I went to see S Club 7 last night and this is what I thought of it

If you can find me anyone more excited than me at the prospect of seeing S Club 7 at the Genting Arena in the opening show of their ‘Bring It All Back 2015′ reunion tour last night, I’ll find you a liar.

Honestly, look how happy I was!

I remember it like yesterday, twelve years ago sat watching S Club 7’s, well S Club’s (after Paul had done a runner) last performance on CD:UK, Their final single aptly named ‘Say Goodbye’ along with a medley of their hits. I cried, and I’m not ashamed to admit that.

And there I was last night finally seeing them live. The excitement started as soon as it was announced the band were reuniting for Children In Need last year. I knew at that point the tour was coming and I knew I’d be there. Just as I had been when McBusted and Steps did the same. If you know me, you’ll know just how much I went on about it in the months and days leading up to and including yesterday.

Having had time to reflect, here’s a review of sorts.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from last night to be quite honest. I’d never seen them live before but I knew they’d put on amazing shows in their day. I had the most fun I think I’ve ever had at a concert though, something I promised myself would be the case, and my friends who accompanied me will back me up when I say I looked like I enjoyed it more than anyone else there too.

I tweeted an idea of what my perfect show would be, it would open with ‘S Club Party’ Rachel Stevens would have a solo section, ‘Reach’ would be the finale and ‘Don’t Stop Movin” the encore. The show instead began with album track ‘Bring The House Down‘. Not bad at all, fun, upbeat but perhaps not too familiar to everybody there, and bearing in mind we’d waited 13 or more years, I’d have hoped for better.

Though ‘S Club Party‘ was next, and on the day of the general election, forget the Tories, forget Labour, there really ain’t no party like an S Club party. The place was brought to life, and the band were starting to settle in to the scene at this point.

Singles ‘Two In A Million‘, ‘Love Ain’t Gonna Wait For You‘, ‘You’re My Number One‘  and ‘Alive‘ helped continue the party atmosphere and told us that at least as far as Jo is concerned, she hasn’t lost it, despite having been a bit shaky on Children in Need.

First part of the show done. Being brutally honest, as big a fan as I am, the second section was a mess.

Each member had their own little solo section. Steps did the same in their Ultimate Tour in 2012, and it worked really well. However this didn’t, and I hope changes are made for those going to subsequent dates because it took the life out of the concert a fair bit. 

Tina was doing her dance to ‘Stronger‘, a track she has lead vocals for on third album ‘Sunshine’. I love the song and was delighted to see it, as I’d been listening to it for the first time in donkeys on the way to the venue. It was very monotone though, I don’t know if that’s because she’s not one of the stronger singers of the group, pardon the pun, and the screens lagging didn’t help either. She could have been accused of miming, bearing in mind there was no live band to accompany the group in Birmingham. That said I enjoyed the performance regardless.

She introduced Paul, and to be quite honest Tina I wouldn’t have lost any sleep not knowing he pulled down your curtain rail in 1999 for which he is yet to replace. Paul was nervous, very nervous. He came out with just a guitar and I wondered what the hell he was going to do. Even in the ’90s he danced like a dad (I can confirm that nothing’s changed there) and his interaction with the crowd was just as awkward. He performed an acoustic version of ‘Reach’, which was iffy to start with, but once the crowd had clocked on to what he was doing, it turned into one of the nicest moments of the show, the arena lit with thousands of smartphone torches, singing along to the band’s most iconic song. It was lovey, especially seeing Paul’s confidence grow during the song. I guess he had extra reason to feel nervous, with many suggesting his early departure from the band signaled the beginning of the end for S Club.

Naturally Paul introduced former lover Hannah on stage for her solo. This was the mess I was talking about. The audience fell completely flat for Hannah’s song ‘Straight Up’ (can’t lie, I’d never heard it before). Her vocals were flat too, in the monotone sense again giving me strong suspicions of miming. It was the first time I sat down during a performance, but I was content waiting patiently knowing Rachel would get her solo soon.

It was Jon & Jo next. I could have done without a Jo solo, she sings 90% of the songs anyway. I also felt Jon was more deserving of the stage to himself, like the others before him because he’s actually a really great singer, something he proved to the Genting crowd in the duet ‘Hello Friend‘. Would have liked him to sing ‘Sunshine’ off the album of the same name, as he’s the main vocalist on that. It was a great performance though.

Now it was Rachel’s turn. This was it, this what what I’d been longing for. Nope. She sang ‘Natural‘ as the other six joined her to provide backing vocals. Disappointed was an understatement.

sclub77The seven stayed out for the next two, singles ‘Have You Ever‘, one of my personal favourites. I had that on cassette! ‘You‘ followed, before Bradley’s solo, though it wasn’t as such, more a mini DJ set which had a few songs off the albums/TV shows, those being ‘Good Times‘, ‘Friday Night‘, ‘Dance Dance Dance‘, ‘Do It Till We Drop‘ and ‘Who Do You Think You Are‘. That was quite enjoyable to be fair to him. He didn’t seem phased by the occasion and was interacting with the crowd brilliantly.

Then I lost it. I heard the intro to ‘Some Girls‘ and I probably squealed in delight. Rachel was back on her own doing a solo single. Perfect. They could have scrapped the rest of the solos to give her an extended bit as far as I was concerned but she treated us to a mash up of that and ‘Sweet Dreams My L.A. Ex‘, with the red ribbons and everything. It was definitely one of my highlights.

It sparked the show back into life for me, as the other members returned for ‘Viva La Fiesta‘ a song I had completely forgotten about, and forgotten how much I loved. Debut single ‘Bring It All Back‘ followed, and then another surprise, a cover of Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’, which was actually brilliant. Like really, really good. Bradley and Paul were on vocals and did the song justice. The band also taught the crowd dance moves for it, which I will be doing wherever and whenever I hear the song in the future.

Say Goodbye‘ was next and it brought back memories of them splitting. Emotional. At that age your favourite band splitting up is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to you. Last night gave me closure.

Despite the drawn out, messy solos section the show had gone far too quick for my liking, as I realised they were running out of singles. The next and final song was of course ‘Reach‘, this time the up-tempo version we all know and love featuring all seven of them. It was worth the wait. I think my happiness peaked at this point. You can bet your life I was singing at the top of my voice, dancing too. Nostalgia is beautiful.

They said tara a bit and buggered off, the crowd chanting and stamping their feet craving more, well, the two songs we know they hadn’t done yet. Back out they came, dressed in all white. ‘Never Had A Dream Come True‘. Beautiful, iconic, fitting, as seeing them live was a dream come true for me really.

As I hoped, the S Club party ended with ‘Don’t Stop Movin’‘, a fitting encore. And that was that. I’d finally seen S Club 7 live.

I mentioned earlier that I had no idea what to expect from this. My sheer excitement fooled me into thinking it would be the most amazing concert I’d ever been to. To some extent it was true, the nostalgia was more than enough for that. But if I’m taking everything into consideration – vocals, dancing, outfits, staging, visuals, crowd interaction etc. It could have been sclub73better.

It’s easy to forget they’re not my age anymore, for a start. It must have been bloody hard work because they surprised me with all the dancing. It wasn’t that bad at all really, even Paul! Was a little miffed with Jon dancing with a girl but that’s minor. The band haven’t performed in arenas in over 12 years too, and this was the very first night. Even the best acts aren’t brilliant on the first night of their tours.

Whilst I’m proud to say I was the first to see them on their comeback tour, I would have loved to have seen it a few dates in, once they’ve blown off all the cobwebs and tweaked a few things in the set and got rid of some of their nerves. I’m fully confident they’ll improve as the tour goes on, and I do feel harsh giving them criticism based on the first show. But I can only judge what I see.

The fact of the matter is, I’ve seen S Club 7 live. I can make some peace with my childhood, and I can’t put a price on that. The great moments really were great and whether or not they’ve done it solely for the money, I can’t thank them enough for allowing me to line their pockets and witness something I’ve longed to for three quarters of my life. 4 out of 5 stars, for nostalgia alone. They’ll hit 4 and a half before this tour ends, easy.

Of all the parties I’ve been to, this was by far the best. There really ain’t no party like an S Club Party. You’re wrong to believe otherwise.

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A Complete(ly Irrelevant) Guide to Eurovision 2015 (Part Five – The UK Entry)

So here we are. If you’ve been following this blog the last few days, you’ll have seen that I’ve reviewed 39 of the 40 Eurovision entries heading to Vienna in just over three weeks time. Those of you who haven’t can locate these in the four parts previous to this by clicking the links below:

Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart Four

Last year's UK entry, Molly.

Last year’s UK entry, Molly.

The only entry left for me to share my thoughts on is our very own, and as a huge Eurovision fan myself I felt our entry didn’t deserve the standard two paragraph review most of the others received. It’s not just the song itself I want to discuss but the UK and Eurovision as a whole.

I’m sure you all remember last year’s entry, that girl Molly (no surname) who nobody had heard of before with her song ‘Children of the Universe‘. I wasn’t convinced when I first heard it but it grew on me quite a lot in the weeks leading up to the final. I even remember her being one of the favourites to win, but no. As you can see from her performance she clearly enjoyed herself but she finished in a disappointing 17th. Perhaps partly due to being drawn last in the running order, but I’m done with excuses now.

Disappointment is what UK Eurovision fans have come to consider orthodox now. Since the turn of the century we’ve managed just two top 5 finishes, whilst we’ve come last three times. We’ve tried national selection, and in recent years the BBC have handpicked the acts who will will disappoint us further, and nothing is working for us.

