ESC Insight

ESC Insight
16
October
2018

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: From Llandudno To Minsk

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: From Llandudno To Minsk
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20181016_news_583/escinsight_20181016_news_583.mp3

From the shores of North Wales, across the continent, and beyond. It’s a relatively calm edition of the Insight News podcast this week, with lots of Junior music videos being launched, submission deadlines closing in, and a mix of confirmations and withdrawals from the Adult Contest.

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: From Llandudno To Minsk

New National Finals, departing broadcasters, Melodifestivalen rumours, and more! Ewan Spence reports on the latest Song Contest action with ticket sales, artist selections, and diary dates.

As we work through the first few months of the new season, keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast to stay up to date with Eurovision, Junior Eurovision, and all the National Finals. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here, and you can support us on Patreon.

Categories: ESC Insight

16
October
2018

Chwilio am Seren: Loving The Search For Wales’ Singing Dragon

Chwilio am Seren: Loving The Search For Wales’ Singing Dragon

Llandudno Station is the end of the line. Originally built with five platforms, two of them have been removed, and the three that remain are ‘bay’ platforms where the tracks run right up to the buffers. The modern four-aspect signals are nowhere to be seen, with semaphore signalling harking back to the St. George’s Harbour and Railway Company which opened the station in 1858.

But if you turn around and look towards Belarus, you see something else. You see the tracks stretch out in front of you, gently curving past Conwy Bay. You see a journey ahead of you that will take you through the United Kingdom, into the mainland of Europe, towards the capital city of Minsk, and into the Junior Eurovision Song Contest under the Welsh flag.

Llandudno Station, S4C's Junior Eurovision National Final (Image: Ewan Spence)

Llandudno Station, on the way to  S4C’s National Final (Image: Ewan Spence)

Welsh broadcaster S4C has already been on quite the journey to get to this point. A journey of determination, discovery, and joy.

The Delights Inside Chwilio am Seren

Last Thursday saw S4C head to the Venue Clwyd in Llandudno for the fourth and final broadcast to find their performer for the Welsh Junior Eurovision song. Unlike the previous episodes, this was going to be broadcast ‘as-live’ not just to Wales, but across the UK and the world through the S4C website.

This was my first National Final for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, but it’s not my first National Final. Apart from the age of the performers, the production behind Chwilio am Seren rivals that of many selection shows across the continent for May’s Contest for the older generation. There are certain broadcasters that will be looking at S4C’s broadcast and taking some detailed notes.

S4C's Junior Eurovision National Final (Image: Ewan Spence)

Starting in five… four… three… (Image: Ewan Spence)

The goal of this Contest was to find a singer for Wales. Not someone who could dance, not the performer who had the best light show, this was just about the voice. In the first round, the six finalists would be whittled down to three by a jury vote. Along with their mentors, that round was an open book choice of any song to impress the judges (and going with a Welsh version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, as Ella did, was a high-risk, high-reward choice).

If you didn’t watch Chwilio am Seren, take a bit of time to watch Ella’s performance. Naturally the singing is live, but perhaps more importantly is the lack of backing singers. There’s no support on tape or in the hall, all the vocals are Ella’s. If you are entering a singing contest, you want to find a singer.

There’s also a lack of backing tape for the music. It’s not highlighted by the camera shots (because the focus is finding a singer), but stage left was S4C’s ‘House Band’ that not only provided the music for the six performances in the first round, but six different variations of ‘Hi yw y Berta’ (the chosen song for Junior Eurovision 2018). Even though only three were broadcast, all six were rehearsed and ready to go, and all six were in different styles tailored for each singer.

While it’s not an orchestra that a subset of Eurovision fans like, the idea of a house band for other National Finals, and perhaps even at the main Contest itself, should not be discounted.

