Monday, April 30, 2012

VALENTINA: AMSTERDAM, LONDON, TEL AVIV...

San Marino's Valentina Monetta is bringing her social network abroad a bit before heading for Baku 2012. After the Eurovision in concert in Amsterdam and yesterday's London gathering she's off to Israel and will meet and greet fans in Hotel Maxim, 89 Hayarkon street in Tel Aviv. She's to meet also the Israeli entrant Izabo. More info here
And don't forget the coolest Eurovision competition of the season with fabulous prizes. You can still enter for two weeks only right here.

NINA ZILLI CONQUERS BOLOGNA

Great success for Nina Zilli in Bologna where she gave a sold out concert this Saturday after the OGAE Italy convention where she was present in her casual look as you can see in the photo with the hostess and OGAE Italy president, wonderful Cristina Giuntini. The Italian fans got to meet her and had a fabulous evening. Nina's L'amore è femmina tour ends in Turin on May 5th but tomorrow she will be present in Rome's mega open air concert for May 1st. After that the preparations for Baku 2012 will start with full swing. Watch here the highlights of the evening. 

FINNISH IDOLS: WE HAVE FINALISTS

Last night it was the last show in Peacock Theater in Helsinki before the show will move on to the Helsinki Ice hall next Sunday. Torsten Borg was voted out - rightfully so if you ask me - and we have two big voiced ladies in the final so one thing is for sure: it will be a female winner in this edition, the first since Hanna Pakarinen, who won the very first edition. The megasuperfavourite since the beginning, only 17-year-old Diandra Flores belted out Listen from The Dreamgirls but Susanna Erkinheimo (27) was the big surprise by giving such a performance of The Power of love that even Jennifer Rush and Celine Dion would applause. This blogger has loved her cover of Johanna Kurkela's Rakkauslaulu previously while the song's composer, Lauri Ylönen from The Rasmus was as a judge. For the first time ever the Finnish Idols has had singers that can really do big power ballads! But this edition is only saved by these two, The Voice of Finland wins in every other aspect plus had much better singers in general, even if the winner then maybe wasn't the best of them in that aspect. 

WHO HAS KISSED A BOY?

Tooji has. When the Swedish magazine QX asked him if he has he answered with a laugh "Who hasn´t?". He also tells he's very much aware he has a lot of gay fans and thinks it's very cool and he can't wait to perform in some Pride or another gay gathering soon. He says he's very proud to be among this year's gay favorites and why does he think gays like his song Stay? "Because it's the best!"
When asked who's cuter of the ex-Norwegian Eurovision artists Didrik Solli-Tangen or Alexander Rybak he says: "Didrik is hunkier, so I have to answer Didrik. But Alexander is very cute, too!" He also names his eyes as his best feature even if "it would be easier to name the body parts I'm not satisfied with!"
But let's leave these gay magazine questions aside as the interview is pretty nice. He says he met his Swedish songwriters through his management and went to Sweden to meet them. They all had a clear idea how his song should be and wrote it very easily. They reworked it several times but always went back to the original version, that remained the perfect one. One of them, Peter Boström is also co-writer of the Swedish entry Euphoria by Loreen that Tooji names his favorite along with the Cypriot entry Lala love by Ivi Adamou. Besides Loreen in Melodifestivalen he liked Ulrik Munther's Soldiers
His staging in Baku 2012 will be pretty much the same as in the Norwegian final but obviously some minor changes will be done, including his outfit. He also reveals he hasn't performed the song since the Norwegian final but 2-3 times so he needs to get the act together again before going to Baku. 
When asked about his similarity to Eric Saade he says: "I just loved Popular so it doesn't bother me, but most of all we are just two dark haired pop stars and that's all the similarity there is!"
In conclusion he says about his chances: "I'm going for the gold! It's going to be a very good year for Norway!"

Sunday, April 29, 2012

IT'S LONDON TIME!

After Amsterdam it's all about London this weekend, where the 5th annual meeting and greeting of the Eurovision artists takes place. Nine of the 2012 acts have confirmed their presence so far and also Slovenian Omar Naber (2005), Kati Wolf (Hungary 2011) will be there with maybe some other surprises. Also you can win tickets to fly to Baku for the real thing. So, Anggun from France, Compact Disco from Hungary, Donny Montell from Lithuania, Eva Boto from Slovenia, Kaliopi from Macedonia, Sabina Babayeva from Azerbaijan and Valentina Monetta from San Marino and Filipa Sousa from Portugal will meet again. 
The Shadow Lounge in Soho will be the location and the doors open at 7pm on Sunday April 29, 2012.. Nikki French (UK 2000) and Paddy O'Connell are hosting. More information here

FRÄMLING - A BOOK ABOUT CAROLA

Carola. A household name in Sweden (and not only). Each and everyone has an opinion about her. She doesn't need a surname. She has given a face and more to Christian people. A voice, a body and a little bit rock'n roll. Andreas Ekström and Johanna Koljonen try to find the truth behind the woman but it doesn't work. The divas can't be explained. So the book turns into a declaration of love, whether they want or not. After all they are fans. It doesn't mean it doesn't have analytic quality. It does. And it's easy and fun to read and deeply serious. Carola is far from politically correct especially in sexual matters, sometimes a real blond in what she lets out of her mouth. She is hated and loved at the same time, both by schlager audience and gays alike - despite all. After all she has the voice and the energy that sets her apart. 
The book doesn't answer the questions around the enigma called Carola but it does make the reader think what it is that makes her so special, makes us feel so strongly about her in a way or another? Why it makes us look back in our youth with a surprise and realize we were fans? And still are whether we want or not. Anyone who says he's not interested in Carola is lying. The book tries to find out what she means to Christians and to gays and what's behind that intense gaze she has at times? Is she a Christian singer who has had some less divine success in the profane world or the other way around? The mystery remains....

