And now for something completely different…
I love Eurovision (and probably as a consequence am a bit of Europhile) – and so having bought the album for next Saturday’s final (and the semis) am having my first listen to it. Thoughts follow based on the tunes alone, and not the performances (which can often uplift a middling track into something special). Oh my biases should be noted
- I prefer original language rather than some tortured form of English, and indeed some of my favourites over the years have been in languages where I have no idea what is being sung.
- I also like something that doesn’t sound like it’s being belted out by whatever X-Factor contestant has been auto-tuned onto the stage. Give me complexity give me something unexpected, give me something challenging.
- I seem to prefer male vocalists over female on average, though I’ve yet to hear a man belt out a power ballad as well as a women in the contest!
Or failing that, just give me Lordi back!
Follow me on twitter (@llordllama) Tuesday and Thursday (semi-finals, 8-10pm BST) and Saturday (final, 8-11pm BST) for my live tweet commentary - which will probably get more sarcastic as the evenings wear on…
Albania: Identitet (trans: Identity). Strangled techno vocals and…erm, forgettable if pleasant enough. (lang: Albanian)
Armenia: Lonely Planet. Can’t really place this one other than generic modern pop in terms of structure and content. Loses marks for me for not being in Armenian when the vocals might have sounded better. (lang: strangled English)
Azerbaijan: Hold Me. Another piano opening with what I could swear is a French entry, except it’s in English. Gentle opening minute, shifts to power ballad for the next 30 seconds, then into orchestral bit and then rinse and repeat to fade. Written by a computer, a committee or by random selection. (lang: Englishish)
Austria: Shine. Would like to like it more as it’s perfectly competently sung, but this is from Austria, home of the daft entry for many a year. How very dare they send someone who can actually sing! Not terrible, not brilliant, and very much on the side of pretty-much OK. But more than that, nah, that would be too generous. Does have key change though. (lang: accented English)
Belarus: Solayoh (trans: Sorry – that IS the translation). A little bit of a Grecian feel to this one, which won’t hurt it in the points, even if the lyrics are…yes, a bit odd. It does mention the cha-cha-cha, so one can’t totally dislike it. However, the English isn’t brilliant in scansion so I’m still not 100% sure what it’s about (lang: Euro-English)
Belgium: Love Kills. At a first listening it sounds like Coldplay. And I don’t mean that as a compliment as I can’t stand their brand of chewing gum for the ears. And then a techno beat arrives. How post-modern (not). Would do well as a song over the credits of an independent film, and you know as it goes on I’m starting to slowly like it. Okay, the hook is actually quite catchy – could this one finally go through the semis? (lang: accented English)
Bulgaria: Samo Shampioni (trans: Only Champions). Thank you Bulgaria, one of those countries I’ve voted for in the past – ethnic sounding instruments fused with an Eastern-sounding power-pop number. Catchy, even if the title sounds like a kind of mushroom. Without Turkey this year, this may be our only chance to have one of these kind of numbers in the show – and I’m now aching to see the stage show that goes with it. Powerful voiced singer, and a structure…well you know how all those Turkish numbers normally sound? Well this one has collided with Wild Dances drummers and some pipes. Could be we have a winner here… (lang: Bulgarian)
Croatia: Mizerja (trans: Misery). Power chords opening goes into a gentle boy band Ballard. Sigh. Come on EuroSong, I thought we got over this fad a few years ago. Nice voices, predicable structure and melody. (lang: Croatia)
Cyprus: An Me Thiamáse (trans: If You Remember Me) Not sure if the slow hand-clap in the middle is for the singer to speed up or not, but she’s got a lovely crisp voice and excellent vocal range. I might have liked something more exciting than this X-Factor style song to really let her shine. Still, will probably go down well in the votes. There might have been a key change in there too, but I’m not 100% sure as it didn’t scream, KEY CHANGE at me (not in the spirit of EuroSong that!) (lang: Greek)
Denmark: Only Tear Drops. Has a penny-whistle (one of the few instruments I can play anything on) so bonus points, and perhaps a slightly fokey feel, which if they play this up with the stage show would not be a bad thin at all. Quite catchy, I rather like it and I’m not sure why – one of the few tracks I turned the sound up on a first listening to experience it more. Loses points for rhyming ”loose” with “rules” though. (lang: Euro-English)
Estonia: Et Uus Saaks Alguse (New Order Beginning With): Nicely voice female vocals that fall pleasantly on the ears. And a piano. There are a LOT of pianos in the contest this year. Where’s Dima when you need him? I’ve been very fond of the Estonian entries over the years, and while this one isn’t going to blow me away I could easily listen to it a few times. Could do well on the night(s) if the lass can sing as well live as on the recording. (lang: Estonian)
