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.

The 2011-50: No: 49 - But now I want off this ride cause you're scaring me

"Changed The Way You Kiss Me" - Example.

Apologies to the man here, but I'd always viewed Elliot Gleave - a.k.a Example - as a low-budget version of Calvin Harris. Despite that, he achieved massive success with his catchy electro-pop-rap tunes this year, and this was the most successful one.

The 2011-50: No.50: I mean honestly, you lied to me like I'm not there

"Yeah Right" - Dionne Bromfield.

15 year old Londoner Dionne Bromfield is probably best known for being the god-daughter of the late great Amy Winehouse, who sadly passed away in July this year; and significantly, Amy's final live performance on stage was with Dionne, three days before her death.

The Winehouse connection may have opened the door to the music business for Dionne; however the young singer has enough talent of her own to guarantee a potentially successful career to come. For the moment though, "Yeah Right" shows immense promise; she's a young soul singer with a voice beyond her years, and thankfully this timeless soul song managed to avoid all the obvious cliches of 2011, with no David Guetta, Flo Rida or Pitbull in sight.

The 2011-50: introduction - and EuropeCrazy's 2000th post!

Firstly, this is my 2000th post on EuropeCrazy, so it's highly appropriate that it should be devoted to introducing what has become an annual feature on this blog - my annual countdown.

Unfortunately, 2011 has personally been a bad year in so many ways, with very little in the way of redeeming features. This also extends to music, as I found so little to excite me. A lot of this had to do with spending much of the year not actually listening to new music, but rediscovering lots of old forgotten favourites in the course of filling my iPod. One more thing...2010 had been such a busy year for me, particularly with regard to my other blog, that by the time 2011 arrived, I needed some time out to read books, watch TV, de-clutter EuropeCrazy HQ....everything but listen to new music.

So I'm surprised that I actually managed to gather 50 songs together for my top 50 songs of the year. Usually I have over 100 songs to short-list down to the final 50: this year I only had 55. That said it all really. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy my "final countdown" to say farewell to a year which, in the words of the great philosophers Steps, is "better best forgotten".

Above: EuropeCrazy HQ's resident Swedish moose contingent, Salem (left) and Måns (right) help me choose the playlist :)))

Eurovision 2012: something old, something new

Today Serbia and Belgium announced the names of the singers who will represent their countries at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest.

Due to financial constraints, there will be no Serbian national final in 2012, but instead they have decided to internally shortlist some songs and the singer will choose which one he wants to sing.

Serbia will be represented by a very familiar name to ESC fans: Željko Joksimović, who represented Serbia & Montenegro in 2004 with the big fan favourite Lane Moje. I know I'm probably going to be shot down in flames for even suggesting this, but I always thought this song was overrated and boring. He came back two years later, as writer of the Bosnia & Herzegovina song, Lejla. There's a pattern developing here: another fan favourite, and (IMHO) another overrated and boring song. He wrote the 2008 entry Jutro (ditto fan fave/boring song) when Belgrade hosted the contest, and this was a particularly annoying outcome as there was a perfectly wonderful poptastic song that year which would have made a great Serbian entry - "Beli Jablan" by Aleksa Jelić & Ana Štajdohar.

So in this blogger's opinion there is a very strong case against Mr J. However I have not completely written him off and would hope that he might try something a bit different this time - I'm not expecting him to go all Ovo Je Balkan on us, but something more uptempo would be nice.

Over to Belgium now. It's Flemish-speaking VRT's turn to choose the Belgian entry, which in recent years would mean one of my favourite national finals - Eurosong. However two years ago, VRT went with an internal selection which resulted in a very successful result for Tom Dice's "Me and My Guitar". So they probably thought, why change a winning formula? I had hoped for a big Flemish star name this year (I was hoping for a return for Kate Ryan) but it was a rather surprising choice - Iris, a.k.a. Laura van den Bruel. Of course all of us Lauras have to stick together, so I guess I'll have to support her!

16 year old Iris' musical style is a little reminiscent of Taylor Swift if her hit single "Wonderful" is anything to go by: and her song will be chosen from a list of songs submitted by a number of top songwriters.

Over in Slovakia, they also revealed their singer two days ago. Or did they? Their choice for 2012 was supposed to be big-haired rock singer Miro Šmajda, but now his participation is seemingly in doubt, due to an alleged 'misunderstanding'. Either way, it's sad news for faithful travelling companion as the TWiiNS won't be making a return visit....

Friday, November 11, 2011

Musikförläggarnas Pris 2011

The annual Swedish Music Publishers awards took place on Friday 11th November at Berns in Stockholm, honouring the country's most successful songwriters and composers covering the period 1st July 2010-30th June 2011. The ceremony was hosted by Niklas Strömstedt.

The big winner was Veronica Maggio, who took home the awards for best composer, best lyricist and song of the year for "Jag Kommer".