ESC 2012: SPAIN Vs. AZERBAIJAN

Two power ballads, co-written by Swedes, sung by two ladies with big voice and maturity over the younger girls. Pastora Soler (33) has already gained platinum and gold albums and various awards and is concidered as one of the best voices in Spain, a year younger Sabina has yet to score big on recording market but has already claimed a few awards on various festivals. Classy ladies indeed. But it's 4-0 for Spain.

Spain - Pastora Soler - Quédate conmigo (Stay with me) ****1/2
The song starts beautifully and Pastora's vocals are fantastic. The song slowly unfolds and grows in true Eurovision style and she belts out some long amazing notes. She comes across likable and you want her to deliver and keeps you listening and almost holding your breath. The best Spanish entry for a long, long time. But then, will the televoters have a patience to concentrate and listen, as the show factor isn't that evident. Pastora herself is the show. Nothing else is needed and I hope they won't have some distracting circus on stage behind her... Deserves a top-10. At least.

Azerbaijan - Sabina Babayeva - When the music dies **1/2
On paper this has all the same ingredients as Spain, yet I don't get it. It leaves me totally indifferent and cold. Is it Sabina or is it the song? It doesn't make me want to listen to it again and again. It's very predictable and you know exactly how it will go on and the added "ethnic" sounds doesn't help. Boring. In the video she hardly ever looks at you = sings to you. If she does that on stage, too, it's doomed. Compared to Spain, this has it all wrong while Spain has it all right in my books, but I'm afraid the scoreboard won't agree with me in the end. 

ALICE IN CONCERT 2012

Alice did one of her rare concert last Saturday, April 21, 2012 in Bellinzona. A rare treat to her fans it was sold out well ahead of the date and she kept her promise to perform some of old songs for the first time since the 1980's like Messaggio. This blogger is so jealous for those who got to go there as the tracklist is like a dream. A fantastic mix of old and new, hits and great album tracks. I have seen her live both in Helsinki and Rome and the atmosphere in her concerts is incredible, and she really is an unique talent in the music scene. Can't wait for her new album in May (some say now postponed to September?), her first in in three years and the first with new songs since 1998! Below you can find the tracklist. Watch some videos and photos here

1. 1943 2. Gli ultimi fuochi 3. Il contatto 4. Prospettiva Nevski 5. Nomadi 6. Chanson egocentrique 7. I treni di Tozeur 8. La recessione 9. Le baccanti 10. Tempo senza tempo 11. Il sole nella pioggia 12. Anin a gris 13. Dammi la mano amore 14. A' chiù bella 15. La cura 16. È stato molto bello 17. Non insegnate ai bambini 18. Il vento caldo dell'estate + 19. Per Elisa 20. Messaggio

Saturday, April 28, 2012

THE PARODY GUYS SAY: PARTY FOR EVERYBODY!

You were expecting this, weren't you? After their Kuunkuiskaajat parody Työlki ellää that was loved by the girls themselves and half of Finland along with Europe they did Eric Saade's Popular last year (no information on what he thought about it) this time they have done the video for the Udmurt grannies Buranovskiye Babushki song Party for everybody. It's the promo video the grannies themselves never did, bringing the song to another level, so to speak. Once again fabulous job and pure entertainment! With an important message. Well done, Dekel, Bastien and your co-grannies and extras!
(And on a such wonderful spring day we have in Finland today you may want to enjoy this old gem of theirs, too.)

TOOJI - MORE THAN A PRETTY FACE


Tooji was born in Shiraz in Iran in 1988. He had his first birthday whilst fleeing to Norway. The family’s Persian traditions and roots have given Tooji strong references, both musically and personally. A good life with a close-knit family in a new country has influenced his upbringing and life choices since. With a strong wish to express impressions and feelings Tooji has gone his own creative ways, and after art school and theatre school, it was finally music that became closest to Tooji’s heart.
In addition to devoting himself to his passions, the experience of working in kindergartens and with after-school-activities, young people and asylum seekers, has given Tooji an even more important mission in life: To give a voice to those who would otherwise not have been heard. Some choices have been more important than others, and working with refugees in asylum centers has made its mark on him. "It's a hard work but gives a lot" says Tooji. “I was incredibly happy that I had my family here, a comfy bed, food and a roof over my head. At the same time it made me very sad too see all these people, children and youngsters, with so much misery and sadness in their eyes. It put things into perspective.”
Tooji completed his studies in child protection, and he now works as a child protection consultant in the department of after-care, a job he finds intense and socially important, challenging and vital. In encounters with youngsters the problems are often similar, regardless of where they come from. “When I dedicated myself to causes and people I wanted to help, I knew the political arguments, the rules and regulations – but nobody listened. It was so frustrating! My devotion alone wasn't enough, and that became an important motivational factor in my burning wish to get a voice that someone would listen to.”
About the Norwegian national final he says it was scary as he was for the first time on stage that big and the song Stay is about joy and going with the flow, mixing Eastern sounds with Western pop. He also didn't even think about being a singer until he was 18-19 even if music has always been a big part of his life. He thinks he's not a great dancer but knows how to move and has a voice so he has a chance of becoming an artist. And where does his hip movement come from? "As a kid I was always watching my cousins do the belly dancing and imitating them...."
His singing career started with the classic "right place, right time" opportunity when he had a chance to replace a singer of a show with a very short time of notice. He did and it was a success, of course. And here he is now. "I can't wait to be on stage in Baku. It'll be a huge show. Full of fire. My roots are in Persia and you can see it. It's a true honor to represent Norway, it's beyond my wildest dreams. I'm so happy and humble and just... WOW! My goal is to reach out to millions of people and come back as number one. I'm gonna win this." He lists his all time favourite Eurovision songs Ooh aah just a little bit, Hold one be strong and of course Fairytale. 
Here's an acoustic version of Stay. And how about the choreography? Learn it here

Blogilkar wishes Tooji all the best in Baku. He seems like a real nice guy with a lot to give in many levels. 
Thank you NRK for the information.

