Three-Minute Throwdown: Denmark 2020 Edition

Back in October, ESCtakeover reported that DR, Denmark’s public broadcaster, would be changing its national final format, preselecting 7 songs and adding an additional three songs from nine sent to P4, a radio broadcaster. DR slightly modified this; three of the nine songs sent to P4 were selected by the public, while two wild-cards, vaunted by the jury, also advanced. All ten acts will be accompanied by the Antonelli Orchestra in commemoration of the 50th edition of DMGP, the first time since 1999 that the competition has used a live orchestra.

As with all other Three-Minute Throwdown pieces, each of the ten competing entries will be analyzed for musical details. Due to the presence of live orchestra, this edition will discuss how the elements within the studio versions (as posted by DR) could translate live.

Ben & Tan – Yes

G major. Acoustic strumming with back-and-forth vocals. The 3+4 count in the verses (7 beats per musical line). Sounds like Smith + Thell if the group had more twang. The chorus was really loud relative to everything else before it; an orchestra and live sound would have better control of such dynamic details than manually adjusting the levels. The melody instrument in the interlude directly following the first chorus could be transferred to another/an additional instrument if need be. The idea of the song is really fun, but the studio mix is too punchy on the mid-range percussion (clapping, snares). Ooh, I liked the female taking up the interlude instrument’s melody before everything came back together. The “Say yes” x2 in the chorus is going to have a lot less reverb live unless a backing singer sings it. Fun folk-pop number.

Benjamin Kissi – Faith

Bb minor. Far more synth than the preceding song. The guitar is playing the Andalusian cadence in Bb minor, which is apparently YouTuber and music theorist 12tone’s favorite chord progression. The amount of overdrive on the rhythm guitar during the verses is questionable, as the muddiness of its sound – how it makes each guitar string’s sounds blend together – conflicts with how crisp the drums, vocals and piano sound together. This might be solvable live should the guitarist use less overdrive and more crisp staccato (making the sounds last for a shorter time), but it could also sound worse live with the wrong settings. His voice here has a fair bit of personality to it. Reverted to headphones because I wasn’t sure how much bass I was missing due to the not-ideal speakers. The synth bass doesn’t have very much definition and could do with a bit more high-end presence. Left ear saxophone part around 1:10 is nice. The guitar tone is distracting due to how much noise is involved with the sound it makes; it covers a lot of sound from different ranges. I did hear it correctly the first time; there was an Ebm9 – Fm7 – Gbmaj7 syncopated chord progression, which is interesting not just for its timing quirks but also in that it never hits the Bb minor chord, even though the Bb minor chord’s notes are hidden inside the Ebm9 and Gbmaj7 chords. Fun groove, small guitar solo with a filter of some kind. Would just be nicer executed a bit more cleanly.

Emil – Ville ønske jeg havde kendt dig

Translation: Wish I’d known you

E major. Back to acoustic songs. Emil’s voice is flat in that it hits the right pitch but with a deep, nonchalant voice that contrasts with Sergey Lazarev’s (Russia 2016 and 2019) dramatic delivery that usually lands directly on the target pitch. The harmonic instruments (back on TV – I think I hear piano, the acoustic guitar fingerpicking, and voices) are really overwhelming the drums here. Orchestral strings in 2nd verse. Surprising measure of three before the “oh” part around 1:55. Nice layering, and the mix should be fixable live.

Isam B – Bølger

Translation: Waves

D major. The lowest string is tuned to a D, and I hear open A3 and D4 (concert), which means that this tune was played in either open D (DADF#AD) or DADGAD tuning. Waves of piano arpeggios in the B section (probably a chorus) that includes 0:37. There’s an AutoTune artifact around 0:52; I wonder how this will translate live. Most of the instruments are acoustic, so the live performance will breathe air into those instruments (all that are not the reverberating drums). Is the studio version trying to hide bum notes? I’m worried about this because even though this is a pleasant song, the parts that do not trigger AutoTune seem to indicate a strong propensity to miss the intended note by a bit. This would not be an issue if this were a rap song, but alas.

Jamie Talbot – Bye Bye Heaven

B minor, though the melody seems to point to the note D despite the D major chord not happening. Begins with muted electric guitar that continues into the verse when Talbot begins to sing. Slow half-time groove, and the song wouldn’t feel out-of-place on the radio. His voice is reminding me of another singer, but I can’t place a finger on the singer just now. The return of the drums around 2:22 was very nice. Solid vocal chops; hopefully they can still preserve their pleasantness live.

