way to the catwalk and a girl on the back. In the end apart from cool side shots, that didnt really help much to start as such and most importantly, she had a story telling outfit, going on with the flames right? But then she cant have the musicians coming with her on stage, well unless it keeps teling the story, but it didnt. So when they come on stage with her it looks like a simple esc gig, singers on stage having fun singing together. And the two just don’t connect right. I know she got top 10 in televoting but that’s because it was so over the top and memorable as it is. But juries didnt eat it up and that’s because it was just simply messy and two things going at once too contraictory. Also the vocals were just terrible she was eating all of her syllables. I really really enjoy this song and it will lead to better things for the Netherlands after the simply GOD ATROCIOUS of 2009 and 2010 and the underwhelming 2011. But this just wasnt it yet for the Dutch.

16 Switzerland | “Unbreakable” – Sinplus (054 pts)
Seriously, who can and will forget that “swim against the stream” line, and not just because it’s repeated endlessly or because of its terribly adorable bad english? Well sure, “bitter pill” is right next in line and I’m sure we’ll have more in 2013. I wonder if that’s because I’m from Western Europe that I find the Swiss and Belgian bad English adorable when it pisses me off in the Belarussian ones. I really hope it’s not that because I try to be fair to everyone. But in this one, it’s really cute, too cute for its own sake imo. It’s sad this failed to qualify. Looking at this from the mathematical point of view, it was 10th in televote and 15th with the juries but don’t think the juries just killed it. Actually both votes agreed, with 49 from televote and 45 from juries, you cant say that it’s that big a difference, but then the juries had everything from 6th (81pts) to 11th (70pts) extremely close in terms of points when the televote went so insane on Russia that even 49pts was enough to pick 10th there. And that’s why, when you redistribute the points, you end up with Hungary edging Switzerland for 7pts. It was an extremely genuine poprock song. The main singer, while not quite my usual type, was extremely appealing physically. And it’s not the leather pants either or the punkish look. Though it doesnt hurt the eyes. Even the vocals werent pitch perfect but again in such a song, who would consider it such a bad thing? It would be if the vocals were atrocious but they werent, just not amazing. Now if another pop rock song had amazing vocals, then yes this would suffer in comparison, but the closest it got in the modern radio genre was Hungary who really didnt have better vocals, even worse to some extend. And considering that Western European tends to be a tad less geopolitical friendly, it’s always nice when they do well and Switzerland’s serious work in their national finals in 2011 and 2012 really should have paid off. 10th in 2011 and 11th in 2012 is nothing to be ashame of. It’s a fun 3 minutes ride and while you rarely can fall in love with it, there’s nothing that wrong to hate it too. In the end, one of the songs that landmarks 2012 while it probably won’t stay down the lane of esc history either.

15 Denmark | “Should have known better” – Soluna Samay (062 pts)
It’s hard with this one because I’ve seen a lot of people hate it. Way too many actually. But like some people think it’s her, some say it’s her voice, some say it’s her performance of this, some say it’s the song. And then the others consider it “meh”. It’s definitely in a year when Denmark is trying all its hearts out to win. After Norway won, they got 4th in Oslo an 5th in Düsseldorf and Denmark considered it was their turn. We now know that what they needed was, like in 2000, a friendly hosting. But this was also going for the title in a very different style, trying to reach the new hipster gangs raging through Europe’s current musical taste. The sunflowers, the leather sofa, the odd pirate look while there is a guy in the cap playing cello. This really came off as “all of you out there who hate the contest, look how cool we are” and I get this would be irritating to so many people out there, including those it’s trying to reach. I assume that, with my actual musical taste and the way I stand on the Eurovision contest, i’m one of those. And to be fair, musically this is something I don’t mind much with my eyes closed and while I recognize everything it’s tryring to do, it’s trying too much, too hard and I get it comes flat that it would pick up a low top 10 in semi and do bottom 5 in the end. But it’s still a very enjoyable ride as a song and Soluna is definitely a character all right. Her song in the DMGP 2013 was even better but her delivery was insane again, all over the place, different for sure. There’s something there I think she even herself hasnt really found out what it was but it was a nice entry that in the long run of the contest uplifts it more than it downgrades it for sure. Maybe I’m too nice to the scannies again (especially those damn danes who just cant seem to get off my top 15 can they). But we have to face it, it’s a professional cut designed for what it was and that was enough to say “good for you”.

14 Moldova | “Lăutar” – Pasha Parfeny (065 pts)
Moldova and I have a very complicated relationship. I did not like the 2005 grandma (yet another grandma shoved down our throat) that got amazingly well in the age of pure televote, 2006 was awful and while 2007 picked up another top 10 (after being 10th already in the semifinal and only like 2 or 3pts above poor Portugal and Andorra who have no friends in Europe and still got so high) I absolutely hated it entirely. In 2008 I liked it but thought it was way too naive and in 2009 for the first time I really liked a Moldovan song. And then they never seemed to leave. I was one of the rare ones to defend 2010 a lot (still in my bottom half of my top 20 that year), 2011 made me like Zdob for once and now this. Another one when the song really didn’t do it for me at first when I heard it (and anyone who heard the jazzy song Natalia Barbu had in the NF should know! yes Natalia whom I just said I hated in 2007 had a great song in the NF!) and that got insanely cool in the performance. Moldova just knows how to make it crazy cool without going over the top while still being over the top enough that you get interested and entertained at once. Not great English and this time again I dont mind, the vocals are good, the look is, well erm, it works I guess? The backing singers, especially the short blonde one in pink are hilarious and this is the right amount of fun for a song that is quirky in its sexual lyrics and deserved that sort of delivery. Still not the best song overall, not the best performance overall, but something that makes the contest fun for everyone, shows that laughter is as much as music universal and shared throughout Europe and something that manages to be funny with it and not at it in the contest.

