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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Eurovision 2018 Song Ranking Part 6

15. Armenia
Sevak Khanagyan – "Qami"
There’s something so soothing about this ballad. The tinkling windchimes in the second chorus are a subtle gesture that adds to the “windy” feel. The final chorus is when things really start getting good, with powerful backing vocals taking it all home.

14. FYR Macedonia
Eye Cue - “Lost and Found”
Some other entries in recent years have been multiple distinct songs in one, but none do it as successfully as “Lost and Found.” The transitions between the reggae-tinged verses and poppy pre-choruses are seamless, and the buildup between the pre-choruses and choruses build until they explode into one of the biggest hooks of this contest.

13. Croatia
Franka - “Crazy”
Is anything more now than a sedate vocal over a manufactured beat? That beat got used multiple times for a reason. Franka's combination of sultry singing and spoken word are refreshingly cool. This does sexy R&B better than Latvia this year, especially with hypnotic moments like the bridge.

12. Denmark
Rasmussen - “Higher Ground” 
“Higher Ground” has the same songwriters as Timoteij’s “Kom” and has that same folky lilt. If you listen closely you can imagine those three/four blonde young women singing jauntily about peaceful Vikings. This is the closest we’ll get to filk in this year’s contest but it’s also an actual Melodifestivalen reject, meaning schlager in sound and definition. The melody also sounds like an epic action film score, but uses vivid imagery rejecting battle. Lines like “men laying down their swords/each of their own accord” are a nice complement to whatever the chorus of “Where I Am” meant. The manliest peace song you can think of.

11. Israel
Netta - "Toy"
As always this ranking is only personal preference of the recorded version on its own (and it was a tough call), but there's no denying that this song is already iconic. Netta is full of charisma and originality, and the song perfectly captures the zeitgeist. It's 2018 so let's throw out all the creeps. It's already all over the internet and everyone's Eurovision-casual friends love it, mine included. The song does all this while still sounding recognizably like an Israeli Eurovision song. It's the hot favorite and would be a great winner for multiple reasons. Some of the creative vocal sounds make it a little hard to listen to, but if it continues to connect with so many people it could be unstoppable.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Eurovision 2018 Song Ranking Part 5

20. Poland
Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer- “Light Me Up”
This sounds like the kind of poppy EDM that would have been huge a few years ago, and is already feeling a little dated in the real world but is still feeling fresh in Eurovision land. The simple melody is the background to the chillest summer party, maybe a barbecue or beach, a mental escape from the cares of the rest of the year.

19. Czech Republic
Mikolas Josef - “Lie To Me”
When thinking of the Czech Republic’s potential in Eurovision before this year, nobody could have thought they would produce and send something like this. “Lie to Me” is easily their best entry ever, a complete polished package. The trumpet riff calls to mind “Talk Dirty To Me,” and boy does he. Even in the revised version this song is filthy, but in a humorous, charismatic, and creative way. The “Tutti Frutti” reference seems appropriate to the and the “Lose Yourself” reference (who else rhymes heavy, already, and spaghetti in sequence?) is quickly becoming memetic.

18. Portugal
Claudia Pascoal - “O Jardim”
This song just sneaks up on you to take yo to another place. It’s about loss but has a very subdued, almost calming feel, especially with the beat in the chorus. During the second chorus, the songwriter Isaura joins in to do backing vocals, creating a sublime harmony.

Waylon - “Outlaw in ‘Em”
What kind of outlaw is Waylon, he’s Dutch! The Netherlands don’t have diamondbacks and is typically thought of in the US as liberal and full of legal vices, so where is the room to be an outlaw? No matter its actual authenticity, the singer believes in it. The lyrics are full of country cliché imagery with an unusual message for a song in this contest. Everyone’s a star, everyone’s a hero….no, today for once, everyone’s a rebel, which is not a bad sentiment if you need a different kick in the pants. A song to have a beer to.

