Friday, December 28, 2012

What A Great Year It Was

2012 certainly has been a wonderful year for Eurovision fans. We've learned new things about the contest, we're now better able to ask other questions, but what stands out?

Without a doubt the star of 2012 in the eyes of so many fans. I must admit I was not impressed by Euphoria at first but it does take me a couple of listens to get my head around a good song. At Eurovision she has definitely wrote a chapter in the history of Eurovision, not just for being a great song or gaining the second highest number of points ever received, but more importantly she won the contest for the fans. For this we should be grateful.

What national final formats actually work?
There is a huge difference of opinion about the best way to run a national final. While most fans will talk about running Melodifestivalen styled finals that may be too big and expensive to run in smaller countries, there has been many changes to national final formats this year. Yet, in spite of this there has been little convergence in formats which makes it very difficult to argue that one type works. 

Are the changes to the contest for the better?
Certainly it has been well flagged by the EBU that Eurovision will change substantially over the coming years, as Sweden the contest this would appear to be a relativity easy thing to achieve this year. We saw the beginnings of this change in Oslo in 2010, but it to difficult to say what the ultimate results of this change is. There have been differing opinions about the changes to the contest. Personally on the macro level I agree with the change and I don't see it as threatening the future of the contest. However I don't agree with everything that has changed but as with nearly all changes to the contest we cannot say how they will affect it until we see it in practice.

 Will we see another Junior Eurovision Song Contest?
This is probably one of the more regrettable questions that I write here. There are a lot of threats to JESC at the moment however I think it would be a real shame to lose it. Rather than being just a smaller version of the contest run in December, it has developed its own distinctive flavour and is differ to many of the other shows, I hope that the EBU will continue to develop ideas about how to allow it to continue and hopefully grow in size. 

So those are the main stand out points and themes of this Eurovision year. 

I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas!

I always love this time of year.

I'm  lying on my bed at one o'clock in the morning thinking about the joy this time of year spreads around the world....I know tomorrow that many children around Ireland and the world can look forward to a visit from St. Nicholas. I know Santa has visited the two children who live across the road from me and their presents are sitting under their tree, waiting for them to get up. Its a really nice thought that though we become obsessed at this time of year with commercialism and materialism it is nice to know that once in the year the whole of the world can come together in the spirit of community, happiness and a sense of loving thy neighbour.

The spirit that comes with Chirstmas is unique but the spirit of Eurovision, as it is known, is also built on the same principles, its just expressed differently. But no matter what the occasion it shows we can strive for a more peaceful time in our lives. This is Christmas, and what it means to me.

Whether you've never visited this blog before, whether you visit everyday. Whether you're Irish, British, Russian, French or any other country, whether you're a celebrator of Christmas or just someone who likes the time off, whether you like the winner of ESC or not, I wish you, your family and your friends the very best this Christmas. I also hope you will stick with me until the end of our Eurovision year, when around midnight on May 18th we will know the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2013. Until then, let us pause to think of the important time of year, relax and embrace the spirit of  Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tranche One Has Arrived

I think its definitely a strange year to have no less than six Eurovision songs already selected and its not even Christmas. Over the last four days three more songs have been picked. To summarise:

Albania have chosen to send Adrian Lulgjuraj and Bledar Sejko, with the song Identitet. This is a rather odd choice from Albania in my opinion, I was expecting something that was a bit closer to Rona's song last year. While that would have been a difficult song to spot I really didn't expect Albania to go with such a rockish song. You can listen to the song here.

Lithuania have decided that Andrius Pojavis will represent them in Malmo with the song Something. There was going to be nothing formulaic from Lithuania this year after last year, still this song fails to impress me, thought with a little work it could improve greatly. You can see the national final performance here.

Ukraine have decided the runner up from last years contest will represent them in Malmo. Zlata Ognevich will represent them in Malmo with the song Gravity. It sounds like it was pulled straight from the Lion King, not that I view this as a bad thing. Certainly one of the best songs selected so far. Very much looking forward to seeing this one on the Eurovision stage. You can see the national final performance here.

