With the 2018 National Final season upon us, we thought we’d wrap up our Top 5 National Final Songs of 2017 series with the third and final instalment. Usually, we’d fit our Top 5 songs in one post, but we discovered so many gems through the 2017 national final season hence the three part series. In Part 1, we discussed our favourites of the Big 6 nations, and in Part 2, we talked about our most listened to from the Scandinavian nations. In this final instalment, we’re discussing the bits and bobs from around Europe, predominately Europe’s East!
5. Markus Riva – Dynamite
Here’s our first of two Latvian acts in this Top 5, and it’s a familiar name to many national final enthusiasts. Markus Riva is a regular to the Latvian national selection, and with the release of the official audio of his 2017 competing song Dynamite, I thought this could be the year for Markus. The song has that mysterious feel about it, and as the chorus hits, it builds into this really tense atmosphere that is very addictive to listen to. The downfall of this song was the live performance. The atmosphere captured in the official audio was overshadowed by shaky vocals at the live performance, which was a real shame. I think if this song had been given to someone like Sergey Lazarev who represented Russia in 2016, this would have been a winning song. All it would have taken was a more confident vocal performance and a killer stage show!
4. Linda Leen – Who is in Charge
This track perhaps could be considered the ‘marmite’ of this Top 5 since some fans enjoyed the song, whilst others didn’t see the appeal. I was of the first group, as I really enjoyed this song from the first listen. It’s punchy, experimental by no means like anything we’d heard at Eurovision. The rock undertones are chaotically perfect, and it matches well with the soulful feel to Linda’s vocals and the punchy message of the lyrics. I think there’s a fine line between experimental and disaster, and I think Linda managed to avoid crossing that line, especially helped by her very competent performance in the Supernova semi-finals. Didn’t love the stage show to accompany it, but it didn’t take away from my love of the song!
3. Daniel Levi – All I Need
Estonia always seem to find a good mix of the unique and the commercial through their national final Eesti Laul, and 2017 was no exception. There were a few songs I liked from the 2017 edition, but the song that I listened to the most was this song by Daniel Levi which leans more on the commercial side, rather than the unique. It’s definitely not a revolutionary song by any means, but it’s catchy, it’s addictive and it would fit in amongst the mainstream pop songs of 2017. Daniel’s live performance was totally on point, and the staging really quite epic. Having so much darkness on stage only to be broken up by lasers felt both futuristic and retro, and it was a staging that I wouldn’t have considered for this type of catchy pop music, but it totally works.
2. Gigi Radics – See It Through
Year after year, Hungary manages to pull out some gems for their national final. Mind you, not all the songs are great, but the songs that are good are really good, and this was one of my favourites of the 2017 edition of A Dal. I would not have replaced the winner Joci Pápai for anyone, as he was probably my all-time favourite entrant from Hungary, but I have to give props for Gigi Radics for serving up one of the better ballads of the 2017 season. The stand out of this entry is the vocals more than the song itself, with Gigi performing the song incredibly at the national final. As the song builds, she starts putting her vocal ability to work, hitting some really impressive notes in what is a really moving ballad. Although I do think the right act won A Dal 2017, Gigi came a close second for me.
1. Lauri Yrjölä – Helppo Elämä
It was love at first listen for this Finnish entry from Lauri Yrjölä, and from a field of what I perceived to be as relatively underwhelming, this was the song that stood out to me. There are various reasons as to why I like this song so much, but first and foremost is its uniqueness. The melody is very distinctive, but incredibly catchy, and when it’s placed in front of a very country and western guitar sound from the first verse, it catches your attention and you just want to keep listening to see where the song goes. Through the chorus, the melody remains unique but adopts a different beat which really helps distinguish between verses and choruses. When it came to the live performance, it was slightly under performed (that is, from memory, since we can’t seem to find video footage of the live performance anymore?) which I think helped seal its fate to be stuck in the national final instead of progressing to represent Finland at Eurovision. Regardless, it was a brilliant song that was bold enough to use Finnish language, and that’s always a positive in our eyes.