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Friday, 28 March 2014 17:34

ESC 2014: An In-Depth Review of Latvia

It has become customary for the editorial board to engage professional individuals from the music industry to assess the songs competing in the Eurovision Song Contest as presented to the European Broadcasting Union during the Heads of Delegation Meeting. Martin Isherwood, Deo Grech, Stano Simor and Matt Mercieca from the United Kingdom, Malta and the Czech Republic have been entrusted with the first semi-final, comprising of sixteen songs and set to take place on the 6th May 2014 at the B&W Hallerne in Copenhagen, Denmark. Making use of the running order and thus moving onto number #2, we catch up with Latvia (LTV) who will be represented by Aarzemnieki and the song Cake to Bake written by Guntis Veilands.

The Aarzemnieki (or Foreigners) phenomenon began as an unexpected shock for one German’s special interest and creative approach to the Euro introduction in Latvia. In the summer of 2013, Joran Steinhauer, whilst in his home in Bohume, Germany wrote a farewell song to the Lat currency, aptly naming the song Paldies Latiņam! (Thank You, Lat) Later, the video became a Youtube sensation with more than 100,000 views in one week. The popularity and enthusiasm surrounding the song was so large that Joran decided to pack his bags and make his way to Latvia with one thing in mind; “let’s see what happens next!” Joran’s connection with Latvia, however, began well before the birth of this smash song, when he took part in an exchange programme in the city of Talsi in 2005. Later he volunteered at a children’s centre and in the German church of Riga.

Remembering his first impressions, Joran recalls that it’s because of the group Brainstorm, who were third in the 2000 Eurovision final, that he was drawn to Latvia. After hearing their song he bought their CDs and it was at that moment that he became a true Eurovision and Brainstorm fan. This isn’t the first time Joran has stepped on the Eurovision stage, having performed in the national Latvian selection in 2008 with his former group Axlina performing the song More Than 27. The story behind the Aarzemnieki group’s name is quite precise due to Joran’s status in Latvia. The word’s complicated pronunciation reflects each foreigner’s struggle to integrate into the local society. In the fall of 2013, the group grew from a solo act with three new members- violinist and vocalist Katrina Dimanta, drummer Raitis Vilumovs and Guntis Veilands, pianist, and the author of the song Cake To Bake.

Latvia first entered the Eurovision Song Contest back in 2000 when the group Brainstorm surprised critics and fans alike when finishing in third place with the song My Star, a catchy pop number with the right slot in the running order. It seems that flirting with the top positions was set to bring the competition home considering that in 2002, Marie N and her entry I Wanna did the impossible of being close to last with the bookies before triumphing in a hard close-knit battle with Malta whose 7th Wonder by Ira Losco remains the closest the Mediterranean Nation have ever been to victory. In recent years, the country has failed to get out of the semi-final, finished dead-last on more than one occasion, including in 2003 with the group PeR and their song Here We Go.

Professional Critics Voice their Opinion

Rating: 44%

Martin Isherwood: Sort of catchy chorus, but not in a good way.  This guy is apparently responsible for melting the polar ice caps and a whole host of other global events, however today he's going to bake a cake.  Barking mad! Finger picking, folky, starts off a bit Ralph McTell 'streets of London' but shifts to a more frantic acoustic The Kinks 'follower of fashion' feel, both of which are a surprise in Eurovision. Quite a lot of fuss over a cake!

Deo Grech: Okay, here is an entry which is ruined by the title. It will be so funny to hear what will the commentators have to say about this entry.  And if that is not enough this entry will be kissed by the curse of being performed second in the show....and to make things worse right after the potential winner of 2014. Sorry Latvia....I am afraid you'll have to miss the finals, this year round.

Stano Simor: Latvia "Beatles" is back? Pesnicka has a good groove. Chorus was used a hundred times in various forms. Maybe it Aarzemnieki bet, in which case it is right on target.

