Saturday, 17 February 2018

Ukraine 2018 - Yurcash - Stop Killing Love

You know us here at Apocalypse, we do like a nice full three minutes. Well prepare yourself for some cramming, for this lot deliver a full four-act stage musical in the time it takes to boil a decent egg. On this clip, the song actually starts at the two minute mark, but it's worth watching it through just for the added surprise when the musical events finally kick off. For what looked like it was going to be a standard pub rock work out turned into something completely unexpected and very unlikely.

From the first note it was clear that this was going to be a messianic allusion. The singer lad was decked out in sackcloth and affecting a Jesus Christ pose while his troupe behind him gave it the full middle east in their garb. And if that wasn't enough, a column of bloodied thorns wrapped around the mic stand, just to make you sure you know what they're getting at.

But that wasn't all. This moderately proggy workout flipped though the time signatures like a bored musician at a Rolodex, and more serious art bits were followed by strange comedy japes and showbiz singalongs. Seriously, if it hadn't be so jawdroppingly unhinged it would have been terrible. But just couldn't help yourself warming to it as the nonsense chugged along with a variety of chuggy riffs.

It was hilarious, ill-advised and absolutely bang on point all at once, somehow, and we were gutted when it didn't qualify. At least we think we were. Just imagine all that on a big Eurovision stage. It would have been a proper wonky treat!

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Israel 2018 - Netta Barzilai - Tik Tok/Gangnam Style

Oh my days she did it. Our girl won the ticket to Lisbon, and I'm already in the queue for the Israeli party! And just look at what she performed to get there. Week after week Netta showed her versatility and creativity and somehow managed to charm a nation to let her represent them on the biggest pop stage in the world. But the work starts here.

For a start, what is she going to perform? If Israeli telly has any sense they'd give her carte blanche to write and perform her tune in exactly the style that she wants to. Rather than their usual pop poppets who are bright-eyed and bushy tailed and ready to be moulded, Netta is a fully formed artists and shouldn't just be chucked a regulation frocky ballad from central songwriting. Although she'd still do one heck of a job on it.

And then there's the whole loopstation can of worms. Are the EBU going to let her show her full art and let her mix herself live on stage? Well they let Jowst do the muck about last year, so precedents have been set. But new provisions in the rules this year make recorded voices a lot more tricky to get past. But wait a minute - Netta's vocals aren't pre-recorded... they're recorded live on stage as they happen, only with a little bit of delay (and in a slightly different order). If they allow reverb and echo, how can they ideologically object to this?

It's going to be a tricky old path to negotiate, but we can't wait to see how it turns out, because it's almost certain to be cracking, whatever it is!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Iceland 2018 - Þórunn Antonía - Ég Mun Skína

When we first heard the Icelandic songs we thought they were a pretty uninspiring bunch. There was that intentionally comedy mum band, a whole lot of slow and mid tempo stuff, and a footballer. So it was pleasing to see that they'd really given some thought as to how to present each performance - whether that was the artful arrangement of backing singers, a sex pest on a bench routine... Or this...

Now we're not sure what they were thinking when dreamed up this particular spot of on stage malarkey, but we're rather pleased that they did. In fact, we can't imagine that anyone who ever saw a list of the stuff that goes on in this performance ever thought that it was a good idea to convert it into real life actions. But somehow they turned all that unlikeliness into three minutes that you're not going to forget in a hurry (although it's a crying shame that the same can't be said for the actual song that's hiding away weedily somewhere in the middle of all those stunts).

We thought Þórunn there looked a little anxious at the start, and that was hardly surprising, given what she had to execute as the three minutes elapsed. But her strange, jerky delivery and curious breathing shapes all wafted away once the strongwomen in bacofoil pants ambled on, and then it just got strange and stranger and stranger.

So sit back and enjoy one of the most unique three minutes of song that you're likely to see all season. It's a shame that it didn't get to the later stages, because a performance this odd really deserves a wider audience, whether the song as actually any good or not. And to be honest, we can't remember it at all. But you'll soon see why...

