The Eurovision Song Contest 2006
The Semi Final


And so for 2006 we go to Greece.
A country with a billion years of history - Socrates ("so-crates" if you're a Bill&Ted fan) was Greek, as were the really old philosophers. It seems strange that Greece is often thought of as a 'backward' country in Europe, given that they had a civilisation and culture long before anybody else in Europe. Okay, Iceland might have the first Parliament, but I think the Greeks have the ruins of what was an impressive society predating that.
This is reflected in their style. A big, boldly lit and impressive stage. Sounds rather like the Olympics that they pulled off two years ago, much to the shock of the rest of us who didn't think they'd stand a hope of being ready in time (I think nowadays we could say that to Ian Livingstone!).
We begin; 23 countries battling out for a place in the semi-final. There will be only ten victories, and an unlucky thirteen will go home and never be heard from again.
For those living on another continent, or perhaps another planet, there are nearly fifty countries taking part in the song contest. In past days, those that scored badly in the past contests would not appear the next year. I'm not certain how the remaining countries were sorted into those who will take part and those who will not - suffice to say that some thought the system was not always fair or sane. The answer? Two contests. The twenty-odd songs that may or may not be in the semi can fight it out for one of ten places in the final. One could argue that semi contest winners have an advantage with two live performances, though remember that the semi final is often pushed off onto a digital channel, which will obviously lower the potential audience. Besides, the big four (UK, France, Spain, Germany) are always guaranteed a place in the final due to finance contributions to the EBU - despite some less than satisfactory scores recently.

Our presenters are Maria (there's a surprise - a Greek called Maria!) and Sakis. Isn't Sakis a type of Greek cheese? Maria dresses nicely. Sakis is maybe got a bit of the SAGAPO vibe with the leather outfit.
Ready? Let's do it!

Comments added after the contest are set off, like this.



The Songs

1 Armenia "Without Your Love"

Performed by André, in English.

I missed the title of this due to a cat in the way of the signal! It was a bright colourful affair, I'll give it that.



2 Bulgaria "Let Me Cry"

Performed by Mariana Popova, in English.

A total change of pace now, for the Bulgarian entry. A nice song, but perhaps too slow?



3 Solvenia "Mr. Nobody"

Performed by Anzéj Deźan, in English.

And now we're back to something with more flair and rhythm. It's an odd line-up tonight!



4 Andorra "Sense Tu"

Performed by Jenny, in French (?).

A big woman with a loud voice singing a song much in the style of Kelly Clarkson, only in French. I quite liked this one. But, well, what can we say about those backing dancers? Gina G overload, huh?



5 Belarus "Mum"

Performed by Polina Smolova, in English.

Loads of energy - but "Mama-mama-mama can't you see how I love you?". I liked the flesh-coloured shirt to make it look as if she wasn't wearing anything under that top.
A friend wrote to me with his comments, and his sister liked the Belarussian girl's top.
That's the thing, you see, you remember the top but not so much the song. But, let's face it, does it matter what the viewers remember - so long as they do remember when it comes time to vote?



6 Albania "Zjarr E Ftohté" (?)

Performed by Luis Ejlli, in Albanian.

A bloke in a white suit. But... the man to his left - is he going to be playing a dead goat? What is that thing? The Arabic version of bagpipes?



7 Belgium "Je T'Adore"

Performed by Kate Ryan, in French.

Having watched German music TV (MTV & Viva) in the past, I'm aware of Kate Ryan - who seemed to sing lots of Mylène Farmer songs nowhere near as good or quirkily as Mylène herself.
This song, "I love you" in English, is sung in French and English. I liked the fluourescent mic stand - but it takes more than that to make a good song.
On the whole I liked the song, but it sounded a little on the tinny ('cheap') side. Perhaps it needed something more going on in the bass?



8 Ireland "Every Song Is A Cry For Love"

Performed by Brian Kennedy, in English.

A simple arrangement consisting of a timpani, strings, and guitar. It was a nice song - if you can get over the title that sounds like a country song - and hopefully it will rescue Ireland from their recent embarrassments. Goodness! Ireland couldn't stop winning in the '90s - what's gone wrong? Maybe they should get the Corrs to come in and win it for them? Well, for this year it is down to Brian Kennedy.
This is what I'd imagine Alec Balwin to look like if he let his hair grow.



9 Cyprus "Why Angels Cry"

Performed by Anney Artani, in English.

Starting quiet and building up, you can't deny she put everything into this - but from what I could hear, I'm not sure she actually said why they cry. Perhaps it was because of that truly awful dress!



10 Monaco "La Coco-Dance"

Performed by Séverine Ferrer, in French.

Straight from the carribean this one - and an amusing song at that! It was fluffy and silly in roughly equal measure. I think this one ought to go through. My logic? Well, look at Ruslana's "Wild Dances" - and that only went and won, didn't it?



11 FYR Macedonia "Ninanajna"

Performed by Elena Risteska, in English.

There are a lot of woman wearing extremely short and tight-looking shorts this time. Is that the "style" this year? The song, sadly, didn't make as much of an impression on me.



12 Poland "Follow My Heart"

Performed by Ich Troje, in English, Polish, and German?

One man walking around the audience rapping, with four people on stage on 19th century theatre overload. The song appears to be in English, Polish, and German. I don't know why, but I liked this one.
If you look at the right-hand picture carefully, you'll perhaps see that the other male singer had green hair...!



When we aren't in songs, we get the obligatory clips of Greece. I was surprised. I expected it to look like the Costa Del Sol (lots of tall white cement buildings), and all the men looking like Dexy's Midnight Runners. To be honest, it didn't seem that much different to southern Italy or, perhaps, Croatia.
Here's a picture of a Greek ruin. There are lots of ruins in Greece, evidence of an advanced civilisation from long ago. I wonder what we'd leave behind in a few thousand years time? Half-lives?



13 Russia "Never Let You Go"

Performed by Dima Bilan, in English.

A man with a white t-shirt that looks like he wrote 13 on it in marker pen, two ballerinas, and a ghost in the piano. Right... Okay Nataliya - all is forgiven - come back, please!



14 Turkey "Sûperstar"

Performed by Sibel Tûzûn, in Turkish.

Horrible high and low pitched singing and tattoos. If this gets though, I'll stab myself to death with a plastic teaspoon!



The postcards begin with one of three girls opening shutters. Wasn't this girl one of Atomic Kitten?



15 Ukraine "Show Me Your Love"

Performed by Tina Karol, in English.

A bouncy little thing and a skipping rope come together to put on a song that couldn't be, or sound, more like a Shakira number if it tried!



16 Finland "Hard Rock Hallelujah"

Performed by Lordi, in English.

Uhhhh... I understood WigWam'a glam-rock... but I'm afraid words completely fail me for this.




A quick visit to "The Green Room". Which, as usual, is anything but "green"!


17 The Netherlands "Amambanda"

Performed by Treble, in English and Dutch?

Three girls singing a "gitano" song and sexing it up a lot. They look like they had fun.



More postcards... please, people, get a room! :-)


18 Lithuania "We Are The Winners"

Performed by LT United, in English.

Oh yuck! A football inspired song. "We are the winners of Eurovision", talk about ego! It's only marginally a better a song than Turkey's entry. Deserves to fail miserably.



19 Portugal "Coisas De Nada"

Performed by Nonstop, in Portuguese with chorus in English.

This is more like it - getting back to the style of the '80s when Eurovision songs sounded like Eurovision songs. I see that fluffy pink dress is back, well, half of it...
Unfortunately their pronunciation makes the chorus sound like "Gonna make you dance, gonna make you smile, I'll make you start thinking sad things for a while"... Of course, it could be my wonky brain, but I've listened to my recording of this three times now back-to-back and it really does sound as if that's exactly what they are singing! I'll have to check the Eurovision site to see if they've got the proper lyrics.



20 Sweden "Invincible"

Performed by Carola, in English.

