If you read our first Top 30 article on Friday and our second Top 30 article yesterday, you’ll know that this weekend, I am in the midst of bringing you an absolute marathon of an ESC-countdown… As a special treat (shall we call it that?) I am counting down our first ever ESC Views Top 30 in three parts, this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and it will be focused on our highlights from the extensive back-catalogues of various ESC contestants. Today’s final instalment will run through the top 10 places, and reveal our number 1!
For me, one of the best things about being a Eurovision fan is getting to discover the other amazing music released by artists who have been introduced to me through the Eurovision Song Contest. So, in compiling our favourites for what was originally planned to be a top 10 on this subject, the task of eliminating all but ten of these fabulous songs was just too difficult. Instead, Rory and I have decided to present you would our Top 30 instead, which has been delivered in three instalments this weekend!
To avoid confusion, this countdown will include artists who have competed in the ESC, but will feature other songs from their discographies, rather than their actual ESC entries. We have also limited it to one song per artist (if we didn’t, then I would probably end up including every single song that Helena Paparizou has ever recorded, and Rory would do the same with Lena!) In this way, we hope to bring you a more diverse top 30, and introduce you to some truly awesome songs along the way. Ready to discover which lucky ten have made it this far?
10 – Marco Mengoni (Italy 2013) – “La Vita Non Ascolta”
Having already written extensively about the song in our Marco Mengoni album review, I reckon I’ve made my adoration for both Marco (swoon) and this song very clear. That won’t stop me singing its praises again right now, though. Because, just listen to it! Demonstrating the impressive quality of his voice at both ends of his range, plus accentuating the sheer beauty of the Italian language, this anthemic number is the stand-out song from “#prontoacorrere” by a country mile. Similar to the Kaliopi track we featured yesterday, I love the incorporation of synthesisers to dilute the rockier elements of the track, yet simultaneously work in conjunction with the minor key to add a grittiness and emotion to the soundscape. Marco, this is truly a masterpiece. As are you, good sir.
9 – Ira Losco (Malta 2002) – “Shoulders Of Giants”
Aside from their entries to Eurovision, music from Maltese artists is usually extraordinarily difficult to find. With the exception, of course, of their silver-medal 2002 entrant Ira Losco. Having released five studio albums since her ESC participation, her career has gone from strength to strength, and has produced a number of successful European singles and won her the honour of opening for artists such as Elton John, Tokio Hotel and Katie Melua. Not bad for a young artist from Malta, ey? In picking out what I believe to be her best recording to date, I just HAD to go for this one, “Shoulders Of Giants”. It’s one of those tracks that would sound right at home on the soundtrack to a multitude of American teen dramas or sitcoms – light acoustic rock, moody chord sequence, inspirational, well-constructed lyrics… and a very very convincing vocal delivery from Ira herself. It’s a song I don’t listen to nearly enough. If you’re into a more up-tempo style, however, there is an absolutely phnom remix of this track by Roger Shah (listen here) – beautifully laid-back trance music, hard to beat really.
8 – Aurela Gaçe (Albania 2011) – “Shpirt I Shpirtit Tim”
I was one of the few people who loved Aurela’s 2011 entry “Feel The Passion”. I accept that I am in the minority with that one. However, Aurela as an artist has soooo much more to offer – as I’m sure anyone in Albania who has grown up with her music would testify – so I entreat you to give her another try. Her hits such as “Ja Ke Nge” and “Hape Veten” may appeal to more mainstream Eurovision fan tastes, so do listen to those two at least, but the one I have highlighted is posted above. “Shpirt I Shpirtit Tim”, a tortured ballad performed with a simple guitar and bass background, Aurela’s incredible voice really shines here. The power is absolutely incomparable. Now, it’s not for everyone. There are people who will listen to THAT note towards the end and think “ugh that sounds so harsh”, and that’s absolutely fine. But for me, that note, just like so many of the others that she hits, simply adds to the raw pain of the song, and – even though I don’t understand the language, the message comes across pretty clearly.
