Eurovision 2021: First Impressions

• Series: Eurovision First Impressions • Tags: musicEurovisionEurovision 2021Europe

Eurovision 2020 was a massive disappointment.

It wasn't that the songs were bad, or that the artists weren't any good. It was that the entire contest was cancelled, and replaced by an abbreviated, bland but well-meaning tribute. Thanks, pandemic!

For 2021, apparently the show will take place no matter what. However, reusing any of 2020's songs is against the rules.

Tix is a fallen angel, trying to do good, but chained to his demons. Gotta love the literal interpretation here.
Tix is a fallen angel, trying to do good, but chained to his demons. Gotta love the literal interpretation here.

In this post, I listen to all 39 of these new songs for the first time, and write my impressions.

I may follow this up with a post that directly compares the 2021 songs to the 2020 songs, since two thirds of them are from the same artists. I will keep such comparisons to a minimum here.

These songs are roughly sorted by the order that they will be performed, but this table of contents should assist with warping to any particular song of interest.

This element did not display properly. Do you have JavaScript enabled?

Semifinal 1: First Half

Australia - Montaigne / "Technicolour"

Montaigne - Technicolour - Australia 🇦🇺 - Official Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Why is Australia in Eurovision again?

Oh, who cares. I have to love Montaigne's outfit, and make up. The relatable but kind of angsty lyrics, and the nice synth arpeggio in the build up.

Also, I love that the whole thing is staged on a pink triangle.

Let's be honest, the singing here isn't the strongest, but it's nice and emotional... except, of course, maybe a little too off-kilter. But I like the shakiness.

The chorus tries to take it up a notch with sort of throwback synth hits, and it's nice, but I don't like it quite as much as the verses and build up.

As for the bridge, key change, and climax... my goodness do they require serious vocal dexterity.

And... we don't quite get it.

Ranking: Not quite there, but damn close and damn promising

Belarus - Galasy ZMesta / TBA

Belarus are technically still in the competition, but their song submission was rejected for... well, having lyrical content that goes against the spirit of the competition.

The 2020 entrants turned out to be quite supportive of protests seeking to remove President Lukashenko from office, so he replaced them with a staunchly pro-government music group. The lyrics may seem relatively innocuous, but apparently they have quite strong meanings in the original Russian....

"I'll teach you how to dance to a tune
(not to be independent, to not have your own will)
I'll teach you how to take bait
I'll teach you how to walk along the line
(to strictly obey my will and do everything as ordered)
You'll be content, happy with everything

If Georgia's 2009 entry got rejected for the thinly disguised political sentiment of "We Don't Wanna Put In," then certainly this piece ought to have gotten rejected too.

Lukashenko suggests that they may submit another song but until that happens, they get a skip.

Ranking: There's literally no song here for me to listen to.

Ireland - Lesley Roy / "Maps"

Lesley Roy - Maps - Ireland 🇮🇪 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Oh boy, we're here for an uptempo soft rockish tune here, aren't we here.

It's anthemic, and it builds up nicely, even if it isn't my favorie style.

But, it's also definitely overproduced. Even the intro feels like it's drowning in layers of synth violins.

There's just a synthetic sheen that mars the proceedings, and I don't find the lyrics, melody, or performance to be memorable enough to compensate.

I do like the bridge, though.

Ranking: Ehh

Lithuania - The Roop / "Discoteque"

The Roop - Discoteque - Lithuania 🇱🇹 - Official Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

In the blue corner, my clear love for disco-influenced synth pop.

In the red corner, my dislike of The Roop's falsetto.

In the blue corner, the fantastic staging, costuming, and choreography. (The dancing here isn't anything that's perfect, but it is goofy and fun, and fits the concept to a tee.)

In the red corner again, I'm not a huge fan of the lyrics. I don't really get why someone would try so hard to convince another that they needed to discoteque... at home.

"By dancing on my own
I'm healing wounded soul"

Musically, this is solid but not exceptional. A mix of missteps and conventions with an occasionally brilliant flourish, like the high hats on the bridge which attain a rather unconventional timbre.

Ranking: Pretty good

North Macedonia - Vasil / "Here I Stand"

Vasil - Here I Stand - North Macedonia 🇲🇰 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Poor Vasil was just so sad.

He was positively devastated when the song competition was cancelled last year. (He makes sure to tell us all at the beginning of his music video.)

