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!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Melodifestivalen gem: Monia singing her heart out

Melodifestivalen 1997 was going to be the real start of something new, according to host SVT Göteborg. After a few lean years with few hits and fewer viewers, it was time to wipe out the old and bring in the new.

Songs were especially commissioned by the likes of Jonas Berggren of Ace of Base and the still rather fresh pop discovery Robyn (who was later set for international stardom and quite a lot of it too), backing tracks were allowed and the whole production should have a scent of fresh air.

What an anticlimax then, that the first song in the running was as stereotypical for 80's and 90's Melodifestivalen entries as could be.

Dance orchestra vocalist Monia Sjöström gave it a brave effort vocally, but "Nu idag" didn't stand a chance against the supposedly more modern competition and ended second last.

In retrospect, it would be more anticlimactic that a song just as dated and with just as distinct a taste of dust went on to win the whole thing, only to bomb a few weeks later in Dublin.

Unlike blond, at least Monia had some sparkle in her eyes and a fair share of charm and her song has stood the test of time better than most of the more modern ones.

Monia - Nu idag (Sweden 1997 national final)

Song of the Day: Switzerland 1985

Back in the 80's, when Eurovision was still commercially successful in the Nordic countries (before the big comedown of the 90's), we had ESC cover versions released on tape.

For many years, these cover versions were my truth and my originals.

And in the 1985 cover cassette, I was always fond of the Swiss entry. I found it catchy and easy to sing along to. In short, a very fun song.

In 1992, I found a sampler album with all the songs in original versions and got to hear the real singers for the first time in seven years. A very happy event in my life, but the Swiss disappointed me.

Later that same year, I got a video copy of the 1985 contest and was even more disappointed with the Swiss. What I always thought would be a quick-paced, snappy entry turned out to be a slack little duet, lacking the forza and attack it had on my cover tape.

Given that it was composed and conducted by a real musical legend, in the shape of Anita Kerr, makes it even more disappointing.

But Pino and Mariella look cute together, and the chorus is still catchy. At least that is something. And good enough for a 12th place.

Pino Gasparini & Mariella Farré - Piano Piano (Switzerland 1985)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

France 2012: Anggun adds a bit of temper

I have had a bubbly gut feeling ever since France revealed they had convinced Indonesian star Anggun to go to Eurovision to represent them.

Anggun is a dignified and worthy representative, having had her international break thanks to French producers and songwriters back in the late 90's.

Today, her entry for Baku was made official, and with such great expectations hanging over you it is hard not to disappoint.

Anggun - Echo (You and I) (France 2012)

On a first listening, I must admit to feeling a bit confused. It wasn't crystal clear where this song was heading, what tempo it would settle for and what part of it really constituted the chorus.

That slight criticism aside, I did hear the nifty production, the warm timbre of Anggun's lovely voice as well as the energetically persistent whistle hook that comes and goes all through the song.

Also, what must be remembered is that Anggun possesses an impressive stage persona with a strong presence and gravity. If the song needs an extra push at first, Anggun is the right performer to provide it.

Given an effective stage show (and a bit of luck in the draw), France could turn out to be the contender they were expected to be for the last few years but never quite lived up to.

Very well done!

Cyprus 2012: La La Love

Cypriot broadcaster RIK announced already early in the season that they would have themselves represented by X-Factor starlet Ivi Adamou in Baku, discontinuing the not too successful talent show set-up used for selecting their entrant in 2011.

Ivi found herself three songs for a national final, none of which written by local songwriters.

Repeating myself like an old vinyl record with a big scratch in it, I still find it disappointing when countries won't use local talent at Eurovision. Anyone could buy good songs from a publisher, but an ESC final where half the songs are written by Diane Warren and the other half by RedOne would not be a happy prospect in my book.

However, songwriting is turning more international, and the main focus at Eurovision since many years back are the singers anyway. End of rant.

On a first listening, I found all three songs pretty dull and disinteresting, but I must admit that the winner is growing on me.

