Eurovision 2011: The Best of the Rest (Part 4)
Ireland: Like them or not, you simply can not deny that Jedward were an unstoppable force at Eurovision. Even if they didn’t take top honors this year with “Lipstick“, they were really the talk of the Press Center. From their knee-high Converses to their now-iconic hair, you couldn’t resist this year’s Irish entry. Even I fell victim to their charms:
But despite the Grimes Brothers’ popularity and infectious energy, they only made it to Düsseldorf by the slimmest of margins; only two points separated them from runner-up Nikki Kavanagh’s R&B ballad “Falling”:
Nikki sang backup for last year’s Irish entry, and “Falling” was written by a team that included Jonas Gladnikoff, who was the composer of “Et Cetera” and “It’s For You“, Ireland’s 2009 and 2010 Eurovision submissions. Sadly, Jonas and Co. were unable to pull off the three-peat, but who knows what 2012 will bring?
Israel: Speaking of return performances, Dana International was one of five lead artists coming back to Eurovision this year (the others being Dino Merlin, Lena, Zdob si Zdub, and Gunnar Ólasson). Sadly, she was also the only one of those five to not qualify for the Finals. “Ding Dong” might have not have been the triumphant return Dana might have been hoping for…
For me, there were two other true standouts in this year’s Kdam. The first was Chen Aharoni’s “Or (Light)”, which may have had everything but the kitchen sink thrown into it:
Pretty face? Check. Slow, moving opening? Check. Tempo change? Check. Panflute? Check. Costume change by an unnecessary dancer? Check. A highly entertaining three minutes? Check!
My other favorite from that night had to be Michael and Shimrit Greylsummer’s sunny French-Hebrew folk jam “Tu Du Du”:
My knowledge of French is pretty rusty, and my Hebrew is even worse (even though I’m pretty sure I hear the words “bottle of rum” and “Bob Dylan” somewhere in there…), but this song never fails to make me smile. It’s this perfect blend of Middle Eastern tonal structure, danceable club beats, Rybak violins, and Woodstock joy!
Italy: Ok, so any devoted reader of mine probably knows by now that Raphael Gualazzi’s “Madness of Love” claimed the top spot on my own personal 2011 scoreboard, as well as a soft spot in the cockles of my heart. If you haven’t read my post-Eurovision interview with Raph yet, by all means, check it out! It’s ok, I’ll wait.
Raphael was chosen by an internal jury during the San Remo Festival to carry the Tricolore for Italy’s return to Eurovision, so we can’t really say who would have gone in his place had he refused. That being said, San Remo 2011 was full of fantastic songs that would not have seemed out of place for Eurovision. For example, there was Emma Marrone’s stirring collaboration with the rock group Modà, “Arriverá (It Will Come)”:
I was also a big fan of Anna Tatangelo’s “Bastardo (Bastard)“, Nathalie Giannitrapani’s “Vivo Sospesa (I Live Suspended)“, and Giusi Ferreri’s “Il Mare Immenso (The Immense Sea)“. I don’t know what it is about these dramatic, female-led numbers, but Italy seems to have cornered the market on them. Knowing the quality of the entries at San Remo, and seeing the high benchmark set by Raphael this year, I really can’t wait to see what RAI sends us in 2012 (assuming they don’t wait another thirteen years…).
Latvia: Hmmm. Compared to the National Finals from Italy and Israel, Latvia doesn’t stick out to me as much. It’s not that it was a bad preselection by any stretch, it’s just that the songs didn’t grab me by the heartstrings and eardrums in the same way that the Kdam and San Remo did. That being said, Musiqq’s “Angel in Disguise” was a fun number, and possibly my favorite Latvian song since 2005’s “The War is Not Over“.
Speaking of “The War is not Over”, songwriter Mārtiņš Freimanis submitted an entry for this year’s National Selection, but passed away about a month before “Hop” could be performed. Unlike Iceland’s Sjónni Brink, Freimanis was not going to be performing the song itself (rather, deferring to the group Blitze), but it was still a sudden and tragic loss to the Latvian music community.
“Angel in Disguise” was not the odds-on favorite to go to Düsseldorf; most people were betting on Lauris Reiniks’s “Banjo Laura”:
“Banjo Laura” is definitely enjoyable, but I do have to say that the line “La-la-la-la-Laura the banjo girl/ Who was she? What did she play?” bothers me to no end. Lauris, you just answered your own question. She’s Laura, and she plays the banjo. ‘Nuff said, end of story.
In our next installment, I’ll pick out the best from Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, and Moldova…stay tuned!