Category Archives: Wish List

Editorial: If At First You Don’t Succeed…Part 2

Picking up where we left off (way too long ago…pardon the delay!), here’s another look at a handful of National Final stalwarts who really deserve their big break at Eurovision.

From Malta, the land that brought us Chiara, Glen Vella, and Kurt Calleja, brothers Wayne Micallef and Richard Edwards have each submitted a handful of strong entries to the National Final.  First appearing in a trio with their sister Michelle as “The Mics” in 2003 and 2005, the siblings came in 14th with “Take Me Back Again“, and came in a disappointing 21st place with their disco-fied entry “It’s Up To You”.  It was Wayne who first struck out on his own, with his 2009 submission “Where You Belong“.  He improved upon his 7th-place finish that year with his 2010 follow-up, “Save a Life“, and came in 8th place in 2011 with the more upbeat “Everybody Sing“.  His 2012 entry, “Time“, with its Wisconsin-filmed video, brought him a 12th-place finish, and he is showing no signs of stopping.  Read the rest of this entry

ESC Wish List: France 2012

Since 2008, France has chosen their Eurovision representatives and songs via an internal selection.  Over these past few years, broadcaster France 3 has given us genres ranging from ambient electronica to jazz chanson to afro-dance-pop to operatic bolero, with results generally bouncing around the middle of the scoreboard (often despite expectations or critical acclaim).  One thing is for sure: over the past few years, variety has been key.  You can’t expect France to offer up the same thing twice in a row anymore, which leaves us with the question: what should we expect them to serve up in Baku next year?  Well, as a fan with way too much time on her hands during the off-season, allow me to come up with a few suggestions.  (Again, as I said when I did this series last year, these are only my opinions, and I do not intend to start any rumors.)

1) Caravan Palace: Following Raphael Gualazzi’s surprisingly high result for Italy on 2011’s scoreboard, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a rise in the usage of jazz or other unexpected genres in future Eurovisions.  Continuing on with that trend, might I recommend taking a look at Caravan Palace, an electro-gypsy-swing combo:

They seem to be masters at crafting jazzy earworms that sound both classic and updated at the same time, and any band that can claim both Django Reinhardt and Daft Punk as influences is more than fine with me!  It’s hard to find music that you can both dance to and chill out with, but this Parisian group has found a nice balance.  Plus, considering Baku’s surprisingly avid fondness for jazz, this might be an interesting option for France 3 to consider…

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ESC Wish List: Arisa

Over time, I’ve noticed that one year’s winner becomes the next year’s Eurovision trend.  For example, the year after Ruslana won with the energetic, folk-inspired “Wild Dances“, we saw Hungary’s “Forogj, Világ” and Greece’s “My Number One“.  After Lordi’s victory with “Hard Rock Hallelujah“, there was an explosion of rock (or at least more pop-rock) from nations like Moldova, Finland, Andorra, Iceland, Estonia, and the Czech Republic.  And after Russia used a Stradivarius for their winning performance of “Believe” in 2008, the next year saw a heavy use of strings from Norway, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the Czechs.  So, now that Germany has taken home the victory with fresh-faced Lena Meyer-Landrut (and we know that she’ll be returning to defend her title next year), it might not be a stretch to assume that we’ll see a bit of an upswing in sweet, low-key, youthful pop.

If Italy does return to Eurovision, I’ve got just the girl in mind for them.

The Sanremo Song Festival, which I mentioned in my last entry, has a section made just for newcomers.  This sub-contest has introduced the world to such famous names as Eros Ramazotti, Laura Pausini, Paola & Chiara, and even Andrea Bocelli.  In 2009, the Newcomer’s Trophy went to Arisa (real name: Rosalba Pippa…her stage name comes from the first initials of every member of her family), with her song “Sinceritá (Sincerity)”.

Once you get past Arisa’s strong resemblance to Rachel Maddow (which I personally think is a good thing!),  you get into her general sweetness and, for lack of a better word, sincerity!  Like Lena before her, Arisa is fresh and unpolished…a neophyte with genuine talent.  She may seem somewhat wooden in her live performance of “Sinceritá”, but her full music video, shown here, shows how engaging she can be.  Her first full-length album made it to #5 on the local charts, and has gone platinum (which, in Italy, means that over 60,000 copies have been sold).  She’s already released her second disc, “Malamoreno (But-not-love)”, to general acclaim and success.  Here’s the title track, also performed at San Remo:

I mean, how cute is she?  Between her general accessibility and the fact that major ESC fans are practically begging Italy to jump back into the game…with the right song (probably something with a decently high level of energy, like “Malamoreno”), I think that Arisa could do pretty well in Eurovision.

ESC Wish List: Italy!!!!

