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First listens of every Eurovision 2016 entry

I've done the hard work to make your Eurovision experience simple once again this year. Here are my first impressions of this year's Eurovision Song Contest entries.

The Eurovision Song Contest’s 2016 album, featuring all the acts entering the contest this year, was released yesterday. I’ve deliberately avoided listening to this year’s line up until today1.

In 140 characters or fewer, here are my first impressions of each of the 43 entries.

Semi-final 1 - 10 May 2016

Sing It Away - Sandhja - Finland

This is going to be a great opening number that’ll pump some energy into the stadium. It’s a safe, strong pop affair; and I like it!

Utopian Land - Argo - Greece

Greece, we need to have words. What happened? Did you go in too heavy on the ouzo when you picked this? Nil points.

Falling Stars - Lidia Isac - Moldova

This feels like a dated STEPS number. Which should be fun - because we can all do some line dancing in the arena.

Pioneer - Freddie - Hungary

There’s so much gravel in this guy’s throat, I want to give him a throat lozenge. It’s a strong vocal for a strong song.

Lighthouse - Nina Kraljić - Croatia

This could have been a superb ballad; the instrumentation is intriguing, and there’s a key change. But you can’t excuse the weak vocals.

Slow Down - Douwe Bob - The Netherlands

This is like a Beatles-country revival. I’d be happy for this to “speed up brother”, just so it was over. Not a fan.

LoveWave - Iveta Mukuchyan - Armenia

I’ve no idea what’s going on with the faux-phone call, but its not the first act to badly copy a best-selling artist.

I Didn’t Know - Serhat - San Marino

San Marino has run out of talent. It was inevitable with a population of 32,000.

Let’s hope this Shaft rip off falls at the first hurdle.

You Are The Only One - Sergey Lazarev - Russia

A decent key change, and some false endings make this a pretty full on dance number. A fairly weak male vocal though.

I Stand - Gabriela Gunčíková - Czech Republic

There’s clearly a competent singer here, but the song is just uninspiring ballad that never quite pulls your heartstrings.

Alter Ego - Minus One - Cyprus

After 2015’s Cypriot snooze fest, this is pretty refreshing and fun! I’m not cool enough to have an opinion about this energised rock song.

Loin d’ici - ZOË - Austria

Austria must’ve just gotten last year’s bill. That’s the only reason I can think of for a song with no discernible hook and a 90s vibe.

Play - Jüri Pootsmann - Estonia

Did Estonia kidnap Jamie Cullum?

This pop-jazz fusion is pretty interesting but I’m not sure it’s strong enough to place well though.

Miracle - Samra - Azerbaijan

This reminds me of Arianna Grande. Anthemic, good hook, and good contrast between verse and chorus. This would be at home in the UK Top 40.

The Real Thing - Highway - Montenegro

Whilst the instrumentation is solid, the lead vocals sound like drunk dads doing karaoke at a wedding. They just drone on, and on, and on…

Hear Them Calling - Greta Salóme - Iceland

Everything’s so nicey-nicey, boring-snoring, and then… boom the crazy is let loose. Well played Iceland. Well played.

Ljubav Je - Dalal & Deen - Bosnia and Herzegovina

A terribly unexciting duet. I’d have expected a track this dull in the early 2000’s. The rap came from nowhere and fails to impress.

Walk On Water - Ira Losco - Malta

If you ever bought an Ibiza remix CD when they were a thing, you know what this is like. Good vocals, rhythm and pacing. Solid track.

Semi-final 1: Verdicts

Song Artist Country Verdict
Sing It Away Sandhja Finland Like
Utopian Land Argo Greece Dislike
Falling Stars Lidia Isac Moldova Like
Pioneer Freddie Hungary Like
Lighthouse Nina Kraljić Croatia Dislike
Slow Down Douwe Bob The Netherlands Dislike
LoveWave Iveta Mukuchyan Armenia Dislike
I Didn’t Know Serhat San Marino Dislike
You Are The Only One Sergey Lazarev Russia Like
I Stand Gabriela Gunčíková Czech Republic Dislike
Alter Ego Minus One Cyprus Like
Loin d’ici ZOË Austria Dislike
Play Jüri Pootsmann Estonia Like
Miracle Samra Azerbaijan Like
The Real Thing Highway Montenegro Like
Hear Them Calling Greta Salóme Iceland Like
Ljubav Je Dalal & Deen Bosnia and Herzegovina Dislike
Walk On Water Ira Losco Malta Like

Semi-final 2 - 12 May 2016

Heartbeat - Justs - Latvia

This sounds like the musical love child of Bastille and Boy George. It’s all pretty psychedelic; in a good way.

Color Of Your Life - Michał Szpak - Poland

I’m not sure what metaphor Michał is going for, but regardless, this is a pretty dull. I suspect this will be knocked out in the semi-final.

The Last Of Our Kind - Rykka - Switzerland

I have very little to say about this. I enjoyed the nap I had whilst it was on.

Made Of Stars - Hovi Star - Israel

If Hovi is a Star, he’s a fading star that’s imploding into irrelevance.

