For the first time in 11 years, juries would play a significant part in the voting process. Since 1998, the system of using anonymous juries was replaced by phone and SMS voting from the public in an effort to return to the days when a Eurovision winner had greater credence and topped the charts all over Europe. While this had worked to some extent, concerns were rapidly growing about the apparent surge in neighbourly voting patterns. While these arguments could reasonably be dismissed by a logical look at the facts, the EBU felt they had to do something. Their idea was to reintroduce juries to vote alongside the public phone vote. Instead of the juries being occupied by members of the public, industry professionals were given the job as it was believed they would be more likely to vote on musical merit. This proved to be the case and their votes altered significantly the way the scoreboard would have otherwise looked.
Since the advent of the semi-finals in 2004, the ‘Big 4’ countries of France, Germany, Spain and United Kingdom had automatically been given a place in the final due to the size of their financial contribution to the EBU. This left them open to accusations of not caring too much about the quality of song they selected. However, in 2009, no-one could accuse them of not taking the contest seriously. The French choose the world famous Patricia Kaas to represent them. The BBC persuaded Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber to write the United Kingdom song, while the Spanish went through a lengthy selection process to find their entry. Germany came up with a vibrant swing number and added a touch of glamour to the presentation in the form of burlesque star, Dita von Teese.
Hungary had difficulty selecting its entry. The first song chosen, It's Time to Party sung by Mark Zentai, was later discovered to have been recorded by, of all people, the residents of the Swedish Big Brother house. The second song, Magányos Csónak had no such problems, but the singer, Katya Tompos, had prior engagements and the whole act was withdrawn. It was a case of third time lucky when singer Adok Zoltan was free to go to Moscow with the previously unrecorded and unpublished Dance With Me, which failed to qualify for the final. After all that effort, too!
As usual, a wide range of musical genres was on show in the contest. Viewers were treated to everything from an Elvis impersonator, through to epic ballads, pop/opera, ethnic and rock songs. Norway’s Fairytale is almost beyond pigeon-holing but is probably closest to a folk style. The huge involvement of strings, mostly from Alexander Rybak’s own fiddle, sets it apart. It appealed to public and pros alike, and swept aside the opposition, leaving everyone else in its wake on the way to a record points tally. A third Norwegian victory was never, ever in doubt!
Georgia had demonstrated some reluctance to participate in the 2009 contest, held as it was in Russia, not exactly the favourite country of your average resident of Tblisi! However, the EBU persuaded the Georgian broadcaster to enter a song. The trouble started when the song was chosen. It was called We Don't Wanna Put In and was due to be performed by Stephanie & 3G. The lyrics were deemed too political and provocative by the EBU. Part of the chorus says, “We don’t wanna put in”, which was considered a sly way of saying “We don’t wanna Putin”, who was Russian Prime Minister at the time. The EBU ordered that either the lyrics be changed or a new song selected. The Georgians went for their own option of withdrawing completely.
The scores were allocated in the famous way of 1-8, then 10 and 12. Naturally, all the countries participating in the semi-finals voted in the semi-final they were involved in. Additionally, Germany and United Kingdom voted in the first semi-final, while France, Spain and hosts Russia voted in the second semi-final. In an interesting twist, the country ranked highest with the back-up jury that hadn’t already qualified for the final via the phone vote was given a wildcard slot. This meant Finland (12th) taking the place of Macedonia (10th) from the first semi-final, and Croatia (13th) qualifying at the expense of Serbia (10th) from the second semi-final.
Just Get Out of My Life
Eyes That Never Lie
Inga & Anush
La Teva Decisió
The Highest Heights
Düm Tek Tek
Noa & Mira Awad
There Must Be Another Way
Is It True?
Neshto Shto Ke Ostane
The Balkan Girls
Todas As Ruas Do Amor
What If We
Bosnia & Herzegovina
|Montenegro - Andrea Demirovic - Just Get Out of My Life (English)
Music/Lyrics:Ralph Seigel/Bernd Meinunger, José Juan Santana Rodriguez
The Montenegrins turned to prolific Germans, Seigel and Meinunger. They rarely wrote anything as good as this for their own country. It is undemanding, simple and enjoyable pop.
|Czech Republic - Gipsy.cz - Aven Romale (English)
Music/Lyrics:Radoslav Banga/Radoslav Banga
‘Supergipsy’, as he preferred to be known, tried to be a Superhero. It was never going to work, and the Romany influenced song duly failed to score.
