Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Eurovision 2020 - Charpentier - Te Deum: Prelude


So the Apocalypse actually happened, and Eurovision 2020 is no more. These are dark days for all of us, so a jolly little song contest is but minor collateral damage in the whole scheme of things. But you have to give your hearts to all of the people who battled for the right to get their face on TV for three minutes and have a big two week working party on Rotterdam come May.

So let's hear it for the 41 plucky acts who were in the midst of their preparation for the big show, and for the thousands and thousands of other hopefuls who wrote and entered a song into this year's competition in the hope that they might be the lucky ones, and for all the selection committees, national final hosts, TV crews, studio producers, choreographers, video makers and all the other unsung heroes of Eurovision whose work has turned to dust.

We salute you all, for you are what makes this and dozens of other sites just like it tick. Now many we all stand for the national anthem of Eurovisionia - still gives me shivers down the spine every single time - and prepare for the doubtlessly decades long argument of who would have actually won this year....

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Russia 2020 - Little Big - Uno


We won't lie, we're massive fans of Little Big. When Skibidi first went viral we just knew that they couldn't possibly have arrived at this point fully formed, and started digging into their back catalogue. And the more we dug, the more we loved. Any band who can put together songs and videos like Dead Unicorn, AK-47, Hateful Love, Big Dick and LollyBomb for starters is right our my anarcho pop alley. But to marry Die Antwoord's dangerous made up universe aesthetic with compact Russian techno rave and cheesy-assed Eastern folk chords is like a gift from the gods around Castle Apocalypse. So when it was finally announced that they'd be doing the big show for the mother country we got more than a little pleasantly agitated.

But then when clips of the song started sneaking out, one began to worry. Because as fascinating as it would have been had some lesser act done it, this certainly wasn't peak LB. And now that the video has finally escaped, we must confess to being somewhat underwhelmed. In fact, their cold-eyed stares in this clip it almost looks like something of a hostage situation or an obligation - and maybe perhaps it is. Because of course, Russia have something of a precedent for this...

We'd first started hearing rumblings that Russian telly were trying to court this lot for Rotterdam when the tears of joy were still barely dried on the cheek of Duncan Lawrence. But every time it looked as though they'd offered them enough, how shall we put this, incentive, the band's people insisted that they couldn't do it, as they had a tour already booked and wouldn't want to blow out their fans. This rumour kept coming and going, and just when we'd almost given up and decided that they'd chosen some sad-faced warbler instead the announcement was made at the very last minute that they'd always wanted to do it, and would be happy to represent their nation on the international stage.

But then I cast my mind back to 2001. The previous year a raggle taggle gaggle of Latvians made an explosive debut in Stockholm, dang nearly winning the whole thing. "How original for Eurovision!" the West cried. "How very much were Brainstorm ripping off Mumiy Troll!" the East countered. And before you knew it, there were Mumiy Troll looking all surly and obligated on the Copenhagen stage.

I remember chatting to Ilya of the band in his hotel bar that year, and he only thinly disguised the fact that he would rather be anywhere else on the planet, and gave a vague hint that it was made clear to him that the Troll had no real option than to be performing there that year. And despite its decent finish, Lady Alpine Blue wouldn't be said to be among their finest songs by even the most rabid of their fans.

Now cast your minds forward to Riga a couple of years later. The incredible and dark teen pop act tATu grudgingly shuffled their way through the contest like it was all one terrible imposition, and anyone who witnessed them having their dinner in the Skonto canteen surrounded by at least 200 cameramen could kind of see why.

Skip on a few years to Oslo. Peter Nalitch had recently became an internet sensation with his viral hit Guitar. And indeed, Lost & Forgotten was a cracking little understated tune - but you've rarely seen a more unhappy gaggle of guys about town that we did that year.

And even the Babushkas were parachuted in after becoming the darlings of the fandom a couple of years before when they lost out to the aforementioned Nalitch. The pattern is interesting. The moment anyone from Russia makes something of a stir in the international sphere, there's a very good chance that you'll be seeing them on the Eurovision stage within 18 months. Apparently whether they like it or not. It's almost as if someone from a higher place decreed it to be so. Nah, that could never happen... could it?

PS If you don't hear from us for a couple of months, I've deposited instructions and further incriminating evidence in a left luggage locker at Kings Cross Station. The key is under the mat...

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Azerbaijan 2020 - Efendi - Cleopatra


So just when we thought it wasn't going to happen, up pop Azerbaijan to top out what's been one heck of a rumour fest this season! And by heck what a job they've done on it! Did they gazump San Marino for it? Who knows? And I'll guess we'll never entirely know unless someone connected to the song shops the story? And were they ever really going to choose that Scars song? Again, it's become impossible to second guess the workings of the Azerbaijani Eurovisionistic mind.

But what we do know is that we're so very glad that it wasn't confined to the near-miss dumpster.

And it's a distinctly different production to the possibly-Senhit sung demo that we first heard all those weeks ago. Gone is the inexplicable Latiny bit in the middle eight, replaced by something considerably more apt and Eastern-tinged. And man does she roll the consonants in the song's title with some attitude and venom.

This almost certainly isn't going to win the whole darned thing, but it'll most certainly cause a stir. And with the amount of oil-money that the Caspian crew have to throw at capital showbiz projects, we suspect that this is going to be a performance to remember on the big night. Ten days ago people were saying that this year's Eurovision was boring. Now look how it's shaping up!



Monday, 9 March 2020

San Marino 2020 - Senhit - Freaky!


It's often said that the road up the hill to San Marino is often winding and bumpy, and that's certainly the journey taken by any close observers of the annual selection processes on this year. First came the rumours - and ones that we've already gone into in detail elsewhere on this blog. "Cleopatra!" they whispered. "It's the one to finally bring it home for glorious S&M!" But then we heard tell that although it had been the favoured one of the five songs submitted, the artist wasn't keen on it, and they'd gone with a song called Freaky! instead.

And off went Cleo on her own circuitous journey around the nations - at least for a bit – upon when rumours began to kick in  about a fortnight ago that Senhit was back, and that she was bringing the song with her! All the while when this was going on, a mysterious agency claiming to be an official Samarinese source claimed that The Most Serene Republic was onto a winner this year, and would you like to buy some condoms with their branding on. Its about that point that we got distracted and started to begin wondering what Azerbaijan was likely to send, when quite out of the blue there was an announcement...

Well, the announcement was that there would be an announcement on the local news that night, at least. And that announcement turned out to be a further announcement that the real announcement would be happening some time the next morning, and it would be something we'd never seen before at Eurovision... Turned out it was a two song final (done), where people would be choosing between the featured songs (done) and voting online (done). Although I kinda guess that they hadn't all been done together, so they weren't entirely making it up.

The next morning the songs appeared, and we were allowed to make vote on them. No Cleopatra, worst luck (but we can understand that, as you can see why someone of North East African heritage might baulk at a song of that title and subject matter, if that indeed really was why it wasn't chosen). But very definitely a Freaky! - but also an Obsessed, a Carly Rae Jepson-alike that kind of inoffensively crept out of the woodwork, and just as quickly crept back in.

And so it was that the online voting public went for the song that featured all the stills that the beautiful and graceful Ms Senhit had been posting on Insta for the last few weeks. We wonder, of course, what might have been in the video for Obsessed?

The song itself is actually pretty decent - albeit in the same faux disco furrow that SM appear to have been ploughing for about the last few years (we don't talk about the robot incident, right...), and as you are soon to find out, Senhit herself is an absolute dream of a human being. But it didn't half get a bit strange and confusing somewhere down the line to the outside observer.



Sunday, 8 March 2020

Denmark 2020 - Jasmin Rose feat. RoxorLoops - Human


For a country so quick to cancel the crowds for events of more than 999 people, Denmark seem to love pushing health and safety to the very boundaries when it comes to stage shows. Remember that lass Leonora on her giant chair last year? There were no safety wires or grip handles up there, and those ladders needed a fair bit of fixing in. And then there was that Rasmussen laddie from with all that steps, stamping, snow and flag waving business, as well as all that glue-on hair. But this year they had a go at something even riskier - putting a beatboxer up onto a cherry picker... with no hand rail!

The fact that this was the second favourite in all the polls kind of demonstrates what a drab old final this was. Of course, part of that would be because old RoxorLoops here has been in it before, with Witloof Bay for Belgium back in Düsseldorf. But also because it was the only thing with a bit of go in it, despite its utter ludicrousness.

