Monday, 19 June 2017

Eurovision 2017: The final, Big 5 and Ukraine

 Hello!


 I hope you enjoyed my posts on Eurovision 2017's first and second semi-finals. Now, time for the big night. 

 I'll share my thoughts on how the final progressed - the hosting, guest acts and voting - and on the six songs I have yet to review: those of the Big 5 countries (Italy, Spain, the UK, Germany and France) and the host, Ukraine.

 Enjoy!

 The opening

 The flag parade was enjoyable and well-done - there were a few parts early on where the audio seemed to be lost, but then they appeared to fix it. 

 The flag parade is one of the better recent Eurovision ideas, though I much prefer the kind of dynamic presentation we had tonight than if the acts were to just march around with flags. Hopefully the Eurovision powers that be can work on making the flag parade even more innovative while not losing its essence.

 The hosts 

 The hosts took a while to grow on me, and though I got used to them they just couldn't measure up to the wonderful Petra Mede, who I feel has set the bar for all Eurovision hosting from now on. 

 This year's trio were good at their job, and I salute them for that - the banter around promoting the Eurovision app was amusing - but they were missing that extra bit of charisma that made Petra so brilliant. 

 Skits and guests

 Talking of Swedish hosts, the montage with Måns was fairly awful - it was tired and cliched and went on for far too long. It could have maybe been improved by bringing Petra in - or maybe not. The concept just wasn't very funny.

 I also feel a little of Verka and her mother goes a long way, and considering how much of them we had in the semi-finals it did get a bit tiring. Jamala's "I Believe in U" was also dull - she performed a much better, more upbeat new song in a semi-final, which would have fitted better into the final.

 One thing I really liked was Ruslana's song. Graham Norton gently mocked it and described the performance as "zombies doing aerobics", which it did resemble a tiny bit... but it was good! The song was incredibly catchy and a great interval act. Ruslana really can entertain.

 The songs

 Time now for my thoughts on the songs of the Big 5 and Ukraine.

 1) Italy - My mother wants it to be known that she thinks Italy should have won. I think they had a decent, uptempo song, the sort of thing that could have won in the noughties when big pop numbers did well in the contest. 

 These days, fans seem to go for quirkier entries and Italy was lacking that je-ne-sais-quoi. The gorilla is interesting the first time you see it, but the novelty wears off. The dancing, however, is solid, as is the staging. The singer certainly performs with gusto.


 2) Spain - It was interesting living in Spain in the run-up to and during Eurovision. It became very clear that Spain's entry was not at all popular with its people; I heard it bemoaned in real life and on social media.

 I honestly don't find it that terrible. It is repetitive and the English lyrics are uninspired, but it is a summery, bouncy little tune. The background graphics at the contest were psychedelic to the point of being unwatchable at times. 

 The performance was pitchy but I don't agree with people who have suggested that the band didn't care about being there - I felt that they really did, underneath their cool wannabe-surfer image.


 3) The UK - When she was first chosen to represent us, I liked Lucie's vocals and performance and found the song decent but not a winner. With some work, though, and with the inspired staging, it became one of our best entries in recent years.

 Sending someone from a musical theatre background to Eurovision felt like one of the safer options - she was used to being onstage and singing live and nerves hopefully wouldn't be an issue. 

 They weren't - the final performance wasn't perfect, but it was very good. I was pleased with it. Maybe one day the UK will win Eurovision again.


 4) Germany - From the moment this began I thought - this is "Titanium"! The riff sounds like an exact copy. Luckily the melody is vaguely different, and as a song I like it. I just wish it were more individual. 

 I love Levina's voice, one of the best in this year's contest. She was confident without seeming cocky, and I felt I could just relax and enjoy the song. She reminds me of another artist - I can't think who. She is a bit like Robyn, but I think there is a better likeness out there. 

 This is the déjà-vu Eurovision - so many artists remind me of other people!


5) Ukraine - Graham Norton wasn't a fan of this! I found it to be a standard rock song - there is room for one or two in Eurovision each year, to change things up and give rock fans their moment.

 The giant head was scary - with its eyes beaming light it reminded me of both Undyne from the game Undertale, and deadmau5's headgear.

 The song seemed to be received well by the home crowd, and overall they did a good job. It wasn't amazing, but it wasn't as terrible as Graham suggested.


 6) France - France and Eurovision... They drift from getting it exactly right - Anggun, for example, in 2012, was great - to sending well-crafted but quiet songs that get drowned out, to choosing standard pop songs of a style that does well in France but which just isn't really Eurovision.

 This year's is an example of the third. It is the kind of thing that I can see being constantly on the radio in France, and is great to dance to. It just feels too slick and polished for Eurovision. Alma doesn't let go enough; doesn't lose herself in Eurovision passion and joy. The bland staging didn't do her any favours.

 It isn't a bad song, and Alma seemed really nice when interviewed. It just didn't hit the Eurovision mark.


 The voting 

 The voting struck me as less political this year, which was nice. The absence of Russia and Turkey may have played a part, as they are go-to twelve-pointers for certain countries - however, I like to think that maybe people really do want things to be more about the music. 

 The fact that Greece and Cyprus giving each other twelves got boos isn't something I approve of, but it does suggest that fans are growing tired of neighbourly voting.

 I also enjoyed seeing a number of past participants as spokespeople - it's nice to check in with them and see how they are doing. There was some (feeble) flirting from the hosts, which became somewhat tedious.

 Of course, we can't forget Élodie Gossuin and her singing! Apparently she told a French magazine she wouldn't sing this year, after her "whoo-hoo-hoo"-ing last year caused such a (pointless) fuss in France - but sing she did! I like her; she seems sweet and genuine.

 The winner

 The final countdown of the votes was dramatic - right up to the end I wondered whether Bulgaria might just do it. I preferred their performance to the Portuguese one, but there was something very special about the Sobral siblings' bond and they made a lovely team. Their final performance was a Eurovision moment to remember.

 With the O'G3NE sisters singing for their ill mother and the Sobrals working together to create something beautiful, there was a real feeling of family this year, and I loved that.

 Overall verdict

 I don't think that hosting-wise this was a particularly outstanding Eurovision, though it was far from terrible. The hosts weren't strong enough, and they relied too much on Verka for humour. 

 The music was pretty good, with stand-out songs from The Netherlands, Austria, Romania and Bulgaria. There were very few songs I disliked, and some of my original "meh" ones are growing on me with time.

 So, off we go to Portugal - they've never hosted Eurovision, so it should be something new and exciting. Here's to 2017!

 Feel free to check out my posts from last year's contest:


 Thanks for sharing my Eurovision 2017 journey!

 Liz x

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Eurovision 2017: The second semi-final

 Hello!


 I hope you enjoyed my blog post about Eurovision 2017's first semi-final. Here are my thoughts on the second.

1) Serbia - This was one that stuck in my head. It isn't amazing, but it's catchy in its own way. It has some cheesy lyrics - "High off the ground, I'm not coming down" - but is otherwise tolerable.



2) Austria - This was one of my stand-out songs from this semi. It is remarkable how through the lovely staging they managed to transform a fun folksy song with a mountain-y video into an epic Eurovision ballad. It reminds me of Frans's "If I Were Sorry" from last year: laid-back and adaptable.



3) F.Y.R Macedonia - This was another average song that managed to stick itself in my head. The singer looks a bit like Celine Dion but her voice and style are more like Madonna. 

 A lot of techno-themed staging would get too much, but one song's worth is okay and makes for an interesting change.



4) Malta - This one actually does sound like Celine Dion! I feel like this could be a very standard ballad sung by another person, but this singer lifts it with her personality and with her obvious passion for being there and for the song.


5) Romania - I thought this was just okay at first, but I'm coming to really like it. It is a great hybrid of rap and yodelling, bringing the two together effortlessly. It is nice and cheerful and utterly Eurovision.



6) The Netherlands - This was the stand-out song for me. The harmonies were perfect; very Wilson-Phillips. The song is lovely. It is by far the Eurovision entry I've listened to most this year. I've been really impressed by The Netherlands' entries the last few years.


7) Hungary - This isn't one of my favourites, but isn't bad, and I was caught by surprise when he burst out rapping. I liked the simple but colourful presentation.


8) Denmark - I found the song very ordinary, but the performance quite enthusiastic and fun.


