Germany and Norway

GERMANYPerfect Life by Levina

Germany’s offering this year starts with some promise, but it’s unfortunate that promise doesn’t really belong to them… I’m calling plagiarism. Here is Levina. Here is Sia and David Guetta (who themselves borrowed fairly heavily from the stalky number from The Police…) Apparently it’s the year for it – check out Tom White’s review of Georgia.  

Alas, Levina doesn’t quite follow through with her suggestion that ‘Perfect Life’ might be another perfect banger of a pop anthem, as it rather fizzles at the chorus and never quite recovers. Indeed, in the official video, we see her start to dance a few times before realising her tune doesn’t really lend itself to that sort of thing. Whoops.

Review by Ingrid Errington

NORWAYGrab The Moment by JOWST

A catchy, cheerful number with lyrics that, for reasons you can’t put your finger on, don’t quite pass as native English (“So when it’s all or nothing, I put my nerves in the coffin”), as well as a pithy refrain about Grabbing the Moment. Tick, and tick. Also, this is the first use of (ostensibly) live sampling/looping that I recall from the ESC stage. Honestly, I’m surprised it wasn’t someone building layers with a cello, but this will do. A troop of back-flipping Scandinavian dancers wouldn’t go astray on the night, though I fear he might prefer his Kylo Ren-ish masked DJ buddies instead – what a lost opportunity.

Review by Ingrid Errington

Czech Republic and Georgia

Czech RepublicMy Turn, by Martina Bárta

Following a five year apathy-driven absence from the competition, the Czech Republic made their first ever finals appearance in 2016. This landed them a respectable (loosely speaking) 25th place, and the hopes of surpassing this effort now rest with the jazz sensibilities of Martina Bárta. Unfortunately this quasi-naked, touchy-feely, hair-centric piano ballad offers few surprises. The chorus does build to a reasonable hook, and it might be enough to squeeze through to a second final, though I don’t foresee a strong finish for the Czech Republic this year.  

Review by Tom White

GeorgiaKeep the Faith, by Tamara Gachechiladze

It’s difficult to get excited about an artist whose brief opens with the striking claim that she “…has taken part in a number of national and international festivals and creative events”. This lack of enthusiasm is not misplaced, and carries right through this year’s copyright-infringeriffic offering from Georgia. The central hook of ‘Keep the Faith’, along with much of the instrumentation, is lifted directly from Adele’s theme for ‘Skyfall’. That song did win an academy award, and it overlaid one of the best Bond films in years, so full points to Tamara for fine taste and sheer audacity if nothing else.

Review by Tom White

UK, Montenegro, Sweden

UKNever Give Up On You by Lucy Jones

The UK are perennial underachievers at Eurovision and that was before Brexit, I’m not sure that the British voters realised what the Eurovision implications would be. This year’s entry Lucie Jones is, wait for it …… Welsh, she is from Cardiff, a bit of Wales that voted to stay so perhaps she should play on this a bit. The song is a rather breathless effort, it you are watching the broadcast I recommend it would to be a good 3 minutes and 14 seconds to make another drink or load the dishwasher.

Review by Matt Bruce

 

MontenegroSpace by Slavko Kalezić

Slavko Kalezić seems to split his time more or less evenly between the hairdresser, the gym and wherever you get manscaping done in Montenegro. He wants to take you to space so you can be as one, where he will, presumably, unleash some more of his thinly veiled innuendo.

Review by Matt Bruce

SwedenI can’t go on by Robin Bengtsson

The backup dancers in this number wear skivvies, dance with their hands in their pockets and drive Volvos. One of those things isn’t true. National stereotypes aside, Robin Bengtsson should do pretty well, I Can’t Go On is the kind of generic urban offering that seems to be quite popular these days and stands out against a procession of Euro-ballads. Finals for me.

Review by Matt Bruce

Azerbaijan, Croatia, Serbia

AzerbaijanSkeleton by Dihaj

Azerbaijan has a short but successful history at Eurovision, winning in 2011 and controversially coming 2nd in 2013, perhaps due to an inability to seduce the pivotal Scandinavian bloc. Since then they have been on a bit of a slide and I’m not sure that Diana Hajiyeva, aka Dihaj, can rectify that. That is unless the Datsun 120Y from the video appears on stage, then who knows? Perhaps the nostalgia vote? Or even the sympathy vote? Buy a decent car Dihaj, you can pick up a 180B on Gumtree for $895 (negotiable), last driven in 1995.

