James Corden presents … Crosswalk the Musical: Mary Poppins

(image via IMP Awards (c) Disney)


No matter how you slice it, James Corden is a joy.

An actor, singer and host of The Late Late Show With James Corden, he is an imaginatively talented man who is responsible for the viral-happy Carpool Karaoke, very funny skits and interviews, and the subject of this post, Crosswalk Musicals, where he and a very nimble cast perform songs from much-loved musicals during the pedestrian walk intervals at intersections.

It’s an inspired idea, brilliantly executed, with some serious talent, gorgeous costuming and yes, split-second timing, essential if you’re to avoid being run over by impatient city motorists, some of whom don’t see the entertaining side of Corden’s time-sensitive artistic endeavours.

His latest effort, which involves just a little, or a lot, parodying of theatre life, is Mary Poppins, staged live in London to a mostly appreciative audience, save for the white van drivers and one impatient pedestrian who walks across the screen mid-performance.

It’s bright, fun and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly fabulous!


Now this is music #90: Jessica Hernandez, Coin, Grizzly Bear, VÉRITÉ, From Indian Lakes


Given music’s deserved ubiquity in our society, it’s all too easy to forget how profound an effect it can have on our lives.

For those of who love music, truly deeply, madly, completely love it, it is essential, not just a way of adding colour and flavour to our day-to-day lives, but a way of making sense of them too.

So it is that these five artists, all of whom bring unique sounds and insight to the table, enrich our lives with every listen, reminding that life should never be something that just happens; rather it should be vital, alive, well-examined and beautifully articulated and then set to music so we can live all our days surrounding by songs that remind us how richly wonderful it is to be alive.


“Run Too Far” by Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas


Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas (image via official Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas Facebook page)


Hailing from Detroit, a city has experienced more than its share of misfortune over recent years and yet remains stoically vibrant and alive, Jessica Hernandez and the Delta know how to make soul/pop sizzle.

Not that beguiling, tub-thumping genre needs much help in that regard, but even so, there is a rich, muscular vitality to songs like “Run Too Far” that underscore how insanely talented this remarkable band is.

Drawn from their new album Telephone, which follows their 2014 debut album Secret Evil, the song fairly dances across and into your ears, gathering speed, momentum and giddy, pulsing intensity as it goes on.

It’s insanely, drop-dead catchy and is accompanied by a very cool video of which Jessica has this to say:

“The ‘Run Too Far’ video basically came about from a weekend trip with girlfriends. I met photographer Kate Hollowell at a cabin in Mexico through friends and we immediately hit it off and started talking about collaborating in some way. I loved her style of photography and she liked the band and so we started talking about how we could take her skills as a fashion photographer and my wacky style and music and make something we were both really proud of. We brought on our friend Hannah Peterson who filmed, Kate directed, and I styled the shoot. The whole video is basically three girlfriends fucking around in the desert and experimenting with things we’ve wanted to experiment with. We of course had the help of Daniel Yoon who edited the video and assisted the shoot, as well as Sydney Shafer and Penelope Gazin who provided their awesome dance moves.” (Paste Magazine)

It’s all intoxicatingly listenable, the kind of music that fairly throbs with passion, meaning and an urge to run … far, with an infectious soundtrack to speed you on your way.



“I Don’t Wanna Dance” by Coin


Coin (image via official Coin Facebook page)


Formed in Nashville in 2012, COIN (Chase Lawrence on lead vocals & synthesizers), Ryan Winnen on drums, Joe Memmel on lead guitar and backing vocals and Zachary Dyke on bass guitar) are an indie pop band that deliciously mix dark and light, melancholic and immensely catchy in one brilliantly good song.

Make than an entire album actually – How Will You Know If You Never Try is the follow up to their eponymous 2015 debut album – which is packed to the sonic rafters with songs that have something to say and music that more than ably helps them say it.

This talented for being creative and thoughtful in equal measure exists to the video for their song which came with a very specific idea as as Ryan told Papermag:

“We exist in a city (Nashville) filled with grungy rock music and country. In our latest video by director Daniel Henry, we focused on the juxtaposition of the New Nashville with that older, grungy/country Nashville. We wanted to shoot whimsical (and intentionally awkward) scenes in locations that showcase Nashville’s history, but also exemplify the rising tourism we see on a daily basis.”

It’s an example of the way this band always comes as a compelling whole, with their music and visuals serving up a band that is enticing to listen to, fun to watch and has a winning sense of its own artistic self.



“Mourning Sound” by Grizzly Bear


Grizzly Bear (image via official Grizzly Bear Facebook page)


Grizzly Bear, who have been making brilliant indie pop in Brooklyn, new York since 2002, are showing no signs of succumbing to the kind of creative ennui that catch deleteriously many long-running bands.

Continuing their use of traditional sounds and bewitching electronica, the veteran band have delivered a fine single in “Mourning Sound”, which We Are the Guard describe thus:

“‘Mourning Sound’ is a propulsive, synth-speckled groove driven by a throbbing, low-slung bassline, with frontman Ed Droste topping things off with arguably one of his most sweepingly melancholic, grand vocal performances to date.”

Yes to every part of that pithy, spot-on assessment with “Mourning Sound” rich with substance and meaning, a highly-melodic melancholy pulsing through every compelling note.



“When You’re Gone” by VÉRITÉ


VÉRITÉ (image via official VÉRITÉ Facebook page)


There is nothing finer than a song that reaches right into the very depths of your soul and shakes you so hard that you wonder how it is you existed before you know of its existence.

Brooklyn-based VÉRITÉ aka Kelsey Byrne has a knack for drawing together a multitude of influences and sounds, something that Hillydilly notes she uses to characteristically-attractive effect on “When You’re Gone”:

“Leaning more toward the rock-influenced sound she found on ‘Phase Me Out’, ‘When You’re Gone’ is a fluorescent, yearning example of VÉRITÉ’s evolving artistry. She’s no stranger to mixing styles, and she proves this (again) by being able to make the song upbeat and pared-down, electronic and pop-rock, and vocal and instrumental.”

Her music is richly, mesmerisingly thoughtful and intensely beautiful to listen to, an enticing mix of thought and sensation that can’t help but beguile you as it goes deep into your very being and refuses to leave.

And frankly, why the hell would you want it to?



“Sunlight” by From Indian Lakes


From Indian Lakes (image via official From Indian Lakes Facebook page)


Headed by California-native songwriter/producer/singer Joey Vannucchi, From Indian Lakes is a band that specialises in a gorgeously immersive blend of ethereal pop and rock, anchored by a voice that aches with a slew of wistfully-rich emotions.

This emotional resonance that fills each and every song with a beautifully accessible emotionality that elevates it from run-of-the-mill indie pop and grants it the ability to touch you deeply and profoundly where other music glances off you with nary a moment of impact.

It has a delightful mix of music that has seen the band tour with the Bad Suns and Balance & Composure, attracting increasing levels of attention and ardour, all the while reminding us that there is great value in simply stopping, listening and being.

“Sunlight” double down on that truth, a soul-restorative blend of blissful truths and sweet melodies, just what the flee-from-stress doctor ordered.


It may sound hard to believe but up until a few years ago, I wasn’t much of an Alicia keys fan. I loved many of her songs but never really gelled with her as an artist; but then a good friend who adores her took me to a concert and I fell in love with her artistry, soulful voice and strong sense of self.
All this has led to what I’m widely regarding as one of my favourite songs of 2017, her relatively new single “In Common” – OK it’s not new at all, having been released in May 2016 but it’s new to me and that will do as justification for the purpose of this post.


Now this is music #89: Knox Fortune, STRØM, Lxandra, Refs, Ruby Fields


One of the things I love about music is its complexity and relatability, the way it helps you to not just make sense of life but to add to it too, even if it all it does is lift you up for a moment.

At the end of a long week, the ability of music to transform a moment or a day is a godsend, a lifting of mood and spirit that can transform a dreary Friday, weighted with the stresses and worries of the week, from “just gotta get through it” to “maybe I can dance just a little.”

The best part of these five artists is that they combine some heady mood-lifting with lyrics that actually ponder life in a substantial way, giving you blissful escape and existential musing all at once, surely the best way to end any week.


“Help Myself” by Knox Fortune


Knox Fortune (image courtesy official Knox Fortune Facebook page)


There’s an exuberant musical diversity to “Help Myself” from singer and producer Knox Fortune, the voice on Chance the Rapper’s insanely-catchy and very popular uptempo song “Up All Night”.

It’s a reflection of the talent of this artist who, as Sterogum rightly observes, “moves from florid orchestral pop to hard, rhythmic old-school soul.”

You can understand why Knox is widely regarded as an up-and-coming artist to watch, someone who can move fluidly from sound to sound, genre to genre, and invest songs like “Help Myself” with a wistful emotional intensity.

He is most definitely one to watch, an artist who has shown with just one song that he is on the cutting edge, capable of blending beautiful music with thoughtful lyrics into eminently listenable and immersive tracks.



“Mesmerize” by STRØM


STRØM (image via official STRØM Soundcloud page)


In a sign that the deep well of musical talent in Sweden is nowhere near close to being tapped, 27 year old STRØM has emerged with a brilliant sound that blends etehreally-light vocals with some hard, dark electronica.

