Australia has tapped Isaiah to vie for Eurovision glory with “Don’t Come Easy.”
Isaiah Firebrace won the 2016 season of The X Factor Australia. His debut single “It’s Gotta Be You” peaked at 26 on the Australian charts, but interestingly, it went gold in Sweden. We’ve seen him compared him Sam Smith and to be sure, “Don’t Come Easy” was co-written by Michael Angelo, who worked with Smith on In The Lonely Hour. The other songwriters are Anthony Egizii and David Musumeci from DNA Music, who have penned songs for Guy Sebastian, Samantha Jade, and Geri Halliwell.
“Don’t Come Easy” is a pleasant power ballad with a slick production that gives it a commercial sheen. We liked it, but it didn’t land a visceral punch with us the way Australia’s previous entry did.
The fate of this song lies with Isaiah’s charisma. He’s an appealing singer with a rich tone who also looks like a cross between Raphael Nadal and Alexander Rybak, which is a bonus. Judging from his X Factor performances, we trust he can sell “Don’t Come Easy” to a wide swath of Eurovision voters. And if there are any doubters left, he should be able to seduce them with the power of his mesmerizing eyebrows.
Demy will be representing Greece at the Eurovision Song Contest in May with the song “This Is Love.”
Greece wants to redeem itself for failing to qualify for the Grand Prix Final for the first time, so they have brought in some heavy hitters. Demy is a top selling singer in Greece. Her first album #1 topped the Greek charts and she has won the MTV Europe Music Award for Best Greek Artist and 10 MAD Video Music Awards. Her song “This Is Love” is written by the esteemed Dimitris Kontopoulos, the songwriter behind six Eurovision songs that finished in the top 10, including “Shady Lady,” “This Is Our Night,” and “You Are the Only One.” The lyrics are by Romy Papadea and John Ballard, the latter being one of Kontopoulos’ co-writers on “Shine,” “Hold Me,” and “You Are the Only One.”
As usual, Kontopoulos has supplied a catchy number that easily gets stuck in your head. Demy is a good singer and by all accounts a dynamic live performer. The arrangement is bouncy and vibrant and has some fun flourishes to it. So it looks like mission accomplished for the Greek delegation.
So why aren’t we excited by “This Is Love?” We’re not sure. It kind of reminds us of Ira Losco’s “Walk On Water” at last year’s Song Contest. Our initial reaction was decidedly blasé, but Losco’s performance and Malta’s staging of it won us over. So maybe we need to see how Greece stages “This Is Love” for it to catch fire with us. You can usually rely on Greece to do this properly. Last year notwithstanding.
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.
TVR had better have all its bills squared away with the EBU this time, because we do not want to be deprived of “Yodel It!” at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Yes, the song is called “Yodel It!” and it contains a lot of yodeling. It’s, like, how much more yodeling could this be? And the answer is none. None more yodeling. It achieves yodeling singularity.
Ilinca is an 18 year old Vocea României semifinalist who presents herself as the “prima persoana din Romania care canta in stilul traditional austriac/elvetian: yodeling.” (That means exactly what you think it means.) Also, at the Romanian national final, she presented herself as Santa’s elf. Alex Florea is a 25 year old singer and fellow Vocea României semifinalist.
“Yodel It!” was written by Mihai Alexandru and Alexandra Niculae. Alexandru co-wrote the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest entry “Don’t Break My Heart” with singer Nicola and he previously teamed up with Niculae on Renee Santana and Mike Diamond’s “Letting Go” for the 2014 Romanian national final.
We are not going to pretend that this is profound stuff. It’s a “Scatman” for the 21st century. But Ilinca and Florea sell it with a nod and a wink and a whole lot of energy. “Yodel It!” is irrepressibly fun in its ridiculousness. It is over the top. And it is delightful.
Koit Toome & Laura Põldvere have won Eesti Laul 2017 and will represent Estonia at the Eurovision Song Contest with “Verona.”
This year’s Estonian delegation is chockfull of Eurovision veterans. Koit Toome first represented his country in 1998 with the song “Mere Lapsed,” and later won Tantsud tähtedega, the Estonian version of Dancing With the Stars. Laura Põldvere was a member of Suntribe, which represented Estonia in 2005 with “Let’s Get Loud.” And “Verona” was written by Sven Lõhmus, the venerable Estonian songwriter behind “Let’s Get Loud,” “Rändajad” for Urban Symphony, and “Rockefeller Street” for Getter Jaani.
As you can probably guess from the title, “Verona” uses Romeo & Juliet as a metaphor for a romance gone bad, although one that doesn’t end quite as badly as the one in Romeo & Juliet, seeing as they are still singing. It’s sort of like using Sophie’s Choice as a metaphor for being unable to decide between the fish or the steak at a restaurant.
Anyway, Toome and Põldvere are solid performers and the staging for Eesti Laul emphasized theatricality. The camera angles and the editing and the visuals were all very smooth and professional and… well, cheesy. Like a camembert: mild, mainstream, slightly musty, but nonetheless tasty.
When we were watching Eesti Laul and the super final ultimately came down to “Verona” and Kerli’s mad electro-pop freakout “Spirit Animal,” we absolutely knew “Verona” was going to win. “Spirit Animal” had its issues, to be sure, but even if Kerli had nailed it, Estonians usually send the safe choice to Eurovision and keep the more interesting stuff for themselves at Eesti Laul.
