Friday, 24 February 2017

Croatia 2017 - Jacques Houdek - My Friend (teaser excerpt)

These snippets keep sneaking out, and I'm surprised to say that I actually rather like this one. As a 20 second cut it offers drama, promise and some bonkers strings, a bit like if someone had dropped some dexys into ELO's tea. And it builds perfectly to a dead halt, where you just know a cheesy assed voice is about to come in and slow things down and damage all the magic.

So Croatia, this is my plea to you. Save yourself the trouble of some difficult press conferences and unwelcome Euroclub confrontations and just loop this bit nine times and send it to Kyiv. It'll be strangely mesmeric and hypnotise the masses (if they've got tickets) into some kind of dervish frenzy. It'll be fab!

Awkwardly it makes me wonder if this could actually be something of a half-decent song. But hopefully all this bluster is just the run up to a teaser video, where it builds and them he turns to the camera, his saccharine smile glinting in the spotlights before the actual dreary song begins. I hope so, because this has been one of our favourite 20 seconds of the season so far, and you wouldn't want him being actually good or anything…

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Sweden 2017 - Loreen - Statements

Well if this isn't the teasiest of all known teasers. With practically all of the other Melfest song snippets this year you've got a pretty clear idea of how it's all going to turn out within a small handful seconds. Swedish songs are like that. Once you've picked up the groove you can take a fair guessat where it's going to end up.

Not this one though. Starting at what sounds like the actual beginning, it comes in all atmospheric, with Ms Talhaoui giving it her best meaningful vocal swirling, before it all gets a bit jagged and FKA Twigs for a second or two, then builds to a crescendo that tells you something interesting's about to happen...

And then, like the best peep shows it cuts off dead. Only this time there's no opportunity to stick another coin in the slot to raise the shutter.

So what's it going to be? The few people I've read that have heard it right through don't seem to have the musical language to describe it. One plucky trier called it punk, which makes me suspect that they've never heard punk and are only guessing. Another likened it to Nirvana. Again, I'm suspecting that they're a little far off the mark there. My suspicion in trying to translate what they think they mean is that it might have a guitar in it somewhere and get a big chuggy, but in a slightly disappointing mid tempo kind of way, judging by the build.

But please do surprise us pleasantly Lady Loreen, because I'd love the wayward guestimates to be right, just this once!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Lithuania 2017 - Edgaras Lubys - Could It Be?

With the vast, brain-rotting complexity of the Lithuanian selection marathon, where they seem to be gradually weeding out all of the interesting ones so that Aiste can finally win the right not to qualify from her semi, it's easy to let the odd song slip unnoticed down the back of the sofa. But we're not entirely sure how this little gem passed us by.

The song itself is a standard mid tempo pop plodder of the sort that only ever seems to turn up in the early stages of this contest. But you won't notice that - not even the clearly-run-out-of-ideas lalala of the chorus. No, you'll be distracted from that by perhaps the silliest bout of dance moves of the entire season.

Well, when we say 'dance' we actually mean 'stiffly pratting about and mugging to the camera', but what an utterly delightful job he makes of it. When not literally translating some of the lyric into gestures, he stamps about like a broken meat android with a stiff neck, looking like he means every last gesture, although it's never quite apparent to the viewer what he actually did mean.

That this performance got to the seventh show of the process tells you everything about what a fantastic country Lithuania must be.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

UK 2017 - Twangdillo - Lay, Lay, Lay

A few more rejected public submission entries from the UK process are beginning to creep onto the darker recesses of YouTube, and this one caught the eye in may ways. Now this would be a lovely little jangly interlude if it was wafting out from the corner of a folk club in the woods, or used as incidental music at a Suffolk crystal convention. And you can't really fault either the nuanced playing of the ukuleles or the delicate vocal harmonies, delivered to perfect effect by three clearly talented people. But still, what were they thinking?

In fact, I'd love to know what they were thinking. Was it: "Hey, have you seen that they're asking for songs for the Eurovision? We've done so badly the last few years with all that pop nonsense, so what the nation needs to save us is three lovely people of a certain age to lilt out a smashing little homemade folksy melody at them. We're bound to win!"?

We might mock in our sophisticated knowingness, but imagine if someone at the BBC had taken a punt on them. Imagine if some that Saturday night in May, this New Forest threesome shuffled out onto that big glistening stage in Ukraine and warbled this out. Heck, I'm actually talking myself into this!

I mean, good heavens, that girl knows how to showbiz a tambourine, for starters!

But all of this makes you wonder just what kind of stuff the poor burghers of OGAE had to listen to in the quest to find a song that got rejected from the final shortlist. If, as I suspect, this little jangler represented a high water mark, you'll be able to guess who the lucky jurors were in Kiev with their thousand yard stares and slightly distracted expressions.

Still, at least they're not Swiss…

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Portugal 2017 - Salvador Sobral - Amar Pelos Dois

It's a rare event, and only happens maybe once or twice a year, maximum. But once in a blue moon a song will pop up on a national final that leaves both me an Mrs Apocalypse open-jawed and silent on the sofa. And it's never, ever happened via Portugal. Until tonight.

But in the first semi of the FDC, a young lad who appeared to have crawled out of a skip crept onto the stage unassumingly and captivated the pair of us with his angelic voice and idiosyncratic delivery. Every other act on the bill tonight was a singer reciting some words. Young Salvador here was an artist interpreting a vision, and what a beautiful job he did of it, too.

If they don't pick this lad to go to Kiev they want shooting. And if he doesn't even make it to the semi, I'm coming round to take all their first born after the next available flight. Seriously Portugal, this is your one golden hope from the last 20 years of trying. Do the sensible thing.

Ukraine 2017 - O.Torvald - Time

I missed the start of last night's Ukrainian qualifier, as I was out at a football match. But upon my return I had a list of messages telling me that I just had to see this song, without telling me quite why. This is often a good sign.

Slightly annoyingly I couldn't find a clip until just now, and oh boy am I glad I tracked it down. Because during this song something quite unique and powerful happens. And I'm not going to tell you what it is. But you'll thank me.

Else otherwise, this is a pretty serviceable indie rock song, with a very agreeable wigout bit in the middle that proves that they're not just pretty boys going through the poses. But it's the incident that elevates this above the masses. If this band are as big as their pre-vid suggests, their name could be written on their hometown trophy. Decent but diferent act who's going to make everyone sit up and take notice, but who are in no danger of winning? Surely that's the perfect host entry.

But in a nation where merely saying hello to your next door neighbour is a highly politicised act, are they really going to risk choosing this? I certainly hope so!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Slovenia 2017 - United Pandaz and Arsello feat. Alex Volasko - Heart To Heart

When we saw the act were going to be called United Pandaz, we never begun to imagine that there would be actual pandas on view. Well, they weren't ACTUAL pandas, but they were pretty decent representations, stood there all cool in their pop star military garb, waving tiny flags and having it large behind the decks.

And it was a bit of luck there was something to distract us from the tune, because it was even more similar to Swedish House Mafia's Don't You Worry Child than that Cascada somg from a couple of years back. But luckily for their lawyers they just about ducked out of every seventh note, therefore causing themselves any further worry.

Well, that and the fact that so few people liked it that it couldn't drag its bones to its own national final. I think it's probably for the best...

Friday, 17 February 2017

Slovenia 2017 - Tosca Beat - Free World

Well, I don't think anyone was expecting this. When Tosca Beat were announced as taking part in the Slovenian semis, we all assumed that it was going to be another slice of ill-advised popera that was doomed to early failure.

What we didn't reckon on was them suddenly becoming a post-industrial Laibach tribute act!

Surely this can't be an accident? Militaristic outfits, megaphones, situationist statements, stompy marching music and a deeper-than-mines voice croaking out between the high pitched choruses. It's Slovenia's biggest ever international musical export, toned down and made (slightly more) palatable for the Friday evening TV crowd. It was really quite the thing.

It wasn't actually all that good, lacking a bit in power and menace, but we still rather hope it does OK. And if Laibach don't mean anything to you, get yourself to YouTube immediately.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Sweden 2017 - Owe Thörnqvist – Boogieman Blues

This is what you want from Sweden. Less of your ever-dimishing Schlagerpop and sweary imps, give us more 87-year-old men mumbling out and old time pre-Elvis era rock and roll tune!

Just when you think Christer's going to let you down, he provides you with the goods. Can't wait to see this one live - if Owe makes it that far!

Poland 2017 - Rafał Brzozowski - Sky Over Europe

Now here's a proper oddity. I always love it when you, dear reader passes us on a tip, and good friend of the site Robyn G has uncovered a right doosy here. It starts off like a regulation man ballad, all pianos, plods and earnest angst, as you'd expect. But when it gets to about the minute mark you suddenly realise that this isn't another of those dozens of regulation love songs that try to crowbar references to Europe in as a way of luring the votes.

Oh no, because it all takes a considerably darker turn when you realise that it's quite possibly being sung in the voice of a refugee about to hop on a midnight boat to an uncertain, and quite possibly  short, future.

But even here it's not like the usual Save The World fodder, as it offers no hope or suggests no schmaltzy outcome. Instead it just leaves you hanging in the gloom, throughly depressed and hopeless, feeling like you've had a tiny part of torn out of you.

Gosh, we weren't expecting THAT at the start!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Norway 2017 – In Fusion – Nothing Ever Knocked Us Over

Every years there's a couple of those songs that you really shouldn't find yourself enjoying, but you somehow just can't help yourself. And this is one of them. Admittedly I've always had a bit of a soft spot for 90s Europop singalongs, so I was always likely to be sucker punched by this one. But despite it having all the ingredients for a total disaster of a song, it somehow kinda works, despite itself.

I'm not sure if it's the Christmas chord changes, then Nordic nautical shanty-fuelled chorus, or the fact that I wouldn't fancy taking the band on in a fight, but it's crept under my skin and I just can't get it out. Anybody got any ointment?

One suspects that it'll be just that tad to cheesy for those serious Norwegians, but I wouldn't begrudge it a berth at the big show if it did somehow win. And those gals look like they are aware of what it is to party, too.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Bulgaria 2017 - Gery-Nikol - Gotina And Luda

Some not insignificant rumours are creeping out of Bulgaria are on the cusp of announcing Gery-Nikol as their artist. There have been thinly veiled suggestions that she was on the shortlist for some time, but the tattle mill has gone into overdrive over the last few days, and this song is the one most frequently mentioned in dispatches.

Some would have it that it's going to be performed in this form. Others that they're translating it into English, and other that she'll be doing something very much in this style without actually being this song. But whichever way we get her, if we get her, one suspects that her performance will be very, very interesting.

One of the rare local X Factor alumnus to have gained both critical and popular acclaim, her winning blend of bang-on-trend flat-voiced R'n'B and localised chalga beats suggests some lively on stage larks, and if they do do the right thing and choose her they'd be sending a pop princess at the very peak of her powers.

Some have noted that it quite possibly won't be with this song, as it was released in December, and already has over 7 million views on YouTube. But that didn't seem to do Donotan and Cleo a whole lot of harm a couple of years back. Either way, we shall be awaiting the Bulgarian announcement with bated breath.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Estonia 2017 – Janno Reim & Kosmos – Valan Pisaraid

There are some songs that you know are just doomed to failure, but you can't but help wishing that they made it through to the latter stages of their respective contests, just to mess with the more conservative fankind heads. And boy was this one of those.

You may remember Janno here as a member of the Super Hot Cosmos Blues band, who somehow managed to get beaten to the ticket to international fame despite in 2014 having gained maximum marks from both the juries and the home voters - ah the joys of the superfinal, eh! Well this year he went (a bit) solo, and somewhat off piste. Where his fated Maybe-Maybe was an instant dirty blues grind, this little number kicked off like an obscure spot of early 90s alt rocking, soared for a bit, then went delightfully off the rails to the point that you suspected that even Janno didn't know where it was going to finish up - despite the fact that it was being sung along to a backing track.

A quite splendid piece of obtuse and chuggy nonsense in an otherwise disappointingly bland and fun free semi-final. It was never going to go anywhere, but you really, really wish it had.

Are the the people from the Laul really saving all their joys for Kerli, do you think?

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Latvia 2017 - Up - One By One

Ooh, I do like a good murder ballad, and I fell a little bit in love with one tonight. Now I'd heard the song in recorded form a couple of weeks back, and thought it worthy of note, but wanted to wait until I saw it live before I passed it on to you lot. I was expecting some withery and wistful lass mumbling it out in does-eyed fashion. I wasn't expecting this.

Indeed, this more grown up lady with her terrifying stare captivated me from the very first seconds, as she kicked off with takes of retribution, and then got more and more hardcore as it went along, her fairytale voice belying the dark tone of the lyric.

And by the time she'd killed off her dancers and threatened anyone who ever crossed her again with a sticky end I was absolutely entranced. Like the irrepressible urge to thrust your hand into the viper pit, her wild eyes, threatening tone and glittery breasts lured me in, and by the end I was quite willing to be her next victim.

How the heck did those four middle aged men on the jury had the nerve to even look her in the eye, let alone comment on her song, I just don't know! Moment of the night, and I'm absolutely devastated that it never made the next stage. Although to be honest, it's probably for the best, safety wise.

Sweden 2017 - Dismissed - Hearts Align

The Melodifestivalen line up has been a bit of a let down so far this year, with too a bit too much reliance on returning names and pointless patches of slow motion. But when they get it right they get it very right. Like with this mob here.

On paper it's quite a dry slice of power pop, but marry in this moderately provocative performance and wowsers did it work good. I can just picture half the dads and grandpas of rural Sweden spitting out their kaffe at the telly in mild rage or extreme surprise as the beardy boys-in-frocks did their catwalk strut to open this lively affair.

All of this made the moment they grabbed their musical tools and started stamping about like a real band even more effective. It wasn't quite a turd to start with, but you polished it up just lovely, SVT, and we thank you for that. Of course it helps that the chorus is a sweeping Scandi rock gem crafted by the hand of that lad from The Ark - and while it's not going to trouble the scorers too heavily on finals night, it'll make a welcome addition if it's lucky enough to get there.

And I tell you what… Andra Chansen is shaping up to be an absolute bloodbath already!