Matt Mercieca: I would love it as a song! if the lyrics were saying something that was not baking a cake! ( i kind of like it) , its funny , its catchy, ok I’m losing it, I think its a little sweet, it should be in a kids movie! it does put a smile on my face, but being a little bit more serious it is kind of ridiculous ( I spoke to a unicorn the other night), but I can’t hate it and have to admit I’m quite excited to watch this live. I’ve got a cake to bake dududududu.


Published in Editorials
Thursday, 27 March 2014 15:25

ESC 2014: An In-Depth Review of Armenia

It has become customary for the editorial board to engage professional individuals from the music industry to assess the songs competing in the Eurovision Song Contest as presented to the European Broadcasting Union during the Heads of Delegation Meeting. Martin Isherwood, Deo Grech, Stano Simor and Matt Mercieca from the United Kingdom, Malta and the Czech Republic have been entrusted with the first semi-final, comprising of sixteen songs and set to take place on the 6th May 2014 at the B&W Hallerne in Copenhagen, Denmark. Making use of the running order and thus starting at number #1 is Armenia (AMPTV) who will be represented by Aram MP3 and the song Not Alone written by Garik Popoyan.

One of the most hardworking, smart and positive personalities of Armenian Music Industry and Television, Aram Mp3 will be presenting Armenia in Copenhagen at Eurovision Song Contest. Being famous for the ability to sing songs of a wide vocal diapason and having a good sense of humour, Aram is also known as a person of contrasts and surprises. When he appears on stage one doesn't know what to expect – a unique live concert or a good comedy show. Despite spending most of his time on stage and pretty tough schedule, he considers himself a family man feeling very much attached to his charming wife Anna and charismatic son Arno. Appearance on different national TV channels, regular club concerts and acting in various humorous performances, made Aram a well known singer-songwriter, musical comedian and showman.

The same year, 2007, he became the winner of the most popular TV Show of The First Channel of Armenia, “2 stars”. Going deeper into the music industry and professionally developing his singing talent, Aram Mp3 started series of live jazz and blues concerts in the clubs of Yerevan, along with recording singles and releasing music videos. Being noticed for the outstanding and quick success in his career, he was invited to host famous TV Formats such as “X- Factor”, “Armenian Idol”, “My name is”, and “Power of 10”, which brought him more fame. Currently he is a member of the most popular “Vitamin Club” project, a comedy show broadcast weekly on Shant TV. Every month Aram gives live concerts with bands in popular music halls of Yerevan singing his own singles and also unique covers of famous hits.

In 2006, Armenia presented their first entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, that entitled Without Your Love performed by André, which finished in eighth place, a ranking which would remain their best position until just two years later when the pop princess Sirusho finished in fourth place with the song Qélé Qélé. Since then though, it has not been an easy task to compete in the international event, going onto fail in the semi-final stage of the competition in 2011 when Emmy and her entry Boom Boom were not considered impressive to get through to the final. This led to a one year break, not only due to the negative result but even because the competition took place in Azerbaijan, a country which does not have positive foreign relations.

Professional Critics Voice their Opinion

Rating: 80%

Martin Isherwood: You're all alone, You're not alone.  Not sure I'm following this.  Nice voice if a little serious. Interesting song structure  Very well done track, nice big ballad to start the effective feel change to the dubstep type beats, great sounding strings and brass. Starts like Lionel Richie's Hello. Great track, probably get lost in the Eurovision melee.

Deo Grech: I must admit it I am biased I fell in love with this song from the very first time I listened to it.  This song stands out from the pack as it has a strong build-up from a mellow piano-ballad to a dramatic second part, supported by the powerful strings at the background.  Only down-side is that it will be the show opener...but I am sure it won't be forgotten that easily.

Stano Simor: Esoteric ballad that has a sufficiently strong chorus. The production is of a very high quality and one could sense the pleasant timbre, both of voice and general composition. Dubstep is good, but only for the bridge or the end of the song .If it's on a whole other half ,it is very annoying.

Matt Mercieca: I love the piano, and his voice, and the way the song builds up! (STRINGS!!!) sometimes lyrics are a little bit weird, but other than that the song is brilliant, and it just keeps getting better and better, OK now I am really loving this song! It’s a good way of showing how a Eurovision song can still be commercial! Dubstep part is a little out-dated but it works over here! Go ahead Armenia! Loving it!


