With the Belarussian regime clearly using this year's Eurovision Song Contest to try and prove a political point and sending both a song and an act that were never going to meet the favour of the rest of the continent, it's still unclear whether they are going to be appearing at this year's competition in any form. So a group of musicians from the country have created a Eurovision entry in exile for their troubled country, and it's a bit stunning.
You may remember Shuma from their beautifully dark piece of folk electronica called Hmarki from the 2018 Belarussian final. Now in exile in Ukraine they've put together a sparse and chilling hymn to the current state of their nation, based around an old folk song where a woman asks the gods to ward off trouble from the neighbouring land. The video that accompanies it is both bleak and beautiful, and includes a stark message to those outside of Belarus at the end. As it's increasingly looking like there will be no official entry from the country this year, maybe we should all consider this to be actual, albeit unofficial entry for the country this year. It wouldn't be eligible for any points, obviously, but it would be a more than welcome addition to the canon in this of all years. Music is always political, no matter what you're singing about, and I reckon this is a fitting end to this year's season on Apocalypse. Thanks for staying with us in this most wonky of all Eurovision years.
Tuesday, 16 March 2021
With the Belarussian regime clearly using this year's Eurovision Song Contest to try and prove a political point and sending both a song and an act that were never going to meet the favour of the rest of the continent, it's still unclear whether they are going to be appearing at this year's competition in any form. So a group of musicians from the country have created a Eurovision entry in exile for their troubled country, and it's a bit stunning.
Monday, 15 March 2021
Ooh now Malta, what have you gone and done now! This year as each new song has ticked by we've been inclined to think "Yeah, that's not bad - we're in for a good year here" but nothing had given us the germs of truly winning potential. Until this afternoon. It's almost as if Destiny has sucked up all the scraps from the returning artists who weren't quite as good as they were last time, mixed them all up into a pot and cast them into this little thing of bountiful wonder.
It's upbeat, positive and effortlessly full of character where others are trying just that little bit to hard. And we all know what a likeable and capable performer our Destiny is too. If we were Maltese we'd be getting just a little bit excited right now. We were on the island the first time they held Junior and the place nearly exploded with delight then. Who knows what would happen if they bagged the senior gong too.
Of course, there's going to be all sorts of bumps in the road between now and then, with shows to be built and reputations to be damaged - and of course who knows if Belarus haven't got a surprise belter up their sleeve (Clue: they probably haven't) - so it's still too early to call. But if this doesn't finish in at least the top five come May we'll either be incredibly surprised, or something that none of us saw coming has pulled something incredible out of the bag.
So no pressure, Destiny girl. None at all.
Most of us with little more than a passing knowledge of Tornike's career will mainly know him for his singular vocal style whereby he just kinda shouts in a controlled but still kind of noisy style. Which is why the song that he's chosen for this year's Eurovision is all the more flipping lovely.
Gentle, measured, but still building to moments of great power, it's the kind of song that would have been left out of a Who rock opera or a Primal Scream remix album, but that the producer kept on his own personal hype reel all the same. There's not much to it, but the heartfelt emotion is almost chewable, and Tornike's stoic delivery draws you right into the very centre of the story.
It's not a song that we can see doing an awful lot of business on the big night - especially if the lad is as intense on that Rotterdam stage as he appears in pretty much any video we've ever seen him perform in. But to be honest we're not terribly bothered about that. We're just glad he's here, and that he's delivered us this beautiful bit of unassuming loveliness. Quiet music for noisy people - yeah, that's it.
Saturday, 13 March 2021
We're struggling to get our lobes around the fact that it's the last national final of the season tonight. I'm sure that last time we looked there were only about ten songs selected! And what's been the strangest of all seasons is going to end up with the most curious of Melfests. All squeezed up into an area that we used as a press conference hall back in 2000, what the songs have lacked in spark and originality, the production has more than made up for in creativity. Just a quick look at some of the sets for the likes of Danny Saucedo, Eric Saade , and even Charlotte Perrelli in her way shows that they've really though about their limitations and tried to make the best use of space for each individual song.
A shame then that they seemed to have run out of ideas when it came to poor Clara Klingenström here. "Oh, she's one of those indie types. Put her in a short shiny dress and big boots like all them riot grrrls used to wear in the nineties - that'll work. No wait! You know what'll make it even more authentic? Hang a guitar around her neck and let her wave her hands around awkwardly in front of it. Bingo! It'll be just like watching * rummages through Courtney love biography * Babes In Toyland or someone!"
All of which is a shame, because this is easily one of the strongest actual songs in the contest. Where all the rest feel like they were created by committee and focus grouped to within and inch of their respective lives, this one feels like the real deal and that it's coming straight from Clara's heart. And despite being lumbered with a great big stringy plank hanging needlessly around her neck, she performs the absolute life out of it. It's uplifting, atmospheric and just really nice.
We've also noticed that it seems to be pretty much everybody's second favourite song this year, despite having to drag itself out of the Andra Chansen. So it couldn't go on and do a Stjernberg could it? With all the big names she's up again we very much doubt it, but we really wouldn't be terribly upset if she did.
Thursday, 11 March 2021
Ooh now, Macedonia (North)! You've gone and snuck in around the back door and lumbered us with something a bit special, haven't you. We've been saying for a few days now that there have been so many big beaty songs in this contest that if someone weighs in with a large old anthem they could very easily nick rather a lot of the top points on offer. And while this one might not be quite that song, it's certainly on the verge of special!
Sou ding like it's been wrenched straight off the stage of an unspecified musical (and that's not ALWAYS a bad thing), it's thespy enough, but still instantly relatable in times like these. Then it builds and falls, ebbs and flows, until that massive multi-layered proto prog bit at the end. Very interesting indeed.
The big old male ballads have suffered a bit at the hands of both the punters are the juries over these last few years, so it's difficult to fully assess quite how this will do, but we're visualising a lot of love for this one across the board. One to keep an interested eye on, to be sure.
So what is it like then. Well the first thing you'll be pleased to hear is that it's not entirely shit. That's always the first yardstick to be used when trying to assess a UK entry. It's bring, it's breezy, and it's got a little bit of singalongability about it. It's still a smudge more Radio 2 than Radio 1, but you can still imagine hearing it pumping out of your crystal set on a sunny afternoon. It's got that big choral backing that everyone seems to be having a pop at this year, and some hooky little parpy trumpets too. So all is at least looking promising.
