Editorials & OpinionStockholm 2016

Xtra Review: Who should sing for Switzerland?

Switzerland completed the long process of whittling down hundreds of potential Eurovision entries yesterday and are left with 6 songs from the three Swiss broadcasters, who will compete on Saturday 13 February to be the one to go to Stockholm carrying the Swiss flag. With 10 years having passed since the last top ten finish for the country and many failures to qualify, Switzerland is in desperate need of that Eurovision hit – when Sebalter’s 13th place is considered a success you know you’re in trouble.
Can any of the half dozen songs in contention deliver that overdue success for Eurovision’s original winners? Peter has listened to them and here he gives his opinion on whether that elusive gem is among the selection.

UPDATE: Since this review was originally written, Stéphanie Palazzo has been disqualified from the selection and replaced with ‘Disque d’Or’ by Kaceo, which Peter has also reviewed.

Bella C – Another World
We start with a very dramatic ballad of the James Bond variety. I love a good James Bond theme, and a James Bond pastiche will usually go down well with me, and this is no exception. Good melody, good build, and sung well by Bella. The only problem is we had a song at Eurovision a couple of years ago that was about as well done as it’s possible to do the Bond style ballad, and it went on to win. So I can’t help but think that there would be a lot of comparisons that won’t be favourable to ‘Another World.’ Not to mention this isn’t quite as well formed as the aforementioned songs, and it has lyrics that just wash over you, but for what it is, it’s well done. I just don’t think that Switzerland would be wise to send it. Listen here.
Vincent Gross – Half A Smile
It’s a pretty boy with a guitar that the teen and pre-teen girls will go crazy for – we know this because the music video tells us so, hammering home the point by showing hoards of them creepily following Vincent with their mobile phones. Half A Smile takes the acoustic Mumford and Sons sound and poppifies it to the max, and the result is very radio-friendly, with a sing-along chorus. I can see the song appealing to a good cross-section of the voters, but maybe not enough for them to pick up the phone in huge numbers. If Vincent can sell the song and they stage it in a way to make it memorable, then this could work, and I can see this passing the national final at least. Listen here.
Stanley Miller – Feel The Love
Oh for heaven’s sake, can somebody tell Stanley Miller that the “cutaways to random people holding up their hands in a heart shape” music video idea has been done to death please? Anyway aside from this small grievance, this is a very strong entry. Feel The Love it one of those songs that sounds like it’s been packaged in a lab for the Eurovision stage, but it’s been done well, and the result is a big, uplifting arena pop song sung very well by Stanley who has a smooth soulful voice. The production values on this are great, although it is ever-so-slightly lacking in terms of a catchy hook to make it memorable. That being said, if 2016 is similar to 2015 and uptempo pop songs with big performances are in short supply, this could be the one for Switzerland to go with. Listen here.
Stéphanie Palazzo – Perché Mi Guardi Cosi? (DISQUALIFIED)
The only song in the final six not sung in English is this Italian song from the French Swiss broadcaster. This is a very simple piano ballad, no bells and whistles, no big production, not even really a proper chorus. It feels like it could have existed in Eurovision at any point in the last 40 years and been exactly the same, which could be charming, but sadly I don’t find the song itself up to much. It just sort of goes on for 3 minutes and them stops. I’d imagine this is an outsider for the victory in Switzerland, so it’s not really worth speculating how it could do in Eurovision itself. Listen here.
Rykka – The Last Of Our Kind
And here we have what will clearly be the fan favourite in the line-up, even if it doesn’t make the cut, so we can congratulate Rykka on being the Swiss representative at Eurovision, or the OGAE Second Chance Contest. The Last Of Our Kind is an electro-pop ballad with strong hints of Sia (Rykka’s hairstyle in the video probably doesn’t help) but with a chorus taken from every Eurovision ballad ever. It stands out as being radio-friendly and contemporary but still Eurovision-by-numbers at the same time (she’s even thrown in a key-change). Could this be a winning combination? I can’t help thinking that this might lose something live, but if it’s staged well then who knows? Listen here.
Theo – Because Of You
This is another slightly Mumford-esque offering, but with all life sapped out of it. There are some nice harmonies here, and the production gives it a slightly Coldplay vibe, but it’s just quite boring. At this early stage, it looks like we could be in for a lot of earnest blokes with guitars at Eurovision 2016, and in my totally subjective opinion, I could do without another one. Indeed if Theo does make it, I can see him getting totally lost in the crowd. I know that this is the kind of inoffensive music that tends to appeal to people, but this is not a competitive song by any means and I can easily see this continuing the Swiss run of poor results should it get chosen – and I think it might… Listen here.
Kaceo – Disque d’Or

Straight away I know this probably isn’t going to be my cup of tea, as ska isn’t a genre that particularly resonates with me, if that’s how you can describe this song. Then of course we have the band displaying Zdob și Zdub-esque energy, which basically means jumping and rolling around the stage like kids in a playground…rock and roll. The song itself isn’t as lightweight or novelty as I’m probably making it sound. Apparently there’s a “message” in there about double standards in entertainment and girls getting their knockers out in music videos. Fair enough, but people outside Francophone countries won’t get that. This is the kind of song I always worry will mobilise voters, but ultimately rarely does, so hopefully this won’t be the one. Listen here.

So who should represent Switzerland at Eurovision 2016?
Unsurprisingly there isn’t anything that could storm the contest in May among the line-up, however it is a much stronger crop of songs than Switzerland has pulled together in previous years, and for once, there are a few realistic options to choose from.
Vincent Gross and Stanley Miller have songs that aren’t amazing examples of their respective genres, but could be vote-winners depending on what other songs are around them in Stockholm, which at this early stage we have no way of knowing. In a mellow year, ‘Feel The Love’ could get the crowd going and lift the mood of the viewers, while in a year filled with party songs, ‘Half A Smile’ could resonate with voters, although the latter scenario does seem less likely at this stage.
I think whilst those two would be respectable entries for Switzerland, the one I’d recommend they go with would be ‘The Last Of Our Kind’ by Rykka. Switzerland sending something modern to the contest really is long overdue, and whilst it might not be as safe an option as some, if they use the opportunity to really work on the staging and think outside the box like Belgium and The Netherlands have done in recent years, the choice could pay dividends for them. The melody is catchy and accessible to most voters, but the production is cool enough to have younger viewers on board as well. The Swiss do have a couple of fallback options in the selection, but hopefully they make the right choice.

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