There’s been no let-up in Eurovision selections over the last week. We started with Germany on Thursday, where Jamie-Lee Kriewitz justified favouritism with ‘Ghost‘. It’s a lovely, haunting song, one of the best chosen so far. But I fear after watching the German final, it’s in danger of being better suited to the radio than the Eurovision stage.
Quite how much that’s to do with the song itself, or what we saw in the German final is open to question – the latter can be worked on for Stockholm. What’s likely to stay is Jamie’s taste for incongruous Japanese fashion; the rest of the cold, static staging looked like an X Factor hatchet job, and is worth a rethink.
On Friday, the U.K. public showed their penchant for the pimp slot, a song you can tap your toes to, and unthreatening good looks by choosing Joe and Jake’s ‘You’re Not Alone‘. There wasn’t any insight gleaned from being at the venue with its terrible acoustics. Watching the show back, it was a decent enough choice given what was on offer. The main problem for the boys is that there’s already plenty of male midtempo stuff in the competition, from the likes of Denmark, Ireland and others. ‘You’re Not Alone’ may get lost among them.
Hungary also falls into this category, albeit with a slightly rockier edge, having chosen Freddie with ‘Pioneer‘. I can’t help but draw comparisons between this and the same country’s 2012 entry ‘Sound of Our Hearts’. I wasn’t overly impressed by Freddie’s vocals in the national final, but the Hungarian studio can be an unforgiving place, and Compact Disco improved a great deal from it. At the moment, I envisage ‘Pioneer’ most likely qualifying without causing too much damage in the final.
Norway has qualified for the last four years, and should do so again with Agnete’s ‘Icebreaker‘. The well-produced song comfortably won a competitive enough national final. I’m not alone in being frustrated by how the chorus pulls back a gear after the EDM verse promises a banger. I’ve long reckoned that unexpected changes in tempo don’t go down well with the Eurovision audience – Iceland 2005 and Estonia 2011 spring to mind – and that may limit how high ‘Icebreaker’ scores on Saturday night.
Slovenia chose something less polished, but there’s a certain amateurish charm to ManuElla’s country-tinged ‘Red and Blue‘, both in the yodelling-plus-guitar nature of the song, and the Bucks Fizz style costume change. Like Norway, it’s drawn in the second half of the second semi, a section that includes songs from Georgia and Belgium. As such, I won’t rule out qualification.
Moldova has a more difficult job in the first half of the first semi, without best friend Romania to help. Lydia Isac won their national final last Saturday with ‘Falling Stars‘. With its tinny eurobeat and obvious melody, it’s a rather dated and generic dance track. Still, Finland is in the same section, and Sandjha’s ‘Sing It Away‘ feels like it was buried in an even older time capsule which similarly should never have been reopened.
A far bigger talking point was Latvia’s choice of Justs Sirmais’ ‘Heartbeat‘ on Sunday. Some fans are calling it a winner whilst others feel underwhelmed given the hype. Written by last year’s overall sixth-placer Aminata, with similar electro touches to ‘Love Injected’, I think it’s the best song chosen so far. It’s credible and well sung in a way that’s likely to appeal greatly to juries, who placed Aminata second last year.
The bigger question is how televoters take to it. ‘Heartbeat’ feels a little more accessible and coherent than ‘Love Injected’, which managed only 100 points from this constituency. But Aminata had great presence and staging which Justs has yet to prove on the Stockholm stage. My concern is that kept as it is, the overall effect of ‘Heartbeat’ may be a little too underpowered.
I have it at the top of the pile so far – but I felt the same way about Hungary’s ‘Running’ at this stage in 2014 and Estonia’s ‘Goodbye To Yesterday’ at this stage in 2015. Then as now, we’re waiting for some of the biggest contenders to show their potential aces, in this case Russia, Poland and Sweden, not to mention Australia and the Netherlands.
The impatient wait can create a febrile atmosphere in the Betfair market. France came down to around 16s in the outright once it was confirmed that Amir Haddad would be singing ‘J’ai Cherche‘. It’s a pleasant, upbeat radio number, and I enjoy the syncopated beat in particular. But at the moment, my feeling is it’s a little too beige and easily forgotten to challenge the top end of the scoreboard.
Armenia revealed its ‘LoveWave‘ by Iveta Mukuchyan yesterday. Positive opinion seemed to feel it offered something interesting and different with staging potential. The danger is there are too many disparate elements included. Aside from the usual verse and chorus, we have a spoken word opening, an intense instrumental before the first chorus, and an ethnic bridge. It’s a confusing mish-mash that will need inspired staging to win over neutral voters.
The pace of selections don’t let up over the next few days. Israel has its national final tonight, whilst Montenegro and the Netherlands reveal their songs tomorrow. This Saturday is most keenly anticipated of all, given that it involves two of the three current favourites, Poland and Russia, not to mention Estonia’s ever-enjoyable national final. Romania holds its final on Sunday, and Kaliopi presents FYROM’s song on Monday. Do keep your insightful thoughts coming below during this exciting period.