To summarise, it simply was the best Eurovision I have ever seen - and I've been watching it religiously since 1996. The stage and show itself was amazing and Russia really did go all out to make it a Eurovision to remember. Great stage, outstanding use of LED, video, pyrotechnics and the wind machine - everything Russia could control, they did with such amazing class.
So, in accordance to tradition, here is my quasi-annual (i.e. when I can be bothered!) round up of this year's Eurovision Songcontest. Below is some analysis and thoughts about both the studio version and the live performances of each of the songs in the contest, in show-order. So if you're interested, read below...
Lithuania: Sasha Son - Love Placed: 23rd
Studio: A simple piano-driven ballad by a Dima Bilan-esque singer, except Sasha is more comfortable with the English language than Dima will ever be and his singing is far superior. One of the more subtle songs of the competition.
Live: Sasha's ballad really suffered from opening the Final. Although he didn't do a bad job - his semi-final performance was much better - he was overselling (and consequently over-singing and over doing) his subtle song he wrote. Even if he got the video he wanted to use for his background, I don't think it would have changed his placing here. He has the talent to be the European male Alicia Keys, but until then, take off the fucking fedora and start dressing as yourself; it's disturbing to see that the hipster look has made it to Europe!
Isreal: Noa and Mira Awad - There Must Be Another Way Placed: 16th
Studio: Simple and subtle guitar and drum driven folk-like song with tight and hypnotic harmonies by the two female singers. Sung in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, the peace song is meant to reiterate peace and harmony in Isreal, which is good... but how long can Isreal keep on sending something political to Eurovision before the song will get dismissed?
Live: Another ballad which really did nothing to visually stimulate its audience to vote for it. Harmonies were decent yet there were quite a few bum notes, especially in the middle of the song where the higher harmony was unbearably off. Kudos to them though, it is such a difficult song to sing and to produce the harmony live is awesome. The drumming was cute, but unnecessary... their presentation did nothing to help them - a 16th placing was generous!
France: Patricia Kaas - Et s'il fallait le faire Placed: 8th
Studio: Potentially considered the dark horse of the competition, France sent their best singer (alive) to perform a song that she knows best: a moody, smoky, dramatic, story-telling chanson-style song. I'm a big fan of Patricia Kaas's music, and, although this song is not up to her usual stuff ('La Mot De Passe' is a brilliant album!), this was definitely the kick up the arse Europe needed to vote for France.
Live: Atmospheric, smoky, moody, and eargasmic as Patricia Kaas stands alone on the stage. Opened with Patricia walking towards the microphone lit up by a sole spotlight. This is how divas should be, and she worked that stage as she meandered through her song with her trademark whispery smoky voice. The stage was simple and black, with words across it - but it was all about Patricia and her voice. The crowd went nuts and finished the song with some spontaneous ballet dancing. A fine performance worthy of a higher place, but I'm glad that France placed respectably in the top ten after last year's most credible song but less-than-credible placing.
Sweden: Malena Ernman - La Voix Placed: 21st
Studio: The Voice: the name of the song and definitely defines the mezzo-soprano Swedish diva. This pop-opera up-tempo song goes from pop voice to opera voice a multitude of times. Although Malena's voice is a bit shaky in the pop stages of the song, it's where she belts out the operatic notes where you can hear she's most comfortable. A great song, but if you want a good example of up-tempo pop-opera, download 'Brave New World' by Alphaland featuring Charlotte Church.
Live: Sweden had the unfortunate position of being the weakest Scandinavian song in the competition. Surprising, given the Melodifestivalen song process brings out some of the best artists in Sweden, let alone the world. Malena's performance was strong no doubt, but ironically lacked the conviction and believability that she ordinarily would have if she was performing an opera. Although her dress was amazing, the rest of her presentation was absolutely boring. Sweden have been placing at record lows since 2007 when The Ark (who are brilliant!) placed dismally in the lower half. Which begs the question: Is it me or has there been an anti-Sweden sentiment since - or have Sweden been sending the wrong songs? Like my attack on Charlotte Perrelli's song last year, would Mans Zelmerlow, EMD, or Alcazar (maybe even BWO's fantastic ballad!) placed better than Malena's? I guess we'll never know... but Malena's result is the worst for Sweden since 1992 when Christer Björkman finished 22nd on home ground.
