ESC 2015: 2nd Semi-Final – The Songs
In a few weeks, the Eurovision Song Contest 2015 (which will be held this year in Vienna, Austria) is going to start with the 1st Semi-Final on Tuesday, 19th May 2015. Continuing my opinion about the ESC 2015 songs, let’s go to the 2nd Semi-Final
The second semi starts with a contemporary cheerful folk-pop entry sung by Monika Linkytė (who has tried to go to jESC in 2007 and to ESC since 2010 until now) and Vaidas Baumila (who also tried to go to ESC just last year): “This time”. They undoubtely have a great chemistry among each other – it was clearly shown in their final NF performance. Just a pity the song, although a good catchy bubbly track with the lyrics that fit the music’s spirit, isn’t as wonderful as the singers themselves. Despite the nice reception the ESC fans in general have for it, the duo in question really has to give the performance of a lifetime. Can they manage to put Lithuania back in the final?
The country is back to a formula that gave them their biggest ESC sucesses (meaning: 7 victories, a record that hasn’t been broken yet): sending a ballad. This time, though, it’s a bit more into the alternative side as newcoming singer-songwriter Molly Sterling will be “Playing with numbers”. On this entry, I really get some influences from british alternative singer Birdy – the calmness, the purity, the melody’s melancholy – it’s all there. Molly‘s brightest input on her own composition, though, is the criticism she lyrically gives towards a broken relationship without being too harsh about it. At the moment, the song is pretty much against the odds: so-so reception from ESC fans in general + the fact that there’s a good number of slow and mid-tempo entries – it doesn’t mean it’s chanceless, though – the simplicity of the entry could get them far… with an effective performance. Will this ballad put Ireland back in the final map?
03: SAN MARINO
Fresh from their Junior Eurovision Song Contest participations, Michele Perniola (who became the first artist to represent San Marino in that contest back in 2013 with “O-o-O sole intorno a me”) and Anita Simoncini (who represented the country as part of The Peppermints last year with “Breaking my heart”) are now combining all their strength for “Chain of lights”, a baroque pop entry penned by the composer with the biggest number of ESC entries throughout the years (Ralph Siegel – 13 for Germany, 4 for San Marino, 3 for Luxembourg, 1 for Switzerland and 1 for Montenegro) and by his all-time lyrical partner (Bernd Meinunger, who penned this year’s entry under the pseudonym of John O’Flynn – 13 for Germany, 2 for Luxembourg, 2 for Switzerland, 1 for Montenegro and 1 for San Marino). I must admit I wasn’t expecting anything exceptional on this one – and it did became a fact: despite the promising arrangements and the fact that it isn’t a bad song, the song does sounds too basic and a bit cheesy – even for the songwriting team as they have done so much better in the past. I believe that, considering the negative response it has among ESC fans in general, only a massive performance can get them a slight hope for a final qualification. Can they do a shock final qualification once again?
Once again, Montenegro does send a song in the formula from which they got their very first final qualification last year, albeit in a catchier way. Famed singer in his own country, Knez will try to get the country’s second consecutive final qualification with “Adio” (translation: Goodbye), a song penned by three people, two of which had already participated in several ESC editions before (Željko Joksimović, who has participated 2 times as a singer-songwriter back in 2004 (“Lane moje”) and in 2012 (“Nije ljubav stvar”), as well as 2 more times solely in the songwriting condition (2006, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Hari Mata Hari, “Lejla” and 2008, Serbia, Jelena Tomasević ft. Bora Dugić, “Oro” ) and even as a co-host in the 2008 edition, held in Belgrade – Marina Tucaković, who had written the lyrics for three serbian ESC entries back in 2010 (Milan Stanković, “Ovo je balkan”), 2012 and 2013 (Moje 3, “Ljubav je svuda”). This really exceeded my expectations when I first heard it: eventhough quite different from what we usually hear from Željko due to its midtempo nature during the middle of the song, this is as magnificent as all of his ESC contributions – with that harmonious melodic line in the first part of the song, that characterstical crescendo that makes a song soar up high to its elusive climax, the singer and backing vocals’ massive vocal delievery: overall, a pretty strong balkan ballad. True, it has a nice impression from the ESC fans‘ part – but you really need an effective performance in order to qualify for the final. Will Montenegro reach the final for the second time in a row?
The dubstep-pop genre is represented this year by Amber (who had tried to go to ESC from 2011 up to now) as she’ll sing “Warrior”, written by part of the team who wrote the last two maltese Junior Eurovision Song Contest (2013, Gaia Cauchi, “The start” and 2014, Federica Falzon, “Diamonds”)‘s entries: Matthew “Muxu” Mercieca and Elton Zarb. I really was expecting something good from that songwriting team due to their jESC entries – but this struck me as a major disapointment. Basically, it doesn’t spark any emotion or yearning whatsoever in every single aspect of the song, despite not being bad at all: from its basic melody to its contrieved delivery, from the way it is sung to its uneffective climax. At least, the dramatic lyrics make up for what I consider to be a powerless song at most. Eventhough the ESC fans quite like it in general, this really needs a good share of luck to do well this year. Can they keep up the the country’s good momentum in ESC with a 4th consecutive final qualification?
