All posts by ANDY RICHARDS

Behind the scenes at Eurovision 2024 with performer, Sarah Blomgren

At ESC Covers we sometimes like to take a look a look at the rarer and more unusual parts of the Eurovision Song Contest, plus love showcasing some of the talented people behind the scenes whom the mainstream media don’t often credit.

Today we have an exclusive interview with Sarah Blomgren Barth, who some of you may have seen performing along side Erik Aahl at the closing sections of both the Friday Night Preview Show (aka Jury Final) and Saturday Afternoon Preview Show inside the Malmö Arena. During the rehearsals for the voting sequence, Sarah and Erik stood in for the ‘fake’ winners of both of these shows, and treated the audience to their dance renditions of Doomsday Blue by Bambie Thug and We Will Rave by Kaleen.

If you’ve never been to one of the rehearsal shows at Eurovision in the past, you may not have realised that the entire show is rehearsed a number of times before the live TV programme is aired across Europe and the world. The whole thing is presented as if it were real, including full script, performances, postcards, jokes from the hosts, and of course the full voting process. This gives the whole production team, broadcasters and commentators across the world to experience the entire show as it will look for real.

One of the most important things to do, is to fully rehearse and practice the voting – to make sure any problems are ironed out before going live for real. The results of these of course need to be made up (as the televoting hasn’t yet been opened), and we see a completely different scoreboard to the actual show. We also need fake winners, and this is where Sarah and Erik’s part was very important to the success of the show! They actually got to be Eurovision ‘winners’ for a few moments! The entire leaked performance of the fake winning performance was uploaded onto YouTube, by Eurovision Exclusives and is available to watch after reading our interview with Sarah below.

Hi Sarah! Thanks for taking the time to speak to ESC Covers! How did you get involved with Eurovision this year? Were you volunteeers/fans/employees/standins etc?

I got involved with this year’s Eurovision through the dance studio Malmö dansfabrik where I got the opportunity to be a rehearsal stand-in dancer for two countries. After that I also got the job as a Moomin troll for the interval act in the second semi final before being a stand in for the winning act. We actually got the call asking if we wanted to be stand-ins for the winning number on the Friday a few hours before we were on stage performing in the first rehearsal show for the finale. 

What does the average day working at Eurovision look like? What’s the daily routine?

The days were quite different depending on what I was there to do. When we did the first stand-in work we would get there and have some time in the changing room to get warmed up and ready before getting our in-ears and doing a sound check before heading to the stage to wait for our time. Once it was our turn we would get safety notes and quickly stage the number before doing it full out and filming. Each performance got to do it 2-3 times depending on how much time there was over. Many of the countries with a lot of props on stage only managed to do it twice. Those who had multiple performances had to wait to do it all again and then we would leave once we were done for the day. 

For the work I did as a Moomin troll we had 3 rehearsals on the stage the week before the show, the first one was without costumes but the other two were with our full costumes. The performance days we had, we would arrive around the time that the show started. We weren’t on until later in the show so we didn’t have to be there that early. We waited in the back-stage area until it was time to get our in-ears, get dressed and head to the stage. Once we were done we had quite a few hours to kill before doing it again.

As stand-ins for the winning act we weren’t on until the very end so we arrived when the show had already started and then we went directly to the greenroom and sat there through the whole mock voting before going straight to the stage walking the “winners walk”. The first rehearsal went slower and we got instructions on what was going to happen before performing. We did Ireland’s number on the Friday because we had done it as rehearsal stand-ins and therefore knew the choreo. Then we had to wait to do it again later in the evening. When we came on Saturday for the rehearsal performance they wanted us to do Austrias number instead. But we didn’t know that choreography so we tried to learn the beginning right before going on stage and just improvise the rest.

What did you think of the show overall? Have you watched Eurovision before? Did you have any favorite songs, and were you happy with Switzerland winning?

I think that the show this year was very good with a lot of good songs and a lot of great dance numbers but also great interval acts. I have watched Eurovision every year for as long as I can remember but I usually only watch the finale from home. It is hard to choose just one song as a favorite. I really liked Switzerland’s song and their amazing performance but I also really liked Ukraine, Italy and Armenia. I think it was a tough year with a lot of great performances but I think Nemo from Switzerland is a well deserving winner. 

