Sunday, April 05, 2015

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: January-February 2015

This month I'm finally getting round to those long-overdue blog posts!

As someone once asked: "so why'd you wanna go and put stars in their eyes??"  ITV only went and revived a TV classic "STARS IN THEIR EYES" or should I say, a complete reboot: Stars In Their Eyes a.k.a. "tonight Harry, I'm going to be TV Burp".  I'm a big Harry Hill fan but even my patience was tested by the unfunny "Adele's baby" segment which was even worse than Wagbo.  Viewers switched off in droves, critics condemned it as the worst TV show of the year, and the original premise of the show - ordinary people impersonating famous singers - was sidelined as an afterthought.  Shame, really.  If you need a reminder of the glory days of the show, Challenge has been re-running some of the original series presented by Leslie Crowther.

"MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM" (Sky Movies) was a very impressive bio-pic of Nelson Mandela, from his early days as a lawyer through to his lengthy prison sentence.  The often disturbing scenes proved this to be more than just an average biopic.  An excellent performance by Idris Elba acting as Mandela through the ages.

In January, A number of documentaries commemorated the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, each and every one distressing but absolutely necessary.  It's the smallest of details which are often the most terrifying.  Apart from the documentaries I watched a landmark drama on BBC2, "THE EICHMANN SHOW" which focused on the efforts of two American TV producers/directors to televise the 1961 trial of one of history's most evil people, and bring the story of the Nazis' death camps to the world.  The darkest moments of this programme were unbearable beyond belief, but this drama was an outstanding piece of television, about an outstanding piece of television.  With anti-Semitism dand the extreme right on the rise across Europe, all of these programmes are very timely indeed.

I never watch daytime TV but was tipped off about a daytime docusoap which proved to be very interesting.  "OXFORD STREET REVEALED" (BBC1) looked at the retailers, the tube staff etc etc and I just wonder why this fast-moving show didn't get an evening slot when you think of all the celebrity rubbish etc. polluting our screens.

I wonder how ITV would survive if the TV authorities brought in a rule that there should be no more celebrity shows.  We would probably have to look at a blank screen every night.

That is of course when they're not showing "CORONATION STREET" which continues on the slippery slope.  The minibus crash was a pretty dire storyline and the show continues to focus on storylines about forgettable characters.  Where are the iconic characters of the present and future? This was brought into focus by the recent sad death of Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre Barlow, one of my favourite characters over the years.  She will be much missed.

There was a very high level of secrecy surrounding the long-awaited second series of "BROADCHURCH" (ITV).  Maybe that was just as well, as if we'd have known in advance how disappointing it would be....The only thing you needed to know about S2 is that you really had to watch series 1 to understand who everyone is, otherwise it could be a very confusing experience.  TV being TV, the backlash was inevitable (especially with those court scenes) and it wasn't long before it was being renamed "Boredchurch". The main problem for me was much of the storyline focusing on the hideous Lee and Claire, two new characters which the programme could clearly have done without.

I haven't read JK Rowling's "THE CASUAL VACANCY" so it was all new to me when it came to BBC1 as a 3-part drama serial.  Set in an idyllic English village, around a parish council election, all was not what it seemed, and there was a much darker side to events, with sympathetic characters in short supply. This series had its critics, however I liked it.  Guess I'll need to read the book now!

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: March 2015

It's been all about extremes this month.  Let's start with "THE BILLION POUND HOTEL" (Channel 4) a documentary about the now 15 year old Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai - which we all know better as "the one that looks like a big sail".  Never mind big sail, this one's all about the big bucks with the 'Royal Suite' which will cost you no less than £10,000 per night.  As with Richard E Grant's hotel series over on Sky Atlantic, it's interesting to get a glimpse of how the other half live but ultimately you feel rather dirty at the end of it all, when you are living in a country where food banks are now the rule rather than the exception.

One very sad aspect of economic doom and recession is a 21st century fixture on every high street, the ubiquitous pawn shop/money shop. "CASHING IN" (BBC Scotland) focused on two branches of Cash Converters.  Media reaction was pretty mixed, as is the case these days with any of these programmes about the grittier side of life in Scotland ("The Scheme" and "The Street" being previous examples) which the media often struggles to confront.  The nature of this business can leave a bad taste in the mouth, and in the hands of certain other channels I would have expected something in the style of those sensationalist "Romanian Immigrant Mother of Six on Benefits and Proud" documentaries cluttering the schedules of certain TV channels at the moment; these kinds of shows just have me reaching for the off button.  However this one stayed on the right side of humanity and explored some of the human stories behind those who rely on the pawn shops to scrape by.

Our local TV channel STV Glasgow has recently had a slight revamp of its schedule.  The most significant change is that the flagship magazine show "THE RIVERSIDE SHOW" has been cut to an hour every weeknight.  I think that's been a positive move: it's leaner, less bloated and although it's still a bit low-budget, two-couches-on-the-Clyde chat show fare (hosts David and Jennifer pictured above) but the filmed segments now seem to have more populist, topical appeal.  I was initially very critical of this show when it began last summer as much of the show just consisted of posh students trying to outdo each other's posh Kelvinside accents.  It's better now.  (No offence to posh Kelvinside students).  I haven't seen anything on STV Edinburgh yet, the latest 'local TV' channel however I'm guessing it'll be like STV Glasgow with different accents :)

I really enjoyed "TOM FELTON MEETS THE SUPERFANS" (BBC Three).  A very timely screening of a documentary about, yes, superfans, in the week when the One Direction dream began to unravel with Zayn Malik's departure, breaking millions of teenage hearts in the process.  In this documentary the former Harry Potter star explored the world of super fandom, with some initial puzzlement, and he also tried to understand the motivation for one of his own superfans, Tina.  It would have been very easy to take a cynical approach, but happily this turned out to be a warm and quite touching exploration of fandom, with a large dose of empathy sadly lacking in much of today's attempts at documentary making.

What's my favourite programme at the moment?  "30 DEGREES IN FEBRUARY" (Sky Arts) which is the latest Nordic import - an SVT drama from 2012 which sneaked on to the TV schedule without any fanfare.  The mean streets of a Swedish crime thriller are swapped for sunnier climes, Thailand to be precise, and there are three story strands about people looking for a new life in paradise, only for the dream to turn into a nightmare.  I don't know what kind of viewing figures this show is getting, but I'm totally hooked and it has engaged me from the start.

Unlike that much-hyped big bucks made-for-Sky drama "FORTITUDE" (Sky Atlantic).  I couldn't get into this show at all and didn't last beyond the first episode.

Fancy a decent biopic?  Look no further than "GOOD VIBRATIONS" (BBC2), which was a very interesting film based on the life of Terri Hooley, who was a key figure in the Belfast punk scene with his record shop and label which gave the movie its title.  They may not have had much commercial impact but their importance went beyond the charts and tried to unite both sides of the divide through music.  A very good film with an excellent performance by Richard Dormer in the lead role of the punk pioneer.

