Tuesday, 19 May 2015

I know what you’re thinking

United Kingdom 
Electro Velvet
Still In Love With You

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. Listening to the scores one night on Radio 2 is my earliest memory. 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 now. Shame. It’s the quintessential human emotion, says psychologist Michael Lewis in his writings. All extravagant behaviors are reactions to it, says psychiatrist Donald Nathanson. It’s the root of dysfunctions in families, says Jane Middelton-Moz author of “Shame & Guilt: Masters of Disguise.”

I know the feeling. I know it all too well. In a way 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 god 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.

And then there was this effort from hasbeen boyband Blue in 2011. It sounds like something you've heard a million times before, goes nowehere at all after the opening 30 seconds and gave Lee Ryan a particularly difficult set of notes to hit, leaving him sounding like he'd got his "member" caught in a cash machine. Which, given the behaviour of bandmate Antony Costa that year, wasn't so unlikely.

Or take the year we sent botox Bonnie Tyler in a leather jacket. This is the women who, on Saturday Night Takeaway, stumbled around nine sheets to the wind forgetting the lyrics to "Holding out for Hero". Not an obscure album track, her second biggest hit. That is what we sent to Malmo to represent the British music industry that 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 Calvin Harris. We sent Bonnie Tyler. Drunk.

Or take this. A waltz. A fucking waltz. Lest we forget, in 2012 we be 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 over the years 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 kill the Sugababes.

And yet we farage around Europe, 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 surely we're not doing something terrible again? I mean we can't be. We just can't. We absolutely surely aren't messing up negotiations with proper pop stars and then finding ourselves scrabbling around for an artist days before the deadline and then get so desperate that we enter a duo consisting of a women that turned no seats on The Voice and the lead singer of the UK's 5th best Rolling Stones tribute act The Rollin’ Clones.

Oh yes we are. We're entering a harrowing, amateurish, petrifyingly poor duo called Electro Velvet to sing a song written by the man that wrote the theme tune to Jim'll Fix It. A jingle writer. That wrote the theme tune to Jim'll Fix It. The production is cheap. The lyrics are misogynistic. The staging is woeful. The melody sounds exactly like the advert for Birds Eye Potato Waffles (awaffly versatile). The whole thing makes me want to wretch.

Apparently electroswing is "in" at the moment. Where? The past? Khazakstan? Prison? This is the kind of bullshit logic being peddled in the bowels of the BBC Light Entertainment department to cover the fact that our entry is being run by patronising, middle class, imaginationless cheapskates who hate everyone that watches the show. Fuck you, BBC.

I love the Eurovision song contest. I always have. I love the points bit and the glitz and the glamour and the songs and the show and the diversity and the travelling around Europe every year. And I love my country. I really do. But come 8pm on May 23rd in the Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna, I won't be waving a Union Jack. I just can't bear the shame.


In another time and place, another lifetime maybe

The Netherlands
Trijntje Oosterhuis
Walk Along

On Line, on digital and on 88 to 91 FM, here we are then in permananetly 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.

This year they've entered a nice woman called Trijntje Oosterhuis, who's something of a star in Holland having worked with ALL THE BIG NAMES- gincluding Andrea Bocelli, Herbie Hancock, Khaled, Lionel Richie, Burt Bacharach, Coolio (Christ. Coolio?), Jean ‘Toots’ Thielemans (who?), Bobby McFerrin, Ronan Keating and 2003 "Birds" entrant Anouk.

It's all perfectly acceptable if a little repetitive and dull, with the main chorus refrain consisting of Trijntje singing "why aye" over and over and over again like some sort of Radio 2 tribute to Ant and Dec. In truth the only interesting thing to say about the whole thing is something you may- or may not- get to see when she actually performs during Semi 1- this extraordinary dress which is supposed to symbolise a "broken heart" but in fact just looks like she's wearing a bin bag that's been got at by the cats in the night.

Something for the dads, I suppose.



Monday, 18 May 2015

No more pulling me down, no more mucking around

Mélanie René
Time To Shine

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. Vampires, Golden Showers, terrible English ("sweem against the stroom" indeed), four generations of the Salvation Army and an ena stupendously annoying twiddly dee folk song performed by a smug pillock in a waistcoat.

At least they were interesting. Die Entscheidungsshow had all sorts of great songs inclusing this fabulous "the best song Jessie J has never released" pop-accordion number from Timebelle, but for reasons totally beyond me the winner from the Bodensee Arena in Kreuzlingen was one Mélanie René.

