Every Eurovision 2019 song reviewed in 280 characters or less

It’s almost that time of year again when we get to enjoy the collective musical efforts of the European continent (and Australia). That’s right; the Eurovision Song Contest is back, and this year our host city is Tel Aviv in Israel.

This year 41 countries have put forward 3:00 minutes of fun to entice your douze points. In this annual blog post — now in it’s fifth year — I’m going to preview, review and snark about them all, in an attempt to guide you through the best and worst of the Contest.

As ever, there are some rules:

  1. I’m only allowed to listen to each track once, as they appear on the official Eurovision Song Contest album1
  2. Each entry is allowed a tweet-sized piece of commentary: up to 280 characters — no more, but sometimes less

I’ve listened to the songs in the order they appear on the official Contest album, but they’re presented below in the order that you’ll see them on the TV2.

So let’s hop in…

  1. First semi-final
    1. Cyprus — Replay — Tamta
    2. Montenegro — Heaven — Dmol
    3. Finland — Look Away — Darude
    4. Poland — Fire of Love (Pali Sie) — Tulia
    5. Slovenia — Sebi — Zara Kralj & Gašper Šantl
    6. Czech Republic — Friend of a Friend — Lake Malawi
    7. Hungary — Az én apám — Joci Papai
    8. Belarus — Like It — Zena
    9. Serbia — Kruna — Nevena Božović
    10. Belgium — Wake Up — Eliot
    11. Georgia — Keep on going — Oto Nemsadze
    12. Australia — Zero Gravity — Kate Miller-Heidke
    13. Iceland — Hatrið mun sigra — HATARI
    14. Estonia — Storm — Victor Crone
    15. Portugal — Telemóveis — Conan Osíris
    16. Greece — Better Love — Katerine Duska
    17. San Marino — Say Na Na Na — Serhat
  2. Second semi-final
    1. Armenia — Walking Out — Srbuk
    2. Ireland — 22 — Sarah McTernan
    3. Moldova — Stay — Anna Odobescu
    4. Switzerland — She Got Me — Luca Hänni
    5. Latvia — That Night — Carousel
    6. Romania — On a Sunday — Ester Peony
    7. Denmark — Love is Forever — Leonora
    8. Sweden — Too Late For Love — John Lundvik
    9. Austria — Limits — PAENDA
    10. Croatia — The Dream — Roko
    11. Malta — Chameleon — Michela Pace
    12. Lithuania — Run with the Lions — Jurij Veklenko
    13. Russia — Scream — Sergey Lazarev
    14. Albania — Kjethu Tokës — Jonida Maliqi
    15. Norway — Spirit in the Sky — KEiiNO
    16. The Netherlands — Arcade — Duncan Laurence
    17. North Macedonia — Proud — Tamara Todevska
    18. Azerbaijan — Truth — Chingiz
  3. Grand Final
    1. Malta — Chameleon — Michela Pace
    2. Albania — Kjethu Tokës — Jonida Maliqi
    3. Czech Republic — Friend of a Friend — Lake Malawi
    4. Germany — Sister — S!ster
    5. Russia — Scream — Sergey Lazarev
    6. Denmark — Love is Forever — Leonora
    7. San Marino — Say Na Na Na — Serhat
    8. North Macedonia — Proud — Tamara Todevska
    9. Sweden — Too Late For Love — John Lundvik
    10. Slovenia — Sebi — Zara Kralj & Gašper Šantl
    11. Cyprus — Replay — Tamta
    12. The Netherlands — Arcade — Duncan Laurence
    13. Greece — Better Love — Katerine Duska
    14. Israel — Home — Kobi Marimi
    15. Norway — Spirit in the Sky — KEiiNO
    16. United Kingdom — Bigger Than Us — Michael Rice
    17. Iceland — Hatrið mun sigra — HATARI
    18. Estonia — Storm — Victor Crone
    19. Belarus — Like It — Zena
    20. Azerbaijan — Truth — Chingiz
    21. France — Roi — Bilal Hassani
    22. Italy — Soldi — Mahmood
    23. Serbia — Kruna — Nevena Božović
    24. Switzerland — She Got Me — Luca Hänni
    25. Australia — Zero Gravity — Kate Miller-Heidke
    26. Spain — La Venda — Miki Núñez
  4. Summing up
    1. The Worst
    2. The Best

First semi-final

Cyprus — Replay — Tamta

Clearly drunk on last year’s near-miss with Fuego, Cyprus has doubled down on the fiery pop genre. So much so that large chunks of the song appear to be very, very similar to the almost-winning song. That’s alright though, this is a fun and punchy tune to bop to.