Croatia: Igor Cukrov feat. Andrea - Lijepa Tena Placed: 18th
Studio: A sweet Balkan guitar driven ballad which is sweet and tender that builds through the three minutes. A bit too sweet and tender for Eurovision, but the best Croatian song they've sent in years!
Live: The stage presentation was completely boring - all singers dressed in black and the female singer dressed in white, aided by the wind machines to give a dramatic effect. The song was well-sung especially from Igor, given that he was horrendously out of tune in the semis and the song was thankfully saved by the juries. The only redeeming part of this presentation was how Igor was working the camera - a very very HOT Croatian man staring down at you through the camera, it made me a little weak in the knees to tell you the truth.
Portugal: Flor-de-Lis - Todas As Ruas Do Amor Placed: 15th
Studio: An extremely adorable song which moves you to just be happy and positive afterwards. Traditional folk Portuguese instrumentation and beats backed up by a twee female voice. This song will make you think of a being nice sunny Spring or Summer day on the beach and/or on a grassy Portuguese meadow feeling really happy about life. Personally one of my favourites.
Live: Bright, positive, chirpy, and optimistic. I loved how incredibly bright and cheery this song and its presentation was, especially given the boring and/or seriously dramatic songs that came before it. Sung well and with conviction (the lead singer crying at the end of the song - she was overwhelmed that she was singing to such a large audience since she had only started singing professionally eight months ago!), this was seriously a fun song to both see and hear. For the first time tonight, the outstanding Russian stage and LED-driven backdrops were used to its full effect, creating a sea of bright colours and a general happy vibe in the audience, both in Moscow and watching it on T.V. Though what else do Portugal have to do to to crack the top ten?!?! They sent a dramatic and brilliant ballad last year and now this year with this song, both finishing criminally in the middle of the pack. Although it was a genuinely strong year, this song should have finished better than it did!
Iceland: Yohanna - Is It True? Placed: 2nd
Studio: A haunting ballad by a striking beauty which builds and builds to an awesome climax. It's not Eurovision by numbers, but a genuinely brilliant song which really should get international exposure. Classy in its commercialism and an extremely strong song.
Live: I saw this first on YouTube shortly after it was announced as Iceland's representative at least two months ago, and it sounded terribly off-key and thought it had no chance whatsoever. Two months later, she absolutely owned the stage in the first semi final (which she won, thankfully!) - a performance which truly moved me like 'Molitva' did in 2007 - and performed extremely well in the final. Her semi-final performance was much better than in the final - then again, she did nail it in the semis so anything else was going to be crap in comparison. Nonetheless, her performance was simply stunning in its simplicity and presentation. Backed up by Friðrik Ómar (the cute gay Icelandic male singer from last year who sung like a bitch!), the harmonies were choral-like and epic while Yohanna tenderly belted through this emotional song. The dream-like LED-screen presentation gave the song extreme depth and emotion as the sun rose at the climax of the song. Yohanna's second place is extremely respectable and equals their best ever place in Eurovision, which was also achieved in 1999 by Selma. Yohanna probably suffered the 'Ani Lorak' effect of last year: the voters HAD to choose the best song from every region and this lucked out. Thankfully unlike last year, Yohanna was beaten by a genuinely brilliant song!
Greece: Sakis Rouvas - This Is Our Night Placed: 7th
Studio: Genuinely the best song out of the three Sakis was given (and written by two Greek-Australian producers, one of which produces commercial jingles), a powerfully camp disco piece with thumping club beats designed to make your heart pulse harder and stronger. A dance-floor filler by a Greek god with an all to "subtle" message (like 'My Number One' from countrywoman Helena Paparizou, who won in 2005) to persuade viewers to fly him "to the top, baby" - although admittedly not as good as his Eurovision classic from 2004, 'Shake It'.
