Elaiza – Gallery
The first time I heard Elaiza was when their song „Is it right“ was on MTVs top songs. Then I found out that the same song was going to represent Germany in Eurovision Song Contest 2014. Elaiza did quite okay in Denmark and won 18th place with 39 points. But already before Eurovison Elaiza released their first album with 12 songs (in March 2014). The band was created in 2013 and consist of the singer Elżbieta "Ela" Steinmetz who also plays piano, Yvonne Grünwald- accordion, Glockenspiel and backings and Natalie Plöger- string bass and backings. Their music is a mix of folk, indie and pop.
I guess it is right to start with Elaiza´s most popular song “Is it right” which represented Germany. It caught my attention right away. Its melody is catchy and enthralling. But it is a song that gets annoying too soon, I would not want to listen to it more than once in a row. It was better than many songs in Eurovision but I would have chosen some other song from their repertory to compete with others. If you listen to other songs from their album it does not get so tedious as fast as it does with “Is it right” and regarding the lyrics – well, the song has no depth, central idea or flow – it is just a mind-blowing ~3 min. repetition of “is it right?”, right? Or is it wrong?
However, it’s not that bad really – the album is bearable-listenable even to a “rockaholic”. Not all of their work is music that consists of three words, a beat and accordion in the background - if one were to listen all of their songs, different sides of their music would start to stick out. I would even dare to say that the Eurovision song is an exception and their work is roughly divided to two. Music that is close to pop (Indie-pop) and music that is comparable to ballads (manipulated by pop etc.). Since she is Slavic origin it has left a mark on her music. When listening to her album I inevitably drew parallels to similar artists. I don’t know if it’s just me…, but the singer reminds me of Pink – so she is the German Pink to me, she has as strong voice as Pink does, but her music is a bit more calm. I somehow also manage to draw parallels between her and Beth Hart. I would like to see/hear Ela try something similar to Beth’s style (rock, blues-rock etc.). Ela’s voice is a little softer and purer, so it would be interesting to hear, how she would sound.
Elaiza´s indie-pop side is flowing and light, its vocals support their cause. However, in some songs the lyrics are, at some point, strange and the songs lack of integrity. The good correlation of lyrics and melody in some songs is broken by random stuff (sentences and lyrics that just don’t fit, they don’t) – it ruins the song. You just can’t sacrifice the direction of the song to make room for a good refrain etc. To me it feels somehow like from the show “Palume lavale”, when they sing at the end, and the part of the refrain comes and they just forget about the theme they were doing and start singing random stuff – but hey, it sounds good, right. And Elaiza does sound good, Ela´s vocal, she could do so much more. I would like to hear rock/indie rock/blues rock etc. in her repertory. Something that could distinguish her, where she could do something deeper and emotional.
She has commented that lyrics in her songs have a deeper meaning, they are about her family, relationships and love. But for a listener these songs seem quite superficial and simple. The album does not shine, but gives something for every taste.
Now more about Elaiza´s songs about which I said before can be divided into two broader group. First about the songs that have more rhythm in them. There is a nice melody in “Fight against myself”, a song tells a story about the struggle of finding herself. “I don´t love you” makes me feel mixed. She sings how “I don´t love you, I was only into your character”, but the brass instrument sound in the back makes it sound very sarcastic and funny. Or is it just a joke? What I really like from the bunch of rhythmic songs is “Green”, because it is so positive, lively and happy. No trace of sarcasm is felt in there. “Lemonade” is kind of a funny song. Its music is like a mix of Turkish and Greek folk but turns into a pop song in the refrain. Maybe this would have been a better choice for the Eurovision, we hear similar songs each and every year and they still get their votes. It´s absolutely different from other songs on this album. “Cinderella” is another catchy song which I could listen to more than just once. It’s pretty seductive and could very well be a hit in radio, so Star Fm etc. could play it 24/7, like they do with every new song.
And the other part of Elaiza´s songs are slower and more emotional ballad like projects. “Goodbye” is one of the most beautiful songs on this album, it´s a sad and emotional love song. But “Thank You” is not weaker at all and I can feel that Ela´s words really come from her heart and are meant for someone special and close. But “Circle of Life” is like a repetition of two latter songs, the melody is nothing new and all I could remember was na-na-na-na-na. “Without” is the most boring song on “Gallery” and feels like it is made with half an hour. It beginning is promising, but it really goes nowhere, there is one catchy and good section, but that’s pretty much it. “Miracle” is a song where brass instrument absolutely fits but the lyrics aren´t so impressive… “Visible Line” finishes the album with another ballad that is neither a folk nor a pop song. It’s calm, maybe even too calm and repetitive once again – and I seem to have made my mind that ballads are not for her. They just aren’t.
Elaiza is a modern-folk or some say neo-folk band that have both awesome and quite boring sides in its music. Live music is one of the best things about Elaiza and Ela sings damn good. At least I don´t see young people playing contrabass and accordion in a modern band every day and that makes Elaiza special and unique. But their problem is repetition, repetition, repetition in each and every song. And did I mention repetition? They have many catchy songs but also slower ballads which are nice when you first hear them but when you listen to all of them, they seem all so similar to one another that in conclusion, none of the songs is special. So I guess that Ela should try different approaches, different styles. She is a good singer, but needs a more effective way to show that. I´m not sure if the title “Gallery” really fits for the album, because these songs aren´t really that different from each other. Elaiza has already gained fame with their first album, but there are definitely more to come and I guess the next ones are going to be improved.