Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday night blogging! Star Academy 7 news!

Bit of a change this week. Usually I'm not hanging out on the web on Fridays as that's the night I usually hang out with faithful travelling companion. Swapped nights this week though.

Found out that the 7th series of France's "Star Academy" will begin on Friday 26th October 2007 on TF1. This year's contest will pay homage to Gregory Lemarchal, who sadly died on 30.04.07. Through the magic of video the contestants will "virtually duet" with Gregory.

It's all rumours of course at the moment about who will replace Alexia Laroche-Joubert as directrice: according to VSD magazine, Endemol want none other than Raphaelle Ricci (yeah, like that will happen.....!) but the name of Caroline Diament is turning up quite regularly as a possible replacement.

Berlin...10 days to go.

So we got together and compared lists of what we want to do in Berlin. I had 12 things on my list, whilst faithful travelling companion always has to go that bit further and he presented me with 23 items. In 7 days. So I got the calculator out...that's 3.2857 things to do/places to go per day!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Your Loss" our gain

Yet another talented curly haired young man that I want to bring to your attention.

Paul Steel is his name, "Your Loss" is the song, and it's a very very very good uptempo song. His album "Moon Rock" is out in a couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to it.
Been doing a bit of research and it turns out that he is only 20 years old, he is 6ft 4ins tall, and he has been labelled "the new Brian Wilson" which always a lot to live up to. Had a listen to a couple of his songs on his MySpace, they kind of remind me of Supergrass which is always a very good thing indeed.

Some more big-haired blue-eyed loveliness....

Found these on the internet, they were from one of the festivals that Salem played in Sweden earlier this summer. You know by now that I'm totally obsessed and he completely rocks my world ........!

Bow wow wow....

It won't be long till the MTV Europe Music Awards which will take place on 1st November in Munich. News reaches us today that they will be presented by none other than that well-spoken young man Mr Snoop Doggy Dogg. Live performers will include the Foo Fighters and Mika. More news to follow....

So maybe I'm still a love fool

Can't believe it's almost two years since I saw Jamiroquai live: fantastic band. Still think that Jay Kay is a genius and he never got the recognition he and his band deserved. There's not much been happening on the Jamiroquai front since the release of the "High Times" greatest hits CD, but news reaches us of a new live DVD to be released in October 2007 : "Live At Montreux 2003". Whilst I'm pleased to see this, I'm a bit disappointed that there is not yet a DVD of the 2005 "Dynamite Tour". I thought "Dynamite" was and still is a fantastic album, I was listening to "Starchild" and "Dynamite" and "Seven Days In Sunny June" on the way home from work tonight and they still sound so fresh today.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Alejandro Sanz engaged!!

News reaches us that EuropeCrazy's favourite little Spanish hunk has become engaged to his personal assistant, "stunning brunette" Raquel Pereda. Apparently the two have been dating since last year. Congratulations to the happy couple.

But wait...! Alejandro's ex-wife Jaydy Mitchel has also found love. With none other than EuropeCrazy's favourite Mexican hunk, FC Barcelona's Rafael Marquez. Hasn't she got very good taste in men!!!!!

French Charts Update

Things never move too quickly in the French singles chart, so I thought I'd have a few weeks break from doing the update and what happened? It's all change.

A new song by Jean-Jacques Goldman is always a big event in France. "Quatre Mots Sur Un Piano" is billed as a duet with Patrick Fiori, however there is also an uncredited female voice on the track - Christine Ricol. It's a slow meandering ballad which may take a while to grow as I'm not really a ballad fan, but it's also the kind of song that Goldman does so well.

At no.2 in the classement is "Garcon" by a new name to the French music scene, Koxie, which is a kind of rap song with summer novelty appeal.

A real big surprise at no. 6 is none other than the Ukrainian legend that is Verka Serduchka, with the mighty "Dancing Lasha Tumbai"!!!

"On A Change" by Les Deesses is a nice slice of zouk-like soul which is always around in France at this time of year. This summer's big zouk anthem would appear to be "C'est Dans La Joie" by Mokobe.

"Tango Princesse" is a nice change in musical style for Julie Zenatti who I'm not really a fan of, but this is worth a listen and the video's a bit of a circus extravaganza.

"Butterfly" by Superbus was one of my favourite French tracks around the end of 2006, "Lola" is their latest song. Their lead singer Jennifer Ayache sounds a bit like Gwen Stefani, although she has her own striking and individual style. Can't get that "boom boom boom boom boom boom....." hookline out of my head.

Interestingly there are very few British/American acts in the French singles chart at the moment: only Mika, Rihanna and Nelly Furtado figure in the top 20.

Album Review: "Ar" - Snook

Regular readers will know that I'm rather keen on this very talented Swedish rap duo so I thought a review of their last album "Är" was long overdue.

Snook - Oskar Linnros and Daniel Adams-Ray - do hip hop with a melodic twist, and even if you can't understand Swedish then you'll still enjoy many of the tracks here.

"Inga Problem" was of course my introduction to them, and it's still my favourite track - you know how much I love the video as well.

The other singles on this album, "Langst Fråm I Taxin" and "Kommer Ifrån" also stand out, the latter musically being a distant relative of the Black Eyed Peas' "Where Is The Love".

Where Snook stand out is their musical arrangements, they don't just rely on the usual boring samples which characterise many rap songs. Snook's ace card is (or should I now say was, now that he is a solo legend) none other than this blog's favourite all-round musical genius Salem Al Fakir, who played the usual variety of instruments and provided backing vocals on this album, he was also a member of Snook's band on their tours of Sweden and Norway. "Bejbi", one of the album's slower tracks (which reminds me of an Orup song, for some strange reason (!), has Salem singing backing vocals! In Swedish! And it sounds lovely. (sighs :-)))))

Anyway now that I've calmed down I'd also like to say that "Jag Gor Min Grej" with its brassy hookline is another favourite of mine at the minute.

I think it's great they've decided to rap in Swedish rather than English, although being rap there's a few recognisable "choice" phrases along the way.

Been playing this album a lot and would recommend it. Oh and did I mention that they're rather cute too? (especially Daniel Adams-Ray!!). This blog is getting more shallow by the day.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Reasons to love Sweden part 295: Lena + Orup

Lena Philipsson and Orup on the same bill at Stockholm's China Teatern: how good is that! The twosome are back together on stage for another season of live extravaganzas starting at the end of September.

The EuropeCrazy Holiday Hit List: Summer 2003

A magic and memorable summer holiday which established Nice as my most favourite place. An equally memorable playlist too...
The cheeky "Papi Chulo" by Lorna was the song of the holiday: it’s totally outrageous and could only ever be a holiday hit!
France’s biggest hit of that summer was "Laisse Parler Les Gens" by Labylle, Devereux and Passi: summer is always time for zouk in France, and this was the 2003 vintage.
"DJ" was the breakthrough hit for Diam’s, who has become France’s best selling female rap artist and most recently cleaned up at the last NRJ Music Awards.
"The Magic Key" by One-T and Cool-T was another massive rap hit and one which I played for a long time afterwards.
Willy Denzey was another French r’n’b artist from that year: "Le Mur du Son" was a big hit in 2003.
Biggest English-language hit of the holiday was undoubtedly "Breathe" by Blu Cantrell.
It wouldn’t be a holiday in France without Marc Lavoine and this time "Dis Moi Que L’Amour" got lots of airplay.
Finally, Placebo have always been massively successful in France and "The Bitter End" was yet another in a long line of huge hits for them.

