Home

  • I‘m up in space, man

    0dd75bca236ce21f0153a1876035c414United Kingdom
    Sam Ryder
    Spaceman

    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.

    I wasn’t conscious of any of that, of course. I was four, for crying out loud. But that night is my earliest memory. Mum and Dad had gone out for chicken in a basket and a blue comic and a star turn (Sharon Diamond, doing the hits of Shirley Bassey) at the club, leaving me and my little brother at my nan’s. We were allowed to stay up for a bit, but after Prima Donna had performed for the UK with the lamentable “Love Enough for Two” it was bedtime.

    Secretly, though, Uncle Nigel knew the score. He tucked us in and left Radio 2 on quietly in the corner – and I remember as clear as day clutching the bed covers with wide-eyed excitement as the de-borda boat rolled in and secured Johnny Logan’s first, and Ireland’s second victory.

    I was hooked. Kitschy, schlagery pop. An unnecessarily complex voting system. The sounds of commentators from faraway lands giving us snippets of different food, better cultures, and happier lives. Of course I loved the Eurovision, right from back when it still had orchestras and satellite delays and botched up archery stunts. Throughout my childhood I loved it to bits. It was European. And we were a part of it. A proud, enthusiastic part of it.

    So scroll forward to the last few years. Shame. It’s the quintessential human emotion, says psychologist Michael Lewis in his writings. All extravagant behaviours are reactions to it, says psychiatrist Donald Nathanson. It’s the root of dysfunctions in families, says Jane Middelton-Moz author of “Shame and Guilt: Masters of Disguise”. Fossum and Mason say in their book Facing Shame that “While guilt is a painful feeling of regret and responsibility for one’s actions, shame is a painful feeling about oneself”

    I know the feeling. I know it all too well. In a way it’s hard to put into the words the intense, powerful feeling of abject shame that me and my better half felt, waving our Union Jacks in the air in Oslo’s Telenor arena in 2010 when Josh Dubovie took to the stage, cheered on by right-wing koi-carp 80s pop producer Pete Waterman, and did this. My god it’s bad. It’s the audio equivalent of having your own trousers pulled down in public to reveal that you have “messed” yourself. Actually, by the sounds of it, maybe he had.

    Then there was this effort from has been boyband Blue in 2011. It was dated, lazy, poorly staged, went nowhere at all after the opening 30 seconds and gave bankrupt (morally, sexually and financially) Lee Ryan a particularly difficult set of notes to hit – leaving him sounding like he’d got his “member” caught in a cash machine. Which, given the behaviour of bandmate Antony Costa that year, wasn’t so unlikely.

    You could take the year we sent “Botox Bonnie” in a leather jacket. Bonnie fucking Tyler. This is the woman who, on Saturday Night Takeaway that year, stumbled around nine sheets to the wind forgetting the lyrics to “Holding out for Hero”- not some obscure album track, but her second-biggest hit. That is what we sent to Malmo to represent the entire British music industry in 2013. Not London Grammar or Tom Odell or Ellie Goulding or Jessie J or the Arctic Monkeys or Bastille or Disclosure or One Direction or John Newman or Calvin Harris. We sent Bonnie Tyler. Shitfaced.

    Or then there was this. A waltz. A fucking waltz. Back in 2012 we plucked 60’s crooner Engelbert Humperdink from doing board games in his nursing home, plonked him in the middle of the Crystal Hall in Baku in Azerbaijan and asked him to open the whole show. With a fucking Waltz. “It’s OK”, said the BBC, “they love him in Eastern Europe and he can really sing!”. Yes. We could see that.

    That’s us. In what I regard as the golden age of Europop – when Lena was Satelliting and Alexander was Fairytaling and Kate Ryan was shutting that door – we were tumbling half-arsed faded glories into the arenas of Europe, raising our voice and puffing out our chest and then getting offended when they didn’t show us respect any more. It was the woman on Question Time that really did it for me. She was so familiar. There is someone like her in every queue, every coffee shop, outside every school in every parish council in the country. Middle-aged, middle-class, middle-brow, over-made-up, with her National Health face and weatherproof English expression of hurt righteousness, she’s Britannia’s mother-in-law. The camera closed in on her and she shouted: “All I want is my country back. Give me my country back. When we used to win Eurovision”.

