Now that the 2010 final is complete, we can move back and take a look at the 14 songs that didn’t make the cut to Saturday night. There’s something for everyone in this lot and I’m sure that there are winners and losers here. Let’s go.
Venue: Telenor Arena, Bærum, Norway
Dates: 25, 27 May 2010
Hosts: Nadia Hasnaoui, Haddy N’jie, Erik Solbakken
Axed Countries: 14
(Songs 1 (Moldova) and 2 (Russia) qualified.)
Song 3: Estonia
“Siren” – Malcolm Lincoln
Let me deflate your expectations right now; I don’t get the hype. Unless this is some sort of modern art exhibition about how music can be meaningless and fun while still being thought provoking that used Eurovision as its venue, I’m utterly lost as to why “Siren” is so amazing. The lyrics provide the most solid part of this song but even then they’re a bit ambiguous. For the most part, Robin Juhkental sounds like someone disillusioned by trying to reach fame and pleading for someone to “help him through the night.” The premise is interesting but destroyed by the repetitiveness of the lyrics as a whole and Robin’s delivery onstage. Musically, it’s a synth-pop number with lots of flair and, well, whimsy. The breeziness contrasted against the relative bleakness of the lyrics makes for an interesting combination that nearly wins my praises. In studio, it’s a very fun listen.
On stage, things took a turn for the worse. Robin sounded like he straight up didn’t care about how he sounded and the whole thing tanked. For the most part, he sang fine but the little modifications broke the song and the relationship between the voice and music. The sanest part of this very odd entry was the staging, which made a lot of sense. Having the camera spin around Robin while he pleaded for “time, strength, hope” and the like created a feeling of being stuck in a rut looking for an answer. It was good enough to make me forget about my usual motion sickness. All in all, I’m not convinced by this song one bit and I’m fine that it missed out.
Live: 5 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 7 | Preference: 10
Total: 6.6 pts.
Song 4: Slovakia
“Horehronie” – Kristína Peláková
How was such a flat and boring song a bookies’ favorite? Seriously, the ethnic music was interesting but totally vacuous. There was almost nothing of interest for the three minutes except for that interlude where the woman off to the side in white sang a few notes. Drums and flutes can only do so much. The lyrics are just a tribute to the region of Horehronie, which looks like this, if you were wondering.
They’re very woodsy, melodramatic, repetitive lyrics. I’m not a fan.
While the song was only bad, the staging was a total disaster. Specifically, the camera angles were total shit. If you’re going to have very minimal imagery, don’t make a majority of shots arena-wide, sweeping, emptiness-revealing shots. It was terrible. The outfits and choreography also stank but not nearly as much as the camera. Kristína turned in the only decent part of this entry with her vocal performance but that wasn’t nearly enough to save it.
Live: 5 | Staging: 0 | Lyrics: 4 | Music: 3 | Preference: 4
Total: 3 pts.
Song 5: Finland
“Työlki ellää” – Kuunkuiskaajat
Thank the stars that Finland was drawn after the weirdness and nothingness from Estonia and Slovakia. This is an incredibly fun and folksy song that just begs to be danced to. The accordion and fiddle work perfectly together and the subtle synths elevate the song to a wonderful place. Changing the tempo every so often was also a good move, as it kept the otherwise repetitive melody fresh. I adore it. However, the lyrics are less lovable. The message seem to be (in the verses) that the “Moon Whisperers” are questioning what to sing when different emotions come up, while the chorus talks about “working” and “trading,” of all things. It’s somewhat bizarre for a folk song.
Vocally, both women were on point, even if they sounded a bit nervous in the opening verse. Their warm voices fit this style of music perfectly and the backings were used well in the closing choruses to add some dimension. Their style was nice and airy, complimenting the rest of the staging very nicely. All in all, this is incredibly enjoyable.
Live: 7 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 4 | Music: 9 | Preference: 14
Total: 8.1 pts.
