‘Schlager’, Scandi-pop and sparkles: your guide to the musical styles of #Eurovision (curated article)

Netta (Israel) was a deservingly quirky, fun and message-positive winner of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest (Image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

  • The Eurovision Song Contest may be over for another year but its music lives on. This is a great, accessible guide to the music of Eurovision so you’re all prepared for next year! Oh hey, why not download a lot of this music now and get your pan-European vibe on every day of the year … 

Jess Carniel, University of Southern Queensland

In his acceptance speech for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest, Portuguese winner Salvador Sobral issued a controversial call to arms to “bring music back” to a place of meaning and feeling:

We live in a world of disposable music; fast-food music without any content. I think this could be a victory for music with people who make music that actually means something. Music is not fireworks; music is feeling.

It was a bold statement to make at a contest known – and loved – for its trashy Europop as much as it is for its heartfelt ethno-folk ballads or its diva swan songs. Eurovision music is diverse, encompassing both fast food and feelings. Over the years, it has developed its own sound and even its own genres.

The classics

The late Lys Assia’s Refrain, the winning song of the inaugural Eurovision in 1956, best encapsulates the chanson style that dominated the contest for its first decade. Literally French for “song”, the term is used to describe any lyric-driven French song, but a song being in French does not immediately make it a chanson.

 

 

This year’s entrant from Madame Monsieur, Mercy, is contemporary electro pop that shares more with the pop music that superseded chanson after the 1960s. Many today would describe the chanson as old-fashioned, although others suggest it is a timeless genre. Although sung in Portuguese, Sobral’s Amar Pelos Dois from 2017 recalls this style.

 

 

The canzone is the Italian iteration of the chanson, exemplified by the iconic Nel blu dipinto di blu by Domenico Modugno in 1958. Many would better know this song as Volare as covered by Dean Martin.

The hits

If the chanson dominated the 1950s and 1960s, schlager was undoubtedly the driving force from the 1970s until the early 2000s, when it integrated with Eurodisco and Eurodance. Although the term may not be familiar unless slurring your beer order, the style itself is perhaps the most recognisable to even the most casual Eurovision viewer.

 

 

The origins of schlager are German, but forms of it can be found around Europe and are even recognisable in some American pop music. Meaning a “musical hit”, schlager refers to light pop music featuring catchy instrumentals and sentimental, usually non-political lyrics.

Nicole won the prize for Germany in 1982 with Ein bißchen Frieden, while Germany’s last winner in 2010, Lena’s effervescent Satellite, is a quirky take on the schlager tradition.

 

 

Schlager itself is arguably less prominent at the contest in recent years, but we can see elements of it, fused with dance and folk elements, in DoReDos’ 2018 entry My Lucky Day for Moldova.

 

The traditional

The fusion of different musical styles, especially traditional elements with contemporary trends, is one of the most appealing aspects of Eurovision as it presents international viewers with something different to the pop standard.

Ethno-folk fusions rose in popularity in the 1990s, arguably when “world music” caught on as a global trend from the late 1980s. From Celtic-inspired ballads to bellydancing beats, every year is replete with examples of this.

 

 

Sanja Ilić and Balkanika, representing Serbia in 2018 with Nova Deca, have made it their mission to both preserve and modernise Balkan musical traditions. The song combines the Torlakian dialect of southeastern Serbia with standard Serbian, fusing traditional vocals and flute with contemporary singing and a dance beat.

Everyone’s favourite folk entry of recent years is undoubtedly the Russian grannies of 2012.

 

The niche

As an event aimed at a family gathered around the modern hearth of the television, music with a more general appeal has been the standard for much of the contest’s history. Until, of course, Finnish heavy metal demon rockers Lordi surprised us all with their victory in 2006, Hard Rock Hallelujah.

 

 

Traditionally, rock does not fare well at Eurovision, so best of luck to Hungary’s AWS with Viszlát Nyár this year, which might draw in a few different punters with its reminiscence of Linkin Park’s oeuvre.

 

The mega-pop

On the other end of the spectrum is Scandi-pop. Just as most of your favourite hits over the past 20 years have been written by one Swedish mastermind writer/producer (Max Martin, who has written everything from Britney Spear’s One More Time to Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood), Swedish songwriters dominate Eurovision, spruiking their wares across the continent.

For example, this year’s Maltese entry, Taboo, sung by Christabelle, was written by none other than Thomas G:son, who penned everyone’s (well, OK, my) favourite winner from the past ten years, Euphoria by Loreen.

 

 

The one to watch this year, however, is Finland’s more congenial answer to Lady Gaga, Saara Aalto. (Although she won’t be singing it in the contest, her 34-language version of her entry Monsters is worth a listen.)

 

Time for a toilet break?

Our final category can cross all musical genres: the ballad. Broadly defined as a slow-tempo song (known by some as the toilet-break songs), the ballad can dampen the party mood pretty quickly, so it is the song type that everyone loves to hate (but also secretly love).

According to number-crunching fan site ESC Daily, ballads usually account for about 40% of entries each year. Time your toilet breaks well, for there are fewer this year than last year and those that remain each offer something a little different.

 

 

Iceland’s Ari Ólafsson and Germany’s Michael Schulte provide more traditional ballads, but Portugal’s Cláudia Pascoal and Isaura and Latvia’s Laura Rizzotto provide unique contemporary styling on the slow-tempo song. Also, don’t miss Elina Nechayeva’s operatic La Forza.

 

 

The diversity of musical styles this year is great – a veritable food court of choices from fast food to fine dining. Sadly, however, there is no rap yodelling on the menu …

Jess Carniel, Senior Lecturer in Humanities, University of Southern Queensland

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

All Aboard! Eurovision 2018 – who won, who lost and who’s sweeping up the glitter?

(artwork courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

Hard to believe after all the build-up, the song reviews, the minute breakdown of national selection results, and the general buzz of excitement but the Eurovision Song Contest is over for another year.

But is it really ever over?

We’ll be listening to the songs from this year’s contest for months to come, especially the winner, the #metoo movement-inspired “Toy” by Israel’s Netta Barzilai which came complete with an engagingly and bright and vivacious performance that only improved between semi-final 1 and the grand final four days later.

The song, in common with pretty much every winner of Eurovision has come in for more than its fair share of criticism, with everything from charges of “cultural appropriation” to being a gimmicky “freak show” song leveled at it, but at the end of the day, the people of Europe placed it in the top position after the jury votes had it sitting in third place. (The voting reveal, which was agonisingly stretched out for maximum impact, was tenser than usual this year with Israel only leaping to first place when it was down to them and Cyprus and the second-to-last votes were handed to Eleni Foureira’s “Fuego” handing Israel the win).

That’s not much of a difference in placing there, and while I will leave the minute dissection of voting stats to the maths nerds who do it so much better, suffice to say, this narrow difference between jury and popular vote adds a lot of legitimacy to the result.

As articles in both The Guardian and Metro were at pains to point out, politics no longer lays a substantial role in who gets the nod, and while many people have expressed their disappointment at the result, this is a yearly dynamic that happens regardless of who wins.

 

 

So what were the highlights (beside Netta’s exhuberantly-happy win)?

There were quite a number and you can watch a quick summary of them below, but the five that really struck me were:

    • The UK’s entrant SuRie, who made quite an impression with her song “Storm” had her performance temporarily interrupted by a protester who rushed onto the stage and grabbed her mike before being taken off by security. Terrifying as it must have been for her, she kept her composure, and finished the song like a trouper, the adrenaline fueling a fiery end to her already-impassioned delivery. (ABC Online)
    • Estonia’s Elina Nechayeva struck a dramatic pose in her enormous gown which added some very pretty, strikingly-colourful visuals to her dramatically operative song “Forza” (which makes me want swirly ice cream) …

 

 

    • Ukraine kicked off the semi-final in fine form with MELOVIN, he of the singular, disconcertingly intense contact lense, arising from a piano coffin which later burst into dramatic flames. Attention-grabbing? TICK!

 

 

    • The 1500th Eurovision song was performed during semi final 2 when Norway’s Alexander Rybak, who previously won, and won convincingly in 2009, lit up the stage with “That’s How You Write a Song” …

 

 

    • Moldova might have been labeled “The Wiggles on acid” but frankly I loved the song – fun, upbeat, with a clever stage presentation to match. This video gives you a fantastic look behind-the-scenes at one of the most inventive performance …

 

** For a full list of the notable moments from Eurovision 2018, see RadioTimes
So ladies and gentlemen, that is the Eurovision Song Contest for another year!
Until next time, remember to be open and adventurous with your song choices, don’t listen to the haters, and bathe yourself in glitter at every available opportunity!
See you in 2019 in Israel!

Final vote tally (Image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

#Eurovision movie review: Love.com (Amor.com)

(image courtesy Ingresso.com)

 

  • While this is not strictly-speaking a Portuguese movie, it is a Portuguese-language one (made in Brazil) and so fit the criteria to be crowned this year’s #Eurovision film.

Love, they say, is a many-splendoured thing; it is, and here the romantics of the mysterious “they” are studiously silent, also complicated as hell.

As the mother of the two lovebirds at the centre of this relatively-formulaic but nonetheless delightfully-entertaining film sagely observes, it’s one thing to find the right person, another thing entirely to make it work,  a truism to which the couple in question, Katrina (Isis Valverde) and Fernando (Gil Coelho), would no doubt heartily subscribe.

You know that they are going to encounter troubles down the track, that their meet-cute will devolve as some point into meet-no more, or meet-not-until-the-finale, almost immediately since Amor.com (Love.com), for all its many charms, is not exactly a hot bed of rom-com originality.

From the moment we meet fashion & beauty vlogger Isis, who is showered with the latest clothes and products, all of which find their way into her insanely-popular videos on everything from haircare to dressing right for particular events, and nerdy, computer genius and tech vlogger Fernando, you know it is they, and not the many other beautiful or dorky people populating this film, who will find love true love.

Meeting one night when the fashion store chain with which Isis is affiliated as their party starter, and after a technical glitch, their party saviour, chief promoter and glamour frontwoman, and Fernando their go-to tech guy, they immediately hit it off.

But only after Isis finds out that her boyfriend of the moment – a model who is gorgeous and hence, in the appealingly simple morality of Amor.com, EVIL – has sent his friends a semi-naked picture of her sleeping in bed, and enlists Fernando to hack into phones, servers and pretty much everything else to delete the involuntarily-provided incriminating evidence, do love bells truly begin to ring.

 

(image courtesy Cine com Pipoca)

 

Courtesy of a lovey-dovey montage which sees the twosome grow closer and closer, their two highly-disparate worlds seemingly meshing perfectly together, we see true love take what it is its natural, untroubled course in the opening act of rom-com.

In this stage of our tale of Cupid’s handiwork, the sun is shining, birds are singing and not a moment can go by when there is kissing, holding, staring dreamily into eyes and draping of bodies on couches.

It’s Hallmark love with a capital “L” and an aura of romantic invincibility and certainty so robust and pronounced that they look for all intents and purposes like they will never be apart.

But, of course, being a cookie-cookie rom-com, albeit a damn good one that knows its strengths and plays consistently well to them, that can never be allowed to happen and so we find, through narratives twists and turns, contrived and patently obvious, the happy popcorn eaters du jour coming a-cropper on the rocks of mutual philosophical incompatibility.

Well, perceived philosophical incompatibility anyway.

