Friday, 15 December 2017

Hungary 2018 - AWS - Viszlát Nyár


We got a tip off from our good friend Ellie at Listen Outside about this little rager, and we must confess that at first glance we were a little underwhelmed. The microsnippets that A Dal released last weeks didn't offer much past a regulation slice of teeno screamo metal, and the intro didn't do much to allay our fears - all twin guitars and soft talky bit before it hit the chorus. While to many of our readers it might all be a tad too noisy, to our more metal-damaged ears it was threatening to be just a little bit limp.

We shouldn't have worried, because the chorus somehow managed to crowbar in both melody and power, and each new rotation built the intensity just that little bit more. But that wasn't the best bit, oh no.

For after a brief interlude of introspective jangling the song hits a breakdown of deeply heavy, downtuned, double-kick horror grind, before leaping straight back into a newly punked up chorus, and a killer keychange that would embarrass a Swede. After an inauspicious start, we were dancing around the kitchen by the last few bars and wishing we were actually Hungarian. There will be better metal-tinged songs in the contest this year, for sure, but few will offer the pure joy we had listening to that final thirty seconds or so. Well done lads!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Albania 2018 - Akullthyesit - Divorc


Now here's another little treat from Albania. The best value at Këngës always lays in the hands of the grumbly old men, so when the fella at the front here started purring out the lines over a dark and dramatic underlay we suspect we were in for a treat. But wait, who's that behind him? And why's he holding a megaphone rather menacingly behind him?

Whoa!

Well we didn't see that coming!

Regulars among you will know that I've got a bit of a thing for Balkan-flavoured rapping. Those boys could spit out the most delicate of rhymes and it would still sound like an invitation to a knife fight. But this laddie here takes it up several notches, and at times hit feels like he's going to reach out of the screen and grab you round the throat. But then he finishes, leaves us with the most smouldering stare in recent ESC history, and the old fella begins to croon again.

But wait, here comes the soaring South East European pomp rock chorus! What a tune! It's like it's been plucked straight from the Eurovision Apocalypse playbook of songs that aren't quite cool enough to like in the real world, but that absolutely knock your socks off in the context of the contest.

If I smoked I'd have my lighter in the air before the halfway point. Maybe I'll have to get one of those lighter apps for my phone to wave at the telly. Oh, and in case you wondered, their long complicated name means something like Icebreakers. Well they've certainly done exactly that. Viva FiK!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Albania 2018 - Genc & David Tukiçi - Të Pandarë


So I've finally done the big go-through of the FiK contenders, and there's two that really stand out for me. The second we'll explore tomorrow, but this one is the real treat of the bunch, and the one that you may be surprised to see do incredibly well on the big night.

No seriously, this touching duet between a pair of apparently lost looking old duffers is a serious contender, and not just because of its simple old world charm. David Tukiçi (the one on the left, which goes against all Ant and Dec style standing conventions) might look like someone's dad who's just wandered into the studio and isn't entirely sure what's going on, but he's actually a pretty big deal in Albania. Indeed, he won FiK back in 1969 as a mere 13-year-old, and went on to become one of his country's best-loved classical composers.

But that's not all. Brother Genc, the geekier one at the piano, is a hugely well-regarded concert pianist, singer and composer who wrote hymns for Mother Theresa, and if that wasn't enough, their dad was so darned famous as a singer in the old days that they named a street in Tirana after him. Coupled with such a sweet and heart-warming song this pair are going to have them weeping nostalgically in the drawing rooms of Shqipëri from the very first note.

You might be mocking me for even suggesting that such a song could even come close to bagging the ticket to Lisbon, but don't forget - Këngës isn't for the likes of us. It's entirely for the locals, and what could be more Christmas TV than this old pair of old local heroes warbling away. And personally, I couldn't be more happy if it won!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Hungary 2018 - Ham ko Ham - Bármerre Jársz


A quick flick through the first micro snippets from the A Dal contestant revelation left one a smudge underwhelmed. Either everybody's saving all the good stuff until after the first thirty seconds, or they're all a little, how shall we say this politely... understated. Even dear old Leander Kills have lumped us with a weak version of their usually rather stompy noise - again!