And, can I just say it's egotistical to complain about such a thing when you have been invited back for this year's competition, when numerous other musicians weren't... and when everyone else in this competition is in the same boat as you, and when... you know, a huge amount of senseless death has occurred.

Anyway, the point is, this setback inspired Vasil (musical genius that he is) to sit down at his piano and immediately come up with a brand new ballad that he just knew would be the song for Eurovision 2021.

What a guy.

So, this one is a ballad, a real over the top one.

The amazing vocal powerhouse that is Vasil, bending backwards to send the notes out with even more power.
The amazing vocal powerhouse that is Vasil, bending backwards to send the notes out with even more power.

Vasil doesn't appear to know what understatement is, and I suspect that if someone tried to explain it to him, he would have declared that he needed to do everything possible to avoid the dreadful fate of having a single understated moment in his song.

The arrangement brims with this overstatement. Strings, choruses, drums, etc. are grafted onto the track at moments when they really aren't necessary.

Meanwhile, the vocals manage English lyrics perfectly fine, but not stress patterns. It feels as if syllables get belted out at random sometimes.

Take for example the opening stanza, which is nearly incomprehensible:

"There are times when I remember back
Wish to hug the child about to crack
I'll tell him, Wait, you won't be long
Trust your heart and just stay strong"

As for the rest of video -- I love the overly theatrical moments in which Vasil seems to bend over backwards so he can belt out lines with as much force as possible... whilst standing in an empty museum.

Cut to an occasional shot of the orchestra, and that's it.

Overall, it's a really big, shapeless pile of ballad.

Ranking: A mess.

Russia - Manizha / "Russian Woman"

Manizha - Russian Woman - Russia 🇷🇺 - Official Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

This is an empowerment anthem, but not a run-of-the-mill one, that's for sure.

Blending rap music, Tajik folk, Russian folk, and an electronic dance breakdown, it's a bit like bits of ten songs mashed together. Not all of them work as well as others, but on the whole Manizha's comes across well as a genuinely talented and charismatic performer.

Lyrically, it mostly hits the mark, though I find the English hook of "You're strong enough to bounce against the wall" to not be as impactful as it might be. (No pun intended, right?)

The Russian lyrics are where the sentiment comes across best:

"What's going on over there? You beautiful girl
You are waiting for your knight in shining armor, you poor thing
You are 30 already, hello, where are your kids?
All in all, you are beautiful, but it would be nice to lose weight
Dress up in something longer, dress up in something shorter
You grew up without a father, do what he doesn't want you to
And are you sure you don't want to? (You don't, but you should)
Listen up, it's the truth, you and I are not a herd
Ravens, please go away"

Translation from LyricsTranslate

These lyrics are solid stuff, especially coming from Manizha, an advocate with an inspiring story and a lot of panache.

Overall, this is fun and enjoyable, but I do feel that it would be better if it were a tad more musically coherent.

Ranking: Good

Slovenia - Ana Soklič / "Amen"

Ana Soklič - Amen - Slovenia 🇸🇮 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

I've just realized that there are two songs in this competition named "Amen." Sheeeesh.

Anyway, please call Vasil and tell him this is how you write a ballad. Cause, this tune has basically the exact same concept as his, except it's coherent.

That said, I'm not a big fan of the chorus... "Hallelujah! We're glorious."

Oh, it's over the top, but... it has some understatement and sensible build up.

Anyway, I just want this to get more points than Vasil.

Ranking: Good ballad but a tad bland

Sweden - Tusse / "Voices"

Tusse - Voices - Sweden 🇸🇪 - Official Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

This has some interesting elements -- an intro with something like a bagpipe (which quickly disappears, barely making a return later on.)

Also, some of the synth sounds are really nice, but I feel like they've been EQ'ed down so that they aren't monster bass parts. They should be monster bass parts, IMHO. Go for broke guys.

The chorus really lets it down. It's just too sappy and predictable.

And when I say sappy and predictable, I mean that it rhymes "voices" with "choices" and "rain" with "rain."

"Can you hear a million voices
Calling out in the rain?
You know we got a million choices
So go get out and let it rain"

No, I can't.

