Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eddie's out!

I just found out this afternoon, whilst browsing the web during my afternoon tea break at work, that Eddie Razaz, one of the most beautiful men in Sweden, has come out. He announced in an interview to QX magazine that he is gay.

9 hours later....*still blubbing into my straight-woman hankies: obviously I was too much in love with him to notice that the batteries in my gaydar needed replacing*

Straight-woman-blubbing aside, I'm very happy for him so let's celebrate a "beautiful day" with one of Eddie's Idol performances from last year's competition....

The EuropeCrazy Eurovision 2010 Preview - Part 4


Slovenia: "NARODNOZABAVNI ROCK" - ANSAMBEL ZLINDRA & KALAMARI: another trip into the Eurovisional timewarp. Terrifying blend of Soviet-era rock and folksy, em, folk. Unfortunately Slovenia doesn’t seem to get the same points-swapping as its ex-Yugo neighbours and this just sounds like them sticking two fingers up and, I guess, doing what they want and not caring about the result?

Ireland: "IT’S FOR YOU" - NIAMH KAVANAGH: I suppose I should say nice things about this as it’s written by the same fan-group responsible for "Someday", but unfortunately it’s not as schlager-tastic as that, rather it’s another "You Raise Me Up"-variation. She is a good singer though and will deliver a faultless performance on the night. But will it be enough?

Bulgaria: "ANGEL SI TI" - MIRO: There is something very appealing about’s got the 90s euphoric-dance vibe right, it’s got a little bit of the ‘Tornero’ about it too, and he looks very nice in the video. It reminds me of "Tokyo" by Danny Saucedo, which can only be a good thing. And it makes me think of Nek, for some reason, as well. Anyway it’s the kind of Europop I like to see at ESC.

Cyprus: "LIFE LOOKS BETTER IN SPRING" - JON LILYGREEN & THE ISLANDERS: Now this is very very nice indeed. A very pleasant contemporary acoustic-flavoured mid tempo ballad,with performed by an appealing young man from....Wales! Not very Cypriot then, but this year I think they can be very proud of their entry and it will hopefully get more votes than the usual 12 points from Greece ;)
Croatia: "LAKO JE SVE" - FEMINNEM: this would be the same Feminnem who represented B-H, right? I have a problem with big Balkan ballads, as they are usually all drama and no significant hooks for me. This is probably no different, but it’s quite strong and contemporary enough to pick up votes from all corners of Europe. In with a big chance.

Georgia: "SHINE" - SOPHO NIZHARADZE: Another pretty brunette with a mediocre, contemporary ballad. That’s the best I can say really: there’s nothing too wrong with it, but it washes over me and I wouldn’t really bother if I never heard it again. It also faces some tough competition in this semi-final.

Turkey: "WE COULD BE THE SAME" - maNga: whilst I wait for my unfulfilled dream of Tarkan representing Turkey, I’ll settle for the country’s biggest rock band doing their duty. This is maybe not my favourite Turkish ESC entry (the ska-tastic "For Real" by Athena from 2004 continues to hold that honour) but again it’s different from the usual and that’s enough to get my attention.

And finally, the "Big 4" who, along with host nation Norway, qualify directly to the final:

France: "ALLEZ OLA OLE" - Jessy Matador: Oh flippin’ eck, it sounds like one of those Magic System songs which always get in the French charts during the summer :) Anyway it’s catchy and it got me tapping the old feet. However it will probably alienate the traditional ESC voters and won’t repeat the Patricia Kaas result of last year. Or I could be totally wrong - maybe the voters might want a party-song among all those mid-tempo ballads this year?

Germany: "SATELLITE" - LENA: Almost 3 million views on YouTube: it’s looking good for the young winner of the talent show to find this year’s German entrant. Incredibly contemporary by ESC standards, it sits very well within the current fashion for quirky female singers, however whether this will translate to the traditionalists is another thing. Her voice is an acquired taste, to say the least. But I can’t get the song out of my head...

Spain: "ALGO PEQUENITO" - DANIEL DIGES: First things first: he’s quite easy on the eye, and he has lovely curly hair (which is usually a deal-breaker for me) but I’m not letting this cloud my judgement. Because for some reason this carousel-style soundtrack still annoys me. It’s extremely theatrical, which could either work very well or be over-staged and totally kill its chances. Who knows?

Norway: "MY HEART IS YOURS" - DIDRIK SOLLI-TANGEN: All together..."you raise me uuuuuup...." Co-written by that well-known native of Oslo, Fredrik Kempe (!). This is one of this year’s big hitters and a very strong (and not entirely unattractive) contender to defend Norway’s honour, even if (IMHO) I’d rather have seen A1 or Alexander Stenerud, or Bjorn Johan Muri for that matter, doing the honours. It’s a poor draw position, but I think he will do his country proud on the night.

United Kingdom: "THAT SOUNDS GOOD TO ME" - JOSH DUBOVIE: um, no, it doesn’t actually. How do I begin to imagine all the happy faces I’d like to see? Well don’t worry Josh, because you won’t see them, they’ll all be too busy squirming and wondering why one of the world’s most influential musical nations (well maybe not at the moment, but we were once) gleefully f***s it up again when it comes to Eurovision. Poor Josh: another lamb to the ESC slaughter. Being the Millwall of Eurovision (no-one likes us, etc etc) we’ll be back in the bottom half of the scoreboard without any question. No one likes us....but I just wish somebody cared enough to give us an entry to be proud of, for once!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The return of Sommarkrysset

You know summer is on the way when our favourite Swedish outdoor TV-spectaculars are back on screen.

According to Aftonbladet today, TV4's "Sommarkrysset" will return on Saturday 15th May and the first show has an unmissable Swedish pop line-up: Eric Saade, Orup, Linda Bengtzing and Velvet! And if that's not enough....EMD will present the show!

