Belgium’s Eurovision 2020 Entry

Belgium would like to remind you that they are still the European Capital of Cool.

Hooverphonic is an influential trip-hop pop band who have had three number one albums in Belgium and international success with their songs “2wicky” and “Mad About You.” Bassist Alex Callier and guitarist Raymond Geerts formed the band in 1995. Lead vocalist Luka Cruysberghs joined in 2018 after she won The Voice of Flanders with Alex has her coach.

Alex co-wrote Senneck’s “A Matter of Time,” which represented Belgium at the 2018 Song Contest. For “Release Me,” he teamed up with Luca Chiaravalli, who produced and arranged “Occidentali’s Karma.”

We have mixed feelings about “Release Me” as a Eurovision entry. On the one hand, we love that Hooverphonic did not compromise themselves to write a Eurovision song. It’s as if they were putting the finishing touches on “Release Me” when the call to represent Belgium in Rotterdam came in, and they said, “Well timed, Belgium!” Their song has a swank neo-retro vibe that fits right into their Cruysberghs-era catalog perfectly.

On the other hand, it is a such a downer. Luka pours so much raw sadness into her vocal that we can hear the exact moment her heart breaks. Not exactly the kind of song that lifts the mood at the Eurovision.

Moreover, “Release Me” doesn’t really offer any musical release to its dour mood. The final part of the chorus gets repeated without any swells in the orchestration, which robs Luka of a chance to build it to a big ending. We’re waiting for a moment to get goosebumps, and it never arrives.

We’re looking forward to see how Belgium stages this. They have an opportunity to use the staging to give us a catharsis that the recorded track doesn’t quite have. How they create that Eurovision moment may be the key to their success this year.

Reviews of the Rest of Eurovision 2019

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.

Belarus: Zena – “Like It

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.

Serbia: Nevena Božović – “Kruna

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.

Belgium: Eliot Vassamillet – “Wake Up

“Wake Up” reminds us of “City Lights.” We didn’t like “City Lights,” but it seemed like everyone else did. We like “Wake Up,” but it seems like no one else does. Go figure.

Georgia: Oto Nemsadze – “Sul Tsin Iare

Oto brought a wide-eyed intensity to his performance of “Sul Tsin Iare.” It worked for the judges and the people of Georgia, but we can’t say it’s going to work for the rest of Europe.

San Marino: Serhat – “Say Na Na Na

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.

Armenia: Srbuk – “Walking Out

Srbuk looks a lot like my mom did when she was 18 and I’m struggling to get past that.

Ireland: Sarah McTernan – “22

We are not particular fans of Meghan Trainor’s oeuvre, so anything that resembles her output is not going to rank high with us. But at least it’s not another earnest ballad.

Moldova: Anna Odobescu – “Stay

Moldova is following up successive classic Eurovision contributions with a song that we will probably forget about shortly after the Song Contest is over. Sigh, it’s hard to generate memes every year.

Austria: Pænda – “Limits

“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.

Lithuania: Jurijus – “Run with the Lions

Jurijus is this dreamy guy singing an anthemic song about believing in yourself and dreaming big. It’s a pleasant three minutes made better by Jurijus’ inherent likability.

North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska – “Proud

“Proud” is an old fashioned ballad about empowering girls to believe in themselves and dream big. It’s a lovely three minutes made better by Tamara’s vocal star quality.

Israel: Kobi Marimi – “Home

Israel is happy to have won Eurovision and is also not interested in winning again this year.

Belgium’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

It was only a matter of time before we got around to writing up Belgium’s song for Europe.

Laura “Sennek” Groeseneken is a singer and keyboardist who joined Ozark Henry’s band in 2014. She co-wrote Hooverphonic’s song “Gravity” and teamed up with Alex Callier from Hooverphonic and Maxime Tribèche to write “A Matter of Time.” She also performed “Tomorrow Never Dies” with the Brussels Philharmonic as part of the 007 In Concert series in 2012.

