Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Together we’ll dance through this storm

United Kingdom
Lucie Jones
Never Give Up On You

I remember it vividly. It's my earliest memory. 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.

Of course I remember none of that. I was four. Mum and Dad had gone out for chicken in a basket and a blue comic and a star turn (Sharon Diamond, doing the hits of Shirley Bassey) at the club, leaving me and my little brother at me nan's. We were allowed to stay up for a bit, but nan had packed us off to bed after Prima Donna had performed for the UK with the lamentable "Love Enough for Two". But Uncle Nigel knew the score. He'd tucked us in and left Radio 2 on quietly in the corner- and I remember as clear as day clutching the bed covers with wide eyed excitement as the de-borda boat rolled in and secured Johnny Logan's first, and Ireland's second victory.

I was hooked. Kitschy, sclagery pop. An unnecessarily complex voting system. Of course I loved the Eurovision, right from back when it still had orchestras and satellite delays and botched up archery stunts. Throughout my childhood 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.

It's our time to shine


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 last year Ukraine went all heavy, largely because 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, 8 May 2017

So don't pull the rug from underneath us


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.

On a scale of one to ten you got the biggest score

The Netherlands
Lights and Shadows

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, 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. Click here if you don't believe me.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

I wanna take off all my clothes

Robin Bengtsson
I Can't Go On

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.

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 Lynda Woodruff. 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 Gothenburg. And Stockholm.

Let the pain and sorrow just go away

Manel Navarro
Do It For Your Lover

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.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Still hiding in my shell and keeping to myself

Omar Naber
On My Way

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?

There is another reason. It's an amazing country. Its people are friendly, its restaurants are cheap, its caves are dramatic, its climate is lovely and its the safest I've felt at night in any European country ever. We went there on holiday last year and we loved it. Sure, it's a Poundland Italy, but stop being such a fucking snob about Poundland. I saw you, scoffing that box of Pergale chocolates like a dog on its cock.

Feels like I’ve been sentenced to life

Tijana Bogićević
In Too Deep

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.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Burning like St. Elmo’s fire

San Marino
Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson
Spirit of the Night

Bless. The entire population of San Marino- Eurovision's smallest participant- could fit inside the International Exhibition Centre in Kyiv and still leave room for the meatball 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.

But now I know that seeing is believing

Julia Samoylova
Flame is Burning

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.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Sitting alone at my desk on a 9 to 5 program- it just won't do

Ilinca ft. Alex Florea
Yodel It!

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.

Worn out and with nothing left to give

Salvador Sobral
Amar Pelos Dois

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.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

You call the dogs off, I got them hypnotized

Kasia Moś

Like I was saying in Montenegro, if anything was a talking point, Poland 2014 was. Remember? You must do. It wasn't 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 Krakow.

Got eyes in my neck but I’m absent

Grab The Moment

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 version of Jar of hearts. Like this or this or this. That would do too.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

The spaceship is ready to blow

Slavko Kalezić

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.

She`ll be back home till sunrise

Sunstroke Project
Hey Mamma

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, 1 May 2017

My feet are worn but they can handle the cold

Claudia Faniello

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 no points and then send them thousands of gurning, thuggish holidaymakers to urinate against their beach bars and harass their daughters every summer.

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. We even gave them points when they had 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.

Breaking the rational views and narrow limits

Rain Of Revolution

It feels like the Lithuanians started their national selection process for this year in the early nineties, 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- 49 songs whittled down to one over 26 hours of tedious telly.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Where we draw the line?

Triana Park

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 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.

The naked ape is dancing

Francesco Gabbani
Occidentali's Karma

I mean YES the week I got married was literally amazing and YES the weeks Daisy Dickinson and Benjamin Dickinson were 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").

Saturday, 29 April 2017

It's like an hourglass, and you like trouble

I feel alive

Normally Israel's entry is a downbeat ballad in Hebrew (sometimes lifted by Judy Finnegan's National Television Awards dress, sometimes not) but do you remember that bit in 2015 when the Israeli lad appeared with big golden boots and delivered a massive party banger? It was a massive Justin Timberwank Tel Avivian party bangalangathon with ethic beats and daft lyrics about Nadav being the "King of Fun". "Before you leave let me show you Tel Aviv" he said in a pair of extraordinary winged shoes, and off we all went to Tel Aviv on that new Easyjet route from Luton for £29 (one way).

No one can promise that love will ever learn how to fly

Brendan Murray
Dying to Try

"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.

Friday, 28 April 2017

I’m stuck like glue to you


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.

At the age of four God talked to me

Joci Pápai

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- 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?"

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Remember how we laughed and played around

This is love

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 Stockholm and cobbled together another masterpiece of Hellenic Stilleto-Pop.

Gathering thorns from the stems of a thousand roses

Perfect Life

Now now. You might be sat alone at your PC, drinking supermarket Gin and wallowing in self hatred at memories of recent UK entrants, but even Humperdink, Blue, Josh Dubovnie, Scooch, Gemini, DJ Daz and that wriggling bin man 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), they have done 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).

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Who told you to get out of the way?

