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Eurovision 2019: United Kingdom

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: United Kingdom.

Country: United Kingdom
Singer: Michael Rice
Song: Bigger Than Us
Personal Score: 34 out of 41
My Prediction: Auto Qualifier

I have to say that Michael is a wonderful singer and I hope he continues to nurture his talents for years to come. That being said, this song is bland. The fun fact about this song is that its written by the performer from Sweden which is neat and everything but this is kind of the problem with all of the UKs songs in the past few years – all of which have been sourced from other countries. The good people of the UK actually speak English and have many talented composers among their ranks but all we get are these absolutely disconnected songfest songs from people outside the UK. They remain, as Bigger Than Us does, completely void of emotion or meaning. Michael tries to pour his absolute most into this song and his vocal performance but with lyrics like “Hear these words that I sing to you” and ” I will make it clear, it’s me and you” there’s nowhere to go. About 50% of the lyrics in this song are just the word “bigger”. There are all sorts of conspiracy theories about what this song might be about (Brexit! May! How the UK doesn’t want to be in Eurovision!) because this song is, at the end of the day, meaningless.

It’s not even bigger than that so I don’t see how it’ll do anything but scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Eurovision 2019: The Netherlands

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: The Netherlands.

Country: The Netherlands
Singer: Duncan Laurence
Song: Arcade
Personal Score: 3 out of 41
My Prediction: Q

Gun to my head: This is the Eurovision 2019 winner. I’m sure I’ll eat those words in no time but as of this moment, having heard all the songs and having heard most of them live, this is it.

There are a lot of ways to pick a winner at Eurovision but the pattern has been clear: if a girl wins then a boy wins the next year, if a happy song wins, a sad song wins the next year, absolutely memorable personality on and off stage, and personal connection, personal connection, personal connection!

We’ve had a really strong streak of winners with this criteria and this song and Italy’s song are the only two that really seem to fit the patterns and if I had to bet money: the jury is going to eat this song up with a spoon because Duncan Laurence’s vocals are spot on.

It’s hard to describe how his live performance of this song completely turned me around from “oh this is a song” to “HELL YES GO NETHERLANDS! MAKE THAT SAD BOY CRY!”

There is something powerful and beautiful about how his soft, lilting falsetto transitions into this extremely powerful orchestral moment and it makes me live orchestras at Eurovsion just a little. I think this song has the potential to really worm its way into peoples hearts and so I expect it to easily hit the top 5 at the very worst with a tentative “see you in Amsterdam next year” tacked on for good measure.

Eurovision 2019: Switzerland

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: Switzerland.

Country: Switzerland
Singer: Luca Hänni
Song: She Got Me
Personal Score: 27 out of 41
My Prediction: Q

This is probably the most in risk of shocking people by not qualifying because it’s so likely that this is going to TANK with jury and the viewer vote will have to save him and he’s in the much more difficult semifinal. It’s such a shame but this is a fun bop and Luca will likely lean into a big dance number with probably some fire / confetti / stage effects that should make a fun song into a total number. Luca isn’t a bad singer but I get the feeling he’s trying to channel his best Justin Timberlake and he’s falling far short of that and hitting more of a Justin Beiber vibe.

The song is kind of half-way between Fuego and Despicito so it’s not in a bad position to be widely enjoyed and liked. I think the problems kick in when the chorus hits because it’s hard to remember the words and at the end of the song I forget its name and most of the song. The other problem is that the song is kind of sleezy in a strange way and it might not read well for older audiences / jury. I think “She Got Me” isn’t an effective title either, it makes it disconnected from the strongest riff of the song and they would have done a lot better to call the song Dirty Dancing. Regardless, I’m optimistic that his dancing will pass him narrowly into the final because this is the most interested I’ve been in a Swiss song in years.

Eurovision 2019: Sweden

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: Sweden.

