Thursday, 26 January 2023

BELGIUM 2023

The Belgian Final "Eurosong 2023" was held on January 14th at Paleis 12 in Brussel and was presented by Peter Van de Veire. In the week leading up to the final, the seven acts performed their 2 potential entries in full then self selected their favourite to perform on the Saturday night final. The winner was chosen by a 50/50 split of televoting and jury ranking. Going to Liverpool is Gustaph singing "Because of You"

Stef Caers - also known under the pseudonyms of Steffen or Gustaph -  is a singer, musician, producer and singing teacher. Back in 2000 he released "Gonna Lose You" which placed number 22 on the Flemish Ultratop chart. He then released a small number of songs - solo and in collaboration-  but with less commercial success. From then on his focus shifted to production and songwriting but also kept up some stage work by playing piano and providing backing vocals for other acts and DJing.  In the mid 2010s he worked with the dance music group Hercules & Love Affair providing some vocals and writing credits on their album "The feast of the broken heart". He also currently teaches pop, rock and jazz courses at schools in his home town of Gent. Gustaph is no stranger to the Eurovision experience. He was a backing singer for both Sennek and Hooverphonic although both times he was off stage.

Gusaph is centre stage dressed in his trademark wide brimmed hat, an extremely frilly pink shirt and a black and pink patterned over jacket. His is backed by 2 singers (who had live mics) dressed in black who weave their way around the stage at different points and add real power to the song. Words from the lyrics are interspersed on the backdrop with shots of dancers in shadow and close ups of the artists. The song begins with a version of the chorus but under a pino backing. but soon this is joined by a '90s club beat and synthesized ear worm. The song follows a verse-pre chorus-chorus formula twice over before a slower bridge and then a final elongated chorus to finish. 

Gustaph's soulful voice suits this retro dance tune very well and performs the whole thing with gusto and confidence. He moves well although I feel his chorography could be a lot more over the top without straying too far away from his gestural moves. His sartorial choices are eye-catching if not a little odd but seemed rather tame compared to some of the other finalists on show. The whole concept could be easily worked on and I think the backdrop in particular is very apt to the sound and feel. The two backing singers add some well needed interaction. I almost feel like they should add more backing singers to the mix to really emphasise that ensemble approach. It also goes against the new notion of backing vocals on tape!
During the final Gustaph scored only 3rd with the juries but clear 2nd with the public vote, However, because of the way the other votes went he ended up winning the final by one point. The pre-final fan faves ended 3rd and 4th. There seemed much consternation at this 'accidental' win but the diversity of the finalist's songs were echoed in the distribution of all the votes. Gustaph had a solid and accessible performance. There is a familiarity to the genre and Gustaph also seems like a very likeable and talented person. One also needs to remember that the juries are now no longer voting in the semifinal. Having a solid audience score will probably be enough to qualify - and I hope it does too.

ARTIST - Gustaph
SONG - Because of you
WRITING/PRODUCTION CREDITS - Jaouad Alloul, Stef Caers

Thursday, 12 January 2023

ALBANIA 2023

The Albanian Final "Festivali i Këngës" was held on December 22nd at the Palace of Congress in Tirana, hosted by Arbana Osmani. In the days before the final there were two semi-finals which whittled down the field of 26 to 21. In a change to previous editions, although the winner of the festival was determined by the jury vote, the act going to Eurovision would be chosen solely by the SMS voting during the show. Going to Liverpool will be Albina and Familja Kelmendi with the song "Duje"(To Love)

Albina Kelmendi was born in Kosovo and performed with her family from a young ages and came to prominence during the 2014 edition of The Voice Albania where she was the runner up. She has released many songs as had collaborated with numerous Albanian artists over the years but it was only until 2022 when she released her first solo album. It was then announced that Albina, backed by five of her family members, would be participating in Festivali i Këngës

The song begins with Albina centre stage dressed in a black cloak and starts with what seems like a good 30 seconds of familial Albanian wailing. Underneath this the guitar starts revving up and the song finally starts proper. The drum beat keeps the song going through the verse which doesn't really go anywhere. However, the songs changes as the two older members of the family, dressed in white, start on the chorus - a much more memorable part of the song. There is then a brief instrumental accompanied by some simplistic shimmying before another rendition of the verse. We then have an elongated final chorus with Albina becoming very impassioned and finishing the song knelt down on the floor.