The following artists will also appear in this summer's series:

Eric Gadd
Shout Out Louds
Linda Pritchard
Lazee & Apollo Drive
Weeping Willows

More info when I get it!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The EuropeCrazy Eurovision 2010 Preview - Part 3

I'd hoped to finish this off this weekend but as usual the best laid plans....

Tonight I'm having a first-listen to the first 10 songs in Semi-Final 2. Which in my opinion is a much stronger semi-final and it will be more difficult to qualify from this one, I think...

Lithuania: "EASTERN EUROPEAN FUNK" - INCULTO: so Lithuania have astutely realised that they probably won’t have any chance of winning ESC anytime soon, so they’re just going to have some fun. And why not? This has novelty value and puts a much-needed smile on the face of this year’s contest. It’s not quite up there with my all-time favourite Lithuanian entry ("U Got Style", 2001 if you’re interested) but it’s good fun.
Armenia: "APRICOT STONE" - EVA RIVAS: The lyrics can only be described as pretty bonkers, but it ticks all the ethnic-boxes seemingly required of a Eurovision entry of recent’s got a little of the Shakira vibe about it and of course Armenia is one of those countries which will always be an automatic final qualifier. This might do well.

Israel: "MILIM" - HAREL SKAAT: This might give Israel its best result in many years, as it’s quite an old-fashioned jury-pleasing big orchestral ballad...he is a very good singer and capable of greatness (and he’s also very easy on the eye) but I feel this song could have benefitted from a more definite hook and memorable chorus.

Denmark: "IN A MOMENT LIKE THIS" - CHANEE & N’EVERGREEN: For me, this is one of the biggest songs in this year’s contest and I can see the Danes getting their best result in years. Written by that well-known native of Copenhagen, Thomas G:son :))) They may be a bizarrely-named duo, but this song is very instant and memorable, which is after all what the Eurovision Song Contest is about. A back to the 80s blend of "Simply The Best" and "Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now", and one of the few songs I remembered after just one hearing.

Switzerland: "IL PLEUT DE L’OR" - MICHAEL VON DER HEIDE: Something seriously wrong here - I like a Swiss entry two years in a row! They couldn’t be more different either. Last year some indie-rock, this year a good old Europop stomper. This was one of my early favourites, of the few songs that I had actually heard. Don’t be put off by the big ears, just enjoy the music.

Sweden: "THIS IS MY LIFE" - ANNA BERGENDAHL: In this year’s Swedish final, there was an uplifting song with an incredibly memorable chorus, performed with bucketloads of charm and charisma by a hugely talented singer/songwriter. Which could have gone a long long way at Eurovision if its success with the international juries at Melodifestivalen was anything to go by.
That song was not "This Is My Life" by Anna Bergendahl. The only positive thing I can say about this song is that it’s a good cure for insomnia. Sweden may have wanted its own version of Yohanna’s "Is It True" which did so well last year - but this falls way short and I am still of the view that this will disappear in Oslo and may struggle to even make it out of the semi-final.

Azerbaijan: "DRIP DROP" - SAFURA: if all the rumours are to be believed, this is the chosen one this year - and in recent years the chosen ones have gone on to win, so... Unfortunately I was comatose by the end of it. Sooo boring! She sings "I wanna run away from myself"...I know how she felt. By the end I wanted to run away too. Is this the one that was co-written by that well-known native of Baku, Anders Bagge? Not one of his better moments.
Ukraine: "SWEET PEOPLE" - ALYOSHA: Oh Ukraine, what have you done? This is so boring that I was even longing for the return of the "Anti-Crisis Girl"!! Another one which belongs in the Eurovision Non-Song Contest. Come back Verka, or Ani Lorak....we miss you!

Netherlands: "IK BEN VERLIEFD (SHA-LA-LIE)" - SIENEKE: Or as it is known at EuropeCrazy HQ, "let’s do the time warp again". There is nothing remotely 2010 about this - from its writer Pierre "Father Abraham" Kartner to its cheesy singer. It will either surprise or bomb, and I couldn’t possibly predict which one.

Romania: "PLAYING WITH FIRE" - PAULA SELING & OVI: ignore this at your peril. It’s a thumping anthemic pop song which stuck in my brain from first hearing - and I can see it doing very, very well at this year’s contest, I’ve just got this strange, spooky feeling that Romania is looking at a top 5 place!

More to follow!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The EuropeCrazy Eurovision 2010 Preview - Part 2

Bear in mind that these are all reviewed on first listen (apart from Iceland, which I had already heard a couple of times)

Malta: "MY DREAM" - THEA GARRETT: Old-fashioned ballad which is not too far away from an Idol-winner’s song. I know that Malta has a big ESC-fan-contingent, however it is not the most memorable Maltese entry I’ve ever heard and although it’s not the worst, it has the feel of a toilet break about it :(

Albania: "IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU" - JULIANA PASHA: The backing track has a touch of the "Womanizer"/"For Your Entertainment" about it, which can only be a good thing :) however the end result is a little bit of a let-down on first listen. It could be a grower though and might just qualify...

Greece: "OPA" - GIORGOS ALKAIOS & FRIENDS: They look like a boyband who’ve seen better days and all they’ve got to look forward to is the cabaret circuit. It’s all very formulaic and Greece-by-numbers, but it’s a potential crowd pleaser. And they are Greece, so they are absolute qualifiers - they only have to turn up! They need to shout the "Opa" but louder though, as it lacks a real hook.

Portugal: "HA DIAS ASSIM" - FILIPA AZEVEDO: She warbles this power ballad like a Portuguese version of Leona Lewis, however there’s not much of a song in here and it will struggle to qualify. It certainly has none of the pretty charm of last year’s Portuguese entry.

