Friday, 20 March 2015

Eurovision 2015 Preview: Part 3

There's a bumper crop of songs qualifying straight to the Grand Final this year. Have you read Part 1 and Part 2 to see who might be joining them? If so, proceed to the video playlist and read on...

Australia: Guy Sebastian - Tonight Again [solo male, mid tempo banger]
Well played Australia! It's beginning to seem perfectly sensible that Australia are competing this year. It's certainly not the strangest thing that's ever happened in Eurovision. It's probably not even in the top 100 Strange Things That Happened At Eurovision. But anyway, Australia have joined in the party by sending an actual party song about partying. Party. It's not quite Uptown Funk (which is my nephew's favourite song) but it would get things going in the Stadthalle anyway.

Austria : The Makemakes - I Am Yours [alleged rock band, modern ballad]
So this is a sort of Kings of Leon slow jam thing. I bounced off it without being able to listen the first couple of times that I tried it, but it's making increasing amounts of sense. A good hosts choice, but I'm afraid the flaming piano gimmick has been done before 

France: Lisa Angell - N'oubliez Pas [solo female, trad ballad]
My theory is that there are essentially two Frances at Eurovision. There is Fun France which sends Sebastian Tellier and Les Fatal Picards and Twin Twin and there is Serious France which has strong views on the art of chanson and sends this sort of thing. I am a fan of Fun France.

Germany: Ann Sophie - Black Smoke [solo female, mid tempo pop]
The most notable thing about this is how Ann Sophie ended up with the ticket to Vienna. The song is fine, but I think the psychological hit from knowing she wasn't the real choice of the voters is going to be a bit rough on her. Which is sad.

Italy: Il Volo - Grande Amore [Male vocal group, trad ballad]
I don't get it. I don't get big faux opera stuff. I know it's supposed to make me quiver in some way, but I really don't get it. They seem like nice boys though. 

Spain: Edurne - Amanecer [solo female, mid tempo banger]
She's got the drum sound from Madonna's Frozen and she can turn into a tiger and you can't argue with that.  I am going to really enjoy the 'eeeaeeeeaaaaooo' bits in the car. 

United Kingdom: Electro Velvet - Still In Love With You [M/F duo, 'Electro Swing']
Where do I start? There are a number of things wrong here. Go go gadget bullet pointed list!
  • 'Electro swing' isn't a popular genre if you have to explain what it is on the red button
  • Also I think if 'electro swing' is a real genre, I think it sounds more like 'We Speak No Americano' than this
  • You'd think that after all the unpleasantness, they'd think twice about anyone with a Savile connection
  • And while I'm sure the singers are lovely people, how's about some people who'd maybe performed together before?
  • Don't get me started on the lyrics. Seriously, don't get me started
  • If the stage presentation is the two main singers, two backing singers and two dancers doing a Charleston, that will look a bit sad
  • Also, am I the only Strictly fan who is totally over the Charleston?
  • This is all very Strictly results show group dance number, which is totally not a good thing
  • The lyrics, oh god, the lyrics
  • Does no-one remember Alex Swings, Oscar Sings? That didn't go well, even with Dita von Teese involved
  • The lyrics are basically those lists of sexist advice on how to not get raped whilst about your business
  • Or alternatively what a horrible controlling man might say to you if you were dating him
  • The scat jazz section is going to be so excruciating on the night
  • As is the campy American accent stuff
  • Such dismally sexist lyrics
  • It has a nice fiddle bit, I suppose?
  • But still, jeezo.

And that's that. Another Eurovision is ready to roll. Keep listening. I'll see you in May, on my new Eurovision public twitter @eurovisellie for the exciting bits.

PS, as a bonus, here are my less sexist lyrics for Still In Love With You

I’m Still In Love With You (Less Sexist Lyrics Version)

[HIM]      Well, don’t get on the wrong train
Don’t fly in an old plane
Don’t go out in the pouring rain
Or do what you like, cos it's your life
You’re your own person, you don't need a sermon
But take good care when I’m not there
I’m still in love with you

[HIM]      While I’m on vacation, you've no obligation
That'd be a violation! You know I know, I trust you so

[HER]      That should be the norm, dear
Let's educate and inform, dear
It’s unfair to leave it there
I’m still in love with you

[HIM]      Some other guys with where’s and whys
May antagonize you with their lies
I'll just be wise and realize
That I’ve long known that you’re your own, dear

[HER]      Our love has firm basis, so no-one gets jealous
No need to fear when you’re not here
I’m still in love with you
[HIM]      Life won't be like Gaslight
This ain't like Twilight
[HER]      Be warned about meteorites
They come from space, could smash everyplace

 [HIM]      Do what you like, hon
It's your human right, hon
[HER]      That’s awfully decent of you, hon
I’m still in love with you

(the middle 8 is replaced by a brief, snappy lecture on equality)

[HER]      I put it thus, the absurdness
Of gender inequality
[HIM]      But when I stop to think of us
No need to assure you I adore you

[HER]      You think that I'm awesome, not just that I'm gorgeous
[HIM]      You read Voltaire and make knitwear
I’m so in love with you

[BOTH]   Whatever your intent, be mindful of consent
Enthusiastic assent
That's how we do, merci beaucoup!