16. Australia
Jessica Mauboy - “We Got Love”
The tipster who said this song was a banger was sorely mistaken on the definition of the word, but this song is still anthemic and uplifting. It really wants to be an anthem, dearly departed hashtag and all, and it could very well have life after the contest with that. This is how you do slick, catchy pop, and Australia hasn't had a miss yet.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Eurovision 2018 Song Ranking Part 4

25. Malta
Christabelle Borg - "Taboo" 
Yet another Swedish-penned pop song, but this one's got a good message, authentically written by the performer. The revamp lost a little energy, but it did bring us the Maltese Mad Max music video that hopefully will be interpreted in the staged performance.

24. Slovenia
Lea Sirk "Hvala Ne"
With this title, if this doesn't qualify the jokes write themselves. This song has a sassy edge and a beat that is fresher than anything they've sent since 2013. The chorus is a bit of a non-chorus, but that's what's popular now.

23. Estonia
Elina Nechayeva - "La forza"
This is a big fan favorite and while it's not bad, I don't get it as much as others. Elina has an impressive, beautiful voice, augmented by the Italian language. It would have benefitted from a longer running time, since it ends very abruptly.

22. United Kingdom
SuRie - "Storm" 
They tried, right? SuRie has a great voice and look. The song is fluffy - let's all come together and join hands, a typical tired concept for Eurovision. It only makes sense if you think really hard and twist the context so that it's a song about British people's pain, of banding together through an uncertain political/economic future. And in that way it's quite nice, like SuRie is scooping up the audience and giving them a genuine hug and tell them they're making it through. And it definitely feels more genuine than songs like "If We All Give A Little" or "Chain of Lights," owing to the performer's charisma. The revamp turned it into an anthem that makes the earworm chorus shine.

21. Moldova
DoReDos - "My Lucky Day"
Great band name - makes you think of eating chips. Appropriately they have a fast-food junk-food song. It would be at place in any of the past 15 Eurovisions and it would also be a crowd pleaser at any of them, a bouncy romp with ethnic instrumentation. Maybe now broadcasters can send better (and even Moldova can too) but it's just three minutes of fun and dancing to brighten the mood. The music video adds another layer, because it looks like the plot ends with them as a happy throuple laughing through Greece. Hopefully that's what the song is actually about.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Eurovision 2018 Song Ranking Part 3

30. Germany
Michael Schulte - "You Let Me Walk Alone"
There are a number of songs about someone else's pain (France, Italy), and more about someone's own pain (Germany, Hungary) and some in the middle (Portugal) and I don't know what it says about me that I prefer the former. It's a matter of genre probably.  This is a personal piano ballad that wouldn't sound out of place on the charts in the past 10 years. It might be one of the most personal and authentic songs that Germany has ever sent, which deserves applause.

29. Russia
Julia Samoylova - "I Won't Break" 
"Flame is Burning" has held up surprisingly well, but this isn't bad either. It's a soothing pop ballad with a positive message and a catchy two-part chorus. Side note: Julia's makeup looks really good in the video. The downside is the vocals are a little too overproduced and layered in a way that might not sound good live.

28. Belarus
Alexeev - "Forever"
Before the revamp, this was a cool slavic pop anthem with that cold synth production that's typically found in Russian and adjacent pop. I can't get enough of that stuff. After the revamp, the air was sucked out. The first half is a piano ballad that sounds like a "darker and edgier" cover. The synth production comes back halfway through, but it's too late. The choral backing of the final two choruses adds a mysterious touch, like it's accompanying a final boss battle. 

27. Greece
Yianna Terzi - "Oneirou Mou" 
Speaking of choral backing, it works beautifully in this song's choruses. A heartfelt love song to the singer's homeland, it creates a passionate and reverent atmosphere. The appropriate ethnic instrumentation and use of the Greek language create a complete product that Greek fans can be proud of. 

26. Montenegro
Vanja Radovanovic - "Inje"
Thank Zeljko Joksimovic every day for this revamp. His touch on the instrumentation elevated this to another classic Balkan ballad for eurovision. It holds such emotion and pain and drama. Every Eurovision needs at least one Balkan ballad and this fills that need.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Eurovision 2018 Song Ranking Part 2

This week is a diverse group, musicially and linguistically. They may be far from my favorites but their presence is welcome.

