By Sean Sieczka
In the last installment of the ESC 2019 reviews, we discussed the first nine entries in the contest, from Albania, “Ktheju Tokës,” to Cyprus’s “Replay.” In this piece, we’ll dissect the next eight entries in the alphabet.
Song: “Friend of a Friend”
Artist: Lake Malawi
Lyrics and music: Jan Steinsdoerfer, Maciej Mikolaj Trybulec, Albert Černý
About Lake Malawi: Lake Malawi is an indie pop band from Třinec, Czech Republic that formed in 2013. In 2015, Lake Malawi released their first EP, We Are Making Love Again, and they released their debut album, Surrounded By Light, in 2017. In January 2019, Lake Malawi won the online competition ESCZ, earning the right to represent the Czech Republic with their song, “Friend of a Friend.”
About the song: The biggest selling point for this song is that the chorus, for better or for worse, is infectiously catchy. By the end of the song, the “friend of a friend” hook in the chorus will be ingrained into your memory forever. The song tells the story of a man explaining to his girlfriend that the new neighbor next door is nothing but an old childhood acquaintance, despite what it may seem. The “social media” concept of the music video is very well done.
Will it qualify? Bookmakers say it will squeak into the final but, I am honestly split. When the song was first announced as the Czech entry, many people were displeased with the pick. However, after two to three months, public opinion for the song has made a turn for the better. Considering that semifinal 1 is wide open, I’d say this has a 50/50 shot at being in the final.
Song: “Love is Forever”
Lyrics: Lise Cabble, Melanie Wehbe, Emil Rosendahl Lei
About Leonora: Leonora Jepsen is a singer and former Danish junior figure skating champion from Hellerup, Denmark. Before becoming a singer, she won a gold medal at the Danish figure skating championships in 2016 with her brother, Linus. In February 2019, she won Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, earning the right to represent Denmark in Eurovision with her debut single,“Love is Forever.”
About the song: “Love is Forever” is an adorable entry, with the optimism and naïveté that only a person so young and bubbly could possess. Her vocals are unique, and the staging they used in DMGP was more than impressive. The song is in English, French, German, and Danish, making the song the first multilingual Danish entry in history and the first Danish song to use the Danish language since 1997. The line “don’t get too political” has become a meme in the Eurovision fan community.
Will it qualify? The song has been steadily climbing in the odds (it just pushed into the top 15), which is a good sign for its chances. If the live performance is just as good in Tel Aviv as it was in Copenhagen, it should qualify fairly safely. However, it’s in the first half of the bloodbath second semifinal, and songs like this have the chance of being forgotten by the time voting opens.
Artist: Victor Crone
Lyrics: Stig Rästa, Victor Crone, Fred Krieger
Music: Stig Rästa, Vallo Kikas, Victor Crone, Sebastian Lestapier
About Victor: Victor Crone is a Swedish singer who wrote songs with Diane Warren and Desmond Child while living in Los Angeles and Nashville. In 2014, he released his debut single, “Jimmy Dean,” under the name Vic Heart. In 2015, he competed in the Swedish competition Melodifestivalen,and was eliminated in the second round. In February 2019, he won the Estonian competition Eesti Laul, earning the right to represent Estonia at Eurovision with the song “Storm.”
About the song: You can tell that a lot of time went into the production of this song, considering that the main writer, Stig Rästa, won Eesti Laul as a featured artist in 2015, won as a songwriter in 2016, and came second as a soloist in 2018. The song starts with an country pop feel, and transitions into an Avicii style dance track. The lyrics tell of how important it is to stay strong, no matter what storms (hehe) come your way.
Will it qualify? This song is looking like it may be a shock non-qualifier and here's why. The song itself is predicted to come about tenth in the first semifinal, and public opinion of this song is lukewarm at best. Professional juries did not like this song at all when it competed in Eesti Laul, and since juries provide 50% of the points in Eurovision, that will probably lead to the song’s demise. But hey, songs have been carried to the final by televoters before, so it may sneak its way in.
Song: “Look Away”
Artist: Darude ft. Sebastian Rejman
Lyrics and music: Sebastian Rejman, Darude
About Darude and Sebastian: Darude, born Ville Virtanen, is a Finnish DJ, best known for his 1999 Billboard Dance Top 5 single “Sandstorm.” His albums Before the Storm and Rush both charted on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart in the United States. Sebastian Rejman is a Finnish vocalist and guitarist, best known for leading the bands The Great Leap and Sebastian & The 4th Line Band. Together, they wrote three entries for the Finnish competition Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu, and their song “Look Away” won.
About the song: While not as upbeat and hyper-energetic as his song “Sandstorm,” this song has the sleekness and production of someone with two decades in the business, like Darude. It’s fun, danceable, and is right at home in any dance playlist. The lyrics are surprisingly meaningful for an EDM track, asking “how can we sleep at night?” knowing that our world is being harmed.
Will it qualify? This song has worse odds than Estonia, but I think this may qualify over “Storm." The staging used at UMK was thoughtful and cool, and Sebastian can perform well live (if they would just turn his mic up). Also, don’t underestimate the power that being a meme has.
