Saturday Reject: Anna Odobescu – Stay

“I think there’s a lesson to be learned for future set designers.”

Tim: Slightly different take on the Reject format today: Moldova’s entry, that failed to qualify from Thursday’s semi-final, and I think there’s a lesson to be learned for future set designers.

Tim: Basically: don’t make you scenery so utterly captivating that no-one’s going to pay attention to the song.

Tom: You’re not wrong there. What you’ve got is a video of sand drawing with some stock music — at least while you’re watching it.

Tim: I watched that three times before writing this, and still had barely any idea whatsoever what the song sounded like. Unlike almost every other time I say something like that, though, that is absolutely not a slight against the song – I pressed play again, put it in the background, and it’s a lovely song. It’s heartfelt, it’s melodious, it’s got a good chorus and there’s even a decent key change in there. But watching it on TV, I’m just not taking it in. At all. When there’s close up shot of her face, I want it to cut away, and see that sand drawing, because that’s the MVP here.

Tom: Two separate sand drawings as well: that’s a prerecorded video on the back wall and a separate live drawing. It’s brilliant, but…

Tim: But background drawing and her wafting away like a victim of Thanos isn’t going to win you a song contest.

Lorena Bućan – Tower of Babylon

“It looks like she’s the one already-drunk person who got up to dance at the start of the night.”

Tim: Croatia dropped out of Eurovision last night, failing to qualify, which was a bit of a shame as they had some very good looking backing dancers wearing angels wings and everything. It was a somewhat operatic number, with plenty of emotions on display, and a damn fine key change. This was their runner up, and shares absolutely none of those characteristics.

Tom: That first instrumental is one of the most awkward camera shots I’ve seen in a long time. It looks like she’s the one already-drunk person who got up to dance at the start of the night. All it needs is her repeatedly shouting at people to come up and join her. And what’s with the audience? This is Sweden gives them things to wave about and cheer with. There’s actually someone on their phone in one of the shots.

That’s all down to the production crew, though. We’re talking about the music.

Tim: Curiously, there isn’t much music like this, regionally distinctive, in the contest this year, which is kind of a shame. Sure, there are a high number of strong tracks, but not many you could say “yep, that’s definitely eastern European/Polish/Mediterranean”. A loss?

Tom: Well, it depends. Something like this can do well in the contest on rare occasions, but it’s a bold strategy that seems to produce more misses than hits. Certainly mixing it with modern pop sensibilities helps, as they’ve done here. It’s certainly nice to hear it in the Contest, but as to whether it’s a loss…

Tim: I think so, yes, and I think this year would have been improved by the inclusion of this song. It’s regional, and it’s much more of a dance beat banger than their eventual choice, which may have fared better. Or not, of course – it was a strong semi (yep), with only a few that definitely shouldn’t have qualified (even though one of those, Albania, did, irritatingly) – but it would have been nice to see anyway.

Tom: I’d just finished writing this, Tim, and I was starting to write a conclusion — when I found I was still humming the chorus, minutes after listening to it. Which is usually a good sign.

Except I wasn’t humming the chorus. I was humming the theme tune to Pirates of the Caribbean. Have a listen to that chorus and those orchestral hits, and tell me there’s not at least a passing resemblance.

Tim: Oh. Oh, yeah, you’re not wrong there. It’s the “ohhhh-oh-oh-oh” and then the beats, dammit you MONSTER.

Tom: Anyway, that’s the track ruined for me.

Maxim Zavidia – I Will Not Surrender

“It’s very much Classic Eurovision.”

Tom: Tonight, on “Eurovision entrant or Harry Potter spell”…

Tim: You may or may not want to sing “From the day we arrived on this planet” over the first line of this Moldovan runner up; I certainly did, but as for the rest of it, well, take a listen.

Tom: Good grief, you’re not wrong there. I wonder if that was deliberate?

Tim: So, we’ve a Lion King rip-off, but only really for the intro and middle eight, so I’m very much inclined to excuse that, largely because the rest of it is just so damn good.

Tom: You’re not wrong there. It’s very much Classic Eurovision, the sort of thing that’d show up on that schlager YouTube channel you keep linking me to, and I suspect that’d count against it these days.

Tim: There are criticisms that could legitimately be made, sure – for starters, the fact that there is no key change in the long note at 2:15 is downright criminal – but this song, as a Eurovision entrant, is absolutely outstanding. The two-act middle eight works well, despite the aforementioned lack of a key change, and the vocal strength, the melody, the energy, the everything is right there.

Tom: Full marks for having a whole extra bar of silence in there, as well. It’s a brave choice, but somehow it works. And that final note is a heck of a way to end it.

Tim: As for the staging, I’ve no idea what the clock’s doing, and certainly not why it starts spinning backwards the moment he sings about reaching tomorrow, but the reveal of the ‘faith’ and ‘hope’ T-shirts is fun and ludicrous, and while I frequently complain about sparks showers being present when there’s nothing to deserve it, this absolutely should come with one. It’s wonderful, and so what really hurts is that it came second.

