Category Archives: Belgium
Following on the heels of their neighbor to the north bringing Anouk to Eurovision, today brought word of Belgium’s choice for Malmo (well, technically, Walloonia, but that’s neither here nor there). Fresh off of his victory on The Voice Belgique this past spring, and the release of his first album Ma voie in September, Roberto Bellarosa has been given the challenge to bring Belgium back to the Finals for the first time since Tom Dice’s 6th place in Oslo, and to possibly be the first Walloon performer to break into the Finals at all. Since his victory on The Voice, Roberto has released the hit single “Je Crois”, which might be an insight into the style of entry we might get to hear from him.
A modest National Final on December 16th (the day after the Swiss Selection, for those of you keeping track) will determine what he’ll bring to Sweden. Walloon broadcaster RTBF have been experimenting with selection styles over the past few years, with middling levels of success. Their previous entry, “With Love Baby” by acapella group Witloof Bay, was chosen by a full National Final system, but just missed out on the final. Before that, RTBF went for a completely internal selection, picking the awkward Elvis impersonator Patrick Ouchène and his appropriately-titled “Copycat”, which ended up near the bottom of the table on Semifinal night in Moscow. Also internally selected, the same fate befell 2007’s representative, the KMGs, with their funk-inspired “Love Power”. Fortunately, Roberto has already been “selected” by the people of French-speaking Belgium by emerging victorious from one of their biggest televised talent shows, and the Belgian people (or, at least, half of them) will get to have their say in the song he sings in May.
Stay tuned for more updates on Roberto, as well as all of the other news coming down the pipeline as National Finals approach and broadcasters make their announcements.
The penultimate song for this year’s Eurovision has been decided by voters in Belgium today, and it seems that after a short-and-sweet 2-song National Final spanning all of fifteen minutes, followed up by an appearance on an evening talk show, we know that 17-year-old Iris (birth name: Laura van den Bruel) will be performing the ballad “Would You?” in Baku this May. Read the rest of this entry
Fresh on the heels of Wednesday’s announcement form Slovakia, we have news from Belgium that Flemish broadcaster VRT has also made their internal selection for Azerbaijan. Sixteen-year-old Iris (also known as Airis, real name Laura van den Bruel) will represent her nation this year, with a song to be determined later (VRT will soon hold an open call for songs, but it is unclear whether this means a second internal selection will occur or a small national final). Iris is managed by SonicAngel, the same group that works with Tom Dice, who sang for Belgium in 2010, bringing the country their best result in years (and the Flemish their best result ever). Will Iris have the same success?
Here’s a little taste of what she serves up:
(So, looking over my notes, we’ve only got three names so far, but two of them are sixteen-year-old brunettes (the other being Ivi Adamou from Cyprus). Quite a contrast if Lys Assia ends up representing Switzerland…)
Like many Eurovision fans and fanatics (myself included), the period between the end of May and the beginning of December is often a melancholy bit of time while we wait for news on the next year’s edition and constantly re-hash the events of the past. For me, this is the perfect time to look back on the songs that didn’t quite make it to Düsseldorf this year; some of these also-rans are just as entertaining or endearing as the tunes that made the journey to the main event. Out of the forty-three nations that sent songs to Germany this year, thirty-four of them had national selections (and the rest, like France, Belarus, Turkey, et cetera, were internal selections made behind closed doors). Needless to say, there’s a lot of ground to cover! So, starting alphabetically…
Albania: For me, the Albanian Preselection (or Festivali i Këngës) is one of the more underrated events of the Eurovision year. It occurs early in the ESC cycle (generally falling around Boxing Day), and it tends to involve both young, fresh faces as well as veteran performers. This year’s FiK winner was Aurela Gaçe’s “Kënga Ime”, which eventually became the epic, aquiline “Feel the Passion“. However, in second place this year was the lovely duet “Ende ka shpresë (There is Still Hope)”, written and performed by Alban Skenderaj and Miriam Cani.
I don’t know if this song would have been translated into English (as so many other Albanian entries have been over the past few years), but if it had, it could have possibly given Azerbaijan’s Ell and Nikki a run for their money.
(And, for the record, another personal favorite of mine was Kamela Islamaj’s “Jetova per te dy (I Lived for Us)”, which came in 10th place in the FiK. While it might not have gone over as well in the ESC as “Ende ka shpresë”, I absolutely love Kamela’s soulful, bluesy, voice.)
Read the rest of this entry
Belgium was the next nation to pick their representative this weekend, and after a 14-song final, both the professional jury and the public audience gave their maximum points to acapella group Witloof Bay and their song “With Love Baby”.
While Witloof Bay’s performance is strong, considering they’re depending purely on their voices and have no musical backing track to fall back on, acapella has traditionally been a risky move at Eurovision. I can only think of one other acapella song that has been performed at the ESC (2006’s “I Hear Your Heart” by Latvian group Cosmos), and it only reached the finals that year because of automatic qualification. Granted, I think “With Love Baby” is a better song than “I Hear Your Heart” (and you know that people will be comparing the two over the next few months!), and Wallonia has definitely taken some risks at the ESC over the past few years. (Remember, this is the network that sent an Elvis impersonator, a song in an imaginary language, and one of the first Eurovision songs to actually sing about Eurovision (how very meta!).
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Belgium’s lone win in Eurovision, with Sandra Kim’s “J’aime a la Vie (I Love Life)“. I don’t think that this silver anniversary portends a victory for the Belgians, but at the very least, you’ve got to give them credit for creativity!
Oh, and for the record, my favorite entry in this year’s Belgian selection was “Elle Merveille (She Wonders)” by Alexandre Deschamps, which came in 4th place.
We’ve got another busy weekend ahead of us, so let’s dive right into what we can expect from all over the Eurovision world over the next few days!
On Friday, Azerbaijan will finally make their decision on who they’ll send to Germany this year. Their preselection process started back in mid-November with 77 candidates, and they’ve finally been narrowed down to five final performers: Aynishan Qulieva, Ilgara Ibrahimova, Eldar Gasimov, Ilhama Gasimova, and Nigar Camal. It’s still a bit unclear how the song will be selected; last year, the top three candidates sang three different songs, and while the winning performer was selected the night of the finals, the winning song wasn’t confirmed until over two weeks later. Considering Azerbaijan’s penchant for flexibility on their preselection processes (their dates have been moved around many times, for example), who knows what answers we may find tomorrow night, or what questions will remain!
Also on Friday, Ireland will pick the artist and song that they hope will bring the nation to the top of the Eurovision heap for an eight year. Brief snippets of the songs were released last week, but they were heard in their entirety for the first time just today.
Don Mescall – Talking with Jennifer (written by Ronan Hardiman, Don Mescall)
Nikki Kavanaugh – Falling (written by Christina Schilling, Camilla Gottschalck, Jonas Gladnikoff, and Hanif Sabzevari)
Bling – Shine On (written by Patrick Mahoney)
The Vard Sisters – Send Me an Angel (written by Liam Lawton)
Jedward – Lipstick (written by Dan Priddy, Lars Jensen, and Martin Larson)
Ironically, “Lipstick” is the only song that has been removed from YouTube for copyright reasons. Why ironically? Well, first, as its considered the frontrunner in tomorrow’s competition, and second, as a portion of the song was “accidentally” released on Amazon.com too early, prompting RTÉ to make the decision only one third in the hands of the audience’s vote, rather than fifty percent. The remaining part of the decision will be in the hands of regional juries throughout Ireland.
Malta will hold their semifinal on Friday and their final on Saturday. On Friday, the 24 candidate songs will be trimmed down to 16 by a 75/25 jury/audience vote decision. On Saturday, those remaining songs will compete, and the winner will be decided by a 60/40 jury/audience split. All the songs can be previewed, in their entirety, here. For Malta fans, there are many familiar faces competing this weekend: Fabrizio Faniello made it to Eurovision in 2001 and 2006, and his younger sister Claudia has tried many times to make it to the event, but often falling just short of the ESC goal. We also see the return of Wayne Micallef, who presented one of my favorite preselection songs from last year, “Save a Life“. In fact, out of the twenty-three singers in this weekend’s competition, eighteen have attempted, at some point, to represent Malta in either Eurovision or Junior Eurovision in past years! Will the victory go to a veteran, or to a new talent? We shall see…
On Saturday, we’ll see what Belgium has to offer the growing Eurovision field. In light of the difficult economic times, Walloon broadcaster RTBF came up with an interesting twist on an open call for songs. Belgians were allowed to submit their songs (in French or English), and the public would be able to pledge money to the entries of their choice. When a song received €20,000, they would be qualified to go on to the next round (all money donated to non-qualifying songs would be reimbursed). That money would then go to the further production and refinement of their entry. Thirty songs ended up making the monetary benchmark, and that was later pared down to fourteen final entries. A 50/50 jury/televote split will decide the eventual winner.
We will also see Finals in Iceland, Norway, and Finland, continued semifinals in Spain, Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia, and Sweden, and the first semifinal in Estonia‘s Eestilaul. Of course, I’ll try to bring you updates as often as I can!
Have a great weekend, Eurofans!
Unlike the other entries I’ve written about so far, Belgium is one of Eurovision’s original participants. They took part in the ESC’s inaugural contest in 1956, and have only been absent three times since then (1994, 1997, and 2001, due to low cumulative scores from earlier years). Despite such a long history in the contest, Belgium has only won the thing once, back in 1986, with 13-year old Sandra Kim’s “J’aime la vie” (if you want a bit of a laugh at how far the world has come in terms of fashion since 1986, check out her performance here…and I though Belarus had a lock on the mullet?!).
One of the cool things about how Belgium manages their participation in the contest is that because of the division between the French-speaking (Walloon) and Flemish-speaking populations of the country, they have two broadcasters picking the nation’s songs, alternating year by year. The entries from French-speaking broadcaster RTBF tend to fare better in the competition than their Flemish counterpart, VRT. Belgium’s lone victory and two second-place finishes were all from RTBF, but VRT’s entries have never done any better than 6th, and that was back in 1959! (Granted, the Walloons haven’t been doing too fantastically in recent years, either. They sent an Elvis impersonator last year. Seriously.)
Trying to change VRT’s luck this year is Tom Dice (real name: Tom Eeckholut), the runner up in the Flemish version of “X Factor”. He was selected internally by the network with the hopes of bringing Belgium back into the finals for the first time since 2005. His song, “Me and My Guitar”, is a simple, yet enjoyable track that I could imagine someone singing while sitting in the lounge at my old college dorm.
Tom’s voice isn’t perfect, and he isn’t as drop-dead gorgeous as some of the other participants in this year’s competition, but Tom has the sort of sweet, earnest, and genuine “everyman” quality that appeals to me. We’ve all known a Tom Dice or two. He’s the acquaintance you sat next to in High School Trigonometry, or the dude you sometimes see at the coffee shop you always go to, or the quiet guy four cubicles down from your desk at work. You might not know much about him, and you might have walked by him a thousand times without even realizing it, but you still want him to succeed at whatever he’s going for. That’s why I’m pulling for Tom to at least break into the finals.
And let’s face it…any nation that can give us this deserves a break, don’t you think?