World of Chig   

Slow news day

But who cares? Bring on the topical pictures!

We wholeheartedly approve, on both counts. We're especially pleased that Becks is following the current Chig look, instead of the other way round for a change.

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Last weekend in pictures (1)

Here are just four of the 1,285 photos that I took last weekend. On Friday, I was at the lesbian and gay charity ball at Birmingham's ICC; a guest of the Nightingale, in exchange for doing a few pictures for the club, which was very kind of them. On Saturday, I was at a gay rugby tournament in Bristol, followed by the QueenShilling pub in the city on Saturday night, partly socialising, but also doing half a dozen photo interviews with punters, which should be appearing in print next month.

I promised "celebs, hunks, twinks, rugger buggers and bare bottoms". I think these pics cover all the options!

Cheeky lads from Be My Butler.

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Last weekend in pictures (2)

Dickie and Dolly were powerless to resist Chig's 'knock knock' jokes.

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Last weekend in pictures (3)

Rugger buggers: Chris of the Newcastle Ravens beats off a Bristol Bison.

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Last weekend in pictures (4)

Bristol cuties Matt and Will.

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200, 60 and 50 years ago today

It somehow seemed right to be in Bristol today, where I've been this weekend. It's the 200th anniversary today of parliamentary act to end the transportation of slaves on ships from the UK, and Bristol played a huge part in those shipments. According to the UK government's official website on the 200th anniversary:

British ships made about 11,000 slaving voyages. Liverpool, London and Bristol accounted for 95 per cent of these voyages.

I can't say that we did anything in Bristol to acknowledge the significance of this anniversary today, but a Bristolian friend who was out last night was going to a service at Bristol Cathedral today which was being held to mark the occasion.

I've been up to far less important things in Birmingham and Bristol this weekend, combining work and play on both Friday and Saturday, taking 1,292 photos in the process. But no more on that for now, because I'm knackered.

Today is also Dame Elton John's 60th birthday. Happy birthday, ma'am.

It's also the EU's 50th birthday today (or the EEC, as it was in 1957). Let's all be grateful that the EU's attempt to hijack this year's Eurovision Song Contest and turn it into a 'celebration' of this 50th birthday was given the short shrift that it deserved.

Diamond Geezer has written far more interesting and detailed things about all three of these anniversaries, which is just as well because the weekend has worn me out and I need an early night.

Look out for some interesting photos of celebs, hunks, twinks, rugger buggers and bare bottoms on here in the next few days! Yes, it's been one of those weekends.

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Picture puzzle - the answer

Well done to those of you who worked it out. Yesterday's picture (below) is a Wii Mii of Chig, as is this one here. (Isn't that also Wogan on the left, in the green? It's uncanny, especially as this was taken the day after Making Your Mind Up.) For the benefit of those who haven't yet experienced the joy of the Nintendo Wii, I'll explain. (It's worth pointing out that I speak as someone who had no interest whatsoever in computer games until I picked up a Wii in the first hour of New Year's Day. I had a Teleng Telestars TV game in the early 1980s, which played football, tennis, squash and 'solo', with paddles that moved up and down (only) on the screen as the 'ball' bleeped from side to side. Since then, the whole concept of computer games had left me cold, but the Wii has changed all that.)

One of the features of the Wii is that you can design little avatar versions of yourself, family and friends, so that whenever that person plays, they can choose their Wii Mii avatar on screen and play as themself. My cousin has a five year old son, who programmed characters into his family's Wii last month. Word had reached me that I had been 'done' and on Mothers' Day last Sunday, I was able to see it. It made me laugh, because my little avatar-designing relative has seen me the last two Christmases, outside, with a woolly hat on and, it seems, unshaven. The hat and facial hair have clearly stuck in his mind, bless him. I'll leave it to you to decide how much of a likeness it is. I just thought it was funny. After we played the bowling game that's in these pictures (my second time), I was introduced to the delights of Rabid Rabbids (sic). I think that playing it with a five year old is probably the best way to appreciate it/them; it's bonkers! And yet strangely addictive.

By the way, I still have that Teleng Telestars game. I'm looking at the box right now. I really should try plugging it into the TV, for nostalgia's sake.

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Warning! Campness overload!

No, not on here, although we have our moments. Scooch are on The Graham Norton Show tonight. BBC Two, 22:00. Some salty nuts, sir?

Whatever you do, DO NOT READ THIS PREVIEW on the Graham Norton Show's website, especially if you know the difference between 'England' and 'the United Kingdom'. It'll just bring on one of your turns. I'm in need of a lie down myself, after reading that, but not before I've posted my atlas to Graham Norton's 'people'.

UPDATE (after the programme): Hurrah! Scooch sang live on the show! Do you think they were trying to prove a point? (I don't know if there were hidden backing singers.) It wasn't perfect, but good enough, and it's good to get in a little live singing on TV before Helsinki.

Crucially though, it was much better than on Saturday, because the audience got it. They laughed at the funny bits and cheered at the flags. If only Graham's lively audience had replaced those mainly rather dull people in the MYMU audience on Saturday. (Bitter that we didn't get tickets? Moi?)

UPDATE: Friday afternoon. The mistakes on the Graham Norton link above have been corrected today, thanks to someone who saw this. Who said this blog was a complete waste of time?

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This is the back of the Hula Hoops packet which I emptied yesterday lunchtime. What the hell are they encouraging children to do in that picture? Do we need to call social services?


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Picture puzzle

What do you think this is?

Answers in the comments box please.

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Non-story keeps the MYMU flag flying

Can it really be Tuesday? Astonishingly, Saturday's Making Your Mind Up is still making the news. I was gobsmacked to see this on the front page of the Daily Mirror today. It's not as if yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, or Gordon Brown has a budget to deliver tomorrow. Oh no, this is far more important. Now I don't expect Daily Mirror journalists to subscribe to Eurovision messageboards, or even to have read this on Schlagerblog last Thursday, but here's a response to the Mirror's 'revelation' that Scooch had backing singers:

We already knew!

The reason we knew is that Chig's showbiz wife, Nicki French, was reportedly going to be one of those singers, until she told the Schlagerboys on Friday that she wasn't. She was apparently dumped in favour of backing singers who could dance as well. (Not that we're saying the lovely Nicki can't dance, but you know what they mean; people picked for their dancing, rather than their lungs.) On Saturday, when Scooch appeared on screen, I told my Mum and sister this little story, then surveyed the stage, realised that we couldn't see the backing singers and said that the BBC must have changed their minds and stuck them in the wings after all. These things happen. It's what rehearsals are for. If the backing singers detract from the look of the act, shove them out of the way. It seems fair enough to me. We then forgot about it, until today's story broke.

There's a related story to this from Eurovision history. When Dana International won in Birmingham in 1998, she had three fairly slim women doing backing vocals just behind her, stage left, but what you could hardly see on TV was the fourth backing singer, who was rather larger, stage right, with a mic stand all on her own. She's not even lit at the start of the song and there's not a single close-up of her. It's quite possible she was the best singer on that stage, but she was judged not to be so telegenic. Perhaps she couldn't dance. Perhaps the Israeli delegation just thought she was too fat. Who knows? (Watch it here.)

Today's cover story is here on the Mirror's website. It's pathetic, instigated by the sour grapes of Justin Hawkins and Brian Harvey. (Either of them could have had backing singers if they'd wanted, hidden or visible. In both cases, they might have been a welcome distraction.) Scooch performed with two backing singers, just as they will be able to do at Eurovision. It will sound the same. The performance we saw will be the performance they can give in Helsinki (although I hope the Union flags will be gone, as we don't want it to look like 'British Imperialism all over the world'). No one was conned. Let's move on.

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And the winner is............. Cyndi!

Er, no, sorry, it's actually Scooch.

Chig has woken up still shuddering at the embarrassment and horror of last night's Making Your Mind Up announcement. (I also have 'Loch Lomond' going around in my head, in a homage to Cyndi.) Poor, poor Cyndi. Three seconds of elation before she's told that she hasn't won after all. Cruel.

On a positive note, Scooch's performances were excellent and the two 'superfinal' contestants, Scooch and Cyndi, were exactly the two who I'd bet on, so I was happy with that. Five quid at 6-1 on Scooch equals 30 pounds, thank you very much. It would have been £45 for Cyndi though and she also deserved to win.

Brian Harvey and Liz McClarnon shouldn't have been too surprised that they were the first to walk; Dancing On Ice hadn't finished until after they had performed, so I doubt if many people saw them.

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If you read what was here from Saturday to Sunday, lucky you. The exclusive doesn't seem to have appeared in today's papers, so this has been removed as a precaution.


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It's MYMU day!

We're hoping for a French win today, especially the 12.5% of my blood that is French, but that's for Cyndi in Making Your Mind Up, not the French rugby team in the Six Nations! There should also be an England rugby win, for Kyran Bracken in the Dancing On Ice final. The bookies have him as 1-13 favourite, meaning it's not worth betting. You'd have to bet 13 pounds to win one back, plus your stake. (Thank you to Tara Palmer-Tomkinson for winning me £8.13 profit last night on a five pound bet which I placed when there were four people left in the Fame Academy. I will do the decent thing and give it to Comic Relief.)

