Eurovision 2005 semi-finals preview: Part Three.

It’s been pretty good up until now, hasn’t it? Comedy metal, formation scratching, big brassy Bassey-eque belters, rockin’ grannies, oompah salsa, and more invisible lesbian drummers than you could shake a stick at. Unfortunately, things take a marked downward turn from this point on, and never really recover until… well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. So pour yourself another extra-large glass of whatever gets you through, and brace yourself for… The Boring Bit.

19. Switzerland – Cool Vibes – Vanilla Ninja.

Oh, how the mighty Ninje have fallen! Such delirious good fun two years ago, when Club “Kung-Fu”nearly qualified for Estonia, but just look at them now that they’ve defected to sensible old Switzerland: all grown-up and mature, and brandishing proper instruments like a Proper Rock Band, and coming over all “heavily influenced by Incubus” in their press releases, and… well, this isn’t the Ninje that we knew and loved way back when. As it is, Cool Vibes is a moody mid-paced rocker; not without merit, but far from what the girls are capable of. (Incidentally, the song’s two composers were also responsible for the German entry, which you’ll be hearing on Saturday.)
53 points.

20. Croatia – Vukovi Umiru Sami – Boris Novkovic.

Actually, this isn’t so bad. It’s high time we had some full-blooded, hairy-chested Balkan bombast, and this is a fairly respectable example of the genre. It lilts along in 3/4 time, with a chorus that fairly begs you to sway from side to side en masse, and is accompanied by the usual curious selection of indigenous instruments (including, unless my eyes deceive me, a man who looks like he’s blowing into a haggis). Nice open-throated choral work towards the end, as well.
65 points.

21. Bulgaria – Lorraine – Kaffe.

Not. A. Hope. In. Hell. Look, I don’t want to ruin all the surprises here, but guess what they’ve chosen as the key rhyme for “Lorraine” in the chorus? (Apart from “sweeter the pain” and “again and again”, that is. They’re a given.)

Answer: “the rain”. As in: “I can still remember Lorraine… in the rain.” Genius!

Marginally redeemed by some passable smooth-jazz inflections in its arrangement, I dare say this might have gone down well at a Rotary Club dinner-dance in 1978. As for the fast-paced international milieu of Kyiv in 2005… forget it.
33 points.

22. Ireland – Love? – Donna & Joseph McCaul.

All these years on, and the Irish television authorities are still terrified of fielding a song which might stand even a ghost of a chance of winning, just in case they get saddled with the expense of hosting the damn thing next year. (For those who might have forgotten, Ireland won the contest four times in five years during the 1990s.) Aren’t those credit card bills paid off yet? Couldn’t they hire Bono to front a Drop The Debt campaign? Because the grisly alternative is inflicting us with yet another bunch of fresh-faced provincial hopefuls, barely able to believe their luck, mining the same “enthusiastic amateur” seam as our own dear Gemini in 2003.

Oh, just slap me, will you. I’m being far, far too mean. The song itself may be dire, but you can’t help loving the two chirpy siblings for their eager, up-for-it, “we’re going to have the time of our lives, no matter what happens” attitude. Proper Spirit Of Eurovision, that is. Long may it continue.
47 points.

23. Slovenia – Stop – Omar Naber.

Speaking of enthusiastic amateurs, our next contestant has a day job as a dental technician – so he’s sure to put a gleaming smile on millions of faces tonight! (Sorry – I’ve been reading more press releases than are strictly good for me.) Penned by the writer of one of my favourite Eurovision entries ever, Nusa Derenda’s storming Energy (7th in 2001), this is stylistically very different but almost as dramatic, starting as a typical Balkan Bombast ballad before exploding in a hail of yowling rock guitars about halfway through. Although initially unimpressed, I’m slowly coming round to it. Or maybe it’s just that prolonged exposure to all thirty-nine tracks has warped my normal sense of aesthetics out of all recognition. (This usually happens. Hazard of the profession.)
57 points.

24. Denmark – Talking To You – Jacob Sveistrup.

From a dental technician, we move next to a teacher in a special needs school for autistic children. Which we applaud, of course. But sadly, our applause doesn’t extend to this unexceptional mid-tempo pop-reggae effort, which passes straight through us without leaving any trace of its existence behind. Rather like tofu, in fact. Buck up! Only one more to go!
41 points.

25. Poland – Czarna Dziewczyna – Ivan and Delfin.

If for no other reason, this deserves to qualify for the final purely so that Wogan can trot out that evergreen line: “Ah, the old melodian!” And qualify it should, as this has more life in it than the previous seven songs put together. Melding the aforesaid melodian with a breakneck gabba-techno tempo, a twanging Shadows-esque guitar break, lashings of gypsy campfire chanting, and a chorus which consists entirely of the word “laj” (pronounced “lye”), this is topped off by a camp-as-tits performance, equally camp pink and white outfits, and a final flourish of strategic costume shedding from Ivan himself. What more could any self-respecting Eurovision fan possibly want?
70 points.

My ten favourites:
1. Norway (comedy metal)
2. Estonia (formation scratching)
3. Hungary (Magyar Riverdance)
4. Moldova (rockin’ Grandma)
5. Lithuania (polished Scandi-pop)
6. Romania (drummers from Stomp)
7. Monaco (orchestral flourishes)
8. Israel (classy ballad)
9. Austria (arriba-oompah)
10. Poland (laj laj laj laj…)
(Not forgetting Glennis from The Netherlands and her Big Arm Movements: a certainty to qualify.)

Don’t forget: BBC3, 20:00-22:15 tonight. See you back here tomorrow for the next set of previews, in which I shall be coining a helpful new acronym: BOWEI.

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