As spring bursts into bloom, we know that circled on the music calendar will be the titan of all titans of music competitions. The mightiest and often the most eccentric of all. Eurovision.
On Saturday 13th May, 2017, 26 countries of the European community (plus Australia) took to the stage in Kiev, Ukraine to battle it out once again for the accolade of being appointed winner of the 62nd Eurovision Song Contest. Even though my enthusiasm took a bit of a battering last year with some of the going’s on during the 2016 final in Stockholm. Tuning into this year’s Eurovision was never going to be off-limits, even when the event throws up surprises and the usual political undertones, it is part of a ritual for most music lovers now, including us here at EQ. Besides, I just knew that there would likely be one or two or even five entries that would spark a little flame of excitement within us amongst the cavalcade of wacky and strange pop offerings.
So here we’re putting a spotlight on the five entries that meet with our approval.
“Grab The Moment” by JOWST
Norway’s track record in Eurovision sadly doesn’t match the winning streak of its neighbours in Sweden and quite honestly we’ve never had cause to single them out for their ESC efforts before. This year it’s a different story because in music producer JOWST assisted by singer/songwriter Aleksander Walmann on vocals, the pairing brought full-on electronic pop realness to the stage. Balanced on the right side of EDM savviness, anthem “Grab The Moment” exuded flavoursome beats and in the heat of the competition it really grabbed our attention. No shame in finishing up in 10th position at all, but our expectations are now raised a notch higher for 2018.
“Gravity” by Hovig
Like the majority of Eurovision contestants these days, Cyprus representative Hovig earned his stripes through taking part in X Factor. It gave him the exposure to make leaps forward, in terms of his growth in music and that’s what he’s been doing ever since. Infact, Hovig is a repeat offender when it comes to competing for Eurovision, he’s tried out a couple of times previously to earn the spot of representing Cyprus. This year Hovig’s luck turned over a new leaf in the form of his stellar entry “Gravity”. There were fleckels of Loïc Nottet’s 2015, Belgium entry “Rhythm Inside” present influence in Hovig’s “Gravity” and that driving chorus section, certainly had a mesmerising quality about it, to have us hooked deep within its rhythmic veins and pleasingly entangled in its deliciously off-kilter melody.
Was the rest of Europe nuts to see “Gravity’s” final points total land Cyprus in 21st placing? It’s a resounding yes from us. Quite why it got buried and so badly overlooked is a mystery to me. Those calling out “Gravity” as a rip-off of “Human” by the Rag’n’Bone Man, really need to put a lid on it. I hear far more Loïc Nottet influence here and you weren’t so quick to get mouthy about any similarities between Loïc and Rag’n’bone Man were you!
“Beautiful Mess” by Kristian Kristov
The Bulgarian entry “Beautiful Mess” represented by youthful contestant Kristian Kristov, was anything but messy. It completely shone out as beautiful pop masterpiece and brought newcomer Kristian to our attention, who does rather fall under the same vocal category as Troye Sivan. Anybody that didn’t notice that similarly, totally must have a bung in their ears by the way. A big old pat on the back to Europe for getting behind “Beautiful Mess” as runner-up in the competition, it seems as everyone was of the same feeling too about this perfect specimen of all encompassed pop musicality. On learning that Kristian is a protégé of former Eurovision winner Dima Bilan, who mentored Kristian when he took part in The Kids Voice Russia, it becomes even more apparent why the whole product had the mark of prestige daubed through it. Ordinarily a track such as “Beautiful Mess” would have topped the points table. On the night of Eurovision, things were not so ordinary were they! However, “Beautiful Mess” remains extraordinary in our estimation.
“Skeletons” by Dihaj
Dihaj with “Skeletons” for Azerbaijan was a track which I had plenty of good feeling about, coming into the final of the Eurovision Song Contest, as I had fallen charmed to its alternative, experimental like slant. Topped with soft peaks of electronica, moodlit by cinematic bass and the ethereally outreaching vocal presence which songstress Diana Hajiyeva so assuredly gave. The total effect of this haunting song, came over as convincingly empowering with plenty of WOW factor. On the night of the Eurovision final, this track received some simple yet effective, dramatic staging. I’ve seen people refer to it as being freaky that there was a guy standing a top a ladder wearing a horse’s head. Well maybe that is a tad on the surreal side, but I’m quite a fan of that kind of thought provoking art, so nah not so freaky on my account. It was the full package as far as I’m concerned. Whilst, it never entered my head that “Skeletons” would come through as the winner, this track stood out a clear country mile to me. Mid-place ranking at the end of the night was a totally respectable result for Azerbaijan. Believe me, going forward from Eurovision I will be keeping a keen eye on Dihaj, I’m especially craving an album or at the very least an EP of this stuff.
“I Can’t Go On” by Robin Bengtsson
Wouldn’t it have been a shocker if Sweden hadn’t done so well at Eurovision. That’s a thought which is almost incomprehendible isn’t it! However, it does land a lot of expectation on the Swedes to find themselves at the top end of things in the competition and having said this before, about the rigorous selection process the pop proud Swedes enter into, at length to seek out the right song and representative. They really pluck out gem after gem. There is no stopping them. In former Swedish Idol contestant Robin Bengtsson they had a fricking, bone fide, pop killer of an entry with “I Can’t Go On”. I must confess every time I’ve heard this track I’ve had to have a word with myself, but only to correct my thinking that it’s an Olly Murs song. Seriously the chorus is totally Olly of his latest album “24 hrs”. So noticeable too is a strong resemblance to Nick Jonas in the verse. Anyways I pretty much had it down that EQ would be having eargasms over this song. There isn’t anything that can be considered too pop, but “I Can’t Go On” certainly had it all going off much to our delight. It was ranked at No 5 and I think that’s pretty good going and something to be proud of in Sweden’s current run of extended Eurovision greatness.