How long have you both been dancing for? What styles of dance are your favorites?

I started dancing when I was 4 and I am 19 now, so I have been dancing for about 15 years or so. The styles I enjoy the most have to be modern/contemporary and jazz.

Were you involved in the choreography for any of this year’s performances?

No, I was not involved in the choreography for any of the performances. We had to learn the choreographies we got to do as stand-in dancers from videos sent to us from each countries own rehearsals. Some countries also changed their choreographies before the actual show and then we would have to relearn the numbers so that we knew the newest version of it. That was a bit stressful at times considering that we had very little time to work on this but it was also fun to see how the numbers evolved and also what additional changes were made between the time that we were on stage to the live performances.

How does it feel to now see your performance on YouTube, when it was really just intended for the audience at the rehearsal shows?

It definitely feels weird to see myself on the internet like that and to see how many views the videos get. I generally don’t like watching videos of myself dancing and I have felt quite insecure about the videos and about my performance even though I am so thankful that I got this amazing opportunity and it was so much fun getting to dance on the Eurovision stage. I think that it’s nearly impossible in today’s world to do anything for just the audience, there are always going to be people who record something. That was something I knew before I did the performances so I tried to prepare myself for it but it is still a weird feeling seeing myself like that. 

Do you also act or perform anywhere else?

I am currently a dance student at Copenhagen Contemporary Dance School where we have done performances at different schools and nursing homes during the last couple of months. I also recently had a performance with my dance studio Malmö Dansfabrik.

Who are your inspirations?

There are so many amazing dancers that I look up to. I am constantly getting inspired by the other students at my school and by all of our amazing teachers that we have. 

What would you say is the best dance routine of all time?

There are so many amazing dance performances and new ones are constantly being made so it really is impossible to say that one specific one is the best. The last dance performance I saw was “Hammer” by Göteborgsoperans danskompani which i really loved watching.

Which musical act would be your dream to perform on stage with?

Maybe Benjamin Ingrosso. I really like his songs and the interval act he did for the first semi final in eurovision was absolutely amazing and looked like so much fun to do as a dancer.

Do you have any important messages to the world?

To treat everyone with respect and kindness. To see our differences and respect them. To not be so quick to judge each other and to remember that we are all humans with feelings and we should treat each other the way we would want to be treated by others. 

How can our readers find out more about you both? (social media/dance school etc)

My instagram is Sarah_blomgren and the school I go to is Copenhagen Contemporary Dance School and I also dance at Malmö Dansfabrik. 

We’d like to thank Sarah very much for answering our questions, and hope that we will maybe get to see both herself and Erik at other massive productions in the future. ESC Covers will be the first to let you know of their upcoming productions. Watch this space!

Sarah and Erik’s leaked YouTube ‘winning’ performance is available to watch below:

Video taken from the Eurovision Exclusives channel on YouTube.

ZOË returns with her new single, La Vie en Rosé!

ZOË, who represented Austria at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest with  Loin d’ici, is back with a brand new single!

Her new release, La Vie en Rosé, which is not a cover version of the classic Edith Piaf song, as you may expect – but infact an original and classy chanson-style pop number, in the style of her previous musical releases. Even the artwork of the single makes us think of one of those classy French café’s of the past!

La Vie en Rose was presented during a live show by ZOË at the Spittelberg Theatre on June 4, 2024 in Vienna, Austria.

The new single is available to buy and stream on platforms such as Spotify and Amazon Music.

You can follow ZOË‘s music and updates on her official Instagram account.

Image: official single artwork for La Vie En Rosé by ZOË

Flag Policy, Booing, and Controversy – the lows of Eurovision 2024

Whilst most people can all agree that the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest was an incredible show, I’m sure we can also agree that it was probably the most controversial edition of all time. From poor and disrespectful behaviour by some fans and artists, an unusual flag-banning policy by the EBU, and some non-family-friendly staging and performances – we take a short look at some of the issues. All thoughts are my own, and are not necessarily the views of our website. Continue reading Flag Policy, Booing, and Controversy – the lows of Eurovision 2024

90s dance/electronic act, Robin S chats to us at the Eurovillage in Malmö!

