All opinions expressed in this article are those of the person quoted and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the other team members or ESC United as a whole.
Later tonight, the online poll for the 17th and final act competing at Supernova 2022, the Latvian national selection for Eurovision, will close.
The “wildcard” entry will join 16 acts already named by broadcaster Latvijas Televīzija (LTV) in the Semi-Final rounds to see who will compete to represent the Baltic nation at Eurovision 2022 in Turin, Italy.
Ten acts were put forward to the wildcard round, and since January 9th, online voting has commenced.
However, we at ESC United decided to collectively review the ten entries and recommend who should be the 17th act to go through to Supernova 2022.
The ESC United “expert panel” assembled for this task is:
- William Carter of Texas.
- Tyler Griffiths of Alaska.
- James Maude of California.
- Boris Meersman of Belgium.
And in the same order as on LTV’s website, here are our thoughts on the ten wildcard acts.
Antra Stafecka and Atis Ieviņš – “Call the Lights”
Boris – 2 – “Deafeningly loud music has rarely made me wish this much that I was actually deaf.”
James – 4 – “What the hell does “Call the Lights” mean? Isn’t a call light that thing on the hospital bed you use to call a nurse? The lyrics are mangled self-help cliches, like someone translated Tony Robbins into Latvian and then back again. And then slapped on what a Latvian thinks a Sunset Strip rock track should sound like. The only power they will feel is that of whatever device being used to watch this mess being turned off.”
Tyler – 6.5 – “Most of the appeal of “Call the Lights” to me is how much it reminds me of a B-side track from a musical soundtrack. That’s not quite a bad thing, but the song is bubblegum enough for me to not hate it when listening to it. It’s kinda fun, even if the lyrics aren’t memorable outside of a “Roses are red / Violets are blue / It’s not even funny / When you get the bad moods (moves?)”. I can see why this was relegated to the pre-selection round. Fun, but unoriginal.”
William – 3 – “This is about 6 songs blended together; some of them I like, some of them I don’t. A version of this song that fully commits to a country-rock sound would be a lot more successful, but it would still need better lyrics. It’s … amiable (?) but, ultimately, confused.”
Total: 15.5 points (Average = 3.875)
Dārta Stepanova – “Brīnumzeme”
Boris – 7 – “Actually enjoyable? Like, good use of harp, nice build up, pleasant melody. “Brinumzeme” is better than Markus and that obnoxious He She song. WHY ISN’T IT AN AQ??? Oh well, it won’t be a Wildcard either, thanks to Latvia’s dumbass decision to show vote percentages BEFORE you vote, letting you know that your vote is completely wasted if you don’t cast it for Miks or Katrina. SMART THINKING.”
James – 8 – “Why is this in the also rans section, considering some of the pinched loaves that the jurors already passed on to the Supernova 2022 finals? Nice use of harp and strings, and the build is very well done, from a slow, intricate start to an assured mid-tempo pop finish. Latvia did Darta dirty in 2022 by sticking her in the wildcard selection (and don’t get me started with how they’re conducting the online vote).”
Tyler – 8 – “My favorite wildcard entry by far in this round! Too bad I think “Brīnumzeme” is dead in the water. Dārta sings the song quite well and the music itself has plenty of key changes and moments that keep me intrigued while listening. I don’t think this should have placed so low to be put in the wildcard round, but I can see why this may not be very successful at Eurovision–this has eurofan favorite flop energy. Which isn’t a bad thing, just means it would have probably flopped! I enjoyed the vocals, the beats, almost everything about the song, but I need to be more realistic about it’s chances. Maybe this will be a big surprise, but I don’t think so.”
William – 6 – “This is a pleasant surprise. Were it to be in the Supernova final, it would be one of the better songs. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but it’s anthemic and energetic. I dig the mood and attitude. Wouldn’t be mad to see it advance.”
Total: 29 points (Average = 7.250)
Edvards Strazdiņš – “Open Road”
Boris – 5 – “Literally Steffen Jakobsen from Norway, but worse… who was STEFAN from Estonia, but worse.”