Belgium - Patrick Ouchène - Copycat (English)
Music/Lyrics: Benjamin Schoos/Jacques Duvall
There is always room for a bit of light-hearted fun. Elvis impersonator Patrick claimed in his song that he was the real deal and Elvis Presley was the fake. It made for some amusing lyrics and a few angry Elvis fans, who tried and failed miserably to have the song banned from the competition.
|Belarus - Petr Elfimov - Eyes That Never Lie (English)
Music/Lyrics: Petr Elfimov/Valery Prokhozhy
The start of the song is on the hard end of AOR. The tune softens but this beefed up version improves on the one which won the Belarusian final. Qualification for the final certainly looked possible, but in the event, was a long way from becoming a reality.
|Sweden - Malena Ernman - La Voix (English/French)
Music/Lyrics: Fredrik Kempe/Fredrik Kempe, Malena Ernman
Malena clearly had a ball during her three minutes and showed the others how to do it! A very good singer and performer who doesn’t take herself too seriously, Malena’s pop/opera song stormed into the final with ease. Quite right too!
|Armenia - Inga & Anush - Jan Jan (Armenian)
Music/Lyrics: Mane Hakobyan/Vardan Zadoyan, Avet Barseghyan
Dressed in traditional Armenian costumes which must have been very hot to wear under all those powerful stage lights, the two sisters moved rather robotically and awkwardly. Their song was also in the direction of traditional Armenian, and did better than many anticipated.
|Andorra - Susanne Georgi - La Teva Decisió (Get A Life) (English/Catalan)
Music/Lyrics: Edmond Zhulali, Agim Doci/Edmond Zhulali, Agim Doci
The intro is quirky enough to inspire hope for what is to come. The optimism is left unfulfilled as the song becomes more mundane, guitar led MOR.
|Switzerland - Lovebugs - The Highest Heights (English)
Music/Lyrics: Adrian Sieber, Thomas Rechberger, Florian Senn/Adrian Sieber, Thomas Rechberger, Florian Senn
In an event which is dominated by soloists, a real band doing their thing is always welcome, especially when the song is as good as this. The Highest Heights is mid-tempo, well constructed rock that should easily have made the final.
|Turkey - Hadise - Düm Tek Tek (English)
Music/Lyrics: Sinan Akcil/Sinan Akcil, Hadise Acikgöz, Stefaan Fernande
Modern Turkish rhythms and some vibrant choreography virtually guaranteed success for Hadise. All that was needed was a decent performance, which she duly gave.
|Israel - Noa & Mira Awad - There Must Be Another Way (English/Hebrew/Arabic)
Music/Lyrics: Noa, Mira Awad, Gil Dor/Noa, Mira Awad, Gil Dor
Arab joined Jew to sing a song for peace. Some of the usual clichés are avoided, but it would have been impossible to escape all of them.
|Bulgaria - Krassimir Avramov - Illusion (English)
Music/Lyrics: Krassimir Avramov, William Tabanau, Casie Tabanau/Krassimir Avramov, William Tabanau, Casie Tabanau
Krassimir’s soprano voice lends his song an operatic feel. This mixes nicely with the rhythms used to create a sound which fills the room. More people would have liked it than not, but without it having a strong enough appeal.
|Iceland - Yohanna - Is It True? (English)
Music/Lyrics: Oskar Páll Sveinsson, Chris Neil, Tinatin Japaridze/Oskar Páll Sveinsson, Chris Neil, Tinatin Japaridze
This is a wonderful example of how simple presentation can boost a song. Yohanna’s beautiful, sweeping ballad was easily powerful enough to stand out on its own, but superb lighting effects added a thick layer of atmosphere.
|Macedonia - Next Time - Neshto Shto Ke Ostane (Macedonian)
Music/Lyrics: Jovan Jovanov, Damjan Lazarov/Elvir Mekic
How annoyed they must have been to find out that they had finished in the top 10 but had not qualified for the final. It could be argued that if the public had put them there, the brothers should have been in the final. It could also be argued that, although their rock song is ok, the final was better without them.
|Romania - Elena - The Balkan Girls (English)
Music/Lyrics: Laurentiu Dută, Ovidiu Bistriceanu, Daris Mangal/Laurentiu Dută, Alexandru Pelin
We can all relate to looking forward to the weekend after a week’s hard graft. Elena’s pop song anticipates just such an occasion as well as lots of girly fun with her friends.
|Finland - Waldo's People - Lose Control (English)
Music/Lyrics: Ari Lehtonen, Karima/Marko Reijosen, Ari Lehtonen, Karima, Annie Kratz Guta
Given a wildcard entry to the final by the jury, it was going to be interesting to see how the Finns fast paced, clubbing song fared in the final. Badly, as it happens.
|Portugal - Flor-de-lis - Todas As Ruas Do Amor (Portuguese)
Music/Lyrics: Pedro Marques, Paulo Pereira/Pedro Marques
The Fado is Portugal’s most authentic and beautiful style of music, but when the Portuguese want to cheer themselves up, this is the sound that drifts from bars and cafés, and which adds to the happy memories of many holidaymakers.
|Malta - Chiara - What If We (English)
Music/Lyrics: Marc Paelinck/Gregory Bilsen
This was Chiara’s third appearance in the contest and hopefully her last if past history is anything to go by. Her songs became steadily duller! Like the other two, What If We is a ballad, and it fails to hold the listeners attention for the full duration.
|Bosnia & Herzegovina - Regina - Bistra Voda (Bosnian)
Music/Lyrics: Aleksander Covic/Aleksander Covic
The band claimed that Bistra Voda was not political. The presentation suggested otherwise, but they got away with it. There is a revolutionary and militaristic air to the ballad and there was an abundance of red in the lighting, but it’s not political, ok?