NINA ZILLI AND FANS IN BOLOGNA TONIGHT

OGAE Italy is organizing a convention in Bologna tonight with Nina Zilli's concert. A lot of effort has been put into this happening and Blogilkar congratulates the club! The convention starts at 5pm with the screening of all the 42 previews and continues with a dinner at 8pm. After that at 10pm Nina Zilli takes the stage in Estragon club and after the concert the night continues with Eurovision tunes. Sounds like fun! 

Friday, April 27, 2012

ESC 2012: SLOVENIA Vs. SERBIA

As there is Scandipop there is Big Balcan Ballad in Eurovision. This year we have two prime examples of the latter, when Slovenia tries it for the first time and Serbia, the master of the game tries it once again. But while Slovenia sends a 16-year-old debutant, who despite making a good job might still get a bit lost with the song penned by the very man who wrote the only BBB winner, 2007's Molitva, Serbia sends the very man who wrote the mother of all BBB, 2004's Lane moje, also for Serbia. And while Serbia has been a real success story in Eurovision, Slovenia has been struggling with only three top-10 finishes since 1993. This is 4-6 for Serbia for me.

Slovenia - Eva Boto - Verjamem ****
The song echoes Molitva, that is clear. But despite being very beautiful and with a certain hook it misses the boombastic climax that made Molitva a winner. The song goes forward but never really gets going but that's not Eva's fault, she does her best. Apparently this was supposed to be sung by Hari Mata Hari for Bosnia & Herzegovina originally but ended up in the Slovene selection and is now here. As much as I like it, and support Slovenia I don't think they will make the final this year. And it's a shame. 

Serbia - Zeljko Joksimovic - Nije ljubav stvar *****
Zeljko has a stunning record in Eurovision: runner up in 2004, third as composer in 2006, sixth as composer in 2008 plus the host of ESC and now he return with what he does best: a big Balcan ballad. He is here to win but will he? The song is fantastic and he sings it with great feeling. The recipe is the very same that has worked many times already but has it passed it's best before date? Many compare this to his 2004 runner up Lane moje - similar long intro, orchestration that grows and grows to a big ending with a touch of local flavor. I wouldn't mind him winning, I'm a big fan but I'm afraid he won't. Unless the things go very tricky in Baku and he emerges as a compromise winner when the jury and the televotes have been counted as I suppose they both will like him while they might divide with the other favorites like Russia and Sweden.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

IT DOES NOT HAPPEN FOR DIMA BILAN

Dima Bilan may have lost for the Udmurtian grannies in Eurovision 2012 but he has a new video and new single out in Russian and ex-Sovjet Union market and it's not Back to her future but Так не бывает (It does not happen). I think it does happen indeed. The song is catchy in a weird way and the video is kinda dark affair but includes some whipped cream and Dima's belly button so it's alright. No, wonder the original is called Honey

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ESC 2012: NORWAY Vs. MALTA

Two young handsome guys with uptempo dance songs, Tooji and Kurt. Both in their early 20s and having their first real break. Both have co-written their songs with Swedish songwriters. Both countries have had mixed results in the Eurovision the past few years, Malta's last significant success was in 2005 while Norway won in 2009. Both failed to make the final last year. This battle ends 1-1.

Norway: Tooji - Stay ****
Tooji has been labeled as poor man's Eric Saade, but what can he do if he's dark like him? (Being Persian or Lebanese might give you dark hair and eyes). And what comes to wearing the hood, it just happens to be in fashion up here in the north. The song itself isn't anyway similar to Popular in my books and is actually better. More interesting and not built up on a stage show. If he delivers on stage I think Norway might qualify this year. And if they do, they'll be on the upper side of the scoreboard rather than the lower...

Malta: Kurt Calleja - This is the night ****
Kurt has a great voice and a smile to die for and he displays it a lot and hopefully will be all smiles on stage in Baku 2012, too. The song is catchy and bubbly and if they get the Crystal Hall dancing and chanting along it will be rather effective on TV-screens, too. Even if this wasn't my favorite choice for Malta at first I have been singing this in my head for days and I want to believe this will qualify and not end up 11th in the semifinal.

NINA ZILLI AND THE RUSSIAN GRANNIES

Nina Zilli has started promoting her entry L'amore è femmina in Italy and performed it in mega popular Quelli che il calcio yesterday afternoon show that follows closely the football results in real time. She sung and had a very nice chat with the presenter Victoria Cabello about her album, tour and her coming trip to Baku that Nina seems to be looking forward pretty thrilled! They also showed a bit of the Russian grannies and named them as her main contenders but Nina came out as a fan and just adores them! And she confesses she's more afraid of them than 141 million TV-viewers. She was on stage with her band that will not follow her to Baku. She will have three backing singers instead.

CHISU - KUN VALAISTUN 2.0

Chisu's latest album Kun valaistun has sold already multiplatinum with three hit singles Sabotage, Kohtalon oma and Tie, but there's more to come. In the end of May she will released a special edition of it titled Kun valaistun 2.0 including three new tracks, interviews, videos, remixes and more. The new tracks are the title track Kun valaistun that she dropped from the original version "as it didn't quite fit it". Those who have heard it say it is one of her best songs. Then we have Frankestein that is the title melody of a popular TV-series Helsingin herra that has been on air all winter-spring and the new single, Kolmas pyörä

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

WIN ROMAN LOB'S SINGLE!

Blogilkar and Universal Music Germany organize a competition to win Roman Lob CD-singles. Just answer the following questions correctly before May 2, 2012  in the comments below (answers won't show there publicly) and you may be a lucky winner of Roman's single including Conflicted, Standing still and Alone off his debut album Changes

1. How many times Roman has tried to get into the Eurovision before?
2. How high did Standing still peak in the German charts?
3. How many times has Ralph Siegel's song represented Germany in Roman's lifetime so far?

Meanwhile enjoy this acoustic version of Standing still.

