So 2016 is turning out to be a rather interesting year. A balanced year, it would seem, without a clear front runner. And looking back at our favorite songs that didn’t make it out of the national finals, rarely can we say we had a big problem with what went through instead. The exceptions are, however, quite glaring (ahem… Iceland, Denmark). Here’s our curated assortment of the best of the rest.
Estonia: I Wear* Experiment – “Patience”
This post-punk masterpiece builds as successfully as Mission UK’s “Tower of Strength” (quite an accomplishment in only 3 minutes). Lead singer Johanna Eenma’s piercing vocal is also a standout for us. Sadly, it was not a standout for the Estonians. “Patience” finished a mediocre 6th.
Estonia: Mick Pedaja – “Seis”
Mick delivered a haunting, beautiful performance at Eesti Laul this year, enhanced with an artistic visual design. The juries placed him 2nd, but Mick did poorly with Estonian voters and ultimately had to settle for a 4th place finish. “Seis” remains an excellent choice for night owl listening.
Finland: Annica Milán & Kimmo Blom – “Good Enough”
Euro-fans may remember Kimmo Blom from UMK 2015. Last year, under his alter ego Angelo de Nile, Kimmo gave us a WTF moment with “All for Victory,” complete with centurions, fire, and Pontius Pilate costuming. This year we saw a kinder, gentler Kimmo Blom at UMK. He teamed with Voice of Finland alum Annica Milán for a duet guaranteed to raise your self-esteem. “Good Enough” was, in our opinion, way more than. It finished 5th.
Finland: Stella Christine – “Ain’t Got Time for Boys”
Now, this song wasn’t a fit for Eurovision, a fact which everyone in Finland seemed to recognize. Stella Christine finished 8th on the night. That said, she gave us some serious Brand New Heavies vibes, and we rather enjoy the Brand New Heavies. Props, too, for her off-the-hook backing singers.
Hungary: Gergo Oláh – “Gyoz a jó”
A Dal was firing on all cylinders this year. You know it’s a good year in the Hungarian national selection when András Kállay-Saunders is in the final and doesn’t make our cut. “Gyoz a jó” was hip hop with Middle Eastern influence. The live performance had memorable imagery with desert sand dropping from the ceiling. Oláh finished 2nd with the judges.
Hungary: Petruska – “Trouble in My Mind”
Behind Petruska’s lighthearted folk melody were some haunted lyrics. I much prefer to be fed social consciousness with upbeat melodies. “Trouble in My Mind” is reminiscent of the best songs Moldova has sent in the past. Petruska finished 4th with the judges.
Iceland: Elísabet Ormselv – “Á Ný”
Greta Salome had two songs in contention in Iceland this year. We’ll be seeing her in Stockholm with “I Hear Them Calling,” but we believe her better work was left in Iceland. “Á Ný” was a soaring, minor key ballad–red meat for any skilled singer. Elísabet Ormselv and her Adele-inspired vocals sold it like a boss. For reasons beyond our comprehension, “Á Ný” finished last at Songvakeppnin. We are still upset about it.
Spain: Salvador Beltrán – “Días de Alegría”
Salvador’s live vocal at Objetivo Eurovisión started off like Tom Dice on coke, a mellow singer-songwriter joint with a melody that was bouncing off the walls. You needed to stick with it, because “Días de Alegría” finds its groove at the 1:00 mark. It was chockfull of toe-tapping Latin rhythms and infectious energy, and by the time we got to the trash can drum breakdown and key change, I was grooving right along doing my chest isolations. Salvador’s song won the international jury. Too bad the Spanish voting public and in-studio jury didn’t see what we saw. It finished 3rd overall.
Sweden: Ace Wilder – “Don’t Worry”
Ace attempted to build on her previous runner-up result at Melodifestivalen by partnering with the songwriting team who brought you last year’s Eurovision winner, “Heroes.” “Don’t Worry” is a catchy pop earworm, but it failed to capture the interest of the Swedish public. She finished 3rd overall. We take heart, though. Ace’s song presentation doubles as an audition for when SVT revives Hollywood Squares.
Belarus: Radiovolna – “Radio Wave”
Black Box (“Everybody Everybody”) and Jamiroquai went to a hotel bar and had appletinis together. A good time was had by all.
Denmark: Bracelet – “Breakway”
What is it they say about insanity…that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? For us, that pretty much sums up the Danish Melodi Grand Prix, which in our opinion rarely gets their selection right. With its hat in the ring at DMGP was “Breakaway,” a far superior song than what ultimately got picked. Sure it’s Radio Disney, but at least it’s Radio Disney from this decade. Denmark didn’t release vote tallies, but we do know that Bracelet wasn’t in the top 3. Typical.
Lithuania: Ieva Zasimauskaitė – “Life (Not That Beautiful)”
Sometimes it’s not the song that’s the revelation but the artist. Ieva has a lovely, unusual tone and smizes like a champ. Consider her one to watch for in the future.
Romania: Vanotek feat. The Code & Georgian – “I’m Coming Home”
I ain’t mad at Vanotek’s Fatboy Slim-inspired electropop.
Ukraine. Brunettes Shoot Blondes – “Every Monday”
Brunettes Shoot Blondes followed their indie pop Youtube hit “Knock Knock” with a try for Eurovision. The song was cute, but frontman Andrew Kovaliov simply wasn’t good enough live.
United Kingdom. Matthew James – “A Better Man”
Matthew James’s late ’80s sophistipop vibe brought back a lot of feels for us.