Eurovision Reaction 2016

16 05 2016

Jamala 2016

This past weekend, loads of people in sequined costumes arrived in Stockholm to participate in the annual European Music Bash that was being held there that year. Yes; of course it was The Eurovision Song Contest, being held in the lovely country of Sweden who of course won it last year with Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw.

Sweden is no new comer to hosting duties at the Eurovision song contest, having hosted it 5 times previously; including hosting it 3 years ago after Loreen won it in Baku with Euphoria in 2012. My excitement for this annual show always builds up the closer it comes, however over the last couple of years I have struggled to enjoy the show, and remember anything about the show’s held as in my opinion I thought that 2014 and 2015 weren’t all that good. With the contest returning to Sweden after not so long was a sign of hope for me, even more so when I discovered that the host of the 2013 show; Petra Mede, was returning for hosting duties again (I wonder if she would be willing to host it every year, even if it was not being hosted in Sweden?). I really did enjoy that year, it was a well done year. It wasn’t the case of having good or bad songs; it was more that even with those songs being performed, the overall show production was to such a high that even at the bad times, it can still be enjoyed. What worked so well for it that year was a number of reasons but simply:

1: The arena lighting had this brilliant effect where the lights above it would light up towards the stage, and would speed up and finish on a sort of light explosion signifying the start of the song, roughly.

2: More importantly, the show’s host. Every year hosting duties gets landed on a couple (or in some cases 3) people who would spend most of the night trying to act silly or suggest there is something going on between them. In 2013, it was just one host, a host who was an experienced performer and talented comedian in her home country. By being by herself, she was able to own the show, and present it so well without having to hang off anyone. Her presentation was also very funny and was able to use her talents to best effect.

Måns Zelmerlöw and Petra Mede

This year, the presentation was good, definitely better than both 2014 and 2015. The return of Petra Mede was also a good thing, but, instead of her working by herself, this time was put in a situation with last year’s winner. This idea was rather interesting, but overall worked. It wasn’t as good as 2013, but overall was well done. The comedy was still there, the lighting effect was sort of brought back, but overall it was enjoyable. Over the last few years though, there has been some format changes to the show which has made it very confusing in spots. OK, the opening flag ceremony is a nice idea, and works very well in introducing the acts and countries instead of discovering them (unless you watched the semi-finals); however, it was hard to see the flags for exactly who they were and I was thankful that somebody pointed out who the countries were. The big thing though that has changed in recent years is the lack of performance of the previous year’s winning song. This used to be held right at the start of the show, but since 2014, has sort of been relegated to half way through, and then only as a brief mention. It is a shame, and it doesn’t really work either, it sort of takes the fun out of wanting to hear it and instead have it mentioned millions of time during the show until you hear roughly 30 seconds of it. As for this year’s half time show, we got a range of comedy moments such as The Winning Eurovision song moment; which was supposed to be a mash-up of ideas to create the Ultimate Eurovision Song (with guest appearances including of course, Lordi), a couple of funny moments, a nice montage of Swedish music (70 acts in total), and more bizarre; Justin Timberlake performing. I had no idea why he was doing this, I don’t see what he has to do with Eurovision, but overall it was relatively fun, and thankfully did not include that weird one he does where he gets the boys and girls singing these sentences. Although that on the whole does bring up the question of if in the future there is going to be more BIG acts like him in the middle (as long as the UK has Iron Maiden do it, I am absolutely fine with the idea, but that is dependent on the UK winning of course).

Justin Timberlake

It was the year of the Ballad at Eurovision this year. What you would usually find at Eurovision, is the sort of copycat pieces mimicking what sort of helped win the previous year, this year though there was very little of that, and instead we got a load of ballads. The only one that comes to mind for me was Russia’s entry which had this sloped wall which allowed the singer to climb up and down it as pictures appeared on the background. Although saying that, a lot of songs this year did involve the use of lighting effects on the back walls and the stage floor, which also seemed to have moments where it was raised in spots, like Greece did in 2005. From the start we got a whole load of Ballad based performances, all being kicked off really by the first appearance in a Grand Final by the Czech Republic. Ok, it wasn’t the first song. The first song from Belgium sort of annoyed me, as it had this weird entry dance that just stayed in my head. The beat and general song was ok, but I was glad something else came to mind, although when I think of it now, it’s very easy to break out into another piece of music, one that keeps appearing in Adverts. Czech Republic’s song similarly was good in the second half too, and I did think early on, much like Belgium that I may have ended up voting for them.

