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Friday, 25 April 2014 15:30

ESC 2014: An In-Depth Review of Austria

It has become customary for the escflashmalta.com 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. Greig Watts, Joseph Zammit, Sharon Vaughn and John Scott from the United Kingdom, Malta, Sweden and the United States have been entrusted with the second semi-final, comprising of sixteen songs and set to take place on the 8th May 2014 at the B&W Hallerne in Copenhagen, Denmark. Making use of the running order and moving onto number #6, we catch up with Austria (ORF) who will be represented by Conchita Wurst with the song Rise Like a Phoenix co-written by Charly Mason, Joey Patulka, Ali Zuckowski and Julian Maas.

Conchita Wurst was born as Tom Neuwirth on November 6th, 1988 in Gmunden/Austria. The young artist had always dreamed of a career in showbiz. It all really started in 2006 when he took part in the talent show Starmania. In 2007, he joined the boy band "jetzt anders!", which however only survived for less than one year. He first performed as his alter ego Conchita Wurst, the famous long-haired full-bearded lady, in the talent show "Die große Chance" in 2011. 

Since then, he certainly has not gone unnoticed in Austria. More recently, Conchita Wurst participated in the ORF production "The hardest jobs of Austria", where she worked in a fish factory, and in "Wild Girls", where a group of candidates had to survive in the deserts of Namibia/Africa together with native tribes. "For me the most special and honoring thing is that Austria shows tolerance and acceptance and I’m so happy to be this statement. I’m allowed to be the voice of their beliefs during this time and this really makes me very proud."

"We, and not at least myself, want to stand for a society without hate and discrimination. And if I’m honest, I think everyone of the contestants should stand for the same, cause we are joining a very opend minded project, so they should be open minded too." This is just a part of the exclusive interview organised by eurovision.tv which could be seen on the biography page.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ni5n097kTs

Austria has only won the Eurovision Song Contest one occasion, that being back in 1966 when Udo Jurgens who had already represented the country twice took the podium with Merci Cherie. Since the introduction of the semi-final system, Austria has not been as successful though noting that following a couple of years off, they returned in 2012 to mixed success going into the final with Nadine Beiler and then finishing dead last with the Trackshittaz.

Professional Critics Voice their Opinion

Rating: 70%

Greig Watts: This one has already got a lot of press for obvious reasons, I am going to try and judge the song without interference from that, and actually I like the way it feels a bit Culture club/Boy George (funny that) to start with, and then it goes all James Bond in the chorus and 2nd verse. Almost has a Shirley Bassey meets Adele vibe, and actually im really liking the song and almost wishing it didn’t have all the hype around it as it could be a potential winner and the vocalist actually performs it really well, would be nice to just judge the song, but from my own experience in the competition its not just about the song these days

Joseph Zammit: Well this is certainly an interesting one. Here we have the mandatory gay/drag act that has become a staple on the Eurovision stage. This time however, it comes with a twist! The male singer in full drag, also has a full beard! Originality points all round!! Not much to say about this one because the music has nothing to it. Watch any James bond movie and you would have heard this song. It can easily be the new Bond theme for the upcoming Bond movie, 'James Bond – Not a Close Shave!' Also, on a personal note, can there for once be a drag act song which is not about self revelation and fighting oppression? All in all, a relatively predictable and unoriginal song.

Sharon Vaughn: Her voice is divine, and the song is compellingly appropriate for the artist and her journey. However, it does feel a bit Vegas and over the top.

John Scott: The I found the song to be quite effective with interesting retro elements. It sounds like a great theme for a James Bond movie. The song is a great match to his voice.

Source: eurovision.tv

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToqNa0rqUtY

Published in Editorials
Friday, 25 April 2014 15:03

ESC 2014: An In-Depth Review of Poland

It has become customary for the escflashmalta.com 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. Greig Watts, Joseph Zammit, Sharon Vaughn and John Scott from the United Kingdom, Malta, Sweden and the United States have been entrusted with the second semi-final, comprising of sixteen songs and set to take place on the 8th May 2014 at the B&W Hallerne in Copenhagen, Denmark. Making use of the running order and moving onto number #5, we catch up with Poland (TVP) who will be represented by Donatan & Cleo with the song My Słowianie - We Are Slavic which they wrote themselves.

