May the intensity be with you

I sit here, nearly at the end of June, and with the traditional Midsommar festivities and the Summer Solstice on my back, reflecting on the month that has always brought me both extreme stress and intensity, but also relief and fulfilment: May.

Photo by Jengod. “The Brentwood Maypole tradition originated when Archer School for Girls was still the Eastern Star Home.” Wikimedia. 8 May 2012.

While you might think that the erection of a maypole is central to the chaos of the season, but no in fact this is not the reason. For many years, despite having danced around a few dozen maypoles in my life (with or without a certain frog dance), the month of May has always been a lot, and by a lot, I mean a lot. A maypole would be a walk in the park, but the ribbons surrounding it do represent a rather large amount of work, and so symbolically it’s very representative.

Photo by Lee Guan Wei Daniel. “OMM performs at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music Concert Hall in January 2009.” Wikimedia. 3 January 2009

First up, is the musical commitments. Whether it be ones I perform, or ones that I organise, May is filled with music and the end of term performances. This is mostly done to avoid the crunch of holidays that come in June, and the end of school terms. This year in particular, May 2nd and 3rd vexed me with an international music festival that required me to recruit, train, and get recordings of a new composition in less than 4 weeks. We even managed to perform it in front of the school, quite successfully I might add. Props to ya mama!

Then we move on to the worshiping of my own true religion, The Eurovision Song Contest. While most other religious observances happen for majorities of the world, this is the time for mine. Step aside Christmas, move to the left Thanksgiving, take a hike Diwali. With two weeks of rehearsals, a week of shows, and a lot of reviews, bopping around, dancing around, and worshiping the musical lineups to be had. It usually totals to about 10 hours of TV coverage through the semi-finals and final, but those who are long time readers of this blog know that I used to do reviews of Eurovision and Melodifestivalen, but that has long since stopped. My commitment to the cause of the European Broadcasting Company since the mid 90s has never waned. Who knows if I will pick up writing reviews again, but the memories of worshiping and fanboying Adam Svensson, Jonathan Fagerlund, Oscar Zia, or Edin Jusuframic , or any of the other worthwhile recipients of my affection, will forever be held in my heart, and in consequently on the pages of the internet.

Photo by David Mulder. “Grade book” Flickr. 24 November 2015.

Then comes the assessments, final exams, and marking, marking, and more marking. The life of a teacher really starts to pick up and tighten up in the month of May, and when you compound this with all the other stuff going on, it’s no wonder that sleep is lost. Whether it be the exams, or the comments required for final report card preparation, needless to say it’s a lot to do in a little amount of time. This year, with final grammar exams to torture my students and demonstrate how much more they need to focus in order to pass, the turnaround was very quick; almost too quick to manage. Despite this, I conquered.

Photo by Firkin. “Gemini drawing 6” OpenClipArt. 24 February 2017.

The only thing that I didn’t mange to fulfil was the deadline for ordering supplies. I was 1 day late, and I regret it a lot, but alas it got done. I welcomed June, despite the arrival of Gemini (which always tends to be rather fickle for us Cancerians), I managed to get to the end and conqueror the month of May. You might think it’s silly to think that the period of Gemini would cause some problems, and sure Gemini does get a lot of hate, but for me the hurt is real. Some people like to say May the Fourth be with you, but truth be told… Let the Force of May be Mine for the Taking. Begin copyright… ha!

Happy Hunger Games, or should I say, may the odds be ever in your favour!

Melodifestivalen 2014: Andra Chansen: Lidköping

Each of the second chance “losers” of the “winners” entered the competition in a free-for-all to get your votes. The top five voted songs progress to the second second chance round, and from those the top 4 are placed into duels.

The first 5 qualified for the second second chance round were Linus Svenning, J.E.M., State of Drama, Martin Stenmarck, Helena Paparizou, and Outtrigger.

Features of this part of the program is our lovely host in drag finding some piercings that are “secret”oops!

Then of course we have last year’s Eurovision sinner Emmelie de Forest who performed her Rainmaker song which will no doubt be performed at the Eurovision Song Contest. It featured a bunch of shirtless men dancing around.

Of those top songs the following duels were arranged, with my thoughts.