30 YEARS FROM THE FINNISH DRAMA

Eurovision 1982 is one of the Finnish Eurovision turning points. Kojo scored a flat zero in Harrogate while the other peace song Ein bisschen Frieden sailed to victory. The result got Europe asking if Finns are serious and are we doing it on purpose but we were not. When Kojo's Nuku pommiin was selected we thought we had a chance. The song was different in a in-your-face style. When Kojo returned home with null points the selecting jury was blamed and featured in newspapers with face photos like dangerous criminals, Kojo was treated as a national traitor, bottles were thrown at him in gigs and still today, after 30 years, he is known as Nolla-Kojo aka Zero-Kojo. 
"Now I'm laughing only about it" he recalls in Iltalehti's recent interview. "It's ridiculous how this one mediocre song has caused so much hassle. After 30 years people still talk about it!" In 1982 Kojo had also another song in the final called Video-Venus that came 3rd. "Maybe that would have scored one point" he laughs."We had great time in Harrogate. We went to all parties and the atmosphere was great in town. The performance itself went in a dreamlike state" he recalls. After the result and returning home he was treated like a traitor and he had nightmares for years. "I was treated like an athlete caught in doping. I was shouted at and thrown bottles in gigs in Finland for a year or so. But I got good gigs in Europe. I did one song in playback and was paid well! In the end Eurovision was only good for my career and I still benefit from it" he thinks. 
Earlier this spring Kojo caused a minor stir when criticizing UMK and it's outcome. "The old system was good. You can't turn the old shit trendy. I felt only shame when watching UMK. And then we send an innocent student girl with no experience to play out a little. Maybe she will get some points of sympathy. She's nice girl and surely will have a nice trip there!" Kojo said. He supports the Russian grannies this year.
PS. Here's a recent Nuku pommiin.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blogilkar Exclusive: KURT CALLEJA INTERVIEW - BELIEVE AND ACHIEVE!


Last night in Amsterdam, Robert had the chance to ask some questions to the Maltese singer KURT CALLEJA before he would move on to Milan for another promotional activity tonight, in London Live 2.0 Tv programme.

Could you please tell the readers a bit more about yourself, your experience in music and when you got known in Malta?
Kurt:I am a 23 year old guy and the eldest of 3 boys. My youngest brother Kevin plays the guitar in my band. He is going to be on stage with me on Eurovision. Originally, I was studying to be a chef in the kitchen and actually did that a couple of years. And during that time I was also taking some singing lessons and working on getting to know the music better. That was the reason to stop in the kitchen because I was getting some good work in the music business so i decided to get a day job and do that in the evenings. About a year later I moved to London and full time I was working as a flight attendant. In the evenings, I was playing in bars, restaurants and clubs. It was a great experience. After that year, I returned to Malta and started to do television there 3 weeks later. We are speaking now of the year 2009. At first and until now I mostly sing covers but recently I started writing my own songs. Because the thing is, I can write some good lyrics but my music melodies are very cartoon/ 8 year old melodies that does not sound very modern. So, what I'm doing now is that I write lyrics and collaborate with Johan from Sweden who is my composer. He also composed my Eurovision song “This is the night “ and my preselection song from last year in the Maltese selection. I never had a training in writing lyrics but I remember doing this already at a young age. Writing lyrics on my Eurovision song “This is the night “only took me 25 minutes.
Could you please explain how you got in contact with a Swedish composer and how a Swedish song reached you?
Kurt: I was invited to sing in Venice by the Ministry of Culture. Johan, a vocal coach from Sweden was there also with his students. Meeting Johan was just coincidental and was my destiny. We were having lunch, chatting and what started as a joke turned out in something nice. Last year, he sent a song to me that I really liked. We did well with it in the Maltese preselection of 2011. We got a 3rd place out of 160 applicants so that was not bad at all. We decided to work on the same recipe this year with a difference in style.. Last year, we made a soft rock ballad. This year, its more of a dancy song which I think is more appropriate for Eurovision. We use the same team, the same recipe but just the things we made mistakes in, we did not do them.
Will you release a full album soon after Eurovision?
Yes, in fact as soon as I get back from Eurovision I have only week free. Because I will fly to Sweden to work with Johan on another 3 tracks. I will include last years preselection song also on the album and I got a track written by my guitarist and another song will be written by a famous Maltese singer/songwriter. All together the album will have 8 tracks. I will launch the new album after the summer no matter what the outcome of Eurovision will be. I will be going all around Europe to the places where I did my Eurovision promotion to promote the new album.
Malta is a small country. For professionals in the music business it's quite difficult nowadays. Can you do this as a full time living?
You have to be versatile. You have to be very ready to work at the moment's notice. But yes, you can. I can play the piano a bit and I can do that for the whole night. If they need me in a club, I need my club repertoire or I can do a traditional Maltese night. I love to do coverversions and give my own colour to it. In the future I hope to do more of my own and would love if others would cover my songs.
We are one month away from Eurovision. This coming month, how will your agenda look like?
I'm sure this month will pass by very quickly. The next 2 days I will be in Milan where I will be singing on a very popular tv programme. Then I will go back to Malta where I will have a show everyday for about 1,5 weeks. In the meantime I have to squeeze in rehearsals with the band, vocal training and physical training. The act for Eurovision is done. We just have to rehearse it constantly
to be able to do it with more confidence. The 5th of May is my birthday and that will be my only free weekend before Eurovision. I will treat myself to a nice massage. Monday the 14th of May, I will already arrive in Baku. There the time will also be full with rehearsals and promotion activities.
Do you know any of the former Maltese Eurovision singers?
I'm very lucky to be the nephew of the Maltese singer of Eurovision 1993: William Mangion. I know Fabrizio Faniello ( ESC 2001, 2006 ) who is doing a promotion in Indonesia right now.
Are you hoping for an International career with the help of Eurovision and your new cd?
I'm lucky. I think, I have a quite open mind. I met people that helped me to think outside the box. My plan is, I do not know if it will work or not, to be able to use Eurovision as a platform to launch an international career. I have been a Eurovision fan all of my life and I see it already as a big achievement to participate in it. It was always a dream of me and an ambition to mark this on my checklist of things to do in my career. Since the winning of the Maltese preselection especially ESC countries like Azerbaijan, Turkey and Spain showed great interest. Outside Europe, there are 2 countries interested to launch my cd: Malaysia and Australia.
Have you listened to all the other songs of this year's Eurovision? What you think of it?
I did not have the time to listen to all of them. It's a shame. I did listen to the Spanish song and I think Pastora Soler has an amazing voice. She has a lot of potential. The song transmits so much emotion. My personal style is closer to the German song: Roman Lob's Standing Still. My preselection song from last year is a bit similar to the German song. So, when I heard the German song for the 1st time I was a bit surprised.
Do you have a special message to Blogilkar's readers?
I guess this is my motto, I really enjoy to share this with other people, My motto is: Believe and achieve! I lived by that these last couple of years. Believe in your dreams. We live in a world where our friends, for reasons to protect you, say that certain plans are very unlikely to be achieved. The truth is yes, it's very unlikely that I will be the next Bruno Mars but in my mind, I want to be there. I want to reach for the stars and might hit the moon. Participating in Eurovision was already very unlikely a few years ago and look where I am now!


