Posts tagged “Denmark

ESC 2016 Reviews: Second Semi-Final, Part Two

Hello Dear Readers!

Nine more semi-finalists to review! Once again, not as strong as the First Semi-Final, but definitely a lot of good songs. And definitely some interesting ones.

Second Semi-Final, Second Half

 

Country

Performing Artist

Song

Selection*

Albanian flag country

 Albania

Eneda Tarifa

Fairytale

Televised

Thoughts:

I don’t understand why they decided to translate this song into English. The original Albanian was just fine – sure, the song’s composition needed a bit of retooling, but there was no need to change languages – especially since language does not seem to have much bearing on Albania’s final placing. I, personally, find this to be one of the more compelling, midtempo power ballads thus far, but I’m not sure how the song will translate to the ESC stage.
Belgian Flag Country

 Belgium

Laura Tesoro

What’s the Pressure

Televised

Thoughts:

So, apparently Tesoro is 19, even though she looks like she’s 12 and this sounds like something from JESC. Don’t get me wrong, I really dig the dynamite disco beat to this track. However, I’m not sure if the song has a mature enough sound to it; the lyrics are rather mundane. Nevertheless, the song is funky and fun and uplifting without being trite. It will be interesting to see Belgium send another dance heavy performance to ESC.
Bulgarian Flag Country

 Bulgaria

Poli Genova

If Love Was a Crime

Internal

Thoughts:

An interesting song. definitely better than Na Inat. Bulgaira, and Genova herself, are fresh off hosting the JESC and decided to take some of that production value and apply it here. This is the most mainstream song that I have ever heard Bulgaria present. In this weakened semi-final, I definitely think it will move through to the Grand Final – for only the second time in Bulgaria’s history!
Danish Flag Map

 Denmark

Lighthouse X

Soldiers of Love

Televised

Thoughts:

My initial thoughts on this song can be found in the DMGP 2016. Essentially, I like it a lot but thought that the Danes had stronger options available to them. This opinion remains unchanged after hearing it within the context of the Second Semi-Final. While each of the last two times the Contest was in Sweden, Denmark finished victorious, that streak will end this year. I am just hoping that this song qualifies for the Final.
Georgian Flag Map

 Georgia

Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz

Midnight Gold

Televised

Thoughts:

Definitely a song that stands out! I’m shocked that this could win a national selection show; though, Georgia has shown that it is most definitely a land of experimental and eccentric artists, young and old. However, this might be too out there for the mainstream audience of the adult ESC. I am predicting this to languish behind in the semi-finals.
Norwegian Flag Map

 Norway

Agnete

Icebreaker

Televised

Thoughts:

“I’ll be your icebreaker/When you’re stuck in frozen water.” Really? Is this best that could be done? Also, anyone else think that the transition into the chorus is kind of awkward, like, the song stops and skips a bit, the first time, I thought something was wrong with my video feed. With that said, like Serbia, this song has that “sound” of a winner. And, we know that Norway’s first victory came on Swedish soil — in fact, Norway tends to do well in Sweden.
Romanian Flag Map

 Romania

Ovidiu Anton

Moment of Silence

Televised

Thoughts:

Definitely an 80s rock opera inspired song; Queen immediately came to mind while listening to this song. I enjoyed it, but overall find it so-so. However, we know that Romania tends to do well as does 80s rock (generally), so I would bet for this song to move through to the Final.
Slovene Flag Map

 Slovenia

ManuElla

Blue and Red

Televised

Thoughts:

Another country song, a little poppier than the Netherlands, but definitely Nashville-inspired. I’m not quite sure what this song is about, though. Is she saying that she’s moved on and is happy that her ex is now blue (meaning sad)? Or is she saying that they’ve gone through ups and downs and now colors no longer matter because they have love and each other? The song is happy, but it could really go either way. Much like this entry’s odds at qualifying for the Final.
Ukrainian Flag Map

 Ukraine

Jamala

1944

Televised

Thoughts:

Hmmm…I’m surprised that they allowed this song to compete without a lyrics change. Officially, the song is about the forced migration of Crimeans to Central Asia by the USSR; the Crimean Tatar language portions are direct quotations from Jamala’s grandmother who lived through this event. However, it would be naïve to think that this song lacks a sharp, current context. It ends with her saying “Because you took away my peace/I couldn’t spend my youth there/I couldn’t enjoy my motherland.” This is clearly referencing Russia in Crimea, past and present. The fact that the EBU allowed it to stand as is shows Western Europe’s sympathy for the situation in Ukraine. This is my favorite song thus far between both semi-finals. I also think it well deserves a place in the Top Ten and that it will earn its spot there, as well.

*There are three basic ways for a song to be chosen. Internal Selection which is when the broadcaster within a country chooses both the performing artist and the song completely on their own without help from a professional jury or the public. Televised Selection which is the exact opposite, both the performing artist and the song are selected through a competition (or set of competitions) in which some combination of professional jurists and the public vote on the winners. There are also Mixed Selections, in which either the performing artist or the song is selected internally and the other is selected through a televised process. The only example of that this year is Malta, which had a televised selection, but opted to change the song through an internal selection process after Ira Losco won.

So, who do I think will qualify from this semi-final? What are my favorite songs?

Predicted Qualifiers
(In alphabetical order)

My Top 10
(Starting with my most favorite)

Australia Ukraine
Belgium
Serbia
Bulgaria
Macedonia
Denmark Australia
Norway Belgium
Poland Denmark
Romania Norway
Serbia
Israel
Switzerland
Bulgaria
Ukraine Latvia

More importantly, who do I think, from the First Semi-Final, will be competing for the crown?

Serbia – A diva-driven song about getting over a relationship.Serbia Well performed, well written, and well composed. While I think this song will be limited depending on where it falls within the running order, it should most definitely be considered a stronger contender to win ESC and return the Contest to heart of the Balkan peninsula, probably either back to Belgrade or to Novi Sad.

NorwaySerbiaUkraine is the only song from the Second Semi-Final that I think has the ability to win (as I said, this is the weaker of the two). However, both Norway and Ukraine have really strong songs that I think will finish in the Top Ten.

**Of course, these are my initial predictions without doing any research into fan sites, internet comments, or betting odds. Stay tuned for future posts (including Saturday’s) with more nuanced predictions and, of course, the 2016 edition of Contender or Pretender.

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Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2016!

denmark_2016_poll-620x330Hello Dear Readers!

Welcome to my annual live notes for the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix! Ever since I studied in Denmark back in college (2007), I have considered it to be my second home country – and I always cheer for them in ESC. Those of you who have been following me for years know that my ESC coverage for the new year starts in earnest with my live notes from DMGP! As a reminder, live notes are my Denmarkrunning commentary; I write them as I watch the show for the first time. This year, I am fortunate enough to be able to watch the show live online (dr.dk) – which I always love doing; sharing the moment with all of Denmark!

What a great opening! First, we’re reminded that each of the last two times that Sweden hosted the Contest: Denmark has won. Perhaps 2016 will continue this pattern?

The hosts singing a rousing song about the glory of Danish music, their closeness with their neighbors to the north (Sweden), and the hope for a great show!

As a reminder, DMGP is determined from a mix of jury and televoting. The ten competing songs are all performed. We have a voting period. Then the top three songs according to a 50/50 combination of jury and televoting move through to the superfinal. These three songs are performed again. We then have another voting period. This year, the winner is determined soley by the votes of the public which are revealed in reverse-order. The public’s votes are distributed proportionately.

Our expert jury, who’s points account for one half of our final score – a songwriter from Satellite, president of the MGP fan club, Chanée (half of the duo from Denmark in 2010), the director from 2014’s Contest, and a music producer.

