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.
Supernova. This is where fourteen Latvian acts will compete for the change to represent their country at the Eurovision Song Contest this year in Liverpool. The last time and so far only time Latvia won the contest was back in 2002, and the last time Latvia even reached the final was in 2016. With news today that Latvia will compete in the first half of the first semi-final on 9 May, will they see the final once again and have a chance at winning?
This year, Supernova has a semi-final and a final in the selection. The semi-final will take place on Saturday, 4 February where the top ten entries will advance to the final (barring any surprises). The final for Supernova will be on Super Saturday this year, 11 February where the winner will be revealed.
But which songs do we think even should be in contention next week? Three ESC United writers listened to the songs and have made
ramblings thoughts to share, while also assigning scores out of 10. In this iteration of reviews, it’s Tyler Griffith from Alaska, James Maude from California, and David Popescu from Denmark.
The order of the songs presented was based on the current running order for the Supernova semi-final as provided by Latvijas Televīzija.
1. Artūrs Hatti – “Love Vibes”
David – 5 – Lyrically, it is so simple and lowkey, yet it’s still effective, because it’s easy to get hooked on. Melody is actually quite catchy, very chill, despite being something that sounds like something you’ve probably heard so many times already. Overall, very simplistic, but effective. Can’t hate it, but it could’ve been so much more.
James – 3 – I am of two minds about the synthesized steel drums. They are a pointless addition to the track, but they’re also the only thing I can remember. Lyrically, it’s very repetitive, and though Arturs tries an almost grunt like vocalization on the chorus after the bridge, there’s little variation. The “EO” and the steel drums are trying to reference Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat” with its famous “Day-O” call, but churning out a middling pop song about a girl crush just seems sad when the listener’s mind is drifting to a far, far superior song.
Tyler – 4 – A perfectly competent song that doesn’t offend my ears when I listen to it, but also leaves no impression on me whatsoever. A lack of vibes one would say. I’m sure it’s decent, but doesn’t go anywhere for me and won’t bring Latvia to the final, so…
Total points: 12.00 points (Average = 4.00)
2. Alise Haijima “Tricky”
James – 5 – The tempo shift in the choruses makes this somewhat interesting. The lyrics don’t. The cheap production tricks to hint at Haijima’s heritage don’t. I may be losing my marbles in saying this, but this may be the one song where a human foghorn like Samanta Tina would work in your favor as a backup singer. It needs heavier bass and louder vocals to pack in more punch.
Tyler – 8 – Probably the one Latvian entry that I’m super excited to see the live for! “Tricky” sounds chaotic and wild and fun, but I can also see the argument that these are just synonyms for being annoying, which is just a downright lie! There’s big energy to this entry that if it’s captured correctly onstage could be a hit and could bring Latvia to the final.
David – 3 – There’s A LOT of attitude here, maybe too much even? It works around the chorus, in order to make the song a bit more of an earworm, but then it just jumps all over the place and tries maybe a few too many things, becoming more of a mess. It starts well, but dies out just as fast.
Total points: 16.00 points (Average = 5.33)
3. Inspo – “Sway”
Tyler – 8.5 – “Sway” is a blend of rock and breathy vocals that works very well for me! It feels reminiscent of an Evanescence song, so this entry could be argued as slightly dated. But I don’t care if it is! A big step up from last year’s Supernova entry, and could be unique enough to compete in the semi and actually qualify as long as other countries don’t go for the same rock sounds. Simply Inspo-rational!
David – 6 – Without a doubt, the instrumental parts, are easily the superior parts of the song, some awesome and interesting string work put in those parts, but a huge shame that the song isn’t like that for more of the time, and instead dips down in tempo. Vocally, it’s not bad at all, but there’s a huge lack of some sort of effect, the instruments are easily what drives this song.
James – 9 – This is probably the closest you’ll come to getting an alternative or progressive metal act like Deftones at Eurovision, though if Anneke Van Giersbergen replaced Chino Moreno. The downside for this genre at Eurovision is that with the instrumentation layering and gradual build throughout the song it is almost impossible to come up with a track that feels whole in the space of three minutes, but Inspo managed to create a three minute vibe that doesn’t feel interrupted. The vocals and guitars at the bridge are impactful, but also subtle, as many rock solos or breakdowns feel tacked on or forced in a shortened timespan.
