Posts Tagged ‘eurovision’

You Only Live Twice

This morning my old friend Paul Giordimaina (who composed Malta’s 2011 Eurovision entry) wrote the following note on Facebook:
 
“Irrelevant to certain comments made by some ‘armchair critics’ or self proclaimed music experts i want to congratulate Glen for an amazing performance filled with great positive energy.Also well done the backing vocalists and dancers for their total commitment. Thks to the numerous backstage proffesioanl people who worked endlessly around the team. A special thks to PBS for their dedication and support from day 1 and last but not least thks to the big majority to the maltese people who beleived in the project ‘ONE LIFE'”

 
I commented by saying that Glen Vella gave a great show. He was in tune, hit the mark and the act looked very polished on stage. He (and the song) deserved a better placing but there’s clearly more to the Eurovision Song Contest than that.
 
Veteran Maltese pop singer Jon Lukas Woodenman wrote his own note on Facebook after Malta failed yet again to yield a decent placing at the Eurovison Song Contest. Here’s an essential excerpt :

[… ] “i will today ‘n tmrrw put on my artiste & production  hat and review the Maltese entry as projected last night and try to decide WHY this happened and find out where did we go wrong AGAIN cos’ i REFUSE to accept the usual moan that of voting of next door neighbours as the Maltese normal losing excuse. There probably is something intrinsically wrong in how Malta writes, produces, chooses and then projects the actual songs that needs to be seriously adhered to …. EMOTIONS ASIDE please .. there is ALWAYS something missing on the night. 50 years on we HAVE NOT HACKED it yet … do u seriously think it’s ONLY because they gang up on us ? The bookies ONLY want to make money (no patriotism there) the odds they offered fr the song was one to eleven …..bookmakers news 9 May 2011 … QUOTE ‘ Eurovision: Odds stacked against Glen, according to bookmakers’ …… are we gonna’ face this and TRY to PUT it RIGHT ? … are we gonna’ eliminate what we thought would work on the night that ACTUALLY did NOT … or are we to settle fr ‘THEY GOT IT IN FR US’ sad bull shit and go through the same rigmarole ‘n blunders next year.” […]

 
I’m not sure the Maltese Eurovision structure is set up in such a way to get to the bottom of what’s going wrong year after year. The main reason is that the producers for Malta’s entry are removed almost completely from the music industry across Europe and involvement in this has now become a crucial ingredient for a decent placing at the ESC. And to be clear, it’s not enough to have a strong affiliation with a record company. It takes an up-to-date knowledge of trans-European PR for pop music: an expertise in how the music world operates online, or at least tries to.

Also, to be fair, the old essential ingredient (i.e. the song and its performance) is the other element that needs more attention. There has been a (slight) improvement in the way the song is picked – or rather which song is picked – but there’s still a long way to go in determining what makes a memorable and/or impactful song for this show.

There’s no point in over-analyzing Glen Vella and One Life in this context. The situation is not that radically different from what it’s been since about 2006, when weeks ahead of the contest I predicted that Lordi would win that year. The “armchair critics” or “self-proclaimed music experts” from Malta didn’t take me seriously then and the people who can really make a difference in Malta haven’t heard what I’ve been saying all these years now. Apparently that can’t really do much about what I’m saying either.

Anyway, good thing I didn’t come to Düsseldorf just to follow the Maltese act, otherwise I’d be stuck in what is not a particularly interesting part of Germany until the weekend. The events we lined up from the Eurovision Research Network for this year start tomorrow and I hope to blog a little about that in the coming days too.

Meanwhile if you’re only interested in Malta’s entry at the Eurovision Song Contest, perhaps you’d rather hear the comments I gave to Marlene Galea at the Maltese service of SBS Radio in Australia after Malta once again failed to qualify for the ESC final.


If There’s Any Justice in the World

Once again I find myself in a European city in May for the annual Eurovision Song Contest. This year we’re in Düsseldorf, Germany. If I’m to be honest, this year I’m here almost exclusively for the Eurovision Research Network (ERN). We’ve organized three events this year: our annual symposium, our annual round-table, and the final of three workshops in the ‘New’ Europe series, which started last February at Royal Holloway, University of London.

