Germany hosted the contest for the first time in 28 years. Last time, in 1983, the most memorable aspect of the contest was the thrice repetition of everything that was said (in German, English and French), making the contest seem a lot longer than the three hours, 20 minutes in actually lasted. This time round, the presentation was much less formal, much more relaxed and one of the more entertaining presentations in recent years. Actress Judith Rakers brought an air of professionalism to proceedings, while comedian Anke Engelke and Stefan Raab, already known to fans as a bit of a joker, brought some slapstick to the show. It was a welcome break from the straight-laced approach usually adopted by Executive Producers.
The arena chosen by NDR is usually associated with football matches, being the home of Bundesliga team, Fortuna Dusseldorf. However, it was built as a multi-purpose stadium and so was easily converted into an arena fit for the world’s biggest musical event. The Green Room, where the singers hung out when they were not on stage, was hidden at the back of the stage and revealed in spectacular fashion at the start of the voting.
Just when you thought the contest was shredding its image as home of the daft song title, along came the 2011 version to relight the unjustified reputation. There was a Haba, Haba, Boom Boom, Da Da Dam and a Ding Dong.
The biggest story of the contest was a very tragic one. The Icelandic song, Coming Home, was written by Sjonni Brink. He was also due to perform the song himself in the Icelandic semi-finals, but died before they took place. Instead of withdrawing the song, six of his friends came together to perform the song in his memory. They proved to be an unstoppable force as they won the right to represent Iceland in Dusseldorf. Sentiment can be a powerful emotion which some felt could have given Iceland its first victory. In the end, despite a strong and professional performance which would have made Sjonni proud, reaching the final was as good as it got.
Every contest usually sees accusations of plagiarism, and 2011 was no different. The band representing Denmark, A Friend In London, had no sooner won the Danish final than videos were being posted on contest related sites which showed more than a passing similarity between their song, New Tomorrow, and three or four other songs. As is not uncommon, no official complaint was received by the EBU so the fuss soon died down.
While Denmark managed to have no problems where there may have been some, the Belarusians were not so lucky. They selected Anastasiya Vinnikova to sing a very patriotic song called Born in Byelorussia. However, the lyrics didn’t pass the political content test and so Anastasiya was sent to Dusseldorf with the equally patriotic but less political I Love Belarus.
For the first time since the very early days of the Eurovision Song Contest, the winner of the previous year came back to defend her title. Lena made it known soon after Satellite had given her and Germany victory that she would welcome the opportunity to participate again in Dusseldorf. This was an offer that NDR didn’t turn down, and so songs were commissioned for the German public to choose for her.
After many years of campaigning by fans, Italian broadcaster, RAI, submitted an entry for the first time since 1997. A continuation of the return of one of the favourite Eurovision countries may be in doubt due to the low viewing figures in Italy, especially in the second semi-final in which they voted. Italy was not the only nation to enter the contest after an absence, San Marino entered for the second time, Hungary also came back into the fold and Austria also entered again having dropped out after the 2007 contest. All in all, this brought a field of 43 delegations to Germany to fight it out.
The winner of the 1998 contest, Dana International came back to try again. Other returning acts were Dino Merlin and Zdob și Zdub. Some of the acts were already known to the viewers. Blue put their credibility on the line for the United Kingdom, while Jedwood tried to gain some by ‘singing’ for Ireland.
Feel The Passion
Live It Up
In Love For A While
One More Day
Da Da Dam
What About My Dreams?
