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The beginning of the rest of this blog

Hi there and welcome to the inner workings of my mind, otherwise known as my very first attempt at blogging. Before I unleash my thoughts on everything at you, I figured I should introduce myself to you, so that I don’t become some “man behind the keyboard”.

My name is Neil and I am from Dundalk, halfway between Belfast and Dublin on the east coast of Ireland. I graduated from Dublin City University last year with a degree in Applied Languages and Translation Studies. As part of my degree, I also spend a year on Erasmus in the University of Toulouse 2 in France. I am currently still in DCU, studying for a Masters in Business Management.

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See, I’m nice!

As you can probably guess already, one of my greatest loves in life is language. I speak four languages fluently (English, Irish, French and Spanish) and I know bits and pieces of a couple more languages but I don’t like listing them out I am not just interested in learning languages but also in translation, developments in language and minority languages. Coming from a predominantly English-speaking country where most of the population is monolingual, I hope I can make others see that other languages are worth learning and that it’s easier to do than you might have previously thought.

All those languages are no use if I don’t have people I can speak them with, which is why I love travelling. I have been to 17 countries so far for both business and pleasure and I have lived in two countries, Ireland and France. I want to share some of my experiences, both good and bad, and hopefully broaden your horizons.

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At the airport. Again

Last but certainly not least, I am passionate about performing arts. I am a classically trained flute player and spent seven years between my school orchestra and a national one. I have performed all around Ireland, several other European countries, the USA and China. I am an actor and have taken part in several productions at home and further afield, as both an actor and director. I have done Shakespeare, contemporary plays and musicals. Finally, I am an Irish dancer and a member of one of my university’s Irish dance squads. I wouldn’t be who or where am I today without all those things, so why not share my experiences through the years here?

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So much angst in one picture

As you can see, I have quite a bit to “think about”. All that’s left to say, I hope you enjoy my two cents on various aspects of life.

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Eurovision 2018 Previews: Poland

There are just two weeks to go until the main event, but we still have places to visit! Our next destination is the land of Chopin, Copernicus and butter-churning girls. It’s Poland!!!

History

Poland first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994. The same year they also got their best result in history, when Edyta Górniak came second with “To nie ja”. This year they will make their twenty-first appearance in the contest. Poland have only reached the top 10 on two other occasions, in 2003, when Ich Troje came seventh with “Keine Grenzen – Żadnych granic” and in 2016 when Michał Szpak came eighth with “Colour of Your Life”. Last year, Kasia Moś finished 22nd in the final with “Flashlight”.

Selection

The Polish broadcaster, Telewizija Polska (TVP) organised Krajowe Eliminacje 2018 to select the next Polish entry. Ten entries competed in the national final, in which an in-studio jury (50%) and public voting (50%) decided the winner. Despite finishing third in the jury vote, a win in the public vote secured Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer the Polish ticket to Lisbon.

Artist

Andzej Gromala (Gromee) was born on 14th December 1978 in Kraków. He is a DJ, record producer, remixer, and songwriter. He currently owns Kingztown Music and has been signed to Sony Music since 2016. Last year, he received an award for Best DJ/Producer at the Eska Music Awards. He also recently got married. Since 2011, he has released many singles featuring various different artists including Lukas Meijer.

Lukas Meijer was born on August 21 1988 in Ulricehamn in western Sweden. He is a rock musician, singer, guitarist and songwriter. He is also the vocalist of the band No Sleep For Lucy. He became very close to becoming a professional hockey player, like his brother, but ultimately decided to go with music instead. Lukas was the featured vocalist on Gromee’s song “Without You”, which was a top 10 hit in Poland in 2017. The pair decided to team up again for Krajowe Eliminacje, which brought them success once more.

The song that Gromee and Lukas will perform in Lisbon, “Light Me Up” was written by Mahan Moin and Christian Rabb and was composed by Lukas and Gromee themselves.