Yeah, why not rent in one of the world's greatest exponents of the beatboxing arts, only to have him standing looking like a bored crusty robot for massive chunks of the song, while someone who looked like a Northern holiday park Katy Perry trib warbled out a merry tune about bringing back humanity while perched anxiously on a rickety platform? There must have surely been a showbiz planning meeting for this whole sorry mess - who even signed it off, let alone proposed it to a panel and had it all agreed?

Still, it kind of suited one of the strangest national final events in all Eurovision history...



Saturday, 7 March 2020

Bulgaria 2020 - Victoria - Tears Getting Sober


I guess the problem of being a breakout international star with your own unique and game-changing style is that all of a sudden everyone wants to sound just a little bit like you. And so it was that pretty much every national final process had a song that was, to varying degrees just a little bit Eilish. Thankfully only two made it to the big show - albeit the two very best of them. And hereby sits the problem...

Both Alcohol You and Tears Getting Sober are exceptional songs in the Eurovision sphere. They both very much wear their influences on their sleeves, but carry enough of their own personalities into the song to be distinct. However, they're also both sparse, glacial, and apparently dealing with substance abuse issues. So if they both get out of their respective semi-finals it could give the running order crew on heck of a big headache.

They've clearly got to keep them apart, but who would get the (assumed) plum draw? Will it be entirely down to how the vote went? Or how much clutter they've got on stage with them for the handover? It's going to be very interesting to see what happens, because on their own they've each got a very decent chance of finishing top five. But together they could easily cancel each other out. And that's if the punters don't just shout "Another bloody Eilish clone!" rather gracelessly at their tellies.

On Victoria's part here, we fancy that she's got the more accessible of the two songs, with its Disney tinges and more-singalongable chorussy bits. But will it garner as big a potential WOW moment as Roxen could potentially get? This could all be a very interesting side plot in the narrative of a Saturday night in Rotterdam.



Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Portugal 2020 - Judas - Cubismo Enviesado


You often have an idea in your head of what a song is going to look like on stage when your first experience of it is audio-only. And nine times out of ten the acts are that literal that you're not that far off.  But I guess it's true to say that in this instance we weren't expecting a brick outhouse of a man mincing lumpenly about in a shiny silver all in one. But by heavens you can't take your eyes off it.

The lad Judas doesn't come across as someone who'd first choice of career is either as a singer or a dancer, but his moves and his look are utterly compelling. There are often moments where you think he's going to damage himself, but that sheer power of will keeps him going right through to the end.

Sadly he didn't make it through to this weekend's final, although to be honest, a rough translation of the song's title into English - Skewed Cubism - makes me suspect that we weren't intellectually ready for it anyway. Now make sure that you're sitting down before you watch this, because it really is quite a thing...

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

San Marino/UK/Azerbaijan/Ireland 2020 - Senhit/Valentina Monetta/Lesley Roy/Samira Efendi - Cleopatra


If one song has been the biggest backstage star of the season it's been a curious confection called Cleopatra. Indeed, there's been a massive swell of rumours bubbling about the DMs of informed Eurovisionia - but no one seemed to be able to confirm who it was by, who wrote it, or indeed who was going to send it!

The first mutterings suggested that it was a song that San Marino were going to send, but they'd rejected it in order to select something even more unhinged. Then the tattle was rife that there was a bidding war going on for it - in which the UK were very much interested. It seemed to go off the radar for a bit, then bounced back with a vengeance this week, being the centre of rumours that first Azerbaijan were going to pick it up, then briefly Ireland of all people, followed swiftly by heading straight back to source and being the Samarinese song after all. Possibly sung by Senhit.

But that's not all. Counter rumours even suggested that this was a mischievous ruse by someone in the Eurovision business to see how far a rumour could fly and who could be trusted with information. But the most impressive thing of all is that up until the moment this speculative video was released, almost nobody did anything but hint of his existence in the public sphere - just in case. But now it's out in the open, we don't feel so mean for breaking the silence.

This clip has clearly been worked on since the early demo we heard last month, and the voice is markedly different. But trust us here when we say that in this tinny clip you don't event get to witness one half of the batshittery this little belter has to offer. You really have to hope that this is going to be a competitor this year, as it's proper bonkers!

So who is going to sing it? And for who? If at all? We do like a mystery...

***STOP PRESS***

Turns out that it WAS Senhit, and it BECAME Efendi! What a shame that all this intrigue was for naught in the end!

Georgia 2020 - Tornike Kipiani - Take Me As I Am


And so it was that a handful of hardy types got up early to hallucinate about singing ears and sit their way though what seemed like days of chirpy localised breakfast telly to see the eventual Georgian song reveal. We weren't among them, of course. We're too lazy for that. But we so very appreciate those that did.

But part of our laze hinged around the large chunks of the song that we'd heard in clips before the full reveal. Unless it was going to pick up somewhere and go all Rudimental on our shapely behinds we figured that we'd just about got the gist of it. And we had.

And of course, we must point out our surprise that the fabulously intense Tornike is even doing this thing. You might just about remember his Georgian national final appearance a few years back with a similarly shouty flouro rave belter called You Are My Sunshine - so quite how he managed to win a major national singing show and convince them to send him to Rotterdam is anyone's guess. But we're so very glad that they did. It's a slow, shouty, mega intense paen that rails against the Georgian tendency to be expected to do things like the foreigners - and to be fair, anything that pisses off the big five is alright by me. It's kind of like the anti-Somewhere In Europe that's been hiding as an album track on a Jesus Jones rarities compilation for the last 25 years.

Nice work, old boy. It'll surely get lost in the crowd in this funny old year, but we can't wait to see it live!



Sunday, 1 March 2020

Croatia 2020 - Zdenka Kovačićek - Love, Love, Love


Quite simply the most incredible first twelve seconds of a Eurovision contending song that we can ever remember seeing.

The rest of it - not so much. Although it certainly has its moments now and again.

Miss Kovačićek here is a massive and historical name in Croatian rock, blues and jazz singing, so we shouldn't be dismissive here, especially as at 76 years of age she'll have put those pipes through quite a battering over her long and glittering career. And to be fair we just couldn't keep our eyes off her from start to finish, as we really didn't know what she was likely to do next. Not a great song, but a fabulous performance, and one that made us hanker for a much earlier appearance from this doyen of Croatian alternative music.

But those first twelve seconds - oh boy!



Croatia 2020 - Alen Vitasović & Božidarka Matija Čerina - Da Se Ne Zatare


More from the highly underrated Dora final, and another unsettling oddity. Both Alen and Božidarka are names of some gravity around Croatian parts, and on the face of it, this song should have benefitted from their star power. But somehow it never quite came off. Because despite having most of the ingredients of a pretty decent contender, none of them seemed to gel, and we were left with a strange old beast of a song.

For starters, Ms Čerina didn't appear to completely believe the outfit she was wearing, and when Mr Vitasović shambled on looking like a drunk they'd just accumulated in the car park who just wouldn't leave them alone, this lack of will or chemistry was all the more compounded. The girls in regional dress at the back did everything in their power to try to retrieve it, but it just got stranger and stranger.

It didn't help that the main note of the chorus was repeated in staccato delivery to anxiety inducing levels, and so when Alen started prowling about staring some of the girls directly in the face, it all got a little uncomfortable.

Apparently the song's title was something about trying not to get too old. We wonder if that was figurative, because we're not sure that old Alen's got much more puff left in him.


Moldova 2020 - Pasha Parfeny - My Wine


We've been fans of Pasha since his near miss back in 2011 with the fabulous Dorule, and really couldn't knock his trumpety triumph the following year with Lautar. But we weren't much feeling his 2020 effort about his favourite tipple - until we saw the whole thing live in the Moldovan final.

Trading in his previously well-trimmed appearance to a look more akin to an extra off Jesus Christ Superstar the boy chucked in practically every Moldovan archetype in the book into the barrel, shook it up, and then added a few of his own bits to it for good measure.

And this is one of these cases where we won't give everything away, because there are bits of this performance that you really have to discover for yourself. But we warn you now - make sure that you're not holding or drinking any fluids at about the 1:48 mark!



Moldova 2020 - Mishel Dar ft. Julia Ilienko – Tears


And the award for messiest national final appearance of the year goes to...