This entry caters very well for the home-based FiK audience but as an outsider this song is rather impenetrable. For me, the song only gets going during the repetition of the chorus and that is far too late. The song is on the cusp of the 3 minute mark - rather short compared to many entries chosen from FiK -  so this bodes well for a sympathetic glow up. It needs a clearer direction musically although the use of the orchestra during the festival can give songs a different sound compared to the studio version. It also needs to be much more striking visually with more made of the family aspect of the act and the song, Many of the other members on stage looked scared and unsure on stage and maybe more definite staging would help e.g. the hand movement during the chorus really makes the group look and feel like a cohesive unit. It has already been confirmed the song will stay in Albanian which is a smart move. This song has hints of promise but right now lacks clear direction and personality. 
For me this song is all about that chorus. Shorten the warbling at the start and make the second verse shorter, there might be more space to add more parts of the chorus and make a bigger feature at the end. Unfortunately Albania has a habit of ruining its Eurovision songs either in the revamp/shortening process or by making the stage show more complicated. This song is currently too muddled and takes too many listens to become familiar enough to remember. That all said, there is something charming and lovely about a family performing together. I hope it can be pulled together to make something more notable.


ARTIST - Albina and Familja Kelmendi
SONG - Duje (To Love)
WRITING/PRODUCTION CREDITS - Enis Mullaj, Eriona Rushiti


Saturday, 7 January 2023

UKRAINE 2023

The Ukrainian Final "Vidbir" was held on December 17th at Maidan Nezalezhnosti Metro Station in Kyiv, hosted by Timur Miroshnichenko, Kateryna Pavlenko and Zlata Ognevich. The winner was chosen by a 50-50 mix of jury and audience vote. Going to Liverpool will be Tvorchi with the song "Heart Of Steel"

Andrii Hutsulyak and Geoffrey Kenny have been working as the group Tvorchi - sometimes stylised as TVORCHI - since they met as students at university. Their first song was released in 2017. Since then they have participated in song competitions and have 4 albums to date. In 2020 they participated in Vidbir with the song "Bonfire" and in 2021 they won three YUNA awards

Although the national final was set in an underground metro station the production values were first rate. Andrii with a keyboard was on one side of the stage while Geoffrey was stood slightly obscured in the gaps between four large projection screens. After the first verse and chorus they are joined on stage by two dancers wearing boiler suits and stylistic gas masks. There is then another verse followed by an elongated chorus repeating the title of the songs and then the song just kind of ends.
This entry makes for an interesting addition to the final. The visual identity of the song - incorporating the visuals, lighting and outfits - is good but could be made even stronger.  The use of projections, in particular with the dancers, is very clever and could easily be scaled up for the Eurovision final. In fact I feel like they broke the magic of this trick far too early and could be extended to add even more optical illusions. I also suspect they many need to tone down or change some of their more pointed symbolism such as the children in gas masks.

This has such a different feel from the more folky-inspired numbers of Kalush Orchestra and GO_A however this vibe is possibly more contemporary and indicative of a more RnB feel. Personally I found this song very hard to get into and remember although many people in the ESC community have had some very strong immediate feels for this song too. That said after a few weeks of bedding this the song has very much grown on me. Part of me wishes that the song was either a little quicker or progressed musically a little more than it does. The song is also quite short at just over the 2;30 mark. I am not hinting that they should mess around with the structure of the song but something somewhere could be added but I am not sure what. It's going to be quite the moment when it appears in the final.


ARTIST - Tvorchi
SONG - Heart Of Steel
WRITING/PRODUCTION CREDITS - Andreas Stone Johansson, Sebastian Schub, Thomas Stengaard, Anderz Wrethov 

Wednesday, 7 December 2022

FARTY OR PARTY - a jESC review!

