A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
There is always some matter to discuss or just a song I want to share
Very welcome - I hope you'll like it here!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

ESC reject: Norway 1984

In 1983, pop/rock/ska duo Monroes hit the Norweigan pop scene in a big way and sold more than 130,000 copies of their debut album before grabbing a Spellemann Award as best act. It was a real scoop for NRK to announce that this successful act would enter the 1984 Norweigan final for Eurovision.

Maybe it spoiled the fun a bit that they only agreed to write a song, not to perform it themselves, but several hopeful young talents auditioned to sing it. As a media stunt, it was a very successful one.

As young Beate Jacobsen entered the stage her inexperience shone through, but at least she nailed the cameras and her voice grew stronger throughout the song.

Unfortunately, "Strand Hotel" didn't sound like an immortal masterpiece on night. It is a somewhat shaky construction that sounds more diffuse than it would need to, given the orchestral arrangement.

Beate Jacobsen - Strand Hotel (Norway 1984 national final)

It is much easier to get a hang of the song in its recorded version. A snappier production and clearer arrangement clarifies the chorus that suddenly gets a lot easier to grasp.

It would have needed only three points to win - chances are that it would, had it sounded like this.

Beate Jacobsen - Strand Hotel (English studio version)

Monroes continued their career successfully for many years to come, while Beate recorded one album before slipping back into anonymity again.

Song Of The Day: Portugal 1973

When Portugal made its Eurovision debut, the country was still under harsh dictatorship and its first ten entries were all products of the totalitarian regime and its cultural rules.

Since you were not allowed to speak your mind, the domestic poets tried to sneak their lyrics past the strict censorship of the national broadcaster and win a place in the national song contest.

Ary Dos Santos played this game very well, he wrote the lyrics for no less than four winning songs, some of which had critical messages between the lines. "Tourada" being a very fine example of this.

The song is not exactly your typical pop hit, but it has a very persistent chorus that is catchy in its own little way.

Fernando Tordo - Tourada (Portugal 1973)

This lyric doesn't stand out as particularly dangerous to me but apparently it contains blistering criticism of the country's leadership as well as the double standards of a society that puts up with being controlled.

And somehow you can hear how scornful it is. It sounds really cheeky, obnoxious and arrogant in a refreshing way. Hearing it today, I'm sure it would still annoy the life out of somebody. Fernando Tordo is also a very likeable performer, almost as cheeky as the song itself.

It was also given quite an amusing preview clip, I must say.

Fernando Tordo - Tourada (Portugal 1973 preview clip)

Not only did it result (surprisingly) in one of Portugal's better placings, it is also (less surprisingly) a real evergreen on home ground. When covered by another of my favourite Portuguese ESC performers of recent years, it recieved a very enthusiastic response from the audience.

Rui Drumond - Tourada

Melodifestivalen gem: Glenmarks 1974

Ann-Louise Hanson has the record number of songs performed at Swedish national final Melodifestivalen - nobody sang as many times as she did.

After being a tremendously successful solo singer throughout the 60's, she joined the vocal ensemble Glenmarks in the early 70's. The group was assembled by her husband Bruno Glenmark and, apart from them, included his nephews Anders and Karin.

Most of their material was pretty middle-of-the-road, clean-cut schlager for the masses, with the odd piece of fine singing in between.

Therefore, their 1974 MF entry is a bit of a shocker.

It is an experiemental piece, a slow verse that turns headlong into a soulful outburst of a chorus in a surprisingly heavy arrangement, with matching, rather abstract, lyrics. Far too demanding for the juries, who were about to select a Very Commercial Winner for the first time ever, and who could not be bothered with ambitious pieces like this one.

Of course it wouldn't have stood a chance in Brighton, but it is a very good song once you get into it.

It also shows a glimpse from a parallel universe that could have been, if Ann-Louise Hanson had decided to drift from schlager into more progressive material. Judging from this, she might have pulled it off really well.

Glenmarks - I annorlunda land (Sweden 1974 national final)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Song Of The Day: Slovenia 1995

Slovenia had flopped rather a lot at their debut as independent country in 1993. Nine points was all they got and they had to stay out for one year as punishment.

