Monthly Archives: February 2013

Reykjavik calling – ESC 2013 Iceland pre-selection (Söngvakeppnin)

I’ve got some catching up to do if I ever want to get through these national finals, however do people keep up? I suppose the easy answer is that they start earlier, but whatever.

Anyway my attention turns now to one of the smaller nations in Eurovision, remote Iceland with barely 300,000 citizens to its name. They pack a punch though, and while they haven’t won a Eurovision yet, they have produced some of my favourite entries in recent years.

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One of them came close to winning in Moscow’s 2009 contest, with Yohanna’s “Is it true?” making it to 2nd place. She entered Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin selection show, but was eliminated in the semi-finals. Another former Icelandic representative, Birgitta Haukdal from 2003’s contest, had more success, making this year’s national final. We’ll get to her as I look at Iceland’s finalists.

Magni Ásgeirsson – Ekki Líta Undan

I do love some Nordic strings! Oh hang on, whats going on? Guitars! This sounds a bit 80s, cheesy hair-rock. I like his voice, it’s got a nice coarse tone to it. For a rocky song it’s quite immediate. I won’t get too put off by not knowing Icelandic, they usually send an English version of the winner.

Nice glory notes, it’s very tuneful really, not what I was expecting at the start. I rather enjoyed that!

Svavar Knútur Kristinsson & Hreindís Ylva Garðarsdóttir Hólm – Lífið Snýst

Wow, those names are a mouthful! I like having no idea what the song’s going to sound like. I certainly didn’t see this one coming… is that Abigail Breslin and her slightly backward but oversized older brother? She’s sweet and possibly underage, he’s a bit creepy with his crazy hair, manic facial expression and tiny guitar.

The song itself is really lovely, it’s just a country duet isn’t it? Not too keen on the “ooooh” breakdown, but the rest of it flows quite nicely. It’s infectious, I want to sway from side to side in bland enjoyment of it. Doesn’t really hit any heights but it’s still very nice.

Birgitta Haukdal – Meðal Andanna

10 years on, Birgitta is back after representing Iceland in Riga. Was it worth the wait? I don’t know her previous entry, I’m still working on 2003’s contest, but she’s going for the classy but frosty ballad.

Some camera filters at play here but she looks lovely. The ballad is a pretty standard affair, like some 90s Eurovision ballad digitally remastered by some light electro production tweaks. Where the hell did those hooded monks come from?

I really like it, it builds really well, and the choreo is simple but effective. The key change and glory note was a bit shaky but it’s a good song. I just don’t think it’s quite in keeping with a flashy modern Eurovision – unless Iceland can’t afford to host it just yet…

Jógvan Hansen & Stefanía Svavarsdóttir – Til þín

A fresh-faced young man kicks it off, and is quickly joined by… is that Yohanna? No, maybe not. I’m not entirely sure… but anyway they are hitting the big chorus without messing around, aren’t they?

The verses a bit fillery, but their harmonies are good and the chorus doesn’t hold back. It’s like another country duet with a Coldplay-style big arena chorus. It’s energetic and pleasant, their voices are good. I’m struggling to get too excited, but it’s a good effort.

Haraldur Reynisson – Vinátta

Hmm well we had to run out of luck eventually, this doesn’t look like my cup of tea at all, laid-back acoustic guitar track. It’s quite chilled out but sounds like something old my dad would listen to.

I’m sure this appeals to the older voters since it made the final, but it’s just a bit of a nondescript track to my ears.

Unnur Eggertsdóttir – Ég Syng!

Time for the top two who made it into the superfinal. She’s very pretty – is she dancing to a different song? Oh there’s the beat finally! She’s a bit erratic, she’s throwing her arms and head all over the place! It’s a little distracting isn’t it?

The song is quite sunny and fun, quite unusual. The verses are a little dated, but those choruses have a lovely big beat and a nice contemporary feel. It’s just a bit baffling really, quite sweet but the melody doesn’t seem to decide what it’s supposed to be. A “Do-do-do-do” chorus really is a bit lazy though!

Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson – Ég á Líf

And here’s the winner. Not exactly a vintage year, but you can’t win them all. Not sure about the elf hair, he looks like Lucius Malfoy. So Iceland are sending a ballad this year. Hopefully they’ll translate that one.

I’m not keen on him as a performer, such bad posture too, UNCLENCH! This really reminds me of something, I can’t work it out. That echo effect really ruins the big not before the key-change.

