Bulgaria started the heats to choose it’s song on October 1 and last month, more than five months on, the final two entries – Sweden and Czech Republic – were selected.
As ever, with 42 countries (Georgia has withdrawn), they are a mixed bunch, though violins and women singing ballads seem to be big this year. And hopes are high – with good reason, of course – for the UK’s Jade who’ll be singing Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s “It’s My Time” on May 16.
The odds are supplied by Paddy Power, correct at 2nd April 2009.
Albania is always the first country to choose its song since the selection process is linked to a song festival, Festival i Kenges, that has run for the past 45 years. This year the jury chose strong-voiced 16-year-old Kejsi Tola with ‘Me enerr ne enderr’ (Take Me Into Your Dreams). Written by the same team that penned Albania’s most successful entry, which came 7th on the country’s debut in Istanbul in 2004, it is an up-tempo number with the now obligatory break in the middle.
It’s hard to find a native Andorran singer, so this year’s entrant, Susanna Georgi, hails from Denmark. Her song ‘La Teva Decisio’ (Get a Life) finds blonde Susanna with a guitar in an easy listening kind of style, and there’s a hint of Abba in the chorus. Andorra has yet to qualify for the big final, though came very close two years ago.
Sisters Inga and Anish Arshakyan have to follow a 4th place for Armenia last year. Their song seems to have three titles – Jan Jan/Nor Par/New Dance – and has a distinctive eastern, slightly Indian feel. They are the most popular folk singers in Armenia and there are some interesting-sounding instruments and a tight, infectious sound.
AySel, a pretty 19-year-old girl singing “Always” alongside a chap called Arash ,is the second-ever entry for Azerbaijan. It’s described as a romantic anthem in European style but with elements of Azeri musical culture, notably an instrument called a “tar”. It’s good East-meets-West Europop, and it could do well.
Petr Elfimov sings ‘Eyes That Never Lie’. It’s been remixed and produced in Finland, which gives you the clue that it’s kinda rocky.
If you ever wondered what Elvis would sound like if he did Eurovision… A tribute to Mr P (ah, this is the stuff of Eurovision), ‘Copycat’ is sung by Patrick Ouchene and written by Jacques Duvall, who is best known, as all Francophiles will know, for the 1979 hit Le Banana Split.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA 25-1
The Balkans have become known for the moody, reflective ballad in Eurovision, but this is the only one in the contest this year. It’s highly fancied with its Soviet graphics backdrop and the Coldplay-influenced style of the band Regina.
All credit to Bulgaria for giving us something different and innovative every year. ‘Illusion’ is the song and the singer is male soprano Krassimir Avramov, who has lived and worked in the Us since 1999 and can cover four octaves.
Last year Croatia had a twinkly old geezer who got to the final. This year Igor Cukrov is yer man, with ‘Lijepa Tena’ (Beautiful Tena).
A brother and sister combo represent Cyprus. She, Christine Metaxa, sings; he, brother Nikolas, a runner-up in their X Factor, wrote the song, ‘Firefly’. It’s a gentle ballad, and her voice is not strong, but in her semi-final you can guarantee 12 points from Greece and the UK’s North London Cypriot posse
CZECH REPUBLIC 250-1
Romano rap band Gipsy.cz offer something called Avon Romale, though the lyrics seem to be in nonsense English. There are violins (they really are big this year) and a man running around in a red superhero outfit.
Mark Cook (watching Eurovision since 1967)
Mark Cook is a journalist and theatre critic for the Guardian Guide and The Big Issue
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