My final post on the entries for Eurovision comes with a brief reaction to the results of semi final 1 last night. Which were entirely awful as far as my taste is concerned, five of my favourite six entries on the night, Iceland, Latvia, Finland (which grew on me with a magical performance), Montenegro and Albania were left out in the cold with only Moldova among my absolute favourites going through. In the meantime, songs I disliked like Australia and Sweden had no trouble. Portugal also, although that also grew on me to not totally resent it. Yet I believe, looking back over my posts, that I called most of these through being a bit non-committal with most of them and outlining reasons why they would fail. Indeed the only one I was sure was going through was Finland and I didn’t even like it all that much at the time I wrote it, the performance completely won me over so I don’t know what Europe was thinking.
But all of that aside, we need to make sure semi 2 goes a bit better than that, so in a move that will do absolutely nothing to change it, as I can’t even vote in this one, I’m going to present my opinion on the final entry of semi 2 I haven’t yet covered…. and the host entry.
Belarus – NAVIBAND – Story Of My Life
Otherwise known as HISTORIA (so it’s an Attack On Titan song), Story Of My Life is easily the sweetest song that Eurovision has seen for quite a few years. And certainly Belarus’ best entry ever, I feel comfortable saying that because what with alleged corruption in the national finals and very little in the way of songs either good enough to qualify, holding one of the less good records in the semi era with only four qualifiers ever, or good enough to make me notice them, they’ve often been somewhere towards the bottom of my rankings. Except Butterflies, that song was also very sweet. But Story Of My Life is far more rousing and therefore is better.
It is also the first entry sung in Belarusian. Ever. As the contest was moving away from English and given that Belarus were one of the countries who NEVER sent anything in their national language prior to this, I had almost given up hope. But thankfully, Naviband seem to have realised that the message comes across just as well sung in a language that only their countryfolk will understand, because the song’s happiness transcends all meaning. This has transformed it into an essential for me, uplifting folk-pop that talks about history and a ‘grand saga’ always being themes I love in music. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the contest this year. I also applaud the decision to change the title to ‘Story Of My Life’, making the general meaning available but without revealing the lyrics to a wider Europe.
It is always worth questioning Belarus’ ability to qualify and after the shock of many of my semi 1 favourites going out last night I am on edge about Naviband, but I have had it on to qualify for a while and I won’t be skittish just yet. It feels blase and pointless to say that ‘if that Cheesecake crap could qualify this will’ because I know people look for different things in voting but this will surely get a lot of love from both televote and jury unless they’ve all lost a sense of joy. Which is possible. A theory I have heard rumbling is that with the absence of Russia, all the normally limitless pro-Russia votes will start winging their way to Belarus as the closest to Russia left, in a similar way that Turkey’s non-qualification in 2011 might have helped Azerbaijan over the line (and then with the absence of Turkey, Turk diaspora stopped watching, explaining why they haven’t come close for a few years). Maybe that will help it, maybe it won’t, but it’s on towards the end of the semi and I will be praying that that will be enough to help it tomorrow night.
Ukraine – O.Torvald – Time
Finally, we come to the host nation, last year’s winners and one of the consistently highest quality and best performing nations in Eurovision, with many top 3s to their name in just merely over a decade in which they have been competing. For me, songs like Gravity and Dancing Lasha Tumbai have been really brilliant songs in studio and had wonderful performances on stage and are at the very centre of what makes Eurovision so great for me. And their winners have been even better, their second entry, the fantastically brash Wild Dances, was the best winner of the 21st century at the point it won, while Jamala still gives me chills and performing it in the semi last night was an excellent reminder of how great a moment that one winning was.
I am therefore very pleased that their host entry is also something really fun and to my tastes, though it might not be to that many of the traditional crowd of Eurovsion fans. As a host entry it reminds me of Turkey’s For Real from 2004, a big rock tune that gets rather popular through both being good and the awareness of where the contest is being held. So I think Time can do quite well if it’s performed well (obviously), but this is twelve years on from 2005 and rock has not been doing so well as a general music genre lately, so I don’t quite expect another top 5 for Ukraine. Rather, the guitar solos and epic feeling that O. Torvald’s talented contingent should net it a top half finish but nowhere near contention. And I’d be happy with that, I’d like it to not disgrace itself so that more rock can make its way into the contest, it’s far too rare these days and that it came this year in the form of an autoqualified entry was a glorious stroke of luck for me and and the two other rock fans of the contest. Outside of it being a rock song it is catchy and well constructed, all singing about time, with a gimmick of a clock counting down, it conveys the urgency that Ukraine must be feeling about this contest, and for that at least it’s earned a place in my Eurovision lyrical coincidence history.