Her song is terrible, "submitted as part of my final project for Music A Level" empowerment ballad "Time to Shine" which, as well as the usual "sky's the limit" and "getting stronger" tropes, also includes the embarrassing lyric "no more mucking around".

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.


The greatest anthem ever heard

Måns Zelmerlöw

AT LAST. It's been an exhausting, miserable ten days or so this, plodding through the turgid wasteland that is european pop- so it's an enormous relief to finally get to Sweden. You see, I love Sweden. I love Sweden. 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", I love extensive paid parental leave, and I love five weeks of paid holiday every year by law. I love meatballs, I love gender equality, I love sarcasm, I love social mobility, I love castles with moats, I love Petra Mede, and I love Malmo. And Stockholm. And Gothenburg.

And being the spiritual home of europop, they really go to town on choosing their song. No "Eurovision your decision" or "Unser Star für Vienna" 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 local radio station parties in parks (Baest Musik Just Nu- Rix FM).

Having only won a couple of years back with Euphorrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiaaaa you'd think they'd be taking it easy- but no. They've taken David Guetta's Lovers On The Sun with its country bits and deep voice bits and punchy dancey chorus bits, stuck it in the mixer and poured it into multiple Melodifestivalen entering try-hard Måns Zelmerlöw.

I love Måns. He entered Melodifestivalen in 2007 and 2009 with amazing songs, hosted Sweden's "let's have a summer sing song in a park" show Allsång på Skansen in 2011, and even co-hosted Melodifestivalen one series where extraordinarily he got to sing “Eye of the Tiger” with Dolph Lundgren, which is doubtless every Swedish boy's dream.

But this year, he's done it. He's won Melodifestivalen and he's off to Vienna. With the greatest anthem ever heard. He's perfect- young enough to look pretty for the girls and boys, old enough for your mum and your gran to think they're in with a shot, has a much less racist version of the "you could go for a pint with him" look than Farage and belts the song out, note perfect, effortlessly. With HOLOGRAPHIC GNOMES.

With what? Yes, he's also got the best staging gimmick in the history of Eurovision staging gimmicks- he spends the song chit chatting to and dancing with and fistbumping an incredible CARTOON LASERBASED HOLOGNOME that BREEDS and DANCES and is called "Måns Petter" with its own highly unlikely back story. “It was me, in school when I was bullied buy this guy in my group of friends. From being part of something, I was being left outside. I was ashamed of being alone. And that still lives within me". Either that or his producers just nicked it off A DandyPunk and shoved it behind him, but who cares.

Taken together this is three minutes of jaw dropping, blood pumping, eye popping pop music that both deserves to- and will- win by a landslide.

Vi är hjältarna i vår tid. What an amazing time to be alive.


Sunday, 17 May 2015

Now a vast emptiness lives in me


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 Spanish artist Edurne, he also came third in Pop Idol.

Third in Pop Idol. What an accolade. I'm not convinced that Spain (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 Madrid. So no wonder she's entered Eurovision, if only so she can do arse gags to eurovision fans in provincial theatres around Europe all summer.

Anyway. Where are we again? Spain? 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 our big EBU affiliation fee buys us auutomatically into the final, an injustice underlined in particular by Spain's low rent DJ Daz tribute act "Chiki Chiki" in 2008, which would have been odds on to come last in its semi had it have been in a semi.

But to be fair, this is a stonker of an entry from the Spaniards. It's a big dramatic power ballad thing from the man that brought you "Euphoria", "Lord" Thomas G:Son- there's PURPOSEFUL DRUMS 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.


You look at wrong and make it right

Here For You

Everybody needs a gimmick. Well, not everybody- if you're tolerant enough to not regard the beard as one, Conchita just stood there and belted it out last year and took the prize. But if your song's not a sweeping bond theme and you're not a disco diva, you may need a little help from the staging gods to help your song stand out.

There's all sorts of options. Our skimpy skirt reveal is an oft copied all time classic; the Ukraine's giant hamster wheel an ideal way to hide an average song. The buck rodgers in the 19th century look was amazing; the Xena warrier princess on a night out in Watford look less so. You could try pirates. Or sand art. Or the world's third tallest man, shipped in especially (truefacts). You get the idea.

