Phew… mop your brow, readers, I’ve gone through 19 national finals so far, and the end is in sight with a mere 8 left to look at. Let nobody say I don’t go through with my promises, even if they quickly end up being far too labour intensive to manage. With a heavy heart I cast my gaze to the Baltic to see what fresh hell Latvia are ready to unleash on us this year.
Latvia only joined Eurovision in 2000, and have miraculously chalked up three Top 5 finishes, as well as a shock win in 2002 that took the 2003 contest to Riga. I’m looking through that contest at the moment, but I doubt I’ll write anything up until after May – talk about overload…
Anyway, I only have a working memory of the later Latvian entries, and many of them aren’t pretty. This has been reflected in their recent spell of appalling performances in the contest. In fact Latvia have not only not qualified for four years, they’ve finished dead last or close to last too. Last year’s cute eccentric song by Anmary was a turn up for the books, but sadly not for the contest history books, where it finished 16th in its semi – astonishingly their best performance since 2008, when a novelty pirate song breached the grand final (that was awesome). Can they turn things around this year?
Christ knows I hope so, because I’ve got 12 national finalists to wade through. Qualifying from two semi-finals, a 50/50 televote and jury split decided the winner (via a bizarrely upside-down scoring system). Let’s just do this…
Sabīne Berezina – Upside Down
Oh good lord, those are some lovely outfits!! Are they inspired by the Saved by the Bell credits? At least we’re starting with a super-fun uptempo song. It’s all a bit low-budget, but I mean I can’t say I’m surprised…
We have some classic “is she singing English?” moments, some ropey vocal moments, but actually this is quite fun. The vocals really aren’t right for a large European audience, but that solo dance routine in the middle-eight really is fun. Gold star for you.
Dāvids Kalandija & Dināra – Fool In Love
What the hell is this opening VT? Is he a Judo champion? I hope he’s not going to ippon his co-star (yeah, I watched the Olympics). Maybe that’s why she’s wearing a crash helmet. Anyway, I digress.
This has the feel of a power ballad, I’m getting good vibes. But not from that shapeless pink sack she’s wearing. This is very 90s, but their harmonies are very nice. You know, this has potential, even if it is hopelessly cheesy. Who did that little squeal after the first chorus?! OK it’s not the most exciting thing ever, maybe he should have karate-chopped a few inches off her dress.
That dancing in the background is a bit distracting, love that leaning bit! There’s even a key-change and an over-zealous wind machine that is NOT doing her hair any favours. Love it!
PeR – Sad Trumpet
Hang on, didn’t PeR get the winning song in the end? They have two songs? Those hosts look a right state! Why are the band offering anal beads to members of the public in the intro VT? Perhaps best not to ask, whatever happens in Riga stays in Riga, eh?
This trumpet better be sad… what’s going on? Is the other singer cold? This is a bit waily, not sure about this, it’s a bit dreary. I hope their other song is better. That trumpet sounds more grumpy than anything. Does the other guy do anything other than make hand-noises into his mic? Bizarre.
Oh he’s one of those sound effect people? Give me strength. THAT’S WHAT DRUMS ARE FOR. This is totally hopeless, sorry!
Pieneņu Vīns – The One
I thought this national final was at least better than Malta’s that I did yesterday, but it’s getting a bit iffy now. Oh wait, a big chorus! The melody is a bit unusual, but that girl can sing! One of the worst dresses I’ve seen though, it’s like one of those inflatable sumo outfits.
Those verses aren’t anything special, a bit meandering and midtempo, but the choruses have some power behind them. The guitar solo is even pretty good, very 90s, like Skunk Anansie or something. Yeah, she’s pulled this back, it’s quite decent!
Ieva Sutugova – Cold Heart
What a weird family photo, did she come as Carrie for a costume party? Very spirited anyway, why are they hanging out in a biology lab? WTF is this? A saloon singalong?
Another vile dress, did she come as Carrie again? We can see your dirty pillows! This was very unexpected, a precocious pseudo-Western number with shades of Bugsy Malone. Did she just say Pikachu? She’s a good singer, and has bags of confidence.
