Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in rewind

So I'm sitting here at home on the last day of the year. Time for a quick (or not so quick) rewind through 2011.....

TV: Big stuff happened this year - analogue telly was switched off in my part of the world, and the digital switchover went smoothly enough.

One casualty of the analogue switch-off was the demise of good old 888 - in other words, the mighty Ceefax. Here was BBC Scotland's Ceefax on its last night in June 2011. Digital text just ain't got the same magic :(

We finally took the plunge in October and got a flat-screen LED smart TV. Just last week I also realised that you could wire up the PC to the TV via an HDMI cable and watch videos/streamed broadcasts on the big screen - so that will definitely change our viewing habits in 2012.

But as for the traditional way of watching TV, will the programmes be any better than over the past year? I should hope so. TV dumbed-down more than ever this past year with the relentless rise of "constructed reality" shows like The Only Way is Essex, Made In Chelsea, Desperate Scousewives; featuring talentless fake-tanned-fake-haired wannabe airheads who seem to view celebrity as a right and not a privilege, and is a guaranteed ticket to the celeb-reality-show party. Currently on that VIP list: a certain Mark Wright. Yes he's a good looking boy, but what does he actually do?

OK so I moan and groan about dumbed-down trashy telly, then in the next breath go on to say that my most fave TV show of the past year was Louie Spence's Showbusiness. Full of contradictions, I am. My other 'guilty' pleasures (although in my world there's nothing to be guilty of):- Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, Top of The Pops 1976, The Hotel, The Apprentice, Showboaters, Seven Dwarves.

The X Factor may have been on a slide, happily trounced by a dominant Strictly Come Dancing, but the XF monster still dominated the tabloids and every magazine on the stands. Just one more thing: why all those months, all that bother, only for the eventual winner to be given the dreariest of dreary cover versions to sing? They could learn from other countries who actually give their winners a decent original song.

We said goodbye to Swedish Idol this year - its final winner was Amanda Fondell, although my favourite contestant was her fellow finalist Robin Stjernberg. Not being ageist here, but the problem with this year's series was that all the contestants were too young, and there was certainly no-one of the calibre of, say, Tove/Amanda J/Linnea/Agnes or Darin/Erik/Danny/Sebastian.

The second series of Så mycket bättre also came and went, but turned out to be a disappointment for me. Too many dreary song choices, Laleh-mania left me cold, and the artists weren't interesting enough. And then TV4 pulled the plug on viewers outside Sweden watching any of their shows. Thanks for that TV4, you are my Killjoys of The Year.

The next big international TV phenomenon, The Voice, is on the way and the best thing about it is that Simon Cowell has nothing to do with it - it was born in the Netherlands, and comes from the John De Mol stable. Which was the home of that other TV phenomenon - Big Brother. Which is still running by the way, not that anyone really cares anymore. Back to The Voice: the various forthcoming international series have some fabulous mentor choices. We get Jessie J and Enough said.

In 2011, the best TV didn't come from this country. It came from Denmark - Forbrydelsen a.k.a. The Killing; and Iceland - Naeturvaktin a.k.a. The Night Shift. Both of which screened on BBC4, the best of all the BBC channels. The future of this channel is currently under threat, and it would be very sad if the axe fell. Just shut down BBC3 instead please: since the demise of Liquid News (and that wasn't yesterday) that channel has had no redeeming features whatsoever.

Those of us in the STV a.k.a. "not available in Scotland" area finally got the chance to catch up with the Downton Abbey phenomenon as series 1 was finally screened immediately followed by series 2. We're not ashamed to say that EuropeCrazy is totally hooked on Downton - roll on series 3 next year!!

The biggest TV story in Scotland was the demise of The Hour. It was addictive teatime TV nonsense which did well in its slot, but the powers that be decided to move it to a Tuesday night 8pm slot - clashing with that equally addictive local soap River City - and it only lasted 4 weeks before the axe spectacularly fell.

Talking of River City, it continued to be just a bit too gloomy over the past year, and had too many stupid storylines. But we continue to watch the show as it heads into its 10th year. Just one request though - can we have a bit more of the Glaswegian humour which the city is famous for??

Not that you expect reality from soaps though. Prime offender this year: Coronation Street. For every decent storyline there were at least 10 rubbish ones. A bit less time spent in soap prison/soap hospital next year would be nice :) Meanwhile some things never change: EastEnders (which I stopped watching when Dirty Den died the first time) still wins every soap award going, and Emmerdale remains completely underrated.

I continue to love American TV drama - One Tree Hill, Grey's Anatomy, Parenthood, Fairly Legal, Dexter and the brilliant Harry's Law. I didn't stick with Blue Bloods, Glee or Boardwalk Empire though. One thing's for sure, I'll be casting my eyes across the Atlantic to see what goodies U.S. TV brings us next year.

And in the meantime, I have a lot of box sets to work my way through.....

By the way, the October-December bonanza edition of The Square-Eyed Couch Potato will be published on here before the end of January.

