Cyprus, Denmark & Finland

CyprusGravity by Hovig

Will this be the year when Cyprus breaks the drought and finally wins Eurovision? I am afraid not. Is it the auto tune? The mildly threatening lyrics (Right beside you – I’ll never leave you)? The heavy-footed dancing? The lack of voting neighbours, or all of the above? Unless Hovig pulls off a gravity defying performance, I am afraid this one will crash into last place.

Review by Mariella Herberstein

DenmarkWhere I am by Anja

Ready the wind machines for Denmark! Lulling you into a false sense of security for the first minute or so, Anja hits her strides and belts out a classic Eurovision anthem that could only be improved by a key change. Never mind the nonsensical lyrics and non-existing dancing. I think this will go far, the finals for sure!

Review by Mariella Herberstein

FinlandBlackbird by Norma John

This is a real song, sung by real musicians, conveying sincere emotions, beautifully. What on earth is Norma John doing at Eurovision? No wonder they are looking so sad. This is the highest quality entry for decades, hands down. Sadly, this is no guarantee and if anything quality is a detriment to Eurovision success. I am so sorry, Norma John!

Reviewed by Mariella Herberstein

Denmark, Malta and Ukraine

Denmark
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Soldiers of Love by Lighthouse X

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As the piano starts and a serious, well-groomed man stares intensely at the camera you get the feeling that Soldiers of Love by Lighthouse X may develop into something special. Excitement builds by the time the second and third singers start and you begin hoping for some classic boy band magic. But then, for me, confusion sets in. The song choice and hairstylist felt they were stuck in the 90s, but costume and dance moves seemed modelled on more contemporary male groups. Lighthouse X’s casual style of dressing (looking the same without being identical) and less scripted choreography left me feeling like I was watching what happens when One Direction loses another band member, develops a pseudo-social conscience and ages 10 years.

Despite this, there is nothing offensive about the song, the band or the set. And there is enough fist clenching earnestness to hold everything together. Throw in a well timed key change, some bursts of fire and some golden confetti and it all feels very Eurovision. Overall, it’s good enough to make the grand final, but not spectacular enough to stand out.

Review by Fran van den Berg

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Malta
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Walk on Water by Ira Losco

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No touch’ touching – that is, being unbelievably close to someone and acting like you are going to touch them but not actually making contact makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable. Given that, Malta’s entry Walk on Water sung by Ira Losco left me squirming in my seat. While Losco stands and delivers her catchy dance tune, a man in black emerges from the shadows to dance around her, showcasing an exemplar of no touch touching.

Is repeatedly singing “I feel like I can walk on water”, while evidently failing to do so in the official clip reflective of delusions of a Eurovision win? Definitely so, but Losco’s powerful voice, plunging neckline, sequined dress, and a dancer with rather impressive animalistic gyrations will mean that Malta will probably be swimming somewhere near the top of the Eurovision pool this year. I just wish that the dancer spent less time invading Losco’s personal space.

Review by Fran van den Berg

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Ukraine
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1944 by Jamala

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After an understandable absence from the Eurovision stage in 2015, Ukraine has returned in a big way, with Jamala singing 1944. This song details the plight of the Crimean tartars out of their lands by Joseph Stalin in 1944, near the end of World War 2. This song was seen as controversial by the Russian as it believed Ukraine to be taking a swing at them and trying to gain supporters to the current Russian-Ukrainian war. But the judges deemed it fine as Jamala made mention that it details her family’s personal history during the Crimean war.

But is it worthy of this attention? Well maybe, although Jamala does not move her body on the stage, her arm movements and her intense voice, draw in the listener to the song. Nice Middle Eastern Flavours, as well as a chorus sung in Crimean tartar, which will surely impact on the Ukrainian voters. But as to the wider European and worldwide audience, the message and presentation are lost in the lack of physical movement and there is no hook.

It will definitely attract a lot of sympathy votes, but I do not think it will be enough to reach the Top 10 on the scoreboard.

Review by Nicole O’Donnell

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