Country: Sweden
Singer: John Lundvik
Song: Too Late for Love
Personal Score: 16 out of 41
My Prediction: Q

Sweden looked at Austria 2018 and said “I’ll have what he’s having.” For the most part this song does work but it’s a little too off-kilter for me to really enjoy it. I think John might want to work on his delivery more than his vocals (vocals are spot on, he’s got a really nice voice though its not unique enough for me to really point out anything specific just a solid singer). The actual choir appearing on stage is a mixed bag for me and it feels somehow not enough but also kind of pandering at the same time. I don’t think this song is as musically interesting as it could be and the choir seems almost written around instead of part of the song but its pleasant enough and memorable enough that I had no trouble humming it just a day or two after I first heard it which is always a good sign. Sweden will no doubt get a top 10 placement but I found the national final staging to be…too understated for such a bombastic song. I want them to pull out even more stops and it tighten the song up but I suspect that Sweden is too WYSIWYG for that and destined to land at 9th or 10th in the final because of it.

Eurovision 2019: Spain

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: Spain.

Country: Spain
Singer: Miki
Song: La Venda
Personal Score: 20 out of 41
My Prediction: Auto Qualifier

Secretly hate how much I don’t entirely hate this song. This song is basically like if you sat someone down and asked them to write the most hyperbolic song about the sterotypes of Spain. The weird part is that it kind of works. At first you just laugh at it but Miki has a real effortless kind of charm and the chorus is just so catchy and easy to sing. There’s a danger in singing in not-English which is that your audience won’t understand your message if you speak your own language very complexly and since you can’t vote for your own country this can be a real harm if the language politics of your country also mean that your language is seen as “bad” or “other”. Spanish doesn’t quite have those markers on it but keeping this song to very simple, easy to understand and easy to replicate phrases means that they’ve bypassed those barriers all together and made a song everyone can yell.

This is going to sound mean but stick with me. This song is “Do It For Your Lover” but in Spanish. The thing is if you listen to “Do It For Your Lover” you’ll come out the other side being able to sing that one phrase. It’s a good trick. Everyone can sing that part. In the same way many Eurovision songs include whistles, clapping, odd noises, etc. to universally draw people in, its just that Do It For Your Lover did it clumsily and alienated its audience in both tone and attitude of the performers where La Venda does it by telling everyone to dance and celebrate. Honestly, not a bad showing for Spain and probably would qualify even if they weren’t in the Big 5. (Reminds me a bit of What’s the Pressure from Belgium, might end up opening the final if the cards fall right).

Eurovision 2019: Slovenia

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: Slovenia.

Country: Slovenia
Singer: Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl
Song: Sebi
Personal Score: 31 out of 41
My Prediction: Q

I don’t get it.

There you go, its my hottest take. Maybe I am THE OLD now but this is completely and totally baffling to me and there is almost nothing about it that makes me feel comfortable saying its a song. I’ve read the lyrics and I think they are very nice and beautiful but the actual song is just a cleverly disguised ASMR video that they occasionally preform live as far as I can tell. This flat sing-speaking is actually becoming more and more popular and it lives side by side with “overly tuned vocals to the point of not quite human” as some of my least favorite trends in music today. If they do the same stage performance as they did at EMA I except the jury to be completely turned off and the audience to enjoy whatever it is the audience at EMA was tuning into. I’m always happy to see things outside the box show up at Eurovision so I’m not mad but this is never going to be for me. As far as I’m concerned this is more performative art than song which is fine but since the performance isn’t doing anything for me I’ll have to give it a pass.

Anxiety.

I was born anxious. Or at least as far back at anyone can remember I’d been anxious. My mother often recounted to me a story of when I was in first grade wherein we had a homework assignment to make a diorama over the course of a week. In this tale, I picked over each piece of it for days on end, barely sleeping. I became unsatisfied in my unsteady hands and less than stellar creativity and would move pieces around inside the small box for hours. Finally when the end of the week came and it was time to take the creation to school I promptly burst into tears fearing that my handiwork would somehow be crushed on the bus ride to school. All the while insisting the project was not good enough to even be brought to school and that somehow, on top of all these things, I was faulty.

