Eurovision 2019 – live musical analysis


[update – the day after]

I correctly predicted the winner (Netherlands), but my second and third place predictions (Sweden and Australia) were a little further down the list: Sweden was 6th, Australia 9th. Not bad.

Here’s an interactive infographic of the final scoreboard. The final top 9 were as follows (last column shows my prediction):

#CountrySong/artistScoreJB #
1NetherlandsArcade 
Duncan Laurence
492 1
2ItalySoldi 
Mahmood
465 
3RussiaScream 
Sergey Lazarev
369 
4SwitzerlandShe Got Me 
Luca Hänni
360 
5NorwaySpirit in the Sky 
KEiiNO
338 
6SwedenToo Late for Love 
John Lundvik
332 2
7AzerbaijanTruth 
Chingiz
297 
8North MacedoniaProud 
Tamara Todevska
295 
9AustraliaZero Gravity 
Kate Miller-Heidke
285 3

[Original music analysis below]

Welcome to the 2019 Eurovision live musicology blog, now in its ninth year. This site has provided live (or pre-live) music analysis of the ESC final every year since 2011, previously during the UK live broadcast. Since 2016, the text has been written from Boston USA, 5 hours behind UK time and, this year, 7 hours behind Tel Aviv, where the show takes place.

The Contest can be watched on YouTube, and across many European and US networks and time zones. Parts of the blog post are typed as-live, but I’ve uploaded everything in advance so you can follow along with the show. For any non-Europeans who are unfamiliar with Eurovision, the Wikipedia page gives a great overview.

As before, I have posted predictions of the winners before the voting begins. 2015 is the only year so far that all three were correct, and in the correct order, but I’ve gotten close with the top few most of the time.

This year I’m including more of the chord loops, so that keyboard/guitar people can play along. These chords are transcribed at speed, and are sometimes slightly simplified for text purposes (e.g. there aren’t always 2nd/3rd time bars etc).

And, as always, I recommend music creative types (particularly songwriters and producers) read Milton Mermikides’ excellent Deux Points’ article, which gives top tips on how to write those fair-to-middling low-scoring ‘Euro-formula’ songs. As you listen to tonight’s show, look out to references to the Aeolian mode aka natural minor scale (in music generally, the least exotic of all the minor scales; in Eurovision terms, an essential signifier of cultural and emotional authenticity).

My predictions – (added before voting begins)

  • Winner: Netherlands
  • 2nd place: Sweden
  • 3rd place: Australia

1 Malta: Michela: Chameleon

  • BPM:   98        Key:     Bbm
  • Verse: | F | Bbm / / (Gb) | F | Gb |
  • Pre: | Gb Bbm | Db Ab | Gbmaj7 Db | Ab | x2
  • Chorus:            F | Bbm | F | Gb | x 2

The intro fools us, because the harmony doesn’t resolve to the home chord until bar 2, which is why the melody sounds weirder than it is until verse 2, when the pre-chorus has telegraphed the key centre more clearly. The best thing about this song, for me, is the bonkers ‘boing’ sample after the word ‘chameleon’ in the post-chorus drop section.  Verse 2’s electric guitar choppy rhythm starts to hint at reggaeton/trop-pop, and the snare confirms your suspicions in the second half of this section. I suspect we’re going to hear a lot of this beat tonight – it’s been steadily travelling east since the summer of Despacito – and if it’s reached Malta, it’s probably infected the mainland by now. The chorus “When life brings me trouble, this I know” is more anthemic (and maybe less interesting) than the ‘chameleon’ drop section, but it probably has enough na-na-nas to get the Med singing along. Good opener for the show.

