Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Liz Truss: An apology

Earlier this week, I wrote a post based on a short report about Liz Truss' comments on Eurovision where I assumed she didn't really know what she was talking about.

Having now seen seen her full quote I would like to apologise. I seriously underestimated how far from informed she was.

Earlier, the international trade secretary, Liz Truss, dismissed the idea that the UK’s nul points was a “post-Brexit snub”. She told LBC there was a “fundamental problem” with the way entrants are currently chosen and suggested the BBC shouldn’t choose future artists.

“I think we need to have more competition to get the right entrant, I think they need to be more tested with the public,” she said. “I’m here today at LBC responding to questions from listeners, that’s the kind of testing that we need our song contest entrant to go through. So maybe it should be LBC that’s running it, not the BBC.”

There's a lot to unpack here. I think we can safely say that Eurovision is not Truss' field of expertise. I'm not sure such a Trussian field of expertise actually exists. It might just be better to accept that Truss, like a confused sheep on an A-road, has somehow found herself outside a field.

It's perhaps unsurprising that Truss seems to think that going on LBC is somehow part of the democratic process and doesn't realise that, you know, she's an MP and should be listening to the public in the form of her constituents on a regular basis.

It's perhaps unsurprising that Truss also confuses what you hear being honked through the switchboard at Global Radio is a representative slice of informed public opinion and not merely the confused wheezing of people who are dull enough to tune into LBC and puffed-up enough to be bothered to call in. These are people using their time to put questions to you, Liz. That should be a big red flag for a start.

But let's put that to one side, and focus on the barely-beating heart of Liz's argument. Is the suggestion that LBC should choose the entrant Liz being playful, or is she seriously suggesting that a talk radio network ought to be choosing a song?

Taking that idea as being a sensible suggestion, and accepting that LBC listeners would probably choose Nigel Farage doing some skiffle as our entry, there's a bit of a problem with it. LBC is not, under its broadcast licence, allowed to play music except for "illustrative" purposes. So Liz is floating the idea that, in future, it would be better to have our entry for a song contest chosen by listeners to a radio station that cannot play music. 

That's probably not as unlikely as it sounds. LBC often invites its audience to vote on matters about which it is incapable of providing them the basics they need to make a valid opinion. But do we really think a song chosen on such a basis would perform any better at Eurovision, than the results of a Twitter poll asking "something something is it too woke" is at shaping public policy?

If we remove LBC from the mix, though, Liz is suggesting that the reason we flop on the big stage is because BBC clipboards are picking a winner and it would be better put to a public vote. We've already pointed out that Liz seems unaware of the involvement of BMG employees in the process - people whose business is driven by an understanding of what popular music with the widest appeal sounds like - but let's assume that Truss is mostly concerned about the lack of transparency in the process. After all, we're talking about a song contest here, not something trivial like the procurement of PPE during a pandemic.

Liz Truss is a cabinet minister in a government led by the apparent offspring of Humphrey Cushion and Arthur Daley who somehow managed to achieve an enormous majority in the last general election. It's clear why she might have more faith in the outcome of asking the Great British Public 'what do you think?' than those of us who have to live with the consequences.

That, though, isn't the real problem with Truss popping up to go 'why don't we ask the public?' Because, Liz, that's also been tried. It's been tried a lot. Asking the public, Liz, was what was done between 1957 and 2010, and then again between 2016 and 2019.

Now, fair enough, that means that The Public picked Bucks Fizz and Lulu and the Brotherhood of Man, but if we focus on their more recent form, you'd have to admit that the Public aren't really all that good at this selection business.

Joe And Jake? 24th in 2016.  Michael Rice? 2018's choice came bottom of the heap.

More curiously, although the public chose the tracks between 2016 and 2019, the chart positions of those songs suggests that, actually, nobody very much liked them. In fact, no public-selected Eurovision candidate has made the Top 20 since Scooch back in 2007, and there hasn't been a number one since Gina G in 1996. Michael Rice's single didn't even make the charts.

So asking the public to choose the song they like best simply results in them choosing a song they like well enough to send to Europe but not so much that they'd actually pay for it (or, in modern chart terms, even listen to it enough.) Which raises the obvious question: if it's a song that the UK public don't invest time or money in,  why would you expect the European public to give more of a shit when picking a winner?

Obviously, Liz Truss doesn't really give a raspberry tuppence about what happens in the Eurovision Song Contest, any more than I have any investment in who wins her local Conservative Association's Who Can Put The Most Spaghetti Down Their Trousers fund raiser, and the chance to attack the BBC over anything has ministers' knees jerking like they're auditioning for a spot in a Restless Leg Syndrome infomercial.

But, he says spinning to a close-up camera and pulling a serious face, this kind of rough-and-tumble over Eurovision, in which a woefully ill-informed person with a not-very-hidden agenda drives over the creative industries for a spot of sport is like a little microcosm of how the nation is now. There's no analysis, no understanding, no - god forbid - research. Just a stupid, unworkable proposal plucked from the air while Nick Ferrari is cuing up the next advert for a walk-in bath. If you really believe Eurovision deserves your opinion, Liz, could you do us all a favour and put some thought into shaping that opinion?

Anyway, this blog is on hiatus.


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

This just in: Nobody got nothing at the Brits

Some happy news this afternoon, as the testing for the Brits' live event has been completed, and <a href="https://www.musicweek.com/live/read/brits-boost-for-return-of-live-music-in-june-as-test-event-records-zero-covid-cases/083355">nobody got coronavirus as a result of being near Lewis Capaldi</a>.

Given how many previous Brits Award shows have left so many people feeling sick, this is a solid demonstration of what happens when you don't ask James Corden to host. Oh, and run a covid-aware event.



Monday, May 24, 2021

Eurovision postscript

New intelligence on what absolutely nobody is calling Snortgate

Meanwhile, Liz Truss has suggested that the BBC be stripped of its responsibility for choosing the UK's entrant. She squirted this thought into the world on Nick Ferrari's LBC show, and marks a strange decision for Truss to move her remit from the job she's being well paid to do badly, onto something that she clearly doesn't understand. Sorry, onto something else that she clearly doesn't understand.

Perhaps if she knew that the choice of UK entrant is actually one of those public-private partnerships so beloved of the Tories - BMG have a voice, too - she might have come to a different decision. Sadly, Nick didn't take the opportunity to grill Truss on what her proposal for an alternative selection process might look like, nor to ask her what she saw as the flaws in the current process.

With most of the Cabinet currently subtly pushing the line that the BBC killed Diana, I suppose Truss focusing on Broadcasting House's culpability for Jemini marks her out as a more liberal part of Johnson's team.


Saturday, May 22, 2021

Liveblog: Eurovision 2021

1.30pm

Someone asked me a few days back on Twitter if I was going to do this, this year; and I said I was quite prepared to interpret that as "overwhelming public demand". The exchange has since disappeared from my timeline, and I'm presuming that the person responsible has gone into hiding to avoid retribution from their friends and neighbours.

It's all too late, though, as here we all are. Back, again.

I'm not sure about the idea that Eurovision is rebooting live music after the pandemic - it's a bit like professional sports putting the Olympics and FA Cup on hold and giving the first outing to Jeux Sans Frontières instead. (And I know that the Brits organisers probably grind their teeth that, having done their best-show-albeit-with-a-low-bar-to-clear in about a decade, and having had a large crowd, the narrative is still that this is the kick-off point for The Comeback of Live Audiences. It's not enough to be first, darlings, you must be flamboyant enough for people to believe you're the first, and the hard work put in by Dua Lipa can be so easily erased by Lewis Capaldi having been left alone with a lager top before he takes to the stage.)

