It took me a while to think through the welcome party we had yesterday in Moscow. An amazing 2-(was it more)-hour show in the Russian capital marked the official opening of the European song contest 2009.

Stars such as Phillip Kirkorov, Alsu, the German popular band from the 70s Genghis Khan, and Lys Assia sang and made people forget at least for a while about the word economic crisis.

The winner of the 1991 Eurovision, the Swedish singer Carola also performed her hit from 2007 Invincible. The heart of the mountain, who brought Eurovision to Ukraine in 2004, the wild dancer Ukraine rocked the stage with her rhythm for the joy of the crazy mob.

t.A.t.U sang their hit from 2003 Ne ver’, ne boisya, ne prosi – the once rebellious girls now looked a bit more appeased. A more rebellious artist, though, went on stage to present her/his rebellious of the time “Viva la Diva” – yes, you know I mean Dana International. Other legendary artists went on stage to remind us of the good old days of Eurovision…

Well, watching all these singers, whatever they do, I can’t help thinking about Sir Terry Wogan and his brilliant witted comments in the 70s and 80s. So, think twice before you pack your suitcases for Moscow. As you know it is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Though it’s an amazing place and you might have the urge to drop in at the Palace.

After wabbling for a while whether or not to participate in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, Georgia came up with a fascinating disco way of making up for their political argument with Russia. As we don’t want to mess with politics, we’ll only let you wonder what Stephane & 3G intend to say with their Eurovision song We Don’t Wanna Put In

Here’s the entry itself:

Stephane & 3G will represent Georgia in Russia, after they did not succeed to get the ticket to Belgrade last year, when they came 4th in the Georgian national selection. Now the quartet (Stephane himself and three charming ladies) are happy to go for the victory in May.

No matter what the controversy resulting from the ambiguous meaning of the title, thought to contain reference to the former Russian president Vladimir Putin, the lyrics have not been changed to far. There is still one possibility: at the HoD meeting (mid-March), when all heads of delegation gather in Moscow, they can vote if the song in any way breaches the rules of the Contest. Some may consider that the Georgian entry violates the rule that songs should not express any political messages. If Georgia is pressed to introduce last-minute changes to the lyrics, they might not be able to get back in the show on time. This might practically mean banishing for the Georgian participants. Not that we wish so.

We personally consider that it is a nice peaceful song, which induces happiness and free boogie between nations, rather than anything else. I hope that everyone else will join us in this opinion.

This-year’s band consists of Nini Badurashvili, Tako Gachechiladze and Kristine Imedadze and of course the popular producer, performer and composer Stephane Mgebrishvili. This is the third time Georgia takes part in the Eurovision Song Contest. In 2007, the fantastically talented, flamboyant, and amazingly cheerful Sopho got her country to 12th position with the song “My Story”.

Tonight Sofia saw a two-hour show, produced by the Bulgarian National TV, which selected the country’s winner for the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow this year. After 12 performances, the winner was chosen by audience voting – so finally, Krassimir Avramov with Illusion will represent the Balkan country in May 2009. Krasi took over the competition with 55.52%. Krassi Avramov a.k.a. The Voice, who lives and successfully works in the US, came up with a grand show. His voice reaching extremely high octaves, the impressive dancers and the folklore elements did win him the trophy.

Three of the 12 participating songs were produced by the Bulgarian media:
Poli GenovaOne Lifetime is not is not Enough — Poli is a former BonBon (remember that they were the first Bulgarian participants in the Junior Eurovision in Rotterdam, 2007)
Mariana PopovaCrazy – who took part in the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest in Athens but with little success. The only noticeable thing of the 2006 Bulgarian entry was the participation of the scandalous transsexual pop-folk star Azis. Today, Mariana’s techno solo was nothing to remember, really.
Grafa Vrag (Enemy) – one of the kids of the Bulgarian pop music, who took of his music career, when he was 8 or so, and now, in his early thirties, has already celebrated 20 years on stage.

The rest of the other noticeable entries at the Final were the following:

Nora - a former Music Idol participant closed the competition. Her powerful voice, however, was not enough to win her the ticket to Moscow.

Lyubo Savov – the father of Dian Savov, one of last-year’s DJs flying the Bulgarian flag in Belgrade last year, also decided to challenge the first place in the national selection tonight.

Moscow came to Sofia in the face of the winner of various European prizes, and Ani Lorak’s producer Phillipp Kirkorov, who came specially for the show. He performed several hits, one of them the Russian version of Brotherhood of Man’s hit “Save your kisses for Me”. The happiest were my mum’s generation though.

Among those attending the contest in the hall were Stoyan and Elitsa (Bulgarian reps in ESC 2007) and Joanna (the charming vocal, ESC 2008). Deep Zone came out to announce the winner and wish them good luck.

