Eurovision 2015 – Greece

Greece is a top contender in the Eurovision contest. They always make it to the finale and are often in the top ten. You can usually count on Greece to deliver something with flavor; something different to get you excited.

For example, 2013 brought us Koza Mostra and Alcohol is Free, a lively punk/ska song that was my number one choice that year. In 2014, Freaky Fortune feat. RiskyKidd took to the stage with some hip-hop. For 2015, Greece brings us Maria Elena Kyriakou, who won the national competition and will perform in Vienna with her song One Last Breath. Will she bring the quality and variety we’ve come to expect?

Sigh. No. It’s another ballad. It’s a very nice ballad, sung by an accomplished singer with a powerful voice. It’s also a very formula ballad, which goes up-tempo at the two-thirds mark for dramatic effect.

Elena Kyriakou is lovely and has a dramatic presence, but One Last Breath does not stand out. Greece is in the first semi-final and if she has the misfortune to be placed before or after Finland, everyone will forget her because they’ll be talking about Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät.

I hope this makes it to the semi-finals, but I don’t know. Sorry, Greece, but I think you picked a bad year to bring a ballad. Regardless, best wishes to Elena Kyriakou.

You can find out more about Elena Kyriakou here.

Eurovision 2015 – Israel

So far, with the exception of Finland, all the songs I’ve reviewed have been some kind of ballad. I love a good ballad. Who doesn’t? After awhile, though, they all start sounding the same. In a competition where people will be listening to 16 songs in a row, you gotta stand out.

Which brings me to Israel. Since I became obsessed began enjoying Eurovision in 2012, Israel has sent some decent ballads to the arena. Nothing noteworthy. I honestly can’t remember any of them. 2015’s contestant is Nadav Guedj, whose win in The Rising Star gave him the right to wave the Israeli flag in Vienna with his song Golden Boy. Is this 16-year-old a breath of fresh air or the same old thing?

So. Fresh. Yaaas. So much fun! Finally, something danceable that will get people out of their seats.  I love how Golden Boy mixes a hip-hop sound with a Middle Eastern beat. Nadav Guedj has a great R&B voice and his youthful exuberance is infectious.

Also to love: that he manages to throw in the name of his city, Tel Aviv, and his words at the very end, “Okay, we gotta go, three minutes. Bye-bye.” Lol! Cheesy but in the good way.

This darn well better make it into the finale! Kisses and best wishes from the USA.

You can find out more about Nadav Guedj here.

Eurovision 2015 – Azerbaijan

You can count on Azerbaijan to deliver a great song to Eurovision each year. Chances are you’re going to hear a power pop ballad delivered by accomplished artist(s). They’re in it to win it, which they did in 2011.

Which is to say, they don’t take risks. You’re not going to hear anything weird or offbeat. Or innovative. When you don’t take risks, you miss out on the opportunity to be transcendent. Azerbaijan is hardly alone in this, but I point them out because they are a contender.

Which brings me to Elnur Huseynov who was chosen by internal selection to wave the Azerbaijani flag in Vienna with his song Hour of the Wolf. Does he transcend or maintain the status quo?

A little of both I would say. Hour of the Wolf is a lovely, introspective song with some powerful moments. Elnur Huseynov has a beautiful, plaintive voice with the range of emotion necessary to give listeners the chills. Go to 2:10 in the video when he turns and has that moment that makes you go “yaaas!”

That being said, the song is pretty safe. After it was done, I didn’t feel a strong, emotional connection, though that might change after a few more listens. Will I remember it this time next year? I don’t think so.

This will undoubtedly make it to the top ten, but I don’t see it as a winner. Even being predictably good is still predictable. Elnur Huseynov will give a great performance and I wish him all the best.

You can find out more about Elnur Huseynov here.

Eurovision 2015 – Armenia

I am posting this review on April 24, 2015, which is the day the world commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Armenia is sending a commemorative song to the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest. To keep it from being political, they were asked to change the original title from Don’t Deny to Face the Shadow.

Changing a title doesn’t change a single thing. Lives are only saved when we don’t deny.

Besides, what’s the point of changing a title to spare the feelings of a certain non-participating country who got all poopy and dropped out when their Man Boat didn’t win?

All that aside, I think Genealogy and Don’t Deny… excuse me, I mean Face the Shadow are fantastic!

This video is so beautiful and touching. The singers all have amazing voices. Plus, I love their style, sort of Nuevo-Victorian. They look really cool. And politics aside, it’s a great song that stands out from the pack with a hella powerful hook.

Genealogy is made up of five singers of Armenian descent from five different continents (Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and North America), meant to represent the Armenian diaspora. They make a winning combination and I have high hopes for them and Face the Shadow.

Genealogy, I love you and hope you make it to the top ten and beyond! Kisses from the USA.

You can find out more about Genealogy here.

Eurovision 2015 – Georgia

Last year, Georgia sent some hippies called The Shin and Mariko to Eurovision and they didn’t do so great. Actually, they pretty much placed last overall. Thing is, I liked them. Their hippie-jazzy fusion music was a nice change of pace and I do like a socially conscious message if it’s done right.

This year, Nina Sublatti won Georgia’s national competition with her song Warrior. Already, I’m liking her because she wrote the lyrics and co-composed the music. Does this song live up to its fierce name?

