Eurovision 2011: Semi-Final Preview Part 1

Eurovision 2011: Semi-Final Preview Part 1

Like the World Cup, but more fun.

Aurela Gaçe, “Feel The Passion”

(By the way, get used to this Handelesque orchestral fanfare — you’ll hear it a bunch if you stick with me.)

If this were a music video competition taking place in the 1980s, Albania would win. At 1:15, there’s a whole series of Aurelas hovering in mid-air, taking turns singing the terrible lyrics. And at 1:33, there’s this awesome animatronic eagle puppet. I’m pretty sure the singer is supposed to be turning into an eagle, or flying alongside an eagle, or something. But she’s also underwater at one point, so go figure. In any case, this song is pretty lame, so unless Aurela turns into an eagle live onstage, she’s not going to win.


And when I feel that I thirst for you
I’ll dab my lips with your morning dew
But wherever I go
I just want you to know
Sweet song live forever
And I’ll live with you

Emmy, “Boom Boom”

Here’s the big question: is this song better than the Vengaboys classic “Boom Boom Boom Boom?” The answer is that this song, as the title would suggest, is basically the square root of the Vengaboys song (that is, not nearly as good). In fact, this song is kind of a perfect storm of glorious europop awfulness. It even falls down on the stagecraft: there’s the obnoxious showers of sparks that start at the beginning and never stop, the puffy sleeves, the complete lack of any choreography, and the absence of any backup singers or dancers.


Boom boom, chaka chaka, your kiss is like a, like a
Boom boom, chaka chaka, your love is like a, like a
I wanna say that one thing is true
I’m in love with you

Ell & Nikki, “Running Scared”

Our first duo, and one of the favorites according to the bookies (yes, there are Eurovision bookies). They’re called “Ell & Nikki,” but their real names are Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Jamal. The song was written by the same team that composed “Drip Drop,” Azerbaijan’s entry last year, which placed fifth overall. (The year before that, Azerbaijan placed third. As it turns out, they are a perennial Eurovision powerhouse.) This song is definitely going to make the finals, and if Ell & Nikki go for a Mitch & Mickey style kiss at the end, anything could happen.

Incidentally, since Ell is approximately 15, I’m assuming his stubble is glued on.


I’m running, I’m scared tonight
I’m running, I’m scared of life
I’m running, I’m scared of breathing
‘Cause I adore you

Daria, “Celebrate”

This song suffers from a strange series of pop cultural associations. First there’s the title, which conjurs up Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration.” Then there’s the opening line: “Friday, my night.” Perhaps Croatia hasn’t heard about Rebecca Black. She’s sort of salted the earth for songs about Friday for at least a generation. Finally, there’s the singer, who I was really hoping was Daria from the old MTV show. But no, not so much.

On the bright side, the video heavily features both bubbles and breakdancers spinning on their heads, two of my favorite things.


Every single step you take
Stop the world for a moment
Shine like a comet
In a musical galaxy

Paradise Oskar, “Da Da Dam”

Congratulations Finland, you’ve done it. There was a lot of tough competition, but you wrote the very dumbest song of Eurovision 2011. It’s so dumb, I’m going to have to quote most of it here, because it’s too good not to.


Peter is smart, he knows each European country by heart
He likes to sit under an apple tree on his yard
And wait for an apple to fall
When Peter is nine,
His teacher tells him that this planet is dying
That someone needs to put an end to it all
And so when Peter comes home
He tells his mom
I’m going out in the world to save our planet
And I ain’t comin back until she’s saved
I’ll walk my way to see the King and parliament
If they don’t help I’ll do it by myself

Honestly, sometimes there’s so much to make fun of, I just don’t know where to start. But you know what’s the cherry on top of this ice cream sundae of fail? It’s at 1:53, where you can see a sign written in English that reads “The Last Palm Tree.” This is the least subtle piece of environmental propaganda since Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest. Unfortunately, this song does not feature Robin Williams.

So here’s my question: is this a story about a nine-year-old kid running away from home? Isn’t Peter basically telling his mom he’s leaving to become a fulltime environmental lobbyist? Nice job, Peter’s teacher: when Peter is finally dredged out of a lake next year with his teeth knocked out so they can’t identify him, maybe you’ll think twice about screening An Inconvenient Truth in class.

