Belarus, Eurovision and controversy seem to have gone hand in hand in recent years, with this year's selection being no exception. Following casting auditions at the end of November, a panel had originally selected fifteen from the seventy submitted entries for tonight's final. Last year's Belarussian entrant Alyona Lanskaya was part of the panel, drawing on her expertise and experience from Malmö when making the shortlist. Fifteen swiftly became fourteen however, when it transpired that the composer of Chiara's 2009 entry What If We, Marc Paelinck, was suffering from amnesia, as the song had already been entered into the 2011 Maltese national final. Artist Alexey Gross had therefore no choice but to withdraw, losing his place in the final line up.
01 Natalia Tamelo - Not What I've Been Looking For
Natalia Tamelo was the first act out, dressed in a figure hugging black creation featuring a sleevless strappy top with ruffles at the bottom and paired with black gloves. She was aided by two female backing singers dressed also in black as well as being flanked by three bounding gents dressed in black tuxedos. Her entry was highly choreographed and vibrant. Her voice was quite raspy and shouty in places performing this outdated cabaret number. The opening entry was greeted by rapturous applause from the audience. Not bad but not exactly the crème de la crème either.
02 Nuteki - Fly Away
Next up was Nutecki with a starkly contrasting entry to the former, performing on a stage with plenty of dry ice, flashing beams and a rock entry. The lead singer was sporting leather pants and jacket in true rock star style as his five other band members performed as if their lives depended on it behind him. He gave an empassioned delivery; he had to in order to make himself heard over the overpowering electric guitar. There was plenty of drama here, but it just felt as if they were trying too hard. Not much of a melody, and the little there was drifted about aimlessly.
03 Artsem Mikhalenka - Rapsodiya #1
The lights were down low as Artsem Mikhalenka took to the stage to perform his entry. A black backdrop burst into light in various colours with what looked like random lines from the text displayed behind him. He looked very chic in a classic black suit performing this opera-light entry accompanied by a keyboardist and four female violinists. There were some intense looks into the camera, the build up towards the end was very effective with the electronic pulsating sound. The song had not one, but two key changes as Artsem gave his all with a solid vocal performance met by many screams once he'd finished.
04 Matvei Cooper and “DUX” Band - Strippers
This was an interesting theme...strippers. Four females poured into red catsuits danced smoulderingly at the back of the stage against a back drop featuring more virtual strippers dancing in boxes. The duo were dressed casually, and their stage show featured them counting the number of strippers on one hand. It would be nice to say that the act was tongue in cheek, but it was just vulgar. The vocals were dull and uninspired with the dancers coming to the fore and writhing around the two male vocalists in a vain attempt to be sexy. Poor taste indeed. The melody went straight in one ear and out of the other.
05 TEO - Cheesecake
TEO was the fifth act up with his quirky song Cheesecake, which began with him listing actors names. He looked very fresh in a black suit paired with white shirt and red handkerchief. The backdrop consisted of yellow beams against a black background. He was accompanied by three male backing singers holding round signs. Teo looked extremely comfortable and came across well on camera performing this rhythmic number. It sashayed along at a pleasant, slightly lazyish pace but with a suprisingly contemporary sound. The lyrics were trite however. The best entry so far tonight by a long way. Sweet enough, without being too fattening.
06 Daria - Starlight
Daria was the next artist to perform with her anthemic Starlight. She came out of the dark dressed in a silky black number showing quite a lot of cleavage. a close up of her appeared in intervals on the backdrop. She had no fewer than five female backing singers with her, and they were drastically out of tune in places. Daria herself gave a shaky, inconsistent performance, her voice sounding woeful in the places that were actually too deep for her register. The melody was yet another that had the sticking properties of teflon. She came across as so stiff and unnatural and ended the number on a catastrophic final note that was downright painful. A disaster. No more, no less.
