Here comes the first post on Music For Europe (which used to be a series on my personal, usually German, “Blog ohne Sinn”) – a review of the first semi-final of Eurovision 2015! I’ll try not to talk about live performances as that would be a bit unfair (not everyone had the same conditions concerning venue, sound etc, maybe someone had a bad day…) and judge only based on the preview videos, or the studio version on CD if that’s a live version. So, are you ready? Let’s start Semi 1 then… and may the best ten songs qualify!
To listen along to my review, here’s the playlist with the entries again.
1. MOLDOVA: Eduard Romanyuta – I Want Your Love
Moldova decided, for some weird reasons, to leave one of the coolest people that have ever stood on an ESC stage (Epic Sax Guy of course) at home and send a very slappable Ukrainian who desperately fails to look hardcore in his video instead. If we were still in the late 2000s I would have had them among the contenders – a dance song performed by an ex-USSR-nation that is not complete shit, what could go wrong? But I assume juries and televoters won’t fall for this rather generic, inoffensive song when there are so much betters to come. If Eduard can bring a Ukrainian staging team with him, the song might get polished enough to grab that 10th place though, so don’t rule Moldova out!
2. ARMENIA: Genealogy – Face The Shadow
Being Swiss, this should appeal to me – it’s fondue after all, cheese that draws strings and goes on forever. Trying to go all emotional has never worked for me though, and this is no exception – especially cause it also goes all messy, which I don’t like too much either. It’s a pity, cause Armenia has certainly been on the right way in 2013 and 14 after being one of the countries I wouldn’t miss too much before, but it looks like history and politics are more important to them than music in historical years. To say something positive as well, the first female singer has a voice I love. Armenia, take your one year break from the finals, write an awesome song for her for 2016 and I’ll try to love you again. Deal?
3. BELGIUM: Loïc Nottet – Rhythm Inside
Some might have criticized Loïc’s voice and/or accent – I love it, especially in the rapapapam-parts. The problem is that the first verse and the Rapapapam is the best thing in the song. I find it very hard to judge Rhythm Inside, cause there are parts I love and parts that bore me, because I am not really a big fan of that Lordesque sound this has. But Belgium’s song is a lot better than what they produced last year, so welcome back whichever part of you this was! Also, the video is a bit confusing, but kinda cool – especially the mechanical heart thing which has to be in the backdrop! I’m still waiting for Belgium to convince Stromae though…
4. THE NETHERLANDS: Trijntje Oosterhuis – Walk Along
The most impressive transformation of a country’s ESC efforts I have ever seen continues. Yes, I know it’s MOR pop, I know it’s repetitive, but it’s joyful, insanely catchy and perfectly placed after Belgium. I remember hearing it first and not able to stop singing along by the time it ended, and I think this is a very important thing for a Eurovision song – plus Trijntje’s voice fits it very well for me. The problem with her, however, is that the song sounds to me as if it was written for a young woman, which she simply isn’t – not that that’s a problem per se, but when I listened to it without knowing Trijntje, I assumed the singer was meant to be around 20-25. I doubt many will notice though – three in a row for the Dutch I’d say!
5. FINLAND: Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät – Aina Mun Pitää
Hmmm… I have no idea what to do with it. First of all, I do kinda like it. I am for more musical styles, especially louder, rocky ones, and just from a musical point of view more punk in Eurovision is perfect, but it somehow doesn’t fit for me. And it’s not that punk doesn’t fit into ESC, it’s more that I doubt if ESC fits into punk, which is a bit sad because PKN seem kinda authentic to me. Also, I don’t really want them to do as well as I think they should, because nearly every point it gets will be assigned to their handicap. And this is a discussion I don’t wanna have.
6. GREECE: Maria Elena Kyriakou – One Last Breath
I’m not sure if there is a preview video at all, so I went with the studio version on the CD. If this was sung in Greek, the only ballad screaming more “EUROVISION!!” would be one sung by an Eastern European with a random English artist name and an obscure accent written by a Swede that is staged overly pompous including two dancers in folk costumes. Somehow the English makes it sound a bit more like a serious song, but it’s still overly dramatic and, as a consequence, overly annoying. As much as I like the “Eurovision sound” in the uptempos as long as they’re good, I definitely hate it in the ballads. Sorry, Greece – but we can be friends again if you continue your 2010 – 2014 streak of awesomeness! (visually talking about Aphrodisiac, just to avoid any misunderstandings…)
7. ESTONIA: Elina Born & Stig Rästa – Goodbye To Yesterday
It’s probably mean to say that, but the first thing coming to my mind when starting the video is how much I like it visually. And unlike in the last sentence, I don’t mean that I enjoy looking at Elina – for that, the stage performance is the better choice – but that it’s a pretty damn good music video! And, once it starts, it’s actually a pretty damn good song too. It’s nice to finally have a Stig with a voice, especially if it’s one like that, and while I had some problems with Elina in the beginning, I started to like her parts too. Stig’s part of the chorus (or whatever his “I didn’t wanna wake you up” part is) is one of my favourite moments of this ESC, and if there’s any justice in Eurovision this will easily win this semi.
