Saturday, 1 January 2011

ESC 2011: The 43 entries (as they come)

Listen to all of the songs: here or here

Belarus (11-02-28, “I love Belarus”, Anastasia Vinnikova)
So it’s Belarus’ turn to bring Cossacks to Eurovision this year! Never mind. I have the strong feeling that Belarus will not qualify in 2011. Firstly, because it’s, well, Belarus, a country with a rather poor qualification record (especially for an Eastern European country). Secondly, because of the overly chauvinistic tone and self-referential patriotic title (an approach that rarely seems to work in Eurovision).  And thirdly, because, erm, neither the song nor the singer are very good, are they? In spite of some interesting “electro-ethnic” arrangements, this nationalistic Cossack disco song is rather unremarkable and it is delivered by a stilted performer whose voice does not sound very pleasant live. We all know this is not a song but, rather, a political statement.
(Chapuzilla ultra-nacionalista)

Azerbaijan (11-03-13, “Running Scared”, Ell & Nikki)
This RnB influenced mid-tempo ballad is instantly appealing and effortlessly catchy. It is also one of the very few entries this year that sound contemporary. The promotional video is very slick and tastefully put together. But the feeling one gets is that it is all too prefabricated and overproduced. Mindless pastiche. Yes, this entry has many ingredients to do very well in May. And I am sure that Azeri television will work hard to make an impact with the stage presentation. However, I can’t see this winning. On the one hand, I don’t think the title is particularly Eurovision-friendly (e.g., it evokes images of the performers running scared from the stage – especially the male singer). Another concern is the singing: in the recorded version the vocals are impressive, especially hers; but a big doubt is whether they are going to be able to reproduce them live. I would also add that no mixed sex duo has ever won the ESC and I can’t see how these two young performers are going to break that record, especially as (based on the video) there seems to be little chemistry between them.
(Una cancion muy agradable y moderna pero todo tiene una pinta muy artificiosa)

Sweden (11-03-12, “Popular”, Eric Saade)
This song is remarkably forgettable. Its very repetitive chorus fails to be catchy. It may have an elaborate choreography, a signposted key change, a dramatic (if pointless) glass smashing routine and a very cute boy fronting it; but it is still not memorable enough. It is difficult to enjoy something as mechanistic, plastic and outdated as this. (In a similar style, runner-up “In the Club” was a lot more fun). And don’t get me going about the toe-curlingly cringe-inducing lyrics. It just feels like Sweden is determined to overlook the developments of the contest in the last 20 years and their entries are increasingly out of touch with the rest of Europe. And I will always maintain that the Melodifestivalen is seriously overrated. There are many who doubt ‘Popular’ will be popular enough to make it to the final. Eric says: “Stop! Don’t say it is impossible, ‘cause I know it’s possible”. We’ll see.
(Suecada desfasada y poco memorable)

Russia (11-03-12, “Get you”, Aleksey Vorobyov)
So Ricky Martin has dyed his hair blond, he is acting all butch and macho, like a Slavic sex predator, and doesn't mind singing a song that Lady Gaga would have been embarrassed to perform even at the toughest days of her early career. Apparently this song has been penned by RedOne, the guy behind hits like "Poker face". Interesting to know. But that doesn't make the Russian entry any catchier or any more exciting or, most importantly, any more contemporary. In a year plagued with old fashioned ditties, this one is particularly dated. To me, it sounds like mediocre US pop/rock from the 80s, with an annoyingly repetitive 'Ohohohohoh' that takes it nowhere. Admittedly, the performer has a bigger-than-life stage presence and a strong voice. He is also conventionally good looking, though in a cocky, faux-straight, slimy Mafioso kind of way. Sometimes, his singing style can be a bit irritating and the lyrics of the song are embarrassing. This is very run of the mill. Not my cup of tea but will probably get quite a few votes for a variety of (more or less valid) reasons.
(Una canción muy vulgar cantada por un macarrilla que va de guaperas)