Macedonia: "JAS JA IMAM SILATA" - GJOKO TANESKI, BILLY ZVER & PEJCIN: More Balkan rock, however I didn’t like this as much as the Bosnian song and again I think this could struggle despite the good old ‘Balkan bloc vote’. The rap section in the middle was ok though, but rap is notoriously looked upon unfavourably at ESC :(

Belarus: "BUTTERFLIES" - 3+2: Now this puzzles me. They are obviously going for the well-dressed Il Divo vote, only without the opera. I think this is aiming fair and square for the jury vote this year and may do well for that reason, although it’s pretty boring and old-fashioned and light years away from "Work Your Magic" - one of the best songs never to have won ESC!!

Iceland: "JE NE SAIS QUOI" - HERA BJORK: one of the more traditionally appealing ESC songs this year. She’s a good singer and the song has a good dance beat - and that all-important key change!! I’d like to see it doing well (as I keep my fingers crossed for Iceland every year), but the whole volcano-situation may have a negative effect on the voting???

Friday, April 23, 2010

This weekend...

If all goes to plan I'll publish the rest of the Gothenburg Diaries and also parts 2,3 and 4 of that ESC preview.

(I haven't been able to devote as much time as I'd like to this blog of late - particularly the music side - and I can't really see that changing over the next couple of after this weekend I'm probably going to put the blog on hold for a week or two as I have a few other things going on)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1982

Thanks again to Popjustice for bringing Dekade to my attention: formerly known as NiteVisions, they are none other than the sons of Andy and Roger Taylor from Duran Duran. Which is a good enough reason to get excited. And on the evidence of "Haunt You" on their MySpace, they're sounding good....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Some bad news about BWO :(

According to this Aftonbladet article, BWO are splitting for an indefinite period for the band members to focus on solo careers. I'm quite sad about this, although on the plus side there will be new material very soon from Alexander Bard's new project Gravitonas, and Martin Rolinski promises a new solo album so I guess it's not all bad!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The EuropeCrazy Eurovision 2010 Preview - Part 1

I'm planning to do this in 4 parts, although the next part probably won't appear on here until the weekend. So here is what I think of the first 10 songs in Semi-Final 1.

Moldova: "RUN AWAY" - SUNSTROKE PROJECT & OLIA TIRA: I’m never too thrilled about Moldova at ESC and don’t usually bother with their entries. This is a slice of 90s dance nostalgia, a genre which usually excites me greatly but this doesn’t really do it for me either. Still at least it’s an uptempo start and may grow on me with more listens.

Russia: "LOST AND FORGOTTEN" - PETER NALITCH BAND: Lord have mercy! This is probably one of the more unusual songs in this year’s contest and is therefore worthy of our attention for that reason alone. Well, that and Mr Nalitch’s bewitching brown eyes. Shallow? Moi? I remember reading on another website that this was a joke entry. Draw your own conclusions!

Estonia: "SIREN" - MALCOLM LINCOLN: A country which continues to confound and delight me. The country that brought one of my all-time favourite ESC songs ("Eighties Coming Back") and most recently the mesmerising "Randajad", now treats us to a totally credible indie delight which doesn’t really do it on first hearing, but listen another couple of times and you may possibly love it. As I think I love it a little bit now. As an ESC entry it will probably bomb, but three cheers for them for a daring and different choice.

Slovakia - "HOREHRONIE" - KRISTINA: I know zilch about Slovakian music so couldn’t possibly comment if this is a good example of it or not. What it is another example of is the thumping-drums-and-dance-routines trend which has, for me, dragged the contest down in recent years. Highly derivative, what with the costume change and she even gets lifted in the air, Paparizou-style. However this does have some charm which many of those other drums-and-dancing songs have not.

Finland - "TYOLKI ELLAA" - KUUNKUISKAAJAT: Well of course they should have sent Osmo Ikonen, so I hated this immediately. Still the one thing you can’t accuse the Finns of it predictability. This is completely bonkers, dancing-drunk-at-a-wedding music and I can’t even begin to predict where it will end up. However, a good time had by all.

Latvia - "WHAT FOR" - AISHA: At first I thought this was a tribute song to the French Popstars winners, but it’s a whole lot more philosophical than that. "Only Mr God knows why!" is the conclusion reached by Ms. Aisha. I think this could do quite well, although I said the same about "Hello From Mars". I’ve already come to the conclusion that this year, accordions are the new fiddles. A long way from the glory days of Brainstorm, but it seems to have stuck in my brain after one listen.

Serbia - "OVO JE BALKAN" - MILAN STANKOVIC: from a country which I can’t really stand at Eurovision, purely because of the dreary Zeljko-type songs and one of my most hated winners "Molitva" comes a nice cheerful little foot tapper from, let’s just say, one of the more visually interesting performers (!) With a haircut last seen on the Mike Flowers Pops.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: "THUNDER AND LIGHTNING" - VUKASIN BRAJIC: Inevitably this isn’t remotely as wonderful as last year’s Bosnian song "Bistra Voda" by Regina - however well done to them again for trying something different away from the usual dreary Balkan-ballads. This is a rock song sung in English by a guy who looks a little bit like Calogero (!) I think this could grow on me after a few listens but I’m not sure how it will go with the voters.

Poland: "LEGENDA" - MARCIN MROZINSKI: This song is a bit bizarre - the lyrics suggest it could be the theme tune for some kind of medieval fairytale. As the ‘fairytale’ them is sooooo 2009, I can’t really see this making it out of the semi-final. A bit too over-dramatic for my tastes.

Belgium: "ME AND MY GUITAR" - TOM DICE: I was a bit sad this year that we were denied Flemish-speaking Belgium’s ‘Eurosong’ contest which is always one of my favourites. It was shelved this year in favour of an internal selection - and oh look, here’s another young male singer with, appropriately a guitar. This is a different and daring choice for Belgium, even if it’s too subtle to qualify. This is nice, Mr Dice. But please lose the hat :)

Check back here at the weekend for the next part of my review.

