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!


Drink like there is no other way

Freaky Fortune feat RiskyKidd
Rise Up!

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 Copenhagen and cobbled together an extraordinary masterpiece of Hellenic Alco-Pop.

It was almost something else entirely-  the National Final had a couple of serviceable ballads, and in the lead this entirely competent eurodisco number had all but booked itself into the Copenhagen Radisson, until "featuring" vocalist Josephine pitched up on stage and delivered a painful live vocal performance that sounds like an elderly, wounded vole crying for help in a branch of Dolcis.

So eventually (and I do mean eventually, given that before it gets going you have to sit through 30 seconds of Dappy-style "i'm from da streets" nonsense) the Greeks opted for the rank outsider- "Rise Up!", which is a sort of hellenic Sam and the Womp and Yolanda Be Cool mashup with added plate smashing.

It is what it is, to be honest- meaningless club fodder which will go down like a cup of sick with the juries- but they boys have redeemed themselves in my ears with this. Respect, innit.


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The time is ticking in his ear


Is it right?

Wadde Hadde Dudde Da.

You know what Eurovision's like. You're half gawping at foreigners on the telly, pouring weak lager down your front listening to xenophobic tweets read out by Graham Norton, waving flags and sweepstake tickets and saying things like "ooh this sounds like Rhianna", or "ooh this sounds like Pentangle", or- usually- "ooh this sounds like Cascada".

And then suddenly your eyes focus on the telly and you think "blimey, this even looks like Cascada as well", until it slowly dawns on you- the Germans actually did send Natalie Horler all the way to Malmo last year, all leather boots and dry ice and mistimed vocals and "this sounds a bit too much like Euphoria", only to end up with a dismal 18 points and 21st on the board. Awks.

So this year, having narrowly avoided sending five grown men on top of a boat singing a sea shanty ode to Jimmy Saville over and over again, the Germans have screeched the car into reverse and gone for an unknown act that sounds NOTHING LIKE an eastern european version of No Doubt.

"Elaiza's songs combine all the different levels of creative energy Berlin has on offer", trills the press release, "a sound which is melodramatic, happy, bitter sweet, funky and intimate all at once". In other words it's an unlistenable noisy mess that will probably end up with 18 points and come 21st on the board. Awks.


Rock the boat of ragged despair!

The Shin and Mariko
Three Minutes to Earth

Save for the French, it's all been a bit "meh" so far hasn't it? Where are the tin whistles, the key changes, the sparkly dresses, the awkward Des/Mel couplings and the "boom bang a bang a bang a bingly bong" singalongsong choruses? I mean I'm all for a spot of 'local cawlcha', but this is the Eurovision, not bloody Glastonbury.

Cue Georgia, who have turned up this year with a music that "smoothly combines Georgian folk melodies with jazz, famous native polyphonic singing with scat, and tunes of the near Orient and flamenco with a modern Western sound". Not sounding good is it?

Basically, they've ambled in with a load of rizlas, a box of frosties and three minutes of stoned out of its brains prog-folk. Yes- the Georgians have bought prog-folk to the contest, and it's absolutely, unbelieveably, transmogrifyingly awful.

50 seconds of wordless Yodelling? Check. Video filmed in the inside of a massive hydroponics greenhouse? Check. Shakira's embarassing auntie with a chorus vocal only slightly related to the melody? Check. Self indulgent, pointless hippy lyrics like "Show us the stairway to come back to Earth sky diver’s space jump"? Check mate.

If you are even dreaming about liking this, listening to this again or voting for this, I vehemently hate you and everything you are and stand for. Everything about this turgid three minutes of misery makes me want to harm people and I genuinely believe that it is actually worse than this.

"The word "Shin" literally means "home" or "going home" in the Georgian language". Yes they are. On the morning of Friday 9th May, straight after the semi they will come last in.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

My car is lined with leather, I like the smell of my perfume

Twin Twin

Oh yes France. I'd almost forgotten about France. Poor old France. You see, even from the early days of the contest when it consisted of 5 countries, Katie Boyle and "Boom bang a ding a dong", they were pissing about being aloof and snooty. Since then every other country that's joined Europe's biggest party has realised it's all about bright colours, key changes, flashmobs, exploding cubes (Can eric beat the cube) and prosthetic devil masks.