The Eurovision Village in Malmö featured a wide variety of free performances and events for Eurovision Song Contest fans that were in the city. From a number of the 2024 entries, local musicians, groups, and the 2024 Junior Song Contest winner, Zoé Clauzure – the Eurovillage stage also featured a number of huge 90s dance artists, such as American singer-songwriter, Robin S and Trinidadian-born German singer, Haddaway.

ESC Covers got the opportunity to interview Robin S straight after her live performance on the Euphoria stage on Thursday evening. She spoke to us regarding how she was invited to perform, her musical tastes and inspirations, plus gave us a positive message of peace and love to the world.

You can check out our interview with Robin, plus a number of her hits in the clips below!

 

 

 

What you can expect to see in tonight’s live Semi-Final [Warning: Spoilers!]

Last night, we got the opportunity to watch the Evening Preview (previously the Jury Show) of Semi Final 1 lof the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest. In the following article, Andy Richards takes you through the whole event, including his thoughts of each perfromance and what you can expect in the show tonight. All opinions are his own. The ramblings are ‘as live’, so please excuse the randomless and slightly messy structure. This post is jammed full of spoilers – so if you don’t want anything ruining, you’ve been warned!

Continue reading What you can expect to see in tonight’s live Semi-Final [Warning: Spoilers!]

ESC Covers’ Predictions For The Winner of Melodifestivalen 2024

Tomorrow night, the Grand Final of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen takes place at the Friends Arena in the Swedish capital. Our very own Ian Fowell is currently over in Stockholm along with Graham Ridge from Dutch Eurovision Central, eagerly awaiting the live show tomorrow.

ESC Covers have assesed all of the twelve finalists in the contest, and have come up with three songs and acts that we think are the most likely to fly the flag for Sweden in the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö.

Song #7: Marcus & Martinus – Unforgettable

We love this one, and think it’s about time M&M finally get to represent Sweden at Eurovision. The song is modern, lively and has a great melody and rhythm all the way through. The staging is also impressive with the guys’ being surrounded in their own kind of digital LED light box. It’s quite atmospheric and looks like something you’d see in either one of The Matrix or Tron movies. Will the public finally see past their Norwegian backgrounds and let Marcus & Martinus represent them?

Song #8: Dotter – It’s Not Easy To Write A Love Song

Our next choice is another returning artist, Dotter. We saw her reaching second place in Melodifestivalen 2020 with her song ‘Bulletproof’. It’s a different style this time around, with Dotter opting for more of a classic ballad style. The performance is powerful, and although the staging is relatively simple with her rolling around and standing on a Grand Piano, we think it deserves to do quite well. This one will all be about the vocals tomorrow night. If she can iron out a few minor issues that we heard in the Semi-final, this stands a good chance at winning.

Song #12: Danny Saucedo – Happy That You Found Me

Our third and final choice to win Melodifestivalen 2024 is multiple times contestant, Danny Saucedo. He’s in a great postition in the running order, closing the show, and again, it’s another upbeat banger. The staging is unique and quirky too, with the floor at the beginning looking like someone has gone wild with a Spirograph, to an unintentionally amusing ‘Frank Spencer’ moment where the set collapses over him. If it does win, there’s a lot of similar sounding songs heading to Malmö, which could be its downfall.

Honourable mentions:

Depending on which way the public vote tomorrow, we could also see Smash Into Pieces, Cazzi Opeia, and Jacqline near the top of the scoreboard.

The Melodifestivalen 2024 final takes place tomorrow night at 20:00CET and is available to watch on SVT1 and on SVT Play.

Germany’s ‘Das Deutsche Finale 2024’ Song Review

Continuing the journey to Malmö, it’s Germany’s time to pick their artist and song this evening, with their ‘Das Deutsche Finale’ selection show. ESC Covers’ Andy Richards takes a first listen to each of the songs, and gives his option on their chance of being picked.

Continue reading Germany’s ‘Das Deutsche Finale 2024’ Song Review

Benidorm Fest 2024 – Semi-final 2 Song Review

Tonight sees the second show of Spain’s search for their entry for the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest, with their Benidorm Fest selection process. Tonight, another eight songs are hoping to make their way into the final, joining the four acts that were selected on Tuesday night. ESC Covers’ Andy Richards takes a listen to each contender with his thoughts on their potential success.

