Monday, June 27, 2011

Catching up with Raphael Gualazzi

During my time at the Press Center in Düsseldorf this year, I had the great (and often surreal) pleasure to get to know a number of 2011’s Eurovision performers.  I sipped tea with the Greeks, chatted with the Icelanders, danced with the Armenians, practiced my Portuguese with Homens da Luta, and raised a few toasts with the Bulgarians.  However, one of my favorite artists to work with was Italy’s Raphael Gualazzi.  After having the chance to interview him for ESCKaz, we would often run into each other as he went from rehearsals to press conferences to interviews and back again, always sharing a quick smile and a “ciao”.  I sat in the second row during Raphael’s intimate showcase at “Jazz in der Alten Schmeide”, and saw firsthand how much he and his bandmates truly feel their music, a fantastic, soulful blend of old-school stride piano fused with modern blues, funk, and jazz.  When “Madness of Love” defied expectations and quietly climbed up the leaderboard on May 14th, ultimately making its way into a surprising (to some, anyway) second place finish, I may have been celebrating louder than the Italian delegation itself.  I had the chance to catch up with Raphael this week before his gig at the Teatro Tenda in Vascon, near Treviso.  Despite an often-fuzzy cell phone connection, I was able to get a few questions in.

ESC Insider: It’s been over a month since we’ve last talked…how has life been since Düsseldorf?
Raphael Gualazzi: Well, we were very busy before [Eurovision]…a lot of gigs around Europe.  And now, after that, we are in a lot of different countries, so a lot of work on promotion. And at the same time a lot of concerts around Europe, like Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, France, Germany, all around.  You can check [the tour schedule] out on the Internet, for sure.  Also, there’s been some television in Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin, and we’ll have also a tour in October, from the 1st to the 15th in Germany that will start in Stuttgart, through Berlin, Hamburg, and it will stop in Frankfurt on the 15th.  And now, I’m just doing a lot of work, touring around festivals in France…

Monday, June 20, 2011

Follow Up Single Time, Part 2

As the weeks progress, more of Eurovision's Class of 2011 are continuing on with their careers and releasing their next singles.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's Dino Merlin has followed up his 6th-place finish in Germany with his new single, "Undo".  Despite the title, the song is in Bosnian, unlike his ESC-entry "Love in Rewind".  Dino is actively touring this summer, and will likely release his next album in early 2012.

Albania's preeminent diva, Aurela Gaçe, has collaborated with local rapper MC Kresha to bring the world their new single, "Cash".   It might not harness Aurela's epic vocal prowess in the same way that "Kënga Ime/Feel the Passion" did in Düsseldorf, but it's still a fun listen, and any video that has echoes of "Tron" gets a thumbs-up in my book:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jury vs. Televote...the Saga Continues

There’s been a lot of chatter from fans (both casual and obsessed) about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of a 50% Jury, 50% Televote split at Eurovision.  Call me crazy, but I actually kind of prefer having the two sides.  A jury might be less inclined to vote for a song based on geographical or cultural distribution, while a public vote might be a better divining rod of what’s actually popular.  Juries also have the benefit of having a few hours to digest their thoughts and register their votes, while televoters have a smaller window to decide where to spend their hard-earned cell-phone minutes. (Granted, until the full votes from each nation are released by the EBU or by the broadcasters themselves, this is a lot of speculation.)

What *does* bother me a bit, however, is the fact that the juries and the public vote on two different performances.  The Juries give their scores based on the final dress rehearsal from the night before the actual event.  As many have said over the past few weeks, Blue's vocals simply didn't do the song justice during the Jury Final (which pains me to say, since I loved both the song and the boys themselves, as my readers knew). 

I think it all boils down to what makes a Eurovision Winner the "best" song.  Is it the composition?  The showmanship?  The personality?  The actual vocal performance?  The potential for a song to become a commercial hit?  The public will look for one thing, while the juries might look for something else.  When it comes to actual musical talent, I sincerely think that the juries got it right when they favored Italy.  In terms of showmanship, the Azeris put on a great performance that was visually stunning (with a bit of eye candy for all).  Was "Running Scared" my personal choice or prediction for the winner?  Not by a long shot.  After watching the semifinals and a slew of rehearsals, I was hoping for Rome, Reykjavík, Copenhagen, Athens, Sarajevo, or Tblisi, and I predicted it would go to London, Dublin, Paris, or even Belgrade.  But even though “Running Scared” wasn’t my personal taste, I can sit back and understand how it took the crown.  Düsseldorf was full of impressive songs and performances, and when enthusiasm is spread out over a number of different nations (a total of 20 nations out of 25 ended up with at least one “douze points”, with only Estonia, Russia, Switzerland, Germany, and Serbia missing out), an entry can easily fly under the radar and take a victory.

It’s possible to go on about this topic for pages and pages, and you might never come up with a true consensus of how to find an ideal winner.  My friend John Kennedy O’Connor wrote a really in-depth and incisive piece on this topic for, and I recommend that you all check it out, if you haven't already.

Ok, everybody...let the (hopefully civil) debate begin!  What would you like to see, in terms of the voting?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Follow Up Single Time!

As is customary in the days following Eurovision, many of the artists that we have come to know and love from their participation on the ESC stage realize that there is, in fact, life after the world's largest musical competition.  (Granted, the same can't necessarily be said about the bloggers you have come to know and love, who still cling to every fiber of their time in the Press Center!).  Whether an artist is a newcomer on the scene or a professional with an established career, it's only natural that new singles follow on the heels of the Grand Final.

Italy's representative Raphael Gualazzi released his album "Reality and Fantasy", and since its release in February it has reached #1 on the iTunes Jazz charts all over Europe.  (It's also available on iTunes in the US, and I give it my personal ESCInsider seal of approval!)  Raphael's keeping the momentum up releasing the follow-up single to "Follia d'Amore/Madness of Love", "A Three Second Breath".

We also have a pair of releases from Greece's artists.  Rapper Stereo Mike is currently working on a radio edit for his song "Μπορώ/Mporo (I)".  Taken from his new album "Ανέλιξη (Evolution)", Mike actually decided to release "Μπορώ" after asking his Facebook and Twitter followers what his next single should be.  He's currently in the studio remixing the track, but here's the full album edit: 

Not to be outdone, Loukas Yiorkas also has a new single out.  Teaming up again with composer Giannis Christodoulopoulos and lyricist Eleana Vrachali (the pair behind "Watch My Dance"), Loukas has unveiled his next track, "Για Πρώτη Φορά/Gia Proti Fora (For the First Time)".

Free Hit Counter