Spain Flag

Spain: Barei – Say Yay!

Barei - Say Yay! | Eurovision 2016 Spain

Independent artist Barei beat well-known names including Xuso Jones and Maria Isabel to win the Spanish ticket to Eurovision.Much like fellow big 5 members France, Spain’s Eurovision ambitions have been consistently hobbled by the achilles heel that is their commitment to their native tongue. Possibly bruising from Edurne’s failure – and the two decades that have passed since they last placed within the top 5 – for the first time ever this year they’re sending an entry entirely in English

It’s probably no coincidence that Say Yay! by Barei is also one of the most modern and radio friendly entries Spain has sent in a long time, as evidenced by its rapid ascent to the top of the iTunes charts before it even won the national final. Bearing strong piano house influences, an uplifting earworm of a chorus and diva vocals, the song wouldn’t sound at all out of place on a Jess Glynne or Clean Bandit record.

This is all very well, and Spain are due a truly competitive entry – even their two top ten placings of the past five years barely scraped in on jury appreciation – but it is a little sad to lose the distinctive Iberian flavour that Spain can usually be relied upon to deliver, from Ruth and Pastora’s showy ballads to the latin-pop stylings of Soraya and Lucía Pérez. Say Yay! is very catchy, but it could be from anywhere.

A more pressing problem is that while ‘radio friendly’ Eurovision entries are more likely to have an afterlife beyond the contest, they don’t necessarily make for the most effective showpieces. The biggest hits to come out of the contest in recent years – EuphoriaSatellite, Heroes – have managed to strike an effortless balance between the two, but I’m not convinced Say Yay! is quite of that calibre.

In order for a song like this not to pass viewers by completely on the night, a commanding performance is required. Obviously a small TV studio doesn’t give the best indication of how Say Yay! might end up looking on the Eurovision stage, but one thing that was clear from the Spanish national final was that Barei herself needs to get a whole lot better if this is going to be a contender. While her vocals were perfectly serviceable, her clumsy dance moves and lack of poise made her look more like an enthusiastic amateur than a world class pop star.

Still, these are all fixable problems, and given she was the only independent artist in the selection, it’s perfectly plausible that she hasn’t had the budget to work with the kind of choreographers who could help her to deliver a more slick and professional performance – something the Spanish team will hopefully be looking at between now and May.

Conclusion

The Spanish public have voted for potential over the more tried and tested elements that they were presented with at their national final, and for that they should be applauded. Juries may respect the of-the-moment production, and if Barei can polish up her act, she might just be able to pull in enough televotes to deliver a respectable finish. I don’t think it’ll be troubling the podium though, and in current form I can more easily see it languishing at the bottom of the leaderboard than anywhere near the top. There’s much to admire about Say Yay!, but in its current form I can’t quite bring myself to love it.