“A si, a sa, a si konichiwa!” to the fourth heat of The Winner Is… ! I wanted to kick production of this series into high gear so I could finish before the first semi-final, if not Eurovision Week. So to save time, let’s end the intro and get to the music!
In a year abundant with ballads, Elisabeth Carew brought an absolute anthem to Norway’s incredibly diverse MGP. Everything about this song was somewhat overdone, from the presentation to the production, but in a way that really worked. Musically, it’s an anthemic take of R&B, with some tribal influences added for good measure. The song is standard pop fare lyrically, albeit spiced up with a “war” for Carew’s heart. This ego-stroking works well to create a “big diva” persona that 2014 was sorely lacking. Carew lost some of her energy and, dare I say it, swagger toward the end of the performance, damaging her image. In studio, I freaking love this song. I can’t listen to it just once. It expertly pushes the line between over-the-top and gloriously decadent. However, it’s impossible to deny that the lyrics are restrained in their theme and kitsch. Musically, though, it’s fabulous. So is Carew and her somewhat silly stage show. She sold the song quite well and the staging was memorable, even if her strut down the catwalk was a tad limp. Overall, this was a strong entry that bolstered MGP very well.
This Icelandic wildcard qualifier was a study in many contrasts. Namely, the almost tropical sound of the music thrown against the cold Icelandic language. It works in conjunction with other opposites attracting like the simplistic lyrics vs. complex orchestration and big theatre-style voice vs. breezy pop song. Talking of music, that’s probably the song’s strongest point. It’s layered and rich with that singular brand of Icelandic quirk. The lyrics are somewhat basic (woman pleads to fix broken relationship) but they work well with the music. Viðarsdóttir’s performance was very big, but with a song as unique as this, there was room to play with the vocals. Watching this again, it seems like an even better song live than in studio, something unusual about songs this year. Her styling and voice was unmatched by any of the other finalists in Söngvakeppnin or anywhere in Europe. It’s this kind of character that really makes watching all the national finals worthwhile, because I can’t think of another song from 2014 that had as much personality as this one did. And Viðarsdóttir played a huge part in that, with her incredibly rich and soulful voice. This one is a great surprise in every sense.
http://video.meta.ua/6434552.video From pop, we move onto Icelandic balladry and third-time entrant Karlsdóttir, who brought a dramatically understated ballad. The appeal of “Til þín” lay in its classic growing ballad format, which provides a solid base for the somewhat daring lyrics. Focusing on the music, it’s piano-driven with hints of ocean sounds added to echo the nuances of distance in the lyrics. Those lyrics, at least in a dodgy-looking Google Translate version, look to be about Karlsdóttir saving her child from fantastic dangers. It works well in studio but failed to translate live, mainly due to her lack of a strong connection with the song. Unlike her countrywoman, Karlsdóttir’s song started out as a favorite but now my interest is thinning. It doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table and isn’t a strong enough rehash of its source material to be insanely interesting. It’s competent, musically, but it’s certainly unique from a lyrical perspective. That said, it doesn’t save the song from losing points due to Karlsdóttir’s emotionally-misguided performance or some strange staging choices (Red lights? Really?). Nevertheless, I’m happy to have it here, as some pleasantry here helps to make the other three songs in this heat stand out.
Although there weren’t any huge dramatic electro-pop songs in the style of Margaret Berger’s “I Feed You My Love,” Dale’s cool slice of pop was the closest thing there was in MGP. “High Hopes” is an effortlessly cool song that sounds so Scandinavian, it hurts. Thanks to a sublime blend of drums and strings, the song soars and remains dimensional in the face of incredibly repetitive lyrics. Talking of, the lyrics tell the story of Dale’s forlorn love that she dove into with “high hopes” before crashing into reality. While that might be a bit trite, it was her vocally wonderful performance, dripping with personality and charm, that made this song soar. This sort of “no sweat” song is exactly what ticks my boxes for greatness. It’s got oodles of personality and fun, a killer hook, spirited writing, and appeal to me. The only thing I can cite it for, in fact, is the somewhat ridiculous Victorian dancers who joined Dale onstage, otherwise it’s really wonderful. She’s an insanely gifted vocalist, the song is addictive, and it would’ve been a very worthy MGP winner.
Total: 10.5 pts. So that’s my take on four more songs. And look, we’re already halfway through the heats! Get ready and vote, because it’s going to move fast from here on out. Now it’s time to pick between a haunting Icelandic ballad, big Norwegian diva pop, the unique suaveness of “Amor,” or layered simplicity in “High Hopes.” Vote and share!