Fernando begins to think that Isis’s lifestyle, one tightly-bound by sponsors’ agreements, product placement and an air of impenetrable selfie-led beautiful perfection is vapid and shallow while Isis can’t stand her beloved’s constant gaming nights and unwillingness to put as much into the relationship as she is.

Both have a point, but life is never as clear cut as the flawed reasoning of heated arguments and when you dig down – not too much mind; Amor.com only goes down so far – you begin to understand that Isis is not as enamoured of the way she makes a living as she might first appear, and Fernando may not be averse to a sponsor deal or significantly-increased follower numbers as he first indicates.

 

(image courtesy Blog Maktub)

 

This is all, sort of, resolved in the film’s third act where they inevitably fall into each other’s arms – not a chance of spoiler here; if you’ve ever seen a rom-com, you can predict where it’s going with eyes closed and an army of typewriter-using chimps at the ready – but Amor.com has a great deal of fun getting to that point, ushering into an upper middle class Brazilian milieu that is replete with opportunity, glamour and the ability to make all the choices and mistakes you want.

Formulaic it may be, but the same could be said for just about any rom-com, and Amor.com fares far better than most in its pursuit of fairy-floss supported, candy-coloured romantic perfection.

It takes two gorgeous leads – Fernando’s physical geekiness really extends to glasses and sloppy clothes; you can see a smouldering boy-next-door lies waiting just a beard trim and a designer clothes-change away – puts them into all kinds of fun situations, some designed to draw together, others to pull apart as the plot demands, and it does just when it’s required to do so, and let the sparks, good and bad, fly and romantic cosiness and Siberia-ness ensue.

Much of the charm can be sheeted home to a buoyant script that never lingers in a scene longer than its needs to, some fearsomely-good world-building into which Isis’s sister Roberta (Carol Portes) and Fernando’s nerdy buds Panda (João Côrtes) and Lante (César Cardadeiro) fit seamlessly and with bravura supporting character perfection, and two leads who share chemistry and a winning sense of wholesome down-to-earthiness that will triumph over all the mixed signals and differing life choices and philosophies that their shared existence throws at them.

In the end, that’s really all you want from a rom-com – a willingness to successful play with the formula just enough for it to be differently entertaining while hewing close to the tenets of the genre, the most critically-important of the lot being that love, in all its many-splendoured glory, shall triumph in rose-petal strewn loveliness, by film’s end.

Amor.com manages that with sighing elan, giving us a happy ending, a confectedly perfect world that is a joy to spend time in even when the happy couple are not so happy anymore, and a little spicy villainy and intrigue to make them the good guys come what may, all wrapped up in the kind of starry-eyed wonderfulness that real life should give us more of but never quite manages.

 

Awakening a sleeping moose: Deadpool takes on the musical might of Eurovision

(image courtesy Ryan Reynolds Twitter account)

 

There are a number of great abiding loves in my life – my gorgeous partner Steve, Christmas, my birthday, caramel cheesecakes, and the Eurovision Song Contest, for which I stage a big, fun party with friends every year.

We are in the thick of all things Eurovision right now with the grand final, at which 26 countries will sing to win (and contribute to European peace, love and shared humanity, of course), barely 48 hours away and you can have to wonder if life could get any better than this.

Well, courtesy of Deadpool and Ryan Reynolds, it just has, with the inordinately cheeky shit-stirrer extraordinaire doubling down via this playful promo video, on the august singing contest for neglecting to invite Canada to its yearly gala.

The tone is mostly tongue-in-cheek, Australia comes in for some hilarious teasing – “barely on the planet”? Yeah, pretty much the case – and some fairly potent traffic-based threats are made.

You’ve been warned Europe.

 

 

Oh yeah, and Deadpool 2, the most-awaited sequel, is due for release any moment moment too!

  • In entirely unrelated Eurovision 2018 news, but hey when has dubious tangentality ever stopped me before, Twitter user, “illustrator and professional goof” @thiefoworld has gifted us this adorable poster of all the Eurovision 2018 contestants in cartoon mode.

 

Road to Eurovision 2018: Week 7 (the Big Six) – France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, UK

(artwork 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 Lisbon, Portugal.

 

FRANCE: “Mercy” by Madame Monsieur

 

Road to Eurovision The Big Six France flag

 

THE ARTIST
Lots of good things happen in bars – escape from the weeks’ troubles, laughter and friendship, a friendly game of billiards … and the formation of a winning-pop duo, Madame Monsieur by, luckily enough, a woman and a man – vocalist Émilie Satt and producer Jean-Karl Lucas – 10 fateful years ago.

While the band itself didn’t coalesce into a beautiful maker of music until 2013 (though they worked together in a folk band before that), and the debut album, Tandem took a further three years to arrive, the mix of Émilie’s love of chanson and hallowed French singers such Barbara and Nino Ferrer and Jean-Karl’s pop stylings, informed, much like Annie Lennox, by a formal musical education, in his case, in the alto section of the Conservatory of Amiens.

Their making of beautiful music together also found expression in the composition of the song “Smile” for the French rapper Youssoupha, and their involvement on iconic TV music show Taratata, and most recently on second album Vu d’ici.

But now they are facing one of the most visible expressions of their artistry but given the band’s bio-referred to “alchemy” and their penchant for combining vivid visual expression and alluring, catchy pop with a message, surely an appearance in the Altice Arena should be a walk in the proverbial?

 

Madame Monsieur (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Given the fact that their bio gushes about how “Emilie’s voice flows majestically over Jean-Karl’s nuanced tones and grooves, inspired by the world around him” and “Jean-Karl and Emilie’s fortuitous meeting with producer Guillaume Silvestri came at the end of a cycle of doubt, as if the planets had aligned and delivered them the way forward”, how could it not right?

Pretty hyperbole aside, “Mercy” (written by the duo), inspired like so much of their music by a profound social conscience – the song tells the story of a refugee baby born on an SOS ship after her mother was rescued from the Mediterranean – is an enormously catchy song that kicks off with Emilie’s breathy vocals, a slow-percolating beat that builds and builds through the verse before breaking into an atmospherically-rich piece of mid-tempo swirling pop that captivates from start to finish.

It’s an astonishingly captivating song, lyrically and musically that matched with an engaging stage performance, which is well within Madame Monsieur’s remit, should see them do quite nicely come grand final time.

 

 

GERMANY: “You Let Me Walk Alone” by Michael Schulte

 

Road to Eurovision The Big Six Germany flag

 

THE ARTIST
Though the more artistically-snobbish among the music-loving public make scoff at finding fame through online platforms – a ridiculous notion given how online platforms and social media have democratised access to willing, listening ears – Michael Schulte is not among them.

Kicking off in 2007 playing cover songs on YouTube, Germany’s entrant has so far notched 50 million views and 200,000 subscribers which in a crowded modern musical marketplace is an impressive achievement.

But that, like so many routes to fame in the digital age was not in and in 2011, Schulte was discovered by Irish singer-songwriter Rea Garvey who not brought the artist on stage with him at the Kieler Woche Festival on the Baltic Coast, but co-wrote the song “Carry Me Home”, which entered the German charts at #8 in 2012.

A debut album, Wide Awake, followed the same year, leading to sold-out tours, a second album, festival appearances, and parades staged and statues erected in large cities in his honour.

OK that last part might be a tad untrue but goddamn it, Schulte was popular so it makes perfect sense that he’d be selected the fly the German flag at Eurovision – but will this be the culmination of the artist’s 11-year-old online dream?

 

Michael Schulte (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
“You Let Me Walk Alone”, which sounds like a brave statement of confidence in someone’s self-reliance or an act of anti-social neglect, is a beautiful song co-written by the artist with Thomas Stengaard, Katharina Müller and Nisse Ingwersen that seems to be a curious mix of both narrative intents.

A heartfelt, piano-driven ballad , propelled by heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics and Schulte’s pre-eminently emotionally-resonant vocals, the song is bound to be a showstopper on grand final night.

It’s a gorgeous slice of storytelling pop that should benefit from an evocative onstage setting; although equally given Schulte’s presence and innate power and impact of the song, should see a stripped-back, simple presentation work equally well.

Either way, look for this song to make a real impression – its beautiful, says something meaningful and while a little generic, has enough distinctive personality of its own to turn heads and hopefully attract votes Germany’s way.

 

 


ITALY: “Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente” by Ermal Meta e Fabrizio Moro

 

Road to Eurovision The Big Six Italy flag

 

THE ARTIST
Gold is the colour of immensely-successful music artists Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro.

Well, not of the men themselves because that would make them look like C-3PO mannequin lookalikes, a trait that’s only useful if you want to make an appearance in one of Star Wars films, but of their careers which collectively are an never-ending cavalcade of gold (and platinum) albums, sold-out tours up and down the length and breadth of Italy and multiple awards, including, rather crucially if you want to do represent Italy at Eurovision, the Sanremo Festival.

Both Meta and Moro have not just successfully contributed to their own shiny careers but have found themselves in great demand as songwriters for other artists (Moro) and a judge on popular talent show Amici (Meta).

When you are as successful as these two men who can’t move for all the awards, accolades and gold & platinum albums building up around them, do you really have time for Eurovision, important though it may be, and of course, has your songwriting talent, Midas-ian as it enduringly seems to be, stayed close at hand when you need it most?

 

Ermal Meta e Fabrizio Moro (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Most assuredly yes.

Singing in Italian, which Italy always does (like France which sticks to its native tongue without exception), Meta and Moro have come up with a startling appealing song in “Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente” which manages to sound both quintessentially, classically Italy with a lovely operatic feel to it, and decidedly modern and upbeat.

It’s almost joyously uplifting musically, which acts as an encouraging accompaniment to lyrics that celebrate optimism and belief in the power of life to be greater than the realities of world might suggest it can be:

“You haven’t done anything to me
You’ve taken nothing from me
This is my life, and it keeps going
Beyond everything, beyond people
You haven’t done anything to me
You haven’t won anything
Because there’s more than your pointless wars.” 

It’s sublimely-beautiful, meaningful and amazingly singable-along-to, an arresting piece of music that is of the moment and timeless all at once, and which should see Italy, and by extension Meta and Moro (like there was ever any doubt there .. I mean c’mon people look and listen to them!) do quite nicely at Eurovision this year.

 

 


PORTUGAL: “O Jardim” by Cláudia Pascoal

 

 

THE ARTIST
You only have to look at Cláudia Pascoal’s bio to readily understand that music is a huge, unassailable part of her life.

Starting off as a busker who picked up the guitar at age 15 (possibly ancient when you look at how some of the entrants started playing instruments), she has participated in a slew of TV talent shows like Ídolos in 2010 and 2015, Factor X in 2014 and The Voice Portugal in 2017.

She even tried her hand at becoming a talk show host in 2014, auditioning for Curto Circuito and coming in third; the biggest contest of all though was Festival da Canção which, SPOILER ALERT! (not really), she won!

In-between laying her undeniable talent repeatedly on the line, she’s released a single with Pedro Gonçalves and sings lead for the band MORHUA.

Musical credentials well and truly established I’d say! Will it that be enough come the grand final on the 12th May when she represents the contest’s home country? (No pressure, Cláudia, nope, none at all.)

 

Cláudia Pascoal (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Composed by Isaura, who’s been releasing music since 2014, kicking off with the single “Useless”, “O Jardim” has an earnestly epic quality to it, anchored by Cláudia’s heartfelt vocals which sound less like she’s singing the song as living every last lyric.

