Becks on Portugal

Vânia Fernandes - Senhora do Mar 2/5

Portugal keeps trying and trying and trying. Being the one country keeping on the longest without ever winning is not fun, let me tell you all. And whatever the Portuguese has sent, Europe made thumbs down, more or less.

For a while, I thought RTP headed down the right street, sending Sofia Vitoria and 2B, both signalling more modern and contemporary sounds. A step in the right direction. Then Non-Stop came and ruined the whole thing, leaving the Portuguese confused.

So when self-proclaimed ESC master Andrej Babic comes running, they all fall for it and think he will be the key to success with this plastified fake-fado with it's pompous setting and make-believe emotion. I can stretch myself to finding it OK, but I think many people will fall for this.

In the final?
Yes, I think Portugal will finally make it there. Which is of course great fun for the Portuguese, but I would prefer them to send a home-crafted tune instead.

Becks on FYR Macedonia

Tamara, Vrčak & Adrijan - Let Me Love You 3/5

All the sad and bitter eurofans will curse and swear at this, but FYR Macedonia has really catapulted itself into a brilliant little ESC-nation, that managed to get themselves through to the final every time since the semis were introduced. Neighbour vote, cries the eurofans. Good acts, I say. (Well, the 2005 offering was dire, but apart from that...)

Also this year sees a very convincing act that is most likely to win a few votes before the show is over.

The only shadow in my mind is the change of language here. I'm not too sure about the english lyrics, and also the loss of melody in the chorus is a minus in my book. But the newly added violins are great, and the trio are most convincing anyway.

In the final?
Yes, but more towards the end of the result than the top, I believe.

Becks on Cyprus

Evdokia Kadi - Femme Fatale 3/5

Last year, Cyprus was one of the pre-favourites and then failed to even make it into the final. Of course it is easy to go a bit mad when things like these keep happening. But this mad?

All attempts at sounding modern or to please the general taste have been totally abandoned in favour of a complicated little ditty in Greek that is pretty hard to make head or tail of. A cabaret act for drunk tourists at some local taverna in Larnaca, performed by the local Liza Minnelli, still dreaming about her big break.

Of course there is something in this obnoxious package that really speaks out to me, and in the middle of all the mess with tempo changes and choruses and brass going berserk I find myself quite liking this. Sorry world, but that is just how weird I am.

In the final?
No, not even close. Who would vote for this? They won't even cash in on a Greek 12-pointer this year.


Becks on Malta

Morena - Vodka 2/5

I don't know what to say, really. This entire thing always leaves me speechless as there are more pros and cons than I could possibly handle on three minutes.

Plus: it is a lively number.
Minus: it is a complete mess.
Plus: Morena is a great singer.
Minus: the lyrics are incomprehensible.
Plus: the whole thing is not too serious.
Minus: the arrangement gives you a headache.
Plus: Morena really seem to believe in it.
Minus: the whole thing is so silly that had it been a Monty Python sketch, Graham Chapman would walk in and interrupt it before the first chorus.

Basically, I don't hate it, but I don't like it either. I believe Malta is having yet another go at the old Vertigo-trick, to take a weak song and overload it to the point of self-conbustion. Many people like this, but I think more people will sweat and wish for it to end.

In the final?
No. I think they will mess the whole thing up and scare voters off. Again. Let Borg/Vella have a few years of rest and let someone else write for Malta for a while.

Becks on Hungary

Csézy - Candlelight 3/5

Almost ten years ago, I found my first copy of Barbra Streisand's "Gulity" and the revolution was a fact. Impeccably produced, impeccably sung, elegant and sophisticated. My mind wanders to Barbra every time I hear the Hungarian entry.

It is, simply, breathtakingly elegant, especially when it is presented to you with such a lavish video clip. Csézy herself is also more like an elf than a regular singer, with a remarkable presence and emotion.

So why isn't it a full fiver? Mainly because it gets a bit too elegant for its own good. Elegant lives next door to Cold and Distant. This is not the song that will reach out and grab you, slap you and toss you around the room. Probably a bit too well-behaved to go far.

In the final?
No, I think it will get close but loose out by a few points. But it will live all summer on the more mature radio stations of Europe.

Becks on Georgia

Diana Gurtskaya - Peace Will Come 3/5

On a first glance, I wasn't charmed at all by this effort. A familiar-sounding sing-along about peace, something that has been tried out (far too) many times in the past. I was just about to push the fast forward-button, but then I listened a bit closer again.

And so I realised that the Georgian song is quite captivating, a bit like the Russian entry but with a stronger hook. Diana Gurtskaya is also a gripping personality, and her voice is instantly recognisable and will surely leave an impression on people.

Given Georgia's place in the world, next door to Chechnya, their own civil war not too far away in time and the current unrest with two regions of the country wanting to break away, it is not so surprising that the Georgians would want peace to come. That makes this peace plea more trustworthy than most of the others.

But it is still a far cry from last year's brilliance.

In the final?
Yes, probably. But not a real contender there.

Becks on Denmark

Simon Mathew - All Night Long 1/5

As previously stated, Bulgaria is doing everything in their power to develop the contest and make a difference. Denmark are trying, on the verge of self destruction, to do the opposite.

