Friday, 9 May 2014

Why you shouldn't put money on

Eurovision Final
Betting Preview

Normally by now in the process I'm all done with blogging- given I'm in Copengahen already nursing a particularly nasty Tuborg hangover from Semi Final 2. (£5.50 a litre- how do they do it and make a profit?)

But usually at this stage in the process I've also received several tweets, facebook messages and texts urging me to tell them who will win on Saturday so they can make up the losses they incurred on my X Factor betting tips.

The problem is that I've got no idea. It's hardly a lottery, and of course you should stay away from putting money down on joke outsiders like Latvia (largely because they've already crashed out of the semis) but amongst the favourites there's been all sorts of movement, and indeed all sorts of reasons to think they won't win.

So whilst Lorna attempts to find the shared bathroom in our budget hotel, here's my guide to why the country you're about to stick £20 on will go home needing their sad undone.

Sweden is the current (Friday morning) favourite, but I can't see it. It's "Yummy Mummy" Sanna Neilsen, 29 going on 49, doing an impossibly clinical Swedish ballad in a laserquest. I don't think this will do anything like as well with juries as some people think and I'd even be tempted to lay her coming in the Top 3.

Austria is currently second favourite and is this year's novelty press bait, given Conchita Wurst identifies as a woman, but has a beard. She belts the life out of the Bond theme, but the juries are all named this year and in half of homophobic Europe, if the jury member scores Austria highly they'll have the life belted out of them.

The Netherlands have come from nowhere to third in the betting doing a criminally dull country song that sounds exactly like "Every breath you take" without the tune. My guess is that we'll find out on Sunday that they only just snuck out of the semis and we'll all wonder what on earth we were thinking that they could win the final.

Armenia was leading for months but has slipped this week, presumably because the appeal of a man that looks like Malcolm Tucker repeatedly shouting that you're not alone at you against some dubstep and strobing looks to have been slightly overstated.

The Ukraine looks tempting doesn't it? You can't vote against Russia (and you'll want to when you see the song) so this is the second best. The problem is that for all the turd polishing that UTV have done on the song, it's still a turd, and the juries surely won't want the Russian mafia chasing them all over the Baltics for the next 25 years.

So then apart from bargain basement Bruno Basim (surely we aren't coming back here) and Hungary (a garage song about child abuse), there's just the UK. Competently staged, likeably performed, anthemic, on last and with a fire curtain. Can I think of a reason not to bet on it?

No. Which is exactly why you'd be better off sticking your £20 on another bottle of Vodka for the Saturday night. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Put an end to all this suffering before it gets too late

United Kingdom

Children of the Universe

Kitschy, sclagery pop and an unnecessarily complex voting system? Yes- I always loved the Eurovision. Right from back in the 70s and 80s when it had orchestras and satellite delays and botched up archery stunts, I loved it to bits. Mainly because there was always a chance we might win. We were only out of the top ten once in the 80s, and only once in the 90s, and even then we blatantly didn't deserve it.

Scroll forward to May 2010. It's hard to put into the words the intense, powerful feeling of abject shame that me and Lorna felt in Oslo's Telenor arena in 2010 when Josh Dubovie took to the stage and did this. My christ it's bad. Just skip to 2:40 and tell me it's NOT the audio equivalent of having your own trousers pulled down in public to reveal that you have "messed" yourself. Actually, by the sounds of it, maybe he had.

Or take this from 2012. A waltz. A fucking waltz. Lest we forget, in 2010 we plucked 60's crooner Engelbert Humperdink from doing board games in his nursing home, plonked him in the middle of Baku and asked him to open the whole fucking show. With a fucking Waltz. "It's OK", said the BBC, "he can really sing!". Yes. We could see that.

The thing I think I find most astonishing about our piss poor performances in the noughties is that Terry "what's another year" Wogan got away with blaming our results on politics. Look at the evidence. In 2000 we send a woman called Nicki French to do something called "Don't Play That Song Again". They didn't. We were then stupid enough to repeat the trick the year after with a song called "No Dream Impossible". Oh. It was.

Baffled Phoenix Nights act warm up act Jemini did "Cry Baby" (really badly) and scored us the famous Nul Points in '03, James Fox off "Fame Academy" and Javine Hylton off "Popstars" did little but bore Europe in 04 and 05, scumpop w-rapper Daz offenced the continent in '06, Scooch managed to "Fly the Flag" for us by taking the piss out of a contest that hadn't existed for 15 years in 07, Andy "Wriggling Binman" Abraham embarrased us in 08 and in 09 Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote a song for someone who went on to finally destroy the Sugababes.

I mean Jesus. Did you SEE Bonnie Tyler on Saturday Night Takeaway the other week, stumbling around nine sheets to the wind forgetting the lyrics to "Holding out for Hero"? Yes, not an obscure album track, her second biggest hit. That is what we sent to Malmo to represent the British music industry last year. Not London Grammar or Tom Odell or Ellie Goulding or Jessie J or the Arctic Monkeys or Bastille or Disclosure or One Direction or John Newman or Tom Odell or Calvin Harris or Disclosure. We sent Bonnie Tyler, drunk.

And yet we swagger around Europe, faraging our way around foreigners, demanding salted butter with our full English, urinating in the capital cities that our Ryanair flights have whisked us to to "stag" and "hen", blaming fucking politics- politics!- for the fact that we do badly in the Eurovision.


So depending on your perspective, this year something has either gone very right or very wrong. "Molly" is actually talented, found by the "BBC Introducing..." thing with an unusual but memorable raspy bit to her voice. The song is excellent- instant, mid tempo, anthemic stuff about people power with two hooks that will work wonders in the neverending recap. And her performance of it- at least in rehearsals- is brilliant- great camera shots, not a note wrong, and a winner's pyro golden curtain in the final 60 seconds.

