Country: San Marino
Song Title: “Spirit of the Night”
Artist: Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson
Second Semi-Final: Position #10
Last year’s entry: “I Didn’t Know” – Serhat (DNQ – 12th Place, SF1)
Let’s play a little inside baseball. When San Marino surprise-dropped their entry last month, my immediate reaction to the telESCope team was the following:
This was followed by a flurry of posts about her updated Facebook page and links to every story I could find, an unexpected deluge which I hope didn’t inconvenience the rest of the team on a quite Sunday morning. It wasn’t until an hour or so later that I realized that I should probably listen to the song?
As is often the case with San Marino’s entries, the first impression is usually “oh… oh, dear… well… hmmm…” I think this is more the effect of their songwriter-in-residence Ralph Siegel, who has never said no to a key change, tone change, or style change in his songs. One of the major critiques that has been consistent with his submissions (five of the last six for San Marino) is that Siegel has a tendency to cram multiple songs into one three-minute chunk, such as the switchup in 2013’s “Crisalide (Vola)”1 or 2015’s “Chain of Lights.”
However, I think working with a duo in 2015 may have resulted in Siegel figuring out how to follow his impulse to cram as much song into three minutes without making the song seem like multiple, disorganized ideas. Instead of the duo working together on the first half and the second half, why not have each half of the duo provide a different take of the full song?
In other words, try listening to this song with just Jimmie Wilson telling his side of the story. Then listen again just for Valentina’s parts. The song is not as reliant on call and response as it would seem, with Valentina adding flavor with her contribution rather than introducing the audible conflict of previous entries from San Marino. The division of labor is happening length-wise rather than width-wise, which works incredibly well.
Let me be clear, this is still a pretty goofy song, but in the way that “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee is goofy but incredibly enjoyable. The home audience seems to enjoy this track as well: it has been dominating Eurovision’s YouTube page, racking up more than a half-million hits last week.2
The main challenge I see to San Marino’s success at Eurovision is its placement in the running order. Valentina Monetta & Jimmie Wilson will be performing tenth–smack dab in the middle of the field. They are right after Ireland3 and before Croatia4. San Marino will definitely be the standout in that triad, but I worry home viewers may decide that stretch is when they should take a bathroom or tea break. The second semi-final is heavier in tone overall, with San Marino bringing about one of the bright spots, but that won’t do much if televoters aren’t watching.
If the jury can come through in the semi-final, San Marino should be making its second trip to the Eurovision Grand Final. If the “Spirit of the Night” is willing, Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson could be making a run for the top 10.