The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 43

I want to tell you a story.

February 7, 2018. There we were, safely gathered in Brighton’s Dome to watch the UK’s national final unfold before our eyes. Me, my partner Glyn and our pals Clive and Mel.

Like so many fans, I’d fallen under the spell of Asanda’s Legends. From the latter stages of 2017, there were murmurings and rumblings about the internet that the BBC had come up with an absolute belter of a tune from its songwriting camps. Called Legends, it could set the Brits back on track at Eurovision with an urban feel and beat and a melody that didn’t plan on going anywhere fast after taking refuge in your noggin. There was absolutely no doubt it would walk the UK heat and there were even rumours the final would be scrapped so resources could be diverted into making Legends Lisbon-ready with months to spare.

And so we took our seats. I couldn’t explain why but when I woke up that morning I knew Legends wasn’t going to make it. I didn’t know what else would but somehow, I knew it wouldn’t be the favourite. It felt like too much of an open goal, the sort rarely converted at the British heat.

As the songs flitted past, one by one, we came to Legends. Breathlessly and underwhelmingly (but not that underwhelmingly as repeat viewings prove) delivered by the 16-year-old Asanda, I could tell by the looks on my companions’ faces that they weren’t impressed.

Then along came song five and a happy-go-lucky crop-haired woman with a turquoise bum cape. I still can’t fathom how Storm elicited such enthusiastic clapping from the get-go but that’s exactly what it did. I looked round at my mates and the other half. They were all grinning, nodding and mouthing ‘we want this one!’.

Their wish came true. I wasn’t shocked when SuRie’s name was called out but I wasn’t exactly punching the air either. That said, I was humming the hook for hours afterwards and our pals were chatting about the song for a few days afterwards. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was too caught up in the legend of Legends to consider an alternative.

And that’s the point of this story. People who I talk to who don’t involve themselves in endless hours of Euro analysis keep telling me how much they love this song. They think it’s quality, it’s fun and some have even said it gives them the tingles. Why can’t Eurovision fans approach it in this way? If there’s been one song caught up in the usual broth of their bike this year, it’s this one and I’m not entirely sure it deserves it.

There are still bits in it that make me itch. The chorus really should have been given more balls. The remix really should have lifted the sparser parts of the arrangement rather than make it even lighter. But while our little pocket rocket is doing her absolute everything to bring home whatever scraps she can from the scoreboard then she surely deserves our fullest support. Whisper it – but once ordinary people get their opinion, this could squeeze on to the lowest reaches of the left hand side. Equally, it could score even less than Electro Velvet did.

But that’s that. Our preview of the 2018 Eurovision songs is at an end and this evening, the first of the semi-finals gets underway in Lisbon. The Contest is here with us again. And I’m just going to enjoy it. If only that pesky scoreboard didn’t ruin it for some of us.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 42

Curses. If they’re going to affect anyone, it’s the host of the previous year’s Contest.

Except, Ukraine did so badly in 2017 that it wouldn’t be too tricky for them to beat last year’s score when they get to Lisbon.

And it’s even less of an arduous task when they have the rather appealing and marvellous Under the Ladder representing them this year.

Melovin is the Bowie-eyed performer with just enough shades of confidence to carry this one off with the cocky aplomb that’s required. Let’s face it, you’re never go into be the right person for this one if you sing like someone too nervous to test out the Christmas tree lights.

This has all the chutzpah that’s needed of a Eurovision song and staging, while delivering a perfectly competent bit of rocky-pop, Melovin isn’t afraid to seek out his piano at the top of a daunting staircase which becomes a not-so towering inferno about halfway up its height.

But nobody else is doing pop on such a grandiose scale this year. It has a hint of spectacle, a hefty injection of pomp and enough flames to have health and safety wafting their clipboards about in concerned fashion.

As the closer to semi-final two this is the last new song the public will see before the grand final. As has already been mentioned, there is nothing on this level in the line-up this year but it doesn’t quite stand out enough to have the bookies rethinking their sums. But it’s always good to know that a TV station isn’t afraid to look beyond the figure below the line in the year after they’ve hosted the Contest and still take a risk on sending something good.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 41

Picking early means you get two bites of the cherry.