Published in Editorials

The 2014 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest is months away but several countries have either confirmed their participation or released their regulations for national selection processes. Apart from the means of FM Radio in the Netherlands on FM 106.8 and the audio stream from the studio via and on Digital Cable 781 & Cable 8.1Mhz in the Netherlands, the show will also be web-televised via the Radio International TV Channel from the studio and linking up the many international Eurovision fans and friends and play your requests and read your messages out on air. The simulcast will be from 2000 – 2300 hours CET when fans can join in and chat amongst each other via the Chat Room and request their favourite Eurovision entry.

Radio International has built a name for itself throughout the years by bringing about exclusive video and audio interviews with some of the most notable names to have either participated in the Eurovision Song Contest or even in national selections preceding the continental event. As a matter of fact, in this weeks' episode, two winners of the Eurovision Song Contest; Ruslana and Emmelie de Forest will be speaking to the team, and telling them of their current endeavours in the industry. I think one should keep in mind that there was a total of ten years between them. One final interview to air this week is with none other than Andreana DeBattista, the most experienced contestant in the Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2014, whom despite not getting through to the final of the song competition, released a music video accompanying the pop version exclusively on a couple of weeks ago.

As the dawn of a brand new season approaches, Radio International will be hosting a brand new feature, one entitled Denmark's Eurovision Song Contest History which will be reflecting on the entries that the Scandinavian nation sent to the annual music competition. David Mann will continue to look at cover versions from the event whilst the latest news from escXtra and will be read out. In the meantime, former representatives of the Eurovision Song Contest are always looking for ways to please their fans and thus new music is being recorded and published throughout the year. Radio International will be playing the most recent singles as sent in by several record labels. We urge you to tune into Radio International this evening at 20:00 CET in order to request your favourite entry from the Eurovision Song Contest and listen to the special features.

Source: Press Release

Danmarks Radio, host broadcaster of the 2014 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest has just revealed the running order for the international competition taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark. Represented by Firelight and the song Coming Home, written by Richard Edwards Micallef, Malta will be opening the second semi-final on the 8th May 2014.

Prior to the announcement of the draw for the running order, Malta had never been given the opportunity to open the semi-final of such an illustrious show. At first glance, one might be shocked but personally I had a strong feeling that this could happen given the diversity of the genres that make up the first half of the second semi-final. Seventh in qualification with the bookies, Coming Home is facing a fate bestowed to the likes of Nije Ljubav Stvar, This is My Life, Run Away and Love In Rewind, all of which have successfully qualified to the final of the continental competition. 

01) Malta: Coming Home - Firelight

02) Israel: Same Heart - Mei Finegold

03) Norway: Silent Storm - Carl Espen

04) Georgia: Three Minutes to Earth - The Shin & Mariko

05) Poland: My Slowanie - Donatan & Cleo

06) Austria: Rise Like a Phoenix - Conchita Wurst

07) Lithuania: Attention - Vilija Mataciunaite

08) Finland: Something Better - Softengine

09) Ireland: Heartbeat - Can-Linn ft. Kasey Smith

10) Belarus: Cheesecake - Teo

11) FYR Macedonia: To The Sky - Tijana

12) Switzerland: Hunter of Stars - Sebalter

13) Greece: Rise Up - Freaky Fortune ft. RiskyKidd

14) Slovenia: Round and Round - Tinkara Kovac

15) Romania: Miracle - Paula & Ovi

It is quite interesting to denote that those entries which opened the second semi-final have proven to be much more successful than those opening the first semi-final. In the meantime, the situation in the first semi-final is even moreso intriguing especially with the first half of the show induated with ballads, despite that they try and preserve themselves as individualistic. Favourite to win the Eurovision Song Contest with odds shortening by the second, Armenia is set to open the first semi-final in a bizarre twist.

