My Thoughts on Eurovision Part I

eurovision-2016-logo.jpg

Eurovision 2016 has already come and go. There were really exceptional acts, good acts, and worst ones. As there were 26 performers for the four hours final, it will take me a while to get through all the acts. So, if I can remind myself to do it, there will be a part two next week to cover the other performances.

There were so many good acts this year. Albeit that most of the acts today sing in primary English. 😦 (It’s not that I don’t oppose singing in English but I rather enjoy each country’s song in that country’s primary language).

The Great

Jamala – 1944

I linked the final performance of “1944” instead of the music video because it was incredible to watch.

If you didn’t read the backstory of the song on sites like Wikipedia or new sites, “1944” is a personal song about Jamala’s great-grandmother and her family getting deported from their homeland of Crimea and sent to live in Central Asia when Stalin was leader of the Soviet Union.[1] Jamala beautifully displays the raw emotions of sadness, despair, hurt, the feeling of being lost, and the emotional pain of being separated from a homeland. You can feel all of these emotions that Jamala passionately displays at the 2:20 mark when she sings in the mugham vocal style. At that moment, I feel like I wanted to cry with Jamala as I can feel the pain and hurt she emits from her singing.

The inclusion of the gorgeous mugham vocal style, the duduk (especially in the beginning), and the chorus in the beautiful Crimean Tatar language makes this a song a treat to those who like ethnic music. However, it’s still modern as it includes elements of house.

Many, including Russians, have argued that song should’ve been banned from Eurovision as the lyrics are an attack on Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea and is politically themed, which a big no-no in this contest. However, I believe that this song is more than a political statement, it’s a story. A story about a broken past of an ostracized ethnic group mixed in with hopes for “peace and love” in the future.[2]

The Good

Hovi Star – Made of Stars

Although Telegraph.co.uk has mentioned a verse from this song made their top 18 worsr and weirdest lyrics from this year’s Eurovision,  I thought most of the lyrics were pretty decent. It might’ve sounded like a generic love song to some, it might’ve been about two friends who are looking for a better future to others. I think it’s a mixture of both.

What I like about “Made of Star”  is Hovi’s impressive vocal range. There isn’t a lot of instrumentation with this song as it just a piano, briefly a guitar, some strings, briefly drums, and maybe a bass to make it seem like a pure mid-tempo pop ballad. However, Hovi’s vocals are warm, rock-oriented, not overbearing, and well-fitted for a song like this.

I really like the simplicity of the song the best. Songs like these ones tell you just need a really good vocalist, like Hovi, and a few basic instruments to make a pop masterpiece.

Gabriela Gunčíková – I Stand

I will admit, I might of placed this song in the good pile because I have a bias for any Czech singers (Go Team Czech Republic, my mother’s family is from there and her family takes lots of pride in their heritage). But, I mainly picked this song because of Gabriela’s incredible vocals. I love how Gabriela creates a mystic yet beautiful reverence when she sings a vocal run in the beginning of the chorus with “I”. Also, her vocals are well grounded with the song as they are rich, strong, and vibrant.

Like Hovi Star’s “Made of Stars”, “I Stand” uses a few instruments and a solid vocalist to create something beautiful.

Poli Genova – If Love Was A Crime

Instantly, the song starts on the right foot with the use of a high-pitched synthesized voice to produce those eerie vocal samples. Maybe I am just in love with them because American R&B and electronica trio King recently used them perfectly in my new favorite, “The Right One“. Besides that, I really like the chorus as Poli is able to seamlessly blend Bulgarian and English together with the melody to create something extremely catchy.  I swear I am going to be singing the chorus randomly at work this week, even if I can’t sing Bulgarian well.

I have to say that Poli’s costume is one of the best costumes from this year’s Eurovision. It took me a while to figure out that she was wearing a skin colored dress and she wasn’t just naked with some random leather and LED lights. The LED light pieces was a wonderful addition as it was cool to see Poli “light” up the stage like that.

The Ok

Dami Im – Sound Of Silence

This song isn’t really bad. In fact, it’s pretty decent as it showcases Dami’s incredible vocal skills. However, haven’t we heard something like this before from the likes of Taylor Swift, Adele, or Demi Lovato? I swear the melody could of been a part of a Taylor Swift or Adele song. As for Dami’s vocals, they sound like an alto version of Demi Lovato or some other female pop singer that I heard before but I can’t put a finger on.

Overall, it’s a mediocre song. I give props to Dami’s pipes. However, I am disappointing that it’s not original enough.