France, on the other hand, annually rolls out dreary existential piano ballads, shrugs and goes home again. They're like a rock solid guaranteed toilet break country. Except that year when they had that brilliant bloke with his weird camera angles and Golf Buggy. That was ace. So- could this the year that France gets it right, throws prudence à vent and chucks in a novelty dance hit? Yes. Yes it is. Zut a bloody lors!

Meet "Twin Twin" (more Thomson than actual), France's premier satirical dance act- and their extraordinary press release. "With their bouncy melodies", this is going well, "healthy sense of gimmick", even better, "and the liveliness of their lyrics", yes, yes, "Twin Twin are a perfect example of the YOLO generation, who would rather live life to the fullest than be dragged overboard by wailing sirens of doubt". That's it! I'm in! Va te faire foutre to those wailing sirens of doubt!

Of course, this being France, it's not just a novelty dance hit- it's got a left wing, anti capitalist easter egg message buried inside as well. "Moustache tells the story of a man who already has everything, but who still wants a moustache- a humorous and affectionate critique of our culture of hyper-consumption". That and it sounds like Stromae's Papaoutai sped up. Those things.

So basically France have only gone and done it for a change- it's upbeat, it's amusing, it's duracell bunny energetic, it's got good (a-level) politics, better hair and it's just brilliant. Tourne-à-gauche, douze points.


Vis-à-vis estranged and we got close

Something better

Any Birthdays coming up? Wondering what to get for that special loved one in your life? Need an "ironic" present for that hateful UKIP supporting uncle of yours? EUROS TO LITERALLY BURN?

Well as luck would have it, this year in the Eurovision tat shop as well as the obligatory beanie hats, T Shirts, mugs and mouse pads (the contest always was pretty retro) you can buy a Eurovision themed pillow! "An Eurovision Song Contest viewing party at your home is not the same without this classic collector's item", says the item description, which is either a bad bit of copy and paste or just how the dutch eurovision fans roll on the big night. "Start your collection of Eurovision Song Contest Pillows today" it continues, highly optimistically.

Anyway, the Fins. They of course won with what amounted to a rock version of the Banana Splits in 07, they almost came in last with novelty free misery dirgerock in 08, they rolled a fat one of "Dave Pearce Dance Anthems" in 09, appeared in Snow Suits doing dreadful gypsy-folk bollocks in 2010, did whiney enviro-Stepford in front of a GIANT GLOBE in 2011, entered a Finnish-Swedish folk ballad in a fairisle jumper in 2012 and went for a bouncy pop stalker number ("spying on you undercover drinking coffee with your mother") in 2013. Typical they are not.

So what have they conjured up for us this year? Something better. No, hahahahahahahahahah, not "something better" than all of those, THE SONG is called "Something Better".

Sorry. Shall I go into the corner and think about what I've done?

Softengine are a stadium rock boyband (kind of a poppier version of Coldplay/Bastille/30 Seconds to Mars/Biffy Clyro, or "The Vamps in a Big Room") and their song is a perfectly pleasant, anthemic sounding pop rock thing that's like a night out on badly cut coke- it has a nice build, a hooky riff and a basically unobtainable high note. If (and it's a big if) this collection of Finnish schoolchildren can rehearse enough, pull off a decent performance in the semi and sneak into the final, this has all the makings of a Eurovision dark horse, but will probably languish in the semis.

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.


Monday, 21 April 2014

We froze to ice and melted down


My favourite Estonian entry of all time was the genius 2003 time travel smash "Eighties Coming Back" by Ruffus. Watch that video and suddenly you're there- not in the 80's, but in your living room in 2003, hoping it will all end soon. They've even capped Wogan sounding a bit pissed blithering on about accordions and incorrectly predicting that "Baltic block voting" would work in Estonia's favour. The racist pillock- it came 21st.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR's PR department are not ones known to undersell at the best of times, but the press puffery for this year's Estonian treat really takes the nami-nami. "Tanja is amazing – a true pearl in a sea of pre-fab pop stars". Christ. "She was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth, and her CV is about as thick as a telephone directory". Wow, what's she done? "Series 3 of Your Face Sounds Familiar". Shabba.

