Switzerland’s Eurovision 2021 Entry

Just under a year ago, I wrapped up our look at the Eurovision 2020 entries with a gushing review of Gjon’s Tears’ song “Répondez-moi.” Now I find myself a bit underwhelmed while listening to his 2021 effort “Tout l’Univers.”

It’s not that I don’t think “Tout l’Univers” is beautiful. It’s touchingly melancholic and hauntingly orchestrated. Gjon’s Tears sings it beautifully, and he’s given himself lots of room to show off his range. If I were a betting Lemur, I’d put money down that he will make this soar to the rafters come competition time.

But for some reason, it doesn’t really grab me the way “Répondez-moi” did. There is a tension, an underlying aching to “Répondez-moi” has that “Tout l’Univers” doesn’t quite capture. The latter song has more of an impact me when watching the gut-wrenching video than it does just listening to it on its own. If Gjon’s Tears executes “Tout l’Univers” flawlessly, he will deserve to take home the trophy. I don’t doubt for a moment that he will deliver a stunning performance, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he won Eurovision in this most competitive of years

What it comes down to is this: I think that some Song Contest winners are about the strength of the song itself and some are about the package in total. “Arcade” is an example of the former, while “1944” is an example of the latter. They are both perfectly legit and worthy winners. I just listen to “Arcade” a lot more than “1944.”

Switzerland’s Eurovision 2020 Entry

And so we finish our review of the national final season with Switzerland. Now, we had a lot of favorite entries this year. Daði og Gagnamagnið is still our favorite and The Roop is still our second favorite. But we have to say that the worst part about the cancellation of this year’s Song Contest is that we all were robbed of the opportunity to hear Gjon’s Tears perform “Répondez-moi” on the big stage. Because dammit, this would have been wonderful.

A Swiss singer whose family comes from Albania and Kosovo, Gjon Muharremaj named himself Gjon’s Tears after a moment when his grandfather cried while hearing him sing “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” At 12, Gjon finished third in Albania’s Got Talent and later competed on Switzerland’s Got Talent and The Voice France. He co-wrote “Répondez-moi” with Xavier Michel, Alizé Oswald, and Jeroen Swinnen.

”Répondez-moi” is an intense song. It packs Albert Camus levels of existentialism into a tight three minutes, and you don’t even need to understand French to get the message. The haunting chorus generates more chills than skinny-dipping in an Alpine lake in January.

Gjon’s Tears is charismatic as all get out, with that special knack for peering into your soul. His range is stunning, and his upper register is particularly piercing. Those high notes may dangerous roads to travel on, but when we listened to the sparse and powerful acoustic version, we felt assured that he can deliver the goods each and every time.

Thankfully, Gjon’s Tears will be coming back next year. We really hope that he finds away to top “Répondez-moi,” because if he does, it is going to be brilliant.

Switzerland’s Eurovision 2019 Entry

Wait, Switzerland is one of the odds leaders at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest? How did that happen?

Oh. Hello there.

Luca Hänni won Deutschland sucht den Superstar, the German version of Pop Idol, when he was 17. His first single “Don’t Think About Me” was a number one hit in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria and he’s gone on to have chart success in his home country. He co-wrote “She Got Me” at a Swiss songwriting camp and was an internal selection.

Given how Eurovision has been going for Switzerland in the past 12 years, you can see the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation hearing “She Got Me,” cancelling any plans for a national final and sending Luca straight through. “WE GOT A LIVE ONE,” they yelled, running around the halls of their Bern headquarters and high-fiving each other and then eating a metric ton of traditional Swiss foods to celebrate.

“She Got Me” is a delectable blend of “Fuego” and “Lie to Me” wrapped up in Serhat’s disco suit from Eurovision 2016. It’s a lot of fun, and if you want to dance along, Luca has got you covered. Maybe Switzerland is trying a little to hard to make “She Got Me” into this year’s Eurovision sensation, but as we said, it’s been a while since they’ve had an entry this good. We don’t blame them for being a bit excited, because we are too.

Switzerland’s Eurovision 2018 Entry

Let they who are without Sinplus cast “Stones” to Lisbon. Here is Switzerland’s representative for Eurovision, Zibbz.

Corinne and Stee Gfeller are siblings who founded Zibbz in 2008. They divide their time between Los Angeles and their home country and starred in a reality show for a few years on the now-defunct Swiss network Joiz. They’ve had two top 20 albums on the Swiss charts and their song “One Shot” was the official song of the 2012 Unihockey World Cup.