9) Ireland - His voice really surprised me. The song is quite nice and the staging is minimal but works. The balloon is unusual and it all seems to tie together neatly. However, it is missing some Eurovision pizazz.



10) San Marino - Valentina again! Is she really the only singer in San Marino? Jimmie is a good complement for her, though, and the song is pure Eurovision: upbeat and catchy, with a colourful background, disco theme and great outfits. This should have had a chance.


11) Croatia - This was even odder this time around than when I first heard it - I don't think I had realised one guy was singing everything. Switching between pop and opera literally every line is really remarkable. 

 The song is quite pleasant but think it could be better staged, and he could have benefitted from making it more about the song and less about him.



12) Norway - I really didn't think much of this at first. My mother likes it, however, and it has grown on me slightly. Normally Norway turn out decent if not great songs, and this was a disappointment in comparison.


13) Switzerland - This reminds me a lot of the UK's song this year. It's passable. Some of the lyrics are cheesy to say the least. The yellow and purple theme is quirky and different but might get annoying after a while. This is another song my mother likes.



14) Belarus - I really enjoyed this at first. I still like it, but I think I'm losing my love for it. It is well-performed and I love hearing an own-language song. I just don't feel the song itself is as good as other folk songs we've heard on Eurovision recently.


15) Bulgaria - This was another surprising voice - it sounds older than a seventeen-year-old's. The song is an ear-worm and could easily be in the UK charts sung by Bieber or Mendes, though this guy's voice is perhaps superior to both. 

 I could do without the strobing and weird jerky camera effects, but both song and performance are very good.



16) Lithuania - This is a funny one because I like the verses but the chorus feels rather run-of-the-mill Euro-ballad-y. The singer is very intense, but if you like her style then the song can be quite an interesting journey to take with her.


17) Estonia - Another male-female duet from Estonia, and this wasn't as good for me as 2015's "Goodbye to Yesterday". It really reminds me of another dance track. I can't think which. 

 While it didn't live up to Estonia's track record, the song was pretty decent and well-performed. The guy's intense staring to the music was a bit much, however.



18) Israel - This was an average upbeat Eurovision song - he performed it okay, but the song itself wasn't very memorable.


My top ten (just in performance order): Austria, F.Y.R. Macedonia, Malta, Romania, The Netherlands, Ireland, San Marino, Croatia, Bulgaria, Estonia.

My top five (starting with the best): The Netherlands, Austria, Bulgaria, San Marino, Romania.

 Look out for my views on the final, coming soon!

 Feel free to check out my posts from last year's contest, too:

 First semi-final
 Second semi-final
 Big Five and Sweden
 Final

 Thanks for reading!

 Liz x

Monday, 29 May 2017

Eurovision 2017: The first semi-final

 Hello!


 I was studying in Spain during Eurovision this year, which allowed for a different and novel viewing experience. As I was super-busy preparing for exams I didn't have time to blog on the contest at the time, though I did live-tweet it.

 Now, back home in the UK, I have the luxury of watching the semi-finals in a more relaxed way and making notes of my thoughts on each song. I hope you enjoy them!

1) Sweden - I was never a fan of this song, but it is growing on me. They are a smooth outfit and seem very into what they're doing. It is an achievement to stay on the treadmills; I didn't notice them at first.



2) Georgia - A very standard Eurovision ballad, but a solid performance.


3) Australia - In Spain they were saying Isaiah looked like Rafa Nadal. I can see that, but he really reminds me of someone else too, and I can't think who. 

 Musically, he is like Tom Odell. I like his voice and style and the song is okay, but the staging could be better and showcase him more effectively.


4) Albania - A shaky start; they could have got into the song faster rather than leaving the singer to manage alone. When it gets going it is pretty good. Staging-wise, I like the clocks, but the flashing lights are unnecessary.


5) Belgium - I'm rather sick of hearing this song. I would probably have liked it otherwise, but it has been overplayed in the Eurovision world, and I think I might have heard it on the radio in Spain, too. 

 The staging is fine. Blanche's performance is good; she is clearly nervous but gets through it.



6) Montenegro - This was one of the more memorable performances when I first watched. I had been wondering if the braid was real until Scott Mills (commentating) declared that it is detachable.

