“The Balkan Girls” — Elena Gheorghe (Eurovision 2009, Romania)

According to her official Eurovision biography, Romania’s Elena Gheorghe comes from a family of priests. If those priests have seen the latest video for “The Balkan Girls,” I suspect they’re preparing the holy water.


Elena, the lyrics tell us, needs to unwind, so she plans to start her weekend with “gin, tonic and lime.” Her girls—who are naturally “lookin’ so fine”—give her a ride. On horseback. No snickering: this is Romania, not Sweden!

There’s non-stop dancing which culminates with Elena alternately leading a choreographed routine in a club and humping a sofa. Throughout she encourages Balkan Girls to open their minds because they’re one of a kind. There’s only one man who appears in the video and, sadly, he’s helplessly lost in the toilets and must break dance on his own.

Why you know English isn’t Romania’s first language:

“The Balkan girls they like to party like nobody, like nobody,

For crowd delight, we’ll shine all night.”

For crowd delight?

Why Romania May Win:

Bookies are betting against Romania, but the song panders to the powerful Balkan voting bloc which includes Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and sometimes (depending on who you are) Moldova, Romania and Slovenia. Romania always gets Moldova’s votes, and it’s likely that Romania will scoop up others if Balkan residents do feel that their women “party like nobody, like nobody.”  Also, Elena is half-Macedonian, a fact that should curry favor with voters seeking that blood connection.

Romania really can light up the stage. This is Elena performing in London on April 17. She was magical, so it’s only fitting that she looks like an illusion:

Romania's Elena Gheorghe performs at London's Eurovision 2009 preview party

Romania's Elena Gheorghe performs at London's Eurovision 2009 preview party

Why Romania May Not Win:

First, in live performances, one of the background singers cannot harmonize and she brings down the overall quality of the performance. Hopefully Elena will shove a sock in said background singer’s mouth. That may be the case: at the preview event in London, Elena performed solo.

Second, Elena doesn’t really dance…she merely flails her limbs. Dancing isn’t essential—hello, angry Serbian lesbian Marija Serifovic just shook her fists in 2007 before walking away with the title—but voters respond favorably to well-choreographed, sexual movement, as with Ani Lorak, Ukraine 2008.

Third, the field is cluttered with upbeat dance numbers so there’s a risk Romania might not be memorable enough.

Prediction:

Romania should sail through the first semi-final on Tuesday, May 12. Elena performs 14th out of 18 acts which means she’ll be fresh in the voters’ minds—even with such power players as Sweden, Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the same heat.

Final: Winning will be a stretch, but Romania deserves—and will probably place—in the Top 10.