Eurovision 2013 – The Grand Final

So we’ve reached the final six now to be added to twenty of Europe’s most successful semi-final hopes to make the grand line-up for Saturday 18th May. Of course, this year, we don’t yet know the actual order of appearance, so I’ll present them to you in alphabetical order of country, together with the range of odds as listed by bookmakers who will give you an each way place on the top four songs, as at 26th April, and also those all-important five star ratings. Let’s get started!

France – Amandine Bourgeois – L’Enfer et moi (Hell and me)

Amandine Bourgeois Well here’s a light fluffy number for the Saturday evening light entertainment TV viewers. Amandine Bourgeois (which appears to be French for “Middle class served with almonds”) pouts and sulks her way through a gothic video recipe of blood and rose petals with just a hint of nutmeg, eventually turning on a guy tied up in a scary dark room that she had obviously prepared earlier. As the late Mrs Thatcher once said on Multi Coloured Swap Shop “it’s got a good beat”, and there’s a distinct whiff of the slinky and sexy to the whole thing. La Bourgeois won the sixth series of French Pop Idol in 2008 and the lyricist is one Boris Bergman who also wrote “Un train qui part” and “Une chanson c’est une lettre” for Monaco way back in the 70s. Not at all bad, but maybe it should be a little better? 50-1 to 80-1 ****

Germany – Cascada – Glorious

CascadaOne of the few songs this year that could be considered remotely schlagertastic. Singer Natalie is a bright, bouncy and jolly girl and she brings a big dollop of happiness to the stage. For me the song is four-fifths of the way there; very nearly excellent, but there’s just something holding it back. With its understated verse and grand chorus, it bears comparison with Euphoria, but is found wanting in the balance. That’s probably its downfall. Cascada of course have been hugely successful worldwide and that’s not going to do them any harm at all. Nevertheless, I can’t see this winning. 18-1 to 25-1 ****

Italy – Marco Mengoni – L’essenziale (The Essence)

Marco MengoniFor me, this is this year’s “Kuula”, a well sung ballad by a smouldering guy and and a song that everybody loves – apart from me. I’ve heard it a few times and instantly afterwards have absolutely no recollection of the tune. It’s a heart-searching “love’s a tragedy” lyric, and Marco is obviously feeling the pain, but I’d prefer it to be a private moment that he should share just with his piano. I love a joke as much as the next man, but, leave me out of it, hey, Marco? The preposterous underwater singing, violin playing and book-reading in the video just makes me laugh scornfully. Marco won the Italian X-Factor in 2009, and if there was a prize for the best quiff, he’d be ten feet taller than everyone else. Probably he is. Boring! 16-1 to 20-1 **

Spain – ESDM – Contigo hasta el final (With You Until The End)

ESDMDespite one’s initial suspicion, ESDM is not some Spanish fetish involving chains and castanets, but stands for El Sueño de Morfeo, which proabably makes less sense than a strapped down flamenco dancer. Raquel del Rosario is a good-looking girl who also happens to be F1 driver Fernando Alonso’s ex. The mood of the song is kind of folk-rock dreamy, very gentle, very relaxing; you almost expect to hear distant dolphins and whales chilling out with you, and you do get a horse galloping in from the sea, just as in those tasteful 1970s prints. Sadly, what starts off as beguiling, ends up just a bit boring, and I don’t think it will make any impact on the night. Nice horse, though. 100-1 to 150-1 **

Sweden – Robin Stjernberg – You

Robin StjernbergWe went to a Melodifestivalen party this year and we all had to put the ten finalists in our order of preference. Both Mrs Chrisparkle and I put this song in tenth position. I haven’t a clue how it beat David Lindgren, Yohio, or any of the others. However, when we added everyone’s points together, the song that the party gave maximum points to was – Robin Stjernberg. So for some reason that eludes me, this is a really popular song. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad; I don’t think Robin’s voice, particularly in the quieter parts, is that well controlled, and the chorus, to be charitable, is repetitive. There is an underlying power to it, I agree; but it’s very underlying. 12-1 to 22-1 ***

