Thank you for the music…

So we are indeed off to Denmark – and I would guess probably Copenhagen. I’m well chuffed with the result.  Whilst I think that the staging of the entry from Azerbaijan is very effective, it didn’t quite feel like a Eurovision winner – but second place is well deserved. I’m really glad that Norway and The Netherlands also placed well. I’ll be watching it back again tonight to see what I missed. Did you see the rather odd segment from the green room when Eric Saade seemed to swear?  And then what about how long the broadcast overran by! The EBU will not be happy that…

It’s a shame that Bonnie Tyler didn’t do better, but in a really competitive competition we can’t just send a good song – we have to send a great song. That said – 19th place for Bonnie is what it is – not a cause of national embarrassment like it has been over the years, but not setting the world on fire either. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the night came from Ireland. Who would have thought that they would finish in last place? Well, someone has to, and it doesn’t mean that they are terrible songs – and this one definitely isn’t a bad song.

There’s loads more for me to reflect on – but I won’t! Grab me for a chat on campus if you’re eager for more post-match analysis, or drop me an e-mail. As Graham Norton mentioned during the broadcast last night – the atmosphere was really special, and I said the same after the second semi-final. It seems that the smaller venue and fantastic organisation and staging of the Contest by Swedish broadcaster SVT all conspired to produce not only a cracking piece of telly but also a bunch of great songs.  So, in homage to the mighty ABBA, let’s thank Sweden for the music. Until we meet again on this blog in Denmark next year, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my Eurovision journey once again – and I hope that you enjoyed yours as much as I did.

That’ll be Malmö then… 😀

 

 

It’s time for Malmö madness!

So here we go then, guys.  It’s the day of the ESC2013 Grand Final! How exciting!

So, where will we be off to Denmark next year? It’s looking highly likely!

I travelled back from Malmö yesterday, after a great week.  I am slightly exhausted (in a good way) as there are long (exciting) days when you’re there. I was up early every day to get to the Conference activities, and to cram in as much as I can into the week. This one was different than in previous years as my trip was much shorter. I usually go for the full week, staying for the final and then returning home. This year I have chosen to come home and watch the final on television, with my euro-buddies.  You know, it really is true – once you have seen the rehearsals and the semi-finals, you really have seen everything, so sitting through the final dress rehearsal a few times can remove some of the magic.

I’m looking forward to watching from home tonight with a few friends, including my travel companion this week, great friend and Eurovision scholar – Professor Brian Singleton, and my ‘Eurovision wife’ Rachel Rolfe – my bessy for all things Eurovision since the 1990s. There are things to look out for: Benny and Bjorn from Abba have collaborated with hot Swedish DJ/producer, Avicci on a new track – and we will hear that tonight – ‘citing. Hopefully Graham Norton will be entertaining in his commentary, and avoid the urge to take another step towards morphing into Wogan.

The final countdown has a list of songs that have been scheduled by the EBU. Upon qualification for the final, all countries randomly select their place in the first or second part of the draw.  It is then the choice of the EBU to determine the running order.  And they have done a great job. Over the course of the evening last night We listened to the songs back-to-back, and it is a great flow – not too many ballads bunched together. You will notice that the up-tempo sings and the ballads trade places – so the balance feels right.

Great that Ireland are performing last. I would have loved the UK to have been later in the draw, but coming off the back of Romania it sounds refreshingly low-key. Reports from the Jury Final suggest that Bonnie might not have on top form vocally, but got an amazing reception in the arena.  She’ll do us proud – and I’m sure, as Wogan would himself say – we’ll cheer her on with word and gesture.

There is a bit of a kafuffle in Turkey – who have chosen to not broadcast either the second semi-final, nor the final tonight. This is because of the kiss that the Finnish singer Krista has with the female backing singer. As I said in a recent post, there is a reason for this kiss – pop over to the ERN website and read Brian’s post about the story, here.

