Home / Song Reviews / Eurovision 2017 / Portugal: Salvador Sobral – Amar Pelos Dois

Portugal: Salvador Sobral – Amar Pelos Dois

Last night's Festival da Canção drifted into the early hours of this morning. Fan favourite, Salvador Sobral, won the jury vote, but finished second to Viva La Diva on the televote. Salvador Sobral will perform Amar Pelos Dois in the first half of semi-final 1. Portugal is well known for being a country that's really struggled to catch up with 21st century Eurovision. Their insistence on singing in their own language is arguably admirable, but they've also repeatedly offered little more than Fado folk ballads or what was essentially a latin-carnival remix of Black Lace's Agadoo in 2014. Their last appearance…
Song Appeal
Vocal Strength
Staging Potential
Likely Televote Appeal
Likely Jury Appeal
Cohesiveness of Package

Charming

It's Portugal's golden opportunity to get possibly their best result ever in their nearly 50 year history of Eurovision participation.

User Rating: 4.15 ( 66 votes)

Last night’s Festival da Canção drifted into the early hours of this morning. Fan favourite, Salvador Sobral, won the jury vote, but finished second to Viva La Diva on the televote.

Salvador Sobral will perform Amar Pelos Dois in the first half of semi-final 1.

Portugal is well known for being a country that’s really struggled to catch up with 21st century Eurovision. Their insistence on singing in their own language is arguably admirable, but they’ve also repeatedly offered little more than Fado folk ballads or what was essentially a latin-carnival remix of Black Lace’s Agadoo in 2014. Their last appearance in a Eurovision final was all the way back in 2010 where they finished in the bottom 10 with a Disney-esque ballad about having a rubbish day, and it wasn’t even expected to qualify until they pulled some good live vocals and camerawork out of the bag.

Portugal now return after having taken their second one-year break in 5 years with an encouragingly renewed format for their long-running institutional national final, the Festival Da Cancao. They brought in semi-finals and several participants from the national version of The Voice, the latter of these being a strategy that’s seen some luck come to other previously struggling nations, such as Belgium.

Sensing that they were definitely trying to put the effort in this year, I did back Portugal on Betfair Exchange with small stakes while their odds were all the way up in the 200s, so you can imagine how I feel now that they plunged all the way into the teens before levelling out in the mid-20s at the time of writing. Why the crash? Well, let’s take a closer look at why this seemingly harmless bit of schmaltz could potentially surprise.

Cut a long story short, Portugal have got very lucky here. Even though a nightmareish operatic-cabaret national answer to Melodifestivalen veterans Alcazar won the televote, the juries ensured Portugal seized this chance to do something rather clever. One way to stand out in the Eurovision Song Contest when decent modern music evades you is to go full on old 50’s cinematic Mediterrainean schmaltz. It’s coming to the understanding that it’s much better to be daring than to try and polish a generic English language dance-pop turd in the name of conformity.

But there’s more still to this than it just being old fashioned. What makes this so special is Salvador himself as a performer. His stagecraft is peculiar yet captivating. With all the respect in the world, his body language suggests that he’s not exactly.. neurotypical, shall we say. It’s slightly distasteful to try and pin down exactly what’s up… or perhaps, air-quotes, down – but from a cold analytical perspective, it’s imperative to acknowledge how the perception of a sweet, scruffy, possibly disabled boy singing this old romantic slush could affect both televoters and juries alike. It’s similar to the Susan Boyle effect, just without the blatantly constructed element of surprise.

What’s even better is that the Portugese delegation needn’t even try to distastefully “milk” this, unlike the Polish delegation in 2015 with those juicy cutaways to their paraplegic performer strutting her stuff on stage in days gone by. They just need to keep the camera on Salvador and let him do his thing. He has a way of capturing the emotion of every lyric, bulldozing through the language barrier, and making his voice gently tickle your ear before he dials it up and whisks you off into a romantic, timeless dreamland, (or should I say La La Land, which by association could give this entry even more current cultural relevance.) Put short, you’d need a heart of stone not to be at least a little affected by his performance.

There’s a genuine, non-constructed sincerity here that wasn’t present in Cyprus’ 2015 entry, which this song has been superficially compared to. Although wonderfully staged, Cyprus fell down on the scoreboard I suspect in large part due to it immediately following eventual contest winner “Heroes” in the final running order.

