>It is Preview Review time!
As always the rule here is give it 60 seconds unless the video is extremely good. Given the selection this year, I don’t think I’ll be going past the 60 second mark often.
On with the show!
Slovenia : Frequent visitors here during Eurovision season might notice that I tend to preface every Slovenian entry with the statement, “Alya would’ve done better.” I still hold true to that belief this year, even though her EMA entry was one of her weakest musically (performance-wise it was excellent). Anyway, it’s the EMA performance of Quartissimo & Martina–given the economic climate I won’t be that hard on the broadcasters for not doing original videos. It’s absurdly simple in some respects. Quartissimo plays behind 4 screens, then they step through them. Martina (wearing a cloak) sways and tries to look for want of a better term…fierce. Since I’ve seen the whole thing previously, I know she eventually comes out from the screen and sings the scant few lyrics of the song. I don’t really comprehend how this won, but I will say that Quartissimo are quite handsome and Martina does do a lot with very little. It could go either way in Moscow, but unlike the other infamous nearly all instrumental Eurovision entry, this doesn’t sound like a funeral dirge.
Russia : National final performance. Anastasia does her best Greek tragedy impression. (I’m thinking Cassandra.) It’s hard to tell whether she is nervous or tripping off of some substance. She keeps on swinging back and forth mumbling until the chorus. Kudos to the Russians for sparing us further butchering of the English language this year, but usch, should a song praising one’s mother sound like something sung in a beer hall? Goodwill as hosts or intimidation might be the only source of Russian points this year.
Armenia: First original video!!!! Inga & Anush start out in very stylised (and I’m assuming national folk) outfits with lots of fur in front of a banner, and then things get very trippy: flashing lights, men in fur hats playing instruments, mandalas. We like very much. When the singing starts, the sisters are superimposed onto ever changing scenes that look very much like the sets from traditional Japanese drama. Interspersed between shots are a group of disembodied hands clapping around a stylised Sun. Then we get a bit of modernity as sped-up shots of people running into a studio and a highway are shown during the lyric “so just dance, sister.” (Well, the title does translate to “a new dance.”) And dance they do. It looks very Bollywood, and it does work. Good job. I think they’re a dark horse for top 5, and qualification should be easy.
Macedonia: And we go from sublime to subpar. National final performance. Imagine it’s 1984 or 85, you’re at a fairground, and you’re watching a B or C-grade mainstream rock band. There’s lots of poodle hair and flashing lights. Now imagine they are singing in Macedonian. Voila, you have this year’s Macedonian entry. The main thing that’s a problem here is that they are coming across as being serious, which makes it very campy. Not quite Billy Squire campy, but close. I don’t think this will be seen on the 16th. It also makes me miss the Makedonski Reggaeton of the past few years.
Finland: Original video! A man (possibly homeless) is lying on the street while cars pass him by. Oh, it’s the group’s rapper. And apparently the singers are homeless as well, and singing around a garbage fire. It’s rather interesting juxtaposing very static imagery with driving house music. I gather the idea here is to illustrate that someone has “lost control” of one’s life, due to something (drugs? alcohol? overdosing on bpm?). Deep, and a good effort. I reckon Finland makes it to the final again, with a very good placing to boot.
Germany: Alex Swings, Oscar Sings is the daft name for a duo, so I’ll just call them AsOs. Original video! Os tries to look swarthy in “Europe, 2009,” while standing beside a wall–some might say given the fact that his shirt is unbuttoned to his sternum that he’s basically plying his wares. Meanwhile, As (I’m assuming) is driving around in a vintage convertible looking a bit like he’s keen on those Os wares. Realising an opportunity when he sees one, Os gladly jumps in the car and apparently drive from Catalunya to Marseille. (As must be flush with Euros, because I don’t think Os “comes” cheap.) Next thing you know, Os is performing in some theatre (shirt now completely open) while As plays the piano, accompanied by the standard jazz background musicians. Then it’s on the road again to Italy, which looks suspiciously similar to Catalunya. Sadly, that’s the minute mark and the ambiguously gay adventures of AsOs come to an end for me. The song? I don’t know. It’s a bit bland and twee, but that is not a bad thing for a family-friendly show like Eurovision where the middle always rises to the top. I’ll say they’ll do better than No Angels and leave it at that.
Iceland: National final performance. (I’m even shocked that they’re even participating with all the economic woes they’ve gone through.) This year’s Icelandic entry totally passed me by, and now I know why. Yohanna sings a bland ballad while a cellist moodily plays in the background. It is very clear that Yohanna is too composed and contained to bring the crazy like Anastasia does. She is very pretty and has a pleasant voice, and were this 1993 and the Irish entry, I’d say put your money on this. Since it is 2009, I’d say only being picked as the jury favourite might save Iceland from fading away this year.
Lithuania: National final “performance.” I’m putting that in quotation marks because he certainly sang in Lithuanian at the final, but the English version has been dubbed over that, and the close-ups and quick cuts show that some new footage has been spliced in. Here’s another one that nearly didn’t make it to Pooty-poot’s Springtime sing-a-long due to monetary constraints. (Although I would truly like to know how a broadcaster can do a nearly two month long selection, but find it hard to foot the bill to send the winner to the country right next door?) Anyway, Sasha plays patiently at the piano and sings about being a child. Cut in between close ups are images of a mother or mother figure and a child, and the adult is being rather abusive, or at least short with the child. More Sasha, and then an image with a sad looking child with the words “Stop The Violence” superimposed on top of him. Meanwhile, during the chorus Sasha seems to repeat the word “love,” while going completely incomprehensible with the other lyrics. Huh? This is an anti-child abuse song? It certainly is being very vague in the lyric department if that’s the case. I get that meaning from the Lithuanian version, but this message is totally lost in what I’m assuming is the final version. Perhaps the jury might save it, but the message is totally lost. It’s a shame since Sasha is relatively good as a performer.
Hungary: Original video. The Hungarians are very wise these days in respect to picking their entry. They look at a selection from the local charts, pick one that meets the Eurovision entry criteria, and ask the artist if they want to do it. It just so happened that this year it took them three times to get it right, but it was worth the wait. Apparently the swarthy man doing the honours this year is called Zoli Adok and not Adok Zoli, which to the non-Magyar majority watching the show means very little, but it’s a funny little thing since the fan world had been calling him Adok Zoli since he was selected. I’ll just call him ZA. It’s a very sleek and futuristic video ZA has. He starts out floating in some future city while a serene-looking blonde pushes him somewhere. Meanwhile, blue and white clad dancers do their impression of You Can’t Win from The Wiz. ZA looks steamily at the camera while the dancers continue to flail all over the place. And all of a sudden we’re in some sort of underground 1950s dance club, where a woman in a poodle skirt bounces around happily while surrounded by a bunch of men in tank tops and doo rags. Clearly this video and the song are not taking themselves seriously. Thank god for that. This becomes extremely apparent when ZA & company dance around in sailor outfits. I have to say if they can bring this sort of fun and fluff atmosphere onstage, then Hungary is going to be a dark horse for the win this year. I’m talking Black Beauty in cave at Midnight dark. I’d put money on it.
Denmark : Original video. I feel for Denmark, I truly do. They manage to throw together a national selection that is fun without filler, and no one gives them much credit because of they’re all watching the Norwegians and Swedes. Perhaps part of the reason is that the Danes keep picking daft entries. This year it’s [Niels] Brinck with a song by Ronan Keating. Brinck happens to look shockingly like Il Keating. He also sings like him too. The latter is not a good thing in my book as I think Ronan Keating’s singing voice sounds like cow slowly dying, but that’s just my personal view. Anyway, the video is rather simple in concept: close up of Brinck/pretty field of flowers/Brinck singing and playing guitar/waves crashing/close up of Brinck, and so on and so forth with a pretty girl and Brinck’s band added in to shake things up. Well, neither the video nor the song grab me and I can’t really see people (jury and non) voting for it. It’s just bland platitudes about love sung in a nasal voice.
Belgium: Original video, mostly because the Walloons haven’t had a national final in aeons. I do not know much about the Walloon music scene, but surely they can do better than Copycat, which apparently is now the name of the group and the song. It’s Elvis pastiche as imagined by David Lynch. Now that would be a great concept to explore, but not for 3 minutes on a stage in Russia. The video however is rather intriguing: Patrick looks like a pale 1950’s Elvis gone to seed, the backing singers are dressed in day-glo red with garish makeup, and the men on bass and guitar look like they’d rather be traveling around on AsOs’s Ambiguously Gay European Tour. To make matters even more bizarre, there is an animated cat. This cat is not as mangy as 1990’s Eurocat, in fact he looks like he ate Eurocat and several other entries from 1990. This cat spends the first 30 seconds of the song adjusting his pompadour, while Patrick & Co. are shuffled off to the side of the screen. Then we get something that I was afraid we’d see: an extreme close up of Patrick. Good god, they made him look like death warmed over. Fortunately it’s brief as we get to see Patrick’s dance moves. (The lyric “he’s too fat to rock and roll,” does elicit a chuckle out of me after seeing Patrick dance. Not that Patrick is overweight, but because what he’s doing is not “rocking and rolling” to my eyes.) This is not going to make it at all. I am continually amazed that RTBF doesn’t do the smart thing and just revive Technotronic for a few months to do their entry.
Azerbaijan: Original video, which makes sense since there was no Azeri final. How’s this for alliteration? AySel & Arash sing the Azeri song “Always.” We see two flames of fire and then proceed to watch Madonna’s video for Human Nature being liberally ripped off sans bondage imagery. I’m sorry, but that’s what this video pretty much is, AySel & Arash singing happily along while black-clad dancers do a G-rated version of the choreography and imagery from Human Nature. Sure, there’s a bit of a running theme of AA being able breathe and shoot fire from their hands, but it’s basically Human Nature. The song on the other hand is Azeri Reggaeton with really generic lyrics. Quite frankly the only original thing here is the fact that this is that this is Azerbaijan’s entry for Eurovision, and since they already debuted last year, the whole “let’s vote for the debutant” factor is gone. They might make it, but given the line up of their semi-final (they are smack dab between ZA and Il Rouvas to boot), I doubt it.
Next post: Bosnia & Herzegovina manage to mash Franz Ferdinand with Lejla, Spain struts and shakes, there’s a Cypriot entry?, Estonia goes for redemption after Leto Svet, Malta sends the most successful Maltese entrant ever, that song which beat out Stay the Night for Sweden, medivial acid trips with a Bulgarian falsetto, Belarus inflicts their version of symphonic rock upon an unsuspecting public, Albania thinks a young girl singing about her potential psychological disorder is cute, the UK goes OTT with ALW, while The Netherlands is Simply Wet Wet Wet Camp, and France sends a singer with a song that is very descriptive and yet completely metaphorical at the same time, and I’m not talking about children going bird watching.