Belarus’ Eurovision 2018 Entry

At last we come to Belarus. We delayed our review of “Forever” because we can never tell if the song Belarus initially selects for Eurovision is going to be the one that will represent Belarus at Eurovision. Given all the controversy over Alekseev’s participation at this year’s Belarusian national final, it seemed like there was a good chance that “Forever” was not going to make it to Lisbon. But, as is so often the case, Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko weighed in so that Eurovision preparations could move forward. He’s helpful that way.

It’s been a few years since Belarus has had a chaotic national final, so we are bathing in the nostalgia.

So, without further ado (we hope), here is Alekseev with “Forever.”

So we’ll give Alekseev top marks for staging. Knowing Portugal is not using giant LED screens at Eurovision, he showed up with an LED suit. Fabulous. If only his vocal were as good.

Of course, since the national final, he’s revamped his song a bit, so here is the official video with a new arrangement.

It’s not bad, but the vocal line is still the same. You know, the vocal line that he struggled with live and can’t seem to nail even on the recorded track. So it doesn’t exactly give us confidence that his national final performance was an off night. But he’ll have the LED suit, right? That should keep the audience happy since nothing else will.

Belgium’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

It was only a matter of time before we got around to writing up Belgium’s song for Europe.

Laura “Sennek” Groeseneken is a singer and keyboardist who joined Ozark Henry’s band in 2014. She co-wrote Hooverphonic’s song “Gravity” and teamed up with Alex Callier from Hooverphonic and Maxime Tribèche to write “A Matter of Time.” She also performed “Tomorrow Never Dies” with the Brussels Philharmonic as part of the 007 In Concert series in 2012.

So maybe it’s not much of a surprise that “A Matter of Time” sounds like the theme to a James Bond film. It’s cool and sleek, with lush orchestrations.

Thematically it’s sophisticated as well. The song is a meditation about being in your head. It considers whether it is possible to return to feelings and sensations that were once real and now lost. But memory is fragmented, hard to pin down, and the time has past. Ultimately, it can’t be done.

All this, and yet it’s catchy in a way that sneaks up on you. You’re sitting at your desk in the office and all of a sudden “Echoes echoes and goes” just pops in your head and you stop and think about it for awhile and your coworkers stop by and ask what you’re up to and you tell them, “I am just thinking about Belgium’s Eurovision entry” and they just shake their heads sadly because you say stuff like that a lot at work.

Australia’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Australia continues sending its most bankable stars to Eurovision with radio-friendly pop hits. This year, Jessica Mauboy takes her turn.

Jessica Mauboy rose to fame from the Australian Idols franchise way back in 2006. Three platinum studio albums and literally dozens of radio singles later, she is one of Australia’s biggest, most recognizable recording artists.

“We Got Love” is uplifting homage to–you guessed it–love, even when it’s hard. And with “We Got Love,” Australia demonstrates (again) how well it understands the Eurovision space.  Although Jessica normally has a more R&B sound, her song for Europe has many time-honored Eurovision traits on display: big vocal, upbeat tempo, strong drum beat, choral breakdown. It’s shamelessly pop, shamelessly radio-friendly, and very, very accessible.

Though playing it safe is often the riskiest thing a country can do, in this case we are not worried. In her Semifinal, Jessica benefits by her draw in what can only be described as an eclectic line-up. In that context, “We Got Love” is a reassuring turn.

Portugal’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Portugal won Eurovision last year and we’re still pinching ourselves. Who has the unenviable task of defending their title? Here’s Cláudia Pascoal with “O Jardim.”

Cláudia Pascoal is 23, but has a wealth of experience in television talent shows. She’s been on Ídolos twice, Factor X, and The Voice Portugal. “O Jardim” was written by Isaura, who finished eighth on Operação Triunfo. She selected Cláudia to perform her song and serves as the backing singer.

“O Jardim” is a song for Isaura’s late grandmother, who passed away in 2017. But it’s not so much a mournful song as a contemplative one. It’s pretty, but also understated, atmospheric almost to a fault. Because the song focuses on creating a mood, rather than a journey, it ends where it begins without having taken us anywhere.

But it is the perfect song to listen to at two in the morning while curled up on the couch after being woken up by downpour.

Armenia’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Hey, look a guy with a beard singing in his native language at Eurovision!

Sevak Khanagyan won X-Factor Ukraine in 2016, one year after competing on The Voice of Russia. The Russian-Armenian singer became a coach on The Voice of Armenia last year. He co-wrote “Qami” with Viktorya Maloyan and former Voice of Armenia contestant Anna Danielyan.

When we watched Depi Evratesil, “Qami” stood out. Weeks later, when we were watching the official video, we were left a bit cold. It was hard to tell why at first, until we went back to Sevak’s live performance. At the national final, Sevak builds his song and delivers big, powerful notes to bring it home. Meanwhile, the studio track washes over Sevak’s power notes with backing singers and orchestrations. The final mix blunts his ability to sell the song.

Still, Sevak has proven himself to be a dynamic performer. Even though the recorded track doesn’t do much for us, we’re pretty sure he will acquit himself nicely in Lisbon.