Album Review: "Restless Soul" - Tingsek

From what seems like an endless line of creative Swedish musical geniuses comes Malmo’s very own Magnus Tingsek, with his fourth album "Restless Soul", which he tells us on the sleeve notes was made in a 25m² room in Malmo, and should be played loud. Sometimes you wonder what they are putting in the water in Sweden, to create so many talented singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalists. He writes, sings and plays bass, drums, guitar, piano, percussion...the list goes on.

One other thing I noticed on the sleevenotes was a heartfelt comment by Tingsek: "I make music for one reason only: I love it and simply can’t live this life without it". I think that speaks volumes about this man’s passion for music - and I could identify with that as a listener too.

To describe Tingsek’s music? Well, the best description for me would be "acoustic soul". "Good Vs Bad" which is by far the best track on the album, was also released as a single and just missed out on my 2009-50 chart because I discovered it too late. Had I heard it earlier, it would probably have made my top 10 songs of last year. (I didn’t expect any new material from him so soon after 2008’s "Too Many Feelings At The Same Time" so that was my main reason for not checking if he had any new material coming out.) Tingsek has his very own sound but brings in some other influences from time to time. "Stimulation Overload" with its chord progressions completely reminds me of Sinclair, one of my favourite French artists (although is not really indicative of Sinclair’s predominantly soul/funk style - but, well....still reminds me of him anyway, I’m finding it hard to describe!)

"Six Years" is very indicative of the Tingsek template - choppy guitars and minimal keyboards - and features Pauline on guest vocals. I was unfamiliar with her work prior to Melodifestivalen 2010, where she competed with "Sucker For Love" which has totally grown on me since then even though she didn’t reach the final. Anyway this works very well.

The other guest artist on the album, Slakah The Beatchild, adds an extra dimension particularly on "Leave It All Behind". Another track worth recommending is "Stick To You" which is very danceable and has that Daft Punk "Harder, Better, Faster Stronger" feel to it, only in Tingsek style of course.

There are also delicious string flourishes which often add a special touch. My only criticism of this album is that melody is often sacrificed for exquisite musical arrangements. Tingsek’s passion for his music is unquestionable, but a bit more work on the melodic side wouldn’t have gone amiss. What can’t be denied however is that Magnus Tingsek has a very distinctive sound and a creative spark which will ensure that he will be around for a long time to come.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Gothenburg Diaries Part 1: Thursday 25th March 2010

Finally getting round to posting about my recent trip over to Sweden. The main reason for my trip was the very same as one year ago - to see Salem Al Fakir in concert!

The biggest worry for me before travelling this year was the weather - just two weeks before, it had been very cold and snowy in Sweden, with temperatures down to -18° at one point. Would our clothes be warm enough? Our fears were unfounded however as the freezing cold had disappeared and was replaced by a mild climate instead, although not as bright and sunny as on our previous trip last April.

Once again Gothenburg City Airport - which I fondly refer to as "Sweden's fastest growing portacabin" was our destination and it's only a 20 minute journey on the airport bus into the city, where the journey terminates at the Nils Ericson Terminalen (bus station)

I had tried to book a hotel on Kungsportsavenyn this time, so that we would be in close proximity to the Konserthuset (venue for Friday night's concert) but this was pretty impossible as these were way over budget....Gothenburg hotels are quite pricey, so you need to be prepared to fork out the extra kronor no matter which one you choose. In the end we chose the First Hotel G (which I quickly nicknamed the "G"), situated in the middle of the city's public transport interchange.

So you step off the airport bus and you are right at the hotel, which you enter via an escalator. After checking in you then cross a bridge/walkway - to the left is the bus station....

...and to the right is the Central Station!

...and there are also a number of shops and eating places, making it feel like a little shopping mall. It's one of the more surreal hotel settings we've ever stayed in! But despite being surrounded by all the transport and the shops, the 'G' is designed in such a way that it's almost eerily quiet and there are no problems with noise over the weekend. It's also a stylish hotel and a very good base for exploring Gothenburg.

After checking in and unpacking, we headed back out into the city centre to check out some old haunts. Where my 'Salem-weekend' last year may have been a bit rushed as it was only a two night break, we had an extra night this time so it was going to be a more relaxed trip. We had also decided to keep the sightseeing and exploring to a minimum. (Maybe one day we'll get over during the summer months - in which case we'll revisit Liseberg and Slottskogen and take the boat trip again, all of which we did on our first Gothenburg trip a few years ago).

Inevitably we ended up on Avenyn - the "Avenue", where it all happens. Where the beautiful, young, rich people hang out ;) oh well ....

After checking out a few dinner options, we retraced our steps back to our first night last year and had dinner at Lilla London (Valand) - a famous Avenyn landmark. Goats cheese and then pasta...yum.

After dinner we headed off down Avenyn and had a walk around some old haunts before heading to the Östra Larmgatan area to round off our evening with a beer. One reassuring fact about Sweden: the words "cheap drink" don't exist. A beer or cider is now five quid!!

One other reassuring fact about Gothenburg - it still feels a very safe city to walk around at night. And it wasn't too cold either - didn't need the hat or scarf!

Part 2 of my review will be published on Saturday 24th April.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Parodifestivalen :)

This made me laugh tonight :)

By the way my Eurovision songs review is coming very soon, I'm working on it at the moment but it's taking some time due to the 342 songs we now have to enjoy/endure over two semi finals and a final. Expect part one in the next couple of days. Or so.

Monday, April 12, 2010

One singer, one song...

You know I'm just a bit depressed about musical matters just now...and the other day I was thinking about how musical careers of some longevity are often reduced to one or two songs repeated ad infinitum on the increasingly unimaginative radio playlists in this country. Take David Bowie for instance. When was the last time you heard "Life On Mars" or "Starman" or "Jean Genie" on the radio? David Bowie's career as an innovative musical icon has, for the purposes of radio airplay, been reduced to two songs - "Let's Dance" and "Modern Love" - neither of which I'd number among his classics.