I know that most of my regular blog readers are not surprised by any of this, but you’re also expecting me to engage with the annual context, from a Maltese perspective, with a slightly less academic approach. So, I will try not disappoint you. Perhaps I’ll blog some more about the ERN later this week, once Malta is either no longer in the contest or while I get a respite before I blog about how miraculous it is that Malta has returned to the final without first establishing a significant pan-European presence for either it’s entry and/or the performer it selected to represent it.

So, in the spirit of not voting for your own country, I give you my personal picks for the 10 qualifying songs in the ESC 2011 Semifinal 1, which will take place tomorrow (Tuesday) evening at 9pm CEST. I’m factoring in various prediction factors and a little of my personal experience with the Eurovision Song Contest…so this will undoubtedly be a very subjective and relative selection.

Albania
I don’t think this will make it to the final but I firmly believe it belongs in my top 10 picks for this year’s first semifinal. I’d probably like it more if it wasn’t sung in English.

Turkey
This year’s Turkish song has almost the same effect on me as the Albanian one. If only one of the two make it to the final, it’ll certainly be this one, even though the other sounds a little more sincere to me.

Serbia
An obvious throwback to the swinging ’60s a la Austin Powers. I can’t see Eurovision fans not liking this one – and it looks amazing live in the arena.

Georgia
One of the most interesting songs from a musical perspective and if offers a good alternative to most of the other songs in this year’ semifinal 1. However, I admit that I’ve rarely not liked Georgia’s ESC entry.

Russia
Can you honestly imagine a Eurovision Song Contest final without Russia? Now that would be a real shocker.

Iceland
I’d be very surprised if Iceland’s song didn’t make it to the final this year. If it doesn’t it’ll certainly mean the end of an era…but this is Eurovision so I expect it to get through simply because it appeals considerably to the main demographic for this show’s audience.

Hungary
Very catchy melody and exactly the sort of song you expect at Eurovision. This sort of thing is often hit or miss, but in relation to the songs its competing against it stands a very good chance.

Lithuania
If there’s any justice in the world, Evelina Sašenko’s C’est Ma Vie will become a Eurovision classic…but perhaps it’s now a couple of decades or so too late. It’s the most beautiful new pop ballad I’ve heard in a very long time. This song gave me goosebumps the first time I heard Evelina sing it live in the Esprit Arena. What a stand-out! If Andrew Lloyd Webber had written a song as good as this for Jade Ewen, the UK would have won ESC 2009.

Azerbaijan
A favourite with the bookmakers and it’s very spectacular live in the arena. You can still catch some of that spectacle on TV but perhaps the singers leave a little to be desired for those you seek something worthy of the spectacle and the honey sweet musical arrangement.

Greece
I can’t imagine a final without a Greek entry but stranger things have happened at the Eurovision Song Contest. Bringing in hip-hop in Greek is a brave and bold move, the type I wish the Maltese would take, so I’ll be watching this one closely to see whether my hunch is more than just that.

Keep in mind that at least four of the top acts tipped to win the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest are not taking part in the first semifinal along with Malta and the rest of the songs presented on Tuesday.

DISCLAIMER: The “predictions” made in this blog post are for your amusement only. I’m pretty sure that these will not be the 10 countries whose songs will actually qualify for Saturday’s final.

CLAIMER: I’ll be greatly amused to see how many of my 10 picks are also the ones that will be seen/heard again on Saturday.


What Makes You Think You’re The One

Show notes for the 244th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast featuring music by performers from or in Malta. This is a special edition to coincide with the Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2011.

I was a judge on the official panel selecting last year’s entry from Malta to the Eurovision Song Contest, so I couldn’t comment publicly about any of the songs nor did I present any of them in my Mużika Mod Ieħor series of podcasts, ahead of the contest. In any case, it was hard to pick enough decent songs for a whole podcast last year. However, I’m glad to say that it’s certainly not the case this year. Mercifully, there are several songs I’d happily include on any edition of the MMI podcast. So here are five I’ve picked for this week’s podcast. I’ve already commented on each of these songs on my blog, so I don’t really have anything to add…at least not just yet.

