REWIND: An American reviews the would-be Eurovision 2020 entries, Part 2

Daði og Gagnamagnið, Daði Freyr

Daði og Gagnamagnið. Courtesy.

It’s time for Part 2 of an epic American analysis of the would-be contestants in the canceled Eurovision 2020 competition!

The good news is there’s nobody as profoundly bad as Russia in this set. And in fact, Iceland is in here, and it always brings its A-game.

The bad news is this block is dense with boring romantic ballads by bland singers who only go by their first names.

If you missed Part 1, you can click these words right here to read it. It’s mostly terrible. But, like, in a funny way—sometimes.

Israel: Eden Alene – “Feker Libi”

OK, we’re coming in hot for Part 2! This is a good one.

In researching the competitors I discovered that, apparently, Israel has to recycle its singing competition contestants. Alene won the Israeli “X-Factor” in 2018, then “Rising Star,” another singing competition, in 2019. It’s impressive she’s got titles on two shows, but why’d the second book her?

Yes, the United States recycles reality show contestants all the time. Practically every season of “The Amazing Race” has “Survivor” or “Big Brother” contestants on it, because “appears on reality shows” is basically a career. But to my knowledge, we haven’t started recycling singers. Is someone missing an opportunity over there or is there just not a deep enough bench?

[Gokhman note: For what it’s worth, U.S. reality music series also recycles singers. On June 8, for example, you can watch Kylie Rothfield (of our own Bay Area) appear on NBC’s “Songland.” She previously appeared on “The Voice”].

Romania: Roxen – “Alcohol You”

There’s nothing particularly wrong with this song. It’s performed well, too. But it wasn’t going to win.

The sad fact is that in competitions, people are more likely to vote for something catchy and upbeat, a song that gets them moving, over this sort of slow, heartfelt song. Sure, this has a couple moments of impressive vocal power, and one memorable note can inspire someone to call in and vote, but overall, you’re better off if it’s got a catchy hook.

That said, the finalists in past “Eurovision” years have been the flattest, blandest, most boring songs, so what do I know? Maybe Europe just likes dull music.

Ukraine: Go_A – “Solovey”

See, this is what I’m talking about. This is a memorable song.

It’s utterly unique in the competition so far. It’s got unique instrumentation but fuses it with a modern electronic beat, and my love of folk music blended with modern styles is well-documented. Without the subtitles, I would have no idea what the vocalist is saying, but it’s still stuck in my head.

“Cleopatra” from Part 1 is better, but this song is written and performed in the same vein. What’s the point of an international competition if you’re just gonna try to replicate the least interesting American music? Show me what your nation’s folk tradition has to offer that the others don’t and I’m on board.

Greece: Stefania – “Superg!rl”

“Supergirl” is pretty good so, in lieu of jokes, here’s a couple trends this entry falls into:

This is the second “Junior Eurovision” alumnus to graduate to the main event. In this case, Stefania was a member of a girl group. It did not win.

This is the fourth artist to only go by his or her first name so far, along with Destiny, Ulrikke and Vasil. It makes sense in international competition since their last names are Liberakakis, Chukunyere, Brandstorp and Garvanliev, respectively.

Estonia: Uku Suviste – “What Love Is”

I can only assume Suviste doesn’t just go by Uku because it really wouldn’t help.

We’re back to oddly flat and unemotional male vocalists crooning out generic ballads, this time with candles on stage, to really drive home that it’s supposed to be romantic.

I’m fully expecting to get the most hate mail for calling this flat and unemotional since he looks vaguely like Zac Efron, so he’s probably got a legion of devout Twitter admirers who don’t care how bland he sounds. Well, you’re not gonna change my mind, he sounds like every other male vocalist.

Austria: Vincent Bueno – “Alive”

I’m not fluent in Spanish by any means, but I believe his name means Good Vincent. That may be pushing it. I’ll give him Decent Vincent.

The song is catchy, don’t get me wrong, and unlike Uku he uses a variety of tones and pitches to his voice. That’s a definite win. It’s absolutely in the top half. But is it better than truly distinctive songs that slipped through the cracks of the Eurovision Creativity Eliminator? Not really. But still… top half. Decent Vincent.

[Gokhman note: Just to clarify, the top Vincent is St. Vincent. Also, Decent Vincent is Austrian and sings in English].

