Monday, 8 March 2021

Russia 2021 - Manizha - Russian Woman

So it turned out that this morning's little bit of Little Big excitement was nothing more than wishful thinking, and Russia did, after a fashion, have a national final. They did, however, have last year's victors-in-waiting on to have a run-through of Uno, and although we couldn't entirely work out what was being said, Ilya came up front afterwards and explained something with a sad look on his face while the rest of the band kept their poses from the end of the performance frozen - which me must say was a bit of a strange spectacle in itself. More fool them for not picking Sex Machine, I say!

So anyway, what we did get was three songs of variable content. The first was a serious looking chap with a pleasingly bleak little number. The we had a couple of ladies jigging about inconsequentially before the reason, we suspect, that we were all convened here this evening turned up and knocked us all for six.

Anyone else think it's a coincidence that they held the final on a Monday night that just happened to be International Women's Day? Yeah, that was either utterly blatant or so innocent that it's halfway believable. But whatever the intentions, I reckon they've done and picked themselves a pretty decent replacement for our thwarted video heroes, and the lass Manizha has enough sass and swagger to carry a massively complex song like this with ease. There's a good chance that it will transpire that this is some kind of moderately dubious nationalist statement, but what the heck - on face value it was easily the best song of the three, so it deserved its win.

It still ain't Little Big though, curse it. Major major missed opportunity there.

***STOP PRESS***

Hold that thought, for it turns out that our Manizha here is of Tajik descent, and is very good at kicking ass and getting important stuff done - as you can see in the link below. Quite whether she's singing to all women of Russia, or has been co-opted in to water down her message, remains to be seen, but the portents are good!



 

Russia 2021 - Little Big - Sex Machine


So tonight there may be some kind of a Russian national final. Or not. And the world-beating anarcho pop band Little Big may be one of the contenders. Or again not. What is for certain is that this is a new song by the cheeky scamps, released late last night. And it's really rather interesting.

So the story had it for ages that Little Big - one of the world's biggest bands on the internet - were obviously going to be the Russian act again this year. Then we heard a story that Russian telly didn't like any of their songs and decided to make them hold a final for the local public to decide which one was going to Virtual Rotterdam. Then another story took hold that they weren't going to be one of the acts, but that they'd be performing this song in the interval of the final. And now? Who bloody knows.

 One kind of hopes that it's all been some kind of weird situationist run up to a one-shot sit-com featuring the band themselves, formally presenting this song to the world, while having guest performances by all their mates. And if you've seen some of the names bandied about as being potential other contenders that could be a really interesting show - whatever the heck the show is about.

Well, after the weekend we've just had it could hardly get any weirder, right?



Sunday, 7 March 2021

San Marino 2021 - Senhit & Flo Rida - Adrenalina



 So after around eight-and-a-half hours of Eurovision related activities last night, when we woke up this morning to the news that Flo Rida was very possibly doing Eurovision - for San Marino - we assumed we were still delirious on a contact high with whatever Achille Lauro was imbibing. But no, Senhit's only managed to bag one of world pop's greatest sidemen to do a little bit in the middle of a banging reggaeton stomper! Eh?

Now, whether he'll do it in real life, or on the big screen behind her in this most singular of Eurovision years is another matter. But still, it's bloody Flo Rida! At bloody Eurovision!

Or at least it might be - this news is still only at rumour stage at the moment, and we know that our girl Senhit lakes a jape, so we urge caution on this news at the moment. But all the same, Flo bloody Rida!




Saturday, 6 March 2021

Italy 2021 - Måneskin - Zitti e Buoni


So the usual form at Sanremo is that you spend five days listening to a vast array of incredible Italian music from a broad scope of different styles and genres, then a heartbreaking ballad by a familiar old hand nips in and wins it at the end. But not this year, oh no. In one of the most open contests in years, the daily tallies were going up and down all over the place, while aside from the reliable Ermal Meta being permanently anchored to the top of the table, nobody else seemed to be taking much of a grip of the contest.

