Eurovision 2018 Reviews: Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2018

Denmark already know that their Eurovision fate is at least half sealed, sitting in the deadly first half of a fully loaded Semi Final 2. So, in that spirit let’s look at the songs in DMGP in two terms – who would have the best (albeit narrow) chance of qualification and who would best broaden the terms of the musical debate in that wild, complicated Semi 2.

You can listen to all the songs here on this handy-dandy YouTube playlist if you’re outside Denmark.

Lasse Melling – Unfound

One of the songs where you could play the ‘You Decide or DMGP’? game and genuinely not know. Contains the weird line ‘get up off your filthy knees’. While it doesn’t have a lot of melodic interest, it has a nice progression of backing track to give the song a bit of a build. Ultimately, it’s not in with a chance of qualifying unless Lasse is very very handsome indeed (he falls short somewhat). Won’t really add anything in terms of genre representation. Oh well. On to the next!

Rasmussen – Higher Ground

Many countries follow the trends of the music charts in selecting their Eurovision song. Here, Denmark have realised that Eurovision is a TV show and so they’ve picked this song by looking at the TV charts. Rasmussen looks like a Vikings/Game of Thrones minor character and the song sounds like the theme tune to some Vikings rip off that was pitched in a bit of a hurry. (Beards? Swords? Arrows? Sexy druids? Leather? I like it). This has the best chance of qualification, and also will bring some Early Medieval realness to the Lisbon stage. Talk sagas to me.

Ditte Marie – Riot

Encouraging civil unrest is a serious thing, and shouldn’t sound as beige and chart friendly as this. This is the one that would most step on the toes of the UK’s newly selected Storm. Ditte Marie is known to Eurofans, but I don’t think that will actually translate into a result for her? This doesn’t stand a good chance of qualification and also doesn’t add anything musically that we haven’t already got.

Anna Ritsmar – Starlight

A cute, Songvakeppni style song where I can almost taste the ukelele even though I can’t hear it. A song so wispy it’s almost not there. She’s was on X Factor 18 months ago, so the reality TV priming effect means she’s likely to pick up votes. It is too unsubstantial to qualify but…. [reader, she trailed off mid-sentence]

Sannie – Boys on Girls

Can you picture my astonished face when I heard that Whigfield was doing DMGP? Can you picture my even more astonished face when I heard the song and it turns out to be a slinky, queer, cool Royksoppian reinvention of Blur’s Girls and Boys. It doesn’t really build, and so I think it would be entirely reliant on stage show to create a call to voting action, so it’s not a Grand Final qualifier. But I am so glad that it is here. Also, if we have Sannie in Lisbon, imagine doing Saturday Night in Euroclub?

Sandra – Angels To My Battlefield

So dull that while I was listening to it, I forgot I was reviewing it and consequently had to listen to it again. Do not send this, Denmark. Even though it’s going to have a big sentimental vocal and it’s got a sort of keychange thing for the last chorus, don’t do it. Wouldn’t qualify, wouldn’t add anything we don’t already have.

CARLSEN – Standing Up For Love

Motivational female trio alert! It worked for the Netherlands last year? Kinda? This is incredibly middle of the road. You could slot it into Radio 2 without anyone even noticing it was on. Probably not a qualifier, probably not going to Lisbon either. No need to worry about it.

Karui – Signals

Now this was one that made me prick my ears up. A low slung, sexy beat. Breathy FKA Twigs-style vocals. Genuine groove. A bassline that does things. And you’re telling me this is DENMARK? If she can do it live, this would be a really classy addition to our Lisbon party. Potentially too genre to qualify, but it would almost certainly stick out as something authentically sexy in a semi full of highly polished CNC-laser cut pop.

And now I’m going to have to take a break because it’s going to get a bit more beige from now on.

Rikke Ganer-Tolse – Holder fast i igenting

Sweetly melodic Danish language pop. Sort of Carly-Rae Jepsen, but with less oomph. I like it, it’s precisely the kind of pop I go for, but I think it would be way too slight to stand up against potential bangers from Romania, Australia, Moldova & maybe even Serbia. I like it better than Malta’s song, though, so even though it wouldn’t add much to the genre buffet, it would add a bit of quality.

Albin Fredy – Music For The Road

It can’t decide whether it wants to rip off Heroes ripping off Aviici or if it wants to be an actual country song. It is stuck in the dread hinterland between the two, which makes it all sorts of lowest common denominator awful. It’s not something that I care to be listening to. Also, we’ll probably have some actual country in Semi 2 in the form of Waylon for the Netherlands, so this plasticky, whistly nonsense is not required.

So that’s your Danish lot. There are songs in there that I actually enjoyed.

