So I got a home run for the first time – the top 3 correctly predicted, and in the right order. See you again next year!
OK here are my predictions, which I’m making at 22:21 before the voting opens. The actual results will be posted here after the voting is complete (and I’ll leave my wrong predictions here for the record).
My predictions 2015 [posted at 22:21]
- 1st: Sweden
- 2nd: Russia
- 3rd: Italy
(I think Cyprus and Serbia could do well (charming melody and self-assertive lyric respectively) but will be further down the ranking)
Actual results 2015 [posted at 23:52}
- 1st: Sweden
- 2nd: Russia
- 3rd: Italy
Italy • Grande Amore • Il Volo
Operatic pop whathaveyou, with charming young men in suits giving their all. Changes up the gears really fast, and that big vowel at the end of the title sings beautifully – that three-syllable ‘Amore’ hook is fantastic. Feels like it uses loops but doesn’t. Feels like it ends with a key change but doesn’t. Like all the best Eurovision songs, it is full of sound and music, signifying nothing. Loved it.
Albania • I’m Alive • Elhaida Dani
Seems to be trying every possible chord loop – all over the place. Not coherent at all, although I really like the rolling classical guitar fingerstyle part. There are about five different loops here, some too similar to each other – Am | F | C | C G/B | and Am | Am | F | F | G | G | Em | Em | and Am | F | G | Em | and Dm | Em | Am | G | and Dm | Em | F | G |. They seem to be bolted together in no particular order. Some of the vocal warbles are painfully sharp too. And that 3:3:2 rhythm throughout gets too repetitive.
Russia • A Million Voices • Polina Gagarina
PROPER ANTHEM. Reminds me of John Farnham’s ‘You’re The Voice’ meets Mike & The Mechanics’ The Living Years. Really great chorus, and easy to remember after one listen. Very odd bridge chords (the rest of the song is in G, and the bridge goes Dm | Bb / / G | Am G/B | C D |) but they get nicely out of it into the a capella half-chorus before the ramp up to the end. I suspect the audience will have already fallen in love with the chorus by the time it gets weirded out by that crowbarred key change at the start of the bridge. The last 8 beats did feature a large number of random chord changes for some reason, but by then the battle was won. My other favourite so far (along with Sweden).
Azerbaijan • Hour Of The Wolf • Elnur Huseynov
Another unremarkable Aeolian mid-tempo ballad with a slightly anthemic chorus. Another title fail – why did they call this Hour of The Wolf is the hook is ‘I Won’t Sleep Tonight’. Oooh, the piano player came in 2 beats early for the key change up to Ebm. This is a backing track, I think, so unlikely to be a mistake. Pre-flagging the key change, I guess. Sounds like someone sat on the piano while cueing the drummer.
Georgia • Warrior • Nina Sublatti
Despite Eurovision being a friend to the chord loop, it’s rare that a whole song is the same four-bar chord sequence all the way through. This one is (Fm | Ab/Eb | Db | Bbm |). This all adds to the moody bleakness, and the high tempo (140) perhaps keeps the excitement up, even though it’s not obviously danceable. Scary looking singer, and scary sounding shriek-y chorus melody.
Hungary • Wars For Nothing • Boggie
Nice to hear such a small and delicate song competing with the big stuff. There is no chorus – just a repeating verse, getting bigger and bigger. It’s the same chord sequence throughout (in 12/8 time) D / / G | D | D / / G | D | Bm G | D | Bm A | G |. It sounds lovely, and the guitar part is a wonderfully sensitive accompaniment. I really liked this, but perhaps it’s a bit joyless for the voters…
Spain • Amanecer • Edurne
This is a huge vocal and a big melody, but that backing track of 1000 drummers alternates between too busy and completely silent. This is almost the SFCP again in the chorus, but it saves itself at the last minute by making the fourth chord a minor iii (which is admittedly almost a V chord). Pretty good dynamically, but that chorus is a bit wail-y – can’t see people singing along or dancing.
Romania • De La Capat/ All Over Again • Voltaj
Some interesting things here. I like the 6 bar phrases in the verse. This is a partly major pentatonic chorus, which gives it that soaring quality in the main opening hook. Lovely sliding electric guitar lines – very tasteful. Conjures up suitably timeless mountaintops, and provides just enough rock to stop the melody sounding like a boy band song. Pre-chorus is too long perhaps, but it’s a strong chorus opening which might carry it above the middle rankers. 98 BPM, which is neither nowt nor summat.
Latvia • Love Injected • Aminata
And the award for loudest clave of the competition so far goes to… Latvia! In fact most of the first half of this sounds like a drum machine fault. The snare’s only on beat 4 in the chorus, which is fair enough for a ballad, but in the context of the other rhythmic weirdness sounds like not enough percussion. The ‘ooohh’ singalong bit – it’s always good to have one of these in a Eurovision song, but it needs to be a tune that everyone wants to sing. Shouty without being anthemic.
