Well hello there! I know I’ve been M.I.A. for a while but that’s going to change very quickly because I’m starting a new feature today: The Winner Is…! Basically, out of the 341 songs from all the National Finals from 2014, I’ve selected 32 of the best songs that didn’t get their country’s ticket to Copenhagen. In an eight-post series, I’ll review all of them with the same detail I review Eurovision entries, before giving you all the chance to vote for your favorite song of the four. Then, Melodifestivalen-sytle, the eight winners will advance to a final while the eight runner-ups compete for two final spots (distributed across two semi-finals). I’m really excited to do this, as it’s the first year I’ve followed all the national finals! So without further ado, here are the four songs that will compete for the first ticket to the final!
In what is probably the year’s most intense song, Ralfs of PeR fame comes back with a song that can best be described as the anti-“Here We Go;” a gritty, wrathful, realistic cello-driven punk song. Condemning the world’s higher ups of making everyone “their narrow-minded puppets,” the song is more of a call to action in the chorus before turning into a desperate plea of reasoning. Musically, it’s as stripped back as possible, relying on Ralfs, a cello, drums, and bits of electric guitar, but all the elements make something truly unsettling and bold. The performance at the Dziesma final was charged with tension, using an off-putting opening camera angle along with Ralfs’ disheveled appearance. If anything else, this was one of the year’s most interesting songs. Something this unsettling in a good way has never come out of any national final I’ve seen. That said, I really enjoy this song in studio. In particular, the build-up to the spoken-word section is simply out of this world. However, some of that excellent grit from the studio version was, ironically, lost in the live performance. Even if the Latvian section was dripping with emotion, something was off about it, possibly the cello being destroyed at the end. It’s almost the Winny Puhh of 2014, and fourth place was far too low for this one.
Refusing to be cleanly genre-classified, Oceana took one of the most hit-worthy songs to the German national final. Instead of being a fuzzy love song, “Thank You” chooses to be a sarcastic ode to the man who did Oceana wrong; her “peaceful dreaming” didn’t last long but she’s ultimately glad to “see the light.” The music is layered and screams “summer smash,” with its violins and reggae influences. For the live show, Oceana chose to go for a disco diva look and sound, which probably cost her a ticket to the second round of the complicated final. In retrospect, this probably made the shortlist thanks to being absolutely freaking amazing in studio because that live performance was an unmitigated disaster. First, she was pitchy in the worst way and about two keys south of the chorus. She tried so hard to recover it but it wasn’t happening. Then she looked plainly ridiculous. Any of the outfits she sported in the official video would’ve been better. It’s sad that one of the songs with the most potential was shut out this way.
Melfest’s 2005 winner, Martin Stenmarck, comes back with one of 2014’s biggest anthems, in Swedish, no less. This one grows on the backs of strings and synths instead of the usual rock fare and comes off with a unique sound as a result. I don’t know what it is about native language songs, but their lyrics just come off as more poetic than their English-language counterparts. Obviously, this is no exception, as Stenmarck is “standing at the tip of a cliff/edge,” ready to throw himself into love again. But before he can do it, “time stops” and his past love freezes in his mind’s eye. It restarts his beating heart for her and “the angels go home, the sky changes color, and the city wakes up all over again.” Out of the three performances at MF, Stenmarck kept with a Brit-rocker appearance but glammed it up a bit for Andra Chansen. Anthems are some of the easiest wins for me but in a packed Melfest 2014 field, Stenmarck did it better than I ever could’ve wanted. His performance was absolutely dripping with pathos every time and, glitter jacket or not, the staging was a total success. The song is one of the biggest chill-inducers not only for this year, but that I’ve ever heard in relation to Eurovision ever. It just grows so perfectly and lyrics work beautifully in relation to the music. I love love love it and I’d do anything to see this is Copenhagen.
Perennial Estonian hopeful Lenna Kuurmaa came back to Eesti Laul 2014 with the same formula that took her and her eponymous band to second place in 2012. And like “Mina jään,” “Supernoova” is a soft-rock ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on heavy rotation on American radio. Lyrically, it’s a tribute to how powerful Lenna’s lover is to her, as he has the power to stop “any dog from barking.” The music is subtly layered with soulful electric guitar and fragile vocals from both Lenna and her backing singer, both of who dressed like they’d just hopped off a flight from Tennessee. Sadly, where “Mina jään” had a dramatic and memorable hook, “Supernoova” sort of stalls and plateaus at the chorus. Lenna’s vocals didn’t have the necessary power behind them that this song requires and the overall look of the entry was flat. The song is still very good, but it doesn’t touch the 2012 song at all.
Total: 8.25 pts. So there we have it! It’s a good time to mention that I’ll be playing the game too, which means Martin Stenmarck has won a ticket to my personal final while Ralfs & Valters will be entered in my second chance pool. Here’s the poll so vote for your winner! You can only vote one time and voting will close sometime before the next article goes up, so don’t hesitate! Keep a look out for the results in next installment of “The Winner Is…” sometime within the week. Until then.