Eurovision – France and Switzerland

France and Switzerland, love you, hate your official Eurovision videos. I’m not sure how this works, if Eurovision picks the videos or the artist/country submits them. Regardless, since the competition is supposedly based on live performance, I don’t understand why a number of the videos have been the theatrical kind that “tell a story.” In the case of these two countries, the stories are ridiculous and annoying. The one from France is practically begging for a literal interpretation.

I searched YouTube for better performances, which are featured below. The sound quality isn’t as good as the official videos, but in the case of Switzerland, the performance is so much better.

Anggun is representing France with the dance song, Echo (You And I)

You can find the official video here. As for the above performance, hot babe, great voice, good stage presence. I liked the song. With a good remix, it’s very danceable. Summer is coming and I can see this having a lot of seasonal appeal since it’s so light and frothy. Not a winner for me, but I’m not counting it out. This could be a contender.

Sinplus is representing Switzerland with the rock song, Unbreakable

You can find the official video here. Love this live performance. The band is high energy and the singer has a distinct voice and good stage presence. The song has a rock anthem quality that makes your head bop. Overall, really good. I liked the song, but I didn’t love it. Not a winner for me, but high up there. Could be a contender, depending on how many rock fans are voting.

I liked both songs and would be happy to hear either on the radio. If I were to choose between them now, I would go with Switzerland. If France were to put out a hot remix, though, that’s the one that would be on my iPod.

Eurovision – Portugal and Spain

When I was younger, I spent a month wandering around Spain. I was in Barcelona for La Mercè, a four-day celebration in honor of the city’s patron saint, Our Lady of Mercy. For a religious festival, it was a rip-roaring good time! There were free concerts and I have fond memories of dancing in the plazas to some great music. My one regret is that I didn’t make it to Portugal during that trip. No favoritism, though. I’m eager to hear how these two neighbors, both famous for dramatic music, compare to each other.

Filipa Sousa is representing Portugal with the ballad, Vida Minha (My Life)

Definitely dramatic. She’s got a great voice and great stage presence. The song itself, while good, is old-fashioned. Everything about this, from the backup singers to the staging to the music, seemed like something from 40 years ago. Perhaps she had to appeal to a certain age group or sensibility to win the country’s competition. I don’t think this stands a chance unless she finds a modern spin for the Eurovision semi-finals.

Pastora Soler is representing Spain with the ballad, Quédate Conmigo (Stay With Me)

Interesting to note, I couldn’t embed the official Eurovision video. I got a message stating, “Embedding disabled by request.” First time that has happened. No worries though. The above video is actually better. So, onto the song. Another dramatic performance by a woman with a great voice and great stage presence. Not very different from Sousa’s performance, though Soler definitely has the modern edge. I could see Mariah Carey singing something like this, which is to say, this wasn’t very original.

Perhaps Portugal and Spain are trying to appeal to each others base in hopes of votes. They probably succeeded, but I don’t know that they have much appeal outside their region. As I said, both women are strong singers, but there’s nothing very modern or original about either. Portugal gave a more powerful performance, while Spain was more contemporary. Neither one was a winner for me.

These videos are from the list of Eurovison 2012 contestants on YouTube.

Eurovision – Italy and Malta

Almost through the list. Just 10 more countries to go. I didn’t think I was going to make it through before Eurovision began, so whew! Heading back to the Mediterranean now to give Italy and Malta a look and listen.

Nina Zilli is representing Italy with the R&B song L’Amore È Femmina (Out Of Love)

Aw, yeah! She’s pretty awesome. She’s like Amy Winehouse without the bad tats and crazy. Great distinct voice and style. I loved watching her, but as I listened, I kept wishing she was singing in Italian instead of English. Then, near the end, she switched to Italian and it was so much better. She adds a sexy roll to her words that’s not possible in English. I found this video where the whole song is in Italian. Please, for Eurovision, drop the English. Other than that, brava, brava!

Kurt Calleja is representing Malta with the dance song, This Is The Night

As I started watching the Eurovision videos, I thought that countries like Malta with small populations would also have a small talent pool. However, Russia, with it’s huge population, gives us the Babushki, whose novelty wears off after a couple of listens. Malta gives us a solid performer in Kurt Calleja. He’s got a good voice and the song is upbeat and fun. Love the hook. I don’t know that this is a winner, but with a good remix, I could see it being a dance hit.

Viva Italia! I can definitely see her making the finals. Malta, good job, but not in the winners’ circle for me.

These videos are from the list of Eurovison 2012 contestants on YouTube.

