Garlick Takes Aim at Second Patch of Eurovision Hopefuls (2)
Estonia will not feature at the final of the Eurovision song contest on Saturday, but that does not mean the 16 nations of the second semifinal will receive a free pass from columnist Stuart Garlick.
Malta: Firelight, "Coming Home"
A soldier writes a letter on the front. A bomb explodes. A Mumford and Sons-style folk ditty begins. We've been here before, in Eesti Laul, with Traffic, but this also has real punch and star quality. The message is also tailor-made for this year, with troops going home and an end to war seen as an ideal. Anyone fancy a trip to Valletta next year?
Israel: Mei Finegold, "Same Heart"
Mei Finegold has the body of Shakira and the voice of Pat Benatar. The song is a melodramatic mid tempo pop rocker with enough aggression and passion to make those booking tickets for Malta think about Tel Aviv. Professional, slick and outstanding. Contender.
Norway: Carl Espen, "Silent Storm"
Surprisingly for the home of A-Ha, Röyksopp, and a whole hipster music scene in Bergen, Norway has had a checkered recent history in Eurovision. This song is nice enough, but sounds like a Coldplay B-side, making me wonder where the Norwegian ear for a tune has gone. Please can Morten Harket enter next year?
Georgia: The Shin and Mariko, "Three Minutes to Earth"
If I said this was a folk strumalong with liberal changes of tempo and a surprise intervention from a woman who is all hair and vibrato, you'd think it was terrible, right? Somehow it's greater than the sum of its parts, and puts me in a good place. Probably too esoteric for some people who watch Eurovision for autotuned twin sisters though.
Poland: "Donatan & Cleo", My Słowanie / We Are Slavic
Showing a vacuum where ambition and self-respect should be, this seems designed to appeal to stag parties on Ryanair flights to Krakow. No-one said Eurovision was feminist, but it would be nice if we could take a brave step into the 21st Century.
Austria: Conchita Wurst, "Rise Like A Phoenix"
After the debacle of the Polish entry, it's a blessed relief to arrive at Conchita Wurst, a bestubbled transvestite who somehow manages to sound more like Shirley Bassey than Shirley does. A belting ballad that deserves to be judged on its considerable merits.
Lithuania: Vilija Matačiūnaité, "Attention"
This reporter has a bias towards Lithuania, but the nation that brought the world "Welcome To Lithuania" and "We Are The Winners of Eurovision" (Google them and marvel) has only come up with a generic R & B song, with no distinguishing factors, save a welcome message of female empowerment.
Finland: Softengine, "Something Better"
Lordi would not approve of this crisp slice of retro soft rock, which sounds like The Killers mixed with Bastille, but it's about time Finnish pop music, which is in a fantastic state (Sunrise Avenue, Lovex, etc.), used Eurovision as a showcase. A driving, urgent song that will do well.
Ireland: Can-Linn feat. Casey Smith, "Heartbeat"
A song sung by Casey Smith, who looks exactly like Andrea Corr, and sings a strong message in a profoundly sappy way. It sees the obligatory dubsteppy whibs and wubs segue into a fiddly diddly Irish folk chorus, in an example of two worlds that shouldn't collide. Kids: if you're going to release a pop song, more is not more when it comes to production.
Belarus: Teo, "Cheesecake"
"I'm tired of being your sweet cheesecake," croons the singer, who looks like the kind of person who trades mobile phone cases at a market stall. Lyrically, a fine example of why dictionaries are preferable to Google Translate; musically irredeemable. But it doesn't matter, Russia will still give it twelve points if it qualifies.
FYR Macedonia: Tijana, "To the Sky"
There are so many interesting influences on show at Eurovision this year. This tedious club "banger" eschews them all in favor of bargain bin influences like Scooter and Basshunter.
Switzerland: Sebalter, "Hunter of Stars"
The whistling and the mandolin are endearing, the song thrums along at a decent pace, and the whole effort is quirky enough to be remembered, but not enough to be annoying. It's interesting that a country with four national languages should still choose English for the song, but do recent winners prove that's a necessary step in order to win Eurovision?
Greece: Freaky Fortune feat. RiskyKidd, "Rise Up"
More autotune heavy eurodisco. I'd leave a club if this came on.
Slovenia: Tinkara Kovač, "Round and Round"
A melodic flute begins what is essentially a pro tooled electro-ballad, sung in English apart from the first verse, with a few fancy rustic touches thrown in to please the folkies. Not sure if this shows naked ambition to win at all costs, or a disappointing lack of inspiration in production. Probably both.
Romania: Paula Seling & OVI, "Miracle"
Oh... Someone in Romania hired John Martin, the vocalist from Swedish House Mafia. Or that's how it sounds, then the female vocalist joins in, and, yes, the chorus has a "woah oh.” EDM by numbers it might be, but it's good enough, and is on last, so will probably stick in the memory of voters.
Stuart Garlick is a journalist and blogger based in Tallinn. Since 2012 his blog, Charm Offensive, has offered insight into Estonian music, fashion and food.