Road to Eurovision 2012: Week 7: The Final Countdown

 

Can you believe it’s been 7 weeks since I started reviewing all the funky chunky pop nuggets pouring forth from the bountiful goodness of Eurovision?

Why yes… yes I can.

Yes I know I am answering my own question and risk looking like a gibbering idiot who has inhaled one too gassy residues from a pyrotechnics after burn but then Eurovision, delightful, fabulous, and gussied up like a screaming drag queen, will do that to you.

And naturally I wouldn’t have it any other way. Nor it seems would the feverishly excited singers, presenters, and sundry European Broadcasting Union faithful who have descended on Baku in droves. Rehearsals for the event are already in full swing and being breathlessly reported on by two reporters from eurovisiontv.net, Simon Storvik Green, and Victor Escudero. You won’t necessarily get incisive in depth reporting from the two guys, nor anything beyond a cheerful and very brief recap of the two days of rehearsals but it gives you some idea of the lead up to Eurovision where the atmosphere is electric!

No really, it is… lots and lots of lights, and instruments, and LCD panels so bright many retinas will be burned over the course of the contest… so don your sunglasses, turn up the volume and enjoy rehearsals 1 and 2… with a good stiff drink of course…

DAY 1 : Monday 14 May

Today featured the dulcet tones and slick dance moves of the following countries (although of course being a short down and dirty look at today’s carnival of Eurovision fun, we had a glimpse of Sam Marino and Russia and the sense, yes the sense, that the other countries were somewhere nearby; frankly that was enough):

Albania, Ireland, Austria, Cyprus, Israel, Romania, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, 2012, Moldova, Hungary, Denmark, San Marino, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium, news, Baku, Montenegro, Eurovision Headlines, Russia.

 

 

Day 2 : Tuesday 15 May

 

We have more interviews, people! Yes, and an impromptu or a staged impromptu flash mob (really it’s impossible to tell so why even try?) featuring the Romanian entry, Mandinga. And of course everyone from the second semi-final with Serbia kicking off the rehearsals and Bulgaria finishing off the proceedings (and presumably being the ones tasked with sweeping all the glitter off the stage which is a thankless job if ever there was one).

 

 

So now the entrants have rehearsed – with the exception of course of the Big Four (UK, France, Spain and Germany who are so good they simply walk in on the night, waft around a little, or a lot, of hairspray, trill a little and take to the stage; yes they are that good) and the host Azerbaijan, and Italy who don’t have to go through the ordeal of the semi-final, here’s this week’s look at the final six songs being presented at Eurovision 2012! (You can’t overuse exclamation marks in these reviews trust me; they practically scream to be used liberally and wantonly and frankly 3 or 400 simply simply aren’t enough in one sentence… ask any of the hosts)…

 

SERBIA: “Nije Ljubav Stvar” – Zeljko Joksimovic

 

 

I ask you, what can this multi-talented entertainer not do?

Why in years gone past, he has composed songs that placed third and sixth places (in 2006 and 2008 respectively), sung the song and placed as the runner-up (2004), and yes, even hosted the event when Serbia staged Eurovision in 2008. And now he’s singing again! With that sort of talent on show, there’s every chance he’s giving grease and oil changes to all the buses transporting people between the Eurovision venues in Baku, fixing sandwiches for everyone in the Green Room, and making any last minute costume alterations on his grandmother’s antique Singer sewing machine.

But all that busyness, and overflowing talent aside, does he bring the goods when he’s standing up on stage? Well, yes… and no. Clearly the man can sing. There is no doubt that he has the vocal chops to carry off yet another emotionally-intense ballad that will be tugging at peoples’ heart strings with such fervour that many of them will likely snap and break. (If the health authorities in Europe have any sense they will cancel all leave for medical staff and have them on Eurovision duty ready to race and save people from Zeljko’s heartfelt ministrations.)

He can also dance. Sort of. At one point, he steps back from the microphone, sashays gently from side to side, jacket in hands, and the crowd, as you would expect, goes wild. I mean, teenager-girls-welcoming-The-Beatles wild. And then he stops. That I suspect is the extent of his dance moves. But really does it matter? Even the promise of dashing across the stage, his twinkle toes in full place sends the crowd into fits of apoplectic joy. I told you – he is that talented.