Moldova: Natalia Gordienko – “Prison”

Shoutout to Gordienko for not just going by Natalia! You own that last name I can’t pronounce because I’m an American.

[Gokhman noteIf you can do Gokhman, you can do Gordienko].

Unfortunately the song isn’t particularly interesting. It’s well-sung, but it could have been written by an algorithm after feeding in the most popular audition songs for women on reality shows since 2010. It’s not unenjoyable while listening to it, but the second it’s over I can’t remember anything about it. It just leaves a void in your memory.

Say what you will about Russia’s entry, at least it stuck with you… forever… no matter how hard you try to get rid of it…

San Marino: Senhit – “Freaky!”

Her full name is Senhit Zadik Zadik, by the way. So that’s five.

You may not know much about San Marino, so some quick facts: It’s the oldest constitutional republic in the world, but only covers an area of 24 square miles, or about half the area of San Francisco, and has a population of about 33,500. It’s one of three countries in the world to be completely surrounded by another country, it’s only the fifth-smallest country, and it’s the only country to have more cars than people.

Also, this song is OK.

Czech Republic: Benny Cristo – “Kemama”

This would have been the sixth song on Day 2 of performances. All six of those songs are in English, and not a single one of the six nations has English as an official language. This still bothers me.

According to Cristo’s Wikipedia page, he opened for Pitbull. That, on the one hand, is impressive for a guy who got his start on a Czech reality show. The whole country only has the population of Los Angeles County. But on the other hand it’s Pitbull, you know? His whole career is shouting his own name and dancing awkwardly. Even I can do that.

Serbia: Hurricane – “Hasta la Vista”

OK, now we’re talking. Way to go, Serbia.

It’s in Serbian, for starters. It’s got an edge to it rather than the standard homogenized boredom. There’s an energy and a sense of fun rather than the standard mopey love ballads. The chorus and title are an ‘80s action movie reference. And, at the risk of getting all male-gazey, the video’s costume designer deserves a medal.

Things could change. Iceland is coming up, after all, and it’s got a history of being amazing, but this is a top-five song.

Poland: Alicja – “Empires”

Six. Her full name is Alicja Szemplińska.

Maybe it’s just because it followed something as awesome as Hurricane, but this song seems like the mopiest love ballad yet, at least through the first half. I know it’s been a long few years, but why are “Eurovision” singers and songwriters so depressed? Would it kill them to try an upbeat love song once or twice? Or maybe a song about something else?

I do appreciate the message in the video, though. It’s not exactly subtle but it works. Even if the lyrics aren’t actually for a protest song.

Iceland: Daði og Gagnamagnið – “Think About Things”

Finally we get to Iceland, the nation who gave us Hatari, the greatest thing to come from “Eurovision” since Lordi. And it does not disappoint!

I would listen to this band. In fact I will listen to this band. Everything about it is so great. It’s what people thought music in 2020 would sound like in 1983, and I am here for it.

The choreography is incredible. The weird seemingly custom synths are incredible. The shirts with 16-bit versions of the members’ faces are incredible. I need a shirt like that and I need it bad.

Can we just put Iceland in charge of music for a while? This country can be the new international tastemaker. Its population clearly has impeccable taste and we need this sort of thing more and more by the day.

Side note: Several would-be “Eurovision” participants held alternative contests with whichever of the entries they could round up. This song won in Austria, Austalia, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Because, like I said, this is the best.

Switzerland: Gjon’s Tears – “Répondez-moi”

With a band name like Gjon’s Tears, this could go two ways. Either it’s an awesome black metal band and Gjon is a Great Old One, or it’s an agonizingly sappy emo band and Gjon is the singer.

I regret to inform you that the singer is Gjon Muharremaj. They’re his tears. It’s very boring.

Our boy Gjon is an international reality show veteran. He came in third on “Albania’s Got Talent” at 12 years old, then got to the semifinals of “Switzerland’s Got Talent” the next year, then he got to the semifinals of the French version of “The Voice” just last year.

By the way, this counts. Seven.

Join us Saturday for the thrilling conclusion! We’ll cover the last chunk of Day 2, plus the six songs that automatically advanced to the finals for some reason! Will they have deserved the honor? Stay tuned to find out, but probably not!

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