From Belarus, with uncertainty: a review & prediction of Europe’s most unreliable NF
UPDATE!!! As we all now know, it was the love child of Robin Thicke and Pasha Parfeny (a.k.a. TEO) who quite possibly could be going to Copenhagen with his song Cheesecake. I’ve never been happier to have predicted an outcome incorrectly, which says a lot since that happens all the time. Call me easily pleased, but I love the song and I hope it does make it to Denmark. I guess all we can do is sit and wait for any vote rigging/subliminal messaging accusations to surface and then see if they turn out to be true. If they come from very close runner-up Max Lorens, I think we can ignore them.
Hey January – y u so empty of national finals? We’re all familiar with the mad month that is February, but I can’t recall a January so event-less happening since I’ve been a Eurovision freak. I say this hours before this month’s sole NF begins in Belarus, where it will possibly decide which artist/song combo will end up representing the country in Copenhagen.
Yes, there’s that pesky ‘possibly’ that we have to acknowledge when it comes to Belarus. Over the last four years, none of the songs they’ve initially chosen to go to the ESC have made it (and on one occasion, neither did the original artist) and the last two years have seen that happen through a televised NF exactly like the one we’re about to see. Allegations of cheating, plus a rule stipulating that the winning artist can change their song if they want to (which defeats the purpose of holding a final to determine the best song) have made Eurofest Europe’s most unreliable preselection, and Belarus the new Ukraine.
So don’t be so sure that whichever song/artist wins tonight will be the same one to take to the stage in May. If your favourite song wins, don’t get too excited, but on the other hand, if three minutes of awfulness takes out the comp, hold out hope that it will be swapped out for something better.
Who and what is in the running to have a .56% chance of going to Copenhagen, you ask (if you didn’t already know)? Fourteen artists including last year’s runner ups, multiple returnees and someone who’s been to Eurovision as part of a group but is now flying (hint hint) solo, that’s who. And fourteen songs ranging from a few unique gems to more clichéd female ballads than you could cram into Alyona Lanskaya’s giant disco ball, that’s what. Listen to and get to know the entries a little better via my reviews below, see who I think will come out on top, and then let me know what you think. Please?
Here are the final fourteen, in running order:
1. Not What I’ve Been Looking For by Natalia Tamelo
It isn’t a promising start, but I suppose it’s good to get some of the bad stuff over and done with. The thing is, when someone’s singing in such heavily accented English that a native English speaker can’t make out what they’re saying, it’s never a plus. Personally, I don’t like the style of the song either. I have to wonder how it made it this far through the selection process, but perhaps it’s your cup of tea?
2. Fly Away by Nuteki
Here they are, the runners-up of 2013! If, at this time last year, Nuteki were hoping Alyona would be disqualified and they’d score the Eurovision ticket instead á la Litesound, they were wrong. But they’re back with renewed spirit, if not a better song. Fly Away is straightforward, middle-of-the-road rock with a lack of catchy bits to latch on to. I don’t think it deserves to win, so if the band do, I’m actually hoping they’ll swap it for something with more oomph.
3. Rapsodiya #1 by Artem Mikhalenko
You may recognise his face, but you won’t recognise his voice! Artem was one of the ‘2’ in 3+2, who represented Belarus in Oslo – the one I always thought of as ‘the cute one’, which has nothing to do with reviewing his solo song, but I just thought I’d mention it. Armed with a voice deeper than we ever heard in 2010, he’s vying to get back to the contest with an unusual mix of opera, dubstep and classical ballad that sounds like it was recorded in outer space. Yes, it’s weird, but it’s also wonderful. It’s sophisticated and classy if not particularly instant, and sounds like the best thing ever recorded compared to the songs before it. It has great potential for grand mod-Goth staging when if it gets to Eurovision.
