Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sommar i P1 2013

As the great philosopher Tomas Ledin once wrote, sommaren är kort.  But that doesn't stop Swedish radio celebrating the season.  One of the great annual traditions in Sweden is the "Sommar i P1" series where a group of well-known Swedish personalities are selected to present a radio show, share some memories and play music which means something special to them.

The 2013 list has just been announced and includes the following artists:

23rd June- Maja Ivarsson
28th June - Sarah Dawn Finer
26th July - Ann-Louise Hanson
1st August - RedOne
11th August - Lisa Nilsson
17th August - Joey Tempest
18th August -Björn Dixgård and Gustaf Norén

More info at:
(picture above courtesy of

Monday, May 27, 2013

Back home!

Hello again!  I'm back on dry land (although I've still got the "sea legs" despite being back for 24 hours!) Eight days ago, we set off on our first ever cruise around the Eastern Med on Royal Caribbean International's Navigator of the Seas (pictured above) visiting Sicily, Greece, Turkey and Crete along the way.  It was a fantastic holiday which exceeded all my expectations, and everything - the ship, the ports, the weather - was just perfect.  However it was also an exhausting itinerary on an enormous ship and I'm still feeling very tired!

I have a few posts to write up (including those long-overdue Eurovision reviews) before I even get round to the cruise diaries so you'll have to wait a little while longer as I have a couple of busy weeks ahead.  So I'm going to take yet another blog break to gather my thoughts and write those posts and will return on 15th June    with a little blogging frenzy!  See you then.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tell the Med I'm sail it :)

If you watched Melodifestivalen this year you will understand that post title pun.  If not, oh well, never mind :))

But in the words of Ulrik, I'm on my way, I'm on my way....well, one week from today we will be on our way to cruise round the Eastern Med.  I always get massively excited about our holidays, but I don't think I've been as excited about a particular holiday since my Swedish trips of 2009 and 2010.  Yes we are talking major excitement here! 

There has been an incredible amount of obsessive planning and list-making on the lead-up to our first ever cruise (that's just me - you can tell I do admin for a living!) but hopefully that will help us to get the most out of the holiday.  But I enjoy all that planning stuff, so it's not been all work and no play.  It will be nice to finally get away for some sunshine, after the coldest and wettest 'spring' in many years. Even though it's May, we still need the central heating on!  It's also been a very stressful few months so the relaxation will be very welcome  This holiday is completely taking us out of our comfort zone but it should be an amazing new experience.  Coming soon to EuropeCrazy: The Cruise Diaries!

It's nice to be at home for Eurovision week. As usual I've been enjoying the rehearsal footage and all the bloggers blogging and the tweeters tweeting about the Malmö madness :)  Looking forward to watching both semi-finals as well as the final.  I'll be reviewing all of them as usual, but as I'll be too busy with holiday preparations and other stuff this week, the reviews will be posted retrospectively,  week commencing 27.05.2013, when this blog will be back in action.  See you soon, me hearties :))

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The EuropeCrazy Eurovision 2013 Preview: Part 5

Just six songs left: the 'big 5' countries plus this year's host Sweden.

Where to begin?  OK...let's start with yooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuu Sweden :)

SWEDEN: "You" - Robin Stjernberg.

Whilst I come to terms with realising that I'll never be able to pronounce Stjernberg properly, there is one thing I'm even more sure about - this is one of the best songs in this year's contest and in a year when so few songs/performers don't seem to make that crucial connection with the viewers/voters, Robin most certainly will.  Let's just hope that they ditch the silly dancing behind him, which was so irritating in Melodifestivalen.  The down side of being defending champion or big 5 country is that you only get one chance to perform your song, but I'm sure he's up to the challenge.  This deserves to do very well indeed.

ITALY: "L'essenziale" - Marco Mengoni.

This year I tuned into the last night of Sanremo, all 57 hours of it, and this song won.  I was rather annoyed when it was announced that RAI chose to send this rather than Antonio Maggio's "Mi Servirebbe Sapere" which is so instantly catchy and I believe it would have had a serious chance of winning.  "L'essenziale" on the other hand required many more listens before it grew on me, which is not exactly a good recipe for a Eurovision winner.  Unlike Robin, I can't see Marco immediately connecting with the viewers, as his performance is a little detached and stilted.  There's better stuff on his new album. But on the plus side, it's a real grower, it's in the wonderful Italian language and there is no silly dancing!

GERMANY: "Glorious" - Cascada.

