Saturday 24 December 2016
Friday 23 December 2016
Tonight we get to learn of the first confirmed entrant to Eurovision 2017 - albeit in a much more basic form that its eventual incarnation, most likely. And for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of listening to any of the songs yet, this one is going to be an especial treat for you.
It's slow, doomy, the time signature is impossible to pin to a wall, and at times it reaches uterly bewildering levels of complexity - and that's before the weird samples kick in. On top of that, its singer looks like he's just climed out of his nan's washing basket, but still it's one of the most fascinating and utterly engaging entries of the year - but still you won't be able to sing along to it ten seconds after it finishes.
This kind of song is usually just a curiosity for the locals (and musical trainspotters like you and me), but it's picking up a surprising amount of interest in the fan polls, and we should all know by now never to second guess what the Albanians see in a song. Oh what fun we'll have in Kiev if this wins tonight!
Thursday 22 December 2016
Anyone who sat through last night's first semi-final at the Festivali i Këngës will tell you that it was something of a long old slog through minor key ballads, difficult time signatures and an awful lot of memories from the eighties. So when this chirpy little chap popped up in his glittery jacket and his rakish hat it must have seemed like a gift from the pop gods - but only for a couple of seconds.
For dear old Franc here gave the appearance of a man having a three-and-a-bit minute fight with the orchestra.
It was a performance that began with big lumps in it from the awkward opening - with its empty seats and unfortunate camera obstructions - then took us on a rollercoaster ride through some half-decent, if not slightly out of time, rap, a cracking stompy bit in the middle, and a curious eighties showtune chorus - as our hero seemed ill-at-ease, under-rehearsed and half a beat behind the orchestra throughout.
Having said that, I can't knock him too harshly, as it's still one of my favourites from this half of the draw. I just hope that, if he's lucky enough to make it through to Friday, he polishes his performance up a bit - and they move whatever that was from in front of the camera in the opening gambit!
Wednesday 21 December 2016
Those of you with long memories for beards might just remember Orges here from the FiK final of 2011, where he surprised many with the success of his delightful little bit of French street jazz whimsy Mari. Well half a decade on he's back, looking a little more world weary than before, and growling out a song that wouldn't be out of place in Sanremo.
And while we're never entirely sure what they're singing about down in the deep South East, one can only assume that his gravely voice and tired eyes are carving out a tale of life's regrets and untold sadness. But hey, we don't read Albanian here. He might be singing out his Christmas list as far as we know.
But in what was a slow, morose and often difficult first semi-final at the Këngës, his was one of the few songs that really stood out - well, for the right kind of reasons, that is. More of the other sort tomorrow...
Sunday 18 December 2016
While it doesn't appear to have broken rule one in the Official Eurovision Playbook (Don't Forget To Turn Up), or even edicts two and three (Don't Forget The Words, and Don't Fall Over - Even On Purpose), this little performance still manages to obliterate one of the major no-nos in all Eurovisionia. And it is this:
If you're going to insist on having a clever little visual maguffin going on throughout your song, ensure that: A) It doesn't detract or distract from the song itself; B) It's quickly apparent what is going on; C) It doesn't go on too long, and; D) The final pay-off really must be worth the three minute wait.
Oh, and it also helps to have a song that isn't a blood-slowing slice of tedious faux popera, too, but that might just be a taste thing. File under: What were they thinking?
Friday 16 December 2016
You always need a great big bag of nans at this stage of the Eurovision process, and I have to say that these girls are some of the best we've had in a while. Indeeed, it's becoming something of a national finals cliche to have a row of locally-garbed seniors elegantly harking back to the old days in a dewy-eyed heart wrencher. But not these game old birds...
Yep, Spasovka throw caution to the win, get their heads down and storm through a turbo-fuelled rustic stomper in a proper rough-and-ready race against time. Do they go occasionally out of time with the music? Yes! Do their dance moves go a little askew from time to time? Of course! But is it three minutes of glorious earthy fun from start to finish? You betcha!
Indeed, this mob are less something that you'd find in local colour night in an expensive Minsk hotel, and more like something you'd stumble across in a village hall on the distant Ukrainian border, and we love them all the more for it!
Oh, and do forgive me my poor transliteration skills. I fear that I may have added the video replay information in my dodgy translation of the title. If you know better than me, please do put me right - but at least I had a go!
