Who‘d wanna be a king, pulling too many strings?


Back in the beforetimes, the Swish Family Dickinson went on a beach holiday to Poland and it was bloody 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”.

The thing about disco polo is that it’s like fight club or something. Anonymous polls say it’s the most popular music genre in Poland, but no major radio station dares play it. Nobody you meet admits to listening to it while sober, and there’s no trace of it during the day. But you hear people humming it and it’s blaring out from flats at four in the morning, and it’s always on at Polish weddings when everyone who says they don’t listen to it leap up and dance to it like it’s Dancing Queen or September by Earth Wind and Fire or Ladies and Gentlemen… this is Mambo No. 5.

Hundreds of people flock to Disco Polo events around Poland every weekend, where a disco polo act will mime their way through a phalanx of their hits flanked by dancers and a DJ. It’s also massive on university campuses in the big Polish cities – where the borderline between ironic appreciation and enthusiastic eurphoria melts more with every shot of Vodka.

Not everyone loves it. On reddit, Lubusz from Poland says that it is some of the most despicably artless, cheap, “brain-hemorrhaging shit” you will ever hear. He says it is mainly created by people whose IQ falls somewhere between furniture and vegetables, and that an interesting feature of disco polo is that every single male has to sing in a very specific voice – “I call it the nuts smashed with a lead pipe voice”.

As for the lyrics, he says that one line doesn’t have to have anything to do with the next, but it does have to be about “really wanting to get off with a girl you just met at a village disco”. And if you can’t think of a rhyme, you can use the exact same word, it’s a legit move. Also, things like “sia-la-la-la-la” count as lyrics.

For some reason the gender politics is quite a bit of a problem – almost all of the songs seem to feature creepy, fairly ugly men lusting after attractive, barely clothed women like a kind of Carry on Cascada. Who is this girl, can somebody give me a clue? When she moves her body – honey raspberry! And there’s no other girl who has such a body. I can’t resist – honey raspberry!

Some of the videos deserve scrutiny. This song seems to be about a man “running away from my wife”, and this one starts with a pregnancy test. This one is about a woman called Aleksandra who has a “sexi bomba”. This one is about the heartwarming tale of a 50-year-old businessman falling in love on a golf course. But a lot of them, to be honest, just seem to be about getting pissed in a shed.


Anyway sadly Poland has yet again failed to enter any Disco Polo to the Eurovision, preferring instead to submit a bloke that looks like an insurance salesman about to miss his targets singing what sounds like a bad cover of a Sia album track in a high pitched voice. TVP have done their best, adding some shaky camera effects to make it seem dramatic, but given the quality of the rest of the production this year from Rai, it could just as well be an Italian cameraman having a google.

It’s a shame, because in an alternative universe Ochman would be singing proper Polish music – like this Disco Polo song about seafood, or one about the condom splitting, or one about his mum. I don’t want to wait, it just swims away. Opa!

Lets go to grandma‘s, you say grandma taste the best

Give That Wolf A Banana

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.

Probably the best example of an utterly amazing song being cruelly cast aside in its National Final came from Norway’s Ida Maria in 2018. Ida was basically a fringe indie artist in Norway a few years back and was almost a superstar – she did Jools Holland, appeared on Jay Leno and even played one of those minor stages at Glasto that Jo Whiley cuts to if her guest is swearing. For whatever reason (one of which, I suspect, was her abject refusal to be told what to do by her record label) she never really made it, but then January came around and NRK announced her as one of their MGP artists and I heard it and… well.

You might think having read this blog that I’m a vile, lonely, self-hating arsehole who derives no joy from colour, nature, other people or music. You’re partly right. I’m working on it. You might also wonder why, having slated almost every song so far, I obsess over the Eurovision, watching national finals and collecting memorabilia and dragging myself and my increasingly thrilled family around Europe to actually watch the thing in person every year.

Well I’ll tell you why. Songs like Scandilove. A joyful, life affirming, fantastic, hilarious, satirical, derivative scandipop song that grabs you by the face and hugs you tight and reminds you what love feels like. Oh my days. It’s a foot tapping, hand clapping work of absolute pop genius and I loved it. The song was slick, the production was contemporary, the lyrics were funny, the beat was infectious, and to top it all if you gave it a couple of goes you could literally sing Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al over the top of it and you got this endorphin rush feeling like you’ve cracked the fucking Da Vinci Code or something.