Ukraine’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Kylo Ren has a favorite to win Eurovision this year!

Melovin won the sixth season of X Factor Ukraine. He was the public’s choice to defend Ukraine’s Eurovision title last year with his song “Wonder,” but despite finishing first in the televote, he was spiked by the jury (that included Jamala and Andriy “Verka Serduchka”Danylko), which gave O.Torvald the win.

Of course, there usually is no glory in representing your country the year after it wins, as The Makemakes can attest. Speaking of pianos on fire, we like how Melovin subverted that trope by playing piano on a flaming riser at Vidbir.

Anyway, Melovin definitely has a look. The goth Jedi costume and the one colored contact lens certainly captures attention. Given his styling, we were expecting him to perform some emo rock, but “Under the Ladder” is more of a Slavic top 40 pop song. It’s surprisingly accessible, with a catchy hook and a propulsive beat that makes it as memorable as its singer. Lovelorn teenage girls dressed in black are going to swoon.

Croatia’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Let’s go crazy. We suppose.

Franka Batelić rose to fame in Croatia when she won the talent show Showtime in 2007. She recently had a number three hit on the Croatian singles chart with “S tobom” and she has also won her country’s version of Strictly Come Dancing. She co-wrote “Crazy” with Branimir Mihaljević, a Croatian songwriter who also co-wrote Feminem’s 2010 Song Contest entry “Lako je sve.”

We are not fans of this song. It sounds like the type of single a label makes a new artist record to capitalize off of another artist’s  massive hit. If it were 2001 and “Fallin’” was still dominating the charts, then we would get it. Seventeen years later and we’re bored.

Lithuania’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Aw, Ieva’s in love!

Ieva Zasimauskaitė has competed on Lietuvos balsas, the Lithuanian version of The Voice, and participated in four previous Lithuanian national finals for Eurovision. She also was a member of the Kanunas Choir when it won the Lithuanian version of Clash of the Choirs. Her song “When We’re Old” is by Vytautas Bikus, who wrote Lithuania’s 2015 entry “This Time.”

“When We’re Old” is very gentle and its lyrics are very sweet, bordering on cloying. That said, Ieva gives it such weight that it’s hard to believe she didn’t write it herself for her husband, basketball player Marius Kiltinavičius, who shows up in the official video and the national final staging. If he comes to Lisbon, he and Ieva may be competing with Spain’s Alfred and Amaia for Eurovision’s most insufferably adorable straight couple.

Ieva’s voice sounds like a cross between Ellie Goulding and Dolores O’Riordan. She is quite good, although her lower register is a bit milky. Our main concern is that her song may be a bit too gentle to make an impact on audiences, especially in the first half of the first Semifinal. The emotion she brings to “When We’re Old” needs to feel genuine enough to make an impact.

Macedonia’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Eye Cue are going all over the place, including Lisbon!

Singer Marija Ivanovska and singer and guitarist Bojan Trajkovski formed Eye Cue in 2007. Their single “Not This Time” was one of the top 20 videos on MTV Adria in 2010 and they have since gone on to have several top 10 singles in the Balkans. They won Skopje Fest in 2015 with their song “Ubava.”

“Lost and Found” starts off as a pop rock single then slides into a ska song then goes back to the pop rock song then jumps into a U2-via-Coldplay song before leaping into a dance single. It’s, like, how many more genres could this have? And the answer is none. None more genres.

We listen to each entry a few times as we’re reviewing them and sometimes songs get better the more we listen to them (which is usually a problem for songs that have one shot at Eurovision audiences). Other songs end up just filling us with dread. You can guess which camp “Lost and Found” falls into.

Greece’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Talk to us, Greece. Here’s Yianna Terzi with “Oniro Mou.”

Yianna Terzi is the daughter of platinum-selling singer Paschalis Terzis. She has lived in the United States and worked as a talent scout for Interscope Records. She co-wrote “Oneiro mou” with Aris Kalimeris (who co-wrote “Hora Din Moldova“), Dimitris Stamatiou, and Mihalis Papathanasiou from the Greek hip-hop duo Goin’ Through. “Oneiro mou” was originally going to be one of five songs in a Greek national final, but all the other songs were disqualified. Yianna and Saara Aalto should become friends.

According to Panik Record’s YouTube page for the lyric video, “Oneiro mou” is meant to be a bittersweet, yet hopeful dialogue between Greece and its people. With that in mind, the song is suitably atmospheric and melancholic. It feels like a good fit for Eurovision, but we’re struggling to get excited about it.

We think our issue is that “Oneiro mou” doesn’t really have any levels. It starts off slow, then moderately picks up the pace to a trot, then stays at that trot to the end. It’s like a gentle walk around a large pond.

That said, this could be one of those songs that really pops with a good staging. The song’s chorus is moving and the backing vocal arrangement is sophisticated. There’s also about 25 seconds, starting at the 2:10 mark, that are without any vocals. Assuming Yianna can belt live, the vocals are in tune, and the Greek delegation can punctuate her performance with some strong moments a la “Watch My Dance,” it could really come alive. Fingers crossed.