Afraid I’m not really on board with this one yet, but it’s still early days. Repetition is the bedrock of a memorable song, and he certainly doesn’t shy away from that! Good luck, however you pronounce your name…

Out of interest, I did listen to Yohanna’s track “Þú”. It’s not bad, she’s a bit of a frowny performer isn’t she? It’s a got a bit of a country tinge, but her voice is still in great form. I wouldn’t get too indignant about her not qualifying, I don’t think there were really any amazing songs this year, Yohanna included. I think Iceland might be sitting out the 2013 final…




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Album: Madonna – “Evita – motion picture soundtrack” (1996)

Well here is the last hurdle to get over before MY era of Madonna arrives. It turned out to be not nearly as much of a drag as I thought. I’ve got the 2CD version which is basically the entire score. However it’s not quite as intimidating in its entirety as I first thought.

Some of it is an acquired taste as you’d expect, and I really had to just get over how some lines of dialogue didn’t fit the rhythm of the music at all. However there really are some great tracks in here – sure it’s not the usual Madonna and it’s a bit old-fashioned but I can hand-on-heart say that I can rate a few of these songs as highly as some of her big hits.

Enough of that though, I should start. I will cover the Madonna vocalled-ones mainly but have a bit of a word about the rest of it at the end.

07 Eva and Magaldi / Eva beware of the city: I always thought this had a bit of a clunky chorus, “I want to BEEE a part of B.A., Buenos Aires, Big Apple”. I like how it’s structured but it feels a bit lumpy somehow. I love the rather mental cleaning staff singing (“no-one’s told the papers … SO FAR”). Madonna sounds good, but I could really do without a Jimmy Nail duet to be perfectly honest. SCREW THE MIDDLE CLASSES … *rambling melody*

08 Buenos Aires:
So here we are at B.A., Buenos Aires, Big Apple, and samba madness ensues. I love this though, it’s fun, sounds like a whole song rather than the disjointed sections of the previous track. I LOVE that little 70’s cheesy listening middle-eight thing at the halfway mark, so gorgeous.

09 Another suitcase in another hall: A single finally, and probably the lesser-known of the three that got released in the UK. It’s still pretty lovely, the chorus is beautiful and sad .. “so what happens now? Where am I going to?” .. SIGH. I thought this was a rather odd moment in the movie, she doesn’t even get angry with Magaldi, just wanders off and gets sad. Either way, I love this, and the reprise with Andrea Corr being kicked to the kerb. Love that SAX solo too!

08 Goodnight and thankyou: It really helped to see this on the movie to put into context, it’s probably one of my favourite sequences. Evita puts on her sweet slut look and it fits, unsurprisingly, very well. It’s not a great song but it’s memorable and a little AMUSING. I like how it shares a tune with Eva Beware of the City though, so there’s that subtext in the background. But given her attitude, it seems like the city has to beware of HER. Love the little ZAZZ radio commercial halfway through too.

08 I’d be surprisingly good for you: After the Charity Concert segment, it’s a relief that such a significant point in the story has such a standout song. The intro is a bit jarring with the pair talking over each other, but once it gets into it this is a rather  sexy song (well, as sexy as going back to a hotel with Jonathan Pryce CAN be). I love the rhythm behind it, it’s a rather cold love song – I suppose that’s quite fitting as there isn’t really any love in there. That’s not the sort of theme I’m used to in a song, so it’s an intriguing piece.

06 Hello and Goodbye:
POOR ANDREA CORR, kick that bitch out. I haven’t quite decided if Evita’s being a complete bitch or if she really does mean that glimmer of sympathy.

06 Peron’s latest flame: A bit of a clunker, mainly a plot exposition song with a number of roles in there, the army, the upper class etc. Doesn’t quite work as a song though. SLUT! *electro guitar nonsense*

07 A New Argentina:
What a downer… so Colonel Peron is in prison but Evita shows some apparently genuine support for her lover. A reprise of the music from “I’d be surprisingly good for you”, laying out course for the rest of the film. I’m not sure where Eva got all this political savvy from still an important part of the film.

09 Don’t cry for me Argentina: Well no introduction isneeded here, though whilst being the iconic moment of the film it feels a little difficult to say this is the big song from the score. But it’s obviously the most famous and it is brilliant. Still, it’s a bit of a jarring moment in the GHV2 collection. The whole Casa Rosada sequence does show a rather terrifying vision of Madonna leading some big chanting political party. Luckily we only got as far as “American Life”.

05 High flying, adored: Taking stock of the situation now, but Evita’s still sounding reasonably humble. Bit of a dreary song though.

