Friday 1 March 2024

Serbia 2024 - Konstrakta - Novo, Bolje

 

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

Now you might remember Konstrakta from a couple of years back when she sat washing her hands to sing about the lack of healthcare options for artists in Serbia, and how lovely Megan Markle's hair was. Yeah you remember, that handsome woman who scared you a bit when she looked deep into your soul, but who you couldn't take your eyes off for a second. Well she's back, and things are somewhat familiar. Kinda.

At first viewing we soon started to realise that her stage show was filled with very similar motifs to her effort from Turin. This must be deliberate we considered, and started to look into it all - and we're so glad we made the effort, because whole work is borne of some dark artistic genius.

The whole premise of the song is a criticism of the Serbian political sphere, and the title, Newer, Better, refers to the claims of her nation's elected that everything is going to change once they get in - but then after they do very little happens bar mild cosmetic changes to make it appear to be a different regime. And so the performance of the song uses visual cues that are familiar from In Corpore Sano, only just that little bit different. Instead of a water bowl she's kneading bread, the same crew are standing behind her, only in slightly different cloaks, her own outfit is slightly less severe than before, and the dance moves from ICS are repeated, but in different configurations - all interspersed with scenes reminiscent of Renaissance paintings. It's quite quite brilliant.

Of course, in a competition like Eurovision, if you have to explain it, then it probably won't hit with the audience - and especially with elements of fankind who tend not to look too deeply into these things at the best of times. But this feels more like we're floating around in the middle of some long-form performance art piece, and we are most definitely here for it! Bloody marvellous stuff.


Thursday 29 February 2024

United Kingdom 2024 - Olly Alexander - Dizzy

 

(Click here if the video box above doesn't work and sends you, ahem, Dizzy…)

Now then, after and age of teasing beginning with that impromptu appearance on Strictly, the 2024 UK Eurovision entry is finally out, and we must confess we actually quite like it. We wouldn't go so far as to say that we love it, but it's certainly got its charms.

The instrumentation is fabulous, with so many nods to electro pop gems of the past it's almost a bits-and-pieces quiz in itself. And of course, Olly himself sells it perfectly. But somehow it's still missing that blimey wow factor. And that's a concern. Our biggest worry when we heard the snippet was that it sounded like it was probably taken from the chorus, and that we couldn't see where else it could possibly go unless it took an unexpected left turn. But bar that interesting talky bit in the breakdown (which we're fascinated to see how they approach live), you've kind of heard the whole song halfway through the first rotation of the chorus.

It's definitely got a fine atmosphere, and we just know that Olly will sell the absolute bones of it, but still we're sat here going "That's alright that!" rather than "Holy mother of Jesus, that's amazing!!!" like we already have done already at least twice this waking day. Add this to its close proximity to the fated BPM of death (which of course all depends on how you count the beats in this one), and we fear this could end up being everybody's eleventh favourite song this year - and we know where that gets you on the scoreboard, and it certainly ain't eleventh! (But of course, we said something similar about Space Man, so clearly we're just being grumbly Brits!)


The Netherlands 2024 - Joost Klein - Europapa

(Click here if you can't see the video panel above…)

It's been one of the most hotly anticipated songs of the season in some Eurovision circles. As videos began to circulate of the artist commanding massive crowds to leap about like loons to his stadium hardstyle, we all began to wonder if finally we were going to get that massive gurt happy hardcore banger that we've been dreaming of since the eighties! But hold on, some friendly Dutch types told us. The boy Joost is also known for switching it down into some of the most poignant pathos you can ever imagine, so this could have gone one of many ways. And now it's out it sort of did most of them, all in one go. Let me explain.

From the get go it delivered the familiar rattly pianos of late-eighties piano house lunacy, so just as we were riding the build and waiting for the drop… it kinda didn't. OK, let's roll with this. It's still giving us some beautifully silly techno pop bounce, with a smudge more gnarl to the keyboards. Yeah, it wasn't quite what we were hoping for, but we'll certainly take it against the rest of this field. So we were just settling in for the inevitable repetitive playout when BOOM! - it happened.

We're not going to spoil the gorgeous surprise if you've not heard it yet, but boy it was like a joyful punch in the teeth that you'd happily receive over and over again. And then out of the blue, something equally as beautiful happens, but in a totally different way. The last thirty seconds of this song are absolutely streets ahead of anything else in this contest - the issue is, are people going to judge the whole, or just the bit at the start that they vaguely enjoyed before they went back to fiddling with their phones. A difficult call this one, but one that we're very glad is here.

