The Eurovision Song Contest will not take place in 2020. At least, not as we know it. The songs will be “honoured” in a special two-hour event in May. I know. I’m sad too.
This year would have seen 41 countries put forward up to 3:00 minutes of something resembling popular music. All 41 entries are now never to be voted upon – except in my virtual house party.
Every year for the last 5 years, it’s been a tradition of mine to listen to the tracks on the official Eurovision album and jot down some initial impressions. This year it’s not clear if we’re going to get an official album, so instead I’ve scoured the internet to listen to them on a self-compiled Eurovision playlist1 instead. The coronavirus can’t stop me unashamedly enjoying the musical delights of a slightly geographically-expanded Europe2.
As ever, there are some rules:
- I’m only allowed to listen to each track once3
- Each entry is allowed a tweet-sized piece of commentary: up to 280 characters — no more, but sometimes less
In lieu of an officially curated album, I’ve listened to the songs in alphabetical order by artist this year. The final running order wasn’t agreed before the contest was called off this year, so below they are presented in alphabetical order by country, grouped into their respective semi-finals.
So let’s hop in…
- First semi-final
- Australia – Don’t Break Me – Montaigne
- Azerbaijan – Cleopatra – Efendi
- Belarus – Da vidna – VAL
- Belgium – Release Me – Hooverphonic
- Croatia – Divlji vjetre – Damir Kedžo
- Cyprus – Running – Sandro
- Ireland – Story of My Life – Lesley Roy
- Israel – Feker libi – Eden Alene
- Lithuania – On Fire – The Roop
- Malta – All of My Love – Destiny
- North Macedonia – You – Vasil
- Norway – Attention – Ulrikke
- Romania – Alcohol You – Roxen
- Russia – Uno – Little Big
- Slovenia – Voda – Ana Soklič
- Sweden – Move – The Mamas
- Ukraine – Solovey – Go_A
- Second semi-final
- Austria – Alive – Vincent Bueno
- Albania – Fall from the Sky – Arilena Ara
- Armenia – Chains on You – Athena Manoukian
- Bulgaria – Tears Getting Sober – Victoria
- Czech Republic – Kemama – Benny Cristo
- Denmark – Yes – Ben & Tan
- Estonia – What Love Is – Uku Suviste
- Finland – Looking Back – Aksel
- Georgia – Take Me as I Am – Tornike Kipiani
- Greece – Supergirl – Stefania
- Iceland – Think About Things – Daði og Gagnamagnið
- Latvia – Still Breathing – Samanta Tīna
- Moldova – Prison – Natalia Gordienko
- Poland – Empires – Alicja
- Portugal – Medo de sentir – Elisa
- San Marino – FREAKY! – Senhit
- Serbia – Hasta la vista – Hurricane
- Switzerland – Répondez-moi – Gjon’s Tears
- The Big 5 and last year’s winner
- France – Mon alliée (The Best in Me) – Tom Leeb
- Germany – Violent Thing – Ben Dolic
- Italy – Fai rumore – Diodato
- Netherlands – Grow – Jeangu Macrooy
- Spain – Universo – Blas Cantó
- United Kingdom – My Last Breath – James Newman
- Summing up
Australia – Don’t Break Me – Montaigne
The Aussies keep churning out Eurovision class acts; this year is no exception. This is a cool and punchy track that makes great use of text painting in the lyrics to compliment the swooping instrumentation. It rises and falls throughout to keep you engaged for all three minutes.
Azerbaijan – Cleopatra – Efendi
I always thought Cleopatra was Egyptian and yet, despite Egypt being eligible to enter Eurovision, this ode to the queen comes from Azerbaijan.
Obviously inspired by last year’s fan favourite, it’s replete with faux-throat singing, but with substantially more sex and sass. Solid.
Belarus – Da vidna – VAL
Da vidna, meaning “until dawn” is reminiscent of that track from Made in Chelsea. You know, the one with the screechy sound.4
Made in Chelsea and Da vidna have something else in common too: they’re both stilted and devoid of substance.
Belgium – Release Me – Hooverphonic
You know when you’re in a pub and you ask for Coke but you get Pepsi? Sure it looks like Coke, but the taste? Just a bit off. That’s this song.
It’s almost a good jazz lounge number. It’s fine. It’s just a bit discordant and, like Pepsi, a poor imitation of the original.
Croatia – Divlji vjetre – Damir Kedžo
As it’s sung in Croatian, I’ve taken the liberty of looking up the lyrics for this one. What I’m getting is pathetic; a pathetic fallacy that is.
It’s also naff.
This is basically that song from Pocahontas but without the colonial overtones or the musical genius of Alan Menken.
Cyprus – Running – Sandro
I think what we’re meant to take away from this song is that this artist is struggling with his mental health. (Great! #TimeToTalk etc.)
What I actually took away from this is that maybe Sandro is really into marathons. I do like this, I just think it gets a little repetitive.
Ireland – Story of My Life – Lesley Roy
Well Lesley clearly likes P!nk.
