Friday, 11 May 2018

Final ideals

2 exciting semis down - now just the final to go...
Let it now be truly known that we really really REALLY do not have a clue as to what is going to win!

First of all, the running order has now been finalised and it is incredibly full-on, the second half in particular seems at a much higher pace than the second half, although the end of the running order as some surprisingly slow punctuations. This has dented a few hopes and dreams, most notably Spain who have been handed the dreaded number 2 spot - a from which no country has ever won. I am not going to indulge too much into the mechanics of this pseudo-science mainly because apart from the obvious favouritism spots, and the much hyped benefits of being in the second half, 4 of the last 5 ESC winners have actually been from the first half.

So, based my own personal opinions and preferences with a tiny bit of swaying from the live performances seen during the semi finals, fan participation in the hall and the general fan opinion on social media, here is my list of the 26 finalists.


Don't expect this to be the actual result - although that would be rather epic. From my list, I would say that Albania has almost no chance of winning and Denmark would be quite the shock, but after that any of the next 3 could be winners. Also, depending on demographic, the opera from Estonia or the modern metal from Hungary could be a sneaky benefactor. I get the feeling that the winner of the jury vote, which is done first, will not be the same as the televote winner. Depending on margins, this may or may not affect the placings but will make it a very close result.

One huge issue that may sway the voting is the question of where some of the 'friendly votes' will go? With the obliteration of some of the ex-Soviet countries - where will their televote go if their de facto first choice isn't there? Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine are still standing and one must remember that Alexander Rybak is genetically Belarusian so they have to be seen as possibly exceeding in the phone votes. On a similar theme, the Greek diaspora vote will go straight to Cyprus and from ex-Yugoslavia Slovenia and Serbia should see a small boost.

All I hope is that it's a slick show, the performances are good and the voting is clear but also nail biting!

Monday, 7 May 2018

Ranking, wishlists and predictions

Blooming heck, this really is as clear as mud...

Now that the rehearsals are done it is fair to say that things have certainly got more complicated. Some songs that were borderline have now become sure fire contenders or fallen to the wayside. Conversely there are are couple of big hitters that have failed to hit the mark in rehearsals and don't look as sure as they once were. It's all got a wee bit muddled...

That said, I need to get this down so I have at least had my say...
So here is my 43 song ranking - I will post ANOTHER ranking list with just the 26 finalists on Friday night/Saturday morning:

This would make my personal qualifiers from each semi as follows

SF1
Albania  Czech Republic 
Estonia  Austria  Belgium
Lithuania  Cyprus
Israel  Finland  Ireland
SF2
Denmark  Ukraine  Serbia
Slovenia  Moldova
Georgia  Hungary  Norway 
San Marino  Australia 

That said, I  don't feel that either of this lists are going to be accurate when it comes to the actual votes.  The 100% records of Romania, Azerbaijan and Russia would be broken if my list were true and although I feel there is a good chance that one of the 3 will fail, I doubt at three will flunk, Other major nations like Sweden and Bulgaria, for me, miss out but I think they will both get through (as much as it pains me to say it!) In my lists I suspect that Albania, Austria and Belgium could be on the borderline in semi one whilst Slovenia, Australia and Georgia could go either way in semi two but I think my expectation of San Marino is a bridge too far! With this all said and done, if any of the performances fail to ignite during the jury final OR the live televoting final - it could be anybody's game and there *will* be some shock non-qualifiers.

Come back at the end of the week to get my ranking of the 26 finalists !


Thursday, 3 May 2018

Alternative lyrics

NORWAY
Step one - do a shit, and do it all day long
Step two - just roll in it that's how you make a pong


ISRAEL
I’m not your hen (not your hen)
I’m full of zen (full of zen)
I’ll lay an egg I’ll watch you boil it
Dip some soldiers now to the mother-dunking beat


CYPRUS
Cause I’m building up and it ain’t falling down – I’m building it higher
Ah yeah ah yeah ah yeah
Yeah ah yeah ah yeah
Cause I’m making up a boat and then a car - yeah I've got 4 tyres
Ah yeah ah yeah ah yeah
Yeah ah yeah ah yeah
Lego !