Overall I am not overly impressed by the first tranche of songs which have arrived, however they are generally from countries who I am rarely a huge fan of. The remaining songs, in case you missed them are:

Belarus - Alyona Lanaskaya - Rhythm of Love
Belgium - Roberto Bellarosa - Love Kills
Switzerland - The Band that won't perform under the name The Salvation Army - You and Me

If anyone has written a post that attempts to explain why so many songs have been picked before Christmas, please let me know, I'd be most interested to reading it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Disappointedly Sitting On The Fence

For those who have not yet looked at what is in the news in Eurovision land you may not be surprised to hear that there will be only 39 countries in this years Eurovision Song Contest, as the trends were suggesting, there are no surprises on the list, only the absence of four countries. According to Jon Ola Sand, three out of the four have left due to financial reasons. And then there is Turkey.

Also in the news was the changes to the rehearsals schedule. In future we are looking at closed rehearsals for the first round and open rehearsals for the second round of rehearsals. I have no problem with this. Countries arrive at Eurovision and generally the amount of rehearsals done by countries before Eurovision varies a lot, depending on the broadcaster or artist. It makes a lot of sense not to let everyone be able to see the first couple of rehearsals. Those of you who follow the rehearsals may have noticed that in each of the last three years the eventual winners were slated by the press for their first rehearsals. As long as some level of footage is released from the first rehearsals I really could not care.

In addition the other noticeable change is that rehearsals will begin the 8 rather than 9 days before the first semi-final. However in reality this is just one nights accommodation savings, and really the higher prices for accommodation occur during the week of the contest. Looking at a four star hotel in Malmo this will represent an average saving of €160 per delegate. Based on the Irish figures obtained through the freedom of information act, this would represents a saving of about 1.5% for Ireland [excluding the participation fee]. Once again I am drawn to mention a Big 5 country would make a saving of 7.75% if they had to arrive as early as some of the semi-finalists. [Assuming the same size delegation as Ireland].

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

News Flash: So Much News, So Little Time!

We're at that stage of the Eurovision year where there are announcements left, right and center and it is near impossible to keep up especially when you have exams this week (poor me). Anyhow here's an overview of the news of late:

  • Spain have announced that El Sueno de Morfeo will represent them at Eurovision. They are a pop/rock band with some Celtic influences. Personally I am excited by them at look forward to seeing what they have to offer in the National Final.
  • Heilsarmee selected to represent Switzerland in this years Eurovision Song Contest, and the EBU looked to be having a little bit of a discussion about the whole Salvation Army thing they have going on. Anyway they have committed to work for a solution so that should not have a huge impact on the overall contest though it was exploited a bit during the slow news days that were there earlier this week.
  • Germany have announced eleven of the twelve names participating in their national final including Cascada who I am very interested in, particularly as she should have a good chance and it certainly it a big name in the contest
  • Anyhow Malta have published their 24 songs for their national final, so far I have not heard all of the songs but I am impressed by Deborah C - I have a soft spot for her but there will be reviews in due course. 
  • Over in Israel they have changed the selection process making it larger, one of the few countries to enlarge their national final this year.  I haven't ever paid much attention to K'dam so I don't really expect to do so this, but you never know.
  • So that's all for now Lithuania hold their national final tomorrow night, so hopefully I'll be on Twitter watching it with you, and if I'm not there's always the first proper endurance contest of the year - Albania on Saturday evening.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Belgians Are Tone Deaf and The Swiss Make Bad Choices

We now have two more songs for Eurovision 2013 as Switzerland and Belgium selected their songs over the weekend which made me feel like we were almost in March [it's a rather bizarre idea to hold a national final at 10:30 CET in the morning too I might add.

Belgium have decided to send Roberto to Malmo with the song Love Kills, which was a very interesting choice given the fact that the song was dull [it's amazing people remembered it two hours later] however Roberto's vocals were poor at the start of the song and turned into a complete train wreck towards the finish.
Switzerland have also chosen to send Heilsarmee to Eurovision 2013. While I respect it as a reasonable song it just doesn't click with me, however I would say that there was nothing in the Swiss national final that really got me feeling that I wanted one of them to go to Eurovision
So there you have it, two more entries for Eurovision. I wonder what will befall us next.

