Wednesday, 26 April 2017

SOA17_06

Episode 6 of our Eurovision review show!

Clues to today's opnions are:

1) Cher Lloyd
2) Give up the beers
3) That’s nice
4) Too much interference
5) A bag of underwhemingness
6) Overlooking like a chaperone

Other references include lesser known Babylon Zoo songs (yes, there IS more than just the one!), 90’s rave culture, Mrs Brown’s Boys, one man went to mow, and tongue twisters

The reviewed songs, in alphabetical order are:
Czechia, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Serbia and Spain.


So, you can follow all the fun and games on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair  
or like our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ESCarmchair

You can download or listen to the latest podcast here - https://archive.org/details/SOA17_06

Click here to listen to this podcast in your usual music player (M3U Playlist)

Saturday, 22 April 2017

SOA17_05

Episode 5 of our Eurovision review show!

Considering we recorded this episode on the day a general election this was pretty topical news satire!

Very long intro to begin with (these intros are becoming less intros to the show more like an AOB about stuff that winds us up and needs getting off our chests. Soz.)  Other obscure references include Teletubbies, german bands and BBC Alba (you you even know/care what that is?!?!?!)

Clues to today’s opinions include:
1)      Contemporary yet eighties
2)      James Bond the musical
3)      Pick a key…
4)      Jarring
5)      Pudding
6)      Not even nice

Today’s reviewed entries, in alphabetical order are:
Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Lithuania, Moldova and San Marino


So, you can follow all the fun and games on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair  
or like our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ESCarmchair

You can download or listen to the latest podcast here - https://archive.org/details/SOA17_05

Click here to listen to this podcast in your usual music player (M3U Playlist)

Monday, 17 April 2017

SOA17_04

Not one to blow my own trumpet but this is the best intro yet!

We had a lot of fun reviewing the songs in ths episode and probably could have gone on for ages but we reigned ourselves in - but still not under the hour barrier yet- gah !!!!

The revews today include to following clues,,,

1) Look and Read’s The Boy from Space
2) Kenny Everett
3) Joyous
4) Susan Calman and Liz McColgan
5) Sounds too much like a show tune
6) A bit of a heavy concept

The songs reviewed today are, in alphabetical order:
Azerbaijan, Estonia, Italy, Malta, Netherlands and Slovenia


So, you can follow all the fun and games on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair  
or like our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ESCarmchair

You can download or listen to the latest podcast here - https://archive.org/details/SOA17_04

Click here to listen to this podcast in your usual music player (M3U Playlist)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

SOA17_03

Episode 3 is here and starts off in a quite literal quizzical manner...
Hints on today's reviews include...

1) too many bits
2) standing and singing a song
3) Racine Carrée
4) vowels….?
5) 2 minutes of song, a minute of ‘voicing’
6) Steptoe and son

On the plus side NO EDITS – we were very well behaved today (although it has been replaced in this episode by extreme grumpiness. Also fewer weird references today more because we were very tired and wanted to get under the hour banner… oh dear epic fail… As ever listen out for the hidden ending....

Today’s songs, in alphabetical order are:
Armenia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Latvia and Portugal


So, you can follow all the fun and games on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair  
or like our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ESCarmchair

You can download or listen to the latest podcast here - https://archive.org/details/SOA17_03

Click here to listen to this podcast in your usual music player (M3U Playlist)

Sunday, 9 April 2017

SOA17_02

You came back for more did you....?  You glutton for punishment !!!!

A brief summary of our feeings behind today's reviewed acts are -
1) Rats tails
2) looking like one of All Saints
3) a 3 minute selfie
4) best background yet/ever…?
5) Chris Morris' ”Paedageddon”
6) were there any words?

....aaaaaaaaaaaand there are lots of edits (we were far too edgy for our own good this episode!!!!)
Today’s random references include Kristian Leontiou. The Hardy Boyz, Zlatko from German Big Brother, and  Rubberbandits (please do Eurovision one day guys xxxx)

Now for the science bit...Today's reviewed acts are, in alphabetical order:
Australia, Belarus, Ireland, Montenegro, Romania and the United Kingdom


So, you can follow all the fun and games on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair  
or like our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ESCarmchair

You can download or listen to the latest podcast here - https://archive.org/details/SOA17_02

Click here to listen to this podcast in your usual music player (M3U Playlist)

Monday, 3 April 2017

SOA17_01

It's the Eurovision review show that has the one thing Eurovision doesn't - LOTS OF SWEARING !!!!

