Eurovision 2012: How turned on are you by Greece’s ‘Aphrodisiac’?

Greece has finished in the top 10 in every single Eurovision final since 2004. That’s an unsurpassed record. Yet there are mutterings in our comments section and elsewhere that ‘Aphrodisiac’ sung by Eleftheria Eleftheriou – watch the winning national final performance here – may not uphold the tradition.

Gert thinks it is this year’s “fanwank” and questions its ability to qualify. Thing is, other fans don’t seem that impressed either. Emma finds it “generic, boring and tuneless” and eurovicious is also “extremely sceptical”. Trashy ethnopop is not everyone’s cup of tea. As a song ‘Aphrodisiac’ is clearly not rocket science – the only reason to find it in the stratosphere is because it’s so light and fluffy.

But I’m reminded of a quote from ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’: “For people who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.” With the usual caveats about staging – and this is a song dependent on performance – my early hunch is that Greece will confound the doubters once more and find itself in the top 10 again.

‘Aphrodisiac’ follows the template of Greece’s most successful entrants: pretty girl sings mainstream Greek pop tune with ethnic elements. It’s brought them third place in 2001 with the immense ‘Die For You’, the title in 2005 with the ruthless ‘My Number One’ and another third place in 2008 – Kalomira with the cute ‘Secret Combination’.

The main qualification here is that the 2005 and 2008 results came in an era of 100% televoting. Greece has numerous voting allies around Europe, of course. That continues, as last year’s televote third with the less-than-universal but well-performed ‘Watch My Dance’ indicates.

National juries have tended to show Greek entries less favour in the last few years, though it’s worth pointing out that even the paper-thin eurodance of Sakis Rouvas’s ‘This is Our Night’ wasn’t crucified by this constituency. Nonetheless, juries arguably make life harder for songs like ‘Aphrodisiac’ which make no bones about not being Mozart.

Greek ethnopop is a tried-and-tested formula that fans seem to have grown tired of, but some may be ignoring its numerous advantages with the televoter: alongside the dance routines and flesh on show, the viewers find it all so recognisably…Greek. It reminds them of sunny summer holidays, ouzo, Zorba, feta salad.

‘Aphrodisiac’ is as cynical in ensuring this as ‘Secret Combination’ and ‘My Number One’, with the bouzouki-style sounds of the opening riff that returns rather effectively throughout. Within a few seconds, you need no reminding which country this represents, which can’t be said of any of its uptempo rivals, such as Romania, Norway or Ukraine.

The song is much more straightforward and unchallenging than any of those. Everything ‘Aphrodisiac’ has to offer is plain from the first listening – it’s superficial and instant. That may be a weakness with the juries, but a strength with televoters.

Eleftheriou doesn’t have to work too hard in the verses, which are kept short, potentially allowing her more freedom to “dance like a maniac” when the performance requires. The chorus is pretty vacuous, but it’s a catchy vacuity. The maniac/aphrodisiac rhyme is nonsense of course, but a memorable nonsense of the kind that Britney Spears might come up with, and the “uh-uh-uh-uh-uuuuuh” part reminds me of the latter’s ‘Til The World Ends’.

I think the song deserves more credit than it’s generally been given. It’s at least as well structured and hook-laden as ‘Secret Combination’, the previous Greek entry it’s most similar to. Unlike ‘Secret Combination’ it has a nice pre-chorus transition (“Over and over I’m falling”), the chorus of ‘Aphrodisiac’ is not as repetitive, and the opening riff works well on its own and over the main refrain, which is a suitable ending.

There were a few other things that helped ‘Secret Combination’ up to third behind only heavyweights Dima Bilan and Ani Lorak, however. Firstly, it had an excellent draw. Secondly it had a winning performance from Kalomira. She may not have been particularly strong vocally, but she had charm and a highly effective dance routine in the instrumental bridge that involved lots of tit- and ass-shaking.

It was incredibly sexy, but managed to come across as girlish naughtiness rather than something more slutty. Eleftheriou’s choreographers should follow this lead rather than repeat her knicker-flashing performance in the national final. It’s vital because songs like ‘Secret Combination’ and ‘Aphrodisiac’ ultimately boil down to the package offered by the performance.

