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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Melodifestivalen 2015: Heat Four

Here we are at the last Heat for MF 2015. Historically, this tends to be the strongest round, and from the sounds of it this year will be no different. So I'm prepared for some heartbreak with regards to the results. Luckily, by the time it's all over we'll have the full album to enjoy.

EDIT: Sanna singing En Vogue is not something I ever imagined I'd see...

EDIT: Oh my god. Now she's rapping.... badly...

EDIT: JTR and Mans won the audience pre-applause unofficial vote, though I don't necessarily think that means much this week.

MIDNIGHT BOY: Wow, Kristoffer from Melody Club looks so different now! All I know about Midnight Boy is that I need an album, now. I don't care how he does this week. I just want more music. This is the kind of 80's pastiche I live for.

CAROLINE: What the hell was up with her intro? That aside, the song in full is not as good as I hoped it would be. I like the drama and bombast of the production, but the chorus feels kind of weak. Although she's done well in the past, I don't think this will be her night.

JTR: They seem to have a lot of support in the audience. I'm just not sold. The song itself sounds like something One Direction would have turned down. It's just too predictable and trendy for me. Plus, they're still annoying and tryhard.

HASSE: He seems to be a favorite if the odds are to be believed. Plus, a song (and artist) like this almost always makes it to the final to represent the older viewing audience. It might happen again today, but the song just isn't that great. If he gets through, it'll be based on name and genre alone. There have been SO many better dansband entries in the past.

DINAH NAH: This song could be so much better, but the production certainly is impactful, especially coming off the heels of the last entry. I don't see this doing well, though. I think Isa got all of these particular votes last week. Straight up dance/club music rarely does that well in MF, historically.

ANNIKA: Ugh. A ballad. I think this lady has a certain cache with the Swedish public because of Frozen, but the song is boring me to death. Next, please.

MANS: I like this a lot, and that staging is really, really cool. Surely it'll go direct to the final and retain its place as one of the frontrunners. As far as Eurovision-esque entries, it's probably between this and Jon's from last week (though I like Midnight Boy's song better).

To Final - Mans and Hasse (unfortunately)
AC - JTR and maybe Caroline? Or, in a just world, Midnight Boy

Top 5 - Dinah (!), JTR, Caroline, Mans, Hasse
6th - Annika
7th - Midnight Boy (told ya it'd do poorly)

To Final - JTR (ugh!), Mans
AC - Dinah (!), Hasse
Out - Caroline


Friday, February 27, 2015

Melodifestivalen 2015: Heat Four - Preliminary Judgment

This is it, the final Heat that will decide if this year's competition can be salvaged or if it will go down as an unfortunate bump in the road. Let's see what this week's clips reveal!

(Listen to clips here)

1. Midnight Boy - Don't Say No
Based on the names involved, this was easily my most anticipated song of the entire competition. Based on the clip, I'm happy to say that it's my first "5" score of the year. I love everything about it. I hope it does well, but honestly it sounds too good for this year's MF so it probably won't.  5/5

2. Caroline Wennergren - Black Swan
I shouldn't like this, but it has some undeniable bombast that's really intriguing me. It sounds like Caroline Af Ugglas tackling some bluesy Jim Steinman track. Could be amazing. 4/5

3. JTR - Building It Up
I found them quite cheesy and annoying on X-Factor AU. This also sounds quite cheesy, but that fits much better in the context of MF. It also sounds very paint-by-numbers, so right now it's a pretty average score.  3/5

4. Hasse Andersson - Guld och gröna skogar (Gold and Green Forests)
I love dansband, but this is not my favorite slice of the genre. It's totally old man rock, and there's always one like it in MF each year. In such a boring year, this is actually kind of comforting. Doesn't make it good, though. 2.5/5

5. Dinah Nah - Make Me (La La La)
Why are all the decent songs in this heat? Now, this is nothing special at all, but it's a dance pop sound that has been sorely missing from this year's competition. The chorus sound catchy. I'm very curious about the verses. 3.5/5

