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Opinion: What motivates ‘pro-gay’ politicians?

Everyone wants to be popular. Perhaps there’s still a hermit, living in blissful solitude out in a cave in the Rockies (or the Appalachians, or whichever the nearest insurmountable mountain range nearest to you is) who genuinely doesn’t care how many retweets he gets, but for the vast majority of us, as dear old Glinda sang, ‘It’s all about popular’. Popular gets you jobs, popular gets you dates, popular gets you into parties where everyone stands around and discusses who’s popular.

I’ve wanted to be popular pretty much since I can remember, and I’ve not always gone about achieving it in a way that’d make my parents happy. For example, at school I went to a party thrown by ‘the cool kids’. I have no idea how I’d been invited, or even if I’d been invited, but I can vividly remember walking into the crowded back garden where everyone was drinking and the overwhelming paranoia of ‘Oh GOD I’m going to be kicked out’ overtaking me. I had no idea how to behave at all. The host walked up to me, said ‘hello’, and asked if I wanted a drink, at which stage a rather unusual defence mechanism kicked in.

‘Oh yes, I LOVE drinks!’

Over the following six hours I told various people that I loved (and I would like to emphasise this is by no means an exhaustive list) the Kaiser Chiefs, acoustic guitar, lacrosse, purchasing marijuana, South Park, heterosexual sex, bare knuckle fighting and Girls Aloud. While they were all said with increasing amounts of conviction, I have to admit I only meant one of them – no prizes for guessing which – but I was still spontaneously declaring myself a whatever-phile based on what people were telling me they were interested in. With the number of things I was telling people I enjoyed, or watched every episode of, or did at weekends, I should theoretically not have had time to go to school, let alone be at that party, but I was falling over myself to find something in common with whoever I was speaking to at the time.

Of course, it meant that when I went back to school on the Monday, I had person after person come up to me to further discuss my favourite thing in the world, only to become suspicious, then disappointed when I buckled under pressure and the conversation very obviously dried up. While the five or ten minutes of meaningless agreement and vague padding had been enough to get me by at the party, I wasn’t able to manage a sober discussion without getting rumbled as a fake.

This is what I believe is happening when British politicians – particularly those in mainstream parties – start talking about gay marriage. They’ve arrived at the party, realised no one likes them and said ‘Well, what’s in right now? What’s hip? What’s cool?’ They’re Regina George’s mother, only with faker tits.

Britain’s culture is leaning towards being in favour of gay marriage, with a marked trend of younger people being in favour (73% among the under-35s, according to polls at the end of last year). Whilst 56% of over-55s are still against the idea, until someone installs postal voting from beyond the grave – perhaps via a seance – politicians are going to want more in common with a slightly more sustainable group of voters. This is pretty much the only reason it’s taking as long as it is, to be blunt; the UK has an ageing population, so the ‘traditional’ entrenched opinions are dying off slower than they used to do.

Never ones to miss a trick, the major parties, even those with a history of being fairly homophobic, are running the rainbow colours up the flagpole to match the public opinion. Older MPs with loud blustery anti-gay marriage views are being quietly sidelined or pushed under metaphorical buses to take the heat off the rest of the party. David Davies is being gagged as we speak until after the next election.

The simple fact is that I don’t believe them, and neither do many voters. I don’t believe that they honestly have a moralistic urge to support the gay rights movement. It looks and sounds to over 80% of voters like Cameron’s Conservatives and the other major parties (if we’re still including the Lib Dems in ‘major parties’) are jumping on the bandwagon to secure votes from young people. They’re hopping onto the trendy issues in order to try and make themselves more relevant and, more importantly, electable. They are pretending to be into it so that we’ll be friends with them, while not completely understanding why gays even want marriage.

That’s the inherent truth of the current political system. Whilst MPs are supposed to represent the country, Parliament is still overwhelming composed of upper class white heterosexual males. They don’t understand why women get angry about rape ‘jokes’, they have no idea why an area inhabited predominantly by ethnic minorities doesn’t want their community centre torn down, and they really don’t understand why two gay people might want no distinction made between their marriage and heterosexual marriage. They know that these groups do these things and, whether they sympathise or not, it’s like watching people arguing in a foreign language – they just can’t understand it. Cameron, Miliband… anyone can stand up and say ‘We believe in gay marriage, it’s about equality and moving forward’, but they’re just repeating what we as a gay community have been shouting about for years. It is neither new nor ground-shatteringly wacky. They’re nodding and regurgitating words they’ve heard ‘those homos’ saying.

