Wednesday, April 26, 2017

ESC 2017 REVIEW - PORTUGAL (02): SALVADOR SOBRAL - AMAR PELOS DOIS

Pictured is Portugal's antional flower lavender

Portugal has been in the Eurovision since 1964 and their best placing todate is 6th. They have long ago surpassed Finland as the worst, and they must have frustrated themselves as they decided to skip last year's edition and think it allover for a year. This year Festival da Canção was back and fans were expecting some modern eurotunes maybe as there was even a freedom of language. RTP again chose the composers and they chose the artists and submitted whatever they felt suitable. The result? At first glance nothing had changed: unfitting songs to Eurovision, most of them in Portuguese and having no chance at all impress the Europeans. All was forgotten when Salvador Sobral took the stage with a song his sister Luisa had written, Amar pelos dois...

Salvador Sobral (27) came to public light when participating in the Idols 2009, where he placed 7th. Also his sister took part earlier and placed third btw. Salvador has lived in the United States and Spain. He released his debut album last year and has released a couple of singles before. A lot has been talked and gossiped about his health condition and the fact is he will skip the technical rehearsals in Kyiv, and will arrive just in time for the dress rehearsals. After the Portuguese semifinal he was rushed to the hospital for hernia operations, and the rumours say he's suffering of a severe heart condition or needing a new heart asap. But nothing is confirmed and it's all about his song instead. That's very admirable as they could milk the pity here if they wanted to....

I have always liked the Portuguese music and their take on Eurovision, or rather the national final. Real songs and real Portuguese music not trying to please the Eurovision taste. I loved Amar pelos dois as soon as I got over Salvador's somewhat weird performance - but thinking about it now, having suffered hernia myself I can't even imagine how he managed to perform at all! The song is timeless. In a good way. It could have won Eurovision already in the 1950's or 1960's, and could win it in the 2010's more than in the 1990's I think. If there wasn't Italian gorilla involved this year this would be clearly my favorite to win it and I wish more than anything that Portugal would finally win it. But then as I said, there's the gorilla is there to mess things up..... And is it coincidence my top-3 are all non-English songs?  Can we have a joint winner? 10/10





Tuesday, April 25, 2017

ESC 2017 REVIEW - HUNGARY (03): JOCI PÁPAI - ORIGO


Pictured is Hungary's national flower tulip


Hungary continued with the highly succesful A Dal concept for the 6th time and once again managed to gather a very high class and variable lot of artists and songs. This year the process was made even more professional as all the artists had to have already a recording contract and a label, at least one album alreayd released or their music being played on Hungarian radio and television. 30 entries made the cut and through three heats and two semifinal we were down to eight finalists. Joci Pápai won the final round with televotes, having qualified on each step purely thanks to juries. His Origo is written by himself.

József "Joci" Pápai (35) is Hungarian singer, rapper and guitarist of Romani descent, and for the first time Hungary will bring their gipsy minority into spotlight in Eurovision, a fact that these times and days isn't so obvious. Joci interested in music at young age thanks to his brother and came to fame already 2005 in the reality series Megasztár, even if he didn't get that far in the show. The year after he was featured in rapper Majka's hit single, and the collaboration continued over the years with several singles and Joci was featured also in other collaboration with Caramel. 

Now this was love at first sight. Or hearing. I'm a sucker for some ethnic vibes and here they are perfect. This in exciting, interesting yet modern and catchy. I don't understand a word but it doesn't matter as I still believe every word and feel the pain. He's voice is hypnotic, the beat is fresh and even the rapping fits in and sounds great and not at all out of place or annoying. Love it. Every second of it. So much that this is the only song I was listening a lot already way before the Hungarian final but honestly I never thought it would win and that it would only remain my own national final favorite. How wrong I was!  10/10

Monday, April 24, 2017

ITALY: 100 MILLION TIMES OCCIDENTALI'S KARMA

The counter keeps going wild and this afternoon passed the 100 million mark. 
Now it's already way past it: 100.236.343 when writing this.... But that's not all. 
The live video from Sanremo festival is at 6.585.481 and the Eurovision version video 978.186. That's altogether
107.800.010
Alè! Namaste!


ESC 2017 REVIEW - MONTENEGRO (04): SLAVKO - SPACE

Pictured is the national flower of Motenegro, mimosa

Montenegro is seeking for their third final place this year with something else. They internally chose Slavko Kalezić and his outrageous character and song Space, written by  Adis Eminić, Iva Boršić and Momčilo Zeković. This seems to be the most divisive entry of the year, but at least it won't go unnoticed....

Slavko Kalezić (31) is actor, singer and songwriter. He has studied in the Academy of Perfmorning arts and is part of the Montenegrin national theatre. He has appered both on stage and in film in various productions. His singing career started in 2011, and two years later he tried his luck in X Factor Adria. He made it all the way to the judge's house mentored by Eurovision veteran Željko Joksimović assisted by another veteran Toni Cetinski. This didn't stop him and the year after he released his debut album. A few singles has followed and now he's here. Clearly he has created a character in true Lordi/Verka/Silvia Night style....

