Saturday Reject: Mimi Werner – Songburning

“That’s a coincidence, my new prog band is called the Disingenous Fireworks.“

Tim: Andra Chansen this year was, to put it mildly, a total farce. For those that don’t know the details, the third and fourth songs from each heat get mixed up and pitted against each other as four one on one duels; this year, two songs vastly better than their competitors got knocked out, there was one pairing where both songs were dull and one pairing where both were great. Here, we have one that lost out to the most tedious ballad the contest has seen since 2014’s Bröder, which for context was a song about the singer’s dead brother.

Tim: I won’t pretend this song is perfect – for starters, I’ve always slightly disapproved of things like fireworks or falling glitter on stage, as for me it symbolises “this has just won” – there are exceptions, obviously, but most of the time it strikes me as a bit disingenuous.

Tom: That’s a coincidence, my new prog band is called the Disingenous Fireworks.

Tim: And while I love the use of the song’s title as a dynamite fuse here, the massive, massive amounts of pyrotechnics just don’t quite seem earned.

As far as the actual song goes, though: it’s brilliant. and I wouldn’t change a note.

Tom: You sure about that? I mean, it’s not bad, but it’s by no means a Eurovision winner.

Tim: Hmm…alright, I might bring in the beat a bit sooner – gentle strumming doesn’t suit this.

Saturday Reject: Saara Aalto – Domino

“That is a BRILLIANT chorus.”

Tim: Finland took the unusual (but not unheard of) step this year of having one artist presenting three songs for the public to choose from. The singer is Saara, who UK readers may remember as runner up in the 2016 series of The X Factor; others may recognise her from previous Eurovision selection competitions, Finland’s The Voice 2012, and considerable success in China, apparently. The winner was a pretty good dancepop number; this here is a really rather excellent ballad.

Tim: Annoyingly I’ve no idea what it looked like live, as for some reason the winning performance is the only one online, but if the sound of it is anything to go by it was likely fairly impressive – if nothing else, that’s a hell of a chorus.

Tom: That is a BRILLIANT chorus. I think this is the first reject where I’ve actually been startled by how good the chorus is.

Tim: I particularly like that the chorus goes on for twice as long as it needs to, and as a result makes up the considerable majority of the song. When you add in the middle eight (with that outstanding vocal note coming out of it), there’s only really a few seconds that the verses might ruin as an inferior part.

Tom: In a contest where most of the audience will have only heard the song once, having a good, catchy, and repeated chorus is a bonus. The verses — well, yep, they were over quickly, just in case they made it worse.

Tim: And they don’t, at all, because they’re very good as well.

Tom: Plus, what an end-and-return from the middle eight!

Tim: All in all, an excellent track, and it’d have been a very worthy Eurovision contender.

Saturday Reject: Sannie – Boys On Girls

“It’s Whigfield! With some incredibly distracting dancers!”

Tim: It’s Whigfield! With some incredibly distracting dancers!

Tom: Wait, that actually is Whigfield! Singing… well, let’s just say that Damon Albarn might be wondering if he’s got a case about that chorus.

Tim: Ideally, in most cases, the singer’s the one we should be looking at – sure, sometimes there are exceptions, if they’re really there to make something of the choreography. But here, although I’m certain they’re not meant to be so distracting – there’s that one guy, front and centre when they’re all sitting down, standing directly behind her in that second chorus, and taking attention on the right at the close. I don’t know why (no, it’s not because of that), but he seems to steal it every time he’s there. Just me?

Tom: Just you, mate. But the fact you haven’t written a word about the (sadly, fairly dull) song says a lot.

Saturday Reject: Alfred – Que Not Sigan Las Luces

“Gold-painted boobs on his jacket, but I’ll overlook that.”

Tim: One of the things I like about watching the various selection shows live is the communal experience that Twitter provides – in fact, one of my proudest moments is still when I drunkenly yelled at Portuguese broadcaster RTP asking what their official hashtag was so I could join in. The drawback, on the other hand, is that I typically come up with a quick one liner but have nothing else to say. This may be quite a short post, then, but for this, from Spain: “Slytherin’s entry to a Hogwarts Battle of the Bands.”

Tim: I stand by that, mind, for a variety of reasons: there are green lights, they’ve got Proper Instruments, and the song’s not particularly brilliant.

Tom: Wait, what? I think this is my favourite Reject so far this year. It’s got a horn section! It’s got a lovely melody! It’s got a competent live singer, too, who admittedly appears to be wearing gold-painted boobs on his jacket, but I’ll overlook that.

