ESC2015

20 Days of Eurovision on Facebook!

Did you know we had a Facebook page? To be fair, we forget ourselves sometimes. However, we’re at the time of year where we open that social door with 20 Days of Eurovision. Every day leading up to the Grand Final, we’ll be posting classic Eurovision entries with little historical facts and a touch of Woganesque snark. So if you wanna be on the hook, then simply take a look at Eurovision Lemurs on Facebook!

ESC2015

Vienna Prepares for Eurovision 2015

I had a chance to visit Vienna recently for work and took some time after hours to catch glimpses of the city as it prepares to host this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. In other words, I just sort of hung around outside the Stadthalle, which didn’t sound like much fun, but it paid off in two ways: there is a little stand by the U-Bahn station that sells a really tasty käsekrainer and also I met a famous Twitter personality!

Gregor and Chris

It’s Eurovision Creative Producer Gregor Barcal, everyone!

For more exciting pictures of Eurovision branding, read on!

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ESC2015

Charlie Mason Chats About Collaboration, Translation, and the Impact of Winning Eurovision

Photo courtesy of Charlie MasonCharlie Mason is an American lyricist best known to Eurovision fans as one of the writers behind  “Rise Like a Phoenix“, the winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. His career includes songs for Eurovision and for artists like Miley Cyrus, Ashley Tisdale, Eric Saade, and Danny Saucedo. This year, he has provided the words to two Eurovision songs: Maraaya’s “Here for You” for Slovenia and Bojana Stamenov’s “Beauty Never Lies” for Serbia.

Charlie got in touch with us to promote Ricardo Autobahn‘s sweet remix of “Beauty Never Lies” and we took the opportunity to talk with him about how he got started and how he does his work.

He began his lyric writing career by collaborating with German musician Dirk Homuth, who he met through a now-defunct website called LyricalLine. Dirk started to use his lyrics so much that, Charlie said, “eventually, he formed a band and called it Almost Charlie so that I could in a way be a part of it (even though I don’t sing or play an instrument).”

He came to Eurovision through another collaborator, Kristian Lagerstrom (who co-wrote Anna Bergandahl’s “This Is My Life” with Bobby Ljunggren). “He’s a big fan,” Charlie said, “and his enthusiasm was contagious. And even if it wasn’t, how can you not love Eurovision? That would be like saying ‘I don’t like music.’ It just doesn’t compute.” 

“…how can you not love Eurovision? That would be like saying ‘I don’t like music.’ It just doesn’t compute.”

Because he is based in New York, Charlie will often work with his collaborators solely through email. “I’m pretty sure there are some co-writers who think I’m just a blip in their computers that every so often spits out a new lyric.” He also said, “[Dirk Homuth and I] were just going back and forth about a lyric today, in fact. He was aggravated that there were only so many rhymes for the word ‘all’ I could pull out of my ass!”

He has had a steady partnership with Raay from this year’s Slovenian Eurovision act Maraaya. In an interview with the website Eurovision Ireland, Raay and his wife and fellow Maraaya member Marjetka Vovk said they were fans of his song “L’amore è femmina” (Italy 2012). In addition to “Here for You”, Charlie worked with Maraaya on their single “Lovin’ You“.

Raay and Charlie first teamed up to write “My Way Is My Decision“, a single by Slovenian skiing legend Tina Maze. Charlie said of the song, “…it’s one of the rare times that I think I was able to impress my dad. He was watching skiing on TV — the Olympics maybe? — when she happened to come on, and they played a snippet of the song. So I got to say, all casual-like, ‘Oh, yeah, I helped with that song.’ Totally random.”

We asked Charlie about the artistic challenges of translating a song into English. “It depends on whether the assignment is to translate the song with the meaning intact — which means finding new phrasing to say the same thing in English — or if I have free hands to just write a new lyric with a new theme to the existing melody.” He added, “And I don’t mind very specific tasks. If someone says, ‘Can you make this a song about a panda that has an allergy to ice cream?’ I will find a way.

“What’s trickier sometimes is correctly ‘hearing’ the syllables in the original language to write a lyric in English. When I don’t recognize words in foreign tongues as words, it’s sometimes hard for me to tell where syllables end, what’s an ad lib like a ‘whoa’ or a ‘yeah,’ and what’s a crucial syllable. So I often make a mess of that, at least at first.”

“Bojana and I talked about what she really wanted to say with the song, what was important to her, and I just went from there.”

In the case of “Beauty Never Lies”, Charlie worked closely with Bojana Stamenov to translate Vladimir Graić and Leontina Vukomanović’s song. “Bojana and I talked about what she really wanted to say with the song, what was important to her, and I just went from there. It just so happened that it was a subject that, for better or worse, I could really relate to,” he said. “So I just tried to write the lyric in such a way that Bojana was delivering the message that I wished I — and all the rest of us who doubt our worth — could take to heart.”

When asked about how his win at last year’s Eurovision has impacted his career, Charlie said, “I’d love to say that as a result, I wake up every day to find new texts from Kylie Minogue and Eric Saade clamoring for new songs from me. But it really hasn’t changed my career very much, if it all.”

On the other hand, there could be benefits to being a known songwriter at Eurovision. “Hopefully, the win will draw some extra attention to Bojana and ‘Beauty Never Lies’, because between her thunderous voice and Vlad’s powerful melody, it deserves that attention. And who knows? I could still wake up tomorrow to find those Minogue/Saade texts!”