Sunday 25 February 2024

San Marino 2024 - Megara – 11:11

(Click here if you can't see the panel above cos your browser hasn't been undated since 1111…)

Now hereby hangs a complicated tale of international Eurovisionistics and allegiance shifting. Around this time last year a moderately gothicky techno pub metal band called Megara had a stab at representing Spain at Eurovision. Having just scraped through the Benidorm Fest semi-final they came a creditable fourth to this historically risk averse country. Buoyed on by this encouraging result it appeared that they wanted another go this year. Now we can't be sure, but we suspect they might have had another pop for Benidorm but got turned down this time, as their first performance in what's become the competition's most notorious last chance saloon in San Marino was suspiciously well thought out and nicely put together.

Still, they only just scraped through into the competition's final show, having been edged out of an automatic qualifier's berth by a cheesy-assed superannuated Slovenian boy in shiny slacks and had to drag their way through a repêchage round in order to make the final stage. You'd have thought the writing of another failure would have been on the wall for them, as now they were battling against some significantly major Italian pop stars, most notably Loredana Bertè, a growling blue-haired 73-year-old woman with a significant pop heritage who is pretty much as close to being considered royalty as any Italian can get these days.

After a chaotic and near never-ending final show, it came down to just the pair of them - Loredana and Megara - on stage, awaiting the final judgement. It was bound to go to Ms Bertè, surely, as most of the jury were as old as she was. The partisan crowd began to chant her name in anticipation, before the non-anxious hosts announced "Megara!" to the shock of pretty much everyone in the building. The chants of "Loredana! Loredana!" began to get louder, and an awkward few minutes followed as the audience were seen to be visibly bolting for the doors while Megara were setting up to play their reprise. It might be an auspicious start for the poor pups, but they seem like they're well up for the larks and more than able to take it all in their stride.

But one is still left wondering if it was a missed opportunity, and quite what the non-Italian remainder would have made of Ms Bertè. Man, that could have been bloody incredible - just look at her go…!



Tuesday 20 February 2024

San Marino 2024 - Loco Boombox - In Forma

 


One of the ways to identify who the truly hardcore members of Eurovision fandom are during national selection season is to find those who watch every last minute of the Samarinese semi-finals. There's just so much wonky outsider beauty on display that it's almost too much to watch a whole show at one time without being absolutely flabbergasted.

Indeed, it's often tricky to pick out just one special moment from amongst the hopeful masses who buy their way onto the show in the hope that this might just be the thing that escalates into superstardom. (Clue: It probably won't). But in this year's first show (of 31!) there was only one artist truly worthy of a spot on these pages - Señor Loco Boombox!

Apparently Spanish, he looks more like a hyperactive fitness coach rather than any kind of pop star, yet still he shone out like a beacon alongside all the drab mid tempo plods and women in sparkly frocks who couldn't sing a note. Of course, he didn't get anywhere near qualifying, and the final stages of this contest is a far less interesting place because of it. But we can only hope that he tries again another year, cos this really was a bit special! Loco Boombox, we salute you as a true Apocalypse hero!

PS Apologies for having to watch this through some giggling Spaniard's formatting with the sound down, but this is the only version that I can find on the internets at the moment - and this really needs to be seen! If you can find a less reactiony version, please do pass it our way!

Sunday 18 February 2024

Estonia 2024 - 5miinust + Puuluup - (Nendest) Narkootikumidest Ei Tea Me (Küll) Midagi

 

An important but oft-overlooked record was broken in Estonia last night - that of the longest ever song title ever to reach the Eurovision stage. Yep, beating the previous record holder (San Marino's curious 2012 confection The Social Network Song - (Oh Oh - Uh - Oh Oh)) by a clear six characters, (Nendest) Narkootikumidest Ei Tea Me (Küll) Midagi is now top of a pile mostly inhabited by wordy French titles of the sixties. We feel the contest is far better off because of it!

But what does it all mean? Well the direct translation is, ahem, "We (do) know nothing about (these) drugs", and the song itself seems to be a lament about being constantly mistaken for drug addicts by rural police just because they're ruffians in a rap band. All sounds pretty reasonable to us - we've lived that scenario ourselves, and can confess that it can get pretty tiring.

