Eurovision 2011: Semi-Final Preview Part 2

Eurovision 2011: Semi-Final Preview Part 2

Not one, but TWO sets of identical twins.

A Friend in London, “New Tomorrow”

JORDAN: There’s something self-flagellating about this.  It’s not enough that the song sounds like something the fake British new-wave band from Music and Lyrics would write, the artist is actually called “A Friend in London?”  People, I’m sure you have plenty of friends in Denmark too.  Stand up for yourselves.

BELINKIE: Actually Jordan, they may not have as many friends as you think. This song has been pretty heavily criticized for sounding suspiciously like at least one other recent Eurovision contender. And it definitely does. Check out this pretty damning side-by-side comparison somebody created.


Come on boys, come on girls
In this crazy crazy world,
You’re the diamonds your the pearls
let’s make a new tomorrow.

Getter Jaani, “Rockefeller Street”

FENZEL: With a name like Rockefeller Street, it’s hard not to immediately place the song in Jay Z’s shadow, but Getter Jaani seems to have her sights set on a patch of grass under the grasping branches of the Oingo Boingo tree. “Rockefeller Street” is a callout of the irrevocable strangeness of luxurious partying and leisure in the days of celebrity – a common theme in American songs that must resonate even more strongly among Estonians – who still, apparently, can’t resist waving around a scarf as part of their act. Ah, the simple things.

It’s yet another song about partying (albeit with a note of caution) from an upstart post-Soviet era country, and a light sort of fusion – there are Central and eastern European influences, but the singer is attempting to compensate for her accent to make the song appeal to a broader audience. I would not be too surprised to hear this song on American radio during the times when it would have been fashionable, or even at other times. It’s well done, it has energy, it throws in some cool transitions and alienating effects.

But do we really need somebody to try to startle our intellects with the weirdness of our ostentatious culture while we’re watching Eurovision? It’s one of the weirdest, most ostentatious places there is. It’s like Getter Jaani is telling us a ghost story when we’re at a burial ground at Wounded Knee. We’re already spooked; it’s hardly necessary.

JORDAN: I find it interesting that this is the only song — it is the only one, right? — to be explicitly and self consciously about America, or at least about an Estonian’s perception of America.


1-2-7-3 down the Rockefeller Street
Life is marching on, do you feel that
1-2-7-3 down the Rockefeller Street
Everything is more than surreal.

Shah Rukh Khan, “Dard e Disco”

JORDAN: Yeah, yeah, I know. India doesn’t get to compete in Eurovision. But only because if they did, they would win every time.


Watch that video again and tell me it even matters what the lyrics are. Every time.

Jedward, “Lipstick”

BELINKIE: The year’s Eurovision features not one but TWO sets of identical twins. It’s basically a Shakespearean comedy waiting to happen. Let me answer your first question: no, Jedward is not gay, but they are featured on the cover of Gay Times magazine. Fun fact: the names of the twins are John Paul Henry Daniel Richard Grimes and Edward Peter Anthony Kevin Patrick Grimes.

JORDAN: Hey Jedward, Britney Spears called, she wants “If You Seek Amy” back!  And she also wants “Womanizer” back. And also Rihanna called, and she wants “SOS” back.  Okay, so there are kind of a lot of songs like this, I guess, all of which I dislike.  I’m a little mystified by the lyrics of the chorus here — it’s like Thing 1 and Thing 2 are bragging about their ability to make out with lots of other women without getting caught?  There’s something very charming and high-school about a concept of infidelity that only extends as far as illicit makeouts.

FENZEL: Jedward are deserving favorites heading into the competition – “Lipstick” is like bringing Lady Gaga to a knife fight. The song is contemporary, fresh, tightly produced, catchy, and has a lot of the notes to it that American songs have been using lately to earworm their way into the public consciousness – namely, building the song around a recognizable “thing” that commands attention by promising a certain intrigue that sort of shows up, even though the rest of the song is pastiche and not really cogent.

I’m reminded particularly of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” which is built similarly around “Daisy Dukes, Bikinis on Top.” These accoutrements in both cases are apropos of nothing but still the songs’ greatest strengths in getting attention, which in these days of media saturation is more important than being good. We’re selling ringtones and downloads, people, not albums. We want our songs at the club, in the mall and on the iPods; we don’t care about the Grammys. Prestige follows money.

