First Listen: Poland Sends “Color Of Your Life”

March 15, 2016 0

After a rough 2015, Poland looks to regain some momentum at the Contest. After a strong 2014, the 2015 contest was not kind to Poland, who finished in front of only four other entries. When the only thing between you and last place are three members of the Big Five and two countries earning “nul points?” That is a disaster, and a narrowly-averted tragedy. Perhaps 2016 will be the year this country gets back up on its feet … Am I the only one who thinks this track was hijacked from a “hero falls in love with villain” montage in an 80s movie? I mean, just look at that cover image on the YouTube video! From the heavily-synthed opening to the Journey-esque melody to not one but TWO key changes, this song starts big and stays big. Musically, it reminds me a little of Azerbaijan 2013 (aka Man In A Box), but without some of the restraint and intrigue that made that a great entry. One of the questions I ask myself while doing a First Listen is: does this track tell a story? In this case, “Color of Your Life” asks a question, which is not as good as telling a […]

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First Listen: Croatia returns to Eurovision with “Lighthouse”

March 15, 2016 0

Croatia’s back! They will be sending the winner of The Voice Nina Kraljic to Stockholm with the song “Lighthouse” — will it bring the country to the harbor of the Grand Final? Croatia! Long time no see! The former Yugoslavian state has taken a break from the Eurovision Song Contest, last competing in 2013 with the pretty yet misguided entry “Mizerja”, which capped a four year streak of failing to make it to the final. Opting for another internal selection this year, Croatia will be sending the winner of the first season of their version of The Voice1 Nina Kraljic with the song “Lighthouse” to Stockholm. Take a listen2: As a personal preference, this song isn’t really my jam. It feels a little overproduced, though that may be some audio trickery to make it available to those of us Stateside.3 I’m not one for nautical metaphors, especially since this one seems to make only about 80% of the journey to completion. That being said, I think this is a strong return for Croatia. Their 2013 entry was lovely to listen to, but its style was not a good match for Eurovision and the group featured six performers, which hamstrung them […]

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First Listen: Italy Picks Stadio, Sends Francesca Instead

March 14, 2016 0

Francesca Michielin is not who Italy selected, but she’s who they’re sending! Many predicted 2015 would be Italy’s year to win the big prize, and Il Volo certainly came close, landing in third place only a handful of votes behind runner-up Russia. When offered the chance to represent their country this year, Sanremo Music Festival winners Stadio had other plans — literally, they had to decline because they already have a tour scheduled for this summer. So, the invite went to Sanremo runner-up Francesca Michielin, who (thankfully) accepted. Her song wasn’t the best at Sanremo, so how will she stack up against the competition at Eurovision? Well, let’s start by remembering this very same thing happened last year — Germany ended up sending the runner-up of their national selection process after the winner bowed out. Let’s just say it didn’t go so well for the Jerrys. Honestly I don’t see this scenario ending well for Italy, either. There’s not much wrong with Francesca’s song, but nothing to help it stand out from the crowd, either. Her voice is really nice, but the melody lies within a very narrow range and rarely strays. The song grows steadily, but doesn’t stick with you when it’s over. It’s […]

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First Listen: Estonia came to “Play”, y’all

March 14, 2016 0

Estonia builds on its Eurovision momentum from last year by choosing “Play” by Juri Pootsmann for Stockholm. Are we all in for Tallinn? 2016 is becoming an alumni-heavy affair, both on the stage (Kaliopi! Donny Montell! Team Bosnia!) and with the songwriters. Estonia’s song “Play” was written by their representative from last year Stig Rasta. Like next-door neighbor Latvia, the previous year’s rep won’t be on the stage, but they are still making their presence known with another flippin’ amazing song. Juri Pootsmann gets the privilege of performing this track: Okay, so this First Listen series is supposed to be gut reactions to songs after one (maybe two) play on Youtube on watching a national final. This song is easily at the top of the list of most frequently played tracks on my various devices. The retro vibe of the song hits so many points of the soul timeline, from late 60s to that one month in the early 80s when Brits were tapping into the genre to now with Mark Ronson’s aesthetic. My concern with “Play” is Pootsmann’s performance. The above video from Eesti Laul (Estonia’s selection process) is an improvement over the official music video for “Play” — the performance […]

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First Listen: Montenegro Has “The Real Thing”

