This year's trends: Casually apocalyptic lyrics. Songs in country-native languages. (I doubt it's the rise of national pride; I think it's because lots of countries don't want the expense of hosting the contest.) They're a tame bunch of videos overall, compared to most years.
The song that keeps earworming me: Malta - Gianluca - Tomorrow
A song I really like: Belgium - Roberto Bellarosa - Love Kills
Best "let's improve humanity" song: Russia - Dina Garipova - What If
Best Les Miserables derivative: Denmark - Emmelie de Forest - Only Teardrops
Best cinematography: Iceland - Eythor Ingi- Ég Á Líf
Most amusing video: Greece - Koza Mostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis - Alcohol Is Free
Best video to watch without sound: Ukraine - Zlata Ognevich - Gravity
Albania - Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko - Identitet
A yelly heavy rock song largely filmed in the stark white contrasts of a large-scale demolition site. Some really elegant visuals, including those of a dozens of abstract glass figurines with clubs melting slowing into each other and the surface they're on. The ending of the band playing a concert was kind of a disappointment in contrast. It's sung in Albanian, but the lyrics in English are delicately political, of separation, of being raised in places alien from birth, of shared language, and where freedom might be found.
Armenia - Dorians - Lonely Planet
The band are moving as motifs on their own t-shirts in this black and white video. It's about either being stuck in eastern Europe or perhaps saving the environment, ending with optimism. ("We can save you. We can stop it.") The guitar riff was the best part.
Austria - Natália Kelly - Shine
Is this a hair product commercial? It could double as one. It's meant to be a "seize your inner potential" song, although "still alive and breathing" isn't aiming as high as one good. Still, it's a good start. Features a little bit of spray paint and paint ball.
Azerbaijan - Farid Mammadov - Hold Me
Straightforward, earnest, yearning ballad with the requisite key change. But yet again, Azerbaijan have a really strong entry. I can remember this one! [Also, the stage show has a really, really neat dancer in a glass box playing the singer's shadow. Worth seeing just for that.]
Belarus - Alyona Lanskaya - Solayoh
"The sun is always shining", she sings in the darkness of a staged bar. It's a chacha number with a beautiful people in black-and-white outfits. Oh good, it does finish outdoors at a beach with the sun out. Nothing special as a dance number per se, although I am partial to chacha rhythms.
Belgium - Roberto Bellarosa - Love Kills
This one appeals to me, musing, thoughtful song about the pain of being in love and the deathly fear of disappointment. It's a small, singable song.
Bulgaria - Elitsa Todorova, Stoyan Yankulov - Samo Shampioni (Only Champions)
A dance number in Bulgarian with lots of drums and a bagpiper. Lots of drum playing, together and in parallel on big vertical drumkits. This one felt interminable when watched live, but the video - which is a whole lot like the stage show give or take the bagpiper being creepier on stage - is going faster with flashing lights and me typing while I watch it. It's not bad. It's just not structured or particularly interesting to me.
Croatia - Klapa s mora - Mižerja
Six men in casual suits close singing a charming little old-fashioned-sounding number, not that I know what it's about. The website tells me it's a special world heritage style from Dalmatia! Lovely singing. This is Croatia educating Europe about what it's good at, not being competitive in Eurovision. The website tells me the title translates as "Hard Times". "Oh, my rose so lovely, / All my life I’ll care, / And my final crust of bread / With you I’ll gladly share."
Cyprus - Despina Olympiou - An Me Thimasai
Gorgeous scenery. Big lush landscapes! Beautiful ruins! The song is pop, but has a country-mournful element to it. Unlike many of these videos, Cyprus is providing a proper video. Change of key gives us our singer wearing red and less of it, running through a dark forest.
Denmark - Emmelie de Forest - Only Teardrops
Eighteenth-century military tatoo/pop, with penny whistle and drums, young woman in ragged white dress. Is this last year's winner crossed with Les Miserable as a stage show? Message: love is a difficult fight. A favorite to win apparently. [And it was going through my head the next day.]
