Freedom in Azerbaijan

Posted Sunday May 27, 2012 by John Gunders in |

Guest post from Sam Gunders, media and journalism student at the University of Southern Queensland. This report went to air on Phoenix Radio Online on Friday morning, 25 May, and is reproduced here with Sam’s permission.

On Sunday night we might be enjoying a drink or 10 and watching the Eurovision song contest for 2012 from Baku, Azerbaijan. It will of course be a fun night of gratuitous changes of both the musical and costume varieties; there will be a bit of singing and a lot of watching votes being counted and you can bet that it will be an entirely politics free zone.

Politics and Eurovision have mixed in the past, but it is usually frowned upon. In 2009, Georgia withdrew after they were told to change the lyrics to their song “We Don’t Want To Put In” no political grounds.They refused and took no part in the contest.

Beyond the stadium in Baku though there is a nation in need of attention from the wider world. Azerbaijan was rated in the 2011 Freedom in the World Report as being “not free”, scoring 6 out of 7 for political rights and 5 out of 7 for civil liberties. Just to be confusing, a 7 is actually the worst score in that report, 1 is the best. So Azerbaijan is not performing well.

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Eurovision 2012 - Semifinal two contestants

Posted Monday May 7, 2012 by John Gunders in |

Part two of my brief assessments of this year’s Eurovision contestants (part one is here).

In this second half of the draw, the piano ballad is king, although there is a fair range of styles from Eurodisco to bat-shit crazy. It also contains the favourite, Sweden, although it remains to be seen if the bookmakers have to pay out on that one.

Tomorrow I’ll post my opinions about the “big six”: that is, the five western European countries that bank-roll the event and the previous year’s winner, in this case, Azerbaijan.

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Eurovision 2012 - Semifinal one contestants

Posted Sunday May 6, 2012 by John Gunders in |

Well it’s that time again. Yes, we are off to Baku in Azerbaijan for Eurovision 2012. This will be the most easterly Eurovision ever, and the first time it has been hosted in Eastern Europe—Latvia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2005 are the closest the competition has come to the countries that seem to take it the most seriously.

Below the fold are my frankly ill-informed assessments of the first semifinal contestants, based on a single hearing of the Youtube video. There are presented in alphabetical order rather than performance because… well, because. I was going to add links, but I couldn’t be bothered. The Eurovision site is here.

I’ll be back in the next couple of days with the second semifinal contestants. In the meantime, enjoy :-)

Eurovision Semi-final Two Contestants 2011

Posted Friday May 13, 2011 by John Gunders in |

Bit late with this: the second semi has already played, but won’t be on Australian TV until the weekend (no spoilers!). At last the expected Eurovision craziness has appeared.

Dino Merlin – Love in rewind (Bosnia & Herzegovina) What! She is totally not playing that piano. Inoffensive folk-pop.

Nadine Beiler – The secret is love (Austria) Slow ballad. One for the Celine Dion fans.

3JS – Never Alone (The Netherlands) MOR pop-rock. Pleasant, but forgettable.

Witloof Bay – With Love Baby (Belgium) This! Wow. Five vocalists and a beatboxer do an a capella jazz/soul epic. Fabulous. But I wonder how they will manage it live (vocals have to be live, backing track recorded).

TWiiNS – I’m Still alive (Slovakia) Identical twins, apparently. Well, maybe gimmick will work where talent fails. Derivative slow pop.

Mika Newton – Angel (Ukraine) This is more interesting than many of the other songs, in that it doesn’t sound like everything else. Angsty pop with an urgent backing.

Zdob si Zdub – So Lucky (Moldova) The Eurovision website calls this “hardcore.” Pretty anaemic hardcore, it must be said, but kind of fun. It could grow on me.

Eric Saade – Popular (Sweden) “I will be popular.” I doubt it: derivative Eurodisco. More effort seems to have gone into the choreography than the song writing.

