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.