I’m not much of a P!nk fan, but I can appreciate a thumping good pop song and this is one of those. It’s uptempo, chirpy, and has a driving bass line for a fun three minutes.
Israel – Feker libi – Eden Alene
Feker libi (or “my sweetheart” in English) is a very confused song. One minute it’s a 90s house track, praying to the Earth mother; the next it’s a Bollywood banging Pussycat Dolls rip-off.
If you can look past the frantic and a bit out-of-place middle-eight, it’s pretty good!
Lithuania – On Fire – The Roop
I so desperately wanted to make a good “The Roop is On Fire” joke here, but this track does not deserve my best wit. This is quirky and there’s an ear-worming synth riff throughout, but it does not exceed the sum of its parts. Disappointing, at best.
Malta – All of My Love – Destiny
The song builds very quickly from a quiet piano ballad, to a powerhouse with drivingly rhythmic instrumentation. It’s hard to identify the catchy riff that your ear is meant to latch on to, but there’s no doubting that singer, Destiny, has got lungs.
North Macedonia – You – Vasil
The recently renamed
Former Yugoslav Republic of North Macedonia has ditched boastful ballads this year and gone for a sexed-up, Latino-type song about dancing.
The vocals are a tad bland, but the instrumentation is varied and lay down a fun beat.
Norway – Attention – Ulrikke
“I just want your attention”, sings Ulrikke in the pre-chorus of the Norwegian entry. Well, Ulrikke, you’ll have to try harder than this.
The song takes an age to get started, and it only really grabs you after about 2 minutes. It’s pleasant enough; just not very catchy.
Romania – Alcohol You – Roxen
What is Roxen drinking?
If this were any true metaphor for alcohol, it would feel a lot better in the moment and the hangover would at least be memorable. This dreary and confused entry is closer to drinking bleach than alcohol; it’s shit and you’ll regret it once it’s done.
Russia – Uno – Little Big
It has been apparent for sometime that things are not good in Russia, but now we know why: they’re still living in the 1990s.
This, somehow, manages to be even more annoying than Aqua’s infamous back catalogue, which – let’s not forget – includes a song about plastic dolls.
Slovenia – Voda – Ana Soklič
Who knew that the Slovenians were so enthusiastic about one the world’s largest telecommunications companies?
In reality, I have absolutely no idea what the lyrics to this song are about, as I can’t find the English translation; but it is inoffensive enough to pass three minutes.
Sweden – Move – The Mamas
Last year’s Swedish backing singers would have taken centre-stage this year in this soul and gospel track.
This is another great entry in a string of amazing Eurovision entries from my favourite European nation. I am unashamedly biased at this point. Sweden can do no wrong!
Ukraine – Solovey – Go_A
Oh Christ on a hamster wheel, didn’t we collectively learn anything from this style of music last year?
According to their official profile, Go_A think that “Ukrainian folklore and electronic music are a perfect match”. They are wrong. Go_Away. Now.
Austria – Alive – Vincent Bueno
Bare with this, because the first 30 seconds are a bit crap. They’re obscuring some excellent bass-thwacking that comes a little later.
It’s a bit all over the place and can’t catch a consistent feeling of pace, but it’s enough to jolt you awake after some snoozing ballads.
Albania – Fall from the Sky – Arilena Ara
This song takes a while to get going. The first two verses and choruses are basically a write-off.
Yes, that’s most of the song but then, then there is the final bridge and final chorus. They’re punchy, dramatic, and probably not worth the wait but I enjoyed them anyway.
Armenia – Chains on You – Athena Manoukian
The Armenians have apparently discovered the existence of steel drums, unambiguously sadomasochistic lyrics, and contemporary hip-hop. So basically the artist thinks she’s Rihanna. Except, you know, without all the production value or the Pitch Perfect spin-offs.
Bulgaria – Tears Getting Sober – Victoria
Bulgaria has had some absolute tunes in recent years5. But then, last year, they didn’t enter and I was gutted. Having heard this, I wish they’d skipped another year.
It’s weird. It’s incoherent. It’s barely instrumented. I don’t like it. Bring back Poli!
Czech Republic – Kemama – Benny Cristo
The Czech’s have been on an upward trajectory the last few years. Last year’s entry was great, if you ignored the shit cockney accent.
This year’s entry is also pretty good. And it’s produced by someone called Glowsticks, which is just extremely on brand for Eurovision.
Denmark – Yes – Ben & Tan
The Danes have apparently taken inspiration from their near-ish Dutch neighbours with this country song that sounds remarkably similar to a Lumineers track in the chorus.
It’s a “yes” from me.
Estonia – What Love Is – Uku Suviste
I’m a sucker for a good power ballad and this is not a good power ballad. It has all the right components: a slow opening, kicking into a bold chorus. When it comes to it though, it never truly lets rip and that’s why it fails.
Finland – Looking Back – Aksel
Given the only winning entry Finland’s ever had in Eurovision was a bunch of hard rocking, latex monsters, this is about as far away from that as you can get. That is to say it is comparatively dull.
