NF Season: This week’s national final previews (February 16th – 23rd)

Hellooooo Eurovision fans! James here, writing from the *lovely* rainy Lake District, where I’m on holiday this week, with extremely limited internet access and lots of Eurovision action to try and cover. Couldn’t have picked a more awkward week really, since this Saturday will see no less than four entries being selected, three of which will come from national finals, and one being the long-awaited Macedonian song presentation. Plenty to write about then, so I might as well get started!

The broadcasters to make their decision this week: MRT (Macedonia), TVE (Spain), MTV (Hungary) and LTV (Latvia)
The broadcasters to make their decision this week: MRT (Macedonia), TVE (Spain), MTV (Hungary) and LTV (Latvia)

As you should hopefully know by now, we are previewing the national finals in weekly instalments, offering our opinions on some of the songs wherever possible, and predicting the entries we think are most likely to win the ticket to Denmark. Following the results of each National Final, we’ll get a review article up for you, giving you our opinions of the show and the selected entry, and assessing its chances at Eurovision this year. And, as always, your opinions are most welcome throughout, we would love to know what you think!

This week’s calendar:

22nd February 2014: Dzeisma 2014 (Latvian National Final)

22nd February 2014: A Dal 2014 (Hungarian National Final)

22nd February 2014: Spanish National Final

22nd February 2014: Song Presentation (Macedonia)

Latvia:

Latvia will select its entry on February 22nd
Latvia will select its entry on February 22nd

Dziesma 2014 will be the second outing for Latvia’s recently-revamped national final process, itself the descendant of former selection show Eirodziesma, which gave us *interesting* winners such as “What For?” and “Angel In Disguise”. The two semi-finals were held in the last couple of weeks, with six qualifiers from each now constituting a twelve-strong national final. All the competing entries can be listened to on LTV’s website here, however the final 12 are not highlighted *cry*. Refer to escXtra’s list of the finalists to familiarise yourself with them!

Reviews and Predictions:

James – Normally, the very fact that these songs are coming from Latvia indicates that they might be *a bit crap*. That assumption, however, would only be triggered if you’ve learnt everything you know about Latvian music from the dubious songs they’ve eventually sent to Eurovision in the last few years. Nine times out of ten, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that they’ve made the wrong decision, and that countless deserving songs have been abandoned at the national final stage. This year, if you’re reading this, could be your first chance to look at Latvia’s music in a new light!

The majority of fan hype surrounds Samanta Tina, owing to her fabulous ballad “I Need A Hero”, which most certainly would have been a better choice from last year’s Dziesma competition. However, this year, she’s gone up-tempo, and her melodic, modern and synthy effort “Stay” is nothing short of perfection in my estimation. I HATE to corroborate the fanwank opinion, as you all know, but I genuinely love this song, and I would be happiest to see Samanta on the Copenhagen stage. It would be a serious contender if it came from any other country, so it goes without saying that in Latvian terms, this would translate into a realistic chance of qualifying, right?

Aside from that, however, there are other songs that I absolutely adore too, the first being “Saule Riet” performed by Olga and Ligo. Imagine Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” performed in Latvian by a woman with a hell of a lot more originality and a random dose of yodelling to top things off. It is fabulous, it’s really interesting, and whilst in ESC,  I don’t think it would do as well as “Stay”, it would definitely make it’s way to the top of my ranking so far! Katrine Lukins and Markus Riva both have really lovely songs too, and overall, the Latvian line-up for 2014 does feature a number of credible and original compositions which – if selected – have the potential to overturn their recent dire run of non-qualifications. Shout out to Ralfs Eilands too, lead vocalist from last year’s duo PeR, who is attempting to become the first back-to-back representative in Latvia’s short ESC history. Doubt he’ll manage it.

Key point there: “If selected”. Because that’s where it’s all gone wrong in the past. Latvia have been in this strong position before, and messed it up. There are a couple of terrible songs in this year’s final too… I am waiting with bated breath for the result…

Rory – Latvia, what dafuq is wrong with you?! I think that the country has lost any sanity it had left.

