Tag Archives: eurovision 2012

Stocktaking

A busybody? How dare you. I’ll have you know this was on my “to-do” list for ages and I kept putting it off.

I’ve spent most of my day doing two things:

FilingThe first was getting annoyed that my mechanic hadn’t called me back to say I could pick up my car. The new stereo my housemate and I installed (mostly him) sent the electronics screwy, and while I had a nice working CD player again, my central locking stopped working, and a few other electrical anomalies. Fortunately he seems to have fixed most of them, but still, there went my Saturday.

The second was making navigation easier on this blog. We hit 400 posts this week, and I’d been meaning to have some sort of index of these posts, so people could browse a little more easily. I spent as long trying to find a shortcut as it took to copy and paste all the links into a spreadsheet individually, which is what I ended up doing.

So now there are several new tabs along the top of the screen:

  1. Home – That’s always there, it just takes you back to the default screen
  2. About – A description of me and the blog etc. I don’t like it, but it’s the done thing, isn’t it?
  3. Malmö 2013 – Which will, over the coming months, become a hub for all the Eurovision 2013 posts I’ll be doing
  4. Baku 2012 – This has been there for ages, and lists all the Eurovision 2012 posts I made, along with a rather loud-looking array of flag logos.
  5. ESC – I’ll be doing retro Eurovision countdowns during the year, so they’ll be listed here. Also any Eurovision-adjacent things like Melodifestivalen, Junior Eurovision, or the ABU TV & Song Festivals will be here too. Though national selections for 2013 and 2013 will be listed under the “Malmö 2013” and “Baku 2012” tabs instead.
  6. Music – A list of all the album and song reviews I’ve written, as well as the back catalogues I’ve reviewed from a select few artists.
  7. The Rest – A list of all the movie reviews, computer game reviews, and random posts like this that I’ve made.

Yes I’m sure it’ll be a pain to upkeep, I’ll do it regularly but not every time I make a post. Just hope it’s useful! Have a browse, maybe you’ll see something you missed!

This was a bit of a cop-out of a post, wasn’t it? But I’ve put the work in!! … OK fine, look at this freaky science experiment instead. You can skip to 1:15 without missing anything.

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My Top 50 of 2012: #10 to #1

10. Ditte Marie – Overflow

From Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2012

DitteInstead of kicking off the final leg with more Swedes… let’s try some great Danes. Yes, Eurovision’s sphere of influence was indeed great on me this time, not least in launching this blog to new and unexpected heights. After the success of following Melodifestivalen and Eurovision, as well as the Norwegian pre-selection, I dipped my toe in the water of Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, the Danish equivalent. There were a handful of decent tracks out of the modest pack of tracks in the running, but this one stood head and shoulders above them all, and indeed all pre-selection songs I heard from anywhere.

It’s a standard issue weapons-grade Scandinavian electropop (yeah technically Denmark isn’t Scandinavia, shush). The dazzling blonde bombshell wasted no time in blowing me away with a great performance, but I think it’s the simplicity of the song that really gets under the skin. It’s a joyously upbeat melody with a layered but regular electro beat. Think Alphabeat meeting RedOne maybe. Denmark didn’t pick a great song for Baku, but it would be a real crime if nobody ever heard this. And that KEY CHANGE! HIIIGHHH!!! I love it, a total joy from start to finish.

9. Anggun – Echo (You and I)

From Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Baku

AnggunYeah yeah, Eurovision again, get used to it. France may not have come out of Baku with much to celebrate, but they succeeded in bringing another offbeat pop song to life, and made me want to learn French all over again. Indonesian-born Anggun is apparently a big pop star in the Francophone world, even though she’s not had much impact to my knowledge in English-speaking pop.

Either way, she brought a truly spectacular stage show to Azerbaijan, with distracting athletes, an amazing floating dress courtesy of Jean-Paul Gautier, as well as being pretty gorgeous herself. I’ve listened to this so much, I can sing it in the car (in a language I don’t understand). From that slow intro, through that amped-up acceleration to a soaring springtime masterpiece. Everything I want from foreign-language in Eurovision. If people will hide behind their language barriers, then it’s their loss. Superb!

8. Girls Aloud – Something New

From Ten

GirlsI’ve touched on the Girls Aloud comeback in the last post, and worried aloud that this is more of a send-off than a milestone. But those thoughts are at the back of my mind when these girls return to form, with the full force of Xenomania behind them. Reminiscent of surprise hit “Something kinda ooooh” if I must draw comparisons, it has that reckless chaotic feel to it, like they’ve just chucked in as many synth rhythms as the computers will manage, and it somehow meshes together.

It’s big, it’s brash, they all give a fair spread of lines, and they get to strut around like superstars on TV. The campaign for this greatest hits album may not have gone completely as hoped, but they have protected their legacy by showing us how effortlessly they could come back and blow us away.

