Eurovision 2014: The Entrants (Part 3)

Here’s the third part of my brainless run-through of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest hopefuls. Only seven performances this time as we move into the second batch of semi-finalists. Parts one and two can be found here and here respectively.

Be warned: the opinions contained within may be dangerous and/or silly. Proceed with caution.

AUSTRIA: Conchita Wurst, “Rise Like a Phoenix”

So going by the fact that this is a female singer with a song called “Rise Like a Phoenix” I assume I can expect the usual dramatic, quasi-Gothic piano ba–wait, is that a beard?

With a bit of research (i.e. Wikipedia) it transpires that “Conchita” is actually the drag persona of Thomas Neuwirth, an Austrian singer. Well, that’s going to get some people talking on the night, eh wot? As for the song, a surprise, in that it wasn’t a surprise. See, I generally write the pre-video bits before I’ve even watched the video, so they’re usually some jokey drivel based on a passing observation of the performer, song or even the YouTube thumbnail; therefore I wasn’t actually expecting this to be another dramatic, quasi-Gothic, piano-driven ballad like so many of the entrants I’ve heard this year. But guess what? It turned out to be exactly that, and it’s no better or worse than any of them. Conchita can sing, at least, but for Eurovision that’s pretty much a prerequisite anyway. The beard might get teeth chattering on the night, but unfortunately I can’t say the same about the song.

GEORGIA: The Shin and Mariko, “Three Minutes to Earth”

Is that an ETA for a shuttle return, or part of an electrician’s panicked announcement? (Let it sink in…)

Okay, so Georgia are providing this year’s “old people sitting down” entry, with some added craziness around the edges just to spruce things up. What is there to say about it? Er, there’s yodelling. Not enough for you? Well, the music mirrors the all-over-the-place prog-folk sound that Jethro Tull pioneered – one of the singers even sounds a bit like Ian Anderson. Being the huge Tull fan that I am, it’s probably why I don’t mind this more than I do. I’m not crazy about it, but it has its charms and some decent melodic hooks buried beneath the weirdness. Will it win? Eh, probably not, but since it provides a nice, charming respite from all the heavy ballads this year I’m behind it all the way.

ISRAEL: Mei Feingold, “Same Heart”

Phil Collins once sang about two hearts, believing in just one mind, beating together till the end of time. Mei Feingold has presumably taken that concept to its logical conclusion by physically fusing said hearts together to produce the “same heart”. Just takes up less space, y’know?

“We don’t beat from the same heart.” So I didn’t get that right, then. Musically it’s the typical, effusive, big-build-up dance-pop that all the big-name singers were doing and all the stations were playing a couple of years ago – seriously, you could throw a rock into an empty room and still somehow hit a radio playing a song from this genre. Do I care for it? Not particularly. Could it do well? Possibly: it’s not original but it is kinda catchy, I guess. Plus if they stick with the video concept and have Feingold wielding a sword on stage, that’d be pretty cool.

LITHUANIA: Vilija Matačiūnaitė, “Attention”

That name must be so much fun to write out on tax forms.

She can sing and dance at the same time? How many times do you actually see that in pop music these days? That’s an energetic little number, too – kudos for that, at least. Musically it’s not particularly memorable (though the whole ‘attention’ hook is hard to forget), so it’s difficult to say anything else about the song. It’s big and it’s brash, though, which always helps: with a massive display this could actually do quite well on the night.

MALTA: Firelight, “Coming Home”

I know a lot of songs called “Coming Home,” from Deep Purple, Alter Bridge, Iron Maiden, KISS, Megadeth… that’s it, actually. But anyway, that’s a high caliber of artists right there. What they have to do with the Maltan Eurovision entry, I don’t know, but it’s probably not daft to say that I will absolutely definitely be judging this song by the incredibly high standard set by those bands. S’only fair.

It certainly has the most conceptual video, though I’m not sure if I can see any of that making it into the performance on the night. As for the music, it’s another of these homely folk songs you’ve been hearing recently on that there musical box that has talking on it sometimes. Think a Maltese Mumford & Sons, unless that concept frightens you.  Musical commentary-wise, that’s all I’ve got, to be honest. Oh, and I quite like the female vocal towards the end. It’s catchy and passionate with a decent message behind it (even if it gets a little overwrought at certain parts). Given the weird neo-folk revival we’ve had in the pop charts in recent times, this might do good on May 10th.

NORWAY: Carl Espen, “Silent Storm”

A silent storm, ey? That’s quite the evocative image: the carnage of a violent thunderstorm, played out to eerie silence. Sounds good. Well, Mr Espen, what have you got for us?

Another piano ballad? Come on, guys. At least this one goes for more of a indie, lo-fi direction. He’s got a nice voice, too. It’s pretty minimalist, though it does start to swell towards the end. The whole thing is pretty simple, but it does have a lot of passion for what is actually quite a short song at three minutes (even the thriftier pop songs tend to go on for another thirty seconds or so). Honestly, this one could go either way: it’s hard to dislike, though it might be just as hard to love. I hope that clears things up.

POLAND: Donatan & Cleo, “My Słowianie – We Are Slavic”

You know, you don’t see dashes all that often in song titles. I suppose I should commend them for that.

I asked for traditional influences, and dear sweet Easter did I get them. The last time I remember something so in-your-face European was the 2010 Lithuanian entry, InCulto’s “Eastern European Funk“. I really enjoyed that song at the time and I remember being severely disappointed when it didn’t get through to the final. This song? Er… well, it’s quirky, it’s brash, it’s memorable and, going by the video alone, will certainly make a lot of men very happy indeed (sweet mercy, one cleavage shot is cheeky, two is gratuitous… I lost count of how many there were in this video). It’s one of those weird songs that’s hard to ignore but difficult to remember: really the only catchy part is the shouty bit in the chorus. The rest just washes past in a wave of bright colours, traditional Polish dress and seriously confusing sexual imagery. I’ve no idea what to make of this one. It’s fun – let’s leave it at that.

The question remains, though: who is Johnny Cootie? And how do Slavic girls know how to use him? Answers on the back of a postcard.

Part 4 coming next Monday. The second Eurovision semi-final takes place Thursday 8th May, with the final airing Saturday 10th May.

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