Song 6: Latvia
“What For?” – Aisha
At first, I thought that the incredibly odd choice of “What for” as a title might have something to do with poetic lyrics, but even after a skim it was obvious that this word salad was made by a touchy Google Translate. Some lowlights include “why does the wind still blow and blood still leaks,” “the sun in color black,” and “but Mr. God’s phone today is out of range.” It’s hilariously bad. Had these lyrics been kept in Latvian, they might’ve been somewhat interesting but this was a total meltdown. And that’s a damn shame because the music was the total opposite. It was quirky with its synths and accordions while still being somewhat dark and mysterious as a whole. Also, it built up to the end subtlety and well. I really enjoyed it.
This stage show nearly fell victim to Horehronie Syndrome (when the camera shots are laughably wide) but avoided it by using the fabric to frame the stage and by simply just having fewer wide shots. Although, that quick, one-second flash of Aisha screeching out “crying” was pathetic, it was decent overall. The same could be said about the vocal performance, which was shaky at the beginning but decently strong in the end. In particular, the final 30 seconds of “What For” were handled superbly, ending in a wonderful, R&B harmonization. In the future, this hopefully will be used as the perfect example for native language songs. I know I’ll use it as such.
Live: 6 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 1 | Music: 8 | Preference: 10
Total: 5.85 pts.
(Songs 7 (Serbia) and 8 (Bosnia & Herzegovina) qualified.)
Song 9: Poland
“Legenda” – Marcin Mroziński
Well, Poland can kiss its position at the top of my country averages table bye-bye. This was just totally bizarre and unsettling, a word I never thought would describe a Eurovision entry. The story of this song is sort of a fairy tale nightmare, since Marcin “kidnaps his princess from the castle” and sings about how her ticket to freedom is to say that she loves him. In the chorus, all pretenses are dropped and he flat out says “you didn’t want me to be by your side” while he will love her until he dies. That coupled with the pretty violent scene of him grabbing the dancer is very creepy and could’ve been a trigger for sexual assault victims. I applaud them for being ballsy enough to do something like this but the result is dissatisfying in the truest sense. This could’ve been amplified if the music had been more ominous and foreboding but it thankfully just blended into the background, unnoticed.
Like I said, the stage show was very odd. Apples were rolling and folk women were dancing in this spectacle that, in tandem with the lyrics, was creepy and confusing as all else. The fruits are presumably a shout out to Snow White, which is a nice touch but the way the first woman modeled with the apple was simultaneously disconcerting and hilarious. Marcin’s vocals were quite strong and riveting but his appearance was nothing short of scary. It was incredibly gutsy for Poland to send something like this and while I appreciate that, they should’ve left it in the castle.
Live: 7 | Staging: 1 | Lyrics: 1 | Music: 4 | Preference: 3
Total: 2.85 pts.
(Song 10 (Belgium) qualified.)
Song 11: Malta
“My Dream” – Thea Garrett
Yawn. While this certainly isn’t an original song, it’s actually executed pretty well. The lyrics are the weakest point, as the message of “believe in your dreams” is trite and watered down. Certain lyrical tropes that are dropped include fairytales, “new born stars,” “sun will shine upon your face,” and “fly like a seagull.” Thankfully they’re not sickly sweet nor grammatically challenged but if those are the only good points about your lyrics, you’re in trouble. Musically, the scenario is a little brighter, as I really enjoy the strings that introduce the song. They have sort of an ethereal feeling to them for about five seconds before morphing into the pile of syrup that this song is.
As we move onto the vocal performance, things continue to improve because Thea gave us some fantastic vocals. It got a touch operatic at the end, which was fine, as she carried it well, but that’s never been my style. Aside from that, I enjoyed listening to “My Dream.” The staging was an assortment of big ballad clichés, with shots of Thea’s hand and lots of fog. However, Birdman came in at the second chorus and made everything look messy and silly. Aside from that, it was clinical but effective staging. And had this song qualified, that would be the perfect term for it, clinical but ineffective.
Live: 8 | Staging: 3 | Lyrics: 5 | Music: 6 | Preference: 9
Total: 6 pts.
(Songs 12-14 (Albania, Greece, and Portugal) qualified.)
