Friday, 4 November 2022

Ukraine 2023 - John Eaton - Burning Bridges

(Click here if you can't see the video panel above on your ancient device…)

Avast me hearties! A whole new Eurovision season has begun. And this year we start off where the whole thing ended last time round - in Ukraine. Kinda.

Prospective contestants seem to be keeping their cards close to their chests this term, as scarcely a peep has yet escaped from the usual outsider composers who start oozing their curious wares across the internets the very second the September threshold has passed. That is except repeat offender John Eaton here. His name pops up from time in dispatches, but this year's he's gone the whole hog and has decided to  submit a song for the reigning champs, putting a number of efforts onto his YouTube channel and encouraging us to suggest our faves.

And oh boy, are there some special treats on display!

OK, so we really shouldn't make fun of somebody who clearly has the best of intentions, but man alive has he misread the room. Take the song I've posted here - a jaunty little bit of rockin' boogie… that appears to be about literal bridges on fire, and includes lines as eye-popping as "I can hear the sounds, exploding our towns" and "I can smell the smoke, causing me to choke"!

And that's not all. Take a wander through the other songs in consideration on his channel and you'll find a song called Go, Go, Go that attempts to sound a bit Ukrainian with synthesised wood whistles and the like, while Slava Ukraini! just goes the whole hog, with lines like "May we always, always remain free, through Kyiv through Kherson and the Black Sea". Yes, really!

Now we're not entirely sure quite where John is from, but it's a fair bet that he's not actually from Ukraine. And this of all years one suspects that they'll be sending something pretty special that fully reflects their rich culture and massive struggled. So while we applaud John for giving it a go, we suspect we already know how his stab at Eurovision glory is going to go this year. Bless him.

Friday, 11 March 2022

Portugal 2022 - Fado Bicha – Povo Pequenino


Of all the great songs that didn't make it out of their semis this year, his is the one that we're most gutted about. For those not in the know about Portuguese music and culture, here's a little breakdown of the act's name. Fado is a haunting and heart-wrenching style of music, usually sung in tiny bars about people who died at sea. Bicha on the other hand is kinda the local equivalent of 'queer', and a term becoming reclaimed by the Portuguese gay community. And knitted together they describe the output of this tremendous act perfectly.

This song's a perfect marriage of traditional sounds, batshit 21st century creativity and a massive dollop of camp glory that was perhaps maybe the wrong kind of gay for the voting folks at home, curse them. But it's definitely one that we're going to keep coming back to for many years to come.

The FdC final has undoubtedly become one of the highlights of the Eurovision year since our Salvador first twitched his way to victory. But it's going to be a far less rich spectacle without this little beauty.

Thursday, 10 March 2022

United Kingdom 2022 - Sam Ryder - Space Man


So the UK have adopted a very interesting strategy with their Eurovision song this year. First, they get an agency of some note to exec produce the artist. Said agency convinces a singer who may not be a household name to the likes of you and me, has a massive reach on TikTok and Insta. He's also got a great voice and a hugely engaging personality. Big ticks all round so far.

Next they start to get the song some mainstream radio play in advance of it's Euro-announcement, in the hope that it if people hear it without the tag of shame attached to it they may actually like it. And on top of all that, Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills was imploring his listeners to get behind the song and give it some support. All very big positives from a country that is traditionally a bit flimsy at this contest.

And then when finally we get to hear the song itself… it's yet another major key plod, with all the same familiar chord progressions, and a non-committal lower mid tempo time signature - a style of song that has been proven year-on-year to find its way to the lower reaches of the table. It's fabulously sung, and brightly produced, I'll give it that, but we had an open goal here, and we kicked the ball into row Z!

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Georgia 2022 - Circus Mircus - Lock Me In

(Click here if you can't see the panel above for some proper sounds…)

There was time when Georgia were considered as probable Eurovision winners in the not too distant future - and then they just went "Nah fuck it - let's send stuff that we like!" And boy is this going to confuse the natives!

