free web site hit counter

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mp3 Monday: When The Angels Sing

No matter the results of the final, my favorite thing about following Eurovision and its national selections these past three years has definitely been discovering dozens of great artists and songs that I would have never heard of otherwise.

Just this year there were several artists who I was already familiar with from following the contest – Charlotte Perrelli and Dima Bilan from their previous participations in the contest, and Gisela, Nico of Romania, both members of Euroband, Ani Lorak, Diana Gurtskaya, Tand amara of FYR Macedonia from their previous participations in national selections.

There were two other performers that I was familiar with through non Eurovision venues. First, I had heard of Sebastien Tellier through his work with half of Daft Punk. Second, I had heard of No Angels through another girl group that had covered two of their songs. And that group is none other than...

…Taiwanese girl group S.H.E! Their seemingly endless back catalogue of covers includes two covers of No Angels songs, “When the Angels Sing” and “Come Back”, on their 2003 album “Together”. I wanted to post these back when I wrote about Germany's song in my ranking, but due to unfortunate circumstances I was unable to, so I'm posting it now.
This is not the first artist that S.H.E has covered who went on to compete in Eurovision - they also covered "Everytime" by Britney Spears, which was co-written by Annet Artani who represented Cyprus in 2006. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

Download - No Angels - "When The Angels Sing"
Download - S.H.E - "Tian Shi Zai Chang Ge"

Download - No Angels - "Come Back"
Download - S.H.E - "Bai Se Lian Ge"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eurosunday: The Morning After

So, Russia won and Sweden flopped. Unlike some people I'm not going to let this get to me, because really the only result that matters now is the winner, as everyone else gets a chance to start fresh next year (this is assuming they keep the two semi finals format). And what a winner. Some people have been complaining that it was fixed - since I wasn't there I can't know for sure, but it is sure that Russia, unlike a lot of Western countries, put a lot of money and effort into their entry. They had a popular singer whose star has only risen since his last Eurovision appearance, a popular ice skater, and a popular American songwriter. Even if we forget about neighbor/diaspora voting, I think this is a good winner because it is an Eurovision winner that is contemporary and reflects what is in the charts at the time.

As for my dear favorite Sweden, I'm disappointed but not surprised. I accept that it just wasn't everyone's cup of tea. I think that something that perhaps the Swedish broadcasters need to look into is a simpler stage for Melodifestivalen, or at least if they keep up the trend of the past 2 years of a large stage with several elevation differences, to change the choreography before Eurovision so it looks better on a simple flat stage. This combined with poor camerawork gave Charlotte's performance less of a visual appeal (also some people say that she looked freaky, but I try not to say mean things about people's appearances).

Just like the past three years 1 song out of my top 5 was also in the top 5, so it's a good enough result for me. In 2006 and 2007 3 song in my top 10 were also in the top 10, and this year I got 4 in the top 10. Like 2006 the top 3 of the night were in my top 10.

My fellow New Yorker with Greece came 3rd, congrats to her. Norway did just as well as other fans predicted despite me not liking it. My bad on that, but good for them. I think Malta should consider changing their name to Schlagerboyland, or at least giving the duo positions with their broadcasters, because for the last two years they give their 12 points to whoever the Schlagerboys want. Congrats to them for having such a sway over the public! Joke entries crashed and burned across the board, as Spain came in 16th. It's interesting how there were so many ties, including a 3-way tie for last place.

It seems so far to me that the two semi final format works, because even though it doesn't cut down on block voting in the final (because that's impossible) it increases the quality of the songs in the final. And what quality it was. The songs from my top 5 that were in the final (Ukraine, Iceland, France, Sweden) were all fabulous! France's performance showed that if your country's broadcaster has stopped caring about Eurovision, this is the way to do it, unlike Spain's trying-too-hard comedy entry. The beards, the golf cart, the helium, the nonchalance - it was a bit of a trainwreck but a brilliant one. I think this is the first time I have seen a singer inhale helium on stage while singing during a live broadcast.

