Since national selection format ‘A Dal’ was launched in its present form by broadcaster Médiaszolgáltatás-támogató és Vagyonkezelő Alap (MTVA) in 2012, Hungary hasn’t failed to qualify for a Grand Final. In addition to three top 10 placings, A Dal’s record for producing well-regarded entries seems fairly unblemished. It has also, in recent years, provided some much-revered variation to the 40-something entries from which Europe has to choose its winner. Will 2019 continue the trend or be the exception to the rule?
Last Saturday, January 19, the first of three heats, two semi-finals and one grand final kicked off in Budapest. This year’s A Dal stage consists of several LED square screens of differing sizes, projecting images relevant to each act. Hosted by Freddie (Eurovision 2016) and Bogi Dallos (A Dal 2013/14/15), the show saw six qualifiers were chosen among 10 entries. Five of those were decided by a combined jury/public vote with one more decided by a public run-off vote alone amongst the five lowest placed songs.
Overall, the first heat proved at the very least, disappointing. It’s early days for the Hungarian selection and the favourites to win the coveted Euroticket were not amongst tonight’s contestants. Largely however, the performances seemed very similar, the songs uninspiring and the vocals lacklustre at best.
Sadly, A Dal’s structure continues to mean that unless an act curries favour with the judges, the points of whom represent 4/5 of the initial placing, the job to qualify is much harder. Indeed, the second run-off vote between those who placed lowest in the initial voting means that only one out of five songs can qualify on public voting alone.
My opinion of course comes from a lifetime of not being exposed to Hungarian musical tastes. I also thoroughly enjoyed many of A Dal’s previous graduates. But, I honestly failed both to understand and to pre-empt the judges’ opinions and scores for any of the participants. Nevertheless, with potential for a revamp and improved staging, this format has proved successful in the past and so I can only stay positive.
My favourite (and this is a stretch) of the night did not qualify however. I had high hopes for Berkes Olivér – Viágítótorony and thought his vocals were easily some of the best, but as a result of the voting structure, he failed to inspire the judges and therefore failed to qualify.
Amongst the other non-qualifiers were the only two English language entries of the night. It’s great to see the Hungarian language reigning supreme however with one song inspired by Frida Kahlo and one about the tribulations of ‘getting wasted’, this wasn’t really a surprise.
On the other side of the scoreboard, Szekér Gergo’s vocal performance was poor at best , yet scored a top placing overall. As for the other qualifiers, I appreciated the traditional dress and cultural sounding melody from the Antal Tímea feat. Demko Gergő– and it quite rightly achieved the only ’10’ from the judges. Again, the vocals were not on point however. The other three would certainly continue A Dal’s trend of sending something (at least vaguely) different to Eurovision but not one of the six, for me at least, was anything special.
That being said, given Hungary’s recent record, it’s early days and I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s selection still turns out a diamond in the rough.
Coupled with a few ‘green room’ interviews, an interval act and a group song, the final results were as follows (YouTube links embedded):
1. Szekér Gergő: Madár, repülj! – 41 points - Jury (8,9,8,8) + Public (8)
2. Oláh Gergő: Hozzád bújnék – 41 points – Jury (8,7,9,9) + Public (8)
3. Antal Tímea feat. Demko Gergő: Kedves Világ! – 39 points - Jury (6,10,9,6) + Public (8)
4. Konyha: Százszor visszajátszott – 38 points – Jury (8,8,6,8) + Public (8)
5. Nomad: A remény hídjai – 35 points – Jury (7,7,6,7) + Public (8)
6. Deniz: Ide várnak vissza – Qualified from public run off vote