Time goes by…so slowly. Bullshit, Madge! Quicker than the ray of light Eurovision 2019 is getting closer and closer. After reviewing the songs of the first semi-final I’m moving on to the second. And no more Madonna puns. Let’s get into the groove. Sorry, can’t help myself.
#18 Croatia: Roko Blažević – ”The Dream” Overall Placement: 41/41
”I believe in the power of Croatian. I believe in the good vibration. I believe in love alone. Yeah, yeah (fire?).” – Annie Lennox – ”Money Can’t Buy It”
This is far too much for me. I just can’t deal with Jacques Houdek productions. After listening to ”The Dream” I feel like I have to take an intense shower to get rid of all the slime.
Once the language switches to Croatian it gets a bit better, but the lyrics are still OTT kitschy (”Ljubav je heroj”). Roko’s voice is amazing though and manages to stay in tune even during the high notes. Because my dog and him share the same name I kinda sympathize with him. Just ditch the costume. The angel wings are wildly unnecessary and make him look like a novelty act.
#17 Moldova: Anna Odobescu – ”Stay” Overall Placement: 39/41
When I listened to the song for the first time it didn’t left an impression at all. I couldn’t remember neither the lyrics nor the structure. The second time around I realized how dull they are. Any six-year-old could find better rhymes.
In the past Moldova’s delegation often proved us wrong and elevated their songs with a high level of entertainment. That being said I don’t expect Anna to make it to the final even though she can count on support from Romanian and Russian televoters.
#16 Russia: Sergey Lazarev – ”Scream” Overall Placement: 38/41
”I’d swallow hard.” Kirkorov living his fantasy.
If Croatia’s ”Dream” has Houdek written all over it, this one has Kirkorov for certain. ”Scream” doesn’t live up to the hype that has been created before and after the announcement of Sergey’s return. In my opinion the song is too overproduced and it’s lacking a memorable chorus.
I’m not a fan of the music video in particular. The visual effects look cheap to me and Lazarev is taking himself way too serious. The children tried their best though. Kudos for trying something different this time. I’ve been expecting a sequel to his first effort from 2016. Phew!
#15 Norway: KEiiNO – ”Spirit In The Sky” Overall Placement: 35/41
”Spirit In The Sky” sounds like these dance pop songs with a sprinkle of ethnic Nordic flavour that were popular in Melodifestivalen during the 2000s. I’m thinking of Sarek or Roger Pontare. Just add a little Saara Aalto to this witches’ brew and there you have it: the Norwegian entry of 2019.
Songs like ”Spirit In The Sky” are expected to be seen in ESC. Norway seems to take the mantra of its 2018 entry too serious. I feel like it’s too predictable and formulaic. The joiking doesn’t do it for me either.
#14 Azerbaijan: Chingiz – ”Truth” Overall Placement: 30/41
I would finally like to see more originality from Azerbaijan. Yes, there was Dihaj who’s my 2017 winner by the way, but besides her I don’t care about any other song they’ve sent so far. The songs from the land of fire are not only missing a spark but a whole flame of inspiration.
The producers added a sprinkle of oriental influence to ”Truth”, but that doesn’t change the matter. It tries too hard to adapt to Western music standards: The infamous millenial whoop, the gibberish lyrics and the music video of course. Curiously enough both the Azeri and the Dutch singers appear in underwater scenes showing off their bodies. Not that I’m complaining, but Chingiz is pretty chaste compared to Duncan.
#13 Lithuania: Jurij Veklenko – ”Run With The Lions” Overall Placement: 28/41
”Run With The Lions” is not completely forgettable, but it doesn’t give you the sensation – if we leave visuals outside. I couldn’t think of a single reason why I should give my vote to Lithuania this year. And I’m afraid many viewers will come to the same conclusion.
#12 Austria: PÆNDA – ”Limits” Overall Placement: 27/41
Before we learned that ”Limits” would become Austria’s song for Tel Aviv I checked out PÆNDA’s discography. Honestly I was a little worried for the Alpine country, because her songs haven’t been that outstanding so far. Turns out ”Limits” is something else than what we’ve heard before. Still electronic and contemporary, but it builds up very nicely. Like a flower slowly blooming. What strikes me positively is the reduced arrangement allowing PÆNDA’s crystal clear voice to shine through.
Unfortunately this flower never blooms to its full beauty. The song’s possibilites are limited to the underwhelming ”Youuuu” chorus. Besides that nothing really happens. It doesn’t have to be, but I wish for something that would’ve gotten myself out of this ambivalence I feel whenever I listen to this song. And so slowly the flower closes itself.