 Well we let the boy name the podcast... we'll never do that again!

Here's me (Ann) the husband (Andy) and the boy (Marcus) in his podcast debut looking at the Junior Eurovision songs of 2022. For those of you 'new' to this in the UK , the contest will be live on Sunday 11th December on BBC1 and CBBC. Remember that you can vote online via https://junioreurovision.tv/ from Friday the 9th - and you can vote for ANY of the entries EVEN YOUR OWN !!!!! 

EPISODE 1 - Ireland, Malta, Kazakhstan, Italy and United Kingdom!

https://archive.org/details/fop-2201


EPISODE 2 - France, Albania, Spain, Poland and Georgia!

https://archive.org/details/fop-2202


EPISODE 3 - Portugal, Netherlands, Armenia, Serbia, North Macedonia and Ukraine!

https://archive.org/details/fop-2203a

Follow us on twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ESCarmchair
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Friday, 13 May 2022

Eurovision 2022 Finals Ranking

 We have our 25 finalists!

Needless to say the semi finals ended up being rather divisive and we ended up with some rather *ahem* skewed results... but maybe that's a topic for another day ! Although I made a top 40 ranking, now that we have seen all the songs on the actual stage and seen how they look and sing, my views and feelings have changed just a little.


A few songs have move down the list drastically The Finnish entry felt very laboured to me and nowhere near as exiting as the national final. I have had a bit of a rollercoaster with Azerbaijan as the song (second half mainly) has grown on me but I find the staging rather pedestrian and rather distanced from the song's lyrics - which probably means it's too deep for my tiny brain to fully compute. Sheldon's song gets too shouty for me at the end and I much prefer it when he's giving light and shade. Poland's staging and use of visuals is a bit too much 'kitchen sink/desperate to be noticed.
On the positive side Iceland's song has been my ear worm for the last few days. I feel comfortable and at ease watching them and I still love all the clever angles. Armenia's song is very cleverly staged. Rosa Linn has a decent voice and a personality that really does work down the camera. How she dealt with the almost staging malfunction has to be applauded. The song that absolutely blew the room during the semis was Moldova. Although many were sad of the lack of staging the Moldova tourist board graphics (THEY REALLY ARE!) make for a great backdrop mirroring the folklore/rock 'n' roll lyric. Their passion is infections and the brothers look cool in their matching suits!

As this is a list of my faves, one thing NOT taking into account in this list is the running order. If I did I would probably rank everything ever so slightly different. I think Czechia have a memorable spot opening the show but Portugal have been planted in a bit of a blind spot. The run of slower songs near the end (Sweden, Australia, UK, Poland) could say this has given them a boost; others may say being next to each other will ultimately benefit whoever does the better job OR even cancel the whole lot out. The lack of up-tempo songs, especially in the second half, may well benefit those songs with earworms that get in your head or memorable staging.


Soon we will know who is the best
In the Eurovision Song Contest !

Monday, 9 May 2022

ESC armchair at BBC Radio Bristol

 On 8th May, Ann once again visited the studios on Whiteladies Road to have a chin wag about Eurovision with Steve Yabsley. During the discussion we touched on subjects such as the history of the EBU, our changing television habits, the Catch-22 of some Russian participants and this year's contest as well as a in-depth discussion about my role in school over the pandemic.


Hope you enjoy ! 

https://archive.org/details/esc-armchair-with-steve-yabsley


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Sunday, 1 May 2022

Eurovision 2022 ranking

With rehearsals underway I thought it was about time that I started ranking this year's 40 Eurovision entries... And as every good well-informed fan should, I used Mr Gerbear's wonderful sorting mechanism to help me do so! If you would like to to work out your own ranking you can do so here -   https://esc.gerbear.com/sorter2022.htm

As I have stated on our own Eurovision podcasts, as well as other media I have shared my views on, I have found judging and comparing this year's contest really tricky. With an almost equal amount of female solo, male solo and groups; twinned with possibly the widest range of styles and genres we've had in a while, this makes choosing which is 'best' almost impossible.

