Friday, May 30, 2008

Like a million others want to do

This song comes via a request, but truth be told I've been feeling the urge to post it anyway (I wouldn't usually post a song that I discovered when another blog posted it, but The Eye-Pod has gone invited readers only, meaning you can't even see the original post anymore, let alone get the song from it).

As far as I know, British boy band Hyrise's only flirtation with fame came from participating in the UK's national final for Eurovision, Making Your Mind Up, in 2004. They didn't win, but their song, "Leading Me On," was, in my eyes, by far the best of the entries in MYMU that year, though I've got no idea if they could have actually sung it live at Eurovision; it's also one of my favorite boy band songs around. The four person group included one Scott-Lee, Anthony, previously a member of 3SL (who released the fantastic "Take It Easy," a song with a little bit of a Five "Keep On Moving" vibe and that I would have adored an album in the vein of, before apparently deciding to throw that away with the disappointing "Touch Me Tease Me," after which they disappeared); his brother Andy, another former 3SL member, would go on to compete in MYMU the following year. Maxwell Roche, another member, had previously been on the second season Pop Idol and, though he made it through some eliminations, wasn't a finalist...unlike Andy Scott-Lee, who did make it to the finals that year.

The now-biggest former member of the group? Ben Barnes...a.k.a. the guy playing Prince Caspian in the new movie. Random, right? And, if I'm venturing a guess, I'd say that's the reason for the revived interest/request.

(I can't find the fourth member's full name online--his first name is Matt, but if someone knows his last name, please let me know; it feels wrong to go over all the members except one. And if he's got some connection to Andy Scott-Lee, so much the better.)

Leading Me On--I mentioned not too long ago that I can't ever really put into words what distinguishes a great boy band song from a not-great one; whatever it is, though, this song has it. And that's enough for me. Plus, I'm not sure whether it's my imagination just putting the song into context, but there's just something about the song and the group that seems so much less off-putting than most of the boy bands people are attempting to launch nowadays. It's sweet, it's catchy (really really catchy, but not in a hit-you-over-the-head way), it's just works for me.

I don't know of anywhere where you can buy this song...I guess the closest thing I can do, music-wise, is link you to 3SL's "Take It Easy," the single for which you can buy here (physical).

Next up: maybe a Belgian singer.

You always wanted a lover, I only wanted a job

Have you been wondering what the new West End Girls single (another cover--this time of "What Have I Done To Deserve This," featuring Magnus Carlson [not Magnus Carlsson]--but apparently there's original material on the album) sounds like? You know, the one PopJustice wrote about a while back?

Well, now we know. You can stream it here. I'd say it's not exactly rivaling their interpretation of "Domino Dancing" as the song of theirs highest in my affections, but it's too early for me to properly judge it beyond that.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Back where we left off

The first time I heard "Back Again," the comeback and greatest hits-promoting single from late '90's Finnish Eurodance group Waldo's People (previous post about them and their fantastic single "1000 Ways" here), I thought it was generic, just a tossed-off "anything in the genre'll do" sort of song with, typically, the female sung part being better than the male pseudo-rapping part. Then, this morning, I put in on again, and thought it was really fun. I'm sure by this afternoon I'll have changed my mind again and be regretting this post, then a week from now think it's a fantastic song I should never have brushed off, then a few months from now realize I haven't played it in ages so I can't really love it that much, and then in November play it again and decide it really is great.

Back Again--the basic Waldo's People formula: Waldo doing those talking guy bits, the girls singing the chorus hook, hard-edged guitar riff tossed into the midst of the whooshy Eurodance (Eurodance of, say, the E-Type sort, not the Cascada type) backing. That's no surprise, though, because the song's co-written by the guy behind the Waldo's People project in the first place: Ari Lehtonen (a.k.a. Eric Le Tennen). "Back Again" is big silly dance music, catchy and upbeat, and I think my initial disapproval of Waldo's part was off base: I actually really like it now. All the pieces are exactly where they're supposed to be and, even if that means they're exactly where we expect them to be, it still adds up to a great song very much worthy of the hit status it's currently got in Finland. There's something about the beginning of the verses that seems genuinely fresh to me, too.

I don't know of anywhere beyond Finnish-only stores where "Back Again" is being sold (it's on Finnish iTunes, for example), but you can buy Waldo's People's self-titled first album here (digital). Their first and second albums are also available in some countries' iTunes stores (not the U.S.'s, though).

Next up: maybe something Greek.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dodji i budi samo moj

I can forgive a lot of things for the sake of a great chorus. Take Montenegrin singer Milena Vučić's single "Indijana," (music vido featuring Milena sporting an oddly chosen milkmaid-type hairstyle here) for example. Milena competed in Serbia and Montenegro's 20044 national final for Eurovision as part of the girl group Negre, but as far as her solo career goes, she has the song festival Sunčane Skale to thank for her success (she entered Montenegro's 2006 Eurovision national final beforehand, but didn't rank too highly in that). "Indijana" wasn't the song she won Sunčane Skale with, though (but that song's great too); it was a follow-up single, and a song of a pretty different style. Gone was the pop-rock sound and in its place was punchy '80's-influenced pop--not '80's in the electropop sense that's popular now, but more as in the sense of French singer Nâdiya's "Tous ces mots" and "Roc," music with a sort of energetic stadium feel.

Sadly, "Indijana," the music for which was composed by the male host of this year's Eurovision, doesn't properly measure up to the brilliant "Tous ces mots" due to its failure to have compelling verses. That's a shame--even with the song starting off with rapping (which I actually like here), from the very beginning with the electro riff that gives way to the more solid swaying beat of the chorus, you get the feeling the song is going to be great; it takes a step back when you reach that first verse, which maybe feels too sparse or doesn't have Milena properly selling the vocal melody or just settles for messing around when it should be concerned about adding to the song's power and push--but not a big enough one for me to stop listening to "Indijana" and enjoying what it does have to offer.

To buy Milena Vučić's debut solo album Da L'ona Zna, go here (physical) or here (digital). It's also available on iTunes. Another of her singles, "Luče," harks back to the '80's, too, fitting in with "Indijana" but not being a rehash of it. It's maybe slightly less R&B-influenced and more just sharp rushing '80's beats; it's also probably more consistent than "Indijana," but the chorus to "Indijana" gets me so excited that that had to be the song I shared.

Next up: maybe something about Kate Ryan, but I want to wait on that until I actually have something to say.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

This girl won't stop believing

Hi all--sorry about the lack of posts; normal service should be resumed tomorrow (though in all likelihood there will probably be another temporary interruption coming up--more on that later, though). In the meantime, I've been loving the new Kate Ryan album for the past two days (available in a bunch of digital stores that international customers can use--here, here, and here, for example--and in a bunch of stores that sell physical CDs)--if you're looking for something to fill the musical gap, check out that.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A brand new star

Once again, like last year, I'm left feeling there's little left for me to say about the results of the Eurovision final; my thoughts have already been expressed elsewhere in ways much more eloquent and concise way than I would have used. I'm not thrilled about the winner for several reasons and second place finisher Ukraine would have been a much more exciting winner for me (as well as my favorite winner of the '00's, I think), but life goes on. Well, how life is going to go on for the next few months without Eurovision to distract me, I've got no idea, but apparently it does.

Let's look at Ani Lorak performing "Shady Lady" one more time, though. Love those light-up boxes.

Those disco strings in the middle 8 get me every time. And the little head bobs that accompany the beeps. When will I learn, though? I should never rewatch performances from Eurovision or national finals--they never seem to come off as great as I remember them being.

I'm sad about Sweden's result, of course, but the song is still fantastic (in my eyes); I'm not sure whether it was a matter of staging, competing with similar songs for the same votes, the song being in a style most of Europe isn't interested in, or what, but it just failed to connect with Europe. A shame, since "Hero" deserves to be remembered fondly and Charlotte thought of well--I hope that can still happen anyway, at least in Sweden. It'll be interesting to see what Sweden votes for next year--there's been kind of a "vote for something beyond what people associate Sweden with"/that fails/"vote for 'typical Swedish music'" pattern going on for the past few years--what happens next?

