Every year, we gather a few former Eurovision participants to review the entries on offer for 2016. This year, we’ve once again asked some of these Eurostars what they thought. Unfortunately, not everyone completed their reviews in time, but still, it’s worth checking these out! This year, we have people ranging from 1971 to 2015, solo artists, groups and parts of groups, qualifiers and non-qualifiers.

Our Eurostars:

  • Séverine (Monaco 1971)
  • Nicola (Romania 2003)
  • Marjolein Spijkers (The Netherlands 1997)
  • Lisa Andreas (Cyprus 2004)
  • Stefan Filipović (Montenegro 2008)
  • Baccara (Luxembourg 1978)
  • Alex Larke (United Kingdom 2015)

Séverine

Czech-Republic Gabriela Gunčíková – I Stand

This song has a beautiful melody, I like the music. Her voice is really nice too. Yes, I am a fan of this song, I really like it!

 

SFinlandandhja – Sing It Away

It’s not bad, I don’t mind the song itself. However, it really isn’t my preferred style of music. Unfortunately.

 

Iceland Greta Salóme – Hear Them Calling

I don’t have many words for this. I just don’t like it much.

 

France

Amir – J’Ai Cherché

I can only say that this song is much better than what we’ve sent in previous years. I however can’t imagine us winning the Eurovision Song Contest this year with this.

Nicola

BulgariaPoli Genova – If Love Was A Crime

I think the composer was inspired by Galantis because the song sounds like “Run away”, here and there and honestly, I don’t like when someone is trying to copy other people’s ideas and not being original.  Otherwise, she looks beautiful, it’s an EDM regular song , the video is ok and can’t wait to see their show.
GreeceArgo – Utopian Land

Honestly, I don’t like the song, except for the middle part (2:00 until 2:20). Watching the video, it’s like I was playing a video game and feeling so tired already at the end after so much running. Lol! And the vocals didn’t impress me at all. OMG, was I so bad?
SpainBarei – Say Yay!

She has a great voice and attitude. I can feel so much positive energy when I’m listening this song but I have seen no show…yet. I like the EDM style, I think the radio stations will play it or otherwise, it might need a great remix.  I always try to sing the chorus and can’t keep it in my mind. The video is OK.  Anyway, not in my top five.
HungaryFreddie – Pioneer

I love the message of this song so very much and the vocal line is good. The track sounds good. His live performance wasn’t that great and I hope that he will have a great show in Stockholm to support this song. Could be in my top five, but only for the lyrics.
SloveniaManuElla – Blue & Red

This song has great lyrics and a beautiful energy. Still, I don’t like the track but the vocal line and the lyrics are great. She has an amazing voice and I also like her attitude but, there is no show…yet and it will need a special one if they want to catch a place in top ten in Stockholm.

Marjolein Spijkers

AzerbaijanSamra – Miracle

Samra is a very beautiful girl with Angelina lips and she’s obviously a great fan of Christina Aguilera. In the video her lip syncing is so weird that I decided to watch a video of her performing the song live, and I must say: ouch. As we say in Dutch: ‘Is there a dentist present?’ (to replace all the fillings that fell out hearing her sing so off key) But since I believe in second chances, I watched (and listened to) her blind audition for the Voice, but alas… double ouch.  The verses of ‘Miracle’ are a bit too low for her in some places. And I could do without the annoying Whitney-style mike handling. Although the song is not to my taste, I wish Samra the best of luck. I have no doubt that she will do well in Stockholm.

United KingdomJoe and Jake – You’re Not Alone

Not the world’s greatest singers, but I think they’re totally cute and I like the song. I saw them perform the song live at Graham Norton, and they pulled it off.
Nice poppy song, with strong drums, which I like. I hope this will do well.

Bosnia-&-HerzegovinaDalal & Deen ft. Ana Rucner and Jala – Ljubav Je

Well, that’s a mouth full, I can’t wait to hear presenters all over the world stumble over all those names.  They sing in their own language, which always scores points with me, although it makes it a lot harder to sing along to. The song has a great, Balkan style intro. Very nice!  Since I have no clue what the song’s about, I’m not sure if the rap adds anything. It sounds a bit aggressive to me. But hey, he could be rapping about world peace, who’s to know? But all in all: I like this.

ArmeniaIveta Mukuchyan – LoveWave

Iveta is a would-be rock singer, who wants us to know and hear how high she can sing. Or in her case: scream. To me the song sounds like it’s made out of three different songs, pasted together. It begins with a very vague whispered intro, which for some reason causes the fire brigade to arrive, with sirens blazing.  And this is Iveta’s clue to stare into the camera with her most intense look and scream at the unsuspecting viewers about some Love Wave. In the middle of the song, there’s an ethnic part, to honor her Armenian roots perhaps? No need to say that I find both Iveta and her song not credible at all. To put it mildly. However: if she brings that great looking Viking from the video with her to Stockholm (is he causing the Love Wave?? I can totally imagine…) I’m willing to reconsider. Anyway: I have no doubt this song, too, will do very well.