13 Macedonia | “Crno i belo” – Kaliopi (067 pts)
I know that a lot of people worshiped her then and there while others despised the way she handled everything in Baku. There’s no debate that she’s one of the singers of the contest overall. The cynical friend I was watching this with said “she’s doing great” just before she exploded and he said “oops until now, she shouldnt have gotten there”. Kaliopi was asked by Macedonia to pick up the pieces of their esc life. As they were getting always the unfair balkan votes in the one big semi to go through even with the horrors that 2005 and especially 2006 (one of my least favorite songs of all time), they finally lost their reach when the two semis were introduced with irony much better songs (2008 and 2009 really seemed like fair qualifyers to me). Kaliopi was the first one to do so and seriously, she totally desered too. I just noticed that I have her 13th like in the contest. Even though, to be perfectly fair, she was overrated in the contest in the sense that, if you take out all the huge points she got from the balkans, you really dont get much. It’s a song and singer that worked there and nowhere else, but I guess it still counts as that and therefore 13th it is. To me, Kaliopi is better than the song which I find a tad irritating to be honnest and I do think it goes through too many directions at once. It’s fun the first time around coz it confuses you, but then on the third run it’s already boring. She delivers perfectly, I liked her classy looks and the decadent gothic opera house in the backdrop was the exactly perfect touch of the violin ballad gone rock. Really there was a lot of professionalism and talent put into this but I’m not sure it’s a Kaliopi standard song and I did think her voice wasnt fit for it strangely enough. In the end, it’s a good entry, a great singer and a fair placing for a rather struggling country in the contest, to say the least.

12 Lithuania | “Love is blind” – Donny Montell (068 pts)
Ok lot to cover on that one so first things first, to me he’ll always be Donatas Montvydas. And his duett with Rosita Civilite, his singing professeor, who wrote for him “Dainu Daina” in 2009 (the NF that year was already called “Dainu Daina” which means “Song of Songs”, translated as “Best of Songs” I assume), will always be a highlight in the 2009 esc season. Second to Sasha Son in 2009, his 2010 song, hugely favorite to win “Running fast” got disqualified for it was released too early (it would have been in my top 10 of esc 2010 I’m pretty sure). In 2011 he returned in a duett with Sasha Son and a solo song. Both qualified to the final thanks to wildcard after being only 4th in their semis and in the end he got 4th and 10th. 2012 was never going to be missed by the now called Donny Montell who was sure to win it regardless of his song. And as usual, I mourn the fact that this is like his worst song to date, even though it is actually still a strong song. But what’s best about Donny is his vocals. The quality and absolute control they have is very astonishing especially considering he’s a skinny sexy twink that winks at the camera for extra points (not literaly, you get what I mean) and that you never expect such a powerful yet all in control voice to come out of him. Yes I said sexy, he’s my favorite male looking of the year. Now to get to the blindfold, though it adds to my own imagination, it’s true it was lame and stupid. Well the glitter on it was the extra push I really didn’t need. But the song’s exquisite in so many ways, it’s one of those songs once you heard the chorus you feel like this will get very old very soon and then the song goes to jazz club smooth and you go “huh?” and it keeps you interested and entertained. And Donny sure knew how to sell this live. Alone on stage in the upbeat genre is like almost unknown to the esc stage, and on this stage it was short of a grand performance. And the backdrop chosen for this sure helped a lot. In other words, without the blindfold and with a tad stronger song (I recommend checking the ones I mentioned earlier in this critique from him), this could have gotten further out. I was sure he’d do better than anyone said and when he got through people still thought it was heading to the last spot. 3rd in the semi and sadly only 14th in the final, what’s the difference between going last and going 4th right? But it’s a lot like Belgium 2013 in that regard, it’s that upbeat simple song that is delivered in such a way that it just wont quit! The hatred this often got for qualifying from the second semi was just unfair.

11 Germany | “Standing still” – Roman Lob (071 pts)
This is very rare but there’s a song I really want to see in the top 10 and I can’t. Another geat eye candy that Roman and actually isnt as strong vocally as Donny but as usual, it’s not just about the vocal qualities. Roman would have been lost in “Love is blind” upbeat but Donny’s power voice would have felt contrived in “Standing still”. The post Lena era was going to be a difficult task but they made sure to find another singer to deliver on the gig that esc is and Germany is now on a place where it’s extremely confident with its capability to deliver on esc stae. This is another entry that decided to not use the backdrop and once more this was one of the most beautiful use of the esc stage. Instead of being crushed by the usual imageries, the simple golden light gave this a very confidential look that the simple song and straight forward delivery needed. The hipsters are always going to make it to the top 10 and this felt much more genuine than Denmark so overall it picked up all those votes. it got to the top 10 in both televote and juries so it got a very respectable and imo deserving 8th. My main problem would still be that this, at the end of the day, is much more of a radio friendly song than a contest entry. Sure he’s a gorgeous guy (even if I tend to prefer twinks like Donny), sure he can sing, sure everything they chose made it look superb. And more importantly, it brought credibility and german interest stick to the contest. All of these are working for it. But would it be a song I’d wanna relisten to often, to show off the risks also the contest could take? Not everything can be par with “Taken by a stranger” and this felt like a nice way to come out of Lena and into something else, but not quite the top 10 material. It is, but just there were 10 songs I liked more this year and in like any other esc years since the new modern contest this would have had a shot. With the new formula I wonder if Lena and Roman could return to the contest, considering it’s always going to want to bring famous names (even if not huge big names) to the table. It feels like Lena’s very much around (doing the points for Germany in 2013) but Roman, to me as an esc fan not following anything German, has all gone. He deserves to stick around for sure.