4. Strippers by Matvei Cooper and DUX Band
We’ve had a song about popo shaking. Can we please not sink to the depths of having a song about strippers go to Eurovision? I assume that is what this song is about (it’s a tad ambiguous) although I didn’t bother searching for the lyrics. If not, then it could only really be about paint strippers, and my god, that is a boring subject to sing about! Topics aside, I actually can’t remember what it sounded like, but I think it was average.
5. Cheesecake by TEO
As if I needed any more convincing that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or a song by its title, in this case) this ridiculously-named song turned out to be one of my favourites of the lot. It’s not going to win any awards for intellectual lyrics, and the music video is pretty WTF (then again, why not sit on a chair in the nude and play a piano accordion?) but do either of those things matter at Eurovision? Nyet. It’s cruisy, it’s catchy, and it teaches us that affectionately referring to our boyfriends/girlfriends as some kind of baked good (even if it’s just to tell them they’re dumped) is perfectly acceptable.
6. Starlight by Daria
I’m not sure what this wants to be. Is it dance? Is it the poor man’s Firework by Katy Perry? Who knows? I am glad it’s not a lame ballad, but there isn’t much else that makes me happy here. The chorus doesn’t hit the heights it makes you think it’s going to, and even in the studio version Daria sounds flat. Meh.
7. Via Lattea by Elena Siniavskaya
It’s funny how a song that reminds you of another that you really dislike can actually appeal to you. This number started out promisingly on-trend, before veering off into schlager-sounding La Voix-esque territory…and yet, despite my disdain for La Voix, I still enjoyed it. Eurovision may not be ready for another glass-shattering voice so soon after Cezar (and our eardrums probably aren’t either) but I can’t help imagining the wonders a wind machine would do for it.
8. Angel Crying by Alina Moshchenko
Let me introduce you to clichéd, depressing female ballad #1, Angel Crying (as if you couldn’t tell it was going to be gloomy). The fact that Alina’s pronunciation of ‘angel’ is so warped is the first indication that her song isn’t a great listening experience. The fact that she then repeats the word countless times during the song is another. I don’t expect everyone on the planet to have a perfect hold on the English language, but I do wish people would just sing in the tongue they know best when they don’t. It would make life easier for them, and listening easier for us. Language gripes aside, yes, this is your average, heard-it-all-before, incredibly depressing ballad. Never mind the angel – I’ll be the one crying if it wins.
9. You Will Be Here by Janet
Will I, Janet? WILL I? Because what you don’t know is that I’m not a fan of your song, and if there’s any chance it will be playing when I get there, I’m not going. If you can’t guess by the title, this is the next mournful female ballad in the lineup, and I am not amused. Pass.
10. Runaway by Anastasia Malashkevich
Previous Eurovision entries entitled Runaway (or similar) have been good, and I haven’t been let down by an Anastasia yet. I guess the lesson in that is don’t base your expectations on the past, because, quite frankly, this sucks. Anastasia M basically yells into a microphone for three minutes, and I really don’t think that’s what it’ll take to get Belarus to the final. Unless what’s being yelled is ‘I’ll give a million bucks to everyone who votes for meeee!!!’.
11. Vechnaya Lyubov by Switter Boys feat. Kate & Volga Karol
Assuming I’ve listened to the right song, I would describe this as lyrically ridiculous, but quite current and very catchy. Since we’re all accustomed to lyrical ridiculousness as ESC fans, that aspect isn’t a massive surprise or bother. I wouldn’t mind this going to Copenhagen, but I get the feeling it’s too contemporary for Belarus to get behind. Plus, who knows if these twins can cut it live. Identicals don’t have the best track record, at least in adult Eurovision.
12. Stay With Me by NAPOLI
Of all the piano love ballads, this is the best. It’s not sung by a lone woman, for starters – it’s sung by two, plus a gravelly-voiced dude who is kind of the odd one out in the looks department. It’s not a sunshine-and-rainbows song, but it’s not depressing in a way that makes me want to bang my head against the wall. I love the chorus and the piano intro/outro. The trio’s voices sound quite good together, although they clash a bit during the strings of solo parts in the verses. Generally, however, this is a favourite of mine. I wouldn’t mind it winning at all.
