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Eurovision 2012 Preview Part 12 – Norway, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Lithuania

We’re getting near the end of our series of Eurovision previews – today we’ve got the last three countries who’ll be taking part in the second semi-final a week today. Today’s blog not only previews them, it also takes a look at who the bookies have got odds on making it through to next Saturday’s final. We’ll start the previews today with Norway. It’s been a funny few years for the Norwegians: in 2009, they won with a record score; then in 2010 as hosts they finished near the bottom in the final; and then last year, somewhat surprisingly, the failed to qualify from the semis. This year one suspects they’ll be back in the game, as they send Iranian-born singer Tooji, singing Stay. There’s a bit too much farty noise going on the background early on. There’s also an Eastern trill riff nicked direct from Beyonce’s Naughty Girl. Which of course quoted the late Donna Summer. So, in a way, topical.

Fundamentally it’s the sort of power pop that the Scandinavians specialise in, and I’d be very surprised not to see Tooji amongst the contenders in the final. The penultimate country performing next Thursday will be Bosnia and Herzegovina. They’ve done consistently well in recent years, coming sixth last year. This year they’ve sent Maya Sar (who played keyboard backing on Dino Merlin’s entry last year), performing Korake Ti Znam, or “I Know Your Steps” (which sounds like reassurance given by a professional to their celebrity partner on Strictly). In one of those deeply inscrutable music videos, Maya performs on her piano in a factory and on the back of a train, whilst a random bloke with a couple of donkeys wanders about with a giant treble clef. Like you do.

It’s a solid, and very 1990s-sounding, ballad – it’s placing near the end of the running order should give it an extra fillip when it comes to qualification. As for Maya herself, she’s done a lot of really good work in the fight against cervical cancer, which in my book makes her a very good egg indeed.

On to the 36th and final semi-finalist in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Lithuania. Lithuania still have only one Top 10 finish to their name, and that was with the joke entry We Are the Winners back in 2006. Since then, they’ve tended to alternate between not qualifying for the final, and qualifying, but finishing well down the running order. This year they’ll be pinning their hopes on Donatas Montvydas, or as he’s better known, Donny Montell. With a name that sounds like that of a 90s R&B artist, and the appearance of a 12-year-old, Donny spends the early part of this song (which keeps promising to turn into One Night Only, but doesn’t quite deliver) blindfolded. Because, you see, Love Is Blind.

There’s a decent disco number that never makes it out in that song. Frustrating, and again will need to rely heavily on its placing in the running order to make it through.

And that’s it for the semis. 36 countries previewed, of which 20 will make it through to the final. But which 20? You may well have formed your own opinions based on what you’ve seen and heard, but what do the bookies think? Well, currently the semi-final odds would suggest that the following countries will make it through:

1st Semi-Final – Denmark, Romania, Russia, Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Moldova, Cyprus and Albania, with a tight squeeze between Israel and Switzerland for the one remaining place

2nd Semi-Final – Sweden, Serbia, Norway, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Turkey, Estonia, Ukraine, Slovenia and Belarus, with a toss-up between Slovakia, Croatia and Macedonia as to who gets the other place.

Of course things rarely run to form, so expect one or two rank outsiders to win a place in the final (although possibly not San Marino).

But whilst we can’t be sure about twenty of this year’s finalists, we can be sure about the other six, as Azerbaijan and the “Big Five” – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – all have automatic places in the final. So for the last two parts of this year’s preview, we’ll be taking a look at their entries for this year, in the order in which they’ve been drawn. And that means next time we’ll have our own effort from Engelbert, plus France and Italy.

Chris x

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Review of 2010 Part 4: Top 10 songs

So we’ve counted down for 50 to 11 so far and we’ve seen and heard some seriously good stuff. Here’s a quick recap (please feel free to imagine Yellow Pearl playing in the background as John Peel and Janice Long intone the following):

