Three-Minute Throwdown: Latvia 2020 Edition

On 16 January, the nine acts competing to represent Latvia this year at Eurovision were announced. This followed a week after Latvian broadcaster LTV released 26 shortlisted songs via YouTube for public consumption. Following the footsteps of the Czech article, all nine songs that made it to the final will be analyzed here in more musical depth. They will be listened to one time through without backtracking – stopping a song to write or explain more concepts is okay. As always, previous analysis articles from all Eurovision family contests, but in particular the 3-part series on “Arcade” (which is all linked in the series’ final article), may help where more in-depth explanation may be desired.

Without further ado, let us begin in playlist order!

Seleste – Like Me

Preliminary thoughts: 17-year-old débutante at the national selection level. Could be very intriguing to hear what Seleste has in store!

It went from sampled vocals to a bass slide down into G minor with a banjo set atop a string pad, which is a marked contrast, to say the least. It reminded me of “Sentiments songes” (France 1997) in the somewhat bass-heavy execution, though there is more percussive definition in the current song than the very fat (bass-focused) bass sound in 1997. Both of them focus on acoustic instruments above a bassline and strings at the beginning, though this is considerably folkier and filled with different sound samples. The folk quality seems to follow from the path Latvia took in 2019 with the song “That Night” performed by the group Carousel, but this is a more up-to-date take on the folk aesthetic. The singing reminds me of the rap-singing mix employed by artists such as Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. The actual song’s swung groove also reminds me of a dreamier version of “Stones” (Switzerland 2018). The chord progression, i i4/2 ♮viø7 (m7♭5) ♭VImaj7, is not particularly common in pop music (a Google search returns the verse of a Green Day song, “Restless Heart Syndrome“), which could hold some performers’ attention.

Katrīna Bindere – I Will Break Your Heart

Preliminary thoughts: hard to find information on Katrīna herself, but the music selection at her Draugiem (Friends) page shows a fair amount of styles. I see a stoplight in a city/town setting, so this might be more pop-heavy instead of the acoustic singer-songwriter side.

The bass drum/snaps approach on the note D reminds me strongly of Lorde’s hit song “Royals”, even though the song is also in G minor. Very minimalistic, mainly percussion, vocals (lead and backing), and bass until the chorus, which adds a crunchy guitar part. I am concerned that the ghost of “Telemóveis” (Portugal 2019) may return; the lack of sustained harmonic backdrop may accentuate any intonation issues in this song regardless of if people like the song or not. Again the the “Stones” lite vibe, like Swedish group GRANT’s song “Waterline“. The lyrics rhyme here, but are slightly vapid and sung with less conviction than I would say would be believable.

Miks Dukurs – I’m Falling For You

Preliminary thoughts: Miks has competed before and released quite a few tracks in the past. The genre range is similar to Bindere’s above. Unsure what to make of the thumbnail image.

This is in Db major, which is one of my favorite keys. His high notes when he sings full out are strong and emotive. This is very singer-songwriter-like; a mix where all the instruments sound like part of a concerted product instead of separate sound-making entities could make this song sound even more convincing. This sounds like a jam band song, which is a nice vibe, but a bit unrefined if this is the final mix. I think artists have been releasing their own music videos with the studio versions, so perhaps it will sound better there; however, that would be an extra listen which I cannot afford.

Samanta Tīna – Still Breathing

Preliminary thoughts: Samanta is not a new name to the Baltic pre-selection shows. This will be her sixth time attempting to represent her home country Latvia. The aesthetics of the thumbnail are suggesting “diva” to me; will have to wait to hear the music to confirm or deny. A few friends really like her song; I haven’t heard it yet (hence the three-minute throwdown).

Oh, hello prominent synth sub-bass following that beginning vocalization. It’s the most urban-sounding of songs so far. Interesting bass-heavy breakdown between the chorus and second verse. The vibe of this song reminds me of “Hvala ne”, albeit more sung throughout instead of rapped. The backing vocalists are generally singing very lightly, particularly when they double themselves – sing the same note (a unison), octaves, or diatonic thirds in the key of F minor, but during the choruses their voices join together in emphasizing a few musical moments in the style of The Mamas (Melodifestivalen 2020 contestants at the end of this week; John Lundvik’s backing gospel singers in 2019) and O’G3NE (Netherlands 2017; 2007 in JESC).

