A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
There is always some matter to discuss or just a song I want to share
Very welcome - I hope you'll like it here!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tobson Ranking: #34 Portugal

One day, perhaps, a humour entry will get the last laugh at Eurovision. But that day is not today.

Homens da Luta - A Luta É Alegria (Portugal 2011)

I believe the Portuguese when they say this entry means something to them. That it is funny. I had my doubts in the beginning, but before the first semi was over and done with I had sort of given in to this fact. The Portuguese entry is funny.

But it is not good.

And it is hardly even a song.

If you enter a song contest and decide to be funny, then you have to be good. And you have to have a song.

But since none of the songs mentioned until now show any trace of fun or any lasting entertainment value, then of course this one must rank higher.

Next year, I hope for a real hit, though. It would be about time that Portugal won the whole sad thing.

My grade: 1 / 5

Tobson Ranking: #35 Malta

A good personality isn't worth much unless you have a song to back it up... wait, didn't I just already write this about Armenia?

Glen Vella - One Life (Malta 2011)

Little Glen put on a big smile, maybe the biggest of them all in Düsseldorf, and was just as happy off as on stage. Wherever you went, wherever you looked, he was there. And he was very happy.

Performers as happy as Glen often fail at Eurovision, as they usually start overperforming, scaring off televoters and juries alike. Glen managed to hold his act together nicely, he sang well and he offered a slick package together with his dancers and backing vocalists.

Glen's big drawback was, again, the song. A dull, charmless, lifeless little tune written by the book, sticking to a very tired pop formula, sprinkled with some drum machines and vain attempts at making it sound modern.

It falls flat on its nose and takes Glen and his friends with it on its way down.

Glen would deserve a much better chorus in the future. The Maltese have been able to hammer out a lot better songs in the past, but it has been a few years now. Time to get back to form.

My grade: 1 / 5

Tobson Ranking: #36 Armenia

Sorry to break it to you, but a great personality isn't worth much if you don't have a song to back it up with.

Emmy - Boom Boom (Armenia 2011)

Rather like Croatia, it seems the Armenians too are painfully aware of how little of song they have to offer.

There is a hook, admittedly. A hook that will stick in your mind and haunt you. A hook as pleasant as having a wasp stuck inside your head. But a hook is a hook is a hook and should never be underestimated.

Sometimes you can take a weak song and add a fantastic show and the result will be breathtaking. Sometimes a good act will just underline how weak your song is.

Poor little Emmy can't do much about it, and her slipping and sliding on a number of notes does the package no favours either.

But there is one very positive point proven by all this: when Armenia sends in a bad song, they are left in the semis. Just like everyone else.

So now we can drop the talk that they are always guaranteed a spot in the final, regardless of what they enter.

A very good thing for Armenia, in the long run.

My grade: 1 / 5

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tobson Ranking: #37 Latvia

Some songs are bad because they hop in your face and poke your nose. Some songs are bad because they don't do anything.

Musiqq - Angel In Disguise (Latvia 2011)

There are a few things that are actually bad about this song. The rap part is not a success. The lyrics are dire. But otherwise, it is just rather cheerful and inoffensive.

It is quite well sung, quite well performed. But it also constitutes three minutes of your life that will be lost forever for no apparent reason.

Nothing happens in me during this song. It begins. It plays. It ends. And I don't feel a single thing. Apart from a slightly unpleasant sensation during mentioned rap part.

Music should awake emotions and feelings in you. This song makes me jawn.

My grade: 1 / 5

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tobson Ranking: #38 Croatia

If you absolutely need to use a gimmick, use a gimmick. If you feel the need to use three gimmicks, then you have a problem.

Daria Kinzer - Celebrate (Croatia 2011)

The basic rule goes like this: if you believe in your song, you don't have to invent distractions to take the audience's focus away from the thing you are singing.

The Croatian song was written in order to suit two different performers and was a pretty anonymous song to start with. The disastrous re-write in English only did things even worse.