However, it's still got something about it that doesn't automatically drag us onto the imaginary dancefloor with our hands in the virtual air. That intangible, almost indefinable UK-at-Eurovision sheen. It also sounds as if lovely James Newman is gasping for air at points in the song - and if he's like that in the studio we have our fears over what he might be like on the big stage. Hopefully it's a deliberate production choice rather than an actual shortcoming with his voice.
But when all is said and done, it's still pretty decent. The competition might not be coming home, as a few commentators are suggesting (what, Lugano?), but I reckon with the wind in the right direction we can drag ourselves into that big chunk of about a dozen songs in the middle for who a few extra points can mean all the difference in table position when it comes to the final reckoning. And of course, the big fella's clear natural charm is going to win more than a few over on its own.
End of first term report? A definite and positive move in the right direction, and hopeful and indication fo good things to come. But just don't get too over excited about the scoreboard, folks.
Tuesday, 9 March 2021
Oh my days, Belarus have just done a strange! After all the talks of whether their ticket to Rotterdam would be going to past-contestants, a tawdry exercise in cultural appropriation or even our lovely old pal Daz Sampson, it's actually been decided that they're going to send this curious little ditty.
On face value there's nothing at all wrong with it. Normal looking bloke sits on a stool on what looks like the Minsk version of the Blue Peter studio and jangles out a happy tune of hope and stuff. But then you suddenly get to remembering that this is 2021, and half of the rest of the continent have sent overblown bangers.
It's the kind of thing an angry English songwriter would send us with a note saying "The BBC are fools, this would have won Eurovision for sure" before ranting something about politics, Brexit and nul points. It's all very nice and all, but we're still having real trouble trying to work out why it's actually here. Who sat in a big television office somewhere in the capital and decided "Yeah, that's the one! You watch us go now!"? Or perhaps that's the trick - while everyone is being all bombastic, sneak in behind them all with something floaty nice and delightful and nick the gong. It's a tactic I suppose.
Still, has anyone translated the lyric yet?
Ooh now. It's already transpiring that they've got some seriously dodgy lyrics in some of their past work, and their band name translates as Voices Of Content - anyone else getting a bad feeling about this?
Yep, turned out that the lyric was dodgy as feck, and the EBU have warned them to change it, bin it, or risk being DQ'd. Good work, the EBU!
Monday, 8 March 2021
So it turned out that this morning's little bit of Little Big excitement was nothing more than wishful thinking, and Russia did, after a fashion, have a national final. They did, however, have last year's victors-in-waiting on to have a run-through of Uno, and although we couldn't entirely work out what was being said, Ilya came up front afterwards and explained something with a sad look on his face while the rest of the band kept their poses from the end of the performance frozen - which me must say was a bit of a strange spectacle in itself. More fool them for not picking Sex Machine, I say!
So anyway, what we did get was three songs of variable content. The first was a serious looking chap with a pleasingly bleak little number. The we had a couple of ladies jigging about inconsequentially before the reason, we suspect, that we were all convened here this evening turned up and knocked us all for six.
Anyone else think it's a coincidence that they held the final on a Monday night that just happened to be International Women's Day? Yeah, that was either utterly blatant or so innocent that it's halfway believable. But whatever the intentions, I reckon they've done and picked themselves a pretty decent replacement for our thwarted video heroes, and the lass Manizha has enough sass and swagger to carry a massively complex song like this with ease. There's a good chance that it will transpire that this is some kind of moderately dubious nationalist statement, but what the heck - on face value it was easily the best song of the three, so it deserved its win.
It still ain't Little Big though, curse it. Major major missed opportunity there.
Hold that thought, for it turns out that our Manizha here is of Tajik descent, and is very good at kicking ass and getting important stuff done - as you can see in the link below. Quite whether she's singing to all women of Russia, or has been co-opted in to water down her message, remains to be seen, but the portents are good!
So tonight there may be some kind of a Russian national final. Or not. And the world-beating anarcho pop band Little Big may be one of the contenders. Or again not. What is for certain is that this is a new song by the cheeky scamps, released late last night. And it's really rather interesting.
So the story had it for ages that Little Big - one of the world's biggest bands on the internet - were obviously going to be the Russian act again this year. Then we heard a story that Russian telly didn't like any of their songs and decided to make them hold a final for the local public to decide which one was going to Virtual Rotterdam. Then another story took hold that they weren't going to be one of the acts, but that they'd be performing this song in the interval of the final. And now? Who bloody knows.
One kind of hopes that it's all been some kind of weird situationist run up to a one-shot sit-com featuring the band themselves, formally presenting this song to the world, while having guest performances by all their mates. And if you've seen some of the names bandied about as being potential other contenders that could be a really interesting show - whatever the heck the show is about.
Well, after the weekend we've just had it could hardly get any weirder, right?
Sunday, 7 March 2021
So after around eight-and-a-half hours of Eurovision related activities last night, when we woke up this morning to the news that Flo Rida was very possibly doing Eurovision - for San Marino - we assumed we were still delirious on a contact high with whatever Achille Lauro was imbibing. But no, Senhit's only managed to bag one of world pop's greatest sidemen to do a little bit in the middle of a banging reggaeton stomper! Eh?
Now, whether he'll do it in real life, or on the big screen behind her in this most singular of Eurovision years is another matter. But still, it's bloody Flo Rida! At bloody Eurovision!
Or at least it might be - this news is still only at rumour stage at the moment, and we know that our girl Senhit lakes a jape, so we urge caution on this news at the moment. But all the same, Flo bloody Rida!
Saturday, 6 March 2021
So the usual form at Sanremo is that you spend five days listening to a vast array of incredible Italian music from a broad scope of different styles and genres, then a heartbreaking ballad by a familiar old hand nips in and wins it at the end. But not this year, oh no. In one of the most open contests in years, the daily tallies were going up and down all over the place, while aside from the reliable Ermal Meta being permanently anchored to the top of the table, nobody else seemed to be taking much of a grip of the contest.
Indeed, the riff heavy glamsters of Måneskin, despite being the draw of constant love from outside of the Sanremo bubble all week, we're always sitting around the seventh or eighth spot. But then something quite unexpected happened. As the countdown from 26th to the top three began to click by, superfinal contender after superfinal contender began to fall by the wayside, and we were all taking our shoes and socks off trying to calculate quite who had bagged a place in the magic triumvirate. Ermal was a shoe in of course. But then they called not only the crowd-pleasing Francesca & Fedez, but the noisy objects of our affections Twitter absolutely exploded with expectation.
