Long time, no see – or should I say ‘long time, no already well-past-their-use-by-date Eurovision reviews’? If there’s anyone out there who missed me the last few months, I’d like to apologise for my absence. To the rest of you, who didn’t even notice or didn’t drop by to listen to me saying sorry much more sincerely than Frans ever did, I’ll say ‘Let’s get right into today’s round of reviews.’ There aren’t a lot left, so I think I can honestly promise to be done by Christmas…maybe even by Halloween! My time management skills are second to none (in terms of sucking).
Today we’re talking Georgia’s Take Me As I Am, Greece’s Supergirl, Iceland’s Think About Things and Poland’s Empires. In other words, a few pretty unpopular entries from the fandom’s perspective plus one that received mixed reviews. Oh, and a massive fan favourite that had the potential to win the whole contest. Without further ado, let’s deep-sea dive (James Newman style) into it.
If you thought your days of being critiqued by obsessive ESC freaks were over, Tornike, Stefania, Daði and Alicja…you thought wrong.
The landscape of Eurovision in general would be a lot less exciting minus Georgia. Just think back to all the weirdly wonderful stuff they’ve sent – or tried to – since their impressive 2007 debut. Sure, they’ve had their stock-standard moments feat. Shine, Waterfall and Keep The Faith. But We Don’t Wanna Put In, I’m A Joker, Three Minutes To Earth and my personal high point Midnight Gold all set them apart as a country unafraid to do something different. This year they brought us Take Me As I Am, an entry that’s nothing if not unusual and dips its toes into the pool of rock Georgia tends to every few years. With it came some déjà vu, as another intense male-led song – á la last year’s Keep On Going – failed to be well received by Eurofans. Oto missed out on a place in the final (not by much, but a DNQ is a DNQ) so it’s likely Tornike Kipiani would have followed in his unfortunate footsteps. Did he deserve to be sent home on a weekday though, or was he worthy of a spot in the Saturday night line-up?
If helps answer that question, I actually like this song. Didn’t see that coming, did you? I do feel as if I shouldn’t like it, which I guess makes it a guilty pleasure. It’s just that I see a fair bit of good in this song that not a lot of other fans seemed to (understandable). For starters, the music is nicely atmospheric with a hypnotic beat and gritty feel to it. It makes the song sound like it should be blasting in the background of a Fifty Shades of Grey movie trailer, and I like that vibe – though the key words there are ‘in the background’. There’s something about the song’s structure and lack of standout chorus that make it more suited to background music than to standing on its own two feet in a competition. The vein of angst and vulnerability running through is an attraction, though, with Tornike’s powerful vocals (feat. touch of rasp) really selling those strong emotions. I will say that when he scream-sings ‘WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME?!?!?’ (something many of us have texted to an ex while drunkenly healing from a heartbreak) he’s basically answering his own question. You’re being a little aggressive and whiny, my friend – knock it off and you might have a shot. Anyway, behind the scenes of vocals that are less like gymnastics and more like a boxing match, there’s some tip-top backing singers who help balance out the aggression with their smooth harmonies. Like an over-the-counter painkiller, they take the edge off. I like the concept of this song too, which is basically Tornike calling out someone who wants him to talk, dress, dance and even smell a certain way instead of loving him for who he is (yes, this song brings cologne into the conversation…why not?). If I had an award for lyrical weirdness, I wouldn’t be able to give it to Georgia fast enough, and ‘Why do you want me to smell like a French homme?’ would be the main reason. This track stops you in your tracks, word-wise, again and again. It certainly makes me wonder what exactly playing like a German entails – I get that the object of his affections would prefer him to dress Italian-style over German (lederhosen are not the sexiest look, let’s be honest) but what they mean by that, I have no idea. Thanks not just to the lyrics but to other bits and pieces too, I think the biggest thing this entry has going for it is how different it is to the 40 other would-have-beens. It practically forces you to applaud its originality and intensity, whether you like the rest of it or not. Daring to be different, as I mentioned earlier and as we all know, is a preferred M.O. of Georgia’s. I much prefer it when they go down that path, as opposed to the yawn-worthy one that led them to the likes of Waterfall.
I don’t know about you, but I reckon – no matter how you feel about this – we missed out on one heck of an ESC performance here. Georgia has a talent for creating drama on stage (well, whoever’s doing their creative direction has a talent for it, anyway…this year it might have been an Englishman or a Spanish guy for that authentic touch). And I bet they would have gone hard with this even if it meant going home early. It does seem like the kind of song that could have been elevated to qualification level by a knockout live (and given the circumstances you can’t prove me wrong). Realistically, however, they should probably be grateful that they didn’t get to compete with this particular song. Tornike himself is a big asset with a big ol’ voice I’m happy to hear again next year. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be a little sad if his do-over entry doesn’t have lyrics that make us all say ‘WTF?!?’.