Here’s why: First of all, we have twelve songs in this NF, and nearly all of them are actually complete shit. For example, Eirošmits- what the hell is going on with them?! They look like three Chewbaccas and a runaway cowboy. Plus they’re singing about stuff like if they could, they would hurt us a lot. Like seriously, what is up with that?! I see also Ralfs Eilands is making a return minus the rest of PeR..but what is up with his song?! It’s like Narodnozabavni rock mark 2! It just doesn’t work.

Samanta Tina, on the other hand, is actually one of the good songs in the NF, and if the Latvian public have ANY sense, they will vote for her. If not, I think all of Europe will perform a simultaneous facepalm. As for my thoughts on who should win, Samanta Tina must be the winner. Yes her accent needs a LOT of work, but compared to the rest of the songs, she is one of the best possible options for Latvia and I’m literally on my knees begging the Latvian public to vote for her. We don’t want the Latvian version of Winny Puhh to go to Eurovision. Send something good Latvia, please. For the sake of everyone.

Context:

Latvia is one of those countries where neither Rory or myself have yet discovered an artist to majorly latch onto, and as a result, neither of us have that much of a familiarity with the local music scene, which basically disqualifies us from putting together any meaningful artist suggestions prior to the contest, as we did with most of the other countries.

However, the eventual twelve songs which have made it to Saturday night’s final do cover a range of the genres we would normally go for – as you can tell by our comments above – and in relation to what Latvia has sent in recent years, there is definitely potential for a reversal of fortunes here! They have previously experimented with rap, soul, novelty and the kind of undefinable style exhibited in Aisha’s much-maligned 2010 effort. This year’s competing candidates would all bring something new to the table for Latvia, especially considering that their last *decent* result was the Pirates back in 2008. Ouch.

All LTV really need is a qualification. I for one, am pleasantly surprised yet shocked to find that they’re still here after propping up the bottom of the semi-final table for five consecutive contests. This year’s Dziesma final is made up of a number of songs which could indeed be *that* song to herald a long-awaited return to the final for the Baltic nation, all they have to do is pick the right one. Which, if you’re Latvia, is easier said than done.

Hungary: 

Hungary will select its entry on February 22nd
Hungary will select its entry on February 22nd

Ahh, Hungary. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that they were the most tentative name on the participants list year on year, especially in 2011, where they got to the first week of March without having revealed a single detail about their participation in Düsseldorf other than the fact that they were going to be present. In fact, 2014 will see them take part for an unprecedented FOURTH consecutive year, something which has actually never happened before if you look back at their ESC history.

From such an almost apathetic background, it’s somewhat surprising but undeniably encouraging to see that Hungary’s “A Dal” competition has rapidly developed into one of the most highly-anticipated national finals of the calendar in the three short years since its initiation in 2012; attracting big-name artists and phenomenal viewer interest both from domestic and international audiences. Amazing. And not without merit either. A really unique selection process, with a refreshingly different structure and a largely high standard of entries, MTV have swiftly ensured that Hungary is one of the annual stalwarts in the fan conscience, thus promoting their nation’s music and culture as a secondary objective, and succeeding with flying colours.

This year’s competition has been running for around a month already, with Saturday night showcasing eight finalists who have made it through both the heats and the semifinals. This should, in theory, be the absolute best they have to offer. Have a listen to them here, all nicely collected into one article by wiwibloggs. 🙂

Reviews and Predictions:

James – Having followed A Dal as closely as possible (incredibly difficult considering that we’ve been prioritising actual national finals and thus I haven’t been able to see any of the actual shows so far) I’m already approaching this final with a certain degree of disappointment.

This is mainly due to the fact that Lilla Polyák didn’t make the final eight. Nor did Group’N’Swing. Nor did Ibolya Olah. Those three were rather brilliant, in my personal estimation, and as a result, I’m inherently underwhelmed by Saturday night’s final. That’s not to say there aren’t any good songs left, I just feel that the best ones have already been kicked out, and Hungary have given themselves more of a challenge when it comes to their eventual chances in Copenhagen.