Song 15: Macedonia
“Jas ja imam silata” – Gjoko Taneski
With a powerful hybrid rock-rap song, Macedonia fulfilled the annual requirement for a doomed song from an ignored Eurovision genre. And that’s a tradition that needs to stop, because very often those songs are decent to good, this being an example. The story of the song is that Gjoko is finally getting out of a poisonous relationship and declaring that “he has the strength” to move on. It’s a slightly different take on an old stalwart (break up songs), so I’m already interested. The Macedonian language sounds very good in this context and is a benefit to the song, even if the imagery is a bit overused. Also, the rap bit, which could’ve been very interesting, is used only to reiterate verbatim what the rest of the song said. Musically, the song is much more interesting, as it starts out like electro-pop almost before building into a fierce chorus. And without missing a beat, it moves into the rap section equally strong but different. Finally, the guitar solo before the final chorus was unexpected and exciting. This was really good.
Onstage, Gjoko’s voice was a perfect match for this song, as his voice was strong without being too husky and weighted. The rapper also did a good job of maintaining the power of the song. Sadly, the staging was nothing more than an excuse to put the three girls in skimpy outfits. And that’s a pity, because the lighting was very nice and the camera angles decent. Cut out the girls and you have a great way of doing interesting, effective staging. Overall, this was a real cracker of a song that was sorely missed in the final. Turkey really could’ve used this stylistic ally.
Live: 9 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 8 | Preference: 13
Total: 7.95 pts.
(Songs 16 (Belarus) and 17 (Iceland) qualified.)
So that’s that for the first semi-final. Let’s move onto the second.
Song 1: Lithuania
“Eastern European Funk” – InCulto
To start, we have the first song to disappoint me by failing to qualify. I never understood why this song didn’t make it to Saturday and I still don’t as it really is a clever and fun little thing. The admittedly gutsy message is that Lithuania and the rest of the Baltic States are misunderstood and used against by the rest of the EU, even after “surviving the Reds and two world wars.” And InCulto doesn’t mix words for a second, they come right out and say it in the second verse. Despite the repetitiveness at the ends, the thinly veiled protest against misconceptions is enjoyable and fresh. The melody does something interesting with the way it builds. Simple kazoos open the song and are joined by trumpets for the first verse. A guitar comes in and things stay the same until the bridge, when the lights dim and some synths pop up. Then the plaid pants fly and some electro undertones bring it home. The whole progression is an analogy for the way people perceive Lithuania; it’s a country sort of blah and weird on the surface but pulsing and interesting beneath. I love it to pieces.
Then there’s the staging, which tells the same story with the music does. InCulto starts off with no instruments before dragging some obviously fake ones onstage. And when the lights go down, everyone sees exactly what’s underneath that exterior and realizes how vibrant Lithuania can be. Aside from literally one or two dodgy camera shots, the staging is very strong and very smart. The weakest part of this entry is the vocal performance and it’s even not too bad. There’s nothing hateful nor standout about it. However the same could never be said for this entry as a whole. It’s clever, funny, enjoyable, and was sorely missed on Saturday night.
Live: 6 | Staging: 8 | Lyrics: 7 | Music: 9 | Preference: 16
Total: 9.3 pts.
(Songs 2-4 (Armenia, Israel, and Denmark) qualified.)
Song 5: Switzerland
“Il pleut de l’or”- Michael von der Heide
What a charmingly dated little song this is. It almost sounds like it could be a Bond song at times, with its growing melody and sultry instrumentation. I’d specify which ones but I can’t pick them out. Despite that, the composition is quite strong and enjoyable. The lyrics actually add to that “sexy spy” feeling, as Michael sings about how her perfume guides him to her and how “shared secrets, the exchanged glances are accomplices of summer.” While I wouldn’t typically go for lyrics like these, I’m making an exception because they sound great in French and sound great with the song.
However that’s where my praise ends because the “live” part of this entry was disastrous. First, Michael ruined the chorus by practically screaming into the microphone. The backings started doing this but not to the same effect. But had Michael been on key, it might have been salvageable. Sadly, that didn’t happen. Also, I don’t know what it is about this year but so many people have screwed up the camera angles. There were way too many panning shots and it was hard to focus on the stage. It wasn’t as bad as that which shall not be named but it almost was, especially with that unnecessary fire at the chorus. At least the song was enjoyable, because nothing else about this was.
Live: 4 | Staging: 2 | Lyrics: 7 | Music: 7 | Preference: 11
Total: 6.3 pts.