7 – Elena Gheorghe (Romania 2009) – “Hypnotic”
Another artist whose Eurovision effort was universally panned by fans, voters, juries and critics alike, Romania’s Elena Gheorghe, singer of the infamous “Balkan Girls” from 2009. Another one that I absolutely loved, despite its very plastic nature. If that song comes on and I don’t get up and “party like nobody like nobody”, you know there’s something wrong. But since then, our Elena has reinvented herself as a pioneer of the Inna-esque Romanian dance music that Rory talked about in his Romanian Possible Artists article last month. Whilst this approach has produced some complete and utter crap (see “Disco Romancing”) it has also led to the production of this FABULOUS tune “Hypnotic”. For me, this was one of those songs that gives you butterflies the first time you hear it – the all-out unashamed poppy chorus, and the chanty post-chorus to go with it; the hi-energy instrumentation, that sax thing in the background. LOVE IT. Proof that no matter how dubious your back-catalogue is, you can still come out with an absolute stormer of a tune like this!
6 – Kristína (Slovakia 2010) – “V Sieti T’a Mám”
I make no secret of the fact that “Horehronie” is my favourite ESC entry of all time (well… alongside “Gravity“) and in the wake of Kristína’s semi-final travesty, I consoled myself by going on the hunt for other music by the pint-sized Slovak star. Over the summer of 2010, she released this lovely little song which I fell in love with instantly, and have not stopped loving ever since. It’s in a similar mould to songs like “Tomorrow” in that it’s acoustic-guitar-led, anchored by a cutesie singalong chorus, and accompanied by a pastoral storybook style video. One of those songs that cannot fail to make you smile whenever it comes on. It careered to the top of the Slovak Singles Chart in September 2010, a bit of well-deserved recognition for a woman whose musical output is not only an audible treat, but is also incredibly endearing to follow.
5 – Flor-De-Lis (Portugal 2009) – “Drave”
A year after their unforgettable appearance at Eurovision, Flor-De-Lis (who placed 2nd in our “best backdrops” top 10) released their début studio album “Signo Solar”, whose fifteen tracks all elaborated on the adorable Portuguese folk styles we all loved within “Todas As Ruas Do Amor“. I could have included any one of those songs in this list, because quite frankly, I can honestly say that I love them all. However, I’ve gone with “Drave” because listening to this song is a little adventure in itself. Opening with a curious sound effect reminiscent of rhythmic smashing glass, lead vocalist Daniela Varela opens in her lower range, before the unique combination of instruments provided by the band are added gradually, to culminate in a supremely relaxing and mesmerising listening experience by the point that Daniela reaches the wordless vocal section towards the end. The authenticity is evident – everything we love about “Todas As Ruas Do Amor” can be found in the band’s other recordings – this is a group of people who really do love the music they make, and as a result, their songs are a thousand times more endearing.
4 – Kaiti Garbi (Greece 1993) – “S’Agapo Se Miso”
Again, another artist whose ESC entry I absolutely adore, Kaiti Garbi (Greek representative in 1993 with “Ellada, Hora Tou Fotos“) has been releasing killer album after killer album since the early 1990s, and is notable for her many collaborations with songwriter and producer Phoebus (who also worked with Despina Vandi, among others) However, the above song – taken from her 2008 album “Kenourgia Ego” is a product of work sans Phoebus – which is criminally underrated in my opinion! Translating as “I Love You, I Hate You”, this message of internal conflict is reflected very effectively in the melody, with Garbi’s vocals coming across as dark and brooding in the verses, before breaking out into the euphoric soaring chorus, likely stopping the listener in their tracks and commanding their attention. The instrumentation works wonders too, initially seeming to be a rather generic stabbing dance arrangement, the dark use of the brass, the relentless bassline, and the synthesised guitar riffs all bring an extra dimension to what is already a brilliant song.
