Eurovision 2015 / Semifinals 1 and 2

About a week ago, I posted my top twelve choices for Eurovision 2015 based on either their studio recordings or their performances in their respective countries’ national finals. The funny thing about watching the songs in the semifinals is that some songs that sounded great in the studio fell flat onstage (often due to the discovery that the singers can’t really sing without studio trickery) and some songs that were just so-so really soared when the singer had the electricity of a competitive live performance coursing through them. There’s also a few other songs that failed to make an impression on me even after several listens but finally began to sink in at the semifinals. Here then, are my choices for each semifinal.

Note: Italy and Austria, my #5 and #6 choices, don’t appear on the list below as they will not appear until the final.

Semifinal 1, May 19 2015
Country Pre-Contest My Choice ESC Results
Moldova 09
Armenia 02 10
Belgium 09 06
Netherlands
Finland 08 03
Greece
Estonia
Macedonia
Serbia 12 02
Hungary 01 01
Belarus 08
Russia 05
Denmark
Albania
Romania 04
Georgia 07
Semifinal 1, May 21 2015
Country Pre-Contest My Choice ESC Results
Lithuania 08
Ireland
San Marino
Montenegro 07 02
Malta
Norway
Portugal
Czech Republic 09
Israel 10 06
Latvia 03 01
Azerbaijan 07
Iceland
Sweden 11 10
Switzerland
Cyprus 05
Slovenia 04 03
Poland 04

 

My choices for Eurovision 2015

It’s difficult to compare songs. If one song has a catchy tune but insipid words, while another has profound lyrics and a boring melody, which one is better? If a great song is sung poorly or a mediocre song has some amazing arrangements, which one is better? My mood can even affect the comparison: one day I might be in the mood for something slow and gentle, another day I might want something with a solid beat so I can shake my booty. And there is sometimes a difference between what I like and what I think is a potential Eurovision winner even if I don’t like it. And some songs don’t grow on me until long after the final.

With all that in mind, here are my twelve choices for best songs competing at Eurovision 2015 on May 19, 21, and 23 in Vienna, Austria. Note these choices are based on the studio versions of the songs. I’ll probably publish another ranking based on the performances of the songs that make it to the final if there’s a significant difference.

