I'm planning to do this in 4 parts, although the next part probably won't appear on here until the weekend. So here is what I think of the first 10 songs in Semi-Final 1.
Moldova: "RUN AWAY" - SUNSTROKE PROJECT & OLIA TIRA: I’m never too thrilled about Moldova at ESC and don’t usually bother with their entries. This is a slice of 90s dance nostalgia, a genre which usually excites me greatly but this doesn’t really do it for me either. Still at least it’s an uptempo start and may grow on me with more listens.
Russia: "LOST AND FORGOTTEN" - PETER NALITCH BAND: Lord have mercy! This is probably one of the more unusual songs in this year’s contest and is therefore worthy of our attention for that reason alone. Well, that and Mr Nalitch’s bewitching brown eyes. Shallow? Moi? I remember reading on another website that this was a joke entry. Draw your own conclusions!
Estonia: "SIREN" - MALCOLM LINCOLN: A country which continues to confound and delight me. The country that brought one of my all-time favourite ESC songs ("Eighties Coming Back") and most recently the mesmerising "Randajad", now treats us to a totally credible indie delight which doesn’t really do it on first hearing, but listen another couple of times and you may possibly love it. As I think I love it a little bit now. As an ESC entry it will probably bomb, but three cheers for them for a daring and different choice.
Slovakia - "HOREHRONIE" - KRISTINA: I know zilch about Slovakian music so couldn’t possibly comment if this is a good example of it or not. What it is another example of is the thumping-drums-and-dance-routines trend which has, for me, dragged the contest down in recent years. Highly derivative, what with the costume change and she even gets lifted in the air, Paparizou-style. However this does have some charm which many of those other drums-and-dancing songs have not.
Finland - "TYOLKI ELLAA" - KUUNKUISKAAJAT: Well of course they should have sent Osmo Ikonen, so I hated this immediately. Still the one thing you can’t accuse the Finns of it predictability. This is completely bonkers, dancing-drunk-at-a-wedding music and I can’t even begin to predict where it will end up. However, a good time had by all.
Latvia - "WHAT FOR" - AISHA: At first I thought this was a tribute song to the French Popstars winners, but it’s a whole lot more philosophical than that. "Only Mr God knows why!" is the conclusion reached by Ms. Aisha. I think this could do quite well, although I said the same about "Hello From Mars". I’ve already come to the conclusion that this year, accordions are the new fiddles. A long way from the glory days of Brainstorm, but it seems to have stuck in my brain after one listen.
Serbia - "OVO JE BALKAN" - MILAN STANKOVIC: from a country which I can’t really stand at Eurovision, purely because of the dreary Zeljko-type songs and one of my most hated winners "Molitva" comes a nice cheerful little foot tapper from, let’s just say, one of the more visually interesting performers (!) With a haircut last seen on the Mike Flowers Pops.
Bosnia & Herzegovina: "THUNDER AND LIGHTNING" - VUKASIN BRAJIC: Inevitably this isn’t remotely as wonderful as last year’s Bosnian song "Bistra Voda" by Regina - however well done to them again for trying something different away from the usual dreary Balkan-ballads. This is a rock song sung in English by a guy who looks a little bit like Calogero (!) I think this could grow on me after a few listens but I’m not sure how it will go with the voters.
Poland: "LEGENDA" - MARCIN MROZINSKI: This song is a bit bizarre - the lyrics suggest it could be the theme tune for some kind of medieval fairytale. As the ‘fairytale’ them is sooooo 2009, I can’t really see this making it out of the semi-final. A bit too over-dramatic for my tastes.
Belgium: "ME AND MY GUITAR" - TOM DICE: I was a bit sad this year that we were denied Flemish-speaking Belgium’s ‘Eurosong’ contest which is always one of my favourites. It was shelved this year in favour of an internal selection - and oh look, here’s another young male singer with, appropriately a guitar. This is a different and daring choice for Belgium, even if it’s too subtle to qualify. This is nice, Mr Dice. But please lose the hat :)
Check back here at the weekend for the next part of my review.