Page last updated at 07:03 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 08:03 UK

Battle of the Eurovision ballads

By Michael Osborn
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

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A glimpse at some of this year's Eurovision offerings

The 2008 Eurovision Song Contest was peppered with comic entries, led by a hapless puppet turkey from Ireland.

This year's musical mash-up in Moscow - which gets under way on Tuesday night - promises to be a more sober affair, with virtually all countries sending songs they feel have more credibility.

On this occasion, the first time the contest has been held in the Russian capital, the winner won't be determined by the great European public alone - half the vote has been given to juries of musical experts in an effort to dampen down neighbourly voting.

The luminaries will be looking for well-written songs and may not take kindly to over-the-top performances masking vacuous vocals.

Welcome to the new world of Eurovision...

LADY BALLADEERS

Many of the 42 countries vying for musical glory this year have plumped for the good old ballad, several of them delivered by solo females - historically a successful Eurovision category.

The United Kingdom - desperate to bounce back from a string of poor results - drafted in renowned composer Andrew Lloyd Webber to compose blousy, theatrical ballad It's My Time, co-written by US lyricist Diane Warren.

Yohanna and Patricia Kaas (Kaas image: AFP)
Youth and experience: Iceland's Johanna and French star Patricia Kaas

His young muse Jade Ewen has been tasked with hitting some high notes and delivering a touch of class to proceedings.

Fellow newcomer Johanna is hoping to steer Iceland into their second successive final, with a gentle song more suited to radio airplay than the West End stage.

But both singers are relative elders compared to teenager Christina Metaxa from Cyprus, whose winsome tune Firefly was penned by her older brother.

At the other end of the scale is Patricia Kaas from France - a smoky songstress with millions of record sales and reams of concert experience under her belt.

The singer said in a recent interview that her performance will be "simple, elegant and sober".

In another old school twist, the ballad delivered by male-female duets will be on show, thanks to Slovakia who are returning to Eurovision after 11 years in the wilderness.

Their dramatic offering is a full-on contrast to Croatia whose old-fashioned song is like a breath of warm Adriatic air on a summer's evening.

MALTA'S GREAT HOPE

Malta's singing star Chiara is making an impressive third attempt to capture the island nation's first win in Moscow - and could be the ballad performer to beat.

Chiara
Chiara captured the vote with her song Angel in 2005

She narrowly missed out to Israeli transsexual Dana International in 1998, and finished second in Kiev four years ago.

The singer, blessed with a gutsy yet sweet voice, is renowned for performing on stage alone and says this time will be no different.

Some Eurovision fans have warned that her latest song, What If We, is her weakest to date, but Chiara's Eurovision pedigree will prove an advantage.

Another star coming back to the fray is Sakis Rouvas from Greece, who came 3rd in 2004 and co-hosted the show two years later.

His new dance song is a far cry from cheesy, cheeky hit Shake It and could leave voters disappointed.

FIDDLERS AND BELTERS

Some countries have decided the way to appeal to voters and the juries alike is to throw in stringed instruments and a touch of opera.

Norway's Alexander Rybak has already been anointed by contest fans as the hot favourite to win in Moscow with his self-penned song Fairytale, which comes complete with a liberal dose of folksy violin playing.

Strings on show at this year's Eurovision Song Contest

Estonia's female six-piece string outfit Urban Symphony are hoping a more understated affair can steer the country into its first final since 2003.

String quartet Quartissimo from Slovenia are pushing it to the limit - their entry is largely instrumental with just a few soaring vocals.

But it's Sweden - also doing less well in recent years - who have plumped for a high-energy pop-opera song from an authentic diva to claw back the good times.

Bulgaria have gone one better and chosen tenor-altino vocalist Krassimir Avramov, which translates as a man who sings in a high voice.

POP GOES EUROVISION

Contest watchers hoping for showy, uptempo songs won't be disappointed, but they may fail to impress the musical experts.

Turkey's infectious tune Dum Tek Tek promises scantily-clad dancers, while Spain's hopeful Soraya has a surfeit of hunks to add spice to her pop song.

Spain's uptempo Eurovision entry

Svetlana Loboda from Ukraine also has a leather-clad male entourage to assist a raunchy and rather eccentric entry.

A summer-soaked catchy entry from Azerbaijan's Aysel and Arash is predicted to fare well, while Ireland have swapped a puppet for a breezy rock chick act.

And to show that anything is possible at Eurovision, Serbia, whose previous entries have been earnest and worthy, are sending the only slice of semi-comic nonsense to grace the Moscow stage.

The Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals take place on 12 and 14 May and will be screened on BBC Three. The grand final is held on 16 May and will be shown on BBC One.



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