A happy Spotify discovery

Have I told you lately how much I love Spotify?

This afternoon, my ‘Release Radar’ playlist was on in the background, when a live track came on and I thought to myself “I recognise that voice…”. I gave it a few more seconds, but couldn’t place it exactly. I picked up my iPhone to check the track and turns out it was the Tony Bennett 90th birthday concert.

Score one: I didn’t know they’d recorded an album of the concert! It was quickly added to my Spotify library.

Score two: the track in question was actually Kevin Spacey. Yes, That Kevin Spacey. And what a voice he has. I’ve embedded the track in question below – it’s a medley of ‘The Very Thought of You’ and ‘If I ruled the World’.

Score three: the album isn’t half bad! It includes tracks from K.D. Lang and Diana Krall, as well as some excellent renditions from Mr. Bennett himself. I’m so glad he’s getting the appreciation he deserves while he’s still with us. His back catalogue is superb and I’m happy to say I’ve seen him live here in London.

Though the concert was cut short by an electrical fire. in the Albert Hall of all places!

Still, 30 minutes of Tony Bennett live is better than no minutes of Tony Bennett live. Right?

The Hot Sardines – love it!

Spotify flagged up The Hot Sardines in my ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist a few weeks ago and it was love at first sight. Or listen… you know what I mean.

Here’s my fave so far – a super-upbeat version of ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen’. A lifetime away from the more mushy and shmatzly versions you may have heard in the past. And the video? Gets me wanting to jump up and dance.

Spotify has been bang on with great recommendations over the last month. I’ve discovered fantastic new artists from around the world and even a brand new album from my old favourites, Pink Martini.

Bravo, Spotify. Bravo.

RIP, Apple Music.

This is cheering me up!

Tough couple of days, what with one thing and another. In fact, a few things. But I’ve just spent an hour listening to Gregory Porter and I’m feeling a lot better about life in general.

Music, eh? Cures all ills…

Gregory Porter’s new album, Take Me to the Alley is out now and is just lovely. This is one talented man.

And now, back to some more feel good tunes.

Well, that was random.

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Last night’s Eurovision really was a change from the norm. On three counts, in fact.

For a start Sweden did a magnificent job of hosting a complex and demanding live TV show, not once but three times in a single week. Two semi-finals and a grand final. Additionally, each night was staged differently, with the hosts doing a fantastic job each time. Not just reading a script like robots, but ad-libbing, singing and dancing.

Secondly, the quality of acts has definitely improved over the years. We might not all agree (ha!) over who should have won, but I think we can agree that the show was slick and entertaining, which is a lightyears from how it all was in the early 90s, for example. Some of these songs have done very well in national charts over the last few months and the music is a lot more in touch with what the average person likes. I emphasise some. 

Thirdly – and I’m taking a sip of coffee here, to gather my thoughts – the voting was… different. For the first time, the jury votes were delivered before the tele-voting from the general public. And if it showed one thing, it’s that the juries are so out of the touch with he average Eurovision voter. How else could Poland go from bottom of the heap to 8th overall after tele-voting results were added?

(You can see how all the countries voted via this very detailed and complex table).

I’m all on favour of this new voting system as it just adds to the tension at the end of the show. Yes, Australia looked like the runaway favourite for so long, but was then overtaken by Ukraine when the there was still a chance for Russia to steal it. Those last few minutes were so very tense, like the bomb-disposal scene in a Hollywood blockbuster.

And given the very real conflicts between Ukraine and Russia over recent years, it was especially tense.

I think the Ukraine song, while not one of my favourites, resonated with voters. They also liked the Russian song, but at the same time I think everyone felt conflicted about awarding the contest to Russia again. Despite the EBU’s protestations that the Eurovision isn’t political. The Eurovision sure as hell is.

So after some fantastic songs and an almost flawless presentation of acts, voting and results, Sweden are the real winners here. They have raised the Eurovision bar and I feel quite sorry for the Ukraine who have a lot to live up to. Petra Mede deserves several awards for keeping things light and just the right side of sarcastic, while Måns Zelmerlöw demonstrated he can sing while moving around on a hoverboard.

My one outstanding question about the whole evening is why anyone thought it would be a good idea to have Justin Timberlake perform as part of the interval act? His ad-libbing in the green room with contestants was nothing short of cringe-inducing and his performance was painting by numbers. His whole attitude was “I don’t know why I’m here and I really don’t care”.

Call me old-fashioned, but a bit more about all that fantastic Swedish pop music that was glossed over so quickly would have been a much better time-killer until the voting.

Sure, I was very sorry to see Spain do so badly and to see Australia pipped at the post in the end, but it was a hugely enjoyable contest all the same.

So well done Sweden and here’s to next year in Ukraine – international crises and border wars permitting, of course.

And in case you missed it all (what were you doing with your Saturday night if you were’t watching Eurovision?!), here’s the winning song. Brace yourself, it’s far from cheery.

Eurovision semi-final two: reflections

If I’m honest, I’m pretty disappointed with the results of last night’s second Eurovision semi-final in Stockholm. I thought some of the great songs I’ve grown to like in the last few weeks were a virtual shoe-in for the final. I was sure of the other would bomb.

Boy was I wrong.

Continue reading “Eurovision semi-final two: reflections”

Eurovision 2016: semi-final 1 (aftermath)

 

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Oooh. Despite what I promise myself every year, I end up getting more annoyed at Eurovision voting decisions. Last night’s first semi-final of the song contest was no exception.

While acts like Cyprus and the Czech Republic getting enough voted to secure a place in Saturday’s final, the guys from Estonia and Iceland went home empty-handed. I think both acts did a great job on the night, but where Eurovision voting is concerned, there’s simply no accounting for taste!

(Speaking of, with no Greece in the final, who will Cyprus vote for?!)

Onwards to semi-final two (which really looks like the ‘group of death’, given the great songs included) on Thursday. I’m hoping Ireland make it through as Nicky Byrne has done a great job with an okay song. I think Australia are pretty much guaranteed a place in the final, such is the quality of their act. And with the album on almost constant repeat over the last week or so, both the Macedonian and Albanian songs have really grown on me.

Here’s hoping they get through too. But please – see the above warning about the randomness of voting. Also, there was a huge difference between album recordings and live performances last night (looking at you, Finland), so all my hopes and predictions may come to nothing if the acts mess it up on the night.

As for the show itself, Petra Mede was as entertaining as ever. She should be made permanent host. Similarly, the staging was impressive.

But it was really disappointing that the BBC ignored the (apparently impressive) interval act and instead forced viewers to watching a pretty painful ‘comedy’ routine featuring the UK’s entry.

Eurovision 2016: FYR Macedonia

I’m man enough to admit that, against all my better judgement, this has grown on me since I first heard it. I actually found myself humming along with it the other day. Scary.

It has shades of Bonnie Tyler about it (check out the leggings and strained chorus) and, while it’s quite generic in a soft-rock kind of way, there’s something memorable about it.

There’s something a little diva-ish about it too, reminding me of ‘Primadonna’ by the fabulous Alla Pugacheva. I hope Kaliopi does well on the night and, given its memorable chorus, may even make it into the final.

Once again, the Eurovision demonstrating that it’s a broad church when it comes to musical styles. (Now imagine that being spoken by Terry Wogan…)