Eesti Laul 2018: The First Semi Final Drop

Ah, Eesti Laul. A gem of a Eurovision national final, with fabulous genre diversity and a genuine sense that we’re seeing the best of a small and largely interconnected music scene. Last year we covered Eesti Laul (Semi 1, Semi 2)  and ended up in the press room at Saku Suurhall doing interviews with the artists and having a great deal of fun being the pretend jurors in the dress rehearsal. I’ll be going again this year, and as I said in the Curtain Up post I’m particularly hoping that I’ll be talking to Iiris and Frankie Animal.

So, let’s have a go at the first songs. There’s a lot of tropical house derived stuff to get through… (Official Mission Statement of National Final Season 2018)

You can listen to the songs here.

Aden Ray “Everybody’s Dressed”

This one reminds me of a very stripped back Constellation Prize, but Aden has a vocal quality that I can’t quite warm to. With there being so many genre songs in this semi, I think it’s got a reasonable chance of getting to the final, but I worry about the stability of his high and breathy head voice live. If it won, it would need a big old revamp. You could put a distorted harmonica on it. Maybe.

Desiree “On My Mind”

Extremely young sounding Carly-Rae Jepsen type stuff. It’s got something tonally in common with Liis Lemsalu’s 2017 Eesti Laul song Keep Running. It’s got a bit of that post-dancehall vibe to it, but the beach that it’s making you think of is firmly on the Baltic coast.

Elina Nechayeva “La forza”

Sitting prettily between Randajad and La Voix, this is a lovely fusion of your shiny Scandi-Baltic electronic atmospheric pop synths with a soprano giving it some welly. I wouldn’t put it past the Estonians to send this in a fit of operatic pique. A reasonable outside bet. Also the the 7th Heaven Remix would be BANGING and you know you want that.

Etnopatsy “Külm”

If you liked Vihm last year, or you generally enjoy a bit of Baltic trad (and you’re gutted that Baltic won’t be competing in Latvia’s Supernova) then this is the one for you. An achingly slow burn with a haunting call and response melody. Next year at Eesti Laul songwriting camps can they get a folk artist to do a writing session with one of the electro/post-dubstep artists? I would love to hear those beautiful ornate vocals juxtaposed with some very grindy beats and a big drop. See oleks põnev.

 

Iiris & Agoh “Drop That Boogie”

A totally cute and sparkly song about the perennial millennial state of mind – the world is messed up, I am failing the generational expectations set for me by my parents, but I realise that success is a construct and so I’m going to drop that boogie and give the means of production a good old shake on the dancefloor. Iiris is a UK-based Estonian singer who I’ve had my eye on for a couple of years – her happy/sad banger ‘Stranger’ from the summer was one of songs of 2017 – and I really expect to see this in the final.

Miljardid “Pseudoprobleem”

Here we go with the slightly mathematical indie funk of Miljardid. It’s really, really sparse in the verses, has a lovely set of hooky backing vocals (which is useful for non-Estonian speakers to be able to get some sort of a grasp on the song) and a quite startling breakdown which stops the repeated final chorus from dragging.

Sibyl Vane “Thousand Words”

On this single the raw and bluesy edge that has characterised their previous work has been polished up into something a bit more friendly to the wider public ear. Thousand Words is a bit like a slightly more cheery Interpol, or an emotionally vulnerable Franz Ferdinand, with the shifting and chugging guitar lines propelling us along. I can imagine the live version of this will have a great deal of intensity and power, but Helena will have to walk the line between being true to her authentic performance style and adapting to work with the cameras.

Stig Rästa “Home”

Oh my word. It’s just before Christmas so I am maximally susceptible to a sentimental song in 12/8. This is probably . This festively cosy swayalong vibe is what Ed Sheeran was also going for he was doing Perfect. This is a very nice listen indeed. Wait. Does he sing about watching Game of Thrones? YES! Sleep on the balcony, watch a little GoT. Stig, you marvel. See you in the final. Although, I do have my concerns that this might sound too Christmassy to do well in March, let alone in May.

Tiiu x Okym x Semy “Näita oma energiat”

Starting off with some moderately epic sax tooting and then introducing Okym & Tiiu spitting filthy sounding moon language rhymes over a spacey, juddering interpretation of a post-dancehall beat. It’s a few bpm and decibels away from being Igranka, but you get the idea. They’ve also got Semy of Estonian Eurovision winners 2XL involved, so they’re pretty serious. I am also looking forwards to talking to Tiiu, who looks like she means business. In the intro interview, she’s towering over her bandmates, wearing studded baby pink latex, a decorative merkin/sporran arrangement made of pom poms and a demure expression. Yass, challenging fashion queen.

Vajé “Laura (Walk With Me)”

Weirdly downbeat song from the Estonian/Armenian duo. There’s something a bit Chris Rea about the guitar solo, and then something a bit Heroes about the bridge into the chorus. I am not a fan of the genre, but this is definitely a nicely executed version of the thing that this is, which is country influenced pop.

De ce ne indragostim – Alina Eremia

This is Excellent.

It sounds great,  you can almost instinctively tell what the subject of the song is without having to understand the lyrics. The production is glossy, I think you can tell that Alina has been performing for most of her life (performing from 4 years old, seriously.) Absolutely radio friendly, modern R&B inspired pop.

