Tuesday, March 29, 2011
On to the final group of songs in my preview, starting with:
LATVIA: "Angel In Disguise" - Musiqq.
This was a pleasant surprise winner of the national final, as everyone expected that "Banjo Laura" nonsense to win - which would really have annoyed me as I hate songs with my name in the title!! This is a very nice, catchy and contemporary pop song (and I'm always looking for them in Eurovision), and it's the kind of thing you'd maybe expect from, say, The Wanted. All good so far, but visually they're just a giant fashion faux pas and will need a serious style makeover in time for Dusseldorf.
DENMARK: "New Tomorrow" - A Friend In London.
Trying to get 12 points from Royaume-Uni are we??? I wouldn't go as far as to say it's a copy, but it is probably to "Sing For Me" and "Shine" as "We've Got The World Tonight" was to "Fly On The Wings of Love"...if you catch my drift. This band really want to be OneRepublic and the singer really wants to be Ryan Tedder. Their great draw position will get them lots of votes but the lyrics, whilst well-meaning, are maybe a bit too cheesy and cliched.
IRELAND: "Lipstick" - Jedward.
Rewind a couple of months to the Irish national final, if you could call it a final as it was buried away on the Late Late Show on a Friday night as a complete irrelevance. "Am I heading for a car crash?" 'sing' the Grimes twins who are wringing every last drip of every last second of their 15 minutes of fame. Never did so little talent go so far. Worryingly though, this "Womanizer"-influenced track is quite memorable, it's a great draw and Jedward-The-Brand has a strong visual identity so this has a very good chance of making the final.
Now it's on to the Big 4, who this year become the Big 5 with the return of Italy to the contest after 14 years.
FRANCE: "Sognu" - Amaury Vassili.
Well, well, well. You really, really don't know what you're going to get next from France at Eurovision. Last year it was a sun-soaked footy song, this year it's a real proper singer doing a great big proper operatic anthem which will give France its best opportunity in years. If they're going to have opera at ESC this is how it should sound. It will get votes if he gives a very simple performance without any faffing about in the background.
ITALY: "Madness of Love" - Raphael Gualazzi.
So I nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement on learning that Italy was back at ESC. Italian is such a brilliant musical language that you could sing the Tesco shopping list in Italian and it would sound awesome. Except that "Madness of Love" isn't awesome at all and the fact that half of it is in English is probably one of the biggest disappointments in this year's ESC. On the plus side though this jazzy piano song is certainly different from many of the other entries but what's with the screaming???
UNITED KINGDOM: "I Can" - Blue.
I'm suffering from some very unusual symptoms of a very unusual illness = for once, I'm cheering on a British entry at Eurovision. Yes, that's right. There is something wrong with me. It's not as good as "All Rise", it could do with a key change, and they need to sort out the choreography, but I'm confident that the reunited Blue will not let us down and "we can" get at least a top 10 place. Oh, and one more thing: Duncan James, Duncan James, Duncan James :)
GERMANY: "Taken By A Stranger" - Lena.
Still not entirely convinced by the wisdom of last year's winner defending her title, as "Satellite" was such a one-off. This is certainly a brave and different choice for Germany this year, a very 'un-Eurovision' song but I can't see it doing so well as it lacks that instant appeal of "Satellite" and maybe needs a few listens. By the way, I played it the other week to faithful travelling companion, who thought it had a little bit of a Diana Vickers vibe to it!
SPAIN: "Que Me Quiten Lo Bailao" - Lucia Perez.
It means 'They Can't Take The Fun Away From Me' and appropriately it's quite cute and fun, although she could potentially have some vocal wobbles. If she pushes her performance and gives it even more of a fun aspect and party vibe, coupled with the late draw it could get more votes than many Spanish entries of recent years. On the minus side though, it may be a little too old-fashioned for the modern day Eurovision Song Contest.
Monday, March 28, 2011
ISRAEL: "Ding Dong" - Dana International A very 'Eurovision' song title, sung by the winner of the 1998 contest - this will certainly get a few votes from those fans with fond memories of how Eurovision used to be. However if the national final version is anything to go by, it's needing a bit of polishing before being let loose in Dusseldorf.
SLOVENIA: "No One" - Maja Keuc OK so here we go again, with another pretty girl singing another forgettable (if over-dramatic and very Balkan) ballad: it'll be in English apparently in the final.
ROMANIA: "Change" - Hotel FM. One of the first songs selected this year, and one of the few which I'd actually heard in advance of this listening exercise. It starts off like Arvingarna's "Eloise" before going into Take That's "Hello" and then into a very familiar-sounding chorus although someone needs to remind me what it reminds me of (!). It's maybe a bit more old-fashioned than some of the entries on show this year, but I quite like it.
ESTONIA: "Rockefeller Street" - Getter Jaani Extremely hotly tipped in some places: and if an Estonian version of Katy Perry's your thing then this will make you very happy indeed. Upbeat catchy girl-pop, but I'd rather have something less derivative and American-sounding from one of the countries which I've always had a soft spot for since they joined the Eurovision family.
BELARUS: "I Love Belarus" - Anastasia Vinnikova So on we go to the Belarussian Katy Perry...but there's something appealingly bonkers about this shamelessly nationalistic three minutes...which replaced the equally shamelessly nationalistic and equally bonkers "Born in Belorussia" which was disqualified for being "political"!!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
30 years seems a long time, a lifetime ago, yet it feels just like yesterday. And my mind wandered back to one Saturday afternoon in January 1981, where none other than BBC Radio One was to be responsible for sowing the seeds of my own musical revolution which was to last for the best part of the following 30 years....
