ESC 2014: 2nd Semi-Final – The Songs
In a few weeks, the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 (which will be held this year in Copenhagen, Denmark) is going to start with the 1st Semi-Final on Tuesday, 6th May 2014. Continuing my opinion about the ESC 2014 songs, let’s go to the 2nd Semi-Final
To open the show, here’s a different kind of song that isn’t usually that common to hear in a ESC stage: titled “Coming home”, the folk rock entry in question is sung by Firelight, a group composed of 5 members: Richard Edward(s) Micallef (vocalist and the author-composer of the entry. He had tried to go to ESC), Michelle Mifsud (pianist and Richard‘s sister. She had already tried to go to ESC in 2003 and 2005 as a member of The Mics), Wayne William (backing vocalist and Richard’s brother. At the same time, he had also tried to go ESC this year as a solo artist), Daniel Micallef (acoustic guitarrist and Richard‘s brother), Tony Polidano (upright bassist) and Leslie Decesare (drummer and harmonica player). It does have a kind of Mumford & Sons feeling to it: certainly not usually my kind of music, but it’s a good effort either way – the lyrics about feeling free to express anything are quite inspiring, by the way. After last year’s result, Malta could really have a chance to qualify to the final for the third time in a row. Will they continue their good luck streak?
After sending a ballad last year, Israel is now having an uptempo entry this year – all courtesy of the singer they selected internally: Mei Finegold, a famed singer whose first breakthrough moment cam from the moment when she participated in the 7th edition of the israeli talent show “Kokhav Nolad”. Sung in english and hebrew, the singer is going to grace the ESC stage with the song title “Same heart”. Wonderful power-pop entry, entirely fierce in every way: from its music production to the arrangements and from Mei‘s vocal use in the entry to the empowering lyrics about the end of a wrecked relationship (let’s hope she’ll have a matching performance for this). Israel hasn’t qualified for the final since the last time they did back in 2010 with Harel Ska’at singining “Milim” and, eventhough they’re doing pretty well on ESC fans polls, I wonder if this will do the trick. Will they finally make it after all this time?
A newcoming singer and musician in the market, Carl Espen will represent Norway with the entry titled “Silent storm”. A effectively intimistic ballad: there’s a total sincerity in the way it was constructed and the way it’s performed – the lyrics describing a person all alone in its tormented thoughts certainly makes the feeling look totally credible. It’s considered to be one of the favourites to do well in the final by the betting odds and it’s also doing quite well in the ESC fan polls in general, but they’re in a very open semi and suprises could happen (especially when many thought his NF performance was not as perfect as it should have, despite winning it). Will he be able to polish his vocals on time and deliever a top-notch performance?
A proof that this edition’s ESC is really varied and, at the times, risky: it’s Georgia‘s turn and they chose a fusion jazz entry named “Three minutes to Earth” which will be played and sung by fusion jazz trio The Shin (who started their carrer in 1998 and whose members are Zaza Miminoshvili (guitars and panduri), Zurab J. Gagnidze (bass and vocals) and Mamuka Gaganidze (percussion and vocals) and jazz singer Mariko Ebralidze. Maybe a bit weird as a whole, but it’s professionally tailored and bearable to listen. One thing I like the most from the song is its lyrics about the environment of our planet Earth as a whole. Georgia‘s chances to qualify for the final aren’t really favourable this year – only the performance will determine whether they’ll qualify or not. Will they be the shocking qualifer of the 2nd Semi-Final?
The second and last returning country for this year’s ESC has gone risky as well, getting all their hopes on Donatan (prolific hip hop songwriter-producer and the composer of the song) & Cleo (R’n’B singer who got her first taste of public attention in the polish version of “X Factor” and the lyricst of the song) for a song that has become a viral hit on the polish media since late-2013: “My, Słowianie (We are Slavic)” (the first part of the title is translated as “Us, Slavs” and for ESC 2014, this will be performed in a bilingual version: polish and english). In a way, it’s quite average for me: that marriage of folk music with heavy hip hop sounds doesn’t work at all. The lyrics that pay a tribute to the slavic girls are really basic, but fit well the song’s theme. Curiously, this is doing quite well in the ESC fans polls – however, there were a couple of songs in the unsubstantial vibe (meaning: song that’s meant more for dancing than for anything else) haven’t done so well with the jury (for example: France in 2010, Norway in 2011 (Semi-Final 1), Austria (Semi-Final 2) in 2012 and Montenegro in 2013 (Semi-Final 1), so this will be a trial by fire. Will this conquer the jury and televoting all together?