Finally, I couldn't go without mentioning series 2 of "THE MUSKETEERS" (BBC1) which has now ended.  Me being me, I have only just started watching the second series (bad fan!) but you won't be surprised to learn that I'm still hooked: swashbuckling fun - check! Luke Pasqualino and Santiago Cabrera - check!  Ohhh yesss.....welcome back Musketeers :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Semi-Finals Draw!

Today the EBU finally revealed the running order for the 2 Eurovision semi-finals which will take place on 19th and 21st May.

Semi-Final 1

1. Moldova
2. Armenia
3. Belgium
4. Netherlands
5. Finland
6. Greece
7. Estonia
8. Macedonia
9. Serbia
10. Hungary
11. Belarus
12. Russia
13. Denmark
14. Albania
15. Romania
16. Georgia

Austria, France, Spain and Australia will vote in this semi-final.

My first thought: oh no, what a bad bad draw for Belgium! It doesn't look too good for the Netherlands either.  On the other hand I'm sure Denmark and Albania will be whooping with delight at their draw positions.  And I just hope that Estonia and Macedonia stand out in their part of the draw too.

Semi-Final 2

1. Lithuania
2. Ireland
3. San Marino
4. Montenegro
5. Malta
6. Norway
7. Portugal
8. Czech Republic
9. Israel
10. Latvia
11. Azerbaijan
12. Iceland
13. Sweden
14. Switzerland
15. Cyprus
16. Slovenia
17. Poland

Germany, Italy, UK and Australia will vote in this semi-final 

First thoughts on this one: Lithuania paying the price for being uptempo - although I still think they're charming and charismatic enough to see this through to the final. Hope Montenegro and Norway don't suffer from their early-ish draw positions. Slovenia - which I still see as one of the main challengers to Sweden - has a cracking draw too. 

Over the coming weeks I will be taking a look at this year's entries in more detail, as well as posting my backlog of national final reviews.  Back soon!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What do you mean, this blog is 8 years old tomorrow ????

Where have all those years gone?  On the one hand, it feels like only yesterday when I was taking those early steps into blogland; on the other hand, it's like a lifetime ago.

The world is a different place now, from when I started this blog in March 2007, and one of the things which particularly saddens me is the increasing 'globalisation' of music and popular culture in our continent over the past few years.  Europe has such a rich and diverse mix of music and artists who have to take a backseat to the overrated global successes.  I just have to work a lot harder now to find any music I like, outside Eurovision/national finals season!  Luckily that's not so difficult, thanks to other bloggers and/or Twitter.

I won't go into personal stuff here (Random Ramblings is for that) but suffice to say that the last couple of years have been particularly difficult; this has impacted on the amount of time I can devote to my blogging hobby.  Yet blogging is something I can't imagine not doing, even if I just don't always have the time and energy any more.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: blogging changed and enriched my life in so many ways.  That's a good enough reason to keep going into EuropeCrazy's 9th year!

However, I need to take a couple of weeks away to catch up with my backlog of blog posts which I still haven't had the time to finish!!  Check back here nearer the end of this month for EuropeCrazy's backlog bonanza :)

Sunday, March 08, 2015

...and the act risking career suicide to represent the United Kingdom at Eurovision is.....

Not Alexandra Burke.
Not Tyler James.
Not some obscure YouTube 'sensation'
Not someone who failed to make it to boot camp in X Factor.
Not someone who got past the battle rounds of The Voice.

None of them.

Hello, Electro Velvet.  And it's no surprise to learn that the haters gonna hate.  It's Royaume-Uni after all!!  And it's.....different!!

So, after all the nerve-wracking, stomach-churning anticipation, at 9.30pm on Saturday night, 7th March, the BBC finally revealed the song which will represent our country at ESC this year - "Still In Love With You".  It's certainly very different from what we expected: if Eurovision existed in 1929, then this would have been the chart-topper of its day.  And Strictly Come Dancing might finally have found a new song for a Charleston routine.

It's a big change from the parade of screechy female mid-tempos and warrior princesses, and it will certainly stand out from the rest.  Crucially, it's uptempo - and, dare I even say it - fun.  And as the Beatles memorably put it, fun is the one thing that money can't buy.  I love the Eurovision Song Contest, always have done, but you can't deny that it's got a lot more serious over the years.  More credible, certainly, but more serious.  And looking at the selection of songs chosen so far, (with only a few exceptions) it's a pretty serious bunch of ballads we've got going on this year.  So let's give some credit to the BBC for choosing a song which is different, bonkers, defiantly old-fashioned, and which has completely bulldozed our expectations. (Even if it's yet another duo - yeah, like, ESC 2015 really needs another one of those....)

Over recent years the United Kingdom has performed miserably in Eurovision, with a parade of unknowns and 'old' stars regularly propping up the right-hand side of the scoreboard.  We haven't won since 1997, and weren't helped by the introduction of free language two years later.  I guess that the main problem with our country's participation in the contest is that on the one hand, we can be expected to dominate the world's music markets at any given time, yet this is never reflected in the songs we send to ESC.  And that goes back a long, long time!

Yet every year we UK fans hold on to hope, that as ESC becomes more 'credible' and more popular every year - social media has absolutely given the contest a whole different dimension - that maybe one of these years the UK will select a song which will remotely reflect what's happening with our music scene at the moment.  Although reflecting 'what's popular' would probably involve some dreary acoustic/pseudo-soulful/overrated artist nonsense, I won't name names but a glance at the recent Brit awards nominees reflects my ongoing dissatisfaction with the 'popular'.  Nevertheless, there is always the hope that the UK will choose a 'name' performer with a heavyweight song which will finally prove to the rest of Europe that we-are-serious-about-Eurovision-and-want-to-win-so-please-vote-for-us. Electro Velvet are not those performers.  "Still In Love With You" is not that song.  I doubt if I will ever listen to "Still In Love With You" outwith Saturday 23rd May: it wouldn't be a song I would choose to listen to, but Eurovision is a different universe, And almost four hours after hearing the song for the first time, I can still remember it.  So the song has ultimately done its job, whereas I still struggle to remember many of the entries already chosen.  And as one of the big 5/6/7/whatever it is these days,  they only get one shot to impress the viewers in the final.

The main problem remains with the BBC's selection process.  They can no longer trust the public to choose or entry (Scooch, anyone??) so it's now an internal selection, revealed somewhat sheepishly on a 'Red Button' launch, which speaks volumes about the BBC's reluctance to give the contest a higher profile in this country.  And then they wonder why no-one votes for us, eh?  This is also a bit of an insult to the artists as it sends out a clear message that the Beeb doesn't think they're worth a proper showcase on 'real' telly, but are stuck on the 'Red Button' instead.   That whoever gets the poisoned chalice of representing the UK in Eurovision is essentially collateral damage, risking career suicide and sacrificed as Euro-failures if the desired result doesn't come our way in May.  So perhaps as an act specifically put together for ESC, Electro Velvet have probably already pre-empted that and will probably go their separate ways on the 24th of May, but before that, they will have had a blast representing the UK and enjoyed that brief moment in the spotlight, not to mention Eurovision notoriety for better or worse....!

EDIT 10.03.2015: I haven't been able to get this song out of my head since Saturday night!