60%

2          Albania : Jonida Maliqi : Ktheju tokës

  • BPM:   118      Key:     Ebm
  • Verse:  Ebm    
  • Pre:      Ebm | Ebm | Db | Db | Cb | Cb | Ebm | Ebm |      
  • Chorus: Cb | Db | Ebm | Ebm | Cb | Db | Ebm | Ebm | (then play half pre-chorus)

Starts out scary, with some promisingly interesting stick-drums and great vocal melismas in the verse, over a one-chord drone-like backing. After an extraordinarily long time, we get to the chorus, which begins with big vowels “Ktheju tokës tende / O njeri që zemrën lë peng” and gets more rhythmically more interesting in the (Albanian scat?) post-chorus section. It’s powerful and ‘serious’, with big-picture patriotic homecoming lyrics that translate as “Return to your Land / Oh man that held hostage the heart / You know there is a heart waiting for you”. Not happy enough to be fun, and not melancholy enough to be tragic. Can’t see it doing well.

45%

3          Czech Republic            Lake Malawi   Friend of a Friend

  • BPM:   106      Key:     Am     
  • Verse:  Dm | Dm G | Am | Am | (x2) | Dm | Dm | Em | Em |    
  • Pre:      Fmaj7 | Bb7 | Am7 | D9 | Dm7b5/Ab | % |           
  • Chorus:            Dm | Fmaj9 | Am | G / G/A A | Dm | Fmaj9 | C | G / G/A A |    

Best chords of the show so far (some chords above slightly simplified). No loops, lots of dynamics. There’s a great chorused 80s synth bass throughout that (along with the interesting chords) gives me a feeling of pop-era George Benson. The falsetto vocal sounds great in the video (will he manage to stay in tune on the day?). Not sure why he slips into a chimney sweep accent in the pre-chorus. The ‘friend of a friend’ lyric idea is a lovely theme for an innocent pop love song, and he interprets it with a real sense of joy. I loved it, but far too many chords to win the day, I fear.      

56%

4          Germany : S!sters : Sister

  • BPM:   71        Key:     C         
  • Verse:  C | Am | Em | F | x2
  • Pre:      Am Em | F | Am Em | F |    
  • Chorus:            C | Am | Em | F | x2 (first chorus)  
  • Bridge: Am | C | Dm | Em | (dark version of chorus)

One of these sisters is “tired of competing” and the other is “tired of always losing” [really, there’s almost no point in entering if that’s the attitude]. There’s a cool soft-pedal piano accompaniment in the verse, and some nice moments of two part (will they be in tune on the night, though?), but this is short on singalongability, and has only one decent hook – the single-word title ‘Sisters’. Anthem-lite – solid, but not Germany’s finest work.

46%

5          Russia: Sergey Lazarev: Scream

  • BPM:   62 (12/8)         Key:     Gm     
  • Verse:  Cm | Eb | Bb | F |    
  • Pre:      Cm | Eb | Bb | D |    
  • Chorus:            Gm Eb | Gm Eb | F Bb/D | Eb Cm | x2        
  • Bridge: Gm Eb | Gm Eb | F Bb/D | Eb Cm |

My metronome fell asleep checking this one, but after it slumbered at 62BPM, this song started to reveal some gems. I love the timeless/ancient Aeolian strings riff that plays under the long “screeeeeammmm” in each chorus. Combined with time signature and the promo video’s images of horses, damsels, wolves, forests, ships, armour and swords, it’s hard not to conjure Game of Thrones. In the outro this same riff appears with the harmonised line: “Not so silent and innocent / Acid rain from your fingerprints” and this jagged vocal sits beautifully under the angsty scream of the lead. Theatrical, evocative and apocalyptic.

70%

6          Denmark : Leonora : Love is Forever

  • BPM:   136      Key:     Db       
  • Verse:  Db | Db | F7 | F7 | (x2)            
  • Pre:      Bbm | Bbm / / (Ab/C) | Db | Db | Gb | Gb | Ab | Ab | (Db – extra tacet bar 1st/3rd time)
  • Chorus:            Db | Db | F | F | (x2) | Bbm | Bbm | Db | Db | Gb | Gb | Ab | Ab |

The melody and harmony have different forms, which is unusual, and not apparent because the melody is so different between sections. Here, the verse rocks between chords of Db and F, and the pre-chorus plays the longer sequence of Bbm-Db-Gb-Ab. Then the chorus “Love is Forever” adds the verse chords and pre-chorus chords together to make the whole chord sequence for the chorus. So if you play the following sequence you can use it for the verse-prechorus, then again for the whole chorus. Db | Db | F | F | (x2) | Bbm | Bbm / / (Ab) | Db | Db | Gb | Gb | Ab | Ab |. Harmony geekery aside, I really liked this one – sort of pastoral breezy Kinks/McFly with easy listening production. Timeless sentiment, joyful melody. And verse 2 sung in French and German. Unite Europe in song!