So yes. For the first time in a decade, without shame, I'm taking a Union Jack to Copenhagen. Welcome back, Royame Uni. And fuck you, UKIP. Fuck you.


Monday, 5 May 2014

My heart is like a clock you wind it with your love

Mariya Yaremchuk

Tick- Tock

You think it all starts during May don't you? Well you'd be wrong.

Across December, January, February and March me Lorna and Daisy (well, me) huddle round the interweb and watch as much of the National Final Season as possible, as country after country treat us to grainy, "buffering" footage of their most talented X-Factor rejects. And let me tell you- this year's Ukrainian national final was a fucking corker.

That would of course be true if "corker" was Ukrainian for a badly produced, poorly lit, soul destroying plod through several depressing songs in Russian, held at the ungodly hour of 11am on a Sunday. On seventeenth(!) in this tortuous process appeared "Mariya Yaremchuk", all slitty dress and obscured camera shots, singing the immortal line "we belong to each other like a sister to brother", which if nothing else is brave.

The chorus, though, was the best bit. Faced with the gargantuan task of writing a line that rhymed with "tick tock", Mariya opted for the extraordinary "ticky, ticky, tock tock tock"- the Ukrainian equivalent of the moment that right wing koi karp pop pillock Pete Waterman famously came up with "Lucky Lucky Lucky" to follow "I should be so lucky" whilst sat on the toilet.

Since then, despite the fact you'd have thought they had other thiongs on, it's been comprehensively Ukrained- the tocky tock and the slitty dress are gone, replaced with beats and styling that give it an air of Rhianna's "Shut up and Drive"- but only in the same way that a Wilkinson own brand air freshener is supposed to give you the "air" of an enchanted forest, but actually makes you think about those cubes in urinals.

The performance we're getting in Copenhagen is something else- you'd think she was singing for her own life the way she belts it out (and very may well be according to Human Rights Watch), and as ever UTV chuck half their annual budget on the staging, including a man in mesmerising hamster wheel- proving that whilst you can't polish a turd, you can put a Ukrainian flag in it.



I’m so wet, I’m dirty


Hunter of Stars

Coins down glass.

I have an entirely unjustified soft spot for the Swiss, which I think is derived from hundreds of summer mornings spent watching badly dubbed episodes of Heidi from behind the sofa. That Goat Peter. What an asshole!

It's unjustified because they are so rubbish at Eurovision that they make us look like the Swedes. We've seen it all. In 2006, a six-man/woman group graced the stage promising “We can make this a world for everyone”. The rest of Europe weren’t quite so sure. In 2007, leather clad DJ Bobo (he of Chihuahua) sang “I am a vampire, I am a slave”. Phone owning european viewers just heard "I am an idiot" and left it in the semis.

2008's singalonga smash "Era Stupendo" didn't do much, 2009's landfill indie sunk, 2010's dreary 90s pop dance pointy eared shiny jacket travesty translated as "Golden Shower", 2011's twee, female, Swiss, version of Jason Mraz made you want to harm all of your own family with swords, 2012's terrible English ("sweem against the stroom") sunk them and then last year they tried four generations of the Salvation Army- the actual bloody Salvation army for God's sake- to sing three minutes of middle of the road pop rock. With handclaps.

So this what's this year's abomination? It's a wildly, ena stupendously annoying twiddly dee folk song performed by Switzerland's smuggest pillock Sebalter, who spends most of the song whilstling. Oh my days, whistling! People that fucking whistle! People that fucking whilstle in a fucking waistcoat! It's like all of the coins down all of the glass and makes me heave just thinking about it.

Don't push my wheelchair down the hill, Goat Peter! Oh- not to worry. I can walk. And now, Heidi, I'm gonna celebrate like it's 2004.


Sunday, 4 May 2014

Hear the rumble hear my voice

Sanna Nielsen


At last. It's been an exhausting ten days or so this, plodding through the turgid wasteland of shit that is european pop- so it's a blessed relief to finally get to Sweden. You see, I love Sweden. I love the food. I love the people. I love the fact they enjoy paying tax. Tax is excellent. It's a dirt cheap way of getting good things. I love Ikea, I love "Alcazar" and I loved last year's host city, Malmo.

And being the spiritual home of europop, they really go to town on choosing their song. No "Eurovision your decision" or "Unser Star für Baku" bollocks for them. Their "melodifestivalen" takes weeks, is the country's highest rating TV show and features every big pop star going in the country, spawning whole albums and careers and crappy radio station parties in parks (Baest Musik Just Nu- Rix FM).

Back in 2012 this process resulted in them sending Tai Chi master "Loreen", who comfortably beat the "six susan boyles that all fit inside eachother" Russian granny act . She was, it's fair to say, odd- weird hair, strange clothes, a penchant for traipsing around barefoot and a dance routine that mixed martial arts with a Houdini hessian bag escape gone wrong. But "Euphoria" was absolutely extraordinary- a simple hook laden pop song dressed up as a mid 90's Trance number that built and built until the snow fell and we all wanted to snog strangers.

So after last year's perfectly acceptable Jake Humphry and Sandi Toksvig love child "Edelweiss by Edelweiss" yodelling angsty disco number, this if anything this year's effort is a let down- it's just Sanna "I've tried to win Melodifestivalen 841 times" Nielsen standing under a spotlight doing a Eurovision by numbers with a crowbarred in key change power ballad that is not anything like as good as this. And yes, she really is singing "undo my sad", which makes about as much sense as this.

Still, it's SWEDEN innit- and I have great news! De gjorde entré i en discokula och sorti som tredjeplatstagare i Melodifestivalen 2014. Nu får Alcazar en ny chans att föra in disco-genren i Eurovision – och kanske även avgöra hela tävlingen – när de delar ut Sveriges röster i finalen den 10 maj.


