The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 21

Diplomacy. It’s a skill one accrues almost by default over the years. Your co-worker’s dishwater-weak tea they bring you with a smile every time it’s their round in the office. You grin, nod politely and take an over-eager sip while trying to appear suitably quenched. The present your auntie buys you each year that you know is going straight to the top of the wardrobe. Greeted immediate-post-unwrap as though it’s the very gift your every second on this Earth has been leading up to receiving.

So, yeh, diplomacy. It’s worth brushing up on yours just in case a lovely Icelandic person asks you what you reckon to their country’s Eurovision song this year.

Because, to be frank, it’s a horrible, gloopy syrupy mess. The fact its title almost sounds like the place you went to buy your chart CD singles in the early ’90s is about the only thing Our Choice has going for it right now.

Just listen to those lyrics. There’s so much peace, love and holding hands in there that this could be one of the most subtle parodies of Eurovision ever composed. I’m still waiting for the moment when the camera pans around the green room hopefuls at the first semi-final and Armando Iannucci is sat there, arms folded, winking at the camera because he’s had us fooled all this time.

Let’s just take some of those lines out of context, with apologies in advance to anyone reading this who either has to keep their sugar intake down or is in footwear which makes toe curling a particularly painful experience.

  • “Tiny traces of life’s joy and sorrow/Why can’t we treat each other well”
  • “Different voices, cultures and people and places/Inside we’re all the same”
  • “Too many are dying in vain/Together we could ease the pain”

I’m sorry you had to read that. Well, I’m not really. Since I had to listen to that guff before writing this blogpost, it’s only fair you share a bit of the cringe too.

This is Sunday school stuff, written by the child who pulled their desk right up in front of Sunday school teacher and refused to talk to the other other kids because they were too busy sucking up to aforesaid Sunday school teacher. Sometimes naivety can be charming but in this instance, it’s borderline offensive. Does Ari really think we haven’t worked out the message in his song for ourselves by now? Or is he of the assumption that the general Eurovision viewer walks the streets, dawn to dusk, baseball bat firmly in their grasp, battering their fellow human because they have yet to hear the song which will make them reassess their feral ways? The Contest hasn’t been this patronising since Samantha Janus urged us to remember starving children moments after being dipped in the bargain bin at Claire’s Accessories.

And it’s really, really unfair that it’s Ari who gets to song this. There’s not even a chance of a vocalist with a mischievous twinkle lifting this beyond the realms of crud. He’s so sensible. If Celine Dion has show us anything in her tedium-laden career, it’s that boring people should never be pop stars.

God, I really want to bite something, this while package makes me so cross. Yes, that’s the formula Iceland REALLY thought would bring them Eurovision success this year. A sensible singer. Singing a nice song.

So, remember that diplomacy we were talking about earlier? If you do find yourself in Reykjavik in the days running up to this year’s Contest, make sure you tell them how marvellous Pollaponk was. Then ask for directions to Our Choice records.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 20

Sometimes this competition can slip one past you. Nutmeg you even, like the cat who refuses to stay on the front step you’ve wrestled it onto so it stays out while you’re at work. Flitting through the gap between your legs, it heads for somewhere comfortable and intends to stay there.

There’s really nothing that feline about AWS but their song is looking surprisingly comfortable in this year’s line-up despite refusing to tick any of the Eurovision boxes (which, to be honest, is a sign of cat-like stubbornness).

There’s been a surprisingly warm welcome to Viszlát Nyár in FanLand. Finally, it seems, we’re grasping the idea that something with lashings of melody chucked liberally across its entire composition can be performed in visceral fashion.

Although it may not seem like it, this is no different to Sanne Nielsen’s I’m In Love or Jessica Andersson’s Party Voice. It’s just performed somewhere sweatier than a cosy arena in Linköping with minimal choreography and absolutely no restraint whatsoever. This is Att älska dig, albeit belted out on the wrong end of a bottle of gin when someone has seriously pissed you off. With a grinding guitar solo chucked in at the end too, but hopefully the point is clear by now.

Songs like this have been entered into Eurovision before, notably from Finland in the immediate post-Lordi years when they tried to recreate their winning moment with ever diminishing returns. Turkey fared a little better with songs like this and the Czech Republic’s more blatant foray into metal saw it score a single point on its debut year in 2007.

But there’s something about Viszlát Nyár which makes it more accessible than any of the tunes mentioned above. Go beyond the intro with an open mind and there’s a good chance you’ll thoroughly enjoy the three minute ride AWS is inviting us on.

Applying a healthy dose of realism, there’s a slim chance we’ll see Eurovision go to Budapest in 2019 but that’s not really the point. If you can’t win the Contest, then at least send something which is going to make people sit up and ignore their sherry for a few minutes. AWS will no doubt get a few more iTunes searches off the back of their appearance in Lisbon and sometimes that’s the sweetest victory a Eurovision act needs.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 19

You should always remember your roots. Unless those roots lead you to a fairly forgettable entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. In that case, respect your roots (as we say, they’re important) but don’t feel any shame in putting them aside for three minutes while you come up with an absolute banger for the voters.

Alas, this is what’s happened to Greece in 2018. Yianna Terzi’s Oneiro Mou could easily gave entered this Contest at any point between 1983 and 1997 when the Greek entry rarely strayed from the drama of the traditional. While that proved a fertile(ish) shop window for their music industry, it never did very much in the way of points.

To be absolutely fair when it came to reviewing this, Oneiro Mou was listened to three times in succession with complete concentration. That’s not a good sign for a start. You have to want to listen to something if you wish it well in the first place. But reader, I persevered.

The drama is something you can’t get away from. If you don’t spot it in the incessant rhythm, there’s bucketfuls of the stuff in Yianna’s delivery. It’s solid, worthy stuff but not necessarily something your attention would swoop upon in a semi-final field (or the 26 on the Saturday night if we’re being generous).

It remains a loss to the Lisbon Contest though that we will not see the promo for Oniro Mou recreated on the big night. It throws up 11 vital questions. Just as vitally, none of them are answered by the end of the song.

  1. Why is Yianna in that hole?
  2. Has she always been there?
  3. Did a rival entrant push her in?
  4. Why is the fella who’s looking for her in ripped clothes?
  5. The landscape he is searching to locate Yianna is massive. How does he find her so quickly?
  6. Why isn’t there a speck of dirt on her if she’s down a hole?
  7. How does he know where to dig? Is it because he can hear her singing?
  8. Why doesn’t any dirt fall from above on to her nice clean outfit when he’s digging through to her?
  9. Why isn’t she more grateful when he gets her out?
  10. Is this based on a Greek legend?
  11. Is it based on The Simpsons episode where Bart falls down a well?

It comes to something when you’re more interested in the video than the song. Greek telly, I’m expecting an expanded version of the single, please, where answers to all these questions are provided on a separate CD-Rom.

Ach, you can have fun with even the dullest Eurovision song. It helps if there’s a daft video too.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 18

The UK has a birruva cheek whining about its Eurovision fortunes of late. Germany has had it far worse. After the 2010 peak of Lena’s Oslo gold, everything’s taken a mediocre shade of beige with two last places on the trot in 2015 and 2016 and very nearly the same again in Kyiv last year.

There has definitely been an effort on German telly’s part to do something about the situation but – like the BBC – it’s a campaign firmly implemented in baby steps mode.

The result is a stirring ballad with a touch more emotiveness one usually gets from the national final cookie cutter machine.

As a near lifelong resident of Merseyside and a supporter of Liverpool FC more by osmosis than serious dedication to the Anfield cause, there’s an obvious reason why You Let Me Walk Alone draws me in purely from the title. The antithesis to the sentiment behind Rodgers and Hammerstein’s anthem, this is all about your boy Michael being grateful for the way his upbringing led to him following his own path without parental reproach.

So messagey, so Eurovision. Now we get to the sing-y bit.

The Contest has never had a fantastic relationship with the acoustic guitar. For every Tom Dice getting moody there’s an Ovi and Paula thundering out a banger which scores more votes. It’s something that could affect Herr Schulte in Lisbon. This sounds impressive for the first minute but then we keep getting the same stuff coming around the belt again like the world’s least impressive sushi restaurant.

It’s a composition that needs to be more adventurous, take a few risks. If he’d thundered into a maNga style power break at that vital two-minute mark, Michael could be packing his cases for Portugal with a slightly smugger grin on his face.

As it is now, You Let Me Walk Alone won’t be coming last but a friendless night on a dusty side of the scoreboard isn’t an impossibility either. Show them what you’ve got kiddo, we need Germany back in the game. Whoops Dragovic is giving you extra marks for a video which looks like it was filmed in Paddy’s Bar from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – so everyone’s a winner really.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 17

I’ve lived with a Welshman for the past 15 years.

In that time, I’ve been introduced to various aspects of his home country’s culture – especially the music. The choirs, the indie-ish pop and most importantly, Can i Gymru, the Welsh language preliminaries for the Pan Celtic Song Festival, broadcast on S4C every St David’s Day.

It’s probably not appointment telly for every Eurovision fan out there but it was the event which sprung to mind on first hearing of this year’s Georgian entry. Coupled with Wales’ success (a silver medal no less) in the first Eurovision Choir of the Year competition, forgive me if things were going all Celtic round my eardrums instead of Georgian.

This isn’t my first time at the Eurovision rodeo. I know not to take polished studio recordings of an entry as any indication of success once it transfers to rehearsal week. Flipping that coin over, I was so convinced The Common Linnets and their Calm After the Storm would bomb after being so thoroughly bored by it in preview season that the subsequent toastiness of my fingertips has taught me to look at the Eurovision line-up in the broadest picture possible.

While an art video presenting For You in some form of disused silo is never going to be the most exciting thing in the world, it’s clear that when these boys get on stage and do this live, there’s real potential for a spine-tingling combination of close harmony, control and power which could get the right people sitting up and taking notice.

There’s always one song in rehearsals which comes out of nowhere like an Agatha Christie plot twist and this could be the one. It won’t light up the world’s charts, it won’t get a 7th Heaven remix and nobody will be humming it in the street the Sunday after the final. But it could also provide one of those all-important Eurovision ‘moments’ – and we should never underestimate the power of those.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 16

Iceland sort of did it in 2005 and nobody else has come even close to doing so until this year’s entry from FYR Macedonia.

With Eurovision having a strict three-minute max rule on the songs, one thing I’ve always been fascinated about is the concept of a country trying to do the Contest equivalent of Bohemian Rhapsody. That is, steer a composition through as many different genres as possible, retain its melodic integrity without ever sounding contrived and – thanks to the rulebook – doing all that in around half the time it took Freddie and friends.

Eye Cue’s Lost and Found is about the closest I’ve ever heard and it’s enjoyable enough, switching from off-the-peg pop to something with a hint of reggae and then something else a little rockier. I really like this and it stays just the right side of contrived. I’d also love to see it do well but there’s a concern about the way this meanders from one style to the next.

It knows it’s going to get there but there’s no sense of urgency in doing so. If the transitions were a little slicker and played around with a few more genres (imagine this going full-on popera at the end) then it would be a full-on contender for the title. Let me be clear, this is still a boss pop song but the listener deserves to hear the chorus at least one more time before those three minutes are up.

One thing we don’t have to worry about is Eye Cue’s ability to pull this out of the bag live. Reports from the first public performance of Lost and Found had thumbs up all round and they’re a tight outfit (even tighter than the pink thing worn in the video) so there’s still potential for the live chops to impress in Lisbon.

The only other note of concern relates to FYR Macedonia from last year. Dance Alone was such an irresistible package when laid in the table before us in the form of a promo and studio version. Come Kyiv, seeming budgetary restrictions from FYROM telly saw it performed in the most basic way possible which did nothing for the tongue-in-cheek style of the song.

This song deserves the sort of staging that shows off its gradual gear changes. It doesn’t have to cost the earth to achieve that either. Eye Cue deserve to do well – not to be left lost and foundering.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 15

It takes a brave soul to wear a roll-neck jumper. Even a black one. The moment that collar makes contact with your chin, woe betide any excess fat you may have dangling south.

Luckily for this year’s French entrants, they have no such concerns. Being French, they are automatically sophisticated, slinky and a tiny bit sexy – perfect for the stripped back gear they’ve got on to sing this.

Mercy comes from the most involved French national final in years which saw some perfectly brilliant pop navigate a course through to a final where Madame Monsieur charmed the public if not the juries. That said, there was so much quality on show, whatever wound up winning had the potential to do decent things in Lisbon.

It’s always interesting to see a Eurovision song tread the line between commenting on world events without worrying the ‘no politics’ rule. With this being a comment on the plight of refugees who risked their lives – losing them in some cases – in an attempt to reach the comparative safety of mainland Europe, it would take someone particularly stone-hearted to go through the lyrics with a chunky red marker.

The preview video makes this message even more stark as sympathisers are filmed in key locations around the continent, wearing either the silver foil blankets which provide warmth in a crisis or the life jackets that symbolise support in a crisis.

That makes the perfect visual accompaniment to this sombre anthem. It could have been bombastic, overblown and preaching in its delivery but instead delivers its message with admirable restraint.

Mercy may be just that little too simplistic to bring about France’s sixth victory in total and its first in 41 years. While this is undeniably a great blend of electronica production and considered songwriting, the lack of bangs and whistles may make this go over the heads of Eurovision’s Saturday night voters.