7. Karmin – Brokenhearted

From Hello

KarminComing from nowhere, here come unknown duo Karmin. I hadn’t realised until this week that they’d made a name for themselves doing Youtube covers of several hits, notably rather heavy-duty rap numbers (see if you can check out Amy Renee tackling Busta Rhymes-speed rapping on “Look at me now”, it’s astonishing). They made the transition to original material with a suitably huge hit though.

Once that generic-sounding guitar-keyboard riff kicks off, you know this is going to be a catchy pop song. Amy might be hooching in on Katy Perry’s racket, but it’s a fun change, she’s certainly got the sass for the job, as well as the superb rapping skills that are briefly hinted at. That chorus is just undeniably catchy though; the timing, the melody, it just comes together so well. That last 20 seconds has a brilliant variation too, switching up the tempo of the lyrics against the standard rhythm, just love it. I hope to hear great things from Karmin in 2013.

6. Pastora Soler – Quédate Conmigo (Stay With Me)

From Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Baku

PastoraHold your breath, more Eurovision, and another example of how the “Big Five” really raised their game in 2012, instead of sulking at the bottom of the leaderboard. Well that was the plan anyway, France underperformed sadly, and the UK still hasn’t quite got the hang of contemporary music in Eurovision yet. But Germany and Italy made the top 10 for another year running, with Spain also making it for the first time in nearly 10 years.

And WHAT a song to come back with. On paper it should be really old-fashioned and a bit of a toilet break, but with a bit of Swedish magic (they had a hand in writing this, along with about half the contenders) and some Spanish power-vox from Pastora Soler, it became one of the wow moments of the show. Sure, Pastora can look a bit scary with the wrong make-up, but by Christ can she belt those notes out!

From the sentimental piano intro, this is a really melodramatic effort, but she steamrollers through those massive glory notes like they were nothing. Spain have really paid their dues to make it back to the top 10, and I’m so glad it was this track that took them there.

5. Flo Rida – Wild Ones (ft Sia)

From Only one rida (part 2)

FloThat Sia gets around doesn’t she? She did vocals on three of the biggest dance tracks of the year, and wrote Rihanna’s big comeback “Diamonds”. As a solo artist I’ve struggled to get on board, but I really think she’s found her niche here. Flo Rida is a bit of a blank slate these days, but has similarly found his niche in by-numbers dancefloor fillers. Putting the two together gave unexpectedly great results.

Despite some questionable lyrics about being saddled up and ridden, that chorus is just wonderful. At the same time it’s energetic and uplifting, but her vocals add this strange melancholy to it. It’s easy to write off Flo Rida’s contribution here, he seems to be a successful foil for dance anthems that simply need an artist, but I think it may even be the later choruses where they are both singing that have the best depth to them.

As with all great songs, they have a nostalgia connection for me, and this one takes me back to the start of the year when I first heard it in Iceland. It was a great little trip with one of my best friends, and I think it made a lasting impression on me.

4. Nicki Minaj – Starships

From Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded

NickiDon’t expect a lot of depth here though, but good God you’ll have fun. As I’ve noted before, Nicki has had a busy 2012. She’s collaborated on several high-profile tracks, as well as launching her second album. That album might have been divided down the middle with difficult or ropey urban tracks on one side, but frothy dance tracks on the other. But for all the feature credits she’s had this year, she certainly kept the gold for herself.

In a typically fruitful partnership with RedOne, this was the big move into dance-pop hinted at in the last album. The result surpassed all my expectations. It’s melodic, uplifting, nonsensical in places. That chorus line is one of the most addictive things this year, and the bombastic production ladled over the top only serves to amp up the fun. The big-beat dance breakdown is a glorious mess, like a stadium anthem, but somehow it’s such a tight pop song. Even if you hate her, you’d have to be particularly narrow-minded not to enjoy yourself a little bit to this monster.

Special mention to that amazing video too, it’s Nicki all over. From the ridiculous array of wigs, the genetically enhanced tits & ass, the amazing Hawaiian volcano goddess theme, it’s always a joy to watch.

3. Pink – Blow Me (One Last Kiss)

From The truth about love

PinkSpeaking of ropey albums with astronomical highs, Pink returned this year from a surprisingly lengthy hiatus between studio albums, and tried to uncover the Truth About Love. I just feel that she maybe is never going to be an album artist in my eyes and ears, but she did provide two pretty hot moments with the album. “Try” and its devastating video was one. The other is this evolution in her sound, and blends the two personalities she’s so often displayed with her singles: the emotional angsty Pink and the frivolous sweary Pink.

