Monday, November 30, 2009

The 2009-50: No. 28 - The dream was sold and you bought the bouquet

"Right Here Right Now" - BWO.

FACT: "Big Science" was one of my most played and most loved albums of 2009. It's refreshing to know that the BWO shiny pop formula shows no signs of deteriorating, even if the British record buying public and music media is the Teflon frying pan to their musical fried egg. Their music, it seems, just won't stick here.

Happily, we fans of Swedish pop still managed to get our BWO fix. It may look as if their time at Melodifestivalen is gone (it could all have been different IMHO if they'd gone for the dance-version of "You're Not Alone") but they still have a bright future ahead if songs like this are anything to go by. "Bite The Bullet" narrowly missed out on my top 50 this year, but there was never any doubt that "Right Here Right Now" would be in my top 30.

The 2009-50: No. 29 - Baby you trip the switch, I turn on for you

"Sensitized" - Christophe Willem & Kylie Minogue.

Not being too familiar with the most recent work of Ms Minogue, I was therefore unaware that this initially belonged to her and that Christophe's version is a cover - with the very nice twist of duetting with the original artist.

Christophe is one of the most original and inventive reality TV talent show winners anywhere in the world: not only did he make a cracking debut album but he followed it with an ambitious and contemporary-sounding second album, although I felt it could have done with some more catchy songs in the style of "Double Je" and "Kiss The Bride". Still, I guess it is a good sign that he is progressing as a true artist.

This song is a deliciously frothy bilingual mix which should (and probably will) appeal to fans of both artists.

The 2009-50: No. 30 - Go hiking through the hills in a summer gown

"Half Mast" - Empire of the Sun.

In a year packed with overrated and overhyped newcomers, only one act which popped up in many of the "Big in 2009" lists really stood out for me. Aussie duo Empire of the Sun have an image and a sound like no other band around these days. They recently enjoyed massive success at the ARIA awards (the Australian version of the Brits/Grammys), winning awards for best album, single, group, pop release and producer.

So it won't be too surprising that they will figure very significantly indeed in this chart. Their first appearance is with an album track which, like much of their sound, is hard to describe; it's keyboard-driven with a retro feel but is nowhere near as contrived as some of 2009's 80s revivalists.

First group of Melodifestivalen artists announced!

Thanks to Aftonbladet for the info!

Heat 1: Örnsköldsvik - 06.02.10

Jenny Silver – "A place to stay"
Jessica Anderssson – "I did it for love"
Salem Al Fakir – "Keep on walking"
Pain of Salvation – "Road Salt"
Frispråkar'n – "Singel"
Anders Ekborg – "The Saviour"
Ola Svensson – "Unstopable"
Linda Pritchard – "You're makin me hot-hot-hot"

Heat 2: Sandviken - 13.02.10

MiSt – "Come and get me now"
Dogge Doggelito och Andra generationen – "Hippare hoppare"
Anna Maria Espinosa – "Innan alla ljusen brunnit ut"
Erik Saade – "Manboy"
Hanna Lindblad – "Manipulated"
Kalle Moraeus och Orsa spelmän – "Underbart"
Andreas Johnson – "We can work it out"

Very excited, obviously, about Örnsköldsvik....!

Good to see Andreas back in Heat 2 as well. Some new/unfamiliar names announced so far, which may not please the schlager fraternity, but it just means some potentially exciting new acts to discover!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The 2009-50: No.31 - Won't somebody take me back to summertime?

"Rewind" - Måns Zelmerlöw.

The first appearance in this year's chart by next year's Melodifestivalen host and future West End star of "Chicago", this was one of the most instant and best songs on his second album. The lyrics seem to capture that "summer's over" feeling perfectly....which, as I shiver whilst typing this on a very cold evening, seems such a long time ago now :)

The 2009-50: No. 32 - The time has come for us to love, a heart away, to celebrate our loneliness

"Allein Allein" - Polarkreis 18.

I'm gradually recovering from that horrible cold which floored me for the full weekend, so it's time to resume my countdown.

Another one which probably shouldn't be here on the "it was around in 2008" technicality but hey, it's my chart and I can do what I want! The remarkable thing about this German mega-hit was that it even achieved "Record of the Week" status on BBC Radio 2, but predictably chart success didn't follow. It did however manage to become a hit in some countries outside Germany, helped along by some dance remixes.

This is just a great record: an accessible pop song sung in English with an anthemic singalong chorus hookline, and in an ideal world it would dominate the charts forever. At least the producers of ITV's "Tour de France" coverage knew a good tune when they heard it, as "Allein Allein" was used on a couple of occasions to soundtrack their end-of-show montage. (As indeed was Ladyhawke's excellent "Paris is Burning" which had previously passed me by).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Normal service resumed soon....

Sorry for the lack of posts this weekend but I'm suffering from (yet another) very nasty cold which has put me out of action this weekend. I'll be back on here when I'm feeling better.

See you soon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The 2009-50: No.33 - Will you catch me when I fall?

"The Highest Heights" - Lovebugs.

One of the few songs in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest which I bothered with after it was all over. Anthemic Swiss pop-rock band fronted by an appealing male singer, what’s not to love? Except that they couldn’t deliver when it mattered and didn't make it out of the semi-final, but on record it remains a fine track.

The 2009-50: No. 34 - I’m falling in love with your favourite song, I’m gonna sing it all night long

"Dance With Somebody" - Mando Diao.

A top tune from my Gothenburg weekend which had me dancing around my hotel room (thanks P3!), and which seemed to top their Tracks chart for ever. Rockin’ & rollin’ with just the right amount of restraint, from a band which spiritually belongs three decades ago. And I mean that in a good way.

The 2009-50: No.35 - And at the end of the road there is a house at the lake

"Haus am See" - Peter Fox.

Yes I know this shouldn't be in my 2009 chart on that 'released in 2008' technicality but it qualifies as I wasn't aware of it until this year.

Mr Fox first came to my attention thanks to his guest appearance on Miss Platnum's "Come Marry Me" a couple of years ago, but has gone on to have a hugely popular award-winning solo career in his native Germany, with his distinctive vocals, monkey obsession (!) and unique fusion of hip hop and other styles. "Haus am See" wasn't only a hit in German-speaking Europe but became a surprise top 10 hit in the Netherlands. It's an easy going and likeable song driven by strings and girly "yeah" backing vocals.

The 2009-50: No.36 - Give birth to me at dawn in May, bathe me in the clear water

"Bistra Voda" - Regina.

Putting the relative merits of Eurovision songs aside, one of the best things about the contest (and the national finals which precede it) is that it introduces us to some genuinely good musical talent.

I've never been a fan of the Balkan entries and had never heard of long-established Bosnian rock band Regina before this year but that issue was resolved when they were chosen to sing their national entry, the stirring and anthemic "Bistra Voda" which my mum fondly referred to as "the battle hymn of the republic". The song may have had a military-style presentation, but it also possessed a great emotional pull: and its top 10 position was well-deserved.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

E.M.D.- Mattias to appear in "Let's Dance"!

Firstly it was Danny Saucedo who took to the dancefloor, then band-mate Erik Segerstedt was in charge of a choir on "Körslaget". Now Aftonbladet reports here that Mattias Andréasson, the third member of all-conquering Swedish boyband E.M.D., will be appearing in the next series of "Let's Dance" which is TV4 Sweden's version of "Strictly Come Dancing"/"Dancing With The Stars". I wonder if he'll emulate Danny's success or will the judges be saying "Baby Goodbye" (groan) if it's murder on the dancefloor? All will be revealed soon, as the new series begins in January 2010.

The 2009-50: No.37 - Can't read my, can't read my, no you can't read my....

"Poker Face" - Lady GaGa.

One of the most overexposed (in every way!) music artists of 2009! No matter where in the world you were, you would always hear Lady GaGa. Everywhere you went, there was no escape.

I initially didn't like this song, but my resistance wore down very quickly and it remains for me one of the most enduring and refreshing pop songs of the year. And it's completely daft, in a good way. (Am not keen on her new stuff though - that "Video Phone" song with Beyonce is completely awful, and "Bad Romance" is still annoying me). Unfortunately we can expect to see a long line of inferior GaGa wannabes in the chart next year, which I'm not too excited about.

The 2009-50 is back on Thursday.

The 2009-50: No. 38 - Cause I'm not able to convince myself that I'm better off without you

"Release Me" - Agnes.

Proof that even if you don’t like an act, you only need one song to change your mind. In the case of Agnes Carlsson, this was it. I had never been a fan of hers, purely on the grounds that she beat my beloved Sebastian Karlsson in the second season of Swedish Idol - I’m not good at forgiving/forgetting, but this finally won me over (as did her Melodifestivalen entry "Love Love Love" eventually).

I'm particularly glad that she is achieving worldwide success now - the more Swedish artists taking over the world, the better!

The 2009-50: No. 39 - The negative move, it's killin' the groove

"We Don't Wanna Put In" - Stefane & 3G.

And now, "a bit of politics" as Ben Elton used to say, back in the day. In 2009 Georgia decided to submit a rather fab, disco-tastic 70s style groovy tune as its entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. So far so good, a song I actually liked in what was a generally poor year.

And then it was gone. The Georgians claimed that Russia (hosts of the 2009 contest) asked them to change the the lyrics of the song. Georgia refused, then just as the EBU was about to throw the rule book at them (no politics or any of that kind of stuff allowed. Yeah right.), Georgia withdrew from the contest, denying the people of Europe the chance to boogie on down to this fab song.

The 2009-50: No.40 - These are the good times in your life, so put on a smile and it'll be alright

"The Rain" - Calvin Harris.

Opening track on the great man's rather wonderful "Ready For The Weekend" album. This is a perfect example of the accessible dance music with a strong pop sensibility, a style which he does so effortlessly and so well. An uptempo song with an uplifting, if repetitive, chorus.

(Bizarre thing happened today, as whilst I was battling my way through the never-ending rainstorms, this song came on my iPod. What an appropriate title, I thought, as I proceeded to step into a great big puddle....!)

The way this chart is unfolding is as big a surprise to me as it is to anyone else (or not, as the case may be) as I've re-written the list of songs from no.35 to no.50 several times over the last couple of nights. Still got that slight paranoia that I might have left some songs out by accident, in which case they'll probably make an appearance in my 'ones that got away' list which should appear in the week beginning 14.12.2009.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The 2009-50: No. 41 - If you got something to say just get right down to it

"Say It" - Booty Luv.

It remains one of the year's more inexplicable mysteries that this addictively catchy comeback single by the dance-pop duo failed to make the chart impact which it deserved. That's all I've got to say.

The 2009-50: No. 42 - Now if she does it like this will you do it like that?

"Shake It" - Metro Station.

I suppose I should really have hated this, given that the band probably only got famous because it features the brother of Miley Cyrus - whose phenomenal success is completely lost on me, but then I'm not part of her target audience I suppose.

Anyway this was just a very catchy uptempo pop song which was good enough to succeed even without the famous-sibling connection.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Idol 2009: another one bites the dust

Sorry I don't have time for a full review this week, normal service should resume next weekend.

Reza is the latest contestant to be evicted from Swedish Idol, I thought she might go this week after being in the bottom two last week with Eddie (yes I missed him this week, it's just not the same without him. Pass the Kleenex).

The one thing that did shock me though, was Erik's appearance in the bottom two: it proves just how strong the competition is this year. No 'John and Edward' types in Swedish Idol !

Calle seems to be on the up - he has a great rock voice and is very very good at what he does but I still don't see him as solo-singer material: I think he would be better fronting a band.

Tove showed another side to her style with a very nice version of "Himlen är oskyldigt blå" which is a lovely song by the late and much-missed singer-songwriter Ted Gärdestad.

Mariette has also recovered her form over the past couple of weeks and is again a contender but I'll stick my neck out and predict that Calle will go next week, followed by Mariette, with the finalists being Tove and Erik. But as my predictions usually turn out rubbish it will probably be a Calle-Mariette final. Who knows? They're all good in their own way, and so much better than anyone on X Factor.

Quite excited at the prospect of the "Idol 2004-2009" DVD coming out in Sweden towards the end of this year, will definitely need to buy that one.

Album Reviews Round-Up

Trying to clear the decks before the pre-Christmas blogging (not to mention Christmas itself!) So here are some mini-reviews of some recent albums.

Firstly, "Conditions" by The Temper Trap.

I loved "Sweet Disposition" from the moment I heard it in that ad (for 4 Music if I’m right), and this song is one of the most welcome and underrated chart hits of this year. They are an Australian band now based in the UK - there is so much musical talent coming out of Australia now. "Conditions" is like a musical series of controlled explosions. OK so much of it is not original, and much of the time melody and hooklines are sacrificed in favour of atmosphere. Their ace card however is super vocalist Dougy Mandagi, whose powerful falsetto tones are the most distinctive I’ve heard in a long time. I would imagine that they are great live; we’re going to hear a lot more from them. Best track: "Sweet Disposition" (of course!)

"500 Dågar Om Aret" - Tomas Ledin

I continue to have a strong sense of loyalty to many of my ‘foreign favourites’ whom I’ve supported over the years. Like Tomas Ledin for example; who at 57 years old has had a music career spanning almost 40 years and he keeps on rockin’! Over recent years - and I say this as a fan - I feel his recorded output has deteriorated and he only seems to be capable of two songs - the ‘anthemic rocky one’ and the ‘acoustic ballad’. This album doesn’t really dispute that thinking, mixing up the smooth acoustic songs - some of them rather nice, don’t get me wrong - with the stadium-rockers like the title track and "Medelklassens Okrönta Kungar", (which got a lot of press attention at the time of the album’s release due to Ledin’s claim that it’s a rock anthem for the middle classes). His voice has deepened over the years, but vocally he still has it. The problem continues to be the unimaginative musical settings for his songs which are less varied now than in his ‘golden era’ of the 70s, 80s and early 90s. First single "Håll Ut" was disappointing on first hearing, and it still disappoints; I like the catchy foot-tapper "Ut på Vagarna Igen" though.

"Röd" - Kent

Loved and acclaimed by the Swedish critics and music fans alike, Kent continue to push the musical boundaries in a more electronic direction and manage to keep their music fresh on their new album. It starts bizarrely, with bells and a church choir, but it’s not long till the pounding, pulsating electro beats kick in, topped by Joakim Berg’s distinctive voice. If first single "Töntarna" didn’t really leave an impression, they make up for it for example with "Taxmannen", "Krossa Allt" and the epic "Sjukhus", the latter building up into a fast, funky, New Order-ish (yes, that good) adventure, and the outstanding, equally epic "Vals för S***n". If I have a problem with many of the songs on this album it’s that many of them are a bit too long and can overstay their welcome, but one thing is for sure - their electro-disco-rock-melancholy is in a class of its own. You can be sure that come awards season, they’ll be walking away with a few. Like all Kent albums they need some time to grow on you; and like the others, this definitely brings its rewards.

"Zij aan Zij" - Clouseau

Here’s a band which has rediscovered its joie de vivre, its musical mojo, call it what you will. Many bands go stale with the passing of time, but not Flemish-speaking Belgium’s most popular group of the last 20 years. After spending the mid to late 90s in easy listening territory, they rediscovered the excitement of their early days and their last 3 albums have been filled with power-pop guitar driven songs with anthemic singalong choruses which are just tailor-made for their annual residency at Antwerp’s Sportpaleis. Their trademark ballads are still there though, but even these are a bit more muscular - like the ‘With or Without You’-influenced title track. "De Juiste Vergissing" is a very good opening track whilst "Leve België" is interestingly, a song for unity in their divided country. "Zij aan Zij" may have nothing distinctively new or different to offer, but if you’re a Clouseau fan you will enjoy it, and it would appear that there is still a lot of life left in the Wauters brothers’ winning musical formula.

The 2009-50: No. 43 - Never thought that I would be the one falling down

"Lose Control" - Waldo's People.

Finland's Eurovision entry this year was a nostalgic journey back to the days of 90s dance. I played it a lot at the time - although maybe less so in the second half of the year, which would account for its relatively low position in my chart. Their performance at the contest was ultimately disappointing, but on record it remains a very catchy dance song, and I'm glad Finland chose it. But there was another song at Euroviisut which I loved so much more - and which will appear later on in my chart (clue: the singer is doing Euroviisut 2010, which is really really really exciting news!)

The 2009-50: No.44 - Lying in the grass, watching the stars come out

"Stars Come Out" - Calvin Harris.

One of the lesser-known tracks on his rather wonderful second album "Ready For The Weekend" which has probably been played to death at EuropeCrazy HQ by now. This is completely dance-tastic and I love the way it goes off on that little ravey tangent near the end.

Some thoughts before I go in search of zzz......

I'm now feeling very tired so won't be hanging around here for much longer tonight. Before I go...

  • "Retro Saturday" is now on another break and will be back in January.
  • When I'm refreshed and revived tomorrow I'll post my Idol review - "I just haven't watched it yet" as Michael Buble might sing :))
  • I should also post an album roundup: this month's Square-Eyed will follow in the next few days.
  • Also just realised I hadn't mentioned that the all-male Team Ola won Körslaget last week, which I'm very happy about although less happy that they are supposed to have (allegedly) ripped off a routine by the British winners 'Only Men Aloud' from that 'Last Choir Standing' thing on BBC-1 last year?
  • Shamefully I haven't seen any of "Dansbandskampen" yet.
  • Still obsessed with Melodifestivalen.
  • Have decided not to watch "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" - one of the very few celeb-reality shows which I bother with - any more, until they get some of the so-called 'celebs' to earn their money. Reason = Katie "Don't call me Jordan" Price = bush tucker trials night after night = not funny anymore, killing this show actually. I'm struggling to understand the reason for the "what trials Katie did next" show and ITV's obsession with this woman. Not that it would have anything to do with ratings and tabloid coverage then, would it???

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The 2009-50: When I'm gone, who are you to mourn?

"Don't Bring Flowers" - Erik Hassle.

The song chosen to launch 2009's blog-land favourite and all-round wonderful new talent Erik Hassle in the UK - an uptempo guitar-pop grower with very sharp lyrics - predictably was too good to make the charts in this country.

Wisely, his record company have put the release of the fantastic "Hurtful" and the British version of his debut album - which was originally due for release here in November, slap-bang in X Factor season where decent music will sink without a trace, (and which fans of quality Swedish pop have been enjoying for a vast chunk of 2009) - on hold until February 2010, by which time he'll reach a much wider audience by supporting Mika on his British tour and, fingers crossed, finally achieve the success he deserves in this country.

The 2009-50: No. 46 - I sing now for all of you

(I haven't been around all day and was also off for a night out tonight, but I'm back now and ready to resume my devotion to the blogging cause and bring the latest instalment of my top 50 songs of the year.)

"Hold On" - Lazee featuring Neverstore.

A very acceptable blend of rap (Lazee) and indie rock (Neverstore) from Sweden. Regular readers won't be surprised that this is the first of very many songs by Swedish acts in my chart this year.

One significant thing about this song is that it did get released in the UK, had a fair amount of airplay on the music video channels, and even made the (increasingly influential) Radio 1 playlist. Yet despite that, it failed to make what (IMHO) has become an increasingly irrelevant and highly irritating UK top 40 singles chart. Being a fan of European music is a wonderful thing though, as it means that you have somewhere else to go when the music gets rubbish in your own country :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

The 2009-50: No. 47 - Ich bau ne Stadt für dich, aus Glas und Gold und Stein

"Stadt" - Cassandra Steen featuring Adel Tawil.

Whilst on holiday in Dusseldorf earlier this year, this song was a regular fixture on MTV and Viva music channels. Although Cassandra Steen was an unknown name to me, the person who made it a very special song is her duetting partner on this song, none other than Adel Tawil, who is better known as one half of Ich + Ich, and he also sang the German 'Prison Break' theme. He is probably my favourite German singer - I love his very distinctive voice and could probably listen to it all day! Anyway this is a very nice song which deservedly became a big hit in Germany.

P.S. By the way, I just found out this week that there is a new Ich + Ich album out (did you know about this, Rachel?) so will need to check that out some time soon :)
P.P.S. Hope those lyrics are correct, as my German is virtually non-existent I got them off a website :)

The 2009-50: No. 48 - You are the reason that I breathe, you are the reason that I still believe

"Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)" - AH Rahman featuring the Pussycat Dolls.

The Pussycat Dolls may have been quick to cash in on 'Slumdog'-mania earlier this year, (the original version of the song was featured in the closing scenes of the movie) but this was a wise decision to team up with the song's original composer AR Rahman and remake the song. The result? Well, I thought it was the best thing they've ever done, and the song had such a wide appeal that even Doll-haters liked this song. An incredibly catchy song, from a highly enjoyable and genuinely original motion picture.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The 2009-50: No. 49 - One, two, three, four, uno, dos, tres, cuatro

"I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)" - Pitbull.

As near as you’ll get to the good old "holiday hit", this one (see also "Hotel Room Service", our fondly remembered holiday hit from Turkey which narrowly missed out on a placing in this chart) gleefully sampled that Bucketheads riff and rumba-d all over our radios this summer. I can’t see him being anything else but a two hit wonder though, and his videos are sexist rubbish, but this song and its follow-up were particularly guilty pleasures for me in 2009. :)

The 2009-50: No. 50 - It's complicated, it always is, that's just the way it goes

"When Love Takes Over" - David Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland.

It always cheers me greatly to see a European act succeeding on the worldwide stage. This year belonged to French DJ, producer and remixer David Guetta, thanks to his work with the Black Eyed Peas and his own album of collaborations with major artists, in this case Kelly Rowland, which became one of the year’s biggest and most enduring dance tracks. Guetta even achieved the impossible: he made a record with Akon which I actually liked!

The 2009-50: introduction and criteria

OK so here we are, it's that time again, when I count down my 50 favourite songs of the year. Before I start, just a brief word on the criteria for selection:

  • Most of the songs were released in 2009, although there is as usual that little grey area where I've featured a couple of songs which, although technically released in 2008, didn't reach my ears until 2009.

  • There are also those songs which were released in the post-2008-50 period and made it into the 'ones that got away' list at the end of last year, therefore just missed out on this year's list: main casualty being Christian Walz.

  • Only songs which have been commercially released this year are eligible, which rules out unreleased tracks: that's why Salem Al Fakir's as yet unreleased "Brooklyn Sun", despite being one of my favourite and most played songs of the year, is omitted (watch out for that one next year though....)

So here we go....

This week's Idol songs

It's "Love Songs" week (yawn)

But at least there are - finally! - a couple of songs in the Swedish language at least!!

Here (thanks as usual to Aftonbladet) is the list of who'll be singing what this week:

Tove Östman Styrke
1.”Sweet dreams” (Eurythmics)
2.”Himlen är oskyldigt blå” (Ted Gärdestad)

Calle Kristiansson
1.”Your song” (Elton John).
2.”To be with you” (Mr. Big).

Erik Grönwall
1.”My life would suck without you” (Kelly Clarkson).
2.”Always” (Bon Jovi).

Reza Ningtyas Lindh
1.”You've got a friend” (Carole King).
2.”When I need you” (Leo Sayer).

Mariette Hansson
1.”Ängeln i rummet” (Eva Dahlgren).
2.”Good riddance (Time of your life)” (Green Day).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eddie Razaz: Model Idol!!

He may have been evicted from Swedish Idol last Friday, but in no time he's landed a new career as a fashion model. Yes, the gorgeous Eddie Razaz will be featured in a Swedish advertising campaign for top American designer Tom Ford! I can't wait to see the pictures.... :)))

Monday, November 16, 2009

Salem Al Fakir in Melodifestivalen 2010 !!!!

Did you really think I wouldn't mention it?????

Today SVT revealed the second 'joker' (wildcard) entry to next year's Melodifestivalen - and it is none other than my most favourite singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/musical genius, the outstanding Salem Al Fakir.

I've been through a lot of different emotions about this today - extreme excitement, disbelief, shock, further excitement, even more excitement, you get the idea :)

Anyway Salem will be appearing in Melodifestivalen 2010, where he will sing a song called "Keep On Walking" which of course he has also written himself.

For those who haven't heard any of Salem's music yet, I would recommend you take a trip over to Salem's MySpace ( or do a search for some of his videos over at YouTube.

And (quick plug time) don't forget to visit Planet Salem, which is my very own international fansite for the great man!!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Agnes finds love, love, love ....with Vincent!

Just been catching up with this weekend's Swedish showbiz gossip and was confronted with this article on Expressen's website which says that Agnes Carlsson's new boyfriend is none other than Vincent Pontare!!

(If you're not familiar with Vincent, he's a really talented singer, musician and songwriter - one of Sweden's best!)

I just love it when Swedish pop stars get together, don't you? First Måns and Marie, now Agnes and Vincent. It's a shame that Brolle and Elin split up though :(

Anyway I wish this new pairing all the best! Now when are we going to get a new album from Vincent? It's about time....!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Idol 13.11.09: Topplistan, duets, and hankies at the ready - Eddie's out :(

With Anders Bagge sick this week, it was none other than Ulf Ekberg from the mighty Ace of Base who sat in for him on the panel as guest judge. This week's theme was "Topplistan" - some current or recent hit songs - and for the first time this year we got the chance to hear duets involving the six remaining contestants.

"Bodies" - Erik: He recovered well from his microphone failure at the start of the song. On the surface, a pretty undemanding song for his powerhouse vocals but he was wonderful and yet again it was no bother for him. His first Robbie song of the evening! Surely he'll make the final? I really want him to win it now.

"Curly Sue" - Eddie: a strange choice, giving Eddie one of Sweden's most played pop/rock songs of the decade when that kind of sound clearly isn't his comfort zone. Nevertheless it gave us another chance to be "head over heels" with Mr Razaz!!!!

"Halo" - Reza: As stated in my previous post, this is one of my most hated songs of 2009 so credit to her for doing a mainly controlled performance of it.

"Bad Day" - Calle: Nothing to do with "Idol", but IMHO my favourite cover version of this song was when Lee Mead sang it in "Any Dream Will Do". Anyway it was pretty restrained for Calle. Not bad, but not great either. Maybe a song-swap would have been better, with Eddie doing this and Calle doing "Curly Sue"?

"I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker" - Tove: another spirited performance from the quirky and probable winner-in-waiting, although for me slightly ruined by the fact that this is one of my least favourite songs of this decade.

"Bleeding Love" - Mariette: Another song which thankfully lacked Leona-style vocal gymnastics. Mariette was impressive again, but also restyled again - they're trying to turn her into something she isn't, and I don't think they know what image they want for her?
"If Only You" - Eddie & Reza: lucky Reza getting to duet with Eddie - it's a wonder anyone could concentrate on singing if they had to do a duet with him :) He looks and sounds like a pop star already so this was a good choice for him, maybe less so for Reza, but I enjoyed it. But that kiss at the end....lucky lucky Reza!!!

"Someone New" - Mariette & Calle: Surprisingly this was my favourite of the night's duets as it seemed quite natural and unforced, and showed off both singers' vocal abilities well on the Eskobar & Heather Nova song which was a great choice.

