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Archive for the ‘Eurovision’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BILAL HASSANI-“Roi” (France, Eurovision Entry, 2019).

I was going to be done with Eurovision, but then I read this graphic novel.  And since it was called Paris 2119, it seemed worth tying it to the 2019 French Eurovision entry.

This song is a remarkably powerful ballad sung in both English and French.  It opens with a quiet piano melody as Bilal sings

I am me
And I know I will always be
Je suis free oui, j’invente ma vie
Ne me demandez pas qui je suis

The pre chorus turns minor

You put me in a box, want me to be like you
Je suis pas dans les codes, ça dérange beaucoup
At the end of the day you cannot change me, boo!
Alors laisse-moi m’envoler

but the chorus swells.

I’m not rich but I’m shining bright
I can see my kingdom now
Quand je rêve, je suis un roi

I like the restraint Bilal shows in the chorus, downplaying potential soaring notes with dramatic effect  The second time through the song is bigger, but again, they are downplaying their singing until they comes to the last line

Moi je les cala pas, you can never remove my crown

When they show off what a powerful voice they have by holding that “crown” for an extended note.

The first listen through I thought the song was okay, but a second listen revealed quite a great song.  I am pretty surprised this came all the way down in 16th place.

[READ: May 27, 2021] Paris 2119

I saw this book at work and wanted to read it.  The cover was quite dramatic.  This book was written by Zep and translated by Mike Kennedy.

The story is quite simple.  Possibly too simple.  But its very compelling.

The book opens on Tristan Keys as he heads into the Metro.  He is scanned by a face recognition drone.  The subway is virtually empty asides from tourists, junkies and woman who looks like she is totally zombied out.  She sits next to Tristan and drools.

He arrives at his girlfriend Kloé’s apartment–she is very glamorous.  They have sex and discuss the possibility of having a baby.  But Kloé dismisses it saying that was how babies were born before–not anymore.  But maybe one day they can request a reproduction visa.

Kloé prepares to leave. She is off to Beijing to meet with clients.  She tells him to be careful while she’s gone.  His latest text post has his boss calling him in for a talk about his future as a writer.

When Kloé leaves she climbs in the Transcore machine–a teleportation device that everyone uses.  Tristan will be walking–he says he’ll never get in one of those contraptions. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JENDRIK-“I Don’t Feel Hate” (Germany, Eurovision Entry 2021).

I couldn’t really leave Eurovision without mention the German entry which raised lots of eyebrows with its dancing foam middle  finer.

The melody is very catchy–reminds me a lot of Wham or a George Michael song except he’s playing it on the ukulele.  After a quick clapped beat, the bass kicks in.

The song is pretty over the top in terms of everything, but his heart is so on his sleeve that I 100% support his message of tolerance.

So you can wiggle with that middle finger, it’ll never wiggle back to you

And then came the big surprise.  He sings “I don’t feel”  and the song explodes with orchestral hits.  It turns into a big dance party and then ends as quickly as it started.

There’s a middle section that begins

I really don’t mind (ah, ah-ah) to be your rival (ah-ah, ah-ah)
‘Cause for your kind it’s essential for survival (say what? He did not just say that)
Yes, I did (yes, I did), and I feel sorry (so sorry)
I don’t feel hate, that’s the whole point of this song (that’s the song)

and then segues into a twenties-era melody with muted trumpets and very fast vocals:

I guess you need patronization as some kind of validation
You won’t cope with the frustration that your random me-fixation
Is another affirmation that you’re just a hateful person
Who’s not really better than me

Then comes a muted trumpet solo which toes in perfectly to the following, yes, tap dance break.

Jandrik really couldn’t have put anything more into this song.  It is so over the top, so very much too much, and I really like it. The foam middle finger is crazy cheesy though, which fits pretty well.

The actual video though is quite well produced–his extras are really excellent.

[READ: May 21, 2021] “How I Spent the War”

Do you want to know what went through the mind of a Nazi as World War II was ending?

Well, this essay by author Günter Grass–whom I have never read although I have often intended to–tells you.

When he was fifteen, living in Danzig, he volunteered for active duty.  This was not youthful folly.  He wanted to support his country and his Führer–he offers no excuses.

