Malta reveals its 24 semi-finalists.

It’s all been very hush hush over in Malta with pre-selections and auditions happening behind closed doors but now all has been revealed. The 24 semi-finalists have been announced and clips of each have been unleashed onto the public. And as one would come to expect from a tiny country with a big passion for the Eurovision Song Contest, we see some familiar names return including the Faniello & Micallef siblings, along with Kurt Calleja and Eleanor Cassar.  You can check them out here, here and here.

In my opinion, the standard of this year’s Malta Eurovision Song Contest has improved considerably. Though we have the usual generous servings of schmaltz and cheese, there are some tidbits that make an impression. For me, the stand out songs (going purely by the clips) are I Will Fight For You (Papa’s Song) by Fabrizio Faniello and Look At Me Now by Richard Edwards. Claudia Faniello’s Pure showcases her wonderful voice but I’m reserving judgement till I hear the full song. Same goes for Wayne Micallef and Time. It would also appear that Eleanor Cassar has gone all Hera Bjork on us with I Want To Run Away. while Klinsmann is channelling Lena in No Way Back. I also quite liked Isabelle Zammit’s Walk On Water and Kaya’s First Time.

For now, my early favourites are Fabrizio and Richard. I reckon it could even turn out to be a two-horse race between these two.

Greece Decides

OK, I know I’ve been slacking with updating the blog, but I’m going to do my best to be more consistent.

So last night, Greece held their National Final for the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest and the winner was Watch My Dance, performed by Loukas Giorkas featuring Stereo Mike. You watch the winning performance below:

While watching the show, the only songs that stood out for me were Hamogela by Triimitonio, which was very catchy, but never really went anywhere after the first chorus. I also thought the presentation was rather chaotic and amounted to the group looking like a trio of lads out on the town in a karaoke bar. Another song I liked was The Time Is Now by Valando Trifonos. Well-performed but the only drawback was the striking similarity to Miley Cyrus’ The Climb. I was very disappointed with It’s All Greek To Me! by Antigoni Psyhrami. Going by the title, composers and  singer, I thought it could potentially be great but fell flat on its face. The staging of Nikki Ponte’s I Don’t Wanna Dance was… well, weird. I mean, what the heck were the backing dancers wearing?

At the end of it, I ranked Watch My Dance, The Time Is Now and I Don’t Wanna Dance as my Top 3 and was quite pleased when Watch My Dance won. I think it’s an interesting fusion of traditional Greek and modern hip hop and should definetly do well at Eurovision. Plus, big props to Greece for sending a song in Greek again.

Secondly, I must say that in terms of production and staging, this was one of the worst this season. I found it hard very hard to believe that this is the same broadcaster that hosted the colourful Eurovision in 2006. I know Greece is having financial difficulties, but you don’t need wads of cash to bring in a decent presenter and have a more audience members.

That being said, I’m wholly satisfied with the outcome, as another country sends another ‘un-Eurovision’ song to Eurovision that is modern and interesting. Many people are complaining that the quality of this year’s entries are low, but I think that they are just different. No longer are countries sending cheesy and/or freaky entries. Now we are seeing legitimate music compositions which I find very exciting.

Nótt just another ballad.

One of the biggest surprises of this year’s National Finals season is the return of Yohanna in the Icelandic selection ‘Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins’. We all know and love Yohanna for the 2009 Icelandic entry Is It True?, which was the ballad of the year in my opinion and garnered Iceland it’s second silver medal and biggest points haul ever. Her lovely voice and beauty paired with such an amazing song had Iceland sailing to the top of the scoreboard. Yohanna proved to be a tough act to follow. So when her return was announced, just a mere two years after her triumph in Moscow, I knew that she would not do so without a song that was just as special, if not more, than Is It True? Her 2011 effort Nótt is  a beautifully crafted, uplifting ballad. Check it out below:

Meaning ‘Night’, it’s sung entirely in Icelandic but could very likely be translated to English should victory be in the cards. Many in the Eurovision blogosphere have been divided over Nótt, claiming it’s just another dull ballad, saved only by Yohanna’s voice and that, should it go to Düsseldorf, Iceland won’t do well. I can only laugh at these statements, because those are the EXACT SAME THINGS people said about Is It True? and look how that turned out. Personally, I love it. There’s something about the chorus and melody that just grabs me everytime I listen to it.

So for now, I say go Yohanna! Nótt is clearly the best song in the Icelandic selection thus far. And hey, Dima Bilan finished second in 2006, returned two years later and won it. Could this be a case of history repeating itself?


Aurela Gaçe for Albania.

Albania apparently views Eurovision as more of a reason to celebrate than Christmas, having held the 49th edition of their national final  Festivali i Këngës on the 25th of December. Popular singer Aurela Gaçe won the competition quite convincingly with her song Kënga ime, which can be translated as My Song. Check it out the winning performance below:

At this point, I’m rather ambivalent about the song. But then again, I’m not too worried as this seems to be standard practice with Albania. They select the song and then reproduce, remix and translate it for the Eurovision Song Contest, so much so that it ends up as a virtually different (and much better) song. I was underwhelmed by their selections in 2009 and 2010 but was completely blown away by their ‘Eurovision Versions’ as it were.

And this seems to be the fate of Kënga ime, and it does have the makings of a good Eurovision entry though only time will tell.

Switzerland have chosen!

