Eurovision 2014: The Entrants (Part 4)

Here’s the fourth part of my daft run-through of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest hopefuls. This week we’re into the final batch of semi-finalists. Parts 1, 2 and 3 can be found here, here and here respectively.

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

BELARUS: Teo, “Cheesecake”

Cheesecake, you say? Well, I do like cheesecake. Eight points straight away to Belarus. You’ve set the bar high now, Teo – don’t let me down.

Hey, remember a while back how we were all asking, begging, pleading for a Belarusian Robin Thicke? We were doing that, right? Well, now we have one, and he’s singing about cheesecake, Google Maps and Dirty Dancing. It’s a quirky start, and by “quirky” I mean “the instrumentation is all over the freaking place” – there’s horns, record scratches, guitars, maracas, what sounds like someone opening a can of Sprite… but then the song kicks in and, honestly, it’s actually pretty catchy. Teo isn’t the best singer but the melody works for him – it has enough hooky moments without being too challenging. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, but it has an odd charm that makes it kinda click. Judging by the video it clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously, either, which could boost or hinder its chances on the night – Eurovision voters tend to prefer the acts to go all-out with their zaniness. Still, I liked it, perhaps against my better judgement. Breezy, daft, toe-tapping fun from Belarus – just don’t pay too much attention to the lyrics.

FINLAND: Softengine, “Something Better”

A song called “Something Better” at Eurovision. I’m sure there’s a joke to be made here somewhere but I can’t quite tell what it is. It’s times like this I wish I was better at the funny.

So Finland have entered another band this year, eh? Trying to catch the old embers of 2006 again, are we, phweh heh heh? (It helps greatly if you read those sentences in a gruff old sailor voice).  The song is carried by a simple chord sequence that, if my barely-trained musical ear knows anything, sticks pretty close to the four chords of pop music (which is fine – this is a pop contest, after all), while the melody drops and soars so you know when to drink and when to punch the air. It has that radio-rock sound that was quite popular in the mid-Noughties: think Coldplay with more energy (or, for that matter, any energy at all). It’s not bad: kinetic, melodic, enthusiastic, anthemic, all the other -ics (Stereophonics?). I can’t drum up the interest to listen to it more than twice, but I could see it doing quite well.

GREECE: Freaky Fortune feat. Riskykidd, “Rise Up”

And again, Greece entering an act called Freaky Fortune? Again, it feels like there’s something to make fun of here, but I just can’t…

You don’t hear rapping at Eurovision all that often, do you? Kinda sounds like the guy from Rizzle Kicks, doesn’t he? Anyway, enough questions, let’s get down to some observations: for the most part it’s, once again, club-minded, synth-driven dance-pop, which I’m thinking should have its own hotkey on my keyboard by now. It’s punchier and more fun than other entries, though, which I do appreciate (seriously, the show itself had better be a laugh-a-minute riot because we desperately need some fun injected into this year’s contest). It also has a horn section and rapping, which I think are quite unusual for a Eurovision entrant – but are they unusual enough? That’s not one of those rhetorical, vague-for-effect blogger questions, either: weird and wacky help at Eurovision, but you really have to throw yourself into it. That said, I don’t mind this as much as I thought I would. Hope you do well, Greece.

IRELAND: Can-Linn feat. Kasey Smith, “Heartbeat”

Can-Linn win? Oh ho, I am hilarious.

It’s Eurovision and the song’s called “Heartbeat.” What were you expecting, Black Label Society? Mind you, it does have a slightly darker synth-pop sound than similar Eurovision entrants this year. That’s kinda cool. And look – or listen, even! Celtic influences! I can’t overstate how refreshing it is to hear even the mildest trace of traditional folk influences in a Eurovision song at this point, particularly as I have a seriously soft spot for pretty much anything Celtic: music, imagery, mythology… anything goes with me. Yeah, the song itself isn’t amazing- for the most part it’s the same generic dance-pop we’ve been hearing for the last four or five years – but Can-Linn does have a nice voice. It is Can-Linn singing, right? I must have missed Kasey Smith’s contribution. Anyway, it’s Celtic and I like that. It’s dance-pop and I don’t like that. So… there you are.

