Rejoice! Gay Christmas is nearly upon us. That’s right; the biggest televised music competition on Earth — the Eurovision Song Contest — is back.
On 10, 12 and 14 May, the city of Turin will open its virtual arms to the world as 40 countries show off a bit for our pleasure (and sometimes pain).
For 7 years, I’ve shared my gut-reactions on this blog for absolutely no reason. But, it’s a habit now, so here I am again for the eighth time.
Once again, I’m sticking to my self imposed rules:
- I’m only allowed to listen to each entry once1
- Each entry is allowed a tweet-sized piece of commentary: meaning a maximum of 280 characters
I’ve listened to the entries in the order they appear on the official Eurovision album. They are presented in alphabetical order, below. You can also filter by semi final.
So let’s get stuck in…
Sekret by Ronela Hajati
Albania is setting the bar this year: first on the album and first in the semi-finals.
This upbeat entry has all the classic touch points: strong vocals, very weird instrumentation, and a native and English language lyric for mass appeal.
Snap by Rosa Linn
Armenia has gone with a mediocre country vibe this year.
It’s not immediately clear to me why Rosa Linn is counting to 4, or why she can’t seemingly get beyond it. Maybe she could do with assistance from Count von Count.
Not The Same by Sheldon Riley
Australia has had incredible entries to Eurovision since its first outing…
Cough. Dami Im was robbed and should have won. Cough.
But, friends, this is not the one for me. It’s a slow and meandering ballad that lacks any show stopping moment.
Halo by LUM!X feat. Pia Maria
This song feels like it’s being played at double-speed. It is very speedy. Almost too speedy.
It is, however, lucky number 13 in the running order so I suspect a shot of adrenaline by that point in semi-final 1 will be very welcome.
Fade To Black by Nadir Rustamli
This ballad has lots of levels. We go from piercing silence to soaring falsetto in less than 3 minutes.
Despite all that building and anticipation though, it’s anti-climactic. After the searingly bright highs, it just kind of fades to black.
Miss You by Jérémie Makiese
There’s a vague twinge of Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me A River in this track. Spiky strings and an oscillating vocal – swinging effortlessly between chest voice and falsetto – punctuate this early-to-mid noughties styled song.
Intention by Intelligent Music Project
Imagine if Top Gun was a musical.
Ok, got that image?
Now set it in the same universe as the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
That’s what this song is!
Over-the-top soft rock with a strong narrative focus on health and safety.
Guilty Pleasure by Mia Dimšić
Croatia are going to perform bang in the middle of semi-final 1; which is unfortunate because this mid-tempo ballad doesn’t stand out in a crowd.
It all just blurs into one. 30 seconds after hearing it, I’m not sure I could repeat the hook.
Ela by Andromache
After a few years of club bangers that performed well, this year’s Cypriot entry is a marginally slower pace.
That’s fine, I guess.
It’s a pleasant enough entry with a soothing female vocal, but overall it’s immediately forgettable.
Lights Off by We Are Domi
Aside from a thwacking synth bassline, and a middling vocal, this song sticks out to my ear because it makes me feel personally attacked.
The lyrics are a laundry list of things that I have done recently. And I can confirm none of it helped.
The Show by Reddi
It always confuses me why artists squander their mere 3 minutes on dull intros. This starts with a barren ballad before cramming in an Avril Lavigne-style rip-off.
Why waste time on the ballad when you could be doing early 2000s pop-rock?
Hope by Stefan
Well slap my thigh, don my Stetson and fetch me my horse; Johnny Cash has risen from the grave.
This thick, country vocal punches through a whistling and guitar laden backing track that would be at home in any Bible Belt watering hole.
Jezebel by The Rasmus
Ever since I heard the Rasmus were entering Eurovision I’ve been waiting to find out if they will live up to my mid-teen memories. And they kinda do!
The chorus has a good hook, it’s rocky, and there’s a key change (how novel!)