Saturdays back then, as indeed now, meant retail therapy. But on that Saturday I was stuck in the house with a heavy winter cold, curled up on the sofa and feeling sorry for myself. So I switched on the radio, and flicked through the channels. I can't remember the name of the DJ - but a song was played on the radio which was to turn my life upside down.
With unparalleled excitement and urgency, brass raged from the radio and a voice proclaimed "Bless my cotton socks, I'm in the news!" In those three minutes, my Saturday afternoon misery vanished. The song was "Reward" by a band called The Teardrop Explodes.
I wanted to know more about this band, and to discover more of this music. The DJ mentioned something about a night-time Radio 1 show, and so I began to explore this other world beyond daytime/drivetime radio. Richard Skinner's Evening Session, and the John Peel show, opened up a whole new undiscovered world of music which I devoured with enthusiasm. Every Radio 1 session was eagerly anticipated, and the joy of discovering another new band to add to my collection....well it was just undescribable. I began buying New Musical Express, Sounds and Record Mirror, hoping to discover more information about all the new bands which excited me.
But whilst all that was going on, my pop heart was still beating. All through my life I haven't been able to understand musical snobbery. Why can't you like two kinds of music at once? I grew up in a house where all kinds of music were acceptable, and as time went on I was able to love punk and disco and cheesy pop equally. By the end of 1980, the charts were not such an exciting place for me: the ska boom had faded and disco was on its last legs. At that time, my heart and my record player belonged to one man and his band: Adam and the Ants. Laugh if you must, but "Kings of the Wild Frontier" still remains an underrated gem, however everything he did after that just had me cringing with disappointment and we went our separate ways.
Magazines like The Face began to hail the New Romantic movement, which I initially resented and couldn't relate to, but the music made a lot more sense: Spandau Ballet, Ultravox, Visage and the new poster boys on this teenage girl's bedroom wall - Duran Duran.
Ironically, last Sunday night I watched Duran Duran perform on an ITV 'One Night Only' special and was amazed to see that despite the passing of the years (and the shocking deterioration in John Taylor's looks) they can still cut it. My interest in the band began to wane from "Rio" onwards and by the time of "Wild Boys" I hated them. They came to represent everything I hated about the 1980s, which was personally a very dark decade for me. If you can remember the 80s fondly then (a) you either weren't there, or (b) you were a yuppie. Duran Duran managed to work their way back into my affections in the 1990s and last Sunday night's TV appearance proved that they are still relevant.
But back to 1981 and beyond. John Peel's Festive 50 became an annual highlight. In 1981 http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/johnpeel/festive50s/1980s/1981/ the chart clearly hadn't let go of the punk hits which had inspired this musical revolution, but for me the real excitement was all about what happened after punk. In 1981, New Order took its first steps, rising from the ashes of Joy Division, and producing music which was way beyond its time. New Order was to become my all-time favourite band in subsequent years.
1981 changed everything for me. My interest in what I suppose you would call 'indie' or 'alternative' music developed from that year and resulted in my discovering music which never in a million years would make the top 40, but which enriched my musical experience in a way which I still fondly remember.
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: "Love In Rewind" - Dino Merlin.
Yes that Dino Merlin, the "nous sommes vous etes" guy. He's apparently massive in the Balkans and I've got a sneaking feeling that this will do very well this year. I wouldn't go as far as to say that it will win, but for some reason I get a similar vibe to "Fairytale" (only slowed down) and a similar 'feelgood factor' to this year's Icelandic entry too. Final place absolutely guaranteed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPyVQCmGsYo
AUSTRIA: "The Secret Is Love" - Nadine Beiler.
Ooh, I'm getting an 'X Factor winners' song' coming through here. All they need is for the massed choirs to appear towards the end of the song - oh wait, they have. You all know that these big shouty ballads are not my preferred genre so you won't be surprised to hear that I'll probably be putting the potato wedges in the oven at this point. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afCsy69vWIA
NETHERLANDS: "Never Alone" - 3JS.
I watched the Dutch final and felt they made the right decision sending this anthemic rock-ballad to ESC this year. My view hasn't changed and I'm not ashamed to say I quite like this one, it's certainly one of my favourites in this second semi-final. This is one of the best Dutch entries in recent years and deserves a place in the final. Is that too much to ask? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PP3ViOSOXg
BELGIUM: "With Love Baby" - Witloof Bay.
Oh no, this is so wrong on so many levels. It's acapella, which I have an aversion to, and ....oh, it's just so wrong. The most positive thing I can say about it is that it's different, but that's all. I've always had this view that the entries chosen by RTBF are so much more inferior to Flemish-speaking Belgium's representatives, and that theory continues into 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=507fn9o0QvE
SLOVAKIA: "I'm Still Alive" - TWiiNS.
This is a bit girl-band-album-track-ballad-by-numbers, which could have its fans although it's pretty unremarkable. We're seeing double here, and not for the first time in this semi-final either! Could be a surprise qualifier. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uT_8il_fkAs
UKRAINE: "Angels" - Mika Newton.
Another pretty girl singing a forgettable ballad. We have come to expect great things from Ukraine but for me they haven't given us anything good since the magnificent "Shady Lady" and this year the disappointing trend continues. Coupled with a voting controversy too. Nevertheless we can expect qualification to the final. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IR16x6zN_14
MOLDOVA: "So Lucky" - Zdob zi Zdub.