The EuropeCrazy Holiday Hit List: Spring 2003

Retour a Paris.
"Ma Liberte de Penser" by Florent Pagny was played non-stop on the radio, right from the off, and wouldn’t go away.
By that time Jenifer was also well-established and her nice ballad "Donne-Moi Le Temps" was also a radio favourite.
Chimene Badi had originally auditioned for Popstars, but didn’t get in the band because she ‘dodn’t look the part’. What they neglected to mention was that she had a fantastic voice which would inevitably get noticed. Chimene had the last laugh: she became a massive star and "Entre Nous" was her debut hit.
France’s obsession with Madonna meant that "American Life" was on about 83 times an hour.
Make Luv - Room 5: theme tune to "Nice People" which was like a multinational Big Brother.
Sur La Route - Jean-Louis Aubert & Raphael. Think this might have been the first time that Raphael came to the French public’s attention. He soon became a superstar with "Caravane".

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dance X: we have a winner

Last night saw the final of "Dance X". Unfortunately this series has not been successful in the ratings (and that was even before the return of X Factor last week). IMHO, they should have kept it to a dance contest rather than trying to find a dancing/singing group, as on many occasions throughout the series both groups were a bit ropey vocally.

Both teams started the final with two group numbers "Don't Stop Me Now" and "Dancing In The Street". It wasn't long before Arlene was into panto-baddie mode and it wasn't long till Bruno was taunting her. Oh come on....this rivalry fooled no-one.

Team Arlene gave us "Great Balls of Fire", although it was a little slow, even if Daniel redeemed it as usual with one of his breakdance moments.

"Black Or White" - Team Bruno: this was more assured and lively and the choreography suited the music...but "granny Phillips" didn't think so, accusing the 3 girls of being out of step with each other.

"Toxic" - Team Arlene: a more contemporary tone this time and I thought the vocals were quite good...but Bruno didn't.

"I Can't Get No Satisfaction" - Team Bruno: the thing about Team Bruno is that they would be perfect if they didn't have out-of-place Claire. Marcquelle and Phoenix are good and Marie and Rana are very striking.

The thing is though, I still don't see a recording act among either team.

"Rhythm of Life" - Team Arlene: great showstopping theatrical routine from earlier in the series. Both old school and contemporary in one.

"Land of 1000 Dances" - Team Bruno: crowd-pleasing foot-tapper.

By this time I was sat firmly on the fence and didn't know who I liked best!

In "Pop Idol" style, both groups performed their version of the winners' single "Dancing In Repeat" (rubbish title), which they have both recorded and also filmed the video for, so it should be rush-released very soon. Still couldn't make up my mind.

And so to the result. The winners of Dance X were ......TEAM BRUNO!
I wasn't too bothered who would win anyway, Team Arlene were initially my favourites but when Ife went out and Camilla stayed in I wasn't happy, and Bruno's team made good progress over the weeks so congratulations to them, they'll have their 5 minutes of fame and their support slot on the Rihanna tour. As for Team Arlene - maybe someone will give them a deal as well?

Happy birthday "Dance Anthems"!

Hard to believe but Dave Pearce's "Dance Anthems", broadcast on BBC Radio 1 in the UK, is 10 years old today.

Every Sunday night, right after the "Top 40" Dave plays lots of great dance tracks both old and new, and this has been essential listening for me over the last 10 years and hopefully it will go on for another 10 years..... :-)))

Recent Retro: Downtown's been caught by the hysteria

I will always love Alcazar, therefore it wouldn't be Recent Retro without "Crying At The Discotheque":

This was of course from the pre-Magnus days, but you will nevertheless enjoy Andreas, Annikafiore and Tess in silver lame: a completely bonkers video with (of course) an appearance by the legend that is Alexander Bard.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

This week's playlist: I ain't got a motorboat but I could float your boat

The Way I Are - Timbaland: I went from not liking this much to playing it more than any other song this week.
It’s Only You/It’s True/Good Song/Dream Girl/This Is Who I Am - Salem Al Fakir: Fantastic songs. Nothing more to say. I have completely lost my heart to this man, who right now is my favourite singer in the whole wide world! :-)))
Japanese Man - Salem Al Fakir (YouTube video, live - Parksommar): maximum audience participation, and first look at Salem’s reinvention as rock star.
Jag Gor Min Grej/Kommer Ifrån - Snook: What, no ‘Inga Problem’ this week? (Thought I’d give it a rest) anyway still loving their album!
Stronger - Kanye West: His choice of samples always lift his rap out of the ordinary: last time Shirley Bassey, this time Daft Punk!
Suburban Knights - Hard-Fi: Effortless singalong guitar pop which shows up a lot of inferior competitors for what they are.
Worried About Ray - The Hoosiers: I’m seriously worried about...why this song has eaten its way into my brain.
Ole Black & Blue Eyes - The Fratellis: nice.
Painted by Numbers - The Sounds: something Swedish which I missed out on, but it’s on The Box’s playlist ( so what better time to try it out.

Recent Retro: Jenifer

Still arguably everyone's first and favourite Star Academy winner, this always reminds me of my 2002 holiday in Biarritz and it inevitably does what it says on the tin.

Recent Retro: Kyo

If I've got the date right, I think Kyo's main man Benoit Poher was due to get married today, so let's celebrate with "Le Chemin"

Whilst I was in holiday in Nice a couple of years ago I almost had the opportunity to see them playing live in the local Virgin Megastore but managed to miss this :-(((

"Je Cours" was another song of theirs I liked a lot:

Recent Retro: M Pokora

It's Saturday night at EuropeCrazy and time for a new feature. Goodbye 80s night....hello Recent Retro!!!

Yes I've decided to go back in time .... but not too far back, to the more recent past.

We begin with M Pokora's "Elle Me Controle"

He is known as France's answer to Justin Timberlake, the main similarity being that he started off life in a boyband, in this case Linkup - winners of the French version of "Popstars - The Rivals". Find "Mon Etoile" here:

Even though Lionel Tim was the one with the best singing voice of the three, it was inevitable that Matt Pokora would become the star. Whatever happened to Otis though?

Mando Diao releasing a new album in October

Aftonbladet reports that one of Sweden's hottest rock bands of late, Mando Diao, will release their long awaited new album "Never Seen The Light Of Day" on 24th October.

You don't have to wait that long to hear the first single from the album, which is snappily titled "If I Don't Live Today, Then I Might Be Here Tomorrow": it's out on 24th September.

Friday, August 24, 2007

He'll do his best to bring you up again

Been feeling a bit low and subdued (no particular reason) over the past couple of days so sought the perfect remedy last night...yes, I watched the video of Salem Al Fakir's "Good Song" once again which cheered me up, then I watched the video of "Dream Girl" which had me drooling, then the video of "This Is Who I Am" by which time I was laughing at all the crazy outfits he was wearing, then the "Grattis Victoria" performance of "It's True"/"Dream Girl" and by that time I was completely cured.

It is of course all quiet on the Salem front in Sweden at the moment, but you can never say the same for this blog!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pre-holiday weight-watching update...

OK so I've been on this diet for a while now but have recently had a spectacular fall off the weight-loss wagon: combination of bad fall = knee injuries = loss of motivation etc etc. Now starting to panic and needing to get in shape for Berlin!!

Believe it or not I'm actually doing this blog entry in my lunch hour at work!

Berlin...18 days to go.

Getting really excited now about our trip to Berlin. Travelling companion and myself did a bit of research last night and the biggest problem is going to be how to fit in all the attractions in this big city. Now we're not really "museum people" but in this instance, given the city's colourful history, it would be wrong not to visit Checkpoint Charlie, the Story of Berlin and the GDR Museum! Got some list-making to do this weekend of all the places we want to visit.

