Preview of Eurovision 2003



Saturday, May 17, 2003

In only a week, over 6000 will be sitting in the Skonto Hall, Riga to hear 26 songs from all over Europe battle it out in the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest.
Millions will tune in all over the world to this annual pop fest.
We'll all be waiting for the Eurovision theme "Te Deum" by Charpantier to herald 3 hours of festivities.

No that's not pronounced "Tedium".

Here's my personal view on this year's runners & riders.

Listed in the order performers will appear in Riga, and the ratings are my guess at where they will end up:

1. Iceland
Singer:Birgitta Haukdal
Song: Open Your Heart

Cheerful, catchy bright opener sung by the lead singer of icelandic band Isafar. The original version of this song had problems with sounding like Richard Marx's "Right here waiting for you", but they made changes and weakened it. Still, its a great song which is only disadvantaged by being on first. Doesn't she look like last year's singer for Estonia, Sahlene? Top 10

2. Austria
Singer: Alf Poier
Song: Weil Der Mensch Zählt

A joke song delivered in German that shows the Austrians have their own sense of humour. Total bilge, and only worth watching for the stuffed animals and crazy backing singers. Bottom 5

3. Ireland
Singer: Mickey Harte
Song: We've Got the World Tonight

Ireland's Pop Idol show spawned this derivative song, which is a near clone of the 2000 Song contest winner "Fly on the wings of love". Competently done, and has a certain something. To be reckoned with, but not my thing at all. Top 10

4. Turkey
Singer: Sertab Erener
Song: Everyway That I Can

Sertab is one of this year's older singers, and her experience shows in this piece of Turkish delight. Their first all-English song, it drives along switching between belly dancing music, hip-hop & R&B, and yet remains very Turkish. Terrific stuff, but it could be hard to put the burning sensuality into a stage performance rather than a video. Top 10

5. Malta
Singer: Lynn Chircop
Song: To Dream Again
Malta send yet another nice romantic ballad sung by a nice girl-next-door type. Pretty forgettable, but you won't hear that from the Maltese. they have no football team, and this contest is the European Cup for them. Mid ranking

6. Bosnia-Herzegovina
Singer: Mija Martina Barbaric
Song: Ne Brini
Techno dance number. The English version has terrible lyrics, but it's expected be performed in Bosnian. Mija looks a bit like the UK's Lyndsay from 2001, but with the right dancers on stage this could go down well. Middle ranking

7. Portugal
Singer: Rita Guerra
Song: Deixa-me Sonhar 
Dreary slow-moving ballad from an experienced torch singer. Why no torch, I say. Bottom 10

8. Croatia
Singer: Claudia Beni
Song: Vise Nivam Tvoje
This year's youngest performer, 17-year old Claudia has been performing for years in the group Teens. She's studying hairdressing which may account for the fondness she shows for long mis-matched hairpieces stuck on her head. Nice Britney-style song, with plenty of dance movement and perhaps an over-cheesy routine from the backing singers. I really like this one, but most don't. Top 10

9. Cyprus
Singer: Stelios Konstantas
Song: Feeling Alive

Dancy techno song, but not really lively enough for its title. Mid ranking

10. Germany
Singer: Lou
Song: Let's Get Happy
Some fans love this very corny song sung by ageing flame-haired Lou, but its combination of cheesy lyrics, relentless upbeat melody, insane backing dancers, and downright ugly singer turn me off. Writen by the team that won the contest for Germany in 1982 you can see how much they have degenerated since then. Bottom 10

11. Russia
Singing Duo: Tatu 
Song: Ne ver', ne bojsia 

High energy. The bookies have this as the one to beat, but there's a lot of question marks. Can they sing live, and will their mock-lesbian act turn voters off more than on? There's also how it will sound - the mix on the compilation is very weak after the hard noisy original version, which I think is easily the best song this year. They will certainly make it an interesting week in Riga, and will keep the show in the headlines. Not a winner, though. Top 10

12. Spain
Singer: Beth
Song: Dime
Punky 22-year old Beth is into metal - in her face and body, and it's all I notice about her. Uptempo dance number selected from Spain's Pop Idol show, but written by a successful duo, Andermay. Spain will be watching in millions, and will again be disappointed. This gets nowhere, but quite rapidly. Mid ranking

13. Israel
Singer: Lior Narkis
Song: Many Words for Love
Every musical style you could ask for in this uptempo ragbag, plus the obligatory dancing girls marching as if they were in the Israeli Defence Force, which they probably are. No class, though. Seems like something from the 1960s. Bottom 10

14. Netherlands
Singer: Esther Hart
Song: One More Night

Powerful rouser, somewhat typical of the better Dutch ones. A real shout-along, it isn't fancied, but I think it could surprise us, but no winner. Great singer. Top 10

15. United Kingdom
Singing Duo: Jemini
Song: Cry Baby
Pale R&B effort with a few dance steps. Boy/Girl, she pretty, he, er..pretty. Goes on for about 15 minutes. Enough said. Bottom 10

