Previously on Depi Evratesil: 80 became 37 became 24 as the six judges formed teams of four acts each. Now, each act will battle within their own team to be the Finalist and have a chance at representing Armenia at the Eurovision Song Contest. We have stakes, y’all!
Here’s how the Battle phase works. Each judge will select two of their own acts to sing additional songs. After the performances, the other judges will vote for the act they prefer. However, the mentor will have the final say in who stays and who goes home. The winners of each judge’s duels will face off in another duel, with the winner becoming that mentor’s finalist. In other words, we’re getting rid of six people each week for the next three weeks. Woot!
Here’s how things shook out in the first battle round of Depi Evratesil:
Team Aram mp3: Saro Gevorgyan vs. Lucy
Saro Gevorgyan made some bold song choices to get to this point, covering “Bang Bang” and “I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” He opened this week’s show with “Cheating” by John Newman. Although this choice is consistent with the songs he performed previously, I like that this song fits within Saro’s vocal range and ability. The enunciation was a little slurry, but otherwise this was an okay performance. The show has also upped the level of stage effects, so that’s helping create a more dynamic performance.
Lucy provided the mandatory Eurovision performance, covering “Euphoria” by Loreen. This situation is where degree of difficulty needs to be considered. “Euphoria” is a difficult song, with unusual pacing, phrasing, and the need to pull off some challenging vocal tricks. Lucy gets overwhelmed by the song by the end, but not to the degree Saro was overwhelmed by his. In other words, Saro gave a better performance, but Lucy demonstrated more technical prowess.
The judges voted and agreed that Lucy won the battle, voting for her unanimously. Aram mp3 didn’t challenge the panel and selected Lucy to move on in the competition.
Team Inga Arshakyan: Karina Harutyunyan vs. Gevorg Harutyunyan
Karina Harutyunyan brought Aretha Franklin to the battle, covering “Think.” Her energy and approach to the song reminds me of how Laura Tesoro presented “What’s the Pressure” onstage in Stockholm back in May. Her vocal power doesn’t match the Queen of Soul’s, but Karina still gave a solid performance.
I am not familiar with the ballad Gevorg Harutyunyan presented, but he offered a fully conceived performance. The performance reminded me of Azerbaijan’s 2015 entry, and I found myself wondering if that’s the direction Armenia would try to go if Gevorg won this thing.1
The panel split on their vote for this battle, with Anush voting for Karina while everyone else voted for Gevorg. Inga struggled with her choice, but decided to go with the will of the judges. I can’t disagree with that choice, especially because Team Inga is probably the most balanced of the six teams. Next week won’t be any easier.
Team Hayko: Amalya Margaryan vs. Anna Danielyan
Amalya Margaryan reached for the stars by choosing “Jason’s Song (Gave it Away)” by Ariana Grande. This song was a much better choice than Amalya’s round two pick (Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”) in terms of pop identity, but she does not have the vocal range required to sing this song. The vocal power is there, but a lot of the time it came out as yelling rather than anything melodic. She also has a tendency to sing with her eyes closed, which will not work when trying to connect with televoters on the Eurovision stage.
Anna Danielyan is the one person on Team Hayko I am rooting for, and her performance of Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire” is the reason why. Just about everyone who performed on this week’s episode adopted the attitude of putting it all on stage, even when songs should be restrained or simply sung. Anna, however, sang the song coolly and confidently. This was my favorite performance of the night and it gave me Kelly Clarkson vibes.
When it came to voting, Essai gave his vote to Amalya2 but everyone else voted for Anna. Hayko made the right choice and sent Anna to the next round. Woo!
Team Anush Arshakyan: Marta Kirakosyan vs. Stepan Hovhannisyan
Marta Kirakosyan made one of the most interesting song choices this entire series: “Back in the Day” by Erykah Badu. First, I wasn’t expecting Erykah Badu to pop up on an Armenian singing competition, so that’s fun. Also, this track is incredibly subtle, which runs counter to the bombastic nature of Eurovision. Marta delivers a solid performance, and you can tell that R&B is totally in her wheelhouse. The problem here is that the song is such a slow jam, it’s not making much of an impression. If viewers were voting at this stage, Marta would be in big trouble, even though every part of this performance works.
Stepan Hovhannisyan benefited by having a mentor guide him to “Say Something” by A Great Big World. The problem I had with his earlier performances was his inability to adjust his intensity. Surely this song that starts as a lullaby would force Stepan to turn things down, right? Wrong: he belts this as much as his previous entries. Because of this, the build of intensity that exists in the song can’t happen.
Iveta gives Stepan her support, but the other judges give the edge to Marta. Anush keeps Marta, but I think this was a case where Stepan lost rather than Marta won.
Team Essaï Altounian: Only Girls vs. Artsvik
Only Girls are back to sing another a capella ballad, presumably in Armenian.3 The performance is fine, but this choice may be a cause for concern about what they would bring to the Eurovision stage if they were to win Depi Evratesil. Although they initially auditioned with “Help,” I think they lack confidence performing in English. The last fully non-English track to win Eurovision was “Molitva” back in 2007, so I’m guessing there isn’t a lot of enthusiasm about submitting a song that isn’t at least partially English. A capella also doesn’t have a great track record at the Contest, so Only Girls may have painted themselves in a corner.
Artsvik added to the show’s R&B playlist with “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys. If she wasn’t already a favorite to win this competition after her performance in the last round, Artsvik should be in that position now. There’s almost nothing to say about the performance because Artsvik delivered the song effortlessly.
The judges were saying “Bravo” after Artsvik’s song ended, tipping their hand as to how they were going to vote. Sure enough, the decision was unanimous and Artsvik will move on in the competition.
Team Iveta Mukuchyan: Christina Mangasaryan vs. Hasmik Shiroyan
Christina Mangasaryan chose “I Put a Spell on You” by Nina Simone. This choice is interesting because, while technically simple, the song lives and dies on performance. Given her previous performances–“Euphoria” and “Try”–I like that Christina chose something requiring more of a performance. She doesn’t look 100% comfortable, but overall I think this works.
Iveta 2.0 Hasmik Shiroyan closed out the show with “Sweet Lovin'” by Sigala. Speaking of songs that are more about performance than technical ability, this song is a perfect example. I’m starting to wonder if Hasmik may be more style over substance as there isn’t much to latch onto with this performance. She could finish in the top 10 at Eurovision with a middling song, but I’m not confident Hasmik could win with what she has shown us so far.
With two performances that didn’t highlight technical ability, the panel ended up split with two votes for Christina and three votes for Hasmik. Iveta seemed to genuinely struggle with this choice, as would I, but she decided to stick with the majority.
Next week on Depi Evratesil: The Battle Round continues! Here’s who’s on deck:
- Team Aram mp3: Jujo vs. Lilit Harutyunyan
- Team Inga: Syuzanna Melqonyan vs. Narine Jinanyan
- Team Hayko: Egine vs. Eva Kans
- Team Anush: Alexander Plato vs. Anna Sedrakyan
- Team Essai: Opera Viva vs. Marissa
- Team Iveta: Vahe Aleksanyan vs. Sona Dunoyan