Montenegro — Heaven — Dmol

This is a group affair, in 90s R&B styling, with a “local instrument” for good measure.

It’s got me thinking of a word. You know… When the word means the opposite of something? Antonyms.

That’s this song.

The artists called it “Heaven”, but what they meant was ‌”Hell”. See? Antonyms.

Finland — Look Away — Darude

As you would expect for a Darude track, this evokes strong 90s vibes. I, of course, missed the 90s club scene, being an actual child, but you get the point.

When you’re the creator of the all-time trance epic that is Sandstorm, though, it’s all down hill from there; isn’t it?

Poland — Fire of Love (Pali Sie) — Tulia

This sounds like a bunch of school kids singing in a playground with a soundtrack. It’s annoying.

It has no discernible melodic quality, and the vocalists are seemingly relying on quantity over quality. I can only assume there’s some kind of gimmick to make up for the awful song.

Slovenia — Sebi — Zara Kralj & Gašper Šantl

You remember those old O2 adverts? The ones with the crashing bubbles?

This track just sounds like the background noise on one of those adverts. It’s forgettable. So forgettable, in fact, I blitzed through the whole track almost without registering it consciously in my brain.

Czech Republic — Friend of a Friend — Lake Malawi

I wanted to like this. It started well — with a catchy beat — but then at 30 seconds into the track, something awful happens. The main vocalist appears to put on a shit, cockney accent and tries to rap.

The main riff-of-a-riff-of-a-riff is pretty good; but that accent. Eurgh.

Hungary — Az én apám — Joci Papai

From the translated lyrics, this appears to be a song about the artists dead father. Whilst that’s touching, tears do not equal points.

I’d call this “traditionally Eastern European” in style. It’s singer is capable; there’s a decent riff, if you like the genre. That’s about it.

Belarus — Like It — Zena

This is a classic case of nominative determinism if I’ve ever heard one. I like it!

This dance number has a pretty good rhythm, and an irritatingly repetitious set of lyrics. I would be surprised if it was a high scorer, but it’s a potential floor filler.

Serbia — Kruna — Nevena Božović

Yet another poorly put together, slow and drab song. Whining vocals and an unimaginative melody punctuate this never-ending bore of a song.

It tries to get going toward the end, but it’s a bit like trying to get a clapped-out banger up a very steep hill: you just can’t.

Belgium — Wake Up — Eliot

The Belgians have come up with a half-baked bun with this one3. The tempo and instrumentation is all over the bakery shop in this Bastille-like pop number.

It’s erratic rhythm means you can never quite get into it’s disappointing groove.

Georgia — Keep on going — Oto Nemsadze

Another year, another utterly dismal entry from our friends in Georgia.

It drags. It’s got some weird and strained vocals. It’s got boring instrumentation.

With so many failed attempts in recent years, you’d think they’d get the message: read the room, guys!

Australia — Zero Gravity — Kate Miller-Heidke

Chalk and cheese. Drinking and driving. Socks and sandles. These are things that don’t go well together.

Now we add to this list: “90s anthems” and “the operatic style”.

Following several years of quality tunes, the Auss-he-he-he-he-ies4 have entered something bonkers.

Iceland — Hatrið mun sigra — HATARI

WHAT. IS. THIS. HORROR. SHOW?!

This is like Daft Punk meets Black Sabbath. There’s lots of very uncomfortable shouting in this song, followed by some pulsating and actually quite enjoyable electronic stylings.

BUT. PLEASE. MAKE. THE. SHOUTING. STOP.