The trick here is the crucible in which Jedward’s song is being tested – Eurovision is an old-school sort of competition, where people listen to the whole song and make a thoroughly weighted choice (whatever the factors) to deliberately vote for it. You’re not lunging to catch somebody’s brain in an idle moment in a train station with a weird line or a memorable hook. This style of song is designed for dissociated, distracted listening and short time intervals. Eurovision is long, and people are saturated with the songs. Facing down a Celine Dion-style balladeer at a song competition with something like this is like bringing an elite counterterrorism special forces unit to the middle of a field five miles away from a 20-year-old artillery battery. I’m not saying you’re not elite, or that you aren’t the latest in modern song warfare – I’m saying you’re not as favored in the matchup as you think you are.

For these reasons, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jedward underperforms. They don’t look all that tight so far as dancers, and their charisma is maybe a 6.5 out of 10. Eurovision isn’t the terrain for which this song is best suited. But it still might win based on the fact that it’s the only song I’ve heard so far that could actually be a pop song that people around the world would want to listen to outside of its current context.

BELINKIE: You know the difference between cheese and camp? Cheese tries to be good but fails. Camp redefines the terms of good. Something campy tweaks the rules of cool and taste. A lot of the Eurovision songs fall firmly in the cheese category. Finland is supposed to be a heartfelt ode to Mother Earth, but instead it makes me want to strangle a dolphin.

Jedward, on the other hand, knows what it’s doing. The hair, the outfits, the very concept of an identical twin boy band. You don’t have to like Jedward, but these guys are in control. And that’s why I’m not at all surprised that Lady Gaga herself is anxious to work with these guys. I’m with Pete on this: whether or not they win, I think we’re going to hear more about Jedward real soon.


She’s got her lipstick on
Here I come, da da dum
She’s got her lipstick on
Hit and run, then I’m gone
Check my collar, collar, hey, hey, ey
Check my collar, collar, hey, hey, ey

Dana International, “Ding Dong”

BELINKIE: I know what you’re thinking: “Oh Israel, don’t be silly. There’s no way Europe is going to let a transsexual win Eurovision.” Except they already did. Dana International won in 1998. Even more impressive, her winning song, “Diva,” was entirely in Hebrew (except the title). I’m kind of impressed with Europe. But I’m less impressed with Dana International’s new song “Ding Dong,” which features some of the stupidest lyrics in a contest full of stupid lyrics. Example: the title refers to the sound your soul makes.


If you have a dream of your own
Don’t be afraid go on with your heart
Close your eyes and hear the bells
Of your soul

Ding Dong say no more
I hear silent prayer and it’s making me
High and fly I know where to go
And I’m coming now

Musiqq, “Angel in Disguise”

FENZEL: The Latvian guy who isn’t trying to pull off Elvis Costello might be the front-runner for the hotly contested “worst haircut at Eurovision,” not because his is the worst haircut, but because it suits him so poorly. The word “suit” reminds me of that lapel vest thing they’ve got going on, which seems just a half-step above the tuxedo t-shirt. Latvia’s entry has a bunch of these sorts of superficial things wrong with it: Musiqq should not be the name of a rap-rock duo with a burly Baltic frontman. “Musiq” is already used for a bunch of other notable musical acts anyway. Angels are already heavily featured this year at the center of a bunch of other Eurovision songs by more prestigious and more Cypriot countries. The singer’s voice is wrong for the song – it’s too deep and heavy and the song is too bubblegum and silly to handle it. The falsetto is awful. The Elvis Costello guy’s presence isn’t made important enough.

But at the root of it, you have one of the most “current” Eurovision songs I’ve seen so far – so many of the Eurovision songs are bad attempts at American pop music from ten years ago – lots of Britney, Puff Daddy, young Justin Timberlake stuff. “Angel in Disguise” is a bad attempt at an American pop song from 2009 – the rap break recalls Lil Wayne very specifically, and if the vocals were a bit more autotuned and the singer a bit less muddy, it could pass for bad Kevin Rudolf.

It’s disappointing execution, but an interesting idea – it’s unfortunate the Latvians didn’t find ways to turn the things that make their act quirky into things that make it good. “Angel in Disguise” is a good example of a song where restrictions didn’t really breed creativity as much as they might have. The Latvian Lil Wayne Costello deserves better.


It’s simple, like you and I
Just spread your wings and learn to fly
I must be a lucky guy
With a girl like you right by my … side.
No sweat, I’mma do this right
Bring the moon to the moonless sky
Yeah, see, the stakes are high
But the story ends with no goodbye.

