Copenhagen Reviews: Part 1 (Albania-France)

Hey there, ladies and gents. You’ll be ecstatic to learn that I have zero time for a long, waffly intro today, since I’ve already spent too much time prioritising writing my Eurovision 2014 reviews over “more important” stuff like major uni assignments due on Monday, etc. So I’ll get on to those while you hopefully get on to reading this first installment of verdicts on the Class of Copenhagen. Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and France (whew!) are on the program first up, and whilst there’s not a ton of hate in there, there’s quite a bit of ‘meh’…and some high praise too. Read on to find out which belongs to which, and let me know where you stand on these entries.

 

ALBANIA

One Night’s Anger by Hersi

albaniaSounds like: something The Corrs would have released in the mid-90s, with a dash of intriguing Albanian-ness

Better than 2013: Albanian version, yes. English version, nope.

Top 10 material: No

IMO: You can always rely on Albania to crown something a little bit off-the-wall the winner of Festivali I Këngës – and I mean that in a nice way, for the most part. One Night’s Anger is no exception, even without that intense instrumental opening that didn’t end up making the Eurovision cut. The song is a ballad, but an unusual one that’s difficult to predict the destination of, and I bet it’s difficult to sing too. The rhythm and melody are interesting in their own right, but when combined with Hersi’s unique voice, the overall impression is ear-catching. There was a haunting quality to the song that grabbed me when it won FiK, and at first I couldn’t figure out if I was being grabbed in a good or bad way (unlike being manhandled by a Marco Mengoni type, which would definitely be a good grabbing. Wink wink) but after subsequent listens, I realised I did have a positive appreciation for the balance it strikes between classic and bizarre. Unfortunately, the change from Albanian to English that this country often makes has been to this song’s detriment in my opinion. I’ll readily confess that I tend to prefer whichever language version I heard first in my Eurovision entries, but in this case, it really was the mystery of the Albanian and the emotion Hersi could put into it that’s making me miss it. I still have a regard for One Night’s Anger, the same interesting song now with questionable lyrics – but given the choice, I’d be sending Zemërimi I Një Nate off to Copenhagen next week.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

ARMENIA

Not Alone by Aram Mp3

armeniaBest lyric: ‘What if it’s all in one kiss that turns all seeds into trees?’

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: Armenia started out so strongly in Eurovision with André in Athens, securing 8th place then and notching up four consecutive top 10 placings after that. Then Emmy failed to Boom-Boom her way into the final, Armenia sat the Baku show out for obvious reasons, and Gor Sujyan’s double denim squad qualified but deservedly didn’t get much further. On those sour notes, it’s wonderful to see this country back in potential top 10 (and even potential winning, if the bookies are to be believed) form after three years of misfortune. The difference between Not Alone and those entries from Armenia’s heyday is a lack of ethnicity, but I find this equally as enjoyable. The pan-flutes have been traded in for dubstep beats and minimalism, and the result has a lot of impact. The song is a slow burn of the best kind – the kind that really draws out the build, then explodes, in this case into a dramatic, symphonic crescendo. And yet…I’m not sure I do believe the bookies when they put the odds in Aram’s favour, for two main reasons: firstly, as much as I like the song, that ‘minimalist builder’ element makes me wonder how much focus it can hold as a standalone number. It would be ideal in the background of a Hunger Games montage, but can I imagine the credits rolling over it as Mr. Mp3 reprises the crap out of the Hallerne? Not really. Secondly, the reports that came back from Eurovision In Concert implied that this guy is having issues with owning his performance and commanding the stage. If that was the case in the intimate Melkweg, how’s he going to fare on what we’ve seen is a rather massive stage in the arena? There are questions surrounding Armenia, and one of them is still very much ‘Yerevan 2015? Hmm…’ 