So welcome from Slovenia cutesy married couple group Maraaya, called as such because it's a join up of Marjetka and Raay (which just makes me think of that old Dire Straits/Chris Rea joke). They've been married a couple of years, have got two young kids (evidenced by their favourite youtube videos) and have an act chock full of lovely eurovision gimmicks.

There's Maraaya's off putting headphones- she never takes them off, which simultaneously makes you wonder if she has ears at all, and reminds you of someone rude on a bus; there's the usual unnecessarily strong wind machine; and there's a wriggling air violinist! An air violinist! Get someone you dislike at your party to try to copy it, video it, and put it on facebook. You won't regret it.

The song is a fabulous bit of indie dance pop- written, trivia hounds, by the bloke that penned "Rise like a Phoenix"- with a driving garagey beat, some top piano and Maraaya's velvety rich vocals. It won't hang together on the night and the chorus' main refrain sounds just a tad too dark for us to be troubling Ljubljana next year, but it's a great song and this video where Maraaya's singing class do the song all over Vienna is my favourite of the year.


Saturday, 16 May 2015

In a shadowy world lived a dazzling girl

Bojana Stamenov
Beauty Never Lies

Poppers at the ready! Fingers steady! It's this year's fabulous fanwank favourite!

Every year has them- up tempo numbers with good odds often from the Nordics with women of a certain age (usually X Factor rejects), dancing boys doing phallic things with mic stands and questionable live vocals on the night that see them crash out of the semis unexpectedly.

In recent years we've had Hera Bjork for Iceland doing "Je Ne Sais Quoi" (nor did I), Kati Wolf for Hungary doing "What about my dreams", Charotte Perelli for Sweden doing "Hero" and of course my all time favourite, Kate Ryan for Belgium doing the John Inman classic "Shut that door".

This year we move east to Serbia, previous home of the seedy lego man, the man with big hair singing about his shoes, and best of all, the subversive romany lesbian that swept to victory in 2007 and caused the Belgrade mayor to have to retrain his entire police to be more "tolerant". Eastern Europe stealing our points? Same sex relationships? Gypsies? Daily Mail island almost relaunched the Balkan conflict overnight.

Serbia's dreadful "Odbrojavanje za Beč" rustled up three average acts singing songs phoned in by Vladimir Graić, composer of 2007 winner "Molitva", with Bojana Stamenov winning because "the public just loved her strong voice and powerful performance". "I know how to knit and cook. But, watch out, my voice will blow up your mind", she says about herself, bafflingly.

She "loves to travel" and in the future would like to visit France "because of art and food", Ireland "because of landscapes and beer", and America because of "Cowgirls and Vegas", which sounds suspiciously like her "places to visit" list has been developed by watching Chevy Chase's Vacation movies.

It's the performance that's extraordinary. It starts off all dark and quiet and her four backing vocalists wear all white, including Venetian masks and odd racist loking hoods, but then at a minute in she does a note that sounds like she's just been stabbed in the foot and it morphs into a balkan version of "I will survive", staged through the metaphor of lightning- there's Bojana, dressed in bacofoil literally overcooking it.

At the time of writing you can still get 30/1 on this winning its semi. That's this week's child benefit right there, Daisy. It'll have to be. Your Child Trust Fund payment's gone on Russia.


I wanna find a better way of living

San Marino
Anita Simoncini and Michele Perniola
Chain of Lights

Oh my word.

I mean it must be pretty tricky to find talent when your population is less than a tenth of Swindon's but even taking that into account, San Marino have entered some stinkers in their time- most notably the year they tried to enter a song about Facebook but were made by the EBU to remove the word Facebook from the chorus, leaving the panicked San Marinese delegation to instruct Valentina Moretta to just sing "Hello, oh oh oh" instead. If you wanna come to my house, click me with your mouse.

But as stinkers go, this year's San Marino effort is a dynorod beating megaturd of a song even for them- easily the best worst song this year and possibly the best worst Eurovision song of all time. It's written by Ralph "shits music on your head" Siegel, author of entries like 1979's questionable German classic "Dschinghis Khan", 1980's questionable Luxembourg interpretative dance number "Papa Pingouin" and about 350 other questionable Eurovision songs- but the best before date was about 1985 on his songs and here it both shows and stinks.

