Eurovision 2012 – Semi Final One

Another year has flown by so it’s time to take a look at this year’s Eurovision runners and riders. We’ll start off with Semi Final One, taking the songs in the order in which they will appear on the night (the night in question being Tuesday 22nd May), and not only do you have the range of betting odds courtesy of (taking all the bookmakers who will give you the first four places as each way, as at 24th April) but I’m also giving each song a star rating out of five, just for a laugh. So here goes!

Montenegro – Euro Neuro – Rambo Amadeus

Rambo AmadeusSo anyone who hasn’t watched Eurovision for a few years will get a bit of a shock if they tune in to Tuesday’s Semi-Final and are expecting the usual Boom banga dinga dinga. That Mr Amadeus is a wag, isn’t he? Known for being subversive with his music he’s come up with this anti-bureaucratic anti-governmental anti-modern age ditty that is too clever for its own good. The video is visually quite entertaining but musically it’s going to have people switching off in droves. 80-1 to 200-1 **

Iceland – Never Forget – Gréta Salóme and Jónsi

Gréta Salóme and JónsiNot the old crowd pleaser by Take That, but something that sounds like a pivotal moment from an Andrew Lloyd Webbersson musical. Very dramatic and emotional, and their voices blend pretty darn magnificently – no need for an Elaine Paigesdottir. One of two songs that Gréta had in the Icelandic National Finals this year, so she’s been a busy girl; and this is Jónsi’s second go at bringing back the trophy to Reyjkavik. You can almost feel the steam rising between the tectonic plates and smell the sulphurous pong from the bathroom taps. As Nordic as it gets. 12-1 to 22-1 ****

Greece – Aphrodisiac – Eleftheria Eleftheriou

Eleftheria EleftheriouThe first song of the night that might be termed “typically” Eurovision. Things are financially tight in Greece so Eleftheria and her fellers knocked up this dance routine in the Athens Arndale Centre, cunningly leaving the windows open in Next to save on the costs of a wind machine. Eleftheria is officially gorgeous, and bouzouki by numbers though it may be, its simple dancey joy makes this my favourite of the year. It must have been a challenge for Mr and Mrs Eleftheriou to come up with a name for their baby girl; the English translation of her name is “Freedom’s Freedom”. 20-1 to 33-1 *****

Latvia – Beautiful Song – Annmary

AnnmaryAfter the deconstructionalist tendencies of Montenegro’s song, it’s on to the post-structuralist naval gazing of Latvia’s. Annmary’s beautiful song is all about Anmary’s beautiful song, and I rather like it for that – the trouble is, if you don’t catch the lyrics (and Annmary’s English diction does leave something to be desired) its subtlety and humour passes you by. Another striking looking lady, I’d love it to do well but I’m sure it won’t. The video inspires you to break into a song and dance routine in an airport departure lounge, which has long been a personal fantasy. I wonder why Paul McCartney has more kudos than Mick Jagger? 80-1 to 150-1 ****

Albania – Suus – Rona Nishliu

Rona NishliuIn the first line of this song Rona confesses she “nicked a boat that surely unseats a man”, then she hits her thumb and cries with the subsequent pain; at least that’s what it sounds like to me. I jest of course; according to the lyrics include “my plane is landing on the unlit runway of your soul”. Remind me not to fly to Tirana International. A moody pretentious video to accompany a moody pretentious song, mainly memorable for that repeated note. My spies at the Amsterdam in Concert show said she was am-a-zing. She will need to be to carry it off. Not my kind of thing. 100-1 to 200-1 **

Romania – Zaleilah – Mandinga

MandingaZaleilah sounds to me like the kind of title Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich would have come up with. Lead singer Elena is yet another sizzler, the arrangement is quirky and upbeat, and you think it’s going to be something special, but then its meaningless chorus kicks in and it’s so repetitive that you get bored. Popular in some quarters, I file it under Ones That Ought To Be Better Than They Are. 25-1 to 33-1 ***