"Kids" - Tove & Erik: A chance to watch the two finalists in action - for I think they will be the last Idols standing this year - and they did a good enough job here although I don't particularly like this song anyway. I feel that neither of them will be traditional pop stars post-Idol; I could envisage Erik having a long and successful career in musical theatre whilst Tove is likely to emulate Amanda Jenssen's style with a more left-field musical approach. (I wonder what the "winner's song" will be this year? Same old same old I guess!)
Bottom two: Eddie and Reza - Eddie was becoming the 'king of the bottom two' but on Friday his nine lives finally ran out and he went home. I suppose it was time for him to go, as he doesn't have the vocal ability of the others, but this lovesick blogger will miss him so much :((((

Next week: the final five contenders participate for the final time in the TV4 studios before the latter stages of the contest head out to the arenas of Malmo, Gothenburg and finally Stockholm. Only four weeks to go till the final!

2009: the hate chart

Just doing the final preparatory bits for my top 50 chart of my favourite songs of 2009. (The 2009-50 starts this coming Thursday).

For me, 2009 has been a year of musical extremes. On the one hand there have been songs this year which I have loved and will continue to love for a long time to come: most of these will have escaped the ears of the general British listening public, but thankfully there is the pop blogging community where I manage to discover some wonderful pop music overlooked by the UK media/radio programmers.

For me, the UK top 40 singles chart in 2009 has, most of the time, been a no-go area of autotuned r'n'b landfill, or songs which have overstayed their welcome, fuelled by the most unimaginative radio playlists I can remember for many years.

Now as you know I try to be a positive, glass-half-full kind of person, not really into any kind of negativity but the fact remains that where there is love, there is also hate. And so, ladies and gentlemen, may I present my 2009 hate chart of songs which no radio playlist over the past year could live without - but I never want to hear them again!

1. "Mama Do" - Pixie Lott (aargh!)
2. "Halo" - Beyonce
3. "In For The Kill" - La Roux (the year's most overrated act)
4. "My Life Would Suck Without You" - Kelly Clarkson
5. "Fight For This Love" - Cheryl Cole
6. "T Shirt" - Shontelle
7. "Sober" - Pink
8. "Boom Boom Pow" - Black Eyed Peas
9. Any autotuned r'n'b rubbish (about 90% of the top 40!)
10. Anything by Florence and the Machine (the year's second most overrated act)

I would hope for an improvement in 2010, but then I remember that Scouting For Girls, The Ting Tings and Duffy haven't had a record out in a while :(((((

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New presenters for Melodifestivalen in 2010

So, out goes Petra Mede (did she jump or was she pushed - can anyone tell me?) and in comes not one, not two, but three presenters. One of our favourite Swedish pop stars and twice MF finalist, Måns Zelmerlöw will present all six shows along with TV presenter/comedienne Christine Meltzer.

OK so far. Well done Måns, I'm glad he's doing this as he did so well during this summer's "Allsång pa Skansen" and "Sommarkrysset", that an alternative career in TV presenting was always going to be on the cards. I can't comment about Christine Meltzer as I haven't seen her in anything but hopefully she'll bring a few laughs to the show.

But what's the deal with Dolph Lundgren - yes, that Dolph Lundgren, him off the "Rocky" film - also being involved? Aftonbladet reports that he'll be on stage on the first and last shows and will be involved in the other shows, behind the scenes. Bit of an odd choice, this one, if you ask me.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Norsk MGP 2010: no news, only rumours

Lots of lovely Norwegian rumours flying around about who will be competing in the 2010 Norsk Melodi Grand Prix - everyone from Maria Haukaas Storeng, Venke Knutson and Mira Craig (this time as a singer rather than a songwriter) to Lene Alexandra, A1 (!) and Alexander Stenerud. It’s even been suggested that songwriter Rolf Løvland, who was responsible for Norway’s previous ESC winners by Bobbysocks and Secret Garden, will have a song in it next year.

VG reports that NRK won’t be confirming the names of any participants until December. In the meantime you can check out all the rumours and gossip at

Idol 2009: 'World's best songs' week

A random (and arguable) theme, but as I said in an earlier post, one with the contestants firmly within their comfort zones.

Rabih: "All My Life": bits of this were ok, bits of it were pretty foul. He's gone, and not a minute too soon IMHO.

Mariette: "Because The Night": She does have a good voice and she performs effortlessly week after week, but I still can't 'connect' with her for some reason. I'm still not sure if this competition is the right forum for her talent.

Reza: "Summertime": She has grown on me over the weeks but she unfortunately fell victim to the 'why have one note when 10 will do' curse this week. Although her confidence and star quality is growing, I didn't think this song did her any favours.

Calle: "With A Little Help From My Friends": I thought he'd have been away a couple of weeks ago, but he lives to fight a few other days yet, complete with his 'guyliner'. A decent enough version of the song, Joe Cocker-style (and credit to him for attempting the mid-song Cocker-scream) but I still can't see him going too much further.

Tove: "In The Ghetto": it's a big ask to do an Elvis song, but Tove began by keeping it very simple - even down to her plain white dress - however it wasn't long till she was putting her individual stamp on the song.

Eddie: "If You're Not The One": the falsetto was dodgy and the stylist must have had an off day, but apart from that Eddie did his best on what is for me a rather boring song by one of my least favourite artists. It's time for the weekly dose of gratuitous Eddie screencaps.....

Erik: "The Show Must Go On": he is vocally for me the most consistent performer this year - give him anything and he will sing it well. The judges loved him - and I will be very happy if he wins it.

It's getting harder to predict the bottom-two at this stage of the contest - but this week it was Rabih and Mariette, with Rabih finally going.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Retro Saturday: Joe Jackson

Went into a shop today and they were playing a Joe Jackson song so the lightbulb went on in my head and I thought: "Retro Saturday"!

It's just over 30 years since the singer-songwriter Joe Jackson had his first UK chart hit with the (still wonderful) new wave classic "Is She Really Going Out With Him". This was followed by "It's Different For Girls" which gave him his biggest chart hit:

My favourite Joe Jackson song is "Steppin' Out" from 1983 which is a true classic. (My definition of a true classic is a song which still sounds as fresh and wonderful today as it did back then). Jazzy and uptempo, with a distinctive piano hookline and a very memorable video :

Retro Saturday: Jump The Gun

From time to time I like to feature a lost Eurovision classic in my Retro Saturday selection.

Back in 1988, Ireland hosted the Eurovision Song Contest, thanks to Johnny Logan's second win the previous year. They chose the band Jump The Gun to defend their title with "Take Him Home". Looking back, it was a pretty ambitious choice of song, starting off as a piano ballad and then it turns into as near to a rock song as you could get in Eurovision back in those days. For me it's one of the most underrated entries in Eurovision which I can remember, but I've always liked it. I wonder what became of Jump The Gun?

Retro Saturday: P.M. Dawn

As regular readers will know, a random thought will always lead to a Retro Saturday post.

And so it was this week that somewhere along the way I heard a clip of P.M. Dawn's "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss" which of course was based around that memorable sample of Spandau Ballet's "True".

"Set Adrift..." reached no. 3 in the UK chart in 1991 and still sounds incredibly fresh today:

In 1992, which was for various reasons a pretty incredible and memorable year both for musical and personal reasons, I loved "Reality Used To Be A Friend Of Mine" (that lyric was already mentioned in "Set Adrift...") and was particularly partial to the CJ McIntosh club mix which someone has very kindly posted at

Friday, November 06, 2009

EUROPE music awards????

I didn't even bother watching the MTV Europe Music Awards last night and now that I've seen the results I'm pretty glad. What's the point of having a European Music Awards ceremony where the winners just duplicate the U.S. version? Apart from the best European act (maNga from Turkey) and best group (Tokio Hotel) and national act awards there is nothing to differentiate this. If it's a European awards ceremony then the nominees should only come from this continent.

Oh, and "Halo" - best single? I'm seriously worried about the musical taste of the MTV-viewers :(

Rant over!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

This week's Idol songs

Thanks as usual to Aftonbladet for the info!

Rabih Jaber – ”All my life” (K-Ci & Jojo).
Mariette Hansson – ”Because the night” (Bruce Springsteen).
Reza Ningtyas Lindh – ”Summertime” (Fantasia Barrino version).
Calle Kristiansson – ”With a little help from my friends” (Joe Cocker version).
Tove Östman Styrke – ”In the ghetto” (Elvis Presley).
Eddie Razaz – ”If you're not the one” (Daniel Bedingfield).
Erik Grönwall – ”The show must go on” (Queen).

By the look of this list, everyone is firmly within their comfort zone and therefore it should be a solid week and I expect some great performances. Can't even predict who will go this week.

This week also presents me with a major challenge, as I have such an aversion to that Bedingfield man ("Gotta Get Thru This" excepted) that it's going to be very difficult to listen to Eddie singing that awful song....!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Album Review: "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" - Mika

Time for that "difficult second album" with the usual big dilemma - how do you follow a phenomenal worldwide success like "Life In Cartoon Motion"? More of the same? Something radically different?
In Mika's case, he's smart enough to know his audience so he doesn't venture too far away from the first album's blueprint.
Lead-off single "We Are Golden" kicks off the festivities and welcoming you back to Mika's very own flamboyant musical universe. On first hearing I hated this song but it soon grew on me, however my enthusiasm stopped short of the enduring love that I have for "Relax Take It Easy" and of course "Grace Kelly". I won't be the first or the last to suggest that Mika, how shall I say, uses little musical reference points in his songwriting and half the fun is spotting them, e.g. "We Are Golden" = "Heaven Is A Place On Earth"/"Walking On Broken Glass".
Two more reference points for "Blame It On The Girls" which is an extremely catchy piano-driven foot-tapper. It starts with that "That's Not My Name"-type drumbeat, by way of "No Scrubs", anyway it's a typical Mika song and I can see it as a single somewhere along the way.
For me, "Rain" (the second single) is the best track on the album and I can only describe it as a pure pop song with an insistent dance beat which will appeal to fans of Europop: this one will go big on the continent, no doubt.
"Dr John" sees Mika in more overindulgent mood although this has also grown on me. "Blue Eyes" takes the "Graceland"-era Paul Simon route, via "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", but it's not really one of my favourites despite there being nothing too wrong with it. As for "Good Gone Girl" this, like "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)" is catchy and irritating in equal measures, but once that chorus is wedged in your brain you won't be able to remove it. As for "Touches You", well this throws in everything but the kitchen sink - gospelly vocals, over-indulgent falsetto vocals - and the result is reminiscent of "Love Today" only a bit more irritating.
Something completely different - "By The Time", which completely reins in Mika's trademark flamboyance and shows another more subdued side to the artist, which he may wish to develop as his career progresses. This for me is one of the best tracks on the album - it's pretty, quite dreamy, and very nice.
Back to the madness with "One Foot Boy" which, reference-point-wise, is a distant cousin of "We Are Golden" and the lyrics (my interpretation) could possibly be about journalists, or fans, or fame itself? Many of Mika's lyrics remain as ambiguous and private as the man himself.
As for "Toy Boy", can I say that this probably belongs more to musical theatre than on an pop album? I don't particularly like this song, it proves that Mika has great musical versatility and can write songs in a number of styles.
The album ends with "Pick Up Off The Floor" which may have become a fan-favourite already, but I really don't like it and can't see my opinion changing. It has a quite bluesy piano hookline and whilst I'm usually ok with his falsetto thing going on, it totally annoys me here.
Verdict: It's a good album however it's not a great one, and it's lacking a classic timeless song like "Grace Kelly" or "Relax". No great surprises here, it's Mika being Mika, which is fine by me. It's pleasing his current fanbase and not alienating anyone, however if he is to truly develop as an artist in the future, he may need to make some significant changes to his musical style.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Strictly halfway

We are now halfway through the latest series of "Strictly Come Dancing" (which for us dance fanatics is also running parallel with its U.S. version "Dancing With The Stars", now also being screened on the Watch satellite channel).

