Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Take my hand and I’ll lead you home

Image result for united kingdom eurovision heart
United Kingdom
Michael Rice
Bigger Than Us

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.

My mind feels like a foreign land

The Netherlands
Duncan Laurence
Arcade

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.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Goin' wild like an animal

Switzerland
Luca Hänni
She Got Me

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. Cuckoo clocks the lot of them.

Maybe I would lit your world with just one spark

Sweden
John Lundvik
Too Late For Love

The other week, in the middle of a wild, exhilarating weekend of bullying a 16-year-old girl, Toby Young got proper excited when he discovered that climate change activist Greta Thunberg's mum had done Eurovision, calling her "privileged".

That's right folks. A noted eugenicist whose dad got him into Cambridge is arguing that the revelation that a teenager's mum came 22nd in Eurovision in 2009 really means that "climate change" is an elaborate ponzi scheme designed to keep the privileged likes of Rylan Clarke in work. Just wait til he finds out who Emily Atack's mother is.


Sunday, 12 May 2019

They buy you because you are for sale

Spain 
Miki
La Venda

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 mutter on about halting freedom of movement, something they will also be denied tomorrow when the campylobacter drenched ham they've just wolfed down takes its revenge.

Like a leaf blows with the wind and resists it

Slovenia
Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl
Sebi

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 better in 2002. Would you like something to suck on for landing, sir?

Saturday, 11 May 2019

The look creeps

Serbia
Nevena Božović
Kruna

And hello hello to Serbia, previous home of the seedy turbofolk lego man, that 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.

You look sad and lonely, is something wrong tonight

Image result for san marino heart eurovisionSan Marino
Serhat
Say Na Na Na

Bless. The entire population of San Marino - Eurovision's smallest participant - could fit inside Expo Tel Aviv, and still leave room for the shawarma 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, 10 May 2019

Though my throat is on fire, my eyes will be liars

Russia
Sergey Lazarev
Scream

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 and a cheesy backing track 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.

I will always be waiting for you to come back home to me

Romania
Ester Peony
On a Sunday

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, 9 May 2019

I broke the cell phone trying to call heaven

Portugal
Conan Osiris
Telemóveis

There are two sorts of Eurovision entry from Portugal. There's the jaunty sort - like this - that you might hear in a pool bar in Albufeira while you're hurling down locally produced spirits as some nineteen year old looks after your children on three days training all of which they were late for. And then there's entries like this. Pure, uncut Portuguese shit.

Harder and harder

Poland
Tulia
Fire of Love (Pali się)

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, 8 May 2019

I am dancing with the fairies now

Norway
KEiiNO
Spirit in the Sky

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. I mean this Sigrid album this year is wall to wall scandibanger. 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.

Don't be afraid to spread your wings and fly

Image result for north macedonia flag eurovisionNorth Macedonia
Tamara Todevska
Proud

The country formerly known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia but now known as North 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).

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Heartbreak was the only thing you left for me

Montenegro
D mol
Heaven

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.

Look into my eyes, fly me high right up to the sky

Moldova
Anna Odobescu
Stay

And so to Moldova, a tiny, landlocked republic wedged between Romania to its west and Ukraine to its north. Imagine if they won it and it was in Chisinau! You'd be rattling along on the train from Romania, wolfing down pork in a restaurant car that looks like your grandma’s front room (a window framed by heavy purple fluted curtains, silk flowers, a faint smell of cigarettes and orange formica tables) when the conductor comes and chats. "The best time in Moldova was at the end of the second world war, after the Romanians had left but before the Russians came" he says - which by my reckoning meant that the country’s glory days lasted for precisely one month.

Monday, 6 May 2019

I can change like the weather

Malta 
Michela
Chameleon

Ah Malta. They love the 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.

If you want to breathe, let's go outside in the open

Lithuania
Jurij Veklenko
Run With The Lions

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 definitely told my mummy that I wanted to go Germany after this- although it turned out that Germany wasn't a land of flamboyant disco warriors after all, but a land of racists taking the piss out of Mongolia.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

It was a lonely night

Latvia 
Carousel
That Night

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.

He smokes shisha. He asks me how I’m doing.

Italy
Mahmood
Soldi

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 that heartwarming story of a beautiful romance between a 56 year old provincial bank manager and a 22 year old counter assistant. Magic, oh magic!

Saturday, 4 May 2019

And now I'm done, I'm coming home

Israel
Kobi Marimi
Home

All of these cool commentators banging on about Russian troll farms 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!

