Hello hello! There are just two weeks until the first semi final of Eurovision 2014, and you can guarantee that they’ll be some of the longest weeks of your life. I will be attempting to make the time fly here at EBJ, with reviews, predictions and today, a top 10 I’m pretty excited about.
It’s been a while since national final season ended, but that doesn’t mean we’ve all stopped analysing the results and complaining that so-and-so definitely should have won, and generally spending far too much time listening to every NF entry Europe-wide. One of my favourite times of year is corralling all the great new music I discover through the preselections into a playlist to freshen up my iPod – and then deciding which ones are the best of the best, so I can deliver them to you and we can commence debating.
I’ve finally done that for the latest NF season, and ten songs remain. It’s those ten songs, my personal favourites from Albania to Ukraine and quite a few places in-between, that I’m counting down right now. In addition I’ve put together a list of other songs I’ve loved this year that didn’t make the final cut, because I couldn’t resist. Have a look (and a listen if you want to) and let me know if we have any common musical ground whatsoever.
First up, my top 10 national finalists of season ’14:
#10 | Breathe by Stefan Stan feat. Teddy K (Romania, 5th)
How often have we seen a great song let down by a weak performance in Eurovision? I haven’t got enough fingers to keep count. Naturally, it happens in national finals too, and a prime example is this song from Romania that fell a little flat live – so much so that I’m posting the video clip so as not to affect anyone’s judgment of the song itself. I have so many feels for it in studio. It’s been constructed in such a way that, whilst Stefan and Teddy have their clearly defined parts to take care of, they come together beautifully, kind of like Nico and Vlad did for Romania in Belgrade. The result is emotional and dramatic, without tipping over the edge of either.
#9 | I’m Alive by Ilaria (Ukraine, 5th)
She may have had the best Eurovision-related light-up dress since Safura (in fact, I’d argue this one’s better) but it’s Ilaria’s weird and wonderful entry into the Ukrainian NF this year that really got me. I’m Alive is a unique song in that I don’t know how to describe it. Is it a ballad? Is it pop? Does it sample the tinny tune of a jewellry box? I’m not sure, but I can say it is quirky in the way of backing music for a gritty film adaptation of a fairy tale (Hansel and Gretel would totally freak out in the middle of creepy woods to this track). If you’re now wondering why the heck I like it so much based on that description, know this: I’m a girl who likes to be scared, as my horror movie collection is testament to.
#8 | Kthehu by Luiz Ejilli (Albania, 10th)
He represented Albania in 2006, in a questionable white suit with Zjarr E Ftohtë (which was much less questionable) and attempted to return to Eurovision eight years later with this stunner of a ballad that should have finished higher in a mediocre field. Luiz Ejilli’s entry into Albania’s Festivali I Këngës 2013 reminded me of some of the great Balkan ballads that have graced the ESC stage over the last decade or so, only it’s slightly less ethnic, the native tongue giving it an edge. I really like the way it develops over the three minutes, but from the beginning it’s mature, sophisticated and kind of mysterious. Some dry ice wouldn’t have gone astray for the performance.
#7 | Kertakäyttösydän by Jasmin Michaela (Finland, unplaced in semi)
Finland, Finland, FINLAND! What were you thinking sending this girl home so early? I’m not saying that because she and I have the same first name and I have some sort of compulsive need to defend her as a result. I’m saying it because her song was fresh pop perfection, performed with talent, charisma and an arsenal of sassy dance moves. All in all, it was terrific, and I can’t believe it missed the final. I’m reminded of Iceland here, who often neglect to send at least one adorable pop song to the ESC in favour of something less fun. Still, Iceland do generally see those songs through to the final, so again I say…Finland, Finland, FINLAND *shakes head despairingly*.
#6 | Für Elise by Traffic (Estonia, 3rd)
Of all the Mumford & Sons soundalikes we’ve heard in recent history, this is my favourite. It’s so ridiculously catchy, and well-performed in a way that makes you feel right at home with Traffic and totally up for singing along (even if you just end up butchering the Estonian language). Speaking of Estonian, it lends itself surprisingly well to this type of music – so much so that I don’t think I’d be as keen on the song if it were in English. I hope the titular Elise is hugely flattered by having such a great song written for her. I’m still in disbelief that it was beaten by not so much Amazing, but by that dreadful other song that I refuse to name the title or performers of.
#5 | Lootus by Lauri Pihlap (Estonia, 8th in semi)
Judging by his styling choices, Lauri fancies himself as Estonia’s answer to Danny Saucedo. In reality, he’s a former Eurovision winner (i.e. a member of 2XL, who took to the stage with Tanel and Dave in 2001) who, if Lootus is any indication, could be Estonia’s answer to Justin Timberlake. This is smooooooooooth stuff, y’all. It’s a bit of a throwback to late 90s/early 00s r & b, which a lot of people may not like about it, but I’m very fond of that time period AND its music. Once again, Estonian adds a touch of beauty to a song that could have been a lot plainer in English.
#4 | Ma Liberté by Joanna (France, 2nd)
I have to admit, I didn’t get this straight away. I was too busy insinuating myself into Team Moustache to notice anything but Joanna’s awesome hairdo, and what I then considered an ‘okay’ ballad. But listening to Ma Liberté after Moustache had safely won the French vote, and then again…and a few more times after that, I developed a real appreciation for it. Like many ballads, it starts off slowly and quietly, before ramping up with one heck of a chorus. What makes this one different is a) the French language, which classes up anything that comes remotely near it; and b) the simple but effective piano riff that adds another layer to the second verse and beyond. This is power and passion, à la Française.