Not surprising when you take a look at the lyrics, which look at the grief-stricken aftermath of losing someone very dear and special:

“Now that you’re gone
I’ll take care of your garden”

The song is the perfect marriage of word sand music, drawing on the same emotionally-resonant that Salvador Sobral drew on so winningly last year.

Looks for this pop gem to do very nicely indeed; you’d have to be a monster with a concrete heart not to be moved by this gorgeous song.

 

 

 

SPAIN: “Tu Canción” by Amaia y Alfred

 

Road to Eurovision The Big Six Spain flag

 

THE ARTIST
Love is grand isn’t it? Doesn’t matter if its fictional or real; there’s something about falling in love that completely transfixes and cheers up the soul.

Amaia y Alfred can speak to the truth of this, thanks to being a real life couple who together won the most recent edition of TV talent show Operación Triunfo, captivating, so their lovestruck bio assures us, “viewers with their distinctive musical qualities, honed in music schools.

And indeed, one look at their respective achievements to date, and you realise just how much honing of the musical variety, took place with Alfred, a talented songwriter, combining music studies in with a degree in Audiovisual Communication at the International University of Catalonia, and Amaia, a pianist who loves The Beatles and Rosalia, starting studies in her chosen instrument at the tender age of 6 (when most of us are perfecting colouring between the lines) at Pablo Sarasate’s Music Conservatory.

Theirs is a love story that has entranced Spain, making them darlings of social media in Spain; but will it transfix the population of greater Europe as well?

 

Amaia y Alfred (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
All together now – ‘ AWWWWWWWW!”

The song, “Tu Canción”, written by Raul Gomez Garcia and Sylvia Ruth Santoro Lopez, is a dreamy love song tailor-made for the adorable couple.

Frankly with the kind of musical and life chemistry they share, they could sing the phone book and people would sit in dreamy rapt attention; but this sweet, substantial piece of pop balladry amps that up a thousand-fold with lyrics like this to delight you and make you swoon:

“I feel like dancing for the first time
You are the art that sweetens my skin
From my traveling mind that follows your feet
I feel like dancing for the first time by your side.”

They manage to take a reasonably cookie-cutter song, that wouldn’t be out of place in any one of a thousand Disney films, and make it their own, their harmonies elevating the song beyond it’s already impressive roots.

This is music to fall in love to and if Europe isn’t seduced, then you have to wonder if they have ever really loved at all.

 

 

UK: “Storm” by SuRie

 

Road to Eurovision The Big Six UK flag

 

THE ARTIST
Jumping on the artistic mono-moniker bandwagon so well-travelled on by the likes of Madonna and P!NK, SuRie aka Susanna Marie to her mum and dad, had made quite a name for herself.

Classically-trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London and recently elected as an Associate of her alma mater for her “significant contribution to the music profession”, SuRie has turned an early love of reading and writing into songwriting that embodies the storytelling style so beloved of Tori Amos, Regina Spektor and Billy Joel and combined with the cinematic narrative work of people like Emiliana Torrini and Imogen Heap to winning effect.

A globetrotter who’s first album, Something Beginning With …, had its genesis in countries as diverse as Australia, Sweden and the U.S., SuRie has a long history with Eurovision, performing back-up vocals for Belgium’s Loïc Nottet in 2015, and acting as musical director for Blanche in 2017.

But what will it be like when she’s up on the stage all by herself? Will she eclipse the achievements of those she once supported?

 

SuRie (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
If you’d asked me when I first heard the song, lo these few months back, I’d have said “No way; pack up and go home now and don’t let the treble clef on the way out!’; “Storm”, an affirming song by Nicole Blair, Gil Lewis and Sean Hargreaves, just sounded so connect-the-dots, been-there-got-the-Tshirt-in-three-colours-because-you never-know”.

But repeated listens, perhaps the result of musical Stockholm Syndrome, or my love of pink bubblegum, fairy floss hair colours – it’s hard to say which is more of an influence – have convinced have legs of more durability and likeability that I first thought.

It’s still shamelessly generic, sounding like a thousand songs you’ve heard many times before, but SuRie makes it come alive, as does a killer chorus that romps and stomps and epically surges its way to a bouyant end.

This is the kind of song that should, quite literally, sing on the stage at Eurovision, and so long as SuRie doesn’t stand like a wooden deer in headlights while performing it, which is unlikely given her training, should mean the UK places quite nicely in the standings this year.

 

 

EUROVISION EXTRA EXTRA!

Estonia’s Elina Nechayeva has a dress! A BIG dress! And now, thanks to multiple sponsorship deals which will cover the 65,000 Euros cost of transporting it to Portugal, it’s coming to Lisbon! Watch and be impressed by its fabulous bigness, very much in keeping with Eurovision’s tradition of OTT staging (Metro)

 

 

If you recall, Ireland’s video for its song “Together” gave a beautiful, though ultimately romantically tragic tale, of two handsome young men falling in love. A tribute to Ireland’s vote to legalise same sex marriage a while back, it will be recreated on stage in Lisbon, to the delight of people with open hearts and minds everywhere and the dismay of bigots and homophobes no doubt (Metro)

 

 

Lighting rather than LED screens will be the order of the day on stage at Eurovision this year, eschewing the recent trend to big visuals and a return to the kind of intimacy and focus on the artist that marked ‪Malmö‬’s stint as host (Metro

 

(image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

Bonus videos! Do we have bonus videos? We do! Well, many of the entrants do more accurately and you can find them here at Metro.

  • Oh, and if you’re planning to take a ladder or shopping trolley to Eurovision, because why the hell wouldn’t you, you’re out of luck as SBS Eurovision goes through the Contest’s list of banned items.

 

Road to Eurovision 2018: Week 6 – San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, The Netherlands, Ukraine

(artwork 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 Lisbon, Portugal.

 

SAN MARINO: “Who We Are” by Jessika featuring Jenifer Brening

 

Road to Eurovision 2016 week 3 San Marino flag

 

THE ARTIST
If at first you don’t succeed, try and try and try again … and change countries!

Jessika Muscat, a singer/songwriter and actress who hails from Malta, is tenacity personified – after leaping into the consciousness of the Maltese public in 2008 via the Malta Song for Europe Festival and a debut single “Tangled”, she threw her hat into the Eurovision ring, making it to the finals of national selection process in 2011 with a self-penned song “Down Down Down” (somewhat prophetic as it turns out).

Undeterred, she returned in 2013 with “Ultraviolet”, placing fourth, and in 2014 with the song “Fandango”, in-between writing songs for other contestants (rather selfless of her) and again in 2016 where her song “The Flame” helped her placed seventh.

Clearly possessed of the firm belief that Eurovision glory awaits her, and why not, manifest destiny is a powerfully seductive idea, she has now teamed up with German singer Jenifer Brening who, like many Eurovision entrants kicked off her musical career at an inspiringly young age, to sing for San Marino who conducted a worldwide national selection contest online to find their entrant for 2018.

It’s obvious that based on sheer willpower alone, Jessika should be handed the crystal microphone and be done with it, but clearly the contest demands a little more than that; so is “Who We Are” up the task of winning musicality with vaulting ambition?

 

Jessika featuring Jenifer Brening (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
If light and frothy generic pop was the sole arbiter of contest victory, then yes most definitely.

Alas, it is not with the days of identikit, jigsaw-puzzle pop largely, though not entirely, behind Eurovision; so while “Who We Are” is a pleasant enough, and admirably earnest, and has enough momentum to get through the requisite three-minutes, it leaves next to no impression.

It is, in other words, eminently forgettable, failing to spark with much individuality, a pity since Jessika Muscat has clearly got the vocal chops to do justice to compelling dancefloor bangers (on the other hand Jenifer Brening, while attitude-rich, is as cookie-cutter as they come).

Unfortunately, “Who We Are” is not that song and I’d wave goodbye to San Marino now to save time during semi-final 2.

 

 

SERBIA: “Nova Deca” by Sanja Ilić & Balkanika

 

Road to Eurovision Week 6 Serbia flag

 

THE ARTIST
Aleksandar Sanja Ilić is a regular Serbian renaissance man.

Not content with being an author and a composer, the man responsible for steering the band Sanja Ilić & Balkanika to growing popularity, so we are told, through the Balkans and across the globe, is also the band leader, helping to blend modern pop-rock with traditional Balkanika music.

To do that, and let’s face it with that much on his plate, copious amounts of coffee have to be involved somewhere, Aleksandar employ musicians skilled at playing old instruments, male and female vocalists, and some electronic flourishes to achieve the desired sound.

A sound which is clearly popular with fans as far afield as Russia, the United States and South Korea … but will it appeal to the good song-loving voters of Eurovision?

 

Sanja Ilić & Balkanika (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
There is a certain otherworldiness to “Nova Deca” which feels like the love child of Balkan ethno-pop and The Lord of the Rings soundtracks.

Musically and vocally the song is rich and inviting and mystically appealing but for all those engaging qualities, and they are there in great abundance, the song never really comes alive, caught in breathy etherealness and never breaking free.

As a representative of the rich musical history of Serbia meets its dazzling electronica present, it’s a douze points winner but as a take-all-challengers entrant for the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest, it falls short.

Look for this to possibly squeak into the grand final on the back of pan-Balkan sentiment and a blisteringly good live performance which I have every confidence they can manage but left entirely to song memorability? Nil points, I’m afraid.

 

 

SLOVENIA: “Hvala, ne!” by Lea Sirk

 

Road to Eurovision Week 6 Slovenia flag

 

THE ARTIST
The pink hair and sunny smile alone have me sold on Lea Sirk.

But throw in the fact that she completed high school while studying the concert flute, and competed in a plethora of national and international competitions in the early Noughties, and performances with orchestras across Europe, all while studying at the Conservatory of Music in Geneva, and you have one seriously talented person on your hands.

Sirk is also a consummate singer, to go with the musical talent, winning most promising young singer at the International Music Competition Cologne in 2005, singing at a slew of festivals, participating in national selection for Eurovision in 2009 and 2010, and even impersonating famous world performers for the show Znan obraz ima svoj glas (Your Face Sounds Familiar).

Musical talent in abundance? TICK! Singing prowess and a burgeoning solo career? Also TICK! Can she add Eurovision winner to that pretty impressive list, I hear you ask with breathless anticipation (or am I just projecting?)

 

Lea Sirk (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
On sheer performance bravura alone, she should do rather nicely.

“Hvala, ne”, which she co-wrote with prominent Slovenian DJ Tomy Declerque, is brilliantly minimalist, melodic electronica at its best, a standout in a field of 2018 songs that has many middle-field contestants but few really, truly memorable breakouts.

Sirk’s vocals more than rise to the challenge, investing power, emotional presence and character into the song which percolates with catchy, beat-heavy jauntiness and a willingness to be both in your face and delightfully pulled back to a cut-down, slowed-down sensibility.

It’s an entirely unique, very clever song that should do well because Sirk has the chops as a live performer and because it’s so different to many of its competitor songs; it likely won’t win Serbia the contest but it will get them to the grand final and should ensure that the country makes quite an impression for daring to push that musical envelope just a little bit more.

 

 


SWEDEN: “Dance You Off” by Benjamin Ingrosso

 

Road to Eurovision The Big Six Sweden flag

 

THE ARTIST
By any measure, Benjamin Ingrosso, a Swede of Italian descent, is a popular guy.