  • Kurt CallejaOver and Over
  • Wayne MicallefEverybody Sing
  • AmberCatch 22
  • BaklavaMoon Dance
  • Kelly SchembriLove Me Like You Love Your Money
  • Pressed to pick the other 11 singers/songs I think will make it to next Saturday’s final, my list looks like this (in order of appearance at the semifinal):

    Claudia FanielloMovie in my Mind
    Klinsmann Coleiro & Ben DarmaninThis Love
    Eleanor CassarHypnotized
    RaquelaIf I Could Do It All Again
    SophieLove to Love You
    Petra ZammitUnintentional
    Glen VellaOne Life
    J.AnvilTopsy Turvy
    Fabrizio FanielloNo Surrender
    AllyNumb
    Richard EdwardsFinally

    Although the next MMI podcast will be a “normal” edition, featuring some of the new releases coming my way from musicians from or in Malta, and therefore not related to the national Eurovision selection, I’ll most probably post an entry in my blog with some comments ahead of or immediately after the final. The place to look for my Eurovision related blog entries is right here.

    The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just enjoy listening to the podcast on the player right below this text.


    I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me

    I’ve just heard (and watched) all 24 songs up for the Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2011 selection; you can see them all below. It’s good to see decent studio video clips for each song for a change. It would seems that things are indeed getting better now that PBS has taken over the production of Malta’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest.

    Since I’m not a judge on the official panel this year (as I was last year) I see no reason not to publicly share my thoughts on each of the songs after this first listen. These are just first reactions and my opinion of some songs may change in the coming weeks; still, keep in mind that many of the people voting at the Eurovision Song Contest itself in May will only have heard those songs once.

    Please take these comments with a pinch of salt and if you disagree with me just forget what I think. You can also leave your own comments below, of course.

    01. Amber – Catch 22 (Ray Agius, Godwin Sant)
    Very nice. Could be the winner!

    02. Jessica Muscat – Down Down Down (Philip Vella, Jessica Muscat)
    Good laid back club vibe…but about 5 years too late.

    03. Wayne Micallef – Everybody Sing (Wayne Micallef, Wayne Micallef)
    Fresh and catchy pop. Wayne is a force to be reckoned with.

    04. Richard Edwards – Finally (Jan Van Dijck, Richard Micallef)
    A decent song by a solid performer, but perhaps a little to formulaic.

    05. Cherise Grixti – Heart of Glass (Philip Vella, Gerard James Borg)
    This singer deserves a better song!

    06. Marilena Gauci – He’s a Demon (Michael Henry, Anthony Grech)
    He may be a lot of things…but certainly not a demon.

    07. Eleanor Cassar – Hypnotized (Paul Giordimania , Fleur Balzan)
    Classy but probably slightly out of step with the new generation.

    08. Raquela – If I Could Do It All Again (Marc Paelnick, Mathias Strasser)
    Classy but probably slightly out of step with the older generation.

    09. Domenique – I’ll Follow the Sunshine (Ralph Siegel, Dr. Bernd Meinunger)
    Lena is not a better performer than Domenique but she has a far superior team behind her.

    10. Jamie Tonna – Lost Without You (Marco Debono, Aidan O’Connor)
    Not sure what to make of this one, but it didn’t grab me on a first listen.

    11. Kelly Schembri – Love Me Like Your Money (Sven Lundhol, Gerard James Borg)
    This has all the ingredients to be a great pop hit.

    12. Sophie – Love to Love You (Elton Zarb, Sophie Debattista)
    Poppy, catchy, and all that…fluffy but good, just like whipped cream.

    13. Baklava – Moon Dance (Philip Vella, Gerard James Borg)
    Best song from Borg and Vella since Vertigo. Actually quite good.

    14. Claudia Faniello – Movie in my Mind (Philip Vella, Gerard James Borg)
    It’s great to see Claudia enjoying herself instead of trying to win. Bring on the wind machine!

