Friday, May 19th, 2017

Salvador Sobral – Amar Pelos Dois

Cute boy with not very cute song…

Katherine St Asaph: Salvador Sobral’s victory, and his accompanying anti-fireworks-pro-firebrands victory speech, is being decried as a triumph of rockism, which makes sense for the five seconds before you realize you’re talking about the winner of fucking Eurovision. Just look at the teenager in the No. 2 spot and you’ll see why he won: television adores a pretty boy. The only force that could possibly be stronger would have been Russia. The pretty boy brings a pretty song, redolent of the Hollywood sadcore Lana Del Rey has tried to execute for six years. And unlike Lana, being a Eurovision contestant Salvador is freed to really go for it, to sigh softly to the river while the strings gently weep. The lyrics have a bad case of the fedoras (“I know you do not love yourself / Maybe you can slowly learn again”), but that didn’t stop anyone from becoming enamored with Harry Styles or Justin Bieber; anyway, in Eurovision a turntable counts as contemporary, so how do you expect it to keep up with The Discourse?

Cassy Gress: Having listened to this outside of “on stage at Eurovision” context, I suspect a not-insignificant part of why Salvador Sobral won was that he looked thin, vulnerable, and rather cute, with big puppy dog eyes and a mouth that seemed to naturally fall into a tiny smile, and sang a song that wasn’t actively offensive. (“Cute and vulnerable” seemed to be a rather well-performing concept this year.) That’s not all of it, obviously, but take away the visuals and listen to the song by itself, and it’s directionless, settling into its 3/4 signature like fog settling over the bay (the gray, inconvenient kind rather than the romantic kind). Salvador mumbles through this, occasionally quirking the corner of his mouth up when it seems appropriate, and comes off as so much less sincere. I could rewatch Salvador singing this; I don’t really feel like re-listening to it.

Edward Okulicz: When I listen to Eurovision winners even from just 15-20 years ago I’m pretty convinced that the majority of them would get absolutely buried today. By contrast, I feel like this would have been buried in 1967. I don’t deny that people connected with something — Sobral has a compelling story and had a compelling stage presence, but the song’s in a classic tradition but no classic. Then again, what do I know, I voted ten times for the Belgian girl who looked like she wanted to run away… I’ll give Sobral points for enjoying his moment.

Iain Mew: The strings are gorgeous enough to lift this up a lot, but for all the craft they’re so backwards looking a recreation that they need something new to spark them to life and prevent the song from feeling like it’s in a musty glass dome. Sobral mumbling his way through an indistinct cousin of “Moon River” has the opposite effect.

Katie Gill: After winning Eurovision, Sobral made an exceedingly rockist statement, attacking “disposable music”. Big talk coming from a man whose song was “Moon River” by way of “Somewhere Out There.” We’ve heard this song before plenty of times and we’ll hear it plenty more as time goes on. His song’s sweet, sleepy, far too maudlin, and just as disposable as the rest of the Eurovision entries, but without the added bonus of yodeling, gorillas, or Slavko Kalezic.

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: I hate the fact that we have a rockist Eurovision winner. I hate that acceptance speech and everything it stands for. I hate the term “Fast-food music” and that unfortunate “Music is not Fireworks” statement. I hate how Salvador’s victory will be framed as a triumph for conservative fans who think it was necessary to “bring Eurovision back to being about the music” — essentially, Make Eurovision Great Again; those same people that, year after year, complain about the contest’s open queerness under the argument that ESC is supposed to be “family-friendly”. But most importantly, I hate that I can’t hate on the song itself. “Amar Pelos Dois”, with its cinematic arrangements, its bright Chet Baker-isms and Luisa’s tender lyrics, was always the strongest one among the favorites, and in the night, Sobral’s enthralling, deeply affected performance showed everyone what live music magic feels like. It’s remarkable how we still can’t really figure out what “a song for Eurovision” really is, since we just witnessed a Jazz tune sung entirely in Portuguese take over the continent, only the second one not sung in English to win in the 21st Century so far. No, Salvador Sobral didn’t save Eurovision, and no, there’s nothing to save. Last year we also a had a personal, powerful, important winner, and you can say the same about 2007 and 2014. We can have a contest full of fun, “disposable” songs and some of them can still be good. Music can also be fireworks. And even if next year we get an awful “orchestral ballad” trend, the contest will remain as camp, as queer, as weird as we like it. Still, in Kiev, the best song won, and I’m really glad Portugal has finally broken the curse. “Amar Pelos Dois” was unstoppable.

Thomas Inskeep: Portugal’s Eurovision winner might as well be a Roger Whittaker ballad from 1968, it’s so hopelessly retro. Actually, no, not retro — just old-fashioned, in a highly regressive way. And deathly dull.

Scott Mildenhall: Saudade often seems to be non-Portuguese speakers’ favourite Portuguese word, and so it goes. Clearly enough, its feted untranslatability doesn’t extend to the feeling of it, as Sobral made plain in his victor’s speech. He was right of course — music is feeling, subject to interpretation, whether through fireworks or otherwise. Without the artifice of his particular visual interpretation, this loses a lot of its charm, which in itself felt a peculiarly acquired one for a winning margin wider than a mile.

Will Adams: As the jury votes tallied up, it became harder to care about the outcome. After a year whose top two were equally stunning achievements in writing and staging, the selection for this year’s frontrunners was meager, especially when it came down to this and a similarly damp dude ballad. Sobral’s victory speech was annoying, certainly, but “Amar Pelos Dois” and its La La Land sentimentality aren’t worth the ire. Just wait — it’ll be 2018 soon enough, and there’ll be plenty of pandering lite-reggae monstrosities to rage at instead.

Reader average: [7.71] (7 votes)

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8 Responses to “Salvador Sobral – Amar Pelos Dois”

  1. All the points in the world for Katherine’s “Love Love Peace Peace” reference. Sorry Jamala, but that was literally the best part of last year’s contest.

  2. the Belgian girl who looked like she wanted to run away LOL


  3. I was excited for his win, for Portugal’s sake and his sister’s until he started speechifying insufferably. Earlier, when asked about which songs he actually likes from this year’s contest, he mentioned Belgium and Italy, the latter of which is certainly not quietly dignified, so I guess he just has a problem with glitter cannons and bridal bouquet microphones? Either way, we can only hope that next year’s winner will be a fireworks-extravaganza.

  4. Katherine’s translation is not quite right. “Se” is a reflexive pronoun, but in “não se ama sozinho”, it means that there is no subject, so he’s not talking about a girl that can’t love herself, he’s just stating a general rule. It’s a hard translation, but it should fall somewhere between “I know you can’t love alone” and “I know it’s impossible to love alone”. I really don’t see any fedoras in the lyrics.


  6. I don’t speak Portuguese, I’m just going off the loose translations I can find, so thanks for pointing that out

  7. Loving Will’s mouse-over.

  8. thank you, everyone who notices mouse-overs