Thursday, December 5th, 2019

Keiino – Spirit In the Sky

Gotta have a friend in Jukebox…


David Moore: I am glad that, via Eurovision, the millennial Europop turn to jolly pirate choruses never left us, and I am downright giddy about those sublime thirty seconds of what I have been told is a JOIK BREAK, a phrase that is as good as the thing sounds. I was reminded of a more earnest but still pop treatment of Polish folk I heard this year — two’s a trend, so JOIK BREAK is officially as essential a 2019 music neologism as BORT-POP

Katie Gill: A memorable Eurovision song is an equal mix of “well-written, amazingly catchy, (preferably) pop song” and “a dose of the unexpected.” “Euphoria” had amazingly powerful vocals and Loreen’s crab dancing. “Satellite” had a cute, peppy love song, mixed with a bizarrely Cockney accent. “Hard Rock Hallelujah” is a well-crafted, legitimately rocking metal song with people in silly monster make-up. And “Spirit in the Sky” is a fun, catchy, dance-pop song that launches right into an amazingly well-done yet totally unexpected joik phrase in the chorus before plowing RIGHT INTO a joik bridge. It is peak Eurovision, managing to merge some catchy yet by-the-numbers pop with at least one moment of “what? HELL YEAH! what?!?”. And this is why the public is right and the judges are wrong and Keiino should have won this year, thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

Alex Clifton: It’s been seven months since Eurovision happened and yet my blood still boils that “Spirit In the Sky” was technically beaten by that terrible “Arcade” crap. This won the people’s vote, and with good reason–this isn’t just a perfect Eurovision song, it’s a perfect pop song, full stop. The best pop songs make your body crackle with an energy you didn’t even know you had. It’s something that starts in your feet, maybe just tapping your toes, but it works its way to your body until the chorus hits and your heart just soars. It’s an adrenaline rush, one that makes you lose all sense of where you are because the only thing that matters is the music. And then the joiking starts. I love it when Eurovision entries contain nods to their country’s cultural heritage–“1944” was a fine example of this with Jamila’s incorporation of a Crimean Tartar folk song–but sometimes they can come off as hokey or forced. The joiking in this song absolutely brings it to the next level, setting my body alight each time I hear it. When pop music makes you feel like you can fly about and do anything, you know you’ve hit the jackpot. The rest of Europe recognized this; it’s a shame that the new and convoluted Eurovision voting system cheated KEiiNO out of what should have been a much-deserved win. 

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: A potentially beside-the-point, but still serious question: why wasn’t “Spirit in the Sky” included in the Frozen 2 soundtrack? After watching the new movie–I’m an adult, I know, but I’m also directing a musical version of the original Frozen with my Chinese students this year, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the film franchise–my first reaction was to feel a little disappointed by the music, which while decent, didn’t live up to the original’s caliber. My second reaction was feeling pleasantly surprised by the fact that Disney actually worked with indigenous Sámi people in northern Europe to when writing the story. (Granted the plot goes something like this: a Disney princess uses her magic ice powers to pay reparations to a group of native people subjugated through environmental warfare.) But “Spirit in the Sky” is a song by an actual Norwegian-Sámi group which tackles of spirituality and environmentalism in real life. It literally includes the lines “I need a hero/I need my light/Her shining lightwaves will break way the night.” Sound familiar? In any case, on to the song itself; it’s a ridiculously fun, uplifting, bilingual European bosh anthem in the best way possible. I can see why it did so well at Eurovision.

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: The song’s strength resides in creating a great contrast between its voices. The traditional Sami singing feels not as a mere addition to give it an “exotic” character, but as an essential component that works perfectly with the main female and male vocalists. It’s a good song for the stage — in this case, the Eurovision stage, where I personally consider it one of the top 100 ESC songs of the decade –, but it still struggles as a single because uplifting EDM-pop is already a very tired trope. 

Katherine St Asaph: The midpack Eurovision formula of late: you still get to yearn and emote and try very hard for a verse or two, you still get to throw in your traditional folk interlude, as long as the chorus evokes pop that’s not-totally-venue-appropriately MOR. For “Spirit in the Sky,” it’s “Wolves” and “Brooklyn Girls.”

Joshua Minsoo Kim: A [6] or [7] during Eurovision, where I’m more forgiving of intriguing but shoehorned elements of traditional music. At any other time of the year, it doesn’t rise above mere curiosity.

Iain Mew: The philosophy dictating the song’s creation at every stage appears to have been “why not?” Outside of Eurovision and in a less intense competition for attention it eventually gets too much, but it does at least offer a compelling new direction in which to take the drop as a concept.

Alfred Soto: The timbre of the male voices annoys me, but it’s part of a listenable example of expert schlock, especially when Alexandra Rotan yells “I am dancing with the fairies now!” as if she saw me scowling at the laptop screen and had just the right thing to change my mind: syncing the percussion and bass like classic Eurodisco. This non-watcher of Eurovision mourns “Spirit in the Sky”‘s stopping at sixth place. If you wanna be mad at the Continent, President Trump, here’s a reason.

Edward Okulicz: The drop and the joik make the workaday Europop seem monentarily exhilirating, but alas, there are verses, so it can’t keep up the cheap thrills for its entire running length.These (hot) dorks looked like such dorks on the Eurovision stage, but it sure was better than the tired gloop the jury went for.

Vikram Joseph: For two minutes, this could be a Eurovision entry by any country, at any time in the last 20 years (but especially sometime in the early 00s, when it would have been a nailed-on pan-Europe EDM smash) – this, coupled with its status as “undeniably a bit of a bop”, makes it no surprise that it won the public vote this year. And then there’s the bridge, with striking, incantation-like vocals in the indigenous Sami style from the north of Norway, lending the song an otherworldly feel and elevating the final, towering chorus to something close to transcendence.

Scott Mildenhall: “Spirit in the Sky” crystallises the too often ignored fact that, particularly with anything involving public votes, precedents are not the be-all and end-all. Effectively, a song that thoroughly tanked with both viewers and juries — Saara Aalto’s no less ostentatious “Monsters” — was rebadged into a runaway viewer winner in the space of a year. Admittedly, the points of differentiation are clear. KEiiNO’s camp was a much giddier one, and where Aalto had destabilising drops, they had Fred. It’s an object lesson in audience appeal, and a reminder that light can shine through.

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6 Responses to “Keiino – Spirit In the Sky”

  1. I mean, I didn’t even love this song that much (though I did enjoy it) but calling music in a style you don’t enjoy a “tired trope” is really not my favorite way of expressing that sentiment. Are “trope” and “genre” really that interchangeable? Is there any genre that could not be uncharitably described as a collection of tired tropes?

  2. Hm, this song is pretty earnest, too, I’m thinking of something more like “self-serious” though *that* isn’t charitable enough to the other song I linked. Words! Words!

  3. @Feathers: As a single, yes, “tired trope” may be kind of an empty description, but I think it does apply in the context Eurovision, where the song actually originated. There was an uplifting EDM-pop trend among national representatives during the decade, and I think “country sending EDM-pop tune” felt like a trope, one that, by now, is already exhausted.

  4. Although, this song in particular does way better on the ESC stage, but it’s affected by overplay after the big show.

  5. Yes. A genre is a collection of tropes. “Tired” I think depends on the execution, and what the song does in particular. A good EDM-pop song never feels like a tired trope because it uses genre elements right.

  6. I am pleased to report that Keiino has now produced something that includes both BORT and JOIK.

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