Out of all the contests, 2010 is the most recent one I didn’t follow as a fan. However, it was the source of my first Eurovision “moment” and therefore holds a very special place in my heart. With my sentiments out of the way, let’s take an objective look at the first contest I can remember.
Venue: Telenor Arena, Bærum, Norway
Dates: 25, 27, 29 May 2010
Hosts: Nadia Hasnaoui, Erik Solbakken, Haddy N’jie
Norway’s third contest was notable for featuring a two-time experiment with real-time voting. After two years, the system was abandoned, as it was deemed too costly and distracting to the performances. Also, this was the first contest to utilize the 50-50 voting system for both the final and semi-finals. Now, since I’m an aspiring designer, I must point out that the branding of this contest is probably the best ever. Everything just worked well together. It feels like the song titles were designed to match the lighting and vice versa. The theme of “Share the Moment” was also wonderful, as it’s inviting, warm, and inclusive, everything the 2013 theme tried to be but failed. The little spheres used to represent different “Eurovision moments” were also interesting, although they’re my least favorite part of the package. Anyway, that’s enough about design, onto the songs!
Song 1: Azerbaijan
“Drip Drop” – Safura
Right from the get go, Azerbaijan’s huge desires to win were evident in this performance. However, pinning those hopes on Safura’s light up dress and a straight-from-the-Swedish pop-factory song wasn’t the best idea. With that said, though, both elements did their jobs well. First, the song is a lyrical cut above what one would expect. The story’s that Safura knows her man is up to no good but can’t confront him or even think about it because he saved her from going crazy. The lines “am I in or am I out,” “oh, say it’s in my head,” and “if this is where it ends, I don’t wanna run away from myself and be lost again,” really add that element of psychological dependence and destruction and elevate a decent, albeit flat, pop ballad to a higher level.
Musically, there’s nothing too interesting or annoying. I like how there are little changes around the second chorus to keep it from sounding too repetitive. Even though the same structure’s there, those little string bits break up that monotony well. Overall, though, the composition does fall a little flat, even with that bridge that so obviously led into a key change before an 11th hour edit.
Even with these positives and negatives, the biggest fault was Safura herself. She’s a pretty average singer, but that’s not my gripe. Throughout the song, her voice was just so dull that it sapped all the benefit that the lyricists and composers put into “Drip Drop.” A song like this needed someone who had richness and depth to their voice, like Alicia Keys or Grethe Ingmann. These obviously aren’t the people for this song but they have the things that a voice for this song needs. Even in the last chorus, when Safura sounded her best, it just good wasn’t enough. And no illustrious gown could hide that.
Talking of, the wardrobe and staging was also a low point. Swooping camera angles, pointless leg shots, and unnecessary stairs do not a good Eurovision performance make. Take all that away, put Safura in a more neutral dress, either in effect (sparkles) or color (tans/greys) and you have a great show. I actually have no problem with the dancer, as he plays into the song pretty accurately, as the man who’s dodging all the questions. It’s a subtle addition that worked well and showed that behind all the fluff, the stage directors had some idea of what they were doing. Azerbaijan’s most ambitious Eurovision entry yielded a very respectable result, though I can’t say the same for its result here.
Live: 5 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 6 | Preference: 14
Total: 7.65 pts.
Song 2: Spain
“Algo Pequeñito” – Daniel Diges
This was certainly an unexpected treat. Let’s start with the lyrics. Daniel, whose ”life is falling down,” is desperate for “something tiny” from his lover; something like a “caress, white rose,” or “simple ‘I love you.’” The picture of a man losing his mind isn’t too obvious but think about why he’d repeat the title, “Algo pequeñito,” at the beginning of every line. He’s going mad and his sanity hinges upon receiving this validation from the woman who has “the chance in her hands” to save him. It’s a simple thing that paints a profound picture; I love it. The melody has the same sentiment, as it builds from a small music box ‘s tune to a crazy, dramatic, theatrical plea for rescue. In this song, the key change serves an actual purpose, as it heightens the drama of the situation; everything’s gotten more critical and the whole thing could end in catastrophe at any moment. We as the listeners are left to make the decision between a happy and sad ending, as the song abruptly ends on a cliffhanger. When music and lyrics combine to tell the same story in different ways, I swoon. Hard.
The intelligence of this song doesn’t end with the song because the circus-style performance is a perfect fit for this song. Aside from channeling that theatrical energy, the performers in the circus start out with a routine before collapsing into insanity, with everyone doing their own thing for attention, much like what Daniel’s mind must be doing to try and win his sanity. It’s creepy, entertaining, and totally wonderful. The topper is Daniel himself, who delivers an absolute stunner of a vocal performance. His voice never falters and just gets better as it gets louder. As a bonus, the backing singer does a stellar job of harmonizing and the result is a stupidly powerful final minute to the song. Because of Jimmy Jump, I waited for the reprise after Denmark; I’m happy I did because this let me end off the final of ESC 2010 on a fantastic note. Gracias, España!
Live: 10 | Staging: 10 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 9 | Preference: 18
Total: 11.1 pts.