BULGARIA
So I love the traffic cones
Take pictures on our phones
Fill them all up with stones
I love the traffic cones


SWEDEN
Just wanna pi-pi-piss you off
So don’t you da-da-dare mess up
I just want to kill your mood
Make you throw up all your food
I will now, I will now


UNITED KINGDOM
Months are like September, October and November
Don't you dare forget December all these months oh oh, all the months oh oh

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Pre-rehearsal ranking

Today is Saturday 28th April and rehearsals for this year's Eurovision start tomorrow - so it was time to get down to brass tacks and nail my colours to the mast!
Using Mr Gerbear's magnificent song sorter I was able to make a reasonable ranking (I had to move one song because it was quite a lot higher than I thought it would be but that was the only noticeable anomaly) My tastes are still changing and I know that once footage comes from rehearsals, tastes - and the songs' chances of winning- will change drastically but this is it for now.

Also, for an interesting comparison, the ranking numbers are highlighted to signify its path to the final:
yellow means the song is in semi final 1, blue means it is in semi final 2 and green means it is automatic qualifier.

As you can see semi final 1 (at least for me) is going to be BRUTAL with most of my personal favourites in that show. But only the top 10 from each semi getting into the Saturday night final, I get the feeling many of my favorites are not going to make it!!!! If you fancy dipping your toes into who this year's eurovision has to offer, have a watch and listen to clips of  all the songs here.

I will predict my semi final qualifiers next weekend!

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Friday, 27 April 2018

SOA 2018 episode 6

We start, unusually, with a discussion about the phenomenon that is… Ross Anthony and whether he is actually as British he purports to be (Google “Ross Anthony British” to see the amazing* music video)

Points of order discussed include:

1 – well dodgy pyramid schemes involving Bobby Davro (or not as it turned out)
2 – needing to be ‘a bit more Sopho’
3 – letting off wind
4 – Runrig – and their apparent lack of successors
5 – Eastern European stage schools

The songs pulled apart on this show are from – in alphabetical order:
Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Germany, Moldova and San Marino

* Sorry,  I lied. Soz.


Follow us on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair
or like our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ESCarmchair to find get the latest information about blogposts and podcasts or even have a look back at our old ones :o)

You can download or listen to it here https://archive.org/details/SOA1806


Click here to listen to this podcast in your usual music player (M3U Playlist)

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

SOA 2018 episode 5

Just by chance we have a lovely intro by a local celebrity !
Quite a bit of bickering on today’s episode but mainly about each other – not the songs!

Points of order discussed include:

1 – Let Loose
2 – a weird Apprentice buying task
3 – knowing the cast of BBC’s Fame Academy series 1 without really thinking
4 – the surprise return of the Austrian tourist board
5 – a song with an ironic title

The songs pulled apart on this show are from – in alphabetical order:

Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Lithuania, Norway, Russia and Spain


Follow us on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair
or like our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ESCarmchair to find get the latest information about blogposts and podcasts or even have a look back at our old ones :o)

You can download or listen to it here https://archive.org/details/SOA1805


Click here to listen to this podcast in your usual music player (M3U Playlist)

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

SOA 2018 episode 4

We are more than half way through our Eurovision odyssey and we’re both feeling a bit of cabin fever and what a day to do the longest episode of the run :/

Notes on this episode include:

1 – cost of video production v cost of song production
2 – ginger and proud!
3 – forgetting that you like something
4 – Goodness Gracious Me
5 – getting rid of the band!

The entries looked at on this show are – in alphabetical order:
Australia, Belarus, Denmark, France, Malta, Montenegro, Romania and United Kingdom


Follow us on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair
or like our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ESCarmchair to find get the latest information about blogposts and podcasts or even have a look back at our old ones :o)

You can download or listen to it here https://archive.org/details/SOA1804


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Friday, 13 April 2018

SOA 2018 episode 3

The good news is that we are half way through the podcasts.
The bad news is we’re ONLY half way through the podcasts.
On today’s podcast there seems to be a lot to talk about, and most of it leaves us quite puzzled.

