Romania and Moldova are the party children of Eurovision, regularly coming up with outlandish and weird new concepts, almost always something fun – name any of the most memorable party songs from Eurovision lately and there’s an above average chance that it’s been from one of these two. And they’ve certainly not disappointed this time around, with one of the easiest and most appropriate compound titles I’ve found.
Romania – Ilinca & Alex Florea – Yodel It!
Yodelling is not part of Romanian culture. As far as Europe goes, it’s mostly an alpine tradition, found in Bavarian, Austrian and Swiss cultures. But it’s not unlike Eurovision to take unexpected cultural sequences and appropriate them for use in their songs. And while a song that is based around yodelling is much more un-Romanian than the vampiric falsetto singer they sent a few years ago, it does provide the fun element that so many Romanian entries have in their songs. Additionally, there is a Swiss connection, this song was apparently originally written for Timebelle, which is a Swiss band with Romanian members, Switzerland as usual not above hiring pop mercenaries to aid their ailing fortunes. So regardless of what happens, perhaps we’ll see a bit of a points exchange between Switzerland and Romania this year and that’ll be nice, to bring two non-neighbouring countries closer together.
On Romania’s past entries, I’ve only occasionally been interested, when they do provide the fun and last year, which was my favourite Romanian entry ever and favourite of the entire contest before Romania got removed – and that incident soured me a little on Eurovision that year before a thankfully wonderful winner brought it all back.
Anyway, it’s somewhat of a shame that Timebelle didn’t take this song for Switzerland, as it would have been a far more interesting entry and would have stood far more chance of qualifying. As it is, it will just add another qualifier to Romania’s long list of qualifiers, as one of only two countries in the semi-finals this year to have never failed to qualify after Russia’s removal, Greece’s non-qualifier last year and Ukraine’s autoqualification, only Azerbaijan stands with Romania this time. Which is good, it’s always nice seeing new countries make it through but there is almost no chance of this being Romania’s first non-qualifier, and given its uniqueness and , I wouldn’t rule it out of being in the top 10 once all is said and done.
As for the song itself, I was initially sceptical that it’d just be a gimmick song and didn’t pay it much mind but repeated listens have had it worm its way into my life and the duet between a surprisingly talented yodeller and a somewhat trashy rapper has a real charm to it, especially as it builds to that climax. I was originally not supporting it but I’d be very much up for this providing some fun on Eurovision night.
Moldova – Sunstroke Project – Hey Mamma
I was a huge fan of Moldova around 2012 to 2014, they were one of the strongest countries back then for me and had a pretty good qualification record going too. Pasha’s Lautar was a huge trumpety track, O Mie turned out to be, after being announced last, the best ballad of 2013 and the best track of 2013 bar none, as well as the latest Eurovision track that I loved enough to make it into the top 10 of my personal year, I had so much of my life based around that beautiful track in 2013. Wild Soul the following year was also great, filled with dark and foreboding pop goodness, but sadly that came last in its semi for whatever reason. Since then Moldova has struggled to get a qualifier, and the poorest country in Europe is now also one of its longer-suffering Eurovision nations, although after Wild Soul, the quality fell.
If you have been on the Internet in the past decade, you may remember a certain ‘meme’ of a saxophone player producing a catchy riff and dancing. Dubbed Epic Sax Guy, of course. That’s a funny meme. But it’s even better for me because that originated from Moldova, from a Moldovan Eurovision entry, their entry in 2010 – coincidentally, the very first Eurovision that I watched. Run Away, that song, is still one of their best entries and Moldova’s a small country so it’s with great pleasure that I can say that Sunstroke Project, the band behind Run Away that features that saxophone player in their lineup, will be representing them in Eurovision again.
It is somewhat surprising, given the success of this meme that this hasn’t been tried sooner, with recognition, surely this would be something that Moldova could really capitalise on. And it’s not for lack of trying, Sunstroke Project were in the national final in 2015 in recent years, but would finish third to a Ukrainian young millionaire who bought out SIM cards because democracy is still alive and well in Eastern Europe. Though to be fair they tightened up the process in recent years by only allowing Moldovan acts, who obviously aren’t millionaires. That’s a friendly joke. I like Moldova, really, they have a crazy taste in music.
Musically, Hey Mamma has more in common with Moldova’s more crazy entries, courtesy of Zdob Si Zdub, than it does with Run Away, thanks to lack of a female singer this time around, as well a slightly less essential base instrumental line. But it’s still heavy on the sax and is a fair good party tune, I don’t think it’s quite as good as Run Away but it’s certainly not bad and I’d love to see Moldova doing well again so I’m very much in support of this – and I want to see what the internet will think of the return of epic sax guy so this is an essential qualifier for me for more than one reason.
On their chances, they had a good qualification streak before a few years ago but recent years puts a bit of doubt over that. However, it was easy to skim over those entries, it’s not easy to skip over this. They don’t have Romania which is a blow, more so than it is the other way around, but they do have the UK, which might be a good thing, I do often expect my place to reward these kinds of songs, even though there’s no real evidence to suggest that’s the case. I think Hey Mamma certainly can qualify and as things stand, I am expecting it to sneak through as Run Away did and take up a decent slot in the final without making much impact on Saturday bar something to get drunk to. But semi 1 is going to be tight, the juries aren’t always kind to fun songs and this is worse than Run Away, it’s not a sure thing. What will help is that it will wake people up after Poland and if any party groups are watching the semis, this is what they’ll gravitate to. They’d better have a good stage show, I think they’re going to need it.