Moneybrother new CD out today...

"Mount Pleasure" is its name, and I rushed over to to hear the track samples only to find a problem with the link, this page cannot be displayed blah blah blah. Can't be bothered trying to find it anywhere else tonight as it's almost 00:30 and past my bedtime already.

Tomorrow is another day and hopefully I'll have a chance to hear it then.

EDIT (24.08.07): still no joy, it's not on iTunes yet and CDON download link still not working. Managed to read reviews of it on Aftonbladet/Expressen/Dagens Nyheter and they are all very positive. Which makes me want to hear it even more!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hall of Fame: The Tomas Ledin Playlist

Ooh this month is flying by and it will soon be time for the next artiste(s) to be revealed for our EuropeCrazy Hall of Fame.

But in the meantime I haven't forgotten our Artist of the Month - Tomas Ledin, so here are 15 songs which I recommend you have a listen to if you're not familiar with his music.

Just Nu - perhaps his best known song outside Sweden thanks to his participation at the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest. IMHO this song was too good for the contest anyway!
Not Bad At All - the first time I heard him sing in English, this is disco-tastic.
Mademoiselle - short and sweet mid-70s pop song which is very catchy.
En Del Av Mitt Hjärta: the song that resurrected his career.
En Vind Av Längtan: 11 minute epic from the "Sanger Att Alska Till" compilation, building, brooding and wonderful.
Bla Bla Känslor: Another one from that album, this is a re-recording of one of his earlier songs and IMHO is a much improved version.
Helt Galen I Dig: One of the crowd-pleasing guitar anthems which he seems to have specialised in, over recent years.
Sommaren Är Kort: this is not so much a song, more an alternative Swedish national anthem.
En For Att Sova: From the otherwise patchy 'jazz album', this is an easy going jazz-soft-rock song (not sure how to categorise!)
Festen Har Börjat: If Carlos Santana was Swedish he'd have made records like this in the early 70s.
Vi Ar Pa Gång: Made this list only for the reason it was the official Swedish World Cup football song from 2006.
Det Ligger I Luften: One of the songs which he did in Melodifestivalen but didn't win.
Take Good Care Of Your Children: this was covered by Agnetha from Abba don't you know!
Det Blir Inte Alltid Som Man Har Tankt Sig: very nice song from "Djavulen Och Angeln" with a sweet acoustic vibe.
Sanger Att Alska Till: almost Latin-jazzy in its approach, and still sounds very fresh today.

There are many more songs I could have added to this list!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Prison Break season 3!

Just seen the trailer for the 3rd season of "Prison Break" - one thing's for sure, this Panamanian prison (Sona) is going to make Fox River look like a holiday camp.

Season 3 will launch in the US on 17.09.07 and the good news for those of us in the UK who have Sky TV is that we'll see it just one week later.

In the meantime I'm working my way through season 1 which, IMHO, is way better than season 2.

Whoa-oh-whoa-oh....You need a Japanese man!!!

Today's bulletin from Planet Salem: That new song "Japanese Man" is finally on YouTube. Someone has very nicely took the time and trouble to post this performance from the Way Out West Festival in Gothenburg the other week. It certainly rocks, but then he goes into a bit of audience participation where he gets one half of the audience to sing the "whoa-oh-whoa-oh" bit and the other half to sing "you need a Japanese man", and the whole thing gets a bit "Allsång pa Skansen" if you know what I mean!! Hmmmm......

Talking of Skansen, there is another clip of him doing a song there at his Parksommar show and it seems to condense the whole Salem live experience into 65 seconds: he runs up and down the stage, runs off the stage into the audience and then runs back on and starts singing something which I don't recognise but has a kind a of James Brown/Prince-ish groove to it.

Phase 2 of Salem Al Fakir's brilliant career would appear to be underway.

Monday, August 20, 2007

It's Official - Salem to launch in the UK!

Not only has the release of "It's True" been confirmed as the follow-up to Axwell's current house-tastic smash "I Found U", (although there's no news of the actual release date) but today I have just learned the great news that Salem Al Fakir is finally to be launched in the UK!!!!!

At there is an interview with Salem which would appear to be posted on 16.08.07 in which he states that (thanks to those lovely translation sites which I can't live without) he is speculating on a new hairdo when he launches in England; referring to the fact that he has the same hairdo as Mika! In the same interview he says that he will see how it goes with the launch in England and he hopes to release a new album as some of the material on his first album is now four years old. Yay, yay and yaaaaaaayyyyyyy! Again, this will probably be next year: I'm counting the days already!!!!

We have also borrowed that website's picture of Salem, in which he is demonstrating that tied-back-hair look which we don't really like but it's his hair so I suppose he can do what he wants with it!!!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

16 days to go till the return of Idol!

Seems no time since Sweden chose its last Idol-winner but as late summer approaches it will soon be time for another series and we can't wait!

This week's playlist.

It's Only You/Dream Girl/Good Song/It's True/Tell Me/This Is Who I Am - Salem Al Fakir: that must be love, no doubt.
The Girls - Calvin Harris: Now a big Friday night favourite at EuropeCrazy HQ with me and my faithful travelling companion.
Green Light - Beyonce: original version mind, not the dancey remix one.
Let It Rain - BWO: just a great pop song.
Love Is Gone - David Guetta: the Guetta formula never fails these days. Cracking dance tune and funny video.
Inga Problem - Snook: didn't expect this one then, did you!!
With Every Heartbeat - Robyn: I got into this one later than most of my fellow bloggers and it's really grown on me.

Retro Saturday: Curiosity Killed The Cat

I didn't want to like them - I didn't see the attraction of Ben Double-Barrelled-Surname, I hated their image, (maybe not as much as Haircut One Hundred) but still...."Down To Earth" is an utterly brilliant pop record, the kind of which you will never tire of.

Retro Saturday: Roachford

It's 80s night but not strictly speaking an 80s act as this underrated and talented singer - full name Andrew Roachford - continued to have minor hits in the UK throughout the 90s as well, but he first came to prominence in 1988 with the brilliant "Cuddly Toy" which still sounds great almost 20 years after it was released.

80s night: Spagna

Big-haired Italian pop goddess, full name Ivana Spagna, who conquered the charts across Europe with "Call Me" 20 years ago. "Every Girl and Boy" was also a big favourite of mine. Did some research and found out that she's still making records in her native language in her home country.

80s night: The Teardrop Explodes

Where were you when you first heard "Reward"? I was sitting at home on my sofa one Saturday afternoon early in 1981 when I heard it on BBC Radio 1 and immediately was blown away. I wanted to know everything about this band and hear every record they'd ever made, so promptly went out and bought the "Kilimanjaro" album and all their previous singles. Immediately fell in love with Julian Cope after seeing him on "Top of The Pops" dressed in his flying jacket (!) Spent 1981 and the early part of 1982 as obsessive Teardrops fan, whilst realising that Mr Cope was, er, a "complex character" with self-destructive musical tendencies. This meant that the Teardrops would have a limited shelf-life: after the underrated "Wilder" album there was only a 12" EP and not much more. Following a solo career Julian Cope turned his attention to archaeology and prehistoric monuments: a genuine eccentric whom we celebrate this evening.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

80s night: ABC

Yes Saturday night is 80s night at EuropeCrazy and we kick off with the fantastic ABC, whose blend of classic pop songs mixed with Trevor Horn's fantastic big-screen production is just timeless.

