Ira Losco and X Factor Malta, they get all my love.
(Is House of Pain’s “All My Love” too obscure a reference for a Eurovision blog?)
Destiny Chukunyere won the 2015 Junior Eurovision Song Contest for Malta and earned her spot at this year’s Grand Prix by winning X Factor Malta. She was also a backup singer for Michela Pace at last year’s Song Contest. Her song “All of My Love” is by the Symphonix International team, including 2018’s actual winner of the actual jury vote Cesár Sampson.
Destiny’s seemed destined to fulfill her destiny to be Malta’s Eurovision representative, even though she had to jump through the hoops of X Factor Malta to get there. So the cancelation of this year’s Song Contest seems particularly cruel to her.
On the other hand, we’re not big fans of “All of My Love.” There are certain melodies and rhythms that Symphonix hit on regularly, and we wish we knew more more about music theory and structure to properly put our fingers on what those tropes are. All we can say is that “All of My Love” feels like a run of the mill Symphonix song.
Mind you, we’d normally take a run of the mill Symphonix song over a run of the mill G:Son or Siegel song. But we really wanted to hear something special for Destiny and this wasn’t it. So maybe the silver lining is that she can come back with a stronger entry. A lot of countries have already announced that their representative this year will be their representative next year, even some countries that held a national final to pick their artist. Let’s hope Malta gets on that bandwagon.
Malta’s fortunes at Eurovision have waxed and waned in the past decade. They have been batting .500 in terms of qualification for the Grand Prix Final, but struck out the last two years. So they changed their stance and choked up on their bat and we have no idea why we’re going for a baseball metaphor here, but instead of holding a national final, they gave the ticket to Tel Aviv to the winner of the newly launched X Factor Malta.
Now they look poised to hit it out of the park. Here is Michela Pace with “Chameleon.”
While Malta is going with a previously undiscovered talent as their singer, they hired some heavy hitters to write her song. Joacim Bo Persson, Johan Alkenäs and Borislav Milanov are increasingly influential Eurovision songwriters who teamed up last year to co-write “Nobody but You” with Cesár Sampson (which we remind you won the jury vote). For “Chameleon,” they are joined by Paula Winger, who has written for Miranda Cosgrove and composed the theme song for the Disney Channel show Liv and Maddie.
Gosh almighty, do we love “Chameleon.” It is battling with “Soldi” at the top of our personal chart. There’s the jaunty little horn intro that leads into a funky, sultry R&B verse. The pre-chorus splashes us with a dash of “Fuego” mixed up with a taste of the pop bangers that Borislav and his Symphonix team have brought to Eurovision the past few years . Then the chorus ties it all together with a bouncy, coiling beat.
Michela has a rich, smoky voice and the recorded track hints at her ability to belt and run. She takes this song and makes it her own with a confidence that belies her professional experience.
Our only concern is that lack of experience. Winning X Factor Malta is an achievement, but we’ve seen other talent show winners struggle on the gigantic Eurovision stage. Maybe we’re worrying for no reason, but we want “Chameleon” in the top 10 so bad that we are thinking of the worst case scenario. Come on, Malta, you got this!
Christabelle will represent Malta at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Taboo.”
Although she is just 25, Christabelle Borg is a veteran of Malta’s entertainment industry. She participated in three Junior Eurovision national finals and three previous Eurovision national finals before finally getting the nod this year. She also was the host of the Maltese TV shows Teen Trouble and Teen Traffic.
Christabelle co-wrote “Taboo” with Johnny Sanchez, Muxu, and Eurovision stalwart Thomas G:son. Musically, the song has a bouncy Melodifestivalen sound that reminded us of Jasmine Kara’s “Gravity” quite a lot. It’s solid, if not particularly remarkable, although the chorus is catchy.
The lyrics are about Christabelle’s struggles with mental illness and she hopes to raise awareness of mental health issues in her performance. We can sort of see how she is telling her story in the MESC staging. Christabelle begins her performance trapped in a box. Her back-up dancers then appear in the box to represent (for lack of a better term) the demons in her mind. By the end of the song, she has quieted those demons down.
Of course, we see this now with benefit of learning more about the song. There’s also a chance we’re misinterpreting what’s going on, which speaks to the challenge Malta faces. There are strong staging elements here, but we think Christabelle and her team need to think about how to tell the story of “Taboo” more clearly to maximize her song’s impact.
Claudia Faniello has at last won Malta’s national final and heads off to Kyiv with the song “Breathlessly.”
Faniello has been a fixture at Malta’s national finals since 2006. She finished second twice, in 2008 with “Caravaggio” and in 2012 with “Pure.” She took a break from participation after the 2013 competition, returning triumphantly this year. She is the second member of her family to represent Malta at Eurovision; her brother Fabrizio Faniello participated in the 2001 and 2006 Song Contests.