And the truth is, I was faulty. I was short circuiting. I was a blinking warning light with no calamity. I was a blaring fire alarm without smoke.

There’s nothing to indicate that before that age I was somehow better or carefree or without anxiety either so I have to conclude I was born that way. Simply born anxious. And that was all. I’m sure what came after didn’t help but I don’t think it made me, I think I always was. Sprang full formed out of the box going off like a siren.

A few years later was the first time anyone clued me in that there might be some letters attached to what I would have just called “an internally swirling mass of anxiety and existential dread” that I felt on a daily basis. I assumed most of my feelings were teenage angst or hormones or maybe a combination of good old fashion awkwardness coupled with moving away from everything you know one too many times but it turned out that almost no one else was experiencing what I was. That I was alone in the center of noisy panic that was my mind.

Not to be dramatic (because I rarely think of myself in a dire way) but the realization that other people don’t wake up completely full of dread and wondering if they will even see the next day is still a strange concept to me. I wake up every day experiencing feelings of failure and emptiness and anxiety before anything has even happened to invoke them. There is no routine that really stops them. There are no magic words to be said and no actions to be taken. Being alive invokes the anxiety and because of that, I make my weird compromises with it.

I would say in a way I’ve made a kind of peace with it, and that’s true to some extent, but in reality it’s not as nice and neat as it sounds. Life is just a series of compromises I am constantly making, all of them a russian roulette where I eventually draw the short straw. Anxiety is. It looms and waits. Even when I’m happy or in the middle of something I enjoy anxiety is slowly wearing me down in the background, underneath it all. It robs me of joy and sometimes of feeling anything at all. I do things despite it because we live in a symbiotic relationship together and always have and probably always will. It gets in the way of my marriage, my friendships, my jobs, my shopping, my writing, my workouts, and even in the way of my binge TV watching. I know many people have written about anxiety before and even about my flavor(s) of anxiety but I think it bears repeating. Because in the hilarity of all this, my anxiety specifically likes repeating. More than anything else repeating lives inside me with the anxiety. It lives in the rituals and routines I find myself looped into. It lives in the same thought played out thousands of times a day, the same note hummed under my breath, the same movement, the same word, the same numbers tapped on the end of my fingers. And it to let it repeat only staves off the anxiety for mere minutes or sometimes only seconds before it swallows up the rest of my brain. And then it repeats. And then it repeats.

But I have spent a lifetime managing the repeating, a lifetime managing the anxiety. CBT works sometimes, yoga works sometimes, finding a quiet place alone and screaming works sometimes, but nothing really works. Things work for an hour, for a day and then at the end of whatever ticking clock I managed to pause: it resumes as if it had never stopped at all and the anxiety returns. The anxiety returned on medicine. The anxiety returned when I did nothing. It returned when I did something. It returned so hard when I did all the somethings that I curled in to a ball and waited to starve. It didn’t wax and wane with the moon or the sun or the stars or other people or the things I could hold and the things I could not hold. Instead I live with my anxiety in the same way so many people cease to make peace with the thing that kills them. I voice my vulnerability. I cry. Sometimes I lay in bed and hope to get hit by lightning but I go on after that.

I do what needs to be done. Because my anxiety is a bargain. It’s a burden to hold but it’s just the load that I carry in exchange for being alive. Not because of deserving it or not deserving it, but simply because things are. And we do the best what we’re given.

Minds are funny though because looking back I can erase my anxiety from the memories. I can just remember how it felt to be loved or to be kissed. To hold hands, to laugh out loud. The anxiety was there in the picture with me, ruining the moment, but looking backwards it’s as if some strange entity could have erased it all along, leaving just the pure emotion. As all the creases could be simply smudged out of the picture. Like there is a me inside who could be reset and restored.

