Hervé has drawn France for me. Hervé has mapped France a l'Hexagone.
Things I do
I ask people to draw maps...
· Draw the World
· Draw Europe's nations
· Crowdsourced Continent maps
I make map cards:
· See map cards
· Buy map cards
And other things I write about:
· Little moments from travel
· London art & museums
· Football with foreign fans
· London shop geography
About this blog
I may have asked you to draw me a map - have a look around, they're all here somewhere.
- Women named Rickie
- Jauntily coloured beach huts
- The seaside, collecting shells
- Roisin Murphy
- The line Respectfully I saw to thee I'm aware that you're cheating / But no one makes me feel like you do from Ms Diana Ross' Upside Down
- Any DJ that sees fit to play Kylie's Your Disco Needs You
- The inimitable campy queeniness of someone who is cabin crew
- The weird and wonderful experience of meeting a fox on a drunken ramble home, especially if the street is empty and it's only you and the fox.
- The phrase creakingly posh.
- The Wet Look Jersey Maxi Dress by Kate Moss for Topshop. I can't wait to see it on the drunken streets of London. It would be amazing to strut in.
- I've been reminded of the immense gloriousness of Sia's Breath Me.
- Eurovision 2008 has a stage, with a great big phallic pole up the centre, and tentacles.
- Eurovision 2008 has a logo. It is intriguing. I'm quite excited to speculate what the purple shape is - a plum? a pepper? a wind-based clay instrument? Your suggestions please!
- The Norwegian church in London hold a traditional Norwegian Constitution Day Parade in London every year.
- Camden Arts Centre's new website is ever so nice.
- Finland and Estonia's national anthems share the same melody, but different words.
- Port Cities documents the seaward life of the UK's cities. London's Chinatown was once in Limehouse.
- Bhutan's stamps are amazing - 3D, metal, colour, bonkers. Great!
- The art of making patterns on kimono and Japanese material is called Shibori.
- The carp is a symbol of masculine strength in Japan, because the carp swims against the current to mate.
- An understanding that nostalgia for the Soviet era in post-Soviet countries does not mean a longing to return to that era, but a longing for the past that is universal for all.
- Tetra Pak is owned by two of the richest people in the UK, yet remains very difficult to recycle.
Web 2.0: it's the buzz word on every net-person's lips. This video is a whirling, trip-like flick through the logos of 5,000 Web 2.0 sites, applications, or companies. Bonkers. It's baffling to think that there are 5,000 out there, and probably many more on the way.
Sadly the trio (Bente, Marit and Knut - 3 ace Norwegian names) did not stay in Rodez. I would have thought it would be something of an adventure, a journey into the unknown as it were.
Journeying and wandering for their own sake are fun (Norwegians take note!). I love wandering city streets with no particular aim in mind, taking photographs and soaking it all up.
a wander from Broadgate to Bank and
a wander along East London's Christian Street.
I'm going to the Eurovision Dancing Contest tomorrow. What fun.
Er, that's it really.
I'm in a blogging quandary. Part of me wants to just stop. A bigger part of me wants to go on, boldly going forth and exclaiming, "ace!" I'm not sure what a blog is for any more, as everyone blogs now, in one way or another, thanks to Facebook.
Acediscovery will change - it was always to be somewhere I'd write about things I've found that I think are cool. This became hijacked with Eurovision and pop music, and that's great... I just miss the other stuff, that's all. (Thanks, Robyn.)
These two articles about Ireland are very interesting.
I went to G-A-Y on Saturday night to see BWO, Alcazar and Army of Lovers.
- Army of Lovers were just plain bizarre. Alexander Bard had a black blow up (female) sex doll with him.
- Alcazar were with new girl Lina, and all synchronised head turns and pointing.
- No handclaps! No strutting!
- Tess was dressed for wind machine success with a big flowy number.
- The wind machine was set to Carola strength for Tess, but a mere Sonja Alden trickle for Lina. Maybe there's a wind machine pecking order?
- Andreas was sharp with his shaved head and tight, tight trousers. He knew his market.
- They were all coy about Alcazar reforming, meaning 'no'.
- BWO were good too. Martin took his shirt off.
- They performed Temple of Love to a hugely bemused audience who had no idea of its Melodifestivalen brilliance.
The new Girls Aloud single: Sexy! No No No.
It makes me want to be a teenager again.
- It's all swooshy, drivey, whirly and amazing.
- It starts all Cheryl-in-vocoder, and reminds me of Eiffel65. This is no bad thing.
- Then it thumps in, and there's a 'dialogue' between Cheryl and 'the girls' about whether she did this, that or the other to some bloke she' met.
- Her replies are: No no no, No no no, No no no, Hell no, No No No, No no no, No no, no, Hell YEAH.
- Then there's more No No No bits and a verse.
- Nadine sings "d...d...dirty mind" recalling Grafitti My Soul.
- I'm sure some Popjustice types will decry some of the girls' absence, but Nicola can be clearly heard grunting "Uh Uh Uh" at one point.
- Then there are Woo Woo bits.
- It's all about singing in duplicate and triplicate. Amazing.