64%

7          San Marino : Serhat : Say Na Na Na

  • BPM:   118      Key:     C#m
  • Verse:  C#m | C#m | A | A | F#m | F#m | A | G# | x2 (extra G# 2nd time)         
  • Chorus:            C#m | C#m | B | B | A | G# | C#m | C#m | B | B | C#m B A / | G# | G# |
  • Breakdown: same as verse

Stock, Aitken and Waterman style drum fill intro – are we to be Rick-rolled? Actually, I’m really enjoying this. Serhat’s creepy-uncle raspy-baritone delivery is technically limited but playful, and his disinclination to hit the high notes is compensated for by the octave doubled women vocals in the chorus. The chorus chords use variations on the timeless ‘Andalusian cadence’ (e.g. Am-G-F-E, or in this key F#m-E-D-C#) – the full 14 bars are C#m | C#m | B | B | A | G# | C#m | C#m | B | B | C#m B A / | G# | G# |, and note the shorter first phrase that gets us to the next hook 2 bars early. Listen out also for the “I Will Survive” melody allusion at the end of each verse. The breakdown is structurally a lift from the second half of the verse, including its unusual 9th bar. There was a time when songs with this kind of chorus lyric did well in Eurovision. A time of “La, la, la” (Spain, 1968), of “Boom Bang-a-Bang” (UK, 1969), “Ding-a-dong” (Netherlands, 1975), “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” (Israel, 1978), and “Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley” (Sweden, 1985). A simpler time, perhaps. San Marino joined the competition in 2008, and has only made it to the final once before in 2014. ‘Na Na Na’ follows the classic Eurovision songwriting rulebook, and if Europe is ready for a return to its 1970s glory days, this might get enough votes to hit the upper-middle of the voting. Sympathy and nostalgia are powerful emotions.

56%

8          North Macedonia : Tamara Todevska : Proud

  • BPM:   92        Key:     Fm (up to Gm)           
  • Verse:  Fm11 | Fm | Eb6 | Eb6 | Bbm | Bbm/Ab | C (sus4) | C | (key change up to Gm later)
  • Chorus:            Fm(11) | Fm | Eb6 | Eb6 | Bbm | Bbm/Ab | C (sus4) | C |

The verse is underpinned with gently pulsing emotive piano chords, and although the verse melody feels like it’s a bit directionless, things really improve in the chorus, with a soaring melody that works in the quiet instrospective register, and is probably about to work in the loud emoting register (wait…. wait… ah, there it is). Jonida sings this with real passion, and although I don’t think the song is memorable enough to score highly, it’s a deserving finalist. According to Wikipedia “North Macedonia is one of the most unsuccessful countries in the contest”; since they joined in 1998 they’ve been in the final only 8 times, and never made the top 10 – the best ever performance was 12th place in 2006. This probably won’t break any North Macedonian records, but it’s good to see them in the finals.

49%

9          Sweden: John Lundvik : Too Late For Love

  • BPM:   107      Key:     B (up to C#)
  • Verse:  C#m / / E/B | F# | B / / B/D# | E | 
  • Pre:      C#m / / E/B | F# | B / / B/D# | E | x 2
  • Chorus:            E | F# | B | E | (half-length second time)

One thing’s for sure – this is already a European hit, because it’s in rotation on Swedish radio right now. Regular annual readers of this blog will know that I always bet big on the Swedes, and their reputation as a producer of the world’s finest pop is well deserved. There’s fantastic craft evident here; the first chorus is doubled-up with a false/half repeat, pushing us into the next verse 2 bars early; there are expertly placed dynamic drops, ramps and ‘explosions’ throughout, and the chorus has a great hook and a feelgood message of love and redemption, bolstered by lovely gospel choir arranging. Lunvik is a wonderful singer, and seems naturally charismatic. This is definitely my favourite so far, but liking Swedish Eurovision entries is like watching Game Of Thrones – it’s only remarkable if you *don’t* do it.

