Road to Tel Aviv: The Big 5 & Israel

I’ve never been a fan of the Big 5 – Big 4 until 2011 – rule. Not only does it appear as if the other participants are getting a second class treatment, but the big ones took their raison d’être for granted which led to poor results thanks to lackluster entries by Gracia, Scooch or Las Ketchup – to name a few. 2019 is another bad year for the qualified ones. If Germans hadn’t been so whiny about skipping Oslo ’96, who knows what could’ve been… . We wouldn’t see most of the following artists in the final. 

#06 Israel: Kobi Marimi – “Home”, Overall Placement: 34/41

I’ve had high hopes for Israel. After all they’ve sent great to decent songs – with the exception of 2011 – in this decade alone. It’s my favourite nation in the contest’s history. ”Home” is a total let down, a repetitive ballad full of cliché lyrics that anyone would read on a childish calendar book. The host nation’s curse to finish on the bottom side of the table won’t be broken this year.

#05 UK: Michael Rice – ”Bigger Than Us”, Overall Placement: 31/41

Michael reminds me a lot of these young male singers from the UK, John Newman and James Arthur. They don’t look like the usual idols, but their voices have superstar qualities. Never judge a book by its cover. Bookseller talking.

Now Michael is still a young lad and vocally far away from the two singers mentioned above. But I see potential there. However not for the song which is a plain love song. Juries could fall for it though or completely neglect it like they usually do with the British entry.

#04 Germany: S!sters – ”Sister”, Overall Placement: 26/41

”I’m tired of always losing.” Tell that to Ann-Sophie, Jamie Lee and Levina.

I hate to repeat myself, but the words just spin around in my head everytime I hear this song: Never trust the German televoters. Ever. People (also rightfully) like to criticize juries for their poor taste, but it’s the regular ARD viewer who’s to blame: stubborn conservative who likes inoffensive music. Along comes ”Sister”.

And here we go again with that same old problem that gave Germany three bottom results in a row: the song isn’t that bad at all, but it won’t get enough people behind it – especially in such a competitive year. Plus Laura and Carlotta don’t lean on each other very well and it shows in both live and studio version. Carlotta doesn’t come anywhere near Laura vocally. I still hope they prove me wrong somehow.

#03 France: Bilal Hassani – “Roi”, Overall Placement: 15/41 

Watching this year’s ”Destination Eurovision” was like reading a Christie novel. You knew exactly what was going to happen, but the tension rose nevertheless. And in the end the culprit reveal is nothing to be surprised about. Our culprit here goes by the name of Bilal Hassani. He murdered some notes during his performances. His sense of fashion sometimes is reason enough to call the fashion police, but I still like the song. Nothing I would grab the phone and vote my fingers off for, but a pleasant song. And that’s quite surprising, because I’m not a fan of Frenglish mix. But here je suis tellement cool with it. Other than that I respect Bilal for giving LGBT+ people with migrant background a voice. A voice that would need a lot more vocal coaching.

#02 Spain: Miki Núñez – ”La Venda”, Overall Placement: 13/41

To be honest I didn’t recognize Miki in the music video for ”La Venda”. While looking (and probably smelling* judging by Maria’s relieved face after she’s been announced the runner-up of OT) like a hobo his looks are now polished for ESC standards. Same goes for the song that has been slightly revamped. The lyrics are still full of Latin music clichés (”la vida loca”), but overall I find ”La Venda” very refreshing in this year’s line-up and more authentic than the contrived Latino from Bern. 

Also Miki’s a natural performer and I can see him doing a lot better in televote than with the juries. He’s got that Álvaro Soler sound and the energy of a Duracell rabbit that just got some fresh triple A’s shoved up its butt.

*Funnily enough ”Te pierdes” sounds like ”You’re farting” in Polish.

#01 Italy: Mahmood – ”Soldi”, Overall Placement: 06/41

Out of all song reviews this one wass the hardest to write for me. That’s a rare thing to happen to me. I wrote reviews for a living (well, more as a hobby, because that profession won’t pay your rent). Is it because this song leaves me speechless? Or are my skills getting rusty after so many years? The trouble is I don’t want to throw in empty phrases like “Italy’s serving quality”, because that wouldn’t do the song justice. There’s wiwibloggs and enough YouTubers already for such descriptions.

When ”Soldi” was declared the winner of Sanremo I thought to myself: this is the first major contender for Tel Aviv  – and we all know how long we waited for one to come. I’m especially keen on the piano-joined pre-chorus. Like many songs in recent years the chorus is a little bit weaker. The clapping reminds me of Neneh Cherry’s ”Manchild”.

Effortlessly Mahmood intertwines Arabic lines into the bilingual bridge. In general the song is a mix of modern beats and traditional Italian sounds. This is probably what I appreciate the most about ”Soldi”: this is a song that reflects the singer’s history. Not some song that has been rejected by other countries and been given to random artists – not gonna name anyone!

Alas I’m partly turned off by Mahmood’s voice which sometimes resembles a certain Italian singer who shares his name with a liquor. Anyway, if you ask me this is Italy’s best entry in their post-return phase.

Thanks again for reading. The show is over, say goodbye. Enough Madge puns.

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