It’s getting closer and closer, people! And by ‘it’, I am of course referring to my birthday. But don’t worry, you’ve still got a few months to think of an epic gift to give me.
What’s that you’re saying? Eurovision is even nearer than that? So it is. Oh well, I guess I’d better talk about that then.
Three days. Three days until the first semi final. I am über pumped, which is odd considering I won’t be watching it until Friday, when it’s broadcast over here in Australia. But we are getting a pre-show documentary to compensate for the wait. Plus, we have a rather awesome Eurovision website of our own (www.sbs.com.au/eurovision) which I encourage you to check out and be impressed by. Anyway, point is, I’ve only reviewed 31 of the 39 entries so far, and there are only three days to do the rest AND make some extremely inaccurate predictions. So here is Step One of getting that stuff done: my final lot of reviews. These are my musings on San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the UK. Have a look-see and let me know how you feel about these eight songs.
Crisalide (Vola) by Valentina Monetta
IMO: I’m not going to bring the Facebook song…ah, I mean, the “Social Network” song, into this review. This is a new year, San Marino has a new song, and the genuinely talented Valentina has the opportunity to be taken seriously with Crisalide. This entry, despite also being a brainchild of Ralph Siegel (who’s way past his use-by date if you ask me) is up there with Complice – SM’s horrendously underrated debut – as their best ever. Last year, Lithuania gave us one minute of ballad and two of disco dance pop, whereas here we have two minutes of lovely Italian waltz and one minute of disco dance pop. Both combinations work for me. I find myself thinking with Crisalide that I would have been happy to have either a full song of the waltz, because it is so beautiful, or 100% of the catchy up-tempo, but as it stands I’m glad to have both. The transition between styles is smooth, and makes for a nice surprise when you’re hearing it for the first time and expect the ballad to continue to the end. Valentina will no doubt thrive on the whole package of being able to sing in her own language, and in a genre (or two) more suited to her voice and age (no 37-year-old jazz-trained singer should be strutting around in leather pants screeching about cybersex). I’m expecting a long, floaty dress. I’m expecting wind. I’m expecting a heck of a lot of Ikea lighting. And I’m hoping for a Sammarinese qualification for the first time.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
Ljubav Je Svuda by Moje 3
IMO: Say halo to a Serbia we’ve never seen before at Eurovision. A Serbia that’s less classy and more…brassy. Less ‘OMG’ and more OTT. You get the idea. I’m not as big a fan of this Serbia as I am of the one that brought us Marija, Jelena and Željko, but I can get on board with them for the sake of my weakness for a catchy pop song. Let’s get a couple of facts straight: firstly, if this was Love Is Everywhere, in English, it would be extremely mediocre. The Serbian language has managed to elevate it to an above-average level, for my taste. Secondly, would I be as keen on it if Nevena, the first person to represent her country at JESC and ESC as a main artist, was not involved? Probably not. I’m so excited by her presence that I would have enjoyed three minutes of the trio dragging their manicured nails down a blackboard. Fortunately, Ljubav Je Svuda is much more pleasant to listen to. I like that each of the girls has their own moment in the spotlight, but that they do come together as a cohesive group when needs be. I’m also a sucker for that less-than-original but still effective concept of devil/angel/conflicted soul in the middle. That’s why it’s a such a shame to know that concept will not be illustrated visually via the costumes. The red, gold and white of the national final has been binned in favour of what I hear are Georgia’s JESC costumes from 2011. On the back of that, all the non-Serbian speakers unaware of the song’s story will see three attractive women in wacky outfits, singing a good but not great pop song quite well. I have to wonder how many of them will vote for it.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.
Straight Into Love by Hannah
IMO: This is one of the most radio-friendly entries of the year – a dance song that sounds like a lot of other dance songs, with a smattering of dubstep. It isn’t going to lead to any love it/hate it arguments between anyone: the lyrics are fairly generic, the chorus is fairly strong, it’s totally inoffensive…I don’t have much to say about it, to be honest. It’s okay, I like it, but I don’t love it. Whereas Cascada has a very powerful, stadium-worthy dance song, Hannah’s is tamer and less infectious. It does have the potential to be performed very well though, and there’s no reason it couldn’t be another middling song made excellent by way of top-notch staging and costuming. I’m not worried about Hannah’s ability to deliver a polished vocal judging by her previous live performances. She’s a confident performer and, as irrelevant as this is, possibly the Kaliopi of 2013 – a.k.a. the nicest girl on the block. I wouldn’t want her to crash and burn, but without so many elements working in Slovenia’s favour, she’ll have trouble pushing higher than 12th or 13th in her semi.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
Contigo Hasta El Final by El Sueño De Morfeo
IMO: As you may remember, Spain gave me exactly what I wanted from them last year. As a result, I’m going to be a hard fan for them to impress for the rest of eternity. Exhibit A: Contigo Hasta El Final. Not impressed. However, I’m not repulsed, so you ESDM supporters can put away your rotten fruit, thank you very much. This song is interesting, light and sing-along-able, without the cheese of such entries as Que Mi Quiten Lo Bailao. I like how it begins in one form and develops into another by the end. But, like the Danish song, by that end it hasn’t made me feel anything in particular. I want to rave about it, but I can’t. And I can’t see a finish anywhere near as good as Pastora Soler’s forthcoming. I can imagine myself driving along the Spanish coast in an open-topped sports car, sunglasses on, bandanna in my hair and this on repeat though. Come to think of it, is anybody up for a road trip? And if so, do you have a sports car and a spare flight ticket to Spain?
