Festival da Canção (Portugal) 2022 Reviews: Semi-Final 2

The second semi for Portugal will be held on Monday evening — this is an unusual thing to do, but on the other hand it’s good to know all the qualifiers within a short space of time so as not to advantage anyone. Reviews in running order.

Os Azeitonas — “Solta a voz e canta”
Chirpy pop with dual vocalists who cheerily take turns to sing while a bubbly guitar fires off solos in the background. The lyrics are uplifting and positive, but this sounds too much like the soundtrack to a cheesy television song with its relentless optimism. Either that, or I could see this in a children’s program as well. It’s too smiley for me — and if there’s irony, I’m afraid I don’t get it.

Cubita — “Uma mensagem tua”
Back to a guitar-driven ballad with a strongly acoustic, low-key approach to beats and rhythms until about midway, where an uninspired drum machine comes in to provide a heavier edge, I suppose? It’s a disappointing shift, as an analogue drum would have been more in line with the song’s general tone. In the end Cubita returns full circle musically, but vocally it was fairly consistent. I fear the drum machine ruined this for me.

Inês Homem de Melo — “Fome de viagem”
Okay, now we’re heading to the areas of Portuguese music that I don’t think anyone outside the country except for connoisseurs understand. I feel like I’m stuck in a children’s song again — surely this isn’t how it supposed to come across? At best, it has a strong Disney-musical vibe, which really isn’t my thing. On to the next one, please.

Syro — “Ainda nos temos”
I guess when you have a voice as good as Syro does, music is but a mere backdrop. This is a power ballad where all the power is in his voice — the music is so far in the background you’d think it was being played in the next room. I can’t say it does a lot for me personally, but I can see how this would do very well.

Pepperoni Passion — “Código 30”
Glad to hear something harder-edged after the first few songs. Rap-rock probably wouldn’t have been my choice if I’d been offered it, though. The variety of rappers is good, although admittedly I’m not thrilled by any of their styles. The guitar riff which opens the song and keeps it company throughout in the real highlight.

Milhanas — “Corpo de mulher”
When I heard that this was gearing up to be another ballad, I admit I sighed a little. However, this is quite pleasing. I like the laidback, relaxed nature of Milhanas’s voice, and the instrumentation manages to be its own thing without intruding upon her vocals. The way the song builds is subtle enough that you could miss it the layering of the various instruments, but it’s well worth paying attention to as a study in how to do more with less. If I happened to be out in a bar and heard Milhanas playing a set, this would be a soothing way to end the evening.

O Vampiro Submarino — “Ao lado de mim”
Retro to the point of trading on nostalgia with its highly infectious swing beat, this might sound well out of time, but it’s performed with skill and professionalism. The use of repetition is particularly effective for those of us who don’t speak Portuguese, but I wonder what kind of audience this kind of song has these days beyond aficionados. It might be nice at a wedding and dress-up party — beyond that, I’m not sure.

Jonas — “Pontas soltas”
Throughout these reviews I’ve avoiding declaring songs to part of the fado genre because I’m not 100% what it is, despite reading a few definitions. However, I’m going to throw caution to the wind and assume that this is a indeed a fado song with its mournful vocals, haunting instrumentation, and avoidance of anything cheerful. Even when Jonas raises his voice there’s still a sad edge to it. I appreciate the restrained nature of this performance, but I feel like I don’t know enough about this genre to make any definitive pronouncements.

Blacci — “Mar no fim”
Arguably the most jazz entry we’ve seen so far with its out-of-sync rhythms which only come together in the chorus. Otherwise, I keep hearing Blacci singing to a slightly different beat to the instruments around her, and surely that’s deliberate. As with so many of these songs, I’m struggling, mainly because these are not genres I spend much time listening to when it’s not Eurovision. Perhaps I’ll get used to it after a few more years of this, but at the moment there’s not much I can find here that appeals to me.

Pongo and Tristany — “Dégrá.dê”
I was ready to give up on this song until the rapping started — I thought the song might then shift to a more accessible sound from its all-the-place piano playing. Well, I was wrong there. I’ll hand it to Portugal: they’re not afraid to consider flat-out experimental songs. There are some neat moments here, and I salute the creativity of this pair. But put this on a Eurovision stage, and it will flounder (remember Telemóveis from 2019?) — you need a few listens before this starts to settle, and even then it’s a challenging track.