It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Oh yes. A week today, Eurovision begins, a cheering thought in a day of prose-wrangling. Tonight, I’m having a chat with my dear pal James, picking out my highlights and hopefully editing the whole thing into a podcast before the contest. Until then, have the first part of my traditional annual review of the glorious cheese-fest, for next Tuesday’s first semifinal. *nerd mode engage*

AlbaniaElhaida Dani: ‘I’m Alive’.  Straight down the middle ‘I’m a survivor’-style warbly pop. In case you missed its subtle message, there are many Strong Women in the video. It’s… alright, actually.

ArmeniaGenealogy: ‘Face The Shadow’. Now this was controversial, as they had to rename the song due to the ‘no politics’ rule. (It’s been 100 years since the Armenian Genocide, y’see.) As it goes, it’s a fairly harmless ballad, though the opera singer’s wasted here, I feel.

BelarusUzari & Maimuna: ‘Time’. Starts like a ballad, goes all dance, has a video with a recreation of that bit in Aladdin where Princess Jasmine gets stuck in the giant hourglass. Doesn’t stand out.

BelgiumLoïc Nottet: ‘Rhythm Inside’. Edward Cullen takes a break from sparkling in Twilight to do a sort of Tesco Value Justin Timberlake with more synths and a random paint fight. Oddly growing on me, but then again I liked Tom Dice a few years back, so sue me.

DenmarkAnti Social Media: ‘The Way You Are’. Wasn’t totally overwhelmed with Denmark generally this year- it was a sea of samey dance pop to me. As for the actual winner, it’s basically McFly, so that’s the teenage vote won.

EstoniaElina Born & Stig Rästa: ‘Goodbye To Yesterday’. Eesti Laul had some strong contenders this year, like Elephants From Neptune’s indie stylings and Kali Briis doing a bit of a Talking Heads, but this isn’t a bad punt. Elina’s voice is much stronger than Stig’s, though, and I don’t know if there’s enough to stand out in the barren ballad ocean.

FYR MacedoniaDaniel Kajmakoski: ‘Autumn Leaves’. Oh, I dunno. It’s another ballad. Come on, what happened to Nininanana?

FinlandPertti Kurikan Nimipäivät: ‘Aina Mun Pitää’. This is a first in a few ways- the first punk Eurovision entry, and several band members have mental disabilities. Now, I applaud diverse Finnish punk, but the problem is there were loads of amazing songs at UMK. You had the amazing Opera Skaala, Finnish bhangra from Shava, Solju with her Sami vocals and, er, a man dressed as Caesar who thought he was pitching his rock musical. Or Otto Ivar’s 80s-tinged song, which soundtracked a large chunk of editing. Let’s have some of that.

 

(I knew I could bring it back to my book. Have I mentioned I’ve written a book?)

GeorgiaNina Sublatti: ‘Warrior’. One of two Warriors this year. The video is fierce. It’s a grower.

GreeceMaria Elena Kyriakou: ‘One Last Breath’. Another ballad, blah blah. Let’s remember this was the country that sent Opa which nothing will ever top. OPA BREAK.

 

HungaryBoggie: ‘Wars For Nothing’. Alright, this is sappy and peace-and-love as hell, but it’s one of the better ballads. Also, nobody told me Kate Middleton had moved to Hungary and started a flashmob-based singing career.

MoldovaEduard Romanyuta: ‘I Want Your Love’. See, this is funky and all, and the video’s slick, expensive and sexy, but it ain’t Sunstroke Project, better known as popular meme Epic Sax Guy. They even entered again this year. YOU BLEW IT, GUYS.

 

RomaniaVoltaj: ‘De La Capat/All Over Again’. Ukrainian powerhouse and sometimes political activist Ruslana stole the show at O Melodie Pentru Europa. (She really did. Half an hour later and the presenters were still trying to stop her starting another sing-song or impassioned speech.) This year’s choice is fairly safe Radio 2 territory, but the video’s message broke my heart a little. You can’t be political, but you can subtly make a very big point, and I doff my hat to Voltaj on this one.

RussiaPolina Gagarina: ‘A Million Voices’. It’s going to be hard to top Dima Bilan’s slickly produced track and his miniature ice rink, but Polina has a great voice. It’s just… another goddamn ballad.

SerbiaBojana Stamenov: ‘Beauty Never Lies’. When my Twitter pals heard this in the national final, there was a collective ‘wow’ and triumphant fist-pumping. It’s not hard to see why. A song about positive body image, a gorgeous diva and at 1:51 the best eruption into a dance section I’ve heard in a Eurovision song. This has to win, surely?

NetherlandsTrijntje Oosterhuis: ‘Walk Along’ Ugh. Safe, bland, inane radio pap. The country-tinged Common Linnets are a hard act to beat, to be fair. (Go listen to their whole album. I promise you won’t be disappointed.)

And there we have it. Christ, there’s a lot of entries this year, and that’s not even half of them. Expect another week of this nerdery, kids.

Jedward says 'Just say no'. Eurovision's a gateway drug.

Jedward says ‘Just say no’. Eurovision’s a gateway drug.

 

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