Three-Minute Throwdown: Portugal Edition

After two semifinals, the field of Festival da Canção, the Portuguese Festival of Song and national selection, is set and will perform on 7 March at 21:00 local time (22:00 CET). Each of the eight songs will be analyzed in one take, like the rest of the Three-Minute Throwdown series (bar Sweden). The songs will be analyzed in the order given on the RTP site. Without further ado, let us begin!

Filipe Sambado – Gerbera Amarela do Sul

Translation: Southern yellow Gerbera (some kind of daisy)

D minor. Tango/tresillo rhythm. 10 seconds in, I’m wondering if the song’s staging has some relation to a religion or mythology with sun symbolism, e.g. Buddhism and Greco-Roman mythology (Helios/Sol). Very greyscale staging apart from the yellow lights and board in the background. There seem to be people chanting in front of Sambado’s throne, behind which lie many arches in the same shape as the yellow throne. He was wearing shorts or something underneath all that fluff! Before 1:40, there was a short venture into G Mixolydian (vamping the G and F chords, focusing on the former). The first part of the verses are in D minor, but the second part uses a more Dorian sound (instead of the Bb found in D minor, it uses the B natural of Dorian instead. G Mixolydian part is back at the end. Very artistic from what it seems.

Jimmy P – Abensonhado

Translation: Blessed

G# minor. Starts off with a piano/synth combo. The piano is playing the lower notes while the synth (might be made of processed samples of maybe chopped vocals) is playing a riff, it seems. Beginning of verse begins a rap which is not sung but still uses the pitches in G# minor. The riff continues through the verse three. Gospel choir in uniform may go with the title and lyrical content, which I otherwise don’t understand. Riff continues in the first chorus but with singing from everyone on stage. The gospel choir backing vocalists start to sway slowly along with the music. The melody in the chorus is pentatonic. The birds-eye view camera in the second verse as well as the assembly of the choir behind Jimmy P emphasizes the spiritual, if not necessarily religious, undertones within the song. The intonation of the choir around 1:40 reminds me of amateur gospel choirs in the way that the intonation falls slightly flat relative to the twelve-tone equal temperament system which most Western music has observed since the 18th century. Might have just been the beginning – recovery! Somehow they’re either blending/being mixed in a particular way or there are effects on the vocals. OK, yes, I’m listening through a television and there is a significant amount of reverb on the choir, which might give their voices a greater sense of space but potentially at the cost of vocal clarity. In Nightwish’s song “Meadows of Heaven” (orchestral version linked), around 5:12 onward, there may be some reverb on the gospel choir’s vocals; however, it is not overwhelming, and the soloists can be clearly heard despite (in the original version) Anette Olzon singing above the choir in belted tones.

Tomás Luzia – Mais Real Que O Amor

Translation: More real than love

That is a bold title. C# minor. Starts on a G# synthesized sound swelling into a voice-classical guitar conversation in the verse. Very tonal and includes a fair bit of dominant to tonic (V-I, major or minor) action. A programmed percussion part is added later. Interesting shift to the parallel major (which I would rather write as Db major; on a normal piano, the keys would focus on the same single sound (C# or Db) and share four notes. The transitions between chest and head voice are a bit unrefined. The parallel major/minor thing going on may have to do with a reflection on reality, which has its ups and downs and layers of complexity if someone would be interested in those complexities. Nice classical guitar solo; would be nice to see a classical guitarist playing it on stage in order to make the aural conversation more real.

Elisa Rodrigue – Não Voltes Mais

Translation: Don’t come back

Red, blue, and white lights illuminating the stage. C major. I am guessing this might be a diss track… though with this beginning, it might be a peppier one like some of Taylor Swift’s songs. If it keeps on vamping between C and Bb chords (it is), I would consider this C Mixolydian instead. Very cool sound – might be a combination of synth and muted guitar (or even a synthesized muted guitar line. The mix, particularly when the shaker and guitar playing chords comes in, sounds a bit unrefined. I hear brass around 1:35. This seems like a party to wish someone good riddance if I’m interpreting the title correctly. Harmony around 1:55 cool, though a bit less uniform than a choir that has trained together for a few good days. The Bbmaj9 chord at 2:18 is lush and warm. Low-key tango party.

Throes + The Shine – Movimento

C minor. Interesting synth motif focusing on G and Eb before showing the focus on C minor in the verse onward. Two live electronic music performers on stage – one with two keyboards, the top one playing the bass line; the other with a drum pad as well as other percussion instruments. Tresillo rhythm returns. Aggressively smooth dance moves and whispering around 0:30. Around 0:40, two synth voices reframe the context of the musical sounds in the song by using chromatic major thirds. While in the context of this song the C major chord and other parallel thirds sound chic, in other contexts, like “The Blind House” (Porcupine Tree), it can sound evil.

Steven Wilson, guitarist and lead singer for the band Porcupine Tree, discusses “The Blind House” and playing major over minor.

Curious as to what the logo on the cape means. Solid energy and groove; is the lead singer trying to do the job of both Conan Osiris and his dancer from last year’s FdC and Eurovision?

Kady – Diz Só

Translation: Just say

B minor. Begins with extended/added tone chords that remind me of a more laid-back combination of Absent Hearts (collaboration between Scott Kay (Voyagers) and Daniel Tompkins (TesseracT, White Moth Black Butterfly, ex-Skyharbor, and more)) and Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over“. The backing singers are actually singing the call prompting Kady’s response. The red background circle looks uncannily like a Smash Ball from the Super Smash Bros series. A fair amount of confident attitude in the singing. Song builds and then lowers the energy for a calm conclusion to permeate the air. Soulful ballad.

Elisa – Medo de Sentir

Translation: Fear of feeling

C major. Piano ballad. Candle/flame/nighttime star visuals. Ironically seems like a high-feeling song. Is it afraid of itself…? Dark programmed percussion sounds. Periodic sixteenth note accents in the drums before the drums kick in fully. Backing vocalists mostly singing in unison with the melody.

Bárbara Tinoco – Passe-Partout

Translation: Master key (French)

Eb major. Goes between Eb and Bb+ (augmented chord has the notes Bb-D-F#, which looks like a Bb major chord but with the highest note F moved up one half-step). Starts off with a violin or similar and then transitions to a brass band backing up Tinoco in the waltz as opposed to the more stereotypical accordion, as occurs in “La valse d’Amélie” from Yann Tiersen’s score of Amélie. OH, THAT’S WHERE THE ACCORDION WAS. 0:23. Why is there a guitarist? Are they trying to recreate La La Land? At least adapt it to a song; otherwise it just looks comical. Fun pizzicato parts in the second part of this verse, though (orchestral string instruments are being plucked instead of played with a bow). Mariette’s guitar playing in “Shout It Out” was more believable than this actor’s guitar playing because she actually knows how to play the chords in time with the song, while the on-stage actor is stuck on the fifth fret regardless of chord around 0:38. Major gypsy jazz vibes by 0:56; see Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages” (Clouds) for comparison with la pompe manouche, the rhythmic way the guitar was played. Somehow doing a better job at being “French” than the French song this year, which was penned by Swedes. Rallentandos leading to multiple tempos in the song aided by consistent acoustic instrumentation. Old-fashioned but extremely fun.


Of these 8 songs, which one do you think has the best chance of succeeding at Eurovision? Do you believe that song will win on Saturday? These thoughts will be realized by Sunday morning in Portugal. Best of luck to all the competitors.

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