Even if it rains and we get wet we won’t stop dancing

Ruth Lorenzo

Dancing in the rain

Oh! I'd almost forgotten about Spain- until I woke from a nap, picturing a couple of hundred bright pink English skinheads throwing garden furniture into a hotel swimming pool whilst "Thomson" the dog moonwalks to "Chocolate" by Soul Control, resulting in a group of under fives dancing enthusiastically to lyrics like to "All The Girls Want Candy Candy, All The Boys Get Randy Randy" whilst their parents get smashfaced up good on "locally produced" spirits.

Spain are one of the "big five", the same club that us, Germany, Italy and France are in, where arrogance and laziness means we you buy your way into the final (look, if anyone thinks for a minute that sending a kind of low rent DJ Daz to do Chiki Chiki in 2008 would have got Spain out of the semis, they're bonkers).

But to be fair, this is a stonker of an entry from the Spaniards. It's a big build power ballad from Ruth Lorenzo- you know, Ruth Lorenzo, who came fifth in the 2008 series of the X Factor, with big handclaps and massive notes and lush strings and a hint- just a hint- of actual, proper, belting emotion.

In an alternative universe Latvia would have translated their second place 2011 Banjo Laura song into Spanish and let Spain enter it instead. Click here and you can but dream.


Saturday, 3 May 2014

Just a song you play on repeat

Tinkara Kovač
Round and round

Busy busy busy today, so it's over to Eurovision's #1 fan(wank)blogger David "far too many clauses in a sentence" Popesu for his thoughts on Slovenia's upbeat entry. Hold on tight!

"I remember that Slovenia decided on their entry the same day as Denmark & Sweden, so obviously there was not much focus on Slovenia, and I gotta say, I didn't really pay attention to much when I heard it first, due to the bad sound from the live version, with the music being to low, so I had no focus on the song at all, after first time, I just needed to hear it 2 or 3 times more before I completely loved the song, the music, the beat, the catchyness, the build-up, just everything. The song is incredible in my ears, and love the mix of Slovenian and English, since we almost only have English songs this year, so it goes out compared to the rest.

According to many bookmakers, then this song is far from winning, and even barely going to qualify, but in my mind I don't care, I love this song and I will definitely listen to it no matter how good or bad it'll do, and on my personal list, then I tell you guys, it is very high :)

Slovenia is seen as a weak country in the contest, since they have only managed to get to the final twice in 2007 & 2011, since the semis were introduced, yet I actually understand that, since most of Slovenias songs are some that you don't pay attention to in the beginning, but first when it's waaaay too late, so with the late draw for Slovenia this year, a final should be enough, even though I would be incredibly happy on their behalf if they could surprise themselves into a top 10 spot.Some time has gone now since the first time, and I actually think, that I might have been to harsh on the song, or that I might be to kind, in the end I really hate the dubstep part in the beginning, that part is so unneeded for the song, it is just there, and I have still not heard her sing this live, so I don't think she can sing the sing, especially with all these high tones there is in the song, I don't trust here skills at all"


Maybe we can not live in peace cos we're under a spell

San Marino
Valentina Monetta


Hello hello. Haven't we met before? Eurovision 2012? If you only watched on Saturday night you'll have missed this treat, but Valentina Monetta from San Marino was an extraordinary novelty act, a 37 year old dressed like a 27 year old, rolling around on her bed LOLing like a 17 year old.

In its original incarnation, 2012's San Marinise song was called "The Facebook Song" (you know, to appeal to the "kids"), and the chorus went "Facebook, Oh Oh Oh, everybody loves it so", but the EBU disqualified it for featuring a "commercial product" and so the cash strapped and imaginationless SMtv mob just replaced the bits where she said "Facebook" with more "Oh Oh"s, making the whole thing sound like they'd forgotten to even write a chorus. It was a huge car crash, and car crash out of the semi it did.

So she tried again last year with a completely different song- and the fanblogs went wild. See, it was called "Chrysalis" and although it sounded like another song whose opening minute sounds like Juliet Bravo set to Italian words glued to a final minute of Alcazar, the fanboys all thought it was a masterpiece of dramatic pop and the story of a girl becoming a woman with overtones of "I will survive". They were wrong. It was rubbish, dated fanwank and she went off home on the Friday morning.

So amazingly she's back AGAIN this year, seemingly determined to prove the Jedwardian law of diminishing Eurovision returns with a 1977 Italian piano drama ballad, whose only thing going for it is that it also sounds a bit like the theme tune to Juliet Bravo. The song apparently "invokes the evolution of the Chrysalis in some way, and it is a wonderful gift we give ourselves, thinking endlessly how many possibilities and opportunities we have in life, if only we stopped to listen and to believe in instincts every now and then" but it may as well talk about having colonic irrigation in Ipswich given the dated production and boring melody.


Friday, 2 May 2014

Living on the edge closer to the crime

Tolmachevy Sisters

Russia! The home of the Russian grannies! It's easy to forget, but were it not for Loreen in 2012, "Six Susan Boyles" would have won the whole contest with their baffled baking pensioner disco act.

No such Freedom pass shenanigans this year- instead the Russians have noticed how unpopular they are and selected two eery Stepford lamb children, the "Tolmachevy Twins", to be slaughtered on the high altar of European pop.

It's a particularly thin gruel of flower powered song soup- the very definition of a "sounds like we just can't be arsed" entry, and is barely leavened by a bizarre and creepy stage performance which sees Anastasia and Maria barefoot and bouncing up and down on a see saw.

It's the lyrics that are the bloody cheek. Are they about Crimea? Are they?

They sing "Been looking at the sky, wishing on a star, waiting for a brand new start". They might be.

Then they sing "Living on the edge, closer to the crime, cross the line a step at a time". They may well be.

