I found placing Poland’s 2021 entry quite a challenge. “The Ride”, with its heavy 80s/retro sound and feel very much appeals to my tastes, yet at the same time I have doubts about what the live performance will be like, and a feeling that the song is a all a bit flat and sterile. Finally, it’s hard to get completely away from political and other non-musical matters when reviewing this song.
Last year’s winner of Poland’s national final, Alicja, did not have a great song (“Empires”) but certainly has a good voice. However, she was not selected again and Poland’s broadcaster left it quite late before revealing the song and artist for 2021 – RAFAŁ (full name Rafał Brzozowski). This was not met with a particularly favourable reaction it has to be said. Rafał appeared in Poland’s The Voice in 2010 and released some music subsequently but is better known now as a TV presenter, and he was one of the presenters of 2020’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest, hosted in Poland.
To understand why his announcement did not find favour with many, one needs to look at the political situation in Poland. The ruling party has gradually extended its influence across various insitutions, including Poland’s main public broadcaster, TVP, which now is widely seen as providing favourable coverage to the ruling party, to the point where the bias is so strong to be described by many as propaganda. Rafał has been closely associated/favoured by those running TVP, and clearly (judging by how many dislikes the official video has) there are a lot of Poles not happy about it.
Where does this leave the song though and his chances at Eurovision? Well, I have severe doubts about his live performance (though he is due to perform it live very soon so I may change my view) plus is super heavily autotuned. As I’ve said, while I like the 80s vibe, it does feel rather flat, and doesn’t seem to rise to a crescendo. (Small fact: it’s an all Swedish writing and composing team behind the song). Polish success often depend on just how much the large Polish diaspora get behind it. On current showing, that doesn’t seem likely for “The Ride” which could give it some problems to qualify (even in the “easier” semi-final where it performs).
Poland in the Eurovision Song Contest
First entered: 1994
Appearances (excluding 2020 and this year): 22
Best result: 2nd in 1994
2019’s result: 11th in semi-final (did not qualify)