Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Down here in the ashes

Image result for united kingdom eurovision heartUnited Kingdom
James Newman

Do you remember when we were kids with no fear? I do. I remember, vividly. It was 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.

Sowing, sowing, sowing, sowing hemp plants


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. You used to be able to rely on Ukraine to bring some uptempo cheer - like when Tina Karol danced to an accordion number, or when Ani Lorak did Shady Lady, or when Verka Serduchka did that one nobody knows the name of (It was “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”, you ignoramus).

Monday, 17 May 2021

Deep currents running in the rivers of your eyes

The Netherlands
Jeangu Macrooy
Birth Of A New Age

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'd come to entertainment in a decade 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.

Sunday, 16 May 2021

At the centre of the rifts where everything explodes

Gjon's Tears
Tout l'Univers

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.

Painting all the scars in the colours of change


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 “Queen of the Jungle” Atack's mother is.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

What difference does it make if the world collapses today

Blas Cantó
Voy A Quedarme

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.

Learn to count your blessings down

Ana Soklič

I’ve always had 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?

Friday, 14 May 2021

Not being with me is your flaw

Loco Loco

And so to Serbia, previous home of the 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.

Cause she know to do my body like hot coals

Image result for san marino heart eurovisionSan Marino

Bless. The entire population of San Marino - Eurovision's smallest participant - could fit inside Ahoy Rotterdam, and still leave room for the stroopwafel 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.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

You're strong enough to bounce against the wall

Russian Woman

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, and to be honest they all need to get a life.

I, on the other hand, am quite different. I live life to the full, with conviction and purpose. You see, when I'm not tending to my collection of MP3s of Eurovision entries over the years, or my extensive collection of sung local radio jingles through the ages, I document, collect and catalogue video clips of Eurovision interval acts- ready to hand down to the next generation of Dickinsons.

They keep preaching words like I should know


Why do they do this? Team Romania describe ROXEN as “a labyrinth of an artist, with a dreamy sound and mesmerising voice that creates an entirely new universe with every release”- and TVR’s press release argues that it’s “hard to disagree given the breadth of material the Cluj-Napoca chanteuse has released in recent times”.

“With a dreamy vibe and a cosmic look, Roxen thinks that music is a sort of therapy for her, but also for her fans”, it says. “Her songs possess the magical power of healing and bringing harmony. Her music is universal, just like love. Roxen is also passionate about other artistic fields: painting, acting, writing and dance. Roxen finds relaxation in meditating and travelling. Roxen would like her music to travel beyond the planet Earth in the Universe.”

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Sold my body on a dirty cold floor

The Black Mamba
Love Is On My Side

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 dreary Portuguese shit.

It says here that the group “Black Mamba” feel most at home playing live gigs and concerts, and have enjoyed playing on some of the most iconic festival stages there are. At the Festival Marés Vivas in Porto, The Black Mamba shared the main stage with Lenny Kravitz, John Legend, Jamie Cullum and The Script.

Hold on real tight make it alright

The Ride

The Swish Family Dickinson went on a beach holiday at Easter to Poland the other year, and it was glorious.

I don’t mean the weather - it pissed it down all week and was bitterly bloody cold - but while downing cans of Polish lager I discovered an extraordinary strain of Polish schlager, called “Disco Polo”.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

I’m fighting all of my demons tryna tear me apart

Fallen Angel

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 even the A*Teens. And do you know what I also don't mind from a place like Norway? Three minutes of miserable nordic noir, like this. That’s fine too.

There is something both glorious and utterly miserable about spending January and February watching Eurovision finals from around Europe. It's glorious because you end up with a Spotify playlist of about 250 new scandi hits and Moldovan shits to get you into work in the morning. But it's also miserable, because utterly amazing songs end up being rejected by boring, play-it-safe televoters from their host countries.

My walls are down and my heart in your hand

Image result for north macedonia flag eurovisionNorth Macedonia
Here I Stand

The country formerly known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia but now known as North Macedonia barely ever makes it past the semi finals, and even then they tend not to deserve it - I mean look at this balkan trouser-suit ballad that I managed to miss in its entirety as I took a carefully timed three minute wizz (air). As if!

Monday, 10 May 2021

Compared to you no one has anything to brag about

Natalia Gordienko

And so to Moldova, a tiny, landlocked republic wedged between Romania to its west and Ukraine to its north that, fact fans, is officially the least visited country in Europe. I can’t imagine why.

Mind you - imagine if they won it and it was in Chisinau! You'd be rattling along on the train from Romania on your way to the CHISINAU CIRCUS: THE PREMIER EVENTS HALL IN ALL OF MOLDOVA wolfing down some kind of pork dish 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.

Listen and go right ahead show you’re shining bright

Je Me Casse

Ah Malta. Lovely lovely 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 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.

Sunday, 9 May 2021

I feel it’s safe to dance alone

The Roop

I was at this thing on Zoom the other day in a breakout room 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 pretty hot air balloon ascending the heavens and gliding across a landscape of idle thoughts, while back on Earth my face was beaming onto their QHD+ screen in eye watering, razor sharp lifelike detail saying "mmm" and "ooh" and "really?" and occasionally arching its eyebrows like an actor in an advert who’s been asked to wordlessly indicate that his cough lozenges work.

If you got something to say, say it to my face

Samanta Tīna
The Moon Is Rising

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?"

Well I just don't know really- there's these bewitching Maltese eyes from 2004, this Macedonian masterpiece from 2000 that sounds like your annoying little sister has formed a girl group in your kitchen or perhaps the Swiss entry from 2004 when the lead singer was so excited that he smacked himself in the face with his mic.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

If you find the sense of time you will rise from your oblivion

Zitti E Buoni

I always quite liked the Italian entries when I was a kid. Not as much as ronenj53, of course. "She is so sensual, the way she walks, the lovely way she presents 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 indeed.

Feeling like in prison

Eden Alene
Set Me Free

All of these cool commentators banging on about Russian troll farms and Trump and the Canary 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. Well I’ve got news for you, sunshine.

Back in 1978, for example, Jordanian broadcaster JRTV decided to replace the performance of the Israeli entry with pictures of daffodils. 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!

Friday, 7 May 2021

All the signs, all of the mistakes

Lesley Roy

"I was born in a distant 1980. The year of the Irish Johnny Logan war"

Ah yes. 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 CNNi. Add in a bit of stepdancing, 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 bought a house in Ireland to save on airfares.

I can’t remember the last time I was bored

Daði og Gagnamagnið
10 Years

Hungary aren’t in it again this year - Orban reckons it’s all a bit too LGBT+ - which is a shame, because I used to enjoy the bit every year when their artist would turn up at an outdoor swimming pool and sing their song to a bunch of bored looking pensioners.

So where next? Oh it’s the runaway favourite. Last year’s runaway favourite. Iceland.

I once went to a whole academic conference about Eurovision. It was 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.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

My heart was born a radical

Last Dance

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.

I really don't care that you want to bash me

I Don't Feel Hate

Now. You might be sat alone at your laptop staring at the election results, drinking a can of Breakers 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 they’ve 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, 5 May 2021

Wind blow I wanna see you

Tornike Kipiani

It's not that long ago that the Eurovision audience - largely bored local dignitaries 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.

Here I am in the noise and in the fury too

Barbara Pravi

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. Every other country that's joined Europe's biggest party has realised it's all about bright colours, and key changes, and flashmobs, and fire curtains, and sequins, and exploding cubes (can Eric beat the cube) and prosthetic devil masks. France, on the other hand, rolls out a dreary existential piano ballad every year, shrugs and goes home again. They're like a rock solid gold guaranteed toilet break country.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Lifestyles of the sick and dangerous

Blind Channel 
Dark Side

Any birthdays coming up? Wondering what to get for that special loved one in your life? Need an "ironic" present for that 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 for the bargain price of €50. What a steal!

Thought I had a cloud over my head

Uku Suviste
The Lucky One

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 liquorsave gin and own brand frazzles with people round that you've since blocked on twitter. In this version you can even hear 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.

There was a time when the Estonians would enter "five girls in the playground pretending to be the Spice Girls" dross like this, but these days Estonia have an upsetting selection process that every year takes a ton of interesting and unusual indie stuff and slowly knocks out all the quirks until you're left with something pointlessly bland and generic. Back in 2013 for example they could have sent unpleasant multicoloured unitard punk band "Winny Pugh", but instead opted for this toilet break ballad that can't even be bothered to deliver the key change it barely builds up for. What an absolute bunch of clowns.

Monday, 3 May 2021

We'll never be more alive than right here and now

Fyr Og Flamme
Øve Os På Hinanden

And so to Denmark, home of The Killing, the Borgen, one half of the Bridge, the Carlsberg, the Lego, the (highly underwhelming) Little Mermaid, the 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. Her off the forest.

I love Denmark. It's small. They drink (reassuringly) expensive beer. The public transport's good. They have a theme park right 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 well designed and 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.

There is no apocalypse long as you're here on my lips

Czech Republic
Benny Cristo

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 fifteenth year in a row they've entered without the Slovaks, and every year has been rusty nail in the foot rubbish. Their underwhelming debut in 2007 consisted of three mechanics from Kwik Fit morbidly growling, a (lack of) effort that earned them precisely one point in the first semi, from Estonia.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Hotter than sriracha on our bodies

Elena Tsagrinou
El Diablo

And so to Cyprus, where they drive on the left and launder Russian money. You know, like London only warmer. 

We used to go to Cyprus on holiday when I was a kid, and I was always badgering to go visit that haunting 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

Don’t over complicate now we’re in war zone

Image result for croatia eurovision heartCroatia
Tick Tock

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.

I'm torn by nervous system's aching

Growing Up Is Getting Old

"I only saw a little bit of it, and only for a short time. I think we were in the country for maybe 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, but boy 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."

Saturday, 1 May 2021

I see your smiley face that makes me wanna cry

The wrong place

In normal circumstances we’d be in Belarus next, but things have gone a bit wrong in Lukashenko’s little dictatorship this year. Belarussian boomer-pop sensation Galasy ZMesta popped up in February with a back catalogue of problematic songs about women and attempted to enter a song called “I’ll teach you” that included the lyrics “I'll make you dance to the tune, I'll make you rise to the bait, I'll make you walk along the line, you'll be satisfied and happy with everything".

We’ve been here before of course. Armenia changed the title of “Don’t Deny” in 2015 to “Face the Shadow” after neighbouring countries Azerbaijan and Turkey claimed the lyrics were about their denial of the Armenian genocide. And Georgia was asked to change the lyrics to “We Don’t Wanna Put In” in 2009 due to the suspicion that “put in” was a reference to the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, but the country’s public service broadcaster refused and withdrew.