#3 | Hela Natten by Josef Johansson (Sweden, 7th in semi)
Melodifestivalen was back in top form this year IMO, which meant a lot of casualties during the semi finals. It’s Josef whose loss I’m still mourning way after the fact. His electronically-tinged stadium ballad caught me off guard with how awesome it was. It’s right up my street because it reminded me of something that Darin, another Swedish singer who happens to be my favourite solo artist, like, ever (as mentioned multiple previous posts) would produce. His album Lovekiller was full of tracks like this – soaring power ballads with ‘anthem’ written all over them. Josef combined those musical stylings with a unique look and some nifty Molly Sandén camera effects for Melfest, and though his voice wasn’t as strong live as it is in studio, the result was super cool. The final missed this for sure.
#2 | Sängyn Reunalla by Mikko Pohjola (Finland, 2nd)
If I could wind back the clock and make any country choose a different entry to send to Copenhagen, I’d choose Finland – and it wouldn’t be the delightful Jasmin Michaela I’d be swapping Softengine with. Instead, it’d be Mikko ‘I Can Cut Glass With These Cheekbones’ Pohjola, and the spellbinding Sängyn. This song gives me goosebumps from start to finish, complete with every hair on my body standing to attention. That gives me the overall appearance of a cold porcupine, but I don’t care because I’m so wrapped up in the magic of what I’m listening to. If you feel the same way, the song should speak for itself, and everything I’ve said about it was a waste of words.
Aaaaaaand my #1 song of the season is…
#1 | Kui Tuuled Pöörduvad by Sandra Nurmsalu (Estonia, 5th)
I love everything that Sandra Nurmsalu has ever been associated with – her music with and without Urban Symphony is amazing. I expected to be biased when judging her contribution to Eesti Laul this year, but I honestly believe that this song would be much loved by moi no matter who was singing it. It’s an effortless ray of sunshine that gets stuck in your head instantly, and it has the same tribal, Lion King soundtrack feel of Zlata’s Gravity, only in folksy packaging. Every part of it is infectious (in a good way) and if it doesn’t put some pep in your step, I’d be worried. Is there any chance the EBU can bend the rules and have this represent Estonia in 2015?
Well, you can’t say I didn’t like what Estonia had to offer this year! Entries from Eesti Laul made up 30% of a top 10 that was incredibly hard to put together. So hard that I must now present you with that promised playlist of other NF entries that impressed me, with a few comments thrown in.
- Natë E Pare by Venera Lumani & Lindi Islami (Albania, 4th) – another lovely ballad from Festivali I Këngës, this one faring much better results-wise.
- Stay With Me by NAPOLI (Belarus, 8th)
- Rapsodiya #1 by Artem Mikhalenko (Belarus, 13th)
- Wanna Be Loved by Michael Rune feat. Natascha Bessez (Denmark, 2nd)
- Vi Finder Hjem by Emilie Moldow (Denmark, unplaced)
- Error by Madeline Juno (Germany, unplaced) – Madeline didn’t actually get to perform this thanks to the German NF’s strange new system, which was a serious loss.
- Petalouda Stin Athina by Crystallia (Greece, 3rd)
- Catch Me by Gigi Radics (Hungary, 6th in semi)
- It Can’t Be Over by Fool Moon (Hungary, 2nd)
- Running Out of Time by Victor Király (Hungary, 3rd)
- A Legnagyobb Hős by Honeybeast (Hungary, unplaced) – this song is adorable. It has the same kind of offbeat charm that made me fall in love with Kedvesem.
- Þangað Til ég Dey by F.U.N.K (Iceland, unplaced)
- The Movie Song by Eoghan Quigg (Ireland, 2nd)
- One Last Ride by Daniel Testa (Malta, 3rd)
- Heal by Mo (Norway, 3rd) – catchy and current are the keywords here. I will be listening to this on repeat for a long time to come.
- Más (Run) by Brequette (Spain, 2nd)
- Bedroom by Alvaro Estrella (Sweden, 6th in semi)
- Red by EKO (Sweden, 8th in semi)
- Echo by Outtrigger (Sweden, 3rd in second chance round) – I am not a rock fan as a rule, but here’s an exception with a head-bangingly epic chorus.
- Busy Doin’ Nothin’ by Ace Wilder (Sweden, 2nd)
- Survivor by Helena Paparizou (Sweden, 4th)
- Bröder by Linus Svenning (Sweden, 5th)
- Yes We Can by Oscar Zia (Sweden, 8th) – if Eric Saade starred in High School Musical, this would be his solo. Love. It.
- Efter Solsken by Panetoz (Sweden, 9th)
- Love Is Lord by Viktoria Petryk (Ukraine, 2nd)
- Courageous by NeAngely (Ukraine, 5th)
- Tsvetok by Uli Rud (Ukraine, 20th) – Ukraine had no shortage of creepy songs in their NF. This one is bizarre but brilliant in studio. Not so much live.
That’s it! I’m done. It’ll take me another six months to actually download all of these songs, of course, but it’ll be worth the wait. Once I’ve done that, I will be revisiting the songs that just missed out on representing their countries and deciding whether they ultimately would have done better. Until we find out how the actual winners go, there’s not much point getting into that side of things.
Now I’m curious. Did you see/hear anything you liked up above? If not, which NF songs that could have been will you be playing to death this year?
NEXT TIME: Better late than never, I’m getting my reviews on. In the first installment, Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and France had better watch out, ‘cause it’s judgin’ time!