Well, why not. Let us liveblog!

The US announcers this year are Michelle Visage and Ross Matthews, which one hopes will be a refreshing change from last year's. (Ask me again at hour three.)

Sadly, Montenegro didn't make it through to the final.

We start with the parade of flags (entirely without physical flags), in which the finalists are introduced only by country name.

Our first contestant: Imre from Israel! And we get underway in full Eurovision style, with a power pop dance song, with a very impressive light back drop, blinding low power laser spots, and flames. As one does. It's ... fine? (Oh, up until Mr Israel hits a very very flat note indeed. Recovered well, though.)

Kasia Ros of Poland, with a song called "Flashlight", and a dress with an unfortunate case of the sheers. Power ballad, and she has a very strong voice, although she also hits a very flat note near the end, just as the word "Freedom" forms out of video smoke behind her which then dissolves into a flock of doves.

Belarus, performing a jaunty song actually in Belorussian. Honestly, I like the sound of it a lot. No idea what's happening on the video behind them. 800 years of buildings zooming past, I think. Oh, and they've got a floor motif ... that nobody in the room can possibly see. And then they end with a deep, tonsil-washing kiss. (Michelle: "... Well, I guess they're not brother and sister.")

(Side note: already, I want to find the producers and tell them that when it comes to extreme camera movement, less is definitely better. More is nauseating.)

Nathan from Austria, "Running on Air". He would do very well on the Voice, one suspects; he has some talent, and he's got the Voice Look. Doing his number standing in a giant sequin prop moon. As one does. The song is ... surprisingly low key for Eurovision. Midtempo balladesque songs don't seem to make an appearance much. Ah, and he's getting shouty at the end to compensate for the low-key aspect. And also going flat as a result; a surprising number of people going off at this point. They've all recovered, but it is notable.

Artsvik of Armenia, "Fly with Me." Another mostly low-key number, and their lead singer had difficulty holding the key throughtout. Apparently, 'tis to be a theme. Some key issues aside, I'm not at all sure why they would bring this song to Eurovision; it wasn't powerful enough to be a power ballad, not dance enough to be a dance ballad ... it was sort of just there.

Ogene of Netherlands, "Lights and Shadows". A song written by their father in tribute to their mother who has been fighting some sort of blood illness for a long time. Some really lovely harmonies. The words "Cry no more" on the video back. I have to admit, I'm impressed that they maintained harmony throughout, even with tempo changes. It was very nice.

Aw, one of the hosts goes out and guides the Norway section of the audience in a "Volare" sing-along. (I am not going to be able to keep these hosts straight, I can tell. They look like a Ukranian boy band.)

From Moldova, the Sunstroke Project (?) with "Hey mamma". Oh, hey, bleached blond buys in tuxes. With backup singers with microphone bouquets. Of course. (Also, if the sax player was really playing, I am very impressed; that's a lot of movement to be maintaining some sort of breath control through.) Oh, now the backup singers' dresses convert to wedding gowns, as we were warned would happen. And then they toss their bouquets into the audience. It was ... fun, but also just fine.

Hungary, Joci Papai with "Origo". Apparently he's the first of the Rom to compete for Hungary at Eurovision. Singing in either Hungarian or Romani, I know not which. Oh, and a rap section in the middle, why not. And dancing with his co-performer (well, she's not singing at all). Who then kind of gropes him at the end. Well, why not. Honestly, I liked the sound of this a lot. Not sure it has ... whatever it takes to win Eurovision, but it was really good.

Italy, Francesco Gabbani with "Occidental's Karma". Sung in Italian. I'm not sure how to describe what's going on with the video, exept that it's very colorful, involves evolution,chakras, and a guy dancing in a gorilla costume with a diamond bowtie on. As one does. (Yay! Our first low-key Eurovision WTF moment of the evening!)

Denmark, Anja (who is apparently Australian) with "Where I am". And a few small key issues right at the start, but then she stabilizes. The fireworks fall behind her was nice (and horribly dangerous, one suspects, with all that chiffon), but other than that ... it was fine.

(Huh. Apparently we're having a viewing party somewhere. Oh, well.)

Portugal, Salvador Sobral. Michelle and Ross said that his delivery was rather like Edith Piaf and ... it actually is. In Portuguese and very plaintive. EXTREMELY low key for Eurovision, but from the way the crowd is reacting, they seem to know what he's saying. And they're mostly being quiet enough to let him get this song over, which is astonishing. It was surprisingly lovely, even allowing that I understood not a word.

Aw, the Ukrainian boy banders are making fun of one of the guys' hair.

Azerbaijan, Di Haj with "Skeleton". Singing in front of a large chalkboard with a bunch of stuff written on it. Indluding "drum drum drum". Oh, and there's a guy in black with a horse's head on, standing on a ladder next to her. Well, sure, fine OK. Honestly, despite that -- and, yes, OK, the bit where she was writing on other people's backs with chalk -- it was kind of boring.

Croatia, "My Friend" by Jacques Houdek. (And, in one of the signal and much appreciated differences between this year and last, Ross got through a comment about Jacques being one of the biggest stars in Croatia without even coming close to making a joke about him being heavy. Carson would have gone for it.) I like Jacques switching between pop-tenor and operatic-baritone, and we have demented strings and exploding sparklers, as one does.

Eurofied Australia, Isaiah (he's 17! and eurofied Australia's first Indigenous contestant!) with "Don't come easy". The video backdrop is mostly just ... him in various colors and poses. (I think he may be experiencing the curse of the Video Wall. I do get the impression that a lot of contestants feel like, well, it's there, they have to do SOMETHING with it.) Oh, and he gets the shooting flames AND the sparklerfall. Which are not at all appropriate to this song. Which (oh, apart from that one dreadfully flat moment right before the end) was rather ... dull. He's got the voice, but I'm not sure that was the best song.