My 37.5% Irishness would like to wish you a Happy St. Patrick's Day. Happy Mothers' Day for tomorrow too. It's all go this weekend, as we spend most of today in front of the telly for rugby, MYMU and DOI and then out tomorrow for a Mothers' Day meal with the extended family.

It's been hard to avoid tonight's Making Your Mind Up already this morning. Firstly, Justin Hawkins was interviewed about it on Radio 5 Live. (Today is also his 32nd birthday. I hope he doesn't get the present he's clearly expecting.)

Then Popworld on Channel 4 had all the MYMU contenders in a lecture theatre situation. I only caught the end of it, but I think they were being given 'Eurovision lessons'. Alex Zane showed them a clip of Daz Sampson performing last year and asked them all if they could see what was wrong with it. Justin Hawkins replied, "Apart from him being a talentless waste of skin?". Ooh, get you!

(Popworld is repeated at 08:55 GMT tomorrow, Sunday, on C4.)

Justin Hawkins was also singing on Comic Relief's Top Gear programme last night, as well as appearing as a panellist on The Wright Stuff earlier in the week.

The only other contender I've seen is Brian Harvey in the audience for Fame Academy about a week ago. If Hawkins & Brown win tonight, I can't help thinking the others only have themselves to blame for not trying a bit harder with the media.

Have you seen or heard any of the other MYMU acts publicising themselves?

Fingers crossed for Cyndi tonight, whose odds are shortening rapidly with the bookies (according to Radio 5 Live) as people gradually realise she's our best chance of success in Helsinki.

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It's Red Nose Day!

Four things you can do today:

(1) Instead of buying the official Comic Relief single, by Sugababes vs. Girls Aloud (because it's a bit rubbish), buy this book, that Mike has compiled from start to finish in just one week, in aid of Comic Relief. It's available from today. Read all about it on Troubled Diva. Order the book here.

(In case you're wondering, I did spend some time trawling the World Of Chig archives and my own memory, while recovering from my operation last week, but I came to the conclusion that there was nothing funny which hadn't dated horribly or wasn't libellous, so I didn't submit anything.)

Mike has bust a gut doing this in a week, and even used up some of his holiday from work, so please buy it. The book is bound to be fantastic, judging from the list of people included, so please buy it. (Some of them are even famous, although that's not exactly the point. The writing has been picked for quality and comedy reasons.)

(2) Watch my friends Paul & John on Dale's Supermarket Sweep. (ITV1, 17:30.) It's nothing to do with Red Nose Day, but I've a feeling it could be quite funny!

(3) Vote for Tara P-T to win Fame Academy so that I win some money from PaddyPower Comic Relief makes even more money.

(4) Plan your Making Your Mind Up party for tomorrow night and pray that Cyndi wins, or at least Scooch, so that PaddyPower pays me even more money our country's pride can be upheld in Helsinki in May. There are rumours of a Buck's Fizz reunion (as if a Scooch reunion wasn't enough already!) (NB. This story came from Victoria 'Pack Of Lies' Newton, but you never know, she her writers may have reported something accurately for a change.)

Strangely, even though the audience is much bigger this year, we didn't succeed in the ticket lottery for MYMU, and nor did anyone else we know. Not even the Schlagerboys, and they were MENTIONED in Norway's final by one of the singers, so they're Eurovision A-list. Perhaps the whole ticket allocation went to Wogan's TOGS. Who knows? Still, Maidstone is one hell of a drive from Birmingham (165 miles, including half of the M25 car park), so perhaps it's for the best. It will be nice to watch it live on the telly for the first time.

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The draws for the two Eurovision shows took place today at the Heads of Delegation meeting, even though the UK is the only country not to have chosen her song yet.

We've drawn nineteenth position, coming immediately after the Ukrainian drag queen and immediately before the nonsense entry from Romania. They're both potential winners, so we need something that will stand out in between those two, reinforcing my belief that we need to pick Cyndi's ballad on Saturday. (I'm still really torn though, as I want Scooch to win as well.)

The good news is that every time the UK has started in nineteenth, we have finished second! (Admittedly this was just the once, with Sonia in 1993.)

The position of death in the final has gone to Spain and their boyband, NASH.

