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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Eurovision 2019: The Entries That Almost Were

How time has flown by! It’s already almost a quarter into 2019 and this year’s Eurovision lineup is all set. For various reasons I wasn’t able to collect my thoughts during preselection season, but before getting into my thoughts on the actual entries I wanted to highlight some of the entries from this year’s national finals. 

Australia’s Courtney Act remained the only performer from this season that I have seen in solo concert. She was great so it was hard to say that “Fight For Love” wasn’t on the right choice. The verses take too long to get going and the chorus has some really awkward high notes. It’s a house We Got Love with a sprinkling of If Love Was a Crime, but without its catchiness. After a month I liked it a lot more through exposure therapy and at least it’s gaining traction on Spotify. 

The Electric Fields were the real breakout stars of Australia’s first national final. “2000 and Whatever” is a new age banger with a unique soulful voice that completely stomps over the competition, but in an uplifting way. We could have heard Its downfall might have been the amount of vocal sampling both in the lead and backing vocals which would have been hard to reproduce live. I hope this isn’t the last opportunity for us to hear Australian Aboriginal languages at Eurovision. 

Speaking of new languages, Bella Santiago’s “Army of Love” was the best song in the Romanian national final. This slice of ethno-dance-pop would have been a natural fit for the Eurovision stage, with a tropical update for the late 2010’s, but the real unique selling point was the Tagalog rap bridge. She would have earned the Filipino/a diaspora vote for sure. 

The final lineup is missing a good, strong, catchy rock song, maybe because by now the genre is a little dated (not like that stops anyone in Eurovision). The best such contender was “Cosa ti aspetti da me” by Loredana Bertè in Italy. Musically the successor to last year’s entry (listen to them one after the other, the intros echo each other) with a classic gravely Italian vocal. The melody is immediate and I can’t stop listening to this one. 

Portugal has really stepped up their game after winning and seemed to have more good songs in this year’s Festival da Canção than the entire 2000s. “Igual a Ti” by NBC was a powerful emotional ballad that might have been undid by the overemotive, theatrical gesturing in its performance. I want to find a time machine and drop it in a random year before 2016 so it can get a top 10 like it deserves. 

On the opposite end of the quality spectrum, the Belarussian open audition selection brought us “Kinky Boots” by the UK’s own Daz Sampson & Nona. This is a blessing that would have been contemporary only in the Gina G days and was outdated by the time semifinals were introduced. If it did not have contemporary technological references, I would have assumed this was written in the mid-to-late 1990s. It would be completely horrible for eurovision but it brings me such nostalgia for those Dance Dance Revolution days when Konami kept releasing new entries.

 Another audition round casualty was “Ca Adriano Celentano” by LUME from Moldova. Though this is also dated, especially those English lyrics in the verses, it’s unmistakably Eurovision fun. It’s basically “Hora Din Moldova” 10 years later, which isn’t a bad thing. 

Estonia’s Eesti Laul has a bit of a reputation for offbeat and experimental songs, despite safer winners as of late. The reputation was reconfirmed this year by “Wo sind die katzen?” by Kaia Tamm. It’s an electroclash song with lyrics in German and meowing. Judging the song without the live performance would be a mistake, with its renegade Alice in Wonderland catgirl and superimposed cat heads. 

Sweden time! This year’s Melodifestivalen was notable for the number of good songs staying in the semifinals, most notably “Tempo” by Margaret, but my favorite of the bunch was “Somebody Wants” by The Lovers of Valdaro. This funky synthpop song immediately let me to look up their back catalog on Spotify, which is far too short. I hope this isn’t the last we see of them. 

Melodifestivalen was also personally notable for two past winners with songs that were better than the ones they won with. Anne Bergendahl was back with a schlager vengeance with "Ashes to Ashes."  Impressively, the lyrics are made up of incomprehensible imagery to surpass her first song (“Like the top of the mountain/Like a wishing well fountain/I am the luck of the draw”). And I far prefer “I Do” by Arvingarna to “Eloise,” both thematically and musically. 