Fulenn by Alvan & Ahez
Well this is certainly unusual from the French. No soaring ballad and controlled mania here.
Is… is that… a didgeridoo? It’s just full on thwacking synth and bass bonanza. Odd.
Lock Me In by Circus Mircus
This is quite mad: like the Cha Cha slide on crack cocaine.
There’s a hypnotic quality to the ultra regimented beat and layered vocal.
The overall package reminds me of a different band that are no strangers to musical madness: OK Go.
Rockstars by Malik Harris
I think Malik Harris might, just maybe, have listened to Lin Manuel Miranda soundtracks a few too many times during Germany’s covid lockdowns.
I’ll say this about it; it’s different from everything else so far.
Different does not mean better.
Tenfjord by Amanda Georgiadi
This is a ballad done incredibly confidently and incredibly well. Not many Eurovision entries can pull off a 30 second intro that is just pure vocal.
It’s chilling and a perfect contrast to the wall of sound in the rest of this track.
Með Hækkandi Sól by Systur
Oh Iceland. Both your most recent chances to win Eurovision were kiboshed by Covid. For shame.
Instead of doubling down on that winning formula, you do this. A calming and soothing ballad, yes, but it’s hardly Husavik, is it?
Bring back Daði!
That’s Rich by Brooke
This song slaps you in the face from the first bar. It has a pumping bassline reminiscent of Standing in the Way of Control.
I’m not a huge fan of detour into distorted spoken word in the middle-eight. It is, at least, mercifully short!
I.M by Micha’el Ben David
What is there to say about this?
It’s camp. It’s overproduced. It’s got a ropey vocal and cringey spoken word sections. It’s got all the production value of a bad RuPaul’s Drag Race week one music challenge. Car crash from start to finish.
Brividi by Mahmood & Blanco
Mahmood’s last Eurovision entry had lots of swagger and starchy shirts. This collaboration with Blanco is the exact opposite of that.
The charm is in the chorus: melodically sometimes in unison and other times counterbalanced in harmony.
Eat Your Salad by Citi Zēni
Just wow; that opening line is beyond.
This song is so heavily laced with blatant innuendo that I’m surprised it doesn’t come with a parental advisory.
Shock factor aside; the song is about saving the planet. With a catchy beat, of course.
Senitmentai by Monika Liu
This song makes me feel quite queasy. The melodic choices are strikingly discordant and overwhelming.
It’s not unpleasant but it is disorienting. Like having had one too many gins at the bar and then deciding to get on a merrigoround.
I Am What I Am by Emma Muscat
In this song, Emma Muscat invites us to “take it or leave it” as they tap into a gospel vibe. Personally, I love gospel chorus, so I’ll take it!
The vocal is strong, the lyric is mildly inspirational and the hook is great.
Trenulețul by Zdob şi Zdub & Fraţii Advahov
This year at Eurovision seems to be ‘back to the 00s’: Mika’s presenting, the Rasmus entering, and now, Moldova brings classic Eurovision crazy.
Moldova have form as the mad-hatter of the Contest in recent years. All power to their elbow.
Breathe by Vladana
This had all the potential to be an incredible power ballad. A strong female vocalist, some bold instrumentation, and a good hook.
But it’s just squandered.
This song takes a good two minutes to come into its own, and it’s over before the peak.
De Diepte by S10
This is a year of native-language songs: and the Dutch are singing in Dutch.
The song’s moody and lilting, tilting towards a slower tempo.
Luckily, the main hook for the song seems to not rely on any language. It’s just an oo-oo and an ah-ah.
Circles by Andrea
I thought I was going to not like this but when the chorus kicked in, I was a convert.
This mid-tempo pop ballad has a cool, electronic backing and a gravelly female vocal.
If I had one criticism, it’s the ending. It just fades out.
Give That Wolf A Banana by Subwoolfer
If I’m following this correctly, this is the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf, called Keith or possibly Jim, is trying to eat the Grandma and someone thinks it can be distracted with a banana.
Nope. I’ve no idea either. Fun though!
River by Ochman
Of all the ballads so far, this one stands out as the most unique. It blends a subtle opening with a strong chorus and dramatic middle-eight; perhaps too dramatic?
The climax is a bit weak and doesn’t give the payoff that I was hoping for.
Saudade, Saudade by MARO
You know those lo-fi beats that people listen to when they’re working, convinced that they make them more productive? That’s the closest thing I can think of to describe this.
It’s calming, soothing, balming. It’s probably forgettable too.
Llámame by WRS
This is fun and has a bit of pace to it, but it’s also a bit repetitive.
Now I know that sounds stupid: of course there is repetition. But the difference between a good and a great song is flare as things progress. This lacks a wow moment.
Stripper by Achille Lauro
This is incredibly breathy to the point it’s off-putting.
From what I discern, it seems to be a random collection of lyrics from other, better songs.
It’s like San Marino saw that rock worked for Italy and said let’s try that, but badly.
In Corpore Sano by Konstrakta
One of my least favourite musical devices is the false stop. If you’re going to do one, it has to delight you.
This song employs a false stop in within 10 seconds. It did not delight.
I’d have been happier if the false stop was just a stop.
Disko by LPS
My most immediate reaction to this is that it could do with far, far fewer trumpets.
It’s like a cheesy lounge singer’s song.
I’m told this is a fan favourite this year. I don’t get it. Maybe it’s in the staging.
SloMo by Chanel
Move over Cyprus, I think the award for sassy, sexy club track might be for Spain this year. Sung mostly in Spanish with key riffs in English, this would be at home on a Pussy Cat Dolls album.
I would wager it’ll be beloved by the Eurogays.
Hold Me Closer by Cornelia Jakobs
It’s not a surprise that this is great. It’s been through the toughest music competition on the planet before it got to Eurovision.
And it absolutely soars.
The instrumentation is exquisite. The vocal is soulful. And it’s a brilliant earworm.
Boys Do Cry by Marius Bear
This… Song… Takes… A… While.
Every phrase seems to be drawn out, turning this ballad into more of a lullaby.
If you nod off mid-song, don’t worry, there are several discordant melodic choices towards the end that’ll wake you back up again.
Stefania by Kalush Orchestra
Look, you know and I know, it doesn’t really matter if I like this. It could be great. It could be awful. It’s irrelevant.
Their country is fighting a war and they’re still managing to turn up and give it their all.
SPACE MAN by Sam Ryder
As I’ve already heard the UK entry, I’m going to break with my usual tweet-sized tradition. And, I can’t believe I am about to type this…
They did it! This is the first song from the UK in more than a decade that I unreservedly love. From start to finish it is brilliant.
It’s not our usual made for Eurovision and thus a bit naff entry. This is proper Top 40 pop quality. It’s a mid-tempo track with a driving electric guitar riff cushioning a stratospheric vocal from Sam Ryder.
Friends, for once, there’s no hiding behind the sofa whilst you hide in shame about our entry. This is the year you can stand proudly in front of your TV and wave that Union flag triumphantly.
If this doesn’t finish on the left hand of the scoreboard, then it’ll be a genuine travesty.
So who’s going to win? Your guess is as good as mine; and I’m no octopus.
I do have my favourites though.
Sweden is, as ever, a wonderful song. Its dizzying melodic and lyrical qualities really get me in the gut.
The UK, amazingly, is sending a powerhouse song with an incredible vocalist. It stands out amongst a down-tempo pack.
Greece, though doubtfully a high ranking entry, is beautifully produced. To do half a minute of pure, punchy vocal takes guts.
Spain gets this year’s award for sexiest song, and Norway gets the award for What The Actual Just Happened?!
But my televotes are worth a mere fraction of the UK’s 12 point potential. The choice is yours! Don’t miss it. It’ll be a blast.
The one exception is, as ever, the UK entry. I’ve heard that several times already; but that’s the only exception I’m allowed. ↩