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 Jedward tried to gain some by ‘singing’ for Ireland.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Love In Rewind
The Secret Is Love
With Love Baby
I'm Still Alive
Zdob și Zdub
San Aggelos S’Agapisa
I Love Belarus
Angel In Disguise
A Friend In London
|#||Country||Artist & Song||Points||Rank|
|1||Bosnia & Hercegovina||Dino Merlin - Love in rewind (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Dino Merlin
Opening the songs was Eurovision veteran, Dino Merlin, who has written Bosnian entries before, including 1999, which he also performed. His experience showed, as there were no signs of nerves. It is a simple song which required a simple presentation, but the stage was very busy. There was a man with a trumpet who had some mad dance moves and a keyboard player who looked as if she had never sat at a keyboard before.
|10||Bulgaria||Poli Genova - на инат (Defiance) (Bulgarian)|
Music/Lyrics: Sebastian Arman / David Bronner / Borislav Milanov / Poli Genova
A strong rock song in the shape of Georgia qualified from the first semi-final, so there was plenty of optimism that Bulgaria would follow. The performance didn’t let the song down so there was no reason to suggest the voters would, it looked like being all right on the night for Poli. However, despite having no serious competition from a song of the same genre, it was not to be.
|11||Vlatko Ilievski - Rusinka (Macedonian)|
Music/Lyrics: Grigor Koprov, Vladimir Dojchinovski, Marko Marinkovikj-Slatkaristika, Jovan Jovanov
The second semi-final was considered to be the stronger of the two. In that case, Vlatko could have considered himself very lucky if he was one of the final ten. The rock song is bland in comparison to what viewers had just heard and his performance lacked any charisma.
|12||Israel||Dana International/דנה אינטרנשיונל - Ding Dong (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Dana International/דנה אינטרנשיונל
The Diva returns! Those who remember the 1998 winner would have heard what is essentially a slower version of that song. The intro is good and raises hopes of what may follow, but which are not fulfilled. The fans adored it, no question about that, but…………………
|13||Slovenia||Maja Keuc - No One (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Matjaž Vlašič / Urša Vlašič
Slovenia’s was one of the stronger ballads of the night and was well performed. At times, the camera direction left her lost in the large arena. It sounded a bit lacklustre at the start, but it all came good by the end.
|14||Romania||Hotel FM - Change (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Gabriel Băruţă, Alexandra Ivan
With a British lead singer at the helm, Romania’s song was lively and catchy. It was one of the favourites to qualify for the final. Lots of smiles indicated no lack of confidence and this was reflected in the performance of their optimistic, up-tempo song.
|15||Estonia||Getter Jaani - Rockefeller Street (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Sven Lõhmus
A vision in pink greeted viewers as the camera focused on Getter. Her performance started with a magic trick, Getter made her duster-like cloth turn into a cane. Fortunately it worked, failure would have meant disaster. It was one of the higher rated songs in the contest if the betting was anything to go by. The stage was transformed into a mini city and the video wall was used badly. Images of city buildings moved very quickly across the screen, making eyes of viewers become out of focus they moved so fast.
|16||Belarus||Anastasia Vinnikova - I love Belarus (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Evgeny Oleynik, Svetlana Geraskova
Patriotism and national pride were to the fore. This was the most instant song of the night and it was boosted by lots of pyrotechnics. If all that is needed to reach the final was to have a memorable song, Anastasia seemed a sure-fire qualifier. Much to everyone’s surprise, Belarus’ was not one of the countries called out at the end in the group of qualifiers.
|17||Latvia||Musiqq - Angel In Disguise (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Marats Ogleznevs
Musiqq took us back to the 1980’s with a production very much of that era. The rap could have been left out, but didn’t take the shine off completely. Mercifully, the staging was minimalistic, letting one of the most tuneful songs of the show promote itself without distraction. Last with the juries and 15th with the public indicated that retro wasn’t what people were looking for.
|18||Denmark||A Friend In London - New Tomorrow (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Lise Cabble & Jakob Schack Glæsner
After nearly succeeding with a rock anthem last year, the Danes tried a pop/rock song this time. The band, whose name derives from a visit made to the city by the lead singer, were certainly enthusiastic. The performance was stronger than in the final than the semi-final. Their efforts were well received, even if the lead singer was trying to compete with Jedwood for the worst hairstyle in the contest.