Andy and Ann are back with the fan and non-fan's view of this year's Eurovision entries... I would say how many entries there are but this number could change at any time... In this show we review 6 from the list...
Don't worry we try and recap the rules, the bizarre scoring system and we also talk about the slight change to the format but it doesn't really change how we feel about anything to be honest!

Things to watch out for -
1) Many references to Mr Tumble
2) WWE themes/walk on music
3) Po-land (quite literally)
4)Andy remembers something Ann didn't think he would remember...
5) Alternate re-writes of the Greek chorus
6) Is this Austria or is it actually Australia


The songs revewed today come from, in alphabetical order:
Austria, Finland, Greece, Poland, Switzerland and the hosts, Ukraine.


So, you can follow all the fun and games on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair  
or like our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ESCarmchair

You can download or listen to the latest podcast here - https://archive.org/details/SOA17_01

Click here to listen to this podcast in your usual music player (M3U Playlist)

Sunday, 19 March 2017

SEMI FINAL DRAW

Now that all the songs have been released, fans have been making predictions as to how the semi-final layouts might lay out. Not only have the songs been designated to 1 of the 2 semi finals but have also been slotted into the top or bottom half of their allocation.

However, this is NOT a prediction – although it might as well be!
I am imagining I am in charge of running order. What factors would I be taking into consideration?
I would have to be careful to space out songs in such a way so that it feels like something different and unique is coming on stage next. I’ve also tried hard NOT to favour songs I like and put them in too much of an advantageous position. All I have tried to do and individualise each song by putting each song before or after something different whether it be the kind of act, style of song or language.The only difference from this is in the openers and closers of each half as this song has to make a statement about what's to come or close off in a memorable fashion.
So here is my half arsed attempt is making an ‘interesting’ couple of shows…

Semi Final 1
Australia
Montenegro
Albania
Sweden
Finland
Azerbaijan
Portugal
Georgia
Belgium

Czech Republic
Iceland
Slovenia
Latvia
Cyprus
Armenia
Greece
Poland
Moldova

Semi Final 2
FYR Macedonia
Malta
Austria
Romania
Russia
Netherlands
Serbia
Ireland
Denmark
Hungary

San Marino
Norway
Bulgaria
Lithuania
Israel
Switzerland
Belarus
Croatia
Estonia
Also bear in mind there are likely to be ad breaks around the song 5 and song 13 mark (although these slots have not been cemented in fact) and so this knowledge may well affect the order.

This makes sense to me and I think it is fair considering the parameters I gave myself... 
Who knows what the real order will look like?

ARMENIA

The Armenian entry was finally revealed on March 18th via the official video. Back in December, the final of Depi Evratesil was held at ARMTV TV Studios in Yerevan, hosted by Gohar Gasparyan. The winner during the final was chosen by SMS voting (50%) & an "expert" jury of Armenian diaspora musicians (50%). The winner of the show would be selected as the Eurovision entrant with a song to selected at a later date. Going to Kyiv is Artsvik singing the song ‘Fly with me”

The main part of the video is set on a brightly coloured stage with different levels to it. She performs the song in a black dress with coloured bands on it that changes colour at different points in the song, however I don’t think it is particularly flattering for her. She has a plethora of dancers backing her which adds a lot of strength and power to the performance. The dancers work well together and at times it feels like she is control of what they are doing, almost like a puppet master. Although she doesn’t go into a full on dance routine, it is mostly armography, it is obvious she can maintain a good level of choreography and could do something similar on stage.

The song is very ethnic and the backing music is very beautiful and intricate. The lyrics and tune that lies on top of it is very non-descript and changeable. The beginning is quite a jazzy, almost spoken word introduction which then gets interrupted by a deep beat which leads into a verse. This leads into a refrain of oooooohs which has a very mystical and eastern feel. It then goes back to another verse but she sings this much more strongly and with her full voice. This then leads into what I guess is the chorus as it contains the title of the song, however there is no backing music change between here and the verse so feels a little bit flat. After this is then a sizable instrumental which is very elaborate with lots of nanobeats and percussion. This is then followed by a final chorus but with a totally different tune to the first one.

So this has elements of a ballad but is far too abstract, ethnic and innovate to be but unto that box. This is possibly the most ‘arty’ song of this year and the video styling really emphasises this. However, looking through all of this creative veneer there is actually very little to get your teeth into. The lyrical hooks don’t stand out enough and there are too many ‘bits’ that don’t get repeated and you find yourself struggling to find one bit you can plant in your brain and remember it.
It must be said that in the last few years, Armenia have been one of the countries taking an ‘out of the box’ approach tot heir entries and have come up with something very different and highly memorable to the stage. Unfortunately this year, they have brought the ‘art’ but not the ‘pop’. I cannot see how any first listener to this could enjoy this and vote for it. As we know, however, the diaspora of this country will vote and might be enough to get it through although I personally think there are 10 other songs I would prefer to see in the final than this.