United Kingdom (11-03-11, “I can”, Blue)
This is a difficult one for me. Partly because I’ve been living in the UK for so many years that I am almost a “national” and partly because I have changed dramatically my opinion about this song as a result of hearing it live at Graham Norton’s show. To begin with, I must say that I am not very familiar with Blue as a boy band. I hardly even noticed they existed when they were at the peak of their career in the early 00s. When I recently looked at youtubes of their early hits I was deeply unimpressed by what I found. I never managed to listen to any of their songs from beginning to end as they bored me to death. So I wasn’t expecting much. The music they normally do is not cup of tea. When I listened to the leak of the recorded version of “I can”, one day before its official public presentation, I was decidedly ‘underwhelmed’. Even if I wasn’t expecting much, I was still expecting something a bit “bigger”, a bit more “anthemic”, more “climactic”, more gripping. It sounded like nondescript background music; it felt to me like they could not be bothered. But then I saw their performance on TV and heard them sing the song live! After a very hesitant start, with some clumsy choreography and screechy moments courtesy of high-pitch-Lee, the song just grew and grew. You could see the guys were going for it, they believed in what they were singing and they were presenting it with gusto. I surprised myself thinking: “This could win!” Let’s remember that this is a very poor year and “I can” sounds a little bit more contemporary and "radio-friendly” than the big majority of the entries in 2011. For me, this song’s chorus is one of the strongest this year: subtle but powerful. “I can, I will, I know I can…” is a mantra that could bring them a lot of votes. And they have plenty of time to polish the rough edges by the 14th of May.
(Canción tirando a modernita, nada del otro mundo, pero con un buen estribillo y cantada con ganas y profesionalidad  por Blue)

San Marino (11-03-10, “Stand by”, Senit)
This is again one of those songs that are likely to be forgotten even before they are over. Pleasant as it is, it demands attention and repeated hearings before one can really engage with it, which makes it unsuitable for Eurovision in my opinion. There are parts of this relatively modern-sounding ballad that I find quite interesting and appealing. But it’s too airy, too low key. I fear many people will find it boring and their minds will probably go into, erm, “stand by”. Besides, I cannot picture how this is going to be presented on stage; I can’t imagine what could be done to make it stand out visually apart from the gravitas of an elegant, potentially charismatic, performer (which may not be enough).
(Una canción agradable pero un tanto sosita)

Hungary (11-03-09, “What about my dreams”, Kati Wolf)
I could start by saying that this is overrated. But that would mean I am being influenced by other people’s assessments. I will focus here on my first impressions of the song – before I was aware of the hype. To me, this is just... yet another moderately catchy dated 90s-style dance anthem in this year’s contest. Perhaps it is not as abysmal as the Croatian effort; but it lacks the camp playfulness of Israel’s Ding Dong and as boring as Poland’s Jestem, without the latter's sophistication. I don’t think it offers anything new or interesting. Possibly suitable for a provincial gay nightclub but out of touch with current Eurovision trends. And the singer’s looks are a bit… “messy”. How well this does in May will probably depend on whether Kati Wolf’s singing is up to scratch.
(Otra cancion “dance” del montón)

Israel (11-03-08, “Ding Dong”, Dana International)
I’m very fond of Dana International but I must confess I find it generally difficult to understand why former winners may want to try their luck again in Eurovision. Carola’s choice (in 2006) was somewhat understandable because her victory in 1991 was actually a tie and she may have wanted to prove that she could win it outright (sadly for her, she had to accept that she is not “invincible” – although she ended in a very respectable top 5 placing). I believe Johnny Logan is the only winner who has had a successful comeback. On the other side of the Irish coin, it is sad to see someone like Niamh Kavanagh in the undignified position of sharing the bottom of the scoreboard with a newcomer like Josh Dubovie. One wonders what may have driven Dana International to return to the contest 13 years later. Does she really expect a second victory? Is it something to do with the image Israel wants to project internationally? (For me it’s obvious that Israeli television were clearly favouring her). Anyway, the song. It is catchy and enjoyable. But rather underwhelming. Whereas “Diva” sounded fresh, glamorous, novel and exciting in 1998, “Ding Dong” is just a dated, ordinary song in 2011. And the mystery and novelty associated with the singer have clearly faded. Her voice and her singing were not exactly up to scratch when she won but they were acceptable and easy to overlook given the appeal of the song and her stunning stage presence. With a weaker song, a less spectacular appearance and impoverished live singing, the prospects for Israel don’t look terribly good, sadly. (I loved her colourful backing singers in the Israeli final though).
(Qué miedo me da el batacazo que se puede pegar Dana con esta canción tan del montón)

