Macedonia and Armenia go together because I already put Georgia and Albania and they are countries that have fairly colourful flags. Also, they’ve both suffered a lot in the past, and Macedonia in particular has had a fate that no country should suffer, they’ve qualified only once in the last nine years. Shall we open with that?
Macedonia – Jana Burceska – Dance Alone
As noted, Macedonia have had, quite quietly and unnoticed, given that their one qualifier happened right in the middle of their abysmal run so few people noticed, possibly the worst record of any Eurovision country. Twice, in 2008 and 2009, they came 10th in the semi-final but lost out due to the ‘jury choice’ rule in those years, in 2010 and 2011 they lost out with some rather interesting rock tracks that have opened my eyes to cool Balkan rock but not to many other people. In 2012, despite all odds, and I remember no one was predicting it to qualify either, Kaliopi, their original first entrant before she got knocked out in the 1996 pre-elimination round, saw her Crno I Belo get her country its second best result and by far its best recent result. Since then they have failed to make any kind of impression once again, including a return from Kaliopi last year, always sending an average entry that doesn’t stand out and therefore can’t make it to the grand final. So the big question for Dance Alone is… will it make it?
It hasn’t had a good start, being put on third in the semi now Russia has withdrawn, although it must be remembered that Kaliopi qualified in 2012 from the second position so that alone isn’t going to kill it. I’d say for my money that it is the strongest pop song of the first four songs and may stand out a bit but by the end of the semi it’s still a bit too low key to be remembered, if this does get through, it will be very narrow and although it is definitely Macedonia’s best entry in years, may not be the one to turn around their fortunes.
For me, as someone who likes airy female pop, this is one of the better offerings, even though this isn’t quite airy, it’s a bit more airy than lots of pop and those synths give a real nice feeling to the track. It’s not so stand out that I will remember it years down the line, I don’t think, but it’s certainly FAIRLY GOOD. That’ll probably be its downfall but Macedonia haven’t disgraced themselves this time either.
Armenia – Artsvik – Fly With Me
This is a really confusing one for me. I had just gotten used to Armenia being the most reliable Eastern-sounding nation with really cool, almost historical sounding, female pop. That sort of instrumentation, combined with the Armenian tones, there’s certainly an Armenian sound, more refined than Turkish or Arabic musical sounds, but definitely something quite different from European music on the whole. LoveWave, Apricot Stone, even the dubstep Not Alone, Armenia’s past entries, mostly rather good, are filled with this and Artsvik is no different.
But I’ve been having a bit of trouble acclimatising to it, and given it premiered right at the end, that was not an advantageous position for it to be in, Armenian delegation. But I have been aware of it as a possible grower, and that’s certainly what it’s revealed itself to be in the run-up to the contest so I’m glad I’ve left it near the end of my runthrough of all the tracks. It’s a lot more subtle than previous Armenian entries, relying on that instrumentation to build up to a slow climax that is almost over entirely too quickly. For a while I was holding out, in fact, even up until just before I was writing this I was prepared to slag it off but it’s finally won through to me just now and that sound is reminding me of all the other brilliant Armenian entries and I’d love to see this one do well too.
While in a bubble I’d say that that long grower status should see it straight out, there’s not much denying that this seems like one of the more safe qualifiers. Armenia will definitely have a good stage show for it and people will be paying attention to it as it goes up. It’s in a very advantageous position, between a rather dull Slovenia and a fairly forgettable Cyprus, I don’t see any situation where this isn’t qualifying. Once in the final, it will probably do averagely however, I don’t think it has quite enough impact to be flying quite as high up to the upper echelons as the writer who titled the track would like to think it’s going to.