Sunday, November 27, 2011

Moving on...

Hi, everyone!  A few weeks back, I mentioned that I would be migrating over from Blogspot to Wordpress, and moving to the official address.  Well, I have officially started on the next chapter of this site, and I hope you'll come with me!  So, keep on following my news, views, and interviews on the Eurovision Song Contest, please update your bookmarks to find me at!  My Twitter handle (@escinsider) and Facebook page are staying just the way they are, so you can find me there, too.  To my loyal readers, thank you so much for coming with me on this journey, and I can't wait for 2012!

Hope to see you there!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

(FYR) Macedonia has decided: Kaliopi returns! (Sort of...)

It sometimes feels like the embers of Dusseldorf 2011 haven't even burned out yet, but it's already been a busy weekend for Baku 2012's plans!  In the past few days, we've heard about plans from Belgium, Serbia, and Slovakia (assuming that My.RO signs the contract they're rumored to be working on with's still a bit up in the air over in Bratislava, as per usual).  Yesterday, however, we got word that (FYR) Macedonia has made their selection for Azerbaijan: veteran performer Kaliopi.

The 44-year-old Kaliopi has been performing since the age of ten, and has recorded nine studio albums over the past two and a half decades.  This isn't her first foray into the world of Eurovision: in 1996, she was selected to represent Macedonia in what was expected to be the nation's debut at the ESC.  However, due to the then-rapidly increasing popularity of the contest, there were 30 nations clamoring for one of only 23 spots in the Final.  A non-televised pre-final occurred, and seven entries were cut before the public even had the chance to see them.  Unfortunately for Kaliopi, "Samo Ti (Only You)" was one of the unlucky ones, and Macedonia didn't fully enter the contest until 1998.  Here's a look at what could have been:

Kaliopi continued to flirt with the idea of Eurovision participation, and in 2009 she nearly made it to the stage in Moscow with her collaboration with Naum Petreski, "Rum Dum Dum".  However, the song eventually took second place in that year's SkopjeFest, falling behind Next Time's "Nešto što kje ostane".

For the first time since 2004, Macedonian broadcaster MKRTV has decided their candidate internally, and they will hold a small National Final early next year, as opposed to the SkopjeFest system we've seen over the past few years.  The last time the network picked their candidate internally, they chose Toše Proeski, arguably one of the biggest stars to ever come out of Macedonia.  The nation has never placed in the Top Ten at Eurovision, and they haven't made it out of the Semifinals since 2007.  Could Kaliopi break the streak?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Željko Joksimović returns for Serbia

Only hours after the announcement came in from Belgium about Iris's participation in Baku, Serbian broadcaster RTS surprised Eurofans everywhere by suddenly announcing their plans for ESC 2012.  To the delight of many, veteran singer and composer Željko Joksimović will be taking the stage at Baku Crystal Hall (assuming it's built in time, of course).  Eurovision followers are most familiar with Željko as the man behind 2004's stirring ethno-ballad "Lane Moje", sung for a then-united Serbia and Montenegro.  He might have come in second to Ruslana, but "Lane Moje" still remains a beloved modern classic in the eyes of many.

In 2006, Joksimović composed Hari Mata Hari's "Lejla", which came in third for Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Two years later, as the event made its way to Belgrade, Željko not only composed another gorgeous ballad, Jelena Tomasevic's "Oro" (which came in a respectable 6th place for Serbia), but he also co-hosted the event itself!  He has released five studio albums, two "best-of" compilations, and a live album, and he's sold out concerts all over the region.  He penned 2003's Beovizija winner "Cija Si" for Tose Proeski, and even recorded a duet with 2011's Bosnian representative Dino Merlin, "Supermen".  Needless to say, the 39-year old Joksimović has proven himself to be one of the Balkans' most prolific musicians, especially in the world of Eurovision.

For the first time, Serbia will have a completely internal selection, but details on Željko's song are still being hammered out (in fact, he's still composing it!).  We should hear the song in full early in 2012.  It's still incredibly early to start guessing how Serbia will do this year in the competition, but if Željko ends up winning the whole thing, he will be part of an extremely exclusive cadre of ESC performers who have come in second place, returned to the Contest at a later date, and won (the others being Ireland's Linda Martin and Russia's Dima Bilan).