 

Song 1Rays of Sunlight performed by David Jay

This song is a lot of fun! The performance is great. Why the arrangement is a nice and the lyrics are swell – the song is just a bit too corny, for my taste. Maybe it will grow on me, but right now, I’m a bit lukewarm on it.

Song 2 Heart Shaped Hole performed by Simone

While this is not the song co-written by winning performer Emmelie de Forest (that is song 10), this song brings to mind Rainmaker and Hunter and Prey, two of de Forest’s post-Contest songs. Despite this, I think the song is really great! The oversized heart is also a nice touch – particularly as it raises her up a bit. I don’t quite understand the point of the dancers, as they’re barely onscreen. Very strong song!

Song 3Breakaway performed by Bracelet

Hoping that their dual Danish-Swedish heritage works to their advantage. What are they wearing?! It’s like they want to try to be loud and edgy, but they don’t take any real risks with it; overall, their look is just kind of weak. The song is rather repetitive, but not in a good way. While it may appeal to the hoards of preteen girls watching, I just don’t see this song having mass appeal.

Song 4Blue Horizon  performed by Sophia Nohr

I like this, but think that it tries too hard to be “different and unique” — this is what we would refer to a “hipster” song here in the States. It’s alright, I don’t think it will move through to the superfinal, but it’s not bad.

Song 5  – The Wrong Kind performed by Veronicas Illusion

It’s nice to have another uptempo song, but this isn’t very good. There’s a lot of flashing lights and sounds and dances. It’s just a complete mess. The song is only okay. I am not impressed and don’t anticipate this song being very popular tonight.

So, halfway through, I think songs 1 and 2 are so far the strongest; but  neither are all that stunning. Interestingly, we don’t really see the usual attempts of capturing last year’s magic of Heroes, A Million Voices, or Grande Amore. Perhaps the second half will present a few examples?

Song 6  – Soldiers of Love  performed by Lighthouse X

I don’t care for their voices; at least, not when they sing individually. Despite this, Soldiers for Love is, thus far, the most complete song we’ve seen. The performance and staging are modest, but in a good way. The song is catchy without being overly repetitive. The music is nice. It will just be a matter of whether the Danes can get past their aversion to military metaphors and vote for them.

Song 7  – Who Needs a Heart  performed by Kristel Lisberg

Again, I do not particularly like her voice. I like her outfit, but not those of her backing singers. Umm….this song is okay. It would definitely need to some beefing up and reworking if it somehow wins tonight. But since I do not see that as a major possibility, I don’t think that it will be an issue.

Song 8  – Break It Good  performed by Jessica

Hmm, a reggae-inspired song. I cannot say that I was expecting something like this. But I cannot imagine this song doing well either tonight in DMGP or on the stage in Stockholm. Also, what the heck is she wearing?

Song 9  – To Stjerner performed by Muri & Mario

Our one and only Danish language song tonight. It really is a shame the DR does not promote more Danish language stuff — it’s been almost twenty years since we’ve last heard Danish on the ESC stage. I like the sound of the song; it’s very different and stands out from the crowd. The acrobat is also a nice touch. Once again, the singer’s voice needs some work, in my opinion. But I like the song and think that it could do well in Sweden, but not so much here.

Song 10  – Never Alone performed by Anja Nissen

This is the song co-written by Emmelie de Forest; it has a bit of controversy, because de Forest had performed it at a few, smaller concerts a few years ago. After consulting with the EBU, it was determined that those public performances were not big enough to warrant eliminating the song. Oh no, it sounds like she’s sick or something, her voice just sounds off. As the winner of The Voice Australia, I was imagining a stronger performance. It’s a shame, because this sounds like a song that has a real  shot of, not only winning tonight, but challenging for the crown in Stockholm. Hopefully, the Danish public and the jury look past her rough start and vote for this song!

 

So, my thoughts on our ten songs from tonight.