I would've liked to see the lovely Eurobandið higher up on the scoreboard at the end of the night, too, but I'm still happy for Iceland that they made it to the finals.

Still, ALL of these artists--three of my four favorites, the three that made it to the final--did better than my favorite last I think I'm just used to my taste not lining up with Europe's in Eurovision. Plus, only four of my preferred ten may have qualified from the second semifinal and an entry I adored may not have won out in the end, but really, the final itself was really enjoyable for me.

On a slightly different but still Eurovision-related note, the UK jury's vote for the final looked roughly (though not necessarily exactly; Latvia and Norway could be reversed and Finland and Portugal, though in the right order, could possibly have one more point each) like this (thank you again!):

12 - Sweden
10 - Latvia
8 - Norway
7 - Iceland
6 - Ukraine
5 - Denmark
4 - Finland
3 - Portugal
2 - Israel
1 - Armenia

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Can do it all?

For now, I'll just say this: the Schlagerboy effect strikes again in Malta!

(Or at least, that's how I like to think of it.)

I just let it go

Sorry about the lack of post yesterday--if I had had time to write, it would have been about the clips from Kate Ryan's new album (with thanks to Alex for letting me know about them); if you haven't heard them yet, you should know that there are two sets since Kate will be releasing two versions of the album--in most cases, the songs are the same, but in one version a few of the songs are in French and in one version they're in English (both versions contain some French songs and some English songs, though). "Sweet Mistake" and "A La Folie" are the same song, as are "Your Eyes" and "Tes Yeux;" same's true for "Who Do You Love" and "Pour Quel Amour." Listen to clips from the more-French-songs version here and clips from the more-English-songs version here. As Robpop points out, one of the songs, "I Surrender," is a Clea cover. The duet with Soraya I mentioned a while ago is on the album as well, near the end on the German/international version (the one with more French language songs) and near the beginning on the Spanish version (the one with more English language songs).

We've already got four songs from this album (which is thirteen tracks long), and yet I'm still incredibly excited for it to come out. It comes out next week, the day depending on the country

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Staying alive

Been wondering about jury votes at all? I've read in several places (none official, though, but with some quoting official sources--has anyone seen that?) that the back-up juries' votes didn't end up making a difference for the tenth country to qualify for the first semifinal and we won't get the official announcement to let us know about what just happened until Saturday...but if you've been wondering how the UK's jury voted, you can get something of an idea:

12 - Sweden
10 - Ukraine
8 - Iceland
7- Belarus
6 - Malta
1 - Hungary

It's not complete and a little fuzzy around the edges (at the bottom), but still, well done to the UK--and no, that's not just me guessing at numbers (thank you!).

All the pain, all the joy it brings

Just a quick, getting-things-out-of-my system post:

4/10 of my favorites through this time, but I'm really not going to complain. I mean, sure, I would've loved to see Paolo go through (though as Len said, his voice wasn't all I was hoping for), and yes, I think Bulgaria was great (and though I've not really got an attachment to "Vodka," it would have been nice to see poor Malta do well), but really...


When the male announcer started to hum "Hero" and announced Sweden's name (just after Iceland had been pronounced safe), it was as if my spine disappeared and I collapsed onto the couch I was sitting on--I was already pretty sure about poor Paolo's fate, so I really couldn't have asked for more.

It's fantastic Ukraine's through as well, though that wasn't really in doubt--they'll have more of my mental and emotional support on Saturday, when it'll matter more.

Plus, the countries through generally gave solid performances.

Speaking of solid performances: tricky, tricky Denmark, trying to win my nonexistent vote with your good-looking singer. It will not work, I tell you!

Also, I'm already plotting about how on Earth I'm going to get myself to wherever Eurovision 2009 is--I mean, it's not like school or money is that important, right?

Here, in remembrance of Paolo, is the promo video for "Era Stupendo," which I love--I know it could seem incongruous to some, but for me it captures the song's energy so well.

Oh my days, like fairytales

...and we're off again: my favorites in the second semifinal.

Eurobandið, "This Is My Life" (Iceland)
Ah, Eurobandið--I've been in love since the first taste of this song last fall, when it was called "Fullkomið lif" and was more schlager than the energetic dance it is now. I think I've continually complained about the change in style (not that I disliked its new version, just that I thought it lost something)...until now. I went back and listened to "Fullkomið lif" again and, whether it's just me becoming accustomed to the new version or something else, I can now officially say that I'm fine with it in its new version. In fact, I prefer it. Eep. Backtrack much? Anyway, speaking without regards to the odds, I think I can fairly say that few results this year would make me more ecstatic than an Icelandic win--I love this song and poor Iceland has sent so many great songs in fairly recent years, often without proper reward. I'll be desperately hoping they make it out the semifinals.

Charlotte Perrelli, "Hero" (Sweden)
...but boy, am I worried that the one-two-four punch of danceable pop songs is going to end up really hurting someone. Do I need to say much more about this song? I adore it--disco-pop performed by a true professional; I can only pray Europe takes it to its heart. Please let everything transfer well to the Eurovision stage! The song that I would most love to win the whole thing.

Ani Lorak, "Shady Lady" (Ukraine)
I LOVE this song. Love Ani as a performer (from what I've seen). Out of the names people are tossing around as likely winners, it's the one I'd most like to take it. "Shady Lady" is dramatic revvy disco pop, the sort of song I thought we'd be getting from Dimitris Kontopoulos in the Greek national final. My heart of hearts, though, still belongs to Sweden, though I know Ani will take to the stage like a sexy dervish with an eye towards filling up the arena and demolishing all competition and may very well have a bigger performance that leaves a bigger impression on viewers.

Paolo Meneguzzi, "Era Stupendo" (Switzerland)
Aww, Paolo. Well, I love him--that's well documented; have ever since PinkieDust introduced me to him last spring or so. "Ti Amo Ti Odio" even ranked as my eighteenth favorite single of 2007. In other words, I like his musical style, I like what he does--and I love this too. "Era Stupendo" starts off as lovely ballad before morphing into a more up-tempo song, but one that still has a bit of a ballad feel. It's a lovely feel good song with a lovely feel good promotional video and I would be so thrilled to see it do well. I'm very worried, though.

Now, those four songs I've just listed are my true favorites (out of those four, I'd be most excited about Sweden, Iceland, or Switzerland winning, but Ukraine has the best chance of it), the four that mean the most to me--not just in the second semifinal, but overall. The next song is in a kind of second tier.

Tereza Kerndlová, "Have Some Fun" (Czech Republic)
You know how I didn't complain about changes to the Icelandic song? This is where I start complaining. I always knew that this was a song that never really stood much of a chance of leaving an impression on the Eurovision audience (and apparently its rehearsals have been a mess), but in that early national finals season, this was one of my favorites, a sweet Europop song with a Timbaland-type beat underneath and some lovely string-like sound effects that are somewhere between fluttering and frantic. I know they had to shorten it down to meet the three minute requirements, but did we really have to get those added Greek-style instrumental flourishes? Sigh. Those really detract from the song for me.

...and after that, a third tier of songs:

Ruslan, "Hasta La Vista" (Belarus)
I've avoided re-listening to the original pop version of this song in hopes that I could adjust to this new rock version, so I can't go into too much detail about my complaints except to say that I remember being very disappointed when the change was revealed--who knows, maybe if I went back and relistened to the original I'd realize it was actually a change for the better. I can't say I'm too invested in this doing well, but it's OK. It does give us the line that gives this post its title (it's actually "all my days like fairytales," but that's how I first heard it and now I can't hear anything else).

Pirates Of The Sea, "Wolves Of The Sea" (Latvia)
I feel like I'm going to be attacked by Eurofans every time I admit this, but if Schlagerprick and Chig can admit it, so I can I: I like this. Yes, it's kind of cheap and tacky (catchy Europop/dance that sounds like it could have been made for young kids, by the way), but there's something about its bouncy fun that reels me in.

