The rehearsals have started, so here are two countries in semi 2 who haven’t started rehearsals yet because I don’t work that way.
Hungary – Joci Pápai – Origo
Hungary have been a rather quietly successful country of late, they currently hold one of the longest qualification streaks, all through sending songs that will appeal just enough to get through to the final and then not do a whole lot beyond that… for the most part, while they have had a hit in this run, it was not all that memorable, being a fairly unethnic pop song, anyone remember Running? I liked Compact Disco but it hasn’t held up that well, while last year’s Pioneer was probably one of the most interesting because of the singer’s voice. Two of their entries in this run have included Hungarian as a language, one, a fan favourite that I personally found a bit overrated in What About My Dreams, and then a rather indie-esque song that nevertheless made it to the top 10, Kedvesem. Origo shows that Hungary are to be counted among the countries that haven’t completely given up on their home language again and given they’ve found success with it recently, hopefully they can do so again.
Origo is probably the most Hungarian-ethnic sounding song they’ve sent for a good while, maybe even since the thunderous folky Forogj, Világ! back in 2005 – and that’s probably my favourite Hungarian piece. Origo isn’t quite as upbeat as that but all the different dark and Eastern sounding songs flowing through the song, this is asking for a good set of imagery to go with it and I’m sure it’ll be quite the lovely experience at Eurovision. I’m not counting among my absolute favourites again as tends to be the case with Hungary these days but it’s certainly fairly good and would be another good one to extend their streak.
Will said streak come to an end though? It’s a song that’s much more likely to get the Hungarian voters at home interested, but not so much abroad. As much as I don’t like this trend as it only leads to cultural homogeneity and the whole contest becoming a showboat for faceless pop songs (hi Sweden), that means Origo may not have much reach out. Kedvesem survived by sounding very much like a Radio 1/real music pleasant midtempo, so appealed to lots of bases, I’m not sure this will have quite the same reach. Hence I have it down to be narrowly missing out, which seems brave for a country with such a good record, but none of their songs in recent years have felt so unlikely to reach an international audience. I hope this isn’t the case, but I don’t see Origo in the final.
Bulgaria – Kristian Kostov – Beautiful Mess
On precisely the opposite end of the scale, we have Bulgaria. It’s at that opposite end for two reasons, it is that sort of modern pop I’m always hoping the contest isn’t going to get infected with and it comes from a country with a history of not doing so well, through sending more ethnic and daring entries in the past.
I think it’s an unpopular opinion but Bulgaria have been recently one of my favourite Eurovision countries. Of course I loved Poli Genova last year as everyone else did but I also loved her previous entry, the Bulgarian-language Na Inat, I loved Sofi Marinova’s insane Love Unlimited, I loved both Elitsa & Stoyan entries hugely, the towering Water most of course but Samo Shampioni was also strong. They deserve to have had far more than two qualifiers, although it does give them a nice ‘top 10 or bust’ run at the moment.
And I think that with Beautiful Mess, that will continue, it has everything down about what’s current in chart music, it’s slightly tropical, to take advantage of that glorious underused hot genre of tropical house, has a few slightly ethnic touches to make it known where he’s from, he’s got a voice that sounds quite Bieber-esque, or at least interchangeable with someone who’s setting the charts alight now, it’s set up to get a slavering from all juries, and probably from the public who’d happily stick this on a background playlist on Spotify all day long. In fact, Eurovision should probably do a last minute introduction of app voting to make sure he wins, it would get it a lot of street cred amongst youngsters. He’s pretty too, which I don’t care about but the public sure will. It could be a worldwide hit in 2017 and that’s why I actually think it’s this, rather than Italy, who’ll go and take the title. Bulgaria have really stepped up their game since their return and have gone from being the whipping boy to a huge presence in Eurovision.
Thing is, I don’t like it. You might have guessed that from my slightly sarcastic paragraph above but this represents everything that is wrong with current music for me today (and for reference, I’m only 23, old enough to not be the inexperienced type who says ‘I was born in le wrong generation music before I was born was so much better’, but not old enough to have legitimately lost touch with modern music, I was right on trends until about 2 and a half years ago, now I’m just occasionally on trends), even though it’s almost certain to be popular. It is so, so, boring. It has this moment where it seems like it’s going to lift into something good, but it doesn’t and just stays at the same level. It is safe, background music that I will probably forget in a heartbeat. What’s even worse is that the title Beautiful Mess promises so much fun, but this is not fun at all, it is dreary, and the fact that most reviewers, juries and the public will fawn over it thinking those same basic things that I wrote in the paragraph above entirely without irony makes me hate it even more. Admittedly, the song itself is growing on me since it first premiered through naturally hearing it more, but it’s never going to be something I really like, and in fact, I still don’t like it at all. I’d compare it to Frans last year except that at least ended up having some joy at the end, eventually I came round to enjoying the song a little bit because there’s nothing all that wrong with it musically, but there’s nothing exciting or right with it either, but the fact that this is what popular music has come to makes me hate the idea of it and by extension the song. That he’s a little young whippersnapper with basically no life experience doesn’t help matters, seeing him win over artists who have had long careers of struggling to get noticed would not feel great. I have predicted it to win but I will be very disappointed if it does so, for such a unique Eurovision country as Bulgaria to get a win the first time they sellout, that would feel awful. Sorry Kristian. If you return when you’re like, say, 23, with a much more exciting song that doesn’t feel like you’re a knockoff Bieber trying to get teen girl’ panties wet with your dull warbling, then I’ll support you.