16. Ukraine
Singer: Olexandr Ponomaryov
Song: Hasta la vista 

Kistchy rubbish with a Freddie Mercury opening, but the vocal range is wrong for the singer, and its really just Abba's "Kisses of Fire" in the chorus. Allegedly will be performed with a circus act on stage. Well, it will beat watching the singer. Ukraine had so much confidence in their own writers that Israelis were commissioned to write this. Must have a been a spare. Bottom 10

17. Greece
Singer: Mando
Song: Never Let You Go

Good singer, second-rate Jennifer Rush style song. Pop to the loo around here. Bottom 10

18. Norway
Singer: Jostein Hasselgard 
Song: I´m Not Afraid to Move On 

Curiously people really seem to really fancy this Gilbert O'Sullivan-styled romantic ballad sung by pretty boy Jostein. I say sung, but he seems to be off-key the whole song. I say song, but the lyrics appear to have been translated from Norwegian by Altavista. They all rate the melody, but I say what melody? Grating rubbish for me, which I rate below Alf Poier for Austria. Bottom 10

19. France
Singer: Louisa
Song: Monts Et Merveilles

Slowish. Below par after recent French efforts, this one creeps in and eventually seems inoffensive, perhaps even nice. Mid ranking

20. Poland
Singing Trio: Ich Troje
Song: Zadnych Granic

Punkish group with a great old-fashioned Imagine-esque song about "No Borders". Yeah, peace, man, and all that. In German & Polish to obscure the message, and sung by another flame-haired singer, this time male. Good anthemic feel, but the lead singer's gravelly voice lets it down. Mid ranking

21. Latvia
Singing Trio: F.L.Y.
Song: Hello from Mars

Easily the most immediate song. Uptempo and plenty of eye candy too from the pretty Yana, and her suitors Martins & Lauris who seem to believe Heaven is on Mars.
Still one of my favourites since first hearing despite the terrible dictionary-style English lyrics which offer "Not afraid of a blade we have to cross today, but I'm scared of being shared by someone else". I guess a reference to kinky group sex. Good luck with that Yana, but its a good 'un. Top 5
22. Belgium
Celtic Band: Urban Trad
Song: Sanomi

Celtic style years after it is out of fashion. Tell that to Enya, you may say, but this isn't Enya. Sung in an imaginary language, I guess they have nothing to say. Pleasant elevator music. More memorable than some this year. Bottom 10

23. Estonia
Band: Ruffus
Song: Eighties Coming Back

Looks awful, Brit-pop style in appearance, and also vaguely in musical style, but its really more like last night's curry coming back. Pass the bucket, will you? Bottom 10

24. Romania
Singer: Nicola
Song: Don’t Break My Heart

Last year's mock-operatic Romanian song did pretty well to come 9th. Most of expected it to bomb, so here is a funky fairly modern fast Bomfunk-style song we fans like, so maybe it'll bomb? Nicola is no spring chicken, but she has a bright look about about her, and this is a great number. The lyrics may grate a little - "Have you ever known what good friends are for?" gets repeated sooo often - but its so well done I still love it. The best Romanian entry so far. Top 10

25. Sweden
Singing Duo: Fame
Song: Give Me Your Love

Another Abba-esque Swedish effort with the obligatory boy/girl line up. One of the weakest from the Swedish selection of 32 won, I think,  because both singers are from Sweden's Pop Idol. Depressing pattern setting in, don't you think? Bit like Sweden's Friends from 2001, but not as catchy, nor well sung, nor do they look as good, or am I just missing Nina from Friends? Good placing will help it. Top 5

26. Slovenia
Singer: Karmen Stavec
Song: Nanana

Imaginative lyrics are not to be found in this Euro-pop thing. Karmen had her chance at the 2002 contest stolen by a bunch of Slovene cross-dressers, so as consolation she gets to go this year with this lightweight second-rater. Ho-hum. Mid ranking

All in all, not a vintage year. But we'll be drinking it in next week, and even the worst will seem better, and Alf Poier might actually seem funny.

Hats off to all those singing in a language other than English, and yes, I am including Norway. We Europeans are not the same (Vive la difference!), and I miss the foreign languages and the orchestra. The orchestra gave it some class, but I guess kitsch it is.

Fortunately for some (Austria, are you listening?) this year you can come last and not be excluded next year. In recent years duds have led to countries taking a break for year to allow other countries in, but no more!
So many want to be in te 2004 contest that every country will get a go - in the new Friday show. Those that do well this year will get a by for the Friday and can sleep in until the Saturday show. This means scoring poorly this year doesn't mean your country is out, but it has to go the Vauxhall Conference League play off on the Friday, beating off the oppostion for a crack at the Saturday qualifiers.
Oh, UK, Spain, Germany, & France get an automatic pass to the Saturday anyway.
Makes no sense does it?

Still, back to this year, make sure you don't miss it. Saturday 24th May at 8pm UK time. It will be fun, trust me!