Portugal returns to the Eurovision Song Contest after a year’s break with an absolute corker. Here’s Salvador Sobral with “Amar pelos dois.”
Sobral was the seventh-place contestant on the third season of Ídolos, Portugal’s version of Pop Idol. His song “Amar pelos dois” was written by his sister Luísa Sobral, who had finished third in the first season of Ídolos.
This song is cabaret. Usually we say that as criticism, but this time we mean it in the best possible way. It’s sweeping yet gentle, modern yet timeless. Indeed, “Amar pelos dois” reminds us of a newly discovered ballad from Rodgers and Hart (our favorite songwriters from the Great American Songbook era). Apologies if that seems U.S. centric: does Portugal have a similar jazz vocal history that is song is tapping into? Helping it feel contemporary is Sobral’s quirky, awkward stage presence. He draws you in. Listen to that crowd reaction in the hall at Festival da Canção 2017. They were feeling it too.
If we have a concern, it’s that “Amar pelos dois” is drawn into the first half of the first Semi. But we are not that worried. This song is jury bait, and if Sobral does in Kyiv what he did in Portugal, we think he will create a breakout Eurovision moment along the lines of Raphael Gualazzi. If we were betting lemurs, we would put money on a top 10 finish.