Total points: 23.50 points (Average = 7.83)
4. Toms Kalderauskis – “When It All Falls”
David – 4 – A very chill and cool song, it has this rather hard start, but when you get further into it, it becomes very chill. The problem is, you want people in immediately, not after a while, which is where I believe this one struggles, but it has a nice beat and rhythm to it. Nothing spectacular, but it’s overall quite decent.
Tyler – 5 – This song was okay! Toms seems to sing well, but the lyrics didn’t capture my attention in the slightest, and the instrumentation itself was average. It felt like this song had potential to go bigger than it could have, but it just fell flat for me instead. Middling seems appropriate though as I didn’t hate it. Good luck!
James – 7 – Extra points for suggesting the protagonists let loose, a counterpoint to all the other competitors content to wallow in their sorrows. There is satisfaction in a narrative where there is a suggestion to take action to end the “suffering” endured. I am not sure of the show’s order, but this would be a good closing act. Since most of the other entries are pointless circle the emotional drain dirges, this one can add a lift to all of them at the same time. I was worried this soul number may overuse the female vocals, but credit for not. Also, a nice driving bass to keep this all moving.
Total points: 16.00 points (Average = 5.33)
5. Katrine Miller – “Beaten Down”
Tyler – 6.5 – “Beaten Down” is a good song, not that great to me. The levels and tempo of the song don’t change enough for me to keep my interest, and I found my mind wandering as I was listening to it. Katrine sings quite well, so I’m curious to see what she’s like with a better and/or more memorable song. This song was pleasant though, so I don’t hate it!
James – 3 – Oh great. White girl with a piano. The same overwrought angst over basic chords while some strings are slowly layered in. I feel beaten down by the number of clichés present in this song. Love worth fighting for, torn apart, better to have felt pain than not loved… this is not threatening to break into the group of the world’s greatest break-up songs anytime soon.
David – 3 – Lovely voice, a very heartfelt composition, but it doesn’t grab any of my attention. I respect the effort, but this just is not something for me. There is a slight build-up and it is composed the way it should be for a touchy ballad like this, but this genre will just never be my cup of tea.
Total points: 12.50 points (Average = 4.17)
6. Justs – “Strangers”
James – 5.5 – There’s a goofy earnestness to Justs’s voice that makes me forgive some of the corny transgressions in his lyrics and in his pronunciation (compacting “trying to” into “tryna,” for instance). As with other bad break-up songs at Eurovision national selections, there’s a pointlessness to this exercise. There’s no vindictive moving on (the Fleetwood Mac greats like “Go Your Own Way”) or one last fling before we split (Patti Smith’s “Because the Night”). Justs is just moping around with the other runaways, and lets be honest, who wants to be milling about with a miserable box of broken people in Liverpool in May?
David – 2 – From “Heartbeat”, a song full of personality, to this song, which has none of that. I guess, a lot can happen after 7 years, but what a drop. I also wonder, was the Christmas bells in the background necessary for the song? The song just goes nowhere, despite it tries and there’s just not much to care for in the end.
Tyler – 6 – Justs is a good vocalist, no doubt about it. Just go back and watch the live for “Heartbeat” in 2016 and you can see it. You can hear that too in “Strangers”, but the song itself feels like a Melodifestivalen reject. It doesn’t sound all that special to me, so unless the live for this entry is great, I’m only whelmed by this song. Good luck!
Total points: 13.50 points (Average = 4.50)
7. Adriana Miglāne – “Like I Wanna”
James – 5 – It’s the soundtrack to every Instagram post with #blessed and a halfwit in a bathing suit staring off into a foreign sunset. It’s generic pop filler, inoffensive and certainly not one for the rule breakers and border crossers referenced in the lyrics.
Tyler – 5.5 – “Like I Wanna” feels like a Girl Bop Lite entry, where the lyrics feel repetitive and the beat goes nowhere for me. It’s definitely a serviceable song and will have its fans that gravitate to them like a black hole, but unless the field is extremely weak, this is a definitely NQ. I wanna see if Adriana has a more interesting catalogue than what this song gives us though.
David – 3 – I think this would’ve been fitting, about 15 years ago. For some reason, this song gave me some vibes, back to when I would spend my summer in Romania along the beach, like this kind of song would be played everywhere back then. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t either, because it becomes repetitive VERY fast, all I’m hearing is “uh la la” over and over, with a VERY monotonous melody.
