Sunday 31 January 2016

UK 2016 - Basil Simon - #lovinglife

Another UK maybe not here. You may remember Basil here as the big lad in the top hat who got to the last 16 of the Overs in the 2011 season of UK X Factor, but he's got some history as a music producer and singer, and has even written a national anthem. OK, it was for the renegade metal platform off the coast of Suffolk called Sealand, but it's still an anthem.

So he's got some decent form, but I was still surprised to see his video crop up on YouTube the other day. And at first it's not terribly promising. When you see an older bloke sat on his tod in a studio with a self operated camera you do get the fear - although maybe that's something that all those years of Swiss pre-qualifiers have drummed into me. But a few bars in and I'm actually starting to enjoy it, much to my own amazement.

The bloke's got a terrific set of pipes - even if he does get too close to the mic on occasions -  and the song's happy-go-lucky bounce gets into your bones after the third rotation in ways you didn't expect. Of course, you would suspect that it's another of the unfortunate rejects - although he's not moaning churlishly about it like most of the others are, so know knows. You don't think, do you...?

Lithuania 2016 - Behind The Moon - Did It All

So you're a slightly credible local pop metal act who've been asked to take part in your regional Eurovision qualifier. Your song might be a tad like a weak lemon squash attempt at Nightwish or Evanescence, but you've still got a little of something about you. So what do you wear for your big occasion on the telly?

Star Trek neck braces, by the look of it. And what IS the bass player looking for?

It also appears that that they've been, erm, asked to stop waving their Russian flags about, and their banners have been swapped for a more politically non-committal black and white hue. Have the old landlords been taking offence again?

UK 1971, 1973-78, 1980-2008 - Sir Terry Wogan - Dance Floral

The true British Eurovisionist has always had a complicated relationship with the boy Wogan. At his best he could deflate pomposity and ego with a gently barbed bon mot, and encapsulate the host city with an incredibly warm and apt turn of phrase. But at his worst, and especially towards the end of his commentary tenure, he could be a dreary and xenophobic golf club bore. But let's not think of the curmudgeonly later days. Let's instead think of him at his prime - never afraid to make himself look like a nana for a good cause.

Like here, for instance. Someone clearly thought it would be a good idea for him to release a drum 'n' bass version of The Floral Dance for the Children In Need telethon. For the first few moments the old fella looks lost on stage. But after a couple of awkward verses he stopped the music, and like a true pro asked for it to be started again, this time belting out a word perfect recital of his most famous pop tune.

As a broadcaster, TV presenter and wit who sat in the corner of our living rooms like an avuncular ghost for a big chunk of our lives, he will be sadly missed.

Saturday 30 January 2016

Lithuania 2016 - Catrinah - Be Free

OK, yes, so we've done Catrinah before with exactly the same song. You remember, the one with the giant bin bag and loopy hair. Well we wouldn't normally trouble you with a second performance - unless it was even more bonkers than the previous turn out.

So witness our lass once more - only this time dressed up as a giant Brit Award on a plinth. Yes, the song's not all that much cop, but that doesn't really matter all that much when the singer is trying this hard to make an impression.

Which all begs the question... What's she dressing up as next week?

Friday 29 January 2016

UK 2016 - Tigertailz - Pipped It Popped It

Disgruntled acts who didn't quite make the OGAE grade in the pre-qualifying panels have been taking to the internets in their floods complaining that their shoddy bedroom witterings had been cruelly discarded, and explaining in depth how their song, and only their song, was the one that could have saved Eurovision for the UK for now and ever more.

Of course, usually they were terrible, but the occasional act raised an occasional eyebrow. Ex Orbital man Paul Hartnoll has his collaboration with hip Brighton singer Fable sadly discarded, which was a proper shame, but the grumpiest of all were Tigertailz.

This ace Welsh glam metal band had genuine chart hits back when they were young willowy pups, but even now they've turned into gravel-faced old rockers they can still turn their hands to a good melody and killer singalong choruses. So no wonder founding member Jay Pepper let off a righteous tirade of spleen when he discovered that their entry - a poppier, happier singalong piece of pop rock - had been declined by the panel. They'd written it especially for Eurovision as well. What a shame.