Duel 1 : Outtrigger – Echo vs. Helena Paparizou – Survivor
Lidköping.01.Outtrigger & Helena PaparizouLidköping.02.Outtrigger & Helena Paparizou

I wasn’t all that surprised that Outtrigger did well in this competition because really it grew on me, but they couldn’t overcome the power that is Helena. She garnered over double the votes, and progressed to the Final of Melodifestivalen with her diva anthem “Survivor.“

Duel 2 : Linus Svenning – Bröder vs. Martin Stenmarck – När änglarna går hem
Lidköping.03.Linus Svenning & Martin StenmarckLidköping.04.Linus Svenning & Martin Stenmarck.jpg

The soft yet hard representation of Linus is very interesting, and his soft yet powerful song about his brother clung to hearts of the whole country. Despite Martin’s attempt at a weak comeback and a song that it outside of his abilities, the voting was within 6’000 televotes and Linus Svenning progressed to the final.

Surprisingly State of Drama was not chosen, and fell at 5th place, where I believe it could have replaced Martin Stenmarck who was really only a couple of thousand votes ahead. The song was better, but there was no clear favourites in this one.

Melodifestivalen 2014: Deltävling N°4: Örnsköldsvik

Örnsköldsvik.00.Noor el-refai & Anders Jansson

Heading up north this week to Ö-vik for our final semi-final and to début the final songs that are in contention for the crown this year.

Alcazar – Blame it on the disco
=> Finalen
❗ Personal Favourite

With no surprised, Alcazar is back with a disco hit that is high energy, lots of glitter and lights, and has enough flashes to send anyone into coma or at least induce an epileptic shock. Super fan favourites but never able to achieve victory, this group enters in a giant disco ball, which is very dramatic and totally Alcazaresque. The vocals are good, and the dancing is disco and glitter inducing, overall it’s a great song that is good for the clubs and the radio but in terms of how it’s going to fair in the competition I’m not convinced that it’s a winning song. The dancing, the song, and the presentation are all there, but it just lacks the Eurovision factor. To be honest I’m surprised nobody didn’t have whiplash.

I.D.A. Fight me if you dare

I’m not really sure how to attack this one. English was iffy and it’s really difficult to see where this song is going musically. The chorus is alright but the verses and bridge are a bit ambitious as to their direction, and with a group like this just doesn’t do much to convince me of success. I think really the whole English struggle throughout was making for a really difficult watch the whole way through, and then it just getting more angry as it goes doesn’t sell it for me.

Janet Leon – Hollow
Örnsköldsvik.03.Janet Leon

For the last few years there has been some excitement for Janet Leon, but really she’s just been a huge flop each time with songs that aren’t very strong. Coming dead last this time, the starting singing is a bit edgy and not really clear if it’s right, and then it progresses to be less than dramatic. The lyrics don’t seem to flow with the music, and it tries to oversell and then the dancing in the background is the better distraction because really at the end of the day the song isn’t that strong. We all know all the eyes were on the blonde male dancer – lets be honest here.

Ammotrack – Raise your hearts
=> Andra Chansen

Well some more hard rock with this band, that really doesn’t do anything at all for me. The melody is boring, the singing is rough, the votes that it got perplex me. I guess a lot of men voted and hard rock people like it, but I found this a flat song that didn’t show well on TV and is certainly not a choice.

Josef Johansson – Hela natten
❗ Personal Favourite
Örnsköldsvik.05.Josef Johansson

I find this entry to be a personal interest for me. I look a lot like him, and am a lot whiter but our hair is very similar. Admittedly the way he wears his hair in this one is how I go to bed with mine, but the style is a bit put together but still a bit messy, which I actually kind of like. Enough about his style, his song is a good radio song but no winner. He’s very nervous on stage, clearly, and he’s all alone which makes it even more difficult for him, but I think that he does it very effectively. Towards the middle and end of the song it becomes a bit of an anthem which is very relatable to me. But then again let’s be honest here, I am just paying attention to his image and being jealous at how he’s a better looking version of me. I mean he’s 10 years younger than me but I still look that age. 😀

Linda Bengtzing – Ta mig
Örnsköldsvik.06.Linda Bengtzing

Trying again with another high energy spazz-attack song, Linda tries to convince us to take her. The best part of the sing is the fact that she’s not dancing around and stays pretty stationary. Generally speaking her song are very in your face and energetic, but this one has the energy in it, but it lacks something like most of her other entries. She’s seemingly angry and pushing a lot with her vocals, and after about 10 years of being a professional she’s gotten the singing down and doesn’t forget her lyrics. Let’s be honest, I like her, but she will never live down singing the wrong words! Another flop this year, fails to qualify.