We get the emotional payoff of Pink totally exasperated with a failing relationship, and serving the poor guy his notice with such believable bluntless. “I’ve had a shit day, you’ve had a shit day”, she screeches in a terrifying surprise glory note that never fails to make me smile. “I think this might be it for us”. The sadness is in there, the frustration is in there, but they don’t define the track in the way that other artists might have it.

The chugging rhythm and modern synth-guitar production makes it sound fresh as a daisy, it’s a real return to form for her, even if it’s more in anticipation of another amazing Greatest Hits compilation in several years time.

2. David Guetta – Titanium (ft Sia)

From Nothing but the beat

DavidI did struggle with this one, as I heard it for the first time well into 2011, but really its lasting impact has only become apparent to me this year. Here’s Sia again, but this time front and centre while David Guetta tries something quite different from his other tracks that sound generic now, but cruelly only because he’s almost single-handedly defined the genre in the last 3 or 4 years with his continued massive success.

Sia’s vocals totally soar on this one, and it’s not difficult to see how it found new heights of appeal, above the usual dancefloor anthems. You’d need powerful vocals to keep up with the madness of the production, but rather than fight her, it dredges up new levels of euphoric dance and gives me a rush every time I hear it. And goodness knows I’ve heard it this year. Whether it was repeatedly at the gym, blasting out of shops and clubs during my visits in Europe, or at the turning point of the warm-up DJ set at Madonna’s Hyde Park gig. The sun came out, the crowd finally got psyched up by this modern masterpiece of dance music that shows everyone why David Guetta’s one of the most powerful producers of the moment.

1. Loreen – Euphoria

From Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Baku

LoreenForgive me. At times, it feels like my musical year revolved around Eurovision to some degree. It is the reason this blog is still here today, I can say that without a doubt. It’s the reason I’ve grown to appreciate European cultures and the differences between them, even if they’re just having a joke. It’s made me listen to new things. It’s made me travel more. It’s given me one of my best friends. It’s really changed my life to a noticeable degree, and I will defend it to anyone, for the good it would do. The sooner the British start appreciating its potential, and stop acting like spoilt, sulky victims, the sooner we can all enjoy it.

So with a degree of inevitability, my top song of the year had to be the Swedish game-changer. Sweden have a long association with the contest, a symbiotic relationship that has benefitted both parties. ABBA are the big example here, one of the biggest bands of all time put both Sweden and Eurovision on the musical map. The Swedes have a solid reputation for pop music, and Eurovision’s legacy has generated several big artists and songs over the years, I’ll cite Celine Dion as a great example. While transexual Israeli Dana International brought Eurovision into the modern age in 1998, this year the Swedes not only picked a uniquely un-Eurovision track to fly their flag, but one that would cross over to a huge audience on the continent. I hear this wherever I went in Europe over summer and autumn, and it even picked up an unheard-of top 3 hit in the UK, famously Eurovision-phobic in recent times.

It also resonates with me because I took a coach tour in autumn, from Finland to Germany via Russia. This track was the soundtrack to that trip, selected by the guide as our “wake-up” song. So a big group of us bonded over this trip and this song, and it’ll always have that association for me.

But what of Loreen? Poor girl, I haven’t even talked about her. How she brought this otherworldy bit of interpretive dance to the stage in almost total darkness, a stark contrast to the flashy visuals of her competitors. Her soaring vocals brought this to life, and despite last-minute nerves about her mumbly diction, and even the threat of the fake snow getting in her mouth, she blew everyone away on the night. She got a landslide victory and brought the contest back to Sweden, where I’ll see it next May.

From that opening effect, that ominous industrial noise, she throws everything at the performance. The dancing is mesmerising, her timing is brilliant, the staging set the whole lot off, and the mix of an almost 90s-skewed dance beat, ultra-modern synths and even some gorgeous string sections, it came together into something truly special, and I think the effect it will have on the contest can be nothing but good.

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My Top 50 of 2012: #30 – #21

30. Loreen – Crying Out Your Name

From Heal

LoreenThere’s nothing more painful than a missed opportunity sometimes (well not literally). But this is exactly how I feel Loreen’s 2012 went. The first half was triumphant; the salvation of Eurovision (perhaps) via a landslide victory and importantly a massive commercial hit across Europe. You’d think a follow-up would be a piece of cake, wouldn’t you?

Perhaps for a normal act it would be, but this is an artist that took a month to release a video for “Euphoria”, 4 months after it had been released in Sweden (plus it was shit). Her international follow-up would be an unwanted remix to her 2011 Melodifestivalen entry, while Sweden were treated to an original track (still without a video). At this point you might just have to throw your hands up in exasperation.

