Eurovision Song Contest - Athens 2006

   

Written by Terence
18th May, 2006

Eurovision 2006 Hello Europe! It's time for the camp shows, over the top ballads, beloved neighbours, betting odds and douze points again - the manic world of Eurovision. For the first time ever, the Eurovision Song Contest will be held in the country known for both its civilisation and its 12 points exchange with Cyprus! After Helena Paparizou's triumph in Kiev last year, the Greeks will host the 51st Eurovision Song Contest in Athens.

Helena will be one of the guest stars, alongside the hosts Sakis Rouvas (who brought Greece back to the Top 3 in 2004) and Maria Menounos. The Olympic Indoor Hall will house the 37 countries who will be pitted against each other in two separate shows - the semi-final night (where 10 songs will qualify out of 23) and the grand final, on the 18th and 20th May respectively. This year will see the debut entry from Armenia; however, Austria have withdrawn due to bad results in recent years, Hungary decided to stay away for financial reasons, whilst irregularities in their national final resulted in the controversial withdrawal of Serbia & Montenegro.

Although a lot of fan favourites have already emerged, there isn't currently a stand out one. This is mainly due to the different musical styles of this year's songs, so there should be something to cater for everyone's tastes. As of this year, only 10 songs will qualify for the 2007 final (including the 'big four' - France, Germany, Spain and the UK) so the competition is nothing if not spiced up.

So here they are, in alphabetical order, all 37 entries for the 2006 contest:

ARMENIA: André - Without Your Love
So the debuting country will open the show - only Spain has previously had this 'privilege' way back in 1961. Armenia have exported one of their current biggest stars and jumped on the ethnic-by-numbers bandwagon, as their entry is a melting pot of soul, ethnic beats, drums and bagpipes. Somehow it works and is sure to capture the viewers' attention. However, much to the song's disadvantage, singing first out of a whopping 23 entries will reduce its chances of qualifying to nearly zero. Hopefully he'll trim his eye-brows before the night.
Prediction: 11- 15 in the semi-final

ALBANIA: Luiz Ejlli - Zjarr e Ftohte
The third contestant for Albania, and for the first time, they're sticking to Albanian. That was probably a wise move, and probably the only positive remark I can say about the song. "Zjarr e Ftohte" is just another generic, ethnic-sounding tune which doesn't really go anywhere. It's completely forgettable, and I doubt it will score many points (except from the generous Balkan block). Never mind.
Prediction: 11 - 15 in the semi-final

ANDORRA: Jennifer - Sense Tu
The least successful Eurovision country has another stab at some sort of success in the competition. Their last two songs passed by unnoticed, but will this one make any kind of impact? "Sense Tu" (Without you) is a run-of-the-mill ballad sung by a girl lacking any stage charisma. The fact that she's singing in Catalan will probably not do it many favours I guess. And just how many times does she need to repeat the title?
Prediction: 21 - 23 in the semi-final

BELARUS: Polina Smolova - Mum
To quote one of my mum's favourite songs by the Tremeloes: "Silence is golden". Well, in this case, I just can't keep silent! Alright, just three words then: what... a... mess.
Prediction: 16 - 20 in the semi-final

BELGIUM: Kate Ryan - Je T'Adore
One of the Belgian government's targets was to promote their music abroad and to do well in the contest, following two failures in a row. Having organised one of the strongest pre-selection shows this year, "Je T'Adore" (I Adore You) has emerged as a clear favourite. A slice of 80s style Eurodance sung by one of the biggest Belgian stars around, the chorus is irresistible. You'll be tapping your feet by the end of the song, while enjoying Kate's unique knee-dance during the performance. This has been a favourite from day one - it's a sure-fire qualifier, and victory could be on the cards.
Prediction: Definite qualifier, Top 5 in the final

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: Hari Varesanovic - Lejla
Composed by Zeljko Joksimovic, here's the ethnic ballad of the year, sung by the so-called 'Nightingale of Sarajevo'. Lyrically speaking, it's a desperate call for the loss of a loved one, so it's no surprise the song sounds like a dirge. I'm not stripping the song off its merits, but some might find it a cure for insomnia. The backing music is striking and relaxing, but the tune's too melancholic for Eurovision. Thank God for its sudden ending, which will wake us up just in time for the next song. Still, expect this one to be a clear-cut qualifier and to receive an awful lot of points (not just from Serbia & Montenegro), aided by its excellent draw in the semi-final. Deja-vu from 2004?
Prediction: Semi-final winner, Top 3 in the final