Homens Da Luta
Luta É Alegria
C'est Ma Vie
Loucas Yiorkas feat. Stereo Mike
Watch My Dance
|Country||Artist & Song||Points||Rank|
|1||Poland||Magdalena Tul - Jestem (Polish)|
Music/Lyrics: Magdalena Tul
Poland had the honour of being first to perform for the audience in the arena and at home. Both she and her backing singers/dancers were clad all in white. The up-tempo song was a favourite to qualify for the final. Something didn’t sound quite right, a sign of things to come for other performers that night.
|10||Finland||Paradise Oskar - Da Da Dam (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Axel Ehnström
The Finnish song couldn’t have been a greater contrast to some of the stage effects and energy of some of its competitors. Paradise was alone on stage strumming his guitar singing about saving the world while wearing recycled clothes. The video wall showed a large picture of Earth. Some would have applauded his optimism, others would have laughed at his naivety.
|11||Malta||Glen Vella - One Life (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Paul Giordimaina & Fleur Balzan
Confidence was not something Glen lacked! After he won the Maltese final, he seemed convinced he had a chance of winning the contest. He was the only one who believed this! Perhaps to emphasise the tourist possibilities in Malta, the backing singers all wore big sunglasses for the chirpy sounding song.
|12||San Marino||Senit - Stand By (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Radiosa Romani
This is San Marino’s second entry and Senit was naturally seeking to do what Miodio had failed to do and qualify for the final. On the face of it, her plodding ballad seemed unlikely to be the favourite song of enough people to gain enough votes, but the influence of the juries is always difficult to call. In the event, the juries put Senit in 8th - enough to qualify for the final, but the public ranked her last, leading to 16th place overall.
|13||Croatia||Daria Kinzer - Celebrate (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Boris Đurđević, Marina Mudrinić
Multi costume changes have proved a winning formula in the past and Daria tried her luck with that style of choreography. Celebrate is somewhere between mid and up-tempo. Like her dress, she hoped to be in the pink.
|14||Iceland||Sjonni's Friends - Coming Home (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Þórunn Erna Clausen & Sigurjón Brink
Circumstances dictated that the Icelandic song would receive a huge reception from the audience and so it proved. The ragtime influenced song was well performed by the friends, all wearing identical gray waistcoats and blue ties. Sigurjon would have been proud.
|15||Hungary||Kati Wolf - What About My Dreams? (English/Hungarian)|
Music/Lyrics: Péter Geszti / Johnny K. Palmer/ Viktor Rakonczai / Gergő Rácz
Adorned like a gift wrapped Madusa, Kati was in fine voice (occasionally sounding like Celine Dion) in the semi-final and the final. It had always been one of the favourites to qualify; it was easy to see why. The slow verse built effortlessly to the anthemic chorus to serve up a memorable three minutes. Confidence in the Hungarian camp must have been high. Surprise all round then when Kati ended in 22nd place after the dust had settled and the votes cast.
|16||Portugal||Homens Da Luta (Men of the Struggle) - Luta É Alegria (The Struggle is Joy) (Portuguese)|
Music/Lyrics: Vasco Duarte / Jel
This was an interesting combination of comedy group singing a political protest song. It would have worked better in English. Songs with a message don’t work if only the native country can understand the words. Looking at the outfits, thoughts of The Village People were hard to repress. The lyrics need to be taken in context with the political situation in Portugal at the time, just after it had received a financial bail-out from the EU.
|17||Lithuania||Evelina Sašenko - C'est Ma Vie (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Paulius Zdanavičius & Andrius Kairys
A sense of sanity was brought to proceedings with Evelina’s gentle, piano-based ballad. It was spoiled somewhat with the brief use of sign language during the second verse. If that could be ignored, then the viewer was treated to one of the most relaxing songs of the contest.
|18||Azerbaijan||Ell/Nikki - Running Scared (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Stefan Örn, Sandra Bjurman, Iain Farguhanson
Azerbaijan is one of the countries who have always qualified for the final. Running Scared was one of the most instantly likeable songs on show. In an age when over-presentation abounds, they sensibly kept the staging simple, but it was still effective with appropriate use of the lighting. It wasn’t the most obvious candidate to win, although it had always been high in the betting. In the event, Ell and Nikki won very easily, ranking second with the juries and first with the public in the final.