Thing is, it absolutely wiped the floor in the televote, getting almost as many votes as all the other eleven entries combined, but was largely slated by the jurors.

Tom: Of course: it’s Classic Eurovision, and that’s not what the juries look for. I wonder if that would have been repeated in the main event? We’ll never know. Thanks, jurors.

Tim: Pooheads, all of them.

Sheppard – On My Way

“Bright colours, a terrible jacket and two of the most bizarre backing performers I’ve ever seen.”

Tim: Australia’s fifth year entering, and their first with a public selection. Their actual entry’s a bit disappointing, their runner up was garbage, but I think you’ll enjoy this third placer, from a fairly successful Australian band.

Tom: I’ve been driving through Australia recently: I heard Sheppard’s “Coming Home” on the radio and it’s stuck with me. If it’s in that style, I reckon I’ll like it.

Tim: Bright colours, a terrible jacket and two of the most bizarre backing performers I’ve ever seen. The main three on stage are siblings, with the surname of Sheppard (cunning, that), and the other three are the other band members. Why is one sister singing and one wielding a guitar? Why does one have a crown? Why are the other band members largely shrouded in darkness? No idea, but at least the performance looks a whole lot of fun, and has a cracker of a song to go alongside it.

Tom: I think this could have done well: probably not a winner, but it’s positive and catchy with a memorable set of performers who genuinely seem to be having a good time. Certainly through to the final, maybe even left hand side of the table.

Tim: No complaints from me.

Uku Siveste – Pretty Little Liar

“Earnest vocals, weird dancing, and hair that sticks up at the back like he’s forgotten to brush that bit properly.”

Tim: Let’s continue looking through some Rejects, as there are plenty of decent ones to get through and very limited time. This here is the runner up of Estonia, which in the end chose a Swede to sing an above average track; this one, in my view, is quite a bit better.

Tim: It’s worth admitting that there isn’t much here that’s innovative or ground breaking, but that’s not necessarily what Eurovision’s for.

Tom: What is it for, bizarre staging decisions? Who decided that keeping the singer off camera for the first verse was a good idea? Anyway, yes, sorry, Eurovision.

Tim: It’s for good pop songs, with good verses that move into great choruses, with volume, energy, and spark showers as appropriate. And here, we have all of that and more – earnest vocals, weird dancing, and hair that sticks up at the back like he’s forgotten to brush that bit properly. Excellent stuff, all round.

Tom: It’s a solid middle-of-the-table track, really, isn’t it? It’d do okay with the juries and get a few televote points, but that’s about it. That’s not necessarily an indictment of the song itself, it’s just… okay.

Saturday Reject: Sigmund – Say My Name

“I’d like this to look like most camp low-budget science fiction there’s ever been.”

Tom: Another one for the list of “stop giving new songs the same as classics”. It’s not a Destiny’s Child cover, I presume?

Tim: It is not, no. Though, speaking of big pop songs, you know how occasionally there are Eurovision songs that sound like they could actually be normal pop songs, and you almost feel they’re being wasted as competition entrants? Well, this is kind of like that. Ish.

Tom: “Hello, is that the staging director? Yes, I’d like this to look like most camp low-budget science fiction there’s ever been.” And full marks to the choreographer, they’ve done a great and wholly unnecessary job.

Tim: Choreography is never unnecessary, Tom, not ever. And the thing is, there are also musical elements here that make it seem like a proper song. It’s hard to qualify them exactly, but it’s more the general tone of it, the style, the emotion in the vocal, seems like the singer wants this to be a proper track. Except, it isn’t, and won’t be, because it’s been edited and hacked apart to make it suitable for a Eurovision entrant.

Tom: I think I see what you mean. A proper pop version of this wouldn’t be quite as Full-On Stage Spectacular: that style shows though in the music, even without the ludicrous staging.

Tim: A sensible reworking of this could have made a good pop song, except it lost, and now it’ll never go anywhere. It’s thrown away, chucked out, and this website right here, with our peculiar devotion to songs other countries have firmly said “nope, not for us”, may well be the last place it’ll ever be discussed.

The thing that makes me saddest about that, this year more than ever, is that I’m really not a fan of Denmark’s entry at all – it’s twee, it’s peculiar, it belongs in 1970s Eurovision. This…this could work. Maybe.

Saturday Reject: Andreas Johnson – Army of Lovers

“It’s got the elements, sure, but they don’t quite add up right.”

Tim: Tom, you’ll be delighted to have it pointed out to you that is is now verging on twenty years since Glorious became the international smash hit he became famous for.

Tom: It is still a great song. And “Sing For Me”, eighteen years old, is also still brilliant. The fact he’s still going is actually a bit heartwarming.

Tim: Put it like that, I guess it is actually. This one got through to Andra Chansen at this year’s Melodifestivalen.

Tom: That really wants to be a Big Emotional Song, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t quite make it.

