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.
The Malta Eurovision Song Contest has returned as a method of selection for the Mediterranean island nation and 22 acts will perform tonight, Friday and Saturday at the Malta Fairs & Convention Centre in Ta’Qali to earn the chance to represent Malta at Eurovision 2022 in Turin, Italy.
Giving our thoughts on Malta’s selection of Eurovision hopefuls is our “expert” panel from across the globe. “Across the globe” is as good as it gets for this motley bunch, and here is our panel:
- William Carter: Our ESC United Texas correspondent who often brings us bluebonnets of trivia from the bowels of the Abyss.
- Tyler Griffiths: Our ESC United Alaska correspondent whose outlook on life is a glass Haffi Haff full.
- James Maude: A British expat and Flashdance fanatic living in California after jaunts in South Africa and Pittsburgh.
- Boris Meersman: Our ESC United Belgium correspondent whose shade is remarkable for someone who comes from such a flat country.
The panel will give a score out of ten, provide a brief justification for each score, and at the end of Part Three, we will let you know who ESC United thinks should represent Malta at Eurovision 2022.
Miriana Conte – “Look What You’ve Done Now”
Boris – 5 – “Another one of those midtempo “let’s draw strength from my break-up” latinpop anthems we’ve heard plenty of times before. It makes for enjoyable (and lowkey dramatic) filler, at least.”
James – 4 – “An excruciatingly dull and repetitive break up song of the “F&%$ off! I’m burning your s$%#!” variety. Working through your emotions after a break-up is healthy, but arson over trap beats is not (unless Malta has some weird legal exemptions for that). My only advice – forget the bum (or bummette?), celebrating minor revenge is not cathartic. And songs about it make you seem petty where you really ought to celebrate being the bigger person and moving on.”
Tyler – 7.5 – “Honestly stan songs where it’s a messy breakup and they talk about burning people’s clothes? I like the music and the vocals in “Look What You’ve Done Now”–it feels cool to me even if Miriana is deflecting the blame for her actions on the other person (that is NOT the definition of a girlboss). I dunno, I just vibe with this song and think it’s fun, even if I also think that the song could have been more dynamic. Maybe the performance will be fun, we’ll see!”
William – 6.5 – “Lyrically, this was written by algorithm. But, I don’t know … there’s a slinky, Mediterranean thing going on here that could work. The live performance is gonna be HUGELY important. Could be a good time, could be a train wreck. The worst case scenario is that it’s boring. We’ll see.”
Total: 23 points (Average = 5.75)* Median = 5.75, HiLo = 7.5,4
Nicole Azzopardi – “Into the Fire”
Boris – 9 – “This is what a kickass EDM Junior entry from Cyprus in the mid 2010s would sound like, so isn’t it fitting “Into the fire” is performed by one of Malta’s many talented JESC alumni, right? I would posit that PBS found a rejected Sophia Patsalides Demo in their archives of JESC 2014 (which was hosted in Malta after all), and upcycled it into a fun bop for the gays to get their life to whenever Euroclub gets reinstated. Personally, I’m all for it.”
James – 7 – “Trash potential on this entry is high. This dance track is so dated it wouldn’t feel out of place in 2002, so a refresh is an absolute must if this fan favorite goes to Turin. The lyrics are cliché – Nicole’s not the first to use the moth to a flame simile for love. Nicole’s got charisma, though her audition video suggests she has the moves of a slightly buzzed claim adjuster out on a Happy Hour. Long story short, this has potential but the refresh and choreography have to top shelf for this to not go down in flames.”
Tyler – 6 – ““Into the Fire” works very well for the theme of this year’s contest. It “lights my fire” and gets me pumped up and ready to party! Wait, that was from 2012. Hmm, the song must have tricked me, as the music itself feels of that era to me. The song feels quite dated for me, even if the song is up-tempo enough for me to like listening to. Do I think Nicole can pull off the live though? We’ll seeeeee!”