 Of course, it wouldn't be appropriate to talk about Eurovision entries that missed out without talking about the controversial selection in Ukraine which ultimately withdrew. "Siren Song" by MARUV is contemporary, sexy, and mysterious, pulling you deeper into dangerous water like the mythological creature of its title. MARUV and her song will be sorely missed, and would have been in my and many others' top 10s.

Next week, I will start my ranking of all of this year's Eurovision entries, in reverse order as in all past years.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Eurovision 2018 Predictions

The rehearsals are over and it's finally time to make some binding predictions. I am flying to Lisbon tomorrow to attend my second Eurovision and won't have much time to write due to sightseeing and other commitments, so here are my predictions based on the reports and short video clips of the rehearsals. Not much has changed from my pre-rehearsal predictions, and it's especially hard to make predictions this year. There are plenty of songs that I wish could go to the final, but here are my predictions for likely qualifiers.

Semifinal 1 Qualifiers

Ireland have a good position and the running order and finally learned how to stage, and Estonia seems to blow people away. I sacrificed my favorites Belgium, Croatia, and Finland because they have less reliable support.

Semifinal 2 Qualifiers

I'm swapping out Montenegro for Denmark. To defend my choices, I still think Russia the country has a lot of support even if there are stronger performances, and I think Romania also has a good amount of support plus the song will appeal to juries.

Before rehearsals, my winner pick was that my brain said Israel, my heart said France, and my gut said Sweden. The first two are very popular and don't need explanation. Sweden wasn't and still isn't on anyone's radar, but I think that in the absence of a unanimous winner it could sneak through in a compromise because of its unique show, like 2015. Other songs that could make satisfactory winners are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, or Spain. There's something about those songs that could be eternal and endlessly covered, redone, or remembered. Personally, as much as I love France's song, it would be great if a country wins that has a longer or less convenient flight from New York to the host city, because preparing to attend this contest has done a number on personal commitments.

Good luck to all the participants!

Eurovision 2018 Song Ranking Part 8

5. Belgium
Sennek - "A Matter of Time"
There is something really special about this song. It’s not just a sultry bond-theme type ballad by a smoky voice. Out of all the songs in this contest, it would make the best vaporwave sample. Try listening to it sped up to 1.25 speed or slowed down to 0.75 speed – it works both ways. If Blanche brought the lights of a fast paced youthful city, this is a lounge singer in a dive bar in a cyberpunk city noir (basically put this on the soundtrack of VAA-11 HALL-A or something similar).

4. Sweden
Benjamin Ingrosso - "Dance You Off"
Sweden continues their killer stream with this really a e s t h e t i c song (and it's not just because of the music video) about trying to cheer yourself up through heartbreak. It can't really be said about this country, but as an entry it feels like a dark horse. This throwback dance pop is a little funky and very synthy Maybe it’s the high voice but it’s definitely along the lines of Michael Jackson homages of late. The lyrics are cute, especially “I dug you like you were treasure”. I love love love the vocal distortion on the bridge. It goes creative places with the melody line and does some cool things with breathiness. Way better than "Good Loving," this is an entry for the Spotify age.

3. Bulgaria
Equinox - "Bones"
If this is the de facto American entry, then that is all right with me. This is a blending of 5 (or 6 voices) where you can't tell where one ends and one begins Obviously, the Americans are the lead vocalists and why not, they are the strongest. By the end it’s a frenzy of vocal theatrics and climaxes that culminates into one spiritual wail. The lyrical premise is a little flimsy – they say its about a deep, pure, higher love, but to me it sounds like a pick up line like “I don’t just love your body, I love your soul” to try to sound deep and spiritual. Or maybe it's a neg, like you love someone despite their unattractive appearance? The music itself is nice and dark and synthy with a lot of spacey sounds. It sounds cold and mysterious, like they are sucking you into that black hole.