Artist: Bilal Hassani
Lyrics and music: Bilal Hassani, Madame Monsieur, Medeline
About Bilal: Bilal Hassani is a Paris-born singer and YouTuber, with Moroccan Muslim parents from Casablanca. He began pursuing a career in music when he participated in the second season of The Voice Kids, where he was eliminated in the battle rounds. His YouTube channel has almost one million subscribers at the time of publication, and he has over 88 million cumulative views. In January 2019, Bilal won the French competition Destination Eurovision, earning the right to represent France at Eurovision with the song, “Roi.”
About the song: The song tells a touching and personal story about embracing what makes him unique and overcoming the obstacles that others put in his way because of his differences. The song is fresh and unmistakably French, with English and French lyrics interwoven throughout the song. And while his vocals aren’t the strongest of the year, he is a born performer.
Will it qualify? It doesn’t have to. France is a member of the Big Five, which all receive automatic qualification to the final because of the vast monetary support they provide. If it had to, I’d say it would.
Song: “Sul Tsin Iare”
Translation: “Keep On Going”
Artist: Oto Nemsadze
Lyrics and music: Roman Giorgadze
About Oto: Oto Nemsadze is a Georgian singer who won the fourth edition of Geostar, the Georgian version of the Idol series. He came second in the third season of The Voice of Ukraine in 2013. In 2017, he unsuccessfully attempted to represent Georgia in Eurovision as a part of the band Limbo, ultimately placing tenth in the competition. In March 2019, he won Georgian Idol, earning the right to represent Georgia at Eurovision with the song “Sul Tsin Iare.”
About the song: The song is very Georgian. The lyrics are in Georgian, the vocal style is Georgian, the story told by the lyrics references the violence in Georgia, even the staging made extensive use of the Georgian flag. It’s a bold move to go so far away from convention in Eurovision, so that has to be respected. He’s clearly a capable live singer, considering he won Idol twice.
Will it qualify? In a word, no. Georgia tried something very similar to this last year, except last year’s entry displayed more polish in its production. Its odds of qualifying are currently at 6/1, which is the worst of all entries in either semifinal. The only thing that could save this is Georgia’s ability to do better than people expect, coming 11th in the semifinal in 2017 and shocking everyone in 2016 by coming 9th in the semifinal and qualifying outright. It’s a shame, but someone has to be last…
Lyrics and music: Laurell Barker, Marine Kaltenbacher, Tom Oehler, Thomas Stengaard
About S!sters: S!sters is a German female duo comprising of Laurita Spinelli and Carlotta Truman (unfortunately, not actual sisters). Laurita, born Laura Kästel, first gained notoriety after winning the German Kiddy Contest in 2002. Carlotta placed eleventh in the final of the third season of Das Supertalent, the German branch of the Got Talent franchise. In 2014, she was the runner up on The Voice Kids. Together, they won Unser Lied für Israel, earning the right to represent Germany at Eurovision with the song “Sister.”
About the song: If you were disappointed that S!sters aren’t actually sisters, then wait until I tell you that the song isn’t about sisters either. The lyrics say that women should not try to fight each other for success; rather, women should build each other up and bond in metaphorical “sisterhood.” Vocally, they are great in both unison and in harmony, and the production itself is sound.
Will it qualify? Germany is another Big Five member, so it doesn’t have to. However, unlike France, this would not be a guaranteed qualifier if it had to. Public opinion is split on this song, especially since it defeated a heavy fan favorite in Aly Ryan’s “Wear Your Love.” Last year,Germany came fourth in the final, but in the three years prior, Germany came tied last, outright last, and second-to-last, respectively. I definitely don’t think this will flop in the Eurovision final, but it may not be a scoreboard topper either.
Song: “Better Love”
Artist: Katerine Duska
Lyrics and music: Katerine Duska, Leon of Athens, David Sneddon, Phil Cook
About Katerine: Katerine Duska is a Canadian-Greek singer originally from Montreal, Canada. In 2015, she released her debut album Embodiment, featuring the singles “One in a Million”and "Won’t Leave.” In March 2019, she was announced as the Greek representative for with her song "Better Love."
About the song: She has the aesthetics of Marina and the Diamonds, the voice of a cross between Celine Dion and Adele, and a song that seems well at home on the American and British charts. This song is a complete package, and that is a refreshing change from a country that has not been the most fruitful in recent years. The lyrics are a testament to unconditional love, allowing yourself to love who you want, and to receive the love that you deserve.
Will it qualify? Oh yeah. I'll take it one step further. I’m not a betting man, but if you’re looking for a dark horse with relatively long odds to win, this is your pick. Granted, bookmakers have this at 20/1 right now, the seventh best, but after hearing her live vocals, this definitely has a shot at taking it all.
That's all for this installment of Eurovision reviews! Next time, we’ll start with Hungary.
Which one of these is your favorite?
To see Albania through Cyprus, click HERE !