His approach finds full voice, quite literally, on “Mesmerize” which, as Hillydilly notes, is a pleasing bringing together of all sorts of sounds and influences:

“When first listening to this, you will hear electronic-pop tones with a definitively dark undertow, yet, it cannot be confined exclusively to that categorization. If isolated, the delicate falsetto and subtle guitar arrangements from STRØM would work just as well in the indie-folk genre, yet “Mesmerize” is given life through dark, pulsing synths that are punctuated by sharp, stabbing percussion to create a sound that is almost otherworldly.”

It very much reflects a Scandinavian musical aesthetic, an enticing mix of light and dark, sweet and bitter, that lends pop music from places like Sweden so much substance and weight, and makes STRØM such an exciting person to keep an eye on.



“Flicker” by Lxandra


Lxandra (image courtesy official Lxandra Facebook page)


Hailing from the small Finnish island of Suomenlinna, Lxandra is blissfully, fabulously one of a kind.

Possessing an earthy, rich, emotionally-resonant voice, her songs, though possessed of whimsically pop flourishes, are intensely thoughtful pieces, lyrical thoughtful and and pronounced, coupled with music that is both jaunty and suitably dramatic too.

Marrying all these elements is not something that many people would attempt but Lxandra manages it with aplomb creating something singularly different and utterly compelling in the process.

If you’re looking for a departure from the musical everyday, then Lxandra is most definitely the artist you have been looking for and should keep listening to over and over.



“Forever” by Refs


Refs (image courtesy official Refs Facebook page)


It’s been a reasonable break between musical drinks for Refs aka Broolyn singer/songwriter/producer Zachary Lipkins but after making a big splash a couple of years back with debut single “Pain Goes Away, but he’s back with a deeply soulful uptempo number “Forever”.

This is a joyous gem of a pop track, surging forward with a heady, carefree momentum that will quickly wrap you up in its upbeat soul exuberance and belie its lyrical sober context .

Featured on the final season of HBO’s Girls, “Forever” is the product of refs trying to challenge the way he makes pop music.

“I think it was Tears for Fears where I was first like, wow, this is incredible music, but it’s also pop. That was sort of the bridge to pop music. Then I became invested in, okay, how could I take all these textures and environments that I’m familiar with and that are important to me and that I love and make it available for everybody to appreciate? I wanted to make stuff that I was really proud of, from where I was coming from.” (source: The Line of Best Fit)

He can definitely be proud of a song like “Forever” which is about as close to perfect as pop music can get.



“I Want” by Ruby Fields


Ruby Fields (image courtesy official Ruby Fields Facebook page)


Life is an altogether complicated, often agnst-ridden beast and you have to suspect that new Aussie artist Ruby Fields has tipped every last existentially-worn bit of it into her giddily upbeat punkish “I Want”.

It’s a driving piece of guitar-driven uptempo music that never stops for a moment but yet contains all kinds of introspective lyrical moments that give the song a thoughtful centre to all its bright, brash musicality.

“I Want” is an aspirational piece of rock – “I want to be more than my parents’ opinion and my ATAR” – an ode to life’s possibilities from an artist who’s clearly not going to settle for the same old same old.

It’s brilliantly good music that captures you instantly and may lead you to make all kinds of life affirming decisions; as life declarations go, you couldn’t hope for a better soundtrack.





With the Eurovision Song Contest done and dusted for another year, one thing many people can agree on is that the winning song “Amar Pelos Dios” by Salvador Sobral from Portugal was a worthy, inexpressibly beautiful and poignant winner.

As you might expect, the covers have already begun to flow with one of the standouts being this lovely rendition by Alexander Rybak who won the contest for Norway in 2009 with the impishly joyful song “Fairytale”.

Enjoy and waft away on a raft of delightful loveliness and whimsy …



Now that the glitter has settled: Eurovision Song Contest 2017 wrap-up

(Photo: Andres Putting courtesy Eurovision.tv)


This was an oddly quiet year for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Granted yes there was the kerfuffle over Russia sending along an act to compete who had, in contravention of well-documented Ukrainian law, performed in Crimea, a brazenly provocative act that saw them withdraw from the event this year, but but by and large, it was a year of fairly ordinary songs, only occasionally weird props (A man with a horsehead sitting on a giant ladder? Why yes, thank you Azerbaijan! A man sitting atop a Dreamworks moon? Don’t mind if I do Austria!) and a gracefully beautiful song by Portugal that thoroughly deserved to win.

Standouts this year were the UK actually having a singer that could do justice to a fairly lacklustre song, Romania making yodelling hella cool, Norway having the best bridge of any song in the competition, Greece’s HOT muscular back-up dancers and Croatia’s thoroughly odd though strangely endearing two-singers-in-one schtick.

Once again, it was wonderful to be surrounded by great friends while watching it all unfold and I’m looking to heading off to Lisbon, Portugal, for Port, Portugese tarts, marmalade and yes, tempura (it’s a Portugese invention!).


(courtesy Eurovision.tv)


And now for a fantastically wrap-up of the event, I present to you …

Fireworks, feelings, and fraught relations at Eurovision 2017

Jess Carniel, University of Southern Queensland


For one week in May, the bleary-eyed in our workplaces are not the sports fans following northern hemisphere leagues, nor are they the new parents. They are Eurovision fans. And we are legion. The Conversation

The Eurovision Song Contest offers its fans glitz (or at least glitter), glamour, politics, intrigue, increasingly limited lessons in how to count in French and, of course, music. This year’s contest, hosted by Ukraine in Kyiv, offered up these elements in spades with music, in the words of Portuguese winner Salvador Sobral, proving to be the ultimate victor. As he effused in his acceptance speech,

This could be a victory for music, with people who make music that actually means something. Music is not fireworks, music is feeling!



Indeed, it was the charm and emotional intensity of Sobral’s performance of “Amar Pelos Dois” at both the first semi-final and the grand final that won over both popular and jury voters. The gentle, lyrical jazz/pop ballad was written by his sister, Luisa Sobral, a graduate of the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston, and is Portugal’s first win.

As Salvador suffers from a heart condition that requires frequent rest and medical attention, Luisa took his place in the rehearsals throughout the week. Fans were finally treated to her own singular vocals when she joined her brother on stage for the victor’s reprise.

Pop politics

Portugal’s victory was a surprise to many – and several expressed displeasure at how Sobral’s acceptance speech derided pop music and by extension his fellow contestants. It was an upset for Italy’s Francesco Gabbani who had led the bookmaker’s favourites until Saturday afternoon.


Italy’s Francesco Gabbani performs the song “Occidentali’s Karma”: he had been the bookies’ favourite. Gleb Garanich/Reuters


But odds are never a sure thing. Last year’s favourite Sergey Lazarev (Russia) led the odds, only to come in third to Ukraine’s Jamala and Australia’s Dami Im.

It also signals the first non-English language win at Eurovision since Serbia’s Marija Šerifović in 2007. While there are currently no rules about the language used in submissions, from 1966 to 1999 (with the exception of three years), it was a requirement that songs be performed in one of the official languages of the country. These days only a handful of artists perform in their own language each year, preferring to sing in English.


Sobral celebrates the win. (image Gleb Garanich/Reuters)


Still, the tide could be turning on the popularity of English lyrics at Eurovision. While the number of entries has not necessarily increased, their popularity has. All non-English acts qualified from the semi-finals – Portugal was joined by crowd favourites in Hungarian and Belarusian – and France, Spain and Italy sang in their own languages. (Croatia also warrants a mention, as Jacques Houdek’s “My Friend” includes operatic Italian lyrics.)

With the exception of Germany, which placed second-last, the Big 5 (France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the UK) performed solidly. These are the biggest financers for the contest, and in return qualify automatically for final.

Brexit at Eurovision

Eurovision and the UK have had a bumpy relationship, and at least one survey suggests a British vote to leave Eurovision would have the same result as the EU referendum.

Over the past decade, the UK has done notoriously poorly at Eurovision. Hostility from Eurovision audiences toward the UK is primarily based on the opinion that they do not take Eurovision seriously, withholding quality performers and songs. On occasion the UK has defended itself, citing politics for its poor performance. In 2003, both BBC commentator Terry Wogan and performer Chris Cromby responded to the no-score result for Jemini’s off-key performance by accusing Europe of post-Iraq backlash against the UK. There may be some truth to this claim (Jemini’s dressing room was allegedly vandalised).

This year’s entry, Lucie Jones singing “Never Give Up On You” (penned by Danish Eurovision-winner Emmelie de Forrest, Daniel Salcedo, and Lawrie Martin), was doubtless a concerted effort by the UK to reverse this view, and was seen by some as a post-Brexit apology.


UK’s Lucie Jones performing Never Give Up on You. (image Gleb Garanich/Reuters)


“I’ll never give up on you,” Jones belted beautifully, “You’re the one that I’m running to/Just give me your hand and hold on/Together we’ll dance through this storm.”

As many of the economic and political ties between Europe and the UK are dissolved, cultural connections like Eurovision will become even more important to sustain.

While the UK is staying in the contest for the time being, Israel sadly announced its departure from the competition live on air during the voting. Israel’s public broadcaster IBA closed down this week. Its replacement channel, Kan, doesn’t satisfy the requirements of Eurovision membership.