"Almost everyone knows Tanja for her dancing and singing, but few know that she is also an enthusiastic cook – one with a penchant for salads… and cakes!". She sings! She dances! She bakes! "If she was not performing all the time, she would undoubtedly keep feeding me until I burst!" jokes her boyfriend, presumably morbidly obese singer Mikk Saar.

Tanja's song is the "not really very" "Amazing"- a kind of car boot "Euphoria" without the hooks, with a performance so full of contemporary dance that it manages to rival this in the "let's hope they keep the 'backing' singer well hidden on the night" stakes.

Still, don't take my word for it. Check out mesmerising Eurovision video blogger Daniella from Slovenia's views on the Estonian effort and tell me how it's not possible to love this whole circus.


Even girls they whistle

Cliche Love Song

And so to Denmark, home of The Killing, Borgen, one half of the Bridge, Carlsberg, Lego, the Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Anderson, butter cookies in tins, A friend in London (because everyone has a friend in London), these tasty looking Christmas Donuts (nom nom nom), Emily. Of the Forest. And cheap Bruno Mars knock off, Basim.

I say it every year, but me and Lorna love this year's host nation Denmark. It's small, they drink (very expensive) beer, the public transport's good, they have a theme park smack bang in the middle of their capital city, tax is high (I like that) and it's the kind of place where you can be out browsing attractive kitchen goods when "bang!" there appears indie pop outfit Alphabeat, buying a green ladle. No shit.

"Cliche love song" is just that- a pleasant, perfunctory, radio friendly soulpop cliched love song, with its tongue in its cheek and a melody almost entirely stolen from The Real Thing's "You to me are everything", but arranged in way that makes you not notice until the earworm has eaten away at your limbic.

They probably overdid it in the National Final (check out the old golden shower and Danish flag trick at the end) but it's catchy as crabs and all so HAPPY and PLEASANT and SCATMAN JOHN.

Basim is the sort of smart, cheeky young lad that would go down well with your mum (having gone down on your sister), he delivers the line 'skuba duba dabda dididaj' with aplomb and it's also been drawn in the legendarily lucky slot of 23rd for the final, which may well mean that the Danes will get another go at cobbling together a makeshift venue for the 60th.

Troels! Troels! Tak.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

My shoulder my shelter my satellite

Axel Hirsoux

Oh my living god. Belgium.

In 2009 Belgium entered an Elvis Presley impersonator that claimed that he invented being Elvis Presley before Elvis Presley and that Elvis Presley was stealing his soul even though he’s dead. With a Jive Bunny video. In 2010 we got a kind of low rent Marc Cohn doing a low rent Walking in Memphis, 2011 saw Belgium entering some smug acapella beatbox with sideburns, in 2012 they sent a warbling child wittering on about burglary, and then last year they sent a man to sing a song called "Love Kills" in strong Belgian accent, resulting in the whole of Europe having to sit through Roberta Bellarosa singing "Love keels, over and over", over and over again.

So this year's Belgian Eurosong process could only go well, and just for a minute there in their semis I thought it was actually going to, when Spanish Europop duo "2 Fabiola" appeared from the 1990s with this banger of Europop genius "She's after my piano"- all accordions and magic tricks and housey housey and 'hey na na na' and just LITERAL EUROVISION JOY.

And of course, this being Belgium, it crashed out of their semi, with the Belgian public instead opting for the man off the 'Go Compare' adverts singing slightly too obsessively about his mother for three minutes- like if Norman Bates had eaten all the pies, entered Belgium's Got Talent and bought a bow tie.

It's a difficult one to pull off, the mother lover thing- Monaco went for "cutesy boy likes his mum" in the 60s, France went for "contestant on Family Fortunes introduces his mum" in the 80s and Belarus went for "baffling skimpy street raunch probably needs telling off by her mum" in 2006, but nothing has ever come close to this unsettlingly overcooked Belgian waffle. "I need your love, a hand to hold, a heart to heal, a voice to help me through", he screeches as you resolve to avoid eye contact and move slowly away.

It's pompous, it's Paul Potts, but mainly it's absolutely preposterous, especially given that halfway through a ghostly, writhing sexy mother figure starts cavorting round him as Ukrainian Orange Revolution cum eurovision celebrity Ruslana waves a lighter in the air. Astonishing.


