For this Music Monday, Robyn Gallagher samples the various global tunes on offer in this year’s Eurovision competition.
The Eurovision Song Competition is massive. It’s like a cross between an Olympic Games opening ceremony, the Super Bowl halftime show and an American Idol final – all in aid of determining the best new song Europe has to offer, and bringing people together in peace and harmony. Awww…
It’s the most popular non-sports televised event in the world, and last year’s show attracted an international audience of 195 million. It is joyful and crazy and amazing and tons of fun.
Last year, the fabulous Austrian bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst won the competition, ensuring that the 60th anniversary contest would be held in Vienna. The 2015 competition is nigh, with the first semi-final kicking off early Wednesday morning New Zealand time, leading up to the grand final on Sunday morning. Yeah, it’s early – but what else were you going to do on Sunday morning? Watch Praise Be?
Here are 10 of the 40 songs competing in this year’s competition, a sampler of the variety of talent on offer.
Australia – Guy Sebastian ‘Tonight Again’
Wait, what? It is the weirdest thing to be kicking off a list about Eurovision with Australia and Guy Sebastian, but stranger things have happened. It turns out that Australia is nuts for Eurovision. Public broadcaster SBS has been screening it for 30 years, and a bit of friendly pestering saw Australia invited as a special guest competitor for the 40th anniversary. Guy Sebastian (Guy Sebastian!!!!) wrote ‘Tonight Again’ in three days, ending up with something like a down under ‘Uptown Funk’. The boy can sing and he will give them Europeans a run for their money.
Belgium – Loïc Nottet ‘Rhythm Inside’
There’s no denying: the first 10 seconds of this song sounds almost exactly like the intro to ‘Royals’, in a ‘what the hell were you thinking?!’ way. But if you ignore that, the rest of the song is fab. It has its own kind of minimalist beauty, uneasy rhythms are paired with Loïc Nottet’s beguiling boy-Sia voice. Last year Belgium flopped with a man in a suit singing an operatic ode to his mother. This year things are looking much more positive.
Estonia – Elina Born & Stig Rästa ‘Goodbye to Yesterday’
This is one of the favourites, a retro-themed Lee and Nancy kind of duet. It’s the type of song that would have been in a hip road trip film from the ’90s, an anti-love-theme of tense times between troubled lovers. But the big question is – how will it look and sound live? Estonia’s reputation for staging is on par with The X Factor NZ, but at least our troubled lovers won’t be singing in a forest of spray-painted twigs.
Finland – Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät ‘Aina mun pitää’
Four middle-aged men with learning disabilities singing a 90-second punk song about all the crap in their lives. It says something about Eurovision that it’s not the band members being disabled that’s causing a fuss amongst Eurovision fans – it’s that ‘Aina mun pitää’ is a short, abrasive punk song. Punk is an uneasy fit in the shiny world of Eurovision, but if PKN make it to the grand final, it will be one of the most bad-ass punk moments ever.
Georgia – Nina Sublatti ‘Warrior’
People often mock the English-as-a-second-language lyrics that some countries offer up, but those haters have not met Nina Sublatti. The gothic Georgian diva wrote the lyrics to ‘Warrior‘ herself and, on paper, there are a lot of phrases that don’t seem to make much sense (“Not a shabby/Or a money maker”). But Nina sings with such attitude and energy that it really doesn’t matter what the lyrics are. Though, if you can explain what “oximated” means, please leave a comment below.
Israel – Nadav Guedj ‘Golden Boy’
It’s hard being Israel in Eurovision. They have no geographical or cultural neighbours to rely on for points and then there are all those political issues which shouldn’t count (Eurovision is staunchly apolitical) but somehow they still do. This year Israel has gone for an all-English-language entry and with the talented 16-year-old vocalist Nadav Guedj celebrating Tel Aviv’s thriving (and very gay-friendly) nightlife. The song is a mad mix of an R&B ballad, early ’00s pop and Middle Eastern beats, and somehow it all works.
Italy – Il Volo ‘Grande amore’
Il Volo are a popera trio whose 2011 debut album charted at No. 2 in New Zealand. (YouTube is full of super cringe clips from their promo visit here.) You know the type – nice young men in suits with boring, granny-pleasing songs. ‘Grande amore’ is the trio getting a bit more grown-up with a very insistent and dramatic love song. The best thing to do is just forget it’s popera and totally surrender yourself to its passion and urgency. There you go.
Moldova – Eduard Romanyuta ‘I Want Your Love’
Ukraine isn’t competing in the competition this year (they have other more pressing concerns right now), but they will be represented in the form of Ukrainian pop star Eduard Romanyuta who is singing for neighbouring Moldova. ‘I Want Your Love’ has a very dated early 2000s sound, but that’s not important. What is important is that in Vienna he is performing the song with dancers dressed as leather-clad sexy police, who’ll be gyrating their way all over the stage. In a year with too many earnest ballads, hot cops are a very welcome relief.
Sweden – Måns Zelmerlöw ‘Heroes’
Sweden is to Eurovision what New Zealand is to rugby, so in a way it’s not surprising that Sweden has entered yet another rather good song. ‘Heroes’ is an anthemic floor-filler, and Måns Zelmerlöw is a confident and charismatic performer. And, ok, he looks good in leather trousers. Just to add to the fun, the performance comes with projection-mapped animation, synced with Måns’ precision movements. But is it all too good, too self-assured? Is it more fun to back the underdog? We’ll soon find out.
United Kingdom – Electro Velvet ‘Still in Love with You’
The UK has an awkward relationship with Eurovision. Things were going really well until they scored the dreaded nil points in 2003 and they seem to have generally lost their mojo for picking winners. ‘Still in Love With You’ is the BBC going for broke, entering a crazy electro-swing song. I think they are hoping that viewers will be too mesmerised by its oddness to realise exactly what is going on and will somehow feel compelled to vote. Will it work? Well, apparently it’s already popular in Belarus.
How to watch the Eurovision Song Competition
Sky channel BBC UKTV will be broadcasting the two semi-finals and the grand final live. The semi-finals will screen at 7.00am on Wednesday 20th and Friday 22nd May, with an evening encore at 8:30pm the same day. The grand final will screen at 7.00am on Sunday 24th May, with an evening encore at 6:30pm.
If you don’t have Sky, you can watch online at Eurovision.tv. And, like any event television, it’s worth checking out the action on Twitter. #eurovision is where the party’s at.
Subscribe to The Bulletin to get all the day’s key news stories in five minutes – delivered every weekday at 7.30am.