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Eurovision Memories Part 6: the one I couldn't remember

I'm jumping into my Eurovision time machine once more for the latest in my occasional series.  And it's a bit different this time, as I'm taking a look back at a contest which, probably in all my years of Eurovision fandom, is the one I have the least memory of: Eurovision 1984.

I had a number of reasons for this.  Since 1981 I had discovered that other music existed outside the chart-pop bubble, and I started to explore the indie/alternative music scene.  Yet both that and Eurovision could both live side by side in my diverse musical world.  So, I continued to watch and enthuse over the 1981, 1982 and 1983 contests.  But something very strange happened in 1984: I lost interest in Eurovision.  It struck me recently that I had no memory of the 1984 Eurovision Song Contest, so I decided to revisit the show and explore the reasons why it was the one I couldn't remember.

As I said in a previous post, you had to feast on every little scrap of information about the contest back in those days, and it was only the Eurovision Song Contest previews which gave you any idea of what the songs sounded like.  I can't even remember watching these, but I made sure that I would tune into the contest anyway.

With my growing interest in alternative music, I had not only drifted away from mainstream pop but briefly lost interest in music from other countries too.  By that time the 1984 Eurovision Song Contest rolled round, it was less relevant for me than it had ever been.

Luxembourg had won in 1983, and at the time that had been a major disappointment for me.  So in the time-honoured tradition, the 2014 contest was hosted by Luxembourg's RTL, with the multi-lingual - and somewhat 'quirky' for the time - host Desiree Nosbusch. Watching the contest now, I remember why I didn't remember it.  None of the songs floated my boat, and it was downhill all the way from the first song - and that year's winner - "Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley".

To this day, that song remains one of my least favourite ESC songs/winners: despite their exuberant performance, the Herreys delivered the type of song which the UK media uses to beat the contest over and over again to this day.  I had invested in Sweden's entries since Abba and this just disappointed me on a grand scale.

It's all terribly bland, until Norway's Dollie de Luxe at least try to drag the over-the-top 80s into their performance, but the fact remains that for me, this falls short of their original MGP performance.

Over in Ireland meanwhile we had a young Linda Martin competing with the impressive Terminal 3, written by Johnny Logan.  I do remember at the time that I'd have been happy with this winning. Only that and "Lenge Leve Livet" are the only 1984 ESC songs I still play.

Looking back at the 1984 contest it seemed to be somebody else's idea of what a song contest of the 80s should look like, with all those nods to 80s fashion, but the sounds definitely belonged to another time and place. (In the UK's case that would be Detroit in the 60s as Belle and the Devotions tried to recreate the sound (if definitely not the look) of that era with "Love Games") but the look and feel of the whole contest is brutally old-fashioned for its time.    

Yet even in those days I had a little Swedish obsession going on, so despite my hatred of the Herreys and their boots and dance routine and diggy-loo-ing there was one redeeming feature.  Sweden would be hosting Eurovision the next year and by that time I would be back in love with the contest again.  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Just a minute....of this week's Melodifestivalen songs

Will week 4's selection do anything to change my (negative view) of this year's Melodifestivalen entries?  Let's have a listen and check them out. 

"Don't Say No" - Midnight Boy.  I'm not familiar with this guy's work, and he seems to be more famous for a certain YouTube video than anything else.  Well, on first listen I like this!  Clearly very influenced by Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round" - one of my favourite pop songs of the 80s - and MB himself comes over like a Poundland Pete Burns.  This won't do anything and will probably prop up the bottom of tonight's scoreboard, but I've finally found a song I might want to listen to again. 

"Black Swan" - Caroline Wennergren.  She's back after a few years' absence, but straight into the 'slot of doom' and I can't see this getting anywhere.  It's a dramatic, retro-styled song with little James Bond theme influences, although this kind of thing's been tried already in recent years in Melodifestivalen ("Killing Me Tenderly"/"Never Been Here Before" and probably a few others) so it's all sounding a bit dated by now. 

"Building It Up" - JTR.  They've taken a bit of One Direction, a bit of The Wanted and some 5 Seconds of Summer and put it into the boy-pop blender and out came "Building It Up".  It's generic boyband fodder and its success will depend on just how much they will appeal to their demographic/target audience on the night. 

"Guld och gröna skogar" - Hasse Andersson.  Not my thing at all, but this kind of folk/country music has its fans, he's a well known personality and that might be enough to get him to AC.  Hopefully not though, as I wouldn't want to see it stealing a qualification place from a better song. 

"Make Me (La La La)" - Dinah Nah.  She has pink hair and the coolest name, and this might just have enough contemporary pop/dance appeal to qualify to something or other, but unfortunately it's a little on the generic side for me and the repeated la-la-las remind me of "La La Love".  Which, if I remember, was particularly popular in Sweden so this might bode well for Dinah?

"Ett Andetag" - Annika Herlitz.  A.K.A. the voice of the Swedish version of "Let It Go" from Frozen.  This is a big old fashioned schlager ballad complete with - yes of course - a wind machine, and it will probably have certain sections of the schlager community in raptures.  It doesn't appeal to me though.

"Heroes" - Måns Zelmerlow.  Out of the light like a star like a hero!  Here comes Måns to save Melodifestivalen!  Based on the short clip it's a contemporary dance-pop song (the Swedish press have compared it to David Guetta's "Lovers On The Sun"), there's some big gimmicky staging, and while it may not be much of a song compared to "Cara Mia" or "Hope And Glory", I like what I've heard so far and I'm going to like the full song too.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Just a minute....of this week's Melodifestivalen songs

Heat 3 already!  I didn't have the chance to do a preview last week but it was a very pleasant surprise to see Magnus Carlsson make his comeback and be rewarded with a place in the final, along with former Idol participant Mariette whose song was being tipped last week as a possible Melfest winner.

Above: this week's entrants (picture courtesy of SVT)

But that was last week and we're now on to another crop of songs so let's have a listen.

"Insomnia" - Ellen Benediktson.
*lazy comparison klaxon* so does it sound like Euphoria then?  Well the words insomnia and euphoria have the same number of syllables and that's about it.  She's certainly changed from the sweet little balladeer of last year.  This song is ok but suffers from the distraction of over-choreographed backing dancers which seems to destroy almost every uptempo song these days (isn't that right, Aleksa Jelic??)

"För Din Skull" - Kalle Johansson
Kalle was the winner of the Svensktoppen Nästa competition (automatically entitling the winner to the 'slot of death' in a Melfest heat) and I really liked the song which he won that competition with. This isn't as good although it's a G:son song with some schlagery appeal and reminds me of something Barbados might have done.

"Bring Out The Fire" - Andreas Weise.
I have never liked this guy.  He appears very arrogant and fame-hungry - maybe I'm wrong and doing him a disservice, I don't know, but that's the way he appears to me.  The song's a mediocre take on "Let Me Entertain You" and I'm sorry but it's not even bringing out a spark, never mind a fire.

