Tuesday 31 January 2017

Romania 2017 - Tavi Bros - Globetrotter

Oh this is terrific. Where most of the songs in the Romanian process are often polished to within an inch of their lives, the more rough and ready attempts are usually reserved for their neighbours to the East. So hurrah for the boy Tavi and his travel tales.

In delightfully fractured English he reveals his philosophy for life on the road, hopping from nation to nation in a fabulously rhymed route around continental Europe. It's a tactic that's well trodden in this contest to curry favour around the nations, but the lad here does it with such innocent charm that you'll let him off for it.

But the one thing that will make you recoil is the final rhyme in the chorus."Everything is getting hotter..." Yes! We can see where this is going! Let's sing along! "I'm just a globe... troater!" Eh?

Lithuania 2017 – Queens of Roses – Fisherman

Most times in this life it’s best to work by the maxim that less is more. But not in Eurovision, and especially not in Lithuania, if this complete and utter kitchen sink of a song is anything to go by. In fact, it’s difficult to know where to start on it.

It’s got the traditional three smouldering women, each with one of the three standard hair configurations – blonde, black and a bit ginger. Then they’ve dressed them up in different riffs on a familiar theme – yep, those turn-of-the-century glittery frocks are making a comeback – but somehow they’ve managed to make even that jar a bit. Yes, what were they thinking with the black-haired girl’s garb? Even Barbara Dex wants to give her stylist a punch.

Lastly there’s the song, which is either a bawdy allusion to men trawling for ladies – replete with the nudge nudge wink wink refrain of ‘Be careful what you catch!” – or it is actually a song about men who catch fish. Although we’d expect the girls to be dressed in Aran sweaters and sowesters if that was really the case. Actually, that might have been slightly less silly…

Monday 30 January 2017

Romania 2017 - Ilinca & Alex Florea - Yodel It!

As much as I love Romania in this contest, they've always been a bit serious - Cezar aside. Which is why this little gem is such a delight.

A contemporary pop tune with fantastic, epic, escalating chords, that's entirely about yodelling? Yes please! It's got some joyous rap builds, some cool and sassy lady singing, and then a whole loads of yodelling in the middle. It's the kind of thing that this contest has been lacking in the grumpy old 2010s, and I for one applaud it's doubtlessly ultimately fruitless efforts.

Can't wait to see them do it live, either!

****STOP PRESS****

Now with added live video - and it's flipping brilliant! Busting with charm and grace and loads and loads of fun! Oh come on Romania, do the right thing!

Lithuania 2017 - Vlad Max - I'll Never Let You Down

A strange thing happened when I was reviewing my stats on Saturday night (because we bloggers love to reflect in our own puny glory like that, of course.) All of a sudden I started getting a massive run of hits on last year's Vlad Max song from Lithuania. You may remember it - a fluffy little pop tune with a lost looking lad warbling all over the top of it. And then it dawned on me - Vlad was due to have sung in this year's qualifier earlier that evening. People must be hunting a clip of that down - something excellent must surely have happened.

So when this morning LRT finally uploaded the clips, I rushed to the videos to track it down. And while it wasn't quite as key rambling as last year, it still had its charms. Lots of them. The tune itself send me down memory lane to turn of the century electronic indie pop acts like White Town, and Vlad's naive but incredibly warm and honest vocal tweaked vague memories of early New Order before Barney discovered the disco pills.

But what I think drew most people to want to relive this moment was his reaction to the judge's somewhat damning comments at the end. Where he'd had the stage presence of Bambi in the headlight of an 18-wheeler during the song, he suddenly transformed into a confident, sassy young lad, coming back at the ageing panel with a succession of quick quips and smart remarks, even eliciting applause from the forgiving crowd on occasions, too.

Now, if he can just harness that fun power into his singing we could be onto something in a couple of years.

Friday 27 January 2017

United Kingdom 2017 - Salena Mastroianni - I Don't Wanna Fight

You're in your national final. You're among the favourites in all the fan polls, and you've been given the pimp slot at the end of the night. Most of the other acts have been struggling with their vocals, and you've just been bigged up for all the big events that you've been singing at lately. Heck, they've even given you a load of dancers, and you're the only song that's had anything like a pulse for what seems like an hour.

The contest is effectively yours to win if you pump out a strong vocal performance. Right then, you're on...


Georgia 2017 - Misho - Magic

There must have been something in the water in Tblisi last Friday - either that or the soundman had nodded off, because there were more than a few off point vocal performances throughout the contest. But Misho here had an answer to that, as he boldly worked his way through as many vocal styles as he could possibly squeeze into three minutes, hoping that one of them might stick.

