Today, the day has come where we start reviewing the first two songs! To mix things up a little (and because every sensible way of doing this would leave me with two songs I dislike to begin with) the way we do this is alphabetically by song title. Yes, this does not make any sense, but who cares about sense, right? Let’s go right into the action and start it up with The Ukraine and Cyprus!
Ukraine: Jamala – 1944
For once, Ukraine left the drama pretty much out, except for the question if 1944 is too political or not. One could argue it is hard to write a song with this title without being political, but surprisingly, there are no Germans in this! Jamala’s second – and first successful – attempt at representing Ukraine does rather focus on the soviets and Crimea. Can we hope Russia and Ukraine get paired to each other, even though there’s no “one step at a time, one day you’ll be mine” in Russia’s lyrics this time?
First thing I remark is Jamala’s voice, making it kind of hard to determine whether she is actually on key and she just sounds like that or if she’s about a quarter-note off key in the beginning (I actually think she is, because it sounds better after the first chorus). The sound gives me a vibe somewhere between Love Injected and Not Alone, plus some ethno, which is in fact a big compliment. But that radically changes at the chorus, so maybe it’s not such a compliment after all. At that point, the whole thing starts to change from a haunting dirge (in the original meaning) into a desperate wailing, which is definitely NOT my thing.
Her looks actually emphasize that feeling as well, which may be well intentioned given the background of the song – singing about your people dying probably shouldn’t be too cheerful – but let’s not forget that it’s still an entertainment show. Basically, this is Genealogy v2.0, just without the effective production gimmicks (world map, anyone?) and with a song that’s a lot harder to swallow. It’s unlikely this will grow much onto me, and I award it 4/10.
Cyprus: Minus One – Alter Ego
I will say it right away: This is one of my favourites, and I may not be entirely neutral about this. Cypriot rock band Minus One competed in the preselection last year with the song Shine, which did about as mediocre as it can be expected by a Eurovision song called Shine. Despite the bad result and my eventual like for John Karayannis, I did prefer their song at the time of last year’s selection, and now they came back with a song not written by them. Instead they called in one of THE songwriters of the Contest with G:son, so let’s see how that works.
Turns out it does work. As it can be expected with G:son being in control, this is really good sounding, even though the focus of the guitar to the right side and the resulting presence of the rather un-rockish keyboard in the chorus gets a little annoying. Not that you’ll hear on TV, though. Alter Ego is pop-compatible rock by the textbook, and to be honest it doesn’t do much to hide it. But then again, this may be what is needed to succeed.
Another thing that is notable is the complete absence of lyrics that make any sense. Confusingly, many lines do actually make sense by themselves, but put together with the rest, that whole thing seems utterly meaningless. Once again, this is something that usually shouldn’t do a song much harm – it’s not like there haven’t been successful songs with meaningless, incoherent lyrics – but Alter Ego is kind of pushing it in terms of lack of sense. As I love myself some rock music, even if it’s such a thinly disguised Swedish industry piece, I do really wish the Cypriots score some points in May. I rate this 8/10.
Alright, that’s it for today! Time to say “Good night Europe” (and “Good morning Australia”) and see you next time, when we answer the question if Blue and Red may be the Colour(s) of Your Life with Slovenia and Poland!