 The song is okay; the singer lifted it to much more than it would have been. The whole thing felt quite Robbie Williams: a very confident number.


7) Finland - People in Spain and online were very surprised when this failed to get to the final. I like it: the staging and performance are understated, in a good way. 

 Funnily enough, just as I was listening to the song and she was singing "Blackbird, don't sing", I read someone on Facebook complaining about birds being noisy in their garden. Birds should sing when they want to! It's a good song.



8) Azerbaijan - At first I found this to be odd and shouty. Behind all the strangeness, however, it is a decent song and it is remarkable how she is able to keep singing, and singing very well, while doing all the actions, writing and climbing the ladder.

 It was undoubtably one of the most iconic performances this year.


9) Portugal - I never disliked this song, but I felt it was overrated. It is beginning to grow on me, though, and I will always welcome new styles, own languages and stripped-back performances on Eurovision.



10) Greece - This was a song that struck me as a solid one the first time around. I like the water theme; it makes a change from endless fire- and lightning-themed stagings.

 The singer is confident and looks like she is enjoying herself; my mother thinks she looks like Cobie Smulders.


11) Poland - The parade of sitcom stars continues with Penny from Big Bang representing Poland. This is one of the better ballads, though not amazing. Her voice is good and she is putting in a good performance. I like the constellation-y background.



12) Moldova - Is it just me or do the two non-sax guys look like Marcus Butler? The song is catchy and something a bit different. The set-up reminds me a lot of Bosnia and Herzegovina's legendary entry from 2008 by Laka.



13) Iceland - The singer's style, hair and the opening of the song made me think this would be an energetic, dance-y number. It turned out to be one of the best ballads of this year. She really owns the stage and is not overpowered by the song like many other ballad-singers; instead she controls it well.



14) Czech Republic - This stood out for me on my first viewing, and I was sad that it didn't get through. Her voice is not what I had expected to come out of her, and it is lovely.

 She reminds me a lot of the Venezuelan singer Georgina, who I mentioned in my "Songs from Salamanca" article.

 Overall, this was refreshingly different, and I liked it a lot.


15) Cyprus - This is actually a very good song musically and the staging is inventive, though all the white light can be a bit hard on the eyes. 

 I just can't completely connect to it personally, and as I tweeted at the time, I can't see why being someone's gravity would be a good thing.



16) Armenia - This had some great arm-ology, as Craig Revel Horwood would say. Overall, it was okay; not a stand-out number for me.


17) Slovenia - This is a real grower and has an epic, musical-theatre feel while also maintaining the time-tested Euro-ballad structure and spirit. The staging was nice and simple and I like his sparkly suit! 

 He handles the high parts well - it was an all-round solid song and performance.



18) Latvia - This isn't my style of music but they were certainly enthusiastic. I can't really bear all the trippy wannabe-trance stuff in the background - it is somewhat headache-inducing. My mother thinks this singer looks like Katy Perry.


 My top ten (just in performance order): Australia, Belgium, Finland, Azerbaijan, Portugal, Greece, Iceland, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Slovenia.

 My top five (starting with the best): Czech Republic, Iceland, Portugal, Slovenia, Greece.

 Overall, it was a decent semi-final and I did have trouble picking out my top ten. Keep an eye out for my write-up of the second one. I'll also be doing a post on the songs from the Big Five and Ukraine, so watch this space!

 I also blogged Eurovision last year, so check out my posts from then as well:

 First semi-final
 Second semi-final
 Big Five and Sweden
 Final

 Thanks for reading,

 Liz x

Monday, 27 March 2017

Songs from Salamanca

 Hello!


 My feature on the songs of my Spanish summer has been published by Cuckoo Review. It includes tracks by Alan Parsons Project, Robin Gibb, Céline Dion, Roxy Music and more. I hope you enjoy it!

 If you would like to learn more about my time in Spain, check out my travel blog - the post where I first arrive in Salamanca can be found here and you can then go through the others in the Blog Archive on the left.

 I hope to share more articles and reviews on this blog soon, especially with the Eurovision season coming up!

 Hope you're well.

 Liz x

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Review: Indigo Girls - Rites of Passage

 Hello!


 Just letting you know that my piece about Indigo Girls' 1992 album Rites of Passage has been published in The Mancunion.