I couldn’t help but noticing that most of the finalist songs were ballads, most were sung in English, and 90% of them had no idea what Eurovision means. All this resulting in an attitude of eternal satisfaction that I did not watch the national final live but stayed at home and viewed it from my cosy sofa. The only entry I felt sorry for not seeing live was the winning entry indeed. So, go for it, Krassi!

Bulgaria will participate in the first Semi-Final on 12 May 2009. So far the countries best result has been in its third year in 2007, when Stoyan Yankoulov and Elitsa Todorova reached top 5.

My personal favourite is Right On Time, but most of the members of the Facebook group Eurovision Song Contest 2009 – Greek Entry would rather support This is our night. Or you might take a fancy to Out of control, with its up-beat tempo, which changes several times during the song. Make sure to check out the discussions, even if your Greek is not good enough.

And the aim – the aim is clear – to bring Greece to the top of 54th Eurovision. As ERT online reported, Sakis said that “Every day I wake up and go to bed with this thought.” Who else can do it but Sakis, who has so many years of experience at the Eurovision stage?!

Here is some more detail on the entries: sakis-rouvas1

Out of control
Composer: Dimitris Kontopoulos
Lyrics: Alexandra Zakka

Right on time
Composer: Dimitris Kontopoulos
Lyrics: Craig Porteils and Cameron Giles-Webb

This is our night
Composer: Dimitris Kontopoulos
Lyrics: Craig Porteils and Cameron Giles-Webb

Whichever of the three entries you prefer, the Greeks know how do throw a party and to make the best of a show. On 18 February a grand (as always) spectacle, will be held in Athens Arena in the Greek capital, when one of the three songs will receive the ticket to Moscow. It will be selected by a 50-50 jury-audience blend voting. Special guests of the show will be the representatives of Cyprus, Montenegro, Belarus and perhaps Malta.

Best fancy dress online shop. Get a costume for you and your friends! :)

The British made a great choice this year for their traditional participation in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. The result took the commitment of the great composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote the song It’s My Time – performed by the talented and beautiful British star Jade Ewen.

The 2009 UK Entry for Eurovision Song Contest 2009 is a powerful solo ballad, bathing in the splendid and tender atmosphere created by Jade. The song is already popular throughout the UK, Malta, Greece, and in other Eurovision countries.

The Brits hope for a position in top ten and it will be well-deserved indeed. Indeed, many people think that the song is not strong enough to win the trophy. Others are fast to say that it’s a great voice and the songs well deserves a top position, but won’t get it as it’s not a typical Eurovision song.

The UK has won the contest 4 times (’67, ’76, ’81, and ’97) and joined the Eurovision Song Contest in 1957 with Patricia Bredin’s song “All”, who finished 7th.

43 is the number of the countries participating in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Moscow. It seems like the show is just as popular as it was last year, so much so that Slovakia has decided to come back to the Eurovision family. Here is the final list of the participating countries, after the deadline for withdraw has passed:

  1. Albania
  2. Andorra
  3. Armenia
  4. Azerbaijan
  5. Belarus
  6. Belgium
  7. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  8. Bulgaria
  9. Croatia
  10. Cyprus
  11. Czech Republic
  12. Denmark
  13. Estonia
  14. Finland
  15. France
  16. FYR Macedonia
  17. Georgia
  18. Germany
  19. Greece
  20. Hungary
  21. Iceland
  22. Ireland
  23. Israel
  24. Latvia
  25. Lithuania
  26. Malta
  27. Moldova
  28. Montenegro
  29. The Netherlands
  30. Norway
  31. Poland
  32. Portugal
  33. Romania
  34. Russia
  35. Serbia
  36. Slovakia
  37. Slovenia
  38. Spain
  39. Sweden
  40. Switzerland
  41. Turkey
  42. Ukraine
  43. United Kingdom

The rules stay the same and the Semi-Finals will contain 19 performances each. 20 altogether (10 from each Semi-Final) qualify for the Grand Final (16 May), where the Big 4 are already waiting. France, Germany, Spain and the UK plus the host Russia have a secure place at the Final. It’s good news that none of the Big 4 have decided not to invest money in Eurovision this year, as this would have robbed the contest of its flavour.

Who participates in which Semi-Final will be decided in Moscow on 30 January. Heated debate is expected from you after this draw. This draw will also decide the Semi-Final of the Big-Four and the host country – three in one Semi-Final and three in the other. The running order will be determined as usual after a draw at the regular HoD Meeting in mid-March. There will be three wildcards, who can luckily decide their starting position.

Meanwhile, yesterday the EBU launched their new dedicated website: Eurovision Song Contest – Moscow 2009. The general sponsor is again Raiffeisen Bank. The website for years in a row offers streaming of the ESCTV, mobile services, and downloads.