Yes, we know that the competition is tough in this category, but there's a whole load to unpack here to help us explain how we came to our conclusions. For a start, the outfits. The main singer lass - Julia, we assume - wears some kind of Abbaesque shiny tunic dress with belt and cat - and so does one of the dancer girls - only with a black skirt over it. Then two of the backing singers had yellow t-shirts with the song title on, while the main singer lad - Mishel, we assume - has a blue one on. And where that lady in green who was the only one who could actually sing suddenly appeared from, well we're not entirely sure.

Then there was the car macguffin. One minute they're all pretending to drive, the next they're pacing about in front of it while some of them are still driving, the next is suddenly doesn't matter at all and is just an incongruous cardboard box at the back of the stage.

Then there's the half-explained interactions, lots of walking around, and very little singing in tune - whoever thought even half of this was a good idea. It's like they realised that this was their one big chance of getting on telly, so decided to cram every single idea that they'd ever had into three minutes!

Did Sasha Bognibov's hopes of Moldovan glory die in vain for a dog's dinner of a song like this?!

Croatia 2020 - Indira - You Will Never Break My Heart


More from Croatia, and in the immortal words of Jim Bowen, let's have a look at what you could have won. Indira Levak here is practically a national institution in Croatia. Lead singer of Colonia for about a hundred years, solo star in her own right, and a judge on The Voice of Croatia, she's got a mammoth track record behind her.

She's also just a little bit terrifying, and each time she barks "Choo weell nevva breek moy hurt" directly at the camera, you feel like it is a personal instruction that must be adhered to at all times. But at the same time, she's also utterly engaging, and you can't take you eyes off her for a moment.

Imagine having her stomping about in her pants instead of that dreary fella they eventually sent. And she'd certainly give her near neighbours Hurricane a good run for their money in the high energy Balkanism stakes. Another massive missed opportunity, one fears. This year is getting safer with each new reveal. Who will offer us some danger or delight? (And no, I don't count that Lithuanian pub band who got lucky).


Croatia 2020 - Aklea Neon - Zovi Ju Mama


The final of Dora seemed to be well down people's priority lists last night - in part perhaps because the songs were only partially released only a few hours before, and part because it was a jolly complicated faff trying to work out how to get the stream going. And all of this is a proper shame, because it turned out to be one of the most entertaining contests of the whole season, and pretty much the best Dora in many a year.

It was also positively festooned with joys and oddities - many of which I'll be sharing here over the next couple of days. And few were odder than this little jewel. The title translates as something along the lines of 'Call It Mum', which from the garb and the plant life one would assume to be all about Mother Earth herself. And boy was there a lot going on.

Often reminiscent of a local community drama group doing something ecological for the kiddies down at the Village Hall, these fine ladies stomped about in macrame outfits, while a pixie bloke fiddled around with some equipment behind the potted plant rack at an out of town garden centre. And although the message of this song will almost certainly have been something that we wholeheartedly support here at Apocalypse Mansions, it did all look just a little bit silly. But in a really, really entertaining way.



Saturday, 29 February 2020

Serbia 2020 - Marko Marković - Kolači


There's a rule of thumb in the Balkans that the more like a minicab driver an artist looks, the more fun you're likely to have. So you can imagine the happiness riot that you're about to get with this young fella above. Especially when, as any translation I can find suggests, he's singing about cakes.

Marko's been a middle-sized star around those parts for a few years now. He's a prince of the wedding band style trumpet, and a bit of a boisterous old chunk as well. Any clips of the green room last night had him tooting his horn in the background, and you kind of imagine that wherever Marko may be, the party won't be too far behind.

Imagine the fun we could have with this one in Rotterdam in this pretty generic year that we're having. He's ever got a bit that sounds like he's shouting 'rectum' in a Kiwi accent! What's not to love. So sit band and enjoy the stompiest slice of a tune that we've heard so far this year. You'll be dancing on the tables by the end of it!


Friday, 28 February 2020

Belarus 2020 - Napoli - Dоn't Let Me Down


If this year has shown us anything it's that if you keep plugging away, eventually your time will come. After all, if that regular recidivist Samanta Tīna and Azerbaijan's eternal bridesmaid Samira Efendi can finally make it through, there must be hope of everyone. Or so Belarus's Napoli must have thought.

After all, she seems like she's been entering this thing since Christer Björkman was in short trousers, so must have spent a pretty penny preparing for what she thought must have been her hard-earned artistic vindication.

What actually happened though was that she hired in a couple of chaps in stripey jerkins wearing facial body parts instead of faces and mucking about with bits of green string, while the lass herself warbled out her merry tune. But how did it go, again...?

Good luck next year, Napoli. Good luck next year.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Israel 2020 - Eden Alene - Roots


On an unusually busy midweek day in Eurovisionia, Israel revealed the four songs that are going to battle it out at their national final. All sung by bright new star Eden Alene, an Israeli of Ethiopian heritage, they're a mixed bag of demure plodders, folksy popsters and the obligatory one that's got a homeopathic amount of Fuego DNA in it (which they'll probably pick). The the one that most endeared itself to our ears was this little curio.

It's got a little bit of everything. Traditional dewy-eyed Israeli looks to the past, a promising pop build, and the most unexpectedly banging pop hop chorus with a squeaky voice that straddles the fine line between incredible and really bloody annoying. But we sit firmly in the camp of the former opinion.

It almost certainly won't be for anyone, and it's surely the least likely to be picked of the quartet, but we're really glad it's there, because this is likely to be the most entertaining visual spectacle of the lot, and offers a change for Ms Alene to showcase her considerably versatile talents.

Altogether now... "I love my rooooots!"


United Kingdom 2020 - James Newman - My Last Breath


Being a British national I kind of feel duty bound to bring you all the latest UK entry for Eurovision every year. But it's becoming increasingly difficult to muster up any enthusiasm for the things we seem to be sending these days. Middle brow, plodding, decent, but, y'know, a little dull.

And what's worse is that this was supposed to be a whole new era of UK Eurovisionism, what with BMG exec producing the song and Radio 1 joining in with the reveal. And while many of the names mentioned in relation to our song were wishful thinking, when I heard that James Newman and Iain James were two of the writing team back on Tuesday night I began to think that we might just be on for something at least half decent.

But it's the hope that kills you.

The best I've heard anybody say about it today is "It's not bad". But not bad brings you bottom quarter of the right hand side of the table. Not bad converts to every nation putting you just outside of the points, leading to the usual tabloid bleats that it's all fixed, and every one hates us because of (add own topical dismay trope here).

It's perfectly well-crafted, beautifully sung, has a painfully hooky - if not slightly cheesy - chorus device, and doesn't feel the compulsion to go on for that bit too long to fill the three minutes, like many of its competitors will. But it's all a little bit beige, and that's precisely what we don't need in this contest any more. We need to give people a reason to pick up the phone, not an excuse not to.

When it debuted on Radio 1 this morning, every single song on either side of its reveal would have been prime contemporary Eurovision fodder. But it stood like a sore thumb of bland amongst a sea of brightness. Massive opportunity missed.

Many commentators are already getting narky that so many UK fans are doing it down. But we've been here so many times, and it rarely ends well. I have never, ever wanted to be proved wrong more than I do with this song. But, y'know, I'm seriously dreading 16th to 24th at best.

I wonder who the BBC are going to ask to sip from the poisoned chalice next year?



Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Sweden 2020 - Victor Crone - Troubled Waters (Microphone Isolated)


Those of us who attended the early sound checks and run through's of Victor Crone's Storm last year will be aware that there were times that his voice was strained pretty much to the limit - and indeed slightly beyond on occasion. At the time we assumed that it was all down to the stress of the overly complicated Augmented Reality stage business that he'd been lumbered with by the Estonian authorities. But it turns out that we might just have assumed incorrectly.

We thought something was a little uncanny when we watched the lad's qualifier performance, but we couldn't quite put our finger on it. Indeed, when he whupped out his ear piece in the run up to the big finishing notes, we just figured that he was giving himself a decent chance to hit all the marks in that noisy old Malmö barn. But possibly not. For Daily Motion have got their hands on the isolated mic recordings with all the music and backing tracks pushed to the back of the mix. And oh my days does it give us a different look at the boy Crone.