The wait to find out who'd won was excruciating, and while each of the three acts would have made a very worthy winner, all of us more left field fans were crossing our fingers and hoping that noise would win out. Then the unthinkable happened and Ermal got knocked out in third. They couldn't could they? They only bloody did! Cue one of the most delightful and honest winning celebrations we can remember seeing in a long time, and a beautiful moment where the orchestra all stood up and rocked out as they played the winners reprise.
This has been an exceptional Sanremo for all kinds of reasons, and it deserved and exceptional winner - and by golly didn't it ever get one!
Montaingne live debuted her 2021 attempt at the Sydney Mardi Gras last night, and as much as we've been enjoying it as a song, we can see it being potentially problematic on the big night. For a start, the hyperpop stylings are going to grate with more than a few folks. It's all well and good bring us a tune at the more accessible end of one of the most exciting music genres on the planet, but most of the folks at home won't have the slightest idea what they're listening to - and I especially fear those now-hating fogeys on the jury when they try to shape their uncultured lugholes around it.
And then there's her voice. Both you and we know that she's actually supposed to sound like this, and that it's entirely a part of her schtick. But will the Saturday night telly viewers? OK, so the vast impersonal expanses of a cricket ground at twilight aren't exactly the best spot to practise your on stage moxy, but that big hall in Rotterdam is going to be pretty empty too - if she's even allowed in the country by then - and her singular tones could be echoing all over that room. But having all said that, at least there's a good chance that she won't be trying to make herself heard over the usual baying mob, so perhaps that's a good thing.
So yeah, the jury's out on this one for us. As a song, for us, it's streets ahead of last year's effort. But whether it will work in context is an entirely different matter. But then, when all is said and done, I don't expect that we're going to hear many better lyric lines than "We've got style and lasers" for the rest of the season, so there's still lots to be pleased about.
It's been an absolutely magical Sanremo this year. With no obvious favourites and the lack of an audience it's been a strange beast, and almost impossible to totally gauge who's doing well and who's not. But in a way that's made it all the better. And of course, just as important - and perhaps even more so - there's been all the standard Sanremo nonsense pushed up to eleven. The guest performances have been incredible, with everyone from Diodato to Mahmood, via Loredana Berte, Gigliola Cinquetti and a fabulous Police orchestra, while the peerless Achille Lauro has almost literally destroyed the stage every night. On top of that, after a shaky start last year, the host Amadeus has found himself clearly more comfortable in such an important role, and his buddy act with Fiorello has been an absolute delight. Oh, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic keeps turning up too, but the less said about that the better.
Of the songs in the actual competition, it looked like it was starting to become a bit of a one horse race until last night. Old hand Ermal Meta seem to be running away with it, with only Annalisa putting up any resistance. But then this fella called Willie Peyote began to quietly creep his way up the table and out of nowhere we might just have a scrap on our hands tonight. There's an unexpected bandwagon that builds most years, and this might just be it.
In a contest dripping with overwrought ballads and pasty-faced autotuned rap lads, this cool skulk of a song has got everyone nodding their heads and pulling the right kind of faces to make us think that if he manages to get in the final three tonight, he could end up causing a bit of bother when we get down to the business of the evening. Of course, there's a lot of other stuff to watch tonight, and it can be quite a challenging and confusing watch if you're more used to the snappiness of actual national finals, so you'd be excused for not having Sanremo especially high on your priority list. But our suggestion to you if you don't entirely fancy it would be to keep it running along on a second or third screen somewhere within eyeshot and keep dipping in and out now and again when the songs come one. But we warn you, it's darned easy to get hooked on this beautiful mammoth of a show, and if you're not careful you'll end up as full five day lifers like the worst of us!
Saturday, 27 February 2021
Ooh now. There's major rumours coming out of the Polish press that this haunting little tune is going to be their Eurovision entry this year. And we tell you what, we wouldn't be entirely unhappy about that. It's sparse, dreamy and just that little bit edgy. On top of that, Ochman himself has a voice that sounds like he's seen waaaay too many things for his years.
His video debuted on YouTube yesterday and already has getting on for 400k views already, so there's definitely something in the air about it whether it's in the frame or not.
It's not a traditional competition song by any means of imagination, but it's the kind of thing that could hold the people back at home and draw them to the edge of their sofas in the way that all the best contenders do. And this is one song for who having little in the way of an audience could actually be a benefit. It's intimate storytelling and awkward beats could come over beautifully if the lad himself doesn't have to attempt to entertain a baying mob with flags.
We're rather looking forward to learning any truth to these rumours - and even if there isn't, we've discovered a fab new tune along the way.
Thursday, 25 February 2021
Oh my oh my, Germany, you've really gone and done it now! We'd already been getting the suspicion that the boy Jendrik was a bit of a one for the larky japes with all his social media posts that we've been flooded with from the moment his name was announced as this year's runner for his homeland. But good heavens we weren't quite expecting it to be quite this… well… extra.
But for all its arch tweeness and saccharine sentiment there's still something about it that doesn't make us want to slap it all that hard. Forced fun by numbers it may be in some places, but before you know it it's plinky plonkiness has burrowed under your skin and you'll find yourself whistling it totally against your will. And you just know that it's going to have a ludicrously busy stage presentation too.
The thing is, our boy here had better start living up to his song title, because the brickbats are flying in his direction already. It wasn't enough for fankind that Jendrik's biggest crime was not being Ben Dolic, oh no. He's brought the jollies too, and that's seemingly not allowed around these parts. There's the usual dreary voices calling it in last place already, but I wouldn't be too sure of that, because this kid is ultra savvy with his socials, and every kid with a TikTok account from here to Vladivostok is going to know every last second of this song before May comes. And that makes it the dark horse to keep an eye on in my book - although having said that, it's that one song a year that is truly impossible to call a position on, so fair play to them for that alone.
I can't say that we especially like it, but we're really glad that it's there - if not no other reason than that it's really going to annoy the old grumblers of this parish.