Top 10

An entire year has passed and there was times I wanted to do this, others I got very busy either in my professional work (which already consists of writing analysis) or my personal life. So in the end, doing this now makes it feel weird, like a milestone finally. ChocMint once said “an esc season isnt over until Morgan publishes his full analysis”. And obviously, this one doesn’t mean the end of the 2012 season, which ended once the 2013 started to kick in. But in a way, this is a way for me to fully grasp the new concept. Obviously, either I’ll wait a year to do 2013 or do it sooner, as in June at the latest. Meaning that I can either continue this idea one year round trip. Or resume into the whole contst frenzy. I do not know yet but I’ll admit it felt quite nice to enjoy esc afterglow by looking back one year before and smiling in nostalgia to the buzz of then, already lost, gone and forgotten.
I also know that I’ve recieved a lot of complains on this “as objective as possible” list of mine so I went to look for the OGAE results of the 2012 edition and four of their top 5 is in my top 10: Sweden, Italy, Iceland and Serbia in order. Seriously Norway 5th there is an insult to music and puts shame and disgrace on OGAE who, as usual, wanks themselves on the most typical and utter nonsense of europop with a guy shaking it. Also, on a different world, the Eurovision Times blog, where people mostly (not all) like to think themselves as far from OGAE, their TEKO finalists, Iceland and Italy also both feature on my top 10. So I don’t think I’m that far out from something that could be said to be quite objective on many levels. Yet of course, it’s a subjective list as I will not have Loreen first and that’s definitely different than our usual polls around the contest. Even most of my friends watching the contest, gays or not, esc fans or not, all thought Loreen was an inch above the competition.
Now to look at the countries. Their rankings last year: 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 20th, 25th, 36th. For the second year in a row, the country that won for me the year before remains in the top 10 the following year. Last year, 5 countries made their second top 10 out of two editions in the 2010’s while no countries beyond the top 20 last year reached the best ten this year. This time around, we have only 8 songs from the previous top 20 in the top 10 and only 4 returning countries to the top. And looking at it, you’d think the country that ranked as down as 36th should get the praise for such a climb but to be honnest that country was in my top 10 in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and actually only missed my top 10 in that one occasion, in 2011. So it’s a climb from last year but it’s actually a returning to where it belongs scenario for Israel.
Three Nordic countries (Finland, Iceland and Sweden), confirming what I already said on the top 20 analysis on their high standard nf and entries, the two usual suspects from the Balkans, (Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia, returning for the third year in a row!), Italy confirming since its 2011 return, Israel and Turkey providing their usual par level of good entries, living up to the mediterranean quality to the contest, Estonia who is the one to praise for this is their fourth consecutive top 10 finnish. Last but by no means least, Albania who finally makes it to the top 10 even if they came close to it in 2006 and 2008. But to be fair, while I adore FiK like many others, they almost never picked the best, not even second best from there. For the first time they did and they’re rewarded with their best esc result and my best ranking for them ever (is it a mystery still where they’ll end up?)
In terms of genre, we have mostly ballads this year (Albania, Bosnia, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Serbia) making up for more than half of my top 10. And I never thought of myself as the ballad guy. The esc 2013 will confirm this trend having 9 out of 10 in its actual top 10 being ballads. Of course there is still some good old eurodance pop in this (Sweden) while the more upbeat stuff is quite alternative, in jazzy rockish quirky (Israel and Italy) if not folkish (Turkey). Last year, it felt like everything went for something retro and alternative. This year marks the idea that to be distinct from the other, the eurodance track isnt necessary good, all the shaky songs did quite bad even if they qualified to the final and Loreen’s presentation is what made it stand out. This year, the grand stage was the irony of so many singers who went radically different, the standing mic being used in Bosnia and Italy for most of it and entirely in Estonia, Finland, Israel and Turkey’s performance while Albania’s performance was also very static in terms of staging space (the dynamics will be brought in differently). Only three, Sweden, Serbia and Iceland will bring actual movements on stage, and two of them got the juries’ top 2 votes (while Albania was jury’s third). Another surprise, my top 10 has 6 songs from the contest’s actual top 10 (Albania, Estonia, Italy, Serbia, Sweden, Turkey). Proving that the contest, though it has its faults (Russia second) is getting more and more credible while working out its best possible formula. All in all, and after the praises songs ranked 11-13th from me, you know this is going to be a very strong and wildly recognized as such top 10. You dont have to agree on everything but it’s high time these 10 songs get the final praise, by me, that they deserve.

So now let’s dig in!

10 Sweden | “Euphoria” – Loreen (074 pts)
My tenth last year had 63 points and this year 74 points, so a very strong top 10 opens up with the year’s winner, Loreen Talhaoui. It made sense that in a contest that wanted itself to be grand a song would be a grand winner. Like in 2009, the contest didn’t make room for much surprises and the expected winner ran with it big time (150 more points than last year’s winner!) In order to understand the love for this, one must definitely walk a year back when in 2011 an incredible singer took part in MF with an incredible song, “My Heart is Refusing Me”. It was still an europop song, but it was edgy and performed in an usual way with Loreen, her stage movement, her look it was unique to say the least. While it failed in second chance, it became an iconic entry for the many who were considered “alternative” esc fans while “Popular” was the “typical” esc fans favorite and it easily won the contest (beating another favorite, Danny’s “In the Club”). After a third place by Eric Saade, 2012 MF seemed promised to Danny Saucedo (just like Eric had done MF 2010 before winning the 2011 edition) and Danny was given by Björkman’s the favorite’s spot of 32nd to create a buzz around “Amazing”. But before the MF contest, there was an online “third chance” poll hosted by SVT and much to everyone’s surprised, “My Heart is Refusing Me”. Asked what their five fave MF songs of all time were, many of tthe 2012 entrants had “My Heart is Refusing Me” in their lists. In the end, the buzz had shifted from Danny to Loreen, even if she was performing in the first of the four semi-finals. And with her once more unique performance, it won its semi and smashed everything in the final there, including poor Danny (who will later be given a job as host in MF 2013 so that he can be there without the risk of another defeat). Was “Euphoria” then a better song? Obviously not, but “My Heart is Refusing Me” had launched Loreen in a much better way than if it had won or even gotten to the MF final. It was the root for something grand and Loreen’s win felt, for many, the communion of supposed “alternative” and supposed “typical” fans coming together. On that alone, “Euphoria”‘s win should be cherrish by all esc fans around Europe and beyond. On that big Baku stage, they brought in another stage, dared using the body as another expression of language and communication (much more than the insanely dumb routines that the likes of Carola have pushed down the esc agenda). And vocally, Loreen proved to be superb even if “Euphoria” turned out much harder to sing live and she sometimes ate her word that didnt mean she didn’t deliver vocally. It’s still a dumb 90s track, but that’s what made Loreen so much better than everything else, by going down that road she made the comparison that much easier for us to see how great she was and G:son has delivered countless horrors to the contest, seeing someone like Loreen transcends the genre was a beauty to watch.