Blogilkar thanks Kurt and Robert for this interview and wishes May 26th will be Kurt's night.

Blogilkar Guest Review: PETER CLANCY


Irish Peter, who lives in Belgium and is a member of OGAE Sweden is at it again. Here is what he thinks about the 2012 edition of the Eurovision song contest and who will win....


Well, the Eurovision circus has managed to find its way to Azerbaijan and it looks like they are pulling out the stops to make this one of the best ever. Unfortunately I don't think the quality of the songs is great this year which could lead to a few surprises. Here is an overview of my thoughts on the selection.  In my overview an "(F)" indicates that I think they will get to the final.

Montenegro - It was hard to know if I was listening to the opening of a new version of "phantom of the opera" ... I have only two words for Amadeus - "why bother?" - It’s not even worth more comment. [Score: 0/10]
Iceland - Good dramatic opening, great drumbeat, the only difficulty with this is twofold - a lot of ballads and it's a bit repetitive - but a definite for the final and who knows? For me I would be happy if it wins, but I don't expect it to !(F) [Score: 8/10]
Greece - typical entry and very familiar beat - harking back to Helena, but the song isn't the best. Still though this is definite for the final and catchy...(F) [Score: 7/10]
Latvia - what a load of sh1te! If the words were different perhaps it would have had a chance of at least getting to the final [Score: 3/10]
Albania - what's with all the "oh oh" - reminds me of the Teletubbies ... Sorry ... But it's a bit too farfetched to think that this would get to the final... [Score: 4/10]
Romania - I really like the opening of this song, the pipes add a nice touch, and the beat is good - reminds me of Shakira. Almost certain to get to the final, and a possible contender ....(F) [Score: 8/10]
Switzerland - first I thought U2 had entered Eurovision, but they are not U2 - however, the beat isn't bad and it will possibly get to the final, but certainly not a contender for winning …[Score: 6/10]
Belgium - If this was a Disney song, I would believe it, not sure how this will do in the Eurovision though. Ok I'm a bit biased as half Belgian, but I think it's a nice song and could do well - at least to the final - but not a winner ...(F) [Score: 8/10]
Finland - yup, another ballad. I like the opening cello/piano duet is nice, and I also like the Swedish language - this might get to the final - but it won't be a contender(F) [Score: 7/10]
Israel - I like this song in a strange way, I think it will have appeal to a number of people. It will get to the final, but it won't be a contender(F) [Score: 7/10]
San Marino - sometimes I wonder why some people even bother entering a song - and this is another example….  [Score: 1/10]
Cyprus - this has a great party type opening, not sure it will come across well at the show, but it has potential and I can see this get to the final, possible for the top 10, but certainly top half of the final(F) [Score: 7/10]
Denmark - This song has great potential, I'm sure it will get to the final, and a top 5 placing perhaps (F) [Score: 7/10]
Russia - While people think I'm a bit crazy - I think this is a great song - and it's one of the few that keeps playing over in my head when I'm out running - I expect this to be in the top 10 in the final!(F) [Score: 9/10]
Hungary - Not sure how this song will do, I think people will still be talking about the Russian entry while this is playing, so I don't expect it do do very well on the voting. Still though it might squeeze through to the final... [Score: 5/10]
Austria – Are you kidding me ? [Score: 1/10]
Moldova - Just because this is a little different, it might get some votes ... And could squeeze through to the final - not sure though [Score: 5/10]
Ireland - A real improvement on last years song, and their performance was so good last year, they will certainly get to the final and could even win, but probable top 10 placing !!!(F) [Score: 9/10]
Serbia - The intro to this takes far too long... While Zeljkos voice is nice sometimes I think it’s a contender to win, sometimes not, it will go to the final, and a likely top 3...perhaps even a winner (F) [Score: 8/10]
FYROM - great feeling to this song, soft, melodic, it flows along - not sure the rock/pop mix will work though [Score: 6/10]
The Netherlands - It's hard to call this one, in a way the song is very catchy, but it just doesn't do it for me... However, I think this will actually get to the final - it would be great for the Netherlands if she does.(F) [Score: 6/10]
Malta - ok, nice buildup, but this isn't going through - it's too 1980s ... And here we go again with the "a a a a a a..." - no [Score: 4/10]
Belarus - At least this moves a bit, and the beat is ok, I wouldn't normally expect this to go through, but you never know… Europe has a funny way of turning me into a liar ... [Score: 5/10]
Portugal - dramatic opening, after Litesound this provides a nice contract - but that's all ... [Score: 5/10]
Ukraine - Gaitana will get the hall going, it's got a great beat, not sure they'll be able to replicate it on stage (these types of songs can flop) - but it could do well.(F) [Score: 6/10]
Bulgaria - another song to keep the hall dancing, but is it really good enough to get to the final ? I just love the language, and for that I'll give it reasonable points, but I don't see it get to the final ... [Score: 6/10]
Slovenia - The opening is nice, the language sounds great - the buildup to the song is really good too, and the contract with the previous songs will be welcomed by some... But on its own this is a really nice song ....(F) [Score: 7/10]
Croatia – here is something something appealing, I really like it, I don't think it's a winner - but it is dramatic, and has a really nice contrasting beat - the only negative is that it's repetitive .... But it's a probable finalist(F) [Score: 6/10]
Sweden - Well  Sweden has entered yet another strong song this year, I have to admit it was not my first choice from the Swedish final, but I think that Loreen will do well and is a contender to win, at least top 5(F) [Score: 8/10]
Georgia - mmmm, there are too many styles in this song, it's like the composer constructed the song to incorporate as many possible beats that would appeal to as many different cultures as possible – in the process forgetting that it should be coherent – which it is not - what a mess ! [Score: 2/10]
Turkey - ok, so here we go with "hey hey"s and "oh oh"s - nope - they should just stay at home...however, of course given that it's Turkey, they will get a considerable number of votes, so against my personal choice, I think it will get through ...(F) [Score: 4/10]
Estonia - This is a nice song, if it comes across well people will vote for it. It will probably be overshadowed by so many of the other songs ... My guess is that it will get to the final(F) [Score: 7/10]
Slovakia - a bit too heavy, so I don't expect them to do well, they may get a few votes, but will not get to the final.... [Score: 5/10]
Norway - Good opening, and this will really get the hall going - it's one of the better songs in this semi - definite for the final - probable top 10(F) [Score: 7/10]
Bosnia & Herzegovina - again the contrast with Tooji will help this song gain a lot of votes, it's a nice, well constructed song, definite for the final - but not a winner(F) [Score: 8/10]
Lithuania - I'm afraid this will be when people will take a break and grab a tea/coffee/ valium before settling to watch the pre-results act or the results ...  [Score: 6/10]
Italy - This will go down very well (though the "boom boom" will contrast with Russia ... It's a good song ...and I expect them to be in the top 5(F) [Score: 7/10]
Spain - Nice song, pretty strong, and dare I say it a contender in the final - I really like it ....and for me a top 5 song [Score: 8/10]
UK - Good song, and it will get a lot of votes - but it's not a winner ... [Score: 7/10]
Germany - Good song, very contemporary with the current trends in songs, will get a lot of the younger votes ... Probable top 10 [Score: 8/10]
Azerbaijan - Too much of an art song, not a contender to win, but hey , they will get a lot of votes I'm sure - if for no other reason than they are the hosts [Score: 6/10]
France - This is quite a good song, it moves, French/English mix ... Different ... A lot of votes [Score: 8/10]

