The Netherlands are hosting Eurovision for the first time in 44 years, and they have asked Jeangu Macrooy to defend their crown.
Jeangru Macrooy is a singer from Suriname who made his name in The Netherlands with his first single “Gold,” which was featured in an advertisement for HBO. Jeangru performed it at TEDxMaastricht in 2016 and it is fantastic. He wrote his song for Europe “Grow” with his longtime collaborator Perquisite.
So, nothing says Eurovision a song about how it sucks to get older, right? If you’re in the market for a song about that, The Roop already have you covered. Maybe we’re just hurt that “Grow” cuts a little close to home when Jeangu and his backing vocalists sing, “The more I learn, the less I know.” That has been our motto when making Eurovision predictions on this site for the past decade.
As for the song itself, we like the bare vocal with the quiet organ underneath to start the song, and how each bar adds a bit more to build “Grow” up. It’s like the song itself is growing, which is pretty cool. And Jeangu is a commanding presence when he performs (which is why we’re linking above to his live performance on DWDD instead of the official video).
It’s a likable song with a meditative story to tell, but we’re not sure its amiability will translate to back-to-back wins for the host country. We see “Grow” as more of a summation of a seven year journey for The Netherlands, that started with Anouk’s “Birds” in 2013 and culminated with Duncan Laurence’s win last year with “Arcade.” They rethought their participation and found success by just offering up quality. They’ve grown as a Eurovision power and we hope their success continues.
Duncan Laurence competed on season five of The Voice of Holland under his birth name Duncan de Moor. He was on Ilse DeLange‘s team and was eliminated in the semifinals. He co-wrote “Arcade” with Swedish songwriter Joel Sjöö and Dutch songwriter Wouter Hardy.
“Arcade” is a gorgeous song, with a similar vibe to Kristian Kostov’s “Beautiful Mess.” It sounds like a modern pop take on a sea shanty, full of longing and heartache. Even if it isn’t immediately catchy, its melodies find their way into our heads, and they linger long after.
When “Arcade” was released, it immediately rocketed to the top of the betting odds and has stayed there ever since. We can’t decide if the buzz is based on the quality of the song or the quality of the official video or, within that, the quality of Duncan’s delicious, delicious ass. Maybe he needs to consult with Ivan about how to stage a Eurovision entry while naked.
We’re being facetious, of course. “Arcade” is a haunting song that lives up to the hype. Even if we are a bit annoyed by reports of Dutch cities already prepping their bids to host Eurovision 2020, we can’t deny that Duncan has given us a worthy contender.
Waylon is back for another bite of the Eurovision apple. Here’s “Outlaw in ‘Em.”
You may remember Waylon from such Eurovision Song Contests as the one he nearly won in 2014, when he teamed up with Ilse DeLange as the Common Linnets with “Calm After the Storm.” It finished second at Eurovision and turned into a surprise summer hit after the Contest.
Listening to “Outlaw in ‘Em,” we are struck by how much it resembles what we hear on American country radio these days. It’s got a powerful guitar riff, a head-bobbing rhythm, and a spot-on arrangement with steel guitar. “Outlaw in ‘Em” also tips its hat to ’80’s hard rock. On vocal, Waylon gives us twang with a touch of Axl Rose.
Acts like Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, and Bon Jovi are surprisingly big influences on modern country. In fact, “Outlaw in ‘Em” prompted a lengthy discussion in our household about that time we saw Jason Aldean in concert and he did a “Paradise City/Sweet Child of Mine” medley. The crowd loved it. We did not. It wasn’t so much the choice of songs as his note-for-note cover brought absolutely nothing new to them. And we were in the front row, right up against the stage: He could see our displeasure.
Anyway, Waylon co-wrote “Outlaw in ‘Em” with Ilya Toshinskiy and Jim Beavers. That’s some serious Nashville weight being thrown around right there. Ilya Toshinskiy is a well-regarded session musician (primarily acoustic guitar, banjo, and mandolin), with a lengthy list of credits with country’s most marketable artists, like Toby Keith, Keith Urban, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, and Trace Adkins. He has twice won the ACM Studio Recording Award for Specialty Instrument(s) Player of the Year, in 2013 and 2015.
Meanwhile, Jim Beavers is an in-demand Nashville songwriter with dozens of songs to his credit. He’s had nine number ones on the American country music charts from stars like Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley, and Josh Turner, among others. The man knows his stuff: here’s a webinar he did for the Nashville Songwriters Association International on “The Art of Co-Writing.”
You think Eurovision is a small world? Take a look at Nashville some time. Here’s a fun example: Jim Beavers co-wrote, sang backup, and played guitar on Toby Keith’s seminal classic “Red Solo Cup” (and has a cameo in the music video). Ilya Toshinskiy was a studio musician on that album, Clancy’s Tavern.
