A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
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Friday, May 21, 2021

Tobson speaks up: ESC 2021, the six finalists

Sometimes, when you are in the middle of something - like the Eurovision week - it is difficult if not impossible to stop and take a step back and remember what you really thought about a song. Before you got the stagewear, the performance, the singing ability, the results. All of that.

That's why I decided to review all the songs before the shows started. This very blog post was written on Tuesday and I have no idea who the shock qualifiers and the jaw-dropping non-qualifiers are. But here are my views on the six songs that had a free ticket into the final: the Big Five as well as the host country.

SPAIN Blas Cantó / Voy a quédarme
A good voice, a likeable singer and very old-fashioned Eurovision ballad. Being old-fashioned isn't necessarily a bad thing and this one has grown on me a lot since it was selected, a bit like "Quédate conmigo" did back in 2012. Generally expected to flop big time in the final, I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet. Could there be a bunch of jurors out there who really enjoy this sort of simplicity and handicraft? Not impossible.
Grade: 4/5

UNITED KINGDOM James Newman / Embers
Hailed by many as a British return to form, I'm afraid I can't fully share the enthusiasm. It is different from anything the BBC has offered us in a long time, and it could have sounded like a hit single with a fresher production. But it still feels really empty. Like a cardboard cutout of a star instead of a real star. The left-hand finish the UK fans so badly long for would be a big surprise for me.
Grade: 1/5

FRANCE Barbara Pravi / Voilà
The universe works in mysterious ways and when Portugal won it was with a style they had offered many times before. They hadn't changed but the audience was suddenly open for it. It seems to be the same thing with France - one of the hot favourites to win - who have certainly offered us songs in a similar style without booking a victory since 1977. This is a intimate yet rousing chanson that could feel genuine enough to do the trick in case all the other top candidates steal each other's thunder and split the points between them. But I won't believe it until I see it.
Grade: 4/5

GERMANY Jendrik / I Don't Feel Hate
Sometimes when you hear a short but brilliant piece of music - like the fabulous "Agatha All Along" from WandaVision, for instance - you wish it could have been a full song instead of just a jingle or a piece of theme music. The truth is you wouldn't want that at all. A jingle is just a jingle. A theme song is just a theme song. And Germany's fun little plea against online hate is really just a jingle too. It has exactly one idea that it keeps repeating over and over. It puts me in a good mood but I expect the juries to absolutely detest this and I wouldn't be very surprised to see it with "nul points" from them. Maybe the viewers are more easily charmed but I wouldn't hold my breath.
Grade: 2/5

ITALY Måneskin / Zitti e buoni
On my list of things I didn't see coming was that Italy would out-rock Finland at the ESC. What I did expect, however, was for Italy once again to be at absolute top of this competition. Sanremo is such an incredible talent pool to fish your entries out of and this could very well be the year that their entry finally clicks with jury and audience alike. Noisy but awfully appealing to look at. Could be the hardest winner since Lordi.
Grade: 4/5

NETHERLANDS Jeangu Macrooy / Birth Of A New Age
I can't help but think of that paragraph in the rules stating no entry in the ESC can carry a political message when I hear the home entry. Jeangu - originally from Suriname - challenges the old Dutch idea that they were "cool colonialists" and good guys throughout history. And how he does it. Musically relaxing and intense at the same time, this is like a wonderful oasis in the line-up. This could easily become the best showing for a host country since Frans back in 2016 and the start of a brilliant career for Jeangu. I want to hear and see more, that's for sure.
Grade: 4/5

Can one of these six songs break through and win the whole thing? Possibly, but let me get back to that later. Let's just conclude that this is a strong year and the lack of an obvious frontrunner could make the voting very intense.

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