Sunday, 13 June 2010

Heroes of Eurovision 2010: Peter Nalitch

The Eurovision Song Contest is an annual carnival of all that's great and not so great in the world of pop from all corners of of the continent. But every year there's a small handful of songs by acts who don't look like they should really be there. Acts that you'd listen to in the real world, who sneak into your consciousness and end up becoming firm favourites for many years to come. The 2010 incarnation of the contest was no exception, with a small clump of crackers hidden among more deliberate Europop.

But no one had a rougher ride of it this year than Russia's sublime song contest candidate Peter Nalitch.

I first came across the man at this year's Russian national final. The show itself was a splendid confection, full of dark ballads, intense Slavic pop and of course those fabulous Babushkas. But smack in the middle of a thoroughly entertaining 25 song battle came Nalitch's morbid bamboozler Lost & Forgotten.

Instantly darkening the tone with its understated bar room, almost jazz tinged folk, I almost dashed to the loo, thinking it to be a handy mid-contest wee break. But suddenly, from out of nowhere as the chorus kicked in, burst a joyful hound's howl of a backing vocal, and I abated my trip to see where this curiosity was going.

Then came the middle bit - a weird call and response interlude between the guitarist (spoken) and the fella out front (sung in a plaintive falsetto) as he stared into an unseen photograph. And it was brilliant. By the time the song had built up to its last few bars of over-emotive plod-and-roll bombast I was hooked - standing on the sofa and singing along. That's the last we'll see of that, I thought. But I was so glad that we'd been given the chance to share it.

But then, at the climax of the voting came to pass, something weird happened. It won. By a street. And the crowd were going absolutely bonkers for it. There was more to this Nalitch fella than met the eye, and I had to find it out.

It turns out that the lad himself was something of a phenomenon in his home country. The nation's first true internet celebrity, his home made clip for his song Gitar - filmed by him and a few of his mates and sung in a quaintly clunky pigeon English - had gone absolutely bonkers on YouTube, propelling him to an unexpected fame. He was also something of an all round good guy, giving away any new songs to his fans via his website long before he released them commercially. He's also broadcast live gigs onto the net from his Moscow flat via Russia's RuTube broadcasting site.

So, the kind of interesting and thoughtful act that Eurovision fans would take to their hearts, you would think. Not on your nelly. A huge swathe of them just didn't get the wry, dark humour. Rather than seeing it as an intelligent and deadpan post-modern ballad, performed in the style of a late sixties degenerate intellectual student band, they just thought it was dull. "It must be a fix!", some bleated, assuming that it was some localised version of My Lovely Horse, chosen because the Russians didn't want to hold the contest again. "It's boring and depressing!" yet more chimed - and went on to boo their every performance on the big Oslo stage - especially when it was announced that it got through to the final.

But what do they know. Those of us who were lucky enough to get into the gig Nalitch and his chums played at the Russian party in Oslo witnessed a well-rounded band with a set load of intelligently funny songs, and some teary-eyed, sing-along Moscow ballads. Anyone who's visited Russia will have heard the older breed of this kind of stuff permanently pumping out of the collective radios in any market or shopping neighbourhood. It's fabulously, entertaining, brilliantly mawkish intellectual drinking songs, and you could do worse that to head off to his site and download anything you can find.

What do them fanboys know, eh?!

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1 comment:

  1. My critique of "they sound like a bag of cats" still stands, even though I quite like it now.