Lithuania’s Eurovision 2021 Entry

I was really annoyed that Lithuania didn’t immediately invite The Roop back to Eurovision after last year’s Song Contest was cancelled. Alongside Iceland’s Daði og Gagnamagnið and Russia’s Little Big, The Roop was one of the biggest buzz acts during the 2020 national final season, and I thought that they deserved more than just an automatic place in the Pabandom iš naujo! final.

I guess everyone in Lithuania thought so too, because The Roop absolutely crushed their competition. They received 74,512 televotes, more than six times the votes for the other five acts in the final combined. Oh yes, we all want you to go to Rotterdam!

Singer Vaidotas Valiukevičius, percussionist Robertas Baranauskas, and guitarist Mantas Banišauskas formed The Roop in 2014. They had two Lithuanian top 100 albums and one previous national final appearance to their name when they competed in last year’s Pabandom iš naujo! On Fire” was an immediate hit, topping the Lithuanian singles charts and boosting Lithuania to the top of the betting odds for a spell.

It is very difficult to regenerate that level of hype, but I’ll be darned if they haven’t done their absolute best. They are back at the top of the betting odds as of this writing (albeit without a lot of set competition this early in the season), and it’s easy to see why.

“Discoteque” is ridiculously catchy: I had the chorus in my head all day after my first listen, and I had only listened to it once. I wasn’t mad.

The lyrics “Discoteque” seem to be about both having self-confidence and embracing life in the face of a pandemic that has kept us confined in our homes. What better way to relieve tension than dancing like a lunatic around the living room?

Bringing back dancers Miglė Praniauskaitė & Marijanas Staniulėnas is not only a nice thing to do (from a 2020-was-cancelled perspective), but a stroke of genius. Vaidotas has upped the ante on his dance moves, and Miglė and Marijanas help carry the live performance even further.

Is it all basically the same thing The Roop did last year? Sure, to a certain extent. It will probably be new to a lot of people who only tune into Eurovision once a year, but it may bore folks who remember last year’s entry. I think it is fresh enough that any similarities to their previous effort aren’t detrimental, though.

What I like the most about “Discoteque” is that Vaidotas is dancing along that fine line between not taking himself too seriously and taking himself way too seriously without ever falling. He is loose-limbed, personable, and entertaining, and his whole performance is like a little wink to everyone. The message is clear: fun is serious business. I’m a big fan of that.

Lithuania’s Eurovision 2020 Entry

An admission: When we first saw The Roop’s “On Fire” in heat three of Pabandom iš naujo!, our son Kieran and I looked at each other confused. What is this, and why is Stanley Tucci doing performance art in Lithuania?

But Jen understood that The Roop had created a moment, and declared that they were going to win.

Because Jen gets this Eurovision thing.

There is so much that we could criticize here. Vocalist Vaidotas Valiukevičius over-enunciates his vocals: “But there’s fire in my SOOOuuuuullll.” He and the back-up dancers emote something fierce. And The Roop rhymed “fire” with “desire,” one of the venial sins of Eurovision.

But here’s the thing: it just works. Do you think rhyming “fire” with “desire” is cliché? The Roop are going to show you that no other lyric will do. “On Fire” is about having confidence to move forward and overcoming self-doubt. So when the world is your desire, you’re going to feel like you’re on fire. It’s a fact.

Do you think the choreography is wacky? Well, The Roop are going to commit to it so hard you are going to dance along by the end. It’s the perfect choreography for the sparkling synth melody they are dancing too. Plus it takes full advantage of Vaidotas’ limbiness: if you’ve got long fingers and arms like that, you gotta flaunt them.

As we said at the top, The Roop created a moment at Pabandom iš naujo! They overwhelmingly won both the televote and the jury vote because Lithuania sensed they had captured lightning in a bottle. Regardless of whether or not you buy into “On Fire,” you’re going to remember it. The next time Sweden hosts Eurovision, Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw are going to be doing that dance in the updated version of “Love, Love, Peace, Peace.”

We’re already exited to see our Eurovision party’s reaction to this one. And we’re also looking forward to blasting it when we’re feeling low. The Roop accomplished what they set out to do, and we’re on board.

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.

Lithuania’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Aw, Ieva’s in love!

Ieva Zasimauskaitė has competed on Lietuvos balsas, the Lithuanian version of The Voice, and participated in four previous Lithuanian national finals for Eurovision. She also was a member of the Kanunas Choir when it won the Lithuanian version of Clash of the Choirs. Her song “When We’re Old” is by Vytautas Bikus, who wrote Lithuania’s 2015 entry “This Time.”

