My therapist recently told me that I am in an abusive relationship with my Eurovision blog. She isn't wrong. In 2009, when I launched wiwibloggs, it was for shits and giggles, and because I thought it was funny the Romanian contestant was the daughter of a priest, yet wore dresses so short I could see her next child. Seven years on – and with a team of sixty correspondents all over the world – it's grown into a gnawing obsession. Divas, drag queens, and the contest's endless dramas now define every second of my everyday life.
In the months leading up to the May contest, I always criss-cross the continent attending Eurovision selection shows and obscure promotional events, getting up close and personal with fragrant pop stars, some of whom can actually sing. Since 2011, I've clocked around 70,000 kilometres, snaking through Azerbaijan, Moldova, Portugal, Latvia, Sweden and beyond. In the haze of hairspray, sequins and pyrotechnic lighting, I enter a trance-like state and frequently forget to eat and bathe, or at least delay said activities until well after 4pm. My husband calls it "Falling into a wiwi hole." And from that hole springs the drugs that keep me going: a story on the fact Greece's 2008 starlet is pregnant, a report on allegations that Ukraine's 2016 entry masks anti-Russian sentiment, a video tour filmed inside the house of San Marino's most popular jazz singer, and an interview with Norwegian lesbians who sing about Soviet space dogs. I live for this shit.
Since 2011, bureaucrats at the BBC have chosen the UK’s Eurovision act behind closed doors, giving the public no say and resulting in the selection of Engelbert Humperdinck (essentially a reanimated corpse), Bonnie Tyler (who was way past-her-prime) and Electro Velvet (a duo consisting of a Voice reject and a Mick Jagger impersonator). Pissed that the public blame them for the UK's dismal record, officials at the BBC have decided to let the public vote, as if we didn’t have enough Europe-related voting responsiblities to manage at the moment. Tonight the Euro-circus hits London, as the BBC stages the one-off, live selection show, Eurovision: You Decide, on BBC Four – a channel I know you all watch religiously.
If previous selections are anything to go by, painkillers and earplugs are a must. So, given that – and my habit of getting tipsy during Eurovision events – I decided to rank the finalists in advance, from shit to not shit. Starting, of course, with the shittest.
SHITTEST: MATTHEW JAMES – "A BETTER MAN"
The 44-year-old tasted fame in the mid-90s as the lead singer of the short-lived boy band, Bad Boys Inc. Their debut single “Don’t Talk About Love” peaked at No. 19 in the UK and they were the first band ever to perform on the National Lottery show, before splitting in early 1995. Is the song really that shit?
Yes – the runny kind that burns. “A Better Man” is about finding the right person, and Matthew goes about that with dated production that harks back to the early 00s, replete with flashes of electric guitar. Bland, flat and monotonous, it strives to be a Robbie Williams’ B-side but lacks the swagger and personality to get there. It also has a major sleaze factor, conjuring up images of a guy with slicked-back hair slipping bad Es into drinks at a cruise ship bar. The cringe-worthy lyrics seem to recount one of his wet dreams: “You got me wide open, you reached down and changed my world.” Gross, mate. Gross.
VERY SHIT: KARL WILLIAM LUND – "MIRACLE"
Relative unknown Karl uploads covers to YouTube. Ryan Seacrest featured Karl's version of Beyoncé's "Halo" on his website, helping it notch up more than 66,000 views. Born in Liverpool, he recently released the EP Triumphs II, which follows Triumphs I, which you probably haven’t heard either. Is the song really that shit?
Not totally, but Karl does seem slightly constipated. He desperately wants to push a tune out – but it just never drops. The opening is atmospheric and moody, and sets the scene for something powerful and anthemic. But rather than climbing hills and valleys he simply crosses a plateau – and a soggy one at that. The mediocre chorus blends into the verses, resulting in three-minutes of foreplay with no eargasm. That said, his voice smacks of Phil Collins and would work well on the soundtrack to, like, Tarzan or something.
