To say that we are thrilled that Hungary picked Kállay-Saunders András is an understatement. Long time readers of our blog will know last year Kállay-Saunders András’ retro Motown doo-wop number “I love my baby” was one of our favorite entries that didn’t make the Eurovision cut. Musically, this year’s song, “Running,” is a major step forward.
“Running,” at first glance, is a modern, radio-friendly R&B ballad. But there’s much more going on. The richness of chords from the piano (think Alicia Keys), supported by the solo vocal (“she cries, cries, cries, she’s all alone”), engage the listener in an impressionistic treatment of the impacts of child abuse. The presentation complements the lyrics. We see a teddy bear on the piano–at first you think it’s something quirky, but the image on the screen shows a child with the same teddy bear. Musically the changes in rhythm between verse and refrain put the listener off balance. The backing harmonies are dissonant. These songwriting conceits underscore the upsetting thematic material.
What’s interesting to us is that, thus far, reception to the song has been mixed. Part of his challenge is that Kállay-Saunders has favored introversion in order to keep the tone dark, respectful, serious. To succeed in Copenhagen, Kállay-Saunders needs to continue to work on connecting with his audience.
Born and raised in the United States, Kállay-Saunders András relocated to Hungary in 2012 after placing 4th in Megasztár, the Hungarian equivalent of Pop Idol. Since then, he has been signed to a Hungarian music label and has had several top 10 hits in Hungary. We don’t speak a word of Hungarian, but when watching in-language interviews his American accent is obvious even to us. We’ll be interested to see in weeks to come if European fans criticize his sound for being “too American” (a dig we’ve heard on other R&B numbers). Well, if it is, so be it, but it sure works well for us.
STRAY OBSERVATIONS: Since returning to the contest in 2011, Hungary has been making great song selections and is rapidly turning into one of our favorite countries in the contest. Last year, we said Hungary’s A Dal lacked depth. Wow, what a difference a year makes. This year, Hungary displayed an embarrassment of riches–the deepest, most competitive selection we’ve seen this year. What a joy it is to watch a country blossom.