Joci Pápai has won A Dal 2017 and will represent Hungary at the Eurovision Song Contest with his song “Origo.”
Pápai is a Romani musician who participated in the 2005 edition of the Hungarian talent show Megasztár. He has since put out a number of singles, including a 2015 collaboration with A Dal 2017 judge Caramel.
A Dal is one of our favorite national selections, and we followed it from the quarterfinals. “Origo” is the song we were rooting for all along. It is a gorgeous melody with a hook you remember, and it stood out against the more commercial entries on display. It was also the rare song in this year’s national selection that united the judging panel and the Hungarian televote. This is another number that we have high hopes for at the Song Contest.
We were concerned during the early stages of A Dal that Pápai looked too nervous to really perform the song. He only got comfortable during the rapped verse. In the final, however, we thought his performance came together. We could see a repeat of that in Kyiv, where nerves that are on display in the Semi dissipate during the Final.
As a side note, Good Evening Europe has a lovely interview with Pápai where he talks about the significance of a Romani-Hungarian musician representing Hungary at Eurovision. A must-read for Eurovision fans.
Kasia Moś will represent Poland with the song “Flashlight” at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
Moś first vied for a Eurovision slot in 2006 with her song “I Wanna Know.” Last year, her song “Addiction” finished sixth in Poland’s national final. She has been a performer in the Pussycat Dolls Burlesque Revue and also finished third place in the 2012 edition of the talent show Must Be the Music. Moś co-wrote “Flashlight” with Pete Barringer and Rickard Bonde Truumeel.
This one bored us. There is nothing here we haven’t heard before and we’re not getting any new twists on old themes. Also, while in the past we have been willing to give some countries a pass for bad lyrics, in this instance we just can’t. Are you all really rhyming “fire” with “desire”? Still? Also, like Switzerland’s “Apollo,” “Flashlight” starts off with a bad bullet analogy. “Like a bullet from a smoking gun/They try to tell us that we don’t belong.” If we thought about it, we might come up with some pithy witticism about that, but honestly, we don’t want to spend any more time considering this plodding dirge of song.
Claudia Faniello has at last won Malta’s national final and heads off to Kyiv with the song “Breathlessly.”
Faniello has been a fixture at Malta’s national finals since 2006. She finished second twice, in 2008 with “Caravaggio” and in 2012 with “Pure.” She took a break from participation after the 2013 competition, returning triumphantly this year. She is the second member of her family to represent Malta at Eurovision; her brother Fabrizio Faniello participated in the 2001 and 2006 Song Contests.
“Breathlessly” was co-written by Malta songwriters and Eurovision Song Contest veterans Gerard James Borg and Philip Vella, along with Vella’s son Sean, who has scored trailers for 20th Century Fox. This is Vella’s first song at Eurovision since 2008’s “Vodka.” Borg collaborated with Philipp Kirkorov, Dimitris Kontopoulos, John Ballard, and Ralph Charlie on Russia’s 2014 entry “Shine.”
So we’re happy for Faniello to finally get her chance to represent Malta. But we think that “Breathlessly” is stale and old-fashioned. To top off our annoyance with it, “Breathlessly” just sort of… stops. It’s a bit jarring, and even the crowd at the Malta national final seemed surprised it was over. So if Malta does any tweaking before May, we’d like them to think about coming up with a proper ending to the song. Couldn’t hurt.
Levina won Unser Song 2017 and will represent Germany at Eurovision with “Perfect Life.”
Born in Bonn, Isabella Levina Lueen is studying music management at the London College of Music and she competed against four other singers at Germany’s national final. Thanks to the complex structure of Unser Song, she ended up competing against herself in the last round to determine which song would represent Germany, “Wildfire” or “Perfect Life.”
