Category Archives: Fan Messages

A Romance in 8 Song Titles

by Kevin Fansler, USA

I met him in 2007 and we started dating. It wasn’t clear at first whether we were a match, but we were both communicators, working professionally as a writer and an editor, so it seemed that we had a good framework for solving problems and communicating our desires to each other. I don’t know when exactly I fell in love, but I remember the first time I said the words. It was Valentine’s Day 2008. “I love you, R___.” The winning song that year? Believe.

Obviously, young love is a clear pool that you swim in, or a whirlwind that carries you away. That next year, 2009, is a blur of shared intimacies, meeting each other’s friends, spending a month together in Israel and Jordan, finding a larger community that we each belonged to, but mostly… mostly… and perhaps unexpectedly… deeper love. The winning song: Fairytale.

By 2010, we were seeing each other five nights a week and were in each other’s lives every day. Our annual Eurovision party was going well, though our German friend always complained about how bad the German entries were. We introduced other Americans to this phenomenon of Eurovision. Some laughed at the over-the-top quality of some entrants—perhaps this was the year of the butterfly costumes or gymnasts with glow sticks—and some learned the songs in a heartbeat and sang along by the second chorus. The invite list for the party grew a little more each year. The winning song: Satellite.

Then my father became ill. It was 2011 and I was flying back and forth to my parents’ home deep in the heartland of America. I knew it was my last chance for The Boyfriend to meet The Parents, so off we flew. The winning song: Running Scared.

The call came late on a Sunday early in 2012. Friends were over to watch Mad Men. My father was in the E.R. and wouldn’t last many more hours. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t focus enough to book a flight. But The Boyfriend and our friends rallied and arranged it all for me, including packing my bag and getting me on the flight the next morning. I made it in time to have a last moment with my father. And for the first time in 30 years, all of my siblings were in the same city at the same time. The next day was my mother’s 80th birthday, so we had a combined birthday party and wake. Strange emotions coursing through the day, both highs and lows. The winning song: Euphoria.

Another year and this time my mother is ill and passes away. My sister is diagnosed with stage IV cancer and passes away. It’s still too painful to write about in detail. I could not make it through all of this without the love of my life being there and holding me when I needed it. He is my rock. The winning song: Only Teardrops.

In 2014, the memorial services behind us, we have some breathing room. Gay marriage nationwide becomes the law of the land about this time and I propose. Wedding planning is stressful, but we use the tried-and-true method of delegating some of that work to our best men (or in my case, my BFF, a woman who prefers to be called best person). The weather holds for our outdoor wedding and it’s a perfect day. Our combined Jewish/Christian/atheist household is now officially sanctioned and blessed by our government and we pledge our lives to one another. The winning song: Rise Like a Phoenix.

Finally, in 2015, for my 50th birthday year I have plans to spend as much time as possible in Sweden, the country where I graduated from high school. The Husband, as he is now called, has been learning Swedish, and he is a whiz at languages. His grasp of grammar already outpaces mine and it’s kind of amazing. I land a dream job, yet somehow, it can still accommodate my wish to telecommute from Sweden. The stars align when Sweden wins Eurovision and becomes the host nation! It’s all coming together. I have a personal hero. The winning song: Heroes.

I can’t say what the future holds, but I do know one way to measure the years is to look back at the friends we made, the parties we held, the events we attended, and the milestones in our lives. Seeing our Eurovision friends at our house for our annual party is a highlight of our year. And the synchronicity of Sweden hosting in a year when we had already planned on being in Sweden just seems like such a great way to start looking ahead to what might be in our future.

Ireland’s fall from Eurovision grace

by Niall Drennan

Every year in the lead up to Eurovision, facts are figures about the contest are quoted at length by both fans and the media. Top of this list is which country has won Eurovision the most times – the answer being Ireland with an impressive 7 wins under its belt.

Ireland was the dominant force in Eurovision in the 1990’s racking up an impressive 4 wins in a 5 year period. It even holds the record as having the most successful interval act with Riverdance.

