Looking over the list, a couple of past winners catch my eye: for the second year running, Germany is having Lena sing its entry - and she only won it for them last year! Dana International is back for Israel. As usual, the title range is astonishingly limited, with many of the titles looking like repeats from previous years, even when they are not.
So. A collection of generally positive songs with a couple of ones with stalker-lyrics inamongst them, irritatingly. Last year's winner had a good influence on this year, I thought, with lots of small-scale song concepts. Lots of previous decades have influenced one or another songs or videos.
Favorite Song: Azerbaijan - Ell/Nikki, "Running Scared"
Favorite Video: Finland - Paradise Oskar, "Da Da Dam"
Best Anthem: Denmark - A Friend In London, "New Tomorrow"
Most memorable video: Germany - Lena, "Taken By A Stranger"
Best a capella: Belgium - Witloof Bay, "With Love Baby"
Best Production: United Kingdom - Blue, "I Can"
Happiest: Spain - Lucía Pérez, "Que Me Quiten Lo Bailao - They Can't Take The Fun Away From Me"
Best song in praise of Manhattan: Estonia - Getter Jaani, "Rockefeller Street"
I was really enthused about Jedward's entry for Ireland, "Lipstick", after that country's national finals, but the video managed to drain most of the energy out of it, so it is currently an also-ran for me, compared to these others. Two other songs I was tempted to put on my shortlist but, in the end, resisted: Iceland's "Coming Home" and Norway's "Haba Haba".
Aurela Gaçe, "Feel The Passion"
I have a feeling I will remember this video and forget the song. The video is about flying through the sky and through the water, aerial views of Albanian landscapes and lots of opportunities to admire the singer's beige dress. Some nifty moments to it. The song? It may have been about relationships. It was a bit shouty. There was an undercurrent of electric guitars and chorus.
Emmy, "Boom Boom"
If the people behind the video have anything to do with the stage show, this could be fun! It is a ridiculous, charming, parodic video with details like the glammed-up singer with a jeweled boxing glove in the ring, with occasional graphic novel-style stills interspersed. The tango-able song is minor, but toe-tapping and catchy enough.
Nadine Beiler, "The Secret Is Love"
Started out a bit muddy, but it is growing on me. It feels like a classic I have heard before. Singer has a strong voice, glittery outfit, and a bob.
Ell/Nikki, "Running Scared"
"I'm running, I'm scared tonight. I'm running, I'm scared of life." A refreshing* duet featuring a man and a woman looking for each other around a cable car circuit (among other places). I really liked the vulnerability and affection of the song.
* How sad is it that a song is a refreshing change and I am not even out of the As yet?
Anastasiya Vinnikova, "I Love Belarus"
The verses are randomly generically empowering. The refrain is as per the title and sunshine and giving you all my love. Danceable, but, even with the title, the ethnic dancers feel gimmicky. I bet they will be on stage though.
Witloof Bay, "With Love Baby"
An impressive little a capella song with retro 50s clothing and largely filmed in b+w. As a song, it's a nice showpiece for the abilities of the singers, but it doesn't really go anywhere - and worse - it doesn't really feel like a good populist Eurovision entry. It feels all kinds of odd to call this an intellectual number: but by Eurovision standards, it is. And yet - I think many of you might like it.
Bosnia & Herzegovina (BHRT)
Dino Merlin, "Love In Rewind"
I got off to a bad start with all that ugly plaid, but this modern folk song is really growing on me. The lyrics don't really hold together - it's about life, changing with the years, relationships on the family scale - but there's an underlying optimism which kept me increasingly charmed by it. I would not be surprised if this ended up being one of my favorites from this year in the long run. Singers are a nice range of genders and ages. Top comment on YouTube about this one: "This guy is like a mix of Cat Stevens and Ringo Starr. The coolest grandpa ever". (On a revisit, decent, but not as special.)
Poli Genova, "Na Inat"
Bulgarian pop, young women rocking to electric guitars and piano. Good color scheme to video stage performance, all cool blues, white, and black. Feels like a solid entry.
Sultriness with a bubble gun. Disco-indebted melange of feel-good vaguely-bored platitudes and flashy dance lights. The refrain has its moments, but the rest is relatively dull.
