Eurovision 2011 Preview – Poland and Norway

Yes, it’s that time of year again. With the contest just over five weeks away it’s time to start previewing the 43 songs that are being entered in this contest. Germany are hosting, Italy are back after a self-imposed 14-year exile, and the United Kingdom have done an internal selection and come up with Blue and a thoroughly forgettable number. Which we’ll come to after all the others.

Now, I was planning on doing the haikus as I’d done for the last couple of years. However, I just watched the Polish entry and it was so devoid of anything remarkable sonically or visually that I’d be hard pressed to make seventeen syllables about it even remotely entertaining or striking. So instead each entry this year is going to have a brief introduction. Nevertheless, I still wanted to do something a bit different rather than an imitation of those preview programmes they used to have on BBC1 on the two Sundays leading up to Eurovision. So, each preview post will feature not only a couple of entries for this year, but also a classic entry from at least one of the featured countries, some more well-known than others. A Twitter friend of mine, Liam (@doktorb), does an occasional series of “lost” Eurovision classics, so I hope he’ll forgive me for nicking his idea.

As with last year I’m doing the previews in the order in which the countries have been drawn for the two semi-finals (with the Big Five who are straight through to the final going last). So we start with the first two entries in the first semi-final.

First up are Poland. Poland have struggled a bit ever since the semi-final stage was introduced in 2004. Indeed, they’ve only managed to qualify for the final once in the last 6 years, and when they managed that (in 2008), they finished second-last on the big night. Otherwise they tend to narrowly miss out on a place in the final, and are yet to come anywhere close to emulating the success of their 1994 debut appearance, when they were runners-up. Whether they’ll rectify this with the first of what, I suspect, will be a number of Gaga/Rihanna wannabes this year remains to be seen, but I somehow doubt it as there’s not a lot here that’s memorable, as I remarked earlier. Anyway, here’s Magdalena Tul with Jestem:

Next are Norway, who two years ago finally killed off all those lingering nul points jokes by romping home with the biggest winning score and margin ever, courtesy of Alexander Rybak. However, as hosts last year they entered a singer who bellowed off-key for three minutes and finished well down the table. This year, the Norwegian public voted through Stella Mwanga singing Haba Haba, a number performed partly in Swahili, and whose singer isn’t trying to be Gaga or Rihanna. For that reason, it should stand out. Rather shamefully, and despite a successful series of entries from France in the early 1990s, Eurovision still doesn’t see many entries that reflect the rich cultural and ethnic mix created by immigration. Oh, and between now and 10 May, the two blokes on either end really need to try and learn how to dance in time with everyone else:

Right, the contest is underway, so now it’s time to start the companion series revisiting some of these countries’ past glories. As I mentioned earlier, Poland have never managed to live up to their debut Eurovision showing in 1994, when they finished runners-up to a pair of ageing Irish rockers droning on about the 50s (and they wonder why the juries were temporarily abolished a few years later). So here it is, Edyta Gorniak with a powerful vocal (and a very fetching nightie) singing To Nie Ja:

Time now for a classic Norwegian entry. This one dates from 1984 and sees a pair of Adam Ant fans called Dollie de Luxe singing Lenge Leve Livet. I’ve chosen this promo clip rather than their actual Eurovision performance as the sound quality is better (plus you get Finnish subtitles). What makes this really special is the Phoenix Nights-esque no-frills set-up with the synthesiser at the side, which the one in the headband uses in one of the most unconvincing keyboard-playing mimes ever. Nevertheless, this is actually a very decent bit of synthpop which only finished 17th that year but is, I would dare to venture, superior to the effort performed by another female duo that gave Norway their maiden victory the following year:

Coming next, a couple of more recent additions to the Eurovision family strut their stuff…

Chris x

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