The artists and the press have descended on Malmö like vultures…only nothing like vultures. Basically, the majority of them are now on Swedish soil, and that means Eurovision is excitingly close. That also means that I have a heap of reviews and predictions to cram in before Tuesday the 14th. So without further rambling, I present to you the third installment of my 2013 reviews (where I get a bit nasty for the first time in relation to a certain ballad). I’m kicking things off with Latvia. Here we go…
Here We Go by PeR
IMO: Is there anyone who’d name Latvia as one of their favourite Eurovision countries? Really? Aside from epic debutants Brainstorm and a few other saving graces, they have not impressed me much over the last decade-and-a-bit. This year the trend continues, but I do hear a glimmer of hope in PeR’s Here We Go. It was one of the few passable songs in the dreadful Latvian final, so it’s a plus in that respect. The three boys (two pieces of guy candy, one not so much) put a lot of energy into their performance from what I’ve seen, although they could put more into perfecting their vocals which are ropey at best. But this is a repetitive song – an almost-decent chorus interspersed with brief episodes of rap (which very rarely goes down well at the contest, right Trackshittaz?) with some trumpeting thrown in for good measure. That trumpeting is the best part. I’m not in the mood to be too cruel to Latvia though, so I’ll finish with a positive. The more I think about it, this will be a suitable opener for the second semi, especially if the group manage to pull off a show just as enthusiastic but more polished than what we’ve seen so far. If they incorporate the audience participation, that too should be well received. I’m not excited to see it up first, but I’m not completely repulsed by the thought either.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
Something by Andrius Pojavis
IMO: This was one of the earliest picks of NF season, and while some of those initial selections get boring by May, this one has grown on me. It’s a strange song, mainly in terms of the verses, but the chorus is rockin’ (and I, having used the term ‘rockin’’ am apparently a fifty-year-old man going through a midlife crisis). It reminds me so much of the Killers’ back catalogue, which may also be latched on to by voters. Lithuania does have a way of qualifying against all the odds, as proven in 2011 and 2012. I do feel that the odds are out of their favour again in 2013, even though I have a sneaking regard for Something. It’s got a bit of quirk, but probably not enough to be considered memorable, unless everybody keeps talking about ‘that weird dude wearing a top hat’, should that weird dude wear his top hat. Speaking of which, Andrius is one gentlemanly gentleman, dressing up in his finery to sing a rock song and asking us all if we mind that he’s in love with us. They just don’t make guys like that anymore, do they?
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 7 points.
Pred Da Se Razdeni by Lozano & Esma
IMO: Thanks to a few negative Tweets (or something like that) Macedonia tossed the amazing Imperija in the trash, and cobbled together another entry for Lozano and Esma (the loveable older lady of this year’s comp) in the space of about five minutes. You know, like Belarus did for Anastasia Vinnkova a few years ago (except that was thanks to a rule violation). The difference here is that I like this second song almost as much as the first one, even though it’s such a mish-mash of styles that I know I should be saying ‘WTF is this circus of a song?’. Pred Da Se Razdeni is more ‘by Lozano, featuring Esma’, and has the shortest opening verse I’ve ever heard on a song in Eurovision or elsewhere. True fact. But why waste time getting to the chorus when the chorus is so awesome, in my opinion? And what little airtime Esma has is taken advantage of – I LOVE her parts. I can’t wait for her to strut out with her grandson…er, I mean, singing partner, and get the crowd clasping their hands and whispering about how adorable she is. Lozano, meanwhile, will be doing most of the legwork and doing it very well – he has a great voice (and trendy eyewear collection). He, his chaperone and this song are a jigsaw puzzle that shouldn’t fit together, but together they work for me.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
Tomorrow by Gianluca Bezzina
IMO: Here’s an entry that, I’m afraid to say because it is so delightful (as is Dr. Bezzina), has started to bore slightly. But at the same time, there are so many things I like about it that I am mentally unable to stop wishing it into the final. The first time I heard it, it put a smile on my face. I loved the lyrics that told a story using language we don’t often hear at Eurovision – see the above example for proof – and within seconds I was shipping IT man Jeremy and the nameless woman who keeps running off on him. The song itself has been heard plenty of times in the past, but cruisy, inoffensive little ditties always have their place; in fact, one of them secured the Swiss a place in the final two years ago. If “the people” and juries alike are ready to have their hearts warmed and can be won over by a song that more or less forces a smile onto their face, then I officially declare Malta a front runner to make it through to Saturday night. I think it would help if they really played up the cuteness – bringing in the bench seat from the video, or introducing a bunch of balloons somehow (not that relevant, but cute. And I like balloons). After all, how often do you get to be surrounded by whimsical props when you’re a medical doctor?
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 7 points.
