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:
- I’m only allowed to listen to each track once, as they appear on the official Eurovision Song Contest album
- 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 alphabetical order.
So let’s hop in…
Kjethu Tokës by 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:
Sometimes the jokes just sing themselves.
Walking Out by 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.
Zero Gravity by 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-ies1 have entered something bonkers.
This will be infinitely more funny when you listen to the track. ↩︎
Limits by 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.
Truth by Chingiz
This is a catchy tune that I like. If I had to choose 3 words to describe this, they would be:
There’s a pretty catchy riff in this track, and the lyrics speak to me: “so shut up about it”.
Like It by 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.
Wake Up by Eliot
The Belgians have come up with a half-baked bun with this one1. 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.
Sorry, I had to go there; the pun was just hanging there. ↩︎
The Dream by 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.
Replay by 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.
Friend of a Friend by 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.
Love is Forever by 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.
Storm by 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.
Look Away by 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?
Roi by 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?)
Keep on going by 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!
Sister by 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.
Better Love by 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.
Az én apám by 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.
Hatrið mun sigra by 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.
22 by 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.
Home by 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.
Soldi by 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!
That Night by Carousel
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.
Run with the Lions by 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.
Chameleon by 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.
Stay by 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.
Heaven by 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.
Proud by Tamara Todevska
The newly renamed
Former Yugoslav Republic of North 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.
Spirit in the Sky by 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.
Fire of Love (Pali Sie) by 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.
Telemóveis by 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.
On a Sunday by 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.
Scream by 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.
Say Na Na Na by 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.
Kruna by 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.
Sebi by 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.
La Venda by 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.
Too Late For Love by 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.
She Got Me by 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.
Arcade by 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.
Bigger Than Us by Michael Rice
To describe this as a rejected X-Factor winner’s single does not do justice to this entry from these fair shores.
In fairness to the artist, the vocal is very good — I just wish the BBC would stop churning out such boring songs. ↩︎
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.
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:
- San Marino
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.
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 winner1, I won’t. Instead, I’ll pick out some songs I liked the most:
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.
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! ↩︎