So let me start with the good parts. Simon Mathew is a star - charming and goodlooking with a good voice. The production is good and the whole thing sounds quite OK. But apart from that everything is just horrifically wrong. The song in itself is a whiter shade of pale and repeats itself until your brain turns to mush.

And, worst of all, this is not a temporary glitch, this is a pattern. Ever since the 2002 fiasco with a modern-sounding piece of pop, the Danes have aggressively stuck to being old-fashioned, outdated, plastic and irrelevant. And it doesn't suit them at all. Next year I would hope for almost anything from Denmark as long as it doesn't sound like this.

In the final?
No, probably not. But on the other hand, I never saw the genius of their 2005 ditty either.


Becks on Bulgaria

Deep Zone & Balthazar - DJ, Take Me Away 5/5

So, maybe this song isn't really a five-pointer. But what it may lack in the tune department, it clearly makes up for in packaging. I am wild with Bulgaria and their attempts of making things change in the land of Eurosongs.

The whole idea is brilliant: let's call up a dance collective so hip it hurts and ask them to provide a Eurovision entry that sounds anything but eurovisional. Rhythm, scratching, vocal effects, reggae, machine guns, well, you name it and they have it. That and a blonde singer in body paint. Who could ask for more?

Well, there is no key-change. Which is a shame, but there is more to life than key-changes.

The big question remains, however... Why is it Bulgaria that makes all this effort and not a great pop nation like the UK?

In the final?
Surely, yes.

Becks on Croatia

Kraljevi Ulice & 75 Cents - Romanca 5/5

What happened here? I must admit that when I first heard this song, I thought it was some kind of excerpt from some weird musical about an old man and his stick and decided it wouldn't stand a chance in the voting.

And then I read the lyrics and was absolutely taken by them, and when I heard the recorded version, I was sold. Now this is one of my top personal favourites of the year.

I don't expect it to win or anything, but I get both touched and moved and enthusiastic at the same time. Very engaging, indeed. The only slight problem is the old man himself, who got a bit carried away during the live performance and got a bit too shouty and loud and out of tune, and if they don't fine-tune him a bit, we could have a real Severina-moment on our hands here (strong entry ruined by a performer who totally overdid the whole thing and scared the viewers instead of charming them).

The song in itself is sweet and melancholic, and the bad conscience in a world where youth is everything and nobody values experience anymore.

In the final?
Yes, I think this will convince more people than just me, as long as the old-timer behaves and keeps his shirt on.

Becks on Latvia

Pirates of the Sea - Wolves of the Sea 0/5

If you wondered why I struggled to stay so nice towards Lithuania before, it is just because they are so much better behaved than their Baltic brothers. The Lithuanian vocal exercise may be dull, but at least it is not offensive. But this...?

To make one thing perfectly clear - I am a big fan of Latvia. Riga is one of my favourite cities and Latvians are great people. But they are not making it easy for me and they really put my love to the test here.

This is simply horrific. An insult towards intelligence, taste and music. Grown-ups dressing up as pirates, singing badly, looking a bit embarrassed themselves. Well, they ought to be.

Out of the horrific entries, and there are quite a few this year, this is the worst of the worst. And to top it off - it is written by Swedes. What is everyone in Latvia up to? Bring us some domestic quality next year, but stop the madness. Now.

In the final?
No, no, no. (I know I am probably wrong, but I refuse to accept it before it even happens.)

Becks on Belarus

Ruslan Alehno - Hasta la vista 2/5

This could have been good. Or at least, it could have been a lot better. The basic foundation is not too bad, a quite hooky little chorus that could have turned into a real disco stomper with some know-how.

Instead, the resposibles put this disco bunny in a flannel shirt and the rest is, well, history.

Ruslan is fighting bravely against his self-proclaimed lack of knowledge of English and he is far from making a fool of himself. But we are not headed for Minsk next year.

In the final?
No, unless there is a large fanbase of boring late-80's soft radio rock out there voting.

Becks on Czech Republic

Tereza Kerndlovà - Have Some Fun 2/5

Young Tereza is so sweet you could have her for dessert, and her gentle pop song is very much the same. It sounds so genuinely nice you would want to ask it out for some coffee in the sunshine. You wouldn't mind hearing it on the radio all summer. But would you vote for it?

The answer is probably "no".

I am a big supporter of the Czech entries to Eurovision, as they have managed to make rather impressive national finals until now, but I doubt this attempt will lead them into the final. "Nice" will never win a televote.

In the final?
No. Many will like it, but few will vote for it.


Becks on Switzerland

Paolo Meneguzzi - Era stupendo 5/5

In my childhood, I used to like Switzerland every year. I even used to like them a lot. Daniela Simons, Carol Rich and even Mariella Farré (fancy that!) were top items in my shop and the Swiss flag always looked so pretty on the scoreboard.

And then the Swiss lost everything they had and got lost in some kind of half-hearted attempt to please everyone and not enrage anyone. Their songs were polite little songs that nobody cared much for (even if Barbara Berta, Jane Boogaert and especially Gunvor deserved a lot more) and the Swiss became one of the least important countries in this contest.

