REWIND: An American judges the Eurovision 2021 losers

Jendrik, Eurovision 2021

Jendrik performs during the second dress rehearsal of the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on May 17, 2021. The Hamburg artist represents Germany. Photo: Soeren Stache/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa

Good news, everyone! The Americans are here. Well… one American is here, but one American is all it takes.

In 2019 (and again, sort of, in 2020), I offered my services as a representative of the world’s tastemakers to tell you what to think of the year’s “Eurovision” entries. Because, let’s face it, the United States is the global arbiters of good music. All the best musicians came from here, from the Beach Boys to Metallica to Tupac Shakur. And acts unfortunate enough to be from overseas, from the Beatles to BTS, came here to seek our approval to make it big.

Unfortunately, Europeans hated it. They hated it a lot. I periodically get trolled on Twitter to this very day. Fortunately, if there’s one thing Americans are good at, it’s knowing when foreign countries don’t really mean it when they tell us to leave.

Anyway, I just now noticed you people are doing this again, so it’s time to put on my Uncle Sam hat, steel myself for an endless stream of identical-sounding English-language ballads and explain to you poor souls what you’re doing wrong. Today, we’ll go over the 13 losers who got axed from the semifinals. Then tomorrow, before the finals, we’ll go over the… hold up, the 26 finalists? Twenty-six? A full two-thirds of the entries make it to the finals? What is this, the NBA?

(Sorry, for the Europeans reading this, the NBA is a basketball league. And basketball is like… what weird second-tier sports do you play over there… it’s like quidditch without brooms, with only one hoop per side, and without a snitch of any metal.)

Slovenia: Ana Soklič — “Amen”

This one is… OK. It’s not the worst “Eurovision” song I’ve ever heard, but it’s also roughly half of all “Eurovision” songs I’ve ever heard, so I can see why it would get the axe. It was the second song performed in the competition, so by the time voting started, everyone probably forgot it existed.

You know when you were a kid, and you asked your mom for Dr. Pepper, and when she came home from the store she brought Dr. Wow or Dr. Choice or something like that? This is like if you asked your mom for Adele and she came home and said, “What’s wrong with Ana Soklič? It’s the same thing and I’m not made of money.”

Australia: Montaigne — “Technicolour”

I can’t believe I have to explain this to you people again: Australia is not in Europe. It’s not even in the same hemisphere as Europe. No wonder she didn’t move on; she probably showed up at the competition by mistake. She could’ve sworn she booked a ticket to “Oceaniavision,” and they felt bad so they let her sing anyway.

The song isn’t bad at first. I mean it’s not great or anything, but it has character and flair, and the singer doesn’t look like she was manufactured in a factory to be a middling-to-forgettable pop singer. But then we get to the chorus and… look, Montaigne—can I call you Montaigne?—I’m not sure who told you what, but if your voice cracks, that’s bad. It’s not a vocal style, and it doesn’t belong in the chorus.

Also, the performance in the video is on a cricket pitch. This is why I had to explain basketball to you; you’re always playing made-up sports in “Europe.”

North Macedonia: Vasil — “Here I Stand”

Like our boy Vasil says in the interview that inexplicably precedes this music video, most of the competitors in “Eurovision” 2021 were supposed to compete in “Eurovision” 2020, including all three so far. That’s why I’m focusing on the songs rather than the artists. That said, check out last year’s entry for Vasil’s very interesting life story. He’s been through a lot, and I’m glad he got to perform.

And the year off helped! This song is slightly better than his 2020 entry. I haven’t actually listened to any of the finalists yet—seriously, I don’t research these at all before passing snap judgment—but I guarantee this is better than at least half of them. Which, unfortunately, doesn’t speak to the quality of the song so much as the quality of “Eurovision.”

Ireland: Lesley Roy — “Maps”

Oh come on, Europe (and, for some reason, Australia), what are you even doing?

This is not a song I’d sit and listen to on purpose. But unlike most other “Eurovision” entries, it’s a song I can listen to without my mind wandering and recalling all the mistakes I made in my life to get to the point where I have to listen to it. It’s a pretty good pop song! But I guess it doesn’t reach the lofty standards of ABBA.

Croatia: Albina — “Tick-Tock”

I was disappointed that this isn’t a cover of Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok,” but I’ll try to recover. I’m kidding; no I won’t. I’ll hold it against her for this entire entry.

This is actually a different artist than was supposed to perform in 2020. Presumably, there’s a story behind it but I don’t care enough to check. And this is better than last year’s entrant: It’s decently catchy, largely inoffensive and not to get too shallow, but Albina is just ludicrously attractive.

On the down side, it sounds like the music in the background of a nightclub scene in a low-budget movie. The sort of thing that sounds vaguely like club music, has little to no royalties attached and isn’t so good or distinctive that it intrudes on the scene. So she’s got that going for her—a future in incidental music! That’s something!

