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!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Slovenia 2012: another big ballad

The new selection format in Slovenia was a battle between sister duet Eva & Nika Pursnik and solo singer Eva Boto, who performed three songs each.

I didn't follow the selection, but the people in my twitter feed seemed more pleased with the show itself than the participating songs.

The winner, however, seems to be quite popular all around. Composed by 2007 eurovision winner Vladimir Graic, it seems to remind some people a tiny bit too much of his former entry "Molitva".

Personally, I don't think the link between the songs is so obvious. Eva Boto sings it very well and is nicely complimented by her four backing singers.

My problem with this song is that I find it slightly un-catchy. Pleasant throughout, but it didn't stay in my mind after one listening. But I needed a few listenings to grasp "Molitva" as well, in all fairness. It took me a month after Düsseldorf before I say the greatness of last year's Slovenian entry.

As my first impression, I still think Eva's voice will impress the juries far more than the song will hit home with televoters but a spot in final should not be out of reach at all.

Eva Boto - Verjamem (Slovenia 2012)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Netherlands 2012: the squaw and the guitar

The Netherlands finished selecting their entry for Baku and the outcome is, ehm, a little bit surprising.

Try to picture a woman looking a little bit like Cher's younger sister who always longed for a role in "Dances With Wolves" and occasionally dresses up like a sqaw and playing the guitar. At the same time.

Dress her up with a song straight out of the summer of love, a Joan Baez goes Both Sides Now-kind of song that has always, secretly, wished to be a singalong schlager.

Trying to fit all these pieces together? Failing miserably?

Joan Franka does not have an easy task to pull this song off and secure the first Dutch spot in a final since 2004, but I would not count her out just yet. This song is catchy in its own little way and will stand out soundwise as well as visually among the other entries.

If the audience will like that or not is too big a question at the moment, but is by no means the weakest entry the Dutch sent in lately. Sometimes it pays off to be brave.

Joan Franka - You And Me (Netherlands 2012)

Netherlands: wish it was like it used to be

Most of the time, when people cling to the past, I try to disencourage them to do so. You know, the past is the past. Let it go. There will be no orchestra. French ballads will never dominate again. Most people are completely satisfied with the broadcast being in colour. And so on.

But then there is this thing about the Dutch.

Throughout history, the Dutch seldom reached the placings they aspired for - in spite of winning no less than four times - but at least they used to be good. Entertaining. Quality.

For the last ten years or so, they lost their grip completely and have, in my humble opinion, not sent in a song worthy of their grand past a single time since 2000.

I have only heard short snippets of the songs on offer in this year's Nationaal Songfestival, so I'm not qualified to have an opinion, but judging from what little I heard there is no "Hemel en aarde" or "Amsterdam" hidden in there.

I hope I misjudged the situation and for the Dutch to knock out a terrific little number tonight. And while waiting to be proven wrong, I choose to celebrate the past.

Thérèse Steinmetz - Ringe dinge (Netherlands 1967)

Sandra Reemer - The Party's Over Now (Netherlands 1976)

Frizzle Sizzle - Alles heeft een ritme (Netherlands 1986)

Finland 2012: a worthy winner on many levels

The winner of Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu 2012 - and subsequently Finland's entry for Baku - is Pernilla Karlsson, a 21-year old handball player who sent in her song as a bit of a joke. Out of three superfinalists, the Finnish televoters went for the soft ballad in Swedish.

This is a good choice on so many levels.

Pernilla was the strongest vocalist in the line-up and she managed to fill her song with emotion and a depth that surpassed the linguistic border in Finland.

Six percent of Finland's population speak Swedish as mother tongue and - to speak frankly and bring some politics into this competition - have not always had a smooth ride in the public eye or been universally popular.

The big thing isn't really that the winner is performed in Swedish - the overwhelming thing is that one of the best songs is not chanceless just because it is sung in Swedish. You see the difference, right?

It is also quite priceless that when we finally get to hear Swedish sung at Eurovision after an absence of fourteen years, the song comes from Finland and not Sweden.

Win or lose in Baku, who knows? And tonight that doesn't matter. Tonight everything is just beautiful, tolerant and på svenska.

Pernilla Karlsson - När jag blundar (Finland 2012)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sweden 2012: where did the heart go?

Since 2009, SVT changed the melodifestivalen rulebook and threw out a few paragraphs from the ESC. You were allowed to have eight people on stage and your backing vocals could be prerecorded to open up for more of a show element.

In many ways it has worked wonders - most participants do the best they can to set up impressive show numbers, which help making melodifestivalen a spectacular tv-show. It looks better than ever and is Sweden's most popular event on television.

And yet, I have a little tingling feeling that something is missing.

Found myself at lunch with colleagues that had watched Melodifestivalen without liking it much. They (Swedish speaking finlanders) couldn't connect neither to the songs nor the show. They found the humour too much of an inside joke, and thought the average presentations were plastic.

Spoke to my mother, who thought there was too much unnecessary dancing distracting from the songs.

Spoke to a fellow long-time melodifestivalen fan who thought the show looked good, but he didn't feel that the songs reached out to touch him anymore. Breathtaking surface and nothing underneath. And that is where I tend to agree.

The entries are still, on average, way beyond a level most national finals could dare dream of and the songs are impeccably produced as well as perfectly packaged. But I miss a bit of a beating heart. A bit of soul. Everything looks splendid but I don't feel much when listening to the songs.