But there was one act that leapt out to us among the drear in the half a minute or so that it had to introduce itself. So yes, it starts out all Eastern boy bandy, but oh my word, what's this? It pretty soon turns into a good old Hungaro-hoe down. Woo hoo!

A little digging shows that here's a bunch of cheeky chappies who wowed the locals with their X-Faktor antics a couple of seasons back, and they look like they've got charm and good humour in buckets. But will the Magyars make it two in a row with a Romani connection? One kind of hopes that they do if this little teaser is anything to go by!

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

San Marino 2018 - Irol - Take Off


Hold up, we've got another home native who's entered the contest. Makes up for the pretending nature of the last one who got us all excited - that Auria Lecis, who turned out to be nothing but an Italian islander. But how can we be sure that MC Irol (or Lorenzo Salvatori to his mum) here is actually Sanmarinese? Well it appears that he works at the airport.

Yes, in a move that makes those Maltese Airlines sponsored videos of tens years or so back look like Gone With The Wind, our cool rapping mountain boy is seen looking very serious as he fuels up his flying steed and takes to the air. And boy does he look cool when landing the thing without actually looking at the runway. (Are we sure that there wasn't anyone else actually driving the thing up front?).

Nice looking airport too. All grass and fresh air and tiny tiny planes. We really must go there some time. But Irol is no sucker, he's been on the local version of Got Talent, and does know how to spit a rhyme or two, so we really wouldn't be upset if he did make it to at least the local final. At least he's got a thing. Most of the other applicants so far don't even know that they're supposed to have a thing.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Malta 2017 - Gianluca Cilia - Dawra Tond (Junior Eurovision)


As most of you will doubtlessly have been trying to avoid and deny all knowledge of, it's the final of Junior Eurovision in Tblisi this afternoon. But wait! I'm here to brighten your afternoon just a little bit… don't leave…!

For the eight of you that are still reading, this much maligned contest has had an over arching tendency to be a bit serious over the last couple of years, packed as it is with mid-teens in grown up frocks singing emotive ballads that their mums really wrote, or terrifying East European tots in JonBenét make up who've already spend most of their tender years in the mini-song festival sausage machine.

But this contest used to be packed with unhinged performances from curious little characters from around the continent. So thank heavens for Gianluca here, who has managed to pack and entire stage musical of comedy japes into his three minutes of fun. He's not expected to come anywhere near the top rankings as it stands, but his infectious chorus and ridiculous charm might just bag him a late run at the title - especially if the good people of Malta have had the spambots on full VPN alert in the televote.

Actually, are we sure that our boy here isn't actually a 45-year-old midget? Someone's going to try it one year, surely?

Friday, 24 November 2017

Latvia 2018 - Riga Reggae - Stop The War U2


This song is more than a little confounding, for a who hatful of reasons. For a start, whiteboy reggae always makes my flesh crawl a little bit, but mainly when the clearly Northern European singer tries to put on the Jamaican accent. I know they they're trying to be accurate and all, but they wouldn't go the whole hog and blackface up as well, so why do the voice? But having said that, when done well the genre can still offer some fun and good time dancing opportunities, and to be fair to the Rigas, they are pretty good at it... despite the occasional proggy interlude.

Also a little bamboozling is the title. Surely everybody's first thought upon seeing it written down must be "What, the Irish pomp poppers? Even that Bono with all his off shore tax avoiding wealth couldn't do that!". But the lyric doesn't appear to suggest that it's about the drab Dubliners. Well, as best as we can work it out. So does it actually intend to mean and abbreviated textspeak version of 'You Too'? But if it does, why does it? It makes little logical linguistic sense - especially as it's not referred to in the body of the song? Or is it just one of those typos that goes on to become a part of the song? I really have no bloody idea!