Then they sing "Now maybe there's a place, maybe there's a time, maybe there's a day you'll be mine". Subtle. Bloody subtle.

And then they sing "Crimea and Sevastopol are returning to their home shores, to their home port, to Russia. Glory to Russia. Glory to Putin". Mebbie. Mebbie not.

Bloody good key change mind.


We could be dancing with stars in the night

Paula Selling and OVI


Romania have attempted all sorts in the competition over the years, and whilst their forgiving diaspora always get them out of the semis, they never seem to get very far in the final. One year they did cartoon striptease. Then they tried some blue-collar warehouse disco. They've done caricature sketch comedy, a bin man from the north east of England, and last year tried a twisted mix of Rylan, Borat and the Communards getting a massive kick in the actual nuts- but come 11 o clock on the Saturday night they always seem to get a kick in the scoring nuts.

So this year- we've seen these two from Romania before, haven't we? Yes we have, dear reader- back in 2010 when they entered a two ended piano and a top pop song about a rowing couple called "Playing with Fire". It was excellent. Hookier than velcro with some New Order drums, vocoders and excellent stop start dynamnics, it was a genuinely good pop song with an extraordinary middle eight and a fine finish in amongst some of the most depressing songs ever sung live to an audience.

The only pity was the performance on the night- consisting of Paula "Debbie McGee" Selling and Ovi "Paul Daniels" Ovi sitting at a see through piano bashing the keys with all the authenticity of Sarah Green talking into a banana phone on Going Live, waving their arms and only bothering to even stand up two minutes in.

So you'd think their big return would be with a big song, yes? No. It's rubbbish, a cobbled turdy dog's breakfast of a song- it's middle aged man does EDM, sounds like they wrote it in five minutes flat on the back of a napkin, and has no hooks, terrible stop start dynamics and not even the courtesy of a proper chorus.

"Think of Ovi as a modern Billy Joel" says the optimistic press release, presumably because he's short and plays the piano. JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say?


Thursday, 1 May 2014

I want to bathe In your body of pleasure


Quero Ser Tua

Every day's a school day. Say hello to the Portugese entry, an upbeat example of "Pimba" music. "Until the 1980s", explains the enemy of knowledge Wikipedia, "the word "pimba" was merely a non-offensive slang word used to express accomplishment of an action or an unexpected event (roughly equivalent to the English expression wham!)". You know. As in "Oh wham, there's a burglar in my house", or "Oh wham, I've trapped my hand in that door", or "Oh this shite mid 90s beach bar effort of a song can wham right off".

It continues. "Since the 1990s, the word 'pimba' has been informally used as an adjective to identify a kind of music, its sense being quite derogatory, synonymous with tacky- the general meaning is a cultural attitude that lacks intellectual content or quality and is tasteless and vulgar, disconnected from both literacy and genuine popular traditions". Oh I see. Eurovision music!

Or maybe not. I mean look- no-one's a bigger fan of pop and cheese than me, but this is staggeratingly bad. It's the soundtrack to a shit holiday, all sped up and overcooked Lambada, conjuring up memories of plodding round disappointingly faded mediterranean beach resorts in the early 90s looking for somewhere to buy steak and chips and safe drinking water. The vocals are all over the shop, the choreography looks like something off of an episode of 3-2-1, and for some unknown reason, she keeps singing about dodgy chinese router manufacturer "Huwawei". Even the key change is weak, like the locally produced spirits you're necking down in the all inclusive hotel you've overpaid for. Poor.


Vodka is better than whisky and gin

Donatan and Cleo
My Słowianie - We Are Slavic

Oh oh. It's the post ironic turbo folk hip hop sexism klaxon!

Meet Donatan- Poland's "Pitbull", if you will, who is a hip hop artist that "lays" his "beats" on top of pagan/medieval polish folk. This, at the very least, sets Poland's entry apart from the identikit, written by swedish numbers pop ditties that seem to represent half of the countries in the contest these days.

But from here things get a bit...tricky. As well as images of the countryside and traditional Polish dress, its a video whose aesthetics that you would at the very least identify as "saucy"- we get cleavage, a lot of bending over, and lots of milk and cream. Carry on, rural Poland. Apparently this is "ironic"- the breasts and cream are not there to tittilate you, oh no- it's a PARODY of the exoticisation of Slavs, with lyrics mocking mail order brides and Slavonic women sex appeal, in a kind of "we’ll auto-exoticise ourselves, before you’ll do it".

Yeah yeah yeah. The problem is that it's like those conversations that loud, drunk middle class people have about racists- basically the creatures outside look from sexist to ironist, and from ironist to sexist, and from sexist to ironist again; but after three pints of european lager it's impossible to say which is which. Bottom line is that it's creepy, genuinely exploitative and, well, porny- and because we live in internetty, self aware "meta" times they add the ‘irony excuse" at the beginning- that this exploitation is not really for real (while really for real doing exploitation).

This whole problem is summed up by Pitbull's polish cousin as follows. “If you have problems with the sense of humor and keeping a healthy distance to the world or you suffer from hypertension or senility, don’t watch this video", attempts Donatan. "In any other case before playing the clip get familiar with a meaning of the word 'irony' and contact your doctor or pharmacist, because wrong understanding of this video may cause death or health problems”. Threatening, if anything.

Yet for all of that controversy it's an excellent bit of music. It buzzes along, all Polish staccato sass, fronted as it is by a slavic Fergie with extraordinary energy and talent. It's also- as BBC news pointed out months before Poland decided to re enter the contest after two years off- had 40 million views on YouTube. So despite the fact that rap in theory does very badly in the contest, and loads of Poland's slavic mates are not in the contest this year, don't be surprised if it gets to Saturday and does Top 5. And for assisting you in responding appropriately on Twitter? You're welcome.


Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Head to toes flesh and bones​

Carl Espen
Silent Storm

Crikey! You know that Ice Road Truckers show on Channel 5? No, me neither to be honest, but anyway they've sent an Ice Road Trucker to Norway to be their Eurovision entry with a big girl's ballad. Bemerkelsesverdig!

It's a high pitched, angsty piano song- think Gary Jules, think Isak Danielson, and think the music they play under a shot of a finalist's nan on the X Factor, all with the opening titles of "The Bridge" chucked in for good measure.

It's a lovely little song but Carl has a problem- songs like this sound great on the studio version but (as the Netherlands' Anouk will testify) on the Saturday night instead of shutting your eyes to show-the-pain you need to work the camera with some eye contact, which in rehearsals Carl attempts, but ends up looking that that weird guy from accounts who is trying to force a smile and look friendly on his first day, only he's been here eight years and no one can remember his name.

What's the song about? "The song tries to describe this feeling that hits you when you have lived for a while", which judging by the stage performance is Carl having either trapped wind or a massive stroke, "and you realize that you are not in the place you were hoping to be". Fair enough, it is £15 a beer in Copenhagen. "Some people express their feelings, but when you try to just live with them and to keep them locked up, it can perhaps feel as if you have a silent storm inside", says Carl, with the all the studied subtlety of an Ice Road Trucker.

What a pity they didn't go for Linnea Dale's "High Hopes", a song for which I had "High Hopes", etc etc


The empty seat beside me keeps you on my mind

The Common Linnets

Calm after the storm

On Line, on digital and on 88 to 91 FM, here we are then in middle of the road Netherlands, the only country whose selection process in 2010 consisted of allowing the general public to choose between five different versions of the same song (written by the gradfather of the smurfs) sung by the same artist. And still it didn't get out of the semis.

That was in and of itself a step up from 2009, when Holland entered Howard Stableford off of Tomorrow's world, Bill Rammell MP and television's MacGyver in silver space suits, dancing like someone's embarrassing dad at a wedding to literally the worst piece of music ever entered into any song competition ever. Google it if you don't believe me.

So things were looking up last year when the Dutch entered a haunting, dreamy little slice of 50's movie music interweaved with a bit of Adele and Lana del Rey. It was just a little too aloof for the whole Eurovision thing but it at least meant that they were out of the semis and waving flags in the final again.

So given the high hopes resting on this year's song internal selection, disappointing isn't the word. Massively fucking offensively lazy is the word (well, four words actually). It's a deep south country ballad, and sounds exactly like The Police's "Every Breath you Take" with every last bit of melody and energy sucked out of it.

"The 'common linnet' is a songbird that breeds on the heaths in the eastern part of The Netherlands", explains the press release, like we care. "For Ilse and Waylon, this unassuming little bird with its wonderful song is the perfect symbol of what they’re aiming for with their songs". I like to think of it more as a little pop pigeon- a vile grey rat with wings that shits on your song contest.


Tuesday, 29 April 2014

I’m still wandering the seas

Sergej Ćetković
Moj Svijet

Oh for crying out loud.

Back in 2012 viewers of Semi Final 1 were treated- as the opener to the whole contest- to a grumpy old man doing a "song" about the fissures of european economic and social policy, in a minor key, with a donkey. It was fuckaclysmically awful- amounting to an ageing, functionally alcoholic Yugoslavian showing off by muttering rhyming couplets into a mic whilst a mechanical donkey and two breakdancers wobbled around behind him on a raffia mat. Think Freshers in an art college and you're almost there.

So eye stabbingly awful was this "spectacle" that host broadcaster SVT brought a motion to the Eurovision AGM to abandon drawing the running order by lots altogether, proposing instead to choose the running order themselves. The UK took parts, and then a vote was taken on the substantive to avoid another Rambo Amadeus opener. The result? 2/3 majority, motion carried.

And how did the Montenegrans respond? With some jarringly unpleasant mumbling dubstep spacemen. That's right- some jarringly unpleasant mumbling dubstep spacemen. I ask you.

So this year's entry is, by comparison, quite a relief- it's basically a Balkan version of "Titanic" without the thrill of knowing that a bunch of revellers are about to be sunk to their death- and will provide an ideal opportunity in the first semi for Europe to empty its bladder, generating a sea of indifferent piss in which to sink the titanic.


The world can throw a dice for each of us anytime

Cristina Scarlat
Wild Soul

And so to Moldova, a tiny, landlocked republic wedged between Romania to its west and Ukraine to its north. It may be the poorest country in the contest, but they don't worry about that in Chinasu, not with Doinita Gherman to cheer them up.

So small is the process in Moldova that if you can be arsed to actually write a song, you're basically guaranteed a slot in the Ntaional Final, and "Drunk Mum at a Moldovan Wedding" Doinita has been very arsed for several years now.

There was the incredible "Hai Explodeaza" (Hey, Explode) in 2010, the astonishing "Life" in 2011, the remarkable "Welcome to Moldova" in 2012, the exhausting "Our planet is a paradise" in 2013, and then live action roleplay favourite "Energy" in this year's National Final. Trust me- you needed it.

But of course, she lost out again, this year to another eastern european drama ballad whose live act involves Cristina Scarlat wearing a dress made of curled up sheet metal and who has wifi controlled drones flying around the audience. I hope they're not relying on a wifi signal in the B and W Hallerne, or they'll have someone's eye out.


Monday, 28 April 2014

Look me in the eye and electrify my bones

Coming Home

Ah, lovely Malta. They love Eurovision in Malta, and they love us. Every year without fail they give us 10 or 12 points, even when we enter rubbish like this. In return we send them thousands of gurning, thuggish holidaymakers every year to urinate against their beach bars and disappoint their daughters, and then we crap all over them in the eurovision, most years giving them NO POINTS AT ALL in an annual act of thoughtless disregard.