France (11-03-07, “Sognu”, Amaury Vassili)
How many Terabytes of blog space am I allowed to use here? I’ll try to be concise; but it’s going to be difficult. I’ll start by saying that I am not a big fan of “Il Divo”-style male falsetto singing. And the few attempts in this vein in past Eurovisions have displeased me. I'll say, though, that I do admire France’s recent approach to selecting their entries for Eurovision. I like the fact they ostensibly avoid following any trends or established formulas and they just do their thing, without caring so much about their final placing, it would seem.  In my opinion, it is also a good policy (for a Big 4/Big 5 country, at least), to use their presence in the contest to showcase some of their most credible or popular recording artists. Thanks to this policy, I was able to discover people like Tellier and Kass, whose music I would probably not have been aware of otherwise. (I wish Spain followed a similar approach). I also like the fact that this entry is sung in a regional language, Corsican (even if the nod to newcomer Italy is a bit too obvious). But, let’s see: do I like “Sognu” and Amaury Vassili? I think that, this year, France – like many other countries before them – has gone for outdated pastiche. They are sending a product which is clearly formulaic and mediocre. Written by numbers. The song evokes a creation process as exciting and creative as diligently following a Delia Smith recipe. The outcome is neither overdone nor undercooked. But rather bland. And this song hasn’t made its mind up about what it wants to be.  It starts like Ravel's Bolero, which is nice (even if derivative), then it goes all martial and severe, then a bit more lyrical, then there is lots of loud instrument playing and screeching and then the song fades before you have had time to assimilate it (apparently, there seems to be an audience for this kind of tease/cheat). On top of that, it is elitist, aspirational, vacuous, pompous and pretentious. Paradoxically, it’s populist and snobbish at the same time. And... this piece of rancid candyfloss is performed by a constipated singer who looks like a posh French version of Barbie's Ken. From my humble perspective, his voice is just about adequate for this kind of song, but it is far from exceptional or distinguished. I have not heard him sing live yet; but already in the recorded version of “Sognu”, his singing sounds a bit strained a couple of times. Far from smooth.  We’ll see if he delivers in the final. In any case, I doubt that, while trying to reach those high notes live, he’s going to look as “pretty” as he looks when he's miming. Not sure if I’ve been clear enough about how much I detest this entry...?
(Mediocre, irritante y pretencioso.)

Portugal (11-03-05, “Luta e alegria”, Homens da Luta)
I would like to congratulate the Portuguese people for choosing this song. Admittedly when I first saw the youtube of the winning performance my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had listened, a couple of times, to the snippet of the song on the website of Portuguese TV and I had moderately enjoyed the popular, folksy sounds of the song. It reminded me of the lovely "Ruas do Amor" a couple of years back. But nothing had prepared me for the stage presentation of the song, with the retro 70s outfits and the demonstration-style placards. Undoubtedly, it was colourful; but also initially off-putting because of its crass comedic nature. Once I managed to recover from the shock, I decided that the Portuguese had made a very good choice. Who knows? Maybe they will not be able to qualify for the final this year, but even so it is great that an entry like this is part of the contest. I like the fact that it is authentic, different, brave. It is yet another example of the wide range of approaches with which different countries are dealing with the current economic crisis. Many countries are choosing a low key, mildly optimistic approach; others, like Greece and Cyprus are turning all self-important and uber-serious, similarly to the French, who are not only being pompous but also introduce high doses of “aspirational” content; and then the Spaniards, true to form, are opting for fiesta, dancing, fun and, well, 'let’s worry later'. It’s touching that the Portuguese are choosing to take action, to try and get some control over the situation, to fight for a way out of the trouble. But they do it, like their Iberian cousins, with a cheerful attitude. I see this entry as a finger up to the system and to the rest of Europe who have so often undervalued the Portuguese. This entry is much preferable, in my opinion, than all those worthy, boring ballads that nod to the predictable fado without being proper fados themselves. Parabéns, Portugal!
( Enhorabuena, Portugal, por una opción valiente, alegre y con contenido)