Maybe not as distinctive as their drumming-granny entry from a few years back but I really want this one to live up to its title, as it stands out in what (so far) has been a 'meh' semi-final. Energetic and different, and a long way from what you'd expect from a 'Eurovision' song. Studio version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02r-oOJrNqE&feature=watch_response
SWEDEN: "Popular" - Eric Saade.
People of Sweden: I love you, I love your country, I love the music which comes out of your country.....but please stop choosing the wrong songs to send to Eurovision! I like Eric and wouldn't wish him any harm, but this is a stupid song which has plummeted in my popularity-chart since it won Melodifestivalen. And don't even start me on the stupid glass-breaking routine...health and safety, chappies, health and safety!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nfx0OMM2u0A
CYPRUS: "San Aggelos S'Agapisa" - Christos Mylordos.
I suppose on the plus side, Sweden's entry was energetic....this is just pretty dull and forgettable and boring. Lots of dramatic drums can't save it. I know that last year's Cyprus entry had its critics, but I liked young Jon and his Islanders - they were better than this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqPEsx1Disk
BULGARIA: "Na Inat" - Poli Genova.
Oh look, it's the Bulgarian version of Pink :) Rock chick with lots of attitude, although I don't really know how this one will do as the rock-vote may go to Moldova: anyway I like bits of this and other bits of it are less impressive - more melody would have been nice, rather than pressing all the formulaic buttons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShmY4TrFLwQ&feature=related
FYROM: "Rusinka" - Vlatko Ilievski.
Should this not have been their entry when the contest was held in Moscow? Or is that just too cheesy a thought? This could actually qualify as it has that distinctive 'Balkan' sound which is notably lacking in some of the other entries from the former Yugoslavia. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJB-s-cMSgg
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Ooh, bit of controversy here....this song won its national selection and then it was no time till the band's lead singer was unceremoniously dumped. I suppose they had their reasons, anyway whoever's singing it, it's a contemporary mix of emo-rock and rap and could grow on me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFV0Tcy9OXc
At this point I'm going off on a tangent, but I just wanted to air my thoughts here - following every semi-final and/or final there's always that tedious old debate about the "Eastern Bloc/diaspora vote" after countries from the eastern half of our continent effortlessly sail through to the final/do pretty well in the final. And do you know why I think they're doing so well now? Because they don't have any preconceived ideas about what the Eurovision Song Contest should be, or what a Eurovision song should sound like. Unlike some more established countries who inevitably will never learn. Rant over.
FINLAND: "Da Da Dam" - Paradise Oskar.
I wasn't really too happy when this won the Finnish final, at the expense of Father McKenzie's "Good Enough" but it is quite charming even if those 'save the planet' lyrics are soooo 1990 and maybe just a bit beyond cheesy, even if after recent events they're more relevant than ever. The 'da da dam' parts just sound as if he's forgotten the words. It's like Tom Dice with a spring in his step. But I can't decide if this could be a grower or will it potentially annoy the life out of me? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bj7K_052wE
MALTA: "One Life" - Glen Vella.
There seems to be a lot of hate for this on YouTube but I've definitely heard worse. It's a gay old uptempo dance pop number with an 80s/90s vibe. Though it will probably suffer from the 'curse of Xandee'(!) and I can't really see it doing too well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIa_QV-LM8g
SAN MARINO: "Stand By" - Senit.
San Marino, bless 'em, seem to have passed me by in Eurovision - I didn't notice them arriving, I didn't notice them leaving, but now they're back with a rather nice mid-tempo ballad. She has a nice voice and the song has a very scenic official video. Could sneak a qualifying place in the final, but I've just got one complaint - this should have been sung in Italian! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2zL2Vs4xvs
CROATIA: "Celebrate" - Daria Kinzer.
It was once known as "Break A Leg" and now appears to be called "Sallibrate". What's wrong with Croatian? I sort-of like this, although my problem with this is that I don't really like her that much, or at least I didn't like her that much during the DORA and preferred big Jacques' version as it sounds as if it was maybe written for a male voice. And I prefer male singers anyway. Anyway here is the Daria version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghWCySADZ_4
ICELAND: "Coming Home" - Sjonni's Friends
There is something which keeps bringing me back to this song. Even without the emotional back-story of its composer's untimely death, there is something quite compelling about this charming little tune. Amid all the 'modern' songs and the dance routines etc, the simplicity of this countryfied jazzy song could really stand out. Yes it's old fashioned but in this instance there's nothing wrong with that. It has a strong melody, and it is (allegedly) a song contest after all. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJ0sbVwD3GY
HUNGARY: "What About My Dreams" - Kati Wolf.
Over their intermittent years of participation in ESC, I've always viewed Hungary as one of the most overrated countries therefore wasn't too surprised to see one of their entries becoming a fan favourite yet again. It's quite understandable though, as it's an uptempo and anthemic dance-pop number with a strong chorus although the verses don't really impress so much. An obvious qualifier...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbKNKfePCrs
PORTUGAL: "A Luta e Alegria" - Homens da Luta.
The one thing you can say about Portugal at Eurovision is that they don't care what anyone thinks. This year's entrants look like rejects from a Village People tribute band and would probably make it into a lazy TV producer's "let's all laugh at Eurovision" clip show. And as for the song...well, I really don't know what to say. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bDN53Rqh54
LITHUANIA: "C'est Ma Vie" - Evelina Sasenko.
