Quark is listening to…Eurovision!

Bring out the bunting & plug your ears: Eurovision 2014 has landed.

In the week running up to Europe(plus a few extras)’s largest, most popular and reasonably unique entertainment show, Quark charters the 2 most entertaining songs for each of the 4 most recent contests as well as 3 bonus tracks. And even better: no CD to buy at an extortionate price.

Anybody of a vaguely musical disposition should prepare themselves.

In no particular order…

“Cake to Bake”, Latvia, 2014

We thought we’d start with our pick for the Copenhagen contest. “Cake to Bake” is light-hearted, upbeat and amazingly vetoes the emotion-heavy sentiments of most entries. Spectacularly random, Aarzemnieki even manage to sneak a “Sherlock” reference in, insinuating that somehow the cases are a piece of…cake, compared to baking one.

“Rise Like A Phoenix”, Austria, 2014

This is worth watching just for the first few seconds, especially if one hasn’t prior knowledge of Conchita Wurst. A humourous shock which supersedes any actual music.

“Tomorrow”, Malta, 2013

Who can fail to be uplifted by Gianluca’s smile? Like our first choice, Malta’s highest-placed entry to date presented a refreshing break. Gianluca, if by any remote chance you’re reading this, please make a sequel. We’d love to know how Jeremy fares.

“Kedveshem”, Hungary, 2013

If will.i.am was commenting, he undoubtedly would label this “fresh”. The translated lyrics are interesting – “She will build a carriage out of rosemary” etc. – but since we don’t speak Hungarian we are left simply to appreciate the comforting rhythm. This got 12 points from Germany, unusually, and we think they might be onto something.

“Party For Everybody”, Russia, 2012

The unforgettable Russian grannies were probably robbed of the victory, considering that this number was both far more entertaining and culturally informative. The transition between folk and disco is a rejuvenating bar, whilst the folk introduction is, musically speaking, not too adversely compromised by the evident pop focus.

“Love Will Set You Free”, United Kingdom, 2012

So Engelbert Humperdinck came second from last – thanks Norway for stoically holding the bottom spot – but, having gone first, this song deserved a spot in at least the top 15. Admittedly mainly due to patriotic reasons, it’s going on our list.

“So Lucky”, Moldova, 2011

Ah, Zdob şi Zdub, also known as the manic singing gnomes of the former Soviet bloc. Their attempt at a rock-based exhortation of one man’s desire for one woman was easily the best entertainment to be had at that contest, despite the best efforts of professional comedian Stefan Raab. We should point out for cultural reasons that their hats are part of traditional Moldovan dress, which, in conjunction with the utter lunacy of the number, secured them 8 points from the UK, elicting the startling accusation by Graham Norton that we weren’t taking it seriously (how shocking).

“Da Da Dam”, Finland, 2011

Again, Paradise Oskar had the misfortune of performing first and hence ended up somewhere in the region of second to last (the UK actually gave 10 points to last-placed Switzerland, so…). It really ought to have done better, with an eco-friendly focus, cute plotline and a very catchy chorus. In fact, critics rated it as the best.

“Bee”, Lena (2010 German winner)

Lena had two shots at winning glory for her country and was 50% successful, if success is measured in wins, or 0%, if the aim was to make the rest of Europe want to buy their music. Nevertheless, “Bee”, which comes on her first album along with winning 2010 entry “Satellite”, is quite fluffy and catchy, although it suffers from the typical Eurovision malady of ‘cheesy’ lyrics.

“Fairytale”, (2009 Norwegian winner)

Where would any list be without the biggest of them all? Alexander Rybak’s folk/romantic pop conglomerate achieved the largest winning margin to date, and staged a daring violin-heavy introduction which probably through its very uniqueness hooked viewers. Rybak has since gone on to keep a wide European fanbase through popular songs like “Europe’s Skies” and “Oah”.

“Making Your Mind Up”, United Kingdom, 1981

The routine for this song marked a change in the visual representation of Eurovision entries. Hello, bright colours; hello gimmicks. With a somewhat speedy costume change halfway through and an all-blonde line-up, Bucks Fizz weren’t runaway winners but have subsequently made £15m in record sales & 3 UK number 1s.

That concludes the list! Naturally there are plenty worthy of inclusion, but we hope our sampling has shown another side to the alliance voting system, relentless tirade of poor music and repetitive lyrics. Eurovision can be enjoyed, and we hope you do enjoy it.

The Eurovision grand final is showing on BBC1 on Saturday 10th May from 20:00.


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