James – 1 – “An utterly atrocious and hapless Eastern European knock-off of a bro-country anthem. If Waffle House made fortune cookies, you could assemble them and make the lyrics to this song. He even threw “Ride to Live… Live to Ride” in. To quote Don Johnson from “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man”, it’s better to be dead and cool than alive and uncool. “Open Road” manages to be Dorks of Anarchy uncool and its chances at Supernova are deader than a doornail.”
Tyler – 5 – “I…I don’t know what this song was. It sounded like Edvards was putting on the thickest affect possible to sound American country, so there’s this unnatural voice in between generic guitar twangs before the song morphs into generic dubstep? And then the song was over right when it felt too long? I just…I’m just curious what this would look live I guess. This is a weird track that I overall don’t care for at all, but maybe this would be interesting live? Not sure what to think. Come back to me again if this makes it past the wildcard round.”
William – 3.5 – “There’s a sincere appreciation, I think, of late ‘90s/early ‘00s country music here, but it’s all a bit … over-seasoned? There could be a good song here, but it’s smothered by too many layers of production and a distractingly manufactured vocal twang.”
Total: 14.5 points (Average = 3.625)
Katrīna Dimanta – “My Voice”
Boris – 7 – “Delicious Ethnodreck <3 Shame on you Latvia for denying this glorious trainwreck-in-the-making to us.”
James – 7.5 – “After some dreadful faux-bro-country, it’s refreshing to hear something that sounds Latvian in its instrumentation and arrangement, even if the lyrics are in English. Maybe if she’d stuck to Latvian that one language snob juror would have sailed her through as an automatic qualifier over some of the more questionable choices? No doubt the song lends itself to some traditional outfits and dances, which most casual punters at Eurovision would enjoy, and throw in the self-empowerment themes, you’ve got an entry that both the feminists and the traditional bros can vote for, by a performer who’s got experience in this international song contest lark.”
Tyler – 7 – “I feel so bad for Katrīna; Eurovision alum back from 2014, runner-up in Supernova 2020, and she got relegated to this wildcard selection. … But I can see why. “My Voice” has interesting things going for it–I quite like the folk going into it, but the song is noticeably weaker than “Heart Beats”. “My Voice” doesn’t leave much of a positive impact on me–I grew tired of the lyrics quite quickly, and I wish she just had a better song, even if this also showed off her vocals. Oh well.”
William – 7 – “Katrīna was the RUNNER-UP at the previous Supernova. I’m feeling a little … insulted (?) on her behalf that she’s been shunted to an online second chance round this year. And the song is solid! It’s a nice little folk dance track, well-sung, with some traditional ethnic flourishes. Why isn’t this already in the final? Were the finalists this year selected via dart board?”
Total: 28.5 points (Average = 7.125)
Marta Ritova – “Let Me Go”
Boris – 5.5 – “Inoffensive, but likable ambient pop. I guess.”
James – 8.5 – “Tegan & Sara took Ambien and performed another toxic relationship basic indie-pop song. That’s the general vibe, even down to overdubbing Marta’s vocals in the chorus to replicate Canada’s favorite twins. The chorus itself is quite catchy and easy to sing along to, and like Tegan & Sara will no doubt have some aggressive fans should “Let Me Go” move on (it won’t, but if it should, be careful casting shade). Anyway, I rather like this and will sneak this into boxing night party playlists when my lesbian friends come over.”
Tyler – 7 – “Let Me Go” has a good beat to it, and I quite enjoy it! The song feels unfinished to me though and the lyrics don’t leave an impression for me at all. Those criticisms notwithstanding, this is a pretty okay song that makes me wonder why this wasn’t thrown into the selection in the first place only to be killed in the semifinal. Unsure why this was put into the pre-selection where it might not make an impression. I walked away enjoying this song though for the melody, but not enough to really be a stan.”
William – 5.5 – “The ‘80s synth vibes are cute, but that’s kind of last year’s sound? Still, this is a pretty sturdy little pop track with an understated, evocative vocal. Because it’s not flashy, it would need to be about 15% better than it is right now to really stand out among the competition. As it is, it’s middle-of-the-road.”
Total: 26.5 points (Average = 6.625)
Mārtiņš Strods – “One More Time”
Boris – 5 – ““My story starts with an endin’. “. True enough, because yours will end where it started – in the Supernova Wildcard round.”
