Category Archives: Portugal

Editorial: If At First You Don’t Succeed…Part 2

Picking up where we left off (way too long ago…pardon the delay!), here’s another look at a handful of National Final stalwarts who really deserve their big break at Eurovision.

From Malta, the land that brought us Chiara, Glen Vella, and Kurt Calleja, brothers Wayne Micallef and Richard Edwards have each submitted a handful of strong entries to the National Final.  First appearing in a trio with their sister Michelle as “The Mics” in 2003 and 2005, the siblings came in 14th with “Take Me Back Again“, and came in a disappointing 21st place with their disco-fied entry “It’s Up To You”.  It was Wayne who first struck out on his own, with his 2009 submission “Where You Belong“.  He improved upon his 7th-place finish that year with his 2010 follow-up, “Save a Life“, and came in 8th place in 2011 with the more upbeat “Everybody Sing“.  His 2012 entry, “Time“, with its Wisconsin-filmed video, brought him a 12th-place finish, and he is showing no signs of stopping.  Read the rest of this entry

Portugal has decided: it’s Filipa Sousa!

The Portuguese National Final, or “Festival Da Canção”, was held this past weekend in Lisbon, and a dozen songs battled it out for the right to carry the flag to Baku and maybe (just maybe) bring the Eurovision trophy to Portugal for the first time in history.  This was a big year for Portuguese music, as UNESCO recently included the fado on its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (it should be noted that Azerbaijan’s native mugham is also on the list).  Would 2012’s Eurovision song follow UNESCO’s lead, or would we hear a different genre in Baku? Read the rest of this entry

Eurovision 2011: The Best of the Rest (Part 6)

The Netherlands: When the 3Js revealed the quintet of songs that would be vying for the ticket to Düsseldorf, in my mind there was no question that “Je Vecht Nooit Alleen/Never Alone” would take the title.  (The Dutch audience seemed to feel the same way; the song won with over 63% of the public televote!)  If there had to be a substitution, however, my vote would have gone to the upbeat “De Stroom (The Stream)”, which was a more than worthy runner-up:

“De Stroom” is no slouch in itself; while “Je Vecht Nooit Alleen” topped the Dutch charts, “De Stroom” charted at a respectable #12 when it was released as a single in June, six months after the National Song Selection.

Norway: Melodi Grand Prix 2011 was a pretty big affair, with 21 songs split up into three semifinals.  As we all know, Stella Mwangi’s bouncy “Haba Haba” eventually took the crown, only to shockingly crash and burn out of the Semifinals.  (Subpar performance or technical errors?  You be the judge!)  Everyone seemed to have their favorites: fans of traditional Nordic sounds pulled for Helene Bølske’s beautiful “Vardlokk“, the sentimental among us loved Babel Fish’s “Depend on Me“, and fans of sweet pop sent their votes to Hanne Sørvaag’s “Like a Melody“.  As for me, my heart is divided in two.  The not-so-little part of me that loves danceable pop-rock fell in love with The BlackSheeps’ “Dance Tonight”…:

…while the other half of me still sings along to The Lucky Bullets and their rockabilly throwback “Fire Below”:

A tough decision, I know.  What were your favorites?

Poland: Much like the Dutch National Final, once the Polish candidates were revealed, there was definitely a runaway favorite.  Magdalena Tul’s “Jestem” might have come in last place during its Eurovision Semifinal, but it won its National Final with 44% of the public televote (which is pretty impressive, considering it beat nine other songs to grab the title).  With 22% of the public vote, runner-up Anna Gogola served up the fun, quirky “Ktoś taki jak ty (Someone Like You)”:  

And if you’re looking for something with a little bit more of an edge, there was 8th-place finisher Roan with “Maybe”:

Portugal: Homens da Luta’s unforgettable 70’s-era protest song “A Luta é Alegria” stormed to victory in this year’s Festival da Cancão on a wave of public support, getting 12 points from the national televote while the juries only gave them 6.  Inversely, runner-up Nuno Norte got the full 12 from the juries, but fell short when the public televote only gave him 5 points, missing out on the tie by the slimmest of margins.  (Granted, in the case of a tie, the public vote normally determines the winner, so Homens da Luta still would have gone!)  Nuno, the winner of the first season of the Portuguese edition of “Idol”, performed “São os barcos de Lisboa (They’re the Boats of Lisbon)”, a modernized fado:

Grabbing this year’s Portuguese bronze medal (and quite a few hearts) was Rui Andrade’s dramatic ballad “Em Nome do Amor (In the Name of Love)”, which got only five points from the jury, but ten from the televote:

(An interesting point of trivia: if Nuno or Rui had won the ticket to Düsseldorf, they would have been the first male soloists to carry the Portuguese flag since Rui Bandeira in 1999!)