Song 3: Norway
“My Heart is Yours” – Didrik Solli-Tangen
The year after sending the mountain man with a fiddle, Melodi Grand Prix was obviously decided by voters’ eyes rather than ears. In the acapella beginning, Didrik had the same problem with a flat voice that Safura did. It was not because of emotion, sickness, or anything else, it was just that he couldn’t sing without belting. And that he did pretty well. It was still rough around the edges, but the big ballad parts of the song sounded okay. The choice of beige as the stage color was smart because it perfectly represented how syrupy sweet this song was.
Aside from being diabetic, this song is also lazily written. As a whole, this song has six lines. Six. Some people can count that on one hand. This is damaging, but it wouldn’t have been a total disaster had they been intelligent or unique. They aren’t. It’s another song about how love doesn’t consider distance as a boundary because Didrik is so in love with someone. Yawn. Same for the music, which gets far too bombastic for such a sappy song.
Not considering my stupid jab at the staging earlier, it was actually my favorite part of this entry. The fabric framed the stage well and close shots of the eye candy probably saved this song from a worse finish. Obligatory sparks completed the schlager ballad trifecta. It was totally clinical but entertaining and pseudo-rich, sort of like frozen cheesecake. Norway, we know you’re better than this.
Live: 6 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 1 | Music: 3 | Preference: 7
Total: 4.5 pts.
Song 4: Moldova
“Run Away” – Olia Tira feat. Sunstroke Project
Ah, Sax Man. Aside from ABBA and “Volare,” he might be the biggest Eurovision-related thing to ever hit our shores here in the States. And he is with good reason, because this was a lovably energetic performance of a pulsing song. The staging, in particular, was very strong, from the cartweeling violinist to Olia’s chrome tutu and the general fun vibe that oozed from the stage. In that respect, it was and incredibly entertaining entry. Sadly, almost every other aspect of the song lets this down in some way or another. Let’s first tear apart the other aspect of the presentation, the vocals: they weren’t good. While I liked Sergey’s voice and the deep quality it had, he just wasn’t great at hitting the notes. At the same time, Olia had the same technical issues but with a thicker accent that just didn’t mesh well with the music.
On the subject of the composition, it was pretty strong. Although parts of the song, specifically around the verses and instrumentals, sounded somewhat dated, the violin combined really well with the electro instruments to create a very pleasurable package. However, just like the vocals let down the staging, the lyrics let down the music. Like always, it’s mostly chorus, but this is our first encounter with “Eurovision English,” a strange language originating from the recording studios of the former USSR. With gems such as “with all your might, give up you,” and “there’s no other time to making happiness,” any of the meaning from the lyrics, which seems to be escaping a poisonous relationship and could’ve been quite interesting, is forgotten due to the hideous grammar. And in my book, that’s inexcusable. On a superficial level, I enjoy listening to “Run Away” but I’d never recommend it to anyone.
Live: 4 | Staging: 9 | Lyrics: 1 | Music: 7 | Preference: 13
Total: 6.9 pts.
Song 5: Cyprus
“Life Looks Better in Spring” – Jon Lilygreen and The Islanders
This song was the first Eurovision song that I fell in love with so I’m pretty attached to it. However, iTunes has been sort of rude with me since I got a new computer and it hasn’t come up on shuffle recently, so I hadn’t heard it in a while before now. And, may I say, I still love it like I did three years ago. The most pronounced thing about the song is the feeling of warmth that takes over for three minutes. Let’s look at the biggest source of that feeling, the lyrics.
While the overarching theme of the song is comfort and warmness, the verses represent sadness in a yin-yang scenario with the chorus. This part of the story is told in the past tense, as Jon evaluates and reminisces about a lost and incompatible love while hoping for it to work somehow. Then the chorus comes along, shifting the time period to the moment of the breakup, as both Jon and his lover come the mutual conclusion that it’s over and he asks her to “tell him it’s over and [that] life will be better in spring.” Since spring is when everything comes back to prosperity, it would seem that all has ended well for Jon, but the opening verse showed this to be anything but the truth. In the end, though, we can assume that it will all be okay because he’ll still have the “feelings,” “stories” and his “immortality from a kiss.” It’s a beautiful set of lyrics that work so well and feel so fresh. I love them for their optimism.
Musically, it’s almost the same story, as a melancholy guitar drives the verses while the whole band comes in for the chorus. However, the eventual happiness and warmth is more evident throughout this piece, especially when the strings come in at the second chorus. As a positive person, though, I have no problem with this whatsoever. The eschewing of a traditional “I’m so sad about this relationship ending” balladry for a bright, hopeful, yet still emotional song is nothing short of wonderful, both lyrically and musically.
With half of our ESC adverbs down, let’s move onto how visually stunning this entry was. Aside from a few wide pan shots, the lighting and camera angles created an intimate atmosphere crucial for this song. The lighting was especially wonderful, as the wall of lights behind the stage was totally turned off and the spotlights and stage lights were used to fade between white in the verses to sunflower yellow in the chorus, synchronized perfectly with the story. Right after Moldova, this looked like a breath of fresh air everyone could’ve used and it just seemed wonderful. Finally, Jon’s vocals were great, charged with just enough emotion needed. His nonchalant, almost immature, timbre fits a song that could be about a first love so perfectly that it deserves a perfect score. In fact, this whole entry deserves a (almost) perfect score. Syncharitíria Kýpros! 🙂
(Also, 12 points for that American flag that flashes up right after the performance. What a nice little bonus for me. )
Live: 10 | Staging: 10 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 10 | Preference: 20
Total: 11.85 pts.
Song 6: Bosnia & Herzegovina
“Thunder and Lightning” – Vukašin Brajić
This isn’t so much a call for peace as it is a demand. Vukašin sings about how the world will be ruled by anger and emptiness unless these two once-friendly entities can forget about past indiscretions and create a “new day” that will absolve them of previous guilt. I’m not feeling the “give me peace, now!” message too much, but it’s an interesting take on something that could be trite in the wrong hands. Musically, the angry guitars help set the desperate scene and anxiety. The idea’s quite solid but it falls flat in execution, especially in the chorus, when it tries to be catchy and comes off as cheap with the repeating chord progression. A bright spot in the composition was the use of a traditional string instrument at the beginning and end of the song. It really added some character to a pretty generic song.
Onstage, things weren’t too great. While the lighting and dry ice were spot on, as was Vukašin’s red ensemble, the backings’ shimmery silver dresses looked incredibly out of place. The so-obviously mimed guitar interlude was also a cringe-y moment. The vocals were actually quite solid and his voice had a fatigued quality to it that fit perfectly with the song. However, his accent was just too off-putting. Had the song been in Bosnian, the whole package would’ve improved.
Live: 7 | Staging: 5 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 5 | Preference: 10
Total: 6.45 pts.
Song 7: Belgium
“Me and My Guitar” – Tom Dice
A simple guitar ballad with minimal staging isn’t the typical picture of Eurovision success but it is certainly can be in my book. And this is quite a nice song. The simple, relatable, lyrics tell Tom’s story as a starving artist who’s surrounded by doubt and discouragement trying to wear him down and desperate for a chance at success. Unpretentious and simple lyrics tend to tell their stories in the best way possible, in my opinion, so I really enjoy these. Like in most songs with charming lyrics, the music is often integrated into that theme perfectly. As a guitar (what else?) drives the song, some strings come in at the second chorus to make it more interesting and moving. The minimal composition is very well done and a wonderful compliment to the lyrics.
Onstage, there’s not much to speak of, as it’s just Tom on the satellite stage with some warm amber spotlights surrounding him. It’s perfectly suited to the song and the camera angles, while at times a little too grandiose for this song, help to set an intimate, underground-venue feeling. His vocals are great but just missing that “something special” that would give it a 10. Still, this entry has nothing to be ashamed of and is a huge bright spot on 2010’s map.
Live: 8 | Staging: 8 | Lyrics: 10 | Music: 10 | Preference: 18
Total: 10.8 pts.
Song 8: Serbia
“Ovo je Balkan” – Milan Stanković
I applaud Serbia for exemplifying the perfect way to do cheeky in Eurovision with this song. Starting with the music, the dashes of ethnic instruments are so useful in giving this song a sense of place and character. It seems more mature and self-aware than something generic and boring, which helps it distance itself from joke entries. The construction itself is also quite interesting, as it builds very well to the bridge before going into a quick instrumental break. That little 10-second interval is perfect for a doing a little jig and lightens the mood before a huge final chorus to close the song. Lyrically, though, it’s a totally different story. Basically, it’s a dedication to a mysterious woman whose “breasts are a deadly weapon.” The catchiness of the chorus helps me forget about that line but I always do in the end. Maybe there’s supposed to be something ironic or satiric here, but I can’t find it.
The stage show was carried heavily by Milan, who was incredibly energetic and fun. The dancers and backings were a nice touch, but then things started to go awry. First, there was the lighting. It started off by alternating between red and white, which was very nice. However, at the instrumental break the wall started flashing blue and green in quick succession and it all turned to ruin. It was distracting and annoying to watch. Bringing the big orbs down at this moment just amplified the problems. Vocally, everything was good, but I didn’t care for the way Milan screamed into the mic at the second chorus. It was jarring and unnecessary. Aside from those issues, this was a strong entry for Serbia.
Live: 7 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 2 | Music: 8 | Preference: 16
Total: 7.95 pts.
Song 9: Belarus
“Butterflies” – 3+2
Let’s get this out of the way right now; the butterfly wings springing from the girls’ backs was the best costume change since Bucks Fizz. Well, actually it wasn’t but it was a dreadfully needed moment in this bland Eurovision-by-numbers ballad. That and the gruff man singing “the sun” right after the key change were the best things about this entry. To see how true this is, let’s examine the lyrics. They’re word salad. But as a wonderful dressing, they’ve invented a word: heartfully. For the longest time I thought they said “hopefully” but that obviously makes too much sense. When everything else is so cliché, it’s nice to take refuge in the ridiculous. Musically, there’s tons of sappy, generic, Eurovision pomp, accented with the ever so predictable key change. However, I must say that it builds to its key change better than other songs, as the little drum is a nice touch. That doesn’t hide, unfortunately, the boring formula behind it.
Vocally, 3+2 were technically quite good. That was sadly thwarted by their intense accents, which in the quite beginning sounded very odd and a little silly. Just singing in Belorussian would’ve solved that problem. By the end, though, they were singing loud enough to cancel out that problem and sounded very nice. The staging, aside from the costumes, was standard ballad-fare, with fabric in the background and warm lights surrounding the stage. Robert Wells on the piano was a nice touch that bears noticing but not much else about this entry does.
Live: 6 | Staging: 5 | Lyrics: 1 | Music: 4 | Preference: 6
Total: 4.2 pts.
Song 10: Ireland
“It’s For You” – Niamh Kavanagh
Irish entries have tended to be either awful pop things that sound atrocious or ballads with some Celtic flair that are amazing. “It’s for You” is neither, embodying the tiredness of the pop entries as a ballad with some flute thrown into the composition for good measure. Let’s talk about that first, shall we? This is a very 90’s-sounding song, driven by strings that are complimented by a guitar up a musical hill straight into a key change. Don’t forget the drums and flute that pointlessly fill space between chorus and verse. In past contests, they might’ve gotten away with something like this but it was never going to fly in 2010. This tiredness expands with the lyrics, which is a hastily thrown-together piece of meaningless love ballad clichés with an overarching theme of “I do everything for you” devotion. I just don’t care.
While the song itself was lackluster, Niamh’s performance was anything but. Her voice was rich and powerful and perfect for a ballad of such construction. Aside from a few slip-ups throughout, it was a wonderful vocal effort. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the bland, sparse staging. The purple dress, while a nice color, didn’t add to the look at all and the box she was standing on made her look ridiculously Amazonian. Having her in a static position was a terrible idea and the whole show looked empty. At least Niamh saved the song with her performance because nothing else was going to.
Live: 8 | Staging: 3 | Lyrics: 2 | Music: 4 | Preference: 8
Total: 4.95 pts.
Song 11: Greece
“OPA!” – Giorgios Alkaios & Friends
The staging team missed a key chance to introduce some dimension into this performance by not having Giorgios & Friends slam china onto the stage. Even if it were cheesy as all else, it would’ve been a welcome bit of energy and unexpectedness in this bland, beige attempt at a “forget your worries” ethno-pop song. Lyrically the song connects to the crippling Greek financial crisis, which would be a very interesting idea had there been more thought put into the lyrics than “let’s burn things and repeat the chorus five times, eh?” This was a missed opportunity. And then there’s the music. Remember the plate idea? Well, let’s just say that the sound of porcelain shattering would’ve been more interesting than the melody. It was shockingly flat, having barely any bass, and amateur sounding, with a cell-phone seemingly providing some beats. A Junior Eurovision song from Macedonia did the same thing and it sounded heaps better than this. It just has an overarching feel of cheapness.
Like I said earlier, the stage show was incredibly yawn-worthy, featuring a few shots of Giorgios & Friends doing slow choreography and pointless wide shots of the stage. While I’m a huge proponent of minimal staging, this song was lacking so much substance that a fountain of gloss was essential for more success. And they failed that too! At least we can top this melted sundae with a ripe cherry, because Giorgios had a decent vocal performance. Not great, just decent.
Live: 7 | Staging: 2 | Lyrics: 3 | Music: 1 | Preference: 6
Total: 3.75 pts.
Song 12: United Kingdom
“That Sounds Good to Me” – Josh Dubovie
This is a safe song. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it proved to be its fatal flaw when tallying-time rolled around. Everything that they set out to do was done decently, from the trite lyrics to recycled beat to talent show singer. Let’s start by talking about the latter part of that equation and Josh’s performance. Unlike Didrik, who sounded terrible in the soft bits of his song but great in the grandiose sections, Josh sounded good throughout the song until he had to hold his notes a bit at toward the end. That lack of attention to the singer’s abilities makes the fact that this was his anti-prize for winning the “Pop Idol”-esque national final painfully obvious. Still, for the most part, Josh and his posse sounded okay. Equally okay was the set of lyrics they were singing, as it’s basically a declaration to his lover that anything is possible with her. There’s no deeper meaning, little to no metaphor, and nothing unique about this story and set of lyrics but at least it doesn’t try to do something clever and fail. Copy and paste that for the music, which is very 80’s and thus very dated, but competent in its ways. The biggest risk taken with this entry was the staging, which brought a big row of boxes onto a stage bathed in white light. And call me crazy but I think it worked. Those three minutes felt like a time warp back to 1981 and in that respect, it complimented the song perfectly. While Europe might’ve given this song the cold shoulder, it’s too mediocre to get that from me.
Live: 6 | Staging: 5 | Lyrics: 5 | Music: 4 | Preference: 10
Total: 6 pts.
Song 13: Georgia
“Shine” – Sofia Nizharadze
After a stint into well-done mediocrity, let’s sink our teeth into another tried and failed ballad. The message that Sofia is trying oh-so-hard to sell is that, to make the most out of a relationship, you need to throw away your inhibitions and let your love “shine.” It sounds like the story a village sage would tell if she was senile and forgot the end of the story and just told the same part over again. The sweet nothings used here are actually a little interesting on their own, an example being “who can ever tell the color of a soul,” but utterly pointless in the long run. Musically, things start off soft and fragile, which is expected for this kind of song. However, at the second chorus, the whole composition explodes and leaves no more room for growth. The instruments used sound decent by themselves but just create a wall of noise together. Without anywhere else to go, the final chorus becomes unmemorable and unnecessary.
Anyone looking for a perfect example of incredibly bad staging needn’t look anymore. Wow, did they go overboard. The complex choreography, sheets of fabric, and burst of fire at the end were all totally superfluous. If Sofia had stood up on stage in a nicer dress against that same twinkling background, this would’ve been so much more impactful as a song. And that’s all any cookie-cutter ballad needs, simple staging and a strong vocal performance. Thankfully, Sofia was able to get that latter part just right.
Live: 9 | Staging: 1 | Lyrics: 4 | Music: 3 | Preference: 9
Total: 5.25 pts.
Song 14: Turkey
“We Could Be the Same” – maNga
Every year there are always one or two entries that just feel “too cool for school;” it’s a great song, performed well by people who know exactly what they’re doing, almost too much so for Eurovision. This year, Turkey gave us one of those entries performed by a colder than ice maNga. Lyrically, the song’s a bit of an enigma, hiding its true meaning behind an apparent dash for a clandestine love affair before you come to the conclusion that it’s actually a brilliant plea for integration. The shunned entity has dreamt of being accepted for a long time, without even “knowing their name,” other details about them. All Ferman Akgül knows is that integrated life must be better. As he’s “turning the page,” the idea of coming together takes center stage and, in the end, the two parties come together “no matter what they say,” “they” being to the detractors, obviously. The best part about these lyrics is that, while it’s almost certainly a Turkey-E.U. slant being given off, this message can be transplanted onto almost any integration issue. The line “I don’t think the drama will stop, I don’t think they’ll give up the rage” is especially biting and true because, in my opinion, it says a lot about the state of racial relations here in the United States. For years, black people fought for equal rights and desired fairness. Well, those desires escalated to the Civil Rights Movement and they won. Now, as a black man leads the country, the shameful, awful part of the country that hasn’t changed since the 50s is rearing its ugly, “rage”-filled head. While most of the lyrics are great, this line is just wonderful.
The music of this song gives the lyrics a bit more definition, mostly making it a song about Turkey and possible/eventual E.U. membership with the help of some traditional instruments. Aside from those touches, it’s a very rough and gritty rock song; the pissed off, “I’m done with the drama,” mood from the lyrics is hammered home by the guitar. Reversely, the complexities of life together are manifested by the sensitive strings that come in ever so frequently.
The vocal performance from Ferman was incredibly strong and left nothing to be desired. However, the staging was perfect. They decided to totally black out the light wall behind the screen which helped create a more intimate ambiance immediately. For me, on pain medicine and antibiotics right after surgery, the strobe lights were a little much but for someone totally lucid, they would be great. But the star of the show was the metal warrior. It dances through most of the song before picking up an angle grinder and grinding itself at an instrumental right before the last chorus. And as the strings kick in to introduce that last chorus, the figure unmasks itself to reveal that it’s a beautiful woman. I love when the performance and song match up in such a subtle way but this was able to nail home the point of “if we integrate it’ll be rough at first, but get beautiful at the end” succinctly and cleverly in just 30 seconds. It’s an absolutely wonderful idea, stage show, entry, and song.
Live: 10 | Staging: 10 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 10 | Preference: 19
Total: 11.55 pts.
Song 15: Albania
“It’s All About You” – Juliana Pasha
What an interesting way for someone to declare his or her love for a higher power. Juliana sang the pants off this song, which could be described as the most badass hymn ever. Basically, it’s all about how God has made her life “amazing,” how he gives her strength when she prays, and how “when he’s gone, she feels so empty.” Hiding a divine message behind a Christina Aguilera-type pop ballad is an interesting choice that I happen to enjoy, even if the lyrics aren’t up my alley. Or I could just be looking way too far into things and it could be a generic ballad. Either way, the lyrics are decent. That decentness is evident in the melody, which is pretty hectic. The instruments used are sort of indecipherable except for that electric violin, which is the best part of the song itself, by far.
Onstage, Juliana and her backings sounded incredibly strong and looked great, all in smart, appropriate outfits. Having the crazy violinist gyrate next to her was enough to make this one memorable, especially for that sequence where Juliana sings “to you, I’m so easy” and the camera cuts to him playing that one note in between the clauses. It’s so unnecessary but so wonderfully weird. Overall, this is an above average Albanian effort.
Live: 9 | Staging: 7 | Lyrics: 5 | Music: 5 | Preference: 12
Total: 7.5 pts.