    And don’t get me started on Terry Wogan. For me the most astonishing thing about our piss poor performances over the years is that Terry “what’s another year” Wogan got away with slurring racist epithets from the commentary box whilst blaming our results on politics. I mean just look at the evidence. In the year 2000 – just as the contest started to be modern, and fun, and exciting – we sent a woman called Nicki French to do something called “Don’t Play That Song Again“. They didn’t. We were then stupid enough to repeat the trick the year after with a song called “No Dream Impossible“. I can assure you it was.

    In 2003 baffled Phoenix Nights act warm-up act Jemini did “Cry Baby” (really badly) and scored us the famous Nul Points. In 2004 and 2005 James Fox off “Fame Academy” and Javine Hylton off “Popstars” bored Europe to death. In 2006 noncepop w-rapper Daz Sampson offenced the continent with a set of Yewtree style saucy schoolgirls, doing a pound shop version of “Where is the Love?” (not here).

    In 2007 Scooch managed to “Fly the Flag” for us by taking the piss out of a contest that hadn’t existed for 15 years. In 2008 Andy “Dancing Binman” Abraham convinced Europe that he shouldn’t have given up his day job. In 2009 Andrew fucking Lloyd fucking Webber wrote a song for someone who somehow managed to become the final nail in the Sugababes coffin.

    Or take 2015. That was the year that we entered a harrowing, amateurish, petrifying poor duo called “Electro Velvet” to sing a song that sounded like the Birds Eye Potato Waffles advert written by the man that wrote the theme tune to Jim’ll Fix It. It was objectively shit. And yet for that whole period we’ve been faraging our way around Europe, demanding salted butter with our full English, urinating in the capital cities that our Ryanair flights have whisked us to to “stag” and “hen”, blaming politics – politics! – for the fact that we do badly in the Eurovision.

    Why are we like this? Why do we think this? Why do we baulk at health and safety? And gender-neutral toilets? And young people? We don’t know if we’re coming or going, what with those newfangled mobile phones and kids on Tinder and TikTok. What happened to meeting Miss Joan Hunter Dunn at the tennis club? And don’t get us started on electric hand dryers, or something unrecognised in the bagging area, or Indian call centres, or the impertinent computer asking for a password that has both capitals and little letters and numbers and more than eight digits.

    You could try 2016. This was the year that we cobbled together an astonishingly weak collection of newcomers into a badly staged BBC4 hosted National Final (so the BBC could blame the public for the outcome) and then picked two lads’ lads from the early bit of a series of the Voice with all the charisma of a damp, maggot ridden horse corpse to sing lyrics like “I’ll be your parachute oh oh oh”. We sent what the BBC called “an anthemic pop song with a universal message” (that message being that the UK is shit) and what Graham Norton called a “really catchy pop song” (as he banked his cheque). BBC doublespeak twaddle, the kind of W1A bullshit peddled in the bowels of what is no longer called the BBC Light Entertainment department to cover the fact that our entry was being run by patronising, sneering, middle class, imaginationless cheapskates who hated everyone that watches the show.

    Or take 2017. The woman that Cowell booted off of X Factor for being less interesting than Jedward. A song so morose that they had to speed it up to remove the last vestigates of negative emotion. This is us. We are rubbish. And when people point at us and notice that the emperor is naked, we run away and hide under some Brexit coats so we can return to former glories, all Brotherhood of Man and victoria sponge and 22 yards to a wicket and 15 hands to a horse and 3ft to a yard and Cliff Richard and four fingers in a Kit Kat and Lulu, back to gooseberries not avocados, back to deference and respect, back to Bucks Fizz and make do and mend and smiling bravely and biting your lip and suffering in silence and patronising foreigners with pity.

