Of the Romance-language speaking countries, Portugal, Romania and Moldova progressed from the semis to the final of Eurovision 2022 in Italy. There they join the host nation, Spain and France, who qualify for the final automatically. But Montenegro and San Marino, who were both singing in mix of English and Italian, were eliminated.
Let’s have a look at this year’s Romance language finalists.
MOLDOVA: Zdob şi Zdub & Advahov Brothers, Trenulețul
Energetic Moldovan folk band Zdob şi Zdub are making their third appearance at Eurovision, having placed sixth in 2005 and 12th in 2011. This time, though, they have teamed up with Frații Advahov (the Advahov Brothers). They are taking Trenulețul (The little train) from the Moldovan capital Chișinău to București in Romania. The journey is lively!
THE VERDICT: It’s got a jolly, foot-stomping folkloric energy that should liven up proceedings in Turin. A song to relish when you’ve had one or two beers too many at a party. It won’t win but it’s a pleasant change from the usual earnest fare served up at Eurovision. The video is witty and very well made.
ITALY: Mahmood and Blanco, Brividi
Mahmood came second at Eurovision in 2019, but I only recently discovered him and his music. He has a beautiful voice; listen to his song Rapide and you’ll see what I mean. For Eurovision 2022, he has teamed up with Blanco, who has rocketed to fame and to the top of the Italian singles and album charts. Blanco’s music can be punky and energetic (just what I like) and his debut album Blu Celeste is constantly on my play list. But as you will see from the video below, he can be equally impressive in ballad mode.
THE VERDICT: It’s a beautiful song and I suspect it will score highly with the Eurovision 2022 judges. Brividi means shivers, and the song should send shivers down many spines. It might be too solemn for the tele-voters, though. Until I heard Portugal’s entry, I wanted Mahmood and Blanco to win it.
Incidentally, the pianist in the video is Michele Zocca, a brilliant record producer, professionally known as Michelangelo. I’ve watched videos of him explaining how he made Blanco’s Blu Celeste album. Look out also for Blanco and Michelangelo’s ‘acoustic’ live underwater sessions.
FRANCE: Alvan & Ahez, Fulenn
Electro-pop singer Alvan (real name Alexis Morvan-Rosius) has teamed up with vocal trio Ahez. They met in a bar in Rennes last summer, apparently.
THE VERDICT: If this doesn’t sound typically French, that’s because it isn’t! It’s in Breton, the Celtic language spoken in Brittany in western France (good to see a minority language getting some recognition). Fulenn means spark, and sparks are flying on stage! It’s a thumping song that to me (with my limited knowledge of Celtic languages despite my Irish heritage) sometimes sounds Gaelic; at other times, like upbeat Arabic electro-disco! I expect it to score reasonably well but it’s probably a bit baffling or alien to many of the televoters. Incidentally, this is only the second time Breton has featured in Eurovision. The last was in 1996, when Dan Ar Braz and l’Héritage des Celtes finished 19th.
ROMANIA: Wrs, Llámame
Well, here’s a surprise. The Romanian entry for Eurovision 2022 is mostly in English, with a little bit of Spanish thrown in. No Romanian at all! Wrs (or WRS) is the stage name of Andrei-Ionuț Ursu, who started out as a dancer for well-known Romanian/Moldovan artists such as Carla’s Dreams (probably the biggest name on the local music scene right now). Wrs went solo in 2020 and had a top 10 single in Romania last year Amore, which also featured Spanish and English. He’s obviously aiming for a more global market.
THE VERDICT: When I first looked at the preliminary Romanian contestants trying to get to Eurovision 2022, I wasn’t greatly impressed, even though I am a big fan of the Romanian music industry. (Voltaj’s 2015 Eurovision entry De la capăt is one of my favourite songs ever, it still gives me goosebumps when I hear it.) But since then all Romania’s entries have been in English, which is a shame. On first listening to Llámame (Spanish for Call Me), I felt like it was the song of a dancer trying to be a singer. Since then it’s grown on me: it’s upbeat and catchy. Just listen to how the chorus gets the crowd going! Hats off to him, y view now is he’s a singer who knows how to dance.
PORTUGAL: Maro, Saudade, Saudade
Maro (often stylised as MARO) is Mariana Brito da Cruz Forjaz Secca (yes, those Portugese names can be complicated with the paternal and maternal bits added). She’s an up-and-coming singer who has recorded in both English and Portuguese and done some interesting collaborations, particularly with Portuguese, Brazilian and Cape Verdean artists. Savvy on modern social media, she released five studio albums in 2018 alone! No doubt Eurovision 2022 will take her to a higher level.
THE VERDICT: So beautiful! When I first heard the gentle keyboard opening and her husky, mellow voice, I thought ‘this will struggle to capture attention in a huge auditorium’. But, as they say, empty vessels make the most noise. As soon as the back-up singers joined in, likewise the hypnotic clapping and percussion, I thought, wow! People will really take notice.
Saudade means longing in Portuguese – a very particular, mournful type of longing. This song encapsulates it perfectly: the Portuguese parts add panache, and her singing style suits the subject matter, the lament of the broken-hearted. E agora nada faz sentido/Perdi o meu melhor amigo … (Now nothing makes sense/I lost my best friend) … Saudade, Saudade
Nothing more that I can say/Says it in a better way. That’s the power of the Portuguese language for you!
There are many female singers of this ilk in the Portuguese-speaking world (Marisa Monte of Brazil, for one). I am so grateful that circumstances in life introduced me to them and the ‘mellow beautiful’ genre. This song will stay with long after the other ones in the contest have left. Simple, genuine, moving and heartfelt.
SPAIN: Chanel, SloMo
Chanel – Cuban-born Chanel Terrero Martínez – worked in stage musicals in Spain before releasing this song as her debut single, so she should know what it takes to capture an audience. Let’s see…
THE VERDICT: Well, well, well! We go from the seductive but mellow sounds of Portuguese to raunchy Latina heat. The introduction of a Chanel’s outfit is quite something – there’s a lot of female butt-cheek up there on stage. It’s very flashy and showy, but it’s got a thumping party beat and gets the crowd roaring. I can see this song being number one on the charts all over Latin America and playing in nightclubs all around the world. The opposite of SloMo, it makes the Romanian entry seem mild in comparison.
Gotta love Eurovision! M5R
Photo at top: France’s Alvan & Ahez. Credit: EBU/Corinne Cumming