07 Rainbow High: A big hit, now what? Time for a TOUR of course, and a makeover! Sounds like she knows what she is doing, the tune is all over the place but I like the styling chorus. I like the lyrics in this one, and she manages to keep on top of the rampant melody whilst still getting across that sense of growing megalomania.

06 The Actress hasn’t learned the lines (You’d like to hear): Urgh, don’t like that operatic intro, and the Evita parts sound a bit depressing – as does the rest of the score after this (what with her dying and everything). But good on old EVA for slamdunking the bourgoisie (though they are the only ones who can afford her concerts)

06 Partido Feminista: Not much singing in this one, just some scary mental chanting with Evita trying to seize the VP role. Makes me feel a bit OOKY if I’m honest.

08 Waltz for Evita and Che: Time to face off against the pissy queen narrator, which I think Evita does wonderfully, is that CLEAR DEAR? Love the vocals too, even though they are totally all over the place. The cheery Mary Poppins feel to the vocals just makes it all the more cutting. Even better as the waltzy production just goes totally off the deep end towards the end.

07 Your little body’s slowly breaking down: Oh … how depressing. Peron isn’t exactly the most reassuring person to be at your bedside is he? I hate seeing her all ill. She really EMOTES this one, I love her in this role.

10 You must love me: You might think this a little highly rated but I honestly think of this as one of her best songs. Absolutely gorgeous and devastating in the context of the film. Before I saw it, I always imagined it was about a relationship breaking down with the singer desperately trying to keep it together, but in the movie Evita knows she’s going to die, everything has fallen apart and it’s the first time she really feels sorry for herself. God I love this song so much.

08 Eva’s final broadcast: A marked contrast with the original Casa Rosada section, with Evita basically signing off forever, it’s a really oppressively downcast moment which turns into a “Don’t cry..” reprise. God.. can you imagine if this sort of thing happened in real life? I don’t know who’d be an Evita equivalent, but that would be a total show-stopper, wouldn’t it?

09 Lament:
Last words now, and what a great song. I think this was an amazing part of the Reinvention tour, I think it’s such a well-written little segment, I can’t say why. POOR EVITA. Why did they need two minutes of silence on the CD though?! Just love this, I feel like it could easily be a dramatic swansong for Madonna herself. I only wish she sang it in a less croaky voice, clearly it makes sense in context but I love this, and it’s a shame we never hear it properly sung.


As for the rest…
Well some of the music does naturally sound a bit dated, a lot of cheesy guitar stuff and many recurring musical motifs from different songs. I think that’s something used to great effect in places as it instantly draws parallels between bits of the story you perhaps wouldn’t have thought to compare.

Oh what a Circus is a good intro, and is as good an example as any of what a peculiarly snide narrator Banderas’s character is. I’m not sure what the intention was with that, maybe it’s supposed to get us on side with Evita’s character when it would be easy to think she’s just a bit of a whore-bag (which ended up happening to Madonna at that stage of her career).

On this night of a thousand stars has another decent melody, but Jimmy Nail? Well he’s not going to win any beauty pageants but it’s not that bad. Total cheese though.

The Lady’s got potential is a bit of a lump, trying to set Argentinian military politics to a rather Status Quo-sounding rockout. A bit cringey, but I suppose the film segment did its job well, it’s just a shame the song couldn’t have had more gravitas. It certainly doesn’t benefit from listening to it separately from the film.

The Charity Concert / The art of the possible, is mainly a reprise of A night of a thousand stars, with Jimmy Nail hitting a great note at the end, but after that the track is just audio filler and chock full of plot exposition, and a nice bitchy put-down from Jimmy.

Rainbow Tour: Oh here is the snarky narrator again, hating on Madonna’s … um Evita’s world tour. So it went well, with a rather naff but catchy chorus, and though Europe loved her, they didn’t live for her “They ACTUALLY called me a WHORE!”. Luckily she had that terminal illness to fall back on to drum up a bit of sympathy and to have an excuse to make a quick exit.

And the money kept rolling in (and out): Banderas is getting snippy again, now even the charity campaign is coming under fire, the misery guts. Don’t like the song that much.

She is a diamond: Poor Evita, QUEEN OF HEARTS. Peron doesn’t get very far convincing his government that she’s not a power-mad super-slut, but he does show some rare tenderness towards his mental wife, especially given she’s totally peaked by this point.

Santa Evita: I quite like this, even though it is a choir of KIDS. It’s quite a sweet song.