Eurovision – Germany, Austria and Slovakia

Just for the record, I’m not skipping Poland and the Czech Republic. Rather they, along with Monaco and Luxembourg, are skipping Eurovision. Not all participant countries choose to compete on a yearly basis. From what I understand, it can be a considerable expense.

And speaking of expense, certain countries are major contributors to the EBU and Eurovision. As such, these countries, along with the host country, automatically qualify as finalists. This doesn’t seem quite fair to me, but then again, if they’re laying down the cash, they probably should see some benefit. Hopefully, they still feel the need to put their best performers on the stage. Germany is one of the automatic finalist, so I’ll start with them.

Roman Lob is representing Germany with the rock ballad, Standing Still

I really liked the official Eurovision video, but I wanted to hear him live, so I found this video. Loved this. He’s a good-looking guy with a great, distinct voice. His plaintive tone has a husky catch that gives power to the song. This sounds like an indie rock hit that you’d turn up when it comes on the radio. Good job, Germany. This could be a winner.

Trackshittaz is representing Austria with the hip hop song, Woki Mit Deim Popo

I don’t suppose anyone would be surprised to learn that “Woki Mit Deim Popo” translates as “Shake Your Ass.” The glow-in-the-dark ass shaking bit with the dancers toward the middle was silly, but fun. In fact, the whole song is silly and fun. Are the voices good? Not really. Is the song original? Not so much. I’ll give them high marks for an energetic performance, but as a song, it’s not a winner for me.

Max Jason Mai is representing Slovakia with the metal song, Don’t close your eyes

Don’t count metal out. After all, the heavy metal band, Lordi, from Finland, won Eurovision in 2006. (Thanks for the video, Markku!) To be honest, metal is not my thing. That being said, as metal songs go, this seems pretty good. He has a strong voice and the presence to carry the song. I wouldn’t vote for this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a finalist.

Three very distinct performances. This is part of what I’m liking about Eurovision: real variety. Germany wins for me, but Slovakia could pull ahead if there are enough metal heads in the voting audience.

These videos are from the list of Eurovison 2012 contestants on YouTube.

Eurovision – Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary

Hungary holds a special place in my heart because of a book I read as a child, “The Good Master.” It was set on the Hungarian plains and concerned the adventures of cousins Kate and Jancsi. I remember being enchanted by how different life was there. Serbia I know of because of the 1990s wars. Then I remembered that Nikola Tesla was Serbian. Very cool. Macedonia is a mystery to me. Sort of like Greece, but not really? Regardless, let’s see what these countries have to offer by way of music.

Kaliopi is representing Macedonia with the rock ballad, Crno i Belo

I like her voice. It’s got a husky, rocker quality that’s imperfect but has power. The song builds from slow ballad to rock and roll about half-way through. The hook has just a hint of traditional flavor. I liked it. It’s different from what I’ve been hearing so far. It’s not my favorite, but I’d definitely like to see her perform live.

Željko Joksimović is representing Serbia with the ballad, Nije Ljubav Stvar

He’s got a great voice. Very smooth and effortless. I liked the song, especially the traditional hook. Then I noticed in the YouTube comments that people were comparing this to Coldplay’s Paradise. So I listened to the two songs one after the other. Definitely some similarities, but this isn’t a rip-off. Of the two, though, I prefer Paradise. Again, this is good, but not my favorite. However, with that voice, I wouldn’t count him out.

Compact Disco is representing Hungary with the rock ballad, Sound Of Our Hearts

A message video! Rich or poor, both characters sexually harass women and are need of anger management therapy. So, the message is that we’re more alike than different? Dunno. In this video, the singer has a good strong voice that suits the melancholy power of the music. However, I found a live performance where he sounds pitchy and nasal. Gotta wonder about auto-tuning. Though maybe he has a cold. We’ll see what he brings to the semi-finals.

Of the three, I liked Hungary’s song the best. I’m uncertain about the true quality of the singer’s voice, so no winners for me here.

These videos are from the list of Eurovison 2012 contestants on YouTube.

Eurovision – Croatia, Slovenia and San Marino

I am familiar with Croatia and Slovenia by name, but San Marino? I had never heard of it before Eurovision. I have to thank this competition for giving me a much needed geography lesson. San Marino is a small republic within Italy and, according to Wikipedia, it is the “oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world.” Good to know. Let’s see how they stack up in a singing competition.

