Friday, 4 November 2022

Ukraine 2023 - John Eaton - Burning Bridges

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

Avast me hearties! A whole new Eurovision season has begun. And this year we start off where the whole thing ended last time round - in Ukraine. Kinda.

Prospective contestants seem to be keeping their cards close to their chests this term, as scarcely a peep has yet escaped from the usual outsider composers who start oozing their curious wares across the internets the very second the September threshold has passed. That is except repeat offender John Eaton here. His name pops up from time in dispatches, but this year's he's gone the whole hog and has decided to  submit a song for the reigning champs, putting a number of efforts onto his YouTube channel and encouraging us to suggest our faves.

And oh boy, are there some special treats on display!

OK, so we really shouldn't make fun of somebody who clearly has the best of intentions, but man alive has he misread the room. Take the song I've posted here - a jaunty little bit of rockin' boogie… that appears to be about literal bridges on fire, and includes lines as eye-popping as "I can hear the sounds, exploding our towns" and "I can smell the smoke, causing me to choke"!

And that's not all. Take a wander through the other songs in consideration on his channel and you'll find a song called Go, Go, Go that attempts to sound a bit Ukrainian with synthesised wood whistles and the like, while Slava Ukraini! just goes the whole hog, with lines like "May we always, always remain free, through Kyiv through Kherson and the Black Sea". Yes, really!

Now we're not entirely sure quite where John is from, but it's a fair bet that he's not actually from Ukraine. And this of all years one suspects that they'll be sending something pretty special that fully reflects their rich culture and massive struggled. So while we applaud John for giving it a go, we suspect we already know how his stab at Eurovision glory is going to go this year. Bless him.

Friday, 11 March 2022

Portugal 2022 - Fado Bicha – Povo Pequenino

 


Of all the great songs that didn't make it out of their semis this year, his is the one that we're most gutted about. For those not in the know about Portuguese music and culture, here's a little breakdown of the act's name. Fado is a haunting and heart-wrenching style of music, usually sung in tiny bars about people who died at sea. Bicha on the other hand is kinda the local equivalent of 'queer', and a term becoming reclaimed by the Portuguese gay community. And knitted together they describe the output of this tremendous act perfectly.

This song's a perfect marriage of traditional sounds, batshit 21st century creativity and a massive dollop of camp glory that was perhaps maybe the wrong kind of gay for the voting folks at home, curse them. But it's definitely one that we're going to keep coming back to for many years to come.

The FdC final has undoubtedly become one of the highlights of the Eurovision year since our Salvador first twitched his way to victory. But it's going to be a far less rich spectacle without this little beauty.

Thursday, 10 March 2022

United Kingdom 2022 - Sam Ryder - Space Man

 


So the UK have adopted a very interesting strategy with their Eurovision song this year. First, they get an agency of some note to exec produce the artist. Said agency convinces a singer who may not be a household name to the likes of you and me, has a massive reach on TikTok and Insta. He's also got a great voice and a hugely engaging personality. Big ticks all round so far.

Next they start to get the song some mainstream radio play in advance of it's Euro-announcement, in the hope that it if people hear it without the tag of shame attached to it they may actually like it. And on top of all that, Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills was imploring his listeners to get behind the song and give it some support. All very big positives from a country that is traditionally a bit flimsy at this contest.

And then when finally we get to hear the song itself… it's yet another major key plod, with all the same familiar chord progressions, and a non-committal lower mid tempo time signature - a style of song that has been proven year-on-year to find its way to the lower reaches of the table. It's fabulously sung, and brightly produced, I'll give it that, but we had an open goal here, and we kicked the ball into row Z!

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Georgia 2022 - Circus Mircus - Lock Me In

(Click here if you can't see the panel above for some proper sounds…)

There was time when Georgia were considered as probable Eurovision winners in the not too distant future - and then they just went "Nah fuck it - let's send stuff that we like!" And boy is this going to confuse the natives!

You've got a little slice of jazz fusion to kick off with, before it dips into a psychedelic proggy chorus, and ends up just flipping off on its own little journey into the cosmos. It's the kind of thing that you'd expect to hear from a band who are third on the bill for some light relief at a noise rock night in the back room of a pub in Oxford, only with that distinct batshit edge that foots it firmly in its own home nation.

And boy, much of fandom are going to struggle with the language to try to explain it. But if you've got the references, imagine a heavily popped up Cardiacs singing Syd Barrett choruses and mix it up with Zappa and Add N To (X) playing some Japanese club pop covers together - on ice! We suspect this is going to be a real treat on the big night!

Also props to the band for not showing off their doubtlessly unhinged video because, y'know, there's a war on.

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Iceland 2022 - Reykjavíkurdætur - Tökum Af Stað

 


Because when things are getting boring, what we all need is an anarcho-feminist hip hop clan!

No, seriously, Söngvakeppnin as been a proper dull affair this year, with emotionless American and bleached bland mid tempo plop. Before last night our only ray of hope was dear old Haffo Haff, but even he left-fielded it a bit too much. So what a joy to see the Sisters Of Reykjavík absolutely bringing it last night.

But these are no cobbled together chancer all having a clump about for a lark. Oh no. This lot have a decade of hits and activism behind them and are serious contenders for the prize here. I mean, just look at the longs words - and there's bloody loads of them! Lines like "Fuckboys they keep me dry like an umbrella", "If Karl Marx lived, he would be my boyfriend", "I'm the virgin Mary, baby I'm the whore", and "the dance floor is a multifaceted Yoga retreat it must be the moshpit" are just the start of it, as they spit bar after bar of glorious female empowerment.