What are your thoughts on the return of Željko Joksimović?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Belgium has decided: Iris to Baku!

Fresh on the heels of Wednesday's announcement form Slovakia, we have news from Belgium that Flemish broadcaster VRT has also made their internal selection for Azerbaijan.  Sixteen-year-old Iris (also known as Airis, real name Laura van den Bruel) will represent her nation this year, with a song to be determined later (VRT will soon hold an open call for songs, but it is unclear whether this means a second internal selection will occur or a small national final).  Iris is managed by SonicAngel, the same group that works with Tom Dice, who sang for Belgium in 2010, bringing the country their best result in years (and the Flemish their best result ever).  Will Iris have the same success?

Here's a little taste of what she serves up:

(So, looking over my notes, we've only got three names so far, but two of them are sixteen-year-old brunettes (the other being Ivi Adamou from Cyprus).  Quite a contrast if Lys Assia ends up representing Switzerland...)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Slovakia has decided: My.RO to Baku!

Unlike last year, when we had to wait until February for Slovakia to announce their representative at Eurovision (after months of hemming and hawing about coming to the party at all), today ESC fans got word that RTVS would not only definitely be participating in next year's event, but that they've decided to send Miroslav "Miro" Šmajda and his band My.RO (also known as "Rosemaid") to Baku (according to, however, a contract has not officially been signed yet, but the Slovak Head of Press is still confident enough to confirm the news). 

In order to save the network money, Miro, the runner-up from 2009's edition of Česko Slovenská Superstar (the Czech and Slovak version of the "Idols" franchise), will be a largely self-funded participant, much like the TWiiNS were last year.  There will be no National Final to decide what we'll hear from My.RO; more details on the song will be released soon.  Here's one of his more recent singles, "Baby", to hold us over in the meantime:

If "Baby" and his Superstar performances are anything to go by, I'm predicting that My.RO will give us something along the lines of Vukašin Brajić, Vlatko Ilievski, and Next Time...mid-tempo rock with a bit of an early-'90s vibe.  Brajić made it into the finals in 2010, but Vlatko and Next Time both fell at the Semifinal level.  It's tough to predict at this point without a song in hand (or information on any other participants aside from Cyprus's Ivi Adamou), but being a rocker at heart, I'm looking forward to Miro and My.RO.

(On another side note, similarly-named ventures have had irregular made it out of the semifinals and eventually to a 16th place in Helsinki, but was Eurovision's last nul-pointer...)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Onwards and Upwards!

Hey, everyone!

It's been a pretty wild year here at the ESC Insider.  As my loyal readers know, I've been working hard to share with you all my unique viewpoint on Eurovision past and present, all with a staff of one and a budget of nil.  My first trip (really, for me, a pilgrimage) to a live Contest, getting to hang out in the Press Centre and meet the artists personally...well, life doesn't get much better than that.  I hope you've been enjoying what I've been sending your way for these past two years, and I hope to keep it up for you all for a long time to come.

The ESC Insider isn't going to disappear anytime soon, but 2012 will be a year of change for me, and for this site, as well.  I'm currently doing a bit of jiggery-pokery on my web presence, and that means I'll probably be migrating to the official domain within the next month or so.  (No worries, though, as all the content that I've worked on here should come with me!)  I'm not an expert in web design, so please bear with me as I make the Insider the best it can be!  (If you have any suggestions on how to make it awesome, I'm all ears!)

Believe it or not, that's not even the biggest news from this end of things.  As many of you know, I had the pleasure of working with in Düsseldorf this year, and I am incredibly indebted to them for giving me the opportunity to work with them in Germany.  However, while I truly enjoyed reporting on breaking news and up-to-the-minute updates with Kaz, I've realized that my heart really does lie in more in-depth coverage.  Because of that, I am THRILLED to announce that I will be working in tandem with the folks over at during next year's event in Baku, Azerbaijan.  Fans who followed my goings-on in Germany may have caught a few of the lively morning podcasts that I participated in while I was out there, led by the irrepressible Ewan Spence...looks like I'll be participating in more of them!