In our next chapter, we’ll look at also-rans from Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Spain!

Greetings from Portugal and Hungary!

Homens da Luta "A Luta É Alegria" for Portugal

This past weekend, Portugal held their annual “Festival da Canção”, the National Selection for Eurovision.  Portugal, as you might remember, holds the dubious distinction for the longest ESC losing streak, with 44 appearances and no wins.  Despite some brilliant and beautiful songs over the past four and a half decades, nothing has even cracked into the Top Five.  More than any other country, the Portuguese hold very steadfast to their language and local musical styles in their Eurovision entries, often influenced by fado or other folk traditions.  Their entry this year is no exception…but it goes even further than that!

Homens da Luta (literally, “Men of the Struggle”) and their song “A Luta É Alegria (The Struggle is Joy)” might look like Les Miserables performed by the cast of the Village People, but the song is actually a slightly tongue-in-cheek homage to the musical motifs of the mid-1970s, when songs about politics and the socioeconomic climate were common.  Some sample lyrics in this entry include “Night or day, the fight is joy/And the people move on by shouting in the street…Come and celebrate the situation and sing against reaction”.  To many fans, this song toes the line; the EBU prohibits songs with overt political messages, but politically-influenced songs have been seen on the main stage before (think Ukraine 2005 and Israel 2007, for example).  I don’t think the song goes as far as previously disqualified entries, such as what was supposed to have been Georgia’s 2009 entry, “We Don’t Wanna Put-In” (a thinly-veiled dig at Russia, the hosts of that year’s event).  I personally speak Portuguese, and know about the history of the Carnation Revolution, so I understand the context of the song, and feel like I’m in on the joke.  However, if someone from Azerbaijan, for example, turns on this song, doesn’t understand the lyrics, and fails to get the message, this song will likely fly directly over their heads.  No matter how hard they fight, Homens da Luta might just stay in the Semis. 

Portugal, eu te amo muito, and a victory for RTP is on my personal Eurovision Dream List, along with the return of the orchestra, welcoming back the nations that have withdrawn, and a permanent job in the EBU (Sietse?  Jon Ola?  Jarmo?  Call me!).  However, there were other songs in this year’s Festival da Canção that could have brought the nation a bit more hope for glory.  Runner-up Nuno Norte’s “São os Barcos de Lisboa“, Rui Andrade’s “Em Nome do Amor“, Wanda Stuart’s “Chegar à Tua Voz“…all of these options are unmistakably Lusitanian, and they would have been more easily embraced by a wider audience.  But again, this is all just my opinion.  😉

The Weekend Update, 1/23

Another day, another update…Semifinals have continued this weekend in Finland, Iceland, and Norway, and Croatia’s preselection has kicked off, as well.  There are also further updates from Azerbaijan, Portugal, Moldova, and Malta!  And away we go…

Three more acts have moved on to the Finnish Final after this Friday’s semi.  After a public vote, this week’s winners are:
Paradise Oskar – “Da Da Dam” (Reminds me a bit of Belgium’s Tom Dice from last year, don’t you think?  If Tom were a member of Greenpeace Suomi, this might have been the result.)
Milana Misic – “Sydämeni kaksi maata (Two Countries of my Heart)” (Milana is the daughter of a Croatian father and a Finnish mother who actually represented her nation fifty years ago in Finland’s debut ESC entry.)
Father McKenzie – “Good Enough” (Yes, they’re named for the character in “Eleanor Rigby”!)

Knocked out at this round of the competition were Jimi Constantine’s “Party to Party” and Soma Manuchar’s “Strong“.  An interesting point of trivia, courtesy of reader Stefanos in Finland: Soma’s outfit was designed by Mert Otsamo, a finalist on the first season of “Muodin huipulle”, the Finnish version of “Project Runway”.  According to Stefanos, “I liked his work on Muodin Huipulle more than I did Soma’s outfit.”  I haven’t seen any of Otsamo’s work, but after seeing Soma’s outfit, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine I’d disagree.

Next, we move on to Iceland:
It’s been a week of highs and lows for Iceland this week.  On Tuesday, we heard the sad and sudden news of the passing of Sigurjón Brink at the age of only 36.  He was supposed to sing in the third semifinal next week, and it has been decided by both the network and his family that his entry, “Aftur Heim (Back Home)” would be performed as a tribute by a group of his friends and fellow musicians, and will therefore remain in the competition.  Next week’s semifinal heat is sure to be an emotional one.

In the second semifinal, which aired last night, we had five songs competing for two slots in the final.  The victorious tunes were:
Yohanna – “Nótt (Night)” (As I mentioned last week, Yohanna came in second place back in the 2009 competition with “Is It True?”  I try to stay as neutral and impartial as I can, especially during the preselection phase of the Eurovision year, but I honestly think that Yohanna might, in fact, be the personification of a Disney princess.)
Matthías Matthíasson & Erla Björg Káradóttir – “Eldgos (Eruption) (I speak no Icelandic, but I’m pretty sure I recognized the word “Eyjafjallajökull” at the start of the song…is this a tribute to the epic volcano that covered half of Europe in ash last year?  Any Icelandic readers wish to comment?)

We’ve got more news after the break!

From Florø, the westernmost town in Scandinavia, we had this week’s semifinal for the Melodi Grand Prix.  Qualifying directly to the final are:
Babel Fish – “You Can Depend on Me” and
Hanne Sørvaag – “You’re Like a Melody” (Hanne is no stranger to Eurovision.  She’s composed three songs for the competition: “Disappear” for Germany in 2008, “My Heart is Yours” for Norway 2010, and “Shine” for Georgia, also in 2010)

Moving on to the Second Chance round will be:
Endre – “Oh, Oh (Puppy Love)” and
Mimi Blix – “Allergic”

The first round of this year’s Dora Festival happened this weekend, and unlike what we’ve seen in the Nordic countries I’ve just mentioned, singers in Dora do not sing their proposed Eurovision songs until the final round of competition.  Instead, they choose a song freely, and hope that televoters will look favorably on them.  (This is actually a similar format to what Germany did last year.  It worked for Lena Meyer-Landrut!)  Out of twelve singers in this heat, five have already been chosen to continue on.  The sixth will be announced next week.
Confirmed for the next round are: Miro Tomic, Jelena Vanjek, Dora Benc, Sabrina Hebiri, and Jacques Houdek (who was the evening’s ultimate winner).  We’ll see another round of twelve next week.

After seven weeks of preliminary heats and one semifinal, the top 5 singers in Azerbaijan’s preselection have been picked.  Like in Croatia, they have been singing covers, and we won’t hear their proposed entries until the final round (or, knowing Azerbaijan, possibly even after the winning singer has been selected).  They’ll go up against each other on February 2th.  And they are:
İlhamə Qasımova
Eldar Qasımov
Aynişan Quliyeva 
Nigar Jamal
İlqarə İbrahimova

(For the record, I had been rooting for Çingiz Mustafayev, a participant on Yeni Ulduz, the Azeri version of the “Idol” franchise.  Not only was he a strong singer and a confident performer, but he is also a trained classical Flamenco guitarist fluent in Azeri, Turkish, English, and Spanish.  Sadly, he was knocked out of competition in the semifinal round.  If he had been sent to Düsseldorf, and had his talents put to good use, Azerbaijan could have possibly gotten some valuable votes from Spain, who will be voting in their semifinal.  Çingiz, if you’re reading this, please keep trying!)

Finally, lists of competing songs have been released in Moldova (although out of the 92, songs listed on the official Moldovan broadcaster’s website, only these songs are continuing on to the next round) Portugal, and Malta.  Portugal will select their song on March 5th, Malta on February 12th, and Moldova on February 26th.

Phew!  After all of that, I don’t know about you, but I need a nap.  I’ll keep you all posted on more news as it comes in!