The countries I want to make it to the final (based just on the songs, not on how well they'll come across when performed, and what I'd like to happen, not what I think will happen), then:

Czech Republic

...oh, and I don't know after that...maybe Bulgaria. That's odd--I didn't realize it until now, but, although I've been looking forward to the second semifinal more than the first, I don't think there are ten songs I'm really cheering for here, whereas I was able to choose ten for the first. Let's throw in FYR Macedonia and...I don't know, Malta or Albania or something. Let's go with Malta. (Edit: a few more spins and I'm more enthusiastic--Bulgaria especially deserves to at least be in my third tier of songs--but I'm open to performances swaying me to shift my support.)

Random thoughts on other songs: it was while watching the promo for Inför ESC (Sweden's preview show for this year's Eurovision songs) that I realized what Denmark's song ("All Night Long" by Simon Matthews) reminds me of: it's a commercial song. As in, a song made to play in the background of a commercial--about twenty seconds of sound, mildly catchy mid-tempo chorus but in a completely non-distracting way, completely generic. Apparently he's a solid performer, but "All Night Long" is just so completely uninspiring.

I keep reading good things from the people actually in Belgrade about Croatia, but it's not won me over yet. I've got a similar reaction to the very positive feelings behind Portugal, too; apparently it comes across amazingly when performed and I know there were positive feelings about it even before that, but I'm not sold yet.

Just a face in the crowd

Jonathan Fagerlund upate: there's a clip of his new single, "Dance In The Shadows," playing on his MySpace now...but the song's already been played in full on Swedish radio. If you've liked the songs and clips you've heard from him before, you'll probably like this one too, though at the moment "Playing Me" is still my favorite song from him.

The single will be on sale May 28. What about that album, though?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Like sunshine on a rainy day

A quick break from Eurovision coverage to mention some Swedish news:

I got my Rix FM CD and was thrilled to see that Tony Nilsson was one of the co-writers for Ola's new single "Feelgood" (the other is J. Myrin, presumably Jonas Myrin edit: iTunes reveals that, yup, it's him). Love him--I'm so glad Ola's continuing to work with him/serve as a vehicle for his songs. Speaking of songwriters, I didn't realize Sophia Somajo co-wrote Vincent's "Miss Blue" until now.

Magnus Carlsson is apparently releasing a new single--but don't get too excited; it's taken from his album from last year. The choice? "Crazy Summer Nights," the song I would have gone with as the second single, a summer single for 2007...better late than never, I suppose. It comes with a bunch of remixes (which I haven't heard) and "What About Love," a song I posted last year from the deluxe version of the album--it (and "Crazy Summer Nights") is still brilliant, though I can't be too excited considering 1.) it's already been released, and 2.) I'm not expecting "Crazy Summer Nights" to do hugely well, though I hope I'm wrong--I'm just guessing, considering the amount of time that has passed since the album and that I haven't really sensed momentum behind Magnus's recent releases (which would be the difference between Måns's successful "Miss America" from an album released about the same time and "Crazy Summer Nights").

The tracklisting on the back of Kleerup's album is hurting my eyes. You know the font and the color of the title on the front? The same ones are used for the tracklisting, only they're on top of a white background and not only is each song title not given its own line, words themselves are broken up from line to line. It's enough to give me a headache.

You think and dream of me

Random thoughts on the semifinal:

Bosnia & Herzegovina is now falling in my opinion; the performance was actually a little TOO odd for me. I know that's a strange complaint, given that it's always had an odd performance and given that the song itself is odd, but all I can say is I felt myself getting distanced from the song as they performed, which isn't a good thing.

As I kind of thought they would, Armenia delivered a great Helena Paparizou/Ruslana/Ani Lorak-type performance, fun and flirty, which did make me like the song a lot more (blame the big hair?)--to steal the Schlagerprick and Posh & Becks review system, it went from maybe a three to a four for me. I'm still holding out on fully loving it, though.

I was mildly surprised to see the Netherlands not make it through--I still don't think the song is amazing by any stretch, but I thought her solid kind of Eurovision diva-type performance would help her through.

Isis Gee (Poland) is American, right? Yup, that was a classy American-style orange tan right some really bright white teeth.

Oh, and yes, I did indeed love Rebeka's spacey bondage performance (though it was Andorra that our announcer compared to C-3PO, I think).

Probably more random thoughts to come later.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

We were never meant to be

Before watching the semifinal, these were the songs I wanted through (in no particular order):

The Netherlands
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Poland, let's see, that's seven out of ten, right? That's positively amazing compared to my results last year, though it does mean that the two I cared most about didn't make it through...I wasn't expecting them to, though, and I tend to be surprisingly calm about my favorites not doing well (I think I'm used to it)--all bets may be off in a few cases on Thursday, though! More later. win a destination in the center of my heart

Few of my favorite entries (without thinking about how they'll come off when performed or how well they'll do) in this year's contest are in the first semifinal, but a few are, so let's go through those. It's worth mentioning, though, that the performances tend to only make me think better of songs, though usually not drastically--songs I found forgettable and dull before become more recognizable to me.

Rebeka Dremelj, "Vrag Naz Vzame" (Slovenia)
I've had so many ups and downs with this song--the various reworkings of it, the revealing of the English version (which thankfully isn't the main version)--but I think at the end, I still really do enjoy it, even if I kind of have no idea what to actually expect it to sound like on the night (I'm basing my final opinion off the version on the Eurovision CD). And yes, I do have generally positive feelings towards Rebeka since I love the campy "Pojdi z menoj" and the campy-at-the-beach "To je prava noč," but I'd still like this Mediterranean-flavored uptempo Europop/dance song even on its own. Apparently rehearsals have revealed her performance to be an S&M-themed car crash, which will probably only make me love her more. This isn't an ultimate favorite of mine, but there's something about the way it sparkles that brings a sense of fun (even if it is about a woman declaring her independence) many of the entries in this semifinal lack.

Gisela, "Casanova" (Andorra)
...from one uptempo Europop song which has apparently had bad rehearsals to another. It's tempting for me to play off my enjoyment of this as just a "well, it's got a danceable Euro beat beneath it--of course I was going to like it!" sort of thing, but that wouldn't be giving the song proper credit; there's something about the cheesy happy "Casanova" that I find genuinely charming (and, since I started comparing them, I might as well say that I like it more than "Vrag Naz Vzame" as well).

Laka, "Pokusaj" (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
I'm not sure this technically belongs on the "love" list yet, but it's so close to the border of "like/love" that I had to mention it, especially because with the right performance I can see myself falling for it even more. One of the more unusual songs in this year's contest (even beyond the singer's unique voice), "Pokusaj" is...well, I'm not even really sure how to describe it. Part of me wants to compare it to the music for my much-beloved Spring Awakening, which isn't to say this sounds like typical musical fare--Spring Awakening's score was composed by Duncan Sheik and is more bold lush pop-rock than anything else. That's not a totally apt comparison, but maybe it'll begin to get across the way "Pokusaj" has a pop awareness of melody but also isn't afraid to switch between group chants, a minimal and more playful verse, a rushing piano section, and--well, really, you'll probably have to listen for yourself to get any idea of what it actually sounds like. It won't be for everyone, that's for sure, but I can see myself being madly in love with it by the time the contest ends.

Kalomira, "Secret Combination" (Greece)
The chorus of this Greek pop-and-R&B song has grown on me to an almost ridiculous extent since Greece's national final, and it's often the Eurovision-related music that gets stuck in my head. Unfortunately, it's let down by a verse that's completely forgettable and really serves no purpose but to provide some filler until we can get back to the chorus (which I realize many would say is true of many Eurovision songs). Can we, I don't know, steal Armenia's verse or something (for the record, Armenia [Sirusho with "Qele, Qele"] is a fan favorite that's nowhere near a favorite of mine--it's listenable, don't get me wrong, and better than many other songs in this semfinal, but as of right now it just lacks that spark for me and the chorus doesn't hit as it should; I'm not against it qualifying to the final, but I would be against it winning...a good performance might up my opinion of it a lot, but I think I'd still be disappointed if [speaking in purely hypothetical terms] it placed really really highly in the end)?