Song Review

Guys, gals and non-binary pals, here is this year’s summer song! It’s got all the ingredients, a carefree vibe, lyrics you’ve probably heard somewhere before and a beat drop after the chorus. It is the most contemporary offering from Poland in quite a while. This type of music is quite popular now, so it should have no problems getting to the final. Will it challenge for the win though? I don’t think so.

 

What Could Have Been

Had the jury gotten their way, Happy Prince would have been heading to Lisbon. Ultimately, they were beaten by Gromee feat. Lukas Meijer by just one point. Despite the band name sounding like a Korean drama, their offering “Don’t Let Go”, coupled early 2000’s vibes with contemporary dancing. While I don’t think this would have been lighting up (hehe) the scoreboard in Lisbon, it’s a nice song either way.

 

                           Powodzenia do Polski!

Will the path to victory light up for Gromee and Lukas or will they remain in the dark? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, TVP, YouTube)

Eurovision 2018 Previews: Georgia

The next song to be previewed comes from the land of stone, wolves and wine. It’s Georgia!!!

History

Georgia first took part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2007. This year marks their 11th participation. Their best result to date is ninth place, which achieved in Sofia Nizharadze and Eldrine in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Last year, Tamara Gachechiladze just missed out on a place in the final, finishing 11th in semi-final 1 with “Keep the Faith”.

Selection

The Georgian broadcaster, Georgian Public Broadcasting (GPB) internally selected both the song and artist, despite originally announcing that a national final would be held. Iriao were selected as the Georgian representatives for Lisbon.

Artist

Iriao (ირიაო) is an ethno-jazz band formed in 2013. They are made up of David Malazonia, Nugzar Kavtaradze, Bidzina Murgulia, Levan Abshilava, Shalva Gelekva, George Abashidze, and Mikheil Javakhishvili. The band was created by leader David Malazonia, who has been successfully composing music for theatre and films for 30 years.

The name “Iriao” is derived from the Georgian phrase “Iriao-uruao”, which is used in the yodelling singing style “Krimanchuli” in Georgian polyphonic singing.

Known for their unique jazz and ethno folk genre, the group have performed at the Borneo Jazz Festival in Malaysia in 2014. Their debut performance was made in Tbilisi in June of that year and received lots of recognition from the media.

The roles of the band members are:

David Malazonia – Keyboard, composer, arranger
David Kavtaradze – Georgian folk instruments
Bidzina Murgulia – Vocals
Levan Abshilava – Drums, percussion
Shalva Gelekva – Bass
George Abashidze – Vocals
Mikheil Javakhishvili – Vocals

The song that Iriao will sing in Lisbon, “Sheni gulistvis” (შენი გულისთვის – For You) was written by Irina Sanikidze and composed by David Malazonia and Mikheil Mdinaradze. It is the second Georgian entry to contain lyrics in Georgian and the first to be completely in Georgian.

Song Review

You have to hand it to Georgia. Instead of sending a song that tries to tick all boxes for a successful Eurovision entry, Georgia marches to a different tune. This song is very relaxing but showcases Georgian culture to the fullest. As for its chances, it could go either way. Either it’s too sleepy to pick up votes or it’s unique enough to qualify. I’m interested to see what will happen in the end.

What Could Have Been

When there was talk of a national final, Helen Kalandadze openly expressed her desire to take part. She is no stranger to the Eurovision world, having taken part in the Israeli selection in 2015 and hosting the Junior Eurovision Song Contest last year in Tbilisi. As her cover of “Skyfall” proves, she certainly has the vocal power to take on Eurovision. Maybe Georgia will choose her one day.

 

            წარმატებებს გისურვებთ საქართველო!

Is Iriao’s song for you or the complete opposite? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, GPB, YouTube)

Eurovision 2018 Previews: Australia

Our next Eurovision preview takes us outside of Europe and the northern hemisphere. We’re off to the land of kangaroos, didgeridoos and friendly neighbours. It’s Australia!!!

History

Australia has a long history with Eurovision. The contest was first broadcast there in 1983 and Australia sent their own commentators to the event for the first time in 2002. Many Australian artists have represented other countries over the years such as Olivia Newton-John (1974) and Gina G (1996) for the United Kingdom and Mary-Jean Anaïs O’Doherty (2015) for Armenia. For the 60th contest in 2015, Australia were granted a “once-off” participation and finished fifth in the final. Australia were invited back to participate again as full-time participants in 2016. Dami Im sang “Sound of Silence” that year and came second. Last year, Isaiah Firebrace finished ninth in the final with “Don’t Come Easy”, giving Australia their third top 10 result in a row.

Selection

The Australian broadcaster, Special Broadcasting Services (SBS), internally selected both the song and artist. Jessica Mauboy was announced as the Australian representative for Lisbon.

Artist

Jessica Mauboy was born in Darwin in the Northern Territory. on August 4 1989 to an Indonesian father and an Aboriginal mother. She rose to fame after she appeared on the fourth season of Australian Idol in 2006, where she came runner-up. Since then, she has released three studio albums, the last of which was released in 2013. She has also acted in the 2010 film Bran Nue Dae, the 2012 musical film The Sapphires and she played the lead role in the TV series The Secret Daughter, for which she performed the soundtrack for both seasons. She is the first Aboriginal woman to have five top ten albums in the Australian Album Chart.

Jessica was invited to perform as the interval act in the second semi-final of Eurovision 2014, one year before Australia’s actual debut, where she performed “Sea of Flags”. Since 2012, she has also headlined numerous tours, and supported the likes of Beyoncé and Chris Brown.

The song that Jessica will perform in Lisbon, “We Got Love” was written and composed by Anthony Egizii, David Musumeci and Jessica herself. Anthony and David also wrote the previous two Australian entries.

Song Review

I actually met Jessica at the London Eurovision Party and she is incredibly sweet (she even retweeted me!). I’m so glad she has finally gotten the opportunity to compete at Eurovision and she is really going for it. This song may seem generic at first, with its catchy beats and an anthem-like sound and lyrics. What really lifts it up are Jessica’s live vocals and stage presence. I have no doubt Jessica will deliver on the night and if all goes well, we may be looking at another top ten finish for Australia.

What Could Have Been

One person I would like to see representing Australia some year is Delta Goodrem. After appearing as Nina Tucker in the soap opera Neighbours, Delta ventured into the music industry at the age of 15. Her first album Innocent Eyes was the best-selling album of the 2000s in Australia. She has gone on to get nine number-one singles and four number-one albums. She wrote the Australian entry for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2015, “My Girls”, which was sung by Bella Paige and was also heavily rumoured to represent her country in Eurovision 2016. A lot of people want her to go to Eurovision. Hopefully, she will accept that offer one day.

 

                                    Good luck Australia!

Will Jessica get victory or defeat? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned for another preview tomorrow!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, SBS, YouTube)

Eurovision 2018 Previews: Netherlands

Moving on with our previews, our next destination is the land of windmills, bikes and weed (even though 420 was yesterday). It’s the Netherlands!!!

History

The Netherlands was one of the seven countries that took part in the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956. They have won four times, in 1957 with Corry Brokken singing “Net als toen”, in 1959 with Teddy Scholten singing “Een beetje”, in 1969 as a joint winner with Lenny Kuhr singing “De troubadour” and in 1975 with Teach-In singing “Ding-a-Dong”. They have achieved other top 10 results since then, such as fifth in 1980 with Maggie McNeal singing “Amsterdam” and Marcha singing “Rechtop in de wind”, sixth in 1993 with Ruth Jacott singing “Vrede” and fourth in 1998 with Edsilia Rombley singing “Hemel en aarde”. In recent years. they were not as successful, failing to qualify for the final at all between 2005 and 2012. In 2013, they returned to success, when Anouk finished ninth in the final with “Birds”. The following year, the Common Linnets finished second in the final with “Calm Before the Storm”, the Netherlands’ best result since 1975. Last year, O’G3NE finished 11th in the final with “Lights and Shadows”, the same place they finished when they took part in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2007.

Selection

The Dutch broadcaster, AVROTROS, internally selected Waylon to represent the Netherlands in Lisbon. Prior to the official song release, Waylon presented five songs from his new album “The World Can Wait” on the talk show De Wereld Draait Door (As the World Turns). One of these songs was revealed to be his Eurovision entry.

Artist

Waylon (born Willem Bijkerk) was born in Apeldoorn in the centre of the Netherlands on April 20 1980. He started his career in 1995 at the age of 15, where he sang on the television show Telekids. By 1997, he was signed by record company EMI, and in 2001, he traveled to the United States to work with his idol, Waylon Jennings, on an album. The album was never completed and he retuned to the Netherlands in 2002.

Waylon first came to public attention after he finished second on the first season of Holland’s Got Talent in 2008. He released his first single “Wicked Way” in 2009, which became a top 10 hit in the Netherlands. In 2010, he received the 3FM Award for Best Newcomer and the Borsato Award for New Talent at the TMF Awards. He represented the Netherlands at the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 as one half of The Common Linnets with Ilse deLange. The duo finished second with “Calm After the Storm”, the highest placing for the Netherlands since their last win in 1975. He left The Common Linnets soon after the Eurovision and returned to his solo career. His first album after Eurovision “Heaven at Midnight” went to number one in the Dutch Album Chart. He has been a coach on The Voice of Holland since the sixth season in 2016. His latest album “The World Can Wait” was released on April 13.

The song that Waylon will sing in Lisbon, “Outlaw in ‘Em”, was written and composed by Ilya Toshinskiy, Jim Beaver and Waylon himself.

Song Review

I’m so glad that Waylon went with this song. While I do like “Calm After the Storm” more, I can definitely see the merit in this song. It has power and an anthemic quality to it, which is present throughout the song. Add on to that Waylon’s performance skills and and you’ve got a force to be reckoned with. The Netherlands have turned into the Nashville of Europe with all the country songs they’ve sent over the last few years. It’s worked for them before, so there’s no reason to believe it won’t work again. It’s not winner material but I definitely see it doing well in Lisbon.

What Could Have Been

If I had to pick a song from the other four potential entries, I would go with “Back Together”. It harks back to the softer sound of his previous Eurovision entry but retaining the power in his voice. While “Outlaw in ‘Em” was certainly the biggest standout of the lot, “Back Together” was still a solid song by itself.

                              Veel succes Nederland!

Will this outlaw sneak past the competition or get jailed? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, AVROTROS, YouTube)

Eurovision 2018 Previews: Moldova

Staying in the east, we head to the land of wine, breakaway states and epic saxness. It’s Moldova!!!

History

Moldova first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005 (the last time the contest was in Kyiv) and will make their thirteenth appearance this year. Zdob și Zdub gave Moldova a successful debut, coming sixth with Boonika Bate Toba”. Their only other top 10 finish up until last year was in 2007, when Natalia Barbu came tenth with “Fight”. Last year, Sunstroke Project finished third in the final with “Hey Mamma”, giving Moldova their best placing in history.

Selection

The Moldovan broadcaster, TeleRadio-Moldova (TRM), used the national final O melodie pentru Europa 2018 (The Song for Europe 2018) to select their entry. All competing acts had to audition in front of a judging panel, who selected 16 songs to go through to the final. In the final, 50% jury vote and 50% public vote decided the winner. After getting maximum and more televotes than all the other acts combined, DoReDos were awarded the Moldovan ticket to Lisbon.

