You know the drill by now. The songs from Semi Final 1 are analysed in scientific detail in this post and this post contains the songs from Semi Final 2 and the pre-qualified countries.
You can listen to the semi final 2 songs on this youtube playlist and the pre qualifiers on this one
Serbia have gone with Željko Joksimović singing a huge ballad called Nije Ljubav Stvar. It is no Molitva, but then, what is? It fits a terrific amount of epicness into the allotted 3 minutes, and there’s even a point after the stirring instrumental break where the glitter burst of celebration would look lovely with Željko clutching a trophy and jumping for joy. These Serbians know exactly what they’re doing with Eurovision.
Kaliopi is from Fyrom and presents Crno i Belo (possible translation: ‘My language has badly distributed vowels’) and it’s a big metal power ballad that takes well over a minute to get going. When the chugging power chords and big strings kick in, and you realise that Kaliopi is wearing a Cher outfit, it gets quite good. Not as good as the Serbian one, but wait! WIDDLY GUITAR SOLO. Rock and flipping roll! I figured out what it needs - backing vocals. It’s just Kaliopi singing, and could be improved by shouty chorus bv.
Joan is a young Dutch gal dressed as a Native American in a big frock and a feathery headress, in a manner which the internet gets angry about. The internet had better not look at the backing dancers dressed in ‘squaw’ costumes, or it’ll have one of it’s episodes. The song isn’t offensive though, in fact it is the very definition of inoffensive. It’s a gentle campfire singalong about being nostalgia for a childhood sweetheart. Not in anyway about Native Americans.
Malta present Kurt Calleja, who looks like the visual average of One Direction, but with a few years added. The band that appears in the video is very ‘oooh, we’re modern!’ as it has a lady drummer, a nerdy left handed guitarist, a guy on some decks (who isn’t doing anything reflected in the music), a bass player who hangs around out of shot and the aforementioned Kurt. Oh my. Breakdancy breakdown. The song has a ‘eh, eh, eh, eh, eh’ thing in the chorus, which is trying for earworm status, but failing. It’s ok.
Litesound are dressed as motorbiking robots and their song is called ‘We Are The Heroes’. They are going for the ‘We are the winners!’ motif that Lithuania failed so hard with the other year. The singer is a bit on the nasal side, but you can’t fault them for effort. The costumes don’t really add anything, but the chorus is quite huge. It’s rocky, the drummer is enclosed in a plastic motorbike thing, and there’s a big heroic key change for the last chorus. It’ll do fine.
Vida Minha, (Life of...something?) is Filipa Sousa’s slinky latin ballad. I miss all the Latin stuff that went into Eurovision in the late 90s and early 00s. There’s not a lot to dislike here - it reminds me a lot of the other recent Portugese ballad, Senhora de Mar, and gets progressively more and more overwrought and impassioned in an almost parodical manner. They have some gymnastic ballroom dancers twirling in the foreground. The lady shows a lot of gusset. Say what you see, say what you see.
Ukraine are going all out with Gaitana and Be My Guest - it sounds like a slightly naff David Guetta collaboration and it’s got one hell of a chorus. I can’t see it doing badly, and I figure if Ukraine are up for hosting next year, we may as well let them. Gaitana looks terrific in a wide range of frocks, hairstyles and CGI modesty flowers, and has an array of robot suit clad dude dancers. This is going to be great in May.
Love Unlimited has Sofi Marinova dressed in a big floor length ballad gown, but is in fact a pleasingly plonky late night house record. You could be bopping to it as you queued to put your coats in a cloakroom in a fairly trendy club. Oooh! Fireworks! Fancy. Sofi has got some pretty wicked arm tattoos, and to be honest I’m surprised there hasn’t been a dress reveal. It’s really nice, and although it’s got a near zero chance of winning, it makes my Best of 2012 Playlist without question.
Another sodding ballad. Verjamem. It’s by Eva Boto, but we start off with a soprano backing vocalist with a huge roll of tulle on her head for a little tune. Eva is wearing a white frock, a cardigan and a belt made of leaves and forest flowers. It’s impassioned, the backing singers look totally ridiculous with the tulle, and it’s not really that memorable. The keychange section over the bridge is so much like Molitva that my eyebrows raised up as far as my hairline. It’s Molitva but with frocks instead of lovely suits.
Nebo is sung by Nina Badric and has a very boring, grown-up dinner party soul intro. And first verse. And chorus. I keep expecting the disco fans to kick in and the song proper to start but evidently that won’t be happening. The beat just kicked in at 2:12 - far too late. It’s a big power ballad and all the hunks in pants in the world (that’s what the video is full of) can’t save it.
More plonky, dubby late night dance! Euphoria is even a nice ravey title. Loreen isn’t a promising name, but this is ace. Arms aloft! Rave whistles! Loreen looks fantastic with huge hair, wearing a black catsuit and huge chiffon robe over the top, as she throws some awesome early 90s shapes, backlit in an iron cage. I am going to need to listen to this again immediately. Final chorus features a surprise dance partner and a blizzard! FOR THE WIN. It makes me feel good. I would like to purchase this song and dance routine to do on my various dance games.