Zibbz have described themselves as a “trash-pop indie rock band” who “combine their love of fun, innovation, and toy instruments to create a new sound and stage presence that has been viewed as unique and the next ‘big thing’ to hit the airwaves and everyone’s ear drums.”

Which is interesting since “Stones” struck us as a kinda bland blues rock album track.

To be fair, we feel bad ragging on “Stones.” The song’s lyrics are about online bullying and they resonate with us at a time when interaction on the internet seems to be increasingly tetchy.

So let’s focus on the positives: Corinne has a gravelly, raspy singing voice and a snarly, camera-friendly intensity. We liked how Zibbz stayed on brand by incorporating their logo into their staging. And the Gfellers just seem like fun, lovely people.

All of which makes us sad we don’t like the song more. It’s fine. That’s all. We really wish they had brought the toy instruments.

By the way, from now on, can we call the action of singing while banging on a drum with one hand Sebaltering?

Switzerland’s Eurovision 2017 Entry

Swittzerland has selected Timebelle’s “Apollo” as its Eurovision entry for 2017.

Timebelle are singer Miruna Manescu and multi-instrumentalist Emanuel Daniel Andriescu from Romania and drummer Samuel Forster from Switzerland. They take their name from Bern’s Zytglogge clock tower. They met while studying at the Bern University of the Arts and they first vied for Switzerland’s Eurovision spot in 2015 with their song “Singing About Love.”

“Apollo” is a better song than “Singing About Love,” so Switzerland has that going for it. On the other hand, Switzerland sent a similar song to “Apollo” last year, which you will note finished last in Semifinal Two.

Plus, the first line of the song is “Like a bullet in my chest, you’re written, bound and etched forever in my mind.” I mean, we try not to harp on bad English lyrics anymore, but a bullet in your chest is nothing like having someone written, bound and etched forever in your mind. There are two entirely different surgical procedures involved.

Die Entscheidungsshow opened with host Sven Epiney fantasizing about Switzerland winning Eurovision. It may be too early in the season to make predictions, but we don’t expect “Apollo” to be making his dreams come true.

Eurovision 2016 Round-Up: President’s Day Edition

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:

Continue reading “Eurovision 2016 Round-Up: President’s Day Edition”

Switzerland’s Eurovision 2015 Entry

Mélanie René will represent Switzerland at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with “Time to Shine”:

It is not entirely dissimilar to “Warrior.” Or to “Warrior.” It is better than both of them, to be sure: René is a better singer than Georgia’s Nina Sublatti or Malta’s Amber.

My biggest problem with “Time to Shine” is that it is called “Time to Shine.” Shine is one of those words that show up constantly at Eurovision: see “Shine” (Russia, 2014), “Shine” (Austria, 2013), “Shine” (Georgia 2010), “Shine” (Netherlands 2009), and, indeed, “Time to Shine” (Lithuanian preselection, 2013). If you have a song with lyrics constructed of greeting card platitudes, you can seal it in an envelope marked “Shine” and send it off to Eurovision. I’ll just toss it in the recycling bin where it belongs.

Switzerland’s Eurovision 2014 Entry

Before nightly sign-off, many PBS stations in the U.S. used to run short weekly videos on naked eye astronomy hosted by Jack Horkheimer, the executive director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium at the Miami Museum of Science. The bits were surprisingly educational, but eccentric. Horkheimer, or as he preferred to be called: the “Star Hustler” (later he renamed himself “Star Gazer”), had a brash style similar to Rip Taylor, at odds with his subject matter and the mellowness of the late night hour. Here’s a clip of the “Star Gazer” for the week of February 1, 2010. Fittingly, it’s about the Belt of Orion, a hunter.

The music underscoring this and every “Star Gazer” show was “Arabesque #1” by Claude Debussy performed by Isao Tomita. It’s an ambient interpretation with melody performed by…are you ready for this?…whistling.

Which brings us to 2014, Switzerland, and Eurovision. After what can only be described as a meager selection, the Swiss have decided on Sebalter and “Hunter of Stars” as its song for Eurovision 2014.

“Hunter of Stars” is an upbeat bluegrass jig. It’s got a fiddle and banjo, and Sebalter whistles at various points throughout the song. There’s an agreeable melody, but it has a crowded English lyric and Sebalter’s live vocals were ropey at Die Grosse Entscheidungsshow. This song would be good fun at a local music festival, however there’s not much here that merits attention on an arena stage. Once again it seems probable that the Swiss will struggle do well at Eurovision.