Unrelatedly, I can’t excuse Aksel’s laissez-faire view of motoring offences.
Georgia – Take Me as I Am – Tornike Kipiani
This guy seems not to have gotten over his latest relationship breakdown.
Why do I say that? Well, it’s obviously totally proportionate to release a song where you scream “why don’t you love me?” into a microphone as part of a grunge track.
Greece – Supergirl – Stefania
Top marks for the obvious message of womens’ empowerment contained in this track’s lyrics.
The song has a driving rhythm and some peculiar backing music replete with some kind of presumably Greek-native instrument; but there’s nothing that stands out as particularly interesting.
Iceland – Think About Things – Daði og Gagnamagnið
I don’t care what anyone else says, this is fucking brilliant. It’s got whimsy lyrics, 1980s stylings to the instrumentation, and a top-notch beat. Oh, and it’s got a totally insane slowed-down-and-then-sped-up bridge into the final chorus. Douze points!
Latvia – Still Breathing – Samanta Tīna
One of two tracks this year with an unfortunate title, given the situation.6
Latvia takes us to the club with this over-produced track and nondescript female vocal. It throws in some (not good) rap near the end of the track before crashing into a distorted mess of an ending.
Moldova – Prison – Natalia Gordienko
This is a fairly meh pop ballad from the Moldovans. It keeps rolling with a decent ebb and flow, switching up between piano-leading verses and more punchy choruses. It’s enough to keep you interested, but it’s ultimately a bit anti-climactic.
Poland – Empires – Alicja
Singer Alicja appears to be quite pre-occupied with combustion in this kind-of-orchestrally instrumented track. There are a lot of destructive metaphors.
It’s kind of like a James Bond theme, if Bond themes were a bit shit and done on a shoe string rather than by drag queens.
Portugal – Medo de sentir – Elisa
Ah, Portugal. Another year, another expectedly dreary entry.
It’s a ballad. It’s very monotone. It would have been a good moment to pop to the loo because you wouldn’t have missed much.
San Marino – FREAKY! – Senhit
San Marino, the tiny nation always churning out questionable acts that for some reason people seem to like, have discovered the 1970s this year. It’s a discotheque tune with a lot repetition of the word “freaky”7. For once for San Marino, something I’d listen to again.
Serbia – Hasta la vista – Hurricane
This song starts with a false-stop and I am not a fan. What I am a fan of is the high-energy hasta la vistas peppered throughout this early-2000s style, girl-band song.
Objectively, it’s probably not a good song, but it’s got a fun Eurovision prime-era vibe to it.
Switzerland – Répondez-moi – Gjon’s Tears
This is a very emotive entry. There’s something haunting about Gjon’s voice, and the stripped back instrumentation compliments his falsetto in interesting ways. It is also in French, which is novel for a Swiss entry nowadays.
The Big 5 and last year’s winner
France – Mon alliée (The Best in Me) – Tom Leeb
You can always rely on the French for a meandering ballad, and this year they’ve delivered in spades. Unless my ears deceive me, I think there are two key changes (top work, France). The lyrics, however, are awfully gushing and the song itself is just colourless.
Germany – Violent Thing – Ben Dolic
There’s one reliable thing about a nation that regularly doesn’t open its nightclubs until after midnight, and it’s that it knows how to throw a party. The Germans have brought this fun, slick bop to this party and it is totally my vibe. It could have been a contender.
Italy – Fai rumore – Diodato
Italy has good years and bad years. This, I think, is a bad year.
It’s basically just a middle-aged, white guy shouting at a microphone too much for three-minutes. Par for the course for Italy in the 2010s, but not a great start to the 2020s.
Netherlands – Grow – Jeangu Macrooy
This is utterly miserable. For the first minute and a half it’s almost one continuous note of instrumentation with a near monotone vocal.
After that, it just gets weird. It very, very slowly builds to a crescendo and just as you think it might be getting somewhere; it stops.
Spain – Universo – Blas Cantó
This song is a great example of how lyrics can sound really impressive in their native language, and then turn to utter gibberish when translated into English.
There is an excellent falsetto at 2:30 that I bet would have gotten totally butchered live. Gutted we’ll miss that.
United Kingdom – My Last Breath – James Newman
It’s supremely unfortunate that in the year the UK enters an good song, Eurovision gets cancelled. It’s also unfortunate that we chose a song with this title in the same year the world is swept by a respiratory virus pandemic.
I just wish the song didn’t end 25 seconds early.
So that’s every Eurovision song that won’t get to compete this year. 41 tracks that history will probably forget. In many cases, probably for the best anyway.
To be eligible to enter the Eurovision Song Contest, you need to be a member of the European Broadcasting Union. Membership of the Union requires you to be geographically in the European Broadcasting Area or, in recent years, be the country of Australia. ↩
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. ↩
By my count, there are no fewer than 41 uses of “freaky” and 6 uses of “freaking” in this freaking song. ↩