With some reluctance I venture into another Eastern European national final, with a dozen tracks fighting for the ticket to Copenhagen and May’s Eurovision Song Contest. But fear not, this isn’t any old Balkan (not 100% sure if it’s a Balkan at all), its Romania!
You might not sound particularly excited by that, but Romania have a pretty solid record at Eurovision. The 90s weren’t good to them, with the relegation rule forcing them to sit out of every other final after poor results. But since 2002 they’ve been on a roll, and since 2004’s introduction of semi-finals, they haven’t missed a grand final; that’s something only Greece, Russia & Ukraine can boast (and Azerbaijan but they started late). Of that list though, Romania are the only nation not to turn that consistent success into a win. Could 2014 be their year?
A selection panel sifted the 150 entries down to twelve, and a 50/50 jury/televote split decided the winner, nice and simple this time. Though a little controversial as the televote winner received over half the total votes, but still didn’t win. A miscarriage of justice maybe? Let’s let the music talk.
Silvia Dumitrescu – Fiorul iubirii (The thrill of love)
I think ‘thrill’ is a relative term here, what strange styling. Is this Pink in 20 years? This would be quite boring if there weren’t so many things to get puzzled by; the half-dress-half-hotpant, the random rocky outbursts, Silvia just sitting on the floor for the climax of the song. Quite sweet, but… really?!
The Zuralia Orchestra – You Know
I’m not sure what sort of orchestra that is, with Mariah Carey in a top hat flanked by strippers, punctuated by a clarinet solo. There’s some sort of attempt at RnB, veering a bit too close to “My Neck My Back” for comfort, followed up by a roundhouse kick of amateur rap. Everything’s cool like a game of chess! Really strange, how is this happening?!
Naomy – Dacă tu iubești (If you love)
Oh that’s a tempo that makes my blood run cold, and that’s before I see and hear Naomy. A proper old-school ballad straight out of Ally McBeal. Naomy looks a bit draggy if I’m honest, but she gives the song plenty of welly. It would be quite nice if the song wasn’t so leaden and exhausting.
The dAdA – Unpredictable
Oh hello boys! Why is there a depressed magician on the side? It’s a fairly plain midtempo but at least the most contemporary thing we’ve had so far. The magician is an odd addition, is he just there for distraction? The rapping give the a bit of flavour and variety but this doesn’t quite get off the ground.
Șăl – Hardjock
I dread to think what “Hardjock” means, probably not what I think. That opening is interesting … just a gabbled mess, like I’ve phoned a fax line by mistake. It’s lively though, I’ll give it that. Rocky with a hint of traditional folk, I like these sort of blends in principle, but there’s something not quite there – it’s bright and busy but too dependent on the electric guitar that I’m not fond of.
Bere Gratis – Despre mine și ea (About me and her)
I like this plinky plonky intro, though I didn’t expect it to launch into an upbeat pop song with a tempo that reminds me of Katy Perry’s “Roar” in places. It’s got quite a lovely sound to it; a bit disjointed but there’s a subtlety about it that’s been missing from other entries so far. The last minute where the lady arrives gives some great harmonies though.
Renée Santana feat. Mike Diamondz – Letting Go
Oh lord… this is the Romanian Pitbull isn’t it? This has the makings of a “Fun for Europe” dancepop track though. Renée’s skirt is horrible, and Mike Diamondz is so shamelessly apeing Pitbull. As a rip-off I’ve heard worse, the Renée-vocalled bits are great, even if her outfit is terrible. Not a winner but a decent chart prospect (in Romania at least).
Ștefan Stan feat. TeddyK – Breathe
Which one is which? We’ve got a nice earnest little downtempo here, sounding like it should be written by Sia or something. A few of the harmonies don’t quite pan out, and while some of the moments are well-intentioned it feels like a performance that could have been polished a wealthier nation. Still, it’s got the sound of one of those Balkan duet ballads that the likes of Azerbaijan or similar would never make.
Anca Florescu – Hearts Collide
More pleasingly contemporary stuff, even if it’s the current trend for imitating the Motown days. Anca is a much more accomplished a singer than I’ve seen so far tonight. The dancers are a little erratic but they work well with Anca to create quite an engaging performance. Why is that guy sporting bare knees though? Yeah, this is the best song so far by a mile.
Vizi Imre – Kind of Girl
Third place goes to… oh dear, what is this? What the hell is this dire outfit in aid of? The song isn’t much to write home about, but I can see its appeal if you are into Cee-Lo at least. It’s not really my thing, and the song doesn’t make sense out of his appearance or props. One of the better performers certainly but I don’t care for the song.
Vaida – One More Time
The overwhelming winner of the televote here, but only second place. More interpretive dance, as Vaida sings a Waltzy ballad. She’s a great singer, though I’m not quite seeing the appeal for the song. I like it just fine, but a landslide winner? She sells it as a Eurovision entry, to her credit, though I’m not sure it has winner potential. But still, a great song.
Paula Seling & Ovi – Miracle
Well, look who it is! I believe this is our second act returning to Eurovision (after San Marino’s Valentina), and it’s the pair that gave Romania its joint best result back in 2010 when the glorious “Playing with fire” came third in Oslo. It’s sometimes not worth trying to relive past glories, but Helena Paparizou won in 2005, having come third in 2001 as part of Antique. On the other hand, Bulgaria failed to match their sole qualifer & 6th place result when they sent Elitsa & Stoyan again to Malmö last year.
The magic piano is back though! So is David Gest & Carol Vorderman, this time with a euphoric dance track, complete with an LCD prop that dwarfs the budget of all the other entries. Their harmonies are as strong as ever despite their endearingly odd-couple pairing.
Jesus, Paula’s still got the voice, displaying it with an eye-popping extended glory note. That is a moment! The song makes is a monument to basic dance-pop, but I’m totally on board after one listen, and that’s what counts. Well done Romania, you might be on to something here…