    15. Fabrizio Faniello – No Surrender (Johan Stentorp , Johan Bederholm)
    How is this one better than I Do?

    16. Ally – Numb (Ally, Ally)
    A heart-felt song…but I can’t see it touching the audience or judges.

    17. Glen Vella – One Life (Paul Giordimaina, Fleur Balzan)
    Not half as good as last year’s attempt by Glen and his team.

    18. Kurt Calleja – Over and Over (Johan J’amtberg, Kurt Calleja)
    Wow! This is a really good rock ballad. How did this make it through the preliminary selections?

    19. Klinsmann Coleiro / Benjamin Darmanin – This Love (Klinsmann Coleiro, Jonathan Spiteri)
    Could it be that Klinsmann is finally growing up? Altogether not a bad song at all.

    20. J.Anvil – Topsy Turvy (Jonas Gladnikoff / Niall Mooney / Andrew Zahra, Deo Grech / Natasha Turner)
    J.Anvil doing what he does best. With the right stage act this song could make a big impact.

    21. Amber – Touch Wood (Ray Agius, Alfred Sant)
    Good thing Amber has a better song than this one for this contest.

    22. Anna Azzopardi – Unfaithful (Renato Briffa, Keith Zammit)
    Good singer for unintentionally retro Euro-Pop toe tapper.

    23. Petra Zammit – Unintentional (Elton Zarb, Rita Pace)
    I love this singer. One day soon everyone in Malta will know her name, if they don’t already.

    24. Rosman Pace – You’ll Never Know (Steven D. Cook, Jordan Milnes)
    Twenty four pop songs is a little too much to choose from at this stage.

    I’ll hold off until the Friday 11 February semi-final to pick my 16 for the final and a possible top 3, so please check back on this blog, via my Facebook page, or through EurovisionMalta.com for an update ahead of the Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2011 final. I’m also planning to release a special issue of my Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast just before that week, with more general comments about the whole shindig.


    Memories

    I’ve neglected my blog…or, to be precise, because I’ve stopped consciously wanting to blog, my blog has turned into a way to publish show notes for my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. I wonder how much of this has happened because I’m simply too busy to blog about anything but my podcasts. Perhaps the apparent decline of interest in the blogosphere has contributed to this shift too. Without a scientific study, or at least an in-depth investigative report, there’s no telling what’s what.

    For the first time since I started my blog back in 2004, I’ve refrained from going through the usual end of year rituals. This had been on the wane for the last couple of years, so you could say that it simply died a natural death. However, through the M3P I’ve maintained the general (if not the personal) aspect of the annual end-of-year round-up for 2010. I believe that this is a start of a new way to do things during this decade and hopefully even beyond.

    The adventure that is/was MaltaMedia has morphed into something quite different in the last year or so. I could have blogged heavily about all that but chose not to dwell on what could or should have been (I could have blogged about the demise of the monthly aboutmalta.com newsletter after 10 years of continuous publication) and focused on the positive developments ahead. I should probably blog about those in 2011. Part of these developments involves rethinking the portfolio of websites in the MaltaMedia Online Network, as well as continuing to improve and develop the best aspects of all that, as we’ve done with maltafootball.com in 2010.

    Many people in Malta still continue to associate me with Eurovision. This is probably because they only ever see/hear me whenever this event is near or on. I don’t mind. I can’t expect everyone to engage with the complex and eclectic interests I have in all aspects of Maltese life, and even less with my interests beyond Maltese shores. I will continue to blog about Malta’s entries to the Eurovision Song Contest but keep the best ideas for the Eurovision Research Network. Judging by the official URL chosen for this year’s selection process and eventual entry I seriously doubt that any of my recommendations have been taken seriously by anyone that matters, if they’re even aware of them at all.

    Now that my Franklin Furnace book is out (we’ll actually start marketing it next week) I can focus on other writing projects. I already have five plates spinning in front of me this year: (1) a couple of short essays for a book on Maltese photography; (2) a new performance theory I’m introducing at a February workshop at Royal Holloway, which I’m hoping to eventually develop as a chapter for a 2012 book called Performing the ‘New’ Europe; (3) a chapter for the Routledge Handbook of Social Media; (4) co-editing a book on Performance in Virtual Worlds; and (5) a couple of other ideas that are currently still in formation.