50 Fionn Regan – Protection Racket
49 Human League – Night People
48 Hot Chip – Brothers
47 Marina and The Diamonds – Hollywood
46 British Sea Power – Can We Do It?
45 Crystal Castles Feat. Robert Smith – Not In Love
44 The Coral – 1000 Years
43 Jonsi – Go Do
42 I Am Kloot – Northern Skies
41 Patrick Wolf – Time Of My Life
40 Laura Marling – Rambling Man
39 Count and Sinden Feat. Mystery Jets – After Dark
38 Clinic – I’m Aware
37 John Grant Feat. Midlake – I Wanna Go To Marz
36 Zola Jesus – Night
35 Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep
34 Belle and Sebastian – I Didn’t See It Coming
33 Caribou – Odessa
32 Yeasayer – O.N.E.
31 Clogs Feat. Sufjan Stevens and Shara Worden – We Were Here
30 Sufjan Stevens – I Walked
29 School of Seven Bells – I L U
28 Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Bittersweet
27 She and Him – In The Sun
26 Scissor Sisters – Skin This Cat
25 Gorillaz – On Melancholy Hill
24 Cee Lo Green – Fuck You
23 Goldfrapp – Dreaming
22 Villagers – Becoming a Jackal
21 Rihanna – Only Girl (In The World)
20 The Drums – Best Friend
19 Antony and The Johnsons Feat. Bjork – Fletta
18 Kelis – Acapella
17 Arcade Fire – Ready To Start
16 Perfume Genius – Mr Peterson
15 Frankie and The Heartstrings – Tender
14 LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change
13 Everything Everything – MY KZ UR BF
12 Robyn – Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa
11 M.I.A. – XXXO

All fabulous. But now it’s time for the best of the best. Enjoy:

10 The National – Conversation 16
Oh the terrible tussles I had in my mind over which song to put in this list. I finally decided on this one, because they make a song that contains the repeated refrain “I was afraid I’d eat your brains” sound beautiful and moving.

9 Gorillaz Feat. Mos Def and Bobby Womack – Stylo
Ever since Yazoo, it’s been a truth universally acknowledged that the most effective contrast to the icy precision of synthesisers is a powerful soul voice. And they don’t get much more powerful than Bobby Womack. From an album whose environmental overtones proved particularly timely this year.

8 Janelle Monae Feat. Big Boi – Tightrope
An effortless piece of 21st-century soul from arguably the best female artist around right now. Make no mistake, her album The Archandroid will (or should) be regarded as a classic in years to come. And frankly, that hair is to die for.

7 Beach House – Lover of Mine
I could have picked pretty much any song from Teen Dream. But I chose this one. It wraps itself around you like an oversized cardigan on a cold summer’s day, whilst making more than a nodding acquaintance with Foreigner’s Waiting For A Girl Like You.

6 Warpaint – Undertow
There’s a creeping menace to this song that makes it at once beautiful and terrifying, like a seductive kiss from a sworn enemy.

5 Rufus Wainwright – Zebulon
The final, emotionally draining song from All Days Are Nights. It’s the sort of quietly devastating number that leaves you needing to wallow in silence for several minutes after the record has stopped. Because that’s when the world needs to catch up with you, not the other way round.

4 Best Coast – Boyfriend
Has unrequited love ever sounded so utterly perfect and spine-tingly? Probably not, at least not until Camera Obscura put out another album.

3 Everything Everything – NASA Is On Your Side
The highest placed non-single on my list, a beautifully touching and gorgeously arranged ballad, proof that even with all that restless invention stripped away, Everything Everything are still a very fine band indeed.

2 Lady Gaga Feat. Beyonce – Telephone
And so here is the best Number 1 single of the year, even without a ridiculously inventive video that redefined the parameters of camp (this version is sadly without the sweary bits). All together now: “Trust is like a mirror. You can fix it if it’s broke, but you can still see the crack in that motherfuckin’ reflection.” Too true Honey B, too true…

1 Robyn – Dancing On My Own
But here is the best single/track/whatever from the entire year. This is the 21st-century version of How Soon Is Now, about feeling more invisible than Simon from Misfits, no matter how hard you try to get noticed. Like Morrissey in that place you’d like to go, we’ve all been there and all gone home. You cry, and you want to die. And then you listen to this and you feel just a bit better.

And so that’s it, boys and girls. Robyn is this year’s Number 1. You may not agree – if you don’t, then tell me what was top of your pops in 2010. In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed this musical review of the past year. Hope you all have a completely fabulous Christmas – and here’s to some more fabulous music in 2011!

Chris x