Jeez, listening to this year’s Eurovision entries from Belgium and Norway have got us down. Maybe we can listen to Poland’s new song to cheer ourselves up.
Oh. Never mind then.
Alicja Szemplińska won the 2019 season of The Voice of Poland. Her song “Empire” is by pop singer Patryk Kumór and songwriters Dominic Buczkowski-Wojtaszek, Frazer Mac, and Laurell Barker. Laurell collaborated with Frazer on the 2019 Swiss entry “She Got Me” and co-wrote the German entry “Sisters” and the United Kingdom entry “Bigger Than Us.” She also has two songs at this year’s Melodifestivalen. We need to add her to our Songwriters page.
There is nothing in particular wrong with the song or with the singer. However, we feel like they are not a good fit for each other. Alicja is only 17 years old, so it’s kind of hard for us to believe the story she’s telling in the song. Teenagers in love are always dramatic, to be sure, but the lyrics track older than that. Although maybe that’s because the line “Like a bird to a pane of glass” reminds us of Anouk’s “Birds.”
Anyway, although Alicja has a beautiful, mature voice, her performance did not elevate “Empires.” There was no depth, just some big notes that show off her potential.
And yet, it’s hard for us to be completely dismissive. That’s partly because we feel churlish criticizing a teenager who has won two televised singing competitions within the span of four months. But there is also the fact that Szansa na sukces was held in a small studio space, which dampened any potential for “Empire” to show off its full grandiosity. Give Alicja a big room and some time to live with “Empire” and it may work out just fine. She’s got the raw goods, and there is time to refine it.
And now for something completely different. Here is Tulia with “Fire of Love (Pali się).”
Tulia are a Polish folk quartet who formed in 2017. They gained national attention in Poland with their reworking of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence,” and they rode that attention to a top 10 hit album on the Polish charts in 2018.
Tulia has also covered Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters,” which makes sense to us because there is an interesting hard rock undercurrent to “Fire of Love.” They could compete with Hatari for heaviest Eurovision entry at the 2019 Song Contest. Is it weird that this reminds us of Babymetal, the Japanese J-pop/thrash metal crossover? There is something about the dissonance between the style of music and the style of singing that is striking in a unique way.
Like Portugal’s Conan Osiris, Tulia are an act at this year’s Eurovision that we don’t entirely get, but are thrilled to have competing. “Fire of Love” may be a smidge more conventional than “Telemóveis,” but only just a smidge. Poland has sent some mainstream and old-fashioned pop choices the past few years and missed out on the final last year with a fairly safe option. Like Iceland, they’re going to Tel Aviv with something different, and we hope they get rewarded with a spot on Saturday night.
Poland has chosen Gromee and Lukas Meijer to light Lisbon up.
Gromee is a deejay who had a number one single in Poland in 2016 with “Spirit.” He has teamed up with Swedish musician Lukas Meijer, with whom he had the top 10 hit “Without You.”
How to describe “Light Me Up?” Let’s go with relentlessly chipper. It’s nice to see Gromee and Lukas and their backing singers are having so much fun performing and all that, but after a minute of their grating cheeriness, we are quite ready to bust out Bauhaus and sulk in the corner.
It’s sunny in a Maltese national final sort of way and we’re sure it can get a crowd moving at the Euroclub. But it’s so not cool. It feels like a song your parents crank in the car, leaving you totally embarrassed.
Kasia Moś will represent Poland with the song “Flashlight” at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
Moś first vied for a Eurovision slot in 2006 with her song “I Wanna Know.” Last year, her song “Addiction” finished sixth in Poland’s national final. She has been a performer in the Pussycat Dolls Burlesque Revue and also finished third place in the 2012 edition of the talent show Must Be the Music. Moś co-wrote “Flashlight” with Pete Barringer and Rickard Bonde Truumeel.
This one bored us. There is nothing here we haven’t heard before and we’re not getting any new twists on old themes. Also, while in the past we have been willing to give some countries a pass for bad lyrics, in this instance we just can’t. Are you all really rhyming “fire” with “desire”? Still? Also, like Switzerland’s “Apollo,” “Flashlight” starts off with a bad bullet analogy. “Like a bullet from a smoking gun/They try to tell us that we don’t belong.” If we thought about it, we might come up with some pithy witticism about that, but honestly, we don’t want to spend any more time considering this plodding dirge of song.
It’s Teacher’s Day in Albania, and what better way to celebrate than by doing an educational post about the latest news from the Eurovision Song Contest?
Armenia: Iveta Mukuchyan – “LoveWave”
Here is a question we like to ask: what’s worse – being memorably bad or just being unmemorable? Last year’s Eurovision entry from Armenia was terrible, but this year’s entry is mediocre at best. Unless there is a staging miracle in Stockholm, we will remember “Face the Shadow” long after our memories of “LoveWave” have faded.
The Netherlands: Douwe Bob – “Slow Down”
Who would have expected that the best tribute to the late Glenn Frey comes in the form of the Netherlands’ Eurovision entry? “Slow Down” dips into a well of country-inspired mellow gold, but we don’t think it will reach the heights Netherlands achieved the last time they went down the road to Nashville.
Russia: Sergey Lazarev – “You Are the Only One”
Listening to “You Are the Only One” feels like stepping into a time machine set to 2006. If Croatia or Slovenia sent this, you’d pay it no mind, but because it’s Russia we guess we have to take it seriously. The song sounds like a brainstorming session on a corporate retreat: everyone’s throwing ideas against the wall and none of them are sticking or holding together. On the bright side, at least it’s not another pandering plea for peace, love and unicorns.
