Music Features

The Singles Bar: Eurovision 2014 Special (Part Two)

Here are the next eight entrants hoping to make it through to the Eurovision Song Contest grand final. Which will be your favourite? If you need to recap, you can find Part One of this extravaganza right here.

Ukraine: Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick-Tock

“Wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy!” If only Ms Yaremchuk was actually covering Ke-dollar-sign-ha’s not-actually-spelled-the-same-as-this-song ode to getting well and truly crunk. Another alumnus of Ukraine’s version of The Voice (she came fourth in 2012), Yaremchuk’s Tick-Tock starts promisingly: sweeping strings, zippy vocal lines and handclaps. Of course, it’s a fact well-known in popular music that handclaps increase the quality of any given song by at least 25%. There’s some Michael Jackson-style dancing in the video, as well as plenty of voguing, and when the chorus finally arrives, it’s an incredible confection, full of hooks and simple yet effective melodies. The line, “I’m losing my pace in this endless race” had me reaching for the lyric sheet though, as it genuinely sounds like she’s singing, “I’m losing my pants”, which would change the tone of the song somewhat. Seriously though, it’s a great pop song, and you sense that somewhere, Carly Rae Jepsen is hearing this track and seething. 10/12

Belgium: Axel Hirsoux – Mother

Hirsoux is yet another former contestant of The Voice (this time, the Flemish incarnation) and Mother was co-written by Ashley Hicklin, an artist from North East England who’s had hits in practically every country apart from his homeland. Hirsoux’s song is apparently dedicated “to all the mothers of the world and, by extension, to all women”, which sounds like the most suspect thing ever. 4/4 piano chords and a tender voice begin proceedings, which seem to be the lazy person’s Eurovision intro these days. He’s got a fair set of pipes on him, has old Hirsoux, and if you like overweight men with goatees wearing a tuxedo singing syrupy ballads, Mother will be right up your street. Like many of the ballads on show in the competition, there are shades of Mariah Carey’s version of Nilsson’s Without You to this track, and it’s just as unpalatable. 2/12

Moldova: Cristina Scarlat – Wild Soul

According to the Eurovision website, Scarlat is “regarded as one of the most strong-willed and determined women of Moldova due to her amazing ability to successfully combine career with family”, which doesn’t say an awful lot for the Moldovan women’s rights movement. It has a very grandiose set-up, with layers upon layers of strings, and Scarlat’s deep, dark voice. In years gone by, a bridge to the chorus such as this song’s would have meant it was either going full-on power-ballad or ill-advised Eurodance rave, but more recently it tends to only mean one thing: dubstep. You get the feeling that if rap-rock God-botherers Evanescence had come into being now rather than at the turn of the century, this is how they’d sound. It’s a pretty widescreen sound though, so it’s likely to do reasonably well, I’d wager. Plus there’s a key change, which tends to be missing in most of Skrillex’s oeuvre (because when Eurovision goes dubstep, it means Skrillex rather than Burial). 4/12

Key change count: 3

San Marino: Valentina Monetta – Maybe (Forse)

Given that San Marino is roughly the size of a postage stamp, it’s not particularly surprising they’ve now chosen the same act to represent them two years in a row. With last year’s entry containing an unprecedented two key changes, and the 2012 attempts being an ode to the joys of social networking, it’ll be interesting to see how Monetta ups the ante this time. Annoyingly, it’s another philosophical ballad about life and love, with the piano pushed front and centre. I suppose it’s pretty enough in its own way, though it’s difficult not to see it as a missed opportunity that the chorus contains less drive and verve than the (already fairly anaemic) verse. Even in a year that seems depressingly ballad-heavy, Maybe (Forse) seems particularly forgettable. Monetta has already confirmed she won’t be representing San Marino in Eurovision 2015. On this evidence, maybe she should have knocked this year’s competition on the head too. 2/12

Portugal: Suzy – Quero Ser Tua (English: I Want To Be Yours)

