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.


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.

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!


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.