 I hope you enjoy learning about this vibrant record.

 Liz x

Monday, 18 July 2016

Eurovision 2016: The groovy grand final

 Hello!


 After sharing my thoughts on the first and second semi-final and Sweden and the Big 5, as well as my brother's thoughts on the contest as a whole, it is time to finish my Eurovision 2016 round-up with my opinion of the grand final.

 I enjoyed the flag parade - having it double as a fashion show was an interesting twist. I was pleased to see the musicians looking quite relaxed and happy as they strolled across the stage.

 As for our hosts, Petra and Måns... where do I begin? I've heard so many people who aren't even into Eurovision saying that they loved them and they should host every year.

 I found them a breath of fresh air, especially the brilliant Petra. She was even funnier and more charismatic than in 2013, which I hadn't thought would be possible. I love how the crowd chanted her name as she walked onto stage and how moved by it she seemed.

 I think the postcards could have been slightly more innovative. I like how they showcased the artists' countries instead of just Sweden, but I do think they could have jazzed them up a little.

 I did appreciate the cool things they did with the name of each country at the end of each postcard (different fonts and colours).

 I enjoyed Graham Norton's commentary. He seemed a little less bouncy this year, but I guess that could be linked to Terry Wogan's death. I wish he could have spoken over Petra and Måns less, though as he says every time that he has to, I suppose he must. Still, it was frustrating.

 I could very easily have done without Justin Timberlake and his patronising comments to the contestants. He clearly didn't realise many of them were top musicians in their country and internationally, and treated them like they were talent show newbies.

 His performance wasn't amazing either; I've since grown to quite like the song but that rendition didn't catch my attention. Måns and co. on Segways also looked a bit cheesy and clumsy. He can do a lot better than that.

 However, we all know the real interval act that night was Love Love Peace Peace, Måns and Petra's homage to, and parody of, modern-day Eurovision.


 The song itself is amusing, but it was their performance that made it. Especially Petra, considering she is a comedian first and foremost and not a singer like Måns. I've re-watched it more than most of the night's actual entries. Again, I've heard non-Eurovision fans praise it repeatedly.

 I don't think it quite matches Norway's 2010 flashmob, which in my view is the best interval act ever. But it was better than most we've had in recent years.


 I had my doubts about the new way of presenting the votes. However, it worked okay. It certainly made things more exciting - and tense! - at the end.

 I voted for Sweden and was glad to see they got a point from the UK public vote. To be honest, I expected more than one - Frans has a similar style to some artists who are doing well here at the moment, such as George Ezra, Tom Odell and James Bay. 


 Still, one was better than none and I was happy to see Sweden make the Top 5 - just!

 As for the winner, I think musically it was dull but vocally it was amazing and quite haunting. I won't comment on the politics, as is my general policy with Eurovision songs. 

 I would have been happy with any out of Lithuania, Australia, Sweden or Belgium winning - or the UK, of course!

 Overall, this was one of the best-hosted and generally most enjoyable contests I've watched. Sweden has such respect for Eurovision, which plays a big part in their success both as contestants and hosts. 

 I hope future host nations incorporate some elements of Sweden's two recent contests. (But not Justin Timberlake or Segways!)

 I hope you've enjoyed sharing this year's Eurovision experience with me. Here's to next year!

 Thanks for reading.

 Liz x

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Boomin interview

Hello!

Adam, Edd and Rory
Today I have something special for you - an interview with Rory O'Grady of Wigan indie rock band Boomin. The band are currently celebrating ten years together so I caught up with Rory to learn about the band's origins, inspirations, highlights and aims for the future.

***

Congratulations on ten years! How did the band begin?

It started at Wigan and Leigh College back in 2003 where I met Edd and Adam. We first started a metal original band and there were six of us back then. Edd was the lead vocal frontman and Adam and myself were rhythm and lead guitarists. 

Over time members left, then we decided to originally start a cover band and that's how it all happened.

Who are your musical heroes?

We all have slightly different influences. Adam likes blues, Edd likes 80s and I like alternative rock but we're all fans of the likes of Queen, Foo Fighters, Prince, Billy Joel and Sum 41.

You have some imaginative videos, such as Chocolate: how do you come up with ideas?