13. Now You’re Gone by Max Lorens & DiDyuLya
Max is back after a half-decent finish in 2013, and he’s joined forces with *insert Wikipedia spiel about DiDyuLya here* to perform a rather nice R&B ballad that wouldn’t be out of place on the Maid In Manhattan soundtrack (and I should know, because I’ve seen that movie an embarrassing amount of times). The lyrics are ultra predictable, so I’d prefer it in Belarusian/Russian/Swahili, but overall it’s a pleasant listen. Oh, apart from the sudden and awkward key change, which scares me.
14. Empty Universe by Tasha Odi
I seriously need an acronym for all the lame lady ballads so I don’t have to keep inventing different ways to refer to them. Obviously, this is another one, although it’s one of the least rubbish. That is more because it’s inoffensive than for any other reason – Top 40 radio would welcome it with open arms (circa 2005). I don’t see the point in sending something vanilla all the way across the continent just so it can stumble at the first hurdle. Give this girl a more contemporary, interesting number and I’d be satisfied.
Whew. That’s the musical buffet Belarus will be choosing from, and for me there are a few tasty dishes there…sitting alongside too many bland ones.
Here’s my top 5, in random order (Eurovision’s favourite kind): Cheesecake, Stay With Me, Rapsodiya #1, Vechnaya Lyubov and Via Lattea. Of those, I’d most like to see TEO’s, NAPOLI’s or Artem’s songs win. I’m not sure any would do wonders for Belarus, but with time and that changeability clause, you never know.
Let’s put personal preferences to one side for a second and ask ourselves who’s actually going to win. My turn! You can’t discount Nuteki, the reigning runner ups, because many artists have made NF comebacks with weaker songs and won. Sadly, Alina and Janet could be in with a shot because Belarus doesn’t seem to share my intense dislike for their mournful ballads. I’m also getting a vibe from Daria’s song that makes me think they could send her, though I don’t think they should. But Belarus never listens to me. Sadface.
Now it’s your turn. What do you think of the entries on offer? Who will represent Belarus in Denmark, and who really, really shouldn’t? Let me know below!
The Belarusian final begins at 20.00 CET tonight. You can tune in to Eurovision.tv’s live webcast here.
10 Responses to “From Belarus, with uncertainty: a review & prediction of Europe’s most unreliable NF”
Fair to say tonight’s selection is rather feeble isn’t it, the abundance of lame lady ballads (liking that one) being the main contributing factor there… Still, I am unashamedly 110% behind “Via Lattea” to win, and bring some predictable, contrived yet fabulous female popera back to the ESC stage. About time. I do like Artem’s song too, would be happy for that one to win. Pretty much ANY of the others would equal utter disaster :’)
LLBs: the Lame Lady Ballads. Keep that acronym in mind as we progress through the NF season, ’cause we’re bound to hear a loooooooooot more. I just hope none of them make it to Denmark.
I guess Belarus = disaster for you this year then? Not pour moi!!! It is a slight shame that the female version of Cezar won’t be gracing Eurovision with her presence though. Elena really had that vibe going last night, with the gelled-back hair and black dress. All she needed was a ridiculous amount of red fabric and some protruding chest hair and she’d be the spit of him.