Eldrine, “One More Day”

Prepare yourselves for our first attempt at rapping in this year’s Eurovision. These guys are like a cross between Linkin Park and Evanescence. They’re not bad, but I found myself distracted by how the lead singer’s scarf was buttoned into her jacket.


I wanna give in to fire, uncover vicious desire
Abandon painful denial, find pretty reason to stay
One more forbidden sensation, one more emotional flare
Down with the fake hesitation,
Hell yeah, I’m ready to pay, pay for the hopeless despair
Gonna live one more day of my fate

Loucas Yiorkas Feat. Stereo Mike, “Watch My Dance”

Eurovision competitors are sort of in the same position as Republican presidential candidates: you need to be conservative enough to get the votes of your primary voters, without giving up too much of your universal appeal to get votes in the general election. In other words, a lot of the voters in the Eurovision selections want to see an act with some national character, but those songs aren’t going to win votes from other countries. (See, for example, Belarus’s entry, entitled “I Love Belarus.”)

Greece has a bold tactic. Loucas Yiorkas is a traditional folk singer. Stereo Mike is a rapper who has been living in London since 1996. It should be like when Justin Timberlake and T.I. joined forces. The problem is that these two don’t so much collaborate on the song as alternate on it. Also, both the rapping and singing sort of suck. The backing track sounds like it was produced by a Super Nintendo, which I should like, but I don’t. I do kind of like how the video starts with Loucas standing center stage, waiting patiently, but then Stereo Mike starts rapping while Loucas continues to chill for 30 seconds.

But you know what I’m just baffled by? “Watch My Dance” does not feature any actual dancing.


I was born so betrayed – who am I, what I’ll be?
What is mine in this life? Just the heaven and sea
No, I won’t give them up, they’re my fortune, my proof
Don’t believe what you hear ’cause the truth kills your truth

Kati Wolf, “What About My Dreams”

Another favorite with a lot of buzz. It’s nice to know that if something happens to Celine Dion, we have a spare. This is not an idle comparison by the way: Celine won Eurovision in 1988. I kind of like this one. It’s not good good, but it’s karaoke good, which might be good enough. When the backup singers enter at 2:35, I was kind of doing a little dance on the couch. Plus, the lyrics have some serious Girl Power:


What about my life?
What about my dreams?
What about how I feel?
What about my needs?

But you know why I’m really rooting to Kati? From Wikipedia, I learned that her claim to fame is that at the age of seven, she sang the theme song to the Hungarian children’s film Vuk. And she was just as cute as a button:

Maybe if she wins, the crowd will force her to do that as an encore.

Sjonni’s Friends, “Coming Home”

So in January of this year, the Icelandic competition for their Eurovision spot was well underway, when contestant Sjonni Brink died of a tragic heart attack. But Sjonni’s friends decided he would have wanted his song to outlive him, so they became Sjonni’s Friends and ended up winning the trip to Dusseldorf. It’s like when Heath Ledger died, and they finished The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus with Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell. But did anyone see The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus? Yeah, I thought so. This might make the Finals because of the heartwarming story, but it’s not gonna win.

I have to say, the song is a little eerie in the context of its composer’s premature death: it’s all about “coming home” to a “peaceful place.” Shudder.


Cause I can’t wait for tomorrow
to say the things I wanna say,
your smile will always lead my way.
I can’t wait, I’m coming home to you.
I just wanna see your face again,
I’m coming home.

30 Comments on “Eurovision 2011: Semi-Final Preview Part 1”

  1. Nat #

    I’m so glad that you’ve taken in upon yourself to inform the US about the epic cheesiness that is Eurovision. I’ve been watching it since I was tiny, and I adore it. What you didn’t really inform people of is the obligatory block voting for neighbouring countries, eg all Scandinavian countries vote for other Scandinavian countries etc. It’s not so much of a problem for the semi-finals, but it does kind of ruin the big show for me. It can also get really political, as in 2003 when no one voted for the UK because of the war in Iraq (OK, the song was also terrible, but that usually doesn’t make a difference in Eurovision). The final thing I’d like to mention is costume changes, which add a lot to the performances but seem to have fallen out of fashion in the past few years, which I think is a real shame. Generally if I see a woman in a long dress start to sing anything other than a ballad, I know that skirt is coming off in time for the key change.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      It’s true I didn’t go into bloc voting, because I don’t understand it. I tried to read up on it, got confused, and watched the Switzerland song again instead.

