A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Tobson speaks up: ESC 2022, semi 2

After I published part one I realised I am doing it all wrong. In this review I should of course have listed the ten songs I myself would have wanted to make it to the final, not the ones I predict.

You see, these two things are not the same. When making predictions you should try to avoid wishful thinking as much as only possible, while some wishful thinking can be amusing to read too.

Hey ho, it doesn't matter all that much, it's just a blog after all and we have eighteen songs of the second semi to take a closer look at.

The Rasmus / Jezebel
One of the biggest names in this years line-up even if their biggest hit happened almost twenty years ago. It's no "In The Shadows" but an explosive opener all the same and very recognisable for the band's fans as well as for the people who had forgotten they were Rasmus fans as well.
Grade: 3/5

Michael Ben David / I.M
Being gay and proud in the public eye always took a certain amount of audacity, not least now the way things have turned out lately. I would love to fully support this but while the performance has a shameless over-the-top-quality to it, this is one of my least favourite songs of the year. Three minutes of nothing, basically.
Grade: 1/5

Konstrakta / In corpore sano
The sharpest teeth in the contest come in the shape of a woman constantly washing her hands in a subversive piece of satire that refuses to be cute or whimsical. Catchy and almost hypnotic but possibly a hard sell to a mainstream audience. I hope everyone will see the brilliance but I could be hoping for too much.
Grade: 4/5

Nadir Rustamli / Fade To Black
Azerbaijan does what always worked for them: they opened up their large wallet and bought an impeccably produced song with no connection what-so-ever to anything local. Maybe this time the strategy came back to bite their own behinds: in a year where so many acts try to do their own thing, this song is so polished it is hard to remember in the end. Surprise non-qualifyer? Not impossible.
Grade: 2/5

Circus Mircus / Lock Me In
Spaced out psychedelia not unlike the last song Georgia qualified with back in 2016. Just like that one, this will be saved or crushed by what the audience can see on their screens. Reports suggest this band isn't all that live on stage but maybe that could be sorted with nifty camera work. Let's hope so since the actual tune, while not as clever as it thinks it is, is a gem.
Grade: 4/5

Emma Muscat / I Am What I Am
Why do they keep doing this to their singers (and to their songwriters)? Is this the best song they could come up with? While technically not a melodifestivalen reject, it sure sounds like one and will score like one.
Grade: 1/5

Achille Lauro / Stripper
One of my biggest questions marks of the year. I have enjoyed Achille a great deal in Sanremo over the years and he has an intensity that can melt tv cameras from quite a distance, but the song he settled for here is way more album filler than hit single and the star himself comes across as a tad uncommitted to the whole thing. Will this light up when it needs to or are we looking at the shock NQ of the year?
Grade: 3/5

Sheldon Riley / Not The Same
Sheldon pours his heart out in front of us and while I'd like to respond to that, this entry does nothing for me. Just like last year, the theatrics get in the way and this just ends up being a lot of voice with no real chorus to work with. All things on display here are obviously the artist's own choices, but while I respect that I can only state that for me the package never comes together.
Grade: 1/5

Andromache / Ela
Let's ignore that fact that a ridiculous ten people are listed as having written this song and just listen on the actual song. Cyprus let go of the party vibe and settled for a song that sounds international and very Greek at the same time, impeccably performed by a good voice. I'm smitten and I'm sure more people will be come Eurovision week.
Grade: 4/5

Brooke / That's Rich
Ireland goes pop and usually when they do it does not bode well for a great result. I find myself thoroughly amused by both the song and the performance but predict this will go down a bit like "Et Cetera" did. Unless being the first uptempo pop stomper in a while makes it catch the audiences attention, that is.
Grade: 3/5

Andrea / Circles
They do nothing wrong. The singing is good and the songwriting is technically fine. But nothing happens and this entry stands still for a solid three minutes. Nobody can afford doing that at this point in this semi.
Grade: 1/5

