Cyprus’ Eurovision 2018 Entry

Cyprus made an internal selection this year because with Eleni Foureira there is no need for a competition (and because for years Greece has been unwilling to send her). Here’s “Fuego,” Cyprus’ song for Europe.

Eleni Foureria got her start as a member of the Greek girl group Mystique. She branched out as a solo artist in 2010 and since then has had seven top 10 singles in Greece, including the chart-topping duet with J Balvin “Tranquila.” Eleni’s ancestry has often been a point of media speculation – is she Brazilian? Is she Mexican? Is she Greek? In 2014, she revealed that she hid the fact that she was born in Albania because record labels wouldn’t have signed her based on her ethnicity.

As a performer, Eleni is part of a fine tradition of long-haired divas with legs for days, a tradition that includes Nicole Scherzinger, Queen Iveta, and Zuul. In a semifinal filled with aspiring divas, Eleni has the potential to reign supreme.

“Fuego” was written by a songwriting team lead by Alexander Papaconstantinou, who wrote “Yassou Maria” for Greece, “Always” for Azerbaijan, and “La La Love” for Cyprus. He’s joined by Anderz Wrethov, who co-wrote “Always,” and Viktor Svensson, who co-wrote “La La Love.” Anderz and Viktor teamed up for last year’s Eurofan pre-selection favorite “Cool Me Down.”

For us, the tragedy of “Fuego” is that EBU restrictions on product placements will deny us choreography using Fyffes-branded pineapples. Mmm, fire-roasted pineapples…


Norway’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Listen up kids, I’ll tell you a story
Dreams can come true, two-time Eurovision glory
Can’t write a melody? Can’t come up with a rhyme?
No need to waste your time
Own the stage, show them you belong
That’s how you perform a song

Step one: camera tricks
They surprise and delight
Step two: smize like a boss
That’s how you perform a song

Come on!

Shoo-bee-doo-bee dab dab (Shoo-bee-doo-bee dab dab)
Sha-ba-da-da hey (Sha-ba-da-da hey)
Sing it all day long (All day long)
And that’s how you perform a song
Scoo-bee-doo-bee bap bap (Scoo-bee-doo-bee bap bap)
Boogie boogie woogie hey (Boogie boogie woogie hey)
Sing it all day long (All day long)
See, that’s how you perform a song

Step one: camera tricks
They surprise and delight
Step two: smize like a boss
That’s how you perform a song
Step three: engage the crowd
Make them sing out loud
Step four: play violin
That’s how you perform a song

San Marino’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Jessika and Jenifer Brening are here to tell you who they are. (Spoiler: They are San Marino’s Eurovision act this year.)

Jessika Muscat is a Maltese singer who has been a staple at Malta’s national finals over the past decade or so. Her best finish in 2016 when she placed  seventh with the Philip Vella and Gerard James Borg song “The Flame.”

She is paired up with German singer Jenifer Brening, who finished fourth on the German talent show The Winner Is in 2012. Jenifer replaced San Marinese rapper Lorenzo “Irol” Salvatori, who dropped out because “Who We Are” was “too poppy” for him.

Irol still retains a songwriting credit on “Who We Are,” but it seems like half of Europe has a songwriting credit on” Who We Are.” The big name for Eurovision fans is Zöe Straub, Austria’s representative at the 2016 Song Contest and one of the judges for San Marino’s 1in360 national final competition this year. She is joined by her dad, singer-songwriter Christof Straub, who co-wrote her Eurovision entry “Loin d’ici.” Rounding out the credits are the aforementioned Jenifer Brening; Matthias Strasser, who has contributed songs to past Maltese national finals; and Stefan Moessle, part of the Secret Sounds music production team that has contributed music to the TV show Dance Moms.

“Who We Are” sounds the songwriting crew heard “Heroes” and thought that it needed some girl power, so they inserted Mel B’s rap in “Wannabe.” At face value, this should work, but it really falls short in practice.

That’s because “Who We Are” in its 1in360 form was rough. Jessika’s performance was a bit too stiff and a bit too smiley. She’s an experienced performer, but she looked like a fresh-faced amateur. The whole package needs to be polished up quite a bit to work on the big stage in Lisbon.

Despite our qualms, we are happy to see San Marino jumping into the current era of Eurovision after splashing around in Ralph Siegel’s antiquated style for so long. And if Zöe wants to usurp Uncle Ralph as San Marino’s songwriter-in-residence, you won’t hear us complain. We look forward to what she and Valentina Monetta cook up next year.

Germany’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Give us a second, you all. Michael Schulte is making us cry.

Michael Schulte finished third on the first season of The Voice of Germany. His first single “Carry Me Home” was a top 10 hit in Germany in 2012. He co-wrote “You Let Me Walk Alone” with Thomas Stengaard (who co-wrote “Only Teardrops”), Nisse Ingwersen, and Nina Müller.

