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At last, Eurovision finds a song

Salvador Sobral 2A rather extraordinary thing happened at the Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv last night. Amid the overheated cavalcade of stadium-rock effects and terrible English lyrics, a young man in a shapeless black suit and a dark shirt, his long hair tied up in an untidy top-knot, stood along on an unadorned stage and just sang a song in Portuguese, accompanied by a piano and a small group of strings. A very lovely song, a graceful ballad with a shapely tune, delivered in a high and gentle voice that managed to convey the ardour of the lyric without pushing the buttons that tend to fall automatically under a singer’s fingers on such occasions. And the song won the contest, carrying the votes both of the juries around Europe and of the audience at home.

Salvador Sobral’s song was called “Amor Pelos Dois” (“Love for Both of Us”) and was written by his sister, Luísa. When invited up to receive the award, Salvador said this: “We live in a world of disposable music. Music is not fireworks. Music is feeling.” Quite brave, that, to deliver a rebuke to the contest you have just won. Then, when he performed the song again, he invited his sister to share the microphone, and they alternated lines.

This was the first time Portugal had won the contest in 53 years of trying. How marvellous that they should do it with a song and a performance true to the finest traditions of the country’s popular music. Next year, when Lisbon hosts the event, some of the contestants might find the time to visit not only the fado bars in the Bairro Alto but also the exceptionally fine Museo do Fado in Alfama, where they will learn a lot about the value of music that reaches the heart without the use of fireworks.

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Joachim kettner #

    Very good comment, Richard. It seems there is still some hope!

    May 14, 2017
  2. Peter Walker #

    Against my better judgement I watched the whole show last night. It was like walking up a steep and interminable slope to be rewarded at the end by a magnificent view.
    Bravo Salvador and Luisa.

    May 14, 2017
  3. It was rewarding and unexpected for a song like this to win. Good ethnic songs are not a rarity in the contest but they rarely if ever win. I recall Turkey, Cyprus and Spain all entering good low key unassuming ethnic songs in the last 10-15 years and of course they got slaughtered in the vote, making it unlikely of course that the country would try the same strategy twice. France in the past has also stuck doggedly to traditional chanson (albeit usually of the most turgid kind) and consequently never wins. Among all the usual preposterous nonsense I actually think the standard of songs has crept up generally in recent years. The much maligned Euro-disco songs have often been of a good standard. Unfortunately the UK media and record industry has treated the whole affair with contempt for so long that we don’t seem capable of entering a palatable tailored entry. There is no shortage of songwriting talent in the UK (seems such an obvious thing to say!) but little of it gets through the turgid process of selection anymore. A lot of countries don’t treat the competition as a kitsch fest. They take it seriously. Last night that strategy paid off. Thankfully.

    May 14, 2017
  4. Dennis Muirhead #

    I agree. I only saw the last third of the show and missed Salvador Sobral’s performance. Instead I was going for the equally restrained songs by the yodelling Romanian and touching Belgian. Sadly the UK entry was over blown and didn’t reflect the song writing talent of this country. I don’t know why Australia has a place other than we are a nation of European migrants. He performed well and looked good. But I’m relieved it was not an Australian who bared his bum but a Ukrainian draped in our flag. I usually have little time for Eurovision but my heart went out to Salvador and his sister, a wonderful song with a touch of jazz. I will buy it on vinyl.

    May 14, 2017
  5. Adam Glasser #

    Another gift of a post thanks Richard – who would have dreamt the that Eurovision could be won by a song that could potentially become a standard and attract a cover by the likes of a Nana Caymmi of a Joao Gilberto?

    May 14, 2017
  6. if you wanna feel some heat
    do a dance to the fado beat !

    May 14, 2017
  7. Maureena Baker #

    I saw him interviewed where he said he doesn’t listen to much modern music – preferring Portuguese, Brazilian and Jazz. He also added one of his music heroes is Chet Baker. So, with the spirit of Jobim in the song, and the wistfulness of Chet in his voice, he conquered where superficiality failed and made us all winners when doing so.

    May 14, 2017
  8. WKB #

    I’d love to hear a Veloso version.

    May 14, 2017
  9. GuitarSlinger #

    Real music with real singing and real ( acoustic ) instruments winning an International contest otherwise reserved for OTT AutoTune corrected over produced drivel . Hmm . Who’d of thunk it ?

    Here’s hoping Mr Sobral’s music finds its way stateside and is the beginning of a new trend . That being a return to genuine talent and the rejection of ‘ manufactured ‘artists and music

    May 15, 2017
  10. A pedant writes. Eurovision may have a multitude of faults GS but Auto Tune isn’t one of them. They have to sing live. (That can be hilarious enough sometimes viz Gemini a few years back)

    May 15, 2017
    • But it was weird, Rob, to hear a couple of the singers imitating AutoTune effects…

      May 17, 2017
    • GuitarSlinger #

      Errr …as a professional with an audio engineering background ( and degree ) having been in the industry since the early 70’s hate to be the bearer of very bad news Mr Chapman but Autotune is used as much live ( if not more ) than it is in the studio . Which is to say to your great dismay .. 90% of the ‘ pop ‘ concerts you pay to see as well as contests you watch on TV are AutoTuned … or worse .. prerecorded .e.g. Fake ! Suffice it to say the overwhelming majority of todays so called singers couldn’t hold a pitch if their lives depended on it .

      Which is why Mr Williams those singers were most likely not imitating … but rather using AutoTune

      May 18, 2017
  11. On the subject of fado (or phado as she spells it), have you heard Lula Pena’s three albums? If not, I recommend them.

    May 18, 2017
  12. It’s Dr Chapman and there’s no apostrophe in 70s. Microphones were considered cheating once. It’s good to see that the debate has moved on over the course of a century. (PS. I did wonder about ‘so-called singer’ Beyonce at Glastonbury actually.)

    May 19, 2017

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