So, are you getting started for Moscow? I’ll soon try to offer the top list of how to survive financially in the Russian capital – one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Hera (but no Zeus) will fight hard to represent Denmark in Moscow in May this year. Ms. Hera Björk will sing the song “Someday” – a strong solo. “It is a great song with a catchy melody, fun to sing…,” says Hera herself in an interview for DR Denmark” There’s been so much information and campaigning about the Iclandic diva, that the rest of the competition seem to fade away, though not quite.

The young singer was born in Iceland, but has moved to the Danish capital four years ago. In fact the lot behind the song also come from all over Scandinavia and are well known for their fervent Eurovision activity: the composers Christina Schilling and Jonas Gladnikoff from Sweden, and the Swedish authors Henrik Szabo and Daniel Nilsson.

As you might remember from previous posts on Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, Ms. Björk will be competing with nine other artists in a new-style Danish domestic show – a single national final will select Denmark’s favourite.

The ten artists competing in Copenhagen on 31 January are: Christina Undhjem, Claus Christensen, Jeppe Laursen, Jimmy Jørgensen, SUKKERCHOK, Brinck, Hera Björk, Johnny Deluxe, Marie Carmen Koppel and Trine Jepsen.

Here is a short list with some notes for you to keep an eye on the Danish Melodi Grand Prix:

Brinck Believe Again — His earlier hit I don’t Wanna Love Her is a truly mild ballad with inspiring lyrics and genuine sound. Pop star Ronan Keating himself stands behind the project Believe Again.

Claus ChristensenBig Bang Baby — Yet another pop singer with substantial experience in Eurovision who can cry at the top of his voice “vote for me”.

Christina UndhjemUnderneath My Skin — Born in Norway, Christina has a taste for lyrical mystical music and she can do it well.

Hera BjörkSomeday
SUGAR shocksDet’ det
Trine JepsenI Never Fall In Love Again
Wildcard: Jeppe LaursenLucky Boy — and indeed he is…
Wildcard: Jimmy JørgensenAlice In The Wonderland — if music can be nostalgic, that’s his music
Wildcard: Johnny DeluxeCrazy
Wildcard: Marie Carmen KoppelCrying Out Your Name

Their place in the Eurovision Final is always guaranteed. Every year, despite their last-year’s positioning, these countries go directly to the Final. They are known as the Big Four. Whatever songs the UK, France, Spain, and Germany present, whatever artist they pick to send to the ESC, they are always to participate in the Grand Final.

And thanks God! Because otherwise, we would have to listen to these songs twice, which in many cases would be far from fun.

However, there have been some nice surprises recently. Of course we cannot expect to have the mega names of British, German or French music industry to join in Eurovision. I can’t picture at all Take That, Robbie Williams, or Carl Cox for that matter to apply for Eurovision. But we can witness some movement in the choice of artists in the Big Four, which can only give me satisfaction.

This year, France sends to Belgrade Sébastien Tellier with the song Divine. His track is produced by one of the most successful electronic music duos DAFT PUNK, popular not only in France, but to every fan of the electro beat. Divine is really a divine piece of music, worth your attention and your dance.

Germany seems to be really into Eurovision. Last year, Roger Cicero represented the country, and if you haven’t heard his name before, he is massively popular among Germans, and not only. He is an elite artists, an excellent jazzman with unobtrusive, charming style and immaculate performance. But – definitely non-Eurovision. This year – girl quartet No Angels will try their luck with the track Disappear. A truly Eurovision hit, a summer hit as well.

I don’t feel like commenting on Spain’s entrant out of pure laziness. Rodolfo Chikilicuatre‘s song Baila El Chiki Chiki is not even funny. Please, Mr. Chikilicuatre!

United Kingdom dispatches to Serbia Andy Abraham, as we have already advised, with a nice pop-soul song Even If.

As for the host country Serbia, we will enjoy Jelena Tomaševic‘s participation with the song Oro. Are we surprised that it is powerful ballad performed by a single singer? I don’t reckon that mimicking success can lead to another success, but let’s give it a chance.

It was the international women’s day yesterday, and I’m still a bit elated by the wine. What made me even happier though, was the news that more and more winners were picked last week, something I missed noting for lack of time. Anyway, forgive me the small spell of silence and have a look at the most recent winners.

Georgia will compete with Diana Gurtskaya and her song Peace will come. The track is pretty good, though nothing spectacular or surprising. What’s more important in this case, however, is that Ms. Gurtskaya is blind and she sings with power that we cannot witness every day on Eurovision. Still, nothing we haven’t seen on the world’s stage, and I do hope that this will not sway people into voting for this song, unless they like it.

One of the Big 4 also got their winner tonight – Rodolfo Chikilicuatre with his nice song Baila El Chiki Chiki. A guy that first strikes you as Elvis Presley, but when you get to listen to the song… well, I come to think that TVE are not particularly interested in this contest any more. So, baila, amigos! Hasta la vista!

More are coming, so that by the end of the month we’ll have all the winners of the local ‘Eurovisions’ across Europe. Here’s some of the winners worth noting.