And then there's that voice. It sounds just a little familiar. A bit like a tall, furry brown fellow we frequently see warming the crowd up at the Supernova shows. But could it be the Beaver? Well I don't want to kill Christmas, but I did once happen to see our hairy hero in his pupal form when I popped to the loo during a filming break of the Supernova final that Aminata won. It was only a fleeting glimpse, but after a little research I've discovered that the two fellas do have very similar human state hair. Hmm… I'm quite sure that it's not him though. But boy do they sound alike!

But whoever it is singing, I think we'd better watch out for this lot. Whatever we happen to think of this kind of music, or indeed the song, Riga Reggae appear to have something of a profile in Latvia, and their funtime japes, even if they're not to our immediate taste, could very well bring the party - or whatever it is the kids say nowadays.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

San Marino 2018 - Gianluigi Colucci & Aurora Lecis


So while we've been having folks entering the Sanmarinese process from corners of the globe so far flung that even the people who make the maps have to go back and check where they are, the people from their local telly have been bemoaning the fact that there have been precious few home-based entries, claiming indeed that nobody had actually entered at one point. Well that isn't strictly true - there have been two.

The first sees the unconventionally handsome Gianluigi Colucci getting all moody under his floppy, curly fringe in a pretty serviceable mid tempo offering. It's even got an actual video and everything. (Although it looked like his niece doing a media studies course in whatever the local equivalent of sixth form is, but we shouldn't quibble, as it still puts it in the top three per cent of entries as far as presentation goes.) Indeed, this wouldn't look out of place something like a Swiss or Slovenian televised qualifier (even if it would reap the usual results), so surely this has to be considered for the latter stages at least.


The second and final local entry comes from a lass called Aurora Lecis. She might be offering the now over familiar self-recorded somewhere around the house style of video presentation, but she's got a smashing voice, and certainly knows how to deliver a song. Quite how this would translate when given a microphone on a big stage in front of a load of people we can't yet tell, but surely she should be given a pop at the golden ticket as well, just to be sure.

In a country with just about enough singers to fill a decent sized phonebox, surely they should give pretty much any home runners who can hold a tune a chance to represent them on the big Lisbon stage. It's great offering all these people from Haiti and the Philippines and Cameroon the opportunity - especially as they've been delivering the better tasting performances up to now – but surely San Marino should foremost be nurturing the local talent if they want to have a long and fruitful future in this contest. Because to be fair, we're not sure that Valentina has got too many left in her.

***STOP PRESS***
Turns out that someone may be telling porkies, as rumour has it that one of this pair is actually from Italy proper, and sings in a showband. How could they?!

Monday, 13 November 2017

United Kingdom 2018 - UKR - You Know You Want It



I do enjoy a serial offender, and they don’t come much more offensive than our pals from the United Kingdom Of Rock. You might remember their stab at UK Eurovision glory from a few years back when they contacted every local newspaper in the land (well, Leatherhead at least) and told everyone that it was they, and they only who could bring back the glory for this fair land. Sadly the nice folks at Auntie Beeb and we were stuck with Electro Velvet instead. Boo.

That’s not to say that they were actually any good, but they truly worshiped at the altar of rock and believed every last morsel of what they were doing, which is a lovely refreshing change in this game. They’ve had another go inbetween, but now they’re back for one last job with this right rollicking romp through the eighties pub metal firmament.

Probably their best effort to date, this Carry On Up The Metal Charts stompathon invokes compulsory headbanging and involuntary air guitar, and if you can look past the slightly ribald lyrical content (you schlaaaag!) and turn your brain off for three minutes you can have a whale of an old time, erm, time. It’s terrible, of course, but most of the best fun things in life are. Come on BBC, give us a little bit of bad metal for Christmas!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

San Marino 2018 - Holly Rutherford - Make You Feel My Love


While it's becoming evidently clear that the Sanmarinese online song hunt has reached points almost beyond parody now, it still chucks up the occasional fascinating little piece. Yes, in among the sea of bedroom grunters, well made but lifeless videos by artists who have no idea that they've been entered,  familiar faces from Eurovision fandom just larking about, and a now seemingly endless parade of Maltese people walking around on beaches, every now and again you'll get a touching little look into the lives of real people.