With over 25 million Spotify streams and counting, platinum and gold status on his singles, popular and critical acclaim for his music – which he began writing as a kid; his first gold-certified hit was at age nine making the Mozart of the current Eurovision field – and near-omnipresence on Swedish TV, everyone loves the talented singer and self-trained pianist/guitarist.

Could it be his embrace of “polished pop tunes”? Or his “soulful performance bravado? Or is it simply that a face that beautiful sings so divinely?

All that and more quite possibly; but that may matter for nought, in the rarefied world of Eurovision, if he doesn’t deliver the goods when it really matters.

So the million dollar question is, are the goods, whatever they may be, well and truly in his possession?

 

Benjamin Ingrosso (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
If you’re thinking “the goods” is a grasp of catchy, of-the-moment radio-ready pop with all the bells-and-whistles, a gift for alluring performance and a sweetly-emotive voice, then, yes, he has them and is going all out to make the most of them.

“Dance You Off” is blissfully sublime upbeat pop that slides across your ears, much like one of his musical heroes Michael Jackson, all velvety smoothness and seductive embrace.

It’s nothing out of the box – a musical envelope-pusher it is not – but Ingrosso takes a well-used, much-exercised sound and gives it a freshness and vibrancy, especially on repeated listens (the first few listens left me strangely cold), that many other pop chart-toppers would give their insipid bridge for.

The song will propel Sweden into its accustomed place in the grand final and should ensure a top 10 finish, especially if Ingrosso is at his soulful best.

 

 

THE NETHERLANDS: “Outlaw In ‘Em” by Waylon

 

Road to Eurovision week 3 The Netherlands flag

 

THE ARTIST
Willem Bijkerk aka Waylon has a way of getting himself noticed.

While his Eurovision bio is mum on exactly why he got the call, in 1998 when The Netherlands was just 18, country superstar Waylon Jennings asked him to come to Nashville and work with him.

Dream come true! Alas Jennings passed away in 2001, but that hasn’t stopped Waylon, who naturally enough adopted his hero’s first name as his artistic moniker, from getting noticed again, this time by the people of The Netherlands via a performance on Holland’s Got Talent in 2008.

From there, it’s been up-and-up with successful albums, being voted Best Vocalist in 2011 by 3FM, a coach on Voice of Holland and a jury member on It Takes Two.

Oh and if he looks familiar to those in Eurovision-land? He was a member of The Common Linnets who represented The Netherlands in 2014 …

 

Waylon (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Lord god but his return to the Eurovision stage is a powerful one.

“Outlaw in ‘Em” oozes bluesy angst, driving guitars and a voice that is so emotive, you completely believe every damn thing this masterful singer and performer says in song.

You don’t really need to love or listen to country rock to completely throw yourself headlong into this amazing song which is another distinctive entry in a year of reasonably safe choices.

For that reason alone, and Waylon and his tuneful confirmation that everyone’s got a little outlaw in ’em, as accurate a statement on the human condition as you’re likely to get at Eurovision, should do well; having said that country music doesn’t tend to do well at the contest so everything will come down to Waylon converting the naysayers to his righteous cause.

Something tells he’s got every chance in the world of doing that.

 

 

UKRAINE: “Under the Ladder” by MELOVIN

 

Road to Eurovision Week 6 Ukraine flag

 

THE ARTIST
Freaky eyes aside, and to be fair, it could just be a poor choice of contact lenses, MELOVIN – the name is derived from a mix of Halloween (that would explain the unnervingly direct, Werewolf-ian piercing looks) and the final name of fashion designer Alexander McQueen – is one of the most unique artists appearing in this year’s contest.

A perennial entrant in reality talent shows such as Ukraine’s Got Talent and The X Factor (he finally won X Factor in 2015), the artist known as Kostyantyn Mykolayovych Bocharov to his parents (but only when they’re really annoyed with him), lists music, perfume and chemistry as his passions.

That same persistence and tenacity that got through the hard slog of reality TV stardom and success has served him well with his Eurovision aspirations with a third placing in Ukraine’s national selection in 2017 being bested this year with selection as his country’s anointed act.

But can this theatre school graduate, who failed to finish his stint at a music school, make good on the payoff for all his hard work? And, perhaps just as importantly, will he smell good doing it?

 

MELOVIN (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Theatrically, this will not surprise you, he has it all sewn up, bringing some vampiric stage presence to the performance of his song “Under the Ladder”.

Vocally though he’s a little on the ground, and while his delivery is not a trainwreck by any estimation, and he has undeniable presence, the song doesn’t really bring it home as you might initially think, lacking anything beyond a generic presence.

It’s undeniably catchy in some ways and with the right live performance, and copious votes from teenage girls and gay men with a penchant for goth twinks, might just make it across the line to the grand final.

But as memorability goes, it’s just that little bit shy of really make its presence felt meaning, and idealistic hashtag #BraveLoveFreedom notwithstanding, it’ll be a pleasant enough way to spend some time but not the winning ace in the hole MELOVIN is no doubt aiming for.

 

 

EUROVISION EXTRA EXTRA!

Back on the 10 April a host of 2018 Eurovision entrants including Australia’s Jessica Mauboy, Mikolas Josef from Czech Republic, Sennek from Belgium, Madame Monsieur from France and Zibbz from Switzerland. gathered in beautiful Tel Aviv for Israel Calling where the host country’s Netta made quite the splash with her frontrunner song “Toy”.

On the red carpet, many of the acts were asked to sing the beginning of “Toy” which is a “fowl” bit of fun; the results are hilarious but if you’re not game to join them, you can now dance like Netta, mastering the moves ready for the second week of May when the Eurovision Song Contest takes the stage in Lisbon, Portugal.

 

 

MY SEMI FINAL 2 TOP 10

So drum roll if you please maestro!

Which ten songs do I foolishly predict (with a usual 50% accuracy, proving I do not know the mind of Europe or my home country Australia) will garner themselves a coveted grand final spot? (These are not, by the way, in any particular order.)

AUSTRALIA: “We Got Love” by Jessica Mauboy
DENMARK: “Higher Ground” by Rasmussen
MALTA: “Taboo” by Christabelle
MOLDOVA: “My Lucky Day” by DoReDos
NORWAY: “That’s How You Write A Song” by Alexander Rybak
POLAND: “Light Me Up” by Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer‬

SERBIA: “Nova Deca” by Sanja Ilić & Balkanika
SLOVENIA: “Hvala, ne!” by Lea Sirk
SWEDEN: “Dance You Off” by Benjamin Ingrosso
THE NETHERLANDS: “Outlaw In ‘Em” by Waylon

Road to Eurovision 2018: Week 5 – Moldova, Montengero, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia

(artwork 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 Lisbon, Portugal.

 

MOLDOVA: “My Lucky Day” by DoReDos

 

Road to Eurovision 2016 Week 3 Moldova flag


THE ARTIST
The accepted wisdom, oft-uttered at marriage ceremonies, is that two is better than one (unless you have chocolate in which being alone rules).

But if you’re DoReDos, Moldova’s folk/pop-inclined entry for Eurovision 2018, then you would be inclined to turn that wisdom on its head, and celebrate the power of three; in this case, three talented music artists from Rybnitsa in the northeast of the country who found each other very early on and decided they could make sweet music together.

Marina Djundiet, Eugeniu Andrianov and Sergiu Mîța, all with extensive musical backgrounds despite their young age, have taken this kernel of an idea and run with it, winning the New Wave contest in Sochi, Russia where they were noticed by the 1995 Russian contestant for Eurovision, Philipp Kirkorov, who, just like that, took a liking to them and composed them a song, “My Lucky Day”.

So much luck and happenstance and being in the right place, quite literally, at the right time – could something big, bright and Eurovision-y being on their collective horizon then?

 

DoReDos (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
You know, it just might.

“My Lucky Day” is an incredibly jaunty, fun and lighthearted slice of ethnopop that zhoushes, dives and dances with the kind of energy that makes it all but impossible to stay seated while you’re listening to it.

I can guarantee that the audience in Lisbon’s Altice Arena will be on their feet and dancing in the aisles, assuming security will let them, when Moldova do their jaunty thing, singing, as best as I can tell, about a wholesome, boy and girl next door love triangle (there’s bound to be a Hallmark card any day now for just a situation).

Whatever the true lyrical intent, the song is an absolutely high-spirited gem that while it can’t be guaranteed to get Moldova into the grand final (although I remain quietly and hopefully confident it will), it should turn semi final into a joie de vivre-filled dancefest … and at Eurovision, or indeed in life generally, that is never a bad thing.

 

 

MONTENEGRO: “Inje” by Vanja Radovanović

 

Road to Eurovision 2016 Week 3 Montenegro flag

 

THE ARTIST
As a music artist, if you can write and perform your own songs, you’re in a unique position to directly control and influence your own career.

That’s not to say you’re a better performer than people interpreting other peoples’ songs – Israel’s Netta Barzalai is an instructive case in point – but you are your own creative world and can inhabit it and play with it as you so desire.

And so Vanja Radovanović has, winning Best Debut at the 2004 Budva Music Festival with the song “Dripac”, releasing a single, “Pričaj dodirom”, and an album of the same name in 2007 (which happily sold like the proverbial), the first of many singles in his name, and writing countless songs for others when he’s not performing as the lead singer of the band VIII2.

So boxseat of life, thy occupant is called Vanja Radovanović with Eurovision glory potentially awaiting him … or is it?

 

Vladimir Radovanovic (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Well, if you’re a fan of breathy, intensely-earnest ballads, then sure.

“Inje” is not exactly a kick up your heels dance song, in keeping with a trend this year to lo-tempo songs sung in national languages (the latter development is particularly heartening to see) and as far as it goes, it works nicely enough.

But its great failing, which doesn’t extend to either Vanja Radovanović’s vocal prowess or that of his delightfully-harmonised backing singers, is that it doesn’t really stand out in any meaningful fashion.

Touching and intense, majestic and epic absolutely but in a been there, done that, got the sparkly Eurovision T-shirt (in muted colours, natch), not bringing anything new to the table kind of way.

Look for this one to be nothing more than a blip, however, pleasant, on the semi final 2 radar.

 

 

 

NORWAY: “That’s How You Write A Song” by Alexander Rybak

 

Road to Eurovision Week 6 Norway flag

 

THE ARTIST
Behold, he has returned! (No, not Jesus!)

First bestriding the glory that is the Eurovision stage way back in 2009 when he won the contest with “Fairytale”, amassing the highest tally ever under the old voting system, Alexander Rybak is back, older, wiser and determined to teach us the art of songwriting (as an allegory for life, of course).

Well, possibly not, but the cherubic-looking artist who doesn’t appear to have aged a day, is back with a catchy number called “That’s How You Write a Song”, his violin-playing skills in tip-top shape, and that boy next door grin working overtime.

And yes, while they say lightning can’t strike, surely that doesn’t apply to the magical world of Eurovision and the winning thereof?

 

Alexander Rybak (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Hopefully not, but let’s be honest, it’s a long shot and if anyone’s knows that it’s Rybak who’s stayed closely connected to Eurovision, even performing for the interval acts in 2012 and 2016, and composing entries for finalists in Norway’s national selection trials in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

So assuming hope is springing eternal, and remember he’s older and wiser that he was in 2009, does history have a hope of repeating for Norway?

