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🇬🇷 Slideback Superstars: Reviewing Argo’s Utopian Land

With the benefit of hindsight was this dystopian result deserved?

This week it’s Oliver’s turn to consider a less-celebrated Greek entry from the not too distant past. Going into the contest, Greece’s entry from the 2016 contest was not a massive fan favourite… but most will remember it for being the first Greek entry that failed to qualify to the final. However, with the benefit of time… was this dystopian result deserved?

Utopia in troubled times

Entering the 2016 contest, Greece was an ageing powerhouse in the contest. Following successive top 10s, a win and an impressive 100% qualification record, the hellenic nation had a lot to be proud of. However, signs of fatigue were starting to show. The attempts at pop were becoming less successful, as the slick sheen of production from the previous decade started to fade. In some sense, Greece went through a Eurovision based crisis, a dismal 20th in 2014 and even a ballad (!) in 2015. In response, ERT went slightly left-field with Argo (previously known as Europond).

The song has strong ethnic and Balkan sounds, but not in a traditional way. It’s an exciting song in Greek, bringing the country’s own identity to the contest. The lyrics will refer to the refugee crisis and the financial difficulties we are facing, but the song is really happy and upbeat

Dionisis Tsaknis

I appreciate this song a lot more now than I did in 2016. Perhaps the meaning is more poignant, perhaps it takes a bit of time for the song to connect properly. However, rap never does particularly well at the contest. The song received a mixed review by the team back in the day – although I disagree with the literal reading of the English lyrics. I think the song has layers of complication and irony: ‘dance with us and have some fun’ isn’t an instruction, but a moment of momentary paradise for a land of salvation that, sadly, may never exist.

Lost in visual translation

However, much like particular emotions such as anger – this needed a specific staging. Frankly, the visuals did not help effectively narrate the so important issues the song attempted to grabble. The pontic lyrics are exceptional, but sadly the presentation did little for non-speakers. With such an important message that the contest needed to address, the music video gave the impression of a simple but important image. The image of an individuals world being irrevocably fragmented. No turning back. Hope for something better, with no guarantee the utopian land so sought desperately is ever found after or even exists… The song is a lament for what is lost and a desperate plea for a structured future.

This song deserved so much more visually to properly tell the nuance and stark reality so many of us casually observed from afar. We could, and should’ve been given an insight to a very real lived experience. Audiences should have felt a degree of humility and perspective from the performance. I think the failure to qualify sadly demonstrated the visuals failed to capture the message.

Once again, the music video did a better job than the live performance – such a huge shame!

To qualify or not to qualify… that is the question

An infamous Shakespearian adage. In the case of Utopian Land… I’m not sure. There is at least one country from the actual semi one qualifiers I would happily have swapped with almost anything but I won’t shame said country *ahem* Azerbaijan *ahem*. Greece would have needed around an additional 100 points to have qualified, which would have been a steep ask. There is certainly lots of interesting things to praise in this entry. However, it ultimately lacked the cohesive polish and engaging spectacle that Greece so proudly refined. The messaging was sanitised by the staging and the evocative, challenging visuals of the music video vanished to nothingness. A huge shame. However, I would happily take Utopian Land and a NQ over the generically bland, but qualifying pop mess that was the song that succeeded Argo’s track.

What does the team think?

Simon

The classic Eurovision recipe of traditional instruments and dance, shouty rap, and a hook to the chorus, and a shirtless man. Regardless of the style, I’ll happily take anything that playfully switches between a 4 and 7 time rhythm, in this case somewhat despite itself. I enjoyed it live and I enjoy it now; what is lacks in showiness or catchiness it makes up for with musicality. But maybe for Europe it was altogether just a little bit… too Greek?

Matt

There were so many stand out songs in Stockholm 2016 that this Greek entry didn’t quite cut it. Sometimes you can look at a performance and think everything went right and that’s it, but being competent isn’t enough for Eurovision. Firstly, the English lyrics are a little basic and I think singing in Greek would have lifted the song. Secondly, there is too much going on, both on stage and musically. It’s like 2 songs stitched together. Solid entry but not ‘vote grabby’

Sara

I’ll be honest – Utopian Land is a guilty pleasure of mine. The fusion of rap with traditional singing and ethnic elements is totally up my alley and back in 2016 I even thought they had a shot at qualifying (my predictions are impeccable, thank you very much). However, looking back on the performance, it wasn’t as polished as I remember, and it lost a lot of power from studio to live. That being said, it deserved way more than 16th and I hate that it’s the worst performing Greek entry in a while (ever?). Hopefully Greece goes back to taking risks like this because Utopian Land had the right idea, just not the best execution.

Tim

I will be honest about this, when the song was announced, it felt as if I knew that Greece was not even trying or putting an effort. It is a great show and they did the best they could. I could think of other entries that should have been an NQ, but I really felt their emotions and passion on stage, but the song just lost it’s way on the night.

We hope you enjoyed this week’s review. Next Sunday we are back with another country!

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