Estonia - Birgit - Et Uus Saaks Alguse
Straightforward ballad in Estonian. Give or take language, it could be a closing credits song for a Miyazaki film. The video is the singer dressed in white singing in front of an audience. Happily, she looks like she's pleasantly pleased to be there singing, even if her song requires earnestness.
F.Y.R. Macedonia - Esma & Lozano - Pred Da Se Razdeni
Silhouettes of couples doing dramatic dips while dancing against a clock. Earnest, yearning ballad - but wait! There's also bright singing from a woman swathed in scarlet singing to a faster beat! It's a traditional/modern-sounding fusion piece which perks up the ballad nicely.
Finland - Krista Siegfrids - Marry Me
Stalker video with rightly dubious groom and a forced tattoo. But with a cutely enthusiastic leather-clad, fierce would-be bride.
France - Amandine Bourgeois - L'enfer Et Moi
A faintly jazz-influenced rock song with a destructive singer in a fluttery dress, doing alchemy and stabbing a voodoo doll inamongst candles and dispair.
Georgia - Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani - Waterfall
I like this video! It has a hedge maze! A sunset! Modern outfits with vaguely ancient Greek or Victorian (depending on the outfit) influences! It's a cozy pop-rock duet about how wonderful it is to be mutually in love, two people roaming the outdoors until they find each other in the sun-drenched hills, the train of her white dress floating behind her like a tasteful distillation of clichés.
Germany - Cascada - Glorious
Lyrics are almost all clichés, and the whole song feels old. I think it could be an effective, enjoyable song with the volume pumped up and dancing; but on video I'm distracted by the singer's odd outfit; I don't think that bodice fits her well and pencil skirts weren't made to have short netting trains. I suspect that lyric wasn't really "Caribou my destiny".
Greece - Koza Mostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis - Alcohol Is Free
It's pretty funny. Kilt-clad singers find a mustachio'd guy everywhere they go.
Hungary - ByeAlex - Kedvesem (Zoohacker Remix)
I'm developing a dislike of songs which animate their lyrics as part of their videos. Quirky lightly animated characters. Quiet alternative song which could well grow on me long-term but the non-stop animated motion of the video isn't physically pleasant for me to watch.
Iceland - Eythor Ingi- Ég Á Líf
Quite a video! A man gets into a boat and goes fishing with gorgeous cinematography! And then there's a drawing come to life/puppet show which explains the plot transitions: a rainstorm, a cut finger, jumping into the icy cold Icelandic waters. It's a charming folkish song which could work as a lullaby; but the strikingness of the video rather distracted me from it while watching.
Ireland - Ryan Dolan - Only Love Survives
Dance song with solar system animations and ISS footage and lots of people making heart shapes with their hands. "If it's the end of time, love will remain." Destructive lyrics - effectively, even if the planet is destroyed and the sun burns up, love will still survive. (Perhaps it's the force holding the universe together?)
Israel - Moran Mazor - Rak Bishvilo
Musing, yearning ballad sung on stage. Not immediately striking (and didn't strike audiences either since it didn't make it out of the semis.) But it has potential for growing on me long-term, I think.
Italy - Marco Mengoni - L'Essenziale
Thoughtful, very competent introspective song. The singer at home, playing on the piano, running in the street, diving clothed into a swimming pool, a violinist playing her instrument underwater!
Latvia - PeR - Here We Go
Enthusiastic, happy punk-looking singers with a pop-rap number. Straight stage video. Some neat electronic instruments.
Lithuania - Andrius Pojavis - Something
I feel like I'm forgetting this one even as I listen to it. A drab song by a weak singer. His voice might well work better in other contexts, but it's not doing much for me here.
Malta - Gianluca - Tomorrow
Instrumentalists gather in the park, happy to see each other. A cute song with characters introduced by the lyrics. "She's like tomorrow, oh so distant, she just wants to play." It's a song about potential and hope, about a relationship that could potentially work out with a bit of a gamble. [The video is better than the live show version because it has the character drama in it and is missing the annoying projected lyrics.]
