ESC 2017 Review: Portugal – Old Fashioned for Two

A sweet old fashioned song from Portugal? You don’t say. Let’s see if a revamp of their national final might have helped out their chances for victory.

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.

Country: Portugal
Artist: Salvador Sobral
Song Title: Amar Pelos Dois
My Ranking: 39th (out of 43)
Semi Final: 1st Semi Final
Final placement prediction: Qualifying: 8th, Finals Score: 13th

Portugal is the answer to a cruel trivia question: Which country is the losing-est country in Eurovision?

48 entries with ZERO WINS and they have yet to crack the top 5 either, while Portugal is unmatched in losing chops to any other country in the contest somehow I still have love for this land with a million non-winning songs. I’m about to take a vacation to Portugal after the contest even so clearly I’m biased by putting their song…39th out of 43rd. Womp womp. There’s a lot of fierce lovers of this song though and I can see why, it would certainly win Eurovision 1957.

Our intrepid Portuguese singer is Salvador Vilar Braamcamp Sobral who is a 27 year old soul and jazz singer. Portugal sat out the contest last year after failing to qualify since 2010. They did so to have a nice think about the way they choose songs through their national final so this year there were many rule changes including dropping the Portuguese language requirement. Are the results good? Well, it’s a mixed bag. The songs in the national final this year weren’t really any different from what Portugal has been sent in the past, the viewership didn’t look especially high, and despite the language requirement being gone all but one song was still in Portuguese. Most of the songs were sung by people over the age of 30 at a time when Eurovision is increasingly populated by new, young talent and the song styles leaned mostly classic Portuguese taste. Of course, but not this song.

“Amar Pelos Dois” (Love for Two) is a classic, and I mean 1950s classic, love ballad. A sweet crooner. It’s absolutely something new and different and the tenderness and precision of Salvador’s vocals are to be absolutely commended. Weirdly enough this song reminds me of “Bella Notte” from Lady and the Tramp which was released in 1955. There’s nothing wrong with the song abstractly. The playful violin that serves as counter point hums along while Salvador spins a charming sweetness but honestly this is a song directly plucked from another era. It’s a song style that’s been perfected to death and if you spend a lot of time watching old musicals or theater it’s frankly not novel in the bigger scheme of pop culture. Here at Eurovision though this is a stand out because it’s simply so unlike everything else.

Portugal had the good luck to be placed in the 1st semi final, the easier of the two, and thus I believe this song will pass on to the final and make it to a solid middle of the pack ranking based on how much weird fan favoriting there’s been around this entry. It doesn’t do it for me personally but it’s hard to find any one specific problem in the song.

I will say this, each country sends a video to serve as their final video and Portugal sent the national final night entry where Salvador’s ear piece didn’t work at the beginning and he doesn’t sing the first part of the song and I’m curious why they would have sent that video instead of the semi final (if they wanted to showcase his live voice) OR the studio version. I don’t think in the end that will have any effect on the outcome but who even knows. This is a contest though and you would think after spending a year off, Portugal would want to put their absolute best foot forward.

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