It’s all political many say. Yes our only neighbours are Ireland really and we struggle to get 12 points off them most years but Europe knows a good song when they hear it, most of the time. And not many of the songs that we have picked in recent years have been good.

Go back two years, the BBC just couldn’t be arsed so we got Bonnie Tyler to butcher up one of her album tracks. While the original is great, the ‘Eurovision edit’ is a complete mess. 2012, Engelbert Humperdinck, the less said about that the better. Fair play to the Beeb in 2011, trying to help revive Blue’s career, but ‘I Can‘ couldn’t, and finished 11th.

If you go back even further, we only have ourselves to blame as before 2011 we had national selection, known as ‘Making Your Mind Up’. The last one saw Josh Dubovie voted, as our representative and we came last. 2009 was a fluke as Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber penned future Sugababe Jade Ewen’s ‘It’s My Time‘ which got fifth. 2008, last again, but we were hard done by in 2007.

The amazing Scooch

The amazing Scooch

In 2007 we picked an amazing song, truly representative of what Eurovision stands for. That year I do blame politics. Our entry was fun, camper than a row of tents, name-dropped half the countries in Europe but it still flopped. I’m not saying Scooch should have won that year, but they should have come second to Verka Serduchka. ‘Flying the Flag (For You)‘ was and remains our best entry of the 21st century. Shoutout to Daz Sampson too who changed the rap game forever and paved the way for your Drakes and co. in 2006.

One thing that has contributed to our demise is definitely the rule brought in 1999 where acts no longer had to sing in one of their countries native languages, and you look today, only six of the 40 songs aren’t sung at least in parts in English. But nevertheless, this country has produced some of the biggest artists the world has ever seen. The Beatles, The Spice Girls, more recently Adele, One Direction. Surely we have no excuse to under perform in a singing competition?

Back in the day we sent the likes of Cliff Richard, Olivia Newton John, Lulu, admittedly the majority only made it big afterwards, but ask yourself where the likes of Javine, Precious or even Molly a year on. You’d have thought she’d have capitalised on her national spotlight.

I’m not sure what it’d take for us, the general public and those in the music industry to respect the competition again for what it was, or even the rest of Europe, because I don’t think a good song can always save you if your reputation in recent years is dire. If the BBC want to pick and choose, there are many great acts out there. They have the best radio service in the country, approach a bigger name, aim high. Blue proved bringing in a relatively recent and decent act improved our position a bit. Artists with a solid fan base also, as it’s those who often do well. Promo is mightily important for Eurovision and having a head start there will work wonders.

Given internal selection hasn’t worked for us recently I think it’d be better if we got to pick again. As one of the ‘Big Five’ the UK qualify automatically to the final, and they’re one of the biggest financial contributors to the concert. That money coming from us, the TV Licence payers. It’s only fair that we should have some sort of say. At least then if we send something awful we only have ourselves to blame.

Which leads me on nicely to the official United Kingdom entry for Eurovision and the last, and by all means least, to be reviewed for this Complete(ly Irrelevant) Guide 2015.

40. United Kingdom

Electro Velvet – Still In Love With You

Awful.

And there you have it. You’ve heard all 40 songs and I hope you’ve enjoyed the guide this year. Three weeks to go until it all starts. Can’t wait. Thanks for reading…

In all seriousness. It’s really, really bad. Worse than Jemini. And I mean that.

Firstly Electro Velvet sounds like something you’d find at the back of Ann Summers, and the two members Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas both come across, in the video at least, as really stuck up, and you don’t even want to back them because of their personalities, never mind them having the worst song at Eurovision this year. I remember them, the bloke especially not taking to well the copious amounts of criticism this received when it arrived into our lives on March 9th (on the Red Button because clearly Eurovision isn’t that important anymore)

2015's UK entry Electro Velvet

2015’s UK entry Electro Velvet

I promised myself that night that I would never listen to this song again, including the performance in Vienna next month, if I could help it. I had to break that promise in order to review it here, but it’s still abysmal. I’m more accepting of it, but if we finished with nul point this year I genuinely wouldn’t care. I’d probably be pleased a song so awful had got what it deserved.

The song has no structure to it. Where is the chorus? The lyrics are poor: “You’re bound to get sneezes, or nasty diseases” Sorry what? The genre ‘electro swing’ as they call it, is really not in right now, and it has never been. And the video has so much going on which is totally stupid because in Vienna they’ll only be allowed four other people on stage with them. I can’t see that working at all.

It’s as if the BBC don’t want us to win. Which is silly because if you’re pumping so much money into the event then you might as well make the effort to do well. I was far too young when we last won in 1997, and we hosted it the following year in my local city Birmingham. I’d love to be able to attend a Contest in the UK, at some point in my life but at this rate that’s going to be a long time coming. Maybe this year they’re hoping Australia do the business and persuade them to host it here in 2016? I’m not sure, but something needs to change.

Still, bookmakers are intent of tricking us into thinking we have a chance with the odds they’ve set for us. It was the same last year, thinking Molly would do better than originally believing given her odds. I’m not having it this time. Don’t waste your money.

The BBC need to make changes next year, regardless of how this shower performs. Sod it, I might write a song and apply myself. If this is the standard…

Best Bet: 50/1 888sports outright, 40/1 Stan James, Bet 365, SkyBet

Rating: 0/10

So now we really have come to the end of my guide to Eurovision 2015. Just 22 days until it all kicks off in Vienna with the first semi final. No doubt you’ll have your favourites and I’d love to know who they are. Comment below or tweet me your thoughts, and any general feedback will be welcomed. Whether you’ve read all five parts or just this one I appreciate the time you’ve taken to do so!

Might do another one next year if I’ve got as much time on my hands then! Until then, whatever you’re doing, have a great time watching and vote for the Netherlands!

A Complete(ly Irrelevant) Guide To Eurovision 2015 (Part Four)

Euro1

So here we are. You’ve listened to and heard what I’ve had to say about 30 songs that will be performed in Vienna next month, but there are still ten more left for you to enjoy.

There’s a separate post coming your way tomorrow for the final participant in the 60th Eurovision Song Contest, the United Kingdom, but in the meantime here are the other nine.

31. Portugal

Leonor Andrade – Há um Mar que nos Separa

Portugal was another returning nation last year to the Eurovision Song Contest, but they needn’t have bothered, having failed to qualify into the Grand Final, something they’ve not managed since 2010. It’s likely to be the same again this year, as the bookies consider this the worst of the lot.

Leonor Andrade won Festival da Canção to book her place at Eurovision with this song, the title translating to ‘There’s a sea that separates us’. That’s about all I can say about this to be honest. I’m not fluent in Portuguese so I can’t understand the lyrics, though the chorus sounds alright.

Oh yeah, Andrade was on the Portuguese version of The Voice too, because that’s almost an essential requirement for Eurovision these days.

Best Bet: 250/1 (Stan James)

Rating 4/10

 

32. Romania

Voltaj – De la capăt / All Over Again

Romania have never failed to qualify from the semi-final since they were introduced so they’re already a good bet to make the the Grand Final in Vienna. Last year they finished 12th with one of my personal favourites ‘Miracle’ by Paula Seling & Ovi, who you may remember also finished 3rd in 2010 with the fantastic ‘Playing With Fire’.

Voltaj have been going for over 30 years, and they even have an MTV European Music Award to their name, which they won in 2005 (Best Romanian Act). ‘De la capăt’ is a pretty good track to be fair to them, to be performed mostly in their mother tongue, but in English in parts too, to so the song can be understood by us foreigners too. Another decent Eurovision chorus here. It won’t threaten for victory but it’s safely through. Middle of the pack I predict.

Best Bet: 100/1 (Stan James, Coral)

Rating: 6/10

33. Russia

Polina Gagarina – A Million Voices

This is really quite good. How annoying.

I’m not going to get all political but Russia have a habit of producing really good songs for Eurovision when I’d very much like for them to fail. Credit where it’s due though, this is one of the favourites to win for sure.

Polina Gagarina, a singer, songwriter, actress and model, was chosen internally by Russia’s Eurovision broadcaster and she’ll go into the competition under a lot of pressure. Russia’s never failed to qualify for the Grand Final when they’ve entered, a feat only matched by Romania and Greece, and they’re level with Sweden for the most Top 5 finishes in the 21st century doing so seven times. I’m sure she’ll thrive under said pressure though and I’d be foolish to bet against her making it eight top 5 finishes. Definitely worth an each way bet.

Rating: 8/10

Best Bet: 25/1 (Ladbrokes (E/W market only three places)) 20/1 (William Hill, Sportingbet, Betway)

34. San Marino

Anita Simoncini & Michele Perniola – Chain of Lights

San Marino aren’t much cop at most things. Until last year they had the worst national football team and as far as Eurovision is concerned they’re not much better. Last year however you could consider them a success. They made it to the Grand Final for the first time in their history and they didn’t come last!

They’ve decided not to send Valentina Monetta for a fourth year running, instead trusting a duo with a combined age younger than her! Both Anita and Michele are just 16 years-old and join Israel’s ‘Golden Boy’ as the youngest participants at this year’s contest. Anita represented San Marino at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest last year as part of a girl group and Michele is the brother of one of the other members of that group.

The song is rubbish though. I just hope they won’t get picked on when they go back to school having failed to make the Grand Final.

Best Bet: 200/1 (Bet365, Coral)

Rating: 3/10

35. Serbia

Bojana Stamenov – Beauty Never Lies

This sounds very Claire from Steps, so naturally I’m a fan. Bojana Stamenov won her national final with the Serbian version of this song, though she’ll be performing the English version in the final. The song is pretty average until about halfway through and it comes alive and sounds like something you’d find me raving to in a club. You can make your own minds up whether that’s a good thing or not. The message to the song is a great one too.