Finland: Marry Me. Sleigh bells? On a musical number? In May? Has Christmas been moved? Actually it sounds like Jonathan Coulton’s classic Chiron Beta Prime. That said this is pop first and foremost, and pretty good pop with that. I should really hate this I sense if I had any taste/class/musical training, but Grud help me if I can’t help bopping along in my chair without an ounce of self-consciousness. Deserves to do well for the sleigh-bells alone, so probably won’t. (lang: Engrish)
France: L’Enfer Et Moi (trans: Hell and I). Kinda groovy cool, like a smoky track from a mid-1980s movie bar/love scene. Likeable, but doubt it’ll do that well. (lang: French)
Germany: Glorious. More techno-house coupled with a female voice, and probably the most anthematic of the tracks I’ve heard. To quote Hugh Dennis, it’s got a good beat. Couple with a decent stage show should be a good number on the night, even if it’s not Germany’s best outing of recent years. (lang: English)
Georgia: Waterfall. A duet, something that’s a bit thin on the ground this year. Despite being in English it’s damned fine English again. Builds slowly, and perhaps a bit formulaically into an anthem-like structure, which is at least a bit more dramatic than other entries. Almost has a Bond theme feel to it, although maybe it’s more than a little X-Factorish. But again find myself liking it in spite of myself. (lang: English)
Greece: Alcohol is Free. Despite managing to reference the only thing still functioning in the Greek economy this one is really fun/danceable/high energy. Say what you Nice one. Will do well, could be a winner. Slight Madness ska feel to it, which doesn’t do it any harm at all! And perhaps a hint of the classic Moldavian sound too. (lang: Greek (I think) and some strangled English)
Hungary: Kedvesem (Zoohacker Remix) (trans: Darling). Haunting little number which picks up a little pace as it gets going, and I will confess I was tapping my foot along to it a bit. Quite likeable indeed, but will it score points? Could do, might not. Worth a re-listen, as I found myself singing along in phonetic-Hungarian. So let’s upgrade that to very likeable, but still not sure it’ll be strong enough to clinch the title – but one to watch! (lang: Hungarian)
Iceland: Ég á Lif (trans: I have a life). Clearly this is a recipe for a delicious Icelandic salad “Egg on leaf, egg on leaf” goes the lyrics. Mnn, I’m hungry. Oh wait, there’s a gentle little song with male vocals too. Would be a great backing track for a supermarket looking for a song to go over an ethical range style of advert. But as a contest winner? Nah, I doubt it. One key change and yes…a piano. Clearly they were going cheap in Malmo. (lang: Icelandic)
Italy: L’Essenziale (trans: The Essential). Okay I speak (and sing) some Italian so I’m always a little biased in their favour. Gentle on the ears, nice melody. A refreshing change after some of the high energy stuff of other acts. I doubt this will do especially well, but damn it I like it! (lang: Italian)
Ireland: Only Love Survives. Starts out sounding like the Turkish entry with all the drums. Trying to be a bit house-trance or something, but then it gets going and it just sounds like a thousand other songs of the past decade of Eurovision, and not the good ones. Basically when you expect a shift in the music…there it is. Was this written by committee? (lang: English)
Israel: Rak Bishvilo (trans: erm?). Another plinky-plonky piano partnered with a female voice. Scores points for a title that sounds like a character out of Star Wars though. Builds slowly, but never really stretches itself into power-ballad territory. More powerful song than Bonnie’s though. More than one key change too, but then the singer sta-aaaa-rrrr-tttts siiii-nnnnn-ggggg like that, and you realise it’s just more X-Factor style dross. (lang: Hebrew)
Latvia: Here we go. Opens as though we’re listening to an updated version of the Beatles, singing a popular football chant. Then it turns into a bargain basement lite-rap. Oh dear. Lyrical complexity is not high here. Then there’s this bit towards the end with what sounds like someone doing a scratch-remix with a CD like a wedding DJ after too much vino. Oh dear, oh dear. (lang: oddly accented English)
Lithuania: Something. Powerful bass-guitar hook to get you into this song, before the drums come in. I always do like a spot of the daddy-guitar (thank you Murry), but then the song gets going and suddenly it just feels like something I’ve heard a thousand times before. Shame, as for 10-15 seconds this sounded like it was going to be a classic track. (lang: Engrish)
Macedonia: Pred Da Se Razdeni (trans: Before the Sunrise). Thumping beat. Eastern underscore. Moody vocals. Another would be Turkish entry, just not as good as anything they’ve sent of late. Not keen on it really. (lang: Macedonian and Romani).
