I'm extra-early in doing my annual Eurovision Song Contest competing songs write-up this year, thanks to the prompt reminder provided by the Eurovision FB group. The contest itself isn't until late May.
Best Song: Germany - Lena - "Satellite"
Best Video: Spain - Daniel Diges - "Algo Pequeñito"
Other Videos of Interest
Best SF: Bulgaria - Miro - "Angel si ti"
Best Male Anthem: Norway - Didrik Solli-Tangen - "My Heart Is Yours"
Best Female Anthem: Ireland - Niamh Kavanagh - "It's For You"
Best Rock: Bosnia & Herzegovina - Vukašin Brajić - "Thunder and Lightning"
Best-looking accordion player: Finland - Kuunkuiskaajat - "Työlki Ellää"
Distinctions which aren't recommendations
Most Bizarre: Estonia - Malcolm Lincoln - "Siren"
Worst Title: Latvia - Aisha - "What For? (Only Mr. God Knows Why)"
You can watch them all here.
Juliana Pasha - "It's All About You"
Classic, clubby, danceable song edging into the "I can't live without you" territory. The video is pretty nifty, a chaotic series of energyless fairy tale female lead singer sequences in sylph or princess shift dresses in a woodland mostly populated by herself. The male figure is a non-entity. Notably, features the no-longer-manufactured Polaroid camera.
Eva Rivas - "Apricot Stone"
Not bad, but I suspect I'll be remembering it more for its politicality and seasonality than for anything else. It sounds about as political as Eurovision gets, which is to say, not very. There's an ongoing metaphor about the apricot stone given to the lead singer from her mother as a girl; now far away from home, she'll cherish those deep roots into a healthy tree despite violent winds. Or something like that. Video is of the song being recorded, with the producer and singer looking nicely-impassioned with their song.
Safura - "Drip Drop"
I knew from the title that this would be a ridiculous song. The verses are generic, about relationship problems. The first half of the refrain is belted out. The second half of it is almost hip-hoppy. The singer's hair and clothing came out of the '80s. The male dancers are kind of random.
3+2 - "Butterflies"
Operatic soft-rock easy listening feel-good inspirational. Three women, two men, an opera house and lots of butterflies. Maybe I would have liked it more if all the singers hadn't looked totally vacant-eyed? It feels like it was written as background music for a commercial.
Tom Dice - "Me and my Guitar"
This might be a decent song. It had a good, earnest indie-pop feel to it, but I'd have to listen again without the distracting video to find out. We're out west in the US, above LA, on a road in the middle of no where, in the desert with tumble weed, and a boy and his guitar are hoping there're ways to make up for having gone wrong. Hilariously, the guitar is pawned at the beginning of the song - the pawnbroker says it's for $30, but he visibly hands over three one dollar bills.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Vukašin Brajić - "Thunder and Lightning"
Angry hard rock love song in only slightly odd English! "Thunder and Lightning holding hands" is the charming line from the refrain. I kind of like it, but without all the random smiley people who came out on stage near the end.
Miro - "Angel si ti"
I usually like Eurovision songs much better when I can't understand the lyrics, although there are exceptions. This is a happy-with-a-dark-side dance-rock piece of an angel who comes from the sun? to Earth? where he walks through dark urban streets inspiring people to follow him like the Pied Piper, and then he turns many of them into angels too and disappears off to Jupiter. Or something. It made me gently happy.
Feminnem - "Lako je sve"
Three women in princess-prom dresses act sultry. I'm guessing it was a song about heartbreak. It was a soft rock anthem. One that might be better without its video, but I've already forgotten how it goes.
Jon Lilygreen & The Islanders - "Life Looks Better In Spring"
I got distracted by thinking that surely that was Heathrow T5 featured in that video. An impassioned young man with a mixed-gender backing band and singers hopes that his love is requited and that his relationship isn't over. The refrain stands a chance of staying with me despite including the unfortunate line, "Tell me about your feelings."
Later: Yep, the refrain resurfaced from my subconscious yesterday for me to sing along to. I couldn't remember at the time which entry it had come from.
Chanée and N'evergreen - "In A Moment Like This"
That's more like it! Big, well-structured, polished pop duet, including key change, hopeful about the future of a relationship currently on the rocks. He's wearing skin-tight velvet bellbottoms, but on stage, on the night often looks very different indeed. With the right performance and costumes, this could do reasonably well.
Malcolm Lincoln - "Siren"
Strikingly odd. A somewhat abstract indie piece with synthesizers about wasted years and getting through the night. Featuring blurry, angle-headed-masked goblin-like person trudging around enormous snowy fields and woodlands in the depth of winter. Refreshing for its sheer difference from the other entries.
Later: This video just gets weirder and weirder for me.
Gjoko Taneski - "Jas Ja Imam Silata"
A song with one good melodic phrase and a whole bunch of filler, including a rap sequence. Four middle-aged men on a stage with a lot of flashy green dots.
