Tuesday 30 April 2013

The Big Review (27) Armenia

After Armenia's somewhat controversial, albeit unsurprising withdrawal from Eurovision last year, they're back. I thought after their nemesis Azerbaijan won and hosted Eurovision that they would pull out all the stops and try to win the contest. Judging from the national final it appears that this is not the case. He has an impressive monobrow but that's about it. Looks like another year without Armenia in the Eurovision final.

Qualifying: No

The Big Review (26) Israel

I love hearing songs in Hebrew and on paper I should love this big belting ballad from Israel. However I simply don't. This is pure dirge. The plunging neckline doesn't help this either, nor does the wetsuit she appears to be wearing. I really want to like this however I can't find any redeeming features. Sorry to my Israeli friends but it looks like another year in the semis for you and deservedly so.

Qualifying: No

The Big Review (25) Greece

Despite the desperate economic situation in Greece, they continue to enter Eurovision. The Greek model for participating in Eurovision is an interesting one, they've managed to secure private funds and sponsorship so that the Greek flag flies proudly on the Eurovision stage. Absence from the contest would arguably consolidate the image of Greece as a poor relative in the EU family. Greece, like Azerbaijan, know how to "do" Eurovision and have never missed a final since the current semi-final format was introduced. Their fate has arguably been boosted by a strong diaspora vote as well. However, credit to the Greeks, they've put their big stars in with catchy songs and been rewarded. "Alcohol Is Free" is their song for 2013. Interesting title at a time when Greece continue to face austerity and the rest of Europe is considering introducing a minimum price for alcohol. This is a fun, catchy song and I'm sure that after paying the Swedish prices for booze, many will be wishing that alcohol was indeed free! I think this will do very well, certainly a top ten placing in the final and perhaps even better... The question is, will Aunty Angela allow them to host Eurovision should they win? Oh and the boys in the kilts get my vote!

Qualifying: Yes

The Big Review (24) Iceland

Iceland, a country that usually always hosts a good party during Eurovision week, and has entered some pretty decent tunes over the past decade. I really like this song, it's a nice ballad which builds and builds. The video is, quite frankly, a little gross - gutting fish? Why? I know fishing is a big deal over there and all that... I think this would have more chance if they had opted to perform in English however I respect them for sticking with their national language. It did Estonia no harm last year. I would love to experience a Eurovision in Iceland one year, as with Malta though, I don't think it will be there in 2014...

Qualifiying: Yes

The Bigf Review (23) Bulgaria

Bulgaria only started entering Eurovision in 2005 and haven't had the best of luck, qualifying only once, in 2007, with the same duo who are representing them this year. Elitsa and Stoyan's song this year is in a similar vein to their previous entry, "Water", although I have to say, I don't think it's anywhere near as good. I actually find this slightly irritating. They're singing about champions apparently, I can't help thinking of mushrooms, funny ones at that. I can't see this reaching the final, although they came 11th last year so who knows?

Qualifying: No

The Big Review (22) Malta

Let's hear it for plucky little Malta, a country so enthusiastic about Eurovision despite some very mixed fortunes. I loved the quirkiness of this when I first heard. Whilst it's not my favourite song this year, it has charm and Gianluca, like Kurt last year, has charisma and I think it'll come across well on the night. Gianluca also has a good back story - he's just qualified as a doctor (a real one, unlike me!) I would dearly love Malta to win one year. I'm not sure 2013 will be their year however some are tipping this as a possible dark horse. I don't think it will disgrace the Maltese and should easily provide them with a place in the final again.

Qualifying: Yes

Monday 29 April 2013

The Big Review (21) Finland

Eurovision is a funny old world. When I heard this for the first time I really didn't like it. Far too Katy Perry and I found it all a little bit irritating. Having seen it live at the London Eurovision Preview Party, I now love it! It's catchy, well-performed and the ode to equal marriage is inspired. I think this could be a potential dark horse. If it gets a good draw, after the many ballads...

Qualifying: Yes

The Big Review (20) Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan know how to do Eurovision. They know what works, they have a loyal voting base and will probably always qualify. Farid is a good singer and he's pretty easy on the eye too which always helps. "Hold Me" is a fairly standard ballad but it's well-performed and catchy. With no Turkey this year, I expect Azerbaijan to mop up some of their votes and can see the juries going for this too. Baku 2012 was a year to remember and despite the serious questions it raised, I would have no problem returning there. I think a top 5 for this is not out of the question.