So that’s that. I managed to watch the movie while I was going through this little mission, and while I enjoyed the movie quite a lot after becoming familiar with the songs, I find the score a lot easier to listen to on its own. Evita is such an interesting character in this, now I can’t imagine it being anyone other than Madonna in the role, there seem to be a lot of similarities in their characters. As far as the music goes, it’s obviously not the usual stuff I would listen to but I have grown a lot more used to it now.

I remember thinking this was total shit apart from the singles during the first few times I listened to this years ago, but this is definitely a complete work. As such it’s very difficult to judge the songs individually.

Keepers for the iPod:
Buenos Aires, Another Suitcase in another hall, I’d be surprisingly good for you, Don’t cry for me Argentina, You must love me, Lament (from the Reinvention tour)



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Berlin calling: ESC 2013 Germany pre-selection (Unser Song für Malmö)

Time to see what another of the Big Five are up to in preparation for Sweden’s Eurovision Song Contest in May. Germany have been reclaiming the meaning of a Big Five country. It’s not just the auto-qualification for the final that defines Germany’s place in the contest, granted by its big financial contribution to the contest. It’s also has one of the bigger music industries in Europe, and as such should really be coming out with some superior content.

This hasn’t quite gone to plan for Germany (or the other Big Five) over the last decade, but Germany turned it around by winning the 2010 contest, largely thanks to the continued effort of Stefan Raab to get the German public interesting in being a proper competitor. Hosting the 2011 contest, previous winner Lena chalked up another top 10 finish, while in Baku, Roman Lob made it three top 10s in a row for Deutschland. They are truly back on the Eurovision map, so can they keep up this streak?

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They didn’t plan to take their foot off the pedal this year, with a glittering national final and 12 artists. The result was decided by a rather involved combination of 1/3 internet voting across the nation’s regional radio stations, 1/3 from a jury of former Eurovision entrants, songwriters and experts, and the other 1/3 from televoting on the night.

Mia Diekow – Lieblingslied

This just kicks off without much fanfare doesn’t it? Sounds like a German Paloma Faith, except without the vile makeup (Isn’t that just Kate Nash?). It’s quite nice really, at least she sings it well. I wonder if this faux-retro thing has been done to death a little bit, but she gets away with it.

It’s quirky (is that a banjo?) and likeable, but the melody is all over the place. Is she even singing most of the time? Worryingly close to jazz, but as soon as I think that it kicks into that rather bouncy lovely chorus. Not sure I’d go out of my way to listen to it again but it’s rather nice.

Mobilée – Little Sister

What a massive arena! Are those more banjos? I feel like this could easily have been another Mia Diekow track. This is really quite nice. It’s a little worrying that I think this is in English, but I can hardly understand a word out it.

Drum solo is perhaps the most boring breakdown I’ve ever heard *beats drum regularly for 15 seconds*. As an ensemble is sounds really nice, and her voice is sweet but a bit drowned-out. Considering I’m writing these songs in ascending order of successfulness, this final is off to a great start!

Die Priester ft Mojca Erdmann – Meerstern, sei gegrüßt

Oops, spoke too soon! Well this is certainly a gear change, from jaunty indie-pop to a rather full-on operatic number. Who ever thought this would do well at Eurovision? Those priests at the back look decidedly dodgy.

Of course this woman has an amazing voice, and it’s enjoyably dramatic for an aria like this, especially with those dazzling visuals. But I don’t tend to listen to a lot of opera…

Finn Martin – Change

Normal service is resumed. This sounds like suitably nonsensical lyrics, must be a meaningful self-penned peace anthem. These are a tricky Eurovision genre, and this sadly falls on the shittier end of the spectrum. God, those drummers are annoying, are they all on drugs?

His voice doesn’t have a lot of power behind it, I’m only hearing odd syllables. It’s all a bit new-agey and uplifting, but it just doesn’t really go anywhere.

Betty Dittrich – Lalala

Oh look at her, flame-haired! That’s not a banjo is it, what is it? A ukelele? She’s really going for the retro angle with this one with that 70s wallpaper backdrop and hippy-dippy costumes.

It’s not the catchiest thing I’ve ever heard but it’s hopelessly light-hearted and likeable. It just gets a bit repetitive, even after a semi-breakdown near the end.

Ben Ivory – The Righteous Ones

Interesting intro, lasers and off-key acappella, did he have audio troubles? If you’re going to sing in monotone, you have to be sure you’re singing the right tone.