Likely not, but not for want of trying.

“That’s How You Write a Song” is an absolute delight, bouyant, exhilarating pop from the get-go that kicks off with some Michael Jackson-esque flourishes before gleefully sauntering into a loping ball of feel-good energy.

You can’t help but love the raw sense of fun that percolates all through the song but it’s not quite as special as “Fairytale” and while it’ll definitely get Norway to the grand final, it’s doubtful we’ll see history repeat itself.

A pity because lord god almighty, that smile of Rybak’s needs to be seen as much as humanly possible throughout this year’s contest …

 

 

POLAND: “Light Me Up” by Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer

 

Road to Eurovision Week 6 Poland flag

 

THE ARTIST
Who doesn’t love to see two friends getting together to make sweet, sweet music?

No, that’s not a euphemism, thank you; in the case of Poland’s entry for this year, DJ Gromee who is the king of audio and video streams in the country and sharer of concert stages with the likes of NERVO and Steve Aoki, is joining forces with his friend, Swedish singer Lukas Meijer who, the Eurovision bio notes, is known for “being able to adjust the right feeling to every song he sings without losing his own character on the voice.”

Bringing together a DJ who has founded his own radio station and record label and a singer who has worked with the likes of Stevie Aiello (30 Seconds To Mars), Tommy Henriksen (Alice Cooper, Hollywood Vampires) and Grammy nominee Mark Holman (Daughtry, Three Days Grace) would seem to be a no-brainer, a marriage of musical talents that can’t help but be a raging success.

After all, isn’t the whole always greater than the sum of its parts?

 

Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)


THE SONG
Hard to say in one sense since I haven’t had any previous exposure to the work of either artist, both of whom, as noted, have done quite nicely on their own thank you very much.

But as songs go, “Light Me Up”, while catchy enough, and possessed of an of-the-moment beat and danceable sensibility that should make for a captivating live performance, isn’t distinctive enough to make for a truly memorable entry.

It’s like one of those songs you hear on the radio, assuming you still listen to it, and enjoy enough to keep it on for the duration, but not enough to go and add it to one of your many Spotify playlists.

A bundle of pop fun that should kick Poland into the grand final because chart-topping songs like this (it’s done very well in Poland) are always attractive but does it have the kind of stuck-in-your-brain longevity it’ll nice to win?

Likely not but we should some ephemeral fun dancing to it in the interim.

 

 

ROMANIA: “Goodbye” by The Humans

 

 

THE ARTIST
Hailing from Bucharest, The Humans, a prosaical name that leaves no doubt about what kind of beings you’ll see on stage, is a band of six people (of course), who, we are assured, have “their own mix of musical backgrounds”.

Four of the members, Alin Neagoe (bass), Alex Matei (piano), Cristina Caramarcu (vocals) and Adi Tetrade, were in a band called Jukebox, but seeking greener musical pastures, decamped, joining forces with Alex Cismaru (guitar) and Adi Tanase (vocals) to form a brand new band.

As new projects go, The Humans are off to a pretty promising start you would think, what with being selected to present the country and all.

But being selected is one thing, a rather fetching shade of green you would have to say, but winning another, or at the very least escaping semi final 2.

Do The Humans have what it takes?

 

The Humans (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Written by three of the band members (Cristina Caramarcu, Alexandru Matei and Alin Neagoe), “Goodbye” kicks some serious rock butt.

It starts off slowly true, but builds and builds thanks to Caramarcu’s impressive, emotionally-resonant vocals, drawing off some fine musicianship and live performance chops, ending up redolent with passion, longing and a whole lotta humanity.

What it doesn’t have enough of, and this will hurt its chances in the contest, is true originality; it sounds far too much like a thousand other songs, which may not be a problem on radio or streaming, but matters a great deal in a live contest like Eurovision where memorability is everything.

It’s hardly going to bring shame to Romania, but beyond providing a heartfelt interlude to semi final 2, won’t really make much of a lasting impression.

 

 

RUSSIA: “I Won’t Break” by Julia Samoylova

 

Road to Eurovision 2016 week 3 Russia flag

 

THE ARTIST
Second time’s the charm hey?

To be fair to Julia Samoylova, she never got the chance to make a first impression with Russia with the superpower withdrawing from last year’s contest when Ukraine refused to let their entrant enter the country due to her appearance on a list of banned singers who had performed in the disputed territory of Crimea.

Whatever your view of that particular stoush, it means that Samoylova is coming to Lisbon to make a second first impression, bringing the talent that won her X-Factor, got her a gig singing at the Winter Paralympics in Sochi in 2014, and won her Alla’s Golden Star, an award named after Russia’s 1997 Eurovision participant Alla Pugachova.

So she has the talent to make all kinds of impressions, of whatever numerical and chronological value you care to assign, but will all that impressing get her, and by extension, Russia anywhere?

 

Julia Samoylova (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
If you like reasonably unadventurous songs sure.

“I Won’t Break” is decidedly anthemic, redolent with healthy defiance and tenacity, the sorts of themes that Eurovision was purpose built for back in the day as a way of healing the rifts in postwar Europe (which, you may have noticed, are rather gaping at present).

The song has power and undoubted balladic energy, and should make for a great live performance, particularly given Samoylova’s vocal emotiveness.

But advancing to the grand final and a top 10 finish will hinge entirely on her live performance which will need to be damn good to make up for a song that is nowhere near as impressive as the singer herself.

 

 


EUROVISION EXTRA EXTRA!

 

We know Eurovision is, among many other things, about love sweet love.

But love sweet Love Boat?

According to website Descubriendo ESC that’s exactly what it is and the results of bringing together the classic ’70s TV show and this year’s Eurovision contestants is retro kitsch wonderful.

 

Road to Eurovision 2018: Week 4 – Australia, Denmark, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Malta

(artwork 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 Lisbon, Portugal.

 

AUSTRALIA: “We Got Love” by Jessica Mauboy

 

 

THE ARTIST
Hailing from beautiful Far North Queensland, Jessica Mauboy is no stranger to the world of the Eurovision Song Contest.

She performed as the interval act at Copenhagen in 2014, part of the push that saw Australia, which we will accede is not technically part of Europe (satirical map memes aside, of course), join the contest as an active participant in 2015 when Guy Sebastian sang “Tonight Again”.

The daughter of a mother who has roots in two indigenous tribes, the Wakaman and the KuKu Yalanji, and a father from Timor Leste, Mauboy found fame and glory back in 2006 as a 16-year-old as the runner-up on Australian Idol, and she hasn’t looked back since with a slew of highly-successful albums, starring roles in films Bran Nue Dae (2010) and The Sapphires (2012), touring with Beyoncé, collaborating with the likes of Pitbull and Ricky Martin, and performing for Ellen, Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey.

So, a fairly low-key career so far, poor dear. (Kidding.)

With her name already well-known in Eurovision circles, can Mauboy add a win for Australia, chock full of a veritable rainbow of European nationalities, giving her career that extra lift it so desperately needs. (Again, clearly kidding.)

 

Jessica Mauboy (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Her success with “We Got Love”, which she co-wrote with David Musumeci and Anthony Egizii, will really come to her performance on the night.

A reasonably straightforward pop thumper which ticks all the right Eurovision idealistic boxes – she describes the song as “a reminder that love, acceptance and the power of inclusivity can overcome all obstacles or hardships that arise” – and comes equipped with Mauboy’s equally-powerful voice, “We Got Love” has everything you need to knock it out of the park live.

By all accounts, this just happened at the recently-staged London Eurovision Party on 5 April, one of a series of publicity events held in various European cities in the lead up to the context proper, where Mauboy made quite the impression.

That is, naturally, the main barometer of success at Eurovision – how well a song comes across alive; while the song still sounds a tad too formulaic for my liking, it is undeniably a “banger” as Ed Gleaves from the UK’s Daily Star christened it on Twitter, which could see Mauboy and Australia leaping from semi final to grand final and perhaps even coming close, like Dami Im in 2017, to actually winning the thing.

 

 

DENMARK: “Higher Ground” by Rasmussen

 

 

THE ARTIST
Channelling the infamously iconic look of Rasputin if he had been good-looking and talented at creating music, which history suggests he was not, Rasmussen or Jonas Flodager Rasmussen as he is known to family, friends and Cambridge Analytica, is a Western Denmark-dwelling artist of considerable musical eclecticism.

When he’s not performing in musicals such as West Side Story and Les Misérables, he’s singing in a choir alongside The Rolling Stones, drawing on his inner ABBA, Elton John or Paul McCartney for tribute concerts, and working as a voice and performance coach.

No chance of bemoaning the drab uniformity of his life then.

Rasmussen’s striking looks (and talent for energetic performances) have no doubt snagged him many of these opportunities but they’re also going to aid him in his Eurovision performance which draws on his resemblance to the classic idea of what Vikings looked like.

Why, you ask, does that matter?

 

Rasmussen (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Mainly because his song, “Higher Ground”, written by Swedish songwriters, Niclas Arn and Karl Eurén, preaching a message of listening to each other and choosing peaceful resolution over violent means, draws on the personage of one Magnus Erlendsson, a Viking who defied his king in 1098 by hewing close to a philosophy of non-violence and refusing to take part in the Battle of Anglesey Sound.

A ballsy move in a society known for its bold, territorial conquests by most-decidedly violent means, and the inspiration for a song that ticks all the favourite Eurovision boxes of peace, love and inclusion with gusto.

Message? Tick! But is the song musically up to the task?

Mostly – it has a goosebump-inducing epic quality to it that though it dips a little inertly in the verses, kicks things up a notch or two in the bridge and chorus; but while it is hands-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-care material, it never really gets going as full bore as you think it might, only belatedly picking up in the pace towards the end where it’s a little too late to make much of an impact.

A lovely, stirring song as far as it goes but not enough, I suspect, to propel Denmark to anywhere really significant this year. (Although what do I know when it comes to Denmark and its song choices? I didn’t love their 2013 entry “Only Teardrops” by Emmelie de Forest and that won them the damn contest!)

 

 

GEORGIA: “For You” by Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao

 

 

THE ARTIST
You have to hand it to Georgia’s entry this year.

Where you might be left wondering what kind of genre other countries’ artists will be employing in the pursuit of Eurovision glory, Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao nails their genre colours, or sounds really, to the mast from the get-go.

But what you ask, as an irregular consumer of Georgian music, is ethno-jazz when you’re streaming Spotify at home?

According to the good bio-writing folk at Eurovision, it’s a distinctly Georgian style of music that’s “based on Georgian polyphonic music and harmony, saturated with jazz and modern music elements … [with the] group’s name derived from a phrase, “Iriao-uruao” which comes the famous yodeling singing style “Krimanchuli” of Georgian traditional polyphonic music.”

Got all that? Suffice to say that David Malazonia and the rest of this unique band, who have performed at major festivals around the world, garnering themselves quite a reputation in the process, have a thoroughly unique sound that may stand them in good stead in the musical uniformity that is sometimes Eurovision.

 

Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Or perhaps not.

Lovely though “For You”, writer Irina Sanikidze and composers David Malazonia and Mikheil Mdinaradze, is it lacks the kind of oomph needed for a memorable, vote-pulling performance at Eurovision.

More suited to a thoughtful indie movie soundtrack, final act of a Disney movie (no put down; I love those films) or 3 am in a bar where you’re finally relaxing after a stressful week, the song will be a pleasant interlude in the midst of semi final 2 but not much more I’d wager.