Bloc voting remains a key characteristic of Eurovision, but the trend hit a sour note with the punters this year as the crowds booed obvious vote-swaps between Greece and Cyprus during the jury vote.

Solid performance from Australia

And how did Australia fare in its third time competing? Former X-Factor winner Isaiah Firebrace still needs some time to find his comfort zone on the stage, but his grand final performance of “Don’t Come Easy” shed the problematic notes of the semi-finals to place ninth in the final tally.



Speaking of Australia and bum notes, viewers were mortified at the sudden appearance of an Australian flag-clad man baring his derriere during last year’s winner Jamala’s performance of her new song, “I Believe In U”. The good news (well, for Australians) is that the flasher has been revealed to be Ukrainian serial prankster, Vitalii Sediuk.

Russian-Ukrainian tensions

The Ukrainian hosts ended the show on a political note. Their closing declaration – “We are a tolerant, open, and modern country”- seems a pointed response to the criticisms and controversies that have courted Ukraine and the Kyiv production in the lead-up to this year’s competition.


Ukraine’s O.Torvald performs the song Time in the final. (image Gleb Garanich/Reuters)



Ukraine’s 2016-winning song “1944” referred to Stalin’s deportation of the Crimean Tartars, and was interpreted by many – certainly by Russia – as commentary on the more recent annexation of Crimea. This prompted speculation about whether Russia would submit an entry at all in 2017.

Next, staff from Ukraine’s broadcaster walked out of the organising committee. Finally, Russian-Ukrainian tensions over Crimea reached boiling point (again) when Ukrainian authorities banned Russian contestant Yulia Samoylova from entering the country because a 2014 visit to the Crimea violated Ukrainian law. The European Broadcasting Union offered two solutions that would enable Russian participation, but Russia elected instead to withdraw from the contest.

With this in mind, Portugal offers a fairly benign respite from the political turmoil of 2016-17 – Sabrol’s challenge to pop music notwithstanding. I look forward to seeing what they, the rest of Europe and, of course, Australia have to offer. See you again at 5am next May.

Jess Carniel, Lecturer in Humanities, University of Southern Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

I have been waiting for these Visitors: @gezanthony’s amazingly evocative ABBA videos #Eurovision2017

He has been waiting for these Visitors (image courtesy Gerard Maree)


If there is one thing that really made ABBA’s name, apart from their superlatively good music and a handy high-profile win at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, its the way they pioneered the use of visual images, in concert with now-famed director Lasse Hallström, to promote their songs as they were released.

While it was prompted in part by the reluctance of the band to be away from home for too long – Björn and Agnetha were the parents of young children and touring would have meant long stints away from them – the videos soon took on a life of their own and became a way of expressing who the band were as much as what they sounded like.

In line with that grand tradition, Australian ABBA fan Gerard Maree, who I’m happy to call a friend, has married songs such as “The Visitors”, “The Day Before You Came” and “Head Over Heels” with scenes from the golden years of Hollywood films, most notably those of Alfred Hitchcock, creating richly atmospheric clips that lend a whole new lease of life to ABBA’s sophisticated pop gems.

He kindly agreed to be interviewed for this post, giving us great insight into his fandom, his creative process and what might be next for him.

It’s obvious from the care you’ve put into your videos that you are a long time fan. When did your love affair with ABBA begin and how has it taken form over the years?
ABBA and I go back a long way to when I was four years old and “Mamma Mia” was my first record. When I was six years old I was lucky enough to go to the Friday night concert at the Sydney Show Ground – some remnants of memory of that night still remain. The music and fandom has never left me. Naturally I love the whole ABBA catalogue but the later albums are my favourites and have meant the most to me in my adult life. I may be in a minority amongst the fans for that reason.




What inspired you to create these videos which are essentially stories set to ABBA’s songs?
Some years back I got the idea of a video for “The Visitors” using Hitchcock movies. Since childhood I have also been a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan. “The Visitors” is such a dark, richly atmospheric song. It’s narrative and building tension lends itself so well to the Hitchcock suspense. Also “The Visitors” is a largely underplayed song, and with no accompanying music video and therefore no visual images that previously defined it. So it was rich, untapped territory.

Last year I finally took some time to start putting it together. I’d never edited anything of that length and detail before. I honestly didn’t know how it would turn out or if I would even show it to anyone. After I edited the first clips played over the introduction I’ll never forget the chills I felt the first time I heard Frida start singing “ I hear the doorbell ring…..” and there was Jimmy Stewart’s petrified face on the screen. Having been a huge fan of both ABBA and Hitchcock for most of my life you can imagine what an ecstatic labour of love that project was!

How do you decide which songs will work best for the video you have in mind?
The ideas came from the songs and images the song creates. As I said “The Visitors”/Hitchcock thing just seemed to gel in my mind, and each time I heard the song I would contemplate which possible movie scene could be used. But it’s generally been unplanned. After I finished “The Visitors” clip I was very happy with it but didn’t plan on another one. Then probably because of seeing the old movie clips something gelled about “Head Over Heels” and the line “she’s a leading lady”. This led to the idea of the montage of the leading ladies of the so called “golden age” of movies. For many years prior to that I had mostly dismissed “Head Over Heels” as a nothing song and I often skipped the track when playing the album. But once that “leading ladies” idea was in my head it just grew. And when it came time to collect and edit the footage I found that the tempo of the song worked perfectly with the images of the star divas strutting across the screen. I am a lover of old movies as you may have guessed by that clip so I had an idea of the scenes I wanted to use. Doing that clip also made me appreciate that song a bit more. Although it would never have been a hit single, it is still quite a sophisticated song and – if I may say so – I think my Leading Ladies clip gives the song more zest and sass!



What is your favourite ABBA song or songs and do you think they will lend themselves to your evocative visual treatment?
Well I did bite the bullet with this one when I did the clip for “The Day Before You Came (TDBYC)”. In my adult life this song has emerged and remained my favourite ABBA song. Right after I did “The Visitors” clip a close friend immediately suggested I do one for “TDBYC”. My initial reaction was no. I couldn’t. It has it’s own music video which I felt was great, with its sad love story and all four members positioned and looking away from each other as the lights dimmed on them for the last ever recording. How could I do an additional clip for that song?

But some months later the idea grew on me and I thought about how powerful a clip with movie scenes for this song could be. The song is so brilliant because it is so understated. While Agnetha’s delivery is deliberately even the whole way through as she sings about the day before the person came – the subtle changes and shifts in the accompaniment suggest what is happening now. Also Frida’a harmonies play a huge, subliminal part in the emotional impact of the song. They suggest so many strong emotions and leave so much to the imagination.

When making all three music clips and playing the songs over and over to select and edit footage, I came to appreciate the full sophisticated musical arrangements even more. Of course I was all ready very, very familiar with them but this experience brought me right up close to the background elements of the recordings.



I was also fortunate to obtain all the movie scenes and as the editing of “TDBYC” went along Brief Encounter and Brokeback Mountain emerged as the two main bookends of the clip. During the Frida’s final harmonies and the last instrumental section I had originally envisioned having a montage of scenes from each of the films used but I realised the impact was better by allowing some longer scenes to play out fully – such as the jacket hugging scene at the end of Brokeback Mountain and the departure scene in Brief Encounter.

A similar thing happened in “The Visitors” when I originally thought of a fast montage for the final chorus until I realised that letting the climatic scenes from The Birds and Psycho play out in full was much better.

What’s next? Any exciting videos or ideas in the pipeline?
Nothing definite at the moment. If anything I’d like to do another of their darker songs that reflect a bit of what’s going on with some of our disturbing world leaders – perhaps “The Piper” or “Soldiers”? “Cassandra” was also suggested to me. I’d love to do that but at this point I can’t quite envision it. I shall keep you posted.

Happy Eurovision 2017!

Now this is music #88: Klyne, BRÅVES, Billie Eilish, Perfume Genius, Bipolar Sunshine


Life, you may have noticed – oh go on, you must have! – is a pretty complicated business.

It zigs when you think it will zag, rises when you’re convinced it should fall, and never quite makes sense; well, not enough of the time anyway.

Which is why you need artists like the five worth recipients that follow, people who not only seek to understand life and its heartache, anger and lack of fulfilment but do it in a way that is musically and visually pleasing in ways that will leave you deeply impressed and soulfully-touched.

This is music that not only gives you a soundtrack to living but gets you thinking you tap your feet …


“Still Not Over You” by Klyne


Klyne (Photo by Synchrodogs via official Klyne facebook page)


We’ve all been there – the relationship is over, dead & buried, and though our heart knows its run its course and Cupid is tending its grave, our heart refuses to come to grips with the sad reality.

It’s not a pretty situation in any way and yet the Dutch electronic duo of Nick Klein and Ferdous Dehzad have come along and given this most unenviable of places a soundtrack that is gloriously yearning, truly, deeply, emotionally resonant, and yes, danceable.

You may not think dancing is the best way to handle a broken heart, one which has yet to even come close to healing itself but Klyne prove that may be the best medicine of all, with “Still Not Over You” sounding almost jaunty, I said “almost”, even as its devastatingly plaintive lyrics play out.