It’s just a strange song, I’m not sure what to make of it! Very amateur theatre production, but not bad. These Latvians are really surprising me! That finishing note!!!
Liene Candy – Higher And Higher
Her surname is Candy? Is she a stripper? A Google images search suggests she might be. Nicer dress though, power heels, she’s a VISION. This sounds like a decent uptempo at least, it sounds like a Cascada song, in a year when Cascada are shamelessly trying to recreate Loreen (and may well succeed).
Pretty generic uplifting dancepop, with a few dramatic strings thrown in. Love it! Her vocals are really good, she’s owning that stage. Really love this!! Why couldn’t this win, this is one of the best non-qualifiers I’ve heard this year, what a surprise!!
Niko – One
Wow, try to follow that one, Niko! A dance-crazed uptempo, that’s a good start. A bit of a frantic routine, he’s quite handsome too. The vocals aren’t up to much though… still, never stopped Sakis did it? Seriously, this did better than Liene?
Shamelessly pursuing the Malmö “We are one” brand too. This is beyond generic lyrically, and he seems to be permanently out of key. It’s a fair stab, better than a slurry of boring ballads (hello Malta). The drum solo is one of the least convincing ones I’ve seen (he plays instruments!). Climaxes pretty well. OK FINE I’ll let you off, that’s a pretty decent finish.
Headline – Love
Top 5 now, and great… a swaggering guitar-driven pop song. The lead guy is very… spirited. Shut your legs, you slut! He’s quite charismatic I guess. It’s a bit of a curveball, this sounds like Barenaked Ladies or something.
Love those synchronised Smooth Criminal leans from the band though. This is pretty decent, I think it might not be totally memorable, but it’s fun. A bit naff but it’s quite infectious.
Antra Stafecka – When You Are With Me
Why can’t I find the live performance of this? Have to deal with the studio version. A lyric video is necessary: “The cat ate my kippers, the dog chewed my slippers” is one of the more bonkers opening lyrics I’ve heard this year.
A bit of a Shadows-esque backing track with a Paloma Faith-style jazz voice. I’m not sure I’m quite loving this one. There’s nothing too awful apart from some of the lyrics, it just doesn’t excite me that much.
Marta Ritova – I Am Who I Am
In 3rd place comes Marta and her magic light-up piano. That’s quite cute! The problem with this is that you’re rooted to the spot. Hopefully she’ll get up, even if her little piano solo bits are very nice.
There she goes, all empowered and standing up. I’m not sure this is the strongest tune really, she has a nice enough voice but it’s nothing really special. The chorus is uplifting enough but the melody is just a bit boring. I think her talent is more for the piano, maybe a ballad would have suited. Have we even HAD any ballads!?
Samanta Tīna – I Need A Hero
Second-place now, and I wonder if this will be better than the Bonnie Tyler song. Doubtful, that is awesome. Sounds like we’ve got our ballad though, that’s probably why it did so well, pretty much unchallenged amongst all these uptempos.
Did a giant bird poop on her head? She’s got a great voice, good ballad style. This is vaguely familiar, maybe it’s just like several Celine songs. Actually it’s VERY Celine! But in a good way. Her big chorus with the key change works really well.
Yeah, no wonder this did well, not only is it the only ballad I’ve heard, it’s also pretty spot-on. This would have probably qualified, let’s hope the winner was worth it. I love those ghostly heroes in the background, not so much when they start street-dancing. I guess there are a lot of female ballads this year. But still, well played!
PeR – Here We Go
Here we go, indeed. PeR were second time lucky, winning the Latvian ticket to Malmö in May. This has been a surprisingly amazing national final, don’t fuck it up now, Latvia!
Oh God, what is that jacket? Not sold on that opening chorus, it’s pretty simple but they can’t even sing that particularly well. He gets his midriff out though, and seems to get the crowd going.
The rapping bit is really dated, but it’s not that bad. At least that guy making noises with his hands doesn’t seem to get that much to do. Oh no, spoke too soon. Seriously WTF??
On the bright side, it’s a fairly competent uptempo in a Eurovision year that seems to be lacking on that front. It’s not great, but maybe it’ll get into the grand final. I just wish it had been that awesome Liene Candy song instead!