First Listen: The UK Chooses “You’re Not Alone” for Sweden

February 29, 2016 0

The subtitle to the United Kingdom’s Eurovision selection program was “It’s Your Choice”.  Did they make the right one with Joe & Jake’s “You’re Not Alone”? One of the best things I thought the UK did in their Eurovision selection from past years was bringing it internally.  Year over year, the British people had proven that given the opportunity, they would select a truly terrible entry, then wonder why it did so poorly in the Eurovision finals.  True, the initial internal selections (which seemed to mostly be determined by asking “which aging pop star has an album about ready to come out with a 3 minute single?”) weren’t great, but I thought they were on the right track by going to the BBC’s “Introducing” program to find up-and-coming artists.  Still not much luck1, still more complaining.  When I heard they were going back to the “fine, you pick it” model, I was worried.  And that’s how we got this: Here’s the scary thing: I think I actually don’t mind this choice.  All 6 of the shortlisted songs had their merits and could have easily represented a different side of the UK music scene to the contest, although it felt like […]

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First Listen: Moldova Catches “Falling Stars”

February 28, 2016 0

Moldova’s hitching their wagon to Lidia Isac’s “Falling Stars.” Will it get them back to the Grand Final? In the early 2010s, Moldova’s entries were some of the most fun to watch, but they’ve failed to qualify for the Grand Final in the past two years (perhaps due to the lack of Pasha Parfeny). Can this former Soviet Socialist Republic restore the magic and get back to Eurovision success? Moldova’s past success at bringing a weird and energetic (if not “good”) entry to the Eurovision stage makes this year’s danceably generic entry that much more disappointing. It’s only slightly better than not sending an entry at all, like in 2014.1 I don’t think this song has much energy, or anything to separate it from the crowd. I also don’t think Lidia Isac is doing a particularly good job with the interval in the chorus. I do appreciate the commitment from the electronic drum set player! As with Slovenia, though, if that’s the best Moldova has going for them, it’s going to be a rough year. They might sneak through, but sadly, I’ll be looking for them to complete a hat-trick of qualification failures this year. Moldova did actually enter that year […]

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First Listen: Slovenia Sends “Blue and Red” Into the Mix

February 28, 2016 0

Slovenia might win my drinking game, but they need to do better if they want to build momentum at Eurovision. Eurovision voters were largely not here for last year’s catchy “Here For You, ” which finished in 14th place. That was a pretty disappointing result for the song, I thought, but Slovenia has a yery spotty record of even making the final show. So last year was good progress, and something to build upon. Can they take advantage of the opportunity to gather momentum in 2016? This entry is having a serious identity crisis. Aurally, it’s a Taylor Swift breakup knock-off — she’s healing and sounding a little bit country after ending a relationship that didn’t work. None of that is represented visually, though. ManuElla starts in a Lonely Hearts-esque jackets, and everyone else is clad in leather, epaulettes, hotpants, or all of the above. I appreciate the nod towards my ESC drinking game with the simultaneous key AND costume change! If that’s the best thing you have going for your entry, though, this is not going to be a good year for you. With stronger vocals, this entry might turn out okay. That said, we saw several countries (Malta and Azerbaijan […]

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First Listen: Cyprus sends an “Alter Ego” to Eurovision

February 27, 2016 0

Cyprus will be rocking out in Stockholm with “Alter Ego” by Minus One at the Eurovision Song Contest. Formed in 2009, Minus One is a five-piece rock band that specializes in covers and rearrangements of songs. The group became more widely known in the Eurovision universe in 2015 when they competed in the Cypriot national final. Though the national jury ranked Minus One as number one, the viewer vote sent John Kaayiannis to Vienna instead. Cyprus kicked off the selection process for the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest by choosing Minus One to be their representative in Stockholm. It is not unheard of for a national final runner-up to do well at a future Contest. They finally settled on “Alter Ego” as the song: Although rock tends to have a difficult time getting a foothold at the Contest, this entry is much more polished than recent rock entries. It may also help that Minus One worked with esteemed Eurovision songwriter Thomas G:son in composing their entry. G:son’s more recent work includes Georgia’s 2015 entry “Warrior” and 2013 entry “Waterfall”, Spain’s 2015 entry “Amanecer” and 2012 entry “Quedate Conmigo”, and Sweden’s winner from 2012 “Euphoria.” In total, G:son has a resume of almost 70 […]

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First Listen: Bosnia & Herzegovina returns with “Ljubav Je”

