The illusion of safety‘s surreal

Intelligent Music Project

“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.”

Yes here we are in Bulgaria, one of those Eastern European countries we only catch glimpses of on shows like the Eurovision that we look down on. Maybe every few years you see a Bulgarian champion weight-lifter at the Olympics, or maybe you’ve seen a odd-looking sachet of old Bulgarian stamps at a car boot – identified by a Cyrillic-looking alphabet, communist logos, and skilled drawings of prized Bulgarian buffalo.

Maybe you remember seeing a late-night 1980’s documentary featuring Bulgarian taxi-drivers with big moustaches wrestling pigs and talking about politics and America whilst the women made yoghurt and darned socks. Bulgaria. You know Bulgaria. A poor, grim, ramshackle, commie, Iron Curtain mess of a country where donkeys outnumber cars.

Maybe that’s what really irked Wogan. That all of that is nonsense. That Estonia has some of the cleanest air in the world. That Budapest has the newest subway line in Europe. That Romania has the fastest internet anywhere on the continent. That the entire carefully crafted image of Eastern Europe as a backwards, drab, grey, muddy, dangerous, poor little cousin of Western Europe is absolute twaddle.

And that’s why they do well in the Eurovision. Because unlike us and Germany, they are not lazy, incompetent, imperialist arseholes with a saviour complex that think the people of Europe somehow owe us another win despite entering songs like the one written by the same man that created the Bird’s Eye Potato Waffle jingle and the theme to Jim’ll Fix It.

This year’s Bulgarian entrant is the “Intelligent Music Project”, a kind of Bulgarian supergroup hoping to ride the crest of Maneskin’s rock wave with “Intention”. Milen Vrabevski, the “mastermind” behind the group, is a prominent physician, entrepreneur, and philanthropist – in 2020 he played a large role in distributing Covid-19 vaccines to both Bulgarian and North Macedonian citizens at mobile vaccination centres, and in 2007 he created the Bulgarian Memory Foundation, an organisation designed to bolster a Bulgarian cultural identity, increase access to quality education, and strengthen relationships with neighbouring nations.


The production initially sounds like a fairly polished bit of Eastern European rock, but the problem is that unlike Maneskin, a) this is absolutely not a group of lads who you would want to see with their shirts off and b) the song is absolutely all over the place – one minute it’s all grunge guitars and drums, the next minute it’s a backing track to a loading screen on an early noughties skateboarding console game, and then suddenly it sounds like the theme to an 90s steadycam drama about people who talk too fast in the legal profession in Islington. And what a stupid name for a band.

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Jim Dickinson

@Wonkhe SUs. Trustee @WinchesterSU. HE policy. Pop. Pro EU(rovision). Windmills not walls. FRSA. Dreams of visiting Moldova. A brunch. Dressing up. A feeling.

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