BULGARIA: Mariana Popova - Let Me Cry I have a gut feeling this song will be one of those that I'll pity after watching the semi-final. Following their coffee-break debut last year, Bulgaria's second offering is much more powerful. This ballad still has an ethnic touch, without sounding too ethnic to the rest of Europe - if you know what I mean. The haunting and seductive chant is gently interrupted by Mariana's sensual and slick vocals which gradually build up to a captivating chorus. However, I fear there's close to no chance of this gem to qualifying. It's got the worst singing position possible, and the live version doesn't sound as stunning as it does in studio. Prediction: 16 - 20 in the semi-final

CROATIA: Severina - Moja Stikla
Severina Vuckovic's one lucky woman - and no, it's not because she looks vaguely like Angelina Jolie. After Serbia & Montenegro's withdrawal, Croatia automatically qualified for the grand final as they ended up 11th last year, so the tension of the semi-finals has been avoided. Not that they would have had any problems qualifying for the final. "Moja Stikla" (My Stilettos), as the title indicates, is a quirky song with weird lyrics (Africa paprika, cheese & salami, among others). I wouldn't go as far as calling it a novelty song, but it's definitely lightweight and humorous (to those who understand the lyrics!). Along with its traditional folk influences like the ganga singing and instrumental arrangements, this is probably the most original song this year.
Prediction: 6 - 10 in the final

CYPRUS: Annette Artani - Why Angels Cry
The first of the various peace anthems this year - there has to be at least one "Heal The World" style hymn, right?! This song starts off as a bland, old-fashioned, lifeless ballad, but eventually leads to a sort of a gospel ending, and it would definitely benefit if the live performance is spot on. Nevertheless, I'm not entirely convinced by the girl's vocals, which is a shame, as she supported none other than Britney Spears on her "Dream Within A Dream" tour. Will this one make it to the finals? I'd say no, despite the guaranteed 12 points from the host country!
Prediction: 11 - 15 in the semi-final.

DENMARK: Sidsel Ben Semmane - Twist Of Love
On listening to the angelic-looking Sidsel singing about a guy called Johnny (who doesn't know how to twist apparently), I'm finding this little ditty sweet and charming without being too sickly. A personal favourite of mine, this song owes a lot to western rock & roll, so it might well be your dad's pick of the night. Don't be put off by the old-fashioned 'twist' term - this contemporary slice of light rock & roll could be a dark horse, marred only by the fact that it's performed right after the not so dissimilar German entry.
Prediction: 16 - 20 in the final

ESTONIA: Sandra Oxenryd - Through My Window
An uptempo guitar-pop song sung by a Swedish young lady for Estonia - this method almost did the trick in 2002, and this year Estonia will be represented by the Swedish Sandra Oxenryd. Interestingly enough, the similarities in style could be due to the fact that the song is composed and written by those responsible for Estonian's 2000 entry "Once In A Lifetime" (which came fourth) and the aforementioned 2002 song "Runaway" (joint third). Can this one fare better than its predecessors? For a start, it's an almost guaranteed qualifier given its great running position, and whilst I can't see this as a potential winner, you can't rule out the chances of this song unwrapping a surprise hit.
Prediction: 6- 10 in the semi-final, 16 - 20 in the final

FINLAND: Lordi - Hard Rock Hallelujah
Lock up your kids, Slipknot are on stage! Compared to all the fairytale pop numbers, this one is indeed hard rock, which will make your mum frantically search for the remote control. Scary masks, hoarse vocals, heavy guitars (in Eurovision proportions) - you wouldn't be surprised to see this song end up on Kerrang's playlist. Finland normally play it safe by sending minimalist entries, but this year they've turned over a new leaf and sent a controversial entry. In fact, the president of the Greek consumers union has made a public plea to the Finns and Greeks not to allow Lordi to perform, because it's claimed they are a Satanist group (their name was branded a sacrilege). The decisions have been made though, and Lordi will no doubt rock the Indoor Hall, resulting in one of Finland's best results in years.
Prediction: 6 - 10 in the semi-final, 6 - 10 in the final

FRANCE: Virginie Pouchain - Il Était Temps
In the most complex national final of the year, 26-year-old hairdresser Virginie was chosen to sing "Vous, C'est Nous" (You Are Us). Ratings toward the song were low, so Virginie turned it down in favour of an allegedly stronger one - "Il Était Temps" (It Was Time). She shouldn't have bothered, as I fail to see any sort of appeal in this mediocre French ballad. So seem to think the bookmakers, as it's ranked at the very bottom of their predictions. Not a fan favourite either, and to quote (slightly) the song title, it's time the French started to think seriously about their sixth victory.
Prediction: 21 - 24 in the final