The lyrics are a tribute to Michael’s late father and not surprisingly, Michael gave a touching performance at Unser Lied für Lissabon. It’s not hard to understand why the two judging panels and the televoters all gave him top marks.

Unfortunately, we found the music to be gratingly schmaltzy. Maybe that’s a bit unfair of us: what other kind of music would we expect to accompany the lyrics, speed metal? But it’s the type of song that we expect to hear in a commercial advertising a very special episode of a television dramedy. It’s music to accompany something else, not to stand on its own. As warm as we found the lyrics to “You Let Me Walk Alone,” we are left feeling cold by the song as a whole.

Hungary’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

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AWS are a metal band that formed in 2006 and made a name for themselves tackling social issues in their lyrics. In 2011, they were named Brand:New Discovery of the Year on MTV Hungary.

Their path to Lisbon was interesting, to say the least. Hungary’s A Dal format gives the panel of four judges the power to send four songs to a superfinal. The superfinal result is then determined by a televote. Generally, songs that get a lot of points from the jury end up winning the televote.

That was not the case this year. “Viszlát nyár” squeaked into the superfinal with only eight points total from just two jury members. This after it received nines across the board from the four jury members and the televote in its heat, then three 10s and a nine from the jury and just a seven from the public in its semifinal. You can understand when AWS seemed genuinely shocked that they pulled off the win.

We were pretty happy with the A Dal result. To be fair, one member of the Lemurs household in particular is an old metalhead, but we both admired the unconventional choice. It’s almost like the Hungarian public collectively realized that maybe the key to Eurovision success is to not resemble the previous winner at all.

We think there are two omens that hint at good things for AWS in Lisbon. First, stylistically similar songs to “Viszlát nyár” have done pretty well: maNga’s “We Could Be the Same” finished second in 2010 and Eldrine’s “One More Day” finished ninth in 2011. Second, “Kedvesem” was another song that made the A Dal superfinal in the jury’s fourth place slot. ByeAlex went on to finish 10th at the Song Contest.

This could just be wishful thinking, but we always hope that countries that break out of the pop mold are rewarded for their choices. We have our fingers crossed for Hungary this year.

Serbia’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Sanja Ilić i Balkanika have won Beovizija 2018 with the song “Nova deca.”

Sanja Ilić is a Serbian composer and musician with a degree in architecture. He wrote the 1982 Yugoslavian Eurovision entry “Halo Halo” for the group Aska, and he composed the music to the anthem for the Red Star Belgrade soccer team.

Ilić formed Balkanika in 1998 with the goal of using traditional Balkan musical instruments in modern pop music. The band has 11 members, so they had to be strategic in which six musicians made the Beovizija line-up. They wisely included flutist Ljubomir Dimitrijević because he is the Jerry Garcia of Serbian flutists.

We would eat an ice cream named after him.

“Nova deca” is a challenging song. It takes a full minute to really get going, then it meanders from traditional-sounding choral parts to modern Balkan ballad sections. A touch of synthetic dance beats are thrown in for good measure.

We always fear for songs that deviate from a typical song structure. We harken back to something Daniel Gould wrote on Sofabet:

Pop songs tend to follow a pattern that goes like this: intro; first verse; first chorus; second verse; second chorus; middle eight with a change of pace; and final chorus with something a bit extra.

Eurovision winners tend to follow this formula, with only a few small deviations – in 2008, Serbia’s ‘Molitva’ had an instrumental second verse, for example. I would never back a song to do well that deviated significantly from this structure…

To that end, we remember the fate of “Icebreaker,” Norway’s Eurovision 2016 entry. It had an abrupt rhythm change about which singer Agnete admitted, “It seems like either you love it, or you simply strongly dislike it.” Norway finished 13th in the second Semi, behind Ivan and his wolves.

But it’s not so different from the type of Balkan ballad that has often made its way to the Eurovision stage. Ilić and company have just tweaked the form enough to make it interesting. It will be equally interesting to see how the juries and the public respond to it.

Denmark’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Since Portugal has given Eurovision a maritime theme this year, it is apropos that Denmark has voted to go for the full Viking. Here’s Rasmussen with “Higher Ground.”

Higher Ground” is by Swedish songwriters Niclas Arn and Karl Eurén, who co-wrote Timoteij’s 2010 Melodifestivalen entry “Kom.” The song is inspired by Magnus Erlendsson, a Viking leader and martyr who sought peaceful solutions to conflicts.

Rasmussen is a singer and actor who fronts an ’80s cover band Hair Metal Heröes. You may be surprised to learn he has performed in a production of Les Miserables.

So let’s not put too fine a point on it: “Higher Ground” is “One Day More” crossed with “Only Teardrops,” but with zombie Vikings. It is a suitably haunting song and the staging is simple but effective. Rasmussen is a solid, charismatic singer and the arrangement makes good use of bass, dwarvish vocal tones. It was our favorite at Dansk Melodi Grand Prix from the moment we heard it.