Conclusion: So what do I think the top 5 will look like this year - My expectations are: 1.Sweden, 2.Serbia, 3.Italy, 4.Denmark and 5.Spain - but you just never know what will happen on the night!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blogilkar in Amsterdam: SPECIAL REPORT


Blogilkar's Robert was in Amsterdam last night attending the 4th Eurovision in concert and here's his report.

Eurovision in Concert: A big success!

Last night the 4th edition of Eurovision in concert was held. It was the best so far. In comparison with last year, the venue De Melkweg was a well chosen location for this musicfestival. Even with a sold out concert of 1350 people, it did not feel so packed as last year and the sound this year was really good. 23 countries presented their song for Baku, only Gaitana from the Ukraine cancelled last minute due to vocal problems. One of the presenters of this evening was Ruth Jacott ( NL 1993 ) who started the evening with her Eurovision entry Vrede. Later she would sing 2 more Dutch preselection songs from 1993, Blijf bij mij en Medeleven. The audience loved it.
After the opening of Ruth Jacott, it was time to countdown the 23 songs from all over Europe. Here is the list of countries in order of performance:
  1. Greece
  2. Belgium
  3. Latvia
  4. Austria
  5. Finland
  6. Portugal
  7. Hungary
  8. Switzerland
  9. Turkey
  10. Albania
  11. Malta
  12. Slovenia
  13. Macedonia
  14. San Marino
  15. Moldova
  16. Bulgaria
  17. Lithuania
  18. France
  19. Azerbaijan
  20. Rumania
  21. Spain
  22. Ireland
  23. Netherlands
Except for San Marino, Rumania and doubtfully Ireland, all songs were sung LIVE. Well done, cause this year I could not discover an artist who did a bad job. They all sang well. Highlights vocally were certainly Rona Nishliu from Albania, Kaliopi from Macedonia, Filipa Sousa from Portugal and Pastora Soler from Spain.
The best show on this stage was for Jedward from Ireland and Valentina Monetta from San Marino.
The audience reacted very strongly on the opening act of Greece, Portugal, Macedonia, Spain, Ireland and the closing act Netherlands. The Dutch Joan Franka was given an extra warm welcome.
But the absolute winner of the evening was a song that was played in all the breaks in the evening. It was a song of a country that was not present at this concert. But to see the audience reacting on this song, we only can conclude that it will be Stockholm 2013.

Stay tuned for more stuff from Amsterdam by Robert.

ESC 2012: ESTONIA Vs. UNITED KINGDOM

Two May born men, two classy ballads. United Kingdom is the most successful Eurovision nation overall with 5 wins and 15 runner ups, but it's been already 14 years since they got one of those. Estonia has a string of great success in 1999-2002 but has been less fortunate since, with the exception of 2009. Now these two countries go to Baku with pretty much the same recipe. While Estonia's Ott (25 in May) is still a quite a newcomer with a couple of years adult fame to his credit, United Kingdom's Engelbert (76 in May) has over 45 years of career and worldwide success behind him. This is 5-4 for Estonia.