The video is extremely stylish and I recommend you watch it. The glittery underbrows, the dancing around in an empty house, the fringing!

 

Alina performed in Junior Eurovision 2005 for Romania, finishing 4th, she voices the Disney princesses when films are overdubbed for the Romanian market, she’s a television actress and presenter too.

Now, I’m off to sew some brightly coloured fringing onto my clothes.

Gods of War – Celeste Buckingham

Gods of Egypt looked so naff I didn’t go and see it (was I wrong, was it a easy-watch classic?) but this track appears to be from the soundtrack. Appears to be as I can’t actually find it on a tracklisting, although my googling has been brief and impatient.

Gods of War is good and dramatic, with a steady build up to the chorus and with an aural squint I could imagine this one making a cracking Eurovision entry, there’d be slightly too much leather in the outfit and probably pyrotechnics. Something for everyone.

The break down around the 3 minute mark is reminiscent of Melissa Auf Der Maur’s finest howling and this pleases me greatly. Celeste Buckingham is a Swiss born Slovakian singer with almost ten years of career behind her – impressive for a 21 year old!

After my reaction to the video yesterday, this track doesn’t have it’s own promo video but a rather lovely fan has put to a lovely title card on this YouTube clip.

Video

Funny Folk – DoReDos

One of the songs I’m still thinking about from the multi-screen whirl that was the 2016 National Final Season is this awesome confection of Moldovan folk music, ravey bleeps and dazzling embroidery visuals.

DoReDos have been having a crack at the Moldovan Eurovision thing for two years running now, and I see no reason why we shouldn’t see them again when O Melodie Pentru Europa 2017 rolls around.

DoReDos are on facebook

 

Game on: Ireland vs Sweden

It’s the first of our special absolute heavyweight matches here. Who could possibly conceive of trying to decide if Horse Outside, by Ireland’s Rubberbandits is better than Petra Mede and Måns Zemerlow singing Love Love Peace Peace, which might have won Eurovision without even actually being one of the competing songs.

This is going to be TOUGH.

Which country has the best song, Ireland or Sweden?

View Results

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Horse Outside – The Rubberbandits [Genuinely brilliant, from Ireland’s favourite cultural commentators]

Love Love Peace Peace  – Petra Mede and Måns Zemerlow [The platonic ideal of Eurovision songs, possibly genius. No, probably genius.]

 

The Kukushka – Zlata Ognevich

kukushka2

Would you like an earworm? Would you like some light hearted pop music cranked up to almost terrifying intensity, cut through by a lovely/infuriating birdsong riff? Well. Have I got a song for you.

Zlata took this song, with its groovy Hammond organ stabs and massive chorus, through Ukraine’s Eurovision selection process in 2011. I wasn’t watching National Finals back in 2011, but this one sounds like a doozy, with drama, disqualifications, the threat of the return of Verka Seduchka, and a sufficient level of uncertainty about the integrity of the result that they had to re-run the Grand Final, from which Zlata and future Ukrainian heroine Jamala asked for their songs to be withdrawn. Such drama! But even without the backstory, The Kukushka stands up as an inspired bit of pop music.

Zlata did eventually get to go to Eurovision, of course, with the equally high-intensity Gravity (which manages that musical trick of seeming to be entirely composed of ever-rising key-changes) but I think The Kukushka is the more interesting and inexplicable song.
Cuckoo!

Zlata is on UK Spotify

Zlata is occasionally on Twitter

Listen Outside Genius: Mick Pedaja

Mick Pedaja: Genius

Mick Pedaja. Photo: Felix Laasme

Seriously. Let’s talk about Mick Pedaja.

It’s January. There was I, doing my musical research for what was shaping up to be a particularly gruelling Eurovision National Final season when suddenly I was transported to a parallel dimension by a song called Seis. It was unlike anything I’d heard. It was weird even for the Estonian song competition, Eesti Laul, which let mind-melting art-thrash weirdoes Winny Puuh compete alongside winsome ballad girls and credible indie.

Seis is a breathtaking moment of stillness – it forces you to slow down and concentrate on the sparse, beautiful arrangement and Mick’s otherworldly voice. After my initial exposure, I was so certain that the people of Estonia would rally behind Mick and send the slowest song of the modern era to Stockholm. Alas, it was not to be and so I resolved to find out more about this mysterious guy.

This is what I know: He’s got an EP/album Ärgake that’s available on UK Spotify which is also beautiful, but in a pastoral and leafy way as opposed to the big blast of cosmic knowledge you get from Seis. He’s also on Soundcloud where he posts the occasional track, makes older work available and has a very exciting stream of recommendations of his own.  I haven’t found a way of giving him serious money other than iTunes. Come on Mr Pedaja, let us buy some sort of limited edition triple disc heavy vinyl boxset.

Mick is on Soundcloud

Mick is on Spotify