Tamara Gachechiladze
Keep The Faith

To be honest the Trump inauguration was terrible TV. He didn't fluff his lines, Obama didn't chin him, the stage didn't collapse and he actually because the actual 45th President of the USA. In fact it got so bad that halfway through I changed the channel and watched the 2017 Georgian National Final instead for something marginally less painful. It was just as bad as you'd imagine, with just one bearable song by Georgian "internet sensation" and top theseus' paradox/trigger's broom/sugababes girl group "Trio Mandili".

Our rips, our declines


Poor old France. They helped found the "Concours Eurovision de la chanson" and still 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. Since then every other country that's joined Europe's biggest party has realised it's all about bright colours, key changes, flashmobs, fire curtains, sequins, exploding cubes (can Eric beat the cube) and prosthetic devil masks. France, on the other hand, annually rolls out a dreary existential piano ballad, shrugs and goes home again. They're like a rock solid gold guaranteed toilet break country.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Don't nestle here go find lovers of your own

Norma John

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 (the contest always was pretty retro) you can buy a Eurovision themed Cushion! "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 Swedish Eurovision fans roll on the big night. "Start your collection of Eurovision Song Contest Cushions today" it continues, forgetting to mention that a "collection" of Eurovision Song Contest Cushions would consist of precisely one cushion.

I got a feel good infatuation

F.Y.R. Macedonia
Jana Burčeska
Dance Alone

Well this is a turn up for the knigi. The (Former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonians have 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 entirity as I took a carefully timed three minute wizz (air).

But this is a proper contender. There's a slice of Katy Perry, a cube of Kylie Minogue, a pinch of Kelly Clarkson and even a slither of Alexandra Stan- a proper bona-fide 80s infused pop song with a hooky post chorus and a talneted singer and everything. It bangs.

Monday, 24 April 2017

You wake up with a bottle in your hands

Koit Toome & Laura

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 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 predicting that "Baltic block voting" would work in Estonia's favour. The daft racist- it came 21st.

Putting up my walls so that I last better

Where I am

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.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

You know that I love it when you call

Czech Republi
Martina Bárta
My Turn

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.

Let me be your heart and your company


Oh hello Cyprus, where they drive on the left and launder Russian money. I'm busy this morning so I'm going to hand over to the world's fifth best eurovision fanblogger @germanyesc to issue his juicy verdict.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

There's a miracle my friend and it happens every day

Jacques Houdek
My Friend

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 fucking Darts.

Even up against the wall

Kristian Kostov
Beautiful Mess

"I only saw a little bit of it, and only for a short time. I think we were in 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 -I wouldn't want anyone judging America based on Gary, Indiana for example -- but boy howdy 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, 21 April 2017

All alone in the flame of doubt

City Lights

Oh my living god. It's 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 in 2013 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.

The sun will sparkle in our blood

Story of my life

And so to Belarus, landlocked 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, 20 April 2017

I can only trick you once, bad boy


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 renowned Eurovision cheat nation Azerbaijan- the most polluted country in the world.

Azerbaijan you say? The pressure is sort of off given the Aussies' entry, but their prescence on Saturday night still heralds hundreds of households around the UK yelling "AS IF Azerbaijan is in Europe", 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).

"Cleopatra, queen of ancient Egypt, bathed in asses’ milk for the good of her complexion", begins the Daily Mail's hatchet job, "but in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, an even more surprising treatment is on offer. Disrobing from their Gucci or Oscar de la Renta outfits, the ladies who lunch lie naked in baths of crude oil, believing, as did Marco Polo, that the warming effects of 40C crude cure skin diseases, rheumatism, arthritis and even ‘nerves’".

If you let me drown, I’ll swim like a champion

Nathan Trent
Running on air

Wir sollten nicht zu gewinnen!

Usually when it comes to Eurovision Austria are useless. Absolutely useless. Marzipan dildo useless. But then came Wurst.

Eurovision 2014 was like we'd fucking time travelled. We were in a weird and wonderful world where everything was different. I was in a disused ship yard thinking maybe outside the Polar icecaps had melted. Maybe there's fucking robots knocking about, and Davina McCall's the new pope. Maybe you can download rice.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

You couldn’t be more wrong

Don't come easy

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?

Or that time when Pinkie Tuscadero crashed Fonzie's bike and I lost all my money to those card sharps and my dad Tom Bosley had to win it all back? Oh hold on. That was Happy Days. So to speak.

She took it all into her space

Fly with me

No Andorra this year (they're probably off playing with guns- I mean literally- the male head of each family in Andorra is required to own a gun, fact fans) so here we are in Armenia. 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 end of an era ethnopop banger "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). Also, chess is compulsory in schools, they have the world’s longest cable car ride and best of all, they all LOVE the underrated fruit of apricot. Boom Boom, Chaka Chaka.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

I'm Weak and i'm afraid


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 Stockholm and Jamala and IVAN and his LIVE WOLVES and THAT AMAZING SONG FROM FRANCE 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 (or perhaps now only 42) songs in the 62nd Grand-Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne! Hooray!