Nina Badrić is representing Croatia with the ballad, Nebo

It’s raining men! But not in the fun, disco way. Aside from video silliness, this is a nice, romantic ballad sung by a woman with a nice voice. So, yeah, nice. Obviously, I wasn’t real impressed by this. Then I found this remix on YouTube. Awesome! Love this. While it’s true that I have a thing for dance music, I do love a powerful ballad. As sung, this version didn’t have enough power and passion for me. We’ll see what she brings to the stage for the semi-finals.

Eva Boto is representing Slovenia with the ballad, Verjamem

Nice song, nice voice, but again, nothing special. I do appreciate that this was a live performance, but it felt stilted rather than fresh and exciting. I wanted to give her another chance, so I looked for a different video. I found this English version, and discovered that “Verjamem” means “Pure Love.” I liked it better. It sounded more lively and her voice had more power. Again, we’ll see what she brings to the semi-finals. Hopefully, the backup singers won’t be dressed as bridesmaids.

Valentina Monetta is representing San Marino with the pop song, The Social Network Song

Yeah. This really is about Facebook. What I find interesting is it seems like Monetta is trying to appeal to a younger audience, while many of the other official videos feature performances that appeal to an older base. If this was American Idol, which has a very young voting base, this would be a good move. I’m not sure about Eurovision. The song was too silly for me. Even though you don’t hear many (any?) songs about Facebook, there was nothing else original about this.

I’m going with Slovenia here, but only because of the unofficial, English version of the song. I want to reiterate that I like it when people sing in their own language and my preference here has nothing to do with language.

These videos are from the list of Eurovison 2012 contestants on YouTube.

Eurovision – Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia–Herzegovina

Heading up the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea now. I don’t know much about this region, apart from the terrible war that happened in the 1990s. Did a little googling and discovered that these countries are actively promoting tourism, particularly as a less-crowded, less-expensive, equally historic and beautiful alternative to Western Europe. Tempting. Let’s see if the music tempts me further.

Rona Nishliu is representing Albania with the ballad, Suus

I chose this live performance video over the creepy, artsy video provided by Eurovision. Really, no legs? Creepy. The sound quality isn’t quite as good in the above video, but you get more of a sense of her as a performer, and she is amazing. What a voice! She sings with such passion, giving the song power and drama. I couldn’t find an English translation for “Suus,” so I don’t know what the song is about. I liked her voice better than I liked the actual song. Maybe her Eurovision performance will change my mind.

Rambo Amadeus is representing Montenegro with the rap song, Euro Neuro

I really liked the donkey. And speaking of tourism, I’ve got to wonder if this video was produced by the Montenegro Tourism Board. If so, good job. It makes the country look like a fun place to visit. The song itself was just silly and didn’t resonate with me at all. Rambo doesn’t so much sing as croak. Watching this after watching Rona Nishliu makes me wonder what Montenegro was thinking.

Maya Sar is representing Bosnia-Herzegovina with the ballad, Korake Ti Znam

Two donkeys! Take that, Montenegro. Plus, baby donkey, FTW. All silliness aside, this is a lovely ballad, song by a lovely woman with a beautiful voice. I found an English version on YouTube, “The Steps I Know.” Really nice. I liked it better than the original, not just because I could understand the lyrics. It sounded less produced, allowing her to really shine as a performer. I’ll be interested to see which version she picks for Eurovision.

This was a difficult choice. Rona Nishliu has an amazing voice, but I preferred Maya Sar’s song. I’ll have to go with Bosnia-Herzegovina here.

These videos are from the list of Eurovison 2012 contestants on YouTube.

Eurovision – Cyprus, Greece and Israel

Heading for the Mediterranean now to review Cyprus, Greece and Israel. In the interest of full disclosure, I am of Greek heritage, but I’ll try not to show any favoritism. After all, you can’t vote for your own country. I don’t know much about Cyprus. While hanging out at a tiny Copenhagen jazz club, my husband and I sat next to an athlete from the Cyprus taekwondo team. He was a really nice guy, but he smoked too much. Come to think of it, so did everyone else.

FYI, Israel is eligible to compete in Eurovision because they are part of the EBU, European Broadcasting Union, along with other, non-European countries. Sure wish the USA could join so I could vote in the competition.

Ivi Adamou is representing Cyprus with the dance song, La La Love

Cyprus’ official Eurovision video is a Snow White story that gets 7 thumbs down from me for not including the Seven Dwarfs. Anyway, this live performance is far better and lets us experience her actual talent. It’s a catchy, fun tune and she’s got a good, strong voice. Not a great, strong voice. But many a competition has been won by a pretty, leggy woman with a good voice. The song itself is the kind of dance tune I’d like on my iPod.

