I was too busy reading all the post-mortems last night and haven't been around today (or tonight for that matter) and, well I won't be around during the day tomorrow, so basically what I'm trying to say is that I won't have time to post my Eurovision thoughts here until later in the weekend.
So I'll keep it brief: I'd be quite happy if any of the following songs won - Cyprus, Belgium, Turkey, Iceland, Romania, Germany or Denmark.
I'd be seriously annoyed if any of the following songs won - Armenia or Azerbaijan.
Everything else is a bit meh.
It all begins twenty-four hours from now. Who will win? Your guess is as good (or bad) as mine. But if the contest is to be "modernised" then the viewers of Europe should choose a catchy, contemporary hit record.
Sweden's hottest new boyband - well, ok, boy-duo then - appeared on TV4's "Sommarkrysset" this weekend. So here is the link if you want to gratuitously drool at Eddie (!) or Rabih (if he floats your particular boat) or just sing along with their current hit single "Hurricane", whatever...
Otherwise known as...the "spent too much time watching MTV Germany in my hotel room" playlist...!
The fact remains, I know as much about Slovakian music now as I did before I went away = nothing. I switched on the radio and it was full of those well-known Slovak artists like Cheryl Cole, Taio Cruz, Train, Beyonce, Lady Gaga...you get the picture. Didn't buy any CDs whilst I was away either, as I was unable to find a record shop within walking distance :(
So here is a list of songs which will remind me of my Bratislava trip. None of them from Slovakia.
Satellite - Lena Meyer-Landrut: Germany is clearly very proud of its Eurovision entry this year, judging by the amount of radio and TV airplay. By the end of the week it had become "our song" for this holiday, and even faithful travelling companion couldn't shake it off.
Alors On Danse - Stromae: the other anthem of our trip - think Louise Attaque meets the Guru Josh Project (!). It's conquering Europe right now, and you will surrender.
Der Himmel Soll Warten - Sido feat. Adel Tawil: The words "featuring Adel Tawil" will always be good enough for me. I really like this guy's voice, and this was prominent on MTV this week thanks to rapper Sido's "MTV Unplugged" show.
Gebt Uns Ruhig Die Schuld - Der Fantastischen Vier: a completely daft and bonkers video to go with a song which, again, got a bit stuck in my brain.
Wavin' Flag - K'naan: this one is clearly cashing in on World Cup mania and getting massive airplay. However, I noticed that this is just K'naan on his own - unlike the version targeted at the British market. Why do they feel the need to have "featuring Will.i.am" on everything? Does this man never take a day off?
Pop Goes The World - The Gossip: this one grew on me over the week. Funky and quite commercial.
Fur Immer - Unheilig: You could maybe describe this as 'Rammstein-lite' (which isn't a bad thing) and I liked this song after just one hearing. More uptempo than their debut hit, the brooding "Geboren Um Zu Leben".
Firstly, I can only apologise for the lack of posts/updates on this blog over recent weeks, as a certain other blog of mine continues to demand most of my attention and will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months.
This means that EuropeCrazy won't be updated as frequently as it once was, however I'll try to update it whenever I can. I had thought about putting this blog on hold for a while, however I realised that I would miss it if I did that :)
Anyway this blog is taking a break for a week as I am due to go on my spring-break holiday to Bratislava tomorrow.
I say "due" although there is now a very real prospect of cancellation due to the volcanic ash cloud which continues to cause major disruption - several British airports are closed today and further closures are expected tomorrow. Feeling really, really p****d off about this now.
If we do get away, this blog will return next Sunday. So it's maybe goodbye for now, or maybe not.... :(
Umbrella Beach - Owl City: very catchy follow-up to the ubiquitous "Fireflies" which I still like a lot. I'll need to discover some of his other music.
Yes Man - Bjorn Johan Muri: Norway's real Eurovision hit from 2010, and I'm still not fed up with this song.
Hurricane - Rebound: a.k.a. Idol 2009's Eddie Razaz and Rabih Jaber. This has been a big hit in Sweden. Although I didn't really like it to begin with, it has now grown on me.
Love Is A Hurricane - Boyzone: there seems to be a hurricane theme developing here :) Obvious, middle-of-the-road pop it may be, but it's a Gregg Alexander song, which is always well worth celebrating.
Vända Med Vinden - Timoteij & Alexander Rybak: from the girls' rather good debut album, this is a Swedish language version of young Mr Rybak's "Roll With The Wind" and ticks all the folk-pop boxes.
Playing With Fire - Paula Seling & Ovi: one of the few songs from this year's Eurovision that I'm listening to. Subtle it most definitely ain't, but you will remember it after one hearing.
To borrow/paraphrase from that one-time potential Eurovision entrant Morrissey, "has Eurovision changed or have I changed?"
Well, I think the answer is that Eurovision has changed. A few days ago I had my annual reminder that I haven't totally enjoyed a Eurovision Song Contest since 2003: coincidentally the final contest which worked on the relegation-rule and only took place on one night rather than three. Add some brilliant staging and....well of course you had me at "Renars Kaupers co-presenting"....anyway tonight I thought I'd feature some of my favourite things about Eurovision 2003...
