27 December 2017

Eurovision 2018: Albania: Eugent Bushpepa: Mall

Eurovision 2018 Albania Eugent Bushpepa Mall
Eugent Bushpepa will represent Albania at Eurovision 2018

The first steps on the long road to Lisbon 2018 have officially been taken as Albania traditionally  becomes the first country to determine its song for Eurovision. Of course, their method of selection held no surprises: the long established domestic music gala, Festivali i Këngës. This year the winner is Eugent Bushpepa with his own composition, Mall.

Flag Albania
His victory followed two nights of eliminations and an interminably long final which felt as if it was made up as it went along. Although, obviously, there was an undeniable language barrier, the event seemed to contain more pratfalls than the present American administration. Cue unnecessary Harvey Weinstein remarks and stumbling fashion models who read autocues as if they were taking part in a poorly rehearsed school production.

Thankfully, though, much of the music that was scattered amongst all of that fun was nevertheless pleasing to the ear. Fourteen entries were represented and Bushpepa had already become one of the favourites among Eurovision fans, even garnering the most views on YouTube before he performed on the Congress Palace stage.

The track is a shift from the poorly performing female angst-driven ballads of recent years. Albania will now be hoping that Bushpepa's angst-driven power pop composition will at least see them out of the semi-final.

At the moment, however, the track runs over the required three minute limit by around ninety seconds, so a major revamp is required - not only to the song but also to the presentation which appears much too static.

That's not the only problem. While Bushpepa (great name, by the way) seems totally relatable and his vocals are reliable, Mall feels as if it has been snatched from the 1980s. It's punchy and different to what Albania has sent to the Contest over the past few years, but sounds like a guitar-driven ballad from around thirty years ago. Think John Farnham's You're the Voice and you won't be far from imagining how Mall is put together.

How will it do in the Contest? At the moment, it is way too early to say. There's nothing to compare it to and Albanian contestants have a habit of totally revamping their entry - which this one needs anyway - so it could sound wholly different by the spring. Hopefully, no English re-imagining.

However, it doesn't have an instant hook in its present form and this rock ballad genre generally doesn't compete well against the more obvious dance-pop entries. I'll await the update, but right now it doesn't feel like a qualifier.

20 March 2017

Eurovision 2017: Review: United Kingdom: Never Give Up On You

Lucie Jones / United Kingdom / Eurovision 2017

United Kingdom: Lucie Jones: Never Give Up on You

It's nearly two months since the British public and a panel of "expert" judges chose - from a field of six - its song for Europe. The result: Lucie Jones has been given the daunting task of flying the flag for the UK with the Emmelie de Forest penned Never Give Up on You.

Although there were a couple of other songs among the "You Decide" selection which sounded as if they were more suited to Eurovision, it was former X-Factor contestant Lucie who stole the show with her emotionally charged performance of this rather maudlin ballad.

UK flag / fingerprint
Her impassioned vocals have been honed from her recent experience of appearing on the London stage in Rent, so a live vocal should not prove a problem. That's something that should bode well with the Eurovision jurors.

While her vocals are proven, what about the song? It's a composition as far away from Emmelie de Forest's 2013 winner as one could probably get - barring punk or heavy metal. Never Give Up on You is something of a stagey, stripped-back composition which begs for the level of passion that Lucie  happily delivers.

Over recent weeks though, the song has been the subject of a subtle revamp: the addition of synthesizers during the chorus, along with a subdued beat, giving the overall package a more contemporary flavour.  The visuals have changed too.

If the evidence from the video is a guide then Lucie's presentation will be in keeping with her age. Instead of the drab, outmoded appearance of the national final, there has been a much-needed transformation to more modern outfits and styling.

At last, the UK may have married composer, song, singer and production into a winning package - or at least one which might appear a lot higher on the scoreboard than recent examples.


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