Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Do you remember when we were kids with no fear

Image result for united kingdom eurovision heart
United Kingdom

Do you remember when we were kids with no fear? I do. I remember, vividly. Saturday 19th April, 1980. That year the twenty fifth Eurovision Song Contest was broadcast from a faraway place that the announcer called "Congresgebouw" in the Hague, in the Netherlands. Israel had declined to host the contest for a second year running and after runners-up Spain and also reportedly the UK turned it down, it was eventually hosted by the Netherlands, who came twelfth, on the condition they could scale down the production. Changes to the line-up that year included Israel who ended up withdrawing because the date chosen conflicted with their remembrance day, and Morocco who took part for the first and last time to date.

Curtains down, I’m laughing at the trial

Under The Ladder

You are so sexy BOM. Gonna make me crazy BOM. We’re gonna do the BOM BOM. Ain’t that amazing BOM.

Those were the days. In the past we've had all sorts of amusing throw away nonsense (BOM), but the other year Ukraine went all heavy; their entry recounted Stalin’s deportation of Crimean Tatars from their native Crimea. Jamala opened with these cheerful lines: “When strangers are coming, they come to your house; they kill you all inside [and say] ‘We’re not guilty, not guilty’.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Pardon me but I don't wanna go back


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, ena stupendo and an ena stupendously annoying twiddly dee folk song performed by a smug pillock in a waistcoat.

Feels like I’m stuck here in time

Benjamin Ingrosso
Dance You Off

HOORAY! 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.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

You are the art that sweetens the skin

Amaia y Alfred
Tu Canción

Ugh. Where are we now? 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 shitfaced on "locally produced" spirits.

A zillion people have already said that there's too many

Lea Sirk
Hvala, ne!

I used to have a bit of a soft spot for the Slovenians, if for no other reason than because whilst we thought we were being all "ironic" with that Scooch abomination , they'd done it all before in 2002. Would you like something to suck on for landing, sir?

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Happiness is achievable, grab it

Sanja Ilić and Balkanika
Nova Deca

And hello hello 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.

Bullied from the moment we were born

Image result for san marino eurovision heartSan Marino
Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening 
Who We Are

Bless. The entire population of San Marino- Eurovision smallest participant- could fit inside the Altice arena in Lisbon and still leave room for the custard tart stalls. They first entered back in 2008 in Serbia with a man that looked suspiciously like 80's illusionist David Copperfield- but it came last with 5 points in the Tuesday night semi. Apparently I was there, but I suspect on listening to it back that at the time I was trying to find a drink, the toilet or my will to live.

Friday, 4 May 2018

I won’t give in to the motions

Julia Samoylova
I won't break

For people who started to enjoy the contest in the 80s, the quintessential Eurovision winner is probably Sweden's definately heterosexual "Herreys" with their 1984 thriller "Diggi loo Diggi ley".  What a song. "Lightning and Thunder, Magic and Wonder" they sang, white trousers round their nipples, cheesy choreography over a cheesy bed that sounded like it had been lifted direct from an 80s cartoon series whilst a clever green screen projection video of the boys in a cube played behind them. It was brilliant.

We should all see the beauty of the precious gifts we have

The Humans

And so 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.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

I’ll take care of your garden

Cláudia Pascoal
O Jardim

My favourite months of the year are December, January, February and March. Why? Because me and Lorna (OK, just me) huddle round the interweb and watch as much of the National Final Season as possible, as country after country treats us to grainy, "buffering" footage of their most talented X-Factor rejects. And let me tell you- this year's Festival da Canção was a fucking corker.

A part of me is feeling weak

Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer
Light Me Up

One of the official purposes of the Eurovision song contest is that it enables people like me to dance. I can wriggle my hips or jump up and down on the spot or pretend to be "mixing" a "record" with the best of them. The trouble is that "them" in this case means other sad mid 40s Eurovision fans clustered into Sector 6 of whichever provincial hockey stadium the contest is placed each year.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Shubidubi-dab-dab Shubidubi-dab-dab

Alexander Rybak
That's How You Write A Song

Scandipop. That's what I like. Fun, bouncy, carefully crafted caffeiney disco-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. And do you know what I don't mind from a place like Norway? Three minutes of miserable Nordic Noir, like BBC4 meets Jar of Hearts. Like this or this or this. That would do too.

Everybody’s got a couple scarred up knuckles

The Netherlands
Outlaw In 'Em

On Line, on digital and on 88 to 91 FM, here we are then in permanently middle of the road Netherlands- a country so dull that the closest they've come to entertainment in the last ten years was when they entered Howard Stableford off of Tomorrow's world, former MP Bill Rammell 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. Click here if you don't believe me.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

I live my life by worn routine

Vanja Radovanović

Right up until 1997, the points doled out by countries in the Eurovision were decided by Juries- entire sets of po-faced pop professionals desperately trying to convince us that dreary, folky ballad music from Ireland was the best in aural entertainment that the continent could offer for for the whole of the 1990s.