For when those especially strainy notes in the chorus come calling, his mic appears to be, ahem, turned off. Or perhaps, as slightly more unkind observers than us have pointed out, he's miming the whole bloody chorus. And it must have been planned way in advance, cos the camera always seems to pan out mysteriously when he does it!

Now let's be generous here. Let's just suppose that he's got some manner of throaty ailment that impeded him from hitting those difficult highs, and the good lord Christer kindly helped him out a bit, just this once, in order to make the show that little bit better. After all, it was clear that he was struggling with quite a few of the more difficult corners of the performance. Or maybe he really wasn't up to it. Which is a bit of a worry if he actually wins the flipping thing, as he'll have to attempt to hit them for real on live TV in front of many more millions that gaze at the Melfestivities.

Oh, and we didn't much care for his somewhat over-the-top celebrations when his name was called at the end. But let's hope it's all very innocent and easily explainable, and the good people of Sweden don't take against him after these revelations. However dubious they may actually seem.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Sweden 2020 - Nanne Grönvall – Carpool Karaoke


Sometimes at this contest you just want something that's dumb and fun and so terribly old fashioned, but that leaves you with a massive big smile on your face, despite everything. And this is exactly that song.

In an era when Melfest seems intent on second-guessing the future and remoulding all the last big hits into a massive sea of bland, delightful little showbiz incursions like this are getting as rare eagles' teeth. So what a joy it was to see an old stager like Nanne, who has been there, done that, and got a third place in the big show under her belt, letting loose and just having a lark with a light-hearted tune about that annoying bloke off the American telly.

She totters wilfully about that Malmö stage like the dangerous one on a third-marriage hen night, gurning straight down the camera pipe at your slightly confused grandpa, and looking like she's having the time of her life. And that bit of business at the end where the dancers turned into a big meat car was just glorious. It was never in with a shout of even making it to the A/C round, but we're so very glad it was there to add some innocent sparkle to the sea of bland that Melodifestivalen has become. Good on you, girl!


Sunday, 23 February 2020

Slovenia 2020 - Klemen Slakonja - The History of Slovenia At Eurovision (Interval)



The Slovenian TV host Klemen Slakonia is something of an acquired taste. You either love his obvious gags, self-agrandising demeanour and comedy pratfalls (and yes, there are still people who believe that he was actually hurt in that unfunny bit of business at the top of the show last evening!), or you find him just a little bit grating - and we have to confess that as a general rule we tend to sit in the latter camp.

But he rescued the whole thing last night with his utterly incredible interval stint that consisted of a micro-cover of the pretty much all the Slovenian songs that competed in Eurovision. Each and every one of them was perfectly observed, with tiny little in-gags for the knowing, and all incredibly well done.

The amount of work that must have gone into each of the twenty plus clips was enormous, from hair, make-up and outfits, to learning all the lines and mannerisms. It was an absolute tour de force from a supremely confident performer (even if he is a bit annoying most of the rest of the time).


Just imagine if the UK tried that...



Saturday, 22 February 2020

Portugal 2020 – Filipe Sambado – Gerbera Amarela Do Sul


Lovely Portugal has seriously upped its conceptual game since that Salvador moment, and these days an evening in with FdC is a delight from start to finish rather than the dated pop ordeal with the occasional bright moment of old. But ever we were surprised by this curiously little number.

We've been enjoying the track itself for quite a while now - a lilty little meander with enough signature Portuguese groove to make us wonder quite how they were going to present it on the night. And we have to be honest, we didn't quite expect this. Fair enough, the song appears to be about some kind of wild flower, but we never imagined the outfits, the hair, the make up, and by heavens the reveal of THAT unexpected garment! It was quite a fascinating three minutes - one that felt much longer, but somewhat rarely, in a good way.

And what's more it somehow went on to knock out local stadium faves Blasted Mechanism with their disappointingly crammed-yet-lifeless bit of bombast. Good heavens, this one couldn't pull a Conan, could it?

Ukraine 2020 - KrutЬ – 99


Hooray hooray, it's Vidbir day! Yep, it's the Ukrainian national final show tonight (well, this late afternoon in these parts), and despite being just six songs fat, the show is scheduled to take around three-and-a-half hours to complete - and it always runs on a bit, too. Expect short bursts of activity, followed by an awful lot of talking from the panel, twelve minute commercial breaks, and an ever increasing run of previously unannounced guest acts at the end. Then they'll drag all the artists back on stage for an overcomplicated voting process on a screen you can't quite see. It's like Sanremo, only without the occasional incursion by the cast of Inspector Montalbano.

But if you can be bothered sitting it out there some joys to behold among all the endless chit chat. Tvorchi is the show's implausible favourite, and we've rather taken to the lads' bouncing about in the bits between the singing. Khayat seems to be the next most likely to drag out a win, and seems popular among fankind, despite its unruly mash-up of genres and fabrics, and Jerry Heil has the zeitgeist song that they really ought to send but almost certainly won't. And don't rule out Go_A's slightly terrifying folksy rave track, or even David Axelrod's dark brooding eyebrows - if there's going to be a shock winner on the night we fear that it's going to be him!

But the one song that almost nobody seems to be talking about is the sublime 99. I mean, what's not to love? An etherial glam pixie warbling out a new age jangle folk groove while strumming along on an instrument so obscure that even the locals had all but forgotten its existence (it's a 65-stringed bandura, pop spotters!). It's the kind of thing that any good Eurovision needs at least one of, and its delightful atmosphere and slightly terrifying cartoony backdrop makes it an ideal evocation of Ukraine in 2020.

Although hang about...99?  All dressed in white in a Mr Whippy frock? Hang about, this song's all about ice cream vans and she's calling plaintively for her lost flake, isn't she?! (Viewers from outside the UK may just want to skip over that last paragraph...)


Friday, 21 February 2020

Romania 2020 - Roxen - Alcohol You


The five Romanian songs have just snuck out, or at least 30 second-ish clips have, and we have to say that from what we can hear there's not one of them that we wouldn't be happy to go to Rotterdam. Each one of them is a small portion of bang up-to-date pop, full of bright rhythms and Roxen's fabulously crumbly voice. To our ear, Colors seems the song most likely to - although each clip seems to end of a knowing tease that something bigger's just about to come along, but you're not allowed to hear it yet.

But the one that really caught our attention was this one. A dark, brooding number which appears to be about the dangers - or possibly even delights - of the bottle, they've gone full Eilish on it, it must be said. But there's enough haunted hollows and poppy follow ons to make this the one we want to hear in full the most.

We're curious to see the list of songwriters, though, because there's more than one of 'em that appears, on first listen, to have some Scandi DNA raddled right through 'em. But if the songs are all as decent as the clips suggest, we kind of don't care.

***STOP PRESS***

The full songs are out now, and blimey this is fantastically dark. The lyric video often displays some mangled English, but all of a sudden it reveals smart and really rather clever wordplay. Cripes - this was even more than I was expecting!




Thursday, 20 February 2020

Poland 2020 - Norbert Legieć - She Loves You


Over the many years we've been covering the selection stages of this fine contest we've seen some pretty dumb concepts for selecting the eventual Eurovision contender for for any given country. But somehow Poland have managed to dredge up the worst idea in all known history. Not just in terms of this show, but pretty much anything, anywhere.

We're trying to imagine the development meeting where this whole sorry farrago got posited. "Fellow television workers - I think I've finally got it! How about we drag a lot of semi-established artists who've had a couple of decent sized hits into a cramped studio, and make them sing songs that they're entirely unsuited to, pick one seemingly at random, then get them to perform a song that they'd already submitted alongside two others in a big showbiz final show! There's no way that this idea could ever possibly go wrong! It's Warsaw 2021 for sure!"

Seriously, what were they thinking?!

Witness poor Norbert here. He's had a whole bundle of cracking little minor tropical pop hits. He's very much of the now, and exactly the kind of thing that Poland should be considering sending to Eurovision proper. And what do they do? Make him nervously sing a 56-year-old song that he clearly wasn't familiar with and get painfully embarrassed in front of the whole nation. We're not blaming him in any way for this sad mess. They've lumped him on stage in front of a big karaoke screen, and frequently cut to some of the judges or other artists looking pained when he goes off piste with the melody. Absolutely shocking treatment of a promising pop act that could easily set his career back.

And it wasn't just him. Twenty-one artists in total got pushed through this mincing machine, singing ancient songs like it was 2:34 am after a provincial wedding. And all of them apparently brought songs in their own style that would have been way more apt in helping to chose the eventual Polish representative in what everyone was predicting was likely to be a good year for them.