You’re not Jennifer Gray


I've always said it. Never mix politics with music. I hate that.

So here we are in fist pumping Belarus, home of 2011's extraordinary tourist information chant "I Love Belarus" and 2012's remarkable "We are the heroes". Has the rabid nationalism died down this year? Yes it has, only the rabid nationalism has been replaced with searing misogyny. Hooray!

It was close run thing in the women hating stakes. The National Final managed to serve up both this song about counting strippers ("1 stripper, 2 stripper, 3 stripper, 4"- and then, you guessed it, "5 stripper, 6 stripper, sex and rock n roll")- and this "cheeky girls cavort around the middle aged pet shop boys" slice of dirge, (as well as this bonus treat- a woeful, whiney ballad where the singer is flanked by a dancer doing subtitles for the deaf, probably because you've just hit mute)

But no to all that- in the end after an hour of jury gerrymandering they (and when I say "they" I obviously mean "President Lukashenko") opted for Belarus' premier accordian player Yuriy Vaschuk ("Teo"), doing this bone weakeningly awful jazzpop number "Cheesecake".

It's a really really really bad song about Teo dumping his girlfriend simply because of a nickname she's given him, and just to top it off, he does this enthusiastically in the style of vile, celebrated rape apologist Robin Thicke.

Basically, Ugh. "It's a positive song", he opines hyper defensively, with the same twisted "switch the victim" logic in usage by his hero, "even though I’ve broken up with a girl because I’m tired of her calling me her sweet cheesecake, we all need to be treated with respect". My heart bleeds. "In the song and video for Cheesecake, I’m the one being objectified and the lyrics make clear that I don’t like it". Well that's OK then.

Look. The song is shocking, Teo is unconscionably unpleasant, and the whole thing makes you want to wash your eyes and ears out with Jeyes Fluid.


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Someone's selling garden roses down the square

Dilara Kazimova
Start a fire

Shipwrecks resting in the sea. Oil floating on the water. Plants and soil covered with dust. No, these aren't lyrics- they're facts, dear reader. Welcome to renowned Eurovision cheat nation Azerbaijan- the most polluted country in the world.
It's not at all clear that estimated £600 million the Azerbis spent hosting in 2012 pulled off the intended legitimisation of the country, largely because everyone knows that the place is still a rotten dictatorship, chock full of human rights abuses and a gap between rich and poor wider than the Caspian Sea.

Still, it had all passed off without a hitch (if you ignore the DOS attack on several blogs accusing Eurovision of being a "Gay Parade") but then in Semi 2, former Russian winner Dima "Not a single fuck was given" Bilan turned up, sebum and self esteem in tatters, to kick off a hellish interval act winners' medly that rendered 3.5m LEDs looking like the Christmas lights in a branch of Home Bargains. Most of all, it was probably spoiled on the Saturday night by Germany's Anke, who stuck it to Aliyev right in the middle of the points allocation. Good luck on your journey indeed. 

In an effort to make up for all of this, last year they then entered a dreadful Dimitris Kontopoulous penned ethno drama ballad that for some reason made me think of the theme tune to 80s crime fighter Juliet Bravo. It was about as bland as they get, but had a real chance of winning largely because they had a very good go at buying a victory in a well organised vote rigging scandal that has since led to various rule changes. What is that Kissinger quote about student politics?

So this year they're keeping a low profile, truth be told, by entering a nosebleedingly dull piano ballad (Emilie 'de' Sande with a dose of melody loss) with a bit of Azerbi Balaban over the top, sung by pleasant, but utterly forgettable Dilara ("when she’s got a chance, Dilara spends her spare time in the yoga studio or reading books on psychology, she also loves animals". ROCK AND ROLL.)

It's all a bit "Jesus, is this the French entry?" really, but then we've been here before, haven't we?


Cause you wouldn’t know me today

Conchita Wurst
Rise Like a Phoenix

For most Brits Eurovision is a Saturday night affair, with beers, bunting, and barbecued bratwurst cheering up a balmy evening in in late May. But for at least 600,000 BBC3 viewers it's also a weekday affair, because since the early noughties Eastern Europe has been broken up into so many little countries that we've needed two weekday semis.

