ESC Insight

ESC Insight
05
February
2019

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Ladies And Gentlemen, Tony Hadley!

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Ladies And Gentlemen, Tony Hadley!
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20190204_news_608/escinsight_20190204_news_608.mp3

No National Final winners this week but a lot of results across the continent, as well as some fan favourites that have fallen in the early qualification rounds. Plus the Top Ten Eurovision songs on YouTube in January, and our latest ‘Eurovision Thought‘ as Danie Tregonning from The Wind Machine Podcast looks towards the Gold Coast for ten exciting three-minute-moments… but can she decide?

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Ladies And Gentlemen, Tony Hadley!

We say goodbye to Robin Hood, Daz Sampson flies back from Belarus and Tony Hadley pops up in Italy. Danie Tregonning has a Eurovision Thought about Australia’s first National Final. Ewan Spence and the Insight team cover the latest news from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.

Remember you can stay up to date with all the Song Contest news by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

04
February
2019

Newsletter: Four Down, Thirty Eight To Go…

Newsletter: Four Down, Thirty Eight To Go…

Also in this week’s newsletter, Melodifestivalen kicks off in Sweden, Finland select a trance icon for Tel Aviv and The Netherlands announce a change of tactics. You can read the newsletter in full here, or subscribe for a regular dose of Eurovision insight and analysis delivered direct to your email inbox.

ESC Insight National Selection Playlist

Hatari – Hatrið mun sigra (Iceland)

Poor old Iceland have had a rough run at Eurovision in recent years, with four consecutive non-qualifiers since 2015. This striking electro-punk number probably wouldn’t break their duck, but it’d arguably be the Nordic nation’s most daring, forward-thinking entry since the glory days of Paul Oscar…

Carousel – That Night (Latvia)

A sweet slice of country-soul that could’ve been lifted straight from a Norah Jones album, the winsome That Night was the dark-horse victor of Latvia’s second Supernova semi final on Saturday night. Entries this low-key can easily slip under the radar, but if it strikes a Common Linnets style chord, it could give Latvia a strong showing in Tel Aviv.

KEiiNO – Spirit In The Sky (Norway)

At the other end of the subtlety spectrum, Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix has thrown up an instant fan favourite with this gloriously cheesy combination of Nordic joiking and classic Scandi-pop melody. Imagine John Henrik Fjällgren teaming up with Koit Toome and Laura for an even battier sequel to Verona, with a touch of Rednex continental hit Spirit of the Hawk thrown into the mix, and you should have an idea what to expect from this. Total marmite in other words, but potentially very dangerous if selected.

Andrea Demirović – Ja sam ti san (Montenegro)

Andrea Demirović last represented Montenegro back in 2009 with the fluffy Ralph Siegel-penned Just Get Out Of My Life. Ten years on, she’s presenting something with a fair bit more edge. Ja sam ti san is a hard-hitting electro rock number that could give Montenegro their most competitive entry in a while if selected…

Conan Osíris – Telemóveis (Portugal)

Having waited over 50 years for their first Eurovision victory, Portugal probably aren’t banking on a second anytime soon. Yet they might be in for a surprise this May if the increasing buzz around this track bears out. A spellbinding combination of Iberian folk and modern electronic production, Telemóveis has already clocked up over a million YouTube streams before the first semi final of Festival da Canção 2019 has even aired. Could it be next year in Porto? Stranger things have happened…

You can stay up to date with all of the latest Eurovision news and analysis right here on ESC Insight. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Categories: ESC Insight

30
January
2019

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Twentieth Anniversary Thoughts

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Twentieth Anniversary Thoughts
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20190129_news_607/escinsight_20190129_news_607.mp3

More names, both from competitive finals and from internal selections to talk about this week, as well as dates and submission deadlines ahead of Tel Aviv. Plus the small matter of the Semi Final draw by the EBU, and our latest ‘Eurovision Thought’ from On Europe’s Phil Colclough on the anniversary of the Orchestral goodbye.

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Twentieth Anniversary Thoughts

The Semi Final draw for Tel Aviv, the latest National Final results, and Phil Colclough has a Eurovision Thought about a twenty year anniversary. Ewan Spence and the Insight team cover the latest news from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.