Anna Rossinelli will fly the flag for Switzerland with 'In Love For A While'.

Tonight the Swiss held the ‘Die grosse Entscheidungsshow’ to select their entry to the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest and after an enjoyable show with a surprisingly strong field of contenders, it was Anna Rossinelli who charmed the Swiss public with her song In Love For A While and has been selected to represent the country next year in Düsseldorf!

Anna was one of my top three favourites to win (which I wrote about here) and I’m really happy that she won. In Love For A While was one of the strongest songs of the night and made an instant impression. As I hoped, they really improved the song and lifted it above what it was in demo form. She was also a hit with the jury, who noted the song for its international flair (if my limited knowledge of German serves me right). Anna was accompanied on stage by Georg Dillier (Bass) Manuel Meisel (Guitar) and together the trio looked stylish and confident and performed the song amazingly. Once again, Swizterland have chosen a quality act and I hope that they will finally get into the Grand Final.

My other two favourites, Drop Of Drizzle by Andrina and Sur Les Pavés by Aliose was also warmly received by the crowd and jury. Surprise performances were Confidence by Bernarda Brunovic, who blew me away with her amazing voice, the pleasant country-esque Gid Nid Uf by CH and Home by Iliria & The Colours was a touching song with a nice message.

Overall, it was a great show, so warm congratulations to SF on kicking off the 2011 Eurovision National Finals season with great aplomb, and for selecting the best song.

So there we have it. We now know the first official entry and it would appear that the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest is off to a flying start, as Switzerland’s In Love For A While is a great song in its simplicity, melody and the wonderful voice of its singer Anna Rossinelli. Congratulations and hopefully, we’ll be seeing Switzerland in the Grand Final!

Swiss Hopes for 2011 (Part 3)

With the Swiss national selection, ‘Die Grosse Entscheidungs Show’ to be held next week, we will soon know the first official song to be competing in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf! So I’ve decided to listen to all the hopefuls one more time and more carefully and see if Switzerland stands a fighting chance this year.

At this point, they all sound like demos, so I am hoping that the songs have been reproduced and improved upon. But to make do with what we have, let’s see what (in my opinion) are the best songs in the Swiss selection in their current form.

1) Andrina – ‘Drop Of Drizzle’

A nice country-esque song that has really good instrumentation and is well sung.

2) Anna Rossinelli – ‘In Love For A While’

This is a purely minimalistic song that is the complete antithesis of the standard over-the-top Eurovision song. It relies solely on the singer’s voice which itself is pretty powerful. I think this song is a bit of a grower and it should be interesting to see this in its final form.

3) Aliose -‘Sur Les Pavés’

Well, it’s no ‘L’Égoiste’, but it is French. Another simple song with a pleasant melody in the style of classic French chanson. It might be too subtle for Eurovision, but it ahs a sweetness about it that could make it stand out. It all depends on the performance and presentation. And the duo singing it look like a very likable pair.

So those are my favourites amongst the Swiss hopefuls. I really hope they’ve beefed up the production of all the songs and in lieu of 100% televoting, that the Swiss public selects the best song, whichever that may be.

Euroviisut 2011 songs online!

Today Finland have revealed the songs participating in their national final by uploading them onto the YLE’s official Eurovision website. I’ve had a listen to the songs and the ones I like the most are:

Jimi Constantine – ‘Party To Party’ : It sounds like Bon Jovi with a bit of Euro flavour and I think that it works really well. A bit formulaic but an extremely enjoyable catchy pop-rock song.

Tommi Soidinmäki – ‘Seis!’ : Starts off as a very moody, string-laden song before the beat kicks in and bringing a surprisingly catchy chorus along for the ride. The melody and vocals lean in the direction of musical theatre for me. It’s like they’ve taken the signature song of a musical and laid a pop beat over it. It works AND I love that its in Finnish. Should go over nicely if performed well on the night.

Automatic Eye – ‘I’m Not The One Who’s Sorry’ : Automatic Eye sees Finland return to doing what they do best: rock. This rock song in the guise of pop sounds promising, though the melody takes a while to kick in but when it does, it’s very gratifying. Once again, I think this song will truly shine at the live performance.

Paradise Oskar – ‘Da Da Dam’ : This is a good acoustic song with a relevant message about the environmental strife our planet is facing today. I’m prepared to bet that after Belgium’s success with Tom Dice and ‘Me And My Guitar’ this year, alot of similar songs will be popping up in national selections across Europe and this is a good example. I like how the lyrics tell a story, delivering the message in an interesting  manner. However, they should consider changing the song title. Maybe something like ‘Peter’s Song’.

Stala & So. – ‘Pamela’ : A rousing eighties rock number with a chanty chorus. As far as rock songs go, this is an OK song and should be fun to head bang to. The group is fronted by Stala who was a member of Finland’s only Eurovision-winning group Lordi, so having a former winner in the national selection is a novel thing for the country.

So who would I like to see win and go on to represent Finland? At the moment, I’m really enjoying ‘Sesi!’ by Tommi Soidinmäki. It’s a catchy pop song with a musical theatre twist sung in Finnish. I prefer when countries sing in their national langugaes and although Finnish isn’t the most accessible of languages, this song makes me appreciate it alot more, which is one of the reasons why it works for me. My other favourite is ‘Party To Party’ by Jimi Constantine for its sheer catchiness. Of course, new favorites may arise once we go into the televised heats, so let’s wait and see.