Sunday, 19 February 2017

Portugal 2017 - Salvador Sobral - Amar Pelos Dois

It's a rare event, and only happens maybe once or twice a year, maximum. But once in a blue moon a song will pop up on a national final that leaves both me an Mrs Apocalypse open-jawed and silent on the sofa. And it's never, ever happened via Portugal. Until tonight.

But in the first semi of the FDC, a young lad who appeared to have crawled out of a skip crept onto the stage unassumingly and captivated the pair of us with his angelic voice and idiosyncratic delivery. Every other act on the bill tonight was a singer reciting some words. Young Salvador here was an artist interpreting a vision, and what a beautiful job he did of it, too.

If they don't pick this lad to go to Kiev they want shooting. And if he doesn't even make it to the semi, I'm coming round to take all their first born after the next available flight. Seriously Portugal, this is your one golden hope from the last 20 years of trying. Do the sensible thing.

Ukraine 2017 - O.Torvald - Time

I missed the start of last night's Ukrainian qualifier, as I was out at a football match. But upon my return I had a list of messages telling me that I just had to see this song, without telling me quite why. This is often a good sign.

Slightly annoyingly I couldn't find a clip until just now, and oh boy am I glad I tracked it down. Because during this song something quite unique and powerful happens. And I'm not going to tell you what it is. But you'll thank me.

Else otherwise, this is a pretty serviceable indie rock song, with a very agreeable wigout bit in the middle that proves that they're not just pretty boys going through the poses. But it's the incident that elevates this above the masses. If this band are as big as their pre-vid suggests, their name could be written on their hometown trophy. Decent but diferent act who's going to make everyone sit up and take notice, but who are in no danger of winning? Surely that's the perfect host entry.

But in a nation where merely saying hello to your next door neighbour is a highly politicised act, are they really going to risk choosing this? I certainly hope so!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Slovenia 2017 - United Pandaz and Arsello feat. Alex Volasko - Heart To Heart

When we saw the act were going to be called United Pandaz, we never begun to imagine that there would be actual pandas on view. Well, they weren't ACTUAL pandas, but they were pretty decent representations, stood there all cool in their pop star military garb, waving tiny flags and having it large behind the decks.

And it was a bit of luck there was something to distract us from the tune, because it was even more similar to Swedish House Mafia's Don't You Worry Child than that Cascada somg from a couple of years back. But luckily for their lawyers they just about ducked out of every seventh note, therefore causing themselves any further worry.

Well, that and the fact that so few people liked it that it couldn't drag its bones to its own national final. I think it's probably for the best...

Friday, 17 February 2017

Slovenia 2017 - Tosca Beat - Free World

Well, I don't think anyone was expecting this. When Tosca Beat were announced as taking part in the Slovenian semis, we all assumed that it was going to be another slice of ill-advised popera that was doomed to early failure.

What we didn't reckon on was them suddenly becoming a post-industrial Laibach tribute act!

Surely this can't be an accident? Militaristic outfits, megaphones, situationist statements, stompy marching music and a deeper-than-mines voice croaking out between the high pitched choruses. It's Slovenia's biggest ever international musical export, toned down and made (slightly more) palatable for the Friday evening TV crowd. It was really quite the thing.

It wasn't actually all that good, lacking a bit in power and menace, but we still rather hope it does OK. And if Laibach don't mean anything to you, get yourself to YouTube immediately.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Sweden 2017 - Owe Thörnqvist – Boogieman Blues

This is what you want from Sweden. Less of your ever-dimishing Schlagerpop and sweary imps, give us more 87-year-old men mumbling out and old time pre-Elvis era rock and roll tune!

Just when you think Christer's going to let you down, he provides you with the goods. Can't wait to see this one live - if Owe makes it that far!

Poland 2017 - Rafał Brzozowski - Sky Over Europe

Now here's a proper oddity. I always love it when you, dear reader passes us on a tip, and good friend of the site Robyn G has uncovered a right doosy here. It starts off like a regulation man ballad, all pianos, plods and earnest angst, as you'd expect. But when it gets to about the minute mark you suddenly realise that this isn't another of those dozens of regulation love songs that try to crowbar references to Europe in as a way of luring the votes.

Oh no, because it all takes a considerably darker turn when you realise that it's quite possibly being sung in the voice of a refugee about to hop on a midnight boat to an uncertain, and quite possibly  short, future.

But even here it's not like the usual Save The World fodder, as it offers no hope or suggests no schmaltzy outcome. Instead it just leaves you hanging in the gloom, throughly depressed and hopeless, feeling like you've had a tiny part of torn out of you.