[HER]      I know what you’re thinking
Don't matter what I'm drinking
Or what I wear when he's not there
I’m my own person too

[BOTH]   I’m still in love with you
I’m still in love with you

Eurovision 2015 Preview: Part 2

Did you enjoy the preview of Semi Final 1? Good! Let's get going with Semi Final 2 - the video playlist is here.

Azerbaijan: Elnur Huseynov - Hour of the Wolf [solo male, mid tempo inspirational]
I don't have a clue. Elnur was once half of Elnur and Samir who did this wonderfully homoerotic angel/demon business in Belgrade 2008 and now he's just singing a really tedious inspirational anthem. I do not think that this year we'll get anything as fun as Day After Day.

Cyprus: John Karayannis - One Thing I Should Have Done [solo male, trad ballad]
When I had this Euro playlist on during the week, I did a literal pshaw at this pretty, heartfelt ballad. Now it's the end of the week and I've had a glass of wine, it's making me experience a couple of tender feelings. The bit where the music drops out entirely is the kind of gimmickry we can definitely approve of. It's very sweet.

Czech Republic: Marta Jandová & Václav Noid Bárta [M/F Duo, mid tempo inspirational]
I got nothing. You should all know how much I love a stupidly overdramatic boy/girl duet, but this one is stirring nothing.

Iceland: Maria Olafs - Unbroken [solo female, mid tempo inspirational]
Because I am a Eurovision hipster, I sat and watched the Icelandic national selection. It was wonderful. They had Icelandic bossa nova, chilly Icelandic electronica, a tiny cute Icelandic singer songwriter and a totally horrific light entertainment thing. This song didn't massively jump out at me, but I certainly preferred it in Icelandic, when it was called Litil Skref. It is alright, I suppose.

Ireland: Molly Sterling - Playing By Numbers [solo female, mid tempo pop]
This is another one that didn't make a massive impact on the first listen, but revealed itself to me in stages. Now I really like it, with it's world weary regretful sound and Molly's lovely voice.

Israel: Nadav Guedj - Golden Boy [solo male, mid tempo banger]
Once this one kicks in, it's really fun. It uses modern R&B cliches in quite an interesting way, so that it's like flicking rapidly between various commercial FM stations, and the 'before you leave, let me show you Tel Aviv' line is pretty silly.

Latvia: Aminata - Love Injected [solo female, modern ballad]
A bit of genius from Latvia here. She's a beautiful space babe, in a Tron world, singing a song that seems to have been beamed in from another galaxy on the sub-etha network. It's a bit like if you asked FKA Twigs to write a giant over-the-top torch song and then got her to do a bit of appropriate choreography too. This is awesome.

Lithuania: Monika Linkytė & Vaidas Baumila - This Time [M/F duo, mid tempo pop]
I love this.  It zings and pops and the singers have wonderful chemistry. It's the first time I've ever shipped Eurovision contestants. Just look at them. They're really enjoying themselves. I'll have my tinfoil hat on and my fingers in my ears if you try to tell me that Monika and Vaidas didn't fall a little bit in love during that song. This song also has a final chorus that is basically an open invitation for that sparkly pyro shower effect they use to signify that a Very Good Song has come to a climax.

Malta: Amber - Warrior [solo female, modern ballad]
Sadly not my favourite song called Warrior in the competition, but still totally listenable.

Montenegro: Knez - Adio [solo male, trad ballad]
I remain unstirred by Montenegro for the second year running. This is the country that sent the unstoppable party beat that was Igranka, guys. What's gone wrong?

Norway: Mørland & Debrah Scarlett - A Monster Like Me [M/F Duo, modern ballad]

An unfathomably grim goth ballad from the nation that sent adorable angst mountain Carl Espen last year. I really like it. It's like the breakout hit song from 'Ibsen! The Musical' and combines a pretty tune with unrelenting misery and lost love. 

Poland: Monika Kuszyńska - In The Name Of Love [solo female, mid tempo inspirational]
Lovely, but a bit on the boring side. Needs serious pyros on the middle 8.

