Brace yourselves, it’s time to see what Latvia came up with this year. I almost dare not look, Latvia might come up with a few corkers, but they are few and far between. 2012’s magnificent “Beautiful Song” was perhaps Latvia best song for ages, but it joined the large group of Latvian entries that never made it to the final.
It’s like someone flicked a switch in Latvia’s fortunes, who enjoyed residency in every final since their 2000 debut, until 2009. From then on, they’ve never even come 15th in a semi-final. Given most of the semi-finals are usually only about 17 entries, that’s a consistently awful record… forget San Marino & Montenegro’s attempts to finally qualify for a final, a good year for Latvia these days would just involve NEARLY qualifying!
That said, they somehow managed to WIN Eurovision back in Tallinn in 2002, is that potential still there? Goodness knows I hope so. Two semi-finals of 12 songs each contributed to a 12-strong grand final of selection show Dziesma. Then a 50/50 Jury/Televote decided the top 3 superfinalists, and a similar format decided the final winner, with the curious introduction of internet voting added to SMS voting, available to international viewers! Let’s see who the Latvians decided to send to Copenhagen…
Katrine Lukins – You Are The Reason
OK here we go… last place in a Latvian selection, brace yourself. Actually this isn’t bad, it’s a pretty girl singing … ooh that’s not the right key is it? Oops. There’s something oddly distracting about the twin drummers. This isn’t too bad, not a world-changer, but quite uplifting and pleasant. Just a shame she totally fluffed the vocals. I could see that fitting in nicely in Melodifestivalen!
Markus Riva – Lights On
Oof that’s a deep voice and a severe haircut. His lower register is really good, but the wheels fall off a bit for the chorus. But this isn’t bad, it’s quite a pulsing bit of midtempo dance pop. That backing singer in the bridge really works good. Another hit! A little lost in the performance but I’m quite enjoying it.
Apparently he dresses like THIS sometimes too… goodness me, that’s one to save for “Men of Copenhagen” eh?
Eirošmits – If I Could (Get Away)
WTF IS THIS!? This is taking hair rock to a bizarre extreme, though it’s more like the world’s worst ZZ Top tribute band with air guitar accompaniment. For all the horror, this is a pretty solid bit of dry country parody. Latvia’s strength are WTF moments (think the Pirates of 2008, or Aisha and Uncle Joe from 2010). Catchy and brilliant.
Niko – Here I Am Again
More dance pop, is this Latvia’s answer to Tooji? He’s wisely remaining motionless to keep his vocals in shape. Is this a lost Danny Saucedo track performed by Eric Saade? That probably tells you everything you need to know about how this sounds – functionally wonderful, upbeat but a bit too calculated. I like the Cylon backing dancers too. Well done Latvia, you’re on a roll. Schlager finishing move!! BAM!
MyRadiantU – Going All the Way
Things start to look a bit more dubious now, with a deathly dirge opening a happily quite midtempo bit of lite-rock. His vocals aren’t anything to write home about, and he’s a bit of a misery-guts, but the chorus is quite nice, bubbling with energy. A bit of a party pooper, but musically I quite like this too, once it gets going.
Katrīna Bindere – Moment and Tomorrow
Ooh I love that intro, what a curious setup. The verses are fairly ordinary but nice Disney ballad style, but the chorus sounds so… big. OK it’s nothing to get too excited about but there’s such warmth in the backing track and her pretty vocals.
Olga and Līgo – Saule riet
My bonkers-sense is tingling. Is this the first song actually in Latvian so far? I love a bit of folk-pop, and for all its old-fashioned visuals this basically an Avicii song, isn’t it? Olga has a lovely voice. Isn’t this a joy? Particularly that jaw-dropping middle-eight, sort of disco yodelling. Amazing. Latvia need to to win again based on this form, this is the strongest national final I’ve looked at so far!
Aminata Savadogo – I Can Breathe
That’s an interesting outfit… where is this song going? It’s a bit of an Amy Winehouse vibe, with a hint at some fembot action too. I love the frantic dance routine too, and the costume change – good lord this is a powerhouse performance! Bravo!
Ralfs Eilands and Valters Pūce – Revelation
This doesn’t look too promising, it looks like I’m about to be mugged. What a strange combination, a camera-hogging lead singer who … HANG ON!! It’s one of the singers from last year’s Latvian entry PeR! He’s a bit less optimistic this time, and he’s joined by some sort of mad guerilla cellist. WHAT is going on at the end!?! Jesus!! The cellist has some sort of violent outburst and destroys the instrument, and Mr PeR goes on a frantic rant in Latvian! How many WTF moments are we going to get tonight?!
Samanta Tīna – Stay
Third place now, and a wonderfully enunciated intro that quickly blossoms into a trance club thumper the likes of which haven’t been seen in their glory since about 2002. Those VOX!!! Amazing, I’m going into a disco coma as we SPEAK! She’s really occupying every syllable of those deep-toned verses isn’t she? I confess I can’t understand a lot of the words, but this is all fantastic. Seriously Latvia, have I slipped into a parallel universe?!
Dons – Pēdējā vēstule
Second place goes to… a very tidy looking young man. What a voice too, it ticks along a bit uninterestingly until that big note in the chorus. I suppose knowing Latvian might unlock some of the appeal here, but I love his voice and he’s nailing this performance. This feels like a G:Son rousing ballad, which can only be a good thing. I suppose I expected more of a climax, but still a nice track, even if I wouldn’t have ranked it 2nd place.
Aarzemnieki – Cake To Bake
I’ll be heartbroken if this is shit after such a brilliant final – it was a close-run thing too, Dons sealed the jury vote, forcing a tie with public vote-winning Aarzemnieki. The public vote prevailed.
I just sat in stunned silence watching the first minute of this. WTF!!?!! It’s a quirky folky pop song, is it a novelty entry, who can tell? It’s like a kid’s TV show song… but hot damn that’s catchy. I just hope he can tidy up those vocals. The backing harmonies are lovely, and if they get the staging and everything all sorted, I feel like this will at least sail through the semis.
It’s got a bit of a whiff of last year’s Malta about it – it treads the line between endearing and lovely, and naff, sickening rubbish. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt, and feel like this will end up being a proper ear-worm. I could sing it after the first 2 minutes, which is a great sign for the instant appeal needed at Eurovision.
So, will we be in Riga for 2015? I’m not convinced, but by rights this should be their first qualifier since 2008, and maybe even their first top 10 finish since 2005, which is nothing to be sniffed at.