You've got a little slice of jazz fusion to kick off with, before it dips into a psychedelic proggy chorus, and ends up just flipping off on its own little journey into the cosmos. It's the kind of thing that you'd expect to hear from a band who are third on the bill for some light relief at a noise rock night in the back room of a pub in Oxford, only with that distinct batshit edge that foots it firmly in its own home nation.

And boy, much of fandom are going to struggle with the language to try to explain it. But if you've got the references, imagine a heavily popped up Cardiacs singing Syd Barrett choruses and mix it up with Zappa and Add N To (X) playing some Japanese club pop covers together - on ice! We suspect this is going to be a real treat on the big night!

Also props to the band for not showing off their doubtlessly unhinged video because, y'know, there's a war on.

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Iceland 2022 - Reykjavíkurdætur - Tökum Af Stað


Because when things are getting boring, what we all need is an anarcho-feminist hip hop clan!

No, seriously, Söngvakeppnin as been a proper dull affair this year, with emotionless American and bleached bland mid tempo plop. Before last night our only ray of hope was dear old Haffo Haff, but even he left-fielded it a bit too much. So what a joy to see the Sisters Of Reykjavík absolutely bringing it last night.

But these are no cobbled together chancer all having a clump about for a lark. Oh no. This lot have a decade of hits and activism behind them and are serious contenders for the prize here. I mean, just look at the longs words - and there's bloody loads of them! Lines like "Fuckboys they keep me dry like an umbrella", "If Karl Marx lived, he would be my boyfriend", "I'm the virgin Mary, baby I'm the whore", and "the dance floor is a multifaceted Yoga retreat it must be the moshpit" are just the start of it, as they spit bar after bar of glorious female empowerment.

And as if that wasn't enough, something quite quite beautiful and unexpected that you rarely ever see on a Eurovision stage happens at around the 1:25 mark and the whole thing lifts to yet another incredible level. We really have to see this in Turin. The fun-hating dullards are going to whine that it's just another joke song, but then they're probably too dumb to understand the lyric. I for one can't wait to hit their yoga moshpit!

Saturday, 5 March 2022

Germany 2022 - Emily Roberts – Soap


At Eurovision Apocalypse, we're not just here for the strange and the spectacular, but those difficult moments when it all goes horribly awry too. At first little Taylor Swiftian pean to washing you brain with detergent to rid you of the memory of an ex - no really - plodded along like the unremarkable pop song it truly was. It has to be noted that she didn't always hit all of her notes, but she had a jolly good go at most of them. And then it happened…

At around the minute mark the soap bubbles that had made the stage look like the first three minutes of a West Ham game started to surround our poor lass here, and distracted for a minute she went off piste and popped one of them - which utterly destroyed her concentration. There followed and awkward giggle, a loud "Wow!" and an awful lot of confused wandering about. With each passing second she looked more and more distraught - after all, this was her big break on national TV, and was being closely scruitinised by fandom around the world. You really started to feel for her.

Then, as quickly as she'd lost it, she clicked back into gear and finished the song - only with a troubled, shot away look in her eye, with the crowd totally on her side. The juries weren't terribly kind, though, and voted her plumb last, the old grumps. But you've got to give it to the girl for battling through it all, though despite everything - and her expression at the end said it all.

Emily mate, your song might have been rubbish, but you embodied the pure spirit of Eurovision last night and livened up probably the beigest finals of the year, and for that we can only applaud you and offer you Eurovision Apocalypse legend status!

Friday, 4 March 2022

Serbia 2022 - Konstrakta - In Corpore Sano

(Click here if you can't see the panel above for glorious bewilderment…)

Have you ever done that thing when you've been wondering around a big hotel or conference centre looking for a specific thing, but you open a door that you shouldn't have and stumble into something just a little strange and unsettling?

Well this song is the physical embodiment of that!

Anyone got any idea what it's all about?