It used to be so different, largely because in the olden days, when you had to sing in your own language, only us, Ireland and Malta were allowed to sing in English, which meant dumb Britain always gave 12 to Ireland and 10 to Malta, alternating in odd years.

Malta's never ending five hour endurance test of a National Final was easily the most tedious in years, but in the end instead of opting for this tesco value version of S Club's 'Reach' they did something very bad indeed- they opted for this tesco value version of Mumford and Sons's 'I Will Wait', all oboe and harmonica and warbly woman, like something Gary Barlow left off his last album for being too shit.

It's not so long ago that Malta has the brass neck to enter this, you know. Now that's a genre I could cope with being introduced to the contest- Vodka infused Japanese Just Dance. Spy 1 to Spy 4, I’ve deciphered the code.


Take me dancing tonight

F Y R Macedonia
To the sky

Well I never. This is a novel approach. (The former Yugoslavian republic of) Macedonia's Tijana Dapcevic's press release has abandoned the usual "she was born into a musical family and her dream is to perform at Eurovision" bleurgh and instead consists of "5 things you didn’t know" about Tijana (apart from the other things you don't know like her name, face, discography, shoe size and biography). Here goes then, euro fact fans!

1. Her secret passion. Ooooh. Is it Tibetan yodelling? Marmite icecream? Space fencing? "She has a passion for acting". Oh. BOORING.

2. Who her husband is. "Tijana isn't really into sports", explains the text. "Actually, she doesn't find sport interesting at all. However, she met her husband on a basketball court! There was a Basketball Cup in Sombor, where Tijana came to visit her cousin and friends. As they all wanted to watch the game, she couldn't do anything but join them. That was the moment when Tijana set eyes on Milan, who was on the court, playing for his team. Later that day, they've met in the club and went on a date. A month after they got married". How romantic! Krista Siegfrids would be proud.

3. What she spends her money on. "After Tijana graduated from the Faculty of Music in Skopje, she started playing cello in the Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra and earned her first salary... and spent it on boots". Is that it? They should stick with the wedding stories.

4. Her childhood. "While the other girls were asking their parents for Barbie dolls, Tijana was begging hers for Tamara. No, she didn't say she wanted a sister or a brother, she was really specific- I want Tamara!- and she didn't quit asking until she's got what she wanted". What a Miracle! It's only later they reveal that Tijana got six brothers first.

5. Her dreams. "If every actor dreams about winning an Oscar, we could say that every musician dreams about singing in some of the largest concert venues or performing at big music festivals or contests. Tijana didn't have to dream about becoming a musician - she was born one. Her dreams were on stage". Seriously, I've read that back about twenty times and I still can't work out what's they're on about.

The song? It is what it is, really- an averagely pleasant, averagely competent average pop dance song with a disappointingly average chorus and an average promo video full of averagely swarthy military men in average gas masks.

"I'm so tired of these endless discussions between Greeks and Macedonians", says Angelo on the messageboards, wading into a trolling, flaming row. "Greece = Greece and Macedonia = Macedonia and that's that". Any ideas for securing a lasting peace, Angelo? "I hope that Tijana and RiskyKidd will make a lovebaby in Copenhagen, so y'all can live in peace". Great. Maybe RiskyKidd plays basketball.

"Let's forget the past. Let's forget the present. And what the hell... let's forget about the future as well". All together now- if we all give a little...


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Hold your horses

Vilija Matačiūnaitė

"If Russia continues to showcase power and ignores international law", said Lithuanian broadcaster LRT in 2009 "we will boycott the contest". So have they? If only.

In their selection process we first got fifteen Lithuanian artists participating in a "jubilee celebration" of Lithuania's past Eurovision Song Contest entries. They were rubbish.

During the second, third, fourth and fifth shows, artists competed against each other by performing cover versions that related to the theme of that particular show, with themes including past Eurovision night, Lithuanian hits night and being a massive creep night.

From the third show to the tenth show, one artist was eliminated per 4 hour show. From the sixth show and onward, each week the remaining artists performed the potential Eurovision entries that were in contention to represent Lithuania. They were amazingly awful, like being repeatedly punched in the head by a tiny, racist heron in your own utility room.

During the tenth show, the final three artists were selected for the final. During the eleventh show, the winning song was selected. And then in the eight hour final, the remaining three artists performed their version of the Lithuanian entry and the artist-song combination that scored the highest after the combination of votes from the juries and the public televote was selected to represent Lithuania in Copenhagen.

Basically, by the time Russia had annexed Crimea the whole thing had been going on for so long that to abandon it would probably have generated an uprising, so in the end they finished it off and we got this- a shouty woman in a tutu doing a confused, unlistenable fusion of pop, dubstep, rock, scat, and R&B that is the sort of thing you put on in the car to generate a bitter and unpleasant argument with relatives.

"I seriously don't get Eurovision", says Lithuania blogger Siereno. "We send a fun song-we don't get into the finals. We send a serious song- still nobody likes it". What you've missed, Siereno, is that all of them have been unlistenable toss.


I talked to a unicorn the other night

Cake to bake

I swear my memory is failing me you know. I remember "Love City Groove" by "Love City Groove" as a work of considerable artistic genius, but in reality it was this bollocks, performed by some weird children off of an episode of Tracey beaker, in a year when our entry had been handed over to the original "Pop Paedo" Jonathon King to organise. Now there's a plot line.