Ivi Adamou - La La Love (Cyprus 2012)

Not entirely my cup of tea, but I'm beginning to see the potential of a simple but hooky piece of beach party disco that everyone can sing along to from the word go.

It reminds me quite a lot of Turkey's 2009 entry by Hadise with its slightly oriental-flavoured arrangement and steady rhythm.

And there has been worse hooks than a lot of la-la-la's in a row. Don't you agree, Massiel?

Massiel - La La La (Spain 1968)

Denmark 2012: Soluna Samay to Baku

In the 1980's, Denmark found a real formula for what their eurovision entries should sound like. Year after year, they sent in songs clearly baked in the same cake tin, easily recognisable as Danish eurosongs, and they did pretty well.

For the last couple of years, there has been a bit of a new Danish formula: solid singalongs in a pseudo-modern arrangement, yet with clear retro references to make them more appealing to as many people as possible.

It has worked very well again, with Denmark not missing a final since 2008 and top five placings in both 2010 and 2011. (Although I must admit I haven't quite shared the televoters' enthuasiam on every occasion.)

This year, the Danes have - surprisingly - taken a step away from the formula.

The winning entry is nowhere near as evident as Danish entries tend to be. More simplistic, less eager to be loved, performed by a Danish Anna Rossinelli in a big hat. Intriguing drums and a melody line that owes more than a little to Seal's "Crazy" makes for the most interesting Danish entry in many years.

On a first listening I wasn't convinced, but this entry is slowly unfolding in a very attractive way.

Possibly not a third consecutive placing in the top five, but I'm very pleased with Denmark thinking outside the box.

Soluna Samay - Should Have Known Better (Denmark 2012)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Song of the Day: Russia 1997

Under many years, the ESC attracted mainly young, fairly unknown performers who often got to shine for one night and then disappeared into obscurity again once the spotlight was turned off.

But then - now and again, a real superstar tread out into the light and the whole atmosphere changed.

Alla Pugacheva wasn't just any old star either - she was the biggest Diva of the Soviet Union, so loved by the audience that she could afford being more outspoken than most, who unlike many others had survived the transition into the new realities of the Russian Federation without losing her popularity.

Her good friend, the late Swedish tv presenter Jacob Dahlin, had always talked to her about Eurovision, how grand it was and how she should be there. She told the Swedish press that she finally went there as a gesture to him.

And quite possibly as a bit of an ego rub.

For a few years, during the mid 80's when perestroika was the new big thing, Alla travelled Europe and was a welcome guest on several high-profile tv shows and song festivals and had quite a nice little career going for her.

Eurovision was a new chance for her to mingle in the international limelight and show the world she could still perform. She squeezed every single drop of emotion out of her bombastic chanson-esque entry and had the audience eat from her hand.

For some reason, the juries remain unimpressed (apart from the jury in Slovenia awarding her top points) and The Queen landed on a bleak 15th place.

Not that it in any way affected her career, but that is no way to treat royalty.

Alla Pugacheva - Prima Donna (Russia 1997)

We won't be going to Riga in 2013...

Latvia has completed both of its semifinals and boiled the twenty hopefuls down to ten finalists, battling it out for the final ticket to Baku.

The Latvian performances have been a bit erratic for the last few years. First they sent three entries in a row that did reasonably well but all had a distinct taste of novelty acts (2006 - 2008), and the three entries since then have all failed to make it out of the semis.

After listening once to all the songs in the running, I wouldn't bet my last penny on an improved showing this year.

Most of the songs in the lineup are surprisingly dull and indistinct, which is surprising given how vital the music scene is in Latvia. At some point, most of the local professionals seem to have given up the whole idea of Eurovision.

Given the chance that I have missed some song that will grow strong and effective on a second listen, I dare say none of these entries will stand a chance internationally in its own right.

The Disco Superfly entry could come across as a bit fresh but starts annoying you well before its three minutes are over. Trianas Parks enter with a solid entry that sounds good but lacks that certain something to make you remember it.

And then there is the novelty act. Again. Packed with eurovision references as well as a whole bunch of fairly amusing things snooped from here and there in the universe of Pop, the Mad Show Boys are at least a bit of fun. At least for one listening.

