Tim: This came an incredibly close second in the Austrian race, and we’ll discuss this for a few reasons, not least of which is that it gives me the chance to point out that the winning entry is by the group Trackshittaz.
Tom: Well, that’s going to be an interesting name for Graham Norton to handle. Anyway, on with the show!
Tim: I’m not too sure of what Conchita’s all about – the internet seems evenly split between drag act, entire fictional personality or genuine transsexual.
German Wikipedia and the official website indicate the second one, but as far as the song goes, this is very definitely passing along a Born This Way style message that accompanies the third.
Tom: The papers won’t have to deal with another Dana International, then. If it wasn’t for the beard, they wouldn’t care or notice – but this is prob… whoa. Okay, half way through writing this, the first chorus kicked in, and my word that’s quite a voice.
Tim: Isn’t it just? Whatever the act’s about, it’s a bloody powerful song, the chorus especially.
Tom: I feel the verses let it down a bit too far – there’s more than just contrast with the choruses, there’s actually a bit of buzzkill there.
Tim: I’m hard-pressed not to agree with you there, but even so, once those lights are going off over the place, it’s hard to shake the feeling that THIS IS DRAMA. Just a slight shame the cameraman tripped up at the end, really.
Tom: I wonder if that was enough of a blip to affect the voting, if it really was That Close?
5th out of a quarter of Sweden’s songs. We get Engelbert Humperdinck.
Tim: Six days before the BBC announced that Engelbert Humperdinck* would be representing Britain, a country that cares about Eurovision, and puts effort into finding a good song, had one of four semi-finals and noticed that a full four songs in it were even better than this.
* Engelbert Humperdinck, for crying out loud, whose notable achievement of the past ten years, according to Wikipedia, was auctioning his Harley Davidson for Leicestershire Air Ambulance.
Tom: What? Are you trying for the Run-On Sentence of the Year Award or something?
Tim: Put another way, a song as good as this one came fifth out of a quarter of Sweden’s songs, and we’re lumped with Engelbert Humperdinck. Jesus Christ.
Tom: I’m still not sure I follow you.
Tom: Ooh. Their staging team have taken a couple of cues from Beyonce with that video wall. Which is probably for the best, because that opening is a bit naff compared to the rest of the song.
Tim: Wow, that Beyoncé’s things cool. But this opening, compared to the rest, yes it is a bit naff. But the rest is brilliant, which means the opening is still great.
Tom: Aside from that, and the middle eight, though – a bit too lacklustre for me there – this is a cracking song. I did keep wanting to sing Take That’s “Happy Now” over the top of it though.
Tim: Engelbert Humperdinck. My work is opening up a store in Stockholm later this year. You have no idea how much I want to get a transfer there.
Tim: The M from EMD; his former bandmate Danny competes in Melodifestivalen’s fourth and final heat tonight but Mattias was, unfortunately for him, knocked out last week in fifth place.
Tim: So, we start out with a fairly gentle, not hugely inspiring ballady thing, and we all know what happens next – something drops in, another instrument or two, yes, here’s a drumbeat building up to the chorus and what the hell just happened?
Ooh, we’ve moved genres, and it’s actually very listenable.
Tom: I was expecting the kick-in about four bars earlier – in fact, this track kept defying my expectations. It kept zigging when it should be zagging. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is bloody confusing.
Tim: Let’s just hope people forgive the boring intro.
Tom: And the boring middle eight.
Tim: You can probably guess what the title translates to, what with the excessive desperation he’s singing with, and bless him, what’s he done to upset the average Swedish voter? Oh, I don’t know – probably that fairly boring intro he felt it necessary to start with. All he really wants is for them to forgive him enough to vote for him.
Tom: Which they didn’t.
Tim: Indeed not. But you know, I actually don’t think it was the boring start that did it for him. My money’s instead on the backing dancers, because they really should know that’s not how you hold a lightsaber, and people clearly punished him for that. Sad, but that’s Eurovision for you.
Tim: This chap, fresh out of last year’s X Faktor Hungary, came top in his semi-final but didn’t even place in the actual final, which is a shame, I think.
Tom: The music started. He sang. I cringed.
Tim: It gets straight in there with no messing around – this is an upbeat pop song song that quite clearly knows what it’s doing, and it does it fairly well.
Tom: See, until that first chorus, I’d have described it as ‘downbeat’, and I’m not sure that chorus rescues it.
Tim: Really? Huh. There are a few issues, though – it seems to get a bit bored after the key change, not really knowing where to go next, but it’s fine staying where it is. It needs a better ending, as well – it’s either got to be more drawn out or more abrupt, because the length it is just doesn’t do it for me.
Tom: Heh. That’s what she said. Anyway, none of this song really “does it for me” – and I think that’s down to the singer.
Tim: Yes, and he’s the biggest problem for me as well, actually, because good as he is I can’t quite shake the feeling that he’s singing a little bit above his comfort zone. He’s bang on with all the notes, but the somewhat strained middle eight, along with the occasional more comfortable deep note near the beginning, just gives me the impression he’ll be reaching for a glass of water once this is done.
