[This is a live blog – hit ‘refresh’ in your browser at the end of each song throughout the evening and the most recent one will appear at the top. As in 2013, each song will be scored as we hear it. Geeky musicological commentary will be added wherever possible. As always I’m going to try to pick a winner.]
So, here are my predictions. I am typing this at 22:04 on the night (before voting begins), and will, as in previous years, leave my (inevitably wrong!) top 3 here for posterity, and afterwards will post the actual winners below these. If you’re reading this you can stop hitting refresh now. I got two of the top 3 right in 2012 and all my top 3 were in the top 5 last year, and got the winners right for both years. I’d like to see the UK do well of course but I can’t honestly say we’ve got the best song. For me, it’s between The Bearded Austrian Lady, Swedish Apple-Z Chordsmiths and The Dutch Cowboys, although the Danes’ Bieberisms are in with a chance too. I’m going to play safe and put the Swedes at the top. But #3 could be Austria or Denmark. What to do…? I’m going with Austria – the 007/beard combo swings it.
- Sweden – Undo
- The Netherlands – Calm After The Storm
- Austria – Rise Like a Phoenix
I got the top 3 spot on for the first time! Admittedly mine were in a different order. The actual order was this:
- Austria – Rise Like a Phoenix
- The Netherlands – Calm After The Storm
- Sweden – Undo
26: United Kingdom – Children of the Universe (Molly)
The loop is ii IV | I V | in F# major and the title hook is very well used here. The fact that the melody is constantly descending in each chorus phrase means that, for me, it seems to keep running out of energy at the end of each line, and the singer then needs to belt out the high C# to lift it again. But this is better than many a UK effort and I’m pleased that we’re writing better material this year. Although if it wins I imagine the Swedes will be miffed (Molly wrote it with Anders Hansson).
25: San Marino – Maybe (Forse) (Valentina Monetta)
OK, just to save you the bother, it’s here. This is a 1970s-style mid-tempo love song a la Barbra Streisand etc. The title is well-placed in the flow of the melody but for the most part this is unremarkable. The talky outro over the instrumental chorus melody worked well back in the day (ABBA, Elvis etc) but I think it’s too much of a cliché here. There are some really good harmonic minor chord changes here, and very few chordal clichés (and no loops). But I agree with Graham –we won’t be hearing much more of this.
24: The Netherlands – Calm After The Storm (The Common Linnets)
Mid-tempo country (around 112BPM) with a classic 1950s chord loop | Ab | Ab | Fm | Fm | Db | Db | Ab | Ab |. Sounds like one of Roy Orbison’s sweeter tunes. The presentation is in the vein of the Civil Wars but a fair bit more easy listening (you can’t take too many risks if you’re presenting Country at Eurovision). Lovely to listen to. There are thousands of songs like this in Country (and presumably in Nashville), but the sincere performance and excellent vocal harmonies could push this into the top 3, possibly even to the top. My guess so far is number 2 to Sweden’s 1.
23: Denmark – Cliché Love Song (Basim)
I think Justin has been around long enough for us to give him a genre – and an adjective. This is ‘Bieberesque’ – and it’s really good. Nice boys, singing nice things about love, with lots of musical clichés taken deliberately (and respectfully) from many Songs That Sound Like This One. Four-chord loops are the least of the clichés on display here. It even has ‘shooby-doos’. Like drinking a litre of Sunny Delight while encased in a pink plastic padded cell. I liked it.
22: Malta – Coming Home (Firelight)
A more competent group of Mumford and songs impersonators than the Swiss team. There’s some old-fashioned song craft evident here – it could have been written at any time in the last 40 years, and only the (necessary) pre-chorus reveals its pop context. The middle 8 sounds like it’s from an 80s power ballad and its angular chords sound rather confusing against the simpler I-IV-V harmony of the chorus. But singing the big vowels ‘I’m coming home’ in the chorus is clearly fun for the band and the audience. The ‘I’m….’ long melisma is a little bland but with a titular hook this well-loved it’s hard to go wrong. Should do well.
