After what seems like an eternity, it's Eurovison season once more. Some say it's the best time of the year!
This year, 37 countries will be heading to Copenhagen for Eurovision, after Denmark won it last year.
To kick start the festivities, I've taken time out for my annual Eurovision 2014 First Listen Party.
The rules are simple:
- One invitee to the party and one attendee (me)
- Songs are played on random shuffle and I jot down my initial thoughts (though these do have a tendency to shift as time goes on!)
So let's dive into the audio buffet.
In a Danish nutshell
Overall, the songs sound much more contemporary than they have for several years. There are quite a few darker-themed, slow-paced and reflective numbers, a marked departure from the usual party tunes and bubble-gum pop. You could actually imagine many of these tracks being hits outside the Eurovision world, and it's not often you can say that. I definitely detect less anthematic and kitchy songs this year (but don't worry there are still some).
- Light and fire (Azerbaijan, Austria)
- Storm and rain (Sweden, Norway, Spain)
- Stars and sky (Switzerland, Georgia, FYR Macedonia, Austria, Russia)
- Food (Latvia, Belarus)
- A little bit of country and western (Malta, Netherlands)
- Mums (Latvia, Belgium)
The one everyone will talk about
Rise Like a Phoenix by Conchita Wurst (Austria)
This will be the song the grabs the headlines. It's classic Eurovision. Why? Well, I don't want to spoil the surprise, but check it out the photo below and Youtube. Importantly, it's also a solid song with strong singing to back up the theatrics.
|The picture says it all really: Conchita Wurst|
My top 10 picks (in no particular order)
Silent Storm by Carl Espen (Norway)
A simple, but strong contender from Norway. Backed by a piano and some strings, Carl's vocals are evocative.
Calm After The Storm by The Common Linnets (Netherlands)
It might be representing the Netherlands, but this song has strong country and western roots. It's a chilled and reflective song by the duo and I really like it.
Round and Round by Tinkara Kovac (Slovenia)
Is that a flute I hear? Yes, Tinkara is a double threat, with strong vocals and some flute playing. Is she the Alexander Rybak (the violin-playing winner of Eurovision 2009) of 2014? This is her fourth and only successful attempt to represent Slovenia at Eurovision. And it's a catchy tune to boot.
Not Alone by Aram MP3 (Armenia)
A really strong contender from Armenia. It starts off slow and low, but builds intensity and has an almost haunting finish. Some parts sound a litlte bit Coldplay?
Running by Andras Kallay-Saunders (Hungry)
The verse is mellow before it switches to a higher octane chorus. Another really strong contender. Atmospheric.
Same Heart by Mei Feingold (Israel)
The first thing that hits you with this song is Mei's deep and powerful voice. It gives this song more of a soft rock quality, something with a bit more edge than the usual pop. One of the strongest entries from Israel in years.
Tick-Tock by Maria Yaremchuk (Ukraine)
An up-tempo, bubble-gum pop song from Ukraine this year. It will gain attention because it's a) from the Ukraine and b) not as dark, slow and intense as many of this year's entrants. It's got a catchy little chorus too.
Children of the Universe by Molly (United Kingdom)
What?! No Englebert or Bonnie? Well, that's probably for the best. While I liked their songs, it seemed Europe didn't. I think the UK is back on the right track with this strong entry by the hip and young Molly. Could this be the song that elevates the UK from last place?
Cliche Love Song by Basim (Denmark)
I really like this song, even if it does seem to unnecessarily drop the f-bomb in there for no good reason (I wonder what they'll replace that with on the night?). Sounds a little bit Bruno Mars. On closer inspection, the lyrics seem to cry out against the usual pop songs, but ironically the melody is a great little pop tune.
Undo by Sanna Nielsen (Sweden)
Starting off quiet, this is a captivating song from Sweden. It's simple, but Sanna's vocals deliver. And there's the obligatory key change towards the end.
The "what were they on?" entry
Cheesecake by Teo (Belarus)
Yes. It really is called Cheesecake. And the song almost manages to reference Dirty Dancing. It will be a novelty on the night, and then never mentioned again.
|Cheesecake. Probably best to eat rather than sing about|
Other solid efforts (because everyone can't be in the top 10)
Dancing in the Rain by Ruth Lorenzo (Spain)
Ruth is a The X Factor UK alumni, and gives a solid English / Spanish song here encouraging us all to keep dancing in the rain no matter what. Perhaps not the best advice for the kids, but a catchy tune aided by some power vocals none-the-less.
My Slowianie by Donatan and Cleo (Poland)
The title translates as Us Slavs and I get the feeling Cleo is the Nicki Minaj of Poland. It's a bit street, but is musical enough to sustain interest, even with the folk interlude in the middle.
Start A Fire by Dilara Kazimova (Azerbaijan)
Azerbaijan has always been a strong contender in recent Eurovision years and 2014 isn't an exception. It's a slower paced song compared to previous years and sometimes verges on the edge of wailing, but gets some points for featuring the national musical instrument, the balaban (a double-reed wind instrument).
