Vincent Bueno is a singer and actor who won Musical! Die Show in 2008. He has also done the Austrian version of Dancing with the Stars while continuing his theater and recording careers. At time of writing, he is in the musical Rock My Soul at the Wiener Metropol, so if you see this post before March 28, 2020, get over to Vienna now! He has also worked to establish a music career in the Philippines and made a number of appearances on the variety show ASAP.
“Alive” has this neo-New Jack Swing vibe going on. It’s smooth and silky and a lot of fun. Vincent has an appealing vocal tone, which has just enough growl to carry the soulful parts of the song without being theatrical. We won’t be surprised if “Alive” is chosen as the song to open Semifinal 2. It’d be a great song to kick off the show.
However, we’re struggling to wrap our heads around the structure of the song. It’s mostly chorus with a brief breakdown at the bridge and seemingly just one verse. The stark intro and the sudden coda have the same structure as the verse, but without the funky orchestration. The final chorus is cut short so that the song can head right into its brief finale. It feels strange.
Maybe we’re overthinking this, but we’ve been trying to figure out why “Alive” hasn’t had a bigger impact on us. As much as we like it, we don’t see it as a contender, and we think that the song structure is why. At least it will be a fun one to crank as we drive around.
Eurovision rehearsals are about to begin and we weren’t able to complete full reviews of all of this year’s entries in time. So let’s take a deep breath and cover all the rest in one go!
Finland: Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman – “Look Away”
Darude had a global smash hit 19 years ago with “Sandstorm.” Now he’s representing Finland at Eurovision. We mock the United Kingdom when they do stuff like that and we see no reason to spare Finland our snark. Especially when the U.K. nostalgia acts send better songs.
Zena offers up a slightly generic, but still quite enjoyable pop song. We… well, you know… like it. Not sure if it’s going to do well for Belarus, but with the right staging, or at least the right Belorussian staging, maybe it could surprise us.
Nevena is a veteran of Moje 3, the Barbara Dex Award-winning act from 2013. She’s back with a bland ballad, but she made it soar at Beovizija 2019. We expect more vocal fireworks in Tel Aviv. And better costumes.
San Marino has sent disco songs for three of its last four entries because this one time, die hard Eurovision fans convinced them that’s what we want. Maybe we should tell them that we like other genres too.
“Limits” is a great song to listen to at 3 A.M. when it’s gently, but audibly raining outside and you’re feeling a little sad and need a good cry. That’s usually not the atmosphere Eurovision provides, which may hurt Austria’s chances.
Cesár Sampson steps into the spotlight for Austria. Here’s “Nobody But You.”
Cesár Sampson is a singer, songwriter, and producer from Linz. He sang back-up to Poli Genova and Kristian Kostov at the last two Eurovision Song Contests. “Nobody But You” was written by Boris Milanov, Sebastian Arman, and Joacim Persson from Symphonix International, as well as Johan Alkenäs, who has written songs for Ashley Tisdale.
We complained in our review of “Bones” that the Symphonix team provided Equinox with a performance piece, not a single. Not the case here. Cesár gets a proper pop song that he can sink his teeth into. It has grit and gospel and melodies that stick with you after its done.
Cesár has a rich voice and, at least in the performance video, a smoldering presence. He’s also a better mountaineer than Nathan Trent. No offence, Nathan.
Our concern about “Nobody But You” is that it’s one of those songs that is good but not moreish. There are a lot of solid Eurovision songs that catch your ear when they come up on shuffle, but they’re not ones that you seek out and listen to over and over again. It’s a good song, but it may not be one that necessarily catches on with the home audience. We hope it does, but we are of course biased because it’s from Austria.
Nathan Trent will represent Austria at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with “Running On Air.”
Trent is a 24-year-old pop singer from Innsbruck, Austria, so we’re already inclined to like him. He was on the shortlist of this year’s the German national final, but was disqualified when he became Austria’s internal selection. He co-wrote “Running On Air” with Austrian producer and songwriter Bernhard Penzias.