Qualifying: Yes

The Big Review (19) FYR Macedonia

After the class act that was Kaliopi last year, FYR Macedonia have opted for something a little different. This is bonkers and I love it! The female vocalist, Esma, makes this for me. The song itself is a tad dull but the memorable performance from Esma gives this a much-needed boost and for that reason I can see this getting a slot in the final. Stranger things have happened.

Qualifying: Yes

The Big Review (18) San Marino

She's back! When it was announced that Valentina Monetta was representing San Marino again there was speculation as to which social network she would pay homage to. My money was on Grindr! The rumours that Lys Assia was flying the flag for the small country proved to be wrong. This song couldn't be further from "The Social Network Song" from 2012. "Crisalide" is a belting ballad which builds for two minutes and then goes all up-tempo towards the end. Initially I thought it took away from the power of the song but having seen it live, it seems to work well. Valentina can really sing, and perform. This surely San Marino's best chance to qualify to the final. Of course Mr Siegel is still involved but this time, he's forgiven.

Qualifying: Yes

The Big Review (17) Latvia

After the Beautiful Song from Latvia last year they enter something which, well, isn't. I like the energy of this song and think it's a good opener for the second semi-final. However it doesn't really go anywhere after the first chorus. Still, it's not bad, it's just not great either. I think it will be another year without Latvia in the final, particularly since this semi is seen as the stronger one by many.

Qualifying: No

Thursday 18 April 2013

The Big Review (16) Serbia

Since their debut and victory in 2007 (well sort of in 2004) Serbia have proved that they know how to "do" Eurovision. Last year they sent the very classy Zelkjo Joksimovic. This year they've opted for something a little, well, less classy. Moje 3 look like girls who know how to have a good time. Their song translates as "love is everywhere". I'm sure it is! When I first saw this I was aghast at how trashy it was, however, I have now grown to love this. I'm not sure if the juries will though and with only a few neighbours to count on, it looks like Serbia might just miss out on a place in the final this year.

Qualifying: No

The Big Review (15) Belgium

When I first heard this song I thought it was absolutely dire. The singer's vocals were ropey to say the least and I was convinced that Belgium would remain in the semis for the third consecutive year. It turns out that their singer, Roberto, actually has a decent voice. Perhaps forcing him to sing in the national final at 10am wasn't the best idea that the Belgians had. The studio version of this song is much improved, it builds nicely, he's easy on the eye - something for the girls and gays and I can see this qualifying! I doubt it'll trouble the top 15 in the final but coming straight after Cyprus it stands out.

Qualifying: Yes!

The Big Review (14) Cyprus

Cyrpus nearly never made it to Eurovision this year. It was touch and go whether or not the national broadcaster, CyBC, could afford to enter the contest in 2013. Alas all was resolved and here they are. This is a pleasant ballad and it's well performed but really does go nowhere. A stark difference to the superb stomper that was La La Love in 2012. The irony is that this song translates as "if you remember me", something that I don't think the televoters or juries will do, Cyprus will struggle to qualify this year, which is a shame. Cyprus are another country that I'd love to see win Eurovision, a sunshine contest! Certainly not going to happen this year...

Qualifying: No

Wednesday 17 April 2013

The Big Review (13) Ireland

Ireland is the reigning Eurovision champion with 7 victories to date. Having qualified for the last three contests with a bit of help from Niamh Kavanagh and Jedward, hopes are high that Ryan Dolan will take them to the final again this year. The song itself is quite repetitive and not particularly original. That said, this semi-final is short on uptempo numbers, as is the contest in general this year. I can see this qualifying with ease. Ryan is a good singer, the song is catchy and it might just take Ireland back into the top ten this year. I would dearly love it if they won although I can only imagine the carnage of the parties if OGAE Ireland's preview party is anything to go by! Watch out for Linda Martin and Daniel O'Donnell in the video!