Therefore, much rides on Eleftheriou and her team’s shoulders. She’s certainly got the looks, and all the evidence suggests she can dance too. I tend to agree with Boki that, “Greece has a strong match between the song and the performer”.

She finished behind this year’s Cypriot entry Ivi Adamou in the 2009 edition of Greek X Factor. YouTube footage here and here suggests to me that Eleftheriou is a stronger vocalist despite her earlier exit. Perhaps she is the Greek equivalent of Lucie Jones, who was a controversial early eliminee in the UK version of the same talent show also in 2009 at the hands of a vocally inferior act who ended up sixth and also take part in this year’s Eurovision – Jedward.

Nonetheless, we haven’t seen Eleftheriou sing this without playback, and have no idea how good the performance will be. Therefore, those backing or laying Greece at the pre-rehearsal stage are taking a chance either way. If the staging fails to lift the song, the juries and a poor draw at number three could see this fall in a semi packed with uptempo numbers, despite a reasonable amount of allies on hand.

However, Bexley reminds us of “Greece’s ability to get the staging and presentation of the song right for Eurovision.” That was certainly true of their 2011 entry, and staging this kind of ethnopop performance is second nature to them, as 2008 and 2005 showed.

If ‘Aphrodisiac’ is staged as effectively as these examples, it should sail into the final and may finish higher there than many of its critics imagine, continuing Greece’s fine record. What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

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36 comments to Eurovision 2012: How turned on are you by Greece’s ‘Aphrodisiac’?

  • Tim B

    Hi Daniel, I have to say I completely agree with your views on the Greek entry. My first reaction to it was that it sounds unmistakenly ‘Greece’. My second reaction was that their (very reliable) televoting fans are going to absolutely love it. The uh-uh-uh-oh-oh hook in the chorus is suitably infectious and perfect for a Saturday night singalong. I also can’t see the juries punishing this song too harshly, so long as it is performed to their usual standard. I have even heard people predicting Greece as a potential non-qualifier when personally I think this is a sure qualifier in the weaker semi. Finally, it has to be stated that the singer is undoubtedly one of the sexiest performers in the competition which in this case is very suited to the song. It is not a win contender by any means but definitely one to watch for the top 10 market.

  • Emma

    I have to say, I do agree that it will qualify easily and it probably would even in the stronger heat with fewer gag songs, away from Cyprus. Because even though I don’t like the song and I think it sounds cheap in addition to everything else I called it, it IS catchy. Often, I find myself singing, “You make me want your aphrodisiac” (awkward :P) even though I’ve only heard the song a few times. It’s memorable and it’s the kind of thing that does well but doesn’t win–Greece’s signature these days. Plus, the current staging is reminiscent of My Number One which we all know was quite the hit.

    Actually, watching it again, it feels like Greece copied and pasted MNO. I say this will do well and you’re right, top 10 is possible–but I won’t be happy about it.

  • Ben Cook

    Hi Daniel

    Just wondered what you think of Lithuania? After seeing his performance in Amsterdam I’ve started to think he could potentially cause a massive upset. His vocal is flawless so will get jury points. The blindfold may be a little silly, but it’s memorable. I love the backflip. Mid-tempo songs seem to do much better than anything else these days.

    I think it could be a bit of a dark horse with a late draw in the final. Has to be worth a nibble at 150/1.

    • Daniel

      Hi Ben, Donny was indeed impressive in Amsterdam. I wouldn’t rule out a repeat of Lithuania’s 2011 showing when a surprise qualifier with jury help before fading in the final. Changing tempo halfway through a song is a Eurovision ‘sin’ that tends not to get rewarded (ask Paolo Meneguzzi), and I find the whole package a bit too dated despite his excellent efforts to sell it.

    • Tim B

      The blindfold gimmick wasn’t used in Amsterdam, so I reckon there’s a good chance it’s been dropped altogether. Rehearsals will tell us more though.

    • eurovicious

      It’s never gonna win.