And as if that wasn't enough, something quite quite beautiful and unexpected that you rarely ever see on a Eurovision stage happens at around the 1:25 mark and the whole thing lifts to yet another incredible level. We really have to see this in Turin. The fun-hating dullards are going to whine that it's just another joke song, but then they're probably too dumb to understand the lyric. I for one can't wait to hit their yoga moshpit!

Saturday, 5 March 2022

Germany 2022 - Emily Roberts – Soap

 

At Eurovision Apocalypse, we're not just here for the strange and the spectacular, but those difficult moments when it all goes horribly awry too. At first little Taylor Swiftian pean to washing you brain with detergent to rid you of the memory of an ex - no really - plodded along like the unremarkable pop song it truly was. It has to be noted that she didn't always hit all of her notes, but she had a jolly good go at most of them. And then it happened…

At around the minute mark the soap bubbles that had made the stage look like the first three minutes of a West Ham game started to surround our poor lass here, and distracted for a minute she went off piste and popped one of them - which utterly destroyed her concentration. There followed and awkward giggle, a loud "Wow!" and an awful lot of confused wandering about. With each passing second she looked more and more distraught - after all, this was her big break on national TV, and was being closely scruitinised by fandom around the world. You really started to feel for her.

Then, as quickly as she'd lost it, she clicked back into gear and finished the song - only with a troubled, shot away look in her eye, with the crowd totally on her side. The juries weren't terribly kind, though, and voted her plumb last, the old grumps. But you've got to give it to the girl for battling through it all, though despite everything - and her expression at the end said it all.

Emily mate, your song might have been rubbish, but you embodied the pure spirit of Eurovision last night and livened up probably the beigest finals of the year, and for that we can only applaud you and offer you Eurovision Apocalypse legend status!

Friday, 4 March 2022

Serbia 2022 - Konstrakta - In Corpore Sano


(Click here if you can't see the panel above for glorious bewilderment…)

Have you ever done that thing when you've been wondering around a big hotel or conference centre looking for a specific thing, but you open a door that you shouldn't have and stumble into something just a little strange and unsettling?

Well this song is the physical embodiment of that!

Anyone got any idea what it's all about?

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Iceland 2022 - Haffi Haff - Gía

(Click here for some Icelandic funtimes if you can't see the video panel above…)

It's relatively back to normal after a few incredible years for Iceland at this contest. Söngvakeppnin 2022 may have lured a few more cool indie stylists out of the woodwork after their recent high profile entries, but they've mostly kept it fairly safe, which is a bit of a shame. However there's one artist who's at least giving it a bit of a go this time round, and he's got form…

Readers with long memories and an eye for the obscure may just about remember Haffi Haff from the 2008 Icelandic selection shows, where he got knocked out in the second round of a wilfully complicated process with an entry called The Wiggle Wiggle Song. Anyone? No? Anyway, he had a bit of a career as a flamboyant dance pop artist for a couple of years, before disappearing from international view and probably doing something really interesting with his life, as most Icelandic musicians seem to do. However, now he's back, and he's a little more unhinged than you might be expecting if you remember his old material.

Y'see, Gía is Icelandic for Volcano, and they know a lot about that kind of thing out that way. The song itself appears to be a pean to said fiery mountains, all set in a bed of sparse electronica with the occasional out-of-place bit of Eastern flavour. It's one of those songs where you can't work out of it's terrible or a work of mild genius - and one suspects that Haffi boy here kinda likes it that way. And of the video's anything to go by, we can't wait to see what he's going to do one stage with it come the semi this Saturday.

Norway 2022 - Subwoolfer - Give That Wolf A Banana



For the whole of Norway's interminable MGP process we've been trying to ignore the wolf in the room, but now we're lumbered with the thing it would probably be remiss if we didn't mention it in passing. Because unless Russia offer us a live birth on stage or something equally as extra, this is almost certainly going to be the one that the normals will be talking to you about at work come Monday morning.

And we have to confess to a spot of eye-rolling when we first saw it. To our jaded eye this one is not so much fun as "fun", and it all came over as a bit of moderately forced turn-of-the-century irono-humour. But do you know what? We're gradually coming round to it. In a year littered with mid-tempo plod this is as near to a dance banger we've got so far, and is likely light up the arena with silly dancing and extreme Yum chanting come the live shows.

Of course, we've already been hearing the old traditional bleats of 'joke song' and 'it's not taking the contest seriously' from some of the usual moaners. We thought we'd seen that lot off when Fandom started getting younger, but sadly no. But it's no joke. It's a well crafted, if not a little flimsy, pop number with a nicely worked out stage show - and at least there's a rough narrative to it, rather than just a string of random sentences that sound a bit songy in English, so it's about 63% ahead of the rest of the field on that count already.

But who are they? We hear some people cry? It doesn't especially matter - we grumble back. It's just some blokes in some masks having a bit of a romp. They're signed to the massive Universal label, so they must have some weight behind them, but once we discover who's behind the mask their major point of interest will evaporate. Would your life get any better if you found out that Banksy was just a middle-aged little chap called Robin that you'd never heard of? No it wouldn't. So just enjoy it for what it is - a marginally entertaining bit of lightweight fun. Or should that be "fun"?