It’s always hard to judge a Eurovision contestant based on a music video instead of a live performance. All we can tell really is that despite being from Innsbruck, he sucks at mountaineering.
We like the song. It’s upbeat, pleasant, and fun in a Maroon 5 kind of way. But we need more information. Judging from his bio, Trent is very early in his music career. He was willing to jump into Unser Song while also negotiating to represent Austria, so he certainly seems to think he’s ready. But we have no idea if anything has prepared him for this. Many a young artist before has crumbled under the intensity and the chaos of Eurovision. Let’s hope that he can keep it together in Kyiv this May.
These are busy times in the Lemurs household, making it difficult for us to write about the National Finals results on a regular basis. Rather than skip out on the Eurovision season altogether, we decided to do a round-up of what has happened around Europe up until now.
The most interesting (if not exciting) thing so far is what happened in Italy. This year’s Sanremo winners, Stadio, turned down the invitation to represent Italy in May’s Grand Prix. The day after Sanremo ended, Italian broadcaster Rai announced that they gave the ticket to Stockholm to runner up Francesca Michielin. It was not quite as dramatic as Germany’s schlagerfiasco last year, but trust the Italians to be better prepared than the Germans to handle this kind of situation.
(Wait, did I just say that?)
Francesca has not confirmed what song she will be performing at Eurovision (although presumably she would go with her Sanremo entry “Nessun Grado Di Separazione”), but plenty of other countries have their entries locked up:
The Makemakes have been tasked with defending Austria’s title at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with “I Am Yours”:
Hailing from the state of Salzburg (the state, not the city), The Makemakes are a rock trio named after the dwarf planet Makemake. They’ve had two top 10 hit singles already in Austria. Their 2012 single “The Lovercall” was accompanied by rumors that lead singer Dominic “Dodo” Muhrer was the illegitimate son of Oscar-winning actor Christoph Walz.
The Austrian selection show Wer singt für Österreich? paired its participating artists with established songwriters from around the world to write new songs to compete in Eurovision. The Makemakes collaborated with Jimmy Harry on “I Am Yours.” A Los Angeles-based producer, Harry co-wrote RuPaul’s hit “Supermodel (You Better Work).” He has gone on to work with Pink, Kylie Minogue, Madonna, and Britney Spears, and he also co-wrote Wer singt’s second place finisher, Dawa’s “Feel Alive.”
“I Am Yours” is a Southern rock ballad that would not be out of place in the Lynyrd Skynyrd catalog. It’s a deceptively simple melody that soars with a great piano-supported orchestration. Dodo’s raspy, smoky vocal is powerful at the right times and yet the chorus, sung partly in falsetto, underscores emotional vulnerability. Also, I have to admit I enjoyed the piano on fire. We’ve seen that gimmick a couple of times in other national finals, and it’s high time we got a flaming piano in the big leagues.
Jen and I disagree to a certain extent on this song. I think its retro feel is a detriment and it won’t be able to stand out. Jen thinks that this song plays well to the Makemakes strengths, and folks will recognize how strong the songwriting really is. Either way, we agree that “I Am Yours” is a quality song and a more than respectable follow-up to Austria’s Eurovision-winning song.
Austria is hoping it will “Rise Like a Phoenix” in Copenhagen (or at least make the Final) with Conchita Wurst.
Thomas Neuwirth first came to the public eye in Austria after finishing behind Nadine Beiler in the TV talent show Starmania. Neuwirth later unveiled his drag persona Conchita Wurst on another Austrian talent show, Die große Chance. He narrowly finished behind Trackshittaz in Austria’s national final for Eurovision 2012 with the song “That’s What I Am.” Sensing they had a proper star on their hands, broadcaster ORF handpicked Wurst to represent Austria this year.
