Saturday, 27 February 2016

Eurovision: You Decide (2016)

Written 27th February 2016.

It's that time of year again, folks - time for us to choose our Eurovision entry. The last time we actually did that was a whole six years ago - and, as it happens, I discussed that car-crash of a show then, too. As with all of Nostalgia Filter's up-to-the-minute breaking news, I've decided to discuss the program, half to carry on the proud tradition I kind-of began all those years ago and half to vent about the current state of the UK's position in the content and the BBC's misguided attempts to put us back on the right track.

Dulcima - "When You Go"

Posh hippy bohemians with a full band of folksy instrumentalists, Dulcima were a duo composed of singers Dulcima and Thomas, the latter of whom wrote the song. The actual song was fairly upbeat and catchy, with the central melody still stuck in my head afterwards, even if the words disappeared into the sort of slurring high-pitched chirping employed by the likes of the Lumineers. The song ends with a nice little anthemic bit which would probably go down very well in the hall in Stockholm - but folksy acts play all the time at Eurovision, and not a single one has ever won. There's definitely an image problem that the two bring to the table - Macedonia can get away with presenting their local flavour, but if we do it looks a bit like we don't really care. 6/10.

Matthew James - "A Better Man"

My instant least favourite of the six songs, A Better Man is by Matthew James, former lead singer of "Bad Boys Inc", a boyband who broke the UK Top Ten once in their whirlwind two-year existence in the mid-Nineties. Because of this, James' vocal style sounds very much like pre-breakup Take That and feels like an instant throwback of the kind that sank the UK's chances in 2007 and 2010. Employed with creating a bastion of positivity (something which happened in 2010 as well, unfortunately), the judges tried to make out how "intimate" and "well-crafted" the song was - even as it was obvious (thanks to several repetitions during the voting recaps) that James was consistently out of tune throughout the song. 4/10.

Darline - "Until Tomorrow"

"Until Tomorrow" is a folksy pop song by young duo Darline, two girls with beaming smiles, the slight air of charming amateurism and acoustic guitars. There were some countryish vibes, which always go down well at Eurovision (well, recently anyway), and a great deal of quite good harmonization from the pair. It feels like a Eurovision song, and it felt like a song that would give the UK credibility in the way that Molly did in 2014. Darline was the act I voted for, and I was really, really worried that they wouldn't do well - but most of the feedback from the judges, at least, was fairly positive, with former winner Katrina noting that, "this is the kind of song that Europe would vote for." 9/10.

Karl William Lund - "Miracle"

Karl was a minor YouTube celebrity five years ago, and his song "Miracle" is about his brother's battle with cancer. I think some of the vocals are a bit shakey, but it is catchy (I'm writing this a day later and it's the main one stuck in my head) and I can imagine it representing us in Stockholm. Miracle seemed to get the biggest reaction last night, and the fact that Lund doesn't need much work doing on his look meant that it kinda felt like we had a pre-built package to send to Sweden. It wasn't my favourite song of the night, but I wouldn't have been sad if it had won. 8/10.

Bianca - "Shine a Little Light"

Quite possibly the bookie's favourite, Bianca, like Matthew James, was a member of a girl group, but that group disbanded last year rather than twenty-one years ago. Bianca has a contemporary sound with elements of light reggae and vocals that are very evocative of one the song's writers, Leona Lewis. Shine a Little Light is a classic Eurovision power-ballad, and yet another song which would have gone down a storm in Stockholm. Bianca's strange red gown with train needed a little bit of fashion advice, but even that was a sign that she was the correct choice to send to Eurovision. I chose Darline because I personally enjoyed their performance more, but like Karl William Lund, I still would have been pretty chuffed if Bianca had been elected. 9/10.

Joe and Jake - "You're Not Alone"

And finally, the first song of this sextet that was released last Monday on the Ken Bruce BBC Radio 2 morning show. Joe and Jake are "musicians" who became "famous" by both being on the 2015 series of The Voice UK, something true of one-half of last year's outfit Electro Velvet (with the qualifier that these guys actually got through into some stages while she was rejected completely.) You're Not Alone is not a bad song - it has a... let's say "modern" sound and it doesn't sound completely out of place at Eurovision. The two lads are enthusiastic about their song, but their live performance left a bitterly amateur taste in the air, and their "singing in the pub on the corner" aesthetic meant that I really wasn't impressed. It's a mediocre combination of stuff - I've heard several different descriptions of the two lads - I especially love the Telegraph's "Two fifths of an alternate universe One Direction." 5/10.

The Show Itself

It did feel like the producers of this show were taking things more seriously, even if there were some good jokes in their from mel Giedroyc. The whole show was plagued by technical issues throughout, which did worry me slightly, with the ghostly voice of Scott Mills occasionally announcing Mel's presence on stage half-way through her monologues and the amazing moment when Katrina's microphone distorted into some satanic-sounding blur. The interval acts during the voting and the voting tally were a tribute to the late Terry Wogan, a performance of "Love Shine a Light" from Katrina's winning 1997 contest and, bizarrely, a montage of the best moments from the BBC's 60th Anniversary Eurovision tribute broadcast in April last year.
      One thing I wish they'd scrap is the whole endless positivity crap, because other European countries who do these types of shows don't do that. Why? Because it produces crappy songs. This was one of the few times where endless positivity-producer Carrie Grant, vocal coach and former Eurovision singer, actually tried to produce some constructive criticism, but was so booed by the crowd that she didn't really get a chance.

Final Result

In 2015, we sent an amateur singer and a primary-school music teacher to Eurovision. In terms of points, they achieved the United Kingdom's worst score since nul points in 2003. The British public voted, and decided this year to send a PE Teacher and a former Garden Centre employee. Joe and Jake, two amateur singers who happened to be on The Voice, are going to be our representatives in Stockholm. I can't say I'm not disappointed, but I guess that's what happens. Let's just look forward to Stockholm and hope that Europe like our lads.


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