Only one sporting event mattered to me this year. The Tour de France was fantastic from beginning to end. (Shame about the winner though). Mark Cavendish's green jersey was a terrific achievement and well-deserved. Otherwise, only in Scotland, the best small-minded country in the world, the issues around football moved from the back page to the front page. Only in this country could you have an ongoing political debate about sectarian and bigoted songs at football matches. My own view is that they should let them keep the songs for the football, and focus on tackling the bigotry and sectarianism outside the football grounds. But that just sounds like a bit too much work for our pampered politicians, particularly a government whose whole outlook is rooted in Braveheart. That's another story....

MUSIC: I spent most of the year digitising my music collection and uploading it to iTunes and filling my iPod. 2011 was all about rediscovering old, lost, forgotten favourite music which inevitably was a million times better than the new music which was on offer this year. Not that you should measure the quality of current music by what's on the radio or in the charts, but if you were just basing it on that then 2011 could be summed up by a song sung by Rihanna, with music by David Guetta, with lyrics about being on the floor in the club with your hands in the air accompanied by a rap by Pitbull and Flo Rida. The saddest thing about this year was the total international dominance of the same 5 or 6 artists in every chart across Europe.

There is a glimmer of hope that the dire r'n'b/urban/grime/autotuned/electro-dance trend of the last 2/3 years may finally be on the slide. On the down side, it looks as if things are going in the opposite direction towards "the new boring". Which probably explains the (to me) inexplicable success of Ed Sheeran over the past year. Never mind the new boring, he's the new Blunt. Enough said. And as for Adele, yes she has a good voice, but her music does nothing for me I'm afraid. I want the return of real pop music, the kind which some may describe as cheesy; I want the return of real dance music, the kind which excited me in the 90s and early 2000s; I want the return of decent guitar bands. Not much to ask for, is it?!?!?!?!

Of course, 2011 brought a well-earned rest for my most favourite artist of all, Salem Al Fakir, who didn't release any new solo material. After the past four non-stop years, three albums and endless touring he deserved a break! Things may have been quieter but that didn't mean a Salem-free year though. His music stayed in the public consciousness - whether it was a contestant waltzing to "Keep On Walking" on Let’s Dance, or Amanda Persson singing the song on the final series of "Idol", or "I’m So Happy" playing out as the theme song to the hugely successful "Solsidan". There were three terrific collaborations - he co-wrote Eric Saade's "Rocket Science", sang on J-Son's "Remedy" and was also guest vocalist on Avicii's "Silhouettes" which has been doing the rounds on the internet for the last few months and surely must get an official release in 2012! Please please!

Salem played orchestral shows at the beginning of the year and his only Swedish summer concert was a sell-out orchestral show at the legendary Dalhalla in August, with special guests Oskar Linnros and September. A big highlight of my year was the opportunity to watch his Helsinki live show which was broadcast live on the web. Salem's other musical project was related to the book "Vad är musik?" which he wrote with his friend Pontus de Wolfe. The guys spent the second half of the year promoting the book and they became a recording act named Earpony, releasing "Jag e frågan du e svaret". Salem also appeared in SVT's "Dom Kallar Oss Artister" at the beginning of the year where he performed a cover of Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang" with some familiar friends. The song was released under the artist name "Sally and the Segols".

Salem may not have won any Swedish Grammys in what was a very tough year competition-wise, but he did win one very important award - Sweden's best-dressed man - at the Ellegalan. Talking of awards, Salem will present the 2012 P3 Guldgalan in a couple of weeks. My wish for 2012 is some new material from Salem the solo artist: one thing's for sure, whatever he does next will be well worth the wait.

Something which I always look forward to is Eurovision season. The waiting and the anticipation is better than the outcome. So it was this year. Eurovision ended with one of its most forgettable, insignificant yet inevitable winners in years - "Running Scared" by Ell and Nikki representing Azerbaijan. I still have my reservations about that particular country staging 2012's extravaganza....

The people of Sweden chose Eric Saade to represent them at Eurovision - which in retrospect was probably the right decision, given his good showing at the contest, however it was not my first choice and I might have appreciated the song more without the stupid breaking-glass routine/'faffing about' (© Len Goodman).

However, Melodifestivalen seems to be going through a turbulent time. Which direction should the contest go in? Should it continue to modernise or should it continue to keep the schlager-fans happy? Should it do both? It may be Sweden's biggest TV show of the year, but the event which once filled the Swedish singles charts doesn't have such a significant impact on music sales anymore - check out this excellent analysis by my good friend and top blogger Damian at

Finally, before I go, the usual thanks to all my blogging friends - your friendship and support has been so special during a personally difficult year. I'd like to wish all the readers of EuropeCrazy a very happy and healthy 2012 and you are very welcome to join me in celebrating the fifth birthday of this blog in March!

