Sunday, November 30, 2008

I don't know what addictive hold you have on me

I can't say it enough: even if most of the disco and pop from Sweden usually tends to get a little too generic for you, give Agnes's "Release Me" (wisely the second single choice from Dance Love Pop and now with music video--embedded below) a try. It's classy, breezy modern disco, a string-featuring breath of fresh air with a chorus that sounds like the best day you've ever had. Pure joy in song form.

The song can be purchased from all countries' iTunes music stores here, as can the whole album.

Speaking of "Release Me," Nikki of Pop Reviews Now has started her countdown of her favorite songs of 2008. I adore this year end rundowns in general and am looking forward to Nikki's in particular--follow along here or via the main blog itself.

I wish there was a reward, but she took it all

Over the past few weeks, my heart and my head have been filling up and up with excitement about the music of Frankmusik. We've long passed the stage at which I might have had a chance at writing eloquently and with restraint about it--any sparks of verbal inspiration about the songs themselves stand no chance against the tidal wave of desire to write "Oh my gosh, I LOVE this" that's been steadily building. At this point, all I can really do is allow it to crash, and maybe try to spread the impact of that crash out over a couple of days--sure, it's going to be over the top and make a giant mess, but maybe somewhere among the debris some points will get across.

I've been reading in several places the feeling that this has been an underwhelming year for albums and I'd have to agree. If we had an album that looked something like this, though (in no particular order)...

3 Little Words
Just Fine
Missing You
Pinch Myself
Gotta Boyfriend
Made Her Smile
In Step
Done Done
Beep Beep
Run Away From Trouble
In My Shoes
Save My Tears
That Much Is True
Vacant Heart
When You're Around
Better Off As Two'd not only have one of the longest albums ever, you'd also have an easy best album of the year winner. You'd still have more than enough other great tracks to toss out b-sides and EP tracks right and left. To be fair, that's taking tracks from both 2007 and 2008 and you'd have a lot of sample or interpolation clearance to go through, but given how long people work on albums and the prevalence of samples nowadays, I don't think either of those facts is ultimately a restriction.

It's certainly been at least more than a year since I've been this excited about a new pop talent. The fact that someone is making music this fresh, this clever, this catchy, this fun, this gorgeous, this able to bring out both the side of me that wants to dance (on a giant keyboard) and my...earnest side, equally the perpetual romantic and the perpetual broken heart, is something I can't stop marveling at. That someone can make pop this good, this un-boring (I know, what an endorsement--"Un-boring" is the sort of quotations artists live for)--and even write lyrics I love--is almost unfair for other pop acts. How can a song with a great chorus possibly compete with a song that is great throughout? If I get used to quality like this, can everyone else compete with my new higher expectations?

For that matter, can he even compete with those expectations? Placing too much hope, too much faith in an artist can be a good way to get your hopes crushed, to end up feeling let down--but sometimes you just have to be that romantic and rush in, give yourself up completely and sincerely, in the hopes that this time, maybe, just maybe, it's for real. After all, if we didn't, no one would make and we wouldn't deserve music like this.

Buy the 3 Little Words EP here (physical) or here (digital). Edit: see also: XO's review of it (the physical version). His debut full-length album, Complete Me, is due out in March 2009.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

You're flirting with the music like it's your beau

Important facts about Darin's new album Flashback that you need to know (there will be a proper review--you know, written in an attempt at measured language--coming later):

  • "Seasons Fly," Darin's favorite track, was co-written by Linda Sundblad and Johan Bobäck, the team behind Elin Lanto's "Speak 'n Spell." It's also co-written by Darin.
  • Darin's co-written all but two tracks, in fact (those two being "Karma" and "What If").
  • The bridges (pre-choruses) to "See U At The Club" and "Girl Next Door" are AMAZING. Or maybe I should just say that I love them--I'm always anticipating when I'll get to hear them again and, if you think I don't mime singing along to the "sexy body" and "naughty naughty" bridge of the former, you are crazy.
  • "Road Trip" is SO. CUTE. and SO. POPPY that finally listening to it in proper quality was what turned me into the aforementioned pile of goo.
  • There are additional bonus tracks (besides "What If"), though they may not be on all editions of the album--probably just digital, I'd guess. The important thing is that they are a good quality recording of that live ballad version of "Breathing Your Love" I linked to a while back, a radio edit remix by The Attic of "Insanity" (I ADORE their reworking of "Who's That Girl," so getting another remix of a Darin track from them is like someone has and a new track, "Brought Me Back," co-written by RedOne.
  • "I lost my license, but I could still drive you crazy, baby" is ALMOST the new "not only does your body bang/but I miss the conversation too."
  • If I am not obsessed with some of these tracks for quite some time to come, something is wrong with me.
  • You can buy it digitally right here, right now, regardless of country (albeit in DRMed WMA format, but that's easily remedied by burning to CD and ripping back). Did I do that the instant I discovered it, regardless of having already preordered an autographed copy of the album? Without a moment's hesitation.
I should really post something like "See U At The Club" or "Girl Next Door" or "Flashback" or "Seasons Fly"--all edgier, more mature, or more dancefloor friendly--but I simply cannot resist posting "Road Trip." I've been craving this track since we first heard a clip of it back in that making of video, and I literally could not be any happier now that I finally own it. Pure uncorked pop joy.

OK, scratch that: I think I'm going to go with "Girl Next Door" instead, even if it isn't necessarily the most original track on the album (there are a few moments of kind of "really? There was nothing better to say?" lyrics, but it's all made up for by the whole "but I never made it to your crew" [or whatever he's saying there] section and the song's general greatness). If you love pop, though, you NEED to hear "Road Trip."

It'll only be up for a really short time, though.

Next up: as if I'll have the ability to think about anything other than this album for the next few days. Tomorrow I'll probably be gushing about some other track.

You saved my broken heart

I am a puddle of goo on the floor.

More in a little bit.

Friday, November 28, 2008

You gotta save me, honey

I need opinions on something: do you think the singer on this is Velvet?

Technically what that is is a demo for Lutricia McNeal--if "Same Same Same" and this song are anything to go by, her next album, whenever it gets released, will actually be pretty great, as well as pretty fun--but the voice sounded familiar to me, and after a little bit of thinking about it I thought maybe it might be Jenny; that opening "ooo, it's on my mind" sounds like her to me, but her voice isn't distinctive enough for me to ID for sure (and that's in a backing vocal-type part anyway). The most important thing about the song, though, is that it's fun, part pop, part dance, and disco.

What does anyone think? And, if you don't think it's her, am I alone in thinking the voice sounds familiar--who is it? Or is it just a matter of a studio voice chosen to be kind of generic?

(I should probably say that this song is by Anton Malmberg, who co-wrote "Same Same Same" and Magnus Carlsson's "Walking In My Shoes"...and I should also probably point out that Anton's co-written a lot of Luigi Masi's songs, including presumptive next single "Strangers Again.")