9 Finland | “När jag blundar” – Pernilla Karlsson (075 pts)
There hasn’t been that many times a country has willingly chose a national language that was both official but spoken by a minority. Of course if you put aside the fact that Malta sings in English and not in Maltese. France has sent songs in Breton and Corsican and Finland has sent twice songs in Swedish, in 1990 and now in 2012 and it’s always something we can cherrish because that means the contest does its job of presenting Europe in all its complexity, mystery. A place where everyone belongs even besides the overly powerful control of nations. The contest was born to bring nations together, and therefore its regions too. Somehow the lyrics of “When I Close my Eyes” remind me of Spain 1973 too, “you are like the water of my fountain” the &973 runner-up sang, and this one mentions “Like a lake without water” and I don’t know, it feels like they responded one another. Sadly, a song entitled “When I close my eyes” was meant to be listened to and indeed not watched. It’s a very gentle and delicate piece of music that never gets boring, that manages to be slow and refuses any form of climaxes and still manages to entertain and please the ears. I was glad they dropped the silly dancer from the NF and only had her on the standing mic with the cellist. It did feel and look a lot like France 2006 which also didn’t succeed at all, though this is a much better song. But Pernilla (who by the way has beautiful eyes, I can’t even say which color they are) was extremely nervous and never found the right angle to look at the camera. I havent seen an artist struggling so much on the esc stage to actually connect with either the audience or the camera. I guess this song was too intimate for her and that once she had to release it live and big it didn’t manage to go that step beyond. Which is why I can’t have this higher even if, as a song, it could be top 5 material. When you look at the simple gold fireworks on the backdrop, the overall gold atmosphere which was very warm, I thought that was a good direction for the song, but then why the green and black dress, quite cold (and it can’t be to fit the lyrics of “blue shirt”)? I think that’s another one where they worked so hard on trying to come off as pure elegance and class they actually forgot to connect the two together. And I know that in the music business the live performances have often used the wide angle full stage panorama and then a close-up to the face, but considering this song was extremely intimate and couldnt be delivered on the big stage, they should have gone entirely on sticking to her, her body, her face, her eyes (that’s what the song’s all about) but then, you’d need someone else than Pernilla to deliver sucha a performance, someone who would connect with the camera, put her body more on th edge (Rona’s way). In the end, this didn’t work at all live. And even with that being close to a disaster the song managed to bring many points to the table, it was that good a song. It’s sad Finland needs to sing in English stuff like “da da marry dam me” to qualify when 2010 and 2012 were incredibly stronger and more genuine songs all esc fans wanted to see in the final.

8 Iceland | “Never forget” – Greta Salóme & Jónsi (078 pts)
I swear I am not trying to get rid of all the Nordic songs all at once! But it is as such that the three Nordic songs in my top 10 are ranked 10th to 8th simply because all 3 had major issues: the actual 90s dance track to Sweden and the performances in Finland and Iceland. Iceland has always qualified since the two semi-finals formula (just like Denmark) and when the fans favorite in Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins 2012 was chosen, thanks to the jury (the televote went for something much more pop and light in Blár Ópal’s “Stand Up”), they became a favorite for the fans: runner-up in Eurovision Times’ TEKO, runner-up in OGAE’s votes, winner in Escvibes’ forum ranking… Their qualification for the final was seen as much of a sure thing as in previous years (Iceland was also the last enveloppe three years in a row, from 2009 to 2011). But looking at it now, one can see that they were only 11th with the juries for an 8th spot in televote in that semi: it was a qualifyer all right, but more of a bottom half of the top 10 of that semi, leading to yet another extrely low ranking, for the third year in a row actually. So Iceland’s songs in English were going to always make it because they were meainstream enough but too mainstream to get higher than their usual low spots? That’s a good question. I remember back after the 2012 contest my friend Togravus asking why the hell did this song which was so great to him in Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins didn’t work for him in Baku? Back then I expected to reply to him through this editorial, so I’m only now telling him why I reckon this is. And it’s not the English version even though, to mention this, I absolutely hate Iceland doing this. I have nothing against a country singing in any language it wants (can you believe Siren or We Could be the Same in Estonian and Turkish or Kuula and Deli in English?) but I hate it when a country deliberately switches the song chosen by televote or jury or internally to English thinking it would do better! I’m sure Iceland would have done as good with “Mundu eftir mér”. And same goes for their singers shortening their names. Greata Salome and Jonsi, really? I reckon they won their NF with the names Greta Salóme Stefánsdóttir and Jón Jósep Snæbjörnsson and I have no trouble with that, neither should the contest. But apart from these few things, what didn’t work at all? To me, this entry, this exact entry, is what was wrong with the Baku’s stage. Not as in the stage itself but a poor way to use it. The idea of grand, we mentioned it, worked with grand songs performed alternatively like Loreen, like Ott Lepland, like Rona Nishliu, but when a song like “Never forget” is extremely dramatic, it needs to go all the way to make its impression. In the Iceland NF, the stage was not small it was extremely small and therefore the duett had to find a way to bring all the tension and drama together without the led screen, without the extra meter square for a few more steps. And in the end, it forced us to have interesting camera shots of them so close and yet singing apart as the song is supposed to portray that kind of relationship. Since it worked in the NF, they brought that same routine, the violin on stage, the four backings, the one two steps, but this time on Baku’s huge stage, with that beautiful yet too undramatic backdrop. In the end, the change of scale should have come with a change of routine all together. As beautiful as they both are (Jonsi, roar), as great and dramatic as this song is, it came off ungenuine and yet undramatic to work and therefore it didnt do that well. Still is one of the best songs of the contest!