I guess it’s supposed to be some “Born this way”-esque anthem for social misfits (Ooh, he said “Queers”, how controversial… zzz), but crucially forgets that “Born this way” was a great pop song with it. You can’t just fire off a load of lasers (and there are a LOT of lasers, even a laser-fan such as me thought it was overkill), not smile and say it’s cool pop. No wonder people exclude him, I bet he’s a HOOT!

Blitzkids mvt. – Heart On The Line

What does “mvt.” stand for? A few Daft Punk burps kick things off, and we are confronted with some hopelessly overstyled dancers, and the lead singer in some quite inexplicable trousers.

Again I think the sound levels weren’t right, she sounds a bit drowned out sometimes. In contrast to Ben Ivory, she’s singing, and while the stage production obviously thinks it’s sehr sehr cool, it’s quite a pleasant listen. Those trousers really are stupid! Decent effort but at least try to look like you’re enjoying yourself!

Nica & Joe – Elevated

After so many quite contemporary tracks (and one opera song), it’s a bit of a refreshing change to get a rather dated ballad sung by two good singers. Nica’s a strong singer, I really like her. It’s a bit of an odd pairing visually though, even though his voice is just as strong.

I think more percussion was needed here, the choruses feel a bit wishywashy. They try their best with the vocals, particularly Joe surprisingly getting the money note instead of Nica. I think the production let this one down.

Saint Lu – Craving

Another hip indie chick with a horribly-dressed band. I guess the votes was split in this sub-genre, so poor Mia ended up in last place. Nothing world-changing really, she’s got that white-girl soul voice that everyone seems to lose their shit about these days. That’s paired with a standard issues Motown-esque backing track.

She’s got a great voice and a distinct tone, but this type of music never did a lot for me. Can’t complain too much, it’s just not to my tastes.

 

Söhne Mannheims – One Love

Oh Christ, what is this? Apparently a tribute to Nas, Guetta and Marley(?!). Don’t ask the audience to repeat something and not give them a chance to do it! Participation fail! That really is the laziest shit chorus ever. How in Christ’s name did this finish 3rd?

Literally nothing for me to like in this one. Preachy crap rap verses, tedious ‘soul’ choruses consisting of “One Love” repeated over and over. Some ragga stuff in the middle-eight, with the dreadlocked lead singer parading his cringey ‘swagger’ like it’s going out of fashion – which I think it did in the 90s.

LaBrassBanda – Nackert

Well after that shit, anything afterwards would sound great. Right? Well coming in a close 2nd is this… I don’t know what this is. Barefooted uni students with long hair and too many brass instruments. I’ve heard enough German-language rap to last a lifetime I think.

Is this a joke entry or something? The crowd seem to love them, as did the radio voters, but I don’t get it. It’s got… something about it, there’s a crazy energy to it, particularly that speed-brass segment near the end. But again, why on Earth did anyone think this was a good idea for Eurovision? Thank God they just decided to play it safe this year…

Cascada – Glorious

And the winner is… well such a shameless knee-jerk reaction to last year’s winner that you might as well have called the chorus “Euglorious”. That’s a bit unfair, it’s easy to draw comparisons, this is more like your standard Cascada track. Revolting outfit, but I’ve always thought she seemed like a lot of fun.

I think this is a great pick for Germany. Considering many countries are at least considering generic dancepop tracks, this at least stands tall above many of them. With only 3 minutes and one shot to impress Europe this is easily the best of the German class of 2013, and seeing a successful act performing at the contest can only raise the profile of the contest (unless it tanks).

I really like the song after one listen. Sure, it’s nothing new, but there are a few nice lyrical moments, particularly that “I can feel the music in me”. She needs a decent outfit, but her vocals are strong and clear. I think that’s a good result.



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Album: Ayumi Hamasaki – “(miss)understood” (2006)

Wow, I really have been neglecting my Ayumi duties, haven’t I? It’s almost 6 months to the day since I wrote my review for “My Story”, so it’s high time to get through the next Ayumi album.

(miss)understood came at pretty much the peak of my Ayu fandom. It came off the back of the amazing “My Story”, and was heralded by another clutch of great singles. Of course, it could have done with a bit of a trim, weighing in at 16 tracks and 66 minutes, but for the most part it was a success. We’re getting to the end of the albums I’m familiar with now, as 2007’s “Secret” was perhaps the last one I gave much thought to. Hope I can break through to the other side and catch up.