Remember you can stay up to date with all the Song Contest news by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

26
January
2019

Bilal Hassani and the Rise of Generation YouTube

Bilal Hassani and the Rise of Generation YouTube

What’s Happening In France

The culmination of France’s Eurovision selection, Destination Eurovision, takes place on Saturday February 26th. 8 songs have qualified from two Semi Finals.

France is bouncing back from one of the biggest slumps in Eurovision Song Contest history. 7 years out of 11 in a window from 2005 to 2015 France was outside the top 20 despite automatic qualification to the Grand Final. World star Patricia Kass scored France’s highest position, a very distant 9th place.

Change came with a new team and new youthful direction. ’J’ai Cherché’ arrived in Stockholm as a fan favourite and recorded France’s best result since 2002. Another top half leaderboard position in 2017 had given the Eurovision Song Contest much needed credibility again in France. France Télévisions ran a succcessful National Final in 2018 and again was riding high in pre-contest polling with the emotive ’Mercy’. The 13th place finish was ultimately a dissapointment after all the hype. However for 13th place to be a dissapointment showed the progress France’s Eurovision team had made.

The French return to Junior Eurovision in Minsk last November is evidence to this, a 2nd place finish after 14 years away from that competition.

That short history takes us to today’s show, and the name dominating the headlines is likely a name new to even the most devoted of French Eurovision fans.

Bilal Hassani, love or hate, is the name on everybody’s lips.

Who Is Bilal Hassani?

Bilal Hassani first hit the public eye through the French version of The Voice Kids. As a 15-year-old performer singing Conchita Wurst’s ’Rise Like A Phoenix’, his vocal was solid albeit far away from setting the world on fire.

The Bilal of today though, at age 19, is radically different from that bespectacled youth with checked shirts. My impression of Bilal reminds me in many ways to how I described the character of Conchita Wurst. Gender stereotypes are thrown out the window, with the heavily-dyed bob a startling contrast to Bilal’s eyebrows. His outfit for Destination Eurovision’s Semi Final is decidedly agendered, with the cut of Bilal’s white jacket toying with strong shoulder pads and fitted waists.

How does a 19 year old start creating such a character for themselves? On YouTube. Three years ago he started off on his YouTuber journey, and each thumbnail image documents his transformation into this new personality. His output is partly music, but also filled with the typical daft and silly vlogs that make up 21st century entertainment.

The loyal support means he now has a whopping 776,000 subscribers,  a number that will likely continue to rise meteorically. Young Bilal found a niche online, a place where Bilal could experiment with what direction Bilal could take going forward. The growing ways of love and support from Bilal’s fanbase have slowly helped in building confience to become the performer he is today.

However there is only so long you can just stay growing up in your little online bubble. Destination Eurovision has brought Bilal out into the open with success. Qualifying comfortably to the final, the lyric video to ’Roi’, his self-empowerment flavoured Eurovision entry, is now Bilal’s most viewed video with over 5 million views. That’s more than all the other performers in the competition combined.

A Hard To Reach Audience

The viewing figures for the Semi Finals of Destination Eurovision show the Bilal Hassani effect. 30% of the viewers from Bilal’s Semi Final One dropped off for the 2nd Semi Final one week later. Artists bigger than the competition are rare and hard to find.

The problem for France Télévisions is to try and get these viewers to stick around for the rest of their broadcasting. Young people in Europe may be consuming more media now than ever before, but less of that is from TV and radio – more of it is online through their own networks and subsciptions. The next generation are used to only watching who and what they want, of skipping forward and backwards through videos for the best bits at ease, of being swayed by their recommended algorithms far more than the TV guide.

Other countries are following suit, most notably with Sweden. Vlad Reiser competes in Melodifestivalen this year with 400,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel full of ’vlogs, pranks, challenges and gaming’. He’s a name hot on the list of 12 year olds across the country, but perhaps few others. However there’s little doubt that his inclusion might drag a few pre-teens out of the bedrooms and onto the living room sofa to watch his performance. Similarly much hype surrounds Instagram star Bishara – who has made himself famous from performing short clips online.