UK – Bonnie Tyler – Believe in Me

Bonnie TylerWhich brings us finally to our Bonnie. When we first heard that she was going to be the UK representative, Mrs C and I were both very excited and thought it was a great choice. Then I heard the song and my instant reaction was that it was as dull as ditchwater. Then Mrs C heard the song and her instant reaction was that it was fab. It is improving with many listens, but I still confess I only play it out of curiosity, to remember how it goes, and not out of any wish to hear it again. I think it’s a song I admire more than like. With any luck, she will have loads of experience to fall back on, and not get fazed by the experience. Undoubtedly the one performer in the whole contest with the most successful recording career, and I for one would be thrilled if it won. 25-1 to 33-1 ***

Last year I did a little analysis of the songs that had received the most hits on the youtube channel, to see if there was anything one could deduce from it. The most popular song was Russia (which came 2nd), then Cyprus (which came 16th) and then the UK (which came 25th). So it’s only of limited use! Nevertheless, here are the scores on the doors as it stands at this very moment in time:

10th – Greece (215,764)
9th – Norway (221,774)
8th – Sweden (259, 294)
7th – Germany (303,612)
6th – UK (323,460)
5th – Serbia (565,642)
4th – Azerbaijan (649,961)
3rd – Denmark (720,079)
2nd – Ukraine (835,881)
1st – Montenegro (1,162,020)

Montenegro? MONTENEGRO????? Yes, Montenegro. Europe is awash with happy little dubsteppers groovin’ and jammin’ across the continent.

So now I’m going to give you my top ten favourites:

In at Number 10, I’m going for the simplicity of Hungary’s Kedvesem

At 9, it’s little Belgian Roberto complaining that Love Kills

My number 8 is Aliona from Moldova singing about thousands, or millions, your choice

7th place goes to the disco pleasing Irish entry from Ryan and Only Love Survives

6 is that big favourite from Denmark, Emmelie and Only Teardrops

At Number 5 it’s the gorgeous Zlata from Ukraine hoping Gravity doesn’t plummet

My 4th choice is for the powerhouse from Norway, Margaret Berger on a love feeding frenzy

Top 3 – At 3 it’s the musical medic, Gianluca Bezzina from Malta with Tomorrow

Runner-up always the bridesmaid but maybe this time the bride, Krista from Finland and Marry Me

And my favourite song this year is the Swiss Army Knives (Salvation branch) and the anthemic You and Me.

I have come to the conclusion that this year’s contest is wide open. Almost anyone could win, and almost anyone could come last. I’m going to make a prediction that the following ten songs will be in the top ten – but I’m not going to pin myself down to positions. I think they will be:


Feel free to scoff and deride my choices – and I’ll meet you back here on Wednesday 15th May to pick over the devastation of the results of the First Semi. Happy Eurovisioning!

Eurovision 2013 – Semi Final Two

Hello again, and I can see how desperate you are for a run down of this year’s Semi Final Two songs so let’s get on with it! As before, we’ll go through the songs in the order they’ll be performed on Thursday 16th May, and including the range of odds for those bookmakers who will give you an each way bet on the first four places, as it appeared on on 26th April, and also that all important five star rating. Here we go!

Latvia – PeR – Here We Go

PeRAnd, Good Lord, that’s the name of the first song. Now, if beatbox is your thing, one of these guys, Edmunds, is very good at it. Trouble is, beatbox isn’t usually a sign of Eurovision success. I think it’s fair to say it’s a slight song – not much substance, more chants and “woh”s, and a lot of “here we go”s. These guys performed at the London Preview Party and there’s no doubting their enthusiasm and willingness to entertain, but it just all fails somehow. Last year they had Disco Superfly in the Latvian final and that was a much better effort. PeR, apparently, stands for “Please Explain The Rhythm”. Could just as easily have been PeA (Please explain the appeal) or PeTswil (Please explain how this song won in Latvia). There it goes. 100-1 to 300-1 *