ARTIST - Artsvik
SONG - Fly with me
MUSIC - Lilit Navasardyan, Levon Navasardyan
LYRICS - Avet Barseghyan, David Tserunyan.


Saturday, 18 March 2017

BULGARIA

The Bulgarian entry was released on March 13th via a lyric video. The broadcaster had released regular news snippets of their internal selection journey although very little was known about the final song and act choice. Going to Kyiv is Kristian Kostov with the song “Beautiful Mess”.

The release as in the form of a lyric video which leaves no clue about staging and singing ability. However, having watched a number of videos from his appearances on various talent shows, I can see that even though very young he has a very confident and self-assured voice. Although he has the boyish looks and fashion sense of a Justin Bieber, most of the songs I’ve seen are ballads and he doesn’t appear to move a lot. I say boyish looks, he could easily look at home representing Bulgaria at jESC instead.

The song in a slow ballad with a fair bit of falsetto and has an ethnic instrumentation. It sounds very modern and radio friendly and somehow also feels very familiar. It must also be said that the start of the song is very whispery and feels like he is using a very sensitive microphone so I would be very interested to see if he performs with such delicateness. The structure is pretty simple with a verse, chorus, verse, chorus structure. The ending is a bit odd as the last 30 seconds could be used to repeat the chorus fully rather than have an instrumental and an extra line. What is also confusing is the fact that the title ‘Beautiful mess’ is a line from the verse, not the chorus. In fact, it might even have been better to end on a repeat of that line.

So here is another ballad to put into the mix but Kristan will appeal to a younger age group compared to many of the other balladeers. When I listened to this for the first time I thought it was dull and quite average. I kept on waiting for a big guild up that never came. After several listens my opinion of this has got better but not by much. It also has shades of “Believe” by Dima Bilan about it, which dates it slightly. I think the biggest comparison many have made is that after last year’s banger of a tune this is a bit of a let-down.
Throughout all the craziness of semi-final 2 this could come across as quite boring and forgettable OR come across as 3 minutes of class during a very bizarre night. The draw might be a real factor in how well this does - if it is near the end, it will stand out. Personally, I think that this is too quiet, spiritless and lethargic to do anything in the final if it did progress -unless hehas a memorable stageing trick up his sleeve


ARTIST - Kristian Kostov
SONG – Beautiful mess
MUSIC - Borislav Milanov, Sebastian Arman, Joachim Bo Persson
LYRICS - Borislav Milanov, Sebastian Arman, Joachim Bo Persson


RUSSIA

The Russian act and song were revealed on March 12th via a news report of Channel 1. The country was almost silent about its Eurovision participation throught the selection window and the publication of the video was a little known almost until the day of broadcast. Yulia Samoylova will sing the song “Flame is burning”

The video is shot in a studio with Yulia on a large stage with an enthusiastic studio audience. Yulia is on a plinth centre stage with video screens all around her and underneath. Yulia is a wheelchair user and therefore does not movefrom the spot. Most of the visual dynamic of the piece is made by the different camera angles and the video screen. Most of the screen shots are of the top half of her body or head shots, however there are also some far away shots which show the stage really well but makes Yulia look like a tiny dot on a huge stage. On the other hand, with a creative 360 degree view they could come up with something very interesting and eye catching.

The song is a typical peace ballad with an anthemic chorus. The verses are quite fast and wordy, to the point where you really have to listen so you don’t miss the lyrics. The chorus is much calmer and memorable and she also has the support of the backing singers to emphasise the title of the song. The whole thing feels much better during the second verse as the drum beat is trsonger and seems to fit better with the meaning of the song. Around the 2:10 mark there is a nice interlude/bridge part with a much more intricate beat. This leads into the last chorus and the song slips back down into predictability again.

This is a very tough one to call. This is Russia, so it has lots of neighbours and culturally close countries who will vote for them. Russia also have a 100% qualification record from semi to final which I am sure they would want to uphold. There will also be a proportion of the viewership that might vote for this as a sympathy or solidarity vote due to her disability. On the other hand, her diction is very bad during the verses and the song writing itself is full of over used rhymes and the structure is far too predictable.
Personally, I think there are 10 better songs than this in semi-final 2 and if this was anybody else but Russia this would be an open and shut case of DNQ. The broadcaster has tried to distance itself from the political situation between Russia and Ukraine by sending a peace ballad by a singer with physical disabilities. Although this might stifle any booing and personal comments towards the Russian delegation (which has happened in the last few contests towards the Russian acts) it won’t stop people talking about how political Eurovision is no matter if this song does or does not qualify.