Ranking: Not hitting the mark

Semifinal 1: Second Half

Azerbaijan - Efendi / "Mata Hari"

Efendi - Mata Hari - Azerbaijan 🇦🇿 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Samira Efendi, the Azerbaijani entrant clearly has a penchant for performing songs about women of history with four-syllable names, following up her 2020 song "Cleopatra" with this number about the Dutch spy and exotic dancer.

And is it a carbon copy of the last song? Well, even Samira says Mata Hari is "just like Cleopatra" in the lyrics, which are otherwise... about how she's a spy, sexy and dangerous, but also powerful.

This song has a big flaw. It's simply way too repetitive.

How many times do we hear Mata Hari's name, and the fact that she's just like Cleopatra?

However many it is, it is too many.

And for that matter, how exactly is Mata Hari just like Cleopatra? Please extrapolate, Samira. I'm struggling to grasp your theme, and starting to suspect that there isn't really one!

I do like the completely random guitar at the end, and the random folk music at the chorus, but that does not save it.

Ranking: Misses the mark

Belgium - Hooverphonic / "The Wrong Place"

Hooverphonic - The Wrong Place - Belgium 🇧🇪 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

The singer is hung over and miserable from a wild night, that she wants to forget, seeking alcohol, nicotine, and music...

But she's reminded of how she was partying and was not going to be taken in by random man's charms, but he had the best opening line...

"You're in the wrong place."

That is not a good opening line.

Come on, I was suspending my disbelief really well!

But apparently they like made love and fought. Woo hoo. What an eventful night.

It's a perfectly serviceable song, but perhaps one that hits badly after, oh, let's see... a full calendar year has passed since the last time I was at a bar.

By and far, the hammered dulcimer sounding thing in the back of the pre-chorus is the best part of the arrangement.

Oh, and the line "Don't you ever dare to wear my Johnny Cash T-shirt" has too many syllables and too little emphasis to be remotely impactful.

(Which doesn't stop them from using it three or four times.)

Ranking: Needs more dulcimer / forgettable

Croatia - Albina / "Tick-Tock"

Albina - Tick-Tock - Croatia 🇭🇷 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Observation number one: Albina is no Ke$ha, and "Tick-Tock" is no "Tik Tok."

With that shocking observation out of the way, what we have here is a well-executed electropop song. Though, the chorus's initial appearance, without its '90s-inspired drum loop is a misstep that threatens the song's momentum.

Lyrically, from listening to the song I'm a little confused about what's going on.

I guess they alternate between a faltering relationship, which Albina tries to keep intact by going dancing, but which only deteriorates more, and a time afterwards when she has found freedom and strength being free of her bad lover. Not the worst of messages.

The music video muddies things much further, by stringing together settings and costumes with no logic other than that it seemed cool. It's mostly a joyous piece of nothing. Though a few set pieces, like the random youth standing around on TV's showing Albina singing are a bit less successful than others. The one thing that the song throws in pretty late, which I would have liked more of, is a bit of singing in Croatian.

It sounds great, works nicely, and I would have loved for more Croatian. Ah, well.

Ranking: Pretty good

Cyprus - Elena Tsagrinou / "El Diablo"

Elena Tsagrinou - El Diablo - Cyprus 🇨🇾 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

This is an electropop song about how Elena just happened to fall in love with El Diablo. She explains why quite early on, and repeats her reason quite a few times:

"because he tells me I'm his angel"

Oh, how romantic.

There's some decent beats in here, and though the individual parts of the song don't quite fit together, it has enough momentum that this can get overlooked.

This song has one Achilles heal that I can't overlook. I think the chorus (which also opens the track in a more understated arrangement) really is lacking in melody.

This one is going to try to eek by on controversy and sex appeal, but I don't think it has enough substance to go along with it.

Ranking: Blech

Israel - Eden Alene / "Set Me Free"

Eden Alene - Set Me Free - Israel 🇮🇱 - Song Release - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Oh look, it's a disco song about how Eden will make it on her own.

And, she's definitely charming.

Definitely, I like the more ethnically influenced elements of the arrangement, particularly the interplay between the bass and strings when they're there.

Unfortunately, the song is a tad too repetitive and feels like it lacks a bit of inspiration after the build, but overall, it's certainly likeable.

Ranking: Enjoyable

Malta - Destiny / "Je Me Casse"

Destiny - Je Me Casse - Malta 🇲🇹 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

So, Destiny, vocal powerhouse, returns after last year's gospel-inspired number with... a female empowerment anthem, which is also an electro-swing number, with the soulful vocals.