So, no matter the results, the winners to me are the best songs and performances, and this year's Eurovision season has provided a lot of great songs and performances and introduced me to many great new songs and artists.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Predictions for the Final...or Not

It's finally here and after all this time reading about's still pretty hard to make a prediction. This is most likely due to the addition of two semi finals, because we know that 20 songs were voted on enough by viewers to pass on to the finals already, but since we don't know how those songs placed each song has the potential to be a neighbor favorite, the jury pick, or the overwhelming favorite. This change really seems to be positive: getting better songs into the final instead of letting last year's top 10 slide by with minimal effort, cutting down on complaints of neighborly and diaspora voting (at least in the semifinals, the complaints will be there in the final), and finally adding more suspense and excitement to the whole thing, which is really the point of an entertainment program - to entertain and excite you. The change in the fan community has been amazing too. In February and March a lot of people were complaining about the quality of the songs, but now the general consensus seems to be that this final will be excellent.

I will offer some (unoriginal) predictions about the Big 4 and last years winner: The United Kingdom, Germany, and unfortunately France will probably end up as part of the bottom 5, and Spain and Serbia will probably end up in the top 10 if not the top 5. My record so far is about 75% so I know I'll be wrong on at least one or two of these.

Now, as for who I hope will win: I'd be thrilled if Sweden, Iceland, or Portugal won; happy if Armenia, Bosnia, Greece, Romania, Serbia, or Ukraine won; worried for the fan reaction if Russia or Spain won; and any other winner would either surprise or disappoint me.

Again, I'll wish good luck to all the performers, stage crew, and broadcasters that they put on an entertaining and technically flawless show!

Note: I will comment on the final results tomorrow, as I want to see the fan response before I say anything

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Semifinal 2 Reaction

Oh! My! God!
This evening when the qualifiers were announced is the tensest this contest has made me this year, and what a thrilling end to the show! My predictions were only 70% correct, instead of what I thought were almost certain qualifiers Belarus, Bulgaria, and FYR Macedonia, we got Albania, Denmark, and Iceland! I think the internet is in shock, and I'm sure a lot of people have lost money on bets.

Other points of interest
- Georgia's dancing nurse postcard
- Lys Assia being a diva "Usually I get a standing ovation"

In my opinion this will be a great final. 16 finalists (including 3 automatic finalists) are in my top 25, and the ones that aren't have grown on me a bit, with the exception of the UK and Denmark's songs. I'll write more before the grand final on my predictions for its result.

Predictions for Semifinal #2

Late again, but not too late. It's been harder to predict this semifinal, because there are fewer songs that it seems everyone agrees will qualify. Here goes:


Let's see how many I get right or wrong. I have a feeling that I'll be even less accurate than last show.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mic Stands Shine A Light

The song that most of the usual places are upset about not qualifying is "Your Heart Belongs To Me" from the Netherlands. It was wonderfully performed, but one thing in particular stuck out. Look in the background...what do you see?


You may think, what does that have to do with anything? Take a trip back to 2006. What fan favorite that year had those objects?

And we all know how that turned out (as a side note, I only just now noticed that the backing dancers do the famous knee swing).

Therefore, it seems that brightly color microphone stands harm a song's chance of qualifying. Please comment if there are any examples that prove me wrong that I have forgotten about.

Semifinal 1 Reaction

Whew! What a relief for the voting to be over! For once, I'm glad to be wrong (although I think getting 8/10 is good enough). I'm happy that Estonia and Moldova didn't make it and that instead Finland and Norway did. I'm also happy that both Americans qualified. The qualification that gets me most excited is Israel, because it breaks the "curse" of song #2 not qualifying (and obviously I want song #2 on Thursday to do well).

It's interesting that only 3 of the qualifiers came from the first half of the show. It's hard to tell if this is from a stronger 2nd half or the fact that there is less of a wait between hearing these songs and voting.