Bojana finished third in the Serbia’s version of the Got Talent franchise in 2012, but she’s teamed up with someone with winning experience for ‘Beauty Never Lies’. It’s written by Charlie Mason who has written for the likes of Miley Cyrus in the past, but probably most notably he co-wrote last year’s victorious entry ‘Rise Like A Phoenix‘ by Conchita Wurst. A good omen perhaps? Maybe, but he’s also written Slovenia’s entry so I guess we have another mini Eurovision battle on our hands (that absolutely none of you will care about).

Serbia won the first time they entered as an independent nation back in 2007, and return this year after a year away having failed to qualify for the Grand Final in 2013. This will be the first time their entry is performed in English, all those prior being in their national language. Bookmakers can’t seem to make up their minds with this one, current odds are all over the place, though most are expecting this to get a Saturday night performance.

Best odds: 125/1 (Coral)

Rating 8/10


36. Slovenia

Maraaya – Here For You

If you trust the bookmakers Slovenia could be on for their best ever Eurovision performance in Vienna next month. They’ve finished 7th on two occasions, the last of which being in 2001. In fact the country have only made it to the Grand Final three times since 2003 so they’re on a pretty awful run which I’m expecting to change here.

‘Here For You’ was written by that bloke I just mentioned who penned Conchita’s winning song last year and will be performed by ‘Maraaya’ A duo, Marjetka, the lady, who does all the singing, and Raay, who is a producer. You can tell they were very creative coming up with their band name…

She sounds a bit like Paloma Faith when she sings and he sounds like a poor man’s David Guetta tbh, and Raay produced Slovenia’s entry last year which flopped. The song is pretty decent, I wouldn’t place it anywhere near as high as the bookies, personally.

Best Bet: 25/1 (William Hill)

Rating 6/10


37. Spain

Edurne – Amanecer

Please allow me to take a moment to criticise Europe for its behaviour last year in not voting for Ruth Lorenzo. One of the best performances and songs in Copenhagen and she only managed 10th.

Moment over. Spain automatically qualify for the Grand Final as one of the ‘Big Five’ and have chosen (through internal methods) Edurne, a fairly successful singer in her country, to follow in Lorenzo’s footsteps. She’s done Spain’s versions of Fame Academy and Strictly Come Dancing in the past, but she’s probably best known (at least in this country) for doing Manchester United’s Spanish international goalkeeper David de Gea, with whom she’s in a long term relationship.

While her fella is a number one in his profession, I’m not sure ‘Amanecer’, English translation meaning ‘Dawn’, will be on the night of the 23rd May. A good song considering it’s in Spanish bearing in mind the Spanish I know is the middle 8 in Mi Chico Latino. I expect a mid-table finish. No Champions League for her next season.

Best Bet: 66/1 (Coral)

Rating: 7/10

38. Sweden

Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes

Sweden are really good at this Eurovision malarky. Like, really good. They go really well together, like strawberries and cream, or Ross and Rachel. If it weren’t for that marvellous combination I wouldn’t have been dancing like an idiot last Saturday night in the club to that Abba megamix…

 

Abba are just one of the many great acts Sweden have produced via Eurovision. Arguably the best ESC song of the 21st century and by far the most successful ever in terms of points was Loreen’s ‘Euphoria‘ three years ago, and since the turn of the decade they’ve finished top 3 on three occasions. It’ll be four out of five (six if you include the time they failed to make the final in 2011)  this time next month, mark my words.

This here is your winner I think. ‘Heroes’ won the 2015 Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s national selection, which is absolutely MASSIVE over there, by a landslide and is the bookies’ favourite to pick up the trophy in Vienna too. It does sound like an Avicii/David Guetta rip off but that’s about the only criticism I have for it, if you can even call that a bad thing.

Måns Zelmerlöw tried out twice before for this opportunity and beat 2011’s third place entrant Eric Saade to represent Sweden. He’s had a number one album in his homeland and is another reality show graduate, finishing 5th in Idol ten years ago now. Those who vote shamelessly will appreciate him, and whilst his song is great, the visuals, if they’re to be anything like Melodifestivalen, are even better. An each way bet here isn’t at all worth it. You might have to lump on this one if you want a decent return.

Best Bet: 6/4 (Betfred, Stan James, Ladbrokes)

Rating: 9/10

39. Switzerland

Mélanie René – Time to Shine

Penultimate song now you’ll be pleased to know. Switzerland have a decent history in Eurovision. The very first Song Contest was held there, and won by the hosts, and who can forget that they also have a previous winner in Celine Dion too!

Recently however the country has failed to live up to those heights, their best entry this century being 2005’s ‘Cool Vibes‘, which finished 8th. Only two of the last eight attempts have seen the Swiss make the Grand Final, and one of those finished bottom. The other was last year mind you, and that achieved a respectable 13th.

Can’t tell you much about Mélanie René other than she won her national selection at the end of January. The song is pretty average and the bookies think it’ll be another semi-final exit for them this year.

Best Bet: 200/1 Stan James

Rating: 5/10

So there you have it. You’ve now heard almost every song heading to Vienna next month. At this point you’ll be in a great position to have your own favourites and now’s the time to place your bets as the odds are shortening by the day.

Tomorrow I’m reviewing the last entry for this 60th anniversary contest, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out who that is. Yep, I’ll be treating you with an in-depth feature almost about our own UK entry and you won’t want to miss it.

Thanks for sticking with it so far. If this is the first of the four parts you’ve seen, you can catch up with what you’ve missed in part one, part two and part three by clicking the number, or clicking the home button at the top of the page. Again, thoughts, opinions and general feedback welcomed. Comment below or tweet me @blake2108

Until tomorrow…

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A Complete(ly Irrelevant) Guide to Eurovision 2015 (Part Three)

Euro1Hello again. Welcome back to this, my complete(ly irrelevant) guide to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. This is part three of five, so if you’ve missed the first 20 songs, you can catch up on them here and here.

Ten more entries for you now. Odds accurate as of 23rd April.

21. Italy

Il Volo – Grand amore

As one of the ‘Big 5’ Italy go straight to the Grand Final on the 23rd May. Since the country returned to the contest in 2011 after a 13 year absence Italy have done pretty well, finishing second in 2011, their only disappointment being last year’s 21st place.

The song chosen to represent them this year is actually 12 years old! It was written in 2003 and was considered for Italy’s biggest song contest Sanremo Music Festival way back in 2005 but was rejected for being ‘too old’. The track was shelved until this year when eventually operatic pop trio Il Volo took the song on, and with some modification, so the song fit the youthful age of the group, won this year’s 65th edition of the competition, which was the inspiration for the Eurovision Song Contest. As winners they were eligible to represent Italy in Vienna, an invitation they accepted.

‘Grande amore’, if you’re a fan of that genre of music is a great song, performed incredibly considering the oldest member of the band is just 21, and it’s no surprise to see them as high as second favourites with most bookmakers. Il Volo already have a top 10 album to their name in the US, and that was way back in 2010, so they travel to Austria with an impressive fanbase already, and they’re bound to add to that significantly, and perhaps the trophy too, at Eurovision.

Best Bet: 7/2 (Sportingbet, SkyBet, Paddy Power, William Hill, Betway)

Rating: 7/10

22. Latvia

Aminata – Love Injected

Another former winner who in recent years have really disappointed. 2002 winners Latvia have failed to qualify from the semi-finals six years running, three of those coming completely rock bottom. Can they at least make it to the final this year?

I wouldn’t like to say at this point in time. The song is very modern and personally I’m quite a fan of the electronic sound of this track, though I can quite easily see this dividing opinions. I also question how this will work on the night, in terms of both sound and stage production. Fingers crossed for Aminata, who won her national final Supernova comfortably, that it’s lucky number seven for Latvia.

Best Bet: 100/1 (Stan James, Coral)

Rating: 7.5/10

23. Lithuania

Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila – This Time

Lithuania’s best finish at the Eurovision Song Contest was sixth, back in 2006 with the somewhat ironically titled ‘We Are The Winners’, and since they’ve pretty much made up the numbers in the competition. After last year’s semi-final exit, Lithuania hope this uplifting number will indeed lift them higher up the final rankings.

Described as ‘The Common Linnets with a lot of prosac’ Monika and Vaidas sing a song perfect for Eurovision. Praised for their vocals and chemistry the track has received some good reviews already, and for Monika especially, I hope this does well – she’s tried and failed to represent her country at Eurovision in each of the last five years! Sixth time’s a charm, eh?

Best Odds (currently): 125/1 (Coral)

Rating: 7.5/10

24. Macedonia

Daniel Kajmakosi – Autumn Leaves

Another nation here who don’t do that well usually. Macedonia’s best ever placing was 12th, back in 2006, and they’ve only made it to the Grand Final once since 2007. They’ve turned to X Factor Adria (which covers Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Macedonia) winner Daniel Kajmakosi to change their Eurovision tides.

‘Autumn Leaves’ won Macedonia’s national selection process in its Macedonian version ‘Lisja esenski’ late last year and not only did that seal Kajmakosi’s ticket to Vienna, but a tasty €20,000 too. It’s one of the country’s better entries of recent years, that’s for sure and should, at the very least make it to the Grand Final this time round.

Best Bet: 125/1 (888sports, Unibet, 32Red (No E/W market)), 100/1 (Stan James, Coral, William Hill)

Rating: 7/10


25. Malta

Amber – Warrior

The final contender in the not at all highly anticipated ‘Battle of the Warrior’ here. This is the second track in the competition this year with the title after Georgia’s entry in part two of the review. Malta’s will be trying to break the trend of disappointing turn outs since the country matched it’s best ever result of 2nd in 2006 with the amazing ‘Angel’, the exception being lovely Gianluca a couple of years ago.