21: Hungary – Running (András Kállay-Saunders)
Harmonic minor loop of | Bbm Gb | Ebm F | throughout, which sounds fine on the verse (and the last plinky piano chorus) but the double-time drum ‘n’ bass arrangement of the main chorus seems to belong to a different song. This is a very traditional/unadventurous song, deep down, and dropping the wrong drum loop over this vocal doesn’t make it sound as contemporary as some Hungarians would like. Memorable chorus title hook (very often repeated) might keep it in the middle of the voting though.
20: Switzerland – Hunter Of Stars (Sebalter)
Just dressing like the Mumfords and whistling while owning a banjo does not a folk song make. Too many words, horrible artificial-sounding banjo quavers, and rushed vocal scansion with too many consonants. The singer does his best to get his mouth around these tricky syllables, but you can sense his relief when he gets the chance to mime the fiddle solo. Pentatonic melody, but too rapid and fiddly to stick with the audience. Lukewarm reception from the crowd, too.
19: Spain – Dancing in the rain (Ruth Lorenzo)
With a title like this (and four chords, naturally) the melody of the hook writes itself, and this chorus sings really well. It’s a well put together power ballad, and doesn’t really put a foot wrong IMO in its songwriting, arrangement or performance (apart from the annoying tendency of some singers including this one to abandon the melody rather too early to get to the improvs). I think this is just a little too formulaic though. SOME musical risks are desirable, even at Eurovision…
18: Finland – Something Better (Softengine)
Interesting! This is produced like punk, harmonised like the Beatles and sung like Biffy Clyro. A lot of falsetto in the chorus, and the ‘whoaaaa….’ backing vocals work brilliantly, but the chorus should be more memorable – the vocalist is working really hard but it’s not enough to keep it in people’s Eurovision multiple-song-challenged memories. Sounds very British to my ears and there is lots of energy in the performance. I don’t think it will resonate with many Europeans though.
17: Slovenia – Round and round (Tinkara Kovač)
Taking a full 8 bars (of flute) to get us to the vocal. But the wait is worth it – this is a solidly-pitching vocalist, albeit a little session-y. The four chord chorus loop | Cm Ab | Eb Bb | feels a bit forced – like an attempt to make something quite dated sound more contemporary. That descending minor triad that makes up the chorus (and I think some of the verse) is too rhythmically busy to get people singing along. And not just because I don’t speak Slovene. Lower-middle of the voting pack, I reckon.
16: Italy – La Mia Città (Emma)
What’s this? Elastica? Republica? I’m sure that dyad distorted guitar riff is taken from some 90s Britrock track or other. Up-tempo rock (138BPM) never does well at Eurovision, and the club-scene synth pads don’t save it. Shouty vocal and dull melody. Still, it’s good to learn that Britrock has now reached Italy.
15: Russia – Shine (Tolmachevy Sisters)
Big Teutonic chorus with some excellent (female duet) vocals – they start as ABBA-esque unison and then split into thirds beautifully. There’s a strong m7b5 passing chord towards the end of the chorus that lends an ‘I Will Survive’ feeling to the proceedings, balanced well with the ubiquitous 4-chord loops. I liked it a lot, but I am from the 70s. Won’t do as well as I would hope.
14: France – Moustache (TWIN TWIN)
I had hoped to write an intelligent crit of this pointless throwaway nonsense, but I’ve run out of time so I really… must dash.
13: Sweden – Undo (Sanna Nielsen)
Another Evanescence piano intro. But wait – what’s that in the underlying harmony? This sounds like a regular four-chord loop | D#m B | F# C#/F |, and it’s true that every loop in the song starts with the first two of these chords. But the Swedes are such masters of four chord loop pop that they are able to play with our expectations. Verse 2 has a different loop | D#m B | F# A#m | and that A#m chord III is really quirky. I think the chorus chords are as follows (no time to check so message me if you spot errors) – D#m B | F# A#m | D#m B | F# C#m | D#m B | F# G#m | D#m B | F# A#m |. Four chord loops, but, somehow, not. And… there’s the key change. Sounds big doesn’t it, but it’s only a semitone. The rapid dynamic lift disguises the fact that we’re only in E minor (from D# minor). This is a really expertly constructed song. My only reservation is the long melisma over the word ‘Unnnnn…dooo…’ which makes it difficult to sing along to accurately, but the songwriting, arrangement and performance work so well together here that I don’t think this will keep it off the top three. The best one so far by a fair distance, and my current favourite to win.