Fortunately “Crying out your name” is pretty awesome, a dark simmering bit of emotional electropop. She sounds as pained as ever, but her vocals soar over the old-school sounding beats. Imagine a slightly-sped up and miserable version of “You got the love” and you’re not too far off. I fear Loreen might end up losing her commerical appeal in the long-term by insisting on joyless misery pop to further her career, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

29. Reidun Sæther – High On Love

From Melodi Grand Prix 2012

ReidunBack to the Norwegian Eurovision pre-selection, and a joyously dated schlager anthem that sort of made it worth listening to the mixed back of Norwegian hopefuls. A naff Motown-esque verse leads into a sassy bridge, and BOOM – that instantly catchy chorus hits you like a ton of fermented herring.

Sometimes all you need is a curvy woman singing an old-fashioned bit of Scandinavian pop at full belt, and with a deadly key-change in the final act, I couldn’t help but love it.

28. Andreas Lundstedt – Aldrig Aldrig

From Melodifestivalen 2012

AndreasI hadn’t meant to string so much Scandinavian action together, but we must return once more to Melodifestivalen, and one-time member of Swedish power-pop group Alcazar made a push for solo glory once more. It didn’t get very far, but there’s something about this track that just makes me feel a bit warm and fuzzy.

Swedish is an interesting language to listen to, and I don’t have the slightly idea what he’s singing, but that chorus is such a wave of gentle vocals, stabbing disco strings and bubbling synths. There’s also a standard-issue keychange if you were still sitting on the fence. Nothing particularly special about it on paper, but I really love this the more I hear it.

27. Adam Lambert – Never Close Our Eyes

From Trespassing

AdamI’d been aware of Adam for some time, but his debut single “For your entertainment” had put me off from investigating further. After belatedly discovering his amazing “Whataya want from me” on holiday, I had a great time listening to his second album “Trespassing”. This was kicked off by a full-on dancepop onslaught in the shape of lead single “Never close our eyes”.

OK a lot of people are doing the dancepop thing these days, and while many are getting annoyed, I’m having a great time, this is just the sort of thing I love. Adam has a huge voice, prone to oversinging sometimes, but everything is in balance here, and a throbbing full-on pop song is born.

26. Ke$ha – Die Young

From Warrior

Ke$haPity poor Ke$ha, she seems to be the laughing stock of the pop world sometimes, but by sheer brute force she’s been responsible for some of the best trashy pop songs of the last three years. I certainly think there’s a place for Ke$ha, she just seems a bit more free and fun than the painfully self-conscious Katy Perry and her overstyled persona has become.

Her debut album was pretty solid, so I’m intrigued to hear what her followup “Warrior” sounds like. “Die Young” is pretty simple, but it’s really grown on me in the last month. That chorus and pseudo-acoustic guitar works a lot better than it should, and this ends up as a pretty solid return to form.

25. Lawson – Taking Over Me

From Chapman Square

LawsonJust like The Wanted a few years ago, I thought these guys were doomed. Who needs another boyband, let alone one like a latter-day BBMak? I’ve not quite been proven wrong, but they’ve had a clutch of top 10 hits this year, and even better, two of them are really good. In fact I was very surprised to hear that the gorgeously fresh and summery track I heard on the radio was by these guys.

It reminds me a lot of Savage Garden, which is no bad thing really, considering Darren Hayes is doing all sorts of nonsense these days and I’ve gone off him a bit. Plus these guys are quite handsome aren’t they? I’ll have to investigate their album in the new year. I suspect it will be acoustic guitar-based boyband dross, but I’m hoping to be wrong.

24. Usher – Scream

From Looking 4 Myself

UsherAnd on we go with more RnB-turned-dance. Usher saw the potential for his crossover a few years ago with “DJ got us falling in love”, and maybe even with the dance-lite “Love in this club” over 4 years ago. So it was a natural direction for him to go in with his latest album.

Essentially this is another dose of “DJ got us falling in love”, but it’s no less potent. That weird twangy sample is catchy, and his usual huge vocals ride over the top of the chaotic clash of production. Generic as you like, but I like it a LOT.

23. Ivi Adamou – La La Love

From Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Baku

IviWith the big US stars falling over themselves to be fun for Europe, it’s left to Eurovision to show us that Europe can have just as much fun. The contest in Baku threw up several dancefloor smashes, with one of my favourites coming from the Mediterranean. Cyprus have always floundered in the contest, in the shadow of perenially successful Greece. This year the small island nation managed a narrow victory over its mainland counterpart, the first in 10 years.

The track itself is cheap and cheerful, and not altogether unlike Jennifer Lopez’s monster smash “On the floor”. Ivi was a great performer too, a giantess with legs that went all the way up, and gleefully wearing her best turbo-slut makeup and grabbing her boobs. A lot of fun to watch, and the song’s a cheap thrill of the best kind.

