Baku again…

Bonjour!

Today (Tuesday) sees the first of the two semi-finals for Eurovision 2012. Remember friends, the Eurovision is a marathon and not a sprint, and we’ll be busy until Saturday night!

Paul Jordan is keeping us posted on what’s going on in Baku.  You can see the latest developments here: http://www.dreurovision.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/eurovision-2012-days-seven-eight.html

More than any year since Moscow hosted the Eurovision back in 2009 there is a fair amount of media coverage of human rights issues and social concerns for Azeri citizens.  There was a detailed piece on Channel 4 news last night, and then there was a Panorama report on the BBC.  It is ridiculous to say that the Eurovision is not political in some ways – how can you put all these countries in a room together, ask them to compete and then not expect long held and simmering tensions to occasionally surface.  That said, and as the Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand and Engelbert Humperdinck both said when interviewed recently, the ESC must not engage in those discussions as part of the Contest – but good that the ESC has highlighted wider issues once again. Good to get Paul’s insight on all these issues whilst he is in Baku. As he says let’s hope that it all passes off peacefully and that we can enjoy the music.

With that in mind here are the runners and riders for tonight’s semi-final.  Who will dash to the Grand Final, and who will fall at the first?  There are 18 countries in contention, but only 10 can progress to the final.

Later today my euro-chums and I will be doing our “napkin of death”, as regular readers will have come to expect. The difference is that this year we are going very high-tech (separated as we are by many miles) and doing it via Skype. I know – I’ll be tweeting next!  Being a bit of a geeky fan I have already selected my 10 qualifiers on what is, at the moment, my post-it note of death.  I’ll bring you the scoop on that later in the day, so you can once again judge whether the supposed Eurovision “experts” know their Eurovision bacon.

Can you choose 10 from this bunch…

01 Montenegro

This is perhaps not the best way to ease ourselves into the Contest.  I’m sure this song is a bit like marmite  – some will love it, but my hunch is that many won’t. Mind you wait until you see the staging – a surprise awaits…

02 Iceland

This is one of my top five for 2012.  I love it! It’s brooding and anthemic.  Jonsi represented Iceland several years and I hope he does better than he did then! Surely going through…

03 Greece

No, your eyes are not deceiving you – that is Eleftheria (the singer) performing in a shopping mall!  Yes, the austerity measures really have taken hold in Greece!  Word on the street is that she’s not the best live vocalist – but Greece has an impressive qualification record since the semi-finals, so how can this not go through?
04 Latvia

I like the melody of this one – but the lyrics are a bit naff.  Any song that names checks Johnny Logan doesn’t exactly has it’s finger on the pulse of popular music. Nice but a bit dull.  Hope the staging makes it more interesting.

05 Albania

Several weeks ago I was in my office listening to the ESC songs when I got a call from Carol Poole.  We were chatting way and were rudely interrupted by this song.  It was funny, Carol said “what on earth is that racket”. That racket was the Albanian entry!  I might be refreshing my drink to this one.

06 Romania

You probably don’t need to be told how my Romanian colleague referred to the singer.  Although I agree – she’s working it like the rent is due tomorrow.  This is great euro-pop, isn’t it.  It is also – I am reliably informed – turbo-folk, which is * very * popular in Eastern Europe.  I thinks it’s great – loved it from the first listen.  Some of my students love it too, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the song…

07 Switzerland

A welcome change of pace.  This song could well stand out because there isn’t anything else like it in this draw.  It’s reminiscent of The Killers and might do well.

08 Belgium

This is a gentle and effective song.  I’ve been listening to it a lot recently.  The rehearsal footage has been solid and so I hope Iris does a good job tonight. Belgium qualified with a ballad last year, and this song might sneak through again.

09 Finland

I have liked the vibe of this song since I first heard it.  Finland have a sketchy qualification record since their stunning victory with Lordi back in 2006. I would like to see it go through, but with my strategic hat on I’m 50/50.

10 Israel

It was a bit of a shock last year when returning champion Dana International returned to the ESC for the first time as a performer since her victory in Birmingham in 1998 (although she wrote the Israeli entry in 2009) and didn’t make it to the Grand Final. That said, the song wasn’t the best, but euro-sparkle alone should have carried her through.

Israel can always be relied upon for offering something a bit different and a bit bonkers.  I guess in some ways they have done it again this year. It’s a song that I really like – but will it be immediate enough for the viewers tonight?  Give it a couple of listens and you will get the hook…

11 San Marino

San Marino have competed since 2008.  They are one of the new participant countries that are quite keen to win.  I don’t think it’s their year.  You might notice the slightly seedy tone to the lyrics – basically it’s about getting jiggy on social media!

12 Cyprus

This is the best thing that Cyprus have done for years, and guaranteed 12 points from Greece in the Grand Final.  I think it’ll get there.  Good euro-pop that should delight the eye and the ear.

13 Denmark

Hats are back, b-a-c-k, BACK! Denmark have sent a couple of top 5 finishers in the last couple of years.  This is well thought of in the betting odds.  I’d be surprised if it didn’t get through, but there was shock aplenty when Sweden failed to make the final in 2010, and in some ways this song reminds me of that, if slightly more uptempo –  is it memorable enough at this point in the draw?

14 Russia

Currently third favorite with the bookies to win the whole Contest. As Terry Wogan always used to say “I have a terrible feeling about this one…”.  It’s got a lot of media coverage, and these grannies really have got everyone’s attention.  The song isn’t bad – but I get a bit grumpy with gimmick songs and I don’t think it would be the best outcome for Eurovision. Also, it is just me – but one of the”grannies” looks remarkably young compared to the rest of them (on over on teh left as you watch the clip) – a bit like Julie Walter’s dressed as Mrs Overall…

15 Hungary

This wouldn’t be out of place on drive-time radio, or a “Dad Rocks” CD compilation.  Not bad.

16 Austria

I do not feel “down with the kids” on this one!  I think my glass might need refreshing again. I think you might join me when this comes on!  10 out of 10 for effort, though.

17 Moldova

One of may favorites this year.  When you see the staging tonight it might just kill it, but again – lots of effort and I would like to see it go through.

18 Ireland

And finally, 12 points from the United Kingdom goes to Jedward.  Or Greece. I need to check if the UK are voting tonight or on Thursday.  I like the song, but it’s not as strong as “Lipstick” last year.  There is a water feature on stage tonight which looks like it’s been swiped from the Chelsea Flower Show.  In fact, they wouldn’t have it as it’s too naff!  I haven’t seen recent rehearsal footage, so I hope they ditched it.  A good effort from Jedward – and their backing singers are earning their fee.  Hope this goes through.

And that’s it for semi-final 1.  Work on your top 10 qualifiers over lunch, coffee, etc, and I’ll be back later with the inevitable “Napkin of Death”.

Ciao!