"Poison Arrow" will always be my favourite ABC song: the video has Martin Fry in trademark gold lamé suit, and just the right amount of drama. "The Lexicon of Love" was a fantastic debut album but it could never be equalled, and inevitably that would lead to their downfall. Martin Fry was a clever lyricist and an underrated genius from that decade: so that's why we've chosen to celebrate him and his music tonight.

Salem's in Malmo tonight and I wish I was there!!

We would be failing in our duty as the UK's no.1 Salem Al Fakir fansite if we didn't mention that he's playing the main stage at Malmofestivalen right this minute. Wishing that I had the power of Hiro Nakamura from "Heroes" and could teleport myself there right now, but in the meantime have just had to settle for a trip to YouTube and another viewing of his "Allsång pa Skansen" performance of "Good Song": as if you need reminding why I completely love this man, then this is a good place to start.

DanceX: the end is nigh

Not that we at EuropeCrazy would dare to suggest "fix" but both Team Arlene and Team Bruno go into next week's final with 5 members left in both groups.

Drama during the week: Phoenix walks out! Phoenix comes back!
This week's theme was Disco. Team Bruno kicked off tonight with a dance routine to "Canned Heat" which was good, but Arlene thought the footwork was messy and we thought....Claire must go. No change there then.

Arlene's team went for a more traditional 70s approach to "Shake Your Groove Thing"... which Bruno proceeded to pick holes in.

Next for Team Bruno was "I'm Coming Out". Noted improvement here, they are closing on Team Arlene although, do not be surprised here, Claire is Arlene even liked it though.

She responded with "Car Wash", which was a good solid performance.

Finally, Bruno's team gave us "Le Freak" which was again another good performance, although the vocals on both teams still fall short of perfect. Why could they not have made it just a dance contest?

Arlene's team finished off with "We Are Family", liked the outfits and another good performance.

On the whole, tonight was too close to call but we thought from the beginning that Arlene's team would lose yet another member in order to even up the numbers, and we thought without doubt it would be Camilla, who should have gone last week. As it happened, Team Bruno won the viewers vote, leaving Arlene with the big decision of who to drop.

Camilla saved first - why? We can understand why Daniel survives, as he's a great dancer, and Chelsey is tall, striking and pretty, but what does she see in Emanuel - he's not that great.

Bottom 2: Ashley versus Kalvin, and the result was therefore in no doubt... Kalvin goes home, leaving Arlene's team of three girls and two boys versus...Bruno's team of three girls and two boys. Hmm.

Final next week!

Friday, August 17, 2007

10 things to love about....Cologne

It’s almost a year now since we visited this lovely and lively German city, so time to take a look back at some of the things which made it so special...

1. A great hotel
Hotel Allegro is a hidden little gem on the banks of the Rhine, just a few minutes’ stroll along the riverbank from the foot of the Altstadt (old town). A small and friendly hotel with helpful staff and a very nice breakfast buffet.

2. An old town
The Altstadt is where it all happens. Packed with bar after bar after bar and a very cheery atmosphere - you’re bound to end up here every night.

3. Going to the zoo, zoo, zoo
Set aside a day for a trip to Cologne Zoo - it’s massive and well worth a visit. Baboon island and the elephant house are major attractions here, but our particular favourites were the llamas, bison, giraffes and lemurs.

4. Tram-tastic!
Use the trams (S-bahn) which in stereotypical German style are very efficient and will get you all over the city and beyond.

5. Food glorious food
Everything from old German favourites like currywurst and local speciality "himmel & äd" to most types of international cuisine - you’ll find it here. Again lots of eateries around the Altstadt, and special mention also to the Maredo which specialises in South American food, and although it’s a chain of restaurants it’s very high quality.

6. Beer, anyone?
Or more precisely Kolsch! It’s the local beer and even if you don’t like beer you will inevitably succumb to this light and drinkable local brew, made by a variety of local breweries.

7. Shop till you drop
Cologne has an extensive shopping centre, much of it is pedestrianised and there’s a massive selection of shops here, everything from discount to designer. Saturn is the place to find CDs and DVDs for your must-have German music purchases, it’s on the top floor of Galerie Kaufhof. There is also a branch of Expo, that irresistible shop for cow fanatics!

8. The Rhine
You can’t go to Cologne without taking a boat trip on the Rhine. There’s lots to choose from and if you want to go further afield there are full-day cruises in high season.

9. The Cathedral and two great museums
It’s the first thing you see when you come out of the railway station, and its spires are a stunning sight. Also even if you're not a fan of museums you'll enjoy the Chocolate Museum and Olympic & Sports Museum.

10. Joie de vivre
Cologne’s inhabitants know how to enjoy themselves. There is a sense of fun in this city and you can feel it. I mean, what other city sticks an ice cream cone on top of a shopping mall??
If you are visiting Germany for the first time, I’d recommend that you visit Cologne. It’s clean, scenic and friendly. What more could you want from a city?

Oh and while we're on the subject...

Been over to Snook's official site (well I would, wouldn't I!) to discover loads of photos from their gigs in 2006 in Sweden and Norway when Salem was playing keyboards with them on their tour.

Can I just say that the tied-back-hair and hilarious attempt to grow a 'beard' is so not a good look, and don't even start me on the flat cap. :-(((

Thankfully all that is in the past and he was soon back to his big-haired loveliness!! (However the idea of the Snook boys and Salem on the one stage is almost too much to think about....!)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Time for another member of the Al Fakir family.....

Did you think I could stay in Salem-Rehab? Yes, just like Amy Winehouse I've had enough of rehab so I'm back to the good old world wide web where everyday there are new delights to discover: tonight I came across a Svenska Dagbladet article from January where Salem interviewed his big brother Nassim!

Nassim is a presenter on children's TV in Sweden and being a member of the Al Fakir family he is inevitably multi-talented: he plays drums and percussion and he, along with Salem, was a member of the jazz-Arabic folk combo Fakir Karlsson. A fascinating interview in which the brothers discussed everything from Swedish-Arab identity to kebabs to big hair! (Yes, Nassim also has big hair, although he is nowhere near as delightful as Salem).

Can't understand why he has all those daft YouTube videos though. There is one of him miming and dancing around to Rihanna's "Umbrella" which still has me wondering why.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Suddenly I see your face and realise

Now that I am allegedly in Salem-rehab and trying not to listen to his album or watch his videos every day....WELL IT'S NOT WORKING.

Tonight I found a clip which someone had very kindly posted of him singing "Dream Girl" from his Gamleby Folkpark gig on 28.07.07. Despite it being the usual wobbly mobile phone video, the sound is brilliant and his singing just gets better and better.

Worst thing about it: it's only 86 seconds long, but every second of it is marvellous.

New albums coming soon: Hives, HIM and José

Some news on new album releases for the autumn of 2007. The Hives' new album will be called "The Black and White Album" and very interestingly they have enlisted Timbaland and Pharrell Williams amongst other producers. Now that should be an interesting collaboration.

The latest album by HIM, "Venus Doom" is out on 17.09.07 and a much darker sound is forecast. It's said to be heavier, with long songs and no keyboards.

Finally, Swedish acoustic maestro José González will release the follow-up to his hugely successful "Veneer" in September. The title of the new album is "In Our Nature". Looking forward to this as I particularly enjoyed his work on Zero 7's last album "The Garden".

No, no, no?

OK so tonight I heard the new Girls Aloud single for the first time. Verdict: yes, yes, yes. It's got that nice kind of electro-pop vibe going on, it starts off very well indeed and even if it runs out of steam towards the end, it's still a rather mighty fine pop record and maybe that's the reason that they are the guiltiest of guilty pleasures.

