From Glasgow we have the gorgeous wordplay, infectious danceability and general fun of Anna Secret Poet. You could say that Tits of Steel is an ode to the power of femininity and the femininity of power.
Do you fancy something Scottish today? Do you fancy something raucous, energetic and danceable? Here’s the song for you!
Poseable Action Figures are from Edinburgh, and have apparently been locked in a cellar (of their own free will) perfecting their songcraft and rockosity. Now they emerge blinking in to the surreal light of 2017 with Cut, which rampages along very nicely indeed.
If you happen to be in Scotland at the start of April, why not go and kick out a few jams at one of their gigs?
I know that last week I expressly said that Scotland should not attempt to go Full Trad for their Eurovision debut (whenever that comes around) but here I go, suggesting the first of two possible acts that could provide at least a bit of Partial Trad.
Glasgow’s Trembling Bells have been around in various forms since 2009, and I think you can sum them up as being a sort of spiritual successor to The Incredible String Band. But with a bit of Glaswegian edge. I also love their 6 minute proggy stomper I Is Someone Else which I think is probably closer to what they could get away with at Eurovision. They could be that one somewhat interesting folk-rock act that year.
I’ve been away on holiday on the beautiful island of Skye but I’ve not totally stopped thinking up clever Eurovision stratagems for Scotland. This time, I’m briefly covering some big Eurovision pitfalls that Scotland needs to avoid – and how they could rescue the situation if they don’t manage to avoid them.
- Don’t deploy Susan Boyle (unless she’s singing a complex Gaelic avant garde operatic number – I’m thinking the Highland equivalent of ‘Suus’. Also SuBo would need to be serving some high level Star Trek couture – oh my god, I think I want that to actually happen now)
- Don’t buy in a Swedish song and allow an actor, TV presenter or minor reality bod to front it (unless you’re buying in a G:son pop rock number and it turns out that someone like Sam Heughan from Outlander, River City and some beer adverts can sing, in which case everyone can look forwards to the contest in Glasgow the year after)
- Don’t go full trad with tartan and heather. It hasn’t worked for anyone in decades now. The mid-nineties Irish domination thing is 20 years ago now. We’ve moved on. (Unless you find a total folk star, and are sending something that is moving, stirring, rollicking and visually amazing.)
- Don’t try for the Scottish equivalent of a Balkan ballad. It would come over a bit Humperdinck (Unless you’re going to kick it up a notch after the first chorus and go a bit Scottish Turbofolk – now there’s a set of mental images I won’t be able to clear)
- Don’t send a ska band in kilts. It’s not been long enough since Koza Mostra. (Although if the Amphetameanies could get down to 6 members, they know their way around a tune and would at least be fun at the bar in Euroclub)
- Don’t send The Proclaimers. The ‘what happened to Jedward’ jokes are too inevitable. (Unless they wrote a song for a younger duo act to sing, in which case you’d basically stage it the opposite way to Joe & Jake and do really quite well)
- Don’t let John Barrowman anywhere near it. I know he was mind-boggling at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, but let’s give it a few years before we bring on the Barrowman (Unless he goes full Cezar, which isn’t beyond the realms of possibility, let’s be honest)
It’s not very often that a new tactic for Eurovision success emerges, but I think we’re seeing one now. For the past 4 years, the Netherlands have given us songs that you could put in the country & western or AOR categories. Three of them have been corkers, and done very well (and to be honest the less we talk about Trijnte, the better) and given the strengths of their domestic music industry, I can see the Netherlands sticking with this strategy for the reasonable future.
If Scotland fancies taking on Eurovision in a very credible way, they could consider following the approach taken by the Netherlands. For the big debut, you could do much worse than combining the songwriting and vocal talents of Isobel Campbell with those someone like Roddy Frame, Roddy Hart or Roddy Woomble. The Campbell/Woomble combination is a particularly exciting idea – you’d end up with something melodious, anthemic and also a bit cerebral. Or you could have all three for a classic Eurovision supergroup – Isobel and the Roddies? We’d work on the name.
Once you’ve got the song, you’d want to avoid the pitfalls of extremely static, faux-authentic staging – we know it’s not a real live gig, so don’t dress it up like a Jools Holland session. You’d want to go for something noir-ish and cinematic. By the time Scotland get to Eurovision, enough time will have passed to basically do the exact same staging as Estonia did for Goodbye To Yesterday. The only risk to this manouvre is that sometimes Isobel Campbell’s voice is so subtle and delicate that it sounds like it might get blown away by a stray blast from a wind machine. On the other hand, if Scotland are competing against two dozen big-voiced belters, maybe subtlety and the craft of songwriting wins out in the end?
Tonight on Eurovision Scotland we’re going to look at a formula that I believe could lead to a victory, or at very least a top five finish. You’re going to have to use your imaginations a little bit, but you’ve all got very good imaginations so this shouldn’t be a problem.
Let’s start with the singer. At the time of writing, I have been trying for three weeks to think of the Scottish equivalent to Måns Zelmerlow, or even the Scottish Donny Montell. I’ve drawn a complete blank. I can’t think of a single member of a top flight boy band who is Scottish. I’ve had a look at the denizens of various reality singing shows and drawn a blank. There are plenty of awesome Scottish female pop singers, but the boys seem to be having an issue. So one of the first things that goes on the newly launched Scottish Public Broadcasting channel is a Friday or Saturday night that is looking explicitly for an amazing male or female Scottish pop star. They’re looking for someone with a great live singing voice, who is also basically unflappable, good-looking and a bit cheeky.
