We’re continuing our look back at the last twelve months of music from and inspired by the Eurovision Song Contest as 2013 comes to a close.
Following on from part one of our Musical Moments (which you can read here), it’s time for the editorial team of ESC Insight, along with a typically late Irishman, to nominate two tracks that sum up Eurovision for them.
The tracks could be from the finals in Malmö, they could be notable tracks from the National Finals, album tracks, or just part of the fabric of the Contest, but if they have a Eurovision connection, then they can be considered by the team.
So, on with the selection box of songs!
Kedvesem by ByeAlex
Unfortunately my beloved Kedvesem was stolen by John Egan during Part One, so…
Feeling Like a Sir, by Tatyana Shirko
Whilst technically a 2012 song (as the Ukrainian 2013 national selection was held in December 2012), I have clear and great memories of hearing this song for the first time. Gathering in front of the tv watching the stream online in prime time – the only national selection that airs in a reasonable hour in Australia – alongside Liam Clark of EscXtra, we both looked at each other when this shy and retiring young girl emerged looking like she came straight from her job as a secretary.
Her timid voice lost our interest in the first few seconds and we were about to write it off, when the 70s disco beat kicked in. In the space of that short three minutes we both had risen to our feet, boogie-ing away to the beat. Whilst we never doubted we would see Zlata in Malmö, this was the song we had in our hearts and playlists first from Ukraine.
The Righteous Ones, by Ben Ivory
The new format arena style Unser Song für Malmö brought us some of the very best up-and-coming and established talent for Germany in 2013. It was easily the best national contest of the year, even pipping my usual favourite Eesti Laul. Quite a few of the songs from the selection made my playlist, and whilst I think the right decision was to send Cascada to Eurovision I wouldn’t have minded seeing any number of the acts: ‘La La La’ by Betty Dietrich was a catchy number that grabbed a lot of fan attention early on, the electronica of Blitzkids mvt. or even the live energy of LaBrassBanda which almost made it through to the big contest.
The real showstopper for me though is the 80s’ tinged, politically themed tune from Ben Ivory. Perhaps better served by the filmclip than the live contest stage, its remained on my playlist and easily outnumbers in plays quite a few of this years Eurovision tunes.
Alcohol is Free, by Koza Mostra
In all the competitive angst, accusations of bias, and claims and counterclaims over voting, it’s sometimes important to remember that the Eurovision Song Contest is fun! Artists have a chance to entertain the audience both in front of them and down the camera lens, and enjoy themselves at the same time. While Ralf Gyllenhammar did just that during Melodifestivalen with the over the top piano-based rocker ‘Bed on Fire‘ (and when you have fire in the title, you just know there’s going to be some aggressive use of pyro), the band that really captured the musical mirth of the Song Contest was Koza Mostra.
Greece has not had a great year or two, and it was touch and go if ERT would even make it to Malmö (and it’s going to be interesting to see who turns up to represent the country in Copenhagen), but a National Final was organised by private broadcaster MAD TV. The ska infused number brought a sense of light humour to the political situation in the country, as well as a cracking tune you could not help but sing along to. And we’re still stroking our moustaches with a malevolent glint in our eyes here at ESC Insight.
So here’s ‘Alcohol is Free’, but with a bit of a twist – six minutes and seventeen seconds of the extended album version of Koza Mostra’s masterpiece. More Greek guitars, more grinning, more alcohol, more power chords, more tradition, more ska, more infectious beats.
If the alcohol is free, let it flow just a little bit more for the end of the year.
Bellissimo, by Marco Mengoni
A good musical moment should stay with you long after you hear the track, but when you do hear the track there should be an almost primal need to sing along at the top of your voice (even if it’s as out of tune as my voice is). I’ve changed my mind countless times on my second pick, because there are quite a few songs this year that meet that requirement.
In my perfect world ‘Wild White Horses‘ would have been the Swiss selection, but the soaring operatic nature of the lovely horse was eliminated by October 2012, even if it was in the 2013 season. And Samanta Tina’s ‘I Need A Hero‘ in the Latvian National Final is almost there, and ticks all my boxes as the female power ballad of the nationals…
…but the song that I cannot, cannot, resist singing out every time I hear it belongs to Marco Mengoni. Given the choice, the San Remo winner took ‘L’essenziale‘ to Malmö, leaving ‘Bellissimo‘ stranded after its first night appearance at the Ariston. No matter, the song has earned a place close to my heart, with arms outstretched, head looking up to a starlit sky, with musical energy cascading out of every cell, as if I could bring beauty to the entire world through a single song.