In 1995, they were determined to do a lot better and sent in one of their biggest voices equipped with a warm, breezy, impressive song.

Darja Švajger - Prisluhni mi (Slovenia 1995 preview)

Just the kind of song that would sound fantastic with an orchestra, right? Think again. The RTÉ orchestra managed to take every ounce of punch out of the arrangement, so instead of bombastic it sounded a bit flat.

Darja still sang it beautifully enough to end in seventh place, still the best showing for independent Slovenia at the ESC.

Darja Švajger - Prisluhni mi (Slovenia 1995)

This song has stood the test of time really well and aged more gracefully than most of its competitors in Dublin. This became really clear when one of the contestants of Misija Eurovizija sung it the other night. Darja can be proud, and so can all of Slovenia.

Eva Boto - Prisluhni mi

Sweden 2012: fingers crossed for Ulrik

One thing that has surprised me is that no singer has ever progressed from the Junior Eurovision Song Contest (or its Nordic equivalent MGP Nordic) to the Real Big Thing of a contest.

Quite a few of the participants have popped up in national finals, but nobody has ever been to the ESC. (If I'm wrong here please correct me, but I can't think of anyone.)

Ulrik Munther from Sweden could have the potential of being the first to do the trick. When he won the 2009 MGP Nordic (the last edition to date), I was doing Finland's commentary and was pretty sure from the word go that Ulrik was a winner.

He was cute, charming, had a strong presence and a very good voice, confidence and that certain something that is so hard to put your finger on. Many singers in that final were impressive but Ulrik stood out.

Ulrik - En vanlig dag (MGP Nordic 2009)

Sure thing, the heart-throb from Gothenburg won hands down but then he also managed to cut himself a neat little career in Sweden.

Maybe the nickname "Sweden's Justin Bieber" isn't pure flattery in the business, but at least he has assembled himself an impressive fanbase in short time. The single "Boys Don't Cry" is a success and now he will take the MF stage in February.

Win or lose, it is a brave thing to enter Melodifestivalen at this early stage of his career. On a good day he can gain several new fans, and on a bad day he can lose it all.

But I keep my fingers crossed. He is a good kid, and I hope his song will be good also this time around.

Ulrik Munther - Boys Don't Cry

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tobson's Wish List: Donkeyboy for Norway

They made quite a splash with their single "Ambitions", but I somehow managed to miss the whole Donkeyboy phenomenon until I went to see them in concert in Helsinki about a year ago.

And I was pretty much blown away.

Great stage presence, great songs, great songs and I had to get their really fine album as well. I found on the net that it had recieved some catty reviews, pointing out that the final album could not live up to the promise of the fantastic single, but don't be fooled. Donkeyboy are a most impressive pop act.

Of course I want most impressive pop acts to go to Eurovision, and as Norway went face first into the ground in 2011 (when "Haba Haba" only ended third last in its semi) they could be eager to make an impression in Baku.

I'm not sure this band would see themselves on a Eurovision stage, but here's hoping.

Donkeyboy - Ambitions

Monday, November 14, 2011

Song Of The Day: Switzerland 1974

Maybe I have already posted this once or even twice, but for me this remains as massive a chorus as the Swiss Alpine Massive and I cannot quite grasp that it ended in shared last place with Germany, Norway and Portugal.

Piera Martell was said to be a construction worker who had decided to slip into showbiz, citing the likes of Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand as her biggest sources of inspiration.

Despite a spirited performance, this Swiss Streisand failed to impress the juries. Probably had she scored better with the current points system, introduced the year after in Stockholm.

Win or lose, Piera went home and cut herself a neat little career that lasted until 1981, when she decided to retire from the business altogether.

Piera Martell - Mein Ruf nach dir (Switzerland 1974)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Melodifestivalen gem: Lena Ericsson 1982

Today, the whole list of songs for Melodifestivalen was published. Thirty-two songs that will be wildly discussed throughout spring and who are already focus for an awful lot of speculation.