Croatia (11-03-05, “Celebrate”, Daria Kinzer)
What has happened to Croatia?! Croatia is my spiritual home as far as Eurovision is concerned. There are so many Eurovision songs from this country that I love. It is true they have been losing their way a bit recently (e.g. 2007-2008) but they seemed to be getting back on track in the last couple of years (I particularly liked “Lijepa Tena”).  Unfortunately the positive trend is broken again in 2011 with a very mediocre entry that I would most associate with a Nordic country rather than with a land bathed by the Mediterranean. ‘Celebrate’ is a song that tries very hard to be good but never quite succeeds. It sounds very old fashioned in an ugly 90s kind of way: predictable schlagger that one has heard too many times before. Even more worryingly, during the live performance of this song in the Croatian final, the (not terribly attractive) singer’s voice sounded strained and occasionally off key. And the stage presentation was simply embarrassing (I hope they change it dramatically). Not high hopes for Croatia this year, I am afraid. (Still, a bit of a guilty pleasure for me...).
(Hortera, desfasada y mal cantada)
Armenia (11-03-05, “Boom Boom”, Emmy)
When I first saw the list of song titles for the Armenian final, my eyes went straight to Boom Boom, which looked like the obvious choice to me. When I eventually had the chance to listen to the candidate songs, I was reinforced in my opinion that only this could be one to represent Armenia. By which I don’t mean that I particularly liked it or that I thought it was good. I just felt it sounded right for Eurovision (in a clichéd, onomatopoeic way).  It’s a confusing song. The start has a Latin American flavour that I associate with Carmen Miranda movies from the 40s or 50s. Then it becomes more disco, with more than one nod to songs like Ukraine’s Shady Lady in 2008. The chorus is easy and catchy, even if somewhat cheesy and repetitive. Admittedly, it is a bit of a letdown after the little gem that Armenia brought us last year with their Apricot Stone. But, in my opinion, "Boom Boom" is sufficiently charming to do (very) well in May – even without relying on diaspora votes.
(Un pelín horterilla e infantiloide pero tiene su encanto)

Slovakia (11-03-04, “I’m still alive”, TWiiNS)
This is the kind of song that one forgets even before it has finished playing. Nothing terribly wrong with this RnB-influenced ballad except that it sounds like a thousand songs one has heard before. It sounds a lot more contemporary than the majority of this year’s Eurovision entries but, apart from that, there is nothing particularly remarkable about it. When it becomes intense it causes me annoyance rather than engagement (a problem I find with a lot of contemporary pop, actually). The twins who perform it are physically attractive, which could gain them some votes. But their ability to sing this live is still unclear (at least based on their contribution as backing singers to the Czech entry a few years back).
(Balada contemporánea pero muy del montón)

Greece (11-03-02, “Watch my dance”, Loukas Yiorkos feat. Stereo Mike)
This bilingual entry from Greece is very bizarre. Very atypical in the context of this year’s Eurovision and also with respect to what Greece has been sending recently. The weirdest sounding song from Greece since S.A.G.A.P.O. in 2002. I think the idea of mixing hip hop and more traditional ‘laiko’ is interesting. I don’t know how common it is to do this kind of thing nowadays in Greece. But the question is whether the combination of the two styles works well or whether it is an awkward mismatch. I personally find the rap parts rather displeasing and annoying, whereas I very much enjoy the Greek-sounding Greek-language parts. Very dramatic. Overall it is a bit pompous and solemn – some may say pretentious. But at least Greece is contributing much needed male eye candy to the contest this year. And Loukas is not only pretty; his voice seems to be powerful enough as well. Lamb souvlaki wrapped in burger buns, with fries, ketchup and tzatziki.
(Un poco rara pero interesante)

Cyprus (11-02-28, “San aggelos s’agapisa”, Christos Mylordos )
This ascetic ethnic song may come across as too austere, solemn and grumpy at points. However, there are quite a few things I like about this one. I like the fact that it sounds very different from pretty much anything any other country has chosen this year. I am also attracted to the sound of the ethnic instruments, especially those with a Middle-Eastern flavour, which remind me of dervish music (which I love). I also like that it sounds somewhat like those dramatic entries Cyprus used to send in the 90s, a golden period for this country in Eurovision, in my opinion. Also Christos is quite sexy, in a rugged kind of way, although he looks a bit serious. Since we only know the studio version of  the song, I guess the question is: will he deliver vocally? This should make it to the final (please).
(Me gustan los toques etnicos con sonidos del Oriente Medio)

FYROM (11-02-27, “Rusinka”, Vlatko Ilievski)
This sounds rather coarse overall. I am not really sure what to make of it. I find the Balkan/gypsy sounding parts of it rather appealing and the choreography is very lively. I admire the energy and enthusiasm of the naked-chef-look-alike who performs it (Vlatko looks like a cuter Balkan version of Jamie Oliver). But his voice is harsh and I am not so convinced by the “rocky” elements of the song. As I have said before, I am not a big fan of rock from the Balkans. Although energetic, this entry comes across as very monotonous; it drags a bit.
(Tosca y monótona)

