The fear I have about all the artists that are coming back to the Song Contest this year is that they will be saddled with songs that aren’t as good as what they had last year.
Case in point.
I liked Blas Cantó’s 2020 effort “Universo.” I really, really don’t like “Voy a quedarme.” It starts off promisingly enough: gentle piano, Blas singing intimately. The orchestration begins to filter in and starts to swell through the first chorus and…
Then it just gets cheesy. The piano and strings do a stutter step at the 1:12 mark that makes me cringe with dread. Sure enough, the drums kick in and the piano is used more percussively. The strings get more staccato. This is building to something that I don’t want to experience. The drum fill that leads into the second chorus is such a generic pop/rock ballad cliché that I have started to tune out.
Blas brings me back in briefly when he lands the high notes, reminding me that he is a great singer with a gorgeous range. His vocal prowess is the only thing that can keep me engaged.
“Voy a quedarme” sounds like an attempt at writing a Eurovision song, and that just turns me off.
Spain has had a terrible run of form at the Eurovision Song Contest in recent years. They’ve only had two top 10 finishes in the past decade (literally finishing 10th both times), and have been lingering in the bottom ranks of the table for the past five years.
So every year, we follow along with the Spanish selection, hoping that this year, this year they will finally have something that’s going to break through. Is 2020 their year?
Blas Cantó has been trying to go to Eurovision his whole life. He participated in Eurojunior in 2004, but finished runner-up to eventual Junior Eurovision winner María Isabel. Later, as a member of the band Auryn, he participated in the 2011 edition of Destino Eurovisión, but lost to Lucía Pérez. Since going solo, Blas has topped the Spanish charts with his 2018 album Complicados.
“Universo” is a slick pop song with a lush arrangement and memorable hooks in the bridge and the chorus. Of course, the bridge of “Perdóname, perdóname, uni-universo” and the “Ohh, uni-universo” chorus are memorable mostly because they are repeated over and over again. It’s a calculatedly constructed ear worm.
Blas is handsome and telegenic, so we are confident he’ll be able to Spzak the cameras during his performance. But he is singing high in his tenor range for most of the song, and without support, his vocal could get a bit thin. That said, we love the element of danger contained in that high note he lands in the climax of “Universo.” So long as they don’t drop a fire curtain behind him when he belts it.
We’re probably being a bit too critical of a song that we like. We really want Spain to do well, and we see a lot of potential here. So maybe we don’t want to get too excited because it’s so early in the season. But fingers crossed.
Spain is bringing a party to Tel Aviv! Here’s Miki with “La Venda.”
Miki Núñez is 23 and finished 6th in this year’s Operación Triunfo. He performed two songs at the OT Eurovision Gala, a duet with Natalia Lacunza called “Nadie Se Salva” and the eventual winner “La Venda.”
The first time we heard “La Venda” during the Gala, I thought that it was a party song better enjoyed at the party. It played well in the room, but for us watching at home, the energy Miki and his crew gave off struck us as bit manic.
Jen then pointed out that this was going to be one of those songs that we were going like or even outright love after the third or fourth listen. Sure enough, having listened to it a few times now, I really enjoy it. “La Vende” is a proper stadium anthem that should fill up the room at the Expo Tel Aviv.
I still think Miki’s performance needs to be reined in a bit. When he connects with the camera at the start of “La Vende” and during the “lo que ere” bridge, I can see just how charismatic he can be. Otherwise he spends the rest of the song playing to the audience, which could hurt him if televoters don’t connect with him.
It’s a fine balance: Miki could be utterly charming and end up like the Spanish version of Amir or he could look like he’s trying too hard to pump up the crowd and end up like the Spanish version of Twin Twin. Given Spain’s run of form the past few years, let’s hope it’s the former.
Alfred and Amaia are bringing a song for you to the Eurovision Song Contest. Here is “Tu Canción.”
This year, Spanish broadcaster RTVE revived the talent show Operación Triunfo, which was used between 2001 and 2004 to choose the country’s Eurovision act. Instead of selecting the winner of the show, Spain picked its Eurovision entry during Gala Eurovisión, the penultimate episode of the show.
As it turns out, Amaia Romero ultimately won OT, while Alfred García finished fourth. Shouldn’t she be billed first, then?
Anyway, “Tu Canción” was written by composer Raúl Gómez and lyricist Sylvia Santoro. Raúl was the 2013 winner of the show El Número Uno who then moved to London to start his songwriting career. He submitted a song for Spain in 2016 that did not make it out of the pre-selection. Raúl’s aunt Sylvia released two albums in the early 2000s before taking a break for her family, but is now returning to songwriting. They wrote the song inspired by Alfred and Amaia’s real-life romance.
“Tu Canción” is a gentle ballad that sounds like a cross between “Amar pelos dois” and “Wind Beneath My Wings.” It doesn’t appeal to us much, but let’s be honest: the bar was set so low by Spain’s previous entry that you could walk over said bar without even noticing it was there.
We can’t decide if Alfred and Amaia’s performance is helped or hindered by their relationship. On one hand, we want to scream, “Get a room!” But heck, it’s a love song, and if the singers don’t have good chemistry, then how are supposed to buy what they’re selling? So long as they don’t miss their cues, they’ll be fine.
