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Who needs guitars anyway?


Best Bits
Sunday, February 24, 2008

International Video Challenge

Representing Sweden: Pacific! - Number One
Pacific! are a male electro-pop duo (very 80s in sound) from my Swedish hometown of Gothenburg, and after their great song and video, Hot Lips, last year, I was excited to see the new one, which has the same director. Unbelievably, it's even more authentically 80s than Hot Lips, but it's not quite as good in my opinion, although if you liked the elaborate and stylish cartoon video of Hot Lips you'll definitely enjoy this one too.


Representing the USA: OneRepublic - Stop & Stare
This has been around for a while, but it's greatness has only recently hit me. I don't have any interest in hearing their album, since the (at times) Coldplay-ish singing isn't exactly my preference, but I am very impressed with the songwriting skills of Ryan Tedder, also responsible for Bleeding Love, Break Anotha (another big grower for me currently) and obviously Apologise. I'm definitely going to continue paying attention to his writing credits in the next few months, and hope he doesn't run out of ideas. Who knew someone who sings like Chris Martin could have such great ideas for pop songs? The sound of this one reminds me a lot of Ross Copperman, a 2007 almost-ran who had a couple of fantastic songs.


Representing the UK: Girls Aloud - I Can't Speak French
I can see the point of this video, that the song's about speaking French (or not as the case may be) and therefore they've decided to dress as French maids, but it's quite a slutty look, which isn't really fitting since French girls are meant to be more subtly coquettish than outright tarts. There's a hint of Marie Antoinette about it, which makes me think they would have been better to go down that much classier route, but I suppose this video will please the 'lads'. Let's just hope it doesn't alienate their female fanbase, or worse, make them think that dressing like this is actually a good idea. Nicola, the supposed shy one, isn't even wearing a skirt! Her hair looks pretty cool, though...
(for the song!)

Melodifestivalen Round 3

At last it is the week where my very favourite Swedish band take to the stage, and with Carola possibly out of the running, the way is clear for my beloved BWO to take the lead. Could 2008 at last be the year that Alexander Bard reaches Eurovision? Here are my thought on all this week's acts, as I watched or listened to them (some aren't on YouTube yet so I had to do without visual aids)...

BWO - Lay Your Love On Me
The backing music is very first album BWO, the chorus is excellently catchy and the lyrics are fabulous. This is certainly the best song of MF 2008 so far. I don't get the feeling it would fare too well in Eurovision itself, particularly due to Martin's singing which is not the strongest, even though the songs Bard and Hansson write always fit him very well. They are an acquired taste, but on the other hand they're quite popular in Eastern Europe already, which would probably ensure that they wouldn't receive nil points. Therefore, I am 100% in favour of BWO for Eurovision 2008!

Mickey Huskic - Izdajice
The attempts to win votes from the East have gone one step further with this guy, who is actually from Bosnia-Herzegovina originally, having moved to Sweden aged 11 (now he's a student in Lund), and sings this song in his native language. It's a typical Eastern Block ballad, quite dramatic but not with much to engage me, I'm afraid. It'll be interesting to see if Swedes are interested enough in success to vote for Mickey, or if they really just want to give the MF title to their most beloved popstar of the moment.

Frida ft. Headline - Upp och Hoppa
Rap on Melodifestivalen? An interesting approach, but I'm afraid it's surely futile. I think they're going for a kind of reggaeton style (apologies if I'm terribly wrong, but I don't pay much attention to this sort of thing) but it's not at all slick, although the general vibe is quite jolly and fun. I suppose they plan to translate the song if they win (and with such a lyrics-focussed song as this, it would be a huge transformation), otherwise they will certainly get nowhere, although the prospect of a Swedish-language rap song winning Eurovision is quite a fun one.

Thérèse Andersson - When You Need Me
Oh dear, Melodifestivalen has gone opera! Thérèse is presumably something like the Katherine Jenkins of Sweden, and sure to get quite a lot of votes from the large mums and grans viewership of MF, although in some ways it also reminds me of metal-pop such as Within Temptation. I suppose the same tactic could succeed in Eurovision itself, but I'm not interested enough in the success of Sweden to be bothered to find out. I'm still firmly on the side of BWO!

Patrik Isaksson - Under Mitt Tunna Skin
His name is one I know well but I know very little about the guy, so had to get onto my dear friend Wikipedia. It seems I only knew him from his previous MF entry, from 2006, although he's released 4 albums. He's 36 and sings in a rock-pop style, always in Swedish it seems. The song is pleasant enough but doesn't sound like a winner of either Sweden or Europe's song contests.

Caracola - Smiling In Love
This girl group make very unsophisticated pop songs (lots of oo-bop-a-doo-wops) but they are at least very bright and cheery, and I don't sophistication is really a relevant quality to look for in a Eurovision entry - in fact many Western countries have lost out in past years by looking for it. Still, the song and their singing are not really signalling a Eurovision winner to me - sorry girls, but keep trying!

