Greece and Russia: Fake and Real Timbalandisms

Timbaland is one of the world's best-selling producers and certainly one of the few in the pure pop world whose production signature is instantly recognisable. Considering his success, it was perhaps inevitable that some of this year's Eurovision entries would try to copy that signature sound - I mean, we all know what a mature Timbaland production sounds like, right? Lots of short vocal samples like "hey!". Jiggly rhythmic figures that go semiquaver-semiquaver-quaver. Multilayered rhythms, strange percussion instruments, some handclaps.

The Greek entry has copied all of those aspects. Yet they get it so wrong.

Kalomira - Secret Combination

It already starts off wrong. Timbaland would never establish a rhythmic hook in the intro that then completely disappears into the background for the remainder of the song. Once the main rhtyhm is introduced it drops very conventionally into a first verse which I guess is okay, until the chord change and the guitar, and then the chorus which is very standard Eurovision pop. Not necessarily a wrong thing ("slightly hard" verses and a "soft" chorus has a tendency to produce winning entries) but it totally breaks the illusion of continuity. The only bit of the rest that feels good in the context is the last break, which adds an "ethnic Timbaland" touch as well. Still, overall it rests uncomfortably between two chairs and the constant breaks in style fuck up what is perhaps the main strength of newer Timbaland production.

Starting around 2006 Timbaland started incorporating a great minimal-hypnotic quality in his music, largely based on the influence of Latin Freestyle from the eighties. The shimmering, high-pitched chords, the subtle yet relentless propelling rhythm, the little repeated changeover motifs... It's brilliant. "Secret Combination", of course, has very little of it.

Russia's entry does though, at least a bit. It retains the "Timbaland hand clap" (in place of the vocal shout) and some of the rhythmic complexities and although it's excessively buttery it hints at the kind of regularised chord changes and hypnotic continuity discussed above. (Perhaps you hear it better in a studio version.)

Dima Bilan - Believing

If you've been following the Eurovision news you will know that the reason for this is that it's actually Timbaland who's produced this track. It's not one of his stronger productions (very throwaway and old-fashioned) but it does have a small touch of the magic. I think it can do fairly well in the competition.

As will probably Greece, unfortunately. Pity they couldn't repeat the quality of the last Greek code-themed entry, which actually has the high-pitched hypnotic synth chords this one is sorely missing.

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