All images from the official preview videos on YouTube
It took us a little while to get the team together, but now it’s finally time for Felix, Shi and Martin to cast their eye over the 40 contenders in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest!
This year’s Line-Up Check returns to the format we used a few years ago: Each entry has been randomly assigned to one of our team, 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 that reflects their own personal opinion. Then the other two editors will get a quick “right of reply” in which they can agree or disagree with what’s been said.
So without further ado, let’s launch into the first semi-final – which opens with…
Felix: There are two songs in this year’s line-up which are are perfect match in both categories, “hyped by the younger fans” and “scares Felix away”. This is one of them.
I mean, I really like the main part (the version that ends with “sekret” more than the one that ends with “secret”). But the rest… in its completeness, I don’t know what to do with it. Random collection of pointless noise. Except the main part. Not my cup of tea, but I lost touch with the current wider Eurovision taste anyway, so I assume it will do very well.
Shi: Hello ethnopop, my old friend, I’ve come to dance to you again. It’s one of the better ones we had in the genre in recent years and a much needed addition to this year’s line-up.
Martin: Disjointed is the word here – but Ronela has a commanding stage presence, so if the performance is properly built around her, that can make it feel more coherent. A decent opener.
Martin: This gets to be my first review, does it? Great.
“Putting the ‘fun’ in funk” is all well and good, but this genre is rarely my thing even without a layer of tongue-in-cheek wackiness on top. I took against “Eat Your Salad” right from its opening line (I hardly need explain why), and as a song I feel like it spends a lot of its three minutes treading water. BUT… the chorus is undeniably earwormy, there’s a good message underpinning the fairly icky lyrics, and the Citi Zēni boys seem like solid types. Turns out I wouldn’t entirely begrudge them a final ticket.
Felix: I am bad in getting messages in songs, and that’s not the only reason why this song leaves me clueless. It has its good parts, but the sum… uhm, no.
Shi: Latvia, just go get yourself a cooking show with as many salads and cakes as you want and leave me out of this, OK?
Felix: I’m getting repetitive, but I have to: I was young for most parts of my life until now, but hey, now I get to be that old man who’s lost all touch with the younger and wider Eurovision taste.
I mean, it’s a challenge to nail Frenchness, and out of all countries, Lithuania does it. Rather well, and in Lithuanian on top of it. I don’t wanna be presumptuous, after all the French themselves have the monopoly on being allowed to declare something as being “French(ish)”. Under the line, I’m happy it’s there, French-ish or not. But it’s doomed.
Shi: I tried. I really did. I don’t get this. I don’t hate it. I don’t like it. I mostly co-exist with it for three minutes until it’s done and gone.
Shi: Switzerland, what am I going to do with you? “Boys Do Cry” is one of those songs that I really want to like – combining a bit of a modern vocal and a nostalgic, warm and sweet feeling, and I like Marius’s voice quite a bit – and yet it doesn’t quite work for me.
It never manages to fully capture my interest, and even though he is a capable vocalist he’s not really a captivating performer. It will require a truly special moment at Eurovision to be able to compete against the other boys in this year’s line-up.
Felix: I agree with everything that Shi said. When it’s on, it’s okay… I wouldn’t say “enjoyable”, that would take things a bit too far, but… nice parts. Boring sum.
Martin: Sometimes I find the song really engaging, other times it’s just dull, and the performer doesn’t do much to help that. Staging will be the key, I guess. If it’s warm and inclusive, it can work.
Shi: I didn’t watch the Slovenian final, and admittedly I laughed when I saw who won.
I don’t entirely hate “Disko”; it’s pleasant, they are pleasant. I might never be able to remember how it goes, but it will be a perfectly nice background track when I get bored 20 seconds into it come May and go to the kitchen to get something to eat. I might even tap my foot to it as I peer into the fridge, trying to decide what to get. Do I have ice cream? I think ice cream will be nice. Alright, here we go. What’s the next song?
Martin: Every time I hear this song, I end up being irritated at it for wasting three minutes of my life. This year’s most certain non-qualifier, I’d say.
Felix: I’d actually prefer hearing this played live in a pub in Ljubljana. Still, it has its place in Eurovision 2022. Even if just for those reasons that Shi described.
Felix: It took me a while to get into “Stefania”, and it’s mostly the rap part that put me off for long. But now I’m a fan of the sung and the instrumental parts. Musically and production-wise it’s a real bijou.
Of course, you can’t write a verdict about “Ukraine 2022” without thinking of other, more serious things that involve Ukraine and 2022. About its chances in Eurovision… well, I don’t wanna speculate in this case. Hence, I won’t give a prediction here, sorry, team. It just feels wrong. Hope that’s okay. I’m wishing the guys the best.
Martin: Yeah, circumstances have made this song very difficult to review, and especially to predict. I think it would have been (low?) top ten even without the war, though.
Shi: It’s exactly the type of thing I like, and as such, I do, even if I think it could have been stronger. That aside, I’m glad it’s there and that they can be in Turin.
Martin: I talked about my genre credentials last year, but I actually quite enjoy it when I don’t like a rock song in ESC. Vote for songs, not genres!
True, I took against Intelligent Music Project right from the outset – has there ever been a more middle-aged, low-key arrogant, whiter band name? But their song, “Intention”, also fits that enthusiasm level. IMP perform it like it’s edgy and hard, but it’s really just a tame and lightweight composition. It feels very “mid-2000s Scandi national final”, or like something from the end credits of a forgettable American teen movie. The ESC end credits will not be rolling over this one, anyway.
Shi: From the first time I heard it on the day it was revealed, I knew it’d remain my last place.
“But Shi, wasn’t this the first song to be revealed this season?”
Yes. Yes, it was.
Felix: Lol, I “like” it a bit “more” than Martin does. And I’m voting for “mid-2000s Scandi national final”, that works. But the song doesn’t. Messy and pointless.
Martin: The first appearance in the contest for the Dutch language since Sieneke, and it could hardly be more different, could it? I admit I wasn’t entirely sold on the concept on paper – but in practice, oh, in practice.
I flat-out love “De diepte”. It broods, it smoulders, it flows, it floats. More than that, I think it could actually do pretty well in the contest. The wordless sections offer some clever hooks that transcend the language barrier, and there’s every sign so far that S10 can deliver an interesting staging that communicates the lyrical meaning too. Very promising.
Felix: Yeah, of course, Netherlands! You re-learned to rock at Eurovision, and the fan of “Sha-la-lie” that I am likes “De diepte” just as much. Great job, neighbours.
Shi: I had no idea what to expect from this year’s Dutch entry, and therefore how much I love this gorgeous, emotional and intensely sincere entry was one of the most pleasant surprises for me this season.
Shi: There’s something inherently confusing to me about reviewing songs from returning artists, especially when the artists in question aren’t reinventing their own wheel.
Zdob și Zdub managed to put enough space between their entries to prevent a strong sense of deja vu for the average audience. But for those of us who keep track, we know they know Eurovision and they know how to work the stage – and if their much weaker effort was oh so lucky to be only ten points outside the top ten, I don’t see any reason for this one to be less lucky.
Felix: Finally something fun and ethnic. The genre had some bad years recently. My personal favourite of the band, even if it’s still far away from my personal top ten this year.
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…