Saturday 27 February 2021

Poland 2021 - Ochman - Wielkie Tytuły

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

Germany 2021 - Jendrik - I Don't Feel Hate

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

Estonia 2021 - Helen – Nii Kõrgele

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

Belarus 2021 - Roman Rosanove — Falcon

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

Portugal 2021 - Ian – Mundo

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

Bulgaria 2021 - Victoria - Phantom Pain

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!

Czechia 2021 - Benny Cristo - Omaga

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

Croatia 2021 - Ashley Colburn and Bojan Jambrošić – Share the Love

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

United Kingdom 2021 - Bananadrama - UK, Hun?

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

Denmark 2021 - The Cosmic Twins - Silver Bullet

(Click here for a familiar melody if you can't see the video panel above…)

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

Norway 2021 - Royane - Circus


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

United Kingdom 2021 - Tokyo Rose - Have Some Fun

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

Belarus 2021 - Dana Lenevska - Spare Us

(Click here if you can't see the video panel above on your iDevice…) 

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

Belraus 2021 - Egor Luts - Don't Count Me Out!

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.