7 Turkey | “Love me back” – Can Bonomo (079 pts)
I knew this would be good since Turkey was great in 2008 and 2010 while it was puky in 2009 and 2011 (even if that one wasn’t that bad a song to begin with). I also want to mention how cool it was to hear the audience go wild for Turkey, almost wilder than for Azerbaijan. I don’t really remember a crowd going wilder for the neighboring song than their own: of course 1985 comes to mind but considering Sweden was also in the race the cheers were bigger for Kikki than for Bobbysocks and in 2013 it’s clearly the Danish fans that made the biggest noise, not the Swedes themselves cheering for Emmelie I reckon. I don’t think the French would cheer for any of their neighbors if the contest was held here and I know the political reasons behind such a support aren’t necessarly great either but I am not taking side, in the party and fun that the contest is, the idea of a citizen of one’s nation supporting another nation is something that, as an abstract notion, sounds awesome and what the contest is all about. After going rock for a few years, and under the very annoying recommendations of having a NF (which is something TRT has never given up on, and for that we thank them), they announced Can Bonomo of whom I had never heard. But when the song was presented, I really instantly loved it. It had the great mix of traditional instrument on a modern type of melody and song. It’s often weird how the contest tries to balance the folky and traditional tunes to the modern ones. A truly traditional song is almost certainly lost (Croatia 2013 anyone?) but when these elements meet modern esc it often does great (Belgium 2003 which is surprisingly the song I find the closest to Denmark 2013). In here it works perfectly mostly thanks to Can Bonomo who is singing this exactly the way it should, sometimes his voice seems to linger a tad longer on notes to sound traditional and sometimes he has this little “hey hey” that’s more r’n’b than anything. Plus Can is definitely a cutie guy, not as in hot, but as in insanely charismatic. That smile, that presence on stage is definitely a plus which imo explains the great televoting result. I know people are going to go big on the diaspora and political vote Turkey gets. That’s true, it helps, it’s there. But it didn’t stop Turkey to not qualify in 2011 so if they got top 5 in esc 2012 it’s not just the diaspora vote, there was something else too. Imo the clichéd boat was a tad too much and the reason why this isn’t in the top 5 (it was in it pre-contest). I loved the presentation performance a lot more but it featured too many musicians and in that regard could not have been redone on the esc stage. And truly it wouldn’t have worked at all in Baku. Just like Iceland, the copycat from a smaller scale to Baku would have been a disaster. Unless they could have pulled a Bosnia or Italy 2011, I find it extremely rare that a performance of a guy singing while only 5 out of a grander orchestra song are on stage with him gets anywhere. It’s just not believable and catchy enough. This was catchy of plenty for sure. Can’s little sailor shirt, definitely gay and somehow, I like the idea that even a country like Turkey gets that the contest attracts the gay communities to a greater extend than any other show and isn’t afraid to present their own songs to an all men sailors stereotype. Sure you can think it’s opportunist, but there was nothing in the song that implied it was a straight love affaire, actually it even hinted at gay stuff at the very beginning, with a ship being a feminin word in the English language, it twisted the gender bender right away. And I really love how openly sexual they are without no one complaining whatsoever. Apart from a ridicule boat performance, everything else was highly enjoyable. Not the best modern-folk, not the best vocals, but it really clicked and came off as a very strong entry for the contest. TRT wanted to withdraw last year but felt they had to support Baku’s hosting, and ended up withdrawing in 2013. We want them back even if TRT’s handled the contest in some terrible ways imo sadly due to the political agenda behind it. But they really offered us some great piece of music, Turkish and therefore European.

6 Bosnia & Herzegovina | “Korake ti znam” – Maya Sar (082 pts)
I know it feels like I’m the blindest fan when it comes to Bosnia & Herzegovina. I don’t believe a country qualifies to every Eurovision final without a good reason. Not that the results are perfect and I’m sure Ukraine, Romania or Greece didn’t deserve all their qualifications. But did Bosnia? We just talked about Turkey, which is a good thing since it will help me now comment on Bosnia, who also went for internal selections since 2006. At first Bosnia, in the 90s was simply the best ex-yugoslav esc country, starting with their 1993 masterpiece. In the 00s it followed the steps of Croatia, which by then was the one getting all the best results at the contest when Bosnia was still struggling, with only a 7th place in 1999 with Dino Merlin’s half French song (another ethic meets modern piece that worked wonder, even if 2011 will be even better). But their results weren’t picking up and to be fair, their song qualities were starting to flop too, culiminating in 2004 and 2005 shallow pieces (even if I like 2004 as my biggest guilty pleasure). Lucky for Bosnia, these were also dark eras for the contest so it didn’t feel that much like a Bosnian flop as an entire contest’s one. But we knew. So stopping with their NF (which were of rather good qualities but with bad outcomes), they went for internal selection and have never disappointed us since then and their results have always followed. But that internal selection did not just mean the broadcaster would truly own their entry and direct it towards whatever they wanted to achieve, it also was a way to cut on the finances. The country’s internal problems on a political and social level were always going to be an issue with the country’s participation and Bosnia & Herzegovina remained a very truthful companion to the contest through these hard times, including with great entries relying on great artists like Laka or Dino Merlin to do their own gigs at their own pace and style, with the broadcaster knowing it could trust them. For 2012, it became more obvious that Bosnia had issues again with participation and when they picked Dino Merlin’s backing, it meant they were sending someone they knew, someone they trusted, someone who knew the contest and wouldnt have any trouble finding her marks in the organization of it all, rehearsals, etc. When a country has financiary and technical issues to participate, most of them just give up, send craps, cut a lot on their fundings. Bosnia was and still is the smartest country out there to turn these difficulties into their own advantage and theretore to the contest’s as well. Maya was also a newcomer to the contest and she was, from the Balkan, alongide Zeljko, Kaliopi and Nina which says a lot about the Blakan taking the contest seriously. And she surely fit right in these big names. With her own song (again, if you can”t pay that many people, at least pick someone who can do the whole job, but then that means you’re also going to get someone genuinely trying her heart out), Maya also had to go alone on stage. As soon as we saw she went with a black and white official presentation, we knew they were going to go for something gentle, nostalgic again, and using very simple props to make something out of it. Maya was vocally stunning in the contest. I keep rewatching it as I type this and am very impressed by her vocal delivery. The piano routine was something she always did when presenting this so we knew she’d do it again on stage. I was disappointed by the dress because I thought it was a bit too much extravagant comparing to the soft gentle approach they had. But at the same time, it meant they were going for pure class throughout everything, and a tad of retro old fashionness that the piano on stage implied. I was very sad she picke the 5th draw, right before Russia and after Rona and Donny who also were performing alone on stage and, to be fair, with better charisma and persona on stage. But it remained one of these songs when a simple flute note could totally counter attack the effects of the last 2 minutes of the piano grand ballad to bring a whole new paradigm to your imagination. This was indeed a retro ballad but that flute told you it wasnt in New York or Milan, but definitely somewhere further away. Bosnia & Herzegovina ended up not making the cut for esc 2013 and though other countries did great there I still missed them. And when we now know esc 2013 had not balkan countries in the final, you just knew, right there, that Bosnia wouldn’t have let that happen that easily…