PS: On the second listen I got goosebumps. This is awesome. Not just going on my Eurovision playlist, but my main everyday playlist. Takk, Loreen, takk.
After all that excitement, whatever next was going to sound like a big old pile of poo. So Anri Jokhadze’s ‘I’m A Joker’ is probably in the right place. Anri (the Georgian version of BARROWMAN?) demonstrates various not-quite-rhymes for Joker, interspersed with some fiddle (2012: year of European fiddle abuse?) and a piano break following a rather extraordinary falsetto section. It’s sort of 21st century vaudeville or music hall, which I guess you could say is entirely suitable for Eurovision.
Onward, ever onwards, to Turkey and Love Me Back by Can Bonomo. It’s got a beat and you can dance to it, at least until the vocals come in. Boatloads of traditional instrumentation and a general nautical/piratical theme, which always goes down well with me. I wish the vocal melody and lyrics were as good as the instrumental breaks though, it seems a bit disjointed the way it is. But Turkey never really struggle, so it doesn’t matter what I think.
Another big sodding ballad. Ott Lepland sings Kuula in black and white with Adele’s pianist somewhere out of shot. Epically dull and just makes me think about how exciting that Swedish song was.
Sorry, I just zoned out there and accidentally looked at twitter. Yawn.
Oooh, I’ve already heard this one. It’s Don’t Close Your Eyes by the frankly ridiculous Max Jason Mai. It’s a shocking 80’s hair metal ballad throwback with speed metal verse guitars and a big silly shouty chorus. The video has the strange conceit of showing the shooting of a video of this song, complete with Max Jason Mai acting like a dick off camera, with a puppet. I’m sure Max will put on a superb show for us in May, although I can’t gauge Europe’s appetite for this song.
Tooji is a guy with very precisely shaped eyebrows. The song Stay is probably what you imagine a generic Scandinavian Eurovision entry sound like. It’s modern sounding, the dancing is impressive, the lyrics are arrant nonsense but it didn’t stir me in the way the Swedish one did. My boyfriend said that it was ‘Pretty boring’.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Korake Ti Znam is yet another ballad. Maya Sar sits at the piano, unsafely suspended in a steelworks. Or something. It’s dull. The video has a donkey and a tiny donkey in it, which prompted a squeal of delight from your humble reviewer, but other than that, I basically was thinking about my dinner.
Donny Montell sings Love is Blind with a blindfold on. This doesn’t hide the fact that this song takes the form of a ballad. There have been so many different ballads that I can’t remember which one was which any more or what any of them sounded like. At 1:30, a beat kicks in and the blindfold comes off! Whoo hoo! It doesn’t improve it, but at least I’m still awake and listening.
(At this point, I stopped reviewing and had a massive dance around to Euphoria. It gave me the strength to carry on.)
Ah, Englebert Humperdinck. It’s not bad. It’s not good, but it’s not bad either. Another ballad, which contains some interesting modulations to keep it from being entirely by-numbers. It’s pretty weak, and even on the studio pre-record Englebert doesn’t sound secure on the top notes in the key change. Maybe it’ll come alive on stage. Maybe.
And as we’ve said for a decade now, at least the French don’t take it seriously either. They’ve sent Anggun with a song called Echo (You and I) with a seriously irritating whistling hook in the pre-chorus and the unmistakeable spectre of autotune in the chorus. It’s pretty slick and credible, though. There are more hunks in pants in the video. For shame, France.
Now, I saw the video for Nina Zilli’s first song, which was a big ballad where she was dressed up as the ghost of Amy Winehouse. The actual entry is basically an Amy Winehouse song in the verse, and some sort of big pop rock mess in the chorus and she’s at least not wearing the beehive & eyeliner in the video I suspect they might come back out in May. It would be distasteful to submit an Amy Winehouse tribute act for Eurovision, right? She’s not even been dead a year.
I think this is the last big ballad I have to listen to tonight - Sabina Babayeva’s is called When The Music Dies. It has the distinguishing feature of having male backing vocals behind Sabina’s Celine Dion impression, but other than that, I wouldn’t be able to pick it out of a line-up of the Usual Low Tempo Suspects.
Aw hell. Spain have sent a big ballad too. Pastora Soler is emoting her way through a song called Quedate Conmigo. I have already forgotten what it sounds like, but you know what a big X Factor winners ballad sounds like and can probably recreate it for yourselves. Stirring strings, rising phrases, held notes, fists of pure emotion, slow motion gymnasts and frocks that are floor length at the very least.
Can we have more novelty records next year? I liked them, they were fun.
NO NO NO. It’s a sodding ballad. This time it’s a ballad sung by an indie chap with gauged ears and a wooly hat on. It’s a landfill indie ballad. It’s Roman Lob singing Standing Still. It’s a Train album track. It’s the soundtrack to an emotional scene in Doctors or Hollyoaks. It might not have gone down so badly if I hadn’t already listened to about twenty soggy ballads in the course of this. It is also very, very, very repetitive. Roman Lob is standing still, standing still, standing still, he’s just standing still.