    • Nick D

      I nibbled Lithuania at about 80/1 when I thought a different song would win their national final. I don’t think this one’s got a hope in hell, and if I get a sniff of a chance to lay it back off at any stage, I’m out like a shot.

  • Shai

    It’s true that the Greek entry is catchy and follows everything a Greek entry does, by the book.However even by Greek standards, this is sub-standard and cheap. If anything it reminds me of last year Armenia, a sure qualifier before the contest, which found itself eventually not qualifying, quite deservedly, if I may add.
    While I expect it to qualify, I wish it won’t, because it might force Greece to re-think its input as a whole.As it is, Greece doesn’t make any effort to try something new.

    • Daniel

      You make an interesting point Shai. At the pre-rehearsal stage last year, I felt that Armenia would qualify for a number of similar reasons: cheap but catchy tune sung by a pretty girl for a country with voting allies.

      I was proved wrong here, and on this basis, have played the two songs back-to-back. Watching the performance of ‘Boom Boom’ in last year’s semi is a reminder of just how poor Emmy’s vocals were. To compound the problem, the backing singer was just as bad.

      Greece actually has more guaranteed points in its semi this year than Emmy had (and let’s not forget she only missed out by one point), and I’d be very surprised if what we see on stage from Greece this year is anywhere near that weak.

      Actually ‘Aphrodisiac’ is fluff, but ‘Boom Boom’ is bargain basement even in comparison.

    • David

      To be fair to Greece, they did try something very new last year.

  • Uncle Si

    Thanks for this article; its analysis takes my reasoning much further than the ‘it’s Greek and boring’ I’d come up with myself. Actually Eleftheria’s physical performance on the videos from Amsterdam (not her vocal one which is harder to judge) made me totally reassess Greece’s chances. It looked a world away from the national final in some Arndale Centre somewhere. I think I’ll find it hard to exclude from a top 10 prediction.

  • Nick D

    It’ll come 7th.

    …that probably needs some sort of carefully thought out rationale behind it, doesn’t it?

    It’s slightly-below-average Greek uptempo. It’ll come 7th. 🙂

  • tpfkar

    If last year’s Greek dirge somehow made the top 10, this will have no trouble.

    I actually see it as the strongest out and out dance song in the whole contest (just ahead of Cyprus, significantly ahead of Sweden and Ukraine, and light years ahead of Romania and Bulgaria.) Assuming the performance and staging comes together I think it’s the slickest bit of Europop on the stage; surefire qualifier and probable top 10. Top 4/5 if everything comes together including draw.

  • eurovicious

    I actually agree with all of the points in this piece. Compared with Greece’s previous efforts in this genre, I find the song weak – specifically the chorus. Arguably, the rest of the song (verse, instrumental hook, pre-chorus, middle-eight etc.) is fine, and it has no structural problems either, but the very weak chorus lets it down – there’s nothing wrong with Aphrodisiac that a much better chorus wouldn’t fix. (It reminds me of Sugababes’ In The Middle in this regard.) I also don’t think it’s fanwank, as I haven’t heard much said in favour of it – this year’s main fanwank songs (I hate that word but appropriately enough it seems to have stuck) I’d say are Sweden and Spain. But it’s upbeat, fun, clearly identifies itself as Greek and summery throughout, and will likely boast engaging staging and a lively performance. Eleftheria is right for the song and is a sufficiently charismatic performer to sell the song and make it really fun on stage, and vocally she was fine on Saturday. It’s simple, immediate, fizzy pop: what you see (and hear) is what you get. However, it’s not as contemporary or well-written as Secret Combination. Kalomira’s song was mainstream and commercial enough to pick up a fair amount of radio play, whereas I can’t see Aphrodisiac thriving outside of the contest (or within it, for that matter).

    I’m still slightly on the fence as to its qualification chances. It’s a lightweight, very jury-unfriendly song with an early draw in a semi without many of its usual allies – UK, France and Germany are voting in SF2. I can seriously see it doing a Haba Haba or Boom Boom, though I wouldn’t really be surprised to see it scrape through either in this weak semi. But I’m not inclined to put money on it either way – I just think it’s too close to call.