07 Elena Siniavskaya - Via Lattea
Elena had the fortune to follow on with her trance like number Via Lattea, a heavily electronic number that was sung in Belarussian. She sported a black ballgown which was ridiculously overstyled and not at all suitable for her entry. She had four singers with her on stage who did their best but again were showing severe signs of rigomortis. Elena's vocals were shrill - the electronica quickly gave way to a bizarre mash up of rhythm, opera and some kind of 70's anthem and her final, rousing launch into the chorus took the breath away from many for all the wrong reasons. Surprisingly, the sound of shattering glass throughout Minsk couldn't be heard. Frightful vocals, but ten out of ten for effort and enthusiasm!
08 Alina Moshchenko - Angel Crying
Alina wore a flowing white dress, in keeping with the angel theme of the song. She looked like a younger Geri Halliwell. A simple diamond blue backdrop with dry ice on the floor was very effective; this later gave way to images of rain and water behind the act. She had with her five backing singers on stage who made plenty of hand gestures during this ballad. Alina looked well on camera, and gave an acceptable performance, despite the rather anonymous melody. Her diction was atrocious, but Angel Crying was actually quite pleasant if harmless.
09 Janet - You Will Be Here
Janet was yet another female vocalist with a ballad. This one got off to an atmopsheric, brooding start. With images of white feathers agains a black backdrop. Janet herself was sporting an over the top black ballgown with gold detail around the neckline, her two backing singers contrasting wearing white. You Will Be Here was a slow, melancholic sounding number featuring spanish guitars and Janet actually gave an excellent performance. Her black dress was transformed into a Grecian white robe towards the end of the number, the black cover cast aside. The Swedish written ballad was one of the better received entries so far.
10 Anastasia Malashkevich - Runaway
Anastasia took to the stage with snow falling around her dressed in a white hooded robe as three dancers cavorted around her in various ballerina poses amidst the dry ice. White and blue were again the key colours on stage. Two backing singers were placed discreetly to the far right of Anastasia. A wind machine came into play, revealing a a black dress underneath, but there was no costume change. This was weary limp in terms of melody but you have to hand it to Anastasia for trying - she managed to stay in tune for roughly half of the performance, although veering unappealingly off key at times. Nothing exceptional either visually or vocally here, in fact the most outstanding thing about the song was the ballerina opening. Runaway? This should have been renamed limp off.
11 Switter Boys feat. Kate & Volga Karol - Vechnaya Lyubov
The Switter boys had the task of bringing some much needed energy to the evening's proceedings, together with Kate and Volga Karol. They almost looked like brothers in red and white tracksuits, with the two ladies placed on either side of the stage in dark blue strappy dresses. Kate and Volga gave uninspiring performances over a monotonous drum beat. The chords of the chorus were actually rather pleasant, but once the drum beat kicked in, it sounded hopelessly amateurish. A rather large man wearing a white suit and a blue shirt came onto stage, did a vocal stint and pranced about a bit. Not bad, but far from good. The audience screamed throughout the performance, lord knows why; they must have been easily excitable.
12 NAPOLI - Stay With Me
The trio Napoli were the next act out and their song began with military drums. Roses featured on the black backdrop, and the two ladies of the group were dressed in wedding dress style costumes. The male vocalist was wearing a white jacket over a black shirt and black pants. Their vocals seemed promising at first, but soon turned out to be desperately inadequate, despite valiant efforts from the two backing singers. His voice was rough and jarred against their sharp tones. a dramatic false finish failed to muster up any enthusiasm from the audience who almost had to be prompted to applaud at the end.
13 Max Lorens & DiDyuLya - Now You’re Gone
Max Lorens & DiDyuLya were the penultimate act of the evening and with a rather interesting presentation. Their number began witha steel drum before a guitar came into play. A female dancer dressed in blue performed a routine on stage while bearded Max dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt tried his best to look moody. Now You're Gone was easily the most pleasant number on the ears thus far and Max poured his heart and soul into the performance - think Careless Whisper by George Michael and you're halfway there.
