Festival da Canção (Portugal) 2022 Reviews: Semi-Final 1

One of the more idiosyncratic of the national selections, Festival da Canção is the last one to start this year, with its first semi final taking place on 5 March. However, they get through things quickly: the second semi is only a couple of days later, so they can join Sweden and Iceland on the last day of the national selection season next Saturday. Songs are reviewed in running order in the night.

Os Quatro e Meia — “Amanhã”
Six-piece band who clearly have classical influences but aren’t above adding some modern sounds to their repertoire. They sound like they’d be welcome wherever they went, if this song is anything to go by: the two singers have distinctive voices which nonetheless harmonise well together, and instrumentally there’s something for everyone, from gentle strings to a very pretty guitar solo towards the end of the second and third minutes. However, it might be that genial, generalised appeal which strands them in the middle of the pack here.

TheMisterDriver — “Calisun”
A fair amount of this song works, from the primary beat and the hand-claps to the backing music in the chorus. All that’s pretty good. I’m less enthused by the lyrics though, which bring back California worship in a way I don’t think I’ve heard since the 1990s. I realise the song is about something else and the California reference is more of a metaphor, but it feels very dated and brings the song down several notches for me.

Diana Castro — “Ginger Ale”
Pleasantly accessible pop song that sounds radio-friendly with everything in moderation. Castro’s voice doesn’t miss a note, the beat will have you swaying rather than getting up to dance, and there aren’t any surprises musically or vocally. Even the key change at the end doesn’t register as strongly as they usually do. I know that all this might sound like a collection of back-handed compliments, but this is a good pop song. That’s not the same as a competitive Eurovision entry, which this isn’t.

FF — “Como é bom esperar alguém”
This is the kind of minimalist, jazz-inflected song which won Portugal the competition in 2017. Lightning probably won’t strike twice here, and while FF has more variation in his instruments than Salvador Sobral did, there’s certainly a similar appeal. I think where this falls short is that the track doesn’t need the theatrical vocal performance FF delivers.

Norton — “Hope”
Fortunately for Norton, the disjointed, occasionally nonsensical lyrics only partly detract from what is otherwise a cruisey, shimmering piece of synth pop. I appreciate the late-night-at-the-coast vibes in this song, but it’s a bit one-paced. It never really threatens to do anything but stick to its pleasant formula, which is another example of something being good for the radio but not necessarily Eurovision.

Aurea — “Why?”
We just don’t get jazzy songs in any other selection on such a regular basis, do we? Up until the last 30 seconds, this is more a lullaby than anything else, as Aurea sings about growing up and details the struggles along the way. All this is actually okay, but it’s that last 30 seconds which isn’t executed very well and she just keeps singing “why” over and over again with increasing volume, and the music doesn’t really accompany her that well. It’s a messy ending.

Kumpania Algazarra — “A minha praia”
Cheerful, upbeat ska number with lots of brass instruments and a saxophone solo (different sound to Sunstroke Project, before anyone asks). Parts of the track remind me of Greece’s 2013 entry. The vocals take a back seat to the flurry of instruments to the extent that the last 20 seconds or so are entirely instrumental — almost unheard of at Eurovision. I wouldn’t mind seeing this at the contest: it would add a few minutes of unbridled joy (assuming the lyrics match the tone of the music) to the line-up.

Maro — “Saudade, saudade”
I love that this song attempts to explain the concept of saudade to a non-Portuguese audience. Eurovision is at its best when there’s cultural exchange. Maro’s delicate, intimate vocals are exactly what you need to deliver this kind of message, and it helps that the instruments are equally delicate for the most part, with a melody that sounds like church bells ringing. The switch to Portuguese midway keeps the song interesting, because musically not a lot changes throughout. Nevertheless, this one is my favourite from the semi.

Valas and Os Astronautas — “Odisseia”
The very long intro to this song is filled with record scratching and distorted vocals alongside an electric piano and funky guitar riffs, which is intriguing enough to make the time pass fairly quickly. When the slightly hoarse vocals join the turntable antics, this is makes for a unique sound not easily forgotten. I think this might be a collaboration, as Os Astronautas appear by themselves in streaming services I’ve looked at it, but either way this is an intriguing song.

Fado Bicha — “Povo pequenino”
I confess that I have no real understanding of the Portuguese music genre of fado, but is this an example of it? I mean, I guess it’s in the band’s name, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It’s certainly a quirky sound, with unusual rhythms and sounds, and soaring vocals. Once the song gets going, it doesn’t let up, but there’s so much going on that when it finished I felt like I had only been told half the story, even though I don’t speak a word of Portuguese.