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. 

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Uzari & Maimuna – Time

Uzari & Maimuna - Time | Eurovision 2015 BelarusBelarus could’ve had one of the novelty hits of the season had they chosen Alexander Rybak’s hotly tipped ‘Accent‘ as their 2015 Eurovision entry. Personally there’s nothing I love more than a kitchy Belorussian train-wreck of the Agurbash/Vinnikova variety, but evidently the powers that be decided to take things a little more seriously, opting for a rockier effort with a touch of classical crossover from Uzari & Maimuna instead.

When it comes to guitar music at Eurovision, the general rule of thumb is ‘go hard or go home’ – quite literally. The dramatics of metal and hard rock have found themselves well suited to the performative nature of the song contest, with the likes of Lordi, MaNga and Deli scoring well with televoters. Softer, more radio-friendly rock songs tend to do less well – think Unbreakable by SinPlus and The Highest Heights by Lovebugs.

‘Time’ unfortunately falls into the latter camp, so Belarus have an uphill struggle from the start. It’s also a fairly weak composition. The dramatic, brooding verses show promise, but the chorus feels like a half-written damp squib when it arrives. There’s no dynamic there, and it’s a weak, forgettable hook.

The use of Maimuna’s violin playing unfortunately doesn’t help matters as much as it should. Strings are a reliable shorthand for musical drama, but they’re overused here and don’t feel like they mix well with the song they’re accompanying. After the first minute, the song has nothing left to show, and it limps along until it finally peters out long after the viewers are likely to have lost interest.

In its current form I don’t think this has much chance of going anywhere. Belarus are known to play around with their entries though – so how might this be improved?

  • The best thing I could suggest for this song would be to make it heavier. At the moment the chorus feels like the moment the foot comes off the accelerator, which is the exact opposite of what it should be doing. Ramp up the guitars and turn it into a dramatic Evanescence-esque nu-metal anthem that hits hard. In 2012 Belarus made the spectacular error of doing this in reverse when they transformed LiteSound’s metal stomper into a weedy soft rocker, and it cost them a place in the finals.
  • Make Maimuna both less and more of a feature. Right now she’s all over the song, and too distracting. Turn the volume down on her for the first couple of verses – or remove her entirely – and give her a showy middle-eight that quietens the song down before the final chorus really explodes.
  • “Time is like thunder – eh, ah/feel it like thunder eh,ah” isn’t much of a hook. There needs to be something much more solid here. I’m not much of a muso, but changing the key might work, or making more of the much stronger “I don’t wanna wait any longer” post-chorus.

Quite a lot of work required here then, but Belarus have shown strong ambitions and a will to succeed, so I’m not ready to write this off just yet. Hell, they might end up changing the song altogether.

Prediction: In current form, a likely non-qualifier. Sorry Belarus. If it’s any consolation I said the same about TEO last year, so what do I know?