Eurovision 2013 – Semi Final One

Mrs Chrisparkle and I have been off on our travels a lot over the past few months and I regret to say that I am not as au fait with all this year’s Eurovision entries as I have been in the past, or would like to be. I do have some special favourites, which I will no doubt recommend to you as the blogs go on. Nevertheless, I am delighted to bring you my preview of this year’s contest, starting with Semi Final One, and we’re looking at the songs in the order that Swedish Television have seen fit to rig (I mean, carefully chosen so as to maximise the viewing public’s satisfaction). As in previous years, I’m also giving you the betting odds, courtesy of (taking all the bookmakers who will give you the first four places each way, as at 26th April) and also giving each song a star rating out of 5. Semi Final One is the one where UK viewers can vote, by the way, so consider your choice wisely!

Austria – Natália Kelly – Shine

Natalia KellyFirst off is part American, part Brazilian, part Austrian Natália Kelly, whose name features one of the least necessary accents I’ve ever encountered. It’s a nice little song, a bit ploddy, but a good performance should get her off to a reasonable start. However, she performed at the London Preview Party this year, and, if I’m honest, hers wasn’t one of the stand-out performances. She participated in Austria’s 2011 season of The Voice, and she’s still only 18. Music composed by Alexander Kahr, also responsible for Manuel Ortega’s Say A Word in 2002. 66-1 to 100-1 ***

Estonia – Birgit Õigemeel – Et Uus Saaks Alguse (New Beginning)

Birgit Estonia 2013I think she’s dropping the Õigemeel for the contest, for linguistic ease. I think it’s a shame she’s not dropping the song instead, because I find this extremely tedious. She’s an excellent singer and has had much better songs in the Estonian final before. She’s expecting her first child, so I hope the excitement of the evening doesn’t bring on a medical emergency. The winner of the first Estonian Pop Idol in 2007, she’s played Maria von Trapp on stage (and won) and is studying music at Tallinn University. Is “extremely tedious” a bit harsh? Possibly. It all sounds very pretty but it’s totally forgettable; at least it’s not actively unpleasant. But I’d be very surprised to see it on the Saturday night. 66-1 to 100-1 **

Slovenia – Hannah Mancini – Straight Into Love

Hannah ManciniI think she’s dropping the Mancini for the contest, because it doesn’t sound a bit like Henry’s output. This is the first upbeat song of the night and it’s not half bad. It’s a decent tune rewarded by a technothrob arrangement, and Hannah herself is a classy looking dame, the second of the night’s American born artistes, who’s even been on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, and worked with Sheryl Crow and Seal. I’m a bit worried about the poor lad drowning in the blue bath. This will go down well at Eurovision discos. 100-1 to 200-1 ****

Croatia – Klapa s Mora – Mižerja

Klapa s MoraWhen I heard that Croatia this year was going to submit a klapa song, I expected something bland out of the Questa Notte stable. However, I think this little melody, sung in a very gently operatic style, is a bit of a stunner. Mižerja had already been chosen as the entry before they selected the individual singers, plucked from other klapa groups around the country, to perform it. OK, it’s a song about misery but it doesn’t sound too downbeat to me. One of the singers, Bojan, was a backing singer on Moja štikla in 2006, so he can obviously do “jolly” too. I don’t suppose the votes will come in like the klapas on the night well but I count it an artistic success. 100-1 to 250-1 ****

Denmark – Emmelie de Forest – Only Teardrops

Emmelie de ForestOK I have to admit that the running order is working for me. After the reflective tranquillity of Croatia comes the out-and-out pop pleaser Only Teardrops performed by the posh sounding Emmelie Charlotte Victoria de Forest. Today’s answer to Sandie Shaw, the beautiful and barefoot Emmelie did an unplugged slower version of the song at the London Preview Party, which showed her talent as a performer but didn’t really suit the song. She’s a bit of an enigma, is our Emmelie, making out that she’s a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and her dad said he was the illegitimate son of Baron Maurice Arnold de Forest. You decide. Only Teardrops is co-written by Lise Cabble who also penned A Friend in London’s New Tomorrow and Aud Wilken’s Fra Mols til Skagen. So she knows how to write a good song – and this is the bookmakers’ favourite. I like it a lot; I think it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi (see what I did there) that would make it a great song, but nevertheless it’s going to do very well on Saturday night. 6-5 to 13-8 *****