1 – accidental Partridge
2 – Andy Day from Cbeebies
3 – sudden cravings for pineapples
4 – frozen food stores of the past and present
5 – Limmy’s Homemade show as seen on Thursday 5th April BBC 2 Scotland 10pm (or on BBC iPlayer)

The songs pulled apart on show 3 are – in alphabetical order:
Belgium, Cyprus, Iceland Italy, Israel, Netherlands and Serbia



Follow us on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair
or like our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ESCarmchair to find get the latest information about blogposts and podcasts or even have a look back at our old ones :o)

You can download or listen to it here https://archive.org/details/SOA1803


Click here to listen to this podcast in your usual music player (M3U Playlist)

Sunday, 8 April 2018

SOA 2018 epsiode 2

We make a lot of sacrifices to create this podcast and we bypassed a major UK cultural event in order to make this for you… not. We didn’t record this anywhere near as late so we were both in a much better mood.

Mentions on the podcast today for:
1 – chicken dancing and chicken noises (and it not even about Netta!)
2 – when videos are better than the song
3 – over-armography
4 – Bohemian Rhapsody
5 – tuning the vertical hold on your telly (you either understand that or you don’t)

The songs discussed on the show are – in alphabetical order:
Georgia, Ireland, Latvia, Macedonia, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden.

Follow us on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair
or like our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ESCarmchair to find get the latest information about blogposts and podcasts or even have a look back at our old ones :o)

You can download or listen to it here https://archive.org/details/SOA1802


Click here to listen to this podcast in your usual music player (M3U Playlist)

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

SOA 2018 episode 1

It's April..... so it's time for SHITE OR ALRGHT!!!!!

It’s the first of 6 review shows with a slight difference in make up but shouldn't affect your enjoyment! 
Due to one reason or another we started recording this faaaaaaaar too late so by about half way through I think I’d actually lost the will to live… Don't worry, as I write this episode 2 has already been recorded and is much, much better - so please come back for more !!!!!

Things to look out for that might (or might not) crop up again: 
1 – too many mentions of pork 
2 – the bullshit bell 
3 – songs that sound like other songs 
4 – singers that look like other singers 
5 – the Austrian tourist board 


The songs analysed on the show are – in alphabetical order –
Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Poland, Switzerland and Ukraine.



Follow us on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair
or like our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ESCarmchair to find get the latest information about blogposts and podcasts or even have a look back at our old ones :o)

You can download or listen to it here https://archive.org/details/SOA1801


Click here to listen to this podcast in your usual music player (M3U Playlist)

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Semi-final wishlists

Now all the songs are known, the next thing we are awaiting is the semi final draw. We already know which half of which semi the songs are in as well as the voting split for the 6 already in the final but everything is up for grabs. This is not a prediction per se, more my idea of a perfect running order. I have also used ideas about props and prepping time to inform my decisions and I have also had to kind of guess where the 'commercial breaks' might be. So here's what I'd like to see

SEMI FINAL 1
Estonia Elina Nechayeva "La forza"
Belarus         Alekseev "Forever"
Azerbaijan Aisel "X My Heart"
Bulgaria        Equinox "Bones"
Czechia        Mikolas Josef "Lie to Me"
Lithuania      Ieva Zasimauskaitė "When We're Old"
---
Belgium        Sennek "A Matter of Time"
Iceland         Ari Ólafsson "Our Choice"
Albania        Eugent Bushpepa "Mall"
Israel Netta "Toy"
Ireland Ryan O'Shaughnessy "Together"
Croatia Franka "Crazy"
Armenia       Sevak Khanagyan "Qami"
---
Macedonia Eye Cue "Lost and Found"
Cyprus Eleni Foureira "Fuego"
Austria         Cesár Sampson "Nobody but You"
Greece Yianna Terzi "Oneiro mou"
Switzerland Zibbz "Stones"
Finland          Saara Aalto "Monsters"

I think having one of the favourites on first is a bold move but being such a unique song I think it sets a fabulous ambience to the night (and also put some of the ones afterwards to shame). The Czech song is the most obvious to put on first but considering the other songs in this half I don't think it fits. This semi also has very few non-english entries so I have tried to separate them out throughout the show, as well as keeping apart similarly tempoed songs and acts.