Every year at some point during ESC you'll get a big ballad which goes nowhere, sung by a big-voiced woman in an equally big dress. Old-fashioned, and not in a good way either. They won't be singing 'we are the winners' this year, that's for sure. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHaUQmCJs8I
AZERBAIJAN: "Running Scared" - Ell and Nikki.
In its very short Eurovision existence, Azerbaijan has become the 'winner in waiting' - for reasons which I still can't understand why, as its 2010 entry was one of the most over-hyped ever - so I was prepared to hate this before I even heard it. A pleasant surprise then, to find that it was actually a pleasant, if lightweight, song. It sounds like a radio hit but doesn't have the feel of a winner - though it will still do very, very well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgE3bDH647M
GREECE: "Watch My Dance" - Loukas Giorkas featuring Stereo Mike.
Rapping? On a Greek entry? It's not yer typical Greek entry - none of your Sakis-style elaborate dance routines (despite the very misleading title) but despite the modern touches it's more old-fashioned than they'd like to think. Those of a certain age may remember the 70s/80s preview videos of Greek entries where there would inevitably be a woman in a big floaty dress belting out her entry on top of some mountain or Greek ruin. This song is a bit like that. Only with a hot young man singing the chorus. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v27gtuLhiac
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Check out the video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU3ZSfZB26M which includes some gratuitous belly dancing (!)...and Harun Tekin in a black suit. :)
So to fill the gap, between now and the end of March, I'll be randomly posting my thoughts on all of this year's Eurovision entries. There's a lot of them too, so here goes...
POLAND: "Jestem" - Magdalena Tul.
A lively and modern opening to this year's contest, although a little anonymous and bland. I get the feeling that there will be lots of visual trickery, not to mention copious amounts of PVC (!) to take the viewers' minds off the fact that this doesn't really go anywhere. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUyieVZEQTE
NORWAY: "Haba Haba" - Stella Mwangi.
No-one wants the dreaded second spot in the draw, so it's an even bigger shock when it's taken by one of this year's stronger entries. Of course the first semi-final is much weaker than the second, so Stella should qualify to the final where no doubt she'll be rewarded by a much better draw position. It's a catchy song and big-haired Stella is loaded with crowd-pleasing charisma, however could potentially be loaded down by her vocal shortcomings. If she's able to address her flat vocals by mid-May this has 'serious contender' written all over it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vskHRbkHbw
ALBANIA: "Feel The Passion" - Aurelia Gaçe.
With apologies to any Albanian readers out there, but ('Zharr e Ftohte' excepted) I've never felt that Albania has ever really brought anything remotely great to the ESC party. This doesn't convince me otherwise as it's not much of a song, however it could be one of those entries which could be propelled to the final by a big vocal performance. I wish it had remained in Albanian though - why does everyone feel the need to sing in English these days?
English version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9LE4cQcud4
Albanian version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVd0rMyUTU8
ARMENIA: "Boom Boom" - Emmy.
Aah, a good old fashioned Eurovision song title eh! Unfortunately Armenia has never been one of my favourite ESC countries of recent years either, as they are one of the most obvious recipients of 'diaspora-voting'. This is probably on the irritating side of catchy, but it is very catchy nonetheless and could pick up a few votes apart from the usual ones guaranteed to take it to the final. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSbCuhGPXa4&feature=related
TURKEY: "Live It Up" - Yüksek Sadakat
I know I'm biased as I've become a total Turkey-phile over the last couple of years which has included embracing its music scene, but apart from that I've been really impressed by some of Turkey's Eurovision entries in recent years, particularly the rock songs. So what if Turkey only need to turn up to be guaranteed a final place? At least they always try to break from the Eurovision norm. This is yet another rock-themed entry, it's maybe a little old-fashioned but does have some commercial appeal and I think it'll do very well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7D29knWErw
SERBIA: "Magical" - Nina
Well I suppose you can't accuse Serbia of sticking to 'type'. They've finally moved on from the dreary Zeljko-ballads via the bonkers "Ovo Je Balkan" to something completely retro. Yes, tonight we're gonna party like it's 1969. Or thereabouts. This retro-pop trend was quite popular a few of years ago thanks to Duffy and Amy Winehouse, however hearing something in this style now just sounds at odds with what Eurovision is trying to become in this new decade. Don't get me wrong, the song isn't that bad, it's just a bit too dated. Also what's with all these songs in English this year, even by countries who usually sing in their own languages??? English version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOKzBlamDrM
RUSSIA: "Get You" - Alexey Vorobyov
I choose my words like wise bloggers do ...and tonight I'm going to say that this is my favourite this year. Co-written by RedOne - and you don't get any more 'contemporary' than that, I guess - this has got hit song written all over it, and it's a very serious and catchy contender to go all the way and take the contest back to Russia in 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4z6t1Ch0g78
SWITZERLAND: "In Love For A While" - Anna Rossinelli
Every year you always get entries/artists clearly influenced by the previous year's winner, and this is arguably (although not obviously) influenced by Lena. It has some charm, with that Jason Mraz-feel to it, however it does grate in the last minute or so. But it's not the worst Swiss entry there's ever been....however here I go again with my gripe about English-language entries. Switzerland has four perfectly good national languages to play with - so why do they ignore them in favour of sending an English entry? I'm all for modernising Eurovision, but not when it's at the expense of language diversity. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unFGsb2uRhk
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
(Pictures courtesy of ESC Today)
So now all the songs are known, and preview/promo videos are being rolled out at a rate which I frankly can't begin to keep up with (!) At the moment the Russian song's my favourite - a catchy contemporary pop number written by RedOne no less, and sung by a certain favourite singer of one of my favourite bloggers...!
