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.