IRELAND

Forget the hype and the X-Factor, but this is a catchy punchy great opening cut from Jedward. “Lipstick” has a killer chorus and the ooooh-ah leads into the lines stick in the mind. This is punch the air stuff and the pounding beat will go down a treat. I think this will do much better than the fan polls suggest – a great Britney Gaga of a song.

ISRAEL

Dana International returns as the second former winner, and just with Lena, her song is weaker than her winner. “Ding Dong” also tries to sound like a former winner as a title, and the chorus is quite a catchy little number – but its not dancy enough, not mid-paced enough. All in all this doesn’t ring my bell – whatever happened to Anita Ward?

ICELAND

Trumpets and swing with Beatlesque lyrics heralds “Coming Home”, this year’s journey story – the songwriter died – but all of that doesn’t mask the fact that this swing-along sing-along is just that weeny bit dull. The chorus suggests we can’t wait for tomorrow; well if this song plays on repeat, tomorrow can’t come soon enough.

ITALY

Italy returns after many a year, and also after Iceland, produces a shuffle jazzy swing number “Madness of Love” sung partly in English. Yet more jazzy trumpets show up Iceland with a classier number, not too dissimilar to Roger Cicero’s swing from a few years ago. Is that tap dancing too? Classy and a grower, for an evening swingtime number – not a winner, but pleasant enough!

LITHUANIA

Universally derided, “C’est Ma Vie” is a big Disneyesque ballad winsomely sung to initially a piano and then to swelling strings, a ballad bigger than the vocal. This is the sort of sweet sickly song I generallly admire – and her winning mispronunciation of “luff” for love just melts me. A bit of a guilty pleasure. The whole thing swells to a proper climax. Hopefully this will do well.

LATVIA

As I hope does this. This is certainly one of my favourites this year. “Angel In Disguise” has a killer chorus and a cheeky lyric. This was most surprising in its attack, its catchiness and the stop before the title is belted out is one of my most-beloved musical tricks. The rap isn’t out of place. Luscious thighs, candy eyes indeed. I can’t see it beating Azerbaijan, but I dearly would love this to win – a fantastic three minutes indeed.

MOLDOVA

Also returning are Moldova’s first representative Zdob si Zdub with “So Lucky”, reminiscent of the ska from Athena in 2004. However, it’s not as good, not as memorable – and the use of the muted trumpets (again) doesn’t carry the trick off as well as Italy. I don’t think they will get as good as with Grandma and her drum. Next.

MACEDONIA

“Rusinka” has a great catchy opening, a great catchy chorus, an ethnic sound and a beat – so why aren’t people behind this? Well it is the contest’s whipping boys and hate figures Macedonia and it obviously sucks up for the Slav vote with its Russian drinking song middle 8. So what? This is great fun. I can see this sailing into the final and doing much better than people think. Another good song.

MALTA

Electro-80s opening and pop-moppet Glen Vella is thumping away with “One Life”. The sound is meaty, beaty, big and bouncy and this sounds great whilst it is here – but lasts exactly one nano second in your brain. There is no quality to the chorus and the middle section is a bit dire. Love me like I love you, Glen sings somewhat desperately. The trouble is Glen, we don’t think you love us much. Ooh and I have forgotten your song.

NETHERLANDS

This is aching to be a PROPER song, deep and meaningful, and on cd stands out as it follows Malta – well, what wouldn’t? – but it doesn’t have that Bon Jovi stadium rock arms in the air anthemic feel that it strives for. The trick that Foreigner did lads was to put a gospel choir in the chorus – and that’s what you need. The road is long (as it always is) is belted out in the chorus – this song is trite like its lyric.

NORWAY

Again, unaccountably, this is a fan favourite. Well it would work ok in The Lion King, but “Haba Haba” isn’t really going to get Europe singing. This has all the authenticity of the savannah as found in Norway – i.e. hardly any. Sadly, this doesn’t work on any of the many levels it is striving to get over on. Ok we’ll sing “Haba Haba” in the stadium, but I suspect the watching audience won’t. Bye bye.