Lyrically I am not entirely certain what they were aiming for. It is, as you might have guessed another love has gone horribly wrong song. But instead of mourning his loss, he has what he calls “sunny sorrow” (is that the Serbian phrase for outright denial perhaps?) and a sunny day to go with it, and he essentially tells the woman who foolishly spurned this modern day renaissance man to deal with it and move on. No sessions with Freud or Jung wannabes for him. No, he is strong, and tells his former love to “take tomorrow, take it all.”

Yes he’s not only talented but magnanimous. What a guy! But is he talented enough to carry the Crystal Microphone triumphantly back to Serbia? I suspect not, but his ballad is one of the stronger ones on show this year and if he doesn’t do well, I will likely faint from surprise.

Which is why all that cancelled leave for all those doctors and nurses is a good thing.

 

 

BELARUS: “We Are the Heroes” – Litesound

 

 

I have to say I had a hard time concentrating while Litesound sang this bouncy, though somewhat formulaic (OK incredibly formulaic – seriously you could have fed a nursery full of hungry infants on the formula stuffed in here) rock song.

And it had a lot to do with an impossibly cute lead singer, equally cute band members, and all of them done up in leather so brightly coloured and tight that I felt like I was at a convention for gay bikies. As far as the guy candy factor is concerned, these guys have it, they know it, and they aren’t giving it back… and I cannot look away. If you could award douze points based solely on telegenic criteria alone, Litesound would romp home… well as much as you can with that much leather on.

But of course, as we all know, it’s not just appearances that count is it? I mean, it is, but none of us would actually come out and say that now would we? (With the exception of yours truly apparently who, after reviewing weeks and weeks of Eurovision goodness, has clearly been affected by one too many lost-the-will-to-live-sapping ballads and is liable to say anything really.)

No, being the deep, well-considered people that we are, we would ask ourselves whether Litesound, composed of brothers, Dmitry and Vladimir Karyakin, and Italian singer Jacopo Massa actually bring anything of great worth to the Eurovision table? You know,  beyond fabulous outfits, great heads of hair and awesomely good dental work?

Partly. They are fresh, dynamic and eager and its that sheer enthusiasm that will no doubt win them many fans among the Eurovision faithful. But the song, which powers along with all the passion of a group of teenage girls stalking their latest pop idol, recycles a million empowering song lyrics we have heard a million times before, and the sort of melody Nickelback would adore if they ever managed to get up a head of musical steam.

So pretty yes. But bound to make a lasting impression? Doubtful.

 

 

HUNGARY: “Sound of our Hearts” – Compact Disco

 

 

So much promise in the band’s name! So much… so very much. I pictured a bunch of bright spandex clad diminuitive singers and dancers bouncing on to a gaudily lit stage and playing a late 70s-inspired piece of dance music inspired by their latest visit to their heart surgeon.

And instead what do I get? Why the dreariest song known to man. So slow and limp, it makes day old lettuce looks positively vigorous. It is the sort of song that would suit the washing of one’s hair, scrubbing out of the toilet or a vigorous polishing of the silver. No, not as a soundtrack but rather as the inspiration to overcome procrastination. Pick any task that you’ve been putting off and do it instead of listening to this song. No matter how banal it is, it will still be more exciting than this turgid entry from Hungary.

I am a great loss to explain how an electronic rock band from Hungary, composed of three young men of “varying musical backgrounds” according to their surprisingly detailed Wikipedia entry, called Lotfi, Pal and Walko came up with this song. After all these guys are BIG in Hungary – they won the 2011 MTV Europe Award for Best Hungarian Act after all – presumably on the basis that they write and release music that people actually want to hear. So what happened here I wonder guys?

And who gave a song with more high notes than a stationery store with very high ceilings to a singer with no hope of reaching them and abysmal taste in leather jackets? Heads must roll people!