12. Serbia / Bojana Staminov, “Beauty Never Lies”
Lyrically, the nod to self-empowerment will be popular, but the song itself is good but not great; it may just squeak through the semi-finals, if at all.
11. Sweden / Måns Zelmerlöw, “Heroes”
For years, American singer Donna Summer was plagued by accusations that she had made homophobic remarks during a concert. Both she and several of her gay associates denied she’d made them or said she’d been quoted out of context. Zelmerlöw too has been accused of the same, and both he and some of his gay associates have said he is not homophobic. Will this hurt his chances at Eurovision? The song is catchy with good energy, but Eurovision voters can be fickle about techno songs, particularly with Zelmerlöw’s unusual pronunciation.
10. Israel / Nadav Guedj, “Golden Boy”
This seems like a somewhat grim year for Eurovision songs; usually there’s a handful of “naffy” songs, but “Golden Boy” seems to be the only one. Israel has failed to qualify for the final the previous four years, and as much fun as this song is, it’s probably not strong enough to qualify, either.
09. Belgium / Loïc Nottet, “Rhythm Inside”
A very striking song reminiscent of “Royals” by Lorde but may be too dark for Eurovision tastes. Could make it past the semi-finals on Nottet’s somewhat Bieber-like image and the song’s unique sound. As for me, I’m a sucker for good modulation, and the change from A minor to A major in the stanzas is what grabs me each time I listen to it.
08. Finland / Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, “Aina mun pitää”
This song has every reason not to make it past the semi-final—it’s too short; it’s punk; it’s not sung in English. And there have been plenty of hateful remarks made about the fact the band members have developmental disabilities. However, this song also has ever reason to be a very dark horse winner: everyone loves an underdog story, plenty of people have rallied in defense of the band, and Finland’s only victory was from another song that was definitely not typical for Eurovision: a heavy metal song in 2006.
07. Montenegro / Knez, “Adio”
Gently pleasing song with nice arrangement. I like the odd beat count in the chorus, but the fact it’s not sung in English will probably keep it out of the final.
06. Austria / The Makemakes, “I Am Yours”
A solidly written and well-performed song in a similar spirit to 2014’s Dutch entry (“Calm After The Storm”). Has the advantage of being the home team so the crowd will definitely love it. Good contender for the top ten in the final.
05. Italy / Il Volo, “Grande Amore”
This song has all the ingredients necessary to win: Il Volo has already achieved a degree of recognition, the guys are cute, they have great voices, and the stanzas surge to an epic chorus. It’s sung in Italian, but I don’t think that’s a handicap here—it just adds to the songs operatic nature. I must say, though, the music video is pretty lame.
04. Slovenia / Maraaya, “Here For You”
Part of the attraction is singer Marjetka Vovk’s unusual voice, but it may be a turnoff for the audiences. I’d lose the violin woman; she’s too distracting.
03. Latvia / Aminata, “Love Injected”
Another striking and dark entry that reminds me of both Albania’s 2012 entry (“Suus”) and Norway’s 2013 entry (“I Feed You My Love”). Not a typical Eurovision song, but I suspect its uniqueness will work in its favor and place it in the top ten at the final.
02. Armenia / Genealogy, “Face The Shadow”
This will be a very divisive song; the producers say it is about unity and tolerance and not a call for recognition of the Armenian Genocide—Armenia’s neighbors, Turkey and Azerbaijan, say otherwise. But Turkey isn’t participating in Eurovision this year and Azerbaijan would never cast a vote for an Armenian song even if it were about puppies and ice cream. Expect a few boos at Eurovision. Otherwise, a strong candidate for the top ten.
01. Hungary / Boggie, “Wars for Nothing”
This was my choice for best song at Hungary’s A Dal competition, and I’m glad to say it is also my overall favorite for Eurovision 2015. I first heard it not too long after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and with other problems happening in the world, its gentle but anthemic call for peace is sorely needed. It’s quite the sublime song, without the flash and pizazz that often characterizes most songs at Eurovision. If it were to win, it would definitely become a timeless classic. Alas, its quiet nature may be too subtle for audiences, so as much as it pains me to say so, it may not even make it past the semi-final, though I’ve got my fingers crossed.

If America entered Eurovision

What would happen if The United States of America suddenly found itself eligible to compete in The Eurovision Song Contest?

1. With 50 states and assorted territories, there would have to be semi-finals.

2. Alaska and Hawaii would never make it past the semi-finals because they have no neighbors to vote for them.

3. Some people would think it unfair that Georgia also gets to compete in the main Eurovision semi-finals.

4. Washington would send grunge music, Kentucky would send bluegrass, and Michigan would send Eminem.

5. The most significant voting bloc would be the Southern states, because heaven forbid a Yankee state should win.

6. Some Americans wouldn’t watch because they couldn’t find Europe on a map.

7. Indiana wouldn’t compete because Eurovision is “too gay.”

8. A no lip-syncing rule would disqualify 95% of potential artists.

9. Most of the English lyrics would actually make sense!

10. Americans would be mystified by foreign-sounding phrases like “dew spwah” and “noel pwah.”

Eurovision Song Contest 1993

Here are my choices for best songs at the 1993 Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in Milstreet, Ireland on May 15. Except for the winning entry from Ireland, I had not heard any of these songs until now.

My Rank Country Title, Artist Eurovision Final Ranking
1 Denmark “Under stjernerne på himlen”, Tommy Seebach Band 22
2 Italy “Sole d’Europa”, Enrico Ruggeri 12
3 Ireland “In Your Eyes”, Niamh Kavanagh 1
4 Greece “Ellada, Chora Tou Fotos”, Katerina Garbi 9
5 Germany “Viel zu weit”, Münchener Freiheit 18
6 Malta “This Time”, William Mangion 8
7 Slovenia “Tih deževen dan”, 1X Band 22
8 Cyprus “Mi Stamatas”, Zimboulakis & Van Beke 19
9 Netherlands “Vrede”, Ruth Jacott 6
10 United Kingdom “Better The Devil You Know”, Sonia 2

Due to the increasing number of countries wishing to participate in Eurovision, there was a pre-qualifying round for the seven countries which had not competed before. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia made the cut, with Croatia finishing the highest in the contest at 15th place. The other four countries which did not pass the pre-qualifying round were Estonia, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.

