Three-Minute Throwdown: Moldova 2020 Edition

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Between 27 February and 1 March, 10 songs will have been chosen. This includes Moldova’s song. O Melodie Pentru Europa 2020 is set to take place at 19:00 CET (20:00 local) and will feature 20 songs, including some performed by previous Moldovan representatives. As with other articles in the Three-Minute Throwdown series, each of the 20 songs will be analyzed in one take from a musical and performance perspective. Pauses will be allowed; backtracking will not be. As YouTuber, Sound Field host, and classical pianist Nahre Sol has mentioned on a video, analyses can inform and enrich the experience of musical learning and enjoyment. Without further ado, let us begin the journey into musical discovery!

Denis Midone – Like a Champion

A minor. Begins with an acoustic guitar riff supplemented with EDM features. Percussive build begins with snaps and then develops with programmed drum loops. Drum loop cuts out before the chorus, during the pre-chorus. Other instruments (strings) swell towards the entrance of chorus before a moment of silence, the calm before the chorus storm comes in strong with drums and bass. First chorus sound rather minimally layered; expecting more in later sections. The percussion is more prominent in the second verse. I don’t hear too much development in this chorus, though it might be a bit more rhythmically active. Not sure if the auto-tune is just being used as an effect or if it’s masking something. Nice song, if a bit repetitive.

Natalia Gordienko – Prison

Gordienko competed for Moldova in 2006 and landed in 20th place with the song “Loca”.

This song is in E minor. Quick 6/8. Did I just hear an F bomb in the chorus? The song is giving some electro rock vibes now with the quick bass despite it not having guitar for extended periods of time. Maybe. The mix of this track is emphasizing too many unimportant elements, like a higher chord synth around 1:17. This could sound fine as power metal or a slightly more electronic version of Within Temptation even, but due to the uneven mix, it’s hard to figure out exactly what goal the songwriter and producer wanted to attain. Gordienko’s voice should be much higher in the mix, though I do enjoy the ethnic touches in this song.

Geta Burlacu – Răspunde! (Answer/Come back)

Burlacu competed for Moldova in 2008 with the song “A Century of Love”. It placed 12th in its semifinal, like Anna Odobescu’s song did in Tel Aviv.

B major. Piano ballad, and she has a nice and deep voice. Adds a lot of instruments in the chorus; backing vocals are singing non-word syllables, and I heard some woodwind around 0:54. Would be nice to hear more of the backing instruments if they weren’t so back in the mix. However, they did get the placement of the voice properly. Nice builds between sections and development throughout. Sounds great in the native language.

Viorela Moraru – Remedy

F minor. Samples and synths begin this song. I don’t mind simple drum parts – some of the best songs have relatively simple drum parts that are very tasteful. However, if they are not acoustic drums, they should at least not sound anemic. The drums in this song sound like my early attempts at producing music – generic sounding, dynamically feeble, lifeless Garageband recordings that pack no punch when compared to the rest of the song. If these artists had the funds and support of major labels like Sweden’s artists do, I am 100% sure that these songs would sound more professional. This song is a solid power ballad, but there are too many mix issues that serve as distractions.

Valentin Uzun & Irina Kovalsky – Moldovița

A minor, but the bridge is in C major. Brass and fun instrumentation. I hear electric guitar in the beginning too. Computer was not having it with this song, so have to reset to an approximate placement. Duet and a folky dance song not unlike Daj To Głośniej’s “Mama ostrzegała” albeit with a more acoustic instrumentation and brass focus instead of accordion. I think that’s a common occurrence in Moldovan folk music. Not sure why the lyrics talked about Ukraine… this is definitely a party, though.

Lavinia Rusu – Touch

B minor. The high-cut filter suggested something dancy upcoming. Funky bass indeed. Addition of fun drum fills in second part of the verse. 4-on-3 polyrhythms on the “Time may pass us” part of the pre-chorus which introduces a different set of synthesized instruments. Standard drum build. Slight extension led to the “1, 2, 3, go” and an effective transition to the hook. The non-string pad synth in the second verse seems like it pulsates a bit. Catchy; would probably have brought out the snare drum and made it less spread-out of a song so it would fit the funky aesthetic a bit better.