William – 4 – “This is … aight. It’s real generic and about ten years out of date, but I love the little choreo she planned for herself in the video clip. Makes me think she’s at least got some cute staging up her sleeve. I could be sold, but I’m not buying it yet.”
Total: 26 points (Average = 6.5)
Nicole Hammett – “A Lover’s Heart”
Boris – 8.5 – “A gentle breeze to touch the heart’s indeed. “A lover’s heart” has all the ingredients I’d expect from MESC: It’s camp, it’s dated and it’s completely feckless. And yet, Nicole’s song is quite charming? I wish it banged more (often), but I WILL take a bilingual dubstep ballad that transitions into a PURE CAMP POPERA in the final minute <3″
James – 8 – “This track is a hot mess. That could be a great thing. The decision to go with opera vocals in Maltese on top of symphonic EDM could work wonders. There’s a few ifs, though. One, this song needs a remix real bad, as some of the synthesized orchestral elements sound ropey at times and Nicole’s vocals, especially the soft English verses, get buried. It also needs a lot more bombast at the chorus where Nicole launches into her operatic parts. Given a clever remix and revamp and some clever staging, this could become a cult ESC classic.”
Tyler – 8.5 – “Okay I actually quite like “A Lover’s Heart”, as while the English verses seem fine and the song seems to be just a mild pop song, the song then becomes just Maltese opera? And it’s good?! Opera seems divisive though so people might not like this, but the whiplash I got for the last half of the song was fantastic to me that I haven’t felt with these other songs in the Maltese selection. Easily my favorite, congrats!”
William – 4 – “I mean, she can SING. I wish she went up into her more operatic range more often in the song. That’s clearly this entry’s biggest selling point. Dear god, please do not sing a single word of this in English on the night. ‘Moonlit clouds to liberate the silence of lost feelings unforeseen…’ Huh? ‘Verses flowing with no end’? You’re telling me.”
Total: 29 points (Average = 7.25)
Norbert – “How Special You Are”
Boris – 1 – “Who let the fat friendless theatre kid outside of his broom cupboard? Awful cloying charity ballads, get the hell out of life!”
James – 6 – “The vocal melody sounds familiar, but I can quite place it. This soft adult contemporary ballad has its moments. The sincerity of Norbert trying to articulate how much he loves his more mature lover works. The choral backing at the bridge doesn’t quite work, and Europe seems to be using gospel vocals as a cheap crutch or short cut. The grand build-up doesn’t quite take off and the song ultimately fizzles out.”
Tyler – 4.5 – “For a song like “How Special You Are” talking about how special whoever Norbert’s singing to is, I don’t think the song is all that special? It feels derivative, like I’ve heard the melody before, and maybe I’m just a grouch reviewing this song on Valentine’s Day night, but the song doesn’t produce the warm and fuzzies it seems like it wants to. I don’t care for this at all, so goodbye!”
William – 5.5 – “This is sweet. The lyrics are obviously very personal (I’m assuming), which automatically adds a little more emotional resonance. Boy can sing! I dunno. I kind of have a soft spot for this one. Not saying it should win. But it’s nice.”
Total: 17 points (Average = 4.25)
Rachel Lowell – “White Doves”
Boris – 6 – “Melodically, “White doves” is perfect fine, but lyrically (WHY do Malta insist on making lyric vids for everyone when those are the lyrics you’re showing? Is everyone on this damn’ island inept?) it doesn’t make a lick of sense. How on earth do pigeons, aka *rats with wings*, bring light out of the darkness and set sail for the future? Is this some tired Christian metaphor I’m unaware of? No wonder William has a pavlovian fear for this I guess.”
James – 3.5 – “You ever have a child tell you a story that goes nowhere and never ends? That’s what this song feels like. Rachel keeps going and the song seems very unstructured, as if she’s singing “and then and then and then” over again.”
Tyler – 5 – “I like nature documentaries, but I’d rather watch them than hear a migratory journey for a pair of “White Doves” sung by Rachell Lowell. I know “White Doves” is a metaphor, but the song feels like it’s just narrating birds flying and that’s all there is to it. I don’t find the song that interesting otherwise, and it isn’t entertaining enough for me to enjoy so this score it gets. Next!”