Ahh I’m sure one or two LLBs will slip through the net and end up doing stupidly well – à la Anouk and Dina Garipova last year; just mentally preparing myself for the annoyance already 😛
Kinda yeah.. I’ll admit, having heard it three or four times last night, I’m starting to come round. Certainly enjoying it a lot more than I did when just listening to the previews. It’s still my least favourite of the three so far but it could have been a lot worse. I have other reasons to object to it which are probably ridiculously far-fetched and sceptical :’)
Elena, we will miss you and your Cezar-esque attire. Yet another one to add to the list of unfortunate NF casualties *sobs*
No doubt. Wacchout, the LLBs are coming!!! Switzerland has a dreadful one up their sleeve and Malta has quite a few, so that’s already two countries we have to cross our fingers for…
Everyone knows that the show in Belarus rarely concludes with Eurofest and, considering the lack of standouts to be named “winner,” we’re probably in for the most protracted and ridiculous selection process since Ukraine 2010. My only question is who’s making the popcorn? 😉
As for my faves, the only one I care for is the insane “Via Lattea.” Nuteki have the most competent entry, by far, but it totally bores the pants off me! “Cheesecake” is stupid fun akin to “Cake to Bake” in Latvia and Switter Boys and Dux Band really deserve some praise; they’ve actually managed to make me award 1s and 0s of 20 this early on in the season. It’s crazy! 😛
Haha, I could hardly believe it when I realised how long it’s been since Belarus chose a song and ended up sticking with it!! That used to be Ukraine’s department (like in 2010 as you mentioned, and the whole Mika Newton saga). I won’t put my hand up to pop the popcorn, because I LOOOOVE the winner and I am praying it’s an exception to the Belarusian rule!! Team Cheesecake all the way! Who’s with me!!
Aah well. I agree with you on Nuteki…so glad they hardly got anywhere. I was afraid they’d walk it just because.
One for the Switter Boys? How can you dislike a song with such emotionally deep lyrics as these: “Every girl likes Armani, Prada, Gucci; every boy loves Monica Bellucci”? That is genius right there. Although I’m a girl and I really don’t give a crap about Armani, Prada or Gucci…
Well, I sort of am. This is the kind of entry that has to follow the sparkly and insane Verka Seduchka/Cezar/Kejsi Tola route to get anywhere meaningful. They need to go all out, crazy, ridiculous, Paula Dukure from Latvia’s 2012 NF levels of camp on the staging. That wannabe Robin Thicke look is a big no-no.
Part of me wants a change, just so I can pitch this staging idea for Elena (who undeservedly placed 12th!… I think.). The theme is stranded princess and the song starts with a close-up of her in a fake turret, gazing longingly out the window while lifted on a podium, Aliona Moon-style. When the chorus comes, a bunch of dancers with lights emerge from behind the tower and do some sort of interpretive dance. For the second verse, a body double dressed as a noble prince comes along miming to Elena’s vocals and hams it up with another light, à la Alenka Gotar or Valentina Monetta (Crisalide edition). Then more light play for the second chorus before the camera zooms in tight on Elena, still in the tower. For the big moment, fireworks erupt from the stage as the tower explodes and Elena sings the final chorus in the arms of her lover. Now tell me that wouldn’t make the top ten? 😉 😛
Switter Boys got one point because I seriously couldn’t believe that their song existed. I saw it about a month before the NF and it just sent me into hysterical laughter. It’s one for the books, as was the entire show, it seems.
P.S. I really liked the stage design. Yes, they’ve used it for the past three years but it’s nice.
Sorry for this ultra-late reply, but I have to say…I am SO glad I’m not the only person who stages entries for Eurovision in my head. This extends to past entries, could-have-beens, random songs that would be so great for the contest, and of course, songs that I have written which I am certain would make the top 10. In my mind I am a G:son level songwriter and a Pastora Soler level vocalist.
There is a lot going on in your version of Via Lattea, but sometimes more is more. I mean, with a song like that…why not go all out?
I like the organic irregularity in “Stay With Me” — particularly (obviously) in the vocal combos.
I think it makes for a very engaging and intimate sound.
Shame it would almost certainly get reprocessed and synthesized down to nothing if it gets through.
You’re probably right, but we don’t have to worry about that now!! I thought it would be top 3/5 though, if it didn’t win. Wrong again. It’s definitely going on my iPod, anyway.