San Marino’s and Azerbaijan’s Eurovision 2020 Entries

Every year, we write a couple of posts called The Eurovision That Almost Was. It’s our chance to revisit songs that finished second at national finals, singers who were runners-up on talent shows, and entries that for one reason or another never graced the stage at the Grand Prix.

Usually, we wait until after the Final to write up those posts to give us something to do over the summer. But this year, we have an opportunity to talk about what might have been in conjunction with what actually happened.

No, we’re not talking about a potential cancellation of the entire Contest due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re just talking about this year’s San Marino entry, “Freaky!”

Senhit returns to the Song Contest nine years after she first represented San Marino without that letter H in her name. Since then, San Marino has made disco its national brand. Thus, when Senhit had her flash national final to decide which song she would bring to Rotterdam, it seemed inevitable that “Freaky!” was going edge “Obssessed.”

We thought “Freaky!” was the better song anyway. Senhit delivers a lot of sass and sexiness to the recorded track, which makes fun. The trouble is, as is often the case with San Marino, the song is more dated than retro. Their hopes rely heavily on Senhit’s personality shining through.

However, many hardcore national final followers felt that they were deprived of a third choice. Senhit had recorded another track called “Cleopatra” and the general feeling was that it was so much better than “Freaky!” or “Obsessed.”

Cut to Azerbaijan, who were searching for a song for their internal selection Efendi. “Cleopatra” suited her to a T. Thus, Senhit’s pass was Efendi’s gain.

Efendi embodies “Cleopatra” so much that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t written just for her. The way she rolls her Rs when she sings “Like Cleopatrrrrra” is instantly iconic and even makes you forget the silly “Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō” bit that leads into the chorus. (We didn’t know Cleopatra was Buddhist.) Sure, this is just a revamped version of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” but it bloody works.

So what was Senhit thinking by passing on it? Take a listen to her version of “Cleopatra” and you will understand. She interprets the lyrics fairly literally and her vocal lacks the playfulness she brings to “Freaky!” Efendi’s take has way more attitude. She brings a lot of cheek to “Cleopatra,” which plays into its goofier moments while still making it compelling.

Also, Senhit’s arrangement for the song has a random Latin-influenced breakdown in the middle. It’s probably inspired by the lyric “Egyptian and Latin, the voices run through me,” but it sounds out of place. Efendi’s arrangement has a more sparse and faintly Middle Eastern breakdown that’s more in step with the overall inspiration for the song.

It’s all about what works for each performer. Efendi nails the tone of “Cleopatra.” Senhit nails the tone of “Freaky!” Ultimately, we think both San Marino and Azerbaijan made the right choices for this year’s Song Contest.

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.

San Marino’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Jessika and Jenifer Brening are here to tell you who they are. (Spoiler: They are San Marino’s Eurovision act this year.)

Jessika Muscat is a Maltese singer who has been a staple at Malta’s national finals over the past decade or so. Her best finish in 2016 when she placed  seventh with the Philip Vella and Gerard James Borg song “The Flame.”

She is paired up with German singer Jenifer Brening, who finished fourth on the German talent show The Winner Is in 2012. Jenifer replaced San Marinese rapper Lorenzo “Irol” Salvatori, who dropped out because “Who We Are” was “too poppy” for him.

Irol still retains a songwriting credit on “Who We Are,” but it seems like half of Europe has a songwriting credit on ” ]Who We Are.” The big name for Eurovision fans is Zöe Straub, Austria’s representative at the 2016 Song Contest and one of the judges for San Marino’s 1in360 national final competition this year. She is joined by her dad, singer-songwriter Christof Straub, who co-wrote her Eurovision entry “Loin d’ici.” Rounding out the credits are the aforementioned Jenifer Brening; Matthias Strasser, who has contributed songs to past Maltese national finals; and Stefan Moessle, part of the Secret Sounds music production team that has contributed music to the TV show Dance Moms.

“Who We Are” sounds the songwriting crew heard “Heroes” and thought that it needed some girl power, so they inserted Mel B’s rap in “Wannabe.” At face value, this should work, but it really falls short in practice.

That’s because “Who We Are” in its 1in360 form was rough. Jessika’s performance was a bit too stiff and a bit too smiley. She’s an experienced performer, but she looked like a fresh-faced amateur. The whole package needs to be polished up quite a bit to work on the big stage in Lisbon.

Despite our qualms, we are happy to see San Marino jumping into the current era of Eurovision after splashing around in Ralph Siegel’s antiquated style for so long. And if Zöe wants to usurp Uncle Ralph as San Marino’s songwriter-in-residence, you won’t hear us complain. We look forward to what she and Valentina Monetta cook up next year.

San Marino’s Eurovision 2017 Entry

Last year, San Marino hired Turkish entertainer Serhat to fly their flag in Stockholm. Serhat’s song was the promisingly unpromising “I Didn’t Know,” an awkward ballad with one of the most glorious videos ever created. Why Manfred T. Mugler did not graduate to directing a sequel to Battlefield Earth we’ll never know. Anyway, at a certain point, a disco remix of “I Didn’t Know” started circulating around the internet, and the enthusiastic reaction of online Eurovision fans caught the attention of the San Marino delegation, who apparently do not understand irony. Serhat gleefully adopted the remix as the official arrangement for his Eurovision performance, where he only missed out on qualification by 65 points.

Okay, so Serhat didn’t make the Grand Prix final. But San Marino seems to have recognized an opportunity to cater to a certain set of enthusiastic Eurovision fans. So here they are, fanwanking us off again with “Spirit of the Night.”

Valentina Monetta will be representing her country for the fourth time. She has now competed in Eurovision as many times as Lys Assia has, which actually makes us pretty happy. We’re worried that if she goes for a fifth time, Lys will try and take her out at the knees. She is teamed up with Jimmie Wilson, an American singer who starred in Hope, a German musical about Barack Obama. “Spirit of the Night” was written by Eurovision legend turned Sammarinese muse Ralph Siegel with lyrics by Jutta Staudenmayer and Steve Barnacle (and we can’t tell yet if it’s the same Steve Barnacle who is in Visage, but it might be and we hope it is).

We’re not exactly sure why San Marino wants to continue to participate in Eurovision, especially given their dispute with the EBU over how their vote in the Song Contest is tallied. (Read more at ESC Insight.) But you know what, if they still want to join in, then great, the more the merrier. They have a short bench, so Monetta can represent her home country any year she wants. Siegel will probably write songs for San Marino for as long as he still has catchy little melodies stuck in his head.

And you know what? We’re okay with that. At this point, San Marino’s Eurovision output is sort of like a box of Corn Pops. Sure it’s a bit cloying, but sometimes, on a rainy day, you just want to curl up in front of the television with a big bowl of sweet cereal and watch a Sammarinese Eurovision legend hit on a guy who played Barack Obama in a musical.

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”

San Marino’s Eurovision 2015 Entry

San Marino has given Valentina Monetta a well-deserved break and chosen Anita Simoncini and Michele Perniola to wave the Sammarinese flag in Vienna with “Chain of Lights”:

Both Anita Simoncini and Michele Perniola are veterans of Junior Eurovision. Michele represented San Marino at Junior Eurovision 2013, and Anita followed the next year as a member of The Peppermints (alongside Michele’s sister Raffaella).

As has been the case the previous three years, San Marino’s entry was written by Eurovision legend Ralph Siegel. “Chain of Lights” reunites Ralph with lyricist Bernd Meinunger (writing here as John O’Flynn). They co-wrote the Eurovision-winning “Ein bißchen Frieden” and the camp classics “Dschinghis Khan” and “Papa Pingouin.”

Their latest effort is a strange song. “Chain of Lights” sports some pretty melodies and some nice touches in the arrangement. I like the staccato strings and the pinging piano during the first verse. But it also has a lot of musical flourishes and slight key changes that knock it off-kilter. It doesn’t completely work as a cohesive song, but I can’t say it’s not interesting.

“Chain of Lights” is not interesting lyrically, though. It is yet another 2015 entry about how we all should just get along and live in peace (see also: Russia). It’s similar to the songwriters’ 2006 song for Switzerland “If We All Give a Little.” There’s even (intentionally? unintentionally?) a musical reference to it at the two-minute mark.

But, it’s less schlocky than “Wars for Nothing,” so that’s something.

STRAY OBSERVATIONS: Did the official video of this three-minute song really need to have a minute and a half credit roll at the end of it?

San Marino’s Eurovision 2014 Entry

Valentina Monetta is back to represent San Marino for the third year in a row. This year, she will be singing “Maybe (Forse)”:

Like last year’s San Marino entry “Crisalide,” “Maybe” was composed by Eurovision legend Ralph Siegel with lyrics by Mauro Balestri. Like “Crisalide,” “Maybe” starts off as a quiet piano-driven ballad. Like “Crisalide,” “Maybe” builds up to a disco beat decorated with synthesized strings. “Maybe” is a lot like “Crisalide.”

That said, I like “Maybe” more than “Crisalide.” It’s a pleasant song, if a bit dull. Siegel still has a knack for a lovely melody. Monetta is now a well-seasoned Eurovision performer, so I’m confident she is going to deliver on the night.

Is it enough to secure San Marino its first appearance in the Final? I have a feeling the answer is no, because it’s facing some stiff competition in that first Semi (and also “Cake to Bake”). But I can’t help but root for Monetta, who has invested so much into Eurovision. I hope she gets rewarded for it… Maybe?

San Marino’s Eurovision 2013 Entry

Remember “The Social Network Song Oh Oh-Uh-Oh Oh,” San Marino’s Eurovision 2012 entry? The one Eurovision legend Ralph Siegel composed and poor Valentina Monetta had to sing? You know, the one that was supposed to be called “Facebook Uh, Oh, Uh?”

Sure you do!