Stefan / Hope
"The Good, The Bad And The Ugly" performed by The Handsome from Viljandi. It's a bit of an odd choice coming from Estonia but it is perfectly pleasant and lives very highly on Stefan's charm. A real borderline qualifier, like so many others in this semi. Maybe we are in for some big surprises?
Grade: 2/5

WRS / Llámame
I have really tried - I mean really really tried - to get into the vibe of this one. I like that little instrumental thingy, you see. But the rest of it is very basic and uninspired and amateurish and unworthy of anyone's attention. Romania used to be so good at this game, where did they go wrong? Fourth NQ in a row, for sure.
Grade: 1/5

Ochman / River
Clearly the best Polish entry in quite some time but I'm not quite as sold as many others. Ochman has a good voice but never really connected with the cameras in the national final. The song is also a patchwork of bits and pieces from songs that already exist, which is fine in itself until it becomes too obvious and takes your attention away from the actual performance.
Grade: 3/5

Vladana / Breathe
Montenegro making quite the comeback with a catchy midtempo ballad that is not without chances, an updated take on the big so-called Balkan Ballad that used to create havoc in this contest in the previous decades. The big question is if people have missed this style or find it a leftover from times gone by? If Vladana nails her vocals, my guess is the first alternative.
Grade: 3/5

Jérémie Makiese / Miss You
Every year there is at least one entry that you intellectually recognise as a quality entry that will go down well even when it doesn't really do much for you personally. For me, that is Belgium this year. Jérémie is clearly very talented and there are hooks aplenty in here. Not my cup of tea but I don't think that will constitute any major problem at this stage.
Grade: 2/5

Cornelia Jakobs / Hold Me Closer
After years of impeccably polished if not terribly exciting entries, Sweden finally got it right. Cornelia offers drama, intensity and a beating heart, showing how you can be both polished and engaging at the same time. Easily Sweden's best attempt since Loreen and a very possible winner in the end.
Grade: 5/5

We Are Domi / Lights Out
The second semi ends on a tricky note for me. This moody electro pop is just the kind of thing that makes my heart beat to its very BPM but I still suspect this style could prove to be a bit too unspectacular to hit home at this stage. Fingers crossed this isn't a disappointing 11th place in the making.
Grade: 4/5

In conclusion, this semi feels much more open and a lot less easy to predict. I think Finland, Serbia, Cyprus, Poland, Montenegro, Belgium and Sweden can sleep easy but the rest will have to do their best to impress. In the end I say Georgia, San Marino and Czech republic will steal the final tickets to the final which would leave Israel, Azerbaijan, Malta, Australia, Estonia, North Macedonia and Romania out.

Please check out my predictions for semi one here and feel free to leave a comment or two.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Tobson speaks up: ESC 2022, semi 1

It is the time of year when I shake some life into this old blog of mine - usually I blog my way through the Eurovision history in Swedish here - to focus on the upcoming contest in Turin.

In this first blog post I will write my personal opinion about the songs in the first semi and then predict the top ten qualifiers based on the preview versions alone.

It's not a bad year we have ahead of us: if it is one lesson people seem to have learned from last year, then it is how being personable and having a song that sounds like it means something to the people performing it is a clever trick.

Ronela Hajati / Sekret
A fine opener with ambitions to blend dance music and traditional lore together. Perhaps it ends up being more of a rhythm track than a functioning song and maybe people will find other songs they will like more before the semi final is over, but we will surely have a good time together with Ronela during these three minutes.
Grade: 2/5

Citi Zēni / Eat Your Salad
For a while it felt like Latvia really had a buzz going and would be the viral wonder of the year, but now the temperature has gone down considerably. A fun track that will have its fans, but ultimately the whole thing is probably too silly to stand a real chance.
Grade: 2/5

Monika Liu / Sentimentai
The first of my personal favourites to take the stage this year. France 2021 meets a very sensual and totally bonkers cabaret performer and magic happens. Not sure at all Europe will embrace this on a Tuesday night but I love it.
Grade: 4/5

