plus a DMterview with Full Blown Meltdown
Last weekend I watched my first ever Eurovision Song Contest. Thanks, Peacock! Hosted by a delirious Johnny Weir, who appeared to be sequestered in a room full of different formats of chairs in an undisclosed location far from Liverpool where the contest was held, Eurovision had my full attention. I’m a little pissed at myself for not dabbling in Eurovision culture before. Singing contests like American Idol used to captivate me at their peak — I remember voting, on my landline phone, for Kelly Clarkson — but they’re now tinted with a particular shade of post-Empire desperation that depresses me. The only one that still hits is The Masked Singer, which I used primarily as a dissociative drug during the pandemic. Have you seen Wendy Williams sing “Native New Yorker” as a giant pair of lips? You really should.
And of course Eurovision isn’t a singing contest, it’s a song contest. The song’s the thing. If I could describe the songs in this year’s crop — a totally unadulterated opinion, with no prior viewing experience to sway me, also with no understanding of any Euro language other than mangled, collegiate French and the ability to order a beer in Czech — I would use phrases like “dark techno ‘Fight Song’”, “just missed inclusion on the Hunger Games soundtrack”, “indie sleaze never died, it’s just been living in Slovenia”, “what if Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez guest-starred on Game of Thrones” and “time portal to when someone like Charlotte Church could sell 5 million records.”
In other words, I was in heaven. Excess, drama, that certain pop-metal guitar tone…you know the one. What year was it? 3008 or 2000 and late? I had no idea. And I didn’t want to know.
It’s above my pay grade to discuss the political implications of Eurovision (Liverpool was hosting in Ukraine’s stead, and the whole night had a wan theme of peace and love, a real “hang in there, man!” vibe) nor the conspiracy theories about Sweden’s win (“Tattoo” singer Loreen had already won the contest in 2012, greasing the path for her second victory…which is a very convenient W for the Swedes considering they can now host next year…the 50th anniversary of ABBA’s win…admittedly a win that did change international pop music 4ever…). As a music enjoyer, I can really only talk about the tunes. And to discuss all 37 songs would be nuts. But here are my five favorites, the ones that, if we were at a bar right now, I would holler in your ear to listen to pronto:
Teya & Salena - “Who The Hell Is Edgar?” (Austria)
Certainly the boppiest song I have ever heard about the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe taking over your body and writing a hit song. It’s got the wheedly lil pop guitars, it’s got an operatic section, it’s got the chant “Poe-Poe-Poe-Poe-Poe.” What takes it from good to sublime? There are no other Edgar Allan Poe references in the song. No telltale heart. No cask of Amontillado (just gas station champagne). I genuinely love that past the conceit of Edgar Allan Poe inhabiting one’s body to write lyrics, they have no use for the man.
Voyager - “Promise” (Australia)
Disappointingly, the live performance isn’t on YouTube, and that’s what really sold it to me. There was a car onstage, and the every-surface-is-a-video-screen production made it look like the car was driving down a road at high speed. Everyone played their unplugged instruments (live instrumentation isn’t allowed in Eurovision) with gusto, and the song is slammin’: part trance-y pop, part INXS-y synth rock, and part METAL chug-a-lug. Incredibly, Voyager have been a band since 1999, so I love this late-career surge for them. Also when there’s a keytar solo involved, I am going to be there with bells on. Further reading: Voyager lead singer Daniel Estrin did a funny interview with Hoobastank lead guitarist Daniel Estrin, led by NPR reporter Daniel Estrin.
Joker Out - “Carpe Diem” (Slovenia)
Now that 2021 Eurovision winners Måneskin have started to caper and gambol about the U.S. pop world with their romantic hair, shiny pants and brazen pasties, all bets are off for future Eurovision bands to sneak on through as well. Joker Out are certified cuties and I like their four-on-the-floor dance rock strategy. I looked up the lyrics translation for “Carpe Diem” and can’t fully trust Google’s ability to parse metaphorical Slovenian, but they seem to shake out to a general theme of “can’t promise tomorrow but I promise tonight…dalé.” Am I ever going to get sick of songs that kind of sound like the Bravery’s “Honest Mistake?” No…I do not think so.
Gustaph - “Because Of You”
So I just went on Pop Pantheon to discuss how Lady Gaga’s Chromatica has held up since it came out three years ago. The clean and simple ‘90s house of “Because Of You” would fit it nicely onto the Chromatica tracklist — or even the Party Girl soundtrack. If Leo played this at one of his DJ nights, I don’t think anyone would be upset. It’s fresh, it’s retro, it’s fun. And holy cow, Gustaph has also been on the scene for a minute. Under the name Steffen, he released a debut single called “Gonna Lose You” in 2000 that was a CERTIFIED FLEMISH HIT. It’s Y2K as hell. Okay, I’m officially a Gustaph fan.
Käärijä - “Cha Cha Cha”
Last but certainly not least is the “Cha Cha Cha” of it all. I first encountered this song not on the finals brodcast, but on TikTok — if something like this manages to crack my For You Page, it has officially broken containment. “Cha Cha Cha” was clearly the people’s hit of the season, as evidenced by the loud screaming of CHA CHA CHA at random moments during the telecast. It all adds up to a beautiful gestalt of Euro-pop: the glowering techno gradually melting into a sweet chorus that wouldn’t be out of place in a BTS song; the lyrics, which make drinking piña coladas sound sinister; Käärijä’s puffy green bolero with nothing on underneath.
I didn’t realize until writing this just now why this song slams so hard for me — it sounds like A HOCKEY SONG. You know the hockey song vibes…”Crush ‘Em” by Megadeth vibes…fist-pumping in the cold arena vibes. If we play our cards right, this could be the summer of “Cha Cha Cha.” You just have to play it at your Memorial Day barbecue and start a mosh pit.
A DMterview with Full Blown Meltdown
I first became aware of the guy-who-is-a-band Full Blown Meltdown (aka Will Green) on Twitter where he’s been doing 365 days of DIY support — boosting new releases from DIY bands, promoting small record labels, maintaining a Spotify playlist, etc. — and was immediately intrigued by his all-in approach to online community. As I’ve talked about with previous Molly Zone interviewee ra / sol, there’s a lot of distracting and dispiriting garbage floating around on the internet, and the only thing we can really do to combat that garbage atmosphere is try to connect as real people, rather than, I don’t know, flooding the world with AI-generated garbage or creating stuff for algorithmic success only.
So I was excited to talk to Will about how he keeps DIYing in a cruel world, and learn about the backstory behind his fiercely bittersweet new pop-punk single “Party With Villains” in a DMterview (alt text is here)…