There's the whispery staccato bit from the boy at the start, a jarryingly early key change, a weird bit where the boy wants to build a chain of farts, a sudden morph into an X Factor winner's single for someone Cowell hates, an amazingly cringey spoken rap bit from the girl, the bit they have every year that sounds like the theme tune to bleak 1980 woman based cop drama Juliet Bravo, the bit where Ralph "shits music on your head" Siegel appears for no reason (with a face like he's smelt some bad cheese), and the most anti climactically abrupt ending since the end of this blog post.


Friday, 15 May 2015

Different yet we're the same

Polina Gagarina
A Million Voices

You might think having read this blog that I'm a vile, lonely, self hating arsehole who derives no joy from music, colour, nature or other people. You're partly right. I'm working on it. You might also wonder why, having slated almost every song so far, I drag myself and my increasingly thrilled wife around Europe to actually watch the thing in person every year. True story.

Well I'll tell you why. Songs like this. Song like this amazing song. This wonderful thing from Russia. Joyful, life affirming, cheesey, cynically manipulative, derivative, dated europop anthems that grab you by the genitals, hug your big face and generate endless tears of raw emotion pouring down your gin soaked, mascara lined clown visog.

What do you mean you won't vote for it because it's Russia? Are you serious? It was all very easy to blame Iraq and politics and war when we were entering turds like this and coming last, but when Russia enters the greatest pop song in the history of the Earth we boo a bit? WHO HAVE YOU BECOME? AND WHY HAVE YOU BECOME IT?

I mean sure, the idea that the Russian entry is a big bombastic song about spreading peace is more than a little propagandy, it was probably commissioned by Vladislav Surkov, and it really doesn't help that the first line sounds exactly like she's singing "We are the worst people", but this is 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 Moscow (or at least Sochi) with a big Rainbow flag and a Ruslana doll for 2016.



Happy, sad, not right or wrong

All Over Again

Look. They are not here to sponge off us or take all the social housing or block up the M4 you stupid UKIP voting idiots. A massive majority of European immigrants are here to work, paying taxes that you try to dodge and doing jobs we need for a wage that you would never take, often tragically leaving their kids behind so they can build a better life.

Which brings us to another of those pesky Eastern European countries that Wogan started off gently parodying and latterly openly hated before being bundled off to his nursing home. Do you remember that bit last year when Ovi off of Romania put his head through a piano toilet seat and started tinkling with the rim? Romania is often a country you can count on for laughs, and so you won't blame me for having wanted Cristina Vasiu's "Nowhere" to win their national final. It all starts off boringly enough- it's your usual pop-dubstep-with-spermy-backing-dancers-and-breasts-barely-covered-by-giant-commas number, until the final chorus refrain when she screams "i'm going nowhere" yet actually looks like she's going to take off and burst through the roof of the Polyvalent Hall, pushing a button that literally turns her midriff into a catherine wheel. You can't polish a turd, but you can set light to its backside. Or something.

Ukrainian Orange Revolution leader cum Eurovision winner Ruslana also pitched up for a what felt like an aeon during the interval to do a medley of aurally problematic hits, only to stop halfway through to thank them for the music and to say "you have to understand my next statement. It's about Ukraine". It's an absolute nailbiter, because before said statement they then hastily cut back to the presenters, during which you assume Russian bouncers are bundling her off the stage, but then she reappears, asks the audience to switch on their flashlights and sings acapella about the injustices of Ukrainian annexation.

It rather sets the tone for the scoring and in the end the jury votes overturn public favourite Cristina "firework Sinitta" Vasiu and go instead for a middle aged guitar group singing about the left behind children of Romanian immigrants. It's a knee skin scrapingly poor piece of music but all rather poignant, and if they change their mind and perform it in English on the night it has the potential to literally kill off UKIP and that monsterous racist stockbroker muppet faced pillock forever. We live in hope. We live in Europe.


Thursday, 14 May 2015

If it’s the sea that separates us

Leonor Andrade
Há Um Mar Que Nos Separa

Much too busy to write anything about this today, so it's over to Euroblogger David Popescu for some breathless clarity.

"This is so much typical Portugal, which is a shame, cause this is the style we get from Portugal all the time, they need to learn, but this I think have some nice tunes, so I was not impressed, but I still think it was okay on my first time, but then it was forgotten after those 3 minutes.

"Now, I still at least remember the chorus, but rest of the song is just the same, and very low in volume somehow, so there I struggle to remember the song, but I like this one, despite it is typical Portugal, but it is far from being a favourite.

"I don't think this is one of those songs, that will be a hit, not at all to be all honest, more like one of those songs you will hear again after a few years just to be nostalgic, but it just doesn't offers that much, so it will be rarely played for me.

"This is Portugal we are talking about, almost 50 tries and yet they have never reached a top 5 place, and the places Portugal has ended on lately, then a final should be enough for Portugal, but not even that do I expect, so as long they avoid last place in the semi-final, then that is all for them. Bye for now!"


Call the angels for their guidance

Monika Kuszyńska
In The Name Of Love

If anything was a talking point, Poland 2014 was. Remember? You must do. It wasn't exactly subtle. Three extraordinary minutes of post ironic turbo folk hip hop sexism.

As well as shades of the Polish countryside and traditional Polish dress we got a performance whose aesthetics you would at the very least identify as "saucy"- we got cleavage, a lot of bending over, lots of milk and cream and a good lot of butter churning. Carry on, rural Poland. Apparently this was "ironic"- the breasts and cream were not there to titillate you, oh no- it was 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 was that it was 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 strong european lager it's impossible to say which is which.

Bottom line was that it was creepy, genuinely exploitative and, well, porny- yet amazingly topped the UK televote, only to result in no points from the UK during the voting because of a quirk in the system that gives killjoy "expert" juries a disproportionate ability to drag down novelty acts.

This year i'm pretty confident won't be a talking point- Monika Kuszynska's is notable because back in 2006 she was left paralyzed after a car accident and is now a wheelchair user, but she's doing ANOTHER bloody dreary beige piano ballad, so short of bending over in said wheelchair to show us her backside whilst she churns butter, I'm pretty sure that she'll be off home after her semi on Thursday.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

I did something terrible in my early youth

Mørland and Debrah Scarlett
A Monster Like Me

Scandipop. That's what I like. Fun, bouncy, carefully crafted caffeiney pop songs that pick you up when you're having a bad day. Like Abba or Agnes or Dolly Style or Robin Stjernberg or the A*Teens. Do you know what I don't want from a place like Norway? Three minutes of miserable Nordic Noir, like a sort of BBC4 version of Jar of hearts. That, dear readers, can piss right off.

It was almost so different. This year's MGP Norge featured three minutes of bouncy ladbanter from a group called "Staysman & Lazz" going on about Pizza, the theme tune to a new BBC Magazine show about animals dying in court recipes, and even a super schlagery poppers o clock fanwank favourite, but no- in the end they went for a gloomy duet about a break up.

The song's noiry mystery is signalled right from the start. "Honey, I'm telling the truth", says grumpy chiselface Mørland, "I did something terrible in my early youth". I suspect we are supposed to think dark, dark thoughts, but all I can imagine is that he weed in his sister's sock drawer or ate an air freshener or turned off the freezer by accident or something.

Bottom line is that it's trying much too hard to be terrifying, when in fact Norway's 1978 entry, sung by a man screaming out the words "enter me, enter me" in a pair of red trousers and oversized sunglasses is much more terrifying.


Rosemary has blossomed, white lily has bent


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 Swedish host broadcaster SVT brought a motion to the Eurovision AGM to abandon drawing the running order by lots altogether, proposing instead that producers create 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 its semi for Europe to empty its bladder, generating a sea of indifferent piss in which to sink the titanic.


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Sky-high while you pull me under

Eduard Romanyuta
I Want Your Love

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 and pay the entry fee, you're guaranteed a slot in the National 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, live action roleplay favourite "Energy" in 2014 and cabaret night in your crap hotel number "Heartburn" in this year's National Final. Quite.

But of course, she lost out again, this year to the floppy haired teenage heir to the Romanyuta family fortune, Eduard. He was all set up to enter the Ukrainian final having come close to winning there for several years, but then the Ukrainians decided they had other things on their mind and pulled out, leaving Eduard to pop across the border to "persuade" (ahem) TRM officials to let non Moldovans in for the first time.

As cover for this amazingly corrupt slice of cheek pie, the Moldovans then invited other international artists in to play, most notably asking 2011 UK X Factor gaga wannabee Kitty Brucknell to have a go, only to have a knuckle eatingly awkward wardrobe malfunction at the middle eight. Kitty crashed out, and then Eduard magically managed to scoop more points than every other act put together with his badly sung, woefully danced Liberty X early 90s whilstly thing that, coming after the Kitty skirt thing, just makes you want to eat the rest of your hand with embarrassment.