Ukraine 2018 - Kozak System – Mamai

I do enjoy a Ukrainian selection process. The songs alone make place it head and shoulders above most of the trailing pack, as far as variety, invention and downright excitement goes. But dig a little deeper and there's a whole load of political showboating to be found. Some of it subtle, much of it less so. After all, this is a country that sits very literally at the crossroads of history, and where even going to down the shops for your daily hleb can be a politicised action, so it's hardly surprising.

Take Kozak System here. To the passing punter it was a raucous punky ska-cum-hardcore folklore stampdown, with metallic fringes and little slivers of local traditional instruments infused throughout. It's the kind of thing we're more used to seeing come from Moldova in this contest, but spend any time in the old country and you'll hear this stuff coming out of cabs and barbers and towerblock bars wherever you go.

But scratch below the surface and you'll find a whole lot more. Kozak is how the locals say Cossack - another group of fierce locals - and their members were at the very heart of the EuroMaydan protests back in 2013. So big are they locally that they've played shows at the Olympiysky Stadium, and you may even have seen them play a show on the big stage at the Eurovision Village on Kreshchatyk last Spring. On top of that, the subject of the song, Mamai, is an old Cossack folk hero who embodies the spirit of the Ukrainian people.

In fact, we're surprised that they didn't qualify last evening. Although perhaps they weren't there for the qualifying. Perhaps they on the show, you know, just to be seen, like. So next week, when you watch the second episode of Vibdir, if something seems a bit incongruous or ill-placed to you, just do a little bit of a background search while you watch. For there may be reasons that it's there way beyond the auspices of Eurovision. And we can't flipping wait!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Italy 2018 - The Kolors - Frida (Mai Mai Mai)

The thing that most of the rest of Eurovisionia never seem to get to grips with is that Sanremo isn't for us. It's a wholly local confection for those tuned to an Italian palate. They care little or less for the future of a song in Eurovision. They just want to celebrate the best of their grumbly old goats and terrifying women in song and a fair bit of chit chat.

So when a clearly Eurovision ready song does occasionally pop up in the contest it's generally not too much reason to get excited. A case in point is The Kolors here. In any other national final you'd have been calling up your bookmaker at the mere release of the promo pictures. But Sanremo's a much more nostalgic affair, and we're much more likely to end up with a pensioner grumbling about his knees than a vital young pop act like this lot.

And boy they're pretty. I may not be of the same constituent population as many of my fellow fans, but heavens, I still swooned when the singing lad ran his fingers through his floppy fringe and looked straight at the camera.

But one thing you can usually rely on at the Ariston is a bandwagon song - one that wasn't much fancied at the start of the week, but picks up a head of steam as the days roll by. The Kolors boys are already creeping their way up the betting, and if Meta and Moro overcome the self-plagiarism minefield they've laid for themselves and win the thing with their powerful anti-violence anthem, then there's a good chance that they will elect not to take the ticket to Portugal, and then the Italian berth at the big show is up for grabs. And then know what might happen...

If you've not seen this lot yet, tune into tonight's latest song marathon and see if they float your boat.

United Kingdom 2018 - SuRie - Storm

So the UK did their choosing thing last night, and there is much to mull over. But the biggest thing that we've learned is that if you put in the work you win the prize. As we know, SuRie knows this game very well, and pretty much had this thing won on Twitter over the last fortnight. She's been getting involved, retweeting all the most influential online opinion makers, and letting herself be interviewed by the top sites. All that work meant that by the time she walked out on that Brighton stage she already had the punters in the palm of her hand.

Job one done.

Having the experience of the big show as she does - albeit in a secondary role - she knows what works on stage. She might not have had the best song last night, but she gave the best performance by a mile. And so while the good stuff was under performed (Asanda for one seemingly struggling to breathe under the weight of expectation), and the rest upped their game with less winnable songs (the previously dull Jaz putting the whole of his life into his on stage efforts, delivering some of the most soaring vocals ever seen on a UK national final stage), our lass SuRie just smiled, looked straight down the telly pipe and charmed the hearts of a nation, like some kind of trendy supply teacher quelling an unruly mob of superannuated school kids by singing a popped up sea shanty with some charm and grace.

Task two achieved.

It was clear from about ten seconds in that she had that won, and while I was initially disappointed, I had that bloody song stuck in my head all night, despite going out for a practise with one of my horrible noisy bands directly after. Clearly it's way stickier than I ever imagined, so while it's not to my immediate taste it might just strike a chord with the voting public - if Denmark don't do the dirty on us and send one of many songs in their final with a similar vocal motif.

The actual TV production was a step in the right direction, too. Just the right blend of nostalgia and wit, playing to the home audience but still being inclusive to the folks at home, a panel who actually knew what they were talking about - Rylan a particular revelation, and in Måns a proven host with the right levels of professionalism and self-depricating humour to pull it off. Oh, and Mel cut the "Eurovisj" cringes down to an absolute minimum, too.

We're not quite there yet, but each year is a marked improvement on the last. We've unlocked another achievement and levelled up once more. Now all we need is that killer song to lure in a continent and we're laughing.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Israel 2018 - Netta Barzilai - Wannabe

Oh my giddy aunt! Good friend of the site Ido just dropped me a note, suggesting that I should stop whatever I was doing and watch. He wasn't wrong. This clip comes from Israel's The Next Star show, the process used in part to find their next Eurovision act. We hope it's Netta here, and when you see this, so will you.

When we saw that she was doing a Spice Girls cover we must confess that our heart sank just a little. We shouldn't have worried, because this lass completely and utterly made it her own. Mucking about with a loop station, she not only made her own unhinged beats, but battered the lyric to a pulp with an incredible vocal display.

I never usually trust the term "Made For Eurovision", because it rarely ever actually means anything of the sort. But surely this lass would only enhance the show with a gurt big banger. We'll be watching the Israeli process a whole lot closer from here on in!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Italy 2018 - Lo Stato Sociale - Una Vita In Vacanza

Alright you, drop everything you were doing this week - it's Sanremo time. Five glorious days of pure Italianosity, and old men and young women grumbling syllable-heavy songs that wouldn't make any sense in any other country than this. Plus chat. A lot of chat.

But somewhere in among all that talk there's a lot of musical splendidness, and these boys offered up one of my highlights of the season so far. Starting out as a slightly awkward indie Euro disco number with a mumbling, lost looking singer, this soon picks up the pace, and the shout-a-long chorus just builds and builds as the song grows around it. And then, at about the three minute mark, something absolutely perfect happens. (OK, so we've seen this particular added extra doing the rounds on the Somewhere's Got Talent circuit, but that scarcely matters in this instance, as it was both utterly charming and totally unexpected).

As often happens at Sanremo, you can fall in love with a song that you know is going absolutely nowhere, but that you can't help hoping that it drags itself to about the halfway point to make it all feel worthwhile. We just wonder what they've got up their sleeve for the rest of the week.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Hungary 2018 - Andy Roll - Turn The Lights On

We've been doing this sorry old blog for long enough now that we're beginning to get a feel for the kinds of thing that you, dear reader, really rather enjoy. And so it was that as we were watching the most recent Hungarian under-final, this rather curious gentleman shuffled into view and we just knew that we'd be getting a whole bundle of notes and messages over the next 24 hours asking us what we thought of him. And yes, we did - it was possibly our biggest mailbag yet... well, apart from the usual cease and desist notices from Sasha Bognibov's people, of course.

So here it is, the fruit of your wonderings - the very singular style of a lad called Andy Roll. One part of us hopes that he's normally in a double act with Jimmy Rock, but that's by the by. Anyway, we have so many questions that will probably never be answered. The chain of events led him to be standing on that live televisual stage, for starters. Which one of the schedulers thought, you know what, that Roll fella stands as good a chance as anyone... let's bung him on. The kids will love him!

And at what stage in his life did he reckon that pop glory was for him? I have to say that the name is vaguely familiar, so I don't know if he's tried his hand at A Dal before, or I once saw him back in the day when he played regional non-league ice hockey for his village third team.

But most of all I was wondering quite where he got what looks like a child's raincoat made out of meat to wear for his big moment on the box.

But having said all that, after all my gentle mockery, by the time he's done his gruff voiced bit and the dancers all come out with their torchy hands you begin to root for the fella. And by the time he gets to the hands in the air, under the carpet chanting end bit we were up on our feet and swaying our arms about like a man trapped in quicksand.

So Andy Roll, we salute you. We salute you for being the only act in that show the other night that we'll remember a year from today. Well you and that good looking laddie with the spoons.

Denmark 2018 - Sannie - Girls On Boys

When we heard that Whigfield was coming back to the pop forefront in the Danish final, we were filled with a blend of both great excitement and deep trepidation. It was Whigfield of course, we ought to get excited - but how many times has an old favourite pop starlet come back from the past with either a lacklustre pop excuse or a dreary ballad.

So how excited were we when someone sent us a 15 second clip recorded on a telephone that sounded like an outtake from an early Cardigans album with a sleazier, more drunken sounding singer. And now that we've heard the full version, we heartily approve! We're not sure that she's going to come close to winning next Saturday night, but we're going to enjoy seeing her have a try!

We've got no link to a video yet, so you'll have to go to the general download site first at the link above. But as soon as another option is available I'll have it up immediately - and hey, you get a chance to have a listen to all the other songs too!


Oh my days that was glorious in defeat. An awkward stage show, a reedy thin voice, a curious choice of garb and an unwillingness to let the whole of Europe see what work she's had done (to the extent that she stiff-armed that mic a mere inch from her mouth the whole dang song) - that's how to go down flames on live TV. I'm still trying to work out if it was glorious or just a little bit sad. Possibly a little of each.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Hungary 2018 - Reni Tolvai - Crack My Code

Dear Reni here has been a good friend to this blog over the years. Her shows are usually glorious nonsense fests, and her fans love reading every possible word about her. So we were rather exited to see what she was likely to do with this one, seeing as it had more personalities than a bus load of roid raging bodybuilders. But oh my heavens were we in for a surprise.

First up she plugged straight in with the old hands-of-dancers-stood-behind-you-looking-all-Eastern -like trope that's been making close observers of the contest sign disappointedly for some years now. At least the neon fans were a nice touch. But wait, are they actually busting a full on Eastern vibe here? That jaunty hat Ms Tolvai is wearing looks a touch clichéd cartoon Chinese. Camera pans out... OH. MY. GIDDY. AUNT! What was she thinking?

The two dancers emerge - one actually from proper Eastern climes, the other clearly not, but done up like stereotypical ambiguously somewhere from out that way. But there's worse. Two of the backing singers are wearing lit up versions of what we in the West refer to as Coolie Hats, and then there's a gurt big projection of a Chinese/Japanese/somewhere unspecific-ese temple in the background!

Heck! How does this happen in this day and age. It's not even culturally insensitive, it's just a bit rubbish - a lot rubbish, actually - and the kind of thing that Benny Hill would have left on the cutting room floor as being ill-advised.

And then it goes all weird. Some cod rapper of sorts begins pacing about, the Eastern chords begin to plink out, and Reni herself develops a weird Budapest-on-the-Bronx accent and starts bobbing about to such an extent that her hat nearly falls off.

In this game, you usually expect just the one terrifically terrible thing in a song - two if you're lucky. But we lost count halfway through with this one. Yes, it's that knuckle-gnawingly terrible. Poor show, Reni. I hope you come back with something a little more, well, less next time.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Estonia 2018 – Elina Netšajeva – La Forza (rehearsal excerpt)

First up I'll warn you that there's spoilers involved in this clip, so if you don't want to view the news, turn away now. 

Sill here? Good. So Estonia have been having their first Eesti Laul rehearsals over the last day or so, and the occasional shot of operatic Elina's unwieldy frock have been sneaking out of the Suurhall. But now we have this – shoddily shot phone-taken clip of the big reveal that is still both wow-making and ludicrous in equal measure.

Indeed, there have been two main tropes of the old frocky horror in Eurovision qualifiers over the last few years - the big massive sprawl where you stand on a plinth in a sea of fabric, and the  projecto-dress, where all manner of lightshows and beamed onto your immediate surrounds. So why nobody ever thought to combine the two terrible ideas into one massive horrible whole is beyond me. And we never expected it to come from the usually more creative Estonians, either. It's like they've been reading the South East European playbook or something.

