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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…]

Netherlands’ Eurovision Entry Could Use More “Lights & Shadows”

March 7, 2017 0

Sister trio O’G3NE of the Netherlands revealed their entry “Lights & Shadows” for Eurovision 2017. Our first impression: needs more of both. Since their selection as the Netherlands’ Eurovision Song Contest representative for the 2017 competition in Kyiv, O’G3NE has established full control of the process. Their father has written and produced their entry “Lights & Shadows.” It was also recently reported by Eurovoix that the group has decided not to work with the stage director the Netherlands has used for the last few years. I find this last development troubling, given how “Light & Shadows” sounds: I was hoping the official music video was responsible for some of the over-production happening on this track but, sadly, this is not the case. Upon my first listen of the track, my immediate reaction brought to mind the Coco Chanel quote “Once you’ve dressed, and before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.” Here’s a short list of things to remove: Unnecessary reverb on the harmonies Too many harmonies at the same volume level The electric guitar string after the second verse The 80s piano riff during the second chorus The keychange isn’t fully […] [Read more…]

Could Hovig’s “Gravity” Pull in a Win for Cyprus?

March 3, 2017 0

The much anticipated “Gravity” by Hovig may help raise people’s opinion of Cyprus at the Eurovision Song Contest. Cyprus came to play, y’all. Working again with Eurovision guru Thomas G:son, the island country has been unusually assertive in its Eurovision Song Contest rollout this year. The announcement of Hovig as their act came rather early in selection season and they have been working the social media hype machine quite heavily for the debut of their entry “Gravity”: Let’s get the comparisons out of the way first. The melody reminds me heavily of Awolnation’s “Sail” while the lyric delivery is reminiscent of “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons. In Eurovision circles, I’m getting a strong vibe of Loic Nottet’s “Rhythm Inside” while the video suggests we may be getting a stage performance rivaling what Sergey Lazarev did last year with the magic wall. Let me be clear: none of those things are bad. Last year’s entry from Cyprus was verrrrry similar to the Killers and various Eurovision rock performances and Minus One advanced to the final. The challenge Hovig and Cyprus faces at the moment is the other half of the Eurovision field. This song is the 20th out of 43 to be […] [Read more…]

Latvia Gets in “Line” Behind Triana Park

March 2, 2017 0

Latvia continues to experiment with electronic pop at Eurovision, selecting Triana Park’s “Line” as their entry for Kyiv. Finally, I get to take my turn to gush about Latvia’s selection process Supernova. To put it into perspective: my favorite song so far of the 2017 selection season–Franco Franco’s “Up”–didn’t even make it out of the semi-final and I’m not mad. I don’t know who convinced LTV to take a more experimental/college radio route in its approach to Eurovision entries, but I am here for it. Case in point: this year’s Supernova winner “Line” by the electronica group Triana Park. After five previous attempts1 to represent Latvia at Eurovision, the group finally found success with this track: Similar to “Love Injected” and “Heartbeat”, there’s a slow build behind palpable restraint, eventually bursting through to a moment of rocking out. Although the lyrics are repetitive and not all that complex, the delivery reminds me of “Heads Will Roll” by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Also, since the band has been together for so long, they have a clearly developed aesthetic and stage presence that shines through in this performance. I will be curious to see how Triana Park will heighten the performance for the stage […] [Read more…]

Ukraine Makes “Time” for O.Torvald

March 1, 2017 0

Ukraine takes advantage of its free pass to the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final by sending the rock track “Time” by O.Torvald to Kyiv. There have been many Eurovision songs in the last several years that have what I call the countdown effect. This is where a song either meanders to fill the allotted three minutes or ends abruptly because time is almost up. Ukraine has taken this metaphor to the next level, thanks to the winner of its national selection “Time” by the rock band O.Torvald. There is a lot to love about this entry. First, this song is in no way a retread of last year’s winning entry “1944” by Jamala, so it shows off the versatility of Ukraine’s Eurovision process. As the host country, Ukraine gets an automatic pass to the Grand Final, which allows for a song outside of the Pop Music Industrial Complex to have a showcase it probably would not get otherwise. Austria’s 2015 entry was a good example of this, though it failed to score any points in the Grand Final (oops). I think a song like this could advance from a semi-final, but better to bank on a sure thing. That’s not to […] [Read more…]

Slovenia’s Omar Naber is “On My Way” Back to Kyiv

February 28, 2017 0

Omar Naber won over the jury in Slovenia’s national final. What is our first impression of his song “On My Way”? It isn’t all that unusual for Eurovision alumni to pop up every now and again. However, in this case, Omar Naber has the unique distinction of representing Slovenia for a second time in the same host city as his previous participation. Omar Naber performed “Stop” for Slovenia in the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest, which also took place in Kyiv, Ukraine. Unfortunately, he placed 12th in that year’s semi-final, so he did not advance to the Grand Final stage. This year, he will perform the song “On My Way”, which won Slovenia’s EMA contest this past Friday. …. Eh? I’m not finding much to get excited about with this track. There isn’t much to the stage performance aside from the switch from black and white to color. There isn’t much story in the song and the lyrics need another pass, which probably won’t happen at this point. And don’t get me started on that unearned key change. If anything, this is a safe but unremarkable entry. Which is a shame, since I’m a huge Slovenia fan and there were some […] [Read more…]

Malta Sends Faniello “Breathlessly” to Kyiv

February 23, 2017 0

Will her song take your breath away? Malta’s last decade at Eurovision has been mostly a bad one, half the time failing to qualify into the final, and only once landing in the top ten. In Stockholm last year, former Eurovision runner-up Ira Losco got the country back on track, landing in 12th place with “Walk on Water.” Hoping to harness that popularity for another successful year, Malta changed the rules for their selection process from a vote/jury combination to a 100% popular vote-based decision. Beating out fifteen other contestants, Claudia Faniello will take the stage for Malta in Kyiv. Faniello has a great voice, and needs do nothing more than stand in a beautiful gown and sing her way into our hearts. The song is written, arranged, and staged well, and I am having a hard time finding fault with it. Perhaps that is part of the problem, though? I wonder if this entry is too slow and, more importantly, too forgettable to make a statement at Eurovision. “Breathlessly” reminds me a bit of the 2013 Israeli “Rak Bishvilo,” a song I still listen to regularly, but which placed 14th in its semifinal, missing the finals by quite a […] [Read more…]

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