It is with a heavy heart that I state that we most probably won't be going to Riga in 2013 either. What a shame on a beautiful city.

Mad Show Boys - Music Thief (Latvia national final 2012)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

ESC 2012: worthy women from the Balkans

With the exception of Slovenia (who always used to walk their own ways anyway), all of Former Yugoslavia has opted for internal selections for Baku.

Three of them have opted for strong female performers with strong personalities:

Bosnia and Herzegovina has apponted Maya Sar to sing for them in Baku. She was in Düsseldorf as part of Dino Merlin's cheerful backing group, but will now perform as a solo singer.

She is an accomplished musician who worked as a backing singer for many of her country's top stars. Her first solo single was a big success and she is currently working on her first album.

Maya Sar - Nespretno

Croatia has decided not to select their ESC entry through the Dora festival this time, and Nina Badrić for the job. She used to work in a bank before becoming a top name in the 90's dance music scene. Gradually, she left the dance music behind and has grown into a mature pop star.

She participated four times at the Dora without success, now she will finally get to represent her country at the ESC.

Nina Badrić - Dat ce nam Bog

FYR Macedonia selected its first eurovision entry in 1996, but found themselves rejected at the odd, non-public semi final organised that year. Their entrant Kaliopi has since grown into a steadily established name in the domestic showbiz.

She has developed a very strong presence and popularity and has, finally, been appointed to represent her country again. This time she has been given pretty much free hands to do whatever she wants when it comes down to writing, recording and producing her entry. Will it pay off in the end?

Kaliopi - Ti

Personally, I am very pleased with all three choices that could, given the right decisions are made concerning songs and performances, result in all three countries going very far in the voting.

Sending experienced and personable performers could, and should, result in plenty of points. Fingers crossed.

ESC 2012: may we have the participants, please?

We are quite some time into January, and yet there is no officially confirmed list of participants for the 2012 Eurovision in Baku.

The situation is quite similar to Moscow 2009, when it took a long time to establish that very list. 2008 had been a harsh year for many broadcasters, Latvia and Lithuania wanted to pull out for financial reasons, Georgia wanted to pull out for political reasons. It was very much a mess for quite a long time.

The EBU negociated with all three and kept them in the running (even if Georgia would eventually give the whole event a miss anyway).

According to Eurovision Times, similar things go on right now behind the scenes. Seemingly, the big project at hand is "Save Poland" - an attempt to reverse the Polish withdrawal from the contest. There were also rumours about Romania possibly pulling out, later denied by TVR officials.

There have also been rumours about Moroccan broadcaster 2M seeking EBU membership, bringing Morocco back to the contest. According to Wikipedia, sources have quoted Morocco as "very likely" to return, while the EBU website says nothing about 2M being discussed as a potential member.

And Armenia, then? What has the EBU done to ensure Armenian participation? Is it acceptable if one paying member of the EBU has to refrain from participation on political grounds.

An official list of participants would be most welcome at this point, to end all this speculation.

Song of the Day: FYR Macedonia 2002

Apologies for the slight inactivity that has ruled this blog lately. Sorry for that, but I hope your new year has started well.

And we start off with a new Song of the Day, and this is a big favourite of mine. In fact, I think this is the best entry ever presented by the country in question.

Karolina - Od nas zavisi (FYR Macedonia 2002)

I could just as well have posted this under another old headline of mine: Songs only I like. It seems eurofans and the general audience alike have a hard time getting their head around this one.

I find it spellbinding, almost hypnotic, and very well delivered by Karolina. From the word go with the suggestive drum beat, to the chanting backing singers, I find this pure class.

Karolina has since blossomed into an even better performer and one of her country's top stars, and she came back to Eurovision five years later to better her scoring considerably with the admittedly more user-friendly "Mojot svet".

But for me, her 2002 effort stands out as a shining pearl in a line-up that felt fresh back then, but somehow failed to stand the test of time.

Karolina - Od nas zavisi (FYR Macedonia 2002 preview)