Estonia — Storm — Victor Crone

If you like mash-ups of country and dance-pop and want to live like it’s 2013, pretending Avicii is still a thing; then this is the track for you!

This charming, yet thumping number has lots to like. A good tune, some tacky and meaningless lyrics, and a decent vocal.

Portugal — Telemóveis — Conan Osíris

What the actual fuck is this Portugal? As if Salvador Sobral wasn’t enough pain to inflict on the world; now you do this?

I can’t even finish the song — I’ve actually skipped it. It’s that bad.

Greece — Better Love — Katerine Duska

Singing the missing 15th track from her debut album: it’s Jess Glynne! Except it isn’t; it’s someone called Katerine.

This beaty pop-ballad is perhaps just about good enough to avoid the same fate as Jess Glynne’s back catalogue, providing the backing track for Jet2’s commercials.

San Marino — Say Na Na Na — Serhat

This is another good example of nominative determinism on this year’s Eurovision soundtrack. To this, I say “nah nah nah”.

How does a country with such a minuscule population produce so many bad songs? That’s what I’d like to know.

Second semi-final

Armenia — Walking Out — Srbuk

There. Are. Too. Many. False. Stops. In. This. Song.

That aside; it’s pretty good. There’s a decent riff in the chorus, the vocalist has some kick and the music has bite. There’s even a well-landed key change to boot — the first of the album, though not the first one in the eventual running order.

Ireland — 22 — Sarah McTernan

Ireland’s run of teen boys singing ballads is over, replaced instead by a mid-tempo ode to Count Von Count.

Why is “22” significant to Sarah?

Is it the age of her lover? Or a hotel room number?

Maybe we’ll never know. The song passes quickly without answers or a lasting impression.

Moldova — Stay — Anna Odobescu

The Moldovan’s have given us a power ballad.

Yes! I love a power ballad.

Unfortunately it’s not a particularly good ballad. There’s a competent vocal on this track, but an utterly squandered key change. For a power ballad, it just lacks — well — power.

Switzerland — She Got Me — Luca Hänni

It’s clear where the inspiration for this came from, and I’m sorry to say that the Swiss have finally caught up with the criminally bad tune, Despacito.

This somehow manages to be even more annoying than that trash bag, with what I think are bag pipes screeching in the background.

A lullaby country song is our gift from Latvia this year. By “gift” I mean like socks for Christmas: it’s good to get them, so you no longer have to buy some, but it’s nonetheless dull.

That’s how I feel about this song. Pleasant enough — so thanks Latvia — but a snooze-fest.

Romania — On a Sunday — Ester Peony

This is a heavy contrast track. It starts all light and acoustic, and then switches to heavy bass. And then it switches back. And then back again. And… you get the idea.

The vocals are capable, and the melody is fun and edgy.

It’s alright. A bit safe, perhaps. But alright.

Denmark — Love is Forever — Leonora

Oh Denmark: what happened?

Last year you gave us dramatic Viking-Disney vibes; this year you give us Bargain Hunt Bjork. In four languages, no less.

“Love is Forever” but thankfully this song is only for 3 minutes.

Sweden — Too Late For Love — John Lundvik

Thank God for Sweden, eh? Maybe I’m biased — I love Swedish pop — but this is brilliant.

It’s a bit heavy on the false stops, but the gospel overtones and the catchy chorus are golden. It stands out, and I love it.

Douze points to Sweden for me.

Austria — Limits — PAENDA

Big questions first: how do you pronounce “PAENDA”; is it the same as “panda”?

Back to the track: this is all grotesquely wishy-washy. The whole thing — from vocals to soundtrack — is like a car boot sale version of an Ellie Goulding track.

Croatia — The Dream — Roko

Much like Roko, I have a dream. I dream of a ballad with soaring vocals and excellent lyrics; of awe inspiring vocals and epic proportions.

This song is not that dream.

No. This ballad has an above average vocalist, dull backing music, vacuous lyrics and a poor key change.

Malta — Chameleon — Michela Pace

Could we be headed to Malta in 2020? With this tune, amongst this pretty dull pack; maybe.