(Picture courtesy of Charlie Mason.)
ESC2015

National Final Season in Review 2015: Our Favorite WTF Moments

Alec Asks WTF?

Sometimes, there are moments in Eurovision national final season that make us stare at the TV screen like Alec from The Bosshoss trying to comprend Mizgebonez. Here’s our collection of the weird, wonderful, and offbeat moments from this year’s national final season.

Latvia. The Riga Beaver. Ah, the magic of live television. Only when you sit in a studio audience do you realize all the tricks that make a live show run seamlessly. The video packages, pre-taped live acts in studio, and interval entertainment to keep up the crowd energy. About that last one… During Supernova, Latvian audience members were kept entertained during the ad breaks by a guy in a beaver costume. The devout Eurovision fans that experienced Supernova online got to enjoy this as well. The Riga Beaver saved his best for last. At the national final, the Beaver revealed that he could speak English. He danced, he rapped, and he announced to the world that he wanted to be a symbol for European culture. If the Riga Beaver does not read out the results of the Latvian vote at Eurovision this year, we will be bitterly disappointed.


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ESC2015

The 2015 Eurovision That Almost Was: The Big Seven

We wrap up our series of second place finishers with the “Big 7,” the countries that have direct tickets to the 2015 final. Part I is here, Part II is here.

Austria. Dawa, “Feel Alive“. Dawa’s style might be described as Tracy Chapman-influenced roots rock. They made the two-act superfinal, but only collected 22% of the public televote; the Makemakes won handily. The group got exposure by doing Wer Singt für Österreich, and it seems they outperformed even their own expectations. Dawa’s visible sense of relief at the end did not sit well with us, especially in the aftermath of Germany’s national final (see below). Still, Dawa has a compelling artistic perspective, and “Feel Alive” is a fantastic song. Had they actually won, we’re sure they would have sucked it up.


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ESC2015

The 2015 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal Two

We continue our look at second placers at this year’s national finals with the countries that make up the second Semifinal in Vienna. They are presented in order of the draw so we may contemplate an alternate Eurovision universe with 1970s-inspired ballads, male-dominated showtunes, fado, reggae, and joik.

01. Lithuania. Second place song, “The Right Way“; second place performer, Mia. Continuing the format initiated last year, Lithuania chose its song and its artist concurrently. “The Right Way” was a milquetoast ballad that would have struggled to make an impression on the Viennese audience. Meanwhile, Mia was fine, but we think she suffered from the fact that once everyone heard “This Time” as a duet, it was hard to hear it any other way.

02. Ireland. Kat Mahon, “Anybody Got a Shoulder?” Whoo boy, Ireland dodged a bullet this year. This Dan Fogelberg-esque tune was handled without a whiff of irony and felt completely out of place in this decade. The Irish regional juries in aggregate went for it because it’s lovely and sentimental. Molly Sterling only barely eked out the win thanks to the public televote and the Limerick jury. Jurors of Limerick, you may stay. Galway and Dublin, what gives? Do you still yearn for the sensitivity of the 1970s?


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ESC2015

The 2015 Eurovision That Almost Was: Semifinal One

It’s time for our annual look at the songs that could have contended for the Eurovision Song Contest title. If last year’s retrospective filled us with longing for what might have been, this year’s review gives us the impression that by and large most countries got it right.

01. Moldova. Valeria Pașa, “I Can Change All My Life“. It’s an unusual year when the jury winner isn’t the actual winner in Moldova. But Valeria’s conventional pageant ballad had very little support from the public, finishing a distant seventh. In contrast, Eduard Romanyuta finished second with the jury and first with the public.

02. Armenia. Internal selection, not applicable.

03. Belgium. Internal selection, not applicable.

04. Netherlands. Internal selection, not applicable.

05. Finland. Satin Circus, “Crossroads“. Satin Circus’s teenage summer anthem was our choice to come out of the Finnish national selection, and it did well with the juries. Unfortunately, the jury’s opinion only counts for one-tenth of the total at UMK. The public overwhelmingly favored Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät. PKN took 37.4% of the total score. Satin Circus trailed behind with 26.3% and no one else came anywhere close.


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ESC2015

National Final Season in Review 2015: Our Favorite Songs

As we start on our series of posts to wrap up the national final season, we will remember 2015 as a good Eurovision year. It’s a year where most (though not all) national finals made a good pick from the options available, and some (though not all) national finals had several high quality songs to choose from. Here are our favorites from the ones that got left behind.

Austria: Zoe – “Adieu”. In the opening episode of Wer singt für Österrich, Zoe introduced herself to the public with this adorable, retro French chanson. The first song was not eligible for the Contest, it was merely meant to showcase the artist’s style. Zoe’s performance was magnetic, and one of the judges aptly described her as “an Austrian Brigitte Bardot”. “Quel filou,” her would-be Eurovision song, tried to recapture the magic of “Adieu”, but Zoe wasn’t able to deliver on the promise and ultimately landed in 3rd place. Why can’t France send something like this?

 

Austria: Lemo – “So Leicht”. Austria ruled out Lemo on the first show because the judges felt the German lyrics wouldn’t translate well to the rest of Europe. Fair enough, we suppose, but “So Leicht” was nevertheless an elegant piece of singer-songwriter songwriting. The 3-minute version performed at WSFÖ was tighter than the official video linked to below.

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