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Rick's Vision: Plus ça change!

07 April 2008 at 13:54 CEST

Anyway... many Eurovision Song Contest traditionalists that I know are still annoyed that the live orchestra has been eliminated from the show.  "It's never been the same since," they have been heard saying on numerous occasions all over Europe in various languages.  Well, you know what I say; get over it! ...Which I then follow by three fingersnaps in the air.  I would argue that the orchestra's disappearance has allowed various countries, especially the newer entrants from the last 10 years, to be able to experiment with styles that just aren't achievable with a live group of musicians - and not only that - the songs chosen tend to vary more wildly in styles year after year than has ever previously happened in the Eurovision Song Contest.

So below I am going to look at a few different contestants competing this year and discuss the styles they've chosen to work with in order to claim their potential victory (in my opinion)...

Bulgaria: Last year, I really loved their entry, Voda, because it combined both traditional sounds from their country and live instrumentation mixed with a hard beat underneath, and not only that, a Carola-style wind machine was thrown in for good measure.  This year Bulgaria have gone with something totally different with DJ, Take Me Away - a trance tune mixed with shotgun blasts (not live, I hope), a brief flirtation with reggae, and lots of record scratching and burning turntables (live).  But the song takes the biggest risk I've heard in a while - the whole first minute is without any vocals at all, and the ones that do eventually come in are the same phrases over and over.  No "angels calling" or "love love love" in these lyrics.  What will happen with this song?  I can't predict but I hope Bulgaria keep up the innovation next year as well, and throw in more phrases at the end of their performance like "Europe, we love you!" (see 2007).

Iceland: This country has sent the most random songs to the Eurovision Song Contest each year in hopes of a win, from rock to novelty to ballads.  This year marks their 21st try for a victory win and I think they have some leverage after last year's criminally underrated Valentine Lost and Silvia Night's joke-that-most-people-missed Congratulations in 2006.  With the schlager trance stomper This Is My Life.  This song may not be an innovative as Bulgaria's entry but it has lyrics in which in 3 minutes two people come to one important conclusion: "What will be, will be." Fantastic!   It's also incredibly catchy, which you can't say for too many of their previous entries.  The best thing of all is that the name of the group has the special Icelandic letter 'ð' in it, which sounds like a 'th'.  I look forward to hearing the commentators debating how to actually pronounce the names of the singers...

France: Although rich in the Eurovision Song Contest history, the last few years have not been good for this country.  But slowly, France is emerging out of the Eurovision loser quicksand and the Gallic public are helping to choose something more interesting to send.  After years of ballad after ballad, in 2007 the intriguing Les Fatals Picards tried a French/English mix that didn't really register too well with the public.  This year, another very popular singer, Sébastian Tellier is performing Divine.  It's so different from any other entry in 2008, with influences by Daft Punk and Air, lyrics in French and English (sacre bleu!, someone must be saying somewhere), and an electro sound that few countries would dare to try.  I can't predict how this will look when it's performed live, but Austria came 2nd with cardboard animals in 2003, so who knows.

Ireland: And speaking of cardboard animals - what can I say about Dustin the Turkey except that I used to live with a girl with the same accent when I moved to London, and hearing this song brought me back to that student house where my Irish flatmate continually called me "a bag of sh**e" on a regular basis.  Considering last year's very traditional Irish entry They Can't Stop The Spring was only missing a pot o' gold to make it complete, Ireland has gone in completely the opposite direction with Irelande Douze Points.  If you haven't heard it, think of Cuban schlager melange Y Así from Austria and the crazy Guildo Hat Euch Lieb from Germany, throw them both in a blender with some Guinness, and the drink you would get would taste like this song.