The Bad

Jamie-Lee – Ghost

There were a lot going wrong with Germany’s entry for Eurovision this year. The most blaring one was the costume. I understand that the decora kei style might be fashionable and cute to some, I just think it’s a weird mishmash of things that don’t relate to each other well, thus causing confusion. And, “confusion” is the word you would think of when you see Jamie-Lee’s headdress. It’s not cute nor goes well with the song! It’s so bizarre and unflattering to watch her sing in that. If she wanted to pick an appropriate Japanese street fashion to go along with the song, how about picking something with lolita or a kimono-style fashion?

I also think that Jamie-Lee wasn’t really ready for Eurovision. Sure, she is a talented singer however, she isn’t quite there yet with her current skill level as she seemed to be still working on getting her style. Throughout the song, her vocals sounded a little bumpy and her tone wavered. It didn’t make her sound totally off key but you could notice some tiny faltered notes here and there if you listen carefully. Also, at the 2:32 mark, she belts out in a way that seems to be lacking breathe support. I wonder if Jamie-Lee was nervous at all during these live performances?

I think Jamie-Lee should’ve polished her skills and waited a couple more years until she was definitely ready for Eurovision.

What did you think of this year’s Eurovision? What was your favorite acts? What were least favorite?


Source

[1]  “The Dark History Behind Eurovision’s Ukraine Entry.” Time. Time. Web. 15 May 2016. (http://time.com/4329061/eurovision-jamala-russian-ukraine-crimea/?xid=fbshare)

[2] Stephens, Heidi. “Eurovision 2016: Ukraine’s Jamala Wins with Politically Charged 1944.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 2016. Web. 15 May 2016. (http://www.citationmachine.net/bibliographies/101376594?new=true)

Advertisements

Making Your Week “Happy Go Lucky” with Steps

steps-buzz

A week ago, I started to listen to television and movie soundtracks once again. One soundtrack that I listened to was the one for Disney’s “The Princess Diaries”. One of my favorite movies and book series when I was in junior high school, “The Princess Diaries” had a pretty solid soundtrack featuring known and unknown artists like Myra, Backstreet Boys, Steps, and others. Many would remember such songs like Myra’s “Miracles Happen” and Krystal Harris’ “Supergirl!”. Who didn’t sing “I’m Supergirl, and I’m here to save the world” out loud when the movie came out?

One of the less prominent songs off the soundtrack is “Happy Go Lucky” by the English pop group Steps. Formed in 1997 by music manager Tim Byrne and the writing team Steve Crosby and Barry Upton, Steps featured five members; Claire, Faye, H, Lisa, and Lee. The group released their debut single, “5, 6, 7, 8”, a year later with some success. This techno-flavored single caught the eye of one of my favorite producers, Pete Waterman, who signed them to Jive Records in hopes to create a new ABBA. Doesn’t that sound familiar? A*Teens?

The group released more singles, a mixture of covers and originals, before the end of the millennium. The group’s most successful single was “Heartbeat / Tragedy” featuring an original ballad and a cover of a Bee Gees’ song. The single went onto be the number one single of January 1999 and charted for over thirty weeks. The group released their debut album, “Steps”, and the follow-up, “Spectacular”, while going on tour in America with artists like Britney Spears and Youngstown.

Sadly, the success didn’t last long as the band started to slip when their third album, “Buzz” was released in late 2000. Relations also became fracture with Claire and H leaving the group in 2001 as they said they became miserable. The group official split quietly after the release of the single “Words Are Not Enough / I Know Him So Well” in 2001. The split angered fans back then for various reasons including capitalizing and lying.

The group reunited in 2011 to release new music. During this time, they released an album, “Light Up the World”, and hosted a small Christmas tour. The group also appeared on various talk shows and had their own reality show, talking about the past and why did they break up. However, the reunion was short-lived as the group announced a hiatus in 2013 with many of the group’s members resuming their solo careers.

I never really knew about Steps during the whole pop band epidemic of the late 90s. All I knew in terms of pop bands was the ones featured on Disney Channel or TRL; Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, Youngstown, B*Witched,  and 5ive/Five. It was when my mom bought Steps’ debut album from a thrift store during my high school days that I really noticed them. Sadly, I wished I had paid attention to them in the late 90s as they are pretty talented and buoyant group. I really like the fact that there were both male and female members with each one playing an important part in every song.