He had been serving in the Luftwaffe auxiliary–a group of boys too young to be conscripted.  It was compulsory but many viewed it as a respite from school routine.

They felt like they were guarding the front line–the last line of defense before Germany was destroyed.  They were allowed to go home every two weeks but Grass’ home wasn’t great.  He hated his father–probably because his father was a peace loving man.

So he would watch the newsreels and revel in videos of Germany’s subs returning victorious.

He volunteered to serve on a submarine, was rejected–they had too many volunteers and he was too young.  He was later called up for Labor Service like everyone his age–three months active duty—giving up the chic Luftwaffe uniform for Labor Service’s shit brown. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAMES NEWMAN-“Embers” (England, Eurovision Entry 2021).

.Eurovision 2021 is over and the big news (aside from drug-taking accusations against the winner) is that the entry from England received zero.  Nul points.

This is not unique, but it’s not something that anybody wants.  It’s actually better to not make the finals than to make the finals and get nul points, because no one is going to forget that.

So just how bad was “embers?”

I’m not going to defend the song, because I would never listen to it on purpose–it’s not my thing.  But by the same token I can think of a lot of songs that are much worse than this.

This song is just kind of bland.  It thinks its big and catchy with the horns and the “light up the ROOM!” line.  But really it just doesn’t do much.  I could see this song playing in a club and people would dance to it and then forget it.  No one would ask who it was or request it again.

And maybe that’s worth nothing.

[READ: May 26, 2021] 52 Times Britain was a Bellend

Bellend is such a great insult and it is exclusive to Britain, which is a shame.

Also a shame is just how terrible Britain as a country has been throughout history.

Obviously any global superpower is going to be dickish–you get power by crushing others.  You could write this same book about the United States and cover just the last four years.

But Felton, whom I’ve never heard of before, but who is apparently a huge Twitter presence, narrowed history down to 52 (one a week) examples of Britain being absolutely horrible (and somehow managing to make it funny).

How did he decide on these events?  Well, they are judged by today’s standards (saying “I’m from the past” is no excuse).

What you’ll get here is a good overview of fun and horrifying times when we were cartoonishly evil, from a comedian just as appalled as you are about what shits it turned out we were in the past.

Most of the terrible behavior involves other countries.  Like starting wars with China because they wouldn’t buy British opium.  Or making Zanzibar pay for the bombs that Britain dropped on  them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ELENA TSAGRINOU-“El Diablo” (Cyprus, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 has come and gone and I am very amused at how angry people get about it.

After the results were announced, someone in a comments section was shocked that their song didn’t do well and couldn’t believe that the entry from CYPRUS made it.

So, obviously I had to see what Cyprus contributed.

This songs opens like a fairly classic Euro dance song to me.  Elena Tsagrinou has a powerful voice and the song starts with a big soaring chorus and a love song at that–although to the devil, which is a bit odd.

After the chorus, the verses sound more contemporary.  She sings in a kind of rap style and the music is more smooth throbbing bass with a familiar 2021 sound to it.

My favorite part is the quiet middle with the simple twinkly melody and heavy breathing.  And the puzzling choice of singing

mamma- mamma- cita tell me what to do.

The mamacita line is a bit odd, unless the whole song is meant to be sung by a Mexican person, I guess.  But whatever. It jumps nicely into the chorus from there.

This song came in 16th place.  So what could have upset that commenter so much?  Could it have been the subject matter?

I fell in love, I fell in love
I gave my heart to el diablo, el diablo
I gave it up, I gave it up
Because he tells me I’m his angel, I’m his angel

Or perhaps it was the children’s choir taunting “I love el diablo, I love el diablo.”

It’s pretty fascinating.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “April & Paris”

Surprisingly, given some of his later books (Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk), Sedaris actually seems to like animals (or he did back in 2008).  He talks about watching nature programs and getting far too invested in the animals.  He knows its wrong to anthropomorphize animals and yet he’s as guilty as anyone of it.

He watched a show called Growing Up Camel (was that real?) and when it was over–despite nothing terribly dramatic happening

The final shot was of the three camels standing in the sunshine and serenely ignoring one another.

David was a crying wreck on the couch.

The subject turns to inside their Normandy house which is full of all kinds of insects.  And spiders.  He heard a faint buzzing sound and went to the window and watch as a spider rushed forth and carried a trapped fly

screaming to a little woven encampment.  It was like watching someone you hate getting mugged.  Three seconds of hardcore violence and when it was over you just wanted it to happen again..