They might just be lucky and find a gem from all this nonsense, but it's like boxing with your good hand tied behind your back and expecting a good result? Szansa Na Sukces? Bloody great mess, more like!

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Ireland 2020 - Elm - Golden



For want of any decent UK tittle tattle, the rumour mill has nipped across the Irish sea to block in the info vacuum. After the hints offered by the production company ThisIsPopBaby about the chosen act being gay friendly, folks immediately filled in the gaps and assumed it was going to be some kind of cross dressing cabaret act. Then Captain Sparkle's single briefly added a little colour to the pop pages of the Irish press, before a regular Irish troll spammer began to insist that the act was an woman who'd been working in America for some year. Thoughts, inevitably, turned to Samantha Mumba, as they always do. but then turned out to suggest the even less exciting option of Lesley Roy. Even Janet Devlin made her usual brief appearance on the block, just for the hell of it.

But there's one tiny sniff of a rumour from a few weeks ago that has begun to build a head of steam. Upcoming queerpop band Elm have been popping into more than a few people's inboxes, and have begun to emerge as firm underground favourites to take the Irish berth this year. They certainly match a lot of ThisIsPopBaby's hints about being quite positively gay, most unlike anything they've sent before, and even match a picture of four pairs of socked feet that one of the production mob sent.

It couldn't be, could it? It would certainly be a bold move from RTÉ, and one that we struggle to believe that they'd have come up with themselves. But we really wouldn't be at all unhappy if it was true. There's even talk that it's with a blinding indie pop tune called Golden, which some bloke recorded at a show on his phone and then posted on Twitter, which is available from the link above.

Of course, we really couldn't be this lucky, and it'll end up being some ham-faced folkie on a guitar again. But we can dream, so let us have this moment for, erm, a moment! We've had so little to go on so far this season, after all...

Sweden 2020 – Anis Don Demina – Vem E Som Oss


In what is fast becoming the most vanilla Melodifestivalen in living memory, we casual watchers have been crying out for something, y'know, a bit lively. Up to this point, the only bit of vague fun or excitement we've had was that titchy cameo from the good lord Sean Banan in the first show. Where's the Swingfly moment? That bonkers De Vet Du creativity? Dare I say it, we've even been crying out for a bit of Samir & Viktor!

So you can imagine the joy that exploded on the sofa in Apocalypse Manor when the boy Demina exploded onto the stage. Big bold and bouncy rhythms, massive optimistic trumpets (or at least trumpet sounding keyboard settings), and a lyric packed full of positivity and get up and go spat out with a machine gun delivery. But Sweden, please don't look at this as your stock comedy also-ran, because this is your only song this year with any big show potential. No, seriously, hear me out.

Many in Eurovisionia will be unable to see beyond the fact that there's a portly bloke in an over-stuffed velour tracky to notice that there's a song of real promise in here. It's a stompy hip pop tune with boundless enthusiasm in a year when everyone's going to send either sombre sad boys, try hard pub bands or solid-faced girls thrustingly joylessly to overwrought techpop. Look beyond what you think to imagine what the folks at home would see - an absolute fun riot with a mammoth chord structure and an honest, personal lyric. This ain't no joke entry. This is an absolute contender to annoy Johnny Logan and draw level with the Irish - and what could be a better incentive to choose it than that!

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Iceland 2020 - Daði & Gagnamagnið – Gagnamagnið


Iceland were always going to have difficulty following up their masterstroke last year, so it's good to see that our old pal Daði Freyr back for another try after his much-loved near miss of a couple of season ago. And in effect he's brought us pretty much the same thing again, only with a slightly slicker presentation.

We still have the deadpan gawk to camera, the minimal retro electro tune and the low impact communal shuffling about. But this time there's more. The microphone sight gags, the close formation head turns to seek out the cameras, the slightly over-done saxophone bit, good heavens, the library green garments that have morphed into boiler suits.

But most of all it's got a cool, geeky, innocent charm. The song itself won't be on too many people's hitlists, but when combined with the show, the atmosphere and the quaintly dopy demeanour they've got another potential hit on their hands. Now if only that can beat that admittedly pretty decent blind girl singing in the dark...


Monday, 10 February 2020

Latvia 2020 - Samanta Tīna - Still Breathing


Here at Apocalypse we become so familiar with habitual unsuccessful entrants to this funny old show that they almost feel like family members. So it’s always a bittersweet moment when one of them finally makes it to the big eurovision stage. On the one hand you’re so happy for them at having achieved their Eurovision dream at last, but on the other, it’s probably the last time you’re going to witness their glorious bonkersness.

And Ms Tīna here has been a regular visitor to these pages. Finally winning out after six goes in Latvia (and another less successful attempt in neighbouring Lithuania), she became a cult figure around these parts with her brain-bursting 2016 attempt, The Love Is Forever, where her curious headgear earned her the nickname Neffertīna among national final followers.

But this year she called in the heavy artillery and got Aninata to write her a song - and what a belter it is too. Three parts pretty decent electropop tune, one part the actual sound of aliens invading and absorbing us all into a collective uni-brain. Indeed, it’s a drop so fierce and whompy that we can wait to hear it live and loud.

Congratulations Samanta, we’re going to miss you!


Sunday, 9 February 2020

Norway 2020 - Kevin Boine – Stem På Mæ


Right then pop kids, strap yourself in because you're about to get an object lesson in the kitchen sink school of Eurovision song writing. And trust me, it get splendid beyond your imagination.

It kicks off with a reasonably good looking lad sat alone with his willowy voice in the centre of the stage. Then, as it picks up a bit, four girls that it looks like Kevin here randomly collected in a bus queue amble on and it all begins to get a bit poppy, although we're not sure why he's standing behind a plinth. Then the lad inexplicably breaks into a bit of joiking - well it worked last year, after all - before inexplicably throwing in an ill-advised bit of rap for good measure.

But then all of a sudden there's six dancers - and who are those two blokes standing in the shadows with stringed instruments? No hang on, when we said six dancers we meant bloody loads. Now that man's playing a guitar for three seconds. Hang about, where did all that lot come from? Now there's bloody loads of them!

And hold on, does Kevin realise that when put together in that formation his initials look like some kind of stylised penis graffiti? Ooh, wait a minute, it sounds like it's building up to a key change...

Ooof! They missed that by a mile. But still they soldier on! And whey, ho are that lot hiding at the back with placards with his penile initials on? I can pick out a fisherman and maybe a rally driver, and perhaps a nurse... This is absolutely unhinged in ways that I don't expect that even Kevin understands. Whoa! What's happening to that banjo?!

And then it ends, and I can guarantee that you'll hit play again almost instantly to make sure that you really saw what you just saw. I don't think you'll find another performance this year that chucks so much into a three minute bucket to so little reward. Yep, poor Kevin here lost a first round duel to a heterosexual girl soullessly shuffling through an exploito-pop song called I Am Gay. I'll bet you're wondering why you went to all the trouble now, Kevin. But we're so very glad that you did.

***STOP PRESS***
We’ve just learned that the song’s title roughly translates as Vote For Me, and this whole performance  was something of a post-ironic attempt at self parody. Gone right off it now.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Ireland 2020 - Captain Sparkle - Cha Cha Boom


There's an entertaining rumour coming out of Ireland tonight. When Dancing With The Stars judge Julian Benson debuted his charity single on the show tonight the tittle tattle mill exploded with supposition. Surely this song filled all of the criteria that the Irish concept designers have been hinting at for the last week or so?

Dancey? Check! Catchy? Check! LGBT+ performer? Most certainly! Something Ireland has never seen before? I guess. But there might be a very good reason for that...

It's almost certainly people just putting two and two together in very bad maths because the song's under three minutes. But it would also be hilarious if after all the new broom hoo haa the actual song was actually this! I mean, The Irish Sun is stating that it ought to be the Irish entry, so it must be true!

But whatever the eventual truth, it's still worth clicking the link, because it'll help raise funds for Julian's marvellous cystic fibrosis charity - so even if it's a just a dumb extrapolated rumour, it'll still do some good.