(The Ukranian boy banders take us on a tour of the contestant pods section. They're also experiencing the angst of making jokes and small talk in a language they do not speak. It is not, overall, going well.)

Greece, Demy, "This is love". Her intro bit featured her walking along the colonnade with a bunch of shirtless guys as well as a few other people. And ... OK, this really is a theme. I mean, I get that it's live, but I don't recall last year's Eurovision having so many people with key issues. Granted, I think she's trying something a little different with the key - I think she's trying to flex into a minor key here and there, on purpose -- but it's coming off flat. (And the shirtless guys in the colonnade were because she has shirtless guys splashing in a pool on stage. Aw, and then they form a heart with their arms behind her at the end.)

Spain, Manel Navarro, "Do it for your lover". It's very ... beach. Laid back, easy going, video of surfboards, everyone wearing Hawaiian-style shirts. And, well ... meh. 90% of the song was just them singing "Do it for your lover."

Norway, Jowst, "Grab the moment." but will they? WILL they grab the moment? Let's see. DJ has an LED mask so he looks like disco Dr Doom. We also get video effects actually fed into the broadcast camera rather than just on the video wall, which is mildly annoying. I'm really curious about what the audience is seeing, because from what we can see, the video effects are not on the video wall, which means that in the auditorium, they don't get part of the performance. Which ... OK, nobody in the auditorium is voting, so I kind of get it, but it's odd. (Ross and Michelle mentioned that Norway came in as decided underdogs but have become the favorites. We shall see.)

(The Ukranian boy banders spent the past week learning English by watching Friends and lessons from Vitaly Klitchko. Well, that's different. And hey, Mans from last year came to give hosting instructions. In a tux. Well, it makes sense that after last year's perfect Eurovision winning number, we'd have the instructions for the perfect Eurovision host. And Mans really does wear a tux well. Also gets stripped out of it rather well, but that was last year, not this year.)

UK, Lucie Jones, "Never give up". Sings the entire song in a ... mirrored clamshell? Song is a very sweet ballad that she's making more than it is by the sheer power of her voice. And more shooting flames, of course. One of the few numbers where you really see that the video wall extends out to where the proscenium would be, if it were that type of stage -- it's a LOT of video wall is what I'm saying.

Cyprus, Hovig, Gravity. Oh, audience chanting for him; I don't think we've really had that this year. This one ... feels very like Imre from Israel's number, in tone and presentation. Less dance-pop-like. Same black clothing. Same haircut. Same scruff. It's ... fine, I guess?

Romania, Ilinca feat. Alex Florea. "Yodel it." Well, OK, then. A mostly rap/pop song with yodeling. With a colorful music bar and notes on the video wall reading "Yodel it." YES! And gittering cannons on the stage for no reason at all, because why wouldn't you yodel with cannons! This Is The Eurovision Experience I was waiting for! (It's got no chance, of course, but it was ridiculous fun.)

Germany, Levina, "Perfect life". Generally low key use of the video wall for a high-energy rock-ish song. Fully deployed shoulder pads and very very neutral clothing overall.

(Eurovision amateur choir of the year competition in Riga, Latvia. It's either going to be relentlessly buttoned down, or utterly insane.)

Ukraine, O.Torvald, "Time". And a giant head on stage with them. As one does. (The head has its own video effects; I was originally not sure whether it was a prop -- as it is -- or part of the video wall.) And they rock OUT! Could not be more of a contrast with last year's contemplative, pointed song from Ukraine.

Belgium, Blanche, "City Lights". "She can move one of her toes telepathically." OK, then. I was not expecting that deep voice from the ethereal-looking person in the package bit. Those few times when the camera stopped swooping throughout the room and focused on her face, she looked absolutely terrified; she didn't loosen up until near the end. The song itself has issues with being both very limited in dynamic range and very limited in emotional range. Dynamic range was revealed to be a deliberate choice, since she went way up high (with a very tiny voice) for the next-to-last verse. (Well ... such as the verses were. Another song with very few words.)

(The Ukrainian boy banders are having a smile-off. OK, why not.)

(Ross and Michelle note that Ireland didn't break to the finals this time. Oddly, Ireland is listed on the finalist participants page as of this writing. Wonder what happened?)

Sweden, Robin Bengtsson, "I can't go on." Boybander fashionistas on treadmills. Seriously. And, once again, a song with seriously limited lyrics. "I can't go on because you look so freakin' beautiful." Really? Why can't you?

Bulgaria, Kristian Kostov, another 17 year old, "Beautiful mess". Slow build song that soars way up high in places. First person to really interact directly (if briefly) with the video wall. A lot of emotion in the song, so that may help as well.

France, Alma, "Requiem". Starts in French, jumps into English for the beginning of the chorus, then back to French. It's a fun song; the impression, coming after Kristian's emotional ballad, is that it's rather slight as well, which may be unfair. Lots of video wall and video floor work with Paris as the city of lights. We were told there would be yodeling, however, and I feel cheated.

(Ukranian boy banders are giving instructions in two languages which they do not speak. I feel so undereducated.)

Oh, Zverka! I remember these people from last year! They gave the Ukraine jury vote! They're very very ... Ukranian. Being wheedled by the Boybanders to open voting. It's very precious and charming.

I don't know. Last year, there were people who stood out because of performance, or because of staging, or because of emotion in the number, and this year ... not as strongly. I would guess that Netherlands and Bulgaria would make top five, and hopefully Hungary does as well. Portugal has a very good chance, I think. Beyond that, I have no idea.

Updates forthcoming as voting and other business warrant.