As usual, I've gone out of my way to try and avoid coming across any of the entries before tonight, so that I can look at them through fresh eyes. Not unjaundiced eyes; I've not looked at anything like that since about the time the BBC stopped Teddy Edward reruns. But fresh eyes.

So... back here, later, then to see if we can all remember how to watch music. 


7.30pm

BBC One is warming us up for an evening of shall-we-say magic with that odd 'can you tell who is a good singer by looking at them' show; the weirdest format of them all since the answer is obviously 'no, all you can do is guess'. There's a contestant saying that it's really easy if you're a good salsa dancer to add some lipsyncing to it. They're saying it with a degree of confidence that is impressive, but almost certainly misplaced.

Still, it's nice to see a programme where being a shit singer doesn't make you a target for ridicule.

7.45pm

Elsewhere, the Glastonbury livestream is providing a realistic experience as nobody seems to be able to get to see the bands they were hoping for, although it's invalid code messages rather than slow-moving crowds traipsing through mud that's blocking people from getting in front of Wolf Alice.

7.55pm

The only thing that makes no sense about I Can See Your Voice is that... even bad singers aren't bad as the bad singers here. I mean, the woman who has just done a Debbie Harry bit is so comically bad even Gareth Malone might just shake his head and say 'maybe stand at the back and open and close your mouth in time with the tune'.

8.00pm

And we're offffffffffffff!

It's a montage!

A Eurovision montage of people doing things outdoors. How we've missed you, Eurovision montages.

And now we're in the studio, which seems to be a tribute to Jailhouse Rock. In Space.

Oh, and it's the Olympic-style walk-on of all the artists...

8.05pm

Switzerland appear to have sent Michael McIntyre along. And didn't quite catch what nation that was, but the trio all in lemon make me fear we're in for a very long night indeed.


Oooh... is Graham Norton signalling the number of Instagram followers one contestant has as a subtle way of suggesting she's got international support that could swing the evening for her?

Shots of the audience in what I'm trying to not think of as a massive plague pit.

The bloke presenter has got a gravity-defying haircut. It is literally ALL the backcombing in honour of National Goth Day.

They've had 24 months to write the bit of business for the introduction. That time has not, I'm afraid, been put to good use.


8.10

Cyprus Elena Tsagrinou El Diablo

Nice dress, in a Littlewoods doing Anne Summers way. The song is a bit stop-start and has a dreadful rap bit in the middle that drags it down. The backing singers, though, have come as Britney from the Oops video. It's a strong start.

8.15

Albania Anxhela Peristeri Karma

From the devil to karma. We're in for that sort of a night are we.

She's wearing the same dress. Is that safe in the current climate?

Nice flash of red smoke in the background. It's a bit more California evacuating as trees burn than Tales of the Unexpected.

Unquestionably it sounds Albanian.

There's a bloke in the audience with an Albanian flag who, really, appeared to be clapping out of nationalism rather than enthisiasm.


Israel Eden Alene Set Me Free

Graham Norton promises the highest note ever sung at Eurovision.

She looks a bit FKA Twigs. She sounds a bit like early 2010s chart music. (Actually, this sounds precisely like the Eurovision song that was playing in Chiquito earlier which I couldn't remember the name of then, either.)

Obviously, even with the best will in the world Israel is going to struggle to get much support tonight.

The high note was just a squeal. And it didn't shatter any glasses here. Might have been better off with Memorex.


8.20

Belgium Hooverphonic The Wrong Place

Hooverphonic sounds like the sort of band who would be the last track on a free Melody Maker cover mount, included so that the record label would allow the Shed Seven track to appear.

The drummer has taken time off from teaching science in the local comp; the singer is possibly a reanimated Lulu. 

The song is better than it has any right to be based on the foregoing observations. But it's going to need to build to something. 

Those boots look like they might be gardening wellingtons. 

I don't think this is going to build to anything.

No. It just ended. Hooverphonic just sort-of sucked.


Russia Manizha Russian Woman

Song title or opening gambit in an unsolicited email pledging to be marriage minded and disease free?

Oh, that dress is going to open up, isn't it?

Yes, it does, to reveal a boiler suit.

Her backing singers are wrapped up like cheap supermarket chocolate biscuits.

It's more Russian than the Albanian one was Albanian. I suppose this is what happens when you stay at home for months on end.

"Don't be afraid" she keeps chanting, which is one of those phrases that sounds more ominous the more it gets repeated, isn't it?

The back wall appears to have turned into a Zoom conference. Might have been the Russians hacking the judging sessions and accidentally pressing the wrong button.


8.30

Malta Destiny Je Me Casse

Now, the BBC News were talking about her last night, in the gaps when they weren't beating themselves up about Diana, so I have heard bits of this before. Not sure about the lilac bodysuits for the backing dancers, and it's that dress from the first two again, but... this is ballsy. I like this.

Portugal The Black Mamba Love Is On My Side

Love may be on his side, but that hat is counting against him. A ten gallon hat on a two litre head.

I bet the restaurants reopening gave him a difficult choice about which job to go with this evening.

Over on Twitter, James has told me that it's Lituania who came on all in yellow, so that's something to watch out for.

Portugal ended with a promise that they'd be making love tonight. I suspect they won't.

8.40

Serbia Hurricane Loco Loco

This is Ruslana-by-numbers and I'm fine with that. Even the "don't forget the robot" loco-loco vocaliser bits


Eurovision is going for a break, so they're doing something that appears to be hacked together from stuff they found on Instagram.

8.45

Now, the bit we've all been waiting for, like the way we wait for a visit to the dentist, or the death of a beloved pet. It's the UK entry.

UK James Newman Embers

Graham Norton keeps saying he wrote his own song. In a way that makes it sound like we should be kind to him because of it.

James is being menaced by a pair of giant cartoon trumpets, which is a curious design choice.

Oh, he's like Rag And Bone Man auditioning for Take That.

Probably deserves more than the twelve points it's going to inevitably score.

The more it goes on, the more I like this, but I don't think we have the two hours it would need to go on for me to like it enough to ever want to hear it again.

Greece Stefania Last Dance

She's on a bare stage wearing a glittery purple outfit, but I fear that won't last.

Oh, lord, it's someone doing the sort of "I'm just dancing trousers" schtick ITV used to pop into Paperplay to enliven a dull episode or two.

There's also apparently a song here, but I'm not sure.

Switzerland Gjon's Tears Tout L'Univers

He looks a lot less than Michael McIntyre than I thought when I saw him earlier, and unfortunately that turns out to be all that he had going for him.

He also looks like he's about to burst into tears. Which might explain his stage name.

Mitteleurop Ken Doll Pop.

9.00pm

Iceland Daði og Gagnamagnið 10 Years

Graham Norton does appear to be tipping everyone for victory this year.

This is the second rehearsal rather than live tonight, because of covid. If they do win, what would happen, though? They can't come on to play the song, as they're holed up in their hotel isolating. I now want them to win just to find out the answer to that question.

I know everyone likes their quirky style, but the amusing Christmas Jumper meets mining schtick isn't doing it for me.

Hold on, though, the using the curved keyboards to create a prison for themselves is a nice move. Although a bit ironic given they're locked up in a hotel room tonight.

Spain Blas Cantó Voy A Quedarme

We're promised "the largest prop" ever tonight, although at first I thought Norton had said "largest cock", and when the guy came on I thought "yeah, sounds about right"

I'll bet his sweating like a fucker in that shirt (ten euros, from Primark)

The big prop is a large moon hanging from the sky.

Wait... that's not a moon...

Sadly, it's not a Death Star, either. So it just looks like Miley Cyrus fell off her Wrecking Ball on the way to the stage.