Besides that, it was for the most part a great show. I really loved the postcards but the camerawork wasn't that great.

I'll post again before the 2nd semifinal with my predictions for that.

Predictions for Semifinal #1

It's a little late, but there's still two hours until the show begins, so it's not too late in my mind.

Here are some predictions I feel confident will come true (in both semifinals):
- A fan favorite will turn out to sound abysmal and will not qualify.
- An expected qualifier will not, and a song that few expected to qualify will (this one will be assumed to be the jury's pick).
- More eastern than western countries will qualify.
- Everyone will be unhappy with the result, and claim that the contest is going downhill/fixed/not worth their broadcasters' money.

Really, if there's anything I've learned about fandoms in general, it's that everyone has something to hate about what they love.

As for my predicted qualifiers, it's been hard to guess, because besides five countries that seem certain to qualify (I don't have to tell you which ones they are), the five remaining spots seem pretty open.

So, for my predictions, I'm going to be pessimistic and pick 10 "eastern" countries. That way, if any "western" countries qualify, it will be a pleasant surprise (whereas if I pick a few western countries and none make it, it will be an end-of-the-world disaster like everyone made last year out to be). I'm also leaving Slovenia out for that same reason, because it seems the staging is weird and I don't want it to break my heart if it doesn't qualify.


I'll post again this evening after the show, with my opinion on the result, which will hopefully be better than my prediction. Good luck to all the performers and delegations (although if any of them are reading my blog just before they have a show to put on, they must have their priorities all wrong).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Eurosunday: These songs are so divine

Finally it's time for the final Eurosunday ranking. I'm a little sad as I wish I could have spent more time and effort on this year's preselection reviews and rankings, but due to unfortunate school and family circumstances I was unable to. However, I'm also happy that this year's Eurovision season is coming to a close and by Thursday night we'll know the lineup of the final, and by Saturday night we'll have a winner. These are my top five songs and I can genuinely say that they're my absolute favorites of this year's group of songs.

5. Ukraine
Ani Lorak – Shady Lady
Reaction: This song exudes confidence, and it’s cliché to say this, but it’s fierce. It has a big fabulous catchy disco chorus. By the end Ani seems to claim control over the listener.
Best Part: ”I am a brand new star that you've never knoooooooooooown”
Rating: 5/5

4. France
Sebastien Tellier - Divine
Reaction: I was a little surprised to like this, as it’s very minimalist, and I think this is the first time I find low-fi to be charming. The singing is restrained but the melody is surprisingly catchy. The combination of the computerized doo-wop backing vocals and the French electro feel make this song sound both old-fashioned and modern, and completely charming and fun.
Best Part: Intro
Rating: 5/5

3. Slovenia
Rebeka Dremelj – Vrag naj vzame
Reaction: I loved the original version, which was more electro, but I love the newer version with more guitars too. It’s fun and catchy, but also has a hint of anger that is appealing.
Best Part: Chorus
Rating: 5/5

2. Iceland
Euroband – This is my life
Reaction: This was my favorite song in the Icelandic selection, but after it was translated into English I loved it more. This is like Romania 2006, an anthemic dance song with a memorable sing-along chorus. It has a positive message without getting saccharine, and the male and female vocals work well together.
Best Part: End of the bridge: “I have the power to change my waa-aa-aays! O-o-o-oh! This is my lii-ii-iife!”
Rating: 5/5

1. Sweden
Charlotte Perrelli – Hero
Reaction: Though it was the last song selected, I have listened to this song the most and it’s at the top of my list. It may have been soullessly engineered to be extremely catchy, with each little piece put together to sound perfect, but of course I can look past lack of integrity if the song appeals to me enough. And this song is wonderfully, impossibly catchy, with each little piece sounding great, especially the chorus, which seems to pop into my head even as I recall other songs. It’s a 3 minute piece of Swedish pop heaven.
Best Part: Key change
Rating: 5/5

Thank you for reading this year's rankings. This week I'll have comments before (predictions) and after (reactions) each live show.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Still so deaf to ask me why

Before I discuss my top 5 songs in Eurovision this year, I feel I should revisit the previous songs, especially the ones in the bottom half of my ranking. After listening to all the songs repeatedly, my opinions on a few of the songs have changed.