      The idea is that the Slavic countries all vote for each other, the Nordic countries all vote for each other, etc, correct? But looking at Eurovision winners, it seems like a lot of different countries are sharing the glory – in fact, there’s barely any repetition at all.
      2010 Germany
      2009 Norway
      2008 Russia
      2007 Serbia
      2006 Finland
      2005 Greece
      2004 Ukraine
      2003 Turkey
      2002 Latvia
      2001 Estonia
      2000 Denmark

      So bloc voting doesn’t seem to preordain a winner. I guess there’s a distinct lack of Western Europe in that list… but I also keep reading how France is a favorite to win this year. So I’m confused. Can you explain how the bloc voting makes the competition less fun?


      • Christina #

        A couple of years ago they changed it from being entirely viewer’s votes to also having a jury in each country and their votes count for 50% and the remaining 50% is from the viewers. This has stopped a bit of the bloc voting.
        But I must say that sometimes it isn’t true about bloc voting. If the song is really crappy not even the neighboring countries will vote for the song. Like in 2002 when we (Denmark) came in last with only 7 points – the winning song had 176 points.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      Oh by the way, are you from the UK? If so, you’ve got to share a couple observations about the songs in Semi-Final #2. I’ll put them in my next post.


      • Nat #

        Whilst bloc voting might not preordain a winner, it certainly promotes mediocre songs to get a lot more votes than they otherwise would. And the songs are generally heavily promoted before the actual event, which means that people in Europe are often familiar with the songs before the voting comes along. I know this is certainly true of the last two years’ winners. They also tend to get singers who are famous in the country/bloc they come from, so there can also be an inbuilt fanbase before the event, although that backfired majorly when Russia entered Tatu a couple of years ago. But the main reason why bloc voting takes away enjoyment is in the semi finals, when songs get through because of where they are from rather than the quality of the performance.

        I am in the UK, but am half Belgian half Swiss, but I’ll be sure to check out the songs for semi-final 2 and let you know what I think. But of course I’ll be voting for Switzerland, as Belgium’s entry seems to be lacklustre this year, despite us coming 6th last year.


    • Archie #

      I don’t think the bloc voting is really as big a thing or nearly as political as people make it out to be. As I understand it it’s really just more about neighbouring countries obviously having shared cultural standards and tastes and reference to draw upon.

      For instance the Russian winner a few years ago who got the votes of most of the other Slavic countries, if I recall correctly was actually already a successful popstar with a large following in all of those countries. So I think it’s less about politics and much more about common cultural experience.


  2. Oddtwang #

    The only reason I’ve evr found to watch Eurovision is the wonderful commentary we get here in the UK from Sir Terry Wogan, with just the right amount of the verbal equivalent of a knowing wink.
    (look out for him making himself laugh at Spain’s entry. It’s also worth pointing out that Finland won that year.)

    Of course, there’s the greatest Eurovision entry ever to consider:


    • sarielthrawn #

      We use to get Terry Wogan’s commentary in Australia as well. Sadly, no more.

      Generally the bloc voting doesn’t hamper the end result too much. It’s just that it gets kind of annoying that obviously terrible songs/performances get big scores because of the bloc they belong to. But at least Terry always let you know why the Russians (or whoever) had such poor taste.

      The singing in English gets really annoying too. I could never understand why they make that much effort to sing in English when so often it comes out sounding terrible and struggles to make sense. Matt, you mentioned that it was an attempt to appeal to a wider audience but I’ve yet to meet anyone who thought it was a good idea. Including my friends and relatives in Europe.


  3. Sean #

    Small thing: Pretty sure Monaco is European and you mean Morrocco?


    • Nat #

      Morocco isn’t in Eurovision…although it’s always annoyed me that Israel gets to compete, and isn’t even remotely European.


      • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

        You’re both right. I meant Morocco, which I pulled from a list of countries which HAVE participated in Eurovision. Apparently, Morocco was in the contest exactly once, in 1980. They finished second to last and never came back.

        I agree that Israel seems definitely not European. But so does Russia! Parts of Russia are thousands of miles away from Europe. You can see Sarah Palin’s house from Russia.


  4. Howard #

    How did I not know about this until now!?


    • Miguel Lavín #

      It’s 3:30 am and I have to go to work early !!!DAMN YOU EUROVISION!!!

      Father ted seems awesome…


  5. Liam #

    This isn’t the first time that Eurovision has played a role in Portuguese politics, either.

    In 1974, the Carnation Revolution started with the broadcast of a Eurovision song, E depois do Adeus, or “And After the Goodbye”.

    I think that event, combined with current – shall we say, unhappiness – with the Portuguese Government, had a big impact on the selection of Portugal’s entry this year.


  6. Mark #

    I have Lordi to thank for adding the word “a-rock-alypse” to my vocabulary back in 2006. It comes in handy more often than you’d think.


    • Oddtwang #

      Are you familiar with the Adult Swim cartoon Metalocalypse? I’d recommend giving it a try.


  7. Sylvia #

    I read the entire article, and I look forward to Wednesday morning. However, I could only manage 2.5 songs before this became a ‘read-only’ experience.


  8. Richard #

    With regards to San Marino, they are a real-life Duchy of Grand Fenwick. You see pretty much all of the mountaintop republic in the video. Regarding their history, they have managed to stay independent through the unusual method of politely asking people to leave them alone. They were neutral in both World Wars, thanks to not having anything either side wanted. And when your troops are armed with crossbows, you’re probably going to be staying out of wars anyway. Their chief industries seem to be tourism and reminding people that they really exist by entering international competitions like this one.


  9. Nils #

    I might be slightly out-of-topic but the Eurovision always reminds me of one of the weirdest way it entered pop culture in my country (France).
    You often hear that the length of a Eurovision song (exactly three minutes) is exactly the time it takes to strangle someone to death. Everytime someone mentions Eurovision, there’s a good chance that someone else will point out that a successful strangulation should be made to the tune of a Eurovision song.

    The creepiness of that statement can be effectively used to conceal a genuine appreciation for the event’s total cheesiness.


  10. Marie #

    Ah Eurovision! It’s great to see it up on our favourite nerd- sites! Though I don’t think you’ve actually managed to capture the scope of the Swedish contest: the thing is, that it consists of 32 songs that are successively elimineated through no less than 4 semi finals, one final to capture some of the runners up and one big final, all in the space of six weeks. Then there are a few weeks of resting time until some “midly” racist jury starts to pick apart the entries of all other countries, also over the space of four weeks. Then there is the grand finale. What does all of this mean? It means that from early january to the middle of may, the Eurovision song contest rests on the public conciousness. I don’t even think there is another country in europe that can beat that kind of ESC exposure. (Oh, and some standard trash talk: the Swiss entry isn’t Jason Mraz, as it is Colby Calais. The refrain is pretty much wholesale lifted from Bubbly)


  11. Timothy J Swann #

    Quick well, actually. Monaco is European, in that it is in Europe. The EBU predates the EU, it’s not some sinister federalist plot… yet.


  12. Timothy J Swann #

    Substantive thoughts (when I’ve read the article) to come later…


  13. Timothy J Swann #

    “Controversially, the Russian network Channel One decided to just pick the country’s Eurovision representative by itself, instead of through a voting process.”
    See also, Dimitri Medvedev.


  14. Nat #

    I’ve just been catching up on the live performances, and Croatia had 3 costume changes, and bucked the trend by going from a smaller dress to successively longer dresses. And features a guy in an amazing top hat.


  15. Peter1980 #

    The “European Broadcasting Area” is bounded on the west by the western boundary of Region 1 (see below), on the east by the meridian 40° East of Greenwich and on the south by the parallel 30° North so as to include the western part of the USSR, the northern part of Saudi Arabia and that part of those countries bordering the Mediterranean within these limits. In addition, Iraq, Jordan and that part of the territory of Turkey lying outside the above limits are included in the European Broadcasting Area.


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