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Grand Final Preview

Albania Final

Weeks and months of preparation have all come down to this. Later on tonight, 26 countries from across Europe (and a bit of Asia) will descend on the Crystal Hall stage and perform to an expected audience of 125 million people. Of these 26, only one will end up the winner (of the contest, various successes for the other twenty-five possible), and Europe can finally try and hide the fact that they let ‘Running Scared’ win.

There is a certain irony though, that after one of the worst Eurovision winners, the Russian Grannies, or to be correct Buranovskiye Babushki, could easily sweep it up. I love everything about the performance, they are unbelievably sweet (especially the small one), and it’s almost forgivable that they can’t sing a dreadful song. Last year Portugal sent something which was set up very similar. However the fact they were protestors (or the Village People who had their wages slashed in the economic downturn) and not adorable, didn’t catch the people’s heart and finished second to last in their semi final. The Babuskhi’s are different, and it’s almost terrifying. I don’t want them to win Eurovision, yes they are adorable and lovely and it’s a fantastic, fun filled three minutes after a sleep-inducing opening, but it is after all a song contest, and I continue to live in hope the juries knock it down heavily.

There are so many good songs in this contest, and the focus from a UK perspective shouldn’t just be on Russia, Ireland and ourselves. My own money is on Serbia, Željko Joksimović couldn’t have asked for a better draw to add to his strong song. 24th, amongst the craziness of Jedward and Pasha Parfeny, and the livliness of Ukraine, it really stands out from the crowd. Add in the usual votes from those who love him in the Balkans, and this could be right up there come the final votes.

Granted it’s not all straight forward, Nina Zilli has been a firm favourite of mine and others since it was first released. I’ve yet to see or hear of her put a foot wrong yet, and unlike others who have (cough Romania, Sweden, UK cough), that will put her in one of the prime positions for the live show. Likewise, I’m prepared to say, with Estonia, Spain and Iceland even, this could swing it into their balance. With Italy, and Iceland, there is no real reason why the televoters won’t go for it, and Spain certainly belts it out in an emotional performance.

And then there is those who are running towards the end, Malta could easily sneak into the top 10 following Spain and Germany, Ireland, although a weaker entry than last year, have the energy, Ukraine are being very-Ukraine like and Moldova, whilst I love it, could struggle a lot.

Basically, it’s impossible to call. There are a lot of songs that could win, I wouldn’t mind winning, and are good enough to win. As long as it isn’t Russia, I don’t really care either.

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Eurovision Sofa: Grand Final

© Alain Douit (EBU) , Peter Van Den Berghe (EBU):  The winner of the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest

*Looks at predictions. Looks at results. Throws predictions in the bin*

So, after 2 weeks of build-up, Europe has managed to decide that probably one of the worst live songs is the best one! Only in Eurovision.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on Azerbaijan, I did say right from the start I loved the song, and I still do, the studio version. But on the night it was nowhere near the best song, I need more than two hands to count who was better than them.

But let us start at the bottom, poor old Switzerland and Anna Rossinelli. In the end, the song was just too nice, but too finish that far off 24th and not that be that bad a song is very unfair for her. Elsewhere in the bottom five there were three main shocks for me, the two fan favourites of Estonia and Hungary and a personal favourite of mine, Finland. Kati Wolf was for more impressive in the final than the semi final. I think she was hampered by a lack of movement on the stage and the horrible dress, but this should have still done far better. Estonia never appealed to me live, but Getter Jaani did improve her singing, but she just wasn’t good enough to do a half decent song justice. Poor Finland, Tom Dice finished 6th for Belgium last year, Paradise Oskar finished 22nd with arguably a better rendition when it was just him and a guitar.

The rest of the right hand side of the table only has one major talking point, France. Amaury Vassilli came in as favourite, the person the bookies thought might be up and around the winning positions, and he ended up 15th.  He never performed on the night, the big stage and he struggled. He didn’t get in the right key and it failed to pay off. Massive upset.

Elsewhere there was the dreadful finishing of Russia, and if you compare this year’s effort to last year’s which made ‘My Lovely Horse’ look like a potential Eurovision winner, this could and should have easily done better.  At least it shows the bloc voting isn’t just for dodgy Russian songs anymore. Romania finished just behind them, notably gaining no votes from the United Kingdom, and making me think I may have been the only person in this country to vote for him (interesting and slightly pointless fact, the countries I have voted for in the last two years have both finished 17th. Yes I did vote for Bosnia last year and yes I loved it). Iceland did Sjonni proud, and sadly didn’t do better than 20th.

Just outside the top 10 were the trio of the United Kingdom, Moldova and Slovenia. All three of those positions are probably the only ones I agree with. I thought Zdob si Zdub could be the dark horse and get votes because it was just so blooming awesome. I liked Slovenia (it might have been because of Maja Keuc) and United Kingdom didn’t deserve anything more really.

And to the top 10. Nice to see the host nation put some effort into it and get a good result on their home soil, which doesn’t happen enough. Georgia surprised me, because it wasn’t all that good, neither was Greece (god damn that diaspora) which if it probably didn’t have that rap wouldn’t have won it. Though, thank you everyone for making sure Ireland didn’t get anywhere near it. It was probably me predicting them to win. And Dino Merlin, he sure improved for the final and if it wasn’t for that ridiculous decision to mime the piano…

Moving up and in 5th was Denmark, for me the best song on the night. The fact that the lead singer ran all the way down the catwalk and back again didn’t affect anything vocally this time. This should have won for me.