The number of solo pieces just continued as the show went on ranging from the interesting to the downright weak. You had pieces from countries like Sweden, and The Netherlands, which were generally very uninteresting, to a country like Italy who confused you with one singer singing (in at least) two languages. Australia was allowed to return and their ballad was a bit more upbeat, but the general number of them made it hard to remember them all. Luckily there were some different kinds of acts in there to help break it up and add a level of interest. This was true for the UK with a song that was very…very…very…just very. It was ok I suppose. One of the singers appeared to be attempting to play a guitar, although it was obvious that he wasn’t. Overall there were really only two bands performing. One from Georgia late on, which sounded very similar to the works of Oasis I thought, but really wasn’t my cup of tea, while Cyprus entered something that was my cup of tea. It was this nice rocky track. It wasn’t majorly heavy, it was rather light in tone, but still hard enough for rock fans like me to enjoy.

When it came to choosing a country for me to vote for, in the end, my mind was made up from the moment I first hears it. No, not Cyprus; Russia. Russia’s piece was very dark, heavy and also rather mystic. It was a song which had this wonderful and memorable chorus which had this light disco like beat. The background images helped to provide something of a psychedelic trip as the song was performed and this was helped by the lighter chorus beat. It was not rocky, still more pop like, but generally upbeat and very enjoyable. No act this year I found was more enjoyable than or as enjoyable as Russia’s entry. In hindsight, I think it reminds me a lot of Eric Saade‘s entry in 2011, it has that upbeat fast tune but still feels dark and heavy at the same time, I like that.

When voting came; there was a supposed ‘new’ system in place. Throughout the night it was mentioned numerous times without being fully explained. For a few years now, the voting system has been half and half; half music judges from each country, and half the public vote. This year both votes were split down the middle. One thing that has become apparent in recent years is that even when a country has won, its announced before the votes are finished, which is rather annoying. The winner is announced and the vote continues. This year though, they introduced something that changed that, and actually worked. So, the judging panels would announce their scores like the votes were done normally, but this time, the spread allowed even higher numbers of votes, and so I do believe the winner this year might be the highest scoring song in the contest’s history. So anyway, each country is contacted, a host represents the judging and then half the votes are all counted. Then, came the interesting bit, by this time, Australia were winning. So what happens is that instead of countries being contacted again, the number of points per country is added in one fell swoop. That’s all the points awarded to said country by all the other countries. This allowed the tension to be built up, as the countries with the most awarded points were added later. It was tense, it really was, and as the countdown continued, it became interesting, as Poland who only got 7 from the judging panels would then get over 200 points in one second from the public voting and go from dead last, to 6th in a split second. It was really interesting and hectic, but meant that the last stage of judging wasn’t entirely one-sided, but rather built up and allowed change to take place. It’s hard to really say how it worked I know, but trust me, it worked, and I hope they do this again in the future.

In the end of course, it was Ukraine who took top spot with Jamala‘s 1944, which supposedly was about the Crimean Tatars. This is now Ukraine‘s second win, having previously won in 2004 with Ruslana (one of my all time favourite Eurovision entries). Their entry this year I am actually finding rather hard to describe. Another ballad in many, I sort of remember it, and sort of think its ok, I just don’t really get it right now, maybe listen to it a few times might help. The staging was good; the images in the background were really cool, and the winner did sort of begin to break down crying during the final performance, which is a big change from when Lena won for Germany, and was ecstatic. It has been a good year this year, it really has, some changes, some differences. A combination of weak songs, and great songs, but a consistency of ballad’s lost some value as it went on, which may be why I am struggling with the Ukrainian Winner, but overall a good year for the contest, with a sight of hope for a grand and continued future for one of my favourite events of the year.

