If you read our first Top 30 article yesterday, you’ll know that this weekend, I am in the midst of bringing you an absolute marathon of an ESC-countdown… As a special treat (shall we call it that?) I am counting down our first ever ESC Views Top 30 in three parts, this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and it will be focused on our highlights from the extensive back-catalogues of various ESC contestants. Today’s instalment will run through places 20 – 11!
For me, one of the best things about being a Eurovision fan is getting to discover the other amazing music released by artists who have been introduced to me through the Eurovision Song Contest. So, in compiling our favourites for what was originally planned to be a top 10 on this subject, the task of eliminating all but ten of these fabulous songs was just too difficult. Instead, Rory and I have decided to present you would our Top 30 instead, which will be delivered in three instalments this weekend!
To avoid confusion, this countdown will include artists who have competed in the ESC, but will feature other songs from their discographies, rather than their actual ESC entries. We have also limited it to one song per artist (if we didn’t, then I would probably end up including every single song that Helena Paparizou has ever recorded, and Rory would do the same with Lena!) In this way, we hope to bring you a more diverse top 30, and introduce you to some truly awesome songs along the way. Ready to pick up where we left off?
20 – Céline Dion (Switzerland 1988) – “A New Day Has Come”
Ahh Céline Dion. Undoubtedly one of the biggest names ever to emerge from the Eurovision Song Contest, the French-Canadian has become primarily recognised for her worldwide number 1 hit “My Heart Will Go On“, which, as we all know was featured as the theme song of the 1997 blockbuster Titanic. Always go a bit fuzzy hearing that one. However, to avoid being predictable, we have selected her 2002 hit single “A New Day Has Come” for this top 30 instead, as it showcases a completely unexpected side to her as an artist. As she exhibited as early as her 1988 Eurovision-winner, Céline’s songs are often characterised by her inimitably powerful vocals… which are conspicuously absent on this track. Instead, we are treated to a much more subtle display of vocal prowess, which the lilting melody both allows for, and accentuates. The result is a very contemporary (for the time anyway…) record whose melodies have been unwittingly interpolated by numerous later artists – including the fantabulous Anelia, in the track “Pepel Ot Rozi“.
Oh, and if anyone wants to join me in condemning the hideously obvious CGI clouds in Céline’s music video, then please do. If anyone EVER thought they looked remotely real, SHAME ON YOU.
19 – Loreen (Sweden 2012) – “Everytime”
Gonna put my neck on the line… “Euphoria”, whilst being a song that I do enjoy, is not a patch on “Everytime”. The Euphoria hype does somewhat irritate me, since I know Loreen has soooo much more to offer as an artist, and at least five of the tracks on her 2012 album “Heal” demonstrate this. Picking out what I believe to be the best one, I wouldn’t hesitate in calling “Everytime” one of the musical highlights of last year. It’s a very dark, lushly-instrumented electro number, with haunting lyrics, and a curious use of ambient noise which nonetheless adds another dimension to the overall cold aura of this track. Loreen’s vocal soars effortlessly over the top, giving the whole thing a distant and dreamy feel. It’s effective, though. It’s bloody effective.
18 – Serebro (Russia 2007) – “Mama Lover”
Now for an act who, since their appearance at Eurovision, have almost imperceptibly gone from strength to strength and have now reached some degree of international infamy. You probably won’t even realise this, but search YouTube for Serebro, the trio who sang for Russia in 2007, and you’ll find that their Eurovision appearance has faded into insignificance when compared to their more recent releases. Working on the mantra that sex sells, the group’s most recent singles – most famously the above “Mama Lover” – have acquired an internet fandom all of their own. The video for the 70’s-disco-inspired summer track, features the three girls in a car, with one apparently driving, and all three provocatively writing around and flirting with the cameras. Which I suppose must be very appealing, if you’re into girls.
And if, like me, you’re not… well, two things can be learnt from watching this vid. 1: the blonde one is still irrelevent, having been unceremoniously relegated to the back seat. 2: that black haired one still hasn’t sorted her front teeth out.