Ainbusk - Jag Saknar Dig Ibland
An interesting concept here - a girl group but they're all the age of my mum, by the looks of it. The song is pretty boring. I don't think I'd be admitting it if my mum was in Ainbusk, although it would be pretty to have you mum entering Melodifestivalen. They seem to have been around quite a long time and have some links to Benny Andersson, but since I've never heard of them before it seems unlikely that their fanbase is strong enough to get them to the final - but stranger things have happened!

Eskobar - Hallelujah New World
Here's a pretty famous Swedish band, and not one at all normally linked to something like Melodifestivalen. They are an indie-pop band who've been around 12 years but had their biggest success with Someone New, featuring Heather Nova, in 2002. I can't say I was overly impressed by that track, but this one seems nice enough, although the singer's voice seemed to lack confidence at the start of the song. It would be interesting (maybe even a first) to have a genuine indie band in Eurovision, but still I'm certainly not curious enough to want them to beat my most beloved BWO!

So, the results are in and I have to say it's a bit of a surprise - Eskobar came last! The indie kids are definitely not caring about getting their bands onto Eurovision, after Lasse Lindh also did badly last week. The two winners are BWO (of course) and Frida, a bit of a surprise, but not a huge one as I do think the competition was pretty weak. Into the second chance round go Thérèse and Caracola.

Next week a few MF heavyweights take to the stage - the brilliant Linda Bengtzing and the awful Nordman, both who were in the final in recent years, plus a Eurovision winner from about a decade ago, Charlotte Perelli. I'm very excited to hear what Linda and Charlotte have come up with, although I expect the latter is almost certainly a ballad. Still I believe Charlotte will be BWO's toughest competition in the final, with Sanna Nielsen also standing a good chance. I suppose we shouldn't rule out Androla, and I would like to think that Amy Diamond will do fairly well, although I don't imagine she will win - I'd be happy to be proven wrong though, she's my 2nd favourite so far after BWO.
Monday, February 18, 2008

New Pop On The Block

Asia Cruise - Selfish (Video)
No relation to Tom as far as I know, this young lady is the latest r'n'b-poppet from the USA. The video is set in a high school, so I automatically thought of Jojo, and I suppose if you cross Jojo with Cassie you can pretty much imagine this song. It's cute and catchy, very sweet and girly. It's not addictive like Umbrella or Gotta Work, but it's perfectly enjoyable. The only thing I dislike is the breakdown at the end, it doesn't really fit and seems a bit unnecessary, although as it says 'to be continued' I guess it might be part of her next single. In which case, her next single isn't going to be very good!
77% Poptastic!

Ferras - Hollywood's Not America (Audio)
This track has been used very prominently in the last two episodes of American Idol, fittingly since they have been sending a lot of people home from the Hollywood bootcamp rounds. It's a nice song, halfway between a typical Idol-y ballad and a souly-cntemporary-pop-rock type of thing, neither of which sound terribly promising on their own, but obviously it's a great recipe for success, and being on American Idol makes that even more certain. I just think it's a nice melody, nice lyrics, very cheesy but when did that put me off before?
80% Poptastic!

Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown - No Air (Video)
There was a poll on Jordin's website to decide her new single, but it seems no surprise that this track was chosen, since it features Chris Brown. It's also quite an excellent ballad. It doesn't seem anything special to start with but it really gets in your head, using the eh-eh trick of Umbrella, although this time she's actually singing "air air", and sounding more like "aya-aya". I'm not convinced this is really how Jordin says "air", but I'll let her off in the name of great song-making. With the help of Chris, this could bring jolly young Jordin to a whole new range of fans, not just those who loved her on American Idol.
92% Poptastic!
Saturday, February 16, 2008

Melodifestivalen Round 2

Ola - Love In Stereo
I'm a big Ola fan, and this isn't as good as Natalie or SOS, but I still like it a lot and am supporting him tonight for definite. Proper pop music as it should be made.
9/10

Lasse Lindh - Du Behöver Aldrig Mer
The Ark's triumph last year has persuaded a few cooler acts to have a go at Melodifestivalen, including this soft-singing indie boy. It's a nice song but his fans aren't the sort who'll vote in this contest.
7/10

The Nicole - Razborka
She is some kind of Russian-French-Swede, but takes the culture of her first nationality for an attempt to win over the Eastern Block. It's a catchy song, the one that's stuck in my head, but I don't know if the Swedes can put tactics over loyalty and pick an unknown star.
7/10

Alexander Schöld - Den Första Svalan
Kind of like a serious, older version of Jimmy Jansson, presumably of German origin. Pretty boring, though.
4/10

Rongedal - Just A Minute
A jolly old(ish) man group singing very high-pitched, quite like Mika. There are 2 lead singers, both bald and dressed alike, probably twins. It's all a bit Right Said Fred but I do rather like the song. 8/10

