Poland, Netherlands, Sweden, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Germany: Cosmopolitan pop?

There's been a lot of discussions and speculations what this year's Eurovision trends might be, and I've certainly heard novelties (which isn't true) and rock mixed with pop (which kinda is, see my next Eurovision post). But if I would have to name one trend that's more substantial than all the others, it's the shift towards standard mainstream, well-produced pop. Besides the six countries in this post there's also (conservatively counting) Russia, Greece, Malta, Armenia and Hungary - that's a quarter of all the entries in a fairly tight genre field.

Now, this might not seems surprising in a competition based on audience voting, but Eurovision has been notorious for lagging behind even the most stale mainstream pop. All the entries in this post, on the other hand, basically have the qualities of production (not necessarily song writing and performance, though) to do fairly well in the charts even outside the competition. If there's anything at all to set them apart it's little touches of slight national flavour in all the cosmopolitanness. But maybe, guys, it's not always the country you expect.

Take, for instance, Isis Gee. She's American, the song is American-produced, and whaddyaknow, it sounds American. Like an album track by Mariah Carey or something. Bright, overloaded with strings, slightly larger dynamic range than most European pop... It's not going to work, because Europeans can sense a straight import when they hear it (witness the failure of a similar strategy by Cyprus in 2006).

Or why not the Netherlands? Like Estonia (whose track is in some sort of fake-gibberish Croatian) the Netherlands have tried to analyse the recent win series of Eastern Europe and created something pseudo-Balkanic. I detect the rocker roots of this one unfortunately in the walking bass part that's a little to hard mixed and especially the wispy freakbeat drums, so it might not work too well on all audiences (especially with the fairly uneventful vocal performance). Still, it could do okay - people are, after all, flattered by imitation.

And then there's us (by contrast, since obviously you can hear it's Swedish, right?), and it's as well-crafted as anything we've sent of in the past few years. But I still don't like it. It feels squashed, somehow, slightly over-compressed (especially in the second verse) and there's something about the diva vocals and high-end synth riffs that reminds me unpleasantly of E-Type. Plus I've got little affection for Perelli. Still, I can easily see this breaching the top ten. But let's not dwell on it, shall we?

Ukraine, on the other hand, have everything but a very silly song title going for them. There are strong superficial similarities with Perelli's track - closer to dance music than anyone would dare do in the US, strong vocals, lack of dynamic range. But the detail work is immense, with great synth sounds, a brilliant and very modern-sounding bass line, and enough eastern flavour to work as both a cosmopolitan and a local number. Somehow, if there's anything that can be described as European pop as a contrast to America, it's this. And it's great. Top 3, if not the winner?

Another really strong entry I think. Hanson meets Timbaland meets traditional Eurovision and it actually works, it's got that coasting I associate with good-quality modern production. And it's even got a fake rewind! Still, I doubt anyone with a bit more taste will be as enthusiastic as me, so It'll probably end up in the lower half of the final.

And then there's Germany which sounds like a second-rate sleepy All Saints song and is all round snore-inducingly awful. (The secret is in the tempo or in charismatic performers, guys.)

There. If you think I'm rushing through these it's because there's only just over a week left, and I'm dead set on reviewing every track by then. Two posts to go...

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