Does it matter, though? While it might not mean anything to them, at least the major parties are pushing gay marriage now. Finally, after years of explaining again and again, as though to a particularly slow toddler, they’re understanding that it should be pushed forward and another step for equality taken. It’s a job that needs doing, and I don’t think that we should spend too much time thinking about the motivations of the people doing it. After all, you need a tool to do a job, and I can think of no tools more appropriate for this one than those in government.

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Video Review: One Direction – Kiss You

Over the last two years, One Direction have gone on to become the most internationally successful X Factor act since Leona Lewis. Monday saw the release of their second video, ‘Kiss You’, from their sophomore album, Take Me Home. This is more of the same of what we’ve seen from the five boys before: a light-hearted romp set to yet another perfectly crafted boy-band pop song.

The ‘Kiss You’ video mostly takes place on a mock-video shoot and features the boys goofing off in front of a green screen. Harry, Liam, Louis, Zayn and Niall pretend to ride motorcycles, snow-ski, and surf the waves, while presumably some video director somewhere is pulling their hair out as the boys continue to waste expensive studio time. Obviously this is a light-hearted affair, and it is surely a highlight of the week for One Direction’s targeted fan base.

Would it be nice to see One Directions creative team branch out and do something a bit more interesting or innovative? Perhaps, but it doesn’t really matter. This video was directed by Vaughan Arnell (Spice Girls, George Michael, Robbie Williams), who worked on two previous One Direction videos, and it shows. It also mirrors the fact that the song was written by the same team responsible for hits like ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ and ‘Live While We’re Young’. It doesn’t matter that at this point all their videos and songs are starting to look and sound the same, the tweenage girls are still eating it all up. We’re sure the sight of the five boys in their swimming trunks pretending to surf will have also had a small hand in getting the video over 3,350,000 views in less than 24 hours after being released.

Our favourite bit of the video, however, comes at the very end when Zayn playfully plants a big kiss on Harrys cheek. Awww.

Download Kiss You on Amazon or iTunes.

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Review: Cirque du Soleil – KOOZA (Royal Albert Hall)

Cirque du Soleil has been a staple of the West End for many years, visiting the Royal Albert Hall with a new version every year. This time around it’s the turn of KOOZA. First performed in 2007, it then made its way around North American and Japan, playing to over four million people in the process. Now, the classiest circus in the world heads to London before embarking on a European tour. With the promise of an act in the show entitled ‘Wheel of Death’, we just knew we had to be there to see what all the fuss was about.

I’ve never been a fan of the circus. The treatment of the animals worries me, the stunts make me lose my breath and if a clown comes anywhere near me I’m halfway up the M5 before they’ve even got their custard pie out. So it was with a lot of trepidation that I headed to Cirque du Soleil. But, the traditional big top was a world away from what I witnessed here.

From the very start I knew I was going to be in for a fun evening. First we’re introduced to ‘Pickpocket’. This pantaloon-wearing thief, masquerading as a balloon artist, intertwines amongst the audience as they take their seats, whilst my favourite – the ‘mum’ – makes her way around the auditorium to show everybody a picture of her son ‘Davey’ in the programme. Even stopping to clamber onto the stage and take a picture of herself, which made me want to be her new best friend. The entertainment began immediately, and boy it didn’t stop.

 

Think you’re flexible? This trio puts my bendy legs to shame.