The song itself is equally as schizophrenic. It begins as a bit of a glam rock stomp, with our lad's mangled English gnawing its way through the airwaves. Then all of a sudden he goes all castrato on us, and delivers a small passage off almost correct operatics to our ears, before he went full boglin and nasally growled his way through the next bit, sounding every bit like the sweary Linda Blair interludes from The Exorcist. Then it starts the whole cycle again, goes a bit disco for a couple of bars, before the lad himself starts stomping about like a demon possessed.

Really, this is already down on the list as the most singular vocal performance of the year. I wonder if he does parties…?

Thursday 26 January 2017

Georgia 2017 - Eos - Urban Signs

We've been waiting for this moment for the best part of the week, and it's finally arrived - yes, cancel whatever else you're doing... the performances from the Georgian final are finally on YouTube! Woo hoo! And genuinely, we don't know where to start, because there's so much Apocalypse gold on display. But Eos seem as good a place as anywhere.

So it all starts a bit plod rocky, but don't be deterred, and keep your eyes on the singer. His ungainly deportment and slightly stretched vocals become instantly aparent, and once he starts leaping about, stooped and with his hands grabbing at his ears you become instantly glued to the screen. But wait, what's that white stick doing on the floor? Oh my, he's blind, isn't he. Now don't we feel bad. But still, that was quite a performance however you care to look at it.

But if you start to get bored of what is a singularly dreary song, please do stick with it to the bitter end, as there's some rare gems throughout. Of special note is the perhaps least energetic drummer we've ever seen, and a final note that's so unusual that they don't even have a letter for it yet. This is why we watch the qualifying rounds. Pure, spun gold.

Lithuania 2017 - Aistė Pilvelytė - I'm Like A Wolf

Things just got a bit real. We've been hearing for weeks about how a tiny Latvian songwriter of our favour had penned a song for perpetual nearly-was Aiste Pilvelyte in Lithuania this year. Well here it finally is, and it's bang on trend on the sparse and moody Baltic electronica front.

However, we've also been hearing reports from the frontline that she made an absolute mess of it in the recording in the week, and was allowed to have another go at it - much to the consternation of the other artists in the show. But most noteworthy of all, after all that she still managed to get the top marks from the judges.

So, is it written in the stars for Aiste?

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Romania 2017 - Banda Hoinarii - Balkanitza

This is more like it. Up to now those Romanian songs that have crept out have been the usual dreary mix of winsome ladies in shiny clothes singing slightly danceable songs about love, or blokes in dubious shirts singing slightly janglier songs about love. Yeah, no fun there.

So thank heavens for this crew. A proper good old fashioned South East European hoedown, with shouty vocals, lots of yipping, and an unavoidable urge to join hands and dance around in circles. Exactly what we want!

And judging by some of the textual proclamations, they've got a nice little punky edge to them, too. So we can only whole-heartedly approve of this kind of larky! It's not been confirmed that it's one of the submitted songs, but we sincerly hope that it is!

Sunday 22 January 2017

Moldova 2017 - Ethno Republic & Surorile Osoianu - Discover Moldova

Everyone loves going to see their nan at the weekend, so we were especially glad when this bouncy little number made the last fourteen in Moldova. The latest in a long line of ethno-grans in the competition, it's a pleasing blend of rural folkisms and almost up-to-date pop (for Moldova) - but the new stuff never entirely smothers the charm of the old girls.

In a world where Bognibov misses out on qualification yet again, one can only hope that Ethno Republic fly the flag for regional colour - even if the more one dimensional quarters of fandom only have the language to compare it to the Russian Babushkas. These gals offer a much more authentic slice of small town life. Well, we call them nans, but to be honest they're not a whole lot older than me!

Lithuania 2017 - Vidas Bareikis & Ieva Zasimauskaitė - I Love My Phone

Every year, these early stages throw up a handful of weather vane songs - ones that you start out absolutely hating, but which, by their end, have won you over to such an extend that you're bouncing on the sofa applauding their moxy. I Love My Phone is the first of this year's examples.

And seriously, there's so much to hate. An arch, knowing, post-modern lyric, wacky outfits and even sillier dance moves, but despite all that it somehow wormed its way under our skin to the extent that we were delighted when we discovered that it had made the next stages of this marathon contest.

There's just something about that wry, slightly left-handed Lithuanian sense of humour that elevates their, how shall we say this delicately, more creative songs above the realms of "I'm mad me, watch me gurn" into often bright and clever observations of the contemporary world. And this one, just about manages that.

It was still a bit gleefully cringeworthy at the end though, when poor Vidas yelled "Come on everybody, raise your phones up!" and not one single human in the crowd did. You might have to work on that bit for the final, mate...

Saturday 21 January 2017

Lithuania 2017 - Lolita Zero - Get Frighten

Ever since they recorded tonight's Lithuanian semi I've had a constant stream of pics and clips arriving into my inbox telling me that I just have to see this. From the preview evidence the portents were good, but I thought I'd wait until tonight's full visuals before I pulled full judgement. And oh what a treat!