- It's very Sex and the City gone hyperdance whacked up and crazy. Girls Aloud - the logical mid-00s UK successors to Carrie Bradshaw et al?
Hurrah for Girls Aloud. They bring sunshine into even the wettest of summer days.Here it is, via youtube and some random dance video:
Carola's gone all leather-clad biker queen. Glad to see she's still doing the arms aloft waving.
With thanks to the Schlagerboys.
London Pride was something of a washout. It was wet. Still, at least the float blaring out "It's Raining Men!" made sense.
I didn't even get a shot of a buff man bouncing around wearing a mankini. Forshame.
It turned out that there was a Eurovision connection.
Amnesty International used the idea of Eurovision voting to highlight the poor experiences of gays in Eastern Europe where a lot of Pride marches are banned. Thus, nul points for Moldova, Poland, Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and others.
Read all about it here.
And to make it even better, the Amnesty float was blasting out I Love You, Mi Vida. Oh, if only buff Ony (Antonio to his mum) from D'Nash had turned up with his lovely arms and chest...
Lots of great photographs of the day here.
Not to mention Gina G. There'd be a stampede.
I went to see wistful Swedish poppets Raymond & Maria last night. They're playing a whistlestop tour of gigs in London and Glasgow this week, and I highly recommend.
Reasons why Raymond & Maria are great:
- There are 5 people in Raymond & Maria, only one of whom is called Maria. Raymond & Maria was the name of a notorious swinging club in Stockholm in the '60s. Amazing.
- Raymond & Maria play floaty, wistful pop music that sounds very happy and jaunty but in fact is rather depressing.
- Many of their songs have hand-claps and 'la la la' bits. One song in particular was hand-claps-a-go-go.
- Raymond & Maria are very polite and unassuming. They said 'please' and 'thank you' and 'takk!' a lot.
- One song includes the line 'Will someone tell me why the boring ones are loudest in the bar?'
- One song abbreviates 'television' to 'televish'.
- Raymond & Maria have been Number 1 in Sweden with Ingen vill veta var du köpt din tröja. The English version of this is called No One Notices Your Brand New T-shirt, but in Swedish it means "No one wants to know where you bought your sweater".
The English version can be heard on Raymond och Maria's myspace, and download the Swedish version here:
This man is Gipsy.CZ.
He took part in the Czech Republic's Eurovision pre-selection this year, and came second. He also played a gig in London yesterday as part of the Central & Eastern Europe Pulse music festival. I went to see him. He was very good.
- He plays a racuous mixture of gypsy folk music and hip-hop. It mixes accordions, fiddles, cellos and phat vocals.
- Despite having a powerful, masculine rap voice, Mr GipsyCZ has a sweet, cute speaking voice. He said, "hell-low, I am from Prack".
- His best song is Romano Hip Hop. Listen to a little bit of it here.
- He bounces around stage a lot, striking poses. Why did the Czech Republic not send him to Eurovision?!
- His little white shirt was nicely fitted, not like these ill-fitting American rap t-shirts.
- If you're going to Glastonbury, go see Mr Gipsy.CZ. He'll be there too. More info: on Gipsy.Cz's website and Myspace.
- The gig had fantastic energy and the crowd were loving it, dancing and 'hands-in-the-air'-ing.
- Interesting geography fact! The gig really showed the demographics of recent migration from Eastern Europe: lots of funky cool young people. Also: lots of really beautifully cheekboned buff handsome men. Hurrah for them.
I'm not sure what to write now. With no eurovision to distract me, I'm practically lost.
My new job is keeping me very busy, so I don't find the time to keep up with the cool pop blogs and haven't listened to new music in yonks (suggestions on a blog comment, please!).
What I have been doing is wandering around strange parts of London taking photos. London: The Way We See It is a cool site that picks a London street at random each week and the masses go out to photograph it in their own unique style. Below is Change Alley, in the City.
I thought Change Alley would be one of London's delightful hidden alleys. Instead it's a dumping ground.Following an odd cross-shaped path, it wasn't particularly winding, medieval or mysterious. It turned out to be where restaurants kept their wheelie bins, where the rubbish was and where the pipes where hidden. Running between two 'main' streets and arteries, it was where the stuff that couldn't be out front was deposited. This photograph is the stuff deposited between two surfaces.
Fun, no? More photos like that either in my FlickR or on London: The Way We See It.
I've been to see Girls Aloud play their Greatest Hits tour in Wembley. In a word, it was amazing. I love their songs, their attitude, their style. The audience was a hugely diverse mixture - young kids, gays a plenty, indie boys, Essex girls, trendy girls, New-Rave "youth of today" and many more besides. Girls Aloud seem to succeed by mixing quite complex, layered and referential pop music and lowest common denominator styling, and somehow pull this off with ace personality.
- Entering and coming down onto stage on a platform.
- Nicola, despite allegedly being Miss Body Issues, wearing the most revealing clothes of all 5. The minx was loving it.
- The band, great as they were, were kept well hidden at the sides of stairs with dancers to the forefront.
- The Hunky dancers, especially when wearing ripped shirts and ties or nothing at all. One long, lingering shot of a dancer's chest and torso proved there was certainly a gay in charge of the camera.
