From the moment Azerbaijan triumphed in Dusseldorf in 2011, taking the contest further east than it had ever gone before, there were concerns about Azerbaijan’s suitability to host such a prestigious international event and controversy dominated the months and weeks leading up to the contest. A new venue, the Crystal Hall, was built for the event. The Azeri authorities insist that the plans for the building already existed before it was chosen to host the 2012 contest. They also stressed that those forced to leave their homes to make space for the construction were properly compensated, something denied by the locals whose homes were affected. Azerbaijan’s human rights record was also put under the spotlight. The BBC seemed particularly keen to bring the contest into disrepute, broadcasting what was effectively an anti-Azerbaijan documentary the day before the first semi-final. There is the not unreasonable argument that a song contest should not become a political event and it is worth noting that the Azeri population were delighted to have the opportunity to show their country to the world, something those giving themselves the grand label of ‘human rights campaigner’ would have denied them.
While the presentation of the show was rightly apolitical, the President of Azerbaijan couldn’t resist influencing proceedings. His wife was put in charge of the organising committee and his daughter, Leyla, was one of the presenters and then there was the interval act. So, the question is; if you’re Azeri and want to show your talent to the world, how can you secure a gig in the Eurovision Song Contest? Hard work? Maybe. Talent? Possibly. Be married to the daughter of the president? Definitely! Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding (or else!) for Emin. He was supported by a cast of thousands (well, that’s what it looked like) but still managed to seem inadequate.
Politics also played a part in the number of participants. Of the two countries withdrawing from the event, one was a significant withdrawal. Armenia has long had its differences with Azerbaijan, but initially said it would take part in the contest. However, after much umming and aahing, the Armenians decided that the organisers couldn’t guarantee the security of an Armenian delegation in Baku and so withdrew from the event. Poland withdrew due to the commitment of co-hosting the Euro 2012 football tournament. Montenegro returned after a two year absence, so a total of 42 countries headed east.
Political interference didn’t stop in the host country. In Belarus, Alena Lanskaya won the final with the ballad, All My Life. Discontent was expressed about the fairness of the result and the public had their way when the President intervened and declared that Litesound, who came second, would go to Baku instead.
As has become the norm, much was made of the alleged neighbourly voting. Of the Scandinavian countries, Sweden won easily while Norway languished at the bottom of the scoreboard. Work that one out!
Željko Joksimović was appearing for the second time as a singer, as was Jonsi from Iceland and the irrepressible Irish twins, Jedward. Kaliopi had been selected for the contest before, but that was in 1996 when all countries were put to a vote and Macedonia was one of six countries who missed out, so she had to stay at home.
Nije Ljubav Stvar
Crno I Belo
You and Me
This is the Night
We Are the Heroes
Be My Guest
I'm a Joker
Love Me back
Max Jason Mai
Don't Close Your Eyes
Korake Ti Znam
Love is Blind
|Željko Joksimović||Serbia - Željko Joksimović - Nije Ljubav Stvar (Serbian)
Music/Lyrics: Željko Joksimović/Marina Tucaković, Miloš Roganović
Željko is a Eurovision veteran! This is the second song he has performed, the fourth he has written and he hosted the contest in 2008. He took no chances when accepting the approach from Serbian broadcaster, RTS, to represent his country. He gave everyone what they expected, an ethnic ballad oozing beauty with an effective string arrangement.
|Macedonia – Kaliopi - Crno I Belo (Macedonian)
Music/Lyrics: Romeo Grill/Kaliolpi
The song starts quietly enough but develops into a quality piece of Balkan rock. Kaliopi was always likely to put everything into her performance. In the event, she tried a bit too hard.
|The Netherlands - Joan Franka – You and I (English)
Music/Lyrics: Joan Franka, Jessica Hoogenboom/Joan Franka
The Netherlands has not had the best of luck in respect of reaching the final. Many thought that Joan would change that and she certainly deserved a place. The song is very pleasant, melodic and hummable. Questions have to be asked about the wisdom of wearing American Indian headdress, it was very off-putting.