POLAND

“Jestem” to me has the qualities in a bouncy piece of Euro-pop that Hungary is lacking. It has a good vocal and a catchy chorus and bounces along with shoulder swaying danceability. However, it doesn’t have enough to stand out as a winner. it is a Britney Gaga filler song. Pleasant three minutes indeed, but not one I would play on repeat. Bit like much of this cd so far.

PORTUGAL

Into the last part of cd 2 with perennial strugglers Portugal again bringing something unique to the contest with this jaunty sailors sing-along that has enough handclaps to keep even the most avid avid happy. “A Luta” indeed – ho hum

ROMANIA

And suddenly its back to a good song – number three on this cd I think. This rolls along splendidly and “Change” will see Romania back in the top 10. Like Finland, the song is pleasantly aspirational, and has some finger clicking. Nice bits of filling break the song up and down to bridge to the trumpet driven final chorus. Ok it’s a bit by numbers at the end, but I like it.

SERBIA

“Caroban” is Serbia’s entry and again has its supporters, and once more it has nothing that sticks in my mind after any number of plays. Some say it has the feel of a sixties girl group; I would hope more say that it has the whiff of a non-qualifier. Dull, dull, dull!

RUSSIA

“Get You” sings Alex Sparrow – and he is destined for a high finish – well it’s Russia in’it! But the song is a little dull, using the oh-wo build in the chorus we have heard several times before. Again, the sum of its parts and the whole doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. All in all, the votes it will get are a bit undeserved by the lite-piece of eurobeat.

SWEDEN

Now this is the victim of fan derision as being derivative schlager and copied in part from “Night Flight To Venus”, but then everyone to whom I have played this loves it. And I love it. Catchy as anything, with a whistling entree, even the clunky impossible/possible lyrics can be forgiven by the big widescreen sweep of the best chorus in the contest. I would see this being top 5 on the saturday night. “Popular” should win over kids, mums, gays and grandmas. And you can sing it straight after the first chorus and it lingers in the mind. The best song on cd 2 no question! One of my three favourites from this year!

SLOVENIA

Well after Sweden, no one can really compete, and to be honest “No One” doesn’t really try to. Doomy piano chords and a menacing opening vocal show promise, but the misplaced mid-paced chorus rather lets the side down. The music gathers its skirts up to try to get you emotionally involved in the shrieking drama – but by then your mind has wandered away. Sorry. Maybe Celine could carry this off; maybe not.

SLOVAKIA

Slightly less gloomy piano chords and slightly less doomy vocals and a similar mid-paced chorus enlivened by Lady Antebellum/Wilson-Phillips singing means this is almost indistinguishable from Slovenia. “I Am Still Alive” sing these twins – and in their case the road is not too wide rather than too long. And they sing about fire, but there is no desire rhyme. Pah!

SAN MARINO

Lawks almighty. This starts off singing about waves of eternity and waves of serenity. there is even a holding back these years cliche thrown in. “Stand By” sings Senit and is the third of three forgettable mid-paced ballads. See if you can get a stand-by flight back home after the semi is my advice. Mawkish lyrics, by numbers music – pretty dreadful all in all.

TURKEY

“Live It Up” is the title of this, and it is one of my favourite songs of the contest – indeed the opening lyric tells me this is my favourite song. This is modern indie-alt-rock-pop which wouldn’t be out of place on 6 Music. Again, there are plenty of interesting instrumental and vocal fills in the background under the pumping driving main tune. This lot aren’t mental as anything, but this could easily be a challenger for the coveted trophy. My favourite song this year in the contest.

UKRAINE

Once again, the recorded version of the Ukrainian song suggests it is nothing much, but year after year the staging transcends the material. So once again, this is nothing much lacking a real chorus and much of a hook except that she seems to suggest we are Crystal-lite. It is called “Angel” – it is a bit boring, I don’t like it, and it will no doubt finish high in the voting.

So there you have it; all in all a good year, not many clunkers, lots of pretty reasonable songs and a fair sprinkling of songs that I really like. I think Azerbaijan is the song to beat. Turkey would get my vote.

My top 10

Turkey
Finland
Bosnia
Latvia
Sweden
UK
Azerbaijan
Denmark
Belarus
Macedonia

Marcus Keppel-Palmer

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