So much better to see them back in form. Superb super sized Italian ballad turns into a soft rocker without confusing its audience, beautifully belted out by Sanremo starlet Paolo, who (let's be shallow and honest) is a great singer in addition to being very easy on the eye.

Isn't it so that european radio very much has dropped Eros Ramazzotti lately? I belive there is a gap to fill and that Paolo, if he plays his cards correctly, could have a shot at that.

And I would not be too surprised if this is the way a winner sounds come May 24th.

In the final?
Yes, and it will do very well there.


Becks on Albania

Olta Boka - Zemrën e lamë peng 4/5

I saw what I wrote about this one when it won the Albanian final back in December... and I can clearly remember why I thought the way I did. This song was far too nice for its own good, as nobody votes for nice in televotings.

But as always, the Albanians have made quite an effort to make their song improve, and the new version is most melodic and appealing. Olta sings like an Albanian dream and the lyrics come across as so soft and harmonious.

Albania is one of those countries I always want to like, and I really like them this year and wish them success. I only wish I could say I belived in this and truly believe myself.

Maybe it is still just too... nice?

In the final?
No, I am afraid not. But I want it to be.

Becks on Lithuania

Jeronimas Milius - Nomads In The Night 1/5

Let's start with the positive stuff. For the second year running, the Lithuanian televoters went for songs that stray from the typical euroformula in favour of something more melodic and low-key. Fine by me.

This young man, sporting his nicest leather trousers, wrote the song himself and found a rather pretty melody line which, given a solid performance, could have sounded very well in a popular local musical.

But unfortunately, the singing does not match up the quality of the song. (Can you tell that I am struggling to keep this nice? I think Jeronimas seems to be a nice bloke, and I have no reason to be unfriendly towards Lithuania.)

This won't do, though. If you listen carefully, you will hear the sound of coffee machines getting turned on all over Europe at exactly the same time during this number.

In the final?
No. And that's final.

Becks on Ukraine

Ani Lorak - Shady Lady 4/5

The best country in Eurovision strikes again with full force. Or do they? The song is penned by Philipp Kirkorov and Karen Kavaleryan (neither of which are particularly Ukrainian) and is, seriously, a far cry from being the perfect song. A jaunty little disco number that proves to the world that Baccara are not yet forgotten, and that is about all it is to it. In its own right, the song deserves just a 3/5.

But then comes that tiny force of nature, known to mankind as Ani Lorak (even though she is Karolina in her passport), and blows the stage to bits and puts anyone in their right minds rather oblivious.

Ani could probably perform a medley of the worlds dullest tunes backwards and make that sound exciting. This little lady (shady or not) is the greatest asset of the Ukraine this year.

Not a winner, the chorus is too weak for that, but the Ukrainians could be heading for their fourth top five finish.

In the final?
Do whales pee in the ocean? Yes.


Becks on Turkey

Mor ve Ötesi - Deli 2/5

If there is one entry I have truly mixed emotions about this year, then it is Turkey. Which is very unusual as I usually swallow anything Turkey sends in without any hesitation what-so-ever.

As long as I only hear this ditty, it works for me. It is a fairly engaging rock tune, not too easily accessible, perhaps, but in no way bad. But when I see the band onstage, all my interest dies. Who are these people? What do they do there? Why should I care?

I never bothered watching the clip, I just saw the studio clip that TRT provided for the preview feed, and I am not convinced. Not my cup of tea. Very disappointing, but nice that Turkey keeps trying new genres and styles.

In the final?
Yes, I think so. Not bad, and Turkey has a rare tendency of getting their songs to work on the night. But I'm far from extatic.

Becks on Sweden

Charlotte Perrelli - Hero 5/5

I admit - I worked a bit with Charlotte in the past and could be considered a tiny bit partial here. Some people will say that I am Swedish, therefore I always think highly of the Swedish entry. (Not correct - au contraire, I am a harsh critic of Sweden who usually has more to give than what they offer in this competition.)

But in 2008, the Swedish offering is pure brilliance from start to end. Charlotte looks like an expensive queen, like a killer Barbie made of silver, and delivers from the first note to the last. The song in itself is ingenious by being so simple and uncomplicated, yet so elegant and... well, perfect.

So, a sure winner? Not at all. Perfect is good at the ESC, but not necessarily foolproof. Things that are too bright and shiny and masterminded tend not to reach out to the masses, and maybe the whole thing will be a bit too perfect to win. But it is the best entry Sweden came up with an many a good year.

In the final?
Yes. Being #2 in the semi means nothing. If the televoters would fail to see the brilliance here, the juries will. I will pretend not to be worried until the night of the semi.

Becks on Iceland

Euroband - This Is My Life 4/5

Time to eat my words, then. Faithful readers will remember me dismissing this one completely even before it won the national final back in February. And I stand by it back then. I thought it was contrived and weak and that everyone involved wanted too much for their own good.

But that was then. The facelift the song had in the national final has taken it a long way, and an easygoing dance tune is not a bad way to start a semi. Friðrik and Regina are dead confident and belts out their number with gusto and determination, and that will probably win the voters over.

But is it really time for a 90's revival already?

In the final?
Yes, for the first time since 2004. Good for Iceland, but hardly a winner come Saturday.