We do wonder if there is a market for a theatrical song about Vikings outside of Denmark. If so, who will like it more: the parts of Europe that were never invaded by Vikings or the parts that were frequently invaded by Vikings? Either way, we are more than happy that Rasmussen and his fellow unkempt, undead hippie Norsemen have set sail to Lisbon.

Italy’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Alright, let’s get this over with. Here’s Italy’s entry to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ermal Meta was born in Albania but moved with his family to Italy when he was 13. He started his music career in the bands Ameba4 and La Fame di Camilla before becoming a successful solo artist. Two of his albums have topped the Italian charts since 2017. Meta’s single “Vietato morire” finished 3rd at Sanremo last year and reached number seven in the Italian singles charts.

Fabrizio Moro won the Sanremo Newcomers competition in 2007 with the anti-Mafia song “Pensa,” which hit number one on the Italian singles chart. He’s had three top 10 albums and also presented the TV show Sbarre.

Meta and Moro wrote “Non mi avete fatto niente” with Andrea Febo in response to the attack on Manchester Arena in 2017. The song has certain structural similarities to Febo’s “Silenzio,” which Ambra Calvani and Gabriele De Pascali performed at the 2016 Sanremo Music Festival.

Hey, if you find a chorus that works for you, then run with it.

As with this year’s French entry, this year’s Italian entry could be seen as a political song. “Non mi avete fatto niente,” which Google-translates as “You did not do anything to me,” is about remaining defiant in the face of terror. It’s a catalog of recent terror attacks punctuated with a defiant “fuck you.” This message resonates with us. It’s an alternative to putting empty platitudes and calls for policy change up on Facebook that we know will result in nothing because there is insufficient political will.

Unfortunately,”Non mi avete fatto niente” is a poor vehicle for the message. The lyric is crowded and the melody rambles on. We’re sure the song has more impact to those who understand Italian, but how widely is Italian understood by Eurovision’s international audience?  Regardless, translation (unlikely to happen) or staging are unlikely to solve the fundamental problem: the song lacks elegance.

Charlie Hebdo put it more succinctly. “They have guns. Fuck them, we have champagne.”

Switzerland’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Let they who are without Sinplus cast “Stones” to Lisbon. Here is Switzerland’s representative for Eurovision, Zibbz.

Corinne and Stee Gfeller are siblings who founded Zibbz in 2008. They divide their time between Los Angeles and their home country and starred in a reality show for a few years on the now-defunct Swiss network Joiz. They’ve had two top 20 albums on the Swiss charts and their song “One Shot” was the official song of the 2012 Unihockey World Cup.

Zibbz have described themselves as a “trash-pop indie rock band” who “combine their love of fun, innovation, and toy instruments to create a new sound and stage presence that has been viewed as unique and the next ‘big thing’ to hit the airwaves and everyone’s ear drums.”

Which is interesting since “Stones” struck us as a kinda bland blues rock album track.

To be fair, we feel bad ragging on “Stones.” The song’s lyrics are about online bullying and they resonate with us at a time when interaction on the internet seems to be increasingly tetchy.

So let’s focus on the positives: Corinne has a gravelly, raspy singing voice and a snarly, camera-friendly intensity. We liked how Zibbz stayed on brand by incorporating their logo into their staging. And the Gfellers just seem like fun, lovely people.

All of which makes us sad we don’t like the song more. It’s fine. That’s all. We really wish they had brought the toy instruments.

By the way, from now on, can we call the action of singing while banging on a drum with one hand Sebaltering?

Spain’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Alfred and Amaia are bringing a song for you to the Eurovision Song Contest. Here is “Tu Canción.”

This year, Spanish broadcaster RTVE revived the talent show Operación Triunfo, which was used between 2001 and 2004 to choose the country’s Eurovision act. Instead of selecting the winner of the show, Spain picked its Eurovision entry during Gala Eurovisión, the penultimate episode of the show.

As it turns out, Amaia Romero ultimately won OT, while Alfred García finished fourth. Shouldn’t she be billed first, then?

Anyway, “Tu Canción” was written by composer Raúl Gómez and lyricist Sylvia Santoro. Raúl was the 2013 winner of the show El Número Uno who then moved to London to start his songwriting career. He submitted a song for Spain in 2016 that did not make it out of the pre-selection. Raúl’s aunt Sylvia released two albums in the early 2000s before taking a break for her family, but is now returning to songwriting. They wrote the song inspired by Alfred and Amaia’s real-life romance.

“Tu Canción” is a gentle ballad that sounds like a cross between “Amar pelos dois” and “Wind Beneath My Wings.” It doesn’t appeal to us much, but let’s be honest: the bar was set so low by Spain’s previous entry that you could walk over said bar without even noticing it was there.

We can’t decide if Alfred and Amaia’s performance is helped or hindered by their relationship. On one hand, we want to scream, “Get a room!” But heck, it’s a love song, and if the singers don’t have good chemistry, then how are supposed to buy what they’re selling? So long as they don’t miss their cues, they’ll be fine.