Friday, March 15, 2013

"Hold Me" is Bland and Overrated

It is always interesting to see how competitive countries after they host Eurovision. Do they maintain their competitive edge or intentionally decline into a nadir of ridiculously vapid song selections for  a couple years? Azerbaijan's recent successes stem from the work of Swedish composers and songwriters, Anders Bagge, Stefan Örn, and Sandra Bjurman, giving them 5th place in 2010 with "Drip Drop," 1st place in 2011 with "Running Scared," and 4th place last year with "When the Music Dies." After, Örn and Bjurman, with great reputations and credentials, went back to Sweden only to give them "Only the Dead Fish Follow the Stream." But, even strong, well-established songwriters have their occasional flops.

Photo: Ictimai/Euromedia
Just imagine if the Dead Fish song goes to Farid Mammadov? Nonetheless, Azerbaijan ditches their first love Swedish imports and went more Greek with the song, "Hold Me," contributed from famous Greek composer Dimitris Kontopoulos and Swedes, John Ballard and Ralph Charlie.  Azerbaijan has a strong record, and the song's generic production and singer's good looks will probably give Azerbaijan another Top 10 showing, but this song is no "Hold Me Now" (for those older Eurovision fans who can appreciate the pun) - it has a zero shot at winning Eurovision. 

Unfortunately, Azerbaijan departed from a direction they could have gone with Sabina Babayeva's "When the Music Dies," which in my opinion is the best entry the Azeris submitted. The tactful and intentional convergence of western production and strong, pronounced Azeri elements from the kamancha to balaban was groundbreaking and captivating. The creativity and strong production set Azerbaijan with a formula of assured long-term Eurovision success. "Hold Me" is just simply another ballad. What if the UK, France, or Spain sent this song? I don't think pundits would have gushed over this entry because it's not Azerbaijan, and it's not Farid Mammadov.

Kontopoulos terribly disappoints in the production of "Hold Me" with a barely adequate, generic, and bland production lacking any creativity whatsoever - sorry to xylophone enthusiasts. Mammadov fails to compensate for and actually exacerbates the production's short-comings by supplying a decent, ordinary singing voice with as much natural charisma as a discount store brand of kidney beans.  However, Mammadov has a couple of months to improve his performance and his showmanship to overcome the lack of natural charisma. In addition, I don't believe the version he sang at the Azeri final was live, begging the question on whether he'll be able to carry a note at Eurovision?

With the song not as powerful as 2011 and 2012, I don't expect this in the Top 5. Because Turkey left this year, Azerbaijan will perform 12 points less than before. I predict this song, albeit a bland song, will finish 8th to 11th.

Listen to "Hold Me" here:
ESCritic's Rating: 4.5/10

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