GENEPOOL





Tribute

11 04 2016

 

Virgo Bass

I started a Joke

That I could sing folk

When in fact it was more my foe

As I wanted to sing more disco

I’m just the man in the middle

Of a group who mostly played the fiddle

I had dreams of fame

But everyone told me that was just lame

You Win Again

I said, with words like Acid Rain

And so I gave up

To drink the loyal blood cup

On this our wedding day

Your love showed me a way

Your beauty, like sweet-smelling soap

Brought me long forgotten hope

You should be dancing

Where at the floor you were glancing

But you came too in addition

To join me in my ambition

GENEPOOL





Soundtrack Of My Graduation

30 09 2015

Preston Guild Hall Graduation Hat Throwing

Just over a couple of months ago, I graduated from the University of Central Lancashire with a 2:1 in Combined Studies (creative Writing and Screenwriting). Now while it was a big moment, graduating from University; the weeks prior and even the day before I was in no way looking forward to it. I was excited to see my friends from my course again, but I wasn’t looking forward to it for several reasons, one of the main ones being I don’t like getting ‘dressed up’. As the day went on though I actually enjoyed the whole thing and felt rather bad for not looking forward to it. Throughout the whole day though, I had a constant soundtrack going through my head. So I thought I would do a post about the soundtrack, why I thought of certain pieces of music and so on. Think of it as sort of one of those Father’s Day CD’s that gets released just before, well…..father’s day.

Preston Guild Hall

1. General Grievous theme – For most of the morning I didn’t have any soundtrack at all. When I got to Preston I had nothing much going through my mind, it wasn’t until I had signed in that I began to get nervous and shake. A little bit later I got my gown, and then tried to get a photo, but time was running out so I just went straight into the Guild Hall. It was at this moment that the feel of what was quite a heavy gown began to grip me. The grand thing of it all, and the theme for General Grievous came through my head. The grand music he has, and the fact he walks like he has a cape and walking stick. It made me feel like that and the music really helped to calm my nerves too.

2. “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff theme – As I sat down and began to wonder what was coming and going to happen. A new piece of music came to my head. As I saw the stage I would walk onto, I visioned the grand theme of professional wrestler Paul Orndorff, particularly his theme from the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony in 2005. It was just like Grievous, but I felt the combination of the gown and that music really worked together, but it was more just looking at the steps and stage that I just imagined some kind of music to play when I took to the stage.

3. Monty Python’s Flying Circus theme – As the ceremony ever more neared to starting, an Organ began playing in the background. Most of the music I did not know, but then it started playing the theme music to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It was a pretty good piece too.

4. King Kong 1976 Arena Entrance – The organ playing also made me think of something else too. In the 1976 remake of King Kong, when Kong is put on display and enters the arena, this really low, deep, organ piece is played. Its spine tingling, dark and spooky. And just for a laugh I thought it would be a cool piece to play for when the Chancellor came into the hall.

5. Sting In The Tail – It wasn’t really the song that I was thinking of. I think it was when I was sitting down, but my time was coming. And I just kept imagining hearing the announcement of my name and thought of the introduction to The Scorpions at their Get Your Sting & Blackout performance in 2011. I could just hear it in my head the announcement followed by the opening riff to Sting in the Tail being played as I walked on stage. Sadly that didn’t happen. Strangely enough though, at no point during the day did I think of Rock You like a Hurricane or Wind of Change.

6. Happy by Pharrell Williams – Naturally I wouldn’t have thought of this song at any time unless it came up some other way. Basically, as the ceremony began to wrap up, the UCLan Chamber Choir; who have won several awards and appeared on TV, came up on stage and sang a pretty good version of this song. The only time I would probably say I liked the song, because I don’t really.

7. Star Wars Ceremony theme – Let’s get the next 2 over and done with as quickly as possible. As the ceremony began to wrap up, the organist decided to play the end ceremony theme played at the end of Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. I was instantly able to pick up on it. I thought it was a rather embarrassing piece to use.

8. Indiana Jones theme – This was then immediately followed by the theme from the Indiana Jones films. Why couldn’t they have used Jaws or Jurassic Park?