Aww...Birgitta Haukdal. She's so sweet. "Open Your Heart" was such a lovely way to start off one of my favourite contests:
"Eighties Coming Back" - as un-Eurovision as you'll get, but one of my favourite entries of the last 10 years by Claire's Birthday, a.k.a. Ruffus:
"I'm Not Afraid To Move On", although it did pretty well, still remains for me one of the most underrated entries by this year's host nation:
Here's what you get when you send untried competitors to Europe's biggest light-entertainment event, with the combined double-whammy of the Iraq war and not being able to hear your backing track = comedy gold, and arguably our most legendary Eurovision result ever:
5. The interval act.
All others pale into insignificance - step forward Latvia's finest, Brainstorm, with the great "A Day Before Tomorrow" and the previous year's winner Marie N with the very nice "I Feel Good" (after a recap of the full contest in reverse order)
Since that time, the landscape of the contest has changed, in particular that post-Ruslana/Paparizou effect: all drums and dancing girls. Happily, with the change in rules last year and the reintroduction of the jury-vote, the result was a very popular victory for Norway's Alexander Rybak. "Fairytale" was (is) a pretty worthy and memorable winner, and you can't really say that for some of the winners which preceded it over the last few years.
Strangely though, the collective consciousness this year dictates that ballads are in - I'm not a ballad fan though, and most of them aren't very good. This year it has been decreed that Azerbaijan have it in the bag with "Drip Drop". Of course we thought the same this year with Melodifestivalen, that Peter Joback had it in the bag too, and then we all realised that "Hollow" wasn't much cop after all. Maybe Europe's viewers and juries will surprise us all and feel the same way about "Drip Drop", two weeks from tonight. But then again, it's Eurovision - and recent years have shown that the "pre-determined" victory is usually....determined, and the quality of the songs is irrelevant when voting time comes around.
Back to 2003. There are still so many songs from that year which I still play, and still have a very high regard for. Unlike recent years, where I've struggled to find any more than 2 or 3 songs which I would play long after the contest is over.
Fast-forward to 2010: of course my feelings about this year's Swedish entry, and how it was chosen, have been well documented elsewhere, and I'm over it now. With the passing of time however, I realised that it was probably better that my favourite song didn't win: but there were other songs in MF which, again with the passing of time, I would have felt very happy with as the Swedish entry - dare I say "Manboy" or "Kom" - rather than a boring, unmemorable ballad.
So who will win Eurovision? If not Azerbaijan? At this point I wouldn't write Germany or Romania off...but what do I know? I've only been watching the flippin' thing for almost 40 years and I still can't figure it out :))))
Two weeks from tonight it will all be over, and we will know where Eurovision is heading - both geographically, and also musically. The countdown is on...
EDIT 14.05.2010: I played "Alors On Danse" to faithful travelling companion tonight who immediately pointed out to me that it sounded like one of his fave French bands Louise Attaque :))
On a more positive note, it's good to see the return of the Euro-hit. For the past couple of years there hasn't really been a big song which has broken out of one European country and spread across the continent over the late spring and summer months, topping the charts everywhere along the way: the only recent one I can particularly think of being Milow's "Ayo Technology", cruelly overlooked in the UK (quelle surprise...) Latterly Europe's summer hits were more likely to emerge from Lady GaGa, Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry and Jason Mraz than from any European act. However, the cross-continent success of the Stromae song, along with the very popular "Stereo Love" (which is now on the Radio 1 A-list playlist - will it be a hit here I wonder?) prove one thing: The Euro-hit is back. Hooray!!
How do you follow last night? By spending the day on cloud nine, floating over Gothenburg in a bubble of happiness....And even though the rain has finally come to Gothenburg, do you know what? It doesn't matter. Even in the rain, the city still looks very special.
After breakfast, we head out for a walk and later end up back in Nordstan, where once again they're taking to the catwalk to the same old Melodifestivalen soundtrack! Faithful travelling companion has suddenly developed an interest in fashion? Or just some of the young ladies modelling the clothes....
Today was all about relaxing and strolling around, and it wasn't long till we were stopping for lunch - breaking my beef ban so that we could be reunited with köttbullar once again - that's meatballs to you and me :) Accompanied, as ever, by boiled potatoes and lingonberry sauce. Accompanied by - wait for it - melon and mint flavoured Swedish cider. Yum!
The rain had cleared by early afternoon, so after lunch it was time to retrace our steps again to a part of the city which we'd first discovered last year. The Haga quarter of Gothenburg is reasonably easy to reach by foot from the city centre, and is always well worth a visit. It's packed with little speciality shops and cafes, and perfect to pass an hour or two - stopping off for coffee of course! Faithful travelling companion makes the observation that there is no-one over 25 years old in any of the cafes in Haga. Today, he's right. We're both feeling very old :P
We spend some more time exploring the city on foot before heading back to the hotel to get some packing done and get ready for going out tonight. On our way back, I spotted this sign near Trädgårdsföreningen. And yes, I know it means 'exit' and nothing to do with breaking wind :)))
Saturday night in Gothenburg is reasonably lively. I just wish I could rewind 24 hours though, so that I was going to see Salem at the Konserthuset again! We have dinner at a nice little Italian restaurant in a back street (I can't remember the name of it, but it's near Kyrkogatan) and manage to miss out on '"Earth Hour" which was being eagerly promoted during our Swedish trip. After pizza and wine, we head back up to Avenyn, where the restaurants and bars are packed. Being creatures of habit, we're back at the bar at Lilla London, which has a reasonably relaxed atmosphere, Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson on the jukebox, and I end the night with a Kopparbergs pear cider whilst faithful travelling companion has a Swedish beer.