Oh, and unlike everyone else in Eurovision, she throws in a random French phrase instead of Spanish.

The lyrics are reminiscent of Netta's "Toy," the 2018 winner, but musically, this is unlike any other 2021 entry.

This could be a real contender, and definitely deserves to be one.

Ranking: Stannable af

Norway - Tix / "Fallen Angel"

TIX - Fallen Angel - Norway 🇳🇴 - Official Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Oh my gosh, the staging for this is just absolutely perfect.

Just click play on the video and look at this costuming and staging. I'm not going to bother describing it.

As for the song, well, it's a bit of a ballad-ish soft pop song, which reminds me a bit of boybands, but which is definitely contemporaneous.

I love the harmonies, some of which are kind of completely pointless.

The song doesn't throw any curveballs, but it's pretty much perfectly written and arranged, and ingeniously staged.

Ranking: Totes stannable

Romania - Roxen / "Amnesia"

ROXEN - Amnesia - Romania 🇷🇴 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

"Self-love amnesia" doesn't seem like much of a hook, but hey, it works in the context of this track, an emotional downtempo electronic pop song.

This is nicely written and performed. It's a little too repetitive, but whatever.

Love the final video title card "for every shout that went unheard."

Hopefully this gets some killer staging and performance, otherwise, it'll sink.

Ranking: Very good

Ukraine - Go_A / "Шум"

Go_A - SHUM - Ukraine 🇺🇦 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Go_A bring it!

Both in the video, which takes Mad Max-eseque aesthetics, and transforms them into a rave in the middle of a snowy field, and the song which is itself a feat of astonishing alchemy, blending Ukraninan folk and electronic dance music with such skill that the guitar and flute parts don't feel like tacked on additions, but rather like integral parts of a truly original song.

Destiny's song, good though it is, reminds me of things which came before it. This one is peerless.

Ranking: I am seriously impressed

Semifinal 2: First Half

Austria - Vincent Bueno / "Amen"

Vincent Bueno - Amen - Austria 🇦🇹 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Thank goodness the two "Amen" songs aren't in the same semifinal. Maybe if they both get through to the final, the Europenan song commission can make Vincent and Ana perform "Amen" and "Amen" back to back...

So, what do we have here? A ballad?

Yeah, it is. Vasil, eat your heart out. Here's another contestant doing a better ballad than you!

So, this one is about how Vincent's lover left him, and it feels to him like a funeral.

Quoth the chorus:

"But amen, amen
Tell me, is this what you wanted?
Tell me, is this what you wanted?"

I don't know about you, but I don't go around screaming Amen at funerals. I hope Vincent doesn't get invited to mine, he might disturb the other mourners.

Ranking: Good ballad but a tad bland.

Czech Republic - Benny Cristo / "omaga"

Benny Cristo - omaga - Czech Republic 🇨🇿 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

I was really hoping "omaga" would be... well, a word in a lanaguage that wasn't English.

I wasn't expecting it to be "oh my god" as in:

"Oh my god, you're so beautiful
Why don't you let me have it?"

So, what we have here is a funky number, which goes through the right moves, including a smattering trap-ish beat in the pre-chorus, but on the whole, it's kind of uninspired with crappy lyrics.

A shame, as it has baselines I'd like to get down to.

Ranking: Misses the mark

Estonia - Uku Suviste / "The Lucky One"

Uku Suviste - The Lucky One - Estonia 🇪🇪 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Oh, this is really cheesy.

I love it.

We've got the kind of eighties-inspired octave alternating baseline in the late chorus, and synths drenching the thing, and initial verses that just throw a few more adjectives that rhyme on things than we need.

"Wonder if it ever crossed your mind
That what we had was really unbelievable
Unbeatable, a miracle

Why'd you have to go and mess it up?
Why'd you have to make what was unbreakable
Shakeable, unsavable"

Ah yeah, so the song is about how Uku had amazing miraculous love, and this girl broke his heart. But actually he's a brilliant guy who's going to be better off alone cause the girl doesn't really know him.

And actually, he's lucky he's getting dumped cause he's just so brill.

Whatever. Dude still has a smaller ego than Vasil.

Ranking: Aw yeah, this is the stuff

Greece - Stefania / "Last Dance"

Stefania - Last Dance - Greece 🇬🇷 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

This is a good uptempo pop song, but I don't think it's anything super exceptional.