    If it does make it to the final, I also wouldn’t put money on it going top 10. Greece’s placings so far in the 50%-jury era have been 7th (Sakis), 8th (Opa) and 7th (Watch My Dance), and I’d argue all of those were more jury-friendly than Aphrodisiac is. I can see it landing somewhere more like 9th-14th in the final – maybe getting a televote in the lower reaches of the top 10 but a jury score that’s mid-table or slightly lower. This is Greece’s most lightweight entry since 2007, and Yassou Maria only managed 7th pre-jury – with 50% jury, it’d have likely been outside the top 10. Admittedly it was terribly performed and Aphrodisiac should fare better on this front, but I think it’s too inconsequential a song to approach Greece’s placings of the past 3 years.

    • Nick D

      I’d somehow overlooked just how well Watch My Dance performed with televoters last year, easily beating Azerbaijan on televotes to win its semi despite a very lukewarm jury result and managing a very solid 3rd from a mediocre draw in the final.

      Indeed, Greece has won the semifinal televote in 3 of the last 4 years; Sakis Rouvas was beaten by Alexander Rybak, Aysel & Arash and Urban Symphony, but their ability to mobilise televotes clearly remains a formidable weapon. Probably formidable enough even with limited jury support to come, ooh… around 7th in the final? 😀

    • eurovicious

      Have to come back to this comment post-contest – I said in April that I could see Greece “maybe getting a televote in the lower reaches of the top 10 but a jury score that’s mid-table or slightly lower”. Actual results: 9th in the televote, 18th in the jury vote.

      Oh yeah baby. *does seksi dans*

  • I must watch out that I won’t overanalyze things. But if I look to Greece’s previous qualifications, they have been pretty damn lucky with their draw:
    – 2008 semi final, 19th and last start grid
    – 2009 semi final, 13th start grid out of 19
    – 2010 semi final, 13th start grid out of 17
    – 2011 semi final, 19th and last start grid

    Not to mention the fact that their song was rather unique in each semi-final. Songs performing right before or after Greece were usually different enough to make Greece stand ouit. Moreover, in its own music genre, Greece did not have lots of competition:
    – 2008: Only Armenia was the biggest competitor.
    – 2009: Norway, Azerbeidzjan. Greece itself that year wasn’t a typical Greek pop song IMO.
    – 2010: Serbia only. It really stood out.
    – 2011: Actually, the first time Greece did not send the average pop song. Instead a mixture of etno-ballad vs. rap.

    Most importantly, I think this year’s Greek entry cannot win a matchup from Greece 2004, Greece 2005, Greece 2006, Greece 2008, Greece 2009, Greece 2010 and Greece 2011. I think it’s easily their weakest entry in years, Greek etno-pop or not.

    And we also should not forget that Greece was an automatic finalist in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

    Then there are the demographical factors. Bulgaria and Macedonia are not voting in semi final 1.

    So this year I think Greece will have more trouble to qualify:
    – They have a rather lacklustre start grid. 3rd.
    – They have the weakest entry in years.
    – Romania, Cyprus, Moldova and Ireland are more or less in the same easy-pop-genre. But all of these four I find pretty much stronger than Greece. You know what I think about Cyprus.
    – Then we have the gimmicks from Austria and Russia. I actually see both qualifying.
    – In the first half of the semi final, I actually think Iceland, Albania, Romania and Belgium stand out more.
    – I think juries will actually rate Romania, Ireland (look at last year) and Cyprus higher than Greece. Same goes with the ballads from Belgium, Albania, the etno-song from Iceland and the singer-songwriter song from Denmark. And it’s only the third year that juries will decide for 50% the fate in the semi finals
    – I think televoters this year will predominantly look to Russia, Austria, Ireland, Moldova and Romania.

    Having said that I think Greece can go through, but barely. It’s a 100% borderliner for me.

    Everyone thought Armenia and Norway would easily qualify on their own merits last year. And yes indeed, televoters liked it, But juries disagreed wholeheartedly and disqualified them completely. Even Russia wasn’t safe for the wrath of the juries.