ARTIST - Yulia Samoylova
SONG - Flame is burning
MUSIC - Leonid Gutkin, Netta Nimrodi, Arie Burshtein
LYRICS - Leonid Gutkin, Netta Nimrodi, Arie Burshtein


Friday, 17 March 2017

SAN MARINO

The San Marinese act and song were revealed on March 12th via a via the official video release. Very little news about the song or act appeared all season until a couple days before the deadline when it was revealed that it would be a duet. Singing in Kyiv will be Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson with the song “Spirit of the night”

Although the video itself it nearly 4 minutes long, if you eliminate the intro (up to the first ‘hey’) and outro, the song comes just in under the 3 minute limit. The setting is of a crowded club when Jimmie and Valentina are the stereotypical with the they/won’t they scenario. They have a good chemistry and make a bit of an odd couple which I guess should make them quite memorable to ther viewers. Of course this will be Valentina 4th time at Eurovision for San Marino so whatever she does this will go HUGE in the hall.

The song is an up-tempo number whose genre is possibly closest to disco. The verses are quite corny with a kind of call and response structure. From this part the structure is quite repetitive but tells the story well. When the chorus starts the background music becomes slightly minimal and then beefs back up again for the second part of the chorus. The come down to the second chorus is a bit odd but I could imagine with clever camera angles and staging this could be minimised. I can’t but help myself wanting to go into “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls when the chorus starts up. The second half of the song is mainly variations on the chorus in which there seem to be multiple key changes. The ending, although sudden, is at least a proper ending that finishes on a high note.

Cheese. And what much needed cheese it is! Ralph Siegel has not quite lost it yet! Although a late-comer to the Eurovision party, they have certainly come up with something that is stereotypical Eurovision but it just so happens there is very little of that this year! The chorus in incredibly catchy and the repetition of the title certainly gets in your head even if you don’t want it to. The speed of the song is not too fast and not too slow and I can see the hall going big for this one. It is just the right speed for hand clapping and flag waving.
Of course, this is San Marino and the principality has only qualified once in its time (with Valentina) and I must be realistic about their chances. This a can really only qualify through quality of the song as they have no diaspora and no ‘neighbourly voting’ to rely on. The chances of this qualifying are almost zero but this is not through lack of trying. I really love this song and think it is just what Eurovision needs. The question is – has Eurovision ‘grown up’ and ‘moved on’ or will Eurovision always need, or possibly fall back on, some good old-fashioned pop?


ARTIST - Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson
SONG -Spirit of the night
MUSIC - Ralph Siegel
LYRICS - Steven Barnacle, Jutta Staudenmayer


ICELAND

The Icelandic Final was held on March 11th at Laugardalshöll in Reykjavik, hosted by Ragnhildur Steinunn Jónsdóttir. Before the final there were 2 semi-finals and all the songs at this point had to be performed in Icelandic. The winner was chosen in 2 rounds of voting - in the first round the top 2 were chosen by an international "expert" jury (50%) & televoting (50%) but in the second round the winner was chosen solely by televoting. The winner was Svala with her self-penned song “Paper”

Svala is alone on stage wearing an 80s style pants suit and jacket with a short top underneath. There are laser effects and plumes of smoke on stage throughout the song. At first she is very dimly lit whilst white light beams flash around her in time with the music. The background is mainly flashing blocks of turquoise. During the second verse, beams of pink light join the show. The staging of this is highly choreographed with every little step and arm movement thought through beforehand. I also notice that a lot of the camera work focuses on Svala’s whole body and very little on her face which is a very odd artistic decision.

The song is an electropop ballad although some of the parts of the song are phrased faster than others. The start of the song has very minimal backing which shows off Svala’s tone of voice and great diction. The chorus is cleverly written with a good 6 beats of the 8 given just to the word ‘paper’ although the other rhymes in the chorus are a little predictable. The second chorus is more interesting as the cadence and flow is much quicker, more staccato which makes the rhymes and writing much clever and more interesting to listen to. The ‘ah-ah-ah’ part after the second chorus is very ill placed and stalls the flow of the song and makes you think the song is nearly over when it is not. It makes the last version of the chorus feel like it’s plodding.