Portugal: Leonor Andrade - Há um mar que nos separa [solo female, mid tempo pop]

Look, it's Portugal. It's about the sea and has duende but this one is a bit rocky and Leonor the singer looks terribly grumpy about the whole thing. For some reason the feathery frock made me think about Amandine Bourgeois and that is never a bad thing.

San Marino: Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini - Chain of Lights [M/F duo, mid tempo inspirational]
It builds to something plinky plonky in a somewhat wonky manner. There's clearly more to it. For some reason the combination of the plinky plonk sound and the accordion is making me think of an old Genesis song? Anyway, I haven't got into this one yet. Time will tell.

Sweden: Måns Zelmerlöw - Heroes [solo male, mid tempo banger]
Well, I don't like the twangy countrified verses, but the chorus is clearly immense. The presentation is cool too - the bit where he twists the galaxy around is incredible. It's a precision tooled winner. Sweden must really fancy hosting again.

Switzerland: Mélanie René - Time to Shine [solo female, mid tempo banger]
I like this mainly because Melanie promises us 'No mucking around' in the chorus and the video is like something you'd make while engaging in a bit of 'mucking around' in the park with your mates. 

Slovenia: Maraaya - Here For You [solo female, mid tempo banger]
Another absolutely brilliant sophisticated bit of pop. Paloma Faith will kick herself when she hears this. The electric fiddle bit is cracking and having the LED-covered dancer do the fiddling motions is a splendid gimmick. I was singing this song in the lab most of the morning and I expect it to penetrate my soul and my playlists quite deeply. 

Well, that was quite a semi-final. If I had my way, we'd be off to Ljubljana or Vilinus or Tallinn next year. And by the time most of the normal people watch the contest, we'll have filtered out a lot of the really blah stuff. 

Eurovision 2015 Preview: Part 1

And we're back!

Eurovision time is here again and it's time for me to take you on a guided video tour through the MASSIVE STACKS OF BALLADS. This year is very exciting, because we've got Australia joining in on the fun (and causing a lot of tittering about the very loose definition of 'Europe' we're now working with, when actually it's all about being a member of the EBU) and that makes us up to a massive, ear-straining 40 songs. That is lots.

The cognescenti are saying that this is a bit of an off year. Possibly it is. This year I made a spreadsheet and some pivot tables to illustrate the general mix of songs...

...and as you can see this is a year dominated by solo female artists, for the main part singing big, mid-tempo inspirational anthems. My divisions into genres are a bit arbitrary, but this is vaguely what I'm getting at:

  • a 'mid tempo banger' hints at party times and has a bit of a beat to it, but isn't actually a truly glowsticks aloft actual party song.
  • a 'mid tempo inspirational' has one ballady verse, a big anthemic chorus and is usually about how it would be nice if everyone would be nice. This genre is the very quintessence of Eurovision.
  • a 'mid tempo pop' is just a mid tempo pop song that may or may not be a retro pastiche
  • a 'modern ballad' is a slow song with the kind of production magic that makes it sound like it comes from the future
  • a 'trad ballad' is a slow song that could be from any point in the past 60 years
  • a 'punk' is well, you know, punk
  • and 'electro swing' is the kind of genre that you have to have explained to you on the BBC red button 
Also, I don't know if I can prove this with science yet, but I feel like there isn't a single song this year that is as fast as Waterloo. We are seriously lacking in bpm.

But anyway, onto the songs in Semi Final 1! There's a couple of crackers in here. You can watch the official video playlist here on the youtubes.

Albania: Elhaida Dani - I'm Alive [solo female, mid tempo inspirational]
This is a very good example of the mid tempo inspirational song. I like it, it's rapidly growing on me and I am sure I'll be hooting along to it in the car, but it gets kind of lost amongst the other mid tempo inspirational songs that have visual or auditory gimmicks. Nice all the same, fingers crossed it qualifies.

Armenia: Genealogy - Face the Shadow (Don't Deny) [Mixed group, mid tempo inspirational]
So this is a song about denying the Armenian genocide and how you shouldn't. The six singers are all individually amazing, and the song gives each of them a little bit that's best suited to their voice, which is polite. It's a really classy, uplifting song and I hope it does well.

Belarus: Uzari & Maimuma - Time [Duo, mid tempo banger]
I keep getting distracted when this one is playing and having to rewind the youtube vid so that I can get a better listen. Even after quite a few iterations of this process I don't find the song any stickier in my brain. It does have a very nice violin hook, however, and you all know how Eurovision loves a bit of fiddle.

Belgium: Loic Nottet - Rhythm Inside [Solo male, modern ballad]
Well gosh, isn't this MODERN? Doesn't it stick out half a mile? Isn't it a million times better than last year's ode to Axel Hirsoux's mother? (A song which I had to remove from my Eurovision album playlist because I knew if it came up while I was driving I'd not be able to skip it)
Regardless of how this does in the competition, I hope it does well in the charts across Europe.