Marius Bear / Boys Do Cry
A sweet song about comforting your inner child (I guess), sensitively performed by a likeable singer, but a most unfavourable spot in the running is likely to keep Switzerland in the semis after two strong showings. Unless Marius really works the cameras, then this could be a surprise in the making.
Grade: 3/5

LPS / Disko
If this was the talent night at the local high school, LPS would charm everyone and have us eating out of their hands. A charming little effort but the lack of experience becomes too evident in the end.
Grade: 2/5

Kalush Orchestra / Stefania
Of course the entry of Ukraine was bound to be brilliant. They often are and this year it actually means an awful lot for them to be represented in the best possible light. And they are, reaching musical and emotional heights few others can compete with. The most obvious qualifier in this semi and not at all an unlikely eventual winner.
Grade: 5/5

Intelligent Music Project / Intention
Not as bad as some people want to make out. An okay slice of a very beige version of rock that some people like a lot. Måneskin it is not and a qualifier it is not, but it is technically competent.
Grade: 2/5

S10 / De diepte
This one ticks a lot of boxes in my list: an emotional song that seems to mean a lot to its performer with the added bonus of being sung in the local language. There are other strong contenders with a similar approach in this semi, but S10 has the big advantage of being the first of them. 
Grade: 4/5

Zdob și Zdub feat Frații Advahov / Trenulețul
If one act really got so lucky with the running order, then it is this happy rock/folk mashup that balances skillfully on that thin line between adorable and ridiculous. The ESC version is arguably less effective than the original mix but little does that matter at this point. Moldova will choo choo their way straight into the final with ease.
Grade: 4/5

Maro / Saudade, saudade
Lucky break for the next female emotional ballad to have Moldova between herself and the Netherlands. This is full of harmony and is pretty much balm for the soul. A wonderful little oasis with its very radio friendly take on traditional music.
Grade: 4/5

Mia Dimšić / Guilty Pleasure
Another radio friendly song with a solid performance. Competent but I'm afraid Croatia could again find themselves south of the relegation line, only by a couple of millimeters. Competent but definitely running the risk of not being striking enough on a first listen.
Grade: 3/5

Reddi / The Show
I see what is happening here, Denmark think they are going out on a limb and doing something daring and unexpected. Not a bad song but the whole package feels so constructed and calculated and not a bit like the punk pop they themselves think it is. 
Grade: 2/5

Lumix feat Pia Maria / Halo
Bang! Suddenly Austria came out of nowhere and hit me over the head with their entry and made me feel nostalgia for a genre I never in a zillion years thought I'd feel nostalgia about. Very catchy indeed and unless they make a complete mess of this live, then this should be a very safe qualifier.
Grade: 4/5

Systur / Með hækkandi sól
Musically very appealing, very First Aid Kit and very easy to enjoy. Not really a visual feast, perhaps. Will have to fight it out with Armenia over the same points. Borderline qualifier.
Grade: 3/5

Amanda Tenfjord / Die Together
A very slick studio production and its biggest problem is exactly that - how super studio produced it is. What is this going to sound like live? I'm very fond of Greece sending entries that sound like real pop singles - I absolutely LOVED the studio version of "Better Love" - but it will be a challenge to make this one flow effortlessly on stage.
Grade: 3/5

Subwoolfer / Give That Wolf A Banana
Amusing, silly, catchy and the song that will end all hope Latvia ever had of qualifying. Almost as amusing as this song is watching all those eurofans hate is (mainly because it is amusing). 
Grade: 4/5

Rosa Linn / Snap
Contemporary country vibe by another likeable singer - there are many of them in this lineup - and this could very well be the song that causes Iceland to miss the final. 
Grade: 3/5

My prediction at this point is that Ukraine, Netherlands, Moldova, Portugal, Austria, Greece, Norway, Armenia, Lithuania and Iceland will make the cut and that Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Denmark will leave us. But what do I know? And how many times will I change my mind before the semi actually takes place?

Semi 2 review coming up soon.