The national final train has been chugging along since December 2015, courtesy of Albania. Next stop? Belgium, defending champions of the title for Unexpectedly High Placing of the Eurovision Most Recently Past.
Dutch-language broadcaster VRT are in charge of choosing Loïc Nottet’s successor, which would normally be worrisome – the majority of Belgium’s decent results of late have been credited to French-language broadcaster RTBF. But, be it a coincidental turning of the tide or a totally calculated analysis of what catapulted Rhythm Inside to 4th place in Vienna, VRT have stepped it up for 2016. The five-strong line-up they’ve put together makes the likes of the Swiss final look and sound ten times worse than it already did (sorry, Switzerland, but a douze-worthy NF you have not).
Today, as we look ahead to tonight’s third and final installment of Belgium’s Eurosong, I’m going to take a look (having had a listen) at the potential ESC entries from Adil, Amaryllis, Astrid, Laura and Tom. Read on to find out which artists have songs up their sleeves that I’d vote for (there’s three!), which artists would bestow upon me a toilet break song in Stockholm if they were to win this evening (that’s the other two), and, probably most importantly, which artist and song I think is going to grab the golden ticket with ‘YOU GET TO REPRESENT BELGIUM! IS THAT AMAZEBALLS AF OR WHAT?!?’ stamped on it. As indicated by the (hilarious) title of this post, I might waffle on a bit below, so brace yourselves for that.
WAIT!!! I almost forgot. There’s one more something-something I must take care of first. I promised you a bit of boyband fangirling, and gosh darn it, I’m going to give it to you! Because, as we now know, the rumours flooding social media and the Irish media were not just rumours – earlier this week, it was confirmed that 1/5 of Westlife will be representing the Emerald Isle in May, and that excites my boyband-adoring self very much. Sure, Nicky Byrne isn’t the 1/5 I used to moon over when I was younger and (slightly) more pathetic – that was Kian Egan, who was to Westlife what Nick Carter was to the Backstreet Boys (a.k.a. a floppy-blonde-haired dude whose 2D face I had stuck to my wall in poster form). But I am going to be seeing a member of Westlife IN THE FLESH, so I don’t even mind that much.
Admittedly, I’m more pumped about Ireland’s choice of artist than choice of song at the moment. I don’t want to be too quick to judge, but Sunlight, while being radio-friendly and competent, is also pretty forgettable. I have literally forgotten how it goes. But time will tell whether a stellar live performance from Nicky can change my tune, so to speak. I think it would help if he takes his shirt off about thirty seconds in….though maybe that’s just me. You can clarify – how do you rate Ireland’s chances at Eurovision 2016? Obviously it’s a bit hard to predict given we’ve only got two songs so far, but for me, Albania’s>Ireland’s. Do you agree or disagree?
Right – that’s the interlude of fangirling (a relatively restrained one, by my standards) out of the way, so let’s move out of the Sunlight and onto Eurosong.
No more messing about! I’m going to dive straight in to reviewing the 60% fab, 40% not-so-fab-but-still-decent Belgian hopefuls competing tonight. In alphabetical order according to the artist’s first name in lieu of a running order, of course.
In Our Nature by Adil Aarab I had no idea what to expect when I sat down to listen to these tracks for the first time. I certainly didn’t think I’d be blown away by song numero uno. But…I LOVE THIS. I love everything about it, and yes, that love does extend to the copycat choreography harking back to Loïc’s mid-song nanna nap. I’d use many of the same buzzwords to describe this as I used to describe Rhythm Inside, too – i.e. interesting, current, and appealingly minimalist. It’s an underdog for the win, but COME ON, EUROVISION GODS!!
Kick The Habit by Amaryllis Uitterlinden Things went a tiny bit downhill from there with this intriguingly quirky yet slightly irritating number. Still, I think Amaryllis’ song is another indication of VRT learning from their own mistakes and from RTBF’s successes. I don’t want Kick The Habit to win, and I don’t think it’s in any danger of doing so.