6. Annika Herlitz - Ett andetag (One Breath)
Firmly in the "plodding ballad" territory that Ryan Tedder has unfortunately popularized. It doesn't sound as dirgey as some of them... at least there seems to be a spark of life in the performance. Still, it's nothing new or exciting.  2.5/5

7. Måns Zelmerlöw - Heroes
I already like it miles better than Eric's song from week one. This is supposed to the big track of the week. It's not my favorite, but I'm SO happy that it seems to have the grand, epic sound that characterizes the best MF entries. I need to hear more to see just how much I like it. 4/5

Wow! Why the hell didn't they spread these songs out across the four weeks? This is easily, by a laughably wide margin, the strongest week this year... and that's just from hearing the clips! Finally, I'm looking forward to a MF Saturday again.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Max Elto - Somebody Like You

"I found comfort"

Scandinavia is regaining my attention, and the funny thing is, it's not in the way I'd have expected. Melodifestivalen has always been a reliable source of awesome pop music each February, but this year I've found it very disappointing so far. Something miraculous may come out of the final heat this weekend, but I'm not holding my breath. But meanwhile, there have been a string of under-the-radar pop songs trickling out from the region -- most of which from artists who've had little to their name thus far. Max Elto, a Swedish duo, are at the very peak of this winter wave. Some songs just click with me the very first time I hear them. I certainly know what I like, and there are specific styles of production and songwriting that appeal to me instantly. The surging, anthemic 80's dance of Somebody Like You is in that category. I didn't even need to hear the whole track to know that I'd be enthusiastically featuring it today. Keep stuff like this coming, Scandinavia. It's what I love you for!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy their music here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Vetle - I Let Go

"Where is the girl I used to know"

Vetle Jarandsen's debut track has a very Scandinavian sound, sort of a cross between A-Ha and the Sound Of Arrows. From the soft-edged vocals to the soaring, yet somehow subtle, production, this is the kind of sound that makes me fall in love with a song even before I've heard the entire thing. I know very little about Vetle, other than the fact that he's from Norway. I really hope that this is the genre he plans to stick with for future releases, because I have a very empty Sound of Arrows-shaped hole in my heart that desperately needs filling. I know that it's not the type of production that's trendy right now, but it has lasting power and appeal. I can't wait to hear what he gives us next.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Swiss Lips - Books

"I wanna see you burn it up"

Swiss Lips are my kind of rock band, the kind that was in incredible fashion when this blog started but is all too elusive now. They're the kind of rock group that write synth-bolstered pop songs with emphasis on anthemic hooks. I featured them here ages ago, and have since been subscribing to their new stuff on soundcloud (even if I haven't been as diligent on staying up to date as I could have). When Books unexpectedly appeared on my feed, I clicked play and was instantly reminded why I love these guys. That icy 80's synth that opens the track drew me in immediately, but it's that sledgehammer chorus that captured me completely. In an alternate world, this should be getting the airplay that bands like Imagine Dragons and Fallout Boy are enjoying. Their debut album is out in a couple of weeks, so make sure you check it out!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Melodifestivalen 2015: Heat Three

I'm back! And hoping for a Heat that gives me at least a few songs that I'd actually want to listen to outside the context of the competition. So far, there have been about three tracks this year that have impressed me in some way. Three out of fourteen is not a very good ratio, and definitely not the way MF usually treats me. I'm probably just being extra picky this year...

EDIT: No idea what's going on. This year's MF seems to be particularly Swede-centric, without much of an appeal to the international audience... not that that's necessarily a bad thing.

EDIT: Ellen, Andreas and Jon seem to be getting the most applause at the outset, though nobody seems to be an overwhelming favorite in this heat.

ELLEN: This is SUCH a different Ellen from last year. I'm not sure how such a big change will go down with the voting public. It could easily be another Dilba. Luckily, the song's quite good, even though it never goes off the way I wish it would. It needed a dance beat so badly.

KALLE: My feed went dead for almost all of this, which sucks, but I can say that this is my kind of Swedish indie pop track. It will go nowhere, but I like it a lot... even if the singer himself is a bit of non-presence.