Artist

DoReDos are a band from Rîbnița in the breakaway republic of Transnistria. They are made up of Marina Djundiet (born 15 October 1986), Eugeniu Andrianov (born 2 April 1993), and Sergiu Mita (born 3 May 1993). The trio formed in 2011, originally calling themselves “Art Band”. They are known for mixing Moldovan traditional music with modern sounds. They have attempted to represent Moldova on two previous occassions In 2015 they placed sixth in the national selection with “Maricica”, and a year later they came fourth with “FunnyFolk”. Last year, they took part in the New Wave competition, a contest for singers in former Soviet countries and beyond, in Sochi. They ended up as one of the three joint winners.

The song that DoReDos will sing in Lisbon, “My Lucky Day”, was written by John Ballard and composed by Philipp Kirkorov. Philipp represented Russia in 1995 and met DoReDos during the New Wave competition.

Song Review

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Moldova saw that trios bring them good results so they are continuing that trend this year. This is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, a bit like “Hey Mamma” was last year. It’s happy, catchy and extremely fun to listen to. I don’t like the staging though. It looks a little too colourless and clean-cut for a song that’s anything but. While the song is not the best of this year’s bunch, it should make a big enough impact to get through to the final.

What Could Have Been

DoReDos were always going to win the selection and they did so by a landslide. The only artist to come anywhere close to beating them was Vera Țurcanu with “Black Heart”. Her dark and moody song was accompanied by staging that wouldn’t look out of place at a Sia concert. Also, taking more inspiration from Sia, she choose to hide under a bed for half the song. Maybe in some alternate universe, this would have won.

                         Mult noroc Moldova!

Will DoReDos feel lucky or is there luck running out? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, TRM, YouTube)

Eurovision 2018 Previews: Russia

Today’s preview takes us to the land of the reigning Junior Eurovision champions, this year’s World Cup hosts and all those hackers that are probably stealing your data right now. It’s Russia!!

History

Russia first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994. This year will be their 24th appearance in the contest. After modest beginnings in the nineties, which includes their worst result ever of 15th place in 1995, Russia became one of the contest’s heavy hitters in the 2000’s. They won the 2008 contest with “Believe” by Dima Bilan. Russia was the most successful nation in Eurovision in the 2000’s, with one victory, two second places and two third places. Russia also holds the record for the most top five finishes of any nation in the 21st century, with nine. On their last participation in 2016, Sergey Lazarev came third with “You Are the Only One”.

Selection

Russia’s participation in the contest is rotated between two broadcasters, Channel One Russia (C1R) and Russia-1. Channel One Russia were in charge of this year’s entry. Julia Samoylova was selected as the Russian representative for Lisbon.

Artist

Julia Samoylova was born on April 7 1989 in Ukhta in the Komi Republic in nortwestern Russia. As a child, she began losing function of her legs due to spinal muscular atrophy and has used a wheelchair since childhood. She started her career when she would perform for oil workers at a restaurant in her hometown. From 2008 to 2010 she performed as part of TerraNova, a heavy alternative band, and then went on to take part in Faktor A, the Russian version of The X Factor. In 2014 she performed as an opening act at the Winter Paralympics in Sochi.

Julia was originally been chosen to represent the country at the 2017 contest with the song “Flame Is Burning”. However, she was banned from entering Ukraine, where the contest was held, due to her travelling to Crimea in 2015 via Russia, which is illegal under Ukrainian law. Russia then withdrew from the contest. The Russian broadcaster had instead promised that Julia would represent Russia instead in 2018, and they stuck to their word.

The song that Julia will sing in Lisbon, “I Won’t Break”, was written and composed by Leonid Gutkin, Netta Nimrodi and Arie Burshtein. The same team wrote Julia’s disqualified entry “Flame Is Burning”.

