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The Bare-Bones

Apr 6, 2018 by

The Bare-Bones

The London Eurovision Party is the first big preview event of the 2018 season. It’s a relatively small affair, taking place in the Café de Paris with its makeshift stage towards one side of the room. It cannot be stressed enough how these preview events are not exactly the ideal conditions to be assessing the chances of this year’s ESC entrants.

This time last year, poor Blanche from Belgium was almost universally slated for her performance in London, with many criticising her stage presence and live vocals. The fan press continued this unjustified attack on a 17-year-old novice performer right up until she qualified from the first semi-final.

At the same time, Italy’s Francesco Gabbani was already being declared the 2017 winner after a charismatic performance of an uptempo song in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

Of course, Blanche ended up having the last laugh, finishing fourth in the Grand Final. Meanwhile, the eventual contest winner, Salvador from Portugal, was nowhere to be seen. Therefore, it’s best to take what happens at events such as these with a huge pinch of salt. Nonetheless, here are my thoughts on this year’s Eurovision entrants in London.

Denmark – Rasmussen – Higher Ground

Denmark’s song this year is quite famously a Melodifestivalen reject. To be honest, it just plods along in a funereal fashion and I can see why Christer Bjorkman turned it down. ‘Higher Ground’ is like something that would’ve been sent to Eurovision in the late 2000s and has a bit of a dated schlager feel to it, which likely explains why it’s such a fan favourite.

Ireland – Ryan O’Shaughnessy – Together

Unlike at this pre-party, Ireland’s Ryan O’Shaughnessy has been gifted a plum draw in the first semi-final. Unfortunately, ‘Together’ is not up to much as a song, but at least Ryan can perform it fairly well. A simple, Tom Dice staging concept and a nice performance would probably give Ireland a chance of getting back into the final this year.

San Marino – Jessika (ft. Jennifer Bresing) – Who We Are

I’m not entirely sure why, but I have a soft spot for San Marino’s song this year. It’s far from the microstate’s worst effort, but at the same time appears completely hopeless in semi-final 2. I was disappointed to see that the dancing robots from the official video didn’t make an appearance here in London. The rapping part is ripped straight from the 90s girlband playbook, and, for that reason, I love it!

Switzerland – ZiBBZ- Stones

After coming so close to qualifying last year with ‘Apollo’, Switzerland is back with a completely unremarkable pop-rock song in ‘Stones’. It’s one of those which sounds fine in the studio version but is missing something live. For me the vocals are currently not good enough. However, with its late running order in semi-final 1, perhaps there could be room yet for a surprise qualification.

France – Madame Monsieur – Mercy

As a contemporary song with an emotional story behind it, France probably shouldn’t be underestimated this year. Madame Monsieur’s Émilie is a strong live singer who excels at portraying emotion. The crowd interaction here in London was the same as the French national final and could be quite powerful if replicated by the audience in Lisbon.

Montenegro – Vanja Radovanovic – Inje

Montenegro’s ‘Inje’ doesn’t really stand up to its previous Balkan ballad successes in 2014 and 2015. I’m not sure exactly how well it can do, but it has a decent draw in semi-final 2 and some friendly countries voting.

Sweden – Benjamin Ingrosso – Dance You Off

Sweden’s Benjamin Ingrosso is obviously performing here without the benefit of his impressive light show. In this environment, it comes across as very, very Justin Timberlake indeed, which I’m not sure is a bad thing. Benjamin oozes charisma and confidence and is clearly a born performer. My biggest question right now is, will it be splitting the vote with Czech Republic once in the final?

Poland – Gromee feat. Lucas Meijer – Light Me Up

Poland has a perfect qualification record since returning to the contest in 2014. ‘Light Me Up’ is the sort of contemporary song you could hear on a Spotify playlist, with its strong instrumental hook. However, there’s a lot of competition this year with uptempo songs, but the performance here certainly went down well with the party crowd.

Iceland – Ari Olafsson – Our Choice

Iceland’s ‘Our Choice’ is perhaps the most hopeless song this year in terms of its chances of doing well. Ari has a lot of charm and can sing live, but the song is too much like Slovenia’s from last year. Except it’s less ‘On My Way’ and more ‘Never Coming Back’.

Lithuania – Ieva Zasimauskaite – When We’re Old

This is apparently Lithuania’s first ever time performing at the London event. It’s an absolutely lovely song which really should not have translated well to this event. Ieva sounded great and there were actually a surprising number of people singing along, which you wouldn’t have expected.