Live: I'm a little biased. I personally think Sakis Rouvas is the sexiest man on the planet and he gets better with age. He is a Greek god personified... and when his shirt revealed his perfect chest, I honestly needed something to calm me down. The song was literally carried by his back-up singers since that all you could hear. The performance was absolutely amazing and, although it was a bit much, brilliantly suited the song - from the moving platform, to the leaning snow moves, and even the passable choreography. Sakis performed it as if he was confident that he'd win and I honestly thought he would given the crowd reaction and Sakis's personal conviction in his performance... and if there was any justice in the competition, he should have been a major and genuine contender for the final. A respectable 7th, but I would be a little disappointed - given that crappier Greek songs over the years have placed much better, such as Kalomira last year and Sarbel's 'Yassou Maria' in '07.
Armenia: Inga and Anush - Jan Jan Placed: 10th
Studio: Capitalising on the ethnic hip-hop beats which Sirusho so successfully did last year, Inga and Anush's efforts lean more towards the ethnic than the commercial. I'm still not sure it works while listening to it as it sounds like a convoluted mess in the studio.
Live: Although the song wasn't one of my favourites, I've got to admit that their performance was cool - six blue Medusa look-a-likes dancing and writhing around an oversized Armenian plush pillow with the stage draped in LED-silks. Even so, the performance's placing was aided by the former Soviet bloc voting rather than the merits of the song, in spite of the 50% jury voting.
Russia: Anastasiya Prikhodko - Mamo Placed: 11th
Studio: This genuinely hurts the ears - an emotional rock song about her mother. It lacks charm and personality which could have aided both listening to the song and on stage. Russia obviously didn't want to host it again next year.
Live: Firstly, the only way this song got votes was solely through the former Soviet bloc hence it's respectably high position. If there was any justice, this SHOULD have been in last place. The presentation was disturbing as there were images of the singer's face as she cried and aged in front of us. The song sounded horrendously off key live (though it sounds off-key in the studio version) and she did NOTHING on stage. I guess money talks in Russia - her father being a notorious Russian billionaire - because nothing else could explain how and why she was able to represent Russia when there are a tonne of brilliant Russian artists eager to represent their country; most notably, the charming (and extremely gorgeous and talented) Sergey Lazarev who criminally missed out on representing Russia last year.
Azerbaijan: AySel and Arash - Always Placed: 3rd
Studio: Clearly the best out song out of the former Soviet bloc and written by about a million songwriters (many of whom are Swedish), the song combines Swedish pop beats with traditional Azerbaijani instruments. Genuinely sounds like a Middle Asian version of the Real McCoy. Great song.
Live: AySel (the female singer) is absolutely gorgeous and basically carried her (apparent) boyfriend as they traipsed around on a busy stage which had the right amount of gimmicks and stage trickery to help the song. Although a strong performance and deservedly in the top ten, I'm honestly not sure about the third place as there were much stronger performances and stronger songs in elsewhere in the top ten. Nonetheless, the best finish by Azerbaijan in their second year in Eurovision.
Bosnia-Herzegovina: Regina - Bistra Voda Placed: 9th
Studio: Easily the best Balkan song in the competition, this long-standing Bosnian band offer what the Balkan countries do best: a dramatic, moody, dark, traditionally Balkan sounding ballad.
Live: Are the Eurovision crowds/juries tired of the Balkan gimmick or were there genuinely stronger songs/performances this year? Maybe it's a little bit of both. Regina were definitely a dramatic, moody, dark, and all dressed in white and performed extremely well - like all those Balkan representatives who've performed the same-ish song over the years - and was one of my favourites this year. And while 9th is a respectable place for a Eurovision song, it was the highest placed song from the Balkans (who, along with the former Soviet bloc, have dominated Contest in recent years) and begs the question on whether this song suffered because of the juries and past vote-rigging by its neighbours or not.
Moldova: Nelly Ciobanu - Hora din Moldova Placed: 14th
Studio: Throat singing followed by a manic brass and drum driven ethnic-sounding song which draws from Ruslana's trademark 'Hey, hey' chants. This song's a grower.