Donatan is famous in Poland as a music producer. He created music for more than 50 albums. Many of them received gold and platinum status. In 2012, Donatan launched his authorial album "Equinox" (Równonoc). This album is a compilation of the traditional Slavic sounds with some rap elements. "Equinox" reached, already at pre-sale, the gold status and after few months got granted the diamond sale status. Donatan received many prestigious music awards.

In 2013 Donatan began to work with Cleo. Their single debut We Are Slavs (My Słowianie), produced by Donatan, became a smash hit. Their video clip has become popular on youtube where it has been viewed more than 40 million times. Last year, the single My Słowianie also reached top ten in charts. This song has been chosen as the Polish entry in the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest.

“The Slavic blond girl with the Polish charm and a black voice," they say about Cleo. Cleo is a singer, songwriter, a chorus gospel girl and a painter. She is a woman with many faces, a chameleon discovered by Donatan. This will mark the return of Poland in the Eurovision Song Contest following two years of being absent having last been represented by Magdalena Tul and the song Jestem which did not get through the semi-final stage.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIHJyO0hmNU

Poland started to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest back in 1994, when on that occasion, the lovely Edyta Gorniak took to the stage with To Nie Ja! finishing in second place, which like Hungary's fourth place achieved during the same year remains the most successful result. In recent years, with the introduction of the semi-final system, the country has not really set the scoreboard alight and has as a result decided to take a break as already noted above. Sending their most popular song in the country is definitely a gamble especially since Europe might find it offensive.

Professional Critics Voice their Opinion

Rating: 39%

Greig Watts: Um!, Being western I simply shouldn’t understand this, but it’s the Eurovision contest and there’s been uprising of Slavic nations recently who could well vote for this. Its not my favourite music to listen to, but it feels like a modern attempt to bring Slavic music into the 21st century and its done quite well. I was trying to judge the songs, but video is also a bit distracting and I like the use of the accordion, and clapping!!, So not my own favourite song, but im bumping into the final just because the impact is higher than a couple of the other simple songs!

Joseph Zammit: Okay, good. For a second there I realized that I liked most of the songs I heard so far, which made me worry because it is very unlike me. Thank the heavens that this song came along. What a piling heap of garbage. Where to begin? Let's start with the music. It is lazy, as generic as they come, repetitive, boring and annoying. It only has a simple continuous clap rhythm and some random chords thrown here and there. 

The song is trying to convince the listener that the singer is proud to be a Slavic girl, because slavic girls are the best in the world, and she conveys that message …. by saying that they are great at churning butter, using their bodies to get what they want and staying in the house The lyrics are bigoted and demeaning and yet she sings them in a patriotic fashion. Either this girl is an idiot or she is pulling off a great patriotic stunt for votes. Now I am no radical feminist, but even I find this a bit offensive.  All in all this song was a waste of time to listen. Then there was the video and, well TITS!!! TITS GALORE!! so because of that.

Sharon Vaughn: I found very little positive to say about this one.

John Scott: The chorus is quite catchy even though the lyrics are a bit awkward in phrasing. The verse lyrics are difficult to understand. The musical bridge is quite nice.

Source: eurovision.tv

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syMhJMmGEIc

Published in Editorials
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 18:45

ESC 2014: An In-Depth Review of Norway

It has become customary for the escflashmalta.com 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. Greig Watts, Joseph Zammit, Sharon Vaughn and John Scott from the United Kingdom, Malta, Sweden and the United States have been entrusted with the second semi-final, comprising of sixteen songs and set to take place on the 8th May 2014 at the B&W Hallerne in Copenhagen, Denmark. Making use of the running order and moving onto number #3, we catch up with Norway (NRK) who will be represented by Carl Espen and the song Silent Storm written by Josefin Winther.