"Living To Die" - Andreas Johnson.
There is something quite reassuring about Andreas being back at Melodifestivalen, as it reminds us of all the years when he took part, those years when Melodifestivalen was good.  I guess the title's a little off-putting.  That aside, it's maybe a bit too low-key and doesn't really have the anthemic quality of some of his other Melfest entries, but might just sneak an Andra Chansen place.

"Don't Stop" - Isa.
In this part of the world we would probably chuckle at the name 'Isa' as it reminds us of a character in the extremely popular comedy series "Still Game".  This Isa is very different from that one of course! This is chart-friendly uptempo pop which I'm confidently predicting to qualify, probably to Andra Chansen.

"I See You" - Kristin Amparo.
It's a big shouty ballad which she co-wrote with Melfest sourge Fredrik Kempe.  I can't really judge it on the clip, and would probably have to hear more of it to make up my mind although at this stage I'll say that she is better than the song.  The good news is that this will be the last week we'll see Mr Smug as he is not, I repeat NOT - in the list of next week's songwriters.  Hooray!  Anyway this is looking like a definite qualifier.

"Jag är Fri (Manne Liem Frijje)" - Jon Henrik Fjällgren
This was the guy who won Sweden's Got Talent, and Sweden loves him.  We haven't had jojking at Eurovision since Norway 1980, and I doubt this would go all the way to Vienna for Sweden but is a guaranteed finalist.  Again I can't really tell from the short clip how good this is, but *lazy comparison klaxon* I'm feeling a bit of Enigma with this one.  He's just lovely, but my main gripe is that the staging of the song is absolutely ridiculous. Someone really needs to have a word with SVT about this trend of swamping a song with distractions, it's so offputting.

So that's it for this week then.  I can't believe how poor the songs have been in Melodifestivalen this year.  My last hope is that Måns brings us something extra special next week, although judging by the standard this year, I'm not expecting too much....

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Just a minute....of this week's Melodifestivalen songs

At least that used to be the title of my old preview blog post but they're not even giving us a minute any more - just a measly 30 second rehearsal snippet which is presumably to build up the excitement and anticipation for what is many Eurovision fans' favourite national contest.  We'll have to wait till this afternoon before we hear the songs in full. 

For the past few years I have watched every Melodifestivalen heat live (although am usually inclined to give Andra Chansen a miss).  Normally I would be sitting with my laptop wired up to the TV just before 7.00pm UK time, getting increasingly anxious that the quality of the webstream will be ok, and bursting with excitement at the opening titles and the balloon-waving frenzy.  But not tonight. 

In recent years I have also grown to love the Danish national final.  Regardless of the quality of the songs, DR always puts on a spectacular show.  But last year, I chose to miss the DMGP final, to watch Melodifestivalen on the same evening and immediately regretted it, as I discovered that it was not being rebroadcast anywhere.  Back then, I said that I wouldn't make that same mistake in 2015. So my laptop will be tuned to the DR webstream tonight and I will be watching Melfest on catch-up.  

But I digress, this post isn't about Denmark, I'm supposed to be reviewing song clips so let's get on with it. 

1. "I'll Be Fine" - Molly Pettersson Hammar.  When she was in Swedish Idol I thought she had an excellent voice with a maturity beyond her young years, and I thought it was inevitable that she would end up in Melfest one day.  I'm surprised they're opening the show with this as I thought they would have gone for a bigger 'name' however on the evidence of the clip Molly certainly should be fine with this Ella Henderson-style tune.  I get the feeling it could become a bit annoying, however need to listen to the verses before forming a real opinion of the song. 

2. "Pappa" - Daniel Gildenlöw.  No heavy rock this time from the Pain of Salvation frontman but instead an emotional number with heartfelt lyrics which could 'do a Linus Svenning' this time round although it just sounds a bit too wet and calculated.  Again I'm only basing it on a very short clip, but 2nd position in the draw always indicates that SVT have given up on you before you've even started.  

3. "One By One" - Elize Ryd and Rickard Söderberg.  Now these two seem to be really going for it in the clip.  A combination of big theatrical singing and rock.  I think this will be a definite qualifier because they're going to perform the life out of it.  I'm guessing that by the end of it we will all need a headache pill as Elize and Rickard spend 3 minutes trying to out-sing each other. 

4. "Hello Hi" - Dolly Style.  Yohio looks to have mutated into three girls who are bringing bubblegum back.  Fans of Aqua-style pop are going to drool over this, and I'm guessing that much of the ESC fan community will do likewise.  This doesn't really appeal to my own musical tastes but I'm probably eventually going to wake up screaming in the middle of the night with the refrain "I am Molly, I am Holly, I am Polly, hello hi!" stuck in my brain.  Aargh. 

5. "Det rår vi inte för" - Behrang Miri feat Victor Crone.  This song is probably going nowhere at Melfest despite the return of Behrang who did very well on his debut.  Even though there is a very impressive songwriting team (Behrang co-wrote with Albin 'Din Soldat' Johnsén, Måns Zelmerlöw and Tony Nilsson) that probably won't count for much as I can't see the Melfest audience embracing rap unless it's Sean Banan!  I'd like to see and hear more of Victor though :)

6. "Can't Hurt Me Now" - Jessica Andersson.  Although there's one less song in each Melfest heat this year, Did anyone hear "Knocking on Heaven's Door" here? Or is it just me?  I like Jessica and am happy to see her back in the contest although can't see this having the same impact as "I Did It For Love".  

7. "Sting" - Eric Saade.  He sings "It's gonna drive you mad" and he's quite right because I am so disappointed by this song.  I wasn't a fan of "Popular" but on the evidence of this clip that song was way better than this one.  He always comes across as a bit too arrogant for my liking,  I don't know about "Sting" but I've just had a read at the lyrics and they....'stink'!

Based on the short clips I'm predicting:

To the final:  Eric Saade, Elize and Rickard
To Andra Chansen: Dolly Style and Molly Petersson Hammar

EDIT 9.45pm Saturday night: well you won't be too surprised to learn I got it wrong as usual!
It's Eric and Jessica who are going direkt till Friends whilst Dolly Style and Behrang and Victor get the ticket to Andra Chansen.  I'll catch up with this heat over the weekend as tonight was all about DMGP.  

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Bye for now....

...I'm now taking some time out of blogging and the internet to catch up with some "life stuff", spring cleaning and starting my fitness plan, before Eurovision National Finals season takes over my life!  This blog will be back at the end of January.  In the meantime, take care and I'll see you soon :))

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: Christmas/New Year Special

We've been doing it for years, now lots of other people are doing it.  I refer to timeshifting telly, not watching programmes live, but making up your own TV schedule.  That perhaps explains the decline in the TV ratings.  There once was a time when Christmas TV shows pulled massive ratings - the famous Den divorcing Angie episode of Eastenders, or the Morecambe and Wise Christmas special.  But these are different times, with different distractions, multi-channels, Netflix blah blah blah - or maybe the reason for the declining ratings is because the programmes on offer are just not good enough?

