Belarus’ national selection Nationalny Otbor takes places this evening and there’s certainly a lot on offer in 2019’s penultimate national final. What did we think of the potential entrants for Belarus in Tel Aviv?

Michael Soul – Humanize

James – 7 – “For a song called “Humanize,” this song sounds clinical and cold. I’d say Fear Factory’s “Mechanize” is both more human and warmer than this. However, you have to like his message about the anonymous hatred spewing world we live in and that a more personal, more human touch is needed. The sentiment of the song’s lyrics do not quite match the downbeat, minimalist electronica backing track. However, as tricky as this will be to stage and both capture the essence of the song and be enthralling to Eurovision viewers, this is a quality entry and I can’t say, despite a few negative points, I dislike it.”

Sean – 8 – “His voice has a slightly George Michael quality to it which is pleasingly colourful, and it works well with this dark, brooding storm of a song. Belarusian English issues aside, this could be really impressive live if given the suitable unsettling vibe and would offer something different in this year’s pack. Kudos to this one!”

Total – 15

ZENA – Like It

James – 5 – “A generic, average pop banger. It’s what you expect when you hear the song you’re about to listen to by someone who has attempted to represent Belarus at Junior Eurovision and done various Idol contest shows. Very middle of the road, which means that Belarus judges may be tempted to pick this on the basis of “this is what Eurovision will like.” But as Admiral Ackbar said in Return of the Jedi, “It’s a trap!””

Sean – 8 – “This has major banger potential! From the audition video it’s a little hard to understand the intricacies of the song due to the echo on the microphones, but Zena has a powerful peppy vocal and enough charisma and stage presence to carry this song on her own. Who knows what could be achieved with proper staging!”

Total – 13

Eva Kogan – Run

James – 4 – “From the Azerbaijan 2014 – 2018 scraps bin comes an anthemic ballad. Eva’s voice does not have the required power to pull it off, though. Or she is not quite confident enough to take it into overdrive. I am not sure. But the bigger problem is the composition itself. It doesn’t stand out in any way, shape or form and will guarantee yet another non-qualifier for Belarus, even if Eva gets her vocals sorted out.”

Sean – 6 – “Wait, this is in English? She needs to change it to Belarusian right now because I don’t understand this anyway. Language barrier aside, this is a decent stab at a dramatic Eurovisionified power ballad (and to be honest, we don’t have a good option for this this year). A little unremarkable but impressive and over the top in just the right way.”

Total – 10

BLGN ft. Mirex – Champion

James – 7 – “This has the most potential for Belarus, but is some way from being a finished article. The song has potential to be a great up-tempo banger, but the vocalist is not quite ready for prime time. He’s got good presence, but if he works on his vocals, and the track gets a bit of polish, we could be getting this year’s Cesar Sampson. And why is the mini-keyboard player wearing something that looks like his granny knitted him a Slipknot mask?”

Sean – 8 – “And another one! Why does Belarus exclusively seem to have an enunciation problem? The bonus here though is that this could turn into a really cool song with a bit more work on this aspect. Belarusian JOWST has served up a catchy, dense, piano-based dance pop track with a deliciously soulful vibe. Work on the lyrics and this could be a surprise package in Tel Aviv!”

Total – 15

Sebastian Roos – Never Getting Close

James – 5 – “Oh great, a power ballad by a rock guy. But of the sort Germany has been cranking out since the ‘80s (“Winds of Change!”) and never evolved. The problem with these guys is that they are top notch multi-instrumentalists but can’t write a compelling song for toffee. As Kip Winger goes (writer of “Seventeen” and tries his hand at classical music so people would forget that), so does Sebastian Roos. If you have an Aunt Linda who uses too much hairspray and wears leopard print blouses and leatherette leggings, this will be her jam. No-one else’s, though.”

Sean – 1 – “I don’t believe in giving a song a bit fat zero but by god, I came close with this one. The equivalent of an aural sleeping pill, there’s nothing unique or fresh about this dreary Disney ballad with none of the pep and cheer. Sorry, this is nowhere near the right song for me.”

Total – 6

Alyona Gorbachova – Can We Dream

James – 5  – “It took me a while to notice she was singing in English. Her consonants are all softened and the words just blend together. As with Latvia’s Samanta Tina, she’d be better off in her native language as there are moments, particularly at the key change, she struts her stuff impressively. But the song is just average and will get lost immediately.”