All this to say, “Outlaw in ‘Em” is the real deal. When country music shows up at Eurovision or the national heats, it is typically pastiche or a bad facsimile. The Common Linnets brought authenticity, but it was a songwriter’s song. It’s a delight to see a country song that is both authentic and current showing up at Eurovision.
OG3NE from the Netherlands are going to lead fans in Kyiv through “Lights and Shadows” at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
OG3NE are a pop trio made up the three Vol sisters, Lisa and fraternal twins Amy and Shelley. They represented Netherlands at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2007 and won the fifth season of The Voice of Holland. Their song “Lights and Shadows” was written by their dad Rick Vol and Dutch musician and songwriter and boyfriend of Shelley Vol, Rory de Kievit.
When “Lights and Shadows” was released, more than a few people noted how much it reminded them of Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On.” So your assessment of “Lights and Shadows” will depend entirely your opinion of Wilson Phillips’ venerable hit. If you enjoy tight three-part harmonies and generically encouraging lyrics, then “Lights and Shadows” is an unqualified success. However, if the first strains of watery synth that heralds the start of “Hold On” makes your teeth start to ache and the trite platitudes only encourage you to hold on until you can afford to buy custom voodoo dolls of everyone who was involved in the writing and production of the song, then “Lights and Shadows” is not so much experienced as endured.
We fall into the latter camp, so all we can do is pray that they at least take staging inspiration from Moje 3’s “Ljubav je svuda.” The original version, not the Dex version. That would help.
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.
Building on the new normal of the 9-month Eurovision season, Netherlands today debuted its Song for Europe, Trijntje Oosterhuis and “Walk Along.”
Trijntje (pronounced: Traincha) Oosterhuis first got onto our radar nearly a decade ago, when we were in our “see the old crooners before they die” phase. In a span of 5 years, we made pilgrimages to see concerts from Andy Williams (in Branson, Missouri), Jack Jones (Elgin, Illinois), Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme (Red Bank, New Jersey), Tony Bennett (Chicago), and Paul Anka (Atlantic City). These are folks who have made careers covering of the Great American Songbook, Broadway showtunes, and easy listening standards. The more ambitious have attempted to make themselves relevant for younger generations, to varying degrees of artistic and commercial success. But I digress.
Somewhere in that period, Trijntje Oosterhuis released an album of Burt Bacharach covers and it was fabulous. Here was an artist in her prime capturing the spirit of the “beautiful music” of the ’60s in a way that was modern, relatable and not at all annoying (I’m looking at you, Diana Krall). Our own generation, taking the baton from the previous.
So when earlier this year Netherlands announced Oosterhuis as their internal Eurovision pick, we were pleased mightily. And while we were happy, we were also a bit wary. Here’s a jazz singer, a standards vocalist (she was signed to Blue Note, for pete’s sake). Sure she can sing, but will she have a pop song that’s a fit? Will she come over well on stage and be able to appeal to a broad audience?
With the presentation of “Walk Along” I’m not sure that either of those concerns have been addressed.
“Walk Along” was written by Anouk. It is decidedly pop, of a decidedly bland theme, and is perfectly immediate. It feels like a song you might hear on an episode of Nashville or playing in a Walmart somewhere (I mean that in a good way). Oosterhuis does what she can with it. Worth noting, Anouk sang backup on the recorded version linked to here. The song is good, but Oosterhuis is better than this song. I found myself enjoying “Walk Along” in the way that someone enjoys a fine vodka mixed with cranberry juice. Yes, I enjoy the cocktail, but I would much rather drink a high-end vodka straight. There’s just one other problem…
Diction. I found myself ruminating on repeated the emphasis of the “yi” sound in the refrain, “Why-yi-yi-yi-yi”. There’s a disconnect between the use of the harsh, forward “i” sound in the chorus, and the rounder vowel that sits further back when we use the word “why” in real life. And while this may seem nitpicky, when it is the primary focus of the chorus, the thing that is emphasized and repeated, and the thing that sticks in your head after the song is over, it’s annoying. The issue is rooted in the lyric craft, and I don’t think it can be softened in execution. I’m not sure this song will wear well over time.
To cleanse the aftertaste of blatant pandering to mainstream adult contemporary pop audiences, here’s Trijntje Oosterhuis’ version of Bacharach’s “Walk on By” with Leonardo Amuedo on guitar. For songs about walking away, I’d much rather listen to this instead.
In 2013, Netherlands was represented by one of our all-time favorite Eurovision entries, “Birds” by Anouk. It was the first song from Netherlands to qualify for the Eurovision Final since 2004 and finished in the top 10. A hard act to follow, no doubt.
This year’s Dutch entry is no slouch. The Common Linnets are a country duo comprised of Ilse DeLange and Waylon. Isle DeLange has one of those age-old showbiz stories. She had the talent to make it in Nashville–she was signed to a major country label, recorded albums in Nashville, and Alison Krauss even sang backing vocals on “When You Put It Like That,” from DeLange’s second album. But for whatever reason the stars never quite aligned for her on Music Row. So, she went back to the Netherlands and subsequently found fame and fortune. These days, DeLange is a multi-platinum-selling artist and one of the judges on The Voice of Holland. Waylon is a bit earlier in his career but already has a platinum album and three Dutch Top 40 hits to his credit.