It would be nice if Sweden kept its positive trend after Eric Saade's third place. Sweden needed a couple of slaps across the face, but I believe the message - you can't keep sending in the some old thing over and over again - has sunken in.

Of course it will be interesting to see who wins and all, but I am more looking forward to finding a new set of personal favourites, those tiny little pearls that the masses may forget about but that will stay with you forever.

Like the runner-up in the 1982 Melodifestival from Gothenburg. A complete commercial failure, totally forgotten outside the eurovision circuit. But to me, it is a precious little gem that lives very close to my heart.

Lena Ericsson sings it very well and the adorable lyrics, carefully crafted by Britt Lindeborg, makes me go all bubbly and happy inside.

Lena Ericsson - Någonting har hänt (Sweden 1982 national final)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Song Of The Day: Cyprus 1999

It seemed to be written in the stars that an island nation was going to win the 1999 Eurovision Song Contest held in Jerusalem.

Most media predictions seemed to favour Iceland's Selma to win hands down (possibly facing some stiff competition from Marlayne of the Netherlands) while the loudest group of fans on the still rather new internet forums had their mind set on Cyprus.

Seldom has the voice of the fans spoken so unanimously about one specific song, and in quite an unpleasant way too. There was no room for speculation, no room for opinion. As soon as anyone articulated anything less than praise for the Cypriot song, that somebody was quickly taken down and ripped to shreds.

The Cypriot song seemed to be in with a chance, in all fairness. It did had a slightly confusing structure, starting out as a ballad before turning into a dance anthem, but once it got down to its real self it had a solid chorus and sounded modern enough. But not modern in a way to scare older viewers off.

Unfortunately, this was a battle lost in advance. Marlain proved to be over-styled, over-choreographed and severly over-excited, giving an almost frantic impression while trying to keep her song together. When she started to skid across the higher notes, it left the track in ruins.

In the end, Cyprus scored a mere two points and ended second last. A not too graceful exit for one of the top favourites.

And all the loud fans fell silent for a while...

Marlain - Tha'ne erotas (Cyprus 1999)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Song Of The Day: Greece 1980

Anna Vissi was still a promising girl from Cyprus, yet to morph into the superstar of song she was destined to become, when she represented Greece at the 1980 ESC in The Hague.

She had almost represented Greece already two years earlier in Paris, as she sang both the winner and the runner-up in the internal jury vote to determine the national entry. However, both songs were deemed ineligible and Tania Tsanaclidou got the Paris ticket instead.

When winning the Greek final in 1980, Anna narrowly beat trio Epikouri and it was subsequently decided for them to act as backing group at Eurovision.

The song, a light-hearted ode to the joys of hitch-hiking, is perhaps a bagatelle but you can tell Anna Vissi is a star in the making. She fills the little song with energy, passion and a certain sense of gravity. Together with Epikouri, she puts on a splendid little show that impressed several journalists and commentators on location.

However, reports suggest the Greek delegation had severe sound problems during the dress rehearsal that the juries listened to and voted on. That could explain the surprisingly low 13th place.

But Anna would be back with a vengeance. Not only at the ESC, but at the world of Greek pop at large. She wasn't going to win at eurovision, but at least she is Number One in Greece. That must count for something.

Anna Vissi & Epikouri - Autostop (Greece 1980)

ESC reject: Gina de Wit

Gina de Wit had her first real break when she won the 1986 Soundmixshow - the Dutch tv format where people try to sing like famous performers. Gina sang like Linda Ronstadt and convinced the juries she was the best in the running.

She then had a stab at establishing herself in her own right, she took part in several Dutch national finals for Eurovision and also wrote one of the songs for Ruth Jacott's private national final in 1993.

In 1996, she was one of five acts in the (not too star-packed) Dutch final and this time she managed to get really close to victory. In the end Maxine & Franklin Brown were stronger, but I have a tingling little feeling that Gina's song could have been quite a good choice as well.

