Switzerland 2013 – Previewing the Schweizer Fernsehen Cattle Call

Switzerland’s selection process is ridiculously complicated in an effort to allow German, French, and Italian Swiss contingencies all to have their say.  A total of 9 songs will complete in the Swiss national selection on December 15, and each of the three Swiss broadcasters has their own procedures for identifying candidates.  RTS, the French Swiss broadcaster, opts for an internal selection for their 3 entries. RSI, the Italian Swiss broadcaster, assembles a short list of 7 songs and allows the public/jury to select 2. Schweizer Fernsehen (SF), the German Swiss broadcaster, hosts an international open call. This year, 180 videos were submitted, and a public online vote (open October 15-29) combined with jury vote will narrow it down to 4.

Available on SF’s website for viewing are all the videos submitted for their 4 spots. (UPDATED: SF has taken down its Eurovision 2013 site.) There’s a lot of variation in quality. Some are clearly demos while others are well-produced, and the video production values range from rank amateur to professional. We have surveyed as many as we could stomach and provide for you, gentle reader, this preview of highlights from the SF cattle call and songs to look for on Die Grosse Entscheidungsshow on December 15th.

Lys Assia ft NewJack, “All in Your Head.” Ms. Assia was the first ever winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, a fact she’s not about to let you forget. Last year, Ms. Assia competed in the Swiss national final with “C’etait ma vie,” a chanson that was five decades out of date. Well, the good news is that with “All in Your Head” she is beginning to catch up with the times. After all, 35 years progression in music history is a long way to go in only a year, right? Just 15 more to go! “All in Your Head” is a post-modern meshing of hip hop dance with Lys’s easy listening stylings. But how contemporary can one really expect it to be with a hip hop group called NewJack? The video is embarrassing, as Ms. Assia tries on sunglasses, grooves, and rides a skateboard with her homies. All the while she informs us that everything wrong with the world is “all in your head.” Laughably bad.

Los Angeles the Voices. The Dutch group Los Angeles the Voices (note: the name is presumably about angels, not Southern California) is a vocal band of 5 accomplished male singers including none other than Gordon Heuckeroth, formerly of De Toppers. This year LA: the Voices submitted two songs to SF in the hopes of one making the Top 4. “Change is Gonna Come” sounds EXACTLY like De Toppers’ “Shine.” No further information necessary. But “Wild White Horses” is epic. It’s De Toppers meets Bonaparte.lv. It’s glorious, it’s bombast, it’s completely over the top, and it just makes us happy. The video shows us Shadowfax running in a field and over mountains with Gandalf nowhere to be found. Because he’s running away free. Fire/desire? check.

Chiara Duvey, “Bella Sera.” After a 3rd place finish in the 2012 Swiss national finals, Chiara Duvey has teed up another Portuguese-style ballad for 2013. Swiss broadcasters have been all over this one. She submitted “Bella Sera” to SF for public pre-selection vote, but the song has also been selected by RSI, the Italian Swiss broadcaster, for their short list. Chances are we’ll be seeing her in the national final. With “Bella Sera” her vocal tone is once again lovely and pure, but the song is atmospheric and lacks the punch needed to stand out in a televote.

Maya Wirz, “Miracle of Love.” The “Susan Boyle of Switzerland,” Maya Wirz is a pop-opera singer, and Maya Wirz
“Miracle of Love” effectively showcases her pop classical stylings. This genre is not to our taste at all, but we recognize its commercial appeal. Wirz won Switzerland’s Got Talent in 2011, and thus has proved that she can get public votes. This song allows her to build in the right places and hit soaring high notes. She will be one to watch.

Magdalena Tul, “Give It Up.” Magda earned a lot of goodwill from the Eurovision faithful when she represented Poland in 2011 with “Jestem.” With the uncertainty of Poland’s continued participation in the contest, we were more than willing to give her the benefit of doubt in trying her hand with Switzerland. Unfortunately, “Give It Up” is not the song to go the distance. The verse is one musical phrase repeated over and over, and the chorus sounds like a deep cut from the Footloose soundtrack. Painful.

Melissa, “The Point of No Return.” Spanish singer Melissa Lopez was a runner-up in the 2011 Spanish national final, ultimately losing to Lucia Perez. This year she is trying her luck in the Swiss system. “The Point of No Return” is a contemporary Eurodance number in the family of “Jestem.” Melissa carries it off with sexy diva style. The video is among the more professional submissions on the SF Eurovision site. This is one of the few we’ll be looking to download.

Leo Ritzmann, “Make Love Last.” Winner of 2009 Popstars Du & Ich, Brazilian singer Leo Ritzmann is half of the duo Some & Any. A solo outing, “Make Love Last” is an R&B ballad with a Timbaland production vibe. It sounds like modern American R&B, but it feels overproduced and could be a challenge to carry off live.

Mariella Farré, “One of a Kind.” Mariella Farré previously represented Switzerland at Eurovision in 1983 and 1985. “One of a Kind” is a straightforward gay disco anthem, inoffensive but dated. One could imagine a seamless mashup with Euroband’s “This is My Life.”

Heilsarmee, “You and Me.” The “You and Me” video stars the militant wing of the Salvation Army on the world’s widest escalator. The song itself is a run-of-the-mill anthem for social change, but it’s an earworm.

Julia-Star, “You Lift Me Up.” This song checks all the boxes of the generic Eurovision power ballad. Build to a soaring vocal, key change, gospel chorus… Check, check, aaaand check. You still get stale ballads at Eurovision, and as we recently concluded in our jury analysis, the juries still eat this stuff up. 16-year-old Julia is an appealing singer, but the song feels a bit old for her, particularly as she’s running around in her video in a wedding dress. Moreover, to do well on a big stage, a song like this has to be belted, and Julia doesn’t compare with the likes of Pastora Soler or Nadine Beiler.