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Iceland 2022 - Haffi Haff - Gía

(Click here for some Icelandic funtimes if you can't see the video panel above…)

It's relatively back to normal after a few incredible years for Iceland at this contest. Söngvakeppnin 2022 may have lured a few more cool indie stylists out of the woodwork after their recent high profile entries, but they've mostly kept it fairly safe, which is a bit of a shame. However there's one artist who's at least giving it a bit of a go this time round, and he's got form…

Readers with long memories and an eye for the obscure may just about remember Haffi Haff from the 2008 Icelandic selection shows, where he got knocked out in the second round of a wilfully complicated process with an entry called The Wiggle Wiggle Song. Anyone? No? Anyway, he had a bit of a career as a flamboyant dance pop artist for a couple of years, before disappearing from international view and probably doing something really interesting with his life, as most Icelandic musicians seem to do. However, now he's back, and he's a little more unhinged than you might be expecting if you remember his old material.

Y'see, Gía is Icelandic for Volcano, and they know a lot about that kind of thing out that way. The song itself appears to be a pean to said fiery mountains, all set in a bed of sparse electronica with the occasional out-of-place bit of Eastern flavour. It's one of those songs where you can't work out of it's terrible or a work of mild genius - and one suspects that Haffi boy here kinda likes it that way. And of the video's anything to go by, we can't wait to see what he's going to do one stage with it come the semi this Saturday.

Norway 2022 - Subwoolfer - Give That Wolf A Banana

For the whole of Norway's interminable MGP process we've been trying to ignore the wolf in the room, but now we're lumbered with the thing it would probably be remiss if we didn't mention it in passing. Because unless Russia offer us a live birth on stage or something equally as extra, this is almost certainly going to be the one that the normals will be talking to you about at work come Monday morning.

And we have to confess to a spot of eye-rolling when we first saw it. To our jaded eye this one is not so much fun as "fun", and it all came over as a bit of moderately forced turn-of-the-century irono-humour. But do you know what? We're gradually coming round to it. In a year littered with mid-tempo plod this is as near to a dance banger we've got so far, and is likely light up the arena with silly dancing and extreme Yum chanting come the live shows.

Of course, we've already been hearing the old traditional bleats of 'joke song' and 'it's not taking the contest seriously' from some of the usual moaners. We thought we'd seen that lot off when Fandom started getting younger, but sadly no. But it's no joke. It's a well crafted, if not a little flimsy, pop number with a nicely worked out stage show - and at least there's a rough narrative to it, rather than just a string of random sentences that sound a bit songy in English, so it's about 63% ahead of the rest of the field on that count already.

But who are they? We hear some people cry? It doesn't especially matter - we grumble back. It's just some blokes in some masks having a bit of a romp. They're signed to the massive Universal label, so they must have some weight behind them, but once we discover who's behind the mask their major point of interest will evaporate. Would your life get any better if you found out that Banksy was just a middle-aged little chap called Robin that you'd never heard of? No it wouldn't. So just enjoy it for what it is - a marginally entertaining bit of lightweight fun. Or should that be "fun"?

Saturday, 19 February 2022

San Marino 2022 - Achille Lauro - Stripper

(If you can't see the video panel above, the internet hates you, so click here for maximum joy…)

I make no secret of the fact that Achille Lauro is just about my favourite pop star on the planet right now, so he could have sung the Sammarinese phone book tonight and I'd still have got unfeasibly excited. That wouldn't have taken him long, mind.

But when he was announced as one of the big artists already qualified to the delightful national final process I at once got a little bit excited and somewhat anxious at the same time. After all, those grumpy old blokes who'd been doing the voting in this week's endless cascade of semi-final shows were never likely to go for him, surely? And it was a weird old show for sure - the sight of the good lord Achille stood on stage in a final three that also comprised of the perpetually plucky British trier Aaron Sibley and some Turkish DJ felt more than a little awkward, so thank heavens someone from the label slipped the old voting goats a couple of brown envelopes to give me a chance of standing in the same room as the big fella.

The song itself is a good old fashioned boot boy glam rock stomper of the sort that was ridiculously popular in Italy in the seventies, and our lad here seemed faintly embarrassed to be plodding around that tiny stage in Dogana to singe for his supper and take the back route into Eurovision. But of course, absolutely none of this matters, because he's most likely to do something utterly messianically beautiful on the big stage in Turin this May. And I for one couldn't be happier.

