Last night, the London Eurovision Party took place. Seven of the 2011 acts took to the stage to perform their songs, including returning winner Dana International.
One shouldn’t read too much into performances in cramped nightclubs that often have poor sound. In 2009 quite the gamble was generated on Ukraine’s Svetlana Loboda on the basis of these shows, only for her to miss out on the Top 10 come the big night.
Last night, my opinions didn’t really change much on the chances of any of the performers. Here’s what I think of each in turn.
We started with Poli Genova, who is singing ‘Na Inat’ for Bulgaria. Her vocals are excellent, and she’s a charismatic performer. I just wish she had a more interesting song to work with and it wasn’t in Bulgarian.
Still, competing in the second semi-final which is weaker based on strength in depth, Bulgaria can’t be discounted behind the more obvious qualifiers, especially if jurors reward her talents.
Anna Rossinelli, the representative for Switzerland was next. She was charming, elegant and vocally impressive on stage. After the first 1m20seconds of ‘In Love for a While’ you are completely won over. However, the song title seems apt as it loses all structure from that point onwards, going downhill until a weak ending.
Qualification will be tough for friendless Switzerland in that first semi full of big hitters. (I’m tempted to say they have a Swiss Alp to climb.) It depends on televoters and jurors making their minds up in that first part, and forgiving or ignoring the rest of the song. I won’t be betting on it at the moment.
Following this was Romania and the group Hotel FM. Another effortless vocal here, although their song, ‘Change’, didn’t really catch the audience’s imagination, for what is supposed to be a happy-clappy singalong number.
Nonetheless, the Romanian entry follows a Eurovision formula that I have found very profitable over the years: adequate song + decent singer + plenty of voting allies + weak semi = definite qualifier. I don’t see their 100% qualification record in any danger.
Dana International got a heroine’s return back in the country where she took the Eurovision crown for Israel in 1998. It was a shame, therefore, that she sung only a little bit over playback of her 2011 entry ‘Ding Dong’.
I’d previously slated this number as one of those ‘Songs You Would Only Hear Today In A Bad Provincial Gay Bar’, and nothing I saw or heard yesterday changes that opinion. Nonetheless, like Bulgaria, with so much dross in the second semi, she can’t be discounted from qualification.
Malta’s Glen Vella came next. He showed all the requisite enthusiasm to deliver a decent live performance of ‘One Life’. No doubt he will enjoy being on the Eurovision stage in the first semi-final, but it’s extremely difficult to envisage this cheesy number proceeding to the final.
San Marino and their representative Senit followed. She used playback for the main rendition of her entry, ‘Stand By’, but sang a piece of it acapella afterwards. This is one of those nice, inoffensive songs that often passes the audience by completely.
As with Switzerland, qualification will be extremely tough for San Marino from that first semi, and would require a very good set of jury points. It’s not totally beyond the realms of possibility, which the odds currently suggest, but I’m not counting on it happening either.
Finally we had Raphael Gualazzi performing his number, the not very Eurovision-y ‘Madness of Love’ for Italy. This jazzy piece will not be what the audience expects from the contest, but I always think that how good something is within its genre is more important than the genre itself, and there’s no doubting Gualazzi’s musicianship.
It’s speculation but I think juries are going to reward his obvious talents for a higher placing than many consider likely, even if a challenge to the main contenders seems less probable.
He may still have an impact near the top of the leaderboard, however. Being drawn in the final right after France’s popopera favourite ‘Sognu’ by Amaury Vassili remains an intriguing back-to-back combination. It’s even more speculative to suggest this may not be in France’s favour.
After all these performances, the crowd partied the night away, and I happily danced to other numbers I had previously slated as ‘Songs You Would Only Hear Today In A Bad Provincial Gay Bar’.