Jack Horkheimer passed away in 2010 at the age of 72. Eurovision.tv reports that Sebalter was inspired to write this song during a several months journey in the U.S. So I suppose it’s possible, but I don’t really care whether Sebalter was familiar with his work or not. I for one will never listen to “Hunter of Stars” without being reminded of PBS late nights, Tomita’s version of “Arabesque #1,” and the “Star Gazer.”

As Jack used to say: “Keep looking up!”

Switzerland’s Eurovision 2013 Entry

Switzerland has picked Heilsarmee for Eurovision 2013 with their song “You and me.” Heilsarmee is comprised of members of the Swiss branch of the Salvation Army, and it has been noted by more than one observer that it’s a rather controversial choice for Eurovision given its contentious relationship with the LGBT community.

Even if there isn’t ultimately a controversy around the selection, it’s still interesting that the Salvation Army of Switzerland thought entering a Eurovision song would be a good outreach effort. It’s all very calculated, really: they submitted an anthemic rock song and tapped a 94-year-old double bass player to capture the babushki vote. Of course, their calculations paid off at the end of the night.

Not that the competition was fierce: Melissa’s “The point of no return” was our pre-show favorite and the choice of the international panel that provided commentary during Die Entscheidungsshow. However, she didn’t come off as particularly charismatic during her performance. With a flowing gown, a wind machine, and flying monkeys on a leash, the presentation all added up to second-rate Charlotte Pirelli. Worse, Melissa made the mistake of taking the song in a lower key than suited her voice, and she was unable to stand out from her backing track.  All in all a disappointing showing for the 2011 Spanish runner-up.

Rounding out the top three were Jesse Ritch with “Forever & a day,” an British R&B number that was passable, and Carrousel with “J’avais rendez-vous,” a sort of alt-chanson number that was competent if a bit dull. At the end of the night, it was hard to imagine Heilsarmee would lose.

All that said, we were quite pleased with Die Entscheidungsshow. It was a fun, well-organized show, and there were no train wrecks in the running. Save, of course, Nill Klemm’s back-up dancers, who were far funnier than Anthony Bighead’s jokey “Do the monkey.” We also had the added bonus of spotting Samantha Ross from ESC Insider and Ewan Spence and Terry Vision from ESC Insight in the audience. It’s kind of hard to miss Terry, really, seeing as he was the only audience member made of felt (since Lys Assia wasn’t there).

UPDATED 17 DECEMBER 2012: esctoday.com reports that the European Broadcasting Union has told the Swiss delegation that they cannot use the name Heilsarmee or the Salvation Army uniforms during their Eurovision performance. If they are looking for a new name, might we suggest Ramsauer and Friends?

UPDATED 14 MARCH 2013: Heilsarmee announced that they will be presenting “You and Me” at Eurovision under the name Takasa.

Switzerland’s Eurovision 2012 Entry

May is 6 months away, but Eurovision season has already begun. Tonight the Swiss held Die grosse Entscheidungsshow, the first national final of the Eurovision 2012 season.

The Swiss national final turned out to be a microcosm of recent contest trends. Swiss televoters selected from a diverse group of entries that reflected Eurovision’s distant past, immediate past, and emerging present. In making their choice, Swiss voters were confronted by a set of philosophical questions about how they can best get votes from other countries, and by extension, what the contest should be: should it remind us of our shared Eurovision history? Should it reflect current music trends? Or should their song simply play to the least common denominator, such as by offering a pop ballad or an idealistic call for a better world? Tip of the hat to the Swiss, who this year decided to look forward. In selecting Sinplus, Swiss voters seem to have chosen the song that was most consistent with the emerging sensibilities of Eurovision voters, eschewing kitsch and sentimentality for commercial appeal. It’ll be interesting to see if the risk pays off for them in May. Here’s the first confirmed song for ESC 2012, Sinplus with “Unbreakable.”

