February is going to be thick with National Selections, so I’d better get cracking on more of the recent selections for 2014’s Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen. I’ll come back to Albania, but the third country to select their entry via a national final was Belarus. But don’t get too attached to the song, or the artist.
Belarus has a fairly dismal record in Eurovision since its debut in 2004. While I feel the songs are usually pretty good, Europe has a bad habit of disagreeing, and as a result the former Soviet republic has only qualified for 3 finals. However, with the right song they have shown they can win over votes, as Alyona Lanskaya showed last year with 16th place “Solayoh”.
A fairly comprehensive field of 14 entries made up the national final, with a 50/50 Jury/SMS vote deciding the champion. Except there was a tie so a jury run-off unanimously chose this year’s victor. Except… well, Belarus has a fairly reliable history of changing its mind after the final. Alyona felt the sting of this when she won the 2011 national final, but a corruption scandal saw her swapped for Litesound. She even won the 2012 final too, but with a different song, so who knows what Belarus will end up sending. But let’s have faith…
As usual I’ll be reviewing these in reverse order of their finishing position (i.e. last place first).
So, bringing up the rear is a sort of rousing operatic tragi-ballad. I rather like those harsh squelchy bits of electro that support from the second verse. It’s got quite a nice melody to it too. It’s not really a winner but there’s a lot that can be said for just having a nice tune. There’s even a bit of a key change, and a glory note to finish. Quite handsome too! Belarus made a nice effort with the LCD visuals too, they’re stepping up!
Alina Moshchenko – Angel Crying
A fairly standard so-called ‘Disney Ballad’ sung by a pretty lady. What does it remind me of? I guess probably a lot of things, even just at Eurovision. Her voice is good but the song is a little too plain to do much for me, even with a standard-issue climactic finish & money note.
Matvei Cooper & “DUX” band – Strippers
Strippers? Well let’s see what this about. Oh lord… a bit of lite-rock it seems, with a quiet refrain of “I wanna know, where do all the strippers go?”. Is that really a big question? Don’t people ask that about baby pigeons too? The “1 stripper, 2 stripper, 3 stripper 4” is a decent hook I suppose, and it’s not as much of a novelty song as I expected too. Couldn’t they strip that lead singer though?
Elena Siniavskaya – Via Lattea
On to something more clubby now, just outside the top 10. This is amazing! A wonderful operatic female singer singing over a basic but euphoric dance track straight out of 2002. She’s got a great voice though, I love this! Why couldn’t they have sent this?
Definitely one of the best things I’ve heard from Belarus. EVER. It’s like a dance remix of that space-diva from The Fifth Element, or a Belarussian Sissel singing the Neverending Story theme tune. WHAT a finish!! *dies*
Natalia Tamelo – Not What I’ve Been Looking For
As we come into the top 10 there’s a quirky bit of cabaret in broken English. It’s rather good though, she’s got good character and a distinctive voice. This sort of Paloma Faith-style quirky swing stuff is a hit & miss but this is really quite good. I love that woman though, lots of fun. Good choreography too.
Daria – Starlight
More amazing visuals, and the promise of another schlager triumph. Unfortunately Daria seems to be one of the most unenthusiastic schlager queens yet. A smile doesn’t cost a thing you know! It’s a solid song though, but it’s just missing something. It’s uplifting and there’s no weak link, except that wonky glory note at the end. A key change maybe? I don’t know.
NAPOLI – Stay With Me
What a weird start, the girls present the guy like the lead singer – who is straining like he’s passing a gallstone, someone sings a line that doesn’t appear to be any of the lead singers. It’s a fairly unexciting love song, it’s basically 2010’s 3+2 all over again, with some ropey vocals. The women are fine, the guy has an unpleasant harshness and tunelessness to his voice sadly. What an odd performance!
Anastasia Malashkevich – Runaway
Halfway point now, I didn’t think this final would be so entertaining! The deep freeze hits ballad, with some strange dancers and even stranger pronunciation. I hope those lightbulbs are going to switch on at some point. She’s got a deep but lovely voice. I didn’t expect that galloping beat to kick in halfway through, OMG this is going to be more schlager isn’t it? There’s a wind machine now!! Well it doesn’t quite hit the BPM but you won’t want to get in the way of those strong VOX! Wonderful.
Tasha Odi – Empty Universe
Love the look of this one, dressed like Moonwalker-era Michael Jackson. I hope she’s going to throw that hat away. This is more the sort of thing I expected from a Belarussian selection event. Not too exciting but she sings it well, it’s just in a very low key, it loses the melody a bit. She’s got a strong voice though and it’s a solid enough ballad but… oh wait there goes the hat. Why is the cameraman filming someone else is filming this magic moment on their cameraphone?! The evil eye of Sauron appears for the finale. But it’s more of a whimper than a bang.
Nuteki – Fly Away
More striking visuals, but we’ve got some fairly standard shouty rock. I often quite like this from Eastern Europe, not sure what the distinction is. Maybe it’s because Eurovision rock is a bit more palatable and watered-down to get some voters. Still this isn’t really doing it for me but they performed it well. He’s got a good voice, but I’d have been a bit disappointed if this had won over some of the rest. That said I have no idea what’s won.
Janette – You Will Be Here
Nice dress, I wonder if there are any surprises under there, maybe I’ve been watching the Malmö entrants too much. Otherwise this will be an average but still pleasant ballad sung by a pretty lady. I like the harmonies, but otherwise there’s not a great deal to be said for this. It’s got a strong melody, it’s all very good but not doing much for me. Ahh, I knew that dress was a trap! It falls off and flies away as three Batman dancers flutter off. Interesting!
Switter Boys ft. Kate & Volga Karol – Vechnaya lyubov
Ugh, I feel like I’m not going to like this. Are the Karols the two women appearing on or next to those LCD screens? I love how this whole hot mess seems to rely on the visual gimmicks, including a big-voiced and big-waisted singer. The song itself is catchy insofar as it’s utterly basic. When the screens are whisked away you finally realise quite what a hot mess this is. How in Christ’s name did this finish 3rd? No wonder there are always corruption scandals in these finals!
Max Lorens and DiDyuLya – Now You’re Gone
Picking up 2nd place – and therefore a decent shot at being the ACTUAL entrant for Copenhagen – is… ugh this isn’t great. Sign language again! With a poorly-dressed crew led by a creepy looking singer with a thin reedy voice. The chorus is accomplished enough but this is perhaps my least favourite from the whole final. It does perk up towards the end when it turns out that guy can sing some big notes, was that other guy playing a steel drum the whole time? Bonkers! A good finish but too little too late.
Teo – Cheesecake
OK let’s see what managed to beat some of these surprisingly good finalists to get the Belarussian ticket to Malmö. I won’t get too attached to the song just in case they change it, but the title sounds fun at least.
Hmm, first impressions aren’t great. WTF is that line!? “But I’m no Patrick Swayze, you’re no Jennifer Grey”. Now I don’t really like this style much but he’s a disarmingly charming performer. It reminds me of some other entries but I can’t quite remember which. He’s a bit like Pasha Parfeny. It’s quite catchy to give it credit.
I wonder if that Google Maps reference will make it past the EBU. I feel like this one is going to be a grower, it’s quite good now but it’s simple and catchy, and I suspect he’s going to be a great performer on that big Eurovision stage.
Well… that could have ended worse. I’m still reeling from the poor finish for Elena, that’s a superb song. But at least they’ve picked something that feels likely to make it out of the semi-finals. Not a winner I don’t think, but who knows what will happen. Well done Belarus, a fine selection!