Very… very… slowly, of course because that is how Compact Disco roll.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I have some paint I must go watch dry…

 

 

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: “Korake Ti Znam” – Maya Sar

 

 

Now just in case you have become convinced that my hatred of slower songs is such that I spend my weekends leading groups of angry villagers, pitchforks and flaming torches in hand, out in search of wandering ballad singers and those who write the songs for them, might I mention that this ballad, yes ballad, from Bosnia and Herzegovoina is stunning.

Just beautiful. It is simple, elegant, wouldn’t know an overwrought moment if one started shrieking at in a supermarket like a mad woman, and the stark piano works perfectly with the softly uttered lyrics. While the tendency for many of the singers in Eurovision is to go for as much as emotion as a three minute pop song will allow – memo to every last one of you…it’s not as much as you might think – Maya Sar, a Eurovision veteran, holds back and injects just the right amount of emotion when it’s needed. No more, no less.

It is clearly a talent borne of much experience. Ms. Sar – full name, Maja Sarihodžić – has participated in a number of Eurovision contests. The former back up vocalist, who was part of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 2004 and 2011 entries, also played piano for Dino Merlin’s “Love In Rewind” in 2011. She is clearly an intelligent lady and has worked out what works and what doesn’t and has written and performed a song with real heart, and perfectly nuanced everything.

Now, as soon as you recover from the fainting spell brought on by my admission of limited ballad-affection (don’t get worried; it can’t possibly last), we’ll move on to the next entry…

 

 

 UKRAINE: “Be My Guest”- Gaitana

 

 

Oh the delicious lunacy of it all!

Gaitana, a Ukrainian singer of Congolese and Ukrainian descent, whose music combines elements of funk, jazz, soul and folk (clearly she hasn’t met a genre she doesn’t like) has assembled the most wonderful collection of visual and vocal quirks since, well pretty much every Dutch entry I can recall.

In her performance alone, she manages to channel the power and vocal dexterity of the supremely talented Taylor Dane, and dresses the back up dancers, who manages to pull off a line dance-influenced dance routine that does nothing for their dignity, in costumes that seem to draw on influences as diverse as jester outfits and ABBA’s 1979 tour outfits. They are also bedecked in thin metal caps that make them look like alien invasion conspiracy theorists trying to stop the otherworldly attackers from reading their thoughts.

Not satisfied that “internet wackos trussed up in spandex” is a powerful enough statement, she then gets them to blow their trumpets – actual trumpets thank you; this is a family show meant to promote love and brotherhood after all (although the designer has placed a rather prominent patch of wide material at a particularly choice spot) – and bounce around like kangaroos after one too many Skittles packets.

All of this gay frivolity, and I think we can safely say in the case of the back up crew that it is exactly that, is choreographed to a pulsing, pounding dance beat that transports you to the dance floor faster than you can shield your eyes from the bright flashing stage lights.

Honestly this is all a lot of FUN – the song is strong, the vocals stronger, Gaitana has the look of a total entertainer who has the audience eating out of her hand, and the stagecraft is as fabulously quirky as they come.

I had a ball with this song, and by the looks of it so did Gaitana and her crew. No therapists needed for her!

 

 

 F. Y. R. MACEDONIA: “Crno i Belo” – Kaliopi

 

 

Kaliopi, F. Y. R. Macedonia’s entry, and a Macedonian diva who appears to be the Balkans answer to Cher, powers into this number with all the gusto of a woman of her musical pedigree can muster.

But this is only after cleverly lulling we poor trusting Eurovision viewers, who after having seen so much will take anything at face value, into thinking this is another soulful piano ballad. But she is no Maya Sar and rather than stay cozily behind her grand piano, a beautifully tuxedo’d violinist next to her, she stands up with purposeful intent, strides to the waiting unsuspecting microphone and belts out a tune like children’s lives depend on it.

So far so good say we, cheering on a clearly talented singer who celebrated 30 years in the music business in 2006. Alas the song descends, and not in a graceful twirling ballerina way into a been-there-done-that-and-get-the-glitter-out-of-my-hair-even-three-years-later Eurovision rock song. Which is to say it sounds like something we have heard a million times before, which is a pity given Kaliopi’s musical talent cried out, nay begs, for so much more… and in tune too.

