LATVIA 2020 - Samanta Tīna - Still Breathing - "LOUD and unsubtle, yet stirring up the hornet's nest"
Oh Latvia! One of the most unsuccessful nations of the last decade... They might not have the strongest selection and entries every year, but I have always been baffled by how poorly they've been faring compared to their Baltic neighbours. Not only do they often fail to qualify, but they also tend to straight up BOMB results-wise. Thankfully, they gave me some nice tracks to listen to over the years: the two entries penned by Aminata, but also Aisha's "What For?" and Anmary's "Beautiful Song". And while I wasn't a super fan of the rest this decade, only "Here We Go" definitely deserved to rot in hell imo. What I like about Latvians is that they have their style and they don't send the same thing over and over, however the issue is that they seldom have in their hands an act that is high-impact enough to catch everyone's attention. Unlike Lithuanians who can qualify with no hassle most of the time and Estonians who qualify provided they drop gems (I do NOT acknowledge Victor Crone), Latvians need to have it all and stars aligning to achieve a respectable finish. But I like that they're doing them.
I followed Supernova for the first time this year and I must say the jurors picked most of the decent options available for the final. Saying early goodbye to Markus Riva was sweet: I don't mean to be mean, but he should stop trying imo. He's like the Latvian Uku Suviste musically-speaking and he can't sing on top of that. In the NF, my absolute fave was and remains ANNNA's "Polyester" (aka the T-shirt song): it was different, had a clever message, and the staging was Latvian-esque. What's not to like, right?
Moving on, the winner ended up being Samanta Tina, a veteran whose victory was earned thanks to online voters if I remember correctly. I have never been a fan of her entries, but "Still Breathing" caught my attention instantly: I remember someone posting the MV on this thread and me saying she had to enter the NF with it. Well, it seems like it was a wise move! Musically, it's a mishmash of electro/EDM/dubstep/you-name-it elements that has no other purpose than to enter one's ears like a wall of sound. What I like is that it is unashamedly going all out, the hooks sung by the backing vocalists are ear-wormy and the in-your-face drop is actually part of the charm of the whole thing. Special mention to the pseudo-rap part and the line "Life is music, I am a composer": I mean it's damn hilarious! Apart from that, Aminata didn't do wonders lyrically imo.
On a negative side, I have two complaints: one is the production that lacks balance bass-wise, they managed to make the song sound powerful but I wish it were more "grounded", a throbbing bass or heavier beats wouldn't have been a bad idea to offset the high register the other elements are part of imo. Eventually, I might argue it may reach a climax a bit too soon and try to plateau at an intense level that makes it hard to go through the entire track. I do enjoy the song for what it is, but I could not play it on repeat... and that's coming from the only human being who binge-listened to "KAOS" for months... With that being said though, I should take the whole package into consideration and I'm not disappointed in this regard: Samanta can hold a tune, she has a powerful voice that is an added value to the song, and the staging was simple yet very energetic and fitting. I am particularly sad I will never see what it would have looked like in Rotterdam because I was already living for the crowd reaction. Pity.
Prediction-wise, this was among the question marks for me. It's a love-or-hate song, it can easily put people off but at the same time no one can escape it, it wouldn't have gone unnoticed, which is more than what could be said about the latest Latvian attempts. The fact it would have - against all odds - closed the show in a ballad-heavy semi might have worked in its favour, so I believe it would have had a rather good shot at qualifying despite the "Latvia" label. Of course, it could have pulled a Mei Finegold, but we'll never know. Anyway, no way it would have followed Triana Park's footsteps: the staging wasn't weird, the song had drive and it was perfectly sung. Once in the final, I sense it would have been bottom 5 unfortunately.
I am very glad Samanta is coming back in 2021, like everyone minus Tom Leeb who were robbed by the cancellation of the contest, she deserved to have her time. I pray that she's concocting a fine ass entry. Since she's kind of a chameleon, I have no clue what it will sound like. Good luck to her and fingers crossed for Latvia!
last year,i loved also annna with her song polyester but samanta got a well deserved win.
the staging in the final was so extravagent - the stylish video was by far the best of the ESC-year.
samanta is a sassy lady.
Even though last year's odds would disagree, but for me, this was one of the best songs of 2020 and I'm sure it would have surprised many with the final outcome. Oh well, at least we can keep enjoying this gem in the years to come. And yes, Samanta rocks.