With Portugal’s selection “Festival da Cançao” having its second Semi-Final this weekend, James sat down to look at the acts in the second semi-final. Are there any potential Eurovision winners in the Portuguese selection once more?
Lara Laquiz – “O lugar”
James – 6 – A fairly ordinary pop banger. Lara as a vocalist does not leave much of an impression, playing it way too cool and disinterested for a track like this. If she’s not going to get too excited, then why would I? I’d put this on in the background, but no way would I want to hear this on a Eurovision stage.
Dan Riverman – “Lava”
James – 6 – A basic piano ballad with some random synthesized faffery in the background to create an ethereal mood piece. Portugal has quite a few adult contemporary tracks in the running this year, but this one has the least staying power of the bunch. If I ever was the unwinding type, I’d maybe settle down for the night with a glass of merlot and read Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese” is on while this is on instead of rage-driving on Forza Horizon 4 while Cryptopsy’s “None So Vile” plays. But since the Russian kids I play Forza Horizon 4 with know “Hard Rock Hallelujah,” I’m going to hazard a guess “Lava” will not be their jam at Eurovision either.
Mariana Bragada – “Mar doce”
James – 8 – Sounds like a Topanga Canyon hippie acoustic guitar and drum circle jam. As I played this I thought Ed Begley Jr was going to rush over in his Tesla and smoke up outside while talking about the beets he grows in a window box. That being said, like Joao Campos and Soraia Tavares, Bragada’s excellent vocals lead the way. She is a mesmerizing vocalist and will enchant you. Fun fact: At 27%, Israel has one of the highest rates of cannabis consumption in the world. That might be an omen for Mariana.
Joao Couto – “O jantar”
James – 8 – Is it me, or does this sound like a Portuguese Ben Folds Five? It’s a pleasant enough indie-pop ditty with piano and violin. There’s a slightness to this, and it will get blown away if it’s played after something bombastic. I actually like this, but there is an intimacy to it (appropriate as the song is called “The Dinner”) that may not work in Tel Aviv. This song is for the set that debates on whether the Volvo S60 is preferable to an Audi A4 or if Malbec is an underrated varietal.
Madrepaz – “Mundo a mudra”
James – 6 – What’s with the face paint on the band photo on the lyric video? I was expecting a Portuguese Dimmu Borgir and ended up with some ‘70s AM radio folk rock instead. And does Madrepaz mean “Mother Peace”? Portugal brings the hippie again. I’ve given slack to some of the other hippie numbers here because of great vocalists (Mariana Bragada), but there’s something about Madrepaz’s male vocalist’s warm tone that puts me to sleep.
Surma – “Pugna”
James – 1 – What the f&%$ is this ambient nonsense? Sounds like a talking baby doll playing over a backing track you’d hear at a New Age retreat. Conan Osiris is showing how you bring in more experimental electronica to create a cohesive piece. There is absolutely nothing compelling or interesting about “Pugna.” It can barely be defined as a song.
Mila Dores – “Debaixo du luar”
James – 9 – After all the wine jokes, here’s a jazzy number you’d expect at a martini bar. Unlike the instrumentation on some of the other entries, this one builds nicely. Mila is another great singer and displays quite a bit of range here. I’ve also said that there’s been a few slight pieces here that would get blown away in Tel Aviv, but I think this one could have staying power, especially with the right staging. As Uncle Rick would say, “this will class up the place for the chicks.”
NBC – “Igual a ti”
James – 9 – This is an interesting one. A guitar like in a Western, some slowed down bass, and anthemic vocals like an ‘80s ballad. In a way, it reminds me of Labi Siffre’s “Something Inside So Strong” in its taking a message (about refugees) but not being preachy and the repetition of “Da-me a tua mao” (Give me your hand) to make it more personal and urgent than the more patronizing message songs such as “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” This is not pointless, hollow virtue signaling, but a heartfelt plea to recognize people in need as being just like you.
James has been very impressed with Portugal’s selection this year, and he gave another pair of 9 out of 10 scores, this time to NBC and Mila Dores.
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