Be it Elvira Michieva belting out the karaoke in a German dance bar after downing a hefty slab of Dutch courage, American lass Veronica Hattier giving it all her lungs will allow while apparently sitting on the lavvy, or the sweet-faced Brazilian lad Victor Montiero putting all his heart into L'oiseau Et L'enfant on his living room sofa (how does he even know about that?!!), there's a sweet innocent charm about viewing the hopes, dreams and aspirations of these young people from around the planet, dreaming of being spotted - or at the very least being ignored by a panel of TV execs working to a prearranged script.

But the one that moved us the most was this all-too-brief snippet that frankly asked way more questions than it answered. Our Holly here displays a pretty decent voice as she oozes out a bit of Adele. But what chain of events led to her taking to the stage at a Southend seafront diner? The array of mics behind her suggest that they do this kind of thing all the time, but it still feels a little, well, odd. And you'l be totally on her side as she walks through the scoffing crowd, high-fiving children and making mums smile sweetly inside when they remember the time they danced to this with their Terry at her sister's wedding. You know, the night she conceived their eldest.

This clip also makes you wonder who filmed it, how it got to be put up on a website representing an obscure Southern European principality, and how much her hand stung after the brutal treatment from that four-year-old at the end. Sadly the clip ended there. Hopefully because the small boy was evacuated from the building for his bad behaviour and they didn't want to embarrass his family on YouTube.

Holly, we salute you. We may not be seeing you on TV any time soon, but you keep on singing your sweet songs. And thanks for letting us have a glimpse into your world.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Estonia 2018 - Frankie Animal - (Can't Keep Calling) Misty


Ooh lovely Estonia. I always enjoy those first couple of post-Laul reveal days when you pick through the titles trying to track down the first early glimpses of the songs. I was tipped off to the joys of Frankie Animal only a week ago, but I fell in love with their cool, understated, edgy sounds straight off the bat. So it was not only a joy to discover that the rumours of their participation were true, but that they'll tabled an absolute corker of a song.

Well, when I say song, it's more of a cool, breathy groove that builds to a barrage of filthy, yet still controlled noise, before crumbling to dust. Yep, exactly the kind of song that we'd listen to at home of an evening for the long, warn off season nights.

We have to stress though that this is in no way a contender. Unless they deliver a showstopper staging a slot in the final is about the best this tune can hope for. But that's not the point with this competition, as this is just pure, unabashed Eesti Laul goodness, and part of the reason that we slightly left-handed ESC fans flock to Tallinn like the schlagerists flock direkt til Stockholm. The fine people at ETV put these songs in just for the very joy of them, like they want to share them with the world and show off their goods, irrespective of whether they'd get into a final or not.

We bloody loves Estonia, we do!

Friday, 10 November 2017

Latvia 2018 - Katrina Gupalo - Intoxicating Caramel

(Click here for some wonky alt beauty…)

So when the Latvian songs were revealed to us in that secret back of house vote up the other week, this is the one that stuck in my head the longest. But I'm not sure if it was entirely for the right reasons. But boy there's a whole lot going on.

If you've got the tools to imagine this, imagine a car boot Kate Bush singing cruise liner showtunes, in the fifties, in flouro techno garb, and with Oxford prog psych loons The Cardiacs occasionally popping by to say hello. Kind of. Only it's stranger than that.

One hope this gets to a televised portion of the process, because one can only wonder at how they're ever going to flipping stage this little beauty. Our first properly unhinged entry of the year - even if we still don't know who it actually is yet!

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

United Kingdom 2018 – Giro & Gala – Hanging In The Garden


One of the rare joys of this tireless vocation of ours is that we get to see and hear all kinds of songs that get passed about in the hope that perhaps they might make it to some national final someplace somewhen. And so it was that a good friend of the site was sent this especial little gem, sprayed to the winds in the hope of representing our fair isles in Lisbon next Spring. And oh my giddy aunt where do we start.