22. Maya Sar – Korake Ti Znam

From Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Baku

MayaLook at me, I’m all rounded and cultured. It’s not all dance-pop, I’ve got a Bosnian-language ballad now, how’s about that? Truth be told, I don’t think I’d normally like this sort of thing, and indeed at the time of Eurovision I thought this was nice but nothing special. But something clicked for me a little while afterwards.

It’s understated to be sure, but that subtle swell of the string section, and Maya’s gentle vocals really sound beautiful together. Those moments where there are a bit of drama just sound all the better in this otherwise chilled-out environment. By the time you hit the final chorus, it’s really blossomed into something beautiful. I’ll pay more attention to my Balkan ballads in future.

21. Madonna – I’m Addicted

From MDNA

MadonnaOne last showing for old Madge now though, and what is doomed to be one of the hidden gems of the MDNA project. This was a standout track early on, and at least shows us that she can harness this harsh electronic sound when she puts her mind to it.

I was really looking forward to this part of her MDNA show, and it absolutely didn’t disappoint. I can’t wait for the DVD! OK the lyrics are a bit naff as ever, but the production is spot-on, even harking back to some of her earlier material at the turn of the century. That “M.D.N.A.M.D.N.A” refrain at the end just whips me up into a frenzy every time.

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My Top 50 of 2012: #50 – #41

50. Joan Franka – You And Me

From Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Baku

JoanTo kick off, I knew we would have to talk about Eurovision at some point, so I might as well get the ball rolling. 2012 was a pretty special year for Eurovision, with many people commenting on the marked improvement in overall quality. Sweden grabbed their responsibility of hosting 2013’s contest with both hands, and I’m cautiously thinking that the only way is up (up up uuuup).

But for the Netherlands, things still didn’t quite go to plan as they failed to qualify for the grand final for an 8th successive year. Understandable given the rather unusual – and at many times, off key – performance from Joan. Kitted out as a native American for reasons unknown to the casual viewer (it’s from the video), she performed this gorgeously sweet ballad about lost childhod love. It wore a little thin after I totally overplayed it, but still it deserved honourable mention in a musically solid 2012.

49. Ellie Goulding – Lights

From Bright Lights

ElliePerhaps a bit of a cheat, as it appears on Ellie’s 2010 reissue of her debut “Lights” album, but it’s my chart so I don’t care. My justification is that it inexplicably broke through in the States this year, handily laying groundwork for her second album “Halcyon”. I had written her off as a bit of a boring singer-songwriter with too much critical acclaim. But this is different to a lot of music I’ve heard from her.

It’s a gently twinkling electro ballad, with multiple layers and hooks to get it stuck in my head, as well as a pretty swish but cheap video. It’s almost enough to get me to inspect her music closer, but I think I need a little more convincing first.

48. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

From Born To Die

LanaSpeaking of critical acclaim – usually a bit of a poisonous thing for me, I want to make up my own mind – Lana Del Rey made waves at the start of the year with her debut album. It was a slow burner but ended up one of the bigger hits of the year. I’m not overly fond of her laconic singing style, it’s all a bit try-hard. I never quite saw what everyone else did. But I rather like this title track from the album.

Not to say that I don’t think her singing voice isn’t very intriguing, I just think I need to make a connection to the music. I did enjoy the Tumblr of “Lana del Rey dancing” animations though, tee hee.

47. Emeli Sande – Read All About It (Pt. III)

From Our version of events

EmeliWow, what a worthy set of singers to kick off with! It wasn’t intentional, maybe it’s just the trashier stuff floating to the top. Anyway as everyone is so fond of saying, Emeli Sande was “the voice of 2012”. Possibly due to her omnipresence during the year, promoting the shit out of the various singles at every available opportunity.

Notably the huge exposure she got repeatedly at the Olympics was a bit much, Christ knows how the label made that happen! She’s a misery guts, and she dresses like an old lady. But occasionally I see the appeal, and maybe it’s some of the reflected afterglow from the Olympics closing ceremony that securing this track its place in my countdown. I never liked the duet version she did with Professor Green – a clear copy-paste job ‘inspired’ by the Eminem/Rihanna smash the previous year. But this ballad version really works for me. Just as well as it is nigh-on unavoidable.

46. Christina Aguilera – Your Body

From Lotus

ChristinaDon’t call it a comeback! I think you need some degree of reaching former highs for it to count, and that’s something “Lotus” really didn’t manage. I haven’t heard it myself (yet), but I did really enjoy this trashtasticaly brazen song about sex with strangers. Are you empowered yet? She’ll be sure to scream you down if you aren’t, HEY BOOOY!

It’s an unusually mid-tempo electro track, with a pulsing beat throughout it. She does shout quite a lot, particularly towards the climax, but I think the real saving grace is the astonishing video. White trash Xtina brutally murders her casual partners with symbolism (ish), it’s worth watching if you’re not sure that just hearing a new Xtina song is enough of an enticing prospect. SAY!