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

AUSTRIA

Rise Like A Phoenix by Conchita Wurst

austriaSounds like: a Bond theme song waiting to happen

Better than 2013: No 

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: Seriously, if the Bond moviemakers don’t call the next one The Phoenix Rises and make this song the theme tune, something is wrong with the world. There’s no denying that Conchita’s entry is totally Bond-ified; nor is there any denying that this genre suits her perfectly, allowing her to let her inner and outer diva shine like a diamond…and rise like a phoenix (duh). She has the power and passion to make her performance one to remember even for those who aren’t fans of her song. Now would be the best time to say that I’m afraid I’m one of them. I don’t hate it by any means, and I LOVE Conchita – after hearing ESC Insight’s interview with her I want us to be BFFs. Like I said, there’s no doubt she’s got the goods to do her demanding song justice. It’s just that the Bond thing is not my thing. Generally (stuff like Adele’s Skyfall included) I find it overly-dramatic and old-fashioned, although very glamorous. Speaking of glamour, I cannot wait to see what Conchita’s wearing for the big event. I’m seeing sequins, plunging necklines, tulle everywhere…OTT sass. I guess the fact that I’m more pumped for costume choices than listening to the song again says more about my feelings than any more rambling could do. The audience, however, will go nuts for this, and that will be a reaction worth waiting for.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.

 

AZERBAIJAN

Start A Fire by Dilara Kazimova

azerbaijanBest lyric: ‘A soldier in the hands of a forgotten mess, digging out the burning bullets in his chest.’

Better than 2013: No. No glass box, no contest!

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: In the most shocking move of the year (that’s sarcasm, people) Azerbaijan have popped into the supermarket and bought themselves a Swedish-made, albeit Azerbaijan-infused ballad to send to Eurovision. They’ve been doing this same thing long enough now that it’s become a tradition/running joke, and on one hand, I have to give them props for it – they take the contest super seriously, and if they’re not in the mood for contending the win, they at least want a decent placing. On the other hand, this recipe for success involves little of Eurovision’s original essence. They’re not so much sending a song that represents their country as sending one to represent their country and do a great job. There’s nothing you or I can do about that, so having got it off my chest I will now say that this particular Swedish ballad is actually a refreshing change from the norm. Look at the differences between Start A Fire and, to use another example, Georgia’s Waterfall from 2013. The former sounds a lot more genuine and interesting than the contrived and clichéd latter. It’s perhaps not as instant, but I quite like it when a song is unusual enough that you need to pay attention to it and get to know it to formulate an opinion. It kind of wanders along for three minutes, never in your face, but always sparking curiosity as to where it’s headed. All in all, it’s not up there with my absolute favourites, but I think it’s pretty and not at all cheesy, which is a big plus.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 8 points.

 

BELARUS

Cheesecake by TEO 

belarusBest lyric: ‘You showed me dance, but I’m not Patrick Swayze, you’re not Jennifer Grey.’

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: No

IMO: Belarus was one of the first countries to choose their entry for 2014, and before their NF even took place, I’d picked this song out as a favourite of the lineup – if mainly as a guilty pleasure because I figured I’d be in the minority who liked it in all its sleazy glory. I didn’t think it was going to win that final, but it did and here we are. Cheesecake has gone through a few changes, including one to the lyrics, but it’s essentially the same song as always, and I still get a kick out of it. What can I say? I’m a girl of simple tastes, meaning my main requirement in a good ESC (or non-ESC) song is catchiness, and this song has enough of that to fill twenty cake tins. Yes, it’s a little cheesy and as previously mentioned, a little sleazy, what with the whole Robin Thicke vibe TEO’s got going on. But for a song that at face value is about a dessert (and for those of you who are wondering why I’m suddenly discussing the Latvian entry, nope, I’m still on Belarus) it’s actually deep and meaningful…ish. And, in addition to that Thicke vibe, TEO’s also a confident, entertaining and vocally proficient performer. I’m not trying to make this entry into some masterpiece – I know what it is and that it won’t be taken 110% seriously – but I think it has some merit. And damnit, dat catchy chorus! 

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.