Saturday, 19 February 2022

San Marino 2022 - Achille Lauro - Stripper


(If you can't see the video panel above, the internet hates you, so click here for maximum joy…)

I make no secret of the fact that Achille Lauro is just about my favourite pop star on the planet right now, so he could have sung the Sammarinese phone book tonight and I'd still have got unfeasibly excited. That wouldn't have taken him long, mind.

But when he was announced as one of the big artists already qualified to the delightful national final process I at once got a little bit excited and somewhat anxious at the same time. After all, those grumpy old blokes who'd been doing the voting in this week's endless cascade of semi-final shows were never likely to go for him, surely? And it was a weird old show for sure - the sight of the good lord Achille stood on stage in a final three that also comprised of the perpetually plucky British trier Aaron Sibley and some Turkish DJ felt more than a little awkward, so thank heavens someone from the label slipped the old voting goats a couple of brown envelopes to give me a chance of standing in the same room as the big fella.

The song itself is a good old fashioned boot boy glam rock stomper of the sort that was ridiculously popular in Italy in the seventies, and our lad here seemed faintly embarrassed to be plodding around that tiny stage in Dogana to singe for his supper and take the back route into Eurovision. But of course, absolutely none of this matters, because he's most likely to do something utterly messianically beautiful on the big stage in Turin this May. And I for one couldn't be happier.

Friday, 18 February 2022

Slovenia 2022 - Luma - All In



Slovenia have been quietly going about their business this year while all the other nations have been getting embroiled in showbiz and controversy, and they're doing really rather nicely in their own unassuming way, and will most definitely be worth keeping a quiet eye on this Saturday. There's two songs among their final selection that we've taken a bit of a shine to: a delightful over-produced bit of whimsy called Nova Romantica, and this curious little beast.

Of course, the slower minded commentators among us are immediately going to bleat "Sebi copy!" - but this, in reality, is an entirely different kettle of fish - the anti-Sebi, if you will. Where Sebi was sweetly understated and innocent, All In is dirty, edgy, and just a little bit creepy - with a fabulously entertaining bit of stage business.

While Martin stares on all impassive, with a look on his face akin to Father Dougal trying to work out if something is small or far away, Lucija prowls around the stage like a semi-posh vamp, making the poor lad look increasingly awkward. Oh, and the moment we discover the keyboard is on wheels is an absolute treasure.

It's minimal and light for sure, but there's an underlying sense of menace that we really rather enjoyed, and we suspect this one could be troubling the scorers come the big night.

Thursday, 17 February 2022

France 2022 - Alvan & Ahez - Fulenn



After Voila's success last season, it's easy to forget that in 2021 France had a right dog of a final that just happened to have their best song in decades hiding in the creases. This year they seem to be following the same pattern - only they've forgotten to bung in the good one. But it was all so very nearly promising with this one. Until…

Picture the scene. A moody, folksy opening few bars suggested that kind of regional dance crossover that works so well at Eurovision. Better still, the song is sung in beautiful Breton, and appears to be something of a feminist anthem. We were ticking the goodness boxes all over the shop… but then the beat dropped and it all went a bit Pete Tong.

We've got nothing against the song itself, as it's an unassuming little cracker, but boys did that lad in the middle stand out like a sore thumb with his over enthusiastic rave dancing. It was like he thought the first Mitzy hadn't worked, so necked another and came up instantly. But while he was writhing about, the two singing girls in hoods just stood there impassively, looking a tad embarrassed by their boy pal hogging the limelight in a song defending the emancipation of women. And we'll let you discover the ukulele bit for yourself.

We genuinely can't wait to see how they perform this in front of a crowd on a big stage. It's going to bloody hilarious. Which is a shame, because it'll overshadow a pretty sweet little song. But hey, y'know… laffs!

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Romania 2022 - E-An-Na - Marale

 

(If you can't see the video panel above, click here. You definitely won't guess what's coming next!)

Right then, we've got a lot to get through with this one, so where do we start? OK, how's about the song itself. On the outset it seems to be another one of those foot-stomping Romanian cabaret folk numbers what we all seem to enjoy. But dig into the song's lyric and it appears to be about malaria. No, seriously, it's either an allusion about the kid of love that you just can't shake - or it's about actual bloody malaria! And there's some awkward lines in there too… how does "With your saffron face, Colourful on the heart, Like a Pakistani truck, You won't get rid of me" grab you for starters?!

Apparently there were some in Romania who didn't even want this to get onto their curiously sparse televised semi-final, claiming that it was Satanic in nature. Well unless Satan has got a tropical quaking disease, we're not really too sure where that one's coming from.

With most other songs, that would be the end of the wonkiness, but we've got so much to uncover here. For a start, it's well worth watching twice so that you can follow the antics of the two guitar laddies at the back. There's the lanky bass-player who seems to think he's in some kind of rustic metalcore band, while the little guitar lad on the right is jigging about like a folky Angus Young. And that's before we've even got to the accordionist's incredibly shiny trousers.

But no, there's still one more major moment yet to come. As the song progresses you'll start to notice that there's an empty drumkit to the side of the stage that wasn't there for the previous act. Could it be that an over eager stage hand has bunged it up in readiment for the next act? No, it's much more unlikely than that.  Because in the song's dying breaths, what should shuffle onto the stage but A BLOODY GREAT INFLATABLE DINOSAUR! Obviously. Who then stands behind the drums, sticks grasped in his tiny, useless forearms, and begins to air drum over them! Of course! Why didn't we think of it! It's obvious that a song about a viral disease should a bloody great inflatable dinosaur drumming on it!

We've seen some things in our time, and this most certainly was one of them.

