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).
They love Eurovision in Azerbaijan. For a start they're so into it that they play a compilation of their past entries on the escalators and platforms of the Baku Metro. If we played Daz Sampson and Gemini on the Tube we'd have nine suicides an hour, an RMT strike and George Galloway as Mayor.
In fact they love it so much that not only have they been involved in countless vote rigging scandals (what is that Kissinger quote about student politics) they also blew a whopping £600 million hosting in 2012, despite the fact that it failed to pull off the intended legitimisation of the country- largely because everyone still thinks that the place is a rotten dictatorship, chock full of human rights abuses and a gap between rich and poor wider than the Caspian Sea.
This year they've expressed that love by putting their hands in their stuffed pockets, filling up a suitcase of cash and calling up Dimitris Kontopoulos (he wrote 2016's televote-topping Russian entry) and Swedish songwriter Sandra Bjurman, the writer of Azerbaijan's bafflingly successful entry "Running Scared" in 2011, the overrated "Drip Drop" in 2010, the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin "When The Music Dies" in 2012, and my fave of hers, Ukraine's extraordinary mousewheel thing "Tick Tock" in Ukraine 2014.
All over the internet people (well, obsessive weirdos that write Eurovision blogs) are going bananas about the lyrics. Patrick319, for example says "WE'RE STRONGER THAN CANNONBALLS? MISTY MOON I'M YOUR LUNE? Azerbaijan's song makes absolutely no sense". Well actually Partrick Aisel in Azerbi means "the path that leads you to the moon" and Aisel feels "a strong connection with the lyrics of the song, since believing in myself made me overcome several difficulties; believing in yourself can make you stronger than cannonballs". So there. You massive racist.
Anyway. What exactly was wrong with "The cat is happy, the dog is happy, the cat is happy, the dog is happy”? Or "The difference between people, between apes and primates, it-it’s not much bigger, than between noodles and pancake stripes”? Or "I got only one rule, always stay cool like a swimming pool”. OK fair enough. That was terrible.
The actual song is excellent by the way. It's really really brilliant. It's better than that Gino Ginelli Ice Cream they used to have with bits of fudge in. It's a slice of bouncy, moody, contemporary pop that manages the extraordinary feat of combining sounding Azerbi whilst also sounding appealing. It makes me want to dance, and sing, and kiss pigeons, and help the aged, and whistle, and shine a light to light the way. Aisel is great, it's got a proper earwormy hook and in her postcard she's in an uplifting happy happy airbaloon that I'm begging makes it into the Altice arena and somehow gets sent to sector 4, row 12, seat 7 and smashes me in the head and bursts its joy into my happy happy face.
You do get the feeling she's been a bit shoehorned in mind. "I’m more of a pianist than a vocalist. In fact, I have a professional piano education. I have been doing this since I was 6 years old. In Lisbon there will not be any elements associated with the piano and my piano career. This song is more of a dance character. So, I will perform in a different role. I will have more active movements on the stage- it's not quite dancing, but something different". You know, like when Arnoldas Lukošius off of Lithuania did this. Not quite dancing- something different.
The good news is that this being the Azerbis, they'll have some big guns (probably literally) lined up for the staging. "We’ve already have many ideas on hypnotising stage presentation", says stage director Fokas Evangelinos, which either makes me think Hugh's neice Krystyna Lennon is about to cancel a students' union tour date or that the Azerbis still have a few tricks (and crisp 20 manat notes) up their sleeve.
Firewalls! Rhymed with Cannonballs! BRILLIANT.