Eurovision 2011: The Best of the Rest (Part 8)
Ok, we’re winding down to the end of our country-by-country list of 2011’s also-rans: the songs that should-have/would-have/could-have gone to Germany if the people had voted differently/if the juries had taken their bathroom breaks at a different time/if the networks had been bribed by a different record company (just kidding! I think…).
Sweden: As almost any self-respecting Eurovision Fan would know, Sweden’s Melodifestivalen is considered one of the biggest events of the National Final calendar. Its position in recent years as the last of the national selections means that it’s basically the final stop before the big event in May. It tends to get higher viewership numbers in its homeland than Eurovision itself does, and ESC fans the world over flock to the Globen each year in order to watch the final firsthand. This year’s Melodifestivalen certainly did not disappoint, with 32 songs competing over four semifinals and an “Andra Chansen (Second Chance)” round for the chance to redeem Sweden’s Eurovision hopes after a tough crash-and-burn last year. As we all know, Eric Saade not only came out on top this year with “Popular“, but he gave the Swedes their highest placement on the ESC scoreboard since their victory back in 1999.
Eric faced some stiff competition, however. Danny Saucedo’s runner-up “In the Club” got quite a bit of attention. The track ended up as #2 on the Swedish Singles Chart, and Danny even got to read out Sweden’s votes this year at Eurovision. (Eric had that honor last year; maybe it’s an omen of good things to come for Danny?):
In third place was the impossibly sunny “Oh My God!” by The Moniker (real name: Daniel Karlsson). It’s like Daniel stepped off of the Magical Mystery Tour, into a Hare Krishna robe, and started hanging out with the backup singers from “Čaroban”. I’ll admit, I thought this song was absolutely ridiculous the first time I heard it, but it became an complete earworm, and I’d often randomly sing it with my friends in the Press Center, choreography and all. (I feel incredibly fortunate that no video footage of those moments exist, as far as I can tell…):
I don’t think that the event can legally be called a proper “Melodifestivalen” without at least one high-energy, key-changing, big-voiced, hyper-caffeinated, epic schlager-pop assault on the senses, which I normally am not a huge fan of. Imagine my surprise when I found myself falling for Linda Bengtzing’s “E det fel på mig (Wrong for me)”, which eventually came in 7th place. :
Melodifestivalen this year was full of strong, diverse songs, many of which could have easily made it to the left-hand column of a Eurovision scoreboard. My favorite, however, fell out of contention during the Andra Chansen round: Loreen’s “My Heart is Refusing Me”:
I can’t decide what I like best about this song: Loreen’s powerful vocals, the sexy, danceable arrangement, or the fact that her outfit reminds me of my favorite old-school member of the Looney Tunes gang:
|©1945 Turner Entertainment Co., a Time Warner company|
Switzerland: Sweden might have had the last of 2011’s National Finals, but the Swiss were the first, selecting their song on December 11th, 2010. Anna Rossinelli brought Switzerland to the Finals for the first time since 2006 with “In Love for a While“, which brought in the first usage of a bubble machine to the Eurovision stage! Despite her eventual 25th-place result, Anna and the boys performed admirably (and, at the very least, it’s a helluva lot better than performing on street corners in Basel, like they used to do).
My personal favorite of the Swiss preselection was the CH’s Nashville-tinged “Gib nid uf (Don’t Give Up)”, the only song of the night performed entirely in Swiss-German. It eventually came in 4th place:
Half in Swiss-German and half in Albanian, 3rd-place finisher Illira and the Colors’ “Home” was a beautiful, dramatic ballad that would have been stunning if Eurovision ever brought back a live orchestra:
Finally, I would be amiss if I neglected to mention Sarah Burgess. Sarah, an Ohio native, was a contestant during American Idol’s sixth season (the year that gave us Jordin Sparks), but she was cut during Hollywood Week. Never giving up on her goal of making it in the music industry, she took her song “Just Me” to the Swiss National Selection, and may have tried a wee bit too hard to endear herself to the local public…check it out here:
Finally, we’re skipping Turkey and the UK’s internal selections, leaving us with:
Ukraine: To the shock and surprise of absolutely nobody, the Ukrainian National selection was full of drama. Mika Newton’s “Angel” won the ticket to Germany (and she even brought her sandbox with her!). The first heats of the competition took place in October 2010, with semifinals going through December, and culminating with a nineteen-song Final in February. After all of that, Mika’s stunning victory (sweeping the online, text, and jury vote) left many people crying foul, including accusations of power-voting (that is, multiple votes coming from a single phone number). When a superfinal was proposed, runner-up Zlata Ognevich and third-place finisher Jamala both bowed out, citing scheduling issues and a lack of confidence in the new voting, respectively. So, after all of that, Mika finally got to go to Germany.
But let’s not forget what could have been! Here’s Zlata’s “The Kukushka”, which could have been a worthy successor to Svetlana Loboda’s 2009 performance:
And here’s Jamala’s madcap “Smile”:
So, there you have it…a not-so-quick trip through 2011’s National Finals. There are literally hundreds of other songs that I didn’t cover here; what were your favorites? Let me know in the comments!