“When We’re Old” is very gentle and its lyrics are very sweet, bordering on cloying. That said, Ieva gives it such weight that it’s hard to believe she didn’t write it herself for her husband, basketball player Marius Kiltinavičius, who shows up in the official video and the national final staging. If he comes to Lisbon, he and Ieva may be competing with Spain’s Alfred and Amaia for Eurovision’s most insufferably adorable straight couple.

Ieva’s voice sounds like a cross between Ellie Goulding and Dolores O’Riordan. She is quite good, although her lower register is a bit milky. Our main concern is that her song may be a bit too gentle to make an impact on audiences, especially in the first half of the first Semifinal. The emotion she brings to “When We’re Old” needs to feel genuine enough to make an impact.

Lithuania’s Eurovision 2017 Entry

After a long, elaborate selection process that began sometime back in 2014, Lithuania has selected its entry for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. Here is Fusedmarc with “Rain of Revolution.”

Singer Viktorija Ivanovskaja and multi-instrumentalist Denisas Zujevas formed Fusedmarc in 2004. Having spent some quality time watching their concert videos on YouTube, we see “Rain of Revolution” as a more commercial extension of their edgy trip-hop style. All of which makes “Rain of Revolution” sound like a ’90s jazz-soul version of “Crazy In Love.”

Fusedmarc’s hook that makes them interesting is how they incorporate visual art into their live performances. But here’s the problem: those visual elements are already standard issue at Eurovision. So if their staging isn’t going to set them apart from the other acts, then they’re left with a song that isn’t going to stand out either.

Eurovision 2016 Round-Up: Ides of March Edition

Beware the Ides of March, but beware the Eurovision Song Contest entries from San Marino more.

San Marino: Serhat – “I Didn’t Know”

For those of us who first came to Eurovision for the campiness, the past decade has been relatively slim pickings. Sure, you sometimes get a countertenor on a plinth or an Albanian Gumby impersonator, but most countries are increasingly taking this seriously. Fortunately, San Marino and Serhat have teamed up to offer us a slice of old school hokum that has transported us to a magical land where that strap-on monocle is an actual thing that people actually wear. We want to vacation in Manfred T. Mugler’s artistic vision. With any luck, the staging of this least self-aware miracle will live up to the amazing video. San Marino, don’t fuck this up.

UPDATED 03/21/2016: They fucked this up. Since we posted this review, San Marino decided to use the disco remix of “I Didn’t Know” as their Eurovision entry. Sadly, the original video has been scrubbed from the Eurovision YouTube playlist. Why do you got to stick it to the Manfred, San Marino?

Continue reading “Eurovision 2016 Round-Up: Ides of March Edition”

Lithuania’s Eurovision 2015 Entry

Lithuania have paired up Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila with “This Time”:

Lithuania’s song selection process is unconventional by European standards, a parallel selection of 12 artists and 12 songs for Europe. Typically the process of pairing the song with artist is done behind the scenes. Taking a short list of songs and artists and putting them in front of the public to match them up… it doesn’t seem like it should work.

But this year, when two competitors unexpectedly teamed up for one of the songs, Lithuania stumbled onto something good.

Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila should be familiar faces to Lithuanian viewers and close Eurovision followers. This was Monika’s 5th attempt to represent Lithuania. She made the final in 2012, finishing 3rd, and she was 4th in 2014, just shy of the superfinal cut. Here is Monika singing “Attention,” last year’s Lithuanian Eurovision entry. It’s not her best work. Vaidas also competed in Lithuania’s national selection last year, and he made the finals. Here he is singing “Attention.” It’s not his best work either.

Together, however, they are a pair that commands our…ahem…attention. “This Time” is an innocent, featherweight country tune. It evokes favorable memories of entries from Malta and the Netherlands from last year. The Lithuanian organizers will need to consider choreography and packaging for Vienna – right now it’s a little messy and the song is at risk of losing its energy in the final 30 seconds. That, of course, could be an artifact of the Lithuanian selection process and how these two came together. Even so, there’s a lot here to like. Monika and Vaidas have good chemistry together, and watching them together fills us with joy. It works.

Lithuania has competed at Eurovision 15 times since 1999. Their best result was 2006, when LT United finished 6th with “We are the Winners.” That was the one and only time Lithuania finished on the left side of the leader board. Whether Lithuania matches or improves on that result with “This Time” we can’t say, but we can say we think this is Lithuania’s strongest outing since they started competing at Eurovision.