S4C's Junior Eurovision National Final (Image: Ewan Spence)

Chwilio am Seren’s house band at S4C’s Junior Eurovision National Final (Image: Ewan Spence)

The Secrets Of Live-To-Tape

There are two things I want to highlight. The first is that the artists were given space to get it right. The mentor system wasn’t a token effort to have three voices pass judgement on the live show; there was a genuine bond between everyone. That came across on-screen, but in the moments between the songs it was clear for all to see that nobody was being forced, everyone was enjoying the chance to perform at the highest level, and it was a positive experience.

From a production point of view, the show actually started around thirty minutes before the broadcast slot. In essence this was ‘live to tape’ and as the night progressed, the ‘studio’ time caught up with ‘broadcast’ time so by the time the phone lines closed, everything was in sync.

S4C's Junior Eurovision National Final (Image: Ewan Spence)

S4C’s Junior Eurovision representative, Manw Lili Robin (Image: Ewan Spence)

That meant that after the big opening number the tape was paused, all six performers had a chance to rest, get changed, and be in the best possible condition to sing in the first round. It also meant that if there had been any minor technical issues in the Venue Clwyd, then it was an easy enough matter to call for a second take.

Although the performers were all told ‘you get one go’ I suspect that if there had been any major issues, with time in hand the producers would have made the smart call. In the end, no performer needed the safety net, but it was there. Did anyone else use it? I couldn’t possibly comment.

The second is that S4C is hungry for success. That may not necessarily come from the final leaderboard – Junior Eurovision is heavily biased towards eastern European entries and that means more votes are coming from audience and jurors used to an eastern pop sound – but success can be measured in many ways: the commitment to the whole process, the promotion of Wales and the Welsh language across Europe and the world, and the ongoing success of all of the performers involved in the process.

S4C have also laid down a yardstick to the BBC. Yes, Junior Eurovision in November is not the same Contest as the Song Contest in May, but Chwilio am Seren has provided a yardstick that Eurovision: You Decide can be measured against. With a live band, no backing tracks, and a focus on the singing capabilities, S4C has brought a new focus and renewed energy to the process. The contrast between the approach of the two broadcasters will be clear.

What would be interesting is if the EBU receives entries from two broadcasters looking to enter Junior Eurovision in 2019 – one from S4C and one from the BBC. Strictly speaking, the BBC is seen as the ‘national’ broadcaster and would be expected to get priority, but S4C have previously built up a reputation at Eurovision Choir of the Year and now at Junior Eurovision.

That would be a tough decision for Geneva…

Don’t Stop Believing

Which leads me back to Platform 3 at Llandudno. There are times that covering the Eurovision Song Contest is like a train service. There is a timetable to follow, everyone knows the regular stops along the route, and for the most part everything stays the same.

Llandudno Station, S4C's Junior Eurovision National Final (Image: Ewan Spence)

Leaving Llandudno, Next Stop Minsk (Image: Ewan Spence)

It’s not always about where the track goes. It’s about the people you meet along the way, it’s about making new friends and expanding horizons. It’s about showcasing the infectious joy of discovering something new, showing it to the world, being proud of your home but also the delight of sharing.

S4C, welcome aboard. You’ve earned your seat reservation, get yourself something from the trolly, and enjoy the ride. Minsk is just around the corner.

Categories: ESC Insight

08
October
2018

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways with Peter Fenner

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways with Peter Fenner
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20181007_582_castawaysS2E5/escinsight_20181007_582_castawaysS2E5.mp3

Pack your bags, grab your playlists, it’s time to return to Île de Bezençon, where it’s early May all year round, and Ellie Chalkley is on duty.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways with Peter Fenner

Our next guest to the beautiful Île de Bezençon is Icelandic Eurovision commentary writer and all-round cultural attaché Peter Fenner. Will he get his eight chosen Eurovision songs past the strict customs procedure of Ellie Chalkley? And does the Icelandic language have a word for ‘camp’?