Poland • In The Name Of Love • Monika Kuszyńska
Well, this is very familiar. Specifically, Arthur’s Theme by Christopher Cross mixed with America by Razorlight. Verse melody ends on a Bbsus4. Chords like that are what cymbal mallets were invented for. So many songs tonight have tempos in the 80s (this one’s 83 BPM). Nice extended ending to chorus 2, building into the repeats. Competent ballad, but can’t win – not enough drama or excitement.
Germany • Black Smoke • Ann Sophie
Strangely genre-less song. Seems in the verses like mid tempo band jamming, but it has a big anthemic pentatonic vocal melody, at least in the chorus. Bland pre-chorus. They missed the key change! All the elements were there for that last chorus – they even stopped for a bar of vocal only, but didn’t go all the way up. Not a bad chorus melody, but I think it’s too mid-tempo to do really well.
Montenegro • Adio • Knez
Is bouzouki a Montenegran thing? Oh, they’ve got the key change in early – change from F#m into G#m in verse 2. This is pastoral Aeolian mode all the way, with just enough musical ethnicity to pass muster. That melody could be Irish, Greek, or any number of countries that like twangy instruments and the Aeolian mode.
Greece • One Last Breath • Maria Elena Kyriakou
Just because a James Bond-style song won last year, it doesn’t mean you can do it twice in a row. She doesn’t even have a beard. But this is very familiar tragedy-ballad fayre, even with a vague harmonic nod to the I Will Survive chord sequence in the chorus (Dm | Gm | C C/Bb | A/C# Dm | Gm | Eb | Asus | A | Dm |). The big dynamic lift was simultaneous with the chord change. I don’t think tempo has accelerated (interestingly, it’s 82BPM compared to 81BPM in Austria’s immediately preceding entry), but there’s certainly an illusion of that from the drum part of busy strings in the last chorus. Big, exciting finish, Middling.
Austria • I Am Yours • The Makemakes
Interesting fact – you can sing Buddy Holly’s ‘Raining In My Heart’ over the verse chords here. This is almost AABA form – title appears at the end of the verses, and a chorus that sounds like a middle 8 (but actually gets in the title in too for good measure).That chorus/bridge/middle 9 is very appealing, but perhaps because it sounds like a mashup of Empire State of Mind and The Scientist. Nice use of the half bar Gb in the sequence (Fm | Ab | Db | Ab | Fm | Ab | Db | Gb Db | Ab | Ab |). I am a dad. So I like dadrock. But this is not a ballad or a dance song, and it’s not enough of an anthem.
Belgium • Rhythm Inside • Loïc Nottet
I really don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype that Belgium is boring, but… C for a bar. D for a bar. A minor for a bar. Out of ideas. A minor for another bar. Repeat. Stop playing chords if it gets too boring and have drums on their own. If that gets boring, start playing the chords again. If the melody gets boring, sing louder.
Australia • Tonight Again • Guy Sebastian
I have no comment about geographical appropriateness. This is really enjoyable, and the vocal is staying in tune nicely considering what a range of pitches and dynamics it has to cover. Mid-tempo mainstream funk with brass riffs – I guess Uptown Funk has paved the way for this tempo (106 BPM here), which would have been unusual in Eurovision a few years ago. Chorus is a bit meh – just some repeated notes and some slightly rambling pentatonic lines. In the top half of the pack, but not a strong enough song melodically or lyrically.
Cyprus • One Thing I Should Have Done • John Karayiannis
Is that an estuary English accent or a Cypriot twang? Or a bit of both? The vocalist has a Noah and the Whale/Ed Sheeran Englishness. Proper old-school songwriting, this. The verse chords are Eb | Cm | Ab | Eb |, and the pre-chorus (Fm | Bb | x2) doesn’t outstay its welcome at only 4 bars. That ‘there for you’ bridge has something of the Manilow about it, with that implied major 9th chord in bar 3. The chorus has a lovely F major, which contrasts beautifully with the Abm later (the sequence is approx. Ab Bb | Eb | Ab Bb | Cm | Ab Abm | Eb F | Fm Abm | Eb |). I like this, but I like lots of chords. Gets my vote, and he’s a very appealing performer. Not top 3, but should do fairly well.
Sweden • Heroes • Måns Zelmerlöw
Could this beeeee (imagine Autotune on that vowel) any more Avicii? The Swedes are just amazing – they almost always come up with something that is polished, singalong, danceable and yet has enough musical interest to avoid sounding formulaic. In this case, those quirks include 5 bar phrases in the verse – the vocal line takes up the full 4 bars, so they leave a whole bar extra gap. The bottleneck licks contrast brilliantly with the 808-style handclaps. At 125 BPM it’s just where lots of contemporary pop is at the moment. I like the extra bar, delaying the final chorus. And that remarkable animation won’t hurt their chances at all. Best one so far. Could win?