Thank you Georgia for a gorgeously moving song which should sound lovely on its one and only outing at this year’s contest; it’s doubtful that this pretty song will make it past the gatekeepers of the grand final.

 

 

HUNGARY: “Viszlát Nyár” by AWS

 

 

THE ARTIST
Now this is what we’ve been missing in the Lordi-shaped vacuum we’ve had to endure in the dark non-metallic days since 2006 when “Hard Rock Hallelujah” took Finland to an unexpected victory.

AWS, who apparently describe themselves as “modern metal band with attitude” – as opposed to the shyly inoffensive ones who say “please” and “thank you” and “How may I help you”? – have been around since 2006 when teenagers Bence Brucker, Dániel Kökényes, Örs Siklósi and Áron Veress (later joined by Soma Schiszler) got together to make big, loud, attitude-laden music.

Drawing on a heavy melange of metal, psychedelic rock, alternative and post-rock styles and writing pretty much exclusively in Hungarian, the band is known for can’t-look-away live powerhouse performances, have a lot to say it turns out being more than a little anti-celebrity and extremely concerned about the state of the world, an ethos that fits perfectly with a genre of music that has never inclined to chat politely and wait for consensual agreement.

So is this really the kind of approach that will resonate with Eurovision voters who like their peace, love and mung beans message but usually, I stress usually, wrapped in nice dulcet ballds or chirpy upbeat tunes?

 

AWS (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
That really depends if the Eurovision audience is a fan of music that makes use of “a wide range of emotions ranging from extreme anger to exalted joy”.

“Viszlát Nyár”, which translates as “Goodbye Summer” is certainly all about high-octane mournfulness, delivered with pounding rhythms, insistent beats and vocals that don’t suggest a chilled walk in the reasonable discourse park.

Thing is, full-on though it is, and let’s be fair it’s doubtful they and Georgia’s entry will be jamming anytime soon, it’s a gorgeous melody running through it and should make for one hell of a live performance.

Look for this to possibly crunch and push its way into the grand final but even if it does, don’t expect it to make much of a wave beyond that.

Still as Lordi proved, you can never rule any song or artist out completely now can you?

 

 

LATVIA: “Funny Girl” by Laura Rizzotto

 

 

THE ARTIST
Laura Rizzotto is not one of those artists you could ever accuse of jumping on the warm-and-fuzzy message wagon just to get a shot at Eurovision glory.

The daughter of a Latvian father and Brazilian mother of Portuguese decent – rather fitting given the location of this year’s contest, Rizzotto has devoted much of her musical career to causes that she passionately believes in.

From the age of 11 when she wrote her first song to studying Berklee College of Music in Boston before pursuing a Masters degree in Music and Music Education, at Columbia University in New York, where she now lives, Rizzotto has made music that matters.

Her Song “Miracle” was written as a tribute to road accident victims and was used at the UN’s second Global Conference on Road Safety, while her second album Reason to Stay promoted a message of environmental protection, a pertinent issue worldwide but especially in her home country of Brazil which faces some serious conservation issues.

But is a history of activism through music going to be enough to cut through all the competing worthy messages that fill Eurovision like key changes in an ever-escalating soaring ballad?

 

Laura Rizzotto (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Well it might have been if Rizzotto had written a song that even remotely touched on the sorts of themes beloved by the contest.

But “Funny Girl” is all about falling in love, and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that since (a) romantic songs fit beautifully at Eurovision, which has always had more than its fair share of them, and (b) it beats writing some cobbled-together earnest ditty that sounds like worthy anthem by numbers, it fails to really spark in any kind of meaningful way.

Sure the song has a mild torch song vibe to it, and Rizzotto’s voice is more than up to make her presence felt on stage, or anywhere for that matter, but it’s nothing special in the end, a song that will burn brightly and briefly and leaves to much of a trace at the end.

Ballads traditionally do well in this arena but they still need a certain presence and chutzpah, everything that “Funny Girl” in its sweet, low-key lovely way, doesn’t possess, leaving Latvia to spend the latter part of semi final 2 voting watching other acts with the requisite memorability go on to the grand final.

 

 

MALTA: “Taboo” by Christabelle

 

 

THE ARTIST
All hail musical prodigies of which Christabelle is most definitely one, kicking off her now-roaring career at the tender age of three.

Twenty-three years later, she has more than lived up to that early promise participating in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, working with the who’s who of British and American producers to create chart-topping songs such as “I Wanna Know” and “Flame”, won a slew of Bay Music Awards (the highest award for music artists in Malta) and performed with or opened for internationally-known singers such as including Gigi D’Alessio and Laura Pausini.

Even her Eurovision entry “Taboo”, which has kicked off a national debate in Malta about mental health, has seen her elevated to the laudable position of ambassador of the Maltese President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society for Mental Health.

So yeah potential well and truly realised, but all the success in the world doesn’t always translate to accolades when you step onto the stage at Eurovision; so does Christabelle, who gave up skipping rope and playing with dolls for singing very early on, have what it takes to add further success to that already achieved?

 

Christabelle (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Wisely teaming with a past winner, Thomas G:son, and much-experienced Eurovision songwriters Muxu and Johnny Sanchez, Christabelle has penned a song that does a nice job of offering up some lo-fi edgy electronica, redolent with an air of intense mystery and off-kilter emotion.

“Taboo”, while failing to fully ignite as you expect it to, is nonetheless a catchy upbeat pop song that comes with a necessarily important message about being open and honest with the darkest of struggles, not only to free yourself but others in the same position.

Drawing off the artist’s own experience dealing with mental health issues, this has a ring of authenticity missing from the more calculated, worthy entries, and with a killer live performance, which Christabelle gives every indication she’s more than capable of, could see Malta, kicking off with ease to the grand final.

It may not win the country the glittering crystal microphone trophy but if it starts a Europe-wide conversation about mental health, then it’s more than lived up to its potential, just like the artist performing it.

 

 

EUROVISION EXTRA EXTRA!

Order! Order! What order will everyone sing in?

You may not think the order in which countries sing makes a difference to voting patterns but it does, which is why the announcement of the running order for both semi finals attract such fervent speculation.

Such as the prognostications on Wiwibloggs about who will get through from semi final 1 and semi final 2.

 

Road to Eurovision 2018: Week 3 – FYR Macedonia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania, Switzerland

(artwork 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 Lisbon, Portugal.

 

F.Y.R. MACEDONIA: “Lost and Found” by Eye Cue

 

 

THE ARTIST
Sporting a band name that sounds like the brand for a chain of optometrists established by a daggy man with a penchant for dad-joke level puns, Eye Cue is a pop -rock band consisting of lead vocalist Marija Ivanovska and guitarist/vocalist Bojan Trajkovski (and when they need him, drummer Ivo Mitkovski; surely Eurovision is one of those times? Don’t worry Ivo – we’re sure you’ll get the call).

Around since 2008, an incredibly ballsy year to launch anything given The Great Recession put a great big dampener on pretty much everything, the band has managed to do quite nicely thank you very much with a couple of albums, numerous hits and recognition beyond the borders of F.Y.R. Macedonia.

They even managed to snag a glittering award in the form of first place at the 2015 Skopje Festival, sparked by Eurovision as “the most prestigious Macedonian festival” of them all (although Ohrid Fest in Ohrid, MakFest in Štip, and Interfest in Bitola may have a thing or two to say about that; or their PR teams will, anyway).

But are they content to rest on those laurels? Given they have participated in Macedonian Eurovision selection trials for a number of years previous to their eventual selection, you would have to say no.

But is their song “Lost and Found”, which also references some form of looking and sight – they are rich with the optometrical illusions these ones – possessed of enough special somethings to finally fulfill that last piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is their ambition?

 

Eye Cue (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
It really depends if you like hurtling back to the height of ska back in the 1980s.

“Lost and Found” kicks off in slow and steady reggae-influenced style, returning there in the verses which sit in stark, almost jarring contrast to the freewheeling, exuberantly upbeat chorus and the bridge which balances awkwardly somewhere in the middle.

There’s nothing wrong with the constituent elements at all, nor Marija’s enchantingly light and buoyant vocals, but they don’t really feel like they belong in the same song.

It’s like two songs competing to be one and while that would make for a fine musical Hunger Games, it doesn’t make for a memorable entry, especially in a crowded semi final 1 where the casualties will be many.

Eye Cue can only hope voters remember to hum the catchy chorus come voting time …

 

 

GREECE: “Oneiro Mou (My Dream)” by Yianna Terzi

 

 

THE ARTIST
Coming from a family of professional singers as is so often the way – her father is Paschalis Terzis – Yianna Terzi grew up listening to a pretty diverse slate of musical influences including Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.

All of which either means she has the diva-thing down pat, handy if you’re wanting to make it big in the underground clubs of New York City, which she has done with the song “Love is Your Name”, or the vocal chops to nail any style going.

Or if she wants to do well at Eurovision, both preferably.

Either way, the Thessaloniki-born, now US-based singer, who has worked with Grammy Award-winning composers and whose European albums have done very nicely thank you, looks to have what it takes to make a splash at the Altice Arena.

Ah, but the song, the song is everything, in this case “Oneiro Mou (My Dream)”, up to the task of helping this singer on the rise, climb ever further up the professional music ladder?

 

Yianna Terzi (image courtesy official Yianna Terzi Facebook page)

 

THE SONG
Every chance in the world.

Co-written by Terzi with Aris Kalimeris, Michalis Papathanasiou and Dimitris Stamatiou, “Oneiro Mou (My Dream)” is a haunting song, rich in beautiful vocals, goosebump-inducing emotional resonance and some mighty fine musical bridging.

A song, not surprisingly, about all-expansive, deeply self-sacrificial love, the song has worthy Eurovision intent woven tightly into its lyrical DNA.

But unlike other songs which sing about peace, love and Eurovision mung beans, “Oneiro Mou (My Dream)” nails it in every department, sounding stunning beautiful, richly-authentic and possessed of a clip that, should Greece not win Eurovision this year, could be sold to Greek tourism authorities as a captivating advert.

It’s even money whether Greece will make it to the grand final given the many fine songs in this semi final, but I’m hoping so – it’s a gorgeous song sung exquisitely well and deserves to get a second airing at least come grand final time.

 

 

ICELAND: “Our Choice” by Ari Ólafsson

 

 

THE ARTIST
Ari Ólafsson is pretty much the total entertainment package.

He’s cute, has a boy next door persona that will have teenage girls (and guys) and grandmothers (and grandfathers) voting for him in droves, has musical talent to burn thanks to starting early and being classically-trained, an angelic voice and at 19, a series of lead roles in musicals, courtesy of the National Theatre of Iceland.

And does he also look rather fetching in a suit on stage which appears to be his second home? Why yes, yes he does.

Is that the end of his prodigious talent? Of course, not. He’s toured with some of Iceland’s biggest musical names, and been accepted into the Royal Academy of Music in London where he kicks off his studies later this year.

He has got the world at his no doubt highly-attractive feet but can he add winning Eurovision, or at least getting Iceland to the grand final, to his impressive list of not-yet-twenty achievements (yeah, don’t worry, you’ve done lots with your life too; no really you have)?

 

Ari Ólafsson(image courtesy official Ari Ólafsson Facebook page)

 

THE SONG
That would be a firm and decisive “NO”.