A few notes on other songs: I keep going back and forth on Dima Bilan's song ("Believe" for Russia)'s better than many others in this semfinal, but I just can't make up my mind about how much I actually like it. One moment I think it's fine, pretty good, the next I think I could love it, and then the next I think it's nothing special and am upset about a bunch of things related to it.

As a general rule, time has tended to diminish my ire for songs I really couldn't stand before. Except Belgium. That, though, is a song you won't soon be forgetting, so I'm not expecting it to get lost in the mix. Oh, and Estonia. I still don't like Ireland (and the musical sections of it that before I thought were actually tolerable seem to have been changed on the CD--am I imagining that?), but I'm more complacent about its existence now.m

Maybe worth mentioning as me having positive feelings towards them even if not loving them are Norway (Maria Haukaas Storeng with the '60's-sounding "Hold On Be Strong") and the Netherlands (Hind with "Your Heart Belongs To Me"). I just can't get enthusiastic about either, though; neither leaves me thrilled. I really like Maria generally and I get that "Hold On Be Strong" is classy, but I've been wondering: if it wasn't in English, would I really make it fully through the song? Maybe that's being too harsh; at the least, it sounds like the fairly simple presentation will be professional, which is a good word to describe "Hold On Be Strong" as well. There are parts of Poland's entry that I like, but it doesn't add up to anything for me; I guess the same could be said of Finland's entry to an even lesser extent--some nice guitar riffs and "hoo-hah"s, but the vocal melody on top of all that doesn't work for me.

All in all, my proper favorites are in Semi 2, but I'm still looking forward to tonight--see you all in a bit!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Are you ready?

Do you know what happens tomorrow?

Yes. Finally. EUROVISION!

OK, well, technically, the first of two semifinals, but still! It starts (assuming you don't count the whole national qualifying season as when it starts)! I've been trying very hard to not let Eurovision fever completely overtake this blog...but all bets are off for the next five days. I may start going through some of my favorites tomorrow (what, like I've got anything better to do? I'll need to do something to pass the time until the semifinal starts!), though mine are pretty much ridiculously predictable.

Should you not be lucky enough to live in a country that'll actually run the contest (or if your country isn't showing the semifinal it's not participating in),'s Media Lounge will be streaming it; for details, go here. If you can't be bothered to watch both of the semifinals, for what it's worth I think the best quality-to-time ratio will come at the very beginning of the second semifinal, with three of the first four songs that night being great.

P.S. "Bad Times" on the Annie album sampler/megamix (starts at 6:49) sounds potentially divine.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Is there really no other way? OK

I'm not sure if anyone else is going to be interested in this, but this website has clips of all the songs on this year's Rix FM Festival album, which means if you wanted to hear bits of the new Rongedal (album out this Wednesday), Sonja Álden, Patrik Isaksson, Arash, Anders Johansson, etc. singles, you can do so there (click on the little boombox to on the righthand side of the song's row). Slightly sadly, I actually ordered the album (what? It had "Feelgood" on it!)--hopefully it'll get here soon-ish.

Allt vi vill ha kan vi få med det svenska laget

That Enrique song I posted yesterday is apparently being used as the theme song for some soccer thing, which made me think of another song I like that was used for some soccer thing (though a completely different one probably--like I've got any idea what any of these events are). If you've heard of Martin (Svensson) and live outside of Sweden, it's probably because you know his 1999 Melodifestival entry "(Du är så) Yeah Yeah Wow Wow," a kind of '60's surf guitar-filled teen pop song full of nonsense syllables (bop boppa boppa ba) with a title that translates to "(You Are So) Yeah Yeah Wow Wow" and that had a performance full what must be the happiest-looking choreographed guitar movements ever (random fact: the backing band includes one of the piano players on the TV show Så ska det låta). Despite that song being by far his best-performing single, though, Martin had a career beyond "Yeah Yeah Wow Wow," releasing four albums. The song I'm posting today comes from his fourth, Martin & Siberien.

VM Guld 2002--this is one of those songs that it sort of feels like I shouldn't like, but I totally do. The verses aren't the strongest things ever, but that chorus--it's the very definition of soaring and a way that, because of the rest of the song, inevitably seems a little kitschy, but I love it nevertheless. I'm not sure how much of the credit there goes to the melody of the chorus itself; a lot of its success might have to do with that build and drumbeat into the chorus and, probably most important of all, the multi-tracking/backing vocals that make it sound like a crowd is singing along. I think the melody has something to do with it, though: with a song like this, you want something that you can imagine a stadium full of people singing along to, a melody that lends itself to that--there's a different kind of perfection here from what you might want in another context. That said, I can easily imagine actual soccer/football fans not being pleased with this song, but with that big lifting chorus, I just can't resist it.

To buy Martin's fourth album, Martin & Sibirien, go here (physical).

Next up: maybe that French song.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Can't explain my position, or the condition I'm in

Hey hey, all the way
Dee-jay, let it play

Enrique Iglesias is trying to kill me.

After Insomniac's underperformance in some quarters and the less-than-thrilling "Dónde están corazón," I thought we might have lost Enrique the fun popstar for good. I should never have doubted him.

Last year's "Do You Know (The Ping Pong Song)" nearly gave me a heart attack with its cuteness, its unashamed poppiness, and its perfection--how on earth am I supposed to cope with a song like this newly leaked one, taken from the upcoming re-edition of Insomniac (coming out in a few days in France and I presume later in the rest of the world)? Imagine if crunk were cute; it might sound a little something like this--these are cute synths, but sharp ones too, ones with bite. Though I thought "Push" from Insomniac was fine (I didn't hate it like so many people did), writer and producer Steve Morales, who also gave us Enrique songs like "Escape" and "Don't Turn Off The Lights," must have realized that that might have been pushing Enrique a little too far into urban territory, so he's kept up his use of those sharp synth pulses but instead put them into the service of a much poppier song, a fun upbeat semi-danceable one with a much more typical Enrique vocal melody over the top. Enrique's voice has always lent itself to intimate moments, but he's done more than a few songs that you can imagine blaring out in a stadium (with loads of people singing along), and this new track allows for at least a few moments with a feeling like that, particularly the movie-theater-testing-sound-system electronic effects at the beginning, which are accompanied by synth beeps which return for the chorus and a shout from Enrique.

This new song is an example of great crisp (and cute!) production at work, sharp, every little detail in place (it's so tempting to go through and list off all the elements I love), no time for anything that won't further the song to the utmost but resulting in something that still feels spontaneous, fun. Like "Do You Know," it's not a song I expect most people to love as much as me, but also like "Do You Know," it's a song that does everything right to get me falling head over heels in love.

The French re-edition of Enrique Iglesias's album Insomniac (due out this Tuesday, and presumably taking advantage of his success with the made-into-a-duet version of "Tired Of Being Sorry" with Nâdiya), go here (physical); as I said, though, I presume the album's being re-released elsewhere eventually too. Since this song is going to be a single, it'll only be posted for a short time.

Next up: maybe something French.

Friday, May 16, 2008

When you're on the edge and you're not getting all that you oughta get

(Warning: this is not really an album review--more just somewhat random musings inspired by E.M.D.'s A State Of Mind. Second warning: if you don't have a general fondness for the boy band sound or you liked Danny's album but are already thinking you probably won't like this album, I wouldn't really suggest getting it.)

It's rare to find boy bands doing the pure boy band sound of the late '90's and early 2000's today. Sure, if you do a little continent-hopping you'll run into some solo artists whose work could pass for one man boy band of the old sort, but nowadays it seems far more common for boy bands who don't want to wield guitars to incorporate a significant urban/R&B influence into their music.

We're not here to talk about those boy bands who seem to have taken "Girlfriend" as their inspiration, though. Instead, we're here to talk about how, after long having a surprising (or perhaps not, if you think about money) lack of boy bands considering the number of boy band classics its songwriters have given us, Sweden now has a new boy band: E.M.D. With two successful singles under their belt, one a cover and one original, the group of former Idol contestants released their new album, A State Of Mind, this week. And, save for a couple of tracks, it's R&B-influence-free (one of the exceptions being "One Call Away," a musically sweet fluffy R&B-lite ballad which I initially brushed off as pointless filler that didn't feel like a natural fit for the group and left no real impact but which as skyrocketed up in my affections since then to become a massive favorite).

That means they've generally avoided one of the major stumbling blocks of today's boy bands: a preoccupation with trying to seem cool that almost inevitably seems insincere and puts them in this dangerous zone where they never truly go far enough to make us believe their hip claims music-wise (or styling-wise) but also spend so much time trying to pursue that more R&B/contemporary sound and image that they forget about the vital importance of just having good melodies. In other words, many boy bands nowadays come off as "try hard" with their posturing but actually haven't tried hard enough to actually make cool edgy pop songs or to make such great songs that people don't care--or both.

Neither, though, is A State Of Mind a return to that sound of the golden age of boy bands; it tries to sound more organic, as if it's based more in real instruments (though it should be said that this is a matter of degrees--indie this is not; it's all still a tightly produced affair). That's not to say that some changes in arrangement wouldn't allow these songs to be used in an older boy band album; some of the melodies would fit right in. As is, though, the musical base here is one that wouldn't sound out of place on, say, a Bryan Adams album. Maybe the best way to illustrate what I'm trying to say is this: there are no songs here that feel designed to be (non-slow) danced to. Sure, you could picture some should swaying and dramatic hand gestures in a video for or performance of "For You" (which Andreas Carlsson and Jörgen Elofsson helped write) but that's about it. Or maybe it would be even simpler to just restate that the music is designed to sound more instrumental--not in the sense of lacking vocals, but of having real instruments, even if that's not actually the case.

Sometimes those real instruments are very welcome: the strings-and-piano base of "Give Me Some Time" makes for a distinctive (in the context of the album) and lovely sound, though I do wonder if in an alternative universe we'd have gotten a trancey-dance backing instead: it's written by the "D" of E.M.D., Danny Saucedo, and Oscar Görres, who worked with Danny on Danny's solo album--could it be a leftover from that, or is it just a result of Danny and Oscar's continued collaboration?

I really like going-for-big-and-semi-majestic "Run To You" and "Look At You Now" as well, but they too have that Bryan Adams-in-a-boy band sound. Which is fine in some ways--it means no tinny production likely to sound dated very quickly, and there is definitely a richness that can result from this sort of instrumentation. Sometimes, though, I long for the pop stormer-ness of 'N Sync's "Bye Bye Bye," the giddy sugar rush of LMNT's "Juliet," or the intoxication of Backstreet's "Larger Than Life," which manages to be totally grand while still being streamlined, no element out of place and nothing wasted. Or a brilliant cascading over-the-top pop epic like a1's "Same Old Brand New You." Those songs would never have fit in on this album given its current style, and I know there are some people who are glad of that because pop has moved on; I don't think that was the main concern here, though, given that this is hardly a boundaries-pushing album. Being bold doesn't have to mean pushing boundaries, though, and I wish there was more boldness here;

None of this is to say that A State Of Mind is a bad album or one that isn't enjoyable (for me, it is--I can envision myself listening to "Run To You," "Jennie Let Me Love You," "One Call Away," "For You," "I Lied" [a song which I've got a whole mini-discussion of, though it's writing about the song, not raving about their version of it], "Give Me Some Time," and "Look At You Now," and given that I'm not really an albums person, that's pretty good, more than enough for me to not regret buying it); it's just that it would have been nice if it could have found some way to incorporate some thrilling pop moments, those heady rushes of songs.

To buy E.M.D.'s album A State Of Mind, go here (physical) or here (digital).

(I do not usually upload this many songs from an album, but I really think the music will help explain my thoughts better than my words could; still, consequently the songs will only be uploaded for a short time.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Every little thing you do is everything I want from you

I've been doing some cleaning today, and usually that would mean a bunch of long songs (generally remixes) but instead, I've been playing some brand new songs. Listening to the new E.M.D. album helped pass the time, and I'll give my thoughts on it in the future, but for today...well, was there ever really any doubt what I was going to post? At risk of seeming obsessed...


...I've got to imagine there are some people out there who are as interested to hear that song as I am--well, almost as interested, anyway! It's hard to believe it's been almost a year since I was posting a radio rip of his version of "Natalie." In comparison to that song or any of his singles since, this song has, from what I can make out through the subpar audio quality (you'll have to turn the volume up, too), more strummy guitars, but it's still very much a poppy upbeat cute song with its essence in electronically-created pop and production effects, and not a guitar-pop song in any sense. The song's soaked in summer; it really couldn't sound more like the beach if it tried (which it probably is doing, to be fair).

Also, apparently I still fall for all the old tracks in the pop playbook, because all too often I get caught up in the song and actually respond to the singer's giddy laugh mid-track with equally happy laughter of my own.

The reedition of the album comes out May 28; new songs (as in songs not on the first editions) on it will include this song, "Love In Stereo," remixes of "Natalie" and "S.O.S." (these might be the remixes that were on the singles--I'm not sure), and live tracks...not quite the new song fest I was hoping for (unless there are more additions I don't know about yet), but knowing me I'll still buy it anyway; you can preorder it here. If you've not bought the album yet, even though I think it's spotty, this edition would definitely be worth considering getting for the older-ish songs on it: "S.O.S.," "Can't Get Enough," "Natalie," and "Love In Stereo" are all about as good as pop gets (and I do love "Baby I'm Yours" as well).

He does really need to get some new promotional pictures done, though.

I've come to the end of you

Public service announcement: you should probably know about Swedish singer Sophia Somajo's credible-sounding electro-pop single "Warm Blooded Murder," because I imagine there will be more written about it on the Internet in the future (though that's not to say that things haven't been written about her in the past), and this way you can prepare yourself.

Her voice can sound very Robyn at times.

(Random fact: she may list "indie" as her first genre on MySpace, but the poppy pop lovers may be interested to know that she co-wrote Darin's "The Thing About You.")

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's it gonna take?

Guess who's got a digital EP of remixes of his latest single out today?

Oh, don't act so surprised--as if I was going to pass up an actually legitimate opportunity to write about Blake Lewis! iTunes U.S. and the U.S. Amazon mp3 store are now carrying remixes of "How Many Words," Blake's '80's electro song that is his current single in the U.S. Why exactly we're getting these remixes I have no idea--as I've said elsewhere, I'm very surprised the label is spending any more money at this point--not that they've spent much so far (and not that this was probably a very expensive project), but that just makes it even more odd. Still, I'm not complaining--I'll take all the Blake Lewis material we can get while we're still getting it.

Should you somehow have ignored all my pleas to get Blake's album up until now and yet somehow feel your interest piqued at this point, I'd strongly recommend going for the album, Audio Day Dream, instead of this latest E.P.; iTunes U.S. is selling A.D.D. for just $7.99, but the even better deal is buying it new (as a physical copy) from Amazon for the same price: $7.99. There is literally no full song on it I dislike (I do skip the beatboxing interlude that makes up track 12).

You can read my original review of the album back here (I'm thinking about writing another one, actually) and though I'm doubtful that any track could have given him commercial success in the U.S. (though the music more than deserves it!), here's the song I would have gone with as a single given U.S. radio tendencies, "End Of The World," which, to quote myself, "shows that Blake's frequent collaborator Ryan Tedder has learned from Timbaland's remix of of his song 'Apologize' and realized the power of a slow handclappy/stompy beat underneath a ballad, though this song has its heart in Erasure-esque synth-pop."

It takes just a minute to like it

I love summer compilation albums. Not necessarily because they're packed full of great songs--though some are--but because they can often point you in the direction of some great new songs you had no idea of. I'm looking forward to Spain's Disco Estrella again this year because of that, but since we don't know the tracklisting for that yet, I've been keeping my eye open for others.

As usual, Rix FM is putting out a CD in tandem with their summer festivals. Some titles that jumped out at me because I didn't know about them:

Rongedal, "Who Do You Think You're Foolin"
Patrik Isaksson, "Elddon"
Sonja Aldén, "Nån Som Du"
Anders Johansson, "Ready To Fly"

You can read the whole two CD tracklisting here, if you're interested.