14 Tasha Odi - Empty Universe
Tasha had been kept on tenterhooks all evening before being the last act out tonight. yet another slow paced song which opened with Tasha sporting a black trilby and trouser suit perched on a chair in the middle of the stage with a single white beam shining down on her. She had two capable female backing singers helping her out and her vocals were surprisingly strong where they needed to be. Empty Universe was another song that was hardly laugh a minute or entertaining. The Belarussians are rather fond of the electric guitar, that's for sure. It was difficult to hear in parts whether or not she was actually singing in English. A fair attempt, but if anything too samey to other entries on offer earlier tonight.
The show got off to a energetic start to the thumping beats of an extended dance remix of last year's entrant Solayoh!, with a dance ensemble dressed in black tank tops and white pants performing a routine on stage to an extremely enthusiastic audience. The hosts Olga Ryzhikova and Denis Dudinskiy took to the stage with Olga wearing an over the top evening dress in grey silk with plenty of drapery, her parter Denis sporting a black smoking jacket with white shirt and spotted bow tie. A huge generic Eurovision logo was projected onto the backdrop.
A pre recorded video message from last year's winner Emmelie de Forest wished the audience welcome to this year's host city Copenhagen. The male host attempted to use Danish on stage with rather amusing pronunciation.
Once all acts had been performed, both hosts returned to the explain the rules before a countdown with the audience, opening the voting. The hosts then handed over the floor to Alexander Solodukha to perform. Withdrawn act Alexey Gross featured in the final after all, performing his disqualified entry If I Could Do It All Again. Compared to some of the acts on show tonight, last year's Belarussian entrant Alyona Lanskaya was sweet music as she took to the stage amid scenes of wild jubilation to perform her entry Solayoh! A rather anonymous piano ballad followed sung by Joanna in Belarussian. Eliz was next up in the rather long line of artists making up the interval act, giving a playful, coquettish performance of her funky number Dancedoze which would have been a far better choice for Copenhagen! The female trio Veatriz were next up with their closely harmonised ballad, followed by a charming boy girl duo on stage to perform a jolly little ditty featuring plenty of la la la's. In what was quicky starting to feature more interval acts than the contest itself, a band by the name of SGBand performed their adult rock number Remember. The list was seemingly endless. Polina Smolova (2006) came and sang a dreary number, followed by Ruslan Alehkno (2008). Güneş, this year's Belarussian entrant in Türkvision perfomed her entry.
An electronic scoreboard appeared on the stage backdrop and it looked as if it was tallying all the televotes received. The votes were translated into the Eurovision points: 12, 10, 8 and then 7 through to 1 point. Max Lorens & DiDyuLya took an early lead, followed by Nuteki and Teo.
All the artists were called on stage before the votes of the jury were added to the televotes. Each member of the panel that had chosen the 15 entries came up to announce their votes, which were then added to the televoting results. Teo picked up consistently high votes, as did Janet Once the results had been collated, Max Lorens and Teo ended up in a thrilling tie and so, in order to determine the winner, each jury member had to cast their vote for either of the two, with Teo emerging as the victor.
Belarus at the Eurovision Song Contest:
Belarus has something of a controversial Eurovision history, with changes in both artist and song at the last minute in some years. Making their debut at the 2004 contest in Istanbul, they failed to make the final. Undeterred by the disappointing start, Belarussian broadcaster BTRC has participated in every contest since. Their best ever result came in 2007 in neighbouring Helsinki, where Koldun performed miracles on stage with Work Your Magic, achieving a highly respectable 6th place. Another three years would pass before they qualified again in Oslo, 2010, with the ballad Butterflies performed by 3+2 with possibly the most talked about costumes at the contest (anyone remember those butterfly wings?). Their Eurovision history thus far ended on a positive note with Alyona Lanskaya and her rhythmic dancefloor stomper Solayoh!, which brought Belarus back to the final ending in the middle of the scoreboard.