Indeed, the riff heavy glamsters of Måneskin, despite being the draw of constant love from outside of the Sanremo bubble all week, we're always sitting around the seventh or eighth spot. But then something quite unexpected happened. As the countdown from 26th to the top three began to click by, superfinal contender after superfinal contender began to fall by the wayside, and we were all taking our shoes and socks off trying to calculate quite who had bagged a place in the magic triumvirate. Ermal was a shoe in of course. But then they called not only the crowd-pleasing Francesca & Fedez, but the noisy objects of our affections Twitter absolutely exploded with expectation.

The wait to find out who'd won was excruciating, and while each of the three acts would have made a very worthy winner, all of us more left field fans were crossing our fingers and hoping that noise would win out. Then the unthinkable happened and Ermal got knocked out in third. They couldn't could they? They only bloody did! Cue one of the most delightful and honest winning celebrations we can remember seeing in a long time, and a beautiful moment where the orchestra all stood up and rocked out as they played the winners reprise.

This has been an exceptional Sanremo for all kinds of reasons, and it deserved and exceptional winner - and by golly didn't it ever get one!



Australia 2021 - Montaigne - Technicolour


Montaingne live debuted her 2021 attempt at the Sydney Mardi Gras last night, and as much as we've been enjoying it as a song, we can see it being potentially problematic on the big night. For a start, the hyperpop stylings are going to grate with more than a few folks. It's all well and good bring us a tune at the more accessible end of one of the most exciting music genres on the planet, but most of the folks at home won't have the slightest idea what they're listening to - and I especially fear those now-hating fogeys on the jury when they try to shape their uncultured lugholes around it.

And then there's her voice. Both you and we know that she's actually supposed to sound like this, and that it's entirely a part of her schtick. But will the Saturday night telly viewers? OK, so the vast impersonal expanses of a cricket ground at twilight aren't exactly the best spot to practise your on stage moxy, but that big hall in Rotterdam is going to be pretty empty too - if she's even allowed in the country by then - and her singular tones could be echoing all over that room. But having all said that, at least there's a good chance that she won't be trying to make herself heard over the usual baying mob, so perhaps that's a good thing.

So yeah, the jury's out on this one for us. As a song, for us, it's streets ahead of last year's effort. But whether it will work in context is an entirely different matter. But then, when all is said and done, I don't expect that we're going to hear many better lyric lines than "We've got style and lasers" for the rest of the season, so there's still lots to be pleased about.



Italy 2021 - Willie Peyote - Mai Dire Mai (La Locura)


It's been an absolutely magical Sanremo this year. With no obvious favourites and the lack of an audience it's been a strange beast, and almost impossible to totally gauge who's doing well and who's not. But in a way that's made it all the better. And of course, just as important - and perhaps even more so - there's been all the standard Sanremo nonsense pushed up to eleven. The guest performances have been incredible, with everyone from Diodato to Mahmood, via Loredana Berte, Gigliola Cinquetti and a fabulous Police orchestra, while the peerless Achille Lauro has almost literally destroyed the stage every night. On top of that, after a shaky start last year, the host Amadeus has found himself clearly more comfortable in such an important role, and his buddy act with Fiorello has been an absolute delight. Oh, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic keeps turning up too, but the less said about that the better.

Of the songs in the actual competition, it looked like it was starting to become a bit of a one horse race until last night. Old hand Ermal Meta seem to be running away with it, with only Annalisa putting up any resistance. But then this fella called Willie Peyote began to quietly creep his way up the table and out of nowhere we might just have a scrap on our hands tonight. There's an unexpected bandwagon that builds most years, and this might just be it.

In a contest dripping with overwrought ballads and pasty-faced autotuned rap lads, this cool skulk of a song has got everyone nodding their heads and pulling the right kind of faces to make us think that if he manages to get in the final three tonight, he could end up causing a bit of bother when we get down to the business of the evening. Of course, there's a  lot of other stuff to watch tonight, and it can be quite a challenging and confusing watch if you're more used to the snappiness of actual national finals, so you'd be excused for not having Sanremo especially high on your priority list. But our suggestion to you if you don't entirely fancy it would be to keep it running along on a second or third screen somewhere within eyeshot and keep dipping in and out now and again when the songs come one. But we warn you, it's darned easy to get hooked on this beautiful mammoth of a show, and if you're not careful you'll end up as full five day lifers like the worst of us!