- Their dodgy covers were rescued by: Synchronised Strutting during Walk This Way, hunky dancer pelvic thrusts for Jump, and an amazing finger-clicking bit in I Think We're Alone Now.
- Cheryl Cole totally over-sexes her dance moves, especially during Something Kinda Ooh. She's fabulously filthy.
- Three dancers brought out nunchucks at one point. It's always nice to see violent weaponry on stage.
- Nicola's miserable puss for the "frankly I don't even care" lyric in No Good Advice was a joy to behold.
- Dance routines with canes.
- There was an odd Dirty Dancing routine but, sadly, no time for a 'Nobody Puts Nicola In The Corner' skit.
- A whole lot of shimmying, shaking, thrusting, lurching, head swishes and hair swooshes - especially during Wake Me Up and Money.
- The hunky dancers were hidden under bedspreads for The Show, and the song's "I won't sex you until I say so" message was given a whole Benny Hill chases around the bed treatment. Brilliant.
- Biology! Literal dance interpretations of "a girl's got to zip it up" and the tick-tock-clock dance move.
More pictures on Flickr, if you are interested.
Far from being rubbish, New York City is amazing. Here's what I did:
- Looked incredulously at tall, tall buildings. Skyscrapers are amazing.
- On the first day, wondered "where are all the people?" The city seemed remarkably, and oddly, quiet.
- Got caught in a rainstorm (oh my god, I'm Carola) wearing hopelessly inappropriate clothing (oh my god, I'm Carrie Bradshaw).
- Saw someone with big hair and sunglasses like dinnerplates in Saks 5th Avenue who I'm choosing to believe was Diana Ross. As she sashayed past, the sales assistant breathlessly whispered "you look beautiful" at her.
- Bought very, very gay Diesel swimwear
- Became a label queen, buying 2xist underwear for, like, £4. A cheap label queen, obv.
- Said "I guess", a lot.
- Ate "subs".
- Bought Verka Serduchka and Ruslana CDs at a Russian music shop near Coney Island. Eurovision is unavoidable.
- To that end, I saw a bar called Vertigo and a restaurant called Dervish.
- Took well over 600 photographs. Just be glad I'm not doing show and tell. They'll eventually make their way onto Flickr, I guess.
- Explored New York's many gay scenes. My favourite was the Meatpacking District. No giggling, please.
- Laughed like a drain at the bitchiest drag queen I've ever heard. She grew impatient at her show not being able to start, grabbed the mike and shouted "Motherfuckers! Get a move on, I'm growing a beard here!"
- People watched. Three particular standouts were:
- A gorgeous, cornfed American jock type stormed manly into a bar, dropped his bag with a manly movement and campily screeched "oh my god this bag is soooo heavy!"
- A blonde girl rushed me past engulfed in her conversation on her phone: "No, cos Anthony told Samantha" all said in total Noo Yoik speak.
- Two women met on the subway, having not met in a while. One says to the other that's she's not working right now. The other replies, "oh too bad. I do accounting for a firm of forensic investigators".
Now that Eurovision is done and dusted, I'm off to New York tomorrow.
But there's still time to celebrate this year.
Serbia was a fantastic, deserving winner. I loved the militaristic, powerful performance and Molitva is a storming stomper of a song.
I'm really glad a ballad has won again, and it's the first fully non-English song for yonks.
My votes on the night were a tight affair: 3 joint winners: Serbia, Ukraine and Slovenia. I had the top 2 at least.
Patriotically, I'm a bit disappointed Ireland didn't do better, but not surprised - it was joint 20th in my line-up. We gave big cheers when Scooch got their 12 points from Malta, and huge groans when Ireland's points for the UK and Lithuania voted themselves into last position.
Also: a word to Sweden, who really didn't do well. SEND SCHLAGER EVERY YEAR: YOU'RE GUARANTEED A JOINT 6TH POSITION.
And that is all. Now, hands in fists, arms aloft: MO---LIT---VA!!!!!!!
Eurovision semi-final came and went yesterday, and wasn't it a whole lot of fun? As has been covered en masse elsewhere, all the qualifying countries (bar Turkey) are Eastern European. I don't really care about this, but I'm disappointed that Netherlands, Malta and others didn't qualify.
If anything, I think the EBU need to come up with a format that tempers this disappointment, and highlights the fact that the show is a celebration of music and song!
Here are my Best Bits!
- Belarus! Dmitry Koldun's new hair-do was the highlight of his performance for me. That, and the 'reach up to the side and grab' dance move.
- Iceland! The guitar player on the right was HOT.
- Georgia! It felt like all the first few performers were wearing black or in dark colours, so thank goodness for Sopho and her crimson red dress. I quite liked her swordsmen too. She's obviously been to The Ruslana School of Weaponry.
- The Netherlands! Edsilia! She belted it out, the performance was pitch perfect, quite simple not too overdone with just a little bit of strutting. Poor Edsilia.
- Denmark! DQ was fan-tastic! Ho ho.