Review by Matt Bruce

 

CroatiaMy friend by Jacques Houdek

This one is great value, two songs in one, part light opera (even sung in Italian) and part soppy pop song, with bonus inspirational talking at the start. Jacques Houdek isn’t called “Mr Voice” (perhaps the subject of the Johnny Farnham hit or did Johnny just predict his existence?) for nothing, he has impressive vocal range. It will be interesting to see if he can pull it off on stage, worth watching for the prospect of a car crash. Otherwise, nothing to see here move on.

Review by Matt Bruce

 

SerbiaIn too deep by Tijana Bogićević

If inane lyrics are your thing, look no further than Tijana Bogićević’s In Too Deep. Actually, you probably wouldn’t be reading this if you cared too much about such things. Anyway, Tijana spends much of the song attempting to rhyme “deep” with “deep”, I dunno about this – I reckon using the same word doesn’t count and it isn’t as if there aren’t heaps of options; peep, creep, Meryl Streep. Apparently, this is Tijana’s second crack at Eurovision, she was a backing vocalist in 2011, that song finished a respectable 14th, In Too Deep will be lucky to do so well.

Review by Matt Bruce

Ireland, Iceland, Portugal, Romania

Ireland

Dying to Try by Brendan Murray

Rumour has it that, as a young child, Brendan Murray’s cheeks were pinched so vigorously by passing octogenarians that he required reconstructive surgery. They say he is paid entirely in crocheted doilies and lemon tea-cakes, and is banned from releasing a Christmas album amidst fears that it would induce a mass attack of the vapours across the British Isles.

With good looks and titanium-reinforced cheekbones Brendan Murray brings dollops of gorgeousness to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. His melancholy tune about struggling to maintain relationships has one of the most impressive key changes of this year’s line up, and has left women across Europe wondering why their daughters can’t find themselves a nice young man like Brendan. His eyebrows alone are guaranteed to get him as far as the semi-finals.

Review by James O’Hanlon

 

IcelandPaper by Svala

Svala has been granted sabbatical leave from the Borg to represent Iceland this year. The song ‘Paper’, precisely crafted to suit the musical requirements of the assimilated masses, is unsurprisingly mediocre. Nevertheless you will vote for Iceland, resistance is futile. It’s robotic rhythms and synth melodies are perfect listening for the next time you are cruising through the grid on your light cycle. Keep an eye out for the key change goose-step late in the song – a well-timed and subtle build to… nothing at all. Clearly key-changes do not compute.

Review by James O’Hanlon

 

PortugalAmar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral

Salvador Sobral was orphaned on the streets of Lisbon as a child. Thankfully a flock of canaries took him in and raised him as one of their own. Years later he was discovered working in a mineshaft – cramped inside a small cage and entertaining the workers with his gentle melodies. Now a full grown man and successful performer, Salvador collaborates with his sister Luisa – who wrote this song and most definitely isn’t pissed about Salvador getting all the credit.

Surprisingly this song, ‘Amor Pelos Dios’ is one of the most coherent Eurovision efforts we have heard from Portugal since, well, ever! The orchestration is tasteful, the soft piano melody is whimsical, and the singing is, believe it or not, in key. Portugal, you have surprised us all and have done well! Maybe you should get Salvador and Luisa to look into your national debt problems, it’s not like they could do any harm.

Review by James O’Hanlon

 

Romania

Yodel It! By Ilinca feat. Alex Flora

It’s Eurovision! Of course there is yodelling! I’m proud to say that Romania have inspired my latest tattoo. The phrase ‘Yodel It!” has been carved into my chest and sits nicely in between my “#YOLO” and “Frankie Says Relax” tatts.

Equal parts East 17, Aqua, and von Trapp family, Romania pairs a seductive yodeller in a leprechaun suit with a tone-deaf rapper to create this year’s abomination. Seriously it’s terrible. Me thinks the novelty value won’t float this boat very far and Romania are likely to sink early on in the quarter finals.

Review by James O’Hanlon

Slovenia, the Netherlands & Ukraine

Slovenia

On my way by Omar Naber

There is a slight chance that the Slovenian entry this year is pure genius in disguise, although the odds are on it being just awful. Omar delivers a rendition of the Phantom of the Opera, minus the mask and with more shouting. It sends shivers up my spine, but not in a good way. At the end of the video, Omar cries, and so did I.