This up-beat and wacky track has some interesting instrumentation, and it certainly isn’t dull. Whether it’s a bit too off-the-wall remains to be seen.

Lithuania — Run with the Lions — Jurij Veklenko

A song to sway to!

The melody is pleasing enough, with a fair-to-middling tempo to carry it along. The main riff in the chorus is a bit of an ear worm too.

It does kind of fall apart in the middle-eight, breaking the flow of what otherwise is a well put together track.

Russia — Scream — Sergey Lazarev

I expected greatness from Sergey. I mean, he gave us “You Are the Only One”, nearly breaking his own neck in the process. Instead? This ballad.

What has happened to Russia the last couple of years? It used to produce class acts — now it’s produces songs barely worth the time.

Albania — Kjethu Tokës — Jonida Maliqi

I searched for the words to describe my feelings towards this year’s Albanian entry. And I found them in the very first line of the lyrics! Loosely translated:

“You sing”

She does.

“And cry”

I did.

Sometimes the jokes just sing themselves.

Norway — Spirit in the Sky — KEiiNO

This is a floor filler that packs a punch. It’s messy — of that there’s no doubt — but it’s got spunk. The middle-eight is truly batshit crazy: which I like.

My biggest critique is that it doesn’t make much use of there being two vocalists; barely a decent harmony in earshot.

The Netherlands — Arcade — Duncan Laurence

Reading this, you might be thinking I hate slow songs: I don’t, I hate bad slow songs. I like good ones. This is a good one.

Well produced, a good vocal, and some bare but effective instrumentation. There’s even some clapping.

I doubt it’s a winner, but it’s a slow song done well.

North Macedonia — Proud — Tamara Todevska

The newly renamed Former Yugoslav Republic of Northern Macedonia had a chance to show Europe what their new brand meant.

How did it choose to celebrate this moment? With a song called “Proud”. One of the 7 deadly sins, but OK.

What does it sound like? Sticking to a theme: sloth. This is not the way to do a rebrand.

Azerbaijan — Truth — Chingiz

This is a catchy tune that I like. If I had to choose 3 words to describe this, they would be:

  1. Slick
  2. Bass
  3. Bop

There’s a pretty catchy riff in this track, and the lyrics speak to me: “so shut up about it”.

Grand Final

Malta — Chameleon — Michela Pace

Could we be headed to Malta in 2020? With this tune, amongst this pretty dull pack; maybe.

«««< HEAD This up-beat and wacky track has some interesting instrumentation, and it certainly isn’t dull. Whether it’s a bit too off-the-wall remains to be seen.

Albania — Kjethu Tokës — Jonida Maliqi

I searched for the words to describe my feelings towards this year’s Albanian entry. And I found them in the very first line of the lyrics! Loosely translated:

“You sing”

She does.

“And cry”

I did.

Sometimes the jokes just sing themselves.

Czech Republic — Friend of a Friend — Lake Malawi

I wanted to like this. It started well — with a catchy beat — but then at 30 seconds into the track, something awful happens. The main vocalist appears to put on a shit, cockney accent and tries to rap.

The main riff-of-a-riff-of-a-riff is pretty good; but that accent. Eurgh.

It’s fresh, it’s got a decent pace, it’s got a couple of good riffs and it’s bilingual! Aces. (Who says the French don’t like singing in English?)

Germany — Sister — S!ster

Having seen the name of the track and of the artist, I expected some kind of remix of a classic Nickelodeon show soundtrack. Instead, I got this dreary ballad.

There are some nice two-part harmonies in here, and that’s probably the nicest thing I can say about it.

Russia — Scream — Sergey Lazarev

I expected greatness from Sergey. I mean, he gave us “You Are the Only One”, nearly breaking his own neck in the process. Instead? This ballad.

What has happened to Russia the last couple of years? It used to produce class acts — now it’s produces songs barely worth the time.

Denmark — Love is Forever — Leonora

Oh Denmark: what happened?

Last year you gave us dramatic Viking-Disney vibes; this year you give us Bargain Hunt Bjork. In two languages — neither of which is even your own!