It’s dark and it’s light and while you may not be feel as poppy as this track might suggest when your heart is in a thousand smashed pieces on the floor, Klyne do a superb job of convincing you there is a dancefloor rhythm somewhere in that discordant mess.



“Catch me” by BRÅVES


BRÅVES (image courtesy official BRÅVES Facebook page)


If you don’t think that catchy, even edgy music can have a serious, thoughtful purpose, then let me present you with the musical fruit of Australian band BRÅVES efforts.

“Catch Me”, which features a clever, thought-provoking video that shows actor Matthew Lillard creatively sparring with Doctor Victor Pineda, is the result of production team Jericho, Thorald of the Wood and Johnny What pooling their collective, considerable talents, and it is richly, beautifully and resonantly gorgeous.

And possessed of a substantial, intelligent soul that reflects the group’s desire to say something meaningful and important with their music in visually and artistically arresting ways.

It’s the perfect marriage of the visual and the auditory and it will be one of the most unique and intensely listenable experiences of your life, drawn from a debut album that is packed with such artfully pleasing pop.



“Bellyache” by Billie Ellish


Billie Eilish (image courtesy official Billie Eilish facebook page)


Musical prodigies seemed to be thick on the ground these days and yet when they’re as talented as 15 year old Billie Eilish, who seems to have packed a lot, and I mean a LOT, of revengeful musing into her short life, you really don’t mind.

Writing with her brother Finneas O’Connell, the L.A. choir-singing native, who kicked off what is going to be an intensely and musically-rewarding career at the age of 8 when she begin composing songs, Billie Eilish is one of those “Most likely to storm the charts” types who for all her accessibility musically, is determined to say something really worthwhile with her artistic output.

“Bellyache”, which follows her Lorde-esque debut “Ocean Eyes”, and has been described by Noisey as “an acoustic-led, Latin-influenced macabre tale that … kicks [into a chorus] with skittering R&B beats”, is its own piece of indie pop brilliance, a dreamy, guitar-driven beauty that comes with a dark heart.

It’s a rich synthesis of music and lyrics that pleases the ears and get the mind thinking, one that augurs well for an artist that is poised to deliver some very clever pop in the years to come.



“Slip Away” by Perfume Genius


Perfume Genius (image courtesy official Perfume Genius Facebook page)


Perfume Genius is one those gloriously multilayered, quintuple (or more) threat talents who give us music that is invigorating, beautiful, truthful and real and accompanied by a strongly visual sense of who this thoroughly unique artist is.

Flamboyant with a purpose, Mike Hadreas knows how to marry the visual and the melodic in ways that lesser talents can only dream about, and “Run Away” which hails from his new album No Shape, fits this with an elegant campness, combining what Fader calls ” [a] borderline panoramic [sensibility], hinged on lavish melodies and full-bodied arrangements” with a video tapestry that We Are the Guard suggests combines the spirit of Meatloaf and Boy George.

Now that is impressive and confirms that Seattle-based Perfume Genius has not his genius for outlandish visuals that speak with perfect resonancy of the musical delights they seek to portray.

This is music that leaps, bounds and theatrically dances off the screen, and it is so good, you will find yourself happily lost and immersed in music and visuals that are the very epitome of what pop is at its very best.



“Are you Happy?” by Bipolar Sunshine


Bipolar Sunshine (image courtesy official Bipolar Sunshine Facebook page)


Sporting the kind of arresting name that makes you pay attention before you listen to even a jot of music, Bipolar Sunshine aka Adio Marchant, who has made the journey from his hometown of Manchester UK to LA with admirable success, gives us music that makes to the heart.

It speaks to that great disconnect many of us experience in life when what’s happening to us and what we’re feeling don’t quite align as Stereogum notes:

“‘Are You Happy’ is one of those songs you can appreciate on both an emotional and intellectual level. Sonically it’s pure pleasure: a house track gone power ballad, all humongous piano chords and monster hooks. The mood is triumphant and melancholy all at once, which perfectly aligns with lyrics about the charade of pretending life is fulfilling when it’s not.”

It’s a song that faces up to life’s stark realities, ask some fairly pointed, serious and necessary questions, and yet has you grooving along while you do it, and who doesn’t want that?






Thought you’d heard all the possible different takes on ABBA song covers? Think again.

British band, The Real Tuesday Weld, who, according to Wikipedia, “are known for producing jazzy cabaret-style music with subtle electronica influences, a style dubbed “Antique Beat” by [founder Stephen] Coates”, have taken a totally unique take on ABBA’s penultimate single, 1981’s “The Day Before You Came” which is a lot of fun.


Road to Eurovision 2017: Week 7 – The Big Six: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom

(image via YouTube (c) Andrew Ionov)


What is the Eurovision Song Contest?
Started way back in 1956 as a way of drawing a fractured Europe back together with the healing power of music, the Eurovision Song Contest, or Concours Eurovision de la Chanson – the contest is telecast in both English and French – is open to all active members of the European Broadcasting Union, which oversees the competition.

Each country is permitted to submit one song to the contest – a song which is selected by a variety of means, usually a winner-takes-all competition such as Sweden’s renowned Melodifestivalen – which they perform in one of two semi-finals in the hopes of making it to the glittering grand final.

Only six countries have direct entry into the grand final:
* The Big Four who fund most of the contest – UK, Germany, France and Spain
* The host country (which is the winner of the previous year’s contest)
* Italy, who didn’t take part for many years and was re-admitted in 2011 after a 14 year absence (it was one of seven countries that competed in the first event), making the Big Four the Big Five.

The winner is chosen by a 50/50 mix of viewer votes (you cannot vote for your own country) and a jury of music industry professionals in each country, a method which was chosen to counter the alleged skewing of votes based on political and/or cultural lines when voting was purely the preserve of viewers at home.

Past winners include, of course, ABBA in 1974 with “Waterloo” and Celine Dion who won for Switzerland in 1988 with “Ne partez pas sans moi”.

Above all though, the Eurovision Song Contest is bright, over the top and deliciously camp, a celebration of music, inclusiveness and togetherness that draws annual viewing figures in the hundreds of millions.

This year’s contest will be held in Kyiv, Ukraine.


FRANCE: “Requiem” by Alma


Road to Eurovision The Big Six France flag


Go west young woman! Or east, or at least somewhere that’s not France to polish and improve your craft; and so Alma aka Alexandra Maquet, named one of the breakthrough artists of 2017 by just about everyone it seems, went abroad and by all accounts, opened a hitherto untapped well of songwriting talent.

And a knack for languages it seems with the young French singer, who began singing and playing in childhood, speaking English, Portuguese and Italian in addition to her native tongue.

Which is possibly how it is that her song “Requiem”, that she co-wrote with Nazim Khaled who part-penned last year’s French entry “J’ai Cherché” for Amir, contains some English, in a bid, so Alam admits, “to reach a larger audience”.

There is no doubt that this singer and songwriter has a lot of talent, not to mention a love of hugs before she performs, and with Amir as her mentor stands a good chance of realising her Eurovision dreams.


Alam (image courtesy official Alam facebook page)


The good news is her song is more than up to the task.

Kicking off relatively sedately, it builds and builds with heartfelt vocals speeding into a pounding dancefloor burner of a chorus that neatly folds back into quieter verses.

This is a perfectly-poised, artfully-constructed gem of a pop song, its appeal considerably boosted by Alma’s deliciously emotional voice that invests every word with just the right amount of intent.

It may not win the competition, although given her presence and vocal ability that is not the beyond the realm of possibility, but damn we’ll have some fun on the way to someone else winning as we dance to this delightful number.




GERMANY: “Perfect Life” By Levina


Road to Eurovision The Big Six Germany flag


If there was a race to some imagined Darwinian finish line, then there’s a very good chance that Levina would win it.

She fended off 2000, yes 2000, other aspiring German singers to claim the right to represent Germany at this year’s contest, but keep in mind that she started this race very early on.

At the tender age of 9, Levina aka Isabelle Lueen won the prestigious music competition Jugend Musiziert, a victory which prompted her to start songwriting at 12, and in recent years, study music management at the London College of Music.

That’s a pretty impressive headstart for anyone and it augurs well for the young artist who splits her time between London and Berlin, and for the moment at least, Kyiv.

Still, for all that preparation and stickability, Eurovision, for all its glittery bells and whistles, is not for the fainthearted so has she got what it takes to make it to the finish line, crystal trophy in hand?


Levina (image courtesy official Levina Facebook page)


Honestly there’s every chance.

She has a distinctively husky voice that delivers an alluring range of emotions which means she can take a reasonably ordinary though not unattractive song to places you may not necessarily expect it to go.

For all her apparent talent however, the song, for all the effort she invests in making its midtempo melody come alive, never really goes anywhere, and if Germany is going to host next year Levina will need to bring something extra special to the stage.

That she can do it is beyond question; that she can beat a fearsome pool of other entrants, all of whom are their respective country’s big fish, is another thing entirely, and at this point, I wouldn’t be booking tickets to Berlin just yet.



ITALY: “Occidentali’s Karma” by Francesco Gabbani


Road to Eurovision The Big Six Italy flag


Don’t let the bright, fun clothes, the breezy, smile-drenched persona or the iridescently-alive video clip (which has been viewed over 80 million times and counting, an Eurovision record) fool you – Francesco Gabbani is no lightweight, froth-and-bubble flash in the musical pan.