Review by Mariella Herberstein

 

The Netherlands

Lights and Shadows by OG3NE

Three determined young women, sisters, no less, harmonise their little hearts out for the Netherlands! The sound is incredible -almost as if I had heard it somewhere else before. Indeed, it is ‘Hold on’ by Wilson Phillips anno 1990. But before we allege ‘plagiarism’ let’s analyse the evidence: Wilson Phillips only had two sisters – OG3NE has three sisters, and two of them twins! Wilson Phillips had rubbish hair – OG3NE have magnificent manes! Obviously, the similarity of sound is just a freak coincident. I think Europe will like this!

Review by Mariella Herberstein

 

UkraineTime by O.Torvald

Channelling the walking dead, O. Torvald is hoping for a back-to-back win for the Ukraine. They need not have bothered. Still, the heavy guitars, piles of rubbish on stage and cacophonous signing might stand out against other more waxed contestants and be rewarded by rebellious points from neighbours in fear of imminent invasion.

Review by Mariella Herberstein

Israel, Italy and San Marino

IsraelI Feel Alive by IMRI

IMRI (I really do not know if this is a name to be shouted or an abbreviation) is already a veteran at Eurovision – Kiev will be his 3rd appearance. Admittedly, the previous times, he was part of the backing singers. I can tell IMRI is determined to make this a success. This young man has oodles of energy and, according the video, oodles of well-groomed friends. Expect some excellent dancing on the night, but perhaps not so many points.

Review by Mariella Herberstein

 

ItalyOccidentali’s Karma By Francesco Gabbani

This catchy and smart number from Italy is the favourite to win, and rightly so. The song is a stylish homogenate of Italian one-hit wonders (I am getting some Adriano Celentano) and light-heartedly homogenises Eastern and Western philosophies.
Surely, any Eurovision entry that exclaims ‘Panta rhei’ deserves a spot in the top 10.

Shave off that ridiculous moustache and it’s ‘douze points’ from me!

Review by Mariella Herberstein

 

San Marino

Spirit of the Night by Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson

San Marino is a more recent addition to Eurovision (competing since 2008) and her strength is clearly driving around in circles. So it comes as no surprise that San Marino has recruited help in the guise of Jimmie Wilson. Regretfully, the outcome is an uneasy fusion of R&B with trashy Euro-disco. Even the key change seems insincere, and at Eurovision, that is saying a lot. Back to the racing track for San Marino this year!

Review by Mariella Herberstein

Greece & Hungary

Greece

This is Love by Demi

 

I had high hopes for Greece this year, expecting an explosive crescendo after the gentle build up. But sadly, Demi just does not reach the screeching heights that Anja from Denmark easily scales. Still, Demi’s video promotes diversity, which surely is a good thing….although with a maximum of 6 people on stage in Kiev, the effect might be somewhat restraint.

Review by Mariella Herberstein

 

Hungary

Origo by Joci Pápai

Hungary has gone from strength to strength over the last few years. Freddy did a great job last year, and my all time favourite is Katie Wolf back in 2015. But Joci is giving us something special. A haunting ethno sound over electronic beats sung in Hungarian. I like it so much that I am willing to forgive the fiddles and the fact that Joci is a samurai.

Review by Mariella Herberstein

 

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

Albania, Austria and Belarus

AlbaniaWorld by Lindita

Thank you Albania! Thank you for sending Lindita to Eurovision. Gone are the wailing flutes and fiddly Çiftelijas! Instead, Lindita belts out a Bond-esque number with the obligatory key change. And boy, can she hold a note! The song is dull, but with the right stage show, Lindita might find herself in the top half at the end of the evening!

Review by Mariella Herberstein

 

AustriaRunning On Air by Nathan Trent

Back in 2014, Conchita was Rising Like a Phoenix, while young Nathan here is Running On Air! Both are sporting exceptionally groomed facial hair (Conchita’s is clearly better!). Still, Nathan seems like a nice lad, and he does a good job with this happy, toe tapping number! Definitely the finals for me!

Review by Mariella Herberstein

 

BelarusStory of My Life by Naviband

Life is super happy in Belarus! You get to wear embroidered linen shirts, run through forests and exclaim: hey, hey, heyaheyahey! And why are young Artem and Ksenia so happy? It is Belarus’s 800th birthday – what better way to celebrate than Eurovision? Maybe deliriously happy is not your thing, but I like it and predict the finals for Belarus.

Review by Mariella Herberstein