“Love is Forever” but thankfully this song is only for 3 minutes.

San Marino — Say Na Na Na — Serhat

This is another good example of nominative determinism on this year’s Eurovision soundtrack. To this, I say “nah nah nah”.

How does a country with such a minuscule population produce so many bad songs? That’s what I’d like to know.

North Macedonia — Proud — Tamara Todevska

The newly renamed Former Yugoslav Republic of Northern Macedonia had a chance to show Europe what their new brand meant.

How did it choose to celebrate this moment? With a song called “Proud”. One of the 7 deadly sins, but OK.

What does it sound like? Sticking to a theme: sloth. This is not the way to do a rebrand.

Sweden — Too Late For Love — John Lundvik

Thank God for Sweden, eh? Maybe I’m biased — I love Swedish pop — but this is brilliant.

It’s a bit heavy on the false starts, but the gospel overtones and the catchy chorus are golden. It stands out, and I love it.

Douze points to Sweden for me.

Slovenia — Sebi — Zara Kralj & Gašper Šantl

You remember those old O2 adverts? The ones with the crashing bubbles?

This track just sounds like the background noise on one of those adverts. It’s forgettable. So forgettable, in fact, I blitzed through the whole track almost without registering it consciously in my brain.

Cyprus — Replay — Tamta

Clearly drunk on last year’s near-miss with Fuego, Cyprus has doubled down on the fiery pop genre. So much so that large chunks of the song appear to be very, very similar to the almost-winning song. That’s alright though, this is a fun and punchy tune to bop to.

The Netherlands — Arcade — Duncan Laurence

Reading this, you might be thinking I hate slow songs: I don’t, I hate bad slow songs. I like good ones. This is a good one.

Well produced, a good vocal, and some bare but effective instrumentation. There’s even some clapping.

I doubt it’s a winner, but it’s a slow song done well.

Greece — Better Love — Katerine Duska

Singing the missing 15th track from her debut album: it’s Jess Glynne! Except it isn’t; it’s someone called Katerine.

This beaty pop-ballad is perhaps just about good enough to avoid the same fate as Jess Glynne’s back catalogue, providing the backing track for Jet2’s commercials.

Israel — Home — Kobi Marimi

Our hosts have entered a song with a title that might be a just a little on the nose. The song itself is not a patch on the majesty of last year’s winner.

Ok, it’s just shit. It takes almost two thirds of the song to get going, and even then it’s just dire. Utterly dire.

Norway — Spirit in the Sky — KEiiNO

This is a floor filler that packs a punch. It’s messy — of that there’s no doubt — but it’s got spunk. The middle-eight is truly batshit crazy: which I like.

My biggest critique is that it doesn’t make much use of there being two vocalists; barely a decent harmony in earshot.

United Kingdom — Bigger Than Us — Michael Rice

To describe this as a rejected X-Factor winner’s single does not do justice to this entry from these fair shores.

The polls already show that lots of the UK want out of Eurovision. The least the Beeb could do is not fan the flames of such idiocy with entries like this!5

Iceland — Hatrið mun sigra — HATARI

WHAT. IS. THIS. HORROR. SHOW?!

This is like Daft Punk meets Black Sabbath. There’s lots of very uncomfortable shouting in this song, followed by some pulsating and actually quite enjoyable electronic stylings.

BUT. PLEASE. MAKE. THE. SHOUTING. STOP.

Estonia — Storm — Victor Crone

If you like mash-ups of country and dance-pop and want to live like it’s 2013, pretending Avicii is still a thing; then this is the track for you!

This charming, yet thumping number has lots to like. A good tune, some tacky and meaningless lyrics, and a decent vocal.

Belarus — Like It — Zena

This is a classic case of nominative determinism if I’ve ever heard one. I like it!

This dance number has a pretty good rhythm, and an irritatingly repetitious set of lyrics. I would be surprised if it was a high scorer, but it’s a potential floor filler.

Azerbaijan — Truth — Chingiz

This is a catchy tune that I like. If I had to choose 3 words to describe this, they would be:

  1. Slick
  2. Bass
  3. Bop

There’s a pretty catchy riff in this track, and the lyrics speak to me: “so shut up about it”.

