Road to Eurovision 2021: Week 2 – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark

(image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

What is the Eurovision Song Contest?
Started way back in 1956 as a way of drawing a fractured Europe back together with the healing power of music, the Eurovision Song Contest, or Concours Eurovision de la Chanson – the contest is telecast in both English and French – is open to all active members of the European Broadcasting Union, which oversees the competition.

Each country is permitted to submit one three-minute song to the contest – a song which is selected by a variety of means, usually a winner-takes-all competition such as Sweden’s renowned Melodifestivalen – which they perform in one of two semi-finals in the hopes of making it to the glittering grand final.

Only six countries have direct entry into the grand final:

  • The Big Four who fund most of the contest – UK, Germany, France and Spain
  • The host country (which is the winner of the previous year’s contest)
  • Italy, who didn’t take part for many years and was re-admitted in 2011 after a 14 year absence (it was one of seven countries that competed in the first event), making the Big Four the Big Five.

The winner is chosen by a 50/50 mix of viewer votes (you cannot vote for your own country) and a jury of music industry professionals in each country, a method which was chosen to counter the alleged skewing of votes based on political and/or cultural lines when voting was purely the preserve of viewers at home.

Past winners include, of course, ABBA in 1974 with “Waterloo” and Celine Dion who won for Switzerland in 1988 with “Ne partez pas sans moi”.Above all though, the Eurovision Song Contest is bright, over the top and deliciously camp, a celebration of music, inclusiveness and togetherness that draws annual viewing figures in the hundreds of millions.

BULGARIA: “Growing Up is Getting Old” by VICTORIA

(image via Shutterstock)

THE ARTIST
VICTORIA (back for Eurovision 2021), who is not shouting at you mononymically or is she, clearly has a love of singular stage names and upper case lettering.

She also has, and this is handy when you’re representing your country in a contest like Eurovision, songwriting credits to go along with her singing prowess.

Kicking off her career with participation on X Factor Bulgaria, VICTORIA (her professional moniker is screaming out, quite literally, for an exclamation mark), or Victoria Georgieva to the Bulgarian tax department, has been singing since she was 11.

An ardent animal lover and Bulgaria’s representative for Earth Hour 2020, VICTORIA has her first EP in the works, a clear sense of what and how she wants to achieve in her career (she turned down an offer of a recording contract following X Factor preferring to record on her own terms) and, we can’t say this enough, is still not yelling at you …

VICTORIA (image courtesy Eurovision.tv (c) LORA MUSHEVA)

THE SONG
Inspired by some deep rumination about family and friends, “Growing Up is Getting Old” is one of those achingly beautiful songs that is a perfectly affecting coming together of music, lyrics and emotive delivery.

Recalling the kind of piercing melancholy that makes ABBA’s “Like an Angel Passing Through My Room” such a wrenchingly melancholic listen, “”Growing Up is Getting Old” is the kind of track that should deliver an absolute knockout out of a stage performance for Bulgaria.

Victoria’s voice is the key here; while the lyrics and music are top notch and really speak to that part of us that wonders if we can triumph over inner demons and constantly burbling anxiety about who we are and the kind of life we’re leading, it’s Victoria delivery that really makes this one of the stand out songs of this competition.

She doesn’t simply sound like she’s singing in some sort of perfunctory ticking-of-the-box way – she sounds, with every note and its fragilely powerful accompanying notes, that she is LIVING this song and it can’t help but affect you mightily as you listen to this embers-in the-fireplace-ruminatory type of song.

If Europe doesn’t vote for this song in droves, it has well and truly lost its heart; I suspect it hasn’t though and Bulgaria won’t just make it to the grand final but even has a chance of winning the damn thing.

CROATIA: “Tick-tock” By Albina

(image via Shutterstock)

THE ARTIST
Croatia has chosen a new representative for 2021 and it’s Albina, an artist from Split who we are assured “has had a burning passion for performance since she was young”, helped along by a super supportive family who encouraged her at every turn, including when it came to naturally to learning to play the piano, which naturally she does with a dazzling proficiency.

