The Eurovision Song Contest and all its musical funfair is once again upon us this month, taking place in Tel Aviv, after Israel’s win last year with the song Toy by the artist Netta. The contest is split into three events, the first and second Semi Finals take place on the 14thand 16threspectively and the Grand Final on the 18thof May. The top ten countries of each Semi Final along with six automatically qualifying countries perform at the Grand Final.
From the forty-two countries entering the contest below is a selection of songs that stood out for us, based on our tastes and predictions.
Truth is a flawlessly constructed mid-tempo dance track by a rather hirsute Azerbaijani vocalist Chingiz. An immersive, ambient sonic build up reaches an ambitiously catchy if lyrically peculiar chorus. There is an affecting intensity to Chingiz voice, making his delivery feel ever so sincere as we find him in the throes of a toxic relationship. ‘Shut Up About It’ he yells; is he talking to his girlfriend? To himself? Who knows. For such an impeccably polished studio song, I’m intrigued to see how they interpret this live.
Replay is sang by Georgian singer Tamta, who has a career in Greece and is representing Cyprus, you couldn’t get more international than that. Replay follows a similar upbeat formula of the island’s iconic Eurovision performance from last year, Fuego by Eleni Foureira, who with her Beyoncé inspired hairo-graphy gave the country’ best result of 2nd place. This Balearic sounding club hit starts of with a distorted minimalist guitar loop and slowly with the addition of electronic instrumentations reaches an immaculate crescendo chorus of bass-thumping horns, having previously shimmied its way through an equally infectious pre-chorus. This is high-end production dance bop where Tamta sings about a guy ‘wanting her love on replay'. Is this calculated mass produced pop? Yes… Is it ground breaking? No… Can we dance around the room to this on replay? Hell yes!! The most radio friendly track of the lot, transcending Eurovision and on to summer radio-playlists.
“I am not rich but I’m shining bright’, hails the young Bilal Hassani with his song Roi representing France, one of the handful countries that automatically qualifies directly to the final (along with Spain, Germany, UK, Italy and hosting country, Israel). I guess nobody claimed Eurovision was an egalitarian affair. Hassani, an Instagram sensation with a penchant for blonde wigs and fashionable eye wear, is French born of Muslim Moroccan descent. Since his appearance and winning Destination Europe (the countries internal selection process) he has received unprecedented amounts of cyber-harassment, racist and homophobic attacks and death threats. However, Hassani brushes the haters off, offering us an empowering contemporary power ballad. Alternating seamlessly from French and English, the production and lyrics resonates with pop masteminds the likes of Sia and Ryan Tedder.
Greece’s song Better Love by Greek/Canadian singer Katerine Duska offers another spacey mid-tempo track but with powerful and rich vocal, evocative of Florence and the Machine, with a touch of Annie Lennox. Now thats a complement Duska can be proud of! Better Love is accompanied by an exceptional video with copious amounts of tulle and a palette of every possible shade of pink, shot in what looks like some world-renowned installation artist’s East London work space. Better Love oozes of what can only be described as hipster pop, heavily reminiscent of music blog fodder and new music Spotify playlists. Although perhaps the song is more epic and grander than any of those songs, coupled with Duska's leftfield and incredibly soulful vocal which morphs into a contagiously shouty chorus.
Iceland’s entry by Hatari singing in their mother tongue the song Hatrid Mun Sigra, which charmingly translates to Hatred Will Prevail. Obviously (or one hopes) Hatari, an all-male trio, is being ironic; looking the part decked out in all manner of leather, PVC and S&M bondage paraphernalia. Deep dirty gritty electro verses are jarringly complemented by a death growl which switches to amateur counter tenor in the chorus. It’s pretty full-on on first listen however on second, fourth, sixth, I’ve come to absolutely love this, transcending Hatari from gimmicky, attention-seekers to musical geniuses. However, the majority of people watch the songs on the Eurovision night for the first time, so it’s a gamble that this will bode well… a risk Hatari seem very willing to take.