  1. Albania: Olta Boka – Zemrën E Lamë Peng
  2. Albania will compete with a nice ballad in Albanian. It’s a pity I can’t get a word, but there’s no need to: the female vocal is resolute yet mild. Could be better in terms of composition, but I reckon many people will like it.

  3. Andorra: Gisela – Casanova
  4. Wonder if this is the present state of the Eurovision Song Contest?! Andorra seems to be a million years away from Eurovision. This year’s representative of the small principality is Gisela – a cheerful girl – and I guess she’ll offer a “fairy-tale” show in Belgrade telling us about romance and the historical lover Casanova. But haven’t we heard this type of song many times already…

  5. Azerbaijan: Elnur Guseynov and Samir Javadzadeh – Day After Day
  6. There’s been a huge support for Azerbaijan’s debut in Eurovision: Eurovision stars, like Ukrainian diva Ruslana and Serbian winner Maria Serifovic, from across Europe joined in to say “Welcome” to one of three new-comers this year. In Belgrade we’ll see a male duet who, with heavy odds against them on part of the other two competitors, managed to grab the trophy. As for the song – pop-rock supported by high vocals, correct me if I’m wrong, influenced to a degree by the Russian school.

  7. Belarus: Ruslan Alenho – Hasta La Vista
  8. Does he stand a chance to win this-year’s ESC? Who knows, but Belarus has always been capable of surprising the audience. Yes, it’s good. Yes, he sings like a god, and yes – there are people in Minsk who can write good songs.

  9. Cyprus: Evdokia Kadi – Femme Fatale
  10. Cyprus can’s stop experimenting. Not even after a series of losses for one of the countries who’ve invested so much in Eurovision. Evdokia Kadi sings in Greek, for a change, what’s really notable having in mind what we’ve heard from Aphrodite’s island recently (in 2006, Annet Artani performed a typically American song, which sounded truly out of place, at least to me. Last year, Evridiki with her experiment in French – Comme ci comme ca did not even qualify to the Final). The traditional music that Evdokia has to offer seems to be much less annoying.

  11. Czech Republic: Tereza Kerndlová – Have Some Fun
  12. Prague sends to Belgrade a lift-me-up song. It does sounds like Nellie Furtado, doesn’t it? It strikes me as one of the few songs selected so far that can become a European hit, if nothing else. Keep it going, Tereza!

  13. Denmark: Simon Mathew – All Night Long
  14. Purely European sound, party atmosphere, cool looks, a naughty cheeky band – the recipe for good mood, if not for anything else. For me, this song embodies the spirit of Eurovision. Sing along:
    “The sun is up
    I’m feeling great
    I’m just enjoying life
    Right here in the shade…”

  15. Estonia: Kreisiraadio – Leto Svet
  16. Verka Serduchka in a mock pop-jazz-seventies-ridicule version, multiplied by three. Okay, it can be fun, it can be a show, but where’s the music gone? It packed and embarked on a long journey? Of course many people will vote for them, and why not :) But it’s not surprising in its goal to shock us with its “craziness”. Have a look at the British entries recently for inspiration, and you’ll get what I mean.

  17. Hungary: Csézy – Szívverés
  18. This is an ultimate romantic song. I can’t keep looking at Csézy’s dress though, it’s so distracting. I do hope she’ll make up to put on something simpler during the show ;) Well done on the language front!

  19. Lithuania: Jerominas Milius – Nomads In The Night
  20. One thing is for sure – Lithuania keep surprising us.

  21. Malta: Morena – Vodka
  22. Well, if there is anyone who can help Malta out of trouble and bring it to the Final, that’s Vodka. Cheers :)

  23. Norway: Maria Haukaas Storeng – Hold on be strong
  24. Scandinavia again offers a little piece of valuable music. Miss Storeng knows what and how to sing it – a track that appeals to all tastes. It can make you picture the Aurora Borealis though it’s not terribly romantic.

  25. Slovenia: Rebeka Dremelj – Vrag Naj Vzame
  26. Rebeka won Ema 2008 and here she is, representing Slovenia. She did it thanks to a pop song, a couple of backing vocals and.. good (to some) looks. Yet another song in a native language. Great!

  27. Turkey: Mor ve Ötesi – Deli
  28. A melodic rock track won the Turkish national selection and is eventually going to Serbia. What more can we want after years of typically traditional music mixed with modern elements that Turkey had to offer to the Eurovision audiences in recent years? A nice sensual male vocal supported by an energetic band – it can turn out to be a nice show.

There’s always this group of people, who are up against all holidays, but we want to make it clear now that we do NOT belong to this mob. We’d love to have a glass of wine anytime for any reason and parties keep us very much alive and kicking.