F.Y.R. Macedonia
Vlatko Illevski, “Rusinka”

BELINKIE: I had no idea what the “FYR” is supposed to stand for, so I Googled it. Go ahead and try it; you’ll be surprised at the first result.

FENZEL: Here’s another great work of Balkan fusion – dance/rock/Macedonian, with a bitchin’ accordion solo backed by a ska-ish rhythm guitar. The motifs in the voice and electric guitar come tantalizingly close to Tetris music. The video has stunning production values (take that, Cyprus Broadcasting Company!), and the usual notes of surprising bleakness and cold you expect from Eastern European rockers. If you’re looking for found moments, these sorts of smashworks are great for it – the Zorba the Greek dance with the party boys in the snow is sweet.

Vlatko Illevski seems like a legit act – like he actually knows what he is doing and is making the music he wants to make rather than the music he thinks the crowd will like – similarly to the Moldovan folks at Zdob shi Zdub, below. In another coincidence, Vlatko was also present at Eurovision 2005, as a backup guitarist.

I really hope the video was filmed all in one take, but I doubt it. I will choose my fantasy over reality.


Something something, Musika! (I know that word! I think!) Also “Rusinka” has got to mean “Russian girl,” probably. And although I didn’t actually hear the word “vodka” in there, it seems like the kind of song where it would come up.

25 Comments on “Eurovision 2011: Semi-Final Preview Part 2”

  1. Stokes OTI Staff #

    By the way, when I say it’s interesting that Estonia is the only country singing about America, I don’t mean that I’m shocked more countries didn’t realize how interesting and awesome we are. Rather, I’m shocked that anyone would enter a song about America into Eurovision. What was the calculus there? I can’t imagine it’s going to win them any votes.


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      I was curious about this too, and the answer turns out to be a bit weirder even than that — if you look up Eesti Laul 2011, the even by which Estonia picked its Eurovision song, you’ll see the second-place song was called “I Wanna Meet Bob Dylan” by the Outloudz (which is a great name for a band), and written by Stig Rästa and Fred Krieger.

      So, the Estonian Superfinal was two different songs about America.

      I haven’t found anything out past that.


      • Valatan #

        Since the end of the cold war, the Baltic states have been the most pro-Western of the former soviet bloc (consider that they were the first Soviet Socialist Republics to declare independence), and Estonia the most pro-Western of the Baltics. They were the first former SSR to apply for EU membership, and they caused a minor row with Russia when they applied for NATO membership. They border and feel threatened by Russia, and want to align themselves with the states for protection.

        Perhaps this fliters down to making songs about America popular there.


    • Marie #

      It’s not the first time either. Germany once sent a pink country singer and another time a 50’s inspired sing starring Dita Von Teese, and Sweden sent an entry that was entirely about Las Vegas. All of the tanked pretty hard if I remember correctly.


      • fenzel #

        The German country singer did pretty well, as I recall. Didn’t win, but made the final.


      • Nat #

        I loved the German country song for the pure novelty of it. The Germans all loved it, it just bewildered everyone else.


      • Winterbay #

        The Swedish entry finished last I think, which was a great shame and the artist had to go out publically and say that he was sorry for having brought this down upon the great country of Sweden and its music traditions… :)


        • Marie #

          I don’t think it did, because the rankings only got worse after that and we weren’t bumped from The final until last year…


          • Winterbay #

            Well, wasn’t last year the first with the two semifinals that everyone (but the big five) had to participate in in order to get to the final.

            Stenmarck and Las Vegas was in 2005 and the year after is the first year that Sweden had to qualify in the semifinal.
            That said in 2008 Sweden didn’t even make it to the final and that didn’t get as much of a uproar as I remember Stenmarck getting when he came in 19th (of 24).

  2. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    So after I went to sleep last night, frequent OTI commenter and actual European Nat Hopchet emailed me a whole bunch of commentary on these songs. It was too late to get it into the post, but I’m sharing it below. Thanks Nat!