45. Alexandra Burke – Elephant (ft Erick Morillo)

From Heartbreak on hold

AlexandraTalking of disasterous comebacks, here’s an X-Factor alumnus down on her luck. I don’t know where her appeal disappeared to, she did pretty well with her original “Overcome” album, and hasn’t done anything particularly awful since then (though the jury might be out on forgotten No.1 “Start without you”, I still can’t belieave it happened).

Either way, Lex wanted to take it to the clubs big time, and the fun but disposable album was heavily influenced by 90s dance sounds. That suited me fine, but not the public, and it duly tanked. But she got a hit out of it, the No.3 dance track “Elephant”. Under the surface of this big and bombastic dance track, and aside from the unusual title, I think there’s a decent song here. It all comes together for me, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but so what. I genuinely think she’s making music that she likes, for what it’s worth.

44. Madonna – Give Me All Your Luvin’ (ft Nicki Minaj & MIA)

From MDNA

MadonnaOh what the hell, let’s just keep those failed comebacks coming. In some ways Madonna’s had a good 2012: her new album “MDNA” was No.1 in many countries, she played the interval show at the Superbowl, and became the biggest-grossing tour act of the year. And yet in other ways it feels like it’s been a bit of a disaster.

I suppose I’ve always grown up with Madonna the chart force, and enjoyed her late 90s rennaissance period when it felt that she was the biggest artist on the planet. But what the hell is she doing? The public just aren’t buying her singles, and while she’s got enough of a fanbase to get No.1 albums still, her overall sales are in a tailspin.

Part of me thinks that she should make the music she wants to make rather than what “a woman of her age should be making”. Pandering to fans and critics is not what she’s ever been about. Maybe it’s just a skewed view I hear from the bitchy internet gays, incapable of opinions that aren’t extreme. I just wonder how long she can go on in this direction. “MDNA” was supposed to be the new start, with a new label. But right now it feels like her music career is just a means to tour.

“Give me all your luvin” was nominally her biggest hit from the campaign, and I love the cheerleader motif and the video. It might have worn a little thin now, but she can still make solid pop songs at least. She just needs to get people to give them the time of day.

43. Pink – Try

From The truth about love

PinkPink also returned with a new album in 2012, though much more successfully than the artists I’ve just listed. I might not have been into the album very much when I reviewed it, but the two lead singles were solid. “Try” is a more downbeat, downtempo MOR track than we are often used to from Pink, but there’s a powerful video to go along with it.

She dances/fights with her lover, in some hair-raising scenes that blur the line between heavily choreographed dancing and domestic violence. The bulk of the chorus is pretty repetitive, which is what counted against it in the end, but it has a great hook that nicely counters the gentle piano-led verses. It feels like a bit of an evolution for her as a performer, even if the album perhaps didn’t.

42. Ellie Goulding – Anything Could Happen

From Halcyon

EllieWe’ve seen a bit of Ellie already, but I don’t think the people who didn’t really like her (me included) were quite prepared for this comeback single. Heavily produced, with an eerie sample that makes up most of the chorus. It’s a joy to listen to, and comes with a hi-gloss pop video to mesmerise viewers.

It’s drenched in electronic production, which masks the shortcomings in her vocals quite nicely. This doesn’t quite pan out in the live performances I’ve seen, which broke the spell a little for me. But as far as a radio single goes, it sounds fresh and interesting. I wonder if she’s got anything else up her sleeve…

41. Justin Bieber – Beauty And A Beat (ft Nicki Minaj)

From Believe

JustinShock! A male vocal! I’m well aware my end-of-year countdowns are quite oestrogen-fuelled, but I do have an open mind about it. Goodness knows lots of people don’t have that when it comes to Justin Bieber. He re-issued his solid hit 2nd album “Believe” recently, teaming up with serial collaborator Nicki Minaj for this. A generic dance-pop track sure, but one of his best.

The video was pretty cool too, and on occasion made me wish I was young, American and invited to a pool party. Aspirational viewing! And that’s before Nicki sings “buns out, wiener” with as straight a face as she can manage.

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Eurovision 2012: My top 10

eurovision 2012 baku banner

God, it feels like a long time ago now doesn’t it? I had a whim to write about Eurovision on this blog, and 6 months ago today (total accident), I gave my thoughts on Melodifestivalen’s first heat in Växjö in February. It feels strange to think how events unfolded since then. At the time, my blog had just over 500 views, and Loreen took to the stage to perform “Euphoria” on stage for the first time. I think Eurovision 2012 was the story of my blog, and of Loreen.