San Marino – Valentina Monetta – Crisalide

Valentina MonettaValentina Monetta returns for San Marino with a song much more suited to her style, although I really did find the Facebook song a lot of fun. Once again the song is written by Uncle Ralph Siegel, and, if nothing else, you have to admire the man’s sheer volume of output. Some have criticised the song for having two minutes of credibility and one minute of cop-out; others think it’s two minutes of dullness partly rescued by one minute of semi-jollity. I’m unsure. I liked it a lot on first hearing but I’m going off it more and more as time goes on. Mind you, “liking a lot on first hearing” is precisely what you want from a Eurovision song. I think this will be San Marino’s first ever qualifier – but I wouldn’t like to say more than that. Interesting video – I haven’t seen that much drama in a red sheet since our honeymoon. 20-1 to 33-1 ***

FYR Macedonia – Esma and Lozano – Pred Da Se Razdeni

Esma and LozanoEsma and Lozano were originally chosen to sing for FYR Macedonia with a song called Imperija, which was later withdrawn because, apparently, the initial online reaction to it was not very good. So they changed it to Pred Da Se Razdeni, to my mind a far less satisfying little ditty. If you like a spot of Balkan caterwauling you’re in for a treat. There’s no denying that Esma is extraordinary – she’s 69 years old, has performed in over 9,000 concerts in 30 countries; she’s recorded 108 singles, 20 albums and appeared in 6 films – and if that wasn’t enough, she and her late husband have fostered no fewer than 47 children. She even had a song in the comedy film Borat. The song is a culture clash to western ears and I’m afraid it does nothing for me at all. Shame. 100-1 to 300-1 *

Azerbaijan – Farid Mammadov – Hold Me

Farid MammadovThe first male soloist to represent Azerbaijan in the contest, 21-year-old Farid’s song is a pleasant ballad with a nice key change and a satisfying tune. He’s got a bit of a nasally timbre to his voice which slightly gets on my nerves – maybe he recorded it when he had a cold. The first time I heard it I thought it was a bit rubbish actually – but like a crusty port it improves with age. The song is composed by Dimitris Kontopoulos who’s had a hand in the careers of notables such as Ani Lorak, Sakis Rouvas, Michalis Hatzigiannis and Elena Paparizou. According to wikipedia, so it must be right, Farid’s interests include Greco-Roman wrestling and the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, so let’s hope he doesn’t get carried away after a few drinks in the Euroclub. 22-1 to 33-1 ***

Finland – Krista Siegfrids – Marry Me

Krista SiegfridsApparently written to inspire Krista’s long term boyfriend to pop the question, Marry Me is a bright and bouncy singalong tune and Krista and her ladette backing singers go all out to impress as Team Ding Dong. She’s done some stage work and has been on the Finnish version of The Voice, and her participation in this year’s Finnish National Final was an overwhelming success, gaining top points from both televoters and jury. I think it’s fair to say she’s no wallflower; and her energy certainly comes across on stage – she was terrific at the London Preview Party. Although the lyrics put back the emancipation of women by several decades, it’s still one of my favourites this year. 50-1 to 80-1 *****

Malta – Gianluca Bezzina – Tomorrow

Gianluca BezzinaIf anyone gets taken ill on the night in Malmo and they call out, “is there a Doctor in the house”, Gianluca’s your man, as he’s been a practising doctor since last summer. “Tomorrow” is a deliciously engaging mini saga about Jeremy from IT having his safe and controlled life swept away by a little minx reading the same book as him. Apparently this is about two thirds of an original version of the song, the final third of which resolves what happens when he follows her tomorrow – perhaps one day we’ll find out. Gianluca performed this at the London Preview Party and the whole room joined in with the “Woh – oh, woh – oh”s. Its lightness of touch and its unusual style make it stand out from the crowd and I think we may be looking at Malta’s best result for years. 66-1 to 100-1 *****