This year's TV ratings battle was The Queen versus the "Queen of Dublin Town".  Yes, "MRS BROWN'S BOYS" (BBC1) was the most-watched programme on Christmas Day and seems to have taken over the Christmas comedy crown from "Only Fools and Horses".   The show of course features an Irish cast but is recorded in Glasgow, so it is particularly popular here.  MBB is the Marmite of TV.  People either love or hate it.  I can take or leave it; it has its funny moments but I don't find it hysterically funny the way that many other people do, and it's already showing signs of fatigue.

As are most of the other programmes on offer on Christmas Day: "STRICTLY COME DANCING" (BBC1) gave us its annual Christmas special with previous returning contestants paired with professionals who were eliminated earlier in the 2014 series.  The Christmas special was won by Louis Smith.  Bruce Forsyth returned for one night only to present the show, but every year I can't help feeling that the SCD Strictly special seems like more of a side dish than a main course. 

"CORONATION STREET" (ITV) failed to bring any Christmas cheer, with Kylie Platt's drugs/leaving storyline taking centre stage, and as if that wasn't bleak enough we also had Steve McDonald's depression.  Corrie producers obviously didn't get the memo that 'tis the season to be jolly'.

Let it goooooooo, let it goooooooo....believe it or not I hadn't heard that very famous song from that very successful film until about 6 weeks ago.  The perks of living in my child-free world eh.  Anyway Channel 4 cashed in on the phenomenon with a documentary called "FROZEN AT CHRISTMAS"  telling the story of the highest-grossing animated film ever.  It was an education for me as I've managed to escape Frozen-mania (apart from the pre-Christmas whingeing from everyone about not being able to buy their little darlings all the merchandise they'd asked Santa for).

The Christmas special of "DOWNTON ABBEY" (ITV) was predictably dull and overlong, shoehorning in potential romances and conveniently exonerating certain people accused of serious crimes.  I am quite sad to see Tom Branson go though, as he brought a bit of a spark to the show, although I still doubt whether a bunch of toffs would ever have accepted someone like him, with his background.  But you suspend your disbelief when watching Downton of course.

End of year retrospectives-a-plenty: "FIFTY FUNNIEST MOMENTS 2014" (Channel 4) excelled itself as a talking-head show as I genuinely didn't recognise many of the 'celebs'/'comedians' commenting on video clips from social media etc.  Some of it was funny, some of it was completely gross, but overall it was just cheap telly to fill 2 hours in the schedule.

Over on Channel 5, home of programmes with titles like "Benefits: Too Fat To Work" (a two for the price of one combination of benefit-shaming and fat-shaming - shame on this channel!) they gave us "MOST SHOCKING CELEBRITY MOMENTS 2014" which was neither shocking, and the definition of 'celebrity' was pretty sketchy.  It was the TV version of junk food.  But then again sometimes you need junk food, even if it makes you feel sick afterwards.

As usual, Charlie Brooker was responsible for the best year-end retrospective.  "CHARLIE BROOKER'S 2014 WIPE" (BBC2).  It wasn't easy to make fun of a bleak year for the world, but Charlie did his best.  This programme also had its darker moments but Charlie saw 2014 off in the company of none other than the Blockheads, with his take on "Reasons to be Cheerful" retitled "Reasons to be Fearful 2014". 

"STILL GAME: THE STORY SO FAR" (BBC1 Scotland) was a very enjoyable documentary on BBC1 Scotland on Hogmanay about the show's popularity and recent revival as a stage show. 

Ahh, Hogmanay - or New Year's Eve, if you prefer - just what would the TV programme makers come up with to excite us this time?  Apart from the "Still Game" documentary, viewers in Scotland were treated to the annual "ONLY AN EXCUSE" (BBC1 Scotland) which started off life many years ago as a hilarious laugh-a-second sketch show parody of Scottish football.  But just like Scottish football, this programme has become a shadow of its former self, lacking in entertaining characters, and has broadened its scope to include other areas of Scottish life, including politicians (Jonathan Watson as Johann Lamont, pictured above). 

And then of course there was the annual bore-fest that is "JOOLS' ANNUAL HOOTENANNY" (BBC2) featuring the usual tedious parade of Paloma Faith and acoustic bores and the 'whatever happened to?' category this year featured Boz Scaggs. 

Over on BBC1 Scotland, they were bringing the new year in as usual with Jackie Bird hosting "HOGMANAY LIVE".  Yes it was groundhog day as usual: where would a BBC new year celebration be without Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham?? (to non-Scottish viewers, they're a couple of folk musicians who've been on this Hogmanay show since what feels like the dawn of time!)

Viewers in the rest of the UK were meanwhile being treated to a concert by Queen and Adam Lambert on BBC1, interrupted by some fabulous midnight fireworks.  Thanks to our good old Sky box, we caught up with it a bit later.  Of course I was very familiar with Adam's work as a solo artist but mum hadn't seen him before this concert and she was very impressed :)  Of course no-one will ever replace Freddie Mercury, no-one would want to, but Adam does a magnificent job as a guest vocalist and I couldn't imagine anyone doing a better job. 

Just when you thought it was safe to return to Torquay, yes "THE HOTEL" (Channel 4) is back!  Presumably to the annoyance of tourism bosses, and to the entertainment of everyone else, former hotel owner Mark Jenkins is back this time as entertainment manager at another hotel.  Presumably, fun and frolics will ensue, although the more I watch this programme the more I suspect there's a very strong "constructed reality" element to the show.

Of course it goes without saying that the real highlight of my festive season was watching the second and third night of "FESTIVALI I KËNGËS 53" (TVSH) - I missed the first night because I was watching the Belarus final of course.  And even after all these years blogging and tweeting I still get massively starstruck - FiK finalist Lindita Halimi retweeted one of my messages and I thought that was terrific!

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: October-December 2014

As I failed miserably to post my telly reviews over the last couple of months I'm just going to wrap up Q4 of 2014 with some of my telly highlights, the first two of which have a very definite Nordic Noir influence....

BBC4's latest international import wasn't Danish, or Swedish, or French, but Australian.  And it was excellent.  "THE CODE" was a high quality and gripping 'Aussie Noir' series, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's answer to all our favourite Nordic dramas.  A complex and gripping mix of murder, secrets, lies and computer hacking.  Perhaps the strongest element of the series was the relationship between the 2 brothers, investigative journalist Ned and computer hacker Jesse.  This was an absolute cracker of a series - can we have another one please?

After the much talked about "Broadchurch" borrowed from the best bits of Nordic Noir (and the long-awaited 2nd series starts this week) the latest series to get the nation talking and speculating was "THE MISSING" (BBC1).  Set in northern France but filmed (as I guessed correctly) in Belgium, the series focused on a couple whose son goes missing during a family holiday in 2006 at the time of the World Cup.  During this series the internet speculation on messageboards and Twitter went through the roof and I couldn't wait to read the latest theories.  Indeed at times all the speculation was even more entertaining than the programme itself!  Not everyone was happy with how it ended, but there you go,  There will be a 2nd series, with a different story and cast. 

By the way, it was quite notable that some people who don't understand my obsession with subtitled foreign dramas, were themselves gripped by Broadchurch and The Missing, which owed a huge debt to those foreign dramas.....

