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EBJ’s top 10…artists I want to hear more of (2012 edition)

Just as the national final season is a great way of discovering new music, so too is Eurovision a great way of discovering new artists – artists that appeal to your taste.

For example, think back to 2006, when Lordi won the contest with an epic rock song about angels and lambs and stuff (hardcore!). Hard Rock Hallelujah is one of my all-time favourite winners, but I knew I wasn’t likely to be interested in what the band had produced before and after it. On the other hand, there was a Russian guy with a mullet named Dima Bilan, who I fell in love with (not physically…I did just mention that mullet, didn’t I? I mean musically) and so spent the next six years squealing girlishly every time his name was mentioned, especially in relation to the ESC.

My point is, this year’s contest was no different. I’ve come away with the intention of acquainting myself with a bunch of artists I’d never heard of six months ago. Now that I’ve got a bit of time to do that, I plan to. So here is my list of the performers who impressed me in Baku, at least enough to make me search for their albums on iTunes and consider giving them a listen.

NB – Obviously, I’ve excluded anyone I was familiar with prior to the 2012 season, so please don’t abuse me for leaving out Loreen or Željko or Anybody Else.

 

#1

Mandinga

Club de Mandinga (2012)

There are few things I love more than catchy, summery, ethnic pop music, and I hear that’s Mandinga’s specialty. I am slightly perturbed by the fact that the graphic of Elena on the cover of their latest album looks nothing like her, but as that has nothing to do with their music and my potential future enjoyment of it, I’ll push it aside. I wonder if you can hear the moonwalking bagpiper in any of the tracks (hear him moonwalking, that is, not bagpiping).

 

#2

Ivi Adamou

San Ena Oneiro (2011)

Ivi’s not the best live vocalist, but she sounds great in studio, and as her preferred genre fits in nicely with what I usually listen to (outside of Eurovision-land – when I’m inside, I listen to everything) I’m excited to rifle through her back catalogue. I did listen to one of her hits, Crashing Down, back when she was announced as Cyprus’ representative, and I gave that douze points.

 

#3

Pastora Soler

Una Mujer Como Yo (2011)

Quedate Conmigo was basically a three-minute showcase for Pastora’s uh-mazing voice, so I’m eager to see how she works with less epic material. This woman has been around for a while, so attempting to listen to everything she’s ever done could take me until Eurovision 2060, but I’ll give it a try.

 

#4

Ott Lepland

Laulan Ma Sind (2011)

I can’t deny that one of the best parts of Ott’s performance in Baku was him being there and me getting to stare at him because of that. But he is genuinely talented, something I managed to notice on those occasions when I tore my eyes away from his wonderful eyebrows. I love a bit of piano ballad-ness and I love listening to Estonian, so further exploring Ott’s repertoire should be disappointment-free.

 

#5

Compact Disco

II (2011)

These guys were doing electro-rock-pop way before Katy Perry tried it out, so whilst they may not look as good in latex leotards as she does, I’m guessing they’ve got the edge when it comes to the sound.

 

#6

Nina Zilli

L’amore è Femmina (2012)

Judging by her San Remo entry Per Sempre and her Eurovision song, I’m expecting a hybrid of classic chanteusery and retro sassiness from Nina. Italian really is one of the most musical languages, so my hopes are high.

 

#7

Can Bonomo

Meczup (2010)

Can’s latest album begs to be heard – the title translates as ‘lunatic’. Who wouldn’t want to investigate that further? It’s the kind of album title I’d expect from Rambo Amadeus, but in this case I’ll be listening voluntarily.

 

#8

Rona Nishliu

Suus (2012)

Apparently Rona’s genre of choice is experimental jazz, a departure from Suus and not my thing in the least. But I’ve got to see (or rather, hear) what else she can do with that ridiculous voice of hers. I’m beginning to think that her dreadlocks hold some sort of mystical powers that make her sing like nobody’s business. That would explain why she had to wrap one around her neck…

 

#9

Litesound

Going to Hollywood (2010)

I’m assuming that back in 2010, these guys hadn’t disco-fied their music to death. If so, their debut album should be worth a spin. If not, well, I could get used to wearing flares and leathers when I’m listening.

 

#10

Soluna Samay

Sing Out Loud (2012)

She may be one of those people who make me feel inadequate and talentless, but her adequateness and talent drew me to her at Eurovision (as did her hat-and-shoulderpads combo. I must visit a costume store and find me one of those). It will be a relief to answer that eternal question: what happens when a busker gets a record deal?

 

Which artists were your favourite discoveries this year?

Baku Reviews: Part 5 (Norway-Serbia)

Norway

Stay/ Tooji

Top 10 material: Yes

The good stuff: When your favourite song in a national final wins that national final against all the odds (well, several odds) you’re not going to complain. By ‘you’ and ‘your’, I of course mean ‘me’ and ‘my’, because that’s what happened to yours truly with Norsk MGP 2012. I absolutely adore Tooji and his song, and no amount of ‘Hello, Eric Saade 2.0!’ jibes from you lot will change that. Stay has it all – it’s current, it’s catchy (so very catchy…), it’s dance friendly, it’s ethnic, it’s just repetitive enough AND it has one of those brilliant breaks before the last chorus where we all get to pump our fists in the air and shout ‘yah!’  To top it all off, Tooji can sing (above Eric Saade-level), dance, and be good-looking all at the same time. Plus, in his spare time he’s a child protection consultant (AWW!). What more could a girl want? In a Eurovision act, I mean.

Everything else: As suggested by the above gush-fest, I have nothing bad to say about Norwaythis year. They are in the tough second semi, but they’ve got a decent draw and I think they’ll make the final.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – douze points!

 

Portugal

Vida Minha/ Filipa Sousa

Better than 2011: Yes

The good stuff: Another year, another drama-filled Portuguese ballad…only applies if we forget Homens da Luta ever existed (I’m sure many people would like to). The man responsible for Portugal’s 2008 entry, Senhora Do Mar – as well as a bunch of entries for other countries – Andrej Babić, is back with a song that actually reminds me of that one a bit. It’s not one of his best efforts, but it’s not bad. As mentioned, it’s more dramatic than an episode of Days of Our Lives, which opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities for staging (hopefully including interpretive dance and a dress with a massive skirt that Filipa can toss around like a bullfighter’s red rag. Oh, and a wind machine dialed up to Level Rip-Your-Hair-Out-By-The-Roots). Filipa herself is a very capable vocalist, so she should turn out a good performance.

Everything else: If I didn’t have the Senhora comparison to jog my memory, I would not be able to recall how the heck this song goes. For some reason, every time I listen to it I immediately forget the entire three minutes. There’s proof on the WWW that I am not the only one to have experienced this phenomenon, and that does not bode well for Portugal’s chances of success. Although, let’s face it, Portugal’s chances for success are never that high.  

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 5 points.

 

Romania

Zaleilah/ Mandinga

Top 10 material: Yes

The good stuff: After last year’s boring-after-three-listens entry Change, it gives me great pleasure to say that Romania is back to their Eurovision best. Mandinga is made up of a bunch of happy-go-lucky musical men and one super-hot, scantily clad frontwoman, so it’s like they’ve taken InCulto and Ani Lorak and smooshed them together to form an unstoppable act – and that’s before we even get to their song. Zaleilah is a part Spanish, part English bundle of summer-hit fun that should raise the roof on semi night. The construction workers who slaved away on the Crystal Hall for months won’t be too pleased about that, but everyone else will be when Romania sails through to the final.

Everything else: Again, there are uncertainties over lead singer Elena’s live vocal abilities. Apparently, at Eurovision in Concert this song was mimed (tut tut!) and I’m not sure, but I think the national final performance was too. Unfortunately, Zaleilah is not a song in which weak vocals can be disguised. If the leading lady isn’t up to scratch in that department, this could sound dreadful, army of backing singers or no army of backing singers. For now, I’m going to assume that she is so amazing live she didn’t want to make any of the other artists feel inferior pre-Eurovision, so she decided to lip-sync all the way down the road to Baku.