Qualifying: Yes

The Big Review (12) Moldova

Moldova is an interesting country in Eurovision, they're very hit and miss. Their debut in 2005 was a hit and their follow-up in 2006 was a big miss. Last year's song was a cracking little ditty and I even thought it was going to win the whole thing at one point (I know, I had obviously listened to the songs too many times to remain objective!) This year is a bit of a miss for me. I don't like Aliona's voice for a start nor do I like the song. Even having the lovely Pascha on piano doesn't help this. It all comes across as rather messy. Good use of the frock though, very Azerbaijan 2012! I would dearly love Moldova to win one day, it would be fascinating if the contest was staged in what is a very problematic country, economically and politically (it's the poorest country in Europe and has seen massive civil unrest in Transnistria). With Romania unable to vote in this semi-final, I think it's safe to say that it won't be Chisinau 2014!

Qualifying: No

The Big Review (11) Belarus

This is what this semi final was needing - a bit of oompf! "Solayoh" might not be the best in terms of lyrics but it's catchy and Alyona attacks this and sells it really well. What's not to like? Topless (male) dancers, writhing, bum shaking; Belarus do trash like nobody else! Of course, this wasn't the original choice for Belarus, in typical fashion the song was switched. You might expect nothing less from "Europe's last dictatorship" - they need to keep the Dear Leader happy! Apparently Mr President takes an interest in Eurovision and Belarus' entries. I dare say that if the contest ever heads to Minsk, he'll be there waving a flag in the audience! In what is quite a subdued semi-final this really stands out. I can see this easily qualifying and may give the Belarussians their best result to date.

Qualifying: Yes

The Big Review (10) Lithuania

Lithuania have had mixed fortunes in Eurovision, from their debut in 1994 which suffered the humiliation of the dreaded nul points, to their surprise qualification in 2011 and 2012. Their song this year, "Something" definitely has something about it; something of the night! Andrius is a good performer but the eyebrow thing is just downright creepy! The song reminds me of an album track from The Killers. It's a credible entry but I can't see it picking up too many votes somehow. I hope I'm wrong as I'd like to see this in the final but at the minute I can't quite see it happening.

Qualifiying: No (just missing out)

Tuesday 16 April 2013

The Big Review (9) Montenegro

For once Montenegro aren't opening their semi-final! This is a pretty brave choice, although that's not saying much. It will be interesting to see how this is performed on the night. The male rapping reminds me of "Euro Neuro" from last year. It's essentially a remixed version of that with a female vocalist thrown in for good measure. I can't see this doing anything and it looks like we'll have to wait another year before Montenegro grace the Eurovision stage for the final.

Qualifying: No

The Big Review (8) Netherlands

Netherlands have a bit of a depressing history when it comes to modern Eurovision. The country that used to dominate in the early days have missed every single final since 2004. Last year they were widely tipped to qualify only to narrowly miss out on a place amongst the 26 finalists. This year they've chosen the popular rock chick Anouk in the hope that she'll be able to reverse their fortunes. "Birds" is a haunting, highly original piece of music. It reminds me of something from the 1940s, it's daring and a brave choice. Clearly more conventional pop songs haven't worked for them so they're going a bit left-field this year. It might just work. I think this will get a big jury vote and even though the public might not go for it, this might just sneak through. I hope they do, it'll be good to see them back in the final after a long absence. Netherlands are one of the favourites to win the entire contest. I can't see that happening, I can see them having something to celebrate this year though. Fingers crossed for Nederland!

Qualifying: Yes (just!)

The Big Review (7) Ukraine

Ukraine, like Russia, have been highly successful in the Eurovision Song Contest. Ukraine won Eurovision with their second ever entry and have continued to perform strongly coming second in both 2007 and 2008, qualifying to every single final since the semi-finals were introduced. Their offering for 2013, "Gravity" resembles something from a Disney cartoon. The video is bizarre and features amongst other things, unicorns. One thing Ukraine know how to do is sell a song, even weak ones. The singer, Zlata, has a good voice and isn't afraid to use it. Given a good draw I see this doing very well indeed. I quite fancy a trip to Kyiv next year!