The song itself more than lives up to the content in the lyric - and who can beat a line like "I don't know drugs, I know soda and cider"! - a stompy collab between locally huge rave rap stompers 5 Miinust (5 Minus) and the dark and artsy neo folkers Puuluup (Wood Scoop). None of the above ingredients would work in pretty much any other place on this good planet Earth than the Eestilaul stage, so let's embrace it's glorious nonsense, learn the dance routine - and it's a belter - and just have fun with it. Because, y'know, fun is great!

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Sweden 2024 - Fröken Snusk - Unga & Fria


(Click here if you can't see the video panel above…)

One of the most interesting things about Eurovision national final season is that it throws up all kinds of obscure local genres that you've never previously heard of. And we discovered this one when some Swedish relatives started talking about this song as if it were the Sex Pistols on Bill Grundy in 1976 all over again! So what is the offending musical ouvre? A curious thing called Epadunk. It's a music almost entirely aimed at Swedish kids who drive around in underpowered cars, who like the bawdy lyrical content and bouncy bouncy basslines. And in Sweden it's bloody massive.

Indeed, Miss Snusk here is banging out half a million monthly listeners a month on the streaming services, who reportedly play her tracks a million times a day. Cripes. So it was obviously that the usually pretty staid Melfest burghers wanted a little bit of that jelly to help with their gently drifting numbers. But their one problem was that our lass's lewd lyrics and deeply-donked brand of tractor techno was perhaps just a tad to hardcore for the super safe MF stage. So they diluted it a fair chunk, stuck her on a big pretend horse, and had a bunch of pink dancers looning about in front of her.

It still didn't entirely take away any threats of perceived danger - after all, an undisclosed woman in a pink ski mask is still a little shocking to some sofas - but it all turned into that slightly generic 'fun one' that the producers at SVT like to have in every round. Which is a shame and an opportunity missed, as they could have at least had one massive party banger on their slate instead of the usual batch of schlager beige. 

Sunday 11 February 2024

Finland 2024 - Windows95man - No Rules!

(Click here if you can't see the panel above for some highly forced lunacy…)

Finland did a most curious thing last night. Following last year's most unexpected but welcome success, the entire nation got into a collective brain fog and confused Käärijä's well-crafted gnarly stomp with a bit of awkward knockabout comedy and thought it was voting for more of the same. But it couldn't be more far away from 2023's edgy but funtime hitmaker.

Seemingly a massively local in-joke, Windows95man (in reality a visual artist and DJ called Teemu Keisteri) stamps about in his actual pants, pulling comedy faces while his uncredited sidekick shrieks out an optimistic action film theme tune of a song. It's nostalgia for a time and a place that never really quite existed, but the Finnish locals went absolutely mental for it.

After coming plumb last with the international juries - with only the UK saving its blushes from an embarrassingly low score - it absolutely hoovered up the public vote and beat the expected winner, a pretty decent obsessional break up ballad by Sara Siipola, by a street. But is it any good? We've always recognised that there's a very fine line between being genuinely strange and trying a bit too hard, and we fear that this one had stepped just that little bit too far to the latter. Clearly the fella will have to change both his name and entire iconography when he takes the song to Eurovision proper - which kind of defeats his entire wacky object, the dope.

But having said that, it does have an epic feel that could have everybody watching punching the air against their will without every really quite understanding why. I'll bet the Portion Boys are gutted that they entered last year, cos they'd have hammered this in the public vote. We're always incredibly positive about fun in Eurovision here at Apocalypse Towers, but when it's this forced is it really actually fun?

Friday 9 February 2024

Italy 2024 - La Sad - Autodestruttivo

 

(Click here to view the video, as it's not available on YouTube yet…)

For those of you who still haven't partaken of its joys, Italy's Sanremo Festival is a thing of absolute beauty. Five long nights of showbiz, chit chat, local in-jokes and star interviews - and somewhere in the middle is a thirty act song festival that almost accidentally decides who they're going to send to Eurovision. It is utterly bonkers, and the unbeatable highlight of the TV year in Apocalypse Towers.

This year has been a gem. We've already seen John Travolta awkwardly doing the Birdie Song dance, seemingly against his will, Russell Crowe effectively calling him a wanker on live TV, some stunning tributes to musicians who have passed, and a whole lot of spine-tingling songs scattered amongst them. But among the beautiful ballads and curious oddities that only Italians fully understand sits this bit of strangeness.