Love and best wishes to you all,

Laura xx

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The 2011-50: the full list

Here's the list of my top 50 tracks of 2011 in full:

1. Me and My Drum - Swingfly
2. Like Suicide - Christian Walz
3. Moves Like Jagger - Maroon 5 feat. Christina Aguilera
4. Higher - Taio Cruz feat. Kylie Minogue
5. In The Club - Danny Saucedo
6. Me & My Microphone - September
7. Get You - Alexey Vorobyov
8. Solid Ground - Pnau
9. Let Me Go - Maverick Sabre
10. Bullets - Rebecca & Fiona
11. Good Intentions - Bressie
12. The Moment I Met You - Vincent
13. Oh My God - Le Kid
14. Hot Mess - Chromeo feat. La Roux
15. Coming Home - Sjonni's Friends
16. New Tomorrow - A Friend In London
17. Idiot - Lena Philipsson
18. Judas - Lady Gaga
19. Jag e Frågan, Du e Svaret - Earpony
20. Pumped Up Kicks - Foster The People
21. Loca People - Sak Noel
22. Dance Alone - Love Generation
23. Called Out In The Dark - Snow Patrol
24. Love Love - Take That
25. Love In Rewind - Dino Merlin
26. Rope - Foo Fighters
27. Don't Know Why - Soundgirl
28. Kärlekens Tunga - September
29. Breaking Up With God - The Ark
30. Fest Hos Mange - Mange Makers
31. Lifeline - Jamiroquai
32. Hollywood Hills - Sunrise Avenue
33. Paradise - Coldplay
34. Something In Your Eyes - Jenny Silver
35. Angel In Disguise - Musiqq
36. Taken By A Stranger - Lena
37. Warrant - Foster The People
38. Good Enough - Father McKenzie
39. Depend On Me - Babel Fish
40. No One Else Could - Sebastian
41. Party Rock Anthem - LMFAO
42. Traktor - Wretch 32
43. Fade Into Darkness - Avicii
44. What You Want - Evanescence
45. Wall Of Sound - Bressie
46. Not A Love Song - Wonderland
47. Jag Kommer - Veronica Maggio
48. Feel So Close - Calvin Harris
49. Changed The Way You Kiss Me - Example
50. Yeah Right - Dionne Bromfield.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The 2011-50: No.1 - Drama, drama, drama, drama like a soap opera

"Me and My Drum" - Swingfly.

And so to my no.1 song. It was always going to be difficult compiling the chart this year due to the absence of any new solo material by Salem Al Fakir, who had previously topped my chart for the past 4 years. Hoping for "normal service" next year of course!

When the line-up of songs and artists for this year's Melodifestivalen was announced, I didn't expect at that time that "Me and My Drum" by Swingfly would end up topping my chart. Yet it quickly became a favourite and post-contest I continued to play it all year. Despite the song only coming 5th in the contest, it did very well in the Swedish charts, in a year when very few MF songs charted for any length of time.

This high-powered pop-rap song has lyrics rapped by American rapper Swingfly (previously best known for "Singing That Melody"), and a mid-song rap by Beatrice Stars. All good so far, but then comes the icing on the cake - former Idol 2007 contestant Christoffer Hiding, who I absolutely love, singing the chorus. I'll never forget that moment he stepped onto the Melodifestivalen stage - one of my favourite moments of the year actually ;)

In what has been a personally very dark year, I thought it would be appropriate that something fun and uplifting should top my chart. Boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom-boom-boom :))

The 2011-50: No.2 - I guess I love the way it burns

"Like Suicide" - Christian Walz.

The offputting title/lyrics and bizarre styling at Melodifestivalen probably contributed to him not progressing any further in the competition, but the fact remains that Christian Walz is one of the finest artists to come out of Sweden in recent years.

One more fact: Melodifestivalen will always produce some of my favourite songs of the year and this is no exception. Yes, the ill-advised title should have been changed, but the song as a whole is three minutes of absolute class. Now can we have a new album please, Christian??? (audio version)

The 2011-50: No.3 - If I share my secret, you're gonna have to keep it

"Moves Like Jagger" - Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera.

So, I made it through a week of extreme weather conditions, heavy snow and hurricane-force storms in my part of the world, to bring my annual countdown to an end with the final three songs.

It's typical: you wait for a song with "Jagger" in the title and two come along at once. One of them came to symbolise everything that is wrong with music in 2011; the other is an insanely catchy pop song which is so fresh that I never tire of it, and probably never will.

After just one hearing there was never any doubt that this song was going to place very highly in my chart this year. "Moves Like Jagger" has also single-handedly resurrected two floundering pop careers thanks to this collaboration, which came about after Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera participated as judges/mentors on the US version of "The Voice". Definitely my favourite non-European track of the year.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The 2011-50: No.4 - I got this high without taking a pill

"Higher" - Taio Cruz featuring Kylie Minogue.

