Road to Tel Aviv: The Big 5 & Israel

I’ve never been a fan of the Big 5 – Big 4 until 2011 – rule. Not only does it appear as if the other participants are getting a second class treatment, but the big ones took their raison d’être for granted which led to poor results thanks to lackluster entries by Gracia, Scooch or Las Ketchup – to name a few. 2019 is another bad year for the qualified ones. If Germans hadn’t been so whiny about skipping Oslo ’96, who knows what could’ve been… . We wouldn’t see most of the following artists in the final. 

#06 Israel: Kobi Marimi – “Home”                                             Overall Placement: 34/41

I’ve had high hopes for Israel. After all they’ve sent great to decent songs – with the exception of 2011 – in this decade alone. It’s my favourite nation in the contest’s history. ”Home” is a total let down, a repetitive ballad full of cliché lyrics that anyone would read on a childish calendar book. The host nation’s curse to finish on the bottom side of the table won’t be broken this year.

#05 UK: Michael Rice – ”Bigger Than Us”                              Overall Placement: 31/41

Michael reminds me a lot of these young male singers from the UK, John Newman and James Arthur. They don’t look like the usual idols, but their voices have superstar qualities. Never judge a book by its cover. Bookseller talking.

Now Michael is still a young lad and vocally far away from the two singers mentioned above. But I see potential there. However not for the song which is a plain love song. Juries could fall for it though or completely neglect it like they usually do with the British entry.

#04 Germany: S!sters – ”Sister”                                              Overall Placement: 26/41

”I’m tired of always losing.” Tell that to Ann-Sophie, Jamie Lee and Levina.

I hate to repeat myself, but the words just spin around in my head everytime I hear this song: Never trust the German televoters. Ever. People (also rightfully) like to criticize juries for their poor taste, but it’s the regular ARD viewer who’s to blame: stubborn conservative who likes inoffensive music. Along comes ”Sister”.

And here we go again with that same old problem that gave Germany three bottom results in a row: the song isn’t that bad at all, but it won’t get enough people behind it – especially in such a competitive year. Plus Laura and Carlotta don’t lean on each other very well and it shows in both live and studio version. Carlotta doesn’t come anywhere near Laura vocally. I still hope they prove me wrong somehow.

#03 France: Bilal Hassani – “Roi”                                            Overall Placement: 15/41 

Watching this year’s ”Destination Eurovision” was like reading a Christie novel. You knew exactly what was going to happen, but the tension rose nevertheless. And in the end the culprit reveal is nothing to be surprised about. Our culprit here goes by the name of Bilal Hassani. He murdered some notes during his performances. His sense of fashion sometimes is reason enough to call the fashion police, but I still like the song. Nothing I would grab the phone and vote my fingers off for, but a pleasant song. And that’s quite surprising, because I’m not a fan of Frenglish mix. But here je suis tellement cool with it. Other than that I respect Bilal for giving LGBT+ people with migrant background a voice. A voice that would need a lot more vocal coaching.

#02 Spain: Miki Núñez – ”La Venda”                                       Overall Placement: 13/41

To be honest I didn’t recognize Miki in the music video for ”La Venda”. While looking (and probably smelling* judging by Maria’s relieved face after she’s been announced the runner-up of OT) like a hobo his looks are now polished for ESC standards. Same goes for the song that has been slightly revamped. The lyrics are still full of Latin music clichés (”la vida loca”), but overall I find ”La Venda” very refreshing in this year’s line-up and more authentic than the contrived Latino from Bern. 

Also Miki’s a natural performer and I can see him doing a lot better in televote than with the juries. He’s got that Álvaro Soler sound and the energy of a Duracell rabbit that just got some fresh triple A’s shoved up its butt.

*Funnily enough ”Te pierdes” sounds like ”You’re farting” in Polish.

#01 Italy: Mahmood – ”Soldi”                                                  Overall Placement: 06/41

Out of all song reviews this one wass the hardest to write for me. That’s a rare thing to happen to me. I wrote reviews for a living (well, more as a hobby, because that profession won’t pay your rent). Is it because this song leaves me speechless? Or are my skills getting rusty after so many years? The trouble is I don’t want to throw in empty phrases like “Italy’s serving quality”, because that wouldn’t do the song justice. There’s wiwibloggs and enough YouTubers already for such descriptions.

When ”Soldi” was declared the winner of Sanremo I thought to myself: this is the first major contender for Tel Aviv  – and we all know how long we waited for one to come. I’m especially keen on the piano-joined pre-chorus. Like many songs in recent years the chorus is a little bit weaker. The clapping reminds me of Neneh Cherry’s ”Manchild”.

Effortlessly Mahmood intertwines Arabic lines into the bilingual bridge. In general the song is a mix of modern beats and traditional Italian sounds. This is probably what I appreciate the most about ”Soldi”: this is a song that reflects the singer’s history. Not some song that has been rejected by other countries and been given to random artists – not gonna name anyone!

Alas I’m partly turned off by Mahmood’s voice which sometimes resembles a certain Italian singer who shares his name with a liquor. Anyway, if you ask me this is Italy’s best entry in their post-return phase.

Thanks again for reading. The show is over, say goodbye. Enough Madge puns.

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Road to Tel Aviv: Songs of Semi-Final 2

Time goes by…so slowly. Bullshit, Madge! Quicker than the ray of light Eurovision 2019 is getting closer and closer. After reviewing the songs of the first semi-final I’m moving on to the second. And no more Madonna puns. Let’s get into the groove. Sorry, can’t help myself.

#18 Croatia: Roko Blažević – ”The Dream”                             Overall Placement: 41/41

”I believe in the power of Croatian. I believe in the good vibration. I believe in love alone. Yeah, yeah (fire?).” – Annie Lennox – ”Money Can’t Buy It”

This is far too much for me. I just can’t deal with Jacques Houdek productions. After listening to ”The Dream” I feel like I have to take an intense shower to get rid of all the slime.

Once the language switches to Croatian it gets a bit better, but the lyrics are still OTT kitschy (”Ljubav je heroj”). Roko’s voice is amazing though and manages to stay in tune even during the high notes. Because my dog and him share the same name I kinda sympathize with him. Just ditch the costume. The angel wings are wildly unnecessary and make him look like a novelty act.