Ukraine 2020 - Katya Chilly – Pich


The first Ukrainian semi-final is going on around us as we speak, and it's been an absolute joy so far, packed as it is with smart pop, joyful dance, and a ridiculous amount of local folk art colour. Witness Katya here. Once a curious teen prodigy, she had a few fallow years before somehow ending up on Ukrainian X Factor. And now she's popped up on Vidbir with this glorious bit of strangeness.

Now don't be put off by the intro. It's not a mistake, it's supposed to be like that. Watery sounds and near darkness awkwardly populate the speakers before the lass starts to gently bark. Then the lights come up, the wind machine hits top gear and the regional throat singing and art shouting begins to float from her face.

While this goes on a Peruvian shaman beckons the gods to save his forest, and lots of people stand about howling. An absolutely perfect piece of Eurovisionia from what's shaping up to the the stand out show of the year so far. Only five go through tonight, and there's a good chance that all of them will be belters!

Australia 2020 - Jaguar Jonze - Rabbit Hole


Australia kicked off Super Enormous Saturday with a real curate's egg of a show. Big hall, loving fans, gags that laugh with us rather than at us. In fact, the only thing that let it down in comparison to last year was the songs. While there wasn't a really duff one among them, far too many felt like they were created specifically for what the writers though Eurovision is supposed to be rather than self-standing songs that arrived there by happy accident.

Which is why we loved the Jaguar Jonze performance so much. Dark alt pop with edgy chords and a scratchy, unsettling stage presence is exactly the kind of thing we love at this contest, and there really ought to be a bit more of it - and Jaguar here brought it in buckets.

And quite unexpectedly the crowd seemed to buy into it. But sadly they weren’t smart enough to send it to the big show. Which is a darned shame in our book.


Friday, 7 February 2020

Italy 2020 - Bugo & Morgan - Bugo Storms Out


Sanremo has been full of joys and splendor this year. But tonight, at around the 20 hour mark, something unprecedented happened. But you'll need to know the backstory a little.

Both singers has been pretty big near underground stars in their own right for some years now. So when we heard that they were teaming up we were preparing for fireworks. But we didn't expect this. After a pretty decent first night show they found themselves unexpectedly bottom of the pile in the demoscopic vote. Then followed a shambolic performance last night in the classic Sanremo covers round, that looked random and completely unrehearsed. Turns out that it was.

So tonight, with the pair languishing miles behind on the scorecard, it all began to unravel. You could tell there was tension as they walked on. But when the flicky-haired silver coyote Morgan hastily stuffed a bundle of papers onto his keyboard, things swiftly escalated.

Singing what appeared to be entirely new words, he gestured towards a pacing Bugo, to ambled up to the keyboard console, grabbed some of the lyric sheets, then skulked off through the silver exit curtain before anyone had twigged what had happened. Morgan soldiered on for a few seconds, before tottering off behind him, calling out his name.

The hosts, of course, now had to fill and be funtimes amidst all this confusion. At first we thought the new lyric was having a pop at Sanremo itself for the act's lowly rank. But it soon became clear that Morgan was actually digging on his on stage partner for letting him down this week. So we're not surprised he exited pronto.

The pair were swiftly disqualified - not only for their walk out, but for changing the words - and were quickly, and somewhat coldly, erased from the scoreboard. We're sure that more details will emerge, but for now we can only wonder what the full story was. Our pal at the Ariston tells us that this has never, ever happened before.

But one thing is clear - you never mess with dear Aunt Sanremo!



Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Italy 2020 - Achille Lauro - Me Ne Frego


The first night of Sanremo is always a splendid blend of joy and anticipation, where you have to wait and see what your favourites bring to the show, and get surprised by singers that you'd never have imagined would give you such a thrill. And it was very much like that with Achille Lauro's performance tonight. While I absolutely loved his slightly ill-placed effort with Rolls Royce last year, Mrs Apocalypse hated it in equal measure.

So I was gratified to see her standing on the sofa and punching the air in delight with each new pose and preen from our lapsed mumble rapper here. For the pair of us it was absolutely the performance of the night, from the unexpected entry, to the camp-yet-still-well-hard interplay between himself and his guitarist, and the utterly massive build to the end.

Where last year was his saw thumb testing of the water, this year he's plumbed right into the very essence of Sanremo, yet still managing to punk it up some considerable levels.

We just wonder what he's likely to wear for his next two appearances!

***STOP PRESS***

We learned late last evening that the whole performance was an allegory for the story of St Francis of Assisi divesting of his worldly goods and giving himself over to God. Blimey! We also learned that he'd gained in the region of ten times the views on YouTube than all the other contestants. So he may have had a relatively lowly ranking on the first scores table, but he's certainly the artist that everyone is talking about!


Moldova 2020 - Carolina Rakoviță - Dancing In The Sunrise


Songs and performances find themselves on this blog for all kinds of different reasons. Many are so heart-achingly beautiful or bold that we just have to share the joy, while others are so knuckle gnawingly awful that we could never not show them too you. And then there's the delightful outsiders that we frequently champion who just need a little bit of love.

And then there's performances like this that deserve a wider audience than the half dozen hardy souls who tuned in at a weird hour to watch their no frills audition performance. Clips that don't really fit into any of the usual categories, but that are still worthy of a look.

Witness Ms Ra here as she stands rooted to the spot, staring into the middle distance like she's part of a hostage deal, dressed like children imagine pop stars dress. The song itself is a standard middle European pop banger with all the usual cliches and regular riffs rolled in. But it's when Carolina begins to dance in the farty trumpet bits that this all really begins to catch fire.

And because this ended up on the Moldovan rejection list you'd never be likely to see it again,  so we thought we'd bring the splendid one more time, to see if you'll be able to copy the gal's signature moves. And boy is she fierce!


Monday, 3 February 2020

Norway 2020 - Jenny Jenssen - Mr Hello


Anyone closely following the pointlessly high concept MGP process in Norway this year has been presented with a seemingly endless beige wasteland of moderately alright songs. Nothing especially to hate, but nothing to build a great big bandwagon on either. But it looks like all the big crisps ended up at the bottom of the packet, because semi 5 has suddenly brought along three little sachets of a much less usual flavour.

Skirting over the uber blandness of Elin & The Woods, we've got the three-quarter baked indie folk jangle with marginal joik of Kevin Boine, and the nice-try-to-hit-the-demographic-but-it-sounds-more-like-a-joyless-song-from-a-marketing-video pop grooves of I Am Gay by Liza Vassilieva. But the one that tweaked our ludicrousity muscle the most was this hugely dumb-yet-catchy ragtime hoedown.

Whatever in the world possessed NRK to dredge into the locker marked 'Mr Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen', have a bit of a swoosh about with a big stick and glue together something that only the Brits or the Dutch would have considered sending in 1974? And yet, seeing as it's just about the only song with any kind of life in it in their whole sorry process, I almost hope that the Norwegians send this. On the one hand it could be an accidental fun riot in a sea of sadbois, and on the other it would teach them never to be this foolish again.(Although secretly we're kind of glad that they were...)


Sunday, 2 February 2020

Moldova 2020 - Valentin Uzun & Irina Kovalsky - Moldovița


If there's one thing that Moldova is good at, it's singing songs about Moldova, and we had more than our usual fair share of 'em this year. But where our lovely pals VovIAN sounded more like a home-made commercial on a regional public access channel, this little beast sounds more like it was carefully crafted in the offices of the national tourist board.

It's got everything that you could wish for - a stompy, ever quickening beat, lots of yelping and shouting, a proto-prog bit in the middle that could have come from a Bessarabian spaghetti western, and enough colourful local clothing to blind a nan. And what's more, unlike recent years this one had actually managed to make its way to the properly televised stages, it what is becoming more and more like an "anything but Bognibov" selection process.

Hopefully the eventual live show will feature a gaggle of dancers to hop and yelp and bounce about with their hands in the air and totally bring the energy. It almost certainly won't win, of course, because we suspect we know already which song has provided the most brown envelope sheathed entry tokens, but we're do very glad that it's here to totally bring the local colour. After all, they were one of the few acts yesterday that had any energy, and didn't look as though they were in some kind of warped hostage situation...

PS This isn't a clip from the actual auditions, as there's a weird copyright thing with MAD TV of Greece going on. But it's another of those fabulous moments from the Vorbe Bune TV show, with our lovely host Lilu dancing awkwardly on the sofa.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Denmark 2020 - Maja Og De Sarte Sjæle - Den Eneste Goth I Vejle


When the traditionally beige list of Danish songs were announced last night there was one title that perked the attention of more than a few of us. Did that really say "The Only Goth In Vejle"? Turns out that not only were our suppositions true, but that Maja And The Delicate Souls (although a good dozen other translations are available) were a smashing jangly indie folk act that really sounded like they ought to be Scottish.