Ex Moldovan Entrant Pasha Parfeny isn't happy. "Moral, and physics - I make sport, I make sex... Just the normal style of my life", he said in 2012, sounding to all intents and purposes like a new Sacha Baron Cohen character. "Never mind that it is Ukrainian, the matter is that it is corrupt" he said in January, sounding to all intents and purposes like a new Sacha Baron Cohen character.

Still, Eduard's not phased. The press babble reveals that as well as singing Eduard is "working on his PhD thesis in tax policy" (i'll bet he is), he "remains the most desirable bachelor in Ukraine" and "for my early musical achievements, the president of the Ukraine Leonid Kuchma held me in his arms, and called me the Lobertino Loretti of Ukraine". Who?

Oh THAT Robertino Loreti, the famous Italian singer that promised to do a bunch of Charity concerts in Armenia last year until the Azerbis got wind and ensured that he and his piano player, well, got wind. ANOTHER MASSIVE CONSPIRACY.


The noise is louder than it's ever been


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 every year we send them thousands of gurning, thuggish holidaymakers to urinate against their beach bars and harass their daughters, and then we do them over in the eurovision, most years giving them NO POINTS AT ALL in an annual act of careless disdain.

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 buried in their "ad break every 4 minutes" format were all sorts of riches- an actual group of actual nuns, this excellent little pop ditty, a vocal group on pills singing about someone walking home from work, and a song that went by the name of the underused word "Fandango" (it's clear why).

This being Malta, there's not actually that many vocalists to go around, so inextricably but perhaps inevitably they went for Amber, a woman whose previous Eurovision fame involved ballsing up the build to the final chorus run in 2012's "rhymes with Paella" Kurt Calleja danceathon.

"Warrier" is one of two songs called "Warrier" in this year's context, and it's the rubbish one, consisting mainly of Amber warbling on about love and loss over the music in a trailer for a movie about fighting that you are never going to see.

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.


Monday, 11 May 2015

How ‘bout we just go out for a drink

Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila
This Time

"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. Until now.

You remember that thing about Phil Collins and Paul Daniels and now Katie Hopkins promising to leave the UK if Labour win? In a similar move Lithuanian broadcaster LRT came out and said "if Russia continues to showcase power and ignores international law we will boycott the contest".

The problem is I think they may have started their national selection process for 2015 before the annexation of the Ukraine, and looking at the process it's actually entirely likely that they started it before the dawn of all time. You might generously describe the process as a massively tedious rigmarole.

Show 1 featured the twelve selected artists performing cover versions of hit Lithuanian songs. Show 2 featured the twelve selected artists performing cover versions of hit international songs. Show 3 featured the eleven remaining artists performing Eurovision songs. Show 4 featured eight remaining artists performing Eurovision songs. Show 5 featured seven remaining artists performing Eurovision songs. Show 6 featured each of the five remaining artists performing two Eurovision songs. Show 7 featured three finalist artists performing their version of three potential Eurovision entries. The eighth show featured three remaining competing artists each performing the winning song selected from the previous show.

Basically, by the time Putin had reappeared after that weird 10 day break he had the whole thing had been going on for so long that for LRT to pull out would probably have generated an uprising, so in the end they finished it off and we got this- a fab little uptempo pop folk duet about falling in lurve. We get a flirty bit and a pausy kissy bit and even a "piss off to the homophobes" bit when the backing dancers join in with a bit of same sex smooching. It's not an amazing example of the genre but given it runs at more than 30 bpm it stands out like a dog in a hospital, and like a clinically evident disease resulting from the presence of pathogenic microbial agents including pathogenic viruses, pathogenic bacteria, fungi, protozoa, multicellular parasites, and aberrant proteins known as prions; it's infectious.


I’m becoming affected

Love Injected

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 disturbingly handed over to the original "Pop Paedo" Jonathon King to organise.

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- I am absolutely not kidding- was their entry in Copenhagen- a song which Daisy Dickinson still regularly requests on long car journeys, which puts it up right there with "the teardrops song", "the other noddy theme tune" and "this is jelly jam".

So as you can imagine, this year I was glued to the revamped "Supernova" selection process like Ant n Dec in a psychandrics T Shirt, hoping that something like this (which sadly didn't win in 2013) would win. Problem is, in an effort to finally get out of the semis (they've not made it to Saturday night for donkeys) they've gone all "credible", expunging the fun in favour of things that you might find on one of those rubbish stages at the Radio 1 Big Weekend.

