11 – Albania – Hear My Plea – Aida & Frederik Ndoci.
Grizzly looking dude with a suspiciously full head of hair, with something of the Renato Out Of Renée & Renato about him. Operatic Balkan ballad. Gypsy fiddle. Duller than a very dull thing. Let’s move swiftly on.
12 – Denmark – Drama Queen – DQ.
Wa-hey, it’s a man in a frock, with plumage! How SUBVERSIVE! To ram home the “royal” theme, there’s also a giant crown on stage, in which a disco mirror ball nestles. This won the vote at the Retro Bar’s Douze Points night, which is generally the kiss of death – but there’s something rather lovable and touching about DQ’s Cabaret Nite galumphing, and I particularly like the Sideways Formation Shuffling which they’ve nicked from Israel’s customary box of tricks. Camp Not Dead! Shouting SCHLAGER SCHLAGER SCHLAGER mega mega white thing! We are pre-disposed to Like Lots!
13 – Croatia – Vjerujem U Ljubav – Dragonfly & Dado Topic.
More hairy gnarly old rockers, boo hiss! High Camp versus Authentic Rock Stylings FITE FITE FITE! Ils ne passeront pas! Dud to the max, dude!
Sorry, readers. It’s been a long day, and mid-table hysteria is kicking in. Nearly halfway there! Just fifteen songs to go! We can make it if we try!
14 – Poland – Time To Party – The Jet Set.
Well, let’s try to look on the positive side. The gherkin-shaped cage is a nice touch, the long-legged ladies are pretty (I’m struggling already), and there’s some pleasing chair work, not to mention a brief bout of deeply erotic Formation Bumming. But oh dear, hip-hop/R&B done Euro-style rarely works, and this is no exception. “I’m a little bit crazy! Crazy like a baby!” Yeah, whatever.
15 – Serbia – Molitva – Marija Serifovic.
OK, let’s get this out of the way first: Marija is, shall we say, a “homely” type, whose anti-glamour stands in sharp contrast to all the other dolled-up young misses on display – including her own backing dancers, who occasionally give her a reassuring stroke or two. (You’ve lucked out there, Marija. Work it, girl!)
Interestingly enough, this homeliness actually works in her favour (much as it did for Malta’s Ciara in 1998 and 2005) – mainly because, lo and behold, what we have here is a superb ballad, sung brilliantly, with real passion and commitment. This has been wowing absolutely everybody on the live blogs, and is rated as a dead cert to qualify. (We shall ignore the nasty person in the Youtube comments who likened the somewhat static performance to a “bored picket line”.) If it goes on to win, I for one shall be delighted. Why, I might even have a little cry. It has been known.
(Oh yeah, and there’s a cracking dance remix of this floating around. They’ve covered all bases.)
16 – Czech Republic – Malá Dáma – Kabát.
Crikey, talk about contrasts. This section of the draw has been gathering nothing but one stars and five stars from me so far – and here’s another one star. No, I’m not a hard rock fan. It’s the only musical genre other than opera to leave me stone cold (particularly when it’s this croaky and creaky), and I find myself powerless to change my prejudices.
Along with Georgia, Serbia-minus-Montengro, and Montenegro-minus-Serbia, the Czech Republic is the fourth and final of the countries to be making its Eurovision debut. Sadly, this is a far from auspicious start.
17 – Portugal – Dança Conmigo – Sabrina.
Poor old Portugal. Long saddled with one of the contest’s poorest scoring records, one wants to wish them well, but rarely finds adequate reasons to do so. Strictly in Portuguese terms, this ain’t so shoddy. OK, so it’s a bog standard piece of Latin American pop which we’ve heard a thousand times before, but at least it has that most elusive of Portuguese qualities: a tune. And the fan dancing presses a few tribal buttons.
18 – FYR Macedonia – Mojot Svet – Karolina Gocheva.
Never discount the power of the Balkan bloc vote, Part 94. Macedonia managed to qualify last year with a fairly forgettable ditty, and since “Mojot Svet” has the virtue of mild memorability, it should sail through on Thursday. I like the way the chorus rhymes “muzika”, “granica” and “balkanska”, although this is somewhat diminished when Karolina switches to English at the end. This one’s all about the consonants, y’see.
19 – Norway – Ven A Bailar Conmigo – Guri Schanke.
Hang about, didn’t we hear this two songs ago? Brassy, slightly dated Latino pop with the word “conmigo” in its title? As some wag on All Kinds Of Everything observed, this is “like two women turning up at a party with the same dress”. I can’t choose between the two, and neither will anyone else, meaning that the Latino vote will be disasterously split on the night.
Which is a shame for Norway, as they’ve fielded not only “the official face of L’Oreal cosmetics” to sing the thing, but also the King of Scandi-Schlager-Pop, Thomas “Not A Misprint” G:son, the composer of last year’s “controversial” Swedish entry, “Invincible” by The Blessed Carola, Peace Be Upon Her.
Better dancing, but no fans. Hmm, it really is too close to call.