5 Israel | “Time” – Izabo (086 pts)
The Eurovision juries have a tendency to appreciate very quirky songs that the regular fans don’t really like, that the bookmakers don’t see in the final at all and that I tend to really like. They had “Siren” 9th in its semi and again 9th they had “Time” by Izabo. I was hoping it would be quirky enough to bring the televoters to the table but it was 16th, only 1pt above Austria. I reckon it’s the time of songs that made a lot of people smile in the semi but no one actually ended up voting for it and therefore it cost Israel a more than deserving qualification. There are countries with a strong formula around the contest with a big NF, the usual promotion tour and what not, but Israel has never really been playing that game per se and usually relied on a specific singer to do well for them. After the disaster of 2006 (chosen by a national final), Israel went back to internally chosing their singers. And it paid off as Israel qualified non stop until 2010 and it’s easy to say that Israel really deserved to and they were three years in a row in my top 10 (even if each time I think they didn’t chose the best song for its artists). But in 2011, back to a NF, they again chose an awful stereotypically gay song and relied too much on Dana’s fame and it flopped. So back to internal selection this year, but without the usual back-up for the artist. They really let Izabo do their own things. We knew Israel had withdrawal desires a couple of times during the season and the official clip for “Time” took forever to be released. For the longest time, all we had was like a telephone-shot video from a concert for “Time”. It’s an incredibly edgy nice song, with great lyrics, fun melody, catchy without being annoying. It deserved all the promotion since it’s always going to be the type of entries to struggle. So I really feared the performance was going to be a huge let down considering IBA just didnt support the entry at all. I was glad to see Izabo are reason alone to not fear any further. Boy were they fun on stage! They were probably the smartest ones in using the catwalk by pushing the backing singers on the edge of the stage it created a new sense of depth and really challenged our views on the performance. The colourful retro outfits were fun, the hand routine was fun, the guitarist was insane and Shiri Hadar was definitely high. Hilarious all together! I remember when Israel was like the coolest hippie country in the contest back in the 70s and it just felt like we walked down memory lane back there for a second and for anyone who knows how great those were, that was a joy to watch. Overall, a great song with a great delivery, just a simple quirky entry that should never have been neglected and ignored but was always going to be doom for not being more instant and distinctive. Esc is a cruel world when something no one hates doesn’t go further simply because not enough people love it. Israel decided to go more MF after Sweden’s win and is backing up their entries a bit more, I wonder if that means it’s the end of such entries to the contest. Probably not, but from Israel? It definitely showed something else from a country that was too long known as the rubbish shaky one-syllable-title shouted songs of the 80s country, olé kan hi hora-ish. Probably they need to settle on finding a way to promote these in a different way as we often see un-eurovision songs in the top 10 every year and bad results of late should not discourage Israel! We want more!

4 Italy | “L’amore è femmina” – Nina Zilli (088 pts)
I have to admit first of all that I’m not sure what I’m ranking here because I feel, a bit, that this goes more to the Italian version than the English one. Let me explain by going back in history a bit, short history. For the second year in a row since Italy’s return, Italy’s in my top 5, moving even one step higher this year from 5th to 4th and for the second year in a row it’s got this jazzy vibe that the contest was missing. Probably one of the most modern sounding songs of the entire year, Italy, who people were afraid would push an old fashion agenda to the contest with San Remo, proved quite the contrary it was on the edge of the continent’s modernity and that they belonged more than anyone else in the contest! So a San Remo artist would go to the contest, that’s all we were going to know. And then “Per sempre” was announced and everyone got super excited because as a song, it was written sublimely and would have been in the run for the title. But Nina wanted to bring something else on the contest and I admit I love both as much “Per sempre” and “L’amore è femmina” but I was disappointed with the English switch which I dont approve of. I know it’s the type of songs, like the one the year before, that welcomes English superbly but I thought Nina’s english pronounciation really damaged the song and the “boom boom boom” awesome bit didn’t come off as natural. But Nina herself is a natural performer and she really rocked the stage with a very simple standing mic performance at first, and then two steps enough to bring the sense that something was happening. Also the backdrop visuals were perfectly fitting. This felt both like a great entry and something that was simply there for the hell of it. It’s funny how Nina got the exact same rankings than Patricia: 4th with the juries and 17th in televote. That does say something I reckon. It’s not bad enough that televote will completely ignore this even if it’s too edgy, different, un-eurovisiony and not from a big block-friendly country to hardly do better and it’s too good for the juries to ignore. A special mention has to go to the three backing singers who did a hell of a job to be really there, a presence on stage, a vocal presence as well, that didnt go unnoticed, and yet never imposed too much over their leaders. In other words, they did their job to perfection. Back to the lyrics, because this is where this entry fails to enter in the top 3 I think. The Italian ones make perfect sense that this is a woman going hysterical, true it’s because of love, but also because she’s a woman and she feels cheated in love but not just because of some guy but also because of herself being a woman, always at fault, and this is what driving her mad: saying “love is female you don’t get you don’t give” is a sutle way to analyze the violence of penetration as a metaphore for love, something they couldnt even translate to English and stayed in Italian. However, the rest they translated to something cheaper, just a sad love story and the boom boom boom that were a hammer in her head became “stop breaking my heart”? I cant be the only one who feels we stepped down from the original for the contest! Not like the lyrics are anything the audience cares enough for to change the vote, and as down as 17th in televote it really doesnt matter anymore. The juries loved it and that’s what matters. Definitely a top 5 worthy and the juries were right to keep Italy in the top 10, even if this not being the returning entry it didn’t get the extra love of 2011 which imo it deserved more, considering Nina’s a much more professional singer than Raphael. All in all, a great entry that can be shown proudly around Europe as a sign of a truly modern contest.

