Nordic Music Review’s Guide to Eurovision 2021.
The guide that quite literally no-one asked for.
Maybe the long effects of lockdown are starting to get to me and I just need to get out more, but to me this years Eurovision is shaping up to be the most closely fought contest since Father Ted defeated Dick Byrne in A Song for Europe. We’ll start with the Nordic entries, which this year are mostly pretty strong. Mostly? Yes I’m looking at you Denmark...
Clearly Daði Freyr from Iceland is one of the favourites again for this year, but already we have a big complication due to a positive Covid test in the Icelandic camp – and they may not be able to perform the song live. Poor old Daði might be confined to watching himself on TV from his hotel room whilst eating pizza and getting slowly more sozzled on red wine, and there’s an irony there somewhere.
Anyway he returns this year with the dance pop ’10 Years’ (we featured the excellent video a few weeks back) and whilst it’s true that the song isn’t quite as memorable as last years I’m convinced they will charm audiences with their dance moves if they can perform live on Saturday night. I’m pretty sure he’ll finish in the top 5, and personally I’d just love him to win because Iceland has never won Eurovision, and Daði is just such a nice guy.
But from the Nordic region I actually think that Finland have the biggest chance of upsetting the odds, and at 100-1 even I’m tempted to have a couple of schillings on them myself. Their entry is Blind Channel with ‘Dark Side’ and they stormed to victory in the Finnish selection competition (Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu 2021), taking both the public vote and the International jury vote – a good indicator of broad appeal. They’re a post hardcore band who play ‘violent pop’, and even though I’m not sure that anything ‘violent’ is quite Eurovision, I think they’ll make a good impression with ‘Dark Side’, because it’s a thumping, melodic track that will definitely stand out – and also give those younger viewers with an alternative music taste something to vote for.
Of course Sweden have the pedigree for Eurovision victories, and their representative this year is Tusse, a former child refugee with the track ’Voices’. To me it’s a classic uplifting Eurovision type song and in interviews he comes across really well, but I’m not entirely sure that it quite has the power to stand out from the other similar style classic Euro pop songs. It has qualified for the final though, and I was pretty impressed with his performance last night.
Denmark meanwhile will perform at the 2nd semi-final on Thursday night, with Fyr & Flamme and their song "Øve os på hinanden" (‘Practice on each other’) after they narrowly won their Dansk Melodi Grand Prix selection competition, which ‘aimed to find a song that reflected Danish culture and identity’. I have no idea how electro pop song ‘Øve os på hinanden’ quite does that, and although the song reached the top of the Danish singles chart, I doubt it’ll reach anywhere near the top of the Eurovision leader board. If they can make the final.
Norway have an excellent reputation for making the Saturday night however, and TIX did exactly that last night with the song ‘Fallen Angel’. Behind TIX is songwriter and producer Andreas Andresen Haukeland, who has Tourette’s, and named after the nickname he was given at school. Writing music, he says was ‘his escape from loneliness’, and TIX became his alter ego, complete with fur, headbands and shades. I really hope he does well, his stage performance and costume will certainly light up the evening, it’s a warm melodic song with a trademark Eurovision key change. Not sure it’s quite the song to win, but it’s been a great Euro journey for Andreas and I’m looking forward to seeing his performance.
But of course, it’s not just about the Nordic regions, and whilst France is hotly tipped, the clear stand out song for me is from Italy. Their representative is Måneskin and they’re not only a really good band with a really good song in ‘Zitti e buoni‘, but they they have a sizeable following across Europe. One of our NMR ‘helpers’ is a huge fan and pointed them in my direction a while back, and she’s not even Italian – these guys have support across Europe.. Their song is a combination of rap and alternative / glam rock, with a youthful natural energy and the track is pretty relentless and powerful. I’m pretty sure they’ll be in the top 5 for sure.
Then there’s Malta, with personable 18-year-old singer Destiny, who has some experience of Eurovision stardom having won the Junior version of the competition back in 2015. She’s amother favourite for this year, but her song and performance of ‘Je Me Casse‘ didn’t quite excite me in the semi-final, and although she’ll do well on Saturday night, I’ll be astonished if she wins.
And what about the UK? James Newman seems a pretty down to earth chap, but his predictable Euro style song is one of the weaker entries that we’ve put forward in recent years (and that takes some doing), so I can’t see him faring much better than we did in 2019 when we came last - although I think Jenrik from Germany will be competing to avoid the ‘null points’ with his undoubtedly well intentioned but overly quirky and somewhat irritating ‘I Don’t Feel Hate’. Think of a cross between Jedward and Timmy Mallett and you’ll get the picture.
Ukraine however did create a stir with their offbeat electro folk track ‘Shum‘ courtesy of Go_A at the semi-final last night, and it really does have a tune that will grow on you, with the track wildly increasing in tempo at the end. But what about the lyrics? Well the official video language translation suggests the chorus in English is “Shum, get twined, get twined, shum get spread with periwinkle,”, which leaves even me somewhat speechless. Look out for that on Saturday night. And for the periwinkles.
For me Bulgaria are a much better Non Nordic tip, courtesy of a lovely song from young singer VICTORIA. For me this is the song for lockdown, addressing the anxiety that so many young people have faced isolated from friends, as well as love for their families - with her own personal experience at the heart of the performance. Another artist who should have performed in 2020, Victoria Georgiova will sit alone on the stage (I’m guessing) singing her really stripped down personal song ‘Growing Up is Getting Old’, which will be different to anything else you’ll hear on the night and surely will capture people’s imagination and hearts.
So where does that leave us? My heart says Daði and I really hope he’s there on Saturday night with his lovely Gagnamagnið, but if not then I guess Eurovision isn’t quite meant to be for him again this year, and whilst Måneskin from Italy will surely be right up there I’m going for a surprise with VICTORIA from Bulgaria taking home this years title.
But if you have a spare schilling or peso, then Blind Channel from Finland are definitely worth an outside bet.
The official Eurovision website is here.