Gianluca tried out for this year in a band with members of his family but lost out and eventually Amber was chosen. The song has a very strong and memorable chorus which I’m sure will serve it well in Vienna. It should make the final at least, but in terms of the mini battle with Georgia, for me it loses out.

Best Bet: 100/1 (Coral, Stan James)

Rating: 7/10


26. Moldova

Eduard Romanyuta – I Want Your Love

Ukraine, producers of the best Eurovision song of all time, won’t be involved in this year’s contest, having withdrawn due to the challenges the country is facing at the moment, but they will be represented in some way thanks to Moldova’s entrant Eduard Romanyuta. Romanyuta, who is Ukranian, will represent Moldova this year having failed to represent his home nation three times previously. Having made the song with intentions to again try to represent Ukraine in the competition, their withdrawal forced his hand so he entered the running for Moldova instead, this time being successful.

Judging by this song it’s not too difficult to understand why he wasn’t chosen to represent Ukraine previously. It’s only OK, but the verses remind me of Liberty X’s ‘Just A Little‘ which is by no means a bad thing. ‘I Want Your Love’ is under pressure to maintain Moldova’s form of only missing the Grand Final twice since their first appearance in 2005, though one of those occasions was last year where they finished bottom in their semi-final. I think this one will miss out again if I’m honest.

Best Bet: 200/1 (Stan James)

Rating: 6/10


27. Montenegro

Knez – Adio

Last year was a great success for Montenegro, reaching the Grand Final for the first time in six attempts as an independent country, and finishing 19th overall. I’m not sure on their chances of improvement in Vienna however.

Knez, full name Nenad Knežević, is one of the oldest representatives at Eurovision at 47 and he’s been in the business for over 20 years now where he’s based in Serbia. He was chosen to represent Montenegro way back in October of last year in an internal selection process. His song ‘Adio’ is in Montenegrin so naturally I don’t understand a word, and I can’t see it doing well at all. The forty-odd second instrumental at the start won’t do it any favours whatsoever.

Best Bet: 125/1 (SkyBet, Coral)

Rating: 3/10


28. Netherlands

Trijntje Oosterhuis – Walk Along

This is the best song this year and you’re so wrong if you think anything different, including the bookmakers who have this down the bottom of the pack. It’s brilliant. First listen (which is vitally important given the nature of the contest) it had me hooked, and everything about it is amazing quite frankly.

Trijnte Oosterhuis has has great success in her native Holland for 20 years now, including two number one albums 14 years apart, and a duet with Lionel Richie to her name and she was selected by Dutch broadcasters to represent her country with ‘Walk Along’ A song we can all relate to I’m sure. It’s about being friendzoned basically, and hoping your friend will finally notice you in the different light that you see them in. Been there. But despite the emotional tone of the song it’s uplifting from the off and whilst perhaps a tad repetitive the chorus is brilliant. You’ll hear this and be singing ‘Why-ay-ay-ay’ quite a lot if I’m anything to go by.

Critics are worried those of us who do listen to the track in advance will eventually find it annoying but I know I haven’t yet, and for the majority who do hear it on the night, it’ll be one of the few that will stick out in people’s minds. Obviously the Dutch have found their form in the last two years and go to Vienna having just lost out to Conchita last year, so the pressure will be on Trijntje for a similar performance. That said she’s a wonderful character with great stage presence, not to mention all those years of experience on her side.

In my heart of hearts I concede that this probably won’t win. It should do in my opinion, and I’ll be voting should she make the Grand Final (she bloody better had make the final). It has great potential and I think the odds on her currently are far too harsh. I won’t be happy if this finishes any lower than top 10. But this is Eurovision, where the crazy and unexpected always happens.

Best Bet: 100/1 (Stan James, Coral)

Rating: 10/10


29. Norway

Mørland & Debrah Scarlett – A Monster Like Me

‘A Monster Like Me’ won Norway’s national selection competition Melodi Grand Prix by just 3,500 votes, but it’s a song with great potential going into the contest in Vienna next month, and the bookmakers have already considered it as one of the front runners.

This is a beautiful ballad, with plenty of emotion. Performed by Mørland, member of the British-Norweigian band Absent Elk (who by the way supported Girls Aloud on tour once upon a time) and Debrah Scarlett, who like many others who’ll be present in Austria is a former reality TV star. As with all ballads there’s a great risk of it killing the party atmosphere that Eurovision is known for, but I get the feeling the stage production for this will be great, so another Fairytale could be on the cards.

Best Bet: 25/1 Coral

Rating 7.5/10

30. Poland

Monika Kuszyńska – In The Name Of Love

Poland don’t tend to do that well at Eurovision. After two years away they returned last year and finished a respectable 14th with the quite catchy ‘My Słowianie’, though I reckon a fair bit of shameless voting went on there…

Unfortunately for the heterosexual male minority of Eurovision fans, this year’s representative won’t be relying on her breasts for votes, but her voice. Monika Kuszyńska, formerly a member of pop-rock band Varius Manx was selected internally to represent her country. In 2006 she and her bandmates were involved in a serious car accident and as a result she is paralysed from the waist down.

The song is good while you’re listening to it but you forget it almost instantly. It probably won’t make it past the semis.

Rating 6/10

Best Bet: 125/1 (Bet365, SkyBet, Coral)


So we’re three quarters of the way through now. Just ten more songs left for me to inform you of and criticise. I say this as one of those is the United Kingdom’s entry, an in-depth review of that to be published in Part Five on Monday. But before that, you’re welcome back tomorrow for the other nine. 

Again, all feedback (comments/tweets) is greeted with open arms and if you’ve not checked out parts one and two make sure you do.

Bye for now.

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A Complete(ly Irrelevant) Guide to Eurovision 2015 (Part Two)

Euro1

Hello and welcome back to this guide/preview/review of all 40 of the entrants for the Eurovision Song Contest held in Vienna in less than a month’s time.

You may well have missed the first ten efforts in yesterday’s introductory part (which you can check out here), to what I’d like to think is the best and easiest way for you all to listen to all the songs, find out a fact or two, create your own opinions to add to mine and also know where best to place your cash if you’re the betting type, without waiting until it all kicks off in four weeks time!

I’m just going to crack on with this. Here are the next ten nations, in alphabetical order. Enjoy!

(Remember odds are up to date as of 23rd April (Yesterday))

 

11. Estonia

Elina Born & Stig Rästa – Goodbye To Yesterday

2012 Estonian Pop Idol runner up Elina Born represents her country this year at Eurovision with singer-songwriter Stig Rästa. This track clocked up 79% of the vote in the national selection process and will aim to better last year when Estonia failed to reach the Grand Final.

Since winning the competition in 2001 the nation has struggled to reach anywhere near those heights, often failing to qualify from the semi-finals. They could well do this year though, with the bookmakers currently considering them one of the favourites. Personally I think there are a fair few better than this, but it’s certainly not a bad entry at all.

Best Bet: 10/1 (Betfred (No E/W market)), 9/1 (Betway)

Rating 6/10

 

12. Finland

Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät – Aina mun pitää

Finland have produced two of my favourite entries the last couple of years with cute boyband Softengine last year and the slightly controversial but massively brilliant ‘Marry Me’ by Krista Siegfrids in 2013. But this is… different.

First listen I think I managed six seconds before bursting into a fit of laughter. It rendered me speechless. This song will divide Europe. It’ll either finish wil nil point or run away with it. It reminds me very much of Lordi, who won for Finland back in 2006 and once you know the backstory you might agree with me that it’s a stroke of genius on their part.

PKN are a punk rock band made up of members who are all learning disabled, living with autism and down syndrome, and are quite well known in their homeland after a documentary about them ‘The Punk Syndrome’ premiered in Finland back in 2012. The English translation to ‘Aina mun pitää’ is ‘I always have to’ and the song is about having to engage in daily chores such as washing up, and the band have entered in the hope of raising more awareness for people with Down Syndrome.

The song has already broken records being the first punk rock entry in Eurovision history and it’s also the shortest song ever at just 85 seconds long. It’ll be very interesting to see how well they fare. The bookies have them down as one of the front runners.

I don’t know how to describe this entry without sounding incredibly harsh or incredibly patronising, so I’m just going to do both: The song itself is just noise quite frankly, though the ‘Aina mun pitää’ hook is one that catches on. If you’d heard the song without knowing who they are or what they looked like (as I did originally) you’d think it was some kind of joke. It’s still not the worst of the lot in my opinion, but I imagine the jury side of voting will be very low indeed. However, I can’t help but admire them, and I really want them to do well. I have a lot of time for anyone who stands up to discrimination and stereotypes of any kind and the message they’re putting out is a fantastic one, whilst having a hell of a lot of fun by the looks of things too. I can’t wait to see them perform in Vienna and I wish them all the best.

Best Bet: 25/1 (Betfred (No E/W market), 22/1 (Betway)

Rating: 1/10


13. France

Lisa Angell – N’oubliez pas

France haven’t won this competition in almost 40 years, and are one of the founding members if you like, having only missed two editions in the competition’s history. As one of the ‘Big 5’ they qualify automatically into the Grand Final, but in recent years they’ve performed pretty awfully. Last year they had the honour of finishing last after Twin Twin got them two measly points with ‘Moustache’, a song I quite liked actually (which probably suggests you shouldn’t trust my opinion at all!).

