Eurovision Song Contest - Istanbul 2004

   

by Ben Cook


Eurovision 2004 The Eurovision Song Contest, in its 49 year history, has given us many wonderful televisual moments. It may not have much credibility in showcasing the cream of Europe's talent, and hasn't provided many lasting classic records, but it does make for great entertainment.

Whilst Eurovision still has a very bad reputation, it is gradually falling in line with what people are actually listening to across Europe in the noughties. It's estimated that over 150 million people around the world watch it year in, year out.

Grand Prix This year, a record 36 countries are fighting to win, and to host 2005's 50th anniversary show. With so many nations wanting to take part, unless you've made the top ten the previous year or are one of the 'big four' group of main contributors to the EBU (of which the UK is a part), it is now necessary to compete in a semi-final before Eurovision itself. 22 countries will therefore be battling it out on Wednesday May 12th, and the top ten scorers will proceed to the final on Saturday night.

Here is my own personal in-depth review of the 14 songs that have already qualified, alongside the ten which I think will go through to the final. Predicting the Eurovision results is always very difficult, but I'll have a stab at guessing what will happen on the big night of May 15th.

Austria AUSTRIA: Tie Break - Du Bist
With so many strong songs this year, there are many "fan favourites" emerging. However, it's safe to say that this is not one of them. Stefan, Tommy and Thomas make up Austrian boy band Tie Break, and they're popularly predicted as most likely to score nil points. "Du Bist" is a dreary German ballad, which certainly looks out of place in 2004. Many of Eurovision's recent winners were not initially popular with fans, but I think we can rule this one out of getting into double figures.
Prediction: Bottom 5

BELARUS: Aleksandra & Konstantin - My Galileo
This is a bit of a weird one. No Eurovision is complete without the obligatory yodelling! This is supposed to be in English, but I defy anyone to work out what the girl is saying. If you can remember "Sanomi" from last year's contest (you know, the one in the imaginary language), it might get votes from the mad people who voted for that one. I wouldn't say this was a dead cert to make the final at all though.
Prediction: 16-20

Belgium BELGIUM: Xandee - 1 Life
Having surprisingly made it all the way to second place last year with a song in an imaginary language, Belgium have really pulled their socks up this time in the hope they can go one better with ex-porn star Xandee. "1 Life" is a big, camp, Eurodance number, which will no doubt involve scantily clad male dancers and Xandee herself ripping her dress off by the final chorus. If performed well, it should score a lot of points, and I wouldn't be at all be surprised to see it bring home the bacon. Eurovision has at last reached 1995!
Prediction: Winner?

CYPRUS: Lisa Andreas - Stronger Every Minute
This 16-year-old girl is actually from Kent, but is representing Cyprus because she has relatives over there, and spent a few years in the country when she was younger. She sounds remarkably like Erin Rocha on this sweet ballad, and whilst I can't see it doing particularly well, it might pick up enough votes to make it to the final. Scarily enough, I did have a dream that this won the contest, but let's not go there.
Prediction: 16-20

Denmark DENMARK: Tomas Thordarson - Shame On You
If Ricky Martin was ugly, he'd be very much like Tomas Thordarson. I'm not sure that'll matter for him though, since these sort of Latin songs always seem to do well at Eurovision. It has a marvellous string of na-na-na-nas, which you can never go wrong with. Not many are predicting this as a winner, but I'm tipping it for big things, as it's an instantly catchy song which you'll remember when it comes to voting.
Prediction: Winner?

FRANCE: Jonatan Cerrada - A Chaque Pas
This is my personal favourite, but for some reason I can't see people picking up their phones for it, largely due to the singer's delivery. Jonatan won the French version of Pop Idol, so in a country that cares even less about Eurovision than we do, he's helped to boost its profile. It's a typical French entry - a weepy chanson, which I gather is some sort of anti-war anthem. Of course, its sentiments will go right over most of Europe's heads, so it may struggle to pick up votes, especially as it's one of many male ballads this year.
Prediction: Bottom 5

