Azerbaijan Runs to Victory

Tonight in Dusseldorf, before a worldwide audience, a new victor of the Eurovision Song Contest was crowned. Azerbaijan won a contest which was close for a while, but eventually saw Ell and Nikki move away from the pack to forever go down in history as the winner of the biggest musical event on the planet.

The show opened with a reminder of the reason the contest was in Dusseldorf, a rendition of last year’s winner, Satellite. Lena didn’t sing it (well, she had enough to think about), instead, presenter Stefan Raab performed it in a very Raab style, with a little help from his friends, co-presenters, Anke Engelke and Judith Rakers and a band. Lena made a brief appearance at the end, to enormous applause from the audience.  Then, there was a video which showed the huge transformation the stadium undertook from football stadium to song contest venue. Unlike the last time Germany hosted the contest in 1983, when it took 20 minutes before the first song was heard, it only took 13 minutes this time! They were introduced by video postcards which showed people from each country who have made Germany their home.

Finland – Paradise Oskar – Da Da Dam – The opening song was one of the surprise finalists. In an age when elaborate presentation and pyrotechnics abound, this was a lesson in simplicity. Paradise was alone on stage strumming his guitar along to his gentle, environmentally friendly song. The video wall was used only to emphasise the theme with an image of a globe. He wore the same recycled shirt he wore in the semi-final. It looked like it would disintegrate if put through the rigours of a washing machine.
Bosnia-Herzegovina – Dino Merlin – Love in RewindDino is no stranger to the contest, he has composed and performed entries for his country before. His performance showed his experience as those around him made their mark. There was a man with a trumpet who couldn’t stop moving, and a lady at the keyboard who gave the impression of being a stranger to the instrument.

Denmark – A Friend in London – New Tomorrow – After nearly succeeding with a rock anthem last year, the Danes tried a pop/rock song this time. The band, whose name derives from a visit made to the city by the lead singer, were certainly enthusiastic. The performance was stronger than the semi-final. Their efforts were well received, even if the lead singer was trying to compete with Jedwood for the worst hairstyle in the contest.

Lithuania – Evelina Sasenko – C’est Ma Vie – It was time for a bit of class as Evelina stepped on to the stage to perform her big ballad. Quite why she felt the need to use sign language during the second verse is anyone’s guess and it didn’t enhance the song. Indeed, it detracted from it. However, at its core, there was still a very worthwhile song. Not an obvious contender, but one that had the potential to surprise.

Hungary – Kati Wolf – What About My Dreams? – One of the favourites was next to perform. An up-tempo pop number, it would have caught the viewers attention immediately. Kati’s outfit was slightly off the wall, perhaps a bit like a gift-wrapped Madusa, but her song would have overshadowed all that. The song was mostly in English, but Kati couldn’t resist a dip into Hungarian towards the end.

Ireland – Jedward – LipstickJedward survived the semi-final, despite only UK viewers (who weren’t voting in the second semi-final) knowing who they are. Their idiosyncratic way of doing things had clearly appealed to a wider audience. Take away the hype and publicity machine and what you had was two lead vocalists relying heavily on their backing singers to make them sound good, and a video wall displaying overt images to distract from the bad dancing. Maximum points from United Kingdom seemed a certainty.

Sweden – Eric Saade – Popular – This type of schalger goes down well with the fans, but is often overlooked by everyone else. It was liked enough to make the final, but a top 10 finish was far from guaranteed. It wasn’t likely to be high on the jurors scores, who, as industry professionals, seem to look for different things in a song to Joe public. Still, it was an enjoyable three minutes that would have given everyone a feel-good factor. Eric’s voice was more confident than in his semi-final.