Even more unexpectedly, it didn't even qualify for the final. In fact, none of the last six songs did - which is unusual enough in itself, but word on the street tells us that the judges had to choose their favourites six songs before the end to that the production staff could print up the flashy big qualifier certificates that were awarded to each of the lucky ones who made it through, and didn't get to see or vote on the last lot.

As a few of you may know, I've got a Eurovision-themed novel coming out in the next few of weeks, and even I wouldn't have had the nerve to make this kind of shit up!

Monday, 14 February 2022

San Marino 2022 - Elis Mraz - Imma Be


(Click here of you can't see the video panel above. You'll thank us. Possibly…)

The semi-finals of Una Voce Per San Marino have been utterly delightful. Held in a small opera house with more of the feel of a provincial village hall, a large number of plucky local hopefuls - plus a scattering of familiar faces to those of us who follow the lower reaches of Eurovisionia - have all shuffled out onto the tiny stage looking a bit awkward and have proceeded to warble anxiously into the unchecked mic trying to impress three sour faced judges who make Statler and Waldorf look cheery. Or so it was until Elis Mraz strutted confidently onto the stage.

You might remember Ms Mraz from her brief fling with Eurovision fame as one of the Czech video finalists who didn't quite make it in her home nation. So she's upped sticks, brought her two side girls along and is trying again in a completely different land. And didn't she give it some!

Starting off with a few a cappella vocal runs, she cocked a cheeky wink to the sound man and instantly began to writhe around in the floor in what looked like a rustic swimsuit made entirely from plastic pearls. The song itself was about being comfortable in her own skin - which we're glad to hear, because a more unkind commentator than us might make fun of the way she looked in that most uncommon garment, but we bloody loved her attitude and moxy!

The locals, clearly, looked terrified - although not half as shocked as they'll be when Achille Lauro and Spagna turn up at the weekend - and the miserable jury grudgingly pushed her through to the second chance round - her rightful place stolen by a couple of pasty-faced teens who did a weak rave version of Eleanor Rigby. And no, we didn't just make that up!

The best bit of all? This was only day one! We've got five more nights of this, and it's brilliant fun. Car boot Sanremo, here we come!

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Ukraine 2022 - Kalush Orchestra - Stefania

 

(Click here if you can't see the panel above for a peek into the Ukrainian psyche…)

Ukraine's Vidbir selection show is always a curiously charged affair. Indeed, daily life in the country bubbles with politics at the best of times, but with their neighbours to the north knocking belligerently on the back door, and talk of war being only a matter of days away this was always going to be a stranger edition than most. For a start, we couldn't quite tell if the audience were having the best night of their lives, or getting in the fun times before their darkest days began. And while there was a feeling of fiddling while Rome burns about the whole affair, it's an easy thing for we into the West to read into the event without knowing the entire story.

And of course, the show wasn't without its controversies. It never is. There had already been considerably bad blood between the Kalush Orchestra here and the eventual winner Alina Pash, who claimed that the band had ripped off the bassline to her song Bosorkayna for their Vidbir effort. In turn there were many who were accusing Pash of having visited Crimea in recent times - a move completely against the competition rules - as well as questioning why her musical collaborator Tina Karol was allowed on the panel. There were even accusations that there was some dark money behind Pash's win by a single solitary point at the end of the evening - which were particularly heightened when the scoreboard apparently broke down right at the crux moment in the voting.

When the eventual result was announced you could have tinned the angry scowls of Kalush, as the camera lingered on them just that bit too long to be comfortable. And while Ms Pash's song, on musical terms at least, is going to be a welcome addition to the slate in Turin, there's already much disquiet bubbling up at home in Ukraine about what actually happened last night, and who the winning artist is friends with. This was never going to be a normal year for Vidbir, but somehow they seem to have surpassed themselves with the complications. One suspects this isn't the last bit of news we're going to hear about the Ukrainian song this year.


Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Latvia 2022 - Miks Galvanovskis - I’m Just A Sinner

 

There must be something in the water in Latvia this year, because they're all having a go at being edgy or creative or a little bit wonk - and few less than old Miks here. Well I say Miks, but the reason this particular song has made this esteemed list is more in the hands of his guitarist.

Flaming hands that is.

Now I've been around this big old rock'n'roll world for many years, and I've seen a lot of rock'n'roll things, but I'm not sure that even dear old flamey Rammstein have tried the guitarist's-ands-on-fire gambit. And boy it's an impressive opening. 

Sadly it only lasts a short twelve seconds before the stringsman has to dash off and quickly plunge his burning mitts into a bucket of water, and after that the song simply decays into a dreary derivative bluesy rock sludge that sounds like at least a dozen other songs all at once. So don't feel that you have to watch the whole tedious thing.

But I tell you what, where that hateful Salad lot absolutely bottled out of their one and only gag in the first few seconds of their Supernova performance, this lot gave it a right old pop. It's just a shame about the rest of the song! Fair play, that guitarist - now pre-book yourself an ambulance for the final…

Monday, 7 February 2022

Latvia 2022 - Mēs Jūs Mīlam - Rich Itch


(Click here if you can't see the panel above for quite the curious confection…)

There's already been quite the discussion this year over what constitutes an admissible live performance for the Eurovision stage. We've already had Luna Ki and her autotune issues on Spain, the Polish sign language rappers, plus whatever the heck's going on with Subwoolfer on Norway, and this weekend this mob from Latvia only added to the rich stew of consternation.