9.05

Moldova Natalia Gordienko SUGAR

It's that same dress again. And she's being backed up by four men from the Chippendales version of Men In Black.

The song is called Sugar, presumably, because it's a bit of a lump.

Ooh, we're being treated to the old Max Headroom backdrop. Someone at Moldovan TV has been going through their old VHS tapes.

Pretty certain the dancers are just there to stop her claiming political asylum.

Germany Jendrik I Don't Feel Hate

He's got a necklace that reads "annoying", which has at least saved about three seconds of processing time because... yeah, that's what this song is.

There's... a woman... wearing a giant hand costume which appears to be giving the whole of Europe the finger.

"I don't feel hate" says Jendrik. In a way that is rather challenging if he wants the rest of us to join him.

Oh god, he even does a little Thought For The Day at the end.

I don't feel hate, but I really don't feel love, either.

Finland Blind Channel Dark Side

Tonight's slice of hard rock.

But it's not Lorde hard rock. It's the guy from the deli down the road, right, well his girlfriend's son has got a band, and they've rehearsed a few times and they're alright.

A-grade eyeliner game, though. They should try Glow Up next year. Give the Eurovision a swerve.


Quick dip into Twitter as they taek a break:


9..20

Bulgaria Victoria Growing Up Is Getting Old

This is quite nice, but... it's very much The Sort Of Song That We Had A Lot Of Through Necessity  In The Last Twelve Months. An NPR Tiny Desk At Home Concert for Europe.

Lithuania The Roop Discoteque

Here's my lovely little lemons, just as the laptop I've dragged out for tonight starts to melt down. A song about discotheques! In 2021! Apparently written by someone who has never been to a discotheque. Or perhaps heard music.

The dancing is a little bit... emphatic. The sort of dance you'd expect someone in a yellow outfit to be doing. You can't ignore it, but you know in your heart you really ought to not be giving them the attention.

9.30

Ukraine Go_A Shum

They've bought a tiny part of an enchanted forest. And there's an element of throat singing going on. I don't know this is quite the noise they wanted to make when they set out, and it is getting a bit 'the room is spinning and I might throw up' but... there's something.

Hold on: is she salting herself up?

Extra marks for not using the massive bongos at the side of the stage.

France Barbara Pravi Volia

Graham Norton thinks this one could win, too. Graham, you can't introduce every song with a 'might win' just so you can go 'called it' at the end.

She's forgotten her blouse. She'll catch a chill, the way the wind whips in from the North Sea in Rotterdam.

This song is so French it could blockade a port all on its own.

Azerbaijan Efendi Mata Hari

The giant moon was one thing, but coming on with a massive chocolate orange hanging from the rafters is inspired.

They know Beyonce will find out they've ripped off Survivor, right?

Ooh, there's a big snake in the chocolate orange now. Have they confused Mata Hari with Cleopatra?

Norway TIX Angel

"He's gonna come on dressed as an angel, see, because the song is called Angel, right, geddit? But, no, wait, he's in chains, too, with four people tugging at them. And they're... no, wait, you're gonna love this, right, they're dressed as devils, see? "

The embracing and centring of his facial tics in front of a massive audience is to be applauded, but... the song... maybe not so much.

9.45 

Netherlands Jeangu Macrooy Birth of a New Age

Home town act. Instantly popular with the Plague Pit.

There's a crumbling wall behind him. Is this new age the fall of the Berlin Wall? The music seems to be from the same era.

His suit makes it look a bit like he's wet himself.

Hang on, the wall is now saying "You can't break me", which given it started off by developing a massive crack is a confusing message to be sending out.

9.50 

Italy Måneskin Zitti E Buoni

Zitti E Buoni always my go-to choice at Prezzo, of course.

It's heavy metal, if your only experience of metal is Cirque Du Soliel doing a tribute to Kiss.

The size of the heels, though. Is that style, or is just compensatory?

Rotterdam! Are you ready to rock? Again? Just a little bit?

The glances at the audience suggests Rotterdam is not ready.

Sweden Tusse Voices

We've not seen much of that bendy-over, wavy hand dancing on Eurovision. Judging by how we've only just got to songs about discos, it'll be about 2036 before that really starts to show up on the Eurovision stage.

I think Tusse has a lot more personality than this song is allowing him to express, which is a bit of a shame.

San Marino Senhit Adrenalina

We're nearly at the end of the first half.

I was about to say 'some national dress' and then realised I have no idea what the national dress of San Marino would even look like, and by the time I'd finished that thought she'd thrown it off and was rolling round the floor.

Norton said this was a fitting song to end on, and it does have "yes, this is probably enough songs now, thank you" vibe to it.

Florida has turned up now - the rapper, not the state - for no reason other than to provide pub quiz questions for the next decade.

10.00pm

All over bar the voting, then.

Oh, god. The voting.

Let's have another dip into Twitter:


That... clears that up, then.

The giant finger woman has won tonight - official.

10.15

While the votes have poured in, and my laptop crashed again, we've had some sort of classical-dj collaboration with a spot of augmented reality. It's so 2016 it's going to vote for Hillary Clinton.

The video featured a couple of kids running away from a parent. Only they caught a tram, which is going to have given him a pretty good idea of where they were going. He did catch up with them but, the magic DJ music made him turn from being a sort-of-grumpy probably-racist into a smiley dancing dad. Eternal story, isn't it?

10.20

Voting numbers recap again, so another quick dip into Twitter:


Read this thinking "what song are they parsing so closely? and then realised it was Gary Numan doing something else:


The comedy bit was mercifully short and unsurprisingly unfunny. 

10.40

So, over at Glastonbury they had to take down the paywall - which is a digital revival of the 1980s tradition of the fence being pushed over by punters without tickets.

10.45

Back in Rotterdam, we have to ask: is it really a Eurovision if Lordi haven't turned up?

Which reminds me:


We're getting the reprise of the last winner. I mean, they say it's the track that won last time round, but frankly it's so flat and it was so long ago now I couldn't honestly say, hand on my heart, if I have heard this before in my life. 

10.51

It's the countdown to the close of the vote, with a tune that owes a pretty hefty debt to Richard Whiteley's old stomping ground.

"Europe stop voting now". Yeah, I think we have that feeling quite often.

Apparently the supervisor of tonight's events has written two successful thrillers. I bet he's going to ponder what to lead with on Linked In in the morning.

Graham Norton's been a lot less arch tonight, hasn't he?

10.55

We're going to get the scores now. Apparently the jury votes were done last night, and we get those first.

Israel say "we all needed Eurovision". Hmm. Maybe some other things, too? 12 to Switzerland.

Poland - "dressed as Zebra". Okay, Norton's still got a raised eyebrow. 12 to San Marino.

It's early, but UK already running a zero score.

San Marino have written their score down on a piece of paper, in case they'd forget the word France.

Albania's judge appears to have broken off a date with a divorcee to bring 12 points for Switzerland

11.00

Over to Malta, who are showing their skill with languages. 12 to Albania.

It's a bit of a mixed bag of scores so far, apart from everyone hating us.

Estonia give 12 to Switzerland.

North Macedonia - their first scores under this name, but still not significant enough for them to buy a proper shirt. 12 to Serbia, to add to the single tick they'd had so far.

Azerbaijan have two people doing the scores. And they're singing. And milking their time for all its worth.. 12 to Russia.

The UK is still on a flat zero.

Now to Norway, giving a 12 to Malta

Spain are up next; she's an old hand at this, so does the bluster quickly before getting to 12 to France bit.

Austria are wearing an EQUALITY shirt. So 12 to everyone? No. Iceland get special treatment making you a HYPOCRITE.

Switzerland are leading the pack; Malta's contestant looks a bit glum.