#17 Moldova: Anna Odobescu – ”Stay”                                   Overall Placement: 39/41

When I listened to the song for the first time it didn’t left an impression at all. I couldn’t remember neither the lyrics nor the structure. The second time around I realized how dull they are. Any six-year-old could find better rhymes.

In the past Moldova’s delegation often proved us wrong and elevated their songs with a high level of entertainment. That being said I don’t expect Anna to make it to the final even though she can count on support from Romanian and Russian televoters.

#16 Russia: Sergey Lazarev – ”Scream”                                Overall Placement: 38/41

”I’d swallow hard.” Kirkorov living his fantasy.

If Croatia’s ”Dream” has Houdek written all over it, this one has Kirkorov for certain. ”Scream” doesn’t live up to the hype that has been created before and after the announcement of Sergey’s return. In my opinion the song is too overproduced and it’s lacking a memorable chorus.

I’m not a fan of the music video in particular. The visual effects look cheap to me and Lazarev is taking himself way too serious. The children tried their best though. Kudos for trying something different this time. I’ve been expecting a sequel to his first effort from 2016. Phew! 

#15 Norway: KEiiNO – ”Spirit In The Sky”                              Overall Placement: 35/41

”Spirit In The Sky” sounds like these dance pop songs with a sprinkle of ethnic Nordic flavour that were popular in Melodifestivalen during the 2000s. I’m thinking of Sarek or Roger Pontare. Just add a little Saara Aalto to this witches’ brew and there you have it: the Norwegian entry of 2019.

Songs like ”Spirit In The Sky” are expected to be seen in ESC. Norway seems to take the mantra of its 2018 entry too serious. I feel like it’s too predictable and formulaic. The joiking doesn’t do it for me either. 

#14 Azerbaijan: Chingiz – ”Truth”                                           Overall Placement: 30/41

I would finally like to see more originality from Azerbaijan. Yes, there was Dihaj who’s my 2017 winner by the way, but besides her I don’t care about any other song they’ve sent so far. The songs from the land of fire are not only missing a spark but a whole flame of inspiration.

The producers added a sprinkle of oriental influence to ”Truth”, but that doesn’t change the matter. It tries too hard to adapt to Western music standards: The infamous millenial whoop, the gibberish lyrics and the music video of course. Curiously enough both the Azeri and the Dutch singers appear in underwater scenes showing off their bodies. Not that I’m complaining, but Chingiz is pretty chaste compared to Duncan.

#13 Lithuania: Jurij Veklenko – ”Run With The Lions”              Overall Placement: 28/41

”Run With The Lions” is not completely forgettable, but it doesn’t give you the sensation – if we leave visuals outside. I couldn’t think of a single reason why I should give my vote to Lithuania this year. And I’m afraid many viewers will come to the same conclusion.

#12 Austria: PÆNDA – ”Limits”                                               Overall Placement: 27/41

Before we learned that ”Limits” would become Austria’s song for Tel Aviv I checked out PÆNDA’s discography. Honestly I was a little worried for the Alpine country, because her songs haven’t been that outstanding so far. Turns out ”Limits” is something else than what we’ve heard before. Still electronic and contemporary, but it builds up very nicely. Like a flower slowly blooming. What strikes me positively is the reduced arrangement allowing PÆNDA’s crystal clear voice to shine through.

Unfortunately this flower never blooms to its full beauty. The song’s possibilites are limited to the underwhelming ”Youuuu” chorus. Besides that nothing really happens. It doesn’t have to be, but I wish for something that would’ve gotten myself out of this ambivalence I feel whenever I listen to this song. And so slowly the flower closes itself.

#11 Denmark: Leonora – ”Love Is Forever”                            Overall Placement: 25/41

”Don’t get too political.” ESCapism at its best.

Denmark could be this year’s dark horse. Televoters from all over Europe and Australia could rank her very high even though she looks a bit disturbing like she might jump out of your screen and stab you to death.

There have been a lot of comparisons to Fool’s Garden’s ”Lemon Tree” and Lenka’s ”The Show” (both songs I loathe with passion) and I can see the similarities there, too. It’s a shame the Danish part falls so short, because the language suits perfectly to the innocent nature of this song. Danish in general is a language I like listening to even though I don’t speak it. Instead of French – even though it’s charming – I would’ve preferred those lines to be sung in her native language. Before I forget: Welcome back to the contest, German language! Missed you much.

#10 Switzerland: Luca Hänni – ”She Got Me”                        Overall Placement: 24/41

‘Dörte Dancing.” Mommas (and grannies) are getting rowdy rowdy for Luca.

The Swiss have been going through tough years in ESC. Even Zibbz who I would’ve liked to see in the final didn’t manage to make it there. But Switzerland is not giving up yet. Luca Hänni, former winner of the German Idol ”DSDS”, could do the Mikolas Josef of 2019. I am torn though. On one side he’s charismatic, a reasonably good dancer and his entry ”She Got Me” is a contemporary party song. While on the other I’m turned off by the fake image of the Latin womanizer that is so overdone and full of clichés.

The song’s nothing I’d put on my playlist, but I’m sure it’ll find a lot of fans across Europe and Australia.

#09 Armenia: Srbuk – ”Walking Out”                                      Overall Placement: 22/41

Srbuk had all my attention when she was announced as Armenia’s representant for Tel Aviv. One of her tracks called ”Yete karogh es” is a catchy pop song with 1960s vibes and I hoped she was going in a similar direction with her entry. I respect that she didn’t and went for something new. But to be honest I am disappointed.

”Walking Out” doesn’t give me anything I would cast my vote for. A lot of people criticized Srbuk for her English pronounciation. Although I am tired of the argument that ESC singers’ (mostly from the Eastern part) English isn’t that good (an argument often brought up by non-native speakers) I have to agree this time. I’ve seen her also butchering Czesław Niemen’s ”Dziwny jest ten świat”. Kudos for trying though. Polish isn’t the easiest language. It’s sad she doesn’t get to sing in a language she feels confident with.