|Malta - Kurt Calleja – This Is the Night (English)
Music/Lyrics: Johan Jämtberg, Mikael Gunnerås, Kurt Calleja/Johan Jämtberg, Mikael Gunnerås, Kurt Calleja
Are you ready for more dodgy choreography? Then we’ll begin the Maltese song. Many were surprised when Malta were announced as one of the qualifiers on Thursday night – or very early Friday morning for those in the host country! Kurt’s pop song was spoiled by the playground style dancing which featured at the end of the chorus. This included his two guitarists, possibly making this the most amusing choreography since Liliane St Pierre in 1987.
|Belarus – Litesound - We Are the Heroes (English)
Music/Lyrics: Dmitry Kariakin, Vladimir Kariakin/Dmitry Kariakin, Vladimir Kariakin
After Presidential intervention helped them get this far, the pressure was on Litesound to deliver. To be fair, they did all they could with their conventional rock song – sometimes the people just don’t like what is on offer enough.
|Portugal - Filipa Sousa – Vida Minha (Portuguese)
Music/Lyrics: Andrej Babic/Carlos Coelho
The Fado is always a welcome addition to any contest, adding as it does a cultural respectability in these days of the free language rule. Filipa, who won the Portuguese final convincingly, could have done no more, it just wasn’t to be.
|Ukraine – Gaitana - Be My Guest (English) 64 points 8th
Music/Lyrics: Gaitana, KIWI Project/Gaitana
Oh dear! This is a song better heard on disc than watched live. In her excitement, Gaitana shouted rather than sung the words and the garland on her head looked awful and out of place.
|Bulgaria - Sofi Marinova - Love Unlimited (Bulgarian)
Music/Lyrics: Krum Geopriev, Iasen Kozev/Donka Vasileva
If this had been the Eurovision dance Track Contest, Sofi would have been right up there. It’s great if you are happy on the dance floor but as a song, it starts running out of steam before the end. She can count herself the unluckiest person in Baku as she finished in equal tenth, only missing out on the final due to the count back system of separating tied songs.
|Slovenia – Eva Boto – Verjamem (Slovenian)
Music/Lyrics: Vladimir Graić, Hari Mata Hari/Igor Pirkovič
Eva looked a cast iron certainty to reach the final. It’s an excellent but different Balkan ballad which was effectively presented, she sung it well and there were enough neighbours in the same semi-final to help her score enough points to secure a berth in the final. It seems that sometimes, 2+2 does = 5.
|Croatia – Nina Badrić – Nebo (Croatian)
Music/Lyrics: Nina Badrić/Nina Badrić
The Croats sent a big name in Nina. She had been waiting many years for her moment having been in the Croatian ‘Dora’ contest more than once. Her passionate yet understated ballad, which she performed professionally, seemed another one destined for the final but caused gasps aplenty when Nina wasn’t among the lucky ten.
|Sweden – Loreen – Euphoria (English)
Music/Lyrics: Thomas G:son, Peter Boström/Thomas G:son, Peter Boström
Euphoria indeed as Loreen not only won, but came close to scoring the highest number of points in contest history. Her freestyle dancing led to comparisons with Kate Bush. Her song, which is perhaps unworthy of such a victory, will be a club anthem in Scandinavia for years to come. She also achieved chart success in many other European countries, making Euphoria the most commercially successful Eurovision song for many years.
|Georgia - Anri Jokhadze - I'm A Joker (English)
Music/Lyrics: Rusudan Chkhaidze/Bibi Kvachadze
Anri, like Montenegro’s Rambo Amadeus, seems to have swallowed a rhyming dictionary! What results is a rock-fuelled mish mash of nonsensical babble.
|Turkey - Can Bonomo – Love Me Back (English)
Music/Lyrics: Can Bonomo/Can Bonomo
Can didn’t receive the warmest of receptions when he was announced as the Turkish choice. Turkey missed out on the final last year and can consider themselves lucky to be back on stage in the Saturday extravaganza this time. Cheap gimmick alert! Can’s backing dancers form the shape of a boat from the cloths they had previously been waving around while accompanying Can’s ethnic Turkish song, which also has hints of Greek music – controversial!