F.Y.R. MACEDONIA: Tijana Dapčević, “To the Sky”

I’m sorry, all I can think of at the moment is Weebl and Bob as Team Laser Explosion:

Sorry about that. Anyway, let’s see what Tijana has for us:

Have I heard that chorus somewhere before? I’ve no idea. It sounds like something I might have heard on the radio recently. Never mind, let’s focus on the music – what is there to say? Well, she has a good voice; and I quite like the chorus, particularly the way the melody in the “where do we go now?” line rises and falls towards its end. Call me Quixotic, but I like the little things in a song. It’s not like I have much else to discuss here, to be honest: it’s the same club-minded, synth-driven dance-pop you heard back in 2010. The verses are subdued and simmering, the chorus is loud and punchy. If you liked that, there’s a good chance you’ll like this. If you don’t, this one’ll just pass you by.

ROMANIA: Paula Seling and Ovi, “Miracle”

Hey, it’s these guys again. Remember them from 2010, when they sang “Playing with Fire”? Well I do, and I also remember I quite enjoyed that song. Four years on and they’re back, but can they still deliver the goods? Or at least the adequates, anyway.

It’d be crass to directly compare “Miracle” to “Playing with Fire”, but the quirky, bouncy and kinda-brilliant pop of the latter did give me similar expectations for the former that, unfortunately, just weren’t met. “Miracle” is – say it with me – a club-minded, synth-driven dance-pop song, and to say it’s no better and no worse than any of the other songs I’ve written about recently or heard over the past few years is all I have to say about it. Honestly, I’d like to say more, but these songs all start to sound the same after a while – and not a very long while, either. It’s a shame, really, as I did genuinely enjoy “Playing with Fire.” You know what? Go listen to that instead. You’re welcome.

SLOVENIA: Tinkara Kovač, “Round and Round”

Aerosmith once wrote a song called “Round and Round.” That’s interesting, right? Honestly, four parts into this thing, you’d think it would be easier to come up with these pre-video bits by now.

Flute? Yes. Yes yes yes. Eurovision needs more flute, just all over the place. Musically it’s a cold, gloomy ballad which… I don’t know, is Slovenia all that cold a place? There is a guitar player in the video, but I swear I can hear that doomy, droning synth line you sometimes hear in the background of songs that really don’t need it (I’m thinking the chorus to Olly Murs’ “Heart Skips a Beat“). I like this – it’s dramatic but subdued, which gives it a dark, romantic feel. It isn’t a particularly catchy song, which won’t earn it much love if it’s performed somewhere towards the middle of the night. I do quite like the verse melody, though. And it has a FREAKING FLUTE SOLO YOU GUYS!

SWITZERLAND: Sebalter, “Hunter of Stars”

The title vaguely reminds me of Dio’s “Hunter of the Heart.” Ten points for that alone.

“Liiiar, tell me your intentions are good”… yeah, okay, let me just shake the Dio song out of my head. Actually, “Hunter of Stars” does a decent job of that itself with its opening wall of sound -drums, guitars and vocals all hitting you at once. There’s a fair amount to discuss here, so I’ll have to focus myself a little: the melody has a folksy bent (always good) and the instrumentation sounds a lot more natural and earthy than other entrants, which is very nice. What makes this really stand out, though, is that it doesn’t take itself even the slightest bit seriously. The whole thing is just fun with a capital F-U to every other dramatic, emotionally-intense song on the roster. It’s uptempo and upbeat with a freaking catchy whistle hook – there’s even a violin solo, for crying out loud: how could anyone not like this? Well, I do. I like this one. Man, I really like this one.

Part 5 coming next Monday. The second Eurovision semi-final takes place Thursday 8th May, with the final airing Saturday 10th May.

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