Call it whatever you like – schmaltzy, cinematic, romantic, old fashioned, theatrical, otherworldly, bizarre, or in my case I quite like this word I just made up – “whoojjh”. But if you call it boring, you just don’t get it. Even in a sea of ballads, this stands out, and the fine tuning of the presentation, especially how Salvador dresses, gesticulates and the camerawork (such as that marvellous violin-miming silhouette in the spotlight ending shot will all be crucial to getting the most out of Portugal’s golden opportunity to get possibly their best result ever in their nearly 50 year history of Eurovision participation.

Is Salvador this year’s Kuula, or short term fanwank?

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About Ben Gray

I'm a YouTube Travel Blogger. I also write, produce and present the comedy video series Eurovision Wipe. (click the House icon!) A Eurovision fan since 2005, I figured I'd try and make my knowledge of the contest, and the time it takes out of my year pay me, by getting involved in the betting side of things. I'm a lifelong Sonic the Hedgehog fan, an ardent music lover, and I consider Japan kind of a second home, having visited six times. I'm also in love with Iceland.

24 comments

  1. This will either be completely forgotten in the first semi final and not qualify or it could be top ten or top five even. It’s not one of those that are guaranteed to do well – everything will need to come together with staging and running order if it makes the final for this to ever come high but right now there’s only this with the potential to beat Italy. On first listen, I wasn’t sure what to make of it but in year that started ok but is now really lacking in good over ok entries, this is one of the few that kept my attention throughout the three minutes and feels sincere. The hardest thing for this is to make it out of the first half of a ballad packed semi against countries with strong qualification records and more voting power. If they can manage that, Salvador could get Portugal’s best ever result.

  2. I think this is going to qualify really happy about Portugal.

  3. This is a wonderful entry. As though Domenico Modugno had been teleported to the 21st century!

    I share most of the points made by Hippo. It’s a sink or swim entry. With the 1st half of Semi 1 looking competitive, Portugal qualifying would spell a very good result for them on the Saturday.

  4. Hot take alert: I think this could be a potential jury winner

    • Yes, this is a jury winner, no doubts about the quality of the song from an expertise point of view.

      As for the televote… here in Portugal, a big part of the population usually don’t pay much attention to ESC, as it increasilingly became a kind of freak show, a parade of songs trying to attract the vote through theatrical lights, dancers, and all that is performed in English, not in their native languages. Differently, this song reminds us what a national song should be and it has managed to call many outside voters. That was already a big achievement!

      I believe that in Kiev it will attract many outsiders, as well as some insiders who will be touched by that message. At least, I am sure it will raise up that discussion.

  5. Hate it. Pretentious and boring. :/

  6. Not my kind of song but I can see potential in this, Portugal’so best entry for almost a decade easily I’d say, could by a Netherlands 2014 who knows.

  7. As a fan of the Portuguese language I am thrilled….their best place was 6th in 1996, and they have a decent chance of beating that I´d say in this underwhelming year…

    it´s a totally polarising song that will be dismissed as old hat by many, but it stands out, the melody is seductive and he is charmingly odd and vulnerable. Big jury score possibly and average to low televote as Gav suggests…..watch it slip down the scoreboard, alas, as the night moves on.

    DEF qualifier surely….?? and how many times have we been able to say that about Portugal??

  8. This could do very well if they play to its strengths and sell the narrative.Im thinking the Bridge scene from the French film Girl on the Bridge.I want to see the target of his affection on stage with him somehow.Ok talking her out of a cold wet suicide might not be such a great idea,but the audience really needs to pick up the meaning of this if its do do as well as it deserves.
    If only every country had taken risks like Portugal we would have a much more interesting contest.Havent said that for a long time,so good luck to them and Salvador.

  9. Its so oldfashion.

  10. Sorry folks, but after three listens I’m not feeling this at all. It comes across as very old fashioned and a bit (well) weird.

    I accept that this might grow on me, but I suspect my initial reactions will be shared by many televoters. Yes, it could win some jury support, but the jurors who go for Triana Park (for instance) are unlikely to be awarding high points to this.