Where to start? The first reaction to this was giggles. And then wanting to hear and watch the video again. And again. The song itself is incredibly catchy and horny. As in having those horns in the arrangements that I love. Divine and retro. The very broken English in the first line might be intentional just to annoy and displace us as it disappears once the chorus kicks in. The video is wonderfully over the top and this whole affair is one big Eurovision cliché, in a good way. But... after seeing him live in various promo events (he has been literally everywhere!) the performance has been even a bit too over the top. I hope he keeps it under control in Kyiv and gives us an amazing staging and a bit more seriousness in the performance, less outrageous is more, and we might have a surprise in our hands. I must say I'm rather puzzled how come this is doing so bad in various fan polls, I thought they'd love it. Oh hang on, ah yes.... this is not the Swedish entry. If it was it'd be on top battling it out with Italy. Now it's just some random Montenegro.... Sad. 10/10




Sunday, April 23, 2017

EUROVISION COMPETITION GIVEAWAY: WIN SAN MARINO'S PROMO SINGLE!

Now it's your chance to win San Marino's promo single Spirit of the night by Valentina Monetta and Jimmie Wilson. The single includes Radio version, ESC version and Club version + video, photos, inks and artists and songwriters biographies, and yrics of the entry.

To win your copy you simply has to answer the following easy questions and send the answers and contact details by commenting this post below (your answers won't be visible to others) by April 30, and like and follow my Facebook and follow my Twitter. The winners will be notified by email.

1. What is the Sammarinese cake Tre Monti made of?
A - sponge
B- wafer
C- ricotta

2. What color are the Sammarinese zebra crossings?
A – red and yellow
B – white and yellow
C – white and blue

3, What is the motto of San Marino?
A - Libertas
B - Humanity
C - Aeternum

4. What is San Marino famous for?
A - footballers
B – race drivers
C – crossbow shooters

5. How many times has Valentina Monetta represented her country?
A - 3
B - 4
C - 5


ESC 2017 REVIEW - SAN MARINO (05): VALENTINA MONETTA & JIMMIE WILSON - SPIRIT OF THE NIGHT

Pictured is the national flower of San Marino, cyclamen


San Marino once again used the internal selection and after a long process the final decision was made just a couple of weeks before the headline with a phone call to the one and only Valentina Monetta. She will be joined on stage with American born, Germany based Jimmie Wilson for this black & white disco duet penned by Ralph Siegel with Jutta Staudenmayer and Steven Barnacle. This is La Monetta's 4th Euroviison, Ralph Siegel's 24th. Maybe next year they make Valentina's 5th making her the ONLY Eurovision artist with five participations, and Siegel's 25th?

Valentina Monetta (42) seems to be the oldest artist this year (!!!) but she seems to be having the most fun of it. After Copenhagen she's been doing her own thing, singing jazz and r'n'b in clubs and living in London for some time. Jimmie who comes from the original Motown city Detroit, has studied in Hollywood, played in a musical produced by Michael Jackson before moving to Germany to star as Barak Obama in another musical. He has released a few singles and his debut album will be released shortly.

After three participations this time Valentina seems to be letting it all out and just having fun after the stressful Crisalide affair as one of the hottests fan favorites, and then the miracle of Maybe. Spirits of the night are dancing it away while Valentina lets it all out and musical star Jimmie is trying to keep up with her. And together they really work the stage and make the song come alive. Some say it's old fashioned and typical Ralph Siegel song aka dated and bad. I don't agree. It's vintage disco and their voices blend together, and even better when live and it is this song's natural habit (unlike some others like Belgium and Azerbaijan to start with...) as they both are experienced and great vocalists as we have seen in various promo events from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam and Madrid. Their live performance makes you even forget its slight repetitiveness that maybe can get to you when listening only the studio version. Valentina sings better than ever and has the sparkle in the eye like never before and their smiles can melt butter. This is fun and catchy and deserves to qualify. I might be slightly biased (cough cough) but  9/10 and a jump of 10 places in the last minute just for the fun of it. Go Vale!


ITALY: OCCIDENTALI'S KARMA ENTERS ALL TIME TOP-10 ITALIAN VIDEOS

Francesco Gabbani's hot Eurovision winning candidate Occidentali's Karma is still gathering an average of nearly 900.000 daily views on Vevo and has entered already the all time Italian music videos top-10 (besides being the already the most watched Eurovision video ever in overal) with over 99 million views when writing this on Sunday midday April 23. At this rate he will be the number one by midsummer but as the average views will surely be more during Eurovision and right after it, it will most propably happen sooner.... :-)
But how have the other Italian entries featured in this chart? Here are their positions when writing this:

#9 Occidentali's Karma - Francesco Gabbani 99.020.953 (daily average 879.250)
#11 Grande amore - Il Volo  86.970.984 (64.929)
#19 L'Essenziale - Marco Mengoni 48.200.124 (32,655)
#64 Nessun grado di separazione - Francesco Michielin 25.594.696 (11.756)

Marco Mengoni has two videos with more views than L'Essenziale, and a total of 9 videos in top-200. Also Francesca Michielin has one video doing better than her Eurovision one. Emma has a total of 8 videos included, but not her Eurovision one. Il Volo has 4 videos (all in top.100)

LAURA VOUTILAINEN HITS TOP-10 AGAIN WITH MÄ EN KESTÄ

Laura Voutilainen has been in the business and one of the most popular and chameleon Finnish female singers since early 1990's. She's always been big in radio sporting over a dozen radio play top-10 hits over the years, but now she's scoring her second official single's chart top-10 with Mä en kestä at #6 when writing this (also #6 in download and #38 on radioplay going up) following the success of Miks ei last year (#4 in download, #10 in singles, #9 radios). 
Of course this is also to do with the new way of making the charts but its refreshing to see some oldtimers making it among all the teenage idols and rappers. :-) Well done Laura!


