Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Europe and Eurovision 2007 : And the Winner will be ... we think ... RUSSIA

Where does Europe begin and where does it end? Go East young man?

Political maps (e.g. Worldatlas.com) do not conform entirely to other maps of "Europe" which can also be drawn, for example, a map of the participant countries in the 52nd Eurovision Song Contest 2007.

The expansion of the Eurovision Song Contest can be seen over time at the individual maps on the following pages (from Wikipedia), which show the growth of modern Europe as a cultural unity on a broad "musical scale" - expanding Eastward:

1956 · 1957 · 1958 · 1959 · 1960 · 1961 · 1962 · 1963 · 1964 · 1965 · 1966 · 1967 · 1968 · 1969 · 1970 · 1971 · 1972 · 1973 · 1974 · 1975 · 1976 · 1977 · 1978 · 1979 · 1980 · 1981 · 1982 · 1983 · 1984 · 1985 · 1986 · 1987 · 1988 · 1989 · 1990 · 1991 · 1992 · 1993 · 1994 · 1995 · 1996 · 1997 · 1998 · 1999 · 2000 · 2001 · 2002 · 2003 · 2004 · 2005 · 2006 · 2007

Normal political relations among nations are often preceded by goodwill cooperation at the levels of economics, athletics, and inter-cultural exchange of music groups. The Eurovision Song Contest is one example of the "feeling" of European unity being created by music, culture and sports - rather than by politics.

The 52nd Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast by YLE (English pages) from Helsinki's Hartwall Areena, with the semi-final being held on 10 May 2007 and the final on 12 May 2007. Sponsors of the event are TeliaSonera (Nordic and Baltic communications) as the "Presenting Partner" and Nobel Biocare as "Official Partner". Sponsors are important in enabling the presentation of cultural media events.

Forty-two (42) countries are participating in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest.

Previews of the songs can be heard through links provided at Eurovision and Eurovision Nation.

And the Winner ... we think will be ... RUSSIA.

We try each year to predict in advance who might win and this year have listened to the songs now available online. There are already even betting odds online, e.g. at BetFair. Such odds are by no means infallible and we would never rely on them or advise others to do so, but they do give some idea of what songs may have the best chance of winning and which not.

We always try to be neutral in our judgments, trying not to have favorites in terms of countries. After all, this is MUSIC. What makes a "HIT" is the fact that it stands out from the mass of average compositions and performances by its unique character.

This year, we are particularly impressed by this music:

Russia has an excellent entry, with a very smart song title, Song #1, by Serebro, which is definitely bound to be a hit regardless of Eurovision by virtue of the topicality of its music (beat, rhythm), though we are not fans of its lyrics, which we find to be a bit too vulgar for our tastes, but then again, the masses love cheap vulgarity - this is RHYTHM as POP. Russia is the last symbol that Western Europe is mixing with the East - a process visible throughout Europe - and this song in its Eastern adaptation of Western music reflects that change. We think that the other countries have been waiting for Russia to come up with a Nr. 1 song and this is it.

Bulgaria - Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankoulov - Voda (Water)
has a unique song and presentation that combines many fundamental elements of music that are common to many human cultures, cultures today in opposition, but perhaps tomorrow in union, it is a great beat that gets you out of your seat . . . refreshing, primordial - this is the song with the BEAT - the song that in our opinion will be best remembered from Eurovision 2007 in coming years)

Serbia - Marija Šerifović - Molitva (Prayer)
presents a truly melodious song, superbly sung - this is the song with the MELODY.

We also personally like the VIVACIOUS song
Ven a bailar conmigo (Come and Dance With Me) by Guri Schanke of Norway

and the operetta-like and ETHEREAL
Cvet z juga by Alenka Gotar (Flower of the Sun) of Slovenia
both of which accord to our general musical taste in listening.

We like the music of Ireland's They Can't Stop The Spring by Dervish, which mentions Latvia in its lyrics, though we doubt if a political song has much of a chance to win an Eurovision Song Contest. It is too POLITICAL.

We are by our origin of course partial to Latvia, but the Latvian song selection each year seems to be marked by a great deal of risk - which has on the one hand led Latvia to win the Eurovision Song Contest in 2002, but in some other years has led to some real voting disasters among the juries. This year Latvia presents a song entitled "This Night" (Questa Notte) and sung in Italian by 6 tenors (one of the tenors is Italian, having come to Latvia in 2001). The Latvian song can thus be described as - NOCTURNAL.

An Italian song will bring Latvia no Italian votes, as Italy is not participating in the Eurovision Song Contest this year at all, due to unfortunate internal politics - forgetting that MUSIC is paramount. Latvia is singing in Italian for Italy . . . .