Most participants seem more concerned about the visual presentation than the songwriting, to be honest.

I think SVT is clearly on the right track, producing spectacular Saturday night entertainment for the masses, this is not criticism as such. But maybe it would be time to put a little more emphasis on songs rather than technology?

In the end, this is a song contest and without great songs the audience will not stay put. And I refuse to believe that really great songs and a really great show are incompatible species.

Song of the Day: Sweden 1998

Sweden sent off relatively unknown Jill Johnson to Birmingham to defend the national honour with the song "Kärleken är". Jill as well as the song impressed the greater public, but the singer recieved a lot of bad press concerning her styling, hair and clothing.

In Birmingham several different looks and styles were tried out, which probably distracted Jill from her main focus and on the night she didn't perform quite as well as in the national final.

Jill Johnson - Kärleken är (Sweden 1998 national final)

The song ended in tenth place and Jill moved on to greater fame and fortune with a more country-based repertoire, leaving "Kärleken är" a little bit in the shade.

But it is left with one important distinction - it is the last time to date that anyone has sung in Swedish at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Maybe it would be time for another song in Swedish soon?

Finland 2012: six finalists will fight it out

Tonight, at the Helsinki Ice Hall (actually next door to where I live), it will be decided who will be the first ever winner of Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (or, as most would have it, what song Finland will send to Eurovision).

The change of selection modus has neither been universally popular nor undisputed in Finland - suddenly both press and viewers seem to miss the old national final that they never seemed to care so much for in the last few years.

However, the new modus has led us up to rather a strong final with songs that quite well represent what kind of music is being made in Finland at the moment.

Last night, one final song was excluded from the running by the jury, which leaves us with the follow six songs in the final (reviewed in alphabetical order since the running order seems to be kept secret for some reason.)

ICONCRASH - We Are The Night
A pale imitation of what The Rasmus looked and sounded like ten years ago, equipped with a hook and a catchy chorus but perhaps not quite the geist needed to break through to the audience. Not helped by the fact that The Real Rasmus will be guesting the show with their new single.

KAISA VALA - Habits Of Human Beings
One of my favourite choruses (the hook sticks like glue in my head) could get a hard time tonight, as it was one of two songs up for elimination last night. Kaisa could very well be a pop star in the making, but when she gets carried away some of the notes go all over the place. Hopefully she will be able to keep the lid on her vocals tonight.

MICA IKONEN - Antaa mennä
By far the most relaxed of the participants, Mica Ikonen is very pleasant to look at and listen to and would have been a good choice for Finland if it wasn't for the song, that has been plastered together by bits and pieces from some of Robbie Willams' greatest hits (most notably "Something Beautiful"). Good performer, disappointing song.

PERNILLA KARLSSON - När jag blundar
The first song in Swedish in a Finnish national final since 1994 is an atmoshperic ballad that seems to be growing into something of a favourite. The choice of language makes it stand out from the others, and this young handball player could go really far tonight, especially if she dares to sing out properly.

STIG - Laululeija
Here it comes - the song nobody outside of Finland would understand. Stig, who cut a name for himself as a local gangsta rap parody, is an odd sight but is equipped with a tender and likeable little song, flavoured with very catchy whistelings. Nobody seems to know if he is serious or not, which quite adds to the entertainment value. I very much doubt that the average Finlandera would want an act like this to represent them, but the song sounds like a domestic hit to me.

VILLE EETVARTTI - Lasikaupunki
Alongside Pernilla, this is my personal favourite tonight. A suggestive rock ballad dressed up in a Coldplay-esque arrangement, and where the Finnish lyrics sound crisp and appealing. The only question mark here is how the performance will come across and what the audience will make of Ville's somewhat peculiar voice.

The jury has been given the boot and tonight's result will be decided by televoting only. Three songs will go on to a super final before the eventual winner is chosen. The final starts at 20:00 CET and will be streamed live here .

My guess, then? It is hard to predict what the audience will like since all judging has been done by the jury so far. It is also hard to tell how many people will watch and how many people will vote.

My gut feeling says that Pernilla Karlsson could be the one to make an impression, the one people will remember in a positive light at the end of the presentation. She is also certain to attract the votes of Swedish speakers (unless they opt to follow Melodifestivalen instead) and she is likeable and down to earth in a way that often appeals to Finns.

If I have to name one probable winner, then it is Pernilla. But there could be many surprises before this night is over.

Ireland 2012: Jedward goes again

The Irish national final ended, not really surprisingly, in the victory of John and Edward. What is more surprising is that RTÉ bothered to have a national final at all.

Jedward was the first Irish act to get a positive buzz at Eurovision since... ehm... since Marc Roberts or so. Since then, the twins have turned into a record-selling phenomenon on the continent and will attract attention aplenty in Baku.

It is not necessarily unproblematic to go to Eurovision twice in a row. Ask Lena. Ask Family Four. Ask Hot Eyes. What works once does not necessarily work twice.

Last year, Jedward had so much surprise factor and their song was obnoxious and packed with punk attitude. This year, nothing new has been added to the mix but the song is harder to sing and require more straight singing which, in all fairness, is not Jedward's forte.

