We have checked the first semi yesterday, still in the Blog Ohne Sinn – now I took the whole thing over here, to Music For Europe, for the second semi. Once again, I used preview videos where possible for the review – which means some countries got a live performance rated. But usually I assume it will be a good one, as it’s mostly from the NF, so no reason to search for a studio. No more talking now – may the best ten songs qualify!
1. LITHUANIA: Monika Linkyte & Vaidas Baumila – This Time
The Lithuanians finished the world’s most complicated NF with a very happy and summery duet that goes just a little over the top in everything. The couple Vaidas and Monika pretend to be is just a little bit too cute, the song just slightly too happy and the kiss in the middle just a bit too much choreography. But it’s kinda nice to see someone be consequent like this in a love song! Lithuania is certainly a good choice for a nice, positive start, but I think the draw works against them here – it could have stood out a lot more in the ballad-sea that semi is. They might have had to be sacrificed for the sake of the show – but a good song qualifies from everywhere, as they say.
2. IRELAND: Molly Sterling – Playing With Numbers
The choice of this on #2 rather surprises me – I would have expected the very hopeless Sammarinese duo here – but once again, a good song qualifies from everywhere. I still can’t believe this girl is younger than Maria Olafs, but apart from that, the song is quite okay. Unfortunately, it sounds as if it was rejected by Emeli Sandé (or Birdy. I can’t tell them apart) because it was just slightly not boring enough for her. While there are actually quite interesting parts in Playing With Numbers, for example the first chorus or Molly’s voice, the song still bores me as much as I expect it from a female piano ballad. Sorry, Ireland, but this simply isn’t my kind of music.
3. SAN MARINO: Anita Simoncini & Michele Perniola – Chain Of Lights
San Marino got to the final last year, and so Valentina could finally step down in peace. It’s a shame she didn’t take uncle Ralph with her though – or at least told him it’s ESC, not JESC. Instead of our favourite cybersex addict we get a stereotypical Italian boy and a pretty cute girl barely old enough to participate, and I feel sorry for them. THEY are not the problem with it, but the whole song simply does not work, and neither does the video, presenting us weirdnesses like a magically lit candle, one minute of credits and the rather weird fact that the first shot of Anita shows not much more than her breasts. Seriously, the only votes this will get are from teenage boys hoping to pick up Anita by being able to tell her they were the only ones who voted for her, no?
4. MONTENEGRO: Knez – Adio
Ohh Montenegro, what’s wrong with you? Their debut was one of my favourites, and they got even better in 2012 and 2013, but somehow RTCG decided that they wanted to reach the final for once, and stopped pleasing me with hopelessly underrated masterpieces like Euro Neuro and Igranka by going for Balkan ballads and ice skaters instead. This year, Montenegro showed us that they are serious about their new style by hiring the grandmaster of Balkan ballads himself, and somehow Zeljko Joksimovic managed for once to write something that doesn’t sound like someone just died. As a consequence, it also sounds a lot less beautiful. What have I done wrong, Montenegro? I would have voted for you, but… can’t you understand I wasn’t allowed to? I will do whatever you want, but please, bring the awesomeness back!
5. MALTA: Amber – Warrior
Warrior Number Two is coming for us, and she brought her strings with her. The whole thing has a fitting orchestral sound to it, but for singing about being a warrior, this is way too soft and calm, and, probably as a consequence, too forgettable. This would need much more aggression, and like it is with true warriors facing each other, only one will leave the semi alive – but it will be Georgia’s. But maybe we are misunderstanding her, and all she wants to say is that she’s a wayaahaha – a less-known way of saying “I love Trijntje Oosterhuis” in Malta.
6. NORWAY: Mørland & Debrah Scarlett – A Monster Like Me
The last two times Norway tried with a ballad it started out with a very beautiful melody and a nice sound, but went too big and dramatic to the end. Unfortunately, they insist on keeping that scheme for A Monster Like Me and add a rather fascinating female figure plus one of the better lyrics of the year to the thing. Such a shame, because this has the best beginning of all the Norwegian ballads I talked about, but tries to be more than it should in the end – and, by doing it, kills it for me. Maybe that is the thing Mørland did in his early youth… While doing so, they also managed to get one of the best, but also the scariest video of the year – drugging a whole dinner table into maniacs must be a rather new concept for Eurovision. Maybe Debrah should try doing that with the juries?
7. PORTUGAL: Leonor Andrade – Há um Mar que nos Separa
Well… what should I say about it? I think it’s unfair people criticize Leonor Andrade for her uncombed hair, cause I think it’s one of the best things about the whole thing, together with the black and white backdrop in the video at least. That reminds me of The Worrying Kind… now if only the rest of the song would do too. Judging by her outfit and her movements, the Portuguese tried to send a rock song, but unfortunately it got confused with the writer’s first attempts of writing a song for Eurovision back in the early 90’s, when it would have been dated only by a few years instead of the few decades too late it is now. How about you send the rock song you staged this year in 2016, Portugal? And, btw, you might keep your language. It’s a nice one.
8. CZECH REPUBLIC: Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta – Hope Never Dies
THEY ARE BACK! The country that got brutally robbed three times in a row and decided to go back to where they came from is back, and this time they seem to actually be trying to grab votes. They succeed in grabbing mine. Hope Never Dies (I really have to try hard to avoid the obvious joke…) has such a great athmosphere, and I love the voices of the singers, well, actually I love the whole thing, maybe except the video. I wish the Czechs all the best for their comeback – it would only be right if they finally qualified, because they have actually earned it at least twice before.
