Winners and Losers
After the excitement of last night’s events at the MFCC, Eric Montfort reflects on the contest and hopes the participants don’t take it too seriously.
The Malta Song for Europe has over the years attracted mixed reactions for various reasons. It is significant that when this festival was re-launched and revamped back in 1991, few would have expected it to become an overnight sensation. I was one of the first critics of this festival and almost all festivals anyway. The thing is that The Malta Song for Europe grew and grew. Enter the online, downloading age and reactions too began to change. I was not alone in my criticism for its mostly predictable songs, the equally tried and truly tested presentations, anticipation for trends and the huge attention that time and again, one gives to style over substance. Well, the Eurovision Song Contest has become one big spectacle and Malta Song for Europe followed this direction.
The rise of new rock and indie, as well as world and jazz music talents in Malta considerably changed the perception of this Festival. 20 years ago, I used to get a lot of flak for criticising such festivals, notwithstanding the many occasions I served as a member of the jury. Many organisers know exactly my views about song contests, and some may also respect it, despite disagreeing with me. Nowadays other journalists and media people seem to share such viewpoints. They too, dislike the emphasis that this festival is given. In this regard, the TVM 2 coverage by Norman and Rodney was welcome. I aIso understand that it is a way of attracting more tourists, given the popularity of The Eurovision Song Contest. However, let us all bear in mind, that if the Eurovision Song Contest really reflects what is going on in pop music, then pop would have been dead many years ago.
Let’s face it. Nowadays, we are getting rock talents participating in the Malta Song for Europe. I’m notsurprised. They feel that it’s one way of trying to increase their popularity. I also hope that they and everyone else, will realise that the Eurovision and The Malta Song for Europe should not be the beginning and the end of their careers. It seems that after many years, some aspiring talents have finally realised this, and I surely hope that their creativity will not be conditioned by such festivals, or to be more precise, all festivals.
There was strong anticipation for Kevin Borg’s Needing You. Kevin was the most popular of all contestants. He won a Swedish pop idol competition. He is popular in Malta and moreover, he lives and is well-known in Sweden, where the forthcoming Eurovision will be hosted. He also had a good song, and was projected as the “ideal package” for this year’s edition, as Malta continues pursuing its dream of winning this contest someday. Needing You was not so impressively delivered on Friday. However, Kevin and co. more than made up for this on their Saturday performance. It was arguably one of Kevin’s finest moments in his pop singing career. He and his backing group delivered with ease and passion, almost solemnly.
Gianluca Bezzina stood in sharp contrast with his coy, sweet, nonchalant and breezy song Tomorrow. He may have been targeted for having its opening identical to Hey Soul Sister, a recent classic by Train. To be fair, there have been some other songs which used the same opening ukulele riff. Israel Kamakawiwolóle from Hawaii, land of the ukulele is a case in point. That is as far as Tomorrow’s relationship with Hey Soul Sister goes. It’s unpretentious as indeed was its presentation on the final night. Gianluca presented himself in typical Siculo-Maltese rustic attire, perhaps a silent tribute to the beautiful village of Qrendi, where he hails from. It wasn’t my favourite song. I was banking on Amber Bondin. She is endowed with a beautiful soulish voice and I believe her career should be oriented towards soul and rhythm and blues. In Control reflects her abilities. It’s a well-structured song and it was arguably the best composition this year.
There were also a few other contenders reflecting different genres. Deborah C with Love-O-Holic being a decent dance oriented song. The rockers all projected good though not exactly extraordinary songs. Chris Grech from 26 Other Worlds presented Never Walk Away and fared quite well. Gianni Zammit and co. came up with Us Against The World and Scar had Superstar. Richard Edwards, who figured encouragingly over the past few years, did not fare so well this year with Fall Like Rome. He projected very ably his vocal qualities, however, this year most of the televoting and the jury’s votes benefitted mostly five songs. The winner and the runner-up got the lion’s share of the votes with Davinia’s Betrayed, Amber and Chris Grech getting 48 and 47 points each respectively. Davinia has a good voice, albeit being influenced by Adele and the late Amy Winehouse. Two established names, Claudia Faniello and Corazon Mizzi presented good songs but went nowhere. So did Richard and Petra with Wonderful Today. These are essentially standard Eurovision songs that may or may not attract the right response. I am saying so because one simply cannot do much predictions in song festivals, and well with so much lobbying from various regions, the Eurovision Song Contest will remain a bone of contention as long as various countries continue preferring their neighbours or close cousins. One need only see the voting patterns of the Scandinavians, the Balkans and some East European countries in recent years.
I just hope Gianluca Bezzina continues to improve his song’s presentation and really hope that he and his band will give their best, without taking it all too seriously.