17 – Gaitana (Ukraine 2012) – “Inoplanetyane”
You may have gathered from the last five months of articles that I am a little bit obsessed with Ukrainian music, and their fantabulous 2012 representative Gaitana is no exception to this rule! This track “Inoplanetyane” (which translates as “Aliens”) has been released in the last couple of months, and I’ve been loving it ever since the first listen. It’s very experimental, with an interesting combination of styles, which – colliding beneath the unusual and captivating tones in her voice – provide what is an altogether energy-sapping auditory experience. I mean, come on. Dubstep-esque beats, manic chanting and a Caribbean-influenced guitar lick. On paper, it *shouldn’t* work. But it does, it really does!
16 – Nina Zilli (Italy 2012) – “L’Inverno All’Improvviso”
All hail the Eurovision Queen of Soul! Italy’s Nina Zilli certainly knows who she is as an artist, and her confidently stated performance in Baku certainly proved that to be true. However, she made the critical mistake of lapsing into English for Eurovision, which is a real shame because the Italian language sounds so at home on her “L’amore è femmina” album, and perhaps not more so than on this track “L’Inverno All’Improvviso” (The Sudden Winter). Grungy, jazzy, with more than a hint of motown, this song is pure perfection, even if you’re not normally into that kind of thing. I know I’m not, but Zilli’s vocals, plus the extraordinarily memorable melody makes it irresistible to “go with the flow” (Lys Assia pun not intended) of this song. And by that I mean hand-clapping, air-saxophone solo-ing, “VOGLIO TEEEE”-ing, regardless of time, place or assembled company. This song will completely and utterly captivate you. But you’ll love it.
15 – Svetlana Loboda (Ukraine 2009) – “Zhit Legko”
Even before you press play on the video above, you’ll have seen Svetlana hilariously gotten up as some kind of 30-stone heffer, and that alone should be enough to make you engage with this song. Because how hilarious does she look? Exactly. But, aesthetic entertainment aside, “Zhit Legko” is actually a surprisingly good song. With the majority of Svetlana’s singles, I do generally think “erm WTF” at first, but then, after braving a second and third listen, I end up loving them all. In this 2010 release, she demonstrates how to master “the hook” – in that she hits you from the word go, as soon as that piano solo runs into the beat, there it is; the “oh-woah-wuh-oh” thing, which is then emulated and built upon by the time we reach the full-size chorus. And by that point, boy has this song got itself stuck in your head. She’s released many a fab song in her time, but this truly is one of the very best.
14 – Samira Bensaïd (Morocco 1980) – “Mazal”
Despite having made her Eurovision appearance over thirty years ago, Samira Bensaïd (or Samira Saïd as she’s now known… alliteration works I guess?) released this track last month. She is most certainly still going strong, and remarkably, looks a similar age now as she did back in 1980. Amazing. But it’s not just her face that she’s managed to keep fresh, oh no. Her music is moving with the times too, to great effect. Listening to “Mazal”, it is pretty much everything I would look for in a modern pop-folk fusion track. Crazy traditional instruments, driving clappy beats and a distinctive, mesmerising singing style laced over the top of everything. If anyone’s familiar with Ana Nikolic’s Beovizija FANTASTIC 2006 entry “Romale Romali“, it’s very reminiscent of that. I’ve been (attempting) to sing along with Samira for the last few weeks – needless to say my Arabic needs work, but the up side is that I don’t see myself getting bored of “Mazal” anytime soon, so I’ll have plenty of time to practise!
