Söngvakeppnin 2015 (Icelandic selection for Eurovision)

Iceland has twelve excellent songs competing in Söngvakeppnin 2015 for the honor of going to Eurovision, and much like with the Estonians, there’s a good diversity of music.  My average score for the Icelandic songs was 3.92 (on a 5-point scale), and so it was a difficult task ranking them, especially as I am always debating between the songs I like and the songs I think would do well at Eurovision (not always the same). My guess is a ballad sung by one of the ladies will go to Vienna, but there are a couple of dark horses: the selection of either the offbeat techno of “Fjaðrir” by SUNDAY (somewhat reminiscent of Norway’s 2013 entry, “I Feed You My Love” performed by Margaret Berger) or the irresistable Kylie Minogue-esque dance beat of “Fyrir alla” by CADEM could happen.

My Rank Title, Artist Semifinal Final
1 “Brotið gler” (Shattered glass) , Bjarni Lárus Hall  SF2 – eliminated
2 “Milljón augnablik” (A million moments) , Haukur Heiðar Hauksson SF2 – qualified
3 “Þú leitar líka að mér” (You’re also searching for me) , HINEMOA SF1 – eliminated
4 “Augnablik” (Moment) , Stefanía Svavarsdóttir SF1 – eliminated
5 “Fjaðrir” (Feathers), SUNDAY SF2 – qualified
6 “Myrkrið hljótt” (Silent darkness) , Erna Hrönn Ólafsdóttir SF1 – eliminated
7 “Aldrei of seint” (Never too late) , Regína Ósk SF2 – eliminated
8 “Fyrir alla” (For everyone) , CADEM SF2 – qualified
9 “Piltur og stúlka” (Boys and girls) , Björn og félagar SF1 – qualified
10 “Í kvöld” (Tonight) , Elín Sif Halldórsdóttir SF1 – qualified

There will be two semi-finals held in Iceland on January 31 and February 7; I will update this page with the results on those dates. Good luck and “Gangi þér vel!” to all the participants in Söngvakeppnin 2015.  The 2015 Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Vienna, Austria on May 19, 21, and 23, 2015.

February 16 2015 update: none of my top ten choices were chosen to represent Iceland! Instead, María Ólafsdóttir will perform “Unbroken” (original Icelandic title, “Lítil skref”) at the second semi-final on May 21 in Vienna. Good luck, María!

A Dal 2015 (Hungarian selection for Eurovision 2015)

What are the odds of two young women with similar names, singing songs built around acoustic guitar arrangements with lyrics pleading for peace, entering Hungary’s A Dal contest to choose a song for the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest? But that is exactly what has happened with Boggie’s “Wars for Nothing” and Bogi’s “World of Violence”.  Both are good songs, but I have chosen Boggie’s song as the best from a group of 30 songs overall.  “Wars for Nothing” may be too subtle to win in an increasingly flashy contest like Eurovision, but it would be a shame if it weren’t even chosen to represent Hungary, and as we are reminded by events like the Charlie Hebdo shooting, we could use a little peace right now.  World events aside, “Wars For Nothing” is still a beautifully understated song.

My Rank Title, Artist Heat Rank Semifinal Rank Final Rank
1 “Wars For Nothing”, Boggie Heat 3 – QUALIFIED SF1 – QUALIFIED WIN!
2 “Gyémánt” (Diamond), Vera Tóth Heat 1 – QUALIFIED SF1 – eliminated
3 “Kicsi a világ, de nagy világ” (Little world, but big world), Pankastic! Heat 2 – QUALIFIED SF1 – eliminated
4 “Untold Story”, Other Planet Heat 3 – QUALIFIED SF2 – eliminated
5 “Hol a határ” (Where’s the borderline?), Proof of Life Heat 3 – eliminated
6 “Our Time”, Saci Szécsi & Böbe Szécsi Heat 2 – eliminated
7 “Úgysem felejtesz el” (You won’t forget me anyway), Gabi Szűcs Heat 1 – QUALIFIED SF2 – eliminated
8 “World of Violence”, Bogi Heat 1 – QUALIFIED SF2 – eliminated
9 “Back 2 Right”, Fool Moon Heat 3 – eliminated
10 “Run To You”, Gyula Éliás Jr. feat. Fourtissimo Heat 2 – QUALIFIED SF2 – eliminated

The heats for A Dal will be held on January 24, January 31, and February 7, with the semifinals held on February 14 and 21.  I will update this page after each one.  Good luck and “Sok szerencsét kivánok!” to all the participants in A Dal.  The 2015 Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Vienna, Austria on May 19, 21, 23, 2015.