Recognise her? She won it fifteen years ago. Now the song is okay, but I think a lot of what did it for her in '91 was the extremely well choreographed performance.
This had some interesting visual aspects, but will it be enough? I hope so. Then Carola can join ranks with Johnny Logan.
After this song, we cut to an audience member who had a scrolling LED array embedded in his shirt - it said "Sweden 12 points". Clever!



21 Estonia "Through My Window"

Performed by Sandra, in English.

A nice uplifting song, it's a shame Sandra didn't put more effort into the dance routine to go with it - Eurovision is visual as well. It doesn't get going until halfway through. If I understood the German presenter, he said she is from Iceland, and is the Barbie of the contest. Hehe...



22 Bosnia & Herzegovina "Lejla"

Performed by Hari Mata Hari, in Bosnian.

It's an arty number. Perhaps a bit slow compared to many of the other songs.



23 Iceland "Congratulations"

Performed by Silvia Night, in English.

Amusing lyrics, and a performance that is way out there... Imagine Aqua crossed with Bjork, and toss in a load of LazyTown... then take the piddly out of all of it. You might start to get the idea. It was really funny. You know what? I hope this one wins. Not the semi... the whole contest! She even managed to sneak in the line "Oh my God, a golden shower!".
Just in case you didn't get it - I'd better point out that Silvia isn't a real person - she is a character from a TV show. With the likes of Silvia and LazyTown, I guess television in Iceland would be a heck of a lot more interesting than the English offerings off 28.2°E!



The voting process

While they recap the songs, I'll go through my selection to pass into the grand final:
  1. Iceland
  2. Sweden
  3. Ukraine
  4. Ireland
  5. Andorra
  6. Poland
  7. Belarus
  8. Portugal
  9. Estonia
  10. Netherlands
I had originally listed 'Ukraine' in ninth favourite position, and 'Ireland' tenth. This was an oversight on my part due to the rush in getting this page ready for uploading, they should have been third and fourth respectively.

I'm not going to give my list of three worst songs in case I jinx it so that people actually vote for that Turkish monstrosity.
The female presenter (Maria) coaxed the male presenter (Sakis) to perform a song. He has quite a good voice, it's just a shame they gave him a rather insipid song.


The interval act was an interesting mélange of styles. Unfortunately the director seemed to like big aspect wide angle shots - perhaps to show off how big the stage is?
Big wide shots might look impressive as an AVI, but as static frames it can be hard to see what is going on.



A sneak preview

They gave a sneak preview of the songs that will be in the final on Saturday. I thought the Spanish entry looked and sounded sort-of like Las Ketchup... it was!
There are some bizarre entries, but perhaps there is hope for the United Kingdom's entry? The main competitors, from the brief preview and the semi, will be Sweden and Iceland (if they get through), and Greece.



The winners

Okay, here come the ten winners... Here's who won a place in the final, in drawn order:
  #10 Russia (the ballet and piano ghost)
  #11 FYR Macedonia (naranja-pop)
  #13 Bosnia (slow and arty)
  #14 Lithuania (maybe ego gets you everywhere, gah!)
  #17 Finland (they'll do the monster mash)
  #18 Ukraine (the little bouncy girl)
  #21 Ireland (finally!!!)
  #22 Sweden (there's hope for Carola now)
  #23 Turkey (aaaaaaaaaargh!)
  #24 Armenia (their first song)

Comments? I can't believe they didn't vote for Iceland but they voted for that crappy Turkish song. Aaargh! Aaargh! Aaargh!

Here's the line-up for Saturday:

I'm now going to open a can of beer, JPEG all the pictures and turn this into a web page, and then console myself with the fact that both the Turkish and Icelandic songs were misunderstood - for the wrong reasons each... Then, I guess I'll have to prod myself a few times with a plastic spoon...


Oh well. Let's see how it goes on Saturday. We all know that the best song doesn't always win. ☺


Read about the Grand Final

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Copyright © 2006 Rick Murray
Images copyright © 2006 EBU-UER
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