After a quite busy weekend, we finally have the time for another review. Say Yay! No, not that one. Instead we get the latest Big 5 addition Italy, the country of hipsters, runners and unearned love, Hungary and the first Baltic state to win Eurovision, Estonia. Quite a nice combo, isn’t it? I’d say less talkie more singie. Let’s go!
Italy: Francesca Michielin – No Degree Of Separation
For the first time ever, Italy has decided on a song with an English title. Which is a pity, because to my ears, Nessun Grade Di Separazione sounds a lot nicer, even though both titles are unfluent and a little weird. Oh, and as a little bonus, Francesca has been votest hottest female ESC participant 2016 by the crowd on the ESCnation message board. I think I approve.
The song starts out very Italian in a way, with a vocal showoff, but it’s some kind of “radio Italian”, reminding of Laura Pausini and the likes. Which is quite new for Italy in Eurovision I’d say. What I notice is that, at least compared to her voice, the instrumental is rather flat. There’s not really a distinctive melody in there as (extreme example) we get in the Balkan ballads, or anything standing out. The English part blends in quite nicely, but I still doubt its necessity. I also would have placed it in the end, the Italian final lines make it seem a little forced. Good English though!
Looking at the video, what is it with Italians and movies? First the references of Il Volo (which I didn’t get) and now Francesca’s 3D thing. She should probably avoid being so emotionless in Stockholm as she is in the first part of the video. Also, she definitely proves my point that women don’t need to wear dresses to look good while singing, thumbs up for that!
I wonder about how this will look live. Not only the staging, which I expect to be unspectacular, but also backdrop and styling of her. I’d love them to keep the rather casual vibe of the video (the non-film parts with the 3D glasses) and somehow incorporate elements of that. And this song obviously requests a killer voice which I kinda hope she has. Italy sent us a nice piece of pop (rare to hear me saying that!) and I reward that with 7/10.
Hungary: Freddie – Pioneer
Hungary has not really been anywhere on my ESC map despite masterpieces like Unsubstantial Blues (another woman without a dress!) and fan favourites like the – in my opinion dreadful – What About My Dreams? until 2013, when some hipster guitarboy came along. Somehow they managed to deliver twice in a row, but fell down last year with Boggie. So what does this year have to offer for Hungary?
I have already hinted at that earlier, but for a song called Pioneer, it’s surprisingly conventional. The main selling point of the song is, in my opinion, Freddie. Not only is he apparently not unattractive, but damn this man has a nice voice. Given he hits the notes of course. But the tone of his voice is something I love, and the song has some very nice elements too. Those six notes in the verse (the whistling noise that’s probably no actual whistling) is quite good at taking my attention, and the whole thing is definitely not dated, just very un-daring I think. It’s far from cutting any edges, but it’s good at being what it is.
If the A Dal staging is anything to go by, they already kinda have a working way figured out. Except the fact that the drummer is incredibly cliché of course. And the slightly disturbing sweater that he should definitely change (or for the benefit of more interested watchers, get rid of). The only thing I can see that may be a problem is the backings. They look like traffic cops, and they’re a weird combination of hidden yet not really hidden. Can you overthink that please, Hungary? And while we’re at it, Freddie’s voice could use some extra confidence and security. But I guess they’ll sort that out, which would give them a solid 6/10.
Estonia: Jüri Pootsman – Play
Estonia tends to produce one of my favourite NFs, and out of it can come both very good things (2015), rather weird stuff (2010, 2011) and sometimes pure uselessness (2014). What it rarely produces, though, is a completely indifferent song, even though that has happened before. Overall it’s not hard to see why Estonia was rather successful and the first Baltic winner. And this year?
The first verse definitely makes sure you’re listening. Jüri’s voice is quite captivating in combination with this music, and somehow doesn’t sound like what I’d expect from seeing him. I like the progression leading up to the chorus – it makes it really obvious something’s gonna happen, but you don’t know exactly what. I like that. And the rhythmic use of the keyboard (or whatever that is) in the buildup. Interestingly, the Estonians have managed to create a song that’s both rather dark and interesting and getting stuck in my head, which is usually not the case for me (Exception: Poland!)
Now I already mentioned Jüri’s looks – he looks like a bank apprentice. And what I find weird is that the song is called Play, yet he has probably the least playful expression of all participants. The lyrics, which are not exactly easy to understand when he sings them by the way, are not exactly clear to me either. “Play / Cause that’s the only way / To find out if it’s love / That we’re falling into”. Is he suggesting to sleep around to find out if he actually loves his partner? No, I totally don’t see how this could go wrong. But given that Stig Rästa wrote the song, that may explain how he ended up with Elina. It’d kinda make sense why he leaves her if he suddenly realized he actually loves Jüri… Overall, job well done for Estonia! I assume you can do that again, Jüri, so you get a 8/10.
Next time, we’ll Say Yay to sing it away and then slow down, which is not only a good description for a karaoke party but also our next program, with Spain, Finland and the Netherlands!