12: Germany – Is it right (Elaiza)
Twelve songs in, and this is the first oompah-oompah on an accordion. This is an odd combination of folky (accordion oompah and occasional vocal semitones chromatic), pop (4 chord loops), rock (P!nk-styled vocalist) and reggae (the oompah gets a ‘skank’ treatment in the chorus). Verse melody is unremarkable. The chord loops here are really good, through. The verse is | Gm Bb | F D7 | and the chorus is | Gm Eb | Bb F |. Depending on how you count it (half time or not), this could be the slowest song so far (I make it 66BPM). The bridge stays diatonic and holds no harmonic surprises (and 20 secs later I can’t remember the melody) – it’s | Eb F | Dm Eb | Eb F | Dm / Eb F |. Good title hook placement, but is that enough to compensate for its ill-concealed bierkeller origins?
11: Austria – Rise Like a Phoenix (Conchita Wurst)
Bearded lady sings Bond theme. I love the way the drum groove picks up the pace (and simultaneously reduces the earlierdynamic lift) at the start of verse 2. Harmonically this is Bond/John Barry all the way – great key changes, serving the dynamic shape of the form brilliantly. And the performer is really enjoying delivering the vocal – you can sense the confidence s/he has in the material. Best ballad so far. But we’re not half way yet.
10: Greece – Rise Up (Freaky Fortune feat. RiskyKidd)
Military snare intro with Dizzee Rascal rap intro. Certainly not predictable. Apparently this performance includes trampolining. Not wishing to sound too middle aged, but a little more stillness might have helped the pitching. Breathing from the diaphragm, chaps. The tempo is a very contemporary 128BPM and the one-chord (Cm) backing is fine. But the 2-note (C and D) title hook isn’t doing it for me. It is, however, hugely catchy and probably will do well. They’re using the early 90s ‘bouncing ball’ sampler trick (halfing the time over and over) and singing it live. It’ll still be a hit no doubt. You can’t argue with a singalong chorus where the melody is embedded in the pronunciation of the title.
09: Poland – My Słowianie – We Are Slavic (Donatan & Cleo)
Can this title possibly win? What other countries are going to want to sing the words ‘We Are Slavic’? The title-writing fail is compounded by a really really terrible song. Hardly any music content, and the ‘authentic’ handclaps don’t cover up the lack of melodic content (or the barely competent live vocals). The folk dance breakdown doesn’t save it, and the strange 808-kick-drum against handclap/clave backbeat doesn’t mash up folk and contemporary pop particularly well. Not really a song.
08: Montenegro – Moj Svijet (Sergej Ćetković)
Shockingly bland intro, leading into a rather lovely 6/8 verse with flute countermelodies. There’s a REALLY GREAT Mixolydian string riff over the chords of | Bb | Fm |. This leads cleverly into a chorus in F major. Oooh nice – the mixolydian riff is now a whole tone higher, meaning that the audience doesn’t notice the key change (the riff and chorus being in different keys). This song is harmonically much cleverer than its folky vibe suggests and the shape/form is very pleasing. It all feels very natural and classic. Only question is – did that boring intro put people off?
70% (but 45% for the intro)
07: Armenia – Not Alone (Aram MP3)
I’m all for repetition in pop music, but there is more to crafting a chorus that just repeating the title over and over. The singer is working hard, wringing as much emotion out of the titular vowels, but by the dynamic lift he’s reduced to belting out pentatonic vocal licks on towards the top of his range. And for the outro he’s repeating the title quietly. Memorable (due to title repetitions), but not singable. Graham (Norton, UK voice-over presenter) suggests that he might be in the running as a winner. Can’t see them singing this in the town squares of mainland Europe throughout summer 2014.