Depending on your outlook on life (or more accurately your blood alcohol levels), this either makes the resultant Saturday night final a dispiriting ordeal or a bearable edition of "Europe's Got Talent" without canine ballet. Either way it does mean that some of the less endearing "novelty" acts from countries that have given up and descended into Woganian ironic mockery of the contest tend to get filtered out- take this astonishing thing written by the man who invented the Smurfs for the Netherlands in 2010, or this pre-Jedward self hating rubber turkey song from Ireland in 2008.

Austria was one of these countries, hitting a partricularly low point in 2012 with an act called the  "Trackshittaz" (trans: not big, not clever), who were a kind of Austrian Wurzels meets the Out-here Brothers, with all of the tiresome, childish misogyny that that implied. Sadly much of it was lost on weekday viewers outside of rural Austria, with lyrics including "now get those pots out" (an Austrian pun meaning breasts), "they dance and they shake, at the poles and the ceiling" (they're at a lapdancing club- oooh, how naughty) and "the noodle-soup-gang is coming" (use your imagination) disappearing into semi final obscurity.

So skip over last year's forgettably pleasant winner's single effort and we find something of a return to form for the Austrians, entering the act that narrowly lost out to the "Trackshittaz" in the 2012 national final- Austria's no. 1 drag act with a beard, Conchita Wurst.

It's no novelty song- it's more a Bassey Bond Theme than a Brotherhood of Man- and has some really quite inspiring lyrics about transphobic bullying. The issue is that Conchita puts the T in LGBT, and as well as scaring many of the international jury members into marking it down for fear of being, I don't know, beaten or something, it also means that the Belarussians are ABSOLUTELY FURIOUS.

"The popular international competition will see our children filled with European liberals and become a hotbed of sodomy", says the 3,000 strong petition. "Belarus, one of the few countries in Europe that was able to maintain normal and healthy family values based on love and mutual support between men and women", it continues. "If we open the doors to everything that they’re trying to push on us, it’s hard to imagine what can happen".

God yes imagine. Just imagine if it all got worse in Belarus. Imagine if the state started to suppress virtually all forms of dissent and used restrictive legislation and abusive practices to impede freedoms of association and assembly. Imagine if journalists were routinely harassed and subjected to arbitrary arrests and detention. Imagine if eight political prisoners remained jailed. JUST IMAGINE.

Best of all? The opening line sounds excatly like "wanking in the rouble". Take that, homophobes!


Friday, 18 April 2014

Don't cry little bird

Aram MP3
Not Alone

No Andorra this year (they're probably off playing with guns- actually literally- the male head of each family in Andorra is required to own a gun, fact fans) so here we are in Armenia. In theory I love Armenia. A few years back they were responsible for sending a woman called "Sirushu" to Europe- a top pop star singing the brilliant "Qele Qele" (let's go! let's go!) which has ended up one of my all time favourite entries (and provided the name of this blog), and get this, they LOVE apricots. DON'T WE ALL.

They've been on and off ever since given the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (astonishingly in 2010 a whole bunch of Azerbi Eurovision fans were summoned to their National Security Ministry to explain why they had voted for Armenia. Christ. I mean we've all wanted to waterboard a Christopher Maloney fan, but that was about the music, man) but this year have somehow ended up as the favourites with "You're not alone". I say somehow partly because of the song, but mainly because of the artist, who by all accounts is a tiresome, hateable, self obsessed homophobe.

Look at the press release for a start. "At school age he had breathing difficulties and was coughing a lot- then following doctors’ advice to try singing, it worked and music healed him". Eh? What kind of doctor WAS this? Oh. That kind of doctor. Dr BULLSHIT. "Though always dreaming about big stage, Aram chose a profession of pharmacist". In other words, don't get the flu in Yerevan, lest a homophobic self obsessive behind the counter in Boots starts suggesting you sing "Never Gonna Give You Up" to clear your sinuses.

Then the defences-too-early kick in. "He considers himself a family man" (ie he's a serial adulterer) "feeling very much attached to his charming wife Anna" (see 'Debbie McGee') "and loves his charismatic son Arno" (who presumably, unlike Dad, is still moping around the back of the class with a Ventolin and a bottle of ear medicine). "After University he was invited to take part in '32 teeth' TV Show" (32 teeth? Is this an achievement in Yerevan?), "where he did musical stand ups and parodies of famous singers- during one of the shows the anchor introduced him as Aram Mp3 to emphasise his role which is how he got his stage nickname".