“Happy Go Lucky” plays on Step’s signature sound of bubblegum synthpop despite “Buzz” being a more mature-sounded album. I feel like the song starts off in a minor progression as the beginning is “a bit under the weather” in terms of a mood. Throughout the verse and pre-chorus, the progression somehow goes major as the chorus is a bit chipper. This cycle of sad to happy to sad keeps on going throughout the song until the ending.

Or, maybe I just imagining this?

The lyrics are a bit sad though. The character laments that she tries to pull off being happy and makes everyone believe that she is ok. However, it’s a lie. Under the emotional mask, the character is truly sad as she just experienced a break-up with a man mentioned in the song. She does her “happy-go-lucky dance even if I am foolin’ myself” in order to make people believe that nothing is wrong. “Happy Go Lucky” makes me feel a bit sad for the singer as the lyrics and melody paints the internal emotional struggle of the main character.

Even though the atmosphere isn’t so happy, the song is definitely a hidden gem in Steps’ discography. The vocals are a perfect match for the song as they aren’t too strong or sweet. In fact, this song is a perfect song for the The Princess Diaries or even anyone’s playlist as it’s an easy-listening tune. The best part for me is the chorus because it’s memorable with the lyrics, which I remember easily and sing them out loud randomly on occasion. Nonetheless, the song is a winner as it’s catchy, displays how skillful the group is with the lead and backing vocals, the lyrics’ plot, and the fervor.

Take a listen to the song below and tell me what you think.

Refreshed and Rejuvenated, Wonder Girls are back with “REBOOT”

wondergirls-dontwannaplay

“JYP and the Wonder Girls, we’re back”

— “I Feel For You”

The Wonder Girls are back! Did you miss them? Or have you forgotten about them?

I can admit that I have forgotten them a little bit because “REBOOT” is their first album in three years. I can’t completely blame them for the long time between releases. One reason is because how funky Korean record labels release albums, especially for idols. I still can’t wrap my head around the concept of a “comeback”. How can SHINee have a “comeback” this year when they released an album last year? They didn’t take a hiatus like the Wonder Girls did.

Also, the lineup was shaken up with the group losing two members and gaining one. First, it was Sohee and leaving in order to focus more on an acting career. Then it was Sunye after she got married and gave birth a daughter. However, Sunmi, from the original lineup, came back  The now-four member group had a dilemma; when can we release our new album?

The answer came last week when “REBOOT” was released all over South Korea. An ode to ’80s synthpop, the album features the girls as a band with each member playing an instrument. It was later revealed in an interview that the instruments were just for the visual concept for the album, the girls really couldn’t play them.[1]  However, the girls did contribute to album by writing lyrics and others things, according to the CD booklet.[2]

I think that “REBOOT” is an enjoyable album once you get over the initial shock of the “old skool” throwback. Despite “I Feel You” being the lead-in single, I am not really fond of it. I like the first track, “Baby Don’t Play”, instead. What hooks me to the song is the deep bass guitar featured during the verses and the synthesizers. The sharp keyboard riffs during the interludes reminds me of Jane Child’s techniques in “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love“. Also, the loop-y loop, upward progressive of a complete scale in the beginning, just before the first verse, reminds me of something from a Janet Jackson or a R&B song in the 80s.

Runners up would be “Back” and “OPPA”. “Back” sounds like a 90s’ American R&B/hip-hop girl group-type of song, like the stuff found on TLC’s first album. The song is so hardcore with Yubin and Lim show off their amazing rapping talents. Meanwhile, “OPPA” sounds like a variation of a song from the “Love Shack” era of The B-52’s. But, each song on this album is astounding and it’s hard to say if there is even an awful song.

“REBOOT” makes me excited for The Wonder Girls’ comeback! The album is well-crafted and features a diverse range of songs that features the diverse talents of each member. Even though I was shocked at first, I really like the throwbacks to the 80s and 90s in each song. Now, it’s time to break out my 2009 “I Wanna Nobody But You” Wonder Girls t-shirt and dance to the album.

You can listen to the album too! You can listen at this link on Youtube.


[1] “Wonder Girls Didn’t Play Any Instruments On Comeback LP ‘Reboot’ Despite Returning As A “Real Band” | Idolator.” Music News, Reviews, and Gossip on Idolator.com. 4 Aug. 2015. Web. 12 Aug. 2015. http://www.idolator.com/7603196/wonder-girls-didnt-play-instruments-reboot

[2] “JYP – Timeline Photos | Facebook.” JYP – Timeline Photos | Facebook. 29 July 2015. Web. 12 Aug. 2015. https://www.facebook.com/jypnation/photos/a.179006305488269.61033.147775825277984/875039219218304/?type=1&theater