9. Killzone 2 opening – As the day began to wrap up, after the meal at the University, I began to like the feel of the gown. It began to make me think like I was some Grand Emperor or Villain. Sort of like Emperor Palpatine. But a much stronger image came out, that in the form of Scolar Visari from the Killzone games. At the beginning of the first 3, Visari; who is the game’s primary antagonist makes great speeches to the people of planet Helghan. His speech from Killzone 2 most of all began to resonate out of my head as I began to feel the gown more, like I could make those speeches. At the end of it all though I was pleased to get it off as it was rather heavy.

10. The Hunger Games ending – As the Graduation Ceremony passed, and as me and my parents got back home, I began to feel rather emotional. I didn’t want University to end. I had been going there for 4 years, and I liked it there. I was happy. But it had to come to an end. The ending theme for the Hunger Games appropriately came on. The one where Katniss and Peeta nearly eat the nightlock berries and their time on the train afterwards. That music just kept going through my head, and for most of that afternoon, I failed trying not to cry.

11. This is our God, The Servant King – I began to get out of the emotional afternoon by playing Rollercoaster Tycoon on my PC. When texting a friend though about what I felt, she suggested doing something that took your mind off things, and even suggested some hymns. The one that came to my head was the chorus for the Graham Kendrick hymn: “From Heaven You Came Helpless Babe.” Why just the chorus? Because I couldn’t remember the verses, plus the organ like feel in the chorus came to my head thanks to the amount of Organ playing I had heard earlier in the day. But altogether it worked; it helped me get out of the emotions I felt all afternoon (it was only very recently that I found out what the hymn was really called).

12. Mike Awesome theme – This one is in here only because I listened to it on my Mam’s kindle in the afternoon. It doesn’t really have much other significance during the day than that, but I thought I would cover all pieces of music.

13. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan theme – As the evening began to draw in, the original plan was for me and my family to go out for a meal to celebrate. While we originally planned on going to a Mexican restaurant in Preston, because I felt it was too soon to go back to Preston due to still feeling rather emotional, I asked if we could just grab a Go Burrito, a burrito place in Lancaster) and eat at home with some nice ice cream to follow. Well, as the evening out with my Mam to pick up the Burrito’s and buy some ice cream panned out; I began to feel like I could have milked receiving my Diploma a little bit more. This is mostly due to seeing a couple of people who did just that. One who took a selfie half way through, and another near the end raising a fist in triumph. Well, that’s where this theme came in (another hall of fame piece). I just imagined walking on stage again, playing this theme, waving a hand, (maybe kissing the air to the audience), but sadly I didn’t think about that earlier. Well, that’s where this theme came in, and I pretty much ended the day on that one.

14. The Raid: Razor’s Out – The thing is, after all that I felt like the list of pieces of music I had compiled didn’t really have a sense of closure to it all. It was left on this uncertain note. I felt like for this list to mean anything it needed that closure. I then remembered something. Earlier this year, for a period of 2, 3 months, I could only think about The Raid. After watching it again and writing one of the best reviews I feel I have written this year, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In May, as my last Academic week with Uni approached, I decided to make the song Razor’s Out by Mike Shinoda and Chino Moreno, played at the end of the film to be my ‘end of University song’. Well, it made sense to use it for this list. It does give closure to the whole day. It’s still an uncertain future, but puts a positive-ish piece, spin on the whole thing. It’s like it’s not ending on a positive, ‘everything is ok note’, but is still saying the future is uncertain, but I am glad of what I have done for the last 4 years and feel like I am ready to move on to the next adventure.

GENEPOOL (Also during the day my brother showed this rather funny Mitchell and Webb Sketch, couldn’t stop laughing afterwards).





Eurovision Reaction 2015

26 05 2015

Mans Zelmerlow ESC 2015

Another year of singing descended on Europe once again as this past weekend saw the annual return of the Eurovision Song Contest. This time it was hosted in Vienna, Austria after they won last year with Conchita Wurst and his song; “Rise Like a Phoenix”. Much like in past years though the winning song wasn’t really played at the beginning of the contest. It was heard briefly, but Conchita did not really sing until before the announcement of voting, but sang two songs, neither of which was last year’s winning song. This isn’t necessarily all that new however. Back in 2005, the 2004 winner; Ruslana from the Ukraine sang at the beginning, but it was not the same song as the one she had Won with, all though it sounded very similar, if maybe a bit slower. I do think thought the contest is losing something if the winning song of the previous year is not celebrated at the beginning, or played at all.

