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Eurovision 2012 Preview Part 14 – Azerbaijan, Spain and Germany

Well here we are. One week to go until the final of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, and today it’s the last of our preview blogs for this year. As well as taking a look at the final trio of entries, we’ll also be seeing who the bookmakers reckon are in the running to take the title this year.

First up in the previews today are the hosts, Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s win last year was, in a way, inevitable, as they had gone all-out to win in previous years and had got closer and closer. Ell and Nikki’s victory has brought the contest to Baku, and hoping to impress the rest of Europe in front of the home crowd when she performs 13th on the night is Sabina Babayeva, singing When the Music Dies. Sabina goes for the full-on diva thing here, in a flat that’s clearly in need of new central heating.

There’s a tradition in Eurovision that the hosts present an entry that’s solid enough to perform respectably in the voting, but not so strong that they risk having to foot the bill for a second year (though of course Ireland in the 1990s, try as they might, never quite got the hang of this). The Azerbaijan entry definitely falls into this category – it’ll probably achieve a Top 10 finish, but the contest is sure to be headed West after 26 May.

Performing 19th out of the 26 in the final will be Spain. It’s getting on for a decade now since the Spaniards last had a Top 10 finish in Eurovision, their results in recent years having been poor-to-middling. They’re hoping to get back in the game this year with Pastora Soler, who gives a belting performance singing Quédate Conmigo, or “Stay With Me”. There’s lots of slow-motion dancing before, near the end and for no apparent reason, Pastora acquires a load of feathers and chucks a bucket of water over her dance partner.

Back in the mid-1990s, you could barely move for big ballads like that in Eurovision. It might get a decent amount of votes next Saturday, but will need a really strong, compelling vocal performance. And preferably no feathers.

And so to the very last country to get the preview treatment this year, Germany, who’ll be taking to the stage straight after Spain on the night. Germany of course got right back in the game a couple of years ago, as following on from a pretty dismal string of results they won courtesy of Lena. Lena then represented them again last year, this time just about scraping inside the Top 10. This year they’re represented by the puppy-eyed, check-shirted Roman Lob, performing Standing Still. The song, to be frank, is Matt Cardle-level dull, and viewers are best advised to amuse themselves by constructing some cub-based Eurovision slash fantasies involving Roman and Ott Lepland.

Mmm, Roman and Ott. I’m sure Germany and Estonia could do with finding new ways to strengthen diplomatic relations. Ahem, anyway. The song? Yes, well, bit balladed-out now to be honest. Again, I think Germany’s performance will probably be respectable rather than spectacular when it comes to the vote.

And that, girls and boys, is that. Forty-two countries all previewed and commented upon. So who’s going to win? As I’ve mentioned previously, Sweden are the hot favourites, followed by Italy and Russia. The bookies also seem to think Engelbert stands a good chance, with many having the UK as 4th favourite (although to be fair, our chances are always bigged up by the bookmakers). Serbia, Iceland, Romania and Denmark are all seen as likely contenders for a Top 10 placing at least, with slightly longer odds on Ireland, Spain, Germany, Norway, Greece and Cyprus. Down at the other end of the odds, those who are feeling particularly brave (or foolish) may be tempted to have a flutter on Montenegro, Portugal or San Marino. And frankly, if you put a bet on San Marino to win with the F***b**k song, you presumably want to lose money.

One final thing: where will you be watching the Eurovision final next Saturday? At your own place? Maybe at a friend’s? Or at a venue that’s showing the contest? If you’re not sure and at a bit of a loose end, then you could do a lot worse than come to the LGBT Labour Eurovision Party, which starts at 7pm next Saturday, at 2022nq on Dale Street, Manchester. There’ll be food, drink, a raffle and other fun stuff going on. Tickets are £10 and for more information, you can go to the Facebook (uh oh oh) page here.

It’ll be a fabulous evening – but then any evening involving Eurovision is guaranteed to be fabulous. I’ll be live-tweeting both semi-finals and the final – you can follow me @crispeater. And I’ll be reviewing the whole shebang on here next Sunday. Until then, have a fabulous Eurovision, whatever you’re up to (and wherever you’ll be)!

