How interesting. The slogan used at the last Eurovision Song Contest in 2019 was “Dare To Dream.” While inspirational when used in its original context when the competition was hosted in Tel Aviv. I can’t help but look at it now as being more than a little prophetic at what has since transpired. (Like, dare to dream Eurovision will even happen in 2021.) Twelve months on, from the cancellation of the 2020 contest. Eurovision hosts The Netherlands are encouraging that we instead “Open Up” in ways of our own, choosing. Admittedly they had, opening up to others, to different opinions, each other’s stories and of course to each other’s music, in mind. All the same, the slogan couldn’t be more apt at the time when the world is slowly making steps to opening up again after being tightly gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hosting and coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest this year is more important than ever. A pivotal step forward in regaining some normalcy, getting back on track for the music industry. It feels so good for me, even being able to type Eurovision 2021 is happening.

Let’s take a look at semi-final heat 1 which takes place on May, 18th, and who we should look out for. This draw is particularly strong, the potential winner has a good chance of coming from this batch of entries.

“Discoteque” by The Roop (Lithuania)

Photo by E.Blaževič / LRT

The Roop from Lithuania has the honour of opening up the proceedings. Looking at the rest of the Heat 1 line-up, the eccentric pop band stands out as the perfect opening act. With their quirky stylings and even quirkier dance routines, they have already amassed a lot of attention with their previous hit “On Fire.” There was a lot of heat on them before the 2020 competition got shelved. Yet they have come back stronger with ravey EDM banger “Discoteque.” Putting it out there, I rather love The Roop. The lyrics of the track says it is OK to dance alone. If I was in a club and “Discoteque” came on the sound system I would be dancing. How amazing they got picked out of the hat first in the draw allocation for places or was it? I’m sorry but there is definitely, the whiff of a strategy about this.

“Voices” by Tusse (Sweden)

I’m not sorry for selecting Sweden’s entry “Voices” performed by rising-star Tusse. If Sweden didn’t appear in my heat 1 round-up you would know that something was seriously amiss, wouldn’t you? As you’ll also be aware the Swede’s Melodifestivalen process has become as much part and parcel of their musical heritage. As such Sweden went ahead, began a new search for a song and performer for their 2021 entry into Eurovision. Out went The Mamas (2020 victorious). Tusse has been welcomed in instead. “Voices” is an empowering anthem and Tusse carries it off well. Although feel that I should mention, I have been left a little underwhelmed by the staging of Sweden’s entries during the past couple of years. While the songs are good, it doesn’t feel to me that they are putting enough effort into the visual elements. Pull your boots up Sweden, I fear you are practically allowing quite a lot of Europe to catch up with you.

Technicolour” by Montaigne (Australia)

As with most competing Countries, Australia has kept with the same artist they had originally selected for their 2020 entry. Rising-Sydney singer Montaigne is their representative in the competition. I am glad she is returning with a different song because I wasn’t a fan of the proposed 2020 entry “Don’t Break Me” or of the styling and staging that was being put in place for it. Montaigne has racked up heaps of acclaim down-under. Without a doubt, she’s caused quite a stir. “Technicolour” is a much better thought-out Eurovision proposition. She throws us shades of MARINA in the vocals and the lyrics speak about embracing our differing identities and vulnerabilities which I am sure will be taken on board with Eurovision addicts. Australia is back on track with the vibe and theme of “Technicolour.”

“El Diablo” by Elena Tsagrinou (Cyprus)

The Cyprus entry is sung by Greek singer Elena Tsagrinou. A repeat offender when it comes to entering, reality TV, singing competitions. There is no messing when it comes to “El Diablo” they went straight for the chart friendliest pop vibes, so have taken a lot of inspiration and patched in more than a passing resemblance to “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga in the chorus. The official music video blatantly appears to be Elena having her own, attempt at playing snatch-game. Unabashedly replicating “Love Me Land” by Zara Larsson. Elena actually, got called out publically by Zara over this. Not so original but will nonetheless go down a storm with the Eurovision crowd for sure.

“SHUM” by GO_A (Ukraine)

SHUM” by the Ukrainian electro-folklore outfit GO_A will not win Eurovision. But it is massively hypnotic, the equivalent of musical crack and super catchy with it. This is the first time Ukraine has sent a track into the competition sung only in the native language. I am liking that they decided to stick by tradition instead because I am convinced it wouldn’t sound half as good translated into English anyway. Remember how tanked up we got in the 90s on hallucinogenic techno groove of Underworld’sBorn Slippy,” “SHUM” is somewhat strange, if not spellbindingly, comparable to that. You cannot listen to “SHUM” and not come away feeling euphorically uplifted. Those that do haven’t got a pulse.

I also want to throw in a mention of the Norway entry “Fallen Angel” by TIX as it might be considered a wild card. TIX derives his name from growing up with Tourette’s syndrome. He’s a big concern in Norwegian pop and a credited writer on the Ava Max mega-hit “Sweet but Psycho.” This entry relies on a lot of symbolism. While I am not keen on the track I expect people power to get behind it because of the above factors.

It worth noting the UK do NOT get to vote in this heat. Rules are rules, and alas there is no point in me throwing a hissy fit about it. I do hope those who have the opportunity do the responsible thing and see that The Roop go through to the final.

That’s your first taste of the ESC 2021. Stay tuned to EQ for more Eurovision coverage this week…