Song Review

If this song proves anything, it proves that Russia were basically trolling everyone last year and using Julia as a pawn in their games. This song is infinitely better than “Flame Is Burning” but it’s still not the best song ever. I get bored about halfway through the song. While it is great to see Julia finally getting her chance to sing at Eurovision, I feel that Russia may be heading for their first ever non-qualification.

 

What Could Have Been

If Russia could stop playing political games and actually send artists based on merit, Nyusha needs to be their next choice. Nyusha (Anna Shurochkina) is one of Russia’s foremost singer-songwriters. She holds the record for the most number one singles on the Russian Singles Chart, with eight number ones. She was the Russian spokesperson at Eurovision 2016 and was also strongly rumoured to be representing Russia at the 2017 contest. Nyusha definitely has what it takes to take Russia to a second victory.

 

                                   Удачи России!

Will Julia stay strong or break under pressure? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned for another Eurovision preview tomorrow!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, NRK, YouTube)

Eurovision 2018 Previews: Denmark

From southern Europe, we travel once again to the north and to the land of Lego, hygge and woolly-jumper-wearing detectives. It’s Denmark!!!

History

Denmark first took part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1957. This year marks their 47th appearance at the contest. They were the first Nordic to participate and their debut entry caused quite a stir, as Birthe Wilke and Gustav Winckler performed an 11-second kiss at the end of their song “Skibet skal sejle i nat”. They have won the contest on three times: in 1963 with “Dansevise” by Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann, in 2000 with “Fly On the Wings of Love” by the Olsen Brothers and 2013 with Emmelie de Forest. Last year, Anja Nissen got Denmark back into the final for the first time since they hosted the contest in 2014, and came 20th with “Where I Am”.

Selection

The Danish broadcaster, Danmarks Radio (DR), organised the 48th edition of Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, which has been used to select all of Denamrk’s entries since their debut. The winner was chosen over two rounds of voting. In the first round, a five-member jury (50%) and public voting (50%) selected three songs from the ten competing entries to advance to the superfinal. In the superfinal, the same voting system decided the winner. With 50% of the vote in the superfinal, Rasmussen was awarded the Danish ticket to Lisbon.

Artist

Jonas Flodager Rasmussen, simply known as Rasmussen, was born in Viborg in central Jutland in 1982. He studied dramaturgy and music at Aarhus University. Rasmussen is currently the lead singer of Hair Metal Heröes, an 80s cover band which performs covers by artists such as ABBA and Elton John. Working as a stage actor, he took part in numerous musicals such as Les Misérables, West Side Story, and Rent. Outside of his music career, he works as a teacher at the School of Performing Arts at Viborg Cultural School, and Aarhus Theatre Learning.

The song that Rasmussen will sing in Lisbon, “Higher Ground” was written and composed by Niclas Arn and Karl Eurén. It is based on the legend of Magnus Erlendsson, a Viking chief who preferred to solve conflicts by peaceful means.

Song Review

The Vikings are still alive! This song sounds epic from start to finish and conjures up images of ancient times. I like the marching vibe it has throughout. It makes you want to charge into battle, even when the lyrics are telling you the opposite! The staging in Dansk Melodi Grand Prix didn’t quite match the epicness of the song but I hope this can be fixed for the semi-final. This should easily sail through to the final. The Danes better arrive in Lisbon in a Viking warship!

What Could Have Been

Denmark has not sent an entry in Danish since 1997 but there is always at least one entry in the language each year. This year, Rikke Ganer-Tolsøe sang this year’s token Danish song “Holder fast i ingenting” (Stuck on nothing). While songs in Danish are typically sub-par, Rikke made an exception to this rule. She delivered a solid performance and while she didn’t make the final three, she can be proud of herself regardless. Who knows if Denmark will ever send a song in their native language again?

                        Held og lykke Danmark!

Will Rasmussen land on higher ground or fall short of it? Leave your comments below. Stay tuned tomorrow for another Eurovision preview!

(Sources: eurovision.tv, DR, YouTube)