In 2019, The Eurovision hits its 64th competition. The institution is more than twice as old as the European Union and will possibly outlast it. In the UK, Eurovision has attracted some ridicule, its recent surge in popularity more down to a sense of irony than respect. As the TV show demonstrates, the organisers play up to this in a way so over the top, it’s hard to tell who is pulling who’s leg. With Eurovision’s popularity on a continual rise, who cares, so long as we can all continue to have fun? The only way the show could be more fun would be to have high-ranking German EU official Sabine Weyland present (pissed), and for the UK entry to be Nigel Farage — the other contestants permitted to tear him limb-from-limb at the finale. He could then be devoured by the Finnish black metal contestants. Wouldn’t that be fun?
We can fantasise, but let’s do that through the music and leave the politics out of it. Ah, yes the music. It remains pretty awful, mostly — with the greatest respect to the performers who tend to give it everything they’ve got. Again, a Brit’s prevailing view towards Eurovision is just a microcosm of our opinion of European music in general. At best, good for a boozed-up holiday ‘europop’ banger but not anything nearly as good as what we can come up with in Creative Britain. At worst, naff.
How wrong we are. In an age when there is more music being made than ever, surfaced (or not) on streaming platforms to people all over the globe, it’s a good time to be able to compare the relative health of music from nations around the world. Enter Song Sommelier’s Alternative Eurovision, the latest in our ‘Alternative’ series (see Alternative Bond Themes). Our fantasy TV show playlist will shed a different light, and we reckon you’ll be both surprised and delighted by what you hear. It’s a shame you can’t watch it however, as the visual element in many of our chosen artists is a key part of the mix.
We just had to kick-off our show with Denmark entry Oh Land and her antidote-to-analytics anthem ‘Human Error’. I was lucky enough to see her play a transcendent show in St Mary’s Church Brighton where she (literally owing to the quantity of sequins on her) shone. Equipped with her secret weapon, producer Thomas Bartlett, there are clearly echoes of Bjork and Sufjan Stevens but we’ll let the Danes have their opening moment in the sun. We think Oh Land is the reason that the Danes are the happiest nation on Earth.
That said, we’re only breaking you in gently for what comes next — Gaye Su Aykol — Turkey’s own global superstar in the making. Her backing band must be Radiohead I Imagine, or at the very least, that’s Colin Greenwood on the bass. This track ‘Gölgenle Bir Başıma’ just builds and builds until something happens that sends shivers down the spine. I’m not going to tell you when, because everything that comes before it is entirely necessary — nothing is wasted in Gaye Su Aykol’s music. But when it happens you will know.
We continue the east-meets west feel with Jain’s middle-east tinged ‘Gloria’, our unofficial entry from France. She is one of the prime examples of young women making pop music influenced from her own varied background as well as everything else she can take in, and the result is alternative pop that screams musicality, if only occasionally in actual French. The exoticism crosses the border south into Spain with ROSALIA’s shaken and stirred flamenco and the track ‘Pienso En Tu Mira’. More global phenomena in the making.
From the exotic, are we allowed to segway into the erotic? Blame the saucy Swiss entry then, Vendrendi sur Mer’s ‘Chewing Gum’. She has a whole album of this stuff just recently released if you need more. Now look, at this point we might get into trouble for discrimination, it being six performances in before we get to a male voice — that of Koen Van De Wardt. Well it’s just the way it is. The Dutch/Norwegian entry is simply an excuse to bring Klangstof out of hiding and back into the fray (how long can a new album take?). Now we could continue, but there is just not enough editorial space here to list every entry. For a longer read of the tracklist and discovery methods, head over our Medium blog.
Imagine if this was the actual Eurovision show! It would be impossible to vote a winner, such is the quality of the line-up here. Nobody here scores the infamous ‘Nul Points’. We’ve played with a European pop feel to proceedings but tried to mix things up a little along the way. For example, when we got to Italy, it might have made sense to focus on the thriving experimental electronic scene — so we alternative indie band Marlene Kuntz. After our successful foray into thriving Scottish indie back in the winter, we backed the dance pop Scot sensation HYYTS (in our Alternative world, Scotland gets its own entry and so does England (with electronic pop from HÆLOS). Such is the wealth of fusion dance/pop/world rhythms in Israel, we featured Gili Yalo (though we could have gone with Kutiman, who is actually performing at the real show — it being based from Israel this year!). For the Scandinavian countries, we’ve gone with avant garde pop: Frid from Iceland, Moyka of Norway and Miss Li of Sweden. When we reach Australia, a recent and slightly absurd addition to the competition, we invited Stella Donnelly to come over and take the piss. We’re not taking this too seriously just like the real thing.
But maybe we can get serious for a second. We put this playlist together after many hours of listening and research, and it was fun to discover that some countries really do have emergent, thrilling music scenes that deserve to surface faster and then travel the globe. This seems like the perfect time for countries to step up and provide more infrastructure and support behind their music scenes. What the streaming age has done for K-pop, Latin and Bollywood it can do for more niche genres from our nations, especially those seeing powerful creative surges — Turkey’s crossover trad-pop, French hip hop, the Scandinavian wave of avant-garde pop. It’s all here — never say music is not interesting.
All of the artists on our list have cracking albums to check out too — hit them up on your preferred streaming service and impress the hell out of your friends next time they come round your house.
FULL LIST OF ENTRIES FOR THE SONG SOMMELIER ALTERNATIVE EUROVISION
An apology: We know there are more than 21 countries in the Eurovision okay? Time is finite and we did our best to surf around and pick-up the best music we could find. If you are from any one of these countries and want to send us something you feel should be included we’ll promise to listen and if we like the track, we’ll pick an entry and add. Please contact us via the About page!
If you enjoyed the wanderlust element to this playlist, look out for our Music Cities and Scenes series to come. www.songsommelier.com