We are huge fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race, an American reality competition show in which drag queens vie for the title of “America’s next drag superstar.” Each week, RuPaul mentors the contestants and implores them to utilize their “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent” in each challenge.
If ever there was a performer that fully embodied those four traits, it’s Wurst. His gimmick is obviously his carefully manicured beard. Rather than completely hiding his gender, he puts his masculinity on display as much as he displays his femininity. His look is very much in your face, and there’s no doubt he is going to be a polarizing figure.
Given that, it may not matter whether or not Wurst’s song is any good. We weren’t impressed with his 2012 attempt, “That’s What I Am.” I doubt it means anything to non-musical fans, but we didn’t think it did anything that “I Am What I Am” from La Cage aux Folles accomplished (better) 30 years earlier. It was a generic empowerment anthem. Also, we didn’t think Wurst sang it particularly well.
“Rise Like a Phoenix” is a much better fit. It sounds like a Bond theme. But Wurst infuses the lyrics with an autobiographical spirit, giving “Rise Like a Phoenix” an intimacy that suits his drag persona. The above performance is from Austria’s Dancing with the Stars and we’re hoping that it is a tiny preview of how Austria plans to stage the song in Copenhagen. That light show was pretty darned good.
As much as I’d like to believe Eurovision is ultimately just a song contest, I can’t help but wonder if Wurst will prove to be too much for many Eurovision voters (both in the public and on juries) to embrace. But “Rise Like a Phoenix” is a good enough song to carry Austria to the Final, so to paraphrase another RuPaul catchphrase: Europe, don’t fuck it up.
Natália Kelly has been chosen to represent Austria at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö with the song “Shine.” Can I just say that the only thing sadder than trying to sound like a previous Eurovision winner is swiping the staging of a previous Eurovision winner?
Azeri showers aside, “Shine” is a reasonably catchy, K.T. Tunstall-sounding ditty. Kelly is such an Idol-type performer in that she sounds a little green, but knows how to play to the camera. She’s good, not great, but charismatic enough to draw you in. Hers was by far the stand-out performance on the night.
In 2011, Austria returned to the Eurovision Song Contest with Nadine Beiler and her big, big ballad “The Secret Is Love.” The runners-up last year were the goofy hip hop duo Trackshittaz with “Oida Taunz,” an accordion-tinged party anthem staged with tractors of all sizes and hot dancers in skimpy dirndls.
Since then, Trackshittaz have hit it big with two number ones and one number two on the Austrian charts. When I was in Vienna last summer, “Touchdown,” their anthem for the Austrian national American football team was in heavy rotation on Gotv. (Yes, Austria has a national American football team, who had home field advantage at this summer’s World Championship of American Football. Surprisingly, the U.S. has not won every single World Championship, but that’s only because they didn’t participate in the first two competitions.)
Anyway, in my mind Trackshittaz was the front-runner to represent Austria going into this year’s national final, called Österreich rockt den Song Contest. However, that’s because I didn’t know there was another contestant with an ace up her sleeve… okay, she didn’t have sleeves, but she did have an excellently groomed beard:
Conchita Wurst is a drag queen whose gimmick is that she doesn’t bother to lose the beard when she gets dolled up. She is one shave away from being a fishy queen (thanks, RuPaul!). She had a ton of support, and was actually the betting odds leader going into Österreich rockt. To be honest, her song “That’s What I Am” didn’t really do much for us. It sounded like “Drama Queen,” the song drag queen DQ performed when she represented Denmark in 2007, with lyrics that reminded me of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “My Time” with an “I Am What I Am” twist. She had a decent voice, but wasn’t a particularly compelling performer, relying on her unique look and her Cher-like undertones to get her through. Still, she made it to the super final, and garnered 49% of the vote.
For us, the stronger contender, and probably the strongest song on the night, was by 3punkt5’s “Augenblicke,” a serious hip hop song to counteract Trackshittaz’ fratty vibe. Although it felt a little derivative of late-era Jay-Z, it had a nice atmospheric urban vibe to it.