Song 6: Sweden
“This Is My Life” – Anna Bergendahl
Ah, la grande dame of Eurovision out in the semis! This might’ve been the biggest happening of Year Oslo and it’s a real shame, because this wasn’t a bad song. Lyrically, it’s an anthem about individuality and creating your life for you. It’s a touch repetitive for my taste but I like the message and the structure. The melody is simple, with an acoustic guitar set against an assortment of strings. It’s effective and very well built. The way it builds to the final chorus is a little different and a breath of fresh air, especially compared to Switzerland. I’m certainly a fan of this song.
But when she got to the big stage, Anna’s nerves got the best of her. Uncommonly, it wasn’t her pitch that deteriorated; it was her ability to hold notes. As the song went on, her voice started to wobble more and more before it just proved to be too much. And that was the only thing that went awry because the staging, as always for Sweden, was great. Giving out the glowsticks was such a great idea that was unique and connected the viewers and audience to Anna. The guitar backfired completely, though, as Anna looked too shocked to mime it properly and then it just disappeared with no explanation. That was a misstep. I think had this been in the first semi-final, it would’ve made it, but this was obviously the stronger of the two. It’s unfortunate but Sweden (obviously) survived.
Live: 3 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 7 | Preference: 14
Total: 7.5 pts.
(Songs 7 (Azerbaijan) and 8 (Ukraine) qualified.)
Song 9: the Netherlands
“Ik ben verliefd (Sha-la-lie)” – Sieneke
This song is that musty, perfume-y smell that overtakes you every time you step inside some grandma’s tchotchke-filled house. I have no other way to describe this song. And I have absolutely zero shame when I say that I love it. (!) The lyrics are 80s schlager-standard, name-dropping places like Lisbon and Oslo in between talking about this song that Sieneke hears whenever she’s with her lover. It’s sweeter than “a glass of mocha ice cream” that was the unfortunate victim of a sugar air raid. Musically, it’s very carnival-esque with its calliope and guitar driven-melody. It’s not what one would first expect but considering the Dutch track record with this sort of song, it’s not surprising. The obligatory key change (OKC as it will now be called) is built up to nicely by replacing a second chorus with a bridge and using the chorus to further the OKC. It was a decent twist to make the song a little less generic.
Onstage, things were pretty ridiculous, with a senior Sieneke and the flashing cart, not to mention the circus people. The latter two were very cutesy and kitschy but perfect for this song. However, Sieneke’s stylist needed to be canned at the first rehearsal because she looked like she was at least 40 when she was only 17. To put that in perspective, I’m 17 and I couldn’t look 40 if I tried so they royally screwed that up. But while she might’ve looked like a grandma, at least she was a grandma who could carry a tune because her and her backings did a good job vocally. This song is so ridiculous and so theatrical that I can’t help but love it. Call it a guilty pleasure, I guess.
Live: 6 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 4 | Music: 6 | Preference: 18
Total: 8.4 pts.
(Song 10 (Romania) qualified.)
Song 11: Slovenia
“Narodnozabavni rock” – Ansambel Roka Žlindre & Kalamari
Can we please take a moment to recognize and appreciate the resemblance of the electric guitarist to Alan Davies? Thanks for that. Now about the song, it’s weird, and not in an endearing way. Lyrically, it’s quite self-aware, talking about how “a tiny bit of imagination hides rock into the polka rhythm,” even though a quantity that small wouldn’t be nearly enough. Aside from that, it’s just talking about how great folk and rock music both are and how “popular folk rock” is excellent. My response to that is no, not by a long shot. This song is a musical mess, as the two styles have nearly nothing in common and clash like cymbals. It’s like they tried to make something as jarring and off-putting as possible. The rock and folk sections alone are okay-ish but the choruses just sound awful.
Strangely, this entry had both decent staging and vocals. Both singers were strong and I especially enjoyed Barbara and I hope she makes a future appearance on the Eurovision stage. Like the music, the costumes contrasted quite a bit but the overarching feel of the staging was a rock song and it worked well. The lighting and camera angles were decent but the kitschy costumes and instruments felt silly. Sadly, they were probably the only things that would work with this niche song. It’s nice to have local culture injected into ESC from time to time but this wasn’t up to snuff.