ESC 2017 REVIEW - ESTONIA (06): KOIT TOOME & LAURA - VERONA

Pictured is cornflower, Estonia's national flower 

A recordbreaking 242 songs were submitted to the annual Eesti laul, 20 were selected for the semifinals, including a string of previous Eurovision veterans (Ivo Linna, Elina Born, Lenna Kuurmaa, Laura, Koit Toome). Ten songs made it to the grand final in sold out Saku Suurhall. In the end veterans Koit & Laura won, after a rocky road: in the semifinal the jury placed them only 5th, televoters 2nd. In the final's first round the jury kept pushing them down, now only 5th but they won the televote getting double the votes of runner up Kerli. Three songs made it to the superfinal where only televote ruled and they took a convincing victory (55%)  and slapped the jury's face with Verona, written by another veteran, Sven Lõhmus.

Koit Toome (38) started his career in a hit duo Code One before going solo with Eurovison 1998 and Mere lapsed placing 12th. Since then he has released albums and singles, won Dancing with the stars, dubbed animated films, done countless musicals. His uncle was the prime minister of Estonia, and he's to become father for the second time later this year.
Laura Põldvere (28) started her career in Eesti laul 2005, where she won with the girlband Sunstribe (and finished 20th in the semifinal, her solo would surely have done better ->). But she also came 2nd with her solo Moonwalk. Two years later she came 3rd with Sunflowers. In 2009 she was again 3rd with Destiny. And last year 2nd with Supersonic. She has studied music in Berklee Collage in Boston and has released two albums (plus one compilation) so far, and over a dozen of singles. 

If you haven't already guessed I adore Laura! Verona might be only 6th at this ranking but it also could be 2nd as the top is so even. I love Laura's voice, and Koit has his charm, too, and is a familiar name to this blogger and they work well together. The song is a weird mix of old and new, 80's dress and beat, 90's Europop, drama and nonsense but it works. It's incredible catchy and I want to believe whatever they are trying to tell me. One of the few songs this season I heard before the national finals I thought must win and do well in Kyiv. 9/10

Saturday, April 22, 2017

ESC 2017 REVIEW - FRANCE (07): ALMA - REQUIEM

Pictured is the national flower of France, iris

Once the Eurovision superpower France has been struggling big time in the 2000's culminating in the the last place in 2014 and second to last in 2015. It was a time for a total makeover and in 2016 they did it. Amir was chosen internally, scored 6th place in the final and became one of the biggest hits of the year in France, and in Eurovision general. His success changed apparently also the French public's interest and if it works, don't change it. Stick to Amir's inner circle:  Requiem is written by Nazim Khaled. Just like Amir's J'ai cherchè

Alma or Alexandra Maquet (28) is a singer-songwriter. She started with music already as a child and has lived in both Miami and Brazil. She started releasing her own songs few years ago and slowly made her way to television and touring with Amir among other things. Requiem is her third official single since 2014, and her debut album will be released shortly. The song is revamped for Eurovision with additional English lyrics (check the original after the jump...)

I loved Amir's entry last year and Alma is great, too. A bit of an ethnic vibe that makes me think of deep south, Spain and gipsies even. Alma's voice is very French and her r's very strong. It's catchy and fresh, a perfect summer hit in a style between Amir and Kendji Girac (who would be an Eurovision wet dream) so how could I not like this? I must admit I preferred the original non-English version but then again, one gets used to everything, even to those lines. France is on a right track and Edoardo Grassi will make them pround sometime very soon. Third time lucky? 9/10

EUROVISION 2017: A WEEK BEFORE THE REHEARSALS START - THE STAGE

How time flies! Already in a week, next Sunday morning, April 30, the first country Sweden will have its first rehearsal (read more here) on the Eurovision song contest 2017 stage in IEC in Kyiv. By then a lot is done on stage already; the dummy rehearsals with the local students have performed the songs over and over while camera and lightning crew has been fixing and fine tuning their part of the show. Once all this done, the real divas walk in and want all possible changes of course and the real work starts :-)

 This angle reminds me of Helsinki 2007 really.....
 Is that a medusa?
Pastel colors are in
 Just for some comparison....

ESC 2017 REVIEW - SWEDEN (08): ROBIN BENGTSSON - I CAN'T GO ON

Pictured is the Swedish national flower, linnaea borealis aka twin flower

Sweden once again used Melodifestivalen, the mother of all national selection marathons to select its song. 2.478 songs were submitted, more were invited and in the end 28 were chosen for the semifinals and six weeks later after the usual four semisi and the second chance round we had lost three previous Eurovision winners in the process, as well as Finland's ex-entrant Krista Siegfrids and Robin Bengtsson was vrowded the new king with his I can't go on, written by David Kreuger, Hamed 'K-One' Pirouzpanah and previous Eurovision entrant Robin Stjernberg. He was the clear favorite of the international juries, but Swedish televoters placed him only third....

Robin Bengtsson (26) started his career back in 2008 in the Idols, where he placed third behind Maltese Kevin Borg, and Alice Svensson who also took part in this Meloifestivalen (but didn't make it past her semi). Then he did WipeOut and and got to Melodifestivalen last year and placed 5th. He has released one album to date, but a string of singles since 2008, both soo and as featured artist. He has also participated in a couple of charity singles. 

