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!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Song of the Day: Albania 2008

Despite Festivali i Këngës not quite being the right vehicle for finding the right song for Eurovision, the FiK jury got it right more times than they got it wrong.

This is an excellent example of when things go right and the winner both has a distinctly national flavour (or at least I think it is) as well as a really graspable chorus.

Olta Boka was very young when she won the national final, and perhaps her nerves got the better of her in the Belgrade final (this clip is from the semi final), but she compliments her song very well.

Olta Boka - Zemrën e lamë peng (Albania 2008)

Olta's song was also one of the songs that needed the least amount of revamping after the Festivali i Këngës. A slightly more crisp arrangement and the removal of the rather heavy choir parts was all it took.

A very good entry, in my book. Albania usually delivers, you know.

Olta Boka - Zemrën e lamë peng (Albania 2008 national final)

ESC 2012: "Suus" for Albania

Albania's national final was held over four nights in Tirana and resulted in a very clear victory for "Suus" performed and co-written by Rona Nishliu, a 25 year old singer from Kosovo.

The jurors were rather unanimous in their decision, and the audience in the hall audibly agreed that the right song won.

The right song for Festivali i Këngës, that is. This is a prestigious old festival with a history very much of its own, designed for very different purposes than to find a three-minute pop piece to knock the socks off European competition.

Eurovision demands different things from what a contest like FiK would, could or should produce. Most of the FiK winners have lent themselves quite well to the ESC format, but that is more a co-incidence than anything else.

I dare suggest that Rona Nishliu might get a hard time trying to sell "Suus" to the European audience it wasn't designed for.

Maybe it would be time for Albania to let the Festivali i Këngës be what it is and flourish in its own right and find another modus to select their Eurovision entries?

Rona Nishliu - Suus from ESC 2012 on Vimeo.

Rona Nishliu - Suus (Albania 2012)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Preview clip: Spain 1973

Arguably one of the best songs ever to grace the stage of the Eurovision Song Contest, Spain's 1973 effort was not only a strong entry but it also came in nice packaging.

Particularly in the preview shows. The previews were a relatively new and fresh approach still, and TVE made a certain effort to make their entry look good.

Easy tricks for sure - mirrors on both sides of the studio and a nice panorama shot - but the result is very nice. Had I been around in 1973, I'm pretty sure I would have been ready to bet everything I owned an more on Spanish victory.

Mocedades - Eres tú (Spain 1973 preview clip)

In the end, Mocedades didn't quite deliver. Lead singer Amaya Uranga got a bit too tense in the end while Anne-Marie David, representing host nation Luxembourg, stormed in and nailed cameras as well as every single note and won the whole thing by a margin of four points.

Mocedades - Eres tú (Spain 1973)

Shape it up like Albania

The prestigious Albanian Song Contest that since 2003 has served as national final for Eurovision is usually held sometime around Christmas. I hope Santa brings them a whole lot of luck in a package.

The Albanian selection modus is a bit risky indeed. The time limit for songs in Festivali i Këngës, if there is one, does not correspond to the three minute rule in Eurovision and some years there has been a lot of repackaging to be done once there is a winner.

It worked well with the 2004 entry, which became more modern and snappy in its shorter version, and it seemed to work wonders with the tune for Kyiv as well.

Ledina Çelo - Nesër shkoj (Albania 2005 national final)

The four minutes of Nesër shkoj were efficiently boiled down to a rather perfect ESC version in English, and quite a few people were convinced Albania was about to land another top ten finish.

Ledina Çelo - Tomorrow I Go (Albania 2005 preview clip)

But as rehearsals progressed in Kyiv, all Albania fans woke up to a new reality. Ledina, who had started rehearsals brilliantly, started to grow more and more nervous, she started losing her camera angles and - worst of all - she started to sing badly.

The last rehearsal, the one the backup-juries listened to, was outright terrible.

It all went a bit better on the big night, but completely without the security, gravity and finesse there was to start with. Albania finished in 16th place on the night.

Whoever wins the upcoming Festivali i Këngës, I wish them the opposite experience to Ledina's. It would be awfully nice to see Albania back in top ten again.

Ledina Çelo - Tomorrow I Go (Albania 2005)

Song Of The Day: Yugoslavia 1984

To celebrate the return of Montenegro, my song of the day highlights one of their finest moments. Depending on how you see it.

