Monthly Archives: January 2013

Eurovision 2013: Host revealed!

Eurovision 2013 Malmö logo banner

*sob* Poor Måns Zelmerlöw, no idea if he was even hoping to be the presenter for Malmö’s Eurovision Song Contest, but I certainly was. But no, the announcement was made on Monday, and Petra Mede was the lucky lady who has the responsibility of leading the show. She’s a former host of Melodifestivalen in 2009, and a famous comedian in Sweden. Hopefully that comic energy will translate well to the light-hearted contest.

Petra Mede

Petra Mede

It was a bit of a surprising decision to only have one host, I suppose it doesn’t matter that much, just Eurovision fans are decidedly difficult to get on board with changes to their universe. SVT are making a big point about reining in the spiralling budgets for Eurovision, which can only be a good thing – provided it’s comparably good for the viewers.

I do have faith in SVT, but they are being rather preachy with the regular press releases about how they think Eurovision should be. But if Melodifestivalen is anything to go by, I’m sure they’ll make the budget stretch in the right ways to make this a successful experiment. God knows I hope so, the Swedophiles have been dying for Sweden to win for years.

Anyway, I haven’t really kicked off my Eurovision coverage have I, apart from headlines from the show’s preparation. I will start looking at some of the national finals this weekend I think, and not a moment too soon, as Melodifestivalen kicks off on Saturday. Is it really that time already?

 

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Single: Måns Zelmerlöw – “Cara Mia” (2007)

Oh poop, my dear Måns wasn’t revealed to be the host of Malmö’s Eurovision Song Contest this year. I don’t know why I like him so much, he just seems good-humoured, has a decent voice, and is super hot. Actually that pretty much explains it, as does being responsible for this amazing pop song.

Måns Zelmerlöw Cara MiaWritten for Melodifestivalen – Sweden’s spectacular Eurovision selection show – back in 2007, it sadly came third in the final, behind eventual Swedish representatives The Ark (who didn’t do very well) and piece of the Melodifestivalen furniture Andreas Johnson, famous in this country for his 2000 hit “Glorious”. Well I SAY famous but I can’t imagine anyone can remember it immediately, the chorus goes “SHEEEEEEeeeEEEEE”. You’d know it if you heard it.

Anyway young Måns put in a great performance, complete with dance routine, even if he did bail out on the glory note at the end. Despite its Italian title, this is full-blown Swedish schlager. At a slim 3 minutes, it wastes no time to bust right into that awesome chorus, and an expertly-deployed key change towards the end.

It’s a song of desperation, trying to win back a love that seems to have plans to leave. The verses are brief, they know they are only the stitching between the amazing choruses. It’s just magic really, and criminal that it didn’t make it to Helsinki’s song contest. Surely that might have stopped Sweden from their run of poor luck that started in 2007?

Either way, I’m keen to hear more music from Måns, given that his last album “MZW” was released over 3 years ago now. Come back! I’ve discovered this song on PS3’s Singstar too, I must invest! Incidentally I’ve reviewed both of his albums on this blog, “MZW” and Cara Mia’s parent album “Stand by for…”.

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Album: Karmin – “Hello” (2012)

Karmin Hello EPStrictly speaking this is an EP, but whatever. Karmin sprang to my attention last year with their massive hit “Brokenhearted”, which keen fans will know was one of my top 10 favourites of last year. Since then I’ve experienced a few of their slightly baffling but nonetheless impressive covers of unlikely tracks.

Well I say unlikely, they seemed like such a pop duo, but there they are on Youtube doing rap covers. Amy might come over as a bit precocious, but she’s certainly got an interesting talent for rap. Look for their cover of “Look at me now” to see her keeping up with Busta Rhymes’s insane rapid-fire rapping. Or for a poppier flavous, their cover of Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass”.

Anyway, they’ve only got an EP to their name at the moment, so I thought I’d do some investigating.

07 Walking on the moon – Starts poppy enough, but then she’s “uh uh!”-ing her way through a rappy verse. Sounds a bit like she’s basing her style on Jay-Z here. The production doesn’t do much to stop me thinking of that either, so it’s a surprisingly un-pop track for the most part. The chorus is pretty pop but for some reason it feels a bit thin. Still quite nice though.

10 Brokenhearted – Well you know what I think about this. Deservedly a massive hit for them, with that irresistible synth-guitar riff running through its core (did someone listen to Dr Luke that day?). Considering that foundation doesn’t change, it’s a pretty varied track, chopped up with some Nicki-style rapping, and even a few weird Cheerios thrown in for good measure. Really love this, such an instant pop track.

07 Told you so – I guess I should get used to the rap as a recurring feature. This time it’s a bit heavier in the mix, and a link to their breakthrough on Youtube doing rap covers. That chorus is pretty catchy, but overall I’m not crazy about this sort of cocky swagger jagger stuff (I don’t know the slang these days, humour me). She’s impressive as a rapper, especially that bit in the last minute.

07 Too many fish – Again this feels like it’s feed off a familiar influence, though I can’t quite place where this time. A pretty solid track about not settling for any old guy, with some old-school instrumentation in there. Maybe like that sort of retro sound Bruno Mars likes doing these days. By this point I wonder if their unique selling point isn’t quite selling it to me, but it’s alright.

07 I’m just sayin’ – A bit of a poppier move now again, they are certainly trying to cover all bases with this EP. Well if you’ve got an eyecatching rapper, you might as well use her, so she gets down to business again. At least the chorus has a bit more to it than other tracks so far. That “No no no let it go” reminds me of a failed Sugababes single, that’s not the sort of parallel they probably want to inspire, but fortunately that’s a good thing for me.

