Fred Bronson discusses various topics with readers.

MAKING OUR MINDS UP

Hello Fred,

I know that you are a big fan of the Eurovision Song Contest and so am I.

I just heard the official CD of all 39 contestants in this year's 50th celebration of the contest, to be held in Kiev, Ukraine, and wonder if you've already had the chance to hear it. If so, please share with us your opinion!

From the first impression I have to say that every country tries more and more each year to sound like everybody else, with the exception of some eastern European countries, like Turkey and Austria (yodeling!).

Like every year it's very hard to predict the winner. One thing is sure, the debuting countries Bulgaria and Moldavia will not even qualify for the finals on May 21. Hungary, back after quite a long break, will probably manage to qualify.

Something quite striking are the songs of Estonia and Iceland: both have the same titles as former hits by Jennifer Lopez, "Let's Get Loud" and "If I Had Your Love."

Holger R. Heinrich
Berlin
holgerh@zonnet.nl


Dear Fred,

I'm wondering if you're keeping track of the competition in this year's Eurovision Song Contest. I recently checked them out at the Eurovision Web site (www.eurovision.tv) and although I know over the years the quality of the music has been ridiculed, many of this year's batch could be classified as good guilty pleasures worth checking out.

I'm not normally into sentimental ballads, but two ballad entries are my favorites: Malta's Chiara with "Angel" (you could imagine any famous diva with Celine Dion-type pipes singing this song, but Chiara is also a superb singer and the melody is simple and infectious) and Israel's Shiri Maymon with "Hasheket Shenishar."

The latter was quite a surprise for me--the singer is gorgeous, her voice is very strong and soulful, and the song could be an international hit if translated into English (it was reportedly written in that language originally, not Hebrew). The "Bodyguard"-inspired video is oddly compelling and considering Israel's political situation, also almost believable.

I know that the favorite by the public so far is Greece's Helena Paparizou with "My Number One," which I think is just OK (it seems to be more like Alanis Morissette during her teen-pop days to my ears) and Iceland's Selma with "If I Had Your Love" (it grows on me--it does have a cool Euro-groove to it that could be popular throughout Europe). But I am rooting for Israel and Malta.

Other Eurovision songs that made an impact to my ears are a couple of out-of-left-fielders from Moldova (a silly novelty ditty called "Bonnika Bate Doba") and host country / defending champion Ukraine (a politically charged rap called "Nazom Mas Barato (We Won't Stand This--No...)").

Who are your bets to win and your favorites, Fred? And do you think any of the songs have a chance in America? I know that ABBA's "Waterloo," Domenico Modugno's "Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blue (Volare)" and Gina G's "Ooh Ahh (Just a Little Bit)" were Eurovision-related songs that made a big dent in America.

Joseph Vitug
Manila, Philippines

P.S. Do you know why Italy has not been competing in Eurovision for the past six years? Isn't it supposed to be a "powerhouse" nation like the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain?

Dear Holger and Joseph,

Yes, I've had a chance to listen to the Eurovision 2005 CD, and also see the preview videos of the 39 hopefuls. Anyone else curious to know more about the Eurovision Song Contest can watch all 39 videos at (www.eurovision.tv), as Joseph suggests.

For the uninitiated, the first Eurovision was held in 1956. It's what ABBA won in 1974 (with "Waterloo") that launched the group globally. The three-hour broadcast will be seen live on May 21. Whoever wins Eurovision becomes the host country the following year. In 2004, Ukraine won Eurovision on only its second try, with "Wild Dances" by Ruslana. That's why this year's show is taking place in Kiev.

Over the last few weeks, we've played several of this year's Eurovision entries in the "Hits of the World" feature on The Billboard Radio Countdown. The show for the week ending May 21 will feature Selma's "If You Had My Love" from Iceland, and that show will be posted at www.billboardradio.com on Monday, May 16. I'm also playing many of this year's entries on Radio Fred Bronson, which you can hear at www.live365.com/stations/seeaboutme.

At this point, I've picked 11 songs that are deserving of finishing in the top 10 on May 21. So please settle for my top 11 instead of my top 10. I'll list them in alphabetical order for now.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: "Call Me," Feminnem
Estonia: "Let's Get Loud," Suntribe
Greece: "My Number One," Helena Paparizou
Hungary: "Forogj Vil‡g," Nox
Iceland: "If I Had Your Love," Selma
Malta: "Angel," Chiara
Norway: "In My Dreams," Wig Wam
Romania: "Let Me Try," Luminita Anghel and Sistem
Serbia and Montenegro: "Zauvijek Moja," No Name
Spain: "Brujer'a," Son de Sol
Switzerland: "Cool Vibes," Vanilla Ninja

To answer Joseph's question about Italy, the country has not participated in
Eurovision since 1997, when Jalisse finished fourth with "Fiumi di Parole," a song I love to this day. There have been rumors that Italy would return soon, but there's no sign of that happening yet. Italy stages its own contest, the San Remo Festival, but I hope they come back to Eurovision soon.