Gina de Wit - De wereld is van jou (Netherlands 1996 national final)

She tried again four years later and would, for certain, have made a lousier choice for Stockholm. That year turned out to be a very strong, contemporary and dynamic line-up where this kind of old-fashioned ballad had been bound for the bottom placings.

But at least she was the first person to ever sing a song in Frisian language in a Dutch final and that must be worth something as well.

Gina de Wit - Hjir is it begin (Netherlands 2000 national final)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Turkey 1979: I love (but I won't go to Jerusalem)

Turkey selected its third eurovision entry in a national final held on February 24th in Istanbul. Seventeen juries voted and gave a very close victory (by one point only) to Maria Rita Epik & 21. Peron performing "Seviyorum" (I love).

This is what we know for sure before things begin to get a bit fuzzy. Sometime from this time until the distribution of the preview clips, Turkish television decided to withdraw from the contest.

Swedish and Finnish press at this time appear a bit confused as to why Turkey has decided to stay at home. Speculation then, and now, suggests that Turkey, as a muslim nation, was put under pressure from the Arab world not to take part in a contest hosted in Israel.

Turkey would have performed as eleventh in Jerusalem, sandwiched between the Israeli winner and French Anne-Marie David, ending in third place.

It is an educated guess that "Seviyorum" wouldn't have made a huge difference to the final result. Jaunty and upbeat, but possibly a tiny bit bland, it would probably have ended up where Turkey used to end up back in the day.

Far far back.

Maria Rita Epik & 21. Peron - Seviyorum (Turkey 1979, never took part) 

PS. Twenty years later, the ESC was again held in Jerusalem. This time Turkey proudly took part in the competition, ending in 16th place with Tuba Önal.

Song Of The Day: Lebanon 2005

I was very pleasantly surprised when Lebanon registered for the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest. Through the history of the contest, only one Arab country had taken part before and it seemed about time to have another one in the running.

Tunisia intended to enter in 1977 but pulled out after the running order was established (and would have performed as fourth in London, between the Netherlands and Austria had they stayed in), so Morocco remains the only Arab nation to have taken part.

Morocco ended second last at their only attempt, and it is my firm belief that Lebanon would have done better hadn't politics gotten in the way.

Aline Lahoud was internally selected to sing "Quand tout s'enfuit" in Kyiv, but the lebanese pulled out only hours before the drawing of lots in March 2005.

When pressured by the EBU, Télé-Liban admitted they had no intent of showing the Israeli entry during their broadcast, claiming promotion of Israel would clash with Lebanese law.

So Aline had to stay home and we will never know how her dramatic, slightly oriental-flavoured ballad would have fared.

Hopefully, in the future, one or several Arab nations would decide to enter the ESC and participate alongside Israel. Showing themselves, and the world, that singing together is a pretty harmless activity and nothing to be afraid of.

Aline Lahoud - Quand tout s'enfuit (Lebanon 2005, did not participate)

Iceland 1997: What a shocker!

This could be hard to believe these days when almost nobody goes to Eurovision without an elaborate stage show or pyros or dancers, but the 1997 entry from Iceland hit the ESC in a most dramatic way.

The audience was still used to singers coming on stage, performing their songs just like that. Paul Oscar demanded a white leather sofa and brought dancers dressed in latex.

He was also the first openly gay performer to take to the ESC stage and he made quite a big deal out of it. His song is a melodrama about the depraved diva who lived a hard life, burnt out and is now about to dance her last dance, sing her swan song and make her grand exit.

These days, this would not be shocking at all, but in many ways Paul Oscar triggered a new development. He challenged the formula - what a eurovision entry could and should look and sound like.

Also, as the juries made thumbs down but the televoters made thumbs up, it was yet another factor in favour of abandoning the jury system and have televoting instead.

I just wonder what an entry would have to do today to become as influential as this performance has turned out to be?

See Paul Oscar's performance from Dublin here .

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Song Of The Day: Switzerland 1992

Switzerland decided to disqualify the winner of its 1992 national final and sent the runner-up to Malmö instead. Daisy Auvray did her best to convince Europe that a little bit of blues would do us all good on a Saturday night.