Although I quite like her style and staging of this, I find quite clinical. There is a lack of spontaneity and true feeling in her performance that leaves me very cold. I almost wish that for a chorus or two she just connected with the audience in the hall or straight down the camera lens and told the story. I particularly hate the part in the chorus where she dances with her hands on her hips! The other issue is that the song is quite bland and doesn’t really go anywhere. There is fair prominence to the word ‘paper’ which gets in your head but the rest is quite forgettable. I can easily imagine this being placed between more up-tempo numbers which would kill this song’s chances stone dead. In fact the only way I can see this qualifying is if it is performed last and the chances of that happening are minimal.


ARTIST - Svala
SONG - Paper
MUSIC - Svala Björgvinsdóttir, Einar Egilsson, Lester Mendez, Lily Elise
LYRICS - Svala Björgvinsdóttir, Einar Egilsson, Lester Mendez, Lily Elise


Thursday, 16 March 2017

NORWAY

The Norwegian Final was held on March 11th at the Spektrum in Oslo, hosted by Line Elvsåshagen & Kåre Magnus Bergh. The winner was chosen in two rounds of voting. In the first round the top 4 were chosen by televoting (50%) & 10 international juries (50%). In the second round the winner was chosen solely by televoting. Going to Kyiv will be JOWST ft. Aleksander Walmann with the song “Grab the moment”.

The performance is pretty static although the members on stage are spaced out around the stage behind black  plinths which gives scope of different camera angles and view. The background is mostly pinky/purply blocks of colour although there is also the use of similarly coloured interference on the screen which at first makes you think something is wrong. Aleksander is in a long white shirt and large black hat, whilst the band in is dressed in black with LED covered masks on. It is certainly a very mysterious and stylistically bold set up.

The verses of the song have an almost reggae feel whilst the tune is monotone and repetitive and has an alost country swagger about it. The upside of this is that it shows of Aleksander’s diction and gets you straight into the story of the song. The chorus is also very repetitive having the same 2 lines repeated. After this there is a sizeable instrumental before going back into the chorus. Here, there are mechanised samples of the chorus that are repeated at different speeds and pitches. Now obviously, this cannot be allowed at Eurovision unless replicated live – is this even possible? The most interesting part is the bridge around the 2:10 mark when the backing goes a bit swirly but Aleksander sings on regardless.

This is not a bad song but the issue here is it not instant. On first listen this is pretty forgettable but it is only after 3 or 4 repeats that the structure becomes more predictable and at Eurovision you don't have that luxury. Although this song has been chosen to go to Eurovision, it doesn't scream ESC which possibly makes it more credible but less like what you expect in the show, The visuals of the act are pretty strong, even though Aleksander would do with looking a little smarter, and are memorable enough within the confines of the semi. What’s more, Alexander has such a good voice and barely puts a note wrong during any of the performances he did during the show. On the basis that this is a slow burner, this will either not qualify or just qualify but do better in the final.


ARTIST - JOWST ft. Aleksander Walmann
SONG - Grab the moment
MUSIC - Joakim With Steen, Jonas McDonnell
LYRICS - Joakim With Steen, Jonas McDonnell


LITHUANIA

The Lithuanian Final was held on March 11th at Švyturio Arena in Klaipeda, hosted by Ieva Stasiuleviciute & Gabriele Martirosianaite. Before the final there were a sequence of heats, quarterfinals, semi-finals and wild card votes before reaching the final of 7 acts 2017. The winner was chosen by televoting (50%) & an "expert" jury (50%). He winner was the group Fusedmarc with the song “Rain of revolution”.

The national final performance is very visual, The singer, Viktorija, has a long flowing dress and has her hair splayed out on top of her head like a Japanese bun.  She is very active, moving around the stage and trying to embody the words and music through her movements. Behind her is the guitarist and a line of backing singers. The video wall behind and below them is very well used. In fact, the glowing catherine wheel effect on the floor is very effective, especially from the above camera shots. The splattery, fuzzy background is a nice contrast to her dress but very little else.

The song starts off with a very jazzy fanfare before Viktorija, starts singing. Her voice is very strong and changes tone and strength depending on the different part she is singing. That said her diction and accent are almost impenetrable, especially at the start. The verses are very similar to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” but without the funky guitar riff. The chorus is much more anthemic and sticks in your head quite quickly. After the chorus there is a roundel of ‘yeah yeah yeah’-ing which is really a waste and the fact it ends on this is very confusing. I would be more impressed if she lost it completely and went full on jazz with an improvised scatting middle 8.

