The first Eurovision semi-final kicks off on May 22. To help you decide which country deserves your televote, I'm previewing some of this year's most talked-about contestants. Today's acts include Ireland's Jedward-easily the most successful X-Factor rejects ever-and Sweden's Loreen-the odds-on favorite to win the Eurovision crown this May.
Austria: Trackshittaz with "Woki mit deim Popo":
Austria's unfortunately named hip-hop group the Trackshittaz take tacky to a whole new level. Their song "Shake Your Booty" is rather monotonous and reaches its lyrical heights when it rhymes "low" with "ho." To the group's credit, I love how in the middle of all this German you hear a very clear English expression: "booty shake." I can see how some people might appreciate the Macarena-esque qualities of the song. It's simple, lends itself well to the most basic dance moves (thrusting, gyrating, etc.), and could become a summer hit. In Austria. Don't judge the song by its simple lyrics alone. As the group recently told me in an interview, the song is meant to uplift people struggling with the downturn. Its message? "Turn of your head and shake your booty!"
Prediction: Hip hop does not do well at Eurovision, and not even this charismatic duo can overcome that. Austria will finish somewhere near the bottom of its semi-final, thereby missing out on the grand final on May 26.
Greece: Eleftheria Eleftheriou with "Aphrodisiac":
Owing to its economic woes, Greece had to stage its national selection inside the food court of a shopping mall this year. Fortunately they proved that austerity is no excuse to stop the fun, and it's not where you have the party that matters, but who you invite. I'm happy to say that Greece got the guest list right. Eleftheria Eleftheriou has a body that just won't quit, and she channels the energy of a cat in heat. Her performance of "Aphrodisiac" is jam-packed with good-looking back-up dancers and professional choreography. It all climaxes at the 2:00 mark when Eleftheria starts humping the floor and exposes her beige-colored underwear. How thoughtful of her to choose a pair that matches her dress.
As for the song, "Aphrodisiac" has such simple lyrics that you can start repeating the chorus almost immediately. "Oh oh oh oh oh, oh oh oh oh oh/ You make me dance, dance like a maniac/ Oh oh oh oh oh, oh oh oh oh oh/ You make me want your aphrodisiac." It's slightly confusing when she sings she wants "your" aphrodisiac. Is she asking for her man's oysters? I think she means something like, "You yourself are an aphrodisiac."
Prediction: This song is exactly what you expect from Greece at Eurovision. It's catchy, repetitive, upbeat and very Eurovision. That's precisely why it will compete for a spot in the Top 5.
Ireland: Jedward with "Waterline":
Jedward--the world's most famous set of singing identical twins--are hungry to win Eurovision: they're competing for the second straight year. The bad news is that they won't win. Their song "Waterline" doesn't lend itself to the over-the-top spectacle that helped them finish eighth at Eurovision 2011 with their more catchy number "Lipstick." But the good news is that "Waterline" represents a real maturation of their sound. It doesn't rely so heavily on the digitized antics of their other songs, and forces the boys to grapple with their own voices, which have moved in the right direction over the last year.
Prediction: Jedward's popularity with Eurovision's ever-younger demographic bodes well for their chances. Given that "Waterline" gets stuck in your head instantly--something crucial in a telelvised song contest--I'm confidant they can finish a respectable 10th or higher.
Sweden: Loreen with "Euphoria":
If Eurovision can be compared to sex, then Loreen's "Euphoria" is definitely this year's orgasm. The foreplay begins the moment the synthesized boooooom kicks off the song, and the pleasure builds as Loreen asks if "this night can last forever more." I seriously want it to if she's singing. The staging from the Swedish national final (above) proves that less is more--a lesson most Eurovision acts have trouble understanding. Simple dance moves reflect the purity of the song's message: that love takes us to a higher place. Loreen's occasional writhing--cue jokes about straight jackets--conveys the sense of madness that can accompany that journey.
Prediction: If the bookies have it right--and I think they do--then Sweden's Loreen is almost untouchable. The only contestant with a remote chance of beating her is Italy's Nina Zilli--but even that is starting to seem unthinkable. Devout Eurovision fans can go ahead and book their hotels for Eurovision 2013 in Stockholm.