Saturday 26 March 2016

Hungary 2016 - Freddie - Pioneer (Live at the Igal Spa!)

The latest in our occasional serious of knuckle-gnawingly awkward PAs by Eurovision acts in the run up to the big show sees barrel-chested Freddie of the Hungarian parish perform his big hit to a swimming pool full of pensioners at a hot spa resort just south of Lake Balaton. Yes, you read that right. No smirking at the back, now...

One has to wonder how things like this happen. Was it already on his itinerary as a lesser-known local singer before his elevation to (temporary) national hero? Or did his over-active management think it was a great way to curry favour with the elderly of Europe? Either way, the poor lad looks like he just can't wait to get out of there, bless him.

But to his credit he gave it his all, even attempting to encourage an arms-in-the-air clapalong at one point - although he soon saw the error of his ways at the sight of the sagging bingo wings flapping about before him. Freddie, for possibly the most Spinal Tap moment of the year so far, we applaud you. You carried this off with some grace and humility. But what WERE you thinking when you agreed to this!

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Greece 2016 - Salina & Stavros Vanderwilt - Love Is A Game

Now that the selections are all done and dusted and the heads of delegations have had their shindig in the host city, it's traditional for a few waifs and strays to start crawling out of the woodwork saying: "This would have been my entry had I not been thwarted in some foul manner". You can almost set your clocks by it.

And who's the first on the list to declare their near miss or never was? Salina from Greece, that's who. Admittedly she was one of the names in the frame regarding the Greek berth from quite early on, but just this morning she's released this sweet-but-cheap little video with an accompanying note of explanation. The long and the short of it was that she was happy to submit this song for consideration, but that she insisted that it went through a national final process rather than being internally selected. Let's hope that's not quite as presumptuous of her chances as it reads, and also that it's not a dig at the chosen candidates Argo and their perfectly reasonable if not crashingly unpopular entry.

Well that's the politics, but what is the song like? Well it's a nice enough mid tempo he/she singalong, but it was never going to be setting any scoreboards alight in its own right - although I'll expect there will be swathes of Utopian land haters bleating out: "This is far better than that sheets Greece has chosen! A weeeener for sure!" Of course, this we can never prove. But I have my suspicions...

Monday 21 March 2016

Bulgaria 2016 - Poli Genova - If Love Was A Crime

So that's it. All 174 songs have been declared, and barring the odd bit of last minute spit and polish we pretty much know what we're going to be hearing in Stockholm at the start of May. So was dear Poli's song worth the wait? Well kinda.

Many in fandom have gone quietly bonkers at this last release of the season - much in the same way as the did for Croatia. But like their Balkan cousins, we're still not convinced it's got the showbiz to drag it much past halfway in its semi. It's bright, happy and well-produced, and Ms Genova's easy charm will help drag her up the table, but there's still something missing that we can't quite put our finger on.

Again, similarly to many this year, it's gone for the formula mid-tempo chorus, where a song with this build is just begging for something a bit more bouncy. Of course, the similarities of its chirpy samples to the hooks from a well-known Beiber song won't harm its chances any, but we're still not feeling it as majorly as we'd hoped - although it does feel set up for a lively and personable stage show come the big night.

So that's the lot then. Is this just going to be a two horse race between the recent big hitters of Russia and Sweden, or is there something unexpected waiting in the wings to do an Olsens? What do you lot reckon?

Russia 2016 - Sergey Lazarev - You Are The Only One (Live)

Word reaches us from our Russian correspondents of the first recorded live performance of the quite-probably winning song - and it's all looking a bit, well, usual. The video evidence doesn't offer too many clues as to the performance, but our lad Lazarev does appear to be phoning his show in here. Look at his eyes. He's not thinking of the gaggle of excitable folks before him, or a future full of Eurovision glory. He's thinking about his cab ride home, or where he's going for dinner tonight. See! Look!

Of course, we can't judge too much from this flickery little phone video. It appears to be taking place in either a shopping centre of a half-decent night club, so the limited stage space probably restricted him to the usual half-hearted PA show, with a small flock of grim-faced dancers staggering about soullessly like dead-eyed drug mules behind him. What choreography there was was grudgingly shrugged through by the lad himself, so we can probably assume that's not what we'll be getting dazzled by in the first run through in Globen.

