Review Part VI: Latvia & Belarus

Welcome to the sixth part of this review series! After two combinations of East and West, we return to a purely ex-Soviet duo today. What won’t change, however, is that we match a winner to a non-winner. So we have the land of the Beaver and the land of the complicated NF’s for you tonight – make some noise for Latvia and Belarus!

Latvia: Justs – Heartbeat

Latvia used to be my pet country that nobody understood how I can even stand their stuff, let alone like it. Nevertheless, if I had to choose a series of entries of one countries, I may go for Probka, What For?, Angel In Disguise. Last year, the Latvians suddenly returned to the good side for fans and general public as well, so what would have made more sense than let Latvia’s saviour Aminata return this year as a songwriter?

Aminata’s handwriting is all over this, and the beginning of it is so deliciously showing it that it’s not even fun. There’s not really a lot of music, but what is there is used very, very effectively. Little sounds that fall into the right place in the rhythm as if they were there just by coincidence. This noise that washes through the back of the room. The way the drums are almost lacking for the first bars but you somehow don’t even notice if you don’t listen to it. It’s one of the rare cases I wish I had a karaoke version here. And then, on the top of it, Justs’s voice. It’s not classically beautiful, but it’s captivating, and if he’s missing notes, it’s in a way that doesn’t hurt. Purely from the vibe of it, the feeling it gives me, I love this song already.

Now Latvia has changed to the Supernova format which has the advantage that, compared to other countries, we get quite a finished package to judge. And the stage does kind of remind me of Aminata’s as well, the whole thing just oozes her style. Definitely a good thing. Again, lots of red and white, no props, just Justs and lights. Which is a really great concept in its simplicity, and definitely works. I can totally see this working on the bigger stage in Stockholm too, and it’s one of the songs where I am very curious on the staging. Judging by Aminata’s recent success, this should definitely do well, and I hope it does because I love it. Feeling generous today, so there you go, Latvia: 9/10.

Belarus: IVAN – Help You Fly

When I started getting into ESC, Belarus got a rather good result with a Kirkorov song and a male Lady Di. Later on, this is the nation that gave us Anastasia Vinnikova, TEO (notice how weirdly fund of caps they are?) and Eyes That Never Lie, for which I will always be thankful. However, there was also 3+2 and Hasta La Vista, which are harder to apologize. And finally, last year they had a cool video which they completely didn’t translate to their staging. How about this year?

This year, they took the route that apparently every Eastern country takes when they don’t know where to go (Moldova?) and turned to cheap dance music that sounds like straight from 2003. However, that is not always a bad thing, and there is some stuff in the song which is at least acceptable, like the little melody things in the background which I am a sucker for. And then there is the overall fun & dance factor, always important at Eurovision, which Help You Fly is very good in. So, unlike Moldova, there is actually some good stuff hidden in it. But it is truly hidden, mainly by IVAN’s performance which oscillates between not exactly perfect and downright bad.

Which is also a good way to describe Belarus’s staging. The wolf backdrop has nothing to do with the song, but does look awesome (not exactly perfect). And then there’s IVAN, who looks rather ridiculous – especially with the mysterious approach they took in the beginning – and his movements (downright bad). To top it off, the Belarussians decided that they had spent too much time without being weird and added plans about performing with living wolves and without clothes, while the other way round would definitely have been much better. Also, if he really is to perform naked, “It’s time to release yourself before you can let go/I will help you learn how to fly” sounds even worse than it already does. I fear Belarus is butchering this one at least as bad as last year’s, which is actually a pity. But I’m here to judge it all, so no more than 3/10 (that’d be 4 if IVAN could get the whole song on-key for once).

That’s it for today. As always, hopefully you enjoyed it – let me know here or on twitter/ESCnation/by postcard/yelling at my house… or join again next time when I have to tell you I didn’t know if I stand. It’ll be time for San Marino and the Czech Republic Czechia!

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