Eurovision 2012 – Semi Final One

Another year has flown by so it’s time to take a look at this year’s Eurovision runners and riders. We’ll start off with Semi Final One, taking the songs in the order in which they will appear on the night (the night in question being Tuesday 22nd May), and not only do you have the range of betting odds courtesy of oddschecker.com (taking all the bookmakers who will give you the first four places as each way, as at 24th April) but I’m also giving each song a star rating out of five, just for a laugh. So here goes!

Montenegro – Euro Neuro – Rambo Amadeus

Rambo AmadeusSo anyone who hasn’t watched Eurovision for a few years will get a bit of a shock if they tune in to Tuesday’s Semi-Final and are expecting the usual Boom banga dinga dinga. That Mr Amadeus is a wag, isn’t he? Known for being subversive with his music he’s come up with this anti-bureaucratic anti-governmental anti-modern age ditty that is too clever for its own good. The video is visually quite entertaining but musically it’s going to have people switching off in droves. 80-1 to 200-1 **

Iceland – Never Forget – Gréta Salóme and Jónsi

Gréta Salóme and JónsiNot the old crowd pleaser by Take That, but something that sounds like a pivotal moment from an Andrew Lloyd Webbersson musical. Very dramatic and emotional, and their voices blend pretty darn magnificently – no need for an Elaine Paigesdottir. One of two songs that Gréta had in the Icelandic National Finals this year, so she’s been a busy girl; and this is Jónsi’s second go at bringing back the trophy to Reyjkavik. You can almost feel the steam rising between the tectonic plates and smell the sulphurous pong from the bathroom taps. As Nordic as it gets. 12-1 to 22-1 ****

Greece – Aphrodisiac – Eleftheria Eleftheriou

Eleftheria EleftheriouThe first song of the night that might be termed “typically” Eurovision. Things are financially tight in Greece so Eleftheria and her fellers knocked up this dance routine in the Athens Arndale Centre, cunningly leaving the windows open in Next to save on the costs of a wind machine. Eleftheria is officially gorgeous, and bouzouki by numbers though it may be, its simple dancey joy makes this my favourite of the year. It must have been a challenge for Mr and Mrs Eleftheriou to come up with a name for their baby girl; the English translation of her name is “Freedom’s Freedom”. 20-1 to 33-1 *****

Latvia – Beautiful Song – Annmary

AnnmaryAfter the deconstructionalist tendencies of Montenegro’s song, it’s on to the post-structuralist naval gazing of Latvia’s. Annmary’s beautiful song is all about Anmary’s beautiful song, and I rather like it for that – the trouble is, if you don’t catch the lyrics (and Annmary’s English diction does leave something to be desired) its subtlety and humour passes you by. Another striking looking lady, I’d love it to do well but I’m sure it won’t. The video inspires you to break into a song and dance routine in an airport departure lounge, which has long been a personal fantasy. I wonder why Paul McCartney has more kudos than Mick Jagger? 80-1 to 150-1 ****

Albania – Suus – Rona Nishliu

Rona NishliuIn the first line of this song Rona confesses she “nicked a boat that surely unseats a man”, then she hits her thumb and cries with the subsequent pain; at least that’s what it sounds like to me. I jest of course; according to diggiloo.net the lyrics include “my plane is landing on the unlit runway of your soul”. Remind me not to fly to Tirana International. A moody pretentious video to accompany a moody pretentious song, mainly memorable for that repeated note. My spies at the Amsterdam in Concert show said she was am-a-zing. She will need to be to carry it off. Not my kind of thing. 100-1 to 200-1 **

Romania – Zaleilah – Mandinga

MandingaZaleilah sounds to me like the kind of title Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich would have come up with. Lead singer Elena is yet another sizzler, the arrangement is quirky and upbeat, and you think it’s going to be something special, but then its meaningless chorus kicks in and it’s so repetitive that you get bored. Popular in some quarters, I file it under Ones That Ought To Be Better Than They Are. 25-1 to 33-1 ***

Switzerland – Unbreakable – Sinplus

Sinplus The first entry chosen to go to Baku, this song has been banging against the inside of my head for about four months now. More Highest Heights than If We All Give A Little (for which it gains brownie points), imitating Mr Broggini’s English accent remains the most enjoyable party trick of the season. Switzerland’s lack of natural allies means it probably won’t get far. A bit meaningless, a bit repetitive, a bit magic; nearly excellent. 66-1 to 125-1 ***

Belgium – Would You – Iris

IrisA dull song that limps along with odd lyrics – “What would you do if my house was empty?” I’d love it if the next line were “break in and steal my laptop and TV”. Iris puts two irritatingly breathy syllables in words that should only have one (life, bag, love). Stretches three minutes to an eternity. I never thought I’d have cause to say this, but it’s not a patch on Witloof Bay. 100-1 to 150-1 *