Chris x

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Eurovision 2011 Preview: Germany and France

And so the Eurovision preview nears its end, as we get to the five countries who, thanks to their “Big Five” status, are already in the final. Starting with the hosts and defending champions Germany. Last year’s win, courtesy of Lena Meyer-Landrut singing Satellite, was a big turnaround in German fortunes. One of the original seven Eurovision participants, Germany had excellent runs in the late 1960s/early 1970s, late 1970s/early 1980s (including victory in 1982) and late 1990s/early 2000s, but in recent years they really have struggled, trying out a variety of musical styles (country ‘n’ western, big band, swing) before finally realising that catchy, contemporary pop might actually do them some favours. And, having enjoyed so much success with Lena last year, they’ve sent her to this year’s contest in the hope of a repeat showing. If Lena were to win, then she’d make history as the first act to win Eurovision two years running – but I don’t think she will. Although this is a very good track, it’s low-key and unsettling, sounding more like the sort of thing you’d play at about 3am in the morning than the successor to Puppet On a String, A-Ba-Ni-Bi, Love Shine a Light and, indeed, Satellite. And if you were surrounded by lots of people in silver all-in-one bodysuits at 3am in the morning, you might just get a bit unsettled yourself:

The sort of song that could get under your skin, I reckon – but Eurovision is about a three-minute fix, and if the juries and the viewers don’t “get” you in those three minutes, then it’s game over – nevertheless, odds suggest that this will achieve a respectable Top 10 finish. On now to France who, like Germany, have been in Eurovision since the start, with the exception of a couple of years – including 1982, when they boycotted the contest, protesting that Eurovision had become a monument to mediocrity and drivel. Like the Germany, France’s days of consistent success seem to be long behind them, and they’ve only placed once in the Top 10 since 2002. However, this year could be very different. They’re currently favourites to win with this entry, Sognu performed by Amaury Vassili. Amaury is a big-selling classical singer, although he presents here in biking leathers and hair last seen on Chesney Hawkes in 1991. Which is perhaps appropriate, as this represents his country’s best chance of winning Eurovision in 20 years:

And if the voters are in the mood for a stirring orchestral anthem, that song could go all the way on the big night. The intelligence does seem to be that it’ll be a fight between this and Estonia’s bubblegum pop offering. Time now for the classic corner, and I’ve gone for two very contrasting songs from the archives. First up, the German entry from 1979. Channelling Boney M for all they were worth, and led by Ming the Merciless showcasing some truly awesome Cossack skillz, here are Dschingis Khan with, well, Dschingis Khan:

If you want more of the same, have a listen to Moskau afterwards. It’s the Judas to their Bad Romance. Amusingly, their tribute to the Mongol warmongerer was written by the same man who, three years later, wrote A Little Peace for Nicole. Now for the classic French entry. I mentioned in an earlier post on this blog that, back in the early 1990s, France had a fine run of entries that reflected that country’s rich cultural heritage. And I mentioned earlier in this post that Amaury Vassili represents their best chance of winning since 1991. So here is their entry from 1991, performed by French-Tunisian singer Amina. Cruelly denied victory by a technicality after she finished in a dead heat with Sweden’s Carola, this is C’est le dernier qui a parlé qui a raison:

Wonderful, sexy, spine-tingling stuff (and you don’t hear that said about Eurovision very often). What makes Amina’s defeat even more agonising is that a subsequent change in the mechanism for dealing with a tie (from counting back the number of 12s, 10s etc received to awarding victory to the country that received points from the most other countries) would, if applied 20 years ago, have given her the win. Whether Amaury and his big voice (and even bigger hair) can put things right remains to be seen. Tomorrow we’ll see what Spain have got lined up this year – and we welcome the return of Eurovision’s prodigal son, Italy. See you then!

Chris x

Eurovision 2010 – Some numbers and a rant

Well, that’s it for another year. I decided not to blog about the semis or the final in the end, leaving that to my tweets. However, with all the voting figures now available, I thought it’d be mildly interesting to have a look at how things panned out. Here are the full scores:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurovision_Song_Contest_2010

There were some interesting variations in terms of scores between the semi-finals and the finals. Most striking was Iceland, who qualified comfortably on Tuesday night in 3rd place with 123 points, yet crashed to 19th place last night with a mere 41 points. Of course there are plenty of explanations for this. On Tuesday night, Iceland performed last (always a big advantage in any competition like this), whereas in the final they performed in the middle of the running order. Countries that voted for Iceland on Tuesday night may have switched their allegiance in the final to an act they weren’t able to vote for due to being in the other semi-final, and this may have been the case for juries as well as viewers. Furthermore, the public votes for Iceland on Tuesday may well have come from a very different, weeknight audience than the one that tuned in on Saturday. There are all sorts of variables at play that can really affect people’s chances – often, as has been demonstrated on shows like Strictly or X-Factor, from one week to the next. For instance, when the voting patterns for the latter were released at the end of the last series, they showed that, in the one week when Rachel Adedeji wasn’t in the bottom two, she came top in the vote. Of course it can work the other way in Eurovision: 2008 winners Russia only qualified 3rd in their semi-final, behind Greece and Armenia, but finished comfortably ahead of both in the final.

I also thought I’d have a look at how the final would have panned out if only the countries that made the final were allowed to vote. Here’s how the scoreboard would have looked, with actual positions and scores in brackets. The percentage figures after the scores indicate what percentage of each country’s actual score came from votes from fellow finalists.

