Music Features

The Singles Bar: Eurovision 2013 Special (Part Three)

We’re over halfway in our super-duper Eurovision rundown. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here.

Israel: Moran Mazor - רק בשבילו (English: Only For Him)

Seeing as Mazor was in the Air Force military band just four years ago, it’s safe to say she hasn’t taken the typical route to pop stardom. That aside, it’s about as typical as it comes – piano ballad, talent show graduate, over-emotional singing, blah blah blah. The drums from the second verse onward are pure 80s power ballad and while Mazor attempts to raise the drama of this song as time wears on, the substance isn’t there within the tune, and it just becomes a futile exercise in shouty vocals. Brilliant, like absolutely nobody wanted, we’ve found Israel’s answer to Jessie J. 1/12

Key change count: 8

Italy: Marco MengoniL’Essenziale (English: The Essential)

From Wikipedia: “[Mengoni] rose to fame in 2009, after winning the third series of Italian talent show X Factor.” I can’t take much more of this – it feels like I’m writing the same introduction for every single act. I also note that his new album title contains a hashtag for no apparent reason, so it’s safe to say I’m against him before I’ve heard a note of L’Essenziale. Is my bias justified? Yes, entirely. L’Essenziale is yet another earnest snoozefest of a ballad entirely devoid of noteworthy features. It baffles me why anyone would aspire to make music like this which is about as pedestrian as it gets. Having listened to L’Essenziale and watched the accompanying video, my one main journalistic critique is this: Marco Mengoni has longer than average sideburns. 2/12

Latvia: PeR – Here We Go

Just when I need something to rouse me from my slumber, this sounds interesting. It appears PeR combine pop and beatboxing, which should be entertaining if nothing else. However, one listen to Here We Go reveals PeR are to PJ & Duncan what PJ & Duncan were to NWA. Incredibly lightweight and featuring both sound pads and a keytar, PeR are what a ten year old with no older siblings thinks rap music is. And the less said about their sequinned jackets and mohawks the better – PeR make Bomfunk MCs sound like the Wu-Tang Clan and should really just give up before the embarrass themselves (and their family, and their friends, and everyone they know, and everyone they’ve ever met, and everyone they’ve ever walked past in the street, and everyone who has a name that sounds slightly like one of their names) any further. 1/12

Lithuania: Andrius Pojavis – Something

Hilariously, Andrius Pojavis used to be in a rock group called The Hetero, which sounds like the kind of name you give to your band when you’re trying to convince yourself more than anyone else. He seems to have survived that chapter in his life though, and is now Lithuania’s great hope for Malmö. Something is a perfectly reasonable mid-tempo pop tune which is entirely let down by curiously dead and flat vocals from Pojavis. Perhaps all of his artistic expression has gone into his eyebrows because if you watch the video of his performance – which I urge you to do – it would appear they’re making their own bid for freedom. Ultimately though, it appears Lithuania have found someone doing karaoke in a nearby bar, put a leather jacket on him and hoped the rest of Europe won’t notice. 4/12

Malta: Gianluca – Tomorrow

Maltese doctor, Gianluca, says that his main musical influences are Michael Bublé, John Mayer, Mumford & Sons, Noah & The Whale, and contemporary Christian music, which sounds like a recipe for the worst artist ever created. Can it really be that bad though? Well, the song starts with a strummed ukulele and the words, “His name is Jeremy / He’s working in I.T.”, so all initial signs point to a big fat yes. In case you’re wondering what happens to our Jezza, he meets a manic pixie dream girl (“Neither black nor white / Just a curious delight”) who he clearly doesn’t deserve, because he sounds like the world’s most uptight man. If you didn’t find the adverts cloying enough (“I like old movies / Like The Godfather… 3 / It’s not considered the best one / But that’s just me”) then Gianluca will be right up your street. Maybe you can listen to it whilst laughing at the cutesy messages on cartons of Innocent Smoothies, doing a little jig and refusing to acknowledge the existence of reality. A warning to the residents of Malta: it wouldn’t surprise me if this man tries to treat medical complaints with a mixture of buttercream icing, pictures of cartoon unicorns, and smiling. Tomorrow is the perfect tonic to bring out the murderous misanthrope in all of us. 1/12

Moldova: Aliona Moon – O Mie (English: A Thousand)