He has won Italy’s highly regarded Sanremo Music Festival twice, released two very successful albums with a third on the way, composed all kind of sings for published BMG, and now has a megahit, viral sensation with “Occidental Karma” (which comes complete with a dancing ape because of course it does).

So the man whose parents ran a musical instruments shop in his hometown of Carrara in Tuscany can write, and sing and perform up a storm, meaning he clearly has the goods to make good on the promise he has shown to date.

But a glittering YouTube melee over a song is one thing but can his song translate to Italy’s first win since 1990 and their first since returning to the contest in 2011?


Francesco Gabbani (image courtesy official Francesco Gabbani Facebook page)


Dancing primates aside – and Francesco assures us she “adores” being on stage – “Occidental Karma” is insanely infectious.

So infectious in fact that my initial ambivalence to the song, conjured up in part by the hype attached to the song, soon fell by the wayside, and I found myself dancing like a fool to the song which builds and builds into the sort of musical powerhouse that brooks no resistance.

But a song in a clip is one thing, performing live is quite another but here Francesco shows he has the goods too with an impressive performance in the first round of rehearsals which augurs well for Italy fulfilling all that viral hype.

Honestly I think there are better songs in the contest – think Israel for one – but “Occidental Karma” and Francesco’s raspily seductive vocals carry with them the real possibility of creating a Eurovision moment, such as the ones delivered by Loreen in 2012 and Conchita Wurst in 2014.

And we all know by now, it’s those moments that sweep people up in a collective miasma of voting joy and win the contest – Houston, I think we have a winner.



SPAIN: “Do It For Your Lover” by Manel Navarro


Road to Eurovision The Big Six Spain flag


Now this is how you bridge the musical generational divide if you’re Manel Navarro – draw in influences as diverse as Bob Dylan and Ed Sheeran, and mix them together in your own compositions to winning effect.

How great a winning effect you ask? Well in 2014, he won the second edition of a regional singing contest, Catalunya Teen Star with a cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (his covers have done as well as his original compositions on social media).

With a record contract with Sony in hand, and an opening slot on Sweet California’s 2015 Wonder Tour behind him (albeit with a reasonably controversial selection as Spain’s entrant still dogging him) the world must be at young Manel’s feet surely. (He seems to think so saying, oh so modestly, that “I look good on camera!”)



Manel Navarro (image courtesy official Manel Navarro Facebook page)


Based on sheer chartability alone, Manel Navarro has it in the bag.

He is telegenic as hell, channels his inner Jack Johnson like nobody’s business and has crafted a song in “Do It For Your Lover” that is undeniably catchy, the sort of song that is all over FM radio and streaming services worldwide.

But catchy as it might be, it’s the very ubiquity of its sound that could be its downfall; it sounds far too much like just about everything else out there, and while that may work on the charts, it doesn’t necessarily translate to Eurovision success where something distinctive (see Italy for example A to Z) goes a long, long way.

Charming guy, lovely song but it’s likely to sink without much impact, telegenic likeabiklity be damned.



UKRAINE: “Time” by O.Torvald


Road to Eurovision Week 6 Ukraine flag


How hip is O.Torvald, a rock band which was founded in Poltava, Ukraine in 2005?

Why their latest album, released last year, comes complete with built-in hashtag (#OurPeopleAreEverywhere) which no doubt saved everywhere on Facebook and Twitter a huge amount of time composing their posts.

Thoughtfulness aside, the band have made quite the splash, performing at any festival that will them (and that is a considerable number my friends) and touring through 2016 in Ukraine, which culminated in an epic concert in Stereo Plaza in Kyiv.

But all the success in the world (and Ukraine) does not a Eurovision winner make so does the most hashtag ready band around have what it takes to make their loud and unmissable presence felt at Eurovision?


O.Torvald (image courtesy official O. Torvald Facebook page)


Sure if Yevhen Halyc, Denys Myzyuk, Oleksandr Solokha, Mykyta Vasylʹyev and Mykola Rayda think they’re performing at Eurovision 1997.

It’s a classic rock song sure but that is more a mild pejorative than anything in this case; it’s loud and bombastic and almost fun but it lacks the chutzpah of rock songs such as Lorde’s “Hard Rock Hallelujah”, which won the contest in 2008.

There’s nothing remarkable about this paint-by-numbers effort which, while well delivered, never really sticks its head convincingly about the musical parapet.

A whole lot of musical sound and fury signifying nothing in the end.



UNITED KINGDOM: “Never Give Up on You” by Lucie Jones


Road to Eurovision The Big Six UK flag


The Welsh singer, actress and model has been doing what she does for a considerable while now, at least as far as today’s blink-and-they-disappear ephemeral pop world is concerned.

Kicking off proceedings in 2009, where she was a finalist in The X Factor UK, Lucie embraced her inner musical theatre goddess, taking roles in everything from Les Miserables, Ghost, the Musical and the We Will Rock You Arena Tour, and winning a DIMF Best Actress in a Musical Award for her portrayal of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde the Musical.

Not content with becoming the queen of all musicals – not an actual title but by god it should be right? – she has sung the Welsh and UK national anthems and taken the time, we kid you not, to learn the Harry Potter theme tune on the flute.

But life, as we all know, doesn’t play as neatly and sweetly as a musical so while all that experience should augur well for a fine showing at Eurovision, the UK has not been shown much kindness in recent years, a trend that won’t necessarily reverse just because it’s making its 60th appearance at the contest.


United Kingdom (image via official Lucie Jones Facebook page)


Based on crystal lyrics alone, Lucie Jones should take the contest out without barely a protest made.

Alas, incredibly attractive vocals alone do not a contest winner make, and “Never Give Up”, a thematic truism for UK if ever there was one, proves that, screaming pretty but derivative ballad from start to finish.

The lyrics don’t help much, selected, you suspect, on the basis that they rhyme and have been used plenty of times before so why not use them again?

Not an awful song and Lucie Jones applies as much life to it as she can, but the song is pretty much DOA from the word go.






Grand final interval acts at Eurovision are a hit-or-miss affair either brilliantly alive and engaging … or not. Thankfully Ukraine looks like they have gone with the former with ONUKA who have described their sounds thus:

“Their territory is the crossroads of many genres. The beautiful scenery of the dreamy electronica, cold Nordic melodies and sophisticated digital disco. And, of course, the chemistry…the junction of all things innovative, futuristic, deep and rooted. It is in the blend of trendy arrangements and elements of Ukrainian folk music for which [lead singer] Nata has been impregnated since childhood.”

That unfortunate choice of closing words aside, ONUKA sound brilliantly cool and edgy and could be the most interesting interval act since Norway in 2010 when Madcon gave us a pan-European flash mob with “Glow”.

For more on ONUKA go to Wiwibloggs.


Road to Eurovision 2017: Week 6 – Norway, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, The Netherlands + Russia

(logo courtesy Eurovision.tv)


What is the Eurovision Song Contest?
Started way back in 1956 as a way of drawing a fractured Europe back together with the healing power of music, the Eurovision Song Contest, or Concours Eurovision de la Chanson – the contest is telecast in both English and French – is open to all active members of the European Broadcasting Union, which oversees the competition.

Each country is permitted to submit one song to the contest – a song which is selected by a variety of means, usually a winner-takes-all competition such as Sweden’s renowned Melodifestivalen – which they perform in one of two semi-finals in the hopes of making it to the glittering grand final.

Only six countries have direct entry into the grand final:
* The Big Four who fund most of the contest – UK, Germany, France and Spain
* The host country (which is the winner of the previous year’s contest)
* Italy, who didn’t take part for many years and was re-admitted in 2011 after a 14 year absence (it was one of seven countries that competed in the first event), making the Big Four the Big Five.

The winner is chosen by a 50/50 mix of viewer votes (you cannot vote for your own country) and a jury of music industry professionals in each country, a method which was chosen to counter the alleged skewing of votes based on political and/or cultural lines when voting was purely the preserve of viewers at home.

Past winners include, of course, ABBA in 1974 with “Waterloo” and Celine Dion who won for Switzerland in 1988 with “Ne partez pas sans moi”.

Above all though, the Eurovision Song Contest is bright, over the top and deliciously camp, a celebration of music, inclusiveness and togetherness that draws annual viewing figures in the hundreds of millions.

This year’s contest will be held in Kyiv, Ukraine.


NORWAY: “Grab the Moment” by JOWST


Road to Eurovision Week 6 Norway flag


To be honest, crowdsourcing is the not the first thing that leaps to mind when you think of taking part in Eurovision.

But that is exactly what sound engineer, producer and teacher (and rampant multitasker) JOWST aka Joakim With Steen did when he was chosen to represent Norway.

Taking his abiding interest in punk rock and songwriting, JOWST gave his friends input via a Facebook group into the creation of his song “Grab the Moment”, the vocals for which are provided by Aleksander Walmann who, it seems, crowdsourced not a damn thing, concentrating instead on singing up a storm on The Voice (2012), and working with other Norwegian artists such as Sondre Lerche.

The question after all this checking and counter-checking with those nearest and dearest to him is whether this “it takes a village” approach has resulted in the kind of song that will reward JOWST’s continued quest to push himself?


(image courtesy eurovision.tv)


Astonishingly yes.