1 (1) Germany – 122 (246) – 49.6%
2 (3) Romania – 119 (162) – 73.5%
3 (8) Greece – 112 (140) – 80%
4 (2) Turkey – 107 (170) – 62.9%
5 (5) Azerbaijan – 106 (145) – 73.1%
6 (7) Armenia – 106 (141) – 75.2%
7 (9) Georgia – 86 (136) – 63.2%
8 (6) Belgium – 78 (143) – 54.6%
9 (10) Ukraine – 78 (108) – 72.2%
10 (4) Denmark – 76 (149) – 51%
11 (12) France – 64 (82) – 78.1%
12 (11) Russia – 61 (90) – 67.8%
13 (15) Spain – 44 (68) – 64.7%
14 (14) Israel – 37 (71) – 52.1%
15 (16) Albania – 35 (62) – 56.5%
16 (13) Serbia – 31 (72) – 43.1%
17 (17) Bosnia & Herzegovina – 31 (51) – 60.8%
18 (18) Portugal – 31 (43) – 72.1%
19 (22) Moldova – 27 (27) – 100%
20 (19) Iceland – 26 (41) – 63.4%
21 (20) Norway – 18 (35) – 51.4%
22 (24) Belarus – 17 (18) – 94.4%
23 (23) Ireland – 15 (25) – 60%
24 (21) Cyprus – 13 (27) – 48.2%
25 (25) United Kingdom – 10 (10) – 100%

So, as you can see, Lena is no longer the runaway winner – in fact, she scrapes home by just three points in what would have been the closest finish since 2003 (coincidentally the last year before the semi-finals were introduced and non-finalists were able to vote in the final). Only Cyprus and Serbia got a lower proportion of their votes from other finalists. Likewise, without the support of non-finalists, Denmark slide from 4th to 10th place; conversely, things improve markedly for Greece, who move up from 8th to 3rd. However, the only other countries to get a bigger percentage of their votes from fellow finalists – Belarus, Moldova and the United Kingdom – had such low scores overall that they still end up in the drop zone.

As I mentioned earlier, it would also be interesting to see how voting allegiances changed between the semi-finals and the final, and that would be a good starting point for further analysis of the voting figures. However, no amount of analysis can obfuscate the fact that the UK entry came a resounding last, and I’m glad about that. Not because of Josh Dubovie, clearly a very nice, personable lad who behaved impeccably throughout (even when stood next to Pete Waterman, who had the nerve to accuse others of being a bit rubbish) – but because of the can’t-be-arsed attitude that installed him as our representative in the first place.

After the progress we made last year – having a proper competition, getting big industry names involved and heavily promoting the winning song all over Europe in order to guarantee exposure and, therefore, votes – this year felt like a total regression. A half-baked affair stuck on a random Friday night, with a bunch of stage school rejects and Butlins redcoats stumbling their way through old Stock, Aitken & Waterman hits, before the three least worst were handed a hackneyed, lifeless number written by two-thirds of the above, a song that might have done moderately well about 15 years ago, but which was only ever going to be in serious contention for last place in 2010. Josh was the best of a bad bunch on that night, but up against a girl who couldn’t sing to save her life, and forgot the words to boot, that’s not saying very much.

Or perhaps we were a bit scared by last year. We realised that, actually, if we start taking Eurovision seriously again, there’d be the danger that we might even win, and that we’d then have to cripple our economy even further by staging the whole shebang the following year (some other countries allegedly sent poor entries for the same reason, but even they managed to be better than us). You can’t help feeling that it suits our mentality, bolstered through years of Terry Wogan’s rants about political voting (granted it does exist, just not to the game-changing extent that he suggests), to be the perennial, bottom-feeding underdogs, pointing and laughing at other countries for taking it all so seriously and then muttering dark words about voting blocs when they vault ahead of us.

And they vault ahead of us because they hold big, Pop Idol-style selection events, use top songwriters, producers and choreographers, promote their representatives throughout the continent for weeks before the big night and generally establish a major presence. We did that last year and it worked wonders. This year the lazy, amateur hour approach, the one that begat Jemini, Daz Sampson, Scooch and Andy Abraham, meant we were back to square one. Shame on us, and shame for Josh, whose moment of glory turned into a moment of humiliation that had been inevitable from the Friday night in March that he was chosen as our musical ambassador. Here’s hoping next year we make an effort and send something to Berlin that sounds good to everybody.

Chris

Eurovision 2010 Haiku #37: Germany

A German Lily
Allen bounces around – but
What is her accent?

Eurovision Haiku #40: Germany

Ricky Martin meets
John Barrowman – with big lips
He sings “Let it swing”