Slovenia (11-02-27, "Vanilija", Maja Keuc)
I like the way this dramatic (jazzy? ethnic?) ballad gently builds into a thunderous anthemic climax, delivered with brio by an attractive singer who has a powerful voice and shows a commanding presence on stage. BIG! Unsurprisingly, as is becoming the pattern this  year, it brings one back to Eurovisions of yore. But in a good, slightly camp, way. I must confess that I love this one: I've been waiting for so long for the return of a ballad like this from a Balkan country! On the minus side, there is something a bit too solemn and (as with Albania) a bit too mechanistic about this entry. I would prefer it a bit more melodic and with a catchier chorus (there is a part towards the middle that fails to convince me). But the second half of the song is FABULOUS!  It already has a very strong, dramatic, stage presentation, with great backing singers and dancers and, if they big it up even more, this could do quite well in May, I'd say. Among my favourites so far.
(Me encanta esta balada tan dramática que va en crescendo)

Serbia (11-02-26, "Caroban", Nina)
This is decidedly “retro”. The nods to the late sixties/early seventies are obvious not only in the bouncy pop style of the song but also in the colourful hallucinogenic stage backdrop and the outfit and hairstyle of the animated singer (very Twiggy). This is my favourite song from those chosen on the Super Saturday (26-02-11), when 6 different countries selected their entries at the same time. The Serbian song puts me in a good mood. Another song that wants to make us forget we’re still in  a very bad recession. Nice and summery. I brings back memories of Lulu, Salomé, Massiel, etc. (especially the Spanish “Vivo Cantando’ from Salomé in 1969: only the “heys!” are missing). I am not sure the Serbian language fits this type of music (whilst it sounds lovely in ballads or folksy tunes) and it feels like something is missing. I think it lacks the sufficient level of energy to really work. Playful nostalgia or unimaginative pastiche? I like it but don’t quite love it. Probably in my current top ten, though.
(Me gusta su estilo retro pero como que le falta algo de energía)

Denmark (11-02-26, New Tomorrow" A Friend In London)
It is reassuring to ascertain that so many young people are concerned with the future of humankind, willing to “change” the world (all of us together), save the planet (“dada dum”), or work for a “new tomorrow”. And these Danish boys do it dressed in TOPMAN, with fashionable haircuts and moody indie poses. Lovely. Now, do I like this message-driven piece of Britpop-inspired trash? Erm… I could but then I shouldn't. It's not unpleasant, but it does grate a little bit. Yet another low key and mildly optimistic entry contributing to the ‘yawnathon’ that the Eurovision Song Contest is determined to become in 2011. Unremarkable cheese. Will the cheese bring the votes. (But what a fab stage in Denmark!)
(Un canción indie que no es nada del otro mundo e irrita con su cursi mensaje utópico)

Moldova (11-02-26, "So Lucky", Zdob si Zdub)
This is a bit of a Frankenstein monster of an entry. I don’t say this because I necessarily think it is ‘monstrous’ but rather because it mixes different music styles in a patchy kind of way, showing the stitches, the seams and the scars. One second it sounds like (bad) ska, next it sounds like OK indie rock/pop, then it becomes almost promising as the Balkan gypsy-style trumpets jump in. Parts of it I like, most of it I don’t. A bit of a mess, really, even if the pointy hats and the unicycle are quite fun to watch. Who knows, with a whimsical and energetic stage performance, they may gather a few votes in May.
(Demasiado caótica para mi gusto)

Latvia (11-02-26, "Angel In Disguise", Musiqq)
I rarely like Latvian entries in Eurovision (only the one they won with was among my favourites and only because 2002 was a bad year*). And this “angelic” Latvian song for Düsseldorf is no exception. There is not much I can say about this apart from the fact that I don’t like it.  Yep, it is kind of up tempo but it lacks any real excitement or charm. It is rather monotonous and undistinguished. Near the bottom 5 in my ranking.
[*Well, OK, their runaway bride entry in 2001 was good too]
(No me gusta)

Ukraine (11-02-26, Angely", Nika Newton)
It's just like the 43 bus: you’re waiting for ages for a ballad, and then suddenly three come along in a row. Let’s see. This song lacks the old fashioned charm of the Lithuanian entry but, at least, it is not quite as horrendously awful as the “Americanized” Austrian pastiche. What can I say? The Ukranian song fits in the “nice” category but for me it is rather dull and lifeless. I don’t think it is particularly memorable, no matter how many platforms are placed on stage for the singer to stand on and how many mirrors are used in the choreography. This is a boring song, something that should not be tolerated from Ukraine in Eurovision by any means (especially when they had something as delightfully fun as Jamala’s “Smile” in their selection).
(Balada sosita)