Something tells me we can make some music

My Lucky Day

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.

Monday, 30 April 2018

I know that you see my life in foreign eyes


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 give them nul points and then send them thousands of gurning, thuggish holidaymakers to urinate against their beach bars and harass their daughters every summer.

You're afraid that you might suffer

Image result for macedonia eurovision heartFYR Macedonia
Eye Cue
Lost and Found

The (Former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonia has only managed to qualify once in the past decade, and even then they didn't deserve it- belting out a balkan trouser-suit ballad that I managed to miss in its entirety as I took a carefully timed three minute wizz (air).

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Let’s sing this song that we wrote

Ieva Zasimauskaitė
When We're Old

Back in the day Eurovision was quite a treat, largely because you got to peek behind the often Iron curtains of other nations and get a glimpse of their culture and food and pop music. I mean I was barely four when this happened, but I definately told my mummy that I wanted to go Germany after this- although it turned out that Germany wasn't a land of flambouyant disco warriors after all, but a land of racists taking the piss out of Mongolia.

The punch line is getting old

Laura Rizzotto
Funny Girl

I was at this thing the other day and one of those people that knows me from another thing was talking about something important to them, and slowly their grip on my attention started to loosen and my mind drifted away from the conscious reality of sitting there listening to them as my brain gently rose like a hot air balloon ascending the heavens and gliding across a landscape of idle thoughts, while back on Earth my face was sat beside them saying "mmm" and "ooh" and "really?" and occasionally arching its eyebrows like an actor in a commercial who's been asked to wordlessly indicate that cough sweets work.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

It floated away, like a bubble

Ermal Meta e Fabrizio Moro
Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente

I always quite liked the Italian entries as a kid. Not as much as ronenj53, of course. "She is so sensual, the way she walks, the lovely way she presetnts the song" he says about 1985's classic, "and the combination between them is great- they give us the impression that the song was born, for both of them". Yep, it's the story of a beautiful romance between a 54 year old provincial bank manager and a 23 year old counter assistant. Magic, oh magic!

You're stupid just like your smart phone


All of these cool commentators banging on about Cambridge Analytica  and Trump and Skwakbox with all the coherence of a 1200 word media studies essay in the first year of an undergraduate degree think that propaganda, fake news and information wars are new. Pah! 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 with their classic "Ah! Barnaby!", JRTV yanked the broadcast, cut to the news, and falsely announced that the winner was... Belgium!

Friday, 27 April 2018

We said until death do us part and then you chose to break my heart

Ryan O'Shaughnessy

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

Take one or two authentic Irish folk/soul singers, add some lyrics about the countryside and shamrocks, and stir in an arrangement that sounds like a tourist video for the country shown in the breaks on CNN. Add some step dancing, 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.

Why can’t we treat each other well

Ari Ólafsson
Our Choice

I once 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". And I got an EBU biro.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

You can tear off your fair share of me

Viszlát Nyár

So apparently 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- 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?

I wouldn't strike you off the map

Yianna Terzi
Oniro Mou

We all have a hobby. Some of us like painting, or dancing or archery. Some of us are into flashmobbing, or the Wombles. Some of us follow the Hothouse Flowers around on tour. Some people like taking off their shirt and banging their head. All of these people are, of course, massive losers who need to GET A LIFE.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

We were three kids and a loving mum

Michael Schulte
You Let Me Walk Alone

Now now. You might be sat alone at your PC at work at half nine at night, drinking gin from the students' union shop and wallowing in self hatred at memories of recent UK entrants, but even Humperdoink, Blue, Josh Dubovnie, Scooch, Gemini, DJ Daz and that bin man off the X Factor haven't done as badly in the past decade as the Germans.

Apart from that year when Lena sung about wearing new underwear (they're blue- I wore them just the other day), they have done really really fucking badly. Of course, they (like us) are one of the "Big Six" and thus help bankroll the whole thing, so have tended not to care given they (like us) get an automatic ticket to the final (in case you've not noticed there are two semi finals on during the week leading up covered on BBC3, which is why you get three hours in on the Saturday and STILL haven't seen your sweepstake pick).