UPDATE:  I am very happy to announce that my top choice for best song has won the honor of representing Hungary at the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest! Hurray! Good luck and “Sok szerencsét kivánok!” to Boggie!

Now that Conchita Wurst has conquered America …

Most Americans watching the Golden Globes on January 11 saw the bearded woman on the red carpet and probably wondered:

“Who the heck is Conchita Wurst?”

And then, if someone were to reply, “Conchita Wurst was the winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest.”, most Americans probably wondered:

“What the heck is Eurovision?”

Outside of Abba and Celine Dion fans and some Eurosavvy gays and European expats, most Americans have not heard of the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual televised show where as many as 43 countries send representative songs to compete for best song. Think of it as an Olympics for songs. Since its debut in 1956, Eurovision is one of the most watched television events in the world, with nearly 195 million people tuning in for the 2014 show, which was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. Rarely does Eurovision news make it to the United States, but even though most Americans have not heard of Eurovision, they certainly are no strangers to several of the participants and songs:

1958 Italy came in 3rd place with a song sung by Domenico Modugno called “Nel blu dipinto di blu”, which won Grammys for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.  It was later recorded by Dean Martin as “Volare”.
1963 Nana Mouskouri performed “À force de prier” for Luxembourg and came in 8th place.
1964 English singer Matt Munro, best known for singing the Oscar-winning title song from the movie “Born Free”, represented the United Kingdom with “I Love The Little Things” and came in 2nd place.
1967 Vicky Leandros sang “L’amour est bleu” for Luxembourg (4th place). An instrumental version was recorded by Paul Mauriat as “Love is Blue” which topped the American charts in early 1968. Leandros also sang for Luxembourg in 1972 and won with “Après toi”.
1968 Cliff Richard, best known to Americans for his 1976 hit “Devil Woman”, represented the United Kingdom with “Congratulations” (2nd place). He also participated in the 1973 contest.
1969 Scottish singer Lulu, who sang the title song from “To Sir, With Love”, won for the United Kingdom (in an unprecedented four way tie) with “Boom Bang-a-Bang”
1970 Spain was represented by Julio Iglesias, who came in 4th place with “Gwendolyne”. Iglesias duetted with Willie Nelson on “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” in 1984.
1972 The New Singers, known to Coke drinkers for their hit “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”, sang “Beg, Steal or Borrow” for the United Kingdom and came in 2nd place.
1973 “Eres tú”, performed by Mocedades for Spain (2nd place), became a top ten American hit in 1974.
1974 Abba won for Sweden with “Waterloo” and was rocketed to international superstardom. Other participants that year included Olivia Newton-John (UK, 4th) and Mouth & MacNeal (Netherlands, 3rd), who had a 1972 hit with “How Do You Do”; Maggie MacNeal also participated in the 1980 contest.
1976 The United Kingdom’s The Brotherhood of Man won with “Save Your Kisses For Me”; they scored a hit in the American charts with “United We Stand” in 1970.
1977 Silver Convention represented Germany (8th place); they hit #1 on the American charts with the Grammy-winning “Fly Robin Fly”.
1988 Celine Dion won for Luxembourg and was rocketed to international superstardom.
1996 Australian singer Ging G represented the United Kingdom with “”Ooh Aah… Just a Little Bit” (8th place), which hit #12 on the American pop charts.
1997 Katrina and the Waves won Eurovision for the United Kingdom; their song “Walking On Sunshine” hit the American Top 10 in 1985.
2003 t.A.T.u. came in 3rd place for Russia; the year before they hit the American Top 20 with “All The Things She Said”.
2006 Spain’s representative Las Ketchup also sang “The Ketchup Song (Aserejé)” in 2002.
2012 Engelbert Humperdinck sang for the United Kingdom; his biggest hit in America was 1967’s “Release Me (And Let Me Love Again)”.
2013 Bonnie Tyler, who topped the American charts with “Total Eclipse of The Heart” in 1983, represented the United Kingdom.
2014 Conchita Wurst wins for Austria with her song “Rise Like A Phoenix”.

And now that Conchita Wurst has conquered America, will there be a few more Americans tuning in to watch Eurovision this year?  The semi-finals will be held May 19 and 21, with the big showdown to be held in the Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna, Austria on May 23.  Those interested in watching the contest may do so at http://www.eurovision.tv/page/webtv, but remember the time difference: for the continental United States, the shows will take place in the early afternoon.  Follow this writer on Twitter @JogolandGroup for updates and coverage of the event.