So of course, the high camp electro disco in frocks is a bit of an over staged ouvre, but when it's done with fun and humour it's tricky to beat. And boy if this played for chuckles. From the reveal, to the outfits, to the impossible title, to the talky bits, to the, erm, melons, it's absolutely glorious funtime cobblers, and I love it for that.

Of course there'll be the over serious detractors who'll say it's childish and cliched and pointless, but they only tend to like dreary, worthy, anonymous stuff anyway. And it doesn't even matter that the song's a shrill, repetitive groove - that's kind of the point. This is just dumb, happy-go-lucky fun, that doesn't take itself at all seriously, and is doubtless doomed to ultimate failure, but I'm so very glas it's there, because it's all been a bit serious so far this year.


This story gets curiouser. Turns out that this song comes from a Lithuanian action film, and features a very similar performance - plus lots of other bonkers business. See the trailer here! I don't know what's real any more!


After getting knocked out some weeks ago, the Lithuanians, in their wisdom, held a wildcard round to bring back a song from the qualifiers to perform in the final. And guess which one won by an absolute mile?

You really didn't think that through, did you now Lithuania. And we love you for it!

Thursday 19 January 2017

Ukraine 2017 - Aghiazma - Synthetic Sun

It's been an interesting couple of months for Aghiazma. Back in November, you'll recall, they were flying high in the Ukrainian wildcard with their blistering face-melter Zombie Dogs, until suddenly the rug was whipped out from beneath them as they had a massive percentage of their votes whipped away from them after allegations of vote rigging. Of course, they were understandably livid.

Many less committed acts would have taken their punishment quietly. But not this lot. Instead they lobbied the folks at Ukrainian TV, so that when the list of competing songs were announced they were placed firmly in the middle of it. Result.

However, the song is a slightly different proposition to Zombie Dogs. A calmer, more melodic, yet still pretty damn assertive tune. It's a few beats lower in the tempo stakes, and without much of the more screamo elements that would have made the more traditional ESC fan's toes curl up, the lyric is packed full of charged proclamations about the price of fame and the vacuous nature of music as a commercial art form.

To have a song actively subverting the very nature of the contest take the stage as the home entry would be a thing of extreme beauty, but one fears that internal nepotism has already put paid to their chances on the big stage, and we'll be robbed of that tasty existential treat. Damn shame.

Moldova 2017 - Tudor Bumbac - Intr-o Zi De Iarna

Oh Moldova, Moldova, you beautiful people. You open up your application process to the whole country and no one enters for months - then they all rush at the last minute, leaving us with just enough songs to cobble together a couple of half-decent semi-finals. A they may have been late, but oh what joys they provide.

You may remember the fabulous Mr Bumbac here. He had a stab a couple of years back, and got as far as the audition round, where he stood stock still and nervous with his shiny suit and Slavic despot hair, looking every bit like he'd wandered in off the street and thought he was at the grocers. Bless him.

He offered up something a bit locally folky last time, but this year he's gone all exotic and provided us with a shuffle-poppy taste of the Caribbean - and oh what a delight it is! His fragile voice exudes nothing but charm as he recites a tale of his adventures on a Winter's day. There genuinely won't be many happier songs than his this year.

I really do hope the judges at the auditions have their happy heads on this Saturday, because I think the world deserves to see this thoroughly lovely old chap!

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Latvia 2017 - Crime Sea - Escape

Remember Mntha? You remember, the kookie blue-haired minimalist who ran the sainted Aminata a close thing in the battle of the mad-haired electronica ladies in Supernova a couple of years back. Well she's returned, and this time she's mob handed.

Together with her sidekicks in Crime Sea she's delivered another sparse, atmosphere-drizzled event - only this time it's run through with bright pop edges and nursery rhyme choruses, and we must say that we really kinda like it.

We're fascinated to see what she's going to do with this on the live stage. It's our fave of the already-declared Latvian tunes so far. They're surely not going to go for another spot of the minimal for the third time in a row are they? There must be something in the water up that way, for sure!

Moldova 2017 - Sasha Bognibov - Stop All The Liars

I can now officially declare the 2017 Eurovision on season officially open. Yes, the dark lord of haunted goth pop has finally risen, only this year he's provided us with a massive chunk of gnarly rock, albeit with his still fabulously willowy pipes floating about all of the top of it.

It's his noisiest attempt since the fabulous Against Discrimination, and his best stab at glory since the peerless Wounded Swan, but it's still distinctly 100% Bognibov. He's clearly got a metal band of decent heritage on his roster, because the thumping drums, and soaring Rammstein-flavoured key changes underlay another plaintive protest about the badness of politicians stealing the country, before he kicks into the mantra playout of "Stop All The Liars" that continues until the bitter end. It's so damn addictive that Mrs Apocalypse has been singing it all morning after a single listen.