08 Bold and Delicious – I remember thinking this was a completely bonkers single to launch the album with, and I suppose I still do. It’s still got a lot of charm, it’s just very strange. Clunky beats, tacky production, ridiculous “ya ya ya ya da da da da” lyrics. Then of course are the regular shouts of the song title that don’t really fit into anything. Really strange and certainly not one of her better singles, but I still have some love for it.

09 Step you – This is a lot more like it, the first single and she’s back on top pop form. A pretty typical mid-00s Ayumi pop single, lots of buzzing synthetic beats and beeps. That chorus really gets you though, and the “1,2,3,4” hook is instant. Love the video, love everything about the song. It’s missing something to put it up there with the all-time best singles, but it comes damn close.

07 Ladies night – A much dancier feel to this one, less outwardly pop but the production doesn’t feel out of place with the big singles. I just don’t think it compares so favourably to those singles, it feels like it needs more fleshing out. The verses are a bit sparse and lost in the production. The chorus is pretty low-key too. The video was alright but this was only OK for me.

08 Is this love? – The other A-side to Step You, kicking off the singles from this album. In contrast to the poppy and playful sound of “Step You”, “Is this love?” takes a rockier road. It’s got a lot of drama about it, the rock side is mixed quite heavily with synthy production, so it doesn’t really belong in either box. The chorus has punch, I like the melody. Just some of the “eeeeeee” notes grate a bit!

07 (miss)understoood – Time to chill out a bit now, as the first ballad gets underway. It’s a bit of a leap from “Is this love?” to begin with, but more guitars crash into the first chorus and the pairing of the two songs feels a bit more natural. I like the chilled-out verses, I think it benefits the song to have that contrast between those melodic verses and noisier choruses.

09 Alterna – This felt like a bit of a weird one when I first saw the video. Love that video, very strange but suits the song perfectly. Put as a b-side to second single “Fairyland”, it’s hard to think of two songs less like each other. This is J-rock more than J-pop, and for once we get a coherent and exclusively rocky track. It’s a bit stop-start, but I really like it, particularly with the little breakdown near the end.

08 In the corner – You’d be forgiven for thinking she’d totally abandoned the pop sound halfway through this album. But after some pseudo-vintage samples and a jaunty little melody, it breaks into a fairly poppy chorus. The verses are quite unusual really, not obviously pop but they blend really seamlessly into the choruses. Love the strings used on most parts of the track, and that intense little breakdown after 2 minutes.

08 tasking – As is traditional, we’ve got another Tasuku-produced interlude, which warms us up for the rest of the album. I have a lovely extended mix of this one. Love the strings, and how it builds over its brief 86-second duration.

05 Criminal – She’s barely audible on this piano-led swell of strings and atmosphere. I find this one a bit of hard work really, there’s nothing going on for the first half-minute, and then there’s a rather drawn-out chorus that’s a bit of a drag. That weird squealy guitar moment is a bit strange, and probably the most memorable bit of this snoozer.

05 Pride – The other side of the bombastic “Bold and Delicious” is certainly a change. It kicks off sounding like “Unchained Melody” or something. It’s just a dull one, I find it a real bore to get through. The only bit I really like is the outro, but maybe that’s because the song’s finishing.

08 Will – After the strange effect opening the track, we get a low-key ballad again, but that constant keyboard scale going on in the background really knits the song together. It’s quite an old-fashioned sounding track in the verses, like an old folk song. The chorus isn’t a big one but it builds quite nicely and all meshes together well.

10 Heaven – Now we’re talking, I think the video really made this one a classic for me. A really minimal ballad to start with, a few plinks and plonks breaking the silence like drops of water. Love the melody, and how the song gradually picks up more layers of production until you are left with a gorgeous love song. The breathy choruses with traditional instrument effects are beautiful, and there’s this incredible note of sadness under it all. The gorgeously simple one-shot video of Ayumi waiting for a train, surrounded by ghosts, it’s really the highlight of this campaign for me, and one of her all-time best ballads.

08 Are you wake up? – Prime bit of Engrish there, does nobody check this stuff before it’s printed? Fortunately it’s just an instrumental interlude, taking us from the uplifting melancholy of “Heaven” to a last burst of energy to finish off this album. It accomplishes that well, especially via a lovely synth-pop segment in the second half.

10 Fairyland – Another of the big singles, and I think the superior pop single of this album. A blissful paradise island is the setting for some fun in the sun in the video, apart from that bit where everyone nearly dies in a fire (!?). It simmers gently for the first few minutes, but that simple and fun chorus just explodes. It doesn’t lose momentum with the next verse, the energy just chugs along. It’s just got a great rhythm and uplifting feel to it. There’s a little breakdown near the end, but it just explodes back into that final chorus. Really great stuff.