Estonia's song still remains at the bottom of my list, as it’s the least funny of the joke entries this year, which is to say that it is unfunny. While comparing my lists from the past years I noticed a startling trend: In 2006 I put Lithuania second last, and in 2007 I put Latvia last. An observant critic could use this to claim that I have a bias against the Baltic countries, and in fact my opinion of their songs has worsened over the two years I have written this blog - in 2006 my highest ranked Baltic song was Estonia at 21, in 2007 it was Estonia again at 26, and this year it was Lithuania at 30. I assure you that I have no bias against Baltic countries nor their musicians, and that these particular songs and performers just haven’t captured my heart.

But given my bias for and against performers (see #37 2006), it only came to my attention after I had written about it that Latvia’s Pirates of the Sea includes one member of, those purveyors of popera pap. I guess he has changed his target demographic from bored housewives with Italian fetishes (who get something from more appropriate countries this year) to children up past their bedtime. I’ll still give this one a pass because it’s catchier. Also, I finally remembered what it reminded me of:

Moldova has been sounding better and better to me, relaxing rather than boring as I initially felt (also when I first heard it I only heard the live version, and the studio version made improvements), and it even manages to get its way stuck into my head. It’s still nowhere near the top of my list but if I could redo my list I’d even put it towards the middle.

Spain has become a lot funnier to me, and somehow I’ve managed to memorize the first verse. However, I’m still keeping it at the bottom of my list because while it starts off funny, it fades fast, and after only two minutes I start getting bored. As much as I hated Ukraine’s song in 2007, it really grew on me and by the final I understood why it did well. Like Ukraine 2007, Spain this year seems to be the joke entry most likely to do well. However, even though ‘Dancing Lasha Tumbai” had fewer lyrics than “Baila el Chikichiki,” it managed to be musically catchier, due to infectious instrumental motifs and key changes.

When I first heard the Sanmarinese song, I instantly thought it was dull. Though I still don’t think that highly of it, after hearing a better quality version I realize it’s not as bad as I thought. Also, the lead singer is kind of cute.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Eurosunday: Believe In Me (who Believes In You)

Welcome to this week's Eurosunday. This week's is the penultimate for 2008, as this week I rank my top 6-10 songs.

10. Czech Republic
Tereza Kerndlova – Have Some Fun
Reaction:While I suppose a lot of Eurovision songs become guilty pleasures in different company, this song is one that I truly feel a little guilty for liking whenever I look at fan response. This song seems to be universally disliked by Eurovision fans, but I find it to be sweet and catchy. This is a simple pop/r&b ballad, not very original, but it has a cuteness and sunniness to it. The chorus has been stuck in my head since I first heard it.
Best Part:“We really get along/Like the sun goes with the sunshine/Like the grape goes with the grapevine”
Rating: 4/5

9. FYR Macedonia
Tamara feat. Vrcak & Adrian – Let Me Love You
Reaction: It’s criminal that this hasn’t gotten much fan attention. This is like Ninanajna 2008. Like Macedonia’s 2006 song, this is a hip-hop dance song, but this year’s song has a lot more going on. Drums and strings blend to create a stirring background, and the female singer and male rapper work well together.
Best Part: Chorus
Rating: 4/5

8. Greece
Kalomira – Secret Combination
Reaction: Greece has returned to the formula that won the contest for them in 2005 – female vocals with upbeat Greek-pop, although this time they picked an American instead of a Swede (and from Long Island no less!). It’s a very catchy song that will be perfect for summer.
Best Part: Chorus
Rating: 4/5

