Katerine Duska – Better Love

“I actually said “oh!” out loud at that chorus.”

Tim: I think it’s about time we have a song from this year’s Eurovision that actually sounds like a modern pop song. Shall we visit Greece?

Tim: Admittedly the video’s very distracting, and for the first forty-five seconds or so you’re wondering what the hell’s going on and is this just awful Eurovision garbage. Then the chorus hits, though, and you put the video in a background because you’ve seen enough and it’s just weird, and you realise that actually it’s a really good song.

Tom: I actually said “oh!” out loud at that chorus.

Tim: The nice thing is that it works both as a standard pop track, which you’d be happy to hear multiple times, and as a Eurovision track, with a really strong hook which, even if it gets buried in the standard twenty-odd tracks in a row, stands out bright and loud in the multiple recaps.

Tom: You’re not wrong, although I don’t think the Hellenic Florence Welch sound is going to win over enough of the audience.

Tim: I don’t know, I really think this could do well. And, indeed, I hope it does.

Miki – La Venda

“It’s ridiculous, it’s nonsensical, it’s atrocious, and it’s brilliant.”

Tim: Tom, I’m not linking here to the official Eurovision channel, because I don’t want to tell you immediately what country this is. Instead, I want you to tell me roughly how many seconds passed before you guessed.

Tom: It actually took me until the vocals kicked in; I briefly thought it’d be Ireland from that intro instrumentation. And then, yes, it went very Spanish.

Tim: Very, very Spanish. So, I have multiple Eurovision history books, because of course I do, I’m me, and I can tell you that the idea for a Europe-wide contest came from a Swiss TV exec, Marcel Bezençon, who had two ideas. The first, a generic ‘talent show’ was rejected, which is probably a good thing as it would likely have ended up with ABBA sawing each other in half and Brotherhood of Man bringing us dancing dogs. The second was not rejected, as you can probably guess, and its original brief was ‘to promote high-quality original songwriting in the field of popular music’. 64 years later, we have this: Spain being as absolutely bloody Spanish as they possibly can, with a song that is entirely reminiscent of the fabulous piss-take that a Norwegian guy did a few years back, but played straight.

Tom: Those handclaps in the middle eight! I fully expected, just before the final chorus kicked in, someone to yell “¡Ay, caramba!” in the background.

Tim: And I love it. It’s ridiculous, it’s nonsensical, it’s atrocious, and it’s brilliant.

Tom: And it’s not going to win, but everyone involved will have a fantastic time.

Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman – Look Away

“I like to think he’s just texting and necking a beer.”

Tom: Darude! I’m still surprised they got Darude!

Tim: Me too, kind of. As previously mentioned on these pages, Finland did this year with Darude what they did last year with Saara Aalto – namely, he provided three tracks, the Finns chose between them, and here’s the winner.

Tim: Why is Darude in a box, pretending to play a keyboard that is not even pretending to be wired up to anything? No idea. Does it matter? Probably not, if they’re going for star power and all that, because otherwise there’d be no point whatsoever in even having him on stage.

Tom: And that’s before we even start to mention the dancer on top of the box. I wonder what Darude’s doing while he’s not in shot? I like to think he’s just texting and necking a beer.

Tim: Either that or quickly…actually, no, I won’t go there. Musically, it strikes me a being very similar to Russia’s 2016 entry, perhaps best remembered for its incredible staging. That came third, in the year when the winner was the Ukrainian anti-Russia protest song; with no political baggage this year it might do alright, as long as they improve the staging a bit.

Tom: Middle of the table, I reckon. It’s not bad by any means, it’s just a bit forgettable.

Tim: Yeah. So let Darude out of his box, see what he can do.

Serhat – Say Na Na Na

“He’s probably a lovely person, but good grief.”

Tim: Right then, Tom – you sadly weren’t able to join in the annual Eurovision Preview Session; nevertheless, it’s only right that you hear some of what might fairly be described as the highlights of this year’s contest, so let’s have a Eurovision Preview Week. We’ve already featured my favourite entry; here’s my second, from San Marino.

Tom: San Marino?!

Tim: San Marino.

Tom: Good heavens, they’ve gone Full Stereotypical Euro Sleazeball with that vocalist! I mean, he’s probably a lovely person, but good grief.