María Peláe – Remitente

From the opening male chanting, and Spanish guitars, and claps, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Gypsy Kings had made a return to the scene. It’s very tranditional sounding, and most certainly something that has come from a Spanish speaking country. It’s not as out there as Blanca Paloma’s entry from last year, but I’m sure the Spanish fans will be behind this one. Not too sure how it will do outside of the border, though. It’s a nice start to the show, but it’s not blown me away.

Dellacruz – BESO EN LA MAÑANA

Another 100% Spanish song, but a little bit more upbeat than the last one. It’s something that you would have likely heard on UK radio a few years ago, when the likes of Daddy Yankee and Camila Cabello were big time doing the rounds. It’s got a great dance beat, as so many of the other Benidorm Fest songs have this year, but this could cause a few issues in the final, with likeminded songs fighting to the death. Decent enough, though!

MARLENA – amor de verano

From the opening sounds of waves and seagulls, you imagine this could be something you could listen to on the beach with a cheeky Sangria. The production is great, and the melodic vocals should be good if performed well tonight. Again, there’s nothing much that makes it stand out against some of the other songs in the contest. I can imagine many of the 2024 Eurovision songs will take a note out of Loreen’s book with a pop/dance banger, so original and different genres could do well.

st. Pedro – Dos Extraños (Cuarteto de Cuerda)

Taking the tempo right down now, we have St. Pedro with a jazzy/light adult contemporary tune. It’s something that you’d likely hear on the likes of Jules Holland’s TV show, and it’s lovely and relaxing. Theres some great strings in the song, and his vocals and song style remind me of Salvador Sobral’s winning Portuguese entry. If performed well tonight, I think this could easily stand out from the crowd and make its way into Saturday’s final.

Jorge González – Caliente

Well, his name certainly fits the Spanish bill if nothing else. Again, it’s a traditional-sounding pop tune in Spanish, but looking more at appealing to the international audience with easier to understand Spanish words such as ‘bailar’ and ‘noche’. The horns very much remind me of Adrenalina from a few years back, and the style of the song is very much like something Enrique Iglesias would have released in the 00s. There’s a nice build towards the end, renminding me of Unicorn. I wonder if Jorge will also have a dance break?

Yoly Saa – No se me olvida

More acoustic guitar, and a chilled theme to start with again. The mix in the production is very good as there’s plenty of going on with different styles and elements. The mood of the song sounds quite melancholy, but the chorus is a bit more lively. I really like this as it has a haunting feel to it, without getting as depressing as Billie Eilish’s back catalogue. This is another song that I could see as standing out and doing well in tonight’s contest

Roger Padrós – El Temps

A piano solo starts this one off, and the song itself is fairly simple too, with only a few drum beats padding out Roger’s song. I don’t think the placing of the song in the running order will help it too much, following the last similar sounding song – but if his live vocals towards the end of the song are as good as the ones on the studio version, he could be onto something. I feel like this could potentially be left in the semi-final, however.

Almacor – Brillos Platino

I think the fatigue of similar sounding songs must be kicking in, as the opening of this just sounds like so many others in the Spanish selection – but luckily, just as I was getting bored, a chunky bass drum kicked in, and the song turns into a bit of a dance banger! Closing the show will definitely help in the votes. There’s some electronic vocals in the song, so I’m not sure if they could get through the EBU rules, should it win Benidorm Fest, but it’s a decent effort indeed.

So, that’s it for my look at the second batch of songs. The second Semi-final of Benidorm Fest starts tonight at 22:50CET on RTVE, and is hosted by Ruth Lorenzo, Marc Calderó and Ana Prada. Four songs from tonight will make their way into the Grand Final on Saturday. If you’re outside of Spain, you can watch the live stream of the show here.

Image: comunitatvalenciana.com

 

 

 

Benidorm Fest 2024 – Semi-final 1 Song Review

Tonight sees the start of the search for Spain’s entry for the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest as Benidorm Fest returns to the TV screens. Tonight, eight songs are hoping to make their way into the final, with another eight battling it out on Thursday night. ESC Covers’ Andy Richards takes a listen to each contender with his thoughts on their potential success.