As we work through the first few months of the new season, keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast to stay up to date with Eurovision, Junior Eurovision, and all the National Finals. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

03
October
2018

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Dates For Your 2019 Diary

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Dates For Your 2019 Diary
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20181001_news_581/escinsight_20181001_news_581.mp3

Switzerland is our second country to lock in some names for its National Final (after Sweden), more dates for National Final fans to add in their diaries, submissions are opening and closing across Europe and beyond… We may not have many songs yet but the 2019 season is definitely under way.

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Dates For Your 2019 Diary

More entries! More songs! More results! Ewan Spence reports on the latest Song Contest action with ticket sales, artist selections, and National Final details in the latest Insight News podcast

As we work through the first few months of the new season, keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast to stay up to date with Eurovision, Junior Eurovision, and all the National Finals. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here, and you can support us on Patreon.

Categories: ESC Insight

28
September
2018

Ask ESC Insight: Three Minutes That Will Make You Fall In Love With The National Final Season

Ask ESC Insight: Three Minutes That Will Make You Fall In Love With The National Final Season

Ewan Spence

Someday’ by Hera Bjork (Denmark 2009)

I’m definitely playing to the gallery with this choice here, and I’m making the assumption that I’m talking to someone who already gets Eurovision, who tunes in during May (and maybe follows the action online), but needs a nudge to realise the same love and emotion is on show throughout the year… you just need to find it.

Which means turning to a Eurovision legend who’s been at the front of the stage, who’s backed up other successful acts, and who continues to love the Contest. And yes, while ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ gets the heart racing, has the moves, and still fills the dance floor, for me the Danish 2009 selection is a far better signature song for Hera Bjork… and its gems like ‘Someday’ you miss if you aren’t following the National Finals.

John Egan

Get Frighten’ by Lolita Zero (Lithuania 2017)

Who doesn’t enjoy a classic Euro disco stomper performed by an impossibly tall Lithuanian drag queen and her minions? It’s got an instant hook, several OMG moments, and the best talking bridge since Sertab’s “Everyway That I Can” huh-huhed its way into our hearts.

The best part? One of the minions is actually doing the singing: Lolita’s lip synching. Like a proper drag queen. I’m still mad that this wasn’t in Kyiv… Europe was deprived of two minutes and forty seven seconds of perfectly choreographed car crash chaos. Hellooooo Europe!

Read more from John at 58points.com.

Samantha Ross

Human Beings’ by Karin Park (Norway 2015)

What do I look for when I peruse the seemingly endless parade of National Finalists? In a perfect world, I like to see songs that align with the music that I listen to outside of the Eurovision Song Contest bubble. I want a sleek, modern production, an engaging performer, an uplifting chorus, and (if it’s in a language I understand) a message or story that grabs me in the three minutes that a singer has my undivided attention.

For me, Karin Park’s ‘Human Beings’ checks all of those boxes. Knowing that Karin wrote the ever-so-industrially-slinky ‘I Feed You My Love’ for Margaret Berger, ‘Human Beings’ felt like both a logical continuation of a Eurovision path that started in 2013 as well as an invitation to explore her brilliant solo work. Yes, caffeinated bops and dramatic balladry will always be a part of the Eurovision landscape, especially to those who only know the Song Contest by reputation, but time marches onwards, it’s important to show newcomers that there really is no line between ‘Eurovision Music’ and ‘Everything Else’.

Wivian Kristiansen

“Fjaðrir” by Sunday (Iceland 2015)

I’m thinking that most of the hardcore fans are already following the National Finals, no? So I decided to go for a song I believe might tempt the more casual viewers into checking out a National Final or two.

The song I have chosen is ‘Fjaðrir’ (‘Feathers’) by Sunday, which was one of the finalists in Söngvakeppnin 2015. And it should, without a doubt, have been the Icelandic entry in Vienna. This song, especially the Icelandic version, is a perfect example of today’s modern Icelandic indie pop. You can literally hear the Icelandic landscape in this with Hildur’s atmospheric gliding voice on top of Guðfinnur’s electronica accompaniment. Sheer beauty. And something that will never win in Iceland, though I think it would do really well at the Eurovision Song Contest.