Levina is a good singer, and goodness knows she tries to sell “Perfect Life” as best she can. But this middle of the road adult contemporary number doesn’t strike us as one that will compel Eurovision viewers to pick up their phones and vote. Germany has had a bad run of form at the Song Contest for the past two years, and we can’t see how this is going to reverse its fortunes. Better luck next year.
Francesco Gabbani has won Sanremo 2017 and will represent Italy at Eurovision with “Occidentali’s Karma.”
Gabbani got his start in the music industry as a member of the band Trikobalto. He released his first solo album in 2013 and, at the age of 33, won Sanremo’s newcomers award in 2016 with his song “Amen.” Building on the platinum success of “Amen,” Gabbani wrote the soundtrack for the movie Poveri ma ricchi.
Sometimes, there’s a Eurovision entry that just lands with us. One that stands out above all the rest and usually does not get overtaken by any other entry that follows. We had moments like that with “Heroes” and “If Love Was a Crime.”
We love this song. Absolutely love it. It is Italian pop at its best, effervescent and vibrant and fun. Assuming the staging from Sanremo makes its way to Kyiv, “Occidentali’s Karma” has its own little “Save All Your Kisses for Me” dance and a silly staging moment that somehow just works in the performance. It brings us joy.
Initially, we wondered whether there was some cultural appropriation going on, especially after we saw the video, which is filled with Japanese imagery despite the lyrics referencing Indian concepts–a sloppy mix of Zen and Theravada Buddhism. However, when we read a rough translation of the lyrics, we took the song to be a criticism of Western cultural appropriation. In other words, satire rather than exploitation. Now, subtle parody doesn’t always translate across language, but we think if Gabbani sticks with the Sanremo staging, it will go over just fine.
“Occidentali’s Karma” has inspired us to create the Official Eurovision Lemurs Seal of Approval. We whole-heartedly recommend “Occidentali’s Karma” for your listening pleasure.
Out of nowhere, France has announced Alma will represent them at Eurovision with “Requiem.”
Alma is a 28-year-old singer with a degree in economics who is at the start of her music career. Her first single “La chute est lente” came out last year, and “Requiem” is the second single from her upcoming debut album. It is a catchy song with an upbeat Latin rhythm (which is surprising for a song called “Requiem.”)
Alma performed “Requiem” live at the melty Future Awards on February 6, three days before the Eurovision announcement. Our impression was that she doesn’t quite own the song yet. While “Requiem” doesn’t have a difficult melody, it does has a crowded lyric that may be hard to sing live. We heard pitch issues, and it seemed like she didn’t always know where to breathe. We shouldn’t be thinking that singing a song is hard work.
Whether or not this is still a problem in May remains to be seen. She’s got time to figure it out. We also have seen that audiences can forgive minor pitch issues if they like you well enough. We had similar concerns about Amir last year, but his charm and charisma carried him far. Alma seems just as charming. She has a strong stage presence that radiates on camera.
“Requiem” was written by Nazim Khaled, who may turn out to be the more interesting part of this story. Khaled co-wrote “J’ai cherché” for Amir. So, Khaled has provided France with two solid Eurovision entries for two straight years. If it continues, he may prove to be a key voice in France’s Eurovision renaissance.
Manel Navarro has won Objetivo Eurovision and will represent Spain in Kyiv with “Do It For Your Lover.”
The 20-year-old Navarro won the 2014 edition of Catalunya Teen Star and signed with Sony Music Spain in 2015. He won Objetivo Eurovision in controversial fashion: he finished first in the jury vote but came in third in the televote. Mirela, who performed “Contingo,” finished first in the televote but came in third with the jury. With Navarro and Mirela tied on points, the jury cast votes to determine the winner. This did not go down well in the room.
The lesson, as always: never let the jury be the tiebreaker. (Remember, if Ukraine’s jury determined the winner in 2016, then Jamala would not have represented Ukraine at Eurovision.)