84%

10        Slovenia : Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl : Sebi

  • BPM:   108      Key:     Gm     
  • Chorus (and everything):        Gm | Gm | F | Eb |

Depressing. I liked the production though. Probably not a commission for the Slovenian tourist board, unless they’re after the melancholy market. The chord loop is boring – and although there’s some cool drum programming (and ‘brrrr’ and ‘zzzzip’ noises) it’s not enough to keep the interest throughout.

49%

11        Cyprus : Tamta : Replay

  • BPM:   103      Key:     Bm
  • Chorus (and throughout):       Bm A | Em D |

Looks like that stowaway reggaeton beat has now made landfall in Cyprus. I like that lyric “My heart beats like an 808” – can’t believe no-one’s used that before. Tamta’s growly vocal fry is grating in the subjective and sonic sense, but only on the verses – and there are some nice vocal slides in the other sections. The drum programming is tight and clean, with some great snare fills between sections.  The post-chorus “re-play / play / play” has a descending brass arpeggio riff that is at least as strong as the hook in the chorus. I’m looking forward to seeing this one performed on stage, because I can’t make head nor tail of the promo video. The vermillion-veiled bride stands at the motorbike track, while someone waves an empty KFC bucket and someone else takes a shower, people drop honey on their arms, welders go to work in bikinis, knives and wine corks are dropped on the floor, while a young man gets out of the shower and pours cranberry juice on his own face. Welders – hydration is important.

58%

12        The Netherlands: Duncan Laurence: Arcade

  • BPM:   72        Key:     Am (C major) 
  • Verse:  (6/4 time) F G Em F / /         
  • Pre:      F G | Am G | F G | Dm |      
  • Chorus:            Am G | C F | Am G | F |

The intro fits really well with the Eurovision video song piano sting to opens all the official videos – it’s in the same key and has a similar piano timbre and tempo. Subliminal conditioning for the voters perhaps? The verses are in 6/4 time, with some rubato on the intro, though the four chords in the verse loop are played to disguise this – it just feels like three chords then an *extra wistful* chord. There’s a nice harmonic touch in the final chorus, ascending from the Dm chord – same melody, different chords from previously. That hook line “loving you is a losing game” rises a 5th with notes of A-E on “lov-ing you” to make a major 7th with the underlying F major – more wistfulness, as he sings that big vowel on ‘you’. This song is the betting odds favourite, and it’s not hard to see why – it has all the Eurovision expectations (big anthemic choruses, dynamic drops and ramps, classic and memorable chorus hook), but also has enough subtlety and poise to cut through accusations of cheese. And at Eurovision, there is always more than enough cheese to go round.

13        Greece: Katerine Duska : Better Love

  • BPM:   88        Key:     Eb       
  • Verse:  same   Pre:      same  
  • Chorus:            Eb | Cm | Eb | Ab |  
  • Bridge: Cm | Ab | Cm | Ab | Cm | Ab | Fm | Ab | 

A languid 88 BPM drives this big ballad, which starts with some subtle sound designed synthy sounds. Katerine’s vocal is more soulful than the usual power-diva performance you’d expect in a song like this, though she has plenty of power in the soprano range too – see the “whooo-ooo-oooo-oo” at the end of each chorus. The loop is Eb | Cm | Eb | Ab | throughout the verses and choruses, which is a pattern we don’t hear often, and it works well here. There’s an extra bar at the end of chorus 1 to give space to reset for verse 2. A variation on the classic ‘flats in Dagenham’ tomtom fill leads into 8-bar bridge on chords of Cm | Ab | Cm | Ab | Cm | Ab | Fm | Ab |. Solid and competent – not good enough to make the top five though.