Although the prolific Taio has also reached a certain level of ubiquity, he at least manages to put out the odd above-average dance/pop single from time to time: "Come On Girl", "Dynamite" and then this one. Not even the completely unnecessary inclusion of Travie McCoy on an alternate version of the song could ruin the greatness of this pop/dance crossover, which boasts a guest appearance by a certain Ms Minogue. When compiling this annual chart, the higher positions always tend to go to songs which answered my question: "do I still love listening to this song after all this time?" The answer to this, and the remaining 3 songs to follow is a resounding "Yes!"

The 2011-50: No.5 - It's Friday night, I barely made it through this week

"In The Club" - Danny Saucedo.

OK, what I'm about to say may sound contradictory, but I hope you understand what I mean. "In The Club" may not have turned out to be my favourite Melodifestivalen song of the past 12 months, but it was the one which I most wanted to win that contest.

Despite following Melodifestivalen for more years than I can remember, I still can’t figure out why the results end up the way they do. No offence to Eric, who achieved a very respectable result at Eurovision, but I still believe this should have won MF 2011. Just as 'second time around' was lucky for young Mr Saade, then it might well be the case for Danny as he's having another attempt at the contest in a few weeks' time.

In a year when every second song seemed to be about being "on the floor" or "in the club", Danny actually managed to make the concept interesting and was vocally spot on.

Melodifestivalen performance:

Monday, December 05, 2011

The 2011-50: No.6 - I wrote it for you, you're the title of my song

"Me and My Microphone" - September.

And the title of her song was originally Mikrofonkåt, which came out of the original (and best) season of Så mycket bättre. "Me and My Microphone" may have lacked the lyrical twists and turns of her version of Petter's Swedish-language track, but it is still a classic in any language. It's been a long wait, but the song's finally been released in the UK this week, one year after it originally surfaced! One more thing...on a personal note, Petra’s live collaborations with Salem Al Fakir this year inevitably strengthened her legend-status :)

The 2011-50: No.7 - I rule my world like great men do

Get You - Alexey Vorobyov.

One point was proved in 2011: that Eurovision has no regard for superstar reputations. Just as my no.22 song by Love Generation couldn't run away with a Melodifestivalen win, when it came to ESC even the might of RedOne and his team couldn’t push Alexey up the scoreboard. It still remains my favourite ESC entry of this year, however when the contest came around it lost its way, for reasons which I still can't fathom out. Maybe the lighted jackets, I don't the meantime, here's the official video.

The 2011-50: No. 8 - There's too much worth living for, baby I'll show you

Solid Ground - Pnau.

Whilst we wait for the return of Empire of the Sun - which is gonna happen, folks! - Nick Littlemore’s other project filled the gap nicely. And this song perfectly summoned up the EOTS spirit. A summery sound for a non-existent summer.

The 2011-50: No.9 - With you I won't be, a better man

"Let Me Go" - Maverick Sabre.

One of the very few good things to come out of the otherwise tedious ‘urban’ music trend of the last couple of years. Inventive use of the Portishead "Glory Box" sample. Vocally he's very reminiscent of Finley Quaye, with a 21st century reboot.

The 2011-50: No.10 - Don't let me show you how weak you are

"Bullets" - Rebecca & Fiona.

Into my top 10 with one of the brightest new musical finds of the past year or so, and needless to say they're Swedish! Rebecca & Fiona came out of the Swedish dance music scene with their own distinctive sound. "Bullets" has sweet vocals and a distinctive guitar sample/hookline which really set this song apart from the rest of the year's more cliched dance tracks.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The 2011-50: No.11 - Judged once but on trial for a lifetime

"Good Intentions" - Bressie.

If someone asked me to name my favourite new solo artist of the year, I wouldn't hesitate to name Ireland's very own Niall Breslin, a.k.a. Bressie! "Good Intentions" is the perfect kind of pop-rock song which I love, and it was my favourite track on his debut album. He has a great voice and I'd love to see him become the superstar he deserves to be. Bressie will be one of the judges/mentors on the Irish version of "The Voice" and that should massively raise his profile.

The 2011-50: No.12 - Into the wild Serengeti hills of Himalaya

"The Moment I Met You" - Vincent.

He's a huge talent and his comeback was long-awaited and very welcome. Yet Mr Pontare is in danger of being better-known for being Agnes' boyfriend than for his music, as for an unfathomable reason his return to the music scene appears to have been ignored.

Both this and its predecessor "Baby Hurricane" showcase Vincent's effortless ability to craft a classic pop song, which thankfully doesn't have any need to resort to the r'n'b sound of the day.

The 2011-50: No.13 - Like a teenage dream it's a love supreme

"Oh My God" - Le Kid.

They brought an almighty fun-filled candy shop explosion to this year's Melodifestivalen, but despite dancing sweets and exploding cupcakes it was the wrong "Oh My God" which made it to Globen. Which is a real shame, because this is a fine slice of retro bubblegum pop.

The 2011-50: No.14 - Your love is real but I just feel suffocated

"Hot Mess" - Chromeo featuring Elly Jackson.