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

Ireland
Sarah McTernan
22

"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.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Universal obfuscation

Iceland
Hatari
Hatrið mun sigra

I once went to a whole academic conference about Eurovision. A 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.

My father has brought me up like the winds

Hungary
Joci Pápai
Az én apám

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?

Thursday, 2 May 2019

What you waiting for, what you waiting fo-or, what you waiting for?

Greece
Katerine Duska
Better Love

Some countries throw half their GDP at Eurovision, but even when your total GDP is the cost of a pint in Copenhagen airport you can still pull off a masterpiece. In 2010 for example the Greeks were so skint they handed the whole business of song picking to Universal Music Europe, and then stuck their "National Final" in the Hellenic equivalent of Westfield, with an tiny audience of customers bored queuing in TK Maxx. Look closely and you won't even see any proper speakers - the sound was piped through the shopping centre PA system as she mimed in the dark.

Banner Katerine Duska

I’m tired, tired of always losing

Germany
S!sters
Sister

Now. You might be sat alone at your PC at work at half nine at night, drinking gin from the corner 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 Five" 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 can get three hours in on the Saturday and STILL not see your sweepstake pick).


Wednesday, 1 May 2019

We heal each others’ wounds with songs

Georgia
Oto Nemsadze
Keep on Going

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.

I’m not in society’s codes I can bother a few

France
Bilal Hassani
Roi

France were instrumental in founding the "Concours Eurovision de la chanson" (and securing funding from the CIA for what was seen at the time as an important bit of pro-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.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

I didn't see this one coming

Finland
Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman
Look Away

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 knobhead 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 mats (mouse mats?) 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 Tel Aviv car park" is not on the list.

I've hit highs and I've hit lows

Estonia
Victor Crone
Storm

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

Monday, 29 April 2019

The good times aren't over yet

Denmark
Leonora
Love Is Forever

It's Denmark - home of The Killing, Borgen, one half of the Bridge, Carlsberg, Lego, the (highly underwhelming) 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's precisely that sort of easy living that killed the young dudes in the high boots.

She was my neighbour when we were thirteen

Czech Republic
Lake Malawi
Friend of a Friend

There are some countries that really try. They have big national finals and send talented try-hard 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 eighth year in a row they've entered without the Slovaks, and every year has been  rubbish. Take their debut in 2007 when they got three mechanics from Kwik Fit to morbidly growl their way through three chords of misery. 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 overproduced "something for the dads" act Tereza Kerndlová, whose flat vocals were tempered only by the inclusion of a winged DJ imploring 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.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Heart beats like an 808

Cyprus
Tamta
Replay

And so to 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 the Goonies than ran out before the e

Turn this war into a hopeful work of art

Image result for croatia eurovision heartCroatia
Roko
The Dream

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.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

No one will cry if it’s true

Belgium
Eliot
Wake Up

It's a recurring nightmare. Charleroi 2020. 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.

Ok, put your favourite sneakers on

Belarus
ZENA
Like It

"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.

Friday, 26 April 2019

I'm in the mirror, so freaking bitter

Azerbaijan
Chingiz
Truth

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? Well given the Aussies are in these days the pressure is sort of off, but their presence at the contest still means that in hundreds of households around the UK, little Englanders start slurring "where", almost all of them using the map of Europe in their Thomas Cook brochure - momentarily forgetting that the UK itself is about as comfortable in Europe as Arlene Foster at G.A.Y (or, indeed, a Eurovision house party).

I’m set on hold so I needn’t be bold anymore


Austria
PÆNDA
Limits

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".

Thursday, 25 April 2019

You’re so heavy

Australia
Kate Miller-Heidke
Zero Gravity

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?

When you have to fight the agony

Armenia
Srbuk
Walking Out

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.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

So much nostalgia, so little hope


Albania
Jonida Maliqi
Ktheju tokës

Here we go again! Here we go-go-go to the temple of consumption!

Can you believe that? It says here that the lyrics to Stakka Bo's 1993 smash "Here we go" were not, actually, "to the topper topper pop charts" (which is what I've been singing to myself ever since) but were, in fact, a biting comment on late capitalism! The lyrics to his only other "hit" (reaching #64 in the UK Top 40) were easier to understand, to be honest.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

It's that time again

This year's Eurovision preview blog will be back with a banger (or, more accurately, a dreadful mid-tempo ordeal) from Albania on Wednesday 24th April, twice a day til the contest in May. I'm about as excited about it as you are.

Image result for gif i knew you were waiting