56%

14        Israel : Kobi Marimi : Home

  • BPM:   110      Key:     Bb (up to Db) 
  • Verse:  Gm | Eb | Bb | Bb | 
  • Pre:      Eb | F | Bb | Gm |
  • Chorus:            Eb | F | Bb | Bb |     
  • Bridge: Cm | Eb | Bb | Bb | Bbm | Gb | Db | Db | (continue in new key of Db)   

That chorus sounds very familiar – the melody is not far off the same as the Netherlands’ entry. Coincidence?! (yes). There’s more than a touch of musical theatre to the vocal style of the intro, and the inevitable dynamic ramp that starts in the pre-chorus is evocative of the ‘I Want…’ song that appears in Act 1 of every Broadway musical ever. The “I Am Someone/coming home” is a classic mashup of two songwriting lyric tropes – self-assertion and homecoming. Kobi’s vocal has a pleasing soulful throatiness in all parts of his range, and the vibrato speak to the character’s vulnerability and rawness. Personally I’m not a fan of this type of song, although a lot of Europeans are. Guessing at the lower-middle of the scoring.

46%

15 Norway : KEiiNO : Spirit in the Sky

  • BPM:   122      Key:     Dm (Dorian verse)     
  • Verse:  Dm | F G | Dm | F G | Dm | F G | Bb C | Dm |     
  • Pre:      Bb | Bb C | Dm | Dm | Bb | Bb C | Dm | Dm Dm/A | Bb | Dm | F | A | 
  • Chorus:            Dm | Bb | F | C | Dm | Bb | F | Am | Dm | Bb | F | Am |

No, not Norman Greenbaum. Or Doctor and the Medics. He opens with “can’t you stay, stay with me into the night”, which sings beautifully, but its Dorian mode triplets makes the lyric invitation perhaps more menacing than you’d really want on a first date. To be fair, it’s only a temporary kidnapping – he promises “you can go back when the sun rise again”. There’s a VERY long pre-chorus, sung by Alexandra Rotan, and it works really well, building tension for the chorus.  The first chorus has two dynamic parts – it starts with a quiet version of the 4-chord loop (the most-loved-in-the-world iv-IV-I-V) but then the drums crash in on bar 5, with a variation of the same loop ending on the minor V of A. Two choruses for the price of one. The breakdown section is sung by Fred Buljo as ‘joik’, which is a traditional type of song from the Sámi (Laplander) people (last used in Eurovision in Norway’s 1980 entry Samiid Aednan). It’s all really enjoyable – electro-pop meets traditional Scandinavian music. Authentic, poppy, hooky and danceable. Nothing to hate here (whatever the Icelanders might say).

60%

16        United Kingdom : Michael Rice : Bigger Than Us

  • BPM:   82        Key:     C (up to C# for last chorus)    
  • Verse:  F C | Am G | (throughout)

A past teaching colleague – the estimable Davey Ray Moor – once described songs like this as ‘windy’. In the sense of ‘wind in your hair’ production, and also in the sense of ‘lyrics so abstract and big-picture that they blow away’. The production says altitude (and wind); the chords say predictable, with no variation throughout except for a (kind of nice) ascending 2 bar section before the final chorus. But otherwise, this is painting by numbers mid-tempo anthem. Didn’t do it for me subjectively, partly because the vocal performance wasn’t as good as some of the others. The songwriting is competent throughout, with dynamics in the expected/needed places, and even a nod to 70s Eurovision with the semitone-up key change, but I fear it’s not interesting enough to rise out of the pack in the voting. Plus, you know, Brexit.

