Join me in counting down and pulling apart yet another 2017 Eurovision entry! This time it’s Malta!
Just a reminder: These are my own PERSONAL rankings of what I think of the songs but I’m also going to make some bold predictions about the eventual fate of the song. These will probably be very wrong for a variety of reasons including I have no idea what almost half the artists sound like live or what type of staging changes could be made. There are plenty of songs that have been let down by their staging so these reviews are based solely on what I’ve heard from the artist so far or seen at a national final.
Artist: Claudia Faniello
Song Title: Breathlessly
My Ranking: 42nd (out of 43)
Semi Final: 2nd Semi Final
Final placement prediction: NQ
Let’s talk about Malta in Eurovision for a second before we jump in to this song. Malta has a checkered modern history with Eurovision but they at least have a couple of high marks despite never winning the contest. Malta is a small country of just shy of 425,000 people – which makes the artist picking pool for Eurovision quite small. They’ve had good success with Junior Eurovision though and the fact that Maltese is an interesting language and the country has history of descending from and blending together many nationalities and languages should boost their average success. They had a song in their national final in Maltese which I was hoping they would send because they haven’t sent a song fully in Maltese since 1974 but sadly we got this instead.
Caludia Faniello is a 29 year old classical R&B/soul singer who has released only a single album and has a small amount of fame in her native country of Malta. In the ESC world she’s most known for doggedly entering the Maltese national final 11 damn times. You would think that the 10 losses would have weighed her down but that didn’t seem to be the case this year as she finally won. Like Ira Losco last year, Caludia has a rabid fanbase inside of the small country that meant her song was finally selected. Unlike Ira Losco though, she is a weak vocalist. I have no doubt she’ll work very hard on her vocals before Eurovision so we won’t have a repeat of the national finals almost unlistenable version of “Breathlessly” where she strangled every note within an inch of its life.
The song itself is a hyper standard female ballad. The lyrics are middling, the arrangement sounds like many other things we’ve heard so many times before but for me, the problem is mostly Claudia herself. Without the vocal chops to take this middling ballad to any real vocal height the song feels exceptionally flat. She has a good emotional connection with the song but her voice on the studio recording still sounds like she ate a bunch of lemons and is still waiting to recover before she gets at those high notes. I don’t think she’ll be able to bring this to the level it really needs to go and being in the 2nd semi final against other stronger female vocalists (Denmark, Serbia, Switzerland) and some of the most impressive male vocalists as well (Austria, Estonia) is not going to reflect well on her. Malta usually qualifies when I think they won’t but I don’t think they can pull that off this year. Though many people like this very traditional ballad style I don’t think it translates well to an audience just tuning in.
I have two other problems with this song and its construction. The song sounds exceptionally like a slowed down version of “Colors of the Wind” for one, which is not a good thing. Every time I hear it I’m waiting for Vanessa Williams to pop out and sing the song to within an inch of its life and when she doesn’t, I feel utter disappointment. The second problem is the pacing of the song. Songs in Eurovision (and general) tend to follow a specific route. It’s usually easy to predict crescendos, when the high note will come, when the chorus will kick in, etc. This song is paint by the numbers in that regard right until…the very last note. The song goes out on what I assume will be a sustained note at Eurovision but in her national final AND on the studio track the note is held for only a beat or two after it reaches fever pitch and then the song abruptly ends. One of the absolutely most memorable things about a ballad is its sustained shocking high note and when this song fails to deliver that and cuts the moment short it leaves me doubting the singer AND the song writer.
Sadly, breathlessly fails to take my breath away.