Allora!






Saturday, 27 February 2021

Poland 2021 - Ochman - Wielkie Tytuły


Ooh now. There's major rumours coming out of the Polish press that this haunting little tune is going to be their Eurovision entry this year. And we tell you what, we wouldn't be entirely unhappy about that. It's sparse, dreamy and just that little bit edgy. On top of that, Ochman himself has a voice that sounds like he's seen waaaay too many things for his years.

His video debuted on YouTube yesterday and already has getting on for 400k views already, so there's definitely something in the air about it whether it's in the frame or not.

It's not a traditional competition song by any means of imagination, but it's the kind of thing that could hold the people back at home and draw them to the edge of their sofas in the way that all the best contenders do. And this is one song for who having little in the way of an audience could actually be a benefit. It's intimate storytelling and awkward beats could come over beautifully if the lad himself doesn't have to attempt to entertain a baying mob with flags.

We're rather looking forward to learning any truth to these rumours - and even if there isn't, we've discovered a fab new tune along the way.



Thursday, 25 February 2021

Germany 2021 - Jendrik - I Don't Feel Hate



Oh my oh my, Germany, you've really gone and done it now! We'd already been getting the suspicion that the boy Jendrik was a bit of a one for the larky japes with all his social media posts that we've been flooded with from the moment his name was announced as this year's runner for his homeland. But good heavens we weren't quite expecting it to be quite this… well… extra.

But for all its arch tweeness and saccharine sentiment there's still something about it that doesn't make us want to slap it all that hard. Forced fun by numbers it may be in some places, but before you know it it's plinky plonkiness has burrowed under your skin and you'll find yourself whistling it totally against your will. And you just know that it's going to have a ludicrously busy stage presentation too.

The thing is, our boy here had better start living up to his song title, because the brickbats are flying in his direction already. It wasn't enough for fankind that Jendrik's biggest crime was not being Ben Dolic, oh no. He's brought the jollies too, and that's seemingly not allowed around these parts. There's the usual dreary voices calling it in last place already, but I wouldn't be too sure of that, because this kid is ultra savvy with his socials, and every kid with a TikTok account from here to Vladivostok is going to know every last second of this song before May comes. And that makes it the dark horse to keep an eye on in my book - although having said that, it's that one song a year that is truly impossible to call a position on, so fair play to them for that alone.

I can't say that we especially like it, but we're really glad that it's there - if not no other reason than that it's really going to annoy the old grumblers of this parish.





Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Estonia 2021 - Helen – Nii Kõrgele


There's an old adage that says something roughly to the effect of 'just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you HAVE to." Well I think poor Helen here has personified that maxim in song form here. On its own the song was nothing remarkable. An ambling mid-tempo plod with a gently engaging melody - nothing to hate, but nothing to ring your Mum excitedly about either. So somebody, somewhere, clearly though it would be a good idea to spruce it up a bit with a bit of a stage show. Unfortunately it appears to be the bits that were left out for recycling.

I can just envision the planning meeting. "I know what we can do. Let's start off around a big table with some dancers with crusty white faces. They can all gyrate a bit while you walk around it in a coquettish manner, doing the odd big of meaningful vogueing here and there. Then when that all gets a bit boring we can put you in a big pair of grubby wings and set you up on the table while a couple of blokes spin around you in strings. Yeah, that'll work! Rotterdam here we come!"

It's just a shame that somebody stood on the wings just before they latched them onto poor Helen (well, we assumed they weren't mean to look like that). Oh, that and the poor girl's voice. We understand that there were some monitoring issues on the night, so we'll give her the benefit of the doubt, but that just sounded like someone was trying to push her vocal chords through a sieve. The whole thing was one hot mess - but the kind of thing that we absolutely live for!

