Thursday, 19 January 2017

Ukraine 2017 - Aghiazma - Synthetic Sun

It's been an interesting couple of months for Aghiazma. Back in November, you'll recall, they were flying high in the Ukrainian wildcard with their blistering face-melter Zombie Dogs, until suddenly the rug was whipped out from beneath them as they had a massive percentage of their votes whipped away from them after allegations of vote rigging. Of course, they were understandably livid.

Many less committed acts would have taken their punishment quietly. But not this lot. Instead they lobbied the folks at Ukrainian TV, so that when the list of competing songs were announced they were placed firmly in the middle of it. Result.

However, the song is a slightly different proposition to Zombie Dogs. A calmer, more melodic, yet still pretty damn assertive tune. It's a few beats lower in the tempo stakes, and without much of the more screamo elements that would have made the more traditional ESC fan's toes curl up, the lyric is packed full of charged proclamations about the price of fame and the vacuous nature of music as a commercial art form.

To have a song actively subverting the very nature of the contest take the stage as the home entry would be a thing of extreme beauty, but one fears that internal nepotism has already put paid to their chances on the big stage, and we'll be robbed of that tasty existential treat. Damn shame.

Moldova 2017 - Tudor Bumbac - Intr-o Zi De Iarna

Oh Moldova, Moldova, you beautiful people. You open up your application process to the whole country and no one enters for months - then they all rush at the last minute, leaving us with just enough songs to cobble together a couple of half-decent semi-finals. A they may have been late, but oh what joys they provide.

You may remember the fabulous Mr Bumbac here. He had a stab a couple of years back, and got as far as the audition round, where he stood stock still and nervous with his shiny suit and Slavic despot hair, looking every bit like he'd wandered in off the street and thought he was at the grocers. Bless him.

He offered up something a bit locally folky last time, but this year he's gone all exotic and provided us with a shuffle-poppy taste of the Caribbean - and oh what a delight it is! His fragile voice exudes nothing but charm as he recites a tale of his adventures on a Winter's day. There genuinely won't be many happier songs than his this year.

I really do hope the judges at the auditions have their happy heads on this Saturday, because I think the world deserves to see this thoroughly lovely old chap!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Latvia 2017 - Crime Sea - Escape

Remember Mntha? You remember, the kookie blue-haired minimalist who ran the sainted Aminata a close thing in the battle of the mad-haired electronica ladies in Supernova a couple of years back. Well she's returned, and this time she's mob handed.

Together with her sidekicks in Crime Sea she's delivered another sparse, atmosphere-drizzled event - only this time it's run through with bright pop edges and nursery rhyme choruses, and we must say that we really kinda like it.

We're fascinated to see what she's going to do with this on the live stage. It's our fave of the already-declared Latvian tunes so far. They're surely not going to go for another spot of the minimal for the third time in a row are they? There must be something in the water up that way, for sure!

Moldova 2017 - Sasha Bognibov - Stop All The Liars

I can now officially declare the 2017 Eurovision on season officially open. Yes, the dark lord of haunted goth pop has finally risen, only this year he's provided us with a massive chunk of gnarly rock, albeit with his still fabulously willowy pipes floating about all of the top of it.

It's his noisiest attempt since the fabulous Against Discrimination, and his best stab at glory since the peerless Wounded Swan, but it's still distinctly 100% Bognibov. He's clearly got a metal band of decent heritage on his roster, because the thumping drums, and soaring Rammstein-flavoured key changes underlay another plaintive protest about the badness of politicians stealing the country, before he kicks into the mantra playout of "Stop All The Liars" that continues until the bitter end. It's so damn addictive that Mrs Apocalypse has been singing it all morning after a single listen.

But of course, we know the folks in TRM towers are going to drop this in the bin without even giving it a listen - and more fool them. Just imagine the air-grabbing and meaningful looks down the camera pipe that our hero could execute to this one, with a phalanx of windmilling metallists at his rear. Once again, Moldova, it really is your loss.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Hungary 2017 - Csondor Kata - Create

I have a very good Portuguese friend who runs a Facebook group called SCARYvision. You should check it out. It mainly showcases moments from the national finals where either the vocals weren't entirely on point, or where the performances were a little excessively manic in comparison to the song they were murdering. I think this one will qualify on both counts.

You see, poor Ms Kata here had us unintentionally creased up from the very first moment - at first vogueing in an ungainly manner, and then that ill-advised mic manoeuvre. There's a reason that you've never seen anyone do that one before, ma'am. And it's not a good one.

