Should Conchita Wurst have won Eurovision 2014?

The Eurovision Song Contest is always one of the craziest events of the year, with weird and wonderful acts turning up from all over Europe year after year to join together and put on a show. But this year Eurovision somehow found a way to top itself. If you had told me in January that a bearded drag act was going to win Eurovision this year, I would have laughed in your face. Nevertheless, many have championed 25 year old Conchita Wurst from Austria as a Jesus-like figure representing all marginalised groups in Europe, which is all well and good, but was she really a worthy winner of Eurovision?

Conchita Wurst
Conchita Wurst

The early favourites to win Eurovision this year were Armenia and Sweden, both classy dub-step influenced ballads. However, after having seen most of the songs performed in the semi-final, two entries surged up the bookie’s lists, Austria and the Netherlands. The two songs couldn’t be more different from each other. Austria’s Conchita Wurst elected for a dramatic, James Bond-esque power ballad drenched in soaring strings, which stretched the singer’s vocal chords to the limit. The Dutch however, opted for the understated Nashville-inspired country ballad “Calm after the Storm”, which was very simply staged using a monochrome motif and featuring just the two singers doing what they do best. Due to the simplicity of the performance, this entry managed to slip under the radar until the very last minute and it wasn’t until we saw it performed that we realised what a lovely, heartfelt song it really was. Conchita’s song, in contrast, was at first overshadowed by her less-than-usual image, which put many people off. However, the epic staging and her powerful vocal performance in the semi-final quelled many haters and established her as the favourite going into Saturday’s final, ultimately proving that Eurovision’s priorities have shifted to focusing more on performance than music in recent years.

Of course, when Conchita was announced as the winner (and by a considerable margin might I add) the victory was pronounced to be in the name of tolerance and acceptance. It was at this point also that it became clear that Conchita’s song, “Rise like a Phoenix”, in actual fact had been ruthlessly manufactured, not to make a political statement, but instead for the sole reason of getting attention and winning the competition. That was when I realised that Europe had essentially voted for Miley Cyrus’ twerking to win Eurovision. Conchita’s beard is no more than a thinly disguised gimmick used in order to scandalise and therefore, grab headlines. Using a gimmick is a common tactic which many public figures, from politicians to Miley Cyrus, employ in order to attract attention to their cause. Does this mean that we should accept it though? Hell No!

Miley Cyrus twerking
Miley Cyrus twerking

The sad truth is that Conchita is extremely vocally talented and I listened to “Rise like a Phoenix” without the visual performance several times before the competition and, while I liked the tune, it definitely didn’t stand out as one of the best. The bookie’s clearly thought the same, initially placing it low in the rankings to win the competition. It was only after she performed it that her stock rose dramatically. Therefore, there is no doubt that the Austrian’s image was the only factor which allowed her to secure her Eurovision victory. It’s a shame that a cheap trick cheated better songs out of getting the attention that they were due. After Conchita’s victory was announced social media was immediately flooded with complaints that she would not have won if she didn’t have a beard. Several people shared a picture of the Little Mermaid with a beard on Twitter and some Russian Eurovision fans even photo-shopped beards onto their own entry, the 17-year old Tolmachevy Sisters, claiming that if they had been sporting bushy beards like Conchita that they would have taken home the Eurovision crown instead. And, to be honest, it’s hard to argue with that logic.

The Little Bearded Mermaid
The Little Bearded Mermaid surely would have won Eurovision?
The Tolmachevy Sisters with beards
Translation: Russia would have definitely won like this

While it is true that “Rise like a Phoenix” is a good song and that Conchita performed it well, the same is also true of X Factor veteran Ruth Lorenzo’s performance for Spain of the epic ballad “Dancing in the Rain” or the Russian Tolmachevy Sisters who sung about sending out a message up above/telling all the world to show some love. I defy anyone to say that Conchita wouldn’t have won if she had sung this song, which actually has an even stronger message of unity than her own. Even the UK’s own entry 27 year old Molly from Leicester, who has just as good as voice as Conchita, made a similar statement with the anthemic tune “Children of the Universe”, but that ended up finishing in 17th place, despite positive predictions. All these songs suffered because they didn’t have a gimmick as strong as a bearded woman. For many years now people have been comparing Eurovision to a circus, but Eurovision was able to withstand these accusations due to the strength of recent winners such as Loreen’s “Euphoria” and Emmelie De Forest’s “Only Teardrops”. But without a respectable winner to back it up this year, Eurovision’s name is being dragged further through the mud.

However, it looks like the real winner of Eurovision 2014 is yet to be decided. The Dutch band The Common Linnets, who placed second on Saturday, are experiencing great success with their song “Calm after the Storm”, which is currently outselling Conchita’s “Phoenix” in almost every market worldwide. “Calm after the Storm” is currently sitting at No.4 on the UK download charts, whilst the two versions of the Conchita’s single occupy the 19 and 25 positions, which would probably place it in the lower regions of the top ten. In fact, this was the case before the competition even began as Conchita’s “Rise like a Phoenix” actually only managed to peak at No.51 in her native Austria before the competition, while the Dutch track peaked at No.1 in the Netherlands. This just goes to prove that the Austrian’s song wasn’t popular at all before the visual performance came into play, whereas the Dutch track was a bonafide hit, which begs the question as to whether Eurovision has its priorities in order. If the Netherlands had won this year, Eurovision would have at least managed to save the little face it had left. Too late now.

