Eurovision 2016 Round-Up: St. Lucia’s Independence Day Edition

All of the Eurovision Song Contest entries decided in the past couple of days have the ring of familiarity to them. Two artists make their return to the Grand Prix, and two others have tried to represent their respective nations in years past. Let’s try and relive some magic.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Dalal & Deen featuring Ana Rucner and Jala – “Ljubav Je”

Bosnia & Herzegovina returns to Eurovision with an all-star cast of performers, including Song Contest veteran Deen. “Ljubav Je” is a standard Balkan ballad with a hip hop twist, thanks to Jala. We love how they staged the song presentation: it looked like Dalal and Deen were singing about the Romeo & Juliet-like love story between Jala and Ana Rucner. Will strings melt a hip hopper’s heart? Will rhymes be the hammer to ring the chimes of the cellist’s soul? Tune into SVT in May to find out.

Cyprus: Minus One – “Alter Ego”

Minus One are an internal selection. They vied for the chance to represent Cyprus last year and their song was one of our favorites from the national final season even if it was called “Shine.” They teamed up with the prolific Thomas G:Son to shred the hell out of their entry. It’s rocking good stuff and we’re looking forward their performance in Stockholm.

Iceland: Greta Salóme – “Hear Them Calling”

It seems that Greta Salóme took notice of all that fancy stuff Måns Zelmerlöw did at the Song Contest last year and did her own goth take on it. It’s alright, we guess, but the Lemur household is of the opinion that if Iceland was going to send a Greta song, they should have picked “Á ný,” which she wrote for Elísabet Ormslev. We’re not disappointed, Iceland, just mad.

Ukraine: Jamala – “1944”

Because this is Ukraine, we’re not entirely confident saying that Jamala is representing her country in Stockholm with “1944.” (Heck, she may not be entirely confident either, given her past experience with the Ukraine national selection process.) This is a song about Jamala’s great-grandmother, who was deported with other Crimean Tatars to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin in 1944. Andriy “Verka Serduchka” Danylko noted during Ukraine’s Lord of the Rings-length national final there is concern that it could be seen as political – certain parallels with contemporary times and all that. It’s probably just Ukraine being oversensitive and we are sure that the Russians will not complain one bit. Not one iota. Nope. Anyway, it’s a very effective song, and we could see it doing very well at the Song Contest this year.

Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Eurovision 2012 Entry

Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Eurovision representative Maya Sar (the piano player in Dino Merlin’s “Love In Rewind” last year) released her song for Europe yesterday, “Korake ti znam”:

It’s always dangerous to film your video in a factory that manufactures sparks.

Anyway, I think this is a lovely song, with a very late 1970s soft rock melody and the lushest orchestrations we’ve heard yet this season. (And if you’ve followed anything I’ve written on this blog so far this year, I am apparently obsessed with lush orchestrations.) I could have lived without the flute solo, which suddenly turns the song into “It’s For You” at the end.

I’ve already talked about how the second Semi has turned out to be a ballad-fest in the post about Željko Joksimovic, but to wrap up my Balkan ballad review: “Korake ti znam” is not as strong as “Nije ljubav star” or as “Verjamem” by Slovenia’s Eva Boto. It is much better than “Nebo” from Croatia’s  Nina Badric. All the other songs in the second Semi are better than “Crno i blo” by FYR Macedonia’s Kaliopi.

So if “Korake to znam” is in my mind the third ranked Balkan ballad, do I think it has a shot at making it to the Final? Sure, because of the strength of its allies and the fact that Bosnia & Herzegovina usually outperforms any other Balkan nation. If even a weaker entry like Vukašin Brajic’s “Thunder and Lightning” (2010) can make the Final, I’m sure Maya Sar can too. She may even finish strong in the Final, but I don’t think she has a winner here. I have a sneaking suspicion that this year is going to be all about Joksimovic.

Bosnia & Herzegovina’s 2011 Eurovision Entry

For this year’s Eurovision entry, Bosnian organizers went to Frank Langella. We imagine the conversation went something like this:

Bosnian Organizers: “Here’s our vision, Frank: You and a cover of ‘Afternoon Delight.’ Whaddya say?”
Frank Langella: “Well, okay, as long I can do it in a minor key and be surrounded by women 30 years younger than myself.”
Bosnian Organizers: “Deal.”

And so we find “Love in Rewind” from Dino Merlin. I can say with all honesty this is the first Bosnian entry in years where I haven’t wanted to throw the television out the window after seeing it. I–dare I say it?–like it.

One’s first reaction to Frank is skepticism–you wonder what the old guy is doing here and if he can cut it.  Turns out he can. The mid-tempo beat of “Love in Rewind” sets it apart from the dreary ballads, but avoids the dance music path that many other entries seem to be taking this year.  The spry fellow plays acoustic guitar, jumps about, and ably sings his jaunty tune, and “Love in Rewind” is a good enough song to not distract us from his performance.  It is perfectly positioned to court the Baby Boomer vote.

Because it’s Bosnia, it is almost certain to make the Finals. More than that, we think this is a good enough tune to make the Top 10, or at least the low teens. Well done, Bosnia.

Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Eurovision 2009 Entry

Last night, the band Regina debuted their song “Bistra Voda”, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entry into this year’s Eurovision Song Contest:

Overall, it’s a pretty good song.  It certainly has the dramatic, austere feel that the previous two Eurovision winners has.  For some reason, there was a revolution feel to the staging. Regina lined up in a way that sort of resembled the “Spirit of ’76” painting, while off to the side, two women in khaki dresses and caps held large orange flags.  (Not to mention the vaguely Soviet-era agitprop graphics on the screen behind them.)  It all lent an air of gravitas to the song, although its meaning was a little fuzzy to me.  Still, a nice effort, and another song that I think is going to grow on me.

13. Bosnia and Herzegovina – Hari Mata Hari: “Lejla”

As mentioned, I really like this song. I should point out that I like this as a legitimately good song, and not a playful goofball song, like Finland or Lithuania. Hari is a really good singer. The song is a touch Eurovisiony, but has a catchy riff and a lot of class. Hari Mata Hari is an unfortunate stage name, though.

Since each country is not allowed to vote for its own song, I’m hoping that a Balkan bloc of voters put this one over the top. Yeah, I like this more than Germany’s song.