He looks like a million dollar to you

One of the best parts of my year is seeing a new Danny album cover. Let's be honest, topping this

is always going to be near impossible. Still, the album cover for Set Your Body Free (still due out December 24) is just the Danny we've come to expect.

Diamond that lasts forever

You can listen to all of Darin's new album, Flashback, here; I'm torn on whether to do so or not, given electronically-based music doesn't always come across clearly in low quality, but I'll probably end up listening eventually.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I know exactly what I'm gonna do

Given the whole holiday season, today's post will be (OK, really) short.

Lovely Alesha has a new album out and, for me, the main non-single highlight is (so far) this track, a fun quirky up-tempo track that is, oddly enough, the work of an American producer (as well as a co-writer of Rihanna's "Umbrella"). It's a song that few people but Alesha could probably pull off as well as great catchy fun.

To buy the album from which this song comes, go here (physical).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I want the real thing now

Another set of Melodifestivalen artists was announced today. All these singers will be making their debut as Melodifestivalen performers (well, the name acts--that doesn't count being a backing singer). All this information comes from SVT (to which all picture credit goes), Gylleneskor, and Aftonbladet; we'll have to wait for the real QX/Schlagerprofilerna update.

Mikael Rickfors, "Du Vinner Över Mig" (Thomas G:son)
I've never heard of Mikael before, but apparently he's played with some rock bands from the '60's/'70's and then did some solo work. I think the description for this song says it's in an '80's style--the sort of thing you'd wear a leather suit while singing.

Heat, "1000 Miles" (Niklas Jarl/David Stenmarck)
This is the song that it had been speculated would go to the Poodles or Martin Stenmarck, but instead it's being sung by someone else I've never heard of, rock group Heat. "1000 Miles" is described as being a love declaration in the '80's hard rock style.

Molly Sandén, "Så Vill Stjärnorna" (Bobby Ljunggren/Marcos Ubeda/Ingela Pling Forsman)
After winning the youth equivalent of Melodifestivalen in 2006, Molly Sandén, now old enough to compete in the real thing, makes her debut in the proper Melodifestivalen. "Det finaste någon kan få," her song from 2006, was a genuinely great ballad, which is why despite the fact that "Så Vill Stjärnorna" is described as a beautiful ballad about the magic of destiny finally happening, I'm interested to hear it. Molly herself added that the song has a bit of a Nordic touch and Christer Björkman describes it as a classic Swedish ballad.

Maja Gullstrand, "Här För Mig Själv" (Thomas G:son/Marcos Ubeda)
Despite Maja doing a sort of music I don't usually think of as typical Melodifestival fare--sort of brassy, kind of bossa nova-y stuff--she's sung a song that just missed making it into a past Melodifestival before ("Alla Dessa Ord," if I'm remembering correctly), so I guess seeing her in the festival isn't that much of a surprise. Plus, she was on Fame Factory, which means she's practically obligated to appear in Melodifestivalen at some point given past history. "Här För Mig Själv" is described as a groovy, trendy neo-retro bossa nova (maybe) dressed in big flowery yellow velour pajamas (that's the songwriters' description, really).

Next 3, "Esta Noche" (Michael Xavier Barraza/Jimmy Almgren/Adam Soliman)
Another group I've never heard of and could very well have been formed mainly for this purpose, Next 3 is made up of three young guys. Their song, "Esta Noche," is described as a fusion of R&B, hip-hop, and Caribbean rhythms as well as a mix of rap, reggaeton, and pop in Swedish and Spanish. Barraza says "Esta Noche" is a rap/hip-hop song with a schlager-seasoned chorus, but he's careful to add that the song is modern and with a Latin flavor, not influenced by ABBA.

Jonathan Fagerlund, "Welcome To My Life" (Samuel Waermö/Didrik Thott)
Aww, Jonathan! From the moment he was predicted to be in next year's Melodifestival, I've been wondering how fans of the contest will react to him--unless his music has changed some, it doesn't go for any sort of real electronically created sound, even though it's very much based on classic-style boy band melodies. The description of the song, "Welcome To My Life," certainly doesn't give us more information: it's a positive and happy pop track (Gylleneskor found out through an interview with Jonathan that the lyrics are somewhat biographical). Oh well, at least that should mean it won't be a ballad--there are a few too many fairly nondescript ones on his debut album, released this summer, for my taste, but that's made up for by songs like "Playing Me" and "Dance In The Shadows" that are just the sort of thing I love. Is he ready as a performer, though? I've got no idea. There's a very good chance I'll end up liking the song, though. In good news, he'll be releasing an album in tandem with his competition in Melodifestivalen, and he says it's got fewer ballads and the tempo has been sped up in general. He describes it, too, as happy and pop.

Rigo & the Topaz Sound feat. Red Fox, "I Got U" (Rodrigo Pencheff/Tobias Karlsson)
"I Got U" is described as a pleasant song inspired by the style of the '50's and '60's with a Caribbean touch. The Caribbean touch is unsurprising given that it's Rigo (and Topaz Sound) singing the song, though I guess I kind of think of his music as having a little bit of a light hip-hop touch--the floaty kind--though maybe that's just his styling and delivery on some of them if I'm really thinking about it.

In general news, a song not yet techincally assigned a singer has been renamed. "Människobarn" is reported by Schlagerprofilerna to have been retitled "Du är älskad där du går."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Da l' sam još jedna ja, pomalo nebitna

I don't compete in or even regularly follow any of the Internet competitions simulating or based off of Eurovision, but I'm glad they're out there as when you do stumble across them they can often lead you to songs you might never have otherwise heard of but which are great. Take Croatian singer Franka Batelić, whose debut single "Ruža u kamenu" ("Rose In The Stone") debuted through her HRF (Hrvatski radijski festival, or Croatian Radio Festival).

Maybe credit for the fierceness I feel from the song and performance should go to the choreographer and whoever was in charge of wardrobe, as the whole jerky time-stopping movements the tutu-skirted dancers do doing the whole post-chorus section are absolutely perfect for the song. The whole thing, though, adds up to what I can't help seeing as the birth of a star (previous exposure notwithstanding)--there's just something about the styling, the confidence, and, mainly, the song itself, with its odd pop sound, that has me hoping Franka will end up being interesting for the right reasons. "Ruža u kamenu" isn't a song I can really properly describe--mid-tempo, yes, with some half-agressive guitar-riffs, yes, but also with just a hint, a hint, of electro bubbling up here and there. And then that post-chorus section (or second chorus, if you want): the best part of the song, for sure, and one that makes me want to break out a more pause-filled version of the Girls Aloud hand clock.

In fact, that's it exactly: I want someone to take Franka away into a recording studio and turn her into a proper Girls Aloud type popstar--this song isn't there yet, but it's interesting enough and suits her well enough that it gives me reason to think she could get there. In all likelihood she'll never do that and will instead revert to fairly pedestrian songs like those that did well at the festival she was performing at, but when that happens it'll really be a shame. What are Xenomania doing in their spare time? Or, failing that and sticking closer to home, what's the main songwriter of Colonia doing? Let's match him up with Franka A.S.A.P.