Once again I can’t see France doing much better. Their song is in French, as they always have been, at least partially, and I don’t think that does them many favours. A success for them on current form would be Top 20 and with this song I’m not even sure if they’ll manage that. Considering they are one of the big five, it is a shame that they don’t put more effort into their selection process, this year picked by the broadcaster.

Best Bet: 125/1 (Coral)

Rating: 3/10

 

14. Georgia

Nina Sublatti – Warrior

‘Battle of the Warrior’’s first contender. Malta are sending a song with the same name which could cause some confusion! This is Georgia’s entry, performed by former Idol winner Nina Sublatti, who looks a bit like Jessie J at times in her video. Warrior is about Georgian women who strive to be ‘good women, good mothers, good teachers’ and apparently it was written in just three hours in the middle of the night.

For three hours work this is pretty damn good. A very strong entry for me, with a powerful chorus, fitting with the song’s title. Georgia had literally the worst song of them all last year, finishing last in their semi-final, so literally anything is an improvement, but I would expect a solid middle of the pack finish in Vienna.

Best Bet: 200/1 (Bwin (No E/W market)), 100/1 (Bet365, Coral, Stan James, William Hill)

Rating: 8/10

 

15. Germany

Ann Sophie – Black Smoke

Another one of the ‘Big 5’ Germany qualify automatically, and they’ve sent a song every year since Eurovision started. Success came as recently as 2010 with Lena’s ‘Satellite’ but since they’ve struggled, finishing as low as 21st in 2013 when Cascada represented them,with a song worthy of so much more in ‘Glorious’.

This year’s attempt is by Ann Sophie, who was actually born in London, but moved to Germany as a child with her German parents. The UK influence doesn’t end there. Upon hearing this song I thought it sounded very Paloma Faith/Ella Eyre, and it turns out the latter co-wrote ‘Black Smoke’.

Ann Sophie didn’t actually win her national selection though, in fact she finished second by quite a distance. Andreas Kümmert took almost 80% of the final votes in Unser Song für Österreich with the song ‘Heart of Stone’, but instead of celebrating his win upon announcement, he took to the stage and said he couldn’t accept, citing that he felt Sophie was ‘much more qualified and suited’. Debatable as I think he could have done quite well. And with Sophie not even being the preferred choice in her own country I worry for her chances with the whole of Europe (and Australia) voting.

Best Bet: 125/1 (Boylesports (E/W only three places))

Rating: 6/10

 

16. Greece

Maria-Elena Kyriakou – One Last Breath

Shock, another reality show contestant represents a country this year as the first ever The Voice of Greece winner got the nod to represent them in Vienna next month. Having won that, Maria-Elena Kyriakou then won the Greek national selection competition too, though she’s actually from Cyprus, and comes from a successful family – Her brother is a Cyprus international footballer.

‘One Last Breath’ will look to keep up Greece’s record of having always made the Grand Final when they’ve entered. It’s ten years since they won the competition for the only time but I don’t think the song, a nice, but forgettable balad, will be among the challengers for the trophy this year. An improvement on last year’s 20th will be expected however.

Best Bet: 100/1 Coral

Rating: 5.5/10

 

17. Hungary

Boggie – Wars For Nothing

Hungary achieved it’s best result last year since the first time they entered the Grand Final, coming 5th with András Kállay-Saunders’ effort ‘Running’. Boggie would no doubt be pleased with a similar result this time round.

There’s a rule in Eurovision where you can’t have songs that reference any political goings on, though Boggie’s entry does sound as though it’s that way inclined, perhaps towards the conflict in Israel? The beautiful lyrics in ‘Wars For Nothing’ are quite generic though so she won’t get into any trouble with this. I must admit that like with Greece this is probably a little bit too slow for Eurovision for me. There’s a risk of it being forgotten about quite quickly after it’s performed.

Best Bet: 100/1 (Coral, William Hill)

Rating: 6.5/10


18. Iceland

Maria Olafs – Unbroken

To be quite honest with you, I’m still fuming this absolute banger back in 2010 by Hera Bjork didn’t win. Five years on I’ll be just as angry if Iceland aren’t right up there this time round. After the colourful Pollapönk finished in the bottom half in Copenhagen last year Maria Olafs is tasked with improving that. Iceland have never won Eurovision, twice runners up, and ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ aside, this is the most deserving of going one better. I’d be really happy if this won.

“One step at a time/I’ll pick up the pieces/Try and put them back together/’Til I’m unbroken” Most of us can relate to these lyrics in some capacity. The song, whilst tugging on the heartstrings and getting all up in your feelings, is catchy, memorable and sung beautifully too. Be assured you will be caught out singing it in the car or belting it out in the shower at some point. It won the Icelandic national selection competition as ‘Litil Skref (Little Steps)’ in its original language before being translated to the version you will hear in Vienna in May.

Though that’s been in a bit of doubt of late, as a legal strike is ongoing over there as notaries who usually oversee and verify the voting process of Iceland’s professional Eurovision jury are in a dispute over wages. I know I won’t be the only one absolutely seething if they do have to pull out, so for the sake of us all, pick up the pieces and put them back together, fast.

Best Bet: 50/1 (Boylesports & Ladbrokes (E/W market only three places)), 40/1 (Bet365, William Hill)

Rating: 9.5/10

 

19. Ireland

Molly Sterling – Playing With Numbers

For a country who is the most successful in Eurovision history with seven victories, Ireland have been on a bad run of late. Their last win was way back in 1996 and it speaks volumes that Jedward (the first time) were their most successful entry in the last 15 years. Last year Ireland didn’t even qualify for the final and the year before that they did, but finished last.

This won’t make it eight for Ireland but it should outdo the last few years at least. Molly Sterling just about won her national selection with this lovely piano number, standard for Eurovision for me. Not brilliant and not awful. The bookies don’t have it qualifying from the semi finals but I reckon it will.

Best Bet: 125/1 (Stan James, Coral)

Rating: 6/10

 

20. Israel

Nadav Guedj – Golden Boy

AND BEFORE I LEAVE LET ME SHOW YOU TEL AVIV!

This is brilliant. You have to give it time because it starts quite slowly, but it is vintage Eurovision once it gets going. The chorus is one of the strongest in the competition this year for me and this is one of my favourites.

Israel have been terrible of late. They’ve failed to make it out of the semi-finals in the last four years (though Dana International’s ‘Ding Dong’ in 2011 really should have), and the nation, whose last win came courtesy of Dana right here in Birmingham in 1998, are this year putting their hopes on a 16 year-old lad.

Nadav Guedj will be one of the youngest competitors in Vienna after winning his national heats. He was then given this song which is the first in Israel’s Eurovision history to be sung completely in English. The bookmakers aren’t convinced but I’d like this to do well.

Best Bet: 125/1 (888Sport, Unibet, 32Red (No E/W market)), 100/1 (SkyBet, Sportingbet, Bet Victor, Stan James, Coral)

Rating: 8/10

 

That’s your lot for today and this marks the halfway point of The Complete(ly Irrelevant) Guide to Eurovision 2015. A reminder, if you’re yet to see the first ten entries reviewed you can do so right here. Again, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’ve heard so far, so comment or send me a tweet or two, unless it’s criticism of Iceland for which I will not tolerate in the slightest. See you tomorrow for the next ten!

 

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A Complete(ly Irrelevant) Guide to Eurovision 2015 (Part One)

Euro1

I hope you’ve all got your Advent calendars because Christmas is almost upon us folks. Yes, you read that right. Today marks one month before the greatest celebration of the year, where points are given, not presents, and carols are replaced with the most weird and wonderful vocal performances you are likely to see. Eurovision is back!!

Last year's winner Conchita Wurst

Last year’s winner Conchita Wurst

Like the three wise men way back when, On the 23rd May thousands from around the world will flock this year to Vienna to witness the birth of a brand new saviour, while millions more will watch on TV, gathered with loved ones in celebration for such an important occasion.

Austria will be the host this year, the 60th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest after Jesus Christ’s doppelgänger Conchita Wurst rose to victory with her song aptly named ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’ And she’ll be part of an all-female hosting team for the very first time too in Vienna.

Another first for the competition is of course Australia’s invitation to compete as a guest in this anniversary edition, the first time an Oceanic nation has entered. Eurovision is loved by many beyond the continent and Australia are second to none for this, despite the show being broadcast in the middle of the night over there. They’ll head straight to the Grand Final and will be invited back next year if they win it, though they’ll be unable to host, for obvious reasons, with their broadcaster organising the event in a European city of its choosing.

In total there will be 40 participants this year, of whom seven qualify automatically to the Grand Final: Austria as holders/hosts, The ‘Big Five’ – the biggest contributors to the European Broadcasting Union – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and of course the United Kingdom, as well as guests Australia. The remaining 33 countries will compete for the remaining 20 places in the Grand Final in two semi-finals on the 19th and 21st May.

I’d like to welcome you at this point to this my ‘Complete(ly irrelevant) Guide to Eurovision 2015’ or so I’ve called it. Irrelevant as I’m not sure how much of the content other than the songs themselves you’ll actually care about, but quite frankly I have a lot of time on my hands and it’s done now.

This guide will preview ALL 40 songs heading to Vienna next month, providing you with plenty of facts about them. You know when they have those stupid videos between songs and Graham Norton tells you about the next song? Basically that in written form. However I’ll also be providing you with links to memorable songs of Eurovision past as well as offering the latest and best odds and the occasional betting tip for if you fancy a flutter on the Contest this year, and of course, most importantly my own thoughts on the entries, should I have any. I’ll be rating them all out of 10 anyway.

I don’t think anyone will want to sit and listen to 40 songs at once, and I sure damn well didn’t when writing this, so this is how it’s going to work. This will be split into five parts. This is part one if you haven’t noticed. A new part will be published each day until I run out of parts. I’m reviewing all the songs in alphabetical order of country. You’ll have ten songs today, another ten tomorrow and ten the day after that. You’re only getting nine on Sunday because I’m treating you to an in-depth review of the UK entry, convenient as it’s last on the list alphabetically anyway, on Monday.

FYI the odds are changing by the day, and all odds posted throughout the guide are available each way, four places at a quarter of the odds, unless stated otherwise and are current as of today (23rd April).

Let’s begin.

01. Albania 

Elhaida Dani – I’m Alive

 

Albania failed to get past the semi-final stage last year and they’ll be hoping for much better this year. Elhaida Dani won her national contest to represent her country in Vienna late last year with the song ‘Diell’, however in February it was announced that the song’s writers had decided to withdraw it from the competition and the 22 year-old would perform something else. A day later it was confirmed that this is that something.

I’m glad the song was withdrawn as firstly I’m not overly fond of songs in other languages, but secondly, this is just a much better track in my opinion. While I don’t think it’ll be up there at the top I would be very surprised Albania weren’t represented in the Grand Final for the first time since their best ever finish of 5th in 2012.

Best Bet: 66/1 (SkyBet, Coral)

Rating: 6.5/10

02. Armenia

Genealogy – Face Every Shadow

Armenia achieved their joint-best result last year with Aram MP3 finishing 4th with ‘Not Alone’, although I don’t think they’ll manage to do as well this time around. An internal selection process was used to create the six-member band with five different representatives from the Armenian diaspora commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Performers from Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Australia represent the group unified by a sixth member from Armenia. Amid controversy of the political themes within the song it was renamed last month to ‘Face The Shadow’, having originally been titled ‘Don’t Deny’

The song itself, I’m not too keen on having had a few listens. I expect the background of the band and it’s tribute to be a large factor in any success it has, though that could also be the song’s downfall.

Best Bet: 80/1 (Coral)

Rating: 4/10

03. Australia

Guy Sebastian – Tonight Again

Welcome to Eurovision Australia! I think it’s a wonderful gesture to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the competition to invite them to compete. You may remember last year they had a segment dedicated to them during the voting interval, being a nation with such a cult following. As mentioned they go directly to the Grand Final with their first ever entry, performed by Guy Sebastian, a very successful singer-songwriter and former Australian Idol winner who was picked by SBS for this one-off entry.

A catchy song written and readied in just a week, ‘Tonight Again’ is quite fitting of the occasion and naturally it’s one of the favourites and is expected to do very well. It may be in our best interests that it does win, as I’m sure the UK would be considered as one of the possible candidates to host next year if that becomes reality, though rumour has it Germany would get the gig.

Best Bet: 6/1 (SkyBet)

Rating: 7.5/10

04. Austria

The Makemakes – I Am Yours

 

I’m quietly confident Conchita Wurst won’t be handing over her microphone trophy to her fellow countrymen next month. The Makemakes, an Austrian pop-rock trio, won their national competition to represent them on home soil with this particular number.

The song is quite dull. I’m not a fan, and the bookies aren’t convinced either. Probably ideal if you’re Austria’s broadcaster. It’s a very expensive competition to host, and I can’t imagine them wanting to do it two years running!

Best Bet: 125/1 (Coral)

Rating: 3.5/10

05. Azerbaijan

Elnur Huseynov – Hour of the Wolf

 

Since their first entry in 2008, Azerbaijan have consistently performed well in the competition, with five top 5 places in a row, including victory in 2011, prior to last year. However last year saw their worst ever finish of 22nd. They’ve called upon half of their very first entry and The Voice Turkey winner Elnur Huseynov, whom with Samir came 8th in 2008, to turn things back round for them this year.

Hour of the Wolf’ is a nice little ballad. It will better last year’s entry I’m certain, and given the country’s previous success in recent years it could well challenge for top spot. An each way bet would have returned you something in three of the last four years so you might want to consider one here.

Best Bet: 33/1 (Ladbrokes)

Rating: 7/10

06. Belarus

Uzari & Maimuna – Time

It’s fourth time lucky for Uzari, having been a backing singer in the 2011 contest and having failed in national selection in both 2012 and 2013. He’ll be representing Belarus in Vienna with violinist Maimuna, where he’ll hope to better last year’s tasty effort ‘Cheesecake’ and 2013’s ‘Solayoh’, both placing 16th. 2011 winner Alexander Rybak had written a song for his country of birth to send, however it was beaten by Uzari.

Quite a catchy entry, this is what I would call typical Eurovision. Solid overall but a strong chorus there, so I expect for a similar result for Belarus again this year, propping up the rest in the Grand Final

Best Bet: 100/1 (Boylesports (E/W only three places), 80/1 (SkyBet)

Rating: 6.5/10

07. Belgium

Loïc Nottet – Rhythm Inside

Belgium have been very poor this last decade, with only two entries since 2004 making it through to the Grand Final. A change in selection process saw Loïc Nottet, a 19 year-old former The Voice Belgique finalist picked for this year’s Eurovision without a televote.

The song is growing on me a lot having heard it for the first time a few weeks ago and I’m intrigued to see the production for this on the night as the music video for ‘Rhythm Inside’ is unusual to say the least. Nottet may well get a shameless vote or two from me.

Best Bet: 66/1 (Boylesports (E/W only three places)), 50/1 (SkyBet, Coral, Stan James, William Hill)

Rating: 7/10

08. Cyprus

John Karayiannis – One Thing I Should Have Done

Cyprus chose not to enter last year after failing to qualify out of the semi finals in six of the last eight years, but they’re back, and in all honesty I doubt the year out has made much difference. Nevertheless it’s down to John Karayiannis to prove me wrong with his song ‘One Thing I Should Have Done’ having won Cyprus’ national selection back in February.

The song itself just bores me. I really wish I could say more about it, but the few times I’ve listened to it I’ve felt nothing. Not to mention it’s very forgettable too. I’ll probably go for a toilet break when it’s performed.

Best Bet: 100/1 (Coral)

Rating: 4/10

09. Czech Republic

Marta Jandová & Václav Noid Bárta – Hope Never Dies

Another returning country to Eurovision, after a six year absence the Czech Republic are hoping for an improvement on years previous which led to their withdrawal. This is only the fourth time they’ve competed and in the previous three they’ve failed to make it to the final, joining Andorra as the only entrant to never have participated in a Grand Final.

Once again though, I’m sorry to say I don’t think they’ll manage to this year either. This reflects what I think of Cyprus’ entry only I like this song even less. The bookies agree with me too. Apologies Marta and Václav.

Best Bet: 200/1 (Bet365, Stan James, Coral)

Rating: 2.5/10

10. Denmark

Anti Social Media – The Way You Are

Last year’s hosts Denmark will be hoping to add to their three victories in Vienna after putting on a wonderful show last year, following Emmelie de Forest’s win with ‘Only Teardrops’ in 2013. This year it’ll be up to Anti Social Media, a pop-rock band to continue Denmark’s good form of finishing in the top 10 in four of the last five years.

Bookmakers suggest that won’t happen, with surprisingly long odds, however I really like the song, it’s catchy and upbeat and the band reminds me slightly of Denmark’s top 5 entry by A Friend In London back in 2012. I hope it does better than at least the bookies predict and I’ll probably vote just because of the cute guitarist to be honest…

Best Bet: 125/1 (SkyBet, Coral)

Rating: 6.5/10

So there you have the first 10. Have a listen and make your own minds up and let me know what you think of the entries so far either by commenting below or tweeting me. Tomorrow 10 more countries will face my not at all important opinion. Be sure to come back and check that out!

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Far from a Love Story: A blog about Taylor Swift, Spotify and the current state of the music industry.

She was the best one.

She was the best one.

I’ve decided to branch out a bit for this one. I Almost Do* all my blogs about football and I fancied a change. So this one is about music – And don’t worry it’s not 1500 words on why Victoria Beckham was the best Spice Girl, for those of you already familiar with my (some say appalling, I say wonderful) taste in music.

Anyway, this is about Taylor Swift and the beef she’s got with Spotify.

If you don’t know Taylor Swift, that country-turned-pop singer, made famous in the UK for her song about how Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet would have concluded if it were written by Disney, and for a goat’s very accurate impression of her, has banned top music streaming site Spotify from uploading not only her new album ‘1989’ (yes that was the year she was born) but also her entire back catalogue.

Below is her latest single (which is not on Spotify).

 

Taylor claims that music is art and art is valuable and valuable things should be paid for, hence why she’s not allowed Spotify to upload the new album, and why she’s removed the rest of her music from the site. And to a great extent she is right. Music is art and it should be paid for – but many people do pay for the privilege of Spotify (Premium) and she does, well would, actually get a cut of that.

For readers of a certain age, this isa cassette. This is how some of us once listened to music

For readers of a certain age, this is a cassette. This is how some of us once listened to music.

A massive music fan myself, I use Spotify but It’s not my sole or main source of music. If I’m honest I preferred the music industry when I was a kid, before YouTube, before iTunes and before Spotify, where I’d have to watch The Box or MTV (When MTV was actually music orientated and not the Geordie Shore, 16 and Pregnant-filled nonsense it is today) all day in the hope I’d see my new favourite song/video, and wait until the release date to finally listen to a song/album at my own leisure and it be a physical, tangible CD or going back even further, cassette tape.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that I can now access almost any song I want and purchase/stream it at my heart’s content, I mean, think of the number of Charity Shops I’d have had to have traipsed through to find Adam Rickitt’s ‘I Breathe Again’ on CD Single if I hadn’t downloaded it off iTunes… But ultimately downloading and now streaming is killing the music industry.

Taylor’s not the only one suffering from poorer music sales. Singles these days have to be brand spanking new to stand any chance of chart success, for as soon as an album is released, you can buy that song any time you like, much earlier than the ‘official release date’ which is now pretty much pointless for these songs. Back in the day You’d either have to pay the tenner for the album or wait until the single was released on CD if it was just that you wanted.

I’m a traditionalist. Whilst I’ve spent well over £100 in the last year or so on iTunes, I have never bought a full album via download. I prefer the physical copy (which I can transfer to iTunes myself anyway). I like to look at the photos, lyrics and thank yous in the booklet as I’m listening to the album, and while physical albums are available to purchase I will continue doing so, even if it is cheaper to download them.

So, if I want to buy Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ I’d pop to HMV and get it. It’s upsetting that some great songs/albums don’t get the sales/chart recognition they deserve because of the recent advances in technology, but that’s how it goes. And in all fairness, whilst the internet has it’s downsides in the music industry, it has a lot of positives too.

Nearly 20 million people watched Nicki Minaj do this in the 'Anaconda' video just one day.

Nearly 20 million people watched Nicki Minaj do this in the ‘Anaconda’ video in just one day.

Think of the acts signed up because thanks to recognition of their ‘art’ uploaded to YouTube. In fact three ‘YouTube stars’ even appeared on the new Band Aid single, which speaks volumes. Uploading music videos to the site as opposed to having to wait/request them on music channels again generates more interest and more sales. Would 19.6 million people in the space of just 24 hours have been able to see Nicki Minaj twerking in every position known to man ten years ago?

Not to mention, could Beyoncé have Beyoncéd her album ‘Beyoncé’ ten years ago and it have anywhere near the success it has done? Nope.

But yeah there are issues with the music industry these days and I can understand it causing some concern to Ms Swift. On the contrary, I can’t help but feel in this situation her issue with Spotify is just her being greedy.

I am a Taylor Swift fan, more so recently when lead single from the new album ‘Shake It Off’ dropped. Having heard and paid for That. Sick. Beat. I was looking forward to hearing the rest of the record, as were many other people, but was left disappointed when I found out I couldn’t get hold of it on Spotify. I like to try before I buy and I’m not prepared, in this day and age, to spend my money on an album I’ve yet to hear, unless it’s by one of my absolute favourite artists, and I’m sorry Tay, but you’re not one of mine (yet).

The record breaking album that we can't listen to on Spotify.

The record breaking album that we can’t listen to on Spotify.

Taylor wanted Swift record sales, and she got them as people did go out and buy, or stay in and download, her album, making ‘1989’ number one in both America and the UK, having sold 1.28 million copies, giving her the highest first week sales since 2002. She knows she’s not the Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo of the game that is the (female) music industry so she’s employed that tactic and it paid off for her, but at some price.

I’ve still not heard the album in full, somewhat hypocritical of me having uploaded a photo of my own recreation of the cover, and whilst I love what I’ve heard so far and having heard rave reviews of the album, I don’t like the idea that I have to pay for the whole thing in case the 10+ tracks I haven’t heard are shit.

My friend Bally, one of the most dedicated music fans I know (He’s been to see Beyoncé about 163 times in the last year, both here and abroad (and she isn’t cheap)), agrees that Taylor’s mugging folk off for these sales records when actually she’s doing more harm than good.

I won’t quote Bally (because he aired his views via Snapchat which is not the most ideal method of interview if I’m quite honest with you) but he won’t mind me giving you the gist of what he said. He feels that artists like Taylor who do want to maximise first week sales have every right to, but feels after that the records should be made available to stream.

We mustn’t forget that since July of this year Spotify and other streaming websites (there are other streaming websites?!) actually contribute to chart position in the UK, but Bally thinks that only after the first two or three weeks of an album being released, where it gets the majority of its sales, it should go on to Spotify, and I can’t help but agree that that’s the fairest way around it.

People are missing out. I know if I heard the album in full and I liked it enough, I’d go out and buy it. I’m sure my friend would too, and he’s a Spotify Premium user who pays a monthy fee to access music. True music fans will pay for what they feel is worth paying for, for the hard work and creativity they put into their ‘art’ but by denying people a chance to listen to her music legally, the truth is Taylor Swift is inviting people to do so illegally.

This is the Spotify logo in case people didn't know.

This is the Spotify logo in case people didn’t know.

It’s so very easy to illegally download music so Taylor shouldn’t really piss her fans and Spotify off by denying them. I know All Too Well* that Spotify might not bring in as much money, but more people will listen to her music, she’ll gain more fans as a result and ultimately as Spotify is legal, she’d be a damn sight better off than if people illegally downloaded her stuff, which I might have to do if she doesn’t book her ideas up.

I’m on her side to some extent but Everything Has Changed* in the music industry in recent years and if I had to pay for every song, sorry, three minute pieces of art I’ve ever enjoyed there’d be a considerably large Blank Space* in my music collection. So if the ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ singer could retract that statement this once and become BFFs with Spotify again that would be quite nice thank you.

Let’s add a poll.

*These are really poor puns based on Taylor Swift song titles.

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I’m sorry if any of this makes little sense, I just wanted to talk about it.

I suffer with depression. Last night I broke down quite badly. Hours later it was announced that legendary actor and funnyman Robin Williams had died. He had killed himself and he too suffered with depression.

I am a journalism graduate, and for the first time in months, maybe in a year, I’m writing something that isn’t forced. Something that I’ve not had to write. For the first time in so long, may it be only for a very short time, I’ve got that passion back. It’s a shame it’s taken the events of the last 24 hours for this to happen.

I’m not quite sure why I’m writing this. To speak out? Maybe even cry for help? I don’t really know. I want to help others and and voice my opinions on such a raw subject, and I guess let you in on what I’m going through, if I can explain it at all well enough. Forgive me if any of this makes little sense, my head’s been all over the place lately.

Last night the deepest of tragedies left the world talking about mental health.

“How can someone with all that money, all that success be depressed?”

“How can someone be so good at making everyone else happy yet be incapable of finding happiness for himself?”

“How could he be so selfish to commit suicide?”

These are some of the things people have asked. Uneducated people perhaps. I don’t want to be too hard on them, because I guess if they don’t get it then they’ve not had mental illness trouble them in life, and they’re so lucky for it. Allow me to try and answer a few of those questions.

Depression doesn’t care if you’re old or young, fat or thin, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor, successful or otherwise. if it’s going to get you, it will. It’s a vicious illness, one that affects so many of us. In the UK alone one in four of us will experience some kind of mental health problem within the course of a year, while there are approximately 450,000,000 mental health sufferers worldwide.

You’ll only know if someone is suffering if they tell you. Perhaps you might see the scars if they’e cut themselves, but for many of us, we put on a brave face so you wouldn’t know, and telling someone is really fucking difficult by the way.

You don’t want to burden anyone with your suffering. You’re embarrassed, ashamed, angry that you’re in such a negative frame of mind. You don’t think others will understand the pain you’re going through, what you’re feeling or how you’re feeling. Often they don’t and that is a real issue. So many sufferers do so in silence, to the point depression has been given the tag as the ‘silent killer’ as a result.

I mentioned pain there. It is pain. It’s just not physical so people don’t notice. This image illustrates quite well how many people respond to mental health issues, and how ridiculous it looks when you compare that to physical pain.

If physical injuries/health were treated like mental health/illness

If physical injuries/health were treated like mental health/illness

 

Sometimes it seems that I have no place

And I don’t know what to do, with myself

Night after another, I can taste the filth inside

And I need to cleanse my soul.

Nobody knows, nobody cares that I die on the inside

Nobody sees the lie that is me as I smile on the outside

Nobody knows, nobody cares that I walk on the wrong side

Tell me who… Nobody

All the friends that I had, where are they now?

Guess I’m far too intense to be loved

All the things that I hate, I hate about myself

And I need to cleanse my soul.  – “Nobody” – Amy Studt.

Those are lyrics to a song that, for me at least, relate better than I can put into words how I feel when I am depressed. You feel so alone. At times all you wish for is someone to just ask you how you are. How you really are. From my experience a lot of the time that’s what I feel I need, someone to talk to, someone who seems like they care.

My suffering, I believe, stems from a tough childhood. One where I was bullied regularly throughout my school life, not being as clever as I’d like to be (apparently I’m borderline autistic) and also having to deal with my sexuality. I’m from a family who has always struggled financially too.

I moved away at the first opportunity, to university, primarily for a fresh start in life, a first chance to be the man I wanted to be without the fear of what others thought of me. I wanted to get away and prove that I actually am good at something.

I did all that. Those were the best three years of my life, the last two anyway. I was in a place where I was accepted for who I am, and could be who I was, with no fear. I really found myself, a place I was genuinely happy for the first time in my life. I also got my degree, a 2:1 – I’d even surpassed my own expectations! Now I still had the odd bad day every now and then, but that’s all it ever was, a bad day.

Now I’m sat here back at home, back where I hated life. I’m here without the things and more importantly the people who made me happy at uni. I’m back living with my mother, and as much as I love her, the best part of three years away was great. I could do what I wanted when I wanted without anyone telling me what to do. I was independent and I loved it. I’m that unconfident, unhappy, unsociable 17 year old boy again who I fucking despised, and I feel trapped.