54%

17        Iceland : Hatari : Hatrið mun sigra     

  • BPM:   110      Key:     Em      
  • Verse:  Em (riff)         
  • Chorus:            Em C | Am | G | D/F# D |    

It means “Hate Will Prevail”. Although, happily, the first line translates as “The revelry was unrestrained”. So it’s not all bad news, although it’s fair to say that pan-European hatred of this song is probably quite likely. I like a bit of growly falsetto political camp synth-metal as much as the next person, but it’s not an easy listen. The one-chord verse doesn’t go anywhere, and the lyrics are bleakly nihilistic throughout (sample “Gleðin tekur enda/Enda er hún blekking” – “Happiness comes to an end / For it is an illusion”). I do like the sequencer style bass riff in the verses, and the chorus provides an almost-pop (and quite original) chord loop of | Em C | Am | G | D/F# D |. But then, the key change, oh, the humanity. Eurovision semitone-up key changes are supposed to enhance the *cheerfulness* in the final chorus, and although this one comes at the right of structural point – even with a bravely-long dynamic drop – what is this supposed to make us feel? Slightly less hatred? From enraged to quite annoyed? It’s possible that this whole song is an ironically-deliberate attempt to subvert the Eurovision aesthetic by entering a track that can’t possibly win, and using a Eurovision key-change trope as satire (in which case, er, cool!). If Iceland wants to make a political protest against the host country, this crowd-displeaser is probably an effective way of doing it.

42% (music) or 74% (satire)

18        Estonia : Victor Crone : Storm           

  • BPM:   128      Key:     D         
  • Verse:  D  | G D | Bm | G D | Bm | G D | Bm | A |
  • Chorus:            Bm A | D | D D/F# | G | G A | Bm | Bm A | D       

Starts as classic acoustic guitar mid-tempo pop, with maybe a bit of “One The Musical”, and builds to anthemic Eurovision goodness. It all feels very… familiar. That three-note ascending “Storm like this” chorus melody is probably putting you in mind of the “I forget” pre-chorus from Mark Ronson’s/Lada Gaga’s/Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” from last year. The form fits expectations for the most part, with a few sneaky tricks that keep the structure in place but add extra stealth choruses – it goes verse, chorus, verse 2, chorus, chorus (octave up), bridge (harmonically a chorus), dynamic drop (really a quiet chorus), syncopated build (chorus chords again), chorus, verse fragment outro. It takes a few interesting risks in a predictable style, but IMO that chorus isn’t strong enough (and is too low-pitched) to get Europe singing along.

59%

19        Belarus : ZENA : Like It          

  • BPM:   105      Key:     Gm     
  • Verse:  Gm Dm | Ebmaj7 Cm | X4    
  • Pre:      Eb F | Gm / / F | Eb F | Gm / / F | Eb F | Gm Eb | Cm | N.C. |   
  • Chorus:            Gm | F | Eb | Cm |   
  • Bridge: Cm | Cm | Eb | Eb | Bb | Bb | F | F |         

I love that chopped up acoustic guitar sample idea, although it’s been around a while (remember Madonna’s ‘Don’t Tell Me’?). Just an echo of reggaeton in the snare part here, with enough syncopation to make the 105 BPM feel danceable. The bridge is a bit muddy, although there’s an unusual lift to the Bb (relative major) chord halfway through this section that adds interest. Check out those great vocal triplets at the end of the bridge, that wind us up really well for the final choruses. More post-Despacito reggaeton snare work on the choruses. Not horrible, but not spectacular.

51%

20        Azerbaijan : Chingiz : Truth

  • BPM:   101      Key:     Abm
  • Verse:  Abm | Abm | Cb | Cb |
  • Chorus:            Abm | Cb | Fb | Dbm | (pushed)