AustriaZoë – Loin D’Ici

Surprisingly Austria has chosen for an entry in French. This takes nothing away from this nice song, which has a very, very old school Eurovision ending. Good for Zoë (and the composers of her song), it’s been a while since we’ve heard a clear-cut ending like that. (Maybe for good reason?)  This won’t win a prize for originality, but she sings it really well and who knows, its simplicity might stand out. My only hope is she won’t be wearing that horrible, ill-fitting dress that she has on in the official video during her performance in Stockholm. All stylists in Austria to the rescue, please!

Lisa Andreas

BelgiumLaura Tesoro – What’s The Pressure

What’s The Pressure’  is such a catchy feel good song that you can’t help but bop your head to it. I watched the Eurosong 2016 Dress Rehearsal video and Laura Tesero has great energy, she is a strong performer and vocalist. It takes a competent artist to match the intensity of such a dynamic song and Tesero certainly holds her own. She maintains the pace throughout the song, both singing, dancing and giving it all that she has got without missing a beat. I can see why she was chosen to represent Belgium.
’What’s The Pressure’  is Pop, Soul, Funk, with a sprinkle of that Big Band feel. I can see people in their cars turning this song up when it comes on and dancing along.
There are so many beautiful touches and dimensions to this song; the bass guitar riff in the first verse that we hear throughout the song is a nice little hook. I love, love, love the trumpet interjections and the unexpected electric guitar accompaniment under the middle 8, that surprisingly works, and keeps driving the song forward into the last chorus. This genre of song really takes me back to Amerie’s 2007 album, Because I Love It. The album used a similar combination of musical genres and it was incredible. Selah Sue and Peter Gordeno are geniuses for adding those hand claps to the backing track. That is something Laura will be able to use at The Eurovision performances to hype the crowd and keep up the momentum of the song. Eurovision is all about how the audience feels, so if they are clapping along and enjoying themselves then that is a really great thing, and a good sign of the song’s success.

SwitzerlandRykka – The Last Of Our Kind

Rykka’s ‘The Last Of Our Kind’ is reminiscent of Cindy Lauper’sTime After Time’.
There is something very 80’s about this song, mainly in the introduction and verses, but it does have that distinct 80’s female power ballad, synth-pop feel. Her vocal has a rich and warm tone which suits the song. It’s a bold choice to have the lead vocal melody line as the only vocal part heard throughout the song. You’ll notice there is no backing vocals on the track at all, just some delayed echo’s in the verses, which I do enjoy. I don’t think the song needs backing vocals but I would be intrigued to see if Rykka does use any in the live performances and if it enhances the song at all. I hope that Rykka keeps it simple and elegant on stage as she did in the ‘Switzerland Eurovision 2016’ performance. The  blonde hair, white dress and ethereal look lends well to this song. If she could get a big flowing white dress made, keeping the lighting dim, with maybe some large iron candelabras and tall white candles that would be aesthetically pleasing on stage and really add to the ambience of the song. I would love to watch that. The song is minimalistic, in the way that is all about the lead vocal, this is the song’s strength so a reflection of that simplicity on stage would effective in Stockholm.

CyprusMinus One – Alter Ego

Minus One are pushing boundaries for the Cyprus Eurovision entry with this Pop/Rock combination ‘Alter Ego’, and it’s very exciting to see. ‘Alter Ego’ stays true to the style of Minus One and would do well in the charts even if it wasn’t a Eurovision entry.
It’s so interesting that the song starts with those strong chords because it shouts “I have arrived, now listen!” which is something that you need when competing in a song competition. That is going to be fun for the Minus One men to explore and I can already envision the light’s and fireworks during the introduction of this song on The Eurovision stage.
One of my favorite parts of this song is the first verse; I love the four to the floor bass drum in the start of the first verse, it draws you in and thrusts the song forward with real ferocity, preparing you for the chorus. The chorus takes a different direction to what I first expected to hear. There is a subtle tip of the hat to the Greek Cypriot genre in this song, which is a really nice touch. Instead of the chorus becoming heavier it has this breath of Pop and lightness. It’s those lyrics “Howling for you, ow,ow,ow, ow” that brings that light vibe – something that is similar to the style of Maroon 5. I can see the Eurovision crowds singing “take it on, take it on”, because its memorable and fun. Minus One could do a call and response with the ESC audience and everyone would go crazy for it! Audiences want to know the words, and sing along, it’s the whole reason we go to concerts and shows, we want to enjoy ourselves and get lost in the magic of it all.