On the other hand, the twins have built themselves a strong fanbase that would vote for them if they read the phonebook out loud.

It will be most interesting to see how far this will carry in 2012, but I wouldn't book The Point Theatre just yet.

Jedward - Waterline (Ireland 2012)

Belarus 2012: exit the winner, in with the winners

I'm not going to pretend to be even the slightest bit surprised as Belarusian television announced today that they changed their entry for Baku.

But of course. Why should you send a song to the ESC just because it won a national final?

The new choice is boyband Litesound - probably with their Eurofest entry. But who knows? Maybe they will get another song? Maybe all members of the band will be replaced? Maybe the television heads will have another change of heart before the deadline?

Litesound - We Are The Heros (Belarus 2012 perhaps)

I don't weep for the rejected winner as this new song is a lot stronger, but the problem still remains. Why bother to stage a national final when you know you will disagree with the voice of the viewers? Why not select internally and save everyone involved a lot of time, money and effort?

Besides, on a first listening I found the Litesound chorus a tad too similar to the song below. Will the choice of song be modified too, or is this the final decision?

Who can say?

Amanda Fondell - All This Way

Austria 2012: aiming for controversy

In tonight's Austrian final, the tractor gangsters (this is Austria, after all) narrowly beat bearded she-male Conchita Wurst in the super final. Trackshittaz got the Baku ticket as well as revenge after losing out to Nadine Beiler last year.

Trackshittaz - Woki mit deim Popo (Austria 2012)

The song in itself is rather amusing and has already climbed the charts back home. It is catchy and has a very recognisable hook, but it is not necessarily plain sailing ahead for the Austrians.

Last year the Trackshittaz came across as juvenile but cute, but something in that package got a bit lost in their new attempt. Writing a song about having your butt work on the dance floor could be amusing as well as outright embarrassing and the stage show (not yet available on YouTube) makes it tip over in the wrong direction.

I think the girl dancers are meant to be funny and not sexy, but many people will get a sour taste in their mouths when watching this. I believe there is humour in this, but I also believe most people will fail to pick up on it.

If I was in charge at ORF, at the record label, at the duo's management - frankly, anywhere - I would rip everything out and re-design the entire number and pump in a lot more positive energy in it. At the moment, I think their entry from last year would have made far more of a splash at eurovision than this one.

Trackshittaz - Oida Taunz (Austria 2011 national final)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Turkey 2012: who wouldn't love this guy back?

Turkey has revealed their entry for Baku and hopes were high after last year's surprising flop and subsequent lack of a spot in the final.

We already knew that Can Bonomo, a young Sephardic Jew from Izmir, had been internally selected for the task and that deserves a special applause, I think. How brave of TRT, in these tense times, to have themselves represented by a member of a minority community.

I can't help thinking that TRT is doing more good for the image of Turkey internationally than anyone else at the moment.

The chosen song might strike you as slightly peculiar at first, but it possesses a chorus that will eat its way inside your mind and stay there, forcing you to hum along.

And Can himself is an adorable, most loveable, appearance. A true artist who really believes in his thing and who has dared sprinkle his entry with both Turkish and Jewish folklore.

A most welcome return to force for Turkey and I dare predict rather a good result already at this early stage. How good? Let's see the final presentation first.

But with a song like this, who wouldn't love a guy like Can Bonomo back?

Can Bonomo - Love Me Back (Turkey 2012)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ukraine 2012: Gaïtana blows the horn

After a long, almost neverending, national final procedure, Ukraine has chosen Gaïtana as their representative for Baku with her self-penned song "Be My Guest".

Gaïtana - Be My Guest (Ukraine 2012)

At least it won the big national final, but in Ukraine that sort of thing means nothing. The last two years both saw great flaws in the selection formats, resulting in huge scandals. Let's see if the result remains unquestioned this time around.

Gaïtana herself is a clever choice, she is a star with a big voice (slightly reminiscent of my favourite Jamala from last year's final) and her song contains a fair share of musical handles.

The gimmick with the dancing trumpetists is clever as it gives the song a distinctive sound as well as a very visual hook. And we can safely depend on Ukraine to polish this performance even further.

The song is also a dance track with certain potential in its own right, and somehow it makes my mind drift towards another successful chart record. Not bad at all.

David Guetta feat Kelly Rowland - When Love Takes Over

Israel 2012: did Izabo's song leak before Time?

A modern problem is that songs with an embargo keep leaking out before they are due to be heard. No less than three entries have leaked for this week's Swedish semi and a couple of days ago a song, claimed to be the 2012 Israeli entry, was made available on YouTube.

It seems to be the right group, it seems to be the right title, but there has been no statement from Israeli television - none that I am aware of anyway.

So, if it is the right song, it sounds like this.

Izabo - Time (Israel 2012)

I, for one, hope this is the right one. Funky, funny, bold and daring. Like the illigimate love child of Kaveret/Poogy and Ping Pong.

Kaveret (Poogy) - Natati la khaiai (Israel 1974)

Ping Pong - Sameach (Israel 2000)

Israel is often at its best when being a bit controversial. Izabo clearly seems to be a good way to go. I won't promise it is a sure qualifyer, but it is an entry to be proud of.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Georgia 2012: a non-song with a stolen hook

Georgia's first ever entry is a true classic and my favourite entry of all last decade. This year's entry? Not so hot.

Winner Anri Jokhadze seems to possess a fair amount of charisma and has a good voice (if it carries as well live as in this playback performance). But the song. To quote Baccara: I don't know where to start.

Anri Jokhadze - I'm A Joker (Georgia 2012)

First an important rule. If you want to write a song in English - learn English first. Look at the graphics and you find this song is still called "I'm A Jocker". Whatever a jocker might be.

Another rule. If you want to steal things, you have to do it with a certain sense of style. You can not clumsily lift the hook out of one of the most famous and wide-spread songs in rock history and pretend like nothing happened.

Steve Miller Band - The Joker

Last rule for the time being. If you can't help but clumsily stealing the hook from one of the most famous songs in rock history and make your own broken-english version of it - then you better make it good. Make it stand out. Make it rock.

Georgia's entry this year is a complete non-song. There are no extenuating circumstances. 

Brothers and sisters of Georgia, you can do so much better than this. Bring back Sopho and pronto.

Well, here is one more rule for you. Admit when you are wrong. "Jocker" actually does mean something. Thanks to Roy Delaney and the Urban Dictionary I now know that there is such a word.

And it quite well describes the song. Maybe I just misjudged Anri. He's sharper than I thought at first.

That doesn't change much, though. This song is still horrid and, by quite some margin, the weakest selected for Baku so far. Bring back Sopho and pronto.

Latvia 2012: Anmary and a beautiful song

Do you remember a time when Latvia were often seen as contenders in this grand competition? It does seem like a very, very, very long time ago.

Last night they selected their entry for Baku, and again they managed to go for something that will be plain shark feed in the semi final.

First of all, I am beyond description fed up with eurovision songs that reference the Eurovision Song Contest itself. It is pointless, it is silly and it makes the song commercially stone dead and hopeless outside the competition.

To add insult to injury, this song wouldn't have been a hit even with a rewrite of the lyrics. Pleasant by all means, but also very basic and instantly forgettable, with no handle or hook or any development to make you remember it.

The real asset is Anmary herself and her singular presence. She sings well, she nails the camera and she leaves me wishing she had something meaningful to perform instead.

Anmary - Beautiful Song (Latvia 2012)

Italy 2012: Nina Zilli forever

It seems the Sanremo festival confused quite a few international fans last night, who mistook this prestigious event for a simple national final.

As if the Italians cared the least for Eurovision.

The real competition went its own way and in the middle of it, as a sidedish or a consolation prize, one of the songs was appointed as Italy's entry for the ESC. In fact, more of an internal selection rather than a national final.

Probably the choice was partially an attempt to find something suitable for international exposure, but just as much a result of negocation with record labels and performers. Who was willing to go, at all?

Nina Zilli was willing, and I am very happy about that. She is a most uplifting new acquaintance with her personable voice and intriguing prescence, oozing with star quality.

For the second year running, the Italian entry has roots digging deep into a musical soil that hasn't been too well represented at eurovision through the years. It will be very interesting to see what Europe makes of it.

Nina Zilli is also the first female solo performer to represent Italy since Mia Martini did her thing in Malmö twenty years ago. Maybe that is a good omen, too. Not that she needs one, but anyway.

Nina Zilli - Per sempre (Italy 2012)

Croatia 2012: Nina to sing "Nebo"

Croatia has revealed their entry for Baku, as Nina Badrić presented the finalised shortened version of the song "Nebo", which is also the title track of her latest album, released late last year.

I must admit to being a tiny bit disappointed that Nina and her team did not go for any kind of supersized solar plexus megasmash of a pop hit, which would have been refreshing from Croatia at this point, but once the initial reaction wore off, "Nebo" stands out as a sensible choice.

It is a dignified ballad, performed with grace and soul, and the added touch of the glockenspiel makes it feel slightly more instant than it really is.

The Balkan votes will rain down over this entry, making it rather a sure qualifier. But in the final, Nina Badrić will have to depend more on luck and a good draw than I thought she would have to.

Nina Badrić - Nebo (Croatia 2012)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sweden, semi 3: it's all about Ranelid

I must admit that I only heard the short rehearsal clips of this week's entries, as I have a prominent state visit from Sweden (Mommie Dearest and noone else). But I can still predict a few things pretty safely.

1 ) This week is all about Björn Ranelid. This intellectual hotshot - a high-profile author and media personality - decided to take a leap into Melodifestivalen with an entry consisting of typical eurodisco and him reciting poetry.

2 ) Nobody in Sweden will be able to take their eyes off this entry. Nobody will quite believe their eyes. And regardless of the outcome, this will be the only song people will remember after seeing tonight's semi.

3 ) Nobody outside Sweden will understand anything of this. Jaws will drop and speculation will have it that Swedish televoters have, once and for all, lost their marbles big time.

4 ) Oh yeah, and someone will make it to Globen. Quite probably Molly Sandén. And someone else. Quite probably the poetic eurodisco.

5) When this week is over, Loreen will still not have a real contender against her and "Euphoria" will still be sky-high favourite to represent Sweden in Baku.

Full review after the show, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow. But what do you think?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Germany 2012: Roman Lob is standing still

After a one year break (where Lena was internally selected to defend her title), Germany reverted to the same selection formula that resulted in their second ever eurovision win in 2010.

