17 February 2019

2019: United Kingdom | Michael Rice | Bigger Than Us

Michael Rice | Bigger Than Us | Eurovision 2019
Big talent: Michael Rice to represent the United Kingdom

The BBC granted the UK another Eurovision national final this year, once again under the banner Eurovision: You Decide. The process was a little different this time, but it was Michael Rice with Bigger Than Us which topped the public vote and who will fly the British flag in Tel Aviv.

Flag United Kingdom
Six acts presenting three songs was the twist this year; each song nominated to be sung in two different styles by each of two singers. The "expert" panel, having eliminated three of the singers in the first round, left it to the public to choose between Kerrie-Anne's dated dance track Sweet Lies,  Jordan Clarke's nursery rhyme Freaks, and Michael's gospel-tinged offering.

Admittedly, none of the options was overly inspiring, but I feel Michael Rice pulled off the selection solely because of his outstanding vocals - lifting what could have been an unremarkable song to a whole different level.

21-year-old Rice is no stranger to the competitive talent show circuit, though, having appeared on The X-Factor in 2014 and winning the debut series of the BBC's All Together Now singing competition. His strong voice was evident there on songs such as Hallelujah and Proud Mary.

Bigger Than Us is constructed for Rice's style of vocalisation: a power ballad which grows to a mighty conclusion - possessing a well-placed key change and all held together with the help of a gospel choir backing. Think Austria 2018 and you may well notice some similarity.

Despite his lack of big-stadium experience, You Decide suggested Rice is an assured performer with good stage presence - albeit he does need to tone down the incessant arm waving before May. Nevertheless, there’s a real buzz building around this entry and I’m reasonably confident that we could be in for our first top ten placing in a decade. I can’t tell you how great it feels to be able to type those words.

United Kingdom
Artist: Michael Rice
Song: Bigger Than Us
Big 5 Finalist

15 February 2019

2019: Czech Republic | Lake Malawi | Friend of A Friend

Lake Malawi | Czech Republic | Czechia | Eurovision 2019
Getting friendly: Lake Malawi to represent the Czech Republic

Following a combined online public and international jury vote, the group Lake Malawi has won the right to represent  the Czech Republic at Eurovision 2019 with their song, Friend of a Friend. The four-piece band faced stern competition from pre-vote favourites Jakub Ondra with Space Sushi and Barbora Mochowa with True Colors, but managed to top the final poll after a close fought battle.

Flag Czech Republic | Czechia
Comprised of Albert Cerný, Jeroným Šubrt, Antonín Hrabal and Pavel Palát, Lake Malawi is a recognised act in their homeland, having released their debut single, Always June, in 2014. This was a minor hit on the local music charts, but it was the follow-up, Chinese Trees, which brought the lads to greater public attention. Since then, they’ve released several other singles, an EP titled We Are Making Love Again, as well as their first album called Surrounded By Light.

Now comes Friend of a Friend which has a certain early-Eighties electronic vibe to it, although it comes across as a rather lightweight Howard Jones-style B-side. Moreover, it just does not have the dynamism and contemporary spirit of 2018’s Czech song from Mikolas Josef.

Against Lie to Me it sounds rather second rate which is a disappointment considering the group's other indie output. Conversely, there is something charming about the song: It does possess a memorable chorus which at least gives it some capacity to pinch a few points from both the juries and the public and possibly scrape through its semi-final.

It's not exactly my pick, but I think there’s sufficient here for it to become a potential qualifier. However, the Final will be more of a concern. It could easily be the kind of song that is overlooked in a bigger, tougher field.

So, can the Czech Republic make the Final twice in a row? The track is catchy, but is that enough?

Czech Republic 
Artist: Lake Malawi
Song:  Friend of a Friend
Semi-Final: 1 | First Half

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