Oud intro! How much more Azerbaijani can this be? None, none more Azerbaijani. The loops are a little off the beaten track here – the | Abm | Cb | Fb | Dbm | (vi-I-IV-ii) isn’t common in Eurovision, or in pop generally, and each chord pushes/anticipates the barline by an 8th note, which is a cool bit of rhythmic interest against the metronomic kick-snare playing solid regular 4s. A lot of the vocal part, including every chorus, is sung in parallel octaves, giving a vaguely Maroon 5 feeling (and does Chingiz maybe model himself just a tiny bit on Adam Levine?). I like the off-beat phrasing on the first line of the chorus “It’s been so hard to bear” – note the way this line ends one syllable earlier than you expect – and it resolves to a hookier “shut up about it”. The Oud plays a little lick between each of the final choruses, reminding us of the home country and counterbalancing some of the more generic pop elements elsewhere. The bridge is really just a chorus with a breakdown style mix, using low-pass filters on the backing track while the voices sing pensive vowels with added pitch-shifted samples. For me, the song’s tempo lets it down – 101 BPM seems to drag with such a simple kick/snare part, and the 16 hi hats aren’t interesting enough to make it danceable.

51%

21        France: Bilal Hassani : Roi

  • BPM:   70        Key:     F#m    
  • Verse:  F#m | F#m | A/E | A/E | D | D | C#sus | C# |       
  • Pre:      D | F#m | E | E |      
  • Chorus:            F#m  A | D // E | (x3) | F#m | A | D C#| 
  • Post-chorus tag: | D F#m | E Bm | D F#m | E | E |

[imagined conversation in studio] Bilal: “I’m sick of France being stereotyped as overly patriotic. I’m going to sell out, and sing everything in English so that we get more votes”. [sings – “I am me, and I know I will always be / Je suis free, oui, j’invente ma vie…”]. “Damn! Thought I had it there.” To be fair, the French consistently sing in their mother tongue at Eurovision (and why not!?). This is a classic lyric of self-acceptance in the “I Am What I Am” vein. The title means “King” (there’s a vacancy for the job ever since the French abolished the monarchy in 1848). The back and forth English-French lyric works well, and the vocal is clear enough even for my unexercised high school French. The chorus is really interesting – it loops around | F#m  A | D // E |, falling in bar 8 to a C# chord that sounds like the end, but then it adds a sort of tagged-on post-chorus with the lines “And I know-oh-oh-ow, even though-oh-oh-oh / You try to take me down, you cannot break me, nah, nah / Toutes ces voix “fais comme ci, fais comme ça” / Moi, je les cala pas, you can never remove my crown”. This section has less energy than the chorus proper, so it ramps down dynamically to the next verse, but throws in another poignant hook as it passes “you can never remove my crown”. It’s very French, with a clear allusion to chanson, but it’s also a universal relateable sentiment. Not singalong Eurovision, but could be emotional enough to get some solid votes. I’d say top 10, but not top 3.

63%

22        Italy : Mahmood : Soldi         

  • BPM:   95        Key:     Ebm    
  • Verse:  Ebm / / Cb | Bb5 |    
  • Pre:      Cb Bb Ebm / | (x4) | Gb / / Abm | Ebm | (x2) | Db | Cb | Db | Cb |        
  • Chorus:            (Ebm / unpitched bass)         
  • Bridge: (Ebm/ambiguous bass pitches)

Be honest – you wouldn’t know this was Italian if you couldn’t see the flag on the screen, right? Mahmood not only avoids cultural cliché here, he also messes with traditional Eurovision dynamic expectations – the chorus is perhaps the song’s most understated section. It’s brave, and the one-note toasting-style sections sound great. I liked it a lot, because of some of the interesting production work on the backing vocals and bass sounds, but with a middling tempo, and no dynamics to fire up the crowd, I can’t see this winning.

73%

23        Serbia : Nevena Božović : Kruna        

  • BPM:   ~53 (160 – 12/8)         Key:     Abm   
  • Verse:  Abm | Eb/G | E Eb | Abm Abm(add6add11) (x2)
  • | Abm  | Dbm E | Ebsus Eb (Eb/G) | Abm |
  • Pre:      Dbm  Abm | Dbm / Ebsus Eb (extra beat)    
  • Chorus:            E Gb | Abm | 