Know to the Croatian tax department as Albina Grčić, Albina who has pulled a Madonna and got for a single name stage moniker, kicked off her career with a third place finish in the The Voice Hrvatska after an abortive entry in X Factor Adria in Belgrade, Serbia didn’t quite go where she wanted. (They wanted her in a girl group; she politely declined and stayed resolutely solo.)

While her first single was “Imuna na strah (English: Immune to Fear)”, Albina has decided to go with “Tick Tock” as her entry, simply because, and this fits with her decision to opt of the girl group route, “she knew this would be the song to define her as an artist and performer.”

This is one artist who knows who she is and what she wants to be as an artist and who believes she has the song to achieve that so is “Tick Tock” the career-defining song she believes it to be?

Albina (image courtesy Eurovsion.tv (c) BORNA HRŽINA)

THE SONG
Yes, and no.

As up-to-the-minute pop burners go, “Tick Tock” possesses a certain presence in its distinctive, musically memorable chorus which surges with some highly danceable zest; where it falls down, not fatally but enough to take some of the pizzazz accrued by the chorus, is in the verses and bridges which sound a little too stop-start to make their presence fully felt.

All of which adds up to a perfectly fine pop sing, which if it comes packaged with the visual verve of the latter two-thirds of the clip when Albina goes from pedestrian day banality to glam night out chic, should make for a pleasantly diverting three minutes of pop fun.

But I suspect that up against some of the other consistently good pop numbers in his year’s slate of songs, that it will fail to make quite the impact Albina believes is her artistic birthright.

CYPRUS: “El Diablo” by Elena Tsagrinou

(image via Shutterstock

THE ARTIST
Since COVID travel restrictions preclude us from racing to Athens and Nicosia and validating this through a series of street polls, we will have to take the word of the Eurovison Song Contest bio for Cyprus’s entry this year “the glamorous multi-talented Elena Tsagrinou is one of the most recognisable pop stars across Greece and Cyprus.”

This must of course making grocery shopping or popping out for a quick bit of pandemic exercise more than a little problematic for the singer who got her start in the fickle world of pop stardom on the Greek iteration of the Got Talent franchise.

Following her success on this program, Tsagrinou became a member of the band OtherView in 2013 before leaving to pursue a solo career in 2018 with the release of her debut track “Pame Ap’ Tin Arhi” (released in English as “Summer Romance”).

Clearly unaccustomed to lazing around to no great effect, the artist, who has a dog named Poo, loves cottage cheese and would perform in drag under the name “El Drago!” (nothing like random facts to endear you to a person), currently hosts K-POP Stars, a natural fit for someone with love of that massively popular genre.

But is her sound a natural fit for Europe?

Elena Tsagrinou (image courtesy Eurovision.tv (c) PANOS GIANNAKOPOULOS)

THE SONG
Clearly learning nothing from a slew of cautionary tales of making pacts with the Devil, Tsagrinou boldly declares with a dancefloor passion raging behind her that she has given her heart to “El Diablo”.

With a bridge that sounds like someone hired those creepy kids that seem to populate every second Doctor Who episode, “El Diablo” is a perfect box-ticking, mainstream pop fare that would feel quite at home on the charts about five or so years ago.

This is another case of a perfectly pleasant banger that really goes nowhere particularly original – lyrically and musically, it’s a firm case of “been there, done that” with the T-shirt quite clearly in the mail, and while it will likely do reasonably well with a feisty stage performance, it’s not likely to make much of a lasting impression.

Still given Tsagrinou’s popularity among the Greek diaspora, look for the track to at least send her to the grand final though it will struggle to compete against more original and catchy songs once it gets there.

CZECH REPUBLIC: “omaga” by Benny Cristo

(image via Shutterstock)

THE ARTIST
Ben da Silva Cristóvão, better known professionally as Benny Cristo, must be tired.

Not only is the talented man born in the Czech city of Plzeň a singer and a songwriter but he is also a sportsman and an actor, as apt once to compete in tennis and snowboarding (is it just me or does a combination of the two sound like a very good, highly-viewable idea?) as he was to enter a Czech singing contest Česko Slovenská Superstar at the age of 21 in 2009.

Singing in Czech and English, Cristo is a very big deal in his home country, kicking off things in 2010 with the album Definitely Different, followed by a slew of other releases, massive performances in Prague’s O2 Arena and collaborations with a host of other artists from the Czech and Slovak republics.