Eesti Laul 2015 (Estonian selection for Eurovision 2015)

Someone once asked on Twitter what countries would we like to visit based solely on the quality of their Eurovision Song Contest entries. I listed Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Turkey, and now am happy to add Estonia to the list. Estonia, after all, is the home of the Estonian Song Celebration and The Singing Revolution, as documented in the 2006 film of the same name and also the documentary To Breathe As One.  Estonia will also be choosing its entry in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest at its Eesti Laul (“The Song of Estonia”), which will be held in February.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the diversity of songs competing in Eesti Laul. There were the typical Eurovision pop songs, but also rock, alternative, folk, and even American-style country. Usually when I watch Eurovision, I rate each song on a scale from 1 (worst) to 5 (best). I then take all the songs that scored four points or higher and arrange them in order of favorites. Out of Eurovision’s usual 26, there are about twelve or so songs that I have scored thusly, but with the songs from Eesti Laul, the average score was 4! Even though six songs scored fewer than 4 points, there wasn’t a stinker in the whole bunch (question: will these songs be released on a CD?). So that made choosing my favorites a little tough!

At this point I’d like to say, because I’ve gotten some flak over the years for my, shall we say “unconventional” choices, that I do make a distinction between the songs I like and the songs likely to win in Eurovision. I loved Georgia’s 2014 jazz/folk entry “Three Minutes to Earth” performed by The Shin & Mariko, but knew it would not even come close to winning: in fact, it came second to last out of both semi-finals that year.

With that in mind, here are my choices for the ten best songs from Eesti Laul. Elisa Kolk’s “Superlove” finished 11th on my list, but it’s my choice for most likely to win at Eurovision.

My Rank Title, Artist Semifinal  1 Semifinal 2 Final
“Superlove”, Elisa Kolk qualified eliminated
1 “Minu Päike” (My Sun), Luisa Värk qualified eliminated
2 “Light Up Your Mind”, Wilhelm eliminated
3 “Kohvitassi Lugu” (Coffee Cup Story), Miina eliminated
4 “Saatuse laul” (Song of Destiny), Airi Vipulkumar Kansar eliminated
5 “Kellega ma Tutvusin?” (Whom Did I Meet?), NimmerSchmidt eliminated
6 “Kuum” (Hot), Demie feat. Janice eliminated
7 “Kordumatu” (Unique), Bluestocking eliminated
8 “Unriddle Me”, Elephants from Neptune qualified eliminated
9 “Tiiu talu tütreke” (Farmgirl Tiiu), Kruuv eliminated
10 “Exceptional”, The Blurry Lane qualified eliminated

The semi-finals at Eesti Laul will be held on February 7th and 14th, and I will update this page after each one.  Good luck and “Edu kõigile!” to all the participants in Eesti Laul.


February 24, 2015 update:  I was disappointed to learn that none of my choices were chosen to represent Estonia at Eurovision!  But the song that was chosen, “Goodbye To Yesterday”, is a good one and I wish its performers Elina Born & Stig Rästa the best of luck!

Tootin’ my own horn, Eurovision style!

I’m going to toot my own horn here. My good friend Dan in Los Angeles sent me an article from today’s (Jan 13, 2015) Los Angeles Times, written by Todd Martens. It’s a review of the new Belle and Sebastian album, Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance:

Belle and Sebastian tinkered with multiple sonic experiments before recording the album. Early in the process, (singer-songwriter Stuart) Murdoch theorized that each song should represent different countries’ entries into the Eurovision Song contest, circa the mid-’70s. The slightly ABBA-esque Scandinavian lilt of “Play for Today” hints at that concept, but the idea was eventually abandoned.

I’d just like to say that great minds think alike, because yours truly did exactly that when I did my Jogovision Song Contest in 2011: I wrote songs for different countries, some of which wouldn’t sound out of place in a 1970s era Eurovision Song Contest, such as the Russian entry, which was inspired in part by Finland’s 1977 entry. And that’s why Dan sent me that article. Thanks, Dan!

Eurovision Song Contest 1998

Here are my choices for best songs at the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest. Except for the winning entry from Israel, I had not heard any of these songs until now.

My Rank Country Title, Artist Eurovision Final Ranking
1 Netherlands “Hemel en aarde”, Edsilia 4
2 Macedonia “Ne zori, zoro”, Vlado Janevski 19
3 Hungary “A holnap már nem lesz szomorú”, Charlie 23
4 France “Où aller”, Marie Line 24
5 United Kingdom “Where Are You?”, Imaani 2
6 Israel “Diva”, Dana International 1
7 Belgium “Dis oui”, Mélanie Cohl 6
8 Cyprus “Genesis”, Michael Hajiyanni 11
9 Sweden “Kärleken är”, Jill Johnson 10
10 Slovakia “Modlitba”, Katarína Hasprová 21

Out of all the contests I’ve seen so far, this is the fourth time Netherlands has been my favorite (I’ve also chosen France four times). There must be quite a pop music scene in both countries!

Being An Outsider

“Feeling like an outsider is part of my nature, and it’s what makes me who I am, so I think I’ll find a way to make myself feel like an outsider no matter what situation I’m in.”

Actress and singer Zooey Deschanel, quoted in the Nov 24 2014 issue of Time magazine, when asked if she still felt like outsider in Hollywood.

“And being a teenager in this small village wasn’t the funnest thing on earth, so over the years I’ve tried to fit in and I’ve changed myself in every way you can imagine. I just wanted to be part of the game and then I realized, well–I create the game.”

Singer Conchita Wurst interviewed on The Graham Norton Show after her victory at the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest in May.

Lots of makeup today

Busy day here. Got up, made breakfast, showered. Shot some photos of myself for a project, which included several wardrobe changes. I put on black eye liner on my lower lids for some of the photos.

Prepped to shoot scenes of Haruka Matsumoto, the winner of Jogovision 2011. Usually if I do makeup for a female character, it’s just liner and lipstick, but to “flatten” my face to make me look more Japanese (I’m actually half-Japanese but don’t really look it), I had to line my lids in white eye liner and cover most of my face in powder, so had to take off the black eye liner first. Filmed Haruka’s scenes and had lunch.

Got ready for the next shoot, using a new character. I decided to try covering my eyebrows (the old glue stick trick) just to look a little different. Man, I barely recognized the eyebrow-less guy staring back at me in the mirror. Had to remove Haruka’s makeup and put on foundation and powder and nail polish and so on. Filmed all those scenes. Then filmed another set of scenes with my friend Gary playing a small role.

Finally jumped in the shower when I was done. It took a while but the hot water finally melted the glue off my eyebrows. My face, having been made up and washed so many times today, felt raw, like I had a sunburn. I slathered on a thick coat of skin moisturizer on my face and an equally thick coat of lip balm on my lips. Had dinner with Gary and another friend, Garren. Came home. Gotta clean up the mess from all the shoots today, then will hit the sack. Good productive day, but exhausting.


Hard to believe this is the same person, eh?  Left:  me with eyebrows covered.  Right:  Haruka Matsumoto.

“Readers haven’t lost interest in paper and ink.”

Readers haven’t lost interest in paper and ink. Instead, they’ve been pushed away by newspapers that take every opportunity to drive them online and continue to downgrade their formats and paper quality.

From an article in Monocle (issue 78, volume 08, November 2014) by editor in chief Tyler Brûlé, in which he writes a manifesto of sorts on how to improve printed media, which is far from dead.

Eurovision Song Contest 1991

Here are my choices for best songs at the 1991 Eurovision Song Contest. Unlike many of the contests I’m now reviewing, I had actually seen this contest online a few years ago and was already familiar with several of the songs.

My Rank Country Title, Artist Eurovision Final Ranking
1 France “C’est le dernier qui a parlé qui a raison”, Amina 2
2 Italy “Comme è ddoce ‘o mare”, Peppino di Capri 7
3 Greece “I Anixi”, Sophia Vossou 13
4 Israel “Kan”, Duo Datz 3
5 Malta “Could It Be”, Georgina & Paul Giordimaina 6
6 Sweden “Fångad av en stormvind”, Carola 1
7 Finland “Hullu yö”, Kaija Kärkinen 20
8 Yugoslavia “Brazil”, Baby Doll 21
9 Turkey “İki Dakika”, İzel Çeliköz, Reyhan Karaca, and Can Uğurluer 12
10 Norway “Mrs. Thompson”, Just 4 Fun 17

While Greece did award 12 points to Cyprus, Cyprus awarded 12 points to Spain (but gave Greece 10). Did Greece do so poorly in the contest due to that horrendous sax solo? The saxophonist really blew it, but that’s not the fault of either the songwriter or the singer (who gave a very powerful performance), and Greece should’ve at least placed in the top ten. Choosing between France and Italy for my top position was tough–I really enjoyed both songs, but ultimately gave it to France because it was a little different than what one typically hears at Eurovision.

Here’s the video version of my choices for 1991!