Malta! The little island that could. Could but hasn’t. The little island that SHOULD. Yes, this tiny Mediterranean island is the definition of the Eurovision giant-slayer, and I feel that it’s only a matter of time before it finally wins. Indeed it’s the most successful Eurovision nation never to win the contest. Perhaps not something you want to brag about, but they certainly attack the contest with an enthusiasm you’d struggle to find outside Scandinavia.
The semi-finals haven’t been the kind to Malta, but they have still managed to qualify for four of the eight grand finals where it was necessary. Since the native language rule was dispensed with in 1999, their advantage of being one of the few countries with English as a native language vanished too, but that hasn’t stopped them notching up two 2nd place finishes since.
Despite the lean times, last year Gianluca returned Malta to the top 10 for the first time since 2005, and Malta even won the Junior Eurovision, so maybe they will be energised enough to go all the way this year. An impressive 210 entries were submitted and narrowed down to 20, including a eye-popping number of former representatives at ESC and JESC as writers and performers.
These 20 competed in a semi-final to choose the top 14 finalists, while a rather skewed mix of an international jury and a televote (5:1 for the jury) decided the Maltese representative to Copenhagen. There’s a sense they were ignoring the public a bit with that setup. The public’s winner only came 8th after being trashed by the jury votes! I guess it’s time to see if I agree with them or not.
Chris Grech – Oblivion
Look at the size of that arena! I want ESC Malta already! Goodness, we could do without this angst though, Judas kisses and nests of worries. I think singing in key is in Chris’s nest of worries. After a rather unpromising start, it’s not a bad chorus. His vocals are a bit of a disaster area though sadly. Is that scream supposed to be impressive? It doesn’t sound like the note he should have been hitting. Not a bad song, but totally sung off a cliff.
Davinia – Brand New Day
This is a bit more cheery, and dear Davinia looks bubbly doesn’t she? She sounds like Paloma Faith and fortunately has much nicer eyebrows. A bit too sugary sweet, but what an adorable little pop love song. Something a bit hapless about it, but my goodness, I really like it.
And this is only 13th place? Hopefully I’m in for some good stuff (though experience tells me not to hold my breath).
Wayne William – Some Kind of Wonderful
Is that Sheryl Crow on guitar? Oh forget her, hello Wayne!! This is the most MoR song I’ve heard for about a year. A bit Gary Barlow-esque by the time the second verse starts, but it just doesn’t quite have enough momentum. Nothing wrong with the song, or Wayne, or anything really, but it’s just a bit forgettable.
Sophie – Let The Sunshine In
She needs to dress her age! Maybe she just looks older than she is. Trying to emulate Gianluca’s brand of blunt-edged optimism but the song is nothing new. Crammed with happy cliches, ordinary rhymes and plenty of ohh yeaah whoaa yeah, and a heartbreakingly doomed attempt to get the audience clapping. Bless her for trying, but this song is so plain it makes me want to shut the curtains.
Ryan Paul Abela – City Lady
City lady? I like the connotation here, is she a prostitute? A cheesy disco throwback wasn’t quite what I expected though. It’s Malta’s answer to Josh Dubovie – likeable but fairly hopeless. He’s cute and smily but his voice is shaky as hell. This song is another load of old BLAH. In contrast to the previous song at least they remembered to throw in a few hooks and a key change, I guess that’s progress.
Christabelle – Lovetricity
Lovetricity? This sounds a bit more of a creative concept, for better or worse. She’s got props too. Quicker than quicksilver pouring through your heart of stone… WTF? At least this vague tribute to Chris Brown’s “Yeah x3” has a bit of energy, even if it too resorts to plenty of meaningless filler when it runs out of baffling similies. Everyone join in, “haa ohhh haa ooohh haaaa”. Slowly but surely these tracks are getting better. Slowly.
Jessika – Hypnotica
I’ve heard good things about this, and indeed it won the public vote, only for the jury to totally flush it. Those dancers! The drama! The synths! I love a bit of 90s dance, and while this definitely strays a little too close to “Euphoria”, this is definitely up my street. I’d have LOVED Malta to send this though, they are too fond of their gloopy ballads, and this would have done well I reckon. Bloody juries!
Franklin – Love Will Take Me Home
Oh well, on to the top half, and … a gloopy ballad, quelle surprise! A male Disney ballad by the sound of it. It’s a much more competent effort than any of the men we’ve heard so far. This at least feels like a ballad taken seriously, and his vocals are really good. Really dated, but really well executed. You know, this could have been a decent entry, though it would be a bit hit-or-miss.
Pamela – Take Me
Another ballad, but what a lovely performer she is. There’s a Karen Carpenter-ish tone to her voice, though the song is a bit more Disneyfied. This is actually pretty powerful, I thought it might be a bit twee, but it’s quite bittersweet. Saying goodbye to her love by remembering the good times they had. Ooh I got shivers at that key-change! This is really quite lovely, bravo! Malta are bringing it finally!!
Deborah C – Until We Meet Again
Top 5 time now, and is this a bit of Schlager? This is straight out of classic Eurovision, whether or not that’s a good idea. I can’t say I’m really feeling this. Deborah is giving it her best, but her voice just seems to be missing something, it’s a bit timid and – well it’s not in the wrong key – but she doesn’t sound that happy. Something’s just a bit off. It’s decent enough, but a bit of a comedown after the last three songs.
Amber – Because I Have You
Oh come on then, another gloopy ballad, shall we? Shameless use of home videos in the background. I feel this is another backwards step, it’s such an uninteresting ballad. She’s a good singer but relying way too much on vocal acrobatics, she can’t sing a straight note, it’s quite annoying once I noticed it. This is such a generic ballad, did they get this off the peg? Fourth place! WTF Malta!
Daniel Testa – One Last Ride
Hmm, what’s all this about? Annoyingly Daniel seems to be the male Amber, he can’t sing a note without showing off and doing that faux-soul voice that everyone does these days. Fortunately it’s a (Euro)club thumper with some fairly insane choreography. I feel myself zoning out a bit between choruses, but even the choruses aren’t THAT good. I can sort of see the appeal but it’s not quite working. I love the chemistry with the female dancer that he’s totally uninterested in!
De Bee – Pin The Middle
If Malta are waiting to save this final with a great winner, they are running out time, let’s see how the silver medalist goes. What the hell, Indian-tinged intro segues into a sort of Mamas & Papas sway-along bit of abstract music about appreciating the world around us. Very odd, so laid back it’s doing a yoga position with a bizarre rhythm. At least it’s something original. I still can’t tell if I like it or not, I could have seen it do well at Eurovision, or fall completely flat. No idea!
Firelight – Coming Home
Well, having shunned some amazing tracks and ranked them mid-table, I hope the winner was worth the wait. It’s certainly different to the pack at least, is this country? It’s got a nice pace to it, and it seems to have got the crowd going. Reminds me of David Gray or something. But at least it’s an original idea executed well. It perhaps wouldn’t have been my pick, but it’s a decent song. Hopefully it’ll be a grower.
Country is a bit of a gamble at Eurovision, it doesn’t often (ever?) pay off, and that sort of busking family band look didn’t do Takasa any favours last year (but that WAS Switzerland). Hmm. Not sure of their chances, as non-committal as it sounds, I’d give it 50/50, coincidentally Malta’s batting average at the moment. But it looks like they could carry off a good performance, and that counts for a lot.
Well that was an interesting selection – some of them dire beyond belief in their averageness, but some really great songs cast aside (Hypnotica, Take Me, even Brand New Day to a degree). I’m not convinced Eurovision will finally come to Malta next year, but whether I love the song or not, it would still be pretty special if it did.