Gosh, we weren't expecting THAT at the start!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Norway 2017 – In Fusion – Nothing Ever Knocked Us Over

Every years there's a couple of those songs that you really shouldn't find yourself enjoying, but you somehow just can't help yourself. And this is one of them. Admittedly I've always had a bit of a soft spot for 90s Europop singalongs, so I was always likely to be sucker punched by this one. But despite it having all the ingredients for a total disaster of a song, it somehow kinda works, despite itself.

I'm not sure if it's the Christmas chord changes, then Nordic nautical shanty-fuelled chorus, or the fact that I wouldn't fancy taking the band on in a fight, but it's crept under my skin and I just can't get it out. Anybody got any ointment?

One suspects that it'll be just that tad to cheesy for those serious Norwegians, but I wouldn't begrudge it a berth at the big show if it did somehow win. And those gals look like they are aware of what it is to party, too.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Bulgaria 2017 - Gery-Nikol - Gotina And Luda

Some not insignificant rumours are creeping out of Bulgaria are on the cusp of announcing Gery-Nikol as their artist. There have been thinly veiled suggestions that she was on the shortlist for some time, but the tattle mill has gone into overdrive over the last few days, and this song is the one most frequently mentioned in dispatches.

Some would have it that it's going to be performed in this form. Others that they're translating it into English, and other that she'll be doing something very much in this style without actually being this song. But whichever way we get her, if we get her, one suspects that her performance will be very, very interesting.

One of the rare local X Factor alumnus to have gained both critical and popular acclaim, her winning blend of bang-on-trend flat-voiced R'n'B and localised chalga beats suggests some lively on stage larks, and if they do do the right thing and choose her they'd be sending a pop princess at the very peak of her powers.

Some have noted that it quite possibly won't be with this song, as it was released in December, and already has over 7 million views on YouTube. But that didn't seem to do Donotan and Cleo a whole lot of harm a couple of years back. Either way, we shall be awaiting the Bulgarian announcement with bated breath.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Estonia 2017 – Janno Reim & Kosmos – Valan Pisaraid

There are some songs that you know are just doomed to failure, but you can't but help wishing that they made it through to the latter stages of their respective contests, just to mess with the more conservative fankind heads. And boy was this one of those.

You may remember Janno here as a member of the Super Hot Cosmos Blues band, who somehow managed to get beaten to the ticket to international fame despite in 2014 having gained maximum marks from both the juries and the home voters - ah the joys of the superfinal, eh! Well this year he went (a bit) solo, and somewhat off piste. Where his fated Maybe-Maybe was an instant dirty blues grind, this little number kicked off like an obscure spot of early 90s alt rocking, soared for a bit, then went delightfully off the rails to the point that you suspected that even Janno didn't know where it was going to finish up - despite the fact that it was being sung along to a backing track.

A quite splendid piece of obtuse and chuggy nonsense in an otherwise disappointingly bland and fun free semi-final. It was never going to go anywhere, but you really, really wish it had.

Are the the people from the Laul really saving all their joys for Kerli, do you think?

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Latvia 2017 - Up - One By One

Ooh, I do like a good murder ballad, and I fell a little bit in love with one tonight. Now I'd heard the song in recorded form a couple of weeks back, and thought it worthy of note, but wanted to wait until I saw it live before I passed it on to you lot. I was expecting some withery and wistful lass mumbling it out in does-eyed fashion. I wasn't expecting this.

Indeed, this more grown up lady with her terrifying stare captivated me from the very first seconds, as she kicked off with takes of retribution, and then got more and more hardcore as it went along, her fairytale voice belying the dark tone of the lyric.

And by the time she'd killed off her dancers and threatened anyone who ever crossed her again with a sticky end I was absolutely entranced. Like the irrepressible urge to thrust your hand into the viper pit, her wild eyes, threatening tone and glittery breasts lured me in, and by the end I was quite willing to be her next victim.

How the heck did those four middle aged men on the jury had the nerve to even look her in the eye, let alone comment on her song, I just don't know! Moment of the night, and I'm absolutely devastated that it never made the next stage. Although to be honest, it's probably for the best, safety wise.

Sweden 2017 - Dismissed - Hearts Align

The Melodifestivalen line up has been a bit of a let down so far this year, with too a bit too much reliance on returning names and pointless patches of slow motion. But when they get it right they get it very right. Like with this mob here.

On paper it's quite a dry slice of power pop, but marry in this moderately provocative performance and wowsers did it work good. I can just picture half the dads and grandpas of rural Sweden spitting out their kaffe at the telly in mild rage or extreme surprise as the beardy boys-in-frocks did their catwalk strut to open this lively affair.