OG3NE from the Netherlands are going to lead fans in Kyiv through “Lights and Shadows” at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
OG3NE are a pop trio made up the three Vol sisters, Lisa and fraternal twins Amy and Shelley. They represented Netherlands at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2007 and won the fifth season of The Voice of Holland. Their song “Lights and Shadows” was written by their dad Rick Vol and Dutch musician and songwriter and boyfriend of Shelley Vol, Rory de Kievit.
When “Lights and Shadows” was released, more than a few people noted how much it reminded them of Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On.” So your assessment of “Lights and Shadows” will depend entirely your opinion of Wilson Phillips’ venerable hit. If you enjoy tight three-part harmonies and generically encouraging lyrics, then “Lights and Shadows” is an unqualified success. However, if the first strains of watery synth that heralds the start of “Hold On” makes your teeth start to ache and the trite platitudes only encourage you to hold on until you can afford to buy custom voodoo dolls of everyone who was involved in the writing and production of the song, then “Lights and Shadows” is not so much experienced as endured.
We fall into the latter camp, so all we can do is pray that they at least take staging inspiration from Moje 3’s “Ljubav je svuda.” The original version, not the Dex version. That would help.
Anja Nissen has won Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2017 and will represent Denmark at the Eurovision Song Contest with “Where I Am.”
Nissen is a Danish-Australian singer who won the third season of Australia’s The Voice. She had also made the semifinals of Australia’s Got Talent when she was 12. She finished second in Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2016 with “Never Alone,” which was co-written by Song Contest winner Emmelie de Forest. Nissen co-wrote “Where I Am” with Angel Tupai, who was a competitor on season four of Australia’s X Factor, and Michael D’Arcy, an Australian songwriter who has penned songs for 5 Seconds of Summer and Samantha Jade.
We stress that “Where I Am” is this year’s Danish entry, not this year’s Australian entry.
We know this because Australia usually sends more interesting songs. I mean, it’s fine, in a bland adult contemporary sort of way. It’s great if you want to make a long-distance dedication on a love songs after dark radio show or looking for background music during a standard rom-com montage. (Shh, don’t tell the Danes that rom-coms are dead.) On the plus side, Nissen is a good singer and a charismatic performer, so she has a decent shot at getting Denmark’s groove back. But this is not our cup of schmaltz.
What fresh hell is this?
“My Friend” kicks off with Jacques Houdek reading a quote from Einstein, because if you’re gonna quote, quote from the best. Where do people get this stuff, off of t-shirts? Enjoy that quote, by the way, because it is the most coherent part of the song.
“My Friend” very quickly descends into madness because as far as we can tell this is a duet sung by one guy. English lyrics in a generic pop voice alternate with Italian lyrics in an operatic tenor voice. Is Jacques in a sing-off with an anonymous Italian tenor or is he the only singer? Is the tenor his friend? Is Jacques having a conversation with his evil Italian tenor alter ego, like Smeagol and Gollum? Is his friend his precious? Is he trying to convince Frodo that he is his friend, not poor Samwise? Is Frodo played by that guy from Il Volo with the glasses? You know the one. Are they going Mt. Doom together to cast this song into the fiery chasm from whence it came? Is Jacques going to bite off the Il Volo guy’s finger during the staging? Because that would certainly be something we haven’t seen at Eurovision before. Unless Nana Mouskouri did it.
Six people wrote this song. Six!
May 11 cannot come soon enough.
Hovig is representing Cyprus at Eurovision with the song “Gravity.”
Hovig is an Armenian-Cypriot singer who first came into the public eye in 2009 when he appeared on the Greek version of The X Factor. He participated in the 2010 and 2015 Cyprus national finals before becoming his country’s internal pick this year. “Gravity” was written by Thomas G:Son, because every Eurovision must have at least one G:Son entry.
Judging from his past live performances, Hovig is a solid if not dynamic vocalist, but he has enough swagger and charisma to garner attention. Fortunately for him, G:Son has provided him a song that can put that swagger on display. “Gravity” is commercial and familiar, but is enhanced by some interesting production choices, like that buzzing synth, which gives it some life.
We like the song, but we hope it will be further lifted by the staging. The official video seems to be hinting at where Cyprus will take “Gravity” in Kyiv. If they follow through, it’ll be a good time. Here’s hoping.
Nathan Trent will represent Austria at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with “Running On Air.”
Trent is a 24-year-old pop singer from Innsbruck, Austria, so we’re already inclined to like him. He was on the shortlist of this year’s the German national final, but was disqualified when he became Austria’s internal selection. He co-wrote “Running On Air” with Austrian producer and songwriter Bernhard Penzias.
It’s always hard to judge a Eurovision contestant based on a music video instead of a live performance. All we can tell really is that despite being from Innsbruck, he sucks at mountaineering.
We like the song. It’s upbeat, pleasant, and fun in a Maroon 5 kind of way. But we need more information. Judging from his bio, Trent is very early in his music career. He was willing to jump into Unser Song while also negotiating to represent Austria, so he certainly seems to think he’s ready. But we have no idea if anything has prepared him for this. Many a young artist before has crumbled under the intensity and the chaos of Eurovision. Let’s hope that he can keep it together in Kyiv this May.