Christos Mylordos, "San Aggelos S’Agapisa"
Sadness by the sea. Sadness in the streets. Woman in a mirror. Death of a relationship. Wandering in the dark forest by a full moon. Ignoring the video, the song has potential. I like its moments of acoustic ferocity contrasted with its yearning wist.
A Friend In London, "New Tomorrow"
Restrained punk look which is reminding me faintly of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Platitudes about the boys and girl inheriting the world - not verbatim. But it does it rather nicely, quirkily, and optimistically. A feel-good song. I think I might like it.
Getter Jaani, "Rockefeller Street"
Wind-up music box beginning with girl in a ridiculous pink dress with yellow apron sitting on a miniature set of skyscrapers with jazz-style dancing. She must be King Kong! No, she has a perky, odd, stompy dance number in honor of Manhattan: "1273 down the Rockefeller Street, Everything is more than surreal."
F.Y.R. Macedonia (MKRTV)
Vlatko Ilievski, "Rusinka"
Whistling wind. Nervous electronica. Energy arrives, as our singer paces from room to room through the four sets - repeatedly circled through during the song. I liked the campy white-shirted dancers - they were funny! The song may have had potential, but I do not think I will remember it very long.
Paradise Oskar, "Da Da Dam"
Young man with his guitar and lots of greenery. "I'm going out in the world to save our planet! And I ain't comig back until she's saved!" I like the sad people in black in the corner of the greenhouse lacklusterly singing along to the refrain! The song is almost twee in its earnestness, but it manged to keep its heart. It's cute!
France (France 3)
Amaury Vassili, "Sognu"
An over-the-top operatic Andrea Bocelli-like Corsican anthem with some spectacular scenery in the video.
Eldrine, "One More Day"
Minor pop with warehouse tour segues into hard rock segues into rap. Earnest and energetic. Slightly boring, despite high energy levels, on first impression. Random red gears in the background sometimes.
Lena, "Taken By A Stranger"
Fascinating video! I had wondered why last year's winning song was going to be performed by some random band. The answer is that Lena is competing for a second year in a row for Germany(!) And it is a song with a great deal of potential, slightly hypnotic, slightly odd, rather dark. The video plays on the darkness, two Lena versions, one in the mirror and one without in places with dim lighting. I really like it, except for the horrible people in the silver body suits. If they are in the stage show, it bodes poorly for how well this song will do. Otherwise, especially with host country positivity, it could do really well.
Loucas Yiorkas feat. Stereo Mike, "Watch My Dance"
I like the parts, but keep wishing the rap and anthemic refrain could be mixed in together.
Kati Wolf, "What About My Dreams?"
Vaguely elegant woman with black leather gloves touring Budapest (?) dresses down for leading a group exercise routine. Wistfully empowering dance video about looking after yourself if your relationship is fundamentally limiting you.
Sjonni's Friends, "Coming Home"
Heart-warming toe-tapping feel-good melody which sounds like it should have been the opening credits tune for an '80s sitcom. (I now read that the singer-songwriter who wrote it and was going to compete inthe national selection competition with it died a few weeks beforehand, and his friends went on to win the selection with it in his memory.)
They were not even trying when they made this video. The national selection version was better! They are high energy, it's a catchy, ridiculous tune and they have the name recognition. I think they could be doing very well indeed in the actual competition.
Dana International, "Ding Dong"
Minor disco piece with restrained color-coded singers. Israel must be after a win though, competing again with Dana International.
Raphael Gualazzi, "Madness Of Love"
Likeable little classic jazz number in Italian and English with whimsical ink drawings enlivening the literal performance video. Straight out of a jazz musical. For once, a Eurovision video happy to show the pianist's fingers playing in detail.
Musiqq, "Angel In Disguise"
Pleasantly bland minor song, something about relationships and appeal. "Kill me with killer kiss" "Send me with candy eyes"
Evelina Sašenko, "C'est Ma Vie"
Things will be better in the future, the song tells me. The first few notes of the refrain are the best part. What an unfortunate peach overskirt.
Glen Vella, "One Life"
Nice broad swathe of people getting dance moments in this video which is playing a lot with image duplication and color filtering in a very simple palette à la Photobooth. Oh, and there is a song, a boppy little ignorable dance number.
Zdob și Zdub, "So Lucky"
Shouty, quirky rock song with jazz touches. Leather and bare chests. (I notice they will be wearing cosmic antennae for the stage show.)