Actually, you can tell that it's not a terribly prestigious show, as they can't even spell 'Stockholm' right on the backdrop. So don't expect this to be too much of a precursor to the big show - we're expecting augmented reality lizards and caves, fire-breathing dwarves and chimps in jetpacks. This fella's phone was probably a bit too zoomed in on old Serge to notice all of that! 

Friday 18 March 2016

San Marino 2016 - Serhat - I Didn't Know (Disco remix)

After the loud hoots of derision that came Serhat's way after the reveal of his grumbly gem, you'd have thought the mass ranks of fankind would have hated it whatever flavour it came in. But they're a spectacularly fickle bunch, as this new disco remix would suggest. Heavens, there's even a call for it to replace the downtempo plodder currently sitting in the box seat. But what does it have about it that make them all love it so?

Well for a start, it's different to the original - although to be fair, the rank and file would have probably loved anything shy of a full on grindcore cover better than they did the first option. And then it's disco - and not just any disco. Nope, it's that stultifyingly white European disco that used to soundtrack all the poshest Monaco boat parties and Joan Collins films back in 1980. This instant camp injection has gone down terribly well, despite the tricky time signature in the chorus that make it sound as though the beat has fallen down the stairs. 

I'd be very disappointed if they followed the baying of the mob and switched this out for the currently selected effort on the big night. The first-revealed song has go a lovely out-on-a-limb difference to it that I'm beginning to rather enjoy. No, let's save this for Euroclub where we can revel in its complete, slighty-ironic, out-of-date pop joy...

Sunday 13 March 2016

Sweden 2016 - Samir & Viktor - Bada Nakna (sign language version)

(Click here for an enjoyable eyeful...)

So the Samir & Viktor experience met with a slightly embarrassing end last night, as the juries hammer the poor pair, and the app-happy voters only gave it the most cursory amount of love.

But all of that doesn't matter, because we now have this. SVT's signers have always been a bit of a hoot, but this one knocks it out of park into a whole new level. For the first three quarters of the performance he swings about amiably enough, with his cheeky smile and easy manner making you scarcely look at the video at all. But then it gets to the last bit. Oh my...

I'd make sure you're sitting down for this, because it even made me, a dyed-in-the-wool heterosexual swoon just a little bit...

Saturday 12 March 2016

Serbia 2016 - ZAA Sanja Vučić - Goodbye

Want to see someone really, really overacting a song? Have a look at Serbia then. To be honest, I'm just a little bit scared...

UK 2016 - Jenny And The Giants - Star Trip Shooters

We're still getting the occasional UK near miss and never was dropping into our inbox. Most of them are the from the usual spring of Dunning Krugers, who are all amazed that their chirpy little tune about lard never made it to the grand final - well, it was they, and only they, who was going to save Eurovision for the UK after all.

But every now and again a half-decent little tunes pops out of the ether. Like this one. Although it was written for an upcoming computer game called DRM, it's makers thought that it was such a little pop belter that they would enter it for the UK's Eurovision shindig. Unfortunately, when they got there they discovered that they'd just missed the deadline. Shame!

Given what we now know about the selection process it almost certainly wouldn't have got there anyway, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have its charms. Think Helen Love in a shiny space suit, think techno Talulah Gosh, think Bis without the Glasgow accents (and if those references doesn't mean anything to you, do some looking up on YouTube - you'll thank me, I promise). Maybe they should have tried punting it to someone like Romania - we'll, if Hayley Everts can get to their final with a recycled ELO song, anything can happen!

Thursday 10 March 2016

Greece 2016 - Argo - Utopian Land

So, Greece then. When we heard that the artist was being chosen personally by some high ranking politician, we were immediately filled with thoughts of something martial - or perhaps even a bit old worldsy folksy. But then when we heard it was going to be Europond our expectations rose in both the 'awesome' and 'awful' categories. Y'see, when the now renamed Argo are at the top of their game, they can deliver some awesome angsty folk rock fusion. But when they're bad, they're pretty awful, offering little more than some limp sub-reggaeton slush. So which was it to be?