After trying to go to ESC in 2012, Conchita Wurst (aka. Thomas Neuwirth) has finally been chosen to represent Austria. In a internal selection, the chosen song was the power ballad “Rise like a phoenix”. There are too many adjectives to describe this song, but I’ll probably say just a few: retro, classy, sublime, etc… everything about it is in the right point (from the 007 James Bond-esque melody to the empowering lyrics about the will of the person’s conquest for the love of its counterpart after changing into a new person… well, everything). When Conchita was first announced as the austrian representant, the reactions weren’t mainly good – they quite changed from the moment the song could finally be heard for the first time. Some ESC fans believe this might qualify easily, but others aren’t really sure that’ll happen at all… one can say that the performance is going to be one of the cases when it’s going to either “make it or break it”. Will Austria qualify to the final for the first time since 2011?
Armenia and Moldova might have a taste of dubstep music as the song progresses, but that’s nothing compared to Lithuania this year with the entry “Attention”, sung and co-written by Vilija Matačiūnaitė (who had tried to go to ESC in 2004 (as a member of Sugafree) and 2005). Not bad musically, but not really a uplifting song – the best of the song, though, are the lyrics that tell the story of a girl that seeks attention from the boy she loves. Like in the past few years, there’s mixed reactions over a lithuanian entry on both polls and betting odds. Will they manage to qualify for the fourth time in a row despite all the polarization regarding them?
This year’s finnish entry is back to genre that gave them their only ESC victory back in 2006 thus far: rock – that time, though, was metal. What will appear on the ESC 2014 stage is a indie pop-rock entry titled “Something better” and it’s going to be performed by a upcoming group formed in 2011: Softengine (its members being Topi Latukka (vocalist of the group, he also wrote the entry), Ossi Mäkelä, Eero Keskinen, Henri Oskár (he co-wrote the lyrics of the entry) and Tuomo Alarinta). A quite powerful rock track to be sure, much in the way it’s done these days and which can be heard on radios at the moment. The lyrics (telling the story of a elderly man who, according to the group, reminisces about his life from childhood to nowadays – eventhough that’s something you don’t quite get at first) are the best thing of the song. Although doing reasonably well in some ESC fan polls, there’s much concern whether it will qualify – in a way, rock music does have their hits and misses in the history of ESC. Will this one “hit” the final or “miss” it?
Formerly a member of irish girl band Wonderland, Kasey Smith is finally getting the opportunity to represent her country in ESC after trying to go there just last year. Accompained by a celtic music group, Can-Linn, she will perform “Heartbeat”, a song written by four people, one of which being Jonas Gladnikoff (swedish musician that has gone to ESC two times before, all of them for Ireland back in 2010 (didn’t qualify for the final) and 2011). It’s giving me some “Only teardrops” (Denmark, 2013, 1st) vibes: its celtic-folk sound combined with the dance pop sounds are a bit similiar to each other – the difference is in the lyrics (this takes the subject of “love” in a lighter matter than the formerly mentioned song). Not a bad thing, but the former is way more powerful. Not really a big favourite according to the ESC fan polls and betting odds, neither for a win, nor for a guaranteed qualification to the final – it’s, at the very least, a dark horse on both sides. Can Ireland invert that position?