Anyway what all this is leading to is a fabulous post written by Kippers at the always-wonderful blog named Too Much Apple Pie. I think this post totally articulates my feelings much better than I ever could, about the ubiquity of certain songs on radio have to read this, because it matters.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: March-April 2010

Surprised that I can actually cobble something together, considering I hardly watch any telly these days, particularly since the arrival of this fab new computer at EuropeCrazy HQ :)

But that actually means I can watch more Swedish telly instead, buffering-permitting. Such as "Let's Dance" on TV4, which ended a couple of weeks ago, on the same weekend that I was over in Gothenburg.

After the departure of Willy "John Sergeant of Swedish dance" Bjorkman, it was left to Mattias Andreasson and Claudia Galli to fight it out for this year's title....and it was Mattias who danced away with the trophy! Congratulations to Mattias - he did very well! His Michael Jackson-style show dance to "Beat It" was the icing on the cake. The following day, all the Swedish papers seemed to concentrate more on runner-up Claudia who, it appeared, didn't take defeat all too well and was very upset. Here are Mattias and Cecilia celebrating their win. (Photo courtesy of

Of course the lovely Mattias is one-third of Swedish boyband sensations E.M.D. who turned up on the first in the new series of "Så Ska det Låta" on SVT. This very popular music quiz gives various Swedish singers and other celebrities the chance to show off their lyrics knowledge and of course it gives them the opportunity to burst into spontaneous song! Anyway week 1 saw E.M.D. compete against Cookies N' Beans. You can watch the show at SVT's website, it will remain available until 4th July 2010:,a1364145,1,f,-1/pb,a1364142,1,f,-1/pl,v,,1958314/sb,p102967,1,f,-1

Don't forget you can also watch the subsequent shows in the series at SVT Play. (

The next show on 16th May is a Norway vs Sweden contest - with none other than Alexander Rybak and Maria Haukaas Storeng competing against Shirley Clamp and Robert Gustafsson.

"Glee" has ended for now on E4/Channel 4 and what a nice place to end at! (Sectionals). I've really enjoyed this show but the only bit of it I don't enjoy is - wait for it - the songs. You probably think I'm a bit strange to say that, but I know I'm a bit strange so that's nothing new :)

Briefly back to Swedish telly now - "Jakten på Julia" which is the search to find a female lead to play opposite Mans Zelmerlow in the "Romeo & Juliet" musical which launches at the beginning of 2011 in Stockholm. This TV show has, according to the Swedish tabloids, been a ratings flop.

Of course this TV format has been very popular over recent years in the UK, helping to find a Maria (Sound of Music), a Joseph (Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), a Nancy (Oliver!) and now they're searching for a Dorothy for the Wizard of Oz. You may be surprised to know I'm not watching "Over The Rainbow" (BBC-1) although usually catch the last few minutes whilst waiting to watch "Who Dares Wins" (my fave TV gameshow at the moment, probably because I find the lists very easy to complete!) anyway I've switched off the latest Lloyd-Webber venture, because a) it's all so stale now, b) I can't stand "The Wizard of Oz", and c) I'd rather have another all-male talent show. Although if they did, I doubt if they would ever find another Lee Mead.....;)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Retro Saturday: Ashley & Jackson

"I can make more than you steal in a day"

From 1990, truly the golden era of indie-dance-pop which for a long long time was my natural musical habitat :) Got a bit of airplay on night-time Radio 1, and this came from the archives of the late and much-lamented Chart Show which played a lot of music which I really liked at that time - Stone Roses, House of Love, Inspiral Carpets, World of Twist, Ride (the list is endless).

I've been looking for this one for a while, so I'm glad that I finally found it. Enjoy the jazzy-indie-funk vibe of "Solid Gold" at

Retro Saturday: Win

Another one of those great lost songs from the 1980s!

Win was a Scottish band whom big things were expected from - but like many other bands, they failed to achieve the success they deserved despite a high level of local radio support and the song, "You've Got The Power" being featured in a TV commercial for McEwan's Lager. If you're in the mood for a relatively obscure 80s pop gem, find it at

Retro Saturday: Malcolm McLaren

The man who gave the world the Sex Pistols died this week. McLaren was an innovator with a unique and unpredictable personality: the world will probably never see his like again, more's the pity. After helping to kick-start the much-needed punk revolution, he then introduced the British public to early hip hop.

Many other bloggers have posted videos of the punk and hip-hop stuff, so I'll move on to yet another concept he was involved in, back in the early 90s - "The Ghosts of Oxford Street". I particularly loved a song called "Magic's Back", with vocals from Alison Limerick who was later to become a very popular dance diva. This song combined a sweeping classical feel with irresistible dance beats, and still sounds very fresh today. Do you believe in magic?

Rest in peace.

Album Review: "Ignore This" - Salem Al Fakir

This review has been republished from my other blog, Planet Salem. The review was originally published there on 22.03.2010 but I wanted to share it here too :) - Enjoy!

Almost a year to the day since Salem Al Fakir released his second album, the criminally underrated "Astronaut", here comes album no. 3, delivered in remarkably quick time - but given Salem’s continually prolific and creative musical nature then this isn’t such a surprise after all.

When you make the commitment to becoming a Salem Al Fakir fan, you sign up for a journey which is full of surprises at every twist and turn, and you leave any preconceptions behind. So we arrive at the latest stop on the journey, "Ignore This" Of course Salem’s music is completely unclassifiable but if you were to compare his three albums so far, you might say that "This Is Who I Am" was the soulful, 70s-influenced one, "Astronaut" was the rockier, 80s one, and "Ignore This"? The electronic one, and despite the fact that he doesn’t listen to current/recent music, it’s possibly his most contemporary collection yet.

