As the Eurovision Song Contest passes us for the sixtieth year, the arrival of another album compiling all of the participants come to fruition—in this case, the Eurovision Song Contest: Stockholm 2016 compilation—was obviously inevitable. With fourty three tracks spanning across two discs, each participating country—from the disqualified Romania to the winning Ukraine—comes together, showing each track in its full studio quality glory. While Eurovision itself is a thrilling experience, with the performances that accompany each song often being a spectacle to behold, in compilation form it gains a few new weaknesses.
In true Eurovision style, the songs offered for the contest often follow a similar style that’s proven to be popular. Synth ballads with powerful choruses and slow build-ups appear constantly throughout the two discs, and largely to varying effect. While the likes of No Degree of Separation by Italy’s Francesca Michielin is an ultimately passable number with a thrilling chorus but little else to its name, the likes of the newest participating country and 2016’s runner-up—Australia’s Dami Im—with Sound of Silence leaves a much stronger impression; in such a static collection, vocals are what often make or break a track, especially when placed entirely in the spotlight as they are in a studio recording rather than a live spectacle.
The static style also allows the more inventive participants to truly stand out from the crowd. The few truly upbeat dance numbers are the best examples, with Greta Salóme’s Hear Them Calling being one of the strongest; its sombre guitar intro is initially misleading, but as it explodes into a joyous synthpop chorus full of strings it shows a side that is much more appealing than most of the other tracks. Additionally, Laura Tesoro’s What’s the Pressure is a funky style of track that sounds as if it were produced by the likes of Pharrell, and is easily the furthest thing from everything else on the album, which makes its strong chorus even more noticeable in the long run.
As something intended for true Eurovision followers, this collection should be an obvious win; the target audience for Eurovision is quite apparent after so many years, even as trends change, and the songs undoubtedly are made to appeal to such followers. 2016 is a year with only a few major stand-out moments, which makes it difficult to recommend as a random listening experience when so few songs end up sticking in your head. However, Eurovision Song Contest: Stockholm 2016 offers more of what you’d want from the contest and its participants.