Anyway, let’s make way for the music! It’s going to be a great show, so enjoy yourselves and see you tomorrow for my final thoughts on the ESC2013, and our next destination…

01. France

02. Lithuania

03. Moldova

http://youtu.be/SWdHkjAUjUc

04. Finland

http://youtu.be/7JEY1_8dIEw

05. Spain

06. Belgium

07. Estonia

08. Belarus

09. Malta

10. Russia

11. Germany

12. Armenia

13. The Netherlands

14. Romania

http://youtu.be/2IoYq9MJn0Q

15. United Kingdom

16. Sweden

17. Hungary

18. Denmark

19. Iceland

20. Azerbaijan

http://youtu.be/g0UfB-BZlv0

21. Greece

http://youtu.be/pSggRdTmOWg

22. Ukraine

23. Italy

24. Norway

25. Georgia

http://youtu.be/DTf5s6htnqo

26. Ireland

Great expectations…

I have to admit it – I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the second semi-final. I thought most of the best songs were in the first semi-final last Tuesday. What a surprise then that I actually the show much more than I expected. In fact, you could say that it was one of the best that I have attended – not so perhaps for the music, but for the fantastic atmosphere.  Every song got a huge ovation, with the crowd genuinely excited to be there. In some ways it felt like the actual final.

The opening and interval acts helped with the maintained buzz in the arena. And once again the hilarious Sarah Dawn Finer did one of her Linda Woodruff skits – one of the best things about the Contest this year.  Whilst I’m warming to our host Petra, that Mary Poppins delivery is still a tad irritating! But what a show – I’m sure it looked fab on telly…

semi2b

semi3e

semi2a

 

There’s a lot of stuff going on in the arena during the Contest – and of course, with it being a television broadcast, there is a need to capture the excitement of the crowd. I got a bit giddy as we were sitting next to a bunch of Finnish fans, and one of the roaming camera crews were considering filming them for a reaction shot at the end of their performance. We would have been on the telly if they had!  But no, they moved on.  What fun though that we witnessed the Greek fans being giddy with tipsy when their time came to go crazy for the viewers at home…

semi2d

 

 

So then the results came through and – by some miracle – I got 9/10 on the napkin of death!  I’m gutted that I removed Hungary from my list at the last minute – but I’ll get over my error of judgement!

The scene afterwards when the the successful acts returned to the stage shows what it means to them, and us…

semi2fAnd so, we move through to the final phase of ESC2013 – next stop, the final! 😀

 

The return of the ‘Napkin of Death’…

Here we go again – can I improve on 7/10 from the first semi-final? And how will your predications go?  Let’s see… enjoy the show! 😀

  BRIAN PHIL
01. Latvia NO YES
02. San Marino NO NO
03. FYROM NO NO
04. Azerbaijan YES YES
05. Finland YES YES
06. Malta YES YES
07. Bulgaria NO NO
08. Iceland YES YES
09. Greece YES YES
10. Israel NO NO
11. Armenia YES YES
12. Hungary NO NO
13. Norway YES YES
14. Albania YES YES
15. Georgia YES YES
16. Switzerland NO YES
17. Romania YES NO

 

Round two in Malmö…

I sat in on the first dress rehearsal for the second semi-final on Wednesday afternoon, with colleagues from the Malmö conference. My energy levels must have been a bit low after the conference paper in the morning – as I felt rather grumpy about the low quality of the songs in the mix.  Today, I feel slightly more upbeat as I have just watched in on the big screen in an ever busier the press centre. Here’s my thoughts on the show tonight (BBC3 @ 8pm). See what you think tonight…

01. Latvia

The two rappers/singers from Latvia will put in an energetic performance tonight. You might think that they are a little too ‘Bejazzled’ when it comes to their outfits.  The song is catchy – and there are opportunities for you to join in – as the crowd in the venue do every time. Good effort, but probably not going through.