This year’s presentation of the contest was terrific. The theme of “Building Bridges” was possibly a little over used, however for the most part it was used quite well. The presenting team of an all-female trio, plus Conchita, worked alright, I did however think that one of the trio had more time than the other two, and out of those two, one had more speaking parts than the other. It was a great improvement over the near jokers who hosted the event last year, but still had some chinks, and also some awkward moments of talking and speaking which were just un-needed. The presentation over last year though was a massive improvement. As for just the show (not mentioning the songs yet), last year was a bit disappointing. The set and other bits and bobs were pretty good, but the presentation left something of a sour note on the whole event, lowering my expectations a bit for this year. When the event started this year though, it reminded me of the kind of spectacle that Eurovision can produce if done to a good enough standard. The opening, was amazing; a nice combination of singing and pieces of music and video. The set pieces before each song, showing an Austrian Activity were really enjoyable (even if the accompanying song wasn’t so much). I did not get to see much of the big interval act, as I went downstairs to get some cake, but from what I saw, it looked pretty impressive. As for the voting, the ‘building bridges’ moniker was used quite nicely in a short animation before each country appeared to reveal their votes. The arena and set were brilliant, and provided plenty of features which were used to great effect. For next year, the caption should be: “Building Better Phone Lines”, especially after 3 countries suffered connection issues when announcing votes.

ESC 2015 Logo

This year’s selection of songs was a nice variety. I was a bit disappointed that the Finnish entry did not get through to the final, as I saw it a few weeks ago and thought it was pretty good. The UK selection for this year I genuinely thought was much better than most years. Its style and presentation looked like a piece of music from what I thought was 1930’s America, but could not help think that it sounded similar to a dance I once saw in Strictly Come Dancing during the 2013 competition. This year of course there was a lot of attention on a country that is not even in Europe (even though there are more regular countries that aren’t either); Australia. Australia’s song was quite nice and I did briefly wonder about voting for it. I think though that having 27 acts overall was possibly a bit too much and I felt like I was flagging a bit as the last few acts came.

There was a lot of interesting acts this year. Belgium produced this weird thing that was well choreographed, but not exactly up beat. Azerbaijan brought back Elnur Hüseynov who entered back in 2008. Other countries of note included Serbia, Greece (with something that looked like a combination of Norway’s entry in 2013, and their own entry back in 2006) and Russia. For me though, it was between two acts. Israel and Georgia. Israel’s entry I thought was very boy band like (a bit like Spain’s entry in 2007), and a bit silly; however it was also very enjoyable. The only other song that I thought I liked more possible was Georgia’s entry which was very different, more like Gothic Rock. I quite liked it, even if the costume was very outlandish, making me think of Julianne Moore’s character in Seventh Son, and that wizard character in Warcraft 3.

When it came to choosing for which one though, I chose Israel, but accidently voted for both of them. What happened is that when I voted for Israel, I typed in two extra numbers that weren’t needed, so I voted for Georgia, I tried again to vote for Israel, but did it again. I then voted again successfully for Israel. I decided though not to vote for them again two more times in hope of correcting it.

As voting came, it was a surprise as it was quite a close vote between 3 countries, Italy, Sweden and Russia. It was a close race with Russia winning for a while until Sweden grabbed the top spot and held it. Several other countries did quite well though, including Latvia, Belgium, and even Australia finishing in 5th place, well enough I think to suggest a possible return for them. The UK suffered a bit only achieving 5 points, but did considerably better than France (4 points) and both Germany and host country Austria who both received no points. The big winner for the evening though was of course Sweden finishing on 365 points (just 22 points away from Norway’s record victory in 2009) with the song Heroes sung by Måns Zelmerlöw. The song I thought was actually pretty good and the dance and animations were quite fun and a good song to finish the night on. Sweden’s victory in 2015 makes them the second country, after Denmark to win twice since 2000, but also, with 6 wins to date, Sweden is no the second most successful country in the contest history, just 2 more wins and it takes the top spot from Ireland. Altogether it has been a terrific year for the contest, and a great way to celebrate its 60th Year.