These are risky moves by SVT in terms of the getting the best quality performers. As Bilal’s nervy Semi Final performance showed, many of these young people are far less experienced in surviving on the big stage. The cameras they are used to performing infront of are attached to their computer screen rather than a huge swinging crane. No longer are you just performing for your loyal fans, but for the entire country.

That said including new talent like this is exactly the direction every country should be taking. While there are huge question marks about their performances in Melodifestivalen, Bishara and Vlad Reiser will have some of the most hotly anticipated. YouTube and Instagram are going to become one of the biggest breeding grounds for new talent perfect for the competitive stage, Eurovision or otherwise. Those stars are likely to have that thing that TV now fails to find; the X Factor. While the TV show with the said name now relies on selecting artists with previous careers or fresh innocent faces, YouTubers have full creative licence to truly create something unique. It’s a tough environment, and the internet can be incredibly cold and cruel, but the rewards are great and are only going to continue to grow.

A few years ago, we were looking at artists like Lena, Loreen and Alexander Rybak as successful output from TV talent shows as great Eurovision successes. And they were. TV Talent shows give a great platform for all these artists to learn the know-how to play to camera, to tweak their artistry to appeal to the masses.

The last few winners of the Eurovision Song Contest however have been increasely divisive. Since Conchita’s 2014 victory there’s been one common theme with the winners. They have all had some unique character on stage. Be it a Måns Zelmerlöw as a buff superhero or Salvador Sobral’s introvert or Netta’s clucking-chicken – each winner has managed something well away from the norm. Eurovision winning songs are brave, bold and individual – Netta is the only artist I can think of who would sell ’Toy’ enough to win. The same goes for all the others.

Some countries are still using the TV talent show breeding ground approach to success. The modern audience is looking for diversity, courageousness and empowerment from their songs and performers. Our Eurovision winners are less likely to look like ’Running Scared’ or ’Only Teardrops’ any time soon, these are now a generation out of date. Modern Eurovision winners need a strong character and personality far more than ever before. You can be Mr or Miss X Factor Idol Voice Got Talent Alumni 2591…or you can be…you – and successful because you have already carved out a niche. I know which one gets me more excited.

Conclusions For Saturday Night

From reading this you may believe that Bilal Hassani is the hot favourite to win the French ticket to Eurovision 2019. It appears not so simple. Seemone’s achingly French ballad ’Tous Les Doux’ is running neck-and-neck in many predictions after a perfect jury score in the other Semi Final. It’s a simple yet touching tune, with a story so sentimental it pours emotion from every line. Songs like these don’t grow on trees or get created in songwriting camps – they come from the heart.

The expectation is that Bilal is likely to be a diverse option for the jury – his character should create the same love/hate jury relationship that also saw recent performers like Conchita, Sergey Lazarev and Jamala score terribly low with some jurors when they competed. There’s evidence for this, his YouTube stats has the most likes and views, but also the highest dislikes/likes ratio. But that is part of the risk. Not every off-beat character is going to do well, and Bilal might not be making the trip to Tel Aviv this May. Nevertheless though the Eurovision Song Contest will be filled with more Bilal’s and less Joe Bloggs’ in the future, and the list of winners even more so.

The YouTube generation isn’t to be dismissed any more.

Categories: ESC Insight

23
January
2019

Why The BBC Needs Needs The X-Factor For Eurovision: You Decide

Why The BBC Needs Needs The X-Factor For Eurovision: You Decide

The United Kingdom has revealed the six performers that will take to the stage in the BBC’s National Final, ‘ Eurovision: You Decide.’ Remember that we have six acts and three songs, so we get a bit of musical duels to start with, before the three song superfinal.

Singing ‘Bigger Than Us‘ we have Michael Rice and Holly Tandy; singing ‘Freaks‘ we have Jordan Clarke and MAID; and singing ‘Sweet Lies‘ we have Kellie-Anne and Anisa. If you’re keeping track, we have alumni from All Together Now, The X-Factor, and Britian’s Got Talentin the mix. I’m guessing that multiple choruses of ‘these are all former talent show contestants, I’m very upset and angry’ have already started in the media (both mainstream and social). And they are all wrong.

While it might make for a snappy headline in the tabloids or an easy Twitter sentiment, it simply reflects the reality of the modern music scene in the United Kingdom. If the BBC are focusing on new talent, the big surprise would be if all six acts had not tried out for any of the singing based talent shows.