- Serbia! I love, love, loved Marija's performance. From her nonchalant stroll on stage to the strangely sinister Military glamour girl chorus gently fondling each other, to her Big Belt-It-Out Vocals, it was amazing.
- Estonia! Gerli strutted all about, to the side, to the other side and had the hunky dancers. Hurrah for Estonia's predictability.
- Slovenia! Alenka's wonderful arms aloft entrance said "I'm here!" and her sparkly diamond hands were cool, but most exciting was Alenka's cute "look! I've got sparkly hands!" faces.
I loved lots of other things too. Roll on Saturday!
Kikki is 55 today and, bless her, she doesn't look a day over 50. Poor Kikki's been in the spotlight more for her eating and drinking habits recently than her fab schlager credentials.
So let's redress that with some Kikki facts.
- Kikki has been in Melodifestivalen 9 times, and has gone to Eurovision twice, in 1982 and 1985 when she finished 3rd.
- She's been a proper schlager pop singer since 1973.
- Her Bra Vibrationer is not only schlager brilliance, but also a hilarious song title.
- In her latest Melodifestivalen appearance, Kikki came last in the final. Poor Kikki! But! I dag & I Morgan was pure schlager brilliance, with bongs and a whopping key change.
- Kikki wore a big pink kaftan or muu-muu or something. What's not to love?
- Kikki was very big in the 80s, rocking a big hair and shoulder-pads look.
For your download pleasure, here are I Dag & I Morgan from Melodifestivalen 2006, and the very ace Varför är kärleken röd? which came in 2nd place in 1983's Melodifestivalen.
Kikki Danielsson - I dag & I Morgan mp3 (right click - save as)
Kikki Danielsson - Varför är kärleken röd? mp3 (right click - save as)
Enjoy Kikki! Enjoy Eurovision!
Antti Tuisku came third in the first series of Finnish Idols, which was won by this year's Finnish Eurovision entrant Hanna Pakarinen. Antti, 23, subsequently released two albums on the same day - Rovaniemi and New York. They topped the chart at numbers 1 and 2 in their first week.
Rovaniemi mixes pop sounds and hints of trip hop and downbeat ethereal techno to surprising effect. New York is much more racy, vampy and sexy. Taking a Timberlake styling, the album took influence from Antti's idol Madonna, mixing dancebeats and electrosynth hooks, creating an modern sound complimented by assonant Finnish lyrics.
Sekaisin, loosely translates as 'Confused', reached number 2 in the Finnish charts last year. I love the 'ooour' sound in the chorus, based on the sound of the Finnish language.
Tulevaisuus, which means Future, builds from synth hooks and echoey vocals to a huge chorus.
Annti Tuiksu - Sekaisin mp3 (right click-save as)
Annti Tuiksu - Tulevaisuus mp3 (right click-save as)
Humppa is a bonkers Finnish musical style that seems to be a hilarious thrown-together mix of lots of instruments, wild on stage energy and exuberant performances. It's a sort of mash of ska and polka and folk and rock. It's brilliant.
Eläkeläiset (Finnish for "pensioners") are a humppa band, who've been around since the early 1990s. Eläkeläiset mainly play cover versions of famous pop and rock hits in a fast humppa style with Finnish lyrics. They've covered lots of classics: The Cardigans' My Favourite Game, Madonna's Like A Virgin and a particular stand-out track The Pet Shop Boys' Domino Dancing.
Here for download is one we all know and love given a bit of humppa treatment.
Eläkeläiset - Kulumaton Humppa mp3
There's something very Finnish about brightboy. Their songs speak of enjoyment and fun, getting the most from life, but a slight disaffection with their surroundings, knowing there's something better out there, as in their song This Town Is Getting Too Small For Me and a pragmatic attitude to fame and money, as in the synth-tastic Vanity Fair.
In particular, I love Wear Out the Soles (download below). It's infectious, melodic guitar pop with a great, fun sentiment about living for the moment and dancing with abandon. It seems very Finnish, for a country that throws off the shackles of winter by partying.
Over the next four days, in the run up to Eurovision, I'm going to feature some funky Finnish music. I'm starting today with two acts that need no introduction: Arja Saijonmaa and Katri Helena.
Arja Saijonmaa is a fab Finnish singer, well known for her Melodifestivalen entries, having entered twice and twice in the Finnish Eurovision preselections. She was cruelly robbed in 1987 by one point into second place with the amazing schlager classic Högt över Havet. Even more amazing was Arja's shoulder-padded wrap-around electric blue number and strut to the front of the stage to begin the song.
Arja has starred in three Finnish movies, written a book about Finnish sauna culture and is a United Nations’s Goodwill Ambassador. She has released 14 albums in Finnish, 11 in Swedish and has recorded also in Norwegian, Greek, Spanish, Italian, French and German.
Arja worked with Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis to create Finnish versions of his Greek political songs. This can be heard in Jokainen Arkiaamu, a pleasant folksy song with hints of Greek folk and tango influences. Arja's vocals are as distinctive as ever.