Then, in 4th, Ukraine. How many people were voting for the song (I’m thinking about 5%), the country (possibly 30%) and the sand artist (65%)? I won’t lie, this song is really forgettable because of the sand artist. I promised I wouldn’t do that for the second live show in the row but I did. I’ll give her full credit, it is massively impressive. The song wasn’t.

Into the top 3 was Eric Saade and Sweden. This was the favourite before the rehearsals and then one by one was written off during them. But, almost like he was sandbagging, he performed, and even the glass box smashed on time to make it work. The whole thing worked well for him, and I’m not going to lie, this isn’t a bad song live to finish third.

2nd were the returning Italians and I reckon 0% of the experts I followed on the internet expected this. Out of nowhere, the song France could have easily sent, got itself into second. Probably mainly down to the jury vote, but it is fantastic to see this sort of jazz number get a good enough reception from the televote as well to get itself into second place. Fine result.

And all of that leaves us with Azerbaijan. Credit to Elgar, he is a brilliant singer and if he sung this by himself I would have agreed with the result. But it isn’t, Nikki is a awful singer. Its known that one day in the next few years Azerbaijan were going to win, they are consistently sending good songs into Eurovision, it’s just a shame their first victory will be this one.

So that is it, Eurovision 2011 is all over. And we have 54 weeks before it happens all over again in Baku (assuming they can find/build a venue, sort out the issue of visas and don’t get the privilege taken away from them from not letting Armenia in the country). Plenty of countries can take positives (such as Belgium, who with an a cappella number, finished 11th and were only one point off qualification, how?!!) and some negatives (Norway, the Netherlands). Thank you to everyone who have read my blog posts over the last three weeks or so, if you have suggestions for improvements or general comments, please do tell me any way. I’ll keep talking about Eurovision some way or another throughout the year.

See you all from Baku, from my sofa.

Eurovision Sofa: Grand Final Preview

And just like that it is almost over. In just a few hours time we will know the winner of this years Eurovision Song Contest and where we will be heading to do all of this all over again in 2012.

But yet no one has quite the idea of who will go on and win it. It is hardly like 2009 where everyone new it was Norway’s weeks before the event, or last year, where it was certainly between two countries. This year, any of about five or six could feasibly win, and I don’t think I would be disappointed or surprised with any of them doing it.

The draw for the final has been kind to the neutrals, it certainly has put out a level plain field and only one or two songs have benefited by their positions. The winners of draw must certainly be Azerbaijan (19th), UK (14th) and Serbia (24th). Azerbaijan is probably getting a good mark for the late draw, similar to Serbia which sticks out and I promise you you will not forget it. UK has the advantage of following France, Italy and Switzerland, and having Moldova (the ‘crazy’ song) after it. My only concern for the UK is from all accounts in rehearsals and especially in the Jury voting final they have been very, very poor. I don’t think the other two will go on and win either, Serbia is only going to attract a small audience and the female Azerbaijani singer still isn’t all there.

For me the favourites are going to be France, Ireland, Finland, Denmark and Germany. I want to add Iceland onto that list, I really do, because it is a fantastic song, but I just don’t think it is going to have enough. The problem for Ireland is that the three main pop songs in this are all bunched together, obviously Jedward, as well as Eric Saade and Getter Jaani. For me the one with the bigger appeal is Jedward (sadly) and the two others, despite being favourites in the run up, have barely sounded good at all. Finland and Denmark are struggling from an early running order, I don’t think it is going to affect Finland that much, its going to stand out by a mile, with its simple use of a bloke, a guitar and giant spinning Earth. France is strong no matter what and I think being in her own back yard will help Lena a lot.

The rest of the top 10 will feature the previously mentioned UK and Azerbaijan, but for me, and I’m sorry to everyone who takes Eurovision seriously, but Moldova is just BRILLIANT. It is nice to have a good time in a song and that’s what I’m seeing in ‘So Lucky’, so what it doesn’t feature Epic Sax Guy, they have crazy cone hats! I want this to do well, oddly enough, even as someone who wants more people to realise this isn’t just a light entertainment programme. Yay for contradicting myself. Who cares.

Bosnia and Herzegovina unfortunately managed to draw position #2, this is bad because a) no one has ever won from there and b) people have finished last from there than any other position. Despite the fact that I love the song, you can’t possibly hate Dino Merlin, it wasn’t too impressive on the stage, and sadly, this may struggle. Or at least, not do as well as many people are figuring.

So what about if we look towards the bottom? For me I reckon Lithuania, Spain, Italy, Greece and Georgia. Personally, Spain is my guilty pleasure of this years final and I do want this to do better than it will inevitably do. Italy is a jazz based song but will struggle, its only for a niche market after all. Lithuania remains for me deathly boring, and disappointed me by qualifying ahead of say, Turkey. Greece still ruined their song with rap, and I don’t care for any diaspora, this won’t do well. And Georgia, just isn’t that good.

I simply can’t go the whole post without mentioning Romania, of course I am going to vote for this. I love the song and I love where David Bryan comes from, but I can’t see this having any severe impact on the rest of the competition. (May also vote for Iceland, depends if I can remember to vote before the last 10 seconds this time).

There we are, quick, not covering everyone, but that is my preview. And after some thought, here is my final predictions for it (please, please note, just because I predicted Jedward will win, it does not mean I like it. OK?)

Pos Final
1 Ireland
2 France
3 Denmark
4 Germany
5 Finland
6 Azerbaijan
7 Russia
8 Moldova
9 Austria
10 United Kingdom

It all starts at 21:00CET on all good national broadcasters.