Romania Wants You to “Yodel It” Out

March 13, 2017 0

This is a real thing in the world. Romania’s entry for the 2016 contest in Stockholm, which featured a metrosexual Khal Drogo (and a sincerely enjoyable song), was unfortunately derailed at the last minute due to the national broadcaster’s unpaid bills. It appears they’ve settled that debt, however, and in their grand return to the Eurovision stage, are sending something a little more upbeat. Behold “Yodel It!” by Ilinca featuring Alex Florea: I want to laugh at this song, loud and long and clear. And let’s not be coy, I definitely am, but it feels like I’m laughing WITH these performers. This is a song about living your life on your own terms; one of the verses says, basically, “Hate your job? Yodel and you’ll feel better!” That is a ridiculous suggestion, but it seems like both performers are committed to it. That makes this a cringeworthy AND fun three minutes. I have no expectation this act will have much success, but there are a couple of improvements I’d like to see. Alex’s performance is fine, but his costuming — especially his hair, lord his hair — need some work. Ilinca’s yodel is pretty great (I guess, although I only […] [Read more…]

Estonia brings Koit Toome and Laura’s “Verona” to Kyiv

March 13, 2017 0

Koit Toome and Laura’s “Verona” is a real Eurovision throwback for Estonia, but is that a good thing? Estonia is always one of my favorite countries to watch in the Eurovision Song Contest – they do a great job of melding their country’s musical history with music trends to present entries that often have a little bit of a retro or classical flair.  Sometimes this works really well – “Goodbye to Yesterday” was one of my absolute favorites two years ago – and sometimes it doesn’t (see last year’s “Play”, which I also liked, but most of Europe didn’t, finishing in last place in its semifinal).  This year, they’ve given what feels like a Eurovision throwback – a pretty straightforward male-female duet from Koit Toome and Laura called “Verona” I find this song growing on me with each subsequent listen, but my main concern is if it’s too much of a throwback.  Other recent contenders with similar structure (Romania’s “Miracle” from Ovi and Paula immediately comes to mind, as does Denmark’s “A Moment Like This” from Chanee & N’Evergreen as long as we’re throwing it back) have qualified to the finals, but they’re not placing as high as they once […] [Read more…]

Will Nathan Trent Be “Running” to the ESC Finals for Austria?

March 13, 2017 0

Nathan Trent’s “Running on Air” has an easy, earnest quality, but will it get Austria to the Eurovision finals? Post-Conchita Austria has had a bit of a spotty record with their entries for the Eurovision Song Contest. Two years ago, their entry while they hosted managed to get the dreaded Nul Points. While they rebounded a bit last year and qualified for the final with Zoe’s “Loin D’Ici” last year, they still finished in 13th place, right in the middle of the pack.  Will Nathan Trent’s “Running on Air” propel them any closer to another win?   I like this song, and for the longest time I haven’t been able to put my finger on what it sounds like.  And then it sort of hit me – I used to watch a LOT of VH1’s morning countdown show about 10 years ago, and they LOVED stuff like this.  This has tinges of Jason Mraz and (if we’re going for a slightly more modern reference here) Ed Sheeran about it, but it definitely sounds like mid-2000s AOR-ish daytime drive stuff.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the ability of this to succeed is really going to be down to if […] [Read more…]

Australia’s “Don’t Come Easy” Goes Down Easy

March 10, 2017 0

Australia continues its Eurovision residency with the fantastic “Don’t Come Easy” by Isaiah Firebrace. The presence of Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest is a constant reminder of how every country should be approaching the competition. Since the country gets to participate as a special guest, they seem to be going above and beyond in making sure they do not squander the opportunity. After last year’s phenomenal performance by Dami Im, finding an appropriate followup is an additional challenge. Since a powerfully delivered ballad by a winner of Australia’s version of The X Factor worked last year, SBS will be returning to that well this, having selected the most recent champion Isaiah Firebrace to represent the continent. Here’s his song “Don’t Come Easy”: Jeezy creezy, Australia’s here to play again, y’all. This type of song normally isn’t my jam, but Isaiah’s vocal tone is incredible and somewhat unexpected. I’m reminded of France’s Amaury Vassili (2011), who had incredible carriage despite his slight frame. Assuming he can deliver on the vocal on the live stage, Australia could be making another run for the gold medal.1 Delivering a strong stage performance is going to be the determining factor of Isaiah’s success. The video […] [Read more…]

Do We Love “This is Love” as Greece’s Eurovision Entry?

