First Listen Review attempts to capture my first impressions of the year’s Eurovision entries as and when they’re released. My opinion is liable to change as certain songs grow on me or get revamped, but based on the principle that most listeners will only hear each entry once (or twice) before voting, hopefully it’ll provide some insight.

Portugal Flag

Portugal: Leonor Andrade – Há um mar que nos separa

Leonor Andrade - Há um mar que nos separa | Eurovision 2015 Portugal

Leonor Andrade won Portugal’s Festival da Canção after finding fame as a contestant on Portugal’s The Voice. She has also appeared on popular Portuguese telenovela Água de Mar.

In an increasingly homogenous Eurovision landscape, I’ve come to really appreciate Portugal’s dogged insistence on ploughing their own musical furrow, regardless of how it’s received by the rest of the continent. Their entries have covered a variety of sounds and genres –  from the effervescent pop of Quero ser tua to the dramatic fado of Senhora do mar, via the heartfelt sweetness of Todas as Ruas do Amor, all the while retaining a distinctly Portuguese feel.

Há um mar que nos separa finds the country shifting gears once again, this time into a moody alternative-pop sound. There’s a nice build-and-release of tension in this song, with the verses create a feeling of brooding intensity before giving way to a more accessible, hopeful-sounding chorus. Singer Leonor Andrade is a nervy performer who sells the former somewhat better than the latter on the evidence of her Festival da Canção performance, but the song has been given a more uplifting revamp since then, which may allow her to make the transition more easily.

This is a very pleasant song to listen to while you’re hearing it. I enjoy the sound of the Portuguese language, and the new-agey backing vocals give it an endearingly dreamy nineties feel – it wouldn’t feel entirely out of place on a compilation alongside the likes of Billie Myers, Natalie Imbruglia and Sophie B.Hawkins. Unfortunately, ‘pleasant’ doesn’t necessarily translate into votes, and of all the songs in the second semi final, this is the one I’m least expecting to see progressing to the main show.