Stockholm 2016

Xtra Review: Latvia’s Supernova Heat 1

After a trickling of song selections in the last month or two, February is going to be a very busy time for national finals, with the potential for nearly 30 songs to be chosen or revealed this month. One of quite a few national selections kicking off this weekend is Supernova in Latvia, which will choose a successor to Aminata, who successfully brought the country back into the final, and the top ten.
Over four weeks, twenty songs will be whittled down firstly to a semi-final of eight and then a final of four, with the winner being announced on Sunday 27 February. This week, the first ten songs will take to the stage to battle for four qualifications slots. Can any of them match of even beat Aminata’s record? Peter has had a listen, and here’s what he thinks…
Catalepsia – Damnation
Dramatic start, as the vocalist comes straight in with a verse that sounds like something a villain in a musical would sing. He’s a bit Phantom of the Opera but the song turns into a rock ballad. I have to say, for all the drama he injects into it, it’s not the most interesting of songs, and I find his tone a bit offputting. It ends before it really goes anywhere.
Edvards Grieze – New Day
This grew on me quite a lot throughout. At first, I thought Ed’s voice (not the most appealing in its lower register) and the saxophone and the drum and bass beats were all a bit of a mismatch. However it does all come together and I have to admit it has a very strong pop melody even if the lyrics are a bit basic. It manages to sound big and boombastic but also chilled at the same time. So yes it takes a minute to get into but I was sold on it by the end.
ElektroFolk – Miracle Drums
ElektroFolk came close last year with the frantic ‘Sundance’ and they’re back for another try this year. It’s a male lead vocalist this time and the song is much more mainstream than last year. I’m almost disappointed as it seems rather contrived to win votes, but I can’t take away from this being a great song. It’s a bit like Mumford and Sons doing a big stadium pop number. It builds throughout and the drums are very effective. I can see this being a big contender.
Ivo Grīsniņš Grīslis – We Are the Light
Quite an atmospheric dubstep ballad here – yes dubstep is still around but this is quite subtle. It starts out with a minimal first verse that led me to believe this was going to be along the lines of Coldplay or U2, but then the beats kicked in and I knew where I stood. There’s not much of a musical journey beyond this point, but the production helps create a mood that keeps the listener interested. This should do well, but hopefully they’ll give it good lighting and stage production.
Marta Grigale – Choices
Slightly industrial mid-tempo pop here sounding like something that Topshop would have played to death a few years ago. I like the production but there’s nothing really to latch onto in order to sustain interest over the three minutes. It’s not terrible but it’s the first one of the lot that I just can’t see going anywhere in terms of results.
Justs – Heartbeat
This is the Aminata-written one I hear. This is a mid-tempo deep house track and it sounds bang up to date. I wasn’t completely sold on the melody, but the singer has an amazing voice (in studio form at least) so that’s gained the song points in my book. There’s a very subtle build to this and it’s quite euphoric in an understated way. If Justs can sell it live then I can see it going down very well, although maybe not quite well enough to match Aminata’s result last year.

Paula Dukure – Look In The Mirror
Yet more electro! Latvia has clearly been influenced by Aminata’s success last year – there’s enough in this selection to fill Margaret Berger’s long overdue album. This has got quite a funky verse melody and it’s a nice contract to the synthy production, but I’m not sold on the chorus. “If you wanna see who can make you happy, look in the mirror” is repeated several times and it’s not the strongest hook. A hook is something particularly lacking towards the end of the song, which goes on a bit. Still, there’s potential here.
Rūta Dūduma – Being A Friend
As much as I’m enjoying how contemporary Latvia has managed to become in the last couple of years, it is a bit of a relief to hear something more traditional, and what better light relief than a twinkly piano ballad? Sort of basic lyrics we’ve heard a million times before about friendship, but the music is rather lovely. It’s just piano and strings throughout with some lovely chord sequences here and there. It’s really rather dated, but it could sneak through just for being a contrast to everything else here.
Sabīne Berezina – My Inspiration
I’m not quite sure where this is going as first – the first verse sounds almost like it could launch into schlager – but the chorus is much more contemporary with fast paced drums and vocals that almost sound like house samples but aren’t. Unfortunately I’m not in love with the song as a whole beyond the interesting sound. It doesn’t go anywhere and the melody is a bit rubbish. I can see this being completely forgotten.
Samanta Tina – We Live For Love
This is one of two Supernova entries for Samanta after coming a very close 2nd place in 2013. This has got everything going on really! It sounds at first like it could be a dance pop song that the fanboys and girls could get down to in Euroclub (and with different production it could be) but then launches into a dubstep ballad. There are still some concessions to the Euroclub contingent though as there are several key-changes in here. It’s very very big. It straddles the line perfectly between typically Eurovision-friendly and something more modern and left-field, although maybe it could be too much for some people.
Who will qualify?
As I understand it, there will be four qualifiers from this heat into an eight-strong semi-final. I think Samanta Tina, Justs and ElektroFolk are locked in for three of the places to be honest, and in my opinion they’d be deserved as I’d say they’re my personal top three as well.
Beyond that, if the voters have room for something traditional, then Rūta could get the last spot, or if they’d rather keep it modern, then it could be Edvards Grieze. If I’m anywhere close to being accurate with these predictions, then Latvia will be well on their way to having a strong semi-final starting field.
Nick will be casting his ear over the songs from heat 2 soon, and if you have opinions of your own, please share them with us via our Twitter, @escXtra.

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