#08 Latvia: Carousel – ”That Night”                                        Overall Placement: 20/41

Nomen est omen. Like a carousel spinning around its axis, the song seems to repeat itself over and over again. Besides that there are certain elements I like about the Latvian entry. For example the cozy atmosphere the duo creates. Sabīne with her whispering voice and Mārcis with his guitar play. It’s almost as if they stood next to me.

Will they qualify? Probably not. Usually Latvia can’t rely on much support from televoters and jury. But I’d like to see them as a surprise 10th finalist. If wishes came true… .

#07 Sweden: John Lundvik – ”Too Late For Love”                 Overall Placement: 17/41

It’s no secret that Sweden’s one of my least favourite countries in ESC. Their songs are factory made standard pop and that’s one of the reasons why I gave up watching the Mello.

”Too Late For Love” gets in line with Sweden’s previous entries. It is a well-crafted pop song, sung by a handsome guy backed by an amazing choir. But it just leaves me cold. 

#06 Malta: Michela – ”Chameleon”                                         Overall Placement: 16/41

Rule #1 for female Maltese ESC entrants: Don’t dare to show up on stage unless you look like your auntie.

”Chameleon” reminds me a bit of ”Hvala, ne!”, the Slovenian entry from 2018. Good pre-chorus, but lacking a decent chorus. However this doesn’t bother me at all. In fact I like the drop, the dancehall beats, the ”Yalla-la-la” part and with a fierce choreography Michela could do well. This is the first time in many years that I can say I like Malta’s entry. Of course the lyrics of ”Chameleon” are silly, but the song doesn’t need to win the Nobel Prize in literature.

But here’s the downside: I bet the Maltese delegation is doing its worst to make Michela look like a 40 year old. It’s their obligation. Hollywood’s ageing make-up department must be full of Maltese visagists.

#05 Romania: Ester Peony – ”On A Sunday”                        Overall Placement: 14/41 

”Life’s not fair.” Tell me ’bout it. Especially when juries are corrupt people.

Oh and what a Sunday it had been. Everywhere this one person I am not going to name showed up the drama was stirred up. Not to mention that no one understands these random Drag Race innuendos, especially not in Romania.

Back to the song: ”On A Sunday” has a mid 2000’s feel to it. It could’ve been a song from Natasha Bedingfield’s or Jamelia’s catalogue. Very reminiscent of Rihanna’s ”Umbrella” are the ”Ey Ey Ey” parts. All good. All fine. The performance is what worries me the most. Mme Peony succesfully graduated from Maja Keuc school of suggestive hand gestures, but skipped the singing classes together with Bilal.

Do I see Ester as a finalist? Very difficult to predict. This could either sneak just inside the ten qualifiers or just miss it out. I tend to the latter.

#04 North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska – ”Proud”               Overall Placement: 12/41

Tamara is one of the strongest vocalists in this year’s ESC. How fitting she’s giving us one of the strongest ballads of the season, too. And a beautiful dedication to her daughter. And to the women of North Macedonia. Everytime Tamara sings ”All the rules are made for you to lose” I’m choked up with emotion. 

There’s only thing that I’m afraid of and that’s the stage presentation. We’ve seen a lot of entries from then F.Y.R. Macedonia being tanked by questionable outfits, bad vocals and uninspired stagings. Last year’s ”Lost and Found” was one of my pre-contest favourites, but once I saw footage from the rehearsals I knew they were set up to fail. It’s been a long time since the one and only Kaliopi screeched her way to the final for the small Balkan country and I wish for them to return. Knowing that Tamara won’t allow herself to look like a 50ct-quick-job-whore I am confident she’ll give us a splendid performance. 

#03 Ireland: Sarah McTernan – ”22”                                       Overall Placement: 05/41

Listening to ”22” feels like eating chocolate. It just puts a smile on my face. Just don’t go crazy with it unless you want to feel sick. The song has an easy-listening vibe to it. My favourite part starts when the choir joins Sarah. Hopefully they’ll be with her on stage because their voices add to the song’s warmth.

Thematically it reminds me a lot of Bangles’ ”Walking Down Your Street”. I can relate to that feeling you get when you’ve just fallen in love with someone and you’re doing these stupid little things just hoping your crush might catch your attention. I wonder if teenagers nowadays relate to it, too, when it’s a lot easier to stalk social media profiles.

#02 The Netherlands: Duncan Laurence – ”Arcade”               Overall Placement: 04/41

Pass that Dutchie over to me!

I didn’t expect this song to be so high on my ranking. I just listened to it once on the day of its presentation and I managed to hum the melody the following day. Super catchy.

First off, I’m glad the Dutch are going for something else than the Americana styled songs they’ve been pulling out recently. The songs’ lyrics are quite interesting as I have never seen the comparison of being stuck in a broken relationship to a gaming addiction in a pop song.

Now ”Arcade” is a rather simple song, I dare say formulaic. Clapping during the bridge? All heard before. But it’s the combination of Duncan’s excellent vocals and the song’s catchiness that make it stand out. No wonder people are betting their money on the Netherlands.

I know my predictions are always crap, but in my opinion ”Birds” and ”Calm After The Storm” were better songs and if they didn’t manage to win, I can’t see ”Arcade” as a winner either. Speaking of The Common Linnets. If it weren’t for Ilse DeLange, Eurovision 2019 would be missing one of its best contenders. Dank je wel, Ilse!

#01 Albania: Jonida Maliqi – ”Ktheju tokës”                           Overall Placement: 03/41

I’m still bitter that it isn’t Orgesa Zaimi (as if she stood a chance) for Tel Aviv, but I made my peace with Jonida’s song. And it’s one of the most interesting compositions this year. Starting off slowly with eerie drums and Jonida’s vocals alternating between legato and staccato ”Ktheju tokës” builds up the anticipation for the chorus very well. I’m particularly keen on the chorus’ melody and I’m grateful she didn’t change the lyrics to English. Watch and learn, Tulia and TVP.

Actually they didn’t do much with the revamp. The producers just cleaned up the dust from December’s Festival i Kënges and added some backings, shouting samples and flutes. Less is sometimes better.

There aren’t many ethnic entries this edition and I think this is an opportunity for Albania to shine. I don’t mind the Cleopatra styling, it suits her type. Just a little bit of work on the vocals and Jonida should sail through to the final.

Thanks for reading. Upcoming are the reviews to the Big 5 plus my favourite Eurovision country ever Israel. 