SEMI FINAL 2
Moldova            DoReDos "My Lucky Day"
Russia Yulia Samoylova "I Won't Break"
Netherlands Waylon "Outlaw in 'Em"
Serbia Sanja Ilić & Balkanika "Nova deca"
San Marino Jessika feat. Jenifer Brening "Who We Are" 
Denmark           Rasmussen "Higher Ground"
---
Australia          Jessica Mauboy "We Got Love"
Romania          The Humans "Goodbye"
Norway          Alexander Rybak "That's How You Write a Song"
Hungary          AWS "Viszlát nyár"
Slovenia          Lea Sirk "Hvala, ne!"
Ukraine          Mélovin "Under the Ladder"
---
Sweden         Benjamin Ingrosso "Dance You Off"
Latvia Laura Rizzotto "Funny Girl"
Poland Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer "Light Me Up"
Montenegro Vanja Radovanović "Inje"
Malta Christabelle "Taboo"
Georgia         Iriao "For You"

Moldova's uptempo number seems too obvious a choice of opener, but it is an eyectacing song so will demand attention. I could not resist having Alexander Rybak and AWS on after each other - that I gong to be one hell of a contrast -  but I wonder as to whose benefit it might be? Sweden start off the third part mainly due to their bulky staging although if the producers wanted to make it obvious how pro-Sweden they are, it'll be on last. That said, the Georgian lilting choral singing makes for a very peaceful, rousing and suitable full stop. Anything on after this is going to feel like an anti-climax In this semi, non english entries are more prevalent and have tried to split them up but is almost impossible in the second half.

Of course if some entries need more time for staging purposes they may 'demand' to be put on before or after a commercial break or first/last which may affect things. Maybe when the list comes in we can work out who this might be the case for or who the producers are favouring this year.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

GEORGIA

The Georgian song was unveiled on March 13th via the presentation of the official video clip. Back in December the folk-jazz fusion band Iriao had been internally selected and that their entry would be released at a later date. Their song is called “For you”

The accompanying video is very simple taking place in a large empty arena and the five members are stood in different parts of the space. Not very much happens in terms of stagecraft apart from the singers moving to and away from each other when the harmonies come and go. There are also interspersed clips of female dancers dressed in white and with white nets around them. This sort of reaffirms the pure, simple and fluid nature of the song and the performance of the group.

Although the song has an English title, it is entirely in Georgian and is a direct translation of the words "Sheni Gulistvis". There is no verse/chorus structure as such but there are short tunes that repeated throughout but with different lyrics. The song is metaphorically about love using the themes of weather – there are many references to snow and sun, The harmonies are very close and it has a choral, even church like feeling to it and this is juxtaposed with the small yet prominent mechanical beat behind the instrumentation. The build up is very clever and the lack of a proper structure makes it seem much longer than 3 minutes. Around the minute to go mark the song resets slightly and builds up again to a very uplifting finish.

This is a very uplifting song and by the end you cannot help but feel enlightened and filled up by the optimism of the song. I say this knowing nothing about the Georgian language (even before I looked up any translation) you just see and feel it in their singing and the tune. Although the song has no predictable formula parts of the tune are very memorable but I think this is where the song lacks appeal for Eurovision. If there was a little more repetition I feel the song would be seen as more ‘eurovision-y’, especially with the fact that it is not in English. The language sounds so beautiful, ethnic and full of feeling. As beautiful as it is, I have to wonder who this would appeal to and who would actually vote for this. As much as I would love to see this in the final I fear it won’t make it.


ARTIST –  Iriao
SONG – For you
MUSIC - Davit Malazonia
LYRICS - Irina Sanikidze


BULGARIA

The Bulgarian act and song were unveiled on March 12th via the official video release. Although there were constant updates about how the selection process was going, very little was known about the act or song until the reveal date. Going to Lisbon is the group Equinox with the song “Bones”

The video of the song is very minimal in terms of stagecraft and in fact is more of a lyric video than anything to do with performance style. The palate is dark and starry with blurred beams and some refraction of light through the crystals. Although you see the personnel on screen at no point do they actually sing and barely look through the camera lens. The five members are dressed in different ways but all in black. Maybe they are going for as minimal a performance style as possible!