But that’s only scratching the surface - the thirteen tracks on this CD are as diverse as ever in their musical arrangements. I’d say it was an album with one foot in the past and one foot in the future, as I feel that one of Salem’s many strengths is the way that he uses influences from the past to craft his music into something genuinely original, that you haven’t heard before.

In its musical layout "Ignore This" takes us back to "This Is Who I Am": it begins with a short instrumental track, and there are two other instrumental interludes along the way.

Here is my track-by-track review.

Track 1: "The Song I Never Wrote"
An electronic, chilled-out, spacey introduction to the album, and in a similar style to "Begin" which heralded the arrival of "This Is Who I Am", three years ago. There’s not really much else I can say about this, it’s short and sweet!

Track 2: "4 O’Clock"
"Get on up on your feet to the love store/Hey bubbles, wanna smell the candy?"

Salem is particularly gifted when it comes to producing strong melodic songs and this is one of the best on the album. It’s commercial and radio-friendly, with an anthemic ‘here we go again’ chorus, an irresistible, almost calypso-styled rhythm. The feel of the song reminded me a little of "New Song" by Howard Jones (if you are old enough to remember that!).

If you thought the lyrics on "Astronaut" were a significant improvement on his debut, then one of the most significant aspects of "Ignore This" is Salem’s development as a lyricist, and his ability to tell a story through his songs. "4 O’Clock" clearly demonstrates the more playful side of Salem, and it’s a very good way to kick off the album.

Track 3: "Virgin Mary"
"Didn’t wanna be around when it all fell down/So lucky I got out in time"

Already a firm favourite with fans and bloggers, this is perhaps one of Salem’s most accessible songs in a long time. Very personal lyrics about love-gone-wrong set to catchy, insistent keyboard beats. The first time I heard this, the keyboard-riff sounded very familiar and then it struck me - it’s like a speeded up "This Is Who I Am" (and thanks also to my friend Fredrik for also pointing this out). Extremely catchy, high energy song, and one of the best on the album.
Possible future single?
Track 4: "Red Rock"
"Heroes, low life grinders/Everyone’s invited"

This is the song where Salem has gone all Kanye West on us (!) with vocoded vocals throughout (so I’m glad when I got the lyrics so I could see what he was singing). This wasn’t originally one of my favourite songs when I heard the album at first, but it has really grown on me and I think it’s one of the most musically ambitious songs - and when the pulsating beats erupt into that big symphonic chorus (courtesy of Salem’s big brother Ayman, guesting on French horn) it becomes pretty fabulous. But then I also love that moment at about 2:45 into the song when it all subsides and begins to wind down too!

Track 5: "Keep On Walking"
"I was aiming for the sky/Ended up flat on the ground/But once again the sun is rising..."

The first song that Salem wrote for the album, and which came out of a very dark time for him. But it is also extremely hopeful and uplifting too, in a way that seems to come naturally to him. It’s full of heart and soul, and everything about this song just completely grabs your emotions and doesn’t let go. And that, for me is probably what Salem Al Fakir is all about: his natural ability to reach out and connect with people.
Musically, it is Salem at his absolute best: piano, strings, synths and just overflowing with emotion. And what a fabulous singer he is, he can convey so many different emotions within his songs. No wonder everyone loves him now - it’s no surprise ;))
Of course, in an ideal world, he would have won Melodifestivalen, but for me he will always be 2010’s true winner, as he has emerged from the contest with his credibility intact and a whole new audience who completely love his music. Job done.
Track 6: "This Is For"
"I wanna ask questions till your ear falls off"
Perhaps musically and lyrically the toughest song on the album: words that taunt and torture from beginning to end. Initially I was shocked and surprised by the vengeful tone of the lyrics, but they seem to fit with the urgency of the music and the vocoded chorus which gives way to an instrumental fadeout. It may be uncharacteristic for Salem, but it works. The result is insistent and irresistible, (if initially slightly disturbing!) Someone must have really annoyed him....!.

Track 7: "Part Of It"
"Skewed faces and scary eyes/I dare you to take a step outside"

This is a song full of contrasts. Dark lyrical themes mixed with an almost hymn-like chorus, with backing vocals provided by Sami Al Fakir and Linn Segolson. This is maybe not as instant as some of the other songs on the album, but it is proof of Salem’s effortless ability to produce any musical style - in this case a magnificent choral piece.

Track 8: "Brooklyn Sun"
"I would trade away the stars and moon/if you came, came, came back soon, my darker days would all be done"

For me, this is the best track on the album (apart from the now-classic "Keep On Walking" of course) and possibly one of the loveliest songs that I’ve ever had the good fortune to hear.
"Brooklyn Sun" is a moving and beautiful song, with simple instrumentation, which still manages after all this time to send a shiver up my spine and puts a lump in my throat. Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, with a sense of longing that most songwriters would do anything for....

One significant change I’ve noted on "Ignore This" is that it’s also the first time that Salem has shared any songwriting credits - in the case of "Brooklyn Sun" it’s the appropriately Brooklyn-based American singer/songwriter Nate Campany (check him out at

Track 9: "Don’t Wanna Talk About It"

Another musical interlude, this time in bonkers-techno mode. It stops and starts and then goes into hyperspace (!) I remember someone on Twitter comparing this to Mr Oizo: I understand where they’re coming from!