Here's Amanda Holden, fresh from the Singing Show. "I'm Amanda Holden" says Amanda Holden. 12 to France.

Just UK and Norway yet to score.

Oh, Italy given 2 to Norway, so... another good year then. Italy's 12 to Lithuania. Well done, little lemon gang.

Slovenia has a glittery jumpsuit and a massive belt. 12 for Italy.

Greece are up way after their bedtime - he's ten years old. Knows to give his 12 to Cyprus, though.

Latvia give 12 to Switzerland from their Goth jumpsuit.

Ireland give 12 to someone - France? - and Moldova come on and play a saxophone, apparently in a bid to become the Most Hated Country in Europe. 12 to Bulgaria. Bulgaria? Really?

Off to Serbia, who are dressed as Jessica Rabbit but remember to say good morning to Australia. The 12 for France nips them ahead of Switzerland.

11.10

Bulgaria have made an effort. Moldova get 12. Nobody is running away with it tonight.

Cyprus' budget Greg Proops brings 12 for Greece.

Belguim have come all in white. They've trotted out 12 for Switzerland.

The UK sit, forlornly, at the bottom on zilch.

Some of Europe are now enjoying adverts, and we're not. We're backstage. At least the French singer has been able to get a tracksuit top to give herself a bit of warmth.

11.15

Back to the votes.

Germany appear to be trying out new teeth as they come on screen. 12 for France.

Australia are up early, or are they late? He sounds like he's had more than one of the massive glasses of champers he's holding. Malta crack a smile at last as they get a 12.

Finland are wearing a massive spangly jacket, and endosing Switzerland.

portugal are doing a Lego minfig tribute with 12 to Bulgaria,

Switzerland are now two points ahead of France.

Ukraine are dressed like Mother Christmas and there's 12 points for Italy in their sack.

"We're now joined by Iceland" says the presenter, and she sounds tired.

Iceland's bit about the movie and Ya Ya Ding Dong is probably funny if you've seen it. Switzerland get 12.

Romania have sent an Olympic Gymnast - no, really. Malta get the big score this time.

Croatia have put a proper suit on.. Doesn't fit him, but it's expensive. Italy are their choice.

The Czech Republic are wonderfully overdressed. Portugal hit the 12.

The UK are on zero, still. Switzerland opening a lead.

Georgia are wearing a t-shirt with a map of Georgia on. probably. 12 to Italy.

Lithuania are the Collector from Guardians Of The Galaxy. Ukraine score 12.

Denmark couldn't be any more Denmark. Switzerland get 12 again.

Five more to go. Switzerland 249, France on 218. UK...0.

11.25

Russia: two mics and a crucifix. Moldova get a dozen.

France have a mouth full of teeth, and douse points for Greece

Sweden are having their raincoat adjusted as we join them. "I know how your contestants feel" she says. Yes, they're feeling like they'd like you to get on with it. Malta, eventually, take 12.

UK? Still on zero.

Switzerland are in leopard print - twelve to France, but hardly anyone noticed.

Finally, the local score from the Netherlands - and it's 12 across the border.

11.30

So, that's the juries.

Now, to the phone votes. Oh, after a break. So time for a quick look at the leaders:

Switzerland 267, France 238, Malta 208, Italy 206

NOW for the public votes.



Remember, too, they're going to dock us 50 for Amanda Holden.

The UK gets zero from the public.

Holy shit.

The crowd in the Plague Pit do give James a lot of love, though. And I think he's had a drink. 

Germany also get a zero. So does Spain.

Did nobody vote?

Nothing for The Netherlands.

More votes coming in, and countries are starting to get a dribble of votes. But it's all very low.

Lithuania have got 165, the first decent sized score. Go Team Lemon.

Then back down to earth as Belgium get just three.

Finland get 218, which pings them from bottom half to - for now -  being in the lead.

11.40

They're going to overrun, by the way.

Ukraine scoop up 267 points. That's enough for the producer to play some funky music and sticks them on top of the board with 364.

Russia's 100 gives them a total of 204, strong middle placing.

Portugal only get 27 public votes, for a total of 153. Bulgaria only get 30.

Iceland are gifted 180, and that takes them to the top.

Italy 318, gives them 524 and pushes them to number one.

11.45 

"It's not going to be long now" - tell that to whoever's waiting to do the news, mate.

Malta only get 47 - she's trying to look like she's okay with it. But she isn't.

So will it be Switzerland, or will it be France?

They're trying to drag out the tension.

France get, from the public, 251 points - which only takes them to second.

So, which side of the Alps has won - Switzerland or Italy?

Switzerland need 258...

Oh, god, we're getting a recap.

165.

Italy scoop it up.

Bloody hell.

That was actually quite exciting - although not quite as exciting as they were trying to make it.

At least it's a memorable winner, because I can't remember how the Switzerland one went.

11.50

So, what have we learned?

The Blogger HTML editing interface has become bloody awful over the last couple of years, mainly.

The UK are never going to win Eurovision again; we couldn't do any worse if we sent Keir Starmer in to do a song and dance routine. 

The European public, left to their own devices, can't be trusted with voting, except when they can.

And having a year off made Eurovision feel like a lot more fun.

11.55

Maneskin are doing the reprise as they roll the credits. It's an okay song. Sort of thing you might hear in the taxi as you head towards Turin airport, and might even Shazam, before promptly forgetting their name before you even get a luggage trolley from the rack.

Midnight

Victoria Derbyshire looks knackered and frankly could have done without the extra fifteen minute wait, thank you very much.

"Good morning" she says, tartly.

Just time for a quick final look at Twitter:


It's been fun. May very well be back next year, pandemics permitting. 


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: He's working from home

Like Nena's war machine, No Rock & Roll Fun is opening up one eager eye as an old friend has emerged to celebrate the crazy upside of a global pandemic. Yes, yes, it's cut a swathe through our friends and family, tanked the economy and destroyed lives and livelihoods. Sure, it might have revealed that a worryingly large portion of the people we share this island with turn into big babies if you ask them to pop on a mask to go into Sainsburys; and an even more worrying number will claim that you will literally die if you do so because wearing a bit of cotton over your mouth is the same as sleeping in a sealed box with a broken gas boiler. Absolutely, coronavirus meant that for some reason the world spent far too long talking about a bunch of arseholes who appear to be famous solely for treating tigers badly.


But did we learn nothing - nothing - from Bing Crosby? You've got to accentuate the positive, right? And here's Gennaro Castaldo, who has found a cash-stuffed upside that doesn't even require him to be mates with Matt Hancock:

Music lovers have been getting in the groove during the pandemic – and buying record amounts of vinyl.

While the Covid crisis has been  disastrous for live music, it has turned the tables on sales of old-fashioned LPs, which are now at their highest level since the early 1990s.

[...]

And the trend looks set to continue. Gennaro Castaldo, of the British Phonographic Industry, said: “The nation’s love affair with vinyl shows no sign of relenting – a passion that, if anything, has become stronger under lockdown.

“Vinyl is appealing to fans of all ages and backgrounds because it feels like the ultimate expression of the artist’s craft.”

Gennaro has clearly spent much of his time in lockdown trying to find something new to say about vinyl beyond "it sounds much more authentic" or "it's so much warmer" and, fair play, "it feels like the ultimate expression of the artist's craft" is fresh. 

Although craft and art are two different things.

And the delivery method of the music isn't really the ultimate expression of how good a musician is, is it? That's clearly idiotic. If you'd only heard, say, B B King playing live, you wouldn't have come out of the gig muttering "yeah, that seems okay, but I'm going to withhold judgement until I've had a chance to hear his work coming out of a tinny speaker on a jukebox because you can't judge a musician until they've had their work mediated by a producer, a shitload of recording equipment, some tape, the mastering process, the vagaries of a pressing plant, and a whole load of decisions made at the other end about styli, turntables and speakers. You don't really get to understand what sort of a craftsperson the artist is until all those mechanical process and other people's decisions have been slathered over the top."