    The general view here is the song choice is a risk (that is commendable, although how much of a risk it is for Portugal is debatable, as their default position is to absolutely tank).

    The second view is that either this song will sink without trace or do very well. If the latter the most recent precedent I can think of is Raphael Gualazzi in 2011 who came a surprise second, although I gather Raphael was a big name in a number of countries which (if true) undoubtedly would have helped him. Raphael was representing Italy who Europe loves, while Salvador is flying the flag for Portugal who have far fewer friends at least in Eurovision terms.

    Also Salvador acts rather strangely which voters may find endearing or alternatively off-putting (my apologies if there is any ‘health issue’ here that I am unaware of.)

    So, to sum up, if I was writing this without reading any of the other comments, my current position would be another clear NQ for Portugal.

    • Considering that Gualazzi was selected because he won the newcomers section of Sanremo 2011 (NOT the “big” section), he clearly wasn’t a big name at that point in his career. His jury victory was purely down to the song quality (and maaaaaybe a few “welcome back Italy” sympathy votes), don’t forget that most jury members are musicians, music experts and other music industry people.

    • Funny you should mention “health issues”. So happens Salvador had to undergo an operation for a hernia the day after the semi-final, hence the baggy jacket and shirt, under which he was all bandaged up. He still managed to sing beautifully. He was still recovering when he sang in the final. Not sure all his strange behaviour can be attributed to his physical health though.

  11. One caveat I have with this entry though is it didn’t even win its own countries tele vote in what was imo quite a poor selection over, usually song’s that dont win there own countries tele vote dont tend to do as well as hoped at ESC.

    • Which is why I’m suspecting that there will be a massive discrepancy between the juries and televote, this is very much a jury song through and through. It’s too “high brow” to click with the general public.

      • Im on the same wavelength, plus while its a great song imo (I dont like it as its not my kind of song but I can see its qualities) it’s also a little dated meaning I could see juries hold it back and that could be why it doesn’t do as well as first thought in the jury, I’m almost certain it will be top 5 or so in the jury but 5th place might not be enough if it tanks in the jury. I think Portugal should definitely qualify but this could hurt it in the final, should still get to the left hand side of the score board but the tele vote could stop it reaching its ceiling.

    • You may be right up to a point Cathal, but as a Portuguese myself i can tell you Portuguese public is very conservative, specially those interested in Festival da Canção and Eurovision. A huge crowd they’re not, and I’m sure most people weren’t even aware this particular event was going on. Furthermore, those who are interested or have casually dropped by own very strict ideas of what a proper eurovision entry should sound and look like and that idea, believe me, has nothing to do with Amar Pelos Dois. I was very surprised that the public voted him second at all. His popularity is fast growing since then and his album is number one on itunes overnight around here. Lots of unsuspected people are talking about him and sharing his videos or interviews in the social media. I find this response from the public quite unprecedented as far as a Festival da Canção winner is concerned, if I’m to be absolutely honest, as they usually pass by unnoticed. Does it mean something or is it totally random i have no idea.

  12. Reviewed by yours truly. 🙂

    • Ben, you make a number of good points in your review. Having listened to the song a couple of more times I’m being won over. There are still going to be a number of people (especially televoters) when seeing this for the first time are going to think WTF. However, this stands out so much from the other songs in the contest I reckon there will be enough jury love to at least get this out of the semi.

  13. Guys what are you even saying, this will sink. It belongs in a contest from 1980. Its awkward to watch & to listen to.

    • When was there in this contest in the 1980s , or indeed ever, a song even remotely resembling this one, that’s what I should like to know?

  14. According to Wiwibloggs he’s traveling to Ukraine just 2 days before the semi final. His sister will take care of the rehearsels.

    I think its good news for the bets. This will probably be communicated by commentators, which will give the performance another level in emotion for viewers. He puts so much emotion in the song, so 1 rehearsel will be enough for him, he cant sing it the right way 10 times a week… The odds might drift during the rehearselweek though if the stage doesnt look that great

  15. ‘ Salvador just said in an interview to RTP that on Kiev he’ll be standing on that little island in the middle of the arena, to make it more intimate ‘

    So like: http://pix.eurovisionworld.com/pix/eurovision-2017-stage.jpg

    Probably comparable to Anouk. Hopefully with some nice visuals in the background

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