March 13, 2016 0

But does Montenegro have a thing that’s any good? I really appreciate Montenegro’s presence in the song contest; stylistically speaking, we never quite know whether to expect a legitimately well-done ballad, a “monetary breakdance,” or a space alien who distorts time and gravity. What is Montenegro giving up this year — a serious attempt at a successful entry, or a goofy loser that keeps Eurovision weird? Darn, I was hoping for “goofy loser.” This is just not a good entry. Wait, here’s something positive: I like the dancer, she’s great! Otherwise, it’s angsty in a way that’s not compelling, doesn’t tell a story (we get it: you’re good at sex!) or create an inviting atmosphere, and doesn’t make particularly good use of EDM/dubstep elements. It’s also repetitive, similar to this year’s Dutch entry, and so is likely to wear out its welcome pretty quickly among listeners / voters. Last but not least, the lyrics “you’ve got speedy shadows on the walls / i see you inside them” has to be in the running for the year’s worst lyrics. I feel like we HAVE to start an annual contest for that. From what I have seen so far, this year’s contest has a pretty good […]

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First Listen: The Netherlands Goes Country (Again)

March 13, 2016 0

Has The Netherlands gone too many times to that well? After a regrettable showing in which Trijntje Oosterhuis’s terrible outfit choices overshadowed her mediocre song, The Netherlands are returning to a formula that’s been relatively successful in recent years: a folk / country act fronted by an earnest young man. This time it’s Douwe Bob, who has been known to sing with both Anouk and The Common Linnets, two artists that helped break a long string of Dutch Eurovision failures-to-qualify. Can he tap into their success to get The Netherlands back on track? At first glance, this is a pleasant entry. Douwe Bob has an incredibly smooth voice and a song that rolls the listener along without a care in the world. Can anyone tell me what this is actually about, though? Generally speaking, lyrics are not a make-or-break component of a Eurovision entry, and some of the most popular songs don’t really make any sense. (Looking at you, Måns.) But the lyrics do need to tell some kind of story. Unfortunately, “Slow Down” reminds me more of last year’s Icelandic collection of choruses than the Swedish winner. On the one hand, in a song that lasts only 2:45 — a full 15 […]

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First Listen: “I Didn’t Know” San Marino Was Sending Serhat

March 12, 2016 0

San Marino continues trolling the Eurovision Song Contest with Serhat’s “I Didn’t Know”. I’m starting to think that San Marino realizes that they’re never going to win the Eurovision Song Contest and is actively seeing what they can get away with sending as an entry.  After sending poor Valentina Monetta and some Ralph Siegel-penned ditty for 3 years, they kept Ralph and sent another overly cheesy song last year to the same 1 showing.  And then there’s this year’s entry, Serhat’s “I Didn’t Know” If you told me this was the result of an experiment to see how close of a line you can make between talking in a deep raspy voice and singing, I would believe you.  This is a ridiculous song which is not helped by the video, which feels like something that was made at a mall kiosk in 30 minutes and is oddly creepy.  Serhat’s performance reminds me most closely of Zlad!, who represented Molvania years back with “Elektronik Supersonik”, but if you tried to make that sultry somehow.  I hope the “second-rate Austin Powers villain” aesthetic extends to the performance in Stockholm, and I will be very mad if Serhat is not wearing his monocle […]

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First Listen: Latvia is Looking for a “Heartbeat”

March 12, 2016 0

No, not THAT ONE, although who wouldn’t watch a Latvian TV show called Riga Vice? Around this time last year, Latvia stole my heart with an amazing entry that earned douze points from three countries and placed a very strong 6th by the time voting was finished. Riding on her success in Vienna, Aminata Savadogo once again landed atop the Supernova voting results, although this time as a songwriter only. Has Latvia found a performer that can do her song justice on the main stage? Here’s the thing about the entry — it’s a very nice collection of parts, but doesn’t seem like a synthesized whole, at least not yet. The relatively sparse, electric instrumentation is exactly what I want and expect from an Aminata track. Justs’ vocals are great when he opens up about halfway through the second verse, with a raspiness and strength that remind me of Aram Mp3, who some predicted might win the 2014 contest. There’s just nothing to tie it together. Justs seems uncomfortable and stiff onstage, and stays planted in that one spot the whole time. That worked last year for Aminata, but it was part a larger aesthetic. Here it seems like it’s less an intentional decision and […]

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