Carl was raised by his mum, with his two siblings. They lived on an island outside Bergen, called Osterøy. Even though the island is not more than a 40 minutes drive from Bergen city, it is a very rural and idyllic place. Carl has always loved to spend time in the nature, and was a real fishing enthusiast as a boy. His mother sang a lot, and his childhood home was always filled with music. Among his cousins, aunts and uncles, you can find the woman behind the song Silent Storm, Carl’s cousin Josefin Winther, a London based artist and songwriter born in Bergen in 1986. Four years younger than her cousin, Josefin has no problem recalling a day in her life being 12 years. Carl Espen had entered a local music competition on Osterøy, and Josefin was standing with her aunt in the audience.

Carl performed Wild World by Cat Stevens, and ended up winning the whole competition. Josefin was so proud. Since then Josefin has pursued her own career in music, and established herself as a critically acclaimed artist and songwriter. That fact that Josefin has followed her dream, has always been a big inspiration for Carl Espen. As a young man Carl enrolled in the military, and served for six months in Kosovo. In his adult life Carl became a carpenter, specialising in frames and glass. For the past 12 years he has been working for different companies within this industry. He has also done a lot of volunteer work for cancer research, and at night has worked as a doorman at Bergen’s rock bar Garage. Music has always played big role in Carl’s life, and he has carried this dream with him all along. 

Josefin has always thought that more people should hear his beautiful and unique voice, and in August 2013 she finally sat down a wrote a song especially for Carl. She saw that he had so much inside him that needed to be expressed, and she wanted to give him the opportunity to express it through a song that was truly his own. The result was Silent Storm. She played it to him and he knew straight away that this was his song. They decided to enter into the Norwegian national selection, Melodi Grand Prix, and the rest is history. The steps onto the Eurovision Song Contest stage on the 8th of May will not be many, but for Carl they will be crucial.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETLYR9icV1k

Norway is a scandinavian country which holds the record for the most last place finishes but has still recorded three victories in total; the first one being in 1985 with La Det Swinge performed by Bobby Socks, the second one being in 1995 with Nocturne performed by Secret Garden and most recently in 2009 when Alexander Rybak entertained the masses with Fairytale. Following that success though has been quite difficult, failing to qualify in 2011, and then managing only last place in 2012 before returning back to the top five in 2013 with the song I Feed You My Love sung by Margaret Berger.

Professional Critics Voice their Opinion

Rating: 86%

Greig Watts: I love the opening of this with piano and his haunting voice that draws you in nicely! And the chorus does lift me using his beautiful vocal again, almost Celtic, can I say that? Ha ha . Now I am waiting to see if the song builds, and it does and actually this is giving me Goosebumps while I listen, well done Norway good selection in my opinion. Interesting end with the big drop and silence, but I guess the song is called Silent Storm

Joseph Zammit: Not the happiest of songs in this year's competition I'm sure. Slow, brooding, and haunting, it has a soft piano melody throughout the piece with a beautiful vocal melody to go with it. A solid song with a solid build up and adding of instruments with a very hair-raising chord progression leading to the chorus. It is a sad slow song yes, however in my opinion, this song does not fall into the trap of becoming a dreary generic ballad with no feeling. 

It flows and builds up to a climax as any good song should. Overall I quite like this one, though of course, it is one of those songs which will most definitely find much difficulty in succeeding on a pumped up and energetic Eurovision stage. I particularly love it when near the end of the song, the musical climax stops as soon as he sings the word 'Silence'. It shows that there was some poetic thinking behind this song as well. I like that. 

Sharon Vaughn: Very moving, genuine and vocally mesmerizing.

John Scott: A very unique voice. It is very effective against the piano. Overall, a very strong ballad.

Source: eurovision.tv

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LBOjxBty8U

Published in Editorials

In 2014, escflashmalta.com 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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef92uT0PMqA

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).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJCwukzfF2c

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1l-7Ncbyf_g

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-uUwQf2cZE

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 escflashmalta.com for all the latest news as soon as it becomes available.

Source: escflashmalta.com

Published in Editorials

It is that time of the year when festive celebrations clearly need no reason to be celebrated noting that the spirit of the season is invested in the hearts of many, ultimately leading to a successful and positive life, keeping several sane throughout the year of the year. For one night in particular, people can enter the world of fantasy and uncover, what has become unbelievably popular, the traditional Christmas Pantomime which is organised by several theatrical companies in a number of venues and concert halls. The showcase has become a sight for many noting that energetic routines, stunning vocals and once more, quite important, eye candy. There is popular belief amongst many that certain things wouldn't be missed until they are eventually gone and this is proven right considering that the Masquerade Company hasn't put up a pantomime in two years and thus expectations are high as they prepare their adaptation of Snow White which has been coined as The Curse of Snow White.

The Masquerade Theatre Company has become quite popular throughout the years for the vast amount of talent they seem to possess but nevertheless, considering that the pantomime is all about the dame, it is quite the element to see someone new take on the role noting that this time round, it will be none other than popular radio host; Colin Fitz who has agreed to be in the position. We have been in touch with one of the senior members of The Masquerade Theatre Company to speak about this years' pantomime in the form of Veronica Bezzina, whom alongside her husband, Anthony Bezzina have created this marvelous institution on behalf of the arts. The idea behind the pantomime has always been popular with the local crowds so we asked her, what the pantomime in itself aims to represent and she states that it is 'a launch pad for up and coming youngsters to showcase their talents' whilst the show itself 'represents joy, excitement,surprise and a celebration of the talent Malta has to offer. It is a time for families to get together and really enjoy the magic  on stage.  Pantomime is often the first production a child will see at the theatre and really does get them interested in the performing arts thus creating the next generation of young actors.'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVQ5VWCcQAw

The pantomime has become increasingly popular that many people seem to worry that storylines might die out so our query somewhat surrounded the element of being original and coming up with different storylines each year. Veronica stated that the 'sequence to doing pantos' is relatively unwritten and with 'more than one company' now present, it is vital to choose 'a traditional panto' and 'twist the plot', possible evening turning 'a musical into a panto' with the format, always being somewhat similar. A pantomime is important in content and that is where, the issue of song selection comes in with many people bobbing their head along with the tracks, some even grasping the tune and thus hum or sing along. The choice of songs is not coincidental with 'modern songs which kids and teens can identify with' remarkable being the easiest elements behind the selection but then it is pivotal that they are worked 'in a classical' manner for the 'older audience'. In fact, Veronica went onto add that the choice of the songs is done 'with great care so that they convey to the audience the plot whilst keeping them entertained' adding that 'the use of current musical numbers' is important for the simple reason that there is a feel good factor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFfZMDQyXqM

Veronica Bezzina spoke to escflashmalta.com with courage, and heart noting that her love of the arts shined through most of the conversation we seemed to have and she 'expects people to come to the beautiful Manoel Theatre and have fun'. She adds that everyone has 'worked very hard' and that their team is strong with a number of upcoming performers. 'Masquerade has always put up great pantos, and we are happy to be back at the Manoel'. Speaking about this years' selection she goes onto add that 'The Curse of Snow White is sure to enthrall audiences. The story has taken on a new and very exciting twist that will be completely unexpected'. We can vouch for her on that matter noting that several members of our editorial board have seen their productions in the past and can safely agree that another great run of performances is expected from Boxing Day onwards. Amongst this years' cast there is none other than former Malta Eurovision Song Contest Finalist; Rachel Fabri as well as escflashmalta.com guest contributor; Joseph Zammit as well as Katherin Brown, Colin Fitz, Louis Cassar, Steffi Thake, Milly Uylenbrock, Rebecca Camilleri, Andre Agius, and Bolton White. Purchase your tickets online and stay tuned to escflashmalta.com for more news.

Source: The Masquerade Theatre Company

Published in Local Music News