Estonia – Getter Jaani – Rockefeller Street – The performance started with a magic trick, Getter made her duster-like cloth turn into a cane. Fortunately it worked, failure would have meant disaster. It was one of the higher rated songs in the contest if the betting is anything to go by. The stage was transformed into a mini city and the video wall was used badly. Images of city buildings moved very quickly across the screen, making eyes of viewers become out of focus they moved so fast.
Greece – Loucas Yiorkas feat. Stereo Mike – Watch My Dance – Rap is a feature of the Greek song. This is sometimes risky as any song with rap in it has yet to make an impression on the scoreboard. As it comes before the melodic, ethnic part of the song sung by Loucas, listeners may already have been put off. That said, Greece has been one of the better placed nations over recent years, so, although a win didn’t look likely, a high finish could not be ruled out.
Russia – Alexej Vorobjov – Get You – Talking of successful countries, few can boast a better record than the Russians recently. This success has mostly been built on contemporary pop, including Dima Bilan’s 2008 winner, Believe, and this year’s effort is nicely in that mould. It’s not as instant as some, but still memorable. Grease wasn’t the word, but seemed to be the inspiration of the styling.
France – Amaury Vassili – Sognu – Time for the first of the ‘Big 5’. Eurovision has never closed its ears to any genre. Two songs ago, we heard rap, and now it was the turn of opera to take the stage.  Amaury was promoted as the world’s youngest tenor, and his song is a beautifully crafted piece of pleasure. Justifiably one of the favourites, there was plenty to suggest it would be up there at the end. The sky backdrop was very striking and the direction made it look as if Amaury was standing on the top of a mountain.

Italy – Raphael Gualazzi – Madness of Love – The clamour of fans for Italy’s return to the contest after 14 years had finally bore fruit. Madness of Love is not what you would expect from an Italian song. It’s jazz! Raphael won the section of the Sanremo festival (considered to be the mother of the Eurovision Song Contest) for new artists, and was chosen by a specially commissioned jury at the festival to mark Italy’s return. Not your average contest entry, it would be interesting to see how it would be received. Raphael coped well with one of the more vocally demanding songs of the night.

It was time for a commercial break around the countries that needed one, so everyone else witnessed Judith interviewing Bosnia’s Dino.

Switzerland – Anna Rossinelli – In Love for a While – Of all the qualifiers from the semi-finals, the biggest surprise was arguably Switzerland. The jazz club cabaret sound would have sounded more distinctive had the draw been kinder and not put the Swiss immediately after the only other jazz song in the contest, from Italy.

United Kingdom – Blue – I Can – This is the song that fans in United Kingdom have been waiting for years to hear from their country. While other nations have been entering famous acts and contemporary pop songs, UK viewers have chosen songs more befitting a children’s party. Not this time! Blue would have been recognised by all those watching, whatever country they were in, and I Can is the modern track that says the BBC is taking the contest seriously. Hopes, if not expectations, were very high.

Moldova – Zdob si Zdub – So Lucky – The last time Zdob si Zdub represented Moldova, they brought with them Grandma in her rocking chair. This time, they were accompanied by a horn playing unicyclist and all wore traditional Moldovan hats, which were somewhat on the tall side. The tactic was clearly to make the song easier to remember, which would have succeeded. However, the image was completely out of place for what is a regular rock song.
Germany – Lena – Taken by a Stranger – Even with your eyes closed, you would have known the German entry had taken to the stage, such was the roar in the arena for Lena. Her winning song from a year ago was a cool piece of techno-pop, and Taken by a Stranger is very much of the same ilk, although it sounds completely different. Dancers clad in silver catsuits danced round her intentionally jerky routine.

Romania – Hotel FM – Change – Romania’s song was a catchy piece of MOR which is easy to sing along with. The lyrics are optimistic, so the performance was a suitably positive one. The chirpy piano accompaniment helped the song, while the vibrant lighting didn’t! This was another performance which had upped its game from the semi-final.