I can imagine a life without anxiety but it’s more like a creative fantasy where nothing is different except your insides don’t feel like someone is squeezing them. Nothing is different but when you smile you’re not trying to convince yourself of anything. You’re not playing a part. You’re not “faking it til you make” to the sound of yourself tick tick tick-ing down every year and counting. You’re just making it. You’re just there.

But I’m here. And it’s here with me.

Eurovision 2019: Serbia

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: Serbia.

Country: Serbia
Singer: Nevena Božović
Song: Kruna
Personal Score: 37 out of 41
My Prediction: Q

I was actually pretty disappointed in the Serbian National Finals as a whole even though I can’t say they choose the wrong song. Kruna is a perfectly serviceable ballad and Nevena is doing a great job making it look effortless but I haven’t looked up the lyrics of thing song and I never find myself in a rush to remember it. It’s a little too close to things we’ve gotten in the past and all of it delivered in a very standard and straight forward manner. I think the reason people are often so “down” on ballads is that Eurovision ballads have mainly not evolved alongside music for the past two decade. This song wouldn’t be shocking at 1999 Eurovision. Even if we talk about how all Eurovision upbeat songs sound the same it’s hard to throw them back into other years (for the most part) the same way that a ballad is a ballad is a ballad. That’s an unkind read to this particularly ballad but it just doesn’t give me anything to work with. There’s no hook, there was no staging, there were no (metaphorical) fireworks. You might note I put this as qualifying anyway because I know people love the ballads – there is a contingency of ballad fans out there and Serbia is the most likely to pass muster for them but at the end of the day this is going to end up low in the ranking even if it passes to the final. I hope its a wake up call too all ballad writers.

Eurovision 2019: San Marino

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: San Marino.

Country: San Marino
Singer: Serhat
Song: Say “Na Na Na”
Personal Score: 13 out of 41
My Prediction: NQ

In the running order, San Marino is in a great place but I still worry this won’t qualify because it’s San Marino and this is…a special type of cheese. Don’t get me wrong, this song does EXACTLY what it sets out to do and it does it well but you have to love cheese in a way I don’t think a wide audience is ready to embrace. If anyone proved me wrong it’s Moldova for the past two years who have been getting cheese into the final (and then doing well with it!) but I feel like the time might have run out for something like this.

Serhat is back again proving that he can join Queen Valentina from the happiest micro state on Earth and at the end of the day I’ll just be happy to see him at Eurovision no matter the outcome. The song is simple enough. It’s much better than Spirit of the Night but that doesn’t seem to actually matter in the big picture. The song is probably not going to win over the jury and there would need to be a substantial fan vote on top of a great stage show for this to get to the final but I think in a time when the world is a dark and scary place in so many ways and where we don’t have Turkey in Eurovision any more this is a sorely needed anthem for resolving a few of our troubles, if only for three minutes.

Eurovision 2019: Russia

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: Russia.

Country: Russia
Singer: Sergey Lazarev
Song: Scream
Personal Score: 29 out of 41
My Prediction: Q

This song confuses me. Sergey isn’t the worlds strongest singer and this song is basically a vocal showcase song. I don’t know what they’re angling at but I do know this will qualify probably no matter what. I’m very interested to hear this live and I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s some elements on the stage which move around him so that he can stand perfectly still and do his best belting. I’m a big fan of Sergey, he just has one of those friendly puppy attitudes that makes him get along with nearly everyone and this song, is fairly good as far as songs go. However, this is nothing to write home about and the literal only part of the song I recall is “they screeeeeeaaaammmmm” which bodes badly for cracking the top 10. All that being said, this is Russia and like Sweden before them, they will likely easily crack the top 10. This song could be a jury bait song with the right vocal precision and staging and it will vacuum up plenty of extra votes since Ukraine pulled itself out of the running but like “A Million Voices” (Russia 2015) I don’t think its high placement is really going to be all that deserved. I wish Russia could deliver more modern sounding songs alongside their big personalities and stage shows instead of something as middling and forgettable as this.