Song 16: Iceland
“Je Ne Sais Quoi” – Hera Björk
Anecdote time! Back when I first heard about Eurovision, I downloaded all the songs I even slightly liked onto my iPod. Come one day in class when we had no assignment, I shared a few songs with so of my friends sitting at the art table. One of my friends who is really into punk and alt rock said this song was his favorite. I was shocked, said “okay,” and moved on to other songs. Now, I can see how weak this song was, both on its own and as an example of its genre. As a story, it’s a weak retelling of how crazy in love Hera is with this man. They try to make it more interesting under the auspices of the well-known, titular French saying but it doesn’t masquerade anything. Musically, it’s just a tired electro-schalger track with a pointless key change. However, the use of the piano makes me a little kinder, as piano-schalger is my favorite of the schlager types (synth-schalger à la “Holding Out for a Hero” is second) but it’s not enough to win me over completely.
While the song fell flat, Hera did her damndest to give it a fighting chance with her gorgeous performance. Her voice is incredibly rich and soulful and was wasted on this eurodance throwaway track. She might be the closest artist to the renowned Sarah Dawn Finer to ever grace the Eurovision stage as a contestant, which might be the reason behind her hype. Regardless of how amazing she sounded, her performance was overshadowed by a loud, “X Factor”-like pattern flashing on the light wall. The colors weren’t bad at all but the execution was very poor. That and the awkward choreography hammered my final nail in this song’s coffin.
Live: 9 | Staging: 2 | Lyrics: 1 | Music: 2 | Preference: 14 (I still have a small soft spot for this one.)
Total: 6.3 pts.
Song 17: Ukraine
“Sweet People” – Alyosha
What a standout song. This anthem for social change was downright stark on the night and I loved that approach. Starting with the lyrics, Alyosha is clueless as to the state of affairs in the world and is begging with people to save “their home” while there’s still time. The most striking thing about these lyrics in particular is that they don’t sugar coat anything. There’s nothing cute, charming, or endearing. The only metaphor is her demand that they “don’t turn all the earth to stone.” She’s unapologetic and serious, creating a dire tone that grabs attention. Using that focus, she sings about how we so careless dramatize the destruction in “theaters and video games” like it could never really happen to us. It connects the listener to how nonchalantly the earth is treated because the message is so accessible, which is a huge asset for a song with, in my opinion, such an important message. Usually for singers with thick accents like Alyosha’s I’d rather listen to their songs in their native languages but the English works here for that reason.
The composition is equally stirring, representing the change on Earth through the moods of the music. It starts out with a solitary guitar plucking away before adding some other instruments at the chorus. Gradually, just like the problem, the music builds and gets angrier. Finally at the last chorus, the whole thing explodes before returning to the guitar. The whole thing is an allegory for how we’ll be forced back to simpler times if we continue down our current path.
Just like the rest of the song, the staging is minimal. A few red lights illuminate the stage, echoing the distressed tone of the lyrics. As the song progresses, the lights become more numerous and begin to flash and, just like the music, die right before the end. Sometimes all a song needs to succeed is just one great idea like this. Alyosha was a vocal powerhouse and sand with conviction. She totally believes the world’s screwed and by God, she’s going to make you believe, too. The whole idea is very smart and very well executed by the Ukrainian team. I love it.
Live: 10 | Staging: 9 | Lyrics: 10 | Music: 10 | Preference: 18
Total: 11.25 pts.
Song 18: France
“Allez, ola, olé” – Jessy Matador
There aren’t any rules for these posts so I’ll start off with this.
Holy hell, did they try and find the most attractive people possible or was it just an accident? Regardless of how it came about, this was the hottest delegation in Oslo. And with their mindless World Cup song, they needed to pull out all the stops to make up for its lack of musical substance. Well, not necessarily substance, because it’s a great song to dance around to and plenty of fun. The beachy touches like the drums made the whole thing sparkle and less generic. If I didn’t have massive sinus pressure and splints in my nose while writing this, I would’ve been dancing around the room. In all honesty, the lyrics are pretty non-existent and horrible, but the beat’s good and the hook’s catchy. That’s all that really matters for a song like this.
Aside from the inconceivable amount of hotness onstage, the staging was very big but still well done. The fire might’ve been a bit too much but it worked for me. Highlights were the dance breakdown and the warm colors on the light wall. Finally, Jessy and his female singer sounded good (enough) and just added to the energy onstage. After something as sobering as “Sweet People,” everyone really needed this fireball.
Live: 6 | Staging: 8 | Lyrics: 1 | Music: 7 | Preference: 15
Total: 7.8 pts.
Song 19: Romania
“Playing with Fire” – Paula Seling & Ovi
This is what I mean by piano-schlager. Although, I’ll quickly admit that Ovi spiced this one up quite a bit by adding some well-timed drums and synths and by not adding a key change. That sort of twist on a common format is something I always love to see, even if the end result isn’t too stellar. For more things that aren’t stellar, we have the lyrics. And it’s time again for Eurovision word salad, now with a big side of fondue. Dearie me, this is bland. Ovi and Paula take turns proclaiming how hot and dangerous their lust for one another is and I just want to go somewhere else. We’ve heard this all before so if you don’t have a different take or quality diction and syntax, please leave.
