Tonight sees the first semi-final of Selecția Națională 2019 as Romania kick off their search for a Eurovision star for Tel Aviv. After their mammoth selection last year resulted in a dissapointing semi-final failure, hopes will be high for a return to the final this year. Will any of tonight’s songs be able to do that? Four of our team took a look at the hopefuls…

Trooper – Destin

David – 9 – “If Stefan cel Mare lived today and was a rocker, I think he would be proud. This song screams of Romanian traditional folklore mixed with rock, and it works out so well to me! It’s different, it’s unique, it’s just awesome! Lacks a bit with the lyrics, but otherwise very enjoyable.”

James – 6 – “Potential rule violation here: “Destin” was on Trooper’s 2018 album “Stefan cel Mare,” which was released commercially on August 31, 2018 (September 1 being the EBU cut-off). That said, this Iron Maiden inspired folk metal song is fine as folk metal goes. I’ve argued for years that bands of the caliber of Korpiklaani who seamlessly blend their native folk with heavy metal could be dark horses at Eurovision, but Trooper is not of that caliber. “Destin” will have its fans at Eurovision despite better folk metal out there, though, as the guitar solo is decent, there’s some great, memorable riffs, the chorus should have people drunkenly singing along. But I’ve heard it done better before and elsewhere.”

Jordan – 3 – “Personally, I’m not a big rock fan and this song isn’t doing anything to change that. I’m just extremely neutral to this. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t like it either. It’s just there in my opinion. I certainly would not give this the ticket to Tel Aviv.”

Sean – 5 – “While this isn’t really my thing this is certainly a good example of the whole Viking metal/medieval style aesthetic that seems to be vogue at the moment, and doesn’t drag on like many similar songs. It’s an entry that I can see really coming to life live, if the band can get the audience immersed in their performance. Will be interesting to see how this is staged.”

Total – 23

Berniceya – The Call: Destiny of Love

David – 3 – “For real, what a fairytale song this is. This should’ve been given to some dude working at Disney or something like that. I must applaud TVR for giving this a chance, cause at least in Romania we dare to give anything a chance, had this been submitted to any other country, it wouldn’t even have been a contender. I like it being so unique, but that’s about it.”

James – 9 – “Someone’s bringing a demo for a musical to Eurovision! Berniceya is a classically trained opera singer and composer familiar to Romanian Eurovision fans, and this year she did something interesting – she ditched the sound of earlier years (the bad puns and scatting of 2017’s “Ice Cream” layered on a crappy Europop track) and went to her opera roots. This presents an interest duel in this selection: Berniceya v. Bretan! Both have tremendous range and power, both have songs that thrust them front and center. We will have classically trained v. raw / self-taught. Classical musical with conventional opera technique v. modern pop with opera overdrive. Both have survived the cauldron of singing contests and are seasoned performers. But I love Berniceya, even if the composition itself may be a bit unusual for most Eurovision fans’ tastes.”

Jordan – 3 – “1980’s west end called… They want their song back. This is just dated musical theatre. This would be at home in the west end in the 80’s but not at Eurovision in 2019. Sorry but if Romania send this they are heading for another disappointing result.”

Sean – 4 – “A song that seems to have been lifted straight from the musical theatre scene, which once again isn’t my genre, but I can certainly appreciate a good attempt in this manner. Berniceya’s soothing tones and range are impressive and the sweetness and light melody is charming, but is this really something the Eurovision audience will go for?”

Total – 19

Ommieh x Anakrisez – Rock This Way

David – 2 – “Would you believe, that one of the writers for this song, is Eduard Cârcota, who also wrote Tornero for Romania in 2006, cause I honestly wouldn’t. This sounds nothing like so many of his hits, and more like an experiment that went very bad. It’s something different, but when you have this duo with great voices, performing such a lackluster song, then it really doesn’t matter how good your voice is.”

James – 2 – “This is a three-minute compendium of annoying noises. They deserve an F purely for the “chicka chick ah” reference from the annoying Yello song “Oh Yeah” that was overplayed in the overrated ‘80s movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. This is bad all around. This is the sort of song the Swedes were worried about when they announced a novelty song ban at Melodifestivalen 2019. I will say that Ommieh is not a half-bad singer, though. Pity the song is such dog-%$^#, the sound of the dog making it probably being one of the effects thrown in.”

Jordan – 5 – “I’m honestly surprised this hasn’t been hit with a lawsuit by the people who wrote “Walk this Way” but anyway… The song is quite nice; however, I don’t feel the male and female vocal work that well together personally. I think with a good live performance this could surprise but otherwise I don’t see this winning.”

Sean – 2 – “No no no, this is not for me. This is just too basic and average for me to enjoy. The chorus irritates me and it really leads to nothing over its three minutes. Having said that, no doubt I will end up remembering this one long after my reviews are done…”

Total – 11

Teodora Dinu – Skyscraper

David – 4 – “I have huge respect for Teodora that she keeps trying year after year, but unfortunately, she’s once again stuck with an average song. The chorus is strong, but that about it. There is nothing that really sticks other than the title of the song, and so I start to question the chances and the potential of the song. I’m sure she will represent us one day with that spirit, but not in 2019.”

James – 6 – “A bit of mismatch with lyrics and instrumentation here. Not sure why something that sounds like the basis for a solid upbeat anthem is about some aloof a-hole who broke the singer’s heart. Otherwise, it’s just an average pop banger that hues close to the Ariana Grande template. But lyrically, if Teodora tweaked it so it is closer to Grande’s “One Last Time,” (one last night before kicking the scumbag to the curb) to make her protagonist a more active agent in her own story, it would be a big improvement.”

Jordan – 7 – “Not bad! This is a perfectly good pop song. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear someone like Demi Lovato sing this. I do worry how well she can sing this live though. There are a lot of notes she has to hit, and she seems to be a young performer. But for now, this is good.”

Sean – 6 – “This is an intriguing track, not sure I can work out the structure of it too clearly. Teodora has a good voice and the song soars in its final minute just like the titular Skyscaper. Could be an epic performance to lift this one, but in studio it’s a decent if unspectacular pop ballad.”

Total – 23

DYA & Lucian Colareza – Without You (Sin Ti)

David – 2 – “A love song in both Spanish and English… how often have we seen that before? I mean, we tried something towards that in 2008, and that didn’t go well. This being in Spanish won’t do any bigger difference, so yeah, I don’t really have anything special to say about this.”

James – 7 – “A duet that belongs in the late ‘90s. It’s like the Russian versions of Celine Dion and David Bisbal in a David Foster produced ballad. It is very dated, and the singers really are the focus here and they belt it out so well. I just can’t see who the audience is for this slow duet, and it will get lost despite one of the stronger pair of vocal performances this year.”

Jordan – 7 – “When the song started all I could think of was the Titanic… but then Lucian started singing and Immediately fell in love with his voice. He is amazing. Unfortunately, DYA can’t quite hit his level for me and it drags the song down a bit for me. I would like to see Lucian sing a song by himself next year. The song itself is a good duet though.”

Sean – 5 – “What is this? Sounds like a multilingual conversational love song which is… different… It’s an interesting listen but not really one I would choose to listen to again. The vocal blend is great and I like the atmospheric Celtic touches but it’s too Disney-fied for my tastes.”

Total – 21

Nicola – Weight of the World

David – 5 – “Nicola is special to me, because her song back in 2003 was what got me into Eurovision, and it somehow bothers me, that she can do so much better. I don’t feel like this is her style of song, since the song changes it’s style multiple times over the 3 minutes, she can lift a dance song so much more, and it’s honestly a very nice effort, but I just believe way too much, that should could’ve had something way better.”

