Here’s the second part of my run-through of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest hopefuls as I cover the second half of the first semi-final. Part 1 can be read here.
Be warned: the opinions contained within may be dangerous and/or silly. Proceed with caution.
SERBIA: Bojana Stamenov, “Beauty Never Lies”
Except when it does, which is a whole lot of the time. I hope Junior Eurovision’s putting out more positive messages than this.
Dramatic? Check. Quasi-Gothic? Check. Piano ballad? Check and… well, the predominant instrument isn’t a piano, so that’s something at least. It even has some electronic elements bubbling beneath the surface, giving the song a modern edge without going full-on cheese – aaaand then it all falls apart with that horrible Eurodance breakdown that sounds like one of Eiffel 65’s rejected beats. You were so close as well, “Beauty Never Lies”, so close, but you flew too far to the sun and went full cheese. You never go full cheese, and if you do, go full cheese – by which I mean if you’re going to put some stupid Eurodisco beat in your Eurovision song, put it in the whole song. Don’t just cram it in at the end. So no, I don’t care for this song. Even without the irksome dance beat it’s not particularly notable or impressive, which means it’ll probably do quite well on the night.
DENMARK: Anti Social Media, “The Way You Are”
Anti Social Media? Well now, that’s a delightfully charged name for a Eurovision act. You’ve got me pumped now, Denmark.
Okay, so it’s not nearly as aggressive as I would have guessed from the band name – there’s nothing particularly antisocial about any of this – but I do really rather like this. Naturally the YouTube commenters don’t care for it, being the globs of impotent rage they are, but I think it’s got something. It’s chirpy, it’s bouncy, it’s happy, it’s catchy enough and, unlike most Eurovision entries this year, it doesn’t seem to be taking itself too seriously. I’d put a decent bob or two on this doing well on the night – it’s just too upbeat and smile-inducing to not do well, and frankly Europe could do with a bit of cheer right now. Eight points go to Denmark, whatever that’s worth.
BELARUS: Uzari and Maimuna, “Time”
Sorry, Belarus, but you’ve already shot yourself in the foot. Oh. this isn’t a comment on your music, which I’m sure is fine. It’s just that… did you have to name your song “Time”? Do you realise how many songs there are out there called “Time”? (Here’s a very, very small list to get you started.) How did you expect to stand out in this year’s contest with a name like… but I’m rambling. On with the music.
Well, that’s a surprise: I actually like this. It’s a little dancier than I thought it would be, and given my general disdain for EDM that should’ve been even more of a reason to turn against this. But it’s the strangest thing that I actually don’t mind this at all. The vocalist is strong, it’s got a killer violin part, the chorus hook is catchy and the music is enjoyably corny, the dance beat complimenting the dramatic music rather than stepping over it (take notes, “Beauty Never Lies”). I’m not sure how well it’ll do in the final, assuming it gets there, but I wouldn’t be at all bothered to see this getting quite far. Does it stand out from the crowd? Not really, but still.
ROMANIA: Voltaj, “De la capăt/All Over Again”
According to my sources (read: Google Translate), “de la capăt” translates to “the end”, so the full English title is “The End/All Over Again” which, yes, is exactly how helter skelter slides work: you get to the “end” at the bottom then go back up to the top and ride it “all over again”. I’m sure that’s what Voltaj are trying to get at here. For further reading, consult Dr McCartney’s thesis on the matter.
Voltaj: Romania’s The Wanted, apparently. So it’s a cheesy ballad with strings, strong harmonic voices, slight electronic elements and no distinguishable hook, with a strange blend of singing in English and the artist’s native tongue. Yep, sounds like a Eurovision entry all right. But wait, is that a flute? It is, it’s a flute in the verse. Sure, it’s hidden beneath everything else, but it’s there. Could that be a sign of *gasp* folk influences, as in the diverse European folk music influences I always hope to hear but rarely ever do? Possibly. Also, this is far too polite. Where’s the wackiness this year? Where’s the attention seeking? This contest needs another “We Are Slavic” and stat.
RUSSIA: Polina Gagarina, “A Million Voices”
A million voices, you say? Well, I’m sure that must have been quite a crowded studio on the day you recorded this but I’m sure you–hey, wait a minute, there’s only one singer credited on this track. You’re having me on, Russia.
