That time of year has come again. The time for me to start regenerating my tired playlists with the inevitable barrage of songs from the Eurovision national selections.
The next country to determine who they will be throwing head-first onto the main stage in Kiev (or Kyiv if you prefer) will be the United Kingdom! Tomorrow we will see 6 hopeful acts belting out their chosen tunes in hopes of impressing UK audiences enough to get them to vote for them. Here, I will review each of the acts and see what I make of them. I should probably note that if you are a fan of The X-Factor UK then you will probably recognise some, if not all, of the entries.
Disclaimer: I am a true Eurovision cynic, although I will try to remain as neutral as possible. The views contained within are mine and mine alone. We all have different musical tastes so I can only give you my opinion!
So let’s kick off with the review…
#1 Olivia Garcia – Freedom Hearts
It’s a simple ballad from the young Olivia, but with such a simple tune there is never really anything dramatic enough on display to capture my attention, or played long enough to draw me in. There isn’t anything special about the song but it’s not a bad entry overall. I do think that having seen Olivia perform before that more could have been done regarding her vocal range – she has shown that she has far more potential than this song implies. The problem is that the song just isn’t memorable. It reminds me a lot of last year’s Serbian entry by Sanja Vučič – Goodbye (Shelter) in the sense that it blended into the background and served as a toilet break for a lot of the people in the audience.
#2 Danyl Johnson – Light Up The World
Danyl enters another simple ballad, and it’s reasonably well performed. It follows a formulaic pattern that a lot of the weaker Eurovision entries seem to have gone for in the past. I did feel that the lyrics are almost dumbed-down, with a lot of generic rhyming couplets – light/bright/tonight – that would give Madonna’s Holiday a run for its money. The song, unlike any of Madonna’s efforts, lacks any sort of hook and the whole song seems to disappear without leaving a mark. At least Olivia had a change of pace following the second verse, yet all Danyl manages to do is slip in a few drum rolls towards the end and then it’s all over. I was expecting a little bit more than what I was given.
#3 Lucie Jones – Never Give Up On You
The bookies favourite song seems to start very softly, with the backing track stripped back allowing it to become all about the vocals. In this case Lucie’s vocals are relatively strong and she can certainly belt out a good tune. I did find that a lot of the lyrics are sung in the same pitch and tone, and for half of the song it sounds like she is shouting rather than singing. I am sure that there is supposed to be some kind of emotional meaning behind it all, but the lyrics follow the same patterns as Danyl’s – it relies on simple rhymes and nothing particularly special is produced as a result. I think if Lucie can hold the notes during the live performance, and maybe do something beautiful on the stage it will stand a good chance of receiving votes.
#4 Salena Mastroianni – I Don’t Wanna Fight
The song jumps straight into a “love each other” message, which is the theme for the whole song. It has to be the most up-beat of all the UK hopeful entries, and flows quite nicely with an almost tropical beat and a slap of a marimba drum. The lyrics, however, are quite poorly written and in parts don’t make much sense. I can’t comment too much about that as these are things that much of Eastern Europe tends to be guilty of. That being said, the chorus offers the sort of repetition and catchy beat that tends to stick in your mind and the simplicity of the song makes it easy to sing along after only hearing it once. I really enjoyed this song as it was a breath of fresh air that stood out from the ballads.
#5 Holly Brewer – I Wish I Loved You More
This ballad has a bit more substance than the others in the UK line-up. It sounds like a bit more time was spent writing the lyrics than the other entries, but possibly at the cost of finding a singer with the strongest vocals. It does feel like “just another ballad” with an attractive girl singing along to it, and I think that without any dramatic staging it would get lost in the sea of ballads we’re likely to see entered from other competing nations. I think Holly has a lot more to work with when it comes to a balanced performer. I did think that this song sounds like something you potentially find slowly crawling up the UK music charts, but then stalls before it hits the top 20!
#6 Nate Simpson – What Are We Made Of
It’s the final entry, and yes it’s another ballad. I’m not entirely sure what Nate is singing about, or perhaps I’m not looking deeply into the lyrics. It’s certainly catchy enough and I like that I am drawn in right from the beginning. The problem I have with ballads is that they usually start off slow and gradually build up, so unless there is some powerful belting-to-the-beat I often lose interest. Luckily there is plenty of Mariah Carey-esque ad-lib warbling towards the end to keep everyone happy and it rounds off a perfectly acceptable tune. I did enjoy this song and found it preferable to Danyl’s entry on pretty much every level.
That’s it. All 6 songs reviewed!
I have to admit, the Peace Peace Love Love song from Petra and Måns at Eurovision 2016 does have a lot to answer for. It seems the anti-hate message is being pushed quite hard by the UK finalists and it shows in the songs choices and lyrics. These sorts of songs usually fall somewhere in the middle of the Eurovision league tables, but I always feel that the rest of Europe manages to pull of a “love each other” vibe more genuinely than the UK.
I can comfortably tell you that my favourite by far is Salena Mastroianni. It’s the most Eurovision-y, and something tells me that because I like it the most it will come slap bang at the bottom of the public vote! I think Salena has entered a catchy pop tune, which I could easily find myself dancing to if it came on in a club and I’ll probably start singing along. To me, that’s what I look for in a Eurovison song. It never needs to be the best singer or the best lyrics, it has to be the song you remember for all the right reasons and enjoy hearing it when it’s played! It certainly wouldn’t win, and I doubt it would make its way onto the coveted left hand side of the leader board. Salena isn’t quite up there with Bucks Fizz or Katrina, but I would firmly disagree with anyone that tells me it would join the ranks of the dreaded hall of shame. Members include Jemini, Andy Abraham, and Josh Dubovie, all of whom failed to set the leader board on fire and ended up burning into ashes at the very bottom.
My thoughts for tomorrow are that either Lucie or Danyl will win the UK public vote. They are certainly the most well-known of all the acts, which always stands someone in good stead when it comes to a televised performance. The UK doesn’t always make the best decisions when it comes to a public vote, and the blurred lines of this being a song contest and popularity contest may cloud the voters’ judgement. Few of the acts have any experience of performing to such a large audience and there is always the possibility that this will cause nerves to spoil the performance. I guess we will have to see how everyone performs live on the night…and whether or not the right act gets voted through. We, as a nation, should at least show our support to act the public chooses to represent us!