The song begins with an interesting pulsing electro soundscape – it certainly pricks your ears up and take notice. The first verse begins and the vocal sounds very close and breathy, almost like an amplified whisper. More voices come in during the pre chorus before the very sparse chorus which has quite a warbled feel which might be tricky to recreate live. This is followed by the briefest of verses before the whole chorus starts up again however at  just the 2 minute mark this rendition  is going to continue, in one fashion or another, until the end of the song. This feels a little bit too long to be listening to the same thing. There is then a brief punctuation of singing at the end before finishing with the name of the song.

This is a very atmospheric song and the dark electro vibe in certainly interesting to the ear. But here begins the first issue – the singing sounds very very processed and synthesised and at times it feels like there are much more than 5 singers on the track. I also wonder that when all 5 sing together will it feel like they are blending or will it sound more like they are competing? Secondly, with 5 singers on stage - what scope is there for anything more visual? How can they incorporate a space theme if there are do led screens? I feel that in Bulgaria’s modern history in Eurovision is this very disappointing. It almost comes across as a bit highbrow and up itself. I think this will probably qualify although I think for once this isn’t in the running for a win.


ARTIST –  Equinox
SONG –  Bones
MUSIC - Borislav Milanov, Trey Campbell, Joacim Persson, Dag Lundberg
LYRICS - Borislav Milanov, Trey Campbell, Joacim Persson, Dag Lundberg


Friday, 16 March 2018

LITHUANIA

The Lithuanian Final was held at the Žalgirio Arena in Kaunas on March 11th, hosted by Mantas Stonkus & Ugne Skonsmanaite. Before the final there were 4 heats, 2 quarterfinals and 2 semi-finals. The eventual winner was chosen by televoting (50%) & an "expert" jury (50%). Winning, was "When we're old" sung by Ieva Zasimauskaite.

Ieva is dressed in a very simple floaty dress punctuated by a simple crystal necklace and similarly coloured flat shoes. Behind her the stage is black with small lights and thick yellow beams criss-crossing. Ieva is alone and is sat on the floor at the beginning of the song however the first of the song has so little light you barely know she is there at all. She stays there until the 2 minute mark when she gets up and walks around the stage. Now behind her is a large video wall featuring different scenes of couples of different ages, picking up on the theme of the song. At the very end she is joined on stage by a young man an they embrace at the end.

The song is a quiet ballad, and could almost be wrongly assumed to be something Ireland would send. We have a simple verse/chorus/verse/chorus set up ending with apart of the verse again at he end – but with a twist, The song seems to go by quite quickly but there is also a lot of empty space. The backing track of the whole song is very minimalistic with a basic piano throughout and some additional instruments during the final chorus. The tune of the verse is very simplistic and yyou remember this much more than the verse. During the final part Ieva reverts to her mother tongue which is a nice touch. There is a Lithuanian language version of this song but I doubt they will use this instead of the English.

Personally I find her voice quite annoying – I am generally not a fan on the small, hiccupping, almost yodelling, vocal style. The whispery way she sings the verses are fine but the rest of the song feels a bit put on. Also Ieva’s pronunciation of words like ‘old’ and ‘wrote’ are very odd. Overall the song and its sentiment are very nice but is lost in the execution. I also wonder with the backdrop issues in Lisbon how or if the use of the video can be realised. This effect seems to be a focal point and without out it this loses direction. A nice enough song but lacks enough charm for me but when it comes to qualification they may be in luck. They are in a semi with quite a few Baltic countries as well as Ireland and UK so the diaspora might get them through on the televote but jurors might see otherwise.


ARTIST –  Ieva Zasimauskaite
SONG – When we're old
MUSIC – Vytautas Bikus
LYRICS - Vytautas Bikus


Thursday, 15 March 2018

RUSSIA

The Russian song was unveiled on March 11th via its première during a news bulletin on Russian TV. Last year, Yuliya Samoylova had been chose to represent Russia with “Flame is burning”, but due to her blacklisting in the host country Ukraine, the entry was withdrawn. It was hinted that she would be back in 2018 and in January this was confirmed. Her song this year is called “I won’t break”

The colour scheme for the video is mainly white. The song intersperses footage of Yuliya between views of the moon, waves crashing and show capped mountains. Near the end of the song we see fiery volcanoes erupting. All the shots of Yuliya are from her shoulders up (Yuliya lost the function of her legs during childhood so usually sits in a wheelchair) even in the wide shot at the very end.