What to say? This might be a bit too high on my ranking but I do like this. The staging works wonders and this will be an awesome opener for the Eurovision 2017 when he starts ti backstage and emerges to the stage later and starts running with his dancers/singers. This is Sweden so they have already fixed any lack of vocals by changing two dancers to ones with a voice plus he will have a back up singer who concentrates only on that and leaves the running to others so no worries in that department. Not the best song in the universe, but it's catchy, memorable and great arrangement. I wouldn't be surprised if Sweden scores another medal this year.... Nothing less than top-5 would be surprising. 9/10


Friday, April 21, 2017

ITALY: GABBANI, MENGONI, EMMA AND MICHIELIN NOMINATED FOR MTV MUSIC AWARDS

Francesco Gabbani is not only hosting the Tim MTV Music Awards Italy in Rome in the end of May but he's also niminated as the best male artist alongside another Eurovision veteran, global star Tiziano Ferro and Sanremo 2017 revealtion Michele Bravi.
But that's not all: two Eurovision veterans Emma and Francesca Michielin are nominated as the best female artist with Alessandra Amoroso and Levante. Marco Mengoni gets also another nomination in the best fans category.

ITALY: RADIO FESTIVAL FOR EUROPE CHANNEL OPENS

Oh my, how times change! A few years ago Italy wasn't taking part in the Eurovision song contest and in general public's mind it was just a memory of something in the past..... Now after hitting the top-10 year after year (well, almost...) and being the hot favorite to beat this year Radio 105 has launched an Eurovision radio! I was thinking it's April 1 all over again when I read the news..... You can also listen to it by clicking the image on your right.....or

or

ESC 2017 REVIEW BELGIUM (09): BLANCHE - CITY LIGHTS

Pictured is the national flower of Belgium, poppy

Belgium's French speaking television is in charge this year and as usual selected internally their artist. This time it's Blanche, yet another artist for The Voice Belgique. Her song City lights was also internally selected among the songs she was working on for her debut album. It's written by Pierre Dumoulin and Blanche herself. 

Ellie Delvaux (17) aka Blanche for the artistic life. She entered The Voice Belgique last year but unlike previous Eurovision starts Roberto Bellarosa and Loic Nottet she didn't get that far in the competition, but her special dark voice left a mark. She won't pass unnoticed at the Eurovision either for sure and with some luck might have an international hit in her hands.

I have to stress again I'm writing these reviews mostly before the live performances in the promo events. It seems the fans have been a bit disappointed by Blanche's stage presense and vocals, but even if I repeat myself: the only two performances that matter are the jury final and the live broadcast. So she has all the time in the world make it work in Kyiv and get those points rolling in. I loved this song since the first hearing. Her voice is very special and very French. I'd love to hear this one in French really! Mysterious, haunting yet catchy and atmospheric and even radio friendly. A weird combo that works. Maybe not an Eurovision winner in the end but one of Belgium's finest ever for sure. 9/10


Thursday, April 20, 2017

ESC 2017 REVIEW - FINLAND (10): NORMA JOHN - BLACKBIRD

Pictured is lily of the valley, national flower of Finland

Finland used once again Uuden musiikin kilpailu aka UMK. This 6th time however was the most revamped of them all so far (there have been minor changes every year): no more semifinals but just one grand final. As usual the songs and their videos were published way ahead of the final and in theory people were familiar with the songs before the big night. In the end Norma John took a very convincing win with both the international juries and the televoters ahead of some fan wanks with their Blackbird, written by themselves.

Norma John is vocalist Leena Tirronen and pianist Lasse Piirainen. Norma John has existed in some form already almost ten years, but Leena and Lasse go back even longer, as they have been friends and musical soulmates since teenage years. Leena (32) first came to spotlight when she placed 3rd in the X Factor 2010 and released an album after that. (Nobody has a glue who the two infront of her were btw. Gone by 2011). Lasse is a pianist, who has been working in music for ages, and recently also a lot in television. This spring he's been one of the two pianists an team leader in a hugely popular musical quizz show BumtsiBum! based on an Irish format The Lyrics Board.

What can I say? I might be a bit biased (but then again I may not, I placed Finland 2015 dead last without hesitation) but Finland is here at number 10. The Top-12 or so could be in any order depending on my mood but this is clearly one of the best songs this year musically, if not the best along with Portugal. And both are curiously rather un-Eurovisionary. Leena's voice is magic, and her pronunciation adds to the mystery. Lasse's piano solo is out of this world. This is an entry I am proud of no matter the final outcome, but I hope they will get at least a Softengine like finish. They deserve that. As minimum. But then again like in life, in Eurovision everything isn't fair. But one can live in hope. Amazng song and if and when they stick to the UMK staging (check it out after the jump)  it will be wonderful hauntingly beautiful three minutes in Kyiv.... 9/10

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

ITALY: FRANCESCO GABBANI WILL HOST MTV MUSIC AWARDS

After Sanremo, multiplatinum selling single, Eurovision victory in sight and new album coming out next week, tour selling out fast for next summer Francesco Gabbani is taking on another challenge: He will be hosting the Italian MTV Music awards, taking place this year in Rome! The date is May 27 and that's all we know so far..... but do we know more? He's there.
Meanwhile Occidentali's karma is at 96 million......