Tim: Oh, all of that’s true – it’s certainly very enjoyable, and I suppose I may have come across as a bit harsh earlier. It also got a hell of a reaction from the audience, which counts for a lot – though it did very poorly in the televote.

Tom: Admittedly it’s also pretty unoriginal. There’s nothing actually ripped off here, as far as I can tell, but I’ll bet you can find that chord progression in a lot of places; basically, this sounds like a lot of old indie-pop songs that I like, so therefore I also like it.

Tim: There’s also a dedication to frequently being as loud as possible, right down to shouting the last chorus line which is actually about whispering his secrets to the song’s target (presumably his girlfriend Amaia, who you’ll recall we met last week). Obviously this would entirely not do well at Eurovision – unless you’re Lordi, actual bands are Not A Good Idea – but it’s not a bad entry, and since Alfred ended up as part of the winning duo, no-one’s really lost out.

Tom: You’re right that it probably wouldn’t do well at Eurovision, which I think is a shame. I’d have given it full marks.

Saturday Reject: Aitana, Alfred, Amaia, Ana Guerra & Miriam – Carina

“Messy as it may be, it’s a good way to open the show.”

Tim: Spain was a weird format this year: they took the top six contestants of their version of Fame Academy (yep, that’s still on) and then, through various groups, duets and soloists, had nine songs for the public to vote for. This, written by all of them and sung by all except Agoney, came dead last, but as a first performance was nonetheless a good way to open the show.

Tom: I wonder what Agoney did? And why Miriam is the only one without a name starting with A?

Tim: Maybe some sort of conspiracy?

Tom: Anyway.

Tim: So let’s try to move past the fact that the first chorus line is in fact Cecilia, and try to judge the rest of it and, well, it’s not the greatest.

Tom: I was turned off it entirely by that bit where they have just an instant of silence. It almost hurts.

Tim: It seems to serve more as a preview of what’s coming up than anything else. The one in the dark red with a style that doesn’t really match up, the guy and her with the ridiculous skirt who sing at each other, and her in the pink jacket being very very Spanish? Yep, you’ll see all of those later if you keep watching. On the other hand, messy as it may be – like I said, it’s a good way to open the show. On that level, it works.

Tom: It is a great show opening. I can’t fault it. There’s some good vocal showoffs, it’s pleasant enough, It’s just not a good Eurovision song.

Tim: Incidentally, the aforementioned guy and skirt? That’s the pairing that went on to win, with a performance that’s basically soft porn; they’re also an actual couple that formed in the competition house, and it’ll be bloody hilarious if they split up acrimoniously before May and still have to play sweethearts.

Saturday Reject: Twosome – Hello

“THE POWER OF SONG.”

Tim: Lithuania had almost 50 songs being voted on this year, which is way too many even for me, so fortunately our anonymous source there got in touch and recommended Bejausmis, which is…alright, but a tad standard. More noteworthy, though, is this one they also linked to, describing it as ‘vomit inducing’. EARWORM INCOMING.

Tim: I don’t know what my favourite thing about this is, because there are so, so many bits to love. There’s the way they actually do keep the flags and the languages together, rather than giving up when it gets too fast (that’s right, I checked).

Tom: Well done, although I think Petra and Måns got there first.

Tim: Ah, but not with flags, though. We’ve also got the way they stay facing perpendicular to each other in the second verse, particular the weird expression of the guy on the right.

Tom: Also, his awkward pose that reminds me ever so slightly of animatronic robots.

Tim: The other guy’s “digital language” mutterings in the, erm, second middle eight? Guess that’s a thing.

Tom: The jiggling dance during the second chorus.

Tim: The guy in the silver top and pink skirt. AND THE INFLATABLE FLAMINGO.

Tom: Okay, so taking a step back here: we’re probably missing context, that’s probably a comedy duo and a Lithuanian in-joke, but… yeah, that flamingo.

Tim: But my actual favourite thing? The song itself. It’s so…nice. They’re literally teaching us languages so we can talk to each other, using THE POWER OF SONG. And I absolutely love it.

Nicoline – Light Me Up

“I’m damned if I’m going to allow it as a post with ‘Reject’ in the title.”

Tim: Okay then so technically this is a Reject, but for a number of reasons I’m damned if I’m going to allow it as a post with Reject in the title. It saddens me, really, because in the vast majority of countries, including, Norway, getting submitted to MGP or the equivalent means it’s like to die without a trace if it’s not chosen. And this really, really doesn’t deserve that.

Tom: Full marks to the vocalist there, for being able to perform live on stage while performing a full dance routine. A lot of Eurovision performers leave the movement to the backing dancers — this is one of the most polished performances we’ve seen.

