Oh, how long have I been waiting for this! Last year, as a personal goal, I decided not to listen to any ESC2015 entry until this week. This idea came to mind after I realized how obsessioned I was with Eurovision, how much time it would take from me to follow the national selections and also, because I had heard several people who didn't listen to the entries until -all- were available. This latter thing seemed (and still seems) fair to me, because I've noticed how "older" songs (i.e., songs presented or chosen around December and January) have better chances than "newer" songs when I do my rankings prior to the contest. Also, because some songs are "growers", so comparing them with brand new songs isn't exactly impartial.
Thus, it took all of my patience and strength to defeat temptation and wait until April. And here we are. Right now I have only heard the songs from the first semifinal (to which this entry is dedicated), but I see how overall, it seems a great year in terms of song production and artistic quality. I realize how many complain for the lack of more upbeat or less "serious" entries, but I'm glad that there's so much going on this year, that for sure, it's going to be an interesting show.
Of course, I was not immune to reading comments and rankings, and I really wanted to check the entries from: Australia, Armenia, Estonia, Montenegro, Norway, Slovenia... and Finland, because I still couldn't figure out how it was hated by almost everyone. I do miss listening to languages other than English, and I actually feel betrayed by Serbia, to be honest. But it's alright, it's compensated by the music production I was talking about.
Let's get started with my opinions on the songs of the first semifinal, after just three listens! (which also means that my opinion might change before the most important week of May!). You'll find commentary for each song below their official video, and next to the video you'll find a "summary" of information: my first impression, how I would describe the song in a few words, and how I ranked it. I've also added "most recent entries I've really liked from that country" so that you get an idea of my music preferences and what I would expect from each country.
01) MOLDOVA - Eduard Romanyuta - "I Want Your Love"
I expect several things from several entries due to what I had read beforehand. Nonetheless, I didn't expect anything from Moldova (mostly because no one talked about it), so it was pretty interesting to hear this. I heard there were a lot of ballads this year, so it really caught me off guard to start ESC2015 with such a catchy upbeat song. It's obvious that this song is dated, since it is completely reminiscent of the 90s boybands and their pop songs with nice dance moves... But I LOVE THAT. Mostly, because I was born in that era, so listening to a new song with that style is just a great gift from heaven. I admit I missed Ukraine this year, but with Eduard Romanyuta, I feel that there's still some Ukraine around, and that makes me happy. Overall, I think it is a decent entry from Moldova, and I'm "afraid" it might as well qualify to the final.
02) ARMENIA - Genealogy - "Face The Shadow"
Most of you already know my passion for Armenia. So, of course, regarding Eurovision matters, Armenia is -my- country, which means I'll always try to defend it and stand by it. But to a point. Of course, I was very excited about this entry because it includes two of my favorite Armenian artists: Tamar Kaprelian, and the amazing Inga Arshakyan. But, all in all, it seemed a very interesting concept: six voices together singing for Armenia in what could have been the best Armenian entry yet. Nonetheless, I was vastly disappointed when giving it a listen (I couldn't believe it). There are several problems here. Number one, it feels like a mashup of songs (I love two pieces of it, for example: 0:51-1:22 and 2:18-2:28): mediocre rock, nice opera, mediocre folk, weird choir, cheesy ballad, revamp of Gutan... You can listen to it all HERE (and that's bad. Even worse when we are talking about the same composer of Apricot Stone). Number two: I recognize the balance between the six different voices is just fine, but am I the only one who feels the instruments are lousy, silly and far too "easy" (for most of the song) compared to the vocals thrown in there? I'm glad there's not live instruments in ESC, because the players for this song would certainly be offended! Number three: how could Inga Mkrtchyan put a random "baby" and a rhyming "you and I" every now and then? It's so out of place here! Number four: you had the nerve to promote your Armenian heritage all over the place and NOT put a good duduk or dhol in the song? REALLY?!?!. As you can all read, I'm very very disappointed. This could have been an amazing ballad with a vintage look + folk elements + beautiful instrumentalization that would have resonated just like the Armenian music has resonated in the mountains of the Southern Caucasus for centuries...... And you gave me a Frankenstein song that doesn't even reach a climax anywhere (you think it does towards the end but it really doesn't)?!?!. It's sad to think I might not vote Armenia this time. But whenever I dislike a song this way, it ends up in the top 10, so we'll see what happens.