Still, let's channel out inner Bing Crosby. The Mirror points out that this is a good news music story in a bad year:

While the Covid crisis has been  disastrous for live music, it has turned the tables on sales of old-fashioned LPs, which are now at their highest level since the early 1990s.

Industry experts say lockdown means fans can’t go to gigs – so they have more cash to spend.

The paper doesn't actually mention how many vinyl albums have been sold, and unfortunately, because they've labelled the news of album sales an "exclusive", I don't suppose we've got any way of finding out.

Hang on, though, it's a UK tabloid exclusive, isn't it? So that means it's probably a story that has been circulating for ages.

And, indeed, Farout reported the exact same thing two months ago:

The new figures show that almost one in five (18%) of all albums bought in 2020 were vinyl, with a staggering 4.8 million vinyl LPs purchased. 

Nearly five million. That is a lot. At about 20 quid a pop, that would work out at a business worth roughly a hundred million pounds. Not, of course, to be sniffed at. But that's only one-eleventh the size of the live music industry.

And, given that only ten per cent of this is the extra sales uplift being attributed to lockdown, that means one percent of the money that would have been generated in 2020 on going out to hear live music has trickled into vinyl.

Oh, and that would have to be offset against the drop in sales of CDs, which had their worst year since 1987.

So the idea that the shuttering of venues has been mitigated by physical sales is a bit of a pipe dream. It's like Michael Gove losing his political incomes but thinking the residuals from A Stab In The Dark will let him coast to retirement.

In fairness, Gennaro is representing the Phonographic Industry and for him, it's the platters that matter in a very real sense. And if your focus is on shifting units, it's quite a good news story.

Up to a point.

The Mirror concedes that the trend is being driven by "older, nostalgic" music fans - people like us who will be dead or struggling on the state pension soon and don't really represent much of a long-term future market for the UK music industry. But, wait, the kids are getting involved, too:

But new LPs, including Harry Styles’ Fine Line and Kylie Minogue’s Disco, were also high in the vinyl charts, as younger fans discovered the discs.

This year releases by Foo Fighters, Celeste, Maximo Park and Kings of Leon have helped to drive the surge in sales, which are already up 10% compared to the same period in 2020.

Oh, young people! Except if you were born in the year Kylie signed her first record deal, you'd be 34 now. Shit, if you were born in the year she had her last UK number one, you'd be able to legally drink in a pub, if pubs were a still a thing that were open for drinking in. Celeste apart, all the artists cited have been plugging away at it for ages. 

By the time The Beatles had been going as long as Maximo Park have, Wings were already on their first Greatest Hits album.

People buying recorded music in 2021 is obviously a good thing, and in a lean year when there's no cake around, finding a couple of custard creams at the back of a cupboard is a bit of light in the dark. But we can't kid ourselves that the rickety rack of Screamadelicas and Velvets with Nico shoved in the no-mans-land between the Sainsbury's deli counter and the tiny Argos is the solution to the structural problems in the music industry.

Still, it's good to see Gennaro is still doing his thing. Positive-sounding puffery in a tabloid? Isn't that really the ultimate expression of the artist's craft?

 


Saturday, May 18, 2019

Liveblog: Eurovision 2019

6.12pm
Bollocks. I was rather hoping I'd have forgotten how to use Blogger as an excuse to swerve this year's Eurovision Song Contest. As, perhaps, we all should be doing, what with it being held in Israel and, thus, helping the Israeli government in their campaign to appear like any other country.

There have been numerous calls for the competition to be removed from Israel, or for a boycott of the event - although, in fairness, if your objection is to Israel hosting the contest, you're effectively saying you don't mind them taking part in Eurovision, so long as they don't win it.

The management of Eurovision are, of course, adept at making the case that you shouldn't spend too long thinking about how the government making everyone so welcome to sing a few songs doesn't really have so great a human rights record. After all, they got a chance to trot the arguments out a few years back in Russia.

Netta - whose inability to lose despite offering up a dreadful, twee performance last year got us into this mess - popped up on the BBC yesterday stressing how Eurovision is a chance for everyone of all races, sexualities and genders to come together in peace. It's a line the Eurovision producers are hoping will be amplified across the course of the show, although I've checked the running order a couple of times and am struggling to see whereabouts the Palestinian entry is coming on.

The approved Eurovision, um, vision of everyone coming together can't be seen as a political message, though. Because the producers are very clear that no politics will be tolerated in the arena tonight - one senior man, whose name I didn't catch, told BBC News last night that anyone trying to make a political statement will be "stopped and punished".

Stopped is disappointing. Punished is really concerning. What sort of punishment will the Eurovision organisers have at their disposal? Engelbert Humperdinck can attest that simply setting foot on a Eurovision stage has the power to make you disappear completely from public view so god knows what they could do if they were pissed off with you.

The point at which the contest is most likely to lurch into an unplanned commercial break (while UK viewers are treated to the hosts awkwardly bantering over the sound of human howling) is during Hatari's performance. Back in February, the band challenged Netanyahu to a wrestling match and have given off signals that, if we must go to this place and do this thing, we're not going to do it quietly.

Back when it was Russia, the it was comfortingly easy to get outraged.. Because it's Russia, and Putin. With Israel, though, the politics are a lot more complicated - it's almost impossible to type the words "Tel Aviv" without wading into a confused chamber of rows stinking of racism, antisemitism, and bad-faith extrapolations in all directions. It's almost as if the politics of the Middle East is an easy thing to get drawn into, but becomes something of a quagmire should you look to leave.

If you'd like a calm, clear explanation of why holding Eurovision in Israel is fucked up, you could do a lot worse than read Abier Almasri's piece for Human Rights Watch. And if we are going to not pretend that we can't see where Eurovision is this year, maybe the best we can hope for is that as many voices like Abier's are amplified and help drown out the messages the Israeli government want to send.

If you're not looking for a calm, clear explanation of the politics of Eurovision 2019, though, you should send for Bobby Gillespie.

Bobby's already had something a red letter month. Denise Johnson tweeted this a few days back:



And a couple of weeks earlier Gillespie did a fashion spread. Now, doing a fashion spread is one thing. But when you appear wearing a three thousand quid coat in a newspaper edited by George Fucking Osborne, you might have lost the moral high ground a bit.

So, things weren't looking good when he went onto Newsnight and was asked about Eurovision.

He served up a take so bad it's possible Ben Gurion and Yasser Arafat, watching it from their not-really-that-different-heavens, might be able to make common cause on yelling "shut up".




"All of my heroes are Jewish" is both a refreshing reworking of "some of my friends are black", but also an amazing revelation about the Paint It Black era Rolling Stones.

But even before being awful about Israeli politics, Bobby has already been awful about Madonna.

To say "she's a prostitute" as a criticism, and then to rush out "not that there's anything wrong with being a prostitute" is perhaps the most radical attempt at a remix since Weatherall somehow shook Loaded out of I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have. You might think that Gillespie is a misogynistic arsehole - not, of course, that there's anything wrong with misogynistic arseholes. "She's a whore" was one of the most commonplace attacks Madonna had to weather during her early years, and as an insult says nothing about either Madonna or sexworkers, but a whole lot about the person hurling it.