However, there’s this notable exception! What’s really the fuss on St. Valentine, we often wonder? Why does the world go mental on this day and embarks on a huge quest across seas of flirty, fluffy, feathery, and fleecy gifts painted in red? For my short experience on this planet, I’ve come up with a list of reasons why not to join in the common commotion and refuse to accept that day February 14 has anything to do with the red rivers of candies, chocolate, flowers, vibrators, underwear, and red(!) polar bear key-chains – all shaped like hearts or in heart-shaped boxes.

So here’s my six and a half reasons why I’d love to stay in bed on Saint Valentine’s:

  1. It’s February, people! Unless you live in the Southern hemisphere, it’s winter up here, and it’s snow and frost everywhere. So, I prefer to tuck myself under my crazy quilt and try to catch some more sleep.
  2. Those who are in love are so cheerful and merry, that those who are not look even more sulky and miserable. For this reason only, I’d love to stay at home and have my glass of wine contemplating the sparks of my imaginary fireplace.
  3. Pubs are packed as if they were giving away beverages for free. The waitress is never coming and she’s always forgotten something. Everybody’s shouting and kissing loud that I feel as if I were in the jungle.
  4. Waitresses and taxi drivers are human beings too: they have feelings, they love and are loved! And we should consider these facts! That’s why be understanding and stay in bed, so that waitresses won’t have to work till late and can meet the taxi drivers (who won’t have to drive till late) and enjoy the night together :)
  5. Staying at home means, above all, listening to your favourite music. Anywhere you go, they’ll play exactly what you don’t like, even if you’re in the pub you frequent (of course, if you can hear any music at all, given the noisy crowds in the paragraph above). Pubs get massively changed to attract people of all tastes, and this can pose a real threat to your ear and good mood.
  6. Staying in bed, you won’t have to buy one of these presents that face the inescapable fate – buried in a drawer, gathering dust for ages, forgotten by next Valentine. Better get a bottle of red wine in a jiffy and enjoy the effect of spirits on your and your partner’s good spirits.
    6 1/2. If you’ve been reading so far, you already know that the bed is the perfect place to spend Saint Valentine’s day. It guarantees a great time with your loved one, and can well be a kick-off of a fresh member of the gang. So, beware, too.

On 23 February, Warsaw will dance in the rhythms of its Eurovision Song Contest selection. Three wild cards, and a bunch of other popular names fill in the picture. Here is the final list advised by the local organisers from TVP:

  1. Zywiolak – the first wildcard in the show.
  2. Kasia Nova’s The Devil is a typical dance track, but not particularly special. Let me go on with the rest of the songs.
  3. Edi Ann’s song LOVEn’U is a tender and delicate, very much in the style of Mariah Carey, especially as Ms. Ann is very good at the high tones. Not bad indeed.
  4. Izabela Kopec – wildcard
  5. Starnawski & Urban Noiz – It’s not a Game one of the few men in the Polish Eurovision. Smacks of the States again, but with a good ballet on stage it could do quite well. I fancy the guy’s voice.
  6. Queens – I Say My Body
  7. Isis Gee – For Life: listening to a third soft ballad in Poland’s selection makes me wonder how the director of the show will deal with so many slow songs. But Gee’s song is so much worth listening to again and again as it’s extremely powerful and balanced. The white-dominated video enhances the effect as well. For me – the best, and very promising in Belgrade.
  8. Man Meadow – Viva la Musica is lacking in imagination and everything else..
  9. Afromental – Thing we’ve got – sounds so much like Justin Timberlake that I can’t stop listening to him. A soft melodic song that reminds one of the American tradition, especially combined with the reggae-like backing vocals. I’m sure if this is a winning combination at Eurovision, but it’s definitely worth noting.
  10. Plastic – Do something. Always look on the bright side of life, Plastic seem to be telling us. An upbeat merry and light track. Could go well with a curious choreography, though it’s not terribly potential.
  11. Sandra Oxenryd – Superhero that makes me think of the Scandinavian tradition in Eurovision. A bit like Carola, a bit like everything we’ve already heard. But give it an ear if you’ve got the chance. People might well like it.
  12. Natasza Urbanska – wildcard
  13. Margo – Dlatego walcz. A nice surprise in Polish, a song about love, strong and cheerful. Well, why not?

The end of January seems to be rather tempting for holding national finals for the Eurovision Song Contest. And it will become even busier at the end of February, and beginning of March. Keeping track of all the songs that get selected to represent their country is fun, but can be a bit difficult given the great number of pre-selection and selection stages in every country and the even greater number of ESC participants this year.

A variety of styles, a motley of music genres, vocal skills, choreographies, tempos, and lyrics – that’s what we’ve had so far at the national finals. Last week saw a number of finalists, who already won their tickets to Belgrade. Who are they?

So much fuss around the national selection in Malta! Just like every year, right! Severe competition on the part of distinguished and venerable local Eurovision artists and an unclear end of the story were just part of the picture. Eventually, Morena, with her cheerful, up-tempo, and upbeat song Vodka managed to win the credit and hearts of most of the Maltese people and so they sent her to Belgrade.

