With tonight’s second semi-final of Selecția Națională deciding this year’s Romanian finalists, our editor James took a look at the candidates. Which acts does he feel are best?

2 Gents – Ielele

James – 6 – “Despite the bass drops and the “we’re singing behind the bins” echo effects borrowed from modern pop, this song is not that interesting. With a bit of tweaking it could be greatly improved, as the vocal parts and the drum samples give it an effective melody and a strong backbone to work with, but as it stands, it’s a bit of a snooze. If they move forward, I’d be interested to hear how this song evolves as there is some potential here.”

Georgy – Tears

James – 7 – “A very gentle piano-driven adult contemporary ballad. As pleasant as this is, it is way too soft and the audience that would normally gravitate to this are being concussed by Laura Bretan’s effort for the older set and Ester Peony’s song for the younger set. It’s ethereal and tender, fading away as gently as it was brought in. Her English pronunciation will also need some work, as though she is good, the simplicity leaves nowhere for her to hide little mistakes.”

Olivier Kaye – Right Now

James – 6 – “It’s a perkier, more upbeat version of Gotye. Olivier Kaye is a fine singer, and you have to appreciate a chorus that celebrates living in the moment, but it is really just stock indie-pop and may be a little too basic to do something special even with amazing dancing or staging. The song doesn’t carry its own weight, and no amount of vocal tricks by Kaye can cover up how generic it is.”

Xonia – Discrete

James – 4 – “Will a song where the protagonist is a side-piece hectoring her lover for him not leaving his girlfriend really gain any traction? Xonia, Eurovision folk are romantics. Dump the schmuck and move on and come back with something a bit more uplifting and where you are the mistress of nothing but your own destiny. Anyway, nice vocals, but the song is meandering. Much the like the object of the singer’s affections! Lyrics matter, and I just can’t see large amounts of people getting behind this.”

TMW – Make Me Your Man

James – 5 – “There’s some rockabilly riffs, backup soul singers, and… what the f%#$ is this? I swear they got the same group of singers that do the Virgin Atlantic safety announcements and figured, “what if we get a higher-pitched version of the guy from the Commitments to sing over them and slap him on top of a weird rockabilly / rhythm & blues mash up with some ambiguous and odd lyrics that could be taken any which way?” It’s original, but messy.”

Johnny Badulescu – Give up now

James – 5 – “Boy does Johnny pour his emotions into this one, giving “Give up now” a cloying quality that was common in alternative rock acts from the early 2000s like Five For Fighting or Matchbox Twenty. And the song sounds like one of their cast-offs. If he performs live with the same earnestness and emotion as on the recorded vision, it will be like witnessing an emotional breakdown in real time, which may be off-putting given the song’s subject matter.”

Echoes – High Heels On

James – 2 – “Maroon 5 wannabes. Cliches abound (musician name checks Jack Daniels, love is a game, etc.), the “ooh hoo” really counteracts the ladies’ man image the singer wants to present in the lyrics. Speaking of, telling a woman you’re stripping her down until she only has her high heels on is not that seductive when you’re also reminding her that in doing so she will be late meeting her mother. What next? We can slowly disrobe and caress each other before you go out to empty the bins? What a derivative and clumsy load o’ @#$%#!”

Aldo Blaga – Your Journey

James – 7 – “Aldo’s a great singer, and this is a pleasant inspirational piano-driven ballad. Bonus for the drums in the second chorus. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this – it just doesn’t get the pulses racing as some of the other entries. As with Dya & Lucian Colareza, strong vocals but a mellow song that will get lost. Unless the staging is phenomenally creative, I can’t see much happening with this one.”

Letitia Moisescu & Sensibil Balkan – Daina

James – 7 – “There’s a lot of good stuff packed in here. Letitia is a great singer and performer, and the song takes quite a few twists and turns. It needs a bit more polish and a bit more power, though, to make the electronica elements blend with the traditional Romanian instrumentation and chanting better.”

Laura Bretan – Dear Father

James – 9 – “USA! USA! USA! If she was good enough for the Harehills Goddess Mel B to hit the golden buzzer on Season 6 on “America’s Got Talent,” she’s good enough for me. “Dear Father” takes a while to get going, but listen out for the two minute mark when the orchestra, backing singers and Laura herself go into overdrive. After converting new fans to opera with her talent show performances, “Dear Father” is her potential star-making vehicle, and the Chicago native of Romanian origin will be one of the favorites should she (likely) make it to Tel Aviv. This one will have a lot of haters for various reasons that have nothing to do with the song, but they can f$%& off because this is great. USA! USA! USA!”

Ester Peony – On a Sunday

James – 9 – “This one builds nicely. I’m really intrigued about how they’d stage this one, as it starts off letting you think it’s a more downbeat Lorde knock-off before dropping some bass in and switching it up. “On a Sunday” is a great example of a song that takes you on a musical journey, and Ester is a good enough singer to lead you on it. It’s great, subtle, but maybe a little too subtle and elegant in a year Laura Bretan breaks out the big guns. If Ester gets to the Final, this will be an interesting duel with Bretan. If Peony edges out Bretan, it would be a shock, but it would not be unfair as this really is quite intriguing and captivating.”

Linda Teodosiu – Renegades

James – 4 – “We have heard this “We will dance to the beat of our drum” guff before at Eurovision. This is generic Euro-pop and you can predict every moment in this song. Linda’s a decent singer but the writer of this song just dialed it in this Cut + Paste job.”

Do #YOU agree with James on the Romanian semi-finalists? Share your thoughts on this on our forum HERE or join the discussion below and on social media!

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