The usual circus acts are all here – the trapeze, the high wire and the unicycle – but they are carried out with such grace, class and style it’s hard not have your mouth open in awe. Our hero, a young character called ‘Innocent’, opens up a mysterious box to reveal the ‘Trickster’ who immediately transports us to another world. A place of wonder and imagination, of beauty and fear, but the best part was that I hadn’t even left my seat. The Royal Albert Hall has so much atmosphere and magic, you could hear the audience soaking up every last drop. Gasps and screams of ‘Bloody hell!’ – from the gentlemen seated next to me – echoed around when any of the cast attempted something dangerous, which made it clear to me I wasn’t the only one completely captivated. A trio of female contortionists put my forward rolls completely to shame, whilst a man stood atop a row of stacked chairs that must have left the nearest Ikea stocks virtually depleted.  There wasn’t a moment of rest as confetti was buffeted around our heads to the beautiful sounds of two glorious singers and an orchestra, who provide a constant mysterious soundtrack to the action. With hints of traditional Indian music, and the odd tribute to 1940s and 50s Hollywood, the tunes add another layer to the ever intriguing story.

The element of danger adds a delicious shot of adrenaline too. After all, who doesn’t love the potential for the high wire artist to end up being scraped off the stage? Oh, and the ‘Wheel of Death’ is worth the waiting for. It more than makes up for its name – just have a stiff drink ready for afterwards. What’s unique about this show, is that the mix of tricks is balanced perfectly with injections of humour from the clowns and their bumbling master, ‘The King’. The mood constantly changes; one minute you’re covering your eyes whilst your heart pounds, and the next you’re guffawing like a hyena. There’s even a touch of sadness thrown in for good measure, all completely unexpected, but all thoroughly welcomed.

I can see why audiences of all ages have been enthralled by Cirque du Soleil over the years. There’s nothing else like it. The perfect evening of escapism mixed with adventure. Just don’t sit near the front if you don’t like audience participation. You’ve been warned…

Beg, borrow, or ask the Pickpocket to steal you a ticket. You’ll never go to a normal circus again.

Cirque du Soleil – KOOZA is running at The Royal Albert Hall until Thursday 14 February 2013, before continuing its tour throughout Europe. Tickets start at £20.00.

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Album Review: Various Artists – Cooking Songs

We all love a good baking session… Jumping on the success of The Great British Bake Off amongst other things, a new compilation has hit the shelves this week by the name of Cooking Songs accompanied by some delightful recipes from quite the dish himself, Gino D’Acampo.

So, let us set the scene for you. Apron on, you are knee-deep in flour, mixing bowls and wooden spoons on the work surface, what could be missing? Yes, the tunes; because everyone likes a good sing song when producing their next apple crumble. So, is Sony’s Cooking Songs the right 3-CD selection for this extremely important job?

The selection is questionable to say the least with the majority of songs having very little, if that, to do with the compilation album’s concept. For example, we would love for anyone to suggest how James Brown’s ‘Living In America’ or Dido’s ‘White Flag’ has anything to do with cooking except for having the sing-along factor.

The tracks are very broad too, so there is something for everything. The contrast ranges from modern day belters like Paloma Faith’s ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, Olly Murs & Flo Rida’s ‘Troublemaker’ and Amelia Lily’s ‘You Bring Me Joy’ to old school classics like Annie Lennox’s ‘Walking On Broken Glass’ and The Nolans’ ‘I’m In The Mood For Dancing’. One thing you can say about this compilation is that it definitely wants you to be singing into your spatula by the end of it, if ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Bleeding Love’ by Leona Lewis is anything to go by.

If you want a good playlist of jams to whip your weave to then this is quite possibly a good choice. The modern day hits mixed with the older camp classics certainly do make for a pleasing listen. Rihanna, next to The Weather Girls, next to Rebecca Ferguson next to Dolly Parton, it all kind of doesn’t really make sense and shouldn’t really work for a Cooking based CD, but strangely it does. Yes, the theme is the loosest it possibly could be, but does it matter? We don’t think so.  Housewives, students and Mary Berry will all enjoy it.

Go Get It: Amelia Lily ‘You Bring Me Joy’ / Paloma Faith ‘Never Tear Us Apart’

Forget It: Lady Gaga ‘Pokerface’ / Westlife ‘You Raise Me Up’

Cooking Song is now available from Amazon and iTunes.

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Spotlight On: Robin Windsor

Our spotlight shines on dancing royalty this week, in the shape of Strictly Come Dancing professional Robin Windsor. Set to cha-cha-cha into the West End this week for a limited engagement of the sensational ballroom dancing show Burn the Floor, Robin took some time out to talk to us about his buff body, Lisa Riley and all things camp. We want him to be our dance teacher. Naturally.