ESC 2017 REVIEW - SWITZERLAND (11): TIMEBELLE - APOLLO

Pictured is Switzerland's national flower edelweiss

Switzerland has been the last in the semifinal for two years now. Only two finals in the ast two years, and even in one of them last. No wonder they decided to revamp the whole selecton process and instead of each broadcaster selecting their own entrants they joined forces already in the first phase. 160 songs were submitted and they had to have a connection to Switzerland - instead of the previously insane open internet submission to anyone. A special jury chose around 20 entries to the live auditions, and then six were chosen for the national final, where only televote ruled. In the end of this Timebelle won with Apollo, written by Elias Näslin, Nicolas Günthardt and Alessandra Günthardt.

Timebelle, who already was a runner up in the Swiss selection in 2015, currently is a trio made of Miruna Mănescu (vocals), Samuel Forster (drums) and Emanuel Daniel Andriescu (multi-instrumentalist). The band was originally a five piece boyband, and Romanian Miruna was added later and is now leading the project. They have released one album so far and three singles before Apollo

Thank heavens Swiss had the common sense to change their selection method. I like this. Period. The melody is catchy and captivating. I like her voice and her way of singing fits this song perfectly. She's stunning also in the looks department. The whole affair sounds familiar and reminds me of many artists and songs, but yet it is kinda original and I simply can't put my finger why and where it sounds familiar. This could, and should be heading to same kind of result as Sebalter in 2014, or even better. And to be honest, I think these two are the only two decent songs from Switzerland for ages. 9/10

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

ESC 2017: ONUKA JOINS JAMALA AND RUSLANA AS EUROVISION INTERVAL ACTS

One more piece in the Eurovision song contest 2017 puzzle has been revealed: Ukrainian band ONUKA will be the interval act in the final. Previously it has been announced both Ukrainian winners Ruslana and Jamala will also be performing in the shows as interval or opening acts. Check out some ONUKA videos below.

ESC 2017 REVIEW - BULGARIA (12): KRISTIAN KOSTOV - BEAUTIFUL MESS

Pictured is the national flower of Bulgaria, rose

Bulgaria returned to Eurovision last year after a break and scored their best result to date. Therefor they are using the same success recipe this year: internal selection for the artist and then finding him an international hit song. And they got the youngest artist of the year, barely 17 year old Russian Kristian of Bulgarian and Kazakh origins. Last year's succesful songwriters Borislav Milanov, Sebastian Arman, Joachim Bo Persson, Alex Omar and Alexander V. Blay have written Beautiful mess for him. 

Kristian Kostov (17)  has already done The Voice Kids Russia and X Factor Bulgaria. In Kids he was mentored by Eurovision winner Dima Bilan and he reached the final. In X Factor he was the runner up. Born in Moscow he is fluent in Russian, Bulgarian and English. As a recording artist he has released one solo single and has been featured in vocals in another. 

If Macedonia is the song that has moved down the most on my list this is the one that has went up the most. Well produced with some originality in the arrangement, well sung and catchy enough this wil go far in May. He might even beat Poli's last year's 5th place now if the Russian dispora votes are aimed at him instead of missing Russia. Despite his age he's very convincing and I do enjoy the song everytime I hear it. Hopefully it won't be ruined with overpowering staging. This is 12th in my ranking but the then again, in my top-12 the songs are quite even... this could as well 5th.  9/10. Check out the music video after the jump....

Monday, April 17, 2017

ITALY: FRANCESCO GABBANI WILL WEAR ALESSANDRINI AGAIN

Francesco Gabbani will be wearing Daniele Alessandrini also in Kyiv, just like last year in Sanremo and most of all this year. 
His colorful jumpers made headlines and the orange image was glued to the minds of Italians forever. Light blue one followed, and even the red one.... 
Also all the outfis in the Occidentali's Karma video are by Alessandrini - nearly 95 million views already. 

"Francesco wanted to wear something different, be young, who had nothing to do with the classic tuxedos on the stage of the Ariston with the risk of remaining anonymous," says Matteo Alessandrini. "I knew that Francesco would sing a song that speaks in an ironic way of the Eastern habits and orang is the color of Buddhist monks."
The night of the final, however, even Gabbani has not given up the tuxedo or smoking. "Yes, but it was a special smoking" explains the designer from Forli. "For the good luck we never prepare in advance outfits for the last night, so when I learned that Francesco was among the finalists I rushed to Sanremo with three choices. Two were normal smokings. I showed them to him all then I told him: "Last year you won wearing a star jacket. This year, do an encore wearing the same fantasy". So he opted for a tuxedo of stars. One of the two that we had discarded, was worn by the monkey during the last performance. "

Daniele Alessandrini brand was founded in 1983 in Bologna and now has shops all around Italy and also in Belgium, Greece, The Netherlands, Spain and Portugal. If you want to look as sharp as Francesco you can buy most he was wearing in Sanremo and in various promotions photos and in the video here

SAN MARINO: VALENTINA MONETTA IS THE QUEEN OF MINIPOP ICONS

She already hold the record of being the only artists having three minipop icons to her credit but this year she's pushig it even further with the fourth one. These icons by Ben Morris and Europops are ever so popular and you can buy a lot of things made of them from Redbubble for example. 

FINLAND: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO HANNA PAKARINEN

Hanna Pakarinen turns 36 today, ten years after she represented Finland at home in Helsinki 2007 Eurovision. Her career is still going strong :-)
Congratulations!