02. San Marino

Remember Carol Decker from T’Pau? Well, she’s not representing San Marino – but their singer, Valentina Monetta, is the spit of her – you know, back in the day.  The fans are all over this song, and in the press centre it is currently third favourite.  Not that necessarily means anything, as occasionally there is a lack of critical distance here.  It’s a nice song, and in a rather dull second semi-final it’ll probably go through.

03. FYROM

I love this song – one of my pre-Contest favourites. It’s a shame that something is getting lost in translation on stage. Esma (she) and Lozano (he) perform what you might think is a bonkers song, mixing gypsy influences with a bit of balladeering and dubstep. I thought it was a shoe-in to get to the final, but the mix of performers on stage doesn’t quite work. Lozano does his thing, and Esma looks overwhelmed by her costume – rather unkindly referred to by some as a toilet roll holder. I’ll be cheering it on!

04. Azerbaijan

This is one of the best performances of the week.  A fab song, fantastic staging, and a singer who is irritatingly handsome. For some reason Farid can’t seem to keep his top on during promotional appearances. I can’t think why! Surely through to the final, and a top five finish should be on the cards.

05. Finland

Pure pop fans, this one is for you (and me!). If you like Katy Perry then Krista is your girl. Pure fun, with infectious energy and a cheeky ending which, after you’ve seen it a few times is a little contrived.  When she gets though to Saturday I’ll explain it why she finishes the song how she does…

06. Malta

Malta had something of a return to form last year, and made it through to the final.  I think this will happen again tonight. If not only because Gianluca’s effervescence will win you over, with a song that could very easily be on the radio in the UK.

07. Bulgaria

Elitsa and Stoyan competed in the Eurovision back in 2007 and did very well.  This song is a bit of a carbon copy of that, but I can’t see it doing as well. Good energy and lots of drumming (that always does well at Eurovision). 50/50 whether it goes through.

08. Iceland

Icelandic singer Eythor has a cracking voice, and the song is anthemic and builds in all the right places.  A brave decision some might say to sing in Icelandic, but it shouldn’t detract from the powerful vocal and the passion of the performance. At rehearsal yesterday he had a rather unflattering shirt on. Today he’s styled it out with a waistcoat and pocket watch, and the visual impact is much better. Surely going to the final.

09. Greece

Another song definitely going to the final. It’s so catchy!  The irony is not lost on us all here in Malmö that the song is called Alcohol Is Free, when clearly it is not. A bottle of wine is thirty quid, up to eight quid for a beer, and don’t start on the spirits! Good that I arrived with a bottle of gin!  What’s the saying: somewhere in the world it’s gin o’clock! 😀

10. Israel

Sorry, but it’s taxi for Moran! Time for you to refresh your drinks and replenish the nibbles…

11. Armenia

Double denim, people, double denim. 😀 I’m feeling like this will go through to the final. There’s always a rock number that makes it through, and I think that the strong vocal – and the fact that there aren’t many rock numbers in the mix – this will see it through.

12. Hungary

Performed by Byealex, this is another one of my favourite songs this year. I love the pace and the vibe, and the soft vocal. I love the animated backdrop of the staging, but my worry is that it really might bye-ByeAlex. Hope not.

13. Norway

One of the best songs in this semi-final feels slightly let down by a lack of fire.  No really – I think it calls for pyrotechnics, which are sadly lacking on the Eurovision stage. It’ll go through for sure, even without the fireworks!

14. Albania

Don’t let the greasy-haired singer at the start of the song put you off:  yes, it sounds like he’s smoked 20 a day for years, looks like he hasn’t been to bed for a week, and dances like a dad at a disco. Wait for the second singer  – he will give you some big-hair vocals!  This song might be counted out by the earlier song from Armenia – or they might get through, which is my hunch.