Anyway. Oh hai Lettland! Now here's a country that loves the contest. This- no joke- really was the Latvian entry in 2010 (only "Mr God" knows why). This- no joke either- really was the Latvian entry in 2011 ("love me with lucious thighs"). This- no joke again- really was the Latvian entry in 2012 (I’m sorry, Mick, I’ll call you back, one day I’ll call you back). And this really really was the entry in Malmo- Dj Daz-meets-Stakka Bo with a keytar, a bag of glue and a pouch of sequins in a railway siding in the north east in the late 90s, all trumpets and lighting seeds and love bloody city groove, with a weird resemblance to George Michael's "Freedom".

So as you can imagine, this year I was glued to the Eirodziesma process like Ant n Dec in a psychandrics T-Shirt, hoping that something like this (which sadly didn't win in 2011) would win. And true to form, it was extraordinary- there was Latvian folk meets Avicii, a woman with a massive afro painting a picture of a big face, the Latvian David Lindgren, a poundland Lordi, and a really really stoned and angry man. Oh and I'll give a crisp £20 to anyone that can tell me what the hell is supposed to be going on here.

The song that frankly seemed unlikely to win on the first run through was this incredible three minutes of amateurish car crash TV, which is most baffling for UK audiences because three giant red crosses don't light up above their heads after 45 seconds.

But- largely because it is so sweet and folksy and tuneful and smiley and fun and stuff, the Latvian public picked Aarzemnieki out of sympathy and here it is, without a shadow of a doubt, the single best song in the competition. I just defy anyone to watch the preview video and not end up thinking about how to get a job in Riga and move to Latvia, preferably to a wooden hut with people with maracas in the winter.

It's absolutely fucking amazing, it deserves to win, you must vote for it a hundred times, and unless I'm very much mistaken, the bookies are wrong and we're off to Riga for the 60th. Piece of cake.


Saturday, 26 April 2014

I am looking at on the bottom of ourselves

La Mia Città

I mean YES the week I got married was literally amazing and YES the week Daisy Dickinson was born was astonishingly brilliant but the best week ever? The first week of May 1997. Labour swept to power on the Thursday, and then our "own" (ie America's) Katrina Leskanich swept us to victory on the Saturday by shining a light to light the way (with a song- fact fans- that Childline had rejected for being too "happy").

So disgusted by this win (and the lamentable competition) were Italy that they gathered up their toys and threw them out of their pram for some fourteen years, only returning in 2011 with a kind of coked up and smug Jamie Cullum, and then appearing in 2012 with Italy's fourth best Amy Winehouse tribute act (which basically meant she cooked up during Ell and Nikki's opening and karked it in the bath during the interval act).

So following last year's piano and strings meh'lodifest, what the spicy meat 'a' balls have they phoned in this year? Meet Emma Marrone (which is a name that rhymes dangerously with My Little Pony), fashionista and winner of Italy's "Amici di Maria De Filippi" (a sort of middle class version of BGT without the somersaulting terriers), doing "La Mia Città"

"Like drinking, sleeping, and eating, music has always been an immediate need in Emma’s life", explains the press release, putting it above even wifi on this chart. Actually, the song's musically fine- a pop rock ditty that sounds like the fifth single from a Garbage album- it's the lyrics that are terrifying. She kicks off with "I hate high heels, which I absent-mindedly wedge into this city’s intrusive manholes", which is the sort of opening line that you hope isn't literal and hope isn't a metaphor all at the same time.


And it's time for me to clean up your mess

Mei Finegold
Same Heart

I tell you what's a great song. "Colourblind". You know, by Darius Danesh. What a bloody melody that is! "Nobody told me it feels so good, Nobody said you would be so beautiful, Nobody warned me about your smile, You're the light, You're the light, When i close my eyes, Im colourbliiiiiiiiiiiind"

I mention Darius "platinum-selling singer-songwriter, West End stage actor, operatic baritone, author, ambassador for The Prince's Trust" (and enthusiastic wikipedia entry editor) Danesh only because just like Israeli artist Mei Finegold, he also came third in Pop Idol.

Third in Pop Idol. What an accolade. I'm not convinced that Israel (or indeed any civilised nation) has the same tradition of doing arse gags to schoolchildren in provincial theatres across the country at Christmas, but if they do coming third in Pop Idol is a surefire way to get a season in the theatre royal Jerusalem. So no wonder she's entered Eurovision, if only so she can do arse gags to eurovision fans in provincial theatres around Europe in the summer.

The song? Normally the Israeli entry is a depressing ballad in Hebrew (sometimes lifted by Judy Finnegan's National Television Awards dress, sometimes not) but this year it's a FIERCE electronic rock/dance/power scorned lover pop thing in terrible pants singing about revenge and death and blood and "skinning you out". It's a little dark and the translation doesn't scan perfectly, but overall it's quite the thing and could do some good numbers if they get the staging right and get into the final.

2014 marks Israel's 41st year in the contest, but it's not all been plain sailing for Israel. Back in 1978, for example, Jordanian broadcaster JRTV resolved to replace the performance of the Israeli entry with pictures of daffodills. Then, three quarters of the way through the voting when it was clear that they were cruising towards a win, JRTV yanked the broadcast, cut to the news, and falsely announced that the winner was Belgium. This, along with the time in '86 when they pretended that a thirteen year old was 16, remains the only time that Belgium has "won".

Anyway, back to Mei Finegold. Anyone want anything from the fridge?


Friday, 25 April 2014

White lightening upon us again

Can-Linn (featuring Kasey Smith)

"I was born in distant 1980. The year of the Irish Johnny Logan war"

Take one authentic Irish folk/soul singer, add some lyrics about the countryside and shamrocks and an arrangement that sounds like a tourist video for the country shown in the breaks on CNN, to be sure. For well over 200 years, the powers that be at RTE in Dublin entered exactly the same song- and every year it won. I almost brought a house in Ireland to save on airfares.