So. Fierce. I love it! Love her strong voice and tribal style. Love that she’s singing about women being empowered without involving any kind of romance. Warrior is a song about women being mighty and having agency.  We need more songs like this.

One small thing… what the hell does “oximated” mean? As a native English speaker, I’ve never heard the word used. Oximation means “reaction with, or conversion into an oxime.” An oxime is “any of various compounds containing the divalent group C=NOH and obtained chiefly by the action of hydroxylamine on aldehydes and ketones.”

Wait… what?

Maybe she meant to use oxidated, as in oxidized, meaning to “combine or become combined chemically with oxygen.” She probably should have just said something like “invigorated.” Seriously, kids, the English thesaurus is a dangerous thing. Use with extreme caution.

Regardless, I’m loving you this year, Georgia. Best wishes for a place in the finale.

You can find out more about Nina Sublatti here.

Eurovision – Russia 2015

Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room. Actually, let’s give the elephant a name: Vladimir… no, let’s not. Elephants are too awesome to be named after a certain homophobic Russian president.

You know who else are awesome? The Russian artists who represent their country at the Eurovision Song Contest. Yet last year, the Tolmachevy Sisters were booed whenever they performed live and that was just plain wrong.  The Tolmachevy Sisters are not Putin and neither is Polina Gagarina. However you feel about the current geopolitical environment, please respect the artists and the people they represent.

Now that we’ve cleared the air, let’s get on to the fun stuff! Polina Gagarina was chosen by internal selection to fly the Russian flag in Vienna with her song A Million Voices.

Very nice. Very uplifting. Polina Gagarina is a beautiful young woman with a powerful voice and strong stage presence. I would like it more if it weren’t for one thing: it is so similar to Russia’s 2013 entry. Take a look and listen.

Of course it’s not the same song, but undeniably similar. It feels like they took the lyrics from 2013’s song, put them in a box, shook it and came out with this song. I really like Polina Gagarina as a performer. I wish they’d given her better material to work with.

Still, Russia does get a lot of votes no matter what they put up there. I’m sure A Million Voices will do well and even make it into the top ten. This makes me happy for Polina Gagarina, but sad for other artists with more original material.

Nonetheless, I wish her all the luck in the world. Best wishes from the USA!

You can find out more about Polina Gagarina here.

Eurovision 2015 – Belarus

Uzari and Maimuna are a duet with a difference. Uzari sings and Maimuna plays the violin, but doesn’t sing. They won their national competition and will represent Belarus on the Eurovision stage with their song Time.

Here is the official video, which is a bit silly, but has good sound quality.

I also found this live video. The sound quality isn’t so great, but it’s a good way to judge their performance capabilities.

They are an attractive pair of accomplished performers. Uzari has a strong voice with a plaintive tone. Maimuna has mad skillz on the violin. The song, though, it’s kind of typical. The only standout is the front and center violin, and the fact that it’s being played by a lovely woman.

Time isn’t a bad song and I have a feeling it will grow on me. If Uzari and Maimuna can push the envelope and deliver a knock out performance, they could make it into the final show.

Best wishes to them!

You can find out more about Uzari and Maimuna here.

Big Wow! Comic Fest 2015

Stepping out of the TARDIS and into adventure with Four and Six.

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At Big Wow Comic Fest with Four and Ten.

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This is the last year for San Jose’s Big Wow! Comic Fest. Next year, it becomes Silicon Valley Comic Con. Exciting news! I’ll definitely be there.

Eurovision 2015 – Lithuania

Do we have another duet here? Why, yes, we do! Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila won their national competition and will fly the Lithuanian flag over Vienna with their song This Time.

It can’t be stressed enough that at Eurovision, it’s important not only to stand out, but also to be memorable. A good song can easily be overlooked in all the surrounding hubbub. Can This Time make its mark in the midst of all the other duets?

I really enjoy this song. The other duets I’ve reviewed so far tend to be dark and moody. This one is a light-hearted celebration of love. It reminds me a bit of Malta’s Gianluca Bezzina at 2013’s Eurovision in that it’s a cheerful, wistful and quite sweet. The video is a bit silly with couples supposedly listening to the song for the first time. Big props, though, for including a same-sex kiss.

Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila are like a breath of fresh air. I can see them changing the mood of the show when they perform. I don’t see This Time winning, but if Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila can get a following the way Gianluca Bezzina did, I think they have a good chance of making it to the finale.

Best wishes to them!

You can find out more about Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila here.

Eurovision 2015 – Latvia

I’ll start out by saying I’m already a big fan. Aminata is gorgeous and hugely talented. She won Latvia’s national competition with a song of her own composition, Love Injected.

Wowza! I love the way her smooth jazz style that flows effortlessly into her dramatic diva moments. This is so good and so different; it makes me a little afraid. Is it too different? I even wondered if she should have gone with an EDM version instead to make it more accessible.

I did a quick search and came up with a sanctioned dance mix of Love Injected. It’s pretty cool, but it does nothing to elevate what is already a great song.

Latvia hasn’t done so well at Eurovision in recent years. It hasn’t made it out of the semi-finals since 2008. I really hope the voters see and hear how special Aminata is and give her and Love Injected a deserved place in the finale.

Love and kisses and wishful voting to Latvia!

You can find out more about Aminata here.