Estonia (11-02-26, Rockefeller Street", Getter Janni)
Once you get past the silly conceit of the title, the chorus of this danc-ey pop song is kind of enjoyable, reminding me of music I could have liked a lot when I was very young. Long long time ago. And the singer seems to have a lot of fun performing it. However, I don’t think the camp chorus is strong or catchy enough to compensate for the rather lacklustre verse parts. It fails to be as uplifting as one would expect it to be. But, at least, it’s refreshingly camp and more entertaining than what we’re used to getting from Estonia.
(Graciosa pero horterilla)

Austria (11-02-25, "The Secret Is Love", Nadine Beiler)
Ah, "the madness of love"! it’s important to do it “with love”, baby; even when it’s “love in rewind”, “the secret is love”. And this will bring world peace. Of course. After a couple of years' absence, Austria comes back with a formula much of the liking of many "eurofans": a Witney/Maria/Celine wannabe singing an overblown ballad. The emphasis being on 'wannabe': the singer is attractive but she screeches far to often with her powerful yet unstable voice. The song is  pompous, dated, uninspired, formulaic. Written by numbers but with some of the numbers missing. It lacks a melody or a chorus, let alone emotion or charm. A screech fest with the sickening taste of stale candy floss. I have no words to describe how much I dislike this.
(Horrorosa balada vacua con una cantante que berrea más que canta)

Turkey (11-02-25, “Live it up”, Yüksek Sadakat)
Turkey is one of my favourite countries in Eurovision. They have sent some truly fantastic entries (Deli being my favourite from recent years). And, with the exception of Manga, even songs that didn’t totally convince me on a first hearing grew on me and became favourites.  Now... we have to wait and see, but I think it’s difficult this year’s Turkish entry will turn into a grower for me. This pop-rock song (with heavy elements?) is not terrible but it is dated (80s in a bad way) and rather bland, performed without charisma by a capable but not particularly attractive singer. It never goes anywhere I want to be. I don’t like this kind of rock.
(Una canción sosa con un cantante no muy atrayente)

Lithuania (11-02-24, "C'est Ma Vie", Evelina Sasenko)
When watching snippets of the Lithuanian songs on a youtube of their semi-finals – and once I recovered from the shock of seeing what she was wearing on stage – Evelina clearly stood out as the best singer of the selection. She has a powerful voice but I still cannot understand how someone can choose to wear a beige see-through long skirt over an ill-fitting black mini-skirt. They improved the outfit slightly for the final; but still. When I had the chance to hear the song properly, it just sounded as though straight out of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. But, ahem, didn’t ALW himself send a song a couple of years ago for the UK? I will not be surprised if this strangely compelling, reassuringly old fashioned, “Disney ballad” makes it to the final in May. But... will it reach the position on the scoreboard achieved by Jade and “My Time” in 2009? We’ll see...
(Buena voz para una trasnochada pero interesante balada; horrorosa vestimenta...)

Bulgaria (11-02-23, "Na Inat" , Poli Genova )
OK. A rock chick from Bulgaria. Not too bad given the rather poor standards of the Bulgarian national final this year. She sings OK and puts a lot of energy into the performance. But I must say that I am not a big fan of rock songs from the Balkans in Eurovision. And this is no exception. It’s not a bad song. But, as it stands, it lacks catchiness or a memorable hook. Uninspiring.
(Le falta gancho) 

Bosnia-Herzegovina (11-02-21, “Love in Rewind”, Dino Merlin) 
This is a very pleasant song and Dino Merlin is a very charming performer. I love this man’s stage presence. I am not sure the song has enough of a ‘wow factor’ to triumph in Düsseldorf, though. Although lovely, it is yet another nostalgic entry with a happy vibe. In my opinion, what makes this understated song special is its overstated stage presentation: the exaggerated hand waving, foot stomping and mock instrument playing. Many people think this manic choreography is unnecessary. I believe it is what will make the entry stand out. I much preferred Merlin's very original “Putnici” (one of my favourite songs in 1999). But ”Love in Rewind” is still lovely; very enjoyable indeed. 
(Muy agradable pero me gustaba más “Putnici”)

