Eurovision 2015: The Entrants (Part 4)

Here’s the fourth part of my run-through of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest hopefuls as I cover the second half of the second semi-final. Parts one, two and three can be found here, here and here respectively.

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

SWITZERLAND: Mélanie René, “Time to Shine”

Could this be Switzerland’s time to shine? (Yes, I realise that was a terrible pre-video bit. Forgive me, I’m still burnt out after last week.)

Ah, there go the electronic touches to make this operatic ballad a little more Nine Inch Nails-y. The melody has its moments but tends to trail off in the verses, while the chorus isn’t distinct enough to stand out from said verses. I like that it’s a little different than the other overcooked ballads we’re getting this year – the electronic elements are well integrated and don’t feel too out of place – but it still feels a little underwritten. I’m not really sure how to feel about “Time to Shine”. It could’ve been worse but it could’ve been better. René has a strong voice but she seems to lack enthusiasm for the music here, which, honestly, I wouldn’t blame her for. That said, I do appreciate the guitar solo, as brief as it is. Nice touch. And is it me, or does she actually sing “no more mucking around” in the chorus? I’m pretty sure that’s not a Swiss colloquialism.

AZERBAIJAN: Elnur Huseynov, “Hour of the Wolf” Well, if there’s a special award for Best Song Title, Azerbaijan have got that covered.

Slow, gentle, heartfelt and tender – all not qualities I, nor anybody else, would associate with wolves, so why does Azerbaijan? Yeah, I’m disappointed. Can you blame me? For a better idea of what I was anticipating, play Scorpions’ “Hour I” and Rainbow’s “Run with the Wolf” back to back.

But yeah, the song. Uh… well, it’s another ballad, guys. Is it passionate? Yes. Is it memorable? No. Whichever of those qualities you’re looking for in a song like this will probably influence how you feel about “Hour of the Wolf.” No offense intended, Mr, Huseynov, it’s just… there are a lot of ballads this year and, eventually, you start to run out of things to say about them. You understand, right? We good here, you and I? Are we good? I think we’re good.

SLOVENIA: Maraaya, “Here for You”

Nice to know, Slovenia. It’s nice to know you’re here for me. On that note, I’m moving next Saturday and I was wondering if you could help take over some–hey, where are you going?

There’s quite a lot going on in this song and I like a fair amount of it. The catchy melody, that killer violin riff, those Reznor-esque industrial beats, Maraaya’s expressive yet distinctive voice… there’s some good stuff happening here. For some reason, though, “Here for You” never quite equals the sum of its parts, perhaps because it never seems fully sure what it actually wants to be: a pulsating club-banger, a funky pop song or a theatrical bit of cheese. Whatever it is I don’t mind it at all, though, and it’s definitely a colourful standout among an otherwise beige bunch.

LATVIA: Aminata, “Love Injected” Love what? Steady on, Latvia, children watch this thing as well.

I’m just putting this out there now: if you’re looking for a winner, I’d peg this as a safe bet. It’s not an amazing song structurally or musically, but aesthetically it has just enough of that sultry, minimalist, electro-pop weirdness that’s popular right now with both the mainstream unit pushers and the right-minded snarks of the alternative scene. It helps that the song is actually rather catchy in parts, but if there’s one song to get anyone over at Drowned in Sound salivating it might just be this one. There’s also something very particular about the pitch of Aminata’s voice that strikes me very familiar, but I can’t for the life of me put my finger on it – a little like Kiesza when she goes falsetto, I guess. Also, doesn’t she just look lovely?

POLAND: Monika Kuszyńska, “In the Name of Love”

I wonder if Poland are feeling any pride towards their entry this year? Hey, I know I get it – do you too?

Oh come on. Who was the coordinator behind this year’s contest? Diane Warren? Yeah, you can already guess how I feel about “In the Name of Love” and, again, it’s nothing personal. I suppose it’s my fault for not anticipating so many syrupy ballads this year. More fool me, as usual.