|19||Ireland||Jedward - Lipstick (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Daniel Priddy / Lars Halvor Jensen / Martin Michael Larsson
The Irish were full of hope for their most famous twins. There had clearly been lots of rehearsal and the boys knew what they had to do. It was noticeable that there were lots of long-distance camera shots which allowed viewers to focus on all the activity taking place on the video wall. Surely this wasn’t designed to detract from the vocal inadequacies of the lead singers, was it? Jedward survived the semi-final, despite only UK viewers (who weren’t voting in the second semi-final) knowing who they are. Their idiosyncratic way of doing things had clearly appealed to a wider audience. Take away the hype and publicity machine and what you had was two lead vocalists relying heavily on their backing singers to make them sound good, and a video wall displaying overt images to distract from the bad dancing.
|2||Austria||Nadine Beiler - The Secret Is Love (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Thomas Rabitsch/Nadine Beiler
The Austrians returned with a song that could have been recorded by an X-Factor winner. Close your eyes and it is easy to picture the gospel choir being revealed in a burst of light as the winner belts out the future Christmas No. 1. As for Nadine, her voice was in fine shape, and her short black dress wouldn’t have lost her any votes. Nadine coped well with the vocally demanding song. A poor result for Austria would probably have seen another sabbatical from the contest for them.
|3||The Netherlands||3JS - Never Alone (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Jaap Kwakman, Jan Dulles, Jaap de Witte (3JS)
The Dutch have only qualified once since the semi-finals were introduced, in 2004. Since then, they have tried many different styles in an effort to reach the final. This time, it is the turn of the all male trio. Their song delivered tried to be a cross between pop and anthemic and delivered less than it promised. The feeling remained that it wasn’t going to be a good year for the Dutch yet again.
|4||Belgium||Witloof Bay - With Love Baby (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Benoît Giaux / RoxorLoops
Everyone likes to try to predict which countries will qualify for the final. The Belgian song was one of the hardest to call. The acapella style would either be ignored completely or go down an absolute storm. It was more likely to be the reaction of the juries, who often see things differently from the rest of us, that would seal the fate of Witloof Bay. There was some well executed, integrated choreography between the six vocalists.
|5||Slovakia||TWiiNS - I'm still alive (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Bryan Todd, Sandra Nordstrom, Brano Jancich
Next, it was the turn of the first set of twins on show that night. I’m Still Alive sounds as if it comes from the High School Musical soundtrack. The vocals featured a lot of harmonies and so a good performance from the girls was essential. Some doubted the girls’ ability to do this, but they delivered, just.
|6||Ukraine||Mika Newton - Angel (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Maryna Skomorohova, Ruslan Kvinta
Ukraine has never failed to qualify for the final. The presentation featured sand artist, Kseniya Simonova, who created pictures in sand on an LED backdrop as Mika sang. On paper, the idea sounds as if it would only be a negative addition. However, it actually worked very well and probably sealed the deal for the smooth passage into the final of Mika’s pop ballad.
|7||Moldova||Zdob și Zdub - So Lucky (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Mihai Gincu / Marc Elsner / Andy Schuman
Zdob Si Zdub brought with them a straight rock song, but couldn’t resist creating a distraction by wearing traditional Moldovan hats the size of small pyramids. The risk was that this could as easily have worked against them as for them. It was another busy performance that included a flute playing unicyclist.
|8||Sweden||Eric Saade - Popular (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Fredrik Kempe
Eric’s routine was high energy and the staging featured the breaking of a glass cage, so sympathies lay with the stage hands responsible for clearing it all up. The volume mix between vocal and backing track seemed uneven in the semi-final, but all was well for the final. His song is the kind that doesn’t go down as well as it used to, so would the gimmick have the desired effect? Well, something worked, as he won the semi-final and looked for a while as if he might win the final as well.
|9||Cyprus||Christos Mylordos - Σαν άγγελος σ’αγάπησα (Greek)|
Music/Lyrics: Andreas Anastasiou / Mihalis Antoniou
The Cypriot song was the most ethnic of all those on show in this semi-final. The beautiful ballad was given a more than decent performance and Christos certainly deserved to reach the final, but the public didn’t take to it and neither, perhaps surprisingly, did the juries.