March 9, 2017 0

After missing out on the final for the first time ever last year, Greece goes back to the basics with “This is Love” by Demy. Greece is in unfamiliar territory coming into this year’s Eurovision Song Contest: having to bounce back after failing to qualify for the previous year’s final. This, coupled with the country’s continuing economic crisis, has made selecting viable Eurovision entries tricky. The broadcaster went from considering an internal selection, to having a national final between two artists, before finally selecting dance pop singer Demy to carry the Greek flag. Then there was a national final with one of the three entries leaked beforehand. Also, the selection format switched from 100% public vote to a 70-30(?) Jury/Public split. Ultimately, “This is Love” (the leaked entry) prevailed. Sure, why not? Let’s take a listen: Despite all the shenanigans up to this point, this is an okay selection for Greece. I like that Demy is already an established performer who didn’t come out of a reality talent competition. For her, this seems more like a considered career decision rather than her big break or a comeback, which is a somewhat unique position for any Eurovision entrant. I think that […] [Read more…]

Croatia, “My Friend”, Jacques Houdek is Too Much

March 9, 2017 0

Someone needs to tell Croatia that you don’t need to do all the things at once. After taking a few years off, Croatia had a decent return to the Eurovision stage last year with Nina Kraljić’s “Lighthouse”.  It was one of my favorites going into the competition, but Europe didn’t necessarily agree with me, barely qualifying to the final and giving it only 75 points total, finishing 23rd overall.  Croatia tends to play around with what I’d call “traditional” Eurovision styles, whether pulling from classical traditions in the country (see 2013’s “Mižerja”) to more traditional ballads like last year’s entry. Unfortunately, they seem to be trying everything they’ve got all at once with this year’s entry, Jacques Houdek’s “My Friend”: I gave this one a hot “NOPE” after the spoken word entry, but I’m glad I stayed on, because I found this entry entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Jacques Houdek clearly has the vocal range to make this either a smooth, modern ballad in English OR a deep-voiced Italian-sung number that pulls from more classical traditions in Croatia. Unfortunately, he’s doing both at once – I had to check for a performance video to make sure that there weren’t actually […] [Read more…]

“Hey Mamma,” Sunstroke Project is Back for Moldova

March 9, 2017 0

In this episode: Epic Sax Guy does the Running Man. In the early ’10s, Moldova was a mainstay of delightfully weird at Eurovision; SunStroke Project and Olia Tira’s 2010 entry, for example, spawned an epic worldwide meme. Even if “Run Away” wasn’t particularly successful in terms of votes, it did set the right trajectory for other artists to finish just outside the top ten for the next three years with “So Lucky,” “Lăutar,” and “O Mie.” A last-place entry in 2014 killed the Moldovan momentum machine, and they haven’t qualified out of the semi-finals since. Can SunStroke Project recapture the energy and get their country back to the Final stage? Let me get two things out of the way. First: while I am thrilled to see Epic Sax Guy’s new Running Man dance move, that leg thing has got to stop. I can’t tell if they’re teaching horses to count, getting rid of the owie sprinkles, or what. Second: I have listened to this song an almost infinite number of times and I still don’t know what it’s about. Is the narrator an actual good guy? A garden-variety predator about whom Mamma has real reason to be worried? A narcomancer who […] [Read more…]

Portugal returns to Eurovision with “Amar Pelos Dois”

March 8, 2017 0

“Amar Pelos Dois” by Salvador Sobral has us excited about Portugal at Eurovision! This is a first! Since I started to write about Eurovision in 2011, Portugal has yet to qualify for the Grand Final. It’s understandable that the country has taken a step back a couple times in the last few years to rethink how it approaches its selections, including floating rumors of dropping its language rules1 and hinting that big name artists like Nelly Furtado were considering the gig.2 Although I enjoyed Portugal’s last entry in the Contest–2015’s “Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa” by Leonor Andrade–I totally get why that failed to connect with the audience. What is Portugal to do? How about getting Berklee College of Music graduate Luisa Sobral to write a beautiful ballad for her brother Salvador Sobral? Take a listen to “Amar Pelos Dois”: That was so unexpected and delightful, wasn’t it? Not overly theatrical, no pyrotechnic unicyclists, just singing the song. This works as both a palate cleanser from a bombastic entry to a tone-setter for its half of the first semi-final. I’m excited to see how this entry evolves in the coming weeks. In terms of what to work on: styling. In […] [Read more…]

“Where I Am” with Denmark’s Choice of Anja Nissen for Kyiv

March 7, 2017 0

Anja Nissen’s second attempt to represent Denmark at the Eurovision Song Contest is a strong performance. This isn’t Anja Nissen’s first attempt at representing Denmark at the Eurovision Song Contest.  Last year, she did reasonably well in the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix with “Never Alone”, but that song didn’t feel truly original.  It was written by Emilie DeForest (who won the contest for Denmark a few years ago) and… kind of sounded like it.  One year later and it seems Anja’s ready to try again with something that feels a little less derivative in “Where I Am”: In what’s a bit of a rarity in the field this year, “Where I Am” keeps growing on me with each listen.  The opening’s a little adult-contempo (in a bad way), but this quickly becomes a strong mid-tempo ballad with a catchy chorus.  This does a good job of straddling the worlds of “Eurovision” songs and what’s going on in current pop, and feels like an easy qualifier to the final—at least compared to the other tracks I’ve heard at this stage of the competition. The performance needs a little work, but it’s in places that can easily be tightened up by the […] [Read more…]

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