Fly on the wings of love…

I hope you guys back in the UK and Ireland had a great Bank Holiday.  On Monday I was inside the mothership! It was my first visit into the arena for the first full run-through of the first semi-final dress rehearsal. It is (familiar theme here folks) much smaller than in previous years.  The magic of television will make it appear much bigger, but it is rather bijou. That said it is *awesome*. DR (the host broadcaster) have constructed a fantastic stage and arena. My photos will not do it justice (as usual!), but they will at least give you my view of the action, and you will like what you see on the telly during the week.

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A key area of the auditorium this year is the green room for the artists. Much like in Baku 2012, all the participants will sit in the arena to await their fate. Cruel maybe as it offers nowhere for them to hide after their performance, but it adds a little something to the proceedings for us. Then again it has dramatically reduced the size of the audience. Looks good though…

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So here we go, my thoughts on the action today. There are a few gaps in my photos, which may or may not be directly linked to my interest in the songs! First to perform for semi-final one was Armenia…

01. Aram MP3 – Not Alone (Armenia)

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This is a confident opener from Aram MP3. Taking to the stage alone, with no gimmicks this is a very good start, and as I mentioned in my pervious posts, it is the early favourite with the bookies.  Should have no problem in getting to the final. But is it a winner?

02. Aarzemnieki – Cake To Bake (Latvia) 

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This is a fun, feel-good song in the arena. Terribly catchy and clap-along. Vocals were a bit dodgy in places, but you will enjoy the energy from the performers, and be tapping along too. I hope it gets through.

03. Tanja – Amazing (Estonia)

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This is perhaps the best choreography of this semi-final. The singer Tanja is more than ably supported by a male dancer, both of whom give if full welly in terms of physicality. No doubting that the backing singers (largely out of view) are picking up that slack in terms of vocals! That said, a really good performance that should see it through to the final. You might notice that Tanja bears a whiff of resemblance to Charlotte Church, or is it just me?

04. Sanna Nielsen – Undo (Sweden)

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This is perhaps the best vocal of the semi-final, probably the contest. Vocally perfect, this is an incredibly assured performance.  Yes, you will have heard a ballad of this kind many times before, but this whole package is so polished that it should challenge to win the whole thing, if it is to be a ballad that wins this year.

05. Pollapönk – No Prejudice (Iceland) 

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Not my favourite song before I saw it performed today, it is actually well polished and I like the song better now that I have seen it. The best things about the song are the energy of the performance, and the theme of the lyrics – no prejudice.  Listen very carefully to the lyrics, and there is a subtle narrative about social, political and sexuality discourses happening around Europe at the moment, and how everyone should be more tolerant. Yes, we know who it is being aimed at! Good on Iceland for raising the issue in a quirky entry that probably won’t make it to the final. If it doesn’t it will be the first time since 2008.

06. Hersi – One Night’s Anger (Albania)

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One of the songs to refresh your drinks and refill the snacks and nibbles to. The singer Hersi performs on a plinth which I think resembles the stern of the Titanic. I can imagine Kate and Leo on there, you know – their hearts might go on, but in this contest I don’t think that this will.

07. Tolmachevy Sisters – Shine (Russia) 

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Politics at Eurovision? Russia are carrying on regardless with a very well polished performance from their Russian twins, who are – it has to be said – more than ably assisted by their backing singers. Oh, and a see-saw. It will probably make it to the final, whilst many might not want it to – for reasons that are anything other than of the twins making.

08. Dilara Kazimova – Start A Fire (Azerbaijan) 

A great song from Azerbaijan – but no picture from me to accompany my review! Azerbaijan have a fantastic record in the ESC since their debut in 2008. Constantly sending strong songs, but often overshadowing them with gimmicky stage theatrics. This happens again on this occasion, see what you think when you see in on BBC3 this Tuesday evening.

09. Maria Yaremchuk – Tick-Tock (Ukraine)

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Probably amongst the worst lyrics of the entries this year. That said, Ukraine also have a great track record – not that I think that this is their best effort. In some circles there is the suggestion that this will do very well, due to the situation between Ukraine and Russia. It’s a good effort – with a man on a hamster wheel that will, in all honesty, distract you from the song, and the lyrics. Sympathy ain’t going to make this win, but it will boost it through to the final.