Y'see, while the rules of Eurovision clearly state that whoever's doing the actual singer must be visible on stage, at least to someone in the audience, few of the local qualifier shows have such strict guidelines. But it still appears that the singer from Mēs Jūs Mīlam (Latvia for I Love You, language fans) was actually on stage - somewhere - during this performance. Only we didn't get to see him for a minute-and-a-half… and then only for eighteen seconds.

So is this wrong? Or just a really creative way to carve out an interesting performance from a song that didn't hold much promise from the audio alone? The arguments will rage… or at least mumble on a bit. But one thing's for certain, Sanremo aside, this was probably the most eye-catching of stagings from a busy old night in Eurovisionia. And don't even get us started on those faux funk salad cop outs!

Friday, 4 February 2022

Estonia 2022 - Elina Nechayeva - Remedy

 


(Click here to see a true 'did they mean to do that?' moment…)

Eesti Laul's been a bit below par this year. Where usually we'd expect many layers of chilled tunes and arch batshittery from the Estonians, this year it's all been a bit, well, beige. However, it's not been without its special moments.

Songwise, Elina Nechayeva's return to the competition was a smudge disappointing, and when we could clearly see the dancers attaching the flying lines to her we let out a sigh of resignation and we were expecting a spot of same old same old. Sure enough, she flew into the gods, warbling out and operatic trill, before… wait… was that meant to happen?

On the 2:50 mark in this clip she suddenly dropped from the roof at great speed, landing on the stage flat footed with a giant oof, before wobbling out her next couple of lines in mild distress, seemingly winded. But fair play to the girl, she quickly retrieved the whole thing like a pro, and a couple of bars later she was belting it out as if nothing had happened.

But was that REALLY supposed to be such a perilous descent? We'll be watching the final avidly just to be sure!


Thursday, 3 February 2022

Italy 2022 - Dargen D’Amico - Dove Si Balla

 

(RAI Uno have taken this cracker off YouTube, so you'll have to click here to see it…)

Every year at Sanremo there's that one song that nobody gave much hope to from an unfashionable artist that suddenly bursts out of left field to build a bit of a bandwagon and become a genuine contender. And somehow this year it's come in the form of a beardy 41-year-old rapper in a terrible suit.

Even as the first bars started to play we thought it was another of those quirky bill fillers that we're happy to see, but that would have no chance when it came to the scoreboard end of each night. But then the most beautiful thing happened. With each new chorus the atmosphere began to build and build, and by the time the entire room began to spontaneously belt out the 'pà para-rà pararà pa-pà' refrain we were on our feet, punching the air and shouting along with it. The neighbours must have been most confused.

On the face of it this stands no chance when it's up against a raft of past winners. But in this contest you never quite know what's going to happen until the very end, and the thought of a whole arena full of people in Turin singing along gives us the absolute goosebumps. The press room vote plumped it in fourth out of the 25 over the first two days of performance, so it's clearly not just us that are loving the thing. It couldn't, could it?


Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Italy 2022 - Achille Lauro - Domenica




We make no secret of being complete and utter Achille Lauro fangirls here at Apocalypse Towers. For us the lad could read out his shopping list in a greasy blue boiler suit and we'd be swooning like Bobbysoxers. But neither of us expected our boy to be effectively opening Sanremo 2022 wearing nothing bar a pair of tight leather kecks! I mean, what a way to start Italy's biggest family light entertainment event!

And while it's probably not one of his more stunning songs - slotting somewhere between the edgy social commentary of Rolls Royce and the more singalong shuffle of Bam Bam Twist - it still manages to bring some hefty slices of anarchy to its seemingly amiable rocking pop stylings. Teaming up with the delightful Harlem Gospel Choir was a masterstroke, while the end-of-song self baptism was beautifully odd - and probably just a little bit divisive in such deeply Catholic country like Italy.

But would we want to see this at Eurovision? Of course we bloody would! It's probably not the best introduction to his work that Europe could ever see, but you'd just never quite know what he was going to bring to the stage, and it's worth it for that danger alone. He might not have much of a singing voice, and he clumps about like a bricky, but somehow Achille Lauro is the last great pop star of these times, and we just can't get enough of the lad!

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

North Macedonia 2022 - Viktor Apostolovski - Superman

(Click here if you can't see the panel above - but you probably won't thank us…)

It's a pretty rare event where a Eurovision hopeful can make you feel physically dirty, but every now and again on pops along that sees you dashing for the wire brush and Dettol before the first chorus is out. There's plenty that have left us sad, disappointed or just plain angry over the years, but with this one we just felt soiled.

Could it be because the singer himself has the smug look and demeanour of a gropey cousin at a shit wedding? Maybe it's the pure pain of some of the rhyming couplets - and the early crowbarring in of the hoary old fave 'fire/desire'? Or perhaps it's just the weak and half-hearted lift of Party Rock Anthem in the chorus? There's so many filthy ingredients that it's hard to list them all, but somehow the whole manages to become more than the sum of its parts, and has left us with a right binfire of a three minutes.

But it gets worse. It seems like there's been some kind of a song famine in the honourable republic this year, and this one stands a more than decent chance of sliding its way through to Turin. Let's hope the traditionally more staid Macedonians elect to send something more dull and deliberate instead. Because the alternative doesn't bear thinking about.

