Portugal’s Eurovision 2021 Entry

Festival da Canção has become my favorite national final to watch. Like the Sanremo Music Festival, it is really more about celebrating the national music scene than it is picking a Eurovision entry. Unlike Sanremo, it gets the job done in a relatively tight package.

I realize some fans will quibble about that given the final lasted about two hours and 45 minutes and only an hour of that was spent presenting the songs. On the other hand, I watched all five hours plus of the Sanremo final; trust me, Festival da Canção was really well-paced. And let’s be honest, when a good hour and a half of the show’s total running time was spent celebrating Portuguese music history in gorgeous, electrifying ways, I think you’d have to be pretty churlish to want them to get to the point already.

Given all this, I was pleasantly surprised that the song that ultimately won the 2021 competition was a slice of Southern blues rock. I wasn’t expecting that.

The Black Mamba kicked off the first Festival semifinal, and I was immediately struck by them. Their song opens with an old Hollywood orchestral flourish before Pedro Tatanka begins to belt in his smoky alto timber. As “Love Is on My Side” progresses, it gets more lush and more epic in scope. It wouldn’t sound out of place on classic rock radio.

I have two dings against it, though. One is that, at just under three minutes, it’s way too short. A song like this needs room to build and breathe and have an epically awesome guitar solo. The Eurovision format cuts “Love Is on My Side” off at the knees.

The other is that The Makemakes got nul points at the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest with a similar song. Given how strong and diverse this year’s song selection is, I’m afraid The Black Mamba may suffer a similar fate to their Austrian counterparts.

For now, all I can hope is that they bring out an extended six minute version of “Love Is on My Side” so they can really make it feel complete.

Portugal’s Eurovision 2020 Entry

Sometimes we just want to hear a song to help us relax.

Elisa Silva is a singer from Madeira who tried out for Ídolos in 2015. She studies music at Escola Superior de Música in Lisbon. Her song “Medo de sentir” was written by Marta Carvalho, a finalist on the 2016 edition of The Voice Portugal who has since had success as a songwriting while continuing her career has a singer. She joined Elisa on stage as pianist and backing vocalist during Festival da Canção.

“Medo de sentir” finished second with the public and second with the jury at Festival da Canção. However, the song that won the jury vote was spiked by the public and vice versa, which gave Elisa the win. Keiino and Tamara Todevska can speak a little bit about what it’s like to have that happen.

We liked “Medo de sentir” well enough when we first heard it in the Festival semifinals, and liked it about the same when we heard it again the final. It’s not a remarkable, “Oh yes, crank it up” song, but it’s pleasant, like a more commercial take on “O Jardim.”

It doesn’t land a deep impact on us, though. We think that’s because there is no build to a grand finale: the bridge makes it seem like Elisa is going to go big, but instead she returns to the song’s meditative pace to bring it to a gentle close. Gentle is nice, but it isn’t necessarily memorable.

Still, if you are in the mood for a contemplative song about the difficulties of learning to love again after your heart has been broken, “Medo de sentir” is a fine way to squeeze out your tears.

Portugal’s Eurovision 2019 Entry

Oh hi! Long time, no see! We have been through the wringer a bit lately, so we haven’t really had a chance to post. We are back now and are increasingly comfortable with the fact that we may not be able to write reviews of every single entry in detail before all the acts arrive in Tel Aviv. (Sorry, Moldova.)

We thought we’d cherry-pick an easy entry to ease our way back in. Then we decided to review “Telemóveis” instead.

Conan Osíris is a self-taught singer and songwriter who also has a degree in graphic design. He has released two EPs and two full albums, with his 2017 release Adoro Bolos serving as his breakthrough. He was eventually invited by Portuguese broadcaster RTP to compose a song for this year’s edition of  Festival da Canção.

We have absolutely no idea what to make of “Telemóveis.” It might be the least accessible Eurovision entry we have heard in our years of following the Song Contest. We have no entry point to come at it, no knowledge of Conan’s musical genre, no reference point to decode it. It is totally out of our comfort zone.

“Telemóveis” was the overwhelming winner at Festival da Canção and was an early favorite of diehard Eurovision fans. But we wonder if most viewers in May will react the way we did, scratching their heads wondering what the heck that was.

And yet, and yet… We are happy Conan is at Eurovision because he is bringing something utterly unique to the Song Contest, a song unlike anything we’ve ever encountered. We may not get it, but we want it to be there. It is striking and special.

