The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 28

I really should like this one. It’s poppy, it’s perky. Verging on the dayglo even.

The director of the video has even skilfully spliced between the sunny day at the beach and the miserable one the filming schedule allowed without losing the momentum the song requires (so well done there). Use was even made of a public cardphone which very obviously wasn’t working, so they’re getting even more bonus marks for improvisation.

So that shows how, once again, Whoops Dragovic will look for the positives wherever it can. Because the song itself can be summed up in two words. One is cheap. The other is irritating.

It’s understandable that Moldova is pulling out the stops to go a couple of places higher after finishing third – but this feels like someone pulling out the organ stops when really they should be plugging in their Casio synthesiser.

The creation of My Lucky Day clearly involved taking Poland’s 2005 entry, Moldova’s song from 2012, putting them both through pulse on the blender then squeezing it through the musical segment on The Two Ronnies before it drips into a Contest-ready vessel, pure 100% distilled… meh. It has that generic folksy beat, chanty chorus and annoyingly ‘nice’ sentiment that’s been clogging up the halfway point of the scoreboard for years.

But it’s not without hope.

There’s no denying the televoting allure of DoReDos. For so many people tuning in, this is what Eurovision is all about. A million millennia away from anything that’s in the charts but performed with (presumably) striking and zesty staging and enough enthusiasm to power ten jamborees.

It could easily do the last-minute hurdle Poland managed in 2016 after a lukewarm jury result (provided it makes the final). Talk about lucky.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 27

Is it really almost a month since we first went Bushpepa? Blimey. The end is sneaking upon us. Just another fortnight and-a-bit and we’re there. We’re still stuck in the first half of the alphabet for another few days, however. It’s time for Malta.

Perhaps nobody has ever tried so hard to win Eurovision as the Maltese. It’s arguably their national sport. How frustrating for them then that just as their uniquely sweet and sugary take on pop fell out of favour with the voters just when it looked they were about to crack it after all those years.

So you’ve got to admire a nation which retrains itself from the ground up in all things Contest. Ballads about lovely things are not the currency on the streets of Valletta these days. Instead it’s a grittier sort of pop which your teenage niece would still up her nose at but in the musically skewiff world if Eurovision, is cool enough to earn itself a spot behind the canteen bins at lunchtime for a sly bifter.

Which brings us to Christabelle’s Taboo, arguably something she could also sneak over to the canteen bins from her mum’s drinks cabinet and share round before the end of break.

Lordie, it’s trying so hard. There’s even a minute’s worth of extra promo video before the song starts which shows us what the Handmaid’s Tale/Hunger Games crossover absolutely nobody is talking about would look like. There’s been a bit of budget thrown at this, probably from the emergency pot Maltese telly keeps behind the canteen bins in case they have to host Junior Eurovision again in a hurry.

But even those 35mm trappings can’t detract from the generic nature of the track. This is ordinary stuff that has far fancier competition going in to bat before it.

Five years ago, perhaps even three, Christabelle’s wah-wah-ish riffs and downbeat hooks would have got people sitting up but she’s already in competition with the likes of Azerbaijan, Croatia, Slovenia and perhaps even Latvia in that particular clique in Lisbon. And there are few winners in a clique.

This could feasibly scrape through to Saturday night but if it gets there, having its ordinariness on show to a wider audience could almost be described as cruel.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 26

I don’t really do national finals season anymore. I know this statement should immediately be followed with the hashtag badfan but there can only be so many Saturdays in January spent waiting for the live feed of heat 76 of a wildcard round to un-buffer on your laptop.

That was one of the reasons why the only song I know of the many, many, many contenders taking part in Lithuania is the one which made it over the finish line. And I really don’t mind about that – because I love it.

When We’re Old is one of those songs that is so far under the radar it could paddle through hostile waters, coated in fluorescent paint with a big sign on its head reading ‘I’m Not Supposed To Be Here’ and still get free passage to its destination.

It’s understatement is its beauty.

Ieva’s wish for a love that transcends the decades, to be just as strong when your partner’s hair matches the silver of yours is delivered with the delicate coyness of an angel in training. Admittedly, the same song could also be used to score an advert for a new savings account (with current interest rates, you’ll have earned about a fiver by the time we’re old) but it’s worth a better date than that.