OK, so it was very unlikely that OGAE were ever going to pick a genre song for their limited shortlist. But come on people, spread the joy. We've had nothing remotely like this in a UK final since Heavy Pettin's pissed up mumblings back in the mists of Wogan. The people want to rock - or at the very least, have a choice of rocking...

Thursday 28 January 2016

UK 2016 - Alexandra Chaloner - Danger With Stranger

Regular readers may be familiar with my fascination the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a neurological tic whereby people of a relatively low skillset misinterpret their own abilities as being of a much higher worth than they actually are. You know, the kind of people you see on the earliest stages of the casting shows who are are convinced they are the next Mariah Carey, can barely mumble their way through a tune, but are convinced that they are hard done by when Simon tries to be as polite and unpatronising as he can be in the rejection comments at the end. Well I suspect that there's a little of that going on here.

From the very intro comments at the start of the video - "The one the BBC missed" and affirmations that it "could have won the Eurovision Song Contest" - you suspect that you're in for a wonky treat. And you won't be wrong.

From the confused, garbled lyric, the speak-sung vocals in a register far too low for the song, and the simple, home made-looking video, we started to convince ourselves that it must be some sweet-but-inept Moldovan bedroom act hoping to make an impact on the British music scene. But we were dumbfounded when it reached the end (and the last line of the song is an absolute killer, we warn you!), and the credits revealed a not insubstantial cast list of very serious looking people from High Wycombe who all took part in the production of this stunning artefact. Cripes.

Seriously, stick with this from start to end, because even if the song rambles on a bit, the many treats on view are wonders to behold!

Monday 25 January 2016

UK 2016 - The Northernettes - Let's Go

Today's the day that the UK's rumour mill finally kicked into full action. I started the day with news that A Better Man might not actually be as vague a story as we first suspected, the soared into dinner time on the back of the terrifying news that Irish old boys Jedward were 100% definitely (honest guv!) going to be representing us in Stockholm. 

But just as I was about to settle down for tea, I was passed a list purporting to be the final six that included A Better Man, two acts from The Voice, one X Factorist, a TOWIE star and a half-baked internet smash. Now there's usually a couple of creatively produced but ultimately fictional lists that start doing the rounds about this time of the year, but there was one artist on that list that made me think that there was at last a whiff of the truth about the list.

This one. The Northernettes are a kind of beat pastiche supergroup made up of three former contestants from BBC's The Voice. Slightly coincidentally they released a rather well-made video of a song that cuts in at just under the three minute mark, and all of a suddenly their YouTube comments started containing a whole slew of references to the big contest in May. This may of course be the usual scant conjecture glueing together a whole bundle of half truths and tittle tattle. But going by the that list, and the snippets of songs claiming to be attached to the contest this year, there's not a lot that's going to come even close to nipping this in a UK final.

Unless the terrible twins really do have a song in the last half dozen after all. And then we're in trouble...

Sunday 24 January 2016

UK 2016 - TBC - A Better Man

So, in the middle of last week, someone claiming to be working on behalf of one of the UK's six songwriters put out a call for young male singers to sing one of the songs. At this point it is unclear as to whether they were genuine or mischief making - but it does seem like an awful lot of trouble to go to just to trick the fansites into posting a hooky song.

Unusually though, the people who'd heard it said that the song seemed half decent - no real vote lure,  but a well-constructed mid-tempo plodder, with nice minor key chorus undertones and scope for a good looking boy to ooze a whole barrel of charm all over it.

Those in the know had been asked to keep the whole project under their hats, but this afternoon this little clip snuck out onto YouTube. Is it really one of our six finalists? I guess we'll have to wait until dear old Ken Bruce makes his proclamation at the back end of February, but it does seem pretty feasible.

What do you lot reckon?

Romania 2016 - Mihai Trăistariu - Paradisio

After much touting and teasing, with clips of a sci-fi looking video sneaking out almost weekly, and a strange will-he-won't-he rumour mill doing the rounds, a song claiming to be Mihai's long-awaited Eurovision return has illicitly snuck out onto the interwebs.