Tell us what Burn The Floor is all about then?

Burn the floor is exactly what is says on the tin – it’s the ultimate ballroom sensation. The production is a unique combination of ballroom dancing and the 21st century. It’s the show that made ballroom dancing cool and sexy. There’s a special blend of all the ballroom and Latin dances, with some contemporary thrown in for good measure. There’s a purely international cast with members from Australia, Cuba, Germany, Russia, USA, Holland, South Africa, UK, Venezuela and many more. It’s a two-hour journey of dance, and I can promise you it’s something you will want to see again and again!

Can we expect a lot of camp, glittery dance numbers, just like an episode of Strictly?

Burn the floor is a much more raw version of ballroom dancing than Strictly Come Dancing. Of course the Strictly elements are there, but our dancing performances show the blood sweat and tears that go in to the dancing rather than the spangly finished product. However the show would not be complete without a few sparkles and a mirror ball! Also, the seven sexy shirtless men on stage will beat any number of crystals on a dress.

Robin has been one of our favourite Strictly professionals ever. For several reasons…

Is it good to be back working with Kristina Rihanoff and Karen Hauer again?

Working with both these girls is amazing. Being back on the show with Karen is awesome and to be here this time with my pro partner Kristina is a dream come true. It’s a chance for us to show off what we can do as professionals.

How long have you been dancing? Did you always know you wanted to be a professional?

I started dancing at the age of three at a local school in Ipswich. I was born to dance – wiggling my hips in front of the mirror at a very early age.

We loved you and Lisa Riley on last years Strictly, please don’t shatter out illusions – are you still good friends in real life?

Lisa is amazing. We had the best time on Strictly. We’ve become the best of friends and speak all the time. I miss her and her enthusiasm for life, and we’ll remain friends for life. So much so, we’re going on holiday together as soon as Burn the Floor is over. New York better watch out!

What did you first think when you got Lisa as a partner?

I, like the whole nation, thought Lisa was going to be the joke of the series. Little did I know what was about to happen. Lisa not only taught me, but the entire country to never judge a book by its cover. Lisa will go down as being one of the most memorable contestants ever.

Who would be your dream celebrity partner on the show?

If the BBC wanted to blow the entire budget then Beyoncé would be the ultimate. But I will be happy with someone fun, camp, and just really fabulous.

Lisa not only taught me, but the entire country to never judge a book by its cover.

Can anybody be a ballroom dancer?

Anyone can be a ballroom dancer at any age. I hope that Burn the Floor will inspire many young people to take up ballroom, as this show really does make this style of dance cool and sexy.

You’ve got quite the buff body, and you like getting your kit off for the gay magazines – which we whole heartedly approve of – is that achieved just through so much dancing?

Keeping the body up to shape is very hard work. Just dancing doesn’t keep me buff. It keeps me lean so I can eat what ever I like [laughs]. I go to the gym five times a week, which keeps up the bulk! It kills but it needs to be done.

What does 2013 have in store for you?

Robin and his professional partner Kristina Rihanoff in Burn the Floor.

2013 is turning out to be the best year of my life. Having just finished the Strictly tour – which was amazing – I’m now dancing my butt off in Burn the Floor. I was with this show for nine years before joining Strictly, and to come back and star in the show where it all began for me is a dream come true. Then it’s back to the Strictly ballroom for the autumn – hopefully.

And finally on a scale of 1-Elaine Page how stagey are you? 

I’m Barbara Streisand. Now that’s off the scale…

If we didn’t already have our tickets for the show safely waiting on our mantel piece, we’d be running to the box office in our best cuban heels. Team Windsor!

Burn the Floor runs at The Shaftsbury Theatre, London. Tickets start at £16.

Burn the Floor image courtesy of Hugo Glendinning.

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Review: Making Dickie Happy (Tristan Bates Theatre)

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Jeremy Kingston is what one might just call, a literary and imaginative genius. The concept for Making Dickie Happy came about by Kingston finding out that Noël Coward, Lord ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten and Agatha Christie used to visit the same hotel just off the coast of Devon. A fictitious scenario of their meeting and interaction unfolds to provide us with this captivating, witty and at times, quite adult humoured production. Set just after the first World War, Robert Gillespie’s masterful direction, and outstanding performances from the cast bring back to life this acclaimed play first performed in 2004.