The final kiss of death was the introduction of a "show element" - a Willy Wonka look-alike magician, whose main occupation is looking creepy and assisting with not just the one, but two rather awkward dress changes.

A desperate attempt to amuse the masses when there was no song to be found. I hope Croatia has learned their lesson and will go back to relying on choruses again, like they did in the 90's.

My grade: 1 / 5

Tobson Ranking: #39 Lithuania

Old-fashioned isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if the tv-screen almost turns black and white when your song starts, then you are overdoing it.

Evelina Sašenko - C'est Ma Vie (Lithuania 2011)

For quite a long time, I would have defined Evelina is part of the same group as the singers from Belgium and Romania. Smug. But then she got her act together for the final, if I remember correctly.

Then she managed to come across as warm, elegant and classy. She sang really well and the sign language gimmick felt more sincere than just a cheap gimmick.

Too bad then, that the song is so fantastically void and empty. It contains absolutely nothing. Pompous and pretentious.

The fact that the juries showered this in points, especially in the semis, is enough for me to start questioning the whole idea of having juries.

What is the point to have juries if they vote for songs that are no good?

My grade: 1 / 5

Tobson Ranking: #40 Romania

Hammer out a simple song that everyone can sing along with. If you do it well, you're unbeatable. If you do it badly... then you are these guys.

Hotel FM - Change (Romania 2011)

Usually, this is what Romania does really well. They send in simple but efficient, hooky little numbers that I normally defend with quite some passion.

At first, I thought this ditty was OK as well. And then it all fell apart. The cheap production, the cheesy lyrics, the taste of plastic in my mouth as soon as the chorus started.

And when this group turned out to be almost as smug as the Belgians...

No, thank you. But I have great expectations on hearing a much better song from Romania next year. A much much much better song.

My grade: 1 / 5

Tobson Ranking: #41 Belgium

It is catchy. It has a bit of a handle, and a bit of a chorus. I have to give it that. Otherwise, this is a bit no.

Witloof Bay - With Love Baby (Belgium 2011)

I applaud anyone ready to bring a new style into Eurovision and experiment a little bit. The ESC needs that, to break out of the formulas.

But it also has to be good.

The Belgian entry is not good, it is smug. Horribly smug. They want to be charming and fun, but end up neither nor.

They never said it anywhere so I would have seen it, but they leave me the impression that they consider themselves "real" musicians since they can sing without backing tracks.

Real musicians know a weak song when they hear one. They don't try to improve it by throwing in some beatboxing under the pretence that is something new, edgy and unheard of.

My grade: 1 / 5

Tobson Ranking: #42 Spain

Several good friends of mine - yes, good friends with reliable taste - has this one as their guilty pleasure of 2011. I guess I'm just too square and stuck in my ideas. But this is totally unworthy for a country like Spain.

Lucia Perez - Que me quiten lo bailao (Spain 2011)

RTVE is clearly one of those tv stations desperate not to win Eurovision. When the other countries directly qualified for the final have started taking the whole thing seriously again, Spain fall behind.

Miles behind.

Their lack of commitment would almost be cute if it didn't mean we have to endure their lousy, half-hearted entries.

Spain is an impressive pop nation with fantastic pop stars and terrific song writers. There is no excuse for them to inflict bottom-of-the-league entries like this one.

Amateurish on every level and in no way worthy of being in the final. I suggested that we give Spain the boot for 2012 and push them out in the semis. Maybe that would make them put up at least a tiny effort in the future?

My grade: 1 / 5

Tobson Ranking: #43 Belarus

This can't come as much as a surprise to anyone who read my review after seeing the preview of this year's entries. I think this is nothing short of dire, from beginning to end.

Anastasia Vinnikova - I Love Belarus (Belarus 2011)

As you may have sensed by now, I am not a big fan of propaganda. It is OK to flavour your song with a tiny pinch of patriotism if you have to (honestly, I'm not a big fan of that either), but there is a clear line between patriotism and propaganda.