Monday, August 13, 2007

This week's playlist: life will (still) smile for you

It's True/This Is Who I Am/It's Only You/Dream Girl/Good Song/Tell Me - Salem Al Fakir: this week in order of preference, although I love them all!
Inga Problem/Snook, Svett Och Tarar/Kommer Ifran - Snook: Am loving this duo more with every week. Sweden's coolest (and cutest) rap duo. (especially Daniel Adams-Ray...!)
Selfish Jean - Travis: Nice uptempo song, they are in fine form here. Brilliant lyrics too: "You keep your chocolate biscuits/wired to a car alarm".
Let It Rain - BWO: Pop perfection, nothing more, nothing less.
It's Been Hurting All The Way With You, Joanna/Reconsider Me/Blow Him Back Into My Arms - Moneybrother: New album on the way, but in the meantime I'm getting acquainted with his old stuff. Great!
Ready, Set, Go! - Tokio Hotel: 4 weeks till I go to Germany - might be some Tokio Hotel-type purchases on the cards....
Because of You - Ne-Yo: having a revival of this one at the moment. One of the year's best r'n'b songs.
Work Of Art (Da Vinci)/Please Me - Mans Zelmerlow: he just won't go away. Not that we want him to of course.
The Way I Are - Timbaland: resisted this for a while but now I give in and it has now eaten its way into my brain.
Last Party - Fibes, Oh Fibes!: They're from Gothenburg and make nice mature pop-soul of which this is a fine example.
Suburban Knights - Hard-Fi: They're back! We love them! One of the UK's better guitar bands of the last couple of years. Another hey-hey-hey singalong anthem which is a real grower.
My Interpretation/Grace Kelly - Mika: Why is he such an easy target for the critics? Do they not know talent when they hear it?
Young Folks - Peter Bjorn and John: Swedish combo who are now getting a lot of recognition particularly in the USA. Catchy spacious foot-tapper, very Magic Numbers-ish and with that very catchy whistling hookline.

The Triumph of Swedish Pop: Robyn's number one

So "With Every Heartbeat" has finally reached the top of the UK charts. OK so it's been around for ever, but not that it matters because A SWEDISH SINGER IS NUMBER ONE and that is more than good enough for us.

We couldn't do no wrong

There is pop greatness, and there is Swedish pop greatness.

Welcome back BWO. "Let It Rain" is a little pop diamond, twinkling brighter than anything else I've heard in a long time.

The cruise ship-set video is suitably surreal (flying lobsters!!!) and they continue to have the most unusual and unique image. Oh and Martin looks quite sweet in the video.

If you don't eventually love this song then there's no hope for you.

Gratuitous Snook picture of the day

For no reason other than we rather love Oskar "Kihlen" Linnros and Daniel "Danne" Adams-Ray, we present our gratuitous Snook picture of the day. Yes I like their clever Swedish interpretation of rap music, of course, but the fact that they are also two very nice looking young men helps immensely....the "Inga Problem" video is now a nightly occurrence at EuropeCrazy HQ. Yes!!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Salem...Jag älskar dig!

Thinking of opening my very own rehab clinic and admitting myself for serious addiction to Salem Al Fakir. I have now been a Salem fan for precisely one month and there is no sign of this obsession going away. I have played his "This Is Who I Am" album almost every day for the past month, can't let a day pass without watching one of his videos (although sadly many of them are no longer online) and frequenting the Swedish media to feed my appetite for information.

I really have got it bad. His music is so wonderful, melodic, beautifully structured and has a completely genuine quality. He sings with heart and soul. As a live performer he is full of energy and enthusiasm and has a lively, bubbly personality which always comes across. His songs are full of happiness - the total opposite to the 'dreary-pop' which is spreading like a disease. And yes, I am completely in love with him!!
I realise however that things are now slowing down on the Salem front, his summer tour is over, he played 'Way Out West' last Friday and has only one more show next Saturday (18.08.07) when he'll play Malmo Festivalen, and then no more gigs until 28.09.07 at Vara Konserthus, and that would appear to be it for this year. What will 2008 bring? (We'll settle for a new album and world domination, thank you).

We at EuropeCrazy will continue to follow Salem's career and will continue to campaign to get his great music heard outwith Sweden. Surely it will only be a matter of time till that happens! In the meantime we will continue to be the UK's no.1 unofficial source for news, information and general obsession about Sweden's brightest new musical talent.

EuropeCrazy declares war on Dreary-Pop!

Strange as it may seem, there once was a time when I used to like Snow Patrol. However, thanks to British radio's obsessive overplaying of "Chasing Cars", I've decided that they are now part of a menace that must be stopped.

"Chasing Cars" is the national anthem of the Republic of Dreary-Pop; it's backing music for every reality TV show sob story, and songs like this inevitably turn up on those "Feelgood Album" compilations when they want something "emotional". (See also "How To Save A Life" by The Fray). Emotional my a**e. The only emotion I feel when I hear these songs is to throw the radio out of the window, only to decide that would be the waste of a good radio.

James Blunt meanwhile also had a lot to answer for: we are now being flooded with one dreary singer-songwriter after another, the latest being Newton Faulkner, who is like a stick of rock with 'dreary' written throughout. There are some good singer-songwriters out there who never get the recognition they deserve - Gavin Degraw and Ross Copperman to name two. Presumably they are not dreary enough.


Still listening to this nice, likeable, talented Swedish duo. "Inga Problem" will inevitably end up in my top 10 songs of this year, but "Snook Svett Och Tårar" and "Kommer Ifrån" are also very good and the videos are over at YouTube, which I would encourage you to watch but only after several viewings of the great video for "Inga Problem". (Nothing to do of course with those brief sightings of a certain favourite Swedish singer of ours in all his big-haired loveliness). :-))))

80s night: Etienne Daho

A French music legend whose career began in the early 80s and continues today, but as it's les années 80 night then I must mention "Comme Un Igloo", the video of which is a cheeky, funny 60s parody, whilst "Tombe Pour La France" has a very early 80s look and sound.

At some point I will do more stuff on this blog about Etienne as he was always my favourite French male singer.

80s night: Jakie Quartz

This reminds me of the first time I ever saw MTV Europe in its early days, when they actually showed videos by European artists. "A La Vie, A L'Amour" was a great uptempo synth-pop tune from 1987 which I loved at the time. Looking at the video and listening to the song now, it's got Mylene Farmer written all over it - but if you're going to be influenced by anything, then that's a good place to start.

Retro Saturday: Robbie Nevil

"C'est La Vie" may have been his breakthrough hit, but I never really liked that song. "Dominoes" was a different story, and since I rediscovered it I've been playing it a lot lately. The video is, again, a bit dated and looks like a Meat Loaf video (!) all big hair and epic settings, but the song is great. Nevil subsequently gave up his solo career to concentrate on songwriting, most recently on the soundtrack to that teen phenomenon "High School Musical" which includes three of his songs.

Retro Saturday: Living In A Box

Going back 20 years to another underrated pop band of the day: Living In A Box were fronted by Richard Darbyshire whose voice I really rated at the time. Oh, and I thought he looked really good in a suit, which also helped. They made some cracking records and some years later I bought their "Best Of" album. As ever, you'll find a good selection of their videos over at YouTube.

Retro Saturday: Scritti Politti

FACT: In the 1980s, Green Gartside was the most beautiful man on the planet.

Green was, and still is, the main man behind Scritti Politti, and is one of the most underrated pop geniuses of the last 25 years.