Stella Mwangi, "Haba Haba"
"My grandma told me, You can be anything you want to be." Heart-warming inspirational dance number. (To show how little I know about varieties of African singing, I will have to say that the refrain reminds me of the non-pop parts of the Lion King.) I am not convinced that it is yet time for the bustle to come back into style.
Magdalena Tul, "Jestem"
Cool (as in, lightly frostly) nightclub number. Minor, forgettable, but almost foot-tapping. If the video is any sign, there could be good stage gymnastics for this song.
Homens Da Luta, "Luta É Alegria"
Finally! A novelty act! The 70s have returned in clothing form. Each singer is dressed for a different profession. With protest-like signs. Bored now.
Hotel FM, "Change"
Catchy! More playing around with visuals with singers in singer-held frame. "I can't change the world alone." Required key change! This should make a good soundtrack to a commercial for some "green" product. But I may be back to listen to it again.
Alexej Vorobjov, "Get You"
Decisive beat. Aggressive relationship pursuit story. But I feel like I am back in the 80s again with this kind of big pop. I would be enjoying this song a lot more if I did not understand the lyrics. Highly danceable.
San Marino (SMRTV)
Senit, "Stand By"
A snowglobe! Local scenery! Snowy vistas! San Marino tourism, I assume. Apparently I have a weakness for vulnerable relationship songs at the moment, with this one is, albeit with longlong-looking optimism. Solid entry.
It is the 70s again in set, costume, and song. I would like to think more highly of it, but it is really not holding my attention. Reading through the English translation of the lyrics, it is a song about the sunshininess of having the right man.
TWiiNS, "I'm Still Alive"
I have suffered, and I am still here. "Nothing can touch me." "Lonely I walk through the fire." My clothing is designed to blow with the wind in billows. Close harmonies of a pair of women. The tune says inspirational, the lyrics say resigned. Television excerpts of Things Happening, from sports to emergencies. The tune does not go anywhere, and yet, it may still stick with me.
Maja Keuc, "No One"
People dressed in black outfits with lots of sequins in a nightclub with balconies and purple wall lighting. Hard to take this too seriously because of the strikingly odd choreography with the dancers in the background. Based on the singer's earnestness with wiggles, I am guessing a relationship-gone-wrong song.
Lucía Pérez, "Que Me Quiten Lo Bailao - They Can't Take The Fun Away From Me"
Perky carnival atmosphere. Clowns for the second year running from Spain. People in penguin, octopus, and bee costumes. Fun, confidently happy fluff. Yay!
Eric Saade, "Popular"
Punk boys in boxes. "Stop, don't say it's possible. I know it's possible." "I'll get you when I'm popular." Icky stalkerishness. Another song I would like a lot better if I could not understand the lyrics. The basic dance tune isn't bad. Oh look, more breaking glass: a theme this year?
Switzerland (SRG SSR idée suisse)
Anna Rossinelli, "In Love For A While"
Happy little optimistic relationship number indebted to last year's winner by a strong lone female singer. At least last year's winner is generally a good influence! Nice stripped-down strings and piano accompaniament.
The Netherlands (TROS)
3JS, "Never Alone"
I really like the piano accompaniament to this song. Another relationship loyalty song. I think I might like this a lot more if I had not been listening to so many of these videos this evening.
Yüksek Sadakat, "Live It Up"
Rocking out in a lavish palace-like chamber with some violin accompaniament. Pretty sure this may be the best of the rock numbers. Cute framing premise to the video.
Mika Newton, "Angel"
Angel feathers. A circus, lots of gymnasts. Very nicely stylized video. "We are people on the planet, we live human lives." Despite the consistency of refrain and title, I am not even sure what this is about.
United Kingdom (BBC)
Blue, "I Can"
I saw this song on television last week, and the sound was entirely muddy and dull. It is much better in the video! And it is feeling refreshing, upbeat, danceable. It is much better now than most of what I have just been listening to - which is a major change from what the UK has contributed to this contest in recent years. In fact, at the moment, I really like this song. So much will depend on the stage show, of course. Four men from an old boy band singing on the roof of a building in central London - good for visual tourism.
As ever what really matters is what the stage presentations are like on the actual night of competition, and first impressions matter a lot more than those from the repeated listening I have had of some of these.