Tim: Some would say it’s an unusual move to make a music video that could quite feasibly be a (very extended) intro for a generic TV reality talent show if you put multiple faces on the big screens (and in fact, thirty seconds of searching later, turns out it basically is), but others (hello!) would say HELL WHY NOT.

Tom: Nice of him to actually turn up in person for the final shots of the video, too.

Tim: Yeah, nice that he can meet the fans. Or, in fact, MEET THE FANS, to the tune of NA NA NA, because I have, quite genuinely, started singing a lot of three syllable phrases to myself: it’s TIME TO GO, the BUS IS LATE, and also I NEED A DRINK, because I think living on my own might finally be starting to get to me.

Tom: I could hum the chorus after one listen, and… hmm. I’m on the fence as to whether I mind that or not. Still, a cautious thumbs up here, although there’s no way it’ll win. I hope it punches above its weight, but the cheese factor just isn’t what a modern audience isn’t looking for. I could see this being top of the table in the 90s, though.

Tim: The one thing I don’t get is why they haven’t got an immediate NA NA NA call back in the backing vocals, because let’s face it the audience will want to do that.

Tom: They sort of do in the final chorus, but perhaps that would be the thing that tips it over from “cheesy but genuinely entertaining” to “just cheesy”

Tim: Hmm, maybe. So as it is: it’s BLOODY GREAT.

Saturday Reject: Chris Medina – We Try

“It makes no sense. Absolutely no sense at all.”

Tim: Norway has a flipping brilliant final this year, with a lot of highlights, but sadly we’ve only got time for a few. Let’s start with a hypothetical, though: if you’ve got a song with a piano intro that you’re ‘playing’ and then a big drop, at what point do you, the performer, get up from the piano and start moving around? I ask because, well, I’m fairly surely the answer is ‘much, much sooner than Chris does’.

Tim: Let’s note that even at the start of the pre-chorus he has mostly revealed, with his fist pump, that he’s not actually playing, and that at the beginning of the chorus he almost stands up, giving the game away completely.

Tom: It’s not even a decent piano synth! If it was meant to sound like a grand piano, then maybe all this would make sense: but it just doesn’t. It’s as bad as if he were just noodling aimlessly on a guitar. But he just keeps going!

Tim: So if he’s hanging around still past then, the logical thing would be to stay there until either a big break – middle eight, say, or final chorus – or for the whole song. Not – entirely not – for the barely notable jump into the second pre-chorus. And why, why oh why oh why, would you then return to the piano for the outro? It makes no sense. Absolutely no sense at all.

Tom: I mean, none of this does. The dancers don’t make sense either. And neither does that slightly-wavy falsetto.

Tim: Spoils a somewhat decent Eurovision dance song, really. Eh, well.

The Veronicas – Think Of Me

“The vocals, the composition, the production: everything works.”

Tom: They’re still a thing!

Tim: Yep, they’re still a thing, and this has an interesting lyric in the pre-chorus.

Tom: And an interesting theme, given that it’s about the fallout from a toxic relationship. There’s a complicated tone there, and I really like it.

Tim: Good, isn’t it? Though, speaking of the lyrics, part of me wants to overanalyse them and say ACTUALLY given that that pre-chorus occurs several times over the course of several minutes, that 42 seconds should dramatically increase by the end of it, but I though no, can’t be bothered, because (a) the ‘give you head’ lyric outdoes any harm done by that and (b) it’s a great track and I don’t want to waste time being petty when I can instead properly just enjoy it and be positive about it.

Tom: There’s so much to like here. I was surprised the first time I heard the chorus — I wan’t expecting that much electropop — but once that settled in, damn, this is good. The vocals, the composition, the production: everything works. Except possibly that middle eight, but I can forgive it: like you say, it’s a song I want to be positive about.

Tim: Because damn, I know they were fairly decent back in the day, but this is better than any Veronicas track has a right to be these days. I’d go so far as to say, in fact, that it’s flipping marvellous!

Isa Molin – Scared Holding On To You

“The best pre-chorus I’ve heard in a long while.”

Tim: We’ve never featured this Isa before: she’s Swedish, this is her second track and it was written by her and former Eurovision star Robin Stjernberg. Have a listen.