James – 3 – “Romania’s 2003 representative and occasional Kim Zolciak look-a-like Nicola is back. She brought the sound of the era where she was at Eurovision with her. I do have to take particular issue with serial Eurovision national selection songwriters Michael James Down and Jonas Gladnikoff here, as with Vaida and the withdrawn and even worse Mihai song – whose entries they also wrote – they have really been in uninspired form in 2019. Their entries have been dated and flat, and most importantly, don’t serve their singers well at all. On top of each entry’s low score, I’d have to collectively award them a 1. To paraphrase and riff on Kanye West and 2Chainz, you thought for our birthday you could get us a sweater, well I’m going to put it on, give you a kiss and say, “do better.””

Jordan – 6 – “Nicola has a very nice voice and the song itself is a good bop. But it doesn’t quite hit the banger level for me. I like it to a degree but find it just passes me by after a while. I think this deserves a place in the Selectia Nationala final but shouldn’t go any further.”

Sean – 7 – “Now this is a decent pop song that edges on the dancey. It’s a nice listen but it’s not really danceable, and I think beefing this up in a revamp would end up doing this a lot of favours. It’s a solid track, but if Romania are going to go for an uptempo pop song they have higher pedigree than this.”

Total – 21

Steam – The Way It Goes

David – 9 – “The name of the group goes so well with the sound of this song, this has such a great industrial sound to it. The rhythm keeps going on a high note, and it never let’s go of you, it just keeps going. I’ve missed listening to such a catchy tune, we rarely get this kind of music anymore nowadays. Daring and different, really great!”

James – 6 – “This is fun. Nice groove, nice deployment of trumpets (which is something Eurovision doesn’t do that well). Steam’s English is not great, and given the simple bass line and occasional trumpet there’s nowhere to hide. This may be served well by being translated back into Romanian.”

Jordan – 6 – “I won’t win any fans here but I kinda like this… The voices are good, and the beat of the song is fun. This in no way should win the show but it’s a good little foot tapper. It kind of reminds me of the British band Madness who I really like. Not bad!”

Sean – 8 – “Add a dash of rock, a sprinkle of ska, a touch of pop and what sound like some gypsy type elements (no offence), and embellish with a helping of that Eastern European charm and we have a unique and intriguing entry here. There’s so much going on that it’s hard to pinpoint why I enjoy it but it’s a simple fact that when this song finishes I’ve enjoyed the journey!”

Total – 29

Vaida – Underground

David – 2 – “I don’t know really, it’s so old school and boring. There is just nothing that captures me here, I’m just left with nothing. Yes, Vaida sings it well, but what else, I honestly don’t know. I’m just bored.”

James – 3 – “Man alive, this is terrible. The song is generic pop, and I know I’ve made comments about decent singers doing dodgy English before, but Vaida should be given the Samanta Tina Award for dodgy pronunciation in 2019. But the Down and Gladnikoff song they stuck poor Vaida on is so boring you can’t help but notice these things.”

Jordan – 5 – “The instrumental at the beginning grabbed my attention and her voice also interested me but unfortunately it seemed to run out of steam come the chorus. It’s nice but nothing I would pay to download. It’s certainly not a front runner to represent Romania in Tel Aviv for me.”

Sean – 4 – “We’ve heard this type of song a million times before in a Eurovision context, and of course not everything has to be original, but this could be better executed. Instead, we have at its simplest a by-the-numbers pop song about reaching one’s higher potential with an uplifting final third, and not much more.”

Total – 14

Claudiu Mirea – We Are The Ones

David – 7 – “Some dark western tunes, sweet! I’m getting some flashbacks to Måns Zelmerlöw’s Heroes, not as powerful, but towards that. Giving this a chance is actually worth a shot, since it has that catchy beat, Claudiu’s voice is a bit dull in this studio version, so maybe if he could lift the song a bit more up, then we have us a nice hit at least here.”

James – 6 – “White guy with an acoustic guitar alert, it’s Claudiu Mirea! Again. It starts off indie, then goes Eurodance, his vocals alternating wildly between Michael Stipe and Markus Riva. Somehow that transition works despite that description. It’s Williamsburg meets West Hollywood, and I suspect it’s the former influence deflating the euphoria when the latter’s influence kicks in.”

Jordan – 5 – “I loved the acoustic opening and Claudiu has a great voice. However, the song isn’t the best in the selection. I don’t feel the upbeat chorus suits Claudiu as an artist and there just doesn’t feel to be a connection between versus and chorus. It’s okay though.”

