Nil points? Have an avocado
Are you all on the edge of your seats waiting for the Eurovision Song Contest this weekend? No, me neither. The Italian entry sounds more rock'n'rolly than most though, although to me it still looks a bit cheesy, feels a bit too sanitised, too rehearsed, the vocals lack the raw passion that you so often hear from local metal bands, and unusually for Eurovision, it is sung in Italian, not English.
I started thinking though about the many Eurovision nationalities that have figured amongst the bands playing gigs in our Oxford venues over the past few years. I remember Charlywood came over from Switzerland, and The John Coffey Band travelled from The Netherlands, whilst Sløtface were on tour from Stavanger in Norway. Let's not forget Frenchman Steevo Nuissier, Belgium's Manu Luis, or Erja Lyytinen who is a Finn. And of course there was the Italian pairing, Duo Cani, who are resident in Oxfordshire but nevertheless sang their songs in Italian when they appeared at Klub Kakofanney, and similarly the Scandinavian duo, Waterfahl, who have been known to slip in the odd bit of Danish now and again.
What's the Russian for....?
I don't think we've had any Russian bands as such, but Elysian Divide had a Russian lead singer and sang at least one of their songs in Russian, whilst Oxford band, One Wing Left, also had a Russian lead singer, Anastasia, and this is a clip of one of their songs, "Asleep Awake" which I filmed quite a few years ago at the end of a wonderfully chaotic night in The Bullingdon when the smoke machine was in overdrive.
This was one of my favourite songs of that year, and yet it was only when I saw the name of the song written down that I realised it was called "Asleep Awake". Previously I thought it was the more enigmatic "I sleep awake". No idea what that would have meant, but that's what I always heard. Another song I have consistently misheard over the years is the Beaverfuel song, "Dogma is for life, not just for Christmas". When I see it written down I think "what an intelligent lyric". When I listen to them singing it, I hear "Dogfood is for life, not just for Christmas".
Je ne regrette Rhiana
Have you heard of the Australian comedian Bec Hill? She is a great cartoon artist and has done some pretty amazing sketches of misheard song lyrics. Here is one based on Edith Piaf's famous French classic, "Je ne regrette rien".
Now I know there are endless pages on the internet where people list thousands of misheard song lyrics, and I know that video could have been made using computer animation tools, or a motley collection of photos and a video editor, but seeing those drawings come alive like that on paper and knowing it's real, and it's human ingenuity and talent driving it makes it so much more magical.
Another song I could never understand was "The Immigrant Song" from Led Zep III. Back when that came out, there were no lyrics printed on the album cover, hi-fi was more like mud-fi back then, and there was no Internet where you could look things up. So for years, when they sang "Our only goal will be the western shore", in my head it was "I want to go to see a restaurant show". I had no idea what restaurant shows were, but they sounded so exotic. Then, when YouTube first came along, someone created this spoof animation which I thought might help me:
Didn't really help me understand the lyrics did it? I hope you realise this video was both high tech and hi-def back when they made it. And it also kept getting taken down because the record companies jealously protected every semi-quaver in their catalogues back then, objected to their music being used online, and didn't appreciate the value in using it to reach a wider audience, introducing their older materials to new generations. Nevertheless, that animation by Anna and Kat was a pioneering lyric video.
Magnetic, attractive, kinetic, hyperactive
Here is a fantastic example of using simple tech to create a really effective lyrics video. Kelly of The Dollyrots uses nothing more than a sharpie and a pad of paper to create this engaging lyric video of an acoustic version of one of their songs, "Hyperactive" which comes from the "Lovesongs, Werewolves and Zombies" album. See if you can spot the monkeys.
People relate to lyrics in songs, and it is no accident that Eurovision winning entries in recent years tend to be written in English, to reach the widest possible audience. Quirky lyric videos are a really good way of promoting your music. When people watch your lyric videos they appreciate your songs more, they remember them more, they remember YOU more. So consider putting some lyric videos into your portfolio.
Do not adjust your set
I can't leave without another great example from the brilliant Bec Hill, and a newer video she has produced, this time a montage of food-related diversions from various songs. It starts quiet but don't worry, your sound is still working, so do not adjust your set.
I hope, when you watched it, that you appreciated how much acting she puts into it, how much of her personality comes across, and how much she looks like she is enjoying her performance. She doesn't just turn the pages. When you get back on stage, remember that. Audiences don't just come to listen. They come to see you too, and they want to see the artists who enjoy being there. They want personality.