    I will do my best to give this blog more time than I have over the past few months. The many readers of this blog over the years have been (mostly) a source of joy for me, with comments, suggestions and all sorts of recommendations that have enriched my online experiences. Now I’m off to focus on the first of those writing assignments…and perhaps I’ll blog about them as I go too, especially if any readers of this blog show me a sign of life.


    Goodbye Blue Sky

    Love it or loathe it, the Eurovision Song Contest cannot be ignored. Many who followed the first semifinal for this year’s edition saw Malta fail to make it to the the final round. Finger pointing is inevitable at this point, but I think that talk of neighbourly voting is misguided. Otherwise how is it that Belgium and Iceland find themselves in the final?

    PBS must radically rethink the way it selects the songs it sends to Eurovision as well as how the selected performers are presented on the international stage. The long-standing way of doing things clearly doesn’t work and is indeed a waste of money. Worse still, it’s a wasted opportunity to promote some of the excellent musical talent emanating from the Maltese islands. To really get its value for money from the Eurovision Song Contest, Malta must spend more than €400,000 a year, not less.

    The real problem right now is that there is no ROI (return on investment) analysis on the process. No strategic plan. No accountability. And no continuity or development on long-term experience gained from entering acts in the contest year after year. Then again, PBS has a remit to do public broadcasting and the Eurovision Song Contest is strictly a public broadcasting service, rather than a commercial concern. Done right, there is plenty of milage to be had from the Eurovision Song Contest, even for acts/countries that don’t win the contest.

    The alternative is to spend a lot less and still take part just to be there. After all, there’s a great game element in the whole thing anyway. Regardless of placing, the Eurovision Song Contest is an incredibly interesting event for performance scholars like me to study.

    Now that Malta no longer offers a distraction at this year’s contest, I can fully focus on the upcoming activities of the Eurovision Research Network. My next blog entry will most likely be a personal reflection on one of both events we’ve planned for the next two days.


    Empty Space

    The number of people who have contacted me asking about my Eurovision 2010 “predictions” in the last few days is staggering. There is no stand out act this year, even if Azerbaijan have spent more than Malta spends in 10 years on this contest to promote their 2010 entry. I am rather surprised that the Google worm is steady for Germany’s Lena, but let’s see what happens over the next couple of days.

    So, without too much prejudice towards anyone’s taste in music, here are my pick for semi-final 1, in order of appearance:

    Russia
    Just because the Russians clearly aren’t taking Eurovision seriously this year, it doesn’t mean they can’t make it to the final.

    Slovakia
    The interesting staging, if nothing else, will make this a memorable entry on the night. Will that be enough to get Kristina Pelakova to the final?

    Finland
    What a country of extremes! It’s one of the most kitschy songs in this year’s contest but it’ also horribly infectious. Traditional Eurovision fans will love this. I’d also make a special note of the fact that they’re all dressed in white.

    Bosnia & Herzegovina
    I have it from someone who knows these things well that this is one to watch, for a particular group of Eurovision fans. However, he may be overlooking the fact that they’re also the same fans who don’t really like rock guitars.

    Poland
    Most Maltese people who bother voting on the Eurovision semi-final will probably like the staging of Legenda but they’ll possibly also take into account the fact that Malta’s own Thea Garrett seems to have found a soul mate in Marcin Mroziński. If they both make it to the final, she may very well be joining him on the cast of Les Miserables when it opens in Warsaw in September.

    Belgium
    One of the very few songs that don’t conform to the mainstream Eurovision genres and sub-genres. Will a good looking young man strumming an acoustic guitar and singing about, well, his guitar, appeal to the mostly middle aged female voting audience? Watch this one closely: it will either soar above the schlagers or sink majestically.

    Malta
    Malta has one of the most alluring entries in years. I’m saying Thea will take My Dream to the final. The backing singers are divine but perhaps our young singer is hampered by two of the handicaps that kept Jade Ewen from achieving a higher placing for the UK at last year’s final: (a) the song doesn’t grab you in the first 30 seconds, and (b) a young dynamic singer is made to perform like an aging diva.