Bulgaria – Elitsa and Stoyan – Samo Shampioni

Elitsa and StoyanDo you remember the old days of 45 rpm records? If the hole in the middle got enlarged and it didn’t sit centrally on the spindle, it would make the arm and the needle wobble back and forth on the turntable and the music would sound warped as a result. This is clearly the effect Elitsa and Stoyan are trying to recreate with their 2013 entry. They enjoyed a successful fifth place in 2007 with their (IMHO overrated) song Water, but that is like the Hallelujah Chorus in comparison with the dire Samo Shampioni. True, it is a little better than the totally ghastly Kismet that was first chosen, but this is definitely toilet break material for me. 100-1 to 250-1 *

Iceland – Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson – Ég á líf (I Have A Life)

Eyþór Ingi GunnlaugssonA curious video depicting some sort of supernatural near-drowning incident accompanies this assertive little song about having a life now that Eyþór’s found lurrve. I find its repetitive major chord chorus a little inane but it’s certainly got a charm of its own. Eyþór is from Dalvík in northern Iceland which is where Friðrik Ómar was born, so that’s got to be a good sign. It’s written by Örlygur Smári who has composed Tell Me, This is my life and Je ne sais quoi for Iceland, and Pétur Örn Guðmundsson who’s been a backing vocalist for five Icelandic entries. Eyþór looks like he ought to be a member of a Deep Purple tribute band. Good heavens, he really is a member of a Deep Purple tribute band. He doesn’t really look right for such a gentle song – but maybe that will help it stand out. 100-1 to 250-1 ***

Greece – Koza Mostra feat. Agathonas Iakovidis – Alcohol is Free

Koza MostraHere’s another rather disconcerting video, this time with a creepy old guy (Mr Iakovidis) fingering his moustaches every time he sets eyes on the Koza Mostra boys (who are dressed like they’re from the Clan McAthens). They performed at the London Preview Party and they had great attack. Everything about this song should be crowd pleasing – it’s pacey, with enough traditional Greek instruments to appeal your Zorba complex, and it’s fun – and then it goes and ruins it all by having a woeful chorus that just repeats the title ten times. Mind you some of the other lyrics are a bit weird – according to they include “The whiskey is not to blame; the ice cubes were methylated and our boat finally has wheels, breathalyser and traffic warden.” That must have been a helluva night on the ouzo. 33-1 to 50-1 **

Israel – Moran Mazor – Rak Bishvilo (Only For Him)

Moran MazorWell now, this is nothing if not dramatic; and after the triteness of the lyrics of the Greek entry, this lyric is Shakespearean in comparison. Moran Mazor sings of how she will basically walk to the ends of the earth Only For Him. Israel’s answer to Adele, Moran is a comely wench with a touch of the secretary about her with those specs and a voice that can belt out a good tune at fifty paces. The song isn’t really my thing, but I recognise that will appeal to many. And it is growing on me. 100-1 to 150-1 ***

Armenia – Dorians – Lonely Planet

DoriansFrom the pen of Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi comes this soporific piece of soft rock. I actually quite like it – but something about it is so relaxing that I can’t keep awake through its entirety. The group Dorians have been together for five years now and have acquired a loyal fan base and a few awards on the way. Lead singer Gor Sujyan was a backing singer on Apricot Stone a few years ago, and lyricist Vardan Zadoyan also gave us the memorable (sic) words to Jan Jan. Simple but effective video too. It’s one of only two rock songs in this year’s contest and I think it will qualify. 66-1 to 125-1 ***

Hungary – ByeAlex – Kedvesem (My sweetheart)

ByeAlexThe first time I heard this I thought it was so laid back it was barely there. But after a few hearings it has really grown on me. Even though – I am assuming dear reader that you are not a native Hungarian speaker – you haven’t got a clue what he’s singing about, his voice has a remarkably expressive tone. And in fact the lyrics are about how his sweetheart is a quirky kind of girl with messy hair who splashes in beautiful seas; and you get the sense of it being a really touching love song. ByeAlex is the nom de chanson of Alex Márta, a 28-year-old journalist from eastern Hungary. I guess the unintelligible language may hold it back on the night, but it really ought to do very well. 80-1 to 200-1 ****