My Top Five

  1. Song 6 – Soldiers of Love performed by Lighthouse X
  1. Song 2 – Heart Shaped Hole performed by Simone
  1. Song 10 – Never Alone performed by Anja Nissen
  1. Song 9 – To Stjerner performed by Muri & Mario
  1. Song 1 – Rays of Sunlight performed by David Jay

Who I think will make it to the Superfinal

  1. Song 10 – Never Alone performed by Anja Nissen
  1. Song 6 – Soldiers of Love performed by Lighthouse X
  1. Song 2 – Heart Shaped Hole performed by Simone

I know what you’re thinking, “he just chose his top three songs to move through to the superfinal. That’s not very smart.” And you’re both wrong and right. I chose the three songs that I think have the best shot of moving through to the Superfinal; they just so happened to be my favorite three from the night. You’re right in that I do not have a very good history with picking successful entries at DMGP. But hey – no one’s perfect!

Our annual choir of kids.  Yadda yadda yadda. Small talk with hosts and guests. Yadda yadda yaddda.

Okay, and our three qualifiers are….

  1. Song 2 – Heart Shaped Hole performed by Simone
  1. Song 6 – Soldiers of Love performed by Lighthouse X
  1. Song 10 – Never Alone performed by Anja Nissen

 

Buahahaha! I was 3 for 3, 100% correct! That’s exciting! Now another sketch (which, by the way, these sketches are funny, to imagine that her as this tough-as-nails, Godfather-type character, is pretty cool).

Okay, and onwards to the Superfinal. This is for all the marbles. The songs need to be in full glory this time around in order to be crowned in victory.

Song 2  – Heart Shaped Hole  performed by Simone

Her voice is amazing, just as strong as the first time around. However, I don’t feel like this is any better than earlier tonight; it’s merely the same level of performance. She needs to give us more in the last third of the song. Here we go…building up to the final climax…and…meh. A very good job, no doubt, but will it be good enough to leave a massive impression and knock off the other two.

It’s about time we talk about Dansevise, one of my favorite ESC winners of all time! It’s such a haunting song, particularly the guitar rift, which is what we’re focusing on here in this video.

Song 6  – Soldiers of Love performed by Lighthouse X

They’re voices need to be stronger and clearer this time around. So far, so good. It’s good, but I just can’t keep thinking about the 3JS (Netherlands 2011) when I listen to this song. I really like this song, and think it could compete on the ESC stage, however, I just don’t think it has enough to beat either of the other two songs, even with this slightly better performance in the Superfinal.

Song 10  – Never Alone performed by Anja Nissen

So, I think this is hers to lose at this point (which is interesting, as Denmark is not known for choosing non-Danish performers, even when they have Danish heritage). You can see it in her eyes, she’s performing with this look of confidence, as if she’s already won. Listen to the crowd! That was a good performance. Again, her voice was not as strong as it could have been, but I think she gave a great performance.

After last year’s failure, Denmark is striking back with three very strong songs that all are worthy of bringing the trophy back to Denmark. I like Soldiers of Love a lot, but I just do not think that it has what it takes to outperform the other two songs in the voting. It’s not as captivating as the other two and the singers are less appealing to the general audience.  So, while I think that Heart Shaped Hole is the better song and the better-performed song, I have a feeling that Never Alone is going to easily win tonight. Which, honestly, might be the better, strategic choice for DR, as Nissen is Australian which unlocks loyalty voting from Australia, the UK, and Ireland. The song is also more uptempo and more uplifting; it’s catchy and the singer is pretty. We’ll see.

Okay, so now we’re talking about Swedish winners. Oh! A fun picture of Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden 2015) with a pile of beer. A short interview with C​​harlotte Perelli (Sweden 1999…and 2008). And now, a performance from Loreen (Sweden 2012), who’s as pretty as ever and singing a lovely version of the ever popular Euphoria.

Danish Flag MapFinal Resutls!

So, Heart Shaped Hole gets third place…and the winner is…Soldiers of Love! Of course it is. Right when I predicted that it would come in last. Honestly, I think Denmark would be well off with any of these three songs. This is my favorite song from tonight. It will be interesting to see how the song takes shape between now and when the final version is due in mid-March. As I say above, I think that this song has a very strong chance to do well at the ESC and I look forward to supporting the song in Stockholm!

