Switzerland and San Marino

SwitzerlandZiBBZ:Stones

It is with great trepidation that I dip my toe into the murky – yet disturbingly placid – waters of the Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision is a major cultural phenomenon, and yet, like a dream forgotten after waking, or the scent of a viola, your reviewer seems unable to focus on it. It has caused restless hours tossing and turning in bed, unable to sleep; interminable, rambling sentences; and even self references in the 3rd person, yet I’m still unable to listen to a song the whole way through without losing concentration and moving on to something else (perhaps they employ Eurovision contestants to write legal contracts?) My one moment of hope was dashed when I discovered that YouTube had inserted a link to Black and Blue by the Aussie blues band “Chain” into the list of Eurovision videos (now there’s a refreshing lack of over-production and wind machines).

But I digress. Despite watching the rehearsal video 3 times (!), I still can’t remember anything about the song, although I can confirm that there was a midriff and some hips involved. I suspect they are attempting to channel the spirit of ABBA, which was the first act (of only 3 ever) to become a commercial success after winning Eurovision. Take “ABBA”, change “A” to “Z”, throw in an arbitrary “i” to symbolise the iPhone generation, and you’ve got ZiBBZ. Will ZiBBZ make it to the finals? I don’t know.

Review: Jim McClean

San MarinoJessika featuring Jenifer Brening

 

Micronation San Marino’s offering this year is notable for two reasons:

– Jessika and Jenifer bring the total number of San Mariners known to be able to at least coarsely bang out a tune to a grand total of approximately four people. I can only assume Valentina Monetta has recently undergone major surgery to miss her annual engagement, and wish her all the best in her recovery.
– This certainly isn’t the first time a singer will be upstaged by their backup dancers, but those dancers being tiny robots is new. Congrats to Jess, Jen and their plastic entourage.
On paper, the performance has a lot of the requisite components: a strong gimmick, a white jumpsuit (drink!), a riff that’s already proven to be a winner (Måns Zelmerlöw, at bit?), a surprise hip hop interlude performed by someone dressed like they were originally intended to be a 90s grunge interlude, an adorable nose scrunch, and a key change that’s only outdone in subtlety by her lipstick.
Will the sum be greater than the parts, and deliver more tourists to San Marino than it has citizens? Unlikely. But together it approaches the Platonic ideal of a Eurovision entry.
Review by Ingrid Errington

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