No, it wasn't a cover version of the fab Sam Sparro song, but this collaboration between the eccentric electro-funk duo and the La Roux singer was one of my most played songs during the first quarter of 2011. As you know, I'm no fan of La Roux by any means, but this ice-cold combination was a perfect match, and in a year dominated by mostly inferior electro-dance, this definitely stood out as a quality product.

The 2011-50: No.15 - I just wanna see your face again

"Coming Home" - Sjonni's Friends.

Still on the Eurovision 2011 theme....sometimes you just get a simply delightful song which is maybe out of step with the contemporary norm, but who cares about that? The writer of this song passed away before the Icelandic national final, so his friends stepped up with the finest tribute they could pay. Even all these months later it still remains a lovely, joyous, heartwarming treat.

The 2011-50: No.16 - And your weapon is your voice

"New Tomorrow" - A Friend In London.

Several months down the line, Eurovision 2011 seems a bit strange and disappointing, marked by a totally inconsequential and forgettable (but inevitable) winner from Azerbaijan. There were very few songs I continued to listen to after the contest, but happily this was one of them. There are exciting times ahead for this band and I hope they continue to build on their 5th-place success in the contest.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The 2011-50: No. 17 - Du kan få bli min idiot

"Idiot" - Lena Philipsson.

I've been a big fan of this true Swedish music legend for almost 25 years, and she remains totally fabulous. "Idiot" may not have set blog-land on fire, or thrilled the hardcore fans who were expecting something much more anthemic, yet this fine electro-pop song became one of my most played songs of the year.

Here she is, entertaining the Linköping massive at this year's Melodifestivalen...

The 2011-50: No.18 - A king with no crown

"Judas" - Lady Gaga.

In the rewriting of the Gaga history book, if reviews are anything to go by, it appears that "Judas" is already being consigned to the dustbin of history in the style of a dead Soviet leader. Despite this, it’s still fondly remembered as a Friday night favourite at EuropeCrazy HQ and I'm not ashamed to say that I prefer it to either "Born This Way" or "The Edge of Glory".

The 2011-50: No.19 - Kanske det mest omaka paret

"Jag e frågan, du e svaret" - Earpony.

This song probably caused more controversy in my head than any other this year, purely because I had to come to terms with the idea that here was a musical project involving Salem Al Fakir which didn’t automatically guarantee top-spot in my annual chart. For anyone unfamiliar with Earpony, it's a duo made up of Salem and his friend (and previous bandmate in The Bloody Romance) Pontus De Wolfe; the duo also published a book this year, "Vad är musik?", and if you need more info, the whole thing was documented over at my other blog Planet Salem.

On first hearing of this song, (live version), I didn’t like it at all, but having listened several times to the studio version, particularly during the preparation of this chart, this lo-fi tune - performed by Pontus (lead vocals/guitar) and Salem (backing vocals/keyboards) really grew on me and I feel it therefore deserves its top 20 spot.

Of course it goes without saying that I am counting the days until Salem finally unveils his new solo material!

In the meantime....

The 2011-50: No.20 - But he's coming for you, yeah he's coming for you

"Pumped Up Kicks" - Foster The People.

I may (or may not) have mentioned at some point during the year that Foster The People was probably my favourite new band which caught my attention in 2011. This song was probably 2011's version of "Young Folks" or "Kids" in that it got lots of airplay and "crossed over" into the mainstream, however despite the upbeat style of the song it had a decidedly darker lyrical theme.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The 2011-50: No.21 - Johnny, la gente esta muy loca

"Loca People" - Sak Noel.

Now I know you may be wondering at this point why something so utterly nonsensical merits a place in my top 50. Well I'm wondering about it too :) Anyway, faithful travelling companion yesterday spookily predicted a place for this song in my chart and he was right. This is a crazy, nonsensical piece of music with some bizarre spoken dialogue and that swear word which of course was edited out of the UK radio version. It quickly became a Friday night favourite at EuropeCrazy HQ, and it ruled the charts all summer, all over Europe, along with Alexandra Stan's "Mr Saxobeat" - and when the musical history of 2011 is written, both songs will go down as the year's biggest 'holiday hits'. Viva la fiesta, viva la noche indeed.

The 2011-50: No.22 - You're a fool if you think that my night's on the brink

"Dance Alone" - Love Generation.

So...RedOne + Melodifestivalen = foregone conclusion? Apparently not - reputations, not even that of one of the biggest and most prolific writers/producers on the planet, counted for nothing, and all the hype and favourable draws in the world couldn't help.

Yet despite all that, it was one of my favourite MF songs this year. I still have fond memories of this stompy dancey schlager anthem which I played a lot after the contest and still do. LG of course are now down to a three-piece following the departure of Mikaela, and are making a further attempt at conquering Swedish hearts when MF kicks off in a few weeks' time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The 2011-50: No.23 - We're not listening and we're not blind

"Called Out In The Dark" - Snow Patrol.

Back in 1997 I blamed this band for their role in 'dreary-pop' thanks to the dreadful (IMHO) "Chasing Cars".... however I would just like to clarify that I do not judge a band on one song alone. Snow Patrol proved that again this year, coming back with an electronic-flavoured stomper which was anything but boring.