Total points: 12.00 points (Average = 4.00)
8. 24. Avēnija – “You Said”
Tyler – 5.5 – I like the funk elements to this song and the sounds “You Said” brings, but the lyrics feel less than an afterthought. There’s only so much I can like a song for being unique to overcome other shortcomings. I don’t think this would bring Latvia to the final, but it would certainly be a unique entry to the Latvian canon! I’m not sure if the live will bring any more clarity to the song, but curious to see what happens at the semifinal!
David – 2 – There are some funky vibes going on, but damn is it depressing listening to it. There’s such a lack of life and interest for the song, that it eventually get’s to you and pulls you down along with it. It’s not exactly something I would even care for, if I don’t feel like the artist(s) try to put some effort into it as well, or maybe it’s just a genre I’m just not familiar with, if that’s the case, then no wonder I’m not familiar with it.
James – 4 – Who knew funk could be this boring and repetitive? I get the schtick, but they ride it hard and into the ground with little variation over its three minute span. Even with a lot of big budget visuals going on – and as this is Latvia you can kiss that notion goodbye – the audience will be hard pressed to not look at their watches and wish for this to be sped up or mixed up.
Total points: 11.50 points (Average = 3.83)
9. Markus Riva – “Forever”
David – 2 – I lost my focus while listening to this song, cause it felt like it was going “forever”. Very classic in sound, as in quite old school and without something proper going for it. Eventually the interest is lost and long gone.
James – 8 – This is not a fair way to grade, but an extra point for Markus filming the video in my neighborhood. And also, in any other year this middling mid-energy pop song would be buried. But because most of Markus’s competitors decided to use a Eurovision national selection as their therapists’ couches, this stands out as a bright, perky fun song. Markus has entered far better songs, but he’s also not such a parade of sad sacks as opponents either. I wouldn’t begrudge him finally making it to Eurovision with this song and on this basis.
Tyler – 4 – The lyrics in “Forever” seemingly don’t mean anything, especially in comparison to trying to decipher Markus’s singing. I try not to disparage anybody’s abilities to sing in English, but attempts must be made for enunciation or else you sound like Mélovin. I do like the instrumentation and the track, but the other parts of this song aren’t up to muster for me. We’ll see if the ninth (?) time is the charm.
Total points: 14.00 points (Average = 4.67)
10. Avéi – “Let Me Go”
James – 4 – I know I complain about lack of variation in some songs, but the change-up in the second pre-chorus was just daft. Its cold, flowing almost-rap style completely feels contrary to the desperate “I want to get out of this suffocating relationship” plea of the rest of the song.
David – 2 – Slightly lost for any ideas, the song felt all over the place, hard to remember something specific, and rhythm-wise it is rather lowkey pointless. I believe there was some sort of effort put in, not sure where, and in the end, I’m just kinda lost.
Tyler – 6.5 – While I don’t like how the song seems to give Avéi no agency (you can let them go instead girl!!!) in the lyrics, I quite like Avéi’s vocals! The chorus does a good job of showing them off, and then there’s the key change that goes into an entirely new style of singing. It was quite impressive! I’m curious to see what Avéi brings in the future, but a good first effort nonetheless.
Total points: 12.50 points (Average = 4.17)
11. Patrisha – “Hush”
David – 6 – A song that knows what it wants to show, there’s attitude and style over this song. I wanted a bit more vocally, rather that it sounds teasing, then it would probably have been better if it was a bit harsher, to go along with the harsh sound of the song. Easy to remember, but the interest is not there entirely, it’s a grower.
Tyler – 8 – A solid bop in studio, that I need to give further praise for until I see that the live performance isn’t a flop. The lyrics are good, there’s good vocal ranges present too from Patrisha, and the beat is pretty good too! Like I said, for me to get fully behind this entry and not suffer disappointment, I need to see if the live can be pulled off. I hope so!
James – 5.5 – On the plus side, it stands out from the other break-up dirges. On the downside, it’s basic and the lyrics seem slapped together at the last minute by an A.I. that has only read the diaries of unimaginative teenagers.
Total points: 19.50 points (Average = 6.50)
12. Raum – “Fake Love”
Tyler – 5 – Given last year’s Supernova, I was very surprised to hear this as Raum’s entry! It sounds quite different as if he’s experimenting with his own musicality. “Fake Love” is more altrock than the pop persona from last year, so while I like this year’s entry more because of it, I don’t care for the lyrics all that much. A step in the right direction, but not a bigger step for me up get behind as Latvia’s entry.