The spider was Tegenaria Duellica–a big spider the shape of an unshelled peanut.  This was an adult female (which can live for two years) and he called it Alice. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SAMANTHA TINA-“The Moon is Rising” (Latvia, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 has come and gone and of course I’ve got questions.

Even though I enjoy checking out Eurovision entries, I know very little about the Eurovision process.  I didn’t even know that there were countries that didn’t qualify for the final round.

So here is the entry from Latvia.  It scored the least amount of points of anyone and sits at the bottom of the list.

I’m not sure what could have happened to Samantha Tina to make her come in last place in this contest.  “The Moon is Rising: feels like pretty standard Eurovision fare.   True there’s not a lot to it, but I feel like the aggressive female empowerment of these lyrics should have won over lot of people over.  Or is that what killed her?

The song opens with some pulsing sounds then Samantha sings in a big powerful anthemic voice.  It’s a soaring operatic opening.  She kind of raps, but in a singing sort of way.

When I walk in like this
With an attitude
You should know that
I’m coming after you
You can run, you can hide
But you’re mesmerized
In your mind I am
Already idolized

A thumping bass introduces the next verse

My rules, your rules
I’m a woman, I’m a ruler
My rules, your rules
I’m accepting only true love
My rules, your rules
I’m a woman, I’m a ruler
You got something to say
Say it to my face

Then the third part with deep bass y synths and a chanted chorus of

Pa-ra-ra
Pa-ra-ra
Pa-ra-ra-pa
Pa-ra-ra-pa pa-rade

Which is certainly odd.

The song repeats these three parts, which might have been a problem if there’s no clear verse chorus verse structure.  I don’t know.  I thought the video was pretty cool.

Someone in the comments on YouTube (I know never read the comments, but this one is worthwhile):

“The vocal performance in the semi didn’t go just very well and it somehow lacked a little attitude.”  So that could explain why it stalled.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Turbulence”

This is an essay about being on a flight and not getting along with your seat mate.

He opens with the amusing scenario of him sneezing a cough drop out of his mouth and onto the lap of the person next to him.

He has three choices:

  1. Ignore it, let her look down later and think she has a shiny new button on her jeans.
  2. Reach over and pluck it from her pants.
  3. Wake her up and be honest.  Which is what he’d normally do except that they had an earlier altercation.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACKLESLEY ROY-“Maps” (Ireland, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 has come and gone and of course I’ve got questions.

Even though I enjoy checking out Eurovision entries, I know very little about the Eurovision process.  I didn’t even know that there were countries that didn’t qualify for the final round.

Thirteen countries didn’t make it to the final this year.  Remarkably, when I listened to some of the songs that didn’t make it I really don’t understand why not.  It almost seems like some of the songs that didn’t make it are just kind of bland–perhaps not over the top enough?

Take Lesley Roy’s song.  There’s a lot of drums, there’s strings, there’s dramatic pauses and, given that the song seem to be about running, it’s got a propulsive beat.

The middle of the song breaks for a (very!) short tin whistle break and then resumes with the strings and drums.

It’s feels like it’s catchy and inspirational, but isn’t, really.  And yet, it is hardly worse than many of the other songs that did make it,   In fact I’d say it’s better than a number of songs that did make it.

So did something happen on the night to make it particularly not very good?  Is the whole score based only the performance of the night?  Not on the song itself, which people know about ahead of time.  Whatever the case, this is the sixth time in seven years that Ireland (who once couldn’t NOT win) has failed to make it.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “How to Spend the Budget Surplus”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece contains six letters to President Clinton about what he can do now that the government has balanced the budget.  Aw, remember when people (particularly Republicans) cared about a balanced budget?

Three years after the similar “How to Spend the Budget Surplus” this is five letters to the President. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MÅNESKIN-“Zitti E Buoni” (WINNER Italy, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us. It’s hard to follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online.

I enjoy seeing Eurovision entries for the novelty or for seeing the amusing bands that are popular elsewhere.  I never expect to genuinely like a song (although there’s several I liked this year).  I also never expect a song that rocks as hard as this one did.  And certainly never expected it to win.