All of this made the moment they grabbed their musical tools and started stamping about like a real band even more effective. It wasn't quite a turd to start with, but you polished it up just lovely, SVT, and we thank you for that. Of course it helps that the chorus is a sweeping Scandi rock gem crafted by the hand of that lad from The Ark - and while it's not going to trouble the scorers too heavily on finals night, it'll make a welcome addition if it's lucky enough to get there.

And I tell you what… Andra Chansen is shaping up to be an absolute bloodbath already!

Spain 2017 - Objetivo Eurovision - The Results

For an object lesson to future national finals producers on how NOT to put together the process of finding your winner, you should look not further than Spain's little end of show farrago last night. It had already been a pretty weak and over-long event, with an interminably long stretch between the songs finishing and the scores coming in, and not even a mini-jukebox musical of past Spanish Eurovisios and a surprise performance from a delightfully creaky Karina could lure your attention away from the other three screens you doubtlessly had open at the same time.

But when it did finally come to the voting, oh boy did they cods it up!

The judges came first. For some time before the final it had become clear that two of the three of them favoured the floppy-haired beach squirt Manel for the ticket to Kiev. So it wasn't then surprising that they both put him firmly at the top of their piles. However, it was a little more suspect when they both put the crowd-pleasing fan love sponge Mirela plumb last on their lists. Stranger still that they both offered exactly the same order of acts with their votes. The middle judge looked noticably put out at their judgement, and bunged Mirela at the top of his heap. At the end of this process, when the crowd started to cotton on what was going on, you could clearly hear the booing from the rowdy crowd.

Then came the public votes. With Manel only coming third in the public poll, with was suddenly apparent that whoever came top of this vote would tie with Manel at the head of the leaderboard. And then what would happen. The wardrobe-like host began to look nervous as he read out the results. With the pre-match favourite LeKlein being called out first, it was suddenly clear that Manel and Mirela had tied at the top. For one long, acheing moment, not a single human in the place knew what to do, and the now-angry crowd began beying Mirela's name.

Then, in a move rarely seen in a national final, they chose the jury to decide the winner, and not the public vote. Well it was clear where this was going, and the booing and cat-calling only got louder, and upon his inevitable win, Manel looked visibly put out by the events as he prepared for his reprise. Heck someone had even hidden his guitar.

Even in these days of hooky East European results it is unusual for flawed voting system to be so blindingly apparent. It wasn't as if either song was especially good, but Mirela's Euroclub bop was clearly going to find more favour among the fans in the hall. Reports abound of the offending jury members being jostled on their way out of the studio.

It all made Sanremo look rather staid and organised...

Friday, 10 February 2017

Romania 2017 - Berniceya - Ice Cream

We are an equal opportunity employer here at Apocalypse. Some songs are here because they reach deep into the human soul and make you think deeply about the world around you. Some because they're so knuckle-gnawingly terrible that they need sharing with a bigger audience just so that we can all feel better about ourselves in these difficult times.

And some just make you want to burn all your clothes and bathe in acid to wash away the nastiness.

This song is from that third category.

First there's the vocal delivery, all syrupy and glutenous, with waaay too many woahs and yeahs. Then there's the lyric - a thinly veiled allegory for shagging using frozen deserts as an excuse. And then there's Berniceya herself. I'm sure she's a lovely woman in real life, but her on stage demeanour made the enamel on my teeth crumble as I watched.

Seriously, you won't be able to watch this without cringing like a slug being peppered with salt, one small grain at a time...

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Italy 2017 - Marco Masini - Signor Tenente

OK, so I know it's covers night, but this is still the finest single performance of any song I've seen in competition all season. It's not the happiest of tunes, telling as it does the tale of police inactivity and mafia massacres in the nineties, but boy does he give it some delivery. And he divided the crowd with his heavily riffed version of the late Giorgio Faletti's masterwork.

But you can't knock the notoriously idiosyncratic Masini for doing such an emotive landmark song 100% his way - and knocking the metaphorical socks off at least half the crowd.

We were standing up on the sofas at home cheering his every spat out lyric. What a flipping performance!

France 2017 - Alma - Requiem

Ooh now, we have Frenchness…

It seemed like a new rumour emerged every two or three days - usually a bit of wish-fulfilment attached to some handsome Gallic with a new three minute song out. But then all of a sudden this little blinder just pops up out of the ether, claiming to be the new saviour of French Eurovisioness. And it ain't actually half bad.

A bouncy little confection, it hurtles along pleasingly through the verses, until the wonky chorus melodies catch you all off kilter. We likely, and we hope you will do.

Now let's hope it's the real thing and not just another dashed rumour!