Although this is another different style to add to this year’s genre list, it misses the mark, and by a wide berth too. Her voice, although quite artistic, it is very hard to listen too and her diction is verging on being ‘indecipherable club singer’. If you don’t know what she’s singing about you cannot connect to her orthe song. The different parts of the song don’t really work as a cohesive unit, I fear this will feel flat in the hall which will in turn make the viewers at home wonder what this song is missing.
The only glimmer of hope this has of qualifying is if the diaspora, of which there are some participating countries in the semi, vote hard enough to give their homeland and extra push, however I am not quite sure the juries (unless they are full to the brim of jazz/funk aficionados) will go for this at all. We won’t be seeing this on Saturday night.

ARTIST - Fusedmarc
SONG - Rain of revolution
MUSIC - Viktorija Ivanovskaja, Denis Zujev, Michail Levin
LYRICS - Viktorija Ivanovskaja, Denis Zujev, Michail Levin


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

SWEDEN

The Swedish Final was held on March 11th at the Friends Arena in Solna, hosted by Clara Henry, David Lindgren & Hasse Andersson. Before the final there were 4 heats and a second chance round. In the heats, voting was split between televoting and app voting. In the final, the winner was chosen by televoting (50%) and 11 international juries (50%). The winning singer was Robin Bengtsson and his song is called “I can’t go on”

In an effect over used by talent competitions, Robin and his backing dancers all start behind the scenes. They walk though the technical area before appearing on stage. They are all dressed quite smartly in suits which are done up and undone during the choreography.  When they get to the stage they then perform their well-rehearsed routine on travellators which move all different kinds of ways at different speeds. The background is very geometric which gives the effect of actually walking to or from somewhere else. The effect is very pleasing, especially when their cues are spot on and the camera angles show off the formations. Apart from that not much really happens.

The song is a stereotypical Swedish production. It is very radio friendly can you could easily imagine any generic western boyband or upcoming teenage star singing this song or ant contemporary commercial radio station playing this to bits. The verses are quite flat and have quite a low tune which means you must listen quite hard to pick up the lyrics and the tune. The chorus is much more instant, especially as the title of the song is repeated fight at the start of the chorus and really punctuates this important part of the song. The ending is quite effective especially as all the props stop dead and the lights go off too.

This is a perfectly good pop song and it presented and is performed well. In fact, one could say it’s just a bit too slick. Although Robin is a good singer and moves quite well he has the charisma of a twig and looks about as likeable as stepping in a dog turd. What this makes up in professionalism it totally lacks in charm and likeability.  First, I would get him out of the suit. It looks like the local bank manager has got drunk and is trying his hand at karaoke. It would almost be better if Robin did minimal choreography, spent his time and energy connecting with the camera and making more effort in his facial expressions, which are pretty blank and smug. It must also be noted that if he wants additional backing vocalists he will either have to get rid of 1 or 2 of his treadmill chums OR find a couple of people who can sing and dance whilst on a moving platform. 
This should qualify, as this will appeal to today’s download and streaming generation. However, it must be noted that this song won the international jury vote but only came third in the Swedish televote. This will be a welcome addition to the final but is no winner.


ARTIST - Robin Bengtsson
SONG - I can't go on
MUSIC - David Kreuger, Hamed "K-One" Pirouzpanah, Robin Stjernberg
LYRICS - David Kreuger, Hamed "K-One" Pirouzpanah, Robin Stjernberg


SERBIA

The Serbian entry was released on March 11th in the form of the official video. Last month it was announced that Tijana Bogićević had been internally selected and that her song would be unveiled at a later date. Her song is called “In too deep”.

The video centres on dancing and movement – in the air, on the floor and even underwater. Tijana is joined by a number of dancers whose parts are shown in slow motion. Most of this centres on one male and female pairing who dance a lot ‘together’ although mainly with and against each other.. On all parts of the action there are lots of flowing scarves flashes of colour or strings of beads, which again all look better underwater. Tijana herself is found either singing into the camera lens or seated on a ring suspended from the ceiling, although not too high.

The song starts off with minimal backing which beefs up during the chorus. The tune of the verse is very much like the chorus of “About you now” by the Sugababes, whilst the chorus is more like “Running” by Naughty Boy. Not only do the two parts feel different, Tijana vocally sounds different. The change of atmosphere between the two carts is really jarring, especially coming down from the chorus into the verse again. It leaves you feeling quite cold and disrupts the flow of the song somewhat. The ending is not so sudden at is ends on the final line of the chorus so feels expected.