2. Finland
Saara Aalto - "Monsters"
After so many years of this blog, it should be clear by now what kind of trash I am. I love schlager, and I love a big hooky dance song. This is a real banger, no questions about it. With a winning writing pedigree, this has the biggest hook of the contest. I was not a fan of Saara prior to this contest but her vocals are on point, and she is a true dance diva here. This is a perfect chorus, with a little bit of a late 90s or early 00s feel in the melody but current enough in production. The vocal acrobatics during the bridge and final chorus are also sublime.

1. France
Madame Monsieur - "Mercy"
This song is the complete package. The music is a blend of electronic and acoustic, with snaps during the verses and a poppy drum machine in the chorus. The song itself is catchy – the chorus especially sticks in your head and has just enough beginner French to be memorable to the novice ear . The wordplay in the bridge can be easily understood, but works even if you don’t. And of the lyrics – they have the strongest message of the contest. The selection’s intent is up for debate, but “refugees are people too, especially refugee children” is heartfelt and should not be controversial. The fact that the subject(‘s mother) of the song approves means that there’s no issue with benefiting from other people’s pain. I got a little choked up during the English version at Eurovision In Concert too. It does share the situation with my top pick last year of losing something when it got cut to 3 minutes, but unlike that one it’s hardly noticeable that anything was cut. This version of the song feels complete.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Eurovision 2018 Predictions: Before Rehearsals

Predictions are always hard because even after watching rehearsals people always predict last placers to qualify. Still, the chances become much clearer if a performance is especially effective, or if they are disastrous. A magical staging can elevate a mediocre song, but poor performance or failed gimmick is much more likely to kill a great song. Here are my predictions for qualifiers before the rehearsals with the likeliness they are to change.

Semifinal 1
Definite unless there is an unlikely disaster: Israel, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Armenia
(Azerbaijan always squeaks through no matter what. I’m not sold on Israel live from the preview parties but she has huge appeal to a female audience).
Definite unless there is a possible disaster: Finland, Austria, Greece
(Fan favorite dance songs like Finland squeak through unless they are embarrassing, of which this has a high risk)

If amazing: Belgium, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Albania
(Estonia is gimmicky but gimmicky things do often go through. Lithuania also seems like it could be a qualifier but it could be too delicate to stick.)

Gonna take a miracle: FYR Macedonia, Switzerland, Ireland

No chance: Iceland, Belarus

My predicted qualifiers are all of the top two tiers, plus Belgium and the Czech Republic. Axel Hirsoux sacrificed his dear mother to secure Belgium’s good results and the endurance of that sacrifice will depend on Sennek’s vocal performance. If Finland has embarrassing props or costumes, then replace them with Croatia.

Semifinal 2
Definite unless there is an unlikely disaster: Ukraine, Sweden, Russia, Moldova, Hungary, Norway, Romania
(I believe Russia will pull through on the performance. Romania have qualified with worse. Norway will be such a crowd-pleaser)
In if sounding good: Poland, Australia

In if amazing:Denmark, Netherlands, Montenegro

Gonna take a miracle: Georgia, Malta, Latvia, Slovenia

No chance: San Marino, Serbia

My predicted qualifiers are all of the top two tiers plus Montenegro. Balkan ballads are still crowd-pleasers and I’m not sure how much Denmark or Montenegro will connect with the audience unless they have exceptional staging.

Eurovision 2018 Song Ranking Part 7

10. Austria
Cesar Sampson - “Nobody But You”
As far as Austrian entries with gospel influences go, this blows “The Secret is Love” out of the water. The backing choir and handclap percussion start up adding depth in the first chorus and intensifies until it reaches the dizzying heights of the bridge and the final chorus that takes everyone to church. The singer’s yearning is at a deep spiritual level that fills the room. Speaking of spiritual love, Symphonix International is clearly the new Eurovision force to be reckoned with since 2016. Even when they haven’t done well, they’ve brought quality songs that only suffered because of other variables like the performer or staging. If they get the backing vocal mix right live there’s a lot of potential. The only downside is the start is a little slow (but nowhere near as slow as “The Secret is Love” is the ending is a bit abrupt.