A young Noël Coward (Phineas Pett) is at the hotel for the weekend with his boyfriend Tono (David Alderman). They soon encounter a strange lone woman, Agatha Christie (Helen Duff), who is staying at the hotel under a different name. Not too long after, they are joined by Lord Louis ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten (James Phelips) and his naval ‘friend’ J-Boy (Matthew Alexander). It doesn’t take long for Pett to discover the identity of Duff which sets off the direction in which all the characters interact.

 

James Phelips and Helen Duff give wonderful performances.

The story unfolds at a steady pace, keeping you intrigued about where it is all going and what is about to happen. What you discover is that not much actually happens other than a lot of smoking, drinking cocktails, eating nuts, and the occasional ping on the piano. This actually suited the play quite well as this period comedy is quite heavily worded and the story is perhaps meant to be conveyed only through the script. The amount of characters that make up the production has also perfectly been chosen as it provides just the right amount of interaction to make you feel like it’s all real. This is proven and accentuated by the addition of cheeky butler Cyril (Rob Pomfret) who only adds to the plays character, wit and humour.

Through all it’s cheeky smutty humour, sarcastic one liners and camp dramatics, the play also focuses on some serious issues of self, love, life and relationships. Using the social elite and the 20s as a backdrop, it highlights the pressures of society in the choices of being truthful to ourselves or being what we think is expected of us. Not once in the play is the word gay or homosexual mentioned, but through the dialogue and some of the interactions this is certainly implied. Plett, Duff and Phelips deliver outstanding performances that, for a moment, makes you believe that this is what the characters were actually like in real life. Plett also makes me want to know what it would’ve been like to be Noël Cowards best friend.

Even if you don’t know who these historical figures were (which we hope is not the case), it wouldn’t make a difference to your enjoyment of this production. Making Dickie Happy is definitely a play to add onto your must see list. The characters are perfectly portrayed by Duff and Pett, and the mix of Agatha Christie’s mystery and Noel Cowards witty comedy make for the perfect partnership.

Making Dickie Happy is currently playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre from 5 to 30 March 2013. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office on 0207 240 6283 

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Review: Dido, Queen of Carthage (The Rose, Bankside)

The Rose, Bankside is an incredible performance space. A 16th Century round playhouse rediscovered by Museum of London archaeologists in 1989 during construction of a new office block. A campaign ensured the structural remains were preserved and the site was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument by the government. What better place to watch a Christopher Marlowe play first published in 1594.

As is often the case with 16th Century plays, Dido, Queen of Carthage is a tale of the Gods, in this case, Venus and Jupiter, playing games with mortals for their own amusement. The play opens with Jupiter (Carston Garbode) very much enjoying a dalliance with his companion Ganymede (Edward Walters). This is interrupted by a surprised and angry Venus (Samantha Spurgin), who decides to enlist the help of Cupid to cause mayhem by confusing the love between Queen Dido (Rihannon Sommers – the real star, displaying a performance a cut above the rest) and her current lover Iarbus (Edward Walters).

There are some great comedic moments throughout the play, particularly from Dido and Anna, Dido’s sister (Julia Taylor). Sommers displays a real understanding of the material with its subtle nuances and interprets the text to great effect.

Rihannon Sommers as Dido, is the real star of the show.

Aeneas (James Burgess), returned from battle at Troy, becomes the subject of Dido’s false love after she is tricked with Cupid’s arrow. Burgess delivers monologues with emotion and conviction whilst maintaining good pace and clarity, a difficult feat with this dated text.

There is not much set to speak of, only a box strewn with cushions which acts as rock, bed and throne for the actors. The incredible space offered by the archeological site which acts as a backdrop to the action gives a great depth to the stage, and aids the actors performance in amplifying their voices giving a natural reverb that couldn’t have been produced as authentically with sound effects. The costumes are basic, but this is a play focused on the performances which are solid in most cases.

The audience is very much in the thick of the action, with the space the players have to operate being very small. This creates moments where audience participation is used to hilarious effect and the ensemble cast who play multiple parts work together very well.