Together they have a pop country style akin to Lady Antebellum. Here is “Calm After the Storm”:
Right before the song was released, the Common Linnets performed an acoustic version of “Calm After the Storm” on the Dutch talk show De Wereld Draait Door, which did not necessarily give me high hopes. What plays well at The Bluebird isn’t going to play well on a big Eurovision stage. In other words, it was a bit dull.
The recorded version is more lush and probably closer to how “Calm After the Storm” will sound in Copenhagen. But I’m still a little concerned that the Common Linnets will be a bit too low key when going up against the more bombastic ballads that are in the second half of the first Semi. On the other hand, I have to admit that after “Mother” and “Maybe” and “Wild Soul,” a nice straightforward country tune might be just what I need.
Today, Sterren radio presented Anouk’s “Birds,” the Netherlands’ entry for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. It is a gorgeous song, beautifully arranged and touchingly performed. If Anouk can sell this song live (and indications are that she can), then I am expecting big things for this. It is terrific.
There are a couple of big “ifs” to that, though. One is that the song is lyrically downbeat. Generally, when you think of a Eurovision-winning song, you think of something a bit less maudlin. Not that every song has to be “Everybody,” but I wonder if a sad song would work with the televoters.
The other big if lies in how the Dutch delegation stages “Birds.” Staging has not exactly been Netherlands’ forte the past few years. While I don’t expect Anouk to be sitting in front of a giant calliope wearing a light-up Native American headdress or anything, I also hope that she is not performing like she’s doing just another concert, which I think is something that hurt 3JS a couple years ago. It has to be something special.
One of the things I’ve said to Jen a lot is that I’ve yet to hear a song that sounds like it could win Eurovision. Now I have. Excellent work, Netherlands. Good luck and don’t fbeep it up.
Let me preface this post with a reminder of how the Netherlands solicited entries for this year’s selection: by dropping sheet music, demo tapes, or whatever else into a ginormous Dutch box. Anything goes. Can’t say I envy the poor schmuck at TROS who had to wade through that, especially when you consider what they were left with.
The 2012 Nationaal Songfestival was set up as a series of 3 head-to-head competitions:
1) Stalker song versus Stale ballad with the “Running Scared” shower (result=FAIL);
2) Dutch Cher in Native American headdress versus Woman in underwear asking for chocolate (hint: one of these is your winner);
3) Beauty pageant contestant versus Hootie covering Kenny Rogers (battle of the feel goods).
The second round pitted Pearl (AKA stale ballad) against Joan Franka (AKA Pocahontas) against Ivan (AKA Darius Rucker). Personally, I would have chosen Ivan. But 52% of Dutch televoters went for 21-year-old Joan Franka, so in the end we were left with “You and Me.”
“You and Me” is a bouncy little tune that evokes ’70s folk pop like B.J. Thomas. In Eurovision speak it reminds us of Rollo and King or Sjonni’s Friends. Pleasant but uninteresting. Why the headdress and fire circle, I have no clue. It has no bearing on the song. In the United States, this blatant appropriation of Native American tradition is considered taboo. So for us, it offends rather than serves as a gimmick. We don’t use the word “Indian” anymore either. Not sure all of this is quite as problematic for a European audience, but we gather from the fan reaction and from parsing the judges’ comments it was a distraction.
The last time the Netherlands made the Eurovision finals was 2004. I don’t see “You and Me” changing that, but if they want to win over folks like us they could start by re-imagining the staging.
We do not wish to alarm you, but this year’s Eurovision entry from Netherlands doesn’t suck! Here is “Je Vecht Nooit Alleen” by 3JS:
As you could see from our live-tweets during the Dutch song selection show, we were pleased with the quality of all the songs. The first two, “Ga Nan Niet” and “De Stroom,” are a little too old fashioned soft rock, and the second two, “Toen Ik Jou Vergat” and “Weelderig Waardeloos” are ballads that are a little too wispy to make a strong showing in the Song Contest. But “Je Vecht Nooit Alleen” definitely has an anthemic quality to it, and singer Jan Dulles to builds it up nicely. Plus, it’s so catchy that even Johan Cruijff is already singing along.
We’re not saying this is a Eurovision winner, but it is far and away the best entry the Dutch have had since… jeez, 2001 (Michelle’s “Out On My Own,” which is a great song killed by going first and being HORRIBLY staged). (Also, while I loved Toppers’ “Shine,” it was less for the song and more for the video. Oh, that video!)
At the very least, we’re willing to bet Netherlands get out of the semis this year.
UPDATED: Here is the English language version, called “Never Alone”: