ESC 2010 Reviews: Malta
Ah, Malta. A land known for a film-noir falcon, crunchy chocolate balls (no, wait…those are Maltesers…), and an almost fanatical devotion to Eurovison. They’ve had a total of 22 entries in the ESC since 1971, and despite having no shared borders or culture with any other participant, they’ve come in the Top 10 a dozen times. They’ve never actually won the whole thing, but they’ve had two silvers and two bronzes. This is even more surprising considering that Malta only has a population of about 400,000 (about half of the population of Cyprus, or 10% of Georgia, or just about 1% of Poland).
Their first few entries, back in 1971 and 1972, both scored in dead-last place. I don’t think this had anything to do with the quality of the songs presented, but rather that they were sung completely in Maltese, a language that bears a passing resemblance to Sicilian Italian, but blended heavily with Arabic. As wonderful as it was that their home language was represented, it went over the jury’s heads, and every Maltese entry since then has been performed in English (with the exception of one verse of the entry from 2000). Switching to English was a positive change (and completely permissible, as English is co-official in Malta, and Eurovision used to mandate that all songs be performed in that nation’s official language). After a hiatus from 1976-1991, Malta came back with a vengeance, racking up eight top-10 placements in a row.
However, for all their success in past years, Malta’s entries, like Greece’s, have generally left me cold. They seem to have cornered the market on big, syrupy ballads and pop numbers, and that formula has very nearly taken them to the top of the scoreboard on a number of occasions. It’s not that they’re bad songs at all; it’s just not what I personally listen to on a normal basis. Frankly, many of these songs sound like they could have been extracted from the Disney songbook of the early-to-mid 1990s. But ballads and pop tend to go over quite well in Eurovision, so Malta keeps it alive.
One of the greatest examples of Malta’s contributions to Eurovision is Chiara Siracusa. Chiara is one of the rare performers to have made it to the ESC stage three times, and she’s come tantalizingly close to victory. She came in a very close 3rd place in 1998 with “The One That I Love“, and came in 2nd in 2005 with “Angel“. Last year, Malta figured that Chiara was due for a win, so they sent her to Moscow with “What if We?”. Sadly, Valetta’s plan backfired, and Chiara only made it to 22nd place in the final.
This year, Malta continues its trend of balladry with 18-year old Thea Garrett, singing “My Dream” (written by the team that put together “The One That I Love” for Chiara twelve years ago).
Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Thea, or with this song. It’s only crime is that it’s one of approximately eleventy-billion ballads in this year’s competition, and I’m not sure if it can stack up against some of the others. However, she’ll be in the first semifinal, where there are only a few other similar songs (Latvia, Belgium, Belarus, and Portugal), so it’s possible that Thea might squeak by, but I can’t imagine her placing in the top half of the scoreboard in the finals.