William – 2 – “Ok, so … the doves are flying. Got it. Got. I’m following you. And now they’re leaping? Can birds leap? Leap from where? Do doves have dreams? I guess dogs dream, so it’s possible. OK, so the doves resume their journey. OK. But what do you mean, ‘until they’re all gone’? Where’d they go? Are you the doves? Or are your dreams the doves? If your dreams are the doves in this metaphor than that means your dreams are chasing their own dreams? Are you being incepted, Rachel? Am I being incepted? *BRAAAAM* THE DREAM IS COLLAPSING!
I give this two turtle doves/10, hold the partridge and the pear tree.”
Total: 16.5 points (Average = 4.125)
Raquel – “Over You”
Boris – 1.5 – “DECEPTIVE TITLE ALERT. “Over you” is terminally boring, like someone tried to invent sonic Percocet and then decided to sell it as a Eurovision song. There is something off about the narrative too – as it usually happens with *these* sort of entries, the sort that prioritize overwhelming the audience with with idle talk as opposed to having the music do the work for you – like does she need a psych to help her get over her boyfriend or does she need a retraint order for checking the comings and goings of his new girlfriend like a nutty stalker? WHICH FLAVOUR OF INSANE IS IT? My head is already THROBBING from the sleep deprivation I didn’t know I had until I listened to your song, please don’t add to my migraine with poorly articulated wishy-washy stalker drama.”
James – 2 – “Her vocal style really grates. She’s one who mangles her a’s and turns I’s in to ay-ayes. It’s a modern affectation not unique to Raquel and common with X Factor competitors. Lyrically, this song is called “Over You,” but Raquel’s protagonist is clearly not. She also has to work on her stage presence as laughing while singing “can somebody save me?” is a little weird.”
Tyler – 8 – “The heel turn of “Over You” in the first chorus kept me interested in the song again, and I enjoyed the journey Raquel took me on with this song a lot! I think the performance for this song could be a lot of fun and emotional, and while I’m not sure if this would win, I think this has a good shot with how unique it is compared to the other songs. Was very entertained and thoroughly enjoyed this song, even if the lyrics are strange (who is Jovi? Like Bon Jovi? Is Raquel just Anmary in a wig?).”
William – 4 – “Ehhhh… This is a little overwrought. And the vocal isn’t selling the drama hard enough to pull it off. ‘Made of Glass’ from MGP is what ‘Over You’ is aiming for, but it lands closer to an X Factor finale single. Her voice is distinct, which is a plus. She’ll stand out.”
Total: 15.5 points (Average = 3.875)
Richard Edwards – “Hey Little”
Boris – 4 – “Why does Richard Micallef go by “Edwards” now? Is he afraid of showing his true Maltese colours? Trust me mate, nobody non-Maltese would attempt to pose as the UK entrant with an insipid Mumford & Sons hand-me-down (as IF the BBC know who Mumford & Sons are, and also it isn’t nearly shit enough to be a BBC entrant <3). Oh yeah, and we get it, you’re singing to your kids. You can drop the tacky family backdrop now, thanks.”
James – 5.5 – “A Maltese stab at Mumford and Sons style folk pop here, complete with the “oh oh oh” and the clap-along rhythm. I am not sure who the two littles are in the song, as he sings of both a boy and a girl trying their luck in the world and him being there to support their fall. Basically, the issue with this song is that it was a fad from a decade ago that is not necessarily fondly remembered. Richard either needs to go full folk or take his folk pop in a different direction.”
Tyler – 4 – “I didn’t ask for someone to show up singing like Train while abusing autotune, and I feel very attacked here! I don’t like “Hey Little” at all. Don’t like the vibe, the music, or the lyrics, and I don’t like the twang used in the vocals either. I’m sure there is an audience for this music, but it is not me and they can have this!”