This has the potential to provide a tingly moment or two if Ieva can pull the right performance out of the bag. Sometimes a song has to be acted as much as it’s sung and the plaintive quality that runs through the studio version has to be replicated under the arena lights for this to work.

The last time I had a strange regard for such an unfancied entry was Italy’s 2011 comeback. That ended up sneaking the silver but everyone makes a lucky guess at least once. I’m not expecting such big things for this one but a sneaky each-way isn’t out of the question either.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 25

Ain’t it funny? Oh, it all started as a joke.

Not strictly true where Latvia is concerned. In 2000, this Baltic favourite burrowed through to the Eurovision stage, blinking excitedly under the Stockholm lights, wishing on its star and finishing third into the bargain. We’ll pretend 2001 didn’t happen and focus on the fact that victory went Riga’s way in only the third attempt.

Cyprus still hasn’t done this well after about twice as many goes so don’t ever listen to a Latvian called Laura when she tells you it all got under way badly. Eurovision wise, at least.

Instead, focus on Funny Girl, her entry into the 2018 competition. The purple patch Latvia trampled in 2015 and 2016 when they sort-of introduced proper grown-up dance music to Eurovision seems a faint glow on the heath now. That’s not to say they’ve suddenly become rubbish but there is such restraint involved in their song this year, a serious assault on the scoreboard seems unfathomable.

Funny Girl is OK. It’s not Love Injected but there is that dirty brass popping out for a peek between some lines which we really need to hear more of at Eurovision. So that’s one positive. There always is if you scrabble about.

Maybe it’s because Latvia has been spoiling us so much if late (just like 2001, 2017 doesn’t exist in Riga’s Contest history books either) that this actually-quite-classy number feels so ordinary. If this was San Marino’s song, we’d be ruminating on whether they had a village hall big enough to squeeze a camera crew in.

And before we leave Laura, we must confess to her not being all that funny either. She doesn’t even present us with any rice dish-based puns about her surname.

Please, Laura, get back here with some funny material quicksticks. It ain’t funny to finish this one without a joke.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 24

I think I like this one. When I listen to the verses, it sounds like a pair of perky servers reeling off the fillings in a New York deli. I’ll admit I’m salivating at the prospect of a Qualcuno Canta Forte on rye.

If it was any other year I’d be slightly less disposed to this. After all, it’s OK – but that’s about it. However, it’s the Italian entry following in the wake of the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that was Occidentali’s Karma, the Francesco Gabbani number that was definitely, absolutely, unequivocally, nailed-on to win Eurovision 2017. The unstoppable juggernaut which finished sixth.

That means I do feel a little sorry for Italy. Their song last year was one of the best pop songs submitted to the Contest in years but in the end the hype just couldn’t cash its cheque. Somewhere, a gorilla is still sulking and venting its depression by writing a really big essay on Jean-Paul Sartre. I’d like to see them to do a little better this year.

Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente isn’t the instant ditty that screams winner. What it does do is have a video which highlights all that’s wrong with the world and how humans have an insatiable appetite for hating each other. There’s not an om to be had.

While documenting the tragedies to befall the world in recent years is more sensitively handled by France in the 2018 line-up, there is something to admire here. I’m not entirely sure how sincere the sentiment is, especially when Ermal and Fabrizio’s dad dancing at the end seems to reverse all that is wrong in the world in much the same way Christopher Reeve did in the first Superman film.

Despite its serious message, there is a certain jolliness to this which bobs it along nicely. How much it will translate into votes depends on what we first see and hear during rehearsals. It would be kinda nice if this finishes fifth. With one point more than Francesco got.

It’s what you call karma.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 23

We’re at the favourite a little earlier this year, it usually happens somewhere around the R’s or the S’s.

And before we get to the over-analysis, it’s worth remembering the moment last year when Israel was called to give its vote in Kyiv. It was a farewell speech, a goodbye to the Contest that the nation on the shore of the Red and Mediterranean seas had enjoyed some success in over the years as their national broadcaster was due to pop out of existence any minute. It was a tad upsetting. Nobody does an ethnic anthem like the Israelis and they’d be a sad loss from the annual line-up.