Italy (11-02-18, “Follia d’amore/Madness of love”, Raphael Gualazzi)
Two of my favourite entries in this year’s Eurovision are songs that, ahem,  Italy is NOT sending to the contest: Nathalie’s sublime X Factor tune, “In punta di piedi”, which was originally expected to represent the country, and Anna Tatangelo’s very popular, sensually dramatic entry, “Bastardo”, from the Sanremo Festival. However, I am not too bothered. The entry they are finally sending is also very much of my liking. After 14 year’s absence, Italy is coming back with a stunning entry. It is currently my favourite (together with Lipstick). I like the fact that Italy is taking risks and sends something different. Different to the rest and different to what is expected from them (i.e., the obvious romantic pop ballad). This nostalgic jazzy entry is pure joy. Distinct, classy, with character. Many people think this is too quirky to do well in Düsseldorf. I disagree. It has potential for a spectacular staging and it ticks so many boxes… An infectious celebration of the euphoria of being in love! Bravo, Italia! 
(Me encanta esta locura de amor!)

Georgia (11-02-19, “One more day”, Edrine)
Yet another delightfully atypical entry this year. Great! Georgia always sends something different. I must admit I found the cacophonous singing of the lead female singer somewhat off-putting. However, I was haunted from the beginning by the melody and the arrangements of this powerful (slightly retro) piece of electronic rock. Very atmospheric. It brings me back to the 80s. In a good way. And I don’t even mind the intrusion of hip hop. The blond singer looks really cool and, hopefully, her vocals will have improved by May [UPDATE: well, now we have a dark haired female singer whose singing seems to be more reliable]. Among my favourites.
(Muy interesante canción electrónica)

Germany (11-02-18, “Taken by a stranger”, Lena)
I like this song. It is the most alluring amongst the (rather interesting) songs in Lena’s album (although my favourite was A million and One). There’s something intriguingly catchy and compelling about Taken by a Stranger. And I love the backing dancers’ choreography. . My problem is that whereas this (and most of the other songs in the album) sound alright in the recorded version, Lena does not sell them well live. In my opinion, she doesn’t do them justice: she makes them sound repetitive and boring. I believe the songs are wasted in a mediocre, obnoxious performer with an irritating voice. And she can’t pronounce English properly. Reality TV/cult of celebrity at its worst: the glorification of the mediocre. And this coming from, erm, an “intellectual” country like Germany…  Well… what do I know? She won by a landslide last year’s contest, didn’t she?
(Me gusta la canción. Pero no la cantante)
Spain (11-02-18, “Que me quiten lo bailao”, Lucía Pérez)
Difficult to judge the entry from one’s own country. I’ll start by saying that I am not convinced by the song: not my cup of tea. However I am very happy with the choice of singer. I know many people don't agree with me but I like her voice, her presence and her savoir faire in front of the cameras. She has proved she’s competent and professional. Besides, she has that “something”, that “je ne sais quoi” that makes her stand out. A very Galician mixture of vulnerability and strength that will work in her advantage in Dusseldorf, I’m sure. As regards the song, yes, it’s catchy and happy; but also cheesy and dated (or is it retro?). And my heart sank when I first heard the "parachuru churu churu ruru ruru" part [luckily this has been removed now from the final version]. Again, this follows the general trend in 2011: an understated pop tune with an optimistic vibe (the influence of “Satellite”). Nothing new. Not a winner. But definitely NOT bottom 5 material either. I still think TVE should have dared to send a ballad, though. Sadly, Lucía (a sweet girl with a lovely voice) is being forced to serve us a rancid dish of microwaved paella with a glass of watered down sangría.
(Me encanta Lucía. Pero la canción… pues eso)

Poland (11-02-14, “Jestem”, Magdalena Tul)
This dance number is not a bad entry by any means. Performed by a strong, attractive singer, it stands out as refreshingly glamorous amidst the largely dreary bunch of entries chosen so far. I was definitely impressed by its spectacular staging at the Polish final, especially by the background light effects. However, the song doesn’t quite convince me. Although repetitive, it lacks a hook. It fails to engage me.
(No está mal; pero no me convence)

Finland (11-02-12, “Da Da Dam”, Paradise Oskar)
OK. A boy and his guitar, on the footsteps of Belgium's overrated entry in 2010. This is a song that got 2 stars out of 5 on my iPod when I first listened to it months ago.  The singer is indeed competent, in an understated kind of way: strong vocals and confident presence. But a 'let's save the world' kind of song with an inane title is hardly ever going to get my vote. 
(¿Salvemos el mundo? Me deja indiferente)