“This time I think I’m falling in love.” We think so too, Lithuania, we think so too.

Lithuania’s Eurovision 2014 Entry

In a marathon 12-show selection process, Eurovizijos embarked on a parallel journey to simultaneously identify a winning song (winnowing the selection down from 16) and pair it with a winning artist (winnowing down from 20). In the end, Lithuania’s winning combination was a singer paired with a song she wrote. Here’s Vilija Matačiūnaitė and “Attention”:

Matačiūnaitė shows a clear affinity for R&B.  You feel shades of Lil’ Mo, Kandi, and Mya in the cadence and the hypersexualized themes. There is a strong musical hook which does what it says on the label: it gets your attention. Matačiūnaitė keeps your attention through syncopated rhythm changes, not unlike R. Kelly’s work. As you can gather, it’s a contemporary sound.

Where Matačiūnaitė falls short is in the vocals. Her voice has a shrill edge and her tendency, especially on the aggressive refrain, is to shout. Her other problem is–and this is a big problem considering her favored genre–her vocals lack soul. Here is a sexy, seductive song, and all I feel is a desire for her to stop yelling at me. For this number to succeed with the Eurovision juries, she’ll need to connect her performance with the emotions that initially prompted her to write the song. In Eurovizijos it was all show.

Lithuania’s Eurovision 2013 Entry

Goddamn it, Lithuania.

You could have sent a bad-ass, Estonian-cool slice of retro ’80s pop with Gerai Gerai and Miss Sheep’s “War in the wardrobe.” You could have sent a Eurokitschy slab of Swedish pop with DAR’s “Jump!” You could even have your traditional, slightly musty but terrifically performed big Eurovision ballad with Girmantė Vaitkutė’s “Time to shine.”

Instead, you go with Andrius Pojavis’ “Something,” a Killers-esque pop-rock number sung by a charisma black hole in a ratty tuxedo and top hat desperately grabbing for whimsy with two Jabbawockeez impersonators and Isadora Duncan’s famous Angry Birds routine, all being assaulted by Lawrence Welk’s bubble machine.

Just when we thought you were getting the hang of this Eurovision thing.

I don’t know if we’re going soft, or that the quality of music has been higher than normal, but this is the third national final in a row we enjoyed. Granted, it was padded out way too much, with long commercial breaks and interminably long conversations after each performance. But there was a lot of music to like, which is why the final decision is so puzzling to us.

Look, “Something” is not bad. It starts off slowly, but has a catchy chorus. I don’t hate it, and it may even grow on me. (May.)  But it lacks the charm that we saw from so many of the other performers tonight. Lithuania has a lot of work to do to make “Something” workable on a big stage. It’s hard to make a call this early in the season, but we think this is going to struggle to get out of the semi-finals.

Goddamn it.

Lithuania’s Eurovision 2012 Entry

First, Georgia gave us Anri Jokhadze. Then the UK gave us Englebert Humperdinck. But ladies and gentlemen, let’s talk about Donny Montell.

Followers of our blog will know that Lithuanian singer Donny Montell (anglicized from Donatas Montvydas) holds a special place in our hearts. Donny has been a fixture in the Lithuanian pop music scene for several years and has entered every Lithuanian national selection since 2009. He also has the distinction of having made our Least Self-Aware list before ever setting foot on a Eurovision stage.

We have followed his career since his memorable showing at last year’s pre-selection, and his performances have brightened many dull, Eurovision-less summer evenings for us. The thing about Donny is that he’s a such a multi-faceted performer. We’ve prepared a PowerPoint to show you.

Last October we predicted that he would finally break through to Eurovision in 2012. And this week, after overcoming allegations of plagiarism, he placed first with the jury and the public vote. Here’s Donny with Lithuania’s 2012 entry, “Love is Blind”:

We are beside ourselves with joy. It’s a tender love song that builds in the right places, and Donny considerately turns the second half into a disco song so we don’t get bored. Donny’s singing is in tune, well-phrased, powerful when it needs to be, and generally good. But you know why this works? Because he tries. Not only is love blind, but Donny puts on a blindfold to show us he is blind too. At a key transition moment, he rips off the blindfold so Donny can emote as only Donny can. When the lyrics talk about reaching out to you, he really reaches out to you. As a viewer, you understand that he understands. In the final, he even gave us an extra special cartwheel.

Here’s our Eurovision dream scenario. Lithuania makes the finals and is drawn right before the UK. Donny does this thing, and as Englebert takes the stage he says to Donny, “That sure was nice. Now move over, son.”