Becks on Greece

Kalomira - Secret Combination 5/5

A flash of lightning, the sky opens up and down falls tons of happy, clappy, dancy pop with modern sounds and ethnic flavours. Someone is happy and dancing around and there is a catchy chorus that sticks like glue. Who could this be, if not Greece?

After what felt like centuries of Greek failures at Eurovision, they have really put themselves in command and have not been outside the top ten since 2003. Very impressive, indeed.

Of course, like all winning formulas, the Greek dance craze will wear thin sooner or later, but this is not the year. In an ESC edition where there is no obvious winner, my head keeps telling me this could be the winner. It has all the components to stand out enough to be liked by a sufficient number of people and then win thanks to a high average, like Bucks Fizz back in 1981.

The only real challenge for this song is that Kalomira's voice goes a bit wobbly and shrieky, a bit Dervish-ish, when she sings live, but apart from that slight worry, this could go down a storm.

In the final?
Yes, beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Becks on Russia

Dima Bilan - Believe 3/5

In 2006, this boy was my big favourite before, during and after ESC. "Never Let You Go" was a tiny masterpiece of a song with a very clever arrangement and a totally brilliant performance. So what can I say about his second attempt at the big time? Disappointing, unfortunately.

Not that the song would be bad or anything, it isn't. But it is a very standardised version of something that is very present in the charts, nothing more and nothing less. Ah yes, with bad English. Whatever happened there?

Rumours that the song was produced by Timbaland proved to be wrong as well, and what is left is a heartfelt soul ballad without that tiny little extra needed. But, as I said, the charts are full of similar songs, and they have been for years. Maybe this will break through to loads of viewers out there.

I had just hoped for a bit more from Team Bilan.

In the final?
Yes, Dima is a big name and he will sparkle on the night. He will be in the final, but the big question is how far he will get there. Very high or very low, is my guess.


Becks on Romania

Nico & Vlad - Pe-o margine di lume 4/5

Surprising thing, really. After being one of the weakest countries in competition (low scores every year even though I liked their entries), Romania rocketed up to become one of the top contenders (with a brief pause last year, perhaps).

This year is right back to form, though. At first, this just seems to be your traditional two-for-the-price-of-one big ballad, straight out of Sanremo of the 80's. And then you listen again and realise the first impression was the lasting one. And that you really, really like it. At least if you have taste. And a soft spot for big ballads.

Good voices, clean-cut performers and a very catchy melody line could be it. In a year full of disco babes gyrating around the dance floor, maybe an emotional ballad could be one of the top tips? And Romanian is such a beautiful language that it is almost not necessary to mix it with Italian.

In the final?
Yes, and it will score really well there as well.


Becks on Finland

Teräsbetoni - Missä miehet ratsastaa 2/5

Oh dear, time to face up to Finland, my beloved country of adoption since almost six years back. Moment of truth. What do I think about the Finland entry?

Not much, to be honest. It is not bad, it is not good. It is not exciting, it is not impressive, it is not a disaster. It is not much at all. It is a collection of men in leather and in need of an urgent hair-makeover. Oh, yeah, there is a rock-ified version of "Dschingis Khan" playing in the background as well.

Out of the twelve songs in the running in the national final, this is what the Finns wanted. I just find it very boring that Finland goes for rock for the third consecutive year, and very standardised rock at that. What happened to all the good pop that is made over here?

However, the rockers were very lucky with the draw. They could very well move on to the final because they sing late and sound different from the rest and have at least a very energetic intro (before the song rolls over and falls asleep). But when I see the horribly bad promo video, that's when I take issue. Was this the best you could come up with?

In the final?
Could be. Anyone's guess is as good as mine, but considering Finland's old luck, the answer is no.

Becks on Netherlands

Hind - Your Heart Belongs To Me 3/5

This was a surprise... I like a Dutch entry for the first time since Linda came out of her Gigantic Dress in Stockholm in 2000. Belive me, I have longed for this moment.

Because, to be frank, the Netherlands have contributed very bleak, boring, uninspired and mainly lacklustre entries ever since, and then complained very loudly about block voting and how everybody in the entire world is against them. Plus the yearly chanting: if we don't reach the final this time, we will drop out. Well, they are still with us...

This is not the ultimate hit either, mind you, but a happy little ditty with a fitting, pseudo-Arabic arrangement that hits home here. Hind seems convincing enough in the video and can hopefully insert some attitude to this picture come the semi final.

In the final?
Yes, I hope so. So we don't have to hear the Dutch complaints anymore.

Becks on Armenia

Sirusho - Qele Qele 5/5

Armenia makes use of two trends that have been successful at Eurovision lately: drums and mediterranean disco à la Helena Paparizou. Not a bad idea, especially not as you have someone as accomplished as Sirusho to deliver the whole thing.

Catchy as well as eye-catching without being particularly obvious, including a few clever twists in the arrangement to make the entire song start and stop briefly throughout makes for a few surprises to keep the interest of the viewers up.

Just too bad that Sirusho has to fight it out with Kalomira here in the semi already, but I bet there will be room for both of them in the final. Armenia is in for their best placing to date, be so sure.

In the final?
Yes, anything else would be a greater surprise than flying cows.