I have a huge backlog of telly to watch so here's what I haven't seen yet....
  • "THE LEGACY" (Sky Arts) - latest Danish import although I'm reading that it maybe hasn't caught the imagination of the public in the same way as its predecessors, purely because it's on a more obscure satellite channel?
  • "GREY'S ANATOMY" (Sky Living) - season 11 already!  I haven't even seen all of season 10 so it'll be a while until I can review this one!
  • "HOMELAND" (Channel 4) - reviewers called season 4 a return to form.  I've a lot to catch up on....

Something new on Sky Living from Kevin Williamson who was the guy behind "The Following".  "STALKER" can also be rather unpleasant and unsettling at times, however not yet as gratuitously gruesome as "The Following".  This new series is about a police unit investigating stalking crimes, and I've stuck with it so far.

After "CORONATION STREET" (ITV) brought its main story of the year to a close - the murder of Tina McIntyre/Peter Barlow wrongfully accused and locked up/Rob Donovan eventually arrested and jailed for life - the show has continued on a downward spiral under its producer Stuart Blackburn, with a number of unbelievable plot lines, dark stories and a complete lack of heart and humour.  Poor scripts, storylines, characters and acting - something has to be done very soon before this programme is abandoned by its long-suffering loyal fans. 

The 5th series of "DOWNTON ABBEY" (ITV) wasn't quite as bad as series 4, although it still had many irritating aspects - Lady Mary leading her suitors a merry dance and Lady Edith concealing the identity of her child, to name 2 - and a further series is promised.  Let's hope it's the last one, although the way ITV likes to flog all its other long-running dead horses, I'm not so sure.

Travelogue time.  I may not be a fan of Michael Portillo as a politician, but as a TV presenter he makes an engaging and quite likeable host of "GREAT CONTINENTAL RAILWAY JOURNEYS" (BBC2).  With several garish jackets and trousers in his suitcase, and his Bradshaw's under his arm, this year he explored the various railway routes which were all the thing back in 1913 before the onset of World War 1.  France, Portugal, Italy and Israel were among the destinations this time round.  I look forward to another series: this is a TV franchise which definitely shows no sign of running out of steam (sorry!).

Over on Channel 5 meanwhile, former Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi took us back to the land of her ancestors in "ALEX POLIZZI'S SECRET ITALY".  Apart from giving us lots of beautiful landscapes to look at, the programme also managed to genuinely convey Alex's love of her ancestral homeland and show a different side to her.

"TOP OF THE POPS" continues to entertain us over on BBC4, having worked its way through the diverse musical year of 1979, with its usual run interrupted by missing episodes presented by certain DJs of course.  It could be argued that the Mike Read episodes should be pulled for his crimes against music -  anyone responsible for that "UKIP calypso" should be banished from our screens for ever, methinks!  I used to really like him too....the very good news is that we're on for a 1980 run although if I remember correctly there was a long blackout due to the TV strike that year so between that and the Yewtree omissions I'm guessing there will be quite a few interruptions in 2015?

2014: the hate chart

After all my love for my top 50 songs of the year it's time to bring back an old feature on this blog from a few years ago, my hate chart.  Now I'm not one for negativity but the quality of chart music reached new lows in 2014 was so dire that I couldn't let the end of the year pass without a reminder of some of the horrific so-called "music" which we had to suffer.  I know many of you will probably disagree with some/most/all of my choices, as these songs were all either critically acclaimed and/or chart hits, but remember these are only my own opinions!!

10.  Rather Be - Clean Bandit feat Jess Glynne
One of the year's most played and overhyped songs.  This represents everything which I hate about the British music scene and Radio 1 in particular.  Smug posh students with their "aren't we great, fusing cellos and classical music with credible daaaaance music".  Yawn.  And as if that wasn't bad enough, every end-of-year musical retrospective seemed to feature this song.

9.  Stay High (Hippie Sabotage Mix) - Tove Lo
Now I know that I would usually be supporting European, and particularly Swedish, artists on this blog but here goes with the #unpopularopinion - I just don't get the Tove Lo hype.  The original is slightly more bearable than this particular mix which is just annoyingly repetitive.

8.  I Got U - Duke Dumont feat Jax Jones
I liked "Need U (100%)" but this is something different altogether.  Sampling from a Whitney Houston song is bad enough (I wasn't a fan, sorry) but every time I hear that 'as long as I got you baby' I want to throw the radio at the wall; that would be a waste of a very good radio though. 

7.  Chandelier - Sia
I loved Sia's work with Zero 7 back in the day but the chorus of this is so ear-splittingly unlistenable. Another unpopular opinion I suppose, as she is very popular and this song is loved by many, but I reach for the off button whenever it comes on the radio.

6.  Say Something - A Great Big World feat Christina Aguilera
This song was this year's Chasing Cars, soundtracking all the 'emotional' bits on reality/talent shows.  The video was on high rotation on the music channels at the time my mum was very ill so this song just has bad memories for me. 

5.  Hideaway - Kiesza
This potentially could have been a good song, with its retro-dance vibe.  And then she goes and spoils it all with the worst non-chorus of the year.  Throw in the beyond-irritating one-take video, and off it goes.

4.  Wake Me Up - Gareth Malone's All-Star Choir
Yeah I know it's for charity and all that, but this is like a John Lewis ad version of Avicii and Aloe Blacc's overplayed country-dance tune.  I don't know why anyone would want to listen to this more than once - no, in fact I don't know why anyone would even want to listen to this once. 

3.  Problem - Ariana Grande feat Iggy Azalea
Grande is yet another one of those young stars who started off in a US TV kids show and seem to think it's their God-given right to become proper pop stars.  Azalea is an overrated Aussie rapper.  Together, this makes my ears bleed.

2.  Real Love - Tom Odell
Before I slaughter this song, let's all have a big "awwww" at Monty the John Lewis penguin, star of their 2014 Christmas ad.  Unfortunately the John Lewis Christmas ad means a boring slowed-down version of an old hit, performed by an equally irritating performer.  In this case, Tom Odell destroying the Beatles song.  I can't even listen to this, and it would have topped my chart had it not been for .....

1.  Money On My Mind - Sam Smith
2014's Hype of the Year, I mean Brits Critics Choice award winner - I still chuckle at how ridiculous that is, giving out awards to people who haven't really done anything yet.  I had high hopes after his excellent vocals on Disclosure's "Latch" but that "La La La" song should have been a warning.  Sam Smith as a solo artist does nothing for me.  This for me is 2014's most irritating song, by the year's most overrated artist.

The 2014-50: No.10 - No.1

No.10: "Candy Jar" - MarieMarie.

Possibly the best thing about following national finals season is the opportunity to discover new music and artists without having to go through the increasing tedium of listening to the radio.  If this was released by a Radio 1-approved A-list playlisted artist in the UK, then it would be praised to high heaven.  But a German Eurovision entry?  Well that's more than ok in my world.  MarieMarie was one of the artists competing with 2 songs in the 2014 national final and this was my favourite of the two. 

No.9: "Karma" - Burhan G feat L.O.C.