Arja Saijonmaa - Jokainen Arkiaamu mp3 (right click - save as)
Arja was catapulted back into the spotlight by appearing in Sweden's Let's Dance, having an affair with her dance partner, posing naked with him and generally vamping it up big style. Fabulous! Arja came back to Melodifestivalen in 2005, but, er, came last in her semi-final after a dreadful vocal performance. Best not to dwell on that one. Here instead is her demo recording of another 2005 MF song, Om Natten. Jessica Folcker sang the final version, but I much prefer Arja - she rasps her way through the song with drama and passion.
Arja Saijonmaa - Om Natten mp3 (right click - save as)
Katri Helena is another Finnish instituion, having performed at Eurovision twice. In 1979 she performed Katson Sineen Taivaan, and in 1993 came to Millstreet with the excellent Tule Luo. Whereas Arja is vampy and sexy, Katri is classy and sweet. Tule Luo is a brilliant melodic pop song with accordions. Katson Sineen Taivaan is a dramatic, rousing balladic pop song with swooping strings and a soaring chorus. Both songs are fabulous examples of the under-rated Finnish entries to Eurovision.
Katri Helena - Katson Sineen Taivaan mp3 (right click - save as)
One of the things that astounds me about Katri Helena is her unwavering ability to wear blue. It just suits her so much. Away from Eurovision, Katri Helena is a much loved Finnish star. She is the first singer in Finland to have sold more than one million albums, and this list of her albums is huge, reaching back to the 1960s. Here to download is Maailman pihamaat, a 60s sounding song in Finnish with hints of tango (they do love the tango in Finland!)
Tomorrow... something a bit more hip and contemporary from Helsinki...
One week to Eurovision. I'm all kinds of excited, but yet not clicking all the amazing blogs bringing the rehearsal gossip. I want the show to be a wonderful, sparkly surprising explosion of fun.
If you're eagle-eyed, you'll know that I've written song previews for londonist.com. We've tried to popularise the songs... I've focused on all the songs, even the ones I don't like and not raved about those I love. So, having watched all the videos at the wonderful Retro Bar Douze Points bash, these are my Eurovision highlights:
Bulgaria: Amazing. Loving the mix and going-over-a-cattle-grate vocals and this will be ace if they can reproduce their crazy drumming on stage. I'm also hoping Elitsa will wear her wings. I predict the Lordi effect for this year will be wings + fireworks.
Cyprus: Love Evridiki's power-fringing and electropop styling. But, why oh why, is she bringing musicians on stage? She needs hunky dancers! Musicians are so Comme Ci, Comme Ca.
Belarus: Dmitry Koldun's got a big, big sound, is big in the Baltics (-ish), he's probably big in his pants, but will he Work His Magik to be big in the hall?
Iceland. Erikur, bless him, with his over-the-top melodrama and big blonde hairdo, he's this year's Anna Vissi.
Georgia: Sopho's Visionary Dream is Bjork meets Madonna meets Kate Bush meets Karen Carpenter meets post-Soviet chic. This song is nothing short of amazing.
Natalia from Moldova really better bring the hunky boys in shirts and ties on stage and get them to stage-fight. Very 'graphic' (or something).
Netherlands! Edsilia! Wonderful! But! What! is she doing in the video?! Standing?! Finger-clicking?! That's all wrong. She needs to be strutting. Preferably On Top of The World, like a big globe, or something.
Denmark's DQ has the best going-into-a-chorus moment in the whole contest this year. The high, high key change reminds me of moments in the Simpsons when they're being strangled and their tongues wiggle. Amazing.
Serbia: oh how I love a big thumping ballad. I just hope they don't have a daft stage show going on in the background. It's all about Marija and her couldn't-be-bother'd-to-glam-it-up image.
Norway! Ven A Bailar Conmigo, hurrah! Loving the costume change, and that Guri Schanke looks old enough to know better, but is having the time of her life. Guri's a game old bird!
Malta. I've loved Vertigo since, oh, January. Olivia Lewis' crazy frantic running in the video is ace, and gives whole new lyrics for the chorus: "and I run, and I run, and I run, and I run". Hilarious, brilliant melodramatic ethnopop.
Estonia: Gerli will strut on stage for sure, and Estonia can always be counted on to bring hunky dancers.
Slovenia's fabulously bizarre ethno-opera-anthem is as odd as a box of frogs and just as amazing, and Alenka is all kinds of fierce with arms aloft (thanks to Geoff).
Turkey. Mr Kenan Dogulu, with his lots of candy indeed, looks like the kind of man you'd meet in a bath-house and would follow down a darkened alley to shake up his shekerim.
I'm duty bound to love Austria's song for boyfriend reasons, and I do like it. I'm loving that it'll be all sparkly and crystalline.
Spain! D'NASH, or G:Nash as I prefer to call them, need to work clothes removal into their performance. That, or songwriter Rebeca needs to strut across the stage for no apparent reason in heels and big hair... AND! She should rip the t-shirts off the two hot ones. That'll work.
Ireland: bless us, we're going for the twee vote. I much prefer the harsher vocals by Dervish lady as it's more authentically Irish, more Dolores O'Riordan than Andrea Corr, if you will.