An odd couple singing a atmospherical indie-pop ballad – all courtesy of the duo Mørland and Debrah Scarlet as they sing “A monster like me”, a song written by the former mentioned artist. There’s only one word to describe it anytime I hear this song: hauting. In a way, this goes deeply into my heart – everything is massively perfect in it, from its unconventional sorrowful music to its touching lyrics, as well as the deepening vocal delivery that matches all the song’s notes. Overall, this is how a slow song should be like: full of raw emotion and strength, making it a timeless ballad. The massive favouritism that it’s getting from ESC fans is totally deserved, but I’m having a bit of concern with Debrah, whose vocals weren’t really perfect on the NF – hoping she nails it in the semi… and also in the final, if they’ll get there. Can this entry do better than last year’s norwegian entry (Carl Espen, “Silent storm”)?
Leonor Andrade, a upcoming singer who participated in the portuguese version of “The Voice”, will defend the portuguese colours with the pop-rock entry “Há um mar que nos separa” (translation: There’s a sea that separates us). When I first heard it in the NF, I didn’t think it was a really special entry – and I still don’t think it is special: just your middle-of-the-road kind of song that can be currently heard on the portuguese radios… but could only be heard on international radio with better arrangements, especially in the chorus (which quite destroys everything the entry is trying to accomplishe) + it gives some icelandic ESC 2003 entry (Birgitta, “Open your heart”) entry teas (although this one was quite better in many terms). That said, it’s a pretty nice song with pretty good arrangements and a good set of lyrics – the other problem I have with this one is the singer’s voice: I didn’t think she had a pretty good vocal performance during the NF, so I’m afraid she might not have a stand-out performance in order to qualify for the final. In a way, everything is against all odds for us once again: not so good feedback, unlucky betting odds to qualify for the final, etc… then again, we’ll have to see if there’s any kind of chance for her after the performance in Vienna – can we be the ones to provided the “WTF” moment of year by qualifiying to the final? Or are the predicitions going to be correct once again?
08: CZECH REPUBLIC
The country in question returns after a 6-year hiatus with a super duo that consists of Marta Jandová (vocalist of Die Happy, a known german group) and Vaclav Noid Barta and a symphonic rock ballad: “Hope never dies”. There are people that don’t fancy retro sounds in a song – I do, though… and it really fits, especially when we have a song of its calibre. It also sounds like something that could easily be included in a musical due to its dramatic appeal… but without being too obvious due to the wonderful display of vocals that is provided during the entry’s entire course. Eventhough the reception isn’t bad at all, there’s much doubt whether the country can achieve their first final qualification or not. Could this be their first ESC sucess ever? Or will this be another negative moment for the country in question?
From the original israeli version of Rising Star to ESC – that’s the story of Nadav Guedj – with his uptempo pop entry with R’n’B influences being the platform for the begining of a potential hit carrer: “Golden boy”. There’s no doubt that the song’s melody is tremendously catchy – sometimes, that same melody can stay in your mind for quite some time. The problem is that I don’t really love it (and I don’t hate it either. I just like it – that’s all) and the main reason is probably its structure: for me, the intro is good and the chorus is wonderful – however, the song’s potential goes down to the trashbin thanks to the uncanny R’n’B vibe during the verses: it just doesn’t fit the song and the nonsensical lyrics’ cheerfulness. Knowing the entry has a good response from the ESC fans in general, I believe this could sail to the final as long as it has a overall stand-out performance (vocally-wise, though, I think that’s Nadav‘s Achilles’ heel so far. Let’s see if he gets his vocal act together next month)… and as long as the jury doesn’t put it last (as I believe it could do well with the televoting). Can he break the israel non-qualification spell that has been going on since 2011?
Aminata has already tried to go ESC last year, but she only got the right to go there this year with the minimalistically quirky electro-pop entry “Love injected”, a song written by herself. Mysterious… in a original and positive way on every single aspect: that would be shortest comment about it. It’s surely a deep fresh air from what we can usually hear in ESC – it’s as if Phil Spector‘s “wall of sound” came back from the dead and totally in sync with modern times. Although it has the ESC fans‘ general reaction towards it is great, we can’t forget that Latvia hasn’t qualified for the final since the last time they achieved that goal back in 2008 (Pirates of the Sea, “Wolves of the sea”). I’m really afraid the song’s unconventional aura could be too much for the average viewer – for me: if there’s any justice in the world, this should easily sail to the final. Can this be Latvia‘s definite stairway to heaven? Or will this go into the deep underground like the previous latvian entries since 2009?