Dima Jelezoglo – Do It Slow

F# Phrygian Dominant riff, which might (does) point to B minor later. Very Eastern-influenced sound. I guess it makes sense with the lyrics referring to Arabian motives. The song is fairly dancy and a bit raunchy. Nice build and quite catchy, if a bit lacking in subtlety.

Dianna Rotaru – Dale dale

E minor with an A major chord. Tresillo. Sounds like a standard Latin-inspired dance hit. Decent instrumental hooks. Build into the hook again at 1:19 well-crafted, and would work very well at clubs. Not sure how this would sound live because there is significant vocal processing and added octaves/samples everywhere.

Pasha Parfeny – My Wine

Pasha is back after representing Moldova in 2012 (“Lăutar”), as well as composing the 2013 song (“O mie”, Aliona Moon) while backing the singer from behind a piano. This looks to be a rather dancy tune as well from the thumbnail.

A minor, very pro-Moldovan narration followed by brass ensemble intro into a swung verse punctuated by funky clean guitar. I find it disconcerting that Parfeny is striking the strings on beats 1 and 3 while the electric (not acoustic) guitar is playing swung eighth notes on beats 2 and 4. The brass is moving by step across A harmonic minor (over the E major chord, people are playing G#, which is the middle note in the chord, but every other note is normally in the normal/natural A minor scale). I was typing when I think I heard a skipped beat – as in, instead of 4/4, there may have been a measure of 3/4 before “you are my wine” at around 1:51. The guitar ends up playing in double time feel (twice as fast), which may propel dancing people to follow in turn.

Live Beat – Love Me Now

G minor. Starts with a guitar-bass conversation and cues in some keyboard pad later in the intro. Fun grooves in G minor pentatonic. Rap with some vocal processing, particularly in the second verse… rap is generally more interesting if there’s more vocal inflection instead of keeping a monotone and one volume level. I truly dig the groove. Not sure if the drop-out of the bass part before 2:09 was a good decision. G major chord sighting! One song that really was ambiguous between major and minor throughout the entire song was “Addicted to a Memory” (Zedd feat. Bahari).

Valeria Pașa – It’s Time

Clock ticking as a tie-in to the title. Bb minor. Fun syncopation despite starting as a piano ballad sound. The ideas in the chorus (“It’s time for us to speak…”) are nice, but a bit overly bass-heavy for my tastes. The tresillo rhythm comes back in the piano part. The blend between the verses and choruses is a bit questionable.

Maria Ciolac – Our Home

E minor. This sounds particularly lo-fi for a recording. Is this really the recording? Is this actually the quality? It sounds like a cellphone recording. I’m going to give the artist the benefit of the doubt and assume that I have the wrong copy of the song and just work around that. One thing that makes this sound more juvenile is the fact that the piano is playing the melody under her. That’s usually reserved for official consumer copies of piano/vocal/guitar sheet music, not polished productions, which usually have more going on and, if there should be any doubling of the melody, like in the chorus of “Ku ta gjej dikë ta dua” (Albërie Hadërgjonaj, song analyzed here), more is going on than just one piano note played on the left hand. If this were realized in some other way (rearranged for a different ensemble), I can still imagine it having piano, but with symphonic strings. This could work well orchestrated similarly to “Korake ti znam” (Bosnia and Herzegovina 2012). Ciolac’s voice sounds excellent live, very free. I find it amusing that the pianist was playing the ornaments (fun flourishes) that Ciolac was to sing, but can’t really judge the song from such a recording in the same way as the other 19 songs.

Sasha Letty – Summer of Love

D minor. Sounds dancy and bass/bass drum-focused. The bass part seems to play doubled fifths, which means that there’s a B natural, which is out of key (Bb – B flat – is the usual note). This B natural gives the song a somewhat Dorian sound, found in tunes like “Scarborough Fair” and Miles Davis’ “So What“. This is ephemeral, as there are Bb major chords in the chorus and the doubled fifths sound (was it really a thing or just an aural illusion? Tis the question.) goes away. This is quite catchy, though it seems like the opposite of summer right now where I am… Some more gradual dynamic decisions would be nice, but I can see this getting stuck in many peoples’ heads.