Switzerland – Unbreakable – Sinplus

Sinplus The first entry chosen to go to Baku, this song has been banging against the inside of my head for about four months now. More Highest Heights than If We All Give A Little (for which it gains brownie points), imitating Mr Broggini’s English accent remains the most enjoyable party trick of the season. Switzerland’s lack of natural allies means it probably won’t get far. A bit meaningless, a bit repetitive, a bit magic; nearly excellent. 66-1 to 125-1 ***

Belgium – Would You – Iris

IrisA dull song that limps along with odd lyrics – “What would you do if my house was empty?” I’d love it if the next line were “break in and steal my laptop and TV”. Iris puts two irritatingly breathy syllables in words that should only have one (life, bag, love). Stretches three minutes to an eternity. I never thought I’d have cause to say this, but it’s not a patch on Witloof Bay. 100-1 to 150-1 *

Finland – När jåg blundar – Pernilla Karlsson

Pernilla KarlssonThis is a gentle song. A very, very gentle song. It’s borderline relaxing/dull, but Pernilla is so cute that to criticise it would be like stamping on a puppy-dog’s tail. A nice folky feel to it, and I like her clarity of diction. The first Swedish language song in Eurovision since Jill Johnson in 1998. 50-1 to 100-1 **

Israel – Izabo – Time

IzaboHere’s a Marmite song, and personally I find it delicious. A thumping good beat and satisfyingly jangly guitars keep this Blur/Britpop-sounding oeuvre upbeat all the way through until its, admittedly, disappointingly lame ending. Is it just me, or does the chorus remind you of the Kinks’ Apeman? Izabo have been going for over twenty years now and it will be interesting to see what this does to their international careers. 100-1 to 150-1 ****

San Marino – The Social Network Song – Valentina Monetta

Valentina MonettaThe second incarnation for Uncle Ralph Siegel’s latest Eurovision hit, carved out of its original banned “Facebook” lyrics, which unfortunately leaves the song with twice the number of “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh”s that it should have. I don’t dislike this song as much as some other observers as the tune is quite jaunty and Valentina has her own special charm. Lyrics like “do you wanna play cybersex again…click me with your mouse” can be viewed as either cheesy crap or tongue-in-cheek witty, you choose. Like a vintage champagne, this will improve over the years, but it will be far too immature for May 22nd. 50-1 to 200-1 ***

Cyprus – La La Love – Ivi Adamou

Ivi AdamouIgnore the up-itself pompous arty-farty video, this is pure disco dancetastic. It’s not going to improve global warming or save polar bears but it is going to give you a very happy three minutes. Everything you could wish from an upbeat Eurovision song. Vying with Greece as my favourite this year. 18-1 to 40-1 *****

Denmark – Should’ve Known Better – Soluna Samay

Soluna SamayWith (IMHO) at least three or four better songs in this year’s Danish final, Soluna Samay’s victory was a testament to her excellent performance. Strangely reminiscent of (but inferior to) Tasmin Archer’s Sleeping Satellite, it’s a song that you keep expecting to soar but, like an honest snooker player, keeps its feet firmly on the floor. Should’ve Known Better? Should’ve Been Better. 9-1 to 14-1 ***

Russia – Party for Everybody – Buranovskiye Babushki

Buranovskiye BabushkiThe Russian grannies may have won the battle of big news story promotion this year but I feel they’re likely to stay Championship in Baku and not trouble the Premiership contenders. True, they are cuddly and sweet to look at, and you have to admire their chutzpah, but they can’t actually sing in tune and I think the juries in particular won’t think the song itself has much merit (“the cat is happy, the dog is happy, we are in a wonderful mood, and very happy”). Mind you, I like this more than the thing they tried with two years ago, whose title in English was “Very long birch bark and how to turn it into a turban”. I will sing along to it, of course, but surely the contest must have more credibility than this? 5-1 to 7-1 ***

