Eurovision 2011 Preview: Italy and Spain

Time for our penultimate preview of this year’s Eurovision hopefuls. Starting with Italy, who make their return to the contest after an absence of fourteen years. Having been present at every Eurovision from the start until 1980, Italy then started being increasingly sporadic due to supposed national indifference. When they could be bothered to send someone, that person usually did well – in particular Toto Cutugno, who won in 1990, and then co-hosted the following year, his irritating “knockabout” style paving the way for Roberto Benigni (for this, no thanks). But since 1997, there’s been silence from the Italians – until now. Here then is Raphael Gualazzi with Madness of Love. Raphael would appear to be Italy’s answer to Jamie Cullum (only taller and slightly better-looking), his piano-playing intercut with what looks like a remake of the old Renault ads where Papa and Nicole finally give in to incestuous impulses:

It’s good to have them back, anyway, and they have reasonable odds to finish Top 10. Wonder if Luxembourg can be persuaded to make a return next year? Next today is the Spanish entry. Spain haven’t missed a contest since they debuted in 1961 (only the UK can boast a longer unbroken run), but in recent years they’ve come to look as though they’re doing little more than making up the numbers in the final – no Top 10 finish since 2004, and the last time they seriously challenged for the crown was in 1995. Not even a stage invasion that led to it being performed twice could save last year’s entry from mid-table mediocrity. Maybe this year will be their return to form (although odds of 150-1 suggest otherwise). Here, anyway, is Lucía Pérez with Que me quiten lo bailao, a pleasant mix of flamenco and FM pop, but sadly unlikely to trouble the big hitters:

So now it’s time for the classic corner. First up is the Spanish classic, and we go back to 1990. The first song to be performed in Eurovision in that decade was Azucar Moreno with Bandido, the country’s second showcasing of flamenco, and a brave move given the nul points humiliation visited upon Remedios Amaya seven years previously. Thankfully, and despite a technical hitch that led to a false start, this flamenco house number finished a very strong 5th:

I suspect it would have done better still had it not been for that rather sudden finish. Talking of finishes, today’s preview ends with the classic Italian entry. 1990 was the year Italy won for the second time, but I’m not going to foist Toto upon you all. Instead, we’re going all the way back to 1964 and Italy’s first victory. It came courtesy of Gigliola Cinquetti singing Non ho l’età. Given she was only 15 at the time, and the song’s title translates as I’m Not Old Enough, it’s a wonder this didn’t get banned. So ignore, if you can, the dodgy subtext, and enjoy a melodramatic 1960s love song Italian style:

Now guess which British singer covered that? Dusty Springfield, maybe? You’d think. But no. Vera Lynn. Seriously. You can’t say Eurovision isn’t full of surprises. And now we’ve nearly reached the end of our preview. Just one more song to go and it’s the United Kingdom entry – I think you probably already know my feelings about this effort, but I’ll be previewing it tomorrow and doing an overall round-up of this year’s songs. Plus, of course, the best United Kingdom Eurovision entry ever. See you then!

Chris x


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