And of course the stream reconnects right in time for the boring skit between songs...

ANDREAS W: Why was I reminded of John Stewart as soon as I saw this guy? Regardless, he totally stole John Newman's beat and song structure. I guess he's just a fan of guys named John. I'm not really a fan of this song, though. It's just too bland and derivative.

ANDREAS J: Two Andreas's in a row? That's just poor planning. This Andreas has given us some amazing MF entries in the past. This is simply not up to par. It's an inoffensive enough ballad melodically, but isn't that hook a little depressing for Eurovision?

ISA: Well, at least this is upbeat and catchy. That's about all I can say about it. Very forgettable and bargain basement. MF deserves SO much better than this. What is up with this year? Has Sweden forgotten that it is one of the preeminent producers of pop music?

KRISTIN: I'm not sure what I was seeing in this track, based on the clip yesterday. In it's full form, this is nothing but a boring Adele rip-off. Bad... just bad. And she doesn't sound particularly great, either. Probably means that it'll go direct to the final.

JON: I guess I didn't realize just how popular this guy is in Sweden. The audience is ready to crown him before he even performs. Luckily, this is one of the better songs tonight, despite not being a pop song at all in the traditional sense. I wish it had more variation in it, though.

Well, for me, I liked Jon, Kalle and Ellen's tracks the best, but I'm guessing the results will end up something like this...
Final: Jon and Kristin
AC: Andreas and Andreas

* I hate Filippa SO much. As if I haven't said it enough already, MF really sucks this year.

Top 5 - Kristin, Isa (!), Ellen, Jon, Andreas W
6th - Kalle
7th - Andreas J (wow, how the mighty have fallen!)

EDIT: Oh god, Kalle Moreaus... and he's not even singing. He's giving, like, a lecture?

To Final: Jon and Isa (what the actual hell?)
To AC: Andreas and Kristin
Out: Ellen

Bad heat, bad year, but I kinda wouldn't mind it if Jon won the whole thing. Looks like he's in with a chance, too.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Melodifestivalen 2015: Heat Three - Preliminary Judgment

Oh, Melodifestivalen. You've fallen out of my favor this year, and I find that kind of depressing. Maybe that just means it'll come back much stronger in 2016. From the sounds of it, Heat Three seems to at least be an improvement from last week' dire selection.

(Listen to clips here)

1. Ellen Benediktson - Insomnia
This is certainly a 180 from her entry last year. I think I was hoping for something a little more uptempo. I like the sound of this, but I'm not a fan of these midtempo, plodding beats that are supposed to be anthemic but just end up sounding repetitive. 3/5

2. Kalle Johansson - För din skull (For Your Sake)
I like the sound of this quite a bit. It has that classic Swedish indie feel to it, but the beat sounds uplifting and the hooks seem to be there. I don't think it'll do very well tomorrow, but the clip has piqued my interest. 4/5

3. Andreas Weise - Bring Out The Fire
This has potential to be good, but also to be quite lame. I'm underwhelmed by the melody in the hook, but at least the whole package seems to sound slightly more Eurovision-esque than what we've been dealt so far. 3/5

4. Andreas Johnson - Living To Die
I've been an Andreas fan as long as I've been a MF fan, so I was happy to see his name. Again, though, I wish this was an uptempo and not some dreary rock ballad. From the clip, it certainly seems like a lesser entry in his catalog. 2.5/5

5. Isa - Don't Stop
This reminds me a bit of Linda Sundblad mixed with Ace Wilder. The live vocals sound a bit shaky, but there's potential. Still, I don't see it going anywhere when it comes to results. 3/5

6. Kristin Amparo - I See You
This girl's tipped to do really well tomorrow. I'm not a huge fan of ballads, but I can tell that this will at least be a decent one. I'm hoping that the song explodes even more as it goes on. Key change, maybe? 3.5/5

7. Jon Henrik Fjällgren - Jag är fri (Manne Liem Frije) (I Am Free)
What? Hmmm... this is not what I was expecting. I might end up loving it, because I'm a big fan of this sound in general, but from the clip it doesn't sound like there's an actual song here... just a lot of chanting. It's definitely the red herring on the heat. I hope it's awesome. 4/5

From these samples, I'm happy that there doesn't seem to be any clunkers. I'm not finding much to be inspired by either, but I have more hope going into tomorrow than I did this time last week!