James – 6 – If Latvia’s not trying to make you feel bad about breaking up, they’re also trying to make you feel guilty about hooking up in the first place. It’s “fake love,” you see! Fooling around in the back of a cab is not the basis of a real relationship, says the mopey guy who keeps doing the hand in the shape of a gun gesture to his own head. It’s not a bad little rocker, otherwise.
David – 6 – I wish the song remained pop-rock throughout the entirety of the song, it’s actually cool and catchy, especially the chorus. The verses seem quite weak compared to the rest. The song is also rather short, if there’s more time to use, then spend it!
Total points: 17.00 points (Average = 5.67)
13. Luīze – “You to Hold Me”
Tyler – 7.5 – A pretty good debut! “You to Hold Me” has plenty of tonal changes to keep my interest, and the lyrics are quite interesting to me. What I don’t care for is when the song dies with silence before picking back up again–I wish the transition between those beats were smoother rather than coming to a halt. I still enjoyed this though and if Luīze returns to Supernova, I’m excited to see her next project.
James – 5 – Some of the synthesized backing vocals only reinforce the idea that this is a break-up song written by an A.I. I guess they were going for “haunting” as an effect, but it doesn’t quite pan out that way. I am getting a sense that songs in this selection have been picked as an antidote to the cacophony of Samanta Tina and those salad guys, as if boring and mopey is a great reaction to the sound of toddlers beating on pans with spoons.
David – 2 – Boring and very lackluster for me, this ballad goes nowhere at all.
Total points: 14.50 points (Average = 4.83)
14. Sudden Lights – “Aijā”
James – 4 – Normie hipsters try to be weird for the sake of it. They’re no better than the Latvian Dads who rap on top of Casio keyboard presets we’re used to seeing here. It’s constant “please don’t wake up” makes me think the song is a lot longer than it actually is, and I don’t frankly want to hear a dirgey chore of a song in Liverpool.
David – 3 – This felt like it was a rock song, just to be a rock song. Lyrically, it felt very pointless and the music took pretty much over of the song. Then you have all of the drums and strings going all in, while the rest is left behind. Composition wise, it’s far from being anything near interesting in the end.
Tyler – 6.5 – I really want to like “Aijā” more, but the song doesn’t really go anywhere towards the end. I enjoy the sounds and the instrumentation, but the last thirty seconds of the song just feel wasted. I wanted a bang, not a whimper, especially with how the song started off. I’m excited to see this performed live though, good luck!
Total points: 13.50 points (Average = 4.50)
So who did ESC United collectively endorse to go through to the Final?
Our Top Ten was pretty close! Ties were broken by songs that had a higher score than others (typically me bringing up songs’ averages, but what else is new with my reviews?). We say goodbye to the four entries below the dashed line, but our top choice for Supernova was clear. ESC United’s pick for Latvia this year is “Sway” by Inspo.
01) Inspo – “Sway” – 23.50 points (Average = 7.83)
02) Patrisha – “Hush” – 19.50 points (Average = 6.50)
03) Raum – “Fake Love” – 17.00 points (Average = 5.67)
04) Alise Haijima “Tricky” – 16.00 points (Average = 5.33) – Highest Score: 8/10
05) Toms Kalderauskis – “When It All Falls” – 16.00 points (Average = 5.33) – Highest Score: 7/10
06) Luīze – “You to Hold Me” – 14.50 points (Average = 4.83)
07) Markus Riva – “Forever” – 14.00 points (Average = 4.67)
08) Sudden Lights – “Aijā” – 13.50 points (Average = 4.50) – Highest Score: 6.5/10
09) Justs – “Strangers” – 13.50 points (Average = 4.50) – Highest Score: 6/10
10) Adriana Miglāne – “Like I Wanna” – 13.50 points (Average = 4.50) – Highest Score: 5.5/10
11) Avéi – “Let Me Go” – 12.50 points (Average = 4.17) – Highest Scores: 6.5/10 and 4/10
12) Katrine Miller – “Beaten Down” – 12.50 points (Average = 4.17) – Highest Scores: 6.5/10 and 3/10
13) Artūrs Hatti – “Love Vibes” – 12.00 points (Average = 4.00)
14) 24. Avēnija – “You Said” – 11.50 points (Average = 3.83)
Who do #YOU think will qualify for the Supernova final? Do you agree with our thoughts? Who do you think will win it all for Latvia? Let us know on social media @ESCUnited, on our discord, or on our forum page!
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