Whether you agree or disagree with my opinions I’d love to hear from you. Take a look at the videos of both the Netherlands “Calm after the Storm” and Austria’s “Rise like a Phoenix” and make up your mind. Thanks for reading.

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The Pop Fortune Teller’s Predictions 05/05/2014

David: Another week has passed and that means it’s time for Diary of a Pop Fan’s resident Fortune Teller to give us some more predictions of which songs will be burning up the charts in the coming weeks. Take it away Oda Mae.

Pop Fortune Teller
Pop Fortune Teller

Fortune Teller: Hello again dearies. Thank you for joining me once again for another round of pop-tastic predictions that you won’t want to miss. Gather around my crystal ball of wonders as I guide you on a mystical journey of pop fabulousness.

 

1)    Beyonce – Pretty Hurts

Beyonce Pretty Hurts
Pretty Hurts

My first prediction for this week is another sure fire smash for the reigning queen of pop. It is of course the fabulous Beyoncé with “Pretty Hurts”. Taken from an album which is chock full of potential hits, “Pretty Hurts” manages to stand out on the strength of the moral message which will shine as a beacon, above all, to teenage girls suffering from self-esteem issues. Of course, this is well-trodden territory, but Beyoncé manages to make the message sound fresh with the honesty and rawness of the production and vocals. The Pop Fortune Teller appreciates the positive message, but finds it ironic that Beyoncé preaches the danger of vanity whilst looking absolutely fabulous. However, criticisms aside, “Pretty Hurts” is a built around a slow-burning atmospheric bass-line which subtly lodges itself somewhere in the part of your cranium reserved for pop delicacies such as this. Beyoncé’s soulful wailing adds to the epic-ness of the track as well and pushes this slow-roasted ham of a track into the stratosphere.

The mists of time predict a strong top ten for “Pretty Hurts”.

2)    Kylie Minogue – I Was Gonna Cancel

Kylie Minogue I Was Gonna Cancel
I Was Gonna Cancel

Kylie’s career has become more unpredictable than my box of enchanted shrunken heads lately after the relative flop of her last single “Into the Blue”, which seemed to be a shoe-in to become another number one for the diminutive pop diva. Luckily, nothing gets past me, the Pop Fortune Teller, and I predict big things for the second single taken from her twelfth album Kiss Me Once “I Was Gonna Cancel”. For starters, the song plays on funk-fuelled current pop trends due to its being produced by man-of-the-moment Pharrell, who has put his Midas touch to good use on this track. Secondly, the song features several sections, each one more infectious than the last, I count three in total: the “go go go” section, the “I was gonna cancel” section and the “just hop out of the bed” section. That’s a lot of Kylie to love. Interestingly, the glitchy electro-pop fiesta was inspired by real life when Kylie almost cancelled on a recording session with Pharrell due to having the blues. But luckily he convinced her otherwise and, frankly, the world should be extremely glad that Kylie decided not to cancel.

After reading Kylie’s palm, I predict that this will become her 33rd top ten single.

3)    Sam Smith – Stay with Me

Sam Smith Stay With Me Artwork
Stay With Me

Sam Smith’s debut single “Money on my Mind” has already become one of the biggest singles of 2014 and his debut album is set to sell a shedload. So it makes sense that his second single, the soulful “Stay with Me” will be another smash for the Peterborough-born singer. Another strong indicator the extremely Emeli Sandé-esque nature of “Stay with Me”. We all know what commercial dynamite Sandé is (her debut album sold over 2 million copies in the UK alone) and her stamp is all over “Stay with Me”, right down to the gospel choir and the quiet reflective tone. The Pop Fortune Teller appreciates pensiveness. So it stands to reason that Sam Smith will have another hit on his hands and, actually, it’s quite deserved as the singer pours his heart and soul into “Stay with Me” and almost brings a tear to this old fortune teller’s glass eye.

My crystal ball informs me that “Stay with Me” will be a big top 5.

4)    Cher Lloyd – Sirens

Cher Lloyd
Sirens

The Pop Fortune Teller has always had an affinity with Cher Lloyd, maybe it’s her frank honesty, maybe it’s her penchant for unadulterated fun, or maybe it’s the gypsy roots we both share. Either way, I got my skirts in a ruffle upon hearing young Miss Lloyd’s latest pop gem “Sirens”, which is appropriately titled as it announces a dramatic change of direction for the diva. Those who disapprove of the 20 year old’s crass, in-your-face nature will be shocked by the maturity of “Sirens”, which showcases the vulnerable side hidden beneath the attitude. This is also a rare opportunity when Cher is really allowed to show off her impressive pipes, which are the centrepiece of the track. Cher is at a crossroads in her career however, after a successful debut, the first single of her second album “I Wish” failed to chart, meaning that “Sirens” is make-or-break for her. I’m hoping it’s the former.