Finland – När jåg blundar – Pernilla Karlsson

Pernilla KarlssonThis is a gentle song. A very, very gentle song. It’s borderline relaxing/dull, but Pernilla is so cute that to criticise it would be like stamping on a puppy-dog’s tail. A nice folky feel to it, and I like her clarity of diction. The first Swedish language song in Eurovision since Jill Johnson in 1998. 50-1 to 100-1 **

Israel – Izabo – Time

IzaboHere’s a Marmite song, and personally I find it delicious. A thumping good beat and satisfyingly jangly guitars keep this Blur/Britpop-sounding oeuvre upbeat all the way through until its, admittedly, disappointingly lame ending. Is it just me, or does the chorus remind you of the Kinks’ Apeman? Izabo have been going for over twenty years now and it will be interesting to see what this does to their international careers. 100-1 to 150-1 ****

San Marino – The Social Network Song – Valentina Monetta

Valentina MonettaThe second incarnation for Uncle Ralph Siegel’s latest Eurovision hit, carved out of its original banned “Facebook” lyrics, which unfortunately leaves the song with twice the number of “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh”s that it should have. I don’t dislike this song as much as some other observers as the tune is quite jaunty and Valentina has her own special charm. Lyrics like “do you wanna play cybersex again…click me with your mouse” can be viewed as either cheesy crap or tongue-in-cheek witty, you choose. Like a vintage champagne, this will improve over the years, but it will be far too immature for May 22nd. 50-1 to 200-1 ***

Cyprus – La La Love – Ivi Adamou

Ivi AdamouIgnore the up-itself pompous arty-farty video, this is pure disco dancetastic. It’s not going to improve global warming or save polar bears but it is going to give you a very happy three minutes. Everything you could wish from an upbeat Eurovision song. Vying with Greece as my favourite this year. 18-1 to 40-1 *****

Denmark – Should’ve Known Better – Soluna Samay

Soluna SamayWith (IMHO) at least three or four better songs in this year’s Danish final, Soluna Samay’s victory was a testament to her excellent performance. Strangely reminiscent of (but inferior to) Tasmin Archer’s Sleeping Satellite, it’s a song that you keep expecting to soar but, like an honest snooker player, keeps its feet firmly on the floor. Should’ve Known Better? Should’ve Been Better. 9-1 to 14-1 ***

Russia – Party for Everybody – Buranovskiye Babushki

Buranovskiye BabushkiThe Russian grannies may have won the battle of big news story promotion this year but I feel they’re likely to stay Championship in Baku and not trouble the Premiership contenders. True, they are cuddly and sweet to look at, and you have to admire their chutzpah, but they can’t actually sing in tune and I think the juries in particular won’t think the song itself has much merit (“the cat is happy, the dog is happy, we are in a wonderful mood, and very happy”). Mind you, I like this more than the thing they tried with two years ago, whose title in English was “Very long birch bark and how to turn it into a turban”. I will sing along to it, of course, but surely the contest must have more credibility than this? 5-1 to 7-1 ***

Hungary – Sound of our Hearts – Compact Disco

Compact DiscoPlodding ballad or New Romantic triumph? I favour the latter. From the opening keyboard notes I’m hooked. Great instrumentation and strong vocals combine to give this a solid urgency that makes for a serious but rewarding listen. Loved it from the moment I first heard it – probably my third favourite of the year. Given the Hungarian fondness for reversing names I wonder if they should be Disco Compact? The slightly nasty video does nothing to enhance it. 80-1 to 150-1 *****

Austria – Woki mit deim Popo – Trackshittaz

Trackshittaz“The Shitz” are popular back home in Austria, with two number one singles and two number one albums to their rather tasteless name. To woki is to shake, and your Popo is your bum. So, it’s an everyday story about the Noodle Soup gang who go to a club to watch the pole dancers strip. So far, so good. But then they probe a bit deeper into the nature of the bum: “your bum has feelings, your bum is part of you, don’t put it on chairs, your bum has an opinion…” Music by Ivor Novello, words by Noel Coward. 80-1 to 150-1 ***

Moldova – Lăutar – Pasha Parfeny

Pasha ParfenyIncorporating Nelly Ciobanu’s brassy backing from the Hora din Moldova, and that traditional instrument – is it a cimbalom? – and with lyrics that don’t quite work in English (“you haven’t seen before how looks the trumpet”) this ought to be a mess from start to finish but Pasha’s likeable and energetic performance is a complete winner (although I know it won’t be on the night). The ultimate cheesefest and I love it. My fourth favourite of the year, and certainly my favourite ever Moldovan entry. This trumpet makes you mine, girl. 66-1 to 100-1 *****

Ireland – Waterline – Jedward

JedwardComing back for second helpings, Jedward’s new song is more mainstream pop than Lipstick and I prefer it. Very singalong, it will all depend on whether they can maintain their vocals during whatever physical larks they pursue on stage. Again a Marmite act; and although I still think they’re better sight unseen, I do find I’m now warming to them. 10-1 to 20-1 ****

So there we have it, the eighteen songs that make up Semi-Final One, which for me is by far the stronger of the two semis. I’ll be back with a preview of the second Semi-Final in a few days’ time.