It’s definitely happening then, this Eurovision thing.
If you’ve been following me on Twitter at @ellie_made then you’ll know that I have been regularly tweeting the inferred average rates of song and artist reveal. There’s also a graph, showing how the rest of National Final season is going to work out. Some steep old Saturdays there!
A lot has happened since I told you back in December that you ought to be looking out for two amazing Idas. We’ve lost Intoxicating Caramel, but we’ve gained the possibility of a Rambo Amadeus redux. There’s been a flurry of disqualifications and shufflings of flags of convenience resulting in Belarus and Moldova potentially being represented by Ukrainian and Russian proxy artists. Russia seem to be headed down the overblown peace anthem road, while Ukraine’s Vidbir is chock full of incredible up-to-date Future Sound pop music. But at least we are going to get both of them competing this year, which is something.
We’ll have 4 of the Big 5 selections by the end of the weekend. France have given us all something to talk about with the stripped-back, poignant story of baby Mercy, Spain have gone for narrative by sending a love duet between a woman who can really, really sing and a young man she met on a reality TV show who can just about keep up. The UK have selected a sort of Clean Bandit type jaunty inspirational song sung by SuRie, a Eurovision-proven utter darling who has charmed online Eurofandom into heart-eyed jelly. Italy are doing their Sanremo thing, which is generating its own Eurodrama and will most likely conclude in a head-scratching situation where no-one is initially sure who is going to Eurovision. Germany haven’t started yet, but their selection show can’t be more counterproductive and confusing than last year, can it?
The 100 year old Baltic nations are busily getting on with it – Eesti Laul looks set to be dominated by Elina Nechayeva’s 21st century take on operatic chillout, while the best song left in Latvia is Madara’s sublime Esamaiba (lyrically a philosophical follow-on from Listen Outside anthem Seis) and Lithuania could potentially join in with the Baltic chill theme by going for Fire Fountain. However, that’s not going to happen because I think Latvia are going to send Edgars Kreilis, and literally anything could happen in Lithuania, including the victory of a song that I don’t remember being in the heats.
In the Scandi-Nordic zone, things are all topsy turvy as Songvakeppnin goes beige, Denmark contains multiple exciting songs, Finland are aiming for the win, Norway supply 10 uptempo numbers of varying quality and seriousness and Sweden have got through two heats of Melfest without getting anyone particularly excited. Still, there’s always Mariette.
Songvakeppnin is a particular disappointment to me. After three successive non-qualifications, it’s clear that they are all out of ideas and almost out of enthusiasm. You couldn’t ask the Icelandic population to be more engaged in the process – but you could potentially ask the more outre strands of the Icelandic music scene to get involved. Given that Iceland’s most recent qualification was Pollaponk, it is not stupid to think that a fun genre song could do well for Iceland. Power balladry in English simply isn’t cutting it. The worst case scenario is probably that they send the uptempo pop one from Aron Hannes, who would then be in the first half of Semi 1 with fan fave Lie To Me. Given that both of these songs sound reasonably musically fresh while lyrically they’re full of old fashioned sexism, there will be a direct comparison which Aron Hannes will lose. Badly. I can’t really come up with a best case scenario that doesn’t involve one of the sappy duet teams turning out to be Hatari, with a special surprise for all of us.
I’ve got a full review of Denmark in this other post, but the headline is that even though they are going to find it really hard to qualify out of Semi 2, I’m pleased with the increase in genre and tonal variety. There are other shades than beige! It’s like when Changing Rooms discovered the feature wall.
Norway makes me really nervous. It’s a pretty wild, party-focused variety show line up, containing someone who is something to do with SKAM, three returning artists, three comedy songs and possibly the most geographically unlikely of this year’s cohort of Despacito wannabes. Alexander Rybak is one of the returning artists and also one of the comedy songs – with its panto-like call and response section, its cheapo lowest common denominator instrumentation and totally misleading, insultingly simplistic instructions on how to write a song, I fear that this is going to Lisbon. When look, you could have Ida Maria going full Lemmy in Euroclub!
Norway, Rybak may be your most recent winner, but he is neither God nor Johnny Logan and you should really think twice about this. I simply can’t take it seriously, and I think I’m supposed to. It sounds like he wrote it for a bet. A full rundown of the Norwegian songs will come in the run up to my trip out to Oslo (yes!) but for now, my heart says Scandilove and my head says, eh, Aleksander Walman enjoyed it enough last year and his song is quite reasonable. Whatever wins, it’s going into the first half of Semi 2 where there are three 100% qualifiers and Moldova, probably with Kirkorov-supported DoReDos. It will be a serious fight to qualify.
Oh, and Finland have got Saara Aalto going full Gaga. Monsters is probably the 2nd best of her 3 songs the Finns get to pick from, so get your kidneys listed on ebay just in case we’re going to Helsinki.
To the east, I’ve been really enjoying the wild swings in quality and tone in the Romanian selection tour. I’m particularly excited for this weekend’s heat that takes place in a historical salt mine. Cezar has been a fabulous host, Ilinca has been a highly memeable presence on the judging panel and we have definitely seen some stuff. Moldova haven’t really started yet, Poland are missing a trick by not sending Szpak duetting with Voice winner Marta Gałuszewska and I won’t have anything to do with Slovenia until full songs are out. A Dal should only really be won by the exciting screamo of AWS with their singalong anthem Vislat Nyar. If I can sing along with it in Hungarian and I’m willing to go with them on a hysterical keychange that goes where My Chemical Romance feared to tread, then maybe it’s genuinely rather good.
The Serbian songs came out this week and sound WOW. There was some kvetching amongst Eurofandom on Twitter about how localised and Balkany the sound is, but I think this is people who’ve got used to hearing various tones of purchased Swedish pop from all corners of the continent. There’s wildness a-plenty from Maja Nikolic, Boriz Reznak, Lord (not Lorde) and DJ Niko Bravo, but my heart belongs to Saška Janks with her pink hair, her lovely voice, her fringed jacket and her folky, bluesy song which might be a bit too subtle to cut through. Also, if you need any further endorsement, Slavko loves her.
Around the rest of the Balkans, Macedonia and Croatia are still yet to declare, while Montenegro are having a national final for which we’ve not heard the songs.
It’s been going on since the end of October, but I’ve only just worked out what is going on in The Next Star in Israel – it seems like there is an amazing woman called Netta who is absolutely tearing it up. She’s got an incredibly powerful, expressive voice, she’s a dab hand with a looper and sampler and she’s got an amazing line in whacked-out cover versions of songs in a genre I describe as Only 90s Kids Will Remember This. I am so intrigued by this that I want to see her singing the living daylights out of the biggest, loudest Israeli party stomper that Eurovision has ever seen. And her band The Experiment is awesome.
Oh, and if you like a bit of the Only 90s Kids Will Remember This, you are certain to enjoy the full 1993 dance anthems vibe of Asmik Shiroyan’s You & I, which is probably not going to Eurovision for Armenia.
And that’s it for now. See you in a bit, for another National Final Season Digest.
PS: What’s the wildest rumour you’ve heard about Bulgaria this year? If you haven’t heard one, make one up. I won’t be able to tell the difference.