There’s a fine line between puppy love and psychotic obsession — and Lena Meyer-Landrut blurs it brilliantly. In her Eurovision entry “Satellite,” the 18-year old projects frustration at being ignored: “I went everywhere for you/ I even did my hair for you/ I bought new underwear that’s blue/ And I wore it just the other day.” A true masochist, she soon converts that pain into pleasure. When the chorus rolls around, she radiates ecstasy while dancing in a black void and compares herself to the loneliest of travelers: “Like a satellite I’m in orbit all the way around you/ And I would fall out into the night/ Can’t go a minute without your love.”
Giving infatuation a rhythm has turned Lena into a recording phenomenon. Since winning Unser Star für Oslo — Germany’s eight-part reality TV series that selected the country’s Eurovision contestant — she’s debuted three songs in the top five of the German singles chart. “Satellite” shot to number one, became Germany’s fastest-selling digital download of all time and went platinum. And her first album My Cassette Player is expected to make plenty of noise when it’s released on May 7. Lena — who just graduated from high school in April — has also become a media darling. “I don’t mind giving autographs and letting [fans] take pictures. I think it’s really cute,” she recently told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Diplomatic answers are expected: her grandfather was the West German ambassador to the Soviet Union.
And while Lena does sweet in real life, it’s her ability to project crazy that makes her memorable. As the song goes on, her neuroses pulsate to the bongo drum and xylophone accompaniment. There’s loss of control: “You got me, you got me/ A force more powerful than gravity.” Hopelessness: “It’s physics…there’s no escape.” And sheer creepiness: “I even painted my toenails for you/ I did it just the other day.” By the time she sings that her “aim is straight and true,” it’s pretty clear she intends to wield Cupid’s arrow as a weapon. Taken with her animated scowls, pursed lips and dark intonations, it’s enough to conjure up images of Glenn Close boiling a bunny rabbit.
Eurovision 2010 will be a battle between two teen pop queens: Lena and Azerbaijan’s Safura Alizade. When London-based betting agency Boylesports released the first set of betting odds in late March, Safura, the 17-year old winner of Azerbaijani Idol, was the odds-on favorite at 7:2. Germany was listed fourth highest at 14:1. In subsequent weeks, however, Lena has narrowed that gap significantly and the two now stand in a virtual deadlock atop the table.
Voters will have to decide whether they prefer Lena’s quirkiness or Safura’s theatrics. On stage, Lena comes off as likable, if a bit kooky. She can’t dance, but doesn’t seem to care, and her natural awkwardness transforms into something endearing. You get the sense she wants to be a singer, not a pop star. As in her preview video, she’ll likely appear on stage in Oslo alone, sparing us the bare-chested backup dancers and trapeze swings Eurovision fans have grown accustomed to.
Safura, on the other hand, desperately wants to position herself as mainstream, and she released a preview of her preview video. In her song “Drip Drop,” she tells the story of a woman done wrong by her philandering other half — a tired theme taken straight from R&B. Azerbaijan has hired JaQuel Knight, Beyonce’s choreographer and the man behind the “Single Ladies” video, to craft Safura’s stage performance. It promises to be sleek and over-the-top, but that could drain it of soul and sincerity.
Other factors work in Lena’s favor, too. Germany, Britain, France and Spain make up the “Big Four” group of nations that bypass the semi-finals and automatically receive places in the final. That special status stems from their significant financial contributions to Eurovision. Because Lena debuts her song in the final, “Satellite” will sound fresh and novel. Lastly, Lena’s appeal cuts across generations. She’s young and edgy but keeps her cleavage to herself. Elderly voters in the Bulgarian countryside and housewives in Macedonia will respond more favorably to that than Safura’s high-octane sexuality. What Europe’s youngins will prefer remains a mystery.