James – 3 – “Very repetitive. I don’t want to hear this “one more time,” despite every single entreaty by Mārtiņš. The lyrics are a jumble of nonsense when he is not mentioning “one more time” randomly sprayed on top of a dull acoustic pop track. He references having a fun time with friends, but I am not feeling it. It also doesn’t help the track shares the name of one of Daft Punk’s greatest songs. Guess what I’d rather be listening to.”
Tyler – 6 – “This is a cute song! Makes me think “One More Time” is Mārtiņš trying to subliminally message to viewers that we want to vote for this song to get a winner’s reprise. A bold strategy! But “One More Time” is also quite repetitive that doing an encore right after listening to this song doesn’t feel as nice as the song makes it out to be. The music is fine, the lyrics overall though are meh. I wouldn’t mind listening to this one more time in a long time though. Maybe in a few months?”
William – 4 – “A little … low energy? Mārtiņš has a nice voice, but the song just kind of sits there, like a beautiful corpse. I kept waiting for it to kick into a higher gear, but it never really does. It’s respectable but not that memorable.”
Total: 18 points (Average = 4.500)
Miks Galvanovskis – “I’m Just A Sinner”
Boris – 2 – “*Sigh*, the song that everyone votes for, is ofc one of the worst options available. First of all, I hate Miks’s voice, like walking headfirst into a woodchipper, does anyone enjoy that in any genre other than metal or punk? Secondly, this song aims at Americanized country rock (why? it’s not like this genre is actually good), but lands at badly remixed ElektroFolk in terms of overall vibe. Boring, Insipid, Borderline Inaudible, Never Qualifying. SOUNDS LIKE PERFECT WILDCARD MATERIAL TO ME!!! — Latvia”
James – 1.5 – “Christ above, another crap faux country track with Swedish production touches? I am not sure if Miks’s voice or the guitar tone annoys me more. I also can’t tell if this is worse than Edvards’s attempts at country. I don’t think so, because this one at least has manic touches like Miks screaming like his crotch is on fire and his backup vocalists sounding straight out the back arse of Daugavpils heading to a taping of “Hee Haw.” I don’t particularly care for American authenticity, but I don’t want the Latvian Muppets do Nashville either.”
Tyler – 3 – “Okay, but why is Miks a sinner? Just saying you’re one to be, I dunno, badass about it just seems like a fad or poser to me. The style of music “I’m Just a Sinner” is happens to be unique to stand out (makes me think soul bluegrass), but is the song good? Eh? It reads as Miks just being different than others and going to Hell because of it and…no? I won’t belabor the point here, the song feels too hard to be unique, with the attitude that it’s existence is unique and cool too and not really? It’s just the same point for three minutes, and I find that boring to listen to and can’t really engage further positively with it. This song really, REALLY doesn’t vibe with me at all, not because it’s a different sound, but because it is boring and feels like that Jughead meme from “Riverdale”. “I’m Just a Sinner” is trying to pretend it isn’t the “I’m weird. I’m a weirdo.” meme, but it totally is!”
William – 6.5 – “The risk of a hot mess live performance is high with this one, but it’s very … committed to itself. The guitar track is honestly the best part. Miks’ voice won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I appreciate that his vocals have a distinct personality and rhythm. Wish the song was a smidge more memorable, but it has a strong enough point of view to make an impact.”
Total: 13 points (Average = 3.250)
Rihards Bērziņš – “1+1”
Boris – 4 – “Why do people think warped autotune counts as a valid vocal technique?”
James – 5 – “1 + 1 doesn’t equal 5, which is coincidentally the score I am going to give this laughably cringe soft rock dedication to a baby done with overly processed vocals. I am going to qualify this review by saying that I am not the target market for this sort of track, so it may possess charms that completely go over my head as a non-doting non-parent. And if I was a parent, I’d probably be like that teacher in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” yelling at the kids to eat their meat. There’s a sincerity and a sweetness to this track you can’t deny, but surely you can tell a kid you love them without reminding them they are the product of Mom and Dad? What a wacky selection Supernova 2022 would be if this wholesome family entry ends up on the same stage as the P&%%$ salad song. But yeah, even though Rihards may be a nominee for “Latvia’s Best Dad,” probably not likely to win the endorsement of largely feral and emotionally stunted ESC United writers.”