35, Hungary 
AWS - “Viszlát nyár”
You can’t say that Hungary isn’t bringing something new to the Eurovision table. This type of music was most popular in the 00’s (there doesn’t seem to be consensus on the genre but it sounds likes screamo to me) but it’s debuting in this Eurovision. The lyric is personal and the vocals are passionately delivered. It’s also got a killer key change, to fit in. I’m not opposed to the genre, but the music doesn’t connect to me overall. Side note: is it just me or does their name first call to mind Amazon Web Services?

34. Serbia
Sanja Ilic & Balkanika- “Nova deca” 
A Balkan ballad, or at least an epic-sounding song with Balkan elements, is always welcome. However, this takes too long to get started, with over a minute long introduction, and it doesn’t pick up energy until the last minute. If it kept the energy of the last minute throughout the song it would be a lot higher.

33. Georgia
Iriao - “For You”
This is only this low because I personally don’t find it that easy to listen to, especially in a Eurovision context. However, they’re doing something different, and effectively, and I applaud it. In the Eurovision Best-Fantasy-RPG-Background-Music Contest this would win first place (or tie with Denmark). This song uses a traditional style of singing to create a dynamic three minutes that is out of the ordinary.

32. Spain
Amaia & Alfred - “Tu Canción”
There are two delicate, saccharine love songs this year that are technically quite good. They might make the audience shed a tear with a beautiful, touching performance. While “When We’re Old” reflects on marriage and a future together, “Tu Canción” is an ode to first love. Its selection was partly due to some heavy shipping of its emerging-couple performers, and hopefully their young love stays together at least until May to give the performance an injection of chemistry. However, if you’re not invested in the real-life love story, it gets old fast.

31. Norway
Alexander Rybak - “That’s How You Write A Song”
Alexander is the expert here but I suspect there are some trade secrets he is leaving out of his instructions. It’s a fun, positive romp that will probably be a fantastic performance in May, but on the recorded version it’s too repetitive and hard to connect with.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Eurovision 2018 Song Ranking Part 1

All the entries are known and it’s finally time for another Eurovision ranking. This year the format will change a little and I will no longer include ratings. The on-season this year definitely felt weaker than some past years, yet overall it’s a relatively strong set. There are fewer songs that are amazing, for sure, but there are also fewer that are really horrible. Over the past few years the bottom limit of quality has been raised higher and higher, which means a 1 out of 5 gets better and better. There haven’t been as many irredeemable duds on the song level, and this year I can’t bear to give any songs a 1 out of 5, so I won’t, because the points don’t matter. Of any personal ranking, only an aggregate of each person’s top few give any indication of popularity. This isn’t Melodifestivalen yet, and nobody is going to vote for 10 songs per night. Nobody is voting for their least favorite song or their twentieth favorite, so it doesn’t matter if they rated it 1 out of 5 or 9 out of 10. Just read this as you’d read any other fan’s ranking and enjoy when it horribly contradicts the actual results in May. Since no composition is a trainwreck, the performance will be the decider between success and failure.

43. San Marino
Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening - “Who We Are” 
The Sammarinese selection for Eurovision this year was one of the most bizarre and suspicious. It was the biggest Sammarinese robbery since the one in Lupin the 3rd Part 4. The song has a nice sentiment and the chorus is mildly catchy, but it’s very derivative and doesn’t add anything to the contest. Many of their past entries are iconically or memetically cheesy, but this doesn’t add much to their history. The rap part is also really cheesy in a 90s pop throwback way, and not in a good way.

42. Romania
The Humans – “Goodbye”
This is bland soft pop-rock. The vocalist has a lot of passion but the song itself doesn’t have the energy. It’s almost like a long jam session, and the song commits the Eurovision sin of taking over half of the song to get to the chorus, which isn’t even that powerful. It’s far from their worst entry – this is a masterpiece compared to “Liubi liubi I love you” or “Change” - but it doesn’t stand out this year.