|Estonia - Ott Lepland – Kuula (Estonian)
Music/Lyrics: Ott Lepland/Aapo Ilves
An example of how to nearly turn virtually guaranteed success into disaster! Pre contest, Kuula was a beautiful, heartfelt ballad that went big at exactly the right moments. Whether pre-planned or not improvised, Ott used a different vocal arrangement in the semi-final whose only effect was to lose the neatness of the song. Anyway, it worked so the same vocal arrangement was used in the final as well.
|Slovakia - Max Jason Mai - Don't Close Your Eyes (English)
Music/Lyrics: Max Jason Mai/Max Jason Mai
Far and away the rockiest song of the whole contest. Max isn’t the most convincing rock star and only fans of heavy metal were likely to support it.
|Norway – Tooji – Stay (English)
Music/Lyrics: Tooji, Figge Boström, Peter Boström/Tooji, Figge Boström, Peter Boström
Many were sure that Tooji’s pop/dance track would qualify but no-one foresaw how narrowly it would do so – only beating Bulgaria on the count back system after a tie. It’s therefore not surprising that he propped up the scoreboard in the final.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina - Maya Sar - Korake Ti Znam (Bosnian)
Music/Lyrics: Maja Sarihodžić/Maja Sarihodžić
Jolly or straight-laced is what we usually get from Bosnia. Korake Ti Znam falls firmly into the latter category. Maya starts her soft and gentle song at the piano before, somewhat predictably, she walks away from it towards the end for the big finale.
|Lithuania - Donny Montell – Love Is Blind (English)
Music/Lyrics: Brandon Stone/Brandon Stone, Jodie Rose
How this came third in its semi-final is a mystery! The sparkly blindfold (this is Eurovision, it couldn’t possibly be a plain blindfold) gimmick looked ridiculous, his dancing was worse than a drunk uncle at a wedding and the song, which starts promisingly, descends into a disorganised mess!
|#||Country||Artist & Song||Points||Rank|
|1||Serbia||Željko Joksimović - Nije Ljubav Stvar (Serbian)|
Music/Lyrics: Željko Joksimović, Miloš Roganović
|10||Croatia||Nina Badrić - Nebo (Croatian)|
Music/Lyrics: Nina Badrić
|11||Sweden||Loreen - Euphoria (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Thomas G:son, Peter Boström
|12||Georgia||Anri Jokhadze - I'm A Joker (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Bibi Kvachadze
|13||Turkey||Can Bonomo - Love Me Back (English, Turkish)|
Music/Lyrics: Can Bonomo
|14||Estonia||Ott Lepland - Kuula (Estonian)|
Music/Lyrics: Aapo Ilves
|15||Slovakia||Max Jason Mai - Don't close your eyes (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Miroslav Šmajda
|16||Norway||Tooji - Stay (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Tooji/Figge Boström/Pelle Boström
|17||Bosnia & Herzegovina||Maya Sar - Korake Ti Znam, Adriano Pennino (Bosnian)|
Music/Lyrics: Maja Sarihodžić
|18||Lithuania||Donny Montell - Love Is Blind (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Brandon Stone & Jodie Rose
|2||FYR Macedonia||Kaliopi - Crno i belo (Macedonian)|
Music/Lyrics: Romeo Grill, Kaliopi
|3||The Netherlands||Joan Franka - You And Me (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Joan Franka, Jessica Hoogenboom
|4||Malta||Kurt Calleja - This is the Night (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Johan Jämtberg, Mikael Gunnerås, Kurt Calleja
|5||Belarus||Litesound - We are the heroes (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Vladimir Karyakin, Dmitry Karyakin
|6||Portugal||Filipa Sousa - Vida Minha (Portuguese)|
Music/Lyrics: Andrej Babic and Carlos Coelho
|7||Ukraine||Gaitana - Be My Guest (English)|
Music/Lyrics: Gaitana / KIWI Project
|8||Bulgaria||Sofi Marinova - Love unlimited (Bulgarian)|
Music/Lyrics: Krum Geopriev, Lasen Kozev, Donka Vasileva
|9||Slovenia||Eva Boto - Verjamem (Slovenian)|
Music/Lyrics: Vladimir Graić, Hari Mata Hari and Igor Pirkovič