In the Czech Republic Tereza Kerndlová became first in the national selection with the song Have Some Fun – a jolly up-tempo composition, reminding me of Nelly Furtado’s recent style. After last-year’s first and not particularly successful participation of the Czech Republic, this year, they haven’t given up and offer us a Slavic beauty with a fantastic disco hit.

Ruslan Alehno won Eurofest 2008 and will compete for Belarus with a song in English with the melodious Spanish title Hasta La Vista (Good bye). Mr. Alehno does not sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but his song can surely be a ‘terminator’ for most of the competitors during the Contest in Belgrade.

Otherwise, earlier in the Eurovision selection period, Albania chose its 2008 Eurovision entrant during Festivali i Kenges: Olta Boka with a touching and vigorous ballad in Albanian, Zemren e lame peng (We Gambled with our Hearts). 20-year-old pop star Sirusho will go to Belgrade for Armenia. She is currently working on a couple of songs, one of which will be selected to represent the country in Serbia in May. Her voice seems to be able to easily take on amazingly complex performances with an Oriental tinge, so typical for this part of Eastern Europe.

Women this year seem rather obsessed with grand names from history. Andorra, for example, will go for Eurovision with Gisela‘s Casanova. One of Morena’s, song was called Casanova as well. And Claudia Faniello, (aka Fabrizio Faniello’s sister), who also competed in the Maltese national selection, performed a song dedicated to the great painter Caravaggio.

Back to the Balkans, Bosnia & Herzegovina will be represented at Eurosong 2008 by Elvir Lakovic Laka and his song Pokusaj (Try). Nobody knows what the song is like because it won’t be aired until 3 March. Having checked out his crazy style, however, we can only expect the unexpected. This year for Eurovision, Turkey will rely on the unconventional sound and vision: TRT have charged the alternative rock band Mor ve Ötesi with the mission to defend Turkey’s Eurovision honour.

More on recently-selected Eurovision artists is yet to come.

Give me a reason to watch the Finnish national selection for the 2008 Eurovision, and I’ll give you twelve of them. Not that all twelve participants in the Finnish concert are outstanding artists, but the combination of musical styles and rhythms is amazing!

So, here it is, the list of Finnish artists, who will fight like Vikings for the ticket to Belgrade.

  1. Kari Tapio – Valaise Yö – Mr. Tapio is known for performing the Finnish music, popular in the 70s.
  2. Hanna Marsh – Broken Flower – Ms. Marsh is famous for her tender compositions dominated by rock style. Her lyrical ballads are usually in English. Hanna is known for Chameleon Girl and Silence, More of her here
  3. Movetron – Cupido – you can say the style is techno disco, what we used to listen to back in the 90s in night clubs. Movetron are best known for their tracks Romeo and Juliet and VoodooMan but don’t be deceived by the similarity to Prodigy’s Voodoo People. They sing now in Finnish now and English.
  4. Crumbland – Pleasure – typical American-inspired rock, very melodic and a bit garage-like. I managed to find their In Your Head, which impressed me with nice balance and vocal performance.
  5. Mikael Konttinen – Milloin – very much smacks of the 80s, very much for my mum and dad’s generation rather than for young people, but it’s up to the people, who’ll be up all night to watch the show.
  6. Jippu – Kanna Minut – ahh, that’s music for special moments! Melancholic, guitar-dominated, very pleasant ambient music, which I’d like to enjoy alone. Eurovision fans might estimate it highly, no doubt.
  7. Ninja – Battlefield Of Love
  8. Kristian Meurman with the song Jos En Sua Saa participated in the 2007 Finnish Music Idol. His harsh voice seems to be made for singing rock ballads. Very delightful music, and if he stands no chance on Eurovision, he can definitely rely on good looks among teenagers.
  9. Jenna – Sinua Varten
  10. Vuokko Hovatta – Virginia – What more can we say!
  11. Cristal Snow – Can’t save me – worth noting if only for the number of hits on the Internet. They are a duet with modern sound; not too aggressive though; Dance Electro Pop Punk and Rock can easily be ticked off against their name.
  12. Teräsbetoni – Missä Miehet Ratsastaa – they are representatives of Finnish heavy metal wave, with a martial air to it. I don’t think that Lordi’s success will ever be repeated, but why not have a go?

The national Final will take place on 1 March, after three rounds of competition. It’ll be shown on TV and streamed on the Internet. You can find previous credits of most of the participants on various websites, but for the time being this-year’s Finnish entries are veiled in mist for the general audience.

It takes a lot of time to think all over the events that poured on me during the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, held in Rotterdam at the beginning of December. In a cliché – a magnificent show that takes your breath away. Clichés aside, when you’re part of this dreamy getaway, the excitement is all the more serious.