However, Ireland’s recent performance in Eurovision has been a far cry from its glory days in the 90’s. Since 2007, there have been 4 failures to qualify for the final and 2 last place finishes. Not an impressive record for the most successful Eurovision country. If it was not for Jedward’s 8th place finish in 2011, it could be argued that Ireland is currently one of the worst performing countries in Eurovision, keeping company with Portugal (sorry Portugal, fingers are always crossed for your first win).

This year, Molly Sterling’s gentle and well written ballad failed to strike a chord with Eurovision voters. Putting her behind a wooden upright piano that blocked any relationship with the audience and cameras certainly didn’t help. This is another example of RTE getting the staging completely wrong – something that has been apparent over recent years. At least with Molly, they ditched the clichéd Celtic theme that featured in Ireland’s recent entries (Kasey Smith’s Heartbeat in 2014 and Ryan Dolan with Only Love Survives in 2013). However it is evident RTE don’t have the capability of creating a modern and creative stage presentation, or have no interest in doing so. Many fans suspect it’s the latter and speculate that RTE do not want to win the contest again due to the high costs involved. Even if this is the case, it does not excuse the poor result and several failures to even qualify for the final.

Perhaps the turning point in Ireland’s relationship with Eurovision was the choice to send Dustin the Turkey to represent the country in 2008. What was intended to be a tongue in cheek joke to show that Europe that Ireland didn’t take the contest seriously, certainly backfired and turned into a national embarrassment. This was predicted by Ireland’s first Eurovision winner, Dana, who said that by sending Dustin, Ireland was essentially sticking two fingers up at the contest.

Sometimes you have to reach the lowest point in order to start the slow climb upwards. Ireland is not unique in this regard. Take a look at Norway – a country with the most “nul points” in the history of the contest but has turned this around in recent years with three top ten finishes in the past 3 years and a win in 2009. This shows that just because you are down, it doesn’t mean you are out.

Ireland’s return to its glory days is going to take time, effort and investment along with smart, well-researched choices and good judgment on the part of RTE. The selection format needs to be overhauled into a national event, similar to what is happening in other countries that have had recent success in Eurovision (hello Azerbaijan and Sweden). To RTE’s credit they have taken the initial steps by ditching the mentor system and opening up the selection process to all songwriters as they did this year. However RTE also need to step up when it comes to the staging and performance and invest the time and resources into creating the best performance possible.

Eurovision 2016 in Stockholm will the 20th anniversary since Ireland won Eurovision. A lot has changed in the contest since Eimear Quinn’s win in 1996 and RTE need to start to take the contest seriously and enter with a view to win. If they can find a good song and singer and come up with a great production, perhaps 2016 will be the year that the Emerald Isle regains its Eurovision crown….of course the luck of the Irish can also help.

Introducing Steve Humphreys

Steve Humphreys, Melbourne Australia.

In May 2015 Eurovision celebrated the 60th contest in Vienna. I was unable to be in Vienna, but the most exciting part for me was voting from our living room, and the text votes were flying everywhere for both Semi Finals and the Grand Final.

I guess it was Australia taking part in Eurovision 2015 that inspired me to actually be there for next year 2016 in Stockholm Sweden. Am I actually going? I still have to pinch myself to just believe it’s true.

Now my Eurovision story goes back a very long way to, as a youngster growing up in the UK, in a town near Birmingham. Back then I even purchased LP records, by Vicky Leandros, Anne Marie David and then I slowly warmed to that 1974 winner ‘Waterloo’ and I became a Abba fan in 1975. At first Abba’s ‘ Waterloo’ seemed too rocky and different for the Eurovision song contest of mainly french romantic amazing ballads.

Now lets fast forward about 20 years or so when I developed a big interest in Melodifestivalen, so I wanted to help spread the word of Sweden’s home song contest that a bit like the Melbourne Cup- horse race here down under, annually actually stops the nation on Grand Final night. As the Swedes try and make the best selection for Eurovision Song Contest that year.

