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. 

Swiss Flag

Melanie René – Time To Shine

Melanie Rene - Time to Shine

25 year-old Melanie René was born in Geneva to parents of Mauritanian origin. She has been singing professionally since she was 9 years old and has competed in many international competitions.

Melanie René was not especially highly favoured going into the Swiss national final – with many fans backing either Timebelle’s Katy Perry-esque ‘Singing ’bout Love‘ or Voice of Switzerland winner Tiziana Gulino with ‘Only Human‘. However, as in Eurovision itself, it all comes down to the performance on the night – and last night René was the clear standout of the evening, topping both the jury and televote for a clear victory with ‘Time to Shine’.

Realistically, Time To Shine’s success was strictly in relation to what what was by any standards a very underwhelming set of songs. Being the best of a bad bunch may have been enough for René to secure a ticket to Vienna, but she’s is likely to face much stiffer competition once she gets there.

The song is another ‘I’m a survivor’ themed entry in the vein of the Georgian and Maltese efforts. There’s a decent contrast between the brooding verses and the faintly militant chorus, bolstered by heavy percussion and a commanding lead vocal. It builds well and does a fair job of maintaining the energy throughout the 3 minutes – something none of her competitors managed.

On the other hand, while the song makes most of the right moves, the overall effect is still rather undercooked. The energy levels peak at around a 6/10, and while that peak arrives at the correct time (the final chorus should almost always be the most impressive moment of any Eurovision song), it’s not enough to really hook the listener in. This seems to be an enduring problem for the Swiss, who seldom send truly awful Eurovision entries (2004 and 2006 aside) but frequently send forgettable ones. On a personal note, the oddly colloquial phrase “no more mucking it up” also scans awkwardly to a native UK speaker, but the success of ‘Undo’ last year makes me feel this probably won’t be a deal-breaker to the majority of viewers.

The good news is that the song could very easily be salvaged if the Swiss delegation decide to put the time and effort in. René wrote and produced the song herself, and the DIY approach definitely shows. If she re-records it with more impactful production, adds a few more vocal runs towards the end and choreographs it well, this has the potential to be a tight, professional three minutes that just might take her to the finals. I don’t expect it to be a serious contender, but for Switzerland to qualify two years in a row would be a victory in itself.