"Unser Star für Baku" has been a talent show with the aim of finding more original and personable singers than your average casting show, and - again - it worked really well two years ago.

I haven't really followed this season, but media reports suggest that the formula hasn't worked quite as well this time around. Fewer viewers, less media interest. And no "Satellite".

The winner, Roman Lob, was very popular with the studio audience and will be sent to defend the German colours with the song "Standing Still". It can be seen and heard here on the official website, but hardly anywhere else due to copyright restrictions.

"Standing Still" is unfortunately also rather a suitable description of the song that builds and builds without ever leading up to a real climax. It is the kind of song that the German music industry likes and that is bound to do well in the local charts, but that is less likely to set the ESC scoreboard on fire.

Somehow, it reminds me of Germany's 2005 effort - it hit the charts, but scored a grand total of four points in Kyiv. Not bad, but without a clear handle to make it stand out in a competition.

Let's see how Roman will fare in Baku. I dare say this is not a third German victory in the making.

Gracia - Run And Hide (Germany 2005)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Belarus 2012: Alena Lanskaya wins Eurofest

For a split second, I was about to write a headline like "Alena Lanskaya to represent Belarus" before remembering that this is, after all, Belarus - the country where bending the rules as we go along is more rule than exception.

More than once have we had a change of entry, sometimes even more than one change per year.

So what we know is that Alena Lanskaya won the televised final of Eurofest with a rather insignificant ballad named "All My Life".

My guess is that if anything gets replaced this time around, it will be the song that just keeps going and going without ever reaching any climax, chorus or anything else to write home about. Dull rather than bad, but it has "non-qualifyer" written all over it.

Alena Lanskaya - All My Life (Belarus 2012)

Iceland 2012: a bombastic ballad

The outcome of the Icelandic national final Saturday night was the most anticipated prospect of them all. No surprises in sight as Greta Salomé and Jónsi shot to the top, the former of the two also being the composer and lyricist of the winning entry.

It is an impeccably packaged and performed, slightly pompous, ballad with some ethnic undertones in the arrangement. There is the ever-so-popular violin à la Rybak matched with two strong vocalists. How could this go wrong?

Well, with a little bit of bad luck, this could get drawn into a block of ballads and maybe come across as less inspired than it really is. Also, Jónsi's nerves also got the better of him back in 2004, delivering flawlessly during rehearsals only to give his weakest performance of all week during the live show.

But it does look very promising for Iceland, at least for a fifth consecutive qualification.

Specifically, it looks a while lot better than it would had that horrid boy band disaster of an entry that ended in second place been selected instead.

Greta Salomé & Jónsi - Mundu eftir mér (Iceland 2012)

Sweden 2012: Aldrig Aldrig - the clip

Andreas Lundstedt's 2012 melodifestivalen ride ended Saturday with a pale seventh place in the second semi final held in Gothenburg (in the same venue as the 1985 ESC, by the way).

Despite being my favourite song, I can see why the performance failed to win over the televoters. A bit too polished, a tad too cold, a pinch too self-righteous.

Now the single is out, accompanied by a simple but pleasant clip that, perhaps, is no cinematographic masterpiece but that oozes with the emotion I would have longed for in the live version.

Some heartbreak, some pain. Not the biggest smile in town, it won't compliment a lyric like this.

Andreas Lundstedt - Aldrig aldrig (Sweden 2012 national final)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Norway 2012: Tooji borrowed a thing or two

Norway selected Saturday night and I can heave a sigh of relief as my nightmare scenario of Plumbo did not materialise and the televoters gave in to their craving for modern pop.

It is very positive that Norway still wants to feel international after last year's failed attempt.

It is also understandable if you, the year after a non-qualification, wants to be popular. But there should be limits to everything.

Singer Tooji has just borrowed a few too many of Eric Saade's attributes. They look fairly similar to start with, then it is not a good idea to copy his wardrobe also.

Then again, the songs are not as similar as one might be fooled to think. A fairly modern little pop ditty with some rather becoming oriental details in the arrangement.

The boy can sing and the boy can dance, and this could grow into quite a credible entry, depending a bit on how many pop-flavoured songs we get in Baku. But the Eric Saade comparison is not to Tooji's advantage.

The more he can tone the connection down before Eurovision, the better his chances will be.

Tooji - Stay (Norway 2012)

Hungary 2012: Compact Disco to Baku

In my short overview on Friday, I completely overlooked the fact that also Hungary selected their entry this weekend.

How could I? I have always had a soft spot for Hungary and their entries, and always keep some fingers crossed for them at some point.

The winners Compact Disco is a handsome bunch who, by the sound and look of it, probably listened to Hurts "Happiness" album until the CD turned to dust.

Compact Disco - Sound Of Our Hearts (Hungary 2012)

You can have worse sources of inspiration, of course, and this song is the kind of grower that starts showing potential on the second listening or so.

A little bit of work here and there, a bit of a tighter production and, perhaps, some vocal coaching, and this could, with a bit of luck, at least make it out of the semis without too much effort.

On a first listening, my impression was that it would have sounded better in Hungarian and that the lead singer didn't always come across as understanding what he was singing. But there is plenty of time to work on that, too.

Sweden, semi 2: anyone can be a finalist

Just arrived back home in Helsinki and had a very quick look through the eight performances of this week's melodifestivalen semi final. No show, no sketches, no excitement, just the performances.