#11 Denmark: Leonora – ”Love Is Forever” Overall Placement: 25/41
”Don’t get too political.” ESCapism at its best.
Denmark could be this year’s dark horse. Televoters from all over Europe and Australia could rank her very high even though she looks a bit disturbing like she might jump out of your screen and stab you to death.
There have been a lot of comparisons to Fool’s Garden’s ”Lemon Tree” and Lenka’s ”The Show” (both songs I loathe with passion) and I can see the similarities there, too. It’s a shame the Danish part falls so short, because the language suits perfectly to the innocent nature of this song. Danish in general is a language I like listening to even though I don’t speak it. Instead of French – even though it’s charming – I would’ve preferred those lines to be sung in her native language. Before I forget: Welcome back to the contest, German language! Missed you much.
#10 Switzerland: Luca Hänni – ”She Got Me” Overall Placement: 24/41
‘‘Dörte Dancing.” Mommas (and grannies) are getting rowdy rowdy for Luca.
The Swiss have been going through tough years in ESC. Even Zibbz who I would’ve liked to see in the final didn’t manage to make it there. But Switzerland is not giving up yet. Luca Hänni, former winner of the German Idol ”DSDS”, could do the Mikolas Josef of 2019. I am torn though. On one side he’s charismatic, a reasonably good dancer and his entry ”She Got Me” is a contemporary party song. While on the other I’m turned off by the fake image of the Latin womanizer that is so overdone and full of clichés.
The song’s nothing I’d put on my playlist, but I’m sure it’ll find a lot of fans across Europe and Australia.
#09 Armenia: Srbuk – ”Walking Out” Overall Placement: 22/41
Srbuk had all my attention when she was announced as Armenia’s representant for Tel Aviv. One of her tracks called ”Yete karogh es” is a catchy pop song with 1960s vibes and I hoped she was going in a similar direction with her entry. I respect that she didn’t and went for something new. But to be honest I am disappointed.
”Walking Out” doesn’t give me anything I would cast my vote for. A lot of people criticized Srbuk for her English pronounciation. Although I am tired of the argument that ESC singers’ (mostly from the Eastern part) English isn’t that good (an argument often brought up by non-native speakers) I have to agree this time. I’ve seen her also butchering Czesław Niemen’s ”Dziwny jest ten świat”. Kudos for trying though. Polish isn’t the easiest language. It’s sad she doesn’t get to sing in a language she feels confident with.
#08 Latvia: Carousel – ”That Night” Overall Placement: 20/41
Nomen est omen. Like a carousel spinning around its axis, the song seems to repeat itself over and over again. Besides that there are certain elements I like about the Latvian entry. For example the cozy atmosphere the duo creates. Sabīne with her whispering voice and Mārcis with his guitar play. It’s almost as if they stood next to me.
Will they qualify? Probably not. Usually Latvia can’t rely on much support from televoters and jury. But I’d like to see them as a surprise 10th finalist. If wishes came true… .
#07 Sweden: John Lundvik – ”Too Late For Love” Overall Placement: 17/41
It’s no secret that Sweden’s one of my least favourite countries in ESC. Their songs are factory made standard pop and that’s one of the reasons why I gave up watching the Mello.
”Too Late For Love” gets in line with Sweden’s previous entries. It is a well-crafted pop song, sung by a handsome guy backed by an amazing choir. But it just leaves me cold.
#06 Malta: Michela – ”Chameleon” Overall Placement: 16/41
Rule #1 for female Maltese ESC entrants: Don’t dare to show up on stage unless you look like your auntie.
”Chameleon” reminds me a bit of ”Hvala, ne!”, the Slovenian entry from 2018. Good pre-chorus, but lacking a decent chorus. However this doesn’t bother me at all. In fact I like the drop, the dancehall beats, the ”Yalla-la-la” part and with a fierce choreography Michela could do well. This is the first time in many years that I can say I like Malta’s entry. Of course the lyrics of ”Chameleon” are silly, but the song doesn’t need to win the Nobel Prize in literature.
But here’s the downside: I bet the Maltese delegation is doing its worst to make Michela look like a 40 year old. It’s their obligation. Hollywood’s ageing make-up department must be full of Maltese visagists.
#05 Romania: Ester Peony – ”On A Sunday” Overall Placement: 14/41
”Life’s not fair.” Tell me ’bout it. Especially when juries are corrupt people.