Which is Eurovision in a nutshell.
I Feed You My Love, by Margaret Berger
My musical tastes tend to fall somewhat close to Ewan’s (we might have been the biggest fans of ‘Identitet‘ in Malmö if it wasn’t for Roy Delaney…), but we never really quite saw eye-to-eye on this one. That’s ok, though, since I loved Norway’s entry this year enough for the both of us.
From the moment that I heard this at Norway’s MGP, I knew it would become a force to be reckoned with. A study in contrasts, the dark industrial bombast of ‘I Feed You My Love’s’ arrangement is a gorgeous counterpoint to Margaret’s delicate, often times fragile voice. Her form-fitting, bedazzled outfit (which has now surpassed Serbia 2011 on my “favorite dresses list”…no small feat) channels a cocoon and a straight-jacket, both soft and hard, constricting and liberating. The whole package was slinky, surrealistic, modern, and unmistakeably sexy.
I fully admit that I can be guilty of nitpicking and overanalyzing three minutes worth of stage time to the point of exhaustion while sitting in my little perch in the Eurovision bubble. (Let’s be honest, so many of us do the same thing.) By focusing so much on how a song will do in the context of the competition that we all know and love, I sometimes lose track of simply allowing myself to fall in love with what’s been put in front of me. Instead of letting a bass line settle nicely into my brain-pan, I feel compelled to figure out how it can be derailed. Is the costuming right? Is this the perfect camera angle? Were we supposed to see the backing singers? Would pyros make this any better, or just distract? Will voters in Malta, Montenegro, and Moscow all respond to this?
But now, months after the dust has settled in Malmö, I can sit in my apartment, look back on “I Feed You My Love” and see just how damn good this was. Margaret’s next album, supposedly entitled “New Religion”, is due to be released sometime this winter, supposedly with an eye on the U.S. market, and I can’t wait to hear what she comes up with next.
Missing Light by Flank
Possibly more than any other National Final this year, 2013’s edition of Eesti Laul was an absolute bloodbath. During the event’s second semifinal, where ten songs fought for five places in the final, there was only a three-point difference between the first- and last-placed songs.
Because of that, a number of high-quality songs were left languishing on the cutting-room floor. While I loved seventh-placed ‘Balance of Water and Stone‘ by Tenfold Rabbit, it was Flank’s ‘Missing Light’ that grabbed my attention and my nod for “Best National Final Entry”. Soaring vocals paired with driving, instantaneous synth-rock, this entry was almost reminiscent of French band M83’s ‘Reunion’ (a moderate indie hit here in the US), and fit right into my musical wheelhouse.
Caught in a five-way tie for fourth place, it ended up sixth in its semi due to the jury/televote split. Imagine how different the eventual result of Eesti Laul could have been if this had made it to the final, as opposed to the fifth-place qualifier ‘Et uus saaks alguse’ (go on, be honest, can you remember anything about Birgit’s song? – Ewan). Would Grete Paia have taken the title, or even Winny Puuh? The world may never know…but if you’re looking for a reason why it’s worthwhile to follow heats and semis, this is it.
It’s been an interesting year for me personally, I went to the closest Eurovision in my 9 years to where my house is in Scotland, although I have now moved to South Africa it made it the longest trek I have ever taken to see the show. I didn’t get the chance to catch many national finals this year – the cost of internet and purely logistics made this difficult, so my selections are from the shows themselves.
But it was an excellent year – despite the usual cries of “rubbish year!” or “what a load of crap!” from the Euro-fraternity, 2013 turned out to be bloody good. Here are just 2 selections from me to say why I think this is the case.
Gravity, by Zlata Ognevich
I still frikkin’ love this, partly because of the stage act and the tearful cries from the press arena when we saw the giant for the first time dumping her on her pedestal, partly because it is just full of the usual Ukrainian kitsch and over-production, partly because Zlata is jaw-droppingly stunning and can even transfix this gay boy, but mainly, and in truth because of the song.
I adore it – and did from the minute I heard it for the first time.
Melodic and moody, camp and classy, it had just the right amount of cheeziness to be perfect for Eurovision and remind me why countries like Ukraine do so well in this competition. They put effort into this – and the UK is put to shame time after time by these eastern nations that still feel they have so much to prove. I would have liked to have seen them try and replicate the video, a little at least, on the stage. Not sure unicorns roam freely in the forests outside Kyiv, however the song left me with the impression they are alive and well there.
I wanna go live where Zlata’s mind is. Planet Zog, I think it’s called.
Glorious, by Cascada
I wanted Norway’s ‘I Feed You My Love‘ but it’s been a popular choice this year with the team, so let’s go for Germany’s entry.
I love it when ‘mainstream’ acts cross-over to the Euto-Dark Side. I say mainstream, what I mean by that is when Mr or Mrs Brit has heard of the artist before the contest.
Cascada, of course, are an act known in dance circles around Europe with a few hits in the UK – this should have done better than it did. Natalie’s voice wasn’t great on the night, but to be fair was nowhere near the traincrash I was lead to believe from friends watching it on the TV.
It is a great dancey track – catchy and rich – yet it still managed to somehow get lost on the night and the points it scored confirmed that. It wasn’t the disaster of Ireland, of course, but this is a credible track that would not have been out of place in the UK Top 40 – provided the DJ playing the track didn’t allude to the fact of its Song Contest history, no one would have known. I like songs that can do that – almost be camouflaged so that Joe Public in ESC-sceptic countries still tap their feet.
Good one Germany, just sorry for your loss. Especially after so much effort in recent years.
En Förlorad Sommar by Rikard Wolff
Eurovision for me is simply the world’s biggest festival of new songwriting. I know I’m not alone in that, but I understand Eurovision is so much more as well. Especially true in Sweden, where Melodifestivalen is just a crazy 6 week long party around the country trying to cater to every group from 3 to 93 trying to have a good time as well.
However, half of those 32 songs still come from a jury, and still get selected on their ability as a song. It stays true to the mantra of finding the best song as well as the rest of the circus.
Sandwiched towards the end of Semi Final 2 comes this gem of a song. Written by Tomas Andersson Wij (known in MF circles for this cover of Invincible in 2007), it is a hauntingly magical piece of music. The constantly flowing of the suspended chords clashing back to the uplifting major chords with beautiful string arrangement lifts the story up of the regrets of a lifetime. The key change is by far one of the smoothest and most fantastic I have ever heard in music, and the classical ending of the song sets a poignant sense of optimism. G:Son/Kempe and all the others still have a lot to learn…
Rikard Wolff, known for having severe problems with his lungs, was not the artist best placed to send this song to victory, despite his backstory and charisma. If a miracle happened and Sweden sent this to Malmö, I can imagine every TV viewer starting a conversation at home about how Sweden was trying not to win. To be honest, that this managed to squeeze up to second-last in it’s MF semi is a source of pride that somebody, somewhere, agreed with me and appreciated this. I love the sing-a-long schlager, I love the dance numbers and those acts so polished with production and routine that not a hair could be misplaced, but I really love Melodifestivalen because songs like this pop up every year too and deserve to force their way to the top of my iPod list.
The Young by Anina
This should have won the entire Eurovision instead of little Emmelie without her shoes in Malmö. Instead, it washed up not qualifying from a semi of MGP in Norway.
The issue here was the time and place of this song. It certainly wasn’t a song for Anina, and I doubt it was ever written for her to represent Norway with back in the beginning. Checking out the three songwriters in question, they are all trained in Sweden (one with MF entries ‘Kyss Mig’ and ‘Gosa’ as songwriting credits) and are all trained as songwriters first and foremost. Anina is an artist too in her own right, but the way this is produced speaks to me that they just couldn’t find any artist who would do the track the justice it needs.
It needs somebody like these, and then we are talking about a huge potential winner of course.
Of course, One Direction would hoover up the televote. We know that, but they could sing the alphabet and win the televote. This song is probably the most commercially sounding teen-adored-boy-band song I have heard all year, but ended up being sung by a girl in black leather. She did great, but it wasn’t right. The structure bounces all over the place and demands crazy camera shots trying to keep up 5 boys singing through the fairly simple melody. The 4 chord loop chorus is spot on the money for a boy band image and the oo-oo-oo-oo-oo sections are screaming out for silly floppy haired lads to get adored over.