07 Beautiful day – Never one to shy away from closing an album with a whimper rather than a bang, we have a pair of tracks to finish off. It’s nice enough, and she ventures further into some English lyrics. They do stick out a bit strangely in this song, maybe it’s the pacing of the syllables or something. It’s laid-back and cheerful, it just doesn’t have much substance to  it.

06 Rainy day – Why would you finish an album on a rainy day instead of a beautiful day? They really should have just finished this one with “Fairyland”. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just a bit of a lullaby. There’s no variation, it’s just slow stuff and doesn’t really develop towards the end at all. A bit of a boring one to finish off with.

So there you have it. Not a perfect album, there are a handful of tracks I would have happily done without, and we’d still have a decent length of an album. Quality control might not be her strong point, but a few tracks, notably “Heaven” and “Fairyland” prove (at least to me) that she’d still got that magic touch at this stage.

Keepers for the iPod: Bold and Delicious, Step you, Is this love?, Alterna, In the corner, tasking, Will, Heaven, Are you wake up?, Fairyland.

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Melodifestivalen 2013 – Heat Four: Malmö

Final week of heats for Sweden’s massive national pre-selection for Eurovision, and while there are no guarantees for most of the artists that they’ll make it to the stage in Malmö, this week they will be doing just that.

Yes, this week’s Melodifestivalen quarter-final was hosted in the Malmö arena, future host of 2013’s Eurovision Song Contest. Maybe if the MF winner is from this heat they can get their hand stamped and get in for a cheaper price next time. WHO KNOWS? Shall we get on with it?

melodifestivalen2013

After a flashback to the opening sequence from the 1992 Eurovision show, the last time the show came from Malmö. Thus followed a rather baffling remix of the Eurovision theme tune with a strange hybrid of street dance and folk dance. Good God, I can’t take my eyes off Danny’s crotch.

This year’s Eurovision host Petra Mede makes a cameo and has a go at the host duo for taking the piss out of non-native English hosts of contests past. What fun! You can’t imagine anything like this going on in the po-faced Irish pre-selection.

Let’s start then, with the Swedeophiles bemoaning poison dwarf Ulrik being all-but guaranteed one of the qualifying tickets. But what else will happen?

Army of Lovers – Rockin’ the ride

I know these are one of the big comeback artists, being successful in Sweden during the 90s, but that’s no guarantee of Melodifestivalen success. Particularly as the current lead singer is most famous for having an affair with the King of Sweden. But how’s the song?

Goodness, they look a state! It’s like a Game of Thrones deleted scene or something. Electropop is no surprise but at least it’s not the Guetta fare we’ve have grown used to. HATE the staging, too cool for school isn’t it? One particularly distracting dancer helpfully takes my attention away from what a dull song it is. Most generic rubbish lyrics this side of “Scream & Shout”.

A pointlessly mimed monologue in the middle. God, she totally forgot she was going to sing, didn’t she? Fortunately the backing track didn’t… what a disaster!

Lucia Piñera – Must be love

That’s not a super flattering dress. Is she a little out of time? At least she’s singing! “Sometimes it cuts like a knife right through your face”?! What sort of a lyric is that? I had this down as a fairly standard Motown-esque ballad, and it’s not really much further than that.

There’s a strangely big beat for the choruses, I rather like that. It’s got enough power in her vocals to stay afloat for three minutes, but the song doesn’t do much for me. It’s acceptable filler, but again I’m yet to hear a winner. It’s just a bit too repetitive, it feels like it’s just waiting for her to mess up one of those dozens of glory notes.

Robin Stjernberg – You

Another song, another gang of freaky writers. Oh he’s sort of cute, a bit bland-looking. Here’s to judging a book by its cover! He doesn’t look very confident does he? His voice has an unusual tone to it.

Ooh get his high notes! Oh I love that chorus, it’s like eurodance yodelling almost… in a good way. He’s not relying on massive dance productions, he’s just got a great voice. It feels a little muddled and in need of a spruce-up if he ever gets chosen, but I want this one through. Give me glory notes!

Oh maybe not that shriek when the pyro goes off, but if he hits that again it’ll be AMAZING.

Sylvia Vrethammar – Trivialiter

I wish I understood Swedish, did Gina just say “Viva Espana”?! Sylvia looks like a newsreader. Love the perspex letters on stage! Feels like the sort of thing that was in style when this song was written. What a cheesy backing track, it’s like something Engelbert Humperdinck would have sung over.