While we're talking about new songs (as well as songs that will be on the Rix FM Festival 2008 CD), Ola's new single is called "Feelgood!" and it'll be played on Rix FM tomorrow at 8 AM Swedish time.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Give me time to put on my smile

From the "new songs I find interesting" file--a file that artists or songs I'm not sure about get put in when they've caught my attention for some reason but I'm not sure how the artist will pan out in the long run; now, though, they've got my attention at least and I have hope that something great and distinctive could come from them: big-on-Norwegian-MySpace 23/24-ish year old singer Tone Mette and "Call Before You Come," her part electro-pop (well, actually, that beat reminds me of something else, but I can't place it) and part wistful angsty singer-songwriter (even though it's not actually written by her, but rather by a man who was in a band that had Erik Faber as lead singer and Venke Knutson as backing singer) song about hiding who you are for the sake of a relationship.

Norwegians do melancholy so well, don't they? It's not even melancholy, really, what I'm thinking of--there's just this easy to draw thread between, say, Erik Faber's "Century" and Margaret Berger's "Robot Song" and pick-a-Lene Marlin-song and...well, the list could keep going; the point is, each of those songs is unique, but there's some common feel about them that makes me wonder what's in the atmosphere in Norway. Maybe it's this feeling of being sadly resigned to your fate, and still going on anyway? No, I don't think that's necessarily expansive enough... Let's hope in a few years Tone proves she deserves to be listed with such great company (in all openness, though, I should mention that another song of hers on YouTube, "Rush," is very different from the style I was expecting her to pursue just hearing "Call Before You Come," and significantly less...interesting).

"Call Before You Come" is available in international iTunes stores; if plans haven't changed, her debut album, Human Zoo, is due out May 26.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

You're bad news, boy

Just a quick post today: as I mentioned a week ago, Dutch dance-pop singer EliZe (or Elize, which is probably less correct but which I tend to slip into using) is back with a new single. Given how much I love "Automatic," I was definitely interested to hear what she'd give us for this upcoming new album, and, though I'm awful at judging how much I'll love dance-pop songs over the long term--I can never tell how much staying power they'll have for me--I'm enjoying this latest single at the moment. "Lovesick" is very much an Elize-sounding song, and that goes beyond it just being catchy dance-pop; it's just got effects and a feel to it that mean that it doesn't feel out of place for the singer of "Automatic" and "Into Your System" to be singing it. One of the things I like about Elize is that, despite sometimes releasing music videos that fit into that "typical dance video" category, she gives off this strong independent feel--or that's part of her persona, anyway; that's played up in "Lovesick" even more: instead of singing to boys about how some other woman is/will control them, she's made an empowerment anthem. Which, yes, I realize there are millions of in pop and dance, but that doesn't mean we can't use more. I'm glad she's back, and I really hope she gives us a great album.


I honestly have no idea where you can buy the only album this single is on so far, Dance Smash Hits 2008 Vol. 2, but Elize's earlier work is in international iTunes stores; for example, her album In Control can be bought from iTunes here.

Next up: I'm really note sure--maybe that Belgian singer.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

It's all up to you

All I know about Greek-born but now Swedish-based singer Nikolina comes from the one press blurb that anything about her online seems to use...which means I really don't know anything more than what I just mentioned in that sentence, except that this is her debut single; even her MySpace site offers up no biography or information about her music. All I can really add is that, if her debut single is any indication of her musical direction, I'm definitely interested to hear more from her.

Naked (Why Did You Leave Me Stranded)--written and produced by people who have connections to Da Buzz, Antique, Caracola, and Michel Fuentes (speaking of writers, one of them is Claes Funke, and his MySpace is playing an earlier version of the song, more dance-sounding and less pop-oriented), which I think gives you an idea of what to expect from the backing music here. That said, though you get that that electronic dance beat underneath you'd expect, the approach they've taken towards the chorus is an interesting--and great--one: it's strong, but in this smooth, multi-layered, mysterious-sounding, string-including way and with lines that finish off (to be clichéd) like a cry in the dark. Speaking of strings, boy, do I love them in dance music (even if they're not real), so you can imagine you thrilled I am that they're used here, and that they even make up the middle 8. I have to admit, I was pretty excited when I heard this song for the first time--I really hope this doesn't end up as a one-off.

As far as I know, there's nowhere where you can buy this song outside of Sweden-only digital music stores (in news that already has me upset, my favorite Danish-but-so-much-more digital music store has seemingly stopped selling to international customers, or else I'd link you to it), but the Swedish iTunes store is selling this song here if that's any good to you.

Next up: a Dutch song I just recently wrote about, I think.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Take all your money and then disappear

Big thanks to Conor for letting me know about this song!

Round & Round (Single Edit)

I can be pretty odd with my reactions to songs sometimes: in one case I'll love the verse and bridge but be completely let down by the chorus and so completely write the song off, in another I'll just key in on and love one small element and that's enough to leave me feeling positive about the whole song. Take the new US5 single, for example--despite the fact that the German-based boy band is already three years and two albums into their career, I don't think I've heard more than a handful of songs by them, so even though I loved "Rhythm Of Life (Shake It Down)" from last year, I don't think you could really say I've got a preexisting inclination to be especially positive about their work.

That said, though there are elements of "Round & Round," their new single leading into their third album, that don't work for me--the dorky spoken section in the middle by (I presume) their British member, for example, always forces me to fight off laughter--I think I could forgive just about any boy band sins just because of how much I love the sound of the "that girl means trouble" and "she's not your lover" lines in the bridge. Really odd thing to care so much about, right? I mean, it's not a particularly distinctive or innovative (or memorable for most people, I imagine) melody there, nor are those lines really a huge part of the song, but I adore them.

Elsewhere, despite what the flashy video might make you think, the song's an unassuming synth-based mid-tempo boy band song--unassuming not in a bad way, but in that it's not really in your face and that it's making no claims that it's some revolutionary song to make boy bands cool again (though for the record and speaking beyond this song, just because a song isn't claiming to be revolutionary doesn't mean it isn't). That may still sound pejorative; all I'm trying to get at is that it's a song that seems comfortable with itself (save for the "must mimic Justin somewhere in here!" "yeah"s that open the song [thankfully the song goes its own way after that] and maybe that aforementioned part in the middle 8 which feels kind of try-hard to me, albeit in such a goofy way that maybe it's not meant to be taken seriously...which means I'm already coming around to appreciating it in that way), which is a thing I like. I don't think US5 as a group are at the point yet where "comfortable with themselves" and "not try-hard" can be applied to them (who designed this cover? seriously?!), but let's hope musically they continue to move in that direction; at the very least, it'd be nice if they'd continue making songs as great and enjoyable as this one.

To buy US5's single "Round & Round," go here (physical) or here (digital). Since it's a new single, it'll only be posted for a short time.

Also, two other comments about US5/this song:

1.) Just to really destroy any chance I might have had at being taken seriously in my enjoyment of the song, the one that based on their website I think is Chris is looking pretty good in that video in a dewy-eyed young Jesse McCartney kind of way, no?

2.) Given the whole Richie scandal (world: which one?), maybe a line like "she'll take a taste and then she'll throw you out her mouth" should have been reconsidered. Actually, if you're thinking about the lyrics at all, maybe it should have been reconsidered, but then, I like how the sounds of the words fit in the line, so I'm not really complaining.

In unrelated news, Ola's new single goes to Swedish radio next week! I really hope it's good... The re-release of the album comes out May 28.

Next up: maybe that other Belgian singer.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I got 'em lining up

I still can't get over how much I don't love Belgian singer Katerine's latest single--and, as if to constantly taunt me about that fact, all the European iTunes stores seem to be advertising it. Sigh. I keep holding out hope I'll suddenly change my mind or I'll like something in the future more. Let's flash back to happier days, back when the Belgian Star Academy winner was releasing material from her first album, released back in 2005. I did a whole career rundown for her over on the HotStuff Files back when it was still on the Internet, but since I can't point you to that anymore, let's just leave it at this: Star Academy winner who set herself apart from your typical reality TV show winner with her second and fourth singles' attitude-filled tone. She's also got some Eurovision connections: she competed in Belgium's national final in 2006 with the song "Watch Me Move" (losing out to Kate Ryan) and in 2002 as part of a group. Far better than "Watch Me Move," though, are those aforementioned second and fourth singles, "Here Come All The Boys" and "Catfight" respectively, both of which are probably known to many pop lovers but deserve to be known by many more.