In short, during the lead-up to Baku 2012, I'll be contributing to Insight by chipping in a number of articles, while maintaining the lion's share of my news and reviews here on Insider.  While in Baku itself, I'll be working hand-in-hand with Ewan, Sharleen Wright, and company in order to bring you the in-depth ESC goodness that you've come to expect from both of our sites (I'll still be contributing to Insider, though, much like I did while I was in Düsseldorf).  It'll be like chocolate and peanut butter, or like deep-frying and Mars Bars...two tastes that go even better together!

My first article is already up on Insight...check it out and let me know what you think!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

ESC Wish List: France 2012

Since 2008, France has chosen their Eurovision representatives and songs via an internal selection.  Over these past few years, broadcaster France 3 has given us genres ranging from ambient electronica to jazz chanson to afro-dance-pop to operatic bolero, with results generally bouncing around the middle of the scoreboard (often despite expectations or critical acclaim).  One thing is for sure: over the past few years, variety has been key.  You can't expect France to offer up the same thing twice in a row anymore, which leaves us with the question: what should we expect them to serve up in Baku next year?  Well, as a fan with way too much time on her hands during the off-season, allow me to come up with a few suggestions.  (Again, as I said when I did this series last year, these are only my opinions, and I do not intend to start any rumors.)

1) Caravan Palace: Following Raphael Gualazzi's surprisingly high result for Italy on 2011's scoreboard, I wouldn't be shocked to see a rise in the usage of jazz or other unexpected genres in future Eurovisions.  Continuing on with that trend, might I recommend taking a look at Caravan Palace, an electro-gypsy-swing combo:

They seem to be masters at crafting jazzy earworms that sound both classic and updated at the same time, and any band that can claim both Django Reinhardt and Daft Punk as influences is more than fine with me!  It's hard to find music that you can both dance to and chill out with, but this Parisian group has found a nice balance.  Plus, considering Baku's surprisingly avid fondness for jazz, this might be an interesting option for France 3 to consider...

2) Julien Doré: I have been a fan of Julien since blogger Perez Hilton featured him on his site a few years ago.  The winner of Season 5 of "Nouvelle Star" (the French equivalent of the "Idols" series), Julien is quirky, sexy, and unabashedly talented.  Here's his first single, post-"Nouvelle Star" (and. for the record, he's the one dancing in the background, not the one clutching the chicken):

The 29-year old singer from Languedoc-Roussillon has released three albums, including 2011 release "Bichon".  In all honesty, I've been unable to get that album's first single, "Kiss Me Forever", out of my head, and his oddly dark and twisted cover of Alizée's "Moi...Lolita" (which he performed on "Nouvelle Star" itself) raises the hairs on the back of my neck in the best possible way.  Having Julien representing France would hearken back to the lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek entries of 2007 ("L'Amour à la française") and 2008 ("Divine"): flirting with parody, but without delving into full-on Verka Serduchka territory.

3) Phoenix: Ok, now I know this one is a long shot.  One, they're a globally-known act (even in that ever-elusive American crossover market), and Eurovision might be an unexpected step for them.  Two, they sing almost exclusively in English, which as we might remember from Sébastien Tellier's "Divine", might have the potential to raise the hackles of many.  And finally, they're currently working on the follow-up to their highly successful 2009 album, "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix", so they've got a bit on their minds at the moment.  But lead singer Thomas Mars is currently married to Oscar-nominated film director Sophia can you imagine the promotional video we'd potentially have on our hands, people?  An upbeat alt-rock smash like "Lizstomania" or "1901" might be just the trick to get France to the top of the leaderboard for the first time since 1977.

(Plus, a participation by Phoenix might raise more interest in the ESC in the United States, a personal hope of mine...a girl can dream, right?)

Who would you like to see for France next year?  Let me know in the comments below, on Twitter (@escinsider), or on the ESC Insider's Facebook page; I love to hear from my readers!
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