Joseph's fondness for the Israeli and Maltese entries makes me think we could have a replay of 1998, when the two countries appeared to be tied with 166 points apiece, with one country left to cast its votes. As the votes from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were read, you could feel the tension in the hall. Since both songs were so popular, you knew that whichever country was mentioned first, the other country would win.

I was seated with the Maltese delegation, and when FYROM awarded eight points to Israel, all of the Israelis sunk into their seats in defeat. People were shouting at me, "You've won! You've won!" thinking I was part of the Maltese delegation.

Then FYROM gave 10 points to the United Kingdom, and the screaming became more intense: "You've won! You've won!" Finally, FYROM gave its 12 points to... Croatia, and the Israelis were back on their feet, waving their flags in victory. The 10 points to the U.K. pushed that country into second place, and Malta finished third.

Will this year be that exciting? We'll know soon.



MESSINA AND WILSON'S DOUBLE ACT

Dear Fred,

The last time female solo acts have held down the top two slots on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart was the week ending May 2, 1998, when Shania Twain's "You're Still the One" was No. 1 and Jo Dee Messina's "Bye, Bye" slipped to No. 2. With Messina's "My Give a Damn's Busted" moving 5-1 and Gretchen Wilson's "Homewrecker" moving 6-2 on last week's chart, that ended the dry spell.

Those songs keep the same positions this week, making it the first time solo women have held down the top two for two weeks or more since April-May 1998, when Messina, Twain and Trisha Yearwood (with "Perfect Love") dominated the top two for three consecutive weeks.

With Sugarland's "Baby Girl" holding at No. 14 in its 44th week on the country chart, "Girl" has the longest run on the chart since Diamond Rio's "Beautiful Mess" completed a 45-week run the week of Feb. 15, 2003.

Finally, Kelly Clarkson was mentioned for having three songs in the top 40 of The Billboard Hot 100. Rascal Flatts recently had the distinction of having three songs in the top 40 of the country chart: "Bless the Broken Road," "Fast Cars and Freedom" and "Skin."

John Maverick
Omaha, Neb.

Dear John,

Billboard reports that the last time the top two spots on the Hot Country Songs chart were held by solo female artists was the week of Feb. 17, 2001, when Jamie O'Neal was No. 1 with "There Is No Arizona" and Jo Dee Messina was No. 2 with "Burn."



SHORT STORY

Dear Fred,

A few weeks ago, the song "O" by Omarion set a record for being the shortest song title to reach the top 40, with only one letter ("7" by Prince & the New Power Generation contained one character, but it was a number and would be more than one character if spelled out). Now, "Oh" by Ciara featuring Ludacris has tied two top 10 songs on the Hot 100 by having only two letters in the title.

"If" by Bread hit No. 4 in 1971, and a different song with the same title also hit No. 4 for Janet Jackson in 1993. Since both of those songs peaked at No. 4, "Oh" is now the shortest song title ever to hit the top three. If it climbs one more notch, "Oh" will break a [five-way] tie for the shortest No. 1 song title.

Jeff Lerner
Long Island, N.Y.

Dear Jeff,

Details on what will happen if "Oh" goes to No. 1 appear in this week's "Chart Beat," posted
Thursdays exclusively on Billboard.com.



ADULT EDUCATION

Dear Fred,

The radio format my wife and I agree upon in the car is usually adult top 40. While I like most of the songs I hear, I wish there was a higher turnover rate of songs that chart. Looking at this week's Billboard Adult Top 40 chart, I see eight of the top 10 songs have been on the chart for 20 weeks or more. ("One Thing" by Finger Eleven has been on the chart for a solid year).

Is there an intentional decision among programmers to give current hits a lengthy run or is this more a case of not enough good new songs to replace the current hits?

Bill Szczuka
San Diego

Dear Bill,

Looking at this week's Adult Top 40 chart, the top 10 songs that have been on the chart the shortest amount of time are Rob Thomas' "Lonely No More" and Lifehouse's "You and Me" at 14 weeks. After that, the range is from 21 weeks (Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone") to 41 weeks (Howie Day's "Collide"). That does seem long compared to the Hot 100, where the top 10 occupant with the smallest number of weeks on the chart is Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" at six weeks, and only one song has been on the chart longer than 20 weeks (Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" at 23 weeks).

However, the Adult Top 40 chart is a whirlpool of activity compared to the Adult Contemporary list, where the No. 2 song, Los Lonely Boys' "Heaven," is in its 48th chart week and Keith Urban's "You'll Think of Me" slips out of the top 10 in its 51st frame.

As you correctly assess, these charts are based on airplay and reflect what radio stations are playing. Programmers do a lot of research to test how songs are being received by listeners. Songs that burn out are dropped, which means that songs at adult top 40 burn out quicker than those at adult contemporary radio but slower than those at mainstream top 40 radio.