Track 10: "Bloody Breakfast"
"Make your own path or keep on living two steps behind"

Some telling lyrics which I would interpret as Salem’s take on the nature of fame, however this musically experimental song could probably be interpreted in many ways? This may be one of the most underrated tracks on the album, but became a firm favourite for me very quickly. The "ooooooooo" chorus is original and different, the musical arrangement won’t let you go, and it has some reassuringly warm moments though - "are you a saint or a sinner? Mm-hmm" is just
soooooo Salem :))))
Track 11: "Split My Personality"
"I’m disgusted with myself/can’t be trusted"

Another co-written song, this time with the very talented Linn Segolson, whom I previously wrote about on Planet Salem two years ago -

Musically I’d describe this as probably the most contemporary/recent sounding track - you could imagine the backing track on a Coldplay or Killers album, but what as ever sets it apart is Salem’s unique, distinctive, touching voice, singing some regretful lyrics against the muscular
musical background. I think this will work very well in a live context.

Track 12: "Cowboys and Dinosaurs"
Final instrumental interlude, with a sweet, lullaby quality. Premiered at Salem's Berwaldhallen shows at the end of 2009.
Track 13: "I’m So Happy"
"I'm so happy cause you are gone"

We’ve known long enough about Salem’s natural melodic ability, but this time he’s thrown in a distinctive lyrical twist which initially shocked and surprised me. However, the result is one of the strongest tracks on the album, which turns into a massive singalong, and which will, for sure, be one of the biggest songs in Salem’s live concerts this year. I can’t get this song out of my head...!

So, does "Ignore This" live up to expectations? Yes - of course it does! It’s the album that Salem wanted and needed to make, on the next step of his musical journey. It’s adventurous, daring, different, and other words, Salem Al Fakir.
"Ignore This"? Impossible to do so.

Album Review: "Now 75" - Various Artists

Firstly I just want to wish a happy three-quarter-century to one of our most favourite compilation albums!

Welcome to Now 75, which from its tracklisting could also be described as the flat-lining of the British singles chart. Although it could be said that the 'Now' series has never been an accurate reflection of the British music scene as a whole, however it has always been a pretty accurate measure of the British singles chart, and when the musical historians come to unearth the time capsule of British chart-pop then the 'Now' series would inevitably be there.

Looking at the tracklisting it becomes very apparent that on digging up the buried musical treasures of late 2009/early 2010 then we can expect those historians to be very depressed indeed. For much of Now 75 is cluttered up with the autotuned-to-death urban/grime/r'n'b which is polluting the charts to the exclusion of any decent music. Iyaz? Tinie Tempah? Chipmunk? Chiddy Bang? Young Money? Naughty Boy? Who are these people and what gives them the right to chart, just because their songs have been played to death on Galaxy and their videos are on heavy rotation on most of the music channels?

It's not all bad though: CD1 does have Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance" on it, which is that rare thing in these times - a memorable pop single which actually did well in the charts - but there is very little on CD1 that I would want to hear again, with a couple of exceptions - "On A Mission" by Gabriella Cilmi and "About A Girl" by the much-maligned Sugababes mk.25 (or thereabouts). CD1 also has a nod to X Factor/Team Cowell and its dreary hangers-on: Alexandra Burke, Joe McElderry and the hideous Jedward. How they were ever allowed to make a record is anyone's guess :( And as for "Everybody Hurts" by Helping Haiti: good cause, completely duff record.

There are a couple of rare gems on CD2 - I was very surprised that a simple little song like "Fireflies" by Owl City could get to no.1 in these miserable musical times, whilst I can only cheer that something genuinely different and original like Plan B's "Stay Too Long" - one of the best singles of 2010 and a cert for my 2010-50 chart at the end of the year - made it to the top 10 of the UK singles chart.

Another treat on the album is "Many of Horror" by Biffy Clyro - a very rare sighting of a "real band" among the grime-dross, over-hyped pop and overplayed tripe.

CD2 also features some of the over-hyped quirky females who have taken over the charts in recent times - Florence & The Machine, Marina & the Diamonds, Ellie & the Goulding - sorry I mean Ellie Goulding, whose "Starry Eyed" is probably the most bearable of all three.

Now 75 also features not one but two versions of "Don't Stop Believin'" - the Journey original and the nightmare that is the Glee Cast cover. Now don't get me wrong: I like "Glee" a lot, but the musical soundtrack is increasingly making me cringe and I reach for the fast-forward button whenever the songs come on.

CD2 is probably better than CD1, although it kicks off with what feels like the most-played song on the radio in recent years - "Empire State of Mind", this time in its Alicia Keys-version rather than with Jay-Z; we don't have to wait too long for Mr Z though, as he pops up shortly afterwards with Mr Hudson on "Young Forever".

All in all, "Now 75" is a very depressing compilation, although I will reiterate that it is a completely accurate reflection of the current music scene. The one positive thing to take from it is that there is good music around elsewhere: you just have to know where to look for it.

On the Rebound!

Remember Eddie Razaz??? Well...he's back!

Meet Rebound - a duo made up of Swedish Idol 2009 contestants Eddie Razaz and Rabih Jaber. Whether they will repeat the success of previous Idol contestants-turned-boyband E.M.D. remains to be seen.

There's a little clip of the boys singing their debut single "Hurricane" at, unfortunately it sounds as if it's been autotuned-to-death like too many other songs around at the moment, however I'm just glad to see Eddie - one of Sweden's most gorgeous men - back on the music scene!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

That's enough holiday talk for one evening...

Regular readers of this blog should be aware that it also has a little travel remit going on. So...

1. There will be a review of our recent Gothenburg trip, and it will be posted on here over the weekend. (I know I promised loads of stuff for last weekend, but that's before I was hit by a post-viral fatigue thing which floored me for a couple of days...thankfully I'm on the mend again and planning lots of blogging over the coming weekend.)

2. Regular readers of this blog will be well aware by now that we usually head off on a short break at the beginning of May. Which is very soon, but we're not booked up to go anywhere yet. Tonight we looked at lots of options, ruled out most of them for various reasons and we now have a short-list, (which is very short indeed) so a decision will be made very soon, probably over the next week. Once we're booked I'll do the big announcement on here of course :)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Swedish charts update

When was the last time you looked at a singles chart and your favourite song was at no.1?