Germany GERMANY: Max - Can't Wait Until Tonight
And here's another male ballad, but this one I can see scoring very highly indeed. Germany's recent track record at Eurovision has been almost as bad as ours, but a much needed revamp of its selection process this year has resulted in a non-typical German entry. A refreshing change from the jokey, camp entries Germany has been submitting year after year, this is a rather classy, almost jazzy ballad, by a young guy who has become so popular, he's sitting at No. 1 on the German singles chart. The song is just as big in Austria and Switzerland, which means he's almost guaranteed a couple of twelve points.
Prediction: Top 5

GREECE: Sakis Rouvas - Shake It
This one has certainly polarised opinions among fans. Sakis is an established singer in Greece, and is hoping to give his country their first win with "Shake It". You'll either love it or hate it. With lyrics like "Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake it mi amor, Crazy for love, give me some more", you can imagine how it sounds. Expect plenty of hip-gyrating and tight T-shirts.
Prediction: 6-10

ICELAND: Jónsi - Heaven
A very pleasant, simple ballad, which has touched many Eurofans' hearts. Sometimes simplicity can win the voters over, if all the sharp vocals and over-the-top dance routines of the more uptempo songs become a little too much. However, whilst this will probably get lots of points from the likes of Ireland, it won't get much further than mid-table.
Prediction: 11-15

IRELAND: Chris Doran - If My World Stopped Turning
Predictably from Ireland, it's yet another boring ballad. Actually, this is hardly their worst entry ever. Chris, who won the second series of their third-rate Pop Idol competition, has a good voice (all the charisma of a piece of toast, mind), and the song itself has a rousing chorus. It's bound to get ten or twelve points from us, and might pick up the odd vote here and there without being consistent, but enough to avoid having to qualify next year. It'd be dangerous to rule out another win, as Ireland are always in with a chance.
Prediction: 11-15

ISRAEL: David D'Or - To Believe
Some are calling this a bit of a dark horse. This ethnic-sounding Hebrew/English ballad, sung by David D'Or completely in falsetto, could do rather well if he hits the right notes. It will certainly stand out from the crowd, which is all important for a semi-drunk Saturday night audience.
Prediction: 11-15

Lithuania LITHUANIA: Linas & Simona - What's Happened To Your Love?
This is my tip for the top. Many have written off its chances of even qualifying through to the final, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this do very well indeed. In fact, I would love to see it win the whole thing. Linas & Simona are a charming couple singing a summery, Latin, mid-tempo ditty, not unlike Latvia's 2002 winning entry "I Wanna". The Baltic bloc vote may well help this into the top ten, or even further if their performance is good.
Prediction: 6-10

MACEDONIA: Tose Proeski - Life Is A Book
This guy is clearly trying to emulate last year's winner, Sertab. An ethnic, upbeat, pop song, this is fairly likely to make it through to the final, but if it succeeds, I can't see it inspiring many televoters. "Life is a book and you gotta read it" apparently.
Prediction: Bottom 5

Netherlands NETHERLANDS: Re-Union - Without You
Most have ruled this out of qualifying for the final, but personally I think the long odds on it are a little unfair. Paul and Fabrizio may well have enough charm with their "Lion Sleeps Tonight" sounding entry to stroll convincingly into the top fifteen. It does in fact sound very like said song, and you have to wonder if they've noticed themselves, or if it was deliberate. Not a fan favourite, but that's usually a hindrance anyway.
Prediction: 11-15

NORWAY: Knut Anders Sørum - High
It's yet another guy by himself doing a middle of the road snore-fest. I think many budding entrants have realised it's not necessarily the camp disco numbers that do well anymore, and that there is a slightly older audience out there who just want to vote for a nice song. Unfortunately, 'nice' sometimes isn't good enough, and whilst this sounds a bit like "Fly On The Wings Of Love" (the original version, not XTM's), it doesn't have the same impact.
Prediction: 16-20

Poland POLAND: Blue Café - Love Song
With lyrics like "sweet song, love song", this is right up there with Greece as one of the more annoying entries. However, unlike Greece, I feel this one is going to end up right down at the bottom. Very unattractive vocals from a song that defies description.
Prediction: Bottom 5