Jasmin Rose feat. RoxorLoops – Human

D minor. Four on the floor rhythm after some sort of ethnic lead instrument line in the short intro. A reverb-heavy percussion sound standing in for the snare in the pre-chorus (I think that’s the section, includes 0:28) is playing at half-speed. The melismatic singing (many quick notes on the “oo” syllable) in the chorus (includes 0:38) reads as more Eastern in origin. Fun EDM. Before the second chorus (around 1:36), I heard a three-measure phrase, which contrasts with the general pattern of phrases being 2, 4, 8, or 16 bars (exponents of 2). The chorus is really catchy and has decent lyrics, though as a whole the lyrics are a bit stale. Key change for final chorus to Eb minor. The ethnic instrument doubles octaves similar to some of the strings of a 12-string guitar and is a plucked string instrument, but the identity escapes me just now.

Kenny Duerlund – Forget It All

F# minor. Begins with an electric guitar riff. Epic tattoo on his arm. Somehow visually reminding me of Vikings. there was an intentional (I think) voice crack around 0:34 I wasn’t a huge fan of. His voice overall sounds solid if a bit nasal, and the lyrics are decent. Epic build-up to the post-chorus around 1:01. Second verse has a lot more percussion carried on from the build and keeps the energy and momentum going. The attempted captioning of this video is making me giggle: “Africa” instead of “I forgot”. This song sounds like it could be the more uptempo follow-up to “Arcade” in how its instrumentation flows throughout the song. Ends on a high note, literally (C#5 in head voice) and figuratively (at the end of a chorus).

Maja & De Sarte Sjæle – Den eneste goth i Vejle

Translation: Maja and the Fainthearted – The only goth in Vejle

C major. When I think of gothic music, I think of less peppy approaches – The Birthday Massacre, Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation, The 69 Eyes, for example – but I need to listen further in the song. 18 seconds in, this is still sounding more like indie rock. This is definitely more of an indie rock vibe. The guitar has a significant amount of delay and reverb (but not to the degree of post-rock), while the drum sound uses the gated compression that shaped the sound of 80s drum samples. The title would probably make more sense if I understood the Danish and could see the stage show. There could be an interpretive dancer acting as the only goth in Vejle, for all I know. Maybe this song is so peppy because otherwise said goth wouldn’t fit into the society, which would make this setting cloyingly bittersweet.

Sander Sanchez – Screens

C# minor, sounds like a piano ballad at the beginning with extra sampled musical background sounds. 12/8 time that sounded more like 3/4 until the drums came in, which was exactly what happened in “You are the Only One” (Sergey Lazarev, Russia 2016). Soulful vocal runs and rich voice. Is this a technology condemnation song? Yes it is. The irony is that those screens fed the producer the information about what their song contained musically. I think I heard a low piano A, the lowest note on an 88-key piano. The choruses are alright, though any extra synthesizer melodies are buried under the vocals due to how breathy the synth sounds. The breathy sound is achieved by reducing the low end (breathy voice, the linguistic phenomenon, includes a reduction in the volume of the main sound, or pitch) while increasing the breath sound, which has a decent amount of high-frequency information. This song sounds solid, though it also sounds sterile, and I don’t know exactly how 2:20 would be executed live.

Sys Bjerre – Honestly

A minor. Starts off with at least violin and cello, if not a full-blown string quartet (two violins, viola, cello). More than two notes and articulations, so it’s at least a trio. Verse discards those instruments in favor of voice, electronic piano, a defined plucky bass sound, and drums. The bass is playing off-beat rhythms. Part around 0:40 has strings as well, but the two most prominent instruments are voice and bass. A bit of note repeater action on the hi-hats as is a common feature in trap-based music. Simplistic yet catchy. Live, the orchestra might be best keeping the instrumentation as is; layering too many string instruments at the same time could unwittingly break the endearingly dainty feel of the song. Final chorus in B minor. A bit ambiguous between major and minor; the ending is a very strong case for D major due to the IV-V-I in said key.

Of these 10 acts, which piqued your interest the most? Write a comment below or in our social media! The final festivities are set to begin at 20:00 CET on Saturday night and can be viewed on DR1.

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