Hungary – Sound of our Hearts – Compact Disco

Compact DiscoPlodding ballad or New Romantic triumph? I favour the latter. From the opening keyboard notes I’m hooked. Great instrumentation and strong vocals combine to give this a solid urgency that makes for a serious but rewarding listen. Loved it from the moment I first heard it – probably my third favourite of the year. Given the Hungarian fondness for reversing names I wonder if they should be Disco Compact? The slightly nasty video does nothing to enhance it. 80-1 to 150-1 *****

Austria – Woki mit deim Popo – Trackshittaz

Trackshittaz“The Shitz” are popular back home in Austria, with two number one singles and two number one albums to their rather tasteless name. To woki is to shake, and your Popo is your bum. So, it’s an everyday story about the Noodle Soup gang who go to a club to watch the pole dancers strip. So far, so good. But then they probe a bit deeper into the nature of the bum: “your bum has feelings, your bum is part of you, don’t put it on chairs, your bum has an opinion…” Music by Ivor Novello, words by Noel Coward. 80-1 to 150-1 ***

Moldova – Lăutar – Pasha Parfeny

Pasha ParfenyIncorporating Nelly Ciobanu’s brassy backing from the Hora din Moldova, and that traditional instrument – is it a cimbalom? – and with lyrics that don’t quite work in English (“you haven’t seen before how looks the trumpet”) this ought to be a mess from start to finish but Pasha’s likeable and energetic performance is a complete winner (although I know it won’t be on the night). The ultimate cheesefest and I love it. My fourth favourite of the year, and certainly my favourite ever Moldovan entry. This trumpet makes you mine, girl. 66-1 to 100-1 *****

Ireland – Waterline – Jedward

JedwardComing back for second helpings, Jedward’s new song is more mainstream pop than Lipstick and I prefer it. Very singalong, it will all depend on whether they can maintain their vocals during whatever physical larks they pursue on stage. Again a Marmite act; and although I still think they’re better sight unseen, I do find I’m now warming to them. 10-1 to 20-1 ****

So there we have it, the eighteen songs that make up Semi-Final One, which for me is by far the stronger of the two semis. I’ll be back with a preview of the second Semi-Final in a few days’ time.

Eurovision 2011 – Semi Final Two

Barely two days after the rigours of Semi Final One we return fresh-faced and expectant at the Fortuna arena for more delights. Let’s go through them again one by one in order, together with the largely pointless range of betting possibilities, brought to you by correct as at 31 March.

Bosnia Herzegovina – Dino Merlin – Love in Rewind

BosniaDino’s a big star in downtown Sarajevo, and has an excellent Eurovision record as being writer of Sva Bol Svjeta and singing half of Putnici (not sure if he was Put or Nici though). Is this another notch on his bedpost or a blotch on his escutcheon? A notch I think. He looks like he could be a contemporary of the original Merlin, and their performance appears to have been choreographed for a completely different song. I feel it lacks something somewhere – I wonder if in a few months he’ll discover a few missing odd notes that fell down the back of the sofa. 8-1 to 14-1

Austria – Nadine Beiler – The Secret is Love

AustriaThe first few notes make you think you’re in Whitney Houston I Will Always Love You mode, but actually it’s not quite as disastrous as that. When the song can be finally arsed to get going, it’s not a bad tune, but it’s very heavy going, more posing than imposing, and it does get on my nerves by the end. She’s had a couple of top ten hits in Austria and is a TV talent show star. Her hairstylist is obviously a fan of Aneka’s “Japanese Boy”. 33-1 to 50-1

Netherlands – 3J’s – Never Alone

NetherlandsIt’s a middle of the road, guitarry, plaintive, serious-ish song which is pleasant in parts. It’s the kind of song you know you ought to appreciate because they doubtless put a lot of hard work into it. However, it’s got none of the attack of the Lovebugs and their Highest Heights of a couple of years ago, and we know what happened to them. I find it very difficult to take seriously a song with the lyrics “there are golden gardens at the sweet end of your trail”. 66-1 to 200-1

