Normally, the Big Five typically would struggle to make the left side of the leaderboard. But I’m surprised at the quality of five of the six automatic finalists, that they all could make a possible play for the left-side of the leaderboard. Without further ado, let’s start with the host country…
PORTUGAL: “O jardim [The garden]” – Claudia Pascoal. Admittedly I wasn’t that fond of this atmospheric, moody ballad at first listen–I even found the jazzy styling of Claudia Pascoal a bit off-putting, as if she is veering off-key. But in subsequent listens, I started acclimatizing myself to Claudia’s vocals and it dawned on me this is like how I felt about Haley Reinhart when she first competed in the 10th season of American Idol–I didn’t think she deserved to be a finalist at first, but when she did a cover of Elton John‘s “Benny & the Jets“, she won me over and was on her side since then. Pink hair aside, Claudia also resembles Haley to my eyes.
Now, about the song–it’s disclosed by songwriter Isaura that the song is actually about her grandmother’s death, though when you read through the lyrics, it si generic enough to be interpreted in the context of the parting of a loved one, either by death or via a breakup. And for that, it does connect with a wide audience. I’m appreciating the quality of the song as the days wore on. One piquant note: Isaura is so prominent backing up Claudia, I wonder why the artist credit is solely Claudia? Most people will always think of this act as Claudia and Isaura, not Claudia solo, even if Isaura’s role in the performance is a backup role.
FRANCE: “Mercy” – Madame Monsieur. This electro-pop song has a nice, gentle rhythm that makes me sway. The atmospheric electro-groove and Emelie Satt’s vocals clearly has a distinctively French stamp, even if the song’s topic looks outward to the world at large, opening its heart to tell the real-life story of an immigrant Nigerian baby being born at sea. I’m sure this couple is aware of the English meaning of the word “Mercy” and for me the genius of the song is the way they play with the English word with the deceptively similar French word “Merci“, which means “Thank you.” Some might dismiss this as too simple to make an impact, but I think this is too good to miss. For me, this song deserves to win the Marcel Bezençon songwriters’ award, though many fans are touting the virtues of Italy’s entry.
GERMANY: “You Let Me Walk Alone” – Michael Schulte. It’s quite odd how every time I hear this song I get misty-eyed. I don’t have the kind of reletionship with my own father the way Michael had with his late father, but somehow I connected with his sense of loss and gratitude. It’s a quality ballad that for me can tug the heartstrings of both the juries and masses. I hope they would toss points his way and make this country rise from the bottom doldrums.
ITALY: “Non mi avete fatto niente [You did nothing to me]” – Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro. This is an inspirational message song that talks about being strong in the face of all those terrorist attacks throughout Europe. I start to appreciate this song better the more I listen to it but what’s holding me back from fully embracing this number is that its melody and acoustic guitar arrangement sounds like the 2003 Las Ketchup hit “Asereje“. It’s as if they fuse the bleak, socially conscious lyrics of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young‘s 1970 song “Ohio” to that breezy, lighthearted Las Ketchup tune. It potentially would seem unwieldy, but it worked.
SPAIN: “Tu canción [Your song]” – Amaia & Alfred. I’m not as enamored with this song as many Eurovision fans are, but I’m rooting for this couple to succeed. This pair reminds me of a teenage version of Romania’s Paula Seling & Ovi–a pair with skills playing multiple musical instruments, and the female providing the stellar highlights for the duo. I hope their love story tugs the heartstrings of the public and finally help this entry escape the Edurne Paradox.
UNITED KINGDOM: “Storm” – SuRie. This deadringer to Annie LennoxRhythm Inside has actually seen action in Eurovision as a backup singer in 2015, to Belgium’s Loic Nottet‘s “Rhythm Inside” (she had brunette long hair then), and last year she was part of the team that helped Blanche overcome her nerves. Now, though SuRie has undeniable great talents (as proven when she subbed for an ill Emelie Satt to perform the English version of Madame Monsieur’s “Mercy” at the Amsterdam pre-party) this song is way beneath her caliber of talent–it’s a trite and generic inspirational song. It’s listenable, but compared to the rest of this year’s entries, it would be considered mediocre. Most likely she’ll take the rear of the finals this year.
Assuming all my predictions of who makes it to the final came true, here’s my take on who’ll be in the Top 10:
TOP 10: CZECH REPUBLIC, ISRAEL, ESTONIA, BULGARIA, GREECE, NORWAY, AUSTRALIA, SWEDEN, UKRAINE, FRANCE
BUBBLING UNDER: FINLAND, CYPRUS, DENMARK, NETHERLANDS, HUNGARY, PORTUGAL, GERMANY, ITALY, SPAIN
Of course, who I predict would rank in the Top Ten doesn’t necessarily mean they are my favorites. Here is my list:
1) ISRAEL; 2) FRANCE; 3) FYR MACEDONIA; 4) AUSTRALIA; 5) CZECH REPUBLIC; 6) SLOVENIA; 7) DENMARK; 8) GREECE; 9) POLAND; 10) GERMANY
BUBBLING UNDER: UKRAINE, ALBANIA, NETHERLANDS, ESTONIA, BULGARIA, FINLAND, CYPRUS, NORWAY, SWEDEN, PORTUGAL, BELGIUM, MALTA, SPAIN, ARMENIA, ITALY, AUSTRIA
This is one of the more exciting years for me, with a high quality of entries and no outright drecks (or even trolls, surprisingly). Now, let’s keep tabs on how all this would translate onstage–let’s see who’ll rise and who’ll fall in the challenge. I wish all the entries to give their all and do their very best.