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


Tuesday, 22 March 2022

MALTA 2022 updated

The Maltese Final (Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2022) was held on February 19th at the Malta Fairs & Convention Centre in Ta' Qali, hosted by Stephanie Spiteri, Quinton Scerri, Ron Briffa, Josmar and Ryan Borg. The winner was chosen by jury (6/7) and SMS voting (1/7). On the night, the winner was Emma Muscat singing "Out of Sight" however on March 14th the delegation unveiled Emma's new entry. She will now be singing the song "I am what I am"

Music was a huge part of Emma's life from an early age. She enrolled at the University of Performing Arts; honing her skills in singing, dancing, and playing the piano. In 2016 she started uploading her songs and videos onto youtube. In 2018 she took part in the Maltese talent show "Amici di Maria De Filippi" finishing with fourth place in the singing category and winning a contract with Warner Music Italy. Since then she has released more singles and albums including duets with rappers Shade and Astol and featuring on songs by Biondo and Junior Cally.

After a brief piano intro Emma sings verse one quite low in her register and quite softly. Once into the chorus she sings much more fully with lots of runs and trills through the scale. The first part of the chorus has less going on in the backing but plenty of lyrics while the second part has a fuller backing track but with a more anthemic tune. This is then repeated for the second verse and chorus. This takes us to the 2 minute mark where there is a brief lull before a final chorus that takes us to the end.

This is a very radio-friendly piano-led song in the oeuvre of songs like "The way it is" and " A thousand miles". The video is very friendly and inclusive and definitely made to drill in the meaning of the song. Maybe we will be getting people's faces on the backdrop or something similar to try and mirror this on stage. I am sure Emma will find this no problem to sing and I am also intrigued to see if she stays behind her piano like in the video. Co-incidentally, after this song was released, it was revealed that "I am what I am" had been submitted for Melodifestivalen this year - and rejected - and boy doesn't sound like it. It feels very clean and very Swedish and very safe and very predictable. These aspects don't necessarily make it a bad Eurovision song but it gets tired very quickly. To the casuals at home this is the kind of thing that on first listen they will engage with immediately, but for those of us listening intently between now and the contest they may find it getting skipped. This is no better or worse than their original entry and I think those involved in the original national final should be very miffed at the situation.


ARTIST - Emma Musicat
SONG - I am what I am
WRITING/PRODUCTION CREDITS - Julie Aagaard, Stine Kinck, Dino Medanhodzic, Emma Muscat


Monday, 21 March 2022

PORTUGAL 2022

The Portuguese final - known as "Festival da Canção" - was held on March 12th at the RTP TV Studios in Lisbon, hosted by Filomena Cautela and Vasco Palmeirim. Before the final there were two semi-finals, where 5 of the 10 songs in each show qualified for the final. A winner was chosen by a 50-50 mix of 7 regional juries and televoting which started on March 8th. The winning act and song was Maro with "Saudade, saudade" (Longing, longing)

Maro - full name Mariana Secca - gets her unusual surname from her Italian father. After her Portuguese schooling she studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston and whilst there created "Berklee People". This was a collaborative project created to facilitate the sharing and disseminating knowledge between students rather than competing against.. During her her first year studying in Los Angeles, Maro released six albums entirely self-produced and self-written. Through while publicising her work on Instagram that caught the eye of English jazz musician Jacob Collier, who asked her to join his touring band.

The song starts with a very low instrumental with just the repetitive rhythm of the effective bassline which carries on under the first verse which is in English. The backing becomes much more involved during the chorus with the presence of a 6/8 beat which keeps the song moving but in no way takes over. Verse 2 is in Portuguese, is longer and has a different tune to the first. The backing singers harmonise so well and really helps to keep that emotion coming through. At the two minute mark the chorus comes in and this time the 5 ladies join in with some clapping. The beat peters out back to the original ethereal tune over which Maro sings an outro similar to the very opening lines.

This is a beautifully sung sad song and really takes inspiration from the heart of Portuguese music - Fado. However this song has a very mellow quiet quality rather than the dramatic impassioned performances sometimes associated with this genre. The staging also changed from the semi final into the final. At first Maro was stood alone on stage but now she is joined, on stools, by her female backing singers. It makes the song look and feel more full, almost supportive of one other, She even looks better in a more casual 'everyman' kind of outfit rather than in a shiny suit. The video projections are the same and I like the way it flickers, mirroring the gentle notes in the backing track. Maro's voice is so different and individual that the whole package stands out so much. People will really get the sadness and feel of the song; taking a few moments within the madness of many of the other entries, to be calm and just listen. People all over Europe may even personally relate to the lyrics, especially as many people will have different stories about 'longing' from the past 2 years, and I really hope this does well. 