NOT QUITE AS BAD AS THE PREVIOUS TWO, BUT STILL PRETTY AWFUL IMO: DULCIMA – "WHEN YOU GO"
Former buskers from Canterbury, who may or may not have changed their clothes since they met in 2011. Dulcima Showan lends her name to the duo and is a costume designer who makes “wear and tear couture” – basically, edgy garments that look Pirates of the Caribbean. Tomas Twyman is a singer and part-time poet. Aren't we all Tomas… Aren't we all.
Is the song really that shit?
Crap to some, a revelation to others, this is indie-folk with personality. The hand-clappy verses glide along nicely and showcase the duo's voices. He’s all resonant and sexy, like Ben Howard talking dirty through a megaphone, and she sounds like she is attempting to swallow an egg. But that just adds to their quirky appeal, I reckon. Unfortunately they shatter any goodwill they’ve built up when they unleash the war drums into an ill-fitting bridge. It’s meant to give the track gravitas, but really just fucks things up. This cute foot-tapper might shutdown a village fete in Somerset, but it would likely get lost on the massive Eurovision stage, which is all wind machines and pyrotechnics rather than bohemian cardies and peace signs.
I CAN ONLY DESCRIBE THIS AS 'MEH': JOE AND JAKE – "YOU ARE NOT ALONE"
Who are they?
Joe is a P.E. teacher from Wales, who once rapped under the name J.O.E. Jake is a radiographer’s assistant who performs in Stoke pubs (music that is, not radiography). They met on the live shows of The Voice, where the former was mentored by will.i.am and the latter by Rita Ora. Neither pop star keeps in touch with their former charge.
Is the song really that shit?
If you hate Coldplay, then yes. Joe and Jake – who desperately need a new stage name – draw on a similar set of electro sounds as they sing this charming, if somewhat repetitive, alt-rock piece that would be the perfect accompaniment to a phone commercial. It sounds the same at 30 seconds as it does at 90 seconds as it does at the end, and there really isn’t a discernable bridge (or infamous Eurovision key change). Basically, it’s sweet, harmless and inoffensive – and that might be its undoing. A bitch-slap is usually more memorable than a hug, right? But they’ve got major game – and a clear love of hair product. Perhaps if they take their bromance to the next level with a same-sex kiss they’ll court a few extra votes.
OKAY, NOW WE'RE GETTING SOMEWHERE: BIANCA – "SHINE A LITTLE LIGHT"
Who is she?
In 2009, Bianca joined five-piece girl band Parade. Their debut single “Louder” hit No. 10 on the UK charts, they toured with Shakira and Alexandra Burke and the ladies became brand ambassadors for St. Tropez self-tan. Unfortunately their debut album tanked and Asylum Records unceremoniously dropped them in 2011. Bianca went on to perform as a backing vocalist for both Cher and Leona Lewis. Is the song shit?
Co-written by Leona Lewis and Richard "Biff" Stannard (one of the authors of the Spice Girls hit “Wannabe”) this was never going to be total shit – even if it sounds like a song Leona left on the cutting room floor. It mixes easy listening and inspirational balladry with a flash of calypso realness. It trudges along rather uneventfully for two minutes, with the clichéd lyrics and pleasant melody channeling watered-down Leona. But Bianca finally wakes up during the soaring bridge, which is all kinds of fabulous, serving soul and grit that helps dirty up this safe and sanitised number. If she can unleash her inner diva a bit earlier during the live performance, she may just conquer Europa.
NOT SHIT, NOT SHIT AT ALL: DARLINE – "UNTIL TOMORROW"
Who are they?
Abby Inez and Cára Beard – who sing like they’re from Nashville rather than Worcestershire and Stevenage.
Is the song shit?
Only if shit smells like rose petals and looks like gold! The ladies say their idols include Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton and Kelly Clarkson and that really shows. This is rooted in country-folk, but is poppy enough to go mainstream, giving off a vibe similar to Swedish folk act First Aid Kit. It's innocent, pure and sweet, and proves that you don’t have to go Mariah Carey with vocal flourishes to make an impact. Of all the songs in the UK selection contest, this one feels most authentic to the artist. It’s too light and breezy to actually win Eurovision, but it’ll save Blighty from the bottom of the scoreboard — and could even reach mid-table with the right staging. And that, dear Brits, is the best we can hope for.
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