Friday, 8 March 2019

Belarus 2019 - Eva Kogan - Run



Now here's a cautionary tale about electing not to sing in your own language. English may be something of a lingua franca in the musical world, but if you're going to attempt to try to sing in it, you should at least have something of a minimal grasp of its shape and grammar.

Witness poor Eva here. She obviously thought she was onto a good thing, beating our very own Daz Sampson to the final and all, but she really should have revised her language of choice decision. Because, well, it's fair to say that we were the best part of a third of the way through the song before we realised that she was having a stab at our mother tongue. But still we weren't sure, and the Apocalypse sofa was pulled closer and closer to the screen to try and pick out little packets of syllables that we recognised.

But we're not mocking her for her lack of language skills. She did a darn sight better than I ever would have attempting to sing the song in Belarussian - or just about any other language, to be honest. But if you're trying to display emotion in a big old plod of a ballad, it's useful to have even the tiniest grasp of what you're singing about, rather than remembering word shapes from an unfamiliar tongue. Fair play for giving it a go, Eva, but let this be a lesson to you if you ever try and enter a song again. Because this was at near Ken Lee levels of language mangling, bless you.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Serbia 2019 - Dženan Lončarević - Nema Suza


Serbia has been the source of some dark entertainment this season. The social unrest in the nation has surely filtered through to the contest and there's a lot of introspection, and in many cases downright bleak entries on their slate this year. But more more visually arresting than this.

From our less than perfect grasp of Slavic languages, we surmise that this is a song about a mother whose bright, artistic son has gone to war, and while she waits for him to return she knits figurative strands of hurt and worry to show her painful longing. But then it all gets a bit interpretive dancey and a giant ball of wool comes on and unravels before her - and the it begins to get really strange. And gloomy. And boy has it ever got a downbeat ending.

But even though this occasionally borders on the silly to the Western eye, this is a heartfelt song with one eye on the nation's troubled past that will really tug at the heartstrings back home. The song itself is the standard Balkan ballad that builds and drops in all the right places, and is sung incredibly well by Mr Lončarević, despite him looking like he's come straight from work at the accounts department in the rope factory.

There may be undertones and nuances to this song that we don't readily understand on this side of the continent, so I may reserve full judgement until I see a more contextual reading of the storyline. But on face value this has a surprising amount going for it, and the visuals, however odd and jarring they may appear at first, make up for the singer's lack of charisma, and I wouldn't begrudge seeing this in Israel (as it stands). File under songs you didn't think that you'd like, but you kind of sort of do.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Serbia 2019 - Mr Doo - Do 100


When you're trying to get yourself selected for a national final as one of a dozen songs there are many things that you can do to stand out. An interesting dance routine, perhaps, or maybe some visually attractive outfits. Or maybe you can do as many have and have some manner of crazy prop on stage to take people's minds off how ordinary your song is. But there can't be many people who've ever considered doing this.

I really don't want to give much away, as this is best experienced for yourself, but you do wonder what in the name of heavens they were thinking off when they cooked up this arch presentational scheme. The jury's still out in Apocalypse Towers as to whether this is a stroke of artistic genius or a really ill-judged and distracting own goal when they had a song that could just about have dragged its way into the qualifying top six.

But the only juries that actually matter ignored it to such an extent that even a minicab driver with a bloke scrawling a painting out behind him beat it to the final. So enjoy this for yourself and see whether you can make head nor tail of it!


***STOP PRESS***

We're hearing that this singular performance may have something to do with the recent assault of a Serbian opposition Borko Stefanovic and the ongoing street protests in Belgrade. So if any of you know any more, please do let us know in the comments below!

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Portugal 2019 - Surma - Pugna


Portugal has most certainly got its freak on this year, and in ways that we heartily approve of. We were fully expecting last week's shenanigans from Mr Osiris, but Surma's superb visual arts exhibition last night knocked us sideways. I mean, we already loved the micro minimal atmosphere of the song itself, but the presentation last evening had us holding our collective breath again, barely breathing in case our wheezy lungs obscured a tiny pink of sound.

There were many things we loved about this performance - the style, the delivery, the dancing - but our favourite thing of all was the awkward shuffling from the middle-aged men in the crowd behind who really weren't getting it at all. Which in our book means job done, Surma!

And the biggest surprise of the lot was that it topped the jury poll! How did that happen? Were they second guessing public mood after last week? Were they practising for the final? Or did they genuinely love this creepy, gentle, oppressive, lovely performance as much as we did? We hope so.

All of which, though, sets us up for a fascinating final next week. Will this nick some of the cool points off Conan, allowing something more usual through the middle, or will this soar in its own right, giving us a quite unexpected and much welcome top two? We really can't wait!

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Poland 2019 - Tulia - Pali Się


So we already heard that the rather marvellous Tulia were to represent Poland in the big show, but we hadn't been graced with the title of the song yet. So after a quick skirt around their videos we were faced with a choice between lovely introsdpective local folk, and more beaty tunes like this one. We rather hoped for the latter - although either would have sufficed to be fair.

And then last night the rumour mill cranked into overdrive that this would indeed be their entry! Huzzah! (I thought). Then immediately set to worrying, as the intro and verses are just a little bit similar to Hey Bulldog by The Beatles. Not Petruska similar (as in totally the bloody same, obv) but just a tad reminsicent. So some dullard's bound to pick up on it and try to get the thing DQ'd!

And this live video also raises another issue. The whole standing-stock-still-in-a-line schtick workd briollaint in video form, and even probably at a gig watching them. But it's going to need a whole load of fancy camerawork to inject some life and excitement into it on a bit Eurovision stage.

But I'm not complaining too much - if this is indeed the chosen one, the chorus is probably my fave moment of all the songs selected so far, and their alt historic look and sound is absolutely flipping fabulous! This could be interesting!





Sunday, 17 February 2019

Slovenia 2019: Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – Sebi


Slovenia proved once again last night that sometimes we can have nice things. We must confess though that this one passed us by in clip form, so we'd almost completely forgotten about it. But from the second their slot began last night we were captivated, scarcely breathing for the full three minutes we were in such thrall.

The intimacy of this delicate and understated performance, which drew us into the stage up alongside them and let us enter into their innocent, fragile world. Bless it, we thought, that'll be the last we ever see of it - and although we'd have been happy to see it in a superfinal, we never imagined that it would quietly sneak its way past all that bombast to get there.

And when it did, we were delighted. But we never thought it would come anywhere close to knocking the besainted Raiven off her destiny-encrusted perch. Oh they did! What a terrific result. Could even their closest family have see then one coming?

The next concern is how it's going to work on that big stage in May. It could very easily get lost in amongst all that noise. But remember, there's always a sweet, understated song that confounds all expectations and does surprisingly well. So this could very easily be the next Kedvesem or When We Are Old - they just have to keep the stage show exactly as it is and not feel the temptation to dissipate that charm and intimacy by putting fire and dancers on stage along with them. Nice, and incredibly surprising pick, Slovenia. You are officially the new Eesti Laul!




Saturday, 16 February 2019

Iceland 2019 - Elli Grill, Skaði, Glymur - Jeijó, Keyrum Alla Leið


So last week Iceland smashed through the beige curtain with the utter fabulosity of the Hatari brothers. So I guess the nice folks at RUV figured they ought to bring a little bit more of the strange this week. Only this time they thought they'd chuck in all of the leftover bits from the last few Christmases, rattling it about before tipping it all out on a stage to see what happened.

This is what happened...


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Israel 2019 - Kobi Marimi - Fuego



So it could have been a whole lot worse, but after a long-winded and often confusing affair, Israel finally chose their representative for the home turf entry this year. In a contest that went back to November, but feels like it's gone on so long that I'm convinced my nan sung in it in her twenties, the good folks of the Levant chose a singer who on first inspection doesn't seem terribly promising.

He sounds like a haunted chimney, looks like that bloke from the first week of the internet who played table tennis and said "I kiss you!", and carries all the charisma of a Poundstretcher cheese slice - but somehow you can't stop looking at him.

Is it because his leather jacket is more animated than him? Is it because he looks at you under his eyes like a dog who's shit in the cupboard but knows you haven't found it yet? Or maybe it's because you now know what Sacha Baron Cohen would have looked like in the lead role in Bohemian Rhapsody? But whatever it is, I really can't wait to see what song they finally provide him to sing in Eurovision proper. It could be compelling for so many different reasons.

In the meantime, here's a man with the demeanour of a lonely tree singing Fuego.


PS On reflection, I've probably been a bit mean to the fella. By all accounts he's a lovely chap who's been through a lot in his life. And he won this contest with ease, so he's clearly got something about him, and doesn't need me calling him clever names. But it's not half as bad as he's going to get when Eurovisionia gets their teeth into him. Pray, for his sake, that the song's a blinder!

Israel 2019 - Shefita - You Oughta Know


The Israelis choose who they're going to send to Eurovision tonight, and the final four make a really interesting - if not potentially troubling - mix. On paper this is Kitria's contest to win. A member of the Black Hebrew Israelites community, she's not only an incredible singer, but would fit into the organisers' mission statement of celebrating diversity this year. However, she has some complicated competition.

The inclusion of Maya Bouskilla in this list is a slightly contentious one, not least in that she's not exactly The New Star this show purports to be looking for, as she had a not incosiderable music career in the early days of the century, and has occasionally been suggest as the choice for Eurovision proper down the years. She would however be a safe pair of hands, and would deliver ably anything - well most things - that Israeli telly threw at her. Although it would be a stunningly safe choice.

Kobi Marimi is another strange choice. For a man so seemingly devoid of charisma or delivery, he's become the centre of this year's soapy storyline, but his meat and potatoes style would surely not translate down the TV screens of a continent and beyond.

But the most contentious contender is one Shefita. A character created by the Jewish comedian Rotem Shefy, she performs in the guise of an Israeli Arab, using exaggerated actions and accents over code Palestinian music styles to hammer home her comedy point. Her progress through the competition has divided viewers, with many thinking it's just a bit of harmless fun, with many more suggesting that bringing this kind of act to Israeli screens in the current climate is ill-advised at best and divisive at worst - not to mention the potential PR disaster it would bring to Eurovision proper should it win.

Local TV critics assumed that she was being kep in the competition to keep the ratings high with a little bit of jeopardy, but now there's a very real possiblity that this highly localised and somewhat tactless in joke could be representing their nation on a major international platform.

Tonight's final could easily go one of four ways, and there'll be a whole lot more people besides Tuesday night telly watchers and ESC fans keeping a close eye on tonight's goings on, that's for certain.

Slovenia 2019 - Raiven - Kaos



After a tantalisingly promising clip, Raiven's EMA excursion has finally dropped - quite literally - and boy it's a belter! It's got so many booms, drops and whomps it's like a trip back to 2011, stomping about in a crumbling dubstep den in Croydon once those musics finally embraced the pop.

It's utterly bonkers and unsongy, of course, but that's part of its charm, the sweeps and swoops keeping you on your toes as the icy maiden starkly oozes out her words - kaos mainly - and does a little spikey rap bit in the middle. At times there's so much going on that it sounds like a school party has gone berserk in a synth factory - but that's only to its credit, as it gives it until energet and verse.

I cansee the staging now - Raiven standing stark still, looking cold and incredible in an indescribeably angular outfit, while skinny girls in the now-prerequisie garb dart and gyrate around her. It'll utterly bomb should it get to Tel Aviv, as it's too niche and noisy for the nans of Europe and too dated for the clued up pop kids, but I still really hope it gets there, because raiven deserves her turn, and she'll never have a better sounding song than  this!

***STOP PRESS***

Despite all our ealry bellyaching this just didn't work live, and just sounded like she was saying 'COWS!' a lot. Oh well, next year, Raiven?


Monday, 11 February 2019

Serbia 2019 - Lana i Aldo - Pogledaj U Nebo


The big fat list of Serbian hopefuls was released this morning, and among the parade of big buildo ballads and Balkan pop bangers sit this rather unexpected piece of work. And trust us, it's a bit special - although possibly in the right ways.

Effectively it sounds like an entirey eighties stage musical condensed into three minutes - complete with overtures, character development, proggy interlude, and lots of clappy singalong bits and farty trumpets. It is, of course, utterly bonkers, but promises to offer one heck of a stage show come Beovizija time - especially as it sounds as though there's a cast of at least fifty voices singing along to it!

The title translates to approximately Look At The Sky, and them Serbians will certainly be doing that if they pick this unhinged gem to go to Israel. Oh please do it, you lot. If only so that we can see the dazzled gaze of the first fifty rows once it's finished.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Ukraine 2019 - Letay - Myla Moya


Ukraine is a beauteous place. The Vidbir shows are always packed with ludicrous stage mechanics, thinly veiled nationalist statements and overtly sexualised performances - CoughMaruvCough - but somehow this little jobby managed to fit the entire shopfront of Kitchen Sinks 'R' Us into his performance and still manage to come nowhere.

It starts off a little carnyville, employing equal measures of The Greatest Showman and Sideshow Bob into the act, before he leaps into a chorus that sounds lifted from a carboot sale that Matt Bellamy from Muse was managing. Then he goes for a little walkabout and we meet all sorts of not-quite-steampunk characters, to the clockwork keyboard dolls to a little gymnast girls that it appears Mr Letay is under clear instructions no to touch - but he occasionally forgets, getting short shrift to the precocious mite.

And just when you're thinking "The only thing that would make this more ludicrous would be if a juggler arrived on a unicycle," a juggler arrives on a unicycle and it starts getting even more meta. But somehow it manages to cram even more layers of more into the three minutes with an admittedly pretty daring/foolish exit.

If anyone manages to cram more than this amount of ridiculously silly addenda into a show between now and the end of the season, get me on the phone immediately, because if I don't see it with my own eyes I could scarcely believe it could happen!


Friday, 8 February 2019

Italy 2019 - Sanremo Closing Credits - Poppoppoppò


There's a moment at every year's Sanremo that we always totally forget about for the rest of the year, but the moment it crops up it's utterly hardwired into the collective Apocalypse brains for the next three weeks - the song over the closing credits.

"What's that?", you say. "Sanremo actually finishes at some point in the night? Golly!" Well if does (unless you stay up even later to what the unhinged Dopofestival), and being the lightweight that you most probably are you've never got to hear this utterly splendid and highly addictive piece of music.

Think of it as an unlocked achievement in a video game. It's exactly like the Rainbow Road stage in Mario Karts. It might not be the most challenging or exciting piece of work, but you enjoy it all the more because it feels like a nice chilled out reward at the end of the night for having put yourself through all that bamboozling chat.

And what's more, they've upped their game this year, as all the artists get to sing a little bit of the song each. So you can briefly see them all in their daywear prime.

Altogether now... Po po-popo-po po-popo-po po-popo-po-oh...

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Italy 2019 - Daniele Silvestri - Argentovivo


If Achille Lauro was my real world smash last evening (and I'd recommend you check out some of his more usual work on YouTube), the big winner for me in a traditional Samremo sense was Daniele Silvestri. Taking the regulation Italian musical form of a grumbly looking middle-aged man talking directly into your soul with eyes that have clearly seen too much, and updating it slightly for a more rap-literate climate, this was a thing of absolute beauty.

Beginning seated at a desk, with a shadowy hooded figure to his right, he began explaining something that was clearly very serious as he prowled assertively across the stage, before finally approaching said figure - which kicked off a kind of dark, laid back rap battle of some power.

That figure, when wrenched from the darkness, turned out to be the Italian rapper Rancore, and he began to regale from a new, younger position, while Daniele stood looking behind in possibly the finest camera angle of the night. This is 4:20 of near Sanremo perfection, and it's well worth dedicating that much of your day to see.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Italy 2019 - Achille Lauro - Rolls Royce


It's no secret that we flipping love Sanremo here at Apocalypse Towers. We bed in with a flask of weak lemon squash, some teacakes and a big floppy hat as if we were doing the full five days of a test match, and just let the Italian fabulosity wash over us. The grumbly talking men, the thousand-year-old ladies, the incongrous rock bands - the lot of it. And that's before we get to the comedy skits and frequent guest appearances from the cast of Inspector Montalbano.

The line up is always terrific, but one act tonight made us sit up and listen in a way I can't remember doing at a Sanremo act before. Because Achille Lauro really has something. Something special. An awkward, dirty, anti-rock'n'roll demenour that you fear won't end well, but that makes you want to chip along for the ride for as long as it takes to him to crash and gloriously burn.

Of course, he's not going to win this contest. Not by a long way. But he's got the kind of magical, mumbling charisma that had us hooked from his very first spat lyric, and that will make us remember him for far longer than most of the songs by the more established acts on show tonight. And if that wasn't enough, he's named after a hijacked ship. This boy's got great things in him. Maybe not for this show, but we can't wait to see how it all pans out. Find of the night, by streets.