Here comes the deluge. The storm proper arrives on Saturday, with finals in Finland, Hungary, Moldova, Norway and Slovenia. But the weekend starts early with tonight’s German final, whilst tomorrow night a U.K. national final lands in my London neighbourhood like a weird Eurovision dream come to life. Meanwhile, Sunday should see the crowning of one of the season’s most exciting songs in Latvia.
The German national final has become a byword for unpredictability over the last few years, so it’ll be interesting to see how much tonight veers from the expected script of Jamie-Lee Kriewitz repeating her win in The Voice with ‘Ghost‘, already a domestic hit song. The audience will be reminded of her preference for Japanese fashion, and the most likely alternatives will be Avantasia and Gregorian.
The consensus for the UK national final selection has coalesced around girls-with-guitars duo Darline and their country-tinged ‘Until Tomorrow’, ahead of Bianca with ‘Shine A Little Light’, co-penned by Leona Lewis. But with none of the songs standing head and shoulders above the others, it should boil down to presentation, performance and critique on the night. I’ll likely be making more noise in the venue than the betting market.
There are Betfair markets available for the Hungarian, Finnish and Norwegian national finals on Saturday. The former seem likely to pick Freddie with ‘Pioneer‘, rather than the far more interesting choice of Gergo Olah. The Finns are not the most predictable bunch, but Mikael Saari seems the most likely winner of UMK with ‘On It Goes‘.
In Norway, favourite Agnete has been handed the pimp slot with ‘Icebreaker‘, which frustratingly slows down for its chorus. Her main rivals look to be boyband Suite 16, Laila Samuels with her ‘Alvadansen’-style Norwegian ballad, and Freddy Kalas with what sounds like the fun-song-that-makes-the superfinal, whilst the wildcards are lesbian collective The Hungry Hearts, who would add some much needed variety if chosen. Four will make the superfinal.
Alongside the Slovenian and Moldovan finals on Saturday, Sweden reveals the rest of its Melodifestivalen hand in the form of Molly Sanden’s ‘Youniverse’. And that’s all before Latvia’s Justs Sirmais persuades Latvia on Sunday to take his ‘Heartbeat‘ to Stockholm.
Onto the most recent selections, the fact that Bosnia’s act is Dalal & Deen feat Ana Rucner and Jala, already tells you there are too many cooks in the kitchen. The song – ‘Ljubav Je‘ – reinforces this by unsuccessfully mixing a Zeljko-inspired Balkan ballad with rap. It will need inspired staging to achieve coherence in Stockholm.
The results in Iceland and Ukraine were bigger talking points, polarising opinion on Eurovision forums. My main take is that whilst both songs have their merits, they fail the esctracker.com test. This is the stats site that tells you where each song is charting on iTunes before and during the contest. It signified the pan-European popularity of the likes of Conchita, Mans and Loic after their semi-final performances. Right now, I can’t see Europe showing the same enthusiasm for ‘Hear Them Calling’ or ‘1944’.
We’ve already seen Greta on the Eurovision stage in 2012: looking slightly nervous with a forced rictus-grin during ‘Never Forget’. There’s far more promise in the opening minute of ‘Hear Them Calling‘. But the a-chorus – with the song title as its refrain – offers diminishing returns as it becomes the increasing focus; whilst the b-chorus, dominated by the instrumental, feels like a disappointment. And the last time a song with a false ending did well in Eurovision was 2002.
Without the charisma of Mans or Loreen, or as strong a song, I think the staging concept ultimately dominates Greta rather than the other way round. This was partly Tanja’s problem for Estonia in 2014. Poor Tanja also struggled to fill the enormous Copenhagen stage, whilst the Icelandic projection at least maintains a sense of intimacy for Greta. But I can’t see ‘Hear Them Calling’ competing for top points among most of the Nordics, let alone elsewhere, which doesn’t bode well for its top ten prospects.
If I had to sum up Jamala’s ‘1944‘ in a word, it would be “difficult”. It’s difficult to know how much will be changed before Stockholm so it’s deemed not too political. My guess is that mild changes will be made as a form of lip service. As well as the difficult subject matter (the forced deportation of Crimea’s Tartar population by Stalin), Jamala’s English diction and the switch between languages makes a difficult song even more so. Therefore, despite the song’s emotional charge, my current opinion is that it’s just too difficult for general appeal.
Having said all which, its message will see ‘1944’ garner points from its likeliest allies. It’s difficult to know how that will translate onto the scoreboard come the final, but I’d easily take Ukraine in a match bet over Iceland.
Last but not least, Cyprus offered us its ‘Alter Ego‘ from rock band Minus One. As a Swedish composition from Thomas G:son, it’s not exactly hardcore – they call this kind of thing “poodle rock” when it shows up in Melodifestivalen. But I’m more interested in melody, and ‘Alter Ego’ has plenty of that, with a chorus that echoes Britney’s ‘Till The World Ends’, and riffs from The Killers playbook.
I’d prefer the strong b-chorus to get another proper airing after the bridge, rather than merely acting as the final fade-out. But ‘Alter Ego’ sounds strong enough to qualify from what is already looking like a difficult first heat. Staging will decide how well it does once in the final. If it all comes together in May, we could see Cyprus on the left-hand side of the scoreboard for the first time since 2004.
There will be lots to comment on over the next few days. As always, I look forward to your thoughts below.