Coming Home by Firelight (Malta)
Another song that sounds a little bit country. Perhaps Europe is gravitating towards Nashville these days. A strong acoustic guitar propels this song along.
Rise Up by Freaky Fortune featuring Riskykidd (Greece)
Starting with a bit of rap, this song had me worried. However, it's a legitimate techno effort from Greece and doesn't fall into the kitchy or jokey formula they've adopted in more recent years.
Quero Ser Tua by Suzy (Portugal)
Translating as I want to be yours, how could you not like a song by someone called Suzy. It sounds like a beach anthem that might blasting on a Portugal beach. It feels at home at Eurovision, particularly in contrast to the more serious and reflective soft rock entries. It will be fun on the night.
Is It Right by Elaiza (Germany)
For some reason I keep thinking Pink when I hear the lead singer, but it works for this song, which initially plods along but then picks up for the chorus. This three-piece, all-female band features an accordion and string bass. How can you go wrong?
|Elaiza from Germany|
Moustache by Twin Twin (France)
Never shy of pushing the boat out a little bit further than the rest, this year we have the French band Twin Twin. Apparently it's not a joke song but provides biting social commentary about a guy who has everything, but can't grow the one thing he wants... a moustache.
Attention by Vilija Mataciunaite (Lithuania)
A little bit of pop punk from Vilija that grabs attention, in a good way. The chorus is quite catchy.
To The Sky by Tijana Dapcevic (FYR Macedonia)
Sounds like Macedonia's answer to Pink. This is a solid entry and should do well.
Amazing by Tanja (Estonia)
A slightly techno entry from Tanja, almost bordering on anthematic. Not sure it's as catchy as it should be to live up to its title.
Wild Soul by Cristina Scarlat (Moldova)
A strong beat and equally strong vocals by Cristina gives this song a very theatrical feel. It will be interesting to see what they do on the Copenhagen stage.
Mother by Axel Hirsoux (Belgium)
A dramatic number from Axel and lyrically quite a departure from the usual Eurovision "this is the night", "let's party", "let's dance" fodder. A truly heartfelt track that will probably come across well on stage.
Shine by Tolmachevy Sisters (Russia)
I'm hoping the Russian dressing room is situated far away from the Ukrainian one. I can't help but think Russia's geopolitical actions may overshadow this catchy tune from a set of Russian twins (who actually won Junior Eurovision in 2006). Still, if anything can elevate us above politics, it has to be Eurovision.
Moj Svijet by Sergej Cetkovic (Montenegro)
The song title means My World and it's a pretty little ditty sung in Montenegrin. I have a growing appreciation for artists who perform songs in their mother tongue.
Miracle by Paula and Ovi (Romania)
They're back! After playing with fire in 2010, this duo is back with another solid pop track. There's even a obligatory key change in the middle. I wonder if they will be bringing their perspex piano again. Fingers crossed.
Not raving about these (but maybe they'll grow on me?)
No Prejudice by Pollaponk (Iceland)
This song feels a little over the place. It has a bit of message in there, then sometimes feels like a '90s band, and I'm sure I heard some disco in the middle. Well, that's Pollaponk for you (I guess?).
|Not the Wiggles, but Pollaponk|
One Night's Anger by Hersi Matmuja (Albania)
Hersi's angelic little voice is a contrast to the title of this song. There's lots of lyrics in this one, which are spit out at a fairly high pitch, broken by an electric guitar rift in the middle. Not for me I'm afraid.
Hunter of Stars by Sebalter (Switzerland)
This fast, folk-sounding song even comes with some whistling for good measure. The lyrics come thick and fast, so not quite sure what it's all about when all is said and done.
Three Minutes to Earth by The Shin and Mariko (Georgia)
This sounds like experimental music at its finest. The tempo switches, there's wailing and I don't really know what they're saying, though it is English. Something about skydivers, love. I'm just not sure.
Maybe by Valentina Monetta (San Marino)
I question how many singers there must be in San Marino as this is Valentina's third year in a row representing her country. Sadly, I will always remember her for her awful The Social Network Song in 2012. While this song is better, I don't think we'll be heading to San Marino next year.
La Mia Citta by Emma Marrone (Italy)
One of the few rock sounding entries this year, La Mia Citta (My City) is a sound effort and it is automatically in the final because of Italy's "Big Five" status. A winner? I don't think so.
Cake to Bake by Aarzemnieki (Latvia)
A fun, acoustic and light-hearted entry from Latvia that might prove to be a shining light among the more intense and atmospheric entries that dominate this year's entries. Yep, he's got a cake to bake and he's got no clue at all. New theme song for Masterchef?
Something Better by Softengine (Finland)
A rock entry from Finland this year, but it's not Lorde.
Heartbeat by Can-Linn featuring Kasey Smith (Ireland)
Ireland tends to go one of two ways: traditional complete with fiddles or pure pop (hello Jedward). This year they're doing pop again. It's a good effort but it never seems to really lift off as Eurovision songs need to do. But hey, at least it isn't Jedward.