10. Axel Hirsoux – Mother (Belgium) 

This song won the Belgium national final with a landslide victory. Axel is performing an impassioned ballad about his moher. Fair play. Pity that, for me at least, there is a weird disconnect that feels quite creepy. When you see the live performance Axel is shadowed by an interpretive dancer – presumably the incarnation of his dead mother? I don’t get it – but see what you think. I can’t see it getting to the final, unless the national juries reward Alex for the passion in his vocal performance.

11. Cristina Scarlat – Wild Soul (Moldova) 

This is hair raising stuff!  You will see singer Cristina give it some welly, so much so that she rips out her own hair! That’s what I call committing to the moment! I don’t think we will see it in the final.

12. Valentina Monetta – Maybe (Forse) 

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This is the third time in three years that Valentina Monetta has represented San Marino. Good on her for keeping the faith. I really like the song. People here with me in Copenhagen think that I’m mad, but hey – that’s the subjective nature of this whole experience! It would be in my personal top ten, but it’s probably not getting through. You will like the literal visual interpretation of the lyrics at the start of the song: Valentina is the pearl in the shell of which she sings. A good effort, for an old-school ballad (written by winning composer and Eurovision legend Ralph Siegel – who you will see tickling the ivories on stage), but the draw won’t help it make it through – there are better songs still to come.

13. Suzy – Quero Ser Tua (Portugal) 

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Aah, if the prosecco has kicked in by song 13, you will be out of your chair and reliving those memories from back in the day – do you remember the Lambada? There are flavours of that in this fun song. After a string of ernest balladeering this is a breath of fresh air – if not entirely contemporary. Good on Portugal for giving us a moment in the sun. Let’s hope that there isn’t rain heading towards their parade. It does have a lot of front, nothing to do with the weather – you will see what I mean, particularly from the male backing performer…

14. The Common Linnets – Calm After The Storm (The Netherlands)

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Performance of the day for me, and one of my favourites this year. This is quietly assured, understated and classy. A great song for television – you guys will get the nuances better at home than we do in the arena. I would hope that this sails through – and that Radio 2 start playing it next week! I love it!

15. Sergej Ćetković – Moj Svijet (Montenegro)

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A charismatic performer with a twinkle is his eye, and the first appearance of a figure skater on the stage since 2008. No, really! This is a great song, staged very effectively. Surely going through to the final.

16. Kállay-Saunders – Running (Hungary)

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Lastly, Hungary have a song which deals with themes of domestic abuse. It’s not easy to represent that through the staging and the impassioned choreography from the backing dancers. Too subtle or too much? There is disagreement here. See what you think. A great song that should make it to the final.

* And Relax *

So that’s your lot for semi-final one! What a great show. Have we seen a winner yet? Well, we haven’t seen ‘our Molly’ yet…

As I left the dress rehearsal after the run through of the songs the interval act took to the stage…

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Overall I really enjoyed the semi-final dress rehearsal. On Tuesday my euro-chums and I will deliver our ‘napkin of death’ to see who we think will make the final.  Be sure to do your own so that we can compare – and you can always share your thoughts here on the blog. Remember, only ten songs can make it through…

By the way, this post is titled after the winning Danish entry from 2000 – the really quite awesome “Fly On The Wings Of Love” by the Olsen Brothers. Fab stuff…

😀

In a moment like this…

So I’m here in sunny Denmark! The weather has been pleasant as I have made my way around the city on Saturday and Sunday.

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As you move around the city there is beautiful architecture, and coastal views (of which more during the week).  This building caught my eye – if you look closely and you can see people climbing the steps to the top. I won’t be doing that!