Here are the starting positions of the record-breaking forty-two countries:

QUALIFIER - Thursday 10 May 2007

1. Bulgaria
2. Israel
3. Cyprus
4. Belarus
5. Iceland
6. Georgia
7. Montenegro
8. Switzerland
9. Moldova
10. Netherlands
11. Albania
12. Denmark
13. Croatia
14. Poland
15. Serbia
16. Czech Republic
17. Portugal
18. FYR Macedonia
19. Norway
20. Malta
21. Andorra
22. Hungary
23. Estonia
24. Belgium
25. Slovenia
26. Turkey
27. Austria
28. Latvia

FINAL - Saturday 12 May 2007

1. Bosnia & Herzegovina
2. Spain
3. (qualifier)
4. Ireland
5. Finland
6. (qualifier)
7. (qualifier)
8. (qualifier)
9. Lithuania
10. Greece
11. (qualifier)
12. Sweden
13. France
14. (qualifier)
15. Russia
16. Germany
17. (qualifier)
18. Ukraine
19. United Kingdom
20. Romania
21. (qualifier)
22. (qualifier)
23. Armenia
24. (qualifier)

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And they all went into The Ark, for to get out of the rain.

Well, at least the regional juries and the national televote both agreed on the Swedish winner this year, for the first time in at least three years. The Ark's retro shang-a-langing won convincingly last night. The Schlagerboys were distraught as Anna Book schlagered her way to one solitary point (versus The Ark's 248), by sounding out of breath all the way through 'Samba Sambero'. It was doomed. I tried to warn the Schlagerboys by text, because I know you can't hear properly when you're in the hall - I was there last year. We heard from them later that they are now "over Sweden". I think they may be convinced to change their minds.

The dark horse contestant also cocked up slightly on the vocal front, but in a different way. Marie Lindberg's lack of experience - she hadn't sung in front of an audience until she performed in an arena last month, and qualified for the final - showed through at the start, with a few bum notes in the first verse, which made it slightly uncomfortable to watch; I really felt for her. The Swedish public did too, voting her their fourth favourite in the televote, leaving her fifth overall. The juries had all ignored her, apart from Malmö, who gave her four points. I suspect she may be from somewhere near Malmö.

So, The Ark will no doubt be listed as one of the favourites in Helsinki. They've definitely secured Sweden another top ten finish, but I'm not sure it's the winner. (To my mind, that's currently Switzerland's DJ Bobo.)

We had a great party last night watching the Melodifestivalen final. Twenty-one people, including a Finnish woman (who spoke Swedish, which was useful), a Belgian man and a Frenchman. These were the results of the Glitterball Mansions international jury (with the real Swedish positions in brackets):

1 (3) Måns Zelmerlöw
2 (7) Sanna Nielsen
3 (1) The Ark
4 (4) Sarah Dawn Finer
=5 (8) Sebastian
=5 (9) Anna Book
7 (6) Sonja Aldén
8 (2) Andreas Johnson
9 (5) Marie Lindberg
10 (10) Tommy Nilsson

(To be continued - I'm off to watch the rugby first!)

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Hej Sverige!

There will be 21 of us, crammed into the parlour at Glitterball Mansions tonight for the live final of Sweden's Melodifestivalen, some Swedish food and a very special announcement from our hosts. As far as Globen is concerned, Sweden, please pick this! Tack så mycket!

'Cara Mia' - Måns Zelmerlöw

It seems most people in Sweden think The Ark will win instead, while the big boss man of Melodifestivalen, Christer Björkmann, says that Sweden needs to pick a ballad. You can play a fabulous game while watching this video of The Ark's performance, by seeing how many of the following references you can spot:

The intro: Bardo's 'One Step Further' and Charlotte Nilsson's 'Take Me To Your Heaven'.
The tune: Edison Lighthouse's 'Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Grows)' and 'Cinderella Rockefeller' by Esther & Abi Ofarim.
The rhythm: Bay City Rollers' 'Shang-A-Lang'.
The look: Marc Bolan meets Babylon Zoo.
The synchronised guitar movements: The Glitter Band.
The lyrical references: 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' and The Move's 'Fire Brigade'.
The vocal stylings: Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and David Bowie.
The homage to Gina G's dress: That sparkly thing around his neck. (He's admitted this.)

Then there's the undressing, by a man for a change. How many more references can you spot?

'The Worrying Kind' - The Ark

Our chums the Schlagerboys (and a few others) are in Stockholm. The poor, deluded things are flogging Anna Book's dead horse 'Samba Sambero' for her, but Chig can confidently predict that the winner has been narrowed down to one of six (from ten). Now just watch one of the other four go and win.

The ten contenders are all below on one audio clip, with photos. Roughly in order of their winning chances, Chig predicts a winner from one of these six:

'Cara Mia' - Måns Zelmerlöw
'The Worrying Kind' - The Ark
'Trying To Recall' - Marie Lindberg
'I Remember Love' - Sarah Dawn Finer
'A Little Bit Of Love' - Andreas Johnson
'When The Night Comes Falling' - Sebastian

I can't see any of these four winning:

'Jag tror på människan' - Tommy Nilsson
'För att du finns' - Sonja Aldén
'Samba Sambero' - Anna Book
'Vågar du, vågar jag' - Sanna Nielsen

What do you think?