Welcome to this week's Swedish Radio Digilistan singles chart, where "Keep On Walking" by Salem Al Fakir remains at the top of the chart and is the top-selling single in Sweden for yet another week. And deservedly so: I'm not just saying it for obvious reasons, but the quality of this song is just breathtaking - the musical arrangement is completely magical.

As you would expect at this time of year, Melodifestivalen songs are dominating the chart although it's maybe not the usual landslide, with Pauline, Alcazar, Pain of Salvation, Pernilla Wahlgren, Neo and Jessica Andersson taking up position in the lower reaches of the chart rather than dominating the top 20.

There are obviously a lot of people needing a cure for insomnia, which can only account for MF winner "This Is My Life" by Anna Bergendahl being at no.2 with the growing possibility that she will top the chart next week. And before you ask, I'm not going down the sour-grapes road any more, I'm just judging songs on their own merit rather than in the context of a song competition - I'm well over that one now.

Eric Saade's "Manboy" is at no.3. I knew this would do very well after the contest and it has become a huge radio hit too. It will be interesting to see how his career develops from here - of course there is always lots of room in the Swedish pop market for yet another male solo singer.

If only the same could be said for the British pop scene at the moment - the 'next big thing'-obsessed media is only fixated on female singers, and the only male artists getting attention are those in the urban/'grime' genre - the domination of that style of music in the British charts is becoming completely intolerable in my view! I know this has nothing to do with the Swedish charts but I thought it was worthy of a rant anyway !!

Another one which has done very well is Timoteij's "Kom" - no. 4 this week and I'm not surprised, it's just soooo catchy.

The other major radio hits to come out of MF - Ola's "Unstoppable" and Darin's "You're Out Of My Life" are still holding on to their places in the top 10.

European crossover dance hit of the moment "Stereo Love" by Edward Maya & Vika Jigulina is also doing very well in the Swedish top 10. It's got a very distinctive hookline, but (of course) it will be ignored in the UK, that's pretty obvious. Would like to be wrong though!

Very nice to see that Sweden has boarded the Adam Lambert bandwagon - "Whataya Want From Me" is getting lots of airplay and is one of the highest climbers this week, sitting at no. 14 and is surely set to climb higher.

New Mylene Farmer live DVD on the way!

Found out today that a new live DVD of my all-time favourite French singer will be released on 12th April. The title is pretty self-explanatory - yes of course it was recorded at her Stade de France shows which took place last September.
Although I'm not such a big fan of her more recent material I always love to watch her concert DVDs which are truly a spectacle....I'm sure this will be no different, if the teaser clip on YouTube is anything to go by:

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Anyone know what's happened to Poster Girl?

Been thinking about her quite a lot lately...just wondered if anyone knows what's happened to one of my most favourite bloggers?

If you are reading this PPG....please get in touch and let us know that you're ok :)

Retro Saturday: Adolphson & Falk

So while we're on the subject of long-forgotten 1980s Swedish pop, let's get to something completely wonderful - "Ifrån" by Adolphson & Falk. This is a fab slice of Swedish-language electro-pop which I still love as much today as I did all those years ago.

No video for this one but you may just love the song so much that it won't really matter....

Retro Saturday: Hansson De Wolfe United

Something Swedish and obscure and rather funky in a late 70s/early 80s style....I remember Hansson De Wolfe United from back in the day, although I had forgotten about them again for a long long time. Recently my interest has been reawoken though. "En Tidig Morgon" is probably my favourite track of theirs but as I couldn't find it on YouTube I thought I'd throw in a bit of "Existens Maximum" instead:

Retro Saturday: Richard Marx

Again, I'm going "against type" tonight but "Hazard" was always a pretty special song back in the day so I thought I'd have a wallow again tonight! Some very interesting, and different lyrics, I think.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Retro Saturday: Joshua Kadison

Awwww...bit of mid-90s slush to kick us off tonight :)))

I'm not really into this kind of swaying ballad but this one always reminds me of holidaying in Belgium, so for that fact alone it will always merit a mention on EuropeCrazy :)

And I always have a soft spot for men with 'big hair' :O

This week's playlist: Now count to twenty and here we go again

Hello y'all....

4 O'Clock/Keep On Walking/Virgin Mary/Red Rock/Bloody Breakfast/This Is For - Salem Al Fakir: it's only April, but "Ignore This" is the album of the year. And nothing will change that very obvious fact.

Manboy - Eric Saade: this is what a weekend in Sweden does to you :)

You're Out Of My Life - Darin: ditto.

Unstoppable - Ola: one of the major 'radio hits' to come out of this year's Melodifestivalen, and rewarded this week with top spot in the Sverige Topplistan singles chart.

Kom - Timoteij: ditto. Dangerously catchy tune. Faithful travelling companion is obsessed with them....:))))

I'm Not Mad - Alex Gardner: is this going to be one in yet another long line of great lost blogland hits???

On A Mission - Gabriella Cilmi: at least this one did make the charts. Will need to check her album out.

Memories - David Guetta feat Kid Cudi: I heard this on holiday and didn't know who or what it was. Now I do, so it's a regular fixture on the old iPod.

Starry Eyed - Ellie Goulding: this is a strange one. I like it sometimes but other times it annoys me...yet it all seemed to make sense when I heard it on P3 whilst in Gothenburg!

Respect - Adeva: something from "back in the day" which for some strange reason I've got into all over again.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

This weekend....the revival of my abandoned blog ;)

Fingers crossed that this blog finally gets back on track this weekend!!

So you can expect some chart updates, an album review or two, some Swedish telly stuff, a write-up of my Gothenburg trip and maybe even the return of Retro Saturday.

You can tell that I don't really have more exciting things to do this weekend but I think last weekend was exciting enough to last me a long long time :))))