Becks on Bosnia-Herzegovina

Laka - Pokusaj 5/5

"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." How nicely put (even if I can't remember exactly what rock celebrity said it at this very moment), and how appropriate when Bosnia's king of wacko rock steps on the stage accompanied by his sister, a chicken and half a village's worth of farmers.

What follows is a three-minute rock opera that is way more performance arts than your typical eurosong. Based on a Bosnian nursery rhyme, the lyrics ring out in incredibly melodic ways as Laka and Sis hurricane their way criss-cross over the stage, delivering a most seductive number for the people in the right mood.

There lies the problem - not everybody is going to be charmed by this. Maybe there is tiny bit too much bazaar going on to allow the average viewer to really get into this tune, and maybe the havoc will stop Bosnia from stepping into the final on May 24th.

But I hope not. This is sheer brilliance at its maddest. At a time when the bombastic Balkanic ballads starts feeling a tiny bit old, nothing could be more welcome than a bit of this. Well done.

In the final?
Yes, I think so. Unless Europe lost its sense of humour completely.

Becks on Andorra

Gisela - Casanova 4/5

According to some people, this is dull and old-fashioned and is not to be liked. Shame on me, then. I melt to a puddle when I hear this. As stated previously, I love it when people try out new sounds and new ways at the ESC, but that doesn't mean you have to refute everything old-school.

"Casanova" may be very predictable, but it is also very uplifting, Gisela is in an extraordinarily good mood, and the whole package makes me feel all happy and bubbly.

A shame about the lack of keychange by the final chorus, had that one been in place, it would have been a full fiver. And that is not anything I am ready to blush over.

In the final?
Yes, I hope so. Especially if Gisela is half as cheerful as in the clip.


Becks on Ireland

Dustin the Turkey - Irelande Douze Points 0/5

Maybe you are all bound to percieve me as a grey, dull, boring, fun-hating, twisted old-fashioned individual now, but this is really not the thing for me. This is, after all, the Eurovision Song Contest and not the Muppet Show.

Besides, no muppet ever looked as cheap and home-made as this piece of peasant poultry. He looks like a sock puppet severely wounded by moths.

I must admit that the song has its moments, and partially it is even funny, but on the whole it feels like material for a 20 second sketch on a half-witty BBC comedy show stretched out far too long for its own good.

And, seriously, what does Ireland have to complain about? They were the people almost beating the contest to death with their ballads and bagpipes in the 90's. They won seven times. What is their problem? And is it OUR fault they entered crappy songs for the last few years? Find a decent act instead of whining.

In the final?
Yes, sadly enough a great deal of people will find this clever enough on a Tuesday night to send it into the top nine. But it could also be just too loud, too silly and too cheap a trick to work with the masses. Time will tell.

Becks on Poland

Isis Gee - For Life 4/5

If there is one thing I dislike in ESC, it is the big bombastic americanised soul ballad. Show me "My Impossible Dream" and I scream. Show me "Why Angels Cry" and I cry louder. Technically, according to every rule there is in the world, I ought to hate "For Life".

And for some absurd reason, I don't. And I can't even put my finger on that big difference between this and all the other Mariah/Whitney-wannabees. This is good and they are not and that's the end of the story.

I know that Isis Gee (with teeth so white they are almost scary) did not exactly nail each and every note in a totally correct fashion on the night of the Polish final, but neither did Céline Dion in the 1988 Swiss final. This is breezy, fluffy, melodic stuff, with a chorus line that really goes down well in my ear.

In the final?
Yes. If the televoters say no, this would be my bet for a song saved by the juries in this first semi.


Becks on Norway

Maria Haukaas Storeng - Hold on, be strong 5/5

Before I get any comments about any bias towards neighbour countries, let me just state that before Wig Wam in 2005, I had not had any Norweigan entry among my favourites since "I evighet" 1996. Last year, I thought Guri Schanke left a lot to be desired (to use good vocabulary). Not a drop a bias here.

But this time Norway hit the big time. A simple verse followed by not just one but two infective choruses, sprinkled with a very funky arrangement à la Amy Whinehouse. Eurovision euphoria!

If I can throw in one tiny "but" in this, then I would wish for a tiny bit of a change concerning the actual performance. I would like Maria and her backing group to come together, to act out more, to be less polished and add some, well, sexuality to the performance. Something slightly more organic and suggestive than the present version. But that is a very small objection, and this song ought to be bound for a spot among the five best in the final.

In the final?
Yes, yes, yes. No doubt about it.

Becks on Slovenia

Rebeka Dremelj - Vrag naj vzame 4/5

There is something about Slovenia and its Eurovision entries. They make me go weak almost every time, and I keep crossing my fingers until they hurt, wishing them the best of luck (the Slovenians, not the fingers).

I have to admit not to being charmed unconscious on a first listening by this year's entry. Rebeka is a fine piece of machinery and she sells the song well, but it took a few listenings before I could really nail the melody line down properly.

Now I did, and I love it. According to me, this is one of the best pop song in the running this year. But still - if I didn't understand it on the first listening, how can I expect anyone else to? It seems the grandness of this composition eludes most people at first, and that is not a good way to go if you want to win the ESC.