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Eurovision 2007: It's A Double Drag

Drag queens are like buses. Some of them even look like the back end of one. We already had one drag act in this year's Eurovision, from Denmark, but last night we gained a second, from Ukraine!

Denmark's drag queen, DQ, is of the skinny, Las Vegas glamour variety, but has very little in the way of a show and may struggle to get past the qualifier.

Ukraine's Verka Serduchka, on the other had, is already in the final. She hails from the Dick Emery/Les Dawson school of drag. The song's called 'Danzing'. It makes no pretence at glamour but is more of a German Bierkeller drinking song. (It's partly in German, just to reinforce the point.) This is a DJ Ötzi-style song for Eurovision, in that, by any objective judgment on the song, it's a pile of poo. However, on the 'memorable after first hearing/viewing' scale, it scores a great big ten out of ten. Bearing in mind that the UK gave 12 points to Lordi and 10 points to Lithuania's 'We Are The Winners' last year, I can see where lots of the UK's points are going this time. Still, if we end up in Kyiv again next year, there'll be no complaints from me. I'll be able to afford to go, for a start...

This is the entire lyric of Verka Serduchka's 'Tanzing' (minus the repeats). (Thanks to Adrian B. in Romania for this, which I copied from his message on ESC Today.) Note the 'political' jibe at Russia. If Israel are going to be in trouble for their anti-Iranian lyric, maybe the EBU will have to consider this line as well?

Hello everybody! My name is Verka Serduchka!
Speak English? Don't understand?
Let's get dancing!
Sieben, sieben, ai lyu-lyu (Seven, seven, bye-bye)
One, two, three, dance!

It is good dancing! Where are your hands? Higher!
I want you (to) sing! Russia, goodbye!

Ukraine is cool! Ukraine loves dancing! Let's dance at Maidan (Independence Square)

OK, happy end! [Or is it 'Okay, hit the end'?]

Here's the performance from last night's Ukrainian final. (Thanks to Keith.) The song even has TWO key changes!

Finally, a reminder that this year's national final season has seen even more 'glitter och glamour' than these two, from the drag act which should really have qualified for tonight's Melodifestivalen final. Here's the ode to onanism that Sweden tragically let slip through their hands (ahem) two weeks ago. After Dark finished fifth in their heat with 'Oh, when you take things in hand', so we won't be seeing them in tonight's final at Globen. Nevertheless, this is the funniest song I've heard all year. It's also insanely catchy, once you're past the obvious 'Go West' association. Enjoy!

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A word on Castaway

You know you probably watch too much TV when...'re watching Serbian TV and an advert comes on that you've never seen before, and you find yourself shouting at your friend, "Look! He used to be in Crossroads! The revived version. The actor's called Neil!"

Indeed, it was Neil Grainger, who played Phil Berry in Crossroads v2.0. It looks as if this Crossroads fansite might like me to report this Serbian 'sighting', as they don't appear to have seen him since Crossroads closed its doors for the third and (probably) final time. We may not have seen much of him, but we've certainly heard him. He's done a lot of voiceover work, including a British Army recruitment ad, which is quite noticeably him. I wonder if he even knows he's been on Serbian TV, 'speaking' Serbian?

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Mozza revealed

It seems Morrissey did get around to writing a song for this year's Eurovision after all. It has now surfaced on YouTube. Here it is:

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Big in gentlemen's undergarments

Chig felt rather sad this morning, waking up to the news that John Inman had died in the early hours. I am also full of cold and extremely run down, so I've been off work today. I will somehow manage to get to Glitterball Mansions this evening to watch TV as Germany and Serbia pick their songs for Eurovision. We may raise a glass (more likely a cup of tea) to salute Dame John Inman. Tomorrow, Chig goes into hospital for a minor operation. (Don't worry, nothing serious. In and out the same day.)

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Who wants to be a millionaire's brother-in-law?

Last October, someone who I will only refer to as a very close relative went on an internet date. During the conversation, her date told her that he was due to film an episode of Ant'n'Dec's PokerFace shortly after, as a contestant. This man and my very close relative didn't see each other again. Or rather, he didn't see her, but she saw him again in the first episode of PokerFace when he won the show and fifty thousand pounds.

Oh, how my very close relative and I laughed at the opportunity missed!

On Saturday, he was back for the final.

He won. He is now a millionaire. Crikey.

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Complaints Dept.

We've had a complaint. It's only the third in over five years of existence for this blog, so we're doing okay, but a complaint it is. Here it is:

"I've stopped reading your blog, 'cos there's too much Eurovision stuff on it at the moment."