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
You by Robin Stjernberg
IMO: Where do I begin? I was pretty fond of Mr. Stjernberg around the time he lost the Swedish Idol title to Amanda Fondell (who he then beat in Melodifestivalen by a mile…in her face much?). Then he went and won MF against all the odds, an event that MADE my national final season. Ever since then, I’ve realised that this is the most enthusiastic I’ve ever been about a host entry. I adore this song, and there’s nothing you-ou-ou-ooh-oh-oh can say that will change my mind. It’s something relatively different from Sweden, and whilst it definitely smacks of ‘we don’t want to win two years in a row’ (as did the whole of Melfest) I think it has the goods to give the hosts a respectable result. At least, I hope it does. It’s contemporary without resorting to dance or dubstep, and though some would say the chorus is full of yodeling, I reckon the repetition is a hook that people will remember (and since when was yodeling in a pop song a bad thing anyway? Laura Omloop, Gwen Stefani, hello?). I just love everything about this. Yes, even the screech Robin does towards the end. It takes talent to screech in tune like that. Speaking of which, I don’t know what the critics are referring to when they talk about his voice in a negative way. Maybe my ears are malfunctioning, but on every occasion I’ve heard the guy sing live it’s been great (sans that emotional reprise at Melfest). Plus, he’s cute as a button and his surname is really fun to say. What more do you people want?!
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!
You And Me by Takasa
IMO: The main problem I find with Swiss entries is that they’re chosen so early on in the season, and because they aren’t the strongest of songs (generally speaking) by May they’ve well and truly fallen by the wayside. I really liked You And Me back in December, when Takasa (which sounds like some sort of Japanese greeting) were still known as Heilsarmee, but I have to admit, I’d kind of forgotten about it amongst the Ukraines and Italys of the other 38 songs. Forcing myself to recall it for this review, I’ve realised I do still enjoy it. There’s something endearing about the whole thing, and not just because there’s a grandpa involved (he’s old even when compared to the Babushki, so here’s hopng he lives until the semi-final). I can’t help smiling when the chorus kicks in, despite the lyrics being quite cheesy. It’s the ‘ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah’. I also get the feeling that Takasa believe in this song and what it’s about, and have a good time performing it. I just wish they’d been more adventurous with their wardrobe choice for Malmö. White shirts and ties are basics, ladies and gents, and unless they’ve been vomited on by the Glitter Glue Monster, they rarely have a place at Eurovision. Costume is one area where this entry could have been amped up. Having not seen a rehearsal, I’m left to assume there’s something in the staging that does so instead.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Gravity by Zlata Ognevich
IMO: Since the glory days of Ruslana, Ukraine hasn’t put a foot wrong with regards to the quality of their entries (yes, I am one of the few people that liked Razom Nas Bahato) even if they haven’t always done spectacularly well. They do have a 100% qualification record – the upkeep of which is now resting on Zlata Ognevich’s shoulders. I think she can relax. Gravity, despite the “unusual” staging we’ve been hearing about from rehearsals, is going to the final, y’all. It’s a ballad of Disney proportions (and we all know Disney songs are awesome) that conjures up visions of Rafiki raising Simba to the heavens atop of Pride Rock…while Zlata belts out nonsensical lyrics in the background. Does anyone care about the nonsense when she’s belting like she does? I don’t. Her voice is incredible, and perfectly suited to a vocally demanding song like this. I love the tribal/fantasy vibe of the whole shebang. Having said that, there are entries I like better, and I’m not under any delusions that this will win. Unless certain other participants sleep through their alarms and miss the contest, it’s not happening. But the Ukraine has (almost) always done Eurovision well, and Gravity keeps the trend going.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
Believe In Me by Bonnie Tyler
IMO: First things first – why is it so difficult for the UK to nab themselves a young (or just ineligible for a senior’s card) up-and-comer with a catchy, current pop song? Ireland can do it. It cannot be that hard. And yet, here we are again with a formerly famous singer who needs a walking frame to get around (I may have made that up) and who’s bringing a fusty mid-tempo ballad to Eurovision. It didn’t work last year, so why would it work 12 months later? Whew. Now that’s out of my system, allow me to be less cruel to Bonnie for the following reasons: a) She’s practically a spring chicken compared to Engelbert Humperdinck; b) Believe In Me is a better song than Love Will Set You Free in my opinion – much more accessible and instant, and with a nice American country feel; and c) It’s because of her that THE greatest literal music video of all time exists (sample it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UULlroFAVuI ). Yes, I wish that the UK had someone more like Ryan Dolan for 2013, with a less generic song that had a better chance of success. But this is the UK, and unfortunately it’s not surprising that we’ve got what we’ve got from them. So I personally am trying to ‘believe in Bonnie’. Her song is a decent way to pass the time waiting for another I Can to come along.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
Well, that’s it. My reviews are complete, and after all the typing I only have arthritis in one hand – winning!
There are two more orders of business to take care of before I bid you adieu, however. Firstly, my mini-ranking of the above eight entries:
- Sweden 12
- Ukraine 10
- San Marino 10
- Serbia 8
- United Kingdom 7
- Switzerland 7
- Spain 6
- Slovenia 6
Secondly, the moment when I ask your opinion (and I really do want it). How do you rank the songs from San Marino to the UK? Where do we agree and disagree? I know you’ve got thoughts, so get ‘em out in the comments!
And now, until next time…adieu.
(Speaking of) NEXT TIME: I’m cutting it fine, but there’s still time for a good old Prediction Special! Find out where I’m at on who will impress, disappoint, qualify and win, and see if we’re on the same wavelength.