Ultra-catchy rap song in Danish.  I haven't a clue what he's rapping or singing about but this is just such an uplifting and cheerful song, and always cheers me up when I hear it.  And just like the Michael Rune/Natascha Bessez song earlier in my countdown, mentions of Copenhagen in the lyrics are always guaranteed extra points.

No.8: "Cliche Love Song" - Basim.

Scooba-dooba-dap-dap-di-di-die.... admit it, you just can't resist!  Basim's infectious performance of this equally infectious song at DMGP ensured that it would carry the home nation's hopes at ESC in 2014.  I was so delighted that this won DMGP.  Unfortunately (IMHO) the staging of the song at the final fell short of that national final performance, but this song deserved better than 9th place.  (Although having said that, there were a lot of very strong contenders in the top 10).  Here is his DMGP performance of the song.

No.7: "Silent Storm" - Carl Espen.

In a personally dark and turbulent year, I completely identified with this song.  Carl Espen brought a vulnerability to "Silent Storm" which never fails to move me.   

Those who don't take the time to watch the Eurovision Song Contest but condemn it as a monument to drivel or whatever, those who still think the contest is stuck in a 1970s timewarp, those who don't realise just how much the contest has moved on - hello, British media! - miss out on some top quality songs and performances.  This was absolutely one of them and is one of the reasons why I am proud to call myself a Eurovision fan.

No.6: "Open Doors" - Electric Lady Lab.

Time for another 'song originally released in 2013, but I never heard it until 2014' discrepancy.  I didn't discover "Open Doors" until my holiday in Copenhagen when I saw the video for the song on a music channel and then it turned up on a Danish compilation CD which I bought during that holiday.  This is just a great pop-dance song built around a sample of Jan Hammer's "Crockett's Theme" which some of you may remember from "Miami Vice".  The 'Lab' use sampling inventively to create something new and wonderful.

No.5: "Red" - Eko.

Melodifestivalen 2014: as Steps would say, better best forgotten: from the presenters to the songs, it was so poor that even Alcazar didn't get an automatic pass into my top 50.  As I said earlier in the countdown, the only songs which really impressed me were the ones which didn't make the final.  And this was the best of them, an underrated gem.  I'd originally written this off as "I Feed You My Love" covered by Toyah Willcox, but the song soon grew on me, and I love all the drama and the 80s vibe.  Oh, and Anna Lidman is bewitching and I just love her.  She and Sandra Nurmsalu are my total hairdo-crushes. 

No.4: "Happy" - Pharrell Williams.

Ubiquitous.  That could be the dictionary definition for this song, a song which has as many haters as those who love it.  I am "happy" to say that I am in the 'love' camp for this song.  It does what it says on the tin, and always lifts my mood - although I still don't understand why anyone would be happy in a room without a roof, especially with all the rain we get.  Even after about 300 million plays of the song on the radio and TV, I'm still not fed up with this song. 

"Happy" became a worldwide hit in 2014, and then went on to spawn tons of flashmob lip-synching videos - two of which, from my holiday destination Trogir and Split I became obsessed with.  (And if you hate the song, mute the volume and enjoy the scenery!)

Official video:
No.3: "I Love This Life" - Kim Cesarion.

Was he not supposed to be, like, a major international star by now?  Having said that, I did hear "Undressed" in either Emmerdale or Corrie (can't remember which one). but it was enough to stop me mid-ironing to exclaim "Kim Cesarion!!" and my mum just gave me that "Eh?????" look.  No change there then!  Anyway this was the front runner in my chart for a long time, until the next two songs came along.  This particular song soundtracked my Copenhagen holiday in May thanks to its heavy rotation on Rix FM around that time, and I still love this song.  Here's Kim performing it on the Danish X Factor final.

No.2: "Hunter of Stars" - Sebalter.

Commiserations to Sebalter on just missing out on the title of my song of the year - let's just say it was one of the closest-run contests in all my years of doing this year-end chart, and the top two songs alternated at the top for a long time. 

My favourite moment in the 2014 ESC was when it was announced that Switzerland had qualified for the final.  "Hunter of Stars" certainly deserved its place there.  Apart from Sebalter's infectious performance and bucketloads of charm, he tapped into that very popular acoustic/folk genre and brought us an insanely catchy song with a memorable whistled hookline and one particular standout lyric in the first verse: "But yet, self-confidence is a fragile concept, that often fades away in the night".  Some of the other lyrics are cheerily nonsensical, but that just makes me love the song more.

Oh, and did I mention that he is gorgeous??

No.1:  "Din Soldat" - Albin featuring Kristin Amparo.

When considering which song will be my favourite of the year, I take a lot of factors into account.  Does it remind me of a special time?  Does it stand up to repeated play?  Does it make me happy?  Will I come back to this song in a few years and immediately remember why it was my favourite song of the year?  "Din Soldat" answers all of these questions with a great big Yes!

From beginning to end, I love this song and when it ends, I just want to hear it again.  (Although I'm sure a section of the Swedish radio listenership would be happy if they never heard it again, but each to their own).

This was the biggest hit of the summer in Sweden, and is still hanging around the charts even now.  Co-written by Mattias Andreasson (yes, M from EMD!)  "Din Soldat" is lyrically a very clever song married to infectious keyboard hooks and a killer chorus featuring the exuberant vocals of Kristin Amparo,who's about to reach a much wider audience via her forthcoming appearance in Melfest 2015.

So that's it for my annual countdown.  Another year, another Swedish chart-topper.  Can anyone beat the Swedes?  Find out in exactly one year's time when I publish my 2015-50 :)

The 2014-50: No.20 - No.11

No.20: "Rise Up" - Freaky Fortune.

To your trampolines!  Freaky Fortune were probably the most easy-on-the-eye participants in this year's Eurovision Song Contest - well, apart from one particular hottie who will appear in the final instalment of my countdown - but didn't do as well as expected in the final, probably because they didn't get the balance right between professionalism and exuberance  That aside, this is an infectious, extremely catchy dance number.

No.19: "Me and My Broken Heart" - Rixton. 

I don't wanna be lonely no more!  I loved that Rob Thomas song. So did Rixton: they loved it so much that they gleefully lifted the chorus melody lock stock and barrel, and good chaps that they are, they remembered to give Rob Thomas a writing credit for the song.  Whoever's song it is (!) it was a cracking little debut hit and one of the most radio-friendly songs of the year.  By the way, I initially thought they were a Swedish band as I heard the song on Swedish radio long before it hit here.

No. 18: "Love Trigger" - JEM.

Need a Swedish version of the Black Eyed Peas in your life?  Well, look no further than Swedish X-Factor contestants JEM who appeared in Melodifestivalen 2014.  Like most of my other favourite songs from the contest, it didn't make it to the final.  Bright, catchy and contemporary, it went on to become a regular on my iPod over the spring and summer.

No.17: "Maps" - Maroon 5.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, blah blah blah.  We had Rixton paying tribute to Maroon 5, and now we have Maroon 5 paying tribute to Nico and Vinz's "Am I Wrong". (A very good song to borrow from, it has to be said)  Ryan Tedder is among the songwriters of this song, and you can definitely spot his influence here.  "Maps" was a big worldwide hit during the summer and is infinitely preferable to "Animals" which was pretty vile and IMHO the worst Maroon 5 song ever released....