Seven years have passed since the singer’s first participation (in 2008, he was – together with Samir Cavadzade – the first azeri participant in ESC history with “Day after day”), but Elnur Hüseynov, who recently won the turkish version of “The Voice”, is back for more. This time, though, he’s in a different output as he’ll sing a unconventional ballad whose song was written by five people, one of which being Sandra Bjurman (who has written the lyrics for the country in question’s previous entries between 2010 and 2014): “Hour of the wolf”. A mysterious piece of music with a viciously dramatic vocal, a well constructed arrangement (the keychange in the end is a bit of a letdown, but I can live with that) and a set of anthemic lyrics (in a bucolic way, since it deals with surrealistic horror – maybe inspired by a 1968 film made in Sweden: “Vargtimmen”, made by swedish directing legend Ingmar Bergman). A favourite with the ESC fans, this has all what it takes to do pretty well. But that’s only up to the singer himself, who does have a pretty good voice – let’s see what will happen in May then…
María Oláfs is on mid-tempo pop territory as she’ll defend the entry titled “Unbroken”, a song whose lyrics were co-written by herself. Like Malta before them, the song seems truly devoid of emotion that you wonder if you can really defend it positively for what it’s worth. It’s quite better than the formerly mentioned entry for its lyrics and for the the melody’s positivism. Without a doubt it’s a favourite to at least qualify for the final, seeing the ESC fans‘ pretty good reaction towards it. In a way, we’d have to go back to the last time they didn’t reach the final (2007, Eiríkur Hauksson, “Valentine lost”). So, can this continue the tradition of qualifiying for the final consecutively since 2008? Or this could be a shock non-qualifier?
If you can’t make it there at first sight, try and try again: after Sanna Nielsen, the time has also come for Måns Zelmerlöw to make his way onto the ESC stage at last (although in his case, it was only at his 3rd try. He previously tried to go there in 2007 and 2009). Made by part of the team that wrote the 2013 swedish entry (Robin Stjernberg, “You”) – the couple Joy and Linnea Deb -, the singer is ready to face the demons in his mind as he’ll sing the contemporary electro dance entry “Heroes”. Despite the alleged similiarites with David Guetta ft. Sam Martin‘s smash track “Lovers in the sun”, there’s no doubt that it sounds pretty much like a potential radio and commercial hit: the modernly soaring melody, the mesmerzing beats, the magnificentally inspired lyrics about bullying and how to overcome those though times, the cinematic vocals… well, everything has what to takes to become one. Big favourite with ESC fans, it also is the big favourite to win the competition according to the betting odds. Can Måns give Sweden its 6th overall ESC victory? Provided that he can easily qualify for the final, let’s see what might happen after the semi…
Singer-songwriter Mélanie René is representing the country this year with a midtempo pop entry made all by herself: “Time to shine”. I’d almost put this in the lines of Malta and Iceland – in another words, empowering pop songs that just aren’t powerful or appealing enough. Fortunately, this is the best of the three: there’s a sense of power going through the music, the lyrics are truly believable and the singer’s delivery enables the fire throughout the entry. There’s a point against it, though: it doesn’t strike me as something memorable, especially when the competition is that tough this year. And it could be a reason why things don’t look too good for a possible final qualification. Still, I don’t think it’s impossible yet – with a memorable performance, this could go that far. Can Mélanie put the country again in the big final map?
After a one-year hiatus, Cyprus is back in the competition. This time, the lucky artist is John Karayiannis and he’s going to sing “One thing I should have done”, a low-key ballad penned by the singer and by the same songwriter who did the 2004 cypriot entry (Lisa Andreas, “Stronger every minute”): Mike Connaris. A cute simplistic song with a pretty good message about the end of a love relationship. By the way, the songwriter in question really got the right singer in the right song once again: John really gives the rightful tone to it with his gentle and calm voice. Just like in 2004, the ESC fans‘ reaction to a song made by the songwriter in question isn’t particulary good – it will all depend on the singer himself. Can he beat the odds by getting the country’s first final qualification since 2012?
The uptempo neo soul-pop entry “Here for you” is going to be sung by a duo that isn’t really too unknown in ESC (one of the members of the duo wrote the music for last year’s slovenia entry (Tinkara Kovač, “Round and round”)… and jESC (both co-wrote the music for last year’s slovenian debuting entry (Ula Ložar, “Nisi sam (Your light)”) terms (at least, when it comes to songwriting): Maraaya (the married couple Aleš (aka. Raay) and Marjetka Vovk). Totally my kind of music… and also an effective entry from start to finish: once the intro is heard, it rapidly melts down like chocolate – the music’s catchiness + the mid-raspy vocal delivery is a truly dynamic combination and the positive message in its lyrics only adds more charm to the song, Overall: a kind of “super-dynamite” entry ready to be fully discovered. Despite the great reception from ESC fans, there’s always a bit concern about the visual performance – let’s hope they really have what it takes to put Slovenia into the final once again… or the result might not be the expected one
Despite being paralyzed from the waist down, the performer in question will be the last artist to perform in the 2nd semi: Monika Kuszyńska (former lead singer of Varius Manx that had tried to go to ESC in 2003) is, therefore, ready to go to Vienna with “In the name of love”, a classy ballad that fits this edition’s motto (“Building bridges”). A well structured ballad with good highlights throughout the song, particulary the piano playing – the strength of the song, besides the “building bridges” type of lyrics. The song has, without a doubt, a great draw… despite the general average reception from ESC fans – but everything is now up to Monika herself and to the performance she’ll give. Can Poland relive the final qualification feeling this year as well?
The last post concerning ESC 2015‘s songs is going to be about the finalists… so, watch out for that one as well