On Sunday 11th March 2007, I started a little blog where I would write about European music and travel, and also some other (non-European related) interests. I never thought that anyone would ever read it, as it was just a little hobby, and I'd never have guessed that I would still be blogging 10 years later, The best thing is that I have got to know some really lovely people thanks to this blog. And even though I've never met any of you, I consider you to be my friends! I know it sounds like a cliche but blogging really changed my life. As a "quiet" person who has struggled throughout my life with shyness, social anxiety, a lack of confidence and not having the same interests as everyone else, blogging opened a door to a new world for me and I finally found a place I could feel at home, where many others shared my interests. This 'virtual world' quickly became a happier place than the 'real' one and provided an escape from the stresses of day to day life.
In my early, hectic blogging years between 2007 and 2009, my life was very different and I had more time, energy and opportunities to blog than I have now. In the first year of EuropeCrazy, I blogged relentlessly, writing as many posts in one month as I now do over a year. The posts were short and snappy, enthusiastic and excitable. It was a golden age of pop blogs which introduced me to a lot of great music from across Europe. It was the start of an incredible journey of musical discovery, and I had a particular interest in Swedish music.
By accident, on 14th July 2007, I came across a Swedish singer/songwiter/all-round musical genius called Salem Al Fakir, By the end of 2007, one blog became two. My enthusiasm for Salem spiralled into a spin-off fan blog called Planet Salem, (http://planetsalem.blogspot.com) and I just didn't expect what would happen next. The blog quickly gathered a large readership of devoted Salem fans and almost every minute of my spare time was spent on almost daily updates whilst keeping EuropeCrazy going at the same time. Eventually I was to achieve my dream of going to see Salem in concert in Gothenburg on 18th April 2009, but the biggest surprise of all was yet to come - I was invited to meet Salem before his concert. Looking back, I don't know where I got the courage or confidence from! And then the following year, I returned to Gothenburg to see him play live again on 26th March 2010. A lot had changed by then - Salem was now a household name in Sweden thanks to his participation in Melodifestivalen, but when I got the opportunity to meet him again that evening, it was very clear that he remained such a likeable, humble and down-to-earth person in spite of his growing fame. Salem's decision to retreat from the spotlight to focus on songwriting and production for other artists was initially disappointing but, with hindsight, not so surprising. And although it's been a generally dormant blog in recent years, Planet Salem is still going and I continue to report any news about the great man's musical adventures.
Back to EuropeCrazy now: although I enjoyed writing about all the new music I discovered, I also wanted to share my love for the music which I've loved throughout my life, and that was the inspiration for Retro Saturday, a feature which ran on the blog during its first few years.
Over the past couple of years, two factors have impacted on the reduction in music coverage on this blog: the 'globalisation' of music and the impact that streaming has made on the charts. In 2007, I could look at any iTunes chart across Europe and of course it would include the big international hits, but there would also be enough home-grown music to provide a genuine alternative to the UK chart. Nowadays it's all about Spotify streams etc, but I'm pretty much old-school so I still like to check the iTunes charts....only to be greeted with the same songs in every chart, in every country, for weeks and months on end. There is also a complete lack of variety in what is passing for mainstream 'pop' music these days - it's either faceless EDM or acoustic bores. And most importantly, where have all the good tunes gone?
I used to listen to a lot of Swedish commercial radio, but I rarely listen these days as it's often indistinguishable from my local radio station, due to that 'globalisation'. I have no doubt that there is still some good music out there, but you have to put a lot more effort into looking for it, and over the last couple of years I have just given up and turned my back on current music in favour of older music from my own vast collection.
There is one annual musical event which remains at the heart of this blog. Yes, what else but the Eurovision Song Contest, and the national finals season leading up to it. However I decided from the beginning that this blog would not be an ESC news blog as there are so many others out there doing this job very well. There are so many excellent ESC-related blogs providing in-depth coverage and analysis, and also some great podcasts which I always make sure to download during 'the season'. To each and every one of you bloggers out there who work so hard to keep our ESC obsession going, a huge thank you - Eurovision wouldn't be the same without you. Due to my personal circumstances I have always been a 'stay at home' fan who has never been to a contest, so all of these blogs and Twitter accounts really bring the experience alive. Especially as here in the UK, the general mainstream mindset about ESC has never changed, and people are generally frightened to discuss it for fear of ridicule, so it's nice to be part of a world where the contest continues to be the event of the year! I will continue to write my reviews of ESC and national finals season on the blog, but as you know by now, these posts will be retrospective due to time constraints and other commitments.