Help You Fly - IVAN - Belarus

I can imagine this could have been a better song with a better singer. That said, excellent use of electric guitar and synth.

Goodbye (Shelter) - Sanja Vučić ZAA - Serbia

The vocalist in this song is superb; and she knows how to pull off a good key change. It’ll never win but it might get through to the final.

Sunlight - Nicky Byrne - Ireland

Ireland’s firmly in late-90s boyband territory here; late-90s singer, late-90s song, late-90s cheese. It’s more Bryan Adams than Westlife.

Dona - Kaliopi - F.Y.R. Macedonia

I’ve got to sit through this at least once, possibly twice; and that doesn’t make me happy.

I’ve Been Waiting for This Night - Donny Montell - Lithuania

Amongst a pack of slightly-dancey-drum-heavy ballads, this is just meh. It builds fairly well, but the ending is too abrupt.

Sound of Silence - Dami Im - Australia

When you’ve only 3 minutes, you need to build momentum more quickly than this song. I can’t tell if this a power ballad or a club anthem.

Blue and Red - ManuElla - Slovenia

This is one of the least imaginative sets of lyrics in a Eurovision song for a while. Which would be fine, but the song is also uninspiring.

Moment of Silence - Ovidiu Anton - Romania

Someone sign this guy up for a Broadway musical. I’m sure the theatrics with this will be a joy to watch. Bravo.

If Love Was A Crime - Poli Genova - Bulgaria

Three words: Bloody. Good. Tune.

This is a song to put an arena in a party mood. It reminds me of Beyoncé and Galantis.

Soldiers of Love - Lighthouse X - Denmark

If Boyzone met One Direction and had gaybies, this would be the result. Unoriginal, but definitely catchy. Disappointing lack of key change.

1944 - Jamala - Ukraine

This is as morbid as a dead duck floating upside down in a pond. The duck was probably killed by the hideous screaming at the end.

Icebreaker - Agnete - Norway

The verses and the chorus in this sound like two completely different songs; both independently brilliant, but terrible together.

Midnight Gold - Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz - Georgia

This starts as a polished rock number reminiscent of the Arctic Monkeys, and then completely loses its shit, like Muse on acid. Bonkers.

Fairytale - Eneda Tarifa - Albania

Way to waste a moody opening! The verses aren’t very catchy and the chorus is just whiny. I don’t hate it, but can’t say anything positive.

What’s The Pressure - Laura Tesoro - Belgium

10 seconds in, my only comment is this: hell yes.

This is 70s disco mixed with Mark Ronson and Fleur East. Superb effort, Belgium.

Semi-final 2: Verdicts

Song Artist Country Verdict
Heartbeat Justs Latvia Like
Color Of Your Life Michał Szpak Poland Dislike
The Last Of Our Kind Rykka Switzerland Dislike
Made of Stars Hovi Star Israel Dislike
Help You Fly IVAN Belarus Like
Goodbye (Shelter) Sanja Vučić ZAA Serbia Like
Sunlight Nicky Byrne Ireland Like
Dona Kaliopi F.Y.R. Macedonia Dislike
I’ve Been Waiting for This Night Donny Montell Lithuania Like
Sound of Silence Dami Im Australia Like
Blue and Red ManuElla Slovenia Dislike
Moment of Silence Ovidiu Anton Romania Like
If Love Was A Crime Poli Genova Bulgaria Like
Soldiers of Love Lighthouse X Denmark Like
1944 Jamala Ukraine Dislike
Icebreaker Agnete Norway Dislike
Midnight Gold Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz Georgia Like
Fairytale Eneda Tarifa Albania Dislike
What’s The Pressure Laura Tesoro Belgium Like

Grand Final - 14 May 2016

J’ai cherché - Amir - France

It’s unusual to hear English lyrics in the French entry, but it’s another conservative choice for France. At least it’s not another ballad.

Ghost - Jamie-Lee - Germany

This had all the elements it needed to work, but it just doesn’t. What could’ve been a solid competitor ends up as a squandered opportunity.

No Degree Of Separation - Francesa Michielin - Italy

This is a total let down after mini Il Divo last year. It’s gratuitous instrumentation is uninspiring at best; an ear-assault at worst.

Say Yay! - Barei - Spain

Yes, Spain! This is everything I want from Euro-pop: catchy, full of bass and camp as Christmas.

If I Were Sorry - Frans - Sweden

Sweden just has a knack of producing pop songs that are on point; and this is another. This sounds like it’s from Coldplay’s latest album.

You’re Not Alone - Joe and Jake - United Kingdom

I maintain this is a weak choice compared with others the UK could’ve picked; but it’s not awful, and it’ll probably get the 1D-tween vote.

Finalists: Verdicts

Song Artist Country Verdict
J’ai cherché Amir France Dislike
Ghost Jamie-Lee Germany Dislike
No Degree of Separation Francesa Michielin Italy Dislike
Say Yay! Barei Spain Like
If I Were Sorry Frans Sweden Like
You’re Not Alone Joe and Jake United Kingdom Like
  1. I have heard the UK’s entry, because I watched the BBC selection, but I’ve not heard the rest.