To put a last caveat to this post I think that the standard of this year's entries is really good and have a great batch of performers too.. Therefore, I feel a bit sorry for those songs in the bottom half of my rankings because I quite like almost all of this year's songs. It's pretty much down to some countries just not being quite my style although I very much appreciate their talent and story.

 





I am pretty content with my top 4 and my bottom 4 but basically the rest is a big fat mush which changes day on day depending on my mood or what I am up to. Do I think this will mirror any semi/finals predictions - HELL NO  aaaaaaaand don't confuse it as such either ! This is just what I like!






Thursday, 14 April 2022

Shite Or Alright 2022

Welcome to another set of review podcasts! 

Over the next 5 shows Andy and Ann will listen to all the songs and give you their opinion whether good or bad. Ann is the Eurovision fan and Andy is her 'I do Eurovision by osmosis' husband and we try and work out if the songs on this year's roster are Shite or Alright (or possibly somewhere in-between. or worse.... or better!)


EPISODE ONE: Milking The Teat Of A Giant Cow
Albania, Armenia, Czechia, Estonia, North Macedonia, Poland, Ukraine and big 5 country Italy!

Today's quotes include:
Tom Kerridge's face on a fan
I am the spirit of dark and lonely water...
Blue Peter does Eurovision
Not the right Tourist Board
Cornering the Brutalism holiday market
Buffalo Stance by Nenah Cherry
Straight out of a Doctor Who episode
Hits of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s .... AND TODAY !
That house is a mess

You can download or listen to it here https://archive.org/details/soa-2201




EPISODE TWO: Magically Disappearing Body Parts
Azerbaijan, Belgium, Denmark, Georgia, Malta, Moldova, Slovenia and big 5 country Spain!

Podcast quotes include:
They forgot to put the tendons on
Slade's dressing up box
Less IS more
Usher's off-cuts
Don't do a Miki
Who cares if you don't actually exist ?!?!??
Which person in the video are YOU?
The revolving door of Eurovision artists

You can download or listen to it here https://archive.org/details/soa-2202




EPISODE THREE: The Serbian Gareth Malone
Austria, Bulgaria, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Serbia, Switzerland and big 5 country Germany!

Honourable mentions on the podcast to whet your appetite include:
Niet voor lang meer !
Points on your licence
B&W / Sepia turning into colour
No-one remembers who was on The Voice !?!!??!
A whole concert in 3 minutes
Too busy working out the camera angles
Underestimating the votes of rockers
CBBC camera work
The first episode of POSE

You can download or listen to it here https://archive.org/details/soa-2203




EPISODE FOUR: Those Darn Trumpets!
Australia, Croatia, Montenegro, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Sweden and big 5 country France! 

Weird and wonderful cultural references include:
*that* Merseyrail Map
Chunky - without being intrusive
Come and see our quarries
A chippy curtain
An awful lot of cliché work
The opposite of the Spice Girls
Ominous cantilever action
Shite or Anthem or Both 
Now I know how Los Del Rio felt

You can download or listen to it here https://archive.org/details/soa-2204




EPISODE FIVE:  Sultry Harry Styles In A Little Tank Top
Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and big 5 country United Kingdom! 

Today's highlights are:
Dr Jahn Teigen 
Piggybacking on Måneskin 
You say it was half English...
I think the tourist board got duped
Since it left, their entries have gone pppptttthhhhhht
More Moroccanoil sponsorship
He's just swanned up with a song
She's gonna get Lesley Roy'ed
All I think of is Crufts

You can download or listen to it here https://archive.org/details/soa-2205






Thursday, 24 March 2022

AZERBAIJAN 2022

The Azeri song was revealed on March 21st. On February 16th, İctimai Television revealed that Nadir Rustamli had been internally selected as their singer. His song is called "Fade to black" 

Nadir Rustamli studied piano at the Gulu Asgarov Music School for 7 years. As a singer he has particiaped in a number of different singing/song festivals such as the National Song Festival (runner up in 2017 and winner in 2019) and  the Youthvision International Song Contest (runner up 2019). Nadir then entered into the 2021 series of" Voice of Azerbaijan " and joined former ESC winner Eldar Qasımov's team. He got all the way to the final and won the series with over 42% of the vote.

