Music Features

The Singles Bar: Eurovision 2014 Special (Part Four)

Just seven nations left battling it out for a place in the grand final. Here’s what’s happening, but if you’re still looking for one of the previous 24 entrants, check out Parts One, Two and Three.

Ireland: Can-Linn – Heartbeat (feat. Kasey Smith)

Yet again, the Emerald Isle has missed a trick by not picking perennial Eurovision favourites, Jedward. Research shows there’s something going full circle here, as Kasey Smith is a former member of short-lived girlband Wonderland, who were featured in the first ever edition of The Singles Bar back in summer 2011, where I gave their single Nothing Moves Me Anymore a rather generous 0/10. Heartbeat features a very simplistic melody, but the backing is dark and brooding electronica, which pulses rather than flows. However, that reverie is shattered by the chorus, where a jaunty fiddle takes over proceedings, as if this song is looking to reaffirm every stereotype about the Irish that you’ve ever heard. Look! They can’t even get through one song without chucking a load of fiddle over it! This incongruity doesn’t work, the fiddle feels forced and, just for good measure, there’s a bodhrán too. Ireland surely know we want either Jedward or My Lovely Horse for Eurovision, so why do they persist with this sort of thing? 3/12

Belarus: TEO – Cheesecake

You can only imagine the heartache when the Belarusians, presumably delighted at their choice of song, discovered that Latvia had gone down the cake-themed entry route too. Still, Cheesecake can’t be as bad as Cake To Bake, can it? Well, how about if I told you that TEO looks and is styled like Robin Thicke, and the video to Cheesecake shares more than a few aesthetic similarities with Blurred Lines? Since Eurovision is a family-friendly competition, the video’s content is far less objectionable than Thicke’s controversial über-hit, but there’s still some blatant copying going on, and there’s still a scene with a naked woman whose modesty is obscured by an accordion. Cheesecake is a gently lilting ode to an ex-girlfriend that TEO is fed up and it isn’t that bad, but the image, the concept and the execution are all nowhere as clever as TEO seems to think they are. 3/12

FYR Macedonia: Tijana – To The Sky

To The Sky is a dance track about which the only thing you can really say is that it’s lacking that certain something special. There’s not enough excitement, not enough energy, and a few extra bpm wouldn’t go amiss either. Even Tijana’s performance of the song (there doesn’t appear to be another video of the track) seems a little lacklustre, as if she doesn’t really believe in the quality of it herself. It’s a fairly neat little song with no distinguishing features. If you heard this in a club, you’d flail your limbs around of a fashion provided you’d had enough to drink, then forget all about it as soon as the track had finished. FYR Macedonia have never come higher than twelfth in the Eurovision Song Contest, and 2014 doesn’t look like being the year that will improve upon that record. 3/12

Switzerland: SEBalter – Hunter Of Stars

The bio on the Eurovision Song Contest website of SEBalter (real name Sebastiano Paù-Lessi) mentions that his love of playing the fiddle so often it’s tempting to assume the copywriter is getting paid for each mention of “fiddle”. Hunter Of Stars begins with a jaunty beat, Mumford & Sons style arpeggios and a whistled melody or, to put it another way, it gets off to an appalling start. Even though it’s only a music video, SEBalter is so unerringly and unnaturally chirpy, that you instantly think he’s a robot or a sociopath with a disturbing secret. Great pop music is often ephemeral and inconsequential, but this is so twee and jarringly happy that it oversteps the mark. There’s also a fiddle solo (no surprises there) which sounds like it came out of a particularly self-indulgent Muse record. The story of the video is that SEBalter is a terrible hotel employee who endures the wrath of one particular guest. There are arguments, food is thrown but in the end the angry guest is whistling along with the rest of them, presumably driven delirious by Hunter Of Stars. But what’s this at the end of the video? It’s a disclaimer stating that “No spaghetti were harmed during the maker of this videoclip.” Oh, SEBalter, you japester, you LOLmeister, you cheeky chappy, you. Why don’t you just GO AWAY?! 1/12

Greece: Freaky Fortune – Rise Up (feat. RiskyKidd)

Just look at that line above. The name of the act, the name of the supporting artist, the presence of the word “feat.” (the abbreviation of doom), it’s enough to make you run into the nearest field, screaming. As if you weren’t already prejudiced enough against this song, it transpires Freaky Fortune initially got their break by winning a competition on Perez Hilton’s website. Rise Up starts peculiarly, with a trumpet salute and military drums beneath a rap verse courtesy of RiskyKidd. Just when this track’s in danger of becoming interesting, the brass drops out and is replaced by a clichéd minimalist dance backing, dull vocals, empty platitudes, and suddenly we’re in Enrique Iglesias territory. The instrumental break after the chorus is reminiscent of We No Speak Americano too. You’d think that by the end of the second semi-final, the patience of even the most committed of Eurovision fan would be wearing thin. That means either Freaky Fortune and RiskyKidd will be given short shrift, or that their overly-facile, brain-dead song will hit exactly the right note. 2/12

Slovenia: Tinkara Kovač – Round And Round

Slovenia’s Tinkara Kovač is a professional flautist as well as a vocalist and has also performed with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson in the past, so this doesn’t augur well. Round And Round is a rumbling, mid-tempo ballad with, as often seems to be the case, the shadow of Evanescence at every turn. However, given Kovač’s background, every possible opportunity is taken the chuck a load of superfluous flute all over the place. Of course, being a Eurovision entry, the last couple of choruses are full of long notes, caterwauling and vocal histrionics. None of this is worse than on any other song from this year’s competition, it’s just there’s nothing else interesting to write about Round And Round. 3/12

Romania: Paula Seling & OVI – Miracle

Stop everything, I’ve just found my favourite sentence in a Eurovision artist bio ever: “[Paula] had many collaborations with great names from the music industry such as […] Anita Doth (2 Unlimited).” Anyway, despite that damning with faint praise, Paula Seling and OVI look like serious contenders. They’re bona fide stars in Romania, they achieved Romania’s best ever placing at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2010 (third) and they’re one of the favourites for this year’s prize. That may not be an entirely misguided prediction, as Miracle starts off innocuously enough before a carefully choreographed fake build to the chorus, which eventually explodes in a riot of technicolour and thumping house beats. In 2001 this would probably have got to the top of the charts in the UK. It’s not the best track on show here by any measure but it’s got a nagging, insistent quality to it, a strong melody and is just different enough to stand out in a very saturated market. All it needs is a key change – oh, hang on, there is one. Miracle has that je ne sais quoi that makes it leap out of the speakers, and you could do far worse than to put your hard-earned on this winning in Copenhagen on 10th May. 7/12

Key change count: 6

A quintessential Eurovision tune with a key change wraps up the semi-finals. Just the host nation and the Big Five to go – who will claim the all-important Singles Bar Eurovision 2014 title? Click here to find out.