    In 2018 we entered a woman called SuRie. To be fair, Sue Ree was brilliant, and funny, and talented, but the song wasn’t. It was shite. There was a moment in the final when a stage invader disrupted her performance. The UK thought it might get us some sympathy votes. Well, I’ve news for us. If your song is lazy and your staging is half-arsed, you can be being repeatedly kicked in the face by a fucking horse on live TV and it still won’t get you votes.

    In 2019 a man-boy called Michael from the north won our tinpot national final, having won a song contest on BBC1 the year before that was watched by less people than that lottery show that used to be on with Dale Winton. It turned out that it was one thing to have a backstory that you work in a chip shop, but was quite another to perform like you’re on a double shift in one. “It’s bigger than us” he sang, when he meant “this is all bigger than me”, and so we came last. Again.

    Last year a man called James Newman appeared, and it ought to have been amazing. In 2013 James won a Brit Award for co-writing the British Single of the Year Waiting All Night, performed by Rudimental and Ella Eyre. It wasn’t long before he co-wrote another UK chart-topper, Blame, this time for Calvin Harris and his younger brother John Newman. The song was a massive hit in several countries including the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Mexico. Yorkshire-born Newman had worked with countless famous artists over the years, including Ed Sheeran who recorded the vocals for Lay It All On Me, a certified platinum single in the UK and US. He’d also been nominated for a Grammy twice, co-writing Coping from Toni Braxton’s album Sex & Cigarettes, and Let ‘Em Talk from Kesha’s album Rainbow.

    And then we heard the song – Radio 2’s definition of a “banger”. And then we saw the staging – featuring two gigantic plastic trumpets for no reason. And then we saw the performance – a sweaty Newman in a leather jacket wriggling around the stage looking bored, pissed, awkward and terrified. As we all were. Ultimately, when televoters around the continent come to pick up their phone on the Saturday, your song needs to be someone’s favourite, and ours wasn’t – anyone’s. We didn’t even get points from Malta or Ireland. And I was really really genuinely sad about that, in a way that is probably a bit too obsessive to be healthy for a man in his late forties.

    Ultimately, I’m sick and tired of feeling ashamed. I’ve had it with buying Danish flags just in case some arsehole in a Union Jack suit tries to talk to us at the venue. I can’t cope any more with the abject combo of arrogance and minimal effort that has come to sum up both the government we’ve had for a decade and the Eurovision entries we’ve had in that time too. I can cope without the kind of nascent nationalism that is so appealing about the new European nations that have emerged in recent decades. I just want to feel something other than shame for a change.

    And on that front, I have good news. Last October, the day after the official list of participants was released, the BBC announced its plans – opting for an internal process no longer in collaboration with record label BMG, but with TaP Music instead. The BBC’s commissioning editor said that the collaboration would “enable the BBC to tap into some great music talent” and that the broadcaster had “big ambitions for the 2022 contest”. But still, I thought. We’ve been here before. Plenty of time to fuck this up.

    In January, TaP revealed that they had started shortlisting potential acts for the contest – with both established, emerging and brand new artists having approached them for the Eurovision project – and that they had worked with actual BBC Radio 1 to choose the British representative. But still, I thought. We’ve been here before. They’ll pick a rubbish song for them, or balls up the staging, or give them a stupid costume.

    hero (3)

    But they haven’t. In March massive Tik Tok star Sam Ryder was announced, and his song Spaceman is absolutely amazing. He’s astonishingly talented. He’s relentlessly positive. He’s published a cute little game about being a Space Man. The staging is inventive. The performance builds and takes you somewhere. In that three minutes he represents everything – everything I’ve not gone near feeling about the UK in any context for years. Dare I say it? He doesn’t make me feel shame.

    You see, for me, Eurovision is magical. It combines positive nation-building, with European travel, weird interval acts, Justin Timberlake interval acts, and daft slogans like “Confluence of Sound” and “Share the moment” and “Come Together” and “Dare to Dream”.

    But this is a song contest. And even more magical than all that is the collection of songs. There remains something extraordinary for me in the power of a three-minute pop song to excite me, to cheer me up, to motivate me – to convey joy, and bring joy. And when you know that is happening to you at the very same time that it’s happening to millions of others around the world, that’s pretty special. There are so many artists and so many songs from so many countries that have done it over the years. And win or lose, this year we’re one of them.

    My name is Jim, and I love the Eurovision song contest. I always have. I love the glitz and the glamour and the songs and the show and the diversity and the points bit and the travelling around Europe and the stadiums and the atmos and the feeling that it’s like football but without the air of menace and violence. And this year, come 8pm on May 22nd, I’ll even be waving a Union Jack.

    With pride.

  • The field is blooming, but her hair is getting grey

    EuroUcrania.svgUkraine
    Kalush Orchestra
    Stefania

    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 something fun – 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).

    Sadly given the geopolitics their entries have been getting quite dour since – their winner in 2016 recounted Stalin’s deportation of Crimean Tatars from their native Crimea. Jamala opened with these cheerful lines: “When strangers are coming, they come to your house; they kill you all inside [and say] “We’re not guilty, not guilty”.

    hero (2)

    Originally we were going to get a woman called Alina Pash, but she pulled out following an investigation into a 2015 trip she made to Crimea, which Russia seized control of in 2014. Alina said some people had attacked her online and called her un-Ukrainian for the visit.

    So instead we have The Kalush Orchestra. Kalush was a Ukrainian rap group who launched a side project Kalush Orchestra a few years back to focus on “hip hop with folk motifs” and “elements from Ukrainian traditional music”. It’s been leading in the odds for weeks now, but I expect that its been doing so without most punters having heard it.

    In any other year this would likely have stayed in its semi – but we are where we are, and the media has obviously mainlined on the story given the band will be back on the front line of the war come Monday. Maybe this is one of those moments in Eurovision where politics really is more important than song quality.

    My own instinct is that juries will score this politely, and when it comes to televoters there just might might not be enough of the them if a clear favourite appears from the juries – but what do I know? If you’re betting on anything other than Ukraine tonight, go each way.

  • Don‘t fear the wolf that lives in me

    ESCSwitzerlandSwitzerland
    Marius Bear
    Boys Do Cry

    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.

    You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

    hero (1)

    This year’s chunk of bland swiss cheese comes courtesy of Marius Bear, who abandoned his plan of becoming a construction machinery mechanic in order to tour Germany and Switzerland as a street musician. At one festival, he got to know a famous producer who invited him to New York, and quickly became part of the Swiss artistic and creative arts scene there. He then moved to the UK where he studied music production at the BIMM Institute in London, and now he’s singing about his fucking feelings.

    Talking about the song, Bear notes: “I learnt very early on that I don’t need to be ashamed of my feelings. As a man, I’m not afraid to cry and to lay bare my weaknesses to my audience. I don’t want to wear emotional armour, I want to be who I am. And I want to encourage my audience to do the same.” See? It’s this year’s cuckoo clock. People thought “Boys Don’t Cry” could win when it first emerged but they are very stupid indeed. It’s not the “John Lewis Christmas advert rejects” contest.

    Don’t push my wheelchair down the hill, Goat Peter! Oh – not to worry. I can walk. It’s a miracle. And now, Heidi, I’m gonna celebrate like it’s 2004.

  • I found the right one at the wrong time

    ESCSweden_0Sweden
    Cornelia Jakobs
    Hold Me Closer

    Cast your mind back to last year – when 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.

    Sweden. I love the food. I love the people. I love the fact they enjoy paying tax. Tax is excellent. It’s a dirt-cheap way of getting good things. I love Ikea, I love Alcazar, I love extensive paid parental leave, and I love five weeks of paid holiday every year by law. I love Lynda Woodruff. I love meatballs, I love gender equality, I love sarcasm, I love social mobility, I love castles with moats, I love Petra Mede, and I love Malmo. And Gothenburg. And Stockholm. And I love their distinctive, daring, spectacular pop.

    I mean just listen to this off of the women that once sung “Release Me”. How do humans create genius like this?

    hero

    Sweden is the spiritual home of europop, and they really go to town on choosing their song. There’s no “Eurovision your decision” or “Unser Star für Vienna” bollocks for them. Their “melodifestivalen” takes weeks, is the country’s highest rating TV show and features every big pop star going in the country, spawning whole albums and careers and local radio station parties in parks (Baest Musik Just Nu – Rix FM).

    This year the process produced Cornelia Jakobs, a women who’d had a go previously back in 2011 with a fairly anonymous Red One (Ga, Ga) girlband called Love Generation. Her song Hold Me Closer is a dangerously addictive mid-tempo earworm about a bad breakup, performed to absolute perfection – it just might not be instant enough to take the crown on Saturday.

  • If I have a problem, it‘s not monetary

    product_h_e_heart_pin_spain_1Spain
    Chanel
    SloMo

    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.

    Spain are one of the “big five”, the same club that us, Germany, Italy and France are in – where arrogance and laziness means our big EBU affiliation fee buys us automatically into the final, an injustice underlined in particular by Spain’s low rent DJ Daz tribute act “Chiki Chiki” in 2008, which would have been odds on to come last in its semi had it have actually been in a semi.

    They’ve only won twice, and the first time is a story that deserves retelling. It’s April 1968. Katie Boyle was presenting the Eurovision from the Royal Albert Hall, Sandie Shaw having brought the contest home after winning with “Puppet on a String” the year before in Vienna.

    Pretentious music journalists would tell you that the 60s charts were all about the Stones and the Beatles and free love and stuff, but that’s largely a box of bollocks. 1968’s top selling singles included Des O’Connor’s dreadful “I Pretend“, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap’s uncomfortably pedo victim-blaming song “Young Girl“, Tom Jones going on about stabbing a woman and Mary Hopkin reminiscing about the past.

    Middle-of-the-road ruled the charts, and the crowned King of Bland was Cliff Richard – who took advantage of the Eurovision’s first transmission on colour television by arriving on stage dressed like a sex offender with a blue, velvet suit and white, ruffled shirt – singing “Congratulations”.

    Spain on the other had 20-year-old Massiel, drafted in as a last-minute replacement after the Catalan singer-songwriter, Joan Manuel Serrat, the original choice, had pulled out because he had refused to sing the song in Spanish.

    Massiel bounces on stage, her shoulders swinging from side to side and she sings a song whose chorus conists of the haunting lyrics “La, la la la, la la la, la la la. La, la la la, la la la”. Surely Cliff’s on the for the trophy?

    We get to the votes bit. France is leading until almost halfway, but then the UK takes the lead, and gallops ahead of its rivals. A debonair Michael Aspel calls in the UK’s votes. He gets a flirtatious giggle out of Katie Boyle, when he introduces himself speaking Franglish: “Allo, Katie, dees is Londres.”

    Spain is the third-last country to vote. Its jury overlooks its rivals at the top of the leader board — Ireland, France and the UK – when sharing out its 10 points.

    But still, the UK’s lead looks unassailable until Germany then awards Spain six points, which puts Spain a point ahead of the UK. Nailbiter. The votes from the Yugoslav jury then come in — which award points to neither Spain nor the UK. Bastards. But hold on. Its jury doled out 11 points instead of 10. The Eurovision scrutineer gets on the mic and Katie Boyle, knowing the UK has lost, has to use a selection of languages to coax the Yugoslav jury into correcting their sums.

    Juan José Rosón, the chief of Televisión Española at the time, last year admitted it. “We won this festival in the meeting rooms. A victory was necessary in an international event, and we bribed various juries. It was clear, and it was simple.”

    Why? Well, Franco had threatened the minister of information and tourism in 1968 by saying “If we don’t win this year, yourself and Rosón will be out on the street”. So they set about buying the victory. “In those days”, he explains, “the voting was made by the television stations of each country. So we found out, we know, that while promoting a song in each country, votes were bought. There was a commitment of voting for that song or not.

    “So when this was done, it was known which television stations would vote for the song. Therefore, at the time of the promotion campaign, they already knew the song, ‘La, La, La’ was going to be the winning song”.

    spain

    Now to listen to Spanish Eurovision fans you’d think the same was true (for clarity given the “passion” of Spanish Eurovisioon fans I mean the going to win bit, not the cheating bit, Christ don’t start targeting my children) of Chanel’s SloMo. Ploughing a similar furrow to Cyprus’ Eleni Foureira and Fuego, it’s a top notch three minutes of Spanish dance pop performed to perfection by Chanel – but I expect it’s just a slice on the generic side to really make it big on Saturday night.

  • Pictures gaze at me from the walls

    product_h_e_heart_pin_slovenia_1Slovenia
    LPS
    Disko

    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?

    There is another reason. It’s an amazing country. Its people are friendly, its restaurants are cheap, its caves are dramatic, its climate is lovely and it’s the safest I’ve felt at night in any European country ever. We went there on holiday the other year and we loved it. Sure, it’s a Poundland Italy, but stop being such a snob about Poundland. I saw you, scoffing that box of Pergale chocolates.

    They’re also pretty funny. For example, the other year their National Final interval act spent three brave minutes ripping the piss out of one Vladimir Putin, with lyrics like “when I play chess be quiet or eat my pussy riot”, and “If you are a prick – suck my Moby Dick”.

    I’d love them to win one day, but 2022 won’t be that year. Their entry LPS (Last Pizza Slice) is a teenage pop band composed of Filip (vocal), Gašper (drums), Mark (electric guitar), Zala (bass guitar, tenor and alto saxophone), and Žiga (electric keyboards).

    The group have been together since 2018, when they met in the music room of their school. The press release says they remember it like it was yesterday, and it may as well have been for the musical mastery on display here.

    slovenie

    “Some might assume that the title of their entry implies a carefree tale of losing oneself in uplifting disco music, but the lyrics tell the sad (and true) story of the band’s vocalist Filip, who was dumped by his girlfriend… at a disco”.

    The whole thing has the air of the Dadi Fryer video from Think About Things, insofar as it’s like a group of kids have been invited to perform for the family on Boxing Day. Unlike Think About Things however, the song is badly performed, insufferably shit and at least 2.5 minutes too long.

  • How lucky, the existence of the autonomic nervous system

    png-transparent-flag-of-serbia-serbia-and-montenegro-eurovision-song-contest-flagSerbia
    Konstrakta
    In Corpore Sano

    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.

    Serbia is probably best known for Molitva. You know – Mooooooollliiiiiiiitvaaaaa. What a tune! The English version is titled “Destiny”, the Finnish version is called “Rukoilen” and was performed by the Beauty Queens, not Marija. The song has also been released as a dance remix and another remix called the “Jovan Radomir mix” was released by Swedish TV-presenter Jovan Radomir, who also wrote the English lyrics.

    serbia

    An instrumental version has also been released as well as a karaoke version. But best of all the UK oompah band “Oompah Brass” recorded an instrumental version of “Molitva” on their album Oompocalypse Now (2008) which premiered at the 2007 Belgrade Beer Festival!

    Now every year I hear most of the songs and think “this is the worst Eurovision ever”. And then a few by-numbers bangers pop up, there’s a smattering of growers hidden in the pack and there’s a few surprises in the staging to lift something whose studio version is mediocre.

    This year I’m afraid none of that is happening. Almost every entry seems to have an air of lockdown about it, Italian broadcaster Rai are likely to inject the opposite of energy into the presentation, they’ve banned most of the fan press from the compound, the main stage prop is broken (a “kinetic sun” that doesn’t swivel fast enough for the tight turnarounds between postcards) and the whole thing is just generally miserable.

    Including Serbia. Apparently the song is a critique of the Serbian healthcare system and a satire on unattainable beauty standards, but it just sounds like downbeat noise to me. What you’ll see down the telly tube will be Konstrakta and her five bandmates with towels around their necks, who give her those towels while she sits washing her hands for three minutes singing about Megan Markle. It’s rubbish.

  • There‘s a devil in a Birkin

    downloadSan Marino
    Achille Lauro
    Stripper

    Bless. The entire population of San Marino – Eurovision’s smallest participant – could fit inside the Pala Alpitour in Turin and still leave room for the Arancini 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.

