Tuesday, 10 May 2016

I feel like I'm dancing in the sky

United Kingdom
Joe and Jake
You're not alone

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 round me Nan's house while my parents were out listening to a blue comic in a club is my earliest memory. 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.

They kill you all and say we’re not guilty


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 this year Ukraine have gone all a bit heavy, largely because their entry recounts Stalin’s deportation of Crimean Tatars from their native Crimea. Jamala opens 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, 9 May 2016

Guess I’m running scared guess I’m running on empty

The Netherlands
Douwe Bob
Slow down

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. Google it if you don't believe me.

Soldier, take off your armour

The last of our kind

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.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Rehearsin my pretty please

If I were sorry

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.

Hello Hello Mr. Danger

Say yay!

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, 7 May 2016

Strange chords, different worlds

Blue and Red

I 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. I went there on holiday this year and I 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 like a dog on its cock.

I lick my wounds so many times so that I can keep on fighting

Sanja Vučić ZAA
Goodbye (Shelter)

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, 6 May 2016

I want to sleep upon your skin

San Marino
I didn't know

Bless. The entire population of San Marino- Eurovision smallest participant- could fit inside the Globen arena in Stockholm 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.

Thunder and lightning it's getting exciting

Sergey Lazarev
You are the only one

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

Thursday, 5 May 2016

This hate is burning my soul

Ovidiu Anton
Moment of Silence

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.

'Couse ther's no smoke without fire

Michael Szpak
Color of your life

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.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

It takes a lot of nerve to save a life


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 a sort of BBC4 version of Jar of hearts. That would do too.

Spinning shadows on the walls

The real thing

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.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The thought of us all disappeared

Lidia Isac
Falling stars

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.

I’m not perfect but I’m a-ok

Ira Losco
Walk on water

Ah, lovely Malta. They won Junior this year like a boss with this brilliant, soulful, energetic performance that pretty much puts to shame the bulk of this year's entries in the grown up contest.

See, 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 ever 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.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Aaaaaaaa aaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaa

Donny Montell
I've been waiting for this night

"I've been waiting for tonight", sings the Lithuanian artist. He's not wrong- he's been waiting for ages. 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.

I’m getting wild when I’m alone


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.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

And then I felt an emotion flare up quickly

Francesca Michielin
No Degree Of Separation

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").

There's no floor and there's no ceiling

Hovi Star
Made of stars

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 last year when the Israeli lad appeared with big golden boots and delivered a massive party banger? It was a massive 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 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).

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Just touch who you wanna

Nicky Byrne

"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.

We shiver as we step into the cold, cold night

Greta Salóme
Hear Them Calling

Last year 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".

Friday, 29 April 2016

They don’t know how to value uniqueness


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?"

Vodka it is, then, and whatever else time brings

Utopian Land

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.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Can we get an alternate ending, ooooohoohoh


They're not a lucky lot, the Germans. Take last year. In the BBC's version of The Voice, the romance of the blind audition format used to end abruptly after the blind auditions, when Tom Jones' varifocals would hone in on the wildly ugly contestants that Will "Catfood" Iams has just emitted an enthusiastic bleepy sound to, bundled off to obscurity in the battle rounds as prettier faces took hold. Over in Germany the less likely looking popstar actually won, and Andreas Kümmert- a man who looked like he'd spent a lot of time on his own sofa watching Game of Thrones with his hand down his tracksuit bottoms- represented quite a triumph for the format- an incredible, soulful, emotional, bluesy voice with the image of someone who did his weekly shopping in Bargain Booze.

I reached around the bed and grabbed a cigarette out of your bag

Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz
Midnight Gold

It wouldn't be unfair to say that whilst the Georgians have been happy to take part since 2007, they've not exactly looked like they wanted the contest to come home to the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, their entries tending to flit between the insipid and the oddly aggressive. Hence in 2008 we got off the shelf rent-a-peace anthem "Peace Will Come", and then a year later they tried to enter "We Don't Wanna Put In", a not so subtle reference to Putin, which the EBU banned for being political. So what about this year? Well I'm sorry to say this. They've entered a Britpop song.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

I have looked for a sense to my existence

J'ai cherche

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 gold guaranteed toilet break country.