It's less controversial to say that Madonna will do anything for money, but it's also not exactly revealing a hidden truth when one of the songs she's going to do tonight is The One From The Big Pepsi Commercial. It's also a bit much to take from someone who's just reissued Velocity Girl with a shiny new video, and promoted it in an article which contains the words "Givenchy jacket, £1,810; shirt, £476; trousers, £684 (givenchy.com). Gucci boots, £875 (gucci.com) (Drew Jarrett)" as the image caption.

So here we are, then: The attempts to protest Eurovision haven't brought down the Israeli regime, or even stopped the contest. But they have managed to destroy Primal Scream for us.

Which is something of a long way round saying: welcome to the No Rock & Roll Fun 2019 Eurovision Song Contest Liveblog.

We'll be back just before 8.00pm...

7.15pm
Have just realised the football starting at 5pm has robbed us of the chance for a Eurovision Pointless.

7.58
Here we go, then. The gap between the TV and the streaming version of BBC One is now so huge you could edit out a swear-filled rant from Shaun Ryder between one and the other.

8.00
Oh god. There's some business with a pretend plane kicking us off, apparently piloted by last year's winner.

Oh, and waving scouts.

8.04
I'd forgotten they'd introduced the 'having all the contestants walk on at the start' thing; to give you a chance to have completely forgotten what they look like by the time they actually come to the stage.

8.06
Dana International is looking fabulous, but it's not clear why she's got El Al cabin crew stood behind her.

The sound mix is terrible on this. Hopefully they;ll sort it out before the event proper gets under way.

It's time to meet the presenters . Four of them this year. Probably one is there solely to wrangle Madonna.

8.12
"This is our third date" says the bearded host to the host in a corset, "and you know what happens on a third date".

Well, that's awkward.

This bit of cut-up old presenters talking about how you vote is quite a nice touch.

8.14
They've added a new touch, we're warned. The intro videos are going to feature the contestants dancing.

"How about we open tonight's Grand Final?" Yes, you've been going for quarter of an hour already, please do get a crack on.

8.15
Malta: Michela – Chameleon

Michaela is wearing a cheap rain mac of the sort you buy at Alton Towers when you forget your anorak; with a denim top over it.

There's some very Primary School Teacher doing the lights for a play effects going on here. Sadly, thats the most interesting thing about the performance. The song is like a watered down version of Baltimora's Tarzan Boy.

At least it can only get better from here.

I say that, there's plenty of time for it to get worse.

"She'll be thrilled with that" observes Graham Norton. That makes one of her.

8.18
Albania: Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju tokës

Jonida is dancing in a pond.

She's performing from inside a crown of thorns, which is a provocative choice from Israeli State TV all things considered.

This sounds like it could be authentically Albanian, although I have no idea if that is the case.

Hang on, now it sounds like she's singing about Oreos.

8.20
They've added some fire to the stage set. Didn't improve Uncle Roy's barbecue party; didn't help this.

Czech Republic: Lake Malawi – Friend of a Friend

They could have made Lake Malawi stand in a pond for their dancing video, because that would have made more sense. Or at least a weak sight gag. Instead they appear to be dicking about on a wall.

Oh god, that drummer is clearly not playing that drum.

"He was my neighbour when we were 13" sings the grinning Pellow-like lead singer. I think we see where this is going.

I might be being unfair to the drummer; it could just be that he's six feet tall and using a kid's drum set. Perhaps he forgot his own drums, and that was all you can get in Tel Aviv on a Saturday? Is there a drumming animatronic bear at a kid's restaurant missing his kit?

8.27
Germany: S!sters – Sister

Oh, this isn't sisters like Buffy and Dawn. This is sisters like Shula and Elizabeth. The sort of sisters whose drama you wouldn't tune into if you were sat behind them on a long train journey. They're teating us to the sort of the thing that Elaine Paige and Barbara Dixon would have thrown out to test the mic levels.

The blonde one is wearing the 'sexy outfit', which looks like she's gone to a fancy dress shop and bought a 'sexy sexy outfit outfit'

8.30
Russia: Sergey Lazarev – Scream
Apparently did well in the public vote last time he appeared at Eurovision, says Graham.

Imagine that. Russia doing well in a public vote.

Sergey is dressed entirely in white, and singing in front of a BBC Micro rendering of a leap into Hyperspace.

Hold on, he's now standing in a shower.

This song is so slow, you'd be able to lead a funeral procession with it.

8.34
How can it only be 8.34? He's been singing this for an hour and a half.

Oh, we're up to a break already. A chance to talk to Jean Paul Gaultier for no apparent reason other than maybe Madonna?

Denmark: Leonora – Love Is Forever

This starts like it's going to be Orinoco Flow and then quickly morphs into the sort of plinky-plonky song that they might use in a Nationwide commercial.

"Don't get too political" she sings, confusing the instructions taped to the side of the stage with her autocue.

It's a testament to how poor this evening has been that this is the best thing we've had so far.

Leonora is climbing up a ladder from which a young version of Albert Steptoe is hanging off.

8.40
San Marino: Serhat – Say Na Na Na

"This song took five minutes to write" reveals Graham. Very little of that spent on coming up with a title.

Another all-white outfit.

"Be strong - look at me" says the background. I mean, you're no oil painting Serhat, but I don't think it's fair to say you'd need superpowers to gaze at you.

The backing dancer blokes have forgotten to put their strides on.

8.44
North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska – Proud

Tamara presents a challenge. Is she meant to have an asymmetric bob, or does she just have a bad hairdresser?

The lyric so far is generic "say it proud and loud" stuff, which was pretty much the message of the last one. Given we're in a Contest where participants have been told to ensure they shut the fuck up, that's a little ironic.

I keep expecting this song to kick up a gear. It is running out of time to find that gear.

Nope. No new gear. She just shouts a bit.

8.48
Another break. Pencilled on beard man is throwing to commercials. Corset woman is sitting with the Maltese singer, who is being more animated than she was during her performance.

Pencil beard is with the German sisters. They don't entertain him with their claim they see each other as queens, so he heads off to someone else.

8.50
Graham's done the toast to the ghost of Terry Wogan.

Sweden: John Lundvik – Too Late for Love

Starts off dangerously close to Curiosity Killed The Cat's Name and Number, but then shifts into standard Eurovisionballadry. Oh, and then shifts again into a standard Euro pumper..

"Everything reminds me of your face" says John. What, everything? Doing the bins? Nigel Farage on the telly? A dead badger mouldering slightly in the drizzle on the side of the A37? Really, John?

Backing singers channeling off-Broadway performance of Sister Act energy.

8.55
Slovenia: Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – Sebi

They met on Instagram, warns Graham. Okay, Slovenia: double influencer power is go.

They're wearing all white, of course. Is tonight sponsored by Persil?

She's looking at him as she sings with the eyes of someone who had been promised everything would be alright and doesn't believe that any more.

Yeah, they're going to do this whole song staring at each other. This feels awkward.

She's pawing him now. This is just the ten minute freeview, isn't it?

8.59
Cyprus: Tamta – Replay

When Tumblr axed all the adult content on their platform, the deleted posts came to life. And they came to life as Tamta, with her 'rustle up your own PVC costume' approach.

The song are two verses of nothingness held together by a chorus of a robot marching downstairs.

"You're stuck on me, darling". Yeah, you'll get that if you don't use enough talc with your PVC.

9.03
The Netherlands: Duncan Laurence – Arcade

The favourite to win tonight.

But first, a quick look back at Slovenia as seen on Twitter:




Back to the Dutch. Well, at least Duncan isn't wearing white, but he has bought a keyboard which is both too large and too small at the same time.

"My mind feels like a foreign land, silence ringing in my head" sings Duncan, and boy, does a foriegn country where it's quiet sound like a real treat compared with this year's song.