Tom: Ooh, those dubstep-lite synths in the background are lovely. And when they drop out, they’re replaced by the best pre-chorus I’ve heard in a long while: I know I’m a sucker for that particular type of melody and chord progression, but it’s also done so well here.

Tim: Now it’s good you say that, because full disclosure: I got distracted a few seconds after pressing play on this, not because it was dull but because I found out tickets for Avengers: Endgame had just gone on sale, and the Cineworld website was very, very overloaded (but in the end I got a ticket for a midnight showing so THANK GOODNESS) but anyway it wasn’t until the second chorus that I was back paying attention to this.

Tom: Well, then you missed the good bits! Because I’m not sure about that chorus at all. What did you reckon, when you were back in the room?

Tim: I realised it was pretty good. Well, loud, and that’s often a decent basis to start, and then you throw in a decent melody, which you’re very much getting in the middle eight (and pre-chorus, it turned out, as I listened again).

Tom: See? That’s the best bit!

Tim: It really is. So in total yes, actually, it is pretty good. That sums it up nicely.

Westlife – Better Man

“It’s not often I want to skip back twenty seconds just to check that I actually did hear what I think I heard.”

Tim: Most of the time here, we like to feature tracks we enjoy. Often, though, they might not be all that great (in some cases they’re downright awful), but nonetheless fun to talk about. Now, I not saying I don’t enjoy this track, as it’s alright, but boy is there one particular thing worth mentioning.

Tom: The line “I felt things when we were naked”? The acting at the start, where it’s clearly not a proper recording session? Although that’s really quite nicely resolved with the outtake at the end.

Tim: Possibly worth a mention, yes, but not the main thing. Because it’s not often I want to skip back twenty seconds just to check that I actually did hear what I think I heard, but here, I genuinely did. That key change is just obscene.

Tom: I’m just annoyed that the childhood nostalgia flashbacks are the right years for my own childhood now.

Tim: Speak for yourself, I’ve got a good few years left, and I’m already enjoying it.

Georgia – About Work The Dancefloor

“Arpeggiators set to maximum, captain.”

Tim: Second release off a new UK act, presumably taking advantage of the fact that CHVRCHES are off a bit making new music, and taking that opportunity to carve out a place for herself.

Tom: That’s the least grammatical title I’ve seen in a while.

Tim: Oh, hush.

Tom: Yesterday, we talked about the start of the upcoming 90s revival; this sounds like some of the last parts of the 80s revival. Arpeggiators set to maximum, captain.

Tim: Up until the chorus came along I was very “yep, okay, standard, this’ll do”, but THEN. The chorus arrives, the song jumps up a notch or twenty, and suddenly there’s something very definitely worth listening to that I like a lot.

Tom: Really? I just don’t like that vocoder: she’s got a great voice, but mangled through that effect it grates for me. Which is a shame, because the rest of it’s really quite nice.

Tim: Hmm, see, I first heard that vocoder as a featured male vocal, which made it work fine for me. The production’s lovely, her vocals throughout are great (particularly in, of all places, that very last line, which has a lovely melody), ad then yep, there’s that great chorus. And a disco house on fire in the video, what’s not to like?

Europa with Madison Beer – All Day And Night

“Mesdames, Messieurs, le disc-jockey Sash! est de retour.”

Tim: Europa, a new project comprising Jax Jones and Martin Solveig, and I think this is the first time we’ve ever had a ‘with’ for a featured artist. How exciting!

Tom: “Mesdames, Messieurs, le disc-jockey Sash! est de retour.” Not quite, of course, but those synth patches are at least an homage.

Tim: Absolutely. It doesn’t sound anything like a standard Martin Solveig track, doesn’t sound anything like a regular Jax Jones track either, which I guess is the point of creating a whole new brand. We’ve a bit more of a RAVE vibe to it, and it’s been a good fifteen years or so since that’s been a thing and I’m pretty happy to see it back to be honest.

Tom: Nostalgia tends to run on a thirty-year cycle, which means it’s about time for it to ramp up into our own childhoods, Tim. Updated versions of 90s rave culture is going to be the sound of the next few years, and this is part of the vanguard. I’d say “expect Clubland Classix to put out another compilation” but they’ve never really stopped.

Tim: True, I suppose. Whether we do indeed have a full revival coming remains to be seen – maybe we will have a new Sash! and a new Faithless. In the meantime, let’s enjoy this, and start hoping.