Okay, given that we’re less than two months out, I guess it’s time for me to start doing proper reviews of the songs this year, so why don’t I start with Belarus and Zena, with I Like It.
(As a side note, when I pulled up this video, Youtube gave me a snippet of Cardi B, J Balvin, and Bad Bunny’s I Like It, and I had a moment of wistfulness thinking about how amazing it would be if Cardi B were representing Belarus in Eurovision 2019. She would blow everyone else out of the water and the only stage invader we’d have to worry about would be Offset.)
And oh my goodness, I hate this song.
I know what you’re thinking. “But this is a female-fronted banger with nonsense lyrics as part of the chorus – just the type of song you’re asking for more of in Eurovision. Why aren’t you happy with someone LITERALLY GIVING YOU WHAT YOU ASKED FOR?”
I should be grateful, yes. But I saw what Belarus had to offer. I saw the Potato Monks and Kinky Boots and whatever this woman was doing and saw that all of them got completely shafted when it came time to move to the final, so I can’t help but being wistful for what might have been. None of that is Zena’s fault, however.
Indeed, this song might also not be Zena’s fault, but that of producers Yulia Kireeva and Viktor Drobysh, who have crammed every fashionable and not-so-fashionable trend (more on the latter) in current pop music into a three minute song. There’s a flute hook, there’s big bombastic brass, there’s a vaguely ethnic break, there’s a clock sound, there’s a drum build, there’s a chance to let Zena showcase her vocals. But instead of creating a wall of sound (see Arvingarna) it just creates chaos. I can’t even figure out how to dance to this once because it’s switching the beat every few minutes.
What’s also hindering this song is the fact that it’s jammed jammed jammed full of vocals, so Zena has to dance and sing all of these lyrics in English all at the same time. And the problem is that she ends up swallowing or failing to hit some of the lyrics – the KARMA punctuation at the end of the first verse should be hit hard, but instead it’s delivered as an afterthought.
This failure to enunciate is at its worst in the chorus, when “yes you’re going to like it” ends up sounding like “is he going to like it”, which completely changes the meaning of the song.
But that meaning is also depressing – it’s essentially desparate Zena, with a desparate song, trying to figure out what’s wrong with her, pleading to karma, looking for redemption on the dance floor, but also begging an unseen partner to “let me in your heart”. This is literally a bunch of words strung together with no actual story to hold them into a coherent song.
I’ve made fun of Portugal for their National Final, where multiple entries seemed to be a conceptual art project with a focus on how one might deconstruct a song. Belarus is the commercial inverse to that – an entry where a producer has thrown together all the elements that should make a song and come up with something that is simply a soggy mess.
I don’t see this getting out of semifinal 1, frankly, and when Belarus could have failed to get out of the semifinals with the Potato Monks,this song seems like a greater waste of space than ever.
We know you can do amazing things, Belarus. We saw Alekseev with his subversive drama queen submerged under teen idol good looks. We know you’ve got Gunesh, with her amazing vocals and Laura Branigan style. You’re the country that produced Naviband, for goodness sake!
Please – for all of us – try harder.
FINAL VERDICT: This song is rated bathroom break. It’s so basic that you could literally watch any female fronted pop video from the past 10 years, downgrade the experience tenfold, and replicate the experience of watching this on stage.