Thursday 15 December 2016
OK, so I think we can effectively cancel Eesti Laul, because Kerli's back. A lot of water has flowed under the crystal-crusted bridge since her last assault on Eurovision back in 2004, and now we see a singer at the height of her powers, the complete and finished article who's had hits across the globe, coming back to wave her glittery hand at the screen and hoover up the votes. But will her name alone be enough to carry her to Kiev?
Well the song itself is no world-beater. It's packed with fantastically parpy electronic noises and a terrifically bouncy chorus, but still plods along in a somewhat disappointingly pedestrian fashion. That's not to say that it's a bad song, however - and you just wait until you see the live show...
Because if you've not had the pleasure before, Kerli is a proper visual treat. Imagine something somewhere between America's Lady Gaga, Japan's Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and some astral pop fairy floating about between the stars. And if enough of her rabidly fervent Moon Children are packed into the hall Laul night will become something of a three minute Kerli show. I for one can't wait. The only way that she's not going to Ukraine is either if her home nation has finally tired of her, or the Kerli haters gang up against her in the superfinal. Both of which would be an incredible shame, because the girl is offering us the first proper bit of star power of the season.
Wednesday 14 December 2016
So I went to bed after eating a little too much cheese last night, and I woke up in a basement squat in Camden in 1991with this little beaut playing. I'm channelling Nitzer Ebb, I'm channelling Renegade Soundwave, I'm channelling Front 242 and a little bit of Senser, but I can't quite see who the act is.
Then suddenly I'm transported to a Spiral Tribe rave somewhere like Castlemorton, and I'm propped in a haze front of a speaker stack on the fourth stage and this flipping song is playing again. Then I wake up and realise that I've been enjoying a bit too much stilton, and I'd left the Soundcloud account with the Georgian songs on repeat play.
Yes, it might be a throwback to a far distant day when the punks finally worked out how keyboards worked and got into skunk, but I think I love it all the more for that. And yes, it's only got the same four words repeated over and over again, but that's surely the whole point! I suspect that it'll be just me an my ravey Valencian mate who will dig this one, but do let us have our fun. I know it's going absolutely nowhere in the contest, but I'll be having it on repeat for at least a week - and I'll be keeping off the cheese this time. Honest I will... Now where's my tie dye trousers...?
Tuesday 13 December 2016
So, the other night I got wind that the fabulously folksy Georgian girl group Trio Mandili had thrown their hat into their national final ring. I was expecting more of the same of the minimal stripped back walky-singy schtick that has made their down home videos such a regular YouTube treat. So I was thoroughly disappointed when I discovered that they were doing a proper song, with instruments and everything.
For about twenty seconds.
Because this enthusiastically bouncy little gem is an absolute delight! Imagine the kind of songs that you hear coming out of the open window of every cab and local snackfood outlet everywhere east of Athens - only with more joie de vivre and pure unabashed fun than any ten of them put together. And then some.
I fear that this is perhaps a tad too niche to make a massive impact in their national final - especially as there's some decent sized pop rock acts and some massive frocky ballads up against them on the song slate - but I'd sooooo love this to get to Kiev. Imagine the larks we'd have!
Monday 12 December 2016
Our boy Alex Angel had his live audition in Ukraine yesterday, and he bought a friend along to help him. And boy did she help. The faces of the judging panel as they watched this incredible three minutes are an absolute picture, I tell you!
As far as I am aware, this is the only video available from the auditions, so I'll just this curious slice of Ukrainian TV life here for you to, erm, enjoy.
You might not want to be watching it at work, mind. That's all I'm saying…
Friday 9 December 2016
Our new Armenian best mate, Alexander Plato, took his final bow at the constantly excellent Depi Evratesil the other day - and oh boy what a bow it was! He strode upon the stage to a wash of fiery red light and curious camera angles, while the pianist whacked at the keyboard like he was teetering on the brink of a massive staircase. Then when our lad finally began to sing, his throaty tenor and intense stare left the judges, and indeed the audience, shuffling uncomfortably in their seats.
It was as though Lucifer himself had popped up from the depths for a bit of a singsong. It was quite simply one of the most gloriously confounding things yet seen in the battle to tread the Eurovision boards anywhere on this globe. Splendid work old boy - I hope this isn't the last we've seen of you, because I for one would love to see this beautiful, confusing racket squeezed into a big three minute chunk to confuse the heck out of the viewing population of Europe on Saturday night in May some time soon.