William – 5 – “There is almost no poetic artistry to these lyrics. It’s all platitudes and exclamations. But I don’t know … there’s a simple bit of acoustic charm. He seems very sincere, and his vocal sounds sturdy. I would probably give this song a full extra point if I didn’t understand what he was singing. But, as it is, I’m a bit ambivalent.”
Total: 18.5 points (Average = 4.625)
Sarah Bonnici – “Heaven”
Boris – 3.5 – “A lame love ballad with even lamer lyrics. “You bring me heaven on… time” what?! Don’t let the sticks and stones break your soul, hun.”
James – 2.5 – “You bring me heaven on time and then up to 100 degrees? I hope she means Fahrenheit, because if she means Celsius she means her lover literally boils her alive? What? Meet your mother on Friday and make love ‘til Sunday? What? What deranged person wrote this? These lyrics give me a headache.”
Tyler – 5.5 – ““Heaven” feels like a mildly soulful and funky song with Sarah’s vocal style, and I want to like it, but what seems to be a common thread in the Maltese selection is how nonsensical these lyrics seem to be. Wouldn’t it be hell if you were brought up to 100 degrees Celsius? What does “heaven on time” actually mean? I’m trying to untangle these lyrics as I’m listening to it, so I don’t enjoy the song nearly as much as I would have liked! I think the song is cute, but it’s strange.”
William – 4.5 – “I really respond to her husky, flirty vocal, and the harmonic mix of the backing vocals is really impactful. As a song, this is definitely, like, 20 years out of date. But it’s an OK version of what it’s trying to be. I’ve landed slightly on one side of the fence, but this is basically middle of the road.”
Total: 16 points (Average = 4)
And Matt Blxck wins ESC United’s endorsement to represent Malta at Eurovision 2022! (Not that this endorsement is worth much of anything considering our own readers disagree with our messy verdicts.)
ESC United’s final Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2022 rankings:
1.) Matt Blxck – “Come Around” – 30 points (Average = 7.5)
2.) Nicole Hammett – “A Lover’s Heart” – 29 points (Average = 7.25)
3.) Aidan Cassar – “Ritmu” – 28.5 points (Average = 7.125)
4.) Baklava feat. Nicole – “Electric Indigo” – 26.5 points (Average = 6.625)
5.) Nicole Azzopardi – “Into the Fire” – 26 points (Average = 6.5)
6.) Enya Magri – “Shame” – 25.5 points (Average = 6.375)
7.) Jessika – “Kaleidoscope” – 24.5 points (Average = 6.125)
8.) Emma Muscat – “Out of Sight” – 24 points (Average = 6)* Median = 6.25
9.) Denise – “Boy” – 24 points (Average = 6.000)* Median = 5.75
10.) Derrick – “II” – 23.5 points (Average = 5.875)
11.) Miriana Conte – “Look What You’ve Done Now” – Total: 23 points (Average = 5.75)
12.) Jessica Grech – “Aphrodisiac” – 19.5 points (Average = 4.875)
13.) Francesca – “Rise” – 19 points (Average = 4.75)* Median = 4.5
14.) Mark Anthony Bartolo – “Serenity” – 19 points (Average = 4.75)* Median = 4.25
15.) Richard Edwards – “Hey Little” – 18.5 points (Average = 4.625)
16.) Giada – “Revelación” – 18 points (Average = 4.5)
17.) Malcolm Pisani – “We Came for Love” – 17.5 points (Average = 4.375)
18.) Norbert – “How Special You Are” – 17 points (Average = 4.25)
19.) Rachel Lowell – “White Doves” – 16.5 points (Average = 4.125)
20.) Sarah Bonnici – “Heaven” – 16 points (Average = 4)
21.) Raquel – “Over You” – 15.5 points (Average = 3.875)
22.) Janice Mangion – “Army” – 14 points (Average = 3.5)
Find out in our final part if Matt Blxck continues to lead.
Who do #YOU think should win MESC 2022 and represent Malta in Turin, Italy? Let us know in the comments below, on social media, or in our forum.