Bit of a disappointing draw for the UK, although it's probably better than some of the earlier draw positions of recent years I guess. Anyway it'll probably be at least this weekend before I start listening to all of the songs and their new English-language versions, so thoughts and reviews will follow from then onwards.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
As if reaching the four-year mark wasn't enough reason to celebrate, now more good news. Last night this blog reached the grand total of 100,000 visitors. I'm pretty overwhelmed by this statistic as you'll probably guess. When I started this blog, I didn't expect that anyone would ever read it, so I'm delighted that so many of you have passed this way, read the posts, left your comments. If you found this blog by chance, then I hope you found what you were looking for and maybe liked what you saw and stayed around for a while.
I've said it before, but the best thing about blogging over the past four years has been getting to know so many lovely people out there in blogland. Where I previously felt as if no-one else shared my interests, blogging has made me feel like part of a big happy family. Like all families of course, we don't always agree, or we agree to differ, but it's still great to be part of this community.
So thank you all, a hundred thousand times over!
(Statistical info supplied by Sitemeter)
Saturday, March 12, 2011
1. Iceland - Minn Hinsti Dans 1997
2. Slovenia - Mr Nobody 2006
3. Belgium - Geef Het Op 1991
4. Netherlands - Hemel En Aarde 1998
5. Denmark - Kroller Eller Ej 1981
6. Albania - Zjarr E Ftohte 2006
7. Romania - Playing With Fire 2010
8. Spain - I Love You Mi Vida 2007
9. Georgia - Visionary Dream 2007
10. Bosnia-Herzegovina - Bistra Voda 2009
11. Russia - Vechniy Stranik 1994
12. Finland - Hullo Yo 1991
13. Austria - Maria Magdalena 1993
14. Hungary - Dance With Me 2009
15. Estonia - Eighties Coming Back 2003
16. Ukraine - Dancing Lasha Tumbai 2007
17. Norway - Romeo 1986
18. Belarus - Work Your Magic 2007
19. Ireland - Take Him Home 1988
20. France - On Aura Le Ciel 2000
21. Sweden - Just Nu 1980
(or alternatively...the best song never to represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest....you will know which one I mean!)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8ZVgxMk8Z4
22. Latvia - My Star 2000
23. Italy - Gente di Mare 1987
24. Croatia - Više Nisam Tvoja 2003
25. Turkey - For Real 2004
After the past 5 weeks of anticipation, excitement, drama and disappointment, it was finally time for one of the TV highlights of a Europop-fan's musical year: Sweden's Melodifestivalen final, 2011.
Irrespective of how your own favourite song does in the competition, you can't deny that SVT always brings such high production values to this competition, which leaves most other Eurovision national finals standing, or inspires imitation as the sincerest form of flattery (yes I mean you, Norsk MGP!). The 2011 final was no exception, although as the years go on it gets tougher to keep it all fresh.
The show began with this year's hosts Marie Serneholt and Rickard Olsson (who I thought did a very good, if unspectacular job this year) on top of Globen, singing a version of "Up Where We Belong" with lyrics in Swedish adapted to the theme of the event.
I've seen some criticism on internet message boards of the 'bumbling interrogators' employed by Carl Bildt, he of the wonky jacket, on a mission to restore ESC success to Sweden. However I've grown to accept them and I thought that many of tonight's postcards were rather funny.
Oh look! There's Fredrik Reinfeldt (PM) in the audience. Can't ever see the day when dodgy Dave Cameron will turn up at ASFE, do you??? :O
Nu kör vi! (About time too! 15 minutes into the show)
First on stage: Danny Saucedo. And so what, if "In The Club" just consists of "In the club, the club, oh oh"? This was the song I wanted to represent Sweden in 2011. In a Eurovision Song Contest which appears to be finally drifting away from its old schlager roots into something more contemporary, I thought this would have been a good, modern entry for Sweden, with the potential for a wider international success. It was a professional performance from Danny and his backing dance crew, however I still had my reservations about the reliance on pre-recorded backing vocals throughout the song, and how it would go in a 'completely live' setting? Nevertheless it was my favourite of the evening.
A complete contrast next, with Sara Varga's "Spring För Livet". This was one of the songs which made it out of last week's Andra Chansen. By the way, I didn't have time to write my Andra Chansen review last week, but if you'd followed my foolish predictions on Twitter on the night you'll know how wrong I got it. I'll reiterate here that the AC format is very frustrating, as it often prevents the 'right' song from qualifying at the expense of the 'wrong' one. So the top half of the draw last week presented a particularly tough contest, where Sara Varga triumphed over the songs by Jenny Silver, Love Generation and Loreen, all of which would be worthy of a final place. But I'm not really complaining about Sara being there either... This song has certainly had a major impact over the last couple of weeks and it was, I thought, a very emotional performance from Ms Varga.
From a first-timer to a 'repeat offender': fan fave Linda Bengtzing. I previously said in a blog post that Linda is probably one of the contestants who is the most desperate to win Melodifestivalen. Although I still hated her yellow outfit, her enthusiasm was infectious and she gave a very energetic performance which she seemed happy with. However, I can't see her back at MF in the future, unless she comes to terms with the taking part rather than the winning.