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – douze points!

 

Russia

Party for Everybody/ Buranovskiye Babushki

Better than 2011: No

The good stuff: It’s good that the grannies will be able to build themselves a church in their hometown as a result of their representing Russia. It’s also good that Engelbert Humperdinck now has ladies to flirt with at the after-parties who won’t think he’s a creepy old man (in fact, they’ll probably think he’s a dashing young whippet). It’s also, also good that we get to hear a new language at the contest in Udmurt.

Everything else: I’m sorry, but I just don’t get this song. No, it’s not because I desperately wanted Dima Bilan to win the Russian final (even though I did). I just don’t like it. It wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of a film about a murderous clown who rides around on a miniature bicycle and hacks innocent people to death with a knife he conceals in his giant shoe – and anything that fits that particular bill does not make for an enjoyable listen IMO. However, I’m not going to label it a loser, because being 100% mean to the grannies would be like slapping my own grandmother across the face.

Winner, loser or grower: Grower – 4 points.

 

San Marino

The Social Network Song/ Valentina Monetta

Top 10 material: No

The good stuff: Please don’t throw anything at your screen pretending it’s me when I say this…but I actually like this song. I’m not sure why, and I know it’s wrong, but I do – kind of like the enjoyment one gets from squeezing a particularly horrendous pimple. If I block out the horror that is the video clip and ignore the shocking lyrics, I find it listenable, and even – brace yourselves – catchy (I cannot use that word often enough). That’s the thing with Ralph Siegel, Germany’s ESC addict. Some of his songs are awesome (Reise Nach Jerusalem, for example) and some are dripping in cheese (Let’s Get Happy) but all of them, without fail, get stuck in your head to the max.

Everything else: When this song was called out on its blatant product placement and we knew it would undergo a rewrite, I hoped that rewrite would make it better. Unfortunately, replacing ‘Facebook’ with ‘social network’ did the impossible and made it worse. The lyrics are so cringe-worthy they make those from Switzerland’s 2004 semi-final loser Celebrate sound like prize-winning poetry. In addition, there’s that frightening video clip I mentioned earlier. If you haven’t seen it, don’t. It’s three nightmarish minutes of ill-fitting t-shirts and teeth and creepy old men who want to have cybersex, that you will never get back. Gross.

Winner, loser or grower: Because I can’t get past the lyrics, loser – 3 points.

 

Serbia

Nije Ljubav Stvar/ Željko Joksimović

Reminds me of: Paradise by Coldplay

The good stuff: The day ZJ was announced as Serbia’s 2012 representative is up there with the greatest in my life to date, no exaggeration. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration. Anyway, that’s not surprising to those who know my all-time favourite ESC entry is Lane Moje, closely followed by Lejla, which ZJ composed. His fans expected big things from him musically, but does Nije Ljubav Stvar deliver? In a word, OBVIOUSLY! This man can do no wrong in my eyes (save for getting together with Jovana Janković instead of me) and he’s taking another epic, ethnic Balkan ballad to the contest after four years away. I love how the song starts off so quietly before building into a final minute that knocks your socks off, even if you’re not wearing any. It’s got light and shade and ZJ written all over it.

Everything else: My only complaint is that I want it to go on for longer than the allowed three minutes. A song like this deserves at least five. Regardless, it should be a magical opener for the second semi final (as opposed to tragic-al, as it will be in semi 1).

Winner, loser or grower: Winner – douze points!  

 

NEXT TIME: I review Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine in the penultimate episode of the Baku Reviews!

 

Selection Season Day 12: The beginning of the end

Oui, we are getting closer and closer to having a full 42 (which may turn into 41, but more on that later…) with only Belgium, Azerbaijan and the UK still to choose/reveal their songs for Iris, Sabina and Engelbert. I’ve been very busy this week, and so today’s post is jam-packed with all I couldn’t cover as it happened. Better late than never, right?  