ESC 2017 REVIEW - UNITED KINGDOM (13): LUCIE JONES - NEVER GIVE UP ON YOU

Pictured is the national flower of Wales, daffodil

United Kingdom organized once again Eurovision: You decide, only this time they brought in also the juries. The songs were searched in various ways: open submission and OGAE members being part of the jury, inviting composers directly, seeking help from music industry big guns. In the end we had six songs to choose from. In the end Lucie Jones was declared the winner with Never give up on you, witten by the Danish Eurovision song contest winner Emmeli De Forest with The Treatment and Lawrie Martin.

Lucie Jones (26) comes from Cardiff and her first claim to fame is the X Factor 2009 where she finished 8th. After X Factor she signed a modelling contract but soon enough was starring in musicals in West End. Next came a Wonderbra campaign and then some more musicals, television and theatre. She has released one album (2015) and a few singles. 

Revamp. What an uglu word. I loved the live performance in the national final, with its simple staging, musical sound and her somewhat clumsy look. Less is more. She was fab and I fell in love with the song. Then came the video with the new "modern" arrangement and her model looks with a lot of make up and elaborated hairdos and fasionable looks. Somehow it didn't feel right. My hope is the staging and look in Kyiv will be more like in the national final than in the video. If BBC brings dancers and circus on stage I'm done. This is what I call one spotlight song. It's enough. Keep it simple. Less is more. 8/10 for the original version. Check it out after the jump....

Sunday, April 16, 2017

ESC 2017 REVIEW - MACEDONIA (14): JANA BURCESKA - DANCE ALONE

Pictured is the national flower of Macedonia, poppy

Macedonia chose internally Jana Burčeska and also her song Dance alone amongst the over 100 songs submitted The curious rumour is she was to sing In too deep first, the Serbian entry but ... who knows? Anyways, the song is written by Borislav Milanov, Alex Omar, Joacim Persson and Florence A. Macedonia's aim was to have an entry of quality and dignified representation, that is modern and attractive. Time will tell if they succeeded.

Jana Burčeska (23) has experience in the Macedonian Idol  in 2011. Then she went on the usual festival circuit and tried to get to Eurovision in 2012, and participated in Skopje Fest 2013 and 2015 making herself known. She's also UNICEF Ambassador.

This is one of those very few entries that I got very excited first and then with further listenings it has dropped in the ranking. It has a cool 80's sound, it's catchy and joyful and you are singing along already in the second chorus. This makes me happy and it oozes good mood girl power. 
I've done the reviews based only on the studio versions and videos, before any live performances in promo events until now. Apparently she wasn't so convincing live but then again, the only two times that matter are the jury final and the live broadcast so she still got time to fix it all and give an outstanding performance. If she does, and considering most people voting will hear this for the very first time.... she might make a new Macedonian record beating both Elena Risteska and Kaliopi. 8/10




ESC 2017 REVIEW - AUSTRALIA (15): ISAIAH - DON'T COME EASY


Pictured is the national flower of Australia, golden wattle


Australia has once again chosen internally and this time it's X Factor winner Isaiah. His song Don't come easy is his second single and is written by Anthony Egizil, David Musumeci and Michale Angelo, who also wrote last year's Eurovision song contest runner up Sound of silence.

Isaiah Firebrace (17) is of aboriginal roots and he won the 8th Australian X Factor last November, mentored by Adam Lambert and his debut single It's gotta be you charted already in various countries, including Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. In December he released his debut album and now he's ready for the Eurovision adventure. Considering Australia has placed 5th and 2nd the pressure is on him....

When Isaiah was announced I was thrilled, I was hoping it all along ever since I heard It's gotta be you, that I love and it could have been also good for Eurovision. The initial reaction to Don't come easy was a slight disappointment, even if it's great. I adore his voice, and he's got something. The song could be live a bombastic ballad with the right staging and flawless vocals. I'm afraid he won't match the previous two years maybe but a Top-10 is well to be expected. 8/10





Saturday, April 15, 2017

ESC 2017 REVIEW - AZERBAIJAN (16): DIHAJ - SKELETONS

In absense of a national flower, pictured is buta ornament

Azerbaijan chose internally Dihaj as their represent and then the song was searched for her. Skeletons is written by Azeri Isa Melikov and Swedish Sandra Bjurman, who has already co-written the Azeri entries 2010-2012, incluing the Eurovision winner Running scared.

Dihaj aka Diana Hajiyeva (27) is a singer-songwriter and lead singer in her band DiHaj. She has graduated from the Baku Academy of Music. Back in 2011 she already tried to get to Eurovision placng 4th in her quarter final. In the same selection we had Farid Mammadov (10th in his QF) and Sabina Babayeva (3rd in her QF) among others. Dihaj has released so far four singles before this entry since 2014, and is know for a bit alternative look and sound.

When I first heard this I was loving it to bits like mnay others, and we should take this in consideration as most voters on the big night will hear this for the first time. Further listenings dropped it a bit on the list but I love the atmosphere and it's very catchy. The atmosphere they manage to create on stage will be crucial as if they manage to keep up with the same intensivity they have in the video this can go very far. This is not the typical Eurovision tune one always fear when it's a shopped affair. Well done, Azerbaijan. Interesting, exciting and fresh. Once again "only" 16th as to be honest, my top-20 is very even and one needs to make some ranking.... 8/10




ESC 2017 REVIEW - IRELAND (17): BRENDAN MURRAY - DYING TO TRY

Pictured the Irish national flower, clover

Ireland skipped the national final after a string of disappointing results and hired Louis Walsh to find the winning entry before Sweden equals the Irish 7 wins. He came up with Brendan Murray, and the song was chosen among the 330 submission. Dying to try is written by Grammy nominated Swedish Jörgen Elofsson.