So tonight I've decided to wander over to YouTube and rediscover the videos of "Perfect Way", "Absolute", "Wood Beez", "Hypnotize", "First Boy In This Town" and "Oh Patti", all of which are admittedly 'of their time' but the music is impeccable. My favourite Scritti album is not the obvious "Cupid & Psyche 85" but "Provision" which I still play on a regular basis, and which has some of the most intelligent pop lyrics and stunning production of that decade.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Saw the Simpsons Movie today.

Spider Pig,
Spider Pig,
Does whatever a Spider Pig does
Can he swing from a web?
No he can't, he's a pig
Look out! He is the Spider Pig.

Would recommend this movie: even if you have never seen an episode of The Simpsons, you will enjoy this.

DanceX: the curse of the straighteners....

Another week on "DanceX" with Bruno becoming increasingly anxious about the possibility of his already depleted team losing yet another member! You know by now that we at EuropeCrazy think that Team Arlene is the best, however once more they were vocally suspect on a messy "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" whilst Bruno's team were holding their own on "Moon Dance"; Arlene's team managed to pull off the vocal performance of the night on "Rhythm of Life", even though we feel that the song choices in general still leave a lot to be desired.
Anyway the time came to announce the result of the public vote. This time Bruno and his team were triumphant, leaving Arlene to choose her bottom two. Inevitably she selected her favourites: Chelsey (good), Daniel (my body-popping fave), Kalvin (dry your eyes mate) and Ashley (presumably the singer of the group), and inevitably Emanuel (!) leaving Camilla and Ife in the bottom two. I never really saw the point of Camilla - if you need one pretty blonde in the group then Chelsey will do. As for Ife, we've liked her since day one, but something happened this week which inevitably jeopardised her chances.
She. Straightened. Her. Hair.
Just as the "curse of the leaflets" had doomed Daniele last week, so the "curse of the straighteners" may have led to Ife's downfall. It's just a suggestion, as I can't think of any other reason why this distinctive young lady was cut in favour of the rather anonymous Camilla.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tokio Hotel sighting...

Was watching the B4 music video channel today and what should I see but Tokio Hotel's "Ready Set Go!" video. Very good too. Bill Kaulitz has an amazing image, and we at EuropeCrazy love him because he wears even more eyeliner than I do, and he gets away with it. This record should be massive.

Go west!

I am not Swedish, but I always feel that this blog has some kind of unofficial honorary Swedish nationality about it these days. Therefore it is my duty to report that the Way Out West festival is taking place today and tomorrow in Gothenburg, at the rather wonderful Slottskogen park which we visited back in 1996 on our first visit to Sweden. It's a new festival and the line-up is very impressive - it includes The Ark, The Hives, Laakso, Moneybrother, Timo Raisanen and .....yes! Salem Al Fakir. The great man was due on stage at 3pm this afternoon - we think that's too early. If we were having a festival then he would be top of the bill!! Anyway I managed to get some pictures (thanks to the wonderful people who took these pictures and posted them on the internet!)

Subsequently checked out for a review, which was rather negative. Do we sense a backlash from the Swedish media?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Moneybrother news: album coming soon

Can't get enough of Anders Wendin's dramatic, dirty, pop-rock epics at the moment. Even better news is that his latest album, "Mount Pleasure" will be released in just two weeks' time. It includes the ridiculously catchy "Just Another Summer" and although I haven't heard any other tracks as yet, you just know that it will be full of ...more dramatic, dirty, pop-rock epics. And why not.

Is blogging taking over your life? Discuss.

Have decided that I am prone to some addictive behaviour, the biggest of which is my obsession with blogging - about all my other obsessions of course. Not wishing to darken the mood, but there have been some dark times during this summer. Everyone finds their own way to get through those dark times, and my way was to keep doing this blog, and by enjoying the other great blogs out there. This week has also personally been rather tough due to a death in the family, but on the other hand something like this is always a timely reminder of your own mortality and why you should keep on squeezing the sponge of life and making the most of every drop.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I told some people, now they know it.

Today's bulletin from Planet Salem: tonight saw the end of the Parksommar tour which finished on the Solliden stage at Skansen in Stockholm. Will keep checking all my Swedish sources to see if there are any reviews.

Came across another TV appearance. It looks as if it was added in August 2007 but I think it may have been from earlier this year on SVT's "Gomorron Sverige" at then it's 12 minutes into this video when you'll find him and his piano and (shorter) hair (curls still there though - hooray!) It's a nice, subdued and chilled out version of "It's True" with some screaming falsetto in the middle! There is also a short interview at the end and even if you don't understand Swedish it is clear that his ability to charm middle-aged female breakfast TV presenters is already in no doubt. He is just soooooo sweet, even at that time of day (6.55 am). But there are still no excuses for that cardigan!!!

Edit (11.08.07): it looks as if this has been removed from SVT's site :-(((

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

This is who he is....

After much research I finally found a Swedish to English translation site which came in handy because I wanted to find out more about EuropeCrazy’s most favourite singer are 10 things you need to know about Salem Al Fakir!

1. Musical genius: started playing piano at 2 years old and violin at 4 years old. Is said to play as many as 20 musical instruments. Toured Russia as solo violinist at 14 years old. Began writing music as a child but has only been writing lyrics for three years. Prefers writing in English to Swedish.

Above: Salem creating more musical magic.
2. Home-boy: he recorded his debut album in his own bedroom recording studio and played all musical instruments on it with a little help from brother Sami.

3. Va va vroom: loves cars, drives a white BMW. His dad is a car mechanic.

4. Position of "Dream Girl" still vacant: can I apply for it? All that time being a musical genius and obsessive workaholic hasn’t left him time for a serious relationship in 7 years. Awww. I’m sure there would be no shortage of offers. He may not be conventionally good-looking but there's just something about him that this blogger finds irresistible.

5. What musical influences?: he claims not to have listened to any music but his own, however recently has developed enthusiasm for 80s punk, and he wants to start making rock music. (!)

6. Favourite tunes: his favourite songs which he has written are "It’s True" and "This Is Who I Am".

7. We are family: Salem is the third youngest of six children, his siblings are all accomplished classical and jazz musicians. His brother Nassim is also a children’s TV presenter on SVT. Salem is very close to his parents and siblings.

8. Future plans: Has set up own publishing company. Says he had lots of material for his first album and he’s already working on his second album. Yay!!!!!

Above: Salem doing it live in a nice red suit.

9. Live legend: already the usually hard to please Swedish print media are acclaiming his live performances. A charismatic, lively and engaging performer who is not averse to headbanging and dancing around whilst playing keyboards on stage.

Above: Big blue eyes, big hair, shirt and tie. What's not to love?

10. Hair!!!!!: Salem recently said in a press interview that he wanted to cut his hair and grow up. Oh no you don’t. I will not allow it. Not when you have that hair. That messy curly hair which I just want to run my fingers through and....anyway just don’t cut it. That’s an order. There are not enough cute curly haired men in this world so we should celebrate every one of them. (see also Lee Mead and Mohinder from Heroes!!).

Now I'm off to watch the "Dream Girl" and "Good Song" videos....just for a change!!