In a line Off-the-wall Georgia playing to type in a way that, oddly, works for me 2019 VS 2020 Is it controversial to prefer this? Because I do Ranking #36 Score 6 points
The Greek ESC (fire) saga began in 1974, but it took the country a while get into the groove. From 2001 to 2013 they were at home in the top 10, scoring one gold and three bronze medals, with a trio of 17th places being the only results to drag them down. They were also untouchable where qualification was concerned…until they lost their precious 100% record back in 2016 (I guess Sweden wasn’t the Utopian Land they were looking for). It’s been a bit of a Greek tragedy since then with 19th in the final remaining their best result – and I don’t even know how Demy managed that. Swooping in to (theoretically) save their butts this year would have been supergirl Stefania, who represented the Netherlands at Junior Eurovision in 2016 and is only slightly more Greek than I am. I’m kidding, of course, but she was born and raised in the Netherlands and could have caught a bus to the Ahoy Arena (no passport necessary). It might have been a smart move for ERT to go Dutch for 2020/2021, but was selecting Supergirl as Stefania’s song an equally intelligent thing to do?
Well, I don’t think Supergirl was the song that would have rescued them (from a lower-table final result, at least). There is a lot to like about it though, if you enjoy this sort of thing. I think it’s a good mix of the Greek ethnopop that served them so well in the 2000s, and a genre of music that sounds current in 2020. I’m not totally sure what that genre is, since Supergirl is danceable in sound but not in tempo (I’m not even sure Eleni Foureira could find a way to move to this that didn’t look awkward AF) but it makes for an interesting blend. The song also has something that’s been hit-and-miss in Greek entries lately: music that makes damn sure we know which country it’s coming from, even though the lyrics are 100% English with no yassou in sight. Sound familiar? Die For You, My Number One, Secret Combination and Aphrodisiac certainly think so. Supergirl makes a move back to the formula that earned Greece Eurovision superpower status at one stage. They’ve tried a few different things recently, and while that has been enjoyable there is something nice about the nostalgic feel of this entry. It isn’t as infectious (I can still use that word, right?) or iconic as any of the songs I just mentioned, but it is catchy – especially the bridge before the chorus “drop”, which is my personal favourite part. I buy what Stefania’s selling when she says ‘No, no, nothing can stop me; no, no, nobody can hold me down’, even though it’s quite unrealistic that she’d be referring to rescuing a cat from a tree without having to climb it like a regular person. But hey, as an animal lover I can support her using her superpowers for such good. She’s got some vocal power too, which would have been more useful in Rotterdam than her feline-saving skills. Of the three Kisses girls (her Dutch JESC girl group, ICYMI) she was the standout. She gets to use her entire range throughout Supergirl’s three minutes, making a fairly flat and repetitive song just dynamic and challenging enough to have attracted some jury approval, in an alternate reality where Eurovision 2020 got the go-ahead. All of that aside, I do have some issues with this that stop me from declaring undying love for it. It may be polished and well-produced, but it lacks heart – characteristic, IMO, of many other entries written by Dimitris Kontopoulos. I found Shine (Russia 2014), This Is Love (Greece 2017), X My Heart (Azerbaijan 2018) and Scream (Russia 2019) pretty soulless too, though I prefer this to all of those (but not to Work Your Magic or Shady Lady…I’m not an idiot). I could have squeezed past that if the live performance had warmed things up. But my dealbreaker gripe with this entry is that it feels too young for the adult contest. Maybe it’s knowing Stefania went to JESC not that long ago; maybe it’s the fact that her music video is set in a school; or maybe it’s just that the song is unsuitably youthful in general, right down to the title of SuperGIRL. Whatever the case, I’m glad Stefania will be a year older, wiser and more experienced as a performer when she finally makes the JESC to ESC transition that a handful of artists have before her (with varying degrees of success).
Had she made it in May this year, she would have opened the second semi – an unexpected choice when Austria was right there, but it might have worked to Greece’s advantage. There was huge potential for coolness to go down on stage with this, so I’ll sorely miss never seeing it live or even hearing about the concept they had planned like we did with a few other countries (if anyone did hear something, please hook me up). I’m keen to see what the ERT + Stefania collab creates next year – my fingers will be crossed for something more mature but with the same sense of ethnopop nostalgia. Never mind Cyprus sending Part 3 of the Fuego/Replay trilogy: I think Greece should do it instead.