Brendan Murray (20) is a former member of a boyband Hometown. The band scored two #1s from their debut (and only) album between 2014-2016. In December they decided to take a break and next thing we know Brendan is doing Eurovision.... 

Brendan has a particular voice and I have nicknamed him the Irish Michele Bravi (as the Italian X Factor winner who made a fabulous comeback in Sanremo with Il diario degli errori, my favorite along with Occidentali's Karma). His song is a tender ballad that grows and grows to the climax with the choir. I love it everytime I hear it and if it's only 17th in my ranking it's only because the rest above is so good too. And only 7/10 right now but this could get more as well but when there's a ranking to do and scores to give what can you do?

Friday, April 14, 2017

ESC 2017 REVIEW - MALTA (18): CLAUDIA FANIELLO - BREATHLESSLY

Pictured is Malta's national flower, Maltese centaury

Eurovision in Malta is as popular as ever and 156 songs were submitted this year. First they were cut to 60, and then directly to 16 cutting the usual semifinals this time. In the end it was a close run with two songs: Maltese language Kewkba by Janice Mangion and Breathlessly by veteran Claudia Faniello who won in the end with 4.996 calls against 4.544. This was Claudia's 11th song and 9th year she participated. She must have been whispering breathlessly finally! The song is written by Philip Vella, Sean Vella and Gerard James Borg. They have too many songs in the competition already to even mention them.....

Claudia Faniello (29) was known for years only as Fabrizio Faniello's little sister but she has grown over the years a star of her own right with a very original sound. She's been a familiar figure in Maltese television, competitions and festivals since she was 12. She won Festival Kanzunetta Indipendenza 2006, the other major Maltese song festival. In Malta Eurovision she has been a runner up twice (in 2008 when she was also 3rd) and in 2012. She has released one album so far (2010) and countless singles since 2006. Now it's her time to shine and maybe outdo her brother, at least in his second participation (24th in 2006). The first one (9th/2001) will be a bit harder but not impossible.

This is one of those songs that come alive big time live (just check the live performance after the jump). Claudia is stunning sight and voclaly memorable, if she delivers when it counts. Hopefully in Kyiv they keep it simple and rely on the power of her. This is a classic beautiful ballad just like Slovenia and equally underrated by the fans. I must admit this has fallen on my ranking but then again when I hear it I love it. The general public will hear this for the first time on stage in Kyiv anayways and if she delivers, she should qualify with ease. 7/10

Thursday, April 13, 2017

EUROVISION 2017: THE RUSSIA VS. UKRAINE SAGA

Oh boy. Poor EBU. Poor Jon Ola Sand. I'm sure he needs a proper holiday once this drama is over. And I'm sure secretly he's hoping some less demanding country will win in May!

Let's start from the beginning. Russia waited til last minute to reveal their cards and whether they will participate at all in Kyiv 2017 and on March 12 announced it's going to be Julia Samoylova with Flame is burning (my review of the song here

It didn't take long the Eurovision fandome ridiculed Russia's decision to send a fragile girl in a wheelchair with a sugary ballad to avoid possible booing and making Ukraine look bad should they ban her.

And that's exactly what happened on March 22: Ukrainian authorities isssued a travel ban on the Russian artist as she had illegally entered the annexed Crimea (in other words entering without passing via Ukraine) and even apparently posted anti-Ukrainian propaganda in her social medias. According Ukrainian law a criminal act.

Russia was ready to call that decision cynical and inhuman and was ready to boycott the contest and not to broadcast it all unless she's permitted to take part. One can only speculate how well planned this all was as all of sudden Ukraine was the evil and Russia the victim. And hours later they had already planned her a Russian wide tour to promote her ahead of Eurovision 2018! As it seems they are ready to send her there next year if this year isn't working out.

EBU stated they are deeply disappointed but have to respect local laws and said they would continue the dialogue with those two countries to get everyone abroad in Kyiv.

On March 23 EBU proposed a solution "to maintain the non-political nature of the contest" to let Julia perform live via satellite. Soon came the answer from Deputy prime minister Kyrylenko stating that tours and TV shows with persons non grata are not allowed in Ukraine. The only solution is the replacement of the participant from Russia. And now that is not allowed in the EBU rules...

Later the same night Channel One Russia has rejected the offer. "We consider the proposal of remote participation strange and reject it, since it, of course, contradicts the very meaning of the event, the strict rule of which is the live performance on the stage of the Eurovision."

At this point we can only say & hope:

On March 25 Jon Ola Sand  told they have proposed Ukraine to set the ban only after the Eurovision for Julia, and Ukraine promptly declined it but the negotiations go on. Sand also confirmed several national broadcasters have contacted them to get things right and stated:
"The decision is taken by the security authorities, who have to follow the laws as they are, but we will appeal to the Prime Minister and the Government of Ukraine to overturn the decision, so that any travel ban will only come into force after the Eurovision Song Contest. Our main goal remains that the Russian participant comes on stage in Kiev in May. We are working hard."
Meanwhile Director General Carlo Romeo of SMRTV has stated: "As a State broadcaster does not we agree on the behavior of the organizers in Ukraine to the Russian competitor. We do not care if it’s a conspiracy or a Russian provocation, the Eurovision  (Song Contest) should be a neutral ground."
Also the Danish Jan Lagermand Lundme has voiced his concern about the situation and the preparations: "It is practically unbearable. I know that the EBU takes it very seriously, they should take no shit . The justification for that Denmark in the Eurovision Song Contest is of course that we have a place where we can meet across borders and differences, It is clear that I am concerned on behalf of the Danish TV viewers. We must demand to get some decent TV shows. There will certainly be a show, but we do not know how it is. It suggests that things are a bit out of control."

