Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Tobson's Big ESC 2017 Review, part 1
Spread out over ten blog posts, here they are: all 43 songs (or most likely 42, really) fighting it out for the Grand Prix. There can be only one winner and I have a feeling I know already who that is. But first things first as we dive into the first songs of the first semi in running order.
Robin Bengtsson / I Can't Go On
There is no other song in the running this year that I have as mixed emotions about as this one. If you read my Melodifestivalen reviews, you already know that I really like Robin Bengtsson and that I enjoy has smooth voice and his relaxed appearance. The song isn't bad but it's still surprisingly bland and - in my mind - it feels like a mismatch between singer and song. Is this really Robin's style? This seems like the kind of song basically anybody could have sung and it makes Robin come across as replaceable. But it still is a very stylish and comfortable opener of the first show.
Absolutely. No doubt in my mind. Even if the song in itself is slightly disappointing there are not ten songs in the semi that are stronger. Given the right slot in the final, this one could go pretty far. Even a lot further than it would deserve.
My grade: 3/5
Robin Bengtsson / I Can't Go On (Sweden 2017 preview)
Tamara Gachechiladze / Keep The Faith
Eight years ago, Tamara won the Georgian final as part of the disco collective Stephane & 3G but never got to perform at the ESC. The lyrics to "We Don't Wanna Put In" didn't go down a storm at the EBU, and when the group refused to alter their entry they were forced to withdraw. Now she is back to show off the full glory of her vocal chords in an old-fashioned ballad of a kind that used to fail at the ESC already many years ago. The backdrop used in the national final gives away that this song is almost as political as last year's winner - and as clearly aimed at Russia - but while Tamara has a good voice the song is a bit too high pitched for her and the whole package gets very shouty before these three minutes come to an end.
No. Georgia is good at this game, but this ballad is a bit too standard and mediocre for its own good. Especially as much better female ballads are to follow.
My grade: 1/5
Tamara Gachechiladze / Keep The Faith (Georgia 2017 preview)
Isaiah / Don't Come Easy
Australia usually goes down well with the juries and that will come in handy this year as their entrant is a clean-cut and well-singing young man with an equally polished little ballad about how hard it can be to love once you've been hurt. Young Isaiah has a warm and very likeable voice but the ballad in itself relies a little bit too heavily on a formula we are all familiar with. Competent and professional as it might be, it never gets interesting. It never touches a nerve. It just stands there, looking nice, hiding its heart under its expensive suit.
Yes. Mainly because people on juries enjoy voting for Australia more than for some other countries. Otherwise I wouldn't be so sure, really.
Isaiah / Don't Come Easy (Australia 2017 preview)
Lindita / World
You know what they say: if you find a concept that works, you should stick to that. Albania seems to have misunderstood that old saying a tiny bit as they cling to a formula that hasn't been very popular at all. They keep entering these bombastic songs with powerful female vocalists that are always walking the fine line between delivering impressive notes and being straight up shouty. Lindita has been around and done well in Albanian finals before and could probably navigate her way through the dangers of over-vocalising, but her song is way too difficult to hit home comfortably with televoters and jurors alike.
No. This hardly ever works and it won't work now either. Albania would have to have a long hard think about the way they select their entries and see if they could come up with something better.
My grade: 2/5
Lindita / World (Albania 2017 preview)
Blanche / City Lights
There are so many things going on in the world that you would never have been able to think possible only a couple of years ago. One of these is definitely the fact that RTBF found their groove and keeps entering solid ESC entries that keep pushing the formula for what you can or cannot do in this contest. The land of CopyCat and Witloof Bay turned into a big player and I couldn't be more happy. "City Lights" is more mainstream than Loïc Nottet was two years ago but is still exploring a moody and understated pop landscape while still running the risk of not being understood by the masses. I applaud Belgium for the courage but also realise how much this song depends on a good stage show to work in the end.
Yes. This one really should be bang in the final, but there is always a risk at hand. Will it be too dark and too inaccessible on a first listen? Could be a shock non-qualifier in the making but at this stage it feels like a contender for a top five placing in the final.
My grade: 4/5
Blanche / City Lights (Belgium 2017 preview)