Sean – 3 – “A simple but effective painting by numbers ballad for the Eurovision faithful. The diction is good, the message is clear, but the music is uninspiring and would be drowned out in a contest increasingly embracing the unique and alternative sounds. Meh…”

Total – 8

PROvokatsiya – Running Away from the Sun

James – 1 – “Oh no, Belarusian rap. It’s terrible. And as with Alyona, it me a while to notice this is in English. But Alyona’s problem is limited to pronunciation, whereas these two tracksuit-wearing Dads mucking about on stage can’t sing for toffee. “When I want to kiss you, don’t look away” is the caliber of lyrics on display, when you figure out what they’re saying. I am going to make the claim that this is worse than Daz Sampson’s non-qualifier “Kinky Boots.””

Sean – 6 – “La, la la la, la la la la la… the lyrics aren’t very imaginative but this Eastern European reggaeton hip hop-lite track is certainly a departure from the usual Eurofest fare in Belarus. I wish it was full on in-your-face RnB but beggars can’t be choosers, and in this instance the lads of PROvokatsiya have brought a catchy (yet lyrically shallow) tune to the competition.”

Total – 7

Aura – Čharavala

James – 8 – “This is an old school 1970s Eastern European ballad. But it’s very well done and in a field of pop duds this one stands out. Aura is a great singer, capable of holding a note, possessing a warm vocal tone without resorting to a lot of vocal theatrics her contemporaries would attempt. Aura leads this song, and normally I would not say the dated entry is my favorite, but in Belarus’s case it is. It has enough charm to make it out of the semi-final in Tel Aviv, and unlike some of the other entries, does not feel like a hastily slapped together demo.”

Sean – 6 – “Aura may look like Trijntje Oosterhuis in a more conservative dress performing a winning entry from Ireland’s 1990s domination, but as long as I can look past this there is an authentic, atmospheric entry in Belarusian that could lend itself well to a pretty staging and a captivating, transfixing three minutes if done right. Not really my thing, but I can appreciate its potential value to the contest.”

Total – 14

NAPOLI – Let it Go

James – 5 – “A boring piano driven ballad, and even though NAPOLI has a great voice, as with others here she is stuck with a dull song. She’s a repeat visitor to Belarus’s national selection, but she does not seem to be improving with each selection. But this is more the fault of the song than the singer. And I don’t see this going anywhere should NAPOLI win Belarus. And come on! Naming your song after one of the biggest worldwide hits of the 2010s is asking for a comparison, and NAPOLI is no Adele Dazeem (sorry, Idina Menzel).”

Sean – 7 – “Despite entering every Belarusian national final since the dawn of human existence, Napoli are still waiting to join the main contest. Could this finally be the year? The signs are certainly there for a decent finish, with a slick piano ballad that has the right level of emotion and none of the cringe or cheesiness. Keeping things low-key works wonders from time to time, and with a subtle performance this could be a dark horse to win the selection for sure!”

Total – 12

KeySi – No Love Lost

James – 6 – “KeySi’s live vocals were not strong, and she will have to work on that if she is to take this generic modern pop ala Katy Perry to Eurovision. Even in the recorded version, her pronunciation is atrocious, but if she refines it and adds more of that military snare to go with the military dance theme she did at the audition, this song could have strong potential. But in current condition, it’s not ready for Tel Aviv.”

Sean – 6 – “Despite the cliché lyrics, KeySi have provided us with an atmospheric electro-pop song to round off the selection. The dark undertones and near-apocalyptic feel to the music give a strong contrast to the airy lyrics and this lends itself well to a performance full of angst and drama. It’s not quite brash enough to stand out as a winner but a decent entry nonetheless.”

Total – 12

So what did we make of the songs overall? Here’s our ranking…

  1. Michael Soul – Humanize – 15
  2. BLGN ft. Mirex – Champion – 15
  3. Aura – Čharavala – 14
  4. ZENA – Like It – 13
  5. NAPOLI – Let it Go – 12
  6. KeySi – No Love Lost – 12
  7. Eva Kogan – Run – 10
  8. Alyona Gorbachova – Can We Dream – 8
  9. PROvokatsiya – Running Away from the Sun – 7
  10. Sebastian Roos – Never Getting Close – 6

So it’s a very close selection in our selection, but we have to go for either Michael Soul or BLGN ft. Mirex as our choice for Belarus tonight! But do #YOU agree?

Who do #YOU want to represent Belarus in 2019? Share your thoughts with us on our forum HERE or join the discussion below and on social media!

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