Saturday Reject: Dolly Style – Habibi

“Most of what I want in a Eurovision selection show from a song that’s never going to win anyway.”

Tim: It’s four years since Dolly Style launched themselves with Melodifestivalen’s help, and we’re now our our second Holly, second Molly and fourth Polly, and our third attempt at Eurovision.

Tom: I’ve got to admit I respect the producer’s persistence. The characters are more important than the people playing them: it’s an odd strategy, but apparently it works.

Tim: Did it matter that Molly’s vocals sounded a bit shaky? Hmm, probably not, because let’s face it anyone who got turned off by that would have been even more turned off when it looked like the creepy CG one was singing a vocal sample, or indeed as soon as the hosts said the words Dolly Style.

Tom: Yep. The lyrics are terrible, the song is forgettable, and… well, yes, I respect the persistence but not much else.

Tim: I don’t know, I’d say it’s fun and catchy, and really that’s most of what I want in a Eurovision selection show from a song that’s never going to win anyway. It’s filler, and it’s fun filler.

Saturday Reject: Ann-Louise Hanson – Kärleken finns kvar

“You don’t see enough living rooms with the Eye of Sauron in the background.”

Tim: Here, I present for you my favourite Eurovision staging since Teenage Life.

Tom: There’s a lot to unpack in that statement. Let’s move on.

Tom: Oh, you’re right though, they’ve done a good job with that staging. You don’t see enough living rooms with the Eye of Sauron in the background. I wonder if you can get that from Ikea?

Tim: Not at my local one, no – I checked to see, but no, sorry. As is traditional for “person who hasn’t really done anything for a good few decades”, it came fifth. The song itself is irrelevant, of course – does well in the first round because “oh, it’s nice to see them again” but then crashes out in the second because “oh, jeez, no this can’t go through”. Bit of fun for all the family, though, so why not?

Saturday Reject: Pagan Fury – Stormbringer

“I’m already sad it got rejected.”

Tim: From the title and act name alone, you’ve probably got an idea of what’s to come; you’ll not be far off.

Tom: I’m already sad it got rejected.

Tim: Bottom of its heat, which isn’t all that surprising, but what I do love, any time a heavy metal band gets into Melodifestivalen, is how although large parts of the songs are inevitably loud, shouty and often a bit upsetting, they instantly switch into nice and melodic pop rock for the chorus.

Tom: Let’s be honest, this is a discount Nightwish track, with an odd shoutout to Credence Clearwater Revival. It’s schlager with slightly heavier guitars. Although fair play to the vocalist, while the song’s not too spectacular, she’s doing a heck of a job with it.

Tim: She is indeed, which is nice, because this is a really good example that fits nicely with the formula. Verses are alright, pre-chorus is painful, but that’s a really good chorus which with different backing could make a perfectly decent pop number. Fun.

Tom: Fun, but just not popular.

Tim: Yeah. Shame, that.

Saturday Reject: Emmanuel Moire – La promesse

“Can I say that they’re enthusiastically strained?”

Tim: A quick trip to France, where this came in fourth place, and I’ve often (well, maybe once or twice) said that what can really makes a performance is a good “wait, what just happened?” moment. Prepare yourself for multiple ones.

Tom: Good heavens, what on earth went wrong with the live director? “Wait, what just happened” is meant to be because you can’t believe what you’re seeing, not because the director cut away at exactly the wrong moment. There’s points where it’s out of focus, points where its’s not clear what’s going on. All it needs is someone yelling “RUN THE ROLLER” over the top of it.

Tim: Beautiful moment of Eurovision history, that. So, not that it would matter at Eurovision, as hardly anyone able to vote would understand him. but he’s wanging on about a promise he made to be true to himself. The music’s peculiar – starts out a bit gentle dance notes, heads into brief Hoppípolla territory, before bring back into standard guitar and light drums.

Tom: And it feels like a lot of his higher notes are a bit… well, charitably, can I say that they’re enthusiastically strained? Maybe it’s a deliberate choice, but it certainly sounds off to me.

Tim: As for the performance, well, there was an unusually high numbers of acts that night featuring topless men dancing around, but no others got quite so close as to be almost licking him, and that is a bit weird. What I would say, though, is that if you’re doing a ripping the clothes off act, it should be more than just black jacket to black T-shirt – can’t we have a bit more variety?

