Each time I have carried out this odd experiment it has been something akin to an internal selection. Without any external factors I’ve made the lone decision on the song that I thought would be right. However, in this instance I decided to follow the You Decide approach. Having cast out the net a little wider, the choice was eventually narrowed down to four. Along with Kamil Show from Armenia and Feli from Romania one of the choices was Emmy with ‘OK ou KO’ from France. This was actually one of my favourites from the whole season and would’ve likely been a delightful hour. Did I get my wish?
No. No I did not. Having listened through the majority of the NF playlists I tried to keep a wee scoring system giving marks out of ten based on the first listen. The only two to score a high of 9/10 were Ida Maria’s ‘Scandilove’ and Madara’s ‘Esamiba’. As well as offering one of this year’s high watermarks in Esamiba Latvia’s Supernova also included the only song that on first listen was an instant 0/10. It was destined that having been plucked from obscurity enough people wanted to ruin an hour of my life. Riga Reggae, 20 times around. Oh joy.
To say I was approaching this challenge with great trepidation was something of an understatement. I can still remember hearing it for the first time in amongst the Supernova long list. It felt like a typical song that happy amateurs had cobbled together with no real aspirations of making it to TV. Whilst I was wrong on that front the first few repetitions did little to win me round. To paraphrase Mr. Burns “I may not know much about reggae but I know what I hate”. Actually ‘hate’ is a strong word, we’ll go with ‘dislike intensely’ instead.
With each listen every peculiar aspect of this song served to aggravate only further. As Eurovision fans we’re hardly strangers to overly earnest pleas to end wars and find peace. If this is the route you’re looking to take as a songwriter at least have the good grace to provide some lyrical variety. The message of the song is entirely conveyed by the 1m 08s mark as at no point from here onwards are any fresh lyrics used. Just the repeated urges to find peace and love again and again and again. And not even in a fun Måns and Petra way. As you can see below, of all the words used more than once ‘All’ ‘The’ and ‘World’ make up nearly half the total. Occidentali’s Karma it ain’t!
There has been plenty of criticism thrown Waylon’s way due to his affected American accent but the lead of Riga Reggae was surprisingly restrained in such matters. Whilst there was still a slightly forced Patois it didn’t grate as much as I first feared. The relief sunk in over the hour that he hadn’t gone full Mike Reid UKIP Calypso. *shudders*. Whilst I often lament the increasing lack of guitars at the Contest in the last few years, Riga Reggae’s guitar solo feels bizarrely out of place. After two minutes of plodding along they decide to throw in some power chords for good measure, it’s a like a lifelong Ovaltine drinker suddenly downing a can on Relentless. Bizarre.
As I listened to the song the more and more I found myself appreciating it’s rare qualities. The first few bars sound a bit like a generic late 80s/early 90s kids TV show. The simplicity that irked me to begin with actually became oddly hypnotic. The weird mix of Patois and Latvian had also gone from irritating to simply funny and actually managed to put a smile on my face by the end of the hour. I certainly wouldn’t say I like the song now, far from it. After 20 listens though I can appreciate it’s strange ramshackled charm. It’s not a 0/10 anymore, maybe a 2.