 

BELGIUM

Mother by Axel Hirsoux 

belgiumSounds like: Axel’s mum needs to take out a restraining order…

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: No

IMO: Eurovision royalty Ruslana bursting into tears at the opening bars of your song is no indication that it’s going to get the same reaction from the rest of us. I suppose I did well up a bit the first time I heard Mother – but while Ruslana’s emotion came from barely-restrained adoration of Axel and his ode to the woman who lugged him around for nine months, mine was brought on by the realisation that Belgium was actually sending this pompous, melodramatic and sickly sweet THING to Copenhagen. BUT WAIT! We all know you can’t judge a song on one listen, so wanting to familiarise myself with Mother in order to review it, and to give it another chance, I listened to it again. This time, I found it slightly less hideous, I have to admit. I do find the popped-up opera genre OTT (more so when the singer is pushing the lyrics out with so much force that their head reaches boiling point) and when its subject matter is the mother of a fully-grown man and not an adorable gap-toothed child, it’s not cute – it’s creepy. However, I’m now seeing the positive aspects of this entry, e.g. the class, the sentiment, and Axel’s wonderful voice. I won’t be sobbing along with Ruslana anytime soon, and I have no idea why Belgium has decent odds to win Eurovision with this (I’d love to go to Brussels, but not this way!) but it’s no longer at the bottom of my pile. PS – I watched an interview with Axel in which he was rather precious, admitting that flying to Copenhagen will be his first time on a plane. This is a man you can’t be mean about without feeling like the worst person on the planet.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.

 

DENMARK

Cliché Love Song by Basim

denmarkBest lyric: ‘I know from the pizza guy that you’re a special girl.’ 

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: Judging a host entry can be a tricky business. You know the host country hasn’t tried too hard to pick a winning song to represent them on home soil – just one that won’t embarrass them on home soil. Therefore you can’t abuse them for not putting in enough effort. In 2014, it seems that hosts Denmark have inadvertently tried hard enough to get fans thinking that history could continue to repeat itself. The story goes like this: Denmark won the ESC in 2000 when Sweden was hosting. Then last year, in Sweden, Denmark won again. If the pattern continues, Tanja’s Amazing (see the next review for my thoughts on that) will win this year just like Estonia did in Copenhagen 2001, and Denmark will narrowly miss out on the win with Basim’s Cliché Love Song. I’m not convinced it’s going to do that well, but a respectable result is on the cards for this infectious, Bruno Mars-esque foot tapper, and it’s infectious, Bruno Mars-esque performer. The song has a hook that gets stuck in your head, light-hearted lyrics, a bit of whistling which is always welcomed, and an energetic singer who can get the job done with ease and knows how to work a crowd. This is going to go down über well in the final, and I think one performance will be enough to get it onto the left side of the scoreboard. I can’t say it wouldn’t be spookily awesome to experience the déjà vu of Denmark coming second in Denmark, and stranger things have happened…so Basim may end up further up that left side than I’m expecting. 

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.

 

ESTONIA

Amazing by Tanja 

estoniaSounds like: Take Me Home by Cash Cash…dare I say Euphoria?

Better than 2013: No 

Top 10 material: Yes

IMO: Eesti Laul’s early favourite came through this year, beating some competition that actually was amazing. Amazing the song kind of set itself up for a fall in the way of Don’t Play That Song Again (UK 2000) and That Sounds Good To Me (UK 2010). Many of us have used its title against it, unless of course we genuinely believe it is amazing. For me, it’s way too derivative for such praise. The obsession with dance music that’s taken over the world for way too long now means we’ve heard this kind of song a million times before, so it’s not originality that will get Estonia to the final (most likely) and beyond. What will is Amazing’s annoying ability to worm its way into your brain; the irresistible urge to dance it brings on (or is that just me?); the eye-catching choreography, which I say is not a cheap Loreen impersonation; and Tanja herself, who is very pretty to look at and can seemingly dance and sing at the same time. So long as she swaps the bland dress from Eesti Laul for something better (Softengine are apparently good at locating such things if she needs help) there’ll be nothing wrong enough with her act to stop her from doing well. There are plenty of more original songs in this year’s contest that maybe deserve to beat Estonia – not something I’d be saying if Sandra or Traffic, for example, were in Tanja’s position – but the likelihood is that they won’t. As someone who doesn’t want to but can’t help liking this entry, I can come to terms with that, so long as Estonia compensates by sending something magic in their native tongue next year. That’s when I love them the most. 