So I wanted to blog regular updates on new Melodifestivalen music and Eurovision news, as it happens to Aussies and anyone in the world (who does not understand Swedish) I started my schlagertunes blog in 2008.

Some of my personal highlights, have been when I found a cartoon u-tube clip called ‘ Fairytale’ the year before 2010. I remember thinking this song has something extra special, and I like it a lot. So I FB messaged Alexandra Rybak to wish him luck at Norsk MGP Semi Final, he answered right away, to a new supporter down-under in Melbourne. Of course I had no idea, what success was around the corner for Norway, only I did believe in his fairytale from the start.

Eurovision Song Contest each year is a fairytale, as amazing musical experiences happen with each year. It’s part of the fun to share them with so may different people and cultures as well.

I luv it.

Steve_Humphreys

Abba in Melodifestivalen 1968-74

By Steve Humphreys, Melbourne, Australia

A lot has been said about Abba with Eurovision’s 60th anniversary, so I had a look at the road the four famous Swedes took on their way to Brighton and international fame back in 1974.

It was interesting to note, that it was not an instant overnight success as it appeared. We know in fact Benny, Björn and manager Stig Anderson as songwriters, had their sights on a Eurovision Song Contest win since back in 1970. As well as often being quoted as saying ‘in the mid 70’s, Eurovision Song Contest was the only way a Swedish artist could reach an audiences outside of Sweden’ very different from today. Along the way Abba would have some rejected songs, and even the dreaded non-qualification in a semi final heat! All before the ‘Waterloo’ victory. Lets see the year-by-year journey.

1968- Agnetha Faltskog a new female popstar in Sweden submitted the song ‘Forsonade’ wrote by Agnetha. It was a lovely ballad that failed to be selected for Melodifestivalen 1968 – the song did find a place on Agnetha’s debut album in 1968.

1969- Benny Andersson and Lasse Berghagen wrote the tune “Hej Clown” Benny had already formed a songwriting partnership with Björn for the past 3 years, but wrote this tune together with a big star Lasse Berghagen (Sweden’s answer to Tom Jones). The tune was sung by Jan Malmsjö, (a famous actor) ‘Hej Clown’ tied for 1st place, then following a tie break, Benny’s entry came just second to Tommy Korberg winner ‘Judy min van’.

1969- Anni-Frid Lyngstad sung that same year a lovely pop tune ‘Harlig ar var jord’ following her breakthough a couple of years before Frida finished in =4th place.

1970- Sweden didn’t take part in the Eurovision Song Contest.

1971- Björn & Benny began writing and producing artists at Polar Records and so submitted a tune ‘Det kan lngen Doktor hjalpa’ a folk band Family Four, won a place at Eurovision that year and Björn and Benny’s submission was not chosen at all. The song was later released as a Björn & Benny single release- with Agnetha & Anni-Frid on backing vocals. This track although not a big hit did show an early pre-Abba sound slowly coming together at last.

1972- A Polar Records artist Lena Andersson sung the next Björn & Benny song ‘Säg Det Med En Sång’ she came 3rd- and this gave Lena a big hit single in Sweden. And has remained a popular Melodifestivalen classic of the 70’s. Family Four were chosen to sing at Eurovision Song Contest again with the happy tune Härliga Sommardag.

1972- Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid had released a debut single with ‘People Need Love’. Following this hit in November 1970, the foursome appeared in the ‘World Popular Song Festival’ in Tokyo with a new song called ‘ Santa Rosa’. It was a fairly new Japanese pop song contest, made up of two preliminary rounds, Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid never actually qualified for the grand final. They returned home to Sweden with a commemorative medal only.

1973- Benny, Björn, Agnetha & Anni-Frid must have arrived back and begun work right away on ‘Ring Ring’ a new Swedish tune for Melodifestivalen the very next year. They sang ‘Ring Ring’, however the national final was voted on by only a jury of experts ‘Ring Ring’ came 3rd only! The song was clearly the Swedish public’s favourite and hit No:1 in the Swedish charts and followed by a debut album called ‘Ring Ring’ from the band.