3 Serbia | “Nije ljubav stvar” – Željko Joksimović (091 pts)
Let’s get the crazy stuff out of the way first: I like this more than “Lane moje”! Ok there I said it. But I’ll get to explain myself so bear with me; oth are third for me in their years and comfort Serbia as one of the best esc coutries ever, back in 2012 Serbia had a flawless history of only good songs, going from the amazing masterpiece of Oro, to quirky Cipela, their weaest (and still good) at the time. As for Zeljko, he is twice my winner as a songwriter, for “Lejla” and for “Oro” and now twice third as a performing artist. Obviously, I like his songs way more than I like his singing. Let’s be fair, he’s a very fine singer but each time the song climaxes, he finds a way to make that musically and never vocally. So I give him credit, he knows his strength and weakness and makes up for them musically. But I can’t stop thinking what “Nije ljubav stvar” would sound like interpreted by someone with stronger charisma and vocal techniques, and Zeljko would have been able to make that climax even bigger. Also “Lane moje” played the traditional folk card a lot by the dresses back then. The entirely black get up for this performance felt better to me, it edged the song as something eternal, universal and not something too rooted down. I’m assuming that if we put aside the Russian grannie phenomenon this would have kept second for Zeljko in televote, he was anyway second by the juries behind Loreen. So there is just no doubt here whatsoever that everyone agrees on the amazingness of this. Is it a masterpiece? I’m not quite sure I would rank this as such simply because I think each time I watch this that both the song and the performance are better than Zeljko himself. But let me make one thing clear, it’s not that I don’t like him. Back in 2011 and 2012, many Serbian voices were raised that the contest wasn’t headed to the right directions by the broadcaster and that it gave a too confined and old fashion vision of Serbia. I personally love “Ovo je balkan” and “Caroban” and even though both played the stereotypical Serbian quirkness I thought both did it with depth and layers of irony way past beyond the straight forwardness of their own musicality. So Zeljko was brought back in, much to some distress, and to many others’ joy. Personally, I think he’s a great composer who makes great music, so I don’t mind him like I do G:son or Siegel returning and it’s not like he sells his composition to different genres that don’t fit his personality just under request. For instance, he was asked to do a Zeljko song for Bosnia in 2006 (considering Hari Mata Hari’s usual music, it wouldn’t have been quite the same there). So that’s for melody. As for the performance, the way they work the camera travellings on stage to give the impression we’re there among the musicians (first shot on the piano’s keyboard, and then up to the flutist, cut to the violin, great angle for Zeljko’s walking on stage, cut to violin, cut to the entire stage in dark with spotlight as camera comes closer to Zeljko) There is a sense that something will happen before our eyes even before he sings. And then they bring something very dynamic in many short story tellings among the musicians (the fight of the two violins) it’s like everyone is on its on story telling, before coming together. The roses pattern from the light on stage is a simple effect and yet it was much more efficient than many grand backdrops. It’s definitely one of those entries that make us love the contest all together because it’s just that good, that challenging for us who try to understand what’s working so well there. And also why it didnt win when everything was so strong. I still think its Zeljko: if I hear he’s writing a song I’ll be thrilled and almost certainly (but there’s always a reasonable doubt) know it’s got a place in my top 10, if I hear Zeljko’s performing it, I have this little let down feeling in me as well. He isnt the best singer out there and that does count and somehow, he does drag the amazing performance down. Can you believe I’m actually saying bad things on a song that got my third spot and is widely and rightfully regarded as a highlight of the 2012 edition? Anyway, great entry. I would say as usual from Serbia, but I am writing this in 2013 and I sadly can not anymore. But that’s a discussion for another day!

2 Estonia | “Kuula” – Ott Lepland (093 pts)
Ah, Estonia! Always a joy to talk about this country and I’m going to tell a story not that many people know of. Of course my love for Eesti Laul is a very well known fact well spread around the community of friends and fans a of mine and of the contest. But on this love story there’s more to say. Back during the times of the escforum where all of us from esctoday migrated once esctoday’s forum close, we all had these little song contests when we presented songs from our country (or a “rented country”) and had a little contest. One of us was Estonian and gave us simply the best songs each time. This was back in 2005-2008 and when you look at Estonia during that era, it was the darkest times ever with Euro Laul doing its mysery on Estonian entries (already with dumb foreign juries and songs poorly selected based on others’ taste). And we kept saying, what an incredible music Estonia seems to have but as any country in the contest, we’ll never get to hear those anyway. And then Eesti Laul happened. So really, it made even more sense to me that Estonia of all countries would be the one to bring the contest to a whole new level. Without a doubt the country of the moment, having not left my top 10 since 2009, it just doesnt seem to quit. I still wonder. What if that friend was let’s say Slovenian and gave us amazing Slovenian music. Would I love Eesti Laul, which still would have happened the way it happened, as much? And would I mourn for not having Slovenian great music? Or was it always meant to be that Estonia, REALLY does have the best music in the continent? I don’t know. And we never will. What we do know is this, Estonia has managed two sixth places singing in Estonian and without having the need to shake their asses off. Hats off, I’m pretty sure no other countries, except Serbia, can do that great being so genuinely good and simple. As for Eesti Laul 2012 it was a great edition where Tenfold Rabbit gave us the best song of the entire NF season and “Oblivion” would have been my winner even if my 2012 winner is already in my all time top 20! That’s how insanely good the season was and especially Eesti Laul. Ott wasn’t in my personal top 3 (where Traffic and Malcolm Lincoln were with Tenfold Rabbit) and he’s still my runner-up in the contest! Back to “Kuula”, there is something going on there for sure. No other way can you explain a ballad in Estonian finishing 12th in televote and 6th in juries, but also been such a run away favorite in the Estonian NF. For those who don’t follow, Urban Symphony, Malcolm Lincoln or Birgit didn’t win the first round of televoting in the estonian final, and ended up winning in the end. “Kuula” just almost won everything, except the juries who liked Lenna more that year (but she came second just like in 2010 when she was already the jury’s favorite). I can’t really say what it is because, as I said, “Kuula” wasnt even my personal favorite to begin with so that’s a tiny it out of reach for me. And when I watch it again, there’s something incredibly charming coming out of it. Maybe this is simplicity reaching to its maximum. Ott was incredibly gorgeous on stage, and was beautifully dressed, both elegant and yet simple, funn that Ott would bear a name whose letters would form the infamous “Over The Top” which we use to usually talk about with eurovision performance. My friend watching the contest with me kept mentioning how weird his eyebrows were but no one never mentioned this before to my knowledge when commenting this entry, even if that’s something that is said over and over about Lithuania 2013. So that means the song is written and performed in such a way that people managed to neglect the silly details people often comment about. Can anyone even describe the backdrop for this? I bet most people can’t, because they were glued to something else. And even the shouty never felt like vocal gymnastics. Somehow, when you put all the ingredients down to the mixture, it works. And it’s truly a beautiful thing to see. There isnt anything bad to say about this and therefore it’s on top of the list of great songs. Just below a song that remains way out of reach for songs that are “only” great.