In the preview, host Lydia Capolicchio called it "a pleasant number for all of you who enjoy taking your clothes off in a rhytmical manner" while Swedish commentator Björn Kjellman declared it by far the worst song in the running.

A Swedish tabloid wondered why the originally chosen song had been disqualified, "hopefully not because it was inferior to this one".

It can be questioned how much a song like this added to a pop contest in 1992, but it did sound better with the orchestra than most of the others.

Daisy Auvray - Mister Music Man (Switzerland 1992)

The song that won the national final was disqualified because it had already been rejected by the French languaged selection jury before being translated into German and accepted by the German branch of the broadcaster.

Apparently, this was against the Swiss rule book and Géraldine Olivier had to stay home.

If it is inferior or not, I leave for you to decide. (But my money is actually on Daisy.)

Géraldine Olivier - Soleil Soleil (Switzerland 1992 disqualified)

Veronika Fischer didn't stand a chance

"East German stars come up in the East and go down in the West." That was a catch phrase with quite a bit of truth to it among musicians in the German Democratic Republic.

No matter how popular and acclaimed you were in East, very few of the musicians who fled to the West maintained any kind of star status there.

When the Wall had fallen, top singer Tamara Danz stated that the GDR had no freedom of speech, but in the West, instead, there was the dictatorship of commercialism. There was no room for creating art unless nobody was willing to buy.

Veronika Fischer already knew this. After four top-selling albums to her name, she left for the West in 1981 and tried to maintain the same level of artistry in her new country. It proved to be not too easy.

She had always been a wild child - humourous and whimsical at one moment, deeply sincere the next, then experimental, then jazzy. Far too irregular to be a perfect record label product, in other words.

In 1983, she entered the German selection for Eurovision (to be held on home ground in Munich) with a song rather reminiscent of some of the ballads on her albums back East.

Veronika Fischer - Unendlich weit (Germany 1983 national final)

Slow, demanding and better suited to be an almost six minutes long album track, this song was strongly applauded in the studio but stood no chance in the voting and ended second last.

Veronika Fischer - Unendlich weit (album version)

Oddly enough, when released as a single (in its pre-selection format), its B-side was Veronika's version if "Wir beide gegen den Wind", the song Wenche Myhre performed at the same national final.

Veronika's material turned more schlager and less experimental, and she managed to keep her career alive and is still an active and loved performer today.

I think Veronika is a unique talent and can't help but wonder how different the outcome might have been, had she been able to bring some of her older material to Eurovision instead. Would the West have understood?

Veronika Fischer und Band - He, wir fahr'n mit dem Zug

Veronika Fischer und Band - Hans im Glück

Veronika Fischer und Band - Blues von den letzte Gelegenheit

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tobson's Wish List: Antti Tuisku for Finland

This would be one of my biggest wishes on the list, actually. You see, I think the Eurovision Song Contest is the best pop contest there is and every country should send their best names in pop into competition.

Antti Tuisku is indeed one of the biggest names in pop in Finland. He is the biggest success to come out of the Pop Idols format domestically and after winning Tanssi tähtien kanssa (Finland's Strictly Come Dancing) he has crossed over from youth icon to a real household name.

He has a distinct look, a distinct sound and he largely divides opinions. Just like any Pop Star should. Few other Finnish pop acts could dance the rumba one week, then make a Christmas album, then go on tour for full crowds.

In many ways, he is Finland's own Kylie Minogue. And he sure knows how to work a song.

Antti Tuisku - Ei aikaa

Antti Tuiski - Juuret

Antti Tuisku - En kiellä

Since the list of contenders for next year's Finnish final is already official, I know for a fact this wish won't come true. Not for 2012, at least.

But here's hoping for the future.

Song Of The Day: Lithuania 2010

How about going a little bit crazy? Offer Europe some funk, some kazoo, some rather gorgeous legs? No?

Lithuania's best placing to date came with another humourous effort, a joking protest song, in 2006, so nobody can blame them for trying the concept again.

