Poland made it to the final last year, coming 21st, with US singer Isis Gee and a big ballad. They’re trying the same thing this year with Lidia Kopania and “I Don’t Wanna Leave.” Pleasant – but it’s hard to see how this will stand out from the hoard of ballading ladies at this year’s contest.
With Flor de-Lis and “Todas as ruas do amor” (“All the Streets of Love”) and accordions, drums and pipes, Portugal has gone folksy, similar to the 1996 entry by Lucia Moniz (who went on to be Colin Firth’s love interest in Love Actually). It’s sweet and hippyish but will not give Portugal its first win after decades in the contest.
Is this Romania’s answer to Girls Aloud? Elena Gheorghe is the lead singer and she is backed by four big-haired ladies strutting, pointing and shaking their collective thang. These are “The Balkan Girls” of the up-tempo number’s title. The only frock change of the contest so far and some much-needed energy.
This year’s hosts have been desperate to win Eurovision and have sent consistently strong entries of late, until victory last year with Dima Bilan and “Believe.” Not this year. Mamo, a ballad with a distinctly Russian sound, is sung, partly in Ukrainian, by Anastasiya Prikhodko, who hails from Ukraine.
Serbia has become known for moody Balkan ballads and winning in 2007. But, again, not this year. With Marko Kon and Milan Nikolic we have a deep-voiced, shock-haired and goateed singer who gargles with razor blades accompanied by an accordionist.
Slovakia is back in the contest after 11 years away. “Let’ tmou” is sung by Kamil Mikulcik and Nela Pociskova, who are unlikely to make the final…
Violins ago-go here in “Love Symphony” by Quartissimo, a string quartet who seem to be aping Nocturne, the Norwegian winning entry of 1995, which had much fiddling and very few words. There is no singing for the first third of the “song” and not much after that.
Like UK, Spain has been in the Eurovision wilderness in recent years. They’re back on form with Soraya and “La Noche es para mi” (“The Night is for Me”), a sexy uptempo dance track sung in English and Spanish that has the vital, vote-pleasing hint of the Turkish souk so prevalent these days and some male backing dancers.
In Melodifestivalen, Sweden has the best TV selection process by far. This year it chose opera singer Malena Ernman and “La Voix”, which sounds like the British Airways theme mixed with Hooked on Classics (again!)
Poor old Switzerland never seems to get it quite right. This year they’ve gone all modern with the jangly guitar sound of five-piece band Lovebugs. Pop rock number “The Highest Heights” is kind of U2-ish.
Belgian-based Hadise has been plugging her song “Dum Tek Tek,” translated as “Crazy For You,” to death. It has a strong Turkish sound allied to a fast beat. Expect a certain amount of belly dancing.
Ukraine has come second for the past two years and won in 2004. This year “Be My Valentine” is sung by raunchy rock chick Svetlana Loboda. ‘I am your anti-crisis girl’ she sings. With three dancers and three giant steel wheels on stage, there’s a lot going on. You won’t fall asleep while this is on.
UNITED KINGDOM 20-1
Well, what can I say. “It’s My Time,” written by multi-award-winners Andrew Lloyd Webber and Diane Warren and performed by Your Country Needs You winner, 21-year-old Jade Ewen. Anthemic, catchy and superbly performed, it’s our best entry in years. It could win and should finish in the top five. But this is Eurovision, remember…
Mark Cook (watching Eurovision since 1967)
Mark Cook is a journalist and theatre critic for the Guardian Guide and The Big Issue
Odds supplied by Paddy Power, correct at 6th May 2009.
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