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

February 28, 20170

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, 20170

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…]

Poland’s “Flashlight” Needs Some Batteries

February 21, 20170

Kasia Mos’ “Flashlight” needs some energy if it’s going to qualify Poland for the 2017 Eurovision finals. Poland managed to surprise me last year when their ballad “Color of Your Life” went all the way to 8th place.  I thought it was overdone and sort of Eurovision-by-the-Numbers, but that stuff tends to be template because it works, nevermind if the visual presentation accompanying it reminds you if Color Me Badd shopped Prince’s garage sale at the end of the day when everything good’s been picked over.  So it makes sense that this year’s entry, Kasia Mos’ “Flashlight” is trying to return to that same well: My first impression of this song isn’t that great – Kasia is really oversinging everything, and the whole song and performance is a bit of an overwrought downer.  There’s some sort of metaphor about a flashlight in here, but it’s not really clear and the lyrics seems to be mostly concerned with internal rhyme rather than a chorus.  This needs some oomph – they’re clearly shooting for drama, but this just isn’t bringing it. [Read more…]

Hungary Chooses “Origo” by Joci Pápai for Kyiv

February 20, 20170

Hungary’s A Dal 2017 wrapped up Saturday with the jury narrowing eight entries to four and the home audience making the final decision. The finale of Hungary’s A Dal 2017 changed up the format we’ve gotten used to these last few weeks. After the final eight acts performed, each jury member selected their four favorites, awarding 10-8-6-4 points to their selections. The four acts with the most points would move on to the superfinal, where the winner of the home vote gets a ticket to the Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv. Here’s how things shook out on Saturday’s show: Gabi Toth opened the show with “Hosszú idők”. Although she ranked on three of the four judges’ lists, her 12 points were not enough to move on to the superfinal. With no help available from the home audience, the surprise run of “Kalendor” by Soulwave came to an end. No points were awarded by the judges. “See it Through” by Gigi Radics managed to pull an upset, sneaking into the superfinal with 14 points. Somewhat surprising, Eurovision veteran Kallay Saunders Band received zero points from the judges for “17.” Leander Kills, the only survivor from the first heat, received eight points from one […] [Read more…]

Italy Banks On “Occidentali’s Karma”

February 16, 20170

Also an ape with a bowtie. Sanremo, Italy’s multistage musical festival, has a track record of producing strong winners. Since 2011, every Sanremo-selected entry has done well at Eurovision, accounting for four top-ten finishes. The other two entries in that time period were not Sanremo winners and … well, let’s say they were not received as enthusiastically. Eurovision lovers were so excited to hear this year’s Sanremo winner, Francesco Gabbani, would be taking “Occidentali’s Karma” to Kyiv that they made it the most-watched video ever on Italian Vevo the very first day it was published. After a few rounds of watching, I’m still mentally filing this video under “Maybe awesome? Maybe a joke?” along with last year’s San Marinese disco whatever-that-was. I think I get why people love this song. It’s chock-full of cultural references, and questions how the West turns to Eastern spirituality for temporary comfort while remaining materialistic at the core. I can’t help but roll my eyes at the hypocrisy, though, when that message is being delivered through a pop song contest by one man in an impeccable Italian suit and another wearing an actual ape suit. Musically speaking this song is pretty solid, if about 30 […] [Read more…]

Spain’s Controversial “Do It For Your Lover”

February 15, 20170

Eurovision selection season lacked drama until this past Saturday, when Spain’s selection of “Do It for Your Lover” caused all sorts of controversy. Spain has never been one of my favorite countries at Eurovision. A big part of it is a difference in taste, in that what the Spanish public responds to doesn’t line up with what I respond to musically, and that’s fine—not everyone likes broccoli. However, when it comes to process, Spain could try to avoid being ass-backwards in how they administer their Eurovision entries. Case in point: this past weekend’s Objetivo Eurovision. As is often the case when Spain decides to do a national final, there is a split between the jury vote and the audience vote. Each juror is responsible for ⅙ of the scores (three jurors means half of the final score is determined by the jury). The televote has a pool of points equal to the total pool of jury points. These points are divvied on a share basis, where an act that receives 10% of the vote will receive 10% of the pool. It’s an improvement over the jury as a whole and the audience each giving a 12-10-8 score, but it could […] [Read more…]

France Picks a “Requiem,” But They’re Not Dead Yet

February 14, 20170

The last decade of Eurovision results have been pretty dismal for the French. Rumors of their demise may have been greatly exaggerated. I don’t know what it is about France’s recent Eurovision entries; when I enjoy them, they end up in last place, or very nearly last place. When I think they’re just meh, they do really well. After a decade of poor results, and hoping to build on their success in 2016, France opened up what had been a closed internal selection process for public submissions. Their ultimate choice, newcomer Alma, will sing a song written by Nazim Khaled. He also wrote “J’ai cherché,” which ended up in sixth place last year in Stockholm. How does “Requiem” stack up? This entry is closer to meh than wow for me, which I suppose bodes well for France’s chances. “Requiem” is danceable, with a Middle-Eastern sound that keeps it from trending sugary-sweet. The melody is easy enough to follow, and the break in the middle keeps the beat from becoming too repetitive. It’s generic enough to have come from any number of French-speaking countries, and while I prefer entries that show some cultural flair, a broader appeal is smart for gaining […] [Read more…]

No Picture

Germany’s Less Than “Perfect Life”

February 14, 20170

So…Germany doesn’t want to win this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, right?  Levina’s “Perfect Life” is DOA. Germany’s had a rough time at the last few Eurovision Song Competitions.  Since winning with Lena’s “Satellite” in 2010 (which, hot take: I never really got the hype of), they’ve mostly been scraping the bottom (and in the last two years, being the bottom, with Ann Sophie’s “Black Smoke” getting the dreaded nul points in 2015 and Jamie-Lee Kriewitz’s “Ghost” only getting 11 points in 2016).  Maybe it’s their selection method?  Unser Song is a marathon of a qualifier that takes place over the course of three hours with questionable cover song choices, multiple rounds of televoting, and (this year, at least) the possibility that a competitor may be facing themselves in the finale.  For all that effort, you’d think they’d have produced something more exciting than Levina’s “Perfect Life”: After some weird voting shenanigans, Germany was very clear they wanted Levina to represent them, with her singing either “Wildfire” or “Perfect Life”.  “Perfect Life” won the final vote, and while it’s definitely the more energetic of the two songs, it’s like saying a beige room is energetic.  Levina gives a performance that I’d […] [Read more…]