In fact the only thing that lifted the dreary selection process was this surreal audience warm up act that appeared on the feed when Latvians got an ad break, giving HILARIOUS Eurovision fans everywhere an opportunity to tweet that they were "watching a bit of beaver on the internet" or variations thereof.

The winner is monumentally, arrogantly awful- it starts like a Bjork album track and morphs into something that I am told sounds like "FKA Twiggs"- who is not, I tell you now, an artist you hear regularly on Sweden's #1 Hit Music Station, Rix FM- and unless I'm very much mistaken the song is about how "your" love is like injecting heroin, which just makes me think of this- a song that probably would have done better for Latvia, to be honest.


Sunday, 10 May 2015

The sweet scent of her skin

Il Volo
Grande Amore

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 of my whole life like 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 the best part of fifteen 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, 2013's piano and strings meh'lodifest and last year's fashionista Emma Marrone- an act only notable for having a name that rhymes dangerously with My Little Pony.

So what the spicy meat 'a' balls have they phoned in this year? Meet "Il Volo", Italy's premiere pop opera thunderbird boyband, winners of Italy's San Remo Festival, featuring a trio of boorish stockbroker lads lads drenched in 'product', bellowing on pompously about the "scent of her skin" and a "voice within".

The song, and its incredible "every Italian cliche ever" staging is exactly what the scriptwriters that worked on Spice Girls the Movie would imagine the Italian entry to be if they got back together to work on Eurovision The Movie- a big baggy more-ill-than-divo spag bol of a song that sits there in the corner doing lines of coke shouting at you about how MASSIVELY IMPORTANT it is whilst you shrug your shoulders and carry on reading Chat magazine.

In other words, it's 5/1 to win


Let me show you Tel Aviv

Nadav Guedj
Golden Boy

Yes! Yes yes yes yes yes! Here we are at just over halfway through our soul destroying traipse around the car boot sale of European pop and it would be fair to say that this year's contest is a little... heavy. Responding to the number of plodding, pedestrian ballads even Graham "not a massive racist" Norton has described this year as "quite straight", which at least keeps him up there as the king of the double entendre.

So who's come to save us? Surely not. Normally Israel's entry is a downbeat ballad in Hebrew (sometimes lifted by Judy Finnegan's National Television Awards dress, sometimes not) but this year they closed Israel's BBC and gave the job of choosing their entry to the commercial broadcaster. And what a turnaround it is.

It doesn't start well- as sixteen year old Nadav Guedj moans to his mummy that someone's broken his heart in an off key. But then out of nowhere it turns into a Justin Timberwank Tel Avivian party bangathon with ethic beats and daft lyrics about Nadav being the "King of Fun". "Before you leave let me show you Tel Aviv" he says in extraordinary winged shoes, and he even ends the song with the inspiring lyrics "ok we gotta go, 3 minutes, bye bye" which is both searing commentary on the contest's rules and a fitting, emotionally adept sign off.

2014 marks Israel's 42nd 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 Nadav. Anyone want anything from the fridge?


Saturday, 9 May 2015

I didn't know what it meant

Molly Sterling
Playing With Numbers

"I was born in a 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 2008 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 (they didn't make the final either), someone who won for Ireland in 1993 singing Titantic-lite (beating only us- who came last), Ghostbusters Malfoy Sperm Twins Jedward for two years, Ryan "once supported Tinchy Stryder" Dolon and "Can-Linn" (she couldn't) who beat off Egg Nogg Quigg off of X Factor from years ago in a weird National Final that featured this fabulously unpleasant bun fight 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.

And so to this year where winner Molly Sterling seems to have got the wrong end of the stick. "I think the personality of the song is quite different compared to a lot of entries", says her press release, seemingly unaware that literally thirty other countries have also entered eye gougingly dull piano ballads instead of the ding a ring a dong Europeans have come to expect.

Amazing facts? "There aren’t too many to choose from! Maybe my honey obsession?! I don’t know anyone who consumes more honey than me!". Fifty jars a week? A hundred? "Five jars in a single week is my record. Maybe that’s not impressive though, maybe that’s just quite strange. Yeah, definitely just strange". I wouldn't even go that far.

Anything else? "I have a donkey at home in Tipp who’s 50 years old. Mick the donkey. That’s pretty impressive, I guess". It's not Molly, it's just dull. Like you, and your dull, generic, boring, forgettable song.