The video for the song was good fun too, featuring none other than Jack Davenport as the band's frontman!

The 2011-50: No.24 - You're at the gates of human evolution don't you understand?

"Love Love" - Take That.

The all-conquering legends continued to prove they're still a force to be reckoned with, although if I'm honest, I wasn't so keen on the Progress-phase of their career. This was in similar style to "Kidz" but in my own opinion it's much better than that song. We'll even forgive them for kidnapping Jenny Silver's illuminated microphone stand.

The 2011-50: No.25 - One to a hundred, multiplied by you

"Love In Rewind" - Dino Merlin.

We're at the halfway point of the chart already - doesn't time fly! The Bosnian music legend returned to the Eurovision stage with this very charming, feelgood song which was maybe a bit too old-fashioned for the modern Eurovision Song Contest, but became a very popular number here at EuropeCrazy HQ and a regular post-contest fixture on my iPod. Sito!

The 2011-50: No.26 - I thought I'd save my breath for you

"Rope" - Foo Fighters.

At a time when guitar bands/rock bands appear to have become extinct in the eyes of TV and radio, it’s nice to see the Foos still flying the flag. I’ve always seen them as a great singles band and this continued that trend, with its stop-start hooks and just the right amount of restraint.

The 2011-50: No.27 - Why does your love hurt so much?

"Don't Know Why" - Soundgirl.

The summer hit which inexplicably never was. This is just a great pop record which joyfully plunders Carly Simon’s "Why" and places it in a contemporary girl band context.

The 2011-50: No.28 - Nu är allt sagt och gjort och jag kommer aldrig att få tillbaka dig

"Kärlekens Tunga" - September.

She was the breakthrough artist from last year's "Så mycket bättre" of course, and her success deservedly continued throughout this year. After the massive "Mikrofonkåt" this was her follow-up single - her very own inimitable electro take on the Eldkvarn song.

If you want to hear a completely different version of the song, check out this video clip, from when Petra performed with Salem Al Fakir at his Norrköping orchestra show back in March. ("Kärlekens Tunga" is at 3.55.)

The 2011-50: No.29 - I've had it with shame, I've had it with sorrow

"Breaking Up With God" - The Ark.

This year we said goodbye to one of Sweden's greatest bands of the last few years - no, make that one of the world's greatest bands - The Ark. Ola and the guys decided to call it a day and bowed out with a phenomenally successful final tour, with a final concert in September at Gröna Lund. Along with "The Apocalypse is Over", "Breaking Up With God" was one of two new tracks on their terrific greatest hits compilation "Arkeology" released earlier this year. This song basically sums up everything the band was about - catchy, singalong glam rock loaded with just the right amount of irreverence. I will miss The Ark, but I hope that Ola Salo will continue to grace us with his immense musical presence in the future. - video from their interval act appearance on this year's Melodifestivalen.

Melodifestivalen 2012: remaining acts announced today

The remaining artists appearing in next year's Melodifestivalen were announced this morning.
Here is the line-up for semi finals 3 and 4.

Seni-final 3 - Leksand - 18th February

"Förlåt mig" - Mattias Andréasson
"I mina drömmar" - Maria Benhajji (webjoker winner)
"Just A Little Bit" - Love Generation
"Lovelight" - Andreas Johnsson
"Mirakel" - Björn Ranelid & Sara Li
"Sanningen" - Carolina Wallin Pérez
"Why Am I Crying" - Molly Sandén
"Youngblood" - Youngblood

Semi-final 4 - Malmö - 25th February

"Allting blir bra igen" - OPA
"Amazing" - Danny Saucedo
"Don't Let Me Down" - Lotta Engberg & Christer Sjögren
"Goosebumps" - Hanna Lindblad
"Kyss Mig" - Axel Algmark
"Land of Broken Dreams" - Dynazty
"The Girl" - Charlotte Perrelli
"Why Start A Fire" - Lisa Miskovsky

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The 2011-50: No.30 - Det e fest nu, hos Mange Mange Mange

"Fest Hos Mange" - Mange Makers.

In a year characterised by bad music, some may think this is among the worst. You probably wonder why something like this would end up in my annual top 50.
In spite of (or because of!) its obvious off-tune awfulness, Fest Hos Mange and its low-budget video immediately took up a place in my heart. I defy anyone to listen to this and not have a smile on their face. Årets sommarplåga, as they say in Sverige.

The 2011-50: No.31 - Don't you spoil my sweet charade

"Lifeline" - Jamiroquai.

Ideally I'd have had the title track of "Rock Dust Light Star" as it was one of my most played songs during the first half of 2011, however it is disqualified due to my rule that if it was released the previous year, it doesn't get in my chart if I was aware of it last year. "Lifeline" is in the chart on a technicality that it was released as a single this year, therefore meeting my 2011-50 chart criteria. Just thought I'd clear that up!!