Monday, 31 January 2022

Moldova 2022 - Zdob şi Zdub & Fraţii Advahov - Trenuleţul



After all the little Moldovan oddities we've posted over the last few days, it was perhaps inevitable that the country's only internationally famous stadium act were the only ones who were going to take the golden ticket to Turin. Eurovision irregulars might recognise them as that band who brought their granny on stage back in 2005, and wore big pointy hats and had a trumpeting fairy on a unicycle in 2011. But they're back, and this time it's all a little more gentle - at the outset, at least.

Because this folksy little shuffle about a newly opened train ride between Moldova's capital Chișinău and Bucharest in Romania might seem unassuming at first, but boy does it quickly get under your skin. You'll start off thinking that it's not a patch on their two previous efforts, but before you know it you'll be singing along to the English language chorus of "Hey ho, let's go, folklore and rock 'n' roll" at the top of your lungs whilst doing a minimal jig.

It's a song that embraces both the traditions of local Moldovan music and the great history of American country songs about train, and this feel is helped massively by the addition of the Advahov brothers who give it an old timey lick, while the rest of the Z-s-Z boys leap about like the superannuated punky lads they truly are. It's a whole bag of simple fun, and it's almost unhateable because of it.

Having said that, we've seen people tipping this to come plumb last in its semi. Have they not been paying attention? A band who's done this contest twice before, who are famous for unhinged and eye-catching live shows, and who have got a whole slate of nations who are famous for liking this shizz in their semi? This is qualifying with a bullet, surely, or something's weird in Eurovisionia!

Sunday, 30 January 2022

Moldova 2022 - Viola Julea - Befor


Because nothing tells a jury of music business professionals that you’re read to represent your proud nation at the world’s biggest music competition than reading your song’s words off your phone…

Moldova 2022 - Lanjeron - Magic Carpet

 

(Click here if you can't see the video panel above for the, ahem,  ride of your life…)

There are few better ways to spend a damp January Saturday afternoon than to watch the marathon Moldovan audition sessions - and especially so this year as it doubled up as a kind of carboot national final, that led to Zdob-ši-Zdub being crowned the obvious winners and everyone just wondering why they didn't just pick them outright in the first place.

But one of the show's biggest glories is how they put polished showbiz professionals next to ranks bedroom outsiders onto the same bare stage and let them do their thing for three minutes, whoever the heck they are. But we're not too sure which end of the scale this lot are. They've definitely put a lot of thought into their act, but at the same time it's a beautifully ramshackle piece of work too!

This won't be the last thing you see from these auditions here, but this was perhaps the silliest of them. Good work pop kids!

Friday, 28 January 2022

Spain 2022 - Rigoberta Bandini - Ay Mamá


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

Spain's newly revived Benidorm Fest may not have lived up to it Sanremo aspirations just yet, but it is making a decent fist of resembling a pre-Salvador FdC, so it's still a positive move in the right direction. But there's still been some very curious staging decisions for us all to point and chuckle at – some of which you might be seeing on here in the next couple of days.

But the one that really grabbed our hearts on the Apocalypse sofa is this uplifting paean to the sacrifice of motherhood and the glory of the breast. No, really. On the face of it the performance was a bout of beautifully naive, let's do the show here chaos. But in amongst all the stamping about there were a lot of genuinely touching moments - and a whole lot of bamboozlement at the same time. But we really couldn't bring ourselves to hate any part of it, because it's so darned optimistic and likeable.

We're definitely still firmly in Team Rayden, but we really wouldn't begrudge this a win - even though the point of the song may get lost to anyone outside of Spain. But we'd definitely recommend having a look at a translation of the lyric, because there's some really interesting concepts in there.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Moldova 2022 - Valeria Barbas - My Tree

 

(Click here if you can't see the panel above for a cool, laid back treat…)

When we were having our first listen through to the songs from this year's Moldovan selection process, there was one in particular that caught our ear as being quite possibly the coolest and uncharacteristic local hopeful of all time. And then a few songs later Misscatylove happened and everything else got a bit overshadowed. But now we're delighted to discover that the whole song is finally up on YouTube, and it's every bit as delightful as we remembered.

Harking back to a mid-90s Bristolian trip hop feel, only produced by über cool New York hip hop outfit New Kingdom and rerecorded by Aussie dance scamps The Avalanches. But then it's got its own entirely Moldovan feel and features running right through it, too. It really is a sweet little beaut that's come completely out of left field and has knocked us completely sideways with delight.

Our big worry, though, it how well it's going to come across in the brutal free audition process coming up this Saturday. Such a laid back and understated delivery could easily get lost on a harsh, un-soundchecked mic in the conveyer belt conditions of the event - especially if it's flanked by any of the more boisterous heavy hitters on the slate. And it will be a shame if it's overlooked, because we'd love to see what this would look like with a bit of visual production behind it.

Fingers crossed for a nice result, then.


Monday, 24 January 2022

Moldova 2022 - Misscatylove - Intro



It's always exciting when the plucky hopefuls from Moldova release their songs ahead of the brutal live audition round on a late-Winter Saturday morning. And while there's plenty of nifty little tunes hiding away in amongst the usual pub balladeers and senior citizen singalongs, there's one potential entry that's got us all bamboozled.

We like a bit of discordant noise as much as the next man, and in a different sphere we'd be drinking this kind of stuff in. But when wedged in among all the other more, well, song-shaped songs we thought there must have been some kind of a mistake. When was the singing going to come in, we wondered? Or is this actually the singing, processed to within an inch of its life? Who can actually say!

