May is 6 months away, but Eurovision season has already begun. Tonight the Swiss held Die grosse Entscheidungsshow, the first national final of the Eurovision 2012 season.
The Swiss national final turned out to be a microcosm of recent contest trends. Swiss televoters selected from a diverse group of entries that reflected Eurovision’s distant past, immediate past, and emerging present. In making their choice, Swiss voters were confronted by a set of philosophical questions about how they can best get votes from other countries, and by extension, what the contest should be: should it remind us of our shared Eurovision history? Should it reflect current music trends? Or should their song simply play to the least common denominator, such as by offering a pop ballad or an idealistic call for a better world? Tip of the hat to the Swiss, who this year decided to look forward. In selecting Sinplus, Swiss voters seem to have chosen the song that was most consistent with the emerging sensibilities of Eurovision voters, eschewing kitsch and sentimentality for commercial appeal. It’ll be interesting to see if the risk pays off for them in May. Here’s the first confirmed song for ESC 2012, Sinplus with “Unbreakable.”
The top 3 vote getters were Sinplus (#12), Ivo (#8), and Chiara Dubey (#3). Former, first-ever Contest winner Lys Assia (#13) finished 8th. This was our play-by-play of the 2012 Swiss national final, including our thoughts about the winning entry:
- Patric Scott feat. Fabienne Louves, “Real Love.” Amiable enough power ballad from two nubile youth who have found love. They really wanted you to understand their love has force. I don’t know how much I know about the ESC, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a good idea to enter a song that reminds us of last year’s winner (right down to the “oooh ooohs”).
- Emel, “She.” “She” features the Latin, flamenco backbeats we are accustomed to hearing in Red Shoe Diaries or other high budget porn. The performance featured plenty of seductive arm waving, but Emel’s wispy vocal made little impression and her poor sense of pitch didn’t help.
- Chiara Dubey, “Anima Nuova.” Foreshadowing Lys Assia, Chiara Dubey was another artist offering a strong homage to the past–in this case Cat Stevens and the folksy ballads of the ’70s. Portugal loves this kind of song. I enjoyed her pure vocal tone, but the poor dear was visibly nervous.
- Guillermo Sorya, “Baby Baby Baby.” Do people get paid to write these lyrics? What is this “Baby?” Guillermo attempted to bring Tom Jones’s stage presence while laying down a Prince-inspired R&B vibe. Sexy! I suppose the piece might have had impact if Guillermo been able to figure out what key it was in. I did enjoy the dissonant harmonies that accompanied the “Baby Baby Baby” refrain, and the steel drums in the arrangement almost redeemed it. Unfortunately the most entertaining part of the entry was the intro segment where we learned he made a video where he was in bed with a camel. Other than Sinplus, this is the only one we anticipate watching again, due to its glorious awfulness.
- Macy, “Shining.” Macy has an ’80s, post-punk vibe using a guitar/synth mix similar to the Killers. I didn’t have a huge issue with their contemporary yet accessible rock song. However, we were underwhelmed by lead singer Cyril Mauderli’s indistinctive voice and pathetic vocal. Wardrobe cautionary tale: No rock singer looks credible in a teal polo shirt.
- Sosofluo, “Quand Je Ferme les Yeux.” The Swiss-French dialect translates to Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Sadly, this was the best vocal so far on the evening.
- Atomic -Angels, “Black Symphony.” They’re not No Angels, but they were pretty close. The low point of the night.
- Ivo, “Peace and Freedom.” A heavy handed anthem that does what it says on the label, complete with gospel backing harmonies. I could have gone without the images of Martin Luther King and Gandhi in the background, but a part of me would have loved to see Switzerland handing out a big FU in Azerbaijan. The first plausible candidate on the night, and indeed it eventually did finish in the Top 3. Just back from Occupy Zurich, Ivo tragically had no chance to wash his hair.
- Ze Flying Zezettes Orchestra, “L’autre.” In the interest of promoting global communities, the band invited an Incan pan flutist to join in. They were doing South American folk music sung in French, and I really didn’t know what to make of it. Their sound was pleasant, but I had a hard time imagining an appropriate venue for this band. Certainly not the ESC. More like street artist at Downtown Disney.
- Raphael Jeger, “The Song in My Head.” Ok, picture Alexander Rybak, but a massive douchebag. Rybak is a douchebag, you say? Douchier. This song was paint by numbers and evocative of the worst imaginable Danish entries.
- I Quattro, “Fragile.” Because pop-opera worked so well for France last year. Il Divo isn’t our thing, Il Divo knock offs aren’t either.
- Sinplus, “Unbreakable.” We liked this song. Alt rock with some intense energy, a compelling front man, and a good hook. I just hope The Bravery doesn’t sue. Maybe Sinplus can use the Eurovision platform to get their music featured on Gossip Girl. I suppose we should root for these guys because they got their start in the San Diego music scene. An interesting choice for Swiss voters, because it’s really current and not what would I would have thought was Eurovision appropriate. But these days who knows what’s Eurovision appropriate?
- Lys Assia, “C’etait ma vie.” Going in we wondered if Swiss voters would jump at the chance to send the ESC’s first ever winner back to Baku. After all, shouldn’t attention be paid? To her credit, for an 87-year old, Lys (note: or should we be using the formal Ms. Assia?) was in excellent voice. Unfortunately, if this song were sung by anyone else we would dismiss it as a dated ballad from the French Riviera or Monaco during Grace Kelly’s days. We moved past this style of music 30 years ago.
- Katherine St.-Laurent, “Wrong to Let You Go.” Generic modern pop ballad from a former Canadian Idol contestant. It was heartfelt and had a key change in the right place. You couldn’t be safer if you used a condom.
Another thing we learned thanks to Die grosse Entscheidungsshow: Berberis is sold by spice vendors on the streets in Baku. Berberis = Zereshk (Iran) = dried barberries. Try it with chicken! Here’s a recipe.