15. Georgia

It’s the first appearance for this semi-final of the ‘wall of fire’. You will second guess when it will cascade from the rear of the stage. What was once an awesome effect – used to notable effect by Azerbaijan to win in 2011 – now seems overused and a bit contrived. Earlier in the week Paul Jordan (‘Dr Eurovision’) predicted that this is the winning song for 2013. He will be insufferable if he’s right! I don’t think it will, but Nodi and Sophie give some welly, and it’ll sail through to the final.

16. Switzerland

At the national final the performers, Takasa, performed The Salvation Army outfits. EBU bosses said that they couldn’t do this on the stage at Eurovision – references to faith, religion, spirituality etc. aren’t permitted. Look out for the oldest ever performer during this song, at 95 years young – good man yourself. The song is catchy and with the backing of the Sally Army it’ll get through.

17. Romania

I haven’t used the phrase ‘mad as a box of frogs this week’. So I’m going to now! My dear friend and colleague Ruxandra informs me that back home in Romania her compatriots are not entirely sure that Cezar will get to the final. This would be the first time that they have not, so it would be a bit of a scandal. It’s just mad enough to get through…

Enjoy the show – our predictions for the second ‘napkin of death’ are on the way…

We’re holding out for a hero…

Yesterday afternoon I headed to the Malmö arena to see the Swedish Singer Robin Stjernberg and our very own Bonnie Tyler rehearsing ahead of their performance in the final on Saturday night.

The Swedes have once again selected a great song to represent them – and perhaps even win?  Perhaps not, but it will deffo be in the top ten, maybe even top five. Here’s Robin doing his thing in rehearsal yesterday…

rehearse2

Great song, right? He’s also a great guy too.  I saw him rehearse in the arena and he did a great job. I snapped him at the press conference afterwards…

press conf2

Bonnie Tyler followed Robin on stage – and she’s warming up nicely. Here’s Bonnie Tyler doing her thang here in Malmö…

rehearse3

As Bonnie said at the press conference, she’s not nailed the performance yet – but that’s how she likes it. She wants to be perfect on Saturday. It was the best press conference I have attended: Bonnie was a total professional – very funny, and had the crowd eating out of her hand. She was great value – and the assembled press and fans loved her. Her’s what happens when I shout at her…

press conf 3

Two great artists who are going to make Saturday a great final. 😀

Practice makes perfect…

On Wednesday there was a mix of business and pleasure for me.  In the morning I attend a conference at the University of Malmo entitled A Transnational Vision for Europe? Performances, Politics and Places of the Eurovision Song Contest. It has brought together a range of academic and interested parties from around the world, reflecting the expanding nature and diversity of research being undertaken in this area.  If you’d like to get a flavour of what’s on the programme, click here.

Lucky for me, I was first to deliver my paper – and I was pleased with how it went and how it was received. A range of good questions followed, and it was good to get positive feedback from friends and delegates at the conference. I was on the same panel as my good friend Dr Paul Jordan. We first met at a conference in Volos, Greece back in 2007 – the first dedicated conference on the ESC.  He is building a great profile for researching the Eurovision Song Contest.  Indeed, I know that some of you will be familiar with his work as “Dr Eurovision”. He will been contributing to both semi-final broadcasts for BBC this week. If you would like to know more about Paul’s work, click here. Some of you might even has seen him on the BBC3 programme How To Win Eurovision last weekend. Paul contributed very well, but the programme was terrible! It was a pity that BBC3 could’t have commissioned a programme which didn’t have to take the ‘proverbial’ out of the Contest.  Then again, it was broadcast on Saturday night *and* on BBC3, so their target audience probably wasn’t looking for anything analytical!

I missed the afternoon panels of the conference as I wanted to see the rehearsals of the host Country, Sweden, and our very own Bonnie Tyler. More of that later today…

We have lift off…


I thoroughly enjoyed the first semi-final last night. Not many text messages during the broadcast (thank you!), but lots of discussion via social media.  Lots of positive feedback about how great it looked on the telly.  Live television takes a lot of preparation, with each country rehearsing their song over two twenty minute slots during the first week of rehearsals. After that, as you will appreciate from earlier posts, there is the first dress rehearsal, followed by the Jury Final, and – on the afternoon of the semi-final – one further dress rehearsal.  Got that?  Good.