Which is fine, (although I still think Aram Flac would have sounded better), but he's a MASSIVE HOMOPHOBE. When asked about Austrian trans competitor Conchita Wurst, he is quoted as having said “hopefully, we will help her to eventually decide whether she is a woman or man”. In the same interview he goes on to say “I do not live such life, and regardless how the world progressed or regressed, this is an unacceptable subject matter for me”. His record company have since insisted he reel back, claiming that some of his best friends are Austrian drag acts with beards (that old chestnut), but given he also said that he "speeds up his car when passing through Yerevan’s gay district" you start to think that he might just have entered the wrong contest.

The song? Oh yes, the song. Perhaps it's just me, but to these ears the song itself is monumentally dull. Basically it's the musical equivalent of those men that hand out stress questioinnaires on Tottenham Court Road- a man repeating "you're not alone" over and over again on the top of some film trailer music with some "only teardrops" snare drums for build, and a dubstep climax chucked in to cheer it up in the final minute. I would (and indeed fully intend to) bet that it will end up doing spectacularly badly in the final, and so my top betting tip this year is that you do too.


Free your mind from the doubts that are tickling

Hersi Matmuja
One Night's Anger

It doesn't seem like a year since Malmo, does it? That may well be because it hasn't been (the contest is early this year), but either way- stow your hand luggage, fasten your seatbelts and hide your switched on phone from the air hostess, 'cus it's time begin this year's unremittingly miserable Wizz Air flight across the barren wasteland of European pop that is all 37 songs in the 59th Annual Eurovision Song Contest.

Twice a day, I'll be posting reviews of this year's songs that at least attempt to better the quality of contribution you get in the comments section of the youtube promo videos. Take this startling observation from commenter "K" on our first-in-the-alphabet-song Albania, for example: "Without understanding what she’s singing, the faces she makes are how I imagine my different faces are while on the toilet. I hope I’m not the only one thinking this. It’s the only thing I think about while watching the vid". Shit room indeed.

The first thing to say is something I say every year- the thing about Albania is that I love their flag. Just imagine living in a country with that! What a brilliant thing that must be! A big red flag with a dirty great big beetle on it! Oh. Apparently it’s an eagle.

Doubtless for you Eurovision starts with an "ironic" and vaguely xenophobic feature in Saturday's papers on the day of the final in May. Not so in Watford. For us (well, me), the "irony" and vague xenophobia starts with National Final watching in November and December, and whilst you may be watching Only Fools and Horses on Christmas Day, I am usually watching the grand final of "Festivali i Këngës", Albania's very own "Song for Europe"- which instead consists of Albanian fools (and sometimes Albanian horses) battling it out to spoil an entire people's holiday season.

The show is quite an ordeal, to be honest- and this year's three day, fifteen hour festival of doom was no exception. My "favourite" was this atrocity from FiK veteran Xhejsi Jorgaqi, notable for its awkward, side-of-the-school-disco choreography, ming the merciless eyebrow styling, and its almost complete disconnection between the vocal melody and the backing; but mainly I love it for carrying on the fine Albanian tradition of singing in front of windows media player visualisations circa 1995. Even in Albania, this got nul points.

The promo video for eventual winner "One Night's Anger" is quite the thing- a weird mix of a CNN tourism video (sweeping hills, freezing beaches, white horses, drug deals in car parks) and a low budget, GCSE horror movie. Best of all? It's a Waltz. A bloody Waltz. A Waltz, sung by someone that sounds like Shakira. An ear bleedingly bad, chopped-to-pieces-since-the-national-final rock dirge Shakira Waltz. "Keep calm and think twice", warbles Hersi, like a damp, badly translated tea towel in bovverboots.

Bay-beh, I compare you to "a kiss from a rose" off of Seal. Ooh, the more I get of you, the worser it feels, yeah. Now that your song's been remixed. I'm telling you that it still sounds shit.

Dum de dum de dum dum dum dum dum dum dum de dum.