The top 3 vote getters were Sinplus (#12), Ivo (#8), and Chiara Dubey (#3). Former, first-ever Contest winner Lys Assia (#13) finished 8th. This was our play-by-play of the 2012 Swiss national final, including our thoughts about the winning entry:

  1. Patric Scott feat. Fabienne Louves, “Real Love.” Amiable enough power ballad from two nubile youth who have found love. They really wanted you to understand their love has force. I don’t know how much I know about the ESC, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a good idea to enter a song that reminds us of last year’s winner (right down to the “oooh ooohs”).
  2. Emel, “She.” “She” features the Latin, flamenco backbeats we are accustomed to hearing in Red Shoe Diaries or other high budget porn. The performance featured plenty of seductive arm waving, but Emel’s wispy vocal made little impression and her poor sense of pitch didn’t help.
  3. Chiara Dubey, “Anima Nuova.” Foreshadowing Lys Assia, Chiara Dubey was another artist offering a strong homage to the past–in this case Cat Stevens and the folksy ballads of the ’70s. Portugal loves this kind of song. I enjoyed her pure vocal tone, but the poor dear was visibly nervous.
  4. Guillermo Sorya, “Baby Baby Baby.” Do people get paid to write these lyrics? What is this “Baby?” Guillermo attempted to bring Tom Jones’s stage presence while laying down a Prince-inspired R&B vibe. Sexy! I suppose the piece might have had impact if Guillermo been able to figure out what key it was in. I did enjoy the dissonant harmonies that accompanied the “Baby Baby Baby” refrain, and the steel drums in the arrangement almost redeemed it. Unfortunately the most entertaining part of the entry was the intro segment where we learned he made a video where he was in bed with a camel. Other than Sinplus, this is the only one we anticipate watching again, due to its glorious awfulness.
  5. Macy, “Shining.” Macy has an ’80s, post-punk vibe using a guitar/synth mix similar to the Killers. I didn’t have a huge issue with their contemporary yet accessible rock song. However, we were underwhelmed by lead singer Cyril Mauderli’s indistinctive voice and pathetic vocal. Wardrobe cautionary tale: No rock singer looks credible in a teal polo shirt.

    Cyril went golfing after the show
  6. Sosofluo, “Quand Je Ferme les Yeux.” The Swiss-French dialect translates to Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Sadly, this was the best vocal so far on the evening.
  7. Atomic -Angels, “Black Symphony.” They’re not No Angels, but they were pretty close. The low point of the night.
  8. Ivo, “Peace and Freedom.” A heavy handed anthem that does what it says on the label, complete with gospel backing harmonies. I could have gone without the images of Martin Luther King and Gandhi in the background, but a part of me would have loved to see Switzerland handing out a big FU in Azerbaijan. The first plausible candidate on the night, and indeed it eventually did finish in the Top 3. Just back from Occupy Zurich, Ivo tragically had no chance to wash his hair.
  9. Ze Flying Zezettes Orchestra, “L’autre.” In the interest of promoting global communities, the band invited an Incan pan flutist to join in. They were doing South American folk music sung in French, and I really didn’t know what to make of it. Their sound was pleasant, but I had a hard time imagining an appropriate venue for this band. Certainly not the ESC. More like street artist at Downtown Disney.
  10. Raphael Jeger, “The Song in My Head.” Ok, picture Alexander Rybak, but a massive douchebag. Rybak is a douchebag, you say? Douchier. This song was paint by numbers and evocative of the worst imaginable Danish entries.
  11. I Quattro, “Fragile.” Because pop-opera worked so well for France last year. Il Divo isn’t our thing, Il Divo knock offs aren’t either.
  12. Sinplus, “Unbreakable.” We liked this song. Alt rock with some intense energy, a compelling front man, and a good hook. I just hope The Bravery doesn’t sue. Maybe Sinplus can use the Eurovision platform to get their music featured on Gossip Girl. I suppose we should root for these guys because they got their start in the San Diego music scene. An interesting choice for Swiss voters, because it’s really current and not what would I would have thought was Eurovision appropriate. But these days who knows what’s Eurovision appropriate?
  13. Lys Assia, “C’etait ma vie.” Going in we wondered if Swiss voters would jump at the chance to send the ESC’s first ever winner back to Baku. After all, shouldn’t attention be paid? To her credit, for an 87-year old, Lys (note: or should we be using the formal Ms. Assia?)  was in excellent voice. Unfortunately, if this song were sung by anyone else we would dismiss it as a dated ballad from the French Riviera or Monaco during Grace Kelly’s days. We moved past this style of music 30 years ago.
  14. Katherine St.-Laurent, “Wrong to Let You Go.” Generic modern pop ballad from a former Canadian Idol contestant. It was heartfelt and had a key change in the right place. You couldn’t be safer if you used a condom.

Another thing we learned thanks to Die grosse Entscheidungsshow: Berberis is sold by spice vendors on the streets in Baku. Berberis = Zereshk (Iran) = dried barberries. Try it with chicken! Here’s a recipe.