Moon sang backing vocals for last year’s Moldovan entry, Pasha Parfeny, and in a bizarre reversal of roles, Parfeny wrote and produced this track. This probably doesn’t need spelling out, but here goes anyway – it’s a piano-led ballad from a talent show graduate. Yes. Again. The busy string arrangements really give O Mie a sense of urgency though, and elevate it to a level (slightly) higher than the majority of the slower tracks that have been featured so far. The video veers between Moon throwing coloured fabric in the air in a meadow in slow motion and wearing a white dress in a snow-covered forest (perhaps she’s an extra in Krista Siegfrid’s video). There’s a an almost overwhelming sense of gothic melodrama about O Mie, which means you’re always half-expecting it to turn into an Evanescence song. Entirely competent, if you like that sort of thing. 6/12

Montenegro: Who See? – Igranka (English: The Party)

On the one hand, Who See? have a track called Reggaeton Montenegro, which was nominated for an MTV EMA – good for them. On the other hand, they once featured on a song called Pozovite Neke Drolje, which roughly translates as “Invite Some Sluts” – so not good for them. Who See? are also sometimes known as Who See Klapa, which also brings to mind the Croatian debacle from earlier in the column. The video for Igranka is ostensibly a mix between Breaking Bad, a ninja film, and soft-core Sapphic pornography – a mixture so unlikely that I doubt there’s a genre name for it yet (“Ninjamethporn”?).  Musically, it’s very Chase & Status: there are elements of grime, maybe a little trap, and a huge bass sound in the chorus. It really sounds like the kind of thing you’d expect to hear in a club rather than at Eurovision. Not that it makes it right, but it’s no more objectionable than your average hip-hop video and if we can leave the depressing imagery aside, it’s probably the most exciting and relevant track from the list so far. 10/12

Norway: Margaret Berger – I Feed You My Love

When someone has won a (Norwegian) Grammy and their bio mentions the influence of The Knife, you kind of have to sit up and take notice (even if her song does have a truly awful title). Straight away, this track gets your attention, with Berger’s crystal clear vocals over a bass-y, distorted warning signal. While it’s perhaps a little more radio-friendly than most of The Knife’s efforts, it’s still an exhilarating piece of dark and brooding electropop – fit to stand toe to toe with the work of similar Scandinavian artists like Robyn and Annie. There’s also a foreboding, industrial feel to I Feed You My Love, but the overriding thing to take away from this track – which is accentuated having listened to so much of the dross which has come before – is that it’s just a stunningly executed three minute pop song (i.e. the most perfect form of art). The quality of the songs on display in Eurovision is often disappointing to a British ear, but this is truly something magnificent and vital. This is part of the second semi-final on 18th May and if it doesn’t make it through to the main event, I’m leaving Europe. 11/12

Romania: Cezar – It’s My Life

Operatic countertenor (so sez Wikipedia) Cezar has the dubious honour of performing last in the second of the semi-finals, meaning he’ll be roundly ignored or will be fresh in the minds of the voting nations. It’s more likely to be the latter, but not for positive reasons, as It’s My Life is the answer to a question nobody asked – what happens when you attempt to combine opera, dubstep and Eurodance? A noble experiment, perhaps, but not something that’s likely to be repeated any time soon. Of course, opera-dance crossover enthusiasts (of which I hope there are none) will recall that Charlotte Church did this over a decade ago with Jurgen Vries on The Opera Song (Brave New World). And even on that, I’m not sure the then-teenage Church’s vocals reached a pitch quite as high as the glass-shattering echelons Cezar explores here. In short: what a horrible noise. 3/12

Key change count: 9

Russia: Dina Garipova – What If

Yet another winner of The Voice, Russian vocalist Dina Garipova now also sings the national anthems of both Russia and Tatarstan before FC Rubin Kazan matches. It’s also yet another ballad, but despite the lyrics about improving the world and ending wars, the actual tone of the music seems to be spot on, with the string arrangements improving rather than overpowering the track. It’s packed full of emotion, has a positive message and a pretty strong vocal performance from Garipova too. If I were a betting man, this would be the track I’d put money on to win and if I were Simon Cowell (which, as you may have guessed, I’m not), I’d snap up the rights to this post haste and give it to the winner of the next series of X Factor, as it’s the perfect accompaniment to ticker tape falling from the ceiling and a montage of “best bits”. 7/12

Key change count: 10

Just one more part and nine more songs to go. Can anyone come up with a surefire winner? How many more key changes will there be? Find out in Part 4.