Thank you for that, my friend Andy, on our telephone complaint line today. (Truth be told, I rang him. It wasn't to collect complaints.) There's not really much point in apologising here to our complainant, as he probably won't be looking here again until late May. However, these new labels on Blogger had already made me aware that the last fourteen posts are all tagged with the 'E' word. Luckily, we already had a story planned for today which has no connection to that thing happening in Helsinki in May. It's above this.


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Dress you up

What the frock was going on in Georgia yesterday? You are about to see the most astonishing dress-based performance ever to hit the Eurovision stage, chosen last night by the people of Georgia as their first entry in the contest. But first, because the wonder of YouTube means we can, some context.

Youddiph, Russia's first entrant, made good use in 1994 of her very unusual dress, which Wogan refers to as "the frock of the contest".

In 2000, Linda Wagenmakers from the Netherlands took things a whole stage further, finding a new use for her dress, as storage space.

Yesterday, Georgia's débutant Sopho Khalvashi took this concept and ran with it. Prepare to be gobsmacked as you find yourself muttering 'what the hell is going on?' Is she a meringue? Is she a flower? Does she have terrible flatulence? Does she end up in a bed? Whatever it/she is, welcome to the party, my Georgian friends! I think you've grasped the concept of performance admirably. Let's just hope they're building a very high stage in Helsinki, or Sopho's beautiful face may be lost in the lighting rig.

Take a seat, brace yourself and press the 'play' button.

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Horrible, Hrvatska

23:30 Ne, Hrvatska, ne, ne, ne! Croatia, what were you thinking?

Tonight's Dora final can I put this? 'Crap' would be a good word. 'Laughable' would be another. The winning song, by one point over something which would have been mildly acceptable, was a song by a grizzled old Iggy Pop-like rocker with some meandering, growling rubbish. Watch the performance here, if you dare. You wait three minutes for the song to start, and then it ends. Mercifully.

Last year's Croatian Eurovision entry, Moja štikla by Severina, was my favourite of all the songs, and still is, so it was a pleasure to see her performing it at the start of tonight's show, live from the Crystal Ballroom of the Hotel Kvarner in Opatija. But it was all downhill from there onwards. (One of our friends, who would otherwise have been with us tonight, was actually there at the final. I hope he has asked for his money back.)

At Glitterball Mansions, we cast our votes in the interval, as did the population of Croatia. Thirteen of us, including, for a bit of variety, a woman and a Belgian. (Not the same person.) In our vote, 'Vjerujem u ljubav' by Dragonfly featuring Dado Topic came 15th out of the sixteen songs. In Croatia, it won. What do we know?

Our voting was more 'all over the place' than I can ever recall tonight. Because there wasn't anything good, there was no consensus at all, and some songs were scoring 12s from some people and none from others. I was accused of voting for the singer, rather than the song, when I gave my douze points to Luka Nižetić, but his was the most watchable performance, of a very average song. He was looking like a sexier version of Daniel Bedingield tonight, but with dyed black hair, piled up a bit, making me think of Tom Bailey at the height of The Thompson Twins' fame. It's not his best look. Here he is, doing tonight's song on another show. He wore a different outfit tonight - a black suit - but you get the idea.

The narrow winner chez nous was a bizarre novelty song called 'No chance sugar'. This consisted of a fat woman (and I mean massive) singing in an opera stylee, while fending off the attentions of two blokes. I think that was the gist of it anyway. Some people found it funny, which it was, but it was funny bad, not funny good. The act was called Trio Fantasticus, but the Croatian televoters agreed with me that they were far from fantasticus and mostly ignored them. Oh blimey, blame YouTube, not me. Here they are, on another programme, but they looked exactly like this tonight. How horrible is this?

Croatia is now fighting with Israel for 'worst entry of the year so far' in my list. They're both absolutely awful, but the Israeli one is a least controversial, so well done Croatia, I think you've clinched it. May the spirits of Doris Dragović and Danijela Martinović haunt you from now until May as you reflect on your useless choice tonight. Book your flights home from Helsinki for 11 May, because you ain't gonna be in that final on the 12th.

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Dora och schlager

Another Saturday night, another batch of national finals and heats for Eurovision, so tonight we will be back at Glitterball Mansions. The Scooch song may be taken off non-stop repeat play for just long enough to watch a bit of telly, so we'll be watching the beginning of the Swedish 'Andra Chansen' heat, where Chig hopes that Elin Lanto and Nanne Grönvall will get their second chance ticket to next week's Melodifestivalen final. Tonight's show could go on for ever, as the format is knockout rounds, as shown here by the Melodimen. I make that a lot of voting, plus fifteen performances, if there's a reprise of the winner.