41. Latvia
Laura Rizzotto - “Funny Girl”
Let’s get this out of the way, this sounds like a ripoff of The Weeknd’s 50 Shades of Grey Song. That song is better, and it isn’t even that good. The chorus is an earworm and she smolders with unrequited love, but there’s something just irritating about it to me.

40. Albania
Eugent Bushpepa - “Mall”
Despite being the first song selected, this song has received a lot of hype which I do not share. This sounds like somethings lots of countries have entered and floundered in the semifinal (Netherlands 2011 maybe, or Switzerland 2009 or Hungary 2012). It’s different from the typical Albanian entry, but with its revamp it loses the power and edge it would need to stand out. In this case, being overproduced and over-orchestrated didn’t help,

39. Iceland
Ari Ólafsson - "Our Choice"
This sounds like it belongs in any Eurovision semifinal since 2004, and it wouldn't qualify in any of them. It is a bland peace-song ballad with cringy lyrics. Just because a cute young man sings it instead of a cute young woman or a not-young anyone doesn’t make it better. However, the music itself is pleasant to listen to.

38. Lithuania
Ieva Zasimauskaitė - "When We're Old"
This song has an infinite sweetness and the chorus is strong. However, it’s almost too delicate to listen to fully or be memorable. Also “from the very first smile I knew I’d walk a mile” is an illogical lyric. If I’m wrong about any of this set of songs, it might be this one.

Ryan O'Shaughnessy - “Together”
This is a bland, inoffensive singer-songwriter pop song. It sounds like it would play on the store radio for Kohl’s (to give non-Americans an idea of the type of inoffensive blandness, I heard a Dansk Melodi Grand Prix song play during the holiday season). There is one thing that stands out: the chorus has a jarring high note, and on a long held “die” of all lyrics. It might be nice and sweet to shop, have a coffee, or fall asleep to, but it’s not very interesting for the idea of a stage show.
36. Switzerland
Zibbz - “Stones” 
This song doesn’t lack for energy, that’s for sure. It has both a powerful instrumentation and message. It sounds like it would be at home in a commercial for a movie or TV show. It’s only this low because the “noooo I ain’t throwin’ stooooones” in the chorus just irritates me.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Eurovision 2018 Preselection Blog Week 10

The long journey is almost over. It's the final week of Eurovision preselections. There are two songs yet to be revealed within the next few days. Next Sunday this blog will shift over to the annual ranking with a super-sized bottom 8 post, but for now here's some gems from the last national finals.

Sweden's Melodifestivalen came to a close with a remarkable runner up. "Every Single Day" by Felix Sandman has such vivid pain. The singer is really not taking his breakup well, and even the "undo the pain" lyric works much better than Sweden's 2014 song (let's be honest, the lyricist is not the best). The melody is a fresh and contemporary ballad, with a little of a K-pop feel too, where each emotion is delicately felt. The line from the second verse about the cup is so intense and creative, the kind of inventive imagery that really only appeared in "If I was Sorry." The song contrasts with his previous Melodifestivalen song in an interesting way. "Gotta Thing About You" was awful musically, lyrically, and visually, so Felix seemingly did need a "breakup" (of the FOOO Conspiracy/FO&O) to blossom.

"Party Voice" by Jessica Andersson also must be highlighted. The lyrics are a little nonsensical but it is a future classic schlager that still feels fresh.

In Norway's Melodi Grand Prix, Ida Maria asked and answered a question with "Scandilove" that nobody was wondering about but everyone can enjoy. The live performance was a (beautiful, probably intentional) mess, but the song itself is an upbeat good time with a good laugh that is needed.

Lithuania finally picked a song too in the last of N selection shows. From the six-song final, Jurgis Brūzga's "4 Love" is a funky slow jam with some cool synths.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Eurovision 2018 Preselection Blog Week 9

It's almost over, the long journey is almost over towards a complete Eurovision lineup. Let's wonder what might have been:

What if Finland sent Saara Aalto's bizarre train prop in “Queens”?

What if Waylon chose “Thanks But No Thanks” for the Netherlands and we had two entries with the same (translated) title?

What if Portugal sent Janeiro with the untitled “(sem titulo)”?

What if San Marino sent Gioavanni Montalbano with “Per quello che mi dai” in their national language?

What if Iceland decided they still wanted to send an empty positive song, but wanted a choir instead and a catchy chorus, so they sent Fókus hópurinn with “Battleline”?

What if Sweden's SVT put their videos on YouTube for international viewing so I could link to the video for Olivia Eliasson's “Never Learn”?

What if Estonia was more chill and aesthetic and chose “Drop that Boogie” by Iiris & Agoh?

 What if Poland joined the group of countries sending pink-haired singers and picked Saszan and “Nie chcę Ciebie mniej”?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Eurovision 2018 Preselection Blog Week 8

We lost some gems this last week in February. “Poison” by Tamar Kaprelian in Armenia was a pop smash which is what people call a “bop” nowadays, I guess. It's a little dated but mid 00s pop perfection. “Svatovi” by Biber & DJ Niko Bravo in Serbia was the right mixture of traditional and electronic with a compelling hook. In Ukraine, Vilna had a sweet and mystical “Forest Song” with an interesting visual performance. And Slovenia should have selected BQL's “Ptica” or “Promise” because they had an exceptional slice of fresh teen pop and more charisma than most Slovenian entries combined. There is a chronic deficit of charisma and good staging in EMA and I think they could have gotten one of Slovenia's best results of late.

In Germany, VoXXclub had the very...German “I mog Di so.” Not exactly highbrow but very fun. In Moldova, Anna Timofei had the ethereal and magical “Endlessly” that was Scandinavian-penned but was reminiscent of Kalafina. Leander Kills brought an opposite sound to Hungary with the metal “Nem szól harang.” In Latvia, Edgars Kreillis had the modern, electronic “Younger Days” that would have fit with their entries from the past few years. Jukebox ft. Bella Santiago brought anthemic power pop to Romania with “Auzi cum bate.” In Sweden, Emmi Christensson had the sweet and theatrical “Icarus.” In Portugal, Sequin performed “All over again” had a good stage name and a very atypical song.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Eurovision 2018 Preselection Blog Week 7

It was a busy weekend where the number of selected songs increased by a third. In Belarus, SHUMA gave a cool and avant garde performance for "Chmarki." In Montenegro, "Dišem" by Nina Petković was the most fresh & upbeat of the whole selection.

 For your Latvian consideration, if they really are having a wildcard after last week's voting, "Running Red Lights" by Katrine Lukins. In host country Portugal, Rita Dias charmed with "Com Gosto Amigo". In Iceland, "Svaka stuð" by Stefanía, Agnes og Regína had a precious performance . In Sweden, "Cry" by Dotter was the best of the rest - and this semifinal was better than last year's but overall it's been uncharacteristically weak. In Hungary, “Életre kel” by Nikoletta Szoke, Attila Kökény and Róbert Szakcsi Lakatos was smooth and pleasant the whole time. Greta Zazza was robbed in Lithuania last year and she was this year too with "Broken Shadows." In Romania, Sergiu Bolotă gave "Every Little Thing" a cool, dark performance.

San Marino's preselection this year has been unusual, that's for sure. IROL is the only Sammarinese performer in the selection and his song with Maltese Jessica, "Stuck Without Me," is cheery. Since he's a local, I hope he goes to Eurovision even if he doesn't this year.

And for something different, my top 3 performances of the week:
3. In Ukraine, Illaria performed "Sila" like a sun goddess.
2. In Estonia, Metsakutsu gave "Koplifornia" an exceptionally glitchy stage performance, very hacker aesthetic. It's not Eurovision-friendly at all but I want to listen to it on a highway bus.
1. ManuElla was back in Slovenia with "Glas" which was the best song in the whole thing. I understand why it didn't go through. Slovenia/EMA has a chronic staging and stage presence problem. They frequently send some of the best songs to Eurovision and they fail to connect with the audience. ManuElla sounded great but visually the performance was too stiff and static. If Slovenia want to do well they can't rely on a good song and have to send a performer with charisma, so hopefully they choose BQL next week.