Russia – Dina Garipova – What If

Dina GaripovaA nauseatingly self-adulating video ruins what is otherwise a nice performance by Dina Garipova of this year’s Russian entry, a slightly old-fashioned ballad but a good tune nonetheless. Ms Garipova has a minor vocal tic that grates with me – when she goes for the high notes she seems to hit another note halfway up for a split-second as if her voice needs a leg-up to get there. 22 year old Dina won last year’s Russian version of The Voice, so is likely to be popular. The English language page of her website is a complete mess. 11-1 to 14-1 ***

Ukraine – Zlata Ognevich – Gravity

Zlata OgnevichOn to Ukraine, which is a great improvement on the song before; a catchy number with a terrific staccato arrangement, performed by unquestionably the most beautiful girl in the contest. The composer and lyricist have already between them written eight of the best eastern European entries of the last decade, and I think this is definitely one to watch. Born in Murmansk, her father was a surgeon on a Soviet submarine, and she is a soloist in the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ Song and Dance ensemble. She sang the Kukushka song that came second in Ukraine’s national final in 2011. Something tells me this is not going to win, but it will certainly be in with a chance. 9-2 to 7-1 *****

Netherlands – Anouk – Birds

AnoukWell here’s a Marmite entry if ever there was one. Is that Joni Mitchell singing? No it’s the Netherlands’ favourite rock chick Anouk, who’s had a very successful career over the past fifteen years. It was considered quite a coup when Dutch broadcaster TROS announced she would represent them this year. The song is the first single off her most recent album (her eighth), and is stands is 3 minutes 23 seconds long, so they’re going to have to do something about that. My own thoughts are that this will do well with the juries but families at home expecting something boppy and eurovisiony will turn off in droves. It’s different, that’s for sure. Will this be the first Dutch song to make it through the semis since 2004? That’s unsure. 11-1 to 20-1 ***

Montenegro – Who See feat. Nina Žižić – Igranka

Who SeeAnd another Marmite entry, and a clash of cultures as folk rock makes way for hip hop. It’s all in Montenegrin, and sounds to my untrained ear like it would be a paean to gangster lifestyle, smacking up bitches and pimping your granny to score some coke. But in fact the translated lyrics are a rather traditional song about going to a jolly party. It reminds me of an updated version of Bulgaria’s 2008 entry DJ, Take Me Away. Whilst the Who See guys are contributing to such musical gems as “Puff after puff” and “Invite some sluts”, it’s amusing to note that by day one of them works in a toy store. I know I’m not the target market for this kind of stuff, but, dammit, actually, I quite like it! Interestingly the youtube video has been seen by over 1.2 million people as at writing, making it one of the most watched of this year’s entries. So who knows how it will do? 100-1 to 200-1 ***

Lithuania – Andrius Pojavis – Something

Andrius PojavisIf you like your Eurovision understated, then this just might be for you. There’s something strangely enthusiastic about Andrius’ downbeat song and downbeat performance that makes it not quite as drab as it ought to be. I’m not really selling it, am I? There’s no way this is going to qualify, but I don’t hate it. His face looks as though he is singing a totally different song, which adds to its general unwordliness. He doesn’t care about note accuracy too much either. Maybe he’s Lithuania’s answer to Morrissey. 80-1 to 300-1 ***