BIG 12/8 power ballad! The verse is a mashup of Stairway to Heaven (descending guitar arpeggios) and Paul Simon’s version of Scarborough Fair (this exact sliding-Am7-shape guitar fingerpicking lick appears halfway through the verse 1. The dynamic journey is completely predictable, but the timing of each lift and drop is perfect – the bars of 12/8 become 9/8 or 15/8 when needed to get to the point more quickly or extend sections as needed. Apart from the pre-chorus couplet “Everything for you, I give myself to you” the rest is in Serbian. And you don’t need to know that ‘Kruna’ means ‘Crown’ to get the Game Of Thrones epic feeling the song conveys – it’s understandably pervading the culture this year! The acoustic guitar is played in A minor and tuned down a half-step. Worth it, to get that Paul Simon lick to sound right. There are always a few of these wind-in-your-hair 12/8 power ballads in Eurovision, and this is a pretty good one.

56%

24        Switzerland : Luca Hänni : She Got Me

  • BPM:   97        Key:     Bm
  • Verse:  Bm | G | D | A |       
  • Pre:      Bm | Bm | Bm | Bm |         
  • Chorus:            Bm | G | D | A | – Bm | G | D | E |

We’ve now waited 24 songs for an electric guitar intro. Is rock dead in Europe? Really, I wouldn’t expect the Swiss to outdo Germany in this respect. But the potential to rock out is soon exhausted, as the now-expected reggaeton drum kicks in. The first part of the chorus wins the laziest drum programming of the night award (4-on-the-floor handclaps – tricky even if you’re good at Twister). The predictable vi-IV-I-V chorus loop is broken up by a single chord of E at the end of the chorus – I love this change, but it’s a tasty drop in an ocean of blandness. There’s a sample of a reed-like instrument (bagpipe? shawm?) playing the sorta ethnic post-chorus hook. The bass line becomes unexpectly GREAT in the second half of each chorus, but it’s not enough to lift the song into the top contenders.

66%

25        Australia : Kate Miller-Heidke : Zero Gravity

  • BPM:   138      Key:     Ebm
  • Verse:  Ebm Db/F | Gb |
  • Pre:      Abm Ebm | Gb/Bb Cb | x2 | Db |
  • Chorus:            Ebm | Abm | Cb | Db |
  • Bridge: Bbm | Cb | Bbm | Cb | Db |

[must… concentrate… Snow Queen on a Wedding Cake while a witch on a pogo stick tries to hypnotize me… must… resist…]. This song is all builds, as shown by the negligible verse length – only 4 bars before the (arguable) pre-chorus. There’s a lot of messing with form here, to make those builds work, and to get from the opera sections to the pounding bass sections quickly enough. We lift to the relative major (Gb) for that Mozart-esque ‘Queen of the Night’ “he-he-he-heee-o-o-o” section. The bridge comes in way early, before the second verse – and it’s an unusual 5 bars long, meaning that we really feel a ‘rush’ when that pumping-8s bass and 4-to-the-floor kick drum enters on verse 2. It’s a bit surprising that they choose to repeat the Mozart section, but it serves the function of providing an extreme dynamic drop, giving us an astonishing crescendo (with more vocal gymnastics) over a full 9 bars (or really, 8 bars… and another one). It’s then heads down for the home sprint, with a major-key looping hook “nothing holds me down” that feels imported from a different song, but nonetheless has chords and vocal parts from previous sections woven in. Ambitious. I love it.

83%

26        Spain : Miki : La Venda :

  • BPM:   148      Key:     Cm
  • Chorus (throughout):  Cm | Eb | Bb | Ab |  

148 BPM! Knees up, everyone – this is step-in-time cockney dancing speed (hoi!). There’s a memorable chorus melody; despite my complete lack of Spanish, I was singing most of the chorus by the end. The bass and kick drum work really well together, without sounding cluttered even at this tempo, especially in chorus 1 with those ascending bass arpeggios. In the breakdown, those 4-to-the-bar handclaps (until recently on loan to Switzerland) paint a flamenco picture at times, although the Cuban brass and South African style staccato electric guitar take us all over the map. Too fast and busy to win, but it’s unapologetically cheerful.

53%

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