Personal Growth

If you are a singer in the UK and want to have a musical career, where do you go to start and build up a career? The traditional route of starting a band and getting into the bars and small venues around the country still exists, but the number of venues is decreasing.

For this generation’s singers who are starting out there has been one consistent option… the reality-TV/talent show hybrid. Starting with Nigel Lythgoe’s ‘Popstars’ in 2001, if you can make it through the open auditions, you get time on a national platform and a good shot at a career. And if you think the odds are long, they’re not unattractive when you look at other routes into the industry.

Eighteen years after Lythgoe’s show launched Hear’Say, is it any wonder than anyone who wants a singing career has at some point submitted themselves to one of these auditions at a minimum? Forget the word reject, if they made it to air they are ‘X-Factor alumni’, which to me simply means they have personal belief, a drive to succeed, and understand how the game is played.

Meet The Industry

Getting through the TV auditions and to the later rounds of any of these talent show gives the artists something vital to build their careers, no matter the result… recognition and exposure to the music industry’s back room heroes. Writers, managers, promoters, bookers, they are keeping tabs on these shows. It’s not just the winners who pick up careers from these shows.

Looking back to that first year of Popstars in the United Kingdom, and you had the first mainstream appearance of Darius Danesh (now Darius Campbell). He may not have won through in Popstars (or the following year’s Pop Idol), but he has continued to work in the arts to this day, including runs as Billy Flynn in the West End production of ‘Chicago,’ Sky Masterson in ‘Guys and Dolls’, and originated the Rhett Butler role in the theatrical adaption of ‘Gone With The Wind’.

Look through National Final and Eurovision alumni and you’ll find an increasing number of performers who picked up their first break in a TV talent show; to highlight a few you have Mans Zelmerlow in Swedish Idol, Michael Schulte in The Voice of Germany, Dami M in The X Factor Australia, and Loreen in Idol 2004.

Not bad for a bundle of ‘X-Factor Rejects’!

What Are The Alternatives?

If you don’t go for up-and-coming artists in your National Final, there are essentially only two other routes you can go for.

While it’s very unlikely that an established artist would decide to represent the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest, if one decided to take a very big risk you could see a single artist multi-song National Final (a route Finland is taking once more in 2019). Even then, the political environment in the UK and the levels of appreciation in the mainstream media to the Song Contest leads me to think that no sensible manager would recommend this to their client.

Then there are the older artists who are seen as likely candidates by the mainstream press and the casual fan in the United Kingdom. Witness the almost constant mentions of Steps in conversations about Eurovision in the media, harking back to a mythical view of the Song Contest that has almost no relevance to the modern show. In any case there’s a feeling that the modern Contest is happy to be seen as a platform for artists nearer the start of their career rather than at the end.

Which leaves you with the up and coming artists, who will predominantly have shown their hunger for a musical career by working through the talent show circuit.

Conclusions

Thre’s going to be a lot more talk about the choice of artists by the BBC, and it will not surprise me that the ‘X-Factor-isation’ of the UK National Final will be a hotly debated point. For me, the fact that the BBC has gone this route is a sign that the BBC is in step with the music industry.

Eurovision: You Decide’ is not yet a ‘top-tier’ show for managers to immediately place their young artists, but 2019’s cast shows that You Decide has gained acceptance and credibility over the last few years. This is what progress looks like.

Categories: ESC Insight

22
January
2019

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Wherever I Lay My Serhat

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Wherever I Lay My Serhat
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20190121_news_606/escinsight_20190121_news_606.mp3

We have more confirmed names and another song that will be heading to Tel Aviv, along with more results from the National Finals. We’ve also got our second ‘Eurovision Thoughts‘, as Luke Davies talks about bringing back the native language rule.

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Wherever I Lay My Serhat

Another returning Eurovision star, the rules of musical duel rules, and Luke Davies has some thoughts on language at the Contest. Ewan Spence and the Insight team cover the latest news from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.

It’s your last chance to buy tickets for the Scottish Eurovision shindig, Ne Party Pas Sans Moi, at ne-party-pas.com.

Remember you can stay up to date with all the Song Contest news by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

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