Tom: Yep, exactly. It’s like how I need a glass of water after listening to Tom Waits; my throat just closes in sympathy.
Tim: I’ve mentioned a lot of negative points here – overall, though, they are somewhat minor ones and easily fixed, and they don’t take away from the fact that I think this is a really good song. Like I said, upbeat pop that knows what it’s doing.
From Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, we’re left with precisely one to discuss.
Tim: Last year, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix was so good we devoted a whole week to it. This year, they can be split roughly into two groups: five that were utter cack, and five middling to good ones. Of those five, one got disqualified, one won the contest and two others have had their performance videos pulled off YouTube. All of that goes together and leaves us with precisely one to discuss. This one, to be precise.
Tom: On a side note: YouTube voting wouldn’t be too bad a metric for Eurovision success. It’s difficult to game, because you need a working Google Account in order to get it working – and there’s a dislike button, too. I should do some maths about that. Not right now, though. Let’s discuss this song.
Tim: And it’s not a bad one to discuss. It’s not amazing, but it does have some excellent long notes, with a particularly long one being followed up by a not-too overstated key change, some nice up-and-down synth bits under the verses, and a couple of rather long legs.
Tom: I can confirm that I noticed all of those things.
Tim: That figures. The big screen at the back is also used well (and in time with the beat, which is a bonus), and the drummers keep themselves to themselves so there’s no distraction there. Really, I can see only two reasons for her not getting through: firstly, you NEVER break from the song to chat to the audience. You only need to look at Jimi Constantine to see where that can lead. What’s he done since then? NOTHING, that’s what.
Tom: I checked that allegation with Wikipedia, and I pronounce it “probably correct”.
Tim: Oh, please, I’m always correct. And secondly, voters clearly don’t like product placement. In the first and last chorus, the second line is clearly ‘baby you’re my one and only remedy’. But in the second chorus, I’d swear she’s singing ‘baby you’re my one and only Benylin’, and that’s just not on.
Got knocked out by three that were absolutely not as brilliant.
Tim: February’s here, and many countries are well on their way to choosing their entry to Eurovision; as ever, this means that several excellent tracks are being cruelly discarded (along with a whole load of utter tripe), either because they can’t match up to the brilliance of their peers, or because the viewing public are utter morons. Time, I reckon, to start our review of some of them, and this is a fantastic one to start with. It got knocked out of the second heat of Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix last week, by three that were absolutely not as brilliant.
Tom: I was in Norway last week, as it happens. It’s a nice country. Do you like mountains?
Tim: On the whole.
Tom: Do you like fjords?
Tom: Do you like being charged a ridiculous amount of money for absolutely everything?
Tim: Erm, not so much.
Tom: Ah, then Norway may not be the country for you.
Tim: Not even with this as music?
Tim: The music is fantastic. The vocal’s got a nice tune to it.
Tom: It is, but I can’t help feeling they’ve not picked the right singer for the job. She’s got a nice, understated voice that occasionally seems a little detuned – which would be good for a calm ballad. This is a Big, Bold, Synth-Heavy track, though: it either needs someone whose voice can soar, or it needs him out of Scooter.
Tim: Perhaps, and I did think something like that when I heard the live version. The studio version, on the other hand, and which I heard first, I think sounds perfect with her voice, and it’s a great shame that didn’t come across on the night.
Tom: It’s good, but I still think it needs a more powerful vocalist. She’s great, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t think she fits this track.
Tim: Well, whoever’s doing the vocals, they’re backed up by some great instrumentation – the chorus sounds like the C-music from Tetris (which was totally the best, by the way) – and it’s not remotely difficult to imagine this getting decent airplay over here. The dancing is pretty good – nothing amazing, but that glow in the dark bit when they’re all in a line with their arms is quite cool.
Tom: Of course, that’s frequently more important than the song itself as far as the voting public’s concerned.
Tim: Well, quite, and it’s not alone in that respect. Take the staging, for example, which here is somewhat incredible: the lights are roughly what you’d get if you poured half a ton of sugar into a Dulux factory and then blew it up, and as far as I’m concerned that’s as good as it gets for a song like this. And the costumes are a tad odd, even by Eurovision standards – we’ve got two giant Cornettos on each shoulder, inverse torso clothing for the dancers as well as black knights from Monty Python and the Holy Grail on keyboards. Any explanation? None whatsoever, but who cares?
Tom: Because Eurovision. That’s why.
Tim: Really, the only reason I can think of not to put this through above one of the other ones would be the not-quite-Eurovision-grade steadicam shot at 1:40. So, Mr Norway, what’s Norwegian for ‘morons’?
Tom: You know, I didn’t get around to asking that when I was there. I can, however, swear in Finnish now. (No, not Norwegian. Long story.)
Tim: Here’s a song that could be straight out of the Avatar soundtrack, but is actually straight out of Melodifestivalen’s Second Chance round.
Tom: Is it sung in Na’vi? No? Damn.
