So the opening sextet for songs for 2003’s contest in Latvia were a struggling, but the best of them was at least progress in the right direction. We aren’t quite out of the woods yet as we reach the mid-point of the countdown, as many countries still struggled with what a Eurovision entry should be in the 21st Century.
I can’t judge them too harshly for being dated, I mean this is 10 years ago. But when I think back to some of my favourite music of 2003, it wouldn’t surprise me for people at the time to wonder when Eurovision was going to catch up.
Lior Narkis – Words for Love
This reminds me of the Oompa Loompa song in 2005’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, I think it’s that manic pseudo-Latin intro. Like other countries before and since, Israel was trying to make friends in 2003 and decided the best way was to throw in “I love you” in as many languages as he could manage. Didn’t Bulgaria do the same thing in 2012? I’m sure someone else did it mid-00s too.
I like the idea, as desperate as it seems. The song itself leaves a little more to be desired but it’s energetic – almost to the post of sounding a bit chaotic. The chorus is flat but it just powers through regardless. Not too bad but definitely room for improvement.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mija Martina – Ne brini
A bit confusing when CD version was in English but it was performed in her native tongue until the last chorus. I like the low-budget disco feel it’s got to it, and while her voice isn’t the best I’ve ever heard (she seem like she’s gasping for breath at times), there are some good hooks in there.
The repetitive chorus (“Could it be, could it be, is it true?”) is pretty catchy, and there’s about three key changes thrown in there. I’m rather enjoying this one, well done B&H, and come back soon.
Rita Guerra – Deixa-me sonhar
Portugal are always a bit of a struggle for me, so when they unleashed another tepid ballad on an unsuspecting audience (they might have suspected it a bit), I considered a bathroom break. But for what it’s worth, it’s quite a nice one. What does it remind me of? I think in a weird way it might be one of Ayumi Hamasaki’s J-ballads.
It’s a pretty standard issue ballad, but the components are all distinct and quite nice. The chorus itself is memorable, but I really wish they’d beef it up a bit towards the end . There’s a lovely little string-based middle eight and a glory note, but the final chorus is pretty indistinguishable from the others. It had potential!
Louisa Baïleche – Monts et merveilles
I have a lot of time for French entries. In the face of repeatedly lukewarm results, they are never scared to take a chance and have ended up with one of the most diverse canons of the Big Four.
“Monts et merveilles” (Moon & Stars) is nothing extraordinary in itself, a fairly casual love song with a bit of gentle tribal drumming thrown in near the end. I just like the tune and how the French language sounds. Nothing in particular stands out for me, it’s just quite nice, and probably should be grateful for its position on the scoreboard.
Lou – Let’s Get Happy
After a stretch of rather indistinct entries, here is Germany to get the party started. If only I wasn’t cringing so much. With all the subtlety of a Hindenberg, Lou delivered a payload of ruthless hi-NRG Schlager about how you should make the world a better place, via the medium of shonky lyrics about girls in high-heeled shoes.
The “let’s be happy and let’s be gay” is a cringeworthy ‘nod’ to the gayz we could have done without. “Oh but gay means happy!”, yeah yeah… it’s just a bit too MUCH. But I can’t begrudge that it’s pretty catchy and enthusiastic, and I sort of like it anyway.
Ruffus – Eighties Coming Back
I really didn’t take to this one when I first heard it, but it’s really grown on me after seeing the performance. He’s a good showman I think, and his vocals really gave a bit of life to this one. The song itself might remind me of the awful Scouting for Girls, but I’ve grown to like it.
Estonia evidently weren’t in a big rush to win again, having hosted the 2002 contest, but that’s not to say it’s a bad song. Weirdly it reminds me more of a 70s sound than anything, maybe it just took a while to reach Estonia. I feel this one has aged a bit better than a lot of the class of 2003, shame it did so badly.
Claudia Beni – Više nisam tvoja
We’re starting to get somewhere now, with Croatia bringing the 21st century pop. Well, just about. It sounds like a Balkan relative of a late 90s Max Martin. Like if you squint your ears you could even imagine Britney singing the tune (in English).
It’s got a rather robotic rhythm to it, with an equally rigid dance routine. But it’s a good one, there’s a good bit of power behind it, and while the melody wanders around a lot, it’s catchy and enjoyable.
Mando – Never Let You Go
We know Greece as a bit of a Eurovision powerhouse, having racked up 9 top 10 finishes between 2004 and 2013. However they weren’t quite there yet, and hadn’t learned the value of a bit of OPA to get a Eurovision party started. So for the first time while I’ve been going back in Eurovision history, it feels like their entry didn’t feel particularly Greek.
Instead it adds another ballad to the mix. But I think it’s one of the stronger ballads of the 2003 contest, contemporary sounding and well-sung. The chorus is great, there’s not really any part of this song I don’t like. I wonder what some of these acts are doing now, but Mando managed to make international papers last month when she controversially sang as blacked-up Stevie Wonder on Greece’s “Your face sounds familiar”. You can judge for yourself, but I can’t imagine it was supposed to be offensive, and she sings amazingly. We could perhaps have not pretended she was blind too though!
Oleksandr Ponomaryov – Hasta la Vista
Ukraine debuted in 2003, another nation that would prove later in the decade to be one of the powerhouse nations of Eurovision. It was a decent debut, though I concede that it won’t be to everyone’s taste. It cheerfully says goodbye to his love, in a tone that says “see you soon, xoxo” but lyrics that say that he’s actually just breaking up with her because she’s “so wrong”.
A bit of a mismatch in sound and lyrics (aside from the mini ballad middle-eight), but the song itself is buoyant and really catchy. I woke up a few mornings with this stuck in my head. It doesn’t really stand up to Ukraine’s later entries, but in its own right I really like it.
Mickey Harte – We’ve Got the World
The audience inexplicably lost their shit to this guy, was he famous? It seems not. Maybe they thought it was the guy from the Grateful Dead. Anyway, Ireland have always felt the pressure to step up after their golden age of the 90s, and end up sounding pretty bitter when it doesn’t pan out.
“We’ve got the world” is a pretty simple old midtempo pop song, but he puts in a convincing performance, and ended up with a reasonable result. I think the Irish would be hard-pushed to say this is an extraordinary song , but it’s simple and catchy, and while it probably would have sounded a bit dated (even in 2003) it’s one of the better entries.