Friday, 18 February 2022

Slovenia 2022 - Luma - All In

Slovenia have been quietly going about their business this year while all the other nations have been getting embroiled in showbiz and controversy, and they're doing really rather nicely in their own unassuming way, and will most definitely be worth keeping a quiet eye on this Saturday. There's two songs among their final selection that we've taken a bit of a shine to: a delightful over-produced bit of whimsy called Nova Romantica, and this curious little beast.

Of course, the slower minded commentators among us are immediately going to bleat "Sebi copy!" - but this, in reality, is an entirely different kettle of fish - the anti-Sebi, if you will. Where Sebi was sweetly understated and innocent, All In is dirty, edgy, and just a little bit creepy - with a fabulously entertaining bit of stage business.

While Martin stares on all impassive, with a look on his face akin to Father Dougal trying to work out if something is small or far away, Lucija prowls around the stage like a semi-posh vamp, making the poor lad look increasingly awkward. Oh, and the moment we discover the keyboard is on wheels is an absolute treasure.

It's minimal and light for sure, but there's an underlying sense of menace that we really rather enjoyed, and we suspect this one could be troubling the scorers come the big night.

Thursday, 17 February 2022

France 2022 - Alvan & Ahez - Fulenn

After Voila's success last season, it's easy to forget that in 2021 France had a right dog of a final that just happened to have their best song in decades hiding in the creases. This year they seem to be following the same pattern - only they've forgotten to bung in the good one. But it was all so very nearly promising with this one. Until…

Picture the scene. A moody, folksy opening few bars suggested that kind of regional dance crossover that works so well at Eurovision. Better still, the song is sung in beautiful Breton, and appears to be something of a feminist anthem. We were ticking the goodness boxes all over the shop… but then the beat dropped and it all went a bit Pete Tong.

We've got nothing against the song itself, as it's an unassuming little cracker, but boys did that lad in the middle stand out like a sore thumb with his over enthusiastic rave dancing. It was like he thought the first Mitzy hadn't worked, so necked another and came up instantly. But while he was writhing about, the two singing girls in hoods just stood there impassively, looking a tad embarrassed by their boy pal hogging the limelight in a song defending the emancipation of women. And we'll let you discover the ukulele bit for yourself.

We genuinely can't wait to see how they perform this in front of a crowd on a big stage. It's going to bloody hilarious. Which is a shame, because it'll overshadow a pretty sweet little song. But hey, y'know… laffs!

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Romania 2022 - E-An-Na - Marale


(If you can't see the video panel above, click here. You definitely won't guess what's coming next!)

Right then, we've got a lot to get through with this one, so where do we start? OK, how's about the song itself. On the outset it seems to be another one of those foot-stomping Romanian cabaret folk numbers what we all seem to enjoy. But dig into the song's lyric and it appears to be about malaria. No, seriously, it's either an allusion about the kid of love that you just can't shake - or it's about actual bloody malaria! And there's some awkward lines in there too… how does "With your saffron face, Colourful on the heart, Like a Pakistani truck, You won't get rid of me" grab you for starters?!

Apparently there were some in Romania who didn't even want this to get onto their curiously sparse televised semi-final, claiming that it was Satanic in nature. Well unless Satan has got a tropical quaking disease, we're not really too sure where that one's coming from.

With most other songs, that would be the end of the wonkiness, but we've got so much to uncover here. For a start, it's well worth watching twice so that you can follow the antics of the two guitar laddies at the back. There's the lanky bass-player who seems to think he's in some kind of rustic metalcore band, while the little guitar lad on the right is jigging about like a folky Angus Young. And that's before we've even got to the accordionist's incredibly shiny trousers.

But no, there's still one more major moment yet to come. As the song progresses you'll start to notice that there's an empty drumkit to the side of the stage that wasn't there for the previous act. Could it be that an over eager stage hand has bunged it up in readiment for the next act? No, it's much more unlikely than that.  Because in the song's dying breaths, what should shuffle onto the stage but A BLOODY GREAT INFLATABLE DINOSAUR! Obviously. Who then stands behind the drums, sticks grasped in his tiny, useless forearms, and begins to air drum over them! Of course! Why didn't we think of it! It's obvious that a song about a viral disease should a bloody great inflatable dinosaur drumming on it!