Continue reading Benidorm Fest 2024 – Semi-final 1 Song Review

Melodi Grand Prix 2024 – Heat 3 Song Review

Here we go again, then! Straight on the back of Ireland choosing their song for the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest last night, this evening sees the final heat of Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix this year. There’s another six songs hoping to grab a ticket to the final. Once again, I’m taking a listen of the studio versions of each song to see how I think they’ll do in the selection progress. Obviously, the real telling will be in the performances during the live show.

Vidar Villa – “MER”

It’s a chirphy little song, with lyrics in Norwegian – but straight away it sounds like there’s a naughty English word that’s been sneaked into the mix. I’ll have to check the lyrics to confirm, but it would have to be looked at if it won MGP, in order to please the EBU! It’s catchy. I’ve no idea what he’s singing about, but nice to hear the national language. Definitely sounds like something you’d hear on a top-40 radio station. It’s uplifting, and I think it will do quite well tonight with a nice bit of stage. A good start to this week’s heat.

MISTRA – “Waltz of Death”

The song opens with talking, rather that singing. It’s quite unusual, and something that you might hear at one of the more obscure, experimental stages at Glastonbury or somewhere. Plenty of nice guitar riffs, and her voice sounds to me like a mix of Nina from the Cardigans and Sheryl Crow. There’s not really much singing, so it feels more like some kind of spoken poetry – but there’s an interesting dark style, that doesn’t go too crazy at any point, so it’s not likely to scare away too many potential voters. Not sure how it will do, but I quite like it. I think. If it made it to Malmö, I think it could be competing with Ireland’s choice.

Thomas Jenssen – “Take Me To Heaven”

Straight from the offset, this sounds like it’s going to be very good. From the ‘oohs’, funky bassline, guitar riffs and drum loop, it’s both very contemporary, but also reminiscent of the eighties. Thomas’ voice is quite high like The Weeknd or Justin Timberlake. As the song continues, it’s not letting me down. The ‘duh-duh-duh-duh’s’ will have the audience singing along, and I think this would be a very good choice for Malmö. Could see this one easily getting though to the next stage, and I’ve not even seen the staging yet.

Annprincess – “Save Me”

Another decent pop song in tonight’s selection. A few whistles to open the song, and some very Rihanna or Dua Lipa like vocals from Annprincess herself. There’s plenty of energy in the song, and a great beat. If she’s joined by dancers, with a great choreographed routine, this one will be another one to watch. From the single’s artwork, she’s looking very Loreen-like with her long flowing hair and dress, so it’s possible that some inspiration has been taken from both of her winners.  It seems like they’re really saved the best songs for Heat 3. It’s going to be quite a bloodbath this evening. Lots to pick from.

MiiA – “Green Lights”

I’m sure it’s totally unrealated that the written style of MiiA’s name is very much like KEiiNO’s (and not in any way a cash-in), so we’ll forgive her for that one. The intro before the vocals kick in, sounds like something you’d find in a big-budget Hollywood movie set in space. Very nice. Hans Zimmer would be impressed. There’s some very sweet vocals in the song, and again, like many of the other of tonight’s songs – it’s very radio friendly and upbeat. I like the string sections and drum beats in the song, and it seems quite an emotional song – so if this is portrayed well on stage tonight, that could grab her a few more points too.

KEiiNO – “Damdiggida”

He we go then. Probably one of the most talked about acts of this year. They are back for more! The plinky-plonky instrumentation reminds me of ‘Belissima‘ from DJ Quicksilver, and the rest of the song is very nineties dance inspired too. I’m hearing influences from N-Trance, and the ‘damdiggida’ refrain that’s throughout is very close to Ice MC’s ‘Think About The Way’. Alexandra’s vocals are as superb as always, and the rest of the gang’s unique offerings gel very well together. Much like in Melodifestivalen last year, where it seemed like Loreen was being primed for the win, I think the same could be true here. It’s a very high quality song, but with so many other fantastic contestants in tonight’s show, I hope that’s going to be a close battle.

As with previous weeks, Heat 3 of Melodi Grand Prix will be streamed live on NRK’s website from 19:50CET, and if you live in Norway, you’re able to watch on NRK1. Best of luck to all contestants – it’s gonna be tricky picking the three for the grand final!