France — Roi — Bilal Hassani

Fuck me with a croissant; it’s happened! For the first time since I don’t remember when the French have an entry I actually like!

It’s fresh, it’s got a decent pace, it’s got good a couple of good riffs and it’s bilingual! Aces. (Who says the French don’t like singing in English?)

Italy — Soldi — Mahmood

In recent years Italy have gone from “crazy ape” to “drunk dad at a wedding”, and now to “rip off Liam Payne”.

One mustn’t complain though. Whilst the lyrics are in Italian, they are at least (once translated) cogent and even powerful; a improvement on recent years. Pretty good!

Serbia — Kruna — Nevena Božović

Yet another poorly put together, slow and drab song. Whining vocals and an unimaginative melody punctuate this never-ending bore of a song.

It tries to get going toward the end, but it’s a bit like trying to get a clapped-out banger up a very steep hill: you just can’t.

Switzerland — She Got Me — Luca Hänni

It’s clear where the inspiration for this came from, and I’m sorry to say that the Swiss have finally caught up with the criminally bad tune, Despacito.

This somehow manages to be even more annoying than that trash bag, with what I think are bag pipes screeching in the background.

Australia — Zero Gravity — Kate Miller-Heidke

Chalk and cheese. Drinking and driving. Socks and sandles. These are things that don’t go well together.

Now we add to this list: “90s anthems” and “the operatic style”.

Following several years of quality tunes, the Auss-he-he-he-he-ies4 have entered something bonkers.

Spain — La Venda — Miki Núñez

Sigh. It’s hard to believe that the same country that produced Ruth Lorenzo, and the epic “Dancing in the Rain” also produced this monstrosity.

OK, the positives: It is fast moving. It’s very Spanish. It’s fun, I guess. None of that negates the fact that it is a truly awful song.

Summing up

So that’s it! All 41 entries in fewer than 280 characters each.

As you might have guessed, I think this is going to be very, very, very long Contest, folks. There’s a higher-than-usual proportion of pretty bad ballads, and some unmoving dance tracks too. The semi-finals will hopefully chuck out most of the dreck, but it won’t be able to get rid of all of it.

I’ll wrap up with some of my worst and best songs of the Contest, based purely on the album production.

The Worst

It’s a hotly contested field for the bottom of the pack this year. Ordinarily, I find a mere handful of songs that I genuinely despise, but this year, I think the worst tracks have to be:

  • Georgia
  • Israel
  • San Marino
  • Portugal
  • Poland

Now, remember friends, that the worst songs aren’t necessarily they worst scoring songs: weird voting structures, international geo-politics, and wild cultural differences across Europe result in some strange outcomes. That said, those are the songs I liked the least.

The Best

I’ve started to get a pretty good ear for the top of the pack over the years, and whilst I could make an ill-informed attempt to predict the winner6, I won’t. Instead, I’ll pick out some songs I liked the most:

  • Sweden
  • Italy
  • Estonia
  • France
  • Azerbaijan

My winner is Sweden; I love a good Swedish pop song, and I love the gospel tones in this. It’s very reminiscent of last year’s Austrian entry.

But who is actually going to win? You decide! Tune in on 14, 16 and 18 May 2019.

  1. As always, I watched the UK’s national selection. That means I’ve heard the UK entry more than once; but that’s the only exception I’m allowed. 

  2. The semi-final running order has now been published, so I’ve presented the songs in their running order for each. For the final, the ‘big 5’ and the host country Israel won’t know their exact place in the final until after the semi-finals are concluded: so they’re presented in alphabetical order. 

  3. Sorry, I had to go there; the pun was just hanging there. 

  4. This will be infinitely more funny when you listen to the track.  2

  5. In fairness to the artist, the vocal is very good — I just wish the BBC would stop churning out such boring songs. 

  6. I do actually have a pretty decent track record of predicting acts in the Top 5, and have called the winner in 4 of the last 7 years — but let’s put that down to luck more than skill!