[Daniel writes: It’s a pleasure for Sofabet to welcome back eurovicious to our writing team. We like to provide a variety of opinion on the site, especially when it comes with knowledge, wit and experience. Eurovicious, who reviewed last year’s Amsterdam preview party for us, provides all three.
In my piece articulating early thoughts on the second semi, I placed Romania’s entry in the ‘unlikely to qualify’ category because I think that it’s too leftfield in its delivery for both televoters and jurors. Here eurovicious provides an alternative view on why you shouldn’t discount Cezar and his rendition of ‘It’s My Life’.]
A country that has never failed to qualify. One with high voting power. With a large diaspora in the Big 5 countries voting in its semifinal. In the pimp slot. With a highly memorable, melodic, well-structured number. Performed by an acclaimed, classically trained, multi-award-winning vocalist. What could possibly go wrong?
Here’s why I think Cezar has a fair chance of qualifying. There hasn’t been a huge number of opera and popera songs (note the difference) in Eurovision, but while opera entries have a poor track record – ‘Questa Notte’ and ‘Sognu’ faring badly – the opposite is true of popera ones.
‘La Voix’ came a high 4th in its semi in 2009 from an early starting position of 5th. Even more strikingly, Alenka Gotar came 6th in 2007’s mammoth 27-song semi, a huge achievement given the intense competition for places, no jury, Slovenia’s lack of friends, lack of diaspora and miniscule voting power, the odd and gimmicky performance, and the fact the song was in Slovenian, which would have been partly but by no means fully understood in a subset of Slavic countries and not at all in the rest of Europe. It and Maja Keuc’s ‘No One’ are still Slovenia’s only two qualifications in nine years.
Both ‘La Voix’ and ‘Cvet z juga’ are high kitsch and combine operatic vocals with a europop structure and beat, and both did very well in their semis but fared significantly worse in the final.
Another comparable recent entry? Well, the second semifinal last year also featured a widely ridiculed novelty entry performed by an acclaimed classical singer. This clip will remind you of it.
Anri opened the dire ‘I’m A Joker’ with an operatic introduction in Georgian showcasing his strong tenor voice. Towards the end of the song, he again briefly demonstrates his vocal ability while playing the piano. (The piano is also audible on the track, something that isn’t a given – looking at you, Timoteij, miming instruments that aren’t even in the song.)
The fact that everything in between these pseudo-earnest interludes was a load of shit didn’t matter; it was enough for this ostensibly ridiculous entry to come 9th in the jury vote, ahead of any number of far better-written, more credible entries performed with greater vocal skill. See what I’m getting at?
(Eurovision is to a certain degree about semiotics and sign exchange, and the fact that I’m A Joker’s operatic intro and piano bridge seem shoehorned in solely to demonstrate that Anri is a serious musician and not just an eejit is entirely the point. If Anri’s intro serves only to symbolically scream “I can sing!”, then the same is true of Cezar’s entire performance. His vocals are front and centre throughout and give the song its USP.)
“But what about ‘Illusion’?” I hear you cry. This was Bulgaria’s 2009 entry. “Another countertenor, same part of Europe, same type of song, and it did terribly!”
There are key differences. Unlike its highly successful northern neighbour, Bulgaria has only managed one qualification in eight years. Whereas Cezar has the honour of closing the semifinal, Krassimir performed in the middle of the running order and was immediately followed by the song that won the semi, ‘Is It True?’.
There was no jury in the 2009 semifinals. ‘Illusion’ was also more structurally unconventional and superficially difficult on the ears, with long sections of extended group wailing. Krassimir is less vocally able than Cezar. And, of course, he performed the song while wearing a cape and pseudo-medieval garb, accompanied by strident, bizarre-looking women and backed by two dancers swinging each other around on stilts.
Based on the performances of ‘It’s My Life’ in this year’s Romanian selection, where Sexy Angle Grinders (TM) in the semifinal were dropped in place of more conventional choreography for the final, I doubt Cezar’s Eurovision performance will feature anywhere near Krassimir’s level of visual excess.
To many ears, there’s something automatically and intrinsically ridiculous about a song like ‘It’s My Life’, yet few would react the same way to the female popera entries I mention above. If ‘It’s My Life’ was sung “normally” in a lower key by a different singer – for instance, if it were a Cascada song, which it could easily be turned into – it would be treated with much more credibility.
When we react with laughter to a man singing a dance song in a “feminine” voice, the question we to need to ask from a betting perspective is whether this reaction is universal or culturally specific, bearing in mind that Cezar won the Romanian televote (beating a second countertenor who was also popular enough to reach the final) and was in the top 3 of the jury vote. In 2009, Krassimir beat over 40 other songs to win the Bulgarian selection. Obviously there are people out there who respond positively to europop countertenors.
That’s my €0.02 on Romania. Make of it what you will. Just don’t bet your life savings on it, folks. (More than anything, think how daft you’ll feel explaining to your bank manager that you lost all your money gambling on a dubstep countertenor because a man on the Internet told you to.)
All I suggest is that you bear the above factors in mind before automatically dismissing Romania’s qualification chances based on your reaction to the song. And if Cezar does make it to the final, lay him for top 10, because he’s going nowhere.
Where do you stand on Cezar’s qualification chances? Let us know below.