2015 – The Year Punk Broke at the Eurovision

Apologies to those of you who’ve had your Twitter timelines clogged up with me livetweeting the various national selections for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The good news for you is that all the entries have now been announced (with the exception of Montenegro, who for some reason are waiting until next weekend to unveil their act).

Watching all these shows has been at times fun, at times exhausting. I’ve seen some great entertainment, and also some rubbish along the way. Having gone through this process, I’m now going to reveal my top ten acts that you’ll be seeing perform at Vienna in a couple of months. Naturally, these are my own subjective opinions, so feel free to disregard them as worthless.

First, to throw a bone to the show’s detractors, I’m going to concede that there’s some dross among the entries. Moldova’s song faced allegations of vote-rigging at the national finals, which may explain how such a badly-dated sub-Vanilla Ice act managed to get through. Meanwhile Hungary have considered the topic of war and decide that it is, on reflection, A Bad Thing. Thanks for clearing that up. Unusually for me, I’m also going to give minus points to Iceland, normally a strong contender due to an impressively-diverse music scene for such a small country. A barefoot girl singing an uptempo pop song? We’ve seen this routine before, and it’s 2013 winning act Emelie de Forest. As Estonia discovered in 2014, you don’t succeed in the contest by sending a clone of year before last’s winner.

And now, the good stuff…

1 point to…Australia

Seriously, there’s no expense spared at the Eurovision. They actually hired a giant tugboat to tow the entire continent of Australia round to somewhere off the coast of Galway so they could join the contest. They’ve chosen former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian with a song he wrote in the last couple of weeks. I don’t think it’s amazing, but it’s good enough to convince me that Australia can come hang out with us Europeans.

2 points to…United Kingdom

No, I don’t hate the British entry. I don’t think it’ll win, but despite some of the comments on Twitter, I don’t think it’s the worst thing we’ve ever sent to the contest. Not by a long shot, and certainly not unless Scooch, Josh Dubovie, and Jemini were suddenly erased from history.

What…? Sorry, just drifted off into a happy reverie at that thought.

I’ve seen a lot of electroswing on the UK festival circuit, and I’ve often thought it would make great Eurovision material. Clearly the BBC thought so too. That said, part of me wishes that if they were going to go down that route, they could have picked an established act such as The Correspondents or the Electric Swing Circus rather than creating a band from scratch.

3 points to…Ireland

Our friends to the west haven’t had a good run at the Eurovision in recent years, despite their winning streak in the 90s. The last two years have been utterly forgettable, and before that it was two years of, oh Lord, Jedward. Though to be fair, like a lot of atrocities imposed on Ireland over the centuries, the rise of Jedward is pretty much the fault of us Brits.

This year, however, is the strongest entry they’ve sent in some time, with 17 year old Molly Sterling playing a beautifully-understated piano ballad.

4 points to…Serbia

Not all international acts should be translated into English for a wider market. Sometimes it just sounds better in its own language. Serbia consistently sends its acts to sing in Serbian, which I think is for the best. There’s just something about the Serbian language that seems to lend itself to music. (Iceland, your language does too, so stop sending English-language acts. I’ll let you off for Pollaponk though.)

5 points to…Belgium

As with Ireland, here’s a strong showing from a country that doesn’t normally perform well at the contest. Belgium are sending a ridiculously-catchy piece of Euro-hiphop. I have no idea how you rapapap, but I may have to give it a try.

6 points to…Slovenia

On first listen this song irritated me because of the vocals. Then it grew on me massively. Behind the high-pitched singing and silly air violin dancing there’s a genuinely-heartfelt set of lyrics about emotional support in times of depression.

7 points to…Romania

Here’s a side of EU migration that Nigel Farage probably doesn’t think too deeply about. The pain of separation felt by East European families when parents have to travel overseas to work, leaving their children behind. The song will be performed in a mix of Romanian and English, and pays tribute to a heartache that’s all too common in countries like Romania.

8 points to…Estonia

It’s a duet, and there’s lots of duets in the contest this year. It’s also a breakup song, which is hardly the most original lyrical topic. But it just works incredibly well. Why? Exceptionally good songwriting, that’s why. As with Slovenia and Romania, it also works because the emotions feel real.

10 points to…Finland

This song is the first entered in the contest by people with learning disabilites, the first punk band to enter and the shortest song ever entered. True to the spirit of punk from the Sex Pistols to Pussy Riot, it values authenticity and a sincere expression of, “This is who I am and what I think, take it or leave it” over technical ability. PKN are an established band with four albums and a documentary movie to their name. Personally, I think their performance at the Eurovision will be a great moment in punk history.

12 points to…Riga Beaver

This is breaking all the rules, but if the European Broadcasting Union can move Australia to Europe, I can give my 12 points to an act that isn’t even in the contest. While watching the national selections on various online livestreams, some countries weren’t allowing the advert breaks to be broadcast internationally over the Web – I presume due to local broadcasting regulations. For those watching Ireland’s selections overseas, we spent the breaks staring at a blank test card. However, on tuning into the Latvian selections in Riga, it transpired that the show had decided to create a little extra entertainment to fill the time. The result was something so ridiculous and bizarre it’s actually genius. I have no idea what’s going on here, but I love it. Riga Beaver, I salute you!

I’ll be off to Vienna in May to watch the semi-finals live, then back to Britain for a Eurovision party on the final evening. In the meantime I promise to keep this blog back on-topic. Maybe.

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