The EuropeCrazy Holiday Hit List Part 7: 2002

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Our destination was once again scheduled to be Ostend but a last minute cancellation resulted in a quick change of plan - we headed just "up the road" to Amsterdam.
The Netherlands is the home of happy techno: fans of this didn’t have too far to look in the record stores for one compilation after another. I was more interested in watching TMF (the excellent Dutch version rather than its bland British equivalent). Dutch music was almost non-existent on the radio, and I’d swear that there were whole stations devoted to Destiny’s Child. The songs I remember from that holiday were...
"Falling" - K-Otic: great pop song and a cracking video from one of the first Popstars-type bands.
"Desenchantee" - Kate Ryan: great techno cover of the Mylene Farmer classic. One of the biggest songs of that summer in Europe which was sadly overlooked in the UK because of our stupid language barrier.
"Underneath Your Clothes" - Shakira: the one song and video which certainly made my faithful travelling companion sit up and take notice!
"Hot In Herre" - Nelly: appropriate song for a nice hot June. Didn’t take the advice in the lyrics though!!
"A Little Less Conversation" - Elvis vs JXL: the soundtrack to that summer’s World Cup in Japan and Korea, and appropriately for this holiday remixed by a Dutch DJ.
"Holiday" - Madhouse: Madhouse were responsible for loads of dancey covers of Madonna songs that summer, and this was another one of them.
Decided that I couldn’t leave without buying some Dutch music. Volumia! were a cast of thousands (or it just seemed like it), fronted by the excellent Xander de Buisonje and their music was massively popular in their home country around the mid to late 90s. By the time I reached Amsterdam, the band had decided to call it a day and released a "Best of" which found its way to my record collection.
September 2002: Biarritz, France
Three months later, we were back in France - but a new destination. Biarritz is a cracking little resort on the south west Atlantic coast, in the French Basque country.
This was the holiday when I discovered "Star Academy". 2002 was the second (and best IMHO) series and I watched it every night on TF1 and was quickly hooked. It was the year of Nolwenn, Emma, Jeremy, Alexandre, Aurelie, Houcine and Georges-Alain: fantastic viewing and some really talented performers. There has been no reality TV music show better than this one.
Musically, Biarritz is in a great geographical location as you can hear both French and Spanish radio stations but of course old habits die hard and I ended up listening to NRJ. Very unusual for me, I only bought two French compilation CDs in Biarritz. However, on a day trip across the border to San Sebastian, I ran riot and bought four CDs - Alejandro Sanz, Nek, David Bisbal and David Bustamante. You’ll have guessed that I was crazy about Operacion Triunfo’s "two Davids". Although David Bisbal was always my favourite, I preferred Bustamante’s debut!
These are only some of the songs that reminded me of this holiday: there were many more which I don’t have room to mention here.
"Asereje (The Ketchup Song)" - Las Ketchup: the holiday hit of 2002.
"Manhattan-Kaboul" - Renaud & Axelle Red: most played song of the holiday. Thought-provoking post-9/11 song.
"Run Baby Run" - Bustafunk: theme tune to Star Academy. Great dance tune.
"En Apesanteur" - Calogero: the moment I stopped liking him, and started loving him.
"Come Back To Me" - Cunnie Williams: France’s answer to Barry White. Yes, that good.
"Aime" - L5: really liked this song by France’s first Popstars band.
"Dove (I’ll Be Loving You") - Moony: nice summery dance tune from the Italian singer - whatever happened to her?
"Chihuahua" - DJ Bobo & "La Bomba" - King Africa: two absolute holiday anthems which I’ll always associate with this holiday.
"Love Don’t Let Me Go" - David Guetta: long before its remix hit the UK charts, this was the original version which was massive in France that summer.
"Nos Differences (Caught In The Middle)" - A1 & Eve Angeli: British boyband collaboration with Ms Angeli. Back in those days she was a promising young singer before her reality TV reinvention.
"Happy" - Sita: ex-member of K-Otic who briefly enjoyed some success in France, both as a solo artist and later in her duet with Kyo.

Monday, August 06, 2007

You stole mah story!

Monday night at EuropeCrazy HQ is always a good time to chill out and relax and it's even better tonight because we're watching "Secret Window" for about the 10 millionth time in the last 3 months. Johnny is always an absolute joy, even when he's wearing that torn dressing gown and looking as if he hasn't washed his hair for a month. Fancy some corn on the cob??

Dance X: sorry its 2 days late, but better late than never

I may have previously been a little critical of "Dance X", but despite that I'm getting into the BBC's latest reality talent show with a twist - to find a dance group which is also able to sing. This week's theme was Rock N'Roll, old and new. The already depleted Team Bruno kicked off with a dance routine to "I Like The Way You Move" whilst Team Arlene cashed in on the revival of the film "Hairspray" with "You Can't Stop The Beat". Round 1 to Team Arlene.

The next round threw in a bit of singing: Team Bruno with "Black Velvet" and Team Arlene tackled "Can't Stop". Doing the Chili Peppers was never going to be easy, so clearly round 2 to Team Bruno.

Team Bruno's "Land of 1000 Dances" was their next number, although was a decade out of time. Team Arlene was well off-key on "Walk This Way" - the Girls Aloud version, not even the Aerosmith & Run DMC version!! I'd say that Team Bruno took this round as well, although a bit more research wouldn't have gone amiss.

Both sides managed to redeem themselves in a "dance battle" to "I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor".

Must also give a mention to Duncan James, who has now given up being a solo pop star and made a very wise move into musical theatre - "Chicago" to be precise.

We expected Team Arlene to lose one of its members tonight but yet again she won the public vote, leaving an increasingly tortured Bruno to choose a bottom two. We thoroughly agreed that Claire's jacket is on a very shaky nail: she dances like someone's middle-aged auntie, and she is very much out of place in this team. But Bruno chose to save her and sacrifice Daniele, who was in the bottom two last week. At this rate Team Bruno will soon be a duo!! Although they were a bit ropey this week, we still prefer Team Arlene.

SwedenCrazy!!! could be forgiven for thinking this blog was about to change its name. It seems like every day brings a new (or not so new) act to grab this blogger's attention. The latest of these is Fibes, Oh Fibes! Accessible, chilled out, funky pop with a nice retro vibe running through it.

I continue to be drawn to the music of Moneybrother, which is raw and passionate and reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen's early days. "They're Building Walls Around Us" and "Reconsider Me" and "It's Been Hurting All The Way With You Joanna" all send chills down my spine. I shouldn't really like this music, but I do.

Swedish music rules!!!!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The EuropeCrazy Holiday Hit List: Part 6

Been a while since the last one! We've reached September 2001, and the destination was Barcelona.

Tuned in to Los 40 Principales radio station which played lots of Spanish stuff which I wasn't familiar with at the time. Over the next 2 years I'd soon rectify this, thanks to my obsession with Operacion Triunfo and Spanish pop in general.

Particularly fond memories of "Conmotion" by the Fundacion Tony Manero, a delightfully cheesy tribute to the days "when disco music ruled the world".

Songs of the holiday: "Little L" by Jamiroquai and a fantastic dance remix of Christopher Cross' "Ride Like The Wind".

Otherwise: "Dig In" by Lenny Kravitz; "Androgyny" by Garbage; and let's not forget "You're My Mate" by Right Said Fred!

During this holiday I discovered the music of Alejandro Sanz, whom I have continued to love to this day. Bought "El Alma Al Aire" which I'd recommend, particularly "Para Que Me Quieras". Now I'm no ballad fan, but there's something about Alejandro which always reduces me to jelly and this song is a perfect example.

Coming soon: 2002!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

This week's playlist.