Whilst on holiday in Pisa in May, I frequently heard this song on the radio and that's what made me rediscover it. "Lifeline" continues in the same mellow mood as previous single "Blue Skies" but has a more jazzy feel to it. The song never troubled the UK chart (surprise surprise) but thankfully they still have a huge international fanbase and that is clearly reflected in the video:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The 2011-50: No.32 - This is the end of the rainbow

"Hollywood Hills" - Sunrise Avenue.

Good to see this Finnish band are still around. Although I didn't really like the song to begin with, it eventually grew on me (thanks again to Rix FM for the extensive airplay!)

Following their pan-European breakthrough with "Fairytale Gone Bad", they have continued to enjoy success in several European countries, notably Germany, with their accessible, melodic pop/rock and Samu's distinctive vocals.

Retro Saturday (revisited): Fredericks Goldman Jones

It's been a while since I listened to this multinational trio whom I loved in the 1990s, and I decided it was time to rediscover them all over again thanks to the excellent Verves of Europe ( which played some FGJ a couple of weeks ago.

I'd forgotten just how much I loved "Peurs" from their first album, which I bought in 1998, so I thought it would be a good idea to share this with you tonight.

The 2011-50: No.33 - I know the sun's set to rise

"Paradise" - Coldplay.

You'd think that I'd be very familiar with the long-awaited and recently released Coldplay album from beginning to end by now. Well, no, actually - my life is just one great big backlog so I'll probably catch up with it during my pre-Christmas holiday.

"Paradise" may not lyrically or melodically be the best thing they've ever done, but it's one of those songs that grows on you eventually and wears you down after prolonged exposure to it (thank you Rix FM). That and a very entertaining video.

The 2011-50: No.34 - Will we be together, will it be now and forever?

"Something In Your Eyes" - Jenny Silver.

Or as I like to call it, "the great lost Abba song". It took me a long time to really appreciate this song, as I never really paid too much attention to it during Melodifestivalen. However, the song got a whole new post-contest life on my iPod and I eventually realised that everything about her routine is pretty fabulous really - red hair, glittery dress, Kate Ryan-microphone stand and that hand signal!

The 2011-50: No.35 - Kill me with killer kiss

"Angel In Disguise" - Musiqq.

Contemporary (in a pleasant sense of the word) Latvian Eurovision entry which I liked from the first time I heard it. Unfortunately some bad styling and inappropriate use of stools killed its chances of progressing beyond the semi-final stage. A particular shame, when you think of some of the more inferior songs which made it to the final.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The 2011-50: No.36 - Stranger things are starting to begin

"Taken By A Stranger" - Lena.

Ms Meyer-Landrut returned to the Eurovision stage to represent Germany for the second consecutive year, however couldn't repeat her winning form two years running. Maybe because this fell short of the greatness of "Satellite" - however it does have an appeal of its own, thanks to its brooding, dark feel.

The 2011-50: No.37 - Fear is like your best friend

"Warrant" - Foster The People.

In a year where exciting new musical discoveries were extremely rare, and bands seemed to become an endangered species, then let's celebrate a band who landed on our radar with a highly acclaimed debut album which got played a lot here at EuropeCrazy HQ. There is one well-known track from it which may make an appearance later in my chart...however, this piano-driven track is a particular stand-out on the album and if any of you out there are pining for the return of Salem Al Fakir's solo material, then this should fill the gap nicely.

The 2011-50: No.38 - That's good enough for me

"Good Enough" - Father McKenzie.

They're a Finnish-Swedish band who caught my attention earlier this year when they supported Salem Al Fakir at his Helsinki gig which was also webcast. They also competed in the Finnish national selection for ESC with this song, which was "good enough" (pardon the pun) to come third in the contest. It's an appealing mix of Britpop style and piano-pop - two of my favourite genres, and was one of the best songs in any of the national finals this year.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Melodifestivalen 2012 - Semi-Final 1 & 2 act announced

This morning SVT revealed the names of the acts who will be singing the songs in the first two MF semi-finals.

Semi-final 1 - Växjö 04.02.2012
Loreen - Euphoria
The Moniker - I want to be Chris Isaak
Thorsten Flinck & Revolutionsorkestern - Jag reser mig igen
Dead by April - Mystery
Abalone Dots - På väg
Marie Serneholt - Salt & pepper
Sean Banan - Sean den förste banan
Afro-Dite - The boy can dance

Semifinal 2 - Gothenburg 11.02.2012
Andreas Lundstedt - Aldrig aldrig
Top Cats - Baby doll
Mimi Oh - Det går för långsamt
Thomas Di Leva - Ge aldrig upp
Sonja Aldén - I din himmel
David Lindgren - Shout it out
Ulrik Munther - Soldiers
Timoteij - Stormande hav

The 2011-50: No.39 - Sleep, baby sleep, stars are shining above you

"Depend On Me" - Babel Fish.