In other news Tone Damli has a new song I really think is excellent. The song is called Smash and really it is a fairly normal chart song. However if her Melodifestivalen entry is as good she could certainly make Andra Chansen - my thanks to Swedish Stereo for pointing it out.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Two Withdrawals In One Day

The news of the withdrawal of Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina in one day is genuinely shocking news. Bosnia's decision appears to be due to financial reasons, however Turkey's decision is in light of recent rule changes in the contest such as the 50:50 voting and the big 5 rule. This means that we are currently looking at a contest of 40 or less countries (current projection is 39, assuming only Armenia returns), which is concerning.

Given that at least two of the four of the countries who have withdrawn have withdrawn due to financial costs of the contest it will be interesting to see if the changes that will be introduced by the EBU this year will actually allow for a reduction in the participation fees for countries who cannot afford to pay.

Though there has been some discussion about the costs of coming to Eurovision for two weeks and the price of that particularly in an expensive country like Sweden, it still is a problem. I would argue that more should be done to assist helping with the expense of the contest. While some have discussed shortening the rehearsal times you still are probably looking at a ten to twelve day contest which would represent a 14%-25% cut in the costs of accommodation, which is probably one of the biggest costs that are part of the contest outside the participation fee. Given that we are also looking greater numbers of performers on stage in the future (i.e. changing from a max of 6 to a max of 8) this is likely to off set any gains on the accommodation expense.

However I would argue that the EBU should seek to minimize costs through simple things such as hiring out whole hotels for competitors, rather than leaving individual countries to find their own accommodation. How costs to individual delegations can be minimised by using a certain city, particularly for countries that are large enough to have competition for the contest, should be taken into account when selecting a host city.

I understand that my inner accountant has probably had to much say in this piece but there you have it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Switzerland Decides!

Normally the first country to decide Switzerland is this year the second country to decide. However December 15th is a day with a national final that I continue to look forward. So what has Switzerland in store for us this year?

Ally - Catch Me
This song has an all to familiar opening but then opens up into a jazz infused pop song that is pleasant to listen to but offers very little else. Sounds like Shania Twain but without an oophhh. Grade: D

Chiara Dubey - Bella Sera
Chiara returns to this years contest after putting up a very good show last year. The song is very gentle but is still able to hold my attention. In ways it sort of reminds of the old classical song that we used to her. The song certainly is very introverted and acoustic though it does develop through more instruments. Though I like it I'm not sure it has the punch to compete at national final level. Grade: B

Carrousel - J'avais Rendez-Vous
I'm not sure what to make of this song. At the start it reminds me of the French entry in 2007 but it does develop into something more serious. Still the song is a little repetitive and doesn't hold my attention for long enough. I was never a fan of this French influenced pop-y songs, so it is not surprising this is not over interesting for me. Grade: C

Anthony Bighead - Do The Monkey
So much potential, but nothing really done about it. This is ok but I've heard so many more impressive songs online - Whoppa Gangnam Style. Grade: E

Heilsarmee - You and Me
What is this? It starts out with a sort of rock opening but then doesn't really fulfill its promises. Repetitive and boring, *yawns* Grade: E-

Nill Klemm - On My Way
Nice song but it could develop a bit more, but its upbeat and optimistic and definitively a grower. There's a lot of different shades of music in this but it is a nice song, however as I always say, nice never won anything.
Grade: D+

Melissa - The Point of No Return
It's about time that we got the party started. This is a good song. Ok, it might not high quality its still a bit of a stoomper and could do well but this will be a tempting song to shout it - we shall see but it is a definite contender. Personally I like it up to a point. Grade: C+

Nicolas Fraissinet - Leve Toi
The opening of this song has a couple of Coldplay overtones, but it develops into a rather interesting combination of a variety of songs that Switzerland has sent to the contest since 2008, it particularly reminds me of The Highest Heights and Era Stupendo. This may be a contender simply because of this. It has a good punch in the last chorus but it could go a bit further. Grade: C-

Jesse Ritch - Forever and A Day
Another X-Factor sounding reject. See review some of the average comments above this post. Grade: D

So it looks like I'll be supporting Chiara Dubey on Saturday night....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Loving The Credibility Of It All

So Belarus have decided after the failure to have a proper national final last year to send Alyona Lanskaya this year. That was lucky for her. She really did very well in the national final. Especially the way she won both the televote and juries by a huge margin. Wasn't that wonderful? Surely you couldn't be in the least bit suspicious after all that?