La Sad are kind of like what you get if Busted hung out with Yungblud and had a night in watching Green Day videos. But despite the very unpunkness that all suggests, they've do really have something about them. Of course, they're mainly playing dress up as they groan and grumble their way through a song about youth disaffection, but you can't help but think that the costumes are starting to seep into their souls and they're slowly becoming, at least in part, the very thing they're aping. In my day-to-day punk rock world this lot would get laughed out of even a half-gnarly noise dungeon and chased down the street by amused crusties. But in the tuxedo-and-glitter surroundings of Sanremo their antics have been like a breath of silly fresh air. Gawd bless 'em for having a go!

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Austria 2024 - Kaleen - We Will Rave


(Click here if you can't see the panel above - and get the glowsticks out!…)

Now it's not totally 100% confirmed yet, and this video may disappear as quickly and quietly as it arrived, but we've got reason to believe that this is going to be the Austrian entry at this year's contest - and what an oddity it is!

It begins quietly, like a full-on Melodifestivalen Andra Chansen nearly was. So far, so cookie cutter. But then all of a sudden the acid house noodly bits start to build and it feels like we've got a potential massive dancefloor oddity on our hands. Now this could get interesting! But just at its peak after teasing us with and endless wait for a massive drop, it turns into something that Dr Alban might have considered as a b-side in 1990. Awww! But all the same, still kinda yay!

It's dumb, it's daft, it's about six songs glued together, but it's still worth it for that little passage of acid 303s and massive bass wobbles before the ultimately disappointing but still kinda fun kick back in. If this is the actual entry it ain't going nowhere on the big night - if it even makes the final - but we'll be very interested to see what they do with the stage show. Apparently my ravey past is now worthy of a slab of Eurovisiony nostalgia, however muted it actually is!

Spain 2024 - Nebulossa - Zorra

 

We were lucky enough to be in Spain for the duration of Benidorm Fest, and it was gratifying to see what a major national event it is starting to become. Every news report on the main channels had at least a tiny feature on the show, there were subsidiary programmes and televised afterparties, and the logos and colour schemes seemed to percolate most corners of daily life. It might not be as all pervading as shows like Sanremo, but it was still lovely to be in a country that kinda cared about their contest.

And while we were there we witnessed a small bandwagon building behind a song that eventually went on to win the Spanish ticket to Malmo. But what to Spanish eyes might seem an obvious choice could appear to be a most curious selection to those of us from elsewhere on the continent. But what on first sight seems to be a glamorous woman of a certain age stamping about to some weak electro pop in her elaborate pants, hides a much sweeter confection. For the song is a much deeper take on women's roles in society.

The title itself is one of those handy Spanish words that can cover a number of things, but in this case kinda means Bitch. Kinda. But run it through Google Translate and you'll find a selection box of pejorative terms for women, from Fox to Witch to Prostitute. The song's lyric is a clarion call to women everywhere to reclaim the term, cease to be accused of wrong-doing for merely existing, to speak up and be proud of their very bawdiness and to stop feeling ashamed about it. And boy was it popular locally - you just listen to the crowd singing along to every last syllable. 

But is the rest of Europe going to get that? You sincerely hope the commentators do some of the heavy lifting for the thing, but we fear that this one's going to get lost amongst the noise and suffer the very thing that the song is railing against. It's going to be interesting to see how this story is going to turn out.

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Lithuania 2024 - Martin - Jigsaw


Lithuania has been the quite one to watch for interesting oddities this season, but we suspect they may have peaked with young Martin here. The lad starts off with his face obscured in a sad cardboard box, then gradually turns into a shit pre-school robot before things start getting a little darker - all the while singing over some edgy electronica in a sweet-yet-pained voice.

We're quite sure it has to mean something, but a mixture of poor lighting and rubbish camera direction seemed to obscure many of the more important parts of the performance. Or maybe that was the point. Sometimes art can be hard.

Sadly old Boxy here didn't qualify for the next stage, beaten off by some cult like operasts and an unconvincing country lass with a great stage show. Shame. But we can't wait to see if they try another year, because it feels like we've got a new cult performer on our hands here.