The lyric offered little clues - aside from the frequently repeated words "HIP HOP" scattered every few bars. This again filled us with both hope of something exciting, and dread of something potentially pretty cringeworthy. And then it arrived...

It's folksy opening passage filled us with the aforementioned hope, and its brooding rumble was surely going to lead us to something incredible...? Oh, it didn't. When the rap finally did kick in it proved a trifle toothless - an especial disappointment, seeing how great the Greek language is for spitting out the angry rhymes - and instead of peaking to something major, it just kind of petered out into something ploddy. What a shame. It's beginning to look like nobody wants to win this year. Hey, now there's an idea...

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Australia 2016 - Dami Im - The Sound Of Silence

Hello darkness, my old friend... It's still early, yet a tasty teaser for the Australian song just slipped out - and it's sounding promising. It's a few short seconds of moody build up, and unless the Aussies have gone uber high concept it stops at exactly the point that you think it's going to hit big - but it's still pretty interesting all the same.

Slowly, moody instrumentation grows, while the lass herself walks around a massive darkened building like she's part of a car advert. The clip's title suggests power ballad, so could we be in for a rare treat this year?

Of course, none of what we hear is necessarily part of the finished song, but they're doing the full reveal later on today, so we'll keep you informed as and when.


We've heard a minute now, and it's more of a stompy contemporary R'n'B ballad than anything especially epic. Top ten challenger, but nothing much more from what we now know. 

San Marino 2016 - Serhat - I Didn't Know

So San Marino, it appears, have become the new flag of convenience for anyone rich enough, or indeed dumb enough, to want to present a project of their own to the Eurovision masses. Why else would they be sending a Turkish singer performing a Turkish and Greek-written song that was recorded by African musicians in Belgium, and is apparently concepted and bankrolled by a musclebound French perfumier? Perhaps that's why they've just presented the ditty at Le Grand Hotel in central Paris and not San Marino village hall?

But all of that doesn't mean to say that it's not an interesting construction. After all, the song's writers Olcayto Ahmet Tuğsuz and Nektarios Tyrakis have got form - coming up with competition showstoppers like Hani?, Şarkım Sevgi Üstüne, Shake It and Love Me Tonight between them. And if the flamboyant Thierry Mugler is on board as the creative director it's always going to look pretty interesting. But what does it actually sound like? Oh. My Days.

We were expecting a big, beaty and bouncy party tune, with a hint of Lou Bega and Kid Creole, and a bucketload of cod swingtime stylings, but instead we got a grumbly, heavily accented slice of Leonard Cohen gloom instead, only without any of the art. We really weren't expecting that at all, and neither were any of the people commenting on the live Periscope stream either by the looks of it.

We were holding out a lot of wrong hope for this one as well. There's certainly nothing else like it in the show, that's for sure, and I suspect that we'll grow to like its dark charms as time goes on, but all the same - what were you thinking San Marino?! 

Croatia 2016 - Nina Kraljić - Lighthouse

Am I right in thinking that we hadn't had any allusions to the sea yet this year? It's easy to forget, what with Portugal and their constant songs about drowning sea men not being hear, but I'm pretty sure that, along with a song called Shine, this is the one thing that we've been missing.

And boy do they lay it on in shovels. Apparently we are Ms Nina here's shining light, saving her from peril on the stormy sea - listen, she's even imitating a foghorn at some points to guide our way to her...

But while this is one of the nicer Croatian songs in a while, it's difficult to see this troubling the bookmakers come May. Only a few songs left and still no immediate winner - who's next? San Marino you say? Oooh, that could get interesting!

Monday 7 March 2016

Macedonia 2016 - Kaliopi - Dona

There's a fella been going round the Eurovision forums claiming that the whole of Eurovision has been organised around giving our gal Kaliopi a guaranteed win. His evidence, despite being slightly barking and conspiratorial, is still fairly compelling, and unless it's one big complicated in joke from someone having a bit of a lark, it had left us looking forward to tonight's big reveal all the more.

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. While Dutchess K is a reliable old bird, the song is somewhat lacking of her usual delightful bombast, plodding along quite nicely without ever really tipping over i to the epic.