Tim: No staging, no other people, the message is simple: listen to Linda. Listen to her deliver these inspiring vocals superbly, and watch as we bathe her in heavenly light. First see her as an angel with this halo we’ve started her off with, who has descended to Earth to fill humanity with beautiful music and happy thoughts. Now hear the emotion in her voice as she describes how the pain of a near break-up can turn to something that brings a couple closer than ever. And then see the sparks raining down and the stage fill with light, brought on solely by her perfectly executed key change. Finally, hear her thanks and divine giggle at the end, and take that as a signal to take down the number and vote for her later.
Tom: I couldn’t interrupt a beautiful paragraph like that. In summary: I thought it took a long while to get going, but you’re right – the ending was worth it.
Straight out of the bag labelled ‘songs you’d expect Tim to hate’
Tim: Straight out of the bag labelled ‘songs you’d expect Tim to hate’ comes this, which actually I enjoyed.
Tom: “I walk a lonely road / The only one I’ve ever known”
Tim: What? Anyway, why do I like it? I’m not sure. It’s the sort of track that tends to get stuck halfway through some metal albums – the token not so heavy piece that actually has a tune and is there to give it a slight piece of mainstream appeal – and that for some reason, I really like.*
* Another example: Dragonforce’s Dawn Over a New World, currently at number 12 in my iTunes top played list, sandwiched between Hera Björk and One Direction. There’s an image for you.
Tom: “Don’t know where it goes / But it’s only me to me and I walk alone”
Tim: Um, OK. Well, it’s not a standard Melodifestivalen track, obviously, although it did get straight through to the final by coming second in its heat.
Tom: “I walk this empty street / On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
Tim: OH MY GOD YES – how did I not hear that? As for the performance, it’s not note-perfect by any means, and there’s no stage show to speak of. But dammit, it’s got a bloody great tune to it, and that’s what does it for me. Well, that and the key change, obviously.
Tom: Comparisons to Green Day aside, I actually really enjoy it as well – and I think this could have done rather well in the contest itself. And I’ll take glass-projected guitarists and waving red lights as a stage show: I think, even without those gimmicks, his presence would have done the job just fine. This is going on my playlist.
Sadly, not particularly Melodifestivalen-friendly.
Tim: This is a great song.
Tom: It’s not a Snow Patrol cover, is it? No? Good.
Tim: Sadly, though, it seems it’s not particularly Melodifestivalen-friendly, coming as it did last in the (admittedly very strong) fourth heat.
Tim: As I said, great song (studio version on his website), and quite possibly future hit single.
Tom: It really is!
Tim: But, problem: the act on stage just didn’t really click for me, at all. He didn’t seem to know (or even care) what was going on around him, the smoke and the screen visualisation just seemed entirely generic*, and the floor dancers/backing singers were just going through the motions during the chorus, and doing nothing at all during the second verse.
* The fact that the concentric circles during the first verse didn’t appear at the same frequency as the beats also annoyed me, but that’s just because I’m like that.
Tom: And if we’re being cruel, he hit more than his fair share of bum notes in there – in particular during the run up to the key change. Now, I realise that I couldn’t hit a single note if I was up there myself – but then again I’m not trying to represent my country in Eurovision.
Tim: The worst thing, though? The sheet dancers, or whatever they’re meant to be called —
Tom: “Aerial performers”, or possibly silk dancers.
Tim: Thank you — because really, what were they doing? They rolled down as they were meant to do for a triumphant end to the chorus, but then spent the next minute or so just dangling there, twirling around without much synchronicity, and at times flailing around, looking like they were desperately trying to find something to grab on to and steady themselves (2:10, I’m looking at you).
Tom: Which is a shame, because in the right hands it can be absolutely incredible. See, for example, Pink’s incredible performance at the 2010 Grammy Awards. And yes, she’s singing live.
Tim: But the main question: when first he sings ‘I [PAUSE]’ about forty seconds in, what is the song I want to sing? The line continues either ‘…don’t want to be a hero’ or ‘…I want to be a hero’. WHAT’S THE SONG TOM.
Tom: Oh, BLOODY HELL I don’t know. It’s some club track, I think. I can’t remember it. Readers, any ideas in the comments? Please?
Imagine a typical Swedish Eurovision entry. This is pretty much it.
Tim: Imagine a typical Swedish Eurovision entry. This is pretty much it.
Tom: Blimey, that is textbook, isn’t it? That could be any regular Scandinavian Eurovision entry in the last decade or two.
Tim: Interesting result for this one: despite doing fairly well with the international juries, it got barely 3% of the telephone vote in the final of Melodifestivalen, which is a shame, especially since it came top of its heat.
Tom: I can see that happening: it’s one that could get picked as the best of its kind, only to seem a bit generic when it hits the final.
Tim: With the quick fake ending and then the key change, this is a brilliant piece of schlager, and I love it. Throw in the bright clothing, the wind machine and the upside-down camera, this is a performance that I reckon was robbed of a decent placing.
Tom: I was wondering where the wind machine was when the song started. I wasn’t disappointed.