Upon arrival, I enter a hotel full of mad kids – a wave of colours and joy floating from corner to corner, no rest. The week starts with make-up, shooting of postcards, recording of a joint song “One World”, and interviews for the co-producer UNICEF. The kids are excited, sing running up and down the corridors of the hotel, pose for the cameras patiently, and enjoy every moment of their stay.

All 17 delegations have worked hard get to Rotterdam. Everybody is very friendly despite the tension. Every child has been trained to smile, sing, give interviews and behave. Kids who are more adults than I am. And still you can see their infantile psychology in their lovely childish smiles, in their failure to hide envy or suppress irritation with people trying to cajole them.

Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2007 I can’t wait to see the hall. Ahoy Arena doesn’t strike me as an amazingly beautiful building from the outside, but it has a surprise for me inside. The kids love it from first sight, and they start walking around it as if they were born on the stage and there is nothing intimidating in it. During the rehearsals, the cameras work hard to capture all their movements and happiness and it’s so much fun to see how the juniors flirt with them. Everybody is pleased with the results. Wherever problems there are, you have to solve them immediately and move on as the concert night is knocking on the door.

Tens of rehearsals, hours of dancing and singing… the ice is already broken, also after a day at the ice rink that the organizers have prepared for the young artists. It’s amazing how all children sing the songs of their ‘competitors’. I meet the kids from Romania, who ‘breath in, breath out’ the Dutch song, Lithuanian juniors who mumble the romantic rhymes of the Portuguese song, the charming representative of Cyprus, who sings refrains of the joint song “One World”, the girls from Bulgaria, singing the Swedish song “Nu eller aldrig”. It’s the ultimate non-competition.

But it is a contest after all. During the Dress Rehearsal on Friday, all kids are mega excited, you can see their hearts beating wild, but still there is nothing like tense silence hanging in the air. Some of them channel the tension playing at PlayStation, others lie round the floor on colourful cushions, others hug the presents they’ve received from other participants, still others exchange emails, clutching at their precious notebooks containing tens of contacts, some ever cry with thrill.

The Dress Rehearsal itself goes smoothly. The kids are already tired after a week of rehearsals, and they’re quick to go to bed. No disco tonight.

But the Contest itself is much more entertaining for the audience, and much more stressful for the participants and their delegations. No technical problems cast a gloom on the event – all 17 songs are performed with zest and energy. All kids are dressed in their Sunday bests, they smile and take pictures and again I have to note how calm and cheerful they are. No trace of competition. The Green Room is a sea of flags and smiling faces. It’s next to the stage and it’s made of the benches the children painted earlier during the week. They give a huge applause for their favourite songs – and it seems like not a single song is out of the “Favourite List”. It’s fascinating how the kids know the lyrics of all the songs, all of them in a foreign language, and they sing along with infinite artistic commotion no matter if the lyrics are correct or not. The mood is hyper cheerful. And everyone is happy when Alexey Zhigalkovich from Belarus with the song S Druzyami (With Friends) wins the 2007 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. No one thinks there is anything unfair or corrupt in the competition. They take it as grown-ups, but in a better way.

You can leave everything behind after you’ve seen 17 teams joining together in such a show. Noble is not a good word to describe their attitude. It’s just so very natural, lacking in posture. I bet the kids miss a lot from their childhood – we can argue on this issue day in day out. But we can’t disregard the facts that they enjoy it, and that the JESC is a grand chance for their future; nor can we ignore the fun, the incessant medley of various languages, the bubble of friendship and sympathy, and the precious memories dressed in glamour and gloss the event in Rotterdam must have left in everyone.

Meet you next year in Lemasos!

17 countries will compete for the trophy at the fifth anniversary Junior Eurovision Song Contest, to be held on 8 December in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Here is the final running order:

  1. Georgia – Mari Romelashvili – Odelia Ranuni
  2. Belgium – TRUST – Anders (Differently)
  3. Armenia – AREVIK – Erazanq (A Dream)
  4. Cyprus – Yiorgos Ioannides – I Musiki Dini Ftera (Music Gives You Wings)
  5. Portugal – Jorge Leiria – Só Quero É Cantar (I Only Want To Sing)
  6. Russia – Alexandra Golovchenko – Otlichnitsa (An Excellent Pupil)
  7. Romania – 4KIDS – Sha-la-la
  8. Bulgaria – BON-BON – BonBolandia (Land Of Candy)
  9. Serbia – Nevena Božovi? – Piši Mi (Write To Me)
  10. Netherlands – Lisa, Amy & Shelley – Adem In, Adem Uit (Breath In, Breath Out)
  11. FYR Macedonia – Rosica & Dimitar – Ding Ding Dong
  12. Ukraine – Ilona Galitska – Urok Glamuru (Lesson Of Glamour)
  13. Sweden – Frida Sandén – Nu Eller Aldrig (Now Or Never)
  14. Malta – CUTE – Music
  15. Greece – MADE IN GREECE – Kapou Mperdeftika (Confused)
  16. Lithuania – Lina Joy – Kai Miestas Snaudžia (When The Town Is Asleep)
  17. Belarus – Alexey Zhigalkovich – S Druzyami (With Friends)