The lad himself claims to be livid, and wants to sue whoever put it up on the web, or so the story goes. A less generous commentator than I would perhaps say he should either have been more careful with his master tapes, or less teasy with his build up in the press, bless him.

But the most important thing about this song, if it is his song, is that, well, it's a bit bland. A lot bland, actually, and bereft of the charm and hooks of his previous stab at Eurovision glory. So who is going to be the winner in the battle of Eurovision diminishing returns this year? One suspects that if this does get the nod in Romania - and that's not a given by any means - it'll struggle to drag it's mid tempo bones out of whatever semi finals it's placed in.



The humourless young fella has had all iterations extinguished from the entire interwebs, so you'll have to wait a couple more days until you can hear exactly how dreary the song actually is, I'm afraid.


Well the video has finally been released, and they do appear to have spent an awful lot of time, money and expense on it. What a shame...

Hungary 2016 - Reni Tolvai – Fire

It seems like someone at Hungarian telly had been mucking about in the toybox last night, because the first big A Dal qualifier was full of all manner of props and McGuffins. You had musical boxes with life sized ballerinas and toy soldiers, park benches and lamp posts, a terrified girl suspended high above the stage from a flimsy looking crescent moon, and all manner of superfluous drummers and dancers just marching about.

But the one that bewildered us the most was this - a Lara Croft-alike in her going out clothes attached to a gurt big parachute, while a bunch of lads in American footballer garb stamped about to the side of her. What does it all mean? I haven't the foggiest, but the crowd seem to be having the best of nights!

Can't wait to see what nonsense they're going to offer us next week!

Saturday 23 January 2016

Belgium 2016 - Amaryllis - Kick The Habit

I must confess that I missed this one when the Belgian final chugged along the other week. Well, the so gs were so drab and uninspiring you could have forgiven me that. But over the last couple of days a number of you dear readers have been telling me that I really ought to be giving the Amaryllis performance an eye. And oh my heavens what a performance I missed.

So what happens when you have a dull, repetative song that nobody remembers, but throw some ludicrously excessive staging at it to entertain the eye? No bleeder listens to the song - they're all too busy pointing and laughing at all the on stage macguffins!

I won't tell you what happens though. It's more fun if you go into this one blind!

Thursday 21 January 2016

France 2016 - Sasha - Alive

So there's been some strange mutterings going on behind the scenes about the French selection. Members of the French delegation appeared to be non-commitally retweeting a link to this song between both each other and a select number of fan accounts yesterday. But does this actually mean anything?

Of course, there are many possibilities. It could actually be the truth, and they're putting the early feelers out for a song that they're considering. That would be the simple answer. But we all know this contest doesn't always provide the most obvious path to the answer. So what else could it be?

The act's manager trying to force the hand of the telly people into giving it a look? Sasha's label trawling in some clickbait ahead of a wider release of the song to make it seem like an internet smash? Or maybe just a few Eurovisionistas filling in the gaps of a perfectly innocent tweet? Who can tell. It is, however, a perfectly decent song, which, while it's never going to trawl in too many televotes, could tickle the fancy of a judge or three come 14 May.

Truth, speculation or hogwash? What do you reckon?

Spain 2016 - Electric Nana - Now

Spain have taken a very unusual route (for Spain) this year, and offered up a final selection that actually reflects the kind of stuff that you're likely to hear in their local pop charts. I think I may have just fainted with the surprise a little bit there. And while there's no real world beaters among them, there some nice little attempts.

Salvator Beltrán provides a serviceable latino pop shuffle akin to locally favoured chartbusters like Estopa and the boy Iglesias, while Barei's Say Yay is a perky little stomper. But the one that's appealed to our ageing ear the most is this crunchy little gem. Now have the likeable sound of a decent Kelly Clarkson b-side, but for a Spanish Eurovision contender it's almost like the first days of punk rock. One would expect that it's goin nowhere in the contest, but if Nana chooses to rock it up a bit on the telly, it could be an unexpectedly amusing three minutes.