Ellinore Holmer – En himmelsk sång
=> Andra Chansen
Örnsköldsvik.07.Ellinore Holmer

A bit of a surprise qualifier to the second chance round this year, this pretty unknown singer stands up on stage and nervously sings a ballad alone on the stage. She was able to sing it effectively and make it sound beautiful, but really this pails in the comparison to Undo, because let’s face it, it’s not power ballad. It won’t likely come out of the second chance round, but it’s a beautiful little song this year that is very similar and makes me think of Songbird from a few weeks past.

Anton Ewald – Natural
=> Finalen
Örnsköldsvik.08.Anton Ewald

Again this former dancer turned singer tries to qualify for Eurovision again this year, and unsuccessfully with a worse song than the year previous. His vocals are really iffy and he seems like he’s yelling more than he’s singing. His dancers are drawing more attention that him, and despite being the Eric Saade type wet dream image that the little girls want, it gets old fast. He’s got the pop-girlies on his side, but I hope it doesn’t do well in the Final. I’m harsh but fair – it’s just a weak song…

As you can see only two personal favourites in this one, but few of which actually qualified for the final. At this point going into Andra Chansen, it’s pretty open ended as to what the result will be.

Melodifestivalen 2014: Deltävling N°3: Göteborg

Göteborg.00.Noor el-Refai & Anders Jansson

As we continue on our tour of the Swedish pre-selection, we come to a star-studded and exciting semi-final for the year. Onwards ever striving onwards.

Outtrigger – Echo
=> Andra Chansen

It’s no wonder that there was support for this song to take it to the second chance round. While it’s not my cup of tea musically, the presentation is very unique with cages and a straight-jacket, and what comes across as a very “clean” main hard rock singer. Having someone that is not covered in tattoos, blonde, beautiful, is something that is very unique and I think that’s what appealed to me, cause frankly the lead singer has style. The song is melodic enough to have appeal from all areas, and it transitions in a very well produced production. It’s rough around the edges, but actually quite good!

EKO – Red

Take some electronic music, a redhead, and some minimalism and you get this piece of music. What is seemingly inspired by past years of electronic music, this one is an interesting choice for an entry featuring a pretty good singer and band in a way that is simple, and still relatable. The frequent “break out” dance moves and geeky hot piano player and drummer make for a positive music experience, even if it’s a bit “out there” for me. I want to be held now, because really, I am fading! Kind of sad that it comes dead last tho, probably because we don’t know who the heck it is! There is something to be be said of familiarity.

Oscar Zia – Yes we can
=> Finalen
Göteborg.03.Oscar Zia

Former dancer turned singer (seems like there are a lot of those), Oscar comes with his sassy man dancers to talk about how they can. I find that the vocals and the presentation is quite teenage focused and as a such since I’m no longer a teeny-bopper, it doesn’t appeal to me. Too young, too generic pop, it just didn’t sit well with me. The dancing is by far the best part of this entry, and as far as I’m concerned it needs to die in the final. There will be no partying in our underwear, just sayin’!

Shirley Clamp – Burning alive
❗ Personal Favourite
Göteborg.04.Shirley Clamp

The diva is back, this time in English with her epic ballad about burning alive. Always singing about love, and the profession of her trials and tribulations with Melodifestivalen, she brings the wind-machines to a whole new level from start to finish. With the vocals of a true diva, and impeccable ability, she gives ‘er and gives a performance that is very intense. The song isn’t terribly accessible because it’s a ballad, but her vocals and presence on stage is enough to be a winner in any flat year of music. As usual she has that super high note that she holds forever, and then grabs her dress and flys in the wind machine which is kicked into high-gear.

State of Drama – All we are
=> Andra Chansen
❗ Personal Favourite
Göteborg.05.State of Drama

Back for another go, is State of Drama, with their super charismatic lead singer who looks like he hasn’t aged a day and is super young-looking. With a very good radio hit, this song is a nice accessible song that is fun and just features a bunch of guys dancing and singing around and using a megaphone to get his message across for effect. We all just want to raise our arms and say “hey” when instructed, because really t’s just charming. Too many rings and accessories though. It even has a key change so it just makes is even more fabulous! On a side note, I think he’s kind of a lookalike of the YouTube celebrity Philip deFranco.

CajsaStina Åkerström – En enkel sång
Göteborg.06.CaisaStina Åkerström

In the 90s she had a hit, and then in 2014 she had a flop. She wrote it herself which is fabulous and all, but really I didn’t connect to this song at all. She looked a bit out of sorts on stage and with strange eye-contact. The fact that it’s a bit country just really made me hate it even more. It’s a simple song, a it’s title suggests, but it just wasn’t for me.