Kindness will live forever on the earth

Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao
For You

It's not that long ago that the Eurovision audience- largely bored local dignatories in the host countries- were expected to sit still, keep quiet and politely applaud each miserable entry. But ever since the Eastern Europeans started holding it in giant stadiums and cheap air travel meant fans could actually get there, the audience and its cheering and costumes and what our friends in the east brand as "exuberance" have been a big part of the show- holding up their phone torches for the middle eight of ballads, making us look like wankers by dressing in full Union Jack suits behind presenter links, and waving their flags. Their massive flags.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Rising over a wave came another boat

Madame Monsieur

Poor old France. They were instrumental in founding the "Concours Eurovision de la chanson" (and securing funding from the CIA for what was seen as an important bit of pre-Western propaganda), and to this day insist on bits of the presentation on the night being read out in French (hence "Douze Points" and your Nan being confused at us being called "Roy and Minnie"). But right 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.

So tonight i'm making friends with all the creatures that are hiding there under my bed

Saara Aalto

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

Well as luck would have it, in the sale this year in the Eurovision tat shop as well as the obligatory beanie hats, T Shirts, mugs and mouse pads you can "CREATE YOUR OWN SONG CONTEST" by buying Eurovision: The Board Game, which manages to combine two different ways of having people you don't like in your living room into one. What a deal! You get 25 country chips (who've they left out?), 521 cards (hopefully questions I'll nail and everyone else won't even know who Gina G is), 6 pawns, and 1 die. You also get a bunch of these scoring pads which list the things a country needs to win, although if Azerbaijan is one of the included counties you'll note that "international sim cards from a bloke I met in a car park" is not on the list.

Monday, 23 April 2018

I would like it to be a fairy tale around us

Elina Nechayeva
La Forza

My favourite Estonian entry was their 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 knocking back supermarket gin and own brand frazzles with people round that you've since blocked on twitter. In that clip they've even capped Wogan sounding a bit pissed blithering on about accordions and incorrectly pblackicting that "Baltic block voting" would work in Estonia's favour. The daft racist- it came 21st.

Men laying down their swords

Higher Ground

And so to Denmark- home of The Killing, Borgen, one half of the Bridge, Carlsberg, Lego, the Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Anderson, those butter cookies you get in tins, a friend in London (because everyone has a friend in London), these tasty looking Christmas Donuts (nom nom nom) and Emily. You know, Emily. Off of the forest.

I love Denmark, see. It's small, they drink (reassuringly) 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 very well designed and reassuringly expensive kitchen goods when "bang!" there appears indie pop outfit Alphabeat, buying a flourescent green ladle. Although on reflection it is that sort of easy living that killed the young dudes in the high boots.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

By the way she moved got me making a puddle

Czech Republic
Mikolas Josef
Lie To Me

There are some countries that really try. They have big national finals and they send talented X Factor rejects and hire big name songwriters and blow half their GDP on staging and go to all the preview parties and film a lovely touristy postcard. And then there's Czechia.

This year is the seventh year they've enteblack without the Slovaks, and every year has been kick in the teeth rubbish. Take their debut in 2007 when they got three blokes from Kwik Fit to growl their way through three chords. This (lack of) effort earned them precisely one point in the first semi, from Estonia. Things didn't get much better in 2008 when they entered remarkably overproduced "something for the dads" act Tereza Kerndlová, whose astoundingly flat vocals were tempered only by the inclusion of a winged DJ begging us to "Have some fun". We didn't, and they scraped 1 point from Turkey and Malta, 2 points from Croatia and 5 points from Macedonia in their dismal semi.

You got me pelican fly fly flyin’

Eleni Foureira

Oh hello Cyprus, where they drive on the left and launder Russian money. You know, like London only hotter. We used to go to Cyprus on holiday when I was a kid, and I was always badgering to go visit that hauting disused airport in Nicosia but instead we just seemed to visit pirate video shops to buy grainy copies of Die Hard than ran out before the end.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

I will remember roses and horses in the rain

Image result for croatia eurovision heartCroatia

Those were the days. Back in the noughties bookies still regularly placed the UK in the top 5, and we were still completely baffled when phone voters around the living rooms of Europe failed to vote for whatever tuneless noise we'd spat into the content that year. "The UK was robbed!", we'd say, like we say when we lose at every international competition involving a level of competitive skill ever except the Darts. And even that bloke off the Darts is dead now.