Finland: Hanna Pakarinen better be in a big flowing frock, with a wind machine and big rock-chick angry swoops from her mikestand. She can rock the Caustic Carola look. Her kicking the table over in her video is the Anna-Vissi-kicking-the-car moment of 2007.
Greece: Sarbel does loves his tight little t-shirts that show his arms off. It's not a patch on Paparizou's Gigolo, but a nice bit of shakey-shimmying fun.
Sweden: I didn't rate it to begin with, but I'm now a huge fan of The Ark's The Worrying Kind (needs to be renamed Not The Marrying Kind). I'm very excited to read they're bringing Therese's revolving CD stand to Helsinki.
Russia's teen mail-order bride anthem promises us so much strutting action, but what's with the dopey dance breakdown in the middle? Just get to the key change, ladies!
Ukraine is just bonkers and great fun. I don't want this to win, but I do want baco-foil clad dancers on my TV screens. Verka Serduchka, don't live to dance, dance to live. I love you.
UK: Scooch are going to be delightfully entertaining and flying the flag for camp nonsense.
And there's so many others too, as well as all the ace Finnish-ness of it all. Arja Saijonmaa might even pop up, and the lovely Katri Helena too! We can only hope for a CatCat revival. It's all so exciting. Not paying attention to the rehearsals will be super difficult, so to divert, over the next week, I'm going to feature some funky Finnish music. Check back over the next few days to find out more.
Here's my more official, less giddy and excitable preview from Londonist.
Bulgaria send an ethnic rave song with vocals that are mere sound effects built into the heavily drummed mix. It's quite amazing.
Israel's controversial entry sounds like 5 songs in one. Sounding like a bargain bin Gogol Bordello, Push The Button by Teapacks mixes rap, rock, drum and bass, jaunty pop, klezmer with social messages about nuclear annihilation.
The entry from Cyprus is sung by Evridiki who's been taking lessons from Madonna and Anna Vissi. Comme Ci, Comme Ca is a electropop song with vocals in French and full of synths and electric guitar. Has a false-ending middle eight, and should be performed well.
The Belarus entry is a Bond theme tune that never was. Fantastic strings and chorus make this a catchy number, and one that should be in with a good chance.
Iceland's performer is Eurovision veteran who sings a melodramatic rock ballad called Valentine Lost. The fans will love him, but will all that melodrama be too much for him?
Debut nation Georgia send a performer called Sopho with a song Bjork would be proud of. Visionary Dream mixes an ethnic tune with thumping dance beats, and floaty string sections all accompanied by shrieky Kate Bush vocals. In the national final, she performed the song wearing a massive floating blob pink dress. Amazing.
Montenegro send a dull, uninspired electric rock song with very little to redeem it.
Switzerland send the improbably named DJ Bobo performing the reminiscent-of-Aqua dance-pop songVampires Are Alive. The stage show for this should be ace, so watch out for the Bobo.
Moldova's entry, Fight, soars and grinds, with angry guitars that remind us of goth-poppers Evanescence with added synthy lightning strikes and high female vocals. Wind machine, ahoy!
The Netherlands send the potential Eurovision classic, On Top of The World. It hits all the right cliches: starts off slow and acoustic, kicks into a soaring chorus, an odd middle 8 and a huge key change accompanied by squiggly sounds. To top it off, Edsilia, the performer, is a past Eurovision entrant and knows how to work the stage. Brilliant.
Hear My Plea cry the Albanians with a slow ethnic ballad, the title of which in Albanian is Stone Ballad. That's about as exciting as it gets.
Denmark send a fabulous drag queen singing Drama Queen, a fabulously dancey pop song about how fabulous her dramatic life is.
Croatia's entry is a fairly dull mid-tempo rock number, sung by a man who will be the oldest entrant in the contest ever.
Poland's Jet Set tell us that it's time to party, time to party, time to party in their Black Eyed Peas-esque bouncy, rappy hip-pop song.
Serbia's Marija is eye catching as she looks somewhat K D Lang. Her song Molitva translates as Prayer and is a big, big ballad with ethnic drums and flutes. We see this one doing very well.
The debut performers from the Czech Republic are growling, hoary rockers performing a fairly standard rock number.
Portugal's latino dancing song is nowhere near as good as Norway's, which is odd, you'd think.
Macedonia's Karolina (that's her there in Eurovision 2002) brings us the best instance of "ni-ninny-na-ni-na-na-na-ninny-ni-na" nonsense lyrics this year with her classily performed sort-of nationalistic pop song.
Norway send a fun Latino-flavoured dancing song Ven a Bailar Conmigo sung by a woman who's not Spanish and old enough to know better but seems to be having the time of her life, especially during her fabulous eye-catching costume change.
Malta throw the kitchen sink into their entry, Vertigo. It has a big Mediterranean ethno-pop sound, evoking Greek, Spanish and Turkish music. Performer Olivia Lewis is a trooper, and vocally powerful and the song's swooshing sound makes this one of our favourites for this year. Malta would love to win, let's hope they have the chance.
Andorra's entry are Busted-meets-Blink182 boys Anonymous, and they are some guys singing about saving the world in Catalan. It's a fresh, interesting approach from a country that usually are ignored at Eurovision.