No.16: "Disco and Funk" - Aleksa Jelic.

He's been off my musical radar for a while but I renewed my acquaintance with Mr Jelic this year thanks to this groovy little tune.  As I said back in 2008 when he was cruelly robbed of the chance to represent his country at ESC....I really hope he gets the chance to do it some day.  He's also turned up on the Serbian version of Your Face Sounds Familiar: have a search on YouTube (search TZLP), you will not be disappointed :)) Meanwhile here he is performing on the Serbian final of Strictly Come Dancing:

No.15: "Busy Doin' Nothin'" - Ace Wilder.

Forget the naff outfits, this came very close to killing off seventh-time lucky Sanna's chances; to many, this was the unofficial Melodifestivalen winner.  So we can only wonder how it would have done at Eurovision.  At the time I thought it would do very well, although all these months down the line, I doubt whether it would have bettered Sanna's 3rd place finish.  Taking song contests out of the equation, it's still a killer pop song.

No.14: "Lass Uns Gehen" - Revolverheld.

Forget the numerous World Cup songs, this is probably the most "anthemic" German song of the past year, Uplifting, addictive and commercial, it won this year's Bundesvision Song Contest.  Maybe they should probably have scrapped the German national final and just sent this to represent Germany at this year's ESC?

No.13: "We Are Done" - The Madden Brothers.

One of the more pleasant surprises of 2014.  The return of Good Charlotte's Joel and Benji Madden with a more commercial sound, "We Are Done" is an anthemic protest song ("done with being a silent many").  Although it completely slipped under the chart radar in the UK and Europe - WHY?? - it found a very appreciative audience in Australia and New Zealand where it topped the charts.

No.12: "Am I Wrong" - Nico and Vinz.

Time to rewind, as this is one of my occasional chart anomalies, as it wasn't initially released in 2014. In a past life, this song was released under the name they were previously known by, 'Envy' and I remember this picking up a lot of airplay on Swedish radio back then, but it wasn't until 2014 when this song really took off worldwide and completely worked its way into my heart.  It's one of the few big radio hits from the past year which I can still listen to!

No.11: "Do It Again" -Röyksopp and Robyn.

We've all been waiting a long long time for her to return to making music, and finally Robyn came back in 2014, renewing her musical partnership with Röyksopp and delivering, just as you'd expect, a perfect electronic pop single.  Which, in an ideal world, would have gone to no.1 in the UK chart and would have made a nice change from all the acoustic bores, X Factor contestants, overrated international 'stars' and overhyped dance acts polluting the chart.  But it's not an ideal world, is it?  Please come back soon Robyn.  The music world needs you more than ever.

Friday, January 02, 2015

The 2014-50: No.30 - No.21

No.30: "Resignal" - Wilhelm.

I didn't initially like this in Eesti Laul and wrote it off as a kind of "Poundland Adele", but it strangely grew on me, although I don't really like this acoustic/folky kind of thing and the word "resignal" really annoys me.  I guess this is one of those songs which I like, but I can't explain why I like it. The best thing in Eesti Laul in 2014 was, of course, those clowns :))

No.29: "Coming Home" - Firelight. 

Having enjoyed their mini-concert on the Malta national final a few weeks back, it reminded me just how much I enjoyed their 2014 ESC entry.  Very on-trend with that folk/acoustic sound, the family group fronted by Richard Micallef really seemed to enjoy their performance in Copenhagen although did not fare so well in the grand final.  Unlike the next song in my countdown....

No.28: "Calm After The Storm" - The Common Linnets. 

*Adopts Rene-from-Allo-Allo-voice* "you are probably wondering why the Common Linnets with their excellent country-flavoured duet are at no. 28 behind that Cheesecake song?".  Well, folks, that question may never be answered.  In the meantime I will say that it took a while for this song to grow on me, and it wasn't until after the contest that I really began to appreciate it.  It's a pity they were eclipsed by the Conchita phenomenon, otherwise this would have been the contest's most credible winner in years.

No.27:  "Cheesecake" - Teo.

"I don't wanna be your twerpy hamster Dave".

That was the moment when a randomly average Belarussian ESC entry became legendary, thanks to a cult Twitter misheard lyric .  Teo went from being a dodgy Robin Thicke tribute act in the national final, to a slick boyband-style frontman by the time May came round.  The transformation worked and the song made the final, but we know the real reason why this song made it, don't we? It was all about the twerpy hamsters :)

No.26: "Hero" - Donkeyboy.

Outwith blogland, and Norway, Donkeyboy remain one of the world's best-kept musical secrets.  I'm glad that they continue to possess this effortless understanding of how to create a perfect pop song. Here is yet another example, with a singalong chorus.  This reminds me of the Pet Shop Boys, and that's a big compliment indeed.

No.25: "Something Better" - Softengine. 

Before you ask, I haven't heard any of their other songs yet so that's on my (lengthy) to-do list.  This was one of the most pleasant surprises of this year's Eurovision Song Contest thanks to its very effective staging and impressive performance by this young band.  We cheered very loudly here at EuropeCrazy HQ when it qualified for the final.  Hope Finland can continue to send such quality acts in future.

No.24: "Als Wärs Das Erste Mal" - Unheilig.

2014's German national final became a battle between the 'David' of unknowns Elaiza and the 'Goliath' of Unheilig, the electronic act led by 'The Count'.  Unheilig have been a massive act in Germany for a few years so I thought it would be a foregone conclusion that they would go to ESC. Oh well....anyway this was my favourite of their two songs in Unser Song für Dänemark, but it was the other one ("Wir Sind Alle Wie Eins") which made the superfinal   One more USFD song will appear later on in the countdown, and no, it isn't "Is It S****"!!

No.23: "High Hopes" - Linnea Dale.

I want to mention four things here: firstly, this song is so cool that it's ice cold.  Secondly, her dress matches my living room curtains and cushions.  Thirdly, I have spent all these years thinking her name is pronounced "Dale" but in fact it is pronounced "Daaaa-le" (Pitbull style!!) And if I might mention one more thing...this song should be compulsive listening for all those criminally out-of-touch people who still have this skewed vision of Eurovision.  In which case you may want to check out a few national finals, like this year's Norwegian one for example, from which this fine song came.

No.22: "Wait On Me" - Rixton.

Perhaps the fate of this song is a perfect indication of the state of British radio/broadcast media, and their reluctance to support a band or artist through the early stages of their career, if they're not one of the playlisted 'chosen ones'.  "Me And My Broken Heart" may have been a massive radio hit, but this was also a goodie.  It cemented their reputation as the UK's no.1 Maroon 5 tribute act maybe, but I was impressed nonetheless.

No.21: "Good Gracious Abbey" - The Madden Brothers.

So what happens when your best emo mate of old goes all civilised and boring?  That's basically the theme of this cracking track from Joel and Benji's latest project, reuniting them with Pharrell Williams (remember their brilliant collaborations on NERD's "Fly Or Die"?) and it's an absolute winner. (audio only as this is an album track)