I already knew the outcome anyway, so I wouldn't have been as surprised as I gather quite a few people must have been after the live show. Or as surprised is I surely would have been.

One of the disadvantages of melodifestivalen is the average Swedish televoter and the eternal inability to think outside the box and only go for predictable choices. And at first, the result was pretty predictable indeed. In other words, my two favourite entries crashed and burned and ended last and second last.

Mimi Oh was a bit too sweet and inexperienced and too heavily influenced by Swedish starlet Veronica Maggio to really stand a chance.

Andreas Lundstedt was equipped with a lovely song with a bit of a too frosty feel to win through with the larger audience, further encumbered by the fact that the glossy performance distracted rather than enhanced the whole package.

When singing about heartbreak, longing and hatred it is never a great idea to wear the widest smile in town.

But then the results took a sharp turn away from the expected. Thomas di Leva, loved by the masses for many years already, missed out completely and left the field open for almost anyone to go to Globen.

Ulrik Munther wasn't really a surprise, given his fanbase and status as something of a Swedish Justin Bieber, but I know my jaw would have dropped had I seen the qualification of David Lindgren on live television.

I hear that he can sing, I see that he can dance. But I don't get this. At all.

Maybe the (pretty monotonous) song will grow on me in time for the final, but I find this tailormade for any token entertainment show on Swedish tv where they love people with bubbly personalities who sing well and dance well and who can do a tiny bit of breakdance without being in any way edgy or dangerous.

David Lindgren will have a great future on television and in musicals. Good for him. But if the Swedes send him to Baku, I'm afraid it is bad news week come May.

But if this song can qualify, anyone can. And that makes melodifestivalen more exciting again.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Finland: Kaisa Vala is in la-la-la-la-love

Isn't it typical that a good idea seldom is hatched in one mind at the time? There is a slight risk this year that Cyprus and Finland will be represented by the same hook in Baku.

Which is about as awkward as two ladies coming to a party wearing the same dress.

Kaisa Vala, one of the remaining acts in UMK - the Finnish national final - is in la-la-love, very much like Ivi Adamou of Cyprus.

Even though UMK is quite some distance from making a real splash with the audience so far it seems quite a few people have found themselves with Kaisa's simple but effective chorus hammering in their heads. It is very catchy indeed, but I would still like to tamper with it a bit.

All the songs have been worked on by professional producers, but I would still like to re-arrange "Habits Of Human Beings" quite a lot. Make it rougher, give it more edge. As it is now, Kaisa sounds a bit like a Finnish Kylie on a rye bread diet and a synthesizer she inherited from some older cousin who wanted to make music in the 80's.

I'd like a more heavy factory sound, more industrial, more new wave. Less Kylie and more Kraftwerk.

With those enhancements under the belt, Kaisa Vala could prove a proud choice and make several viewers fall in la-la-love with Finland.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Missing out this week...

If you people only knew how hard it is to blog on an iPad... This is my third attempt to publish this blog post. Soon I will know it by heart. And it grows shorter and shorter for each attempt...

This week, I will miss out on all the eurovision action as I am spending my weekend in Berlin - the best city there is. So I am not complaining, but I will be a bit short on the blogging and commenting.

But these are my short thoughts about the national finals coming up (and that I have in some way followed).


The third week of UMK will look like the second one - six acts will sing up for the jury, two acts will get eliminated. I keep my fingers crossed for my three big favourites Kaisa Vala, Leola and - above all - Ville Eetvartti to join obvious jury favourite Freeman for the next stage of the competition.


The Icelandic final seems rather likely to end up as a two horse race between two previous participants. If Regina Ósk and Jónsi really do fight it out in the end, I believe the latter one will win due to a more bombastic entry and performance. But even though five out of seven participants are good and have some sort of international potential, the unpredictable local televoters could just as soon favour the dead end folktune or the dismal boy band. And then it is Goodnight Iceland.


My guess is that dull "provocative" rock act Plumbo, who made complete fools at themselves commenting Madcon (and their skin colour) during the Norweigan Grammies, will win and secure Norway a second consecutive non-qualification in Baku. Therefore I have not paid too much attention to the line-up. Hopefully there is something really good there to enthuse the voters in another direction. Like the heart-throb singing Hanne Sorvaag's entry, even if he is better than the actual song.


I have found myself firm favourites in the two slick, low-key, tastefully retro-tainted dance entries by Andreas Lundstedt and Mimi Oh, although I realise they are most unlikely to win through with the audience. Televoters will probably go in a spin over Ulrik Munther and Sonja Aldén and I can deal with that. But if they send Thomas di Leva (on old merits alone) and the rockabilly youth into the final, I have to question my relationship with Sweden and ask myself what we ever saw in each other.


Is anyone else selecting this weekend? What kind of eurovision blogger am I? I will catch up as soon as I can once I am back from Berlin, so expect updates early next week.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Malta 2012: Kurt could have potential

Last night, Malta selected their entrant for Baku out of sixteen hopeful contestants in the national final. After the televoting results had been added to the opinions of an international panel of judges, Kurt Calleja beat Claudia Faniello into second place.

There was a tiny uproar among the international hardcore fans (readily angered by the fact that the long final was designed to entertain the local audience and not them) who would have preferred the polite little runner-up ballad to win instead.

