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.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 14

There was such excitement when this song first dropped from the ether, you can imagine my trepidation as I sought out the nearest clip for my virgin listen. I was about to be blown away by a potential winner of Eurovision 2018. Trembling fingers finally aligned the mouse cursor with the play button on the video clip and lo, it was clicked.

Three minutes later, it’s suffice to say there was a massive comedy question mark, possibly decked out in the colours of the Finnish flag, floating six inches above my head.

I just didn’t get it.

But lots of other people did.

The beauty here is that Saara Aalto brings a story with her to Lisbon. Like a loads better Eddie the Eagle, she was previously renowned for almost winning lots of things but never quite landing that final shot. She’s now got that monster off her back (ahem) by landing the Finnish Eurovision job unopposed.

So is her new-found lucky streak going to continue with an ace showing in Lisbon?

Possibly. There is a lot going on with Monsters. It’s skilfully put together with production that’s on the right side of 2018 and enough moments to lift the journey along on its way while not distracting from the homogenous whole.

It’s not Monsters, it’s me. However much I try to like it, to hum it, to sing along to it, I just find myself admiring the interior design of that big draughty house the video’s filmed in. This is the sort of behaviour you can safely file away under ‘Bad Fan’. I quite like the allusions to The Last Supper in the visuals though. Pity Saara can’t have 13 with her on stage in Portugal.

When this was staged in the Finnish national final, even the most ardent Monsters lovers had to raise an eyebrow or two over the staging (even three if they have a genetic gift they need to show off about more). Any sense of decadent intrigue captured by the promo director just wasn’t there for the live performance which seemed to begin with Saara stepping out of your nan’s shower and got less interesting from there in.

There’s nothing to say that a complete scenic overhaul won’t stop this advancing to Saturday night like Boris Karloff pushing Universal Studios’ finest scenery over in order to find his girlfriend with the funky Mallen streaks.

It may even come Top 10 in the final. Top five. Top three.

But I still won’t get it. Not completely.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 13

It used to be that the Venn diagram of Eurovision fans overlapped into a generous canoe-shaped pool of lovers Contest and Doctor Who.

While that’s still the case, there’s another cultural phenomenon threatening to push Jo, Ace and Sarah Jane into the background. Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

And if there’s one song in the 2018 line-up which brings the Race to mind, it’s this one. I’ll tell you why – but you’ll need to watch this video first.

You see that moment at two minutes and 19 seconds? For the life of me, I can’t watch it without thinking of Season 8 contestant Ginger Minj talking about flooding her basement. So anyway, there’s me ruining that bit of the song for you too. I’m kind like that.

Untucked japes aside, there’s not a lot of fun to be had with La Forza. Take away the big show-offy dress and what remains is a generic opera thingy which drags itself through the libretto equivalent of treacle from start to finish.

It’s a prime example of how the show at Eurovision can trick people into voting what’s not deserving of a trophy in a song contest. Granted, Elina is shaping up to be Tallin’s rootingest, tootingest noteslinger but the only damage she’s going to do with La Forza is have her opponents snoozing into their Tizer come semi-final night. Granted, that’s only a given if the fuse goes on her dress.

We are brought to mind of a similar situation in 2011 when certain Euro fans were scraping the sweat from their brow with those handily placed accreditation passes after the first rehearsal of France’s Sognu, This was another tour-de-force that was more force than fun. Paris 2012 was a certainty (where have we heard that before?) until it, well, wasn’t.

Estonian telly could well have to brace itself for the same thing happening in Lisbon. While Salvador’s winner last year had a unique romance to it, creating a defining three minutes in Contest history, this simply can’t. Whereas the title holder has enough romance in it to keep Mills & Boon going beyond the point of natural heat death, La Forza is all about the technicalities. It doesn’t want you to love it, it wants you to be impressed by it. And nobody really loves a show-off, as any Veruca Salt or Carmelita Spats will tell you in their more honest moments.

Mind you, one good thing will come of this. Estonian TV will never be short of the EBU’s most impressive corporate Christmas tree for as long as they can hang that frock up in the foyer.

You’re still thinking of Ginger Minj, aren’t you?

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 12

They’re dead good at sailing, the Danes. Which is dead handy because their entry for Eurovision 2018 sounds dead nautical.

It’s a long time since we’ve heard an entry for the Contest like this. At first listen, it harks back to the ’90s when the competing nations dug deep into their melody archives to find the closest thing they could to a Celtic sing-song. In that regard, Higher Ground works brilliantly, it’s like a sea shanty from Les Miserables that’s ripping in Scandinavian melancholy.

And that’s one way to describe it. The other, less polite, way of doing so is to call this a bit of an anachronism. Is anyone really listening to stuff like this any more? The kindest comparison it’s possible to make is that – by squinting your ears – this could have a passing resemblance to an Avicii album track (does Avicii even do albums? It’s so tricky to keep up these days).

It’s at this point you have to pull yourself back from the gangplank and remember that this is a song for Eurovision. Over-analysis will curry no parsnips here. If Rasmussen can give this the optimum welly level in Lisbon – and there’s nothing in his bellowing lungs which suggests he can’t – the there’s no reason why this can’t take the sneaky strait into Saturday night. I’d also like it on the record that I didn’t write ‘this is sailing into the final’ there. It was an open goal but… no, I still couldn’t bring myself to say it.

So what if Higher Ground gets to the final and does rather well when it gets there? It’s not an unthinkable prospect but you can’t help thinking it would be such a retrograde step after the way the Eurovision tree has been blossoming in recent years.

This is a nice one to yo-yo between the left and right side of the scoreboard as things re-arrange themselves on the big night but if it finishes anywhere farther north, you can take my parsnips, dip them in chicken korma and make me eat them until I’m ill.

Here’s hoping it retains its mediocre shape for a few more weeks then.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 11

Somewhere in the first 10 entries under the microscope, there was mention of the need for dirty brass (think it was Belgium). It’s now a little clearer why this was the case. Czech Republic has used up the entire filth quotient for this year in the first 90 seconds of Lie to Me.

It’s just lovely to hear the Czechs getting Eurovision so right after all this time. They made their first tentative, albeit stompy, steps into the world of Eurovision in 2007 and have never quite clicked with the rest of the line-up. But in sending this funk-infused pop nugget to Lisbon, they may finally be on to something.

Quite frankly, this is one of the best songs entered in to the 2018 Contest by some distance. Basically because it has everything you’d want from a bit of pop right now. A cocky little bugger delivering intelligent lyrics with a knowing wink and moments from the naughtiest corners of the dictionary.

Normally, that would be enough but Mikolas goes on to whip a cherry from somewhere cheeky in the shape of a superb jazz trumpet riff. It rattles with intent. If it never felt like the Czech Republic were interested in winning Eurovision before now, the desire to do so has been stamped across the road to Portugal with hob-nailed boots this year.

This is the fifth song out in the first semi-final, with the tamer horn section of Belgium on one side of it and the very different charms of Lithuania on the other. Watching all three together will be similar to seeing Dennis the Menace gatecrash a Portishead gig then being shushed away by Katie Melua. That probably helps all three entries and is a grand advertisement for why the producers decide the running order these days.

Barring a disastrous set of first rehearsals (always good to leave yourself a loophole), there is nothing here to suggest this won’t be in the Saturday night shake-up. Taking it further, in the first neck sticking-out moment of the year, this is definitely Top 10 material and I’m almost confident enough to plonk it straight into the top three.

I won’t lie to you (arf), this is merely a hunch. But when something which could seriously enhance the reputation of this competition in the harsh wastelands beyond the scoreboard crops up, it’s worth supporting with as much gusto as you can muster.

Swear down. No fibbin’.

The Eurovision 2018 Review: Day 10

This is the first of Whoops’ reviews to be written after the announcement of the full running orders for the first and second semi-finals at this year’s Contest. So it’s the kinda twist we like that the first of those is the one that’s going to close the first semi-final in Lisbon this year.

Fuego is the sultry offering from the remarkably-lipped Eleni Foureira, the sort of woman you couldn’t imagine nipping the offy for some scratchcards and 20 Bensons in a polyester jogging suit. No, Eleni is more likely to have a very willing best friend who’d do that for her. Do anything for her, in fact.

When watching Eleni in all her sultriness and flappy-dressness, it’s worth remembering how far the Cypriot entries have come in recent years.

It was rare for TV Cyprus to deviate from either the swirling ballad or traditional tune with a touch of the panpipes. Then came the 1999 Contest and Tha’nai Erotas, the almost clubland banger which gave a significant proportion of Eurovision fans the vapours as it stormed its way to two whole points in Jerusalem.

From that point on, Cyprus seemed to have found a bit of a mojo, going from boybands (2002) to Broadway showstoppers (2004), laid back and acoustic (2010, 2015) and something a bit clubby again (2012).
For 2018, we’re not quite back in the club. We’re over the road in that posh bar with the booths where you have to order wine with a cooler.
That’s because Fuego, for all its good intentions, never gets much beyond first gear. This is not the tune they would save until the end of the night in Euroclub, more one at the beginning which reminds you the DJ has finally turned up but will be back with something proper to dance to in a bit.
It sounds cruel but as the divergence between Eurovision entries and the world’s charts narrows with each passing Contest, it’s important to find that special ingredient to make you stand out in a field of 43.
And while Eleni finds being fabulous an effortless task, Fuego itself is the clubland equivalent of beige. Not so much a roaring inferno, no fuego – rather a squib húmedo.
It’s still qualifying though. Nobody would be stupid enough to bet against that pout.