The Importance of A Song’s Initial Impact- and why it is crucial to its chance of success

Brief update: It’s been a while since this blog was updated, and I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on the Albanian line-up of songs this year. However, I am aware that I’ve not updated this blog in a long while- for that I apologise, it’s been a busy few weeks. Given that this is a one-woman blog, I’ve decided that I’m not going to individually review every artist in the national finals (let’s face it- that was very optimistic) but will give a detailed profile of the winners once they are guaranteed to be competing in Eurovision next year. Rather, I will focus on the songs instead, as they’re the most important thing.

Also, I thought I’d explain how my reviews will work. Every National Final song, and every song chosen internally, will get a short review that basically covers my initial reaction to it. Then, around April, a more detailed review will be written as I count down my top 41, when I have had more time to listen to and appreciate it. Why am I doing this? For the last two years, my reviews have been written after months of listening to the songs, and I feel that while it is important and interesting to look deeper into the musicality of the song and discuss things like its meaning and the story behind it, most viewers of ESC will only watch the songs once on the night, and it is on that one viewing that they decide who to vote for. Thus, the initial impression is absolutely crucial, and it must be taken into account by artists, delegations, and fans.

For example, last year, one of my favourite songs was Telemoveis from Portugal- I was gutted it didn’t qualify. It was a beautifully rich combination of genres, combined with truly mesmerising choreography, not to mention that it was something entirely new that had never graced the Eurovision stage before. I spent days trying to figure out how the hell it ranked so low, and then had my realisation. When I first saw the Festival de Cancao video, I was confused, overwhelmed and not really sure what on earth to make of what I was seeing- it took about 5 listens to really grow on me, and the moment I fell in love with it was when I was just listening to the audio, and then the true artistry of the instrumentation and the seamless links from one moment to the next, all the motifs that kept reoccuring, I fell in love. Thus, my review was absolutely glowing (and rightly so). That said, the initial reaction of confusion may have been what stopped viewers- and jurors especially- from giving it points, and tragically, this masterpiece was resigned to the semis.

Compare this with a song like Leonora’s Love is Forever. When I first heard it, I enjoyed it for its simplicity and sheer wholesomeness. Was it anything groundbreaking or musically spectacular? No. Did its sweetness charm me and make me smile? Absolutely. However, having listened to it 500 times by May, the initial charm had worn off somewhat and, despite still enjoying the performance, something had faded. It’s still a lovely song, but it is one that cannot be overplayed too much- that cheesy cliched formula that gives it its charm is exactly what annoys us after the millionth listen. But on the night, people heard it for the first time and, like I had done, enjoyed it, which is why it did so well, to many hardcore fans’ surprise.

So to wrap up a post that has become far too long, the initial reaction to a song is crucial- in a contest like Eurovision, seen by casual viewers as a one night event, there isn’t time to listen to every song again to catch musical quirks we may have missed while taking in the first performance, or google what the non-English lyrics translate to, or even research what the song’s meaning actually is if the artists does not lay it out plainly for us. That’s not to say that complex musical songs in native languages are doomed to fail- it’s just that the delegation needs to be clever in how they present it to ensure a positive initial impact.

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