February 27, 2016 0

Will Bosnia & Herzegovina’s return to Eurovision with the rock/rap ballad “Ljubav Je” be successful? Bosnia & Herzegovina is back, y’all! This country last appeared at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012, and their presence has been missed. This year, their broadcaster BHRT has once again opted for an internal selection, going with the team of Dalal & Deen, cellist Ana Rucner, and hip hop artist Jala. The group has varied experience with Eurovision. Deen represented Bosnia & Herzegovina in the 2004 Contest, earning ninth place. Though this is her first participation, Ana Rucner’s husband Vlado Kalember represented Yugoslavia in the 1984 Contest. Jala is the co-writer of the group’s entry “Ljubav Je”, which you can listen to below:   Bosnia & Herzegovina has always been one of my favorite countries in Eurovision, and I had a theory that if the country returned in a strategic way, they could be the next former Yugoslavian country to win. I’m not sure that will come to pass, as there are a lot of elements here that have not found success previously. The song leans a little too close to hard rock, while the rap elements might make this a tough sell for juries. I’m […]

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First Listen: Iceland’s “Calling” Out to Stockholm

February 26, 2016 0

Does Iceland’s “Hear Them Calling” get lost in translation? Iceland is one of my favorite countries to watch for Eurovision after they sent Pollaponk a few years ago.  That entry had everything I love in a Eurovision entry – poppy, colorful, and positive.  You didn’t need to know what the group was saying to be swayed by their message, but the eventual english translation managed to smoothly capture the spirit of the original song without diminishing it. And then there’s this year’s entry.  The original “Raddirnar” felt like an Of Monsters and Men track1 made for Eurovision, with some mystery about it and great brass arrangement.  The music is still there, but the English version, “Hear Them Calling”, feels a little…awkward. The performance is nice, but the staging is completely derivative of last year’s winner (and a general increase of “Look! I’m interacting with the computerized background!” performances at award shows).  Depending on the crop of entries in its final, I can see Iceland getting to the finals, but the English translation and copycat staging could give Greta Salome (who’s already performed before as part of 2012’s “Never Forget”) a second low-placing finish. I am familiar with Icelandic bands, you guys  ↵ […]

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First Listen: Ukraine Brings the History with 1944

February 25, 2016 0

Because it’s not really a contest until someone has royally pissed off Russia. Ukraine is back! We last saw them in 2014; Mariya Yaremchuk brought her hamster wheel along for a pretty great entry, before the country took a year off to handle some issues with their next door neighbor. Speaking of whom … I LOVE EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT THIS ENTRY. The mixed-language lyrics, the foreboding and yet almost completely absent instrumentation, the effective use-not-overuse of CGI, Jamala’s amazing voice (she is a jazz and opera singer, y’all) and even the stupid little microphone pouch attached to the back of Jamala’s dresspants. Mostly I love that this entry pulls exactly zero punches about the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, and manages to point the finger squarely at Russia without ever actually naming them. My one problem with this entry: I honestly don’t see how it makes it to the Contest. Last year’s controversial song, Armenia’s “Face the Shadow” by a group named Genealogy, used much more oblique references and ended up having to change the name of the song (originally it was “Don’t Deny”). If the song does make it to the Contest stage, though? DOUZE POINTS. Seriously. I […]

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First Listen: Georgia Hopes to Cash In with Midnight Gold

February 25, 2016 0

Can an alt-rock song bring Georgia success at this year’s Contest? I still don’t know what “oximated” means, but I can say that last year’s Georgian entry made the cut for inclusion in my best-of-Eurovision-2015 playlist. I will also admit to being … nervous … about what kind of song we’d get this year when the Young Georgian Lolitaz were announced. Fortunately, it’s not at all what I expected/feared: I honestly can’t remember the last time we saw an alt-rock entry at Eurovision. (Lordi was hard rock, PKN was punk, and there have been plenty of rock/pop hybrids. Am I forgetting someone else?) Aside from being 10-15 seconds too long, this song is pretty great, if you’re into that sort of thing! I like the simple instrumentation of the verses, even if it means the only thing we have to listen to is a pedestrian bass line. I have mixed feelings about the distortion break, though. It makes the song less repetitive, but also seems like the most obvious candidate to be chopped for time. Overall, Midnight Gold has great structure, mostly clear lyrics, a nice arc, a good ending, and a tight performance from the musicians. It almost feels like it’s not a Eurovision entry, which […]

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