Belgium – Witloof Bay – With Love Baby

BelgiuamNo, it’s not the return of the Flying Pickets – no such luck. When does acapella become simple showing-off? At about 1:40 on the accompanying youtube, when the admittedly skilful but tiresome singing is interrupted by a jerk with oral explosions. It’s the kind of noise a six year old makes when playing with guns. If you have to listen all the way through, (not recommended) you can enjoy mild diversion by pretending they’re singing “White Loaf” instead. 50-1 to 300-1

Slovakia – Twiins – I’m Still Alive

SlovakiaAnother song that fails to live up to the promise of its first fifteen seconds. And what’s with the “ii” in “Twiins”? Are they specifically targeting the Finnish market? It’s vacuous lowest-common-denominator Atomic Kitten/ All Saints/ Girls Aloud soundalike stuff, that goes nowhere and takes ages not getting there. The Twiins were backing singers for Tereza Kerndlová when she had some fun in 2008. Didn’t like that much either. 40-1 to 100-1

Ukraine – Mika Newton – Angel

UkraineFresh from a selection process that Mugabe would have been proud of, the upshot isn’t a bad song from Mika Newton. She’s got quite a nice voice, quite a pretty face, and it’s quite an enjoyable tune, even if it doesn’t linger in the brain too long afterwards. She’s an Avril Lavigne-type rock chick who came to prominence during the Orange Revolution and I expect we’ll see her in Düsseldorf on Saturday night. 25-1 to 100-1

Moldova – Zdob si Zdub – So Lucky

MoldovaI was quite pleased when I realised the Zdobs were back in town, as Boonika had a certain charm about her – for me it succeeded where the Babushki of last year’s Russian National Final totally failed. However, then they presented us with “So Lucky”. Three different tunes with no apparent dovetailing to unify them into one song. None of the three tunes makes for enjoyable listening. It’s all very raucous for raucous’ sake. I guess it has an element of anarchy but that dream in our hearts that one day we will all meet in Chisinau seems even further away. 40-1 to 125-1

Sweden – Eric Saade – Popular

SwedenA slick act and a creative musical arrangement make this a memorable performance, but I do have problems with it. Much has been made of the apparent rip-off of the drum opening to “Rasputin” and frankly they’re guilty as charged. The rhyme of possible with impossible is unforgivable – yes it rhymes, but you might as well have “I’m not going to Kings Cross Station, I’m going to Euston Station”. (It just about scans). The man likes a gimmick and I understand he is single-handedly responsible for rescuing the glaziers of Stockholm from recession. I predict Sweden’s best result for years. (Bold, aren’t I?) 8-1 to 12-1

Cyprus – Christos Mylordos – San Aggelos S’Asapisa

CyprusWords fail me, it’s so boring. It’s so boring it makes me angry. With any luck you might drift off before he starts singing. If you don’t, you might care to notice that the chorus appears to have no lyrics. But who cares. 40-1 to 300-1

Bulgaria – Poli Genova – Na Inat

BulgariaDisappointed to discover that “na inat” doesn’t translate as “nah, innit” but as the more prosaic “for spite”, and having read the lyrics I now understand why she sounds as miffed as she does. I don’t mind this. It’s got a bit of attack, and the tune is ok. You’d be nervous if you bumped into her in a dark alley, mind. Ends very suddenly. I think they just ran out of minutes. 80-1 to 200-1

FYR Macedonia – Vlatko Ilievski – Rusinka

FYR MacedoniaOne of those rare occasions where Mrs Chrisparkle and I completely agree on a Eurovision song. We both think this is pretty ace. It’s fast moving, jolly, unpretentious Russkipop, the age-old story of “we don’t speak each other’s language” and with an amusing nod to Kalinka to boot. Check out the video to see the two least convincing Russian dancers within 50 miles of Skopje. I hope it gets through to Saturday night, but I fear it won’t. 100-1 to 300-1

