Thursday, May 9, 2013

Eurovision Song Contest 2013!

For my European friends, no explanation is necessary. So here's the scoop for everyone else: In 1955, the alliance of public service media entities known as the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) came up with the idea of an international televised song contest. Without interruption, the Eurovision Song Contest has been broadcast every year since 1956, making it one of the longest-running television programs in the world. Since satellite television didn't exist when it began, only viewers in Germany, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland saw the early contests. These days the competition is broadcast throughout Europe, but also in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Jordan, New Zealand and the United States, even though those countries cannot participate. It's wildly popular, pulling in an audience of about 600 million annually.

All active members of the EBU can take part and this year 39 countries are sending artists to compete. For everything you ever wanted to know about the history of Eurovision Song Contest, including this year's event, click here. Who became the most successful Eurovision Contest winner of all time? A little Swedish pop quartet called ABBA. (Although Celine Dion didn't do too badly either.) The 2013 winner, chosen via a combination of televoting and juries, will be announced May 18th. It's all done live for the contest, but a lot of the performers make music videos to promote their songs internationally, too. I can't show you all 39 acts here, so I picked five that are likely to end up in the top ten based on buzz and momentum. Have a look...

Robin Stjernberg - Sweden. Sweden's Loreen won last year with an irresistible dance-pop confection called "Euphoria." Can cheerful, energetic former boy band member Robin Stjernberg take Sweden to a second consecutive win?

Robin Stjernberg

I don't think Stjernberg has the winning tune here, but he's adorable and lots of fun to watch. I can imagine every teenage girl on the European continent voting for him. And maybe a few gay guys, too.

Cascada - Germany. It's a band -- and a pretty successful one -- known for bombastic electro dance-pop. Vocalist Natalie Horler is the one featured prominently in all their videos... because, well, look at her. And she can sing.

Natalie Horler of Cascada

Cascada's entry is called "Glorious." It's enjoyable, despite the utter banality of it. In the music video, unfortunately, she's wearing a tacky dress with a silly train and unflattering bustier that is precisely the kind of garment that gets you kicked off Project Runway. Psst... Natalie... please don't show up at the contest in that thing. I'm begging you.

Krista Siegfrids - Finland. There are usually a couple of novelty tunes in every Eurovision contest and some of them fare pretty well. Buranovskiye Babushki, an ethno-pop group of Russian grandmothers came in second last year with a song called "Party for Everybody." Krista Siegfrids has perhaps this year's liveliest tongue-in-cheek entry, "Marry Me."

Finnish beauty Krista Siegfrids
There's a lot of buzz about this song, perhaps because Krista is ridiculously watchable and the lyrical hook is, I kid you not, "uh oh uh uh a ding dong." It has the same stuck-in-your-head quality as last year's "Call Me Maybe." You have been warned. And here's the nutty video for "Marry Me." Side note: for those of us who are not drawn to beautiful Finnish women, there's some male eye candy here, too. The object of her affections is handsome, but I'll take either of Krista's campsite buddies.

Margaret Berger - Norway. She's a Norwegian Idol runner-up with two successful albums and a growing fan base outside her home country.

Norway's Margaret Berger
Berger's song -- "I Feed You My Love" -- is a big electronica anthem with teeth. I don't recall anything sounding like this at all last year. I think she'll easily end up near the top, but won't win because this is not a love song, an obvious dance track or a song with a discernable feelgood message. In other words, it sounds like a song that was not written to win a contest. It's solid; I like it. Side note: the majority of artists sing in English rather than their own language even though there's no requirement to do so. There's a certain whimsical charm in hearing Berger's pronunciation of words like cocoon and reward.

Emmelie De Forest - Denmark. First things first: she publicly claimed that her great-great-grandmother was Queen Victoria of England. When that was disputed by various genealogists, she just dropped it. So, there's a chance she's crazy, which at least helps you differentiate her from all the other attractive young women in this contest (and there are scads of them).

Denmark's Emmelie De Forest
According to virtually every gambling site out there, De Forest's "Only Teardrops" is the favorite. Even I have to concede it has winner written all over it. Cloying and melodramatic, it sounds exactly like something Celine Dion would have recorded at her chest-thumping My-Heart-Will-Go-On peak. Yup, this is one of those songs you pretend to loathe, but secretly sing in the shower or alone in your car. You'll put this on your iPod and tap your foot right along with it. So, just surrender.

Here are five more songs with good odds of getting into the top ten. Just click on the link to take you to the video.

Zlata Ognevich - Ukraine (This has a kicky show tune quality about it.)
Dina Garipova - Russia (Includes the remarkable lyric, What if we chose to bury our guns.)
Marco Mengoni - Italy (He sings it in Italian; has the wickedest hair in the competition.)
Anouk - Netherlands (This has a certain melancholy charm -- it's a favorite of mine.)
Nodi & Sophie - Georgia (Nodi is a bit of a hunk.)

And finally, If you've been wondering whatever happened to '80s diva Bonnie Tyler ("It's a Heartache," "Total Eclipse of the Heart"), she's representing the UK with "Believe in Me."

Peace out,

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