United Kingdom’s Eurovision 2017 Entry

Lucie Jones will be representing the United Kingdom in Kyiv this year with “Never Give Up On You.”

Jones is a Welsh singer who placed eighth on The X Factor in 2009. She lost to Jedward, the poor dear. She has gone on to be a model and stage actress, appearing as Cosette in Les Miz and Victoria in American Psycho. She’s also been on Midsomer Murders, thus fulfilling her national duty as a Brit.

The songwriting team behind “Never Give Up On You” are Emmelie de Forrest, Lawrie Martin, and The Treatment. de Forrest won Eurovision in 2013 with the song “Only Teardrops.” Last year, she co-wrote “Never Alone” for Anja Nissen, who finished second in last year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix behind “Soldiers of Love.”

Martin is a Scottish songwriter currently based in London who co-wrote the song “Unstable” with British pop singer Zak Abel. As for the third member of the songwriting team, it’s hard to research The Treatment because when you search Google for The Treatment and “Never Give You On You,” you get a lot of results about not giving up in your fight against [insert debilitating health issue here].

Now, our first impression of “Never Give Up On You” is that it sounds like the 11 o’clock number in an allegorical romantic musical that’s really about Brexit. Perhaps we’re reading too much into the lyrics.

Jones is a powerhouse of a vocalist, bringing a lot of ache and a lot of longing into her interpretation of the lyrics. She gave a damn good performance, and honestly, it doesn’t feel like the U.K. needs to do much other than just throw Jones onstage and let her belt.

Belarus’ Eurovision 2017 Entry

NAVI won Belarus’ national final with their song “Historyja majho žyccia.”

Arciom Lukjanienka and Ksienija Žuk formed NAVI in 2013. They first vied to represent Belarus in 2016 with “Heta ziamla.” They finished fourth, well behind winner IVAN, but were immortalized in one of the greatest tweets about Eurovision ever:

“Historyja majho žyccia” is not entirely dissimilar to their previous effort, but benefits from sounding… more authentic? Like, if “Heta ziamla” is NAVI selling out, “Historyja majho žyccia” is NAVI staying true to themselves. (To wit, NAVI will be performing their song in Belarusian in Kyiv.)

That said, its folk-pop sound reminds us of bands like Mumford and Sons and past Eurovision efforts like Firelight’s “Coming Home” and Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila’s “This Time.” Despite the air of familiarity, we really enjoy NAVI’s effusiveness. Also we hope they keep those graphics for their video backdrop. Once again, we love Belarus and we got it deep inside.

Georgia’s Eurovision 2017 Entry

It’s a tumultuous week, what with all the war and terrorism, paranoia, needless travel bans, grandiose plans to build walls, and all sorts of other things that test our faith in humanity. So it’s nice to have Eurovision back to remind us what is good and fun on this earth and to offer us escape from the dreariness of the real world. So let’s dive in with Georgia’s entry, “Keep the Faith.”

Oh.

Tako Gachechiladze was a member of Stefane and 3G, which won Georgia’s 2009 National Final with “We Don’t Wanna Put In.” The EBU rejected the song for being too political and rather than replace it, Georgia pulled out of the Song Contest. So it’s kind of like Gachechiladze doesn’t really want to represent Georgia at Eurovision, but she can’t stop winning.

The problem we have with “Keep the Faith” is that without the strident imagery on display in the national final, it is basically “Wars for Nothing” with a “Rise Like a Phoenix” arrangement. Assuming that the EBU will ask for all references to South Ossetia be removed from the staging, all we’re left with is a bland ballad with a vague socially conscious message that lacks the teeth of the song that won Eurovision the previous year.

Albania’s Eurovision 2017 Entry

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, everyone: Eurovision is back! As usual, Albania brings us its good tidings for the season with its annual Festivali i Këngës competition. Lindita Halimi won this year’s edition with “Botë.”

Halimi was born in Kosovo and moved to the United States in 2013. She first competed at Festivali i Këngës in 2015 with “S’të fal,” finishing third. She won Albania’s Top Fest in 2009 and she also finished in the top 10 of Ethet (the Albanian version of Pop Idol) in 2007. Earlier this year, she appeared in the final season of American Idol, but did not make it to the top 24.

Her song “Botë” was written by Gerald “Big Basta” Xhari and Klodian Qafoku, both veteran songwriters who have participated in past Festivalis. Qafoku co-wrote Albania’s 2006 Eurovision Song Contest entry “Zjarr e ftohtë.”

Neither of us have been fond of the past three Albanian Eurovision entries, so we both think “Botë” is a delightful return to form. It’s as if all involved thought that “Feel the Passion” would have worked better with the arrangement for “Identitet.” “Botë” is not without its flaws: once it peaks, it gets a bit repetitive. But each additional instrumental flourish that gets thrown in propels it to a lavish finale.

The song as presented at Festivali brings a lot of grandeur, helped no doubt by the live orchestra and back-up singers. If you wanted to gather evidence that Eurovision lacks something without the live orchestra, here is your exhibit A. We’re hoping that Halimi and the Albanian delegation can replicate the drama within the constraints of the Eurovision rules.

We also hope they keep the song in Albanian. It just works.

Updated 12/26/2016: Per wiwiblogs, Halimi has tweeted that she will sing “Botë” at least partially in English. Sigh.