GERMANY: Texas Lightning - No, No, Never
Germany - always remembered for its bizarre and comical performances, and widely acclaimed for its abundant rock acts - is being represented by the quintet Texas Lightning. It's not just the name that sounds very American, but also their musical style: old-fashioned country-pop, influenced by the likes of Tammy Wynette among others. Still, there's something in this song which makes it particularly striking. It could be the sweet vocals, impeccably delivered by the lead singer (Aussie born Jane Comerford), or the saccharine chorus. It would fare even better were it not for the similarly old-fashioned Danish entry which will give it a run for its money. Either way, I can see Germany's shameful last place in 2005 being immensely restored.
Prediction: 6 - 10 in the final

GREECE: Anna Vissi - Everything
Much hype has surrounded the Cypriot Anna Vissi's third participation in the Eurovision. In 1978 she was chosen to represent Greece, but her participation was disqualified. However, she represented Greece two years later, and her homeland in 1982. So it's no wonder that her comeback was much anticipated. Against all odds, Vissi will represent Greece with a ballad rather than an uptempo number, but it's definitely THE ballad of the contest. Heartfelt and emotional, Vissi delivers the song in a slightly over-dramatic manner, as she deliriously shakes her head and crawls on the floor. It's currently topping the betting odds, but I think it's more likely that Anna will be the bridesmaid, not the bride.
Prediction: Top 3 in the final

ICELAND: Silvia Night - Congratulations
No, it's not a cover of Cliff Richard's engagement anthem. If you want to do a novelty song, here's how! Silvía Night is a fictional character in a popular Icelandic reality show. Her personality is highly affected by self-admiration, as she sees herself as the most famous and talented person to walk the earth. The lyrics say it all: "So congratulations I have arrived, I'm Silvía Night and I'm shining so bright, Eurovision nation your dreams will come true, You've been waiting forever for me to save you." If the rest of Europe gets the joke and votes for her, her song and on-stage climax will be seen later. I'd say she'll manage to qualify, but only just.
Prediction: 6 - 10 in the semi-final, 11 - 15 in the final

IRELAND: Brian Kennedy - Every Song Is A Cry For Love
...or a cry for help! Ten years ago Ireland dominated the contest; now they're desperate to get to the finals again. Sadly, the Irish haven't moved with the times. Kennedy's self-penned ballad could have been a winner in the early 90s, but not in 2006. I'm not saying anything against his vocal abilities, but the song is incredibly dated, and he doesn't have enough stage charisma to pull it off either. I have a nasty feeling this might stand a chance of qualifying at the expense of some other better, much more vivid track, but let's not think about that.
Prediction: 11 - 15 in the semi-final

ISRAEL: Eddie Butler - Ze Hazman (Together We Are One) From one dead ballad, to a ballad which never had any life at all. After last year's well-received, gorgeous ballad, Israel follow it up with a 'together we are one, let's save the world today' lullaby. We've already have a similar song from Cyprus, but this one is plain colourless. Too bad it'll be sung rather early in the finals - it would have served as a perfect toilet break if performed later on. Prediction: 21 - 24 in the final

LATVIA: Cosmos - I Hear Your Heart
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there's ever been a similar song in the contest. Basically, this song is sung acappella, with some simple steps as a surrogate for 'dancing'. On first listen, it may sound like a church choir being forced to sing acappella because the organ broke, but further listens reveal it's a mini stroke of genius. Of course, it all depends on the performance and the strength of their vocals on the night, so the whole thing could be easily messed up. I'm particularly interested to see how well this one will do - it could be an underestimated challenger, or it could sink like a stone.
Prediction: 11 - 15 in the final

LITHUANIA: LT United - We Are The Winners
What do you do when your country suffers unfair results, despite sending several quality songs? Try out something radical of course! This line-up of A-List Lithuanian stars includes Andrius Mamontovas (famous Lithuanian rock singer), Marijus Mikutavicius (singer and TV host), Victor 'Vee' Diawara (member of Skamp, who gave Lithuania their best result to date), Saulius 'Samas' Urbonavicius (another Lithuanian rock legend), Arnoldas Lukosius and Eimantas Belickas (a violin player). It's utopia! In reality, these guys act like politicians during a mass rally, proclaiming they're the 'winners of Eurovision'. It IS worryingly catchy and can stick in your brain long enough to be voted for, but sadly, the joke has been stretched out so far that it's likely to fall flat on its face.
Prediction: 16 - 20 in the semi-final