The first verse is very fragmented with lots of short lines that seem to be more about the rhythm rather than the meaning. The pre-chorus is much stronger with additional strings and a much clearer, stirring vocal. However instead of carrying this trend on, the chorus comes in and this drops back to just piano backing before rising again for the 'I'm numb' finish. This goes straight into verse two and pre-chorus with a slightly more invigorated pace but again peters out for the chorus. This time the post-chorus leads into a bridge section which is possibly the most memorable part of the whole song. It has a proper tune, driving lyrics and gives Nadir a sense of direction with his vocals. The final few seconds are taken up by a shortened chorus -  this time with slightly different tune and the last line of the song being the title.

This song feels very weak to me. On first listen I totally missed the chorus because there was no build-up or hook to tell me it was there. I only discovered it was the chorus when it got repeated. There is no build up, no tension, no drama and by the end of it you start to have questions! This feels like a random collection of song parts that are not cohesive enough to make a memorable song. Although Nadir has a nice enough voice the lyrics are not 100% clear which also muddles the meaning of song. Being Azerbaijan, one has to wonder what intricate staging setup they have in store. The video is rather odd, including some extremely individual sartorial choices, none of which really helps us get a sense of who Nadir is or let's you know what kind of artist or person he is. I think this has the bare bones of a good idea but all the meatiness is totally missing.


ARTIST - Nadir Rustamli 
SONG - Fade to black
WRITING/PRODUCTION CREDITS - Andreas Stone Johansson, Sebastian Schub, Thomas Stengaard, Anderz Wrethov 


Wednesday, 23 March 2022

ARMENIA 2022

The Armenian entry was revealed on March 19th. A week earlier it was announced that Rosa Linn had been selected by ARMTV as their entrant. Her song is entitled "Snap". 

Rosa Kostandjan - AKA Rosa Linn - started to learn the piano at aged 6. This love of music grew and she began writing and producing songs of her own. In 2013 she participated in the Armenian Junior Eurovision national final. Currently, Rosa is linked to the Nvak Collective and her latest release was a collaboration with electro-pop singer KIIARA. Her music style tends to me a mix  alternative indie pop genres although her Eurovision song has some acoustic country vibes too.

After a short intro, verse one starts straight away with a pattern of short/short/long lines. The song moves straight on into the chorus where the instrumentation is really ramped up. There is then a similar setup for verse and chorus two which has an extra bit of repetition at the end.  At the two minute mark there is a brief bridge, which is possibly the weak part of the song, but does lead nicely into the final - and longer - version of the chorus. As a bonus having the last word being 'snap' makes for a good excuse to it being a rather abrupt ending.

The song has an atmospheric quality and has a real drive in the backing track. The stopping and starting of the beat as well as the echoey backing vocals gives the song an ever-changing pace and a lot of depth. The chorus here is the star of the show and most of everything else is there to set that strength up. The use of counting is very clever as a lyric and the unusual warbling of the end line is very ear catching - not very singalongable but an earworm nonetheless. I would also say that the tune and the feeling seems to to precedence over the words which sometimes gets garbled or missed because of the production. I am no country music connoisseur but there is something about this track which feels very familiar. I don't know if this song borrows techniques from other songs or just has a very memorable quality. I guess a minor negative for me is that this song doesn't feel very Armenian. We have got every used to their tracks having some kind of ethnic quality and this has more of a whiff of the Swedish/American touch about it. I also wonder if the backing vocals will be doing much of the heavy lifting because they are so prominent. The video has an interesting visual concept with the floating house which could be translated into a pleasant stage design.


ARTIST - Rosa Linn
SONG - Snap
WRITING/PRODUCTION CREDITS - Allie Crystal, Jeremy Dusoulet, Courtney Harrell, Tamar Kaprelian, Rosa Linn, Larzz Principato