It’s no wonder then that the camera angles and vision mixing are all spot on. All the artists last night (as far as I could tell in the arena) did a great job. Here are some pics I took last night (Tuesday)…

12 malmo arena

15 malmo arena

I hope you enjoyed the opening, with the kids and Loreen, and that your favourite songs made it through.  It looks like Brian and I got 7/10 – not bad I guess! The big news was that four Balkan countries got the elbow, and this will undoubtedly be the cause of some consternation in those territories. Indeed, there is already word that Slovenia may take a hissy-fit and not compete next year.  That said, countries threaten this every year when they face what they perceive as the indignity of not progressing to the final. Emotions run high as you can imagine, as a lot of time and effort is put into the participation of all countries.

I had a ball – hope you did too! It was a late night for me. By the time I got back to the hotel it was midnight. A small nightcap before bed, followed by a timed run-through of my conference paper, saw me turn out the light at just after 2am. For a 7am start I struggled to sleep, but it was a great second day here in Malmö.

If you think some of the music is suspect…

Fans of the Swedish/Danish television crime series The Bridge may be intruiged to know that lurking inside the ‘goodie bag’ that I received on arrival on Monday was an unusual surprise – something that looks surprisingly like a bagged body part. Take a look at the horror that presented itself…

17 malmo parts2On closer inspection it takes an amusing turn. The label, as you can see, says “A little something from us to you. Enjoy”. Well, the sight of this doesn’t exactly encourage me to want to go anywhere near it. It is, in fact, a white chocolate swedish truffle! Yummy? Erm, not so sure when you look at the ingredients…

18 malmo parts3I chose to avoid the horror lurking within – but it does make for an amusing tale for the blog! 😀

 

 

After the sounds, the sights of Malmö…

If you ever get the chance to travel to Malmö I would highly recommend it. What a lovely city in which to spend a few days.  We have been very lucky with the weather so far, with the sun shining on the World of Eurovision.  Good times.

Over the last couple of days I have snapped a few images of life about town here in Malmö…

01 malmo

 

08 malmo

 

06 malmoThe more we explore the city, the more the presence of Eurovision becomes almost unavoidable, with the local host theme “We Are One” on every billboard, hoarding and lamp post…

07 malmo

 

02 malmo

 

04 malmo

 

It really does make you feel a part of something special – more than an exercise in branding. It’s hard to explain. I love the theme and the artwork – a stunning piece of design. I have noticed that when visiting the host city over the course of five Contests that I become quite obsessed by flags.  I’m not sure why! Somehow yesterday I managed to take a really good picture of the local theme flags…

09 malmo flags

 

Good, right!  So, that’s life about time in downtown Malmö. Let’s now turn out attention to the life and soul of the press centre…

10 malmo press

 

11 malmo press

 

It is still relatively early in the week – and the press centre does get gradually busier as we move through the semi-finals into the final weekend. It’s a really nice environment in which to work.  Brian and I have been posting to our Eurovision Research Network website (www.eurovisionresearch.net – click through to the blogs link). I have been finalising a conference paper that I delivered earlier today (more on that shortly), and I’ve been blogging for my friends and colleagues at Edge Hill. It all take a lot of time, and this is the most hospitable press centre that I have experienced. Who can forget that in Moscow the press centre was built on a false floor on top of a swimming pool. No, really – health and safety, anyone?!.

One final note on this post, and something that will amuse my friends and music students, who hear me gushing about how much I like Swedish music and all things schlager *all the time*.  You can see from the notices (below) that there is dedicated ‘schlager time’ as part of the daily diary of cultural events.

05 malmo

It made me smile – sound of schlager harps, indeed… 😀