Norway • A Monster Like Me • Mørland & Debrah Scarlett
Self-loathing is never a good topic for a Eurovision lyric, but let’s see if the melodrama can carry it. The rise to the major chord at the start of the chorus is a nice natural lift (E | C#m | B | A |), and the A minor at the end of the chorus over the title line is exotic in a Eurovision context. Finally, a dynamic lift! But we’re more than half-way through. Why did they take so long to get to the point? Not melodramatic enough to pull in the ballad fans (plus it’s really slow at 74BPM), and no joy or dancing whatsoever. Disappointed – the Norwegians have been better.
Serbia • Beauty Never Lies • Bojana Stamenov
Classic Eurovision – self-assertion in the lyric, easy to remember melodic fragments in the chorus, Euro-beat up-tempo four-on-the-floor (129 BPM) and the SFCP (Bbm | Gb | Db | Ab), at least for the first half of the chorus. 14-bar chorus – nice! They cut two bars off the end to get into verse 2 more quickly. Slightly sharp vocal, but a very appealing performer and a joyful ’empowerment’ song with just a hint of tragedy in the minor chords. Could do well.
Lithuania • This Time • Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila
So the Mumfords have arrived in Lithuania. Seems to have taken 4 years – they must have been on a boat. Don’t be fooled by those black notes in the chord chart (Eb | Eb | Eb | Eb | Cm | Ab | Eb | Eb ) – it’s in E, as all the best guitar songs are (with the guitar detuned). Ah – ‘One Kiss’ – I guess we Brits would call that a Bucks Fizz monent. The chorus (Cm | Ab | Eb | Eb | x2) is sung with a lot of joy but its music (descending vowels and minor chords) tells a different story. Not a strong enough chorus melody to get the crowds going IMO.
Armenia • Face The Shadow • Genealogy
Some odd things going on here with the chords. Descending D – D/C – G etc, but then up to Gm, descending again to a Dm chord. Here’s the chorus. Why have a song where the chorus repeats the words ‘Don’t Deny’ over and over, and then title it as something else? That’s just asking for trouble from the voters. The drummer’s throwing the beat with some displaced snares in the chorus. Oooooh prog neo-classical section! Ah, gone after 4 bars, then. After some of those interesting changes earlier, the change up to A minor in the final chorus is, er, surprisingly predictable. Not great. That chorus has too few words, sung over too long notes.
United Kingdom • Still In Love With You • Electro Velvet
Here’s the UK with a sort of electro-Charleston. Problem with this song form – it doesn’t have a chorus. So the only hook is the title at the end of each verse. Difficult to sing along to for that reason, but the chords are very appealing – C | F7 | C-A7 | D9-G | C7 | F 7 | C A7 | D G C / |. ‘Everybody dance’ repeated over and over might be protesting too much, although this tempo (118 bpm) might get people moving (even if it feels like 236 at times!). Quirky, and not formula Eurovision by any means. Might do OK (by UK standards).
Estonia • Goodbye To Yesterday • Elina Born & Stig Rästa
Richard Hawley and the Smiths jamming with Belle and Sebastian. Lovely baritone sax and ‘twang’ low guitar lines. The chord loop is 8 bars rather than the usual 4, and this makes the chorus more of an interesting journey. (Gm-Eb-F-Dm-Eb-Cm-D-D). But that chorus is too darn miserable for Eurovision – and not in a melodramatic enough way. I liked it but it won’t excite enough people.
Israel • Golden Boy • Nadav Guedj
A different chord loop here on the intro, but a pleasingly unremarkable one. Ooooh they fooled us! This is an ‘authentic’ dance groove, disguised as a ballad on the way in. Sneaky. G#m-E-C#m-G#m x 2, then into. G#m | G#m | E | D# |. There are some b2 riffs in the pre-chorus, which although common in lots of European folk music, rarely makes it to Eurovision. Lovely unison riffs with the violins, and a really strong chorus melody. Clever 7 and a half bar last chorus gives the illusion of a tempo change. Lots of joy, but might not be bland enough for the voters.
France • N’oubliez Pas • Lisa Angell
True to form (and rightly IMO) the French keep it authentic by singing in their own language. Difficult not to think of Piaf during this melodramatic intro. Blimey, how long is it going to take until we hear a snare drum? Ah, there it is in verse 2. A slow build. Looks like the drummer has fully awoken by chorus 2 – hi-hats too! Translation here – http://wiwibloggs.com/2015/01/26/n-oubliez-pas-lyrics-lisa-angell/74793/.
The verse goes into half bar chord changes, creating much needed pace in a dead slow ballad like this. Chorus is Am-F-C-G (aka the SFCP) then Am-F-C-E7, which at least varies the standard loop a little. One of many ballads tonight, and a bit formulaic, so I doubt it will be near the top.
Slovenia • Here For You • Maraaya
This may not be the best of the songs on show tonight, but it’s certainly one of the fastest at 160 beats per minute. It alos holds the record for the fastest key change, getting up to B minor only a few bars. That fiddle riff has the essential ethnicity, but the descending chorus is too downbeat. I expect this one will be near the middle of the pack.