Review - and votes.
Iceland - "Open Your Heart".
Bland and harmless, and it never really takes off. Nonetheless a decent pop song, but a terrible draw will doom it. Iceland will be in serious danger of relegation if the rules aren't changed for next year's competition. The Nordic mafia has been losing authority in recent years. 4 of 10.
Austria - "Weil der Mensch zählt".
"Whoever votes for me is against being standardised and cemented into the ‘European banality’". Perhaps - but they are also without any musical taste whatsoever. The Eurovision is not the place for political statements. Especially not when they sound as horrible as this. A big, round zero on the score sheet should be the reward. 1 of 10.
Ireland - "We've Got the World Tonight".
You don't even have Europe! Ireland tries the old receipe, submitting a male vocalist with a 'balladish' item, but Johnny Logan is in rehab. And we just don't care anymore. 3 of 10.
Turkey - "Everyway that I can".
In a bid to entice listeners, Turkey has consistently toned down the ethnic elements of their entries. This dreadful attempt at contemporary pop makes me miss the old days. As a minimum, I would have preferred a Turkish version of the song. 4 of 10.
Malta - "To Dream Again".
Malta's 7th Wonder was robbed of victory last year by Latvia's Ricky Martin-wannabe striptease act. They opted for another young female vocalist with a cute song. Unfortunately, this one is only half as good and does not stand out in any particular way. An in-offensive, bottom-scraper. 5 of 10.
Bosnia-Hercegovina - "Ne brini (Could It Be)".
Splendid vocal performance, but the material for Eurovision glory isn't there. Has the spice to finish in the middle section, but Mija Martina is not likely to carry it further than that. 6 of 10.
Portugal "Deixa-me sonhar (So mais uma vez) (Keep the Dream Alive)".
Despite trying very hard, Portugal has a habit of entering musical catastrophies. In a field of English-language, generic, upbeat pop this one stands out refreshingly well. But even with a heavy dose of make-up, Rita will have a hard time attracting the attention of the fickle European viewing corps with this slow item. 6 of 10.
Croatia - "Vise nisam tvoja (I Can’t Be Your Lover)".
Croatian teen sensation Claudia Beni with a bombastic song that works well enough to steer her country into the Top 10. Will have difficulty vying for top honors because of the draw. 6 of 10.
Cyprus - "Feeling Alive".
Sigh - finally another male vocalist. Ex-footballing hunk Stelios Constantas will undoubtedly appeal to the female viewership with this enticing, Mediterreanean melody. Malta tried something similar in 2001 (Fabrizio Faniello) and reached 9th place. The Cyprotic entry 2003 is better. 7 of 10.
Germany - "Let's Get Happy".
Awfully close to tackiness with the title, but it's a damn fun song. The chorus is not insanely brilliant, but Lou pulls off the verses tremendously well. I really like the drive and speed of the song. One of the best ever German entries. And who would have guessed - a Ralph Siegel production! My outright favorite. 9 of 10.
Russia "Ne verj, ne boisja".
I wrongly assumed that the teen-nympho, pseudo-Lesbian hype would show up with a plain bad song, hoping to cash in on name recognition. This thing is surprisingly in Russian and actually highly 'listenable'. Past 2 minutes it gets a bit irksome, but their stage performance may do the job. In the running for first place. 7 of 10.
Spain - "Dime (Tell Me)".
Spain has traditionally struggled with their entries. Expectations for Rosa's celebration were high last year, but the European televoters weren't convinced. Beth - another 4-letter female - has a much less cheasy song to work with in 2003. Well-composed pop without any novel elements. Will make a mark without seriously challenging for the gold medal. 6 of 10.
Israel - "Words for Love".
Pleasant, fast-moving beat from an experienced Israeli performer. Last year's beautiful peace hymn wasn't awarded at the box office. This one might be. Cause it's fun. And how about those chicks? 6 of 10.
Netherlands - "One More Night".
What separates this from the rest? Virtually nothing. But the draw might help it along. And Esther Hart's vocal is shiningly bright. Should be enough for a Top 10 finish. 6 of 10.
United Kingdom - "Cry Baby".
Modern, upbeat thing from a traditional Eurovision powerhouse. Has a nice transition in the beginning of the third minute to keep the listener interested - despite an obscene number of repetitions. I find it moderately annoying, but it's probably a top-contender. 5 of 10.
Ukraine - "Hasta la Vista".
Ukraine pops up for the first time and immediately says "see you later"! The chorus sounds slightly odd, but that can only be a benefit in the ESC. Will attract plenty of votes from the powerful friends in the Baltic-Eastern mafia. And probably enough for Top 10. 6 of 10.
Greece - "Never Let You Go".
Greece doesn't appear to have fully recuperated after losing out in 2001 with the excellent "Die for you" by Antique and then going for broke with my 2002-favorite "S.A.G.A.P.O" which was broadly despised. Mando needs to pull in votes with her charisma, this song won't earn her much. 3 of 10.
Norway - "I'm Not Afraid To Move On".
Heartthrob Jostein's love ballad is nothing short of remarkable. Catchy tune - and please check out his hair. Hopefully a Top 3 finish for Norway. But last time I crossed my fingers for a Norwegian ballad (Haldor's "On my own", 2001), they got relegated. 8 of 10.
France - "Monts et merveilles (The Moon and The Stars)".
Not quite France as we have gotten to know and love them in the Eurovision. Cough. This song is much more energetic, varied, and up-tempo than usual. Still a female, though. One step at a time. 6 of 10.
Poland - "Keine Grenzen".
A Polish entry partly in German!? And the guy is groaning? The male/female duet gig has never really worked in the Eurovision. It won't this time either. 5 of 10.
Latvia - "Hello From Mars".
Extremely well-produced submission with a catchy title. Duets may suck, but this trio is hot. If you want some extra money for the summer holidays, run to the bookies and bet on this. Positive tune, perfect draw, host nation, lots of friends with voting rights. The winning combo. 7 of 10.
Belgium - "Sanomi".
Pleasant, folksy entry in same vain as ESC-legend "Nocturne". A tad bit too repetititous and not likely to score with the fun-loving viewer segment. Nonetheless, an original item in a sea of Beckham shirts. Should avoid relegation. 7 of 10.
Estonia - "Eighties Coming Back".
Doesn't sound quintessential 80s to me, as it lacks the synth element. But it's catchy as hell and more proof that the Baltic states have a killer hand when drafting Eurovision hits. A front-runner for sure. 7 of 10.
Romania - "Don't Break My Heart".
Romania has come a long away since they first gained entry into the Eurovision. Remember the slightly obese women in night gowns spilling their guts in slow-motion. Speedy, modern tune that gets the job done this time. But not a real contender. 6 of 10.
Sweden - "Give Me Your Love".
I tipped Sweden and Afrodite to sweep the ESC-crown last year. They failed miserably. Their 2001 entry, another ABBA carbon copy, is very similar to this one. We've seen too much of this, the viewers won't buy. However, if they put Agnetha back on stage... 5 of 10.
Slovenija - "Nanana".
She's not Nusa Derenda. And her song is not "Energy". For those reasons Slovenia won't get anywhere with this attempt. Dull and unoriginal. 4 of 10.
But who will win?
Latvia, most likely, or Estonia. Possibly Russia. Germany's draw is too difficult with so many strong tunes in the bottom half. And ballads just don't seem to cut it (Norway).