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

4minute - Crazy

It's been an oddly slow year for Kpop so far, which has been driving me crazy. There have been quite a few new debuts, and a decent amount of decent songs, but none of the big groups have come back yet, and I feel like at this point it's getting kind of ridiculous. This drought has steered me toward 4minute, even though I wasn't a fan in the past. Still, they're the biggest group releasing music so far this year. I had to at least check them out. I love HyunA, and have always wondered why I could never warm to her group. It turns out, I was waiting for a song and album like Crazy. Now, Crazy is basically a lesser retread of HyunA's own Red from last year, but Red was so freaking spectacular that Crazy is still really exciting. In a lot of ways, it feels like the first big Kpop moment of 2015. It's not a particularly tuneful track. Instead, the aggressive, beat-driven production offers a get-outta-your-seat urgency. It's been my big pick-me-up during these dreary winter nights. And the video's spectacularly glossy.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy their album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

MyName - Reason

I was vaguely familiar with Kpop group MyName before they released their newest mini-album last week. I had some of their Japanese stuff on my ipod, but never found a song that transformed me into a real fan. And while I like their new single quite a bit, the song that I can't stop playing is actually an album track. Reason, by all accounts, should have been the single. And if hip-hop weren't the newest trend for boy groups, it probably would have been. One listen to that propulsive, anthemic chorus and you know that you're hearing something special. It's really a shame that more people won't end up hearing it. The song itself has some of that Shinee Lucifer-esque breakneck speed in the melody, but it's tied to a much poppier structure and an irresistible electro beat. This year's Melodifestivalen could take a few cues from the incredible catchiness of the chorus, as well!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy their album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Melodifestivalen 2015: Heat Two - Preliminary Judgment

Though I can't say I was too impressed with last week's heat, the songs have already grown on me and there were a few gems. Unfortunately, judging from the short clips released by SVT, this week seems to be even more uneventful than the last one.

(Listen to clips here)

1. Linus Svenning - Forever Starts Today
While I'm happy that he's gone for a more uptempo track this year, I cannot get behind Mumford and Sons style tracks, especially when they're already out of style. This genre just annoys me so much. I hope I'm proven wrong, but right now this clip sounds like an insurance commercial. 2/5

2. Emelie Irewald - Där och då med dig (There and then with you)
This sounds very, very... slow. It's almost impossible to decipher anything else from the short clip, but I guess maybe it could have some potential for ballad lovers? But I can't say I'm that interested to hear the full thing. 2/5

3. Samir and Viktor - Groupie
I'm glad this is in Swedish, because I get the feeling that the lyrics are lame as hell. Apparently the theme of this week is "sounds and catchphrases that were popular a year ago." This sounds remarkably like Linus's track with a dance beat. It gets some points for that dance beat, I guess 2.5/5

4. Neverstore - If I Was God For One Day
MF rock songs can either be ridiculously cheesy and wonderful, or plodding, serious bores. This strangely seems to have aspects of both, which makes it sound pretty uninteresting in general. 2/5

5. Marie Bergman and Sanne Salomonsen - Nonetheless
Bathroom break. 1.5/5

6. Magnus Carlsson - Möt mig i Gamla stan (Meet me in Old Town)
Thank GOD for this. In an otherwise dull-as-hell week, this sounds like it will bring some actual pop and schlager back to the competition. This is what MF is about, and although it doesn't sound jaw-droppingly amazing, at least it's a step in the right direction. 4/5

7. Mariette - Don't Stop Believing
This kind of sounds like Laleh, but without the same level of quirkiness. This could be quite good, judging from the clip. It could also turn out to be a bit of a bore. 3.5/5

Overall, I can't say I'm impressed by these clips in the slightest. I feel like Heat Two is historically the weakest each year, and I'm hoping that's the case here as well. I won't be live-blogging this, as I'll be working on Saturday. I'll probably post some thoughts when I get the chance to watch the show, though.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

9th Anniversary Post

As we stand on the 9th anniversary of this blog (this Saturday), I:

a) can't believe that I've been doing this for so long
b) find myself looking back and forward, as I continually redefine Alienhits' purpose in the blogging world.