13 – Anna Vissi (Greece 1980 & 2006, Cyprus 1982) – “To Parelthon Mou”
Anna Vissi, undoubtedly one of my favourite artists of all time, presented one of the biggest challenges in selecting just ONE song for this top 30. I would signpost “Den Einai Psema“, “Gia Ola Ftei O Theos” and of course, her 1985 signature song “Dodeka” as some of her other career highlights, but the song we ultimately decided to feature stands that liiiiitle bit taller than the rest. Ladies and gentlemen, the sublime “To Parelthon Mou”. Released in late 2008 as the theme song to the Greek-language film “Bank Bang”, I firmly believe this should have been the song to catapult Anna back to the superstardom she enjoyed in the late 80s. The ambient intro is mysterious and intriguing, one of those “okay, so we’ve got 20 seconds of noise, where’s this song actually going” things, and then… then, oh dear lord, then it doesn’t half get going. Seventeen seconds in, and we first experience the pure ecstasy of THAT [insert bagpipe-esque instrument of your choice here] solo; sharp, piercing, exciting… it’s a lesson in contemporary Celtic that El Sueño De Morfeo could only dream of learning. And it’s after all this that we finally hear Anna doing what Anna does best. This electronic rock style suits her voice down to a T, she takes it easy in the verses, before letting it all go and attacking the chorus with all she’s got. Amazing.
Oh, and the last fifteen seconds. Eargasm. Listen. Now.
12 – Anastasiya Prikhodko (Russia 2009) – “Begu Po Raduge”
Here’s an artist that doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of recognition she deserves. Madame Prikhodko, singer of the bizarre yet brilliant “Mamo” in 2009 actually hails from Ukraine, despite the fact she represented Russia at their home contest. Since that infamous appearance (which, incidentally earned her a spot on two of our previous top 10s) she has unleashed a steady stream of stylistically varied material, which culminated in the album “Zazhdalas'” released last year. Alongside highlights such as the title track, and her 2011 National Final entry “Action“, I seriously recommend having a listen to the track posted above “(Po)begu Po Raduge”. What I really love is her unusual contralto voice, and the weird and wonderful things she can do with it. It blends here beautifully with the discordant Ukrainian folk choir in the background, creating a sound which I can’t get enough of. And then, every now and then, she goes all quiet and breathy, showing masterful control of both ends of her range (and it is UNNERVING how manly she sounds sometimes, let me tell ya…) If you’re into spine-tingling register changes, tick. If you prefer more all-out diva notes, she can do that too. Seriously, her entire discography. Give it a go!
11 – Kaliopi (FYR Macedonia 1996 & 2012) – “Ti”
I love Kaliopi. She is quite simply one of the most adorable ESC contestants there have ever been, and one only needs to take a look at this ESC Insight video featuring her to work out why. Aside from her infectious personality, and her memorable forays into Eurovision, she is without a doubt one of the Balkans’ biggest names in music, thanks to her ever-changing style and her remarkably powerful voice. I love a whole load of her songs too, but the one that stands out most for me is “Ti”, taken from her 2010 album “Poraka”. A really interesting arrangement, with pianos and synths integrated into the more typical pop-rock soundscape, Kaliopi herself really brings this to life. And – once you’ve heard it, you’ll know what I’m talking about – THAT note is amazing. Again and again. It can’t be just me who hears things like that and just instantly gets happy, right?
On a separate note, the CGI clouds are back. Yet, whilst Céline had the excuse of “oh it’s 2002, we don’t know how to make them look better”, KALIOPI DID THIS IN 2010! AND IT LOOKS JUST AS BAD. Shame on whoever suggested them to her.
So, clouds, front teeth and bagpipes aside: the continued question running throughout this little series of ours is this: which other songs by ESC artists are your favourites? We got some interesting answers with the last article, how have the fans responded tonight?
Bessa Halimi from Albania: I like so many other songs by ESC artist: let’s begin with Loreen and the song I have been listening recently: “My Heart Is Refusing Me“. Also I ADOREEEE this song [Rona Nishliu – Shko Pastro Pas Saj], such an emotional and deep song, it somehow describes a period of my life that I have been through
Steve Paxton from the United Kingdom: “Domino” by Clouseau (Belgium 1991)
Some very interesting suggestions there – I definitely agree with both of Bessa’s choices, two absolutely brilliant songs from two of 2012’s stand-out artists. In addition, I am eternally indebted to Anders for introducing me to that Françoise Hardy track – prime example of the kind of magic that a really good sixties chanson can still create, even fifty years after its release. Well worth a listen, all of them!
Do you agree with our views, or with those of the above fans? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!