Wednesday, 24 February 2021
There's an old adage that says something roughly to the effect of 'just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you HAVE to." Well I think poor Helen here has personified that maxim in song form here. On its own the song was nothing remarkable. An ambling mid-tempo plod with a gently engaging melody - nothing to hate, but nothing to ring your Mum excitedly about either. So somebody, somewhere, clearly though it would be a good idea to spruce it up a bit with a bit of a stage show. Unfortunately it appears to be the bits that were left out for recycling.
I can just envision the planning meeting. "I know what we can do. Let's start off around a big table with some dancers with crusty white faces. They can all gyrate a bit while you walk around it in a coquettish manner, doing the odd big of meaningful vogueing here and there. Then when that all gets a bit boring we can put you in a big pair of grubby wings and set you up on the table while a couple of blokes spin around you in strings. Yeah, that'll work! Rotterdam here we come!"
It's just a shame that somebody stood on the wings just before they latched them onto poor Helen (well, we assumed they weren't mean to look like that). Oh, that and the poor girl's voice. We understand that there were some monitoring issues on the night, so we'll give her the benefit of the doubt, but that just sounded like someone was trying to push her vocal chords through a sieve. The whole thing was one hot mess - but the kind of thing that we absolutely live for!
Monday, 22 February 2021
It's always an exciting moment when we get a late night message from our regular correspondent Tristán because we know that it's either going to be the best thing we've ever heard… or something quite the opposite. But strangely this rare beast seems to be straddling both camps.
When the sparse afrobeat-flavoured intro first kicked in we thought "Ooh hello! This is promising!" But we'd just got into the groove and started bobbing about the room when the vocal kicked it. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. But while it appears to be nothing more than a heavily-accented chap rambling about birds in extreme autotune mode, there's still something truly fascinating about the whole production. How did a bloke this apparently inept get his hands on a backing track this nifty? And does he really think that he's got a genuine chance at winning his nation's passage to virtual Rotterdam?
Then we got another message. "Oi Apocalypse! I've found a clip of him singing it live!"
Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear…
Sunday, 21 February 2021
In amongst all the gnashing and wailing about what did and didn't qualify in this or that country last night, with could have been easy to miss this little gem. Last on in the first semi at Portugal's Festival da Canção, it was probably way past the bedtimes of much of fankind, but it really was a treat - and don't be put off by the somewhat uninspiring name of the act.
You kind of knew that we'd be in for some funtimes from the hairdo in the still photograph alone, but wowsers was there a lot going on for such a simple song. First off, it took us at least a minute to notice that she was dolled up in Shadow the Hedgehog cosplay. And then there's the curious little matter of her apparently getting more and more pregnant as the song went on. We've watched it a few times now and we still can't be entirely sure if that's an effect or just some clever use of posture.
The song itself isn't going to knock anyone's socks of, it's true, but Ian's droll delivery is also a thing of wonder. This year's FdC is one of the finest selection of fine chillout songs of the season, so we're glad they topped this semi off with a little bit of bonkers in the way that only the Portuguese know how.
Tuesday, 16 February 2021
Oh Eurovision, you're spoiling us today! As if this afternoon's reveal of Benny Cristo's bright little banger wasn't enough, the Bulgarians have just teased us with one of the most dark and fascinating songs we've seen connected to this contest in a long old time.
Where Victoria's three previous potential entries have all be serviceable pop tunes, they've all lacked that unexplainable magic that Tears Getting Sober offered us last year. But in Phantom Pain she's upped her 2021 and surpassed the rest of them by a street. If her last remaining couple of tunes come anywhere close to this we'll be truly happy puppies in Apocalypse Towers.
Of course, there's be the tedious types who just whinge about her proximity to Eilish without ever entirely understanding what that actually means. But what atmosphere she might borrow from her more illustrious American counterpart, she adds to in her very own dark-yet-sparkling style. There's absolutely no way of predicting how this song will do in a competition situation, but if they pick this they'll be sending a bold message to Eurovision watchers that this is kind of thing is exactly what the modern Eurovision really ought to be about. I don't think the old contest has been this up-to-date since the fifties!
We never disguised the fact that we rated Kemama as one of our low-key faves to pull off a decent result last year, even after the revamp. So we really couldn't wait to see what he came up with this time round. And boy did he not let us down.
Forget all concepts of what is and isn't a Eurovision song, because Omaga is just a flat out great pop tune. If we heard this on the car radio in the summertime we'd crank it up loud and open all the windows so that we could share it with the world. And that's just in the audio version. Add that to the easy, infectious charm and boundless energy that we know our Benny can offer in the live sphere, and this is a right little cracker.
Quite how it will do in competition is an entirely different matter. But both he and the song are just so darned likeable that this could be another of the unfancied runners to watch. Again. But even if he only gets a mediocre result, it's still going to be a three minute explosion of absolute unabashed joy that we'll have in the canon forever!
Sunday, 14 February 2021
Sometimes when you're trawling through a national final you come across a song that entirely bewilders you, and you're not sure whether it's either some kind of wry parody or it's actually supposed to be like that. This is one such song. At times it felt like it was part of a wider comedy show involving notions of what civilians think a Eurovision song is. But not in a big budget Hollywood style like Fire Saga - more like a BBC 3 directors showcase kinda thing. We half expected Mel Giedroyc and pull one of her comedy gurns. But at the same time, it seemed so deadly serious and wholesome in its delivery of the purest cheddar that it surely could only ever be real.
So we thought we'd dig into it further, and somehow things only got weirder.
Ashley Colburn, y'see, is a Californian documentary film maker who spends half her time in Croatia. Her own literature claims that she's won two Emmys for her work, although neither the historical winners log on the Emmy website or her own entry on IMDB shows any evidence of this. This doesn't necessarily mean that she's fluffing her awards success up, however, as there are many layers to Emmyness, so it might be one of those more fringe awards that never gets on the telly. Or the website. I know this is hard to imagine, but I'm a (very minor) award-winning documentary film maker myself, so I'd love to know if there's some sneaky back route in to getting such an esteemed award!
But none of this explains quite how she managed to find herself being lowered from the ceiling on a trapeze at Croatia's most historic and beloved music show. It's a most utterly and beautifully bewildering happening, and one that I almost never want to get to the bottom of. One kind of hopes that it's all part of a film she's making about the history of the Dora, and she wanted to taste the very essence of the show from within - while showcasing clips from her own travel films on the big screen behind.