06: Romania – Miracle (Paula Seling & OVI)
An Ibiza-esque duet. She sounds auto-tuned on the intro (is that allowed?). Oh OK she’s a CGI singer, who dissolves into the real one. Union reps stand down. The four chord loop in the verse is stretched over 8 bars – A | A | C#m | C#m | D | D | A | A |. The pre-chorus is the right length – we get to the chorus-y title at the right time, but after they hit the title line the chorus weirdly meanders in the second half (try singing it back to yourself now you’ve heard it – can you remember the triplet-y ‘all the things you see’. A perilous move, putting a boring bit halfway through a chorus. Good title though and the compressor-pumpy production provides a lot of excitement. Good do well – although I don’t think Eurovision has a long history of loving duets…
05: Norway – Silent Storm (Carl Espen)
A three-chord loop! F#m D | A | x 3 then F#m D | Bm. This is excellent ballading in the verses and the vocalist is really going for it. The tinkly piano is dangerously close to an Evanescence intro though – I was waiting for the drop tuning metal guitars. Good chorus melody but didn’t get big enough quickly enough IMO. Hoping for better (i.e. bigger) ballads this evening.
04: Iceland – No Prejudice (Pollapönk)
The Housemartins meet They Might Be Giants. Hate plectrum strumming technique on electric bass, but it’s kind of necessary for the fun pop punk vibe they want. I like the way ‘we got to get together on this’ scans across the beat. The ‘bobobobobobobo’ is a good laugh. And here’s the Shadows walk… straight into the key change. Some music theory fails here. The verse is D G | Bb A | and the A is used as a pivot chord (with a pivot note of E natural) to find our way from a dominant chord of A into the chorus key of, er, C major. If my old music teacher Irene Charlton is reading this, yes I know how bad it is of them to break these modulation rules – using an A major as a dominant for C major, indeed! Great major pentatonic ‘la la la’ singalong. Ridiculously cheerful and a crowd pleaser. Probably won’t win but will score well I think if the audience isn’t too postmodern.
03: Azerbaijan – Start A Fire (Dilara Kazimova)
Nodding off here TBH. This woman is singing far too many F# notes. Lingering on the fifth note of the home scale (B minor) is safe ground, especially for this very solid alto singer, but can you imagine the milkman whistling this one? Ballads this slow need to soar like effortless eagles over the mountains, not hover a couple of metres off the ground. And now here comes the dynamic lift. Was that it? And now we’re back in the mud. Boring – but everyone usually likes Azerbaijan, so the voters might disagree. Tedious melody though. If you’re reading this on the blog while the next song is playing, can you remember ANY of this song’s tune? Apart from the F#, that is…?
02: Belarus – Cheesecake (Teo)
And now the second loop – a nice minor 6th chord in the second one of the four (C#m F#m6 G#7 C#m). The vocal is a bit ropey which is distracting from the song. This is too mid-tempo (around 96BPM) to be a success at Eurovision. We now have decades of big ballads and high-energy pop as our reference – why are they peddling this middling stuff? The reggae feel is OK but this backing track sounds like a pub covers band. This kind of music is fun to hear at a gig but I don’t think Europe will be singing it. Not sure that this title has been expertly woven into the lyric’s theme. The song was probably doomed from the moment someone in the writing team said “I know… Cheesecake!”.
01: Ukraine – Tick-Tock (Mariya Yaremchuk)
Man in a hamster wheel provides a backdrop for the first of tonight’s (no doubt many) four-chord loops. Like the chic guitar (revived this year thanks to Daft Punk). Here comes the chorus hook. Minor pentatonics all the way. I really like the descending fifth on the title melody, but it starts on the second beat of the bar, reducing its impact a little (although it works with the ‘time passing’ theme of the title). The main loop . | F#m A | D / / C# | is pretty strong and I love the variation they do towards the end of the chorus | F#m A | G#m7b5 C#|. A strong opener and should do well I think.
Made a fun evening even, um, funner Joe. Sorry, I brought the blog average star rating down by accidentally giving it a 3 on my ipad. Bloody touch screens. Only marking I really disagreed with was Hungary’s. Thought that was good. I voted Netherlands though. Bit of bias there. My wife’s dutch. Anyway, Thank You For The Music-al Insights.