Onstage, things were totally different because this one was a dazzler. The acrylic double piano was a smart move and helped to establish a point of focus for the viewer. Shooting flames into the air might’ve been a little on the nose but it was certainly memorable and a source of kitschy fun. And while the outfits for the backings might’ve stunk, Ovi and Paula looked very sharp. Talking of the two leads, both of them sounded good but it sounded like Paula’s voice was a little too powerful for a sing-speaky song such as this. She oversang the verses and even though it’s a minor problem, it was off-putting. Aside from that, this was a decent song with a strong show. I’m okay with it.
Live: 6 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 2 | Music: 4 | Preference: 11
Total: 5.7 pts.
Song 20: Russia
“Lost and Forgotten” – Peter Nalitch & Friends
What a theatrical little song. From what I understand, this is supposed to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek but I can’t find a second meaning or irony anywhere. Still, the idea of dialogue in an entry is interesting and it would be nice to see that done with a more serious entry. The primary idea of this song is also somewhat intriguing, as Peter laments the loss of his first love. While the execution is technically beyond poor, it could’ve made for a good blues ballad, which this tries to be. I really like the melody of this song. The piano has a beautiful tone to it and it’s very self-aware; it never tries to be grandiose and just let’s the singer drive the song.
As a singer, Peter is odd. It wouldn’t be right to call him bad but he’s certainly no Didrik. That being said, his delivery of this song is quite enjoyable, even that shrill note in the final chorus. It gives the song something to build to and is the memorable moment of the performance. The theatrical nature of this entry expands to the stage show, as “snow” falls behind the group and Peter interacts with an illustration of his former love. Once again, the idea is interesting but the execution is weird. Russia’s lucky they sent something so quirky because it’s right up my alley.
Live: 7 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 1 | Music: 6 | Preference: 13
Total: 6.9 pts.
Song 21: Armenia
“Apricot Stone” – Eva Rivas
For a homebody such as myself, a song with a message to never forget your roots resonates with me very well. That’s basically what Eva crooned in her three minutes on the stage; she received hope, security, and a sense of place from the love of her family, symbolized by the source of nourishment for the apricot, it’s seed. While the lyrics tend toward the repetitive side, the overall message and sentiment is quite nice and appreciated. The accompanying melody seems to take on a homegrown flavor, as a traditional flute-like instrument starts it. Sadly this gives way to a generic electro-ethno-pop beat, topped off with a pointless key change. A set of lyrics that says “stay true to yourself” really should have a composition that does the same.
That key change is the source of another problem because Eva Rivas, who sounds okay in the lower registers, had a bear of a time grappling with those high notes. It cheapened the song drastically and changed the mood from “nice girl with a positive message” to “fakey ethno-song sung by legs and chest.” Talking of, Eva’s outfit was ghastly; no one should be seen in that shade of orange. The staging was pretty overwrought with this one. I might’ve been okay with the tree sprouting from the oversized seed but the fire and dancing was just too far. Had it just been her, the flautist, and backings sitting on rocks around the seed, it might’ve been better but this just didn’t work. It’s unfortunate that a decent song had such a rare slip-up.
Live: 5 | Staging: 1 | Lyrics: 7 | Music: 4 | Preference: 14
Total: 6.75 pts.
Song 22: Germany
“Satellite” – Lena
Aaah, my first Eurovision song ever! Yes, Lena’s winner was the song that introduced me and hooked me onto this wonderful contest and for that reason (amongst many others) I love “Satellite” to pieces. Oddly enough, I do so without much merit because, at its core, it’s just a well put together, fresh, quirky pop song. Lena plays the part of the infatuated and slightly obsessed girl in the story between her and the man who’s having second thoughts about the relationship. Even with lyrics that are as up front as “I bought new underwear, they’re blue,” there’s still some metaphor to be deconstructed; the titular “satellite” being a girl who’s so crazy in love that she’s stalking her boyfriend and “can’t go a minute without his love.” That psychotic edge is skirted oh so wonderfully by Lena, who really makes this song into something special. Musically, it’s still a divergent, spunky song but there’s just less craziness to it. In particular, though, the synths used were very good at setting the atmosphere. Had this been attempted with more traditional instruments, it might’ve fallen flat but this arrangement was the perfect marriage.
Stage-wise, Germany got everything right. The camera angles were sharp, the wardrobe crisp, and the lighting simple. By keeping everything except a few choice lights off, Lena was able to carry the song and drive it straight to victory. It was a master class in minimalism. And who could forget the accent? Again, with a more conventional singer, this would’ve been just another song but Lena’s unique voice really made the whole thing soar. I love her voice so much I’ve been listening to her newest album on repeat for the past few weeks. (Off-Topic: If you haven’t bought “Stardust” already, do so. It’s a fantastic album with a bit more polish than “My Cassette Player.”)
With “Satellite,” I have nothing but fond memories. Now I have an amazing score to keep it company. 🙂
Live: 10 | Staging: 10 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 8 | Preference: 20
Total: 11.4 pts.