When I first started this blog, I did it purely out of curiosity and the wave of excitement I was riding after discovering a wider world of pop music. Before 2004/05, I was beholden to what U.S. radio had "curated" for American listeners. For awhile, that was fine, but as mainstream American music took a plunge in quality (and diversity) after the turn of the millennium, and the internet became more and more valuable in discovering new sounds, I began to explore a whole new world of music. Living in the UK and travelling Europe only exacerbated this newfound fascination.

At this point, I briefly attempted to turn the blog into more of a side business -- adding advertisements here and there and accepting many submissions from record labels, both large and small. In some ways, these years (2006-2009), were the golden age of blogging. They were certainly the golden age of my readership! Still, even when I was thinking with a more business-oriented mindset, it was important to me to never post anything simply because I was being paid, or prodded, to do so. In the past nine years, I can count the times this has happened on one hand, and those entries are painfully obvious to me because there's just no passion or authenticity in them.

As I moved on to another form of writing in 2011, and had my first young adult novel published, I feared that the blog would fall by the wayside in favor of all of the work that book-publishing entails. In some ways, I'm sure Alienhits suffered because of this, but it's also at this time that I began to redefine what I wanted the blog to be. Alienhits has always been a musical journal for me, even when I flirted with running it more as a business. I am the only one in charge, and the only one who has ever posted. I'm also an obsessive, (maybe too) passionate pop music fan who loves lists and statistics. My end-of-the-year countdowns continue to be very important to me, and I take them very seriously. I also don't cater them to anybody but myself, which I realize probably limits my readership, But hey, at least it's 100% authentic to my music taste!

Speaking of music taste, longtime readers will undoubtedly notice the changes in music posted as the blog has aged. Just as I was riding high on the European/Scandinavian wave back in 2006 when I started, the music that's getting me jazzed these days is almost exclusively Korean. I felt guilty at first about posting so much Kpop on the blog, since I realize it can be a polarizing genre and isn't exactly what readers were "sold" when the blog started, but I feel incredibly passionate about the genre. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that it's revived my love and interest in music. Period. It reminds me of when I first started getting in to European pop. I hope some of that passion has inspired readers to check out something they wouldn't have normally given a second look. If not, then I'm okay with losing some readership. After all, my "musical journal" won't be for everyone. I'd quickly give up if I were writing to please. I've got to be true to what I like, which definitely changes with time.

So, long story short, I'm looking forward to celebrating ten years in 2016. I will still post music that I love, wherever it may come from... just expect a good portion of it to come from Korea this year! Thank you SO much to readers that have stuck with me all these years. I'd love to hear from you (if you exist! haha), and I of course welcome new readers. In the coming year, I hope to do what I've always done: post the very best musical finds that are rocking my world.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Producer Spotlight: Sweetune

As a pop music aficionado, and a bit of a curator when it comes to my ipod playlists, I realize more and more that songwriting teams and producers are just as important, if not more, as the artists performing songs. Given this, I thought I'd start a new feature that focuses on my absolute favorite behind-the-scenes music creators... songwriters or producers whose name alone gets me psyched for a song.

We'll start with production/songwriting duo Sweetune, who have been active in the Kpop scene for a number of years now. They're most famous for being regular collaborators with Infinite and Kara, and they have an instantly recognizable sound.

Musical Hallmarks: 80's-style synth, propulsive beats, layered, powerful harmonies, 80's pop/rock melodies, prominent use of strings and orchestration, and overall bright, upbeat sound

Best Examples: Any of Infinite's songs, but I'll go with The Chaser and Be Mine as prime examples... also a string of excellent singles from Kpop group Boyfriend, with Janus being the best. For a female fronted song, Kara's Pandora.

Recommended Further Listening: 

INFINITE - She's Back, Nothing's Over, BTD, Man In Love, Last Romeo, Paradise, Can U Smile, Shot, Cover Girl, Julia, 1/3, In The Summer, I Like You, As Good As It Gets, 60 Seconds, Rosinante, Reflex, Memories, Lately, Fantasy, Request 
BOYFRIEND - Love Style, I Yah, Don't Touch My Girl, Little By Little, I'll Be There, One Day, Do, My Lady, On and On
KARA - Lupin, Step, Damaged Lady, Jumping, We're With You
HEO YOUNG SAENG - The Art Of Seduction, Life, Let It Go
9MUSES - Ticket, Gun, News, Figaro, Wild, A Few Good Men
JYJ - Only One

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Monday, February 09, 2015

Behrang Miri (ft. Victor Crone) - Det rår vi inte för

Another year of Melodifestivalen kicked off this weekend with a bit of a whimper and a whole lot of controversy. As is usually true with the contest, I ended up liking pretty much every song after listening to them a few more times. Two days later, I find myself particularly enamored with Det rår vi inte för by Behrang Miri and Victor Crone. Upon a little more research, this became less surprising, and that's due to one of the co songwriters. As soon as I saw Tony Nilsson's name on the credits, I knew exactly why the melodic hook has me so excited. Nilsson is one of this blog's heroes, and has written so many amazing pop songs in his career. Add this to the list, because I'm liking it more and more with each listen.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy their single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Saturday, February 07, 2015

Melodifestivalen 2015: Heat One

It begins for another year, and I'm honestly not sure what to expect because I just haven't been following the contest as closely as I usually do. The previews yesterday didn't knock me out, but then again they were ridiculously short, so there is still a lot of room for a pleasant surprise. I think what I'm most hoping for this year is a brand new artist that just takes the competition by storm.

EDIT: God, Conchita Wurst was such an awesome Eurovision winner last year. That was an epic contest.

EDIT: I'm not familiar with this Robin Paulsson guy, but I'm glad Sanna's co-hosting this year. I just hope it means a lot of musical moments in between the actual performers.

EDIT: Unofficial audience applause o'meter is not surprising. Eric and Jessica seem to be the favorites, with the weird opera duo getting some love too.

MOLLY: Awwwwkwwwaaard. She seemed a little.... drunk... in the opening clip? The song doesn't really do anything for me. It's just not my preferred style at all, although she's obviously very talented and it's well produced. The stage, however, is beautiful to look at this year. It seems a bit smaller, but with a lot of depth to it.

DANIEL: I liked his song with Pain Of Salvation a few years back, but that doesn't mean that these are the types of songs I want in this competition. And, this is not as good as the PoS entry. It's pretty, and fragile, and nice. But it's also just kind of... there. That stage, though!!

RICKARD and ELIZE: This is easily my favorite so far, but I also feel like it could have been so much more. It seems oddly lifeless on stage, especially when it sounds so epic on paper. I think it needed a higher tempo and much, much more impactful production. Wasted opportunity.

DOLLY STYLE: Oh my god, the cheese. Why do I love this so much? It's so STUPID, yet it has everything the prior three acts were missing. The lyrics are beyond cringey... so bad that they're somehow good. I would be shocked if this got through, but I'd also love it.

BEHRANG MIRI: Although this is not what I was hoping for from Behrang at all, I don't hate it. I love the production and the hook is alright. The rap, I could leave or take, which is probably not a good thing. Ooh, and that final chorus bumped it up a bit. For now, it's this and Dolly Style for me. (And they couldn't be more different, right?)

JESSICA: This is the song that made Jessica cry? Sorry, but it's pretty basic... an unending list of cliches. I like Jessica. She's given us some great pop in the past, but this is not her best. She'll probably take one of the top four spots on name recognition, but I can't say anything about this performance is that exciting.