O Mie by Aliona Moon
IMO: Can we all just take a moment to mourn the English version of this song? The version that tackled such subjects as the ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ theory, and the possible legitimacy of the Mayan calendar? Oh god, I’m getting all misty-eyed just talking about it. I miss A Million, and not because I’m some lazy listener who wants everything in English so I can understand it (how dare you accuse me of that!). I think it was because the English version was the one originally chosen to represent Moldova, and I fell in love with that (and it was unsettling for that language switch to even happen – it usually goes the other way round). Take that moment to mourn with me, won’t you? Okay, moment over. I still really like this song as Romanian O Mie. It’s a pretty and well-constructed ballad that was – unbelievably – composed by Pasha Parfeny (how weird was it seeing him at the NF, sitting stiffly at the piano in a dinner suit, after all of that gallivanting he did in a leather apron in Baku?). It is repetitive, I’ll admit, but so are other ballads from the likes of Israel, for example, and I think Moldova has the better song. Unfortunately they aren’t in the same semi final, so Israel can’t make Moldova look good. But Aliona should be able to do that on her own. She already has ESC experience up her sleeve from last year, and with her voice and the architectural hairdo/dress combo she’s likely to be sporting, she’ll put on a show. Whether that show gets her to the final or not is a matter for later discussion.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 8 points.
Igranka by Who See
IMO: It would be a fair call to say this is Montenegro’s best entry ever, simply because it’s not verging on lame (like Zauvijek Volim Te), totally cliché (like Just Get Out of My Life) or anything to do with Rambo Amadeus (need I say more?). Such a fair call that I’m going to go ahead and say it: this IS Montenegro’s best entry ever. That’s from a girl who had high hopes after the song title and description were released, had her hopes dashed and labeled the song a ‘hot mess’ once she’d heard it, then finally grew to love the hot mess after another listen or two. Igranka is far from being a typical Eurovision song. It’s essentially a rap song with badass-female-soloist intervals, and features some hardcore dubstep that gives Slovenia’s all the impact of a soggy tissue. It’s a very interesting song that makes you want to know where it’s going. I love badass-female Nina’s opening part, and the little riff/melody (whatever, I’m not up with musical terminology) underneath the rap verses. The chorus is where things get messy and noisy, but for those expecting to hear the opening lines again, it’ll be a surprise. And if Nina is in tune and attempts to sing with power more than shout, the live effect will be impressive. I’d love Montenegro to do well at last, especially since they have a song that’s more complex and original than Serbia’s, but speaking of the live, this could be a disaster come show time. Igranka in studio is great, but the slick production and that air of messiness could come across a shambles when put to the test in Malmö Arena. As I write this, the trio have completed their first rehearsal, but I’m steering clear of pre-ESC video footage as usual, so I can’t say what went down.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
Birds by Anouk
IMO: Do you remember this time last year, when Joan Franka’s You And Me had been tipped as an almost-certain qualifier and potential winner by a ton of fans and bookmakers? Do you remember how those predictions panned out? Mmm-hmm. Well, it’s happened all over again with Anouk’s haunting ballad Birds, only this time, I’m one of the people hoping the Netherlands meet those high expectations (and suspecting they might). Well, maybe not the winning expectations, but the qualifying ones. I want this to go through, damnit! I didn’t think much of it initially, but a second or third listen can be crucial, and in this case I’ve really grown to appreciate the merit and sadness in the song. There’s nothing contrived or cheesy about it, unlike one of the ballads that comes before it in the running order (more on that in a bit) and I hope that works in its favour. Anouk is a big star and a reliable performer, and her rehearsal yesterday was, by all accounts, excellent. She won’t get in the way of her own success, but voters who want something less depressing and more instant may do. It’s been almost a decade since the Dutch song made a final, and I think if it happened this year, the looks on the delegation’s faces would be priceless. Like, Robin Stjernberg, ‘I won Melodifestivalen?’ level priceless. Who’s up for making that epic-ness a reality?
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 8 points.
I Feed You My Love by Margaret Berger
IMO: A lot of people love this, and a minority do not. The former group would willingly let Margaret feed them her love; the latter would spit it out and tell her she’s a terrible cook. So which group do you belong to? I hear you ask (and if you didn’t ask and don’t care, why are you reading opinion reviews in the first place?). Well, my friends…aagh, no more stalling. I love it, alright! Bravo, Norway, bravo. This country had two excellent Eurovision prospects, and they chose the less fun, less summery, but edgier and more reliable of those two. There aren’t many other words I can think of to describe it – industrial? Electro-rock-ish, perhaps? Different, definitely. Different from anything else on offer in 2013. I love the sound and I love the lyrics, and the contrast between such a dark song (with complimentary lighting) and the blonde-in-a-white-dress look (as Margaret modeled at NMGP) is really interesting. I would prefer this to win over Denmark, but I realise that’s unlikely. A top 10 result is more achievable, unless there’s another inexplicable lack of points for the Norwegian song that confuses me for months to come. Because I Feed You My Love can’t be compared to anything else it’s up against, unlike Stay, that too is unlikely.