I'd reckon that of all the contestants in this year's final, winning probably mattered least of all to Nicke Borg? Nevertheless all the tricks were employed to grab voters' attention in "Leaving Home", including the audience waving glowsticks, Anna Bergendahl-style.
As I said in my preview, "Me and My Drum" had grown on me over recent weeks and so I was looking forward to seeing it being performed again in the final. Before the song though, a scene-stealing performance by mini-Swingfly, little Camron, who stole the show when his mother was being interviewed!
A bit of rockabilly next from the Playtones, with yet another song by Fredrik Kempe (co-writer this time) - "The King". A bit of a "Come Together"-plagiat in the verses don't you think? A lively performance culminating in 'great balls of fire' on stage however I missed much of it due to buffering and other things going on.
And finally...to the eventual winner, Eric Saade, complete with leather glove. Warning: do not allow this man near glass, for he will probably smash it and then he won't be very 'popular' then, will he? And let's not forget the health and safety implications - Eric got glass in his eye. Although "Manboy" was a bit silly, it eventually wore me down. "Popular" is also extremely silly, and I don't like it. Stupid lyrics and a little bit too much desperation from young Mr Saade, whose urge to win the contest was clear for all to see. Maybe with all this 'Bieber fever' inexplicably sweeping the universe, it might be a good move for Sweden to send a young man who will clearly appeal to that similar target audience?
Following the recent tradition of re-interpretations of the previous year's winning song, it was the turn of rock band Dynazty to give their version of "This Is My Life". It was an achievement for them to rescue this song from the pit of dreariness and turn it into a more acceptable 80s anthemic rock ballad.
The other interval act was a tribute to the much-criticised "Hurricane" character played by Peter Stormare who could not be at the final due to other commitments. The "Harrycanes" Nanne, Lena Ph, Ola Salo and Christer Sjögren, all of whom had been subject to the Hurricane's musical makeovers during the competition, came together to sing what else but the Scorpions' classic "Rock You Like A Hurricane". Sjögren sings the Scorpions - well well well, in the immortal words of the Harry Hill song, "I certainly didn't expect to see that!"
The only other thing I want to mention is.....Ola Salo in a purple catsuit. <3>
Voting time! Unfortunately we didn't get to see the various international jury spokespeople give the votes and instead we got Adam Alsing (hairy Swedish TV presenter and radio DJ bloke) who for some reason was brought in as a commentator last week. Things then rolled along at a cracking pace and here's where the international 12's went:
Russia - The Moniker
Ukraine - Sanna
France - Eric
Greece - Sanna
Malta - Eric
Croatia - Linda
San Marino - Swingfly
Germany - Danny
UK - Eric
Ireland - Sanna
Norway - Swingfly
....which seemed to destroy my theory that Danny would do better in Europe, based on these jury results, however by the end of the jury voting Eric was only 2 points in front of Danny. At this point Eric was in the lead though, so I'll acknowledge he's probably a more representative winner than Anna Bergendahl was, for example. By the way, hasn't she changed?? Her look is now spiky-bob-goth =).
Next came the televoting results, which resulted in The Moniker and Sanna swapping places, ending 3rd and 4th respectively - and when Danny got the 70 points it was all over. 112 points from the televote added to the jury points meant that Eric's song title lived up to its name and his was the most "Popular" song of the night. Well, with the voters anyway.
1. Popular (Fredrik Kempe) - Eric Saade - 193 points
2. In The Club (Fredrik Boström, Peter Boström, Danny Saucedo) - Danny Saucedo - 149 points
3. Oh My God! (The Moniker) - The Moniker - 124 points
4. I'm In Love (Irini Michas, Peter Boström, Thomas G:son, Bobby Ljunggren) - Sanna Nielsen - 114 points
5. Me And My Drum (Teron Beal, Patrik Magnusson, Johan Ramström, Swingfly) - Swingfly - 93 points
6. The King (Fredrik Kempe, Peter Kvint) - The Playtones - 73 points
7. E det fel på mej (Pontus Assarsson, Thomas G:son, Jörgen Ringqvist, Daniel Barkman) - Linda Bengtzing - 58 points
8. Leaving Home (Jojo Borg Larsson, Nicke Borg, Fredrik Thomander, Anders Wikström) - Nicke Borg - 57 points
9. Spring för livet (Sara Varga, Fredrik Boström) - Sara Varga - 50 points
10. 7 Days And 7 Nights (Brolle) - Brolle - 29 points
Please come back again to MF Danny...and win it next time!
(All of the above pictures are courtesy of Svenska Dagbladet/Scanpix)
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Of course things have changed over the years and I don't have the time to blog here as regularly as I once did. There was lots of amazing stuff going on at my other blog over the past 12 months, and more recently my health hadn't been too great due to chronic back pain and fatigue - I got all these ideas for blog posts in my head and then was too tired to write them :(
Anyway I'm planning some special posts for this weekend, so expect these late Saturday night and on Sunday, as I won't be around here before then.
Of course it's a weekend full of special things ahead - apart from this blog's birthday, there's the final of Melodifestivalen on Saturday night so you can expect a review of that later, and I'll probably be chatting over at Twitter at some point too!