9.07
Greece: Katerine Duska – Better Love

Kat is doing some stuff in a library for her dance video, which must be annoying for people trying to use the library. I know libraries aren't all "shush" and "no noise" any more but you've got to draw a line somewhere, surely?

Florence And The Machine That Needs New Batteries, isn't it?

Oh, there are people fencing on stage. I hope they're really good at fencing. (Secretly thinking: it'd be amusing if they're not really good at fencing).

Kat reaches for a high note with confidence. Misplaced confidence.

"Burning feeling inside" she trills. Mmm. Try yoghurt for that.

9.11
Halfway point. Of the songs. Just of the songs.

Time for the home team.

Israel: Kobi Marimi – Home

Jesus Christ alive, that bust of Lionel Richie from the Hello video has been animated and thrown on the stage.

Is that a metal bow tie he's wearing?

Well, I think we can rest assured that a year hence Newsnight isn't going to be asking the lead singer of The Bluetones what they think about the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Oh, he's crying.

9.16
Norway: KEiiNO – Spirit in the Sky

Presumably this isn't going to be the Norman Greenbaum one.

Why is Nick Tilsley off Corrie pretending to be Norwegian here?

He's just been joined by cabaret-tribute-to-mid-period-Madonna.

Oh, and a third voice provided by Varys, who has time on his hands now he's been burned off Game Of Thrones.

Ooooh I love love love their giant stag. The giant stag is the best thing so far.

9.20
United Kingdom: Michael Rice – Bigger than Us
Michael's used to the big occasions, having won that awful singing thing with Geri Halliwell and Rob Beckett in front of an audience of at least two dozen.

"It's bigger than us. It's bigger than You And Me." Yeah, but we'd rather be watching Crow and Alice.

This isn't a terrible song, and on the evidence so far, it's a lot less terrible than many of the other terrible songs we've heard. It doesn't deserve to win, but it deserves to do a lot better than it actually will wind up doing.

9.24
Another break. This time they've made the contestants come to the hosts. This is what they call a format tweak.

They're asking the guy from San Marino what he'll do if he wins, which is that level of cruelty you get when they ask people on Pointless who have offered no credible answers how they'll spend the jackpot "if by chance" they find a Pointless answer.

9.27
This is what we've waited for.
Iceland: Hatari – Hatrið mun sigra

Now, THIS is how you do a BDSM performance. It's like mid 80s Martin Gore has been brought on to do the visuals, while Skinny Puppy have chucked in the tune. VOTE FOR THIS WITH ALL YOUR LIFE.

Extra points for the prancing gimp.

"Verfur lyga" they snarl, and I don't think that's their safeword.

9.31
Estonia: Victor Crone – Storm

Poor Victor Crone, having to follow that. I'm not sure they'll even have had time to mop the lube up yet.

Victor has come on after the sex people with the air of Ralph McTell the week Alphabet Zoo reached the letter Q and the format's weakness has just revealed itself to him.

"When it all calms down, we'll be safe and sound" sings Victor, making a love song sound like a Protect And Survive leaflet.

9.35
Belarus: ZENA – Like It

This year's favourite for the 'send the show to somewhere problematic' option.

"Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be Paris Hilton. And Paris Hilton will be being Gwen Steffani."

To be fair to Zena, this is the first song tonight that sounds like it would fit in the current Top 40. I mean, not the Top 10 or the 20, but it could certainly hold its head up down in the lower 30s.

9.38
Azerbaijan: Chingiz – Truth

Takes some balls for someone who has a Jimmy Hill style protrusion to go on stage with a name that starts with Chin.

He's being operated on by one of the robots that used to build Fiat cars back in the 1980s for some reason that isn't entirely clear.

Hats off for making "shut up about it" a hook, though. And "I'm in the mirror/so fucking bitter" is a great line. This isn't offensive.

Oh, and the massive head from the Space Sentinels has popped up to do backing vocals.

"She is a killer with that freaking perfume." Yeah, we've all been sat behind someone like that on a plane.

9.43
France: Bilal Hassani – Roi

Imagine if a PSE lesson was made flesh. Yeah. Like that.

"Only you can choose who you want to be" says the backdrop. John Whiterow'll have something to say about that in the morning.



Graham Norton: "this show gives exposure to people who wouldn't normally get this sort of exposure". Mmm, this is true. Oh, if only you were in a position to allow people like that on the TV more often, Graham . eh?

9.48
Italy: Mahmood – Soldi

Mahmood's shirt is made from wallpaper found in an Indian restaurant which closed in 1984. He's also still got his housekeys on a long chain dangling from his waist.

He looks really, really angry. Oh my god, and they've just flashed "it hurts to be alive" on the wall. This is all really uplifting, then.

9.51
Serbia: Nevena Božović – Kruna

Nevena is the only person who's bothered to hire an evening dress for the show. She's singing a song which sounds like it could be about her recent divorce.

Meanwhile, Twitter is still talking about Italy:




9.55
Switzerland: Luca Hänni – She Got Me

Luca is sexy, in a 'I haven't had it for a while and you clearly know your way round a zipper' sort of way. The sort of sexy that does quite well as the clock edges towards closing time.

He's singing a song about "the kind of woman that mama likes", and so it's possible he's just helping his mum get back on the dating scene.

The chorus is just repeating Dirty Dancin', which is just lazy. I bet there was a draft where he was going to be shouting out "Top Gun".

9.59
Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke – Zero Gravity

At last, I suppose, we've come to terms with Australia being in Eurovision. So let's not pretend we never learn anything year on year.

Proving their commitment to Eurovision, Kate is wearing a headpiece based on the 1970s Eurovision logo. She's singing on the top of the globe. Maybe thats a nod to the 1970s BBC One ident? Are we going to see her spinning off on a flying Y, like Dusty Bin at the start of 3-2-1?

When you're thinking about Ted Rogers, it's a sign that the song isn't very catchy, for all the cheap operatic trilling thrown at it.

Now on a massive pole, like Simon Stylites.

10.03
Spain: Miki – La Venda

We're nearly there. One last push. Oh, Miki, will you be so fine, so fine you'll blow our minds?

Good use of the old Celebrity Squares set here, Miki.

This is impressive. Lots of colours. Lots of energy. Lots of bounce. And a body popping whicker man. It's the polar opposite of Iceland. It's the sound of optimism. It's not bad.

10.07
Pencil beard is calling for a toast - "I don't drink, sorry" he says, as if it's impossible to toast with anything other than alcohol. Unless he doesn't drink any liquids at all. Maybe he's on a drip.

Goggles, foil dress and corset have just opened the voting. So time for the last couple of hours of our lives to flash before our eyes again.

10.16
"It's a scientific fact" says tinfoil dress "that we're more alike than we are different".

Is it, though?

Conchita Wurst has been dragged out on stage again, dressed a little bit Frankie Goes To Accessorise.

10.21
We're now balls deep in singers you've forgotten winning doing songs you'd forgotten won.

Oh hang out - this one didn't even win. It's last year's forgettable second place song.

10.24
And, yes, I'm afraid I haven't forgotten the Christopher Biggins Cybermen, who are back too.

Pencil beard is bringing Gali Atari on stage now. You remember. From 1979.

10.27
In the BBC Newsroom, Clive Myrie glances at the screen, sighs, and puts on an eye mask. It's going to be a while until he's going to be needed.

Graham Norton is reading out a really long list of names of people who are having parties. It's like listening to Junior Choice.

10.34
Oh god Madonna's wearing the eyepatch.


She's just said "everyone here is from all over the world".

Oh, Jesus, she's making the crowd chant "music makes the people come together". You know, from the one that had Ali G in the video.