9. Italy
Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro - “Non mi avete fatto niente”
There was a turning point when it was longer acceptable to write a "peace" song in Eurovision and instead it becomes an "antiwar" song. Perhaps the dual turning point is "What If" and "1944", with the actual change happening in 2015 with the cynical montage to the former. Europe was coming off of higher tensions at the beginning of the contest and was still divided by the Iron Curtain in the peak "peace song" years, and the Yugoslav wars in 1990's had some songs about their pain but not generically antiwar, but maybe it changes when a country has to compete alongside their invader (see “Peace Will Come” and the immediate context). “NMAFN” on the other hand doesn't know if it is an anti-terrorism or anti-war song. The lyrics say "you didn't do anything to me" and well...yeah, they didn't. They refer to multiple terrorism incidents in and out of Europe, none of which were in Italy. Is the song about the devastation of war, or holding your head high and living despite being affected by terrorism? The political implications of each is different, and they go hand in hand. It seems to be effective if you're talking about your (country's) specific pain, or a general comment on the world. This is not to say you only have to write about your own experience (obviously see France this year) but the message seems unclear. I often wonder lately how it would pan out if France and Italy swapped song subjects this year. As for the music, it’s catchy pop/rock in a Muse/Coldplay way, but much more tolerable than either. It's super catchy enough to melt away a good number of the concerns. I love gritty Italian voices like Fabrizio, and Ermal provides a gentler counterpoint. Regardless of the implications above, the lyrics are euphonic, with poignant percussive lines like "non esiste bomba pacifista”.

8. Ukraine
Melovin - “Under the Ladder”
I'm not really sure what this song means, something along the lines of a teen's dark poetry ("Tangle of my innocence inside/Faith’s bout to be severed")? If that's so, the singer is spot on. Melovin has a dark, commanding voice and can sing anyone's teen poetry anytime. He is the alternative teen idol this contest needs, and probably the biggest one this year. Unlike last year's idol Kristian Kostov, Melovin has a maturity and intensity to his voice and performance that goes beyond his 20 years. There's nothing at all delicate about this. The music it's set to goes perfectly too, the poppier side of piano-driven rock, with big dramatic choruses.

7. Azerbaijan
Aisel - “X My Heart”
My feelings about lyrics in Eurovision are irrational. I like creative or meaningful lyrics in English and Romance languages. I’m indifferent to lyrics in other languages unless they Google Translate to either something really heartfelt in just the right way or something really irritating or offensive. There are a lot of English lyrics that are generic and I don’t think about them much. Like many people, I am sensitive to when lyrics have bizarre grammar or word choices that native speakers wouldn’t use. But in this case, like their song last year, I don’t mind the lyrics. “Luna moon me up?” Sure! Listening with the assumption that the words were chosen for the way they sound rather than their meaning erases this problem. I’ll take the creativity of “stronger than cannonballs” any day over rhyming fire and desire. On the musical side, “X My Heart” is a big soulless overproduced upbeat pop song, which is why it’s such a guilty pleasure. It seems silly to say this, but Azerbaijan’s song is underrated this year. The chorus is instantly catchy, despite the (lack of) meaning. Aisel’s voice is clear and smooth, with shades of Lady Gaga. The whole package is an only-in-Eurovision confection that could easily be tweaked for the outside world.

6. Cyprus
Eleni Foureira - “Fuego”
Cyprus has had some really unremarkable entries in the past couple years. Not since “La La Love” have they had a great song (I almost forgot “An Me Thimase” when recounting their entries). This is kind of similar to “La La Love” in that it's a dance pop song, although this is way sexier. Where Ivi was teeny pop, Eleni brings mature eros. At once it's both Eurovisiony - not too far a departure from “LLL” or any of the 'ethno'-uptempo pop from the past 10-15 years – and contemporary – that kind of sound is back in style in the outside world and it has a tropical beat. “Fuego” conjures up a hot night alternately spent dancing and laying breathless in awe.

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.