Belarus – Alyona Lanskaya – Solayoh

Alyona LanskayaWith the country’s usual transparent voting integrity, last year’s disgraced Belarussian national final winner Alyona returns with a new song, that is naturally not the one that won in Minsk last December. Solayoh is a bouncy, clappy, singalong song that gets under your skin even though you’d prefer it to stay where it was. It’s all about the joy of dancing in the sunshine, even though it’s night time; nothing wrong with that. The music is by Marc Paelinck who was responsible for Chiara’s What if We and Xandee’s One Life, both stonking good tunes. Alyona’s quite a sweet thing, and I think this is borderline qualifying. 25-1 to 80-1 ***

Moldova – Aliona Moon – O mie (A Million)

Aliona MoonConfusion hath made its masterpiece! Alyona followed by Aliona! SVT didn’t think that through properly. It’s not the only confusion either – the English version as sung in this video is A Million, whereas the literal translation of O Mie is a thousand… We’re talking a discrepancy of several noughts-worth of exaggeration here. No matter, it’s actually a terrific little tune sung with passion and conviction by the lovely Aliona, who needs to change her hair gel. Last year she was a backing singer for the Lăutar himself, Pasha Parfeny, and this year he has done her the honour of writing O Mie for her. To get into the final it will have to do without Romania’s twelve points, as they’re voting in Semi Final Two. I think it will make it though. 66-1 to 100-1 *****

Ireland – Ryan Dolan – Only Love Survives

Ryan DolanAfter a few moody numbers it’s time to go upbeat again. Not really a disco stomper, more a disco swayer, Only Love Survives is a pleasing tune that embeds itself in your psyche so that it bursts out of your brain every so often and you’ve no choice but to go with it. Ryan Dolan is a personable young chap from Northern Ireland, and he’s co-written the song. It’s no masterpiece but definitely one of this year’s best. 25-1 to 80-1 *****

Cyprus – Despina Olympiou – An Me Thimase (If You Remember Me)

Despina OlympiouHere’s a song that improves every time you hear it, which of course is pants as far as the Eurovision is concerned because you need that immediate impact. Despina Olympiou is a singer of great reputation and experience in Cyprus, whose career started over 20 years ago. She studied piano at Trinity College London, and has recorded with both Eurovision’s own Stereo Mike and Michalis Hatzigiannis and indeed An Me Thimase’s lyricist Zenon Zindilis also wrote the lyrics for Mr Hatzigiannis’ Genesis back in 1998. It’s a winsome gentle ballad, but without douze points coming from Greece (they’re voting in the other semi) I don’t think this will make it to Saturday. 100-1 to 200-1 **

Belgium – Roberto Bellarosa – Love Kills

Roberto BellarosaWhen I first heard this song I was instantly taken with its great hook in the chorus, and I still find it a really catchy song. Unfortunately since its first airing it’s undergone some tarting up and prettifying, which has resulted in some of its raw energy being lost. Nevertheless it’s still a good song, and if 18 year old Roberto Bellarosa, who won the first season of The Voice in Belgium, can nail the vocals it really ought to sail through to the final. It’s co-written by Iain Farquharson who wrote 2011’s Azerbaijani winner Running Scared, and Andreas Anastasiou who wrote the Cyprus entry for 2011. Listen to this and you’ll be doing “love kills over and over” in the shower tomorrow morning. 100-1 to 200-1 ****

Serbia – Moje 3 – Ljubav je svuda (Love is Everywhere)

Moje 3The elements are all there – sexily clad young ladies, a boppy arrangement, and it’s written by the lyricists of Molitva, Ovo je Balkan and Nije ljubav stvar; but for me this just doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. I find the chorus more irritating than catchy – that bit where the notes run up and down the scale really grates! I’m sure it will do well and get into the final with ease, but I’ll not be voting for it. 40-1 to 80-1 **

So don’t forget to watch Semi Final One on Tuesday 14th May on BBC3 – and if you’re in the UK, vote! I’ll be back with a preview of Semi Final Two ‘ere long.

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