But we do have to talk about that name. It may only be we Brits that find it amusing, but around these parts Nana can mean one of three things: a cute name for a granny, the shortened form of banana, or a colloquial term for someone who's a bit of a fool. I'm kind of hoping it's the former, and she ascends to the stage on a stairlift in a sandy brown cardy and her hair in curlers - but I'm sure we all hope that it's not the latter.

Do you think she should be told?

Sunday 17 January 2016

Lithuania 2016 - Catrinah - Be Free

"Hello Catrinah? Yes, this is Barbara Dex on the phone. Just getting the call in early, because we may well be speaking again later on in the spring..."

Oh. My. Days. You sometimes wonder what's going through the minds of these people when they do their costume design. Did Catrinah's management think this was and especially visual way to embody this song's plea for world freedom? Or did the lass herself think it was the best way to embody her art? Or maybe someone at Lithuanian TV suggested it for a bet, never imagining that they'd follow through on it?

Either way, that's a pretty spectacular dog's breakfast of a get up. Oh, and that reminds me - I must put the bins out...

Friday 15 January 2016

Iceland 2016 - Pálmi Gunnarsson - Ég leiði þig heim

Iceland have just this minute offered up their wares, and it has to be said that they're a fairly conservative bunch. It's always either one thing or the other with that lot!

Those of you with longish memories will recall Pálmi here as a member of Iceland's debut entry Icy. Here he proved the old maxim "If the selection's full of dull songs, go for the old bloke". After all, his song may be pretty sleepy, but it's sung incredibly well, and at least he's not trying to hard to be cool. 

Thursday 14 January 2016

Finland 2016 - PÄÄ-ÄIJÄT - Shamppanjataivas

A couple of big, beefy, beardy blokes leaping about in all manner of trucker gear and pimped up showbiz suits in front of a big bouncy Eurodisco tune? Surely that's what Eurovision is for?

Of course, the rank and file will hate it. Unpretty blokes always go down badly - especially if they're singing and uptempo party number with a bit of oompah in it. But we don't care for them - they've forgotten what it is to have fun.

And think of the long game. Who would you rather spend two weeks in a great European city with - a withering, fragile girl in a shiny frock or this pair of hulking gurt eejits? I know which I'd prefer!

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Austria 2016 - David Siedl feat. Madeline & MC Vio - Wah Wah Whine

It's the Austrian wildcard round tomorrow. For 24 hours, and starting at 9am, you'll get the chance to vote for your fave out of five semi-baked songs, and hopefully help it to ultimate failure in its own national final. We suspect that Sara Koell is going to win, as she has form on one of those telly casting shows, but we'd rather have this little oddity take the final berth.

It's a delightful mess to be sure. Ostensibly a vehicle for classical fingerstyle guitarist David Siedl, there's a whole bag of strange stuff going on. The jangly intro jars with Dutch Antillian rapper Vio chanting over the top, then this gurt big reggaeton beat kicks in before the girl from accounts starts gyrating all over it with her voice and everybody starts to dance.

Is it any good? Not really. Do I love it? Heck yes! It'll probably come last in any poll it offers itself up to, but I'm rather taken by its awkward, wonderful charms.

Germany 2016 - Gregorian - Masters Of Chant

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for our annual adventure whereby men in long frocks or spiritual garb sing religious style songs in the hope that the lord's word will take them through to the final, but who are ultimately doomed to failure. Although last year it was nuns. Funny nuns, at that.

This lot are more of a commercial affair, though, and to my knowledge don't have anyone especially monkly in their ranks. They also seem to go about their business like a hip hop crew, constantly singing about themselves as the Masters Of Chant in practically every song they do. I've not heard them diss anyone else's posse yet, but surely it's only a matter of time.

More interestingly still, there's bloody loads of them - although like Goldie Lookin' Chain they tend to trim down to an eight-piece line up for shows. This, of course, will present problems for the German national final where they'll have to drop two unlucky members for the show. How are they going to decide to gets sidelined? My bet is on either a knife fight or a dance off. I'll bet there's all sorts of badness hidden beneath their cassocks.