Austria – Cesar Sampson – Nobody But You

Austria’s song has a bit of contemporary Rag ‘n’ Bone Man feel about it. Like with Nathan Trent last year, it might be relying on a strong jury score in order to do well. Cesar had strong vocals and this was one of the best performances of the night.

Spain – Amaia and Alfred – Tu Cancion

I knew I’d left something back at the hotel – my sick bucket ready for Spain’s performance of Tu Cancion. I jest, of course, but like Bulgaria, this is a song which is particularly divisive among fans and punters this year. The telegenic Amaia and Alfred were not performing it to each other and instead were on piano and guitar. It’s slipped down in the betting since its release and is not a song I have very high hopes for, given Spain’s poor televote record and its unfortunate sonic similarities to last year’s winner.

Czech Republic – Mikolas Josef – Lie To Me

One of the favourites to win this year is Czech Republic’s Mikolas Josef. He’ll be looking to improve his country’s dreadful record by performing well with this stylish and contemporary song. ‘Lie To Me’ ticks a lot of potential televote and jury boxes, but I’m worried about the lack of an inspiring and inclusive message and/or an emotional pull in terms of its chances of snatching the trophy. He was wearing a backpack which was a bit of an odd choice in styling.

Bulgaria – Equinox – Bones

The most anticipated performance of the night arguably came from Bulgaria’s Equinox. Their song – sorry ‘project’ – is another divisive entry this year. Similar to Australia, Bulgaria seem desperate to win. The performance was not entirely live but Betfair was happy to declare this one the winner of the night.

Germany – Michael Schulte – You Let Me Walk Alone

Plenty of people have been comparing ‘You Let Me Walk Alone’ to the works of Ed Sheeran and/or Adele. Since when was that a bad thing? Germany has a sweet contemporary ballad this year. The problem for me, as I am sure is the same for others, is Michael’s relative lack of charisma on stage. But this is something that can perhaps be worked on.

Australia – Jessica Mauboy – We Got Love

It came as a bit of a surprise when it was announced Australia would be travelling to perform at these preview events. This to me demonstrates a strong desire, yet again, to win Eurovision this year. Jessica Mauboy really got the crowd going with the party anthem ‘We Got Love’ and showed likability as a performer. Many I spoke to afterwards said this was their favourite on the night and I’ll be fascinated to see the Australian staging concept this year.

Finland – Saara Aalto – Monsters

Finland’s Saara Aalto was the surprise special guest. She sang this much better than at the national final and brought her own homoerotic dance troupe as a bit of a spectacle. Saara obviously went down well with the party crowd but predictions for how well she might do seem a bit hyperbolic. Honestly, she could be doing the rap part for San Marino and her fans would still probably predict that she will win.

United Kingdom – SuRie – Storm

SuRie from the UK was predictably given the pimp slot in front of the home crowd. It’s now ten whole contests since the talented Jade Ewen made it to the Top 10 with fifth-placer ‘It’s My Time’.

You have to wonder if the BBC will ever get it right and make it back into the Top 10 again, and this does not feel like the UK’s year. SuRie does her utmost to sell ‘Storm’ and it is a huge sing-a-long when performed live. With Lucie Jones’ staging director apparently back on board, there is hope for the UK to avoid last place and perhaps climb a little higher.

The next time I will write about this year’s songs will be when we get to the first rehearsals in Lisbon. Next week, Rob will review the Amsterdam concert which promises to be an informative affair with more than thirty of this year’s artists performing live.

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2 Comments

  1. Catriona Colville

    Tim, I think you are sleeping badly on Denmark. I expect it to have wide appeal beyond the fanbase, and it doesn’t feel dated at all. I expect top 10 the Danes this year.

    • Tim B

      Hi Catriona, I actually think I could sleep quite well well on Denmark’s song this year, as it really is that dull. They will really have to camp up the Game of Thrones factor in order for it to have a chance to qualify. If you look at the first half of semi-final 2, it’s up against Russia, Moldova, Norway, Australia, Romania and Serbia. Assuming it beats San Marino, it would likely have to get past three of those countries I’ve just mentioned, which is not impossible but there are also loads of potential qualifiers from the second half of semi-final 2.

      In terms of Denmark making the Top 10, I really don’t think it has any chance as Norway and Sweden seem to have that covered from the Nordic bloc, unless you think one of those can flop.