Eurovision 2012 – The ones that got away

It’s that time of year again, gentle reader, when it is my duty to let you hear a few gems that did not make it through their national qualifying heats and therefore will not be gracing the stage of the Crystal Hall in Baku, if they build it on time. It’s been a good year, although perhaps not a great one, for the National Finals. I’m going to start of with an absolute classic. Petter Øien and Bobby Bare got into the final four in Norway with their simple country song, Things Change. It stands out not only because of the different genre, but also because it’s a fine old tune. If Bobby Bare had made it to Baku, he would have been 77 years old; that young whippersnapper Engelbert Humperdinck would be in short trousers by comparison.

Next up is a wonderful dramatic piece from Iceland, not that this year’s Icelandic entry lacks a sense of saga. Hugarro, which my online translator says means “Peace of Mind”, is sung by Magni Asgeirsson. He has one of those voices that makes you think he’s experienced a lot of troubles in his life, and this was his 4th attempt to represent Iceland at the Eurovision Song Contest. Last year he came 2nd with “Eg trui a betra lif”; and this year he slipped down to 3rd, so he’d better pull his socks up in the future. The opening keyboard sound has something of the Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence about it. See what you think.

Over to Hungary now, and a strong final as this year’s Hungarian entry by Compact Disco is definitely one of my favourites. But there was plenty of other prospects to tickle your tunebuds. Take for example this quality ballad, Vizio (Vertigo) performed by the amusingly named Caramel. If you were ever going to name a bloke Caramel, this is not how I would imagine him to look. Maybe he has a soft centre. He won Hungarian Pop Idol in 2005 and is now a judge on the show, so he probably knows his nougats from his pralines.

Double-dipping in Hungary, here’s the song that came draw 2nd with Vizio, Learning to let go by Gabor Heincz, or Heincz Gabor if you prefer. It couldn’t be more different from Mr Caramel’s offering, as it’s light of note and jaunty of step, one of those songs that require you to hop from one side to another in your brain as it progresses. He was a backing singer in the Eurovision a couple of years ago, and the song’s a jolly little thing with a certain je ne sais quoi; if I knew quoi, I would tell you.

I know what you’re thinking – where are the girls? Well here’s one. Ditte Marie from Denmark singing Overflow, another bright upbeat dancy little number that came nowhere in Aalborg. It probably doesn’t examine the human condition in any great depth, but you can have too much philosophy. Wearing an ice queen leotard rummaged out of the seconds bin – check out the rips on her arms – she does a nice line in stage-strutting without it ever being over-the-top. It’s certainly jollier than the song that will represent Denmark this year. Have a listen.

I feel like a touch of the Baltics after that, so let’s nip over to Estonia avoiding the “Kuula” – I’ll dissect that one day soon – and keeping it light let’s have a listen to You’re Not Alone by Birgit Õigemeel (try saying that after a few bottles of Saku) and Violina, which I think of as a prettier version of the James Last Orchestra. Birgit won the first season of Estonian Idol and has recorded loads of singles. This song came 7th in their national final and I think was under-rated. Admittedly it’s not as good as the wonderful Violina/Rolf Junior attempt from 2010, “Maagiline päev”, but I think it deserves an honourable mention here.

Look I don’t want to bore you for too long so I’ll just suggest a couple of others for you. Over in Austria, a chap named Norbert Schneider sang this very “different” number called Medicate my blues away. It couldn’t be further away from the Trackshittaz. Norbert’s into his blues in a big way, and although this wouldn’t normally be my Tasse Tee, I rather like its smooth chirpiness. It’s the title track of his new album too. It didn’t make the superfinal in Austria – probably to his credit.

Whilst we’re in Austria, have a listen to Englishman James Cottriall who also failed to make the superfinal with his song, Stand Up. He moved to Vienna as part of his German and Philosophy degree at Nottingham University, where his part-time busking and other gigs took off so well that he remained there to pursue his music career – very successfully as it turns out. Stand Up is a nice anthemic song and doesn’t feature rappers with dodgy lyrics or a bearded lady.

Time for one more – and it’s over to Latvia, where there were a few good contenders to represent the country. Whilst I think Anmary’s Beautiful Song, that will be in Baku, was probably the perfect choice, it would be remiss not to include this final song in this memorial to songs that you might never hear again. Music Thief is a silly, funny song about plagiarism, with lyrics stolen from other songs and with musical elements you’ll recognise from elsewhere too. The lead singer’s voice gives you hope that one day you too could have a recording career. I’d like the Mad Show Boys come back next year with something equally daft.

If you got this far – and listened to the songs too – well done you. Feel free to post a comment if you like or hate any of them or if you have other suggestions. I’ll be examining this year’s proper entries soon, so you have been warned.

2010 Eurovision songs I like so far, Part Two.

If I may refer you back to my previous post here I am happy to say that I am still fond of all those songs, especially Yes Man, Synk eller svøm, and Give it to me.

Plenty of new songs have come our way since then, some that will bedeck the stage in Oslo with their jewels, some that will only exist in a few months’ time on some anoraks’ hard disks. I suppose I should throw my hat into the ring and say that I do like the song that has been chosen for Iceland, Hera Björk’s Je ne sais quoi; I didn’t at first, very much. Too reminiscent of Euroband’s iconic “This is my life”. And indeed the music is written by the same person, so I guess he is entitled to rip himself off. Anyway, after a few high volume hearings of it cruising down the motorway, it has become firmly wedged in my brain.

To Armenia, where they have chosen “Apricot Stone” by Eva Rivas to be their representative. It’s actually a rather charming piece, with a softly evocative start, building to a nice ethnic feel and a groovy chorus. I like it. Apricots are apparently a symbol of Armenia. You learn something every day.

In Norway I’m not going to elevate their entry “My Heart is Yours” to the level of “songs I like” yet – because I am still ambivalent about it. I think I will like it in due course, but I’m not there yet. So I’m going to offer “Jealous cause I love you” by Venke Knutson as an amusing character piece; unfortunately she didn’t perform it too well when it mattered and it is a rather slight song, but it’s entertaining and you can sing it to yourself whilst doing housework. Or rather Mrs Chrisparkle could, as my back is probably too painful for me to do such a thing.

There are two songs I like in Estonia, one is Siren, which snuck in to the final luckily as a previously selected finalist was disqualified. I find it very haunting and once you hear it, very hard to get out of your head. I doubt it will win in Estonia.

I also like Maagiline Päev by Violina and Rolf Junior. I suspect in a month or so’s time if any of these selections will have got demoted from Songs I Like to Songs I’ve Had Enough Of Now, Thank You, this may be the most likely.

In Finland my choices were pretty much kicked aside early in the day. An unfortunate performance from Bääbs meant that You Don’t Know Tomorrow got a deserved flea in its ear.

I also liked America I think I love you, by the Boys of the Band, but I’m sure parts of Europe wouldn’t have approved of such an overtly political statement.

In Denmark, I really like Breathing by Bryan Rice. It came second to the eventual winner, which everyone except me is raving about.

That’ll do for now. I like some of the Melodifestivalen songs but, as you may know, SVT guard their tv output with their lives, so I can’t upload the videos.

Keep enjoying the National Finals season!