Thursday 25 January 2024

Serbia 2024 - Durlanski - Muzika

(Click here if you can't see the panel above for some shonky brass action…)

Just picture the scene. Rap boy Durlanski here is in the cab on the way to the studio, but something's playing on his mind. The driver notices his anxious, furrowed brow.

"What's up lad?" he asks warmly, with the faint waft of Slivovitz on his breath. "You look worried."

Durlanski was instantly snapped out of his internalised worrying and replied to the cabbie's concerned questioning. 

"Oh it's nothing much. I'm in the studio today. I've got a song in contention for our national Eurovision selection show, and I'm just polishing off the finished version today. But it still feels like there's something missing?"

"I see," said the cabbie helpfully. "What kind of song is it?"

"Well it's a rap song, but it's got a slow jazzy groove."

"Jazz you say,' the driver replied. "Sounds like you need some trumpets."

"Ooh yes, that's it! That would perfect! Thanks drive! But now that gives me another problem. Where am I going to find a trumpeter at such short notice? The session starts in twenty minutes and I've got no spare time to do it again."

The cab driver gave a hearty, avuncular laugh.

"It's your lucky day, son. It just so happens that I've got my bashed up old trumpet in the boot. I used to play a bit of jazz back in the day. Could I help any?"

"Why that's so kind of you! Yes! Could you do it? Could you?"

"Well I'll certainly give it a try. Just let me finish this bottle of Slivovitz to calm my nerves and I'm all yours…"

Monday 22 January 2024

Lithuania 2024 - VB Gang - Kaboom!!!

 

(Click here if you can't see the panel above for a big old electro panto…)

That robot lad from yesterday isn't the only portion of unfathomable staging doing the rounds this season. Witness Vidas Bareikis and his mates here from last week. Those of you with keen memories might remember his bizarre interval act in the 2016 Lithuanian qualifier where he sat behind an electric piano and clicked his fingers a lot Yep, that was him! So he's clearly a face around those parts. Which is why this big chunk of nonsense is even more of a surprise than it should have been.

Picture a post-apocalyptic gym scenario, like Mad Max in disco gear, as our hero marches fruitlessly on a hidden travelator while a pneumatic blonde warbles out a heritage pop tune over the top of some flimsy electro. All around them their pals thrust about in sci-fi goth activewear, to such random effect that you wonder if there actually was a plan. 

Now obviously it's not terribly correct to make fun of a foreign language, but once you've realised that what's probably a very serious line in Lithuanian sounds like "box of chicken legs" it's very hard to shift if from a brain. You won't thank us for that. [[[STOP PRESS! Apparently it's a line of Korean. Obviously!]]] And don't get us started on the shades! But all of a sudden, with only the fumes of the last few seconds left to run, it ups tempo, everyone starts dancing in unison, and it all gets pretty decent. Just ignore those steam jets at the back that are shooting off slightly out of time. It's a curate's egg of a performance for sure, but it certainly has its charms.

Sunday 21 January 2024

Norway 2024 - Super Rob & Erika Norwich - My AI

(Click here for something silly if you can't see the panel above…)

Every now and then in this old Eurovision larky a song pops up and you find yourself thinking "What were they bloody thinking?!" Quite often actually, when we come to think about it. So we kinda wish we were a fly on the wall when this whole sorry mess was being devised…

"Right then, the slightly more wonky songs seem to be more likely to win in Norway these days. So why don't we grab ourselves a nine-foot singing robot, get a girly singer - any girly singer - and do her up in very a mild Japanesey visual kei outfit, and get her to giggle along about in a needy way about her love of said robot? And while we're at it, let's say something about AI. The kids all love that kind of business these days, don't they!" Sadly though, somewhere along the line the actual song seemed to be the last thing that they considered. So what they settled for was a weak Scandipop tune that runs out of ideas by the third act - but that's OK, cos we can get the big metal lunk to make everyone feel alright and tell second division Subwoolfer gags. Sadly that's not nearly enough these days.

What's more of a shame is that if you look at Erika's back catalogue it's full of beautiful and wistful songs, gentle in tone and strong in lyric. She must have either been lured with a big old bag of cash, or just fancied having a bit of a change for larks. Let's hope it's the latter, cos if this concept goes wrong it could be a career killer for her. In the right hands this one could actually have been half-decent, but instead it's a right old dog's breakfast that plods along until it ends until it peters out. It'll still be a contender on the MGP final night for the meme-obsessed locals, we fear. Oh well.