Road to Tel Aviv: Songs of Semi-Final 1

In 34 days the first semi-final of the 64th Eurovision Song Contest kicks off. Time to take a (subjective) look at its contestants.

#17 Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke – ”Zero Gravity”                  Overall Placement: 40/41

I really want to embrace Australia as a full member of the ESC family. I really try. But they make it so easy to get furious about their appearance that I can’t help myself but giving them the cold shoulder. The worst thing about it is that they were so close to finally having a song that I would’ve wanted for Australia for so long. Electric Fields’ ”2000 and Whatever” was that kind of song.

But no, Aussies proved their bad taste and went for a carbon copy of last year’s dreadful entry from Estonia. Sorry for my temper tantrum. It can only get better from now on.

#16 Montenegro: D-Mol – ”Heaven”                                       Overall Placement: 37/41

It seems Montenegro has left Slavko’s planet Fabulust for good and attempts crash-landing with full force. This is a contrived act with an utterly dull name and even more dull ballad. Actually I am surprised that Ralph Siegel isn’t part of the writer’s staff, because this could be one of his leftovers from his vault.
Because it is Montenegro I don’t see them doing well in their semi-final. But they might surprise everyone and qualify like Belarus back in 2010 with a similar kitschy song.

#15 Belarus: ZENA – ”Like It”                                                 Overall Placement: 36/41

Listening to this I feel like taken back to the early 2000s. To singers like Mýa or Ashanti. To music I grew up with. The melody reminds me a bit of ”If I Could Go” by Angie Martinez. The pre-chorus then takes us back to the darkest realms of plastic Eurovision pop.

And if that weren’t enough cheap drum computer and flute sounds are added to the second verse. I’m not liking this at all. Thanks anyway, ZENA, for sharing what you’ve got.

#14 Estonia: Victor Crone – ”Storm”                                       Overall Placement: 33/41

Once upon a time there was a music show called Eesti Laul and it was the highlight of the season for many Eurovision fans, including myself. And then came a storm that blew away all my enthusiasm for it.

I know the word’s totally overused, but ”Storm” sounds generic. As if some algorithmic program produced the song and not Stig Rästa. I can’t believe the same person did ”Goodbye To Yesterday”. Well, it’s goodbye to Eesti then. 2019 marks the first year in almost a decade I haven’t seen the show’s final. Regarding the declining quality of the entries I am not sure about coming back soon.

#13 San Marino: Serhat – ”Say Na Na Na”                            Overall Placement: 32/41

”Don’t forget my number!” How subtle, Serhat!

Watch out, Valentina. Disco daddy is back once again. He might threaten La Monetta’s record number of participation for the microstate.

It’s not like San Marino is really giving much effort to this year’s Eurovision. Everyone involved in the song knows that ”Say Na Na Na” won’t make an impact and that’s all so right. I admit that this is an earworm that shouldn’t be underestimated despite its unapologetic silliness. And I mean that in a good way. However I’m not a fan of this package. Sorry.

#12 Finland: Darude feat. Sebastian Rejman – ”Look Away” Overall Placement: 29/41

”How can we go to sleep at night and lay there in our beds?” YLE’s question to Europe after the downfall of their queen Saara Aalto in Lissabon.

Finland’s take on a political song. There’s some truth in the lyrics. We do look away at all the things threatening our world. Or at least we pretend to care for a day and then move on with our comfortable lives. The thing is I don’t believe Sebastian a single word he’s singing. Unlike France’s and Italy’s attempts last year this is a disposable EDM song that tries to convey a message, but fails in selling it to the audience.

#11 Czech Republic: Lake Malawi – ”Friend Of A Friend”      Overall Placement: 23/41

This is a middle of the road song for me. I can see its merits. For example the synthies that resemble late 1970s and early 1980s funk and disco music. But I’m not a fan of the chorus at all or the singers’s phoney accent in the pre-chorus.

Their performance on Vidbir was very convincing though. It shows that they’re a seasoned live act and their singer’s got lots of charisma. Maybe it’s one of these songs that’ll win me over when I’ll see it performed on TV? But I don’t see why because it’s nothing special.

#10 Belgium: Eliot – ”Wake Up”                                              Overall Placement: 21/41

Despite its failure to proceed to the final last year Belgium sticks to its niche that has been awarded with three consecutive top 10 placements. Just like Loic Nottet and Blanche, Eliot appeared on The Voice Belgique. I was intrigued. Unfortunately the song feels like Frankenstein’s monster. The verses joined by a calm electronic beat grabbed my attention, but then there’s this lazy chorus. Pretty forgettable and the piano and drum effects in it sound very schlageresque. A missed opportunity. 

#09 Georgia: Oto Nemsadze – ”Sul tsin iare”                         Overall Placement: 19/41

Unlike its neighbour Azerbaijan Georgia always shows a new facette of its music scene and what’s more important they often stay true to their cultural heritage.

Now ”Sul tsin iare” doesn’t appeal to me like ”Visionary Dream” or ”One More Day” did, but there are elements in this song that I like: most of all Oto’s voice and the strong build up which climaxes in the ”Varada” part towards the end. This isn’t a contender for high marks I’m afraid but I appreciate Georgia’s take on the contest since their debut.

#08 Cyprus: Tamta – ”Replay”                                               Overall Placement: 18/41 

”I’m shitting my body tonight!” Tamta’s no stranger to kinky sex games.

I like to compare Cyprus’ recent efforts to 1960s and ’70s Luxembourg. Both being small countries recruiting stars from their bigger neighbour for ESC. Is that a recipe that’ll work for Cyprus this time again? I’m not Cassandra, I can’t see into the future. But ”Replay” has all the ingredients it takes for success. A danceable beat with a catchy hook and attractive singer who can deliver good vocals.

#07 Hungary: Joci Pápai – ”Az én apám”                               Overall Placement: 11/41

Usually I don’t like songs that feature ”na na na” or ”la la la” in their lyrics. We’ve had too many of those in the history of the contest. Some of them coming in last place (BEL 1979), others were even crowned the winner (ESP 1968).