Kuunkuiskaajat - "Työlki Ellää"
A chirpy folk song with happy singers who were enjoying performing, a dancing fiddler and a lovely, flirtatious accordion player dressed as a Grecian goddess. It sounded like it could well be a direct response to last year's Norwegian fairy tale win, but I don't know Finnish and haven't looked up the lyrics. It sounded like it might well have a moral. It could well be ruined in performance by really stupid outfits.
Jessy Matador - "Allez Olla Olé"
A straightforward dance number with very few lyrics. Basically, "Everybody dance". The video is mostly people dancing in a club or writhing for the camera in a locker room. Its honesty is rather refreshing at this point, as is the appearance of so many black people, a real rarity in Eurovision music videos.
Sofia Nizharadze - "Shine"
Inspirational solo singer anthem, belted out and hopeful. A perfectly decent example of its genre. She stands on the stage in two different dresses and sings her song. The lights do most of the moving. Confusingly, it has the same name as the piece composed for the intermission, but it's definitely a different piece of music.
Lena - "Satellite"
This video took a minute or two to grow on me, but by the end of it, I can say, the singer is fabulous. She's fabulous because she's quirky, she's cute, and she has more personality than all the other singers put together so far. She's not bland, the way most of them are. She has the best facial expressions, and she's enjoying singing the song. Oh and the song? it's an obsessive love song, a bit jivey and drums. My guess is that this is one which will do better in video than it will on stage.
Later: It stands up better on stage than I would have thought based on the television program in which she won the right to represent Germany and based on a cover of the song. Later still: I like this song more and more.
Giorgos Alkaios & Friends - "OPA"
Greek folk music, at its best when overlaid with industrial elements. Mostly, the video is about the manly backing dancers, in their leather-and-chains, leaping about atheletically.
Hera Björk - "Je Ne Sais Quoi"
It feels like a Eurovision classic. A big disco anthem sung by a solo female, about her crush: "You have that special something." The lyrics aren't interesting, but the song is one of the few so far with a key change to up the ante towards the end, and it's sung with gusto.
Niamh Kavanagh - "It's For You"
Now she can SING. Of course, she's already brought home Eurovision once. This song is a big belter, an inspirational in which the "you" is almost certainly God, but there's almost nothing overtly religious about the lyrics themselves. ("When I cry, it's for the lonely.") This song stands a chance of doing very well indeed. Indeed, even if it's not the sort I'm ever likely to vote for, I can feel myself almost compelled to sing the refrain to myself while wandering around the house. The video itself is visually dull as dishwater.
Later, still humming the refrain: I realize that it reminds me, melodically, of "Let the bells ring out for Christmas" from the Toys soundtrack.
Harel Skaat - "Milim"
Just when I started to get so bored of this earnest symphonic pop piece that my attention had wandered off entirely, it went big, loud, strong, and with nifty skeletal tree silhouettes against a red background animated on the walls. Maybe it would be more interesting if I understood Hebrew?
Aisha - "What For? (Only Mr. God Knows Why)"
That's a weird video. I mean, on one hand, it's a straightforward "Only Mr. God Knows Why" pop song with hip-hop elements. ("Why do people live until they die?") On the other hand, it looks like it was filmed in the '50s, and the very pale singer didn't always look wholly engaged with what she was singing.
Later: I feel bitter. This song was stuck in my head the next day, and I didn't want it to be.
InCulto - "East European Funk"
My guess is that this is a novelty video that will do pretty well. It does what it says. It's "Eastern European Funk", blatantly catering to the bloc vote. It has kazoos and a ukelele. It has young men with skinny legs in '70s plaid skinny trousers and skinny ties. It has a mild charm.
Thea Garrett - "My Dream"
A Liza Minelli-clone sings a generic inspirational anthem with fairy tale references, while a creepy birdman with wedding-dress wings dances in the background.
Sun Stroke Project & Olia Tira - "Run Away"
At its heart, it's a generic low-key dance song without quite enough tune or lyrics to go around. Around the edges though, it has depth. The electric violin caught my attention at the beginning, and the alto sax was a striking addition. There's a nice edginess to it, visually confrontational in an effective way. So, lots of good bits, but it didn't quite come together for me.
Sieneke - "Ik Ben Verliefd (Sha-La-Lie)"
It's the theme song for a '70s kid's show on a carousel ride. It's perky, it's silly, and the dancers had to shuffle back and forth because they were in such high heels.
Didrik Solli-Tangen - "My Heart Is Yours"
This song made me happy. In part, it's a totally superficial song, a Eurovision extrusion, a grand ballad with cheesy lyrics and key change, this time sung by a young man. It really reminds me of another song I haven't been able to name yet. What charmed me was that, by means of the simple metaphor which governs the entire song, cast himself in the role of the moon and his loved one in the role of the sun. Now the gender of his loved one isn't named, but since women are usually stuck being the moon, it's endearing to have the metaphor reversed for a change. Also, Norway is doing dancing violinists for the second year running. Overall, this worked for me far more than any of the other anthems have so far this year.