And a trip to the artist's YouTube channel made it even more confusing. Most of what's up there is a clip of a young girl chatting and making strange noises while being bootlegged with an ever more unlikely list of world name artists. Have we slipped into some kind of impenetrable Moldovan meme humour? And how in the name of heck are they going to present this in the live audition? And did TRM even listen to any of the songs they got presented with? So many questions - and we kinda like that! 

Ukraine 2022 - Antsya - Bomba

(If you can't see the video panel above, click here for a massively missed opportunity…)

Ukraine announced their final eight artists for this year's Vidbir, and while there's some cracking acts amongst them, we can't help feeling that they've missed a whopping great trick with this lot.

In fact, we'd go as far as saying that Antsya will pretty quickly become your new favourite Gothic Ukrainian girl band! Like a turbo disco'd Girls Aloud, pumped up on minor-key badness and an awful lot of deeply throbbing gnarly techno, this would have been a most welcome addition in any national final, but to lose it from one of the darkest and most frequently forward thinking seems like a terrible oversight.

And that's before we get to their most excellent look and their slightly unnerving vibe. Damn shame we're going to lose them - but do all you can to check out their back catalogue on YouTube, because it's blinder after blinder after blinder!

Sunday, 23 January 2022

Moldova 2022 - Sasha Bognibov - My Friend Is Gay


It's that time of year again, when we greet an old friend from Moldova into the Eurovision year. The season's never fully underway until Sasha fills our inbox with his annual effort. We usually enjoy them one way or another, but every now and again he surprises us with an unexpected blinder.

We still maintain that Wounded Swan was his biggest missed opportunity, but this, his latest of many attempts at Eurovision glory, runs it pretty close. And for sure, the lyric is one of his more well-meaning but slightly awkward forays into social conscience, although you suspect that he's completely earnest about his assertions. But this time round it's the music that's the real winner.

Opening with spooky, beyond-the-grave piano, it quickly builds into a massive gothic anthem that feels every bit like it comes from three-quarters of the way through a rock opera that nobody's seen yet. And do you know what? It suits his signature voice almost perfectly, his haunted pipes matching the increasing pomp to such an extent that you'll be doing air grabs every time it hits a loud bit.

We've given up on TRM ever seeing the light with Sasha, but we'd rather see this in one of their semis than their usual endless parade of forgettable hotel singers that constantly fail to qualify. Does the song have its problems? It certainly does. But is it also somehow the strongest material he's produced in ages? Well that too. 



Saturday, 22 January 2022

Lithuania 2022 - Lolita Zero – Not Your Mother






It wouldn't be unfair to say that Lithuania's Pabandom Iš Naujo selection show has been a bit beige and pedestrian so far this year. In most recent times it's been dripping with wows and chuckles, but two shows in and the nearest thing we've had to either was a woman in a white suit who appeared to rhyme the words 'lion' and 'dyin'. That was until the very last song of the night - and ooh blimey it was worth waiting for.

You might remember Lolita Zero from his accidental knock about funtimes hit from five years back 'Get Frighten'. But where that was going for laughs and shocks, tonight's effort was a whole different kettle of kippers. Standing static on a plinth like an androgynous silver alien, he coursely grumbled an edgy lyric over a waft of minimal beatsy electronica that sounded every bit like it was a lost Yellow Magic Orchestra track from the crack of the eighties.

Take away the showbiz and the song itself is exactly the kind of thing I've been listening to on the quiet for the last 40 years. But when married together with that other worldly look and blimey, that was a real treat.

Friday, 21 January 2022

Portugal 2022 - Pongo & Tristany - Dégrá.dê



FdC reveal time is always an exciting event in our house. Me and Mrs A sit on the sofa soaking in all the chilled vibes and heartbreaking ballads - only ever skipping the Jamiroquai-lite funky nonsense they insist on poking at us every year. But this year one song stopped us in our tracks and left us both gaping open mouthed in astonishment. And boy is this a blinder!

It disarms you from the first discordant piano stabs, and lulls you slightly when Tristany's lilting vocal wafts over the fractured backing. But as soon as Pongo's stabbing rap comes in over ever more cluttered and complicated beats we were swooning on our soft furnishing.

Now be warned, this might not be for everyone's ear, but it absolutely knocked our collective socks off - so much so that we've been hastily tracking down each of their back catalogues ever since. To be absolutely fair to it, unless they're both massively popular locally we can see it with a battle on its hands to even get out of its semi - but as we all know, far stranger things have happened in Portugal…

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Malta 2022 - Matt Blaxk - Come Around

 


Lockdown had the strangest effect on us all. For some of it us was all about learning how to make banana bread or homeschooling the nippers. Others among us explored new creative pursuits or pottering about in the garden. But for Matt Blaxck, it seems as though that period of enforced indoorsyness was mostly spent singing into the mirror and watching a lot of RuPaul.

I mean, what else can explain the rapid change in character in a lad that we used to know as Matthew Anthony. Close followers of the Maltese selection process may just about remember him from 2018 and his song Call 2morrow where he mumbled his way through a moderately entertaining Swedish-penned number and still managed to come seventh of sixteen. Back then he was a wide-eyed pop kid with a heart full of dreams, but not much in the way of showbiz pizzazz.

Fast forward four years and he's suddenly discovered his sass - plus a curious cross-continental singing accent that's part way between West Coast gangsta and somewhere randomly Caribbean. And while you can't knock a lad for career progression, it's all just a little bit awkward - especially as he seems to run out of ideas by the halfway mark and just keeps churning out the song's title ad infinitum.

