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...


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.