I am not usually a fan of creativity by committee but in this instance, it’s worked a treat with “Grab the Moment” which comes across as a wholly engaging, fun jaunty number that bounces with the sort of irrepressible zest that will leave a smile on your face.

There are some tasty vocal flourishes all the way through courtesy of Aleksander and a whole lot of distorted, building buzz through the bridge which adds a little extra frission to a song which, while not out-of-the-box extraordinary, is definitely memorable, hummable and as danceable as they come.

Throw in a catchy stage performance and this could give Norway a real shot of making it to the grand final (although I suspect the song may not quite robust enough to garner a win).



ROMANIA: “Yodel It!” by Ilinca ft. Alex Florea



Ilinca and Alex, both of whom come from fairly impressive musical backgrounds, are by their own submission, “happy people”.

And why wouldn’t they be? They love music, have fun singing and performing and they have both been given invaluable opportunities to do something with their talent.

While Ilinca has found musical fame through programs like X Factor (she was part of a four piece girl band at the tender age of 14) and The Voice of Romania, where she reached the semi finals thank you very much, Alex has studied at music schools, first at the Popular Arts School and then at the Faculty of Fine Arts (Theatre) where he is completing a Masters.

They may have taken completely different routes to arrive at the point where they’re Romania’s entrants at Eurovision this year, but the end result is one full of ‘good energy”, “positive vibes” and “the sheer joy of being on stage”.

But will all this blissful bonhomie, the cumulative effect of which makes Tony Robbins look like Eeyore on a bad day, be enough to make the people of Europe vote for the perky Romanians en masse?


(image courtesy eurovision.tv)


At first blush, you may not think so, especially when you discover that Ilinca is a yodeler, a skill which to be honest isn’t exactly the hippest of sounds around.

The funny thing is “Yodel it!” (yeah OK that also gives the game away) is a ridiculous amount of fun.

It’s not necessarily the sort of song that will win the contest, and it is pretty cheesy, but damn if it isn’t a barnburning, backslapping piece of silly, catchy ridiculousness that somehow works.

Not enough to get them out of the second semi final, but won’t we have fun yodelling ourselves through one of the few songs in this year’s roster that actually has some personality and a willingness to go there.

Granted, “there” is not the winner’s podium, but who the hell cares – well beside Ilinca and Alex who probably care a bit – when the journey is so much over the top, bombastic fun?



SAN MARINO: “Spirit of the Night” by Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson


Road to Eurovision 2016 week 3 San Marino flag


Valentina Monetta’s bio trumpets the fact from the glitter-saturated rafters that she is back!

But really when you’ve represented your country three times already (2012, 2013, 2014), can you really be considered to have actually gone away?

The jazz and funk singer, who has worked with a wide variety of musicians in Italy and Europe, and is currently performing with her band, Myfunky Valetine, has represented San Marino 50% of the time since they first competed in 2008 (they missed 2009 and 2010); this time, however, shas teamed up woth Jimmie Wilson, an American living in Germany, who is best known for performing in a series of musicals including Michael Jackson’s Sisterella.

So Valentina is back, Jimmie is here for the first time but together will they deliver that magic x factor that could catapult San Marino into the grand final and beyond, and justify Vanetina’s near constant state of Eurovision-ness?


(image courtesy eurovision.tv)


“Spirit of the Night” may not be the song to do it.

Sure it’s brimming with a bright, shiny retro ’70s vibe, that is equal parts cheesy disco and sultry Barry White R&B, and both Monetta and Wilson seem to be having a ball, but somehow it all comes together in a song that sounds like it’s trying really hard and getting absolutely nowhere.

There’s lots of colour and movement but it ultimately sounds tinny and hollow, with the chorus particularly leaching out the glittering promise, such as it is, of the verses.

It’s as cliched and been there, done that as they come and will likely sink like a stone, marking yet another time San Marino has failed to qualify for the grand final.



SERBIA: “In Too Deep” by Tijana Bogićević


Road to Eurovision Week 6 Serbia flag


Tijana may have once had a touch of Twenty Feet From Stardom syndrome – she started out as a backing vocalist for Vlado Georgiev back in 2001 – but she has now well and truly found her place at the front of the stage thanks to her massive 2010 breakout hit “Tražim (Searching)”.

With the spotlight firmly fixed on the woman who, by all accounts, displayed an aptitude for music from a young age, she has participated in several TV talent show, dueted up a storm with the band Flamingosi and Aleksa Jelić and even has an album of her own coming the world’s way in the northern autumn.

Take that backstage anomymity!

Well, apart from performing as a backing vocalist for Serbia’s 2001 entrant Nina and her song “Čaroban (Magical)”, a momentary backward step that gave her the “invaluable experience” to make her own mark on the contest in Kyiv this year.

But is “In Too Deep”, which is perhaps not the song title you want bandied about when you’re realising a long held dream to represent your country on your terms, the song to make Eurovision wishes comes true?


(image courtesy eurovision.tv)


Things kick off promisingly with a quirky musical introduction, an insistent melodic refrain that threatens to head off into some very interesting territory indeed.

Ha! More fool you. Rather than heading into trippy, funky electronica territory, the song opts for slightly interesting, occasionally beat-driven power ballad territory, a song that comes with some emotional resonance and musical intensity but nothing that, in the end, you haven’t heard a thousand times before.

It is, like a number of other songs in the contest, not a bad song per se, and Tijana certainly pours every last drop of her impressive vocal ability into bring it to life, but it’s ultimately the sort of musical number whose impact disipates almost immediately upon completion.

It could very well carry Serbia to the grand final but don’t go packing your bags for Belgrade 2018 just yet, if at all.



SWITZERLAND: “Apollo” by Timebelle


Road to Eurovision Week 6 Switzerland flag


Timebelle are a group with great expectations for their participation in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

The Swiss group, made up of avowed chocolate lover and Romania actress and musician & singer Miruna Manescu, charming pianist, saxophonist and clarinetist Emanual Daniel Andriescu and boundlessly energetic drummer Samuel Forster, are aiming to express their “hopes and dreams”, yes all of them, through their song “Apollo”.

One of those hopes is that their entry celebrate the diversity of modern Europe, a hot button topic not just for the band who hail from other parts of Europe but have found a longterm home in Switzerland, but for everyone in an age when divisiveness and close minded rancour are trying to silence the voices of inclusion and respect.

You can only hope they achieve that goal in Kyiv, where peace, love and understanding haven’t exactly been the order of the day of late.


(image courtesy eurovision.tv)


If they do fulfill their lofty aspirations, it will not be because of “Apollo”, a pity since it is the main reason they’re in the contest at all.

It is sweetly earnest, violence lyrical allusions notwithstanding which are no doubt intended to lend powerful emotional resonance to the song but carry a weirdly atonal vibe, helped along by Manescu”s robustly beautiful voice.

The chorus is uplifting and you can understand that the songwriters Elias Näslin, Alessandra Günthardt, Nicolas Günthardt have likely poured their heart and soul into this meaningful song.

But pretty does not always equate to impactful and frankly the song too often veers into emo-heavy adult midtempo rock ballad territory, pleasant enough to listen to but nowhere near as worthy as its writers and singers intend it to be.



THE NETHERLANDS: “Lights and Shadows” by OG3NE


Road to Eurovision week 3 The Netherlands flag


Sisters are doing for themselves if OG3NE, which “represents their mother’s blood type O and the genes that tie the three sisters together” – we’ll leave you to grapple with the pronunciation – are any indication.

Made up of Lisa (22) and twins Amy and Shelley (21), the family are incredibly musical and very close, their bonds solidified by their mother’s ongoing serious illness, the struggle of living with which has created a deep desire to take of and support each other.

It could be all that togetherness, and the polyphonous blending of their voices, that lends the trio, who were the first group to win The Voice anywhere in the world, the sort of success they’ve enjoyed since they burst onto the scene in 2016.

But is their tightness as family and artists enough to propel them, and their song “Lights and Shadows”, written by their father with Shelley’s boyfriend about the effect their mother’s illness has had on the family, enough to give them a Eurovision happily ever after?


(image courtesy eurovision.tv)


As a sucker for happy endings, whatever the circumstances, I really wish that was the case.

While there is an appealing Wilson Phillips circa 1990 sound and feel to the song, recalling the lofty heights of the group’s megahit “Hold On”, and Og3NE’s voice seamlessly and appealingly blend together in almost angelic fashion, it’s not the sort of song that’s going to cut through at Eurovision.

A pleasant and uplifting time will be had by everyone in the audience, and there’s no denying the lyrical substance of the song, but it’s hard this getting The Netherlands to the grand final.

The great wildcard in all this of course could be a devastatingly good live performance which the group seem more than capable of; if that happens, then all bets are off.


My semi final 2 top ten which, as always, is a mix of songs I like and songs that, personal preference aside, could do very well if performed just right on the night. (These are in no particular order).
1. Israel
2. The Netherlands
3. Austria
4. F.Y.R. Maceonia
5. Malta
6. Hungary
7. Lithuania
8. Switzerland
9. Romania
10. Estonia


RUSSIA: “Flame is Burning” by Julia Samoylova


Road to Eurovision 2016 week 3 Russia flag


Russia will not compete in Eurovision this year.