01) Armenia: You're Not Alone - Aram MP3

02) Latvia: Cake to Bake - Aarzemnieki

03) Estonia: Amazing - Tanja

04) Sweden: Undo - Sanna Nielsen

05) Iceland: No Prejudice - Pollaponk

06) Albania: One Night's Anger - Hersi

07) Russia: Shine - Tolmachevy Sisters

08) Azerbaijan: Start a Fire - Dilara Kazimova

09) Ukraine: Tick-Tock - Mariya Yaremchuk

10) Belgium: Mother - Axel Hirsoux

11) Moldova: Wild Soul - Cristina Scarlat

12) San Marino: Maybe (Forse) - Valentina Monetta

13) Portugal: Quero Ser Tua - Suzy

14) The Netherlands: Calm After the Storm - The Common Linnets

15) Montenegro: Moj Svijet - Sergej Cetkovic

16) Hungary: Running - Andras Kallay-Saunders

One has to remember that ten countries per semi-final will get through to the final show set for the 10th May 2014 at the B&W Hallerne in Copenhagen, Denmark meaning that nine nations will be left out in the cold having not been selected amongst the best that the continent has to offer. In the final, the qualifiers will join entries from Spain, France, Germany, United Kingdom and host country Denmark who have already been given an extremely late draw following a random draw. Stay tuned to for all the latest news as soon as it becomes available.


In 2014, worked closely with ONE Radio 92.7 to produce the awards in relation with the Malta Eurovision Song Contest, preceded by the expert opinion feature which led to the presentation of one (1) of the awards. Following a series of editorial team discussions, we are now proud to announce that the feature will return for the international competition with eight (8) individuals from the music industry on hand to listen, review and rank the competing entries.

Semi-Final One (1) set to take place on the 6th May will feature a total of sixteen (16) entries whilst it will also featuring voting from Spain, France and hot country Denmark. Due to the fact that Malta is competing in the other semi-final, we thought it best to include two (2) locals as reviewers for the first show, acquiring the talented Deo Grech and Matthew Mercieca. Nevertheless, they will be accompanied by expert stalwarts Martin Isherwood from the United Kingdom and Stano Simor from Slovakia.

Deo Grech, committee member of the International Festival of Maltese Song, and renowned local lyricist responsible for 'Wellidni' (Għanja tal-Poplu 2004 Winner), and Fomm il-Vjolin (International Festival of Maltese Song 2001 Winner).

Matthew Mercieca, co-responsible for the lyrics behind The Start, winning entry of the 2013 edition of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest as well as Betrayed, second runner-up during the Malta Eurovision Song Contest 2013.

Martin Isherwood, known to be the person responsible for the music sector at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts patroned by none other than Paul McCartney, as well as writing Cry Baby, the 2003 entry at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Stano Simor, a well known music producer, songwriter and artist manager from Slovakia who has worked with several artists including none other than former Eurovision Song Contest representatives; Hadise (Turkey 2009) and Tereza Kerndlová (Czech Republic 2008).

Semi-Final Two (2) set to take place on the 8th May will feature a total of fifteen (15) entries and will also feature voting from United Kingdom, Italy and Germany. With Malta in contention in this particular evening, we thought it would be better to have one (1) local reviewer who does not come from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest, including theatrical performer Joseph Zammit who in turn will be accompanied by three (3) well known songwriters; John Scott from the United States, Greig Watts from the United Kingdom and Sharon Vaughn from Sweden.

Joseph Zammit, represents the possibility of working full time in the arts, having had the opportunity to perform as a vocalist, and as an actor in a series of shows throughout the years, most recently being the December panto at the Manoel Theatre.

John Scott, a seasoned songwriter whose talent has given him the opportunity to work with Little Mix, former winners of the UK X Factor and Nicole Scherzinger, former lead vocalist of American girlband, the Pussycat Dolls.

Greig Watts, an accomplished songwriter/producer who has worked with The Overtones, Kate Ryan and Natalia, apart from also co-writing the song What the Time In Tokyo? which in turn hoped to represent Belgium in this years' Eurovision Song Contest.