Israel – Dana International – Ding Dong

IsraelAnd here’s a classic example of where we don’t agree – the return of Ms International. How well we remember her feathers flapping in Birmingham all those years ago – but that was then and this is now. Mrs Chrisparkle can’t get past the first “Ding Dong” without reaching for the mute. DI’s voice continues to be on the tentative side of weak; the English words of the song verge on the risible; and yet, you know, I really like this! The tune just carries me away. Wouldn’t it be fun if just once Dana International sang the “Ding Dong” bit in the style of Leslie Phillips? 25-1 to 100-1

Slovenia – Maja Keuc – No One

SloveniaWritten by the same creative team who wrote “Energy” and “Mr Nobody”, and one of the co-writers of “Stop”. You wouldn’t credit it, would you? I think it’s a lot of caterwauling over nothing. 33-1 to 50-1

Romania – Hotel FM – Change

RomaniaOne of the UK’s “satellite” entries as the boy David Bryan is originally from Newton Aycliffe. As soon as the plinky plonky pub piano starts up it’s instantly appealing, with its nice tune and singalong easy to follow lyrics. Romania have come close in recent years and I think this has got to be in with a good chance. Just don’t mention the webcam. 25-1 to 100-1

Estonia – Getter Jaani – Rockefeller Street

EstoniaAlready a fan favourite, here we go with another strong song, a punchy tune and performance with a memorable hook. But is there any significance to the “1273” or would any old number have done? A quick spot of research reveals there’s no such address. Pity. Still I like it. I kind of wish it didn’t have that quieter slower sequence in the middle. You’re going to be hanging around like a lemon at the Eurovision disco during that bit. Sure to qualify though. First mention of diamonds and pearls of the evening. 5-1 to 13-2

Belarus – Anastasiya Vinnikova – I Love Belarus

BelarusIf you can’t get quicker than a Kwik Fit Fitter, you can’t get camper than a Belarussian Eurovision song, which is another of life’s little ironies. I can’t help but think the lovely Anastasiya will belt out her paean of her nation on Thursday night and millions of people all round Europe will just roll their eyes and say “yeah, right”. The song couldn’t be Russkier, and there’s a lot of fun to be had with it, but I think at the end of the evening Anastasiya will be getting into her Trabbie and toodling off back to Minsk. 66-1 to 200-1

Latvia – Musiqq – Angel in Disguise

LatviaAnother example of where Mrs Chrisparkle and I seem to be completely out of kilter with the rest of Europe, in that we really like this one too. Sensually alliterative lyrics, a thoughtful arrangement, it’s kind of softly contemporary if you get my drift. These two guys have been together for a couple of years now and have had a few hits in the Latvian charts. I don’t mind the rap section but it does go on too long. Must remind them how to spell “Music” some time. 66-1 to 150-1

Denmark – A Friend in London – New Tomorrow

DenmarkA bit boring to watch, but very anthemic; could be the dark horse, if they put lots of 50p’s in the meter and they’ve still got a packet of the Olsen Brothers’ fireworks left. It’s a comfortably unchallenging feelgood song, the musical equivalent of a favourite warm old cardy. Andreas Johnson must be furious. Second mention of diamonds and pearls of the evening. 14-1 to 22-1

Ireland – Jedward – Lipstick

IrelandAnd finally, a subtle way to wind up the evening. Hair styled by Edvard Munch, John and Edward cavort and vocalise their way through the routine with all the musicality of Janet Street-Porter. The song is disgustingly catchy but I think it’s going be way off radar of everyone east of Ostend. Definite 12 points from the UK if it gets to the final. 20-1 to 40-1

So I’m going to have a lie down in a darkened room now and will be back soon with the five finalists plus the songs I think will join them on the Saturday night. Thanks for reading!