Ruslana singing "It's magical" in ... whatever her language is. (Michelle: "An interval act, akin to our half-time at the Super Bowl.") And another from Ukraine with a very long, but generally pretty good, number. (A notable difference this year: so far, the interval acts are just ... acts. Last year, they were very social, with an act dedicated to the refugee crisis, among other things. Completely absent this year so far. Maybe they decided that having Eurovision in an occupied and effectively partitioned country was social enough.)

The 13 year old winner of Junior Eurovision from the Republic of Georgia speaks perfectly idiomatic English. Because of course.

Jamala, last year's winner, singing a very strikingly jazz-pop number called "I believe in U [sic]" that could not be much mroe different from last year's pointed political number. And at the beginning of her number, a streaker from the audience wearing an Australian flag got up, ran around her, and showed his bare butt to the camera. She handled it with great aplomb, ignoring him completely, and then he got tackled by security.

Jury voting begins! In early voting, Portugal is emerging as a strong performer; it hasn't been lower than second on any of the first five ballots, and won four of them. (Unexpected announcement at the top of the vote: the Israeli broadcaster of Eurovision is apparently shutting down and will no longer carry the broadcast.) Further on, it hasn't been lower than fifth or sixth, but Italy is moving up strongly. Bulgaria is holding second fairly easily at the moment. (Some adorable byplay between the Ukranian boy banders and the French judge.) Greece, somewhat astonishingly given politics, votes for Cyprus. At the midway point, a highly stratified vote, with Portugal well out in front, Bulgaria well out in second, and then a clumped ballot. If current trends continue, Eurofied Australia is on the verge of falling out of the top five for the first time in its three year Eurovision history.

And then we have a break for Ukranian comedy. As one does.

After the jury vote midpoint, Portugal continues its European domination. For the most part, it hasn't been out of the top five on many ballots, and only two or three have left it out of the top ten. Interesting thing: as this year's jury vote goes on and the shape becomes more obvious, you can generally, but not always, tell who their 12 points are going to. If Portugal isn't in the nine other ranked countries, it's getting the 12 points. If Portugal is in the other ranked countries and Bulgaria isn't, then they're getting the votes.(It's going to take a really relentlessly interesting public vote to knock Portugal out of the top spot, at this point. If they can get consistent points from the public vote, I can't quite see how it would happen.)

For no reason whatsoever, the Georgian juror greets the Ukranian boy banders in Japanese. And in the reverse peculiar politics moment, Greece takes Cyprus' 12 points. Followed by a weird glitch where the Boy banders mistakenly introduced Hungary's jury and then had to do a quick reverse to correctly introduce Romania's jury, and THEN Hungary. (At this point, they're showing Sobral of Portugal with almost every vote, and he looks increasingly tense as the vote goes on, unsurprisingly.) (And the boy banders make the UK judge just a touch uncomfortable by mentioning that they were born the year the UK judge won Eurovision.)

With the conclusion of the juried vote, Portugal leads Bulgaria by 100 points. Eurofied Australia is hanging grimly on to fourth place by five points, and not far enough from sixth place to feel even vaguely save in that top five berth.

The public vote is tallied separately by country, ranked, then bundled. Australia gets utterly clobbered in the public vote, finishing next to last in the televote. Hungary finished very strongly in the televote, knocking Australia from fourth to fifth, and vaulting from something like 20th place to do so. Italy gets another strong vote and knocks Eurofied Australia out of the top five. At this point, it's purely a question of margins. Moldova and Belgium are likely far enough back that even winning the televote probably can't win them the contest -- and a very strong fourth place put Belgium's combined jury-televote 15 points behind Portugal's jury-only vote. Moldova's very strong televote also left them finishing behind Portugal's jury-only vote. Absent an absolute landslide, Portugal getting almost anything at all wins the contest. And in fact, Portugal won the televote, so it was academic.

In one of those weird moments having to do with how it was announced, Sobral clearly thought he'd actually lost, and it took a few seconds for him to catch up with the mathiness of it all. His very brief winner's speech was ... well. It's pretty hard to read "Music is not fireworks" as anything other than a fairly pointed remark to the "we never saw a firework we didn't like unless we couldn't use it because the fire code wouldn't let us" Eurovision. Which is really odd. He then brought the song's composer up on the stage with him for his winner's encore, which was rather sweet.

Strikingly atypical songs winning Eurovision in back to back years.
Another EXTREMELY EXTREMELY long review, this time with multiple embeds and links! Sorry about that. But this time, I'm going to remember to use an entry cut, so that when things start getting long and detailed, you can run away! run away! (Unless you're doing this via RSS, in which case, again, sorry about that.)

So this is something I've vaguely meant to do since last year, as will become obvious almost immediately. That said, it turns out that doing it now has a certain point, as will also become obvious.

The question starting today's entry isn't entirely rhetorical. It's pretty much the question that's the core of The Wizard of Oz, if you think about it, and the question more explicitly at the core of Straight Outta Oz, the version that Todrick Hall created. Straight Outta Oz is essentially a musical retelling of his early life and his first and possibly his second trip through the Hollyweird meat grinder. (His current career is his third, I think. As far as I can tell, one phase ends before he was really able to gain any traction; the second phase ends when his MTV show was unexpectedly and unceremoniously dropped by the network. Which, when you consider that he's only about 30, is a lot to have done already.)

Unfortunately, he's taken down the original version of Straight Outta Oz, put up back in 2016. Unfortunate, both for comparison's sake and because it hangs together as a coherent whole slightly better than the current version. Mind, that isn't to say that the original structure didn't have problems, which I'll get to -- and which remain, in fact -- but that the integration of the retrofits doesn't feel entirely seamless. How much of that is due to the fact that I know what it looked like before, I'm not sure.