    Austria – “The Secret is Love”
    The usual shout out for peace, love and unity, delivered by a girl giving her best Christina Aguilera impersonation. Apparently she wrote the lyrics as well, which means only she is to blame for lines such as “All the fears and doubts, they turn into believe.” But she does get bonus point for the black choir which suddenly appears.
    (While I see it, look at last years entry from Armenia – “Apricot Stone”)

    Belarus – “I Love Belarus”
    Not so much a Eurovision entry as a propaganda song, shouted rather than sung. Reminds me scarily of that ‘Friday’ song. I love that apparently in Belarus they have traditional folk dancers in their night clubs. Can’t see how this will get anyone other than people from Belarus to vote for it.

    Belgium – “With Love Baby”
    I might be biased, but I love this acapella song. Could do without the beatboxing, but in general it’s very catchy. The beatboxing is apparently provided by RoxorLoops (who co-wrote the song) who is described as a ‘beatboxing genius’, so I guess they had to include it. Also, am I the only one who noticed that their song title is very similar to the band’s name? For the record, witloof is the Belgian word for chicory. Apparently they come from all around the country to represent it as a whole, which is kind f ironic seeing as the country is constantly threatening to split into two, and last I checked didn’t have a functioning government. But yeah, sweet song.

    Bosnia & Herzegovina – “Love in Rewind”
    I don’t really get this song. They seem to have wholeheartedly embrace the folky vibe which seems to be fashionable at the moment, but still trying to be a pop song and it doesn’t really succeed. And it’s message of a man looking back on his life is not really going with Eurovision’s aim of getting younger demographics interested in the show. Also, he apparently wrote their national anthem, and is therefore far too prestigious to be involved in the melodrama that is Eurovision.

    Bulgaria – “Na Inat”
    A decent pop-rock attempt, which is one of the few songs to not be in English (there seem to be in English than in previous years). She seems very enthusiastic. I love the use of keytar and the random headphones around her neck. First song I’ve seen to try a wind machine as well, although certainly not the last.

    Cyprus – “San Aggelos S’agapisa”
    I thoroughly disapprove of this song. It’s a standard angry breakup song, which has no place in the cheesy trashy forum of Eurovision. The video is creepy and incredibly tacky, and the guy seems to be incapable of showing emotion on his face. Two thumbs way down for Cyprus.

    Denmark – “New Tomorrow”
    Now this is more like it. Cheesy, light, no real depth to the lyrics, good looking young lads with crazy hair. I think in fact I may have heard this song before, but then it is so generic a pop song it’s entirely likely I haven’t. for a band named ‘Friend in London’, apparently they’re big in Canada. Denmark typically does quite well in Eurovision, so I think these guys have a good chance.

    Estonia – “Rockefeller Street”
    Strange for a Eurovision entry to be all about New York, and it doesn’t quite work. I do love the bright colours of her dress, her crazy attempts at dancing, and the building set pieces. But overall, less than average.

    Ireland – “Lipstick”
    Ugh, these guys are awful. Once again, I’m biased after being completely over-exposed to them from their stint on the X Factor (also, I’m noticing a trend that a good number of entrants seem to have risen to fame after entering reality talent shows. A sign of the times to be sure) but I find nothing appealing about these two idiots. The song is repetitive and annoying, and whoever told them to wear their hair like that should be imprisoned.

    Israel – “Ding Dong”
    Dana International also has a decent following, but I don’t care for this song. They’ve done well to do the song half in Hebrew and half in English, but the weird electro-synth thing that it has going on doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. And as I’ve already expressed, Israel doesn’t belong in this contrest anyway.

    Latvia – “Angel in Disguise
    Now this is the way to get the youth involved in Eurovision. While the song is nothing special, it ticks all the boxes for a successful RnB song, and will doubtlessly fair quite well in the contest. The performers are a little bland, and need to build up their showmanship for their live performances, maybe get some backing dancers or something.

    FYR Macedonia – “Ruskina”
    If I had to think of the Eurovision song contest, this song is what I would think of. I can’t quite explain it, but this song is so quintessentially Eurovision it actually makes me nostalgic even though I’ve never heard it before. The music video makes me a little dizzy, but could make for quite a fun performance.

    Moldova – “So Lucky”
    A bizarre rock song that doesn’t have much going for it apart from the only instance i can think of of a clarinet in a rock song. Easily forgettable.

    Netherlands – “Never Alone”
    Very reminiscent of the Fray, once again a very generic bland song, with none of the spetacle I expect from Eurovision. They do seem very intense, and definitely emote their song well. I wish them luck but I don’t think they’ll get very far.