I was pleased by the reaction to my Melodifestivalen post, and those that followed. So I posted an entry about all 42 Eurovision entrants, and the three shows in Baku. I was astonished and grateful for the massive reaction I got from these posts that now see me over 20,000 views, peaking just after the show with over 2,000 views in one day. It’s now settled nicely to about 50-100 views per day, and I am trying to do my best for this blog after this amazing jump-start. Thankyou everyone!

Loreen didn’t do badly for herself either, after a huge victory in Växjö, she fought closely with an unlucky Danny Saucedo in March to take a decisive victory at Stockholm’s Globen to represent Sweden in Azerbaijan’s first Eurovision Song Contest. In a hotly contested final, it was looking iffy, but Loreen pulled well clear of Russian grannies to get a landslide victory, bringing the contest back to Sweden for the first time since 1999 and breaking a chain of 16 unique countries to have won the contest most recently. Next year should be amazing, and I hope to do all this again – and more. But before that, I need to finally draw a line under this year’s contest with my top 10 entries.

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Ott Lepland Kuula Estonia Eurovision 2012

Estonia Estonia

Ott Lepland – Kuula

#6 in the Grand Final

Oh I’m not made of stone, I can occasionally be influenced by a sensitive-looking Baltic guy pouring his heart out. It’s difficult at the moment to think of a better example of this as dear Ott Lepland. “Kuula” means “Listen”, and the pleading tone to his voice really made this stand out as one of the more powerful ballads of the contest. He really raised it to another level on stage, with some amazing vocals that totally captivated the audience and secured humble Estonia one of their best results in a long time. I love this guy! *sigh*. Got through that without talking about his erection at least (whoops).

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Donny Montell Love is Blind Lithuania Eurovision 2012

Lithuania Lithuania

Donny Montell – Love Is Blind

#14 in the Grand Final

Lithuania!! I’m as surprised as you. A very hit-and-miss country in terms of entries, I feel a little bad that most of its neighbourhood have won the contest in recent years: Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Ukraine, Sweden… and occasionally its entries are a little hard done-by. Poor Laura and her lovers, for example. But conversely I had no idea little Donny would do as well as he did. I chalked up his shock qualification to performing last in his semi, but he showed the song could feel pretty contemporary. He sang it brilliantly, even though the blindfold gimmick was a bit naff, but not as much as his shocking dance moves. That backflip was impressive though. Sounds great turned up loud in my car.

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Maya Sar Korake Ti Znam Bosnia Herzegovina Eurovision 2012

Bosnia Bosnia and Herzegovina

MayaSar – Korake ti znam

#18 in the Grand Final

Wow, didn’t see this coming really either. While I was reviewing each entry in the contest run-up, this was pleasant but nothing special. A gorgeously classy video, but generally a nice but boring Balkan ballad. Even the stage performance was a bit staid, Gaga shoulder-pads aside. But something just triggered off for me and I really have fallen in love with it. It’s just so gentle and beautiful: the strings, her voice, it all blends so well. The quiet storms of the bridges into the choruses are sudden and powerful, and the climactic final minute is just a fairytale with a princess’s voice.

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Netherlands Joan Franka you and me Eurovision 2012

Netherlands Netherlands

Joan Franka – You and Me

#15 in Semi-final 2

Never mind, maybe next year. Netherlands are certainly one of the more aggrieved of Eurovision nations, never yet qualifying from a semi-final since they came in nearly 10 years ago. The song was an early favourite, also endearingly described by Sweden’s Måns Zelmerlöw as the “Smelly Cat of this year’s contest”. It totally fits – weird affected accent, kooky mannerisms and adorably quaint bluegrassy banjo music. It’s a little barn-dance in my heart, with a song about lost childhood love that poor Joan will never let go of. It’s a gorgeous singalong song, but she totally trashed it live, it was so off-key it broke my heart. Maybe with a less bizarre setup (or dare I say it, performer), it might have had a shot… there’s always another year.

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Sabina Babayeva When the music dies azerbaijan eurovision 2012

Azerbaijan Azerbaijan

Sabina Babayeva – When the Music Dies

#4 in the Grand Final

I called Azerbaijan as a potential candidate to defend the host nation’s title this year, and it certainly pulled out all the stops to do itself proud. Sabina was a little … cold (cold cold) but she performed the shit out of that song. A powerful ballad, in the usual Azeri standard of blending traditional instruments with a decidedly western sound, is that even Motown I hear? She had the poise and attitude to totally smash that song, especially that killer final note that still gives me chills. Then there was THAT incredible dress, such a simple idea but executed so brilliantly. They were the first (I think) with 2010’s light-up dress, and we’ve seen plenty of that from other countries since, and they even trumped that! Astonishing performance.