At times it was like watching a young Bette Midler channeling the future ghost of Lady Gaga down some echoey timepipe, that distorted her voice to such a level that it sounded as if she was singing inside a child's plastic pony castle. This won't be the worst performance we'll see this year. Probably not by a long way. And it won't be the most awkward. But it's got that certain little something that makes it perfect for the Scary list. And long may she reign!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Lithuania 2017 - Rugilė Daujotaitė - Perkūne Ugniaveidi

So where do we begin with this Lithuanian marvel? The wild-staring eyes, and slightly wilder hair? The random noodly folk jazz techno stuff that you can quite pin a description on? The flowing goddessly robes? The girl with the under-used horn? The, erm, singing? The least convincing sword in all showbiz history?

This is a beauty to behold from start to finish. Watch it, then watch it again to make sure you really did see all that.

Oh, and lightning. Loads of lightning!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Latvia 2017 - Linda Leen - Who Is In Charge

The Supernova line up was announced this morning, and already the songs are begining to creep out across the popular video networks. There's not too much to get overly excited about just yet, but this familiar face has delivered us a left-handed doosie of the strange.

Linda Leen seems to have been trying her hand in this contest for about as long as I've been wearing shoes, and her attempts seem to get slightly more odd with each passing contest. And this surely has to be the video of the season so far - if you like your clips to be packed with fish sperm and slightly unnatural forest pursuits.

The song itself quite a thing, too. Starting off with difficult jazz rock chords and time signatures, it builds jarringly, before hitting full swamp blues in the chorus. There's even a menacing Rammstein-style pregnant build in the middle that raised the hairs on the back of my neck for the first time this season.

But despite all that, I'm still not sure if it's any good. I'm dead curious to see how she performs it on that tiny Riga stage though.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Spain 1990 - Azúcar Moreno - Bandido

The best moment of the season so far came not from a competing artist, but from and act from getting on for thirty years ago having a run though of their hit during a sub-final - and in Spain of all places.

We're not usually prone to moments of deep nostalgia, but to see the act who are aguably the only truly great Spanish entry since the eighties prowling lustily around the small stage, and smouldering at the crowd.

They might both be in their mid-fifties these days, but they exuded more pure sex power in three wonderful minutes than the sum total of every female-led act of the last five years combined. And yes, I'm especially including Poland 2014 in that list! If only the lifeless young waifs of the cmmen era could give it anything like that amount of welly.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Lithuania 2017 - Tadas Rimgaila & Samanta Tīna - Tavo Oda

Samanta Tīna, bless her for trying, has had a long and often difficult relationship with this tournament. A frequent near-miss in the Latvian process, she had one of the stand out moments of last year's qualifiers when she dressed up as Nefertiti and electrocuted a mime, before deciding she didn't want to progress any further in contest at the last possible moment.

So after trying everything bar the kitchen sink back home, she's popped next door and had a go over there. And again, her performance was nothing less than entertaining. This time her standard prog-tinged ballad was shared with an unfortunately surnamed hunk, and they writhe artistically (if not a little uncomfortably) throughout, with some terrific camerawork.

But then, pretty much on the minute mark, something a little bit odd happens, and you spend the rest of the song wondering if they've done it on purpose. It turns out that they had, but surely it wasn't executed quite as well as they'd rehearsed - which was a shame, because it was a nice idea, but one that spent waaaay too long getting to the pay off.

Sadly our Samanta fell at the first hurdle in a massive field of 61, which is a shame because not only was this more interesting than at least half of the songs that made it through, but we're convinced that she'd make an excellent impact on an international stage one of these days... one way or another.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Norway 1960 - Nora Brockstedt - Voi Voi

Seeing as it's Christmas, and that Albanian winner wasn't terribly memorable, we thought we'd give you a little festive treat, to reward you for another year's loyal service to the Apocalypse cause. This year we've dug deep into the vaults to bring you a delightful version of dear, departed Nora Brockstedt's seminal swinger Voi Voi - only this time she's got company.

Here she's joined by the Virginia vocal group The Deep River Boys, who were extraordinarily popular in the Scandis around that time, for a knockabout romp through her Eurovision fave. It is in turn funny, touching, and possesses a pay-off that's worth watching to the end for.

Happy Christmas to you all, and thanks for making 2016 our most successful year yet. Right, what time does Depi Evratesil start...?