Live: Charming singer who worked the stage with her energetic dancers, her self-enthusiasm for the song, the traditional costumes, and the backgrounds creating a genuine Moldovan atmosphere. A genuinely kitsch and cute performance and deserved to be in the middle of the placings.
Malta: Chiara - What If We Placed: 22nd
Studio: Chiara represented Malta in two of their best results: in 1998 finishing third (and genuinely should have won instead of Dana International's "Diva"), and in 2005 finishing second (cruelly steam-rolled by Helena Paparizou stomper of a song). Third time lucky and she's doing what she does best: a sweeping ballad which showcases her beautiful voice. Admittedly, not as anthemic as Angel, her '05 entry.
Live: The result cruelly robs Chiara another top five result through absolute (undeserved) decimation of her song. Yes there were so many other stronger songs in tonight's show and her song was not as brilliant as 'Angel'. Nonetheless, Chiara stood solo on stage once again and, through the help of the atmospheric stars on the LED-screens behind her, was astonishingly brilliant. Her position as 22nd honestly undermines what a talent and a legend Chiara actually is.
Estonia: Urban Symphony - Rändajad Placed: 6th
Studio: Dark, atmospheric, haunting, classical ballad entirely sung in Estonian. An extremely addictive and moody song which genuinely takes you genuinely by surprise. Something Bjork could have done in her early days.
Live: It was the 'little-song-that-could', surprisingly creeping into the top ten without much flair or controversy. Performed extremely well: the stage filled with smoke and dark blue lighting to create a dark atmosphere while the raven-haired female singer dramatically charmed the audience. It proudly heralded Estonia's return to the Eurovision finals after not qualifying in the finals since the semi-finals were introduced in 2004. A well-deserved place in the top ten.
Denmark: Brinck - Believe Again Placed: 13th
Studio: A charming Danish-accented Ronan Keating singer singing a nice mid-tempo Ronan Keating-like song penned by Ronan Keating. If I didn't know any better, Ronan Keating specifically chose him to sing his song so he didn't have to personally enter the Eurovision Songcontest.
Live: Brinck looked initially physically and vocally uncomfortable on such a large stage without a guitar to hide behind, so over-compensated by spreading his legs as if he had just come off a horse. As the song progressed, he soon got comfortable in being the Danish Ronan and genuinely got into the song and charmed the crowd as he got down on his knees before the obligatory key change. I'm genuinely surprised that this didn't easily shoot through to the top ten as it is quite a stomper of a pop song; more surprised that Ireland only gave it four points, given that their home-boy wrote the song. Then again, if Ronan Keating had actually performed his own song, this would have been a major contender for winning... not that Brinck did a bad job at all.
Germany: Alex Swings Oscar Sings - Miss Kiss Kiss Bang Placed: 20th
Studio: After being best known for producing novelty hit "Sweetest Ass in the World" (which annoyingly drills into your head), German producer Alex C recruits American singer Oscar Loya and produces a stomper hit, a modern take on swing music. It's literally "Mambo Number 5" for swing music.
Live: Extremely dubious presentation where it was highly unremarkable, despite of Dita von Teese's under-used appearance (and the fact she had to cover up, originally her bodice revealed her diamond-covered nipple tassles) and a ripped body from singer Oscar Loya. Oscar sounded great but nothing memorable came out of that performance.
Turkey: Hadise - Düm Tek Tek Placed: 4th
Studio: Belgian-born Turk, Hadise slinkily performs a sexy stereotypical Turkish song which sexily thumps its way through the three minutes through belly dance, heavy beats, and a stereotypical Turkish beat. Sertab Erener did it better in 2003.
Live: Hoping to repeat Sertab's performance, Haside comes out firing with sex literally dripping off her, from the stage being completely red, her tight-fitting belly dancing outfit, and hip-shaking thrusting. Like Sakis Rouvas, she came out with so much confidence throughout her song that you knew she wanted to win this. Although unlike Sakis, the desperation was a little bit more forced through her shaky vocal and constant screaming of Düm Tek Tek. Nonetheless, a strong performance aided by being a sexy singer, a decent song, and a tonne of Turkish immigrants with mobile phones.