And in all fairness, InCulto had remembered to pack a far better song in their suitcase when leaving for Oslo than LT United had in Athens. And compared to the other bunch, who were unhappy about the fact nobody ever votes for Lithuania at eurovision, InCulto had a little bit of a message in their entry.

Lithuania and its brothers in the East feel like second class countries in Europe, and when they go west it is only to end up as second class citizens who clean other people's homes and then wash other people's dishes. And who's going to tell them they are wrong?

Right or wrong, the voters remain relatively unmoved and this anthem for anyone who ever felt a bit outside in the Europan family did not make it to the final.

InCulto - East European Funk (Lithuania 2010)

I think they should, though. It is a rare thing at Eurovision to come across humour songs that actually are a bit funny. And InCulto amuse me very much.

They already did back in 2006, when their entry "Welcome To Lithuania" ended second in the national final.

InCulto - Welcome To Lithuania (Lithuania 2006 national final)

Greece 1974: everybody freeze!

Greece made its debut at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, and when I first heard this song, from a not too scratchy vinyl single record, I could not believe how it could fail to score better. I found it happy, clappy, dancy and bouncy.

And the studio version, also used for the preview clip, really is infectuous and bouncy.

Marinella - Krassi, thalassa ke t'agori mou (Greece 1974 preview)

The live version, however, is not. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw this performance for the first time. I'm not sure I ever saw a eurosong performed with such a lack of zeal, passion and attack.

Marinella is of course the Greek goddess statue personified, she is excused. And she does pick up a tambourine by the end, in a vain attempt to save the day.

But what are those backing singers up to? How can you perform such a happy song without transpiring the slightest hint of happiness? Sing such a swinging entry without moving a muscle? Suddenly the verdict of the judges started making more sense, I must give them that.

Marinella - Krassi, thalassa ke t'agori mou (Greece 1974)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Finland 2012: 40 songs are online

Finland is re-inventing its national selection for Eurovision, trying to wash as much of the ESC out of the mix as only possible.

The classic name "Euroviisut" has been ditched for the new "UMK" (The Competition for New Music), which is supposed to be an independent hit song contest in its own right.

The winner will also be Finland's entrant for Baku, but focus will be put exclusively on finding hit songs that could storm the domestic hit charts. Eurovision is just a bonus, the icing on the cake for the winner.

Out of 540 submitted entries, a professional jury has whittled the number of songs down to forty hopefuls that were published online this week for everyone to hear and see.

The audience can vote for the songs online, but that is just a fun feature. In the end the jury will select the twelve finalists as they please, not necessarily paying any attention to what the audience has liked.

The hottest names of contemporary Finnish music are keeping as firm a distance from this new competition as they have done with Euroviisut for the last few years, but among the forty contenders there are quite a few songs that could turn out quite nicely with some work.

There are bit too many hastily produced electropop entries and the old Finnish lack of decent choruses persists. But here and there, you can find some pretty good pop songs. Finland surely has a chance for 2012.

And there is a song in Swedish - for the first time since 1994. I keep my fingers crossed for Pernilla Karlsson to make it far in the competition and for her not to change the language during the competition.

For the time being, you can find the forty songs here. Which one would you like to see in Baku?

ESC reject: Yugoslavia 1987

Josipa Lisac was still in her teens when she first entered a Yugoslav national final for Eurovision. She never won, but manage to turn into a megastar - a monument of pop art with a very special place in domestic showbiz.

She is not only a singer, but also an actress and a style icon with her very own sense of fashion.

When she returned to the Yugoslav final in 1987, Josipa was the sensation of the evening with her modern sound, great presence and a most flamboyant hairdo (that would be outright dangerous if worn in public during rush hour).

This didn't matter much as the juries remained unmoved and left her in ninth place, sending super bouncy Novi Fosili off to Brussels instead, where they equalled the best Yugoslav placing until then.

Since then, Josipa the Great has not bothered to enter any national selections again, but her 1987 selection entry has turned into an evergreen, also covered by Slovenian singer Nuša Derenda.

Josipa Lisac - Gdje Dunav ljubi nebo (Yugoslavia 1987 national final)