Music Features

The Singles Bar: Eurovision 2013 Special (Part Four)

Here we are, the final part of our week-long Singles Bar Eurovision marathon. If you haven’t already checked out Parts 1, 2 and 3, you’re missing out. Otherwise, read on for the final and definitive verdict.

San Marino: Valentina MonettaCrisalide (Vola) (English: Chrysalis (Fly))

Giving that countries such as Portugal have pulled out of this year’s competition for financial reasons, it’s a wonder that a tiny republic such as San Marino can afford to take part, despite their healthy economy. Anyway, following Andrius Pojavis’ questionable past as a member of The Hetero, research reveals Monetta was once in a group called 2Black, which isn’t the kind of thing you’d want too many people knowing about. Monetta actually represented San Marino in last year’s competition with the indisputable classic, The Social Network Song (OH OH – Uh – OH OH), which we all still know and love to this day. Crisalide (Vola) is a reasonably insipid soft-rock ballad in 6/8 time which, given the video content and English translation of the title, would appear to be about inner beauty. There’s a surprise two-thirds of the way through though, with a time change and a key change, which is followed by yet another key change. Even in the world of Eurovision, this must be unprecedented. 5/12

Key change count: 12

Serbia: Moje 3 - Љубав је свуда (English: Love Is Everywhere)

Not to be confused with 4AD post-Slowdive quintet Mojave 3, Moje 3 are, in fact, a Serbian girl group who, individually, took the top three places in this year’s series of, you’ve guessed it, The Voice before coming together for Eurovision. Љубав је свуда is a thumping dance number with sledgehammer drums which could actually pass for a Cascada song if it wasn’t being sung in Serbian. There seems to be a tendency with the dancier numbers in this year’s competition to throw a lot of epic string arrangements in, presumably to indicate some kind of grand expansiveness, and Љубав је свуда is no exception to this. That said, not a bad effort and enjoyable while it lasts, but likely to fade into the crowd when compared against all the other tracks. 7/12

Slovenia: Hannah – Straight Into Love

In the world of Eurovision finalists, Hannah has got some experience. American by birth, she’s worked on Disney movies, been part of a group that supported both Seal and Sheryl Crow, and has performed on the Jay Leno show. Straight Into Love begins like something straight out of the Skrillex stable – all bass drops and stop-start percussion. However, when it comes to the chorus, the song struggles to strike the balance between this modern brostep and a sound more associated with European dance from the early 21st Century (think Fragma or DJ Sammy). It’s certainly lively but firmly belongs in a club, where it’d be one of those tracks that wouldn’t make you leave the dancefloor were you already on it, but wouldn’t entice you to it if you were standing at the bar. Still, it’s probably the track out of all of them that fits in best with the current David Guetta/ pop-rave style. Whether you think that’s a good thing or not is your call. 8/12

Spain: ESDMContigo Hasta El Final (English: With You Until The End)

Given the relative youth of some of the acts in this year’s competition, the fact that ESDM – or El Sueño de Morfeo – enjoyed a Number 1 hit in Spain back in 2005 marks them out as something of an anomaly. Bizarrely for a Spanish group, Contigo Hasta El Final begins sounding like a Corrs album track – all fiddle and evocations of misty hills. It then becomes more lively, with a chugging beat and a chorus that rocks out in the way that only a band with Celtic sounds and a white horse in their video can. However, given that inauspicious start, it’s actually got a decent amount of kick to it, and that elusive singalong quality it’s hard to pin down. Advance warning of some high praise here: I would not object to listening to this song again. 8/12

Sweden: Robin Stjernberg – You

Given that they’re the host nation, a lot is riding on the shoulders of Robin Stjernberg but seeing as both this single and its parent album have hit Number 1 in the charts, it seems his countrymen and women are certainly behind him. All of which makes it such a shame that You is such a dirge of a track and, judging from the accompanying live video, Stjernberg has more than a little trouble keeping in tune. It seems like You can’t decide whether it wants to be a ballad or a dance track, and ends up falling between the cracks and achieving neither. Obviously he’ll get the lion’s share of the crowd’s support on the night itself, but on this evidence we can be comfortable that it’s due to patriotism rather than pop fever. And the less said about the note he hits (or rather, doesn’t hit) just before the final chorus, the better. 2/12

