Sunday, April 14, 2013

The EuropeCrazy Eurovision 2013 Preview - Part 2

I think it would be fair to say that so far, I'm underwhelmed by the songs chosen for Eurovision 2013, which is getting closer and closer.  Five weeks to go....!

So let's have a listen to the final 8 songs from semi-final 1, from Montenegro, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Ireland, Cyprus, Belgium and Serbia. 

MONTENEGRO: "Igranka" - Who See.

If the 2012 and 2013 entries are anything to go by, Montenegro is sure to inherit that title of Eurovision's bonkers-loose-cannons from Moldova.  Let's look beyond the sleazy video and at least give them some credit for hauling ESC into the 21st century with this kinda on-trend grime/dubsteppy number which screams 2013.  It doesn't necessarily mean I like it, but at least it's a reasonably contemporary attempt in Eurovision terms. Think "Louder" by DJ Fresh and you get the idea.  

LITHUANIA: "Something" - Andrius Pojavis.

This Killers-style track was one of my early favourites from national finals season 2013.  He seems to have ditched the bad styling from the LT national final but for some reason it's still lacking that vital 'oomph' which could propel it from the semi-final to the final.  It's as if they don't really care enough to make it out of the semi-final and it's going to take a hell of a performance for Andrius to sell it, and I'm not too confident....

BELARUS: "Solayoh" - Alyona Lanskaya.

Ah, Belarus.  It would be fair to say that I have mixed feelings regarding their participation at ESC, and "Work Your Magic" excepted, they've never really impressed me.  The one thing you can be sure of in any national finals season is that Belarus will not send the song they originally selected.  "Solayoh" replaced the less catchy "Rhythm of Love" this year.  It's certainly got all the ingredients for top 10 success however for me it's just a bit too "been there, done that", as if all the entries from all the Mediterranean countries had been programmed into a computer and this is the result.  Despite that all-important key change, I wouldn't see it as a worthy winner.  

MOLDOVA: "O Mie" - Aliona Moon.

We are into the Alyona/Aliona section of the contest and Ms Moon certainly has a very distinctive look.  This was sung in English in the national final however will be sung in Romanian in the final.  Co-written by none other than Pasha "Trumpet" Parfeny, so we'll expect to see him on stage at the piano as in the national final (above).  It's yet another ballad which I think might do enough to make the final as it has a fairly memorable chorus.  Her styling will definitely be a talking point, although it's deja-vu on the dress-effects - just a bit too Sabina Babayeva (!)

IRELAND: "Only Love Survives" - Ryan Dolan.

So the big question is, how will Ireland do in the post-Jedward era?  Well they've at least gone for something      contemporary this time round, which is a little mish-mash of Euphoria and all the EDM-style hits of the past couple of years.  If the Eurosong staging is anything to go by, they will also throw in a little bit of an Irish drumming vibe no doubt to appease the traditionalists.  I'm going to say that this is a qualifier, given its draw position and it might stand out among all the mediocre ballads.  They need to ditch those backing vocalists from the Eurosong final though. 

CYPRUS:  "An Me Thimase" - Despina Olympiou.

Poor old Cyprus haven't had their problems to seek in recent weeks as they are the latest country to fall victim to the banking/economic crisis.  This is a rather lifeless ballad with a little r'n'b backdrop, however it had no hooks to hold on to and I can't see it having any appeal to anyone outwith their Greek neighbours.  Sadly, one of the most boring songs in this year's ESC.  A non-qualifier.

BELGIUM: "Love Kills" - Roberto Bellarosa.

In studio-version this is quite impressive and is actually one of my favourite songs in an otherwise unimpressive semi final.  However I have serious doubts about whether he can actually deliver on the night, given the most low-key national final presentation and his I'd-rather-be-somewhere-else disposition in the official video.  All in all it doesn't bode well but I'd really like to be proved wrong.  Maybe with a more enthusiastic singer things could have been different, but this is not qualifying.

SERBIA: "Ljubav je Svuda" - Moje 3.

Serbia is increasingly a country of split-personality at ESC.  It's either all serious Zeljko-ballads or lightweight uptempo numbers.  This is actually one of my favourite songs in the first semi-final - without the visuals.  The staging and presentation is just a bit too sleazy for my liking, as the three young women who make up Moje 3 are styled as they've got the night off from a lapdancing bar. It's qualifying though, thanks to that draw position and it's Serbia after all!