On the plus side she eschews the sort of pyrotechnics that could light a small city in Poland for a year in favour of candles. Lots and lots of candles, so many in fact that I suspect the set designer is getting kickbacks from a wax making company somewhere.

So poor dear Kaliopi – I am consumed by an urgent need for fruit salad every time I type her name – so much talent, such an ordinary song. Best you blow out a few candles now, it will save time later…

 

 

So who will score your beloved douze points this week my friends? Pogo-sticking lyric-covered backup dancers or the soulful sound of love gone bad (wait isn’t that almost everybody)? Regale me, surprise me!

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2 thoughts on “Road to Eurovision 2012: Week 7: The Final Countdown

  1. Oooooohhhhhhhhh so close to the Grand Final!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (you did say there’s no such thing as too many exclamation marks when it comes to Eurovision!!!!!). So let’s look at this last batch of reviews. I must admit for a number of the reviews I was rather amused, thinking I must come from another (side of?) planet for having a different perspective on the songs. Such is Eurovision!
    Serbia: SparklyPrettyBriiiight and I are on the same page this year about a lot of the ballads, as in the ‘degree of valium’ factor involved! I too believe Serbia’s effort is very strong. Of all the ballads this year, this one has been at the front of the pack by a long shot for me. I just think it has a lovely balance and has enough variety in it that one is NOT induced into a coma or feel inordinately sleepy. I would hate to think Serbia is sent packing home early with this effort. It well and truly deserves to go through to the finals…and that’s saying something for a ballad. If nothing else, the Netherland’s entry (same semi-final as Serbia) deserves to be shot down in flames and Serbia gets through to the final.
    Belarus: God, this is woeful! Soooooo passe. I’m going to force myself to listen to it again (I listen to the tracks while I’m punching in my reviews) just to check if I’ve missed something…no, I haven’t! It desperately MIGHT score one point for the smoke machine (more like steam actually) which activates at least twice during the song. One of the secondary singers puts so much effort into his singing at the end that’s he’s screeching, sounding very raspy. Another 2nd semi-final number which correctly should be shown the ‘exit’ door after the performance.
    Hungary: I must be watching different paint dry from SPB because I love this song. It’s a light pop song but I think it’s quite punchy; it holds its own. Is it going to win the competition, no, but it should well and truly trump Austria’s effort in the 1st semi (not that that will be hard) to hopefully get through to the final; the 1st semi is stacked with viable contenders. We’ll soon see which way the wind is blowing in Ooooooorovision land as to what is the flavour for 2012.
    Bosnia & Herzogovenia: Sorry, I’m just recovering from my fainting spell from inhaling those same ‘different paint’ smells that I was referring to in my review for Hungary???!!!!! I can quote you my impression of this song when I first listened to it, “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”. It won’t surprise me if in amongst all the dance tunes for this year’s contest, when this song has its turn, viewers will mistakenly think it’s an ad break and get up to get a drink. For listening to the song whilst tapping out this review, it doesn’t sound quite as bad as “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz” but hey, the best I can think of is it has improved to be the calibre of VERY tepid milk! Can’t come at ‘stunning’ like SPB but stunningly tepid, yes!
    Ukraine: Ukrainian grandmother, Gaitana certainly isn’t!!!!!! This track should romp it home through to the final. I’m still racking my brain to think whose voice her’s sounds like; very distinctive. The four ‘running man’ dancers are an absolute kak along with their costumes. The video invokes the spirit of soccer and I reckon this gives it the edge for securing a few more points in the vote. Everything counts!
    FYR Macedonia: Where do I go with this one? Yes, Kaliopi can certainly sing but this song isn’t particularly memorable, starting off in dramatic ballad style and then launching into edgy rock. That’s about it really. It’s all black and white (according to the lyrics). Unless she brings some Macedonian folk dancers with her for backing vocals/visual effect, I don’t think this will go beyond the semi. I hope she’s booked a few day tours of Baku following the contest to make it worth the trip! Now SPB, what was that you were saying about fruit salad??????? May I join you?
    So that’s it for now. We are well and truly on the final countdown for the semi-finals and final. Yea! Will check in next week to see the final entry before the biggest show in town begins!!!!! Light your Fire!

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