One step at a time

Maria Olafs

The other week I went to a whole conference about Eurovision. An entire day of papers and panel discussions and Paddy O'Connell spouting pseudo-academic twaddle like how the song contest has "provided a platform for the creation of national and European identities", how the event "has embraced and celebrated diversity by showcasing minority communities" and how it has been used as a "nation branding tool by countries such as Estonia and Ukraine".

I was sat at the back thinking that the audience mainly appeared to be a Segway of saddos who'd given up their day to come and gawp at library footage and moan at the man from the BBC about our entry, until I went to the toilet, took a good hard look at myself and realised that I was just a saddo that had given up his day to come and gawp at library footage and moan at the man from the BBC about our entry. The bastards.

Anyway on the day one of the more exciting sessions was from a nervous woman that works for the EBU on audience research, who revealed that on the night of the final the country with the highest audience share hits 99%. Christ on a bike- 99% people that are in are watching the Eurovision in Iceland. Can you imagine? I mean sure that's still only about 130 people but still. Viva viva! We are the 99%!

Iceland's song? Well it's lovely- mum's gone to Iceland to the Frozen section and brought back a mid tempo manic pixie dream girl Disney ballad for tea. It may well all be a bit Emily of the Forest a few years too late, and if it had a key change I'd probably explode like an Icelandic volcano, but it's perfectly pleasant and if anything a bit underrated at the bookies.


Friday, 8 May 2015

Do you know our earth is a mess

Wars For Nothing

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 disco fantastic 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" sailing into the final, in 2013 they entered a stoner-hipster-spacecake-Nizlopi song without the courtesy of a chorus or even a discernable tune that came 10th, and last year they even managed to enter an unsettling garage song about child abuse and still came fifth.

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 miserable ballads about avoiding war 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!


Take me out of this firing hell

Maria Elena Kyriakou
One Last Breath

Hooray! Ouzo at the ready, party people- you're going to need it. It's Greece- home of the Phoenix Nights stapler. Yes, the economic basket case of Europe has had a whip round for the entry fee, booked its tickets to Vienna and cobbled together another masterpiece of Hellenic Stilleto-Pop.

Except it didn't win. Every year you bank on the Greeks to book a party banger, but somehow the voting public passed over this incredible three minutes of joy, I suspect because the singer appears to be singing in a key only distantly related to the backing track. They also passed over this amazing bit of bazouki-pop, which is pretty innocuous euroclub fluff until one minute fifty, when it suddenly turns into the Vengaboys go χορός plate smashing. Opa!

Instead of all this, the Greeks opted for something the 2015 competition definately needs another of- a slow, upsetting glued together piano ballad in a minor key voiced by a women warbling on about loss. She could be singing about a long term relationship breakup, or an unrequited love, but she's probably singing about her life savings and the Greek inflation rate.

"I’m still alive, Ι struggle to survive", she sings in the final verse. I know the feeling.


Thursday, 7 May 2015

When you look at me, you know you're hard to read

Ann Sophie
Black Smoke

You've got to hand it to the Germans. In the UK's version of The Voice the romance of the blind audition format ends abruptly after the blind auditions, when Tom Jones' varifocals hone in on the wildly ugly carcasses that Will "Catfood" Iams has just emitted an enthusiastic bleepy sound to, bundled off to obscurity in the battle rounds as prettier faces take hold.

No- in Germany the less likely looking popstars actually win, and Andreas Kümmert- a man who looks like he spends a lot of time on his own sofa watching Game of Thrones with his hand down his tracksuit bottoms- represents quite a triumph for the format- an incredible, soulful, emotional, bluesy voice- and the image of someone who does his weekly shopping in Bargain Booze.

He sailed through the ridiculously complex German national final with an absolute barnstormer of pop soul song, winning 79 to 21 in the final round- and then decided he didn't want to go after all. “I’m just a small singer", he said to the host, taking the visual piss, "and the runner up is a much more appropriate choice than me”. He then turned around, gave the second place finisher a hug, and wandered off the stage, spending the rest of the night abusing his fans on twitter.

So who did we get? Second place Ann Sophie shouting her way through a sort of low rent Duffy song, co-written by not-yet-famous-but-would-be-a-hell-of-a-lot-better-than-electrovelvet UK newcomer Ella Eyre. It's OK- no better no worse- and all in all, I think I preferred it when they were doing this. At least we all knew where we stood.