JESCThe hosts from Holland have come up with an environmental topic, which involves everyone on the Planet. The song of the Belgium band tells about the stormy life of teenagers and how they manage through the difficult emotions the teenage age brings. The Cypriot, Maltese, and Portugal songs are inspired by the artists’ desire to sing and how important music is in their lives. Some of the songs are about friendship, loved ones, or school. The elder kids, naturally, sing about love, such as the Serbian, the Swedish, and the Greek songs.

One cannot but notice the hard core of the Contest: Belgium, Cyprus, Romania, the Netherlands, Sweden, Malta, Belarus, FYR Macedonia, and Greece are among the loyal participants in the “Kids’ Eurovision”, who have been on the JESC stage since the very beginning. Others like Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Lithuania have just joined the show.

Still others, such as Croatia, Latvia, Poland, Norway, Switzerland, France, Denmark, the UK and Spain have given up participating in the JESC for various reasons. We hope they are coming back. Obviously, the ebb of participation on the part of these countries has not affected the popularity of the Contest, as this year we have 17 countries again. Has it not been for the last-minute withdrawal of Spain, the number would have been 18.

All children at the 2007 JESC are professionals: they go to piano, dance, singing, etc classes, study at music schools and their lives are fully focused on a future music career. Up till last year the kids couldn’t be professionally involved in a music career, but this year, the EBU has decided the other way round, which in my mind, makes the Contests all the more interesting.

The EBU finally announced that because of the huge number of countries (by preliminary information, already breaking the record of 42) there will be 2 Semi-Finals. The fresh piece of news is that the Semi-Finals won’t be held in the same day, but in two different days – on 20 and 22 May respectively. The Final is planned for 24 May.

A draw held at the end of January will determine the Semi-Final every country will be participating in. Your local broadcaster will have to air at least one of them, but depending on the local management, you might be able to enjoy both Semi-Finals.

Apart from this, again we’ll be able to view a couple of Countdown shows, which warm up the audience for the Grand Final. Again – it’s up to national decisions.

Seems like it’ll be a huge Eurovision week in May.

It took me two weeks or so to read and reread the suggestions for a new format for the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. I read what Mr. Stockselius said,

“We are convinced that the introduction of a second Semi-Final contributes to a more stable future for the Eurovision Song Contest..”

I went on to see how important commentators viewed the news, and finally got the nerve to have a say myself.

The facts:

  1. From next year on, we will have two Semi-Finals (something we expected to become a fact only after 2008). All participants must go through a Semi-Final, except for the “Big 4″ (or BIG $, if you keep the Caps Lock on all the time), who qualify directly for the Final… That is, the results from ESC 2007 will (except for the winner) have no meaning for the 2008 edition in Serbia.
  2. The two Semi-Finals will take place at the same time, the night of 22 May. Rumours have it that even a separate Semi-Final was discussed for Eastern Europe, having in mind top 10 from ESC 2007 (all 10 countries are from the Eastern bloc). If this happens, you will watch only one part of Europe at Eurovision… If you come from Russia, you will only watch the songs of the former Russian republics, the Yugoslavian satellites, and a few more… Okay, what if you want to watch the Danish songs, or the Norwegian one, or.. hm, wonder where Hungary goes?
  3. The results will be announced live for both Semi-Finals, while the artists are in the Green Room. Picture this… we have two Green rooms, or what?
  4. Some said that there should be a wild card for each Semi-Final, which will be granted to the song, preferred by the back-up juries.

I reckon the whole thing takes a lot off the flavor of the Contest.

No, I’ll start in a different way. When I first watched the ESC, years ago, I though “blah, it’s so unfair to have last-year’s results reflecting this-year’s edition.. Let all countries compete on a fair ground and see who’s the best THIS YEAR.” As I was growing up with Eurovision, I grew to like this rule. Indeed, it gave the event an interesting side – all countries wanted to perform better so that in the following year they could go directly to the Grand Final, or the finale grande… And then the problem with ‘neighbor’ or ‘gastarbeiter’ vote appeared, and it all was corrupted.

And we remember the good old times, when the winner would be chosen by the vote of an international jury. But today, there are the major international telecommunication corporations, which will never of earth let loose the pan-European crowds of zealous voters.

The ESC Reference group, as we get to know who pulls the strings, must agree on Rules that do not present the European pop scene one-sidedly. I can see that they want to make the Contest modern and fascinating for everyone. But I cannot see how two Semi-Finals will help solve the matter. Because this will mean more money, more flash, and less value of the true song.