I wouldn't cheer for any song on a theme like "Sweden is the sweetest", "Totally Turkey" or "Belgium is the best". And I certainly won't cheer for a song claiming that the Belarus regime is fun-loving and adorable.

And to be perfectly clear - even if we removed the political dimension, this would be a pretty rotten entry. Over-choreographed and badly sung, with a chorus so simple it borders on primitive.

The performance also suggests that everyone involved know what a weak song this is, and try at every cost to distract the viewers with fire, pyro and other things.

For me, this is clearly the worst entry of 2011. I would not be too sorry if I never heard it in full again.

Grade: 0 / 5

ESC 2011: The Official Tobson Ranking

Enough time has passed since Düsseldorf, and it is time to rank the songs.

Oddly enough, I am yet to watch the 2011 ESC broadcasts in full. Every time I have tried to watch, I feel that the whole event is still too close in time. My impressions are too strong, and I don't want them to pale and get reduced to what you see on television.

So these reviews are more based on my impressions and memories rather than what it actually looked and sounded like on-screen.

But here they come, all 43 participating entries according to my own very personal and ruthless ranking, according to my very own criteria.

Welcome aboard, sit back, enjoy the ride and feel free to comment when you agree or disagree with me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cyprus 1990: evolution in reverse

After a series of internal and semi-internal selections, Cypriot broadcaster RIK decided to put on a real full-blown national final for the first time in 1990.

The enthusiasm was quite big on home ground, and the winning song was greeted with quite a lot of enthusiasm.

Haris Anastasiou - Milas Poli (Cyprus 1990 national final)

Maybe the voice left a little bit to be desired, but it looked quite right and up to date, and it sounded even more so. Calculated and copied straight off the Stock/Aitken/Waterman drawing board, bien sur, but putting the finger quite precisely on the current musical chart trends.

RIK also made a good and funny preview clip for the song, and more than one follower must have started believing Cyprus could make a bit of a splash in Zagreb.

Anastazio - Milas Poli (Cyprus 1990 preview clip)

But then something went wrong - very wrong - as the team hired the stylist from hell. Or did they hire a stylist at all?

Stretch denim and a tourist t-shirt? Now really?

And while good old Haris had seemingly worked on getting has vocals together, the backing group do their best to shout the whole thing to death. As a result, a perfectly good, up-to-date pop song ends in a pale 14th place.

Anastazio - Milas Poli (Cyprus 1990)

The whole performance lacks the punch and the bounce that the backing track has. And the lack of style would make any jury member reach for the remote.

Anastazio already had ESC experience as a backing dancer for Cyprus in Brussels 1987, he must have noticed already then that it pays off to make a good visual presentation.

So, what's the excuse here?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Preview clip: Armenia 2009

The best preview clips are of course the ones that improves the song they present. They make the song feel even more powerful and convincing. One clip that managed really well was Armenia 2009.

Inga & Anush - Jan Jan (Armenia 2009 preview)

It is so bouncy and colourful and stylish. The sisters look gorgeous and the scenes with the mass dancing are truly efficient.

Too bad that Armenia didn't play the dance craze card when they got to Moscow, but instead opted for a far more restrained approach.

Still stylish, but no bounce in sight. That probably lost them quite a few points in the end. Something happy and clappy would surely have scored higher.

Inga & Anush - Jan Jan (Armenia 2009)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Memories from Düsseldorf

As keen followers of this blog will already know, I was sent to Düsseldorf by Svenska Yle (the Swedish-languaged branch of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation) in order to cover the ESC from every thinkable aspect.

I have been around before, this was my eighth Eurovision that I visited, but the whole thing was rather overwhelming.

Fun, absolutely one of the best jobs you can have under the sun, but I was left with so many new impressions and ideas and impulses that it has taken a while to wind down afterwards.

For instance, I have not since a single one of the Düsseldorf broadcasts through. Too demanding. And they are still too present to be enjoyable. I like them better when they play in my head.

But slowly, I will start doing my slight summary of this year's contest. And I will rank all the songs according to how I like them now, when all is said and done and every single point has been counted.