Anyhow this is what they have chosen and possibly will be the Belorussian entry at Eurovision 2012.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

First Review of The Year!

So with Junior behind us, we now can begin to look forward to another season of National Finals. This year surely sees the earliest start to the contest in memory (if you can think of an earlier one please let me know) and also this year sees many countries opting to hold their national finals in December whereas up until now we'd be lucky to get two. Though some complain it is nice that we can enjoy national final season rather than the rushed end to it we always seem to have in March. Anyway what are Belarus up to?

Max Lorens - The latino sound in this song reminds me of some of the songs we saw around the earlier half of the noughties. However I would say that generally speaking the song fails to deliver substantially as it cannot seem to figure out if it is a ballad or an uptempo song. Grade: D

Alena Lasnkaya - Well every national final has one of these. A pop song that just has spent to long in the studio and has far to many gimmicks in it. However I like the general raw feeling of the song. The song develops a nice beat but its a little strange. The song also doesn't seem to reach a climax which means it just doesn't seem to hang well together. Grade: D+

Alexy Gross - Seriously is early 00's pop the theme of this national final or something. This song is fine. It starts as a sophisticated Eastern ballad with western influences and then BOOM! Westlife B side. Grade: D-

Daria - Daria brings a song that I'm surprised that we don't see it in a Swiss national final. It is a little amateur but I still have a soft spot and it certainly the best we have heard so far in this tranche of songs. This could be great fun on the night. Grade: C

Satsura - This sounds like it was one of the first songs to be rejected from Loreen's album. However it develops into a club song that does make for very nice listening. The verses are certainly lacking something but the violins in the background are nice but have I just listened to a bit to much Loreen? This is still going to challenge for the ticket to Malmo though. Grade: C 

Nutika Band - Is it a rock song? Is it a pop song? No its pop/rock. Then there's some rap in the background. However I really like the sounds of this one. It is getting me going at a quarter to eleven at night which is quite an achievement. This is probably a possible winner and it would be a credible song from Belarus if they can pull it off live. Grade: B-

Uzari - The whistle in the background of the song makes for a very dramatic opening. However the song develops into a relatively average song in the first verse and chorus. The arrangement is a good mix but there's just something in this song that is not making me love it. Grade: C-

Beaver Band - Here we go, time for things to get a little Finnish. The was a song in the Finnish national final Hullana Humpasta, by a band whose name a cannot remember but it certainly sounds like a carbon copy of the song except it is in English. It still is a bit of fun though. Grade: C

Yankey - Big dramatic and dull open. We've heard this song before, remember that song? You know the one with the good singer bit dull though. No? Well you'll hear it tomorrow night. Grade: D+

Vitaly Voronko - Time for a bit of electro-something with some other musical instrument thrown in. Nice but could do much better, I don't like his voice that much either.Grade: D+

Looks like I'm supporting Nutika Band so.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Congratulations Ukraine!

After a trilling night of Eurovision Ukraine has walked away with their first win at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

Ukraine certainly was a surprise victor having not really been talked about before the event. Ewan Spence over on ESCInsight deserves credit for noting that Ukraine were a contender just before the final.

Less Than One Hour To Junior Eurovision

Here we go again!

With less than one hour to go to the final of the Junior Eurovision Contest 2012, excitement is certainly building, even those who don't normally pay the slightest attention to JESC appear to be starting to having a peak at what is going on.

Tonight is definitely difficult to call, there's probably about six possible winners. JESC is generally more difficult to call than its larger adult version. This probably is more because we don't spend as much time discussing the contest and Eastern Europe has a majority of entries in the contest.  However it still looks like an enjoyable evening and voting should be exciting.

At the moment in my opinion, the main contenders to winner are Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Of these I think Russia has the best chance, though that's only a guess, Georgia could do anything though I don't think that it is as strong as Candy Music was. Azerbaijan did not sound brilliant last night, so it may not be in contention.

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