Moldova - Aliona Moon - O Mie
Heavily stylized singer with sculptural hair in a sideways quiff. Her skirt has a lot of projected action happening on it - storms, lightning. Projected planets on the walls. Despairing ballad.
Montenegro - Who See - Igranka
Angry hiphop dance number. Sultry woman doing gymnastics on a chair. Guys in full hazmat suits with a locked suitcase. Venetian carnival costumes. Cage match between women. Most of the women get to wear a lot more clothing than the women do. From the English translation: "I can't paranoia no more, everything smells on good party".
Norway - Margaret Berger - I Feed You My Love
A focused, slowly driven dance number with flashing lights. ("You place a knife against my back and dare me to face the attack." "I have the future on my tongue.") She sings it straight, in ankle-length tight white skirt.
Romania - Cezar - It's My Life
Really funny at first because so startling. A camp male operatic soprano with a classical-pop tune and backup dancers dressed hip-hop style. Very earnest lyrics about sharing one's life with the object of one's desire.
Russia - Dina Garipova - What If
Good start! Hopeful song about peace, working together, a better future. Lovely, tasteful performance too, elegant woman in black with black-dressed string players behind her and swirling white lights on a dark stage, and an audience responding to her song and starting to smile or hold hands. The plot arc is that at the end, the audience is cheering enthusiastically and holding hands - and, as a plot arc, it works.
San Marino - Valentina Monetta - Crisalide (Vola)
She cuddles up to her white globe, musing on appearance and transformation. A dark video in its way. Spinning gymnasts hanging from suspended cloth. An elderly couple blowing bubbles. The importance of change in a relationship.
Serbia - Moje 3 - Ljubav Je Svuda
Feels like a J-pop number, even if it is in Serbian, which may be why I'm finding it minorly charming. The glossy corsets and tights. The three different characters of women singing the song. Lots of flashy lights.
Slovenia - Hannah - Straight Into Love
This feels old. A dance number as if from the '90s? It's another minor number; not bad, not quite interesting enough.
Spain - ESDM - Contigo Hasta El Final (With You Until The End)
Is it a tourism video? Galloping white horse. Woman singing on the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. Woman with white horse. Bittersweet happy, low-key folk-pop number.
Sweden - Robin Stjernberg - You
I like the tune and the ululating bits, but it sure it boring with so few lyrics. Why didn't the songwriter(s) take the time to write many more of them? ("If the sky should fall, I'd survive it all because of you". That's it. All the words in the song.) Not sure what to make of the drab blandness of the backing dancers' outfits; they look like they're meant to be abstract versions of something specific. I like the womens' trousers in particular.
Switzerland - Takasa - You And Me
This looks like yet another Swiss song which appeals to me but which won't go anywhere. An earnest song involving tambourines about a dedicated relationship. The video is somewhat amusing although it has almost nothing to do with the song: the band on a road trip to Malmö, singing their song or sleeping or taking the ferry.
The Netherlands - Anouk - Birds
A waltz sung with slow intensity from a woman with a velvety voice. The video is just of her in the recording studio, singing the song.
Ukraine - Zlata Ognevich - Gravity
A steel rose opens to reveal our singer and a sparkling glowing dragonfly. Hummingbirds flutter over a dark forest on a floating rock in the air! Flower petals fall in slow motion! A white unicorn gallops! You should see this video, but listening is optional. The song is fine. But the video is pretty marvellous.
United Kingdom - Bonnie Tyler - Believe In Me
The singer reminds me of a shorter, heavier version of my cousin. Except she kept not looking at the camera. Eventually she did, but it was such a contrast from last year: aging famous male singer looks at camera; this year, aging famous female singer averts her eyes. Mostly. Gorgeous outdoors scenery. I like the message in the lyrics - the importance of trusting in those who care most for you and have proved themselves reliable - but the tune seemed really generic.