I've got really no idea where to buy Croatian music online--if anyone has any recommendations, let me know and I'll add the link.

Next up: maybe back to the UK.

Messing around with the sound

Obligatory Darin update time.

It's just as well I'm not living in Sweden anymore or else I'd probably be buying one of these just to get ahold of Flashback a little early. Cost efficient? No, but I don't think I'd be able to stop myself since apparently store El Giganten is running a deal to give you a download of Darin's album ahead of its release if you buy one. I think the offer starts from now and goes until November 29.

We got a bit of a look at another of the promotional photos from this album campaign via a fan's photograph of a flyer thing. Get a look at it here if you're interested (it's not the same as any of the photos in this post). It's in the same style and location as the album cover but is more of a close-up. I like the look of it, but then again, I like the album cover. What we really need are some album booklet scans, though--the credits are the thing I'm most interested to know.

Darin gave another interview to a magazine. No real new information about Flashback--we already knew he was working with RedOne and his description of the music as "R&B blended with house music," though exciting, isn't surprising--but we did find out a little bit more about his work with V Factory. Apparently someone from Warner (US) called him up and asked him to write music for the boy band. Two of his songs will be on the album and--as we already knew--one of them (he doesn't name it, but it's "Love Struck") will be their debut single. Is the single technically out this year or next, though, Darin? I need to know for year-end countdown purposes...

I mentioned a while back that Darin had a record deal in France now; I guess it's through this company (which may be management, but whatever), which has also given us a list of the other countries they're planning on releasing Darin's music in. In 2008-2009, it'll be distributed in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Finland, and Norway and there are provisional plans to release it in Germany, Austria, Korea, and Thailand.

(If all this Darin news is starting to get on your nerves, rest assured that though I've got a tradition of obsessively over-the-top updating about various artists whose releases I'm excited about, it does stop or slow down eventually. Those of you who lived through the Blake Lewis deluge of last year will know that this too shall pass.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Is it ever real? I can't decide

(Note: I was actually going to post the song this post is about, but apparently my Internet connection is so slow that even SpeedyShare can't manage to upload the song before the connection times out. For now, you can listen to it here, but I'll try to update this post tomorrow, if the connection is better then. Links for everything will get added in then, too.)

I was looking through my favorite singles of this year when it occurred to me that there really has been a shortage of good...for lack of a better phrase, non-electronically-created-sounding songs. That's something that's a little crushing for me for, much as I love the disco, the dance floor, synths, the whole shebang, that's not enough for me. As I mentioned not too long ago, there's this certain gentle uplifting pop-with-guitars sound I adore, that I just might clutch closer to me than any other type of music.

I think that's part of why I'm so glad the reformed Take That are around. Their (best) songs have this glow around them that I just want to soak in, that--cheesy as it sounds--get you to that place of sort of personal calm. Certainly not all of their songs are upbeat--most probably aren't directly so, in fact--but even as they make "grown up" music, they've managed to keep the melodies and accompanying production at the level where the songs can still reach you, something the Backstreet Boys of recent years have struggled when trying to achieve.

I'm not sure why, but I've apparently developed a bit of a thing for random Take That b-sides over the past few years. I'd say the one for "Greatest Day" is pretty great. Unlike, say, "We Love To Entertain You" or "Trouble With Me," it's the swoony ballady side of the group, but that melody, that's all sigh-worthy, a sigh of the good sort. The intended centerpoint is probably Gary's big high delivery of the title word, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the lovely guitar-and-piano part that kicks in around 0:16 and that closes out the middle 8.

To buy Take That's new single, go here (physical) or, as is more cost-efficient if you live outside the UK, preorder their new album, The Circus, here (physical)--it comes out December 2.

Next up: maybe another British artist.

I try to be strong, believe me

Oh no. No no no no no.

Do you know what Nick Lachey's new single is?

No joke--listen to a clip of his version of it via this site.

I mean, I guess stylistically it makes sense given his last album and I actually like Nick (would I buy "All In My Head"? Definitely yes), but this seems off to me. Maybe I'm just thrown off because I would have much preferred the original group getting a hit out of it here, but, much as you could say Nick's voice fits the song based on that clip (and I might have loved it if that was my introduction to it), it kind of feels like, in both voice and production, a lot of the song's elements that made it special--beyond that melody, of course--have just been...whitewashed out, sandpapered away.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sweet dreams tonight

Not only is today (technically tomorrow or Monday, but they're out digitally now due to time differences) a fairly brilliant day for British singles releases, it just so happens that the brilliance of three of those releases is enhanced by the dance routines in their music videos.

Same Difference's debut single "We R One," a bit like High School Musical crossed with Melodifestivalen, has been out for quite some time now, long enough to know that as a song it stands easily on its own two feet. The video, with its reaching-for-the-sky-and-jumping-inclusive dance routine, makes it just that little bit more exciting, though.

Even though I estimate there's a 55/45 chance Paul will come out of his vacation to post this video, I still feel obligated to post it for him: their performance from tonight's X Factor of said single. Confetti! That dance routine!

It's a relief, though, to know now for sure that George Sampson's sample-riffic "Get Up On The Dance Floor" survives without the (great) video accompanying it. It does benefit from being danced along with, though. I think possibly my favorite thing about the song is the way it teases you with the Yazoo sample before doing something else and then eventually coming back to it, using it in a really great way. Conveniently, the sample's return ties in with the best part of the video--starting with George breaking through a wall--if you're watching it. It's nice to know you don't have to be to enjoy the song, though.

Speaking of short but great songs with great videos, Frankmusik's "3 Little Words" (the Stuart Price-produced version) is out now, too. Sadly, EP track "Better Off As Two" (listen to a clip of it on PopJustice--it's the second one) doesn't seem to be available digitally, which is really tempting me to buy the physical EP (hence why I haven't purchased any of the tracks besides the main single yet). I've already praised "3 Little Words" and its video (as is true of both of the songs before this one, actually), but let me just say this again: brilliant exciting electronic pop with a video that only makes you love the song more.

Moving away from dance routines (sadly), Take That's new single "Greatest Day" is out as well. It comes accompanied by the great (that word's the motif of the day, apparently) b-side "Sleepwalking" (as well as album track "Here," which is apparently on some single version) and a performance on X Factor as well (with credit to Chart Rigger).

Still love the song, still love the cheesy video which perfectly captures the song's aura for me.

There's "Do Ya," that McFly single out, too, accompanied by "Stay With Me," a cover. I know I just posted this video, but for completion's sake, here it is again.

I'll still having trouble rallying up as much enthusiasm for this album as I want to be feeling (though there are some songs I love), but hopefully one day it'll just click.