Like many nations in Western Europe, Italy has had a sort of love-hate relationship with Eurovision over the past decade or so.  However, unlike Portugal, who stays in the fight, keeping generally loyal to its own regional heritage and musical style (see Dulce Pontes, Lucia Moniz, Vânia Fernandes or Flor-de-Lis), or the United Kingdom, which often gleefully cannonballs into the ESC’s intrinsic ridiculousness and camp (see Gina G, Scooch, Daz Sampson, or infamous nul-pointer Jemini), Italian broadcaster RAI threw up their hands after the 1997 competition and haven’t entered a Eurovision since.  From the standpoint of a loyal ESC fan, this is nothing short of tragic, as some of the true evergreens of the competition have come from Italy.  In fact, Eurovision as an entity was inspired by the Sanremo Festival, a national song contest that had been established in 1951, and in turn was used to select Italy’s ESC entrants for many years.  Sanremo is still going strong, but national interest in Eurovision has sadly waned.

One of the most famous songs to come out of Eurovision was a contribution from the Sanremo Festival, and although it never actually won the ESC that year, it’s familiar to ears worldwide.

Covered by the Gypsy Kings, Dean Martin, and basically everyone else on the planet, Domenico Modugno’s “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)” might be one of the world’s most recognizable popular songs.  Even if you don’t speak any Italian, you probably have heard this song at least once, whether it’s background music in a restaurant, or in a movie, or maybe you’ve sung it at a drunken karaoke night or two (it’s ok, you can admit it). 

Italy participated in Eurovision a total of 36 times, with two victories (in 1964 and 1990), one runner-up spot, and four bronze positions.  My three personal favorite Italian contributions come from RAI’s final years in the ESC.  From 1987, there’s Umberto Tozzi and Raf’s “Gente di Mare (People of the Sea)”, which finished in a more-than-respectable third place:

Five years later, Mia Martini used her rusted, raspy emery board of a voice to sing “Rapsodia”, a melancholy ode to two former lovers, separated by time and circumstance.  The song was heartbreaking and beautiful, and it landed up in 4th place in Stockholm that year.

Italy’s final submission to the ESC was 1997’s gorgeous “Fiumi di Parole (Rivers of Words)”, sung by duo Jalisse.  Even though this song, like “Rapsodia” before it, took an impressive 4th place in a particularly competitive year, RAI withdrew from Eurovision soon after, and haven’t returned.  (Jalisse, however, have not given up their hope for another shot at the ESC, and had at one point applied to represent San Marino.)

Die-hard ESC fans (like myself, obviously) would love to welcome Italy back into the fray.  Their musical talent pool is exceptionally deep, and they already have the perfect preselection opportunity available to them: the Sanremo Festival.  It has been rumored that the EBU wants Italy back in Eurovision badly enough that they would provide them a coveted spot in the “Big Four”, alongside the UK, Germany, France, and Spain, giving them an automatic pass into the finals.  Former ESC Executive Supervisor Svante Stockselius had made it a pet project of his to try to bring back many of the former participants who had left over the years (including, Italy, Austria, Luxembourg, Monaco, Slovakia, and others), with some middling success.  Slovakia returned in 2009, Austria will be returning in 2011 (I’ll write my normal piece on them soon), and Liechtenstein keeps playing around with the idea of debuting.  But we’re all still drooling over the possibility of Italy coming back.

There is hope, however!  Rumors have recently surfaced that the winner of this year’s Italian X-Factor will be eligible to enter the 2011 ESC, making it the first time in 14 years that we see il Tricolore.  However, this early in the game, Eurovision rumors tend to fly around like hair extensions in a wind machine, so I’m still taking this all with a (hopeful) grain of salt.

My next entry will talk about a few Italian artists I’d love to see representing their homeland in the ESC…I’ve got a few in mind, but do you have any suggestions?  Leave me a comment and let me know your favorites!

ESC Wish List: Şebnem Ferah

From Greenland, we take a trip to the other distant edge of the Eurovision sphere: Turkey.  As I mentioned in my full piece on Turkey in the ESC, I absolutely love it when they turn to rock for their entries.  Between maNga, Mor ve Ötesi, and Athena, these songs have not only proven to be major hits in their homeland, but they’ve had pretty strong impact on the Eurovision scoreboard.  However, most of these songs have been male-fronted (which, I suppose, is somewhat indicative of the rock scene as a whole…but that’s another issue…), while women in these Turkish songs have been relegated to belly-dancing eye candy or disco-pop divas (not that I’m knocking Sertab Erener, who has had an extensive and highly successful pop career, and gave the Turks their first ESC victory).

And so, I humbly introduce to you, my readers, the incomparable Şebnem Ferah.  She released her first solo album, “Kadın (Woman)” in 1996, and has been cranking out stellar rock songs since then.  Her style has ranged from soft, traditionally-Turkish-inspired pop to acoustic-guitar-driven alternative to searingly dark hard rock, and she has drawn comparisons to Amy Lee, among others.  While it’s tough to wrap one’s arms around such a varied and deep catalog, I’ll hook you all up with a few of my favorite Şebo tunes.