 

More songs, more reactions

The last seven days have continued the gap-filling for Baku in spectacular fashion, with nine more songs now part of the 2012 family – a family with more offspring than the Brady Bunch and the Octo-Mom combined.

Now, before you read my reactions and abuse me because I forgot to mention Sweden, I must tell you that I always feel the need to give Melodifestivalen a segment all of its own. It is, after all, almost as huge as Eurovision itself (technically huger if you consider the amount of shows/weeks/locations/wind machines involved). So you’ll have to wade through my verdicts on Bosnia, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania, San Marino AND Serbia’s entries to get to Sweden (if you don’t know what happened there a) where have you BEEN? Holidaying in an Amish caravan park? and b) here’s a clue: even a blindfolded Donny Montell would’ve seen it coming). Commence your wading.

 

Bosnia &  Herzegovina (Korake Ti Znam by MayaSar): When I was researching Maya, I listened to her Bosnian hit Nespretno. I was both surprised that she is already an established artist and not just the tartan keyboard lady from Dino Merlin’s performance in Düsseldorf, and taken with how interesting the song was. Interesting is again how I would describe Korake Ti Znam, and not in a bad way. It’s a song that makes you pay attention to figure out where it’s going. I don’t know quite where that is myself, but I know I enjoy the journey. If Maya sounds as good live and solo as she does in studio, hers will be three minutes to look forward to.

Greece (Aphrodisiac by Eleftheria Eleftheriou): With Cyprus in the same semi final, I wonder if Ivi and Eleftheria will cancel each other out (I also wonder why someone would name their daughter ‘Eleftheria’ when their surname was ‘Eleftheriou’, but that’s another matter). With these two countries you’ve got two young and pretty girls singing catchy dance-pop, and though Aphrodisiac has the ethno-pop thing going on, the sameness is present. Will it lead to the downfall of one or both? I personally like Greece’s song better, and I think if only one were to qualify, it would be Greece because it always is. Still, Cyprus does have another strong entry that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked, so hopefully there’s a chance for both to go forward.   

Moldova (Lăutar by Pasha Parfeny): This reminds me so much of one of my favourites of Year Oslo – Ovo Je Balkan from Serbia. Consequently I’m loving it. It’s one of those songs verging on the novelty (based mainly on the NF performance) so it has that element of fun, but it’s not a joke of an entry. I’m not easily impressed, but I’m easily pleased, and anything that’s catchy AND ethnic will get my vote. Not literally, of course. Sadly, that is impossible…sob.

Milan Stankovic - Lego hair = Pasha Parfeny?

Montenegro (Euro Neuro by Rambo Amadeus): This was everything I expected and more, and that’s all I can say. Apart from WHY, Montenegro, WHY?

Portugal (Vida Minha by Filipa Sousa): The fact that I listened to this for the second time about five minutes ago and I can’t remember how it goes is not a good sign. I do remember liking it a little more this time, but I could still take it or leave it, which surprises me since the song was written by Andrej Babić, a Croatian who has written five ESC entries since 2003, all of which I am a fan of.

Romania (Zaleilah by Mandinga): Now this is what I’m talking about – Romania doing catchy, ethnic pop and doing it so well. It’s everything I want in a song really, and it should get the Crystal Hall audience going. I’m not expecting the Zaleilah to become the Macarena of the 2010s, but I’d shake my thing to it if it came on at a party, for sure.

San Marino (Facebook Uh, Oh, Oh  by Valentina Monetta): Uh oh indeed. German Ralph Siegel is responsible for some Eurovision brilliance, but this is not an example of that. I do think that if its subject matter was anything, and I mean anything, else, it would be a nice, poppy if not groundbreaking number. But as it stands, Mark Zuckerberg is soon to be mentioned on the ESC stage for the first time. That is if disqualification isn’t on the cards, as many fans are hoping it is, in which case will San Marino be able to come up with an alternative, or will it be bye, bye, Italy Junior? The next few days will tell.

And to think, this photo is the least scary thing about this year's Sammarinese entry...