Denmark: Anti Social Media - The Way You Are [alleged rock band, mid tempo pop]
This is a really awful 60s pastiche that doesn't even do a 60s pastiche properly. They can't hold the long notes, it's really naff and the final chorus key change is just a disaster. Denmark could have had this weird Vanessa Paradis type thing or this perfectly pleasant song about a suitcase. But no. It's this.

Estonia: Elina Born & Stig Rasta - Goodbye To Yesterday [M/F Duo, mid tempo pop]
This is brilliant. It hauntingly tugs at the heart, whilst impressing with tonnes of class. Immense regret and longing is absolutely tangible. If this was a Belle & Sebastian song, you'd love it, you filthy hipster, and you'd probably be arguing that it was possibly the best ever Belle & Sebastian song.

Some people have been complaining about Elina & Stig not having any chemistry on stage, but it appears that they've been working on that if the official video is any indication. I can't stop listening to it. records that I've given this 24 plays in the past month, but that doesn't count the number of times I've watched it on youtube too. Which is lots.

I want it to win. It probably won't.

F.Y.R. Macedonia: Daniel Kajmakoski - Autumn Leaves [solo male, mid tempo inspirational]
This is so blah and really suffers from coming straight after Goodbye To Yesterday. I can't remember how it goes and this is being written while it's actually still playing. I can't think of anything to say about it.

Finland: Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät - Aina mun pitää [actual rock band, punk]
Actually and deeply punk in every way. The band are punk as anything, the song is incredibly punk (it sounds correctly punk, it's a punk complaint about having to do stuff and it's also only just long enough to qualify as a Eurovision song) and Finland are behaving in a punk manner by sending it. 

Georgia: Nina Sublatti - Warrior [solo female, mid tempo banger]
I believe this was one of the early favourites, and I definitely remember tweeting about how I liked it when it was selected way back in the distant past. It's a no-nonsense, poundingly modern anthem. It will sit nicely next to Kati Wolf's 'What about my dreams?', Chaka Khan's 'I'm Every Woman' and Livin Joy's 'Don't Stop Moving' in my Strong Songs for Strong Women In Need of Inspiration playlist. She also looks very nice in her leather top.

Greece: Maria Elena Kyriakou - One Last Breath [solo female, trad ballad]
Very much what you don't expect from Greece, in that it's a lady in a long frock singing a lungbuster in front of a piano. It's dramatic and it builds pleasingly, but it is still the most trad ballad imaginable.

Hungary: Boggie - Wars For Nothing [solo female, trad ballad]

While this is deeply worthy and really pleasant, I'm finding it impossible to get excited about.  I think it could get lost amongst the other songs, especially when they cut the vocals down to 6 people. I'm a bit unsure how this it's also conforming with the 'no political message' rule. I suppose it's allowed if it's a nice political message?

Moldova: Eduard Romanyuta - I Want Your Love [solo male, mid tempo banger]
And from the angelic sublimity of Boggie, we move on to the Max Martin style ridiculousness of this. It's about as trashy as possible and comes as some relief amidst all the worthiness. Note: the video contains scenes of seriously unsafe motoring

Romania: Voltaj -"De la capăt (All over Again)" [solo male, mid tempo inspirational]
Another big anthemic chorus leaves me unmoved.

Russia: Polina Gagarina - A Million Voices [solo female, mid tempo inspirational]
A million voices praying for peace and healing. Right, ok, great. 

I remain unmoved by an even bigger anthemic chorus.

Serbia: Bojana Stamenov - Beauty Never Lies [solo female, mid tempo inspirational]
Do you remember how when the Bond film 'Tomorrow Never Dies' came out there was the actual theme song by Sheryl Crow, and about the same time Pulp released 'Tomorrow Never Lies' which was clearly their submission for the Bond theme? Well, this is like the third member of that set, only instead of being like a Bond theme, it has an inspirational message and a slightly ravey bit at the end. I still don't know whether I like it or not.

The Netherlands: Trijnte Oosterhuis - Walk Along [solo female, mid tempo pop]
I think that the Netherlands are enjoying their recent success in the ESC and are just settling into the rhythm of it. This is a nice song, written by Anouk, about being a grown up woman and having a fairly massive crush on someone who doesn't see her that way. I remember songs like this were quite the thing in the 90s. It would have gone nicely between Bitch and What If God Was One Of Us and Kiss The Rain on a mixtape that I would have doubtless made if I was a grown up woman in the 90s.

And that was Semi Final 1. Semi Final 2 is coming up after I've refilled my wine glass.