ICELAND: Maria Olafs, “Unbroken” Well, if it ain’t unbroken, don’t… er… un-fix it?

Okay, so technically this is just another ballad, and frankly one that doesn’t sound as if it would be out of place on a Demi Lovato album. So why does it do more for me than nearly every other ballad has so far this year? Honestly I couldn’t tell you. Olafs is a great singer with a lot of power and energy, but then so are most of the singers in this contest. It’s got an effusive chorus but, again, that doesn’t make it an anomaly. But then why do I actually quite like this? Why doesn’t this bore me like nearly all the others have? I don’t know. I just don’t know. Let’s just leave it at that and move on.

ISRAEL: Nadav Guedj, “Golden Boy”

You know, given the direction of most of this year’s entries I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this was a cover of Freddie Mercury + Montserrat Caballé’s “The Golden Boy” which, as you might recall, is a full-blown freaking opera song. It would likely also be better than the majority of this year’s entries.

Ah, but instead for this year’s contest Israel have gone for “Sexyback”-era Justin Timberlake. No, I mean it, there’s something so 2007 about “Golden Boy” I’m wondering why there isn’t a Timbaland cameo somewhere around the 2:00 mark. There are notable folk influences in the chorus melody and instrumentation, which is probably more than any other entry has bothered with this year, so I appreciate that. As for the greasy-slick yet weirdly jagged R&B, I’m torn. My brain is telling me, “this is just dumb,” but that doesn’t do much for the grin on my face. Guedj is clearly enjoying himself and dash it all if I’m not compelled to join in. “Golden Boy” isn’t great by any means – it might not even be good – but it is utterly daft and utterly likeable.

CYPRUS: Giannis Karagiannis, “One Thing I Should Have Done”

Ooh, let me guess, let me guess – you should have painted your bedroom wall eggshell white instead of floral white? Or, maybe, you should have road-tested your new Mazda MX-5 properly before deciding whether it was the right car for you? No, wait, I’ve got it, you should have visited Conwy in beautiful North Wales with its romantic Celtic sights, rich culture and history, great range of restaurants and wide selection of amenities and entertainment facilities suitable for the whole family while you had the chance? No? Well okay, then, Mister Karagiannis, enlighten us all – what is the one thing you should have done?

Well, mild spoilers: the one thing he should have done isn’t particularly interesting. As for the song at least it’s a stripped back acoustic guitar ballad with only slight string accompaniment instead of an overbearing violinskrieg like the rest of this year’s entries. It’s difficult to judge these kinds of songs: they’re certainly pleasant, but that’s hardly a positive comment in context, is it? It’s like the girl you fancy telling you you’re such a great friend.* I don’t really have anything else to say about it, though. It’s nice but formulaic, sweet but harmless, acceptable but uninteresting. *Which is not to suggest that Karagiannis or Cyprus fancy me – it’s just an analogy. A weird one, admittedly, but an analogy all the same.

SWEDEN: Måns Zelmerlöw, “Heroes”

We could be heroes, for ever and ever… well, one night in May, at least, which is further than I’m getting any time soon.

Okay, Sweden, I have to ask – what’s with the banjo and the Southern twang? Is this an EDM club-banger or some weird country hybrid? Wait, does this mean the new club-country scourge known as Metro-Politan (as coined by Saving Country Music – see here) has now drifted across the Atlantic to Scandinavia? I’m not too sure, actually, because this is clearly more club than country… not that that gives the country influences any more reason to be there, mind. As for pros, I do quite like his vocal performance – there’s a fair bit of passion in his delivery. The rest, though, is pretty standard-issue EDM, and I can barely stomach club-pop on a good day. So that’s a meh from me, but it’s certainly different, and as depressing as the country touches are they do at least add a touch of cultural folk influence to the proceedings, even if it’s the wrong culture.

Part 5 coming next Monday. The second Eurovision semi-final takes place Thursday 21st May, with the final airing Saturday 23rd May.

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