Sanna Nielsen - Empty Room
A MF mainstay is back with a song in English, a Celine Dion-esque ballad with reminders of Bohemian Rhapsody. It's nice and well-sung, but not of much interest to me, still a good bet for the final. 7/10

Andra Generationen - Kebabpizza Slivovitza
A group of ageing 2nd generation immigrants from Serbia (2007's winning country) sing in Swedish about fast food - a rather strange idea and I'd like to say against the odds that it works... but I can't. It's awful. 2/10

Johnsson & Häggkvist (aka Androla) - One Love
Pretty good (in an anthemic way) but a bit calculated, which isn't always a recipe for success in Eurovision itself. Sure to win MF though, unless people vote against them in rebellion. A very strong underdog will be needed. 8.5/10

My predictions for the final: Androla & Sanna.

The results: Sanna is through first. Ola's into Andra Chansen, along with OHMYGOD ANDROLA????? Through to the final is instead Rongedal!!! How bizarre, I'm in complete shock!!! Now the whole contest is thrown open. Maybe BWO (who are in next week's contest) will have a chance after all! This is very exciting.

Belated Melodifestivalen Thoughts (Round 1)

Ironically I missed the first round of Melodifestivalen because I was in Sweden! I am however pretty excited about being able to watch the second show live tonight, as for the first time I'll be able to understand most of the introductions and interviews, and most importantly the results! Here are my thoughts on the first round, from last week, which I've just watched the performances from on YouTube.

E-Type & The Poodles - Line Of Fire
I love E-Type but hate The Poodles, so I was naturally rather disappointed when this song turned out to be much more Poodly than E-Typey i.e. shouty rock rubbish. What a waste! 3/10

Face-84 - Alla Gamla X
It turns out the 84 in the name is the year they're going for style-wise. The song is mediocre, but I suppose it isn't so different to what you get from Eastern European countries. Still, we expect better from Sweden. 5/10

Velvet - Déja Vu
She's been in Eurovision as a backing singer for Martin Stenmarck, and entered MF before with Mi Amore, but I think this is better. It's more typical MF-ish than her usual sound, and I've already heard it a bit on Rix FM so it should be a chart hit. 7.5/10

Brandur - Lullaby
A sweet-looking boy but a very very boring ballad. It would work as a lullaby, at least. 2/10

Michael Michailoff - That's Love
We've already got one Andreas Johnsson ruining MF (he's doing a song with Carola this year, basically giving no-one else a hope of winning), do we need another? The song is OK but as I said, unnecessary. 6/10

Amy Diamond - Thank You
One of Sweden's best popstars makes her MF debut, and of course it's great. A bit different to her other songs, and maybe not quite Stay My Baby, but it has some ABBA-ish sounds so I'm content. 9/10

Suzzie Tapper - Visst finns mirakel
Borind old lady ballad. Next. 2/10

Christer Sjogren - I Love Europe
Very cheesy, quite terrible really and not very funny. This is not the standard we expect from our revered musical Swedes! 3/10

The results were both a triumph and disaster, as Amy and Christer went through to the final. E-Type/Poodles and Suzzie will appear again in the 2nd chance round. Tonight I'm planning to back Ola, but I also like Rongedal's jolly tune.
Monday, February 04, 2008

Top of the Poptastic!

A little belated best singles of Janaury:

1. Robyn - Be Mine (UK release)
2. Alphabeat - Fascination
3. Those Dancing Days – Hitten (UK release)
4. Private - Crucify My Heart
5. Sam Sparro - Black & Gold
6. Hot Chip - Ready For The Floor
7. Lykke Li - Little Bit (UK release)
8. Britney Spears – Piece Of Me
9. Surferosa - The Future
10. Amanda Jenssen - Do You Love Me
11. Taio Cruz - Come On Girl
12. The Feeling - I Thought It Was Over
13. MGMT – Time To Pretend
14. Lykke Li - I'm Good, I'm Gone
15. Jaymay – Gray Or Blue
16. Kylie Minogue – Wow
17. Firefox AK ft. Tiger Lou - Winter Rose
18. Moto Boy - Young Love
19. Elin - Speak 'n' Spell
20. Mark Brown ft. Sarah Cracknell - The Journey Continues
21. Goldfrapp - A&E
22. Swingfly - Winner
23. Adele - Chasing Pavements
24. Laura Marling - Ghosts
25. David Jordan - Sun Goes Down

Forget Duffy and Adele

Amanda Jenssen is far superior. She's Swedish and her new single was written by Vincent! She has to be one of the coolest people to ever come from an Idol show. On top of this, I've heard she's also worked with the amazingly brilliant Marit Bergman on her album, so I'm definitely going to be spending some kronor on that. I'd also recommend this to fans of Amy Diamond, as Amanda's sound is what I imagine Amy will be doing in a few years.



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