Who cares about results, this is art, love!
Thursday 8 December 2016
There's a list of Georgian acts doing the rounds. Twenty seven artists of varied repute, and not a single Sopho among them. At this point it is unclear whether it's a shortlist or just the list of people who applied, but there's a couple of pretty interesting names among them - and few more interesting than Trio Mandili here.
About as DIY as an act can get, TM are simply three teenaged girls, a rattly mandolele (I think) and a selfie-stick. Their videos are all of the girls just walking around their neighbourhood, singing folk-tinged tunes and mugging to the camera, and somehow they're absolutely teriffic.
Just imagine this on the big stage in Kiev. They'd start off on stage, then wend their way about the hall entirely filmed through their stick as the crowd go bonkers behind them. It would sweet, simple and absolutely engaging, and could cause quite a stir in the middle of all the usual flash bang business.
Come on Georgia, you've got be bold, and take a risk with this lot. It would be utterly fabulous!
Them Hungarians like to mix it up a bit. Every year they deal us the usual fine and frothy pop confections, and a fistful of decent balladeers, but they also manage to squeeze in a small sprinkling of other stuff for the grown ups. We all know that they'll never make the further stages, but we're so glad that they're there to mix it all up a bit.
This year is no exception. So far we've uncovered the Satanic doom crust of Leander Kills, the worldsy beats of the tough lad gypsy man band Roma Soul, and this little bar room belter from Peter Kovary (and what looks like a band made up of his considerably younger relations).
OK, so it's some cheesy-assed pub rock shizz from a bloke who's clearly got a few too many Rival Sons, Black Spiders and Georgia Satellites records in his man bag, but heck, in this context it's like a new dawn of riff-heavy singalong nonsense. It's not great, but it's great fun, and it'll do us just fine until Leander Kills release their video!
Wednesday 7 December 2016
You mention Eurovision to your average man or lady in the street and a very specific image springs instantly to their mind. Generally it's of a lusty lady in a swirly frock and touselled hair stamping about in front of a couple of lithe male dancers wearing almost no clothes to the sound of an insistant Europop beat. A little like THIS, in fact.
Fair play to the Swiss for trying something outside of their regulation mid tempo plod, but really, this is silliness by numbers. From the big build to the face reveal right through to the showbiz end, it's got the lot. I can almost see its trajectory now...
Instantly becomes a fan favourite, storms to a hometown victory early in the season and nudges the top of the betting from the early adopter money. Gets drawn in a relatively easy semi and everyone puts it in their top ten. Then come the big night, everyone at home totally ignores it in favour of something a bit better or a bit funnier and it comes an accidental last but one in its semi, with everyone wailing "How could this happen?!!" in complete and utter surprise.
It's written in the stars, so enjoy it now before it all gets too depressing. Unless one of the balladeers in black beats her in the local final, that is. Then it starts to get properly funny.
Tuesday 6 December 2016
Never before has there been a more self-fulfilling prophecy of a song (unless you rather unkindly suggest Don't Play That Song Again, you wrong 'un!). It all looked promising to begin with. A decent-looking spooky lad with a massive quiff, beflanked by a pair of eyeballs-on-legs, looking every bit like a car boot Residents (look them up, pop fans), with a witchy lady looking menacing in the background… what could possibly go wrong?
Oh, the singing bit.
The man in charge of the microphones didn't give them so much as a minute-and-a-half. Boy they're getting stern - they allowed any old kak the full three minutes last year! I'll bet that it meant we missed a massive bit of showbiz in the middle eight too, curse them! Bah!
Still, all this underlines the fact that I really must be visiting Belarus one of these days. They look like my kind of people…
Young Pavel and his pals must have been reading my mind, because they've done a video to fill in the end of the performance!
See it by clicking here!
Spain are treating us top some rare delights this year, and every one of them is doubtlessly more fun that the shortlist they'll inevitably foist upon us.
Take the big gurning grin of German here. OK, so he may sing like a bricky after a long pub lunch, and the song itself does drift off into nowhereland from about the halfway mark before it just kind of fizzles out with a showbiz whimper at three minutes, but it's absolutely packed with charm and singalongability, and dare I say it, fun! What a terribly old fashioned concept.