I feel quite let down by this entry. The structure of this song just doesn’t work for me. Tunes of the verses seems too nice whilst the chorus is too busy and frantic. The instrumental around the 2 in mark is very nice and fits in well and sounds really great sandwiched between the choruses. I am slightly intrigued so wee how this is staged as I feel that if she moves about too much she will sound too breathy but she will look very odd if stood still.
The other issue is that the second semi is full of very varied songs and, although quite radio friendly and modern, doesn’t really have the instant feel and catchiness of some of the other songs that will come before and after it. However Serbia is lucky to have quite a few neighbours in the same semi so will possibly get more votes than it might deserve. Either way, I personally would not be to bothered if it doesn’t qualify.


ARTIST - Tijana Bogićević
SONG - In too deep
MUSIC - Borislav Milanov, Joacim Bo Persson, Johan Alkenas, Lisa Ann-Mari Linder
LYRICS - Borislav Milanov, Joacim Bo Persson, Johan Alkenas, Lisa Ann-Mari Linder


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

AZERBAIJAN

The Azeri entry was released on March 11th in the form of the official video. Back in November it was announced that Dihaj (Diana Hajiyeva) had been internally selected and that her song would be unveiled at a later date. 
Her song is called “Skeletons”.

The video is very dark and mysterious and at some points feels quite detached from the song. Dihaj is sat in a café/bar and is then driven through the woods to a dark, undisclosed location. On the way, she keeps looking at her hand which at lines become like x-rays and you can see her bones. Once in the woods she is confronted by flashing TV screen which show videos of her in a Big Brother-esque way. Also by the end she looks quite dark and menacing in her slicked hair, goth make up and long bac trench coat. I could imagine the images of x-rays being a good motif for a stage show but very confusing nonetheless.

The song starts off with a nervy industrial, synthy and blocky backing track. The verses have a very clear tune and Dihaj can reach the notes and sing the song with good diction on the recording. When the song reaches the chorus is gets far too messy. Her diction is caught out a bit and you cannot always pick out her voice from the track, especially as the backing singers are singing something slightly different and Dihaj gets washed out. That said the lyrics of the chorus is much more interesting than the verses. The chorus comes into its own at the end of the song when different parts of the song are sung at different times at different pitches and the whole thing feels really atmospheric, although the actual end is very weak and limp.

I like this song and I also like the feeling and story the song brings but I think there needs to be a lot of work to make it Eurovision ready. First, they need to sort out the levels of the singers on the track. If the singers are going to be singing different things, especially in the first renditions of the chorus, they need to give Dihaj more prominence or minimise what the backing singers sing. Secondly they need to have a clear visual. I quite like the menacing goth look she has near the end of the song – giving her a clear ‘character’ would really make her stand out. Azerbaijan have never failed to qualify since they joined the contest and looking at the first half of semi 1 this song is quite individual but they have a lot of songs to compete against in the second half. Would the ‘indie’ vote prefer this or Latvia I wonder...? Although I think this should qualify, I have a feeling that like the last couple of Azeri qualifiers this will be right on the bubble.


ARTIST - Dihaj
SONG - Skeletons
MUSIC - Isa Melikov, Sandra Bjurman
LYRICS - Isa Melikov, Sandra Bjurman


Monday, 13 March 2017

FYR MACEDONIA

The Macedonian entry was released on March 10th in the form of the official video.
Back in November it was announced that Jana Burčeska had been internally selected and that her song would be unveiled at a later date. Her song is called “Dance alone”.

The video release of this is very interesting as many fans have been captured by its story. In short the old lady uses virtual reality glasses to watch herself, and presumably her late husband, when they were young – or possibly a reincarnation of how they would be if they were young now. These clips are interspersed with her doing normal things around the house, which emphasises her loneliness. It is a very strong visual, a great piece of storytelling and works well with the song and reel you into the whole package.

Her song is a modern radio tune with more than a passing nod to the electronica of the 80s. The vocals in the verses have been altered slightly to give it a slightly dull, old fashioned far away finish. This effect really works with the video but I am not quite sure how or if this could be replicated on stage. The verses are quite stylised feeling like she’s talking rather than singing and so require good diction. The chorus is quite catchy as the words are simplistic and tune is repetitive and the movement between verse to chorus to verse feels really seamless.

This is a very pleasing entry and not one you would expect from Macedonia.
My issue is that the video has overshadowed the song. Although many people have liked the quality of the song, I have seen and heard more chat about the narrative of the video. Now although this will give more footfall to the official video my worry will be more about the stage show at Eurovision. I very much doubt that this narrative could be transferred to the stage and having the video as a background would just not work. I almost think that any stage show just wouldn’t work as well as the video does. This twinned with the fact that the vocals probably won’t sound the same on the night and that semi 2 is more diverse, means it could be more of a struggle. If this had been in semi 1 this would easily qualify.


