The songs are coming in fast now, and a lot of national finals will be held in this weekend. Unfortunately I will be away between Thursday and Saturday, and I can not promise to catch up on the songs before Sunday at the earliest. So I have decided to look at the musical status of the forthcoming Eurovision as it looks so far.
One of the things I have noticed is the fact that we don’t seem to get a ballad year. In 2015 they counted for, well, about 40 per cents of the songs, but this time it seems to be different. The closest we get to a ballad is the Swiss song “The Last of Our Kind”. The ballad talk last year was a bit exaggerated by the way. Many people thought that most of the songs last year were ballads which is actually not true. There were indeed quite a lot of them, but apparently some people mistakenly understand the word ‘ballad’ as just the opposite of ‘uptempo’, namely as a term for a slow song. But a song is not necessarily a ballad just because it is slow. For instance the Belgian song from last year, “Rhythm Inside”, had a slow tempo, but it had very little to do with a ballad. To be a ballad – that is, in the modern sense of the word as we know it in popular music – the musical content also has to be sentimental, sometimes containing traces of folk music traditions (historically the term ‘ballad’ has had very different connotations, the word itself meaning ‘dance song’). This was a side step.
Another tendency is the fact that most of the songs are taking very few chances, and many of them represent a sound that has been heard before in Eurovision: The Irish “Sunlight” is quite reminiscent to Brinck’s “Believe Again” from 2009, the Icelandic “Hear Them Calling” contains echoes of several Eurovision winners from the last few years (also in its visual presentation by the way), “The Last of Our Kind” from Switzerland is not too different from the last Swiss entry, “Time to Shine”, containing a somewhat similar production sound, the Cypriot song “Alter Ego” is stylistically similar to some of the most recent Turkish entries, f.e. “Live it Up” from 2011, the Albanian song resembles their 2011 entry quite a lot, and the Bosnian entry is not really showing any new sides of the sound from that area. There is a certain amount of automation in many of the selected songs, and it seems that many broadcasters are playing it very safe – which is a shame because it makes the show less interesting.
There are however two songs that stand out from the bunch. One is the Georgian song that is held in an edgy rock sound with noise effects, and it seems that they care less about what they think people will vote for, and more about what they feel for musically. I am of course aware that this is a competition, but sometimes a song that no one believes in actually manages to do well anyway, maybe because it sounds a bit more honest. The Common Linnets is a good example of that.
The other stand out song is the Ukrainian one. It is not everyone’s taste, and as you could read in my review of the song, I have reservations towards it myself. However, it is a song that you will have to have an opinion about. You can not ignore it, and that itself is a positive thing.
That is not to say, that none of the other chosen songs are good. The Spanish “Say Yay”, for instance, is a refreshing soul/pop song with a good energy and a superb vocal performance even if it is by no means cutting edge in any way. But it would be nice with some more broadcasters thinking a bit out of the box musically.