In a line The 2000s meet the 2020s in this enjoyable piece of ethnopop that doesn’t quite fit the bill of ‘banger’ 2019 VS 2020 Better Love was a bit…well, better Score 7 points Ranking #22
This ESC-less year has been all about Iceland for a sizeable chunk. We had Will Ferrell’s Netflix movie Eurovision (and the accompanying musical masterpiece that is Húsavik) shine a bright light into our lives when we needed it the most. And prior to that, we witnessed gentle giant and gift to humankind Daði Freyr – plus his troupe of family and friends known as Gagnamagnið – win Söngvakeppnin and practically take over the world afterwards. With, I must mention, the certified bop I’m about to discuss. In the post-Hatari days it would have been hard to imagine Iceland becoming even more of a talking point in Eurovision terms, but somehow it happened…and just two years after they sent the musical equivalent of out-of-date, unflavoured oatmeal to the contest (meaning Our Choice and not the very precious Ari, of course). The big question now is how can Daði – who’s just been internally selected by RÚV for 2021, thank heavens – follow in his own footsteps when he’s set the bar so sky-high?
On second thought, that’s a question for later. The one I’m supposed to be answering now is ‘How epic is Think About Things on a scale from 1 to douze?’. In all honesty, it isn’t one of my absolute favourite songs of the year and doesn’t quite fit into my top 10. But before you get the hashtag #JazIsCancelled trending, hear me out: I still love it/believe it’s incredibly epic/wouldn’t be able to look anyone who disliked it in the eye. How cold and cynical would somebody have to be to NOT be moved by – and move to – this funk-pop dancefloor filler, written by Daði about his infant daughter (I say as someone whose resting bitchface can be more than skin deep from time to time)? This song is so much fun from start to finish, but not too much fun: it effortlessly straddles the line between silly and serious, thanks to Daði’s clever composition and production. It’s bound to become a karaoke classic thanks to how simple but effective the lyrics are. In a happy turn of events though, they never stray into cliché (a pet peeve of mine as you probably know by now). And to be pedantic, there’s something satisfying about how neat the rhymes are. Don’t tell me that ‘When we are together there isn’t anywhere that I would rather be. Three birds of a feather, I just hope you enjoy our company’ doesn’t make you feel some type of (very positive) way. To think that all of those appealing elements of the song are only half of its charm. The rest obviously comes packaged with the performance. There were so many aspects of the NF live that were charismatic and exciting in equal measure – a.k.a. the stuff triple-digit televoting scores are made of. The outfits, the dance moves, the double microphones, the camera shots, the lighting, the wind machine…I could go on (unlike Robin Bengtsson). Drama was added for humorous effect, proving that while the song is legitimately good it’s far from being dead serious. At its core this song is so sweet it kind of makes me wish Daði was my dad…which is weird because he’s younger than I am. It’s a little like Save Your Kisses For Me as far as the subject matter goes, and armed with similarly memorable choreography. Could those shared traits have foreshadowed a landmark Icelandic win? Were we meant to have a 2021 contest that had ‘Strive for Reykjaviktory’ as its slogan? It’s insanely frustrating that we’ll never know either of those things. I can practically hear the physically distanced crowd going crazy as the winner’s reprise begins with that ‘Baby…’, and I can picture the credits rolling over that last chorus – more so than I can with any other 2020 entry.
It wasn’t a sure thing, but worst case scenario was a podium position for Iceland, I reckon. Think About Things could have been a 3rd-placed song that doesn’t take itself too seriously, like Hey Mamma!; a runner-up that had heaps of backing behind it from the moment it was confirmed for Eurovision but couldn’t quite follow through, like Soldi; or a winner that had tough competition but made its mark via a unique brand of bizarre and ultimately went all the way, like Toy. There is an all-too-real chance that Iceland was robbed of a best-ever result this year, which is saying a lot since they’ve scored two stellar second places in recent(ish) memory (I like to pretend that both 1999 and 2009 were not as long ago as they actually were). But does it really matter when Daði and his band basically won the contest that never was anyway? When Jennifer Garner is dancing to your entry on Instagram, Russell Crowe is tweeting about you, British TV presenters are wearing your merchandise, you go viral on TikTok and your song is smashing it globally on Spotify and making it onto premier radio playlists, you can’t exactly call yourself a loser. He might not have a Kosta Boda trophy to display on his mantlepiece, but I don’t reckon Daði minds too much.
In a line A funky bundle of musical fun feat. an ‘Aww!’ factor, and a song that may have served up Iceland’s first ESC win 2019 VS 2020 2020 does it for me Score 10 points Ranking #13
If I were Poland…well, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this review. I’d also be lowkey pissed that I might have missed out on a place in last year’s Eurovision final courtesy of human error. The EBU has never confirmed nor denied that a certain Czech juror’s semi votes were cast backwards, which if true, led to Belarus qualifying instead of Poland – but based on past incidents and the big voting hoopla that did go down in Tel Aviv, there’s a good chance it’s true. By the time anyone twigged though, it was too late to fix – Tulia probably wouldn’t have cared for an honorary qualification, which is about the only thing that could have been done besides giving Poland a direct pass to this year’s final (too controversial, too much emphasis on an embarrassing mistake, etc). Speaking of this year, how about I leave the past in the past and actually discuss Poland’s follow-up to Pali Şie? Empires is the name, and classic ESC power ballad is the game…but would Poland have been playing to win with this or were they destined to sit out the final for the third time on the trot?