One of the reviews which I will be posting in the coming weeks will be about Melodifestivalen, which was once my favourite annual selection. I can't say this any more though. In the rush towards a more 'modern' line-up of songs, I'm sad to say that Christer/SVT have 'thrown the baby out with the bathwater' and for me, the quality of songs has deteriorated. I was never really a schlager fan as such, so I don't miss that, but what I do miss is just a good, catchy, memorable song which will stand up to repeated play long after the contest is over. Tonight I will watch the 2017 Melodifestivalen final: as usual it will be a visual feast, the production will be slick, the staging will be impressive, and the artists will sing their hearts out, but for some reason this year, I can't get excited about the final line-up of songs. Most of them just leave me cold. (And no, before you ask, it's nothing to do with Loreen's shock elimination, because I wasn't excited about her song either #controversialopinion)
It should be acknowledged that we all have different views about the quality of the songs and the direction the contest is going in. As an 'older' fan of the contest I am beginning to feel a bit marginalised. Eurovision fandom seems to be a young person's game now, and the contest and national selections have radically changed over the past 10 years of this blog, for better or worse. Of course Eurovision had to modernise, but something suffered along the way. Yes, it is now reflecting modern music more than ever, but a little more variety and musical diversity would be welcome. So you won't be too surprised to learn that my two favourite entries this year come from Italy and Portugal: both in native language, with national characteristics and little concession to what's 'current' and crucially, they immediately made that 'connection' with me, which can't be said for the blander, more generic/ 'current' entries lack.
On to something different now. When I started the blog, the other thing I wanted to write about was travel. and in the past 10 years I have been fortunate enough enjoy some fabulous holidays in a number of different destinations across Europe, and have written on here about all of them: Stockholm, Berlin, Riga, Nice (twice), Dublin (three times), Gothenburg (twice), Dusseldorf, Icmeler (twice), Bratislava, Bodrum, Pisa, Palma, Copenhagen, Trogir, Brussels, Puerto Pollensa, London, Madrid, Llandudno and Carcassonne, some during-holiday day trips to Cologne, Vienna, Kos and Mostar. as well as a fabulous Med cruise in 2013 which took in Messina, Athens, Kusadasi and Chania. Of course I don't have a social life - any money I have left after paying all the bills goes into the holiday fund!! My philosophy now is do it while you still can, because you don't know what's in the future.
Whilst there have been extreme highs and happy times over the past 10 years, the past 3 years have brought a breakdown, depression, an eating disorder and continuing struggles with my weight - all chronicled over at my 3rd blog, EuropeCrazy's Random Ramblings (http://europecrazysrandomramblings.blogspot.com) - it's not all doom and gloom over there though, it just feels like it :))
10 years on from 11th March 2007, the world is a very different and increasingly horrible place in so many ways. Closer to home, my partner and I (faithful travelling companion to regular readers) also continue to struggle with the impact and pain of the loss of our loved ones over recent years. However, there is another side of grief and loss, as it makes you more aware of your own mortality, and that you must make the most of every day you have left. Our more carefree selves of 2007 may be a million miles away, but life goes on and we are determined to live it to the full.
Before this post gets too depressing, I need to remind myself that today is a celebration of my 10 years in blogland! In my post from this time last year, I said that once the blog hit 10 years I would make a decision about whether or not to continue. Although blogging is no longer as popular as it was in 2007, sometimes you can't just say what you want in 140 characters, and writing some of my backlog of posts over the past week reminded me of how much I do enjoy blogging when I have the time and opportunity to do this. And in writing this post, so many happy memories have been triggered. So I've made a decision - it's time to make some new memories. EuropeCrazy will continue!
Finally, as I said in my introduction, when I started the blog I never thought that anyone would read it. I would have been excited if even one person had read it, so I'm delighted and overwhelmed that so many of you have visited over the past 10 years. I want to say a massive thanks to all of you, wherever you are in the world, whether you're an accidental one-off visitor or a regular reader. Your support means the world to me, and I appreciate it so much.
Here's to the next 10 years!