DenmarkLighthouse X – Soldiers Of Love

Where to begin with ‘Soldiers Of Love’?…When the song starts you think to yourself: “aww ok, this is nice” and then the chorus kicks in and it becomes apparent as to why it’s in The Eurovision Song Contest. ’Soldier’s of love’, is a love anthem! How could you not enjoy it?! Anthem’s do well in The Eurovision.
Those opening piano chords scream Boyband (Man-band), so we know what we’re getting straight away, and we like that! Then we hear those pounding drums, with a beautiful piano riff twinkling away over the top and then, Bam- CHORUS. The chorus is enchanting, it’s the songs magic. It’s because of songs like this that we sometimes refer to the chorus as the hook. I listened to this song once, I left to make a cup of tea and I realized that I was in the kitchen singing to myself, ‘Take my hand and never let go’, errr how could I know the words already? Once you are hooked onto it there really is no letting go and that is a reflection of good song writing.
‘Soldiers Of Love’ takes me back to my time in Eurovision, it makes me smile and think of all the excitement, fun, friendships and incredible memories that I made in 2004. The Lighthouse X gentlemen are going to have a lot of fun with this song and make so many friends along the way.
Soldiers of Love’ has all the right elements to be a success at the ESC -three strong male vocalists, great chemistry on stage, polished harmonies and a love anthem that people will be humming for days. I know this song will be a huge hit with the females and the ESC community and a guilty pleasure for some but that’s why we love The Eurovision Song Contest because it divides us and unites us all at the same time! I can imagine a girl with it on at home and she turns around and her Dad is mouthing all of the words, and why not? After all, we all love love.

IrelandNicky Byrne – Sunlight

To see Nick Byrne as Irelands Entry for ESC 2016 was a nice surprise. I recognized him and then I realized where from – Westlife of course! He’s had quite the career so far. Professional footballer, Boyband star, Strictly Come Dancing contestant, radio presenter, TV presenter, ranked 2nd in 2014 for Ireland’s sexiest man and now he could potentially be adding Eurovision winner to his list of achievements. With so much experience it is safe to say that Nick Byrne knows showbiz and his way around the stage, both great advantages to have.
The studio version of ‘Sunlight’ is Pop-y with a Rock undertone (which is largely attributed to the drum arrangement). The lyrics have a simplistic summer in the sun sentiment. It’s a song that you’d expect to hear on the drive to the beach with the roof down, sun on your face and wind in your hair, with that being said it’s title ‘Sunlight’ is very fitting. It’s cute and upbeat but I wanted to know more, there was a darkness waiting to be found in this song, I was going to find it. I looked around for other performances, to gain more insight into the song and Nick Byrne and stumbled across a few live performances of ‘Sunlight’. The first – ‘Nick Byrne, Live on the Ray D’Arcy Show’. Byrne was solo, front and centre and the other musicians and backing vocalists set upstage. Byrne appeared a little reserved when it started, but he warmed into it. The female backing vocals in the live performance were too loud in the mix and made the song top heavy throughout the choruses. Byrne has a grit to his voice which gives the song character and depth and I was desperate to hear more of that, that is what this song needed. Hoping that the songs producers would realize this too, I kept searching and BINGO – Enter ‘Nick Byrne, Live #Ukraine’ . This was it, this is what i’d been waiting to find. The feel of the song was completely different, it was in the exact place it needed to be. Nick’s vocals were strong, front and centre in the mix, female backing vocals replaced with male backing vocals. The band now downstage and their backing vocals sitting tight and uniformed under the chorus and now much more of a contemporary rock band feel with Byrne as the frontman. This suited him, it just seemed like he was so much more confident and energized with this set up, you could see him feeding off of the band and ‘Sunlight’ had found it’s groove. The Rock element had been ignited, now the sound matched his rugged style (not forgetting the adorable Irish flag inner ears) and “dah-daa” it was working. This is the formula Ireland needs to use in all of the performances and in Stockholm to give this song it’s best chance of success.

Stefan Filipović

MacedoniaKaliopi – Dona

I expected much more energy from this one, but knowing Kaliopi is one of the best artists in this region, I am sure she will bring much more energy into it during the competition itself.

 

EstoniaJüri Pootsmann – Play

This song, in short, is nothing special to me.

 

ItalyFrancesca Michielin – No Degree Of Separation

This composition isn’t really interesting to me, and I feel like it’s been done just because we must hear something from them since they are, if I remember well, one of the organisers. [Presumably, Stefan means that Italy are part of the Big Five.]

AustraliaDami Im – Sound Of Silence

Like with Estonia, this song is  just nothing special to me at all.