While Ari definitely has a voice that’s sweetly inoffensive, the song itself is bog-standard boring, lyrically and musically as connect-the-dots and been-there-done-that-got-the-MOR-Tshirt as you could hope to get (and let’s face it, who’d hope for that right?).

It goes nowhere fast, a turgid point A to point B effort that you pray ends … and ends quickly.

Yes he’s handsome, yes he looks good in a suit and yes his voice is up to the challenge – actually it’s not much of a challenge given how utterly unadventuresome the song is throughout – but his performance is enervatingly inert, the lyrics are so painfully and obviously written to sit squarely in the Eurovision warm-and-fuzzy zone and his delivery leaves a great deal to be desired.

Don’t expect to see Iceland in the grand final unless voters prioritise style over substance on this one.

 

 

IRELAND: “Together” by Ryan O’Shaughnessy

 

 

THE ARTIST
He sings! He acts! He plays multiple musical instruments (guitar, piano and saxophone)! He has even studied music at the Dublin Institute of Technology!

As the youngest of three children, is this a case of Youngest Child Syndrome, trying to keep up with older siblings Graham and Apryl, or is Ryan, who will represent Ireland in Eurovision this year, just that damn talented?

You’d have to suspect the former since not only has he done everything in the first paragraph – although to be fair we’ve never attended an O’Shaughnessy Christmas so we can’t be 100% sure of the vibe as the turkey and brussel sprouts are served – but he’s been a contestant on both The Voice of Ireland and Britain’s Got Talent, and most importantly, on songwriting competition The Hit, which he won, catapulting him to the ranks of the world’s song creating elite.

All of which means he’s got a pretty high profile already, especially in the USA and Canada where he’s toured extensively; but can appearing at Eurovision catapult him into the musical stratosphere?

 

Ryan O’Shaughnessy (image courtesy official Ryan O’Shaughnessy Facebook page)

 

THE SONG
Let’s say from the outset, that “Together” is a million miles better than many recent entries by Ireland.

The song is sweetly earnest, possessed of an easy-lilting beats and heartfelt lyrics that explore the aftermath of the end of a relationship that it was assumed would last forever.

It’s accompanied by a very of-the-moment clip showing two men falling in love and dancing on the streets of Dublin, presumably at the promising start of a relationship that died sadly and quietly, a theme that will be echoed in the stage show in Lisbon.

While O’Shaughnessy stated on social media that the Russians were getting ready to ban his clip, there’s no evidence at this stage that’s happening; in any event, elevating a LGBTQI love story, even one with a less than happy ending, would be very much in keeping with the spirit and feel of Eurovision.

But getting back to the song – it’s doubtful Ireland will win with “Together” but it is a beautifully sung, if reasonably formulaic emotionally-resonant ballad which should at least see Ireland make the grand final.

 

ISRAEL: “Toy” by Netta
 
THE ARTIST
You know that moment when you happen across an utterly unique artist who clearly has talent in abundance, a sense of their own artistic expression and destiny, and a willingness to take the great leaps across the chasm of the expected to get there? How wonderful and exciting it feels?That’s the feeling you get with the incomparable Netta Barzilai, a 25 year old singer who won this year’s HaKokhav HaBa L’Eurovizion (The Next Star For Eurovision) with an emphatic zest for memorable performances, brilliantly catchy melodies and a willingness to take all kinds of interesting and diverse risks.Given her history, it’s no wonder that the singer stands out as much as she does.She excelled in her high school music studies, has studied at the renowned Rimon School of Music, majoring in Electronic Studies, has worked as an instructor and manager of counsellors at the Camp for Young Musicians and was the house singer and artistic director at Bar Giora for three years.Phew! Not bad for someone in their mid-twenties!

But it’s her role in an improvisational singing ensemble The Experiment which probably illustrates how willing Netta is to push musical boundaries.

It’s that willingness to push envelopes and all those other creatively interesting approaches that has imbued her entry “Toy” with so much vivacity, fun and meaning.

Netta (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
This, ladies and gentlemen and those who identify as neither or both, may I boldly present to the winner of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

From the moment I heard this absolutely unique song by Doron Medalie & Stav Beger, a veteran songwriter and an up-and-comer respectively, I was enamoured beyond all reason (well, clearly, not all reason because I am objective enough to write this review).

Kicking off with some impressively oddball vocalisations, who attacks the #metoo theme of with gusto, Netta imbues “Toy” with everything you could ask for in a distinctive Eurovision song.

It has a passionate message that feel real not opportunistic, the music is catchy as hell, bouncing and zipping along with garrulously upbeat enthusiasm, there are some insanely engaging quirky accouterments, both vocal and musical, and the lyrics don’t waste a moment, driving the point home, meaningfully but playfully.

“Toy” has the lot and if Netta’s past performances are anything to go by, it’s going to make for one hell of a Eurovision-winning performance.

 

LITHUANIA: “When We’re Old” by Ieva Zasimauskaitė

 

 

THE ARTIST
Possessing in Zasimauskaitė-Kiltinavičienė, the double-barrelled surname to end all double-barrelled surnames, Lithuania’s 2018 Eurovision entrant has accomplished a lot in just 24 years. (It’s a pattern repeated among many singers in the contest who have shown a preternatural talent and ambition that leaves most other mortals in the existential dust, most likely in the fetal position, regretting their wasted, under-used lives.)

Kicking off her music education at the age of six – hand me your Play Doh Ieva, here is your vocal studies schedule! – the resident of the country’s second-largest city Kaunas studied pop music and piano up until the age of 15, during which she was a backing vocalist at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

It obviously got her excited about competing in the big grown up Eurovision Song Contest with the proud holder of a Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel Management competing in national selection trials in 2016 and this year when she was, quite obviously, successful.

Unlike Ireland who are mourning the end of love, Zasimauskaitė is all upbeat and optimistic in “When We’re Old”, putting forward the message that “love can last forever, that it is the most powerful thing in this universe and that love can defeat all the fears that we may have.”

Altogether now “Awwww”! But delightful sentiments aside, can this song last as long as the love the singer clearly expects to find and hold onto until death us do apart?

 

Ieva Zasimauskaitė (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Honestly given the sheer poignancy of the lyrics, you really want it too.

After all, who doesn’t want a song about unending love, accompanied by a heartwarmingly beautiful melody and vocals that would melt the hardest heart to do well?

Not this reviewer; but for all its innate loveliness, the song fails to really have much presence, and in the face of more bombastic, inherently more memorable semi final 1 stablemates, it’s hard to see this song, touching though it might be, doing more than scraping into the grand final, if it even achieves that?

Still the voters of Europe might find themselves in a sentimental mood come the 8th May and “When We’re Old”, penned by well-known Lithuanian composer, songwriter and music producer Vytautas Bikus, may just do better than any of us are expecting.

 

 

SWITZERLAND: “Stones” by ZiBBZ

 

Road to Eurovision Week 6 Switzerland flag

 

THE ARTIST
Like a slew of artists around the family such as Australia’s Angus and Julia Stone and Hanson who are still “MMMBop”-ing along, ZiBBZ (a rather adventurous play on the word “siblings”) are well and truly keeping it in the family.

Siblings Corinne and Stefan Gfeller, who rather nicely see themselves as soulmates on and off stage, have been making sweet familial music since 2008,  first in hometown Zürich and now in Los Angeles where they’ve been resident for a number of years.

The subjects of their very own reality TV show from 2011 to 2015, the producer of two albums and graduates of study in vocals (Corinne) and music studies (Stefan), these artists are a one-stop shop of talent, writing their own songs, play everything and even directing and editing their own videos.

So it will surprise exactly no one that ZiBBZ wrote their Eurovision entry “Stones” (with help from Laurell Barker), a song which comes with some fairly lofty ambitions:

“The siblings shame cowards who bully others, and appeal to us all to let others live the way they want to live. ‘Bullying stops people from dreaming, from being their true selves, and from really living life. It happens in the school playground, on the internet, and of course putting yourself down is also a form of bullying.'” (Eurovision.tv)

 

ZiBBZ (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
There’s some hefty grunt to go with the lyrical intent, with Corrine’s gritty, determined vocals cutting through in a magnificent, can’t-look-away fashion.

While the song is not exactly an out-of-the-box effort in some respects, it has presence, power and a mighty important message that slots into the zeitgeist with near perfect timing.

But at no point does it feel like it’s a manufactured effort to garner votes, like a number of other entries; there’s an authenticity and truthfulness to the song that gets under the skin and stays there.

Look for this powerhouse of a song to be accompanied by a performance every bit as memorable and intense, giving Switzerland a damn good shot at a grand final berth (although that is likely as far as they’ll go).

 

 

EUROVISION EXTRA EXTRA!

it sounds like what?!

Allegations of plagiarism in the pop world are nothing new so it’s hardly a surprise that a Eurovision entrant has been hit with accusations that their song sounds a lot like someone else’s.

The entrant in question is Franka from Croatia whose song “Crazy”, it is alleged, is similar to one given to Romanian artist Guez by Ukrainian producers.

Quite where it will all land is anyone’s guess but for now, read more about it at ESC Xtra and compare and contrast …

 

 

 

MY SEMI FINAL 1 TOP 10

So drum roll if you please maestro!

Which ten songs do I foolishly predict (with a usual 50% accuracy, proving I do not know the mind of Europe or my home country Australia) will garner themselves a coveted grand final spot? (These are not, by the way, in any particular order.)

  1. “La Forza” by Elina Nechayeva (Estonia)
  2. “Bones” by EQUINOX (Bulgaria)
  3. “Monsters” by Saara Aalto (Finland)
  4. “Nobody But You” by Cesár Sampson (Austria)
  5. “X My Heart” by Aisel (Azerbaijan)
  6. “Oneiro Mou (My Dream)” by Yianna Terzi (Greece)
  7. “Crazy” by Franka (Croatia)
  8. “Fuego” by Eleni Foureria (Cyprus)
  9. “Lie to Me” by Mikolas Josef (Czech Republic)
  10. “Toy” by Netta (Israel) (*my tip for the winner)

Road to Eurovision 2018: Week 2 – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland

(artwork 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 Lisbon, Portugal.

 

BULGARIA: “Bones” by EQUINOX

 

 

THE ARTIST
Pop music has a long and somewhat glorious history of creating groups out of the musical ether; bands like the Spice Girls, One Direction or The Monkees who were specifically cobbled-together for one particular event or activity that may or may have gone on to epic chart-topping glory.

Add to this illustrious list of names, Bulgaria’s EQUINOX, a band conjured from the cream of the country’s singers and musicians, who have, you will be pleased to know, “never performed together before”.

What could possibly go wrong right? On the face of not much since 2013 Bulgaria’s X-Factor winner Zhana Bergendorff, singer-songwriter and actor Vlado Mihailov, singer-songwriter and vocal producer Georgi Simeonov, performer Johnny Manuel and LA-based songwriter Trey Campbell are all impressively successful in their own right.

Ah yes but will they coalesce into an harmonious capable of doing Bulgaria, who came second in 2017 in Kiev, Ukraine with “Beautiful Mess” by Kristian Kostov, proud? After all, the individual parts do not always add to a fully-functioning, Eurovision-winning whole …

 

EQUINOX (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
In this case though they just might.

While “Bones”, written by a veritable committee made up of Borislav Milanov, Joacim Persson, Brandon Treyshun Campbell, Dag Lundberg isn’t exactly a completely out-of-the-box stunner, it has enough going for it that it’s attracted a considerable amount of attention.