Last year, Portugal didn’t compete in the Eurovision Song Contest due to financial constraints, but in 2014 they’re BACKBACKBACK, so hooray for the recovery powers of the Portuguese economy. Quero Ser Tua provides a bit of a Proustian rush, as it happens, since it recalls every uptempo Europop hit you’ve ever heard in a Mediterranean beach bar. Sat on the sand in the Algarve, this probably sounds like the best song ever created but, in reality, it sounds a little tired and dated by today’s pop standards. In fact, it sounds a little like Dragostea Din Tei (otherwise known as the Numa Numa song). Despite having been competing in Eurovision since the 1960s, Portugal have never finished higher than sixth, and it doesn’t look like Suzy’s going to be doing anything to arrest that trend. 4/12

The Netherlands: The Common Linnets – Calm After The Storm

We all remember the song, don’t we? “I wanna live like common linnets, I wanna do whatever common linnets do.” Anyway, The Common Linnets’ bio mentions a love of country and Americana and, from their publicity shots, there’s certainly something of The Civil Wars about them. Give them their dues though, Waylon from the band is apparently the first Dutchman ever to be signed to Motown – now that’s a claim to fame. As for the song, the gentle chug of the guitar is soothing, the interplay between the male and female vocals is sublimely understated, and the splashes of pedal steel are simply gorgeous. In short, it’s a great track, and possibly the single most unsuited song I’ve ever heard for the Eurovision Song Contest. This hasn’t a hope of winning and it’s baffling why it’s been entered. I can only assume there’s been some sort of administrative error and, on the night of the competition, there’ll be a cheesy rave number about world peace with a dubstep breakdown appearing at an open mic night in a Nashville dive bar. 10/12

Monetengro: Sergej Ćetković – Мој свијет (English: My World)

The video for Мој свијет begins with two children exchanging wistful looks and Ćetković walking slowly along the seafront wearing a coat and scarf – it seems we’re unlikely to get a poppers o’clock monster rave tune out of Montenegro this year. The song is such a dirge (with, unusually, a kind of Gaelic folk feel) that I’m more interested in what becomes of the young couple from the video’s introduction. So, an update on the Balkan Romeo and Juliet: he’s sitting on a bike, she walks up to him (in slow-motion, natch) and kisses him on the cheek. He looks incredibly self-satisfied and the sun literally breaks through the clouds (no subtle metaphors here, folks). But no, the girl gets in a car and drives away and the boy looks devastated – what will become of them?! The boy (ill-advisedly, in my humble opinion) pedals after the car before thinking better of it, and sitting, alone, on a jetty. But hang on, he’s got a rowing boat – perhaps Sergej can help him! Oh no, Sergej has inexplicably climbed a very tall hill instead.  Wait, now the boy’s cycling along a bridge, maybe that wasn’t him in the boat after all. This is more confusing than Inception, let me tell you, and it’s just as tense – the girl’s parents’ car is driving along some particularly precarious mountain roads. Now the boy is watching the sunrise – wait, does that mean he slept rough in the mountains? And then, at the climax, it just sort of ends. The boy doesn’t find the girl, he just runs off towards the sun which, given that the sea is in the way, leads me to conclude he meets a gruesome, watery death. 1/12

Hungary: András Kállay-Saunders – Running (Trigger warning: domestic abuse)

András’ father, Fernando Saunders, is a former member of Heart and was a long-time bass player for Lou Reed, so András comes with a bit more musical heritage than your average Eurovision contestant. Running starts off like another standard piano ballad, but its lyrical subject is pretty harrowing. It’s a song about victims of child abuse and the video doesn’t shy away from the topic either – it looks like a campaign advert for the NSPCC. All of which makes the excursion into drum and bass in the chorus all the more surprising. It’s a pretty decent tune actually – like a Rudimental B-side perhaps – but given the graphic nature of the video, which includes slow-motion shots of a child running away from home clutching a teddy bear, it feels a little exploitative. I’ll assume Kállay-Saunders isn’t intending to trivialise such serious issues, but it certainly could be read that way and, as a result, the whole thing leaves me feeling more than slightly uneasy. 6/12

An odd choice to end a semi-final full of celebration and light but you never know, perhaps András Kállay-Saunders’ questioning track will strike a chord with the voting public. Want more? Part Three is right this way.