Winner, loser or grower: Winner. 10 points.
It’s My Life by Cezar
IMO: Romania had bamboozled me this year, and as fun as it is to use the word ‘bamboozled’ in a Eurovision review (or at any time) I’m not pleased about it. The tropical party thrown by Mandinga is over, and now we’ve been invited to one where the background music is Beethoven’s Fifth and the punch bowl is full of pumpkin soup, and we’re all like ‘are we supposed to take this seriously?’. Let me tell you how I feel about It’s My Life in a way that makes more sense: as much as it reminds me of Bulgaria ’09 for obvious reasons, it also makes me think of Israel’s entry into the 2004 contest – To Believe, by David d’Or. In both cases, the song I like, but the crazy-high vocal the singer ascends to, I can’t help finding comical. I realise that Cezar is very talented, and the song certainly shows off his range. But I just can’t take this seriously; not when the voice of Alenka Gotar on helium is coming out of an imposing, suited-up dude with a beard. That dude scored the sought-after performance position of last in the second semi, following Switzerland. He will appear, and three minutes later, nobody will remember that Switzerland even existed. Whether or not that will help maintain Romania’s 100% qualification record, I don’t know. Like I said, this entry has me generally bamboozled. God, I love that word.
Winner, loser or grower: Grower. 6 points.
What If by Dina Garipova
IMO: This song makes me want to do so many things, and none of them are enjoyable – things like jumping off a cliff, and/or vomiting come to mind. Well, maybe it’s not everything about What If that makes me want to do that stuff. Now that I think of it, I find the song part of the song (i.e. the music and the melody) perfectly listenable. What makes my skin crawl is the sickeningly sentimental, cheesy, clichéd, anti-war, ‘let’s put away our firearms and embrace each other’ LYRICS. Oh. My. Gosh. And don’t even get me started on the music video, which only serves to bring the nauseating sentiment to life, as a theatre-load of strangers become so overcome by the message of Dina’s song that they are unable to resist joining hands and swaying as one. Pass me a sick bag, somebody. Russia sent a novelty act of sorts to Eurovision in 2012, and they were adorable. Give me that over this schmaltz any day of the week. I am horrified at the prospect of this qualifying with ease and possibly cracking the final top 10. Dina’s voice wouldn’t be out of place there, but…nyet. Just nyet.
Winner, loser or grower: Loser. 3 points.
That’s another ten songs that can be crossed off my review list. But just before I go do that, here’s an overview of my rankings this time around. Although I think I’ll call them ‘igrankings’.
- Norway 10
- Macedonia 10
- Montenegro 10
- Moldova 8
- Netherlands 8
- Malta 7
- Lithuania 7
- Latvia 6
- Romania 6
- Russia 3
How do you rate the above entries? Let me know where we’re thinking alike, and where we’re really, really not.
NEXT TIME: In my second-last post before the main event, I’ll be critiquing the entries from San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the UK. Eight songs, one more set of reviews. Who will come out on top, and will one of you FINALLY agree with me on everything? I doubt it, but why don’t you drop by just in case?
It’s the last February Saturday of the year, which also means that this is the final weekend of February Madness in the run-up to Malmö. Granted, it’s not that mad – we’re not even getting any final deciders tonight. But with an event-filled week behind us, a bunch of semi-finals about to kick off (including Romania’s, which is on the verge of breaking the Maltese record for longest show in the history of the world) and plenty of action taking place next week, one can’t really complain. And if you find yourself pining for some form of madness, there’s always the option of reliving Laka’s performance from Belgrade…or any of the bajillion other crazy-ass performances from the last six decades.
For those who don’t mind a degree of sanity, however, here’s some I prepared earlier.
A little bit of this, a little bit of that: news from the last seven days
– Alcohol Is Free: Greece’s new tourism slogan for 2013, or their latest Eurovision entry? In case you didn’t know, it’s the latter. Continuing this year’s trend for picking artists with impressively long and difficult to type names, Greece chose Koza Mostra feat. Agathonas Iakovidis to fly their flag in Sweden, with the aforementioned musical celebration of free booze. I would have been grateful if they’d sent a decade-old souvlaki to represent them just to have Greece in the competition, so the fact that they decided on actual human beings with a fun and ethnic (but not in a Helena Paparizou Version 35025.0 way) song is a big bonus. There are similarities to one of my all-time Turkish favourites, For Real by Athena, in Alcohol Is Free, so that’s also pleasing.