Romania: Roxen — “Amnesia”

Please sit down, Roxen. No, don’t leave, we’re your friends. We’re just trying to help you.

This is hard to say, but… you’re not Billie Eilish. Please, don’t make this harder than it has to be, someone had to tell you. You’re just not. You can dye your hair, you can perpetually look bored and tired and you can make your best effort to whisper-sing verses, but that doesn’t make you Billie Eilish. It’s OK; almost everyone else isn’t Billie Eilish either. It’s best if you just accept it.

Estonia: Uku Suviste — “The Lucky One”

Uku Suviste looks like one of the contestants on The Bachelorette. And not one of the likable or even memorable ones either; one of the ones who has incredibly, depressingly dull interests, gets kicked out early with a minimum of fanfare and goes on to have a short and mediocre career in real estate.

Tell me it’s not uncanny how much he’d fit in with those four guys in that tweet.

As for the song, it probably exists, too, but I already forgot what it sounds like while I was looking for that tweet to embed.

Czech Republic: Benny Cristo — “omaga”

Don’t worry, the name isn’t short for “O, MAGA” or something like that. Apparently, it’s a contraction of “oh my god,” which seems more complicated than it had to be. Just call the song “Oh My God” to match the line from the chorus.

Anyway, I think this song lost because of the music video. Hear me out: The premise of Benny and his pretend girlfriend traveling through TV may sound novel, but in practice it’s just a bunch of lazy references to movies and shows. But that’s not the really egregious part. What really sealed his fate is that, in the scene where he’s laying on The Simpsons’ couch, the donut he’s eating has blue frosting and pink sprinkles rather than pink frosting and blue sprinkles.

I’m sorry, I should have put a trigger warning on that. I know Simpsons-related errors can be traumatic for many of you.

Austria: Vincent Bueno — “Amen”

No, that’s not a typo. Good Vincent’s song is the second loser in the competition titled “Amen,” which had to have been embarrassing for both him and Ana. It’s like showing up to the party and seeing someone in the same dress, but rather than a dress, it’s the same word melodramatically bellowed in the chorus of your song.

I’m actually a little surprised this one didn’t advance. Not because it’s good but because it’s not. It’s the blandest, most generic song I’ve heard from the competition yet, and usually that’s a recipe for “Eurovision” success. Europeans love blandness! Based solely on “Eurovision” winners I assume beige is scandalous in Europe for being too flamboyant.

Poland: RAFAŁ — “The Ride”

We have another replacement. RAFAŁ is in for Alicja representing Poland, where apparently nobody has a last name.

RAFAŁ looks like the spoiled rich kid villain in a teen movie. Picture Elon Musk’s 20-something son threatening the kids in a youth center because they won’t leave so his dad can turn it into a parking lot; that’s RAFAŁ. And don’t even get me started on the sunglasses! Corey Hart took one look at RAFAŁ and said, “Dude, come on. That’s just unnecessary.”

It wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t look like such a weenie, too. He’s easily one of the top five whitest men I’ve ever seen. And he thinks he’s so cool! But he’s not!

Oh, and the song is decently annoying. Not a fan.

Georgia: Tornike Kipiani — “You”

In the 2020 edition I described Kipiani as “the rare male ‘Eurovision’ singer whose voice conveys an emotion other than vaguely romantic longing.” He apparently read that, took offense, and stripped literally any emotion out of his next song except romantic longing.

This is one of the most boring songs I’ve ever heard.

Go ahead, try to listen to it and stay awake. You can’t! It’s so boring. Not only did I nearly fall asleep listening to it, but the dog fell asleep before it ended. The dog is literally snoring next to me on the couch right now; it’s amazing.

Latvia: Samanta Tīna — “The Moon Is Rising”

I’m concerned that Samanta Tīna thinks she’s Black, because she’s not. She makes RAFAŁ look like Chuck D, so a significant chunk of this music video is a bad look.

Anyway, awkward cultural appropriation aside, the song isn’t too bad. It makes me think of “Bad Moon Rising” which is objectively better in every way, but it’s not terrible. It has character, it has an upbeat vibe and it doesn’t make me want to jam pens into my ears point-first, which puts the song in the top half. So of course it didn’t move on.

I’m legitimately excited to see what trash made it to the Finals while songs like this got cut. I’m gonna be so mad!

Denmark: Fyr & Flamme — “Øve os på hinanden”

I regret wasting my one free ABBA joke earlier.

This song still wouldn’t have been any good in 1981, but at least it would’ve been appropriate for 1981. This song is so ’80s that the top marginal tax rate just dropped. This is so ’80s that, somewhere, Molly Ringwald’s ears are burning.

One thing I will give to them: This is the very first song of all the losers to be sung in the actual language of the European nation it’s representing. Australia obviously doesn’t count because it’s not European.

Be sure to be back tomorrow, when I do this again but for twice as long! Somebody kill me!

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