It’s always hard to say with a country that can surprisingly qualify just as easily as they can fall flat on their collective face. My head and heart say pretty much the same thing in this case: Empires would have stayed in its semi. It isn’t the worst song of this year’s 41, though spoiler alert: I have it ranked right near the bottom at #40. I don’t hate it, but it’s too sombre, melodramatic and lyrically cringey to be worthy of parking anywhere up my street. Unlike Think About Things, this contains an array of metaphors and similes that make no sense when crammed into one song. At the very least, it comes off as lacking originality. Exhibit A: ‘Like moths to a flame, like [a] bird to a pane of glass…we’re gasoline and a match.’ Okay, MAKE UP YOUR MIND. The bridge takes the cake however, unleashing these nonsensical lines upon our very confused ears: ‘Used to be a tower so tall, now we only are crumbling walls, we rise and fall; moth to the flame as we do the same, like a bird to a pane of glass.’ I’m sorry, but what? As an English major at uni, I was trained to analyse ambiguous poetry, but even I can’t see where the lyricists were going with THAT. For me the words are distracting, and though there are glimmers of acceptable lyricism (I quite like the ‘There’s fool’s gold in our eyes’ line, and the chorus isn’t too bad) they aren’t enough to outweigh all of the WTF. Moving on to the rest of the song, and I’m sticking with my initial judgement that this is too serious (it really is the antithesis of Think About Things) and too theatrical to have mass contest appeal. Come to think of it, it’d be perfect at the end of a West End musical’s second act – I can totally see Alicja, with her powerful vocals and ability to emote, up on a theatre stage singing her soul out. But there are far better and more contemporary examples of power ballads to be found in most other Eurovision years, including 2020. Alicja looks and sounds way more mature than her shockingly young years – she was just 17 when she won The Voice of Poland last year and when she won Szansa Na Sukces back in February (she and Stefania were actually born in the same year…does that blow your mind like it did mine?). While a song as youthful as Supergirl wouldn’t suit her at all, and while she definitely has the vocals to pull off a song like Empires, everything about it feels too mature – from the vibe to the subject matter. And even putting that aside, it’s not Laurell ‘The Next Thomas G:Son’ Barker’s best work (that honour OBVIOUSLY goes to She Got Me). There’s a solid chorus with a good melody here, but that = a few boxes unchecked by the rest of the song.
I don’t think there would have been any ambiguity over whether or not Poland qualified in 2020. I’m not saying they would have been stuck in the second semi for sure, but they either would have crashed and burned; or qualified by being neither adored or deplored, only to finish in the bottom five in the final. The producers positioned (or should I say ‘buried’?) them right before Iceland, for Mr. God’s sake. And if any act could have strutted all over them prior to that, Serbia’s Hurricane were capable. I wouldn’t want to be the filling in that sandwich. On the flip side, Alicja’s commanding presence and jaw-dropping vocals have ‘jury darling’ written all over them. And like I said before, we should never underestimate Poland’s ability to randomly qualify (or to win Junior Eurovision, but that’s a topic of discussion for another day). There were at least 10 other songs in semi 2 I’d have preferred to see on the Saturday night though. How about you?
In a line A by-the-numbers ballad with lots of power but nothing else I’m particularly attracted to 2019 VS 2020 Say it with me in white voice: 2019 Score 5 points Ranking #40
36 down, 5 to go! Told you I was getting there at long last. Here’s the ranking for today’s round:
- Iceland (10)
- Greece (7)
- Georgia (6)
- Poland (5)
It’s an easy win for Iceland on this occasion, which it wouldn’t have been in Rotterdam (the competition was way too tough for a landslide). What are your thoughts? Is Iceland your personal favourite out of this four and could they have won for real with Think About Things? Do you have a sneaky appreciation for Georgia á la moi, or does one of the others float your boat more buoyantly? Pick your favourite and show them some love below.
Now you’ve done that, you know what to do next (gosh, I’m demanding): head down to the comments and spill your personal tea on all of the 2020 entries above. I genuinely want to know what you think about things. Believe me, I will always be there so you can tell me anything and I’ll listen.
NEXT TIME I did a random draw trying to emulate the ESCs of yesteryear, and that left four major players – Australia, Bulgaria, Germany and Sweden – until (almost) last. Subscribe in the sidebar and/or follow my socials so you don’t miss the moment I let my verdict on their songs loose.