Switzerland has already kicked off their 2012 National Selection Process, and will be picking their official Eurovision entrant on December 10th (only a week or so after Junior Eurovision wraps up in Yerevan, so there’s no time for withdrawal). The country, however, being a land of four official languages, isn’t making their selection process a simple one. There are four official pre-Preselections representing German-language radio station DRS3 (who picked three songs via an internal jury), German-language television SF (who will pick six finalists via a 50/50 jury/web vote), French-based station RTS (who will pick 3 songs via an online/jury split vote), and Italian-speaking RSI (who is currently holding a Pre-Pre-Preselection…the public can vote on the two songs that will join five others already selected by an internal jury; only two of those seven will advance to the united Swiss Preselection). Many of these voting windows will be closing over the next few days, so feel free to check them out soon! (Non-Swiss votes are accepted, but the Italian and German polls require registration.)
Nearly 250 songs have been submitted to the four pre-preselections, and it’s quite a lot to slog through! Plus, some of the songs have been submitted to more than one selection in the hopes of making it through to the nationwide-rounds. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Switzerland is one of the few places where non-Swiss singers can submit entries, regardless of citizenship, residency, or family history. This year, singers from South Africa, the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Malta, and other nations have submitted entries, hoping to be 2012’s answer to Céline Dion.
Are you confused yet? Yeah, me too. In the hopes of clarifying the process, let me point out a few standouts, with a special eye on artists coming from abroad:
Cross-listed in both the French and German selections are a trio of Canadian/Swiss-Canadian standouts: Katherine St-Laurent’s “Wrong to Let You Go“, Marie-Elaine Thibert & Etienne Drapeau’s “Demande-Moi (You Can Ask Me)“, and Sosofluo’s “Quande je ferme les yeux“. Katherine is an alumna of “Canadian Idol”, and both Marie-Elaine and Etienne have appeared on Quebec’s “Star Académie”, so they both have a bit of experience with televised competition under their belts. But there’s something about Sosofluo’s sweet, genuine nature that really grabbed my attention. She’s not as quirky as Lena or Getter Jaani, but not as serious as Anna Rossinelli or Anna Bergendahl…a nice balance, all wrapped up in an accessible, singer-songwritery package.
The largest of the pre-Preselections, sponsored by SF, has attracted quite a lot of attention. In fact, the Grande Dame of Eurovision herself, Lys Assia, has submitted a song written by Ralph Siegel (who has written 19 songs for the ESC, not even counting his preselection entries). “C’etait ma vie (It was my life)” is a wistful counterpoint to “Refrain“, the song that she took to victory back in 1956. Considering that Lys is now 85 years old, she looks and sounds pretty great, but is her legacy enough to put her through to Baku?
On the other side of the musical spectrum is American Ultra Naté’s “My Love“. Fans of ’90s house music might recognize her from her hit “Free“, or her collaboration with Amber and Jocelyn Henriquez, “If You Could Read My Mind“. Some might call this style of dance-pop “dated”, but when put next to Lys Assia and Ralph Siegel, you realize that the term “dated” is completely relative! I fully admit, this created a “sing-into-the-hairbrush” moment for me, something that Kati Wolf and Magdalena Tul also inspired. Take that as you will…
Also coming from across the pond is Taryn Murphy, who is better-known as a songwriter for artists like Ani Lorak and Sergey Lazarev. Singing her own composition, “It’s Over“, Taryn’s song reminds me of Safura’s “Drip Drop”, Nikki Kavanaugh’s “Falling”, and Maja Keuc’s “No One”. If you’re a fan of this sort of R&B-influenced pop, you might consider sending your votes her way.
South Africa, which is a surprising hotbed of Eurovision fandom, has three artists on the candidate list this year, with one of them, Romanz, being personally touted by the head of OGAE Rest of the World (in all honesty, though, their entry is not my style, and I feel that it’s too similar to middling popera entries from past ESCs). My personal favorite by far out of the three, though, is Heinz Winckler’s “Who You Really Are“. Heinz, the winner of South Africa’s first season of “Idol” (and 4th-place in “World Idol”), is no stranger to the Eurovision scene; he also covered Denmark’s 2009 entry, “Believe Again”, into Afrikaans.
Looking a bit more locally, Zürich-based band Newland’s rock track “Believers” caught my attention. It has the “save the world” message that is so prevalent in Eurovision songs, but with a bit more snark and bite. The hook is catchy, and it’s easy to find yourself bobbing your head along to it.
I completely recognize that my taste isn’t universal, and that there are literally hundreds of other entries this year that might end up in Baku…what are some of your favorites that I might have missed?