Whilst the result of Melodifestivalen appears to be a foregone conclusion, well, depending what website you read of course (!) there is one ingredient which could throw the whole thing into complete disarray: the replacement of the Swedish city juries by an expanded group of international juries. There will still be the televote of course, which, as recent history has shown, has a habit of overthrowing a potentially decent result (IMHO). Exhibit A: 2009. Exhibit B: 2010.
But I digress. I'm not predicting anything - got it so wrong last week that I'm getting exhausted even thinking about it. You know who I want to win (although I even have reservations about him now because of the whole taped backing vocals thing, etc etc) but do you know something? The one song from the final which I've probably listened to more and more over recent weeks is not really a favourite with anyone, it doesn't have a fanbase (and since I'm usually the kiss of death to any song which I like, it'll probably finish 6th or 7th), but boom chicky boom chicky boom boom boom....I love "Me and My Drum"! It's sooooo catchy!!
So if Danny doesn't win, I'd be very happy with Swingfly and my lovely Christoffer going to Dusseldorf. Everything else is a bit 'meh' at the moment for me...you could call it 'meh'lodifestivalen (groan) anyway I'll be back here on Saturday, no doubt to rant and rave.
See y'all then!! :)
Monday, March 07, 2011
In the meantime...
Me and My Drum - Swingfly: this has probably grown on me more than any other of this year's Melodifestivalen songs. I know a lot of MF fans don't like it, but it's sooooo catchy and Christoffer Hiding's singing the chorus. What's not to love?
Like Suicide: Christian Walz: sadly, like many other MF favourites of mine this year, it didn't progress beyond its first heat.
No One Else Could - Sebastian. Uptempo Killers-style number which I like a lot. Sadly, the Swedish voters didn't. Roll on the new album!
In The Club - Danny: yes it's repetitive, but it would be Sweden's most contemporary ESC track in years if it wins next week. But it probably won't :(
Idiot - Lena Philipsson: a fine return to form with this cool dance track. She was great on Melodifestivalen a couple of weeks ago, and I'm looking forward to her new album.
Seven Seconds - Ovi: rediscovered Norsk MGP gem from a couple of years ago, from the man who was 'Playing With Fire' in Romania last year.
Traktor - Wretch 32: a rarity here - a dubstep/grime type track which I like, for some inexplicable reason. I wish there was more of the middle part of the song on it though, as that's great.
We R Who We R - Ke$ha: yeah I know, I really shouldn't but this is the latest theme song for Friday nights at EuropeCrazy HQ!
Me and My Microphone - September: Now when is this going to conquer the charts all over Europe like the international hit it deserves to be?
Split My Personality (Bassflow Remix) - Salem Al Fakir: Yes I'm still playing this....along with all his other stuff too. No change there then.
Hot Mess - Chromeo featuring La Roux: Who'd have thought the day would come that La Roux would figure in this playlist?? But when it's Chromeo on a return to form, then that's ok. Unfortunately their other recent material has been very disappointing though.
MGP 2011 Medley - Alexander Stenerud & Guri Schanke: go and check this brilliant interval act number, over on YouTube. It's wonderful. Come back to MGP next year Alexander, we've missed you.
Rock Dust Light Star/Smoke and Mirrors - Jamiroquai: Probably my two favourite tracks from what's been (by their standards) a slightly disappointing album. Or maybe it's just taking longer to grow on me than usual?
Lilla Lady/Gryningspyromanen - Daniel Adams-Ray: Still loving his album and I don't think I'll ever get sick of it!
Return of the Mack - Mark Morrison: yeah, scoff if you like, but I'm having a revival of this song. Again! Unfortunately Mr Morrison became more famous for his criminal record than his musical ones, but this is a true classic.
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Once upon a time a man took over as manager of a once successful Premiership side, whose glory days were behind them as they sat mid-table. Efforts were made to change the style of play, with new players being brought in, but it still wasn't enough. The fans were left with the final say in picking the team...and made many a wrong choice, resulting in the team plummeting into the relegation zone. Things hit an all-time low last year: the wrong striker was selected and completely misfired, condemning the side to relegation.
One year on, the manager is under attack from all sides. What does he do? Does he stick with the old formation which used to win trophies many years ago, but no-one likes that style of play anymore? Does he try a more modern style which might work in qualifying for Europe at risk of alienating the home fans? Does he bring in that big-name international striker or stick with the home-grown cult figures who would sink without a trace the minute they went abroad to play?
It's tough, yes. Especially when the fans have such a big say in picking the team. Especially when everyone - whether you're a casual fan or a season ticket holder fan, a blogger or a journalist - has an opinion about it. The manager's the one who always gets the criticism. I've never been his biggest fan, but he's tried to drag that team kicking and screaming into the 21st century: he got them playing in huge stadiums in front of massive crowds, and even turned a one-night-only fixture into a six week tournament. He tried to attract big names to his team only for them to be condemned to the subs' bench forever....and most of them would never want to play for that team again.
In two months' time, the team will take to the field to play one, possibly two matches. If they win the first match, they'll win promotion again to the Premiership and will qualify for Europe...whereas if they lose, it's another season in the lower league.
Eurovision may be moving on and modernising, but Sweden is in danger of getting left behind in the same way that the United Kingdom has, due to backward thinking about 'what constitutes a Eurovision song'.
Next Saturday sees the final of Melodifestivalen. Good people of Sweden, take my advice....