Excessively Detailed Musicals Wonk stuff begins ... HERE! )

Very vaguely apropos of today's entry (VERY Vaguely.), you might consider this earlier entry. You don't need to listen to anything in it -- although I will note that as part of cleaning it up and updating links after the entry's transition to Dreamwidth (embeds fared very badly indeed), I found an extra item I hadn't run across before. The new item isn't relevant to today's entry, but it may be amusing.
iainpj: (Default)
( Apr. 9th, 2017 03:21 pm)
I'm not going to delete my LJ -- yet -- but after this entry, I am ending all crossposting.

And for those who, like me, may have been away from the right corners of the internet and sat there being mystified at the sudden rush of people to Dreamwidth again, and confused about why everyone is so furious:

LiveJournal, Now Based in Russia, Bans “Political Solicitation” in New User Agreement

Note that "political solicitation" essentially means "anything we don't like". Note that all trans or gay content would be explicitly illegal in Russia, and theoretically subject to some censorship or deletion.

The only thing that baffles me about this is that I got NO notice. Nothing in email, no message sent as LJ News, nothing. Under US law, changing a user agreement with no notice to the user would be ... legally questionable, at best. I suspect, under Russian law -- and LJ is now explicitly subject to Russian law in ways that were ambiguous before -- changing things without notice is a-OK! (Yes, yes, I know, clearly people did receive some sort of notice, or Dreamwidth wouldn't be getting slammed with yet another wave of migration. Doesn't change the fact that I saw nothing in any of the regular channels for this.)
So I think it's perfectly obvious at this point that Twelfth Night didn't happen this year.

What I'll probably do -- hopefully before the month is completely over -- is maybe do a quick rundown of musical things I ran across last year.

This ... is not that.

This is purely something I ran across that I'd totally forgotten had ever existed. As I recall, it was done at a point in their careers where they were both struggling to become musically relevant again. It was recorded as a new single for her greatest hits double album in 2000. Sank like a stone here, and in most of the world. (Except, oddly, Poland.)

If you'd told me back in 2000, when this was recorded, that less than 20 years later, they'd both be dead ... I'm not sure how surprised I'd have been.

..."So what DID you do during that long downtime between the end of RuPaul's Drag Race and the actual coronation of the winner, Bob The Drag Queen?"

(The last one in the sequence below is ... um ... it's ... well. Yes. Very. THAT. It may not be possible to humanly describe the sheer level of WTF? going on in that video. Apart from that, it's possible that particular song was actually recorded after the finale, given lyrics.)

I will just note that, if I do it again this/next year, the first one will probably figure, in a different form, in a Twelve Nights entry. It's also rather ... unexpectedly pointed. Also NSFW for lyric. Just the one. Repeated a lot.

Just because I have been in the mood for seriously radio-friendly stuff sung by women, in which they tell off men in their lives. Just because. Only a couple here at the moment, but there may be more later. Also, there's comments after each one.

Weird thing about this one. Every time I heard it -- every single time -- at the end, I'd think, "But ... what if she IS your mama? Your real mama? What happens then?"

Turns out there's an answer to that question. And it is AWESOME. (...OK, to be fair, it's the answer to an entirely different question. Still awesome, though.)

(I will admit, the thought occurred to me because MY actual mama made sure that I knew how to do laundry and cook and clean and all that domestic stuff and then -- with the exception of most, but not all, meals, stopped doing it all for me when I was fourteen. Her rationale was that she did not want me being a burden on anyone that I was in a relationship with, and she didn't want me doing what my uncle did, which was to get serially involved with various women to do stuff for him because he didn't know how, and panicked. If I didn't do laundry, I didn't have clothes. If I didn't cook on my designated days, nobody ate.)

This next one is just a lyric video, just because it's the only version with the full song (provided by the production company, as it were).

I do, in fact, highly recommend taking a look at the scene as it was staged on the show, because it's also kind of awesome. The setup, as I understand it, is that the main character and her sister felt cornered into going out on a date with these two obnoxious guys (you'll know which ones, trust me, even though they don't say a word), so they took them to a teen-friendly karaoke place and Let Them Have It. In Public.

The song below is far far far FAR too short (only 50 seconds) and contains very UnWorkSafe language. F-bombs are dropped about five words in, and then they fly fast and furious.

I want a WHOLE SONG OF THIS SO BAD! Like, at least another three minutes worth, and maybe more.

It's worth noting that Brandy's latest release is also (a) awesome, and (b) mostly as far in the opposite direction from the above, attitudinally, as it's possible to get and still stay on the same planet. Also, she has clearly drunk of the Fountain of Youth, or else has her own version of Dorian Gray's portrait.

Honestly, nothing to say about that one. I just like it.

Ditto. Although I wish there was a less dance-oriented version, oddly enough.
Something I posted elsewhere, but I thought I might as well stick it here. Basically, a running commentary (sometimes on the running commentary) of Eurovision as televised by Logo. Edited somewhat to clarify things here and there. Additional commentary designated by NOTE.

* * * *

And the grand final! It has begun!

List of contestants in order of performance, with qualifying videos. Sadly, Belarus did not make the final, so we will not get to see a live performance of Naked Man With Wolfpack. (NOTE: he remained dressed for his semifinal performance and the stage remained entirely free of live wolves at that time. He did, however, rehearse the song naked with wolf. Sort of.)

The hosts, Måns Zelmerlöw and Petra Mede, who basically introduce the show and then largely disappear for big chunks of the next three hours, were kind of adorable. Especially the part where she remarked that the Eurovision crowd was the most polite she'd ever seen, because she was in the parking lot surrounded by men and not one had made a pass at her, and what did Måns think about that? At which point he very scriptedly (but still adorably) changed the subject to avoid saying, "Because they're all gay, of course." (I've no idea who Petra is; Mans is last year's winner.)