MACEDONIA: Elena Risteska - Ninanajna
Over the past two years, many have expressed their disappointment at Macedonia qualifying for the final (mainly aided by their neighbours) at the cost of other, possibly stronger, songs. This year, I can see them safely being spared the tag, as this song is hot! The production is brilliant, the beat is hot and the intro sounds similar to Beyoncé's smash hit "Naughty Girl". Oh, and she name-checks both Beyoncé and Shakira, a big plus in my books!
Prediction: Top 5 in the semi-final, 11 - 15 in the final

MALTA: Fabrizio Faniello - I Do
Back in 1998, Malta ended up an impressive third, but the next year they bombed. In 2002 they were the runners up, and the year after they bombed. Last year Malta finished second again, but will they break their habit of failing after achieving an exceptional result? Probably not, as this slice of schlager-Swedish-pop/dance isn't as strong as other uptempo tracks in the competition, and is far from being one of the favourites. Fabrizio's a veteran performer, having represented Malta in 2001, but the constant repetition of the title can easily do your head in. With the Romanian song performed shortly afterwards, Malta's chances will be greatly reduced.
Prediction: 21 - 24 in the final

MOLDOVA: Arsenium feat. Natalia Gordienko & Connect-R - Loca
Arsenium was responsible for the silly, yet contagious hit, "Dragostea Din Tei", as part of O-Zone a couple of years ago. Don't expect any Eurodance trash here - just ordinary trash! There are some urban influences in it and some Spanish elements too, but the lyrics are atrocious and desperate ("Every night I need her mouth"). All in all, it fails to stand out among the others. Judging by past experience, singing second isn't the best of slots, and a winner has yet to sing from that spot. It certainly won't be happening this year.
Prediction: 21 - 24 in the final

MONACO: Sévérine Ferrer - La Coco-Dance
Expect all sorts of things in this performance. As the title suggests, this song is about... coconuts! Just try and close your eyes and imagine yourself on a beach far away, under the summer sun. "La Coco-Dance" is nothing ground breaking, but it's quite pleasant. Weirdly enough, it's sung partly in French and partly in Tahitian (the official language of the French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean). Why that language was chosen and not a more popular one is beyond me, but like I said, expect anything.
Prediction: 21 - 23 in the semi-final

NETHERLANDS: Treble - Amambanda
Caroline Hoffman and sisters Niña and Djem van Dijk will represent the Netherlands as Treble. Just like the Moncao entry, this is another song which makes you long for exotic beaches and wish you didn't have to return to work on Monday, all because of its rhythm, guitars and djembes. However, it has another attention-grabbing feature. Parts of the song are cleverly sung in an imaginary language because, to quote the girls themselves, "In order to be able to get emotions across, music does not always require understandable language". Good concept - after all, it did give Belgium an excellent result in 2003.
Prediction: 16 - 20 in the semi-final

NORWAY: Christine Guldbrandsen - Alvedansen
An atypical Eurovision entry here. "Alvedansen" (The Elves' Dance) is an easy-listening folk number, accompanied by traditional instruments like the fiddle, and an angelic chorus. She's convinced many with her performance in the national final, and barring a vocal disaster, I can see high points flying to the Scandinavian country this year.
Prediction: 11 - 15 in the final

POLAND: Ich Troje - Follow My Heart
Cast your minds back to three years ago when Poland last achieved a Top 10 placement. Do you remember the freaky red-haired guy singing a song in three languages? Well, it's still the same guy (now with green hair), and as a special treat, there's a guest appearance from O-Jay of The Real McCoy fame. Just like in 2003, the song's sung in three languages - Polish, English and Spanish - possibly to attract more voters? With O-Jay's rapping, irresistible groove and Michal's rapping, this actually stands a chance of doing well, but I wouldn't put my money on it.
Prediction: 11 - 15 in the semi-final

PORTUGAL: Non-stop - Coisas De Nada
Change the record! This is just so terribly cheesy. The girls sing "Gonna make you dance, gonna make you smile", but that won't apply to me as I'll just change the channel for three minutes. Some have compared this to the classic "Waterloo". I guess ABBA would be offended by that.
Prediction: 21 - 23 in the semi-final

ROMANIA: Mihai Traistariu - Tornero Mihai is an excellent vocalist - he can reach five octaves and one third, which is rare for a male voice. The song itself is pure Eurovision, with its catchy hook and refrain, (sung in Italian for some reason), heavy rhythms and a Latin feel. A definite floor-filler and a potential chart-friendly hit, so much so that I believe this could finally turn out to be Romania's year. Prediction: Winner?