1974- Abba sang ’Waterloo’ and won Melodifestivalen with a huge landslide of 302 points, ahead of Lasse Berghagen (211 points) & Lena Ericsson (185 points).

The rest really is international music history (yet it did not end here).

Ring Ring by Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid, 1972
Ring Ring by Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid, 1972

My first Eurovision

by Stuart McNaughton

I’d already decided before leaving Vienna earlier this year that I just had to do another Eurovision. Now my Eurovision virginity had been taken away from me, I wanted more. It was bit like when you go out for drinks with friends and, inevitably, the ‘seal’ breaks and you need to start pee-ing.

My Eurovision seal had been broken and, with it, a can of worms had been unleashed. Suddenly, I was genuinely interested in the contestants from all the countries. Suddenly, I was actually interested in all the lyrics. On occasion, I even delved into the past success (or non-success) of previous Eurovision entries.

In Vienna, the atmosphere was great. We descended on Eurovision Village by day and the Café by night and were constantly surrounded by fans from all over the world who knew the words to song I’d never heard of before. You see, ‘hearing’ songs is a relatively new concept for me. I lost my hearing as a baby, but to cut a long story short, I was implanted with a bionic ear in my left ear in 2001 and, more recently in 2013, my right ear.

Not only do my cochlear implants help me to hear the contest, but to also socialise night after night until the early hours of each day with the constant flow of fans who had descended on Eurovision. Truth be told, I found the barrage of fans a bit unsettling at first. My friend sat me down and said I have two options: leave, or embrace it. I decided to embrace it.
While Eurovision seems so seamless as it is broadcast on TV, when you’re in the Arena, and you see the lights, camera and cajoling of the audience all come into play, you realise that you’re part of something special. I love watching things, and to see all that technology come together to deliver what was the 60th Eurovision song contest was nothing short of spectacular. To see it, and to hear it.

Each evening, there was a warm-up act, consisting of two presenters. One particularly memorable part of the warm-up act was when the slightly larger of the duo would declare that, as an audience, we needed to encourage the acts, and then would say in broken English: “Are. You. Ready?” Am I ready? With a heartbeat being broadcast loudly throughout the Arena, I had altogether taken off and gone into orbit.

I loved my first Eurovision and, with the gift of hearing, I can’t wait to see the show in Stockholm, one of my favourite cities.

www.HeIsNotMe.com

Always the Bridesmaid

Who’s waiting for the Eurovision bouquet to be hurled their way?
by Chris Zeiher, Australia

For every overachieving Eurovision nation (Ireland, Sweden, UK we’re looking at you) there’s a cluster of nations who’ve been waiting patiently for their first win. So, who’s been waiting the longest?
I want 2016’s winner to come from one of these 4 patient and persistent nations.

Portugal – debuted in 1964, 48 entries
Portugal is statistically the nation who has waited the longest for a Eurovision win. Sadly, this tiny Mediterranean nation has yet to even finish inside the Top 5 from all of their attempts. In 2008 it was Vania Fernandes’ “Senhora Do Mar (Negras Aguas)” which looked set to break the Top 5 drought after it finished 2nd in its Semi. Alas, the final proved a harder hunting ground and the entry placed outside the top 10.

Iceland – debuted in 1986, 28 entries
Reykjavik is a Eurovision host city in waiting and Iceland has found itself in the bridesmaid position twice before; in 1999 with Selma’s “All Out of Luck” and then ten years later in 2009 with Yohanna’s “Is it True?”. Iceland’s form is healthy with 5 Top 5 finishes since its 1986 debut and with its incredibly eclectic musical exports a win is only a matter of when not if.

Malta – debuted in 1971, 28 entries
Another tiny island nation which is ripe for Eurovision hosting duty Malta has placed in the Top 10 a staggering 12 times for no victories. Having come in 2nd twice, in 2002 and 2005, the Maltese internal selection contest is one of the most competitive.