The song is much edgier and has more personality than last years cancelled attempt. This has a much louder and rockier sound, something that Yuliya is known for. The structure is pretty simple – we start with verse/chorus/verse/chorus. The chorus is very memorable with the repetition of the title and the use of the rhymes of emotion/ocean/motion. At the two minute mark there is a break from the pattern with the repetition of a very simple phrase which keeps repeating even though the last rendition of the chorus. The song ends with the repetition of the very first words of the song. During the choruses, the backing singers are very prominent.

This is afar better entry than last years attempt which was far too wet and saccharine and possibly wouldn’t have qualified or done very well. This though is far more interesting and although still has a connection to Yuliya and who she is, it is much more positive. The performance of this is much trickier to imagine and pin down. As I suggested she will need some singing support and I fear that her voice and diction could get tricky, especially if nerves kick in, but I feel that having 5 backing singers will leave her open to a lack of performance. I can almost imagine her with some interpretive dancers or acrobats to liven up the stage. They may also use a background screen or possibly use holograms or on screen editing. I would like to say this has a better chance of qualifying than last year being in semi2 but she is in the first half and could get overshadowed with a poor visual show.


ARTIST –  Yulia Samoylova
SONG – I won’t break
MUSIC - Leonid Gutkin, Netta Nimrodi, Arie Burshtein
LYRICS - Leonid Gutkin, Netta Nimrodi, Arie Burshtein


MACEDONIA

The Macedonian song was unveiled on March 11th with the release of the official video. In February, the Macedonian broadcaster announced that the duo Eye Cue had been internally selected. Their song is called “Lost and found”

The video is in 2 parts both being just one long shot. During the first half, Marija, the lead singer, is in her dressing room when she is ushered about by some assistants and walks on the set when Bojan, the other member of Eye Cue and a drummer are already in situ. She performs the song to camera until the chorus. She then sits on a swing with ropes made of flowers and returns to thee stage. After this the screen flickers blue and we find Marija in a totally different outfit and hairdo. This time she walks into a photo shoot where Bojan is present, then pretends to be in bed before returning to performing to camera.

This song has a very quirky if not confusing structure. There are lots of bits and each bit seems disconnected to everything else. The first part of the chorus has a rock pop feel but the second half is more like a dance pop number whilst the verses have a slow, bassy reggae beat underneath and they seem to clash into each other rather than blending seamlessly. I sense that the duo’s normal style is more akin to the punchy stuff. Marija has quite the vibrato to her voice and I can imagine under pressure this could be a little too much. There are also a prominent number of backing vocalists on the track too which will need to be accounted for when factoring in the performance.

The easiest way to describe this is that this is a song that is less than the sum of its parts. The chorus is not bad but they are let down by a very fragmented song structure with a weak verse and a style that does not suit them. It feels like they have tried to combine too many things in order the suite too many people and have actually ended up pleasing nobody. At times the tune has a passing resemblance to “Feels like heaven” by Fiction Factory. The video also gives few clues as to how this might be performed on the night and I fear this might be a very static performance. In a semi with few Balkan buddies to get through this will struggle to qualify.


ARTIST –  Eye Cue
SONG – Lost and found
MUSIC - Bojan Trajkovski, Darko Dimitrov
LYRICS - Bojan Trajkovski


Wednesday, 14 March 2018

ISRAEL

The Israeli song was unveiled on March 11th via the presentation of the official video clip However the show “HaKokhav HaBa” was used to choose their representative HaKokhav HaBa. There were 31 shows in total before the final and the winner was selected by juries (50%) and a mobile phone app (50%). This was won by Netta Barzilai and the song she will be singing in Lisbon is “Toy”

The accompanying video is very bright, colourful hyperactive and full of weird and wacky shots. Netta wears an abundance of different outfits which emphasises her personality as well as the defiant nature of the song. She is joined by some female dancers whose movements are also a little odd, out-of-the-ordinary, eye-catching but in keeping with the attitude of the song. In some shots she is stood alone and in others she is with her loop machine.