Let’s start where everyone else will be. Kállay-Saunders, who is the out-and-out favourite to win the Hungarian ticket to Copenhagen. Having received a perfect score of 40 from the jury at the semi-final stage, he is without a doubt the one to beat,  and the song is most certainly a strong one. Very contemporary, very modern, whilst simultaneously coming across as authentic and original. I do like it, I mean, if selected, it would go about #4 on my personal ranking so far, so by no means would I be disappointed, but taking into account the musical merits of all eight, I do prefer Bogi and New Level Empire where the songs are concerned.

I’m loving Viktor Király’s 60-s throwback number too, which I can’t help but characterise as the male answer to “Caroban” (especially with THAT backdrop, I mean come on maaan…) and I think it’s the only one which might actually do better in the contest than Kállay-Saunders, given the chance. However, I do predict that A Dal 2014 has become a bit of a one-horse race, and the result on Saturday looks very likely to swing in favour of “Running”.

Rory – Right Hungary, you have a good choice of songs this year; let’s just hope you don’t screw it up! Eight songs in the NF, and a good few of them are actually good! Here, have a look at what I say:

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t really been paying attention to A Dal, so I’m not sure on how good people’s live vocals will be, but from the studio versions, I actually really love Kallay-Saunders and Bogi. Sure, ‘Running’ isn’t exactly the typical Eurovision song, but still it is a really good track and although the song is modern and that normally doesn’t tend to well, I think that it would be a good choice, for sure! Plus Bogi is a fantastic singer, and the song is actually really catchy, although she is a little like an Emmelie de Forest impersonator, especially in the music video for ‘We All’.

In terms of whom I don’t like, well, I think Viktor Király’s is pretty boring. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but if he does well, fair play to him. As for who I think would win, I think it’s almost obvious that it should be Kállay-Saunders or Bogi. I’ve explained why they’re great and to be honest, I think Europe would love them too! Also, if New Level Empire win alongside Bogi or Kállay, I’ll be pretty happy. Good luck Hungary!

Context:

At the time when we were writing our ‘Possible Artists’ series, neither of us knew very many ‘non-NF’ Hungarian singers to put forward, and as a result we didn’t put together an article for the country. Since then, however, I for one have found plenty of fantabulous songs from Hungary, from people who I will most certainly be suggesting for 2015, so watch this space!!

As for how the potential eight entries fit in with the last few years of Hungarian representation at Eurovision, it must be said that they have a tendency to be a little ‘quiet’ and unassuming; something which prospective entries like “Running” and “Running Out Of Time” would definitively put an end to! Not that that’s a problem of course, because – as ByeAlex proved last year – you don’t have to be brash and in-your-face to earn a surprise result at ESC. Anything could happen!

Spain: 

Spain will select its entry on February 22nd
Spain will select its entry on February 22nd

For the first time since 2011, Spain have opted for an out-and-out national final, whereby they’ll give us five acts competing against each other with one song each; something which has generated a great deal of positive acclaim from the fan community at large. There is definitely a buzz around the Spanish campaign for 2014, which in my opinion is EXACTLY what they need after the disappointment in Malmö. Having been plagued with rumours for the majority of the last six months, TVE have come up with a very respectable line-up, and hopefully the show this weekend will be executed in an enthusiastic manner which befits the five competing entries!

The revamped final versions of the songs were recently released, and can be listened to in full here.

Reviews and Predictions:

James – Only five songs to review, so this one should be relatively brief.

TEAM LA DAMA.

There.

Oh okay, only kidding. I can say without a doubt that “Estrella Fugaz” is my favourite song from the five, having an absolutely brilliant electronic instrumentation and a memorable hook to match. I absolutely adore it, not gonna lie, and it would shoot straight to the top of my ranking if it were chosen this weekend. I don’t, however, think that it would be the best choice results-wise for Spain. I’d love it, but I doubt the rest of Europe would respond as positively, and I think the same can be said for Jorge’s flamenco-inspired number (“Dile Que Lo Quiero” anyone?)