Portugal’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Portugal won Eurovision last year and we’re still pinching ourselves. Who has the unenviable task of defending their title? Here’s Cláudia Pascoal with “O Jardim.”

Cláudia Pascoal is 23, but has a wealth of experience in television talent shows. She’s been on Ídolos twice, Factor X, and The Voice Portugal. “O Jardim” was written by Isaura, who finished eighth on Operação Triunfo. She selected Cláudia to perform her song and serves as the backing singer.

“O Jardim” is a song for Isaura’s late grandmother, who passed away in 2017. But it’s not so much a mournful song as a contemplative one. It’s pretty, but also understated, atmospheric almost to a fault. Because the song focuses on creating a mood, rather than a journey, it ends where it begins without having taken us anywhere.

But it is the perfect song to listen to at two in the morning while curled up on the couch after being woken up by downpour.

Portugal’s Eurovision 2017 Entry

Portugal returns to the Eurovision Song Contest after a year’s break with an absolute corker. Here’s Salvador Sobral with “Amar pelos dois.”

Sobral was the seventh-place contestant on the third season of Ídolos, Portugal’s version of Pop Idol. His song “Amar pelos dois” was written by his sister Luísa Sobral, who had finished third in the first season of Ídolos.

This song is cabaret. Usually we say that as criticism, but this time we mean it in the best possible way. It’s sweeping yet gentle, modern yet timeless. Indeed, “Amar pelos dois” reminds us of a newly discovered ballad from Rodgers and Hart (our favorite songwriters from the Great American Songbook era). Apologies if that seems U.S. centric: does Portugal have a similar jazz vocal history that is song is tapping into? Helping it feel contemporary is Sobral’s quirky, awkward stage presence. He draws you in. Listen to that crowd reaction in the hall at Festival da Canção 2017. They were feeling it too.

If we have a concern, it’s that “Amar pelos dois” is drawn into the first half of the first Semi. But we are not that worried. This song is jury bait, and if Sobral does in Kyiv what he did in Portugal, we think he will create a breakout Eurovision moment along the lines of Raphael Gualazzi. If we were betting lemurs, we would put money on a top 10 finish.

Portugal’s Eurovision 2015 Entry

Leonor Andrade has won Festival da Canção 2015 and will represent Portugal in Vienna with “Há um mar que nos separa”:

Leonor was a contestant on The Voice Portugal last year, but was eliminated on the show before the final. Since then, she has been an actor on the soap opera Água de Mar.

“Há um mar que nos separa” is a decent enough pop rock song, with a bright and catchy chorus. Neither of us love the U2-influenced arrangement, which makes it sound a bit dated. We hope that the Portuguese delegation to attend to that, but we fear this is going as is. But Leonor has a cool voice that suits the song well. She got a bit ragged during the key change, but sounded fine otherwise.

It’s a solid entry, but it’s not particularly memorable. It’s just a pleasant way to spend three minutes of your time on a Thursday night, though probably not a Saturday night, in May.

Portugal’s Eurovision 2014 Entry

Portugal has returned from its Eurovision sabbatical and decided to send Suzy to Copenhagen with “Quero Ser Tua”:

What we’ve always liked about Portugal is that they seemed to send entries that are true to themselves. Often it was clear Portugal wasn’t going to have a good Eurovision result, but at least their songs were honest and showed us a little something about Portuguese culture. Even a song that looked like a joke entry could still capture a bit about Portuguese history.

Then there’s this. “Quero Ser Tua” sounds like what Portugal thinks Europe thinks a Portuguese Eurovision entry should sound like. It’s not terrible, but it’s not current and it’s not relevant to Portugal or to Eurovision. What’s the point?

UPDATED 17 MARCH 2014: Shi points out in the comments that “Quero Ser Tua” is from a Portuguese genre called Pimba. So Portugal is still doing its own thing, which makes me happy in a way. Of course, I still wonder if it’s going to have any impact with the rest of Europe, but otherwise I stand corrected!

Portugal’s Eurovision 2012 Entry

I think it was about 1:30a CET when Portugal confirmed that Filipa Sousa would be going to Baku on their behalf with “Vida Minha”:

If the song and the staging reminds you a little bit of Vânia Fernandes’s “Senhora do mar (Negras águas)” from Eurovision 2008, there’s a reason: Andrej Babic and Carlos Coelho wrote both songs.