Cyprus – debuted in 1981, 32 entries
Finishing 6th on debut Cyprus signalled from their earliest entries that they were going to be a competitor to watch. 31 entries later the Cypriote’s have only managed to finish as high as 5th which they’ve achieved 3 times and have landed Top 10 an impressive 9 times. Again, this is nation where a win is only a matter of time.

Amazing Malta

Amazing Malta
by Eric Andersson

I’ve been watching the Eurovision Song Contest for the past thirteen years and like everybody else, I choose my favorites songs and scream and cheer for them all throughout the show. I personally like to listen to all of the entries several times (often to the irritation of my friends and family) and rank each song according to how much each one either makes me want to dance or sends a chill down my back. The fast, up-beat, peppy songs with fun lyrics make me want to sing along and dance around the house (when nobody is looking). But I also like the powerful ballads that have that one strong, sustained note somewhere near the end that takes your breath away.

Both of these types are the ones that I tend to gravitate to and looking back over the last few years of my top tens, that fact becomes abundantly clear. Although my favs fall into these two categories, the countries that the songs come from are pretty even across the board. I don’t seem to favor any one particular country. Looking at the spreadsheets for the last seven years of my top countries (yes, I make a spreadsheet for scoring purposes each year – don’t judge), I see a broad mix – Sweden, United Kingdom, Austria, Malta, Russia, Ireland, Spain, Serbia, Greece, Romania, etc. But one name that seems to consistently make it into my top ten every year, is Malta.

Malta? Hmmm, what do I even know about Malta. I never seem to hear about it in the news, and I’m not even sure where it’s located. About all I do know is that they have great musical artists and there was a movie in the 1940s about a Maltese Falcon (which I now know is about a jewel-encrusted falcon statuette, not a real bird). But what else? So today, I decided to see what I could learn about Malta.

Well, the first thing I found (thanks to Wikipedia) is that Malta is an island country of only 122 square miles and has a population of about 450,000 people, making it one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries. (That’s tiny! I live in a small California city that has over 460,000 people!) The capital of Malta is Valletta, which is the smallest national capital in the European Union. And they have two official languages: Maltese and English. Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean, about 50 miles south of Italy, with very mild winters and warm to hot summers, and is said to be the country with the best climate in the world.

Ok, but what about the Maltese ESC acts that we’ve been seeing. Over the last seven years, we’ve had:

2015 – Amber – Warrior – a fun little power ballad with a good beat that came in 11th in the second semi-final, just missing the Grand Final.
2014 – Firelight – Coming Home – a poignant folk pop song that features an Appalachian mountain dulcimer. Very cool.
2013 – Gianluca – Tomorrow – a cheerful little tune about missed opportunities and finding a happy ending. And Gianluca is a medical doctor by profession!
2012 – Kurt Calleja – This Is The Night – a lively dance song with some fancy footwork in it. This is one of my all-time favorites, although no matter how hard I try, I can’t get the foot thing right.
2011 – Glen Vella – One Life – admittedly not one of the best songs Malta has ever sent, but still a fun pop song. Glen needs to lay off the make-up though.
2010 – Thea Garrett – My Dream – a lovely ballad sung by a very young performer. The song had a rocky start but ended on a high note. I thought the giant silver Maltese birdman flapping around behind her was a bit much.
2009 – Chiara – What If We – And here she is, the amazing Chiara. This is the song that made me sit up and take notice of Malta. This is a superb power ballad and Chiara does an amazing job with it. Absolutely incredible voice!

So there you have it, my morning spent learning about Malta. It’s a lovely country with a beautiful Mediterranean climate and great ESC performers. Every town or village has at least one week-long feast dedicated to a saint and tourists are welcome to attend. In April, a fireworks contest occurs in the Valletta/Floriana area, where different fireworks factories compete with each other exhibiting their finest works. It is spectacular and free to attend. During summer wine festivals abound and Malta’s megalithic temples are the oldest freestanding structures on Earth.

I think it’s time that I plan my next holiday in Malta.