A warning before we start. This review is being written by someone who currently has “Saule Riet” playing on repeat at an ungodly volume.
As noted in our preview article, Latvia were one of four nations to select their 2014 Eurovision entry tonight, with the Dziesma final being held in the town of Ventspils. Twelve songs competed, some of which were extremely good. Unfortunately, Latvia didn’t feel like sending something extremely good. Instead, they felt like what Eurovision really needed was this; our second cake song, and our second contrived *sing-along* country number of ESC 2014 to date:
So. *breathe, James, breathe*.
As I pointed out when we previewed the national final, Latvia’s problem is and always has been their apparent inability to vote for the best song in their national finals. We’ve had disappointment for absolute choons like “Banjo Laura” in the past, but tonight was in my opinion, THE biggest travesty since “Kertakäyttösydän” in Finland last month. They could have chosen the aforementioned “Saule Riet”, a fabulously bonkers techno-folk fusion performed by the adorably enthusiastic Olga un Ligo – without a doubt the best thing to come out of Latvia since “Tu Mani Iedvesmo“. Or, failing that, they could have sent Samanta Tina’s dramatic trance-inspired number “Stay”, or Myradiantu’s new-age electro rock “Going All The Way”, or even Katrina Bindere’s scandi-pop-ballad “Moment and Tomorrow”. But no. They decided, in their infinite wisdom, that the cheesy, irritating and quite frankly creepy “Cake to Bake” was called for instead. The guy looks constipated throughout the entire performance, and the chorus is anchored by – wait for it – “tek tek, goo goo tek tek”. I’m getting Hadise nightmares. I mean, it’s one thing to not send the best song… but to bypass so many good songs and send what has to be THE worst one in the lineup? Wow, Latvia, you’ve really excelled yourselves on this one.
I’m sure that legions of “Cake to Bake” fans would love to deconstruct my every view of this entry on account of its apparent chart relevance and authenticity – and I can imagine just the type of person who would hurl such statements at me too – but let me make this clear. Yes, Aarzemnieki won, fair and square. I am not disputing that. They did NOT, however, have the best song, and I do not need to like it just because it won. It IS contrived, and it IS annoying, and I would much rather listen to most of the other Latvian hopefuls any day. If you like it then fair enough, I’m glad you’re happy about it. But I personally find it one of the most loathsome musical creations currently set to appear in Copenhagen, and my opinion doesn’t have to be based on anything other than my personal taste.
Regardless of how distraught I am over the catastrophe that was the voting, I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Latvian show tonight. A lot more than I thought I would. And, in a word, it was all very cute. Here’s why:
- They started with an artist parade, where they made their way one by one through the audience. It was at this point that we realised just how small the venue actually was. Adorably small. It suddenly became an experience akin to watching a livestream of some local talent show staged in a community centre, the audience morphed into supportive family members, complete with fold-away metal chairs. All that was out of place was that great big flashy LED stage… and the cameras and stuff… but still, you get my point. It was somewhat small-scale when one considers it was a NATIONAL final, but that only served to make it all the more endearing.
- There were four presenters, one lady with a gravity-defying hairstyle, and three men in pastel suits who looked the spitting image of Kreisiraadio. Seriously. We had the one with the glasses, the one with the sweaty fringe, and the creepy one who reads out their votes. For three hours. Mental. At varying points throughout the evening, all four were crowding round the same iPad to read out their lines. Apparently the magic of autocue hasn’t reached the Baltics yet.
- I have no idea what the postcards were all about, but we met some complete randomers who were drawing all over camera lenses. There was unexplainable baking, there were unexplainable visits to the airport, unexplainable shopping trips…
- The lovely Ralfs Eilands (him of the sparkly jacket from PeR last year) made a return to the contest, having morphed into a politically-charged escaped convict in the intervening twelve months. Seriously. He went as far as burning a scrap of paper with Yanukovich’s name on it, on live TV. As you do.
- Markus Riva had an absolutely fabulous outfit, which I want. Preferably with him still inside it.
- Katrine Lukins was hilariously out of tune, and boy didn’t she know it.
- Surprise second place went to Dons, who I am pretty sure was in the first series of “Blackadder”… you know, the medieval one where they’re all a liiiitle bit special…
- We got Latvian adverts, which brought back terrifying flashbacks of MESC. Seriously. I feel a recurring “ROCS GROUP”/”VOH-DAH-FONE” nightmare coming on.
- Samanta Tina’s English pronunciation is officially worse than Alyona Lanskaya’s. And THAT takes some doing, ladies and gentlemen.
- I heard chanting for Olga. Lots of it.
- The audience being so small, we got pretty much the same people in each shot of them. Felt like I had a connection to them, they really were part of the show. So – and don’t get angry at me for this – certain members did start to stand out after about 50 shots…
Latvia will not qualify with this. Because it’s Latvia. And they are in semi-final one. And they have sent this monstrosity of a song.
It is such a shame, because the show tonight demonstrated that there is still a lot of love for the contest in Latvia, and after so many years of dire results, now would have been a brilliant time to finally pull a qualification out of the bag. Personal opinions aside, I doubt this one will manage it, for even if this is your musical cup of tea, just look at the big hitters Latvia are up against. Is anyone in their right mind really going to pick up the phone for this song when
Azerjibban have paid them to vote for whatever regurgitated Swedish crap they’ve come up with it’s up against countries like Russia, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Estonia? It will be an uphill struggle for this Latvian cake, that’s for sure. And rightly so. I should have been writing this article about Olga.
Ian Mack from the United Kingdom: Surely this wasn’t the best on offer!!!! Latvia really have completely lost the plot in ESC haven’t they?
Jose Mora from Mexico: Another year that Latvia say NO to the final of Eurovision …. HORRIBLE song 1/10
Jade Hill from the United Kingdom: So happy… was certain Dons was going to win with that snorefest. I wanted Ralfs to win overall but Cake to Bake the best in the Superfinal
In general, it seems the fans are not quite as venomous as I am, but still not exactly positive. “Cake to Bake” will, of course, have its fans, and I’m sure they’re thrilled that Aarzemnieki will be flying the Latvian flag in Copenhagen… are you one of them? Or do you think it’s as bad as I do? Either way, feel free to leave us a comment with your views below!