by Freq | 2017-05-11T12:31:57+00:000000005731201705 12:31
It’s the time of year in Europe when days grow longer, spring blossoms multiply andthe Eurovision Song Contest heaves into view; which also entails Kev Nickells going through each and every entry with a vengeance.
The cultural highpoint of the year comes around so quickly. It’s a story as old as time. Jamala was fucking amazing last year. Like, politics and really fucking wow singing doesn’t rightly win Eurovision, so it’s amaze that that happened. And in the interim, the UK has declared itself the biggest shower of cockends politically. As if that wasn’t already obvious.
Every year there’s a shower of pricks yarking on about “political voting” and that will be the most boring thing about British Eurovision press this year — but we’re in the precarious position of having actually fielded a half-decent song. As opposed to the usual approach of being a country that produces loads of great pop but sending Eurovision something that’s, at best, described as sloppy seconds. Perhaps this is precisely our last gasp towards Europe, the call to arms to let Europe know that, yes, we’re surrounded by fuckwits but there are those of us that still believe in Europe. All too late.Anyway, political bandstanding aside — it’s one of the strongest set of songs for a fair while, this; while there’s less on the FUCKMEFUCKMEFUCKME THAT’S BRILLIANT as there was last year (Italy, Slovenia, Austria etc), there’s a lot less of the turgid and thank Christ the era of BOTH shit whistling and spraytan dubstep is passed. I’m writing this rather than watching the semi-finals, so there’s a strong chance my favourites have been knocked out, because Slovenia were knocked out last year in a fit of madness from Europe. Anyway — without further ado:
Robin Bengtsson — “I Can’t Go On” (Sweden)
Sweden won a couple of years ago with a pretty asinine song. Robin Bengtsson would probably sell you an ISA. One of my least favourite words is “freaking”, and also “‘freakin'”, which features in the chorus of this. Rubbish.
Lindita — “World” (Albania)A lovely voice. Tick off torch song on your bingo list. Good, but probably not the stand out of the big torch songs in this year’s field.
Francesco Gabbani — “Occidentali’s Karma” (Italy)
See, part of things rings alarm bells — he’s a bit suave gent with a “real” band. But it’s genuinely got a proper chorus with no fannying about to get there and some witty lyrics (see the video with the subtitles). As ever with Eurovision, normal rules of music are going to have to re-thought so the fact that he’s playing a Les Paul and wearing a suit BUT isn’t entirely appalling means that he’ll have to be the exception that proves the rule. Plus, Italy usually throw down something worth listening to (apart from that fucking opera boy band a few years ago) so… well done, the Italy. I will say it’s not quite as amazing as last year’s “No Degrees Of Separation” which did nothing like as well as it should do. Not that I’m still bitter, twelve months on.
NAVIBAND — “Historyja Majho Zyccia” (Belarus)Every year there’s a song that should, by rights, be described as sub-Mumford turgid horse but is, in fact, amazing and great. This is this year’s nominee for that crown. 2015 was Boggie‘s “Wars For Nothing“. NAVIBAND have the advantage of being a bit up-tempo and not in English. Their outfits are appalling. There’s a banjo. Life-affirming songs are terrible. Best song ever.
Norma John — “Blackbird” (Finland)
Oh, this is appalling. One of those real sentimental songs that’s all a bit sentimental and terrible bird-related metaphors. And, as always with Eurovision, I find myself being less annoyed by listen number three and going “OMG LITERALLY BEAUTIFULIST” by listen number five. It’s a sad and a slow and a wistful number, has a big slushy bit before the chorus comes in like the gravitational effects of the sun and it’s basically amazing. Finland are on my to-watch list for their attempts at “credible” blokey music at Eurovision, but this has done a lot to heal my wounds.
Levina — “Perfect Life” (Germany)First showing of poppers o’clock. REALLY needs a hardcore remix. Probably already a karaoke hit. The fact that it’s not the best examplar of poppers o’clock doesn’t stop the fact that the most important thing about Eurovision is poppers o’clock tunes. She has lovely hair. I’ve a suspicion that hitting lots of points on the androgynous / femme/ “whoah, look at that haircut!” matrix will count in her favour.
Joci Pápai — “Origo” (Hungary)
I was initially fonder of this than perhaps I am now. A really lovely voice and, lumpen idiot that I am, reminds me in part of muezzin-ish singing. A lovely fiddle line from a country of fine fiddle traditions. It’s one of those tunes that’s definitely strong, but sits pretty squarely between the “definitely lots of local stuff there” and “full-on international pop”, which is always a tricky space to occupy. Still, worse things have happened in Eurovision history.
Anja — “Where I Am” (Denmark)One of those cack “oooh, love let’s do it right” songs with a big note on it and a key change. Broadly speaking it’s pish, but there are worse contraventions of decency afoot so, provided she’s wearing a suitably amaze frock on the night all should be well. Best of luck, the Denmark.