    Romania – “Change”
    The name ‘Hotel FM’ inspires a vision of annoying Muzak from hotel lobbies. What they give instead is a charming, catchy and incredibly likeable song. Once again, its very simple, very generic (the usual lyrics about believing in yourself, making a change, living the dream etc.) but does it in a cheerful, pleasant way.

    Slovakia – “I’m Still Alive”
    More eagles! Sorry, I got distracted from the incredibly boring song. I think the best thing this song has going for it is that its performed by rather pretty twins. The viedo implies that the song represents the country’s ability to overcome adversity etc. but that’s not exactly going to make other countries vote for it. On to the next one.

    Slovenia – “No One”
    This girl seems to be a very good singer, who has unfortunately gone blue. The video director seems to have watched Twilight one too many times (which is once). I quite like this song, but it’s not a standout. I hope for some aerial acrobatics.

    Sweden – “Popular”
    Another song going for the youth vote. Absolutely awful lyrics “Stop don’t say that it’s impossible/Cos I know/It’s possible” and seems to express stereotypical teenage boys wants of popularity and sex. But at least we can expect some good dance moves from this one. He’s the Swedish Justin Timberlake.

    Ukraine – “Angels”
    A singer who’s apparently very popular in Russian bloc countries doesn’t seem to be trying very hard in this song and yet trying way too hard at the same time. This is another song which could be saved by the theatrical element of its performance, because it wouldn’t win anything on the song alone.


  3. fenzel OTI Staff #

    By the way, we shouldn’t be making too much fun of Belarus – isn’t there a big Overthinking It fan from Belarus who was one of the first people to donate to us when we first asked for money?

    There was some talk among the writer’s group at the time of having a global contest where the country that donated the most to OTI would get a week of custom content all about its country. We rejected it for a whole bunch of reasons (several of which should be obvious – it would be kind of a jerk thing to do), but the winner would have been Belarus, and a week of Belarus-only content would have bee awesome – because we probably would just play “I LOVE BELARUS” over and over again.

    Hopefully, our Belarussian fan appreciates the special place in our hearts Belarus continues to claim this Eurovision season, and I look forward to other Belarussian cultural exports in the months and years ahead.


    • Stokes OTI Staff #

      Who’s mocking Belarus? If the worst thing you can say about a dance song is that it sounds like Boney M. (not to mention that you “love [it]”), that’s not such a bad dance song.


      • fenzel OTI Staff #

        You know, if I were in an actual dance club, and “I Love Belarus” actually came on, it would actually be the best thing ever.


  4. Valatan #

    The FYR of Macedonia wanted to just call itself “Macedonia” after independence from Yugoslavia, but, insanely and hilariously, Greece said that it felt ‘threatened’ by having a neighbor name itself ‘macedonia’, considering the history that the Greeks and the Macedonians had TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO, and so they had to add the “Former Yugoslav Republic” bit


    • Valatan #

      Also, Jedward walks the line between too ridiculous to even mock and so absurd that it’s the best thing ever.


    • petrlesy #

      but they might get quite upset when you call them FYRoM or something, personal experience


  5. Timothy J Swann #

    “How do you pronounce an “s” wearing a hat?”
    The caron adds a h sound following the letter: č is ch, š is sh, and ž is zh (at least in Croatian and Serbian). Zh is hard to pronounce.


  6. Timothy J Swann # should give you everything you need to know about Jedward. The two are exceptionally well-known in Britain and their native Ireland (their debut album hit No. 1 there). It is often difficult to accept that they are real: their butchery of Ghostbusters has gone done in legend.

    Are there any other competitors spawned from non-Eurovision reality contests?


      • Marie #

        Well, possibly the isles as the only impression I got from them was “oh, PR people have gone out of their way for these guys” Without the hype, they seem like a decent couple. It’s like cross between Saade and these guys:

        Or it might be a glimpse of their future. Anyhow, they better get the number right this time.


  7. Timothy J Swann #

    ‘I’m Still Alive’
    No-one else wishing that it was the Jonathan Coulton track?


  8. michael #

    Re: vaguely racist Ukrainian lyrics:
    It looks like the song was originally recorded in Russian, and according to somebody on the Internet the literal English translation of the Russian chorus is

    Like how birds in the deep blue sky
    Forgive me for all the undaring dreams!
    We call ourselves people on this earth
    We just hide behind big wings
    Big wings…

    So the white power-sounding stuff only came in when they rewrote the English lyrics to rhyme, fit the melody, etc.?


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