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Roman Lob Germany Standing Still Eurovision 2012

Germany Germany

Roman Lob – Standing Still

#8 in the Grand Final

The rehabilitation of Germany’s Eurovision fortunes almost seems unnecessary now. After years in the doldrums with the other Big Four, they made the effort and have been rewarded with three top 10 finishes in as many years, with three very different songs. Lena made way for Roman this year, another sensitive soul, doe-eyed and tattooed singing a song written partly by English musician Jamie Cullum in a year when a massive share of the songs (including the British one) were written by Swedes. It’s a simple song, very MOR but really memorable with some really great lines in it. He sang with real feeling, even if he insisted on that grotty hat. Long may Germany be an example to the other Big Five on how to earn their place in this contest.

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Spain Pastora Soler Quedate Conmigo Eurovision 2012

Spain Spain

Pastora Soler – Quédate conmigo

#10 in the Grand Final

Say what you like about the Big Five, most of them really smashed it out of the park this year, and reversed a losing streak for those countries by having three of them finish in the top 10 this year, not sure the last time that happened! Spain were mooted for a time as one to watch, and while it didn’t quite reach the heights some fans felt it deserved, it still did well for a Spanish entry.

This is such a beautiful ballad, with some killer money notes that Pastora to her credit totally owned every time I saw her perform it. It’s so bloody uplifting, especially when you hit that second half. The keychange, THAT big note, that OTHER big note, it’s a totally overblown ballad of Celine proportions, and yet it doesn’t feel hammy, it’s dignified and graceful. Those Russian grannies beating Pastora (and the rest) feels like such an injustice, but she should certainly be damn proud of herself.

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Ivi Adamou Cyprus La La Love Eurovision 2012

Cyprus Cyprus

Ivi Adamou – La La Love

#16 in the Grand Final

Oh after all that heartwarming stuff, let’s have some FUN! Cyprus haven’t had a great Eurovision performance for a long while, let alone beating Greece (however marginally). Enter Ivi: statuesque, buxsome and grinning from ear to ear. This performance was terrific fun, with a full-on dance routine not draining her power at all. The song is a total Eurodance marvel, perhaps one Lambada sample away from a lawsuit, but a brilliant summer song, and I think certainly my favourite of the underdogs this year. At the very least, Cyprus should be very happy with their result.

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Anggun Echo You and I France Eurovision 2012

France France

Anggun – Echo (You and I)

#22 in the Grand Final

Ooh la la, the final of the Big Five might have been one of the more shocking flops on the night, but I am totally bewitched by hitherto-unknown (to me) Indonesian artist Anggun. I’m told she’s the biggest French-language artist outside France, or something. Anyway, she’s got a gorgeous tone to her voice, and sang a wonderfully uplifting French pop song, that felt totally modern, fun and perfect for the Spring and Summer. France might not always get the results they want, but they certainly keep trying to send a good variety of tracks, can you define the standard French entry? In only the last few years we’ve had African-inspired arena anthems, rousing Corsican opera, and painfully artistic chanson theatre.

Anggun was stunningly beautiful, as were her gang of half-naked athletes. And God knows, there are few things in this life better than half-naked French athletes. That early gear-shift in tempo twinned with that string of backflips really blew me away as one of many ‘moments’ of that song. Maybe their gymnastics distracted a little (though those millisecond-perfect somersaults after the last note still get me), Anggun herself and that astonishing floating dress really raised the performance to something phenomenal.

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Loreen Euphoria Sweden Eurovision 2012

Sweden Sweden

Loreen – Euphoria

#1 in the Grand Final

Well, part of me almost wanted to put someone else as my pick of Baku, but who was I kidding? This was a rare moment of victory for those long-suffering Swedophiles, longing for this to deliver on the amazing promise Loreen had when she stormed Melodifestivalen in March. It’s a unique marriage of interpretive dance and up-to-the-minute modern dance music, with a twist of that hearty crowdpleasing feel that the big 90s dance anthems have. The staging had a lot to do with this, almost to the point that I can’t even imagine how else this could have been performed!

As the title suggested, it’s euphoric, it’s a ride, and it’s only going up-up-up-up-uuuup. Pitched so perfectly, and staged in a way that no other nation could have competed with. It revived Sweden back to full power after hitting rock bottom in 2010 (which for Sweden was 11th place in a semi-final – something Netherlands would struggle to hit at their peak). Sweden always have the potential to totally blow this contest away, and I’m overjoyed that they’ve done it again. I don’t think any other nation tries quite as hard to succeed in Eurovision, and I’m expecting something incredible in Malmö next year. I just hope I can get tickets!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my Eurovision 2012 coverage as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. There will be plenty more to come, both with upcoming contests and pre-selections next year, and previous contests that I’m only just discovering now!

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Filed under Baku 2012, Eurovision, Melodifestivalen 2012, Music, Reviews