Norway (11-02-12, “Haba Haba”, Stella Mwangi)
This song is immediately catchy and Stella is a force of nature. Some people are dismissive of her vocal abilities. But I think her singing is adequate for this very enjoyable up-tempo song. This entry is much better, in my opinion, than recent Eurovision songs in a similar vein (France’s “Allez Olla Ole” in 2010 or Monaco’s "La Coco-Dance” in 2006).  My second favourite song, so far, after Ireland.
(Me gusta. Muy entretenida)

Iceland (11-02-12, “Aftur Heim”, Friends of Sjonni Brink)
You can't beat a ghost, can you? This is the kind of passable product that makes me feel that this year I am hearing the same song from every country: an understated pop tune with a mildly optimistic vibe (‘like a satellite’). And... there are too many male bands already this year, don't you think?
(Más de lo mismo)

Belgium (11-02-12, “With Love”, Witloof Bay)
What? Witloof Bay with With Love Baby? Erm... Many people are already dismissing this as the worst song in the competition, unworthy of Eurovision in the XXI century. And I find it difficult to disagree with that view. Although it is very competently performed, the whole ‘a capella’+beatboxing business rather annoys me.  Will the gimmick and the singers’ enthusiasm help this cheesy, old fashioned song to get points in Eurovision?
(De lo peorcito, ¿no?)

Malta (11-02-12, "One Life", Glenn Vella)
An underwhelming song with a 'so so' performer. Although, at least, it's up tempo.  More than a nod to USA 80s pop, which is a style I've never been too fond of. And the song lacks a punch or a memorable chorus.  The performer moves confidently on stage but his vocals are far from impressive; not sure I like the tone of his voice (a Mediterranean boy with a black woman's voice?). Will Malta fail to qualify yet again?

Ireland (11-2-11, "Lipstick", Jedward)
At last an entry I really like this year! I’m so glad Ireland went for Jedward and Lipstick! In my opinion, the runner up in the Irish Final (Nikki’s 'Falling') was a dreadfully boring Drip Drop wannabe. Lipstick is wonderfully poppy and catchy, with a very contemporary feel. And, although far from competent singers, Jedward are a visually interesting act, whose enthusiasm and energy are infectious (and, I may add, genuine), which I think is a very good thing.
(Me encanta. Buena  elección, Irlanda)

Netherlands (30-1-11, "Je Vecht Nooit Alleen", 3JS)
Not a bad song. But not my cup of tea. One of the blandest, most boring, uninspiring songs I have heard in the context of Eurovision. The fact that it is less cheesy or trashy than anything the Netherlands have sent in recent years doesn’t make it any more suitable for the contest, in my opinion, and I think it will struggle to qualify.
(Muy sosa. No me gusta)

Romania (1-1-2011, "Change", Hotel FM)
I was not impressed by this song when I first heard it weeks before the Romanian National Final. I gave it 3 stars out of 5 on my iPod. After being selected, I still don’t like it. But it is well performed, the lead singer is reasonably attractive and it has an optimistic vibe. So, out of the first batch of songs (those chosen in December and January), I think it is the one with the most chances to qualify and do well in then final. 
(No me entusiasma; pero probablemente llegará a la final, donde alcanzará una buena posición)

Albania (25-12-2010, "Kenga Ime", Aurela Gace)

This is my favourite song out of the first batch of 3 of 4 songs chosen between December and January. The singer is obviously strong and gives an intense dramatic performance, which appeals to me. There are parts of the song I like a lot. But I still feel there’s something missing; sometimes, it feels like the song goes nowhere. In any case, everyone agrees that Albania usually transforms their entries beyond recognition. So let’s wait for the final (English language) version of the song. [UPDATE after the revamp: although I like the suggestive wind-based ethnic motifs, the final version is now  a lot less intense and less strong as a result of that; it's lost energy, I feel. Still among the better entries though].
(Interesante - aunque ha perdido un poco de fuerza en la version final )

Switzerland (11-12-2010, "In Love For A While", Anna Rossinelli)

This song leaves me totally cold. Yeah, the singer is good. But I much preferred The Glue in the Swiss selection (or even Babic’s L’Egoiste which didn’t even make the national final). Not looking forward, this year, to the Swiss entry, which I’m not even sure will reach the final in May. 
(No me gusta nada)

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