Of course, this will do very well. Faux operatic tunes are traditionally lions in qualifying - but we must also remember that they frequently fall in the finals, no matter how well they're sung, or ill-advised their garb is. Sure, it would mix things up a bit on that Tuesday night in May, but would it even see the Saturday once folk have got over the novelty of this enormous garment?

I've got Barbara Dex on speed dial, just in case, mind.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Poland 2018 - Wojtek Kubiak - Satisfied

The window of submission for the songs for Poland just slammed shut, and instantly up popped an aggregation of apparently entered songs. Now it's not clear whether this is the whole lot, or just folks who self-entered and self-publicised, but we have to hope that there's another batch of more professional outings waiting in the wings to  be revealed. If there isn't, then Poland are in a lot of trouble.

Very few songs could muster either a smile or grumble, as they were all pretty regular middle ground pop or home-composed chancers who've already done the rounds of the other shows. Indeed, only one song really stood out - and probably not for the right reasons.

Yes, meet Wojtek. It all starts out like a ploddy bit of late-90s techno pop, but then the man himself's picture pops up and we all go eeek a little bit. But nothing will prepare you for the first lyric line that pops by at the bottom of the screen.




From there on in it just gets more and more unrelentingly creepy, until you really feel like you need a good scrub at the end of it. Do you think he actually knows quite how those words are likely to be received at the other end of the screen? Let's just hope that it's all naive and unintentional, because any other option just bear thinking about. Now pass me that wire brush and Dettol...

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Sweden 2018 - Edward Blom - Livet Pmå En Pinn

The first wave of Swedish song snippets we're released today, and to be absolutely, from the 57 seconds on display there's only one song that we can get excited about. Unusually, all of the pop waistrels have been a bit of a let down, and even Queen Kikki has blanded out with a country-fuelled plod. No, the one true star of MF show is one Edward Blom, trade historian and TV gastronomy star with his song Life On A Stick. And yes, you are reading right.

And I'm not saying this out of any ironic intention or arch wackiness. No, Edward here has the only song of the bunch that offers more than it promises. It's fun, it's simple, and it's going to bring out the fan hate by the bucketload in that manner that's only reserved for ugly middle-aged men having a lark. OK, so it may be the musical equivilent of a bookish Hairy Biker having an old time singsong, but it's bright and breezy and completely and utterly honest.

And it's not as if the bloke hasn't got form, either. He already had another single out back in 2016, and that was something of a lark, too. Look, while you Eurovisionistas are all having a gripe about the Dark Lord not taking the contest seriously you're all forgetting one thing. Melodifestivalen isn't for us. It's a light entertainment show for the general Swedish public, full of in jokes, local colour, and stuff that us mere abroadians will never totally fathom. It's one of the things that constantly keeps it above the mundane and forces me to watch year after year. And of course he's never exected to win. He's just there for a funtime three minutes - and you can bet your life he'll have one of the best, most extravagant stage shows of the whole damn caboodle.

And anyway, any song about Patrick Swayze that isn't actually a whole lot of fun is surely being more contemptuous to the contest that this little ray of showbiz sunshine.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Lithuania 2018 - Vidas Bareikis - Pusvalanduko

(Click here for the sillies...)

Now we're talking! It seems to have taken an age for this Eurovision season to fully kick off, and even longer for the more esoteric performances to ripen on the tree. We were beginning to fear that it was going to be one of those dull, earnest frikki-free years. But you can always rely on the Liths for some funtime jollies. 

You may remember the boy Vidas here from his somewhat over complicated I Love My Phone from last year, a lively performance that was unfortunately overshadowed by the melon chopping antics of one Lolita Zero. Well he's back with another performance piece that may be low on song, but ranks pretty darned high on wonk. 

Funny suit? Check. Untraditional band set up? Check. Funny angular dancing? All of the above. But that's not all. At around the two minute mark we were treated to an unexpected extra so jarring with the rest of the performance that I advise you not to be drinking any hot liquids while you watch this if you value the screen of whatever it is that you're watching this on! This was a complete and utter kitchen sink of a performance, and we can't thank the fella highly enough for it. Long may he reign.