I think Kurt was quite a sensible choice after all. There is potential in the package, but there is work to be done.

The song needs to be re-arranged and given a much more powerful, slick and energetic sound. Right now it sounds like something plastered together in a hurry in a low budget home studio. That will not do. Send it to professionals and make it sound convincing.

The stage perfomance needs severe work. Call a good choreographer, make sure there is a routine to back the whole thing up. Right now the people on stage look like a happy bunch singing spontaneously at a village party. That will not do.

Kurt himself needs some major vocal coaching, not only to avoid losing his breath but also to make sure he avoids falling into the "How's it going", "How 'ya all doing", "Come on Baku"-routine. You should perform for the audience, not shout at them. This is ever so important. They are not your friends, they expect you to do your work. The performance from last night won't do.

But given that the proper amount of knowledge and talent is invested into this package, Malta could end up the happy clappy song that scrapes into the final on basis of its pure energy.

It is certainly worth a try.

Kurt Calleja - This Is The Night (Malta 2012)

Sweden, semi 1: A touch of class

The first semi of Melodifestivalen 2012 is over and resulted in what I did not dare hope for: Loreen, with her elaborate stage show and sophisticated dance track, went straight into the final. Sweden never embraced an entry like this in the past and this was a very welcome surprise given the more likely scenarios.

I predicted Sean Banan would do Dead for April company bang into the final, but I'm not quite unhappy about Banana Boy going into the Second Chance round instead. You never know what competition he will face there, but I think the fun is over for him.

I thought The Moniker would reach Andra Chansen, but he was left in last place. That was the only thing in my prediction that went completely wrong, but I guess the dramatic change of musical direction backfired on him. In no way was his song the weakest in this line-up.

As a show, this was Melodifestivalen by the numbers: a glossy, luxurious package where most things looked good and lavish (apart from the surprisingly cheap and uninspired artist presentations before each song) and not much effort had been spared to make a good show.

And yet... I can't shake the feeling that the whole thing has turned a tad too predictable. If you watched it for the last couple of years, you know very much to expect. The kind of "intellectual" humour in the scripts, the pre-recorded sketches, the interval acts. Everything is top crop but I wasn't surprised once.

Maybe for 2013 it would a good idea to really shake the whole thing up, throw all the pieces in the air and try to really give the audience something they truly did not expect.

But these discussions can wait for later, right now I will just sit back and be very pleased about the Swedish televoters accepting Loreen the way she is.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fingers crossed for Malta tonight!

While Sweden is kick-starting their season with the first of six weeks of Melodifestivalen mania, Malta is about to select their 25th entry for Eurovision.

It has to be said: for a country their size, Malta has been mindblowingly successful at the ESC. Twice runner-up, twice heartbreakingly close to winning the whole shebang.

Lately, perhaps, the Maltese have not been quite up to standard. Since Chiara's second place in Kyiv 2005, the island nation has only twice been present in the final, on both occasions ending among the last.

There is a reason to this, however. Maltese composers have not been really careful about their craft and often settled for unpolished and under-developed song constructions, relying on simple hooks or gimmicks.

In the 90's, when Malta often belonged to the group of favourites, they often entered strong songs with insufficient performances. Lately it has been the reverse: good performers have been sent to the European stage with dismal songs and weak choruses.

So far, I am yet to hear a single entry in this year's Maltese line-up, but I hope they will run with a quality song rather than a cheerful performance or a fun gimmick.

We'd all love to spend a week in the sun in May 2013, so gives us your best shot. Fingers crossed.

Helen & Joseph - L-Imhabba (Malta 1972)

Sweden, semi 1: Tobson predicts

It is the time of the year when the biggest circus in Euroland starts, apart from the grand final itself come May, the extravaganza known as Melodifestivalen, the Swedish national final.

A total of 32 songs will fight it out, in four semis and one Second Chance round, for ten place in the big final in Globen in March.

The first eight go into battle tonight and SVT has released both minute-long video clips from early rehearsals as well as full length audio clips on their webpage and this is how I find them.

1. SEAN BANAN - Sean den förste banan
I used to have an acute allergy towards humour entries in the Eurovision, but the adorable Verka Serduchka from Ukraine shook that out of me once and for all back in 2007. So that is not the problem here. I hear how catchy this is and how the hook plasters itself all over the place in my brain's musical centre, and yet I'm not particularly impressed. I just thought there would be more to it than this rather internal joke. A good opener, and most possibly a finalist, but not a wise choice for Baku.

2. ABALONE DOTS - På väg
Soft and competent country-scented and low-key, like a whisper sung in close to perfect key. A lovely little song of the kind that Sweden never votes for. As chanceless now as it ever was before.

3. THE MONIKER - I Want To Be Chris Isaak (This Is Just The Beginning)
The complete anti-thesis of his multicoloured effort from last year - an understated little tune that leans against a shy little violin in the verse and then starts dancing around more happily in the chorus. It could be just the title and all, but it gets me thinking of the (slightly catchier) "I Want To Meet Bob Dylan" from last year's Estonian final. I like it, but ten minutes later I can't remember a single note of it. Not a good sign.