Before the first dance steps had even been taken in Series 7, the controversy was well under way. The BBC decided to replace one of the judges, legendary choreographer Arlene Phillips, with Series 5 winner Alesha Dixon. Accusations of "ageism" followed, which were heightened when the oldest professional female dancer, and series 4 winner, Karen Hardy was dropped from the show.

Controversy has continued to follow "Strictly" this year, recently a race row involving professional dancer Anton Du Beke who is alleged to have used a completely unacceptable racist term to describe his celebrity partner Laila Rouass after she had a spray-tan.

In its early weeks "Strictly" has been up against ITV's "X Factor" in virtually the same time slot, so dare I suggest that any publicity - even the most negative - is good publicity? Two weeks ago, the 'walk-off' by Brendan Cole following the judges' slaughter of his celebrity partner Jo Wood, seemed a little too fabricated for my liking - particularly as the same Mr Cole seemed just a bit too cheerful last week in spite of his partner, known to most people as being the dumped wife of Rolling Stones star Ronnie Wood, finally reaching the end of her "journey".

Aah, the "journey". That good old celebrity-reality-show cliche. It's not the taking part that counts, it's the journey. Thanks to this show, I've discovered myself/became a better person/became more confident/lost 3 stone in weight blah blah blah. And if you can't dance then that's even better.

I first came across the "Vote for the Worst" concept a few years ago whilst following American Idol. The idea was not to vote for the best or the most talented contestants, but for the worst, or the most entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Somewhere along the way, that idea caught on over here - it's viewer power taken to the extreme, sticking two fingers up at the judges which, although it's a good idea in theory, it means that good candidates are often sacrificed so that the truly rotten ones can remain, week after week, to entertain us. Remember the "Strictly Come Dancing" hall of shame...?

Series 1 - Christopher Parker

Series 2 - Julian Clary

Series 3 - Fiona Phillips

Series 4 - Peter Schmeichel

Series 5 - Kate Garraway

Series 6 - John Sergeant (the legend!)

Of course John Sergeant quit the contest at the stage last year when winning became a possibility: his is the standard by which all celebrity-reality-contestants are now measured.

The best thing about Mr Sergeant was his personality. This year's no-hoper is still in search of

So far, Martina Hingis, Richard Dunwoody, Rav Wilding, Lynda Bellingham, Joe Calzaghe and Jo Wood have been voted off the show. I can't comment about Martina Hingis as I didn't see that show, however I've seen the rest and they've all been varying stages of rubbish - although I'd have liked Lynda Bellingham to stay as she was good fun. Last night brought a shock result as Ali Bastian/Brian Fortuna and Zoe Lucker/James Jordan (pictured below) were in the bottom two, despite receiving good scores from the judges. It was a difficult decision for the judges who had to evict Zoe who had been one of their favourites in this series. Neither of these dancers should have been in the bottom two: but then it's not really a dancing contest any more, is it?

Whilst the standard of dancing by the celebrities this year is reasonably high and in some cases exceptional (yes I mean Ricky Whittle and Ali Bastian - if it was just based on dancing then these would be the two finalists), there is still the dead wood, (as opposed to the dead Wood, who was thankfully voted off last week).

Above: Ali Bastian & Brian Fortuna - they deserve better than the bottom two.

Above: Craig Kelly & Flavia Cacace - when will the nine lives run out?

Craig Kelly - better known to TV viewers as the guy off "Queer As Folk" who does a lot of voiceovers and then went into "Corrie" for a brief spell as factory owner Luke Strong - has become the darling of the "vote for the worst" brigade. You'd think he'd have used up his nine lives by now, but he lives to fight another day...especially as he so desperately, desperately, desperately wanted to make it to Blackpool.

For next week, "Strictly Come Dancing" will return to its spiritual home - the Tower Ballroom. Who could forget the brilliant Jill Halfpenny and Darren Bennett winning there in 2004? Hopefully the change of venue for one week only will bring some much-needed magic to this series.

This series is distinctly lacking in personalities, the judges often seem strained, Brucie's jokes are a ropey as ever, Tess Daly still has her foot stuck in her mouth and don't even start me on that band and those singers and the inappropriate matching of song choices to dance routines, and the past their sell-by date 'interval acts' (Jamie Cullum excepted)....yet in spite of all that I'm still enjoying "Strictly Come Dancing" - we need a bit of glamour in these dark times don't we?

Above: Natalie Cassidy & Vincent Simone: she's not that great, but she's having fun.

Above: Chris Hollins & Ola Jordan: no-one remembers his dancing because they're all watching the perennially underdressed Ola!

Above: Jade Johnson & Ian Waite: as Brucie would say, 'you're my favourites'. They deserve to do really well.
Above: Phil Tufnell & Katya Virshilas: he's the anti-Craig Kelly - he never stops grinning.

Above: Ricky Groves & Erin Boag: we like him, he's good fun. Those facial expressions in the beginning were hilarious.

Above: Ricky Whittle & Natalie Lowe: go to the top of the class. Rrrrrrrrrrrricky!!!

Above: Laila Rouass & Anton Du Beke: he can't dance Latin for toffee. She deserves better.
*All pictures above courtesy of*