Experimental Music at the ESC
One thing that I enjoy about the Junior ESC is that the kids, much more than the adults, experiment with music – submitting songs that are out there, that are crazy contemporary – and seeing success with them. Georgia is a prime example, so many of its entries are quite off-the-wall. In 2008, Georgia even won with a song that I would say is the most experimental that we have ever heard on an ESC stage, junior or adult.
We are used to maybe one experimental entry (usually from Bulgaria), but this year, we have two truly experimental entries: Belgium and Latvia. And two more that are pushing the limit: Georgia and Spain.
Belgium and Latvia can be said to be “beyond modern,” their sounds are unlike any other – past or present. Compare this with Australia and Estonia, both of which sound like something off the current pop charts, and Denmark and the UK, which both harken back to past musical eras. Rhythm Inside and Love Injection sound more like art pieces than pop songs. Both toy around with rhythm and melody; both stretch the singer’s abilities to capture the feelings of the songs. The biggest advantage that these entries have is standing out so drastically from the other thirty-eight songs. They’ll make an immediate impact and will not be soon forgotten.
Personally, I like rather enjoy both songs; both are currently in my my personal Top Ten. However, I do not think either song has a chance of doing well. I think that qualification would be a victory for both. The juries have shown that they tend to favor well-sung ballads and catchy pop tunes above all else. The public may not be ready for such futuristic tunes, especially since neither has a strong chorus that can lodge itself in your head.
Where most songs like this fail, though, is in the staging. They often try too hard to have a staging that matches the uniqueness of their entry – often to ill-effect. Look at that Bulgarian compilation again, how many of those entries would have been more successful if the staging was stronger? If you have read my live notes, you know that I have an expression “DEDF” – Decent Entry Derailed by Fashion. Both of these entries are at potential to fall prey to this. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Rhythm Inside is putting Loïc in a steampunk costume with a glowing piece over his heart. Throughout the song, he sheds the mechanical aspects, as if he’s becoming more human. However, while this could be done well – the tendency would be to go over the top; steampunk can go from supercool to scary and I fear that your typical stage director would not know the difference. Likewise, Love Injection could very well be enhanced by repeating the staging from the Latvian national selection, adding in some new light effects and possibly some chain elements; but how quickly would this devolve into some kind of dominatrix outfit? (Very quickly!)
Good luck to both Belgium and Latvia – I hope both delegations highlight their songs positively on stage without going overboard. But, these two are not the only ones experimenting this year, two more are giving us unique entries, albeit not quite as extreme.
Pushing the Envelope
Less dramatic than Belgium and Latvia, Spain and Georgia both have songs that challenge traditional music expectations. Both songs have echoing, booming refrains that are easy to sing along with. Both songs have complex layers that create textured, intriguing pieces that captivate the listener. Both are different enough to avoid easy comparisons with the other entries, but neither are so otherworldly that they will scare off the casual viewer.
Like Belgium and Latvia, there will be a lot of temptation to go overboard with the staging of these acts. Spain needs to focus on lighting effects – Edurne’s voice speak for itself (no pun intended). We don’t need dancers and a lot of graphics, just some well queued spotlights and coloring. Georgia has a bit more leeway. I would recommend reproducing the video, bringing women that represent different female warriors from around the world (or at least, around Europe) and from various time periods, from Maltese knights to modern British soldier, from ancient female heroins to tribal fighters. Again, good luck to Spain and Georgia, may commonsense and good taste prevail!
As we celebrate the 60th Contest, we are presented with a wide array of options, various genres are represented, from swing to punk rock to popera. This year, that diversity of music includes an increased number of songs that push the limits of modern music; that can be considered “experimental.” Regardless of the ultimate final placing of these songs, their presence alone enriches the ESC field of entries and promotes variance, hereby keeping the Contest relevant as it enters its seventh decade.
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