But of course, we know the folks in TRM towers are going to drop this in the bin without even giving it a listen - and more fool them. Just imagine the air-grabbing and meaningful looks down the camera pipe that our hero could execute to this one, with a phalanx of windmilling metallists at his rear. Once again, Moldova, it really is your loss.

Monday 16 January 2017

Hungary 2017 - Csondor Kata - Create

I have a very good Portuguese friend who runs a Facebook group called SCARYvision. You should check it out. It mainly showcases moments from the national finals where either the vocals weren't entirely on point, or where the performances were a little excessively manic in comparison to the song they were murdering. I think this one will qualify on both counts.

You see, poor Ms Kata here had us unintentionally creased up from the very first moment - at first vogueing in an ungainly manner, and then that ill-advised mic manoeuvre. There's a reason that you've never seen anyone do that one before, ma'am. And it's not a good one.

At times it was like watching a young Bette Midler channeling the future ghost of Lady Gaga down some echoey timepipe, that distorted her voice to such a level that it sounded as if she was singing inside a child's plastic pony castle. This won't be the worst performance we'll see this year. Probably not by a long way. And it won't be the most awkward. But it's got that certain little something that makes it perfect for the Scary list. And long may she reign!

Saturday 14 January 2017

Lithuania 2017 - Rugilė Daujotaitė - Perkūne Ugniaveidi

So where do we begin with this Lithuanian marvel? The wild-staring eyes, and slightly wilder hair? The random noodly folk jazz techno stuff that you can quite pin a description on? The flowing goddessly robes? The girl with the under-used horn? The, erm, singing? The least convincing sword in all showbiz history?

This is a beauty to behold from start to finish. Watch it, then watch it again to make sure you really did see all that.

Oh, and lightning. Loads of lightning!

Friday 13 January 2017

Latvia 2017 - Linda Leen - Who Is In Charge

The Supernova line up was announced this morning, and already the songs are begining to creep out across the popular video networks. There's not too much to get overly excited about just yet, but this familiar face has delivered us a left-handed doosie of the strange.

Linda Leen seems to have been trying her hand in this contest for about as long as I've been wearing shoes, and her attempts seem to get slightly more odd with each passing contest. And this surely has to be the video of the season so far - if you like your clips to be packed with fish sperm and slightly unnatural forest pursuits.

The song itself quite a thing, too. Starting off with difficult jazz rock chords and time signatures, it builds jarringly, before hitting full swamp blues in the chorus. There's even a menacing Rammstein-style pregnant build in the middle that raised the hairs on the back of my neck for the first time this season.

But despite all that, I'm still not sure if it's any good. I'm dead curious to see how she performs it on that tiny Riga stage though.

Thursday 12 January 2017

Spain 1990 - Azúcar Moreno - Bandido

The best moment of the season so far came not from a competing artist, but from and act from getting on for thirty years ago having a run though of their hit during a sub-final - and in Spain of all places.

We're not usually prone to moments of deep nostalgia, but to see the act who are aguably the only truly great Spanish entry since the eighties prowling lustily around the small stage, and smouldering at the crowd.

They might both be in their mid-fifties these days, but they exuded more pure sex power in three wonderful minutes than the sum total of every female-led act of the last five years combined. And yes, I'm especially including Poland 2014 in that list! If only the lifeless young waifs of the cmmen era could give it anything like that amount of welly.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Lithuania 2017 - Tadas Rimgaila & Samanta Tīna - Tavo Oda

Samanta Tīna, bless her for trying, has had a long and often difficult relationship with this tournament. A frequent near-miss in the Latvian process, she had one of the stand out moments of last year's qualifiers when she dressed up as Nefertiti and electrocuted a mime, before deciding she didn't want to progress any further in contest at the last possible moment.

So after trying everything bar the kitchen sink back home, she's popped next door and had a go over there. And again, her performance was nothing less than entertaining. This time her standard prog-tinged ballad was shared with an unfortunately surnamed hunk, and they writhe artistically (if not a little uncomfortably) throughout, with some terrific camerawork.

But then, pretty much on the minute mark, something a little bit odd happens, and you spend the rest of the song wondering if they've done it on purpose. It turns out that they had, but surely it wasn't executed quite as well as they'd rehearsed - which was a shame, because it was a nice idea, but one that spent waaaay too long getting to the pay off.

Sadly our Samanta fell at the first hurdle in a massive field of 61, which is a shame because not only was this more interesting than at least half of the songs that made it through, but we're convinced that she'd make an excellent impact on an international stage one of these days... one way or another.