As musicians and artists you are always looking and listening to everything around you to give yourself ideas. Sometimes you can steal an idea as long as you put your own spin on it.

Do you feel your style and/or direction has changed over the years?

Yes. It started with the classic cover songs (Johnny B. Goode, Mustang Sally, Brown Eyed Girl) and now we do more genres and do medleys. At the start it was more Adam lead vocal and now we all sing lead. We also chuck in some original material as well.

You travel a lot, do you enjoy life on the road?

It can be the worst part of being in a band but sometimes we can turn it into a positive by having a jam on the acoustics and doing live videos.

What would you say is your biggest achievement?

Getting our album in the iTunes rock chart at no. 22 without any PR or team. Other highlights include performing an original song on stage with Newton Faulkner, supporting McFly and finishing 12th out of 12,000 bands worldwide in Hard Rock Rising 2013.


What are your plans for 2016 and beyond?

Releasing an acoustic album that's more heartfelt and serious for us but it's something totally different for the fans, Then recording more original music hopefully. Just keep touring and making records and see how far we can go.

What advice would you give to young musicians?

Cliché but do what you love and stick at it. Don't change for anyone, be different, don't follow what others do. Hard work equals success, not Lady Luck.

***

It's been great talking to Rory - I hope you have enjoyed the interview. If you did, check out my interviews with Eddi Reader and The Kennedys.

Make sure to give Boomin's music a listen, and you can follow Rory on Twitter at @roryboomin.

Thanks for reading!

Liz x

Monday, 4 July 2016

Eurovision 2016 by my brother

 Hello!



 This is a guest post by my brother Noah Gibson with his views on this year's Eurovision Song Contest. He has two YouTube channels where he reviews music: GibboMaths and GibbyTheLegendG.

 I hope you enjoy his post!
***

Having watched both semi-finals and the final of Eurovision 2016 and having heard all the songs, I have given them all ratings out of 20. I have also rated Romania, which I have listened to on the internet. 

 I think that this year, lots of entries have had good looking performers and great costumes, backing singers and dancers. The lighting for many entries and the way their act performed the song was very good. Some entries had very modern electronic production and some artists had very strong voices. 


 However, the main bad thing about it this year was that there were far too many sad songs and songs with sad parts in them.



Here are my top 3. 

1. Estonia

 I like the piano in the first verse and the guitar in the bridges. The tune is very catchy and the lighting is very good. It is colourful and sophisticated. Jüri Pootsmann does a good magic trick in the middle of the performance. It is very effective when there is a slow part without many instruments before the final chorus.

2. Sweden

 The verses are sung in a way which is very different to most singing. It has got a good beat that carries the song. The lighting is simple but effective and Frans has got good performance skills.

3. Netherlands

 It is a very relaxing song and has a country edge to it, making it different to many other entries this year. There is a variety of good instruments. The clock projection on the floor is good and Douwe Bob has got quite a good image.


Here are my ratings for each country's song.


Albania – 12/20, Armenia – 11/20, Austria – 16/20, Australia – 8/20, Azerbaijan – 14/20

Belarus – 16/20, Belgium – 15/20, Bosnia And Herzegovina – 12/20, Bulgaria – 17/20

Croatia – 11/20, Cyprus – 14/20, Czech Republic – 17/20

Denmark – 12/20

Estonia – 19/20

Finland – 13/20, France – 16/20

Georgia – 17/20, Germany – 12/20, Greece – 10/20

Hungary – 15/20

Iceland – 12/20, Ireland – 14/20, Israel – 16/20, Italy – 13/20

Latvia – 18/20, Lithuania – 13/20

Macedonia – 9/20, Malta – 9/20, Moldova – 18/20, Montenegro – 15/20

Netherlands – 18/20, Norway – 17/20

Poland – 15/20

Romania – 12/20, Russia – 15/20

San Marino – 16/20, Serbia – 13/20, Slovenia – 12/20, Spain – 17/20, Sweden – 19/20, Switzerland – 13/20

Ukraine – 15/20, United Kingdom – 13/20

Here are some songs that I think sound like 2016 Eurovision songs.

Armenia: Lady Gaga – Born This Way

Austria: Marina And The Diamonds – Primadonna

Belarus: Abba – Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)

Belgium: Robin Thicke – Give It 2 U

Bosnia And Herzegovina: The Corrs – Only When I Sleep

Bulgaria: The Vamps – I Found A Girl

Croatia: Jessie J – LaserLight

Cyprus: Cutting Crew - (I Just) Died In Your Arms

Czech Republic: Lady Gaga – Til It Happens To You

Finland: Birdy – Keeping Your Head Up

France: Lawson – Taking Over Me

Georgia: The Police – Roxanne

Germany: Little Boots – Headphones

Israel: Adele – Someone Like You

Latvia: Gnarls Barkley – Crazy

Moldova: The Saturdays – Not Giving Up

Netherlands: Slade – Merry Xmas Everybody

Norway: Kamaliya – I'm Alive

Spain: Avicii – Silhouettes

Sweden: David Bowie – Fill Your Heart

***

 I hope you enjoyed this guest post! Make sure you also check out my posts on the first and second semi finals! 

 The next post will be my own thoughts on the Eurovision 2016 Grand Final, so watch this space!

 Thanks for reading.

 Liz x

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Eurovision 2016: The Big 5 and Sweden

 Hello!


 Having reviewed all the music from the two semi-finals, I'm going to turn my attention to the songs of the six countries that had a fast-track pass to the final. They are the Big 5 - the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Italy - and the host nation, Sweden.

 I found this year's Big 5 showing to be very poor, with only Germany really impressing me musically, though even they were let down staging-wise. Sweden, on the other hand... Wow.

 Let's go through act by act. As always, I'll give a rating out of twenty; this is for the song first and foremost, with my comments supplying my views re vocals, performance and staging.

 UK - I must admit, this is by far the best thing we've sent for years, and the smartest: it has Eurovision written all over it. 


 However, it still isn't amazing and Joe and Jake's performance could have been better, more dynamic. I do like how Graham Norton made an appearance in one of the background photos! 14/20

 France - My mother, brother and cat liked this but I found it slightly dull.


 It's also very similar to "Moustache", France's 2014 entry, and in turn to Stromae's "Papaoutai" (to which parts of Moustache are almost identical). 



 Amir did perform with a good energy and a winning smile but the song is forgettable though, of course, it had its life prolonged after the contest by the big meme made out of Elodie Gossuin, who presented France's votes, attempting to sing it. 


 I think she was sweet and did her job pretty well, and many spokespeople reference their country's song. Anyway, "J'ai cherché" is okay but nothing special. 10/20

 Spain - This song appears to be massive in Spain and, while it's upbeat and easy to dance to, I don't think it's that great. I'd pretty much forgotten what it sounded like until I re-watched it. 


 What did stick in my mind was Barei's performance - she is full of life and fun and clearly didn't take the contest too seriously; she just wanted to enjoy it, and her joy was infectious. I loved her hair, too! The part where she fake-falls would have terrified me if it weren't for Graham Norton warning us!
11/20

 Germany - This is definitely the best Big 5 song - it reminds me of "Ghost" by Halsey in theme and tone. 



 Unfortunately, it was let down by the staging - the Twilight-esque backdrop looked tacky, when, done well, it could have been really effective. 

 While the singer, Jamie-Lee, has a right to dress to suit her personality, I felt it was way over-the-top and it made it hard to take her seriously. It was a shame, as the song was really very good. 16/20

 Italy - I couldn't remember any of this before re-watching! The song's okay, but not really Eurovision and the staging was odd in the extreme, though at least that was memorable: all the random things on sticks. 


 The cartoon-y after-effects - the ripples, stars etc that appeared to be drawn across the screen - were actually quite pretty. Normally any heavy effects of that kind in Eurovision annoy me as I think we should just see what's on stage, but these ones added a bit of umph to a dull performance. 8/20

 Now, from the rather ridiculous to the sublime, and to the song I voted for myself.

 Sweden - The first time I heard this properly was the final and I was struck by how Nate Ruess it was, in both style and vocals! I liked the understated performance and staging and found it hard to believe Frans was only seventeen, he had such presence and power.


 I voted for Sweden, but it was only later that I went from liking the song to loving it. A lot of people have compared it to "Catch and Release" by Matt Simons. 


 There is a resemblance, but not too much of one. I like both songs but prefer Frans and "If I Were Sorry". 18/20

 So, that was the Big 5 and Sweden. Watch this space for my post about the final - and expect plenty of gushing about the wonders of Petra and Måns!

 Thanks for reading!

 Liz x

Monday, 6 June 2016

Eurovision 2016: The sensational second semi-final

 Hello!


 Now I've given you my thoughts on the first semi-final, I'll share with you my views on the second one, which I feel was definitely the stronger of the two.

 To begin with, the hosts Måns and Petra's "That's Eurovision" performance was brilliant! When they first began I thought, "Oh no, they're going all Broadway to please the Americans even more" (with them having already announced that Justin Timberlake would perform during the final). 

 However, they weren't afraid to mock themselves and the contest and it ended up being really funny and enjoyable. Petra, as I've said before, can pull off pretty much anything.


 Now to the competing songs. I'll be using the same scoring system I did for the first semi, ie, each country will receive a mark out of 20 for the song, as well as comments regarding staging, voice and performance. Let's go!

 1) Latvia - I found the song dull but he had good stage presence. It kind of sounded like a slowed-down version of last year's Aussie entry, "Tonight Again". 10/20

 2) Poland - The lighting was nice. I don't have that much else to say about it! It was okay. I don't really get why it's a favourite. 10/20

 3) Switzerland - This was quite nice and reminded me of "Running Scared", which won for Azerbaijan a few years ago. 11/20

 4) Israel - I was pleasantly surprised by this; the singer came across as a character in interviews I'd seen but the performance was understated and quite calm. I liked the simplistic staging, along with his sparkly shirt and gloves! 12/20

 5) Belarus - Ah, the infamous wolf performance! I found there was way too much going on, making it hard to really appreciate the song. 12/20

 6) Serbia - This song had a good message, against domestic violence, but musically it was very average. 8/20

 7) Ireland - The song was okay; rather clichéd even for Eurovision. Nicky Byrne looked awkward, like he wasn't really comfortable performing it. 11/20

 8) FYR Macedonia - This was one of my favourites. The singer has a great voice - and she also seemed very tall! - and the performance was solid. The song sounded like a lot of others strung together but she pulled it off. The drummer was intense! 17/20

 9) Lithuania - Ah, the return of Donny Montell - this time without a blindfold. 


 This year's song from him - "I've been waiting for this night" - was one of the ones I felt had most potential - it's very One Direction and quite catchy - but I think this performance let it down. 16/20

 10) Australia - This is undoubtedly one of the best songs and vocalists but again, I felt something was missing from this performance. I liked the staging - minimalist but effective. 18/20

 11) Slovenia - This was very Taylor Swift; it veered between country and Europop rather oddly but kind of worked, aided by a confident, impassioned performance. 15/20

 12) Bulgaria - The grammar! "If love was a crime..." At least Frans for Sweden got the subjunctive right with "If I were sorry." This was rather boring and run-of-the-mill Eurovision but she certainly performed it with gusto. 12/20

 13) Denmark - The 15-to-1 style podia were interesting. Otherwise this was pretty clichéd; they seemed to be trying a bit too hard to be A-ha or Herreys. 10/20

 14) Ukraine - As I've said before, I'm not getting into the politics of songs. On a musical level, I found this rather slow and repetitive; however her voice is incredible and her performance was assured. 10/20

 15) Norway - Dry ice alert! People seem generally far less obsessed with dry ice these days than they were for a while a few years ago. This performance, however, had all the dry ice anyone could ever desire. The lyrics of the song are appalling - "I'll be your ice-breaker when you're stuck in frozen water"? 8/20

 16) Georgia - This had a lot of weird trippy stuff going on with the graphics and was generally quite dull. 10/20

 17) Albania - An odd but nice dress couldn't salvage a boring song. 9/20

 18) Belgium - This was like a cross between Fleur East and Kylie, transported into the 70s. The song was very enjoyable (though it sounds like so many we've heard before) and her performance was impressive, especially all the dancing. 14/20

 As mentioned earlier, I found this the better semi-final, with a good range of musical styles and some solid songs and performances. Watch this space for my blog posts about the Big 5 and Sweden, and about the grand final.

 Thanks for reading!

 Liz x