We really couldn't be that lucky, could we?

So when we finally got passed the track last night at about 2:30am we were truly gladdened by what an absolute little smasher it was. A rattly two-stringed gothy pop riff underlaid a graceful, lilting vocal and a smashing innocently happy melody, while the odd snatch of the words that we could easily translate hinted at an incredibly smart lyric. And then it happened...

OK, so referencing the band who should no longer be mentioned is perhaps a risky move, especially as there'll be some dullard who bleats 'plagiat!' and tries to get it DQ'd, (no, not THAT DQ!), but it's phrased slightly differently and using a significantly different melody so we should be alright. And anyway, who ever dobbed on the Fire/Higher/Desire mob for their constant rehashing of the same bloody phrase.

It would be a beautiful thing if the Danes see sense and send this to Rotterdam. I have an aching suspicion that they won't, but fair play for sending it DTF in an arch and over-complicated selection system that could have seen it lost before we got a chance to see it performed live. It's no world-beater, for sure, but it'd be a lovely point of difference among the attack of the clones that we've had to endure so far.


Thursday, 30 January 2020

Ukraine 2020 - Jerry Heil - Vegan


It's all looking a bit dour so far this year, with its plethora of sadbois and Fuego clones - so thank heavens for the Ukrainians, whose semi-final selections are looking more exciting with each new reveal. And this is one that we've got particularly high hopes for here at Apocalypse Heights.

Heil is a pretty well known face back home. Starting out as a YouTube star, she successfully carried her career onto the world of pop proper, and specialises in fabulous youth-facing pop froth with a slightly subversive edge, kind of in the vein of a Katy Perry or a Taylor Swift, only with a massive knowing wink to the viewers back home.

So all being well she could be ideal for this funny old contest, especially as her song hits the pop culture zeitgeist bang on - but it's another one that's all down to the live performance, and the reception of those grumpy old judges - but we reckon she's got the attitude to carry it through.



Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Belarus 2020 - Sasha Zakharik - Rocky Road


We thought we were done with Monday's lot from White Russia, but there's been one song that been burrowed so deeply into our psyche ever since that we just had to share the strange, wonky joy with you. I'll warn you though, because just like those Lithuanian Basketball Players, this tune is a bit like a disease - but a highly enjoyable one that you really won't mind catching for a bit.

It might be corny and dinky donky, with a vastly repetitive chorus and sung in a curious deep warbling voice, but there's something so innocently enjoyable about this little romp. It's the musical equivalent of a slightly overweight local policeman walking through the streets of a small rural village on a sunny Spring afternoon while waving at children. And it's almost impossible to hear without swaying from side to side involuntarily.

And Sasha here's a true pro. She may look like she's just wandered in on a break from her office job, but she delivers the fun with much aplomb and poise, even managing to incorporate instructions to the sound desk into her minimal happy-go-lucky dance routine. It's almost as if we've been thrown back in time to the early days of Sheena Easton, and the legendary DJ John Peel's corralling his formative Sheena Barmy Army in an utterly un-ironic manner to encourage us to throw aside our artistic pretensions and just enjoy the fun, dumb, happy music for what it is.

And do you know what the best thing is? This was actually one of the 12 Eurofest final qualifiers, so we'll be seeing it again - although this time probably in a posher frock and with a few bouncy dancers kicking their heels about. Altogether now... "I'm OK on this rocky road..."

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Ukraine 2020 - [Ó] - Tam, Kudy Ya Ydu


Ukraine appear to be embracing their inner cool upon their return to the fold this year. Not only are Fo Sho and Tvorchi bringing an unexpected urban flavour, but Jerry Heil promises some cracking ironic power pop, Moonzoo are always reliable for some artsy dance, while Go-A are bringing the 4am-on-a-dusty-beach minimal trance - and there's plenty more goodies besides.

But we're rather enjoying this somewhat leftfield dancy pop number from an act whose name we won't even begin to try to pronounce until we've heard at least three people say it with confidence. It's bouncy, bright, and offers rhythms less trodden for this contest - and in a rare move these days, a pretty well considered use of trumpet.

It's one of those songs where we can't wait to see what they do with live - it could either be an utter fun explosion, or a cool laid back groove, but either way it should be an absolutely cracking opening to the whole Vidbir process, and we suspect they've been given the opening slot of semi one for a very good reason!



Monday, 27 January 2020

Belarus 2020 - Chakras - La-Ley-La


You can never fully predict who the jury are going to put through from the audition stages in Belarus. A few songs that we thought were dead certs are nowhere to be seen in the final dozen, while some performances that we assumed were dead in the water have somehow made it in under the wire. But there is one of the twelve that both surprised and gladdened us.

Chakras here were smart. They took advantage of going on bang after the interval to use the down time to familiarise themselves with the stage and go through their act. Not that there's much to it - it's simply three singy ladies in flimsy dressing gowns warbling the syllables 'La-Ley-La' over and over again in ever more drifty ways, while a serious bloke in black at the side filled in the deep bits.

Oh, there was a quaint little birdwhistle bit at the start, and some incongruous jaw harp every now and again, but in the main it was floaty nice piece of new age nonsense that'll have the judges reaching for the rule books as to exactly what constitutes a lyric. Actually, we want them to get through just so that we can see the words all written out in the official programme!

***STOP PRESS***

Oh my days did this lot ever bring it live! Only the traditional, erm, eccentric Belarussian points accounting kept them from representing their nation in Rotterdam. Absolute damn!




Belarus 2020 - Pavloni - Stones Of My Soul


Often times people ask us here at Apocalypse why we go to the trouble of sitting through three-and-a-half hours of mediocre Belrussian auditions in a Monday morning. Is it some kind of self-flagelation, they enquire? No, it's much better than that. It's like diving for pearls. You'll get oyster after oyster that's perfectly formed yet has no shiny sea jewel at its heart. And then you'll get one like this. A true pearl of Eurovisionia.

There's a lot to unpack here. Why does she have her coat on, for starters? It's not Christmas Top Of The Pops, after all, and she certainly won't feel the benefit when she goes out into the harsh January Minsk afternoon. Then she begins to sing. Well we say sing, but it's something roughly approximating the description. But then the really sweet stuff begins to happen.

We won't spoil all the surprises, but this really is one of those once a year moments that'll have you peaking through your fingers from behind the sofa, but heartily applauding the performer for her splendid efforts at the end. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... Pavloni! Treasure this moment!


Belarus 2020 - Absolem Cloud - It's OK


The live audition stream in Belarus is a thing of complete and utter beauty, and has become something of a right of passage for the most committed ESCophile. And it's happening right now as we type - although we're on something of a teabreak at the moment. Rumour has it that they've sifted out the most hapless and hopeless this year, but that certainly doesn't mean that we've been cheated of a whole gaggle of wonky treats.

You've still got lots of people who look like they've just wandered in off the streets, strangling the English language with unsophisticated school play presentations, and a lot of ladies in evening frocks and swollen faces warbling aimlessly through rambling ballads. But you've also got a few small treats in amongst them. And an early example was these two lads.

Looking like they'd nipped out between lessons at the sixth form college, the singing lad mumbles, and the hairy lad toots aimlessly into one of those tooty keyboard thing, and it all sets us up lovely for the strangeness ahead. Don't worry, there's much more where this came from!


Sunday, 26 January 2020

Lithuania 2020 - Bernardas – Dad, Don’t Be Mad At Me


While the last qualifying heat in Lithuania appeared to be backed full with either dreary, earnest singers, or people trying just that little bit too hard to be wacky, there was one song that really got under our collective skin and we're absolutely gutted that it didn't proceed any further. But it didn't get its hooks into us immediately.

When it first started up, the shadowy lighting, old fashioned plinky plonk piano and over-ennunciated vocal delivery made us scoff a little bit. But gradually it lured us in, and before we knew it the entire Apocalypse sofa was stooped forward, staring deeply into the soul of Bernadas as he delivered one of the most personal and emotional performances of the year so far - and probably a couple of years before that, too.

