Ukraine’s selection Vidbir continues this weekend with the second semi-final. With the stakes high and a spot in the final at stake, what did we think of the entries in this weekend’s show? James and Sean look at Vidbir semi-final two…

Ivan Navi – All For the Love

James – 8 – “Good news for Ivan is that “All For the Love” is a fun, funky number a la Timberlake. Bad news is that the televoters hated Benjamin Ingrosso’s fun, funky “Dance You Off” from 2018 (Juries voted him 2nd, but he ended up in 7th after televotes were counted). I liked “Dance You Off” and I’m not going to let fashion of 2018 dictate my like for “All For the Love.” My only real quibbles are Ivan’s pronunciation of “it” (comes off as “eeet”) and that the song is not the most original composition out there. It’s high on the fun-o-meter, which is most of what matters at Eurovision.”

Sean – 7 – “This is groovy, funky fun! The 70s/80s groove guitar licks and sassy confident vocals make for a feel good anthem I can move to. It’s not the best retro pastiche we have in this year’s crop of selection entries but it’s one of the stronger, more accessible entries in Vidbir this year.”

Total – 15

Anna Maria – My Road

James – 7 – “Remember that weird season of Battlestar Galactica where the Cylons found religion? “My Road” sounds like gospel music as produced by robots who found Jesus. What else explains lyrics like “Motion is my only code”? To be honest, I do like this. I think the cold gospel they’re attaining makes it unusual and compelling, and that’s got to be down to the vocal performances. Personally, I prefer the “walking through the fire” passion of a Laura Bretan if we’re going to go in the religious direction, but this oddball has its merits.”

Sean – 5 – “I mean… This isnt terrible but for a song which seems to give off a reckless, carefree attitude, it’s very formulaic. The strong accent doesn’t help me to understand the lyrics either. It’s an okay pop rock song but not a lot more I’m afraid!”

Total – 12

Kazka – Apart

James – 9 – “Vidbir invited 2018 Eastern European chart-toppers Kazka, and they bring “Apart,” which is a slow electro pop burner with woodwind instrumentation along the same lines as their Number 1 smash “Cry.” I think the slow beat and Oleksandra’s vocal tone that make Kazka so compelling. Name recognition will get Kazka points on the board from anyone East of Prague, but “Apart” is reminiscent enough of “Cry” but with more woodwind instrumentation to not be a retread. The chanting in Ukrainian on the outro is a great touch.”

Sean – 6 – “I like the ethnic elements interspersed in Kazka’s entry, and parts of it remind me of a more tribal “Beautiful Mess” with the haunting, soulful groans of the local instruments (apologies for my lack of knowledge on their names!). Kazka seemed to be big favourites going into the selection and they’ve presented a decent ethnopop track, but it’s not enough to win the selection for me.”

Total – 15

Kira Mazur – Dykhaty

James – 7 – “Rapping in Ukrainian, but with negative lyrics and no real hook. I do like the bass, and Kira’s vocals are pretty good, though the backing effects and vocals in some parts distract from Kira’s singing, which is better than her rapping in that it is an idiosyncratic chanting. But the deft deployment of bass and Kira’s chanting are hypnotic.”

Sean – 6 – “Of all of the tracks I’ve heard so far in Ukrainian in this selection this would perhaps stand the best chance at Eurovision. It’s a stomping, eerie, dystopian sounding track that Kira Mazur pours her heart and soul into. I’m sure many will appreciate this, but my concern is how accessible this would be to the general public.”

Total – 13

Laud – 2 dni

James – 4 – “Oh great, a break-up song. On top of a basic hip hop track with all the modern production clichés thrown in (background “ghost” vocals, etc.). Didn’t he do a break-up song last year as well? How’d that work out for him in 2018? Can someone in Kyiv please hook this guy up? “2 dni” indicates he plants flowers and likes to cuddle. And there’s nothing bitter in the lyrics like some of the dodgier break-up songs out there. I suppose it’d be too much to ask Laud to veer more in a “Back that Ass Up” direction, but please Laud, if you come back in 2020 (and you will because Kazka will dismember this song), lay-off the break-up tracks.”

Sean – 4 – “I opened this up on Spitify and got excited by Laud’s glitchy, almost vapor-cum-future funk single cover, so I’m dissapointed to find out this is a generic alternative mid-tempo track. Sorry but there’s nowhere to go for this song, and it’s a shame to say the least that there was little innovation here.”

Total – 8

Khayat – Ever

James – 1 – “I take it back, Laud. This one is even more miserable. This is such an unfun dirge and the guy’s vocals are all over the place, as if piped through an indie-pop vocoder into a dumpster. And then some random high-pitched guy starts wailing towards the end. I didn’t have the inclination to read the lyrics as the first three-minute listen through taxed my patience. If this makes it to Ukraine, I hope in the semi-final or final (which they wouldn’t make sending this), they place this in the middle so fans would know when a good time to take a toilet break would be.”

Sean – 9 – “This is fantastic! Some people may be off by the panicked wails and shouts of Khayat’s singer, but there are lots of unique twists and elements that are so expertly crafted and woven together it never sounds messy. A really intriguing entry, I can’t wait to see what they can come up with in the performance!”

Total – 10

Braii – Maybe

James – 3 – “I was hoping the band was called Braai, which is a South African BBQ. A+ for use of a xylophone. Pity it’s stuck on one of those deadpan female indie rock tracks that plagued Los Angeles from 2000 to 2013 (I think Dena Deadly killed that trend with her execrable “Raise Your Glass,” the theme track for Vanderpump Rules). It’s not fun. It’s the audio version of your girlfriend cheating on you with your best friend while they watch Drive and you’re passed out in the next room. Braii, you are not fun and you remind me of Jax Taylor and Kristen Doute’s least proud moment.”

Sean – 6 – “This sounds a lot more British than Ukrainian, which interests me. This isn’t too bad as a James-Bond-soundtrack-like 60s throwback indie rock song but I’ve certainly heard this done better before. Nevertheless, this is a solid tune.”

Total – 9

Freedom Jazz – Cupidon

James – 7 – “Were they originally called French Jazz and they changed their name to Freedom Jazz because of Ukraine’s participation in the Iraq War and France’s opposition to it? Anyway, old joke, but this is a retro act, and a well done one. They harmonize like the Lennon Sisters, but it’s on top of an up-tempo swing number. This is unusual but fun.”

Sean – 8 – “I’ve been hoping for an electroswing entry done right in Eurovision (Electro Velvet, I enjoyed you, but let’s be real here) and this would certainly be an inspired choice from Ukraine. It reminds me of Caravan Palace, Swing Republic or Dirty Honkers, certainly esteemed company to keep. Pick this if you want to be truly unique, Ukraine!”

Total – 15

Let’s see what James and Sean’s scores combined to…

  1. Ivan Navi – All For The Love – 15
  2. Kazka – Apart – 15
  3. Freedom Jazz – Cupidon – 15
  4. Kira Mazur – Dykhaty – 13
  5. Anna Maria – My Road – 12
  6. Khayat – Ever – 10
  7. Braii – Maybe – 9
  8. Laud – 2 dni – 8

Its a tightly-contested semi-final, and three songs have tied at the top of our combined ranking! Ivan Navi, Kazka and Freedom Jazz stood out from the rest of the field and are our picks for this show. But do #YOU agree?

Who do #YOU want to see in the Vidbir final? Share your thoughts with us on our forum HERE or join the discussion below and on social media!

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