Anyway, the song has a very subtle theme, which is that you should do it for your lover. If only there were a way to Navarro to get his point across lyrically. What would normally be a moderately grating twee little folk pop song becomes utterly insufferable the longer it goes on. It is the very definition of a Eurovision mediocrity, made interesting only by how it won, which casual Eurovision viewers are not going to know or care about in May.
Swittzerland has selected Timebelle’s “Apollo” as its Eurovision entry for 2017.
Timebelle are singer Miruna Manescu and multi-instrumentalist Emanuel Daniel Andriescu from Romania and drummer Samuel Forster from Switzerland. They take their name from Bern’s Zytglogge clock tower. They met while studying at the Bern University of the Arts and they first vied for Switzerland’s Eurovision spot in 2015 with their song “Singing About Love.”
“Apollo” is a better song than “Singing About Love,” so Switzerland has that going for it. On the other hand, Switzerland sent a similar song to “Apollo” last year, which you will note finished last in Semifinal Two.
Plus, the first line of the song is “Like a bullet in my chest, you’re written, bound and etched forever in my mind.” I mean, we try not to harp on bad English lyrics anymore, but a bullet in your chest is nothing like having someone written, bound and etched forever in your mind. There are two entirely different surgical procedures involved.
Die Entscheidungsshow opened with host Sven Epiney fantasizing about Switzerland winning Eurovision. It may be too early in the season to make predictions, but we don’t expect “Apollo” to be making his dreams come true.
Norma John won UMK 2017 and will represent Finland at Eurovision with their song “Blackbird.”
Vocalist Leena Tirronen and pianist Lasse Piirainen formed Norma Jean in 2008. Tirronen finished third in the Finnish X Factor in 2010. Piirainen is slated to appear as a team captain this spring in a new version of BumtsiBum!, a Finnish TV show based on Ireland’s The Lyrics Board.
Well before UMK, Ben Morris of Europops fame tweeted that “Blackbird” was “[r]eminiscent of Anouk,” and we agree. Both have haunting melodies, lush arrangements, and suitably melancholy lyrics. But while “Birds” is borderline desperate (“no air, no pride”), “Blackbird” is more mournful:
You sang when he was in my bed
You sang when my heart sang
Now you remind me of something I’ll never have
So blackbird, don’t sing
Tirronen delivers those heartbreaking lyrics with power and grace. You feel her hurt, but you also get the sense that she is strong enough to get over the pain. The melody of the chorus is certainly memorable. We both had it in our heads well after we finished watching UMK and that was without listening to the video replay. We have high hopes that this is going to do well in May.
Lucie Jones will be representing the United Kingdom in Kyiv this year with “Never Give Up On You.”
Jones is a Welsh singer who placed eighth on The X Factor in 2009. She lost to Jedward, the poor dear. She has gone on to be a model and stage actress, appearing as Cosette in Les Miz and Victoria in American Psycho. She’s also been on Midsomer Murders, thus fulfilling her national duty as a Brit.
The songwriting team behind “Never Give Up On You” are Emmelie de Forrest, Lawrie Martin, and The Treatment. de Forrest won Eurovision in 2013 with the song “Only Teardrops.” Last year, she co-wrote “Never Alone” for Anja Nissen, who finished second in last year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix behind “Soldiers of Love.”
Martin is a Scottish songwriter currently based in London who co-wrote the song “Unstable” with British pop singer Zak Abel. As for the third member of the songwriting team, it’s hard to research The Treatment because when you search Google for The Treatment and “Never Give You On You,” you get a lot of results about not giving up in your fight against [insert debilitating health issue here].
Now, our first impression of “Never Give Up On You” is that it sounds like the 11 o’clock number in an allegorical romantic musical that’s really about Brexit. Perhaps we’re reading too much into the lyrics.
Jones is a powerhouse of a vocalist, bringing a lot of ache and a lot of longing into her interpretation of the lyrics. She gave a damn good performance, and honestly, it doesn’t feel like the U.K. needs to do much other than just throw Jones onstage and let her belt.