“Breathlessly” was co-written by Malta songwriters and Eurovision Song Contest veterans Gerard James Borg and Philip Vella, along with Vella’s son Sean, who has scored trailers for 20th Century Fox. This is Vella’s first song at Eurovision since 2008’s “Vodka.” Borg collaborated with Philipp Kirkorov, Dimitris Kontopoulos, John Ballard, and Ralph Charlie on Russia’s 2014 entry “Shine.”
So we’re happy for Faniello to finally get her chance to represent Malta. But we think that “Breathlessly” is stale and old-fashioned. To top off our annoyance with it, “Breathlessly” just sort of… stops. It’s a bit jarring, and even the crowd at the Malta national final seemed surprised it was over. So if Malta does any tweaking before May, we’d like them to think about coming up with a proper ending to the song. Couldn’t hurt.
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.)
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:
On November 15, 2014, Malta hosted the Junior Eurovision Song Contest at the Malta Shipbuilding. A week later, it used that same location (as well as the same footage of the Junior Eurovision interval acts) to decide its entry for the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest. The runaway winner on the night was Amber, who will represent Malta in Vienna with “Warrior”:
“Warrior” was penned by Elton Zarb and Muxu, who were part of the team that wrote Malta’s Junior Eurovision-winning entry “The Start.” It’s a big ol’ pop ballad, well-suited for the Grand Prix. However, when we saw Amber perform it in Malta’s final, we felt like the song was performing her instead of her performing the song. In other words, she didn’t quite own it yet. Fortunately, she’s got plenty of time to get comfortable with “Warrior” before May. A little more confidence and maybe a tweak or two to the arrangement and Malta will be good to go.
Malta are following up a successful 2013 Song Contest with The Lumineers… I mean, with Firelight and “Coming Home”:
Although it finished fourth in the televote, “Coming Home” scored high with the jury. It’s a decent enough alt-country song. The problem is, there are a lot of vocal parts in the arrangement and if they’re not performed perfectly, then the whole song sounds cluttered. And frankly, here it was a hot mess. “Coming Home” has potential if Firelight simplify the arrangement a bit, but as it stands, I don’t think this will garner much attention in Copenhagen.
Following our own advice, we chose to forsake the 5+ hour Maltese marathon and play catch up later. Eventually, Malta decided to send Gianluca Bezzina and “Tomorrow” to Malmö.
In Malta, where no one is just a singer, 23-year old Bezzina has a day job–he’s a doctor.
Doc Bezzina brings a geeky charm to the stage and he reels you in. As a performer, he’s raw, and that quality can be a double-edged sword. Malta handled the semi-finals in the studio. That went poorly for Bezzina, and I’m not just talking about the ugly sweater. Rather, his inexperience showed as he looked uncomfortable playing directly to the camera. In the Maltese final, in front of an audience, Bezzina opened up. He engaged his band, he engaged the crowd. He didn’t engage the camera, but he didn’t need to.
“Tomorrow” is a quirky little song, and there is an emerging Eurovision sub-genre of adorable twee pop. Listening to “Tomorrow” we rattled off several past Eurovision entries that occupied a similar niche: Paradise Oskar, Tom Dice, Jon Lilygreen, Anna Rossinelli, Simon Matthew… These entries all have something else in common: they all made the finals.
This is a tough one to call. “Tomorrow” may not be to our taste, but it might be unwise to count this one out.
Malta’s National Final is not so much watched as survived. There were sixteen songs, three long commercial breaks during the performance part of the show, plus short ads between the time when the hosts interviewed the acts and when the acts performed their songs. There was a long opening number that lasted like a half-hour or something. There is an incredibly long interval period, which we admit we didn’t watch because we had to make and eat dinner, do the dishes, and fold laundry we had done earlier in the day. Despite its length, though, it’s still more entertaining than the national finals held by Portugal and Macedonia, which last a combined three weeks.
Anyway, by the time we tuned back into Malta, they had decided that Kurt Calleja’s “This Is the Night” would be their representative in Baku this May.
Yes, Kurt and his deejay just did an exploding fist-bump to kick off their song.
This is perfectly amiable, forgettable Euro-pop. It’s catchy enough, and competently performed. That said, the bridge is an absolute mess.
But the big issue we have with this is that it is operating in the same space as the French and Cyprus entries: hooky, over-produced pop. And if you put the three together, Anggun has got both Kurt and Ivi Adamou beat. Not that you’re going to get the three together, since I don’t see either “This Is the Night” or “La La Love” making it out of the Semis.