On March 26 Reference Group chairman Frank-Dieter Freiling told to a German newspaper that they are still waiting for the final decision by the Ukrainian government and that the discussion with Russia continues. But then: "One thing we noted before the ban is that the Russian delegation did not take part in mandatory previewing sessions and did not reserve any accommodation, in contrast to all other delegations. Russia has to make its participation clear, just as we make must make it possible for them." This blogger thinks Russia has no intention to take part, they are just playing with all of us..... No further comment.

On March 27 the German Thomas Schreiber, Head of Entertainment for ARD said “The Russian Broadcaster knew too well who they had chosen, and the Ukrainian authorities knew just as well what they were doing. This is a feud on a public stage.” He points out the Russian participation is the main goal and EBU should just keep trying to find a solution.
EBU spokesperson Dave Goodman confirms the dialogu continues to find a way out of this situation. He said the situation is not nice and "Russia’s participation is possible, Russia’s withdrawal is also possible if the two sides can’t come together. It would be nice if the EBU could find a way so that both parties involved can safe face. A solution that makes clear the the Eurovision Song Contest is exactly what the title says: A song contest and nothing else”.

On March 29 EBU's Swiss General Director Ingrid Deltenre, who will step down from her role this summer, appears rather furious in an interview she gave to Swiss Sonntagsblick: "This behavior of Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable," she says while negotiating with the only two men who can let Julia in Ukraine, Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hrojsman and President Petro Poroshenko. "I deeply regret the fact that the ESC is being abused for political action. The Eurovison Song Contest is supposed to delight and bring together millions of people; it must not be used to incite them against each other." If no solution is reached in the next few weeks, the top TV woman in Europe is already announcing sanctions against Ukraine: a temporary exclusion from the Eurovision Song Contest. This blogger is only asking why not ban Russia? After all it started the whole affair.....

March 31 Ukrainian Kiev Vlast leaked the letter EBU had sent to Ukraine's Prime Minister already on March 23, the day after Julia's ban. It seems EBU wanted to deal with the case behind closed doors isntead of this open in the air drama. (And they were right to want to handle it that way, IMHO). One can read in the letter other countries have contacted EBU critizing Ukraine's decision and even are ready to withdraw according to it (Yet so far no one hass even hinted the possibility publicly, Ed.note). Well read the letter yourself:
April 4, the president of Ukraine Poroshenki declared "Russia didn't need the participation, they needed a provocation. I am glad that this provocation was prevented and curbed thanks to the effective actions of the Ukrainian authorities. The Ukrainian government does not give in to this provocation. We act in a consistent and regular way to all those who violate the Ukrainian legislation. This is why we can not allow the crossing of the Ukrainian border for Yulia Samoylova."

In further Ukraine has answered to the "withdrawel of several countries"said by Deltenre: 
No country whose public broadcaster is a member of EBU has reason to challenge this restriction in Yulia Samoylova, since no European country recognizes Crimea as part of the Russian FederationMiss Deltenre has sided with Russia in political provocation organized by Russia itself. It can be seen as an interference in the internal affairs, which goes beyond the mandate of the EBU and the tasks relating to the organization of  the Eurovision Song Contest.

April 13: The flame is out. Russia withdraws. Final words (?) here


EUROVISION 2017: RUSSIA IS OUT


The Russian Chennel One has just declared:

The  Channel One received a letter from the European Broadcasting Union stating that the EBU was unable to resolve the issue of participation in the Eurovision 2017 of  Russia by Julia Samoilova. This EBU reports with reference to the decision of the special services of Ukraine.

The Chenel One considers the refusal of the Ukrainian side to be absolutely unreasonable. The reason for this is Ukraine's attempt to politicize the contest, whose goal throughout the 62 year history was to unite people.

The European Broadcasting Union continues to offer the option of Julia Samoilova's remote participation or replacement by another participant. But the Chennel One considered both, and the options are unacceptable.

Remote performance discriminates against the Russian participant and is contrary to the rules and principles of the competition. The option of replacing Julia Samoilova with another performer, in our opinion, can not even be considered.

In the current situation, the Channel One does not consider it possible to broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest-2017.

Flame is out. 

Update: EBU confirmed the news some time after:

"These proposals were to either take part via satellite or to change their chosen artist to one who could legally travel to Ukraine for the duration of the Contest. Sadly both proposals have been rejected by Channel One and they have now announced they do not intend to broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest 2017. Unfortunately this means Russia will no longer be able to take part in this year’s competition. We very much wanted all 43 countries to be able to participate and did all we could to achieve this," the EBU states.
Frank Dieter Freiling, Chairman of the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group, the event’s steering committee, said: "We strongly condemn the Ukrainian authorities' decision to impose a travel ban on Julia Samoylova as we believe it thoroughly undermines the integrity and non-political nature of the Eurovision Song Contest and its mission to bring all nations together in friendly competition. However, preparations continue apace for the Eurovision Song Contest in the host city Kyiv. Our top priority remains to produce a spectacular Eurovision Song Contest with our Member UA:PBC in May."

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