 

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Hopes for the 2016 Contest

esc2016

Hello Dear Readers!

Well, we now have our breakdown of who is in which semi-final, we’re up to nine artists selected without a song, and five complete entries known! With more revealed just about every weekend, Eurovision season is in full swing! So, as we await the final song list and their final forms (due in mid-late March), let’s go over some hopes and dreams for this year’s Contest.

Design:

The theme for this year is “Come Together” and the logo is a IKEA style disco ball!

Eurovision_2016_Official_LogoI can’t take credit for that joke, a friend in a Facebook-based fan club made it first. But still, the design leaves much to be desired. As we know from previous years, the design can often give us ideas of the final stage design. In 2013, Malmö gave us a backdrop based on the wing patterns of maths and butterflies. Denmark gave us boxes that mimicked the geometric design of their crystal emblem. And Vienna recreated the bridge from its logo as the upper bound of the stage. Having gotten my fan ticket for “Standing Right” I know that the stage will be a bit of a peninsula, surrounded by fans on three sides. I wonder if they will have a circular screen or if the stage itself will be round, allowing increased standing area for fans and exposure for those in the seats. What I hope for, more than anything, is that we will not get an overabundance of lame puns and dirty jokes based upon the slogan. A boy can dream, I guess.

Hosts:

We know that the ever-popular Petra Mede and last year’s winning artist IMG_6290Måns Zelmerlöw will be our hosts for the Contest. While many love Mede, I think she is just okay. She is funny and capable, but I think she relies too heavily on gay jokes. As I have said before, ESC is for everyone, not just gay men. Sadly, I know it will be more of the same, especially since Zelmerlöw is trying to fight an image that he is homophobic (at one point in the past, he made a comment, while on a talk show that gets its guests drunk, that he thought allowing gay couple to adopt was not a good idea. He has since recanted this statement and has made many efforts to put it behind him). While I, myself, am a gay man and I know that a sizeable chunk of ESC fans in attendance are gay men, the majority of the audience is not. Pandering to the base is rarely, if ever, a good route to take. My hope from the hosts is that Petra Mede will not be wearing any of the hideous dresses she had on in 2013. Or, really, any hideous dresses in general.

Staging:

IMG_4703As I said in my recap of 2015’s Contest, I loved almost every production decision made by the host broadcaster this past year; it’s the closest to a production that I, myself would have designed that we have seen. I would love to see Sweden carry on the tradition of highlighting the history of the Contest and tying the past, present, and future together. So many great songs have graced the stage of the ESC; it’s a shame that most fans today do not know anything older than 2010. Focusing on the history would be great – especially since Sweden is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Carola’s win in 1991. The biggest thing I would like to see changed is the voting and interval act. A few years ago, a trend began where we had entertainment during the voting sequence as well as an interval act. I have no doubt that this has contributed to each of the past three Contests running way over time. My hope for the production is that we will go back to a tight 15 minutes for voting, where we get our two recaps and production clips. And that the interval act returns to being a succinct, yet entertaining, way for the host country to promote an artist/itself.

The Fan Experience:

Last year, this was the biggest issue in the way how Vienna hosted the Contest.Austria

  1. There were two security companies hired, one for outside the arena and one for inside the arena. In addition to the arena staff itself. None of these three entities talked to one another. Nor were they prepared for the madness and aggression of ESC fans.
  2. The security companies and the staff refused to listen to the experienced fans that offered suggestions for how to make things run smoothly for the standing areas. The Danes developed a good system that was fair and articulated (it took four days, but it still got developed). The outside security took five days before they even started paying much attention to the queue and did little to control things once the gate opened. Not only that, the indoor security crew targeted those of us who were not white, often holding us back unnecessarily and preventing us from progressing forward.
  3. Those with fan accreditation not only got to queue inside with snacks, but they were let into the standing area before the arena opened for everyone who was queuing outside. I understand that fan accreditation comes with perks, but this is totally unfair to those of us waiting in the cold (and rain) to enter the arena. Why not have a specific seating section reserved for accredited fans. If they would rather stand, than they need to queue like everybody else.