|19||Greece||Loucas Yiorkas feat. Stereo Mike - Watch My Dance (Greek/English)|
Music/Lyrics: Giannis Christodoulopoulos, Eleana Vrahali
Worries had been expressed in the run up to the show about the rap element of the song. Stereo Mike was guilty of too much aggression in his voice, usually de rigeur in rap, but out of place in a song of this style. Loucas did his best to turn the tide back to the melodic, only time would tell if his contribution was going to save Greece from an unheard of early exit. In the event, not only did Greece qualify for the final, it did so by winning the semi-final. Something changed in the final, when Loucas and mike found themselves languishing in seventh, mainly due to the juries placing them in 14th, while the public vote had them third.
|2||Norway||Stella Mwangi - Haba Haba (English-Swahili)|
Music/Lyrics: Big City / Beyond51 / Stella Mwangi
Stella had been criticised in some quarters for her inability to sing, although her song has gone down a storm in her adopted country, selling by the lorry load. She was blinged up for the occasion, but ultimately her voice hid what little tune there was in the song and it didn’t sound like a qualifier on any level.
|3||Albania||Aurela Gaçe - Feel the Passion (Albanian)|
Music/Lyrics: Shpetim Saraci / Sokol Marsi
The Albanian song was one of the few in the semi-final that sounds as if it comes from the country it represented. Consequently, this is one for the purists and the open-minded. Aurela’s voice was one of the strongest on show. These were two factors in Albania’s favour, but it wouldn’t quite be enough?
|4||Armenia||Emmy - Boom Boom (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Hayk Harutyunyan / Hayk Hovhannisyan / Sosi Khanikyan
Emmy came out fighting for Armenia. Almost literally, in fact, as she emerged from a giant boxing glove! She was even surrounded by ribbons held by her dancers in a way that gave the look of a boxing ring. Armenia had never failed to qualify for the final before. This proved to be a gimmick too far. The routine seemed a bit too high energy for Emmy, she was out of breath by the end.
|5||Turkey||Yüksek Sadakat - Live It Up (Turkish)|
Music/Lyrics: Kutlu Özmakinacı, Ergün Arsal
Rock songs have not let Turkey down recently. ‘Cyber girl’ made an appearance last year, when she transformed from a model of a computer image to a real lady. She was back again. This time, she was not a robot, but a contortionist trapped within a globe, finally breaking out from large, birdlike feathers at the end. It was unnecessary, rock bands should be left alone to rock.
|6||Serbia||Nina - Čaroban (Serbian)|
Music/Lyrics: Kristina Kovač
A trip back in time was provided by the Serbs, in both the style of the song and the 1960’s dresses. Prior to the contest, it seemed that Nina would be singing in English, but the Serbs decided to sing in English after all. This was a very sensible decision as the English version didn’t work as well with the feel of the song as the Serbian version to such an extent, that the Serbs may well have missed out on the final had Nina sung in English.
|7||Russia||Alexej Vorobjov - Get You (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Alexej Vorobjov / RedOne / AJ Junior / Bilal "The Chef" / Eric Sanicola
Over the last decade, Russia has been one of the most successful countries in the contest, including a win. Energetic is the most appropriate word to use for the team’s performance of a catchy pop song of the type that has brought them that success. Whoever styled Alexej must have watched the film Grease recently.
|8||Switzerland||Anna Rossinelli - In Love For A While (English)|
Music/Lyrics: David Klein
Switzerland has been very unlucky over recent years, not qualifying for the final when the songs have clearly deserved to. On that basis, it was hard to see Anna as a finalist. However, hope lay in the distinctive nature of In Love For a While, with its jazz club cabaret sound. It would have sounded more distinctive in the final had the draw been kinder and not put the Swiss immediately after the only other jazz song in the contest, from Italy.
|9||Georgia||Eldrine - One More Day (English)|
Music/Lyrics: DJ Be$$ / DJ Rock / Mikheil Chelidze
One of the most improved songs came from Georgia and saw lots of flashing lights and pyrotechnics. The outfits were essentially black, with some interesting brightly coloured strips. It sounded like a strong contender having been under the radar prior to arriving in Dusseldorf. Something made it burst out of the crowd and shout out “here I am”, and everyone say up and took notice.