Switzerland, Poland and Lithuania

SwitzerlandApollo by Timebelle

The neutral country. The Euro-dodger. The land of chocolate and cheese, of secret banks and “What Nazi stolen gold?”. One does not expect such a country to make a splash at Eurovision. And you’d be right, as they only won it one time since the invention of colour television, and in Europe’s defense they were preoccupied with the Berlin Wall falling. So, in these politically tumultuous times, will Switzerland step off the sidelines with a powerful commanding performance to finally claim victory?

Well, no.

I mean they try. The fact that none of the members of Timebelle were actually born in Switzerland probably explains their decidedly non-neutral earnestness in their quest for the crown. The lead singer has a pretty decent voice and an eye-catching dress. The song flirts with being catchy. Unlike most of my Eurovision reviews I didn’t compulsively fast forward to make it to the end. But it just can’t get past its Swiss heritage of being neutral and inoffensive. It’ll do well, but not well enough. The Swiss may have once horded the plunders of WWII, but in this year’s geopolitical conflict my money is on them not taking home the gold.

Review by Scott Fabricant

PolandFlashlight by Kasia Moś

I mean if we’re going to be making distasteful WWII references, might as well keep up the trend with Poland, who famously brought a bunch of horses to a tank fight. Same here.

It’s not a bad song by any means, it’s just very old-fashioned (by Eurovision standards). A one-woman power ballad that uses incoherent metaphors to make some vague point about love, or hate, whatever. She’s certainly got an impressive set of pipes, with a hoarse sultry timbre to her voice that’s better suited to blues or jazz. But Eurovision is a new theater of war now, one that considers Australia part of Europe. Recent conquerors of Europe include the amazing interactive graphics of Sweden 2015, the thoroughly modern Austrian drag queen of 2014, and of course Ukraine’s giant war metaphor of 2016, not to mention some spectacular runners-up like Russia’s unstoppable cookie-baking grannies.

And here stands Kasia Mos, holding the line with her old-fashioned pipes, no props, and distinct lack of techno gimmicks. I wish her well.

Review by Scott Fabricant

LithuaniaRain Of Revolution by Fusedmarc

Finally, there’s Lithuania, who wasn’t even a country during WWII so I guess I can finally let this cheap crutch of a trope go and evaluate their entry on its own merits. And I like it! It’s weird and funky, and the lead singer reminds me of a thoroughly modern Bjork minus the theatrical pseudo-insanity. Fusemarc manages to break new musical ground and be truly unique without resorting to cheap gimmicks. I’m predicting we are seeing a taste of Eurovision to come, a time when this old stalwart contest breeds true acoustic innovation.

Just kidding, I already know they never make it out of the semi-finals. A shame really, since they really are funky, and I really did like them. Usually the truly unique sounds never make it to the finals. Eurovision may love its flashy visual gimmicks, but the music remains stuck in the glory days of a pre-Brexit European glory. Maybe Poland has a fighting chance, horses and all.

Review by Scott Fabricant

Switzerland and Estonia

Switzerland
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The Last Of Our Kind by Rykka

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Switzerland, after a recent string of poor Eurovision performances, has gone back to their last (1988) winning formula: a Swiss-Canadian female pop singer, belting out a ballad in a white dress. Unfortunately, finding another Céline Dion has proved evasive. This year’s entry, Rykka, singing The Last of our Kind, falls flat, both literally and figuratively.

The song is generic, and once finished is quickly forgotten. Although meeting the required key changes that define Eurovision ballads, the lack of energy or anything to ‘push the boundaries’ leaves the audience quickly forgetting the song. Overall, it left me revisiting old videos of Céline Dion in a drop-waist skirt and white power jacket and reminiscing of the glory days of Switzerland Eurovision past.

Neutrality, both in the song and Switzerland’s political position will cost The Last of our Kind a spot in the grand final.

Review by Fran van den Berg

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Estonia
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Play by Jüri Pootsmann

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Starting pensively with a heavy baseline, Estonia’s Play sung by Jüri Pootsmann promises something special. Unfortunately, sometimes even the best promises don’t deliver. A deep voice, and well cut suit are not enough to transform this song above the mundane.

The set design, with red and black silhouettes, and billowing graphics evokes a James Bond theme. However, the overall effect of three aggressive-looking spliced images of Jüri only serves to leave one feeling slightly uneasy. Despite the Bond-like graphics, musically the song does not have any of the power or intrigue that befits a Bond theme song. Throughout, the song never develops, and one is disappointingly left wondering when the Eurovision magic will emerge.

This will not be the year for Estonia, with nothing more than mid-way performance in the semi’s feeling eminent.

Review by Fran van den Berg