GENEPOOL





Pokémon and Dire Straits: A Brilliant Combination

22 10 2014

Pokemon

For nearly two years now I have been playing Pokémon on Thursday nights at Juicafe in Lancaster. I used to collect and play Pokémon when it first came out in the UK in about 2000, but without much of somewhere to actually play it; I ended up just playing it mostly with family and some friends. Eventually, while I still wanted to continue it, my interest waned. Then in 2013, Juicafe started a Pokémon Trading Card Game League and so at long last I was able to play again, and this time with other enthusiasts.

Juicafe

Playing Pokémon again was brilliant, and I enjoy it so much more than when I first started and is a definite improvement and better option to playing Magic: The Gathering competitively, for which I have now retired from. In the past year though, I began to notice people naming their decks, something I didn’t quite understand. From what I was able to gather, It was more for the experimentation of deck building to see how a certain deck works out. Being somewhat of a standard player, I did not consider naming my decks at all (I still prefer to play the cards with no sleeves as it feels more authentic despite the card scuffing, as well as the fact that I do actually have sleeves for them).

Pangoro Boxes

Well eventually I did decide to name my deck, but me being me, I decided to name my deck which was made up of Grass and Psychic Pokémon as Strong Arm Of The Law. I chose that name for one very good reason, it’s a song by British Heavy Metal Legends; SAXON. Strong Arm Of The Law is a very good song with a cool intro and riff, and a pretty good chorus section that is also kind of catchy. So pretty much there and then I decided to name my decks after Saxon songs. I planned to call a possible Fairy/Steel deck Princess Of The Night, while if I was to make a mainly Grass deck, that would be called And The Bands Played On. A Flying deck would receive the name 747 (Strangers in the Night) and a Fire deck (with possibly some Grass) would be Unleash The Beast. So I had it all planned out really.

That was until very recently. I decided that come the new season in September/October time I would start the construction of a new deck. I had been using Strong Arm Of The Law since about March/April 2013 and so in order for me to try something new plus some possible variety, I decided it would be best to get a new deck going. Strong Arm Of The Law was originally built by a friend at Pokémon by combining two Intro/Theme Decks, so I bought two decks at a brilliant Board Game shop in Horsham (BattleQuest Games). While I did do my research into Intro Decks and there were some with more powerful Pokémon, I went for a Dark and Fighting intro pack with a Panda like Pokémon on the front card called Pangoro. While I still need to build the deck, (I have yet to open the boxes) I have already chosen a name for my new Deck, and being a fan of Saxon, and deciding to name my future decks after Saxon Songs, my new deck’s name is,The Sultans of Swing, which many people know is the name of a song by Dire Straits.

Mark Knopfler

So why did I choose that? Well, during the summer, mostly thanks to listening to Money for Nothing about this time of year last year, as well as constant exposure to Romeo and Juliet on my Writing Adaptations module at University, I became a fan of Dire Straits. So pretty much the only music I have really listened to for the last 2/3 months is music by Dire Straits. One song in particular; The Sultans of Swing, I have listened to more than others. When I first heard it I wasn’t too impressed, I thought the song was a bit plain, but then when you listen to a live recording version and give it some time, it becomes one of their best songs. The lyrics the tune, everything. I once listened to it about 20 times in one week, I like it that much. So why did I decide to choose Sultans of Swing as the name of my new deck? Well, because:

  • A) I think it works, and…..
  • B) because I couldn’t think of anything else.

But the name does work, because in essence, I am calling the Pokémon in the deck, The Sultans of Swing. It is more of a personal name for them and gives the Pokémon cards both Character and Personality, and on top of that it brings two awesome things together into one brilliant combination; an Awesome Card Game and an Awesome Rock Band. Pokémon and Dire Straits is quite literally a Brilliant Combination (unless the deck turns out to be rubbish, in which case it may be the last time I use a Dire Straits song as the name for a Pokémon deck).

GENEPOOL (I could call a future deck Telegraph Road, but the deck would need to be so evenly mixed enough for the full 14 minutes of the song to take effect).








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