Moldova - Michelle Stigwood

Moldova's National Selection process began way back in December with the call for song submissions. There is a lot at stake here, Moldova has a good ESC record having qualified for the ESC final 9 times since its debut in 2005. Its best result was in 2017 when Sunstroke Project finished 3rd with their sassy polished ethno pop dance number "Hey Mamma!"

After 28 initial submissions were received, a jury of multinational music professionals, decided on 27 songs to progress to Live Auditions held on 25 January and from there, 16 songs were eventually selected to take part in the National Final "O Melodie Pentru Europa 2018" on 24 February. This event was hosted by TRM, the Moldovan National Broadcaster before a small live audience. The final winner was decided by a 50/50 split in televoting  and Jury voting.

As I watched the broadcast of the National Final it seemed to me that both the performers and songs settled into roughly 2 categories- the Haves and the Have Nots. The Haves had good strong vocals and must have also had some financial backing that obviously led to the development of the song and its staging. The Have Nots on the other hand -although gallant - failed at the starting gates. The performers had either shaky vocals or songs with little impact, little development and lack lustre staging.  A real shame, as I thought some of those songs could have been much better developed
(eg Minds and Veins).

Of course the winner DoReDos with "My Lucky Day" was a clear favourite by a mile. It is the third year this trio has reached the Moldovan National Final, and this year, they had the powerhouse backing of Russian Mega popstar Phillip Kirkorov who composed ( and I'm thinking also backed) this uptempo formulaic pop song with traditional Moldovan dance features and Latin overtones. It's dated but fun, catchy and a little offbeat( bad lyrics) in a Moldovan kinda way. It was the most polished performance on the night and won in a landslide of televotes when it garnered 3,813 points while its nearest rival only managed 385 points! With Kirkorov's connections there should be plenty of support for this song in Lisbon.

2. Vera Turcanu with her brooding performance of "Black Heart". This is a powerful modern song, interesting with innovative staging ( including a bed with S&M overtones and a body double). Choreography is stunning, and although this song may be too risky for an ESC winner, it is a powerful dark piece of art. Great to see that the jury and voting public supported it as well.

3. A blonde skimpily clad, gold winged Doinita  Gherman and One Voice with the pop song " Dance in Flames". I felt it was a predictable number with again a Latin dance beat and well practiced chorus line of dancers. It was professionally performed, in a number of different languages, and featured 4 women in glittering orange flame like tutus and one startling cameo by a man ( of that I am positive!) in tight gold lycra tights.

And now we start the Have Nots...

4. Tolik with "Broken Glass". A young performer ( X Factor finalist), big mullet hair who performed an emotional pop song- solid vocals but uninspiring and perhaps too mature a song for his tender age. Minimalist staging did not assist this entry. His video looked much more appealing than his live performance.

5. Anna Timofei with  "Endlessly". Anna looked stunning for the camera but sounded off key for all the big notes- and there were lots of them- and managed to screech for the latter part of her performance.  Her transparent white dress reminded me of 2017, and the song's lyrics were weird..." Flow kills my gravity" ??

6. Sandy C and Aaron Sibley with a tender love duet " Once upon a time". This song could have really had wings if only it had coaching and time to develop its chemistry on stage. Such a shame, I thought. Great piano introduction by Aaron, but Sandy's uneven vocals on the night, and yet another white see -thru dress ( maybe recycled from Anna) really sealed it's fate to this minor placing.

7. Nicoleta Sava  singing "Essenia del sur". Pop Flamenco with good vocals but felt like a stilted and forced performance. Nicoleta barely moved and only minimally interacted with her 4 dancing suitors. Although she did manage a few left arm flings in an attempt to add some Spanish soul into this interesting appealing little song. It was a big improvement tho on her Live audition performance back in January. Great costume and a sure way to shake everyone out of their winter slumber up there in the Northern Hemisphere.

Shaking things up a bit were 2 bands - one rock band " Ruslan Tsar " and the other reminiscent of soft metal "Che-MD"  that gave interesting performances but sadly were somewhat unloved by the jury and televoters.

And finally, to a Have Not who could have been lifted so much higher, the duo Illia Sorocean and Dasha DaGro with "Minds and Veins". A modern pop song with a catchy beat, interesting instrumental interludes and a chorus that drifted into repetition as it was perhaps underworked. But strangely, this is the song that is still playing in my head all these days later. Another one that slipped thru the gap. Sigh. I still have it on my playlist tho.

Anyway, Good Luck Moldova. I will be cheering loudly for you in Lisbon and I know that the crowd will love dancing to "My Lucky Day".