If the stars align properly, this should be another top 40 hit for Cher.

5)    Kelis – Forever Be

Kelis
“Food”

My last choice is more a recommendation than a prediction as it would probably take a miracle for Kelis to manage to get a hit off her new album “Food” after her first two singles “Jerk Ribs” and “Rumble” failed to chart at all. However, I believe that this song deserves its place on my list as it is a stellar example of pop-done-right. There is hope though as “Forever Be” is built around a plinkety-plonkety piano line which descends into a sing-along-chorus which is as catchy as a cold. What’s more, “Forever Be” has more current commercial appeal that Kelis’ recent singles as the mind-destroyingly amazing chorus is built around a driving synth bass-line and Kelis’ breathless vocals add a furious urgency to the track. It’s probably the best song Kelis has ever done, nay the best song of the year so far!

I’m seeing a conflicting fortune for “Forever Be”, but if you readers join me in summoning the mighty cosmic forces of Pisces, this might just be a hit.

Unfortunately this song is so undercover that there is no official video for “Forever Be” but you can listen to on spotify or listen to it live here:

So that’s it for my pop predications this week. Thanks for reading. Now I’m off to go buy some tail of newt from Tesco’s before they run out.

“Hello Kitty”: Will the worst song Avril Lavigne’s ever done manage to save her career?

Avril Lavigne
Hello Kitty artwork

Avril Lavigne has been stirring up a lot of controversy recently for her new Asia-release only single “Hello Kitty” – a sexually suggestive ode to the beloved feline-based Japanese brand. It’s not just the song itself which has provoked such an overwhelming backlash, but also the video, which features the 29-year old singer parading around Tokyo with several stern-faced Japanese girls and has led to the Canadian singer being accused of racism left right and centre. Let’s explore whether these claims are justified.

At first the news that “Hello Kitty” had been chosen as Avril’s next single left me stunned. There are so many potential singles to choose from on Avril Lavigne. What on earth possessed her to choose this EDM inspired abomination! But the answer is obvious. It’s public knowledge that Avril’s career hasn’t been going all too swimmingly of late: her fifth studio album became her first studio set to miss the UK top ten and also became her lowest peaking album in the US. Its singles have failed to make an impact as well: even the catchy, sing-a-long “Here’s to Never Growing Up” barely scraped into the US top twenty and follow up singles “Rock n Roll” and “Let Me Go” made a negligible impact on the worldwide charts. Taking this all into account it’s clear that “Hello Kitty” is effectively an SOS to save Avril’s sinking career. But why would the worst song on the album be a good choice as a single at this point?

Avril Lavigne is without a doubt one of the singers most rounded and well-crafted albums to date and contains a plethora of singles to choose from: “Sippin’ on Sunshine” would be perfect for capitalising on the pre-summer market and “Give What You Like” displays the singers more thoughtful side. However, the sad truth is that if Avril’s sensational previous singles such as “Rock n Roll” failed to catch fire on the singles chart, who’s to say that the chart performance of any other quality singles from Avril Lavigne would be any different. The world has changed and the public demands eye catching, gaudy singles which will stand out in the crowd. It may be for the wrong reasons but “Hello Kitty” definitely fits the bill. Commercially, the song is guaranteed success as it follows the current pop trend of throwing everything and the kitchen sink into the production and appeals to teenage girls with the references to Hello Kitty. These elements alone will secure a few more album sales.

At this point you might be tempted to accuse Avril of selling out her values for the sake of a hit single. Whilst this may be true, it might be the case that Avril’s record label Sony forced the release of “Hello Kitty” in order to boost the albums flagging sales. The record buying public are often under the illusion that artists have complete control over their work, but this is simply not true. The record label often decides which songs will sell the album best and don’t always include the artist in the process. Of course Avril herself is to blame for making the song itself, but all good artists are allowed a few stinkers (Madonna’s had her fair share).

The real controversy lies in the single’s video however, which shows four Japanese girls who are dressed identically and remain silent throughout the video, demonstrating a tired stereotype. But Avril is far from the first person to play on this stereotype and the video comes off as more of a dedication to Japanese culture rather than a mockery, albeit a slightly crass one. The singer’s twitter response to the racism accusations was as follows RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!! I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video…”. I don’t believe that Avril intentionally wanted to create controversy in order to promote her work at all, but she has inadvertently found herself in the middle of a media storm which has completely blown the situation out of proportion (as always). The facts are the facts however: “Hello Kitty” has already managed to notch up more than 11 million views in less than a week and, as a consequence, has already made its debut on the Billboard Hot 100 at No.75, already out-peaking previous single “Let Me Go”. Hopefully, “Hello Kitty” will do its job and raise Avril’s profile again, which will put her in a good position for when she releases classier cut “Give What You Like” as a single. The history books will most likely put “Hello Kitty” down to a bad judgement call or, at worst, a Britney-esque moment of insanity (Avril has shaved half of her head after all…!), but it doesn’t mean that we should condemn Avril forever.

See what you think of Avril’s video for “Hello Kitty”.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment.

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