United Kingdom - Engelbert Humperdinck - Love will set you free ****1/2
Is this the right card to turn the UK's Eurovision bad record in recent years? If you can overcome Engelbert's age - as it is clear many Eurovision fans are age racist but then, the hardcore fans have no power in the final result whatsoever, even if some seem to think they do - and the elder generations watching will know him and maybe cast a vote. The song is a tender ballad, beautifully arranged. Simple and pure. Engelbert has the experience to shine on stage and seems to genuinely like the song and sings it with emotion. You can't rule out the sixth UK victory in Baku 2012, that's for sure!

Estonia - Ott Lepland - Kuula *****
Estonia goes for quality after last year's trash and what a quality! Ott is a fine singer, easy on the eye and the song is hauntingly beautiful. They did well singing in Estonian in 2009 so that shouldn't be a handicap. Me being a Finn understand bits and pieces here and there but somehow I'd love to understand more, and therefor an English version could have been a wise move as in that case Estonia would have a winner in their hands but maybe Ott's emotional and powerful performance will come across the screen anyways. The best power ballad of the year and definitely deserves a place in the final! Once in the final, depending the draw this can go very far. If Ott nails it on stage and gets the Europe listening. Or so I hope. 




Saturday, April 21, 2012

TODAY IN AMSTERDAM.... EUROVISION IN CONCERT 2012 - and in photos

Blogilkar's special guest Robert is at the spot in Amsterdam today for the 4th annual Eurovision in concert and send these exclusive photos to get into the mood....

Friday, April 20, 2012

Voice of Finland: SAARA AALTO ETERNAL SECOND

Saara Aalto has finished second in Talent, in Euroviisut and now in Voice of Finland. And I have to agree. No doubt she's got the voice and is hugely talented singer but she is uninteresting. And I'm not the only one who thinks so as her career hasn't went anywhere after Talent, not after Euroviisut. Yes, she has released two albums but has anyone bought them? Like the judges said in unison except her own Michael Monroe, she has a great future in musical world, not as a pop star. As a musical star she will have a tailor made personality to fit into. Maybe she will indeed have a career there as her voice deserves to be heard.
The winner is Mikko Sipola from Tammisaari, a husky voiced rocker who sung With or without you and his first own single Stuck inside my head in the final.
Oh and Loreen was there, too.

JIPPU AND STRANGE BIRDS AND THINGS

Jippu is all of sudden everywhere. She's to release her third solo album Väärinpäin lentävät linnut (Birds flying backwards or something...) next week. She caused a stir with her look in a charity concert yesterday and now it's revealed she was cancelled from the artists list on a gospel happening due to her unfortunate comments on a talk show earlier this week where she said things like she's into sin and would do old gents like Silvio Berlusconi. Not suitable stuff for a youth gospel camp it seems. On top of that she's involved in a big political scandal in Finland when a couple that used the raise her for several years in her youth has been sentenced to jail for six and three years this week. Talk about right timing! Here's the title song.
Jippu released her debut album Salaisuuksia, joita yksinäiset huutaa unissaan (Secret that the lonely cry out in their sleep) in 2006. She was awarded the Emma as the best newcomers and scored several radiohits. The second album Kuka teki musta tän naisen (Who made me this woman) went to #1 and sold gold, again delivering several radio hits. It included her Euroviisut 2008 song Kanna Minut. In 2009 she dueted with Samuli Edelmann in Jos sä tahdot niin, one of the biggest hits of 2010. After that they released a whole album Pimeä onni (Dark happiness) together. 

ESC 2012: CYPRUS Vs. GREECE

What to say? Greece has finished in top-9 the past eight years. Always with a similar kind of song, will their string of good fortune come to an end? Cyprus on the other hand has flopped every year since 2004. Will the tables turn in Baku? Both countries send a foxy lady, an easy pop song in English co-written by Swedes and surely will have a dance choreography to match. This is a bit schizophrenic as I think both will make the final but I won't be surprised at all if they don't. On the other hand I'd rather see Cyprus make it, and Greece not but most likely it'll be the other way around. Or will it? For me it's 2-1 for Cyprus.

Cyprus - Ivi Adamou - La la love ****
First of all I'm not convinced about Ivi's vocal skills live or even her stage presence as at the moment it seems like she's missing both totally. The song itself is rather annoying piece of anonymous summer hit but yet there's something in it that makes it kinda enjoyable while you hear it. But it's instantly forgettable some how. All this said I'm hoping she will pull out a stunning performance and fly to the final and even reach the top-5. Maybe this is a grower. I used to hate Dancing lasha tumbai with passion at well but now I just adore it.... And just like that, when you least expect your brains starts going "sieben, sieben, ailulu"... I mean "la la love, la la love..."

Greece - Eleftheria Eleftheriou - Aphrodisiac ***
What is new in this? Or original? It's just a mix of the past Greek entries with zero creativity. It's like a Greek entry would sound like if created by computer with all possible cliches trying to fit all that might work and has worked before: pretty girl, simile ethnic choreography, some ethnic sounds to make it sound Greek, easy pop tune with nonsense lyrics and catchy refrain. It works at some levels but overall sounds boring, dated and used. The best before date expired around the same time the Greek economy collapsed. Still, this will probably reach the final and secure Greece another good placing. But this time for all the wrong reasons. And we can't but sit and watch it happen. And all this said, I won't be so sad about it after all. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

#1 in Finland this week: Gotye - Someone I used to know

After six weeks climbing Gotye's Someone I used to know made it to #1 after last week's minor drop. Now, that's quite refreshing, isn't it? Loreen also climbs back one up to #6. 