Ireland 2016 - Nicky Byrne - Sunlight

After a week of speculation and half-hearted denials, the Irish have finally confessed that they are actually sending Westlife alumnus Nicky Byrne to Eurovision. Initially you're pleased at this news. The motherland are sending an established, experienced act, and we won't all have to sit through the parochial purgatory that is The Late Late Show's Eurosong special for at least another year.

But then you remember that the boy Byrne only sang something like nine minutes of lead lines of their entire multi-platinum career, and the concern starts to grow. The song itself is kind of OK, of course. It's been fine tuned by many of the old Westlife team, who've delivered a pacy-for-Westlife modern European pop song that sounds like they think the Swedes would write a tune. So far, so fifteenth place in the final.

But the words need a little close attention. Lines like "Touch who you wanna, kiss who you gotta" all sound a bit Cologne station steps on New Years Eve, and seem to be there only because they scan rather than there being any developed thought behind them. And of course you just know that it's going to be smothered into the Stockholm soil with back projections of giant Celtic knots and the usual diddly-di nonsense unless someone at RTÈ or Westlife's record company takes serious charge of the production.

So the jury is out on this one at this point. While I'm enjoying the workings in the margins, the product of the final calculation doesn't quite work out. It remains to be seen if his past life cache will have any influence on his eventual placing, but I have fears that this won't work out as well as expected, and we'll be stuck with Uncle Ryan and his Late Late Horror Show for the next twelve years again after it crashes and burns. *Shudder*

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Germany 2016 - Avantasia - Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose

It's been a busy day in Eurovisiona, as a whole bundle of announcements and early releases have been hitting the newswires all morning. As usual, the German selection holds a lot of promise, with a gaggle of reasonably well-known names - none of whom will be beaten into dismay by a plucky club final contender this year.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for many hardened old rockers was Avantasia - the operatic metal side project of Tobias Sammet from the noted power metal band Edguy. Although to be honest, when you first hear this, a completely different performer will come to mind. A larger, more meaty, loaf shaped performer.

Well, two out of three ain't bad...

Finland 2016 - Cristal Snow - Love Is Blind

Now then, this has totally knocked me for six. Those of you with longish memories for the lower reaches of national final detritus might just remember Cristal Snow. He was the perveyor of that high camp slice of electro clash Can't Save Me Now from way back in 2008. I enjoyed that performance so much that I followed his career for a bit, before he drifted off the radar.

So when I saw his name on the list of revealed UMK songs this morning I was well excited. Another slice of Apocalypse-friendly electro pop madness, I thought. I couldn't wait to hear it. But then something weird happened. Out of nowhere, Love Is Blind has turned out to be a throughly smart and mature mid tempo love song, with a clever, touching lyric, smashing singalong chorus, and a gear change that you just know is going to evoke the biggest firework curtain of the year.

How the bloody hell did he pull this off? I'm stunned. I was up for the jokes, but this is surely one of the best contenders that we've heard so far in what's been a pretty quiet season up to now. The fella's not known for his understatement, so I'm sure he'll pull off a suitably over-the-top performance on the night, but unless prior knowledge of his back catalogue by the UMK voting public is going to hold him back, it's going to be one heck of a song that manages to beat this on the night.

Good work, Cristal. You've done an old cynic proud!

Sunday 10 January 2016

Lithuania 2016 - Vlad Max - Don’t Wanna Let It Go

I think we may have just gotten ourselves a new cult hero...

Pity poor Vlad Max, here. He looks like a nice enough kid, and his intro video gave him the lustre of a cool and moody electropop waif. But then the camera cut to the studio to reveal a skinny lad with sticky up hair wearing the same expression as a baby deer who's about to be hit by a truck. Wide-eyed, trusting, but it still knows something bad's about to happen.

The moment poor Vlad started to sing, his whispy, left-of-key voice made you want to hug him and punch him in the face at the same time. It's also never a good sign when your own backing singers can barely stifle the giggles, bless him. And then came the words: "Everybody says that they know you well, they've seen you here before and they know you smell". Abso-bloody-lutely priceless!