ERIC: Unpopular opinion alert: Eric Saade has always annoyed me. I like some of his music, but his voice grates and his personality and facial expressions irk me. Still, this is a guaranteed finalist based on its weak competition alone. The song is actually quite good. The live vocals don't sound completely on-key, though. And "sting" sounds like "stink," so there's that...

My top 4, in a very weak heat:
1. Dolly Style (!)
2. Behrang Miri
3. Eric Saade
4. Rickard and Elize

My fearless predictions:
1. Eric Saade
2. Jessica
3. Behrang Miri
4. Molly
(Though honestly, I have much less confidence about this than I usually do)

Actual TOP 5:
Dolly Style (yes!!), Behrang Miri, Rickard and Elize, Eric, and Jessica.
6th place: Molly
7th place: Daniel

Good results so far!

EDIT: The Dolly girls remind me of E's The Girls Next Door reality series. Maybe that's why I find them somehow charming. I think Behrang's song may end up being my actual favorite this week, though.

To Final - Eric, Jessica (so, no surprise at all, then)
To AC - Dolly Style, Behrang
Out - Rickard and Elize

Final Thoughts - Boring heat, boring result. Sweden better do more in the coming weeks, because so far this is a disappointment.


Friday, February 06, 2015

Melodifestivalen 2015 Heat One: Preliminary Judgment

It's weird. Melodifestivalen is one of the best pop periods of each year, yet my excitement level is not nearly as high this year as it usually is. Maybe it's because there are less songs, or maybe it's because none of my favorite artists are competing this year... but I'm entering with lowered expectations. Hopefully, this'll mean that it will be easier to blow me away! As always, these reviews are based on the rehearsal clips of the songs provided by svt and my opinions may change when I hear them in full tomorrow.

(Listen to clips here)

1. Molly Pettersson Hammar - I'll Be Fine
I get that this is probably supposed to capture the Adele audience (it's way too late for that, btw), but it sounds much too adult contemporary for my tastes based on this clip. Not want I want to see in MF. 2/5

2. Daniel Gildenlöw - Pappa
Ummmm..... I just don't know. I like the pensive Swedish ballad as much as the next guy, but I can't tell a thing based on this short of a clip. It doesn't sound particularly memorable, but maybe it gets better? 2.5/5

3. Rickard Söderberg And Elize Ryd - One By One
At least this is the kind of bonzo MF concoction that I look forward to. Dang, why are these clips so short this year? I can't make out much, but it does sound like their entry will be memorable. I always love a bit of opera. 3/5

4. Dolly Style - Hello Hi
So far, this is the only track I can decipher a hook from, based on the sample. I doubt it'll do that well on the night, but I think this will be one of my highlights of the first week just because it sounds so cheesy and poppy. 4/5

5. Behrang Miri (ft. Victor Crone) - Det rår vi inte för (We Don't Control It)
I LOVED his last entry, but this is definitely a different sound. I like that it seems kind of anthemic, but I wish that the tempo was a little more upbeat. But unlike the first couple of entries, I'm actually excited to hear the rest of it tomorrow. I think I'll end up liking the chorus more than the verses. 4/5

6. Jessica Andersson - Can't Hurt Me Now
Every contest needs a big ballad. Hell, last year the big ballad won. I'm not sold on this yet, but ballads usually can't be expressed very well through a short clip. I'm willing to give it a chance, especially since I've like Jessica's entries in the past, but I can't say this sample is exciting me very much. 3/5

7. Eric Saade - Sting
This is basically a guaranteed qualifier, so I'm happy it's uptempo and seems to be interestingly produced. That said, I'm not getting much from this clip. Eric's vocals tend to grate (on me, at least), and the production is what catches my ear the most at this point. We'll see! 3.5/5

Well, I'm excited to hear the Dolly Style, Behrang and Eric songs in full, especially since you can't tell anything from these lame clips. My somewhat ambivalent feeling around the contest as a whole remains, so I'm hoping the performances will reignite the schlager spark!

