Eurovision · Music

Eurovision 2017 In-Depth: O’BENE (Belgium & The Netherlands)

Two countries who do a valuable job in making up the ranks for Western Europe, Belgium and The Netherlands have turned around their once poor fortunes in the Eurovision lately and are now some of the most forward-looking countries in the contest. I’m not always up with this forward looking mantra but sometimes, when I’m feeling in a good mood, it does agree with me.

Belgium – Blanche – City Lights

Previously on Eurovision, I have gone hugely against the grain with Belgium, I have thought they’ve been one of the worst and most overrated countries. In terms of musical ability of course, I’m fine with them being the imaginary country they are. But on their entries, the only one in the 21st century I truly love is Urban Trad’s Sanomi, for being quite ethereal and beauteous in its imaginary language. And that came within a couple of points of winning. The rest since has been a bit inept, particularly the depths of Witloof Bay and that large guy droning on about his mother. Until a couple of years ago when they started to follow current trends with Loic Nottet’s Rhythm Inside sounding like a male Lorde song. And I’m sure you’re expecting me to say I loved it like seemingly the rest of the Eurovision world. On the contrary, I absolutely hated it. While I like some similar songs, the beat, his voice and the whole feel of the track comes together in something very disjointed and unlistenable for me. So seeing everyone fawn over it kind of enraged me towards it, though I accept that it’s an innovative song, I really don’t like listening to it and consider it one of my least favourite Eurovision songs of the last few years. That continued with What’s The Pressure, an inept and weak knockoff of Uptown Funk that also got nearly everyone but me loving it. That started a trend for me so I wasn’t particularly keen to hear the Belgian song this time.

Though what I must say is that I really like the Flanders/Walloon alternating system that the Belgians use. This year is an odd year so it means it’s Wallonia’s turn and while they had some shaky years with Copycat and Witloof Bay, as much as I dislike Rhythm Inside, they’ve turned it around in the area of ‘polished’ entries. And it’s an internal selection. Which can go either way.

But City Lights is a Belgian entry I like, for the first time since 2013, when I did like Love Kills. I’m not counting it among my very favourites because I’m not as bowled over by this type of music as when I was younger, but it’s in the top half of entries. A midtempo pop song, it’s certainly captured some attention, with even some winner calls. What I like about is its slow, deliberate way in which it delivers its pop sounds. It could perhaps do with a bit more explosiveness but it certainly exudes quality and I’m on board with it doing quite well for Belgium.

But I do think this is being overrated just a tad in Eurovision fan circles. Semi 1 does seem quite short of true contender songs and that alone should see a wide appeal pop song like this through quite easily but I’m not seeing circumstances in which this wins to be very likely. Now it’s possible because of the unique nature of this year with regards to that, which I’ll cover when I get to Italy next time, but I’d say this is one of the less likely contenders among those that have been mentioned. It doesn’t have quite enough punch and on a stage where it has to get the audience’s notice (although I’m sure Belgium will have some notable staging) and the song won’t quite have the winning spectacle, although it is sure to score well with the musical juries, it is a very on point song as the Belgians and particularly Wallonia have shown themselves quite capable of lately. So I’m calling a midtable finish.

The Netherlands – O’3GNE – Light And Shadows

Now here we go with one of the more bipolar countries in the contest, as such, it’s so hard to predict, and this year’s entry is similar. My personal experience with The Netherlands, is not like my experiences with Belgium, more aligned with the typical Eurovision voter of late as my favourite entry of theirs recently, and my overall favourite of Eurovision 2014 as it turned out, was the beautiful Calm After The Storm, which launched them into a silver medal merely a year after they had qualified for the first time in 9 years. And that fixed them. I wouldn’t say all of those non-qualifiers deserved it, Sieneke and Hind spring to mind as unfortunate losses from the final, but they had been on a downward trend and it’s been so pleasing to see their 2010s rejuvenation with Anouk and The Common Linnets. Even Douwe Bob last year, though it was even more country/folk than those two and put the Netherlands dangerously close to being genre typecast did rather well for them, although I wouldn’t count it as good as those two.

And to an extent they’re continuing their country-pop ventures in Eurovision this year, although this is firmly more towards pop than the others, it still contains some choral elements that make it reminiscent of somewhere in the Deep South. I wonder what the connection is, beyond some sort of superficial coincidence, because the Netherlands on the main music scene is more famed for dance producers than anything else, though I suppose Eurovision gives the Dutch a chance to show off their home scene that isn’t exported.

Light And Shadows is a song I haven’t been paying that much attention to up to now, though listening to it now I can hear that it’s definitely strong and I think I prefer it to Belgium, if we’re doing a bit of neighbour rivalry in this post, though not by all that much because I’m not quite the person who this is targeting. The slightly gospel harmonies are really convincing, the girls work well together and some of the vocal flourishes make this more than just a standard girl pop song. It isn’t quite in the genre point where I really love my music, I’m not so much a fan of this sound most of the time but it’s an above average example of it, there feels some good power behind it.

And, also unlike Belgium feels like it could do something really special live, which is a reason to predict it to do rather well in the actual contest. I’d definitely put this as a qualifier for the Netherlands, they’ve shown lately that they can do well when they bring quality songs, and maybe even do something special in the final, they’ve been mostly on form lately so they’ll have no problems there. Like with Switzerland they have plenty of potential friends in their semi and that alone should see it through, Western countries certainly vote for each other when the song is good enough and I’m not convinced that’ll be the only area of Europe where it’ll be pulling points from. If The Netherlands get the staging and lighting right, for the girls to be standing together, powerful like in the video, the strong title of the song allowing for a good lighting motif, I’d keep a very close eye on this one, this could be quite the shadowed horse.

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