Norway – Margaret Berger – I Feed You My Love

Margaret BergerAnother arrangement with more than its fair share of technothrob, Margaret Berger gives a steely performance of this unsentimental love song with a really modern feel and striking imagery. It’s a track off her latest album, and was written by Karin Park and Macho Psycho. That’s not the rather butch son of Mr and Mrs Psycho, but a Swedish songwriting/producing team who have worked with Justin Timberlake and the Backstreet Boys amongst others. Miss Berger came second in the second series of Norwegian Idol, beating a certain Maria Haukass Storeng in the process. I think this song is a little off-putting at first, but after a bit it really warms up. I predict Good Things for this third favourite with the bookies. 13-2 to 8-1 *****

Albania – Adrian Lulgjuraj and Bledar Sejko – Identitet (Identity)

Adrian Lulgjuraj and Bledar SejkoHere’s the other rock song in this year’s contest – which has a few folky drums chucked in for good measure too. The first male voices for Albania since 2007 and the first time ever that they haven’t chosen a soloist. Adrian is originally from Montenegro, and Bledar has performed once before at the Festival I Kenges, in 1992, but we don’t talk about that because he came last. He’s a guitarist who created a rock group that had to perform in secret in the late 1980s when the communist regime didn’t allow such hippy things and he was also a backing performer on stage with Aurela Gace in Düsseldorf. I’m not normally one to like the Albanian entries much, but I think this has a lot going for it. 100-1 to 200-1 ***

Georgia – Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani – Waterfall

Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie GelovaniThis song seems to be doing well in a number of the fan votes at the moment but to be honest its appeal is passing me by. It’s extremely nice in a drippy bland way – I see it as being like this year’s Running Scared but with much less of a hook in its tune. Nodi and Sophie make good harmonies, that’s for sure; and of course it’s written by Thomas G:son, responsible for wonderful things like Euphoria and I Love You Mi Vida, and also for that execrable In A Moment Like This. Pleasant tune, but too safe and cosy for me. 18-1 to 20-1 **

Switzerland – Takasa – You and Me

TakasaControversial possibly but this remains my favourite song this year. I loved it from the moment I first heard its anthemic ahh ahh ahh’s and I haven’t changed my mind. They are of course the Swiss Salvation Army, who weren’t allowed to wear their uniforms on stage or call themselves the Heilsarmee, and I know they are an institution that may instinctively attract or repel you, depending on your point of view. I’m just taking the song at face value. And I’m also pretty much in awe of Emil who was 95 in February. Takasa, apparently, is a Swahili word meaning “Clean” or “Purify”, but of course it is also an acronym for The Artists Known As Salvation Army. Cheeky! The song is firmly rooted under my skin and staying there for God knows how long. I hope it qualifies. 100-1 to 125-1 *****

Romania – Cezar – It’s My Life

CezarIt’s My Life: not that wonderful old Talk Talk song, but a totally dreadful piece of overblown popera by “Cezar The Voice”, or Cezar Florin Ouatu, to give him his full name. Cezar is an established opera singer who has performed at the Lausanne Opera and won best countertenor at a festival in 2003. My advice to him would be to stick with the real thing. Popera is one of my pet hates but I now realise quite how brilliant Malena Ernman’s La Voix is. When Cezar takes to the stage at the end of Thursday evening, expect your crystal glasses to shatter and distant packs of hounds to start baying. 80-1 to 125-1 *

So that concludes Semi Final Two. Now all I have to do is introduce you to the entries of the big 5 and Sweden, who are playing at home this year, and I shall do that very very soon. I’ll also stick my neck out and make some predictions, confirm which are my best and least favourites and also examine another way of assessing songs’ popularity. See you soon!