 

MontenegroHighway – The Real Thing

I don’t know how to begin, it’s a musical style that I presonally don’t listen to, but I know it’s really popular in the world, and I think this song could go very noticed.

Baccara

BelarusIvan – Help You Fly

This song has a very catchy chorus. We really like Ivan’s voice too. The presentation on screen will be interesting too!

 

GeorgiaNika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz – Midnight Gold

This is a good example of modern rock. We like how this sounds. They look kinda funny, their appearance is great. The music is really fresh too.

 

RussiaSergey Lazarev – You Are The Only One

This is a most fantastic song. It will look brilliantly on stage too!

 

NorwayAgnete – Icebreaker

It’s a very interesting song. Definitely one of our favourites. This song has a fantastic combination of tempo between the verses and chorus, from down to up. Agnete has a really nice voice too.

PolandMichał Szpak – Color Of Your Life

It’s a very nice ballad Poland is delivering to us. The song has a nice melody too. The keychange near the end is good too. And he has such a powerful voice!

CroatiaNina Kraljić – Lighthouse

Oh this song is really ethnic. It’s quite nice actually and Nina’s voice is recognisable. Very special!

Alex Larke

UkraineJamala – 1944

Ukraine has been through an enormous amount of change over the last few years, with mass political unrest and sadly war, resulting in the annexation of Crimea, and ultimately the deaths of many thousands of people.
For me, Eurovision should be a competition that transcends politics and unifies people through music, even though the outside world might be pulling them apart.
In 2014, the crowd at Eurovision were quite rightly upset at Russia for its stance in law against the rights of gay people. Unfortunately they levelled their anger at Russia’s representatives, in the competition, the Tolmachevy Sisters, by heavily booing them. This was unequivocally wrong. These were two girls, each only seventeen years old, who have probably never heard the words, ‘gay propaganda’. In other words, they were totally the wrong target for such vitriol.
Jamala’s song, 1944, references the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, by Joseph Stalin, in that year,  which ultimately led to the deaths of 100,000 people and is one of the most tragic events of WWII.
The song itself is a dark, brooding piece of electronica, with vocals reminiscent of Kate Bush. It’s well presented and nicely written.
The sad part for me is that despite the EBU stating that the song does not contain “political speech”, it’s a pretty obvious dig at Russia for the most recent troubles in Crimea. I think if they really wanted to stick two-fingers up to the Russians, they should have come out with something fun and upbeat to show they were doing just fine, but I guess they felt they had no choice but to address it. I just hope it doesn’t bring politics back into the arena where it has no place.

NetherlandsDouwe Bob – Slow Down

Ah, Douwe Bob. For me, The Netherlands have produced a winner here, but considering one of my favourites was ‘nil pointer’, “I Am Yours” by The Makemakes, I just hope I haven’t just jinxed them!
This songs brings a refreshing change to this year’s line-up, which seems quite heavily drawn to serious, string-laden, and sometimes, depressing songs. It owes more than a nod-and-a-wink to Americana, Country and a touch of Britpop, which is reassuringly upbeat and toe-tappingly light.
Douwe Bob, has been performing since he was a very young man, so I don’t doubt he will do the business on the night. I hope The Netherlands will stage it impressivel, as the real danger here is that with simple staging the song could really get lost amongst much more heavily instrumented numbers.
The most important question is how we pronounce his first name? Dow, like the coffee, or Dooey? Answers on a postcard.

SerbiaSanja Vučić ZAA – Goodbye (Shelter)

Big, big song. Well written and beautifully instrumented. This will no doubt go far in the competition, but the bird singing needs to calm down a bit in front of the mic.
I know, I know – it’s a mimed music video, but if she jerks around like that whilst singing live there will be some issues. It actually spoiled the song for me. The old adage of less is more applies here. You’ve got a fantastic song behind you, so just chill out behind the mic and let the song do the work. Be more Karen Carpenter and less Ian Curtis (if you don’t who I mean, check out the lead singer of Joy Division during the last half of the official video for their song Transmission). An intense but relaxed performance on the night could land Serbia top three, but if she becomes Miss Jerky, I’ll be in the kitchen making a cup of tea.

We’d like to thank Séverine, Nicola, Marjolein, Lisa, Stefan, Baccara and Alex for their time to review these entries! We’d also like to highlight that these are the opinions of the individual reviewers, not necessarily of the escXtra.com team.

Media Liaison: One of the founding members at escXtra. I'm the Dutchman who loves every little idiotic Eurovision fact there is. I usually listen to a lot of Eurovision music, but when I'm not, I listen to country music, schlager and pop, but mostly artists like Tina Turner, Emma, Ilse DeLange and Helene Fischer. On escXtra, you can find me doing pretty much anything that needs doing: Interviews, liveblogs or just your daily portion of news!

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