In the final?
No. The Slovenians are almost as sure as the Flemings to fall through on the big night, and I expect this song to be 11th or 12th. And we will all ask ourselves for years to come how this could be possible.

Becks on Azerbaijan

Elnur & Samir - Day After Day 2/5

A most spectacular debut is what Azerbaijan has to offer us. I really don't know how to describe this. Every time this number starts, I think it is the roof caving in on me. Or the end of the world. Or something similar. Elnur screams away as if to save his own skin. And well, when you are an Azeri angel fighting it out vocally with an Azeri devil... what do I know about what to expect?

Here is drama, passion, pathos and the Azeris seem not to be short on anything... but possibly a tune. There is not a lot to whistle along to or hum in the shower the next day, so to speak.

But in some unthinkable way, this works after all. Despite all the weird howling, this is an offering that stands out and will be noticed by anyone remotely close to a TV set.

In the final?
Yes. Unless the dynamic duo takes the howling too far live, this nutty entry is a qualifyer.

Becks on Belgium

Ishtar - O julissi 2/5

The curtain opens and out comes a cheerful little ditty that could have been an entry at the very first Eurovision back in 1956, complete with a singer so jaunty she could faint from it, doing a happy lyric in a made-up language.

You see? Every fibre in my body wants to detest it. Problem is I don't.

It eats its way into my brain, and I feel a grand smile forming where my mouth wants to show displeasure. Silly and cheesy, but also very feel-good. Mind you, Belgium almost had us all fooled only five years ago when fellow Belgians Urban Trad came only two points short of winning in Riga with the same concept.

In the final?
No. I don't think the same concept will work again. And Flemings have a somewhat startling ability of making their own songs flop at Eurovision. Yet, I could be very wrong with this one.

Becks on San Marino

Miodio - Complice 2/5

I am always keen on newcomers to the contest, and being an old fan of the microstates of Europe, seeing San Marino taking part in the ESC is like an early Christmas Eve to me.

Unfortunately, I think the fun will end there. Initially, I was very happy to read that Sammarinese television opted for a local act, and when I heard the other songs of Miodio, I really hoped for something edgy and interesting from the tiny state. Even the demo version with just piano and voice sounded reassuring.

But then we had the preview version, and there was nothing, and then came nothing, and then came nothing... and then the song ended. There is still a pretty nice (and pretty) melody line in there, but this entry is almost dramatically undynamic.

Who knows, maybe these boys are real stage beasts that will totally sell their song on the night? Then San Marino will have every chance in the world still.

In the final?
No. Not the way it sounds and looks now. But it is at least a dignified debut entry.

Becks on Moldova

Geta Burlacu - A Century Of Love 2/5

I am a firm believer that Eurovision should be open to every genre. Therefore I cheer when we have new styles in competition: I was happy when rap was new, when we had rock, when we had folk music. And of course I am happy to see some quality jazz here as well.

That said, I may not be all that sure that the Moldovan delegation has a winner on its hands. This song is pleasant, easy-going and enjoyable on record, but hard to get into action on-stage. Soap bubbles is not necessarily the hook needed to break through to the viewers.

The presentation provided in the previews is a bit lacklustre, and maybe the entire thing will light up in Belgrade. Especially is the stage appearance is a bit re-worked. I am positive, but remain in doubt that this would be a heavy scorer.

In the final?
No. I think Moldova will miss the final for the first time. But a fine tune it is.

Becks on Estonia

Kreisiraadio - Leto svet 0/5

This is where the heavy part starts. How do you judge a joke entry, really? The songs are easy to pass into groups: good songs, bad songs, indifferent songs. But jokes? How do you rate a joke in a song contest? Isn't it a bit like entering a pineapple into an apple-judging contest?

Well, in this Estonian case, it is not hard to judge. A song without a tune, a joke without any fun. Three men that apparently used to be funny once upon a time manage to make three minutes seem as long as a week.

Horrible to watch, when you know how good singers and songwriters you can find in Estonia. But maybe they all had better things to do this year?

In the final?
If Satan forgot to close the door to hell properly, this could be the first Estonian showing in a final since 2003 but the answer is, hopefully, no.

Becks on Israel

Boaz Mauda - The Fire In Your Eyes 3/5

I wonder if the Israelis ever miss the good old days when they could just shake up some energetic dance troop and have them go berserk over some old schlagered-up folk tune and make juries all over the continent go ga-ga with pure happiness and vote them straight into top five at least?

I bet they do.

Israel has had quite a bit of problem making the televoters warm to their songs for the past ten years or so. Apart from the breathtakingly good Shiri Maimon, Israel has been nowhere near top five since 1999.

Despite the effort of getting top singer Boaz and the songwriting talents of former winner Dana International, I doubt this song will do the trick either. I take the liberty of doubting it will even make it to the final.

It is a haunting melody line, beautifully sung, but I wonder how many viewers will remember it come the time to vote. Israel has had really, really bad luck, being drawn together with some unspectacular songs, and I am not sure this one is dynamic enough to stand out from the lot this early on in the running.

In the final?
No. But I wouldn't mind being wrong on this one.

Becks on Montenegro

Stefan Filipovic - Zauvijek volim te 1/5

Montenegro is taking part for the second time as an independent country and I begin to wonder why the levels of their songs went down so much since they had their independence?

