So this probably certainly isn’t going to finish before Eurovision Week starts. That said, if I can at least beat the final, if not the semi-finals, I’ll be thrilled. Now then, onto Heat 6 of The Winner Is…!
Carrying the anthem of overstressed teens and young adults everywhere, Ace Wilder stormed not only into the Melodifestivalen 2014 final, but also Sweden’s music radar. Prior to Melfest, Wilder had released one EP but that was about it. This changes everything. She, along with the songwriters who seem to be the new G:Son/Boström team, Joy and Linnéa Deb, created this incredibly contemporary electro number with folk and dubstep elements. The melody is loud and brash while still discernible and easy to swallow, with its prominent guitar and frequent bass drops. Lyrically, it’s a slightly extreme declaration against living to work instead of working to live. The hook, “don’t wanna work, work, work” is one of the catchiest things of 2014 and the rest of the lyrics are crisp and relatable. Wilder’s performance was a very calculated brand of hectic, with very heavy choreography but only one highly noticeable color on stage, the red on her pants.
This was the first time I’d followed Melodifestivalen closely, and I must say, I picked a good year. There was a high song quality and the final had a lot of interesting storylines that just weren’t seen in other national finals (or just weren’t as obvious due to the huge MF bias). That said, this one was probably the one I most wanted to see come to fruition, as it would’ve been a big middle finger to all the naysayers who bash Eurovision for being out of touch. And then Sweden sent a moderately out of touch pop ballad that’s Eurovision-by-numbers, but I digress. Ace Wilder came, kicked major ass, and is on her way to being a big name. If it wasn’t for the shaky live performance and slightly repetitive lyrics, she’d probably be in my Melfest top 5. Heja Ace!
Iceland’s system at Söngvakeppnin this year gave artists who made the superfinal a chance to translate their entries to the language they’d be in if they won the ticket to Copenhagen. Well, Sigga finished second, so we got to hear an English version of this song called “Up and Away.” And while the Icelandic version’s lyrics were peppy, if a tad trite, the English ones were more ridiculous than anything else. Instead of a feel-good comeback anthem, it became a “girl power” song for dealing with a broken relationship. Musically, it’s a lot of fun, with it’s demented circus theme and styling. In particular, the bridge into the key change is quite well done. Sigga sang strongly every time she was onstage, along with her “Grease”-like stage posse.
Regardless of language, I really enjoy this song. It’s presence is addictive and it’s hard to get out of your head once it’s in. The admittedly strange staging worked so well with the song itself, I’m willing to excuse some bum notes, of which there were a few, on Sigga’s part. The song makes me feel energized and eager to take on problems every time I hear it, so that’s a big plus. What can I say, I just like it a lot.
This was basically every Eurovision fan’s dream scenario; a national personality enters his recent chart-topping single to his country’s national final and ends up with a good shot at winning, as the song and performance are good. Something else happened in Ventspīls on 22 February, and Dons was left clutching the silver medal with his song. “Pēdējā vēstule” is a classical ballad with a full orchestra behind it. However, instead of being soft and flowing, there’s a slight roughness to the instruments, which plays off well against the lyrics. It’s also a very subtle score that never tries nor wants to overpower the lyrics, which are essentially a Dear Jane letter from Dons to his lover. The scene is brightly set and Dons lets us imagine some of the niceties of his failed relationship. He used his Dziesma backdrop to project scrolling words behind him and his backings, and the overall result was very clean and professional.
Okay, enough failed objectivity, I love this song. Everything about it just screams “me.” I love how the melody isn’t refined yet manages to stay beautiful and chilling. I love picturing the sepia train station in rural Latvia where Dons is writing his “last letter” before travelling to far away lands. I love imagining them “stroking the sun, even when it rains for everyone else.” I love that he’s going on an intrinsic journey. I love the spine-tingling performance. I love his outfit. I love the harmonies. I love it all.
Four failed attempts behind them, Traffic returned to Estonia’s National Final this year with a folk-influenced slice of pop-rock. The instrumentation is mad, with xylophones, guitars, ukeleles, and various other instruments bouncing about for the three minute runtime of the song. And it’s very expertly done, as not one thing ever feels out of place. “Für Elise” is about, according to lead singer Silver Maas, a long-distance relationship between Elise and her soldier at war. Considering the awful quality of my lyric translations, I’ll just leave it at that. The Eesti Laul performance was strong and Maas was aided, vocally, by one rather sharp backing singer.
Oh my god, this is such a fun song. It’s energy is unparalleled in it’s relatively populated genre of nu-folk. I just want to dance and scream along to it every time it comes up on shuffle during the day. The bridge into the final chorus might be the best-composed piece of music we’ve been offered all year. After leveling such high praise, it sucks to say that I can’t really understand the lyrics (although they sound charming from what Google spat out at me) and that the live performance was nearly ruined by that backing singer, whose microphone was obviously way too loud. Other than that, everything about this was joyous, energetic, charming, and utterly deserving of a ticket to Copenhagen, an accolade that most songs in Eesti Laul deserved.