Still in the pop vein, this time in a more up-to-date R’n’B music approach as TEO (aka. Yuriy Vaschuk, who tried to go to ESC back in 2009 but didn’t progress to the Belarussian ESC NF Final) defends his own composition, sweetly titled “Cheesecake”. When it was first announced, I liked it more – not so much anymore. Still, it’s quite cool (in a Robin Thicke way) and youthful in its own way (the lyrics aren’t the best ever, eventhough there’s some good intentions with the idea of the fact the leading character tries to escape from a possessive and bossy girl). While not quite positively recieved by ESC fans in general, there’s a chance it can qualify due to the fact its sound is quite fashionable these days. Will they grasp their way into the final or will they fail?
A big star is coming from Macedonia: Tijana (Dapčević) is going to shake things up with “To the sky”, a uptempo entry made by a team that knows ESC pretty well: Darko Dimitrov (lyricist and composer. He also composed the 2006 and 2013 macedonian entries), Elena Risteska (co-lyricist. She had represented her country as a singer back in 2006) and Lazar Cvetkoski (co-composer. He also co-wrote the 2013 macedonian entry). Strongly catchy with a fierce melody line during the chorus, totally on the point + the lyrics about a everlasting relationship do have that edgy feeling on them. Since 2008, Macedonia hasn’t been in a sea of luck in terms of qualifiying for the final – with 2012 being the only exception. Despite a good reception from the ESC fans polls at least, will they be able to qualify for the final against all odds?
Sebalter (aka. Sebastiano Paù-Lessi) had started his carrer as a member of a hard rock group (The Stalkers) and a folk rock group (The Vad Vuc) – as a solo artist, the song he wrote is more in the vein of the last group he had been a member and it’s called “Hunter of stars”. Enjoyable easy-going folk rock entry with some special arrangements in its instrumental backing (I especially loved hearing the fiddler on this one) and a interesting set of lyrics about a dubious relationship in which the leading male character is considered to be an imperfect person. While doing reasonably good in the ESC fan polls, there’s quite some doubt whether this will qualify or not. With all said: will Switzerland conquer the jury and televoting alike with their folk entry?
The mix of dance – represented by the duo Freaky Fortune – and rap – represented by british born rapper RiskyKidd – is the key for this year’s greek entry which has as title “Rise up”, a song they wrote together as well. Just like their greek entry from 2011 (“Watch my dance”), I find the rap parts quite annoying, while the dance part is great… and could have go up some places more if there wasn’t any rap section at all. Still, it’s not a bad song at all and the lyrics about the fact the music makes everyone rise up certainly go down well with the rhythm with the song. Curiously, this is doing well in the ESC fan polls and it’s on mid-terms with the betting odds and predicitions – so, will they keep their 100% final qualification record intact?
A known name in the slovenian music is finally getting her way into ESC after trying to do it so in 1997, 1999 and 2001: Tinkara Kovač. The song she’ll defend in both slovene and english – “Round and round” – was written by herself and two more people, one of which being Hannah Mancini (last year’s slovenian representant as a singer and writer of “Straight into love”). Haunting folk-pop track professionally arranged and concieved, as well as a really dark “bound to be doomed if we don’t do something” love story told in the lyrics. Eventhough it’s not doing bad at all in the ESC fan polls, there’s the concern that Slovenia‘s chances to qualify for the final are far from between, despite a good draw. Will they be one of the dark horses of the semi by sailing easily into the final?
After their debut participation in 2010, Paula Seling & Ovi are back for more and they’re hoping to get one or two places higher than last time with a dance entry named “Miracle”. Not the most original entry and certainly doesn’t give their previous 2010 entry (“Playing with fire”) a run for its money, but it’s still a great upbeat entry and has a set of lyrics that quite fit well with the title’s feeling that something wonderful is bound to happen. Romania has been so far a very stable country (with a 100% final qualification record and some great placings along the way, which include two 3rd places in 2005 and 2010) and the betting odds are good for them, eventhough this year’s entry isn’t doing that well with the ESC fan polls (one positive thing from this case: last year’s entry had a worse reception – but that still didn’t stop Romania from qualifiying to the final). So, will a “miracle (aka. getting the best place for a romanian entry in ESC (1st or 2nd place)” happen?
The last post concerning ESC 2014‘s songs is going to be about the finalists… so, watch out for that one as well