I've had another listen to all 16 songs from semi-final 1 and here are my (probably wrong as usual) predictions as to which 10 countries will make the final:


Next weekend: time for part 3 of my preview as we head into semi-final 2, with songs from Latvia, San Marino, Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Finland, Malta, Bulgaria, Iceland and Greece. 

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The EuropeCrazy Eurovision 2013 Preview - Part 1

Confession time: despite watching more national finals for 2013 than ever before, I also managed to miss out on a number of the songs which were chosen.  So I'm starting all over again with a clean slate and attempting to judge the songs fairly.  But expect my Libran fence-sitting trait to resurface though....

Semi-Final 1

So the draw's taken place and we now know which songs will be competing over the 2 x semi-finals on 14th and 16th May. Tonight I'll be having a listen to the first eight songs in semi-final 1.

AUSTRIA: "Shine" - Natália Kelly.

Austria has the honour of being the first act on the Eurovision stage this year.  I didn't follow the Austrian national finals process this year so I couldn't tell you if "Shine" was a worthy winner.  Unfortunately it sails a little close to Rihanna territory so it's points deducted from me for that, and it's a little bit forgettable, and it's a title which has been over-used in Eurovision - to much better effect by Georgia, for example.  Like many contestants in Eurovision these days she's come from a TV talent show (The Voice) so expect a solid vocal performance on the night. It's not the worst song they've ever submitted though, but the draw may destroy its qualifying chances.

ESTONIA: "Et Uus Saaks Alguuse" - Birgit Õigemeel.

Fact: It's not Ott.  Therefore, everything else pales into insignificance.  I did watch Eesti Laul and the best thing about it was, of course, Mr Lepland opening the show and then doing the interval act with a certain Tanel Padar.  Eesti Laul 2013 however was a major disappointment and despite the possibility of Eesti-Slipknot a.k.a. Winny Puuh making it to Malmö, in the end it was not to be and instead yet another talent show winner (Estonian Idol) gets the ticket. On the plus side, it's in Estonian - a lovely, lyrical language, but there is nothing particularly special about this song which is, on the whole, forgettable - and the draw does it no favours leaving it with minimal chance of qualifying.

SLOVENIA: "Straight Into Love" - Hannah Mancini.

ESC being dragged into the 21st century is all good and well but there is a part of me which still longs for little national characteristics being dropped into songs here and there - a song being sung in its national language, for example.  There is nothing distinctly Slovenian about this song: at least whan (American singer) Hannah competed in the national selection in 2011 she sang in Slovenian but this is just generic EDM with little dubsteppy interludes.  Ordinary rather than spectacular.  A qualifier? Probably not. 

CROATIA: "Mizerija" - Klapa s Mora.

Now this is more like it.  Time for a little bit of Balkan soul.  Not sure if Europe will get the concept of klapa which is a Croatian take on acapella - but this seems more genuine than the dance-music-by-numbers which seems to dominate the contest, and it may just strike a chord in voters who want something more.  Or mora as the case may be.  Maybe it's just the way I'm feeling as I write this review, but I get this.  A qualifier?  Probably not, due to the draw alone.

DENMARK: "Only Teardrops"- Emmelie de Forest.

A lot has happened since this song won which was arguably one of the best national finals of the an era of "pre-ordained winners" this would appear to have become this year's chosen one.  I may have cheered for it when it won DMGP, but my enthusiasm for it has waned a little, to be honest.  Nevertheless it's one of the more memorable songs (in a year where the Nordic countries are particularly on fire) and you could see the credits rolling on this one.  But then again, I said the same about "Stay" last year....! An absolute qualifier despite its poor draw position. 

RUSSIA: "What If" - Dina Garipova.

Another female solo singer, another talent show contestant (The Voice) and yet another of the big guns in the early part of the draw.  Chosen in an internal selection, this is reeking of deja vu.  What if we came together as one/together we can make a better place blah blah blah.  She's a good enough singer but this brings nothing new or original.  It's a 'Disney'-style ballad, with a very predictable key change and a big 'old ESC' finish.  This, as they say, could be dangerous.  A qualifier. 

UKRAINE: "Gravity" - Zlata Ognevich.

Ukraine will probably be due another win in the next couple of years as they're always there or thereabouts.  Could this be their year?  This is a contender although it's not my cup of tea.  Let's face it, it's not Shady Lady, is it??  Again, this will qualify effortlessly but to me it's just an empty and forgettable song with no hook or sustained appeal.

NETHERLANDS: "Birds" - Anouk.