A vegan and animal rights activist, Cristo is also a professional BrazilianJiu-Jitsuu fighter (does he never sleep?), an advocate for plastic bottle disposal schemes and an educator of children on the dangers of the internet.

Add to all that activity, representing the Czech republic at Eurovision and you have a man who could well fall asleep on stage at the contest from exhaustion … or not …

Benny Cristo (image courtesy Eurovision.tv (c) PAVLA HARTMANOVA)

THE SONG
Who doesn’t love a gushy, caught in the romantic delirium of it all love song?

Especially where one party stuffed up, and is doing his best to convince the wronged party to “why don’t you come over and have it / why don’t you let me have it all” and you sense that love could triumph over dumb mistakes and poor judgement?

This is Eurovision after all, which is all about hope, second chances, love and things going brilliantly, wonderfully well, and in that regard, Cristo has served up the perfect dancefloor ready slice of effervescently upbeat pop.

It makes your ears tingle, your heart surge, your soul surge with happiness and your feet to tapping with exuberant possibility – it is Eurovision in one jaunty three-minute slice of buoyant wonderfulness and will deliver for Cristo and the Czech Republic in leaping-around-the-room with giddy joyous spades.

DENMARK: “Øve Os På Hinanden” by Fyr Og Flamme

(image via Shutterstock)

THE ARTIST
It’s hard to be certain if pitching yourself as “Teenage idols your parents can understand!” is something that will help or hinder your hoped-for heady scrabble up the pop music ladder of stardom.

But that is precisely what Denmark’s 2021 entry is doing with “synth supremos” Fyr and Flamme confident it is the way to cross-generational success and enduring pop fandom.

The duo, consisting of Jesper Groth and Laurits Emanuel, first made a name for themselves with their 2020 debut single “Menneskeforbruger” which rather happily surged to #1 on the P3 Listen Danish chart, and was followed by “Kamæleon” and of course, their Eurovision song entry “Øve os på hinanden” which won them Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, the Danish selection process for the contest.

It is worth noting, and so naturally we shall, that this is the first time since the heady days of the late twentieth century, 1997 to be precise, that Denmark’s entry has been sung entirely in Danish – will this be point of distinction for the song or does it need more than just non-English lyrics to make its mark?

Fyr Og Flamme (image courtesy Eurovision.tv (c) RASMUS LAURSEN)

THE SONG
Frankly “Øve os på hinanden” is a ton of fun in any language.

Channeling an ’80s spirit and sound with a glittery costumed vengeance, and awash with a giddily jaunty vibe that both classic ’70s Eurovision and a decade later’s worth of costume choices and music build-up, the track is bound to be a massive crowd pleaser.

It’s the kind of song that cuts through in whatever language it is sung in, and could do very nicely for Denmark, awash with the kind of danceable zest so in need at a time when COVID-19 continues to make its most unwelcome presence felt across Europe.

The song is a brilliant piece of upbeat pop all on its own, but is channeling is just the right amount of joyousness and vivacious escapism that should see people flocking to it in droves, propelling Denmark in the grand final and quite possibly into the top ten though it will have to fight off a number of stronger songs to do so.

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One thought on “Road to Eurovision 2021: Week 2 – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark

  1. I had Bulgaria as one of my top three last year and feel underwhelmed by the follow up. I’ve listened to a lot of Victoria’s songs and started to feel that all the songs merged into one in my head. It’s a beautiful song but not as memorable and sweet. I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t qualify.

    Croatia definitely one to watch. Catchy, and cheerful. Admittedly I disliked it initially because it got the ticket to Eurovision over some songs I liked better in the Croatian final. It soon recovered and got me … Tic Toc dancing. I hope it does well.

    Czech Republic – oh my god – very original and catchy but I already am a little tired of it. Will be interesting to watch how it does on the night.

    Cyprus – love it, definitely Top 5 material for me – plagiarism – shmagiarism if it’s so good I don’t care that it sounds a bit like Lady Gaga. In my book that’s a good thing.

    Denmark I like on paper – pop and in Danish language, two energetic performers but it doesn’t come together fully for me. Nice mid-ranking but not the Top positions that fan polls give it,

    Again, an interesting bunch of songs and voting should be interesting

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