8. FYR MACEDONIA: Daniel Kajmakoski – Autumn Leaves
Macedonia confuses me a lot – they are one of the most clueless nations most of the time, and then, every other year, they some up with something like that. Daniel has one of the most inoffensive pleasant (and unremarkable) voices I ever heard and the song basically isn’t too memorable, but while listening I always notice that there’s a really beautiful little song inside. Changing it to English might have helped or not, I can’t decide. I like the English lyrics, but keeping it Macedonian would have helped it a lot to stand out – because honestly, after Estonia who is going to vote for it? I assume it will be much higher in juries, simply because they will have to rank it while most voters will simply ignore it. Oh, and somewhere by the way the Macedonians came up with one of the best videos of the year as well!
9. SERBIA: Bojana Stamenov – Beauty Never Lies
Does she really sing “Nobel Prize, here I am”? Or is it “No big price, here I am”, which would be even worse? And, in a song about how she finally is okay with how she looks, why don’t we see her in the video? This song is basically a treasure for a reviewer, because there are so many points to attack it, but that would be too easy, so I’ll just sum it up: I would prefer both Ljubav je Svuda and Ovo je Balkan to this, and this shouldn’t be said about any song. The message is way too much “in your face”, that dance beat comes about 20 years too late, the screaming annoys me, and it was better in Serbian. Sorry.
10. HUNGARY: Boggie – Wars For Nothing
Talking about “in your face” messages, here is the next one. I usually don’t mind peace songs – I support their message, after all – but this is slightly over the top. And it’s a shame, because “Wars for Nothing” is basically a very nice, calm guitar ballad, and that’s my second favourite kind of ballads, so I do wanna like it. I kinda do, but… something keeps disturbing me, and I don’t know if it’s really the message, or the fact it’s another ballad, or the fact she tries to go bigger than she should in the ending, but it’s there and it shouldn’t be.
11. BELARUS: Uzari & Maimuna – Time
Any chance they bring the hourglass on stage in Vienna? That would be one of my favourite staging decisions EVER as long as they keep it as dramatic and epic as it is in the video and don’t let it go cheap – because let’s be honest, the song does that already. Doesn’t mean I dislike it though! I was rather indifferent about it when it was selected, but it is catchy as hell, it has an epic feeling to it and the beat is not too bad, which made me like it more and more, especially in this ballad-heavy year. Uzari’s ears are more than ridiculous though, and “Time is like thunder” is a rather weird comparison to me (not made better by the lyrical masterpiece of rhyming “thunder” with “thunder”…), I’m not even talking about his accent, but I wouldn’t mind if it Q’s.
12. RUSSIA: Polina Gagarina – A Million Voices
BOOOOO ITS RUSSIA!!! I can already hear it coming, and it’s as unjustified as last year. Reading the youtube comments under it was probably the worst decision of my life – three minutes spent getting annoyed I could have spent watching the most gorgeous woman of Eurovision 2015. The song is nothing worth remembering, but it sounds like the official anthem for Sochi 2014. Of course it is rather ironic (and I mean the bad kind) that Russia sends a peace-humanity-whatever song, but I like to imagine that it’s actually her opinion and “We are the worst people” (what is she actually singing btw??) is her (badly) hidden critic against Putin…
13. DENMARK: Anti Social Media – The Way You Are
This entry is as Danish as it gets, but that’s not necessarily bad. There’s one really annoying thing about it though, and it’s the sound in his voice – you can even hear him smile like a magazine cover. I do not get the hate for this one at all, while many call it borderline or NQ it is a sure finalist for me. Denmark failing with a competent song would be like the Red Wings missing the playoffs, Jamaica missing the 100m finals in Athletics or Azerbaijan awarding points to Armenia – it’s not gonna happen, no matter how MOR that song is. And for someone like me, desperately missing both guitars and uptempos, it’s good that it’s here. It makes me happy without doing much else, and what’s wrong about that?
14. ALBANIA: Elhaida Dani – I’m Alive
I hoped the Albanians would use the chance the withdrawing of Diell gave them to replace it with something resembling a song, but somehow they decided to keep their noise. And now there’s not even a cool guitar solo to like in there… I have nothing worth it to say here, I just don’t feel anything about it. It’s not even bad enough to hate it, it just bores me to death. Sorry, Albania, but I like you way more when you head down the rocky 2013 road.
15. ROMANIA: Voltaj – De La Capat
I’m wondering which language is the original one – based on lyrical quality obviously the Romanian, but “De La Capat” doesn’t 100% fit rhythmically for me… My main impression after this song is, once again, that Romanian is a very beautiful language. The song is unspectacular, but it’s competent, solid, has a male voice (often a plus for me) and Romanian – how should it not Q? I can’t see it win the semi though, as that spot is reserved for Estonia or Russia. The most disturbing thing can be found in the video though. What has gone wrong if THE DANUBE DRIED?!?
16. GEORGIA: Nina Sublatti – Warrior
Didn’t one of their first songs involve beating their drums for peace (or “peass” as they say in Georgia)? Well, now they beat the drums for a Warrior… and quite a sexy one, if I’m allowed to say that. I love this kind of aggressive, huge battle songs, but it would be nice if it included a bit less screaming and a bit more understandable singing. And if someone could finally explain what oximated is supposed to mean. Or the lyrics in general. Like Macedonia, Georgia does produce a few good entries between the hopeless one, just not as often. They did this time. Thank you Georgia!
It is very hard to judge in this semi, and I can’t really rule any song out, but I will try as good as I can:
Semi 2 will be done in a few days!