ROMANIA: Sandra - I Admit
Well, there's always one. Sandra Ladosi is 34-years-old, and doesn't look a day over 45. This caked in make-up wannabe porn star was being tipped as one to watch, but I just don't see it. It's a nice enough song, but instantly forgettable.
Prediction: 16-20

Russia RUSSIA: Julia Savicheva - Believe Me
I do have a soft spot for this one. Not unlike Lindsay D with her imperfect vocals, I find her quite charming, despite a lack of stage charisma. However, she did win a show in Russia called "Star Factory", named with not a hint of self-irony. This song grabs you from the start, and reminds me a little of Bellefire's "Say Something Anyway". It sounds like something you'd expect to be a hit in Sweden. A nice pleasant pop song.
Prediction: 6-10

SERBIA & MONTENEGRO: Zeljko Joksimovic - Lane Moje
Serbia make their Eurovision debut this year with "Lane Moje". Of course, the Serbians enter with no preconceptions of what Eurovision is, so they seem to have taken it very seriously - which is perhaps what some other countries are in dire need of doing! It is good from our point of view that most entries are now performed in English, but it's a refreshing change to hear a language we're not used to hearing. This is a really lovely orchestral ballad, and I can see a lot of people picking up their phones and casting their vote for it.
Prediction: Top 5

Spain SPAIN: Ramón - Para Llenarme De Ti
Ramón is yet another reality TV contestant having a go at keeping their TV exposure going this year - he came second in Operación Triunfo, Spain's version of Fame Academy. The hype on this one has gone down considerably, as it was one of the first entries to be revealed, but it's a great, upbeat, Latin number. Somehow, I don't think the fact that it's in Spanish will be a disadvantage. If he can juggle a dance routine with good vocals, this should score highly, although being the first song to be performed on the big night, it may be forgotten.
Prediction: 6-10

SWEDEN: Lena Philipsson - It Hurts
A has-been pop star in Sweden has suddenly found herself popular in her home country again, after winning the massive Melodifestivalen contest. This is one of five local chart toppers in this year's Eurovision. France and Germany's entries have crossed their borders to become hits in their neighbouring countries, but it remains to be seen if any of this year's selection will be a pan-European hit. Anyway, Lena's song has been labelled as a typical ABBA-esque 'schlager', which you'll either love or hate. Quite what the lyrics "oh it really hurts, really hurts" are referring to is best not to think about. There's a theory that singing last is far from an advantage and can actually jinx a song's chances, but whether you believe that or not, I'm not convinced this will be a top scorer.
Prediction: 11-15

Turkey TURKEY: Athena - For Real
Apparently, the bosses at TRT will have heart attacks if they win again this year, but I don't think they need to worry. Athena are a three-piece ska/rock band, so they stick out like a sore thumb at Eurovision, but bless them for trying something different. It will certainly get a few votes, but I feel it's too alternative to come close to winning.
Prediction: 16-20

UKRAINE: Ruslana - Wild Dances
We can be assured of a sexy performance, and this will definitely get a big reaction in the hall if it's as dramatic as in the video. Personally, I feel the song itself is not memorable enough to actually win, although it could come close. It's quite difficult to describe, but it's very shouty and ethnic. Methinks they're trying to re-capture what Turkey did so well last year, but it's not quite as good. Plus, it's been topping many of the fan polls, which is usually considered the kiss of death! One to look out for, anyway.
Prediction: 6-10

UK UNITED KINGDOM: James Fox - Hold On To Our Love
And finally, it's our very own entry by Fame Academy also-ran, James Fox. It's probably not the best entry we've ever chosen, but it was probably our best chance out of the six songs presented to us on "Making Your Mind Up". The fact there are a few songs that sound similar could be a worry, but one thing we can be assured of is a solid vocal performance. My optimistic side predicts a result similar to that of Jessica Garlick two years ago.


Eurovision's first ever semi-final can be seen on May 12th at 8pm on BBC Three. The Saturday night final will be broadcast on BBC One, as ever, complete with Terry Wogan's commentary in his own inimitable style.

To hear each of the entries check out the official website:
WEBSITE: Eurovision Song Contest Official Site