Saturday, January 30, 2010

Finnish Eurovision Song 2010

In pop music, the listeners expect to hear a riff in the first 20 seconds. Good composers know this, and they use this expectation by implementing it, breaking it or gaming it in creative ways. Fundamentally music is communication. These expectations make the song comprehensible.

First I'll prune the contestants based on the riff in the first 20 seconds. Here are the criteria:
  • Riff is established. 1 point.
  • Riff is decorated. 1 point. When the riff is repeated, some instruments play differently in the background.
  • Riff variation. 1 point. When the riff is repeated, the riff ends differently.
  • There is a transition between the riff and the first verse. 1 point. Transitions are short bursts of less composed playing. They signal that the song is moving to another phase. They demonstrate communication by expectation.
  • Demonstration of speed. 1 point. In general, good composers and musicians are used to quick play. This makes slow play a conscious choice to express simple and clear message. After demonstration of speed, the listener takes slow portions more seriously.
These additional criteria flunk the song as too strange:
  • Drum challenged. Rhythm is really important for me. If there are no drums nor other rhythmic instruments, there's no point for me to rate the song, as it works on channels which I don't hear.
  • Alien style. Communication is not getting through.

Round 1 - Drum challenged or alien style

  • Nina Lassander: Cider Hill. Drum challenged, but a good song anyway. Goes to final round.
  • Antti Kleemola: Sun Puolella. Alien style. I've never understood these kinds of ballads.
  • Pentti Hietanen: Il mondo e qui. Drum challenged, sounds like music for people with sleeping disorders.

Round 2 - Pruning by riff

Kuunkuiskaajat: Työlki ellää
0 points, fails to establish riff. The first 25 seconds are musically just blank white paper, and then it starts to repeat the verse until the listener is bored out of his skull. You can see that when the girls emphasize the futility of working, they practise what they preach during composition work. I wonder what the girls "trade" as their hourly wage is so high that they get rich with it.

Heli Kajo: Annankadun kulmassa
1 point. Establishes a riff. Too much repetition.

Amadeus: Anastacia

2 points. Establishes a riff and decorates it at 0:13. Overall this is
too repetitive. It is amateurish to repeat the riff 8 times and then forget transition.

The dancers have prepared a fine choreography. Too bad that the video director had to cut it to pieces.

This is the only song where the first 20 seconds don't tell the whole truth, as the song gets quite intense towards the end.

Linn: Fatal Moment

4 points. Riff, decoration, transition and demonstration of speed are there. The first 10 seconds are quite good. The only room for improvement is that the second rep of the riff could introduce new musical elements. The rest of the song is somehow too slow and Alien Style so I drop it at this round anyway.

Sister Twister: Love at the First Sight

5 points. Great intro. One minus point for lacking riff variation, but one plus point for gaming listeners expectations at 0:07 - 0:14 (before riff), complete with a nice transition to riff.

Maria Lund: Sydän ymmärtää

6 points. The first 10s have all elements of a good riff. Extra point for Maria Lund for using her voice as a rhythmic instrument in the "pappa, pappa, padappaa" phase.

Eläkeläiset: Hulluna humpasta

7 points. One extra point for humppa-style opening in the first 2 secs. Another extra point for playing with listener's expectations by introducing the riff only after singing the verse once.

Round 3 - Whole songs

3th: Maria Lund - Sydän ymmärtää
Maria Lund is a great performer and musically this is good, though it should introduce new musical elements also after the 1:00 mark. However, the words are just plain wrong. For example, it says "The best men worship and understand a woman / if you find one, you won't need another kind.", while all seduction blogs warn against pedestalizing women, and also a female blogger (Vera) mentioned that signs of worship are major red flags.

2th: Eläkeläiset - Hulluna humpasta
Musically ingenious and humorous performance. But let's face it - we've been hearing Eläkeläiset since 1993.

1th: Sister Twister - Love at the first sight
The music is strong. The other areas are ok.

Honorary Mention: Nina Lassander - Cider Hill
Good but very different from others. I'll have to listen to it 20 times to find out what's the name of the game here. Can't make up may mind about it yet.

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