Take "Catfight"--even if it wasn't a great song, it would need to be more famous just so you could quote lines from it and have people actually know what you're referring to.

"You shouldn't break a kitten's heart!"

Here Come All The Boys--a snotty-sounding pop song that features Katerine describing how all the boys want her. I want to describe it as "bouncy," but that often implies it's a happy carefree song, which is, um, not how I would describe this song. Musically, it's not a "bottom heavy" song--there's not too much playing in the lower or deeper ends of sound, which kind of ends up making it feel all the more flip (it also means I sometimes--not always, though--end up preferring "Catfight" because it feels more...anchored). Even without seeing the video, I think I'd think is has a girls' night out kind of vibe. If anyone from this year's top American Idol contestants releases anything nearly this interesting, I'll be shocked--and pleased.

To buy Katerine's self-titled debut album, go here (physical).

Next up: maybe another Belgian singer.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Ingen sliskig komplimang, ingen fin restaurang

It's at times like this when it's probably a good thing that (I imagine) I don't have many Swedish readers--I'd probably get mobbed for confessing to something like this otherwise.

Let's get something out of the way: I LIKED Basshunter's first two Swedish singles, "Boten Anna" and "Vi Sitter I Ventrilo Och Spelar Dota" ("Now You're Gone" loses some of "Boten Anna"'s appeal, though, and this upcoming single for the UK I've got no interest in at all). If that hasn't sent you running away screaming yet, you might like today's song by Swedish group Kobojsarna.

Jag Vet Du Vill Ha Mig--everything about and surrounding this song screams that I shouldn't like it. Everything, that is, except the actual music itself (that doesn't include the lyrics, FYI--those are DEFINITELY one of things I'd write down in the "don't like" column). I'd like to claim it's just a matter of it being constantly thrown at me again and again for months--which is true; heck, it's even been adapted into ringtone format, with commercials seemingly constantly barraging you with their offers to buy the lyrics altered-ringtone--but, to be honest, I've liked the tune since the first time I heard it. What can I say? I guess I just think this is a really good example of that upbeat catchy bouncy happy hardcore/Eurodance stuff. It's not the group's first single, but--from my limited exposure to their other singles--it's by far their best. I guess it kind of reminds of what it would sound like if Markoolio went Eurodance (though come to think of it, when Markoolio actually did go Eurodance I thought the results were pretty fantastic).

To buy Kobojsarna's single "Jag Vet Du Vill Ha Mig," go here (digital).

Next up: maybe that Belgian song, or a singer from Montenegro.

Growing stronger and stronger

The video for Charlotte Perrelli's "Hero" is out.

I would provide some actual commentary but I'm too busy disco dancing around the room--"Hero" still has that effect on me months on. Well, except to ask: wasn't she going to be standing on the Globe for part of it? I didn't really understand how that worked, so I was kind of curious to actually see it.

(News via ESC Today.)

It was all we had

Pretty soon "Brief & Beautiful" is going to take the title of the most recycled song ever. Look, it's lovely--I'll admit that; it's got an exquisite melody. Though Norwegian singer Maria Arredondo's version didn't make my year end countdown of my favorite singles of 2007, it very well could have.

Spanish singer Edurne's Spanish adaptation "Fue Para Los Does" is lovely as well. I believe it was the first version to be released, with Maria's being second but the first to be released as a single (in Edurne's case it was initially just an album track).

For the international pop fan, another version really didn't seem necessary after those two--could any other version really bring anything new--well, new and desirable--to the table? Both Maria and Edurne have perfect voices for the song--they aren't the same, but both have qualities that mean they really bring out its emotion. We'd even got two separate arrangements as a result of Maria and Edurne's version. That meant that I wasn't really excited about Anna Sahlene's version, except for the hope it would mean more new material from Anna--there wasn't really anywhere new she could take the song.

Do you know what we have now, though? ANOTHER Spanish language version! But NOT "Fue Para Los Dos"--it's actually a whole different adaptation--it's got different lyrics. It's by Mexican group Timbiriche, who have called their new version "Vuelvo A Comenzar."

Plus, if you've REALLY not got enough of the song yet, there's always the demo at songwriter Hanne Sorvaag's MySpace page. At this rate, I'm expecting a version on the next NKD album and one by a Japanese artist or group that I'll probably never hear about...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Don't you forget it, don't sweat it

South African singer Loyiso surprised absolutely no one by picking up a SAMA (South African Music Award) this past weekend for last year's Blow Your Mind album (if you're curious, Best English Pop Album went to Tasha Baxter, who beat out Wafeeq, Jacques, Caelee "Nikki Webster [and Guy Sebastian and John Sutherland and probably more] covers," and a seemingly kids-oriented group called Atom I've never heard of--not a surprise, at least for me, either)--two if you count the one the album's producer won. The lead single, "I Want You" (the video for which was recently finally added to YouTube), a breezy R&B song that sounds made for summer, was a bit hit last year, and as a followup he went with a song that features none other than that aforementioned Best English Pop Album winner as well as winner of Best Newcomer--yup, Tasha Baxter, who's had several radio hits of her own, which might have something to do with why the song was chosen as as single. Then again, Loyiso's more of an established artist than Tasha is, being several albums into his career, so it could just be because it's a good song.

Blow Your Mind (feat. Tasha Baxter)--I know this is Loyiso's song and I've written about Tasha--and my reservations about her--before, but I think it's worth getting some of my concerns out in the open but in brief first: it's interesting to have someone on the South African pop music scene like her; no one else there--to my knowledge, and at least on a big successful scale--is doing electronic pop music like she is, and so I am glad to have her around. On the other hand...well, for some reason I've never been able to fully love her as an artist (though I think she's got at least a couple of good to great songs and if she keeps going and developing she's got the potential to really be great and worthy of attention outside her home country--maybe I'm just holding out because I've got high hopes?). I'm not sure if her guest appearance here is going to help me sort through that particular issue, but at least in this case I think I know why I don't necessarily love everything about her performance: there's something about the way she sings that just irks me a little bit--her tone feels kind of like...put-on petulance or pouting at times.

That's just one small complaint, though, because in general, I think Loyiso and Tasha's collaboration is a good thing: Loyiso brings his R&B-pop and Tasha brings her electronic pop, and they mesh really well into this playful but laid-back song with Tasha's synths and Loyiso's horns and melody and...well, I don't know who's guitar part; probably Loyiso's (I say this in terms of who they "spiritually" belong to, not who actually contributed them). For all Loyiso's boasting in the song, though, and its catchiness, it's not really that in-your-face, which kind of makes it even more charming--more coolly flirtatious than aggressive, even if still just as lusty.

To buy Loyiso's album Blow Your Mind, go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: maybe something Belgian.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Décide de ma vie

Introducing French R&B Willy Denzey may be kind of pointless seeing as I just wrote about him--as well as the song I'm posting--a few days ago, but here's a bit about him anyway. His first album, #1, came out back in 2003 and launched several very successful singles. His second album, Acte II, didn't have as long of a life in terms of singles, but it still faired significantly better than his third album, Mon Royaume, which, after the flop of the (great) 2006 single of the same title (which, I should add, is the only original song of his I know), was never released, though apparently it leaked (maybe even before it was supposed to be released?). Willy's spent the time since then recording the French version of "Bet On It" from High School Musical 2 and recording dance music (of the chill sort) for another project. Now he's back to releasing his own music, though, with a new single and a new album to follow (though it might use some of the songs from that canceled album; I'm not sure).