Irina Kit – Chain Reaction

A minor (choruses lean toward C major). The photo shows an acoustic guitar, while the music plays everything but such a guitar – synths, a piano which bangs out four A notes before the first verse comes in. I think the second verse uses a very filtered electric guitar sound. Uptempo. 12/8. My mind went on a tangent thinking about Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song” with the combination of 12/8 and uptempo… there’s a general canned feeling of the music here – it could be produced more loudly, like an EDM track. I’m sure that the Moldovan delegation would help fix the mixes of the winning song if necessary.

Petronela Donciu & Andreea Portărescu – We Will Be Legends

D minor. Begins with pads, guitar with some modulation effect, and one of the people singing. Hard to figure if the beginning part is major or minor because the actual chord centered around the note D has neither the major nor minor third that allows the chord to be defined as major or minor. The second chord is an F major chord, which would be diatonic (fit in) to D minor; however, Hoobastank is well-known for blending major keys with chords similar to F major (bIII), for example in the song “Disappear“, so it’s hard to make a solid statement. Song changes to F major around 0:40. A minor third is found in the second verse within the harmonized vocals; the verses are in D minor. Solid power ballad. Fun Ebmaj7#11 to F major conclusion.

LANJERON – Hi Five

G minor. Brass! And then they disappear in the verse under the cover of a vibraphone-like sound, just like Sunstroke Project, though this band’s sound is a bit less in-your-face. The brass crossed with EDM production has been proven to work, so depending on performance aesthetic and quality, this probably will do well. A bit repetitive but definitely would get crowds moving, particularly if all the elements are mixed for the big stage.

Julia Ilienko feat. Mishel Dar – Tears

D major. Starts on G major chord. Starts with an offbeat eighth note hi-hat, as well as claps every 2nd and 4th beat. Fun drop which could probably work with some folk/acoustic instrument as well à la “Hey Brother”. Would probably move the vocals further forward if possible and do something about how constant the bass drum programmed volume is – it’s a bit tiring hearing the same sound hundreds of times in a row. OH MY GOSH, IT WAS AN AVICII TRIBUTE. I see the reasoning behind the madness. Tim Bergling (Avicii) was great at writing melodies and layering instruments in a way that wasn’t tiring.

Catarina Sandu – Die for You

Ghostly makeup. F# minor. Uses the 4-on-3 polyrhythm found in both “True North” (Vocal Line cover) and “Superhero” (Viki Gabor) from the beginning. Sounds like there’s a sitar some plucked Eastern instrument motif sample or something at the end of the verse. Pre-chorus around 0:29. Tresillo rhythms in the drop and chorus rhythms. Well-constructed and executed EDM track.

Alexandru Cibotaru – Cine te-a facut să plângi (Who made you cry?)

A minor. Begins with classical guitar playing atop piano. Add bass (fun bass line) and drums in verse. Section (chorus I think) including 0:49 drops the bass and drums; by that time point I’m over halfway through a circle chord progression (without extensions, alterations or sevenths, Dm – G – C – F – Bdim – E (played as E+, E augmented)), guessing an A minor comes next. This kind of circle progression is found in songs like the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves” and Tina Turner’s “I Will Survive”, among others. Modulation to Bb minor. I heard “lagrime”! I’m not completely out of the loop with Romanian, which is one of the most distantly related languages from English… The song overall sounds like a Balkan ballad. Really liked the Db7 to Gm7b5 transition around 1:57 and elsewhere. Perhaps some places could do with increased volume from certain instruments, but this was pleasant.

Maxim Zavidia – Take Control

Eb minor, starts with piano. Deep bass. The backing vocals are mixed somewhat loudly for what I would expect; I would hope that the two types of vocals would be mixed more smoothly within the context of all the sounds, but alas. Country pop-sounding. Solid Eb5 in head voice around 2:37. Depending on the live mix and performance, I can see this doing fairly well.


Of these 20 songs, which of these resonated most strongly with your tastes? The final will begin at 19:00 on Saturday CET (20:00 local).

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