Don't send Spring för livet: it's a nice enough song but its main selling point is its lyrics, which would probably be severely watered down if the song was to be translated to English;
Don't send Oh My God!: I played this to my mum and she thought it sounded like a really bad UK Song for Europe entry from any time in the last 30 years;
Don't send 7 Days and 7 Nights: I like Brolle, but this would just get lost, 'Las Vegas'-style;
Don't send E det fel på mej: a song like this would struggle beyond Swedish borders. And it would completely flop in English;
Don't send Leaving Home: rock is popular but this is maybe a little too old-fashioned, and I don't think the jacket-removal moment would go down too well;
Don't send Me and My Drum: if only for the reason it would probably flop because it's mainly rapping, (although with a killer chorus!) and rap doesn't play too well at ESC;
Don't send I'm In Love: it's too old-fashioned and I still can't warm to her, and I don't think the people of Europe would warm to her either;
Don't send The King: remind me what year this is? 1956?;
We are left with two songs: the first in the running order "In The Club" and the last in the running order, "Popular". One is a catchy (if repetitive) and contemporary song, sung by a good singer and dancer, the other is a deeply irritating, old-fashioned, Fredrik Kempe-by-numbers 'here's what a Eurovision song should sound like' song, and that's just the song....don't even start me on the stupid breaking glass gimmick. Don't get me wrong, I like young Eric - he's cute and makes a good boy-pop star, and he's a pretty good performer too. He just deserves a more modern song, rather than a more 'Modern Talking' song. Again, don't get me wrong, I have fond memories of Modern Talking, as should every devoted fan of 80s Europop, but this is 2011 and that sound just isn't working in Europe anymore.
So you know what you have to do....
SEND DANNY SAUCEDO TO DUSSELDORF!
(but that probably won't happen)
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
It's box set and retro telly mania at EuropeCrazy these days. I'm continuing to wallow in the emotional rollercoaster that is "ONE TREE HILL" and I'm now on season 6, having spent the best part of the last few months having watched the series from the very beginning. By this stage the main characters are now all grown up, but it still remains a very watchable and addictive (and hugely underrated) show. I've still to catch up with season 7, although I'm not sure how it would go with the absence of two major characters who've been a part of the show since the very beginning.
Talking of underrated shows, I reckon that "BOSTON LEGAL" was probably one of the best and most underrated shows of recent years. Stuck away over on Living, it never grabbed any of the headlines, but if you were lucky enough to be a regular viewer then you'll agree with me that it was consistently watchable, and James Spader and William Shatner are one of the best on-screen partnerships ever. Recently HMV had the complete series box set on special offer, which was good timing as I had some Christmas present money to spend so needless to say I bought it! Just finished season 1 which was great, but of course it got even better as the series went on.
Going further back in time with another box set which was inspired by a recent TV revival over Christmas - I refer to "UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS" and the original complete series which ran from 1971 to 1975 has now been reissued and repackaged. I remember being a big fan of the series even as a very young child so it's very nice to see it all over again, all these years later.
So we're watching all this old telly, but what's new?
Well there's Sky Atlantic, which launched with a big fanfare and critical acclaim, notably for its flagship series "BOARDWALK EMPIRE" - the saga set in Atlantic City during the Prohibition era. Its main character Nucky Thompson is a not-entirely-squeaky-clean politician (no change there then!) and there's lots of illegal activity going on all over the place. Martin Scorcese directed the first episode, and there's definitely a film-quality to it all. It's quality TV, no doubt about it, although I get a little bit mixed up from time to time about who all the characters are but then that's probably just my muddled mind :)
I started watching another new Sky Atlantic series, "BLUE BLOODS". No it's not about vampires and not to be confused with True Blood, but it's all about a family of police officers. It started off well enough, there's a good cast including Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg, however due to other stuff I've missed a couple of episodes lately so will need to get back on board.
The other good thing about Sky Atlantic is its repeats - some really good stuff in there including different series of the always wonderful "ER". Then there is the rerun of that long-lost 80s guilty pleasure = "THIRTYSOMETHING" sorry that should be "thirtysomething" which inspired all those ensemble dramas including "Cold Feet". It looks horribly dated and 'of its time', a decade which I hated for a number of reasons, but I loved that show all the same. At the time I was in love with Michael, and my favourite character was Melissa because she was so cool and unconventional. Ah, memories...!
Will modern TV stand the test of time? Will we look back at reruns of "GREY'S ANATOMY" in 20 years time and think....flippin' eck, that Meredith talks a load of pretentious garbage in those little voiceovers, doesn't she? I think the answer's yes to that one. Despite that though I remain a fervent viewer of this addictive and nonsensical drama. Cage off Ally McBeal (remember that?) is now in the cast and it'll be interesting to see what happens with his character. At least they don't spend so time with the Meredith/McDreamy on-again off-again back on-again saga now, which previously had me passing the McSickbucket.
My favourite person on TV right now: Louie Spence. I. Love. Him. I only have to see him wave his arms around and I'm in stitches. "LOUIE SPENCE'S SHOWBUSINESS" is basically "PINEAPPLE DANCE STUDIOS" with added bits from (cue hilarious deadpan Michael Buerk voiceover) 'somewhere in the suburbs of showbiz land'. The terminally deluded all find a home in this fantastic show - notably series regular Andrew Stone who continues to seek world domination for his band Starman, and, um, former popstar David Van Day and his wife's attempt to regain past glories with their 'Rich and Famous' duo! Funniest moment of the series: dancing horse Black Lad's 'Fight For This Love' routine. It's car crash...but you know you want to: