Eurovision 2016: Italy

I’ve fallen a little in love with this song since I first heard it. I’ve actually had the Eurovision 2016 album on loop since it appeared on Apple Music.

Don’t judge me.

But this Italian song, I love. It’s not a winner as it’s not that sing-a-long or memorable, but there’s something about its intensity that appeal to me. And frankly you could since a McDonald’s menu to me in Italian and I’d love it.

What a language.

So here’s Francesca Michelin singing ‘No Degree of Separation’. I’d love to see this do well, but have to wonder how it’ll fair against some of the showier acts on the night.

8/10

Eurovision 2016: Australia

You may very well wonder how and why Australia is competing in the Eurovision Song Contest. I stopped querying participation some time ago, to be honest. Apparently, the Eurovision knows no borders (though it does know outstanding membership fees, much to Romania’s embarrassment).

But they’re here now and so we better get used to it, as they seem to be taking it seriously.

Last year’s entry was great and did very well – back when we all thought it was a temporary thing, in honour of the Eurovision’s 60th anniversary. Maybe they even got a few ‘friendly’ or even ‘charity’ points. But they’re back. And they’re aiming to win, judging by the calibre of this year’s entry.

We need to take this threat seriously.

Dani Im is superb and the song is a perfect fit for her. She’s already won Australian X-Factor, could the Eurovision be next on her list? It’s a song that stands on its own merits – no need for costumes or gimmicks. And for that alone, I hope it does really well on the night.

I have to wonder: if Australia win, where will the contest be held in 2017? We need to start thinking about this…the Eurovision is just weeks away!

Eurovision 2016: France

And here’s France’s entry for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. It’s Amir with “J’ai Church”. It reminds me of a whole bunch of other songs, but mostly it has echoes of last year’s Swedish winner. Upbeat and catchy, I think it’ll do well.

It’s interesting how they’ve moved from 100% French lyrics to introducing more and more English over the years. A bit of a shame as French is so beautiful when sung. Not all languages have that advantage (I’m looking at you, Dutch).

We’re getting closer and closer to the big day(s) next month and I think it’s fair to say I won’t have time to blog about all the entries. I also think it’s fair to say not all the entries deserve individual blog posts. Harsh? Maybe. But I have been listening to a number of the songs on Spotify, to gauge what they’re like after a few days. You can hear most of them on this playlist.

After repeated plays, this one is definitely growing on me.

7/10

Eurovision 2016: Russia tones it down

After releasing what was probably the most homoerotic Eurovision entry of all time, Russia has decided to get Sergey Lazarev to sing something a little less…full on.

And I think it’s a shame.

This is (without the video) a very painting-by-numbers pop number. Whereas the first song was flamboyant and memorable, this is doing nothing for me. The video is, all the same, quite impressive. But the lyrics…are banal beyond description. I’m picturing the writers flipping through an English language dictionary looking for words that simply rhyme.

That said, I see Twitter has been abuzz about this new song, with many people tipping this for victory. But what will happen then? Will Europe’s gays be happy to decamp (pardon the pun) to Moscow, where right now it’s positively dangerous to just BE gay, never mind campaign for equal rights?!

Eurovision is, after all, like Christmas and New Years Even rolled into one for us gays. (Tongue firmly in cheek).

Meh. Still hoping Spain wins big on the night. I give this one 5/10.

Eurovision 2016: Estonia

Next up in my almost certainly incomplete series of Eurovision 2016 song reviews: Estonia!

Estonia are sending the quite suave and well turned out Juri Pootsmann, singing ‘Play’. It’s not a blockbuster, doesn’t feature any crazy on-stage shenanigans, but it’s nice all the same. And Juri? Juri will almost certainly turn a few heads.

(You can probably tell that I’m doing these in any kind of order – just as I stumble across the national winners on YouTube. I like Eurovision, but not enough to create a blog post campaign or masterplan or basically do anything more than issue a series of off-the-cuff reactions.)

Now this, I like. A lot. It has a slight ‘Bond theme’ feel to it, but it’s not a blatant rip-off of something else. It’s delivered with confidence and style. Is it memorable? Well, even after hearing it just three times, I’m now whistling along. It’s a stylish piece, if not a blockbuster. Will it threaten any of the big ‘favourites’? I’m not sure – I think it’ll come down to how political the voting is and how well Juri performs live in front of a massive live audience.

I have high hopes and it would be great to see him progress to the final. Estonia have won the contest once before, back in 2001. Maybe once more?

8/10

Eurovision 2016: Germany

Germany have selected Jamie-Lee Kriewitz to represent them at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. While the song itself is really quite glum and uninspiring, Jamie-Lee looks like an explosion of colour and definitely wouldn’t be out of place wandering through Tokyo’s Harajuku on a Sunday afternoon.

She’s going for the Kawaii vote here, (check out the panda nestling in her hair!) but I’m not sure there are enough fans of this niche fashion preference to make this a winner. (On the other hand, my mind is now mulling over the creation of a venn diagram illustrating the overlap of kawaii fans and Eurovision fans. Just how big – and incredible! – would that overlap be?! Fascinating, captain.)

She’ll definitely stand out and remain memorable, however I don’t think the song will. It’s not exactly cheery or something the audience can sing along with. It’s not a straightforward power ballad and it’s not poptastic. I fear this’ll get lost somewhere in the middle of it all, even though Germany get an automatic place in the final. Big five and all that…

Having ‘reviewed’ a minority of the 2016 Eurovision entries, I still put this somewhere towards the bottom of the pile. Spain, Ireland and Russia (sadly) will all do better than this on the night.

6/10

Eurovision 2016: Russia

Wow. This is the most overtly homoerotic Eurovision entry I’ve seen in quite some time. And I think that’s saying something. Russia’s entry – “Take it off” by the obviously talented Sergey Lazarev – makes Top Gun look like a subtle and under-stated treatise on heterosexual bonding.

There are Liberace tribute acts in Vegas wondering if Russia has gone a bit overboard this year. Obviously, this being a Russian entry, where “that kind of thing” is frowned upon (to put it mildly), this video features quite a few women too.

But, come one. The focus here is clearly male abs, ass and crotch. And then some more abs. Sergey’s abs, to be clear. But in all the flashing lights and movement, it’s hard to tell who the abs belong to at times. Thankfully, the camera regularly focuses back on Sergey, in case there was any doubt whose abs and face we should be looking at.

And the sheer volume of pink here is like Russia is playing some kind of twisted double-bluff game with us gays of Europe. “On the one hand, we’ll forbid your gay pride marches and attack you in the streets. On the other hand… look at this man wearing pink. Pink! Can you believe it?! Please vote for us.”

Yes, he’ll definitely get some votes on the night from admirers of buffness and oiled up dancers. And pink. Possibly. I wonder if the stage act will be toned down – I can’t imagine all that topless action getting the green light from the EBU guys at the top. But you never know, it’s Eurovision after all.

Anything else here?

Oh yes, the song. The song is truly terrible. A repetitive dirge, where he pleads with some (imaginary) woman to take off her clothes. Or he’ll do it for her. So very 2016, right?

It’s awful. Truly awful. You don’t go to the Eurovision for deep and meaningful lyrics (La, la, la, la… Boom Bang-a-Bang etc etc) but these are pretty awful. In a pretty creepy way.

So he’ll obviously get bucket-loads of votes, as I last correctly predicted a Eurovision winner in about 1867.

All the same, I think I’ll check out the video one more time. For research purposes.

Obviously.

Eurovision 2016: Netherlands

So this is something a bit different from the rest of the Eurovision pop-tactic entries this year. The Netherlands has gone for Douwe Bob’s ‘Slow Down’ and I have to say it’s growing on me. I’ve had it playing in the background while writing a few emails and it’s very likeable.

It’s a bit ‘Eagles’, a bit ‘country’, but I won’t hold that against it. The guy can actually sing.

Which isn’t surprising, given he’s relatively established. Relative to most Eurovision acts, anyway. How so? He was actually chosen to sing for the Netherlands last year.

The first time that the Dutch audience made acquaintance with Douwe Bob was in 2012 when he won the TV show The Best Singer-Songwriter in The Netherlands. His debut album Born In A Storm was released in 2013 and immediately after he was already on stage at Pinkpop. In May 2015 the second album of Douwe Bob rocketed to number one in the album charts. After the huge success of the duet Hold Me with Anouk, Douwe Bob scored a hit this summer with the song Sweet Sunshine.

I reckon he can hold his own in the semi-final, but wonder if a large arena will be a challenge. The Netherlands tried country-lite before, in 2014, and it didn’t really work out for them.

(I, however, loved that song).

Here’s hoping Douwe Bob gets into the final and holds the attention of the frenzied arena audience – and, more importantly, remains memorable enough to get those all-important viewer votes. Unsurprisingly, given the sheer volume of acts looking to be remembered, it’s sometimes the impact of the stage show that gets the audience’s attention.

I wonder if this will be remembered as the audience picks up their phones to vote…

7/10.