Another country which automatically qualifies, Italy’s entry is also sang in its native language. Soldi ( translates to money) is sang by an effortlessly cool and ever so fetching Half Sicilian/ Half Egyptian Alessandro Mahmood, who ever since its video release earlier this year is predicted to be a major contender for the Eurovision crown, already racking-up over 76 million views on Youtube. Understandably so, Soldi is a magnificent contemporary pop song, not your usual stereotypical Eurovision trope; fusing urban arrangements, repetitive beats and claps coupled with an occasional infusion of spoken word and a pepeppering of few Arabic lyrics here and there, giving it an ethnic edge. It also comes loaded with a back story, the lyrics tell of an autobiographical account of growing up with an absentee father. Perhaps Eurovision is a form of cathersis for Mahmood.
Malta's X-Factor winner Michaela at just 18 has been chosen to represent the Mediterranean isle with her song Chameleon, an instantly radio friendly RnB infused bop with a pre-chorus that is what reggaetón pop dreams are made of. There is a drop in the chorus which takes some getting used but its saved by the songs immediacy and Michaela’s wholesome pitch perfect singing. She possess an incredibly mature and soulful voice, way beyond her tender years.
The buzz is ripe around the Dutch entry, the ethereal and equally euphoric ballad Arcade by singer/ songwriter Duncan Lawrence, who is naked throughout his video, submerged in what looks like a gargantuan water tank. It’s easy to get on board with Arcade, slick production, sentimental easy-listening, along with Lawrence's heartfelt falsettos which becomes overbearingly emotional at points. Outside of the Eurovision bubble, this does sound like your run-of-the-mill chart male vocalist, a Zayn-Ed Sheeran hybrid of sorts. Upon repeated listens, I couldn’t shake off a slight feeling of being emotively manipulated. In any case, it’s likely to do well do and best-case scenario it will take home the trophy.
Norway’s entry is the holy grail of what people can except from Eurovision. Keino’s Spirit in The Sky is wackiness galore. A fast-paced Euro dance track merging drum and bass and electronic rock, headed by two capable vocalists (both sporting ridiculously cute fluffy feline ears) and a third member who sings in a unique yoddling style called ‘yoiking’, a musical chant usually sang by the indegenious Scandinavian tribe Sami. This needs to be seen, heard and experienced. We wish Keino all the best to qualify in a rarther competitive Semi-Final 2 and grace us with their highly original showmanship in the Grand Final.
We are treated to another WTF moment with the Portuguese entry, which certainly won't be everyone’s cup of tea. Conan Osiris brings us Telemovies, a song which ventures into uncharted territories for Eurovision with an experimental, cacophonous mix of jingles and clatters interwoven with Japanese string instrumentation. Osiris further adds dramatic flair with his deep voice and quintessential Portuguese traditional warbling style. He is accompanied on stage by a flamenco twerking side-kick; both of them kitted out white robes, bubble trainers and cumbersome metallic face and hand accessories. Initial listens will have you think this is a bit all over the place, however, the performance as a whole is a visual treat of the weird and wonderful. More high art rather than a straight up song delivery. Will this do well? Who cares when you send a song like this…
Some questionable lyrics with ‘when she go low, she go solo’…. Really Luca Hanni? What does that even mean? Or maybe I am just not down with the lingo. Initially, the Swiss entry feels a little reductive, as its shamelessly familiar to the aforementioned Cyprus entry of last year, Eleni Foureira’s Fuego, just simply switched to a male vocal. The whole middle eastern bagpipes and the overtly sexualised synchronised backing singer dancing is almost carbon copy. Nonetheless, I fail to completely dismiss She Got Me (awful title), with its glossy production values, Hanni’s handsome Latino-esque looks and its catchy if morally ambiguous chorus, it’s bound to entertain. I would watch this space for Switzerland.
The Eurovision Song Contest will be taking make place from the 14th-18th May, 2019.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
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