    I mean it must be pretty tricky to find talent when your population is less than a tenth of Swindon’s but even taking that into account, since that 2008 debut San Marino have entered some dross – most notably the year they tried to enter a song about Facebook but were made by the EBU to remove the word Facebook from the chorus, leaving the panicked San Marinese delegation to instruct 39 year old Valentina Moretta to just sing “Hello, oh oh oh” instead. “If you wanna come to my house, click me with your mouse”.

    san man

    This year’s pay to play entrant is Achille Lauro, who is described by Rtv as an eclectic singer, songwriter and rapper. He’s been in the San Remo festival a few times and did oddly well with this novelty song, but looks like his career has hit the buffers – so it wouldn’t be surprising if his appearance as San Marino’s hopeful isn’t the usual suitcase of cash to get some profile in front of 200m viewers.

    The song is a piss poor bit of glam rock that sounds oddly similar to Doctorin’ the Tardis by The Timelords to these ears, but it’s the performance you want to watch out for on Thursday night. There’s big gaudy graphics, a cowboy hat, a fur boa and a sheer bodysuit, two of the band are trapped writhing around in cages, Achille grinds his crotch against one of them, and then for the final chorus he mounts a red velvet bucking bronco, cementing his entry in the Eurovision clips montages for many years to come.

  • Trying to keep my head above the water

    product_h_e_heart_pin_romania_1Romania
    WRS
    Llámame

    Why do they do this? Team Romania describe WRS as a “man of many talents”. The beatmaker from Buzău began his artistic career as a dancer – performing on stage with Romanian pop icons such as Inna, and being hired as a house dancer for both Romania’s Got Talent and The Voice of Romania.

    In 2015 he joined whoompy boyband SHOT for a short while, before moving to London to “hone his craft” as a songwriter and solo act. In total, the Romanian recording artist has released 10 singles, 3 collaborations and is currently working on his forthcoming debut EP, Mandala.

    romania

    His PR agency says that his musical aura is a “spell, virtually creating a whole new world”, and is “a world where people don’t reduce life to black and white, a world where people are able to see rainbows”. A world, in other words, where everyone has done a lot of drugs.

    You’d need to, because in truth his music is terrible. It’s all very “why didn’t I just go home instead of this grubby little club”. It’s pre-comedown 4am music, when you just want to leave but you’ve lost your phone and your friends and you could absolutely murder some chips.

    Romania! I ask you. Do you remember that time when Ovi off of Romania put his head through a piano toilet seat and started tinkling with the rim?

  • I‘ve tried, alright, but it‘s killing me inside

    EuroPortugal.svgPortugal
    MARO
    Saudade, Saudade

    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 drear.

    It says here that after graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2017, MARO made the tough decision to move to Los Angeles instead of going home to Portugal. In her first year in LA, the artist released six self-written and self-produced albums. During this time, her Instagram caught the eye of Grammy winner, Jacob Collier, who invited her to join his debut touring band as a featured vocalist and instrumentalist. She’s since supported Jessie J, Fatai, ¿Téo?, and is currently opening for Charlotte Cardin’s European tour.

    Which is all well and good, but I’ve tried, and I can’t get all the way through it without nodding off. I’m sure for some it’s art or something but for me it’s like silenor, lunestar, rozerem, restoril, halcion, sonata, ambien, edluar, intermezzo, zolpimist, ambien and belsomra all in one bottle. Don’t listen to it when driving or operating heavy machinery.

    portugal

    I think that’s probably enough about that, so let me introduce you to Daniela from Slovenia. She’s been reviewing Eurovision songs on YouTube for donkey’s years now and they are brilliant. She films them in her bedroom, and at the start of each one is facing her wardrobe before turning around, smiling and introducing herself. She chats about the contest, plays the song on her stereo, then gives her views. Her utterly baffling views.

    Even though I’ve no clue what she thinks about most of the songs, her videos are mesmerising – as well as Eurovision song reviews she makes Christmas time in Ljubljana look magical, regularly reviews hair products, and has a dog called Simba. Good luck to her. She can’t stand the Portuguese entry either.