Saturday Reject: Famous Oberogo – No Puedo Más

“Don’t make them look like contestants on a game show.”

Tim: It’s that time of year, Tom: less than three months to go until Eurovision, and countries have started choosing their Eurovision entries. Here, as ever, we’ll be celebrating those missed opportunities. Spain was first out of the gates, so it makes sense to start with this, which came seventh out of ten in its final; my favourite, though.

Tim: Suggestion: if you’re wanting to go to Eurovision, don’t give your backing singers illuminated mic stands that make them look like contestants on a game show with an incredibly passionate host.

Tom: Ha! That’s exactly what I saw as well. It looks like they’re on Y Ras.

Tim: Nice to know I can still count on you for the obscure yet accurate reference. No, Famous, instead perhaps give the look you want: of a guy who just, as the title says, ‘Can’t Any More’. The lyrics don’t make it clear whether he can’t manage any more because he’s just had a break up or because he’s needs to break up; either way, there’s some sort of relationship ending involved, and my word he’s getting emotional about it, right down to that definitely real crying at the end of the middle eight. Snarkiness aside (I know, sorry) I actually like this a lot.

Tom: There’s a lot to be said for it: he’s got a spectacular good voice, and it’s a competently constructed pop song. Is it a Eurovision winner? Well…

Tim: Don’t know how well it would have gone down there – to be honest, probably filed away in the middle with a load of other Big Wholesome Ballads – but I like it.

Oh, and a warning: based on Spain’s winner, we may well be up for a lot of novelty tracks this year. Makes sense given Israel’s win last year, but still, be prepared.

Tom: After the last two years of ‘meh’, I am 100% in favour of that.

Saturday Flashback: Eleni Foureira – Fuego

“I don’t get it.”

Tim: Cyprus, Eurovision last year, and I’ve a question.

Tom: What’s the question?

Tim: So here’s the thing: this song has since then become basically an Anthem amongst the standard europop crowd. I was out the other night and the club went insane the moment the intro hit, and it jumped straight to number 2 by a massive margin in the 2018 #esc250 countdown (a beautiful NYE staple – and since you’re wondering, since 2012, number one has been, and will remain forever more, Euphoria).

But: I don’t get it.

Tom: And neither do I! The chorus is based around an irritating sample, and that pre-chorus anti-drop is just disappointing every time.

Tim: It’s okay, there’s a decent tune, but it’s sure as hell no What About My Dreams, which outrageously didn’t make the chart at all. Just me?

Tom: Not just you.

Saturday Reject: Rebecca – Who We Are

“MULTIPLE WIND MACHINES INCOMING.”

Tim: The big day is here, so let’s finish our run of Rejects with a big number – Norway’s runner up, coming just behind the nonsense that was Alexander Rybak. WIND MACHINE INCOMING.

Tom: Coincidentally, I had beans for lunch.

Tim: MULTIPLE WIND MACHINES INCOMING.

Tom: It’s Norwegian Adele! Ådele, maybe she’s called.

Tim: And while obviously it’s not a bet that could ever be called, I’d put a lot of money on there being an alternate, and better, timeline where That’s How You Write A Song was sung by some random Ola Nordmann, and then got correctly knocked out in the first round before this was crowned Norway’s representation, because OH MY DAYS is it a cracker.

Tom: It’s a bloody good Big Emotional Song, isn’t it? Given the right competition, so it stands out, that could win Eurovision. And yet it’s not going to get the chance.

Tim: The thing is, it plays by every single Eurovision ballad rule there is, except not quite. The first minute or so is obvious: a raw display of sensitivity and weakness in a quiet verse, a rising sense of emotional growth and empowerment into the chorus, and a whole load of massive instrumental moments that the crowd can go wild for.

Tom: Or turn their phone lights on themselves so they can mug for the camera. I see you, random Norwegian narcissist in the front row. Anyway, yes, massive instrumental moments.

Tim: Repeat for a second time, though a just tad louder, EXCEPT we don’t then drop into a middle eight. That’s it. That second chorus was SO BIG, SO POWERFUL that the audience is left with the plain and simple knowledge that Rebecca is an incredible woman who can have the world, and doesn’t have to play by the rulebook to get it.

Tom: And it works. Alas, Rybak got in the way.

Tim: It doesn’t matter that the message in the lyrics is remarkably confused, what matters is that REBECCA IS QUEEN. (But out of respect for you, Tom, I won’t type what I really really want to.)