    Let’s see who gets right. But do not forget: I will change my opinion after the rehearsals 🙂

    • eurovicious

      That’s excellent analysis Gert – I agree with all of it apart from Austria qualifying. You raise some really good points, particularly about Greece’s luck in the draw in recent years, their songs generally standing out from the field (unlike this year), and Bulgaria and Macedonia also being in the other semi which I hadn’t considered.

      • Boki

        You should know better than that eurovicious, Macedonia is giving Greece only peanuts so its absence is irrelevant.

        • True, that was a bullocks argument. My apoligies. But we tend forget that in the UK, Netherlands, Germany and even France there are high populations of Greek immigrants. To a lesser extent than Turks in those countries, but still. And all these countries are voting in semi final 2.

        • eurovicious

          Cheeky Boki! I’m aware that Greece and Macedonia don’t exactly get on, but the Balkan music scene is quite integrated and I was working on the basis of an ethnic Greek minority in Macedonia and Bulgaria, just as Greece has Slav, Albanian and Aromanian minorities and Macedonia is home to Albanians and Aromanians (like Kaliopi and Tose Proeski). The southern Balkans are historically quite ethnically mixed, even extending the southern tip of Italy which has been home to significant Greek and Albanian minorities for centuries. Now that I’ve checked, it turns out that Macedonia no longer has any significant Greek minority but Bulgaria is home to an estimated 25,000 Greeks. And the stats show that Bulgaria (in the other semi) has historically given more points to Greece than any other country (with Turkey a close second): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgaria_in_the_eurovision_song_contest#Voting_history_.282005-2011.29

  • fiveleaves

    I agree with those who see it as a very weak Greek entry.
    It’s not in the same league as Secret Combination.
    Having said that I suspect it will sneak into the top 10 and there’s virtually no chance that it won’t qualify.

  • Please check out our review at http://www.esfmagazine.nl/?p=8796 about semi final 1. Have a look at our qualification ‘chances’ (take it with a grain of salt) and what we, Dennis van Eersel, me and Erik Bolks, thinks about the TOP 10 rating so far.

  • eurovicious

    Actually, bearing in mind all of the above, I think it’s worth a small lay at the current odds on Betfair. Represents value and the returns if it does fail to qualify are pretty high compared with the outlay.

    • Tim B

      I’ve had a small lay on Cyprus NTQ (had some issues with bwin and Unibet and was just dying to put my money where my mouth is…) I know we agree on a lot of things but I’m very interested to see which one of us is right on this – I don’t think there is room for both to qualify.

      • eurovicious

        I can see anything happening – both, neither or either qualifying. I don’t think either of us will be “right” or “wrong” whatever happens – which is why I only put a very small amount on.

  • Easy qualifier. Greece’ song ist straight, credible and pleasant. People will be relieved after Montenegro and Iceland. And it is much better than the silly behaviour of the Romanian entry, which is highly overrated.

    Allies for Greece in Semi 1:
    (points given to Greece since 2009 in percent,
    since that time we have the mixed voting system)

    Cyprus 100%
    Albania 92%
    Belgium 73%
    Romania 64%
    San Marino 58%
    Hungary 58%
    Spain 40%
    Russia 40%
    Azerbaijan 37%
    Finland 32%

    • eurovicious

      But every year since 2009, it had a much better and more credible song – arguably standout in all three cases and each time with a late draw. The stats don’t tell the whole story.

  • David

    Pretty bad 1st rehearsal:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baLdYJ2MLEg

    Can’t help but getting strong Armenia 2011 vibes here. Although I obviously realize that they probably will qualify, I just can’t take it for granted.

    • eurovicious

      It’s much worse than Boom Boom!

    • Emma

      I see them qualifying too but not with the ease they did in 2011 or 2010 (won the semi, nearly won the semi). Juries will undoubedly hate it and the terrible draw will hopefully deter some televoters. And those oh-ohs sound completely off…too bad they make up half the song.

    • David

      Couldn’t make out any backing singers either, although it looked like there was one? They should perhaps have one or two more…

  • Marianna

    I’m Greek and I gotta say that’s exactly what I said when I saw Eleftheria’s performance! Stop copying Paparizou for Christ’s sake people are tired of that! And both you and me were right it didn’t make it to the top 10 after all these years of success….

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