Malta: Tomorrow. I challenge you to not start singing “Raindrops keep falling on my head” to the opening to this one! But it’s played on a ukulele, one of the other few instruments I play so get’s more marks as a result. Plus it’s plucky old Malta, and who doesn’t love them! (Okay, most of the voters in EuroVision usually, more’s the pity!). Toe tapping fun which will probably get a large granny vote . To be honest this one started to grate on me before the end, despite the ukes. (lang: Euro-English)
Moldova. O Mie (trans: A Thousand). Bit of a shocker from one of perennial favourites Moldova, a lone female singer. Yes there’s a smattering of X-Factor about her, but I rather like her crisp tones and powerful delivery that’s drowned out by a drum line. Can hold a note without warbling, and the song is powerful and well delivered, but not sure it’s catchy enough to win. But a credible entry all the same. No unicycling smurfs though I bet in the stage show, which will cost her my votes! (lang: Romanian!?)
Montenegro. Ingranka (trans: The Party). Oh great more Euro-Techno…and then it turns into something more bizarre with a very deep voice that speeds up. Melodically a real car crash. Structurally very interesting. An audience pleaser? Hahahahaha, no. Novelty act on the other hand – could be entertaining in the semis, because no way is this making it to the final! Sounds like it mentioned Foucault in the lyrics which means I should give it more votes. But I won’t. (lang: Montenegrin)
Netherlands: Birds. If you don’t want to open your wrists after the first 30 seconds of this one, well done. Depressing. Sounds like a old French song, but in English. Good singer but this just isn’t doing anything for me. Well except getting me down. (lang: Euro-English)
Norway: I Feed You My Love. “WTF” was my first thought on hearing the opening of this, but then I did ask to be challenged. Perfect soundtrack for one of the Resident Evil movies or something like that – and boy does it build into something a bit more powerful. So maybe that wrong footing at the start was good as this one is really growing on me. Looking forward to seeing the stage show – should be something special! (lang: accented English)
Romania: It’s My Life. Could be this one contains my single favourite (bad) lyric “Love is like a mountain in the sky, Love is hard, so hard“. Well, yes. Mountains ARE hard… Turns into a falsetto club mix shortly after that which is a bit of a shock. But keep listening to the lyrics to this one, if you’re some ROTFLMA by the end of the song you have no soul. Will so not get out of the semi-finals or I’ll eat my hat. Mmmmmn, hat. Oh probably scores the award for the highest voice in the contest – and it’s a man! (lang: Euro-English)
Russia: What If: Another lovely female voice. Starts slow, but with perfectly natural English lyrics and delivery too this kinda gets hooks into you after a couple listenings. Despite myself I quite like this, as it slowly evolves into a power ballad - and boy can the lass hold a note. Maybe a bit X-Factory, but will likely score well. At least 1 key change. And this is Russia so you know she’ll do well, if she can hit the notes on the night. (lang: perfect English!)
