GERMANY – One thing is certain: There’s plenty of variety in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest — something for every taste, from modern pop songs to sweeping ballads. Some artists are already ranking high, but the final winner on May 18 could still be a big surprise.
There are 41 song entries from as many countries, and DW’s ESC reporters Silke Wünsch and Rick Fulker have studied them all. The rules of the game: Each must pick their five best and five worst songs. Strictly avoiding each other all week, they kept their choices secret. Would there be any agreement, like last year?
10. Fascinating: Conan Osíris, ‘Telemóveis’ (Portugal)
Rick: The voice and the instrumental accompaniment absolutely don’t fit — and that’s done brilliantly. The polytonality and baffling turns of musical phrase are very appealing, as are the crazy costumes and hysterical dancing. Translated, the song is titled “Cell Phones.” I can’t get enough of it and award my 12 points for Portugal’s courage in entering this one.
09. Fantastic: Sergey Lazarev, ‘Scream’ (Russia)
Silke: As in 2016, he’ll perform on an elaborate set with many special effects. This time the song is less impressive, but that doesn’t hide the fact that Sergey is definitely the best singer in this year’s lineup. He wends his way through three octaves of vocals with unbelievable ease. The chorus at the end is reminiscent of a metal power ballad. I’m pleased.
08. Cathartic: Hatari, ‘Hatrið mun sigra’ (Iceland)
Rick: Amidst so much mediocre, consensus-building fare, I find this industrial rock song titled “Hate Will Win” with its anti-capitalistic message liberating. From the depths of the soul, Hatari scream out an unadorned uprising against lies and deception. These guys have picked up on what a lot of people at the grass roots are thinking these days — and they express it unambiguously.
07. Danceable: Tamta, ‘Replay’ (Cyprus)
Silke: Last year in Lisbon, Eleni Foureira generated waves of enthusiasm with the song “Fuego” — and took second place. So all eyes and ears are trained on Cyprus again. This time it’s Tamta singing “Replay.” A replay of the island nation’s success? If she delivers a good performance, it should stand out in memory, even though she’s first up in the show.
06. Enchanting: Tulia, ‘Pali się’ (Poland)
Rick: In “Fire of Love,” four girls from Poland deliver folk in their native tongue (hurray!). The native costumes are a fit and a foil for that completely crazy, shrill, flipped-out sound. The blend of voices is uniform but never monotonous, and you don’t have to understand Polish to realize that the sum result has an ironic touch. There’s nothing quite like this entry.
05. Dreamy: Carousel, ‘That Night’ (Latvia)
Silke: To me, the prettiest number of all. The quartet with double bass delivers the song completely poised, offering an oasis for nerves rattled by the loud competition. It reminds me of Norah Jones’ “Sunrise.” I truly hope that the ESC audience will acknowledge that and give Latvia a solid standing in the upper region of the Top 10.
04. Impressive: Mahmood, ‘Soldi’ (Italy)
Rick: Citing Mahmood’s Egyptian father, members of the Italian government questioned his eligibility to represent Italy at Eurovision. Well, Mahmood is unquestionably Italian, musically too. With a title translating as “Money,” the song is about a troubled father-son relationship. Seldom have pain and bitterness been more beautifully expressed — and the refrain goes round and round in the head.
03. Party material: Michela, ‘Chameleon’ (Malta)
Silke: Yippie! A dance number — reggaeton with electro beats and proper singing. Michela will dance onstage before a backdrop of walls that, like a chameleon, constantly change color. Even the song itself keeps on changing its style. An official dancefloor hit, but without the racket: cool, easy and something you want to get up and move to.
02. Splendid: Michael Rice, ‘Bigger Than Us’ (Great Britain)
Rick: The homeland of pop might just break its long string of bad luck years at the Eurovision Song Contest. Slightly chubby and a bit awkward, Michael Rice is anything but a streamlined ESC entry. But that wonderfully nuanced soul voice! In “Bigger Than Us,” he gives it his all — and yet, paradoxically, one feels that he can even build on that in the week leading to the finale.
01. Dazzling: Duncan Laurence, ‘Arcade’ (The Netherlands)
Silke: among the many “attractive young man sings a ballad” songs this year, this one’s the best. Seated at a piano, Duncan begins in a hesitant falsetto — but when he hits the refrain, it’s like sunrise! The song stays catchy even at its most dramatic moments. And this guy looks fabulous. He’s been the favorite of many for weeks. How about Amsterdam in 2020?