Nathan Trent — “Running On Air” (Austria)
Oh, one of those boys who’s kind of good looking, but not really singing one of those faux authentic songs about getting to his goal or some shit. Definitely shit. If there’s virtue in obsolesence, I forgot I was listening to it every time. Fucking hell though. I’m sitting here listening to it closely. Fucking excruciating.
Hovig — “Gravity” (Cyprus)This probably has a ridiculous stage show, so worth keeping an eye out for it. Like Finland, this is entirely the sort of epiphanic stuff with a slovenly chorus that I really have no business liking, but I’m finding myself enjoying it, which is ridiculous given that I can just about mention “some interesting work with claps” as a compliment. Bloke is a bit bloke, but still fit.
OG3NE — “Lights And Shadows” (The Netherlands)
So a few years ago the Netherlands had a new country-ish tune (the Common Linnets), and here’s another one. This one’s pretty close to the kind of harmonies Little Big Town win “best vocal group” for at the CMAs every year (seemingly) — so if that’s your bag, this is probably your bag. There’s something stopping me liking it properly, but I’m not really someone whose opinion you should trust. (Note: I’m the reviewer. I’m DEFINITELY the person whose opinion you should trust).
Kasia Moś — “Flashlight” (Poland)Racy video. If you’re, you know, a tabloid journalist and an idiot. This has some amazing production on the vocals and I’m entirely sure that the swooping strings are a reference to Lutosławski. This hasn’t quite hit the point of me going “OMG AMAZEBALLS”, but it’s definitely very good and has all the qualities of being a possible favourite by the time the big night comes around. That feels a bit damning with faint praise, but by God reader you can make your own fucking mind up. It’s definitely in the realms of amazing.
Martina Bárta — “My Turn” (Czech Republic)
She’s a lovely and quite an unusual voice. Lower than it possibly could be. It’s one of those piano / love song numbers, but don’t let that put you off (in this instance) because it’s kind of brilliant and I can see me doing a little cry if I’m pissed enough on the night. It’s a verse and a chorus too long though.
Demy — “This Is Love” (Greece)POPPERS O’CLOCK. Frock watch has exploded. Banger. Stone cold, several million per cent banger. Does that super smart thing of abridging the second verse so it can have a proper middle eight with more of a kick drum before a whacking great DOUBLE POPPERS O’CLOCK chorus. It’s like the song that Take That never made in the early days. I’m going to stick this in second place as France is, just this evening, showing itself to be pengest of peng.
Ilinca ft. Alex Florea — “Yodel It!” (Romania)
Probably the award for the most Eurovision entry this year. Features yodelling. Like, really gratuitous yodelling. Not just a little bit of yodelling, some really preposterous yodelling. I mean, that’s clearly entirely brilliant. It’s the classic model of not particularly interesting singing/ rapping chap with yodelling woman. A pairing as old as time itself. She’s a lovely, lovely voice. And yodelling.
Really though, if this doesn’t turn you on, you’re dead to me. Avoid the video though, there’s literally far too much product placement in it.
Isaiah — “Don’t Come Easy” (Australia)I’m not sure if it’s that faux-authenticity thing or shoddy recording, but this opens with what sounds distinctly like an amplifier that’s still plugged in on mic. One of these years I will stop complaining about Australia being part of Eurovision — TO WHICH THEY DON’T BLOODY BELONG — when they do something proper fucking banging. Also, it’s clear that a proper country like Lebanon could enter. YOU HEAR ME, LEBANON?
Anyway, tl;dr — earnest horsepiss, is what this is. His eyebrow game is strong but no amount of peng eyebrowery will hide the fact this is the sort of thing that sounds like a coked up mistake in the Michael Bolton factory.
Blanche — “City Lights” (Belgium)
More poppers o’clock. Another woman with an interesting lower voice. It’s probably the lower end of the tempo range for poppers o’clock — so maybe it’s more ante-pingers, but whatever, this is pretty shiny on a scale of one to golden peng.
Dihaj — “Skeletons” (Azerbaijan)Azerbaijan are always welcome in Eurovision and, so far as I remember, they usually turn in something pretty alright. This is pretty alright. In English, but she’s enough turn on her voice to make it interesting. Big stompy chorus (like, ooh, “Gaga’s Teeth” or something).
Really not sure about the industrial / goth shoes she’s wearing, but for fuck’s sake don’t listen to me when it comes to footwear. (Note: ALWAYS listen to me when it comes to matters of footwear). Big chorus and exceptionally lesbian-friendly haircut, so very little about this that doesn’t say I’ll be roaring for it come the night.
Omar Naber — “On My Way” (Slovenia)
ManuElla for Slovenia was my favourite entry for last year. Possibly my favourite entry for anything ever. So this year was always going to be a step down. This is a bit Barlow, but on the “I’m surprised how much I like that” side of Barlowry. Video has some odd dancing that makes me wonder if it’s not a slightly wrong take on Kazaky or something. Feels like it’s got about twenty key changes and, if you’re going to do a key change, you might as well make it as obvious as a violent green brick wall on a motorway. Fair play.
Jowst — “Grab The Moment” (Norway)Oh God, the hat. I can’t tell you how much this guy is your boyfriend. This is that “credible” and “suave” side of Eurovision that can do substantially more fucking off please. It’s kind of not a bad tune but the vocalist — to repeat: yours — just ruins it. “Sexy” for “sexy” people who keep dog’s teeth they’ve found in the woods about their person.
Jana Burčeska — “Dance Alone” (FYR Macedonia)
This is very much Ladyhawke chorus and a verse that sounds just like a band that I very precisely can’t think of the name of, but it’s not Ladytron. Poppers o’clock and not the first time I’ve wondered if it wasn’t Robyn writing it. Strong contender for song that’s literally very good. The Robyn thing is obviously because it’s called “Dance Alone”. I know that. It’s almost a shame that FYR Macedonia haven’t followed their usual suit and turned in something that has a lot of Macedonian folk signifiers but, y’know, they’re on the axis of banger, so all’s well.
Tijana Bogićević — “In Too Deep” (Serbia)More poppers o’clock. Sitting on a spinning thing in the video while singing the lyrics “Spin me around’. Never a bad idea, that one. Problem with this is that it’s got a better bridge than chorus. You might want to think about that next time, Serbia. Some nice “Wooo-oo-ooooo” chorusy bits. Alright.
Salvador Sobral — “Amar Pelos Dois” (Portugal)
Big slushy torch song type affair. Really quite lovely. Keeps reminding me of “Pal Of My Cradle Days”, but actually sounds nothing like that. Has some, y’know, head tics when he’s singing like some Brel/ Winehouse hybrid (OMG IMAGINE HOW GOOD THAT WOULD BE). Likely to have me bawling come pissed o’clock on the day. Also in the category of “really should leave this ‘credible’ bollocks behind but actually that is literally a fucking tune”.
Alma — “Requiem” (France)All of the drama and vim that belongs to proper French music. Disco bits. BANGING FUCKING CHORUS. Yeah. Definitely the best of this year. Yeah, fuck me yeah. Big proper holiday gurner chorus, lovely recording, ridiculous extra bit. Amazing. It’s also got that dark horse thing of being “oh yeah, that’s good” the first time and then “FUCK ME. FUCKING FUCK THE FUCKING FUCK ME THIS IS AMAZING” the more I listen to it.
Lucie Jones — Never give up on you (UK)
ASTONISHINGLY this is not only not entirely terrible, it’s literally actually quite good. It’s a slow number and has some fucking post-rock guitar in the background BUT BUT BUT it’s definitely fucking amazing. I’d potentially like it a lot more, but I don’t trust the UK any more so I can only assume that somewhere buried in there there’s a tepid cup of tea with a union jack on it moaning about immigrants.
I’m going to trust the good queers of Europe to put aside their reservations about what a shower of inept pricks we are as a nation (politically) and vote for this. A bit. Obviously, if we came second to France that would be the most hilares thing.
Claudia Faniello — “Breahlessly” (Malta)Ah, the backwards video. Classic. Big torch song. I mean, you can imagine the frock now. This is probably the tune that Bonnie Tyler should’ve turned in that time. This song is enormous. Like, about as big as if space itself had a really overly indulgent extension and conservatory. Malta can be patchy in Eurovision (cf Firelight‘s “Coming Home” in 2014), so it’s nice to see they’re taking the thing seriously. It occurs to me as well that the fact Claudia looks to me like Reba McEntire is probably why I’m telling myself it sounds like Reba minus country effect.
Timebelle — “Apollo” (Switzerland)
The tune that’s sat in my head most in the run-up. One of those verses that sort of sits there not being a chorus but subtly suddenly being a chorus and is all like “yeah, I’m a chorus, what else did you think I was going to be? [muttering] dickhead”. And also doing a really fucking disgusting trick of having the words to the chorus in the bridge so you’re like “oh, is this a chorus now?” but then it’s like “nah, dickhead this is the bridge BANG I’M A FUCKING CHORUS LOOK AT HOW CHORUSSY I AM [muttering] dickhead”.
Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson — “Spirit of the Night” (San Marino)Surely there has never been a Eurovision without a song called either “Spirit Of The Night” or “Warrior”? Just about hitting the banger register, but were it not for the kick drum in the chorus this would be suspiciously Milton Keynes funk. I suspect people who vote Tory for lols like this kind of thing, which is a shame as it’s not that bad a song really. Flatulent pair of key changes too. Risky shit right here.