– In other shocking news, Ireland chose a single, non-hysterical man with a regular hairdo to go to Eurovision last night. It’s hard to remember what life was like in the pre-Jedward years, apart from the occasional flashbacks of a screeching bird with someone’s hand up its backside, but I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted with them. Again, I’d have accepted a crappy song just to have a Jedward break, but Ireland have chosen well. They’ve gone for Only Love Survives, a.k.a. electro-dance pop that would be lumped in with Slovenia and Germany if Eurovision was a Venn diagram. I don’t like it as much as Glorious, but it’s on a par with Straight Into Love which has grown on me a lot since my first listen. I can see a wicked stage show backing it.
– The Netherlands have revealed Anouk’s song title, and it’s Birds. It would sound more interesting if it was called Rhinoceroses or Three-Toed Sloths, but hey, she’s certainly talking it up. According to her delegation, though, it’s both too good for Eurovision and not good enough to do well – which if you ask me is just an excuse to cover all bases if they do fail miserably.
– The BBC has FINALLY broken their silence on what’s in store for the UK, if only to give us a date of announcement and a slight clue as to who will represent them. On March 18th a solo singer will put all the rumours to rest by failing to live up to them (probably). Odds are on Mika who would make me very happy, but my hopes are kind of…*gestures to feet*. We shall see.
– Finally, in random but exciting news (for me, anyway) I was lucky enough to be interviewed about EBJ and all things ESC last week by escunited.com, and the interview is now live. You can read it right here: http://www.escunited.com/home/interview-with-jaz-creator-of-eurovision-blog-eurovision-by-jaz/. While you’re at it, do check out the rest of the website. It pretty much has everything you could ask for, and the editors make a point of looking into the Eurovision impact all over the world, not just within Europe.
Melodifestivalen: three down, one to go
And here’s hoping it’s the best one yet (that really, really isn’t much to hope). I’ve been waiting for this semi to come for one reason, and two words: Ulrik Munther. He’s one of the favourites, and since I loved his song last year I had big expectations of him this year. I’m also keen to see Idol runner-up Robin Stjernberg (and see if he can beat the girl who beat him in Idol by getting out of his semi) and Terese Fredenwall. Here they are, with the rest.
- Rockin’ The Ride by Army of Lovers
- Must Be Love by Lucia Pinera
- You by Robin Stjernberg
- Trivialitet by Sylvia Vrethammar
- Bed On Fire by Ralf Gyllenhammar
- Jalla Dansa Salwa by Behrang Miri
- Breaking The Silence by Terese Fredenwall
- Tell The World I’m Here by Ulrik Munther
Sweden has saved their best for last. This semi is almost up to the standard of last year’s weakest, so yay, I guess. Here are my favourites.
You – I liked this because it didn’t go where I thought it was going to, and I like the way Robin turns the one-syllable title into practically an entire chorus.
Jalla Dansa Salwa – if it wasn’t biologically and logistically impossible, I’d think Behrang was the love child of Sean Banan and Jessy Matador. His musical stylings of catchy tribal-dance pop certainly suggest it.
Breaking The Silence – this is similar to the song that got Terese a place in Melfest, and just as beautifully sung. She’s not the best live vocalist from what I’ve seen, but I’m hoping she can pull off a decent performance tonight.
Tell The World I’m Here – okay, it’s not a patch on Ulrik’s previous entry, but it’s still got what it takes to win in a year of mediocrity. I am praying this gets to the final, even if it goes no further.
Now, who’s going where? If you’re looking for a likely prediction go elsewhere (I’m sure I don’t need to highlight yet again my lack of prowess in this field) but if you just want an opinion, this is what I’m thinking – Ralf and Ulrik to the final, Army of Lovers and Robin to Andra Chansen. Whether that happens or not, at least there isn’t any cringe-worthy middle-aged men who can slip in to the final when someone else deserved it more.
PS – this semi is not only being held in Malmö, but in the very arena that will host Eurovision in a few months. Imagine that sketch of the stage in the setting you’ll see tonight, with Petra Mede plonked in Danny and Gina’s place, and that’s a fairly accurate picture of what you can expect.
What’s coming up in February?
There isn’t much left of the month, but these are the scheduled developments you can look forward to:
24th – Russia’s Voice Dina Garipova presents her song What If. If she doesn’t have at least three grannies as backing vocalists, she’ll already have failed to live up to her predecessors.
26th – Spain choose the song ESDM will sing in Malmö, from a smorgasbord of three. I haven’t listened to any yet, so…yeah. How are they?
27th – Croatia and Macedonia present their songs, Mižerja and Imperija respectively. I’m not sure which I’m more curious to hear. I’m definitely hanging out to see if the age gap between Esma and Vlatko is more noticeable than the one between Ell and Nikki.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, folks, and make the most of the almost-madness.