We fall off the deep end just to get a rush

Image result for bulgaria eurovision heartBulgaria

"I only saw a little bit of it, and only for a short time. I think we were in the country for maybe 45 minutes, almost all of it at a Metro hipermart, before we turned around and came back home. My impression was 'Wow, what a dump'. Shortly after crossing the border your nose is assaulted by a sulfurous stink that makes you wonder whether you just crossed the Danube, or the River Styx. The parts of the country that I saw were all really run-down and grim. It's possible this is just the area we happened to pass through- but boy what a mess. The industrial parts were like something out of a dystopian-future sci-fi movie, and the residential blocs were dirty and really ugly. But hey, now I can say I've been"

Friday, 20 April 2018

Looking for all this cheap sensation

A Matter Of Time

It's a recurring nightmare. Charleroi 2019. Jean Claude Van Damme is hosting with a script in rhyming triplets. The venue puts mayo in the beer. Every song is a ballad. Technotronic do "Pump up the Jam" in the interval act dressed as that statute of the boy taking a piss whilst three English fans sing along with the words to "Pump up the Bitter" (brew it brew it) instead. It's worse than that year Ireland held it in a cowshed. It's Belgium. The Aldershot of Europe.

Both of us roaming through magnificent sky


"This is Minsk calling. Russia- 12 points".

And so to Belarus, "Europe's last dictatorship" Belarus, home of bonafide Eurovision classic "I love Belarus (got a dick inside)". Listen if you don't believe me.

It's not the only bonafide Eurovision classic they've produced. One of the songs that remains on my iPod to this day is 2006's Polina Smolova writhing around in hot pants singing a song both called, and about, her "Mum" (she was so proud). Or there's 2007's amazing singing David Copperfield tribute act Dmitry Koldun's "Work Your Magic". Or 2009's contest winning folk on coke number "Fairytale" from Alexander Rybak, which would have been Belarus' had Alex not reasonably surmised that out of the two parents' nationality he could pick, Norway would spend more on the staging. And the coke.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Misty moon i'm your loon

X My Heart

Shipwrecks resting in the sea. Oil floating on the water. Plants and soil overlaid with a crust of pain. No, these aren't lyrics- they're FACTS, FACT fans. Welcome to Azerbaijan- the most polluted country in the world.

Azerbaijan you say? Given the Aussies the pressure is sort of off, but their prescence on Saturday night still heralds hundreds of households around the UK slurring "where", almost all of them using the map of Europe in their Thomas Cook brochure- conveniently forgetting that the UK itself is about as comfortable in Europe as Tim Farron at G.A.Y (or, indeed, a Eurovision house party).

Lord I’m gonna get so high tonight

Cesár Sampson
Nobody but you

Just look at the absolute state of this Austrian entry from 2005. The country that brought us Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Falco decided to enter a six-piece folk group in tracksuits doing a Latin song about "a girl from Cuba" infused with yodelling. The chorus "exhorts everyone to dance like the girl would", but the only dancing the sole woman in the group actually does is this bit where she rubs her backside up against a trombonist. Then after they failed to qualify with this aural abscess, their broadcaster pulled out of 2006 and had the brass neck to argue that "talent ... is no longer the determining factor in contest success".

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Don’t you think it’s just a waste of time

Jessica Mauboy
We got love

Do you remember that time when Susan off of Neighbours started to believe that she was 16 years old again and she accidentally wandered into a '70s party and then when her memories started coming back one of the first ones was of her husband Karl snogging his secretary?

Or that time when Toadfish got married to Dee and then he took her for a drive and he lost control of their car and drove off a cliff into the sea and he was fine but her body was never found and then he got married again and a gas bottle exploded during the reception and the marquee got destroyed and his bride Sonya ended up with a fractured skull and no memory of the wedding?

Winds of deaf and dumb winds

Sevak Khanagyan

Sadly, the Pyreneesian principality of Andorra isn't taking part again this year, which is shame because this was an absolute banger. And this. There's loads of great facts about Andorra too- women live longer than men, it has an army of 12 people, the eldest able-bodied man in every family is required by law to keep a loaded rifle, and as a co-principality it's ruled by two princes! Princes who adore you! Just go ahead, now.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Just for one day make this pain subside

Eugent Bushpepa

Hooray! It's the hap-happiest season of all! With those euro type greetings and gay happy meetings when friends come to call! It's the hap-happiest season of all!

Look, it might not seem like a whole twelve months has passed since Kyiv and SalvADORABLE and the return of EPIC SAX GUY and THAT AMAZING SONG FROM ESTONIA THAT I STILL LOVE AND LISTEN TO AND CRY WITH JOY TO EVERY DAY but it is. It really really is. Yes- stow that hand luggage, fasten those seatbelts, order some shots and brace brace- because it’s time for my annual unremittingly miserable Wizz Air flight across the barren wasteland of European pop that is all 43 songs in the 63rd Grand-Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne! Hooray!

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

I'll be back

Reviews will start with Albania on Tuesday 17th April. I'll bet you can't fucking wait.

In the meantime, here's a picture of 'prankster' Vitalii Sediuk from last year's interval act, who's in jail for "aggravated battery", according to Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs, Arsen Avakov.