We'll have turned over long before then, as it'll be time for our annual dose of HRT. Yes, it's time for the final night of Croatia's Dora, usually one of the highlights of the season along with Slovenia and Sweden. It's certainly one of the longest finals, but when you've experienced Spanish television, nothing feels too long. Croatia had semi-finals on Thursday and last night, halving the field of sixteen each time, so there are 16 of the 32 songs left tonight.

Highlights of the eight acts through from Thursday night include top Croatian hunk Luka Nižetić (left), who had a go in 2005 but revealed himself to be strong on good looks and weak on stagecraft. All of the partially-clothed pictures seem to have gone from his official website in favour of a still very sexy business look (but what's the windmill all about?). Never fear though - Schlagerboys to the rescue!

Also through from Thursday are Feminnem, who represented neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina in Eurovision 2005. You have to be Croatian to enter the Croatian Dora, but they do hold Croatian passports, so they're okay.

Through from last night's semi-final, I'm particularly looking forward to seeing The Sick Swing Orchestra and Trio Fantasticus, simply because of their names.

The regular reader may recall some recent drooling over him on the left; Sebastian in the Slovenian final (not to be confused with another unsurnamed Sebastian who's in the Swedish final next week. Are you still with us?) Well, what do you know? In the interests of post-Yugoslav unity, Sebastian and Luka teamed up for a TV appearance, singing an answer song to Geri Halliwell, 'Mi Chica Latina'. Two hunks for the price of one. I don't know where to look first.

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British Eurovision entrant chosen

Two days ago, on the day that the BBC announced the UK's Eurovision contenders, Greece chose to send a hunk called Sarbel to Helsinki with the song below. He's from an island some way off the Greek mainland, born in a little town there called 'that there London'. Haway the Brits! La Grèce, douze points de la Royaume Uni!

We could have shown you the promo video, but why do that when you can have dodgy handheld camera footage from the audience of Wednesday's Greek final?

WARNING: There is lots of titty shaking in this performance (and the women do some too).

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Making Up Our Minds

So, what are they like in their full versions? Chig gives the six MYMU hopefuls a couple of spins each (or whatever it is you do with MP3s) and evaluates each one after just two hearings, as Mr and Ms Public will have to do on 17 March.

You may be surprised by the conclusion. Chig would normally be surprised if there were any conclusions, but this time he has made a clear choice.

Big Bro Thang - Big Brovaz

I’m immediately prejudiced against this song, because I just don’t see the point of listening to a tune that is all about the artist, except when it’s funny, like Silvia Nott. It’s the exact opposite of what produces a Eurovision winner. (Not that we’re in any position to consider winning until we give Europe a reason to vote for the Big 4 countries, but that’s a matter that I will return to on another day.) Leaving aside Lordi, which was all about theatre, recent Eurovision successes have all been positive, uplifting and/or inclusive. Hearing a group singing about themselves just seems daft and self-indulgent in any context, but it’s magnified a million times at Eurovision, to a level where it seems wholly inappropriate.

So, trying to be fair and getting over that enormous hurdle, this is actually a good song. It manages to sound poppy, atmospheric and electro, and even the rap isn’t completely horrible. It scores highly on the catchiness scale too. There are even bits in it which sound like Evanescence’s ‘Bring Me To Life’, which is not quite what you’d expect from Big Brovaz. This is being released as a single anyway, so if nothing else, expect it to be the biggest non-winning hit single from a UK selection since Deuce made number 10 in 1995 with the third-placed ‘I Need You’.

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To – Hawkins & Brown

With an insistent, banging, Boxerbeat of a backing track all the way through, this is a belter, but it does sound a bit like a competition between Justin and Beverlei to see who can screech the highest. There’s some wonderful screaming at times, but this is one of those ‘high risk’ songs which you just know could be awful on the Eurovision stage, even though they’re both amazing singers.

The middle eight puts me off a bit too. There’s some great brass but what the heck are Justin and Beverlei going to do while the band plays (on the backing track)? Oh crikey, I see it now. He’s going to strip off his suit and reveal the lycra one-piece, isn’t he? There’s also a bit of guitar work which could well be ‘played’ by Justin himself. The song fizzles out a bit at the end and needs to finish with much more impact.

Also, the line “you don’t see crap and shit like that” rules this one out of Eurovision for me (and a teatime audience, surely?) I admit I am hooked quite quickly on this as a good, upbeat song, but at the moment I just can’t imagine it at Eurovision.