We've seen some things in our time, and this most certainly was one of them.

Even more unexpectedly, it didn't even qualify for the final. In fact, none of the last six songs did - which is unusual enough in itself, but word on the street tells us that the judges had to choose their favourites six songs before the end to that the production staff could print up the flashy big qualifier certificates that were awarded to each of the lucky ones who made it through, and didn't get to see or vote on the last lot.

As a few of you may know, I've got a Eurovision-themed novel coming out in the next few of weeks, and even I wouldn't have had the nerve to make this kind of shit up!

Monday, 14 February 2022

San Marino 2022 - Elis Mraz - Imma Be

(Click here of you can't see the video panel above. You'll thank us. Possibly…)

The semi-finals of Una Voce Per San Marino have been utterly delightful. Held in a small opera house with more of the feel of a provincial village hall, a large number of plucky local hopefuls - plus a scattering of familiar faces to those of us who follow the lower reaches of Eurovisionia - have all shuffled out onto the tiny stage looking a bit awkward and have proceeded to warble anxiously into the unchecked mic trying to impress three sour faced judges who make Statler and Waldorf look cheery. Or so it was until Elis Mraz strutted confidently onto the stage.

You might remember Ms Mraz from her brief fling with Eurovision fame as one of the Czech video finalists who didn't quite make it in her home nation. So she's upped sticks, brought her two side girls along and is trying again in a completely different land. And didn't she give it some!

Starting off with a few a cappella vocal runs, she cocked a cheeky wink to the sound man and instantly began to writhe around in the floor in what looked like a rustic swimsuit made entirely from plastic pearls. The song itself was about being comfortable in her own skin - which we're glad to hear, because a more unkind commentator than us might make fun of the way she looked in that most uncommon garment, but we bloody loved her attitude and moxy!

The locals, clearly, looked terrified - although not half as shocked as they'll be when Achille Lauro and Spagna turn up at the weekend - and the miserable jury grudgingly pushed her through to the second chance round - her rightful place stolen by a couple of pasty-faced teens who did a weak rave version of Eleanor Rigby. And no, we didn't just make that up!

The best bit of all? This was only day one! We've got five more nights of this, and it's brilliant fun. Car boot Sanremo, here we come!

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Ukraine 2022 - Kalush Orchestra - Stefania


(Click here if you can't see the panel above for a peek into the Ukrainian psyche…)

Ukraine's Vidbir selection show is always a curiously charged affair. Indeed, daily life in the country bubbles with politics at the best of times, but with their neighbours to the north knocking belligerently on the back door, and talk of war being only a matter of days away this was always going to be a stranger edition than most. For a start, we couldn't quite tell if the audience were having the best night of their lives, or getting in the fun times before their darkest days began. And while there was a feeling of fiddling while Rome burns about the whole affair, it's an easy thing for we into the West to read into the event without knowing the entire story.

And of course, the show wasn't without its controversies. It never is. There had already been considerably bad blood between the Kalush Orchestra here and the eventual winner Alina Pash, who claimed that the band had ripped off the bassline to her song Bosorkayna for their Vidbir effort. In turn there were many who were accusing Pash of having visited Crimea in recent times - a move completely against the competition rules - as well as questioning why her musical collaborator Tina Karol was allowed on the panel. There were even accusations that there was some dark money behind Pash's win by a single solitary point at the end of the evening - which were particularly heightened when the scoreboard apparently broke down right at the crux moment in the voting.

When the eventual result was announced you could have tinned the angry scowls of Kalush, as the camera lingered on them just that bit too long to be comfortable. And while Ms Pash's song, on musical terms at least, is going to be a welcome addition to the slate in Turin, there's already much disquiet bubbling up at home in Ukraine about what actually happened last night, and who the winning artist is friends with. This was never going to be a normal year for Vidbir, but somehow they seem to have surpassed themselves with the complications. One suspects this isn't the last bit of news we're going to hear about the Ukrainian song this year.