On our way back to the hotel, I have mixed emotions - extreme happiness because it's been such a wonderful weekend, but also some sadness that it will probably be my last Swedish trip for a while. Until the next one of course, whenever that will be!
I'm not going to bother writing too much Sunday, as this mainly involved travelling home, but on the way to the airport I spotted this roadsign, which made me chuckle (and before you ask, yes I know it means speed-bumps!!)
But I can't finish without mentioning two notable things about Gothenburg City Airport: 1) It's a neat little airport, but as hardcore coffee lovers, both faithful travelling companion and myself agree that it now holds the title for selling the worst cup of coffee we've ever tasted; and 2) we like the gift shop though - it's very good, the prices are reasonable, and I couldn't resist buying another moose to add to my collection. Moose-naming can be pretty stressful of course, so this time my mum made the decision for me - she named him.....Salem !! Still I suppose they have a lot in common as they're both Swedish, cute and loveable :))
Now I'd better start saving up my kronor for my return to Gbg, sometime in the future....
Friday 26th March 2010: Salem Day. The day that I had waited for, for so long, finally arrived, bringing with it an surprisingly relaxed feeling over breakfast. Being a rather classy establishment, coffee was accompanied by Goteborgs-Posten, which I scoured from cover to cover to see if there were any features about Salem, or tonight's concert. I had to make do with a very small preview paragraph, with the paper choosing to focus on Moto Boy's Stadsteatern show tomorrow.
After breakfast it was my first ever visit to an internet point, Sidewalk Express, which was right next to the hotel. It was great fun blogging, tweeting and checking my emails, as well as catching up with all the latest news about Salem. It was the best 20 kr I've ever spent, because there was one very important email, which would result in the opportunity to meet Salem once again!
In that instant I went from totally relaxed and calm to ....well, a manic wreck!! My heart felt as if it was bursting out of my body! Faithful travelling companion had gone for a walk whilst I was surfing...and came back to find me hyperventilating :)
In the meantime, retail therapy was on the agenda. Despite the generally mild weather outside (which was a very nice surprise, as I had been expecting the big freeze) it was time to go indoors, to Nordstan - Scandinavia's biggest shopping mall, situated right across from the hotel. This being our third trip to Gothenburg, we're no strangers to Nordstan, but I still manage to get lost every time I go in there. This from someone who could navigate most shopping malls with my eyes closed :)
There's always something going on in Nordstan, and this weekend it was a catwalk fashion show, with many of the centre's retailers showing off their spring collections. Of even more interest to me was the soundtrack - loads of Melodifestivalen stuff (Eric Saade, Hanna Lindblad, Getty Domein, Alcazar, Ola) as well as tunes by Darin, BWO, Lady GaGa and that "Stereo Love" with its distinctive accordion-type hookline.
We head to Rocks, a record store in the basement of Nordstan, and I'm delighted to see "Ignore This" having its own prominent bright green display near the entrance. "Astronaut" and "This Is Who I Am" are also displayed on the shelves, for those new/recent Salem fans just getting into his music. I love going into Swedish record shops, you get everything from top 40 and indie to the cheesiest schlager/dansband all sitting side by side :)
Ahlens City still has its CD section too, and again it's just lovely to see Salem's face staring out from the top 20 display - the album sits at no.2 in the chart at the end of March, behind the Melodifestivalen compilation. Sadly this year there is no MF DVD, just a karaoke one which really doesn't interest me at all.
After shopping and lunch, a little exploring in and around Avenyn, where the canal was still frozen over....
...even though the canal in another part of town wasn't!
Back to the hotel to get ready for the big night! Needless to say I'm buzzing with excitement about the concert - and I'm listening to Salem's interview on Sveriges Radio Goteborg, in between all the plays of "Keep On Walking" on the various Swedish radio stations, and me playing all Salem's songs on my phone!
Last year we went to a Greek/Turkish restaurant for dinner before going to Salem's concert - we planned to do the same this year, however the restaurant had shut down :( however we managed to find a busy little Greek taverna for food and wine before heading off to Avenyn, and that long walk all the way up to Gotaplatsen, and the Konserthuset which was the venue for tonight's concert by Salem Al Fakir and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.
And yes, after the show I did get the opportunity to meet Salem again: he may be a massive star in Sweden now, but fame has not changed him one bit. He is still polite, warm, friendly and modest; and he had so many nice things to say about the work I do on Planet Salem, (my Salem fansite). I hope I can meet him again some day soon....
We head back to the hotel. I'm walking on air....it doesn't get any better than this.