I wasn’t expecting to become so captivated with Eurovision. I’d occasionally seen Eurovision on television growing up but only at the semi-finals on Tuesday did I become a true convert. I might even consider chasing the competition around Europe in future. Seriously. I had the time of my life! We danced with Azerbaijanis, Swedes and Icelanders, we critiqued the vast array of dulcet voices and screeching cries, appraised outfits (not just of the performers), waved our flags and drank way too much champagne. It was a blast!
It’s an exciting time for Copenhagen as it hosts the annual Eurovision contest and thousands of fans descend upon Denmark’s capital for the week-long celebration of camp music, visual spectacles and avant-garde dance moves (I insist the dance moves ARE avant-garde!).
I discovered that there’s an extraordinary number of Australians that made a pilgrimage to Eurovision mecca, including avid fan Nick Sowden. He stood in front of us in the line, wearing a gorgeous aquamarine sequin shawl from Sportsgirl. In this oh-so small world that we live in, my companion Margaux quickly realised that she knew him from school. Nick happens to regularly host one of Australia’s largest Eurovision parties and is a self-proclaimed expert on the competition. Nick explained to me, a Eurovision newbie, this crucial piece of information:
Thirty-one countries compete in the semi-finals, but only twenty countries go through to compete in the final, along with ‘The Big Five’ (the five main sponsoring nations) plus Denmark as the host.
He then provided us with an entertaining run-down of the acts as we stood in line for the show. Each year, Nick makes a list of six best songs of each semi-final and the three best songs from the automatic qualifiers of the big five and host country. His observations were too good to keep to ourselves. Here’s what we learnt from Nick about the contestants this year:
This is the favourite of this year’s contest and for good reason! It starts off slow and brooding but moves into a electrifying chorus. It’s modern, it’s moody and it just might win…
Sanna Nielsen had tried out seven times for Eurovision before finally getting into the contest this year. A schlager icon, she gifts us a song from songwriting legend Frederik Kempe that is expected to be well-received in Copenhagen. The performance is the complete package of dramatic lighting, intense wind machines and poor grammar, a Eurovision trifecta! Sanna sings the heck out of “Undo” and will surely be a favourite amongst tried-and-true Eurovision fans.
After making the final last year for the first time since 2004, the Dutch have sent another nationally well known act to Eurovision. The Common Linnets made up of Ilse de Lange and Waylon bring with them a Nashville inspired tune that may surprise many. It’s a nice comedown from some of the more intense entries of this year’s Eurovision and can hopefully ensure another year in the final for the Dutch.
Initially I wasn’t a fan of Aarzemnieki and their song “Cake to Bake” but its grown on me like a yeast dough rising in the heat and now I can’t get away from their infectious tune. Not sure about it qualifying but a fun little ditty nonetheless with lyrics about unicorns and apple trees. Who can say no to cake?
One of the more commercial and modern songs of the contest, András Kállay-Saunders gives it all in his song “Running”. It’s emotional and has a good beat. If he can perform it well it may give Hungary their best chance of a win yet!
This year Ukraine is represented by Mariya Yaremchuk and her song “Tick Tock,” which she has already presented in three different versions! The final version comes to us via Swedish songwriters; Mariya has since been rising fast with the bookmakers. Its Eurovision by numbers: has a whistle, has drums, is catchy and she’s quite attractive (or so I’m told).
This is my absolute favourite of 2014, from a lass who is already a European LBGT icon, fast becoming a Eurovision standout and will no doubt impress the Australian fans. It’s a man, dressed as a woman, with a beard! She tried out in 2012 for Austria, but just missed out on the ticket to Baku. This year she was internally selected for Austria and she has brought with her an amazing song and performance as well. It’s James Bond meets Eurovision and it’s bloody amazing.
Norway were the favourites before they had even selected their entrant (no idea why), but Carl Espen’s “Silent Storm” is a return to Norway’s best. It’s slow and quiet but it builds purposefully. Although Carl lacks some of the glamour of the other participants, he no less commands the stage. He’s certainly one to watch.
Back, back, BACK again after their fabulous entry in 2010 which came third (“Playing with Fire” of double ended piano fame) are Paula and Ovi with their song Miracle. At their national final they had a hologram on stage, and here’s hoping they bring that bit of magic with them to Copenhagen; it will certainly add a new category to the drinking game.
The power strut of this year’s contest belongs to Mei Finegold, and my goodness me does she strut! Mei is one fierce lady and she delivers a Hebrew/English power pop song complete with a fab, fab, FAB key change at the end! This is one the Eurovision fans are talking about, so strap yourself in for a wild ride with this Israeli Amazon Queen!
Poland are back in the contest after a brief hiatus and boy are they bringing! “My Słowianie (Slavic Girls)” by Donatan and Cleo is a knee slapping turbo Slavic folk pop song straight from the dance floors of Warszawa. The Polish version has already been a hit in Poland and the English version is becoming a fan favourite. It’s a modern take on the European recipe of catchy tune and ethnic dress that’s set to impress.
I really like Slovenia: they’re a small country with a big heart and always send us quality Balkan tunes. Unfortunately they don’t always do as well as they deserve to. This year Tinkara Kovač’s “Round and Round” ticks all the boxes: a multilingual Balkan folk tune with Mongolian pan flute (or equivalent) and a touch of sass. Alas, with a few of her Balkan neighbours staying at home this year, the challenge to qualify has become that much harder but she deserves to be in the final.
The Big 5 (and Denmark)
The three best songs from the automatic qualifiers of the big five and host country Denmark:
The United Kingdom have had rather mixed (read: poor) luck at Eurovision over the past few years and this year they decided to do something about it. Rather than choosing an older contender, they have gone with someone fresh from the BBC’s new program. The result is a fab singer with a song akin to what Florence and the Machine would do at Eurovision (sort of). It is their best song in a while and hopefully gives them a better result.
The French have given us great songs for the past few years but always seem to be a bit short-changed by Europe. For this year’s Eurovision, they have given us a couple of young guys singing about a moustache… It’s modern, it’s fun and deserves to do well this year.
Ruth Lorenzo was once a contestant on the Voice UK and is performing in Eurovision for Spain. This song is a Eurovision classic already. In the National Final for Spain, Ruth performed the song so hard she almost lost her hair! “Dancing in the Rain” gives and then it gives a little bit more: fabulous!
Thank you Nick for this fantastic summary! We’re excited to see the results in the final on Saturday.
Ben Morris has created this fantastic map of all the contestants of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. Check out more illustrations of hisMini Pop Icons.
Happy Eurovision everyone!
Header photo credit: Eurovision.tv