Update 1: So after half an hour of this, I'm guessing that Eurovision is just a festival of dancepop, big ballads, and dance ballads. And also interesting lighting effects, fireworks of various sorts on stage, and a surprising number of people in hoops.

Update 2: Bulgaria's contestant is allegedly wearing "the most expensive clothing outfit in Bulgarian history." I'm ... not quite seeing how that works, even though parts of it light up quite a bit. She's also apparently favored to do very well, I guess based on previous rounds. (NOTE: she did not do well.)

Update 3: Sweden's contestant is also apparently heavily favored. Kind of ... not seeing that, either. I mean, his song is fine, it's just not all that interesting. On the other hand, he is talented, and he has the sort of face that would keep him alive on Idol (if Idol itself were still alive) or The Voice regardless of talent, so. (Also, from what I understand, Sweden is probably devoutly praying he doesn't win, because they really don't want to host this again.) (NOTE: he did somewhat well with the jury, but tanked in the public televote.)

And this is followed by Germany's contestant, who got swapped in for their original winner when they discovered that he was connected to neo-Nazi groups. And her costume is ... um ... kind of j-pop/k-pop falls into a pile of bow-shaped barrettes. Also, sadly, I think her nerves are getting to her, because she keeps wandering noticeably off key, in a song that doesn't have enough instrumentation to hide that.

Update 4: I'm ... not sure I can tolerate three-plus hours of Carson Kressley/Michelle Collins commentary. (NOTE: I survived. Somehow.)

Update 5: France's song was both annoying and catchy. And Australia is back again this year, with a powerful bridal ballad! (...Well, she's wearing a wedding dress. Sort of.)

Update 6: Well. Cyprus rocks out! In cages! (Seriously, they've put the drummer and bass player in cages.) Also, I'm surprised nobody is screaming, "MY eyes! my eyes!" because that is a LOT of low-power lasers and high power spotlights, that is. Oh, and a moment of fireworks, as one does. (NOTE: Sadly, putting your drummer and bassist in cages is not a way to win votes and influence people, either in juries or the public at large, as Cyprus also tanked badly.)

Update 7: I ... genuinely think that Croatia's contestant is costumed to echo a lighthouse. (The title of her song is "Lighthouse".) Or rather, she starts out that way. And then a couple of the background singers -- who are all dressed in monks robes, more or less -- rip off the gigantic lighthouse exterior to display the interior. Which is sort of ... silvery piano attacked with feathers. And also huge. (NOTE: dressing as a lighthouse may or may not influence juries somewhat -- albeit not enough; it does not win favor with the general public. At all.)

Russia's contestant directly follows Croatia. The audience was expressly forbidden to wave rainbow flags during Russia's performance. There may not have been the masses of rainbow flags that there were last year, but there were one or two. That aside, the light show part was very VERY cool, and I want to know how they managed parts of it. (NOTE: Russia won the public vote, and, frankly, that is not even vaguely a surprise.)

At the current pace (19 of 26 finalists performed in 90 minutes), I guess at least half the show is devoted to ... voting? Half the show. OK, then. (NOTE: Yes. Half the show. Really.)

(Petra apparently has very firm opinions about the Eurovision merchandise. Reasonably sure you can't get a Eurovision straitjacket.)

Update 8: Ukraine's contestant has a very ... pointed, shall we say, song called "1944". I suspect it will not go over well in Russia, somehow. And it really desperately needed for Carson and Michelle to shut their damn mouths about it, which it did not get. (They said that her song was entirely in Ukrainian. Pretty sure that the verses were actually in English, what with the entirely comprehensible parts about knocking on your door and raping and murdering your family, and then saying that they're not guilty of doing anything wrong. Either that, or I've acquired a miraculous understanding of Ukranian!)

Update 9: And we finish the contestant portion of the evening with Armenia.

Following that, we get video of Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as their characters from "Vicious", commenting viciously (of course) that they hope someone from "one of the more attractive countries" wins. And the voting begins! (Good lord, for most of Russia, this is nearly past the wee hours into almost dawn. People from east of Moscow -- including in Australia, assuming they get to vote (NOTE: they do) -- have to be seriously devoted to stay up to vote for this.)

Maybe it's just me, but it seemed a touch ... buttoned-down this year. No lascivious milkmaids from Poland, no drag queens from Austria (or, indeed, anywhere). Kind of disappointing, really.

No idea who's going to win. I think, based purely on performance, Russia deserves it; I also think, based on the fact that Eurovision voting is relentlessly political, he probably won't.

Update 10: And now, randomly, Justin Timberlake shows up to be interviewed and later perform a song that the US is not allowed to see, for some reason. (NOTE: I've no idea where the song landed. One of the pre-taped segments, I guess, but since those segments were also announced by Mans and Petra to the in-house audience ... I've no clue.)

Update 11: And now, "The grey people", Eurovision's modern dance statement about the world-wide refugee crisis. One of those things which, when you hear it, seems like a possibly very bad idea, but which worked surprisingly well.

Update 12: "Love Love Peace Peace", the "ultimate Eurovision winner" as "scientifically determined" was absolutely, cynically perfect. More Eurovision than any in-competition song this year. And it included lascivious milkmaids, shirtless drummers and a guy in a giant hamster wheel. Måns and Petra sang together, with their initial clothes being tear-aways that revealed her costume at the beginning, his white pants at the start, followed by his top half getting gradually more and more undressed throughout the song. (He semi-undresses very nicely.) And apparently, all of the performers were members of past recent Eurovision competitors and winners.