Shortly after winning that (rather good and diverse) German national final earlier this year, there was a bit of controversy for about 5 minutes with that "Euphoria"-plagiat scandal. Is "Glorious" a Euphoria ripoff?  It's got a 'u' and an 'or' in it therefore it must be :D   To me it just sounds like all those other Cascada songs which were very popular over here about 3 years ago, the kind of music which teenage chavs used to play on their phones when they’re sitting up the back of the bus. (And that’s not a generalisation/stereotype, that’s speaking from experience!)  Is this a winner?  Probably not as it's just a little too close to the style of last year's winner, and it may just be too obvious an attempt to win. 

SPAIN: "Contigo Hasta El Final" - El Sueno de Morfeo.

Say what you like about the old Operacion Triunfo days, they certainly whipped up some excitement for the Spanish ESC songs and artists.  (Although I will never understand why Vicente's "Se Me Va La Vida" wasn't chosen to represent Spain).  Anyway in recent years Spain has become one of the least talked about and musically one of the least interesting ESC countries and this song hasn't really done much to change my view.  Its folky influences are very mid 90s ESC.  It's nice, but that's all I can say, and like many songs this year it is instantly forgettable.

FRANCE: "L'Enfer et Moi" - Amandine Bourgeois.

This, like the Spanish song, is one of the year's least talked about songs.  It's very brooding and atmospheric and she has a good voice, however it doesn't have much of a hook.  It is however one of those songs which, if they get the staging right with a dramatic performance could maybe pick up a few votes.  Amandine is of course a former winner of "Nouvelle Star" and I live in hope that one day another winner of that competition will represent France - I refer to the wonderful Christophe Willem!

So, in the style of the old Eurovision Song Contest preview shows of the 70s and 80s, I will close with Royaume-Uni....

UNITED KINGDOM: "Believe In Me" - Bonnie Tyler.

Yes the Bonnie Tyler, with a song co-written by the Desmond Child who has written some massive hit songs over the years.  But this is Eurovision and reputations don't count here!  This is Bonnie in more laid-back mode, it's a very easy going song and it's not the worst I've heard.  However it is most definitely not a representation of the music made in Britain any time during the last 20 to 30 years.  It'll probably get more votes than poor Engelbert did last year but that's not saying much, I can't see big voting totals for this either.  When is the BBC ever going to get Eurovision right????

Well, that's it for my Eurovision preview.  As you can probably tell, I'm not blown away by too many of this year's songs, and some of them have needed a few listens to convince me.  There are too many ballads which all seem to blend into each other, and too many mediocre and forgettable songs all in all.  Dare I say it's lacking in fun this year? But to use a little football comparison, the club is always bigger than the players, and so it is with Eurovision.  The Eurovision Song Contest is what really matters, and that's why we love it so much. 

So, who's going to win it then?  Well, Denmark's "Only Teardrops" seems to be this year's pre-determined winner.  Maybe so, but although I was happy to see it winning DMGP, the song has considerably gone down in my estimations and it falls short of that special quality which "Fairytale", "Satellite" and "Euphoria".  If this wins it'll have more of a "Running Scared"-type result. 

I have this strange feeling that the 2013 contest could be 2001 or 2002 all over again, and a less fancied song could sneak a surprise win.  Malta or Finland, anyone?

Otherwise, I'd be very happy with a back-to-back Swedish win - don't laugh, it's possible - or if it's a ballad then Iceland or the Netherlands would be my choice.

But I'm not making any predictions, because I never get it right!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

The EuropeCrazy Eurovision 2013 Preview: Part 4

Tonight I'm having a listen to the remainder of the songs in semi-final 2. 

ISRAEL: "Rak Bishvilo" - Moran Mazor.

Yet another ballad, but for me she has one of the loveliest female voices in the competition.  There would appear to have been a lot of talk on the internet about her 'look' - but that's what makes her more special than the generic identikit female ESC participants (although she would be ill-advised to repeat that national finals dress).  This song has really grown on me over a few listens - a big achievement indeed as I'm not a fan of ballads - but unfortunately I can't see it making it out of the semi-final.

ARMENIA: "Lonely Planet" - Gor Sujyan & Dorians.

I managed to catch the end of the Armenian national final just as they were announcing this one as the winner.  It's an old-school mid-tempo rock number which, bizarrely, was written by Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath.  Yes, that Black Sabbath!  However, "Paranoid" this most certainly is not, and the result is very disappointing.  Those lyrics are a bit too cheesy and sound like something from ESC 1990 rather than 2003, but I guess its heart is in the right place. It will probably struggle to qualify though and will need all those diaspora votes.  2013 won't be their year, but Armenia (like Georgia) remains one of those ESC winners in waiting.