The track starts with what seems like senseless blabbering and nonsense. Of course what she is doing is applying vocal layers onto the looper for use later on during the song. It also pricks your ears up and you are instantly intrigued. We then go into a fairly straightforward verse which then leads into a more atmospheric pre-chorus which is then broken by the chicken noises – utterly bonkers but totally in context. This then leads into the chorus proper which has a driving beat and some really simplistic and catchy lyrics. The second verse begins in Hebrew but is very highly processed so it sounds like Norman Collier's old ‘broken microphone’ gag. This leads back into the pre-chorus/chorus. During the last 30 seconds Netta really lets rip and shows the power, strength and range in her voice. The ending could be a bit more bombastic but who knows what she could end up doing in the live shows…!

This is possibly one of the most avant garde songs we’ve had for a very long time in Eurovision, and for once, this is totally down the line  serious stuff – Netta is not doing this for the gags – this is her thing, her shtick. Also it must be added that Netta uses a vocal loop mix machine to create the tricks on the track. This is groundbreaking because this means she will be playing live on stage – something that has meant a Eurovision rule change. This is heavy technical stuff. Netta is also all about the live performance and even from this very well cut video you understand what her performance level is like. This is a very special performer and it will be very interesting to see if the regular audience at home take to her or now. On first listen I though this was awful but after some time to bed in this is a brilliant entry.

ARTIST –  Netta Barzilai
SONG – Toy
MUSIC - Doron Medalie, Stav Beger
LYRICS - Doron Medalie, Stav Beger


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

NORWAY

The Norwegian Final will be held on March 10th at the Spektrum in Oslo, hosted by Kåre Magnus Bergh & Silya Nymoen. There were 3 rounds of voting: one to select the top 4, another to select the top 2 and a final round to declare the victor. Going to Lisbon is 2009 Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak with “That’s how you write a song”

The staging for this song is very simple. Alexander starts on stage by himself and starts miming the instruments on the track. The outlines of these instruments are animated onto the tv screen so the float in and float away again. About a minute in he is then joined by 4 backing singers who then mimic the instrument playing from earlier on. With a minute to go he is reunited with his famous fiddle and continues the singing and dancing until the end. The background behind him looks like a blue Venetian blind effect with music notes floating on top.

Anybody wishing for “Fairytale part 2” will be seriously disappointed. As the song suggests this is a meta-song about the process of writing songs but also touches on the wider aspect of following dreams and progressing with any talent one might have. He starts sat on a stool for the first verse then stands up for the second. He is very active on stage interacting with the audience or dancing to the track. The chorus has a very catchy step one, step two approach which engages you straight away. After this we have a call and response scatting session which really seems to put the audience into a bit of a frenzy. After another chorus he then plays the violin and sings and dances at the same time. Right at the very end 2 fiddle players and two trumpeters come out at the very back. This puts the number of people on stage at 9, far more than is allowed at Eurovision

So, what it is absolutely no doubt is that this is a showman. Fairytale was brilliant song but this is something very, very different. He sings, he dances, he scats, he plays the fiddle – is there anything this man cannot do?!?!? But the question is – is this too much? When listening to the song alone, it feels very cheesy but the show that Alexander puts on is really something else. My fear is that this is just too much – just because you can do all those things doesn’t mean you should do all of them. I don’t hate this; I am somewhat disappointed by it but is growing on me. I feel like his name will get people watching in but will they be shocked by what they see?


ARTIST –  Alexander Rybak
SONG –  That's how you write a song
MUSIC - Alexander Rybak
LYRICS - Alexander Rybak


SWEDEN

The Swedish Final was held on March 10th at the Friends Arena in Solna, hosted by David Lindgren. Before the final there were 4 semi-finals and a second chance round for the runners up. 2018 The winner was chosen by televoting (50%) and 11 international juries (50%). The winning act was Benjamin Ingrosso with the song “Dance You Off”

Although this is a ‘stage’ performance it is micromanaged within an inch of its life for the cameras. A portion of the stage has been overlayed with a frame which goes behind and under the performer. This contains flashing strips of light which pulse to the music and creates different shapes, colours and themes throughout the song. Benjamin is dressed in black trousers and a black t-shirt with a jacket which he doesn’t really wear properly.