Live: 8 | Staging: 5 | Lyrics: 3 | Music: 1 | Preference: 9
Total: 5.25 pts.
(Song 12 (Ireland) qualified.)
Song 13: Bulgaria
“Angel si ti” – Miro
I have no qualms admitting that I had very low expectations for this song. And I’m happy to report that this song exceeded them, although that doesn’t mean much. The song is a lyrical black hole, as it’s just Miro telling his lover how much of an “angel” she is and how they’ll always be together. It’s nothing original or interesting but I have to say that Miro’s English was far better than I thought it would be. He gets props for that. Musically, it’s another dated pop song from the 80s/90s but it’s generally not too offensive. The most memorable component of the whole thing was the strings and opening synth but it was generally harmless and in the background. It’s certainly not a bad thing.
While my mind had predicted that the song would be the source of the biggest failure, that distinction actually went to the staging. The oily and sparkly dancers were totally unnecessary and after Malta’s silver seagull we didn’t need the fan wings from the girls. However that misstep paled in comparison to the general look of the stage, which was really nice at first. The black and white looked very contemporary and the fabric did a good job of focusing the performance. So I’m still lost as to why they didn’t just stick with that look and instead went with some flashing tan disaster. It immediately felt dated and all focus was lost. I can’t stand bad staging but it’s especially worse when the best option was utilized and trashed. Thankfully Miro was a strong singer and carried the performance vocally because there isn’t much good to be found here.
Live: 7 | Staging: 0 | Lyrics: 2 | Music: 5 | Preference: 8
Total: 4.5 pts.
(Song 14 (Cyprus) qualified.)
Song 15: Croatia
“Lako je sve” – Feminnem
They say that looks can be deceiving and that rings very true here. While the staging is pretty bad “Lako je sve” is actually a very nice song. The lyrics paint a picture of a woman who has cheated on the love of her life and is begging for forgiveness. The theme of “take me back” isn’t new but the lyricists put a powerful new spin on it. One of the standout lyrics for me is “you can see I’m scared because betrayal is written on my face.” These are some really good lyrics. The melody, while not as moving, is equally nice and executed quite well. The transition from piano ballad to pop stunner was nicely handled and was a change for the better; a modern soundtrack works well with a modern story. The buildup to the end is also done well. As a song, this is a real diamond.
Unfortunately one woman rather than the trio of Feminnem should’ve sung this song. None of the women were strong enough to convey the emotions properly and the feeling of neediness was spread too an unbelievable thinness. Some notes fell flat and there wasn’t a standout moment in the entire three minutes. It gets worse when the staging is considered. With such a strong song, choreography is almost always unnecessary so if it’s there, it better be good. This wasn’t. It felt very forced and weird for the three to be dancing around. Less is more is a tenet of great staging. The bench, dancers, and silly fabric heart should’ve been cut at the first rehearsal. It’s too bad that this song had to fall victim to what it did. Had the right singer sung on the right stage, this would’ve kicked Safura’s light-up butt all the way down the catwalk.
Live: 5 | Staging: 2 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 8 | Preference: 12
Total: 7.2 pts.
(Songs 16 (Georgia) and 17 (Turkey) qualified.)
Average score: 6.343 pts.
Revised score for 2010: 7.212
Hall of Fame entrants: 0
My Favorite Song: the Netherlands (2nd)
Technically Best Song: Lithuania (1st)
My Least Favorite Song: Poland (Last)
Technically Worst Song: Slovakia (13th)
Semi-Final 1 gave me a little bit more of what I would’ve liked, which is a good thing. Seven of the qualified songs would’ve also made it if I were the Eurovision master. However, the songs were generally worse than those of Semi 2, where I had four different countries qualify compared to three. Like before, here are the revised places of 2010.
While I’m really happy that I was able to go through a contest I enjoyed so early in the project, I think it delayed me considerably because I didn’t want to see songs I had grown really attached to suffer on my scoreboard. Now that I see that hasn’t happened, I appreciate my system all the more. As a year, 2010 is pretty average but it will always have its place as my first contest. With that, let’s move onto the first contest for a familiar host; Ireland and 1971. See you then.