It was supposed to, and had even gone so far as to select Yulia Samoylova who was going to sing the song “Flame is Burning”. But Yulia fell foul of a Ukrainian law which expressly forbids artists who have performed in Crimea, now occupied by Russia but which Ukraine continues to maintain, with the backing of international law, as an inalienable part of its sovereign territory, to enter Ukraine to perform. Ukraine’s refusal to allow Samoylova into the country has, after considerable acrimonious back-and-forth between the two countries, with added intervention by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) which oversees Eurovision, led to Russia withdrawing from the contest completely, with no plans to even screen the event (a decision which could result in an EBU ban on the country being allowed to perform in the contest in 2018).

Whether you believe the Ukraine is being needlessly intransigent or Russia is being pointlessly antagonistic (Ukraine’s law was well-publicised), the fact remains that the 43 contestants of this year’s contest are down to 42, not an earthshaking development you may think numbers-wise but certainly one that has shaken many peoples’ idealistic view (in my view, overly idealistic; Eurovision will never escape geopolitical instability in some form or another) of the contest as a bastion of peace and togetherness in a fractious, divided world.

For more on the story, please go to Wiwibloggs, BBC, The Guardian and SBS.


Road to Eurovision 2017: Week 5 – F.Y.R. Macedonia, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania, Malta

(logo courtesy Eurovision.tv)


What is the Eurovision Song Contest?
Started way back in 1956 as a way of drawing a fractured Europe back together with the healing power of music, the Eurovision Song Contest, or Concours Eurovision de la Chanson – the contest is telecast in both English and French – is open to all active members of the European Broadcasting Union, which oversees the competition.

Each country is permitted to submit one song to the contest – a song which is selected by a variety of means, usually a winner-takes-all competition such as Sweden’s renowned Melodifestivalen – which they perform in one of two semi-finals in the hopes of making it to the glittering grand final.

Only six countries have direct entry into the grand final:
* The Big Four who fund most of the contest – UK, Germany, France and Spain
* The host country (which is the winner of the previous year’s contest)
* Italy, who didn’t take part for many years and was re-admitted in 2011 after a 14 year absence (it was one of seven countries that competed in the first event), making the Big Four the Big Five.

The winner is chosen by a 50/50 mix of viewer votes (you cannot vote for your own country) and a jury of music industry professionals in each country, a method which was chosen to counter the alleged skewing of votes based on political and/or cultural lines when voting was purely the preserve of viewers at home.

Past winners include, of course, ABBA in 1974 with “Waterloo” and Celine Dion who won for Switzerland in 1988 with “Ne partez pas sans moi”.

Above all though, the Eurovision Song Contest is bright, over the top and deliciously camp, a celebration of music, inclusiveness and togetherness that draws annual viewing figures in the hundreds of millions.

This year’s contest will be held in Kyiv, Ukraine.


F.Y.R. Macedonia: “Dance Alone” by Jana Burčeska



If you were looking for the perfect person to represent F.Y.R. Macedonia at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, would you (a) pick someone who has done push ups with Batman on Brooklyn Bridge in New York or (b) can rap better than anyone you know or (c) can fluently pronounce the German word Aufmerksamkeitsdefizitmedikamentenbeipackzettel?

Happily in the case of Jana Burčeska, your decision is an easy one since this artist, who rose to prominence on Macedonian Idol in 2011, can do all three!

Talk about your ultimate multitasker; not only can she do all that, but she can sing and perform like nobody’s business, which is rather handy when you think about it because she is appearing in a singing contest.

Thrilled to be representing Macedonia, Jana, who is also a UN Ambassador who promotes violence-free schools, admits that a smile hasn’t left her face since she got the good news.

But does her song, “Dance Alone”, which isn’t the most sociable or uplifting of titles, bode well for a continued happy state, or will she end up a little less than ecstatic once the semi final 2 voting dust settles?


(photo courtesy eurovision.tv)


Gotta say the odds of her smiling like a super successful fiend are pretty good.

“Dance Alone” is a supremely catchy, perfect slice of pop that, while a little generic, nevertheless has enough of a Robyn vibe going on, such that she could very well find success, particularly if her “refined and sensitive stage performance” adds some extra atmosphere to the song.

In a sea of ballads and mid-tempo numbers, having a song with some danceability and personality is welcome, and you get the feeling, as you listen to Jana, that she has the vocal chops to elevate the song when it really matters.

Expect Jana to be dancing with more than a few others, come voting time, on her way to the grand final.



HUNGARY: “Origo” by Joci Pápai



Joci Pápai must be tired.

According to his Eurovision bio, he picked up a guitar at the age of 4 and hasn’t put it down since which is pretty impressive; after all, things may feel light at first but they usually end up getting heavier the longer you hold them.

When he’s not determinedly clutching musical instruments, Joci, whose dad was the leader of a big gypsy orchestra, he’s winningly blending electronica with Hungarian and gypsy sounds, creating a unique style of music that saw him make it big in 2005 when his first album spawned a number of chart-topping singles.

That success follows many years competing somewhat fruitlessly in talent shows and sees this highly-popular artist, the first gypsy to represent Hungary as he proudly proclaims, eager to make the most of his pan European exposure.

But will this “believer, fighter, singer, dreamer, father and Samurai” be able to make good on his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with his song “Origo”?


(photo courtesy eurovision.tv)


The song, which he says is “one hundred percent me”, is hauntingly beautiful, a wave of ethereal but richly substantial vocals that give way to some inspired violin playing.

In short, “Origo” has atmosphere in spades, neatly straddling east and west, modern and traditional, so compellingly that it’s hard not see this as a big crowd favourite in Kyiv.

Even his rap works in the bridge of the song, delivered with a passion and emotional resonance that can’t help but move you and get you dancing into the bargain.

“Origo” is different and eminently listenable and danceable and should see Hungary through to the grand final in fine showstopping style.



IRELAND: “Dying to Try” by Brendan Murray



Coming from a musical background is a big plus if you (a) want a burgeoning music career, which Brendan most certainly has with boyband Hometown, and (b) want to make your name at Eurovision, an arena in which Ireland has not exactly excelled in recent years.

That kind of pedigree also helps you get noticed by people who matter which is how he came to co-write Kelly Clarkson’s hit song “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” which was nominated for Song the Year and Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards in 2013.

And it’s no doubt why Brendan successfully taught himself guitar at the age of 13, and why leaving school at 16 to seek his fame and fortune singing his heart out has garnered such success.

But will it will be enough to send him catapulting into the grand final and give Ireland a shot at winning Eurovision, something it hasn’t managed since 1996?


(photo courtesy official Brendan Murray Facebook page)


Honestly, while I admire Brendan’s earnestness that percolates through “Dying to Try” with the all the fervency of a melodramatic love affair, a reflection of its theme of taking a chance at love, the song doesn’t so much explode out of the box as meander sweetly through a field of flowers.

It’s a beautiful song in its own way, and actually benefits from his intense vocals, but it never really gets up a head of steam.

It will likely attract a lot of attention during the performance but disappear into the ether quickly thereafter.

Much as I would like Ireland to scale the dizzying heights of 1990s Eurovision success, I don’t see “Dying to try” being the song to make that happen.



ISRAEL: “I Feel Alive” by IMRI



Ladies and gentlemen, that man you see hurtling from the singing back blocks, where anonymity is a given and self-sacrifice is a damn near mandatory, is IMRI, who apart from leaping supporting status in a single bound, can sing, play the guitar and piano and make a mean batch of hummus.

Actually I have no idea about that last part, which is all hopeful conjecture on my part, but there’s no doubt that IMRI, who can sing in Spanish, Hebrew and English, and is, and here I become Captain Obvious, devastatingly handsome, has what it takes to make it in the musical world.

He won TV’s Rising Star singing competition this year, has sung in dozens across the globe and has even done voice over work in a number of animated series which is, I grant you, not a musical accomplishment as such, but pretty damn cool and worthy of note.

He is also obsessed with singing Queens’ “We Are the Champions” which he learnt at the astonishingly young of two to his family’s delight (although the fact that he used to sing it at “every possible occasion” means the family may no longer be so enamoured of the iconic song).

So IMRI has what it takes to make it big but can he make it big at Eurovision with “I Feel Alive”?


(photo by Ronen Akerman, courtesy official IMRI Facebook page)


Hell to the yes is my considered opinion!

Weaving in what IMRI refers to as “an ethnic groove”, “I Feel Alive” is insanely, heartstoppingly catchy, building and building in a goosebumping way that will have the entire arena in Kyiv dancing their Eurovision-loving songs off.

It’s an of-the-moment dancefloor stomper that manages to escape the generic dance song curse, surging out of the gates with brio and a bristling sense of ecstatic joy, all anchored by IMRI’s more than up to the task, emotionally-evocative vocals.

If you’re not dancing to this five seconds in, and voting for it to go through to the grand final then you are dead in the soul, my friend, DEAD … IN … THE … SOUL.



LITHUANIA: “Rain of Revolution” by FusedMarc



It’s hard to say exactly where Lithuanian music was languishing prior to their emergence, but according to their Eurovision bio, FusedMarc (Cilia and Vakx) “raised the standard for Lithuanian music to a European level” when they appeared on the country’s music scene.