Måneskin means Moonshine in Danish and was inspired by bassist Victoria De Angelis’ half Danish heritage.  The rest of the band are vocalist Damiano David, guitarist Thomas Raggi, and drummer Ethan Torchio.  “Zitti E Buoni” roughly translates to Shut Up And Behave

There’s very little new about this song (or the band).  They’re a partying, sleazy rock band.  But their music pushes a lot of my buttons.

Distorted guitar playing a simple riff? Yup.  (The riff sounds really familiar…).  Rumbling bass?  Check.  (And a cool bass guitar as well). Quiet verse into loud chorus?  Check. (The additional high note at the end of the chorus lines earns a small bonus point).  And even more bonus points for singing in Italian.

After the chorus he sings really fast in what could be a rap, but probably isn’t.  After two minutes there’s a little bass solo which is a nice touch,.

They end with a slightly new riff and a little soloing which gives the song a cool twist for the end.

I’ve listened to this a number of times since the victory was announced and still dig it.  Am I actually in touch with Eurovision?

UPDATE: How do you say winner in Italian?  Måneskin.

[READ: May 10, 2021] “Relationship Quiz”

This is the first piece I’m aware of that has both Amy and David writing together.  I wish it were funnier–but, you know, it’s a Shouts & Murmurs.

It’s a 9 question relationship quiz.  What does make me laugh is that after half of the questions, the (d) answer provides the basis of the next question.

It starts off with you being interested in a business acquaintance.  What do you do?  Introduce yourself over a thermos of ice-cold daiquiris?

What do you do next? Meet for drinks at the local airport bar.

Note: If you chose these options you might have a drinking problem. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Go_A “SHUM” (Ukraine, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us. It’s hard to follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online.

I have been rather enjoying the folk metal genre, especially as practiced by Eastern European bands.  So I was pretty fascinated to hear about Go_A [Ґоу_Ей].

The name Go_A is meant to mean “return to the roots” and was made by combining the English word “Go” with the Greek letter “Alpha.”  There’s four members: Kateryna Pavlenko, Taras Shevchenko, Ihor Didenchuk and Ivan Hryhoriak

Lead singer Kateryna Pavlenko has a pretty fascinating backstory (if Wikipedia is to be trusted, and when is it not?).  [The entire quote is (sic)].

Due to unsatisfactory living conditions, she developed lung disease. As a teenager, she underwent several surgeries, including surgery to remove a lung tumor. After that she can’t sing in the traditional way. “The sound is not formed in my lungs or bronchi, because there is not much space there, but somewhere here (points to the back of the head). This is especially true of high notes, ”she said.

Her voice is quite striking–surprisingly powerful.  In the video, she looks as striking as her voice.  She’s dressed in an awesome leather jacket with a black dress.  She’s got some kind of metal(?) thing on her face–I can’t determine what it is., aside from cool-looking.

The song opens with a repeated unearthly sound–a kind of siren.  She starts singing in powerful Ukrainian as menacing chords emerge.  Then the song pumps along.

Once again the video is pretty spectacular as the band is driving in a kind of Munsters meets Mad Max truck.  The song is loud and fast with some big distorted guitars.

And before you know it, the song breaks and there’s a tin whistle solo and a jaw harp keeping pace (!).

In the middle of the song her voice sounds a bit less harsh as the music builds and fills in.  And then a throbbing bass bounces along to the tin whistle.  And after a beat the drop kicks in and the song is now twice as fast.

The video is pretty entertaining–the “story” is fun to watch, anyhow.  But as the song ends she hits a really high note–almost a screech.  In the video a hawk lands on her outstretched hand.

Nice touch.  Did they do that live during Eurovision?

UPDATE: No hawk live, and they came in fifth (with a really cool set).

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Card Wired”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece is based on an article in The Independent that says greeting card companies are getting in on the “mass-therapy act” so if you buy enough of these cards you could hold an entire conversation with your loved one without opening your mouth. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAÐI FREYR OG GAGNAMAGNIÐ-“10 Years” (Iceland, Eurovision Entry 2021).

I first learned about Daði og Gagnamagnið last year when Eurovison didn’t happen.  I have no idea how they came on my radar (something in Instagram, I assume).