It doesn't help that the video makes it look like she's riding an unseen surfing simulator in a big posh theatre. We like Kaliopi here at Apocalypse Towers, and we'll love seeing her about in Stockholm, but I think that we can reasonably assume that we won't be planning our trips South East around this time next year. Shame. 

Sunday 6 March 2016

Czech Republic 2016 - Thom Artway - Blind Man

Mutterings are reaching me from my shadowy music business connections that THIS could be the as-yet unmentioned Czech entry for this year's Eurovision. I have nothing much more concrete to go on than mere wisps of suggestions, but Thom's name was being bandied about before Christmas as a possible likelihood, and this would indeed be a very interesting addition to this increasingly unfathomable year.

Schlager fans be warned, this has guitars. Kind of imagine Douwe Bob if he wasn't channeling his inner Van Morrison pub covers act, or any of the jangly shuffles of the last few years - only with a tad more integrity.

On one listen I'm rather taken with this, so I do rather hope that this tittle tattle is true. Absolutely no idea how it would do on the big night, mind - what a year!

Poland 2016 - Aleksandra Gintrowska – Missing

While everybody was carrying on and getting irate about the result in Poland last night (you know how it went, people who didn't bothering doing any research into the other artists got indignant because an incredbly well-loved local star beat their two favourites), a thing of utmost wonky beauty was pushed to the back of the cupboard and almost forgotten about. Yes, in the rabid race to deify Queen Margaret/Edyta (delete where applicable), the real princess of the event has sadly been overlooked. Princess Aleksandra here.

Well let me rectify that oversight. Things began kinda normally, with a deep-voiced, big-haired woman swaying statically centre stage, channeling at least 60 late-eighties chart raves as she went. But things quickly escalated as four scaly men slithered across the floor and began to gyrate around her. Then the wind picked up and what appeared to be massive gills started flapping about in the breeze, frequently covering her face in accidental comedy moments. But then it ramped up on the pure entertainment scale one more time.

The camera cut to a lone electric guitarist standing in the wings. He fretwanked in a bad camouflage shirt for a few seconds, before the camera cut back to our princess, and... Oh my! Oh my oh my! If you've not seen it yet we won't spoil it for you, but please be careful to put any drinks down well before the last few seconds of this song, because we suspect any stray liquids will be sailing out of your nose come the big reveal. 

Saturday 5 March 2016

Russia 2016 - Sergei Lazarev - You Are The Only One

So Russia has sneaked out ahead of its planned release. How careless of them. That is if it actually IS this song. But the chances are pretty good. Why otherwise would one of their nation's biggest stars perform a song so Swedish that if you close you eyes you can swear you can see little Måns singing it? People have already commented that we won't be going to Sochi next year. I suspect that may be a closer call than they expect, as this song was designed in a factory to win Eurovision.

Swedish chord progressions, occasional minor keys, and insistent choral hook, and a good looking man looking straight down the pipe at your mum, your sister and nice Uncle Jeff. Some of the lyric lines are pretty ropy though. Rhyming 'lightning' with 'exciting' feels like a stab in the eye with a pencil every time I hear it. Yep, we're in that kind of territory.

What's even more concerning is that the one-room video looks very much like one of this "Can this be out stage show please, Mr Sand?" And if it is, well blimey, we're in trouble. Eurovision by numbers damn nearly paid off for them last year, so could this be the one that finally drags us back to the Motherland?

Friday 4 March 2016

Romania 2016 - Mihai - Paradisio

You know that thing that happens when a popstar thinks they've only got to turn up to glide to a convincing and unrivalled victory, only to turn out to be slightly less popular than their egos imagined? That may just have happened.

And you know that thing where a a popstar thinks they've got a clever, original act that nobody's ever thought of before, but which has fared pretty badly whenever anyone else had a go at it? *cough*ElectroVelvet*couch*DannySaucedo* That may also have just happened.

Now things may change when it comes to the big final, but it looks like big, clever Mihai of this parish just got knocked into the back corner by a short, chunky pub singer. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy...

Montenegro 2016 - Highway - The Real Thing

Now we're talking Finally a song for us more left-handed ESC fans to enjoy in its own right. But how shall we describe it. Fankind is already struggling to find the language to explain it, and it's almost immediately being derided as the worst thing in the contest ever only three minutes into its Eurovision career.