Tyler – 4.5 – ““1+1” is a unique song slight_smile Electronica is interesting to me, but then when the vocals from Rihards are also in that style, it gives me bigger pause in my enjoyment of the song. Is this about Rihards talking to a child? A lover? The hook of “1+1 makes you / Mom and Dad love you” is also just, WOOF. This might have read brilliant in the songwriting stage, but then praxis came through and showed that to not be true. “1+1″ makes a doomed wildcard entry I fear.”
William – 4.5 – “This is very sweet. It has a clear message, a nice build, and it feels sincere. Appreciate the lack of cynicism. I hope his kid(s) like it. The kind of high notes Rihards is going for at the end are a risky gambit. We’ve seen them go very badly for other singers during live performances in the past, and I’m not sure I’d want them in THIS song, even if they were delivered perfectly on pitch.”
Total: 18 points (Average = 4.5)
Tētis – “Labākie vārdi”
Boris – 3 – “Feels indeterminably long, despite being shorter than most other wildcards.”
James – 6 – “A pleasant enough three minutes of string and percussion samples with a smooth, cool voice singing over it. If Carousel bombed at Eurovision, I can’t imagine this similarly light adult track doing much better. This song is cool and inoffensive, but disappears into the aether upon listening. This is well suited to listening while at work, but probably not suited to a song contest.”
Tyler – 7.5 – ““Labākie vārdi” is very much one of those songs that can turn people off. For good reason! The lyrics and vocals don’t really pop given how eclectic the music itself is. However, I found the music itself to be quite fascinating to listen to? Very eclectic and musically interesting. This has no shot whatsoever at winning the wildcard though. The instrumentation is lovely, and this will be added to my playlist. This has no shot though at being a universal favorite though, so a lower score it gets!”
William – 5 – “The instrumentation on this track is very … peculiar, not necessarily in a bad way. If nothing else, I’m compelled to keep listening. I’m not bowled over by it, but it’s so mellow that I wouldn’t expect to be. Hope he returns for a future Supernova, with a slightly elevated sound. There’s something here.”
Total: 21.5 points (Average = 5.375)
Toms Kalderauskis – “Naked smile”
Boris – 6.5 – “While far from a great, forward-thinking song, “Naked smile” is easy to listen to, even vaguely competent, and way better than Markus. Why is this not an AQ? Baffling. Anyway, enjoy losing the wildcard vote to the worst song in the group, I guess.”
James – 3 – “Uninspiring Adult Contemporary. What is a naked smile, anyway? If she was buck naked and in front of him, wouldn’t he be a bit more enthusiastic? Or does she normally wear too much lip gloss, and he’s one of those awkward progressive men who insist she is better looking without make-up? Can’t tell, don’t care. Snooze.”
Tyler – 5.5 – “”Naked Smile” started strong for me! Thought the beat was good, the lyrics were interesting from Toms. Then the chorus kicked in and took away what I liked about the song! I think this central metaphor for a naked smile sounds silly since it seems genuine but Toms is acting fake because of it? How does that track? I have no idea! The song failed to recover for me at that point all and then I just grew bored listening to it, and I’ve forgotten everything past that initial chorus shock. At least you made Wildcard!”
William – 6 – “Probably the most solidly radio-friendly song in the bunch. It’s not exceptional, but there’s a nice hook here and a compelling vocal. I’m not totally satisfied when the song ends. Feels a little … abbreviated, lacking in some songwriting dynamism. Still, it’s credible, catchy, and sounds current, more-or-less.”
Total: 21 points (Average = 5.250)
And with 29 points and an average of 7.25 points Dārta Stepanova’s “Brīnumzeme” edges out Katrina Dimanta for the ESC United endorsement.
In less than 24 hours, the wildcard winner will be known. We will appraise the Semi-Final entries for Supernova when they arrive.
Do #YOU agree with ESC United’s Wildcard pick? Who do #YOU think should (or should have, depending on when you read this) go through to the Supernova 2022 finals. Let us know in the comments below, on social media, or in our forum or Discord.