All the songs (all three of them) that they sent to Eurovision under the flags of Yugoslavia and Serbia-Montenegro respectively were... ehm... good. "Julie", "Ciao amore" and "Zauvijek moja" were all catchy, well-produced little numbers that warmed my old heart.

Despite being nowhere near as atrocious as last years offering, this ditty is coming nowhere close to warming my heart. Stefan has a good voice and was probably voted heartthrob of the year at his school, but this song is as dull as dull gets.

Not bad - I want to stress that. But very seldom does so little happen during three minutes. I expect a lot more of you, Montenegro!

In the final?
No, no, no. A possible nul-pointer if it hadn't been for some rather generous neighbours.

Eurovision according to Mr Becks

This is when I start my run-through of this year's entries after screening the previews a number of time. Very much inspired by dear friend Eurofivestar, I will nibble the entries one at the time according to the running order and give them my praise or a taste of my whip.

And just in case Miss Posh plans a similar action, all my posts will have my name in the header, just to be very clear (and a tad patronising, even).

The marks are 0-5 with five being genius and zero meaning you are as bad as Linas & Simona and should stay off any Eurovision stage (or other stage).


The wonder of Alexia

I will soon go into discussing the entires for this year's final, but I have to highlight another fabulous singer of the Eurovision first. 1987 was in many ways a very crucial year for me, as it was the first edition of ESC that I had on video. And as I watched it. It is, in fact, the only videotape I ever wore out. After ten years, it lost sight and sound, and I had to find a replacement copy.

One of the best ones of 1987, in my humble opinion, was Cyprus. This, children, was way before they lost their way and started dancing on tables, and when they knew that a direct and easy melody line was the way to euroheaven.

"Aspro Mavro" is a very straightforward little number, and who cares if it was really written by Torgny Söderberg? (Will we ever find out, anyway?) Alexia really is the icing of the cake also, and she belts out her song with real conviction, sporting a top that would probably have rendered her a few years in jail a few years earlier home on the island.

A few years later, when spending my holidays in Cyprus, I found out she had also been one of the members of Island back in 1981, and I also purchased three albums of her, something that put her on heavy rotation in my sound system.

"Nerobogies", probably her best album, is still a fantastic collection of songs that she released back in 1992 before growing a bit serious, so to speak. I love her cheesy pop output and would love to see her back in Eurovision one day. And get her sunny island back on track.

Imagine my joy when I found an Alexia fan on YouTube, who had loads and loads of clips. Dig in on the entire collection here or enjoy my select ones:

Island - Monika - Cyprus 1981

Alexia - Aspro Mavro - Cyprus 1987

Alexia - Psevtikos kosmos

Alexia - Nerobogies

Alexia - Ela mia nichta

Alexia - Orkisou

Alexia - Ela Ela

Alexia - Pezo ke hano


Aaaah, Anne-Marie

35 years ago, Luxembourg triumphed in the Eurovision Song Contest held on home ground in the Théatre Nouveau (later renamed Théatre Municipal), putting all the spotlights of Europe onto young Anne-Marie David, who had already had a taste fame doing Maria Magdalena in Jesus Christ Superstar in France.

Anne-Marie may not have transformed into the biggest star ever on French territory, but "Tu te reconnaîtras" was a big hit both here and there over the globe in various languages, and Anne-Marie managed to build herself a fine career in Turkey of all places.

Not to mention that it is my favourite winner to date in Eurovision. And Anne-Marie is one of the best performers ever in the contest. If you want to read more about her, check out this fansite, for instance.

Anne-Marie David - Tu te reconnaîtras - Luxembourg 1973

Anne-Marie David - Un peu romantique
rejected entry France 1972

Anne-Marie David - Je suis l'enfant soleil - France 1979

Forgotten masterpieces from the UK

In these days of dismal ditties from the British, it is time to stop and ponder the fact that quite a few quality entries missed out in the British selections through the years. Here are some glimpses of brilliance that I want to share with you, all of which better than the last few UK entries.

Liquid Gold - Don't Panic - UK NF 1981
Liquid Gold had scored a few hit singles already, when they entered the Song for Europe and came closest of all to beating Bucks Fizz. Maybe that was all for the better, since this disco band was about to disband anyway and the Fizzers would prove to have a future, but this is simple disco at its best. And I love the outfits and that grand voice.

Kim Clark - Surrender - UK NF 1980
In a year when the UK juries went for a winner dismal enough to represent the Brits still at this day, it is almost shocking to think this one was rejected. This is what I call solid Eurovision with a very convincing chorus and orchestration. Maybe it all comes down to the performance, reminding more of Auntie Kim getting one tiny glass too much of glühwein at the Christmas party than of a potential pop star.

Touring Company - Every Step Of The Way - UK NF 1982
Weird? Indeed. But also very, very catchy. Over the top like few others, but the chorus will stick with you, if not for every step of the way then at least for the rest of the day.

Rubic - When The Kissing Stops - UK NF 1983
The winner was admittedly a lot stronger this year, but this Brotherhood of Man-reject could have been a real contender with a slightly more convincing performance. Isn't the aggressively blonde girl the same one who showed up with Belle in the Devotions a year later, by the way?

Deuce - I Need You - UK NF 1995
And, ah. Sigh. Love City Groove did seem like a good idea at the time, but today it is impossible to believe Deuce could lose. Had they had better material on their album, they could really have rocked the world back in those days, but at least this remains the commercially most successful non-winner ever from a UK selection (or isn't that so, Eurofivestar?) if that is any consolation.


Sherisse revival

We have a clever thingy that keeps track of our visitors, so we can see where they came from and what words they googled to find us, and somewhat surprisingly, today's top search term was Sherisse Laurence.

Not that I mind. I love Sherisse, I was only unaware that there was a revival going on. So for everyone wondering what that wonderful woman is up to these days, you can have a quick peek here.

And, to remind ourselves just how good she is and how great her song was, here it is for the second time on this blog. This time in its preview version.

Sherisse Laurence - L'amour de ma vie - Luxembourg 1986

Y'a pas d'mal à s'faire du bien...

Of course it is exactly 34 years since the win of Abba today. But everyone knows Abba. More than decent winner, great group and all that jazz.

But the best song of 1974 didn't even make it into the final.

Determined to do better after three years of relative failures, French television had found the song to swing the trend. Christine Fontaine wrote "Y'a pas d'mal à s'faire du bien", an irrisistibly catchy little number, that RTF promptly renamed "La vie à 25 ans" and had Dani to sing it. Everyone was more than pleased (except Dani herself, who preferred more daring material) and France seemed to be a contender again.

And then the unthinkable happened. Four days before the final, old man Pompidou, president of the republic, dies and leaves his countrymen in shock and sadness. No way on earth a country could take part in a song contest with a bouncy, happy song the same day as the presidential funeral.

So, the song was taken out of the running with extremely short notice and poor Dani sat on her hotel room in Brighton, seeing Abba winning the whole thingy.

Life is never fair. "La vie à 25 ans" is still a timeless masterpiece that would probably still stand a chance today. The dancing troupe around Dani in this clip would certainly fit well in on a number of entries this year. Besides, the lyrics could be the happiest outcry from France ever. "There's nothing bad in doing yourself some good" - a motto for you all.

Dani - La vie à 25 ans - France 1974
withdrawn by force majeure


A touch of plastic

More than once did I ask myself who put together the juries for the 1987 ESC in Brussels. When the voting was over, most of the beforehand speculation proved disastrously wrong and most of the pre-contest favourites failed miserably.

The worst failure of the night turned out to be Plastic Bertrand of "Ça plane pour moi"-fame, who had been talked into making Eurovision for Luxembourg by his record label, who wanted him to grab some easy attention before the next release and concert tour. "Amour Amour" was widely tipped to do more than well, especially given the fact that Plastic was still a star in the French-speaking part of the world.

Guess if the grapes turned sour once the votes were in and the grand total for la contribution luxembourgoise was a sad little four. Second last place and the fiasco was complete. Plastic put his singing career on hold and turned to do other things in the business.

"Amour Amour" may not be the ultimate masterpiece, but it is certainly not a four-points-loser. That would certainly not happen today, since Plastic (among a multitude of other things) is half-Ukranian. As we know, these days, Ukrainians can't go wrong.

Plastic Bertrand - Amour Amour - Luxembourg 1987

Celebrate the Fizz

27 years ago today saw Bucks Fizz rip their skirts off and win the Eurovision in Dublin after a breath-takingly close race with Germany, Switzerland, France and Ireland. "Making your mind up" was the start of a surprisingly good and long-lasting career for the foursome that had been designed to win the ESC and then split up but fortunately refused to do so.

Bucks Fizz kept scoring hits and having good album sales for a few years to come, and they are one of my all-time favourite ESC acts, even if I find their eurowinner to be one of their weaker singles.

Today they are almost totally forgotten about and neglected, but they are a pop act worthy of a true revival.

Bucks Fizz - My Camera Never Lies

Bucks Fizz - Rules Of The Game

Bucks Fizz - Easy Love


Genius @ work

I have been very quiet on this front lately, right? No worries, I did not crash and burn after the national selection season, I have just been extremely busy working in Euroland, finding no energy to spend here.

Sorry, sorry, but I hope you will find my efforts rewarding anyway.

What I have done is to complete the background information for the Swedish Eurovision previews that will start airing on SVT and FST5 late April and that we shot Tuesday and Wednesday in Stockholm.

A panel consisting of Thomas Lundin, Thomas Järvheden, Babben Larsson, Shirley Clamp and Lena Philipsson will pass judgement on the 43 competing entries, handing out marks between 0 - 5 to every contender. Five means incredibly good and zero means, more or less, insulting.

Without giving too much away, I can safely guarantee enjoyable watching, with a panel consisting of very different tempers and approaches towards the entries, but who all go into their task with enthusiasm and intelligence.

Will they enrage the eurofans? Of course they will. A few of the fan favourites will get some serious bashing, but then some others will get plenty of votes all around. And what will this Swedish/Finnish panel make of the chances of Sweden and Finland?

Excitement is rising to fever pitch, and this is surely must-see television. And I am happily back in the world of blogs.