SwedenMy hope for the fan experience is that SVT builds upon the experiences of previous hosts and have an orderly, communicated plan of action for admitting those in the standing zone into the arena in a fair and safe way. Not only that, all security and ushering teams need to be in communication and on the same page with one another. Not only that, but SVT needs to communicate that ESC fans are on the same level of aggression and energy as any sports match or other major event. That, more than anything, seemed to be the issue in Vienna, the security was completely unprepared for the number and aggression of the ESC fans. The racial discrimination I and others faced was also a major problem, but there’s not much SVT can do about that other than diviersity training ahead of the event (which would be a great idea).

What are your hopes for this year’s Contest?

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Playlist of the Week: Eurovision for Balladeers!

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!

May this year bring you much love to light your lives, much hope to embolden your spirits, and laughter to brighten your days (and nights)!

This week, we turn our gaze to the most notorious of ESC genres: ballads! Historically, “ballads” were stories that were sung. People who sung these stories were called “troubadours” (much like the title of Dutch winner from 1969). Over time, the term “ballad” became more associated with the musical style than the lyrical content, particularly since most were stories love.

The music style is typified, generally, by a slow pace, a lack of musical complexity, and usually only one (or two) primary vocalist. Since the beginning, this has been the dominant musical genre of ESC entries, to the chagrin of some (who prefer more uptempo songs), but to the joy of many! This week, for the final Playlist of the Week, the focus is on ballads.

Once again, twenty songs from the Televoting Era (post 1998) of the Eurovision Song Contest. I curated this list to provide an array of ballads, some are the traditional story style, most are slow, heartfelt love songs. All are ballads. Enjoy!

View the playlist here: Eurovision for Balladeers

  1. Poland 2008PolandFor Life performed by Isis Gee

  2. Greece 2003 – Never Let You Go performed by Mando

  3. Estonia 2012 – Kuula performed by Ott Lepland

  4. Monaco 2005 – Tout de Moi performed by Lise Darly

  5. Italy 2011 – Madness of Love performed by Raphael Gualazzi

  6. Cyprus 2004 – Stronger Every Minute performed by Lisa Angel

  7. Hungary 2007 – Unsubstantial Blues performed by Magdi Rúzsa

    Monaco

  8. France 2001 – Je N’Ail Que Mon Âme performed by Natasha St-Pier

  9. Romania 2009 – Pe-O Margien De Lume performed by Nico & Vlad

  10. Spain 2012 – Quédate Conmigo (Stay with Me) performed by Pastora Soler

  11. Malta 2005 – Angel performed by Chiara

  12. Portugal 2009 – Todas as Ruas do Amor performed by Flor-De-Lis

  13. Azerbaijan 2015 – Hour of the Wolf performed by Elnur Huseynov

  14. Ireland 2010 – It’s for You performed by Niamh Kavanagh

    Spain

  15. United Kingdom 2002 – Come Back performed by Jessica Garlic

  16. Israel 2005 – Hasheket Shinish’ar performed by Shiri Maimon

  17. Germany 2004 – Can’t Wait Until Tonight performed by Max

  18. Sweden 2014 – Undo performed by Sanna Nielsen

  19. Bosnia & Herzegovina 2006 – Lejla performed by Hari Mata Hari

  20. Sweden 2006 – Invincible performed by Carola

    United Kingdom

Honorable Mention: MANY MANY SONGS!

United Kingdom 1998, Slovenia 1999, Denmark 2002, Azerbaijan 2011, Finland 2012

What are some of your favorite ballads from the Contest’s recent history? What about from the early years, when almost every song every year was a ballad? Is there a decade of ballad style that particularly speaks to you?