But then, in 2007, disaster struck- Ireland came last. Self absorbed UK, as usual, was too busy bemoaning Scooch's almost last placing to notice. Various factors were blamed, but the country then appeared to to descend into panic, as an ashen Louis Walsh and Dana both warned in the live final against electing a ranting spitting image turkey. Which won, and then didn't even make the final.

Since then we've had Transvision Vamp's little sisters in '09 (they didn't make the final either), in 2010 they tried someone who won for Ireland in 1993 singing Titantic-lite (which scraped in the final and promptly came 23rd out of 25th, beating only Belarus and... er... us. Who came last.) Then we got two (two!) years of Malfoy-Sperm-Twins Jedward and last year they entered post apocalyptic David Guetta Calvin Harris blandobus Ryan Dolan doing that heart hand thing before Olly Murs made you want to trap those hands in a car door.

So what have they gone and done this year? Well, they almost sent Egg Nogg Quigg off of X Factor from years ago, were it not for this fabulously unpleasant bun fight on Irish telly between Louis Walsh, Linda Martin and some drunk conspiracy theorist music manager in the audience. "You are an odious little man", hurls Linda 'why me?' Martin, all po faced and red faced and shitfaced. Not since 2005's MYMU Katie Price car crash has so little dignity been on screen on broadcast TV.

Out of the wreckage of all that eventually emerged a song for Ireland- although they may as well not have bothered. It starts out an utterly average midtempo swedish conveyor belt pop track, but then, just in case you've forgotten whose entry this is, they crowbar in some celtic flutes and some idiots in the background doing riverdance with all the deft subtlety of a Linda Martin put down. It's like a Ryanair "Only Teardrops", and not in a good way. Not in a good way at all.


It’s not trigonometry

No Prejudice

Talk about emotional manipulation.

In 2009 Iceland tried to make us forget about the fact that they'd nicked all our council tax money with a warbling, emotionless icequeen called Johanna. DIDN'T WORK.

2010 brought "Je Ne Sais Quoi"- a(nother) classically camp, poppers o clock disco stomper designed to make us forget about the fact that Iceland had added insult to injury and dumped a bucket of volcanic ash all over our airports, cars and infants.

In 2011 they entered a band whose lead singer had died during the National Final process, rewriting the lyrics as a tribute to their friendship. STILL DIDN'T WORK.

2012's po-faced Evanescence number in a Fairisle jumper? NOPE.


So what have they gone and done this time? Hipsters. Bloody hipsters. School teacher hipsters. School teacher hipsters with a cloyingly worthy pop punk song about combating prejudice (unbelievably co-written by king of the bloody hipsters, John Grant), in multi colour tracksuits- like a musical interlude from Emu's All Live Pink Windmill show with a touch of Steppenwolf and a sheen of bloody hipster worthiness.

Look, you insufferable dickheads- you invested all the reserves of my local council in a dodgy pyramid scheme and lost the lot, and then you sprayed volcanic ash all over my house, car and face. AND I STILL HAVEN'T FORGOTTEN.

(Look! You can order official Pollapönk outfits for kids, but frankly I'd rather dress Daisy in this)


Thursday, 24 April 2014

I can see the angels standing by your side

András Kállay-Saunders

The thing is, I'm not, by all accounts, a very easy person to talk to. The socially awkward chit chat I do do tends to be so laced with sneery, off putting west midlands sarcasm that most people avoid me at all costs unless they (and I) are drunk- and so for those that do attempt conversation, my Eurovision obsession at least offers SOMETHING to hang the opening gambit on. "Where is Eurovision this year", they try, "Who's our entry this year", or "Are you going this year" are all standards, followed closely by "What's your favourite ever entry?"

Well I just don't know really- there's these bewicthing Maltese eyes from 2004, this Macedonian materpiece from 2000 that sounds like your annoying little sister has formed a girl group in your kitchen or perhaps the Iraeli entry from the same year, which sounds like a discofantastic version of the theme tune to Byker (Byker Byker, Byker) Grove.

What all of these selections have in common, of course, is that they are Schlager- simple, catchy, happy, medlodious pop tunes, a genre that has sadly all but died out in the Eurovision largely thanks to one nation- Hungary.

Back in 2009 Hungary's Zoli Adok strutted onto that stage in Semi 2 with all the hallmarks of a win- a pumping disco number with a fun chorus, three pretty girl dancers doing a dress-rip reveal, and a highly amusing dance routine. Sure, its level of camp makes you wonder quite how Zoli got into (and out of) Russia alive, but the thing that upsets me to this day is that it crashed out of that semi and only got 16 points.

So upset were the Hungarians that their "overload in a disco fantasy" didn't make it that they took 2010 off, and came back in 2011 with one more go at schlager- their 2010 entry was a certified "fan favourite"- ie a woman of a certain age singing about empowerment, a smattering of whitney bits, and a thumping, pumping, disco beat- and whilst they managed to sneak into the final, they placed a dismal 22nd on the Saturday night.

So what since? In 2012 we got "Depeche Mode in a bad mood" which sailed into the final, and last year they managed to enter this plodding, self indulgant, stoner-hipster-spacecake-Nizlopi toss without the courtesy of a chorus, a key change, a middle eight or even a discernable tune, and had the cheek to come a whopping 10th.

And so marks the death of schlager. Once Eurovision represented an opportunity- a rare, fleeting, annual opportunity to see me smile in a genuinely joyous way about the world as I wriggled about and sung at the top of my voice and dad danced in obscure european ice hockey stadia to songs by discomforting boy/girl acts like Chanée and N'evergreen. Now countries like Hungary enter dark drum and bass songs about child domestic abuse to critical (and scoreboard) acclaim, and not only am I not impressed, but it will also do spectacularly well, just you see.

My favourite's La Det Swinge, by the way. LA DET SWINGE. By the Clare Balding twins from Norway. Rock and ROLL!