Update 13: It's going to be fascinating to see how this comes out. So far in the juried voting (about halfway through at the moment), Australia has won only three of the 21 jury votes, but has been no lower than fifth on any ballot, and usually either second or third, which means that they're basically stomping the competition. Ukraine has won more of the juries outright, but has very few top five votes by comparison, so they're not getting a lot of overall support. (Also, there could be nothing more precious -- in every possible sense of the word -- than the way the Ukraine jury spokespeople dressed.) (Also, quoting the head of the Swedish jury: "We booked two arenas because we could afford it. After all, if there's room in the heart, there's room in the butt." ... OK, then. I'm guessing that there's a pun in there relating to the second arena that I didn't get.)

Update 14: And Ukraine, by finishing second to Russia in the public vote, manages to overtake Australia (first with the juries, fourth in the public vote) to win! It looked, for a brief moment, as though the final order of finish might have Russia overtaking Ukraine, which would have been rather excessively symbolic for Eurovision.

Oddly enough, the winning song pretty much did NOTHING that was listed in the Perfect Eurovision-Winning Song Formula. Pointedly political, a relatively dressed-down performance, and it still won.

Theoretically, next year's competition will be in ... well, probably Kiev, assuming that the war allows. I wonder if Eurovision has ever had to deal with the issue of a host country having an active war going on?

Despite not being nearly as over the top as past Eurovisions, still fun to watch. I do hope that, if it's televised by Logo again next year, they find different commentators. Either that, or get Carson and Michelle to button down the snark a bit and PAY FUCKING ATTENTION!
That was possibly the x-filesest x-file that ever xfiled. And a surprising amount of fun, if you ignore the whole thing with, what, seven, eight, nine dead people.

Started with a nice little callback to "War of the Coprophages" and "Quagmire" with Stoner Dude and Dudette, who appear to have spent the past 20 years being high. Not getting high, being high.

(After this be spoilers! So there be Cut text! Unless you're doing this via RSS, in which case, this is your last chance to run away.)

Spoilers! )

Also, I would like the ability to BS my way through anything.

I'm not sure it was good, but it was definitely fun.
All I have to say is, even when you think you know where this is going, it still has a few more surprises.

(Hey, it was either this or a recounting of the day, which made me want to get a LOT Genghis Khan, so this was by far the better choice.)
Or, stuff that got strongly considered -- and which met the rules, such as they were -- but got replaced by other stuff for various reasons. Some will, I suspect, be mildly surprising.

Well, one can hope, anyway.

Ms. E. is very hit-or-miss with me, especially when only rapping. This was a solid hit. (Purely a side note: my very favorite Missy Elliott song. Partly because I'd never heard her mostly sing a song before, and didn't realize she could sing that well. Also, I love the attitude.)

Er ... you may need a lyrics video version. I know there were a couple places where I was rather startled to realize I was hearing almost the exact opposite of what was being sung.

It's just fun, you know? And how often do you hear an obvious quickstep these days?

Judging from what they say underneath the video, I think they thought Disney would force them to take it down, but it's still there.

And that's that!
iainpj: man with headphones (howie with headphones)
( Jan. 5th, 2016 11:24 pm)
More after the song.

Honestly, if this doesn't get picked up as some sort of new civil rights anthem, someone isn't paying attention. Sadly, given the modern world, this is entirely likely.

It's also sadly true that a new civil rights anthem would be entirely appropriate. But that is outside the scope of this entry.

I picked this version over the one that's actually on her album (also strongly recommended) because the album one feels like it goes halfway to anthem state, and then it pulls back. The first half isn't much different from this version, but then the background singers come in. And ... well, that needs to be a gigantic gospel choir. The sort of thing that would properly be billed as "Andra Day (featuring the Somewhere Tabernacle Gospel Choir)". It needs to soar, and it doesn't, quite. To be fair, the song itself may simply just not be structured so that it will work that way, but it feels like it should. On the other hand, the acoustic version, I think, manages to be both somewhat intimate, and to soar at least a little.

She also has a bunch of covers from earlier in her career -- not on her album, but on her Youtube channel -- which are generally very good, and even when they aren't as good, are at least very interesting. There is one that isn't on her channel, probably for rights management issues more than anything else ... but it's also one of the more spectacular creative misfires I've ever heard.

I'm not going to link to her version of "Mississippi Goddam" from the Nina Simone tribute album, because ... it's kind of awful. And yet, I kind of get how you could wind up there. After all, what's the point of doing a cover of a signature Nina Simone song on a tribute album unless you're going to either do it her way -- and risk sounding like a pale imitation -- or do it some way that sounds very different? The problem is, I'm not sure that song works unless you do it Nina's way. More than anything, that song is furiously angry. And Andra's version sounds like ... like someone who had just smoked a really impressive amount of pot was watching the news, and hearing about the terrible events that inspired it, and wanted to be angry, but was just too damn mellowed out to get there.

* * * * *

And that's all twelve nights. It was an interesting thing to try. Not sure I'll do it again next year; we'll see. Hope you enjoyed some of the sounds along the way.
iainpj: man with headphones (howie with headphones)
( Jan. 4th, 2016 09:16 pm)
So tonight's tunes are a sequence off a concept album -- or, more properly, the concept section of the album -- that should be listened to in order. So I'ma try to playlist this sucker.

Oddly enough, there are two entirely independent "official" Alice Francis channels. One from herself, one from her US distributor (Universal Music Group, the name of which seems to be getting frighteningly accurate), plus videos from her European label (she's German, I think). Thanks to this triplication of effort, the entire first part of her album -- the actual concept part -- is available. More discursion after the wipe ... er, playlist. (If you watch nothing else in this list, I highly recommend the animated "Shoot him down". If you want to skip items, you need to use the hamburger menu in the upper left corner of the video; for some reason, they've gotten rid of the actual list for embeds.)