So maybe it’s not much of a surprise that “A Matter of Time” sounds like the theme to a James Bond film. It’s cool and sleek, with lush orchestrations.

Thematically it’s sophisticated as well. The song is a meditation about being in your head. It considers whether it is possible to return to feelings and sensations that were once real and now lost. But memory is fragmented, hard to pin down, and the time has past. Ultimately, it can’t be done.

All this, and yet it’s catchy in a way that sneaks up on you. You’re sitting at your desk in the office and all of a sudden “Echoes echoes and goes” just pops in your head and you stop and think about it for awhile and your coworkers stop by and ask what you’re up to and you tell them, “I am just thinking about Belgium’s Eurovision entry” and they just shake their heads sadly because you say stuff like that a lot at work.

Belgium’s Eurovision 2017 Entry

Blanche will be representing Belgium at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with “City Lights.”

Ellie “Blanche” Delvaux (that’s Delvaux, not Devereaux) made it onto The Voice Belgique in 2016, but was eliminated in the second week of live shows. She co-wrote “City Lights” with Pierre Dumoulin, lead singer of the band Roscoe.

Blanche has a rich, sultry voice and she and Dumoulin have come up with an ethereal, pulsating pop song that showcases her vocal tone well. When “City Lights” came out, it seemed like every Eurovision fan on the internet went gaga over it. And we sat here wondering, “What’s wrong with us?”

We think is “City Lights” repetitive. It’s the same melody over and over again with occasional slight variation and a brief octave change. And there is an overall lack of warmth to the song. There’s cool and there’s cold and Blanche and “City Lights” are positively icy. Maybe if we were driving around Brussels at two in the morning, it would resonate with us, but right now, we’re just hoping that the staging in Kyiv will help us understand what we’re missing.

Eurovision 2016 Round-Up: President’s Day Edition

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:

Continue reading “Eurovision 2016 Round-Up: President’s Day Edition”

Belgium’s Eurovision 2015 Entry

Loïc Nottet will represent Belgium at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with “Rhythm Inside.”

18-year old Loïc Nottet has a standout boyish tenor with the right amount of attitude, and we find it not at all surprising that he managed to turn chairs on The Voice Belgique in 2014. He was the runner-up that year, and it would seem his performance at Eurovision is meant to be a launch pad for bigger things.

“Rhythm Inside” reminds us quite a bit of Lorde’s “Royals” — in the austerity of the arrangement, the strategic use of snaps, and youthful ennui.

And you know what? We don’t care.

We don’t care because it’s awesome. The tune is catchy, and it’s got more manboy going on than Eric Saade could have ever dreamed of. It’s one of our favorite songs this season.

Judging from this videos for “Rhythm Inside” and his cover of Sia’s “Chandelier,” Loïc has got opinions in how to present himself artistically. He can handle choreography, and he knows how to smize for the camera.

Looking at some of his past performances on The Voice Belgique, Loïc could get pitchy when trying to sell the big notes. On the other had, he matured quickly over the course of the series. Recent live clips suggest that he’ll be able to pull off the vocal, though we do have concerns about how much stank face he will give us. We also take heart, because the last time a performer from The Voice Belgique without a lot of experience represented Belgium, the results were pretty good.

Belgium’s Eurovision 2014 Entry

Tonight Belgium gave us the last national final of the 2014 Eurovision season.  Buoyed by a groundswell of public support (57% of the televote), Axel Hirsoux trounced his competition with “Mother”:

Eurovision has a rich history of songs about mom – recent examples include Pernilla Karlsson’s “När Jag Blundar” (Finland 2012) and Anastasiya Prykhodko’s “Mamo” (Russia 2009). It makes sense to target mom as subject matter, because, you know, we all can relate. This year’s dedication feels like an English-language adaptation of an 11-o’clock number from an Italian melodrama. Its appreciation of mom is heartfelt but comes across a bit strong for those of us that tend to be more restrained in expressions of love toward our family members. In fact, watching Hirsoux’s performance during Belgian Eurosong reminded us of “Senza Mamma” from Godfather, Part II.

