Archive for the ‘Eurovision’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JÜRGEN MARCUS-“Ein Festival der Liebe” (1973).

Schlager (see the end of the book entry below) has become a catch-all term for (European) inoffensive pop music.  But apparently in the 1970s it had a slightly different and more specific connotation/sound.  The more I dove into this explanation, the more confusing it became.  Until someone posted a link to this song.

It’s easy to see how people reacted against the music back when it was super popular–it is so safe and inoffensive as to be totally offensive to any one with artistic sensibility.  But now that pop music has become something so radically different, often aggressive and vulgar and very electronic, this kind of bland, fun sing along is actually charming and kind of appealing.

The chorus is easy to sing along to, you can clap along without anything complicated going on and it’s all happy and sweet (even the ahhs in the backing vocals are super happy).  The music is soft, even the little piano “riff” in the middle is obvious.  I love that the song gets a little “risky” in the end third with a “drum solo” and Jürgen singing a kind of tarzan yell, but it’s all returned safely to th end.

The video is spectacular with Jürgen’s brown suit, big hair and even bigger collars.   It’s quintessential warming cheese.  It’s the school of music that ABBA came from as well.  It’s Eurovision!

And I find it quite a relief from the pop schlager of today.  This song was given example of contemporary German schlager:  Helene Fischer “Atemlos durch die Nacht”.  Her delivery is inoffensive by the music is so contemporary and dancefloor that it doesn’t feel anywhere near as delightful as the 1970s song,

[READ: February 9, 2019] How to Be German

I saw this book at work–the German side–and it looked like it might be funny.  I wished I could read more than the very little German that I know.  And then I flipped the book over and discovered it was bilingual!  Jawohl!

This manual is a very funny book about being German.  It was written by a British ex-pat who moved to Germany many hears ago and has settled down in the country he now calls home.  The book gently pokes fun at German habits but also makes fun of his own British habits and cultural components.

I studied German for one year which makes me in no way qualified to judge the quality of the humor or the accuracy of the cultural jokes.  The book does a very good job of cluing the unfamiliar in on what he’s talking about.  Although there are about a dozen exceptions where no context is given to the ideas that he’s talking about, which is quite frustrating, obviously.

I’m not going to go through all 50 of these ideas, but there are some that are particularly good and some that I found especially funny. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LORDI-“Hard Rock Hallelujah” (2006).

When browsing the Wikipedia entry on Gwar, I learned that the Finnish band Lordi (of whom I’d never heard) won the 2006 Eurovision song contest with what is essentially a Gwar-lite stage show.

Unlike Gwar, this Lordi song is extremely catchy and easy to digest (as all Eurovision songs tend to be).  But like Gwar it is fairly heavy and the band are in outrageous costumes (think glam period Kiss with crazy death-monster masks on–how does he sing with all that crap on his face?).

The singer has quite the voice (he sing/speaks in a cookie monster style (but audible–a sort of radio-friendly version of cookie monster) but he also hits very high notes).  The song is an anthemic sing-along like many metal songs from the early 80s (although it’s also pretty heavy).  And, if you listen closely to the bridge it’s sounds a bit like Abba’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme”.  It’s pretty cheesy and that’s clearly why it won Eurovision, and yet I find that after listening to it twice, I was humming it all day.

It’s fun to hear the comments after the song (I wish the recording was longer), but even more amazing is that they won with 292 points (the highest victory ever).  I’m so delighted for them (and for Eurovision that this preposterousness won).

A recent interview sounds like they have gotten heavier than this in recent years (“Bite It Like a Bulldog” kind of sounds like Accept).

Good on ya Finland.

[READ: November 8, 2010] “Breakup Stories”

I’ve been reading a lot of Franzen’s non-fiction in the New Yorker, so it’s nice to get back to some of his fiction.  Because even though the non-fiction is great, the fiction shows how creative Franzen can be.

This piece is, as the title suggets, a series of breakup stories.  It’s really five vignettes about how various couples broke up.  There’s “our friend Danni” and “Danni’s college friend Stephen” and “Ron” and “Stephen’s cousin Peter” and “Peter’s friend Antonia.”  The “stories” come across mostly as character studies in bad behavior.