So. Following the concept as it's sequenced on the album itself: she meets someone in "St. James Ballroom", where she is the headline act. Against her better judgement, she lets herself be seduced into an affair -- all that still in the first actual song, mind.

He immediately starts cheating on her. She takes violent exception in "Don't Shoot me", which gets cut off a few seconds early in this version for some reason. (She shoots him.)

THEN she goes back to the ballroom (or possibly an offroad roadhouse, from the look of it) and sings, "Shoot him down", a cheerful ditty about all the ways she could cheerfully kill him for what he's done. Also cheerfully ignoring the fact that she's already killed him.

And then, of course, "The Funeral", followed by what I think is supposed to very very technically be a surprisingly peppy lament, "Gangsterlove". (Note: this contains a repeat of "The Funeral" which isn't on the album, but I wanted to make sure that the sequence was clear.) The "Gangsterlove" video also implies that she murdered him with kinky sex and cake -- sploshing, in the parlance, so I'm told. Though what you'd do with handcuffs and that headboard, I'm sure I don't know. In any event, we know that she shot him. 'Twas death by bullet, not death by frosting.

I think "Sista" is part of the concept section, although I'm not sure. If it is, it's her sister singing about her, worried because, at this point in the concept, she's rather going downhill. As one might after murdering someone, getting away with it because nobody thinks to suspect his longsuffering fiancee, and maybe feeling guilty about getting away with it.

"Kiss My Ass", as far as I can tell, sits outside the concept part of the album. At least, a cheerful ode to butt-kissing (meant QUITE literally, thank you very much!) would not seem to fit very well. But it seems a nicely perky note to end on for the night.
On this night, I break the rules completely.

I had not planned to include this. I didn't see it on original broadcast, and it's not as though it could comply with even one of the alleged rules for Twelve Nights. However, I'd heard so much about it -- primarily that it had made both Carole King, one of this year's honorees, and the president cry -- that I wondered. And then Youtube itself served the performance up to me in its "We don't understand what you want but here try THIS!" recommendations.

And, well ... put it this way. Carole King and the president did, indeed, cry. What hasn't been said is that Carole King is also in what could only be described as "transports of delight", archaic and strange as that expression may sound. And who wouldn't be, at hearing Aretha Franklin perform what could reasonably be called her signature song, and maybe Carole King's signature song as a writer? And, for all that she only did one song, Aretha pretty much tore the Ford Theater DOWN. People, she took off her fur coat, and she doesn't do that for everyone. She didn't even do that for the president at the "Live in the White House" event that was held in her honor. So, really, what else could I do?

Enjoy it fast; I'm sure CBS is hauling out cease-and-desist letters by the truckload for this one.

Items that are more rules compliant may return tomorrow night.
iainpj: man with headphones (howie with headphones)
( Jan. 2nd, 2016 11:43 pm)
Getting in just under the wire, local-time. And, just for the hell of it, going back to The Rules, revision 1 version. (Bought this year, as many as I feel like.)

This, because I love Jill Scott, and she releases music far too seldom. And I never know when she's touring or coming to town until after she's been.

This, because somehow -- and I'm not sure how -- I'd never bought anything by Sister Rosetta Tharpe before this year. This, despite buying an album of music dedicated to her. Which is weird. Not what I'd planned to link, but between when I set this out and today, Sister Rosetta appears to have acquired an Officially Sanctioned By UMG Youtube Channel, which means that they're playing whack-a-mole with everything else now, and "Woman" seems to have disappeared. So enjoy the first one while you can; the second one should be around a bit longer, since it's on the aforementioned channel. I did think you ought to actually see her in performance, while you can.

If you want to know more about her: the full episode of American Masters - Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock and Roll is currently streaming online at PBS.
iainpj: (bald angel)
( Jan. 1st, 2016 10:11 pm)
Eh. Felt like a change after all these years. Unfortunately, I didn't realize how thoroughly grandfathered my old layout was; all of the tools for editing the layout that I was used to having have now disappeared. Ah, well.

For tonight, three versions of the same song. From best to most unexpected.

This one, you should only listen to, because every part of it is a visual crime. Moreover, it makes no sense. Why would the Wicked Witch, of whatever direction, have a relentlessly pink sweatshop? (Literally.) Moreover, why would she dress as though she were unfortunately caught at the intersection of an explosion of a costume jewelry factory, a bubblegum factory, and a makeup factory? It's puzzling in a way, because Mabel King and Ted Ross (The Lion) were the only people brought over to the film from the original Broadway production, and that was not remotely what her Broadway costume and makeup were. (You can see them in this linked image; it's black and white, but the original costume was also black and white, so you're not losing a lot.)

My own guess is that the production aspects were ... shall we say, tuned so that even though Mabel King could blow Miss Ross off the screen vocally without half trying, she couldn't do it visually, except in an unfortunately comical way.

Sadly, you can't purchase this as a single; it's album-only on all major sites.

The most recent version, from NBC's "The Wiz LIVE!" They corrected the costume issues (thank goodness). The one thing I could wish is that they'd been able to get a soundstage with the depth/scope of the one in the film, because without the room to get away from everything going on around her, Mary J. Blige's limitations as a dancer are painfully obvious. NBC is playing whack-a-mole with this one already -- they had it on their own channel for about a week, and now it's gone -- so heaven knows how long it will last. Should it depart soon (and it will), here's a sanctioned link to the audio. (The production is scheduled to transfer to Broadway soon -- this month, I think -- which may explain the particular Vevo channel.)