Certainly it had its rough edges, and some of the cheesy lines at first made you stifle a giggle. But as it progressed and those lines repeated you started to understand what it was that he was on about and really warm to his story. In many ways he was like the anti-Salvador - considered, strained, and a little bit like a song from a musical that hasn't yet been made. But despite his complete points blank from a stuffy jury that appears to abhor any kind of character in a song, if Bernardas here managed to connect to even one kid at home who could identify with the song and realise that they were not alone, then I think that's job done.

It's just a shame that it's the last we'll be seeing of it.


Friday, 24 January 2020

Moldova 2020 - Tudor Bumbac - Te Am Văzut În Vis Pe Tine


Anyone who's been following this blog for a while will know that we're absolute suckers for an old boy singing a sentimental song about the old days in a crumbly voice. And the absolute prince at this is Moldova's Tudor Bumbac.

But despite the recent slight rule change (that we like to call The Law of Bognibov) that means we don't get to see all of the declared songs audition any more, he still ploughs on regardless - this year telling us about somebody he saw in a dream at some point in the past.

It's an absolute splendid little of old time plinky plonky loveliness. I'd love to think the old fella warbles these songs in the corner of a restaurant in the Bessarabian grasslands three times a week, and if anyone has any intel that he actually does this we'll be there in a shot!

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Finland 2020 - Erika Vikman - Cicciolina


YLE have been doing a weird thing tonight where all of a sudden a UMK song will pop up on YouTube, before disappearing as quickly as it appeared. Fortunately some bright spark thought to bung this one up on Vimeo quick smart, so we'll be able to enjoy it for at least a few more moments until the Finnish telly people get it dragged down.

So what can we expect here then? Well a song about a notorious Hungaro-Italian porn star politician was always going to be ripe fruit for some lyrical liveliness. But with lines that include poetry like "When you have currency under your blouse" and "When I want you will go on your knees in front of me" this one's going to get a few folks at the EBU more than a little hot under the collar if it makes it through.

But ignoring all of that, it's a cracking old time schlager pop romp, with familiar vocal lines, and enough joy in it to make it so happily worthwhile. With all the arch seriousness we're getting to far this year we need a good old fashioned brains off, arms up pop banger with a slightly subversive edge to keep us all in the party mood. Woo. And indeed hoo.



Moldova 2020 - VoviAN - 10 Minuni Are Moldova



It's become a rule of thumb in recent years that the songs you most want to see played out live in the auditions are the ones most likely to be assigned to the bin before they even get pushed in front of a camera. And we really fear that's going to be the case with this splendid little outsider number.

The VoviAN boys here talk us through the ten wonders of Moldova in willowy voices and in front of what sounds like a pre-programmed Bontempi beat, and you would just love to see what visual concept they had planned for it if it got to the properly televised stages. Our guess would be stand awkwardly in silver suits and maybe step from side to side occasionally. But we fear we'll never know.

We also fear that we'll never know what these ten wonders are. So if anyone out there is well versed in Moldovan or Romanian who'd like to give us something of a translation we'll be very happy puppies.

It's acts like this that we do this blog for. They fully deserve to be remembered forever, long after the glitzy singers have been sent to the big show. For they embody the very spirit of this time of year. The innocent hope that maybe there's just a chance that they might get on the telly. And we wholeheartedly applaud them for it!



Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Ukraine 2020 - Fo Sho - BLCK SQR



Oh my days Ukraine, you've woken the slumbering giant of ESC 2020 right up! We're not quite sure how all this came to be, but we're so glad it did, because Fo Sho have just delivered the most glorious low slung portion of street knowledge that we've heard at this contest in a darned long time.

The three Endale sisters are tapping that turn of the century West Coast vibe, but belting their own smart and sassy contemporary voices all over it. Man, if you don't find yourself slowly nodding your head in time with this you truly have no soul.

We have no idea how well it'll do in a semi-final, but we do have fears. So Ukraine, do the right thing - cancel Vidbir and just send this. The continent deserves it so! At least Jamala won't be there to ask them any awkward questions about Ukrainiansim, we suppose...

***STOP PRESS***

Despite a face-meltingly stunning performance, this one middled out with both jury and punter and failed to make the final three. Still, we've got a new face Ukrainian rap act now, so all is not lost!

Czechia 2020 - Benny Cristo – Kemama


The Czech selection is a bit like a mini macrocosm of contemporary Eurovision. You've got your character-led tropical pop of Elis Mraz and Čis T giving out all the wannabe Fuego chemicals, a sadboi at a piano from Karelll (three Ls, remember), the try hard tricksters who've delivered a sadly usual boy group plod in We All Poop, the glacial spine-tingler from Barbora Mochowa and the standard sounds-a-bit-Swedish faux mystical mid tempo job from Olga Lounová. Heck, they've even got yet another vaguely Eilish flavoured romp from Pam Rabbit.

But there's one song that's slipped almost completely under the radar from nearly every front that I reckon would do a lovely job on stage in Rotterdam. And that's the quietly fabulous Benny Cristo here with his Iron Maiden t-shirt and massive party atmosphere. When everyone else is giving it the Eurogenre cookie cutter treatment, young Benny here is ploughing his own groove and doing a spectacularly effective fist of it.

He's clearly got a hard job on his hands, as each faction of Eurovisionia seems to be backing their own archetypes heavily, and, well, who knows what the folks at home in České Budéjovice and Hradec Králove will make of his less traditional stylings. But there's always the chance that all the others will cancel each other out and something fresh and original will creep its way through the middle to take the prize. Well, we can hope at least. But however well the lad does in the influencing app vote, one thing's for sure - we're rather glad he's there!

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Moldova 2020 - Dianna Rotaru - Dale Dale


One of the absolute pleasures of this time of year it not just when the Moldovan hopefuls get announced - which is a splendid joy all its own - but when clips of them performing their tunes on cosy daytime TV shows begin to emerge. Our Sasha is a past master at these skincrawlingly odd television moments, but our Dianna here seems to have taken awkward to a whole new level.

Appearing on a pre-Christmas episode of Vorbe Bune, the singer puts in something of a post-watershed performance, thrusting and twerking as she mimes her admittedly somewhat contendery Fuego-lite concoction, while our everywomen host Lilu dances awkwardly on the sofa, sometimes looking visibly perplexed at some of the sexual gyrating happening before her.

And it gets even better when Ms Rotaru misses her cue on a couple of occasions, pre-empting the vocals on the track - although to her credit she handles it like a true pro, ignoring the fact it even happened. Pure car crash TV, I could watch this over and over again!

Ooh, and another thing - what the heck is that massive Santa Gonk on stilts thing that separates the two ladies on that garish festive set? It's flipping terrifying!


Monday, 20 January 2020

Lithuania 2020 - Abrokenleg – Electric Boy


Now obviously when we saw that there was an act called Abrokenleg in the Lithuanian process we had to check out their back catalogue for potential funs. And we weren't entirely let down. But rather than the pop noise we were expecting, we found a load of unexpectedly quaint and smart dream pop. None of which, of course, prepared us for this...

Kicking off with a weird, brooding and over-ununciated intro from an elfin living doll, the song swiftly switched gears into a right old stomp, her breathy diction deliberately making the flesh crawl on each repeated recitation of the song's title.

The whole package resulted in an awkward, beautifully unsettling little mix up that seemed to mildly alienate both juries and punters alike, who all seemed to prefer the blandness that night. So we thought we'd better save it for posterity in the Apocalypse annals of glory, as it was a much better attempt than its lowly points table position merited.

Oh, and if you were wondering, we tried a QR reader on her frock and it didn't work. Missed opportunity!


Sunday, 19 January 2020

Lithuania 2020 - Twosome - Playa


Remember these larky lads from last year? They got onto these pages with a boisterous tune called 1000. If you recall, they tried extra hard to be wacky, but still came across as a bit loveable despite all that.

Well this year they're back, and what's more they've brought with them a right earworm of a chorus.

It's still terribly try hard - from the dumb name to the hapless dancing to the comedy pratfalls - but they're still somehow immensely likeable in among all the silliness, and I for one will have the line "I'm a Lithuanian basketball player" stuck in my brain for at least the next eight years - minimum!

The jury, of course, hated them, despite the punter love, so they've been doomed to another year in the first round dustbin. So once again this will be their only home from this day forward. But only watch it if you've got a strong disposition for avoiding hooky choruses. Altogether now... "I'm a... gaaaaaah!!!"