The production of this moody electronic pop number is first-rate, which coupled with a pounding beat through the chorus and damn near perfect harmonisation, makes it a captivating listen from start to finish.

Even the verse and bridge, though pulling things back from the epic chorus, don’t disappear into musical obscurity, avoiding the dreaded “don’t bore us, get us to the chorus” syndrome.

I’m still not entirely convinced it will catapult Bulgaria into a winning position as some has suggested but in a year with more than its share of earnest Eurovision ballads, it’s an interesting experiment in both personnel and songwriting style, and deserves to do well for that reason alone.

 

 

CROATIA: “Crazy by Franka

 

 

THE ARTIST
In the great arms race to be the most prodigious singer in Eurovision, I give you Franka Batelić aka Franka, who began her singing career at the very tender age of three. Yes, three.

That’s right everyone, while you were working out how many gummy bears you could fit in your mouth and whether that would go well with trampolining for hours on end – spoiler alert: no and ewww messy – Franka, whose brother Nikola is also a musician, was cutting loose as a soloist with the Minicantanti choir as well as part of the church choir of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Rabac.

If you don’t feel too intimidated yet, Franka plays piano and guitar, studied for several semesters at the Berklee College of Music (as well studying law back home) before winning TV talent Showtime (think Pop Idol) in 2007 at just 15 and, yes there’s more, taking out Ples sa zvijezdama (Croatia’s take on Dancing with the Stars) with dancing partner Ištvan Varga in 2009.

Her dreams of competing in Eurovision started young too:

“When I was two years old, I was standing in front of our TV set, holding a remote control instead of a microphone, singing the lyrics of Tony Cetinski’s, Nek’ ti bude ljubav sva from Eurovision 1994. That girl never stopped dreaming and now the dream is coming true!”

So yeah wildly lacking in talent or ambition (kidding clearly), all of which, must bode well for her participation in this year’s Eurovision Cong Contest, at which she promises to “to represent Croatia in the best possible way.”

 

Franka (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
But will “Crazy”, written as a sultry stop-start cabaret number by Franka Batelić and Branimir Mihaljevic, step and do its part?

I think yes.

The song may come across as a low key seductive strut across the dance floor but it has a real sense of emotive style, redolent with a chilled torch light vibe that is at once quite traditional and yet distinctive enough to make an impression.

It mirrors the mystery and elation of love as Franka explained to Wiwibloggs:

“You all know that kind of love. It hits you like a thunder and doesn’t seem to let you go. The unconventional, unusual, unique kind of love over our bodies, our hearts. You all know that feeling when you’re not sure if it’s all real, or if it’s just a product of your imagination. And that’s what makes love so fantastic, so extraordinary. You can try to explain it but the truth is, there are no rules in love, love is a beautiful mystery.”

It’s exactly the kind of song that could make a Statement (yes, with a capital “S”) live on stage, possessing a gripping emotive melody, stellar vocals redolent with love and longing in equal measure and a singer with the performance talent to make it really standout.

Look for Croatia to do exceptionally well, with a top 10 grand final finish tipped.

 

 

CYPRUS: “Fuego” by Eleni Foureira

 

 

THE ARTIST
If you think you’ve never heard of Eleni Foureira, think again.

She was the voice powering Dan Balan’s guiltily-addictive 2010 hit “Chica Bomb”, a worldwide pop phenom that she replicated, in part, in 2017 when “Send For Me”, a collaboration with successful producer and rapper A.M. SNiPE, chewed up charts around the globe.

The home base for this Albanian-born singer is, as you might expect Greece and Cyprus, where she’s had more than few hits, kicking off in 2007 as a member of girl group Mystique before going solo in 2009 when the band cast its mysterious persona and simply ceased to exist.

Being the creative powerhouse that she is, Foureira is not content to just sing and dance, dabbling in dance – she’s been a judge on the Greek version of So You Think You Can Dance? and fashion design (thus making tour costumes for extensive list of gigs throughout the Balkans a snap surely?)

Multi-talented she may be, but can she win Eurovision for the good people of Cyprus?

 

Eleni Fouriera (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
“You have the eyes of a lioness.”

For that line alone, Fouriera deserves to do nicely; lyrics aside, and let’s be fair they are alwaya an oddity at Eurovision; either spot-on or strangely earnest and over-articulated, the song is a bundle of stripped dancey fun that bounces between garrulously upbeat, replete with sensual traditional beats and passion and seductively idle and deliciously intense.

As a rollicking piece of chilled but danceable pop, it’s right up with the best, helped by Fouriera’s obvious talent for performing up a storm.

Expect this to play extremely well in Lisbon’s Altice Arena and remixed in clubs across Europe, but while it may catapult Cyprus into the hallowed grand final, it doesn’t have the required amount of presence to make it a real player in the race for the iconic glass microphone.

 

 

CZECH REPUBLIC: “Lie to Me” by Mikolas Josef

 

 

THE ARTIST
Mikolas Josef and Franka Batelić, if they ever met, and let’s be fair that could happen come May in Lisbon, could quite possibly be the best of child prodigy buddies.

Like his Croatian rival, Josef started on his musical career nice and early, starting to play the guitar at the age of 5, helped along no doubt by belonging to a family of musicians, and at 17 won the highest meritorious award from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts; the Gold Medal with distinction for solo acting.

Granted he isn’t an actor as such but it speaks to the depth and breadth of his creative talent, which has seen him grow, at the age of just 22, into a quintuple threat that handles composing, producing, singing, playing of multiple instruments and directing of music videos with comsummate ease.

Now resident in Vienna, after growing up in Prague and Znojmo, and after a brief stint as a model, Josef is ready to add another feather to his considerable bow with his presentation of the Czech republic at this year’s contest.

 

Mikolas Josef (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
But will it be a splashy feather or a tail-between-the-legs feather?

Judging by the sheer energy of “Lie to Me”, a song that is all double meanings, jaunty beats and catchy percussive fun, he’s got every chance to do the former with bells on.

It helps too that he modeled for Diesel and Prada among others on his brief year-long modeling career, meaning that with the moves, the voice and a damn infectiously bouyant song that he wrote himself in its entirety (but of course he did – remember his multitudinous talents), he is the living embodiment of the sexy Lothario at the heart of this danceably sexy number.

“Lie to Me” will make for a knockout live performance too which means you should expect the Czech Republic to be front and centre, and looking damn good thank you, at the grand final.

 

 


ESTONIA: “La Forza” by Elina Nechayeva

 

 

THE ARTIST
Elina Nechayeva is the proud owner of one of the biggest aspirational career U-turns around.

To be fair, her move from astronaut to opera singer took place between childhood, when the possible list of career choices for any of us varies from the weird to the faintly ludicrous, and adulthood when she graduated at the age of 25 from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre.

At first glance, they migth seem like massively divergent career paths, and yes, they are, but as her official Eurovision bio notes, what links is the drive and ambition to be the very best.

It’s that drivenness, delivered, we are assured, via “her voice and shining personality” that will, she hopes, power the animation and yoga-made singer to a career singing on the great opera house stages of the world.

But before that particular dream takes form, and you get the feeling with Elina it will be sooner rather later (if it falls through, hey’ there’s always the astronaut gig to fall back on), there’s Eurovision to contend with, with the “happy and positive” music artist full intending to make her homeland proud of her.

 

Elina Nechayeva (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Naturally, if you’re aiming for that level of nation-wide pride, it’s best to ally yourself with the best there is; hence Nechayeva, who wrote the lyrics to “La Forza” (with fellow soprano Ksenia Kuchukova), worked closely with Mihkel Mattisen, who co-wrote Estonia’s 2013 entry “Et Uus Saaks Alguse” and Timo vendt who co-gave the world “Amazing” in 2014.

The result of all this national pride-building teamwork is “La Forza” which, apart from providing the opportunity for another gigantic dress stage prop, of which you can never have too many, gives Estonia a distinctive point of difference in this year’s contest.

While you might not necessarily think Eurovision and then think opera, the song is a showstopper of the highest order, one of those titanic efforts that strides, musically and visually, across the Eurovision landscape like a fabric-laden giant.

It’s only downside is that feels like an endlessly uplifting commercial for an airline but really that a small issue with a song that is going to grab attention no matter what.

Quite whether that’s enough to place Estonia high atop the dais is another matter but at the very least, it should get them into the grand final, if only to justify all that sewing.

 

 

FINLAND: “Monsters” by Saara Aalto

 

 

THE ARTIST
Now if you want to really make your name, and make it big, voicing one of the main characters in one of Disney’s biggest recent hits, is a good way to go.

Known as the voice of Anna in the Finish release of Frozen, Aalto is otherwise the perpetual bridesmaid of Finnish show business.

Chalking up a no doubt hallowed spot as the second most Googled person in Finland in 2016 and 2017 – which raises the question, who is beating her and what must she do, consistent with her G-rated Disney fame and glory naturally, to gain the coveted top spot – and the runner up in The Voice, Finland’s Got Talent and X-Factor UK (caveat: Simon Cowell LOVED her, saying “That’s how you do it”), and the second placegetter at the national Eurovision selection trials in 2011 and 2016, the singer is no doubt looking for a nice, bright-and-shiny first place to go in the metaphorical trophy cabinet.

But is “Monsters” the song to elevate her and help her realise her persistently-pursued dream?

 

Saaea Aalto (image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

 

THE SONG
Every chance in the world, especially since she co-wrote her song “Monsters”, all about facing up to the demons that beset you in life, with the team who took Sweden’s Måns Zelmerlöw in 2015 with “Heroes”.

Rather than feeling like some cheap knockoff off the winning song, and let’s face it, the temptation must be there when you’re working with the same people, “Monsters” is bright, infectiously hopeful and optimistic, its drivingly upbeat melody a perfect match for its cheerily declarative lyrics.

In fact, so joyously catchy is the song, without once being annoyingly saccharine, and so quirky and interesting with everything from the bridge to the jauntily exuberant chorus, that it’s almost instant singalong material, the kind of wholeheartedly euphoric song that only cpatured earworms and hearts but votes too.

trust me on this – this will be one of the highlights of semi final 1 and should see Finland happily into the grand final where if there is any justice, Aalto will finally emerge as a winner. (Honestly that’s not some glib throwaway finishing line; her song could really do that well.)

 

 

EUROVISION EXTRA EXTRA!

Eurovision is not normally the repository of sad news – unless, of course, you’re on one of the countries that fails to win, in which yes, it is alas – but this week, the contest’s large and expansive lost two leading figures.

Lys Assia, was the first winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 for Switzerland with the song “Refrain” – she also performed a German language entry too that same year “”Das alte Karussell” showing just how talented she was – at the age of 94, remaining to the end a loyal and fervent supporter of the contest with which she became so intimately associated.

The other great loss was that of British presenter Katie Boyle at age 91 who hosted the British staging of the contest on four occasions, most notably when ABBA won with “Waterloo” in 1974 in Brighton.

Both members of the close Eurovision family will be greatly missed.

 

 

 

In happier news, Iceland’s Ari Ólafsson has been announced at the 20th act to perform at London’s Eurovision party on 5 April, joining other current entrants such as SuRie (United Kingdom), who is the headline act, Madame Monsieur (France) and Vanje Radovanović (Montenegro) to name just a few.

Get your dancing shoes on! This should be quite a night.