Qualifying: Yes

Monday 15 April 2013

The Big Review (6) Russia

Russia is one of the most successful countries in modern Eurovision. Arguably they've been helped along the way by the sizaeable Russian diaspora in the former Soviet states too. However credit must be given to the Russians, they just know what works. The Russian grannies were the big story last year and whilst this year isn't particularly newsworthy, it's a very strong ballad from Mother Russia. The singer, Dina, is an excellent vocalist and indeed she won The Voice in Russia last year. "What If" is a pretty standard Eurovision ballad, with a couple of cliches thrown in for good measure. It's catchy, she can sing and they know how to stage a song. Having said that, perhaps the best thing about this entry is the video. I don't think it was meant to be intended as a parody, it's hilarious. Thanks to my good friend Ben, I can't help but thinking that someone is doing something to the young blonde lad at 0:58. As the song climaxes (so does the boy!) the crowd all hold hands in unity. That said, I think St Petersburg or Sochi 2014 are distinct possibilities. Discount this at your peril. 

Qualifying: Yes

The Big Review (5) Denmark

After that dirge they entered last year, this is a pleasant, catchy song. It's the current favourite to win. I just don't get it. What's it even about? The tin whistle thing is so over, very 1995. That greasy hair could do with a wash too. I imagine with several thousand Danes coming over to support this, the roar in the hall will be immense. I just find it a little old fashioned and bland. Not a bad song but surely there are more deserving, contemporary winners? Special congratulations do go to Danish TV though who, yet again, organised a superb national final. Will there be only tear drops left at the end of the voting?

Qualifying: Yes

The Big Review (4) Croatia

Croatia used to be one of my very favourite countries when it comes to Eurovision and yet over the past decade they've gone off the boil for me. Their offering this year, from Klapa s Mora, Croatia's own version of Il Divo, is pretty pleasant but that's about it. Still, I'm pleased that they've continued to sing about 'ljubavi' - a word which has featured in most of their songs since 1993! It means love. If this fails to qualify there will be no love lost here though, I don't get the klapa. Still, it's well performed and I think the juries will go for it along with their neighbours. 

Qualifying: Yes

Friday 12 April 2013

The Big Review (3) Slovenia

Slovenia haven't got the most distinguished record when it comes to the former Yugoslav countries in Eurovision. Last year they were widely tipped to qualify and yet failed and they have only qualified to the final twice since 2004. This year they've gone uptempo and in a year of ballads this should stand out, yet, somehow for m`e, it just misses out. As the verse builds there's the anticipation of a strong chorus which never really appears. Of course it depends on the staging but as it stands this sounds rather dated and desperate. I can't see the juries going for this unless the vocals are spot-on. Slovenia was always seen as the more western part of Yugoslavia, outside Tito's bubble and this has been reflected in the voting too with Slovenia missing out on those neighbourly votes. I can't see this qualifying although stranger things have happened...

Qualifying: No

The Big Review (2) Estonia

Eestimaa - perhaps my favourite country in Eurovision or indeed the world (after Scotland of course!) I love most of Estonia's entries in Eurovision. Since the launch of Eesti Laul in 2009 their fortunes in the contest have really turned around having qualified for 3 out of 4 contests. Eesti Laul is fresh, alternative and even daring. The big story this year was that of Winny Puuh. I really wanted them to win because it was just so off-the-wall and downright weird. Instead Estonia have opted to play it safe with a female ballad. As if we don't have enough of those this year! Still, this is a very nice song and Birgit is a very strong performer and an established name in her home country. I just can't help feeling that Estonia would have done better with something a little more edgy. I really hope they qualify and of course I'll be there with my Estonian flag as usual. Elagu Eesti!

Qualifying: Yes (although borderline)

Thursday 11 April 2013

The Big Review (1) Austria

Natália Kelly

I've never been a big fan of Austrian entires if I'm honest. When they stropped off a couple of years ago I can't say I missed them, or even noticed that they had gone. This year's effort isn't a bad one at all. It reminds me a little of KT Tunstall's "Suddenly I See". It will be interesting to see how Natália copes performing under pressure, she's only 18 and it won't be easy opening the show. Saying that, "Shine" is a good opener and it's pleasant enough.

Qualifier? Yes

The Big Review 2013

Over the next few weeks I'll be reviewing all 39 entries for the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest. This is intended to be a light-hearted look at the songs, and of course, these views are only my opinion and should therefore be taken with a large pinch of salt. I will attempt to predict which songs will qualify (I usually manage to get eight or so correct) but with such an open year there could be many surprises. I'll try and review a couple every day or so, a tough task but someone has to do it! Let me know your thoughts!