Christos Mylordos – San Aggelos S’Agapisa (Cyprus) Starts as a quiet folk-tinged ballad, and then halfway through suddenly becomes quite dramatic. Fun.

Poli Genova – Na Inat (Bulgaria) Rock, played through that unmistakable Eurovision filter that makes everything sound a little bit like everything else.

Vlatko Ilievski – Rusinka (F.Y.R. Macedonia) Rollicking pop-rock number. In Macedonian, but I can make out the words “musica” and “vodka,” so that pretty much tells you all you need to know.

Dana International – Ding Dong (Israel) The 1998 Eurovision contestant returns with a fairly silly dance song.

Maja Keuc – No one (Slovenia) The “Christina Aguilera of Slovenia” apparently. Nothing particularly memorable about the song, but the folky instrumental was nice. and about the nine millionth song this year to have a key change. Good news for the drinking game.

Hotel FM – Change (Romania) Creditable pop. Pushes every button. Just not the interesting ones.

Getter Jaani – Rockefeller Street (Estonia) Classic Eurovision. Upbeat pop, with just enough craziness to make it fun. Unsure what genre they wanted, they used them all.

Anastasiya Vinnikova – I Love Belarus (Belarus) More football anthem than pop song, but fun anyway.

Musiqq – Angel in disguise (Latvia) Singer has a good voice, but is totally unsuited to the song. He should be screaming, not bopping along with a forgettable pop song. And I’m not sure about the middle-aged hipster rapper.

A friend in London – New tomorrow (Denmark) Pop-rock. Competent, but uninteresting. Won’t make the cover of Rolling Stone.

Jedward – Lipstick (Ireland) I’ve hear that this is the favourite. Crazy electro-dance pop. And the stupidist hairdos in Eurovision history. FTW!

Eurovision Semi-final One Contestants 2011

Posted Tuesday May 10, 2011 by John Gunders in |

Here are the 19 entries in the first semi-final, in performance order. After the restraint of last year, due in my opinion to the global financial crisis, I was looking forward to a more flamboyant program. Not to be, alas, unless all the good songs are in the second semi-final. You’ll have to wait a day or so to find out.

Magdalena Tul – Jestem (Poland) Europop with a solid beat, but unlike every other example of the genre, it’s sung in Polish. Well done Magdalena. Thanks for coming…

Stella Mwangi – Haba Haba (Norway) Sigh. By-the-numbers pop, no melody, no interest. Points for a stupid title, though.

Aurela Gaçe – Feel The Passion (Albania) That’s more like it: ridiculously over-the-top song that sounds a lot more potentious than it actually is. Lots of fun really, but nothing stands out.

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Eurovision Live(ish) Blogging

Posted Friday May 28, 2010 by John Gunders in |

Just a reminder to head over to Circulating Library for live blogging of the Eurovision Semifinals on Friday and Saturday nights, Australian time (yes, I know we are three days behind Europe).

And for what it’s worth: Greece, douze points!

Eurovision 2010: The dullest yet?

Posted Monday May 24, 2010 by John Gunders in |

Here is the ill-informed speculation I promised about what I see as the narrow and
unadventurous entries in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Let me first assure you that I do not actually think that Eurovision is the place to find interesting and innovative music. But within the context of the competition there have been—especially in recent years—entries that stretch the boundaries of what is acceptable.

While Dana International (Sharon Cohen) may have been the first transgendered person to win Eurovision (Israel, 1998), much to the consternation of conservatives in Israel at the time, her performance had nothing of the flamboyance of more recent cross-dressing acts such as Verka Serduchka (Ukraine, 2007), which came second (watch it here), or Denmark’s 2007 entry, Drama Queen which failed to inspire the voters (19th). Watch it here.

For a few years there was a preference for chains, leather, and ethnic music, started perhaps by Ruslana’s winning entry for Ukraine in 2004 (still a personal favourite), and including Bulgaria 2007, the camp, gothic stylings of Switzerland’s Vampires are Alive (2007), and Azerbaijan’s 2008 entry, Day after day. The move possibly
culminated in Ukraine’s (again! gotta love those Ukranians) entry last year that included the “hell machine” and dancing centurions! Relive the magic.

