Sunday, 3 February 2013

Monty: There’s a national finals season going on?

So, the last time I blogged here I was “Exhausted of Baku”. The Xirdalan beers had finally caught up with me, along with the ignominy of travelling back to the UK in the same class of cabin that I’d paid for. Really! Fast forward 8 months or so and we’re already some way into the on-season. I need to throw a six and catch up! Fulfilling a vague promise to “that Phil” to blog a bit as a chunk of the On Europe team whoop it up in the Mediterranean this weekend here goes with a round up thus far. There are spoilers, for those who don’t know the results, but you don’t really come here for the news, do you?

It was the squealing of the masses that accompanied the rolling into town of the Nordic caravanserai that is the Melody Festival last night which awoke me from my semi slumber. Not that there was a great deal to squeal about there last night but more of that in a bit. The train has been in motion since well back into 2012 and causing a bit of a commotion along the way.

First up Belarus, with a song that I’ll hold back commenting on until it’s been inevitably changed at the behest of a power-that-(erm?)-bes. Then Switzerland, which prompted intervention by the EBU as the group is made of representatives of the Salvation Army. Many of the contest’s homosexualist fans were quick to question the organisation’s teachings in regard to gay people (the Salvation Army’s not the EBU’s you understand) but the problem turned out to be merely one of association (and not being best keen on the natty uniforms). After a period of quiet reflection the band are staying and making the requisite changes.

Albania has plumped for a cacophonous, stirring rock song with folky elements enhancing the percussion. It’s the genre of song that regularly remains stuck in a Eurovision semi-final, and one of the singers possesses the gruff vocal qualities of an electric sander with a made-for-radio look to match. I don’t rate its chance much, but it will undergo the regulation Albanian make-over before Malmö, not least as it’s currently well over time, so it may be radically reconstructed between now and then.

The Lithuanian entry is an unconventional love song and actually quite jolly, but needs a keener presentation come May than Andrius in a top hat flanked by masked clowns and a ballet dancer. Rounding off last year for this, Ukraine snuck in a final on a Sunday afternoon and finally chose Zlata Ognevich to do the honours. It’s another rousing number, all staccato and big notes. Its success seemed to come as much from the apparent popularity of Zlata herself as there being not much else to choose from.

After such a rush of activity we’ve had to wait over a full calendar month for the next confirmed entry in Denmark. Once again the Danish final was a high-quality production with some big, ballsy dance numbers, several of which would had brought the Eurovision audience and the Euro Club to their feet. Unfortunately for me my own favourite Mohamed flitted between several erroneous keys in his delivery, although it didn’t stop him from finishing a close second. The winner is all penny-whistles and celtic angst but done quite nicely nonetheless, and should be enough to draw plenty of neighbourly support from across the Øresund Bridge.

Malta’s marathon show last night tested the attention span of all but the very eager and courted controversy when the official EBU website announced the (wrong) winner before the voting had even commenced. I think they were probably just trying to get clocked off and into bed like the rest of us, and checking whether there was anybody left even paying any notice. That Phil has this as a bouncy, happy-go-lucky number which indeed it is, but not one I think will trouble the left hand side of the scoreboard should it even get the chance. Meanwhile over in Iceland they’ve selected another celtic-influenced number performed by a man whose hairdo was old-fashioned back in 1999 when it was worn by Rui Bandera for Portugal. Along with most of the selections so far it’s by no means a definite qualifier and its fate will be sealed by the quality of those songs yet to be selected.

Which brings us to the rest of the Nordic heats that have filled the gloomy winter thus far: Finland is as bonkers as ever and could be won by any one of the finalists, with Norway seemingly determined to elect the most unlikely of songs into its final line up. With gothic stage shows, Norwegian rap, dancers dressed as enormous Duracell bunnies and a bizarre mash-up of opera and death metal you can’t claim it’s been dull. Melodifestivalen on the other hand served us up two rather predictable qualifiers, David Lindgren an inferior imitation of his previous attempt and Yohio, notable more for his gender presentation than his melody. It’s perhaps telling that the one stuck in my head today is the Swedish language Vi Kommer Aldrig Att Folrlöra which gained a second chance a month from now. Still we had a lovely song and dance routine as the interval act.

So there you go, a quick round up of the season so far. It appears there’s a sizable bunch of us hoping it gets a lot better... Come on BBC, surprise us!

Monty x

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