Danni’s husband can’t admit that he doesn’t want children (and he takes the cowardly way out, what a cad).  Stephen’s fiancée hates that he devotes so much of his time to helping nuns (that’ a funny story).  Ron is a serial monogamist.  He hits it big with an inheritance and tries to settle down, but when he finds out that he can’t, he loses more than the woman he stayed with for six whole months.  Peter cheats on his wife and tries to make the three of them have a “French-style family relationship.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SAFURA-“Drip Drop” (2010)

Azerbaijan came in 5th in this year’s Eurovision contest.  And they did it with this monstrosity of a song by Safura.  She sounds like so many pop chanteuses, pulling out all the stops on high notes, vibrato and even a fascinatingly accented English.

But just as I’m about to dismiss this song out of hand, she throws in this weird chorus of pizzicato “drip drops.”  Even they are not very compelling, but the juxtaposition of these two parts of the song are surprising enough to make the song interesting.

But I think that’s enough Eurovision for me.  And I didn’t even make it to the song by Latvia with the lines: “I’ve asked my Uncle Joe/But he can’t speak/Why does the wind still blow?/And blood still leaks?/So many questions now/With no reply/What for do people live until they die?/  Only Mr God knows why/But his phone today is out of range”

[READ: July 19, 2010] “Cinema Crudité”

This article is about cult films, although it focuses a lot on a film that I’ll never watch called The Room.  I had heard about the film in Entertainment Weekly a month or so ago.  They joked about its status as a midnight film that all manner of celebrities swear by: David Cross, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill etc.

This article goes into much greater depth than the EW piece did about what the film is actually like.  The author really points out all of its flaws and incongruities and everything else about the film that is awful.  And then he says that he’s watched it at least 20 times and couldn’t wait to interview the auteur behind it.

The article is great, by the way, Bissell did an excellent job. But I still don’t want to watch the film. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHANÉE & N’EVERGREEN-“In a Moment Like This” (2010).

Denmark’s entry into Eurovision is Chanée & N’evergreen.  This song is shockingly bland.  It doesn’t have any of the weird quirks of Romania, and isn’t inspired in anyway that I can see.  The song’s verses are way too disturbingly similar to “Every Breath You Take” which morphs into a chorus that sounds too disturbingly similar to Abba.

See it here.

[READ: July 17, 2010] “The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut”

I haven’t read any of Steig Larsson’s books, and I probably never will.  And as such I’m sure this parody would be even funnier if I had.  I don’t generally like Nora Ephron’s pieces, but I was kind of tickled by this one.

I assume that the characters are the ones in the book (and there must be some kind of history, right?).  But unlike the crazy excitement of the novels, in this one, Kalle needs his umlaut fixed on his Apple computer.  She demurs until he argues: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PAULA SELING & OVI-“Playing with Fire” (2010).

Now this is what I think of as a Eurovision song.  It’s Romania’s entry and it came in third!  The video is a live version (I assume).  And it is deliciously over the top right from the start.  Paula & Ovi face each other while the backing singers punctuate all of the lyrics.

Even the opening beat feels very Euro to me (whatever that means).  But when they start singing at each other, “Girl Girl Girl…” “Boy boy boy…” and they get to the chorus about burning the place down, the theatricality hits its peak.  I really don’t like this song, and yet after listening to it three times for this review, I find it maddeningly infectious.  Just like Eurovision.

And I would be remiss for not acknowledging the outrageous high not she hits in the middle.  I don’t think it’s particularly effective in the song, but it is impressive.

[READ: July 17, 2010] “The Erlking”

This was a fascinating story that went in two very different directions (and which feels like it’s part of a longer story).