Maybe Italy has been singing the wrong songs at Eurovision or sending the wrong people to Eurovision as participants .... The 2007 Greek participant in Eurovision, Christos Dantis, for example, used Italian Adriano Celentano's music in the past with great success (though not in Eurovision). We read the following about Italian music:

"Italy is a country of great culture that was developed during great many centuries and made an influence upon the cultures of the other nations. Italian music of different genres and trends are world famous. Classical operas composed by great Italian classical musicians have been performing till now in the most theaters of every country of the world. The modern music is no exception. Pop Italian music has the roots in 1960s, but the genre gained the popularity in 1980s with appearing great many famous male Italian pop singers such as Angelo Branduardi, Adriano Celentano, Al Bano, Toto Cutugno, Den Harrow, etc.

The main reason why Italian pop music became popular in other countries is its national style with roots in Mediterranean folklore music. Italian sound is full of energy, rhythmical melodies are easily memorized, beautiful voices and Italian lyrics make the songs original and unforgettable. Latin traditions and English style of music, as well as American rock-and-roll made an impact upon the development of Italian pop music. But Italian performers and musicians always try to find their unique styles."

For Italy not to compete in Eurovision is sad for Europe, and sad for Italy. It is a decision by Italy through which no one wins, and everyone loses. Decisions like that should be avoided.

There is of course a great deal of grumbling everywhere, not just in Italy, that neighboring nations vote in Eurovision song contests for neighboring nations when juries cast their musical ballots, but past song contests show clearly that when a song is really bad, no one votes for it, not even the neighboring nations. And when a song is really good, then almost everyone votes for it, regardless. But of course, there is still favoritism.

But who will then totally eliminate the blindness of provinciality and local favoritism from Europe? Eurovision? Not a chance. Europe is a very provincial place. We live here and we see this daily. This is not just a problem of the Eurovision Song Contest. Look at the institutions and funding of the European Union - are they also not marked by territorial nepotism and favoritism? Why should Italy - which itself is very provincial - expect Europe to be different than Italy itself is? This is unreasonable.

PROVINCIAL is also a description that can be appended to many of the songs that numerous countries have sent to the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest - and - because of that same provinciality, those countries can only lose. Only songs that somewhere within them have a UNIVERSAL appeal can gather enough votes from ALL other countries and win.

This is why France, for example, always loses in Eurovision, because it sings its perpetual chanson for France, but not for the world, and the 2007 French song for Eurovision is a perfect example of this, titled L'amour à la Française (A French kind of love).

It is this same perpetual French provinciality which through such things as the negation of the Constitution of the European Union, has greatly hurt Europe, which needs UNIVERSALITY.

When e.g. ABBA sang its songs - it sang for everyone - and that is what made ABBA popular throughout the world. We need more ABBA in Europe and less the French idea that some country or people have some kind of hold on "love", which they do not. LOVE belongs to all.

There are other factors as well in the musical equation. Music has also evolved in recent years due to the technological and media advancements possible in the digital age. "Techno" music may not be everyone's taste, but it is a logical musical evolution given the possibilities offered by modern music technology.

Similarly, purists may scorn the modern collaboration of groups such as the The Three Tenors, but Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti have by their trio made "serious music" far more popular than it ever was before.

Music, like the world - and mankind, is in constant evolution.

One mistake that many countries make in picking their Eurovision songs is to rely on old formulas that previously were successful, which worked "fresh" when first performed, but copies of which are "stale" and "worn out" when presented in subsequent competition years. Songs which catch the "pulse" of TODAY, which have a professional, lively original or unique presentation and which also conform to certain unwritten limits and demands of artistic decency and presentation will always be successful, and that was why Lordi won for Finland in Eurovision 2006. Even though their music was "hard rock" and even though there were monster costumes and a theatre's "camp" flair, it was all still quite "presentable" and "original".

The musical presentations of several countries in 2007 in our opinion clearly overstep the limits of normal artistic decency for this kind of musical TV programming and will surely be rewarded by juries with few or no points. The themes of horror and nuclear war are not music in our book, but its antithesis. We listen to music for relaxation, entertainment or positive stimulation, and not for simple extensions of the bad news and ideas that we see daily on the news channels.

This does not mean that we should revert to the age of innocence in our music. We see that the Swedish entry, The Worrying Kind by the Ark, is favored by some, but we think that this presentation is really for 12-year olds. We hope that it has no serious chance of winning the Eurovision Song Contest, which should aim at a more mature audience. We also definitely agree that a part of that song sounds very similar to Barry Mason's song Love grows (where my rosemary grows) as recorded by Edison Lighthouse in 1970.

How things have changed since the glorious days of ABBA.

Flying the Flag for You by Scooch, the highly-rated United Kingdom entry, is interesting because of its theme of air travel, especially for our pilot friends, but we have trouble finding any real beat, rhythm or melody in this song. This is an ephemeral song, heard today, gone tomorrow.

We think that the problem in the UK is one found in music everywhere, which is that postmodern music in the post-millennium era has yet to find a clear direction in the process of change. Much current music shows where we have been - but where are we going?

When that is in doubt - mankind traditionally turns to its roots.

We definitely think that the Bulgarian song Voda "Water" goes back to the origins of all living things, and perhaps that is where we should start looking for what is to come, both in Europe, as also the world - "pure water".

We think Russia will win the competition, but Voda "Water" is our favorite song in Eurovision 2007.

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