But Joci can get away with it. The song builds up really well. At first I missed Joci’s rapping, but ”Az én apam” is a different kind of song than ”Origo”. Still with a personal touch, but less aggresive. Now I like it more than his first effort and I hope he can land another top 10 for Hungary.

#06 Serbia: Nevena Božović – ”Kruna”                                  Overall Placement: 10/41

”Kruna” doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It wasn’t among my top favourites to win Beovizija, but I started to acknowledge its merits the more I listened to it. Actually I had the melody set in my mind just after its final performance. Now there have been much stronger ballads from the Balkans like ”Korake ti znam” or ”Lejla”, but this is also a gentle song performed by a capable vocalist. The two English lines are unnecessary though, but they don’t ruin the song.

#05 Greece: Katerine Duska – ”Better Love”                         Overall Placement: 09/41

While Eleni Foureira seems to have found couture heaven in the dumpster, Katerine Duska has fallen head over heels for tulle. There’s a niche for everyone. ”Better Love” sounds like something Leona Lewis would’ve recorded ten years ago. If she had the voice of Jess Glynne and Madonna’s tooth gap. 

The main problem of the Greek entry is that it doesn’t give me something new, the phrases been heard before and the song’s climax is a tad disappointing. What could possibly save the song are the staging and Katerine’s unique timbre. I love the video’s aesthetics, the random shots of delicate women who are put together in a symmetric mise en scène towards the end. Hopefully they can transport it to the stage. 

#04 Iceland: Hatari – ”Hatriđ mun sigra”                                 Overall Placement: 08/41

”Hate…thy will be done. I can no longer hide I can no longer run.”

I love men who can make me laugh. And viewing Hatari’s interviews was one of the finest moments of Icelandic comedy since I saw Silvia Night going berzerk in Athens.

The song itself combines industrial techno with Eurovision pop and includes a proper key change in their final chorus. I have not decided yet what to think of that. Are they trying to sound more Eurovision-friendly? Are they just trying to poke fun at the song festival? Probably both. To this day Hatari still leave me bedazzled and I’ve no idea where they’ll end up in May. This I know: ”Hatriđ mun sigra” gave me goosebumps, something that couldn’t have been said for past Icelandic entries for a long time.

#03 Poland: Tulia – ”Fire of Love (Pali się)”                           Overall Placement: 07/41

Music is not fireworks. Music is yeah yeah fire!

Oh dear, where do I start. The relationship I have with Poland at ESC is best described with love-hate. There are the marvellous entries from 1995 – 1997 and 2003 which was the only time I voted for my second home as I like to call Poland. 1998, 2004, 2005 and 2014 were also fine. But the rest leaves me indifferent (which probably is the worst verdict of all) or makes me vomit. The announcement for this year’s entry was very nerve-racking. First TVP pushes the date a week later than planned and then several artists publish their potential songs for Tel Aviv on YouTube, one worse than the other. I was prepared for the worst.

And then it’s Tulia. Not with the song I hoped for. But at least this time my beloved Poland got their shit together and sends some decent artists for Eurovision. There’s however a flaw and I blame TVP staff for that: The English lines. This is just phoney. Western languages don’t work well with biały śpiew (”white voice”). But I can live with that – for now. If the girls show up on stage with the clothes I saw on Polish TV they won’t win anything but the Barbara Dex Award. Mimo wszystko, powodzenia! Serce pali się dla was.

#02 Slovenia: Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – Sebi                     Overall Placement: 02/41

A lot of people say the Slovenian entry’s lacking a change in arrangement. I disagree. There are loops, echoes, the spheric synthies joined by Gašper’s guitar and Zala’s fragile voice. Together they form one of the most original songs of 2019.

Watching the two perform feels like disturbing a couple getting intimate with each other. For three minutes the world only revolves around them. Millions of stars (and TV spectators) are their voyeurs. The only time I can think of a duo creating a similar air of intimacy were the Netherlands 2014. Like The Common Linnets Zala and Gašper are very authentic and stay true to themselves.

I hope for them to reach the final, because it would be a shame if Slovenia’s best entry ever doesn’t get to be performed on the night of the nights.

#01 Portugal: Conan Osíris – ”Telemóveis”                            Overall Placement: 01/41

The moment Conan was announced the winner of 2019’s Festival do Canção I wish I were born Portuguese. All the emotions, the excitement and the joy were reaching over my screen to me and I couldn’t help myself but smiling and being happy for the Portuguese fans.

Listening to the song I knew from the very beginning that this will be contender for my higher ranks. This is a perfect blend of everything Portugal stands for: Western influences, oriental influences, fado and saudade. The latter being killed by the theme of the song: Mobile phones. Always being connected, always having them stuck to our bodies. Like Conan’s and his dancer’s accessories. Who needs saudade anymore when we can get in contact with anyone in just an instant. That’s at least how I understand the performance.

What’s left there to say: Força, Portugal!

Thanks for reading. To be continued.

A Musical Journey through Europe

It must have been five years ago when I started losing interest in chart music. Everything sounded the same to me. I was craving for more.

So what’s a desperate millenial that I am to do? Doing research on Youtube. What else.
I went beyond borders, travelled through time with my DeLorean and unlike Bono found what I was looking for. Music that appealed to me.

And unlike Helga Vlahović (God bless her) I’ve got the results to share with you. Enjoy!

Belgium

Madou – Niets is voor altijd (1982)

A piece of Flemish kleinkunst (not to be confused with the German word for ”cabaret”). The genre of kleinkunst was originated in Flanders during the 1970s. Characteristic features were the minimalist instrumentation and lyrics that reflected the brutal reality often combined with social criticism. The jolly piano in “Niets is voor altijd” proves fallacious. It  deals with a taboo subject. Vera Coomans sings about a girl who took revenge on her rapist and now wants to forget about everything. 

Croatia

The Bastardz – Tvoja ljubav (1995)

Funky Croatia! This is an uplifting track with a catchy chorus sung by Helena Bastić . ”Tvoja ljubav” was one of the very first releases under the Aquarius Records label which is now home to artists like Nina Badrić or Detour. The song became a huge success despite the prominent display of Bastić’s dental braces – even on the ”Your Love”-EP cover! 