Daði og Gagnamagnið is the creation of Daði Freyr Pétursson.  Much like The ROOP, the visuals from Daði and his band are what really sells the song(s).

Daði is the composer/musician and in performances, he is supported by his sister Sigrún Birna Pétursdóttir (backing vocalist), wife Árný Fjóla Ásmundsdóttir (dancer), and friends Hulda Kristín Kolbrúnardóttir (backing vocalist), Stefán Hannesson (dancer), and Jóhann Sigurður Jóhannsson (dancer)—known as “Gagnamagnið”. Gagnamagnið, means “the amount of data”, and is the Icelandic word for “data plan”.

And the real selling point?  Teal green sweaters with pixelized portraits of themselves on them.  Last year’s “Think About Things” was pretty awesome (the video is incredible).  A blast of disco fun.

This year’s “10 Years” opens with a string quartet playing a sad sounding melody and then Daði appears singing in his deep clipped style.  Then a huge disco bass line comes in and before you know it, the song is in full dance mode–a swinging disco confection with the remarkable hook

Everything about you [pause} I like.

Add in some disco wah wah guitars and some irresistibly dopey dance moves and its impossible to look away.

And what on earth are the weird keytars?  Presumably homemade and non-functioning except that now they shoot sparks from the bottom.

Just when you think its all over, up pops a fairly large choir of little girls to sing along before the disco resumes.

And then it’s over but they are not done because after an awkward pause of them standing there, one of the guys shoots a confetti cannon at the camera.

Novelty?  Sure.  Funny?  Absolutely.  Catchy?  Definitely.

UPDATE: This song came in fourth.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Girl Crazy”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece is about when Ellen DeGeneris’s character Ellen was about to come out on Ellen.  (Wow, remember when that was a big deal?).  And like several of these pieces, these are written as letters to the person in charge.

There are five letters here.

The first suggests that a six year old boy from North Carolina wouldn’t have gotten in trouble for sexual harassments for kissing a girl in his class if only he had kissed a boy.  The network best not mess with Regis and Kathie Lee. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ROOP-“Discoteque” (Lithuania, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us. It’s hard to follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online

I tend to think of Eurovision as one off singers people haven’t heard of.  But that is patently false.

The ROOP are an established band from Lithuania fronted by a handsome man, Vaidotas Valiukevičius.  The rest of the band consists of percussionist Robertas Baranauskas and guitarist Mantas Banišauskas.  In the video there are two more members.

The song itself is quite sparse and remarkably catchy (evidently it is based on a Lithuanian folk song).  They explain:

The song is called “Discoteque” – without the letter “h”, because it’s a different kind of discotheque. “It’s not about showing yourself off. It’s more about being with yourself and accepting yourself the way you are,” says Mantas.

Although they give a different inspiration for the song, I feel like this is the perfect lockdown anthem.

A simple synth pulse as Vaidotas speaks “Ok, I feel the rhythm. Something’s going on here. The music flows through my veins.”

He starts doing subtle dance moves–shoulder shrugs, finger movements.  And then he reveals his bright yellow suit.

The song starts to build

I can’t control it. Don’t wanna end it. There’s no one here. And I don’t care. I feel it’s safe to dance alone.

The rest of the band comes in dressed similarly in bright yellow as the dance part jumps in

Let’s discoteque right at my home.
It is ok to dance alone. (Dance alone, dance alone)
I got the moves – it’s gonna blow.

Now you’ve got five people dressed in bright yellow doing over the top synchronized dancing–waving your arms in the arm, crab walking, walking like an Egyptian, etc.  (The video makes it pretty hilarious).

It is infectious watching these people having such a joyful time and imagining that these are exactly the kinds of dance moves one might make up in their home.

It ends with him doing the simplest hand gesture going from v to w and back again.

UPDATE: This song only came in 8th, but their live performance is pretty spectacular (see below).

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Proposals for Welfare Reform”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece contains six letters to… the President I guess?  Aw, remember when people talked about welfare reform?

The Calverts suggest that there’s a lot of young people who throw rocks and bottles at mailboxes.  How about making people on welfare fix mailboxes or dig new post holes for them.

Kevin D suggests that everyone on welfare should train to be n merrymaker of some sort–singing, dancing massage, whatever.  They could reenact funny skits in malls or do massage in the nude. (more…)

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