But whatever the actual truth is, the most important element to this story is the key change at around 2:17. You'll see what we mean…
It turns out that we do the lady a disservice that we'll happily rectify. It appears that she was a co-award winner at the 2010 Pacific Southwest Chapter regional Emmys held at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego in the Historical/Cultural Program Or Special category, and again a winner at the same organisation's 2012 awards in the Documentary Historical category. And you certainly can't knock that!
Friday, 12 February 2021
It's often said that nature abhors a vacuum. Well the same can be said UK Eurovision fans pontificating over who's going to be our septic isle's next entry to the big show. It's practically become an in joke with it's own orbit on Twitter, and we've already had the traditional Fleur East rumour, just because she sat next to James Newman on a bus once.
And then of course there's been the highly pervasive Frock Destroyers rumour - fuelled mainly by the act themselves, it must be said. But that in itself has fuelled an entirely more believable folk panic that had some corners of fankind resigned to the fact that it was going to happen and threatening to look for alternative nationality if it did.
Of course, it didn't help that old Auntie Beeb appears to have been trolling us over the last few days - whether intentionally or not. Holding a Eurovision special of a highly popular drag show bang in the middle of tittle tattle season didn't help, and a vague yet enticing Tweet from the official account has led people to fill in their own gaps and convince themselves that UK, Hun? is most definitely going to be representing the UK in Rotterdam. Or virtual Rotterdam as it'll most probably be.
The song itself, however, isn't as bad as you at first might have feared. It chugs along in an amiable Bis-flavoured late 90s techno pop manner, and the chorus is so darned catchy that we've been advised to stay indoors for the next fortnight off the back of it. But the spoken verses are very much the kind of thing that you'd almost certainly never see from even the most unhinged Eurovision nation, let along the risk averse Brits. And man, they'd soon get pretty bored reciting all that in rehearsal after rehearsal!
But if you're still not convinced that it's not going to be our entry, let's have a look at what we actually know: That the BBC are only one entry into their three year deal with BMG to find credible (read 'bland') Eurovision entries? That a major player in the UK delegation has said as much in a very recent interview? That the BBC are so utterly terrified of being shown up that they'd rather eat their own young and send yet another of the most beige artists that they can find? Yes, we know all of that. But still the rumours persist - whether out of fear, expectation or resignation.
The BBC really wouldn't suddenly change their well forged plans for a bit of frivolity amongst the 'that's sooooo Eurovision' crowd at home, would then now! Would they…?
Wednesday, 10 February 2021
When you're an aspiring act preparing for a stab at Eurovision there's a few things that you really ought to take into consideration. Firstly, is your band name the same as any other act in history - a seminal jazz fusion act from the Seventies perhaps? Because if it is, that's going to scare and confuse the bejibbers out of any young fans who attempt to track down your back catalogue.
But perhaps most importantly, do any bits of your song sound like any other Eurovision song from, say, the last three or four year? An expensive misstep by Finland perhaps? Or maybe a people's champion from Norway? I don't know, maybe there's something in the water up in the Northlands that embeds that little melody line into their psyches, but every time the singer lad here sings the line "shooting silver bullets through my heart" we involuntarily find ourselves yelling "He-lo e loi-la" at the top of our lungs. Either that or something about Monsters.
And it's a shame, because outside of that musical faux pas it's really quite a nice little electropop tune. A little old fashioned, perhaps, but looking at the all the other songs it's up against in the Danish final, it's still considerably less old fashioned than the rest of then. But once you've heard the vague similarity it's almost impossible to budge - and that's going to be where most of its commentary sits this season, we fear.
And another thing. This silver bullet business… is he telling us that he's a werewolf?
Tuesday, 9 February 2021
Did you ever have one of those days where you put a whole bundle of hard work into achieving your desired aim, only for someone to breeze in unprepared and snatch it from under your very nose? Pity then poor Royane here.
Giving it the full grimy carny act, she had fire breathers, circus performers and even a bearded lady prowling around in the background of her bouncy tropical pop tune. Heck, I'm even fairly sure I saw a kitchen sink hiding at the back there. But what goes and happens? Some lonely looking sadboi warbled out a sparse ballad that was 'a bit like' the last Eurovision winner and knocks her out at the first hurdle.
And this is a darned shame, because for us this was one of the most complete performances of the whole qualification process so far, and surely deserved to be seen by a much wider audience. All this only goes to underline the increasingly unnecessary format of MGP, as in pretty much any other final this would have been top three for certain, surely?
Sunday, 7 February 2021
This is an historic moment. I've been working in and around the music business for a good 40 years now, and I think I've finally found the bottom of the barrel.
Over my years as a music journalist I've been sent some pretty ropey stuff to review, as a gig promoter I've been handed some pretty hapless demo tapes from bands hoping to get a show, as a performer I've shared stages with some pretty terrible acts - and indeed have been in a few, too, and as an occasional Battle Of The Bands judge there have been times where I've wanted to end it all not even a quarter of the way through the night. And over the course of ten years doing this site I've sat through every minute of every Belarussian and Moldovan live audition. But none of it, nothing ever, can come close to this for sheer awfulness.
It's not even funny bad or so-bad-it's-good bad. It's the kind of bad that makes you wonder what they were thinking, and if they genuinely thought they had a shot of even being in the frame for Eurovision this year. And do you now what? I think they possibly did.
So sit back, brace yourselves, and, erm, enjoy…
Wednesday, 3 February 2021
We were having a conversation the other day about whether it would be allowable in the rules to enter a medley of short songs into the competition as long as the eventual time count still came in at under three minutes. Well stone me if it doesn't look as though somebody has already gone and done it!
Yep, there's a lot to unpack here. What starts off all quiet and whispery with plaintive cries in the windy distance suddenly goes a bit Nightwish, and doles out a bit of the old symphonic metal, all trigger double kicks and operatic warbling. But it doesn't stop there, oh no! The next thing that happens is a fractious rapping or spoken word segment (we're still not entirely sure which), before the whole thing crumbles to an untidy halt and the whispering starts again.
Obviously the song appears to be layered with meaning, but we're not sure which way the metaphors are pointing. Who are these invisible creatures of who she speaks? Dana herself tells us this in her YouTube explanation: "My song is a message to all of us calling to become less angry and learn to forgive even arch villains without thirst for revenge." Make of that what you will in these dangerous times, but it's a proper curate's egg of a song for certain!
