DISCLAIMER: I have not watched any rehearsal videos of these except Russia, so I don’t actually know how they staged it. It’s getting important with full videos out now, and I won’t do so to not affect my judgement.
Today, at the day of second rehearsals and a week later than originally planned (yeah I suck at deadlines, sue me) we have arrived at the final quadruple review episode. We will start off with something bigger than Europe, go on to two eternal problem-childs with VRT and BBC and end with the great favourite. Here’s Malta, Belgium, United Kingdom and Russia.
Malta: Ira Losco – Walk On Water
Malta always tends to get more attention than their usually dreadful selection shows deserve, but this time they have gone to an excessive amount that I am sure was staged from the beginning. A returner (and quite a successful one!) doing with her song what Ira did is somehow odd, and I feel like she knew she was going to win with any decent song and trying to get some extra attention. Well, it worked I guess…
Okay, so this is what they described as “bigger than Europe”. The music is somehow gone during the song, multiple times. It kind of sounds like someone tried to get a maximum effect with using his instrument as little as possible, as the whole song is basically carried by Ira’s voice. I’m actually glad I am not listening to the karaoke version, because I guess it would be even more horribly boring there. I can’t even say why, but somehow it reminds me of Bulgaria and Australia blended together, but is worse than both of them, by far. Australia is better at going big and showing off vocals, while Bulgaria actually provides us with some song structure and music instead of a backdrop for a voice.
A voice that I am pretty confident she can pull this off, by the way. Ira Losco is probably experienced and professional enough to deliver a nice performance on a Eurovision stage, and that’s what will be needed. If she does not give a 100% on point performance of the song, this stands no chance at all. You’ll need to be perfect, Ira, A-OK won’t do the trick here. I assume that they also went for a “bigger than Europe” staging built around Ira, which is kind of all you can do with that, but I’m not sure if that’ll do the trick, to be honest. The whole combination has been around too much, and while I believe that the fans of this style will be enough to take her to the final together with impressed juries, I think she’ll sink in the final. After all, only Jesus could walk on water, and for me, it’s no more than 4/10.
Belgium: Laura Tesoro – What’s The Pressure
Usually, the Belgian entries are dominated by the VRT-RTBF two-year-pattern. While the latter tends to send very modern entries and do well with it, the former is mainly known for bad songs and even weirder stagings. Given that it was a Flemish year, we were not too optimistic for the Belgians, but then again VRT had their moments as well (Tom Dice, anyone?). How about this year?
Interesting to hear such a funky intro, and interesting to have it in a song sung by someone who was probably not born yet when funk was a thing. The whole song is challenging San Marino for the most disco song of the year, and while it’s probably losing that vote, it’s obviously the better one. The bassline, as Queen-sounding as it is, is really making you move, and the brass sections make it somewhat standing out. Add a catchy melody to that in the chorus, and there you go. If this song doesn’t make you move, I don’t know what could, really.
One problem I can see with it is Laura’s voice – I like it, but towards the end of the song she starts sounding a little shaky to me. Quite understandable given the huge amount of dancing they do, but still, it could be a problem if it gets tight. The video looks like they’ll go for the retro vibe the song already has, and everything else would be a huge mistake. The song is calling for a colourful and glittery approach and I am sure the Belgians have done exactly that. And finally, nobody really expects that much from her, while she can close the semi with a song that leaves everybody with a smile and give it her best – what’s the pressure for her, so to say? I have a good feeling about this, and I award 6/10.
United Kingdom: Joe and Jake – You’re Not Alone
From Belgium to the UK, who doesn’t even get it right every other year. While they seemed to have find a working way to do things in 2014 (and just fucked up the staging instead of fucking up everything) they went back to their old bad self last year when Molly didn’t give them the desired result. This year, a new approach. Again. Did it help?
Not sure to be honest. This song makes it kind of hard for me to say anything about it, because it feels pretty soulless to me. At least from what I can hear, it’s pretty well executed. The slow drums in the chorus are not too bad, as I generally like that, but keeping them throughout the second verse as well doesn’t really work. Overall, it has a bit a “songwriter/producer 101” feeling, as if someone tried to teach you how to make a pop song. They’re just following the steps in the book a little too much, quite similar to Donny Montell or the Danes. At least the involvement of acoustic instruments makes it feel a lit less plastic-y than Denmark.
It does help that both of them look quite charming, and that they seem to be enjoying themselves. And that’s what they should stage it like, as two guys making music and having fun doing it. But knowing it’s the UK, they will probably feel the need to gimmick it up and kill any chances of this song in the process, which would be a pity. Not because the song is particularly good, but because for once the UK managed not to make any major mistakes before Eurovision Week, and it’d be a nice change to see them keep not doing any. However, given that the BBC is responsible for it, it’s also likely that “You’re not alone, we’re in this together” will sound like the artists reassuring the audience that they’re not happy either and feel for the listener and watcher. Well, for now you haven’t fucked up yet, Britain, and while I would usually punish you for the averageness of the song, that’s actually a compliment when you’re involved. Therefore, I give you 5/10.
Russia: Sergey Lazarev – You Are The Only One
Oh Russia. Throwing money at it until they win, then get a period of not really trying and accidentally producing the best entry of your history, and then throw money at it again. As the booing somewhat stopped, Sergey Lazarev finally dared to step onto the Eurovision stage, and he did in a manner that blew many minds away and made him the instant favourite, but… rightfully so?
While there have been some complaints about it, I really enjoy the dark beginning and gradual buildup. And unlike some others, they found the time to make an effort so that this is a piece of music and not a blend of noise. I’ve heard so many chorus parts by now that wash into one big load of noise that this is very appreciated. And the attention to details generally seems to be quite big in this one, with the panned arp that kind of follows its own rhythm and such stuff. And of course, the melody is insanely catchy. However, there’s also quite a bit of Eurovision-by-number elements and the fact that this could have been released at any point in the last 10-15 years. I wouldn’t necessarily call it dated, as it doesn’t sound out of place in 2016, but there’s definitely no innovation in it.
This was always going to live off its impressive visuals, which are both futuristic (to make up for the years this song comes too late to be innovative musically?) and completely unconnected to the song. But then again, who will notice? It’s an effort to impress not only Sergey’s (beautiful) only one, but also or mainly the viewer. And in my opinion that shows. I could now go on about the vocals, the lyrics or whatever, but the main point speaking against Russia is, in my opinion, that this is the definition of trying too hard. It’s so obvious that they’re out to impress that I kind of don’t want to vote for it just to punish this sooo obvious approach. Nevertheless, I can see why it’s a fav and give 7/10.
So, after we are done with all the reviewing, let Eurovision Madness begin, and may the best song win! We see you tuesday on the Music For Europe twitter account 😉 (@musicforeurope)