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Thursday, February 05, 2015

Galantis - Runaway (U & I)

"I wanna runaway"

I've been meaning to post this for a few weeks now, which means you've probably already heard it. After all, Galantis' Runaway has now become a worldwide hit, and rightfully so. It's created by a Swedish supergroup of dance producers, including members from Miike Snow and Style Of Eye. The song itself is the kind of throbbing EDM that's all the rage. I'm not always in the mood for it, but I think this is honestly an example of top tier production in this genre. The build is there, as well as multiple hooks. It's got enough melody to stand on its own and a euphoric sense of bombast once the chorus(es) hit. I can't wait until we've got some massive curated compilation of these types of songs once the genre has gone out of fashion. This could very well be on that album.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy their single here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Years And Years - King

"I was a king under your control"

Years and Years have been tipped by many as a band that's going to have a big 2015. Sometimes this actually turns me off, since I assume that they're automatically going to be some boring "serious" artist that all the critics like, but I decided to investigate the band's latest music video and I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, their brand of synth pop veers a little on the indie side, but this new song is straight up dance pop. Frontman Olly Alexander has that inoffensive, soulful voice that's all the rage lately, and it works wonders when paired with what sounds to me like some ace early 90's dance production. It's like if Olly Murs decided to go electro!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy their music here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, February 02, 2015

Wa$$up - Shut Up U

A weirdly acoustic (but kind of cool?) Rihanna single made its way into the world last week, and it seemed like very few people were happy with it. So in response I present this track, which I think is much more like what I would have wanted from a Rihanna comeback (except in English, obviously). Shut Up U is from girl group Wa$$up and was quietly released back in December. I'm not a big fan of the group's music in general, but this is so infectious and awesome. I love the frantic, tribal-esque beat, but it's the ever-changing melody that seals the deal. That hook is so ridiculously catchy and it's carried off effortlessly. The entire thing sounds so carefree and organic, despite being laser-beam focused on its impressive production. The song hasn't really taken off in Korea, but it deserves bigger and better. If nothing else, it's certainly better than what Rihanna's been producing as of late.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Infinite H - Pretty

My musical tastes are known to vary and widen, and I usually have a long list of artists that I'm excited about. But every once and awhile, one of those artists leapfrogs over everyone else and becomes more of an obsession. That's the way it was with The Ark, and now that's the way it is with Infinite. I've written about Infinite many times, and even before they were my favorite band, I considered them to have the strongest singles run of any K-Pop group. In fact, I've thought about doing a "ten best singles by..." feature on them, but like my other untouchable artists (The Ark, Janet Jackson, etc), I fear that I'd have much too hard a time ranking their songs. One thing that I love about K-Pop, though, is that their groups often form units -- an offshoot of the group's main sound that in no way threatens the existence of the band. Singers can go solo without leaving the group, and this allows for interesting detours in an artist's sound. Infinite H is a hip-hop unit consisting of rappers Hoya and Dongwoo. This being Korea, the guys can of course also sing and dance spectacularly, so their brand of hip-hop carries a strong pop influence. That said, songs like Pretty are a complete u-turn from Infinite's dense, dramatic dance sound. The new mini-album is great, but I think my favorite thing about the whole project is the fun, quirky video. There's a fresh, easygoing aura around their music that becomes more addictive the more you listen to it.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tina & Rene - Mi Amore

"You gave me what no one had given before"

The Eurovision pre-selections are starting to kick off, and as always, Abba's shadow looms big over everything. Denmark's Melodi Grand Prix is in a couple of weeks. They're one of the countries that releases the songs prior to the actual competition, and as I perused this year's entries, I was instantly smitten with Tina and Rene's enormous Mi Amore. It is a 100% schlager belter, with a chorus that sounds quite a lot like the aforementioned Abba. It's the kind of music that really only comes from this region of the world, just like K-Pop is tied only to Korea. I love that, even when this genre has gone out of fashion, we can always count on songs like this being produced for contests like Eurovision. It's cheesy to the max, but I wish it luck!

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.