In the world of the Eurovision Song Contest, April is the month for analysis and anticipation. Now it’s time for us here at escgo! to make our contribution with our annual line-up check series!
This year we’ve tweaked the format slightly. Each entry has been randomly assigned to one of our three editors – Felix, Martin and Shi – who will give their views briefly, followed by an arrow that represents their feeling about the song’s chances in the contest and an emoji or two that reflects their own personal taste. Then the other two editors will get a quick “right of reply” in which they can agree or disagree with what’s been said. That way you get a clearer and more balanced overview of the escgo! team’s opinions – and we get to use some of our favourite emojis too. Everyone’s a winner!
Let’s begin then, logically enough, at the start of the first semi-final…
Martin: After three years of entries that stood out from the crowd – one way or another! – this year Finland have sent something so conventional and typical that I struggle to remember it even while it’s playing. Sandhja is a committed performer, but there’s only so much she can do with a song that’s big on rhythm but lacking in a truly memorable hook. I originally had it down as a candidate for last place in the semi (yes, even below Serhat), but the first slot in the running order might give it a chance of making some kind of impact.
Felix: Haha, actually it’s in my top 3 altogether and I think it has a strong hook. 😛
Shi: I’m with Martin on this one. The first few bars make me think I’m going to like it, and then I forget the song when it’s still on.
Shi: This year’s Greek entry took some of my favorite things – Greek instruments, Greek language, Greek rap and even a Greek dialect – and managed to mix them into one of the worst songs it had ever sent to Eurovision. While the weak melody and the mess-of-a-structure can somehow, maybe, be forgiven, the tacky lyrics and the inability to remotely perform their entry even in a studio version cannot. The only thing this entry does well this year is putting their 100% qualifying record to a test. A test it will fail.
Felix: I am glad that you, our Greece expert, and I, agree on this. Its likability is near zero, if not exactly zero. I hope it fails the test you mentioned.
Martin: I’m going to rock the boat here – but only a little. I find it charming in a hopeless Afroditi Frida kind of way. But yes: surely it can’t qualify?
Felix: Sometimes you have all the right ingredients in your kitchen, the food you serve might still be enjoyable, but then it all bursts like a bubble. That’s exactly Moldova’s problem this year. The chorus is instant, the melody is catchy, but after two more songs, there’s hardly anything left from Moldova. Likable, but forgettable, because it doesn’t leave any lasting impression, unless they do something outstanding with the presentation – rather unlikely that they will. Maybe you shouldn’t buy your ESC ingredients at Aldi. Its qualification largely depends on her charisma on the night. I like it, but only for 3 minutes.
Martin: I don’t disagree. It’s the closest thing to “Europop” in this part of the draw, I suppose, but both song and singer are just a bit sub-standard.
Shi: You both have it absolutely right. I personally enjoy it, but I know it’s as generic as it comes for that kind of thing, and its performer is sweet but not someone who will be able to lift this.
Felix: Freddie has that rough voice, you know… yeah, he’s singing it well, and “it” – the song – is not bad, either. Pretty much enjoyable. Nothing wrong with it. But hey, this isn’t going to be stuck in a lot of people’s heads around mid May. There are some really nice moments with the “voices” in the background, which are quite the “landmarks” of that entry. It’s nice, but it’s not a song to remember.
Martin: Some interesting tricks in the arrangement, yes, but I’m surprised many fans see this as a relatively safe qualifier – it could easily go down in flames.
Shi: It’s one of those tracks that can end 5th or 15th and I won’t be surprised either way. I want to call it a qualifier, but it’s a tough semi, so despite personally liking it a lot, I think this goes into the borderline pile.
Shi: Well, if you are going to skip Eurovision for a couple of years and then come back, you should at least do a Croatia and come back with something that can not only qualify, but also actually do very well, if they nail all those unimportant things like staging and camera work and backdrop and all that. We might have quite a few slow(er) female sung songs this year, but Croatia stands out for its atmosphere and blending of East and West, as well as Nina’s unique voice color. A great track that will hopefully get the performance it deserves.
Felix: This is indeed a song that can unite the European audience in front of the TVs, thanks to its modern and traditional elements. I like it.
Martin: It’s missing something to make me love it, but I agree – this could do very well. Have Croatia been keeping up with modern ESC staging trends, though?
6. The Netherlands
Martin: It’s no secret that I’m a big country music fan. After the Netherlands delivered my clear favourite in 2014, they’re taking the Americana route again this year with the improbably named Douwe Bob. Slow Down is more 70s easy listening than outright country, and I worry that both song and singer are a bit too laid-back to make an impact. (Also he needs to open his eyes more, seriously. It’s a television show, Bobbetje!) But as a song it’s a lovely and much-needed injection of variety to this year’s girl-pop-heavy line-up, and hopefully that’ll be enough for qualification.
Felix: I have the right to react, but my reaction is quite “yes”. I like it, not sure about qualification though. Kinda worried about the staging, but let’s see it first!
Shi: One of the most frustrating entries for me this year, because I want to like it so much and yet I just get bored instead. He is, however, absolutely charming and can carry this through.
Shi: Armenia has provided me with the most interesting first viewing experience this year. I finished watching the video for the first time, thought “What in the name of God Almighty Sakis have I just watched” and then moved swiftly into placing Armenia in my top 3. It’s a weird one, that, and it stands out for being the weird one. It also requires the entire act to be perfectly on point, from vocals to striking visuals, for it to work. If they can do it, and I think (hope?) they can, a strong left side position awaits.
Martin: I’m still puzzled as to exactly how this even can be staged, actually. It could easily be too aggressive, too shouty, just too odd. But I’m curious to find out.
Felix: A tough one to predict. Though, what we know so far, won’t help it a lot: The song itself isn’t instant enough to be “enough” to do well.
8. San Marino
Martin: Christ. Where to begin? Having previously at least pretended to be a real country, San Marino are now selling their ESC entry to the highest bidder. Enter Serhat, a man whose self-importance is beaten only by his fondness for ludicrous fashion. The first version of I Didn’t Know was beyond bizarre, a creepy uncle whispering lasciviously into his niece’s ear over a retro lounge backing track. Bowing to fan pressure, they’ll now be using the less good of the “dance” remixes at ESC instead. The song is still useless, but I suppose at least the performance should be entertaining. Pointless.
Felix: This is one of those entries that make it worth to be a Eurovision fan. It adds a different flavour that no other entry delivers this year. Guilty pleasure alarm.
Shi: B***h please.
Felix: So this is the big favourite to win Eurovision? Seriously? I can see where this concept is coming from. An allegedly hot guy from a statistically successful country performs a mixture of various independent ideas “inspired by Eurovision, ca. 2006-2009” and “inspired by Måns Zelmerlöw”. In fact, it’s a poorly made mixture, too obviously constructed. I don’t hate it, which is an indicator that I don’t have any doubt that it will NOT win. If I’m proven wrong this May, I’ll not be annoyed, just very surprised and baffled. Top 10, yes, but not a winner.
Martin: This will only be the bookies’ favourite until rehearsals begin and the real contenders emerge. (See Aram Mp3 in 2014.) I generally agree: a promising recipe, but too calculated.
Shi: While I don’t hate it and can somehow live with the fact it’s very much “Eurovision circa 2006-2009”, I also recall that this sort of thing didn’t even work then, and I don’t see why it should now. Will do well, sure, but it’s no winner.
And those are our thoughts on the first half of the first semi-final! Stay tuned for our views on the next batch of songs in the days ahead…