Décide De Ma Vie--and my love of cute production (done here by Kore of Kore & Skalp, the Raï'n'B Fever guys who, amongst their other work, did Amine's brilliant "J'voulais") strikes again--I never really had a chance at not liking this song. As mentioned before, it's got a percussion beat that bears a resemblance to Diddy's "Last Night," but it's cuter somehow, more fluttery and less insistent, even if it's just about as constant. It doesn't have the oppressive feel of "Last Night"'s beat either, which is partly a result of the fact that, full of cute little synth runs and with more singing, it's much less of a sparse song than "Last Night." Add in some deliberate stuttering in the second half of the chorus and I was guaranteed to fall even further in love; I've been running around singing that part since I first heard a clip of this song...which is kind of a problem seeing as I don't speak French. It's a sharp, clear song that's still adorable and, yes, of course, catchy.

To buy Willy Denzey's single "Décide De Ma Vie," go here (physical) or here (digital). Since this is a new single, it'll only be posted for a short time.

Next up: maybe something South African.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Like there's a love you can't even buy

(Major thanks to a commenter for getting me to go back and give this song a second chance!)

All Girls In Hollywood

Silly, silly me.

The first time I heard Latvian singer Ladybird's new single, I brushed it off--as far as female-sung Latvian pop-dance goes, I was far more excited by DJ Ella's "Shine Like A Superstar," which at that point I didn't own but had heard playing on her MySpace a while ago. I basically viewed "All Girls In Hollywood," which is presumably leading into Ladybird's third album, as fantastic production or backing music on a song that wasn't worthy of it.

Now, though, I've become a lot more positive about the slick pop-dance track--it's fantastic. I wonder if it was the accented vocals that first hid its quality from me? Anyway, at the very least, the instrumental--try to imagine it--would be amazing. There's so much to love about it: the build-up during the first verse--starting with beeps and some percussion and then with a racing beat joining in around 0:19--and then that exhilarating actual instrumental bit at 0:33, especially from :41, that sounds like it's designed for being played in a giant stadium packed full of cheering people and someone going crazy on a guitar (no, there are no crowd noises, and yes, the fast guitar part is subdued and very much a part of the dance music mix, but it's so...grand that I can't help making those comparisons), and then that chorus with its electro bubbles and little '80's synth touches. Just instrumentally, if you ignore the vocal part, it's not a million miles away from Holly Valance's second album, is it? Excellent composing (and production, I assume) work by Modris Skaistkalns.

I'm still not entirely positive that the vocal part lives up to the potential of that backing track--problem with the singer or the vocal melody itself? I'm not sure; I kind of really want someone to cover this now to help me figure that out--but I'm open to changing my mind on that (in fact, I'm already going back and forth and could very well end up seeing no problems with it and regretting any earlier criticism) and that's not stopping me from really enjoying "All Girls In Hollywood" at the moment. It's really vital that you've got headphones that let you hear the pumping of that background music, though (and to turn the volume up if you can)--it's that that makes this song so exciting. This is by far the best thing Ladybird's ever done--I really hope she continues in this direction for the album because that would really make it one of the year's most exciting pop-dance releases.

To buy Ladybird's new single "All Girls In Hollywood," go here (digital) or here (digital).

Next up: maybe something American. Or British.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Baby, this is your moment here in the spotlight

I'll freely admit that Latvian singer DJ Ella's new album isn't going to be for everyone--it's for those of us who love random European starlets singing over dance beats and who eat songs like that up, really (though there are some less dance moments)--but if that's your style, there are several songs worth hearing. Ella's record company has been really making a push to make her big (in Latvia), and to that end they've got some international songwriters' songs for the album, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that (as is the case for at least several songs, one of which is more of a pure "cover" than a matter of recycled songs like the others) some of the songs I don't recognize have been or will be passed around to other artists as well (but DJ Ella's version was a big improvement on the original, so I'm more than fine with it at least in that case). I've posted the title track and lead single, "Welcome To The Club," and "DJ Take Me" (which really is great), the second single, before, so here's another track worth listening to from the album.

(Side note: Eurovision national fans may know Ella from when she sang the Thomas G:son-co-penned "Heaven In Your Eyes" in Latvia's 2006 national final.)

Shine Like A Superstar--I think this is the latest single, though apparently "Kitchy Kitchy" was a single at some point and I've got no idea how it fits into the singles run. It's a big dance-friendly song with a kind of R&B-ish verse before switching into a big uplifting pop-dance chorus, a hands-in-the-air sort of thing which is so short that it really needs to be done twice in a row (as it eventually is) to have proper impact. The middle 8 is randomly one of those attitude-filled talky bits you often get in electro-pop that doesn't really sound like Ella at all, but there's no "featuring" listed for this track (then again, some of her vocals on "DJ Take Me" sounded completely different from what I thought we knew Ella's voice to be). The whole song kind of feels too short, but you can always go back and play it again, and I like the chorus enough that I'm willing to do that. Gosh, my descriptions are getting really incoherent nowadays, aren't they? That's sort of fitting for this song, though, which doesn't seem sure what it really wants to be or do--it's kind of bonkers in a "did they just take the verse, chorus, and middle 8 from three separate songs?" way, but that sort of endears it to me even more. To be honest, though, any song with this kind of chorus, this big silly upbeat dance-and-forget-your-troubles kind of sound, is probably going to win me over, regardless of what it spends the rest of its time doing.

To buy DJ Ella's album Welcome To The Club, go here (digital); if you really want a physical copy, you might eventually be able to buy it from here. I'm not sure that I'd recommend the whole album, though...then again, I do love all three of her singles (ignoring "Kitchy Kitchy") and at least two or three other tracks on the album. "Welcome To The Club" and "DJ Take Me" are also available on iTunes.

Next up: maybe something French.

You want it, you'll get it--just keep on working hard

Are all my favorite Swedish singers going to start pairing off?

Now it's Brolle and Elin Lanto. Semi-nice timing in the announcement on their part.

Speaking of Swedish singer couples, Måns Zelmerlöw of Måns-and-Marie is currently working on his second album, with tentative plans for a new single out in October and an album in November.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

We're like fire, water, the sun, and the rain

I was in a really boy band-y mood this past weekend, and I guess some of that has carried over to this week, meaning today's song is one of many getting play from me. Three person boy band B3 was made up of American members, but they were one of those "big in Germany" boy bands (Germany seems to have an exceptionally high boy band tolerance--or at least used to...I do wonder about that now, but that's a post for another time) that were never successful in America. They started out being to the Bee Gees what the A*Teens initially were to ABBA: their first album (released in 2002 and titled First) was made up solely of Bee Gee covers. Like the A*Teens, though, they moved on to original material for their following albums, 2003's N.Y.B3 and 2004's Living For The Weekend. I think in the Internet pop world they may be best known for songs from their third album, especially for "All The Girls" ("all the girls on the concert scene/wear their miniskirts and real tight jeans;" technically kind of in between the second and third albums--it was on a re-edition of the second album and on the third album)), but they did have at least some good songs from their second album. I like "You're My Angel" (repetitive as the chorus may be; it's the pumping beat that comes in during the first chorus that does it, that and the "oh-woah-oh"s, which remind me of another song I can't place), one of the singles from that album, but I like the song I'm posting today a lot more.

Easy Way Out--written by the brilliant Epicentre team of Fredrik Thomander and Anders Wikström (they've done loads of great stuff, but if we're talking about boy bands LMNT's "Juliet" needs special mention; they also did Natural's "Put Your Arms Around Me," a recent obsession of mine--thanks for that, David!) as well as Daniel Metreyeon, formerly one-half of the American duo React (speaking of which, how did I not realize their album was on iTunes until now?)...the other half of which was Tim Cruz, who, after his time in React, joined B3 and became one of two founding members who made it to the group's end. Daniel also co-wrote several of B3's other songs, including the aforementioned "All The Girls," and the Berman Brothers, the guys behind (in addition to other projects) React, were involved with many B3 songs as well.

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, "Easy Way Out." It's rare that I can ever put into words what distinguishes a good boy band song from a not-good one, but whatever it is that makes one good, "Easy Way Out" has it. I mean, is "catchy mid-to-up-tempo boy band song with chorus that's got a surprising sweet-in-an-anguished-way feel to it" really going to tell you anything? It's great, especially that chorus, which is fantastic.

To buy B3's second album N.Y.B.3, go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: maybe another boy band...or not!