Eurovision season is in full swing. The pace of selections has quickened, even if many songs have maintained a slowish tempo. There will barely be a day between now and mid-March without a reveal: tomorrow brings ‘Gravity’ from Cyprus, and among next Saturday’s finals is an intriguing Eesti Laul.
None of the recent selections are remotely challenging Italy’s hold at the top of the market. Furthermore, the predominance of slow songs and female performers seem to be playing into Francesco Gabbani’s hands.
Take Poland’s choice, ‘Flashlight‘ by Kasia Mos, which sounds like quite a lot of other entries already. We can put Malta’s ‘Breathlessly‘ by Claudia Faniello in the same category, although the latter doesn’t even try to be contemporary. Neither seem likely to be remembered by televoting neutrals, and we’ll have to see if Poland’s diaspora turns out in force again.
In the circumstances, any country trying to break this mould deserves some plaudits. I like Hungary ethnic effort, Joci Papai with ‘Origo‘. It’s well performed, with a sense of artistry, though I could do without the middle eight rap. At this early stage, I think it can continue the country’s recent excellent qualifying record. What we know of the Balkan entries suggests this will still be ploughing its own furrow come May.
Ukraine, Moldova and Latvia also provide something different, though less successfully so. I can’t see anything but another Greenjolly-style result for the hosts, represented by O.Torvald with ‘Time‘. Latvia’s Triana Park take us back to the 90s with dance track ‘Line‘. Based on its national final guise, this currently looks and sounds too amateurish to qualify. Moldova is my favourite of the three, Sunstroke Project returning with the fun if skin-deep ‘Hey Mamma‘. It’s got a running-man dance routine and Epic Sax Guy after all.
Slovenia and Denmark provide us with generic noughties offerings. I give less chance of qualifying to Omar Naber’s ‘On My Way‘ which hits every predictable note you’d expect of a 2001 Pop Idol winner’s B-side. Anja Nissen’s ‘Where I Am‘ has more of an RnB pop feel. It’s mainstream and slick in a way that can be underrated by fans. The same can also be said of Austria’s Nathan Trent with ‘Keep On Running‘, which treads all over Spain’s toes as a cute boy with a life-affirming, guitar-led song.
Looking ahead, Estonia’s national final this coming Saturday has been keenly fought on Betfair. Initial leaders Laura and Koit Toome, with the eurocheese of ‘Verona’, have been superseded by cult favourite Kerli’s electropop ‘Spirit Animal’. The former’s biggest obstacle may be getting to the televote-only superfinal of three, given the jury’s 50% say in the first round. They weren’t in their heat’s jury top four, although there’s usually a change in panel for the bigger venue of the final.
The most likely rivals for a superfinal place are Elina Born, owning the stage again with the competent ‘In or Out’; or Rasmus Randvee’s ‘This Love’, which isn’t dissimilar to last year’s winner, if more engagingly performed. The betting market also respects Ariadne’s chances of being there with ‘Feel Me Now’, but she could only manage fifth in the lesser semi-final, and a more likely surprise could be the much-respected Ivo Linna.
It’s an event worth watching (you can find the songs here), while keeping eyes and ears peeled for everything else coming our way. Do keep your thoughts coming below.