03) BELGIUM - Loïc Nottet - "Rhythm Inside"
That's right, I haven't really liked any Belgian entry since 2003 (2010 wasn't bad, but it's not like I would play it several times in a given month, which does happen with "Sanomi" and "Dis Oui"); which also means that I never expect something good coming out of there for Eurovision. There are -decent- entries, but there was never something that really interested me, UNTIL TODAY. Okay, it is true that the start sounds just like Royals, but that is not a bad thing in my opinion... Because it sets one in the right mood for what's coming next: a great song with a lot of style going on. He may not have the best voice ever, but it has a special quality that blends in so perfectly with this entry, that I think he's going to be great in Vienna. Plus, the thick 'r' in rap-up-up just adds to the excitement. It caught me by surprise because I never thought I would hear something similar in ESC, but I congratulate Belgium for being brave and sending this jam. A jam that I'm going to listen to every day until May, because it's daaaamn good. I never thought I'd say this, but... GO BELGIUM!!!
04) NETHERLANDS - Trijntje Oosterhuis - "Walk Along"
For me, the Netherlands were even worse than Belgium. A point proven to me by "Shalalie-Shalala" back in 2010, and to everyone through its seemingly unending run of disqualifications... until 2013, when the Dutch goddess Anouk came and owned the place (I know she only came 9th, but she was my favorite in 2013!). Then in 2014, I had the pleasure to enjoy "Calm After The Storm", make it one of my favorites (when no one else believed in them) and watch them take the second place. So, for two years in a row, the Netherlands failed to disappoint me. So, sure, I was very concerned about what would happen this year: and even though it's not as good as the other two aforementioned songs, "Walk Along" is what I call quality music to listen on a long drive. It's in fact, the only song that stayed with me after I listened to all the songs in SF1, so I think that is a good sign. Trijntje has all the potential to deliver accordingly in Vienna with this powerful mix of a nice guitar and her pure voice. (P.S.: Now I can't wait to listen to the Dutch entry for 2016!)
05) FINLAND - Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät - "Aina Mun Pitää"
I agree that this band won UMK more because of the history behind PKN than for the song, but I never thought it would be this bad. In fact, I'm very glad it is short as it is, because I couldn't take "Aina mun pitää [fill in the blank]" verses anymore. Sure, it's punk, and that justifies its length and how the lyrics are just a protest. But I've heard much better punk, and one way or another, I don't think it fits ESC. I agree it's quite a statement to make, but seriously, this can't compete against all the other acts.. Punk music, and this song specifically, are designed for purposes much different than representing a country in Eurovision. I do like that this raises (in a way) social awareness of people with disabilities, but I just don't buy this. Give the lyrics all the depth you want (<a konsuka for their condition in our society!>) but it's just not a good song.
06) GREECE - Maria Elena Kyriakou - "One Last Breath"
I can't deny that this girl knows how to sing, and it is slightly ironic that she begs so much for a last breath in a song filled with several long powerful notes, but it just isn't my cup of tea. For some reason, the first 150 seconds (which is most of the song) feel to me like just any other ballad, and then the good stuff comes at the end, which proves that she does know how to reach a climax (take that Armenia!). Nonetheless, those 30 remaining seconds aren't doing the trick for me either. From Greece, I would normally expect something more interesting (like "Jazz & Sirtaki"), so it is a little weird to listen to a Greek entry like this (I mean, we're talking about the country of Antique, Helena Paparizou, Giorgos Alkaios, Koza Mostra and Sakis Rouvas!). I fear it could get lost among all the other songs in this semifinal...
07) ESTONIA - Elina Born & Stig Rästa - "Goodbye to Yesterday"
As soon as this song began, it sent shivers down my spine. The last time that happened to me with an Eurovision entry was last year with "Calm After The Storm", so I couldn't be more satisfied with the Estonian entry. I want to give a shoutout to all those who recommended Estonia for me... You nailed it: THIS is the music I like. It's a duet with a great chemistry, and the song is just perfect: I can't be objective about this, it just feels amazing. And granted, it is a "simple" song in terms of rhythm and lyrics, but this is one of those times where less is more: it's completely freaking effective. As one of my friends said, "it is Estonia's opportunity to erase the memory of 'Everybody' (2001)" and have a real, completely deserved win. I know I'll play this over and over and over and over during the coming months. #GoEstonia #Tallinn2016
08) MACEDONIA - Daniel Kajmakoski - "Autumn Leaves"
In my opinion, Macedonia is one of the most unpredictable countries in Eurovision regarding its "style". This same country has given us bubblegum disco (2000), 80s pop (2005), reggaeton (2006), folk pop (2007), R&B (2008), rock (2009), hip-hop (2010) and even Romani-style singing by Esma in 2013. So you never know what's coming up. Plus, I loved Tamara's "Brod Što Tone", so I had to know what beat her. Daniel Kajmakoski delivers a fairly decent act (although I feel the song flows better in Macedonian than in English), with lyrics we could most relate to. I like the violins background and the autumn theme, but I still don't understand how this entry will be "sold" to the audience in May; "how will it be performed live?" is my question now (a question that was not necessary with Tamara... Have you watched her live performance?!). So, I'm still optimistic about Macedonia, but I'm not sure what fate awaits for the red-and-gold country.