Rusza Magadi sings Hungary's entry, Unsubstantial Blues. It's what it says: a blues number about being dumped. With her repeated shrieks of "why did you leave me", we can think of at a few reasons.
The brother of Estonia's Gerli Padar won Eurovision 5 years ago, but her pleasant, uptempo guitar-led number probably won't follow suit. Nice strutting, though.
Belgium's late 70s disco-funk number is an ace track full of positivity and love and happiness.
Slovenia continue their tradition of sending ace, but unusual, songs to Eurovision. The song, Cvet z Juga, is an ethno-opera-dance song with a high, high note at the end: odd, yet strangely alluring.
Turkey's got the hunk of the contest. Kenan Dogulu performs the very Turkish sounding electro-ish Timberlake-esque pop song Shake It Up Shekerim.
Austria bring an uptempo, uplifting guitar rock-pop song sounding a little like Bon Jovi who tells us to "get a life, a better life". Their performance is going to feature lots of crystals and ribbons. Wonderful.
Latvia have 6 men singing Italian opera stylings, very G4 like and the kind of thing your mum is supposed to love.
Bosnia & Herzegovina send a song very like their entry from last year, an ethnic ballad with traditional instrumentation and harmonies. It's pleasant, but that's as far as it goes.
Spain send D'NASH, a buff boyband that stick to the boyband rule of having two hawt members. We can't help but picture them. They're singing I Love You, Mi Vida, a straight-forward uptempo, latin pop song.
Ireland's act Dervish bring a traditional Irish music tune about how all of Europe is now free and friendly, sung with traditionally Irish lamenting vocals. It's very Irish, take that how you will.
The host nation Finland are sending their massively popular winner of Finnish Idols who was once a forklift driver. Hanna Pakarinen will sing Leave Me Alone, a rock anthem about broken love which veers just to the right side of depressing.
The Lithuanian entry is a slow, classy jazz tune with Spanish guitar and an affecting lovelorn sentiment.
Sarbel, the Greek entrant is actually a London boy. He's singing an uptempo laika-tinged pop song about a fabulous cheeky girl called Maria. It reminds greatly of Helena Paparizou, the singer who won for Greece 2 years ago.
Sweden have a jaunty glam-rock song performed by The Ark, one of Sweden's biggest bands, and led by the sexually ambiguous Ola Salo.
France, having upped their effort considerably this year, send a jaunty guitar pop song called L'Amour a la Francaise. The song sung partly in French and English plays with cliches and ideas about love, the French way. It's cute and we hope it does well.
Russia send Serebro, a funky girl band, singing a grindy electro-ish catchy pop song much like something Britney should be singing. It's one of the few proper pop songs in the Contest this year and, last year, Russia came second - Moscow 2008, anyone?
The German entrant this year is the rather dishy Roger Cicero, singing a swing jazz number praising how women rule the world.
Ukraine send Verka Seduchka, a lumpy drag queen singing a nonsensical drinking song over a tinny ethno-dance beat.
UK - Scooch are camp, frothy, tinny and flying the UK flag
Romania's entrant are Todomondo, 6 blokes singing about love in 6 different languages. It's ridiculously catchy and quite charming, and goes a bit bonkers when the police siren kicks in before the key change. Wahey.
Armenia send a mid-tempo love ballad, with the air of a faint late 80s easy-listening sound. Not one to be reckoned with.
Today, I met Scooch! (Thanks to karinski) It was wildly uneventful, but Things I Learned are:
- Scooch cannot speak any Finnish, except for stupid phrases that radio presenters keep telling them. I gave them kiitos, meaning thank you. That's how helpful I am.
- Scooch do not sing the bits in foreign on their German, Danish, Spanish, Bulgarian etc. versions. I'm not surprised.
- David is very, very tanned and very, very lovely. He liked my 'I (heart) cheese' t-shirt.
- Scooch will have new costumes and dance routines for Eurovision. Hurrah.
- Scooch will not be doing their air steward routine on the plane to Helsinki as they fear they will be told to sit down. Wise people.
- David's favourite Eurovision song is Gina G's (Ooh Aah) Just A Little Bit and his favourite song from this year is Denmark's Drama Queen.
- DQ wants to 'do something' with Scooch in Helsinki. It will be an unmeasurable explosion of campness.
There's something fishy going on in Helsinki with the Eurovision stage. There's a catwalk, but no performers will be using it. Apologies to the 42 people that signed the "They Must Strut!" petition. I might get around to presenting it to YLE this week.
But, even more fishy is the stage design, inspired by the mouth of a pike. The jawbone of the pike was used in ancient times to make a musical instrument, the kantele. This inspired the designers, and the stage is wonderful. It's sleek, has natural curves and shapes and, overall, looks very reserved, classy and Finnish. I like it a lot.
And, even, better, as this picture from eurovisiondiary shows, it's got a windmachine! I'm hoping Hanna Pakarinen, Olivia Lewis and Alenka Gotar are all planing windmachine moments, not to mention the divine DQ!
(By the way, I've started previewing this year's songs on Londonist: go here to read.)