Denmark

Danser med Drenge – Hvoerlænge vil du ydmyge dig? (1993)

Written already in 1991, the song initially was rejected by all Danish record labels. It wasn’t until the summer of 1992 that the band’s luck had turned. After signing a deal the debut album was released in 1993 becoming one of the bestsellers that year. There was a sudden change in fortune when lead vocalist Philippa Bulgin was diagnosed with uterine cancer right before their first tour. She died in March 1994 aged 26. However Bulgin immortalised herself with her voice and charisma. The song ”Hvoerlænge vil du ydmyge dig?” is a touching plea to never allow yourself to be mistreated. To carry on living with ”pride and willpower.”

France

Niagara – Flammes de l’enfer (1988)

I’ve got a soft spot for late 1980’s aesthetics. The first time I saw Niagara’s video for ”Soleil d’hiver” I knew this was something I’d like. Niagara only released four studio albums and I’d say they peaked during their ”Quel enfer!” era (1988/89). The duo reinvented themselves by adapting a more art rock-oriented style. Lead singer Muriel Moreno coloured her hair as red as hellfire. Which brings me to my favourite “Flammes de l’enfer”. A quirky pop song that gets elevated by Moreno’s squeaky vocals, the horn sequence and the circus-inspired video.

Hungary

Omega – Gyöngyhajú lány (1969)

A classic tune. Often copied, but the original will always be the real deal. It was actually a cover version – this time by Berlin based singer Lary – that led me to Omega. My dad heard me listening to Lary’s ”Sand” and immediately recognized the melody: ”Oh! That’s an old hit. You should check out the original. You’ll love it.” Daddy knows me too well… 🙂

Iceland

Todmobile – Sameiginlegt (1989)

Iceland is well-known for its creative music scene. Todmobile, a group formed by Þorvaldur Bjarni Þorvaldsson (co-writer of Selma’s 1999 Eurovision entry), was a highly successful pop band. “Sameiginlegt” is taken from their debut and out of all songs from their back catalogue this fragile ballad was a standout. Another Eurovision star, namely Eyþór Ingi, joined Todmobile in 2010 as lead singer.

Israel

Eifo HaYeled – Nafalta chazak (1993)

I know that Israel’s geographically not part of Europe, but in Eurovision fandom it is. Eat it! During my vacation in the land of milk and honey I was introduced to the local alternative scene. It was especially the sound of the early 1990’s that got my attention: Aviv Geffen, Nikmat HaTraktor and most of all Eifo HaYeled. Their album ”Zman sukar” is a masterpiece. I’ve listened to ”Nafalta chazak” hundreds of times and never got bored of it – praise the Lord. The strings are pure perfection. 

Poland

O.N.A – Kiedy powiem sobie dość (1996)

O.N.A. were Poland’s answer to Skunk Anansie or Garbage. Their lyrics featured themes such as rape or suicide. In ”Kiedy powiem sobie dość” the narrator’s begging the recipient for permission to leave in silence. A young fan took these words too serious and hanged himself after his girlfriend broke up with him. In her desperation his mother wrote a letter to songwriter Agnieszka Chylińska saying that if the song had never existed her son might be still alive. Since I heard of this story I see the song in a different light. Not that I would blame Chylińska for the tragic death of that man. Music or art in general evokes emotions. Raw and merciless. And this song expresses these feelings in a beautiful and subtle way.

Spain

Mecano – Mujer contra mujer (1988)

I already mentioned Mecano in my previous post. In my opinion you can’t mention them enough. They were Spain’s musical poster children – groundbreaking in visuals, themes and composition. Their 1988 album ”Descanso Dominical” features my favourites. One of them is ”Mujer contra mujer” that tells the story of a lesbian couple arguing whether to show their affection for each other in public or not. 

Sweden

Eva Dahlgren – Vem tänder stjärnorna (1991)

Speaking of lesbians. Hello, Eva! Swedish has never sounded sexier. Eva’s giving a lecture in teleology by asking the listener ”who makes me go where I’ve never gone before.” If I were in a music video with Stellan Skarsgård I’d know places to go – no need for questions. If Melodifestivalen only had songs like these in their line-up. 

 

That’s all for now. Bedankt! Hvala! Tak! Merci! Köszönöm! Takk! Toda! Dziękuję! Gracias! Tack!

The best Eurovision songs that never were

62 years of Eurovision passed – a decent amount of time with an even bigger amount of songs. Some of them were chosen internally, some had to fight their way against competitors. In retrospective we have lost a bunch of gems during the selection process. Before I get started I admit I have not seen every national final in the long contest history. So when I am going to name the best songs that were denied Eurovision fame I mean the ones I know. For anyone who reads this: feel free to include your personal favourites in the comment section. Thank you!

 

LAING – Wechselt die Beleuchtung (GER 2015)

Since their runner-up debut in Stefan Raab’s Bundesvision Song Contest I’m obsessed with Laing. ”Wechselt die Beleuchtung” could have done magic in Vienna. It is a crime they were not even making it to the final round in 2015’s National Final. Germans can’t be trusted. Trust me, I’m one of them 😉

 

LOSS PARANOIAS – Valedetektor (EST 2012)

No lie. This a fun song to sing along to. There are so many songs from the golden era of Eesti Laul (2010 – 2013) that deserve an honorable mention, but Loss Paranoias always will be top-notch. I love the band’s down-to-earth look, the simple hook and that’s why this song’s special in my book. Too bad they are no longer active. 

 

ELODIE – Tutta colpa mia (ITA 2017)

Back in 2017 I was sure either Ermal Meta or Elodie would win Sanremo. I never fell for the Gabbani hype, neither did I see a potential Eurovision winner in his mediocre song. I was genuinely shocked when Elodie only placed 8th. Right from the ”Amore, amore, amore…”-part (I know, very cliché) I was sold. I guess I just like vocalists with a raspy voice . Meraviglioso!

 

PANDA – Sama proti vsem (SLO 1996)

Slovenia – often overlooked and underappreciated. ”Alone against all” is the fitting title sung by Suzana Werbole and dear Lord, what a voice! Then the saxophone parts, the whistling during the bridge and the strong outro – Slovenia, how could you not have sent this? The only flaw I see is that I feel like I’ve heard the same melody somewhere else. Don’t ask me where.