Tom: Thanks, Tim.

Saturday Reject: Vidar Villa – Moren Din

“She’s tanned, she’s wet, beautiful and wild, I think you know who I mean.”

Tim: Dansband!

Tom: Yes! Dansband!

Tim: No-one votes for it, it’d probably have tanked last night, but oh, just listen to this Norwegian studio audience. Though I think that might be partly the lyrics…

Tom: I’m, like, 90% sure that’s Norwegian Alan Carr there.

Tim: Well, prepare for the lyrics, see if they reinforce that. “I’ve fallen in love again, think I’ve found my soulmate; she’s tanned, she’s wet, beautiful and wild, I think you know who I mean.” Yup, so far so good.

Tom: I… I don’t know who he means.

Tim: Well let’s look to the chorus: “I want your mum, I want her lips on my cheek.” SCREAMS OF APPRECIATION, dancing all over the place, he’s the audience’s favourite by a country mile.

Tom: Hahahahaha, it’s amazing, it’s a three-minute your-mum joke, complete with a winking pianist.

Tim: That’s not the only good thing about it, of course: hell, I liked it even before I knew what the lyrics were, because it’s an enjoyable genre and it’s always nice to have a bit of variety in the mix. It also sounds truly heartfelt as he sings it, and the faces of those women at the very end make it all worth it.

Tom: I’m not sure there’s enough material in the music there even for three minutes, but who cares: that was one for the crowd.

Tim: All in all: music’s fun, lyrics are fun, IT’S ALL FUN.

Saturday Reject: Ditte Marie – Riot

“Every single anthemic component you’d want for a good proper actual riot.”

Tim: Ditte’s here for Denmark, and apparently she’s none too keen on being separated from her bae.

Tim: Slightly weird lyrics, really, because unless one of them’s going to prison or there’s some sort of Montague-Capulet situation going on, I don’t quite see how this situation might crop up in the future, but never mind that, let’s judge the music.

Tom: This is giving me very weird feeling: I am simultaneously sure I’ve heard this before, and sure that I haven’t. It’s like the textbook Melodifestivalen track, like someone’s chucked every vaguely-anthemic Swedish track there’s ever been into a blender and just gone, yeah, okay, that’ll do.

Tim: You’re not too far off, there, and I had a similar feeling. Though, while a “that’ll do” attitude normally results in a bit of a stinker, given the right ingredients what it gives here is, let’s be frank, a BANGER. Hell of a chorus, which like you said has every single anthemic component you’d want for a good proper actual riot, so full points there.

Tom: I mean, yes, it manages that. If I can get over the weird sense of not-quite-deja-vu, I can see what it’s trying for.

Tim: Backing dancers in military outfits also add bonus points, though at this point I’m starting to worry she’s a little over-prepared, and kind of think she might just have beef with society in general. Still, even if that is the case she certainly gets her point across. Criticisms, well, that return from the middle eight goes on twice as long as it really needs to, and I certainly wouldn’t begrudge them a key change there, passé as it may be. Otherwise, like I said: BANGING.

Saturday Reject: Moncho – Cuba Libre

“Pink and yellow lighting! Multiple key changes! Floral headwear! Bleeping out the rude word describing how hard they’re going to dance!”

Tim: One of my favourite things about January is that every year the BBC brings back Death in Paradise, a murder mystery series set on a fictional Caribbean island that has such a high murder rate that you really wonder why on Earth anybody would want to go there on holiday. But I digress – here, cruelly knocked out at Andra Chansen, is a basically an extended version of its theme tune.

Tom: Cruelly knocked out?

Tim: Oh, absolutely – like I said the other day, Andra Chansen was something of a disgrace, and this lost out to a rather generic tropical pop song.

Tom: Which is… well, not unreasonable, really. It may be catchy, but it’s also got something of the Agadoo about it.

Tim: Oh, HARSH. Even if it was never going to win, let’s at least mention the fact that it would sure as hell have brought some extra variety to the final. Pink and yellow lighting! Multiple key changes! Floral headwear! Bleeping out the rude word describing how hard they’re going to dance!

Tom: Which was pretty strange: I thought Melodifestivalen just left things like that uncensored. Fair play for the key changes, though.

Tim: WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY FUN, SWEDEN.