The song is a very Swedish production and has hints of Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake is its look and feel. Throughout the song Benjamin does a quite intricate, although quite small, dance routine which fits with the style of music. The three minutes is quite understated and there really isn’t very much to the whole thing. The stage is barely lit as the first verse which lasts last than 20 seconds before we get into the chorus. At this point the frame comes to life and the lighting show begins. The chorus is quite lengthy, lasting almost 40 seconds for both parts. We then have another verse and chorus before a small instrumental, which doesn’t really go anywhere, followed by a last foray into the chorus. The backing track is very samey and doesn’t progress at all. There is no change in key or volume or beat and feels a little underwhelming. It must be said that the backing vocals on the track were suspiciously high during the chorus and you could barely hear him during those points.

Out of all of the songs in the Melodifestivalen final this was possibly the most polished visually and more radio friendly. We have seen and heard this kind of thing so many times and it is starting to feel a bit disingenuous and over confident and too predictable from a Swedish entry. This isn’t a stage show – this is a glorified music video. I personally like a song with shots of the crowd or at least some semblance that there is an audience in from of them. Also I have very suspicious of his live singing ability although I suspect he will have 5 backing singers off stage to ‘help’ him. My only question is – can this staging be transported to Lisbon? Does the stage in Lisbon have the capacity for such an idea? Can it be taken on and off within the postcard time limit? This song without its staging simply would not have won the show. Being in semi 2 this will probably qualify although I personally think it should not.


ARTIST –  Benjamin Ingrosso
SONG – Dance you off
MUSIC - Benjamin Ingrosso, MAG, Louis Schoorl, K Nita
LYRICS - Benjamin Ingrosso, MAG, Louis Schoorl, K Nita


Monday, 12 March 2018

IRELAND

The Irish song was unveiled on March 9th via its première radio play on the Ray Darcy show on RTE Radio 1. Back in January the broadcaster announced that they had chosen Ryan O'Shaughnessy as their internally selected artist and that the song would be revealed in March. The song he is singing is “Together”

The video is a one-take shot detailing the journey of 2 men coming out of a place in Temple Bar, Dublin at night. They walk casually for the most part but during the chorus they start to dance using the street furniture and shop architecture to enable them to create different shapes and levels. It is subtly intricate, well produced and well made. It also fits very well with the mood and themes of the song. There is also a culture nod to the referendum in 2015 where the petition for same sex marriage was supported and approved. I could imagine such a dance routine being lifted to the stage but I feel they wIll need almost all of their personnel for the singing.

The song has a definite Ed Sheeran vibe to it but unlike the Englishman, Ryan seems to ride the wave between cheese and sincerity well.  The structure of the song is such that we actually get to hear 4 complete renditions of the chorus which shows some very clever song craft and I applaud the team for that. The song starts off like an acoustic guitar ballad and then there is a noticeable but slow beat that starts during the chorus. This then dies down again for the next verse then beefs up again for the chorus. Just before the 2 minute mark there is a bridge that goes into a gentle version of the chorus before having one final full on version. There is also a noticeable choir of backing singers on the track which gives it a more ensemble or group feel. Because of the repetition you get to know the song very quickly.

This is possibly the best thing they have sent for quite a few years – but this is such a low bar this isn’t really brilliant news. I think this is a decent enough radio friendly song and should get in some points. Although this has be drawn in the second half of semi 1 I feel this is going to struggle to be remembered at the end of the show. With a good stage show and a spot on vocal - anything can happen I guess. If this has been drawn in semi 2 I feel this would have had much more of a chance of getting to the final.


ARTIST –  Ryan O'Shaughnessy
SONG – Together
MUSIC - Laura Elizabeth Hughes, Candice Mark & Ryan O'Shaughnessy
LYRICS - Laura Elizabeth Hughes, Candice Mark & Ryan O'Shaughnessy