RUSSIA: Dima Bilan - Never Let You Go
What's on offer from the biggest participating country this year? A simple, yet very likeable ballad from a handsome guy, which has gradually shaped up to be a favourite. Sometimes simplicity can win over exuberance, and with the aid of the strong Soviet block, I can see this one scoring really well.
Prediction: Top 5 in the semi-final, 6 - 10 in the final

SLOVENIA: Anzej Dezan - Mr Nobody
This song actually faced disqualification for being a cover of some minor hit, but no steps have been taken against it. It's performed by 19-year-old Anzej, who doesn't seem to know it's hazardous to mess with plugs with wet hands. With an arresting title, this song is somewhat peculiar - its intro makes you believe it's a piano-ballad, but it eventually turns out to be a disco camp-fest with cringe-worthy lyrics. His accent only makes it even more appalling. I wouldn't mind seeing this one qualify, but the draw isn't in its favour.
Prediction: 16 - 20 in the semi-final

SPAIN: Las Ketchup - Bloody Mary
Yes, it's THEM. Last year Spain sent some random impersonators, but this year the Ketchup sisters themselves (who are a quartet now) will carry the Spanish flag with a completely un-Las-Ketchupy song! Ignore the idiocy that springs to mind when you think of these girls and THAT song. "Bloody Mary" (referring to the cocktail containing vodka, tomatoes etc, not to the mythological character) is a flamenco-styled song which isn't actually trash. What lets it down is the 'duty free, duty free' verse which makes it sound like a junior Eurovision song.
Prediction: 16 - 20 in the final

SWEDEN: Carola - Invincible
I feel sorry for the Swedes. They've sent ABBA-tinged songs ever since, well, ABBA, and always obtained outstanding scores. Last year they tried something radically different and failed spectacularly. So this year they're back to the same old formula: Schlager-pop, "oooh, our love's perfect" lyrics, and an immediately memorable and sing-along chorus sung by 1991 Eurovision winner Carola. After all, if a formula isn't broken, why bother fixing it? Her Melodifestivalen performance, complete with wind machine effect, convinced many, and I'm sure it will have the same effect on many in Europe. Some, however, do wish that the wind machine blows her away.
Prediction: Top 3 in the semi-final, 4 in the final

SWITZERLAND: Six-4-One - If We All Give A Little
The award for the cleverest people in Europe goes to... Switzerland! Last year they were represented by an Estonian girl band and finished eighth. This year they've gone a step further (or five) with a tactical strategy to obtain votes by recruiting singers from Malta, Israel, Sweden, Portugal and Germany. One of the singers is Andreas, who used to be a member of Alcazar. The song is embarrassingly clichéd - "if we all give a little, we can make this world a home for everyone." Someone pass the sick bucket please!
Prediction: 16 - 20 in the final

TURKEY: Sibel Tüzün - Superstar
Istanbul-born Sibel will represent Turkey in this year's semi-final with a song best described as 'ethnic music meets disco-pop'. The song does have its strong points (like the spoken verses and the drum break in the middle), but all in all I fail to see what's so good about it - it's way too repetitive and monotonous for my liking. All the same, it's not doing badly in the betting odds and polls, so a slot in the final is quite likely.
Prediction: 6 - 10 in the semi-final; 11 - 15 in the final

UKRAINE: Tina Karol - Show Me Your Love
Originally titled "I'm Your Queen", this is the Ukraine's fourth participation. Baby-faced Tina was recently awarded the 'Best Female Artist' award in the Ukraine. "Show Me Your Love" is an upbeat pop song, which would definitely work in a club due to its strong beats and the guitar strings break. Depending on the stage presentation, I'm tipping this song for big things.
Prediction: 6 - 10 in the semi-final, 16 - 20 in the final

UNITED KINGDOM: Daz Sampson - Teenage Life
Last but not least, here's the British entry, a radically different song from all the rest. Daz (of Uniting Nations fame amongst others) won the 2006 edition of "Making Your Mind Up" by miles with "Teenage Life". We all know it - the rap song about how teenagers are quite misunderstood at times, along with a school girls choir. It's infectious, it's definitely original, and the stage performance should stand out among the rest. Quite where this will end up at I honestly don't have a clue, but I have a feeling that a Top 10 placement could finally be on the cards.
Prediction: 6 - 10 in the final

The semi-final will be broadcast on BBC 3 on Thursday 18th of May, while BBC 1 will broadcast the final on Saturday May 20th.

WEBSITE: Eurovision Song Contest