And of course, that isn’t to mention the entries that were novelty at best: Dustin the Turkey for Ireland in 2008, or the sadly incorrect We are the Winners of Eurovision entry for Lithuania in 2006. And another personal favourite, “Pokušaj” by Laka for Bosnia & Herzegovina in 2008. Watch it here in all its glory, but don’t let the knitting brides freak you out. And I haven’t even started on Lordi!

Eurovision 2010 Final Contestants

Posted Thursday May 6, 2010 by John Gunders in |

There are always a few complaints that four countries get automatic qualification into the final without having to compete in the semifinals. Eurovision is quite open that this is a reward for the four main broadcasters who effectively bankroll the competition. The fifth automatic finalist is the host country.

Before the final these five entries will be randomly assigned a position in the programme, and then the ten highest placed performances from each of the semifinals will be randomly placed in the remaining positions.

Again, everything this year seems very safe and conservative. I’ll have more about that in a day or two.

France: Jessy Matador — Alllez Olla Olé
Heavy beat dance number of the type you’d hear in any club in Paris, London, Sydney, or Mooloolaba for that matter. Slick and catchy, as you’d expect, but nothing to grab the voter. Sung in English. (Only kidding! But wouldn’t that be a sensation. Sung in French, obviously).

Germany: Lena — Satellite
Inoffensive dance pop with a slight funk feel. Sung in English with a weird twang that makes Lena’s accent sound almost Australian.

Norway: Didrik Solli-Tangen — My Heart Is Yours
And now to the host entry. This is a string-heavy ballad with more than a hint of the Lloyd Webbers about it. Typical over-blown Eurovision by the numbers, but man, that last note goes on for weeks! Sung in English.

Spain: Daniel Diges — Algo Pequeñito (Something Tiny)
Starts as a Gypsy folk waltz, and jumps to production number halfway through. I’m not sure that it didn’t have two key changes. Little more personality than most of the rest. In Spanish.

United Kingdom: Josh — That Sounds Good To Me
After wheeling out Lord Andrew himself last year to no avail, this year the UK are bringing on the big guns in the form of Pete Waterman and Mike Stock. You might remember them from a little production company in the 1980s called Stock Aitken Waterman? This song could only be more terrible if they got Rick Astley to do a cameo on the night (and wouldn’t that be awesome!). Actually, that’s slightly unfair: this is the sort of slick, polished, and instantly forgettable song you’d expect from the writers. I’d guess that Josh Dubovie was chosen more for his sweet smile and boyish charm than for his voice. Sung in French (I wish. English, obviously).

Eurovision 2010 Semifinal Two Contestants

Posted Tuesday May 4, 2010 by John Gunders in |

OK, here’s part two of my Eurovision rundown. These are the artists performing in the second semifinal, in performance order.

I must say, there is nothing so far that really grabs me—seems like everyone is playing it really safe this year. I may enter into some uninformed speculation about that in a little while.

Tomorrow I’ll bring you descriptions of the five acts that go straight into the final: the “big four” countries (England, France, Germany, Spain) who basically bankroll the competition, and the host, Norway. In the meantime, enjoy my increasingly cynical observations.

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Eurovision 2010 Semifinal One Contestants

Posted Tuesday May 4, 2010 by John Gunders in |

Gosh! It’s nearly Eurovision and I haven’t posted the contestants yet. I’m a bit rushed, but really, what is there to say about a Eurovision song? So you’ll please excuse the very brief descriptions.

You can listen to the clips on the Eurovision website, or wait until the telecast and enjoy the surprise! (The schedule isn’t on the SBS website as yet, but I assume they will be showing the semifinals on either Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, 26 – 29 May, and the final on Sunday 30 May).

For my money, the leader so far is Greece—not only full of folky goodness, but a boy band to boot! Quick, pass the ouzo.

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