Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Notes from National Finals: Supernova, Latvia 26.02,2017

It's always one of my favourite annual national final processes, and 2017 was no different.  By this point, many of the national finals or internal selections were pretty underwhelming. Saturday nights were congested with heats, semi-finals and finals, so Sunday night brought pleasant relief from all that congestion with the heats, semi-finals and finals of "Supernova", the contest to choose Latvia's Eurovision entry.  In 2015 and 2016 this proved to be a very successful format, thanks to two consecutive entries written by Aminata Savadogo, both of which ensured qualification to the ESC final.

The great thing about Supernova is the diverse and often left-field selection of songs mixed in with the more mainstream entries.  But above all, Supernova has one thing which sets it above and beyond all the national song selections....

Yes, the legend that is the Riga Beaver was back again to entertain us over the weeks during the ad breaks, to the enjoyment of the fandom, the slightly amused confusion of the studio audience and the bemusement and dismissiveness of the professional jury.

Talking of the jury, I thought I would take the completely gratuitous opportunity to post a screenshot of guest judge Intars Busulis in a cardigan.  You know how much I love men in knitwear :)))

OK enough of the gratuitous shallowness and let's get to the music!

As I said earlier, there was a lot of musical diversity over the semi-finals, from the creepy "One By One" by UP, to the "if at first you don't succeed" serial Supernova entrant Markus Riva (below)

Unfortunately he suffered from what I call "the Melodifestivalen law of diminishing returns" where recurring contestants return with weaker songs.  "Dynamite" was a case in point.  Compared to the great "Take Me Down", this was just dire.  This time round he didn't even make the semi-final, never mind the final.

Another Latvian national final contestant from the past returned this year.  Linda Leen's "Who Is In Charge", (above) which made it as far as the semi-final, had bizarre staging and a very unusual musical arrangement. It was a complete mess, to say the least.  Yet something strange happened.  This song surprisingly grew on me and I ended up playing it rather a lot after Supernova ended.  I still can't understand why I got into this song as it is jarring and screechy and all the things I hate, but there you go.  Music still has the power to surprise.

This year's Supernova took that most modern approach, including Spotify streams in the voting. Now you know I'm not a fan of streaming but it just shows how forward-thinking Latvia is.  However, like all voting systems, streaming and YouTube views can be skewed, let's just say.  There were suspicions surrounding unusually large Spotify streams for a certain artist this year for example; however, he wasn't disqualified.

On 26.02.2017, four songs competed in the Supernova final.

1.  "Your Breath" - Santa Danelevica.

The kind of dull contemporary ballad which now pollutes national finals all over Europe - and sometimes even makes it as far as ESC.  Throwing in a drum & bass backdrop "Walk On Water"-style is just a lazy box-ticking "let's make this contemporary" exercise.  I didn't think this was worth a place in the final.

2.  "I'm In Love With You" - The Ludvig.

The Ludvig took the minimalist approach with a song which really didn't have much depth beyond, well, "I'm in love with you".  I can understand its appeal I suppose - a young male singer-songwriter would get votes from young fans as well as old, and it ended up as runner-up.  But after a couple of years where Latvian entries to ESC have had some depth and artistic quality, we expect more.  If this had won Supernova, it would have got completely lost in Kyiv.

3. "All I Know" - My Radiant You.

Yes, that's the artists formerly known as My Radiant U, who also have some Supernova history of their own.  I never thought for a minute that this would win Supernova but I was delighted to see it reach the final.  It came 3rd.  Of course the verses are, um, "inspired" by "Dancing In The Dark" but I don't mind. This was, and is, such an uplifting, catchy and feelgood song which I have continued to listen to long after the contest and it will certainly take up a spot in my year-end chart.  It's just a good pop song, that's all.   And finally....

4.  "Line" - Triana Park.

Even before the final I thought that this would be the best choice for Latvia's Eurovision entry this year, as it is yet another representation of Latvia's uniqueness in the contest. So I was delighted when it won, a resounding win too, well-ahead of The Ludvig even with his high Spotify total. 

I wasn't too familiar with Triana Park's music so I checked out some more of their songs and came to the conclusion that they are staying true to themselves and not compromising their style for Eurovision.  Agnese Rakovska is a compelling frontwoman with her own amazing style.  As for "Line", well yes it is a bit too repetitive, but then again people will remember it; my favourite part of the song is that mid-song breakdown after the second chorus, when Agnese brings the moves and the song just explodes into a euphoric rave classic.

So that was Supernova for another year.  I hope LTV use the same format again next year, as it's one of the most unmissable Eurovision national final formats every year.  And as for our furry friend, he certainly didn't disappoint this year, with everything from his rapping and crazy dancing to his incredible improvisation.  Our lives are all the more enriched in the knowledge of how to make an elephant mask out of a cardboard box.  So thank you so much Riga Beaver.  Hope we see you again in 2018!

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