Edgars Kreilis – Tridymite

Preliminary thoughts: Like Samanta, Edgar has also auditioned to represent Latvia multiple times (the past three years, including this year). Unusual song title refers to various types of high-temperature silica crystal formations within the quartz family according to Wiki.

Very reverberant, rhythmic vast empty space-like beginning. The voice takes a while to get to full strength, which is giving me strong flashbacks of Belgium 2019 (“Wake Up”, Eliot). The chorus and arrangement work are great, but the voice needs to complement the strength of the instrumental lest the instrumental consume the vocals and render the effect of both weaker, which is a shame, since I liked both “Wake Up” and this song.


Preliminary thoughts: Jānis Driksna, referred to by his last name for the time being, previously auditioned for Supernova in 2017 as the songwriter and lead singer of group My Radiant You. (Triana Park won that year.) Also getting singer-songwriter-like vibes, not to mention the hipster beanie and wood something in the thumbnail juxtaposed against a more industrial-looking backdrop.

The song did not start with an acoustic backdrop but rather an electric guitar riff and light drums. Odd time signature alert!! Each phrase in the verse is 5 beats followed by 4 beats. This reminds me of ABBA’s “Chiquitita”, when in the choruses on the lyrics “[1,2] …How the [3]heartaches [4]come and they [5]go and the [1]scars they’re [2]leaving [3,4]” and “[1,2] …But the [3]sun is [4]still in the [5]sky and [1]shining a[2]bove you [3,4]” are sung in a 5 + 4 beat pattern (the counts land on the lyrics/syllables directly following the numbers. Detailed chord chart can be found here). The timing around 1:00 in “Stay” is a bit loose, and the backing music mix is too low compared to the vocals. This has the potential to do really well should the mix be improved.

Katrīna Dimanta – Heart Beats

Preliminary thoughts: “Cake to Bake” (Latvia 2014) was a fun song, and she was a part of it. This title and dark lipstick already sounds more serious.

She just sang an E3 in the beginning, which is low in the female range. A minor. The acoustic guitar mimer is not doing a great job at miming. (Live music, I miss you!) Hello ukubass. Starts off with quite a bit of riffing in E Phrygian Dominant, a type of sound often associated with flamenco techniques and featured in, for example, this video on flamenco techniques. Then the electronic drum pad comes in. The energy builds into the chorus which includes 0:55, which includes lively acoustic guitars playing on eighth note upbeats like the guitar part at around 0:31 in the 2013 Greek entry “Alcohol is Free” performed by Koza Mostra & Agathon Iakovidis. A few more instruments – maybe accordion, harmonica, and/or trumpet – could let this song pass as musical fare from other countries. Her singing style reminds me of a literal trumpet at the end between the jazzy ad-libs and the way she is belting.

Bad Habits – Sail With You

Preliminary thoughts: Comprised of Mārtiņš Balodis, Jānis Līde, and Normans Bārbals, Bad Habits is the only band competing in this selection. What I heard from their song “Great White Night” juxtaposed post-rock aesthetics with bluegrass instrumentation (violin, harmonica, mandolin) and slightly twangy singing. Very interesting blend of two worlds; will the band go for that aesthetic here?

Sounds like it started off with a wood block count-in leading to a Mumford and Sons acoustic/electric guitar and bass. This is much more folk rock than I was expecting. Bassist is a lefty! Transition from 3/2 to 4/4 half-time feel section was slightly odd considering the high-energy first section was and the more pop-rock anthem second section. More consistency between the two sections even beyond keeping the same instrumentation might have helped this song’s cause. In songs like the Devin Townsend Project’s “Universal Flame” (3:39) and PVRIS’ “My House (3:47), similar harmonic or textural material was used to bridge the contrasting rhythmic feels, and the same can be said for the verses and choruses of Blanche’s “City Lights” (Belgium 2017).

ANNNA – Polyester

Preliminary thoughts: Anna Madara Pērkone, known as ANNNA, is known for her own electronic music productions and hails from Amsterdam. It could be pleasant to have some sort of homecoming while representing her country of heritage.

Deep, rumbling bass and bass drum against what sounds like snaps, an arpeggiated synth that sounds rather warm (not too much high-end) and breathy vocals. Transitions to a section at regular speed (first section feels half as fast as the new section) with a clearer bass line and more natural percussion. This reminds me of a much darker-sounding version of Billie Eilish – the focus is more on the rhythm than actual melody.

Which of these nine songs resonated most with you? Feel free to comment with your opinion!

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