Let's have a try though. It's certainly the most riff-laden song in ESC history, most reminiscent of the stoner rock of bands like Clutch and Gonga. But it's still got a delightful pop edge, and a hint of South East European chords. So shall we settle for Stoner Pop Rock? 

They've certainly coined a new genre - especially in this contest. Almost no one else in Eurovisionia is going to enjoy this, but sod 'em. It's always nice to have one to enjoy among yourself and your cool non-Eurovision mates. It's not going to qualify in a million years, but we'll have a lark while it's trying!

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Romania 2016 - Ovidiu Anton - Moment Of Silence

Many folk are tipping the boy Anton here to take the badge at the Romanian final this week. They reckon his big voice and everyman rock song will lure in the punters who aren't too demanding with their noisier tunes. So that makes this clip of himself in the live realm all the more awkward.

Playing a show at the Bucharest megabar Beraria H looks like a lonely event at the best of times. But judging by the number of people just ambling by the front of the stage throughout his performance his presence comes a distant fourth behind the beer, the German sausage, and quite possibly the queue for the toilet.

By the end you kind of feel for him. But at least he got a decent reception from the people sitting around the phone that this clip was being filmed on. At least that won't happen if he gets elected to the big stage in Stockholm. Probably...

Armenia 2016 - Iveta Mukuchyan - LoveWave

It's been built up like an interesting mystery for weeks. We'd been left under the impression that we were going to get a big, Armenian pop belter, and when this afternoon's big reveal came we were all sat poised at the edge of our seats. Well, there's been no out-and-out winner yet, so the portents for a nice caucasian holiday next May were good.

They became even stronger when the tune started. A classy, character-led intro suddenly built into a massive long anxiety-inducing lead up... I was all ready for a huge banger... And then the chorus kicked in. Oh well, nothing to see here. Rather than a big bouncy beaty blaster, it quickly descended into a right old plodder. Indeed, it wasn't long before the currently popular refraain "you-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo" popped up, and we all lost immediate interest, quickly checking the schedules to see if there's any more possible contenders to come out of the hat.

In fact, the only thing that kept us amused past the halfway point was when the supposedly meaningful fades between the moody woman and the beardy lad left said moody woman looking like she had a right hairy chest. Well, you've got to make your own fun at times like these.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Israel 2016 - Ella Daniel - Somebody Out There

Israel declared their runners and riders today, and they are a surprisingly interesting bunch. The lad Hovi Star looks like a handful, but is undoubtedly going to give it large in the live format, and Gil Hadash has a sultry little slowburner on offer too. The only relatively weak link is Nofar Salman, who while a decent singer, is a tad hamstrung in the fact that she's singing the same song as Hovi, and is likely to be blown out of the water, performance wise. One is tempted to say "Nofar, no good", but that's probably a little cruel.

But for us, there's one song that stands out head and shoulders above the rest. Ella Daniel belts out her tune with an Adelean swagger and a bluesy rasp, and offers perhaps the most complete song of the four while she's at it. We could see this one doing very decently if it makes it all the way to Sweden.

The difficult thing to assess though is each candidate's relative popularity at home. They've all been through an X Factor style selection process, so those of us with little knowledge of Hebrew or the finer points of Israeli telly who don't know the backstories may be missing a trick - or at least some useful betting info. But of it were on songs alone, I reckon this stands a tiny box ahead of the others. 

Do any of you lot have any further insight into who's the biggest character on their telly show?

Russia 2016 - Sergei Lazarev - One (Teaser)

This has been the year of the curious teaser. France gave a set of clues so obtuse that we can'tbwork them out even now we know who it is. Australia, on the other hand, have been giving a visual clue a day, like some kind of hokey murder mystery weekend, and the concept of the teaser trailer has never been more frequently used.

But the Russians have just supplied us with possibly the most teasing teaser of all time. Thirteen seconds of Sergei pumping about, with a dark, forboding electronica backdrop, that sounds a little similar to the opening bars of Euphoria.

So what have we learned here? Well, the video looks like it's a pretty big production, and on occasions he appears to be dancing at a decent tempo. But aside from that, who can tell. Come one son, give us a bit more to get our teeth into than that or we'll, you know, lose interest. Possibly.