The honorary prize went to Mikael Wiehe, who's been making music for the past 40 years and is currently starring in season 2 of Så mycket bättre.

Songwriting duo Max Martin and Shellback were awarded for another year of international success.

Big congratulations to two of this blog's favourite artists: Daniel Adams-Ray voted best breakthrough artist, and the year's most played song was "Från Och Med Du" by Oskar Linnros.

List of Prizewinners:
Composer of the Year
Veronica Maggio/Christian Walz

Lyricist of the Year
Veronica Maggio

Honorary Prize
Mikael Wiehe

International Success of the Year
Martin "Max Martin" Sandberg/Johan "Shellback" Schuster

Song of The Year
"Jag Kommer" - Veronica Maggio/Christian Walz/Stefan Olsson

Breakthrough of the Year
Daniel Adams-Ray

Most Played Song of the Year
"Från Och Med Du" - Oskar Linnros.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Melodifestivalen season is underway!

Today brought the exciting announcement of the song titles and songwriters for Melodifestivalen 2012. This is the guesswork stage, where we all try to match the songs to the possible performers! One very noticeable thing is that almost half the songs are in Swedish, which is very nice.

Aldrig aldrig (Niclas Lundin, Maria Marcus, Randy Goodrum)
Allting blir bra igen (Michael Sideridis)
Baby Doll (Mårten Eriksson, Lina Eriksson, Susie Päivärinta)
Det går för långsamt (Anton Malmberg Hård af Segerstad, Niclas Lundin)
Don't Let Me Down (Lasse Holm, Lars "Dille" Diedricson)
Euphoria (Thomas G:son, Peter Boström)
Förlåt mig (Mattias Andréasson)
Ge aldrig upp (Thomas Di Leva)
Goosebumps (Hanna Lindblad, Linda Sundblad, Tony Nilsson)
I din himmel (Sonja Aldén, Bobby Ljunggren, Peter Boström)
I mina drömmar (Nanna Svensdóttir, Thomas Cars)
I Want To Be Chris Isaak (This Is Just the Beginning) (The Moniker)
Jag reser mig igen (Thomas G:son, Ted Ström)
Just A Little Bit (RedOne Team)
Land Of Broken Dreams (Thomas G:son, Thomas "Plec" Johansson)
Lovelight (Andreas Johnson, Peter Kvint)
Mirakel (Fredrik Andersson, Björn Ranelid)
Mystery (Pontus Hjelm)
Porslin (Björn Olsson, Martin Elisson)
På väg (Abalone Dots, Viktor Källgren)
Salt & Pepper (Lina Eriksson, Mårten Eriksson, Figge Boström)
Sanningen (Michael Clauss, Martin Bjelke)
Sean Den Förste Banan (Sean Banan, Joakim Larsson, Hans Blomberg, Mårten Andersson)
Soldiers (Ulrik Munther, Johan Åberg, Linnea Deb, Joy Deb, David Jackson)
Stormande hav (Kristian Lagerström, Johan Fjellström, Stina Engelbrecht, Jens Engelbrecht)
The Boy Can Dance (Figge Boström, Catrine Loqvist, Johan Lindman)
The Girl (Fredrik Kempe, Alexander Johnsson)
To the Sky (Fernando Fuentes, Tony Nilsson, Danny Saucedo, Peter Boström, Figge Boström)
Kyss mig (Axel Algmark, Mattias Frändå, Jonathan Magnussen)
Why Am I Crying (Molly Sandén, Aleena Gibson, Windy Wagner)
Why Start A Fire (Lisa Miskovsky, Aleksander With, Bernt Rune Stray, Berent Philip Moe)
Youngblood (Fredrik Kempe, David Krüger)

First thoughts: I can't wait to hear "To The Sky" and "Förlåt mig" of course. Hope the other Peter Boström songs might be big dancey tunes too! The Lisa Miskovsky song also sounds interesting, with its Norwegian writing team. Also looking forward to "Goosebumps". Of course there are some very familiar names in there - schlager royalty G:son, Holm and the ever-present Kempe, to satisfy the schlager fans. Is it too much to ask for the return of Jenny Silver? I'd prefer her to Charlotte, to be honest. And much as I've liked Johnson/Kvint's contributions in the past, the thought of Andreas competing again would probably be a step too far....and I'm completely underwhelmed by Thomas Di Leva.

I wouldn't mind seeing another Andreas (Mr Lundstedt) back at MF though! And I wonder if the mighty Magnus Carlsson is in there, as previously rumoured? H.E.A.T. have also been mentioned - it would be nice to see them back, hopefully with a song as great as "1000 Miles".

There are also some very familiar song titles in there as well...."Youngblood" just makes me think of E.M.D., and I wonder if RedOne's entrant will be channelling Gina G???

Finally, run for cover - The Moniker is back! And who let Sean Banan in????