Austria – Nadine Beiler – The Secret is Love – A failure by Austria to reach the final may well have seen them withdraw next year. No doubt they put in a lot of effort in finding this song and were hopeful of success. A lot depended on Nadine as the melody has some big moments that could go wrong, as well as moments where the slightest deviation from perfection of the big ballad would be very obvious to all ears. If any of the X-Factor finalists are looking for a song to cover, they might want to have a listen to this.

Azerbaijan – Ell & Nikki – Running Scared – Azerbaijan has been a regular visitor to the final. Their entry this year was one of the most instantly likeable. The strong melody and simple staging was all together very effective. Another high finish looked likely. Baku anyone?

Slovenia – Maja Keuc – No One – The direction in the semi-final lost Maja on the stage a bit. The large stage and video wall did her no favours. That was a pity, as she gave a vocally strong performance of one of the best ballads on show.

It was time for another commercial break and an interview with Franch singer, Amaury Vassili.

Iceland – Sjonni’s Friends – Coming Home – The Icelandic song was the most emotionally charged of the night, due to the tragic circumstances in which the band found themselves in Dusseldorf. The best description of the style is modern ragtime. The guys kept their feelings in check and gave a very good performance to make their friend proud.
Spain – Lucia Perez – Que Me Quiten Lo Bailao – The translation of the title is They Can’t Take the Fun Away From Me, and fun was certainly the order of the day for everyone on stage. The cheerful song had a lot of bounce and arm waving from Lucia and co. a higher finish than in recent years seemed a possibility, even if outright victory didn’t. 

Ukraine – Mika Newton – Angel – The song was in danger of being overshadowed by the clever sand art being drawn on stage by winner of Ukraine’s Got Talent, Kseniya Simonova, whose skill was portrayed on the video wall for all to see. At times, Mika’s voice was quite pure, but strained for the bigger parts of the vocal.
Serbia – Nina – Caroban – The dresses took viewers back to the 1960’s. The song was also retro, although more 1970’s psychedelic than 1960’s pop. Nina’s vocal was very strong and it was a wise decision to sing in Serbian rather than English.

Georgia – Eldrine – One More Day – The Georgian song came across very well on screen during the semi-final, and the kind draw suddenly propelled the Evanescence like rock group into the realms of contender. The performance was extremely powerful and professional. 

To remind viewers of what had been, a brief clip of all the songs was shown. In case that wasn’t enough, the process was followed again. 

While the votes were being counted and added to the jury scores, it was time for the interval act. This part of the show is always awaited with a certain amount of anticipation. This year, it was a very musical act and a combination of performers joining together. Jan Delay, Cold Steel Drummers and Flying Steps kept the toes tapping and the hands clapping. Jan is a singer, Cold Steel Drummers are a band with as many trumpet and trombone players as drummers, and Flying Steps are a dance group.

After this had finished, Stefan and Anke revealed the Green Room behind the stage, then it was ime for the start of the climax, the voting!!!

The voting was based on the votes of national juries in each country, who voted during Friday evening’s dress rehearsal and phone photos from viewers. Each was combined to give the overall votes from each country. To save time, the points from 1 to 7 were put automatically on the scoreboard, and then the jury spokesman gave the top 3 scores.
The Russians were first to give their scores, which were given by 2008 winner, Dima Bilan. Twelve points were awarded to Azerbaijan. After five rounds, Greece was in the lead, aided by a twelve from Cyprus. Another former winner, Ruslana, gave the Ukrainian votes. A few points later, and Sweden, Ukraine and Azerbaijan made up the top 3. Half way through the voting and Sweden was in the lead, followed by Azerbaijan and Denmark. As the voting continued, Bosnia started to come into the picture.  Azerbaijan’s lead had strengthened by the time Georgia had been the 25th country to vote. By the time the last country, Latvia, had voted, Azerbaijan were so far ahead, Ell and Nikki could not be caught. On its return to the contest, Italy came second and Sweden, which for a while, looked like the winner, came third.

So, Baku will start preparing itself for the invasion of arty types next May.

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