1 Albania | “Suus” – Rona Nishliu (100 pts)
Well we’ve now reached a song that has divided the esc community throughout the 2012 season. Screaming, screechy, atrocious melodywise were things said about an entry that still managed to get 8th in televote with a static performance, a ballad performed in the original language with a latin title. Oh and of course it got the juries’ third place. When you look at who gave this point, it’s hard to say it’s down to a pattern, unlike for instance Kaliopi’s result which is highly due to the Balkan votes. Only 1pt from Serbia but 12 from Switzerland. Nothing from Iceland or Norway but 5 from Denmark and 6 from Finland. It’s spread around Europe where even neighbors with similar pattern had very different appreciation of this entry. And to paraphrase Swift, “only the great ones get great bashing”. I really truly think this song is one of the contest’s most daring ever. Already the latin title is nothing wen can say about, well, any other of the thousand esc entries. But that latin word shouldn’t mean the lyrics are going to be all traditional and old fashion. Not that many songs would use an airplane as a metaphore (and no Scooch don’t count, there was sadly nothing metaphorical in that). Just like the lyrics surprise us with metaphore at each line, each counter attacking the one before, from a realist point of view (the airplane, the elbows) to something lyrical (the “hopeless hope of isnanity”), the music was always bringing something new to the table. I remember the first time I was watching this, it started off like a great ballad, on the typical side of things, but like really good (like “Kuula”) with great vocals and someone that looked more or less like a careless gypsy. I was already much in love and knew I’d support it, we already had one great chorus, but when the drum started and the song started to take a different turn (I remind you this was the 4minutes long version from Festival i Kenges semifinal) I was on the edge of my seat wondering what the hell this was coming from and where it would go next. As soon as it was over, I rushed to Eurovision Times to comment and said I had witnessed something from another planet and I admit I was like a kid super worried what the others would say about this, because somehow it matters a lot to me. And when I noticed everyone was on their knees applauding this, I sigh in relief. This wasnt just me going crazy. It was all of us. Or actually we were still too sane for the song’s own good. FiK has often incredile amazing songs and they get picked, like Rovena Dilo’s. So I thought this alternative piece would be lost somewhere (FiK tends to also have juries all powerful so even the audience wild reaction to Rona’s performance didn’t mean much to its outcome) but knew it would be on the run for my own contest, the BoNF and that was already enough. When the voting started in the final where it qualified, it was insane. For the occasion, Rona dropped her gypsy dirty green dress to a very elegant tight black dress and a leather jacket, it really was more beautiful. And it really looked like she was going to sing it again and that we’d be graced with it in the contest! Since that day, with the one exception of “Oblivion” in Estonia, there was nothing else I defended harder in the season. Each time she performed it, there was something new and knowing how good Albania is at working on their performances, I was super excited. Of course this was going to stay in Albanian no worries. And the song was so much something to talk about that no one made a big deal of the political statement a few people wanted to see in this, considering Rona was born in Pristina and that a singer born in Kosovo would represent Albania. If there was a political statement, it was that FiK managed to recognize the best singer in its competition and that was just it. An artist is someone that brings you to his or her own world, that doesnt give up on anything she believes in and is willing to put herself completely out for you. I knew whatever Rona was going to do on the esc stage, her haters would condemn it because it would be so instantly, so evidently her. That look on stage was flat out amazing. Yes people said alien, she was indeed the USO, undetermined singing object. She looked great, she performed as much as the song needed, and that was entirely (watch other performance from her, she’s always over the top but not in that fashion, that one was done for the song itself). The Barbara Dex Award sometimes goes to ugly dresses, but also often to courageous daring artists. No wonder Rona picked it up. At least both juries and televote had her up there because there’s just no escaping it. When I ask you what was the backdrop for this, you’ll tell me there was none, just red lights, smoke and one white spotlight on her. Wrong. THere was a backdrop, but if you didnt notice it it’s because it worked so smoothly with everything else that you didnt notice the white blocks passing by her. The camera turning around her, the cheers of the crowd, the voice breaking up, there was so much going on you feel under pressure of the song, and that’s what’s the song about, under too much sadness you wanna scream and explode. How many sad love songs say that, but in such a simple formulastic ballad that you’re never heartbroken with them? You either wanna be miserable and disappear and give it all up (Patricia Kaas) or you wanna explode, destroy everything (Rona Nishliu) which ironically is the opposite of what the lyrics say: Patricia’s lyrics are “I am willing to destroy everything for you” and she performed it as if she was going to give up, to die because of sadness, when Rona’s lyrics say “All I can do is cry and die” and her performance was like she was going to really turn the whole world around. And that’s what’s great about these ladies, it’s not a one straight forward story telling, it’s layers of depth inside a song’s life and story that makes you believe, that pulls you to it. Rona is an artist. Her song will go down in esc history as an undisputed classic that had its hatred in its time and with nothing going its way finished 5th. That’s it from me. All I say is, I wish we had one of these every year and it really humbles me more than anything to have it first of 2012.

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