We’re only three songs into the Eurovision season as of this writing, and this year’s Song Contest is already getting a lot more interesting. Here’s Benny Cristo with the Czech Republic entry, “Kemama.”
Ben Cristovao is an Angolan-Czech singer who competed on the first edition of the talent show Superstar. He has gone on to have five charting singles on the Czech Top 100, and reached third in 2019 with “Aleiaio.” He also competes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and won a gold medal at the 2016 Madrid Open.
We love “Kemama.” It is bright and joyful, buoyed the sparkling synth lines that propel the song and the minimalist beats that pepper it. It’s a party song, but one with lyrics that hint at the adversity Benny faced while growing up. It’s rich, vibrant, and primed to light up summer radio.
Watch out, Estonia: Czech Republic is coming for your quirky indie pop crown! Mainly because they are actually sending their quirky indie pop to Eurovision!
Lake Malawi formed in 2013 and have had some low-level chart success in the Czech Republic. Their biggest single to date, “Chinese Trees,” peaked at 25 on the Czech charts in 2014. Their name was inspired by Bon Iver’s song “Calgary,” which mentions a lake, but not Malawi. (To be fair, it doesn’t mention Calgary either.) Also, they have a LinkedIn page, which we find utterly charming.
Their song “Friend of a Friend” is the 1980’s sophisti-pop song you didn’t know you needed in your life. Make room between your Johnny Hates Jazz and Level 42 albums for Lake Malawi’s output. They are right in our wheelhouse of high school pop music memories.
We’re not sure why lead singer Albert Černý does the British accent before the chorus, and we’re trying to decide if we should be skeezed out by the lyrics. Nevertheless, this has all the makings of a song we are going to listen to over and over again this season. Na zdraví, Czech Republic!
Mikolas Josef and his camel would like a dirty word with you. Here is Czech Republic’s Eurovision entry, “Lie to Me.”
Mikolas was a professional model and a busker when he was a teenager. He began releasing his singles independently in 2015. His song “Free” reached 15th on the Czech singles chart in 2016.
Last year, he was offered the chance to represent Czech Republic with the song “My Turn.” He said he turned it down because he didn’t think it was a good fit. Martina Barta ended up taking the song, finishing 13th in the first Semi.
He wrote “Lie to Me” and it is a bit derivative of Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty.” But we’ll give it a pass because it’s so damned catchy. The serpentine horns and the hooky chorus make it a guilty pleasure.
The lyrics, on the other hand, are… um… suggestive?
“I know you ‘bop-whop-a-lu bop’ on his wood bamboo”
“Then she got one of my friends, she got him dripping on wood”
“You should’ve thought about me before you fucked him at the club”
“But steady plenty motherfuckers wanna eat my spaghetti”
“Set my camel in the mood”
It’s like poetry written by a 14-year-old who just discovered boobs. That said, tacky lyrics shouldn’t be too much of a liability so long as there is a good performance and an entertaining stage show (see: Robin Bengtsson). Mikolas performed at Ukraine’s first semifinal and he projects a quiet confidence and laid back charm.
He certainly seems ambitious, so we’re looking forward to see what kind of package he will put together for Eurovision. Unfortunately, he will have to leave his camel at home thanks to the EBU’s restrictions on live animals at the Song Contest. He can probably bring his own spaghetti, though.
It is Martina Bárta’s turn to represent Czech Republic at the Eurovision Song Contest with “My Turn.”
Bárta is a jazz singer and French horn player based in Berlin. She attended the Berlin University of the Arts and in 2010 she won the role of Lady Marianne in a musical version of Robin Hood on the TV show Robin Hood cesta ke slávě, a reality competition to cast a musical. “My Turn” was written by London-based singer and songwriter Kyler Niko along with the songwriting collective DWB.
“My Turn” is a sweet little ballad in the Sara Bareilles vein. To date, the song has flown under the radar and has been largely dismissed by the fans and the betting markets. We attribute that to the rather underwhelming recorded track. Not so fast, we say. The official video adds an emotional weight that we hope the Czech delegation can incorporate into the staging. We have liked Bárta as a performer from the videos we’ve seen of her, so we think “My Turn” has the potential to be a dark horse to qualify.
At long last all of the Eurovision songs have been revealed, although the final versions are still trickling out. (Seriously, San Marino? Seriously?) Still, we know enough about each entry to make pithy and catty comments about them all.
Croatia: Nina Kraljić – “Lighthouse”
Croatia returns to Eurovision with Nina Kraljić, who won The Voice ofCroatia. Both good things.“Lighthouse” sounds like a deep track from a later Cranberries album. Not a good thing.
Azerbaijan: Samra – “Miracle”
Azerbaijan takes Eurovision very seriously. Every swing they take is a swing for the fences. This year, they’re planning to take Stockholm by storm with a song (penned by a Swedish team) that could have made the Melodifestivalen final. We’re not sure it would have won the Melodifestivalen final, though, but maybe Azerbaijan can throw a magician onstage to supplement Samra’s performance.
Czech Republic: Gabriela Gunčíková – “I Stand”
Look, it wasn’t going to take much for a song to be the best Czech Eurovision entry ever. But “I Stand” is not just a big leap ahead for the country that brought us Gipsy.cz, it also stands out over a lot of the other ballads we’re going to hear in Sweden this May. If you’ve looked up Gabriela Gunčíková’s performances on YouTube, you’ll have noticed she has more of a rock vibe than a pop ballad vibe (she was a performer in Trans-Siberian Orchestra). So our big question is whether or not she can make “I Stand” sound true to herself. But we still think she has a good shot at clinching the Czech Republic’s first spot in the Final.
Malta: Ira Losco – “Walk On Water”
Ira Losco won Malta’s national selection show with “Chameleon,” but she replaced it with “Walk on Water.” Yay, another Swedish pop song that would have struggled to win Melodifestivalen!
Australia: Dami Im – “Sound of Silence”
Australia were invited to participate in Eurovision last year as a special one-off to mark the 60th anniversary of the Song Contest. They were invited to participate this year to… I don’t know, help promote the Asiavision Song Contest? We don’t mind Australia getting the return invitation because they are following up their confident debut with a proper contender. “Sound of Silence” is one of the strongest entries we’ve heard this year and it may only be Europe’s bewilderment over Australia’s continued presence at Eurovision that keeps it from winning.
Serbia: ZAA Sanja Vučić – “Goodbye (Shelter)”
Earlier in this post, we were going to make a comment about how Samra from Azerbaijan was overselling her song in the video for “Miracle.” But her overemphasized facial expressions are positively dead-eyed compared to the spastically hammy performance Sanja Vučić gave in her song presentation show for Serbia. It’s too bad, because the powerful message of “Goodbye (Shelter)” does not need to bathed in histrionics.
Bulgaria: Poli Genova – “If Love Was a Crime”
We were happy when Poli Genova was announced as Bulgaria’s Eurovision artist this year. “Na Inat” was one of the better non-qualifying entries in recent memory. Bulgaria took their sweet time releasing this year’s Eurovision entry “If Love Was a Crime,” but their delightful Twitter account built up to the song reveal nicely so it was worth the wait. Poli has changed her edgy rocker chick vibe from 2011 for a softer look and poppier sound. The last few songs Bulgaria entered before they took their break were in Bulgarian, and we think switching to English for this contemporary pop song (albeit with a little Bulgarian thrown into the chorus) has a lot of crossover potential and should lead Poli to the Final.
Italy: Francesca Michielin – “No Degree of Separation”
Francesca Michielin was runner up at this year’s Sanremo Music Festival, but she got the nod when winners Stadio declined the invite to Stockholm. In principle, we don’t have a problem with “No Degree of Separation,” but it sounds way too old for her. Nevertheless, Italy is maintaining its general good run of form since their return to the Song Contest. (We say general good run because there was also Emma.)
Wait for me, don’t cross the sea of pain/Wait for me, I’m lost, I’ve gone astray
Ravens calling my name, their wings so dark
There is no light to pray for/cold and dim are the skies
Call the song “Nevermore” and you could build a musical about Edgar Allen Poe around it.
It’s not surprising that Václav, who wrote the music to “Hope Never Dies,” has a musical theater background. He has been in Aida and Jesus Christ Superstar and recently played Lurch in The Addams Family.
Marta has also done musical theater, but is primarily known as a rock singer in the Czech Republic and in Germany. She is a veteran of two Bundesvision Song Contests, Stefan Raab’s German riff on Eurovision. She teamed up with the band Oomph! to win Bundesvision 2007 with “Träumst du?” She also performed with the Finnish band Apocalyptica at Bundesvision 2005.
I don’t particularly care for the song. Given Marta’s metal background, it should have gone for a Gothic prog metal arrangement than for the overwrought ballad arrangement here. But I have hope that the Czechs will go fully theatrical in their staging: capes and candles and black lipstick and skintight outfits accentuating Marta and Václav’s impossible curves. (I mean, look at his arms. LOOK AT THEM! TRY TO LOOK AWAY!) Goodness knows they need something to stand out.
Over the three years the Czech Republic has entered the Song Contest, they have scored a total of 10 points. Nine of those points were from one act. Will this song break into double digit points? Well, you know what they say: hope never dies!
So yeah, as noted earlier, Gipsy.cz’s “Aven Romale,” the Czech entry to Eurovision, is not very good:
The chorus is catchy, actually, but that’s about it. And the superhero costume is really silly. Still, it is the best act the Czech Republic has put forth in Eurovision so far, so they’ve got that going for them, right?
Tereza Kerndlová’s “Have Some Fun” will represent the Czech Republic in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. It is perfectly mediocre Euro-pop, but after last year’s Czech entry, it is almost unquestionably brilliant. I don’t know why Tereza has Landon Donovan photos on her closet door in the video, though.
Kabat’s vocals are… slushy. They’re muddy, and oozy, and slushy. The lead singer points to the crowd a lot, as if he keeps seeing people he knows. When I was growing up, we had a phrase for stuff that really sucked, and it’s offensive, but I’m going to use it: this sucks dead donkey dick.
So yes, a jaunty guitar riff to open it… then… death metal vocals! WAAAH??? It’s not fast enough, and the guitar doesn’t rip enough to be angry. There’s a serious disconnect here between vocals and orchestration that I simply don’t get. If only I understood Czech.