Serbia (Nije Ljubav Stvar by Željko Joksimović): Since the split of Serbia and Montenegro, Serbia has flourished in Eurovision whilst Montenegro has floundered. That is not about to change in 2012. Željko’s entry was the most anticipated, and so had a lot to live up to. For me, it has well and truly succeeded in that mission. I love the instrumental start, the way it builds, ZJ’s always-reliable vocals, and the epic second half. I love it all!

 

A brief mention of Melodifestivalen

I mean, I want to go on and on about it, but I want you guys to stay awake more. Speaking of staying awake, I managed to do so a week ago as I watched the live stream of the MF final at 3am on Sunday morning. I use the word ‘stream’ very loosely in this context, considering that mine was pausing every ten seconds before catching up with itself (sometimes it’s so hard living in Australia and having a dodgy Internet connection). But all the pixilation was worth the thrill of seeing my favourite final live for the first time. The show was amazing, from Eric Saade’s all-dancing, semi-miming opener, to Sarah Dawn Finer’s hilarious sketch in which she put on such a convincing British accent I did not realise it was her, to Helena Paparizou’s de-schlagered rendition of Popular, the voting, and everything in between.

The real winner of the night was of course Loreen, whose surprise when the final points put her on top was so genuine it made me love her even more. She should have been in the final last year, so I reckon her predictable but deserved win with Euphoria was fated. The song is dance gold (and from the buzz, could be ESC gold also), but the pared-back staging and perfect vocals are what really make the entry special – at least, they will if they are carried through to Baku, which I think is likely. Loreen’s sitting pretty on top of both the digital and physical charts in Sweden right now, but can she get that high at the big show? Stockholm 2013 does have a ring to it.

 

Sweden's entry for 2012: Wind Machine 34D001F featuring Loreen

PS – I have to mention my beloved Danny Saucedo, who was forced to look happy and applaud as he was pipped into second place for the second year running. I wonder if SVT will make him announce the Swedish votes wearing a Loreen t-shirt just to keep things consistent. Poor, poor Danny. Come back next year with an unbeatable song, please!

PPS – If you want to relive Melodifestivalen (and who wouldn’t) the official CD is available online now. I recommend the Scandipop Facebook store for fast shipping and good prices. There you can also pre-order the DVD, set for release on the 30th, something I was quick to do being desperate to see the show sans stoppages.

 

Forever no more

First, it was ‘We don’t know about Per Sempre’. Then it was ‘Si, si, that’s the one!’. Now, in what we hope is a final decision but understandably may not be, Italy have announced that Nina Zilli will be singing L’amore é Femmina instead of her San Remo Song Festival entry at Eurovision. And just when I was really getting into it!

I do have to say, though, the change of mind is not an entirely horrendous change to have made. L’amore… is very catchy (and dare I say, swinging) and a lot more instant than Per Sempre, so it may have a better chance in the final; although I don’t think many of us saw Raphael Gualazzi’s song making waves last year, and lo and behold, it came second. Perhaps Nina will fail miserably in Baku while, in a parallel universe, Per Sempre Nina will flourish.

Perhaps I should save my predicting for later?

 

Is that all there is?

No, but there’s not a whole lot more. As mentioned way back in my intro, there are just three countries left who are yet to finalise their entries. Belgium and the UK are pretty set on what they’re doing, but the hosts are not – there’s a rumour of a song tonight and a video Monday, among others. Considering the deadline, this is what should be happening:

Belgium– Saturday the 17th

Azerbaijan (song announcement tonight)/ UK– Monday the 19th

Whether that happens or not, we are coming to the end of Selection Season for another year. I’ve got to say that I’ve really enjoyed it, in all its craziness.

 

But don’t worry – if, by chance, you like reading EBJ, I’m not going anywhere. In the few months left before Baku, I’ll be taking a look at the best of the 2012 national final runner-ups, reviewing all 42 (or 41) entries and bringing you a month of Düsseldorf in Rewind to recapture the magic of the 56th contest before we arrive at the 57th. Oh, and there is the all-important prediction special, of course. It’s going to be a hectic few months, but I’m always willing to push aside study for blog’s sake!

 

Jaz x