The 2020 national final season was one of the strongest we’ve witnessed since we went down this rabbit hole. And yet it still had so many head-scratching moments that we are going to need two posts to cover it all. In part one, we go through some amazing art projects, some painful comedy routines, and an unexpected ode to a talk show host.
But all of you avid Eurovision fans know exactly where we’re going to start, right?
Italy: Bugo and Morgan – “Sincero”
So let’s say you just watched Will Ferrell’s movie Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga and you say to us, “Some of this movie’s plot seems a bit far-fetched.” We would respond by offering up what happened at this year’s Sanremo Music Festival.
Bugo is a wry singer-songwriter and Morgan is a rock singer who has coached five winners of Italy’s The X Factor, including Italy’s 2013 Eurovision representative Marco Mengoni. Their song “Sincero” is a fun, synth-driven bop with a wicked sense of humor. In normal circumstances, this should have been an absolute blast live.
However, the two apparently weren’t getting along with each other throughout the festival. Things got so bad between them that on night four, Morgan began to sing new lyrics to “Sincero” that pointedly called Bugo out on his attitude. Bugo grabbed the lyric sheets from Morgan’s synth, then walked off stage. Morgan then acted surprised that Bugo would do such a thing, which struck us as particularly insincero. He chased after Bugo, leaving the hosts to vamp while the situation was unraveling. Later in the evening, the pair were disqualified from the competition.
Sweden: Nanne Grönvall – “Carpool Karaoke”
Nanne is a singer-songwriter who represented Sweden at Eurovision in 1996 as a member of One More Time. Our cringing over her 2020 Melodifestivalen track began as soon as we saw the song title. Is this really going to be about James Corden’s popular segment on The Late Late Show?
“Jag vill sjunga Carpool Karaoke/Med James Corden yeah”
As uncomfortable as her stunt was to watch, it still got James Corden’s attention, so who are we to scoff?
Slovenia: Klemen Slakonja’s Pratfall
Klemen Slakonja is always a bit of a wildcard when he hosts EMA, and we’ve heard some fans grumble that he sometimes upstages the contestants. That was certainly the case with his pratfall during his cover of “Arcade.” As if the stunt wasn’t jarring enough, it also led to an extended bit of uncomfortable dead air and filler to make it look like something really went wrong. He spent most of the remaining show wearing a bandage that would change places on his face every time he came back on stage. It was a running gag that just didn’t work.
Fortunately, he redeemed himself later in the show when he celebrated Slovenia’s silver anniversary at Eurovision by faithfully reconstructing all of their previous entries. That was fab.
Czech Republic: We All Poop – “All the Blood (Positive Song Actually)”
Look, “All the Blood” is a pretty good song, and its official video offers an effective, if heavy-handed, case against eating meat. But we would argue that the only reason why this song was on anyone’s radar during national final season was because of the band name. Too bad The AV Club doesn’t seem to do “The Year In Band Names” anymore, because We All Poop would be a ripe candidate to make the list.
It’s now time for a brief interlude where we go through a few acts that were trying way too hard to be WTF.
- Estonia’s Viinerid seemingly took inspiration from the Haunted Mansion’s “Grim Grinning Ghosts” when they staged “Kapa Kohi-LA.” Unfortunately, the visual gag went on so long that it muted the band’s impact on their own song when they eventually made their live appearance.
- Over in Ukraine, Jerry Heil staged her college radio anthem “Vegan” like a nightmarish children’s show, which only played up the song’s lack of substance.
- We are of two minds about “Playa.” On one hand, Twosome (featuring WTF veteran Banzzzai) went overboard playing up their song’s utter inanity. On the other hand, it has the lyric “I’m a Lithuanian basketball player,” and that’s kinda brilliant.
Now back to the proper WTFery.
Belarus: CHАKRАS – “La-ley-la”
Belarus loves its high concept stagings, so when we saw NAPOLI recreating the Pompidou fountain early in the Belarusian national final, we thought the avant garde quotient had been fulfilled. Then came “La-ley-la,” which combined an ‘80s Eurovision song title, ‘90s Eurovision music, and every possible new age trope that could be shoved into a three minute song. None of the performers seemed to be singing the same song, although one of them found the perfect use of her ability to whinny like a horse. Did we mention there was a baby at the end? There was a baby at the end.
Lithuania: Andy Vaic – “Why Why Why”
Andy Vaic doesn’t have full command of his singing voice and we felt a little squeamish listening in on his plaintive lyrics. But the whiff of amateurism made “Why Why Why” kind of charming.
Latvia: Annna – “Polyester”
Kirsten Dunst is such a fan of T.J. Maxx that she had to sing about it.
Armenia: Sergey & Nikolay Arutyunov – “Ha, Take a Step”
Sergey has two levels: VERY LOUD and preparing to be VERY LOUD. At first, Nikolay doesn’t have much to do during “Ha, Take a Step” except to gesture to the crowd. But when he finally gets his moment, it’s… raspy. Then it becomes fascinating to hear Sergey try to blend with Nikolay when all he wants to do is sing VERY LOUD.
Lithuania: Meandi – “Drip”
Of all the songs we’ve presented here, “Drip” is the one that befuddles us the most. At first glance, it seems to be doing for ’90s R&B what “Ice Ice Baby” did for ’90s hip hop. But the goofy background video acts like a wink to confirm Meandi is just kidding around. Yet he performs “Drip” with such earnestness that we can’t tell if he’s trying to be funny when he belts out lines like, “From the EU but I’m feeling so Westside.” We’re left wondering if Meandi is just a really big fan of Bud Bundy on Married…With Children.
Bonus WTF moment for Americans: David Axelrod – “Horizon”
No, not that David Axelrod.
In our next post, we will unpack what would have been the biggest mess of 2020 if it weren’t for everything else that happened in 2020: Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix.