Eurovision time is here again and it's time for me to take you on a guided video tour through the MASSIVE STACKS OF BALLADS. This year is very exciting, because we've got Australia joining in on the fun (and causing a lot of tittering about the very loose definition of 'Europe' we're now working with, when actually it's all about being a member of the EBU) and that makes us up to a massive, ear-straining 40 songs. That is lots.
The cognescenti are saying that this is a bit of an off year. Possibly it is. This year I made a spreadsheet and some pivot tables to illustrate the general mix of songs...
...and as you can see this is a year dominated by solo female artists, for the main part singing big, mid-tempo inspirational anthems. My divisions into genres are a bit arbitrary, but this is vaguely what I'm getting at:
- a 'mid tempo banger' hints at party times and has a bit of a beat to it, but isn't actually a truly glowsticks aloft actual party song.
- a 'mid tempo inspirational' has one ballady verse, a big anthemic chorus and is usually about how it would be nice if everyone would be nice. This genre is the very quintessence of Eurovision.
- a 'mid tempo pop' is just a mid tempo pop song that may or may not be a retro pastiche
- a 'modern ballad' is a slow song with the kind of production magic that makes it sound like it comes from the future
- a 'trad ballad' is a slow song that could be from any point in the past 60 years
- a 'punk' is well, you know, punk
- and 'electro swing' is the kind of genre that you have to have explained to you on the BBC red button
But anyway, onto the songs in Semi Final 1! There's a couple of crackers in here. You can watch the official video playlist here on the youtubes.
Albania: Elhaida Dani - I'm Alive [solo female, mid tempo inspirational]
This is a very good example of the mid tempo inspirational song. I like it, it's rapidly growing on me and I am sure I'll be hooting along to it in the car, but it gets kind of lost amongst the other mid tempo inspirational songs that have visual or auditory gimmicks. Nice all the same, fingers crossed it qualifies.
Armenia: Genealogy - Face the Shadow (Don't Deny) [Mixed group, mid tempo inspirational]
So this is a song about denying the Armenian genocide and how you shouldn't. The six singers are all individually amazing, and the song gives each of them a little bit that's best suited to their voice, which is polite. It's a really classy, uplifting song and I hope it does well.
Belarus: Uzari & Maimuma - Time [Duo, mid tempo banger]
I keep getting distracted when this one is playing and having to rewind the youtube vid so that I can get a better listen. Even after quite a few iterations of this process I don't find the song any stickier in my brain. It does have a very nice violin hook, however, and you all know how Eurovision loves a bit of fiddle.
Belgium: Loic Nottet - Rhythm Inside [Solo male, modern ballad]
Well gosh, isn't this MODERN? Doesn't it stick out half a mile? Isn't it a million times better than last year's ode to Axel Hirsoux's mother? (A song which I had to remove from my Eurovision album playlist because I knew if it came up while I was driving I'd not be able to skip it)
Regardless of how this does in the competition, I hope it does well in the charts across Europe.
Denmark: Anti Social Media - The Way You Are [alleged rock band, mid tempo pop]
This is a really awful 60s pastiche that doesn't even do a 60s pastiche properly. They can't hold the long notes, it's really naff and the final chorus key change is just a disaster. Denmark could have had this weird Vanessa Paradis type thing or this perfectly pleasant song about a suitcase. But no. It's this.
Estonia: Elina Born & Stig Rasta - Goodbye To Yesterday [M/F Duo, mid tempo pop]
This is brilliant. It hauntingly tugs at the heart, whilst impressing with tonnes of class. Immense regret and longing is absolutely tangible. If this was a Belle & Sebastian song, you'd love it, you filthy hipster, and you'd probably be arguing that it was possibly the best ever Belle & Sebastian song.
Some people have been complaining about Elina & Stig not having any chemistry on stage, but it appears that they've been working on that if the official video is any indication. I can't stop listening to it. Last.fm records that I've given this 24 plays in the past month, but that doesn't count the number of times I've watched it on youtube too. Which is lots.
I want it to win. It probably won't.
F.Y.R. Macedonia: Daniel Kajmakoski - Autumn Leaves [solo male, mid tempo inspirational]
This is so blah and really suffers from coming straight after Goodbye To Yesterday. I can't remember how it goes and this is being written while it's actually still playing. I can't think of anything to say about it.
Finland: Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät - Aina mun pitää [actual rock band, punk]
Actually and deeply punk in every way. The band are punk as anything, the song is incredibly punk (it sounds correctly punk, it's a punk complaint about having to do stuff and it's also only just long enough to qualify as a Eurovision song) and Finland are behaving in a punk manner by sending it.
Georgia: Nina Sublatti - Warrior [solo female, mid tempo banger]
I believe this was one of the early favourites, and I definitely remember tweeting about how I liked it when it was selected way back in the distant past. It's a no-nonsense, poundingly modern anthem. It will sit nicely next to Kati Wolf's 'What about my dreams?', Chaka Khan's 'I'm Every Woman' and Livin Joy's 'Don't Stop Moving' in my Strong Songs for Strong Women In Need of Inspiration playlist. She also looks very nice in her leather top.
Greece: Maria Elena Kyriakou - One Last Breath [solo female, trad ballad]
Very much what you don't expect from Greece, in that it's a lady in a long frock singing a lungbuster in front of a piano. It's dramatic and it builds pleasingly, but it is still the most trad ballad imaginable.
Hungary: Boggie - Wars For Nothing [solo female, trad ballad]
While this is deeply worthy and really pleasant, I'm finding it impossible to get excited about. I think it could get lost amongst the other songs, especially when they cut the vocals down to 6 people. I'm a bit unsure how this it's also conforming with the 'no political message' rule. I suppose it's allowed if it's a nice political message?
Moldova: Eduard Romanyuta - I Want Your Love [solo male, mid tempo banger]
And from the angelic sublimity of Boggie, we move on to the Max Martin style ridiculousness of this. It's about as trashy as possible and comes as some relief amidst all the worthiness. Note: the video contains scenes of seriously unsafe motoring
Romania: Voltaj -"De la capăt (All over Again)" [solo male, mid tempo inspirational]
Another big anthemic chorus leaves me unmoved.
Russia: Polina Gagarina - A Million Voices [solo female, mid tempo inspirational]
A million voices praying for peace and healing. Right, ok, great.
I remain unmoved by an even bigger anthemic chorus.
Serbia: Bojana Stamenov - Beauty Never Lies [solo female, mid tempo inspirational]
Do you remember how when the Bond film 'Tomorrow Never Dies' came out there was the actual theme song by Sheryl Crow, and about the same time Pulp released 'Tomorrow Never Lies' which was clearly their submission for the Bond theme? Well, this is like the third member of that set, only instead of being like a Bond theme, it has an inspirational message and a slightly ravey bit at the end. I still don't know whether I like it or not.
The Netherlands: Trijnte Oosterhuis - Walk Along [solo female, mid tempo pop]
I think that the Netherlands are enjoying their recent success in the ESC and are just settling into the rhythm of it. This is a nice song, written by Anouk, about being a grown up woman and having a fairly massive crush on someone who doesn't see her that way. I remember songs like this were quite the thing in the 90s. It would have gone nicely between Bitch and What If God Was One Of Us and Kiss The Rain on a mixtape that I would have doubtless made if I was a grown up woman in the 90s.
And that was Semi Final 1. Semi Final 2 is coming up after I've refilled my wine glass.