Reliable sources claim that TV Titograd won the 1984 Yugoslav final due to extensive cheating (including lots of online whispering), and the song hasn't even got a very strong montenegrin connection at all.

Vlado Kalember was the former singer of Srebrna Krila from Zagreb. Izolda Barudžija had been a member of Aska (representing TV Beograd) in 1982, and in 1983 she provided backing vocals for Yugoslavia together with her sister Eleonora.

Their duet had apparently been turned down by TV Zagreb for the 1984 national final, possibly even with the same song. "Ciao amore" was credited to Montenegrin songwriters (as the rules stipulated this), but the rest of the duo's subsequent album was mainly written by Sarajevo-born Đorđe Novković.

In Luxembourg, Izolda and Vlado (credited as Ida & Vlado) bombed completely and ended second last out of nineteen participants. I never understood why the judges had to be so harsh (or how they could prefer drivel like that song from Switzerland) but those are the rules of the game.

Izolda & Vlado - Ciao amore (Yugoslavia 1984)

The fun doesn't end there, though. You should also check out the duo's hot and revealing video clip - a bit too much so for mainstream taste. Turkish television deemed it improper and refused to broadcast it during their preview show.

What do you say, is this too much skin for your liking?

Izolda & Vlado - Ciao amore (Yugoslavia 1984 preview clip)

Montenegro is back!

After two years of absence (and, seemingly, a change of heads in the entertainment department) TVCG has decided to join the fun again and send an entrant to Baku.

A smart move, really.

A small and relatively new country like Montenegro, with a heavy tourism sector, couldn't really afford staying away from such relatively cheap advertisement as taking part in the ESC.

Not that any of their entries as independent country so far has had a lot of impact. Montenegro is yet to make it out of the semi finals, and with entries like "Ajde kroči" it is not a real surprise either.

An internal selection has appointed Rambo Amadeus to represent his country in Baku and a man with a name like that certainly deserves some attention. He is the stage persona of Belgrade-based poet Antonije Pušić and sounds quite a bit like a local Serge Gainsbourg.

Being quirky in an oddball way could be a good idea in Eurovision (think Laka of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2008) but also disastrous (think Gipsy.cz).

Equipped with a good song and a graspable chorus, Rambo Amadeus could hopefully provide us with three rather interesting minutes in Baku.

Rambo Amadeus - Urbano, samo urbano

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Melodifestivalen gem: Copycat Hadar 1975

Recently, I posted Glenmarks' 1974 melodifestivalen entry, a lovely little song that stood out as very different in their standard repertoire.

One year later, they would be back again, but this time mainly as a backing group for young Hadar Kronberg - a fresh talent recently signed by Bruno Glenmark's record company.

The question here is how obviously you can steal someone else's idea without decomposing with shame.

This song is a catchy little number by singers in extravagant outfits and a pseudo-historical effective title gimmick with a vaguely French connection. I wonder what Abba were thinking when they saw this.

Abba's conductor had the Napoleon outfit, Bruno Glenmark conducts with toy guns in his hands. This links in with the lyrics about two men duelling about this woman they both love. Duel or possibly Russian roulette, the lyrics are a bit vague on which method is chosen in the end.

All in all, a rather dubious package from a copyright perspective. But it is a very jolly and upbeat schlager. Surprisingly much so for a song that deals with imminent death.

Hadar & Glenmarks -Lady Antoinette (Sweden 1975 national final)

ESC 2012: Poland stays at home?

It seems Poland will not be present at the next Eurovision Song Contest, according to unofficial messages made by broadcaster TVP.

The demanding task of co-hosting the European Football Championships in combination with a disappointing run of results is, seemingly, what lead up to this decision.

I do think that Eurovision should be one big, great European party and the more participants, the merrier. I would really like for each and every European country to be represented and every country that drops out is a shame.

And there was a time where a Polish withdrawal would stand out like a disaster to me. Back in the day, Poland was one of my favourite countries that kept providing artistic entries with style, class and grace.

But ever since their first relegation in 1999, it felt like Polish television struggled. The average Polish entry was no longer particularly original or exciting. Other countries filled that space and Poland fell behind.

Maybe it is a good thing for them to pause and figure out what they really want. With a music industry like the Polish, winning the ESC would be piece of cake. If only you wanted to.

