One of the unwritten rules of this nervous marketing experiment that is Eurovision is that each time a country wins the contest a bunch of other countries try to copy it. (I detailed the the past few copycat years in this post last time around.) This makes the 2009 contest a bit of a dilemma, because the trend seems to have been suddenly broken: there are no obvious candidates that are formulaic copies of last year's winner.
If you don't remember Dima Bilan's "Believe", it was a mid-tempo ballad in the Walt Disney vein, underpinned by a rather clever and harmonically driving beat which supposedly Timbaland had laid a hand to. I had it in my top ten. So why hasn't anyone tried to copy the concept straight off? The only vaguely Timbaland thing in the contest is the intro to the Albanian entry, which sounds a lot like a Timbo production circa ten years ago:
Keisi Tola - Carry Me In Your Dreams
Pity it then proceeds to become generic pumping mainstream for the rest of the track. (A short section near the end provides a tantalising glimpse of how great the track could have been if they'd kept it up.) However fun the intro is, though, it's obviously the inspiration isn't anywhere near "Believe".
One thing to consider is that, maybe, the influence lies beyond the mere music. Take the idea of the blue-lit background. "Believe" had it, and this year seemingly every ballad has followed suit: Croatia, Denmark, Lithuania, Estonia, Malta, Iceland, Israel, Cyprus, Poland... That would be a visual connection. Then there's a celebrity connection - last year Dima featured ice skater Evgeni Plushenko, this year Britain is bringing in Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Germany (apparently!) Dita von Teese.
Still, not having any major musical connections at all bugs me, and even casting a wider net only a couple of tracks have similar ambitions, at least. Croatia has a bossa-nova beat behind a traditional ballad that chugs along in a similar way. Russia, which like many previous winners desperately cling to the winning idea, at least bears some similarity in the verses. But if I'm going to pick one successor to the "Believe" sound it's going to have to be Estonia:
Urban Symphony - Rändajad
It's probably wont to annoy tastemakers who've compared this track to both Kate Bush and Björk, but the handclaps are there, the harmonics are relatively stable, and there's a fairly freestyle-ish pickiness to the string section. I can definitely get the sort of perpetually delayed feeling off this track that was vaguely suggested last year and which Timbaland does so well. Perhaps the "trendy indie favourite" label on this track is masking its pop qualities?
SEXXY SATURDAY CUMBIA – JULY
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