So anyway, that was 2017. Twelve months on and news of Jerusalem’s demise as far as the Contest was concerned was greatly exaggerated. So much so, they’re in the running to win the whole thing and Tel Aviv 2019 is not a foolish notion.

That’s all because of one woman, Netta Barzilai – and her funky playbox. What this woman can’t do with a vocal looper really needn’t concern us as she storms her way through this beat-laden paean to what any boy who dares take her for granted can do with himself.

With Eurovision no longer anathema to anyone who knows how to write a chart-friendly tune, the standard has shot up so much in recent years that Toy isn’t breaking any new ground in 2018. What’s important though, is how it shakes up alongside the competition in its given year.

Arguably, there’s only Czech Republic which is giving this any trouble on the way past the post. There is such joy, drama, effervescence, attitude and musicality all wrapped up in the kind of package you leave under the Christmas tree until last because it’s simply bristling with the potential to be the biggest treat ever.

There’s only one thing which flattens my falafel. The bit about the chicken clucking is becoming really tedious.

I don’t mean the fact said bock-bocking exists, moreso the way people are reacting to it.

Within the world of the song, it’s an enjoyably onomatopoeic way of explaining the situation and is over and done with swiftly. But, as per – hype has squeezed every last drop out of it until it becomes as unfunny as yet another Lynda Woodruff sketch or Del Boy falling through the bar for the umpteenth time. Then again, that’s probably just me. I hate it when something becomes a thing¬†and people who aren’t funny/witty/interesting latch on to it purely to bathe in its reflective dazzle. It really does make me go all sulky.

There’s always one song the world talks about the day after Eurovision. For this year, it really can’t be anything else but Toy. And it’s going to be for all the right reasons.

 

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 22

Crack out a damp party popper. We’re more than halfway through.

More than halfway through and still at the beginning of the I’s. See how Eurovision cocks a snoop at alphabetic symmetry, the musical tyke.

Since we’re talking maths (sort of), it’s appropriate that this entry brings us to the only country which can claim to have won more than 10 per cent of all Contests.

Twenty-two years ago, they’d won not far off 20 per cent of all Contests but that just shows how tempus can be a real bastard sometimes. It’s Ireland, of course, the nation whose unique approach to ballads bored the pants off us¬†made them Colombian strength jurynip in the mid 1990s.

More than two decades after their last touch of the trophy, Ireland is now one of a few countries desperately searching for that last bit of the jigsaw to make their Eurovision campaign click with the voters.

And this year, they may just have found it. Down the sofa, covered in old jam and cat fur, mind – but still something which could complete the puzzle if given the right sort of scrub-up.

Together was to greeted with much enthusiasm when premiered on Irish radio In its studio version it felt a tad flat, something to add to the string of not-quite-there sausages pumped put of RTE since the turn of the century. But then we got the promo video, a joyous same-sex ballet round Dublin’s Temple Bar, celebrating that special feeling when you’re having a great night out as a couple that just works. That brought Together a few more approval points. Then we got the first live performances from Ryan O’Shaugnessy, a singer refined through his experiences at the live finals of Britain’s Got Talent, a lad who knows how to sell to a song to a crowd like Del Boy shifting hooky crockery.

And you know something? It works. Ireland could be on to something that works. After years of splicing semi-quavers in their melody labs, the sweat in the foreheads of those Celtic scientists seems to be paying off. There’s nothing groundbreaking about Together but there’s enough subtle shifts in its DNA to give it an appeal too a wider audience, perhaps even enough to shift it out of its semi-final.

When the lights dime in the arena, the crowd falls silent and it’s just the singer, their song and their audience, that’s when you know who’s going to do well at Eurovision. If they can saddle those 180 seconds and ride then with confidence and control towards the sunset, they’re halfway home. That’s what we can expect to see from the boy O’Shaugnessy and for the first time in a long time, a 21st Century Contest held in Dublin does not seem an entirely alien notion.