Hirsoux was joined onstage by noted Belgian choreographer Isabelle Beernaert, dancing the role of Mother. We haven’t seen this kind of celebrity turn since Evgeni Plushenko joined Dima Bilan onstage for “Believe.” The overall effect was quite compelling, as the presentation showcased Axel’s camera presence with artistry that underscored the song’s feelings of longing and sadness. We hope (and suspect) that Belgium will export this Eurosong staging wholesale to Copenhagen.

STRAY OBSERVATIONS: We love Isabelle. In the post-Eurovision doldrums of 2011 we stumbled onto The Ultimate Dance Battle. We were familiar with Dan Karaty’s work through the American version of So You Think You Can Dance, and we were fascinated to learn that he’s subsequently established a career for himself in the Netherlands. We greatly enjoyed TUDB’s format and the exposure to the deep pool of working choreographers and dancers in Flanders and the Netherlands.

Belgium’s Eurovision 2013 Entry

Belgium picked its song today for Roberto Bellarosa, its previously announced 2013 Eurovision performer, choosing “Love kills” to represent it in Malmö. Note to the Belgium delegation: lose the key change. Otherwise, “Love kills” is a perfectly serviceable and amiable adult contemporary pop song. It has a melodic hook we remember, so that’s a plus.

Roberto, winner of The Voice Belgique earlier this year, is a good singer and a good-looking guy. It’s hard to gauge how good a performer he is because he performed on a small, crowded stage before a small crowd. He didn’t seem confident in the song yet, particularly after the totally needless key change which, we can’t stress enough, the Belgium delegation really needs to lose.

His most successful commercial showing to date was his cover of One Republic’s “Apologize,” which reached #3 in the Belgian charts last April. We found it instructive to take a listen. He sings it just fine. Our concern is that he brought nothing new to the song, nothing that takes us from “well, that was pleasant” to “wow, he’s something special.” “Love kills” is a new song, but he similarly brings to it a sense of pleasantness. Can he take to someplace special?

Roberto and his team have literally months to prepare “Love kills” for the big stage, and we hope he’ll do well.

UPDATED 13 MARCH 2013: THEY LOST THE KEY CHANGE.

Belgium’s Eurovision 2012 Entry

Belgium held its national final today, with pre-selected representative Iris performing two songs: “Safety Net” and “Would you?” Both are dreary, needy ballads, so it really didn’t make much difference which one was chosen. Ultimately, the public overwhelmingly went with “Would you?”:

First off: I’m biased against Iris because she has the kind of nasal, twee voice that makes my skin crawl. But “Would you” is made worse by her poor breathing technique, which means she squeaks a lot as she’s belting out that chorus. To top that off, she’s saddled with a totally forgettable tune that sounds like the third song to play over the closing credits of some cut-rate Sandra Bullock rom-com.

If I sound cranky, it’s because I just sat through two tedious, poorly written ballads. Where’s my drink?

Belgium’s Eurovision 2011 Entry

We here at Eurolemur enjoy a cappella. It’s an underappreciated musical form, and when done well it’s something to behold. (Can you tell that we’ve done a bit of a cappella in the past?)

Belgium’s Witloof Bay is mixed jazz vocal band that reminds us of Sweden’s Real Group. The sextet features skilled singers, tight arrangements, and vocal percussion (VP) from RoxorLoops, one of the bigger names in the VP community.  Their song “With Love, Baby” is a cute and upbeat, if a bit sing-songy, mission statement.

Has Belgium learned from the lessons provided last year by Tom Dice? Well, no. They had a pretty shoddy list of songs to select from this year, and Belgium goes early in the 2nd Semi. Witloof Bay has virtually no chance of making it out of the Semis. But we are happy to see them in the ESC this year, and we don’t expect they will wimp out on the a cappella like InCulto (Lithuania 2010).