I believe this is the kind of song that could potentially turn one of those ‘I don’t like Eurovision music’ people into, perhaps not a fan, but at least someone with a more balanced view of what Eurovision music is.

Read more from Wivian at EscXtra.

Brandon McCann

Temple of Love’ by BWO (Sweden 2006)

My quintessential Eurovision entry that got away. The defining hit from a popular Swedish band whose music I adore and learnt of through their appearances in Melodifestivalen.

I chose this catchy electro-pop entry specifically because I feel it’s a bridge between die-hard Eurovision Song Contest fans and pop music enjoyers even with no appreciation for the Song Contest. This is my ‘gateway’ song to help convert the masses to the Contest – nearly all of the time it works quite well and I couldn’t be more proud of it.

Brandon is the driving force behind WaveScope, a new Android app covering Eurovision news.

Sharleen Wright

Smile’ by Jamala (Ukraine 2011)

Our Eurovision Song Contest winner from 2016 comes with form, with a song that is a far cry from the brooding ‘1944’.

In 2011, the uptempo and annoyingly catchy ‘Smile’ emerged from a multi-week national selection process that has since gone down in National Final history. Jamala was quirky, popular in jazz circles, and had a song that was clearly hard to get out of your head from the first listen.

When it came to the Ukrainian National Final, Jamala went into the hotly-contested show also featuring Zlata (who went on to represent Ukraine in 2013) carrying the ‘favourite’ status. She was leading the public voting throughout the show, but when it came down to the final moments, a last minute surge of internet and SMS votes, alongside a lower than expected jury vote, left Mika Newton to emerge the victor.

It was discovered shortly thereafter that many of the SMS and internet votes for Mika were from the same source. The controversy saw Jamala claim she would never enter the competition again. Clearly, she changed her mind just five years later, but ‘Smile’, in my opinion, remains the song she should have taken to the Contest and in no doubt, would have brought Eurovision back to Ukraine much earlier.

Over To You!

Time to put your own thinking caps on! Which songs stand out for you? Which will entice the mainstream to spend their weekends discovering music from across the continent? Which stick in your mind? And to make it interesting, you all have the same caveat… no songs that made it to May.

Categories: ESC Insight

28
September
2018

Ask ESC Insight: Three Minutes That Will Make You Fall In Love National Final Season

Ask ESC Insight: Three Minutes That Will Make You Fall In Love National Final Season

Ewan Spence

Someday’ by Hera Bjork (Denmark 2009)

I’m definitely playing to the gallery with this choice here, and I’m making the assumption that I’m talking to someone who already gets Eurovision, who tunes in during May (and maybe follows the action online), but needs a nudge to realise the same love and emotion is on show throughout the year… you just need to find it.

Which means turning to a Eurovision legend who’s been at the front of the stage, who’s backed up other successful acts, and who continues to love the Contest. And yes, while ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ gets the heart racing, has the moves, and still fills the dance floor, for me the Danish 2009 selection is a far better signature song for Hera Bjork… and its gems like ‘Someday’ you miss if you aren’t following the National Finals.

John Egan

Get Frighten’ by Lolita Zero (Lithuania 2017)

Who doesn’t enjoy a classic Euro disco stomper performed by an impossibly tall Lithuanian drag queen and her minions? It’s got an instant hook, several OMG moments, and the best talking bridge since Sertab’s “Everyway That I Can” huh-huhed its way into our hearts.

The best part? One of the minions is actually doing the singing: Lolita’s lip synching. Like a proper drag queen. I’m still mad that this wasn’t in Kyiv… Europe was deprived of two minutes and forty seven seconds of perfectly choreographed car crash chaos. Hellooooo Europe!

Read more from John at 58points.com.