Everybody Aches by Astrid Destuyver Firstly…isn’t this Molly Sterling singing under an alias in order to have another crack at the contest? I’m fairly confident that it is. And if so, she’s returning with a song that may have a depressing title, but isn’t half as melancholy as Playing With Numbers. I can imagine Margaret Berger nailing a cover version of this, which automatically makes it cool. Astrid/Molly’s voice is cool too – she’s got what’s probably the most unique voice of the five. I’d love to see something like this hit the stage in Stockholm.
What’s The Pressure by Laura Tesoro This title bugs me. ‘What’s the pressure’? Has anybody ever uttered that particular combination of words? I think not. Pushing that aside, however, I just want to DANCE MY ASS OFF to this track. It’s more infectious than a common cold in a crowded carriage of that aforementioned NF train, and is by far the most energy-packed effort of the evening. To me, it’s got winner written all over it. And, if Adil’s not going to win (which he isn’t) then I’m relying on Laura topping the scoreboard instead. You go, girlfriend.
I’m Not Lost by Tom Frantzis Mid-tempo indie rock rarely parks up my street, and post-first listen of I’m Not Lost, I was duly unimpressed. But I figured I’d give it another chance, and I did end up enjoying it more the second time round (kind of like the leftover pizza you have for breakfast the morning after the night before). Like the four songs before it, it avoids cliché, and it does have a strong sing-along chorus. Tom’s great live, too. I just can’t shake the feeling that his song should be played in the background of an Olympics montage or something, and not competing in the musical battle to end all musical battles (which would be the ESC, not Eurosong). But will I be mad if it wins? Not any more.
Based on those first and/or second impression opinions, I’d give eight points to Astrid, ten to Laura, and a big ol’ douze points to Adil (everybody on Team Adil put your hands uuuuup! *waves lonely hands in the air like I just don’t care*). But I don’t actually get to do that, since, in an absolutely shocking turn of events, I wasn’t asked to be an international jury member by VRT. After everything I’ve done for them! Trashing their Eurovision entries, wishing they were more like RTBF…
Oh, okay. It makes sense now I’ve thought about it.
ANYWAY, as I mentioned before, VRT have gone above and beyond in the wake of Rhythm Inside’s success, offering up a selection of songs (mostly) worth salivating over. There are no creepy odes to mothers or cheesy cries of ‘Nothing is impossible!’ to be found here, and that’s one heck of a relief. Deciding which of the non-creepy, non-cheesy songs is going to Stockholm tonight will be the Belgian public, plus an allegedly esteemed panel of jurors hailing from Sweden, the Netherlands, France, and a whole bunch of countries who’ve never voted for Belgium at Eurovision (something Belgium clearly wants to change). The public and jurors will decide on a top two, and that pair will proceed to the second and final round of purely public voting – so the ultimate power lies with those peeps eating popcorn on the couch. Now I’ve explained to you something you already knew, it’s time to make my first official prediction of the 2016 NF season:
The top two What’s The Pressure and I’m Not Lost
The winner What’s The Pressure
Honestly, I wouldn’t put any money down on that prediction – when it comes to fifty-fifty decisions, I usually head in the wrong direction. But, based on mass appeal and YouTube views (a highly scientific approach, no?) I would bet on Laura and Tom being the chosen top two. I think Laura is Belgium’s best chance of Swedish success, given that What’s The Pressure is ridiculously catchy, reasonably memorable (THIS is how you write a radio-friendly song that isn’t vanilla, Ireland) and could be staged impressively at Eurovision. If she does win tonight, Laura will be the fourth Belgian act in a row to have graduated from The Voice to the ESC. Is that a sign?
What do you think? Is a victory for Laura written in the stars (The Voice being Belgium’s ESC entrant store of choice lately) or will Tom take the prize instead? Maybe it’ll be an underdog who impresses the jurors and the public enough to clinch the win? Fill me in on your hopes and expectations for Eurosong down below!
Until next time (when the Class of 2016 will have become a trio)…