It’s nice enough, very old-school, and she’s a quite performer to watch. I just can’t imagine people wanting to vote for it, it’s just too dated. Even with such an undemanding vocal she’s cracking in places. Nice but filler.

Ralf Gyllenhammar – Bed on fire

The writer looks like a busker. So does the singer. Or maybe a 70s nightclub owner. Not filling me with hope…  I wasn’t expecting a piano-led pyro fiasco though! This sounds like something Macedonia would send to Eurovision, the Balkans love a bit of pyro.

We’ve traded dated 70s sounds for 80s hair-rock. It’s got something about it, even if his vocals really strain in places. Not really my thing, but this contest needed something to stop it flat-lining, and I’ve heard a lot worse. Reminds me of Queen, which will tick boxes for some people, just not me.

A bit tacky and OTT but that can be a good thing. Just PLEASE don’t send this to Eurovision, Swedes. Just think of the carbon footprint!

Behrang Miri – Jalla dansa salwa

Where’s this guy from? Is he going to be Eric Banan-lite? He looks a bit too straightforward for that kind of nonsense. Hang on, isn’t this just the French 2010 entry?

Swedish rap – presumably with some social commentary judging by the backdrop – punctuated by football-anthem crowd-chanting choruses. Well intentioned but it’s all been done. AT EUROVISION 3 YEARS AGO!

Feel the two backing singers should get credit, they do all the vocals and take a lot of screen-time. I like the song, but I just wonder what it’s trying to DO.

Therese Fredenwall – Breaking the silence

That’s a strong jaw! She reminds me of Kelly Clarkson. Sounds like Lene Marlin to start with, just light floaty acoustic fare, only not crushingly miserable. She’s sweet. Ooh there’s a dance beat every so often.

This IS a bit Kelly Clarkson, maybe doing a Coldplay song. The melody just seems to go all over the place, but it’s not the catchiest thing ever. I can’t say anything negative about it … indeed I’m struggling to think of ANYTHING to say about it, and therein lies the problem.

Ulrik Munther – Tell the world I’m here

Well, the goal is wide open for Ulrik, let’s hope they saved an amazing song for the last of the 32 entries. G:Son’s behind this one too, let’s hope he breaks his streak of bad luck now. Ulrik has a tiny head, why is he dressed like a street urchin? Oh he lost the hat, good.

Flash photography somewhat ruining the cosmic backdrop. The melody is a bit haphazard but it’s got a nice energy to it. It’s very uplifting and inspirational (to mush-headed teens at least). while I’m not entirely sure his vocals or arm-waving are quite sufficient to keep it all afloat, that’s a great chorus.

I was expecting some navel-gazing acoustic ballad, but this finally has the scope to be an entry. Fuck it, this will do, Sweden, just GET IT DONE. It wouldn’t be their strongest entry ever (but I mean, that bar is almost impossibly high), but it’s a decent stab. I think I prefer Robin’s track though, that would be nice.

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So out of those eight, I’d give the nod to Ulrik and Robin for the final. As for Andra Chansen, it’s slim pickings. I’d take Ralf and Behrang I suppose, but I’m not really spoilt for choice there!

Those picks were good, as they all made the top 5, along with Therese. Army of Lovers in 6th must be a disaster, but it was no more than they deserved in my opinion.

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Before all that, there’s a small matter of an interval act reunion for multiple MF entrants Alcazar, with a jaw-dropping medley of their MF entries over the years. It’s a bit sad really, any of those three songs blew the socks off this year’s entries. Danny joins in for “Not a sinner nor a saint”. AMAZING *dies*.

First to the final is unsurprisingly Ulrik Munther. I’m happy with that, I just need Robin too. In a Melodifestivalen season that’s produced more missed opportunities than new classics, that’s a good start.

Off to Andra Chansen are Behrang and … Robin 😦 … well at least he’s in, but that’s probably it for him. With that mystery removed, it was pretty inevitable that Ray would get the other ticket to the final, with Therese stuck in 5th place.

Still, not a bad result, I just wish Robin would have made it to the final. I don’t think an Andra Chansen song has ever won Melodifestivalen, has it?

So that’s that! See you next week for Andra Chansen in Karlstad, where once again I’ll get baffled by the strange rules for selecting our last two finalists. It’s a decent line-up, except for Eric Gadd, who will probably end up winning!



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Filed under Eurovision, Malmö 2013, Melodifestivalen 2013, Music, Reviews