Sharon Vaughn, an accomplished songwriter who has worked with a number of well known vocalists including none other than Jedward, Delta Goodrem, Agnes, Helena Paparizou, Joe McElderry, Kimberly Walsh, The Wanted, Charlotte Perelli, September and Jennifer Rush amongst others.

The feature an expert opinion will officially kick off this coming Wednesday with an indepth biography of each competing artist as provided by the official website of the Eurovision Song Contest, together with the individual comments and the cumulative mark, as well as the official preview video as submitted to the European Broadcasting Union a couple of days back. Stay tuned to for all the latest news as soon as it becomes available.


Published in Editorials

Conchita Wurst, the Austrian representative at this years' edition of the Eurovision Song Contest with the song Rise Like a Phoenix co-written by Charly Mason, Joey Patulka, Ali Zuckowski and Julian Maas was officially performed LIVE for the very first time during the local version of Dancing with the Stars, a reality programme known to have a distinctively high viewership. ORF, the public broadcaster know that the internal selection of Conchita will ultimately raise cause for concern amongst the more conservative countries competing in the international event but kudos to them for taking a stance, and working the proper tricks of promotion.

Whilst not one of the favourites to triumph come May, Austria are set to qualify according to bookmakers who are putting them in eighth place, just behind Malta whose entry Coming Home, written by Richard Edwards Micallef and performed by Firelight is currently in fifth place. Conchita clearly gave a performance to be reckoned with, noting that the Bond-sounding anthem has been given a great visual presentation with lights, dry ice and some glitter towards the end. It is all about the key-change in the long run and Austria might be getting their best result in years should people vote according to the song. Stay tuned to for all the latest news.

Source: ORF

Valentina Monetta, chosen to represent San Marino for the third year running with Maybe, composed by Ralph Siegel to the lyrics of Mauro Balestri has just released a preview video accompanying the Italian version of the song, Forse. It is worth pointing out that both versions have been made available to listen to through Spotify as they are both being offered on the promotional package.

In a press release, it was also announced that both versions will be included in her forthcoming album Sensibilità, set for release in April 2014. Valentina Monetta will be hoping to become the first artist from San Marino to take the microstate into the final, having finished in eleventh (11th) place last year with Crisalide (Vola). They will be in an extremely difficult first semi-final, an evening which has been termed as a bloodbath by many, and will surely be unpredictable. Stay tuned to for all the latest news as soon as it becomes available.

Source: Press Release, SMTV

The Tolmachevy Sisters, winners of the 2006 edition of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, were internally chosen by the public broadcaster, RTR as the representatives on behalf of Russia at this years' international competition. They will be performing a song entitled Shine composed by Dimitris Kontipoulos and Philipp Kirkorov with lyrics by John Ballard, Ralph Charlie and Gerard James Borg. The official presentation of the song took place earlier today through and their YouTube page, but nevertheless, it does indeed sound like a demo.

Shine is a mid-tempo number, one which seems to have been rushed into submission due to the Heads of Delegation Meeting which took place earlier this week in Copenhagen, Denmark. Whilst not dated, the song is very much influenced by music of the past, predominantly a merge between the seventies, and the eighties. We expect this song to be re-arranged in time for the Eurovision Song Contest, with a final version to be presented in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned to for all the latest news.

Source: RTR

It was just weeks after the Eurovision Song Contest that the public broadcaster responsible for the participation of Austria at the international event announced Conchita Wurst as the next representative opting to forego the national selection process, following the disappointment at the hands of Natalia Kelly and her song Shine. There is no such thing as bad press, but it is worth noting that the artist, a man with a beard in drag has received a lot of negative criticism in both Russia and Belarus, with boycott being a severe possibility.

In a press conference held in Vienna earlier today, it was revealed that the song that Conchita will be performing in the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest bears the name Rise Like a Phoenix and has an inspirational message, one which is empowering to both men and woman. It is co-written by Charly Mason, Joey Patulka, Ali Zuckowski and Julian Maas and is being promoted through an official music video which you may watch below. We urge you to stay tuned to for all the latest news about the 2014 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest set to take place at the B&W Hallerne in Copenhagen, Denmark on the 6th, 8th and 10th May 2014.

Source: ORF

Now that the National Final season is over, we can officially say that it’s time for the chosen artists to promote and try their hardest to showcase their entry and make their country proud. During the National Final season many fans had different opinions about the song that should of been chosen. Fan favorites sometimes triumphs the Juries perspective of which entry should be in Copenhagen and vice versa. With this said everyone has their own opinion, likes and dislikes but we are going to review three scandinavian gems which shone during their national finals but ultimately placed as the first runner up of the competition.

Norway: Linnea Dale - High Hopes

The last time norway won the Eurovision was back in 2009. In 2013 they made a huge stamp in the contest by placing in the top 5 but now Norway is buzzing being one of the big contenders to get the contest to Oslo. Silent Storm sung by Carl Espen won the nation’s trust but it was a huge challenge since Linnea Dale was another favourite to win MGP 2014. Carl’s entry is a great one but I prefer if Linnea was chosen. What can we say about her entry …. well! It’s so modern that  it would have shone in Copenhagen. One might say High Hopes resembles I feed You My Love because it is considered to be the same genre. 

Although she actually does nothing on stage except some hand movements, the song overpowers that fact and captures you in the moment. Dark sounds, vocally near perfect and simple staging …. elements that would do very well with the European audience. I am sure that this will be one of the summer hits over the Scandinavian region. On the night she dressed nothing to flashy. Linnea just showed off her vocal ability and her presence was enough to be one of the four super-finalists of the night. At the end Carl won the golden ticket but it wasn’t a landslide like last year’s winning national song. We still have yet to see Carl’s entry on the big stage and anything could actually happen but I would have predicted a close win or a top 3 with Linnea.

Sweden: Ace Wilder - Busy Doin’ Nothin

Well what can I say about Ace. She stormed into Melodifestivalen like there was no tomorrow and made a huge impact. During the month of November/December, when the names were announced for the 2014 edition of Melodifestivalen, the odds on Ace were pretty much horrible. This was understandable since the entry wasn’t out for the public and nobody exactly knew much about Ace since she is kinda new to the solo music scene. Once the snippets were published, odds were still not favourable, but once she hit that stage everything changed. Calm and relaxed she performed her entry like she didn’t even care if she qualified or not but made the audience warm and crazy for her. 

After making it through the final directly, she straight away because a hot favourite to take the crown and fly off to Copenhagen. But she had a very tough opponent, Sanna Nielsen, seven time participant and was another hot favourite to win. During the final Ace won her toughest challenge, getting the juries on her side. Yes, the juries chose a funky and modern song but ultimately Sanna won the nation’s heart and triumphed over Ace with a very close margin of 12 points. Don’t get me wrong, Sanna’s entry is just pure brilliance and in-fact she is one of the big contenders to win in Denmark but I also believe that if Ace was chosen she too will have a top 3 result on her hands.

Denmark: Michael Rune feat. Natascha Bessez - Wanna Be Loved

Denmark is the host city of this year’s edition of the Eurovision Song Contest and obviously expectations are high especially when watching the quality of their National Final this year. Unlike other years, their national final was quite weak and you could have handpicked the entries which would of done great to represent their country on ground soil this year. The Danish have chosen Basim with his entry Cliche Love Song to be their ambassador after fan favorite Wanna Be Loved lost in the final hurdle. The entry from Michael Rune feat. Natascha Bessez was a bit similar to Europe’s smash hit Mr. Saxobeat but their live performance had that Umph that would have done great on the Copenhagen Stage especially in the Euroclub. 

True that she dressed a bit similar to Cascada but Natascha oozed brilliance and the segments with the saxaphone were pure genius in this upbeat anthem one might say. Vocally it was strong, their presence was absolutely brilliant and although we still have no idea how this year’s contest will shape and due to the mediocre quality, I would say that this entry would have made it in the top 10 to say the least. At least one can head over to iTunes, purchase this tune and listen to it over and over during the summer months.

Published in Editorials