Yes it was slushy and over-sentimental, but this father-to-son lullaby surprisingly thawed my hard heart during MGP 2011. Typical of 2011's long line of disappointments, this year's MGP was a very disappointing contest. And whilst "Haba Haba" was an uplifting, vibrant winner, one can only wonder how this defiantly timeless pop ballad would have done at ESC.

The 2011-50: No.40 - You always come through, you always stay true

"No One Else Could" - Sebastian.

It was one of my most long-awaited moments of the year: the return of Sebastian Karlsson to Melodifestivalen. And whilst the end result (IMHO) fell short of the greatness of "When The Night Comes Falling" and didn't have a very long post-contest life on my iPod, it was still great to see him back again with this Killers-lite piece of pop-rock. It didn't lead to an album...but that could hopefully be something else to look forward to in the next 12 months.

The 2011-50: No.41 - Everyday I'm shufflin'

"Party Rock Anthem" - LMFAO feat.Lauren Bennett & Goon Rock.

Yes I know. At this point you're probably thinking that I've completely lost the plot. Well: I lost the plot a long time ago, and sometimes you can't help enjoying certain tracks even though you probably shouldn't.
285 million people can’t be wrong. Or can they?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The 2011-50: No.42 - You'll never catch me on the Jeremy Kyle Show

Traktor - Wretch 32.

One of the few rap songs I could really be bothered with this year. It's one of those records which I've never been able to work out the reasons why I actually like it at all, I just do. The lyrics are a bit cliched and had to be seriously censored for public consumption, but there is this great little moment at 2.30 in the song which makes the whole thing worthwhile.

The 2011-50: No.43 - We'll be OK, just keep the faith

"Fade Into Darkness" - Avicii.

You will probably recognise the riff here. Yes, this is the original vocal version of the song which sparked all that late summer hoo-ha, when Leona Lewis sampled the instrumental version - "Penguin" - for her comeback single "Collide". Anyway I prefer this original by Avicii - aka Tim Berg, the Swedish DJ/mixer whose international reputation continues to grow.

(By the way, I've not included "Silhouettes" in my 2011 list, much as I wanted to, for the simple reason that it hasn't been officially released yet, Which therefore makes it eligible for next year's list. If it ever gets released of course....!)

The 2011-50: No.44 - Hello, hello, remember me?

"What You Want" - Evanescence.

A rockin' comeback which immediately grabbed me from first listen, but predictably missed out on an appearance in the UK singles chart.

It's good to have them back again.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The 2011-50: No.45 - And now we are slammin'

"Wall of Sound" - Bressie.

First (but not last) appearance in my chart for one of this year's brightest new solo artists. Of course Niall Breslin isn't really 'new' at all, having fronted The Blizzards, but the London-based Irish singer launched his solo career earlier this year, and released his rather fab debut album "Colourblind Stereo" in September. Whilst his musical style is mainly in the pop-rock genre, "Wall of Sound" conjures up fond memories of old-school rave, which is always close to my heart. In a different musical climate, he'd be a megastar.

The 2011-50: No.46 - Save it for someone who likes it like that

"Not A Love Song" - Wonderland.

On paper, this girl band formed by Westlife's Kian Egan and Louis "you made that song your own" Walsh should have zoomed up the charts, helped along by a behind the scenes ITV2 series. But if there was proof that you can lead a horse to water, then Wonderland is the perfect example. "Not A Love Song" was their debut single, a nice piece of country-flavoured pop which would probably appeal to Taylor Swift fans for example. But it all went horribly wrong, and their lack of commercial success led to the band being dropped by their record label and ultimately led to a split. They were talented as well as pretty, but their attempt to swim against the current musical tide was their downfall. Right band, wrong time.

The 2011-50: No.47 - Jag är "Lucy in the sky", jag är högt över molnen

Jag Kommer - Veronica Maggio.

Veronica made her long-awaited comeback this year to both critical and popular acclaim. This catchy pop song was the first single released off "Satan i Gatan", and was co-written with another one of my fave Swedish artists, Christian Walz. By the way, look out for an appearance from Mr Walz later in my top 50 ....

Veronica always manages to combine the worlds of commercial pop and credibility, and no doubt she will do very well when award season comes round.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The 2011-50: No.48: Your love pours down on me, surrounds me like a waterfall

"Feel So Close" - Calvin Harris.

Did someone mention Calvin Harris????

'Disappointment' was one of the most appropriate words to sum up 2011, as many of my favourite artists failed to deliver. Disappointment followed disappointment, and unfortunately one of these was one of my favourite dance artists of recent years, the one and only Calvin Harris. Nothing he released this year approached the greatness of his "Ready For The Weekend"-era releases. "Bounce" was OK, but that's all. Even Calvin had to resort to a Rihanna-collaboration, which totally pushed me over the edge, as I've had enough of this over-exposed (in every way) songstress. (Faithful travelling companion will disagree, I'm sure). So I'm going for this one, which doesn't rely on any collaborations, and which is as close to the euphoric house sound which has served him well over recent years.