Before that, though, I'd like to share some Düsseldorf nostalgia with you all. Among many other things, I spent my ten days at Eurovision making small web-tv clips that I'd love to share with you here.

Düsseldorf in rewind!

Paradise Oskar arrives at the welcome party

Paradise Oskar mingles with the other delegations at the welcome party

Paradise Oskar on a cruise with the Finnish press

Paradise Oskar sings Germany's eurosong from 2007 as well as his own song

All the clips I made can be seen on our YouTube channel here and they can hopefully entertain one or two of you before my Ddorf analysis begins.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Notable lyrics: Greece 1983

Just to be very precise... It took me years to figure this song out. I used to find it dull and difficult. I couldn't make head nor tails of it and thought it was one of the weakest entries ever sent in by Greece.

Christie Stassinopoulou - Mou les (Greece 1983)

It wasn't until I heard the cover version featured on the Euro-Revisions album (which I can heartly recommend - available on Spotify) that I was really blown away.

These days, this is one of my all-time favourite ESC tracks - delicate, tender and seriously melodic.

But one thing that always impressed me - long before I saw the light from a musical point of view - are the lyrics. A low-key lament from the insecure, a lullaby for everyone with low self esteem.

You tell me about the sea and the ships, about everything you have seen and experienced. And instead of feeling special when you decide to share this with me, I panic in fear that these wonderful memories will make you long back to old times and realise how dull and insignificant I really am.

So I will close all ports and all stations, and I will lock your heart in a cage, so you can't wander away from me.

Who can't relate to that feeling? The notion that as soon as our loved ones realise how unspectacular we really are, they won't love us anymore.

Christie sings for everyone who ever felt like that, and at least my heart melts.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Notable lyrics: Ireland 1984

Linda Martin would come back with a vengeance in 1992 and win the whole shebang in Malmö with the classical ballad "Why Me?".

In Luxembourg 1984, she behaved a lot less like your typical Eurovision lady. She came in, dressed to kill in her white outfit and her screamingly red hair, offering a dramatic little pop symphony with a most non-Irish sound.

Linda Martin - Terminal 3 (Ireland 1984)

The lyrics seem plain and ordinary: a woman is about to reunite with her lost lover, and in accordance with the official Irish stance on relationships and divorce this should constitute a very happy ending.

But there is more drama than that in the picture.

It's not all that easy to forgive and forget once you have been stood up. "Another time and place / can never quite erase / the way he turned his back and walked away."

And what says she won't be stood up again? The lyrics end before the guy shows up. Will he be there? Or did he change his mind again?

And does it even matter? Is there any love to be saved? "I told him nothing's changed / and I still feel the same / he's been away too long." It doesn't mean that it's true, just because she told him so.

Maybe she is just trying to convince herself everything will be fine.

And I love lyrics like these, that will paint a tiny scene from somebody's life and leave more questions than answers. Just like real life.

Maybe Johnny Logan wrote better songs than this one, but never a better lyric.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

ESC 2011: did you enjoy Düsseldorf?

Hello all...

I hope you all had an excellent time with the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest, whatever way you watched it. On location, in front of your telly, with your laptop on your knee.

I know I had an excellent time.

The only really bitter little taste is that I had to sacrifice the blog in order to do my job properly. When I had made the news articles, the web tv, the columns and the radio reports I was all out of words.

It is a bit silly to have a eurovision blog on and then drop it when the season moves into top gear. I would have loved to be here and discuss more with you, dear readers, the development, the acts, the performances and the predictions.

Well, I also know that a fraction of you out there has the same need as I do. We need a eurovision blog the most when the season is at its slowest. Some place to turn to when nobody else wants to hear about Eurovision but you still want more.

So I will take the blog up again, slowly, and keep it going for the summer, waiting for the next season to start.

Hope you are still here, some of you, and please tell me... What did you think about the 2011 ESC? Who was your favourite? And why? Please leave a comment and brighten up my day.