Manel Navarro has won Objetivo Eurovision and will represent Spain in Kyiv with “Do It For Your Lover.”
The 20-year-old Navarro won the 2014 edition of Catalunya Teen Star and signed with Sony Music Spain in 2015. He won Objetivo Eurovision in controversial fashion: he finished first in the jury vote but came in third in the televote. Mirela, who performed “Contingo,” finished first in the televote but came in third with the jury. With Navarro and Mirela tied on points, the jury cast votes to determine the winner. This did not go down well in the room.
The lesson, as always: never let the jury be the tiebreaker. (Remember, if Ukraine’s jury determined the winner in 2016, then Jamala would not have represented Ukraine at Eurovision.)
Anyway, the song has a very subtle theme, which is that you should do it for your lover. If only there were a way to Navarro to get his point across lyrically. What would normally be a moderately grating twee little folk pop song becomes utterly insufferable the longer it goes on. It is the very definition of a Eurovision mediocrity, made interesting only by how it won, which casual Eurovision viewers are not going to know or care about in May.
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:
Edurne will be representing Spain at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with “Amanecer.”
Edurne is a pop singer who first gained national attention on Operación Triunfo, a Spanish variation on the Idol format. She has since had a couple of top 10 hits in Spain and played Sandy in a production of Grease.
“Amanecer” was written by Tony Sánchez-Ohlsson, Peter Boström and Thomas G:son. This is the seventh song G:son has contributed to the 2015 Eurovision season; his songs for Spain and Georgia are on their way to Vienna, plus he wrote one song for Denmark’s Melodi Grand Prix and four songs for Sweden’s Melodifestivalen. Even if he is collaborating with other songwriters, G:son is cranking out songs at such a rate that you have to wonder how interesting and original his contributions can possibly be. Frankly, neither “Amanecer” or “Warrior” are particularly memorable. Moreover, his contribution to Denmark, “Mi Amore,” rehashed his earlier Danish entry “A Moment Like This.”
“Amancer” is pretty and Edurne is pretty and she sings it real pretty, but since when is resting on pretty enough? It’s a safe song, but safe songs are not ones that get people to pick up the phone to vote. There needs to be some sort of spark in the staging, or else this is just going to fade away at the end of the night.
Spain has decided on Ruth Lorenzo and the soaring power ballad “Dancing in the Rain”:
Prior to the national selection, the Spanish broadcasters positioned “Dancing in the Rain” as the choice with “international” appeal, and by international appeal they primarily meant appeal to English-speaking audiences. Ruth Lorenzo will be a familiar face to fans of UK X Factor. She finished 5th in 2008, and many thought she should have gone further. She has a huge voice and can belt out a tune like anyone’s business. Her achilles heel is a tendency to over-sing, but Lorenzo’s enormous talent is without question.
“Dancing in the Rain” is a serviceable showcase for a great singer. The song builds, and Lorenzo takes you on a journey, supported by her excellent phrasing in Spanish and English. The song, however, has some weaknesses. The melodic hook will remind children of the 1970s of Melissa Manchester’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” Also, the repeated emphasis on “The rain, the rain, the rain” is heavy handed and doesn’t really make any sense in the context of the song. These are minor beefs. On the night, Lorenzo will blow the roof off the B&W Hallerne and rack up points from the juries. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Spain in Britain’s Top 3 this year either. Well done, Spain.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS: We’ve been holding off on remarking about the selection shows and the other singers, but here we can’t resist. Mira quién va a la Eurovisión was a thoroughly entertaining piece of television. Four of five songs, in our opinion, made a legitimate case for a trip to Denmark. Interview segments were punctuated by poignant moments where gifts were given to the contestants. These gifts gave us a window into the singers’ personal lives and frequently made the candidates very emotional. And, because this is Eurovision, the entire proceedings were observed by a woman in full body makeup to look like Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue.
I had a lot of goodwill towards “Contigo hasta el final” because of the bagpipes solo that introduces El Sueño de Morfeo’s song. (I know this would not be the case with most people.) That goodwill lasted 30 seconds, when the rest of the song kicked in.
That may sound a little harsh because, in reality, I don’t mind “Contigo hasta el final” that much. But the problem is that there is a lot of chorus and not a lot of verse in this song. There’s even a quiet moment at the 2:20 mark that feels like ESDM is going to go back into another verse, but then it’s just a quieter version of the chorus. That redundancy becomes a barrier to me from liking it.
Ultimately, I feel like this is a decent little middle of the road effort that won’t have much of an impact during the competition.
Pastora Soler, Spain’s predetermined choice for Baku, will be vying for the Eurovision title with “Quédate Conmigo”:
It’s a big Thomas G:son ballad, reminiscent of the type of song Celine Dion made her name with. Soler sings it fine but between now and Baku she needs to iron out some rough points in the first half where the song is dangerously near her break and in the end where she has a tendency to oversell. “Quédate Conmigo” was definitely the best of three songs that the Spanish public had to choose from tonight, with the other two so memorable I got them confused when I was tweeting about them.
But Celine Dion-style big ballads are not exactly current. So I don’t see this breaking Spain’s ongoing streak of weak showings.