Oh and what a Sunday it had been. Everywhere this one person I am not going to name showed up the drama was stirred up. Not to mention that no one understands these random Drag Race innuendos, especially not in Romania.
Back to the song: ”On A Sunday” has a mid 2000’s feel to it. It could’ve been a song from Natasha Bedingfield’s or Jamelia’s catalogue. Very reminiscent of Rihanna’s ”Umbrella” are the ”Ey Ey Ey” parts. All good. All fine. The performance is what worries me the most. Mme Peony succesfully graduated from Maja Keuc school of suggestive hand gestures, but skipped the singing classes together with Bilal.
Do I see Ester as a finalist? Very difficult to predict. This could either sneak just inside the ten qualifiers or just miss it out. I tend to the latter.
#04 North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska – ”Proud” Overall Placement: 12/41
Tamara is one of the strongest vocalists in this year’s ESC. How fitting she’s giving us one of the strongest ballads of the season, too. And a beautiful dedication to her daughter. And to the women of North Macedonia. Everytime Tamara sings ”All the rules are made for you to lose” I’m choked up with emotion.
There’s only thing that I’m afraid of and that’s the stage presentation. We’ve seen a lot of entries from then F.Y.R. Macedonia being tanked by questionable outfits, bad vocals and uninspired stagings. Last year’s ”Lost and Found” was one of my pre-contest favourites, but once I saw footage from the rehearsals I knew they were set up to fail. It’s been a long time since the one and only Kaliopi screeched her way to the final for the small Balkan country and I wish for them to return. Knowing that Tamara won’t allow herself to look like a 50ct-quick-job-whore I am confident she’ll give us a splendid performance.
#03 Ireland: Sarah McTernan – ”22” Overall Placement: 05/41
Listening to ”22” feels like eating chocolate. It just puts a smile on my face. Just don’t go crazy with it unless you want to feel sick. The song has an easy-listening vibe to it. My favourite part starts when the choir joins Sarah. Hopefully they’ll be with her on stage because their voices add to the song’s warmth.
Thematically it reminds me a lot of Bangles’ ”Walking Down Your Street”. I can relate to that feeling you get when you’ve just fallen in love with someone and you’re doing these stupid little things just hoping your crush might catch your attention. I wonder if teenagers nowadays relate to it, too, when it’s a lot easier to stalk social media profiles.
#02 The Netherlands: Duncan Laurence – ”Arcade” Overall Placement: 04/41
Pass that Dutchie over to me!
I didn’t expect this song to be so high on my ranking. I just listened to it once on the day of its presentation and I managed to hum the melody the following day. Super catchy.
First off, I’m glad the Dutch are going for something else than the Americana styled songs they’ve been pulling out recently. The songs’ lyrics are quite interesting as I have never seen the comparison of being stuck in a broken relationship to a gaming addiction in a pop song.
Now ”Arcade” is a rather simple song, I dare say formulaic. Clapping during the bridge? All heard before. But it’s the combination of Duncan’s excellent vocals and the song’s catchiness that make it stand out. No wonder people are betting their money on the Netherlands.
I know my predictions are always crap, but in my opinion ”Birds” and ”Calm After The Storm” were better songs and if they didn’t manage to win, I can’t see ”Arcade” as a winner either. Speaking of The Common Linnets. If it weren’t for Ilse DeLange, Eurovision 2019 would be missing one of its best contenders. Dank je wel, Ilse!
#01 Albania: Jonida Maliqi – ”Ktheju tokës” Overall Placement: 03/41
I’m still bitter that it isn’t Orgesa Zaimi (as if she stood a chance) for Tel Aviv, but I made my peace with Jonida’s song. And it’s one of the most interesting compositions this year. Starting off slowly with eerie drums and Jonida’s vocals alternating between legato and staccato ”Ktheju tokës” builds up the anticipation for the chorus very well. I’m particularly keen on the chorus’ melody and I’m grateful she didn’t change the lyrics to English. Watch and learn, Tulia and TVP.
Actually they didn’t do much with the revamp. The producers just cleaned up the dust from December’s Festival i Kënges and added some backings, shouting samples and flutes. Less is sometimes better.
There aren’t many ethnic entries this edition and I think this is an opportunity for Albania to shine. I don’t mind the Cleopatra styling, it suits her type. Just a little bit of work on the vocals and Jonida should sail through to the final.
Thanks for reading. Upcoming are the reviews to the Big 5 plus my favourite Eurovision country ever Israel.