Tell Me/This Is Who I Am/Dream Girl/Good Song/It's Only You/Devil Look/It's True - Salem Al Fakir: this blog still loves, loves, loves him!
It's True - Axwell & Sebastian Ingrosso vs Salem Al Fakir: goes without saying.
Ready, Set, Go - Tokio Hotel: out 27th August in the UK. Brilliant!
Just Another Summer/They're Building Walls Around Us - Moneybrother: two great tunes from Swedish singer Anders Wendin and his band who are of course on the Parksommar tour with Salem.
Who's Gonna Find Me - The Coral: If their new album will be as good as this single then it will be one of the year's best.
Do It Again - Chemical Brothers: irritatingly catchy dance tune. That's it.
Double Je - Christophe Willem: deservedly no.1 single in France.
Inga Problem - Snook: another week for this cool rap number. Yes of course I like the video. (Salem!!!!!!)
Shine - Booty Luv: thought it was time this great dance tune was back on the playlist.
LoveStoned - Justin Timberlake: irresistible current single.
Because of You - Ne-Yo: I still like this very much and it reminds me of my recent holiday in Stockholm.
Natalie - Ola: Fresh, clean pop song from a former "Idol" contestant. What's not to like?

French Charts Update

Christophe Willem and Mika have been battling at the top for the last few weeks and now Christophe is top with the excellent "Double Je". David Guetta's great dance anthem "Love is Gone" is still at no. 3.

There is no escape from the ubiquitous "Umbrella" which is the highest new entry this week at no. 6.

Apart from what's going on at the top I'm still not too inspired by the French charts at the moment and hope that the autumn will bring some big new tunes.

Kamel + Sofia = Cleopatra

So what's ace French choreographer Kamel Ouali, who was one of the team behind "Le Roi Soleil" going to do now that the musical has reached the end of its run? Answer: get to work on another one. This time he and songwriters Lionel Florence, Patrice Guirao and Pascal Obispo will turn their attention to another historical legend - Cleopatra. It's been confirmed that the leading lady will be none other than one of our all-time favourite Star Academy contestants Sofia Essaidi! Sofia of course didn't win season 3 (2003) but she was without any doubt the most talented singer and performer that year. Two years later she released her excellent debut album "Mon Cabaret" which I have in my CD collection. It's a luscious mix of pop, jazz and retro, and a real treat. I'm sure that she will be a big hit in the role of Cleopatra. The role of Caesar is tipped to be filled by Chris Stills, the son of French music legend Veronique Sanson.

Le Roi Soleil: c'est fini

On 8th July at Bercy in Paris, the troupe of "Le Roi Soleil" took their final bow after three years of recording, promoting and touring France's latest hit musical all about the life of Louis XIV. Of course, the real king was nowhere near as good-looking as Emmanuel Moire! Emmanuel and Christophe Mae are now established recording artists, Merwan Rim has duetted with Marilou Bourdon, and now Victoria Petrosillo is making a bid for solo stardom as she has recorded the TV theme tune for "Heroes" in France. No news on the other girls (Lysa, Catherine and Anne-Laure) although I'm sure that they will continue to have success in the world of musical theatre.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Just because I feel like it...

...I want to put lots of pics of Salem on my blog. So here is another one.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Star Academy 7: better late than never

It would appear that the next series of Star Academy in France will not be starting at the end of August/beginning of September as in previous years. It’s been confirmed that it won’t start till October and will run to February. This is to accommodate coverage of the forthcoming Rugby World Cup (boooooring). Oh well at least we’ll be able to follow it beyond Christmas. It looks as if Alexia Laroche-Joubert won't be this year's directrice, as she is currently expecting a baby. She also recently got married, so big congratulations to her and her new hubby.

The Rebirth of Robyn

Many of my fellow pop bloggers have been going on for some time about that highly talented young Swedish singer and songwriter Robyn. She came to fame several years ago with the song "Show Me Love", which as far as the UK is concerned (apart from those of us who know better), was where the story ended. We know differently of course, that she kept on making records and writing for other artists. My favourite Robyn song of recent years was "Be Mine" which is a little cracker of a pop song. She also wrote "Money For Nothing" for Darin, which is, yes, another little cracker.

Now it looks as if she’ll finally have a long overdue hit in the UK with "With Every Heartbeat", a haunting dance number. IMHO it may not be her best track, but is one of the better songs around at the moment and it will be nice to see her get some recognition at last.

The EuropeCrazy Hall of Fame: August 2007

Our artist of the month first came to my attention via the airwaves of Radio Sweden. Back in the late 1970s it was the only place to hear Swedish music: one night I heard them play a song by a Swedish singer named Tomas Ledin. In 1979, when disco was everywhere, "Not Bad at All" was very much of its time: even more surprisingly it managed to creep onto British radio although it wasn’t a hit here.

I heard no more about him until the spring of 1980. In that year he was selected to sing the Swedish entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. The stomping rocker "Just Nu" ("Right Now") immediately became my favourite song in that year’s contest, helped along by Tomas’ performance which was very reminiscent of Rod Stewart. It was probably too good to win (although we had no disagreement with that year’s winner, the classic "What’s Another Year" by Johnny Logan), but I wanted to know more about this singer. Sadly, in those pre-internet days, that would be hard to come by. As a result I lost touch with Tomas Ledin’s career for several years: it would be several years until I got the full picture...

In 1972 he began making records as a young singer-songwriter, clearly influenced by acts like Bob Dylan and the other folk-rockers of that era. In the coming years he was to prove himself to be a very versatile and prolific artist. I mentioned Rod Stewart earlier: many of his songs of the 1970s were very reminiscent of Rod’s pop-rock style. What I always liked about Tomas Ledin was his voice: distinctive, rich and warm.

One other distinctive thing about Tomas Ledin is the Abba connection. Not only did he perform as support act and backing singer on their 1979 tour, but he also ended up marrying Marie Andersson, the daughter of Abba’s manager - they are still together today and have two sons.

In the 1980s Tomas continued to go from strength to strength, recording in both Swedish and English. Sadly, as with many European acts, he failed to make an international breakthrough outwith Sweden, Norway and Finland. It was during this decade that he made "Sommaren Ar Kort": this song became an anthem for the (short) Swedish summer. However, by the end of the 80s it appeared that his career was going through a bit of a decline.

That was until the release of "En Del Av Mitt Hjarta", the song which was to turn his whole career around. Gone was the lightweight, English language pop. In came a more mature, rockier, sincere sound. The single immediately became a massive hit in Sweden and is still one of his best loved songs. This was the blueprint for his music over the next 16 years: crowd-pleasing rock n’roll with big anthemic choruses.

The crowd-pleasing bit is vital: his live summer tours are legendary in Sweden, but he has always been an easy target for the critics who don’t seem to like anything or anyone who’s popular. And his popularity continues to endure: he’s still making records and playing live in 2007. Later this month I’ll be going back in time and choosing some of my favourite Tomas Ledin records. In the meantime we’re very happy to welcome him into our Hall of Fame.

Berlin: 6 weeks to go

State of mind: excited but calm. Been playing some German music to celebrate the fact that I will be in Berlin with my ever-present faithful travelling companion in 6 weeks' time.

Last year on our holiday to Cologne we discovered the music of the German band Juli, their "Dieses Leben" video was a daily fixture on MTV. They are a very good band and I recommend their album "Ein Neuer Tag".

Blog breakdown 01.08.07

Been having some technical problems with the blog over the past 48 hours, but it looks as if things now back to normal. Tomorrow, this month's Hall of Fame inductee will be revealed. Clue: of all our featured artists over the coming year, none will have had the career longevity of this man in his native country.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another summer, it's just another summer

It's the new Moneybrother song of course, which is oh so catchy and if you ever were a Bruce Springsteen fan at any time then you will especially love it. Saw their clip from Swedish TV which also featured a certain curly-haired hyperactive pianist in a dodgy jumper!!! Both of them on the "Parksommar - Just Another Summer" tour which reaches its conclusion in Stockholm next Wednesday at Skansen. Wish I was there....