2014-05-04 13.26.08Whilst I awaited the arrival of my friend and fellow Eurovision scholar Professor Brian Singleton, I made my way to the press centre to collect my accreditation. This is my first glimpse of the venue for ESC2014, the B&W Hallerne…

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It really isn’t the most auspicious of buildings, is it! Yes, it is HUGE but also quite formidable. The surroundings don’t exactly suggest that Copenhagen is hosting the longest running and most watched television programme in Europe. Indeed, it would appear that the Eurovision has been sent to jail for crimes against popular music…

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All jokes aside, what the host broadcasters DK are aiming to do is deliver a media event that uses local spaces to deliver a media event that is linked in with sustainability and a green agenda. We’ll see how that translates over the coming week. Yes, we are located in an old shipyard – there is no disguising that – but it is the hope of the organisers that most of the people travelling to what has been named ‘Eurovision Island’ will do so by water on the many boats and ferries that link to the venue.  More on that as I navigate my way around the place.

The accreditation centre is at the back of the venue – a good two kilometre walk from the bus stop by the time you’re there. I was saying to my friend and fellow Eurovision scholar Dr Karen Fricker that there is a sense in which we are here to work the Eurovision and not be at it. I am yet to see the main entrance, so far I’ve been in via the tradesman’s entrance at the back…

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Once inside here’s a view of the working area of the press centre…

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Much smaller than last year, it already feels busier than in previous years prior to the start of the semi-finals. The facilities are also not as grand as in Malmö, but hey – this makes it more sustainable, right? It’s good to be be back in the bubble, but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to get into the venue for any rehearsals – that will happen on Monday. Hopefully I will get to see our artist Molly rehearse ‘Children of the Universe’ in the morning, followed by the first full dress rehearsal of the first semi-final in the afternoon. I think we have a better than good chance of being in the top five this year. I might even go as far as to say that this is the UK’s year. We’ll see/kiss of death!

In the evening I headed into town to have dinner with Karen and my dear friend Paul Jordan – that’s “Dr Eurovision” to you and me. Congrats to Paul as he has just published his thesis “The Modern Fairy Tale: Nation Branding, National Identity and the Eurovision Song Contest in Estonia”. If you fancy reading his research into nation branding, politics and how they relate to Eurovision, check it out. Also a reminder from previous years on this blog, you can visit Paul at www.dreurovision.com.

I had dinner in the Forum area of Copenhagen, which was also the location for the 50th anniversary concert for the Eurovision back in 2005…

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How apt that two-time Eurovision participant, Sir Cliff Richard will be playing here later this year…

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So, I’m getting my bearings in CPH for the ESC. Monday brings with it a change in gear. All the countries have done their initial rehearsals. The first dress rehearsal of the first semi-final is when it starts getting really interesting, and where the performance element, and how it is vision mixed for you guys at home, really can be a game changer. Watch this space for my reactions on Monday night…

By the way – the post title, my favourite Danish entry ever, sung by Chanée & N’Evergreen. How about a little reminder from ESC2010 in Oslo…

😀

 

 

Hej fra Copenhagen!

Hello again, everyone. How have you been?

It really doesn’t feel like a year since I was in Malmö covering what was, in all honesty, pretty much a sure bet that Denmark would win the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest. It was a deserving winner, and the reason why I am in Copenhagen for the next eight days. Indeed, I am back in the host country ‘Eurovision bubble’ for the sixth time in seven years, and this is the seventh occasion on which I will be blogging on all things Eurovision. For regular readers, welcome back. For new readers, welcome! For all, I hope to add a little something extra to your Eurovision experience.

Regular readers, since 2008, will know what’s in store on the blog for the next week: the backstage buzz from the arena, dress rehearsals, press centre and host country, as well as a panel supposed ‘Eurovision experts’ (including me!) predicting the winners and losers in the two semi-finals (broadcast on BBC3, Tuesday and Thursday this week, from 8.00pm), and ultimately naming the winning country, artist and song (BBC1, Saturday 10 May).

I think that this is a great year for songs – and the outcome is far from certain, which makes it much more interesting. A glance at the betting odds sees Armenia installed as the long-running favourite. I like the song, but can’t see it winning. You can see all the songs on the usual social media platforms, as well as the Eurovision web page (www.eurovision.tv), and as usual I’ll be reviewing all the songs after each of the semi-final dress rehearsals.

The theme for Eurovision this year is #JoinUs, and I’m looking forward to the week ahead and hope that you swing by the blog each day to #JoinMe.

More later today…