Tuesday, 2 February 2021
You remember that moment a couple of months back when we learned that there was going to be no live audition process in Belarus this year, and we were wondering where we were going to get any of our jollies from? We shouldn't have worried…
Egor here is no stranger to these pages. In fact he's the kind of artist that we live for. He first crossed our path back in 2018 with his audition of the song Somewhere. It was a sleepy little downtempo number that bagged the dreaded 'spasiba' after a mere 52 seconds, bless him. He's not given up mind, oh no, and has been attempting to bag the Belarussian ticket on and off ever since. But this year he seems to have surpassed himself, despite the lack of auditions.
One thing I will say for Egor here is that he's certainly worked on his stage presence since 2018. Now with more apt popstar hair, and a video that looks like it's had some thought put into it - if not funds - the lad is giving it a real try this time. Unfortunately there's just the one thing that's letting the whole package down. His voice.
Making our mate Bognibov look like a seasoned baritone, he wavers and warbles so far off the intended notes that you'd think his voice was doing a slalom through cones. But it's not through wont of effort, because look into his face - the boy really believes! And when the dancer appears, then things step up to a whole new level of awks.
Looking at the songwriter credits, the lyric appears to be written by a dear old friend of mine from Eurovision circles, so I'll be delicate here, for while the song is an unremarkable yet solid piece of Eurovisionism, it's the performance that makes it stand and fall. And judging by the number of memes of this already circulating in the fandom, I reckon Egor here has certainly made a lasting impression.
Thursday, 28 January 2021
Pavloni here reached the Apocalypse Hall Of Fame last year with an incredible performance of her song Stone Of My Soul at the Belarussian auditions. Starting off as a creepy, moody little number things soon got strange, as she began the kind of noise a dog makes when it's been locked in a shed for just too long, then she flung her coat off and broke into an awkward rap. Yes, that one! If you've not see it, you really must track it down.
Which is why we couldn't wait to see what she'd dished up this time round - although My Dreams Come True is a very different kettle of spuds.
For a start, Pavloni herself is scarcely recognisable from her 2020 self. She's bright, happy and full of fun, but as she jigs about in what appears to be the only studio in Minsk (see the Daz Sampson live clip), singing a bright but unremarkable little pop tune she suddenly draws you into the screen, and all of a sudden it's like she's singing right at you… and you alone. And I don't just mean your eyes or your face, but to the very depths your soul. Seriously, challenge yourself to watch the whole clip without ever losing her gaze - you'll come out a very different human by the time it's done…
Wednesday, 27 January 2021
It's a darned shame that Lithuania's Pabandom iš Naujo! process is a little truncated this year, as there's less opportunity to mine for little leftfield gems like this. You might just remember Aistė for her song Electric Boy last year with the full Abrokenleg project, but where that was arch and edgy, this one's an altogether more laid back, but still slightly unsettling affair.
Starting with scratchy guitar strings and some atmospheric jangling about, it soon clicks into a sparse, Sleaford Mods-esque bass-n-drums backing, with the lass herself singing a meandering little lilt for a few bars before the real magic starts to happen.
For upon the words "Feels like home" Aistė launches into one of the finest minimalist keyboard solos we can ever remember at this contest. Y'know, one of those where the spaces between the notes are almost more important than the notes themselves, and from that point on we were hanging on her every gentle suggestion. And before you ask, no, we've got no idea why she's wearing her underwear outside her coat. They all seemed to be doing it in Lithuania that night.
Tuesday, 26 January 2021
In times like these, when the contest is full of sadbois and dubious Norwegians, when we need is some pure and happy pop - and who better to give it to us than our old pal Daz Sampson. Our Daz has taken a bit of a liking to Belarus of late, and has teamed up this time with local lass Katya Ocean for an absolutely belting bit of optimistic 90s rave pop.
He might have dialled down the bonkersness since Kinky Boots, but it's still lays on the kind of hands-in-the-air party vibe, head-nodding drops and a positive, uplifting message that are totally needed in these times. On top of that, he's only gone and slipped in a passage in the local lingo to try and lure the Belarussian establishment to his pop ways - which is a stroke of genius in our book - and man, that key change is a thing of beauty.
Some might call it old-fashioned, but that's missing the point. Daz is one of us, and he loves this contest through and through, and is bringing us the thing he does better than anyone else - the absolute party.
Monday, 25 January 2021
Since writing the original review it's dawned on us just how problematic this whole performance is, from the cultural appropriation of this very specific hairstyle, right through to the lyric and its presentation. It also doesn't help that Kazna herself is proving a tad porblematic in her own right. Sometimes you have to scratch a little deeper into what a song is really about before you really get to grips with what's going on - but this one was staring us right in the face and we missed it - swayed as we were by a half-decent bit of techno folk. Belarus is all about Zena or Daz this year anyway - what could possibly go wrong there!
We've heard little from Belarus so far this year, so we were rather interested to find this little clip on our internet travels this morning. From what we hear heard, they're either going to run a ten song final or just straight up pick their fave and do away with any kind of contest all together. And to our ear, this is the kind of song that we always thought they might consider going with.
It starts off all serious and folksy before kicking into a proper sassy pop strut, all the while keeping some distinctly local tinges. We still have concerns though. The presentation does look a bit like sixth form performance project, and as this is a recorded version there's no guarantee that her vocals would be strong enough in the live sphere.
But having said all that, it's still a step in the right direction, but we suspect that there's some heavy hitters waiting in the wings to throw card onto the table. And surely it's time for our old mate Daz to have another pop at this too!
Lockdown must have been effecting the Norwegians more strangely than anyone else, if the songs they keep presenting for this year's MGP are anything to go by. So far we've had a plod metaller dissing Middle Eastern religions, a relic from the past basing his entire song around a hand gesture that's been recently co-opted by the ultra right, a young incel lad blaming his mental health problems on women, and what could be taken to be a nationalist call to arms, all wrapped up as a folksy jig. So somehow having a song about taking city boys to the woods and chopping them up doesn't seem quite so bad as it might have done in isolation.
It's a strange old piece of kit to be sure. Initially sounding like a standard piece of tropical pop on the start, it lilts along nicely, with Emmy's streetwise snarl spitting out a tale of rural life, until it all goes a bit Midsommer, and all manner of sticky ends are suggested for any young man who might happen to venture her way. Having said that, we do kinda like it, and can't wait to see how they do this live. But all the same…
Is everything alright, Norway? Do you need to talk…?