Ace Wilder – Busy doin’ nothin
=> Finalen
❗ Personal Favourite
Göteborg.07.Ace Wilder

If there was any hype about a song that is so typically not Swedish, this is it. It’s catchy and something that you would imagine to come out of the creativeness of the Eastern Bloc, but really it’s an unknown singer named Alice Gernandt who surprisingly released an album previously to little attention came out with this simple and super catchy song that would be a great selection to send to Copenhagen this year. If this doesn’t win the whole thing, I’d be really surprised, but she’s got tough competition from Sanna and others in this wide open contest.

Dr. Alban & Jessica Folcker – Around the world
Göteborg.08.Dr. Alban & Jessa Folcker

Every time that I see Jessica Folcker on stage I get confused and don’t really understand what’s going on. Now she’s got a Nigerian born Swedish artistic speaking English with an African accident, and Jesscia adding the interesting parts. Tons of confetti, and outfits that make me uncomfortable and not sure what Jessica is trying to pull off, I don’t really know where to look or what to think. It’s catchy, but really it’s just bad, sadly. Why is he a doctor, cause I feel like it’s really a disgrace to use in academia where people actually earn their Dr status.

So after this weeks entries I see a possible winner, and a few other songs that are alright but popular and will be heard on the airwaves for a time to come!

Melodifestivalen 2014: Deltävling N°2: Linköping

Linköping.00.Noor el-Refai & Anders Jansson

Off the races we were last week with a somewhat weak semifinal, here’s to hoping that this weeks competition is much more positive and enlightening.

J.E.M. – Love trigger
=> Andra Chansen


What to do with two women and a man, one of which raps in English that is barely comprehensible, and the other two that give their charm and odd beauty in the form of shaved head and tons of jewellery? Well this one is catchy to say the least, and I really just want to shake my booty to – although the middle part in terms of production value is very amateur and not very good – the overall performance is pretty decent.

The Refreshments – Hallelujah
Linköping.02.The Refreshments

Nothing really to write home about this one. It’s boring and simple with unattractively dressed people on stage. Why in the world would this song be selected in the pre-selection? I really don’t understand how the criteria was met, but alas it’s a major flop. Sorry!

Manda – Glow

With the semi-hipster hair that just is gorgeous but odd, and the nails to cut like a cat, this song leaves much to be desired. It’s modern and upbeat, but it’s just too much of a mainstream pop song to be attractive to me. The strings are similar to many songs that I’ve heard and thus it lacks originality. The vocals are alright, but doesn’t sell with me.

Panetoz – Efter solsken
=> Finalen

This one qualifies and I don’t really understand why. I don’t see at all what the appeal is – it’s a bunch of reggae grassy men singing and it just looks awkward on stage. It’s a group of five black guys and a white guy that raps – and stereotypically shouldn’t it be the other way around? The choreographs are awkward and it just looks like a mess on the stage. What were you thinking, Sweden?

Pink Pistols – I am somebody
❗ Personal Favourite
Linköping.05.Pink Pistols

When you get two homosexuals and two drag queens together to sing against inequality, what else could there be but fabulousness? The men have fantastic vocals, but the ladies struggle a bit and look a bit awkward. Black and pink go perfectly together, but really when it comes down to it, the song might have been too political for the contest. It has a good message of tolerance, but Sweden didn’t buy it. 🙁

Sanna Nielsen – Undo
=> Finalen
❗ Personal Favourite
Linköping.06.Sanna Nielsen

Well she’s back, and she come back with a punch that could quite possibly win the competition. It’s classy, it’s simple, it’s an epic power ballad that speaks about past relationships and wanting to undo the mistakes that have been made. Her vocals are flawless and it’s about time that she deserves to win – it’s been forever and she’s tried many times. This may just be her moment, but it depends on what other songs are in the next few semifinals.

Little Great Things – Set yourself free
Linköping.07.Little Great Things

It’s bad, it’s just plain bad. I don’t like it and there is nothing about it that appeals to me is perhaps the mascara on the lead singer. The green isn’t so bad either, but really it’s just annoying and the song has no thrust. Bunch of youngsters rocking about with no real purpose, cause we all know that they won’t win!

Martin Stenmarck – När änglarna går hem
=> Andra Chansen
Linköping.08.Martin Stenmarck

He’s back, after a long break and with a song that really strains his abilities. He’s a professional artist but for some reason he elected to sing a song that’s on the top end of his range and the strain is visible in the production of it. It’s bright with lights, and it’s a decent enough song, but boy does it show the aging of Martin. He’s not 18 anymore, clearly!

So-so semifinal, possible winner in this one, but what do the next two have in store?