Sean – 5 – “This isn’t anything special but I find myself bopping along to this all the same. It’s an odd blend between the guitar and the slap chop, mildly electronic rhythms, but I wouldn’t mind hearing it again. Having said that, this would get lost in Tel Aviv, and surely Romania has better?”

Total – 23

The Four – Song of my Heart

David – 7 – “I’m getting some Mandinga vibes from this, but not completely. It’s like some American singer trying to be popular with some latino song, so it does feel a bit fake, and it’s all okay. A very cheerful summer song, that makes me happy and if the right amount of energy is put into performing the song, then it’ll work very well.”

James – 6 – “Upbeat and fun. Perhaps need a bit more bass to drive it home. A very positive message, even if the song itself cribs from other modern pop tracks. The slowdown after the second verse deflates it somewhat as they never really ramp up again. The pacing needs to be fixed as they’ll lose people halfway through. And this is one where the staging will matter as it’s up tempo enough to pair with some more kinetic or explosive displays, but there will be stronger singers and songs on the night”

Jordan – 7 – “This is fun! I can imagine a very colourful and choreographed performance. I am looking forward to seeing this live, however I do feel there is a bit missing, nothing about this scream’s winner to me. I don’t know what it is but overall, I like it!”

Sean – 8 – “This one feels like the most representative of Romania, to me, and has a very distinct sound. It’s like a less in-your-face version of Mandinga and I find myself swaying along to this one. It may not set the scoreboard alight in Israel but at least we could have a little fun with it, and there’s summer hit potential here!”

Total – 28

Bella Santiago – Army of Love

David – 9 – “If you wish to stick out from the rest, then this is how you do it! Bella might have claimed that Romania is her adoptive country, but damn, I’m so down with her bringing that Philippine sound to our national final. I still believe she should have won last year with Jukebox, but she’s for sure once again a contender with this masterpiece.”

James – 8 – “Filipina Bella Santiago and winner of “X Factor Romania” is back after her turn with Jukebox and the unfortunately named “Auzi Cum Bate” last year. Bella is a Ford Mustang GT Shelby and she unleashes on this Beyoncé inspired upbeat hip hop number with odd yet intriguing use of woodwind effects is much better, though it peters out a bit of the end when they should have shifted up a gear at the bridge. It is clear why she went from wildcard after Dan Bittman’s withdrawal to almost on-par rival in the betting odds.”

Jordan – 6 – “Army of Love is a song I am convinced will be a Eurofan favourite. It’s and up-beat Diva anthem with ethnic influences. Personally this genre doesn’t do a massive lot for me. She is a good performer but on a personal taste level I cannot give this a very high score. I’m sorry.”

Sean – 5 – “I’ve heard people mentioning Bella Santiago a lot, so I can only assume she may be one of the ones to watch. On this evidence however, I’m not too sure why. It has a Latin flavour which would be different from Romania but there’s not enough sass and attitude for a song like this. Where’s the fuego?? It’s solid but too anonymous.”

Total – 28

So we’ve had our say, but how does this shape up overall? Here’s our ranking…

  1. Steam – The Way It Goes – 29
  2. The Four – Song of my Heart – 28
  3. Bella Santiago – Army of Love – 28
  4. Trooper – Destin – 23
  5. Teodora Dinu – Skyscraper – 23
  6. Claudiu Mirea – We Are The Ones – 23
  7. DYA & Lucian Colareza – Without You (Sin Ti) – 21
  8. Nicola – Weight of the World – 21
  9. Berniceya – The Call: Destiny of Love – 19
  10. Vaida – Underground – 14
  11. Ommieh x Anakrisez – Rock This Way – 11

Steam win it in our personal ranking, by just one point above The Four and Bella Santiago. Will this be representative of tonight’s result? We don’t have long to wait to find out!

Who do #YOU want to represent Romania in Eurovision 2019? Share your thoughts with us on our forum HERE or join the discussion below and on social media!

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