HUNGARY: "Kedvesem" - ByeAlex.

As a 'Eurovision' song, this never gets off the ground: the performance is so understated that it's virtually non-existent.  Which is a shame really, as the recorded version makes a lot more sense and even more sense when you remove it from the ESC context and just place it in the contemporary music market, which seems to be more welcoming of acoustic music.  But take it back to ESC and it's like "Angel In Disguise" on tranquilisers.  If that didn't make it out of the semi-final then there's not much hope for this one.  The staging does not look good.  And he needs a shave.  Bye, Alex.

NORWAY: "I Feed You My Love" - Margaret Berger.

Feeding time!  Margaret completely dominated an otherwise disappointing MGP this year with her ice-cool presentation of this song.  But is it too ice-cold, too dark, too abstract for an ESC winner? You could have said the same about Euphoria, and look how that did.  It's been a big fan fave from day 1 though, and it certainly has a contemporary radio-hit feel, and then there is that dress.  I think it would be safe to say that Margaret will do a lot better than Tooji did last year, but I'm still not convinced it will go all the way.  (But then I had Tooji as a winner, remember!?!?) This song would make a more ground-breaking winner than, say, Denmark, and it would go a long way to turning all the preconceived notions about ESC upside down.  Unless you're the BBC of course. 

ALBANIA: "Identitet" - Adrian Lulguraj & Bledar Sejko.

At the beginning of national finals season I promised myself that I would try and watch as many ESC national finals as possible.  I watched my first ever Festivali i Kenges, just prior to Christmas 2012 and found it hugely enjoyable.  Until the result that is.  Their decision to choose this bland rock workout over Rezarta Smaja's "Ti" ( is still a mystery to me.  Festivali 51 commemorated the anniversary of the 1972 contest in Albania (read more at and featured a number of songs from that year.  Any excuse on this blog for a bit of Luiz Ejlli of course, so here is his lovely rendition of "Kur Vjen Pranvera" which originally features in that 1972 contest:

GEORGIA: "Waterfall" - Nodi & Sophie.

So, it's time to play an ESC-themed version of "Where's Wally?"  Where is Swedish songwriter for hire Lord Thomas of G:son hiding out this year?  Well, he's co-written the Georgian entry for 2013 and has taken the Quedate Conmigo template a little bit further, but it's solid rather than extra-special.  Although the same could probably have been said for Running Scared, so if it's a wide open result other than the Denmark win) it's in with a chance.  Whatever the case, it's a guaranteed qualifier, helped along by a very good draw position. 

SWITZERLAND: "You and Me" - Takasa.

AKA the artists formerly known as Salvation Army AKA Heilsarmee who had to change their name to suit the contest rules.  This was one of the first songs chosen for the 2013 contest and is a very nice, melodic, memorable tune which admittedly wouldn't really exist outwith Eurovision, but it is a song contest after all.  Which has been forgotten amid all the dance routines and pyros, although the 95 year old guy should provide a talking point fot many commentators.  Despite that late draw I think it'll miss out on qualifying.

ROMANIA: "It's My Life" - Cezar. 

Caught the very end of the Romanian final and was rendered speechless by this one.  I have one big problem with this, and that's the falsetto.  It would have been much more bearable if the full song had stayed in the lower range.  Nevertheless this will continue Romania's exemplary qualifying run as its "WTF??" factor will make it more memorable at voting time.  

So after a couple more listens here's my qualifying predictions from semi-final 2: 

San Marino

Tomorrow night I'll post the final part of my preview, looking at the Big 5 countries and the defending champions Sweden. 

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The EuropeCrazy Eurovision 2013 Preview - Part 3

In the immortal words of the great philosopher Ase Kleveland (1986) - soon we will know who'll be the best in the Eurovision Song Contest :)  But in the meantime here's my preview of the first half of semi-final 2.

LATVIA: "Here We Go" - PeR.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.  Every year I expect so much from Latvia, and almost every year without fail they let me down.  This year they have a rapping crew by the name of PeR who had not one but two (very different) songs in the very underwhelming Latvian national final, but neither of them impressed me.  This might have a fairly memorable chorus but the rest of it is too forgettable.  Historical fact: rap never does too well at ESC and I can't see this changing things.  They will need to make a massive improvement in their performance to change my mind.

SAN MARINO: "Crisalide (Vola)" - Valentina Monetta.