ESC 2010 Reviews: Portugal

Finland used to hold the dubious distinction of having participated in the Eurovision Song Contest for the longest time without a win.  After the victory of “Hard Rock Hallelujah” back in 2006, the “honor” went from Finland to Portugal.  Lisbon has been sending entries to the contest since 1964, when the country made its debut in last place (like Lithuania, they scored no points, but due to differences in scoring systems from then to now, it wasn’t considered as much of a slap in the face as it is now…three other nations left that year’s competition with no points). They’ve never even made it to the Top 5, and their most recent Top 10 placing was back in 1996, when Lúcia Moniz took Portugal to their highest placing (6th) with O meu coração não tem cor (My Heart Has No Color), a sunny, folkloric ode to the Lusophone world.  Eagle-eyed movie buffs might recognize the lovely Lúcia from the British ensemble comedy “Love Actually”, where she played Aurélia, the quiet Portuguese maid who falls for an adorably bumbling Colin Firth.  Her heart may have no color, but mine’s green with envy…

I often talk about the political side of Eurovision, especially between countries (like Georgia’s dig at Russia in 2009, Turkey’s frustration at Armenia for “Apricot Stone” this year, or when Spain sent an Argentine Tango to a UK-hosted ESC during the height of the Falklands/Malvinas War).  Portugal, however, has an amazing story to tell in regards to its own national history in the context of Eurovision.  In 1974 (the year that ABBA won for Sweden) Portugal’s song, “E Depois do Adeus (And After Goodbye)” came in dead last.  Despite that disappointing finish, the song’s story doesn’t end there.  Only a few weeks later, there was a massive populist coup against the Fascist regime of the Estado Novo, led by then-Prime Minister Marcelo Caetano.  To kick off the uprising of the Carnation Revolution in Lisbon, the coups organizers used the National Radio to signal when to start their national takeover.  The song that was used as the secret signal to start the revolution?  “E Depois do Adeus”, the little song that failed on the international stage, yet heralded the return of democracy in Portugal.

Over the past few decades, Lisbon has sent a few fantastic, yet completely underrated entries to Eurovision, many of them inspired by fado, or “fate” songs.  Fado is an often-melancholy style inspired by love and loss, especially in the context of the seafaring ways of traditional Portuguese life.  In 2008, Portugal sent a fado-inspired entry, “Senhora do Mar (Lady of the Sea)“, sung by Madeira native Vânia Fernandes.  I watched the 2008 Finals with my friend Kate over the internet (as it’s not broadcast live on television here in the United States), and as Vânia sang, her emotions palpable, Kate and I had no choice but to stare nearly unblinking at my tiny laptop screen, so that we didn’t miss a frame of her performance.  Kate was brought to tears by the end of it.  The fact that “Senhora do Mar” came in 13th place is nearly tragic, as fans and critics alike lauded the song with praise.  The next year’s entry, Flor-de-Lis’s “Todas as Ruas de Amor (All the Roads of Love)” brought out the lighter side of traditional Portuguese music, and came out sounding like a warm and fuzzy hug from the sunny Algarve.  Again, it was underrated, and only came up with a 15th-place position.

Portugal’s lack of success in Eurovision really has nothing to do with a lack of great performances, singers, or songs.  They’re in the unenviable position of only having one geographical neighbor, Spain, and no other countries in Eurovision speak Portuguese.  National Broadcaster RTP almost always sends entries sung exclusively in Portuguese (although they went through a phase for a few years where verses were sung in Portuguese, with choruses in English), so while it’s always fantastic to see countries stay true to their language, it doesn’t help garner many bloc votes.  Over the years, Portugal has sent pop, ballads, folk, and fado, but no permutation has worked for them so far.  It pains me to say this, but I think Lisbon’s only hope is to take their nation’s most popular descendant, Portuguese-Canadian Nelly Furtado, and draft her into the fray.  

But until Nelly crosses the Atlantic, we’ve got 18-year-old Filipa Azevedo representing Portugal this year with “Há Dias Assim (There are Days like This)”.

This is a pretty standard Eurovision-style ballad, complete with a key change.  Filipa’s voice is strong, but you can still hear just how young she is.  At times, it sounds like she’s taken too many lessons from the Christina Aguilera School of Vocal Gymnastics, but out of the many, many ballads in this year’s Contest, this is definitely one of the better ones, and possibly the best in the First Semifinal.  If Filipa keeps her vocal runs in check, she should be able to make it into the finals for Portugal’s third straight year, and may score in the Top 15 once again.  But if the performances of 2008 and 2009 couldn’t crack the Top Ten, Filipa might be out of luck.  I do like this song, though, and hope that juries treat it kindly, as bloc voting never seems to favor the Portuguese.