In a semi-final full of female singers with mainly nondescript songs, could the Netherlands do the impossible and make it to the final after many years of underachieving?  "Birds" is low-key and defiantly old-fashioned, and - here's the main thing - it's different enough to make an impact, and it's more memorable than some songs which have preceded it.  I think it's pretty special and for that reason - it must qualify!

Next week: part 2 of my preview.

Monday, April 01, 2013

MGP 2013: The Final, 09.02.13

Hello again!  I'm back after a much-needed break from blogland.  So much has happened since I was last here: national finals season has come and gone, and we now know the full line-up for this year's Eurovision Song Contest which is only 7 weeks away!

Over the coming weeks I'll post my thoughts on the songs, however this post is devoted to what I'm calling the 'Peter Nalitch' of national final reviews.  Yes, it was 'lost and forgotten' (groan) but I'm finally getting around to posting the final chapter of this year's Norsk Melodi Grand Prix.

Like Melodifestivalen which followed, an underwhelming and lacklustre qualifying season resulted in a surprisingly good final.  The venue, as usual, was Oslo Spektrum which was packed as ever, and this year's hosts Erik Solbakken and Jenny Skavlan have done a solid job presenting the show.  However, Jenny's stylist must have had the night off, as I wasn't too impressed with either of her outfits in the final. 

Time for the first finalist: Vidar Busk with "Paid My Way".  Now I still don't get him, and don't really understand why he's in the final, but then again it wasn't so long ago that this kind of thing was doing well in Melodifestivalen, so....

Right, let's get this out of the way: I have a very minor crush on the grinning guitarist in Fjellfolk, you know, the one who looks a wee bit like Bret McKenzie.  Anyway I'm feeling a lot more charitable on final night and even the tongue-twisting-title "Ulvetuva" sounds better than it used to.  It's a hypnotic Norwegian folk lullaby which then erupts into something a bit more lively.  OK then, maybe 'erupts' is a bit too strong.  Oh what the heck, let's have a gratuitous photo of Trym Bjønnes (the grinning-guitarist-Bret-lookalike)...  

In the lead-up to the final, "Bombo" sung by Adelen was topping the iTunes chart in Norway and she had become Margaret Berger's main competition.  In the weeks following the contest, the young singer has unfortunately been the victim of internet bullying, as reported by the excellent Wiwi Bloggs:

I would agree that they're probably just jealous that she is young, extremely pretty and appears to have a cheerful and bubbly personality.  She certainly doesn't deserve that treatment.  Unfortunately her vocals aren't up to the job, but this is such a catchy song that there was never any doubt that it would make it to the final 4.

Next: it's Gromth featuring Emil Solli-Tangen.  I've never really been sold on "Alone" and would have preferred Gothminister in the final to fulfil the metal-quota.  Anyway, Gromth do their symphonic death-metal thang and then in strolls Mr Tangent-Thingy in his dinner suit.  Any more members of the Tangent-Thingy family want to come and have a go at MGP if they think they're operatic enough?

So Erik's just having a wander round the audience and who should he spot but some schlager royalty.  Oh look, there's Bettan!  And Guri Schanke!  Now, where the bleep is Alexander Stenerud?  We need him back in MGP.

But on we go to the next song, "Awake" sung by Gaute Ormåsen.  This is Morten Harket-lite, with a little bit of Donkeyboy thrown in.  The kind of effortless pop which Norwegians seem to do in their sleep.  This is one of my favourites in the final however is spoiled by the distraction of some women in sequinned trousers wheeling mirror frames around in the background, as you do.

The best thing about Lucky Lips is the lead singer's pink hair.  I can't believe that "Sweet and Heavy" was chosen as a wildcard to the final, as it's soooo banjo-plucking irritating.  The way she sings "dark red wiiiiine" annoys me beyond belief.

But fire up the glitterballs because it's D.I.S.C.O. time and my favourite MGP entry this year: "The Underground" by Datarock.  They are still dressed in those silly red tracksuits with 'Datarock' written on them.  But even if the styling is rubbish, I still love the song and never tire of it.  The intro is particularly amazing....come take a ride to where dreams are made of!  It was a better performance of the song than in Steinkjer and he nailed the key change this time.  But I couldn't see it as a superfinalist though.

Unlike Annsofi, who had the magical ingredient of a song written by Alexander Rybak, and indeed a song which became a real grower over the weeks.  "I'm With You" was performed well on the night.  I'd done some research to find out more about Annsofi Pettersen who had come 3rd in Norwegian X Factor in 2010.  She is still only 18 years old and I'm sure that she will be back at MGP in years to come.

And now to the pre-contest favourite, Margaret Berger or should I say "Marrrrrgarrrret Bergiiiirr" (I love that pronunciation!).  She seems quite likeable, away from the scary ice-queen character in that dress, performing "I Feed You My Love".  The intro recalls "Euphoria" and the staging of blue backdrop and flashing lights is very effective.  Let's face it peeps, she is probably the nearest thing we'll ever get to seeing Robyn at ESC so for that reason alone she had to win!

One more song to go, and it's "I Love You Te Quiero" sung by those chest-flashing Sirkus Eliassen brothers, who are like a Norwegian equivalent of LMFAO.  They look like the kind of guys who'd be good fun on a night out then would start to get very annoying.  But they're not as annoying as Sean Banan.  Anyway they are cute in a geeky kind of way, and extra points for the white rabbits.  This song is catchy but I could see a disastrous result if it was to represent Norway.

Songs over and it's time for Loreen to entertain the punters, stopping off at Norway on her national finals mini-tour.  She's chosen not to perform "E*******" but "My Heart Is Refusing Me", its Melfest predecessor.  Doing her usual mystical dancey thing.

Part 1 of the final is over - now there's some serious cross country skiing action to be done with!  On prime time TV on a Saturday night!  Only in Norway....oh well I'd rather watch that as most of the garbage we have inflicted on us on Saturday night telly here in the UK.  No wonder so many of us are spending our Saturday nights from January to March in national finals land!

But it's not long till MGP's back and it's time for the....Gullfinal!! The super-final in other words.  The hosts have had a costume change: I don't like Jenny's dress.

Adelen is the first of the four grand finalists.  Once again she celebrates as if she's won the whole thing.  Aww bless.  Anyway she gives "Bombo" her all.  She's followed by Annsofi.  By the way is it just me, or does anyone think Alexander Rybak looks very dishevelled and stressed out these days?  However he's cheered up by the announcement that his song "I'm With You" has made it to the final 4.  Annsofi gives a fine vocal performance and if this had been another year it may even have been an MGP winner.  

Erik's talking to Bettan (again) and outgoing champion Tooji, complete with his little blingy collar.  His advice to his successor: "Enjoy the ride!"  He might have come last in ESC but he doesn't seem particularly bothered.

Who's next to the superfinal?  Only Magnus and Erik Eliassen, with their perfectly waxed chests and white rabbits in tow.  By now "I Love You Te Quiero" is worryingly growing on me.

After a chat with Loreen and her personal bodyguard (OK I'm kidding) Mr Eurovision Jon Ola Sand, it's time for the announcement of the last finalist.  As the camera pans along the line-up of contestants, they know it's all lost.  Except of course for Maggie B who once again feeds us her love.

In his final act as reigning MGP champ, Tooji bows out with an 'alternative version' of "Stay" which I don't like to start with but then it eventually gets going and grows on me.  By the end of the song I rather like it, but the twirly hand dance seems to have been axed :(

After a wee trip to Malmö for host Erik it's time for the voting results.

There's a nice touch to the way the votes are announced this year.  The 'general' of each hosting town - who got the job in the individual heats thanks to answering the 'golden telephone' deliver the jury votes.

Steinkjer gives top marks to Margaret.
Floro "feeds" Margaret their top marks with Sirkus 2nd.
Larvik also gives top marks to Margaret.  At this point the three other finalists are joint 2nd.
Carina Dahl delivers the Midt-Norge vote.  Margaret top - Adelen 2nd..
Anina gives the votes from Nord-Norge.  Top marks go to...Sirkus Eliassen - this is the only area where Margaret didn't top the voting.
Martin Blomvik, (who is dressed in a nice jacket and jeans and looked a lot nicer than he did in his Primark-gangsta garb in his heat) delivers the Vest-Norge top marks to Margaret.

By this stage Margaret is so far ahead in the vote that the realisation is beginning to sink in for the hosts and contestants alike.  But there are still more votes to come.

Shackles deliver the Sor-Norge vote and with top marks, this officially seals Margaret's victory.
Last but not least, Julie Bergan delivers the Ost-Norge vote...

Margaret Berger is the winner of Melodi Grand Prix 2013.  And what a resounding winner too, as between juries and televoting she polled almost 40,000 votes more than the runner-up "Bombo", with "I Love You Te Quiero"  3rd and "I'm With You" in 4th place.

So it's good luck to Margaret in Malmö and I've got a feeling she's going to do rather well.  No last place or nil points this time round!  (But then I said the same about Tooji, so.....)