From that, you could well surmise that the band is possessed of such musical power that they have similarly affected the countries they have toured which include Germany, Great Britain, France, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Greece and the Czech Republic; but to be fair no one is venturing an opinion on that score.

That’s quite the musical revolution they have going on there, but given the number of awards they’ve received from Breakthrough of the Lithuanian Alternative Scene in 2005 to Best Experimental Music Band in 2007 – and don’t forget Best Lithuanian Electonic Band in 2008 – it’s say to say that the genre-melding band which formed in 2004, has had a considerable impact.

But can they, you ask in breathless anticipation, make their mark on Eurovision too?


(photo courtesy FusedMarc Facebook page)


Honestly once “Rain of Revolution” kicks off, quickly throwing everything from a driving beat, blissfully contorted vocals and a decidedly quirky melody into the mix, you have to be inclined to bow before them.

It’s not a perfect song with the bridge stumbling a little in both musical and vocal execution, but by and large, this song has some serious chutzpah, aided by Cilia’s energetic delivery, which while it might not be vocally always on point, never lacks for attitude, power or serious presence.

I’m not fully convinced it will send Lithuania careening into the grand final, missing just enough x factor to really be over the top memorable, but it’s bound to make for an impressive spectacle, which is after all, what Eurovision is all about (besides peace, humanity and cooperation, of course).

So while they may not reshape Europe as we know it musically, they’re going to make us sit up and take notice, which is close enough.



MALTA: “Breathlessly” by Claudia Faniello



Apparently dear Claudia has a million emotions crowded inside the all too finite area of her vocal chords.

You might think this a tad uncomfortable but the woman described as “a girl next door by day and glamorous diva by night with a passion for music and life”, no doubt is well used to taking it all in her stride.

It likely helps that the artist, who shot to prominence in 2006 when she came fourth on TV singing competition Hotspot, and who made her first bid for Eurovision and won the Festival Kanzunetta Indipendenza the following year, is a grounded person who works with kids who have intellectual, physical and behavioural difficulties and as a past Bulimia-sufferer, raises awareness of the disease with the public.

But can the lady who has watched her brother twice represent the country, and who has dreamed of being in this position since childhood, make all those emotions work her to make her dreams come true?


(photo courtesy official Claudia Faniello Facebook page)


It’s an even bet each way on “Breathlessly”, which is your big, ballsy torch song ballad anchored by Claudia’s voice which sounds like it could well accommodate the much-vaunted number of emotions.

It does venture into feel good mid-tempo territory from time to time, and you can’t help feeling you’re being a little emotionally manipulated at times; having said that, it’s a gorgeous song that resonates with some truly authentic power and passion, with Claudia making you believe she is living every intense emotion-charged moment.

So I’m torn – on one hand, the song is a rich, deeply emotional journey, but on the other, it feels a little too contrived, a little too ballad-by-numbers.

Not being emphatically one or the other means, like some other songs in the competition that it will come down to the performance on the night, and I have every reason to suspect that Claudia is more than capable of rising to the occasion.


Now this is music #87: Emma Gatrill, Soleima, Lunch Ladies, Floor Staff, Crooked Colours


Love and despair. Sadness and happiness. Upbeat and downcast.

Life has many moods, many of them contrary and intermingled, and these five talented artists, who hail from around the world, are enormously adept at capturing these glorious inconsistencies and setting them to beautiful, arresting music.

Its insight and melody combined and it’s what you want from the music you listen to, since all that listening happens while you’re living life and it makes sense that it doesn’t just tickle the ears but touches the soul and mind too.


“Skin” by Emma Gatrill


Emma Gatrill (image courtesy official Emma Gatrill Facebook page)


There’s a delicate beauty to Emma Gattrill’s beauty that belies how robust the sounds created by the Brighton, UK native actually are.

“Skin”, which leads off her album Cocoon, is a gem, emblematic of Gatrill’s skill at investing her music, which Stereogum says sits “somewhere between the Julia Holter aurora and the Sufjan Stevens [musical] supernova” with real depth and substance, both melodic and lyrical.

In a statement about “Skin”, she explains how much thought went into every facet of this remarkably beautiful and meaningful song:

“Skin is a love song. It explores our desires as individuals to be together even when life pulls us in different directions.

“The shuffle sounding beat which lies underneath the electronic drums in the song is created by me tap dancing in socks on a wooden board and then continuously looped up to give that soft shuffle sound. I like the idea that many steps have been taken during this song as the song represents how we are continuously travelling, our paths weaving in and out of each other.”


“Wasted” by Soleima
Soleima (image via official Soleima Facebook page)


There’s an engaging loping quirkiness to “Wasted” by Danish artist Soleima, a song that carries a delicious double meaning, according to the Copenhagen-based native:

“… the term ‘wasted’ gets double sided in this song. The obvious meaning is of course being drunk/high and therefore unable to process thoughts and logic. The other way to look at it, is that some people, like myself, are able to lead a certain kind of life whereas many don’t have the same possibilities as me – and sometimes that opportunity can be wasted.” (source: The Line of Best Fit)

That added lyrical depth sets “Wasted” apart from its run-of-the-mill trippy genremates, augmented by Soleima’s beguilingly unique vocals which mix a little girl lost vibe with late night cabaret duskiness.

It all means that “Wasted” sounds like everything you’ve heard before and yet none of it, a clever musical bridging between the usual and the new that is evidenced on Soleima’s later tracks.



“Love is Overrated” by Lunch Ladies


Lunch Ladies (image via official Lunch Ladies Facebook page)


Channelling an infinitely appealing dreamy retro pop vibe that captures you from the word go, “Love is Overrated” kicks things off with a lovely long intro that never once outstays its richly multilayered welcome.

When the remote, lush harmonies come rolling in, you’re treated to midtempo, lofi pop with a persistently robust guitar underpinning that keeps things humming along without once feeling it’s in a rush to get anywhere in particular.

The once-were New Jersey natives, now Brookyn-based band have knack for crafting, do actually believe in love by the way, just in case you think the song suggests otherwise:

“Love definitely isn’t overrated. Love is very important, always, and especially in times like these. I wrote this song during a period where I didn’t get other people’s relationships and the drama that comes with it, and felt happy being on my own.” (source: vocalist/bassist Cynthia Rittenbach, Little Indie Blogs)

Some insightful slice-of-life observations and an luscious, exquisitely nuanced melody granted this song an appealing richness, which the band have brought to bear with compelling effect on their debut LP Down on Sunset Strip (March 10).



“Saviour” by Floor Staff


Floor Staff (image courtesy official Floor Staff Facebook page)


Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, Floor Staff aka singer/songwriter/composer Anthony Donnelly, sends us hurtling back to the lazy, hazy days of the polyester-loving ’70s with “Saviour”.

Blending light and dark, its giddily upbeat synth-driven melody, which is never less than smile-inducingly good and captivating blissful, contrasts with the lyrical content which Little Indie Blogs notes are dark, “confronting bereavement, fidelity and self-esteem.”

It’s a very Scandinavia mindset which works brilliantly well on the track, an approach that gives musical life to the idea that happiness and sadness aren’t always distinct from each other, merging and pulling apart in that untidy way life has of letting things go where they will.

The combination of less than stellar ruminations about life and the pulsing insistent chipper sound of the music can get into your soul in ways that a more direct approach may not always manage; you can find out how much Floor Staff’s music can get around your defenses by listening to his two EPs, The Good Luck EP and Convictions.



“Flow” by Crooked Colours


Crooked Colours (image courtesy official Crooked Colours Facebook page)


Perth, Australia-based electronic band Crooked Colours (Philip Slabber, Leon De Baughn, Liam Merrett-Park), arrived their uniquely sparse but melody-rich sound by listening to a lot of music as they told national Australian radio station Triple J’s Unearthed page:

“Our music is pretty diverse from song to song and it has taken us a long time to figure out the music that we really want to make. We listen to as much music as we can and spend a lot of time tinkering around on synths and whatever else we can get our hands on.”

This glorious diversity of influential sounds make a brilliantly listenable outworking on tracks like “Flow” which skips along with a driving beat and guitar flourishes while at the same time sounding light, fun and lavishly lightweight, the result of what Vents Magazine calls an approach “that has one foot in the indie world and one foot in a darker electronic realm.”

The song is their first release in 18 months and heralds the arrival of debut LP due later this year, which judging by its advance adventurous sounds, could well match the success of their initial triple volley of “Come Down”, “Capricious”, and “Another Way” which saw them hit no 1 on Hype Machine, in the process generating 6 million streams.





Girls just wrapped up its final season, but not before Adelaide-based Tkay Maidza was given the chance by creator and star Lena Dunham to contribute a song, “Glorious”, to the penultimate episode.

Read all about it at Junkee.



And what would life be like without someone mashing up the good Muppet-y citizens of Sesame Street with a catchy track?

Here’s a year-old effort from Mylo the Cat, which brings together Bert & Ernie (and the cast of the show) with “Regulate” by Warren G feat Nate Dogg.



Finally Lady Gaga has a supremely catchy new song “The Cure”, a deliciously listenable synth pop gem that she casually dropped during a set at Coachella, as you do (source: Forbes)



And yeah the fans LOVE it … how could they not? It’s FAAAABUUUULOUS …