Still, we can't wait to see this done live, 'cos we suspect that it's going to be funny. And hopefully not unintentionally. But in the future, Malta, if you want to explore this path a little more authentically, you've got an excellent laid back hip hop crew called Pon Di Corner that you really should be exploring. Because boy would they bring the party.


Monday, 17 January 2022

San Marino 2022 - Andi Taranik - Crystal Drops

 


When you've been covering the back end of this old show we love for as long as we have, you notice a few familiar faces popping up in the lower reaches of whatever local selection process is open to contributions from around the planet. And one such frequent flyer is our Andi here, who's tried his hand all over the place, but never seems to get onto the live shows anywhere.

Perhaps his vocal is a little too esoteric to catch the ears of a professional jury? Or maybe his stage persona is a smudge too understated and gets lost in amongst the bolder, brasher contestants? But whatever it is, you've got to give the lad credit for his indomitable spirit and pure persistence.

He does seem to have put a bit of effort into his backing track this year, though. We're not sure whether he's got someone to make it for him, or maybe he bought it in from a music library, but it's got a smashing melancholic lilt that make's his unique vocal stand out all the more. Oh, and if you get through the whole song, we'd seriously recommend that you take a listen to some of the covers of Eurovision classics on his YouTube channel, because they'll entertain the heck out of you!

Good man, Andi Taranik! And long may you continue!

Friday, 14 January 2022

Poland 2022 - Unmute - Głośniej Niż Decybele

 

(If you can't see the video panel above, click here for something a bit special…)

This is always my favourite bit of the Eurovision year. Y'know, when songs start creeping out, and folks start exchanging links of their cool findings like some kind of musical currency. So when I got a flurry of people tipping me off to this song this morning I suspected it was going to be a bit special. I wasn't quite prepared for quite how special, though.

I'd already been told of the song's concept - a gaggle of deaf youngsters signing out their lyric over a pop tune - so I was fearing something a bit schmaltzy and worthy. But by heck I shouldn't have worried. Instead we've got one of the boldest, brightest, most ambitious entries into this contest in a long time.

Just on beats alone this song's a bit of a belter. A big, beefy head nodder, with loud farty horns and a genuine street feel. But as soon as the kids start spitting out their bars - with their hands - it ascends to a whole new level. This isn't some cutesy community centre singalong, oh no. These kids have got attitude in buckets and are in your face from the word go. I got the chills running right down my back for the first time this season, and I just couldn't stop playing the thing again and again and again.

The song's title roughly translates as 'louder than decibels', which just about defines it all. This is easily the most punk rock entry we've had in a long old time, and I really can't wait to see what they do to it live!


Monday, 10 January 2022

Norway 2022 - TrollfesT - Dance Like A Pink Flamingo

(Click here if you can't see the video panel above. It'll be the best thing you do all day!)

When the rumour started kicking around yesterday that Trollfest were in the running for this year's MGP our brains swam with both delight and concern. Here's a band well-used to playing massive festivals all across the continent, but their music can be just a little confusing to those who are entirely new to it. Kinda like gnarly death metal with added Balkan instrumentation and a whole lot of proggy time signatures chucked in for good measure - but with a knockabout delivery that's likely to make people from outside of the metal sphere think they are a joke band.

But now that their involvement has been  songs have crept out, how worries have subsided. Because this is flipping brilliant! Managing to mangle serious planet-saving concerns with some fantasy edges, a killer chorus and a ludicrous dance routine, if this manages to drag its way through the tricky qualification path in Norway, the punters at home could be in for a right treat. And if you've never seen what they look like, then get yourself to YouTube and track down a few of their live videos - ooh you're in for a treat.

OK, so they've got a really outside chance of actually making it to Turin. But just indulge us for a moment. Imagine if not only this lot, but Eskimo Callboy (new, less contentious name currently in the ether, apparently) made it through in Germany, and Nanowar Of Steel somehow managed to convince San Marino they were the best thing they could possibly send - that would wipe the grimness of the Bulgaria Dad rockers entirely from our memories.

It won't happen, of course. But just imagine if it did!


 


Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Latvia 2022 - Citi Zēni - Eat Your Salad



So we were working our way through the newly released Supernova songs. If you've heard them already, you'll know the exact moment that we spat our tea out. But if you're new to this tune, we'll give you a moment to play the start of the above-linked ditty. Exactly eight seconds in fact…

Back in the room? Great, now wipe off your screen and continue…

Rarely before has a song gone around the Eurovision socials at such lightning fast speed as this one. But that's almost certainly got more to do with that impactful opening line than it does the actual body of the song, as it were. Because take away that initial shock factor and what have you got? A tedious ironic neo funk song that runs out of shock factor in eight seconds, and ideas in about a minute.

Regular readers will know that probably our least favourite of all the genres is wacky knowing funk. From Wadde Hadde Dudde Da to Do The Monkey and beyond, it's possibly the whitest, most drably middle class of all musics, and it's generally served with a massive side of smugness.

So it's a shame when you quickly discover that a song with such a dynamic, head-turning opening is merely a bunch of try hards in heritage clothing trying to be a bit clever. And it doesn't matter that the subject matter of their song is something we should all applaud - I simply don't believe that they believe it themselves.

It would be vaguely amusing to see the mild panic the EBU would get into if it was selected, but when a song is effectively over before the caption has faded from the screen, that's a massively missed opportunity for mischief. Still, it'll always be entertaining to play the song's beginning to a significant adult, just to watch their initial reaction. Just don't play them the rest of the song, or they'll surely nod off.