 

DIASPRO – Riflesso (SUI 1993)

Despite Italian being one of its four national languages our Swiss confederates barely took advantage of la lingua dell’arte. In 1993 Switzerland had the chance to be represented by Tessin based band Diaspro and their mesmerizing ”Riflesso”. Instead we got a Céline Dion reject sung by a Céline Dion wannabe.

 

LASSE MÅRTENSON & MARJATTA LEPPÄNEN – Iltaisin (FIN 1965)

Creating a similar mood like Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann’s ”Dansevise” this Finnish duet would have been a serious threat to France Gall’s victory. At some point I had to think of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. The fact it almost made it to the contest and only had been prevented by the juries is utterly saddening.

 

RIMANÇO – No vapor do madrugada (POR 1986) 

Watching the video I had thought I’ve misread: This was 1986? Judging by the band’s look and the sound I would have placed it a decade earlier. Then again we’re talking about Eurovision music…

 

MECANO – Hijo de la luna (ESP 1986)

Rumour has it that Mecano’s former record label CBS paid quite a neat sum of money to TVE in order to prevent them from choosing this pop gem over Cadillac’s ”Valentino”. Regardless of any ”shoulda woulda coulda” scenario I’m a 100% confident that this song had the potential to stamp Sandra Kim and win by a landslide.

 

Thanks for reading! Let me know some of your hidden gems in the comments below.

What’s that airship all about?

Next to my Eurovision obsession I am a huge fan of anime. I have seen loads of movies and series, some were crap, others will forever be in my heart like Isao Takahata’s ”Grave of the Fireflies” or Kazuki Akane’s ”The Vision of Escaflowne”. But there is one film I am deeply drawn to. It may not be the best anime, because it surely has some flaws. But it is the most intelligent I have seen. I’m talking about the 1993 film ”Patlabor 2” by Mamoru Oshii, the mastermind behind the cult classic ”Ghost In The Shell”. The prequel was alright, but it was the follow up that made me a fan of the whole series. Genre-wise I would say it is a political thriller with Sci-Fi elements. The name ”Patlabor” stems from the name used for robots in police duty. Others are simply called ”labor” and are used in military operations and construction work. For anyone interested to watch the movie don’t read any further. Just skip to the penultimate paragraph. Spoilers ahead 😉

Southeast Asia. Year 1999. We meet the anti-hero Yukihito Tsuge, lieutenant colonel of a GSDF unit piloting a military labor. He’s part of a UN peacekeeping operation in the midst of a jungle. Suddenly his comrades and him are attacked by unidentified opponents. Without the permission to return fire and no possibility to evade, Tsuge has to witness how one soldier after another is being killed. Tsuge himself is wounded, but survives the attack.

Japan. Three years later. Shinobu Nagumo, the main character of this movie, is renowned as the most talented female police officer in Tokyo. We discover that Nagumo had a romantic history with Tsuge as she meets old classmates on the way to her academy unit. While being stuck in a traffic jam, a missile hits an abandoned car parked on the opposite Yokohama Bay Bridge. Prior to the attack we can see a yellow airship hovering over the bridge. It’ll make another appearance later… Speculations arise that JASDF (Japanese Air Self-Defense Force) is involved in the attack after a homemade tape is published on TV. It shows a jet fighter used by said force moments before the incident. To end these speculations JASDF sends its intelligence officer Shigeki Arakawa who conveniently carries two tapes with him proving that the alleged jet is not a Japanese but an American plane. Arakawa meets with Nagumo and Kiichi Goto, captain of his division, and goes further into detail: he suspects American conspirators of being responsible for the attack in order to awaken Japan from its ”peace-loving stupor.” Their prime suspect is Yukihito Tsuge who went missing after his failed UN mission. Now Arakawa believes Tsuge sympathizes with the conspirators as an act of revenge. After the speaker finished, he’s alerted that there’s another threat to Japanese airspace. However, it becomes clear that the attackers have managed to hack into the aerial control system only to mess with it. Not only caused this confusion but also massive distrust between civil and military forces as each one of them blames the other for the chaos. The government is scapegoating the police as they are seen as incapable of retaining control. Civil servants are replaced by military forces exacerbating the tension between these two.

Kiichi Goto gets a call from a detective saying that Tsuge’s HQ has been found. In the meantime Tsuge arranged a meeting with his old flame Nagumo. But before they can exchange words Arakawa interferes, albeit he fails to arrest Tsuge. Knowing he’s been exposed, Tsuge initializes his final coup: Three helicopters are send out to destroy labors, bridges and communication antennas while three blimps are released to block radio signals. After realizing that the airships are unmanned a police officer shoots it accidentally down. Crashing down yellow gas leaks out causing panic amongst people. No one gets hurt as the gas is revealed to be harmless. It was meant to be a warning. Meanwhile Goto receives the position of Tsuge’s hideout from Arakawa who in return gets arrested. Because Arakawa was too well informed, Goto had always suspected him to be involved in Tsuge’s actions.

Nagumo is joined by her team members to search for Tsuge. Ultimately she finds him, arresting him while caressing his hands.

You may ask why I’m writing reams about a 25-year-old movie. Well, to me its themes are still up to date: Terrorism, fear of war and political games. There is one scene in particular that stands out to me the most: It is the conversation between intelligence officer Arakawa and police officer Goto talking about peace and war. Its main point is that Japan’s (and basically any Western oriented countries’) state of peace and prosperity benefits from other countries wars. Arakawa states that ”we banish war to a realm beyond the TV screen”, building distance to the price people pay for their economic and private well-being. They have not been touched by war and therefore see no reason to show concern for other people’s suffering. He concludes that punishment for their ignorance soon will follow. In the end of that scene a crane is shown flying over water. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the crane became a symbol of peace and innocent victims. Sacrifices have to be made in order to maintain peace. As for people’s awareness of Tsuge’s terrorist attacks and the later declaration of martial law, Tokyo’s citizens don’t seem to be bothered by the recent events. In fact they live on like nothing happened. Kids are greeting soldiers, an old man takes a picture with one of them and others are just gazing at the tanks. In one scene a soldier stands in front of a window that reads ”Lumière et Ombre” (French for Light and Shadow). In symbolism light is connoted with wisdom whilst darkness is linked with ignorance (f.e. to leave sb. in the dark about sth.). Social criticism at its best. Politicians also are getting what is coming to them: In a later scene Goto has an epiphany and says that ”reality is often nonexistent at the highest decision-making levels.” Agreed and signed!