Towards the latter end of the tragic play, Samantha Spurgin’s performance as the Maid, really brings a lighter comedic element to a rather serious play. The audience welcomed the sense of relief from her cockney interlude.

The opportunity to see a production in this venue is highly recommended and Dido,Queen of Carthage would be a fantastic one to start with.

Dido, Queen of Carthage is booking until 31 March 2013 at The Rose Theatre, 56 Park Street, London, SE1 9AR (02072619565). Tickets start at £12.

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Texas announce new album, The Conversation

Marking 25 years since their formation, Scottish rock band Texas are set to release their brand new studio album, The Conversation, through [PIAS] on May 20 2013. The album will be preceded by the single, also called ‘The Conversation’ on May 13.

Texas’s eighth studio album, The Conversation, is their first in eight years and is the latest in a career that has seen the band sell over 30 million albums worldwide with a succession of multi-platinum albums; White on Blonde, The Hush and Greatest Hits. This return for 2013 re-introduces the band afresh with tracks written and produced by singer/guitarist Sharleen Spiteri and bassist Johnny McElhone and featuring collaborations with singer-songwriter Richard Hawley and Bernard Butler.

The album was recorded in Glasgow, London and at Richard Hawley’s studio in Sheffield where the seven tracks he worked on went on to form the backbone of The Conversation: a perfect marriage of Hawley’s 50s rock’n’roll frills and the timeless Texas magnetism to cast-iron melodies.

Texas will launch the album with three live shows in Glasgow, London and Paris; full details TBA.

‘The Conversation’ will be released May 13, with the album of the same name to follow on 20 May.

Tracklisting:

1. The Conversation

2. Dry Your Eyes

3. If This Isn’t Real

4. Detroit City

5. I Will Always

6. Talk About Love

7. Hid From The Light

8. Be True

9. Maybe I

10. Hearts Are Made To Stray

11. Big World

12. I Need Time

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#NowPlaying: Amina Bryant – On My Own

  • Who? Amina Bryant
  • What? ’On My Own’ taken from her forthcoming début EP Black Cinderalla
  • Label? Currently unsigned
  • Released? April 2013
  • Why #NowPlaying? With a delicate and sweet vocal reminiscent of Aaliyah, Amina Bryant trills wonderfully over slow jam rhythms in a classy R&B number
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EUROvisual: Sweden select Robin Stjernberg

Common sense finally prevailed in the Swedish Eurovision selection round, with 22-year-old pop poppet Robin Stjernberg landing a surprise victory at the Melodifestivalen final on Saturday. His entry, ‘You’, was a big hit with the international juries, but only came second with the Swedish public vote. The bookie’s favourite, ‘Heartbreak Hotel‘ by YOHIO could only scrape into ninth out of ten places after the jury vote before finally rebounding into second place when combined with the public vote.

 

Sweden are unlikely to secure a consecutive win at Eurovision this year, but ‘You’ is a well staged, well executed track that should see Robin Stjernberg finishing on the left side of the scoreboard. Really, it could have been an awful lot worse.

Elsewhere in Europe, Cezar of Romania is kindly providing the first true ‘WTF’ moment of the contest in the form of his song, ‘It’s My Life’.

This truly baffling effort starts as an overly theatrical ballad, before Cezar’s voice ascends into a painful falsetto as the Eurodance beat kicks in. Quite what anyone was thinking throughout the song’s inception and selection we cannot begin to imagine. On the plus side, the obligatory shoehorned-in dubstep breakdown means that if you’re playing the Eurovision 2013 drinking game, you’re only a minute and half a way from downing a pint of vodka, so if you’re lucky you’ll have passed out by the time the second key change rolls round.

It’s difficult to imagine a single report on Finland’s entry, ‘Marry Me’ by Krista Siegfrids, that doesn’t mention a certain faux lesbian and one-time Mrs Brand, so we’re going to get it all out of our system now:

KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY KATY PERRY.

Thankfully, Siegfrids doesn’t seem quite as desperate to please as her idol, but she’s still packing a big Max Martin sounding power pop track and her sense of enthusiasm is infectious. Definitely not the most original entry, but the song is certainly memorable – only at Eurovision would ’Oh oh, oh oh, a ding dong’ be considered an acceptable lyric.