Friday 11 May 2012

Eurovision Song Contest 2012: The Finalists

Since 2000 the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Germany have all qualified automatically to the Eurovision Song Contest final. Italy were added to that list in 2011 so we now have a "Big Five". Some fans have stated that this is unfair since other countries have to go through the semi finals in order to perform on the Saturday night. Money talks though and the Big Five contribute the most in terms of financing the event and also have the largest audiences. It looks like this rule is here to stay for some time yet.

Of course there is the host country too - Azerbaijan - which means that this year there are six automatic qualifiers and twenty coming from the two semi finals. The 2012 Eurovision Song Contest is therefore the largest in terms of finalists since 2003, with 26 participants appearing on the Saturday night.

Here is my review of the six finalists of 2012:

 United Kingdom
"Love Will Set You Free" performed by Engelbert Humperdinck

Speculation surrounding who would represent the UK at Eurovision this year varied from the sublime to the ridiculous. Engelbert, in his mid 70s, has not had a top 20 hit since 1976. It would be fair to say that not many people saw Engelbert in the running for Eurovision! When the BBC announced that the UK representative was Engelbert Humperdinck (what a great name!) the fans were bitterly divided.

Personally speaking, I think this is a stroke of genius by the BBC. Never before for a UK entry has there been so much pre-contest publicity. The announcement was covered on ITV News (along with some sloppy reporting which stated that the UK came last in the contest in 2011). The BBC will get large viewing figures for Engelbert, Eurovision is first and foremost a television show. It's certainly got people talking and that can only be a good thing for the profile of the Eurovision Song Contest in the UK.

As for the song, it's a very simple, effective ballad. "Love Will Set You Free" was written by the team responsible for some of Adele and James Blunt's songs. It doesn't pretend to be something it's not either. There's no doubt that Engelbert will perform the socks off this song and I think the UK will end up on the left-hand side of the scoreboard. I think the juries will appreciate this and with Mr Humperdinck's following in Europe, it might do well indeed. A clever choice by the BBC and patriotism aside, this deserves to do well.

Predicted position in final: 8-12

"You and I" performed by Anggun

France have had mixed fortunes in recent years and despite being the big favourite to win Eurovision in 2011, it wasn't to be. This year they have opted for a catchy up-tempo number and a fiesty performer in Anggun. On first hearing I didn't think much of this but now that I've listening to it a few times I do like it a lot. I think the mixture of sounds might not appeal to everyone though. The video is interesting - apparently Anggun wanted to objectify men for a change - given the sexual orientation of the average Eurovision fan, I don't think there will be many in Baku who would take offence!

Predicted position in final: 16-20

"L'amore è femmina" performed by Nina Zilli  

Italy was the surprise of Eurovision in 2011. Nobody expected them to finish in second place! What a welcome return to the contest after 14 years. After watching San Remo this year, it is clear that Eurovision was an afterthrought to RAI however that does not take away from what is a quality song. Nina is very Amy Winehouse and the song is in her style too. She performs it with grace, elegance and ease. In the fan preview parties this has scored highly and I think it's one to watch. Rome 2013? That sounds good to me!

Predicted position in final: 1-4

"When The Music Dies" performed by Sabina Babayeva

Azerbaijan, the home team. This is a nice song albeit not the most cheery! Sabina has a good voice and performs well. I'm just not sure if it's instant enough to win Eurovision again. I think it'll be in the top 10, as they have been ever since they started entering Eurovision in 2008. I fully expect that the hometown applause for this will be deafening - it's always my favourite part of Eurovision, the atmosphere for the home team is always awesome and I look forward to experiencing that in Baku this year!

Predicted position in final: 8-12

"Quédate Conmigo" performed by Pastora Soler

If Sweden is the fan favourite for an uptempo number, this is the equivalent in ballad form. Initially this passed me by however, after a few listens, this I think this is stunning. Pastora has an incredible voice and if she manages to pull off those notes on the night (which I think she will) this could do very well indeed. I can see the juries lapping this up but will the public?

Predicted position in final: 6-10

"Standing Still" performed by Roman Lob

After Germany's victory in Eurovision 2010 they have really upped their game and this year is no exception. "Standing Still" is a simple ballad which builds nicely, it's well-performed by a handsome singer. I can see this doing well with both juries and public. The UK can also claim some of the credit for this too since British musician Jamie Cullum wrote it!

Predicted position in final: 5-2

Overall, a very strong showing from the Big Five and host country Azerbaijan. If pressed for a winner though, I'd say Italy is in the running. A trip to Rome next year would be very pleasing to many I'm sure.

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