Estonia: Jüri Pootsmann – “Play”
Stig Rästa has finally found the ticket to success at Eesti Laul: mod pastiches of ’60s pop. He followed up last year’s duet with Elina Born by penning “Play” for Estonian dreamboat Jüri Pootsmann. Jüri may look like Anthony Edwards’ hot son, but he also possesses a rich baritone that infuses “Play” with smoldering soul.
Montenegro: Highway – “The Real Thing”
Oh man, in a rock heavy year, Highway reigns supreme with a sweet Soundgarden-influenced riff. If Georgia’s rock act is a bit too impenetrable, Romania’s rock act is a bit too pretentious, and Cyprus’ rock act is a bit too slick, then Montenegro’s rock act is the total package. This is Chris’ favorite song of the competition so far.
Israel: Hovi Star – “Made of Stars”
Hovi Star won Israel’s Rising Star competition, but Israel’s delegation is apparently planning to rework the song. We’re going to hold off commenting on it until the official version is ready.
Macedonia: Kaliopi – “Dona”
Kaliopi returns to Eurovision to represent Macedonia with the big ballad “Dona.” It’s a better song than her previous effort “Crno i Belo,” although it lacks a certain something to make it memorable. Still, we’re happy she’s back, if only because she’s entertaining in the press center.
Poland: Michał Szpak – “Color of Your Life”
Everyone on the internet expected Margaret to win Poland’s Eurovision selection show with “Cool Me Down.” That was before Margaret gave an indifferent performance of her Rihanna knock-off on Krajowe Eliminacje do Eurowizji 2016. That was also before Michał Szpak stared straight into our eyes and peered deep into our soul. “Color of Your Life” is a forgettable show tune, but Michał sold it to the voting public, forcing thousands of Eurovision fans to tear up their Warsaw 2017 travel plans.
Romania: Ovidiu Anton – “Moment of Silence”
Sadly, Ovidiu’s chance to rock Stockholm was taken away from him when the EBU booted Romania from the Eurovision Song Contest because of unpaid debts.
The most epic result of the weekend had to be Ovidiu Anton’s triumph at Selecţia Naţionala. Neither Ovidiu or the presenters could stress enough how much he liked to rock, and boy does he, in the most prog-heavy way possible. “Moment of Silence” is utterly ridiculous and ridiculously entertaining.
For further reading, see Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Savatage, and Tenacious D. See also: Ovidiu’s entry from 2015, which made our annual WTF post.
Monika Kuszyńska will represent Poland at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna with “In the Name of Love”:
Monika was the singer of the band Varius Manx when, in 2006, she was left paralyzed after a car accident. After years of rehabilitation, she returned to performing in 2010 with a performance on the Polish TV show Dzień Dobry TVN. She released her first solo album Ocalona in 2012.
Monika wrote the lyrics for “In the Name of Love” to music by her husband and former Varius Manx bandmate Kuba Raczyński. The song is autobiographical to a point, but she said it aims for a more universal inspirational theme that evokes the theme of this year’s Song Contest, “Building Bridges”:
Through my artistic activity, I am trying to promote the idea of combining the two worlds, which until recently seemed to be unable to connect – the world of people with and without disabilities. The bridge of understanding between them is strengthening every year, and I believe that one day the boundaries will be blurred.
So it’s a song that’s autobiographical but at the same time it’s written to be universal. I don’t mean to sound churlish, but she’s watered down her personal story to create a universal message that lacks bite. How much more powerful could this song have been if she’d put herself out there emotionally and showed us the pain underneath her strength? Taken out of context, “In the Name of Love” is merely a pretty, toothless song that runs out of steam at the two minute mark. It’s not something I want to listen to over and over again.
In context, however, “In the Name of Love” makes more sense. The video tells Monika’s story well and it’s hard not to choke up while watching it. If Poland can translate that story to its staging then it has the potential to touch a lot of people. But color me skeptical. Empathetic staging has historically not been Poland’s strong suit.
After a 3-year hiatus Poland is back! Today, Poland announced that they are sending “My Slowianie” by Donatan and Cleo to Copenhagen.
“My Slowianie” (Polish language version) is already a huge hit in Poland. It reached #1 on the Polish pop charts, and as of the time of writing, has been on their charts for 16 weeks. The song has also been something of an internet success. The video currently has over 38 million views on Youtube, and even in today’s parlance, that’s a lot of eyeballs. It’s reached a point in the Polish zeitgeist where it’s being parodied. This parody has 7 million views.
Looking at the timeline, you have to wonder if Poland decided to re-enter the contest specifically for this song. “My Slowianie” was released on November 4, and by November 19, it was clear Donatan and Cleo had a hit. On December 5, Poland announced its return to Eurovision. The English language version of the song was released on February 4, indicating an effort to market it more broadly. In today’s press release, the Polish broadcasters confirmed that they will be presenting a bilingual version of the song. Also, they still have 10 seconds to cut, so the final version is yet to come.
As for our take, “My Slowianie” is “Country Grammar” does “Hora din Moldova.” And we love it as much as Poland does. Other performances, such as this one below, suggest that Cleo will have no problem delivering live. It also looks like they’ve put some thought into the staging.
“Igranka“‘s early exit last year left a lot of folks wondering if there is any audience for hip hop at Eurovision. Well, there’s always a first time, and a boatload of momentum going in sure would help. If ever a hip hop song could succeed, this is the one.
Given how disastrous last year’s Polish entry was, there was nowhere for Poland to go but up. Isis Gee’s “For Life” is very, very Celine Dion-y. This was effective in 1988, and I can’t say it won’t be two decades later. This is competent, generally well-performed, and classy all the way. I hope it doesn’t follow Ireland in the semis.