Don't wanna pull you down with me

Since DSTP introduced me to Neo (pictured here back when he was Linus), it somehow feels like cheating to be making the song I'm posting today one of his (which I know is ultimately silly--isn't [part of] the point of writing blogs to get other people excited about the acts we love?). I really can't help myself, though--I have to say at least a little bit about his debut album, One. As an album, it's just about as camp as all get-out, though it never ventures into dance-pop. There is a lot of falsetto, but if even I can get over that--let's just say I'm usually not a fan of that technique--I think most Swede-pop lovers will find at least some songs worth keeping; I know I've really enjoyed listening to it recently.

Going into the album, I was actually pretting convinced that the song I'd end up loving most would be "Flower Power Supergirl" and, though its chorus may just be the best chorus of the album, I'm surprised to find "Higher" winning out as a song overall at the moment. It just gets me a little more excited, a little more wanting to jump around; from its opening quick beats to the natural switch to falsetto to the '80's soundtrack-goes-to-Sweden chorus, it's just so much fun, never pausing to allow you to think too much about it.They're both great, though, so even as I post "Higher" I encourage you all to go check out "Flower Power Supergirl." If you only buy three songs, I'd say go for "Higher," "Flower Power Supergirl," and "Play The Song," though the latter, though catchy, poppy, and no ballad, doesn't have a fast disco-beat underneath it.

To buy Neo's album One, go here (physical) or here (digital) or go to any country's iTunes store.

Next up: something not Swedish. Pop from a female British singer, a young male British singer, or one of two British groups, in all likelihood (i.e., probably not very likely at all).

Always keep me in your mind

Doesn't Christer Björkman think he's getting all interesting and innovative with the way he's revealing contestants this year...

The man in charge of Melodifestivalen showed up on TV show Dansbandskampen, a reality show competition among dansbands, to offer "Jag tror på oss" (one of the 28 tracks already announced as being in 2009's Melodifestival) to Scotts (lead singer Henrik pictured above), a group that, as Europe Crazy pointed out, is one of the big favorites on the show (though there's some rules drama going on). "Jag tror på oss" had been sung (or reported as being sung) by Linda Bengtzing on the demo (in 2006, she sang "Jag ljuger så bra," written by the same people as "Jag tror på oss"), but there was some buzz that she might not be doing it in the contest and apparently that's turned out to be right.

Scotts have covered several great schlager songs while on the show--"Det gör ont," "Cara Mia"--but in dansband style, of course; it remains to be seen what "Jag tror på oss," originally described as fast Swedish guitar-pop with a sharp chorus, will sound like in their hands, if they do it.

(Hat-tip to Schlagerprofilerna.)

Make all your dreams come true

Clips of the Same Difference album (out December 1) can be listened to here. Paul's reviewed the album sampler, too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A rainy day reality

In news that I realize no one but me may care about, Christian Walz's MySpace is streaming his new album, The Corner. It comes out physically this Wednesday.

(Until about 2/3 into the album, I thought the upbeat '60's/'70's style [NOT of the Winehouse type] of "What's Your Name" was going to be a one-off. I need to hear the strings on "Loveshift" in high quality A.S.A.P., by the way. And the second track made me think he was going...actually, I have no idea what to categorize it is. Good, though.)

I'm makin' a list of things that I miss whenever we're far apart

Is this really the video for the new New Kids on The Block single?

The mind boggles.

(Actually, I'm thinking now it must be some sort of Germany-only release tied in with a German movie. "Dirty Dancing" was one of my instant favorites on the album, though, so at least the song is great.)

Speaking of mind-boggling music videos, the video for McFly's "Do Ya" makes me pretty sure they are crazy. I just wish that craziness came through in this latest album more often.

I think Chart Blog put it best: "A nice Christmas video you say, Tom? Something to remind people of the spirit of giving, what with it being a charity single and all? Sounds brilliant. Oh, Dougie ordered a set of extras dressed as zombies, so they're all outside. You do know about that, right?"

And I don't wanna stop

Am I ever going to stop writing about Melodifestivalen? No, probably not.

In interviews with QX, the first eight artists announced gave us a little more information about their songs.

Alcazar talked about "Stay The Night," with Tess saying it sounds like a combination of songs Alcazar have done earlier, with Andreas saying that it reminded him a little bit of "Knock On Wood."

BWO say they noticed that modern dramatic ballads do well, so presumably that's what they think "You're Not Alone" is. Apparently it's a song that shows off Martin's singing and they say it's this year's "Empty Room" and "Believe" (great...).

Måns Zelmerlöw says "Hope & Glory" is an upgrade of "Cara Mia," big and grand. He also reveals that there was another song he worked on with Fredrik Kempe and considered sending, a megaballad in a French march tempo, but (and this is why you have to love Måns) he decided that he "had to get to dance" or he would be "boring" otherwise. He hasn't sent in songs he's written to any other country yet (a song he co-wrote was in Romania's nationa final this year), but he has enough that he can and (probably) will.

I haven't mentioned this in a blog post yet, but the fact that Markoolio is the first joker announced has been discussed in the comments. Markoolio's song, "Kärlekssång från mig," is described, as Melodiment pointed out, as a ballad with a twist (and funny lyrics) and is from the writers of not just some of Markoolio's own songs (like "Värsta Schlagern") but also of 2005's B-Boys International and Paul M's "One Step Closer" and 2007's Verona's "La Musica." Damian pointed out an article in which Markoolio says there will be strippers, with Markoolio lying on the ground and crawling around. Speaking of Markoolio, I want to take another opportunity to praise "Emma, Emma" from his last album. It may have kind of cringeworthy lyrics, but if "Värsta Schlagern" was Markoolio doing a parody of schlager but actually making a brilliant schlager song with a lot of help from a female singer, "Emma, Emma" is the techno/Eurodance equivalent of it. All three of my preferred tracks from that album involved Markoolio being smart enough to delegate a lot of the hook duties and actual good parts of the song to a female singer, so it'll be interesting to see if he does that at all with "Kärlekssång från mig." I'm not counting on it, though.

With three joker spots left, the names being mentioned again and again are Marie Serneholt (would love her to be back with any music period, so a big yes from me), Orup, Darin (love him, obviously, but I'm not sure that I want him in Melodifestivalen), EMD, and Lutricia McNeal.

As Schlager Queen and Gylleneskor (among others) both reported, dansband Lasse Stefanz have declined to sing "Den Första Kyssen;" as they're the demo artists, if they refuse to sing the song, SVT has an option to disqualify the song entirely if they don't feel they can find anyone else they want to sing it. If that happens, another song--one of the ones that just missed the cut--would be chosen to replace it. In 2007, Måns's "Cara Mia" and Lustans Lakejer's "Allt vi en gång trodde på" were replacements, so you could potentially get something good out of a disqualification...then again, the current song could be great. The lists of the finalists (the songs chosen and those that just missed out) and the top 116 are posted on SVT's site (as PDFs--the former is here and the latter is here). I love going through in the months afterward and trying to figure out what songs released were Melodifestivalen rejects (I've got some list somewhere I should go find and see if anyone can add onto), so, though it's a bit early to do that with these lists, they may provide some entertainment in the future.

