From one of the darlings of the Eastern bloc yesterday, tonight we look at a decidedly smaller fragment of the Soviet Union, Moldova. Another relatively new member of the Eurovision family, Moldova are sending their 9th entry to Malmö next month, and could well end up with their biggest hit.
Their performance in the contest is unpredictable. They’ve qualified for the final 6 of the 7 times it’s been required, but three times Moldova have come 10th in their semi-final. This doesn’t seem to hinder them in the final, as they have a habit of punching way above their weight. In 2011 they went from 10th in their semi to 12th in the final. In 2007 they even managed a 10th place finish after a 10th place qualification, their second best result to date. Both times they overtook four of their fellow qualifiers.
Part of this appeal seems to be their knack of sending eye-catching party starters performed with Eastern European gusto. Big set-pieces like this are often a hard sell to the public, so their numbers are thinned out in the semi-finals to make way for more accessible ballads and dance songs. Once in the final, they find themselves standing out a lot more, and this can really make a difference.
Enough history lessons, Moldova held two semi-finals and a lengthy final to decide their entry for Malmö (read my review of O Melodie Pentru Europa’s final). Aliona Moon emerged triumphant, singing a soaring ballad “One Million”. The brave decision was taken quickly to perform in Romanian rather than English, and so “O Mie”, its translated version, will perform 12th of 16 in the competitive first semi-final.
I love this. The problem is that there are a lot of big ballads in this semi, though this is the last of them. I just worry it will get lost between the big uptempos from Belarus and Ireland. I’ll have faith in Moldova’s decent qualification record and hope for the best.
Aliona is no stranger to Eurovision though, last year she was a backing vocalist for Moldova’s 11th place song by Pasha Parfeny. In a curious reversal, “O Mie” was written by Pasha, and he plays piano in the background of Aliona’s performance.
It starts off gently enough, a simple ballad about a failed relationship. But that chorus is intriguing, the melody must be very difficult to sing, but she seems more than capable to hit the notes. I suppose you either like the first half or you don’t, it doesn’t have the buoyant optimism of Ukraine’s entry, but it’s got much more drama and impact than Russia’s.
But then there’s a thrilling middle-eight, that ups the ante and leads into a heroic key-change that just makes this song blossom. The staging during her performance in the final was interesting, the outfit was a bit high-concept, and while we’ve seen light-up dresses in Azerbaijan’s entry last year, it’s done slightly differently now, and with a big more budget I think there could be a really polished performance there.
Even more intriguing is that Aliona’s been performing the song on a few chat shows in an English-Romanian bilingual version, I wonder if this is practice for Malmö? I think that might help a lot, particularly when the English part is revealed in the second half.
Could it win? Well, I’d love that, but realistically I don’t see it happening. Top 10 seems very achievable, and top 5 would give Moldova its biggest hit to date, so that would be brilliant. I love it, but if you could win Eurovision with a key-change to die for, then Pastora Soler would have done a lot better than 10th last year. I’m rooting for you, Aliona!
For more reviews of the 2013 Eurovision entries and other news, visit my Malmö 2013 hub.