First Listen: Latvia is Looking for a “Heartbeat”

Justs represented Latvia in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo: F64, via Supernova) Justs represented Latvia in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo: F64, via Supernova)

No, not THAT ONE, although who wouldn’t watch a Latvian TV show called Riga Vice?

Around this time last year, Latvia stole my heart with an amazing entry that earned douze points from three countries and placed a very strong 6th by the time voting was finished. Riding on her success in Vienna, Aminata Savadogo once again landed atop the Supernova voting results, although this time as a songwriter only. Has Latvia found a performer that can do her song justice on the main stage?

Here’s the thing about the entry — it’s a very nice collection of parts, but doesn’t seem like a synthesized whole, at least not yet. The relatively sparse, electric instrumentation is exactly what I want and expect from an Aminata track. Justs’ vocals are great when he opens up about halfway through the second verse, with a raspiness and strength that remind me of Aram Mp3, who some predicted might win the 2014 contest. There’s just nothing to tie it together. Justs seems uncomfortable and stiff onstage, and stays planted in that one spot the whole time. That worked last year for Aminata, but it was part a larger aesthetic. Here it seems like it’s less an intentional decision and more “we didn’t know what else to do with him.”

Justs hasn’t commanded my attention with this entry, yet, but he doesn’t necessarily have to do anything different himself. Eurovision is full of slightly (or fully) awkward singers who end up doing well thanks to creative staging and camerawork. If they can find a way to get some visual interest and/or motion into the staging, this will probably be a moderately successful year for Latvia.

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