EUROVISION IN CONCERT 2012

This Saturday the 4th Eurovision in concert promo happening will take place and this year it's bigger than ever when 24 participating artists will be present to meet and greet the fans the and press, and perform in the concert at Melkweg in Amsterdam. Previous Eurovision entrant Ruth Jacott is hosting the concert with Cornald Maas. Cypriot Ivi Adamou was supposed to be there but had to cancel and we will have Filipa Sousa instead. The other artists are Valentina Monetta from San Marino, Sinplus from Switzerland, Jedeward from Ireland, Sabina from Azerbaijan, Iris from Belgium, Anri Jokhadze from Georgia, Eva Boto from Slovenia, Compact Disco from Hungary, Gaitana from Ukraine, Joan Franka from the Netherlands, Trackshittaz from Austria, Donny Montell from Lithuania, Pastora Soler from Spain, Sofi Marinova from Bulgaria, Pernilla from Finland, Rona Nishliu from Albania, Anmary from Latvia, Kurt Calleja from Malta, Mandinga from Romania and Eleftheria from Greece. For many artists this is the only international promo gig before Baku, and for the most of them the first chance to meet the other artists. 
UPDATE: Georgia's Anri Jokhadeze has withdrawn and replaced by Moldova's Pasha Parfeni. Everybody wins.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ESC 2012: BELARUS Vs. SWITZERLAND

Belarus and Switzerland have a lot in common this year. Both are represented by rock bands made of brothers; the Karyakin brothers Dmitry and Vladimir for Belarus with Italian Jacopo Massa as a third wheel, and the Broggini brothers Ivan and Gabriele for Switzerland, who happen to be Swiss Italian so there's the connection to Jacopo as well. Both countries have also been rather unsuccessful in the Eurovision. Belarus has made it to the final only twice out of eight entries, Switzerland three times since the semifinals were introduced. This match ends 4-3 for Belarus.

Belarus - Litesound - We are the heroes ****
I like this one even if the earlier, rockier version was even better than this poppier one for Eurovision. It is catchy, the band is easy on the eye and their English is surprisingly good considering where they come from (remember Alexandra and Konstantin, for example?). This was also my favorite in the national final and I think they have a pretty good chance to reach the final.

Switzerland - Sinplus - Unbreakable ***1/2
I like this one, too, and the funny pronunciation we usually hear from Belarus & co. comes from Switzerland this year. This minor special effect aside, the song is catchy and groovy pop-rock, very radio friendly and nice in every way. Maybe that's the problem, it's missing the edge being just nice. But I like the arrangement, especially the strings and wish the guys well. Yet, I think they will miss the final finishing 11th or 12th in their semifinal. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

DIMA BILAN BACK IN EUROVISION

Today's news is, yet unconfirmed, that Dima Bilan will go to Baku 2012 after all. The grannies may have beaten him in the national final but in Baku he will be the second semifinal interval act it seems. Besides that he will perform in the EuroClub with last year's winner Nikki. The other half of the winning duo of 2011 will be hosting the event.
Dima Bilan seems to love the Eurovision atmosphere. He tried to get there in 2005 and finally did so in 2006 coming second only to the Finnish monsters Lordi. That didn't stop him travelling to Helsinki 2007 where he performed in the EuroClub and did PR - and met this blogger among other people. Then in 2008 he was back and won the whole thing. In 2009 he performed in the Moscow final and now in 2012 he's back on Eurovision stage. 
Maybe he did Oslo and Dusseldorf, too? Anyone knows?

PATRICIA KAAS ASSASSINÉE

Patricia Kaas has been prepairing for a new world tour and new album Kaas chante Piaf  being released on November 5, 2012. But not only. She stars in a new TV-movie Assassinée directed by Thierry Binisti. She plays a role of a woman whose daughter is murdered and whose life will never be the same after. In the film she tries to find out who did it and why? The movie will have a private premiere in Paris on May 3, 2012 in the presence of La Kaas herself. More info here

VOICE OF FINLAND: LOREEN

Loreen will be the guest star if the final of The Voice of Finland on air this Friday. I might be wrong but I think Loreen hasn't been doing any PR anywhere, has she? Anyways, besides having a Finnish stylist and choreographer she now comes to Finland to perform to the joy of her many fans over here. Euphoria has been in the charts in Finland already six weeks all the time in top-7 and even debuting at #1! It might be a pretty safe bet to say Finland's 12 will go to Sweden this year... 

ESC 2012: BULGARIA Vs. ROMANIA

Both countries are yet to win Eurovision. Romania has been in top-5 three times and often a favorite making int to the final every time since the semifinals were introduced. while Bulgaria has made it to the final only once - in Helsinki 2007 were they finished 5th. I think they should have made the final several times. This year both send a dance track and a song that wouldn't be out of place in any Eurodisco and beach party come summer 2012. This ends 0-2 for Romania.

Bulgaria - Sofi Marinova - Love unlimited ***
Bulgaria's song mixes 11 languages, including host country's language that will be heard on Eurovision stage for the very first time. It's all about love in any language and Sofi tries to keep up with the mix. The song itself isn't anything special but it works. It has the atmosphere of a lazy afternoon/early evening after lunch when one starts to get ready for the evening while holidaying somewhere hot and sunny. A drink in a glass and smell of aftersun in the air. Will it be enough to lift them into the final this time? I doubt. 

Romania is a mixture of languages and nationalities, too. Elena boosts more open sensuality than Sofi and there's a dance to this and more infectious chorus and it sounds more 2012 than Bulgaria's 90's Eurodisco. This is predicted to become the summer hit of 2012 and it could well be. How well they will do in Eurovision and live on stage is another story as there's a danger it could become very messy affair indeed. But most likely this will fly to the final and be a contender there. A winner? More like the runner up. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

ESC 2012: WE HAVE PRESENTERS

The news from Azerbaijan coming today inform us the construction of Crystal Hall has been completed in due time. So all is good and fine in that part. The opening ceremony will be held on May 19 in the EuroClub that will open six days earlier, on May 13. But the main news today is we have presenters! And once again a former winner returns as Eldar is one of them. But he's not alone and has two ladies by his side. They are:

Nargiz Birk-Peterson, who started working on TV at the age of 16. She's also an ex-model and practiced law both in the USA and Russia. She's a devoted Eurovision fan herself.
Eldar Gasimov we all know. He won the Eurovision 2011 with Nigar Kamal as Ell/Nikki and Running scared. He's also an actor besides a singer.
Leila Aliyeva has been involved in Eurovision since Azerbaijan started participating. She's a musician, editor, PR manager and TV personality besides being involved in charity projects. 

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