I mean just look at those lyrics! You can be the nurse, and I can be the doctor! You can be the pool and I can be the diver! I can be the Volvo, you can be the driver! Swim in the ocean, feel the emotion! It’s fucking freezing- Cause you’re in Scandinavia biaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatch.

Sadly two things cursed it. First, her performance on the night was breathtakingly shambolic. She’d been ill for weeks and was hepped up on goofballs, giving the overall impression that she’d been out on a £1m bender in Bergen and woken up in Oslo in someone else’s stag do suit. The sweat was pouring out of her, she managed to fall up the stairs halfway through, she fluffed the biaaaaaaaatch line and there was the constant fear that one of the sixteen distracting stunt cheerleaders being bounced in the air in the background was going to be hurled to the floor and break their neck.

So when this year’s crop of MGP songs were published you’ll forgive me for being nervous. It basically came down to two acts – some miserably brilliant Nordic noir via Elsie Bay’s “Death of Us” and Anna-Lisa Kumoji’s gloriously overcooked schlagertastic “Queen Bees”. Lurking in the background was a novelty entry from some people in Wolf costumes about bananas, but surely the noir or the schlager would win?


But then I saw the performances and what can I say? Give that wolf a banana, being sung in part by the lead singer from 00s boyband A1, is a joyful, life affirming, fantastic, hilarious, satirical, derivative scandipop song that grabs you by the face and hugs you tight and reminds you what love feels like. Oh my days.

It’s a foot tapping, hand clapping work of absolute pop genius and I love it. The song is slick, the production is contemporary, the lyrics are funny, the beat is infectious, and to top it all if you give it a couple of goes you can literally sing “What does the fox say” over the top of it and you got this endorphin rush feeling like you’ve cracked the fucking Da Vinci Code or something.

I mean just look at those lyrics! See where you‘re going but, I don‘t know where you‘ve been!

Is that saliva or blood dripping off your chin? If you don‘t like the name Keith, I‘mma call you… Jim!

In short it’s a lot better than Norway’s 1978 entry, sung by a man screaming out the words “enter me, enter me” in a pair of red trousers and oversized sunglasses.

Everything is crumbling down beneath us

product_h_e_heart_pin_fyr_marcedonia_1 (1)North Macedonia

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!

If you have North Mac in the sweep, don’t be surprised if they’re missing from Saturday night again. It says here that their artist Andrea is “relatively new to the world of pop” but that her journey has “gotten off to a flying start”.

North Macedonia

I’m not sure that her blisteringly pedestrian mid-tempo angstimenrtal entry counts as a “flying start”, presumably because it was written at a time “when she was dealing with a difficult situation”, with the message that “if you’re truly unhappy, you need to change everything around you”.

I’d much prefer it if they went back to doing stuff like this. “The Spice Girls have a lot to answer for”, mutters Wogan as he crashes the vocal, which is rich coming from him.

Tadada dadadadada dada dadadadadada, Tadada dadadadadada

De Diepte

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.

Every year it’s the same. Take 2017. Do you remember Wilson Phillips? You know, off of hen night karaoke classic Hold on? You do, you must do. Three sisters. Close harmonies. Rom coms. Imagine what their album sounded like. Probably like “Hold On” but without the singalong chorus and the hooks, right? It also probably sounds pretty dated now, right? Well 2017’s Dutch entry was effectively track eleven from the 1990 debut album, “Wilson Phillips”. And it was shit.

Or take 2018. Imagine. You’re at the bar, sipping on a cold one and that one girl walks in. You catch a glimpse, but someone (the big overly jealous boyfriend) has a problem with how you just gawked at their fine woman. Suddenly, there’s a thrown cue ball, he breaks a pool stick over his knee and before you know it, he has a half broken beer bottle in his hand. You’ve suddenly realised, “Oh S@!%, I’m screwed! I wish Johnny Cash was here! Or Garth Brooks! Or Willie Nelson! Or the Woolpackers!” Or, failing that, a man called William from a village just outside Amsterdam pretending to be American.

For reasons that I still can’t fathom, 2019’s effort then went and won. I can’t fathom it because it’s awful. It was a man called Duncan singing a bad Coldplay song about a friend of his that had died, sat at a piano. It took ages to get going, he barely connected with the camera, when he did he looked like he hated you and there were literally thirty-nine better songs in the contest, as well as Poland. And now it’s a TikTok hit! Good grief.


Anyway all back to normal this year. S10 is the moniker of Stien den Hollander, a Dutch singer, rapper and songwriter, who has “made a name for herself as the darling of the Dutch alt-pop scene”, winning over critics, amassing a loyal army of fans, and triumphing at prestigious awards ceremonies.

I can’t really be bothered to dive into the back catalogue to discern whether the press fluff is even vaguely true – largely because when I type S10 into YouTube I get a lot of videos about the Samsung phone – but what I can tell you is that her entry sounds like one of those car commercials that make you think you’ll be careering through the mountains at 100kmph when in reality you’ll be sat waiting in a queue for the lights burning the clutch listening to Steve Wright in the Afternoon wondering where your dreams went.

I preferred it when they used to enter songs written by the man who invented the Smurfs.

You‘ll keep the things to feel their smell


Oh for crying out loud.

Back in 2012 viewers of Semi Final 1 were treated – as the opener to the whole contest – to a grumpy old man doing a “song” about the fissures of european economic and social policy, in a minor key, with a donkey.

It was fuckaclysmically awful- amounting to an ageing, functionally alcoholic Yugoslavian showing off by muttering rhyming couplets into a mic whilst a mechanical donkey and two breakdancers wobbled around behind him on a raffia mat. Think Freshers in an art college and you’re almost there.

So eye stabbingly bad was this “spectacle” that Swedish host broadcaster SVT brought a motion to the Eurovision AGM to abandon drawing the running order by lots altogether, proposing instead that producers create the running order themselves.

The UK took parts, and then a vote was taken on the substantive to avoid another Rambo Amadeus opener. The result? With a 2/3 majority, motion carried.

And how did the Montenegrans respond? With some jarringly unpleasant mumbling dubstep spacemen. That’s right – some jarringly unpleasant mumbling dubstep spacemen. I ask you.


This year’s artist Vladana has offended every Eurovision fan on the contentment by saying that she started out singing on a karaoke show in Macedonia and now laughs about how now she is now “on the biggest karaoke show of them all”.

Adding insult to aural injury, she then pitched up to the Turquoise carpet ceremony and chucked her flag on the floor – causing outrage on public television and the intervention of the minister for culture who called it a “profanation of the nation.” Just wait til he hears the song!


The train’s route is East to West, Chisinau to Bucharest.

Zdob şi Zdub & Advahov Brothers

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.

“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.


There’s not exactly a surfeit of talent knocking about there, so this year the Moldovans are just entering folk rock pop band Zdob și Zdub again. They first represented their country at Eurovision in 2005 with the quite brilliant Boonika Bate Toba, and were back again in 2011 with the less brilliant but pointy cone headed So Lucky.

The big problem is that, like most of those in this blog, it’s a joke that’s worn very thin over the years – I can’t tell if the “how do you do fellow kids” styling of the lead singer is deliberate or just a sign of his age, and no amount of trying to turn the accordionist and the violinist into Epic Accordion Guy and Epic Fiddle guy is really going to cut it.

They’ve come 12th in the final twice, and while Trenulețul is very much law of diminishing returns rubbish, given the abysmal standard of the competition this year I expect they’ll come precisely 12th again.

I‘ve had enough, had enough, yeah

Emma Muscat
I Am What I Am

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.

It all used to be so different, largely because in the olden days when you had to sing in your own language, only us, Ireland and Malta were allowed to sing in English – so dumb Britain always gave 12 to Ireland and 10 to Malta, alternating in odd years.

We even gave them points when they had the brass neck to enter this Japanese Vodka Just Dance song that sounds like a sort of nightcore version of the George Baker Selection’s Una paloma blanca. Spy 1 to Spy 4, I’ve deciphered the code.

After thinking for a couple of weeks in 2021 that this year’s contest might have been in Valetta, this year we’re back in the depths of early issue X Factor winners singles for the artist that won MESC, Emma Muscat.

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I really wanted this weird silver spacesuit threepiece with a fiddle to win, but alas Emma somehow scraped through with a frighteningly pedestrian mid-tempo soul pop song “Out of Sight”. She then panicked when everyone else in Europe that heard it fed back that it was awful, but given the delegation spent half the broadcaster’s budget their entry on Betfair last year, all they could afford was “I am what I am” – a song very of the yellow-sticker out-of-date Eurovision songwriters’ bargain shelf.

I mean I don’t know. Is it good? Is it bad? Am I simply going mad? Is it fiction? Or fact? Am I really losing tact? Is it magical? Logical? Natural? I wonder. It’s a song that really, makes me chunder.

As Roy Delaney points out on the Twitter, you only get what you pay for.


I remember standing in the middle of dunes of Nida

Monika Liu

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.

As I gazed down at these idle thoughts, wondering which to toy with, I became aware of the fuzzy, trance-like state I was in – and realised that although I’d entered this state of reverie out of boredom, the experience of boredom itself was proving to be pretty interesting. In fact, it turns out that I don’t think “boredom” itself actually even exists. There’s no such thing as boredom, just varying degrees of fascination. We love this exaltation. We want the new temptations. It’s like a revelation. We live on fascination.

When I was 13 I was off school for weeks, bedridden. I couldn’t move, or walk, or run. And there was no internet or satellite TV. I couldn’t move my right arm without experiencing blinding pain, which meant most existing forms of entertainment that I was familiar with, from reading to drawing to gameboy games to self-appreciation, were out of the question. All I could do was watch terrestrial television. Unfortunately, my illness struck in the middle of a major non-stop televised bowls tournament.

There I was, forced to lie still and watch the bowls for hours. Did I lose my mind with boredom? No I did not. I got right into it. It’s easy when there’s nothing else to do. You pick a favourite player first – not consciously, it just happens. Maybe one of them’s quite slick, or you don’t like his glasses, or you imagine he’s a bit of a cad in the club who treats the bar staff with absolute disdain. So you root for the other fella. Then there’s the actual game itself, which consists of tantalising footage of bowls gently swerving to a halt as close to the jack as possible.

This struck me as at least twice as exciting as the climax of Ghostbusters 2 (which was prescient of me, since Ghostbusters 2 didn’t come out until the year after).

What I’m saying is the mind entertains itself no matter what. It’s a blessing. It means that I’ve become fascinated by Lithuania’s Monika Liu. One of Lithuania’s most popular and respected artists, after graduating from the University of Klaipėda, where she studied jazz, globe-trotting Monica spent time studying in Massachusetts, living in London, before then settling in Vilnius.

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In 2004, she triumphed on an episode of Mažųjų žvaigždžių valanda (which roughly translates to Little Star Hour), performing Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why”. Jonas Narbutas, later of InCulto (ESC 2010) also competed on that episode.

That same year, she reached the winners’ concert night of Dainų dainelė (which roughly translates to Song of Songs), performing the gospel standard “Oh Happy Day”. She returned to the contest again in 2006, making the winners’ contest night once more. (She was a special guest performer at both the 2008 and 2010 editions of Dainų dainelė as well.)

In 2006, she competed on a season of Mažųjų žvaigždžių ringas (roughly translates to Circle of Little Stars), the competition that would become a funnel for Lithuania’s Junior Eurovision prospects the very next year.

And speaking of Junior Eurovision, though she was too old to enter by the time Lithuania began participating, she DID make an appearance at the 2008 national final. She performed a duet with Monika Linkytė, then the 3rd place finisher from the previous year’s national final. (Eurovision fans may best remember Monika Linkytė as one-half of the smooching singers that performed “This Time” at Eurovision 2015.)

Monika Liu‘s professional relationship with Monika Linkytė would end up paying dividends down the line. Eurovision fans may know that Monika Liu was a co-writer on Lithuania’s 2015 Eurovision entry, “This Time“, performed by Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila, but what fans may not know is that the two have collaborated on a Eurovision hopeful before. In 2010, Monika Liu was a co-writer on “Give Away”, the song Linkytė finished in 10th place with at the Lithuanian national finals. Watch the national final performance of “Give Away” here.