The male ballad by Ruiz is dreadfully boring, which only leaves the two screeching women who bookend the running order. Both Brequette and Ruth Lorenzo are attracting their fair share of fan attention, and whilst my snap reaction would be that they may cancel each other out, I can see one of the two running away with the ticket on Saturday night. As a song, I think I prefer “Dancing In The Rain”, despite the fact that the melody is EXTREMELY reminiscent of Kaliopi’s “Ti”, but I could see “Más” achieving an equally commendable result in Denmark, were it to go on and win.

Rory – Spain is actually taking the competition seriously this year! Who knew? There are five songs and well, they’re actually really good! I mentioned them in the Friday News article a couple of weeks back, but now ooh this is going to be fun!

Five songs, each of them so good. I actually think that Spain is going to have a tough choice this year. I actually like all of the songs. If I was to pick a favourite, it would have to be Brequette. Yes, she’s almost the fanwank of the NF, but you can see why. The song is like just as powerful as ‘Quedaté Conmigo’ and the fact she sings in English and she still sounds as soulful, dayum girl! Also, Ruth Lorenzo is a big favourite of mine too, but if I was honest, she doesn’t hold a candle to Brequette! Jorge…..he’s a beaut, and his song is actually really good too, he’s got a really soulful voice. Then with La Dama, it’s the one exception to modern music for me. Most of the time, I hate that sort of music, but now I actually really like it!

As for who I think will take the title, I think it’s going to be really tough, but I think if they give good vocals on the night, I have a feeling Brequette is going to walk it. People loved Pastora Soler and seeming as ‘Más’ is basically like ‘Quedaté Conmigo –Part II’, I have a feeling they are going to love it. If not, I hope Ruth wins it. She’s been in the rumour mill ever since Malmö ended, so just let her go to Eurovision, to stop all the rumours! Buena suerte España!

Context:

Rory compiled our selection of possible artists for Spain, highlighting Pablo Alboran and Ana Criado as his personal suggestions for the country. Neither were eventually involved in the national final, but Raul’s entry does bear the hallmarks of Pablo’s usual musical style, so perhaps the suggested genre will be selected if not the artist!

Spain, as a ‘Big Five’ nation, really do have nothing to lose when it comes to Eurovision. Their recent results have been pretty diabolical, with the exception of Pastora Soler’s much-lauded 10th place from Baku with what has become perhaps the epitome of the ‘fanwank ballad’ concept “Quédate Conmigo”. Two of their potential 2014 entries are in a similar vein to that song, as previously discussed, therefore would it be unreasonable to infer that history could repeat itself in Copenhagen? Stranger things have happened, it must be said…

Your Views:

Which of the Finnish or Swiss songs stand out to you?
Which of the Latvian, Hungarian or Spanish songs stand out to you?

Svana Lístí Agnarsdóttir from Iceland: Viktor Kiraly in Hungary, Brequette in Spain and Ralfs Eilands in Latvia. I hope these countries make the right choice! I’m going to be disappointed if they don’t make the right decision and i might have to like my own act! Dont make me do that!

Jack Cuffe from the United Kingdom: Ruth is my favourite in Spain 😀 I also really love Brequette too… I hope one of them win.

Susan Mathieson from Canada: Niko’s song is pretty poor in my opinion… Samanta should win  it’s her time!!! Or if I can’t have Samanta, then Dons would be okay (:

With a whopping three national finals to try and cover, it is perhaps unsurprising that the views are literally all over the place when related to this weekend. As we mentioned, Brequette and Ruth seem to be firm favourites in Spain, alongside Samanta Tina in Latvia, but is that reeeeally reflective of the entire fan community?

What are your thoughts ahead of this weekend’s “Super Saturday”? Don’t hesitate to leave us a comment below and tell us what you think!

(More on Tijana’s song presentation to follow!)

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