Well, the musical joy that labours under the title 58th Eurovision Song Contest gets a little closer. As we meander through this bank holiday weekend, delegations from across the continent are arriving in Malmo, Sweden. For them, Monday sees the start of an exhausting round of rehearsals, press conferences and alcohol. I both pity and envy them at the same time. Having been a Eurovision delegate on numerous occasions, I can only confirm that by end he end of proceedings, your liver is knackered and your brain addled from the never-ending verbal ordure spewed out by press and entrants alike. One year I was party to a British journalist asking a singer "Although you haven't heard the other songs yet, what do you think about them?"
Anyway, time for us to have a quick look at the offerings in the second semi-final which will be beamed into your homes by BBC3 on May 16th. Amongst the entries are two of the pre-contest favourites. Norway are fielding Margaret Berger with the very bleak I feed you my love. This is a stark piece of electro-pop and it certainly stands out. Possibly a little too worrying for some European ears though. Also highly favoured in 2013 is Georgia's drab-fest, Waterfall. This sounds as though it has been churned out by a computer, having been fed with all the ingredients need to dish up a Euroballad. Singers Nodie & Sopho have little charisma yet this charmless ditty could easily hoover up the votes should it make the final. Which of course it will.
At the other end of the scale we can feast on a handful of duff old clunkers such as Romania's truly stupefying entrant, Cezar. The worryingly high-pitched warbling of this gent could have Europe tittering into its frites within seconds. This one is camp and then some. Another entry that should cause jaws to drop is Latvia's Here we go. Lurching into parody from the word go, the song manages to rhyme numerous lines and engage in a bit of cod-rapping too.
Fan favourites in Eurovision often come a cropper so it's worth keeping an eye out for San Marino's Valentina Monetta. She represented her country last year with a song about social networking. This time she performs a musical 'cut and shut'. Two separate songs appear to have been welded together and the continent may find it difficult to decide which one they are voting for. Switzerland's entry was chosen in a contest staged before Christmas, so this song is already approaching vintage status. It's presentation has been radically overhauled following rule-breaking references to the Salvation Army (yes, I didn't realise they were so controversial either). Their entry, You and me, is anthemic yet slightly lazy, as it wanders up and down the musical keys.
For fun, the Greek entry ticks many boxes. Alcohol is free, oh irony, is performed ska-style by a bunch of blokes in kilts. This one will have the Malmo Arena on its feet. Also watch out for FYR Macedonia's 69 year old singer Esma who gives it some welly whilst her twenty-something co-singer does his best to ignore her.
Amongst the rest there is Malta's Gianluca singing an Olly Murs B-side, a woman in a wedding dress from Finland, an X Factor style 'winner's song' from Azerbaijan and a busty woman with Deirdre specs from Israel.
I shall be throwing a few kroner at Iceland's Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson with his endearing Celtic ballad. Of course, it stands no chance whatsoever but is in a different league to the Romanian Rylan and the tambourine bashers from Switzerland. I wish him and his long hair the very best.
Friday, 29 March 2013
Well, I've decided to bring them back. You need to picture me wearing a badly fitting wig, sat by a 1970s smoked-glass coffee table with a smirk on my face. All of the ditties mentioned can be found on You Tube but I'm far too lazy to bother including links.
Viewers in the UK can vote in the first semi-final which includes the following masterpieces.
Austria start things off with the musical equivalent of a teenager having a strop. Natalia Kelly, hailing from the USA region of Austria, should sail through without too much of a problem though.
|"It's not fair!" - Austria's Natalia Kelly|
The clutch of dull-by-numbers ballads includes a charming if forgettable song from Estonia's Birgit Õigemeel and Russia's Dina Garipova who sounds as though she is just having a bit of a whinge. Cyprus also pitch in with An me thimase, a meandering effort, the memory of which evaporates as soon as you have heard the last note.
If you are looking for something different, try Anouk who's representing the Netherlands with Birds. It's a bit weird in an edgy, fairytale kind of way. Or how about Montenegro's rap act, Who See? The plucky Montenegrins still have not worked out what does and does not float the Euro-voters boat. Whilst daring to be different, it manages to marginalise itself out of existence.
Playing safe can also be a dangerous option as Denmark's Emmelie De Forest may discover. Her tin-whistle laden, breathy Only teardrops, is vintage middle-of-the-road Eurovision. Currently it is favourite to win the whole thing and it certainly has charm. Another one to keep an ear open for is Ireland's Ryan Dolan. it would appear that the Irish have finally escaped from their recent comedy entries and are taking things seriously. Only love survives is about as contemporary as dance numbers get.
|Not Jedward for Ireland . . .|
Slovenia pushes the envelope a bit further with some dubstep but singer Hannah Mancini gives a shouty performance. Near neighbours Croatia have assembled a bunch of blokes who specialise in the traditional klapa performance, often heard whilst staggering around Split. Despite the title, Mizerija doesn't wallow in self-loathing and it's quite a cheery performance from Klapa s Mora.
If it's Eurotrash that takes your fancy, then feast your eyes on Serbia's Moje 3. Take three unsure female vocals, add some inappropriate clothing and let them bellow at the cameras for three minutes. Their entry, Ljubav je svuda, could quite easily be the stuff of which musical car crashes are made of.
|Cheap Spice . . . from Serbia|
Of the remaining entries, there is something vaguely electronic and eighties from Lithuania's top-hatted Andrijus Pojavis, a truly nasty holiday song shoutalong from Belarus' singer Alyona Lanskaya and a droning ballad from Zlata Ognevich of Ukraine.