Cyprus awarded 12 points to Greece, but Greece only gave 10 points back, awarding its 12 point score to Norway instead.

Music from Ireland / Ceol ó Éirinn

In celebration of St. Patrick’s today, here are ten songs from Ireland (in no particular order).

1. Terminal 3 by Linda Martin (Eurovision 1984)


2. Never Get Old by Sinéad O’Connor


3. Raggle Taggle Gypsy/Tabhair dom do laimh by Planxty


4. Gathering Mushrooms by Clannad


5. Waiting For An Alibi by Thin Lizzy


6. Jiggery Pokery by The Duckworth Lewis Method


7. Lipstick by Jedward (Eurovision 2011)


8. Bullet the Blue Sky by U2


9. Evacuee by Enya


10. Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard w/ Markéta Irglová

New Music from Japan — March 2015

Artist: Kenji Takaoka

Location: Tokyo 東京
Soundcloud
Title: ペンシルロケット (Pencil Rocket)
Genre: pop

Toshihisa Yamada

Location: Osaka 大阪
Soundcloud / Twitter
Title: Sound Diary 2015.3.8
Genre: piano

Artist: Kiyomitsu Miyashita

Location: Tokyo 東京
Soundcloud
Title: Cookies Ear
Genre: electronic

Artist: DJ mijinko3

Location: Tokyo 東京
Soundcloud
Title: 夜明け-dawndaybreak-
Genre: piano

Artist: Mion

Location: Sendai 仙台
Soundcloud / Twitter
Title: Until morning Mion Track by Young beat’s Instrumental
Genre: rap

Previous New Music from Japan entry: Jan 2015

My first SVG website

I recently discovered Scalable Vector Graphics, or SVG for short.  For the non-web-developers out there, SVG is a way to create shapes or images on a webpage without having to use jpgs or gifs.  SVG allows developers to describe these shapes mathematically; it is not unlike plotting points on a Cartesian coordinate system in math.  SVG can be infinitely complex, and thus is not restricted to only the most basic geometric shapes.

In my first attempt to use SVG, I designed a website that had a set of “blocks” arranged in a checkerboard pattern.  But something wasn’t right; despite the fact these blocks were placed side by side, there were odd “fringes” around some of the edges.  Thinking I had miscalculated my coordinates, I checked and doublechecked, to no avail.  I also noticed some fringes would disappear if I resized my browser window, while new fringes would appear.  Since I was also using a considerable amount of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS for short; it’s a method for placing and formatting elements on a webpage) for the first time as well, I just kept thinking I had made a mistake somewhere.

checkerSVG222 checkerSVGzoom

Left: example of the blocks. Right: a closeup showing the “fringes” between the squares.

Finally I realized what was happening.  Because I wanted the set of blocks to appear centered on the browser window, fractional differences were causing these fringes to appear.  Adjacent colors or the webpage’s background color would peek through “gaps” between the blocks.  If a browser window is 1000 pixels wide and the block set is 501 pixels wide, the browser can’t render half a pixel to center the blocks, and so “fringes” would appear as the browser tried to compensate.

The solution seemed obvious; SVG can be programmed to “stack” shapes in order (the “top” appearing “closest” to the viewer’s eye, for example).  All I needed to do was extend the edges of the shapes that were “underneath” others so there would be some overlap, which would at least prevent the background page color from showing through.  Alas, the extensions would peek around the perpendicular edges of the adjacent shapes “above” them.  I still had the same problem.

Finally, I hit upon the idea of using angled extensions; they wouldn’t show around the perpendicular edges of the blocks but would fill in the “gaps” between them.

checkersSVGfix2

The angled extensions eliminate nearly all the fringing between the blocks when they are overlapped.

There are probably other ways to solve this problem (such as a “resist-dyeing” method of stacking shapes), but I’ve already spent several days trying to solve this problem so this solution will do for now.  I’ll know next time to take into account that despite the fact SVG uses exact coordinates, browsers can’t always oblige them.

Here is the finished site!  There are still a few problems with gaps where shapes cannot be overlapped (such as the left side navigational buttons “Main”, “Music”, etc.).  I sure learned a lot about SVG and CSS, though, and feel much more confident in my ability to use both in the future!

 

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