There are two things you can expect from a Russian Eurovision entry these days, apparently: beautiful, talented female singers, and weirdly icy songs. We had it with the Tolmachevy Sisters last year and now we have Ms Gagarina to remind us that Russia is a wintry, wintry place filled with pretty, pretty women singing wintry, wintry songs. Actually, “A Million Voices” does get a bit warmer and busier as it goes on. Again, yes, it’s a piano ballad and, honestly, it’s no better or worse than any of the others I’ve reviewed so far, but it’s bombastic and stuffed to the gills with strings as Gagarina’s slightly breathy vocals coo like a crisp breeze over the shimmering production, so it fits the bill. Could do well, may do well, might not though, who knows? And are those marching drums? Ahem. Might want to hold off there, Russia.
ALBANIA: Elhaida Dani, “I’m Alive”
Ms Dani was originally meant to represent Albania in this year’s contest with a song called “Diell”, but for some reason that song (which you can still listen to here, assuming the link hasn’t been pulled) was canned and now she’s singing a number called “I’m Alive.” I’m kinda glad, to be honest: “Diell” was another syrupy string ballad and I’m already running out of things to say about those. Here’s hoping “I’m Alive” is, if not better, at least markedly different.
Huh. What do you know, it actually kinda is. All right, it would have been unfair of me to expect something as out-there as, say, Anthrax’s “I’m Alive” (as cool as that would have been), but even though we’re in the same ball-park here I’d say “I’m Alive” was a better choice over “Diell”. It’s looser, it’s more relaxed (at least initially) and it’s got a little more energy to it, not to mention that neat acoustic guitar part that peeks back in every now and then. The big, strings-led bombastic crescendo is there as well, for the musical gluttons who require more dramatic, quasi-Gothic ballads from a contest that’s already drowning in them. It’s not all that catchy or colourful but it is nice, and sometimes nice is all you need. Is it a contest winner? Hard to say.
GEORGIA: Nina Sublatti, “Warrior”
Well, it’s nice to see Amy Lee’s still getting work.
This isn’t too bad. It’s not incredible, either, but Sublatti has a power and an attitude to her voice that does kinda sell it. The harmonic minors in the middle-eight are either a valiant or lazy attempt to add some Middle Eastern flavour to the overpowering EDM sound, but it’s more than most of these songs have bothered to put in this year. I’ll admit, it charges you up, this song. It’s got the right attitude, the right stomp and a chorus catchy and enough to belt from a mountaintop while surrounded by your wolf brethren. This studio recording does rely quite heavily on a production the live performance won’t be able to match, though, and if she does make it to the final I imagine Georgia’s final placement will pretty much live or die on the oomph and passion of Sublatti’s voice, so let’s hope she can conjure that same energy on the night.
As a sidenote, did you see those freaking dogs? They were just far too happy to be there. I mean, what’s up with the one on the left? Is he dead or something?
HUNGARY: Boggie, “Wars for Nothing”
Well gee, I wonder what this song’s about?
Funnily enough, Boggie doesn’t refer to an old Cornish demon, but rather a very pretty Hungarian woman with a lovely voice. In fact you’d better get used to Boggie and her voice because, aside from light acoustic guitar and backing vocals, she effectively is the song. “Wars for Nothing” is one of those campfire/protest songs (or “hippie jams” if you do so prefer) light on actual music and heavy on message and emotion which, while being a nice idea, probably won’t actually make much change in the greater scheme of things (hey, if “Imagine” couldn’t end all the wars, how do you fancy your chances?). There isn’t a great deal else to say, really: the melody, though hardly crammed with hooks, has a nice comfortable singsong movement to it, while the song is so spacious I’m actually moving in next month, so really it comes down to how much you care for these sort of sweet-‘n’-calm acoustic songs. As a double-up, may I direct your attention to Bill Ward’s (of Black Sabbath) naively sweet “Children Killing Children” – and no, the title does not reflect on the music.
Part 3 coming next Monday. The first Eurovision semi-final takes place Tuesday 19th May, with the final airing Saturday 23rd May.