There are two characters in the story Ondine–a young girl who only answers to “Ruthie”– and Kate, her mom. As the story opens, Ruthie’s mom is dragging her to the Elves’ Faire at the local Waldorf school.  Her mom feels bad that she never even considered sending Ruthie to the school (they had tried with the Jewish Montessori school, but were not accepted).  SHe had heard a story about a nine year old who knew the entire Mongol empire but still sucked his fingers.  She gets the awesome line: “Everybody has to go into a 7-Eleven at some point in life, operate in the ordinary universe.”

She figures that she can introduce Ruthie to some fun and imaginative things by bringing her here.  As the story continues, we learn a lot about Ruthie’s mother’s concerns and fears of inadequacy (some are common and relatable, some are over the top, and others are pretty unusual).


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SOUNDTRACK: maNga-“We Could be the Same” (2010).

I don’t know much about music from Turkey.  I also don’t know all that much about music from the Eurovision contest; however, I’m led to believe that the music is generally pretty poppy and treacly.  So I’m rather surprised that the second place winner is this alt metal rocker from Turkey (of course it was over 70 points behind Lena at number 1).  If this was 1983, this song would probably be riding up the American charts (of course, maNga throw in some turntable & hip hop scratches, so we know the song is at least circa 1993).  It’s got some pretty lite-metal guitar riffs and a big, loud chorus.

As with all Eurovision songs, it’s a plea for peace.  I think it’s a love song, too.  (Perhaps it’s a Romeo and Juliet deal).  Lyrically it’s suspect, but the video (with flags waving and men in balaclavas) is visually interesting.

The whole package is satisfying, and I’ delighted to see that they have two albums out already.

[READ: July 15, 2010] “The Young Painters”

The most interesting thing about this issue of the New Yorker (which is not to detract from the short story) is that there were 21 pages of ads for Canada.  I couldn’t get over how many maple leafs there were in here, especially since there was nothing in the issue itself (contentwise) that would suggest a Canadian connection.  Most of the ads were for doing business there.

Another interesting thing was the article about the Eurovision song contest, which took place a few weeks ago.  Since America’s not in it (hence Eurovision), we don’t pay any attention to it, but it’s a fun musical extravaganza, especially if you like ponderous songs sung in broken English (and who doesn’t?).

But on to the short story.  I found this story a little confusing to start with.  I think I was confused because the story begins with a woman saying that she is married to a man (named S.) and that they were invited to a party at a dancer’s house.  Then she describes her husband and then describes the apartment, all in a few sentences.   So at first I thought they were in their own house and I was confused that they had a painting she had never seen before.  Rereading the paragraph clarified things quickly, and it makes a lot more sense when you get the setting straight!

Otherwise, this was a fascinating story about a successful writer.  She and her husband went to the dancer’s house where they remarked on a painting.  The dancer reveals the fascinating story behind the painting to the entire dinner party.  The writer, being utterly transfixed by the story and feeling that it was not told in confidence, decided to write a short story about it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LENA-“Satellite” (2010).

The 2010 Eurovision song winner is from Germany and her name is Lena.  I can’t say that I’ve listened to the contests much in the past, but this year, I enjoyed the raging discussion about these pop gems.

“Satellite” is really darn catchy.  Lena’s voice is totally fascinating.  She affects a very broad English accent (although I can’t decide from where) while singing this insanely catchy song.  The lyrics are, by default, silly.  But the couplet “I bought new underwear, they’re blue, and I wore them just the other day” is pretty darn cute.

And Lena herself is adorable.  I didn’t see any of the live show, but her video is quite fetching.  What happens to Eurovision winners anyhow?  Will we ever hear from Lena again?

[READ: June 30, 2010] “The Peaches”

I read this piece because when I printed out the Barthleme story, I printed extra pages just to be safe, and how about that, I got whole other story.  I’d never heard of Ted Walker before, although it appears that he was quite well regarded in his time.

The thing that strikes me most about this story is that it was published the year before I was born, and it’s shocking how different of a husband and father he is just 40-some years ago.

In many ways I was so distracted by his attitude towards his wife (and her reaction to their life) that I never really got involved in the story.  I will say that the peach tree metaphor throughout the story is quite good, but it is especially powerful as the story nears the end. (more…)

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