13 May 2016

Eurovision 2016: Review: Sweden: Frans: If I Were Sorry

Frans Jeppsson Wall / Sweden / 2016 Eurovision Song Contest
Frans: Another Swedish winner?

And finally, for this year at least, our attention turns to host nation Sweden and their entry If I Were Sorry, a song which is co-written and performed by 17-year-old Frans.

Coming from someone so young, it's not surprising that the track is probably the most contemporary in the competition. An almost spoken narrative dominates the song and this in itself is conspicuous by an accent which sounds like a mixture of Eastenders combined with ABBA.

However, unlike Sweden's winner from last year, If I Were Sorry is a much more understated affair, backed by hip-hop dance rhythms in a style which unifies Ed Sheeran's pop/folk with Justin Bieber's electronic R&B. As such, it reflects all that is current about pop radio.

It has already sold well across some parts of Europe - unusually for a Eurovision song it has entered the UK Top 200 before a single vote has even been given. Whether this pre-Contest success will be enough to send Sweden to the top of the scoreboard for a second year in a row is questionable. The song is distinctive enough for it to score well, but whether the average Eurovision audience is ready to vote for it en masse is debatable.

With the news that no other Nordic country has made it through to the Final, it can expect some high points from its Scandinavian neighbours, no doubt helping it to settle somewhere within the Top 10.

What do you think?

Image by Albin Olsson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

11 May 2016

Eurovision 2016: Spotlight on Lithuania; Serbia; Bulgaria

Donny Montell / Lithuania / 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

Lithuania: Donny Montell with I've Been Waiting For This Night

Making a welcome return to the Eurovision stage is Lithuanian singer Donny Montell who first appeared at the Contest in 2012, blindfolded and singing Love is Blind.

On that occasion, he finished in 14th place performing an updated disco-style dancefloor track and now, four years later, I've Been Waiting For This Night seems to be his natural musical progression. In fact, the song is probably more contemporary 'Eurovision' than most featured in the competition. \

It ticks many of the required boxes: it's a somewhat overwrought clubland-style anthem building to a big chorus, but proves to be more animated than his last effort. It's snappy and should have enough popular appeal to make it through to the Final.

It's possibly a little too  generic to make significant headway on the scoreboard, but equalling his 2012 ranking shouldn't prove too much of a problem.

Appearance: Semi-Final 2, performing 9th.

Serbia: Sanja Vučić ZAA with Goodbye (Shelter)

Sanja Vučić ZAA / Serbia / 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

Serbia is bidding to regain the Eurovision title using the talents of local singer Sanja Vučić - vocalist with the domestic band ZAA - performing the entry Goodbye (Shelter).

She brings something of an Amy Winehouse vibe to the competition, if her official video is anything to go by. She possesses a melodramatic performance style which gives this bluesy ballad a heightened sense of potency and intensity.

Hopefully, her team will take advantage of this and stage her presentation appropriately. Goodbye (Shelter) is blessed with a captivating melody and a classy hook, the abundance of which may take some by surprise.

If there's any justice, this should qualify and quickly climb the left-hand side of the Final's scoreboard.

Appearance: Semi-Final 2, performing 6th.

Bulgaria: Poli Genova with If Love Was A Crime

Poli Genova / Bulgaria / 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

It's not only Donny Montell who is making a reappearance this year as 2011 veteran Poli Genova returns to the fray (as does her country, Bulgaria).

The Bulgarians record at Eurovision has been rocky (to say the least) since their début in 2005. With only one appearance in the Final, courtesy of Elitsa and Stoyan in 2007, Poli looks set to change her country's fortunes with the very catchy If Love Was A Crime.

Not surprisingly, the song is already established as one of the favourites for the title - and rightly so. It's a catchy, lively pop number with a memorable chorus and some contemporary effects, making it one of the most radio-friendly entries in the competition.

Expect to eventually see this in the Top 3 of its semi-final - something it could quite easily repeat in the Final.

Appearance: Semi-Final 2, performing 12th.

What are your thoughts about these entries?

All images by Albin Olsson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

09 May 2016

Eurovision 2016: Spotlight on Czech Republic; Azerbaijan; Malta

Gabriela Gunčíková / Czech Republic / 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

Czech Republic: Gabriela Gunčíková with I Stand

It seems the Czech Republic have finally figured out this Eurovision malarky. Last year, they sent a very creditable entry as their comeback song, only to see it founder in the semi-finals.

I Stand, their 2016 effort, is by far the country's most commercially creditable offering - at least, to Western ears - and has every chance of pushing the Czechs through to the Final for the first time. Why? Because it's the kind of towering, pot-boiler of a ballad that the core Eurovision audience loves - and will appeal appreciably to a number of the national juries.

Gabriela also serves up her own brand of visual attraction, ably supplementing the glamour stakes alongside her semi-final competitors Ira Losco, Iveta Mukuchyan and Samra - who also provide similarly dramatic compositions.

Will there be enough support to see them all into the Final, though?  Up until now, the Czech Republic has proved to be the weakest link. Hopefully, this year, I Stand will convince voters otherwise.

Appearance: Semi-Final 1, performing 10th.

Azerbaijan: Samra with Miracle

Samra Rahimli / Azerbaijan / 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

Despite not performing as well as expected in 2015, when Elnur Hüseynov's Hour of the Wolf ended up languishing in twelfth place, Azerbaijan return to Eurovision with a fierce mid-tempo ballad sung by local beauty, Samra Rahimli.

Miracle is a mighty pop number penned by (surprise, surprise) a trio of Swedes who seem to have a habit of composing entries with contemporary production values and dynamically captivating melodies. Azerbaijan appear to have struck gold with this one because it ticks many of the boxes required to be successful in Stockholm.

The only factor holding this one back could be Samra's inconsistent live vocals, but if she overcomes this obstacle then she should fly through the semi-final and score very well on Final's night. 

Appearance: Semi-Final 1, performing 14th.

Malta: Ira Losco with Walk on Water

 Ira Losco / Malta / 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

Not content with the first review, Malta pull off 'a Belarus' and replace (the publicly-voted-for) national final winner, Chameleon, with the more satisfying - and ultimately, competitive - composition, Walk on Water.

While not a universally-supported decision at the time - what was the point of a national final and what about all those phone charges raked in during the public vote? - the Maltese appear to have deflected much of the criticism in coming up with a much more contemporary and exhilarating contribution.

Walk on Water is a bold, in-your-face pop anthem which possesses a naggingly incessant back beat, while its (somewhat) repetitive gospel-style hook manages to reel in the listener by the end of its three minutes. And those 'uh-oh-ohs' are a bit of a tease, too: where have we heard those before?

Of course, Ira is something of a Eurovision veteran herself, so expect a very professional and confident performance when she takes to the stage at the climax to the first semi-final. She should be equally confident of a place in the Final.

Look for Walk on Water to stroll into the Top 10.

Appearance: First Semi-Final, performing 18th.

What do you think of these songs?

All images by Albin Olsson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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