Well, San Marino and Siegel decided that Monetta was such a trooper for stepping in to perform “The Social Network Song Oh Oh-Uh-Oh Oh” that they decided to give her another chance to grace the Eurovision stage, only this time with a song that isn’t completely embarrassing! Here is “Crisalide.”

I mean, it’s fine. It’s completely old-fashioned, but it gives Monetta a serious song that suits her voice and her style of music much better. After chugging along as a ballad for most of the song, “Crisalide” suddenly changes tempos and becomes a disco song to make it… interesting, I guess? Worked for Donny Montell last year.

So, what’s worse, being memorably bad or not being memorable at all? I still despise “The Social Network Song Oh Oh-Uh-Oh Oh,” but it’s one of those songs that goes down in the annals of Eurovision history. The only notable thing about “Crisalide” is the history of the people involved in it, and that’s not enough to make it memorable.

San Marino’s Eurovision 2012 Entry, an Alternative View

UPDATED: After San Marino’s “Facebook” was rejected by the EBU for violating rules barring references to commercial products, the San Marino team just crossed out all the references to Facebook in the lyrics. So in that spirit, we’re just going to remove references to “Facebook” from our original posts.

Generally when Chris and I hold differing opinions about a song, we simply add a dissenting viewpoint at the bottom of the post. It’s pretty rare. On Valentina Monetta’s “Facebook The Social Network Song (Uh oh oh)”, however, Chris told me to write my own post. I am, you see, convinced that Chris can’t recognize a legend when it’s right in front him.

Facebook The Social Network Song (Uh oh oh)” is spectacular. It’s Showgirls. It’s Glitter. It’s Al Pacino in his later years. You can’t look away. Particularly when you learn that Valentina Monetta-who in the video is bouncing around on her bed like Debbie Gibson-is actually 37 years old. The tune is melodic and perky. It’s awfulness draws you in and like a bug you’re hypnotized by the bright light of kitsch. You just can’t look away.

For your literary enjoyment, here’s the complete “Facebook The Social Network Song (Uh oh oh)” lyric in all its glory:

“Are you ready for a little chat in a song about the Internet
It’s a story about a social door you’ve never seen before
If you want to be seen by everyone,
Want to be in the dream and have some fun
If you want to be on the hook, simply take a look

Facebook (Oh Oh) Uh oh oh everybody loves you so
Facebook (Oh Oh) Uh oh oh everybody lets you know
Do you want to be more than just a friend
Do you want to play cybersex again
If you want to come to my house, click me with your mouse
Facebook (Hello) Uh oh oh everybody loves you so (never gonna let you go)

You’re logging in, then it begins
As your computer is swinging and taking your job away
The scene is right for socialites
You’re on Facebook (the internet) anywhere anytime night and day

Facebook (Oh Oh) Uh oh oh everybody loves you so
Uh oh oh never gonna let you go
So you wanna make love with me
Am I really your cup of tea
Are you really the one that you never really meet
Facebook (Oh Oh) Uh oh oh [I like it] everybody loves you so
Facebook (Social Network Oh) [mi piace] never gonna let you go

You’re logging in with just a friend
But soon Mark Zuckerberg’s hammering clamoring (the internet’s beeping and peeping) around the bend
We used to greet friends on the street
But now it’s googling giggling gaggling where we meet

Facebook (Beep beep) Uh oh oh how about a little chat
Facebook Uh oh oh (Oo oo network fans) meet you on the Internet
Do you really like politics
Want to talk about voodoo tricks
Are you really a sex machine or just some beauty queen

Everybody is better than before
Everybody is calling out for more
Everybody in cyberville is knocking on your door
Facebook (Beep Beep) Uh oh oh [I like it] everybody does the show
Facebook (Oh Oh) Uh oh oh [mi piace] if you like it click and go

Do you know that it’s instant logging in
For the rhythm of finding cyber sin
Wanna know what this book’s about then how about press logging out
Uh oh oh now I’ve got a million friends
Goodbye Facebook (network) fans this is how the story ends
Oh oh Facebook (Beep Beep)”

And as if there wasn’t enough irony up in here, legendary Eurovision songwriter Ralph Siegel gets his moment in Eurovision 2012 after all. The famed songwriter missed out earlier this year when Lys Assia didn’t make out of the Swiss national selection. Instead of her out-of-touch French Riviera ballad, Ralph will make it in with an out-of-touch teeny bopper song that was probably meant for his grandchildren but embarrasses them instead.

Chris says he will never listen to this track again. I say give me this over Rambo Amadeus any day.

Chris’s view is here.

San Marino’s Eurovision 2012 Entry

UPDATED: After San Marino’s “Facebook” was rejected by the EBU for violating rules barring references to commercial products, the San Marino team just crossed out all the references to Facebook in the lyrics. So in that spirit, we’re just going to remove references to “Facebook” from our original posts.

Here is San Marino’s song for Europe, Valentina Monetta’s “Facebook The Social Network Song (Uh oh oh)”:

It is quite possibly the worst Eurovision entry ever.

Jen’s view is here.