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.

 

FINLAND

Something Better by Softengine 

finlandBest lyric: ‘Everything I’m used to seems to be fine misshapen, made-up fantasy.’ 

Better than 2013: No

Top 10 material: No

IMO: Just as I became attached to a couple of Eesti Laul entries in particular, so too did I have two songs in Finland’s UMK that caught my attention and never let it go. Unfortunately, neither of those songs was Something Better. This song is on my Copenhagen periphery – it’s there, in the outer field, not offending me but definitely not doing anything for me. I can’t find anything about it that would summon me to pick up the phone and vote for it…you know, if I could (*weeps pathetically all the way from Down Under*). The chorus is okay, verging on catchy, but I cannot for the life of me remember how the rest goes, and I’ve listened to it just as often as everything else. For me to like rock, it has to have something special, and this just doesn’t. I do have a strong opinion on one aspect – the screaming at the end. That hurts my ears. Plus, I fear for lead singer Topi’s vocal chords, having to deal with that through all the rehearsals, the semi final performances and (possibly) the final as well. Then again, if his voice goes I won’t have to put up with the screaming, so bring it on! Sorry, Team Softengine, but I have to be honest, and Something Better is exactly what I’m on the hunt for after listening to this. 

Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 5 points.

 

FRANCE

Moustache by Twin Twin 

franceSounds like: the love child of Papaoutai by Stromae and Applause by Lady Gaga

Better than 2013: Yes

Top 10 material: No

IMO: I may be one of those people whose bedrooms are full of French-themed…well, everything, but I have never been able to truly get behind France in Eurovision. When I say ‘get behind’, I’m talking gushing over their song choice and waving a tricolour flag so enthusiastically that it disintegrates. I came close four years ago (and I still bust a move to Allez Ola Olé on a regular basis) and I have enjoyed some of their entries in my years of ESC fandom, but until now, I’ve never fangirled over one. That’s right, I said ‘until now.’ A moustache has come along and changed my life. Ever since listening to the snippets of the three potential French entries, I’ve had this in high regard. Back in the snippet days, it was the one of a strong threesome that stood out to me, seeming to embody all that I love about French pop music. Thinking Joanna had the repping rights in the bag, I was trés trés thrilled when Twin Twin took the win win with the incredibly catchy, quirky Moustache. It takes me right back to other fun French entries that I’ve almost waved a flag for, such as L’Amour A La Française and Divine. It’s not to be taken too seriously, nor is it a novelty song about a guy trying really hard to grow a moustache (that’s Justin Bieber’s next single). The message is a little deeper than that. To be truthful, I wouldn’t care if it wasn’t. I love this for superficial reasons. It sounds great to me, and though I don’t expect it to do wonderfully in the final, I hope it at least looks great too. I’m expecting moustache motifs, clashing prints and the most extensive use of hairspray since Jedward just to keep lead singer Lorent’s ‘do in place. C’est magnifique!  

Winner, loser or grower: Winner. DOUZE POINTS!!!

 

And with that, France receives my first and only set of douze so far, which I’m guessing I’ll get some stick for from the Anti-Facial Hair Brigade (a.k.a. anyone who’s hating on Moustache). But remember, I do my very best to respect your opinion – even if you think it totally makes sense that Belgium is being considered a possible winner – so please try to respect mine! To recap it, here’s a mini-ranking of the countries in this first lot of reviews.

  1. France
  2. Armenia
  3. Belarus
  4. Denmark
  5. Azerbaijan
  6. Albania
  7. Estonia
  8. Finland
  9. Belgium
  10. Austria

I’m yet to label any entry a ‘loser’, so that last place for Austria at this point doesn’t mean I have no desire to see Conchita rise like a phoenix. I’m just not that bothered.