Stay close to me

FYI: Trixie of has just reviewed Take That's The Circus and says that, though "Greatest Day" is "relatively lacklustre," the album is "stunning." For elaboration, visit her site.

Jag vet att vi kan om du bara vill

Swedish singer Paul Rein's recording career took place in the '80's, but even if you weren't following the '80's Swedish music scene, it's a safe bet you've heard at least one song he's had a hand in: Christina Aguilera's "Come On Over (All I Want Is You)" (my favorite Christina song, incidentally). You also may have heard him on Nanne's "Kom Hit," probably my favorite track from her most recent album. I've been a little obsessed with his own music (which he was mainly responsible for writing) the past few days, though; his Communicate album has some real gems, especially in its more synth-pop or Italo-disco moments (the chorus of "Hold Back Your Love" has just a tiny bit of "I Feel Love" about it, though I suppose you could say that for loads of songs given how much of a definitive song that was; if you're interested, I'd say "Lady O" and "Hold Back Your Love" are two big starting points for the album, though I've got a personal thing for "Communicate" and "Stop (Give It Up)" might be something else to check out, though I think with its more mid-tempo feel it's dated a bit). I think, though, that my favorite song from him has to be his Melodifestival 1988 entry "Bara du och jag" (yay for the return of SpeedyShare! Sorry about the cracks and pops, though). It only placed below sixth, but every time I've played it it's never failed to lift my spirits, make me smile, and bring up at least a little bit of an urge to dance around '80's style (perhaps imitating something from Footloose?). Despite being in Swedish, it's a song whose bouncy catchy melody should appeal beyond just hardcore Swedish music lovers; it's a song I can imagine slotting in nicely into the PWL era. Lyrics-wise? "Give love between us a chance," basically--you know the drill. As a song? Just perfect.

I dread the day twenty years from now, though, that my much loved spiky popstar hair is looked back on with the same reaction we have towards '80's hair now.

I have absolutely no idea where you would go about buying Melodifestival entries from 1988, so instead I'll just say that if you want Paul Rein's albums, check eBay or Discogs; be careful you don't buy something in vinyl if you can't use it, though.

Next up: maybe another male Swedish singer.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

There's a part that doesn't even work at all

I have several posts sitting in draft at the moment, but since SpeedyShare doesn't seem to be working and Zshare still refuses to work for me, they'll have to wait. If SpeedyShare returns in a bit, I'll post, though. Sigh.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'm reborn at the discotheque

I've been meaning to mention this for a while now, but...

This is probably the best idea of the year. If I lived absolutely anywhere near London, I would be there, and you better believe if I ever make it to London, I will be ensuring my time there includes the third Thursday of the month.

Near London on November 20? Love Melodifestivalen? Love pop from Scandinavia? Go. I mean, a night of dancing to the best schlager, the best disco, the best dance, the best pop from the pop capital of the world? Brilliant.

For more information as well as to get a better idea for the music you'll be hearing, you can visit the Scandipop website.

Even though I'm sorry, I can't deny my sin

Do you know who I was missing a few weeks ago?

Evan. His Erasure-esque "Under Your Spell" was dramatic pop and brilliant. (This is usually where I'd embed his Melodifestival 2006 performance of it, but that won't get across how great the song sounds in good and studio quality).

Do you know who's given us previews of his third album?

Evan. Go listen to them here if you're interested.

For those of you who want more dramatic electronic pop, go straight to "By My Side." Actually, scratch that--it's more than good enough to post here. Still visit his site, though; there are three other full songs there.

By My Side--this is the Evan we know and love; the rushing electro rain that opens up "Under Your Spell" may have been placed with piano, but "By My Side" is still the electronic non-ballad side of Evan (though that's not to say he doesn't do a lovely emotional ballad, too). Evan's songs live for melodrama--it's their lyrical and musical root--so don't be surprised at the piano, the orchestral swoops and crashes, the heavy beat, and lyrics that are a desperate plea for the return of a lost love. It even gets pretty lyrically dark at moments, with Evan singing "walking down the alley, the lake is straight ahead/should I dive into the water and unite with the dead?", which probably reads ridiculously on paper but fits perfectly into the soundscapes Evan creates. In fact, I wouldn't expect anything less from him--his music is always accessible pop, but it's not pop of the everyday sort--this is the pop you'd listen to if you were a Victorian character walking across some windswept rainy moor at twilight after your false accusation of unfaithfulness had caused your lover (who had secretly faked his own death and returned in disguise as your tutor to escape an angry former flame) to commit suicide. Or if you were Hero and had just realized Leander had died...and you happened to have an affinity for electronically created pop music. In other words, thank goodness for Evan because no one else is making music like this, and my music collection would be worse off without it.

His site also reports that his third album is due out in mid-2009.

There's nowhere as of yet to buy "By My Side," but you can buy Evan's last album, Under Your Spell, here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: maybe more Swedish pop (I was going to try to write about something else, but I may post my original post for today instead) or that British pop-rock.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Been here before

I should just edit this information into the previous post, but it's Melodifestivalen, so it gets a pass. SVT also released a little description of each of the eight songs whose artists were confirmed today (and I've added in some descriptions from an earlier post). More importantly, though: (some) new pictures (all credit to SVT)!

Alcazar, "Stay The Night" (Anders Hansson/Mårten Sandén/Andreas Lundstedt/Tess Merkel/Lina Hedlund): good party track with odd harmonies. QX earlier reported that the song is a modern pop track in the style of the music Alcazar is doing now. Incidentally, supposedly their album is coming "shortly," whatever that means.

BWO, "You're Not Alone" (Fredrik Kempe/Alexander Bard/Anders Hansson): a dramatic electro-gospel ballad

Caroline af Ugglas, "Snälla Snälla" (Caroline af Ugglas/Heniz Liljedahl): a typical Caroline track and a ballad

Emilia, "You're My World"
(Emilia Rydberg/Fredrik Figge Bodström): "a tribute to those we love and the warmth they give us"

Jennifer Brown, "Never Been Here Before" (Jennifer Brown/Peter Kvint): the saddest track Burt Bacharach never wrote. QX earlier described it as a soul ballad.

Lasse Lindh, "Jag Slåss I Dina Kvarter!" (Lasse Lindh): an in-your-face danceable track

(Look, that's the picture SVT chose--don't blame me if you wanted to see more! They did give us this, too:

if that helps at all)

Måns Zelmerlöw, "Hope & Glory"
(Fredrik Kempe/Måns Zelmerlöw/Henrik Wikström): a hopeful love anthem and a track everyone will remember after the first listen. Musically a continuation and development of Måns's earlier hits. QX earlier wrote that the song is said to be a strong, modern pop track.

(That photo's obviously taken from Sarah's own latest promo session--she's got a new single out soon.)

Sarah Dawn Finer, "Moving On" (Sarah Dawn Finer/Fredrik Kempe): a dynamic, dramatic, beautiful, epic, big, strong song that is hopeful, but with a little bit of sadness. QX earlier reported that the song is a powerful ballad totally different from "I Remember Love."

More pictures? You didn't ask for more? Too bad, you're getting them anyway.

BWO! And they've "gone ballad" on us. Watch them finally win (though it may be a brilliant ballad--who knows?).


Emilia and Måns


Lovely Jennifer Brown.

Also, it's worth noting these people are not all in the same semi--just all in Melodifestivalen. We'll find out one joker tomorrow.

Wanna love

While we're on the subject of Darin, this is the tracklisting for Flashback, out December 3 (as verified via Bengans).

1.) Breathing Your Love (feat. Kat Deluna) (the lead single--we all know this by now)
2.) Seasons Fly (Darin played a clip of this near the end of the "Making Of Flashback" video; Darin's favorite track on the album)
3.) Road Trip (clip near the beginning of the making of; uber-poppy and catchy from the sounds of it)
4.) Dance
5.) Karma
6.) Flashback
7.) Strobelight (performed live and in the middle of the making of; urban clubby from the sound of it)
8.) Girl Next Door
9.) Runaway (performed live)
10.) Paradise
11.) See U At the Club
12.) What If (Bonus Track)

What was I saying about not obsessive?

Looking at me, do you like what you see?

(If anything could draw me out of Circus-land, you just knew it would be Sweden, right?)

Proving (!) that I'm not absolutely obsessed, here--a half month after its debut--is a performance (in shady quality) of another track from Darin's new album. It's called "Strobelight" and is the urban/clubby track we heard David Jassy working on it that "Making of Flashback" video.

In other Swedish music news--and as Troy and Scandipop already wrote about--eight of the Melodifestival artists were confirmed today. No surprises, but hey, it's nice to know for sure that these artists are doing it.

1.) Måns Zelmerlöw, "Hope & Glory"
2.) Lasse Lindh & Band, "Jag ska slåss i dina kvarter"
3.) Sarah Dawn Finer, "Moving On"
4.) Jennifer Brown, "Never Been Here Before"
5.) Caroline af Ugglas, "Snälla snälla"
6.) Alcazar, "Stay The Night"
7.) Emilia, "You're My World"
8.) BWO, "It's My Life"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Stah-ah-ah-ah-p and stutter

For a while, before I think too much about it, get all analytical, while I'm still in the rush of listening to brilliant exciting songs I'm enjoying, I just want to say this: I love Britney Spears.

I'll leave a trail of dreams behind me

An artist that lists BWO and Alcazar as influences? Yes please. Dirrrty Pop's just featured Jonas Oakland and, if you love your Swedish schlager and disco-pop, there's a good chance you'll enjoy his "Beat Of My Heart."

You're moving ahead so fast tomorrow's yesterday

One of the most reliable sources of quality music from Sweden is Von der Burg productions, the team behind September as well as the creators of countless other brilliant songs (including, probably most relevantly for today's post, the songs that launched Danny's career). It's no surprise, then, that I've been very excited about the debut single from former Idol contestant Gathania. While we wait for September to finally give us some new material, Gathania, via the Von der Burg team, has delivered her first single (for a short time only, as usual), a catchy dance-pop song that starts off as a piano ballad but then smoothly progresses into more dance territory while still keeping its lovely melodicness. Sung to a cheating (ex-)partner as Gathania vows that "now I'm gonna make you cry," the song, even in its more uptempo moments, stays away from overpowering hard dance beats, keeping those beats backgrounded to a certain degree (except in moments of vocal pause) and instead using them to simply keep the song interesting and moving forward (as well as to allow us all to dance). It's as good as we'd expect from this team, though where it'll ultimately rank in terms of their back catalogue is too early to determine; let's hope it's a sign of good things to come from the album, whenever it's available, though.

I have absolutely no idea when this song is going to be made commercially available (it will be, though), but until then, you can visit Gathania's management page.

Next up: maybe that British pop-rock.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Like a puppet on a string

(As predicted, here I am a few weeks after initially writing up this post, still not satisfied with it but posting it anyway. The key here is just that the song is good, with a great catchy chorus, great middle 8, and great half-epicness-creating backing vocals near the end. I actually am glad it's sung by a boy band--and not just Darin--now, too.)

I do love boy bands, it has to be said, but, contrary to what you might guess from some of the songs I've liked over the years, just any boy band won't automatically win me over. The music is the most important thing, of course, but there's also been some awful try-hard styling over the last few years.

I can't vouch for this American boy band's styling, but I have to say I think I've been won over by their debut single, "Love Struck." I've mentioned it before because it was written/co-written by Darin (and David Jassy), who I'm still positive you can hear on the track. At the very least, it's pretty easy to imagine him singing it, with those elongated "oo"s in words like "you" and "fool" and some of the high bits. Like most semi-urban-pop boy band-esque songs, it would quite possibly be better sung (fully) by him, but he's chosen to give it to these boys and I'm more than willing to accept that fact.

As mentioned, "Love Struck" does come from the school of urban-influenced pop, but either it doesn't delve so deeply into the urban side to seem ridiculous coming from these boys or the song is just flat-out great enough that you buy the whole thing. It's a bit dramatic, up tempo, catchy, and full-sounding. I think, for me, that last point is actually really important. I can almost imagine 'N Sync singing that middle 8, but I think there's a chance "Love Struck" is more appealingly pop than the music that group might still be making today if they were around. That's not to say that "Love Struck" is some pure-pop throwback to late '90's boy band sounds; it isn't. It does, though, eschew the skittery, more minimalist sound with odd rhythms that I think might have been played up more and more if 'N Sync had survived to today. I guess, since that didn't happen, the best we can do is look at Justin's solo material. At times, he does make songs where a strong melody is key and there are times where his more...almost experimental or avant-garde tendencies (or rather, his tendency to want to give his songs the sound of being more experimental) work really well. Other times, though, I can't help feeling like he's being deliberately distancing and deliberately...restrained in some way. This is getting hopelessly dense and I'm not communicating anything clearly--let me just leave it at the fact that many of his songs, in addition to have a few other elements I find off-putting, often feel more like a collection of elements than a song to me.

In contrast, "Love Struck," to me, feels more filled out and less concerned with sounding experimental (there is a difference between experimentation that brings life and excitement to the pop scene and experimentation that's meant to sound experimental, though the two sometimes overlap) is a full-on pop attack which, yes, is something you could say about the songs of late '90's, but with a sound, an electronic-sounding backing (somewhere between an updated second album Darin sound and "Breathing Your Love"), that also acknowledges changes since then, though not in a try-hard sort of way.

Being in a boy band still isn't cool enough that I can imagine American radio picking up on this song, but I really think it's genuinely great, and not just "for a boy band song" or compared to some of the other boy band songs we've had to deal with over the years.

This song isn't, as far as I know, available for purchase yet, but you can buy an EP of their music on iTunes here if you live in the U.S.

Next up: maybe a British pop-rock song.

Single step

This is the cover of Darin's new album.

That is all.

(Well, unless you think the "hypermodern, electronic R&B/pop" appropriate for the late '00s description tells us anything new.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ho dato fiducia al buio

(This is a post written a week ago.)

Unlike the appropriately gorgeous day we had on Wednesday, today has been overcast, not really freezing but with a biting wind, the ground stained from last night's rain, and I couldn't help thinking "This really is the perfect day for Tiziano Ferro's latest album to have hit the Internet," given what its opening track sounds like. It's a bit too early for me to write anything about it yet, though, so instead, today's song will be one Tiziano wrote but does not perform.

You may remember that Tiziano got in trouble for plagiarism once before when he released the excellent "Stop! Dimentica," dark brooding pop which, depending on your reference points and time frame, either resembled Visage's "Fade To Grey" or Kelly Osbourne's "One Word." Now it seems he's been accused of plagiarism once again. This time, it's for the similarities between "Novembre," the song he wrote produced for reality show contestant Giusy Ferreri, and a remix of Amy Winehouse's "Back To Black." Oh Tiziano.

Regardless, "Novembre" is a good song with an interesting sound--it's still influenced by the Motown revival going on, but as opposed to ape that sound straight-up, it puts a strong dance beat underneath the '60's-styed vocalizing.

I don't know anywhere where international residents can buy "Novembre," but you can always pay ridiculous import prices for a physical version of her earlier single "Non Ti Scordar Mai Di Me" here. Her new album, Gaetana, is out in Italy today, but I haven't heard it yet.

Next up: maybe that boy band song. Hey, at least I've finally gotten through some of the things I said I was going to write about!

Jag är tillbaks?

With credit to PubliSpain, Naked, the debut album of Dutch singer Nikki, whose Kelly Clarkson-ish song "Bring Me Down" is really shaping up to be one of my favorite singles of the year, can be listened to in its entirety here. Good news: another version of "Brief & Beautiful" (though it plays as track 8, not track 9 as labeled)! Just what the world needed.

Surely Markoolio can't be imitating Lady GaGa's "Poker Face" in his new song ("The Markoolio Anthem")? I mean, the turnaround time given when "Poker Face" started taking off in Sweden...they just couldn't have done it quickly enough...could they? But what other (modern, unless we think he's going Boney M.) reason would there be for that very distinctive "ma ma ma ma" after the chorus (not the one near the chorus's beginning)? It's a heck of a coincidence otherwise.

I am beyond thrilled that finally, finally I was able to buy John Barrowman's "What About Us." My love of that song (an ultimate sing-along-in-your-car, clenched-fists sort of melodic power ballad) still remains at unhealthy levels--I'm blaming you, Gary Barlow.

Speaking of Popjustice-featured songs, I also love Britain's Got Talent winner George Sampson's debut single, "Get Up On The Dance Floor." Yes, he won for being a dancer, not any sort of musician, but that hasn't stopped me from playing this song (via its video), basically a mash-up of a bunch of famous dance tracks, multiple times. I will absolutely not back down on my love of this.

Also on the front of tracks that will probably be marketed towards British kids but that I adore, we've also got Same Difference's "We R One." Paul already analyzed the video, so instead I'll just leave it at this: fantastic song and fantastic dance routine for the chorus, especially during the whole "together, together, we're coming undone" second half of the chorus. Just as he did when writing for Marie Serneholt's solo album, Jörgen Elofsson's done a great job of making a song that harks back to '90's pure pop but that's still enjoyable for today. I wish he'd make songs like this--as opposed to the ballads he seems to mainly produce now--more often.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I used to laugh it off, I used to look the other way

It's been out for, what, half a year now? And yet I've still never been able to figure out what I make of Erik Hassle's soul-voiced but not '60's ballad "Hurtful," insistent drums and all. My stand for most of that time has been that it's missing that spark, that it's not as good as it wants to be. A song that I might grow to like more if I heard it on the radio around here, was exposed to it more and it sunk in. Every now and then, though, I think that I love it, that it's brilliant, interestingly emotional, that it deserves far more attention. And then I won't play it again for a month.

Feelings have no thoughts and they ain't got any plans

I've been in love with Frankmusik's "3 Little Words" for a while now, but why did no one show me the music video until now?

Adorable. Love it. It's simple, but it kept my attention throughout, no problem. "3 Little Words" is out (in this version) November 24, which is looking to be a very good day for pop releases.

Take a listen to "Vacant Heart" while you're at it. Less processed, less hyper, still awesome.

You've got my dedication, baby, take it on

Back in late 2006 when Magnus Carlsson was promoting his second Christmas album, he took some promotional photos with armwarmers.

I think most people hated them but I thought they were absolutely brilliant. Unsurprisingly, though, they've not seen the light of day since that campaign.

You can imagine my delight, then, when I saw who's now taking up the task of bringing back armwarmers...

...more popstars should wear them.

In news that you all may actually care about, Danny's new album, still due out this December 24, is called Set Your Body Free. Very dance-pop sounding, which is a good thing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vill du gå eller stanna?

Swedish singer Lisette Vares sounds like a mix of a schlager diva, Cascada, and something of the more gentle dance type. For some people, that's going to be an awful combination, but to me, it adds up to something I have an awful lot of patience for (and that's an understatement). As far as I know, she doesn't really have a proper record deal, so so far her songs are just for us to enjoy and, even if none of them might be one massive breakthrough-type smash, they add up to an unfailingly enjoyable listening experience. Sometimes, as much as you admire singers' desire to try different things artistically and appreciate that for them nonstop uptempo dance and schlager beats might not be what they want to pursue, you really just want an album to put on that allows you to never stop dancing. If we can judge based on all the songs she's shared so far, that's what Lisette would give us, and I love that about her.

Choosing which song of hers to share is actually really difficult. My big favorite at the moment is the lovely "On Your Mind," but it's one of her more restrained tracks (though still dance--just more sad and pensive) and in that way might not be the best introduction (I love it so much that it may get its own post in the near future, though). Everything else is so close in (good) quality that I really don't know what to go with. Let's about "Älskar, Älskar Inte," a schlager-dance song which at points feels like the production could be a little more professional but is still fun and comes complete with big shouty keychangey bits near the end.

As I said, I don't know of any of Lisette Vares's songs being actually released, so in lieu of linking you to somewhere to buy her work, I'll just link to her MySpace. I really like her, so I'm hoping she'll get the chance to get some exposure beyond Eurovision backing dancer some day.

Next up: maybe that Italian song or boy band song.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Closer isn't close enough

"Wanna Feel Real," the presumptive eventual debut single from Sweden's The Provider (Sebastian Larsson), who has connections to frequent Danny collaborator Oscar Görres, isn't a song I imagine as a radio hit in Sweden, as cute, poppy, and commercial as the electronic beats that provide its musical backing are--the song's just a little too willing to be stop-start with its music for me to envision that happening. More to the point, "Wanna Feel Real" is likely to be seen as too "in the middle," with music that in its playful commercial joy and catchiness is like pure pop but in its willingness to avoid a straightforward pop vocal part is a little more like the credible electro-pop that makes up part of Sweden's "underground." If the beats were just a little less shiny, the singer's voice more deliberately odd, perhaps then the song would fall easily into the category of "cool" and people would know what to do with it.

To say that the singer avoids putting on odd vocal mannerisms or sounding twee (and in that way goes for a welcome commercial sound), though, isn't really to get across what the vocals of "Wanna Feel Real" are like: for much of the song, and particularly so in the beginning, they've been processed, made to sound more robotic in a way that gives added meaning to the "Wanna feel real" line that gives the song its title, and yet despite that processing, there's something about them that remains very recognizably human--just buffed to a shine to match the rest of the music.

My (hopefully unnecessary) pessimism about radio play, though, is outshone by my love of this song, electronic music unafraid to completely embrace pop music without any restrictions. Maybe my love is no surprise--anything poppy with elements of cute has a good chance of winning me over (though I think, when done successfully, daring to do cute is quite brave in today's musical environment, but that's a post for another day)--but there's still something so happy, so bouncy, so "good things can come in small packages" (which often contain more than meets the eye--there's something kind of computerized Pinocchio about this song, albeit presumably as a metaphor), so celebratory about life about this song--despite a middle eight that's a little bit of a step back--that I'm hoping it'll win over at least a few other people too.

There's nowhere to buy this single (posted for a short time), but you can visit The Provider's MySpace instead.

Next up: maybe that Italian song or that boy band song or another Swedish song.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It just goes on and on and on and on

I don't think I'd heard of Lutricia McNeal's songs before this one, but, if I can take Wikipedia's word for it, she's an American singer who's done a lot of recording in Sweden, first as the vocalist for some Rob'n'Raz early '90's dance songs and then moving on to a solo career still supported partially by Swedish songwriters.

What we're here to discuss, though, isn't any of the songs from her past, but rather the song that's been said to be the lead single for her latest album but has been in limbo for months.

Same Same Same--from what I YouTubed of Lutricia's music, I'd say this is a surprisingly poppy mid/up-tempo sound from her. The opening isn't the most auspicious thing in the world, but if the good verses or great bridge fail to totally win you over, I think the chorus just might do the trick--it's not a big declarative statement sort of song, but that chorus is really catchy, lovely and poppy at the same time. There's a little vocal processing going on at moments, in a way that kind of reminds me of Donna Summer's latest album, but it's not at the level that the song opening makes you think it's going to be; more just little tweaks in the answer-back part of the chorus to make the preceding and following multi-layered "You're the same same same"s seem even stronger. Maybe it makes sense that this song hasn't come out yet--in today's environment, I can't really imagine it getting loads of radio play in the UK or U.S. (though I don't think she'd even be targeting those markets--I get the feeling she's now one of those Japanese release sort of artists), but it's the sort of thing I definitely play a lot.

Since this single hasn't been released anywhere yet (to my knowledge), I can't recommend anywhere for you to buy it, but you can pick up Lutricia McNeal's greatest hits album here (physical).

Next up: maybe that Italian song, boy band song, or a Swedish song.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Now the ice is melting

Only six months early, it's Eurovision round-up time!

You know what would be the best news ever? Well, not quite ever, but close: Israel choosing Harel Skaat. And there's a decent chance of it happening, too. It's something I've been wanting to happen for a while now and I promise his voice/music is at least part of that desire. If you're looking for his best songs, the standard recommendation is the ballad "Ve'at," but as a girl more fond of something with a bit more BPM to it, my absolute favorite is "Haruah Teshane At Kivana" (you can't imagine how beyond thrilled I'd be if he sang a song like that and that good for the contest, even as much as I'm expecting a ballad given the general love from everyone besides me for "Ve'at" out there) with "Kamah Od Efshar" running a very respectable second; see below for "Haruah Teshane At Kivana." Like Shiri Maimon, he took second in Israel's Idols-knockoff. He's turned down the chance several times in the past, but it sounds like he's looking favorably on it now.

I'd also like to throw in I think he looks better in videos (not this particular one) than in photos. PRETTY.

(In my defense, this post was written up before the Schlagerboys' one.)

Turkey has chosen Belgian R&B-pop singer Hadise to represent them this year. If you want to get a feel for what she's like, watch her awards show performance of "Bad Boy" (well, sort of of "Bad Boy"), a single from a few years ago.

Granted, that (great) performance is mainly just flames, flashing lights, and strutting, but those aren't forbidden on the Eurovision stage, so let's hope Hadise brings it with her choice of song. For more Hadise, check out one of her more recent singles, this year's "I'm A Slave 4 U"-esque "My Body."

News possibly better than that of Harel Skaat going to Eurovision? The fact that Greece has already announced that its song this year will be written by Dimitris Kontopoulos, whose brilliance I was first made aware of when WTBX introduced me to Elli Kokkinou's still awesome revvy dance-pop masterpiece "Ise oti thelo."

Greece has also chosen their artist, who'll be performing multiple Dimitris songs before one is chosen. The set artist is one who's worked with Dimitris before: Sakis Rouvas. Yes, of "Shake It" fame--he took that song to a third place finish at Eurovision in 2004--of a whole lot of fame in Greece (as well as a couple of write-ups here on this blog), and of some songs much better than the enjoyable but not too long-lasting "Shake It." His latest single, "Kai Se Thelo," is, in fact, written by Dimitris Kontopoulos (another thanks to WTBX for introducing me to this song) and is one of those better songs.

Can you see why I love this songwriter? Hard-hitting revvy danceable pop music...sigh. Please don't let us down, Dimitris! Give Sakis an awesome song like this one and let him go out-Ricky-Martin Ricky Martin across the stage and we're good to go.

Dimitris has made some non-dance great songs, too, though. My favorite song out of Greece's national final this year was Kostas Martakis's "Always And Forever," originally a pop-with-guitars song of the sort that I'm a sucker for--that uptempo-but-gentle, uplifting, pop-with-guitars sound. He did dance it up for the show, though--much more of a typical Kontopoulos sound. Way underrated, this song is.

I also love "Stous 31 Dromous," another song Dimitris gave to Sakis. It's still got those dance/electro elements in it, but this time, they're dreamy, not disco. Lovely.

Moving back to the revvy dance-pop, Dimitris also wrote Anna Vissi's "Welcome To The Party" from Greece's 2006 national final.

There was also speculation that Dimitris wrote Ani Lorak's "Shady Lady," but I don't believe that was ever confirmed; I do think, though, that we know he did some production work on it. In other words, let's all get very excited about Greece's song now. I may be setting myself up for disappointment, but so be it--he's delivered in the past, he can deliver again.