Monday, 22 February 2021

Belarus 2021 - Roman Rosanove — Falcon


It's always an exciting moment when we get a late night message from our regular correspondent Tristán because we know that it's either going to be the best thing we've ever heard… or something quite the opposite. But strangely this rare beast seems to be straddling both camps.

When the sparse afrobeat-flavoured intro first kicked in we thought "Ooh hello! This is promising!" But we'd just got into the groove and started bobbing about the room when the vocal kicked it. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. But while it appears to be nothing more than a heavily-accented chap rambling about birds in extreme autotune mode, there's still something truly fascinating about the whole production. How did a bloke this apparently inept get his hands on a backing track this nifty? And does he really think that he's got a genuine chance at winning his nation's passage to virtual Rotterdam?

Then we got another message. "Oi Apocalypse! I've found a clip of him singing it live!"

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear…





Sunday, 21 February 2021

Portugal 2021 - Ian – Mundo



In amongst all the gnashing and wailing about what did and didn't qualify in this or that country last night, with could have been easy to miss this little gem. Last on in the first semi at Portugal's Festival da Canção, it was probably way past the bedtimes of much of fankind, but it really was a treat - and don't be put off by the somewhat uninspiring name of the act.

You kind of knew that we'd be in for some funtimes from the hairdo in the still photograph alone, but wowsers was there a lot going on for such a simple song. First off, it took us at least a minute to notice that she was dolled up in Shadow the Hedgehog cosplay. And then there's the curious little matter of her apparently getting more and more pregnant as the song went on. We've watched it a few times now and we still can't be entirely sure if that's an effect or just some clever use of posture.

The song itself isn't going to knock anyone's socks of, it's true, but Ian's droll delivery is also a thing of wonder. This year's FdC is one of the finest selection of fine chillout songs of the season, so we're glad they topped this semi off with a little bit of bonkers in the way that only the Portuguese know how.


Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Bulgaria 2021 - Victoria - Phantom Pain


Oh Eurovision, you're spoiling us today! As if this afternoon's reveal of Benny Cristo's bright little banger wasn't enough, the Bulgarians have just teased us with one of the most dark and fascinating songs we've seen connected to this contest in a long old time.

Where Victoria's three previous potential entries have all be serviceable pop tunes, they've all lacked that unexplainable magic that Tears Getting Sober offered us last year. But in Phantom Pain she's upped her 2021 and surpassed the rest of them by a street. If her last remaining couple of tunes come anywhere close to this we'll  be truly happy puppies in Apocalypse Towers.

Of course, there's be the tedious types who just whinge about her proximity to Eilish without ever entirely understanding what that actually means. But what atmosphere she might borrow from her more illustrious American counterpart, she adds to in her very own dark-yet-sparkling style. There's absolutely no way of predicting how this song will do in a competition situation, but if they pick this they'll be sending a bold message to Eurovision watchers that this is kind of thing is exactly what the modern Eurovision really ought to be about. I don't think the old contest has been this up-to-date since the fifties!



Czechia 2021 - Benny Cristo - Omaga


We never disguised the fact that we rated Kemama as one of our low-key faves to pull off a decent result last year, even after the revamp. So we really couldn't wait to see what he came up with this time round. And boy did he not let us down.

Forget all concepts of what is and isn't a Eurovision song, because Omaga is just a flat out great pop tune. If we heard this on the car radio in the summertime we'd crank it up loud and open all the windows so that we could share it with the world. And that's just in the audio version. Add that to the easy, infectious  charm and boundless energy that we know our Benny can offer in the live sphere, and this is a right little cracker.

Quite how it will do in competition is an entirely different matter. But both he and the song are just so darned likeable that this could be another of the unfancied runners to watch. Again. But even if he only gets a mediocre result, it's still going to be a three minute explosion of absolute unabashed joy that we'll have in the canon forever!