Next up, in a few days’ time, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel and Italy will be the countries in my judgment zone, so if you enjoyed reading these reviews be sure to drop by for that. If you didn’t, come back anyway and give me another chance to win you over?

 

How do you rate the entries from Albania-France? Will we have to agree to disagree or are we thinking alike?

 

About Jaz

I'm Jaz, I'm 26, and I'm 110% Eurovision-OBSESSED. The contest is one big party, and I like to keep it going 365 days a year - that's why I write about anything and everything ESC on my blog. Come join the fun, and I promise you'll never have a nul-point experience! www.eurovisionbyjaz.com/

Posted on April 25, 2014, in Eurovision 2014, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Always read your posts and gotta say, this is first part actually really great!

    First off, Lorent is like some sort of love child between Jedward and Ted Mosby off of How I Met Your Mother, so definitely agree with you on that! And I really do love the Justin Bieber joke!

    Loved the whole restraining order business from Belgium!

    Is the actual lyric in Denmark’s song? If that’s the case, Basim soooooo has to work on his accent! And for God’s sake, pull your trousers down, man! Eesh!

    Once again, loved the post – can’t wait to see what you say about the Queen of Sass this year – Cleo!

    Like

    • Thanks for the compliment 🙂 They are always appreciated!

      Haha, I see the Jedward + Mosby resemblance!! And yet his twin brother looks totally different. They’re clearly not identical, but still…it took me ages to realise why the band is called Twin Twin because they look so different.

      Unfortunately for her, I don’t think Axel’s mother actually has taken out a restraining order, which I’m sure she’ll regret. Seriously, I cannot see that song as totally non-creepy. If I went up to my mum and told her she was my satellite, she’d laugh in my face. Or ask if I was calling her fat.

      Okay, so it turns out that isn’t the actual lyric for Denmark – at least not in the current version. I’m totally leaving it as is though because I wish it was genuine!

      Stay tuned for my verdict on Cleo. The woman has swag for sure!

      Like

  2. Very nice comments! I hope you to get to Denmark and get beautiful photos there!! Love your reviews!

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    • I wish I was going to Denmark, but sadly I’m stuck at home! I’ll get to Eurovision one day…and I’ll try to take beautiful photos when I do 🙂

      Like

  3. Yep, I’m a little teary over the Finland bit – although I appreciate the honesty of course, and I’m exactly the same with rock in general: it has to have something special for me to like it, it just so happens that Softengine’s song has that special something for me!! 😀

    I’m obviously sharing the love for Moustache as you already know, can’t wait to see how they stage it! Oh, and bizarrely, it’s actually my mum’s favourite this year, for some unfathomable reason :’)

    Also, I really agree on Austria too. I just don’t like the whole Bond theme genre in general, and Conchita’s song does absolutely nothing for me. Costume will be fab though, I hope you’re right haha

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    • Fair enough re: Softengine! I’m not sure exactly what your something special is, but each to their own. And I’m sorry for almost making you cry 😦

      Obviously I don’t know your mum, but WOOHOO #TeamYourMum anyway! She clearly has impeccable music taste.

      If we can’t rely on Conchita to bring it costume-wise, who can we rely on?? She’ll look fancy, I’m sure of it. Perhaps they’ll be a cape she can swirl dramatically…oh god, I’m getting excited just thinking about what could be!!

      Like

  4. ESC2014: Facial hair, cakes, storms and space-cadets. What could possibly go wrong?

    My top 3 of those is quite different:
    Azerbaijan — My 2nd favourite overall. If you can be a sucker for *catchy*, I can be a sucker for *feely* 😉
    France — My fave of the frivolities.
    Austria — Not regular listening material, but I enjoy the moment in context. (Rather like last year’s “Disney theme.”)

    Then it gets a little tricky, and probably agrees with your order under some meteorological conditions.

    Like

    • “Facial hair, cakes, storms and space-cadets. What could possibly go wrong?” Okay, so that should definitely be the tagline of this contest instead of #JoinUs. The ratings would skyrocket!

