01 March 2020

2020: United Kingdom: My Last Breath: James Newman


United Kingdom
Artist: James Newman
Song: My Last Breath
Automatic Finalist

These days the announcement of the United Kingdom's Eurovision songs comes with a large serving of trepidation and so it was with mixed feelings that I awaited the arrival of 2020's offering, James Newman's My Last Breath.

United Kingdom Flag
To find this year's hopeful, the British public was bypassed in favour of a collaboration between the BBC and a major record label. This change was a concerted effort to prise the UK out of the bottom five and lift the nation onto the left hand side of the scoreboard. The task was taken on by BMG which approached award-winning songwriter James Newman - the brother of successful vocalist John - who decided to accept what must seem like a daunting prospect. Having collaborated with some of the biggest names in recent music business history, he now steps into the spotlight as a featured vocalist.

As we all know, it has been in excess of twenty years since the Brits have stood on the winner's podium and various (sloppy) explanations have been given as to why - ranging from Iraq to neighbourly voting to, more recently, Brexit. In truth, it's been because the songs have just not been good enough. So, can James  change the UK's fortunes in 2020?

The simple answer is probably not. But that comes with a caveat: it was always going to take something astounding to bring the Brits back to the top of the scoreboard - although not astounding, My Last Breath feels like a huge leap in the right direction.

The song feels very current - a blend of what has been popular over the past few years: elements of Ed Sheeran and Lewis Capaldi are woven into the structure of this mid-tempo, drum pounding ballad. There's a clever (hesitant) hook in the chorus which, after a couple of plays, sticks in the memory - so repeated promotion is going to be vital to draw interest.

However, that could be part of the problem with My Last Breath. Does it possess sufficient impact for first time listeners in May to remember it enough to vote for it? Fantastic staging and a credible live performance should enhance its chances greatly.

If that's achieved, it could mean the UK hands the wooden spoon to someone else in May. That said, it's also highly unlikely to be the winner.

What do you think?

11 May 2019

Eurovision 2019: Abbreviated Song Reviews



Armenia  

Srbuk: Walking Out 

Strong chorus, weaker middle section. Srbuk gives a dynamic performance. Likely to be one of the casualties from semi-final 2, though.


Austria

Pænda: Limits

Kate Bush meets Ellie Goulding. In any other environment, this would do well - but the Eurovision Song Contest doesn't feel like its natural home. Perhaps too delicate for the competition and another entry that could fail to qualify.


Azerbaijan


Chingiz: Truth


Contemporary, catchy and radio-friendly. Combines ethnic flavours with modern Western sounds. Likely to qualify easily and, if there's any justice, climb high on the left-hand side of the scoreboard.


Belarus

Zena: Like It

Typical Euro dance-pop delivered by a pretty young singer and which should bring the stadium to life in Tel Aviv. Whether that will translate to enough votes to allow it to qualify is debatable. Generic Eurovision fodder, though. Borderline qualifier.


Belgium

Eliot: Wake Up

Another credible entry from Belgium although Eliot's vocal sounds rather laboured. It feels as if the song is about to take off but then suddenly stalls, the chorus somehow not rescuing it. It's good, just not spectacular. Likely to qualify, but could struggle at the Final.


Croatia

Roko: The Dream

Roko sings The Dream well and the song possesses a stirring chorus. Nevertheless, it sounds like a failed national final entry from the 1980s. Got to hand it to Roko though, he has the balls to wear a pair of ridiculous wings. Sadly, they only add to the overall out-of-date whiff of stale cheese. Non-qualifier.


Cyprus

Tamta: Replay

Cyprus continue the club theme already offered up by last year's Fuego. In some respects, it is a better example of the genre with its brass riffs and mesmerisingly catchy chorus. This should perform very, very well but it could hinge on the staging and Tamta's live vocal abilities. Easy qualifier and could finish in the Top 5.


Denmark

Leonora: Love is Forever

One of the early front runners, Denmark has dipped back in the betting. Not surprising, really. The song is way too twee, formulaic and safe. Leonora is a little difficult to watch as well. Sitting on a oversized chair/platform high above the stage, I'm not sure if her fixed stare is from the fear of falling or the fear of failing. Very borderline.


Finland

Darude ft Sebastian Rejman: Look Away

House music come to Eurovision courtesy of the highly successful DJ/record producer. If you've heard his Sandstorm then you kinda know what to expect. Unfortunately, this is way too repetitive but could still qualify from a weaker semi-final 1 (or from his credentials, alone). Can't see it doing too well in the Final, though.


Georgia

Oto Nemsadze: Keep On Going

Already touted as the entry that will be stuck to the bottom of the scoreboard when all is sung and done. It goes without saying that Oto may have an uphill struggle to garner many votes - particularly from the public. The song is a dark, dramatic ballad sung at full tilt - there's no denying Oto has a set of lungs on him - but the song may suffer from being TOO ethnic as well as TOO difficult to love (and comprehend)! An easy non-qualifier, I feel.


Greece

Katerine Duska: Better Love

Compelling voice, compelling vocal and compelling production. Co-written by Fame Academy winner David Sneddon, Better Love feels as if it has a Top 10 finish about it. As long as the ideas behind the video translate well to the Tel Aviv stage then Greece can expect a ton of votes. Compelling (of course!)


Hungary

Joci Pápai: Az én apám (My Father)

Joci returns to Eurovision with a mid-tempo ballad that captures elements of Hungarian folk music. Enhanced by his plaintive vocal, the song relates the joy and sadness of his boyhood memories. It's one of the few entries to be sung in a native language, thus could accomplish a reasonable result. Joci achieved ninth in 2017 and this latest effort could do as well or better.


Iceland

Hatari: Hatrið mun sigra (Hatred Will Prevail)

One of possibly two entries with its own USP (possibly Portugal as well). BDSM techno/punk comes to Eurovision and it has really divided listeners/viewers. Very much a Marmite song, Hatari try to deliver shock visuals - writhing women in chicken wire together with sex shop rubber gear - alongside snarling shouty vocals over an, admittedly, irresistible backing rhythm. Entries with bizarre USPs tend to do well these days, although how the more conservative voters in Eastern Europe will react is anyone's guess. Could do very, very well or fall flat on its face!



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