There's no need to be carrying a frown

Sing it away

Any Birthdays coming up? Wondering what to get for that special loved one in your life? Need an "ironic" present for that hateful Brexit 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 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 the Dutch Eurovision fans roll on the big night. "Start your collection of Eurovision Song Contest Cushions today" it continues, unfathomably.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Dona, Dona, Dona, Dona

F.Y.R. Macedonia

What's that tune you recognise in the background to Kaliopi's Dona? Canon in D you say? Eh?

In 2002, right wing train loving koi carp owning blustermouth godfather of pop music producer Pete Waterman described Canon in D as "almost the other godfather of pop music because we've all used that in our own ways for the past 30 years". Canon in D? You know, a canon by German Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel in his Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo sometimes referred to as Canon and Gigue in D or simply Canon in D. No?

Let's go undecided till we know

Jüri Pootsmann

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 daft racist- it came 21st.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Gonna climb the wall

Lighthouse X
Soldiers of love

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 attractive kitchen goods when "bang!" there appears indie pop outfit Alphabeat, buying a flourescent green ladle. It's that sort of easy living that killed the young dudes in the high boots.

I’ve made mistakes with the monsters in my head

Czech Republic
Gabriela Gunčíková
I Stand

£10.50 for a beer? Jesus. Can we please have a country win that isn't Nordic next year? Like Czechia. They'd do.

I think we can all agree that this is the Czech Republic's best ever Eurovision entry. Why? Well it's largely because this is only the fifth time they've entered without the Slovaks and every time their songs have been beyond awful.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Waking up alone like a man that failed

Minus One
Alter Ego

Oh god Cyprus. It's really a boring rock song (you know the sort of thing- stubble, wolves, pylons, broken TVs in what looks like the outskirts of Wrexham, etc) so I'm going to hand over to the world's best fanblogger David Popescu to issue his verdict.

So I steer to the pier in tears

Nina Kraljić

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.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Locked up for life but I'll do the time

Poli Genova
If love was a crime

What, dear reader is your dream? Winning the lottery? High political office? Fast cars? Desert islands? Not for Poli Genova from Bulgaria. "I dream of being on the great stage, meeting new people, my colleagues from across Europe", she said back in 2011. But what experience could deliver all of that? "My dream is to represent Bulgaria in the Eurovision Song Contest". Aha! And guess what. "That was my dream! My dream came true!”. Indeed it did, in Dusseldorf, where Poli sang a song about Bulgaria's 20% youth unemployment problem.

I hear the devil is laughing, I know the end will be tragic

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dalal and Deen feat. Ana Rucner and Jala
Ljubav Je

Do you remember that time George Michael was so stoned he drove his car into Snappy Snaps? I know. Sometimes it's hard to work out if your more surreal memories are actual memories.

Back in the early 00s the contest had got a little too big for its time slot- as former Soviet and Yugoslavian states started entering three minute slices of shite in their own right as a way of proclaiming their entry on to the world stage. We could have got into the spirit of this, cheering on their amateurish attempts at pop, but instead we resolved to leave an increasingly bitter Terry Wogan chuntering away in the commentary box, whingeing about block voting as an excuse for getting piss poor scores off the back of piss poor entries whilst televoters in new countries underdstandably voted for songs that sounded like songs they knew, or gaudy disco bangers, or both.

Friday, 22 April 2016

I see massive walls weighing down the people all around

Laura Tesoro
What's the pressure

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 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.

Do you remember when you were younger

Help you fly

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' nationalality he could pick, Norway would spend more on the staging.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Yeah, we built this castle based on lies


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. 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 Jim Davidson at G.A.Y (or, indeed, a Eurovision house party).

And they laugh, they go for it, all together, tipsy, into carelessness

Loin d'ici

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, 20 April 2016

Trying to feel your love through face time

Dami Im
Sound of Silence

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? No. Neither do I.

And so to Austri... hold on. Stone the flamin' crows y' great galah! The EBU have only gone and let Austraaaaalia in again. Strike me pink!

Look, I know it might sound strange but suddenly I’m not the same I used to be

Iveta Mukuchyan

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. 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); plus chess is compulsory in schools, they have the world’s longest cable car ride and best of all, they LOVE apricots. Boom Boom. Chaka Chaka.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

But comes a day when it's not enough

Eneda Tarifa

Is it that time of year already? Look, it might not seem like a whole twelve months has passed since Vienna and Mans and Birds Eye Potato Waffles and THAT AMAZING SONG FROM RUSSIA 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 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 (christ!) songs in the 61tst Grand-Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne! Hooray!