There were two other highlights for me. I really liked Krautschädl’s “Einsturzgefohr,” a fun little blast of Bloc Party-style rock with a gutsy tempo change during the instrumental section. My main complaint is that bass player Sonti stuck his tongue out way too often. Although, I guess if you have an impressive tongue, why not flaunt it?
Norbert Schneider closed the show with a country-tinged blues number “Medicate My Blues Away” that was far better than it had any right to be. The English lyric was a little crowded, but Norbert sold it well and was a terrific guitarist. It was never going to contend (especially since he followed Trackshittaz), but it was an enjoyable end to the evening.
But in the end, it was all about Trackshittaz, who pulled out all the stops with their tushtastic dance club anthem “Woki Mit Deim Popo”:
Personally, I love this. Trackshittaz have a lot of energy (without getting spastic like Jedward, who they will go head to head with in the first Semi in May), and have definitely become more polished as performers since the last Austrian final. The staging had a nice use of florescent lighting, although it did have the brief effect of making the back-up dancers look like day-glo frogs:
Jen thinks they are going to need to tone down the ass-centric focus for the big show, and I can’t disagree with her. It’s not as racy as Dita Von Teese was during rehearsals for ESC 2009 (she had to tighten her corset so her pasties wouldn’t be on display during her appearance in “Miss Kiss Kiss Bang”), but the organizers may feel it’s a bit much for their little family show. Moreover, there is the question of their name, which you may have noticed has an English language cuss word in it. I would guess they would have to perform as Lukas and Manuel instead.
I get the impression this number is dividing the hardcore Eurovision fans. Of course, hardcore Eurovision fans are going to find a lot to hate this year, what with another Jedward number, a joke entry from Latvia, and whatever the heck Georgia is sending. Plus Montenegro’s Rambo Amadeus is likely going to come out with some avant garde piece of art pop, because that’s what he does.
My question is not what the hardcore fans are going to like, but what is going to resonate with the general public. I have a sneaking suspicion that “Woki Mit Deim Popo” is going to have an immediate impact during what is shaping up to be a particular dour semi. I know Trackshittaz are making a push into Germany and will probably try to do a lot to raise their profile elsewhere. If they play their cards right, I am willing to bet they could do very well in Baku.
After nearly a decade of unremarkable and misfire performances and a few years without entering at all, Austria has decided to try again in 2011 – no doubt they feel newly inspired after Germany’s win last year. Tonight in their selection show Dusseldorf, Wir Kommen! (Dusseldorf, here we come!) Austrians made a statement that they are taking this year’s contest seriously.
Voters selected to send Tyrolean native (holla!) Nadine Beiler with “The Secret is Love.” Beiler starts the ballad without musical accompaniment, but she builds it, adds gospel backup singers, and belts out the last choruses out with gusto.
The song may border on old fashioned, but I think Austrians have made the smart choice. “The Secret is Love” is the first honest-to-goodness traditional female ballad to emerge so far in 2011, and there are plenty of people who will vote for a big ballad if it’s well sung. Austria will have achieved a victory simply if it makes it out of the semis. Beiler is talented, and this song will greatly appeal to the ballad voters.
As an aside, the 1st runner up was a highly entertaining, surprisingly funny performance from Trackshittaz, a Bloodhound Gang/DJ Oetzi “gangsta” (their word, not mine) hip hop duo. They had some good moments on the luge tractors and sampling via accordion.
The 2nd runner up was Klimmstein feat. Joe Sumner. From our pigeon German, we gather that Joe Sumner is Sting’s son making an attempt at a music career in Austria because they would “eat him alive” in Britain. If he isn’t Sting’s son, he should be. Their entry “Paris, Paris” was confusing and overthought, but all is forgiven in the last 15 seconds with Joe doing his best Sting impression and wailing “Jacuuuuuzzi! Jacuuuuuzzi!”