    Albania
    If Juliana Pasha manages to make it to the final, it will prove that the new voting system has eliminated the possibility of bloc voting from excluding entries from countries without friendly neighbours.

    Greece
    Combing kitsch, ethnic stereotypes, and a catchy chant will ensure that Opa takes the Greeks to the final to provide what many will consider the most entertaining of this year’s entries. I’d also make a special note of the fact that they’re all dressed in white.

    Iceland
    In spite of giving us all that volcanic ash this spring, Iceland shines at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with a singer that will not only take the northern-most island nation in the contest to the final but can most likely also secure it a top 10 placing (or better) in the final voting round.

    Keep in mind that the top two acts tipped to win the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest are not taking part in the first semifinal along with Malta and the rest of the songs presented on Tuesday.

    Depending on the kind of feedback I get from you, gentle readers, I’ll do this again for Thursday’s semifinal too, or simply skip to Saturday’s final.

    DISCLAIMER: The “predictions” made in this blog post are for your amusement only. I’m pretty sure that these will not be the 10 countries whose songs will actually qualify for Saturday’s final.

    CLAIMER: I’ll be greatly amused to see how many of my 10 picks are also the ones that will be seen/heard again on Saturday.


    Waiting for the Worms

    As you’d expect, I’ll be blogging about the Eurovision Song Contest in the coming days. Not sure what I’m going to focus on this year because there are a couple of different things I’m interested in this time. The Eurovision Research Network has its inaugural events and I’m heavily involved, as you can imagine. Then there’s the almost €400,000 that Malta is spending on this year’s entry.

    The main reason I’m in Oslo this year is for the inaugural events of the Eurovision Research Network (ERN). This is a new organization I co-founded with two other UK-based media performance scholars interested in taking a closer look at the Eurovision Song Contest. ERN already has 40 members from 20 countries. The first event is a panel discussion at the Litteraturhuset in downtown Oslo on Eurovision and the “New” Europe on Thursday. On Friday we’ll be having our inaugural symposium at the University of Oslo, around the theme Setting an Agenda for Eurovision Studies. If nothing else, I can now confidently say that Eurovision is something that is attracting a solid body of scholarship and professional research around it, which contrasts nicely with the impression of frivolity many people associate with the Eurovision Song Contest.

    Riding the bus to a wonderful party (I try to avoid using superlatives whenever I can, but this party was really a highlight among all the many Eurovision events I’ve attended over the years) thrown by the Georgian delegation at the amazing Oslo Opera House I had a very interesting conversation with an EBU staffer about the amount of money some countries spend on their Eurovision entry. Azerbaijan has clearly gone overboard this year, spending millions of euros on promotional ideas. They are very intent on winning the contest this time. Apparently, Malta still thinks that winning Eurovision is about having a great 3 minutes on stage during the contest broadcast. Still, from my conversation on the way to the Georgian party (how much did that cost?) I gathered that most countries are equally oblivious of actual ROI (return on investment) when it comes to Eurovision spending.

    An ROI analysis, possibly including a comparative study, is the third on my areas of research interest around Eurovision. The first starts being articulated with the inaugural ERN symposium on Friday. Once that’s established, my next topic of research will be a performance studies approach to understanding Malta’s love-hate relationship with Eurovision, through an analysis of the songs Malta has entered in the contest since 1971, and how they compare to the songs that won and/or endured over the years.

    While I was at the fabulous Oslo Opera House for the Georgian party, little Thea Garrett was singing a duet with Marcin Mroziński (this year’s singer from Polish) from The Phantom of the Opera at another venue where a smaller party by the Polish delegation was organized. I’m sure she enjoyed every minute of it but I wonder how many votes from Poland that will win her. I haven’t really buckled down to give the Maltese entry the attention it deserves yet. I’ll probably do that later today when I get ready for my first report for SBS radio in Australia. I’ll blog about that tomorrow, once attention on Malta’s 2010 entry starts approaching fever pitch in preparation for Tuesday’s do or die semifinal show. Die-hard Eurovision fans at the Telenor Arena in Oslo don’t think Malta will qualify to the final…but apparently the Google worm tells a different story. We’ll obviously know what’s what by Tuesday night.