You kind of know they're German even with the sound down, as I've never seen a citizen of this earth wearing one of those shirts with quite such meaning and seriousness. But it's surprising to discover that they hail from St Pauli in Hamburg - quite possibly one of the most punk rock neighbourhoods on the planet. Why they haven't attempted to be overlooked in their own nation is unclear, but do you think this stands any better chance over here? Can you imagine Mr BBC sitting in his gold office on the top of London going: "This is it! This is the one to bring back the glory!" Why, that kind of crazy talk hasn't happened since, well, 2015.

And as charming and outsider as it all is, one can't help feeling that the lyric is just that little bit insensitive. What if your Auntie Maud has just been found swinging from a tree around the back of the begonias, worried to her very marrow that a full, hard Brexit was never going to happen. How much would you enjoy hearing the phrase "Hanging in the garden" repeated over and over again? You didn't think about that did you, Giro and Gala. These are the kinds of things that you have to consider if you want to go all cross cultural after all…

Friday, 3 November 2017

San Marino 2018 – Andi Taranik – Space



The Sanmarinese 1-in-360 process really isn’t going as well as hoped. While there were suggestions that the entrance fee would put off most of the usual tricksters, trolls and mentalists, what it actually appears to have done is hone the aspirants down into only the most desperate, insistant or utterly unknowing inviduals on this planet. And I know, because I went through all 200-or-so plucky triers who have so far submitted their wares to the website. And boy it was a long and painful process.

At least two thirds of this year’s hopefuls are self-filmed, usually in their bedroom or bathroom, with their phone set to portrait and singing quietly enough so that they don’t disturb their mum from watching TV in the next room. They’re also usually singing a song of some Eurovision heritage. There are countless Phoenix’s struggling to rise from the flames, a large number of space rockets failing to get out of orbit, and enough 1944’s to crack every window in a shopping mall.

Most of the rest are filmed from the back of a room while they were taking part in some kind of karaoke, talent contest, or shopping centre event. On top of that there are a few clips taken from televised singing shows that, for the most part, I would be surprised if the artist featured had actually submitted themselves.

And of course there are the pranksters – folks who’ve invested a small sum of their own hard-earned cash to send in clips of internet sensations of the past (including the peerless Maxine Swaby), or real actual Eurovision songs. SM’s very own Valentina has already made more than one appearance on the list, only to be swiftly removed.

Indeed, so deep is the barrel that had been scraped that when an actual reasonably well-produced video crops up it feels so startling and disarming that it doesn’t feel like you’re looking at something from the same competition. Although having said that, they’re generally either still terrible, Spanish, or so unhinged that they’re never going to get more than a fistful of votes.

And so it is that I bring you to young Andi here. I’m not showing you his effort out of any kind of mockery, but as an example of a typical entry to this deeply flawed competition so far. I’m quite sure that he’s incredibly earnest about his efforts, and clearly deeply loves the song that he’s singing. It’s just that he doesn’t really have the required skills just yet to carry it off in a public place – let alone his own bedroom studio. But despite all that this video has been one of the most viewed of them all so far. Which I suspect may indicate the seriousness with which people at large are taking this whole process so far.

But I wish him well – just as I wish well all of the poor young interns at SM telly who’ll have to sift through all these videos in order to hone it down into any kind of shortlist. Our thoughts are with you.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

San Marino 2018 – Ignatius Farray – Estoy Haciendo Caca En Tu Mente


Glory be to the most serene republic of San Marino! There were those doubters who suggested that when this splendid nation opened up their national selection process to all comers (if they coughed up four Euro ninety-nine) that they'd be awash with the kind of hapless frikizoid and bedroom tryhard that frequently litters the choosing portions of Switzerland and the UK OGAE rigmarole. But nothing could be further from the truth, as is evidenced by this beauteous little Spanish gem here.

Marvel as two hairy bears of men strip to their trouserline and hammer out a gruff folker about defecating in somebody else's mind. No, really. Splendour at just how many words one human being can fit into a two minute tune, then get involuntarily aroused when it goes a bit homoerotic at the end.

If this is the kind of jewel that we can look forward to from out favourite mountainous nation state, then I think we're in good hands…