08 Coming up strong – The guy’s getting a chance to sing, hooray! He’s so sweet in those videos *sigh*. In a nice change to the pop-rap schizophrenia we’ve had so far, this is quite a nice RnB ballad duet. OK neither of their singing voices are spectacular, but they go well together and it sounds fine. Sure there’s a bit of extra rap thrown in there, I guess it might sound a bit dull otherwise, and it saves cash on rent-a-rappers!

08 Hello – I think this is what they decided on for a follow-up track, and it’s surprisingly unrepresentative of the EP. It’s a pretty full-on dance track, or in the poppy Guetta sense at least. I can understand why this was the single though, fitting in nicely with the prevailing wind of urban-dance crossover tracks in the USA (and indeed most of the world). That chorus is a bit basic to say the least with (is that just “Hello” over and over again!?). Nothing super special, and may seal their doom as one-hit-wonders for the time being.

So that was quite quick, only a slim 25 minutes, with that I imagine is just a stopgap while they come up with a whole album. It would have been too much of a risk to leave a massive gap after “Brokenhearted”, and it does at least bridge the gap between their rap-cover beginnings and whatever they are hoping to become.

Saying that, I’m not entirely sure what they want to be. Amy’s rap skills are rarely avoided in this EP, but I wonder if I’d like a whole album of it. I suspect not, but there’s potential there for more massive pop songs, I think.

Keepers for the iPod: Brokenhearted, Coming up strong, Hello

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Film: “Les Misérables” (2013)

Les Mis? More like LAME AS!

Oh not really, I’d just been sitting on THAT badboy for a while. The truth is, I knew broadly what I was letting myself in for, as would most people I think, since “Les Misérables” is one of the most famous musicals there is. I just didn’t really have it down as Oscar bait, but here we are, 8 nominations later – including Best Picture, Best Actor (for Wolverine) and Best Supporting Actress (for Catwoman).

Les Miserables movie posterFor what it’s worth, it was going to be a hard sell for me. I’m never one for tearfully shouting BRAVA at the screen, and this did little to change that. I can hardly criticise a musical for having too many songs – sure there was some dead wood I could have done without, some reprises wouldn’t have hurt – but I guess it’s just a LONG film. I suppose it’s the singers that didn’t really set many of the songs off, often filled with squawky peasant choruses, or the croaky tones of the lead male roles.

Anne stole the show in this respect for “I dreamed a dream”. She certainly gave it her all, and it was a shame her role in the film was so small (in screentime at least). Everyone was certainly trying their best, perhaps some of the revolutionary young men were a bit hammy, but I can’t say it lacked passion.

Maybe that’s my problem, I didn’t feel that there were any roles that really resonated with me. Twinned with a majority of the songs not doing a lot for me, it just felt a little padded out. The story itself was ambitious and full of high drama, I can at least see why it has lasted so long.

Production values too were pretty lavish, even though they tried to force a lot of reality in by the almost constant presence of Shakycam, always up in the cast’s faces. Eddie Redmayne looks too much like a freckly sixth-former to take such scrutiny!

So I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time, but it’s another one to add to the colossal pile of “Critically Acclaimed” films that I didn’t quite see the fuss about. Would a SuBo cameo have killed them?

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Film: “Monsters Inc.” (2001)

How do I feel about Pixar? I’m not sure I know now, it feels like the magic in our relationship is disappearing, and we are reduced to re-living old glories with a slew of sequels and 3D re-issues. Maybe not a slew (that doesn’t sound like a word, the more I read it), at the moment we’ve only had sequels to Cars (who on Earth wanted more of that shit!?) and of course Toy Story.

Monsters inc. film posterJust as Toy Story’s first two films received a 3D re-furb in the buildup to the third film, Monsters Inc. is getting a sequel this summer, and a 3D re-issue to remind us how good the original was. And it really was.

After seeing the 3D Lion King re-release I was a little dismayed at it not having the same magic it used to. But fortunately seeing Monsters Inc. again only served to reinforce my fondness for it, and for Pixar at its absolute peak.

I won’t summarise the plot as I tend to do in reviews, by this point you either already know it, or you have wilfully avoided it. If you are the latter and still reading this, then go and watch the damn thing already!

The plot still moved along at an unhurried but regular pace, introducing Sully and Mike and their contrasting personalities, their universe, and their relationships with other major characters. Then we get Boo. I’m not fond of children really, grasping greedy little creatures, shamelessly manipulating their dead-eyed parents. And that’s just the audience of the Saturday morning showing I ridiculously decided to come to. But Boo was different.

Young enough not to have that calculating instinct, reasonable enough to understand, good-tempered and largely oblivious to her perilous surroundings. They just got her portrayal totally right, to the point of forcing me almost to tears in the film’s last few scenes. That bond with Sully was so tangible and heartbreaking, and a great example of how Pixar really knows to go for those emotional moments. I’ve had them in “Finding Nemo”, “Wall-E”, “Toy Story 3” and “Up!”. Maybe it’s just manipulation, but it’s so well done I can’t tell the difference.

Interestingly, where a lot of films these days have mostly pointless 3D, or worse, 3D effects shoe-horned in, Monsters Inc. – not made with 3D in mind – lends itself rather well to the transition. Scenes like the door storage hangar really looked great in 3D.

It’s so well-observed too, loads of little details I picked up on for the first time because it’s on the big screen. Endlessly quotable (“Wheeere’s your paaaperwork?”), full of manic energy – particularly the paranoid hysteria around toxic children. I guess for me it’s just one of those films where the planets lined up and made something special for me. A nostalgic point in time to look back fondly on. Other people have other films, indeed other Pixar films, but this one is mine.

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