San Marino: Crisalide (trans: Chrysalis): One of those small countries where eventually everyone gets the chance to participate in EuroSong. A bit of a torch song, all be it one that does pretty much everything you think it might – a yearning that builds orally and musically as the track continues. Really tries hard in the last minute, with two key changes and enhanced beat. Not sure if I like it as a complete package though. (lang: Italian)
Serbia: Ljubac Je Svuda (trans: Love is Everywhere). Well if you were looking for a thumbing beat with a powerful female voice screeching over the top, then this is your lucky day. Sadly sounds like another X-Factor cast off performance, funked up to sound modern and relevant. So with that in mind, the fact that the tune is quite catchy and I have no ability to pick winners in any contest probably means this one will win. It shouldn’t, but it probably ticks enough demographic boxes. Either that or nul-points in the semis. (lang: Serbian)
Slovenia: Straight into Love. Another techno intro and then into a female twinkly ballad which doesn’t work for me (though looking at the singer I might have to increase her score on the night!). Keeps wanting to change into Kate Bush “Running up that Hill”, and the techno beat then returns. Disposable. Still if the singer is pretty enough she’ll garner some votes. (lang: English)
Spain: Constigo Hasta El Final (trans: With You to the End). Always one of my favourite counties to send great EuroSong acts – some because they’re just fun (but awful and some that are awfully good. This one opens like something out of Battlestar Galactica (not a bad thing). Pretty voice on the lead singer and a rather more complex musical structure than a lot of the other tracks on offer. A bit more rock than pop (huzzah, come back Lordi) with a Celtic edge. I would like to hear more from these guys (lang: Spanish)
Sweden: You. Who? Me? Another Coldplay-esque track with a warbling singer who puts about 5 syllables too many into the word You which is pretty damned impressive singing. Sadly I don’t like this one, could be the accented English grates on the ears, or maybe it’s the proto-yodelling that passes for his vocal talent. Can he actually hol-ololo-d a note? (lang: Euro-English)
Switzerland: You and Me: Not the old kids’ show. But hang on a minute, is this from the Hobbit soundtrack? Oh no, that means I start liking it! Slightly folky rock which could be a dark horse – except no one votes for the Swizz politically so probably won’t get to the final. Shame. (lang: accented English)
UK: Believe in Me. Should have been called Please vote for me, it would have been more honest. Why not try singing that over Bonnie’s lyrics in the chorus? Go on, you’ll thank me! Anyway, heard this on the radio yesterday and I did not dislike it. But love it? Vote for it? Even if I could…questionable. One of the stronger songs (and singers) we’ve sent in years, should in an ideal world end up half way up the votes. Won’t (thank you Mr Blair and Labour) due to political voting. Unfair on Bonnie – especially as it contains a God-damned key change and everything! (lang: English, naturally)
Ukraine: Gravity. What a sultry voice this singer has, like liquid velvet on the ears in the opening moment of the song (hope Mrs Llama doesn’t read that!)…and then someone goes and spoils it by adding TOO MUCH DRUM MACHINE over the top, and unneeded backing singers. This with Zlata’s voice alone would have been a great song, and maybe on the night they’ll pull back on the backing and let her voice sing through – but if not it sounds too much like they’re trying to drown her out, which is a mistake. Is there a key change in there? Oh and it sounds like she’s singing “My Brother Lee” not “My Gravity” (lang: accented English)
Thus it appears this is the year of the piano! And after all that who are my favourites:
- Hungary: ByeAlex (aka Alex Márta). I just love this track I’ve decided, and considering he’s a philosopher - well if you’ve been following my blog that probably wins it for me.
- Spain: ESDM: El sueño de Morfeo. One of the more talented performers and very interesting tune. Love the celtic bits, and the folk rock combo and as I said above, worth hearing more from these guys.
- Greece: Koza Mostra. Because they’re Greece, always good fun, always high energy.
- Georgia: Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani. Dark horse candidate!
- UK: Bonnie Tyler. Hey, it could happen. But probably the first UK entry in the past 5 years I’ve genuinely liked. Since Scooch okay.
[Edit: Post Final: Well Denmark won, well done! On the night I voted for Romania, Malta and Hungary, the latter remaining my favourite but the other two really growing on me from the final. Greece would have got my 4th vote had I made one. UK was...terrible, sorry Bonnie - it wasn't well performed on the night]