The Eurovision 2012 That Almost Was: Semifinal 1

One of our favorite set of posts from last year was looking at the 2nd place finishers. It’s fun to trash Eurovision for its bad pop culture moments, but from time to time we like to be reminded that the people behind these songs are passionate about their music, work hard, and care about the results. Here are the songs that barely missed the contest. If the stars had been aligned just a little differently, this is what might have been.

Montenegro. Internal selection, not applicable.

Iceland. Blár Ópal, “Stattu upp.” The visual was a boy band, but the sound was all summer party anthem a la Taio Cruz or LMFAO. Blár Ópal offered us lighthearted fun, but Icelandic voters preferred the sweeping drama of Greta and Jonsi.

Greece. Greece held a national selection, but the final placements were not released.

Latvia. Samanta Tīna & Dāvids Kalandija, “I Want You Back.” Following the “Running Scared” path, Samanta Tīna & Dāvids Kalandija were attractive, youthful vocalists with a yearning, teenage angst ode to love lost. We liked this song and thought it offered a more complete package than Anmary’s “Beautiful Song.” Unfortunately, it isn’t a good strategy to copy last year’s winner, even if you do it better. To add salt to the wound, the song sounded a wee bit too much like Sade’s “Your Love is King.” In the Eirodziesma Superfinal the duo won the jury vote but finished 3rd in the public televote.

Albania. Elton Deda, “Kristal.” Rona Nishilu was the undisputed winner of Festivali i Kenges. Elton Deda led the rest of the pack. From the middle-aged rocker vibe to the hokey ’80s rock beats to the mid-tempo song that goes nowhere, something about “Kristal” was distinctly Macedeonian. This Albanian did it better, but nevertheless “Kristal” didn’t really connect with us.

Romania. Electric Fence, “Şun-ta.” Roma ethnopop on acid. This track had lots of energy, excellent ethnic vocals, and some electronica influences. In the Romanian national selection, Şun-ta was the jury’s pick but only managed 4th with the public. Mandinga, in contrast, won the public vote and placed 2nd with the jury.

Switzerland. Ivo, “Peace & Freedom.” The runner-up in Switzerland’s Die Grosse Entscheidungs Show was a paint-by-numbers, painfully earnest effort to change the world. Think Live Aid or U2 circa Rattle and Hum, complete with gospel singers. Where Sinplus got over 17% of the televote, Ivo trailed not far behind with 16%. Watching this, I was reminded why I originally thought Sinplus was a decent choice. The Eurovision audience dodged a bullet here.

Belgium. Iris, “Safety Net.” The Belgian national selection was succinct and to the point. Belgian organizers selected Iris months before, and the national selection simply asked televoters to pick between two songs. If by some chance you’re an Iris fan then by all means check out “Safety Net.” “Safety Net” is similar to “Would You,” as both are twee, needy ballads. “Safety Net” gives us some Dr. Strangelove-like bomb metaphors, but other than that it’s basically the same song. With so little contrast, Belgian voters were basically asked to flip a coin. 53% went for “Would You,” 47% went for “Safety Net.”

Finland. Ville Eetvartti, “Lasikaupunki.” Coldplay meets Burning Sensations’ “Belly of the Whale.” Eetvartti’s stage act reminded us a bit of A Friend in London, with similar lighting and his running around the stage. The song itself had potential, but with blurry harmonies and a wall of sound, it came off muddy and unfocused. In the end Eetvartti was beat out by Pernilla Karlsson, who commanded more attention by being quiet.

Israel. Internal selection, not applicable.

San Marino. Internal selection, not applicable. San Marino’s initial submission, “Facebook Uh Oh Oh,” was rejected by the EBU for violating rules barring references to commercial products. San Marino’s entry is the same song with a few of the lyrics changed. To see the changes, check out our alternate viewpoint post on San Marino’s Eurovision entry.

Cyprus. Ivi Adamou, “Call the Police” and “You Don’t Belong Here” (tie). Ivi Adamou was selected internally, and the national selection asked the public to select between 3 songs. “La la love” was the consensus winner among both the jury and the public. The other two songs split the difference. “Call the Police” was a club dance song with laughably bad lyrics and is a must watch for fans of kitsch. The jury placed it 2nd while it came 3rd with the public. “You Don’t Belong Here,” in contrast, was a youthful pop ballad in the Radio Disney vibe. It’s not profound or anything, but there was more to it than “La la love.” The public placed it 2nd while it came 3rd with the jury. Like the Cypriots, EuroLemur was a divided household over the silver medal. Jen preferred “Call the Police” and Chris would’ve gone with “You Don’t Belong Here.”

Denmark. Jesper Nohrstedt, “Take Our Hearts.” For the 2nd year in a row, we preferred the runner up to the Danes’ final choice. “Take Our Hearts” was a mid-tempo radio friendly singer-songwriter pop song with a piano backing, very contemporary and youthful. Nohrstedt had the bad luck of the #1 draw. In the final count, “Take Our Hearts” placed first with 3 of the 4 international juries, second with the Danish and the other international jury, and 3rd with the public televote. Soluna Samay finished 1st with the public televote, the Danish jury and 1 international jury, and 2nd with the other international juries.

Russia. Dima Bilan and Yulia Volkova, “Back to Her Future.” This year the Russians were swept away by little old Udmurt ladies, but they could have sent a pop duet from two internationally recognized artists and known Eurovision quantities. In Eurovision 2006 Dima Bilan finished 2nd with “Never Let You Go” and in 2008 he won with “Believe.” “Back to Her Future” is a solid, well-performed song, but if you’ve watched either of these contests you’ve already seen it. It is hard to imagine Dima would have been able to repeat his previous successes, but I will say this much: when “Party for Everybody” comes on the iPhone, I skip it. When “Back to Her Future” comes on, I listen.

Hungary. Second place not disclosed. The top four artists in the public televote made the A Dal superfinal, but the final decision was left to 4 jurors. Compact Disco was selected by 2 of the 4 and thus won the trip to Baku. One juror opted for Caramel’s “Vízió.” “Vízió” had been our favorite going into the final; it had bluesy appeal, but in between the semifinals and finals, Caramel attempted an English language translation, and the result was an awkward performance in both Hungarian and English. The 4th juror singled out Gábor Heincz, Hungary’s answer to Jason Mraz, with “Learning to let go.”

Austria. Of all the entries in this semifinal, Austria had the tightest competition. Drag queen Conchita Wurst missed the cut by the narrowest of margins with her affirmative life statement “That’s What I Am.” Very ballad, very big. In the superfinal, she received 49% of the televote, where Trackshittaz received 51%.

Moldova. Cristina Croitoru, “Fight for love.” Moldova’s voting process is a little strange, as the public votes first, and the jury follows after. It can raise questions about whether everything is on the up-and-up, particularly when the jury vote deviates strongly from the public. Well, in the case of this year’s competition, the winner of the public televote was “Fight for Love,” a nondescript ballad with interpretive dance and a gigantic piece of wind blown red cloth. The juries placed it 5th, thus spiking its chances. Can’t say I disagree with the juries, who favored Pasha Parfeny.

Ireland. Andrew Mann, “Here I Am.” With all the focus on Donna McCaul and “Mercy,” I forgot that she finished 3rd. Eurosong’s 2nd place finisher was Andrew Mann with the power rock ballad “Here I am.” It was competent, but didn’t really stand out in any meaningful way, particularly against the likes of Jedward. Mann placed 2nd with the jury and the televote. Do “Freebird!”