ARTIST - Jana Burčeska
SONG – Dance alone
MUSIC - Joacim Persson, Alex Omar, Florence A, Bobi-Leon Milanov
LYRICS - Joacim Persson, Alex Omar, Florence A, Bobi-Leon Milanov


Sunday, 12 March 2017

MONTENEGRO

The Montenegrin entry was released on March 9th in the form of the official video. Back in December it was announced that Slavko Kalezić had been internally selected and that his song had already been chosen but would be unveiled in March. He will be singing the song “Space”.

The video is extremely ‘in your face’ (many might say overly aggressive) and a bit of an onslaught on the senses. For most of the song he is dressed in very little – mostly very tight trousers, boots and a headdress that mimics a VERY long ponytail. There are two settings in the video, one is a rocky outdoor scene which looks a bit other-worldly and the other is an industrial looking studio or club. At points, it looks like he has other similarly dressed dancers behind him but it is actually him backing up himself! There is a lot of suggestive dancing (which would go down well in the hall) and lots of disco-esque beams of light which would also make a good stage background.

The song in structure is similar to Hungary’s song in 2009 although this has a much harder edge. The tune of the verses is quite dark and minimal whilst the choruses have a more major feel and are more uplifting and danceworthy. His style of siging inbth parts is very different too andpart of me struggles to see if he will be able to keep up this styles change live without getting too breathy.  Going from verse to chorus is OK but getting back again is a bit jarring. However we only hear the chorus twice as the last 40 second is almost an instrumental ending with “In space we can be as one” which to my ears is the ONLY time you hear the word space in the song, which is very odd. The lyrics are slightly cringeworthy and are seemingly full of double entendre and double meanings whose effect wears off really quickly once you have heard it more than once.

So at least it is not a ballad…
I can imagine this possibly being the standout track in the first half of semi 1 and I kind of pity the acts that have to follow this one! From that perspective, I feel that the energy and possibly showmanship of Slavko will stand out a mile. This is going to appeal to a very particular catchment of Eurovision fans and viewership… and I am not sure who else. Montenegro are unlucky that only one other ex-Yugoslav nation is in semi 1 and this won’t benefit for neighbourly voting. That said I think it will get votes from some of the western countries who will appreciate the flamboyant nature of the song and singer. I personally think it is a little weak but have a sneaky suspicion this will just qualify (although I don’t think it should) but end up in the 20’s in the final.


ARTIST - Slavko Kalezić
SONG - Space
MUSIC - Momčila Zekovića
LYRICS - Momčila Zekovića


IRELAND

The Irish entry was released on March 10th firstly with a play on RTE Radio 2FM then released online in the form of the official video. Back in December it was announced that Brendan Murray,  member of the boyband Hometown, had been internally selected and that his song would be chosen and revealed at a later date. He will be singing the song “Dying to try”.

The video is set at Bray, a seaside resort just south of Dublin. The atmosphere is quite bright but also looks quite cold and windy. Brendan is filmed walking and singing at different points along the beach, interspersed by the will they/won’t they story of two lovers. I could imagine some of the sweeping scenery shots making it into a background package bout would not have much connection with the lyrics of the song. As it was a pre-recorded selection it is hard to discuss singing and performance ability at this stage, although he looks a nice young lad and dressed in an apt way could be accessible to the younger viewership.

The song is a slow ballad but with a Viennese waltz lilt. The backing track is very sparse with a kind of ‘white noise’ backing to it, apart from that the main instruments you can hear are piano and drums. There are also some prominent backing singers in the second half of the performance. The song builds nicely – with even a key change as it enters the second minute. By the end the song comes back down again from its big build up. Brendan has a noticeably high voice which does stand out, although I wonder how much production has been done to the track to tone this down slightly or maybe this song was chosen because it tones down that screechiness.

Overall, I think this is a good selection. I had major reservations regarding the selection of Brendan and the seemingly over-bearing mentoring by Louis Walsh. But the song is not a bad one and if Brendan can sing this well live it could be a bit of a dark horse, or at least take votes away from similar songs.
On the plus side, semi 2 is very diverse and is not as ballad filled as semi 1. Therefore, watchers might see this as friendlier and more accessible Eurovision fayre and feel safe giving this votes. I also think slightly older jury members would love this. On the down side, Ireland really don’t have may ‘friends’ in the semi – not even the UK votes in this one. I’d love to see this go through but it might just miss out.


ARTIST - Brendan Murray
SONG - Dying to try
MUSIC - Jörgen Elofsson, James Newman
LYRICS - Jörgen Elofsson, James Newman