10.37
Sweet hell, she's not even the next act. They've brought on one of Israel's most celebrated musical performers. The Idan Raichael Project, apparently. He's shouting out "make some noise", and - to be fair - getting more response than Madge did.

10.41
"Do you know what Eurovision is?" Goggles man asks Quaver. His eyes scream back "if I knew, do you think I'd have come?"

Over in the green room, meanwhile, a mindreader has turned up. It's like a shit bit from a Paul Daniels.

10.44
This is not a trick; if you ask anyone to name a Eurovision winner they will always choose Waterloo by Abba.

"Don't let all the fun distract you" says Pencil Beard.

To help with the fun not distracting you, they've dragged last year's winner back to do her new song. It's like a cold cut found outside a Palomar Faith recording session.

10.49
Foil dress, who is no longer in a foil dress, appears to hit on Netta. She is rebuffed. "I'll do my walk of shame then" says foil dress. But... you'd only do a walk of shame if you'd not been rebuffed.

This hasn't been though through.

We still have two songs from Madonna before we even get to the voting bit. Somehow I don't think we're going to be done by 11pm tonight.







10.55
Finally, we're getting the chance to see Madonna. This is so late, the pub Bobby Gillespie was planning to storm out of has already called last orders.

10.56
Oh, look, it's the Total Eclipse Of The Heart video.

Jesus, Madonna missing notes. This is quite bad.

Why is she doing this silly accent?

Gingerly picking her way down the stairs.

I suppose at least nobody knows or cares what the new one is meant to sound like, so it won't be as disappointing.

10.59
This is so bad. "Your voice can take me there", perhaps, but unfortunately Madonna's voice can't get you there.

Now about to do a cover of Frank Muir's Fruit and Nut adverts.

Erm, people with gas masks dying on stage perhaps a bit ill-considered given the circumstances of this contest.

Quaver's on stage, doing quite a bit of the heavy lifting.

11.03
This is what she chose to do from the new album. You wonder what the rest of it is like. But not so much that you'd fire up Spotify.

Oh, a tiny Palestinian flag on the back of one of the dancers. Well, Madonna, that's certainly answered the critics there.

11.06
At last, the voting is over.

Clive Myrie is heading out to get a burger.

We now seem to be getting a message from the Tel Aviv tourist board delivered by Gal Gadot. What can YOU do with three minutes in Tel Aviv?

11.09
Goggles and Pencil Beard are behind a table ready for the scores to come in.

We all want the scores.

Portugal are up first, doing the 'who has two thumbs' stance - 12 to Netherlands

Azerbaijan have the narrowest tie in the world. 12 to Russia.

Malta's Ben is someone waiting for a Grindr hook-up: 12 to Italy

North Macedonia stares nervously into space. 12 to Italy.

11.14
San Marino have spent their entire 2018 GDP on that necklace. 12 again to Italy.

Italy heading out into the lead. UK still on a solid zero.

Netherlands have thrown a boa on to stop the cold biting. Sweden get their 12.

Montenegro's off-the-shoulder dress looks more like they couldn't afford the whole thing. 12 to Serbia.

Estonia appear to be doing their bit via Skype. 12 to Sweden.

Poland's turn next. He's posing for a 1980s dating video. 12 to Australia. This is quite jerky voting.

11.18
Alex James left in the washing machine turns up to do Norway. 12 go to Czech Republic. The UK have got our fist point

Spain have got a beautiful dress on; 12 to Sweden.

Austria's perky bloke has an equality t-shirt. 12 to North Macedonia.

Italy are in the lead.

Rylan! Rylan! Hey - how are you in London when you were in Tel Aviv yesterday? Did you really fly home to do this bit? UK's 12 to Macedonia.

11.21
Confusingly, Italy have got the Eiffel Tower tattooed on their arm. Denmark get their 12.

Albania have rolled their sleeves up for this one. They give 12 to North Macedonia again. They're starting to firm up a lead.

Hungary have shown up in an old thornproof. 12 to the Czech Republic.

Moldova give 12 to Macedonia.

Ireland are glittery; 12 to Sweden.

Belarus are being attacked by crows. They've given 12 to Israel which has lifted the hosts from being a solid zero.

God alone knows where Armenia got that outfit. 12 to Sweden.

UK on 11 now, which is probably few than we deserve, but more than we'd expect.

Romania got dressed in the dark, and is yodelling. 12 to Asutralia.

11.28
Cyprus is as you'd expect. 12 to Greece. Who would have guessed, eh?

We're about halfway through. So they've gone to commercials.

11.31
Australia kick off the second half. They've got two people to deliver the scores, but one does have sticks in their head. 12 to Sweden.

Russia (I wish the hosts didn't always sound slightly uncertain when they say who's coming next). Oh, he's playing the fucking piano. Clive Myrie is sobbing into his pillow. 12 to Azerbaijan.

Germany's Barbara looks like the woman on the front of all German magazines. She's pretending to be Australian. 12 to Italy.

Belgium is the ghost of George Michael and loves Madonna. So that's one person, then. 12 to Italy.

North Macedonia are heading out into a commanding lead.

Sweden is wearing pyjamas. 12 to the Netherlands.

Croatia send kisses from Zagreb and give 12 to Italy.

11.37
Lithuania's "12 Points To Go" tshirt is probably funny if you're Lithuanian. 12 to The Netherlands

The UK hasn't picked up a point for quite a while now.

Serbia are ready to fire a shotgun, but stylishly. 12 to North Macedonia.

Iceland's jacket might be an electronic circuit. 12 to Sweden.

Georgia have broken off from pouring the wine at a wedding to give 12 to the Czechs.

Greece are doing a tribute to Bill And Ted. 12 to Cyprus. The booing when Cyprus gave Greece 12 is reprised.

Latvia want to yack on about music being a universal language. 12 to the Netherlands.

11.41
Czech Republic do a lot of waving. 12 to Sweden.

Denmark really looks like you'd hope. 12 to Sweden

France are chic, in an Amelie sort of way, though disappointingly don't have the Tower of Pisa tattooed on their arm. 12 to the Netherlands.

Christopher has a natty windcheater. 12 to Sweden. Every time he gets 12, John Lundvick does a pose which is meant to look greatful but screams 'heart murmur'

Switzerland have sent Bill AND Ted. 12 to North Macedonia.

Slovenia know they're coming late so have pulled out the stops - 12 to the Czechs.

Last jury vote is Israel and the last 12 to the Netherlands.

So at this stage, Sweden have overhauled North Macedonia. The UK has 13, and aren't quite bottom.

11.48
Clive Myrie's last tube has left.

Bring on the popular vote.

Apparently we've got to have some waffle.

A lot of waffle.

The public have given the UK three points. Or "the bum's rush" as it's known.

11.51
Yep, UK solid bottom whatever happens now.

Germany got nothing at all, though.

Norway have got over 200 and jumped from lower arse of the board to the top.

Iceland flashing Palestinian flags as their score comes through.

Italy take the lead, but Netherlands, Sweden and Macedonia to go.

North Macedonia only got 58 points. Blimey. That's brutal.

Midnight

It's fucking Sunday.

And they're dragging this out.

Sweden only get 93 points. And the look on his face.

So the Netherlands win.

Their first win since 1975.

Duncan Lawrence takes the stage to belt out the song with the credits rushing over it. Over an hour late. I suppose we shouldn't have expected Israel to respect the boundaries of the schedule.



Duncan asking the audience to "sing it", as if they might have been able to remember any aspect of his song.

12.10
So, what have we learned? Greece and Cyprus are the only countries who are prepared to run the risk of booing through mutual back-scratching. Madonna's voice has gone to shit. The UK got the result it didn't deserve but should have expected. And at least next year we might be able to avoid holding a silly song contest in a human rights disaster zone.