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.