>Iceland to Russia…The long way.
- Iceland: Live video from somewhere (the national final version was in Icelandic), and thank god for that, because the actual video for the song looked like some cheap CGI horror. Did you know that Paul Oscar is behind this entry? Note the toned-down versions of his 1997 backup dancers in the background. The staging is not as in-your-face as Palli’s previous Eurosong entry–which could be a metaphor for Euroland either becoming more conservative or more liberal. Nonetheless, it sounds and looks like some Melodifestivalen cast-off…not necessarily a bad thing mind you.
- Ireland: The controversial Turkey! Actually, of all the comedy numbers this year, this is the only one that I find genuinely funny and entertaining. Considering that the Irish are quite well-regarded for their sense of humour, it’s shocking that it’s taken them this long to finally take the piss out of themselves. The video starts out very solemn with Dustin in silhouette and then breaks into a slightly less manic version of Silvia Night’s preview video complete with Turkey-dressed backing singers, a turn table, Dustin going manic all over the place while old Eurovision entries are shown in the background. Sneakily, the video also pokes fun of the contest itself, but not in a mean-spirited way.
- Israel: Kdam performance? I am continually amazed by the fact that Boaz has that kind of singing voice coming out of that body (which, I must add is very pleasing to the eye as well, if I can sound lecherous for a moment). The underlying theme of this year’s songs seems to be pastiche and this song is no different. Remember all those solemn Israeli ballads back in the 1980s & 90s? Well, take those add on Niamh Kavanagh’s staging and you have this year’s Israeli entry. Well-performed, but a touch dull. Surprisingly, one of the minds behind this song is Dana International.
- Latvia: There is comedy, there is inanity, and both are subjective. In my view, Dustin is the former, and The Pirates of the Sea are the latter. It’s the national final performance, and boy, does this look like they are trying to mimic Ruslana! The main problem is just that Wild Dances was engaging with a touch of menace about it. Wolves of the Sea, however, looks like something that Rednex would come up with if they were asked to appear on children’s television. Blech.
- Lithuania: National final performance. Jerominas tries out for the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar. Unfortunately, he seems to forget that Judas actually has the more interesting numbers in that show. (Jesus comes across as some whiny hippie who just lets things happen to him.) Jerominus also fails to bring the crazy, which is the only way I could tolerate this song. Next!
- Malta: I know that IBA is always cash-strapped, so they get an excuse, but why can’t Latvia & Lithuania kick in some money for proper videos, especially when ickle Malta manages to always come up with impressive visual stunners for their MOR entries. Vodka, however, is actually a cut above the usual Maltese milquetoast. The video starts out like an espionage film with Morena as the star. When the song actually starts, it becomes like Benny Hill does James Bond with Morena as the sexy spy eluding her clueless pursuers with a happy-go-lucky synthesiser accompaniment. Not too shabby.
- Moldova: National final performance. TVM is cash-strapped, so we’ll cut them some slack. Musically, this is quite pleasing. Lyrically and performance-wise, it’s a sheer mess. Geta appears to be singing in English, but her pronunciation is very mangled. Meanwhile, her backing performers play musical chairs and act oblivious to the point of blowing bubbles and talking on their mobiles. Is this theatre of the absurd?
- Montenegro: Attention LTV & LRTV, even Montenegro has a proper video! That said, Montenegro–again–thinks that 80s pop-rock is due for a comeback, because this looks like some random Journey or Foreigner video. Stefan has rickets in front of old buildings while a band plays in the background and trashy women look on between lolling about in bed wearing lingerie. Perhaps if I go to Montenegro, I’ll magically turn into a child again since it seems to be perpetually 1987 there. (The man is wearing a sweater vest, people! A sweater vest!)
- Netherlands: Speaking of acting like a child, the Dutch preview video is all about Hind doing just that. She cavorts around a playroom, kicking big balls, having ice cream, and playing with her pigtails. Right before things become a little too uncomfortable, the video switches to Hind just singing the song (thank god). The song itself is not too bad, but not all that spectacular. That said, it may very well take the Dutch into the final based on the “middle always rises to the top” theory.
- Norway: National final performance, the song starts out like a ballad then becomes mildly midtempo R&B. That is somewhat of a relief, as it becomes clearly evident that Maria will not bring the crazy. This song is as close as we will get this year to acknowledging the success of Amy Winehouse & Co., but as I mentioned before, Maria is not going to bring the crazy. In fact, she smiles while singing lyrics that would suggest something along the lines of a grimace. Perhaps she is bringing the crazy then. Another candidate for “middle rising to the top.”
- Poland: With a name like Isis Gee, one would think she’d sing some big house song or something thrash rock. Nope, it’s another ballad. Isis is very pretty, very buxom, and very tan. She kind of looks like a toned-down version of Jordan, actually. The video appears to be all about Isis imagining/remembering her wedding day. If the US ever entered a Eurovision-style contest, this would be our entry, because this bland stuff sells by the bucketloads here. Isis does not bring the crazy, but she does bring some slight diva-ness. The ballad freaks will love it.
- Portugal: National final performance. Babic is written all over this staging even if he actually isn’t in it (dramatic poses by the backing singers, et. al). The styling and performance however, is essentially the same as Andorra’s quite impressive 2006 entry, although Vania does not even come close to attacking the stage like Jenny did. Impressive overall, and might get a very good reception on the scoring board. Vania, sadly, never fully brings the crazy though. (Did no one take notes from La Vissi in 2006?)
- Romania: We’re seaside. Vlad (I’m assuming the man’s name is Vlad, but you can never be too certain) gestures dramatically at a seashell. Nico (I’m assuming that’s Nico) then appears and gestures dramatically at Vlad. She is also dressed like she just left some East Village night club…in 1984, especially when she’s taunting a bunch of clocks with her razor-like hand gestures. (Are Romanian beaches also garbage dumps? Inquiring tourists want to know.) Believe it or not, these two actually bring some degree of crazy: Nico is going batshit and Vlad is busy trying to use his puppy-dog eyes and soft features to calm her down. The fact that they are clearly not in beach gear and are accompanied by a sizable orchestra at the beach, indicates that crazy truly has arrived. Therefore, I like it. A lot. I certainly wasn’t expecting to either.
- Russia: National final performance. Even with Timbaland producing, this song never manages to be either: a) catchy, b) interesting. Dima (complete with scruff and sans mullet) looks like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. What is this car that Dima sees? Is it that he has lost control of his career? Himself? Does he feel bad about voting for Putin mk. II? Just what is going on in his mind? (Answer: Pout. Blink. Pout. Blink.) By the way, his pronunciation actually sounds worse than it did in 2006. Unfortunately, this will score highly, because pouting and preening always do well, and Dima will probably be drawn and quartered if he doesn’t reach the final.
Top 3 Preview Videos for this round:
There’s a bit of a gulf between Romania & Ireland, but Malta & Romania are very close.
Next up: The remaining entries, including the inanity that is this year’s Spanish & Swedish entries, and the coolness that is this year’s British, Sanmarinese, Turkish, and Ukrainian entries.