ARTIST - Maro
SONG - Saudade, saudade
WRITING/PRODUCTION CREDITS - John Blanda, Maro


Sunday, 20 March 2022

ICELAND 2022

The Icelandic Final (Söngvakeppnin) was held on March 12th at the RVK Studios in Gufunes, Reykjavík, presented by Björg Magnúsdóttir, Jón Jónsson and Ragnhildur Steinunn Jónsdóttir. Before the final there were 2 semi-finals of five songs each. The two qualifiers from each were joined by a wildcard. The winner was chosen in two rounds of voting -  the first was to find the top two using half and half televote/jury) the these results were carried forward to the second round which was 100% televote. The winners were Sigga, Beta & Elín - now known as Systur - singing "Með hækkandi sól" (With the rising sun)

Sigríður, Elísabet and Elín Eyþórsdætur are sisters who were born into a family of musicians and have been singing and playing since childhood. In 2011 they formed the trio Sísý Ey releasing the electronic hit "Ain't Got Nobody" in 2013 in collaboration with DJ Oculus. As well as their success as a three-piece, they have also had some individual success. After their Eurovision, it was decided that the act would be called 'Systur' rather than their individual names.

The song begins with a short guitar intro - acoustic followed by electric - which sets up the mood of the song. They sing two verses in quick succession before the first chorus. After a short instrumental there is another verse and chorus. Now into the final minute the song becomes slightly darker and the girls - instead of singing in unison - are not performing slightly different parts of the song which really gives this part of the song a different feel. Then a final chorus before the song has a slowed down acapella ending.

This is very laid back has that slightly melancholy country feel too it. To many of the lay watchers, they may hark back to entries like "Calm After The Storm". In this song the girls' voices blend so well together and the whole thing looks and sounds effortless. The way the microphones are placed makes for some interesting camerawork. The Icelandic language also makes this song sound rather intriguing to the ear, especially with the whispery quality of the words and their vocals style. Visually it is a little bit dark and brown, which fits with the mood of the song but not very memorable. However this is somewhere negated by the clever camera shots, in particular the three-way split screen during the bridge. That all said and done, this ends up feeling like a rather uneventful song. There are a freakishly large proportion of country inspired songs this year and I am not sure how well this stands up in comparison. Part of me wishes there was a little more drama and maybe a bit more ooomph in the instrumentation - something to keep the interest going. This is a nice song - but nice does not guarantee points.


ARTIST - Systur
SONG - Með hækkandi sól
WRITING/PRODUCTION CREDITS - Arnar Guðjónsson, Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir


Saturday, 19 March 2022

SWEDEN 2022

The Swedish Final "Melodifestivalen" was held at the Friends Arena in Stockholm on March 12th, hosted by Oscar Zia. Before the final there were 5 semi-finals getting the list down to a final of 12. The winner was calculated by adding votes of 8 international juries with phone app votes divided into age groupings as well as televoting. Representing Sweden at Eurovision this year will be Cornelia Jakobs singing "Hold Me Closer"

Cornelia Jakobs - full name Anna Cornelia Jakobsdotter Samuelsson - is from a very musical family. Her father is a rock musician and grandmother a conductor. She studied at Rytmus music high school in Stockholm  and at 16 she unsuccessfully auditioned for Idol. She was part of the girl band Love Generation - also known as Stockholm Syndrome - which participated in Melodifestivalen 2011 & 2012 and also co-wrote last year's participating entry " Best of Me " performed by Efraim Leo in 2021.

The first verse starts with very quiet violin backing which continues through the lengthy pre-chorus. It also continues under the chorus but is much more noticeable and soaring in the mix. Into verse two, the backing track is joined by a stable beat which gets bigger as the verse, pre-chorus and chorus follows though. As we pass the two minute mark, the backing disperses before regathering during the bridge with an almost rock/dance edge. The song finishes with an elongated version of the chorus before finishing suddenly.

Although I watched very little of MelFest, I took time to watch the final and I was underwhelmed to say the least. There was so little breadth in terms of genres and displays that felt like over-rehearsed faux music videos rather than part of a live music show. The presentation of this song, however,  is quite personal and a bit more intimate than past entries have been. Cornelia does a good job of keeping her eye on the camera while she navigates her way around the floor, the rotating glowing disc and the microphone stand. The jittery camerawork is trying build tension and atmosphere when it should be coming from the singer and the lyrics. The song doesn't really need that much and by having little staging you have nothing else to focus on but the song.  But for my taste there are some things that I can't quite get past and turn me off straight away. I don't like the way she sings the start as to me it comes across as a bit whiney and self indulgent. This is not helped by the lack of honest body language because Sweden cannot help but choregraph everything within an inch of its life . Co-incidentally her reprise after being announced the winner felt so much better than her competitive show. The lyrics are incredibly basic and possibly does not help show more emotional depth. This is not a bad entry and compared to many of the potential entries available it was possibly their best choice for the night. However, in a semi final full of eclectic and individual choices this might end up being 'the right one... but at the wrong time'


ARTIST - Cornelia Jakobs
SONG - Hold Me Closer
WRITING/PRODUCTION CREDITS - Cornelia Jakobs, Isa Molin, David Zandén