Saturday, 28 April 2018

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!

Normally Israel's entry is a downbeat ballad in Hebrew (sometimes lifted by Judy Finnegan's National Television Awards dress, sometimes not) but I think we all remember that moment 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).

Given the format for this year's selection involved an exhausting 22 different shows (and even at the end they only picked the singer not the song) I'll confess that I didn't follow HaKokhav HaBa L'Eurovizion ("The Next Star for Eurovision") all too closely, and even after she'd won, apart from some insider baseball about whether she'd get away with using a vocal loop machine, I was all just meh. 

But then after the song leaked Twitter told me that "Israel are entering the Chicken Song" and I'm like SAY WHAT. Lest we forget that back in 1986 some rubber puppets topped the UK Charts for three weeks with a parody of summer holiday disco songs  ("Agadoo", "Do the Conga" etc) called The Chicken Song, and I sold photocopied lyrics to it for 10p a go in the playground. It was also my first unwitting go at political activism, given I included the lyrics to the B-Side as a bonus, which didn't half baffle Mrs Garbutt at break.

Anyway Netta wasn't of course entering a 32 year old parody song, they were referring to Netta's funny chicken noises at the start, and the general opinions were either "silly Eurovision novelty song" or worse, variations on the idea of Netta (and specifically her appearance/weight) being "divisive".

But then people started listening to the song.

It's astonishing. First, Netta has an amazing voice and carries it effortlessly live. Next, you start understanding the lyrics- “wonder woman don’t you ever forget, you’re divine and he’s about to regret” she sings, belting out a #MeToo movement anthem that's gloriously uncompromising about its messaging, mainlining on putting misogynists in their place and building women's confidence. The chorus goes "I’m not your toy, you stupid boy", according to Netta the chicken noises are supposed to imitate the voices of a coward ("someone who doesn’t act the way he/she feels and treats you like a toy”) and even the bits in Hebrew are purposeful- "Ani Lo Buba” translates as "I’m not a puppet".

As for the rest of it, it's a triumphant return of the Eurovision ethno-pop banger- there's a unique hook, an catchy melody, plenty of sass and some super Mizrahi sounds all at an appropriate beats per minute. Snivelling Salvador from Portugal last year spoiled his win and offended a continent of fans at the 2am press conference by saying that "we live in a world of disposable, fast food music", and arrogantly argued that "music is not fireworks, music is feeling, and this could be a victory for music that actually means something". Well guess what Salvador. Netta Barzilai from Israel making Pikachu references is both fireworks, feeling and meaning all in one- and all being well before you leave Netta will show you Tel Aviv when the contest is hosted there in 2019.