IMRI — “I Feel Alive” (Israel)
Poppers o’clock, and what sounds suspiciously like a digital duduk. I can’t knock it, but there’s something about it I can’t quite place that just smells of being intractably cack.
Sunstroke Project — “Hey Mamma” (Moldova)SPEAKING OF INTRACTABLY CACK (etc). Also yours. Oh God, the fucking rubbish “sexy woman cracks eggs suggestively” in the video too. Toss.
Slavko Kalezić — “Space” (Montenegro)
So this is perhaps more than a little bit Kazaky, verse-wise, then hits some faintly incoherent sexy metaphors (hereafter “sexyphors”) in the chorus. It’s the story as old as time — you get a nice looking guy, do some go-go standard dancing for the video, sort out a bangin’ verse and POW — you forget to sort out the chorus.
Brendan Murray — “Dying To Try” (Ireland)It’s a story as old as time. Ireland fields a faintly uninteresting breathy-voiced alright-looking chap for something mid-tempo and, frankly, pish. Next.
Svala — Paper (Iceland)
Now when I say this is astonishingly derivative of Robyn, I need you to understand that that is a very good thing indeed. There’s a load of hilarious Illuminati earings on the video. Very strong. In my head this is what all pop music sounds like in 2017 and the actual reality of things is to be avoided. Which is probably also an analogue for politics, but I digress. Absolute banger.
Manel Navarro — “Do It For You Lover” (Spain)It saddens me to say this about a song that’s not in English, but this song really needs to go home and think about what it’s done. And that’s to say nothing of the video which (spoiler warning) definitely doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test.
Koit Toome and Laura — “Verona” (Estonia)
Duet. So this has that quality of having such an arduous build up to the chorus that by the time it arrives I’ve almost finished writing theses, finding nails and heading out to the church. It’s worth the wait, but perhaps Estonia would do well to remember that some of us are VERY busy people. Not me, obviously, but someone probably is. Alright /10.
Fusedmarc — “Rain Of Revolution” (Lithuania)It’s a story as old as time. Writer falls back on already over-used tropes in the hope audience doesn’t notice he’s nothing to say about an almost courageously insipid song. Note “almost”.
Artsvik — “Fly With Me” (Armenia)
Ah, really tricky, one this — subtle, smart, well-put together, closely produced and well thought-out… but doesn’t quite punch you in face saying “FUCK’S SAKE DICKHEAD I’M A FUCKING CHORUS. LOVE ME”. NB that’s no way to approach the objects of your affection, doubly so if sexyphorically. But here’s the thing — last year’s winner Jamala, which was fucking incredible, was a bit on the subtle side.I’m not sure Armenia’s quite got the FUCK ME bit of the vocal breakdown of “1944” or a Mariah-grade singer, but it’s definitely a well good song. Albeit one that I’m not quite in love with yet. To paraphrase Blackout Crew, maybe Artsvik need to consider putting a banging duduk on it.
Trian Park — “Line” (Latvia)
Every year there’s a song that’s clearly the best song EXCEPT it’s not yet in its final form. This is definitely entirely amazing but until there’s a trance remix it’s not quite there yet. NEVERTHELESS we are in the capital city of BANGERLAND and this is a large castle called “THE BANGINGEST CASTLE OF BANGERLAND”. You’ll note that in bangerland everything is written in caps.
Kristian Kostov — “Beautiful Mess” (Bulgaria)Really quite lovely, cute boy. Which is imperative given that the core voting block considers Eurovision as the gay Christmas / gay World Cup. Mid-tempo, which is obviously a bit lower than I’m rightly comfortable with, but it’s one of those cases where it’s just a really fucking good pop record. There’s a nice white dove bit in the video that probably doubles as a sexyphor.
Jacques Houdouk — “My Friend” (Croatia)It’s almost a shame that Romania claimed the “most Eurovision” crown early, because this has a chorus about “have a dream / take a chance (etc)” and features a tenor doing almost entirely incongruous opera singing. Wait, that might be one guy. Fucking hell. Houdouk looks like someone I very much want to be friends with. Absolutely the kind of frivolous wonder that defines Eurovision, so this had better have a high placing.
Tamara Gachechiladze — “Keep The Faith” (Georgia)
I love the diva-touching-collarbone, close eyes and look down and to the right move. Which appears here. Dispenses with verses very quickly, which is precarious. At least two key changes because, well, who needs to write another verse? Yeah, it’s about the size of a continent, but it’s not entirely clear whether that continent is largely water. Decision on whether banger suspended until on-the-night frock evidence provided.
O.Torvald — “Time” (Ukraine)Some country, every fucking year, does this “credible” metal-ish thing now. Fucking Lordi. Everyone who likes this song can talk about nothing except profoundly uninteresting cars. Fuckers.
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