“Vida Minha” is a pleasant enough entry, but for me, it lacks the dramatic oomph that “Senhora do mar” had, and the staging only makes that more apparent. Of course, I’m one of the more obsessive Eurovision fans, so I doubt a lot of people are going to watch this during the second Semi and say, “Well, this is no ‘Senhora do mar’.” It is a return to form for Portugal after two lackluster entries and Sosa is a charismatic singer, so viewers may respond to it.

Portugal’s Eurovision 2011 Entry

It took three and a half hours for Portugal to decide on a Eurovision entry. Three and a half hours. We didn’t sit through all of it like poor Alekas Supranavičius did for ESC Daily, because we sat through it last year. They run Festival da Canção like it was the Eurovision final, by going from region to region to tally up the points from the jury, except the host of the Festival is chattier with the regional representatives than the host of Eurovision, so it drags on. (I mean, it’s harder to sit through than the FYR Macedonian show.)

For some reason, there seems to be no agreement between the jurors and the public as to what constitutes a good entry. Now, juries are supposedly musical industry folk, arbiters of taste, spotters of talent, and so forth. But at the end of the jury voting, the second place act with 10 points was Inês Bernardo, who misses every single note in “Deixa o meu lugar”:

I should mention that the jury votes are tallied up, then converted into the traditional douze pointe system that Eurovision uses. Then, the public vote is added straight in. At the end of the night, when Bernardo’s point tally from the jury was added to the point tally from the public, she ended up with 10 points.  That is, 10 points from the jury, 0 from the public.

If you look at the ESC Daily recap, you’ll see that two acts, Tânia Tavares and Wanda Stuart, both ended up with 7 points after the jury vote, even though Tavares finished with 111 points and Stuart had 106. This is apparently how it was reported during the show. It doesn’t have a bearing on the winner, but I wonder if the organizers were falling asleep during the presentation. Seeing as it was one in the morning.

Anyway, in the end, thanks to 12 points from the televote (plus 6 from the jury, we think), your Portuguese Eurovision entry is Homens da Luta’s “Luta é Alegria”:

Homens da Luta’s shtick is that that they perform music inspired by the Portuguese scene of the early 1970s. In other words, the Carnation Revolution era. The era of the ultimate political Eurovision entry: “E Depois do Adeus” by Paulo de Carvalho, which was one of the cues that the revolution was about to start.

I can’t tell if “A Luta é Alegria,” which literally translated is “The Struggle Is Joy,” is actually political (which would get it disqualified by the Eurovision organizers). My impression is that it’s just a pastiche song.

There was apparently a lot of booing in the auditorium when it was announced as the winner. For Jen and me, we’re actually happy to see it go, because this year’s ESC was really lacking a kitsch factor that Homens da Luta will provide. However, like Greece, Portugal is really testing the theory that they always qualify for the final no matter what.

Portugal’s Eurovision 2010 Entry

The Portugal national final was a bit of a slog.  That’s really the best way to describe it.  Let’s start with the voting process. There were juries set up in 20 Portuguese locales, and they assigned points like in the Song Contest itself.  So the host went through and got the points from a representative of each jury.  But she also made small talk with the reps as well.  Thus, the tallying went for over an hour.

After the points were tallied up, the top vote getter received 12 points total, the second-place vote getter got 10 points total, and so on down the line.  Then this score was added to the points given to the performers by the public voting to determine who won.  So if you got, say, two points from the jury and seven points from the public, you’d end up with nine points.

Now, some countries use juries to offset the public voting so that, say, Dustin the Turkey doesn’t show up at the big show.  However, you question the taste of the juries when they pick as their winner Filipa Azevedo’s “Há dias assim”:

Ignore the fact that this is a bland ballad reminiscent of something Mariah Carey would have passed on 20 years ago.  The issue here is that Azevedo is singing this so poorly.  God, her runs sound like she’s gargling.  It’s just a horrible experience listening to this (which I am doing here just for you, gentle readers).  Sure she’ll probably sing it better at the Semi-Finals.  But what if she doesn’t? Then you’re stuck with this sore thumb of song that is going to keep your winless streak alive.

There seemed to be a bit of controversy, at least amongst ESCToday readers, about the voting, since the public had given  Catarina Pereira’s “Canta por mim” 12 points, and Azevedo’s song just seven points.  But here’s the thing about that. “Canta por mim” sounds a lot like last year’s Spain entry “La noche es para mi,” which finished tied for second-to-last.  So really, there’s no way for Portugal to win this year.