Loreen: Euphoria

Today I have been informed that we (Sweden) won the Eurovision Song Contest. I have only occasionally heard songs from this contest over the years. I remember no more than two or three good ones, although there must have been more which I would need to listen to again. I have definitely noticed – and fortunately often forgotten – a considerably greater number of truly horrible ones, in the last few decades not seldom so embarrassing as to be almost unbelievable.

Elsewhere I have discussed and formulated my views both about the various genres of popular music and about the phenomenon of rating and grading of songs of the kind with which we have to do in the ESC, and I will not repeat it here, except for the basic point that when I write about these things, I intend it to be a matter of consistent application of the same aesthetics and criteria I use in the case of other music and indeed other art forms: this area should not be neglected, the paucity of real criticism leaves it to deteriorate further into a cultural wilderness.

I have now studied this year’s winner on YouTube. I don’t know anything about those who wrote the song, ‘Euphoria’ (Thomas G:son and Peter Boström). I had never heard or even heard about the singer, Loreen. And so I was surprised and impressed by her performance in the opening and first part of the song. The presence, emotion, warmth, and soul in the first lines seemed to promise something extraordinary, almost sublime, within the parameters of the genre. “Why, why can’t this moment last forevermore? / Tonight, tonight eternity’s an open door / Noah, don’t ever stop doing the things you dooah / Don’t go, in every breath I take I’m breathing you”.

But it is unfortunate that all or most of the songs are now in English, and that also for other reasons they now seem for the most part not to express anything of the cultural distinctiveness of the participant countries (not that they always have to do so: in this case the singer has Moroccan origins and would probably be very good if she did something Moroccan). The contest is in this respect becoming a true symbolic expression of what the European Union is unfortunately about.

But for now, I have to disregard this. The romantic theme of love felt to open towards a level or dimension of the spiritual is not extraordinary, but Loreen’s opening is passable and it could certainly be developed lyrically in harmony with the mood she and the song conveys and really incarnates in this first verse. These qualities persist also when she begins the chorus – “Euphoria / Forever till the end of time” – for the first time. This was surprising; I didn’t think Eurovision performances were of this quality any longer.

The problem is that the song doesn’t go anywhere from this point. The predictable beat machines then start beating their monotonous beat. I shouldn’t be too categorical about them. I think they have sometimes “worked” in a sense in the past, in some Euro disco and Euro dance, for instance, where they could under favourable compositional and melodic conditions contribute to a certain cold beauty. But by now their use is generally much too undistinguished. It should be acknowledged that the way they here stop abruptly after the chorus and at the beginning of each verse, to be followed by what is almost a brief silence, is interesting and sets the song apart from many others. Yet they still tend to kill the potential magic of Loreen’s personal style. The lyrics, of the chorus as well as the following verses, do not develop the song’s theme on a sufficient level of quality, and their content is not matched by any further musical progression.

Loreen sings about how she and her lover, Noah, are “going up up up up up up”, that their euphoric love is “an everlasting piece of art”, that they “sail into infinity”, that they are “higher and higher and higher” and “reaching for divinity”. But the music doesn’t go higher. The “up up up up up up” part is really weak, both in terms of lyrics and melody. The whole chorus is mediocre. One cannot lyrically express euphoria by simply repeating the word. The idea of focusing the whole chorus on this feeling alone, the passionate singing of the mere word for it, is misconceived, much too simple. And again, musically there is nothing in the song beyond what was there in the first verse and chorus – and was much better there, before the commonplace, mechanical beat.

A third compositional moment with a true transcendent lift-off of the kind the opening made us expect is missing – or, if that would make the song too complex for Eurovision, at least a better chorus containing this. Instead, all that is added is the trite beat. When it stops for the second and the short third verse (it is not a problem that the verses are somewhat amorphous and asymmetrical), one hopes the song will recover, as it were, but unfortunately the performance is then suddenly weaker in another decisive respect: it is difficult to hear most of the words Loreen sings.

The performance also, like almost all Eurovision songs in recent times as I understand it, relies much too heavily on dance and movement. This is simply an empty, spectacularist substitute for quality songwriting and musical talent. But at least Loreen’s sitting down on the floor (or podium) during the second and third verse is fine, genuinely expressive, feminine, intimate, and would have been even more so if the words could be heard and were better crafted. The qualities of the beginning could have been further developed.

The choreography of the chorus tends to confirm, however, that its expressiveness is of a different kind, much too much of the common vulgar histrionics of strong passion or sublime emotion without lyrical, musical and emotional basis or credibility. This is certainly not the pits of a Whitney Houston (I am sorry to have to express myself like this about the recently departed singer). But it is also quite far from, for instance, Céline Dion’s two good songs, ‘Pour que tu m’aimes encore’ and ‘Je sais pas’.

With these weaknesses, ‘Euphoria’ cannot be said to be a particularly good song. Nonetheless, I will now try to find out more about Loreen and what she has done before. The promise of the beginning of this song may be hard to forget. For a little while, Loreen’s whole appearance seemed to point beyond the aggressive vulgarity of the event. To say “I love you Bakuuuu” after the song seemed misplaced, and detracted from the overall effect. (Perhaps all Eurovision singers do such things nowadays?) But the way she looked at the audience just before that made me think again about the beginning, and feel, despite the disappointment, that Loreen might have genuine artistic talent and could now go on to do other and greater things. There was, one hopes, more than cheap and crude entertainment in those eyes.

4 Responses to “Loreen: Euphoria”

  1. 1 Swedish Dissident May 29, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Intressant och balanserat inlägg. Helt klart den bästa analysen jag har läst om spektaklet. Själv har mina två senaste inlägg bara rört sig om lite lagom vass och pueril – men ändå inte helt oviktig – polemik, varav ett behandlar den moderate politikern Jimmy Bakers förutsägbara halmgubbe i anslutning till tävlingen:

  2. 3 Jan Olof Bengtsson June 1, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Yesterday I watched BBC Breakfast’s interview with Loreen, which confirmed my intuition of her talent. She is perfectly aware of most of what made her performance good, and had herself chosen to do all those things quite consciously and deliberately. It was probably a little unfair of me to complain about too much dance when she had left out so much else that is unfortunately now normally part of Eurovision performances.

  3. 4 Jan Olof Bengtsson May 20, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    I said here that Corinne Hermès’s ‘Si la vie est cadeau’ was the best ESC song I could remember, but soon after this I discovered Anne-Marie David’s ‘Je suis l’enfant soleil’, which is far better.

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