This would have taken enough jury votes too to have stumbled over the line and would have been a European wide hit to have rivalled Euphoria. Whether that would be enough for such a big act is a different question.
Of course, we are talking in fantasy world here British Eurovision fans, but here was the song that would have done it for us.
(Garrett is the editor of Eurovision Ireland. With the typical Irish flair for the craic, he missed the deadline for ‘Friends of the Parish’ to contribute to part one of our Musical Moments, and thus brings up the rear in part two).
Indie Club, by Danny Saucedo
It is always good to recycle and do your part for the environment. This year’s Melodifestivalen certainly proved that the Swedes like to be ‘green’… and yellow, red, blue, and gold. For a colour-blind old fool like me, the Swedes were every colour under this sun, in probably one of the best interval acts in MF’s history.
Danny Saucedo was back in his comfort zone – singing and dancing – as the poor man may have the looks of a second-tier Viking God and the voice of an angel, but the presenting skills of Lynda Woodruff. However the reworking of his 2011 Melodifestivalen song (robbed in my opinion) to become ‘Indie Club’ is by far one of the most vibrant and technically amazing interval acts for any Eurovision National Selection.
If you are like me and love all things Eurovision and Bollywood, then this was a rush to the system that had every sensory receptor in my body on high alert. It was the brainchild of Thomas Benstom, who is the Artistic Director of 4 Elements Dance Productions in Stockholm. The routine had been talked of in the media before the night of the broadcast and such was the interest that I was seemingly not the only person who tuned in to watch the act. A staggering 3.6 million Swedes tuned in for “Indie Club” – which was a new record at Melodifestivalen.
I am not sure if you have been to Sweden before but it is a country that prides itself on being a multicultural society. Yes there has been conflict of late but this interval act encapsulated how Sweden truly is a melting pot (more accurately a fondue pot) of races. A Swedish pop song went to India and came back to our screens full of the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, the passion of Delhi and the vast movements of the Ganges River. Simply breathtaking. ‘Who wants to be a Slumdog Millionaire‘ when you have ‘Indie Club‘?
It’s My Life, by Cezar
Many people, myself included, upon first seeing and hearing Romania’s entry at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest laughed, sniggered and thought “What have Romania done?” Cezar (actually, let’s give him his full title because words and titles have power) Cezar ‘The Voice’ may not have won Eurovision in Malmö this year or even come close to it, but he certainly confounded his critics and, more importantly, he did it in the most spectacular fashion!
‘It’s My Life‘ is one of my favourite songs from the contest this year and I would go as far as to say over the past decade. It is one thing to sing in front of 170 million TV viewers, it is another thing to do it while you are dressed as Dracula, being risen perilously into the air, with pyrotechnics being shot at you, surrounded by dancers in devilish red and tasteful nude, while at the same time risking your successful career as one of the world’s leading counter-tenor opera singers.
Florin Cezar Ouatu certainly did not need to enter Eurovision to further his career, as he was already a star in his own field, but to put everything on the line for country and flag singing popera is something that you just have to take your hat off to, or in this case give your jugular vein to.
People certainly have little appreciation for and knowledge of the counter-tenor voice. People were not shy in their laughter at Cezar, yet he maintained absolute dignity in Malmö. Not many people will know or imagine this but Cezar is a shy man despite what his stage performances portray. Speaking to him at Euroclub you could see just how humble he was and that speaks volumes when you get plenty of ‘talent challenged’ performers at the contest who are always willing to talk of themselves!
For me Cezar proves that the “Good Guys Win” too! Critics have been silenced by his follow up single ‘Painful Love‘ and he has duets with Loreen and Sarah Brightman waiting in the wings. Talent comes in all shapes and sounds, and I was introduced to the delights of the countertenor that I thank my Romanian Vampire for.
All Hail Cezar!
What Were Your Musical Moments Of The Year?
We’ve just one more thought on the Class of 2013 before the end of the year, so watch out for that. But before then, if you haven’t nominated your two moments of the year, let us know in the comments!