Eleftheria Eleftheriou is representing Greece with the dance song, Aphrodisiac

Hot, leggy babe with a good voice. I’m sensing a pattern. Another catchy, fun tune, this one with a traditional-sounding hook, giving the song the flavor of the country, which I like. I think I was mostly impressed with the dancers having to support those 5-inch stilettos on their backs. I liked this, but I didn’t love it.

Izabo is representing Israel with the rock song, Time

I enjoyed this video. I like the Cirque du Soleil theme. I like the band, too, and the song. It’s got a great, high-energy pop/rock vibe. I would have liked it more if my friend, Markku, hadn’t pointed out how similar the hook is to Abba’s Nina Pretty Ballerina. Not identical, but too close for comfort. It’s like those hidden cat photos. Once you see it, your eyes go right to it. I can’t listen to this song without also hearing “Nina.”

Of these three countries, Cyprus is the winner for me.

These videos are from the list of Eurovison 2012 contestants on YouTube.

Eurovision – Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova

Crossing the Black Sea, heading west for Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova, three more countries I don’t know much about. Romania is familiar to me only because of Dracula. Through Dracula, I learned about Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, who was a scary enough dude without also being a vampire.

Mandinga is representing Romania with the pop song, Zaleilah

I tried Google Translate and a Google search, but couldn’t find out what “Zaleilah” means in English. Perhaps it’s a name. Anyway, catchy tune and I’m always a sucker for a drum line. Add the bagpipes and an accordion, and I’m so in. The singer is a hot babe with a nice voice, though she sounded auto-tuned. I mean, really auto-tuned. I enjoyed this, but I’m not convinced until I see them in a live performance.

Sofi Marinova is representing Bulgaria with the dance song, Love Unlimited

After I watched this canned performance, all I could think is, “She’s got to be better than this.” And she is! I found this live performance video on YouTube.

Wow! Okay, now, this I would like on my iPod. Great voice, great performance and a fun, catchy dance tune. If she brings this to the competition, I think she has a chance.

Pasha Parfeny is representing Moldova with the pop song, Lăutar

“This trumpet makes you my girl.” Is that a double entendre? No, don’t answer that. Google Translate doesn’t do Moldovan, but I discovered, through Wikipedia, that Moldovan is similar to Romanian. In Romanian, “Lăutar” means “fiddler.” What happened to the trumpet? Anyway, this was all right. I liked the music better than the singing. Another entry where I wish the singer was performing in his native language, though I don’t know if that would have improved his voice.

Of these three countries, Bulgaria is the winner for me. How about you? Any favorites so far?

These videos are from the list of Eurovison 2012 contestants on YouTube.

Eurovision – Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey

Heading south now to Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, the 2011 winner of Eurovision. Originally, I planned to review Armenia rather than Turkey in this post. However, I discovered that Armenia has dropped out of the competition. Sadly, this is due to a border conflict, as reported by RT.

I’ll start with last year’s winner, Azerbaijan. Out of curiosity and to see what it takes to win this competition, I watched the video of last year’s winning performance.

Err… kind of underwhelmed. This is nice but not a great duet or pop song. Really, they won? I understand it’s not just talent but also the ability to garner votes, the same as American Idol. Sorry, Azerbaijan, but this is just okay. Let’s see what 2012 has to offer.

Sabina Babayeva is representing Azerbaijan with the pop ballad, When The Music Dies

Better. Definitely better. She has a strong voice and I like the sense of drama she gives to the song. Thing is, I’m really getting a Celine Dion vibe off of her, from the gowns to the hair to her pointy features. This is good, but too clone-like and not a winner.

Anri Jokhadze is representing Georgia with the song, I’m A Joker

Life is a cabaret, old chum. I’m not sure how to categorize this song. The closest I came is show tune. If it was part of a show, I’d probably like it more. As a stand alone song, it’s more of a novelty than a hit. I liked the eastern-sounding hook and the song’s energy. The video reminded me of “I’m Too Sexy”, but not in a good way.

Can Bonomo is representing Turkey with the song, Love Me Back

Another song I don’t know how to categorize. I liked that it’s fun and has a traditional vibe but, I’m sorry, he can’t sing. I mean, he’s cute and his dancing around is fun to watch, but his voice doesn’t cut it. Anri Jokhadze from Georgia was better than this. I don’t like to be negative, but I really didn’t like this. Sorry, Turkey.

Of these three countries, Azerbaijan is my favorite, but only because I wasn’t so fond of the other two. How about you? Any favorites so far?

These videos are from the list of Eurovison 2012 contestants on YouTube.