Since her debut in 2015, Liu has released three albums and plenty more singles. Her repertoire is so impressive that she’s been called upon to sit on the panel of two of Lithuania’s biggest talent shows: The Voice and The Masked Singer. Wowzers!

According to Monika, she has been considering making her way to the Eurovision stage for many years, and the time proved right for her now, upon the composition of Sentimentai, which was written and recorded in London.

So given all this, I tried, I really did, listening to her pretentious Eurovision entry “Sentimentai”. For well over six seconds I imagined that I was in a trendy bar in Vilnius, singing about being observed by others as if through a magnifying glass, as we search for ourselves in reflections of other people, in the public opinion, in gazes of strangers, and most frequently the image is incomplete, crooked – but when we gain confidence reflections become nothing but a game.

But then YouTube offered up one of those videos of a springer spaniel putting a softmint in a bottle of coke and it was all gone.

All of my groceries are divided by weight and stored in glass jars

Citi Zēni
Eat Your Salad

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.

What all of these selections have in common, of course, is that they are Schlager – simple, catchy, happy, melodious pop tunes, a genre that has sadly all but died out in Eurovision, except when people are being “ironic”. And nobody exemplifies that more than Latvian entry Citi Zēni.

An “award-winning” (as in “what do you want, a fucking award”) 6-piece band from Riga, the self-proclaimed “Princes of Rap” and “Divas of 21st Century Pop” are as well known for their “eccentric style” as they are for their “cheeky lyrics”.

Yep – in what I assume is a relatively desperate and childish attempt to get some publicity for the song, the opening lines to pop funk number “Eat Your Salad” are about cunnilingus:

“Instead of meat I eat veggies and pussy. I like them both fresh, like them both juicy.”


Jānis, Dagnis, Reinis, Krišjānis, Roberts and Toms have been suggesting in pre-contest interviews that their “daring” lyrics will “push the boundaries” of the contest, but they’re only daring in the same grubby, nasty, misogynistic way that 15 year old boys (and Tory MPs) watch porn without headphones on the bus.

And so marks the death of schlager. Once Eurovision represented an opportunity – a rare, fleeting, annual opportunity to see me smile in a genuinely joyous way about the world as I wriggled about and sung at the top of my voice and dad danced in obscure european ice hockey stadia to songs by discomforting boy/girl acts like Chanée and N’evergreen. Not any more.

My favourite’s La Det Swinge, by the way. La det swinge til du mister all kontroll! I can’t see Maneskin covering that in the interval, can you?

Sometimes I don‘t know how to express myself

Mahmood & BLANCO

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.

They bobbed along for ages doing stuff like this (including a song that did more to push the cause of Brexit than Boris Johnson ever did) until the first week of May 1997. It was quite a weekend. Labour swept to power after 18 years on the Thursday, I DJ’d a disco at the Swindon campus of the University of the West of England on the Friday and then our “own” (ie America’s) Katrina Leskanich swept us to victory on the Saturday by shining a light to light the way (with a song – fact fans – that Childline had rejected for being too “happy”).

Italy we so disgusted by our win that they gathered up their toys and threw them out of their pram for the best part of fifteen years – only returning once a jury had been reintroduced to balance up the televotes on the basis that those with “taste” might look fondly on Italy’s achingly credible entries.

They threatened to win a whole number of times across the decade – coming very close to beating Mans Zelermow with 2015’s Grande Amore – but then finally nailed it last year when Gen Z rock act Måneskin appeared with “Zitti e buoni” (Shut Up And Be Quiet) – a defiant anthem about “being yourself and not caring what other people are saying to you”.


This year we have something we may not have seen before on the Eurovision stage – a proper gay duet from Mahmood (who sang Solid for Italy in 2019) and BLANCO, a singer/rapper from Brescia with big aspirations.

A terrific song about trying to love someone but always somehow getting it wrong, the San Remo (Italy’s extravagant national final) performance was cracking – but at least on the evidence of the rehearsals from Turin, something’s gone wrong since, with the two of them sporting roughly as much chemistry as Al Bano and Romina Power in 1985.