Every year aspiring pop stars from Armenia to Albania pull out their English language dictionaries, cast their mother tongues aside and write lyrics they hope will appeal to English-speaking audiences. Fair enough: what's the last Romanian single you heard on the radio? Unfortunately, many end up singing in "Eurovision English"--that frequently incomprehensible dialect characterized by poor pronunciation, misplaced meaning and the liberal use of Google Translate.
Moldova's Sunstroke Project and Olia Tira capture the phenomenon pretty well in "Run Away." In the opening bars, Olia, the group's 21-year old starlet, makes "breathe" sound like "breeze," and "leave" sound like "leaf."
Oh, forget, let me breathe, let me live! Just run away from my mind. Oh, forgive, I don't need, I won't breathe! Just get away from my life!
Having set out that her man needs to go, she clarifies that he has lost everyone important to him and should "give up." It's not clear if he's meant to give up on her, give up on life, or give himself up to God for spiritual renewal:
You've lost one and all, so fly away. Over the clouds, under the sky. Never come back and run away. With all your might, give up you!
The third stanza complicates this troubled romance. A male voice blends (rather inharmoniously) with Olia's, suggesting that she too played a role in their breakdown:
I don't believe anymore your shallow heart. I know that it's you who chose to play this trick. I'll never forgive you, not for anything! And now you are left with nothing.
Rightly or wrongly, Moldova's official preview video distracts the viewer from the lyrics. You focus first on the electric fiddle with side lighting, then on the Moldovan incarnation of Kenny G, and then on all the '80s clothes and hairspray (I really hope they don't light any matches on stage in Oslo). By the time the wind machines start blowing and the turntables start spinning, you're too dizzy to think about the lyrics, which reach their nonsensical peak during the bridge:
There's no other time to making happiness. You have mistaken! We have no progressive future! I know your lying nature!
Moldova, of course, isn't alone. A number of this year's Eurovision acts think that rhyme implies English proficiency. There's Aisha from Latvia: "I've asked my uncle Joe/ But he can't speak/ Why does the wind still blow?/ And blood still leak?" And there's Paula Seling from Romania: "Boy boy boy what a fight/ Come and spend with me the night." As 'Molly Parton' wrote on the Eurovision Song Contest Today comments page: "Oh dear, all over Europe, the same horrible burgers, the same horrible Coca-Cola, and the same horrible songs in meaningless English."
Moldova competes in the first semi-final. Given the unusually high number of ballads this year, Moldova's electro-pop stands out. If they can translate the acid trip aspects of their video to the stage, Moldova will be tough to forget. They shouldn't have any trouble advancing to the final and could finish as high as fifth in the first semi.
The most generous bookies currently have Moldova down at 50:1 to win during the May 29 finale. Less generous bookies have them listed at 123:1. As a realistic goal, Moldova should aim to finish just inside the top 20.
Update: On May 20, during Moldova's second Eurovision rehearsal in Oslo, Olia revealed what she'll wear during the semi-finals: a metallic tutu with blue feather trim that screams "naughty astronaut."