I Can – Brian Harvey

Written by Brian in 2005 when he was recovering from his bizarre car accident (when he somehow managed to run himself over with his own car), this is a great, uplifting ballad. There are some Elton John moments on the ivories, and a great a cappella section which will really grab the audience’s attention. It has a wonderfully inspirational lyric and Brian does it straight, as it should be, without any of the vocal embellishments that sometimes tempt him. Even in its 4m 11s version, this is very good, and can probably be given even more impact in the obligatory three minute edit.

However, this has been circulated in 2005, by Popbitch for one, and even if it has been rearranged, it breaks the rules by being published before October 2006. Perhaps we shouldn’t pin our hopes on this one, but Teenage Life broke exactly the same rule and nothing happened, so maybe we can do what we like.

(Don’t It Make You) Happy! - Liz McClarnon

Not to be confused with another UK national final tune, Don’t It Make You Feel So Good, which was Alberta’s effort in the 1998 Great British Song Contest. The song is the bastard son of a preacher man but just about manages to plough its own furrow as a bouncy pop tune which is likeable enough, but not a vote winner. There’s not enough of an immediate hook or anything novel about it. Liz fulfils the positivity criterion by singing about happiness, but it’s not enough. This is my least favourite of the six.

‘Ev’rybody wants to fly’, sings Liz, which leads us nicely to….

Flying The Flag (For You) – Scooch

“The duration will be three minutes exactly.” Brilliant.

If only it hadn’t all been done before, I would unreservedly be recommending this. Scooch even look like Sestre in their official MYMU photo, so the comparisons are obvious, but five years is a long time in Eurovision and Sestre weren’t even singing about flying. This lot definitely are, in a song which could be adopted as the theme for British Airways, were it not for the innuendo. Well, I say innuendo, but there’s a line spoken by one of the 'cabin crew' guys in this which goes “Would you like something to suck on for landing sir?” It’s more of a single entendre, isn’t it?

This is poptastic and very much like they never went away, as far as Scooch’s body of work is concerned. It doesn’t feel like Natalie Scooch ever has been away, to be honest, as she has trodden the gay club boards for many a year as a solo performer. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen her at Pride/Mardi Gras festivals, and she can sing really well. Russ Scooch hasn’t been away much either, as he’s been working as a TV presenter, before dressing up as a girl for Nathan Moore and trying to pass as one third of a girlband in the TV show ‘Girls Will Be Boys’.

The whole three minute flight has great potential to be an act, which is what’s needed to stand out in Eurovision these days. Following in the footsteps of the Swedish witch last year, there could be some flag-waving too. There’s a clue in the title. I’d be rather uncomfortable if they were waving the Union Flag though. Perhaps the rainbow flag would be more appropriate?!

This is a tongue-in-cheek laugh, with phrases like “flying high in Amsterdam”, “cruising in the sky” and "some salted nuts, sir?". It namechecks the host city (Helsinki), one of the newcomers’ capitals (Prague) and a few other place names along the way, in a blatant attempt to attract votes from Paris, Berlin and Tallinn.

It even has the line, “Your exits are here, here, and here”, which Sestre did as part of their routine, but who cares? It’s a delightful bit of pop froth with a catchy tune and this would be a fabulous UK entry.

Which leaves us with the one unknown act in this year’s selection.

I’ll Leave My Heart – Cyndi

“Oh I’ll take the high notes and you take the low, and my heart will go on as you raise me up, oh Danny boy, as by the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond we’ll go sailing.”

Let’s just say there are a few influences evident in this song. But - and it’s a very important ‘but’ - it’s as good a song as you would expect it to be if you cobbled together all of the best elements of the above songs. French singer Cyndi evidently has a great voice, which ranges from soft and gentle to powerful, with a big note near the end and a long note at the very end which would have us all on the edge of our seats, hoping that she makes it. (It’s called 'The Lindsay D Moment' in Eurovision circles.)

The sweeping strings (and harp?) on this are absolutely fantastic. You want the return of chansonnerie? You want a big, breast-beating ballad? I think I do. This is epic, beautiful and powerful and is my clear favourite if we want to do as well as possible in Helsinki.

We don’t generally vote for the underdog unless there’s a huge amount of novelty involved (ie. Daz Sampson last year). But could the relative fame of the other five acts mean that they all cancel each other out and allow this unknown to go sailing through the pack, voted for by all those without the vested interest of fandom? I hope so. This is my choice. I think it’s time for the UK to retread the path of Garlick (but with an even stronger song) and aim for a respectable equal third.

This is the strongest selection of songs of the four MYMUs so far, and the Beeb is to be congratulated on getting such quality, with five known names and a talented unknown, with not a TV talent show contestant in sight. Perhaps we could all pretend we haven't heard the Scooch song, and just save them for next year.

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Quote of the Day

"Obesity has become a HUGE problem."

Cristina Odone, Question Time, 1 March.

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