So Poland, speaking as your friend - take a year, take two, and get your act together. Then come back with something as brilliant as you used to send in. You will be most welcome.

Anna Maria Jopek - Ale jestem (Poland 1997 preview clip)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Romania 1998: Goodbye Mălina

Sad news reached the world of Eurovision today as it was reported that the 1998 Romanian representative Mălina Olinesu is no longer with us.

Reports suggesting that Mălina would have committed suicide, aged 37, makes the story even more sad.

Mălina was the second performer to represent Romania in Eurovision and holds the less flattering record of achieving the country's lowest score to date. Six points and a twenty-second place did not help her career back home, and she faded from the brightests spotlights.

Mălina Olinescu - Eu cred (Romania 1998 preview)

I always found the preview version of this song understated in an attractive way, while the final version in Birmingham felt a bit overblown in comparison. Maybe it showcases Mălina's voice but takes away quite a lot of the song's discrete charm.

Mălina Olinescu - Eu cred (Romania 1998)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

ESC rejects: Israel 1989

At the time, being 13, the Israeli entry for Lausanne hit me like a brick on the head.

The sweet tune and the appealing set-up made it my firm favourite for many years to come and I identified very strongly with little Gili, facing the huge responsibility of representing his country.

(To be honest, he could very well be my first eurovision crush ever. But I wouldn't have understood to phrase it like that back then. Enough about me.)

Gili & Galit - Derech ha'melech (Israel 1989)

Nowadays, I find it a tad too sugary for my liking, even if I still recognise good handicraft when I see it.

I would have preferred to look into that wonderful magical parallel universe to find out what perky girl trio Mango could have done to the scoreboard. The song is catchy and the sound far too modern to sound good with the Swiss orchestra.

But could the girls have bettered the very disappointing 12th place of the boy soprano?

Mango - Yedidai (Israel 1989 national final)

ESC reject: Norway 2010

We hear so many of these stories at Eurovision; a relationship on the rocks but I promise to change so give me another chance and please stop looking like you're actually leaving. This is yet another one, but with a few more twists in the tale than most.

This girl really has a problem, doesn't she? She's not just a tad jealous, this one. She goes berserk as soon as something slightly female approaches and it is a mystery she can go through three minutes on stage without attacking her attractive backing singers.

Venke Knutse's sweet baby voice delivery goes very nicely together with the Mad Glenn Close-attitude (neat reference to "Fatal Attraction" in the lyrics), even if I might have wanted a little more of Lena's "maybe I'm cute but I'm also lethal so beware"-approch, used in Germany's 2011 entry.

You sort of understand the bloke and can't really blame him for leaving. Until the bridge, that is, when the lyrics suddenly reveal that this jealousy is rather well founded and triggered by the man himself.

What is left is the feeling that this couple probably deserves each other. That, and a miraculously sweet, fluffy and appealing little pop creation.

How Norway could select that pompous and sopophoric mega ballad instead is beyond me.

Venke Knutson - Jealous 'Cause I Love You (Norway 2010 national final)

ESC 2012: the Swiss are Unbreakable

The first entry for Baku has been decided upon, as Switzerland selected their representative out of a line-up consisting of fourteen songs.

The winner had been sent in by the Italian-languaged branch of Swiss television, and it must be underlined how much it adds credibility to the Swiss choice that a representative from the smallest of the three major communities can win through.

The shocker for many fans was, of course, that Dame Lys Assia - winner of the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 - failed to even reach top three on the evening. I say it is better like that. Not only was her song aggressively dated (and somehow lacking in melody), but Eurovision has changed a lot since Lys last took part in 1958.

I get exhausted by two weeks of Eurovision. I'm 35. Lys is 87. She is far better off like this. And so is Eurovision.

The winning act are Ivan and Gabriel, two brothers from Losone, making up the duo Sinplus. They now have five months to polish and improve their act and my best advice would be to brush up on the stage output as well as the pronounciation.

Their song is a good one - a slightly repetitive (or, if you prefer, catchy) soft rocker, reminiscent of Switzerland's 2009 entry by the Lovebugs who failed to qualify largely due to bad pronounciation and a lack of stage output.

If the boys get their act together, Switzerland could very well make the final for the second time in a row. I guess it would please Schweizer Fernsehen quite a bit if they pulled that trick off.

Sinplus - Unbreakable (Switzerland 2012)