They’re going to need the cheeky twinkle because when they go to Krakow or Riga or Moscow or Stockholm (again) or wherever, they’re going to be singing a song by grumpy Glasgow songwriting legend Malcolm Middleton. He’s been persuaded to donate a bittersweet song about first love and the excitement of living in a party city by a combination of post-indy national pride and also the sheer insouciant hell of it. It’d be the only way a former Arab Strapper could top the absurdity of Belle & Sebastian as ‘newcomers’ at the Brits in 1999 (which still makes me giggle to this day). He’s a legitimately amazing pop song writer, although I have to admit I only recently realised that they were pop songs when I heard his album Summer of ’13. Up until then, songs like ‘A Brighter Beat’ had put him in the ‘Scottish indie miserablism’ section of my musical mindmap. I’m also going to suggest that the song is produced by Glasgow-based dance type Miaoux Miaoux, because they’ve done such a good job on this song. If an electropop sound can be both sophisticated *and* accessible, this is it.
I think that the combo of a hand-picked new pop singer, a Malcolm Middleton song and Miaoux Miaoux production could do extremely well in Scotland’s first Eurovision, because Middleton’s music is full of what Peter Robinson of Popjustice calls ‘Kylie Moments’. A Kylie Moment is where the melody and harmony takes a sudden turn to evoke a mixture of heartbreaking loss, dancefloor euphoria and hope for redemption. Eurovision loves a Kylie moment as much as it loves a key change. They make your heart twang.
The song I’ve posted at the top of the page, You & I, is the poppiest of the songs on the album and it’s full of wonderful Kylie moments – most notably the ‘I can’t stay in because it’s Glasgow and the sun is shining!’ bit. Imagine that song sung by Måns, imagine it sung by Poli Genova (by the way, it sounds great immediately after If Love Was A Crime) or your favourite big-voiced pop singer and we’re there. The golden glitter pyro curtain is deployed over the final repeats of ‘You and I! You and I! You and I!’ and it’s douze points all round.
Previously on Eurovision Scotland:
Last week, we described a set of circumstances that lead to Scotland competing as a new Eurovision nation in 2018. Or 2019, depending on administrative timing. We suggested that CHVRCHES would be a great debut choice.
If sending CHVRCHES (or Prides as was suggested in the comments) to Eurovision represents a Scotland with respect for the orthodox form of the contest and an acknowledgement that you have to adhere to the form in order to do very well, then Withered Hand would represent the Scotland that revels in cheekily subverting pomp and bombast. Withered Hand could potentially be Scotland’s Rambo Amadeus.
You might be familiar with the sad troubadour stuff from Withered Hand – extremely downbeat and melancholic, but with a gift for imagery and a perfect turnaround. However, on his 2012 album, there’s a song called Heart Heart which is, on the face of it, a big anthemic stadium rock track, complete with simulated crowd chanting on the massive chorus. Once you actually parse the lyrics, it’s possibly one of the most nihilistic sentiments you could send to the contest. ‘Listen to your heart’, that we can get behind, but ‘all I can hear is my body dying’ is pretty grim. Then there’s the bit about celebrating ‘mindless mediocrity’ which might be a bit close to the bone. However, I can totally imagine something like this ending up representing Scotland at the contest, especially if they do a National Final as part of the Celtic Connections winter festival.
But then there’s the actual process of being in the contest. The whirl of press activity, preview parties and “can you sing us a bit of your song?” would either be a wonderful opportunity for Mr Hand to gently take the piss or would give him something to be truly, truly miserable about.
The Scotland that would send Withered Hand probably doesn’t care about actually winning the contest. Although, even sending something that is actively alienating to the core audience doesn’t guarantee you failure in the topsy turvy world of the modern contest, so I think this would still outperform the rest of the UK.
(As an aside – what do we call the Rest of UK after Scotland leave? We can’t go for Former United Kingdom and it definitely wouldn’t count as Great Britain. Bosnia & Herzegovina prove that you can double-barrel but England, Wales and Northern Ireland is a barrel too far. Who am I kidding? It’ll still be called the UK.)
Anyway, Withered Hand are borderline qualifiers from the semi, but if the song was one where the black-hearted sentiment was even slightly difficult to parse, it would qualify and outperform the UK.
Let’s deal in hypotheticals for a moment. Let’s say that in 2017 the people of Scotland are offered the second referendum and go for independence within the EU. Let’s say that one of the first bits of nation-state paperwork that gets filled in is the application to join the European Broadcasting Union and let’s say that all the pieces fall into place so that Scotland can make its Eurovision debut in 2019.
For many new European nations, participation in the world’s largest and most sparkly musical entertainment show is often an important opportunity for building and broadcasting their brand new national identity, and there’s no reason why Scotland would be any different. (If you’re interested, Paul Jordan’s thesis on the Estonian & Ukrainian Eurovision experience is a cracking read)
So let’s assume that Scotland are about to prepare their first Eurovision entry. What approach should they take? How should they best express their independent spirit?
One option is to go for a solid Eurovision genre which consistently produces winners and fan-favourites – the female-fronted electronic pop song. At the time of writing, I think I would try CHVRCHES. You have almost certainly heard of CHVRCHES, because they’re very cool, very good and very popular, but once you rid yourself of the idea that a ‘major act’ won’t do Eurovision, and think of it more as an easy opportunity to beat the rest of the UK at something, I think you’ll find a lot of enthusiasm. CHVRCHES’ songs are a little bit more downbeat and minor than your traditional Eurovision fare, but they’ve got the ability to put a huge singalong chorus together.
Given their existing level of fame, their stage experience and their live vocals, how might they do for Scotland? Comfortable left hand side of the table, at least.
You’ve no idea how sad we are.
Time for some Scottish music.