Albania: Kejsi Tola - Carry Me In Your Dreams Placed: 17th
Studio: A homogenous r'n'b/dance song containing heavily accented English which doesn't work while listening to it with a hint of Albanian instrumentation.
Live: Although the staging for it was extremely boring and weird (the green sparkle man was indeed bit scary), Kejsi sold the song with her voice and 17-year old charm - she's an Idol, I'd be surprised if she couldn't sing. The song itself works better live than it does on the recording, and although it's a dismal result, Kejsi and Albania itself should be proud of their efforts nonetheless.
Norway: Alexander Rybak - Fairytale Placed: 1st
Studio: Like the Portuguese entry, this song is extremely adorable and just makes you feel good. A storming pop song with an unmistakeable violin riff which underscores the song. The lyrics aren't going to change the world, but it's unashamedly pop at its best.
Live: After the semi-final performance, I honestly didn't think Alexander deserved to be the favourite, especially after stronger performances that preceded him. However, he pulled it out the bag for the final with an extremely strong vocal performance, and working the camera with his boyish looks - he was sexy without being slutty, wearing tight clothes, or removing any clothes. His acrobatic dancers were quite distracting and really didn't add anything to the general performance. Passion seeped through every bit of performance, and unlike Hadise and Sakis, you could tell his passion could not be mistaken for desperation to win. If only he could have been allowed to play his violin live, that would have been amazing. Nonetheless, a deserving winner - although, much like Helena Paparizou in 2005, was the result already pre-determined before the Contest? I guess time will tell if he genuinely won on the night or, like Helena, everyone had decided before seeing the show.
Ukraine: Svetlana Loboda - Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl) Placed: 12th
Studio: Attempting to be S Club 7, Britney Spears, Shakira, and Ruslana all in one, this song is a retarded mash-up which genuinely sounds like white noise rather than music. A hot mess or disastrously brilliant... I'm not sure, but it's very difficult listening to the whole thing without developing a mild case of amnesia and tinnitus.
Live: It was like a sensory overload which necessarily didn't work. This goes to show that even in Eurovision, you CAN do too much to completely put off your voting audience. The 'hell' machine was just an excuse for Svetlana to show that she's flexible and likes to hump metal ladders. The performance was extremely over-the-top and genuinely undecipherable as her accented English was painful. Yes, even her hot Trojan male backup dancers could not save this from being shit. Sluttiest performance of the night... and after watching this performance, I feel quite dirty and suspect that I may have caught an STD from it.
Romania: Elena Gheorghe - The Balkan Girls Placed: 19th
Studio: A really harmless and fun song from the Romanian song which she has obviously rehearsed English. Although the beat could have been heavier since the song has a strong start and then just stays steady and breezy.
Live: A pretty song, performed by a pretty girl (who looks like a mix between Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Helena Paparizou, and Holly Valance), and it was just pretty. I think it was meant to represent mermaids in the sea dancing for men's pleaasure. However, there was so many bouncing boobs in the performance that it was very difficult on the song itself, hence the relatively low placing.
United Kingdom: Jade Ewen - It's My Time Placed: 5th
Studio: A poor man's Leona Lewis, Jade Ewen powers through this power-ballad penned by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Diane Warren. It's well sung, yet it sounds as if it's the torch song of one of Webber's musicals. You never know, it still might be...
Live: Out of the Big 4, this had the most expectations on it since the UK want to come back to the Eurovision stage with a vengeance; they had a point to prove and, for the most part, they really did. Showing off her vocal chops, Jade Ewen really did sing the musical-based song well, in spite of a shaky start considering she ran into one of her violinists. Touted to be the next big thing, she really needs to develop some more stage presence and personality if she's going to take over the Leona Lewis/Alexandra Burke title. Although the gratuitous close-ups of a scary looking Webber playing the piano were both unnecessary and could have potentially put many voters off. UK - welcome back to the Eurovision fold in a classy and respectable way. Let's hope that a) the UK continue to make good progress with Eurovision; and b) let this not go to Webber's already giant head.