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ESC Wish List: Nanook

Going from Thomas Holm, my next suggestion for Eurovision, while technically still citizens of Denmark, couldn’t be much further from Holm’s synth-pop sensibilities.  Quite literally, in fact: there’s a distance of over 2,200 miles between Copenhagen and Nuuk, the capital city of Greenland.  That’s about the distance between Los Angeles and Orlando, or Lisbon to St. Petersburg!  Greenland is an autonomous nation that is still partially governed under the Danish crown.  They have their own Parliament, but spend the Danish Krone and are protected by the Danish military.  It is the world’s largest island, and as a standalone nation, Greenland is the 13th-largest country (by area) on the planet, larger than Saudi Arabia, Mexico, or Indonesia.  Despite their massive size, only about 56,000 people call Greenland home, making it by far the least densely populated country.

So, why am I telling you all of this information on Greenland?  Well, that’s because it’s where today’s ESC Wish List artist hails from.  I don’t quite remember how I came across Nanook, but I’m incredibly glad I did.  They sing exclusively in Greenlandic (Kalaallisut), which is related to other Inuit languages like Inuktitut, Aleut, or Yup’ik.  Being generally interested by foreign language, the moment I heard brothers Frederik and Christian Elsner singing in a tongue that I had never heard before, I was fascinated.  Nanook (Greenlandic for “polar bear”) released their first album, “Seqinitta Qinngorpaatit (Our Sun is Shining on You)” last year, and I’ve been pretty much hooked ever since.  Luckily, it’s available on iTunes here in the US.  Here’s the title track from their first album, with a translation available here:

The intimate, garage-band quality of the video, coupled with the rolling gait of the music…to me, this is absolutely beautiful.  Sadly, it doesn’t look like they have many other videos out (it’s hard enough being an independent artist out here in the Twin Cities area, with a population of 3 million in the metro.  Can you imagine being a musician in a market of only a little over 50,000?), but if you appreciate beautifully-written alt-rock, with echoes of Britpop, you might want to give these guys a listen.  I was able to find a brief sampler of some of their other songs, including “Kisimiinneq”, “Timmissat Taartut”, and “Seqinitta Qinngorpaatit”, among others.

Their chances of getting to the Danish Melodi Grand Prix are slim, sadly, even if they did decide to take the long trip to Copenhagen.  But these guys are working their butts off, making beautiful music in one of the most starkly beautiful and desolate places on the planet.  I feel like more people should hear Nanook, and have their sun shine on us, even if it’s completely dark there from November through February.

ESC Wish List: Thomas Holm

As I’m basically killing time between now and when further Eurovision News pops up (which might start rolling as soon as next month, when we might have an official confirmation on next year’s location), I figured I’d play a bit of “Fantasy ESC”.  As I’ve been learning more about pop and rock music from abroad, I’ve encountered quite a few great artists who I’d love to see on the Eurovision stage one day.

(Disclaimer: I’m NOT trying to start any rumors here…I’m just sharing a few great singers with you, my readers!  Let me know what you think, or if you have any suggestions that you’d like to send my way; I’m always on the prowl for great new music to add to my collection.)

We start our tour in Denmark, home of Thomas Holm.  This 31-year-old singer-songwriter recently released his first full-length album, “Middelklassehelt (Middle Class Hero)”, and has been performing actively throughout his native country.  His album is a mix of self-deprecating wit, soul-searching introspection, and head-bopping electronic pop, and I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly!

Here’s his first single, “Nitten” (while it literally means “Nineteen”, it basically translates to “The Short Straw”), which has become my go-to “bad-day-song”, despite the fact that I don’t speak any Danish. (Don’t worry, English captions are available!)

Now, don’t you just feel better about your crappy day after watching Thomas getting pummeled?  I know I do…

His next single, “Selvmord på Dansegulvet (Suicide on the Dancefloor)” is another immensely catchy pop song, and while I can’t find a video with the English lyrics embedded like I could with the video for “Nitten”, I can say that this song speaks to the awkward partygoer in all of us…the clip is pretty self-explanatory (and a lot of fun!)

Even if he’s not depending on electronic beats or high production values, Holm’s voice is undeniably beautiful, and it pairs wonderfully with a single guitar, as in the case of this acoustic version of “Byens Bitreste Mand (The City’s Bitterest Man)“.  It’s in a performance like this that shows his versatility, that he’s not just a comedian with musical ability, but a well-rounded singer-songwriter who’s able to capture heartbreak just as effectively as exasperation or well-intended awkwardness.  I have no idea if he’s even considering entering Denmark’s preselection, the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, next year.  If he is, however, and he enters an upbeat number like “Selvmord På Dansegulvet”, he very well might be able to take it all the way to Germany in 2011.  However, Thomas tends to sing exclusively in Danish, and no entry has been sung in that language since 1997, so the odds might be slightly stacked against him.

But a girl can dream, right?