After the notoriety of "The Social Network Song" from 2012, Ms Monetta and the one and only Ralph Siegel are giving it another go for Team San Marino.  This is refreshingly old-school Eurovision (i.e. it actually has a bit of a tune and a key change) but it also has a twist.  You think it's a big ballad then 2 minutes in it goes all poppers o'clock on us.  I like this because it's sung in Italian so that's half the job done already.  The fans are going to go mental at the key change and (probably more than in hope than in expectation) I've got this one as a qualifier. This year's ESC logo is a butterfly - could that be an omen for this song???

FYR MACEDONIA: "Pred Da Se Razdeni"/"If I Could Change The World" - Esma & Lozano.  

Yet another one of those internally selected entries which was changed along the way.  Firstly it was "Imperija" which was shelved for whatever reason you care to believe - I can't really understand why, as it was pretty catchy.

But things even seem to be changing by the day for its replacement, as an English-language club remix has now surfaced and was performed at Eurovision in Concert.  Which version will we see on the ESC stage?  This song is pretty bonkers and has everything but the kitchen sink thrown in.  Yet there is something strangely appealing about this for me (nothing presumably to do with cute guys who wear glasses eh) and I would be very happy to see it qualify.  I don't know if it's old age or what, but I'm finally getting into Balkan songs at ESC!  Only about 20 years behind everyone else.

AZERBAIJAN: "Hold Me" - Farid Mammadov.

In the 21st century ESC you can never discount Azerbaijan.  Yet there's a part of me which hopes that now they've had their win that they might just take a little break from being a serious contender for a while.  Oh wait....that might have to happen some other time as yet again they become automatic qualifiers and top 10 contenders with "Hold Me" which, like "Crisalide" has a old-school feel.  Farid looks like a boy in search of a boyband.  There is nothing particularly new or original about this but I've got the feeling that it will do very well indeed.  Probably just because it's Azerbaijan, rather than it having any unique qualities.  And crucially, there is a key change. And finally one for the conspiracy theorists out there: there's a few Turkish diaspora votes to spare....

FINLAND: "Marry Me" - Krista Siegfrids.

Another year, and another member of Finland's Swedish-speaking community gets the opportunity to represent the country.  This one is actually very contemporary compared to the usual underachieving Finnish efforts - she looks and sounds like a Finnish Ke$ha (!) and it has a bit of a Katy Perry vibe.  You could see this one in the top 40 chart, which you can't say for a lot of this year's entries.  The lyrics have a universal theme, and people will remember the wedding dress.  It's not really one of my favourite songs this year but it will stick out among the ballads and might just get Finland's best result since Lordi.

MALTA: "Tomorrow" - Gianluca Bezzina.

During those heady nights of national finals season earlier this year, I remember tuning in to the final stages of the interminable Maltese final to find that the official Eurovision site had posted the wrong result.  In the end it was refreshing to know that in fact this carefree and charming little ditty had made it.  "Tomorrow" is a Maltese take on Train's "Hey Soul Sister" with the same crowd-pleasing appeal and I think this has a really strong chance of qualifying but can't see it doing much beyond that. "Tomorrow" unfortunately suffers from some trademark bad-rhymes ("His name is Jeremy/Working in IT" and it's downhill all the way from there) although to be fair, Jeremy from the video is cute in a geeky kind of way.  :))

BULGARIA: "Samo Shampioni" - Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov.

(He and) She Bangs The Drums.  Yes it's those "Water" people, with yet another song which belongs to that post-Ruslana time where it was more about the drumbeats than the melodies.  They still remind me of Safri Duo.  Being completely honest here, I've never rated any of the Bulgarian entries and this hasn't changed my mind.  Nevertheless at least it has some authenticity about it and doesn't pretend to be all generic and contemporary.  Can't see it qualifying though.

ICELAND: "Eg A Lif" - Eythor Ingi.

As I said back at national finals time, T think it's a wise choice to keep this one in Icelandic as of all the native language songs this year, this one would have the best chance of "doing a Kuula".  A simple, memorable melody (despite the language, Egg a Leaf is an easy one to remember) and it's performed without the need to be sidetracked by irritating backing dancers or silly props.  A qualifier!

GREECE: "Alcohol Is Free" - Koza Mostra feat.  Agathon Iakovidis.

Much as we'd love that to be true, we should maybe call the Trades Description Act people as that title is wildly inaccurate.  Especially in Sweden :))  I think this one could have a similar impact as "Party for Everybody" did last year - a native language song with the title in English which people will remember.  Just substitute the grannies for the Greek boys in kilts and this one is sailing all the way to the final, people!! This one is "going to go big in the hall" as Terry Wogan used to say, and this is going to give that semi-final such a wake-up call.