Friday, 23 December 2016

Albania 2017 - Genc Salihu - Këtu

Tonight we get to learn of the first confirmed entrant to Eurovision 2017 - albeit in a much more basic form that its eventual incarnation, most likely. And for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of listening to any of the songs yet, this one is going to be an especial treat for you.

It's slow, doomy, the time signature is impossible to pin to a wall, and at times it reaches uterly bewildering levels of complexity - and that's before the weird samples kick in. On top of that, its singer looks like he's just climed out of his nan's washing basket, but still it's one of the most fascinating and utterly engaging entries of the year - but still you won't be able to sing along to it ten seconds after it finishes.

This kind of song is usually just a curiosity for the locals (and musical trainspotters like you and me), but it's picking up a surprising amount of interest in the fan polls, and we should all know by now never to second guess what the Albanians see in a song. Oh what fun we'll have in Kiev if this wins tonight!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Albania 2017 - Franc Koruni – Macka

Anyone who sat through last night's first semi-final at the Festivali i Këngës will tell you that it was something of a long old slog through minor key ballads, difficult time signatures and an awful lot of memories from the eighties. So when this chirpy little chap popped up in his glittery jacket and his rakish hat it must have seemed like a gift from the pop gods - but only for a couple of seconds.

For dear old Franc here gave the appearance of a man having a three-and-a-bit minute fight with the orchestra.

It was a performance that began with big lumps in it from the awkward opening - with its empty seats and unfortunate camera obstructions - then took us on a rollercoaster ride through some half-decent, if not slightly out of time, rap, a cracking stompy bit in the middle, and a curious eighties showtune chorus - as our hero seemed ill-at-ease, under-rehearsed and half a beat behind the orchestra throughout.

Having said that, I can't knock him too harshly, as it's still one of my favourites from this half of the draw. I just hope that, if he's lucky enough to make it through to Friday, he polishes his performance up a bit - and they move whatever that was from in front of the camera in the opening gambit!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Albania 2017 - Orges Toçe - Shi Diamantësh

Those of you with long memories for beards might just remember Orges here from the FiK final of 2011, where he surprised many with the success of his delightful little bit of French street jazz whimsy Mari. Well half a decade on he's back, looking a little more world weary than before, and growling out a song that wouldn't be out of place in Sanremo.

And while we're never entirely sure what they're singing about down in the deep South East, one can only assume that his gravely voice and tired eyes are carving out a tale of life's regrets and untold sadness. But hey, we don't read Albanian here. He might be singing out his Christmas list as far as we know.

But in what was a slow, morose and often difficult first semi-final at the Këngës, his was one of the few songs that really stood out - well, for the right kind of reasons, that is. More of the other sort tomorrow...

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Belarus 2017 - Breeze Band - Zayadoshnik

While it doesn't appear to have broken rule one in the Official Eurovision Playbook (Don't Forget To Turn Up), or even edicts two and three (Don't Forget The Words, and Don't Fall Over - Even On Purpose), this little performance still manages to obliterate one of the major no-nos in all Eurovisionia. And it is this:

If you're going to insist on having a clever little visual maguffin going on throughout your song, ensure that: A) It doesn't detract or distract from the song itself; B) It's quickly apparent what is going on; C) It doesn't go on too long, and; D) The final pay-off really must be worth the three minute wait.

Oh, and it also helps to have a song that isn't a blood-slowing slice of tedious faux popera, too, but that might just be a taste thing. File under: What were they thinking?

Friday, 16 December 2016

Belarus 2017 - Spasovka - Pripeyki Na Belaruskaj Move

You always need a great big bag of nans at this stage of the Eurovision process, and I have to say that these girls are some of the best we've had in a while. Indeeed, it's becoming something of a national finals cliche to have a row of locally-garbed seniors elegantly harking back to the old days in a dewy-eyed heart wrencher. But not these game old birds...

Yep, Spasovka throw caution to the win, get their heads down and storm through a turbo-fuelled rustic stomper in a proper rough-and-ready race against time. Do they go occasionally out of time with the music? Yes! Do their dance moves go a little askew from time to time? Of course! But is it three minutes of glorious earthy fun from start to finish? You betcha!

Indeed, this mob are less something that you'd find in local colour night in an expensive Minsk hotel, and more like something you'd stumble across in a village hall on the distant Ukrainian border, and we love them all the more for it!

Oh, and do forgive me my poor transliteration skills. I fear that I may have added the video replay information in my dodgy translation of the title. If you know better than me, please do put me right - but at least I had a go!