The most unexpected version: apparently when the movie was being made, Miss Ross decided to make her own version of the soundtrack, in which she recorded each and every song herself, no matter how wildly inappropriate. Oddly enough, it's a pretty good album; the parts that have the most difficulties are the ones where it's clear that the number is supposed to be a choral number, and it's just ... her. Any road, if all had gone as planned, it probably would have been a modest hit. However, all did not go as planned. The movie of The Wiz flopped hard. Per Wikipedia, on a production budget of $24 million, the film earned back only $13.6 million on initial release. (To date, according to boxofficemojo.com, it's still only earned $21.3 million, so it's still in the red.) I gather that the soundtrack flopped along with the film, and nobody wanted to release yet another thing associated with the film, only to have it crash and burn, so the album got buried for nearly 40 years. Then, when NBC decided to do "The Wiz LIVE!" it was brought out of mothballs, remastered and released.

In any event, the surprising thing is how much grit Miss Ross brings to this song. You forget that she can do a lot with her voice when she gets the chance.

Honestly, I picked this to start things off because I kind of want this to be the way the year goes. No bad news, for me or for anyone I know. That's not too much to ask, I hope.
And, because it's the last night of the year, no rules apply. (Not that they were being well observed anyway.)

So, basically, this is just how I feel about the year overall, not anything about something specific.

First, we begin with what I would like to say to the year, if it were possible to say anything to a year. Only the first part really applies, but if I could convince the Old Year to personify itself and stand dumbfounded on a corner, I might see if I could do a bit of free lyric adaptation.)

Oddly enough, this is the only version of the song that's done with any pace; all of the Broadway versions are much slower -- maybe because they all had notably older leads. (Babs may have been too young by 40 years when she did this, but as has been noted elsewhere, seldom has the role been so well sung.) I wish the movie scene were online, but I suppose having an officially sanctioned Youtube recording will have to suffice.

And, sadly, the leitmotif remains as it has been for some time. I do wish I could go more than a couple years without this returning to its unfortunately hallowed position -- and have it not sign on for multi-year runs ... but then, there are worse things that one could say. As the person who does this particular version might well say, were she in a position to do so. (In other words, changing it up a tiny bit for this year. As are the lyrics; apparently this is one of the songs that Sondheim allows to be updated because it depends on the references being dated but not THAT dated. Either that, or he allowed them to be changed for this particular concert and this particular person, because it would be curmudgeonly to do otherwise, and she might well have done so anyway.)

There's a version with better audio on there, but you know ... fuck it. That curtain call was necessary.
iainpj: man with headphones (howie with headphones)
( Dec. 30th, 2015 09:20 pm)
A straight-up pop night, tonight.

First, something maybe the tiniest bit overblown. Not that I'm a big radio listener these days, but I suspect this one -- if they even tried -- had a horrible time finding traction. But, hey, I'm a sucker for herald trumpets.

And closing with something entirely unrelated, small and intimate.

iainpj: man with headphones (howie with headphones)
( Dec. 29th, 2015 10:37 pm)
So this year, thanks to [livejournal.com profile] columbina, I got seriously into the electroswing. There'll be a bit more later, but for now, try a couple groups I stumbled across.

First up, American swing/jazz by a German band. As one does. (I'm not entirely sure why this one falls into the "electro" side of things, but whatever.)

This one, I entirely get the whole "electro" part. Also, mostly, it's just fun! The video has been put together from, I think, one older Negro cinema film -- I wish I knew which one. (I thought about linking their "Bad Boy Good Man" video, which is also fun, and has been put together from different, somewhat more recognizable, films, and contains a few snippets of the Nicholas Brothers' spectacular dancing. However, this one also contains 100% less of Fred Astaire in blackface, and this is just as much fun, so. Another European band, as well; I think an American group would probably not have used the Astaire footage.)

And, to close out, old-school swing indeed. Bet you didn't know this song was about 70 years old, did you? According to the note under the video: "Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra featuring Ella Johnson, 1946. Ella Johnson (1919-2004) was the first to record this future standard, composed in 1945 by her brother Buddy."

iainpj: man with headphones (howie with headphones)
( Dec. 28th, 2015 11:45 pm)
Mostly just because I like Estelle, I like Janelle Monae, and I love this song. (Technically, falls outside the limits -- although it had been out for quite some time before I heard it -- but still. Them's the breaks.) You can safely entirely ignore the video for this one.

Also, contrary to my original plan, it looks like most of the days will have two songs and not one. Don't ask me why.

This one -- which will probably be available only until Cartoon Network and Warner play whack-a-mole with it again -- I genuinely didn't know anything about until this year. I didn't realize that Estelle provides the speaking and singing voice for Garnet. And honestly -- explosions and starships crashing aside -- I really do love this song. And it completely qualifies, so bonus! (Someone has made an hour-long remix of this. I mean, I love the original without qualification, but good LORD! Even I have limits!)

iainpj: man with headphones (howie with headphones)
( Dec. 27th, 2015 09:25 pm)
I will admit to an unexpected fondness for Gin Wigmore. I suspect a chunk of the country got kind of jaded by her "Don't Stop" which got used for a Target commercial, and the part of the country that didn't get too much of that probably got quite enough of the "Man like that" Heineken/Skyfall commercial.

All that said, I still like her quite a lot.

There are two different videos of the same song linked below. In this case, the video actually matters. Note the phrasing: they are exactly the same recording, but not remotely the same video. For reasons which utterly escape me, they decided to tell a more or less continuous story with the same song but different videos. It works, kind of, but it is a bit confusing. Without the context of the first, the second reads even more strange than it is.

Written in the Water: Live However

Written in the Water: Die Regardless

And, just for the hell of it, something more fun:


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