9. ISRAEL: Nadav Guedj – Golden Boy
Talking about getting robbed, here is 2014’s contribution to the subject. Israel did a very unusual thing by finally ditching the Hebrew which was rather unusable for everything that wasn’t aggressive or overly emotional, but also did something very usual by sending the most Eurovision-screaming song of the year once again. In a year where everyone went for musical quality, contemporary songs and ballads (or at least one or two of those), the Israelis send a trashy, ethnic uptempo that might have been laying in someone’s drawer for the last ten years and has no chance of surviving outside Eurovision – and I love them for that. One of the few this year that make me turn the radio up and wanting to dance, because honestly, Eurovision wouldn’t be fun without that stuff. Well done Israel!
10. LATVIA: Aminata – Love Injected
Oh Latvia, you’re even worse than Montenegro. The Latvians faced a hard destiny lately, but always had my love on their side (or even injected?), at least as long as I try to ignore that Anmary ever existed, but apparently they also decided that they don’t need it anymore. Probably it’s for their best, because Love Injected might give them their first Q in years, but still I am a little bit hurt by my favourite country letting me down like that. Love Injected sounds like some hip electro song to me, which is good as that’s quite a popular thing currently, but I doubt that many of those who like this kind of music will watch Eurovision. For myself it doesn’t do much – it has a very nice instrumental, but her voice and her screaming somehow disturb it a little. Couldn’t they just have sent this?
11. AZERBAIJAN: Elnur Huseynov – Hour Of The Wolf
Sweden Azerbaijan and their eternal streams of big ballads – apparently letting them win with one of them was a stupid idea, cause they won’t stop sending them now. I am tempted to predict the Land Of Fire to get stuck for their first time, especially as last year showed they are not invulnerable, but somehow this gets a lot more love than it deserves. Hour Of The Wolf is nearly everything I dislike – it’s huge, it’s rather dramatic, it’s too slow for it’s own good, it has a big piano in it and it just goes on and on and on. Maybe Elnur could sleep tonight if he just listened to his song a few times.
12. ICELAND: Maria Olafs – Unbroken
Just like I do with Polina Gagarina, I wish the Icelanders would have given Maria a better song so I had a reason to watch the video a bit more often, and not for the ridiculous dance routines. However, there are three problems with it: It is a bit too repetitive even for me, it is brilliant radio background music but fails to leave an impression and the last minute is nearly entirely made up by something I hate: backings singing the actual song while the artist is screaming a random note over it. Unbroken is just slightly too polished, to a point where it simply glides through my brain and I have nothing to hold it there. All in all a pleasant but pretty fogettable song.
13. SWEDEN: Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes
The Swedes did what has to do well in such a ballad-heavy year: take the best uptempo you can find, spice it up with a brilliant staging and a singer that comes first in the MB hottie voting and you got yourself a huge contender. Especially if you’re from the country that has it’s Top 10 spot nearly as safely booked as Azerbaijan does. Many say Måns’s song isn’t really there and that we all got blinded by his huge stage show, but having judged it from the lyric video, I have to say that there is a song, and a brilliant one too. It sounds like a Eurovision version of a David Guetta song, which is great as I would love to see more good electronic stuff in ESC. Unfortunately, Måns is guilty of the “scream over backers syndrome” as well, just like the Icelanders, but at least he only does it for a short time. I’m not saying Sweden has it in the bag – but if you still have some Swedish Crowns left from Malmö, I wouldn’t change them back into Euros yet.
14. SWITZERLAND: Mélanie René – Time To Shine
It’s hard to be objective about this, but I do kinda like it. It was my favourite in a rather weak Swiss NF, but none of the songs there convinced me as a potential Top 10 candidate, so I am not too optimistic for us. It is all very Swiss, trying to be dark but doesn’t dare to go all the way there as that would be alienating grandma watching SRF 1 as always and cost her NF votes. It still manages to be more of a warrior song than the Maltese, which is at least something. I am definitely hoping for us to qualify, but I fear we won’t see Mélanie twice in Vienna – which is quite sad, because we might have to wait for 18 more years to see a Romande again!
15. CYPRUS: John Karayannis – One Thing I Should Have Done
The problems this has are a mix of Switzerland’s and Norway’s – it seems like he didn’t dare to go all acoustic à la Kedvesem which I think (and hope) he wanted to do, and the whole thing ended up being bigger than it should. I would absolutely love this if it was just him, his nose and his guitar, but unfortunately it’s not. I do like John though, especially since he said he would have become a pro gamer if he wasn’t a singer, and as I like the basics of his song as well, I am more than willing to give it a chance. It stands out in a nice, calm way and seems to have found it’s niche, so I’d say he’ll probably end up sneaking his way into the finals.
16. SLOVENIA: Maraaya – Here For You
Well, I told myself to comment less on the visual aspects of the songs with female singers, but do you really expect me to ignore Marjetka wearing nothing else than her (awesome) headphones?? About the part that actually matters, it took me a few listens to get Here For You, but I definitely understand why it is high in the polls. For me, it lives off it’s vocals, as the instrumental is nothing special or anything I’d recognize, which is quite a difference to the other contenders, or songs like Latvia that actually have a better instrumental in my opinion. I also needed time to get used to Marjetka’s voice, but like the song, I do like it now. The problem is, however, that most voters won’t have this time…
17. POLAND: Monika Kuszyńska – In The Name Of Love
If you name your song after one of my favourite U2 songs, it better be good. Unfortunately for her, Monika’s isn’t. It feels like a throwback to Poland’s efforts of my early fan times, the Isis Gee style: While listening to it, In The Name Of Love is perfectly fine, even though it doesn’t do much, but it also doesn’t do much wrong. However, five minutes after it ended I have forgotten how it sounds. The Polish (why do I keep writing Poles?) are lucky to perform last, as it’s the only possibility people will remember the song until the voting starts. For Poland, a wheelchair might make them able to move, but it won’t push itself to the finals – that’s where they’d need a good song.
08 Czech Republic