Thursday, 21 January 2021
Back in the nineties I was in a noisy little indie punk band called the Cesspit Rebels. For some reason we never entirely fathomed we were beloved of a strange sub-cult of indie called Twee Pop, and ended up on loads of cassette compilations featuring all this lovely floaty indie jangle, with our horrible noise bunged smack in the middle. I'm telling you this because Miguel Marôco's song here sounds exactly like the kind of song that was always on directly before us.
It's proper old school bedroom indie of a sort that never entirely pierced the mainstream - apart from that brief weird moment when White Town bagged an international number one. There's jangles, there's plinky plonks, and the song even appears to be about flowers - at least in some figurative manner.
Miguel himself seems to have the same kind of homespun do-it-yourself charm too, if you seek him out on YouTube. I can't see this doing very much business at all at Festival da Canção, as it's just a little too awkward compared to all the more slick and centred others. But it's most certainly one of the ones we're most looking forward to seeing performed live. Right then, it's given me an urge to go listen to Stereolab and The Field Mice again…
Wednesday, 20 January 2021
After a nice little flotilla of gentleness these last few days, I guess Finland thought it was time to up the UMK noisiness a little and give us a bit of violent pop. At least that's how Blind Channel like to self-describe. In reality, genre spotters, what this band ply is something more akin to the lighter side of metalcore, and up to now their back catalogue has seen them unsure of quite which camp to plant their size nine boot in.
On top of that, louder bands frequently let us down in this contest, and offer up something far lighter than their usual frantic schtick - for every AWS, there's a dozen Nuteki's sitting at the bottom of the wilfully missed opportunity bin. Which is kind of why Dark Side here has come as such a surprise, because by jove, it seems like Blind Channel have got it! Just about.
The loud bits are rowdy enough for the more leftfield music lovers, while the poppy edge is laid on just thick enough to please the more noise-averse among us. It's a curious old hybrid to be sure, and despite being a bit of a plod to aficionados of the scene it might just be one that could do very well indeed if it managed to scrape its way to Eurovision proper. This UMK is certainly shaping up to be a difficult beast to call!
The songs for Festival da Canção were announced this afternoon, and while in the main they made up the kind of beautiful sunny afternoon chill out album that the good old FdC has been producing since its glorious post-Salvador reboot. But there's one song that stood out head and shoulders above the rest of the gentle loveliness - this one.
Na Mais Profunda Saudade is pretty much the Portuguese Eurovision song that we've been crying out for decades now. The kind of song we've quietly wept over in tiny local Fado bars any time we've been lucky enough to be visiting around those ways. The kind of song that we don't understand a physical word of, but deeply understand every last nuance of feeling that Valéria is huskily emoting.
Man, this is a bit special. We've got no idea how it's likely to do in the whole FdC process, but we're so very, very glad it's there.
Tuesday, 19 January 2021
What is it this year with men of a certain age being slightly embarrassing in the public sphere? I mean, I know that we're fully paid up members of their club too, so I shouldn't really mock, but never before have so many awkward old timers blundered about to so little effect in the Eurovision sphere.
Ketil here we know of old, and to be fair to the lad he was still reasonably cringe when he was of a more serviceable age, and now nicely into his sixties he's decided to treat us to a hymn about his own mediocrity. Yeah, fair enough, when you're older you get a little settled in your ways, but there's lines in this song that could be taken every bit as reactionary-flavoured as old Jorn in the previous round.
And as if all that wasn't enough, the song itself sounds like a mid-nineties Shakin' Stevens b-side!
I guess you could say it was whimsical and self-mocking if you were being generous, but there's still something about it that just doesn't sit right. Jeez, at this rate we here at Apocalypse Towers have got a decent shout at getting on the slate of some national selection process somewhere next year. Anyone got Norway's phone number?
Monday, 18 January 2021
There are many within fankind who are of the opinion that Keiino merely have to turn up to bag the ticket to Virtual Rotterdam. But before they go lumping any money on at the bookies, we'd suggest they check the recent charts. Because although most folks outside of his own borders may not have heard of him, young Tix here is a pretty major player in Norway, with a bag of number ones already under his belt - not to mention a writing credit on Sweet But Psycho. The boy is clearly no sucker.
Witness, then, his gala performance on this weekend's MGP heat this last weekend. Easy swagger, an outfit to match the ego of his stage persona, and one of the most interesting staging concepts we've seen come out of Norway in an age. Add to that his massive online following, and the fact that despite you not thinking all that much of the song, it's the kind of thing that's littering the charts worldwide, and I fear that our favourite yoikers have got something of a battle on their hands in what is already looking like a bloodbath of an MGP final if Blåsemafian get a head of steam behind them and Raylee brings the showbiz.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
PS This is what all cis-het men would dress like if we were left on our own for too long! (Now where can I get those trousers in my size…?)
Sunday, 17 January 2021
As the years roll on, you get to an age where however cynical you want to appear, a sentimental song sung well by a senior with the weight of the world etched into their face will get you on a weep. But every now and again one will ramp it up a dozen notches and absolutely wipe the floor with your emotions. And oh boy has Danny here just done that in our house.
For those who don't know him, this singer is a much-loved 78-year-old veteran of the Finnish music scene. When it was announced that he'd be taking part, most of us just assumed that he'd be giving us a nice nostalgic slice of pedestrian rock'n'roll. What we weren't prepared for, however, was a list on instructions for his own funeral. But wait! As mawkish as that might sound, Danny's sardonic wit and cheeky glint life it into the realms of the glorious - although having said that, we were still in floods of tears before the end of the third line.
There'll be plenty of folks who just won't get this, and that's fine. But remember, music isn't only for young people, and for those of us with a few years on the clock who are increasingly aware of our own mortality it's an absolute bloody masterclass in dark humour and perfect delivery. I'm not sure that I'm going to hear a better song all year - in any musical realm.
The self same schalgerists who've been moaning about that only-very-slightly-gammony Jorn getting knocked out in Norway seem to have been staying conspicuously quiet on Black Spikes failure to progress in Lithuania last night. "Why can't we have more rock at Eurovision?!" they whine, ignoring the fact that their Norse grandpa offered up one of the most cringeworthy three minute of try-hard awkwardness we've seen in flipping ages. A poor pop tune wrapped in fur and leather and sixth form poetry, the punters saw right through it and gave it the early exit it deserved.