It's not often that a Eurovision perfomer pops up in London, so I hot-footed it to the salubrious surroundings of Haringey yesterday to see the Cypriot wonder-diva Evridiki.
- The venue, a Greek-Cypriot club, was all kinds of ace. I heard songs by: Helena Paparizou, Sakis Rouvas, Anna Vissi and Keti Garbi. Euro-tastic.
- One highlight was watching a brassy barmaid belt out an Anna Vissi song.
- Evridiki made her way onto the stage surrounded by security, and accompanied by Dmitrios who mimed playing his guitar through all the songs.
- Evridiki was power-fringing, looking out from underneath her sharp, sharp fringe. A wind machine would have a wonderful effect
- Her dancing to Comme Ci, Comme Ca involved lots of flailing about and shaking her arms. Ace.
- Her style is gothique, wearing a black toga dress and red animal print leggings and silver jewellery.
- She's as skinny as a whip, and ever so youthful. It's very hard to believe she was this classy diva in 1994. It's like she's aging backwards.
- Evridiki sang a traditional Cypriot song... it went on a bit. Every line ended with a high note, giving false hope that the song was ending... but no, on it went.
- Knowing where her bread is buttered, she played an encore of Comme Ci, Comme Ca. Some old duffer asked us all nicely to give her 12 points. We say yes! (on careful consideration of all the other songs, naturally.)
I totally haven't forgotten this blog, I'm just hyper busy changing jobs and finishing a PhD. I'll be back super soon. I took time out yesterday to see the amazing Bodies Without Organs at Popjustice Live. It was blog-tastic: I spotted / met: Jessica, Trixie, gaypop, this dude and Mr Lowculture. Wows.
- Alexander Bard swished his arms to shoo the crowd as they entered. Martin left a gaggle of gays trailing in his wake.
- I tried to be very post-modern and take a picture of the band being photographed by digital cameras and camera phones. I failed. It would have been so appropriate with their netocracy lyrics.
- Not pictured above is Marina. She was busy plinking her keyboard with one hand, continuously adjusting her hair with the other, and doing breathy spoken word bits. Amazing.
- They played Chariots of Fire, Sunshine in the Rain, Sixteen Tons of Hardware and, er, other ace songs. The highlight was Temple of Love, the Eurovision stomper that never was. If only Carola had not said her prayers.
- Martin is a thumping performer, full of energy and bounciness. He looks, in other words, like he's a right go-er in the sack.
- Martin dropped the mike at one point. Literally, dropped it. He also played the mike-stand in a way Lena Philipsson would be proud of and, as you can see, almost gave it head. Lena would never do that!
- Martin had soaked himself in water by the end of the gig. The audience were suitably excited.
Remember that American presenter, Maria Menounos, from last year's Eurovision from Greece? Her that looked like Grace from Will & Grace, and declared that everything was 'amazing', like, a million times...
I know you're now asking yourself, "whatever happened to her?". Well, here she is, having an awkward moment with that lovely Ugly Betty during the Emmy Awards. Amazing.
I'm still demanding a strut! On the CatCatWalk - Well Done to the Melodimen for that piece of Eurovizh wordplay.
Yes, The Catwalk Campaign continues apace (ie. I've not done anything since last week and don't intend to so it 'continues' 'apace').
39 intelligent, sound-of-mind and right-thinking people have signed the campaign so far. I'll print them all out, pop them in a jiffy bag and send it off to YLE. Soon. But what do the petitionees have to say:
Andy Brook notes: Scooch needs an aisle to demonstrate their safety procedures!
And to show us where the emergency exits are!
None other than Vicki Leandros (!) says: Oooh, imagine what Ola Salo (the Ark) could do with a catwalk.
Vicki knows her stuff (or, at least, imagines her stuff)
Neil Durham offers a voice of sanity and a well-reasoned argument in this sea of bonkers-ness by saying: Use of the catwalk by the acts would make the contest far more exciting and increase the interaction between artists and audience.
You know it. Please sign the petition: if not for Scooch, for Edsilia, for Evridiki, for Guri, for Everybody (that's all of us, not the ropey Estonian winner).
Some pictures have emerged about the Eurovision stage for Helsinki. This is one of those pictures, thank you oikotimes who took it from YLE / EBU.
It's quite minimal in a Finnish chic way, and this is good.
There is a catwalk, and this is good.
The catwalk is only to be used for the opening and interval acts, and camera-people. Not the performers. And this is bad.
Guri Schanke needs to strut! Scooch need to have the aisle light up in the case of an emergency landing! Edsilia = strutting! Evridiki = strutting! Serebro = coordinated girl band strutting! DQ = strutting! We need the strutting space.
YLE! Rectify this! The Catwalk Campaign starts here. Sign the petition and Save Our Strutting!
So The Ark are going forward for Sweden to Eurovision. I can't help wonder whether the great Swedish viewing public got a little confused between their beloved Carola and The Ark's Ola. They have the same hair, after all.
And just who is that getting off with Andreas Johnson and that lovely young Sebastian?
Ola, Carola? Of course it's Carola, the grand dame herself. You can't keep a schlager diva down.