7. Russia
Dima Bilan – Believe
Reaction: Just two years after he reached second place in Athens, “They Call Me” Dima Bilan is back, this time with a more American sounding r&b ballad – naturally, as it was penned by an American. The lyrics are inspirational and the violin adds to the melody without drowning out the vocals.
Best Part: Bridge
Rating: 4/5

6. Bosnia & Herzegovina
Laka – Pokusaj
Reaction: It must be a mark of a good song that it can make me look at a genre that I had previously dismissed. This is definitely artier than the usual Eurovision song. The song starts with with chanting and by the chorus it explodes into piano-indie rock. I, a pop fan for the most part, would probably dismiss this as being the work of a hipster weirdo (which no doubt it is), but the chorus is so catchy, the lyrics are so sweet, and the whole act is so endearing that I can’t help but smile and enjoy it.
Best Part: Final choruses
Rating: 4/5

Next Sunday I'll reveal my top 5 songs (although if you can't guess by now what they are, there's no hope for you). However, you won't have to wait until next Sunday for more posts on the subject because I'll be doing more pre-contest recaps, with posts on preview videos, rehearsal impressions, and my ever-inaccurate predictions.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Eurosunday: I've Deciphered the Code

Today's Eurosunday contains the bottom third of the top 15. That may not seem a very significant number, but it's right about the point where I can call the songs listed some of my favorites. The last two years these spots have resulted in mixed scores – each year two end up in the top 5 and the other three end up at the bottom of the final or never make it there. As this is the group of rankings with the most stable actual performance, I'm a little tempted to pick 2 songs that I think will do well and 3 songs that I won't be upset with if they don't do well, but I've tried not to do that this time.

15. Malta
Morena – Vodka
Reaction: "Vodka" feels like a pop spy thriller, and not just for the lyrics. The driving beat of the lyrics feels like you're on a chase. The chorus and instrumental parts are bouncy and fun. Like the title implies, it leaves you with a bit of a buzz.
Best Part: Chorus
Rating: 4/5

14. Belarus
Ruslan Alehno – Hasta la vista
Reaction: "Work Your Magic" was my #1 pick last year, so of course I love this year's take on a young man from Belarus singing some camp tune. At the beginning of the year this was easily one of my top three songs, when it was disco. Some weeks later it was reworked to have a rock sound, presumably to be more like "Work Your Magic," and it seems that it's taking itself more seriously yet is still over-the-top enough to enjoy for that fact. It's great song, but somewhere along the line you realize that you're listening to a copy of a copy of Dima Bilan, and why listen to a copy when the real thing is in the same contest?
Best part: "I'm gonna miss you/Maybe"
Rating: 4/5

13. Armenia
Sirusho – Qele qele
Reaction: This song starts out sounding very traditional, and then swiftly turns into an ethnic dance song with strings and drums. It's comparable, maybe, to "My Number One" in this area. It combines local flavor with a drum beat to create what should be a dance floor hit.
Best Part: "Qeeeele" in the chorus
Rating: 4/5

12. Portugal
Vania Fernandes – Senhora do Mar
Reaction: This song starts off with the sound of waves and accordions, and grows more intense as it goes on. It's a bit like this year's "Rijeka bez imena", and not only because they both mention bodies of water. It starts off subtle and as the song goes on the backing instruments and vocals get louder. It's a Western answer to Balkan ballads, a challenger ready to aim for their success in the contest.
Best Part: Ending
Rating: 4/5

11. Serbia
Jelena Tomasevic – Oro
Reaction: In the Serbian national final, I was hoping for "Zavet" (which could be called "Molitva 2: Return of the Backup Singers") to win, but my second favorite was this one. Simply put, it's "Lane Moje 3". There's nothing wrong with that (unless you have problems with the writer of an entry hosting the show). Its strong strings and vocals keep this ballad from being one that puts you to sleep.
Best Part: "Nu na nej" chorus
Rating: 4/5

Next week I'll have my top 6-10. Will there be surprises? Probably not. Will I successfully defend my choices and taste? Hopefully.