The elements I like the most, for example, the drum beats and strings in the chorus, are counter-balanced by elements I dislike, like a lot of oh-oh-oh's.

Still, it's catchy and uptempo, and depending on the staging and performance could do well.

Ranking: Good

Iceland - Daði og Gagnamagnið / "10 Years"

Daði og Gagnamagnið - 10 Years - Iceland 🇮🇸 - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

This works a lot better than I think it should. Essentially, it's a disco song about how Daði just really loves his wife, and is amazed that their 10 years of marriage have been so wonderful.

But you know, it's a well-written song, that's mostly on the right side of heartfelt rather than sappy, and it just has a nice energy and vibe about it.

If this won, I wouldn't be disappointed.

Ranking: Very nice

Moldova - Natalia Gordienko / "Sugar"

Natalia Gordienko - SUGAR - Moldova 🇲🇩 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Okay, so before I heard this, I did hear that this was somewhat K-Pop like in its drop. But, its drop is more K-Pop meets John Barry James Bond orchestration, with the brass and strings, and it's nice.

The aggressive flanging on the pre-chorus is also a really nice production touch.

I don't know that I'm super in love with the song's lyrical thrust, if you will, namely that Natalia really needs some dude's "sugar," but hey, at least we have a horny woman instead of a horny man this time.

Ranking: Stannable

Poland - Rafał / "The Ride"

RAFAŁ - The Ride - Poland 🇵🇱 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Bleepy, bloopy snyth pop is one of my favorite genres.

I delight in the bass arpeggios, and occasional synth fills. We're in full '80s throwback mode.

But the song has virtually no momentum, or variation. The vocals are a bit characterless, but equally important is the instrumentation, which doesn't really differentiate itself too much in the different sections of the song.

Oh, and just to make sure there's nothing to wake up for, the video is one note too. Rafał wanders at night passing the same damn neon signs ad nauseum, and occasionally encountering dancing girls who naturally throw themselves at him. Unfortunately, I think he has all of the charisma of a man in an AXE deodorant commercial before the application of the deodorant, so this definitely is incomprehensible.

If this is "the ride of my life" than I shudder to think what a boring day in my life looks like.

Ranking: Should be a lot better than it is.

San Marino - Senhit / "Adrenalina"

Senhit - Adrenalina - San Marino 🇸🇲 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

San Marino's last tune for Eurovision proper (aka 2019) was a Turkish dentist who smoked too many cigarettes encouraging people to "be the hero, be the rainbow, and say na na na."

This time, they've roped in well-known American rapper Flo Rida in a supporting role. How the times change!

And, Senhit (our main star) brings it! This is a real bop, and it hits all the right notes and knocks it out of the park. The Flo Rida feature helps, but the song is sold without it.

For a niggling critique, I'm a bit tired of songs that repeat their one word chorus incessantly. This one doesn't overdo it, but it does do it.

Anyway, San Marino brought their A game. Believe the hype.

Ranking: Stannable

Serbia - Hurricane / "Loco Loco"

Hurricane - LOCO LOCO - Serbia 🇷🇸 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

This is a proper energetic dancepop bop from Serbia. It brings the energy, and it brings a lot of theatrics.

Parts of it are really reminiscent of last year's track, and I wish this one was a bit more distinct.

My favorite part is the bassy synth fill that introduces the pre-chorus.

Oh, and the dance breakdown.

Basically, if I didn't like trashy balkan pop music as much as I do, I'd rank this lower.

Ranking: Very good

Semifinal 2: Second Half

Albania - Anxhela Peristeri / "Karma"

Anxhela Peristeri - Karma - Albania 🇦🇱 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

First off, Anxhela has pipes, especially demonstrated in the ballad like first half of this song, which also has a really nice first drop, and rebuild. It's chock full of traditional instrumentation, something I wish I had heard a bit more of in other entries.

The second drop goes a bit overboard in a different direction, and consequently the whole thing comes across as a tad unfocussed.

There's some good stuff in there though.

Ranking: Good, but could have been better

Bulgaria - Victoria / "Growing Up Is Getting Old"

VICTORIA - Growing Up Is Getting Old - Bulgaria 🇧🇬 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

I love the title. I like the strings. The song is well-arranged.

However, I find it a bit too cloying for my taste.

It is, however, really well done. The parts of the strong flow into each other well. The bass has a nice presence on the track, and provides a good counterpart to the other elements.

I'm just not a big fan.

Ranking: Not my cup of tea

Denmark - Fyr & Flamme / "Øve os på hinanden"

Fyr & Flamme - Øve Os På Hinanden - Denmark 🇩🇰 - Official Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Okay, so there have been a lot of artsits who have used retro throwbacks as part of their songs.

I swear, these guys, just want to live in like the late '70s or early '80s or something.

Like this is unfathomably out of touch with... well, anything that aren't soaring disco strings, piano fills referencing "Dancing Queen" and so on.

And the thing is, I could like it, but I feel like it goes for broke just too much on being soft.

If it emphasized the drama, if it had substance, we could go somewhere.

Instead, it feels like the closest thing to a tribute band.

Ranking: Total miss

Finland - Blind Channel / "Dark Side"

Blind Channel - Dark Side - Finland 🇫🇮 - Official Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Oh my goodness. This is a change of pace. A nu-metal band singing about their dark side, with lines encouraging the audience to put up their middle fingers. Is it 2003 or something?

The level of wannabe darkness is just cheesy as all get out.

I'm in a cave of man-made misery
Digging a grave for myself and my enemies
Of all the dark things that keep me wasted
You're the sweetest I've ever tasted

It's not a bad tune, but I was pretty done with hearing the chorus about 2/3 of the way through.

So, it's a good change of pace, but it's too repetitive for me to rank it higher.

Ranking: Okay

Georgia - Tornike Kipiani / "You"

Tornike Kipiani - You - Georgia 🇬🇪- Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

The organ and acoustic guitar in the first verse is a nice combination. The whole song is very nicely instrumented, building up while maintaining its soft power.

This is a better ballad than... Vincent Bueno. He could take some notes here. Like this is definitely original.

The lyrics are definitely a tad clunky.

"I wanna hear
I wanna feel
and I wanna be with you."

Probably the saving grace here is that the "you" here feels almost like an abstract idea, like love or something else.

This is understated, but warm and pleasant, and fresh. It isn't earth shattering, but it's solid.

Ranking: Nice

Latvia - Samanta Tīna / "The Moon Is Rising"

Samanta Tina - The Moon is Rising - Latvia 🇱🇻 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Well, we have some vocal theatrics, and occasional flamenco-inspired elements. I dig the acoustic guitar.

The rest doesn't quite hold together.

It has some decent female empowerment vibes, but I'm not really into the whole "the queeeeeeeeeeeen of the niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight is coooomiiiing" shtick.

Ranking: Miss

Portugal - The Black Mamba / "Love Is on My Side"

The Black Mamba - Love Is On My Side - Portugal 🇵🇹 - Official Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

I'm not a huge fan of the Black Mamba's vocal stylings.

As a ballad, this is totally fine. The acoustic guitar works well, but it's a bad sign that the staging and vibe were reminding me of Denmark.

I do think the chorus works well, as does the electric guitar solo.

So, even though it's not my cup of tea, it does succeed at its own modest goals.

Ranking: Meh

Switzerland - Gjon's Tears / "Tout l'Univers"

Gjon's Tears - Tout l’Univers - Switzerland 🇨🇭 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

The piano in this is really, really nice. So are the vocals and the arrangement.

This really succeeds at being a moody, ethereal ballad. It has a zippy music video too.

Yeah, good job, Switzerland!

Ranking: Stannable

Automatic Finalists

For those who don't know, when the competition got to be too big, the format was altered so that countries would need to qualify for the Eurovision final.

However, the countries that fund the European Broadcasting Union the most, as well as the competition's host country (the Netherlands in 2021), automatically get included in the final.

This is certainly not indicative of their quality...

France - Barbara Pravi / "Voilà"

Barbara Pravi - Voilà - France 🇫🇷 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Oh no, it's another French-language ballad with nice piano. Did I give too many points to Gjon because I heard his ballad before this one?

No, this one moves in a very different direction, with lower-register strings, more defined arpeggios, and a more spirited and characterful vocal performance, and an increasing tempo.

It's dynamic, and it's got a lot of nice stuff going on.

Towards the end I was almost starting to feel that it was suffering from "repeat the title word too much" syndrome, but it ended at the right time.