As complex as the story might be, you don’t need to have seen the prequel or the series as the plot is built on this one-time-character Yukihito Tsuge who rarely appears, but always has a finger in the pie. I highly recommend it to any lover of anime movies and fans of films dealing with political and philosophical themes. Here’s the trailer to judge for yourself:

 

Thanks for reading! 🙂

My favourite game

1998 was the first year I watched the Eurovision Song Contest and until that day I stayed faithful to Europe’s greatest music festival. Well, I missed the 1999 – 2001 editions, but in my humble opinion I haven’t missed that much.

I’m a polyglot and I love music – so Eurovision’s the thing for me. Where else could you listen to screaming Albanian divas or Dutch country music at the same time? The following list includes my personal favourites from the past 62 years. These are songs I know by heart even if I don’t speak the language. But that’s what Eurovision is all about: Uniting Europe regardless of our borders and differences.

PERSONAL TOP 50

01 URBAN SYMPHONY – RÄNDAJAD (ESTONIA 2009)

02 AMINA – C’EST LE DERNIER QUI A PARLÉ QUI A RAISON (FRANCE 1991)

03 FLOR-DE-LIS – TODAS AS RUAS DO AMOR (PORTUGAL 2009)

04 ILANIT – EY SHAM (ISRAEL 1973)

05 AZÚCAR MORENO – BANDIDO (SPAIN 1990)

06 ŞEBNEM PAKER – DINLE (TURKEY 1997)

07 CLÁUDIA PASCOAL – O JARDIM (PORTUGAL 2018)

08 MARIA HAUKAAS STORENG – HOLD ON BE STRONG (NORWAY 2008)

09 LOUISA BAÏLECHE – MONTS ET MERVEILLES (FRANCE 2003)

10 LOREEN – EUPHORIA (SWEDEN 2012)

11 LÚCIA MONIZ – O MEU CORAÇÃO NÃO TEM COR (PORTUGAL 1996)

12 BYEALEX – KEDVESEM (HUNGARY 2013)

13 RITA – SHARA BARCHOVOT (ISRAEL 1990)

14 STIG RÄSTA & ELINA BORN – GOODBYE TO YESTERDAY (ESTONIA 2015)

15 MOCEDADES – ERES TÙ (SPAIN 1973)

16 OFRA HAZA – CHAI (ISRAEL 1983)

17 ANABEL CONDE – VUELVE CONMIGO (SPAIN 1995)

18 RUTH JACOTT – VREDE (THE NETHERLANDS 1993)

19 MADAME MONSIEUR – MERCY (FRANCE 2018)

20 CLEOPATRA – OLOU TOU KOSMOU I ELPIDA (GREECE 1992)

21 JALISSE – FIUMI DI PAROLE (ITALY 1997)

22 KALIOPI – CRNO I BELO (F.Y.R. MACEDONIA 2012)

23 FRIDERIKA – KINEK MONDJAM EL VÉTKEIMET (HUNGARY 1994)

24 NINA MORATO – JE SUIS UN VRAI GARÇON (FRANCE 1994)

25 ANNA MARIA JOPEK – ALE JESTEM (POLAND 1997)

26 AUD WILKEN – FRA MOLS TIL SKAGEN (DENMARK 1995)

27 AMINATA – LOVE INJECTED (LATVIA 2015)

28 MAGDI RÚSZA – UNSUBSTANTIAL BLUES (HUNGARY 2007)

29 SOFIA VOSSOU – I ANIXI (GREECE 1991)

30 ONE MORE TIME – DEN VILDA (SWEDEN 1996)

31 DANA INTERNATIONAL – DIVA (ISRAEL 1998)

32 MORAN MAZOR – RAK BISHVILO (ISRAEL 2013)

33 GRETHE & JØRGEN INGMANN – DANSEVISE (DENMARK 1963)

34 TAJČI – HAJDE DA LUDUJEMO (YUGOSLAVIA 1990)

35 SÉVERINE – UN BANC, UN ARBRE, UNE RUE (MONACO 1971)

36 JOËLLE URSULL – WHITE AND BLACK BLUES (FRANCE 1990)

37 LENNY KUHR – DE TROUBADOUR (THE NETHERLANDS 1969)

38 YIANNA TERZI – ONIRO MOU (GREECE 2018)

39 KATJA EBSTEIN – THEATER (GERMANY 1980)

40 URBAN TRAD – SANOMI (BELGIUM 2003)

41 FRANCE GALL – POUPÉE DE CIRE, POUPÉE DE SON (LUXEMBOURG 1965)

42 THE COMMON LINNETS – CALM AFTER THE STORM (THE NETHERLANDS 2014)

43 LENA VALAITIS – JOHNNY BLUE (GERMANY 1981)

44 VICKY – L’AMOUR EST BLEU (LUXEMBOURG 1967)

45 NINA – ČAROBAN (SERBIA 2011)

46 NINA ZILLI – L’AMORE È FEMMINA (ITALY 2012)

47 NOX – FOROGJ, VILÁG! (HUNGARY 2005)

48 ÅSE KLEVELAND – INTET ER NYTT UNDER SOLEN (NORWAY 1966)

49 LEA SIRK – HVALA, NE! (SLOVENIA 2018)

50 LISA ANDREAS – STRONGER EVERY MINUTE (CYPRUS 2004)

Hello, hello…turn your radio on

Hello World Wide Web,

my name is Dominik. I’m a total rookie to this tool, but time will tell where this is heading. I intend to write about my thoughts on music (mostly Eurovision) and I promise I won’t upload anything about food, fashion or fitness – because obviously there are a bazillion of other people who know better about these things than me.

And because we’re off-season (Post Eurovision Depression, you know what I’m talking ’bout), I won’t write that much for now. But as Madonna said “You’ll see. Somehow. Someday…”

For anyone who’s still reading – thank you for taking your time. In my next post I’ll share my personal Top 50 Eurovision songs with you and maybe you’ll find one or the other favorite of yours in there too.

Have a good night, day, or whatever time it may be in your part of the world.