Samantha Ross

Human Beings’ by Karin Park (Norway 2015)

What do I look for when I peruse the seemingly endless parade of National Finalists? In a perfect world, I like to see songs that align with the music that I listen to outside of the Eurovision Song Contest bubble. I want a sleek, modern production, an engaging performer, an uplifting chorus, and (if it’s in a language I understand) a message or story that grabs me in the three minutes that a singer has my undivided attention.

For me, Karin Park’s ‘Human Beings’ checks all of those boxes. Knowing that Karin wrote the ever-so-industrially-slinky ‘I Feed You My Love’ for Margaret Berger, ‘Human Beings’ felt like both a logical continuation of a Eurovision path that started in 2013 as well as an invitation to explore her brilliant solo work. Yes, caffeinated bops and dramatic balladry will always be a part of the Eurovision landscape, especially to those who only know the Song Contest by reputation, but time marches onwards, it’s important to show newcomers that there really is no line between ‘Eurovision Music’ and ‘Everything Else’.

Wivian Kristiansen

“Fjaðrir” by Sunday (Iceland 2015)

I’m thinking that most of the hardcore fans are already following the National Finals, no? So I decided to go for a song I believe might tempt the more casual viewers into checking out a National Final or two.

The song I have chosen is ‘Fjaðrir’ (‘Feathers’) by Sunday, which was one of the finalists in Söngvakeppnin 2015. And it should, without a doubt, have been the Icelandic entry in Vienna. This song, especially the Icelandic version, is a perfect example of today’s modern Icelandic indie pop. You can literally hear the Icelandic landscape in this with Hildur’s atmospheric gliding voice on top of Guðfinnur’s electronica accompaniment. Sheer beauty. And something that will never win in Iceland, though I think it would do really well at the Eurovision Song Contest.

I believe this is the kind of song that could potentially turn one of those ‘I don’t like Eurovision music’ people into, perhaps not a fan, but at least someone with a more balanced view of what Eurovision music is.

Read more from Wivian at EscXtra.

Brandon McCann

Temple of Love’ by BWO (Sweden 2006)

My quintessential Eurovision entry that got away. The defining hit from a popular Swedish band whose music I adore and learnt of through their appearances in Melodifestivalen.

I chose this catchy electro-pop entry specifically because I feel it’s a bridge between die-hard Eurovision Song Contest fans and pop music enjoyers even with no appreciation for the Song Contest. This is my ‘gateway’ song to help convert the masses to the Contest – nearly all of the time it works quite well and I couldn’t be more proud of it.

Brandon is the driving force behind WaveScope, a new Android app covering Eurovision news.

Sharleen Wright

Smile’ by Jamala (Ukraine 2011)

Our Eurovision Song Contest winner from 2016 comes with form, with a song that is a far cry from the brooding ‘1944’.

In 2011, the uptempo and annoyingly catchy ‘Smile’ emerged from a multi-week national selection process that has since gone down in National Final history. Jamala was quirky, popular in jazz circles, and had a song that was clearly hard to get out of your head from the first listen.

When it came to the Ukrainian National Final, Jamala went into the hotly-contested show also featuring Zlata (who went on to represent Ukraine in 2013) carrying the ‘favourite’ status. She was leading the public voting throughout the show, but when it came down to the final moments, a last minute surge of internet and SMS votes, alongside a lower than expected jury vote, left Mika Newton to emerge the victor.

It was discovered shortly thereafter that many of the SMS and internet votes for Mika were from the same source. The controversy saw Jamala claim she would never enter the competition again. Clearly, she changed her mind just five years later, but ‘Smile’, in my opinion, remains the song she should have taken to the Contest and in no doubt, would have brought Eurovision back to Ukraine much earlier.

Over To You!

Time to put your own thinking caps on! Which songs stand out for you? Which will entice the mainstream to spend their weekends discovering music from across the continent? Which stick in your mind? And to make it interesting, you all have the same caveat… no songs that made it to May.

Categories: ESC Insight

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