Ranking: Excellent

Germany - Jendrik / "I Don't Feel Hate"

Jendrik - I Don't Feel Hate - Germany 🇩🇪 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

The title does not inspire confidence.

And good god, does this deliver on... well, I'm not even sure what it delivers on.

So, it's aiming for twee ukulele pop tune about how Jendrik can't be worn down.

But, it also has a completely incongruous drop/chorus with electric guitar and fake horns and shit going wild.

It's too self-conscious and twee, and positively obnoxious. It's definitely trying too hard.

What I find damnable is the level of repetition in the song, which is just way too high, and the "cheery ukulele" parts which are just insipid.

Ranking: Hell no

Italy - Måneskin / "Zitti e buoni"

Måneskin - ZITTI E BUONI (Official Video – Sanremo & EUROVISION 2021 Winners)
Click to load YouTube video.

Like Finland, Italy have elected to send a rock song. And it's not a nu-metal song.

I like the distorted bass parts which function nicely as riffs. The bridge and the fills are definitely my favorite part of the song.

But, I'm not big on the vocals which seem to alternate between rough rock singer and spitting out as many Italian syllables as possible.

I don't think that this really has a catchy melody, or much that's all that memorable about it besides the sound, which is commonplace outside of Eurovision.

Still, I'm sure it'll be a good palate cleanser during the final.

Ranking: Meh

The Netherlands - Jeangu Macrooy / "Birth Of A New Age"

Jeangu Macrooy - Birth Of A New Age - The Netherlands 🇳🇱 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

First off, I absolutely love "your rhythm is rebellion" as a hook. Even if it gets repeated a little too often. Frankly, it has some great lyrics:

"We are the fruit born in the legacy
Of every forgotten revolutionary
Born in resilience, proud like a lion
We are the birth of a new age"

Macrooy is a Surinamese artist, and sings the chorus in creole, which is a cool touch.

Unfortunately, it's also the chorus that lets it down a bit. It basically kills the momentum that's built up in the verses.

But, I like that it's trying to do something different.

Ranking: Should be better

Spain - Blas Cantó / "Voy a quedarme"

Blas Cantó - Voy A Quedarme - Spain 🇪🇸 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

I heard the piano starting, and I was worried I might end up declaring myself a fan of piano ballads in romance languages more generally and not just French.

Well, this starts out a nice ballad. Not as good as the French ones though.

It's seriously marred by... well, the robotic backing vocals going a-a-a-a-a in the latter part of the song, which are frankly irritating.

It's also less original or unique or interesting than those.

Ranking: a-a-a-a-aghghregh

United Kingdom - James Newman / "Embers"

James Newman - Embers - United Kingdom 🇬🇧 - Official Music Video - Eurovision 2021
Click to load YouTube video.

Newman goes for ballad/electronic dance pop hybrid. And, it's not a bad mix. If anything, it's maybe a little too disjointed.

However, no amount of guys with saxophones and Mustang driving in the music video can distract from the generic sappiness of the lyrics. Talk about cliched.

"We're cool under pressure, and that's all we need
So take my hand, and forget the past
We're in this together, there's no looking back"

So, I like the brass and the drop, but overall, it doesn't work. It has a lot of nice elements but it lacks inspiration and passion, and most importantly originality.

Ranking: Okay

Overall Thoughts

So, there are a lot of strong contenders this year, as well as some boring songs, some bad songs, and some songs that hit the mark.

From my initial listen. I find myself rooting the most for Ukraine, followed by Norway, Malta, and San Marino, with Australia, Croatia, Moldova, and Switzerland bubbling up. If any one of these countries wins, I'll be super stoked.

France, Lithuania, Iceland, and Serbia also put in strong showings, while Estonia, Georgia, Israel, Romania, and Russia have good potential as well.

Austria, Greece, the Netherlands, and Slovenia all have good elements but are a bit bland.

I think that Albania, Bulgaria, Finland, North Macedonia, and Sweden all miss the mark by a bit, while the Czech Republic, Latvia, Portugal, and the UK miss the mark a lot.

I'm quite disappointed with Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus, Ireland, Poland, and Spain, and actively dislike Denmark and Germany.

But again, those are my impressions from one listen of each song, and they're subject to change given the actual quality of staging and performance.

I'm excited for the competition and looking forward to its return.

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy these 5 similar posts: