Eurovision 2015: Eurovision in Concert review

First, the usual disclaimer about Eurovision preview concerts. It’s a good chance to see many of the performers sing live for the first time, but it doesn’t necessarily give us any indication of how an entry will do on the very different Eurovision stage. For example, whilst Conchita may have been welcomed as a conquering hero at last year’s Amsterdam event, the Dutch entry kept completely under the radar, even on home territory, hampered by a terrible sound mix and without the inspired staging that lifted it in Copenhagen.

So bear that in mind, as I run through last night’s show. You can make your own mind up by watching the videos of last night’s performances. The few on the official Eurovision website generally cut out the crowd noise until the end, which helps isolate the vocal performance, but for a comprehensive selection with a better sense of crowd reaction, head to the essential ESCKaz YouTube channel.

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Eurovision 2015: Golden Boys

Having covered the duets and the ladies, it’s now time for me to channel Louis Walsh and cast a greedy eye over the Boys. Memorability hasn’t been a strong point here either: as I start this article, I can’t remember how the songs from Moldova, Belgium, Montenegro, Azerbaijan and Australia go after 1-2 listens each. I couldn’t recall Daniel Kajmakoski’s Lisja esenski after 2-3 listens since its selection way back in November, and only after having heard the superior English version can I now recall the chorus. So out of the 9 songs I’m covering in this article, that’s 6 that went in one side of my head and straight out the other like a sniper’s bullet. (My experience won’t be universal – so tell me about yours, assuming you haven’t been listening to all the songs up and down for weeks, you masochists…)

Which male entries (oo-er) did pass my memory test? I absolutely can remember Israel’s Golden Boy after two listens – though unfortunately for Nadav, it’s not the fantastic Timberlake-esque first minute that sticks in my head, but the bottom-drawer pop-folk chorus that disappointingly follows it and that I think sinks the song. I can remember Cyprus, with its touching quietude. And I can’t forget Måns Zelmerlöw’s package, despite myself; both song and performance are precision-designed to be memorable, unlike much of the field.

Right. Cup of tea, hour on Youtube reacquainting myself with the songs, here’s what I think.

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BGT 2015 auditions discussion thread

Britain’s Got Talent 2015 kicked off last night, with Hull singer Calum Scott the early 6/1 market leader after being golden-buzzered by Simon Cowell. Three further acts from the first show entered bookies’ lists at low double-figure prices: 162-piece Welsh choir Cor Glanaethwy, roller-skating siblings Billy and Emily, and French ventriloquist Marc Metral with his dog Wendy. Please share your thoughts in the comments below as the audition shows unfold.

Eurovision 2015: Warriors for Nothing

Last time we looked at this year’s duets – this week we’re looking at the gals. Time to enter the snoozedrome…

As I commence writing this article, having only listened to most of this year’s songs once or twice, I have absolutely no idea how the entries from Greece, Netherlands, Albania, Georgia, Hungary, Russia, Ireland, Portugal, Iceland, Poland and France go, despite the fact I watched them all with my undivided attention (more than many viewers will do on the night) when they were selected or unveiled. Switzerland, Germany and Latvia also went in one ear and out the other upon first listen, and I can only remember them now due to having seen them a couple more times than the others.

The only female solo entries this year I was able to partly remember after the first listen were Malta (the chorus with its “warrior” hook), Spain (the chorus with its “ee-ay-ee-ay” hook), and Serbia (the chorus, plus the final 80 seconds that rocket-propel it out of ballad territory). That’s 3 songs out of 17. I doubt this euroamnesia is just me – the bulk of these songs simply aren’t designed to be memorable or stand out, and are thus failing the one-listen test (not to mention the one-minute test) en masse. Ladies, this does not augur well.

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The Voice 2015: The Final

Despite the brickbats, The Voice has chugged its way to another climax tonight at 19.00GMT on BBC1. It’s an intriguing betting heat too. Shading odds-on, at a best-priced 10/11, is attractive Scottish fireman Stevie McCrorie, long-time favourite based partly on the fact he’s, erm, attractive, Scottish and a fireman.

Still, his rendition of ‘Bleeding Love’ – with Dad dancing moves – in last week’s semi-final, wasn’t totally convincing, even though the pimp slot showed plenty of goodwill towards him. Pushed more vociferously (perhaps out of need) was Sasha Simone, whose nerves threaten to get the better of her in every performance. This somehow has you rooting for her. She’s helped by being under the paternal guidance of mentor Tom Jones, and is a best-priced 4/1.

5/1 shot Lucy O’Byrne, with her opera numbers that appeal to a certain BBC-watching demographic, is a dark horse not to be discounted. That was demonstrated when she qualified for the final from the coffin slot in the semi. The outsider at 7/1 is Emmanuel Nwamadi, whose USP of being able to speak and sing in a very low register, and thus manage a wide vocal range, feels least vote-grabbing of the four. Still, the outsider took the spoils last year, and the show has a history of producing the unexpected.

Some of our regular commenters have been keeping us posted with their thoughts throughout the series. As always, it’s been much appreciated. Feel free to keep doing so now we’ve hit the home straight.

Eurovision 2015: Year of Bloke and Bird

[Daniel writes: it's great to welcome back eurovicious with his thoughts on the 2015 contest. This is the first of a few thematic articles he is penning for us on this year's entries.]

National final season: it’s like your weird foreign friend who turns up on your doorstep in December with nowhere to go and ends up sleeping on your sofa for 4 months. At first you enjoy reconnecting with them and have a few good evenings in together, but before long, you grow increasingly weary of their company and start to realise just how inconsistent and frequently disappointing they are. Just as well that by Easter, they’ve gone again – rewarding your hospitality with a few nice thank-you gifts and keepsakes, but also forgetting to take their rubbish with them and leaving a bad smell in the bathroom.

That’s right, another underwhelming year has left us with another underwhelming line-up: like the last two years but even more so, we have a flood of songs that are well-produced and -arranged and will in almost all cases be well-sung and -performed in May, but which are unmemorable, extremely safe and with fewer hooks than Abu Hamza. This year’s vintage is one heavy on overly conventional ballads that don’t seem to aim for victory or even a high placing, let alone originality or sincerity (unlike 2012’s diamond crop), and as such, it’s perhaps a modern equivalent of the notoriously ballad-heavy Eurovision 1994.

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Eurovision 2015: Mar 21 Update

Caution is a watchword in many of our articles. Perhaps it’s the stirring of Spring, but I feel like being unusually optimistic about some of the last entries selected for Eurovision 2015. Punters agree: in the Betfair outright market, which is the best place to measure current sentiment, five of the breakaway top nine came to light in the frenzy of the deadline weekend.

Sweden top the market after Mans Zelmerlow’s landslide Melodifestivalen victory. Based on song clip, I was initially sceptical of ‘Heroes’, with its Avicii-esque country-verse-meets-EDM-chorus. But on watching the whole package including performance and staging, I think it ticks more boxes than anything else, and deserves its place at the top of bookmakers’ lists – where it seems likely to stay.

I take Mans’ 35.1% audience share in the Swedish final – more than Loreen in 2012 – seriously. A valid counter-argument is he had less competition, but runner-up Jon Henrik Fjallgren was thought likely to be a televote magnet after winning his semi-final, and could barely manage half the ‘Heroes’ vote. Zelmerlow’s song is contemporary and highly accessible; whilst it’s no masterpiece, that’s well hidden by its presentation. I’m staying on the right side of it in the run-up to rehearsals.

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Eurovision 2015: Mar 14 Update

If the bookmakers and pundits are right, tonight’s Swedish final will be an evening-long coronation for Mans Zelmerlow. I can’t argue with the polls and stats which suggest as much. ‘Heroes‘ promises to be a fan favourite and box-ticking front-runner in Vienna if selected, and Sweden’s Betfair odds have been contracting significantly this week as a result. I doubt there’ll be any significant difference from the utterly professional and polished routine we saw in the semi-final.

In the circumstances, it should be far more informative to focus on the Norwegian final tonight, whose songs we haven’t yet seen performed live. Current favourites Morland & Debrah Scarlett with the classy ‘A Monster Like Me‘ have fallen a little under the radar since the initial excitement of the song reveal. It’ll be interesting to see if a decent performance and possible victory tonight will change that.

The winning televote percentages in both events are something I’ll be looking out for after the results are called. Both shows should offer some slick entertainment; take your pick of the usually reliable webcasts from Sweden at 19:00GMT or Norway at 19:25GMT.

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