      You have every right to be a sucker for feely! I appreciate that Start A Fire isn’t trying too hard to elicit the feels. It’s not cheesy at all.

      You make a good point about Austria. I think my normal musical tastes outside of Eurovision are influencing how I feel about it, but I think it will be enjoyable to watch and listen to during the show, with all the glitz and glamour. Plus, I would like to see Austria do well for a change.

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  5. Good summary 🙂 it all helps me get into the mood now that i have my CD! I was disappointed that Albania changed it to english, i felt it lost something.

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  6. … and this is how I would rank these first ten of 2014:

    10. France: I’m sorry, but I had too much of “Papaoutai” on the radio so I can’t stand this any longer!
    9. Armenia: this is an O.K. song to me – but I don’t see this as a winning song this year; hope the bookies are wrong with their prediction!
    8. Azerbaijan: this song is more of a “little light” than an “eternal flame” to me! I wonder if the Azeris can “start of fire” with this one? They need a really really good stage show behind it! But the Azeri flute is awesome!!!
    7. Belarus: this is the best one of the fun entries this year, IMO! I am actually very curious about the Belarusian grannies on stage ;-)!
    6. Albania: I am absolutely your opinion! They should have let the song as it was, in the Albanian language! The English version to me sounds very much like “Shakira” in low light.
    Although it’s not a bad song, it now sounds somehow interchangeable!
    5. Austria: Austria was really a surprise this year! Who would have expected THAT voice from Conchita! At least, not moi! She already won the Contest of Austria’s Next Bond Girl (ANBG), why not winning the Eurovision this year?! Honestly, it could be the first Top 5 placement in 25 years for Austria, even Top 10 would be like a win for them!
    4. Finland: it is the first time in Eurovision eternity that I really like a Finnish entry. In former years they were often in my Bottom Top 10! But this is a pretty good song; it reminds me somehow on Denmark’s “A friend in London” who I also liked much! I wish them all of luck this year ;-).
    3. Estonia: I like Tanja with her stage performance, but I am also your opinion: I would have loved to see Sandra back on Eurovision stage in Copenhagen. This song can get anywhere, from very high up to place 22 (as Cascada last year!), but it really sounds like a Europe-wide hit, same as “Euphoria”!
    2. Denmark: we all know that “Bruno Mars” is one of the very few world-wide stars at the moment, so everybody will like this song for sure. Due to the fact that we have no clear favourite this year, Denmark could also profit from a lot of points as the host country, which may lead to a “double win” this year??? But I expect them to end up second, like in 2001, I don’t know why?
    1. Belgium: concerning this song, I am not your opinion! I think It’s a beatiful song and André has got a golden voice! And if he can hold his voice and deliver a perfect performance on Eurovision stage, he could give us a “Paul Potts Moment” with a standing ovation of the audience. If that happens, I think he could also win this year. Lyrics can be sooo overrated, sometimes you can forget about them if the song is perfect enough!

    But André Hirsoux is not my favourite entry this year, he is just my No. 7 in the ranking! Watch out for the 6 countries that I think are better than Belgium still to come!
    P.S. Loved your “Justin Bieber” joke quite a lot! That was a very good one! :-)))

    Like

    • Hello again!

      I don’t really see Armenia as a winning song either, but not because it’s not a very good song IMO…I think it is. I just can’t imagine the credits rolling over it. The bookies have been wrong before!

      Hersi actually does sound a bit Shakira-like. That is where the resemblance ends though.

      It would be so nice to see Austria in the top 10, regardless of how I feel about the song.

      I see your point about lyrics. In fact, I don’t take that much notice of them anytime to be honest! If a song is catchy I’ll like it, and being an ESC fan you get accustomed to weird lyrics anyway, so they seem normal. Axel’s voice is so big though, and the enunciation is so clear that I find it hard to get past the creepiness of the lyrics – I feel like it’s right in my face! But the song has grown on me. For Belgium to qualify two years in a row would be great for them.

      I have plenty more Bieber jokes where that came from, don’t you worry 😉

      Like

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