The Wiwi Jury: Romania’s Mandinga with “Zaleilah”

This morning the Wiwi Jury—our in-house panel of music unprofessionals—gathered in Wiwi’s dreary basement to review Romania’s cheery Eurovision entry “Zaleilah.” Some of us got up and danced. But one of our critics had to leave the room to find some painkillers. Uh, oh. Scroll down to read the reviews that tore the Wiwi Jury apart…

Wiwi: I fell in love with this song the moment I heard the bag pipes swell at Romania’s national final. The opening bars bring a smile to my face, fulfilling Eurovision’s mission to be Europe’s Joy Factory. In a year of “we’ve heard it before” ballads and screeching dirges, this is a blast of sunshine. If you read the English translation of the lyrics, you’ll quickly realize that the upbeat rhythm and enthralling sounds of “Zaleilah” match the song’s storyline. It’s about a woman deeply in love with her “chocolate boy.” We don’t know if this refers to someone who is merely sweet, or to someone who is of African descent. But it doesn’t matter because “you touching me and kissing me makes me want to dance/ I’m so happy, I can shout out loud.” The English-language chorus is slightly mangled, but the intended meaning comes through. “When you love you say, everyday, everybody” should be read as “when you’re in love, say it everyday and tell everybody.” How can you criticize a message like that?

Score: 8.5/10

Vebooboo: Any country that can afford to shoot its preview video in Dubai takes Eurovision seriously, and it’s not a surprise that Romania has stepped up to the plate yet again with another fierce song. This nation may be poor, but it is rich in Eurovision talent. Good stage presence, decent voice = great potential for a Top 10 spot. The dance is a bit confusing to me, but who cares…

Score: 8/10

Mandinga: Romanian music with Cuban roots

Meows Kitty: I got excited during the intro of this song when it started with the marching band drums, a bagpipe and an accordion. But when the singing began, it all went a bit mediocre and the singer looked out of place in this otherwise quirky ensemble. The song itself isn’t too hard on the ears. The accordion base reminds me of “Zorba’s Dance” — that repetitive clubby song which went viral during the late 90s before everyone got really sick of it and it was never played again…

Score: 6/10

Deban: When Wiwi emailed me urgently asking for a review of the Romanian entry, my first thought was ‘wait a minute, haven’t I sent it already’? Romania is one of the entries I anticipate most every year, so, in my headspace I was convinced I’d reviewed it, and probably liked it. Well, I was wrong!

On watching the video again, I realised that I had clicked out after a minute, and moved on to something else. Watching it for 3 consecutive minutes was cringe-worthy. I felt I needed added inspiration to resume the task at hand. Elena Ionescu comes across as a Bollywood courtesan cashing in on desert trade. Mandinga as a backing band is totally dispensable, and although they all play different instruments, cohesion remains a secondary concern. In an age of minimalism, they proudly exhibit an inability to edit. There are so many ideas in “Zaleilah.” So much so, it collectively reads as noise. Furthermore, the catchy chorus isn’t so catchy once the song is over.

However, this isn’t a universal problem. Fusion sounds make remarkable Eurovision moments. Some of my favourite entries have been from Blue Café (Poland 2004), and Jessy Matador (France 2010). However, the deathly ingredients here are the overdose of seduction, the clash-clash of ideas and direction, the lack of originality, focus and identity and…wait for it…the meaningless of it all. “Zaleilah” means nothing!!! Without a shadow of doubt, this is Romania’s worst entry to date.

Score: 2.5/10

The Wiwi Jury Verdict: 6.25/10

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