Song 23: Portugal
“Há dias assim” – Filipa Azevedo
The long-running question that I’ve begun to wonder about this project is “Will Portugal ever send a bad song?” because in these first four efforts, the Portuguese song always has been nothing short of great. Filipa continues that trend with her big ballad about closure. She starts out be recounting how her and her love’s relationship fizzled before realizing “there is no need to hide or fear words.” It’s so nice to hear her accept that “there are lost days” but that “life is the only one that doesn’t turn back,” and that it’s best to move on. This is such a refreshing take on a break-up song that would normally be very somber and depressing. Instead we’re treated to this warm song, with a lush orchestration, from someone with a gorgeous youthful radiance. As for the aforementioned score, it does a decent job in building the song well. The first key change was a bit premature and unnecessary but it recovered duly and finished strong. Much like the message of the song, it comes to terms with the conflict and moves on. No fade-out, just one note. It’s great.
Adorable Filipa was this song’s double-edged sword because, while her sound was different and welcome, her voice was just not mature enough and too watery at parts for this kind of song. However, she looked very confident and sold it well. Visually, this was quite well done, especially the lighting. The light purple complimented the warmth of the composition without being too jolly for the lyrics and the bright white lights were a key factor in helping the melody recover from its key change gone awry. It’s another strong song from Portugal, as if we expect anything less by now.
Live: 7 | Staging: 8 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 7 | Preference: 16
Total: 9.45 pts.
Song 24: Israel
“Milim” – Harel Ska’at
Well that happened. This song swept the 2010 Besençon Awards and was a total fan favorite but I just can’t warm to it. A ballad of heartbreak from Harel’s perspective, the lyrics are too complicated and weighted down with lines like “you left me only words, a shelter amongst the shadows.” For a man who has, presumably, gone crazy after being dumped, these lyrics are more calculated than one would expect; he’d most likely come up with simpler, clearer, more impactful thoughts if this was a real-life scenario. I’m not saying that I’m against poetic lyrics but I’d just like to remind everyone that they have a time and place. “Milim” provided neither. Musically, I’m a much bigger fan of this song, as the pure orchestral track feels raw and emotional. That sharp piano punctuating the chorus toward the end is absolutely stunning and a perfect aural representation of heartbreak.
Coming from a high point, we now have to look at Harel’s vocals. They were good but not good enough for this song. I only bring him up again because he was so wasted on his song but Didrik Solli-Tangen would’ve taken this into the top 10. Harel sounded fine until he had to start belting toward the end. His nerves got the best of him and he faltered. Obviously and badly. And even if it might’ve been his emotion taking over, it wouldn’t fit with the calculated tone of the lyrics. It can either be authentic or not. Pick one. That singing snafu’s a pity because it wasted the solid lighting and camera angles. This tried so hard to be a good entry and it almost was, but it just didn’t happen.
Live: 6 | Staging: 7 | Lyrics: 4 | Music: 7 | Preference: 12
Total: 7.2 pts.
Song 25: Denmark
“In A Moment Like This” – Chanée & n’evergreen
Schlager-ific! (I promise that’ll be the last time you see “schalger” with a hyphen for a while.) Please excuse me if I sound too glowing about this song because it was my first schlager! And what a decent one to start out this love affair. The lyrics are pretty run-of-the-mill, as the duo comes upon a charmed moment that will change their relationship forever. It’s not stellar but at least it’s competent and harmless. Musically, it’s a guitar and synth heavy song, which lines up perfectly with what I like. A few record scratches at the beginning add some much-needed spice into this vanilla composition And I don’t care about the hate I’m about to get because that key change was glorious. It was perfectly built, perfectly timed, perfectly executed, and perfectly staged.
On the note of those last two, Chanée & n’evergreen didn’t sound great to begin with, especially Thomas (n’evergreen), who sounded like he had a terrible sinus infection at the beginning. However, he seemed to power past it and came out with a solid performance. Chanée sounded okay at first and then went further with the line “ever since you went away.” I love her voice and that was her money note. She obviously carried them. As an act, the screen was a brilliant starter piece but should’ve stayed on stage longer; the old tripe that made up the rest of the three minutes just wasn’t up to scratch, save for the wind machine and sparks at the key moment. Three years ago, this song was the most played song in my iTunes library (I’m swear on Carola’s glitter tattoo from 2006) and while it won’t reach the top of this scoreboard, it’s near the top of my Eurovision heart.
Live: 8 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 5 | Music: 6 | Preference: 19
Total: 9.15 pts.
Average score: 7.698 pts.
Hall of Fame Entrants: 6
My Favorite Song: TIE Cyprus (1st)/Germany (3rd)
Technically Best Song: TIE Cyprus (1st)/Turkey (2nd)/Ukraine(4th)
My Least Favorite Song: TIE Belarus (24th)/Greece (Last)
Technically Worst Song: Greece (Last)
Without the songs from the semi-finals, 2010 is pretty solid. Like 1961, it’s mostly just average stuff with an appropriate amount of stinkers and standouts. Unlike many people, I thought that Nadia, Erik, and Haddy did an amazing job and are the best hosts as of late. Also, that interval act was incredible. I love it, love it, love it. The flash-mob was a cool idea and the execution was as good as could be. So, after the obligatory semi-final post soon, we’ll be on our way to the Emerald Isle and Eurovision 1971. Until then.