3 – Helena Paparizou (Greece 2005) – “Mazi Sou”
Another Greek artist at number 3 in today’s list… and it’s the one and only Ms. Helena Paparizou. Now, may I first proclaim myself as the singular biggest Paparizou fan in the British Isles? Please? Good. Because I am. It was torturously difficult to pick out just one of her other songs, and if you have time, I would recommend having a listen to “Den Allazo“, “Girna Me Sto Htes“, “Baby It’s Over” and “Fysika Mazi” alongside the video above, for her 2007 chart-topper “Mazi Sou”. Released as the theme song to a Greek TV drama of the same name, I would single out this song as one of the most emotive foreign language recordings I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Beginning in a subdued and magical hush, it’s one of those songs where you know it’s about to *get going*, and you’re praying that when it does, you won’t be disappointed. And, boy, is this anything but a disappointment. The chorus soars, the beats ambiently pound away, and Helena’s vocals – sometimes criticised, which I take offense to, I can tell you now – Helena’s vocals are absolutely sublime. It’s great on a first listen, and what’s even better is that it will grow on you even more following that! And if you want an extra tear-jerker, do have a listen to the spine-tingling “Oneiro” version of the song. Amazing.
2 – Lena Meyer-Landrut (Germany 2010 & 2011) – “To The Moon”
Silver medal time. And two-time German entrant Lena is the lucky (or unlucky, depending on your perception) girl to take home today’s second place. Both Rory and I are massive Lena fans, probably Rory more so than I, since I was never really a fan of anything on “My Cassette Player” or “Good News” apart from the ESC entries which I so adored. However, last autumn, the “Satellite” singer released her third album “Stardust”, which, as well as premiering a brand new, contemporary, mature sound, included what is quite frankly the best acoustic ballad I have ever heard. I will unashamedly admit that this song for me is my cry song; that song that you play on repeat when you are feeling at your absolute lowest and you just need to be serenaded into depressed oblivion. “To The Moon” is that song for me. That said, it’s not really *sad* exactly. On the contrary, it’s positively jolly. A bouncy, cleverly-built number, featuring Lena’s trademark “similes of devotion” lyrics – “I’d cook the whole day, hope it satisfied” !!?! – and a beautiful incorporation of backing vocals and strings. It really is just a lovely lovely song. Thank you so much Lena for recording it.
But… it’s only worthy of second place, when compared with the sheer fabulousness of…
1 – Ani Lorak (Ukraine 2008) – “A Dal’she”
Ani strikes again! At the risk of making ourselves sound repetitive, we just can’t get enough of Madame Lorak’s music, and this track – released as a single in 2009 – just goes to show how justified this adoration is! Have a listen to her earlier stuff if you can – in particular “Zerkala“, “Pocilui” and “Tara-Rira” – but the contemporary euphoria of “A Dal’she” really is hard to beat. With Greek production from the guy behind a lot of Sakis Rouvas’ recent dance albums, the polish and professionalism of this track is exquisite. Straight guys and gay girls can ogle Ani in all her glory in the music video, and the rest of us can admire the ridonkulously catchy melody, and how suited it is to her voice. The thing is, yes, maybe this song in itself isn’t quite as musically complicated as some of the others, maybe it’s not as spine-tingling or emotional, maybe it’s not built around clever lyrics, or boundary-pushing instrumentation… but at the end of the day, it is a bloody good song. Memorable, sing-along, mysterious, soaring, exotic… I for oe absolutely love it, and it’s sheer fabulosity (good word) has helped it scrape to the top of this weekend’s countdown. It was by no means an easy decision – and I will reveal that the top five changed places many times during the decision process – however in the end, we couldn’t resist the charm and pure awesomeness of this piece of music. Congratulations to Ani Lorak!
Susan Mathieson from Canada: At about 2 in the morning I suddenly wanted to play songs by Mor ve Ötesi, but loud. Had to wait till today to hear “Daha Mutlu Olamam”
I must say, the response to this series has been overwhelming – not only have we managed to generate a discussion of the songs we selected, we have also been introduced to so many amazing songs by the fans who have shared their opinions with us. The three included above show just a small range of the songs which have been suggested to us, some of which most certainly deserve a place in our countdown – if only we’d known about them earlier! But anyway, I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this weekend’s countdown, thank you so much for reading, and if you still have thoughts to share with us, we’d love to hear! Leave us a comment below!