Sunday, 14 February 2021

Croatia 2021 - Ashley Colburn and Bojan Jambrošić – Share the Love



Sometimes when you're trawling through a national final you come across a song that entirely bewilders you, and you're not sure whether it's either some kind of wry parody or it's actually supposed to be like that. This is one such song. At times it felt like it was part of a wider comedy show involving notions of what civilians think a Eurovision song is. But not in a big budget Hollywood style like Fire Saga - more like a BBC 3 directors showcase kinda thing. We half expected Mel Giedroyc and pull one of her comedy gurns. But at the same time, it seemed so deadly serious and wholesome in its delivery of the purest cheddar that it surely could only ever be real.

So we thought we'd dig into it further, and somehow things only got weirder. 

Ashley Colburn, y'see, is a Californian documentary film maker who spends half her time in Croatia. Her own literature claims that she's won two Emmys for her work, although neither the historical winners log on the Emmy website or her own entry on IMDB shows any evidence of this. This doesn't necessarily mean that she's fluffing her awards success up, however, as there are many layers to Emmyness, so it might be one of those more fringe awards that never gets on the telly. Or the website. I know this is hard to imagine, but I'm a (very minor) award-winning documentary film maker myself, so I'd love to know if there's some sneaky back route in to getting such an esteemed award!

But none of this explains quite how she managed to find herself being lowered from the ceiling on a trapeze at Croatia's most historic and beloved music show. It's a most utterly and beautifully bewildering happening, and one that I almost never want to get to the bottom of. One kind of hopes that it's all part of a film she's making about the history of the Dora, and she wanted to taste the very essence of the show from within - while showcasing clips from her own travel films on the big screen behind.

But whatever the actual truth is, the most important element to this story is the key change at around 2:17. You'll see what we mean…

***STOP PRESS***

It turns out that we do the lady a disservice that we'll happily rectify. It appears that she was a co-award winner at the 2010 Pacific Southwest Chapter regional Emmys held at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego in the Historical/Cultural Program Or Special category, and again a winner at the same organisation's 2012 awards in the Documentary Historical category. And you certainly can't knock that!






Friday, 12 February 2021

United Kingdom 2021 - Bananadrama - UK, Hun?


It's often said that nature abhors a vacuum. Well the same can be said UK Eurovision fans pontificating over who's going to be our septic isle's next entry to the big show. It's practically become an in joke with it's own orbit on Twitter, and we've already had the traditional Fleur East rumour, just because she sat next to James Newman on a bus once.

And then of course there's been the highly pervasive Frock Destroyers rumour - fuelled mainly by the act themselves, it must be said. But that in itself has fuelled an entirely more believable folk panic that had some corners of fankind resigned to the fact that it was going to happen and threatening to look for alternative nationality if it did.

Of course, it didn't help that old Auntie Beeb appears to have been trolling us over the last few days - whether intentionally or not. Holding a Eurovision special of a highly popular drag show bang in the middle of tittle tattle season didn't help, and a vague yet enticing Tweet from the official account has led people to fill in their own gaps and convince themselves that UK, Hun? is most definitely going to be representing the UK in Rotterdam. Or virtual Rotterdam as it'll most probably be.

The song itself, however, isn't as bad as you at first might have feared. It chugs along in an amiable Bis-flavoured late 90s techno pop manner, and the chorus is so darned catchy that we've been advised to stay indoors for the next fortnight off the back of it. But the spoken verses are very much the kind of thing that you'd almost certainly never see from even the most unhinged Eurovision nation, let along the risk averse Brits. And man, they'd soon get pretty bored reciting all that in rehearsal after rehearsal!

But if you're still not convinced that it's not going to be our entry, let's have a look at what we actually know: That the BBC are only one entry into their three year deal with BMG to find credible (read 'bland') Eurovision entries? That a major player in the UK delegation has said as much in a very recent interview? That the BBC are so utterly terrified of being shown up that they'd rather eat their own young and send yet another of the most beige artists that they can find? Yes, we know all of that. But still the rumours persist - whether out of fear, expectation or resignation.

The BBC really wouldn't suddenly change their well forged plans for a bit of frivolity amongst the 'that's sooooo Eurovision' crowd at home, would then now! Would they…?