Tim: Entirely correct. Nineteen seconds into that I thought “this is basically a U2 song, isn’t it”, and then two and a half minutes later I thought “that was basically a U2 song, wasn’t it”. To be precise, it’d be from roughly their early ’00s phase, with songs like Beautiful Day and Elevation, and to be honest that a period of theirs I very much enjoyed. This song, though, doesn’t quite do it for me – it’s got the elements, sure, but they don’t quite add up right, they don’t provide the big moment when everything really kicks off.

Tom: I wonder why not? He’s got the voice, the track’s got all the elements, it just… doesn’t work somehow. It’s down the composition, I guess: some things resonate and some don’t.

Tim: And so I guess it’s done for. Shame, really, as there was a small bit of potential.

Saturday Reject: Ingrid Berg Mehus – Feel

“Who takes a fairly strong dance tune and thinks ‘right, what this really needs is her taking time out to play the violin’?”

Tim: “Hmm, it’s not bad, I guess, but it still needs a bit more. Any idea?” “Ooh, Alexander Rybak did well when he played his violin that first time, we could try that again?” “Eh, give it a go, could work. Ooh have lasers. LOTS OF LASERS.”

Tim: It annoys me that NRK don’t release the voting numbers for Melodi Grand Prix, because I’d love to know what happened with this. Out of ten it didn’t make the top four, but I’m wondering if it managed to get, well, any votes at all. Because it’s just weird.

Tom: It is an odd one, isn’t it? At least they’ve managed to contain her in some kind of laser-powered summoning grid. But it’s a strange combination of things that don’t quite work together.

Tim: Admittedly, that doesn’t necessarily make for a bad Eurovision track – Netta was proof enough of that – but seriously, who takes a fairly strong dance tune, with a strong club vibe happening on the stage, and thinks “right, what this really needs is her taking time out to play the violin”? I mean.

Tom: Also: who co-ordinates all those camera moves and then sticks a big bulky mic pack on the dress? I know women’s clothing is a nightmare for microphone staging, but there had to be a better solution than that. Not technically a complaint about the song, but still. Sorry, you were talking about the music.

Tim: No, it’s Eurovision, everything’s up for discussion. But yes, the music, and I guess the violin’s one way of removing the standard EDM failing at Eurovision, where for the instrumental chorus the singer stands around doing nothing, but even so, still weird. Nice lasers, though.

Saturday Reject: Adrian Jørgensen – The Bubble

“Specifically, I thought ‘this is Æd Sheerån’.”

Tim: I’d slightly have liked this to win for a couple of reasons: partly because it’s a fairly decent track, and partly because it’d give an answer to the tedious ‘we should just send Ed Sheeran or someone and we’d win’.

Tom: I listened to the first bit of this before reading that introduction, Tim, and I’m happy to say I had the exact same thought. I mean, specifically, I thought “this is Æd Sheerån”.

Tim: That’s a song that’d fit comfortably on ÷, and might even do fairly well on it. We’ve seen previously that artist familiarity doesn’t translate to success – Cascada coming bottom five in 2013 put paid to that. As for how it’d do at Eurovision, well that’s anyone’s guess really, but probably not do spectacularly well, and then in the hypothetical situation following a Sheeran appearance we’d be on to “oh well see this just proves everyone hates us, why do we even bother”, and God knows we’ve had enough of that.

Tom: Odd choice here to add a second vocalist most of the way through the track.

Tim: Yeah, I though that as well – weirdest of all is that she’s very front and centre, but not even slightly credited.

Tom: I can’t deny it works. Still, Norway decided that Discount Sheeran wasn’t a good choice, and I think I agree with them.

Tim: Likewise. And as it is, we can enjoy it as a fairly decent guitar pop track, safe in the knowledge that it won’t affect anything at all.

Saturday Reject: Chris Medina – We Try

“It makes no sense. Absolutely no sense at all.”

Tim: Norway has a flipping brilliant final this year, with a lot of highlights, but sadly we’ve only got time for a few. Let’s start with a hypothetical, though: if you’ve got a song with a piano intro that you’re ‘playing’ and then a big drop, at what point do you, the performer, get up from the piano and start moving around? I ask because, well, I’m fairly surely the answer is ‘much, much sooner than Chris does’.

Tim: Let’s note that even at the start of the pre-chorus he has mostly revealed, with his fist pump, that he’s not actually playing, and that at the beginning of the chorus he almost stands up, giving the game away completely.

Tom: It’s not even a decent piano synth! If it was meant to sound like a grand piano, then maybe all this would make sense: but it just doesn’t. It’s as bad as if he were just noodling aimlessly on a guitar. But he just keeps going!

Tim: So if he’s hanging around still past then, the logical thing would be to stay there until either a big break – middle eight, say, or final chorus – or for the whole song. Not – entirely not – for the barely notable jump into the second pre-chorus. And why, why oh why oh why, would you then return to the piano for the outro? It makes no sense. Absolutely no sense at all.

Tom: I mean, none of this does. The dancers don’t make sense either. And neither does that slightly-wavy falsetto.

Tim: Spoils a somewhat decent Eurovision dance song, really. Eh, well.