Tim: And that there is part of my point: Nicoline is all ready to go as a perfect pop star. And not only that, but this is an absolutely outstanding pop song, easily worthy of your Carly Rae Jepsens, your Dua Lipas, your Zara Larssons. It’s Radio 1 playlist material, with a fantastic tune, wonderful production, and just listen to how wild that audience is going for it!

Tom: Huh. Really? I guess I can’t find a counter-argument other than “I don’t like it that much”, but then that’s true of a lot of Radio 1’s playlist material, so I’ll take your word for it.

Tim: Problem is: it’s not Eurovision material. It doesn’t deserve to go to Eurovision, it certainly doesn’t deserve burying way back in the first round of a country’s selection process. It deserves SO MUCH MORE than that. And it really quite upsets me that this has happened.

Saturday Reject: Sandra – Angels to My Battlefield

“Generic Dark But Uplifting Song that’s reminiscent of a lot of others”

Tim: Denmark had a decent showing this year, with at least six of the ten finalists being songs I’d choose to listen to again; this here’s one of them. You’re a fan of military drumming, right?

Tom: It’s better than a kids’ choir.

Tom: I started singing the opening lines of “I Am The Walrus” over that introduction, so… that’s something, I guess?

Tim: Hmmm…something, yes. A quick note to start: in the end, Denmark chose a completely off-kilter ethnic folk rock sort of song, which in my reckoning will either come top 5 or completely bomb come Eurovision; as such, wondering whether or not this should have won is a bit of a non-starter.

Tom: Generic Dark But Uplifting Song that’s reminiscent of a lot of others — it’s a bit “Only Teardrops” in style. Which could well work, if it stands out enough from the crowd.

Tim: Having said that, I reckon this is very much worth a listen, as it’s got a heck of a chorus and she’s got a strong enough vocal to carry the verses despite just the minimal backing. In another year? Hmm…maybe would have qualified. This time, it just wasn’t to be.

Saturday Reject: Karl-Kristjan & Karl Killing feat. WATEVA – Young

“It’s just quite fun.”

Tim: Rather pleasingly, Estonia had a surprisingly good national final this year, which does make you wonder quite why they chose a dull operatic number as their winner; there was a wide range of genres, even with a trip to apocalyptic rock, with came with a helpful timer that counted down to the end of the song, at which point fire extinguishers were used liberally and necessarily. This one came in sixth, and surprisingly the extensive use of ukuleles didn’t put me off.

Tom: Blimey, I did not expect Estonia to go for an arena show. Or for them to choose Estonia’s leading George Formby impersonator for a song. Why on earth were you attracted to this one?

Tim: I’ll be honest: I’m not entirely sure. Partly is the staging, or rather the lack of it, with on screen graphics being used instead, because I’d love to know the official rules about those – Norway had a play around with them last year (and also excessive pre-recorded vocal samples, which were deemed just about acceptable).

Tom: Which surprises me: not to bang on about Electro Velvet, having to perform the ‘dance!’ samples live was one of the reasons that the song sounded so poor. But these are really irritating vocal samples, aren’t they?

Tim: Maybe a year ago, but I guess they’re mainstream enough that I’ve really become accustomed to them by now. Mainly, though, I think it’s that it seems from the way they’re jumping around that much like voXXclub last week they just seem to be having a lot of fun. And that kind of sums the whole thing up, really, including the ukulele and the graphics – it’s just quite fun. And I’ll take that.

John Lundvik – My Turn

“He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”

Tim: “Now after six weeks John took the SVT audience, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”

Tom: Given I mentioned Christian rock yesterday, this had better be spectacular.

Tim: I could mangle other sentences from the rest of the Transfiguration, but I think the point’s made. Obviously I don’t know if they were trying for a proper messianic spectacle, but if they weren’t then damn, that’s a hell of a coincidence. The bright white suit, giving off an actual glow from the light above him. The spotlights first radiating directly from behind him, and then coming down behind him as he walked forward.

Tom: Full marks to the lighting designer on that one, by the way: creating a cartoon-like sun with rays in-camera is brilliant.

Tim: The sparks raining down behind him. Finally, that amazing wide shot of the audience, rapt by his power, waving their phones in appreciation.

Tom: It wasn’t until I saw that shot that I understood what you meant. Yep, I get what they were trying for.

Tim: And you know what? It works. I love it. And what with it being paired with a pretty decent song, it was my favourite of the final. Wouldn’t have worked at Eurovision, mind, but it’s a cracker of a performance and much deserving of its third placing from the jury and voters alike.