4. AFRO-DITE - The Boy Can Dance
Ten years ago, Afro-Dite were commercially successful and highly anticipated winners of the first melodifestival sporting the current format. After the flop in Tallinn (hey - everything is relative, back in the day Sweden counted anything outside top three as a failure) their success came to nothing and time has not been very kind to "Never Let It Go". What was intense and fabulous back then now leaves a taste of dust in your mouth. And there lies their problem this time around - this is nicely tailored and energetic, but nowhere near as engaging as it would need to be. There are other comebacks the audience would long more for than this one.

5. DEAD BY APRIL - Mystery
Metal with sharp edges in Melodifestivalen? Not a bad idea, really, as Sweden - just like Finland - is never completely averse to a piece of rock with attitude. It is just surprising that the metal never turns particularly spiky in the end. The gargling (a grawl, I think is the scientific term) has promise in this domain, but the rest of the package is surprisingly void of attitude. Instead of a tiger's roar we get a kitten's hiss. Oh dear. Not too scary if you ask me.

6. MARIE SERNEHOLT - Salt And Pepper
Let me state two things at once: I think "The Boy Does Nothing" is an enchanting little track that makes me want to dance and I absolutely adore the entire being of Marie Serneholt. Blend these and you should have an entry to knock me over, but eurovision algebra is never quite as easy as that. It takes more than mambo to move me, and something is missing to make this upbeat little number memorable. Marie sings she is looking for spice - here is salt and pepper aplenty but not beef. Too bad.

My father was always a big fan of Swedish troubadour Fred Åkerström, who never entered Melodifestivalen (and who would probably have preferred being eaten alive than do anything of the kind). The vocals of this entry are surprisingly similar to Fred Åkerström's, but while he would invest himself in a song, actor Flinck plays the part of a singer. Too much acting but not enough of a plot. And self-pitying lyrics about how hard it is to be famous do very little for me.

8. LOREEN - Euphoria
The sky-high favourite among bookies, journalists and fans as well as with the audience poll after last night's dress rehearsal, Loreen is set to take revenge for missing out on the final last year. With it's exquisite arrangement and tasteful production it also stands out as my clear favourite of the week. But there are still clouds blocking the sun. Loreen's biggest disadvantage last year was her inability to go through the screen - will she manage this year? Will the Swedes embrace this kind of slick dance track despite never really doing so in the past? I would love to see this in the final, but the flashing lights in the back of my mind tell me not to be too sure.

Knowing that Sweden will throw itself over its first semi like mad and vote until their telephones bleed, I get a feeling the two finalists will be songs that hit home with the masses rather than with me, songs that will work better in the local charts than in Eurovision.

To the final I predict Sean Banan and Dead By April. I wouldn't choose either of them, but I have a nagging feeling that humour and some metal will attract votes tonight. Loreen and The Moniker will find themselves in Andra Chansen.

As for the fifith place, the awkward spot where you almost made it, it could be anyone of the others but I think the notority of Marie Serneholt could help her mambo this far.

Personally, I would gladly reverse the whole thing and send Loreen and The Moniker to the final (and Marie to Andra Chansen) but I have my doubts.

This is my truth, now show me yours. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Song of the Day: Austria 1982

Where do I begin? Where do I begin? I guess I could say that we have a complicated relationship, this song and I.

It behaves a little bit like a dear old friend that you are genuinely happy to see again.

Until this dear old friend stars acting out in bizarre ways; hopping and clapping and dancing in public, knocking over glasses and tables, raising disapproval from everyone around, making you wish you were somewhere else.

Or, at least, that you dear old friend could behave and not make you look like a fool when other people are around.

This is, really, an infectuous little number with a very distinct and easily retainable chorus. The recorded version has a typically early 80's freshness over it, and the prominent piano sound gives the whole package a very nice touch.

Mess - Sonntag (Austria 1982)

And then comes the live version. Where the piano is replaced with a horrid organ. Where the duo is almost frighteningly cheerful and upbeat. Where the dancing would knock down glasses and tables had there been any around.

You silently wish for the whole thing to end and you find yourself pinching your arm, desperately trying to remind yourself why you liked this friend in the first place.

Mess - Sonntag (Austria 1982)

Almost identical entries!

Now that I mentioned Monia and "Nu idag" from 1997, I will have to air a little thing that has been on my mind for many years already. This is what Monia sounded and looked like:

Monia - Nu idag (Sweden 1997 national final)

Then fast forward two years until 1999, when Klenoinki "Cleo" Nilsson entered the stage with her entry "Natten är min vän", written by her boyfriend at the time, a certain Thomas G:son who would go on to becoming one of the most successful songwriters in Melodifestivalen.

Cleo, who normally sang in the band Cleo & Grabbarna, really attacks her song with more energy and zeal than most dance vocalists could procure. She impressed the juries but scored zero points in the televote.

The fact still remains - her song is incredibly similar to Monia's entry two years before. The structure, the sound, the arrangement, the choreographed backing singers... Even the melody lines are pretty similar.

One evil little suspicion might pop up in your head but then again... Why steal a song that already flopped once?

Cleo - Natten är min vän (Sweden 1999 national final)

The relative failure did little harm to Cleo's career as one of the most acclaimed dance orchestra vocalists at the time, but a dramatic road accident a few years back put an end to her career.

According to this article, Cleo still sings - for the well-being of the soul - but is in no condition to tour or give concerts. A sad development for a really talented vocalist.