Jumping on the national finals train early means most people expect something better to come along a few more stops down the line. Then you get the chance to reemerge from the shadows in late March/early April with a tune that ends up with a more positive re-evaluation.

So if you just take a look at the song pulling in to Platform Three right now – and please ensure there’s enough headroom for that headgear – you’ll spy Whoops Dragovic’s tip for the Dark Horse of Eurovision 2018.

I watched the Swiss final. I saw Zibbz sing Stones in front of some light-up shapes and remember thinking I’d quite like them to win. Then a few months passed and the song re-entered my life via the official video which is approximately fifteen times longer than the song itself.

I loved it. Then I downloaded the 2018 Contest album from iTunes and listened to everything in order of the track listing. Every year it catches you out. Switzerland isn’t in the S’s as the track listing is done in the same way they do those little white stickers on car bumpers when you go abroad. So the Swiss are in the Cs for CH. Obviously.

So with it being early-ish on the first half of the album, it’s yet another chance to be surprised by Zibbz again. The friendly fire on your eardrums from something with a bit of bite to its beat and pleasing doses of passion to the performance. I found myself becoming a Zibbz fan at the eleventh hour. This didn’t necessitate trips to support groups or being glared at in the street but that’s probably because I haven’t told many people.

I just love it. It goes up and down in all the right places. Like the Alps. You genuinely feel that Zibbz love singing Stones and mean every act syllable of the thing while they’re belting it out. I’ll be honest, that anti-bullying message of this has never come screaming down the earbuds at me but if it’s there, I’m glad, there’s now wrong with a noble message.

Now we just have to wait for the goings-on of the coming week, when the two semi-finals will do their stuff and spit our 20 hopefuls with a shot at the trophy. It’s still not a given that Switzerland will be there on the Saturday night but Lisbon 2018 would be all the better for it. It’s time to reclaim Switzerland. Let’s own those Stones.

 

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 40

Sometimes it doesn’t help to be successful. The more you hoover up those points, the slicker you are at it, the more the envy turns to contempt.

So if you’re not at your peak year in, year out, down the vultures will swoop. And that, sadly, seems to be happening with Sweden this year.

Benjamin Ingrosso and his surprisingly engrossing hairy forearms are this year’s focus of our post-Melodifestivalen concerns. Crowned without the usual fireworks and fuss as excitement levels for the Swedish heats took a serious dip this year (it was never appointment telly), this is also the one that’s being unwisely ignored.

Sounding much like the Justin Timberlake your local parish centre can afford for Ladies Night, this isn’t going to win the Eurovision Originality Contest but Czech Republic aside, it’s just about the only touchstone the youth vote has if they’re forced to watch with their babysitter on May 12. While their mum is at Ladies Night.

Dance You Off has genuine commercial playlist potential but that doesn’t stop it being a tad, umm, dull. Largely lifeless, it does get the vital signs once it’s staged, Benjamin looking like the most inappropriately dressed extra in Tron as neon tube lights flicker, change and swoop at his feet, although the effect can also also look like a deckchair built to accommodate an entire rugby team in one go.

It’s not Heroes, Eupohoria or even If I Were Sorry and that, perhaps more than anything, is why Dance You Off is being so under-rated. Imagine this being the UK entry or the Spanish one. The hype surrounding it would be stratospheric with certain fans already scouting for hotel rooms in Madrid, London and Manchester months before the final. It may not have animated stickmen, artificial snow or – thankfully – words appearing behind Benjamin’s shoulder at random but it does have the inescapable slickness that every Swedish entry of the past 20 years turns up to the Contest with in spades.

Gothenburg 2019 is not an impossibility and perhaps we’re all being a bit too smug about this sleeper to realise it until the scoreboard makes its final rotation in the dying hours of May 12. Ignore this one at your peril – but don’t be surprised if it’s a non-qualifier either. That’s what you call dancing off all the bases.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 39

Ain’t love grand? Especially when you find it on a TV talent show and those early days of your relationship are cemented by standing in a really big Lazy Susan in the video for your first song.

It’s no wonder Spain has taken Alfred and Amaia to their hearts, even to the extent they’ve collectively agreed not to notice the harnesses when they’re having a lovely fly in the aforementioned video for Tu Cancion. Everyone loves a happy couple. And before you go getting all cynical, you’d like a share of the profits from the Harry and Meghan tea towels too.

To everyone else who didn’t follow Alf and Alma’s story (whatever you do, don’t tell Audrey) through Spain’s selection process, they may not be quite so benevolent towards it,

It’s very nice. Almost offensively so. This is the type of couple who have an office romance that winds everyone up. All over each other in the pub after work and cooing over the gushy texts they send each other from either end of the room. Make it stop. Now, please.

Of course, there’s always room at this Contest for something your nan would like and Tu Cancion is probably that this year.

The one thing that is fun is working out where this pair will be 25 years from now. Hopefully they’ve kept the leather armchairs but Alfred now sits and picks crumbs out of his belly button while Amaia grumbles about having to get his tea while vowing never to sing Tu Cancion again and dreaming of the hunky postman to whisk her away for a small sherry.

I’m sorry but there’s no sympathy here. They should have thought about that before recording this.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 38

Welcome to S Week on Whoops Dragovic. Well, almost a week. Three days in and three more to go for Eurovision’s most prolific initial (even moreso when Slovakia’s playing). We hope you’re having a lovely time anyway.

Today it’s Slovenia’s turn. Feel a bit sorry for them. That’s because three years ago they came up with Here For You from Maraaya, the most gloriously soulful pop song to enter Eurovision since Germany’s Ein Lied Kann Brucke Sein in 1975, wedging it firmly in my all-time Top Five. So that means any Sloven entry trailing in its wake does fall short when I’m casting a critical ear. It’s so naughty of me. I must stop.

This year, it’s Lea Sirk with Hvala, Ne! In my head I keep singing it to the hook line of Croatia ’97 but this is very foolish behaviour on my part. It’s more experimental than that, basically a musical sequence which serves as intro, chorus and motif and sounds strangely familiar. It’s certainly got life beyond Lisbon in the background of hundreds of TV adverts. Added to that is Lea with some chanty lyrics and swing your pants dancers which make this probably the most contemporary offering at this year’s competition.

Modern is good at Eurovision, even a bit sexy and voteable if you do it right. But there’s something in this which seems so calculated and void of charisma that it’s very difficult to love. It’s like looking at a burger on a plate and thinking it must taste especially scrum but when you pick it up you realise it’s been in the fridge for three hours and you plop it straight in the bin instead. No, I’m not sure that metaphor made sense either.

It’s still too soon after Maraaya for me. I’m getting a funky ice queen with boss hair but all I really want is a redhead in a wedding dress with matching Dr Dre’s and someone next to her pretending they haven’t lost their fiddle. I need to move on, I really do. Maybe next year.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 37

There’s always one song that passes you by. Every year. It’s only fair. You try juggling 43 balls and give them all the equal toss they deserve. It’s a tough ‘un.

I’m afraid this year that honour goes to Serbia.

You may remember a few posts back we did a podcast. Some friends of ours popped round to experience all of this year’s entries. No other song was skipped past quicker than the Serbian one.

But let’s be fair.

The whole point of this Contest is to showcase the differences which make your national music scene an attractive prospect to someone seeking a different sound. This one does that in spades. And if the song still isn’t your thing, at least you can be entertained by a band which looks like the mother of the bride trying to upstage the wedding while everyone else forgets to guide grandad to his proper seat in church.

There really is little else to say about Nova Deca. It won’t even fit into a stupid story about a time machine like San Marino did yesterday.

But it’s there in this year’s Contest. Just there. And in being there, it perfectly demonstrates just how broad a church this event has to be – and why we loves us some of it every May.