Ten of the sixteen masterpieces will qualify for the grand final in Malmö on May 18th. I'll take a dip into the second semi-final as well as taking a peak at the six guaranteed finalists, soon.
Saturday, 16 March 2013
Sunday, 20 January 2013
TV news of course rubs its hands together with glee. Time to roll out the footage of vans stuck in piles of the white stuff, fruity young women in winter attire, posh kids flying down Primrose Hill on designer sledges fashioned out of marble, moribund scenes of passengers milling around airport terminals with courtesy cereal bars. A special mention has to be made in respect of the news reporter who is given that most glamorous of assignments, the live link to the gritting depot. Even the words make you feel slightly depressed. Gritting depot. It's to this joyous location that a woman in a puffa jacket and a bobble hat is dispatched.
Monday morning will bring forth an office filled with people in clunky boots and hideous knitwear, tomato-red faces and tales of their journey. I will respond my sticking my head in the photocopier. After burning several lever arch files, overdosing on coffee and weeping for a while, I'll don the clunky boots and 'struggle' home. Let's hope the gritters have done their job.
Monday, 24 December 2012
Got those sprouts on a low boil yet? Relatives driving you to distraction? Christmas tree looking balder than Harry Hill? 'Tis the season to be manic. As well as the festival of over-eating and binge-drinking though, this is also the time of year when we take stock. What's that phrase again? Oh yes, stock-taking.
Like the contents of some moribund round robin letter, it's time to foist opinions and comments about the past twelve months on anyone who will listen. Not that I'm going to drone on about home improvements, little jaunts out to the country and myriad health issues. No. This is simply me rounding up and spouting on about some of the things I've enjoyed in 2012.
Theatre Experience of the Year (!) was Michael Frayn's 1982 farce, Noises Off. This is basically a play about a dreadful play and the hapless theatre company attempting to put it on. Starring the wonderful Celia Imrie and Robert Glenister, this Old Vic production had me weeping with laughter.
Most Played i-Tunes Song of the Year goes to Eurovision winner Euphoria performed by Loreen. Having seen this triumph in the Swedish national heats (a chilly weekend in Stockholm), the song then thrashed all opposition in Baku at the Euro finals. It's success was a bit of a surprise given that it sounds like some leftover from a 1990s Ibiza foam party. Still, in comparison with the UK's entry from Engelbert Humperdinck, Euphoria was Grammy-winning stuff.
The BBC produced a few fine comedies this year including the relentlessly bleak hospital offering Getting On. BBC3's Him & Her managed to be both cringe worthy and sentimental but in a good way thanks to the thoughtful performances of Russel Tovey and Sarah Solemani. Thick of It came to an end and possibly did so at just the right time. Jewish family life also provided two winners in the shape of Grandma's House and Friday Night Dinner - outstanding performances from Rebecca Front, Linda Basset and Tamsin Greig.
Person of the Year has to be Claire Balding for her sheer enthusiasm for all things sport and for jollying the rest of us along during the Olympics. There are too many outstanding sportsmen and women to mention but they all brought joy to a spectacular summer.
Sunday, 18 November 2012
According to the late, and most definitely great, Andy Williams, 'it's the most wonderful time of the year'. I tend to agree. I'm already scrabbling through boxes for left over wrapping paper from days of yore. The stuff that used to cost 2p a sheet on Chesterfield market and was a homage to Victorian carriages with headless drivers. That sort of thing. There's the first version of the Christmas cake (a surprising success), a Christmas card list (how many names can I take the red marker pen to this year) and the prospect of turfing the lawnmower and garden implements out of the shed in the search for the decorations.
Saturday, 3 November 2012
It's a hard life - so why make it harder? Why, I keep asking myself, do Id rag myself out of the house at 6 a.m. several days a week, in order to torture my ageing frame. Why? The gymnasium is calling ...
Situated in London's Square Mile, it's hardly the most congenial of places. The very nature of the gym is that everyone goes about their business in po-faced silence, me included. My fellow gym buddies are a mixed bunch. There is the parade of tiny-waisted, hard-faced east European women, pounding the treadmill in a worrying fashion. There is always some ridiculous bint with her hair piles on top of her head, like a peroxide nest, stood beneath the "No mobile phones" sign, bellowing into her mobile phone - "Yes it's me! That's right, me. Look at me. LOOK AT ME NOW!"
The blokes are usually something else too. Many feel the need to parade around in their corporate t-shirts. "I work in derivatives and I'm a bit tedious" is what the narrative should read, preferably decked out in neon. Then there are the muscle marys, that pumped up breed who groan and shout their way through a set of bench presses. Fear them for they are in love with themselves.
Of course, I could always ask the staff for help. Some of them can string together sentences but most of them spend the morning craftily lifting their tops in order to admire their six packs. Or shouting. "Come on! Come on! Lift those legs up!" they scream at some hapless futures manager who's bobbing around in a river of his own sweat. The receptionists remain glass-eyed in a Stepford kind of way. There is always the temptation to throw a bucket of water over them just to see them fuse.