And all of this is a shame, because he had probably the most chirpy and memorable song out of a mostly uninspiring Lithuanian bunch.

But the heart break didn't end when his song did. The first glance at the scoreboard shows him to be well-adrift at the bottom of the table with a measly 42 points. Surely a lad of his age has more than 42 friends? Surely his own mother could have texted in more than 42 SMS votes in three minutes? Unsurprisingly, he failed to qualify, with the lowest score from both the jury and the televoters.

Poor, poor lad. Let's hope he's not dissuaded from having another go next year, because we can see Apocalypse and him having a long and fruitful relationship. We love you, Vlad Max!

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Hungary 2016 - Mushu - Uncle Tom

Now here's a curious thing. When all the Hungarian songs were released yesterday, one song title stood out like a sore thumb. When you see a song called Uncle Tom crop up in the Eastern states, you wonder if either it was a highly politicised statement by a black performer, a well-meaning but misplaced song about racial unity by a moon-faced Budapest lass, or just an accidental folk tune about some farmer in the woods by a band who didn't know anything about the cultural caché of the term in the English-speaking world.

But puzzlingly it's none of the above - and it's made all the more curious by the fact that Mushu appear to be fronted by a perky black lad of the same name. The song itself is pretty decent. Its crunchy guitars and percussive stomp is reminiscent of second-album Arctic Monkeys, with a bit of Radkey's punk'n'blues guitaring chucked in for good measure - a kind of fifth generation indie pop rarely heard anywhere in this contest.

But even more strangely, the song's title doesn't directly allude to the content of the lyric. Is there some hidden meaning we haven't quite uncovered yet? Does the "Let my people go" line actually hint at something more biblical? Or is this just a bunch of kids chucking some nice sounding foreign words they don't fully understand into the song? I genuinely don't know, so I'm looking forward to finding out a bit more about this mob!


Mushu himself has sent us a message explaining the sentiment by the song.

"It's about people being overworked for fares that aren't enough to get them by. Speaking quite directly about the economical situation in Hungary, while using the Black American Slave Era as a direct analogy for how people are convinced that the injustices that befall them are the natural order of things, and thus don't strive to better themselves, or escape the prisons they often hold themselves in, or their circumstances force them into.

In live performances, I actually sing the second verse as
'Ain't no Masters, Ain't no Gods.
 Don't Go Calling me Uncle Tom'."

And if you want to read the full lyric, go to the Comments section below.

Thanks Mushu!

Tuesday 5 January 2016

Belgium 2016 - Astrid Destuyver – Everyway That I Can

The Belgian Eurosong process began at the weekend. It's one of those knockout shows, where over a span of weeks you'll get to know all the contestants intimately, and begin to judge them on their personality as much as their ability - which of course will all count for nothing when they get their big three international minutes in May.

The premise for the first show was that our five moderately well-known troubadors would re-imagine (ie: strip the life and charm out of) well known Eurovision songs - and man alive was it a cringeworthy watch. Somehow Adil Aarab managed to be the best of a bad bunch with his surprisingly servicable Hold Me Now, but the others were knuckle-gnawingly poor.

Amaryllis drained every last inch of excitement out of Euphoria, and even a quartet of ludicrously misplaced dancers on strings at the end couldn't save her; Tom bevelled all the edges off Rhythm Inside to leave naught but a turgid pub band sludge; and Laura rattled out Dum Tek Tek with all the skill of a Euroclub karaoke marauder after the fifth prosecco.

But it is Astrid here who really made the blod clot. Her empty version of Everyway That I Can wrenched every shred of joy from the song, reducing it to a zomboid piano bar stumble-through that you half expect to turn up on and commercial for a caring bank or a big shop at Christmas. And if her delivery wasn't cloying enough, the little cutesy manouvre towards the lad at the ivories at the end had us rushing for the insulin. Man, that stage must have been sticky at the end of that over-sugared confection.

Don't worry though, because things, surely, can only get better?