Switzerland: Takasa – You And Me

Takasa are actually a sextet of Salvation Army soldiers, but have had to change their name from Heilsarmee (Salvation Army) to Takasa. Officially, the group say the new name comes from a Swahili word for “Purify” but it’s also been remarked that it’s a pretty convenient acronym for The Artists Known As Salvation Army too. Also, get this, they’ve got a double bass player who’s 95 years old – kudos to that guy. Their online bio claims that they’re “as comfortable in a prison as they are in the Federal Parliament Building”, which is presumably something they have in common with Jonathan Aitken. Given their background, there’s a surprising rawness to the guitar riffs that punctuate You And Me, but then we meet the chorus and it’s as bland and faux-inspirational as you might expect. In fact, it’s downright cloying and about as depressingly neutral as – national stereotype alert – something you’d associate with Switzerland. 4/12

The Netherlands: Anouk – Birds

Anouk has been one of The Netherlands’ most popular artists for around fifteen years now, and she’s roped in producers who have worked with The Cardigans and Franz Ferdinand to assist with Birds, which is no mean feat. However, with its delicate instrumentation and 6/8 time signature, Birds would probably be more at home in musical theatre than up against a load of post-Guetta trance-pop. There are some truly lovely chord changes throughout Birds though, particularly in the chorus and the longer it goes on, the more it manages to burrow into your subconscious. It’s unlikely to stand much of a chance against more immediate tracks though, and the Dutch may well find the rest of Europe doesn’t share their enthusiasm for Anouk. 8/12

Key change count: 13

Ukraine: Zlata Ognevich – Gravity

Ognevich is clearly a big Eurovision fan, as this is her third attempt in the past four years to fly the flag for Ukraine, though the first time she’s made it through to the continent-wide semi-final. Thirty-eight songs in, and it’s a little difficult to get excited about hearing a new track, even if it is one where the artist meets a unicorn in an enchanted forest in the video. Gravity sounds like a song to soundtrack the final act of a Disney film given a dance makeover by someone whose only experience of dance music is from watching previous Eurovision song contests. As a result, it never quite gets off the ground, and it stays at roughly the same tempo and level throughout. Oh well, at least she made it through the Ukranian rounds this time. 3/12

United Kingdom: Bonnie Tyler – Believe In Me

Though she may have a name that makes her sound like a can-do Geordie roofer (non-British people – ask your British friends), Bonnie Tyler has been around for a while and, of course, is best known for Total Eclipse Of The Heart in 1982. It would appear, however, that the British selectors have learnt nothing from the event that no-one is calling Humperdinckgate, as Believe In Me is another forgettable, mid-tempo ballad that it’s near-impossible to imagine anyone getting in the least bit excited about. In the video, Tyler walks across a beach wearing a massive coat, scarf and gloves on a cloudy day, which is a pretty decent evocation of both the climate and indefatigable optimism you find on our fair isles. Many suspect the rest of Europe hates us and won’t vote for us because of our relationship with America and invasion of Iraq. If we keep sending rubbish like this to Eurovision we’ll never actually be able to find out whether that’s true. 2/12

39 tracks, thirteen key changes – it’s been a long and sometimes difficult journey. As you may have noticed, there’s been no Single Of The Week awarded yet, and that’s because, as any Eurovision fan knows, after the songs, we go to the vote. Assuming No Ripcord is an independent European nation (you never know, maybe one day) which, if we’re keeping up this scenario, has an inexplicable arrangement where I have a monopoly on the awarding of Eurovision points, here are this year’s scores.

1 point: Spain
2 points: Belarus
3 points: Slovenia
4 points: The Netherlands
5 points: Bulgaria
6 points: France
7 points: Germany
8 points: Montenegro
10 points: Greece
12 points: Norway

So, congratulations to Norway – it now remains to see how they fare in the competition itself (or, let’s be honest, whether they even make it through their semi-final). If you’ve got this far, many thanks for reading and while we only had a temporary licence this time, maybe The Singles Bar could open its doors again at some point in the future…