Finland: Waldo's People - Lose Control Placed: 25th
Studio: Song-wise, this was a massive pop thumper. Finns do two types of music well: hard rock/heavy metal and dance/techno. It was the latter which Waldo's People chose to perform - a dance song with a social consciousness, talking about homelessness. Reminiscent of countrymen Bomfunk MCs, this song is loud, dancey, and fun.
Live: With a fortunate position in the final, I would have thought this song would have a bigger stage impact than it did. Though rappers have a renown history of not being able to perform as well live as they do on the recording, and it showed here as Waldo struggled to capture the same style of rap live and it sounded quite scratchy. The backing vocalists were excellent and carried the song, though the pronunciation of "SCHEEEEEEEEEYEH" instead of "yeah" was quite disconcerting. The staging was boring and thought that a pumping song like this could have used better and more upfront staging rather than fire-twirlers and industrial metal bins. Did it deserve to be in last place? Not at all!
Spain: Soraya - La Noche Es Para Mí (The Night Is For Me) Placed: 23rd
Studio: Pumping ethnic instrumentation with a traditionally Spanish beat. An outstanding song that Spain is renown for doing well. A pop stormer which makes you get up and dance.
Live: Performing last, in theory, should have made this performance place higher through default. That, and it was a relatively strong performance by Spain's premier female pop singer - slinking her way through the stage and sold the song well. I think by this time though, she suffered by the audience having already making up their minds about who they would vote for. Should it have placed this low - fuck no, considering the reggaeton parody placed MUCH higher than this last year is a major disappointment to all concerned this year.
Other random comments:
- The Russians really went all out - spending a hell of a lot of money to make sure that Eurovision went smoothly and well. An outstanding job with the stage and with the production itself. Thankfully there were quality songs (for about 90% of it all) which perfectly complimented the effort Russia had in presenting it.
- The interval acts and the openings for each show were fucking amazing. Breathtaking and stunning. Future Eurovision host countries take note, this is how to perfectly entertain your audiences during the intervals.
- The only let down, the semi-final hosts. We had the bimbo and the sleaze who were not only annoying, but downright wrong and I was left deaf after hearing them shout into the microphone every five seconds. Alsou and Ivan were understated and professional during the final... although a little too professional as they injected ZERO personality in hosting. I still say Mikko and Jaana from '07 have been the best hosts!
- The postcards were wonderfully random and it perfectly alluded to the next country quite well. I got sick of Miss World and her fake hair very quickly though.
- Dmitriy Shepelev (a.k.a. the Russian Green Room reporter) is my new crush. He was charming, spunky, and spoke English quite well. It's a shame we didn't get to see more of him because he is definitely one of the highlights of the show!
- The opening of the Final was amazing... then Dima Bilan had to wreck it by being there and attempting to lip-sync.
- The Norwegian and the Spanish spokespeople are FUCKING HOT!!! Who are they?!?! Duncan from Blue (the UK spokesperson) is also fucking hot, he was always my favourite Blue boy.
- Peter Poles, the Slovenian spokesperson, was amazing this year. Not only is he hot and charming, but cunningly subversive too! And I agree with him, Slovenia was robbed from qualifying into the final! So were Switzerland!
- Alsou and Ivan kept cutting off the spokespeople as soon as they announced their 12 points which was extremely rude.
- Sakis Rouvas - thank you for exposing your gorgeous nipples during your performance. You are officially the sexiest guy alive right now. I love you, please marry me!
- Alexander Rybak - absolutely adorable, I think I want to have a crush on you... but your interviews make you arrogant and apparently you're a homophobe. Bad move, considering you will forever be a Eurovision winner.
My Top Five Finalists' Studio Versions: 1) Greece; 2) Norway; 3) Iceland; 4) France; 5) United Kingdom. Commendations for: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Finland, Portugal, and Spain.
My Top Five Finalists' Performances: 1) Norway; 2) Iceland; 3) Greece; 4) Portugal; 5) United Kingdom. Commendations for: Turkey, Estonia, France, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Dare I say, the best Eurovision ever?!?!