However Black Spikes should feel infinitely more hard done by, because they put their heart and soul into doing something a little more artful and imaginative. Evoking the dark, on stage theatrics of bands like Portal, Earth, and every dare I say it the edgier side of Ghost, they came on stage swathed in fabric and spiky headgarb, and acted out a dramatic spooky tale that drew you right into its universe so that you believed every second of it - even if you might not have known entirely what was going on. And when it got to the growling bit - oh my days I was in heaven! Or maybe it was the other place…
One suspects they put them in the opening slot to wake up the punters, but the now tediously fun-hating Pabandom Iš Naujo jurors marked them just low enough cancel out a very respectable televote score. But while the song in itself wasn't great, the character and the atmosphere and the pure presentation power of Black Spikes elevated the performance to much higher levels than any of us expected when we heard the isolated audio.
This here is what all you "I don't normally like rock, but…" lot should have been mourning the loss of, not that superannuated pub rock dad with floppy hair and an over tight outfit. Let's hope they come back next year with a better song and a face-melting stage show!
Saturday, 16 January 2021
Updated with the UMK show. There's two schools of Eurovision performance thought. Either less is more, or more please and a bit more extra on top of that. Well this one appears to have broken through the latter category and not only chucked in the kitchen sink, but all the white goods and the entire contents of the outhouse too. And good on them!
First things first… this doesn't sound anything like bloody Take On Me! Wait, let me qualify that. It only sounds like the de facto national anthem of the world if you've never heard another bit of chip tune or electroclash or nostalgic electronica in your life! What, you haven't? Oh dear, our work's going to be cut out for us here, isn't it - as you were…
Anyway, the first signs were good. Very good, in fact. Older artists gleefully hammering out a plinky plonky bit of old time electronica that could have come from any one of the last five decades. Then a trio of lumpy blokes muttering in Finnish over an effortless skipbeat. Even better when the chorus teased, as a fabulous woman of a certain age stepped up to take the floor. And then…?
And then the chorus actually kicked in and we threw our hands up in dismay!
Is that it? You're just going to sing "I love you!" over and over and over again? Oh man, we sighed. Major missed opportunity or what. And then we played it again. And again. And then for a few more times. Before long we were standing on the table shouting "I love you!" over and over and over again at the top of our lungs. It's the musical embodiment of an HPV - burrowing under your skin and never ever leaving you, popping up in uncomfortable places when you least expect it!
And then there's the artists themselves. The Teflon Brothers we knew about, and were fully expecting something of this joyful ilk. But a little digging into Pandora revealed something that we didn't know. She only used to be a flipping massive international dance star, selling millions of records around the world, didn't she! Apologies if you knew this already (which you most probably did), but this puts an entirely different complexion on matters. Oh my days - this song has gone from a mild disappointment to a serious contender for UMK in a matter of days.
Can't stop singing the flipping thing now, either. I hope you can get cream for it.
Friday, 15 January 2021
Them juries are a tricky beast to try and second guess. Many a brave act have attempted to court them over the years, only to falter in the mid-table hinterland. The voters at home are a much more uncomplicated animal. They'll forgive imperfections and oddities if a song's got heart and honesty. But if you think to much with a jury kind of head on you could very easily chase the punters off and get yourself into a proper pickle.
So in attempting to court the dread jury vote I'm just a little bit cautious that Keiino may have shot themselves in the immaculately booted foot a little. Don't get me wrong, it's a cracking song. The atmosphere and the build are immense, and Fred's intro sends an expectant shiver down the pine every time. But it lacks those winning hooks that made the televoters pick up their phones by the thousand in 2019.
And far from it being the second coming that much of fankind suggests, I've got a horrible feeling that it might have a battle on its hands to even win the Norwegian ticket to wherever the heck they'll be performing from this year. It's a pretty strong selection in the old MGP this year, and the massive local appeal of the singer Tix must surely not be discounted, however uninspiring his song may be to the rest of us. But one thing's for certain, in 'Thunder and Gloria' we've already got our first catchphrase of the year!
Tuesday, 12 January 2021
It's a by-product of looking like we might have been the lead singer of one of the less successful New Wave Of British Heavy Metal acts from the eighties that the moment any song appears with remotely crunchy guitars and a growly vocal my inbox fills with messages saying "One for you here, Mr Apocalypse!" And while my ageing Viking features probably do betray a tendency towards the noisier side of music, I do have some standards you know. And you should all know the EA mantra by now - no rock is better than shit rock!
So you shouldn't be surprised that we no fans of this dreary, and perhaps marginally contentious, plod from Jorn. It grumbles along like the loud one from a deliberately edgy musical, thinking it's all important because it's talking about, like, issues, where in actual fact it's more like taking an enforced stroll with your politically dubious grandfather after a big Christmas dinner.
Sure, the subject matter is one that's worthy of discussion, but perhaps not quite this tritely and hamfistedly. I mean, what's that little interlude of Middle Eastern sounding music in the middle there trying to tell us, eh, Jorn mate? It just sounds like something the artist was really proud of in the demo despite everyone telling him it was a bad idea, but he insisted on keeping at least a part of it in the final edit.
If you want to hear this kind of subject matter dealt with in a much more intelligent and exciting manner, go listen to Slayer, because this is faintly embarrassing.
Friday, 8 January 2021
When we heard that Apocalypse faves Twosome were having another crack in Lithuania, our hearts sang with potential glee. In what could potentially be the dullest of all years in the frikizone we were looking forward to a bit of knockabout fun, but were concerned that after their recent local X factor successes they might have gone a bit grown up on us. And the results? Kinda fifty-fifty.
And while it's almost impossible to go wrong with a song called I Love My Bear, it's sadly lacking in the infectiously catchy hooks of their two most recent efforts Hello and Playa. And half the time it sounds like they're singing "I Love My Beer" as well - which would still have been good, but not half as much fun as this ursine entertainment.
What we do know, however, is that they're going to do an incredible job of it live on Pabandom iš Naujo, and now that their winning, everyman, let's just get up and do the show here charm has been seen regularly on prime time showbiz TV, they might just knock the smug grin off that baldy lad from The Roop's chops come finals night. Or at least we sincerely hope that they do!