Later: I occasionally find myself humming the refrain. The melody is the most compelling part by far.
Marcin Mrozinski - "Legenda"
A slightly unnerving song with fairy tale elements, swearing undying love but with an angry, mixed-messages black-and-white video. I really didn't like it at first, but the refrain has grown on me a bit. It's not a comfortable piece, either musically or in video.
Filipa Azevedo - "Há Dias Assim"
A young woman with a ballet-skirt prom dress sings with passion, starting out as lounge-pop and ending up as inspirational. It sounds like sound about be pressed down by past relationships, and now she'll make it through and do well for herself through either hard work or else because her heart's in the right place. It's too bad her vocal range cuts out along the way. A candle gets blown out halfway through and the pianist proved mysteriously expendable.
Paula Seling & Ovid - "Playing with Fire"
At first glance, it looked good: twinned keyboards with a glass table between them. Woman in a leather catsuit. Flames. But it is one of those songs which would have been better with incomprehensible lyrics, as the ones we're given imply that fighting=romantic intrigue. Sometimes it does, but for everyone's safety, I'd rather not have them so simplistically equated. The woman in a catsuit has to make do with a slumpy guy in maroon trousers whose head twitches when he sings "Do you know how you make me feel?" (Clearly, the answer is "twitchy".) By the end, I was getting bored.
Peter Nalitch & Band - "Lost and Forgotten"
I would really have liked these guys if I'd encountered them at a folk festival or performing at a local pub. It's a slightly drab, laconic, sad song, good for drowning one's sorrows, and culminates in a pleasant little counterpoint. For Eurovision, it's hard to see this making much of an impression.
Milan Stanković - "Ovo je Balkan"
A camp young man dressed in white sings an charmingly knowing song with a flirtatious performance about the Balkans. I know because it's in the title. Also, his backing dancers were, for most of the song, dressed in traditional outfits, despite their odd gymnastics. It sometimes reminds me of anime. Bonus: it's the first song so far to feature, in video, costume changes on stage. Multiple costume changes on stage. I kind of like it, as a decent exemplar of Eurovision silliness, but it's clear that it will be mocked remorselessly on the night.
Kristina - "Horehronie"
LARPers dressed as wood elves sing about the landscape! The woman has really high boots and heels! And then they magically change costumes using special sticks and become drab people dressed up poshly. Forgettable song, memorable outfits.
Ansambel Roka Žlindre & Kalamari - "Narodno Zabavni Rock"
Good old-fashioned rock n' roll, alternating with bouts of folk music. Has charm and enthusiasm, but feels very dated.
Daniel Diges - "Algo Pequeñito"
Now THAT's a video. Wow. (Keep in mind, my standards are not highest right now.) A slightly creepy MC in a black-and-white world brings mannequin parts to life. He's our host, with knowing glances to the camera. A full-color circus appears, full of unsettling clowns and trapeeze artists. Is the woman a romantic intrigue? Is life a wind-up ballerina? I don't even know what the lyrics mean, to this accordion-rich circus waltz, but I want to show this video to other people now. Go on. Watch it and tell me what you think.
Anna Bergendahl - "This is My Life"
A reassuring anthem in praise of being oneself and that's it's totally okay to be average. It doesn't go anywhere, but the basic refrain isn't bad. Sung by solo woman in white dress.
Michael von der Heide - "Il Pleut de L'Or"
A man silhouetted against a white screen strikes a well-muscled pose and starts to sing a disco number. Sometimes we see him in a gold jacket, and sometimes his hands go motion-capture blurry.
MaNga - "We Could Be The Same"
Ooh, it's a political one. Angry melodic rap-pop whose lyrics could go either way on the politics spectrum ("We could be the same, no matter what they say."), but whose love song is to someone the lead singer of this band has never even met. The band is posed with static violence all around them: barbed wire, a woman in a gas mask, a white flag, a black flag, a man in a riot mask, another man with lead pipe raised to strike a fleeing person, helicopters hovering overhead. Not a bad song as these things go.
Alyosha - "Sweet People"
An angry woman sings about the end being near because we've wrecked the planet and the next generation (possibly through video games) and there's just no hope for us. Mostly dreary.
Josh Dubovie - "That Sounds Good to Me".
It sounds like a second-rate late '70s/early '80s piece, possibly one which made it to the top of the charts at the time, but which has been understandably forgotten since. That said, I was clapping along in delight after the previous piece. It's a positive, upbeat song which invokes "happy ever after".
Later: I love thinking of this song as paired with the Ukraine's entry. Each is such a useful antidote to the other. Neither is particularly good.
Since I haven't bothered linking the individual songs, here's the link again for watching the videos.