I’m currently looking for work. That’s the sugar-coated way of saying I’m on the dole, signing on every week. Associated with the slobs you see on TV. I’m embarrassed and ashamed at this too. I was working back in Chelmsford and had to give the job up to come back home. To be fair it wouldn’t have paid enough because I had my student loan back then. £57 in JSA just about affords a pot for me to piss in, the 35p Tesco Value pot noodles I’ve been living off at the moment. No nights out, no football matches – the things I actually enjoyed in life I can’t do. I can’t even go and see the handful of friends I have back here because I can’t afford the bus fare.

I’m also moving house. Moving from the family home that I’ve lived in since the day I was born. This is also very stressful, understandably. Trying to shift 35 years of crap from the house when it’s just you and mum, both out of work (my mum for health reasons) and broke. It’s taken its toll on both of us. Forever arguing because I’m not pulling my weight apparently, when I’m trying to juggle all this with looking for a job, with the now non-existent social life, my depression etc.

I don’t feel appreciated by my family in that respect. I don’t think they realise how tough being back home is for me, how tough it is without my friends, without the social life that took me 20 years to get, without a job, without any money. And they treat me as if I’m still a child. Mum’s the priority (don’t get me wrong the last few years have been very tough for her too for various reasons) but they forget about me. They forget, or don’t realise that I’m suffering too and that I’m 21 next week and have a life of my own which I sometimes need to put first.

That’s what caused the breakdown last night. Me and Mum argued for the umpteenth time since I’ve been back and we both boiled over. I spent an hour crying. Went out and sat at a random bus stop for an hour in an attempt to clear my head. It didn’t really help. Then I came home to the news depression had taken another great man from us.

Robin Williams 1951 - 2014

Robin Williams 1951 – 2014

Selfish? No, not at all. The problem with mental illness is that you feel like there is nowhere to turn. Suicide is the last resort. You’ve tried, you’ve battled but there is no light in the tunnel of your troubled mind. You’re alone, even with people around you. There’s no way out.

I’ve never attempted suicide. I guess I’m lucky in that respect, that I’ve never been that bad. I don’t think I’d have the bollocks to go through with something like that if truth be told, even though at times I’ve questioned what have I got to live for?

I don’t think there’s anywhere near enough support for mental illness sufferers, particularly depression. I like to compare it with cancer, they’re both actually very similar.

Cancer too does not care if you’re old or young, fat or thin, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor, successful or otherwise. It also affects as many people as depression. You would never call someone selfish of dying from cancer, or ask “He/she had everything, why have they got cancer?” – That’s ridiculous. It’s just as ridiculous if that was depression. They’re both horrible illnesses yet one gets so much coverage, media attention and support, so many are aware of one but not the other. That needs to change.

Question: I ask you to try and name as many organisations/charities/fundraising events relating to cancer, off the top of your head, then do the same for mental health. Why is it that there are so many more of the former? Do we not know of any mental illness support networks available or is there just a lack of them?

The treatment you’re given too – I have sought help in the past. I had to wait six weeks before anyone contacted me regarding a counselling session earlier in the year. I couldn’t attend in the end due to uni work I had due in. That was a local organisation just focusing on teenagers/young adults. I dread to think how long the wait is on the NHS.

I’ve also been to my GP, more than once over the years. The courage you need to be able to book the appointment, go in and tell someone you barely know, in my case had never met, and tell them you suffer with depression is something I can’t quite explain. But you go in to basically be told to see how you go and come back in a couple of weeks, and that destroys you. You leave feeling even worse than before you went in. It’s as if they don’t care, that they have people with more important issues to be seeing instead, that they’re not bothered you’re suffering and this is your cry for help.

Imagine if you’d found a lump, turned up and your GP had told you to see how you are and come back in a few weeks. That could be the difference between you living and dying and I believe that’s exactly the same for depression too, for some people.

I was also given the label by my GP (as if I’ve not been labelled enough during my life) that I suffer with ‘mild depression’, this based on answering a few questions. That’s bullshit. Mild. If what I’ve gone through is considered mild then I certainly don’t blame anyone who resorts to self harming or worse. How fucking dare they call it mild when they themselves don’t know you, what you’re going through and you’ve been sat there with them for what, five minutes? That needs changing too.

I don’t bother with them anymore. Instead I suffer in relative silence, just hoping the next day is better than the last. I don’t really feel like there are places to go, people to talk to and I know that many of the millions of sufferers out there feel the same.

I don’t really know what I want to gain from this post to be honest. I guess the few hours I’ve spent writing it has given me something to do. It’s got stuff off my chest too I guess. If I’ve educated anyone with this (that’s if you’ve managed to sit through it) then that’s great, if anyone feels they can help me or anyone else they might know having read this then even better.

Even though I’m suffering I want to help people too. If you want someone to talk to to about anything or everything, you can talk to me if you like, in confidence. Chances are I can relate to some extent with what you’re going through and if I can help, even if I’m just ears and I can’t offer too much advice I will do my best. I want to help others because feeling like this is so fucking shit and nobody should have to.

Robin Williams shouldn’t have had to and it’s sad that his tragic demise is what it has taken to get people talking.

This is so very hypocritical of me to say given it’s how I feel a lot of the time, but don’t feel ashamed for feeling like this, or embarrassed to ask for help. Without the help of others we wouldn’t be capable of anything.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, it’s bloody long so fair play to you. I needed to write it, so even if nobody’s read it then I hope I feel better for it anyway. Again apologies if it didn’t make much sense.

If anyone wants to talk about anything then get in touch. Twitter’s your best bet @blake2108

Cheers.

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Robbie Rogers – A Second Coming Out.

Last night Robbie Keane hit a hat trick in a 4-0 win for LA Galaxy against Seattle Sounders at the Home Depot Center. Last night was also the first time in 20-odd years that football has had a high-profile openly gay participant.

It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog, the last few months I’ve been working on Bloggin’ The Blues, but my last post was back in January in which I talked about the subject of Homosexuality in Football. Little did I know that a month later an international footballer would announce he was gay. He simultaneously quit the game, but a couple of days ago a different Robbie, Robbie Rogers came out for the second time, this time out of retirement and last night took to the football pitch once again as a 77th minute substitute for his local side.

I remember reading about Rogers’ coming out post on his blog and feeling a number of different emotions. I was delighted that a well-known player had the balls to finally do it, but I was also saddened that he decided to quit the game at the same time. To me it was a case of two steps forward, one step back. It was fantastic for the sport that he had chosen to open up, but retiring suggested he felt he couldn’t be gay and play football.

But last night he did. His U-turn was something I predicted, perhaps not this soon, but I always knew after the support he has received and the years in the game beforehand he couldn’t stay away forever.

Rogers received an incredible reception from the home support last night, and I can’t imagine he’ll receive any different elsewhere. A California boy, it made sense for Rogers to return home to his local club. In interviews since he came out, he said a return to football would be in the MLS, and Chicago Fire, who owned his rights were happy to allow Rogers the move to Galaxy.

It shouldn’t be, I know, but Rogers’ return to football is a big thing, both for society and for the sport. There is a long way to go, and last night was just 13 minutes of a possible 10 years he has left in the game, but progress has been made. Personally he has realised that he still loves the game and that his sexuality isn’t enough to stop him playing, and in terms of everyone else, his team mates and supporters both in the US and worldwide have all accepted him and treat him no different. Galaxy skipper Landon Donovan has spoken of how Rogers inclusion with the squad in training was a huge benefit for the team. That step back I mentioned is most definitely being reversed.

Only time will tell how the midfielder’s return to the game will impact on both himself and the sport. He’s an established player who has represented his country at the Olympic Games and is an MLS Cup winner and is the first openly gay player to play in one of North America’s ‘big 5’ sporting leagues. I’ve seen nothing but praise and support for Rogers and long may that continue now he’s back playing.

I hope Rogers enjoys a successful career back in America. I hope both he and the support he has received from all over the world can and has inspired people, his fellow professionals who have felt they couldn’t come out; gay fans who have never felt accepted or represented within the sport and the LGBT community in general. There’s simply no place for homophobia in today’s society in general, never mind in football.

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Homosexuality in Football – Time to Come Out

Liverpool FC became the first Premier League club to be officially represented at an LGBT event.

Liverpool FC became the first Premier League club to be officially represented at an LGBT event last year.

Like London buses along comes another post. It’s one I’ve spent a lot longer writing and researching than any others I’ve written, and it’s about a subject that is quite controversial, and not often discussed – the issue of homosexuality in football.

To this day only two professional footballers have ever come out as gay. One tragically committed suicide while the other plays in the third tier of Swedish football. Without intending to disrespect both the late Justin Fashanu and Anton Hysén, I still feel that there isn’t any real ‘role model’ or representative for homosexuals in the sport.

In recent years, a number of sports have seen high profile, well respected participants come out as gay. The likes of diving, rugby, cricket and boxing for example. Yet Hysén aside, there are no openly gay football players playing currently. Why? We’re now in 2013, why is there not even one professional footballer who feels comfortable enough to come out. Because there are gay players out there, there must be.

A recent study performed by Bill Edgar, football statistician at The Times which was published on the BBC website (here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20801504) shows the chance of there having never been a gay Premier League footballer since 1993 is around 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000/1 (there are twenty-one noughts there if you didn’t want to count) – so it’s stupendously unlikely.

And doing my own mathematics here, on the basis of all Premier League teams having to submit 25-man squads, with approximately 500 players in the division, using the lowest percentage of the national average of 1.5%, as Edgar used, it’d suggest there are around seven or eight gay players currently playing in England’s top division.

There are a number of reasons why I thought I’d share my views on the subject, starting with the recent backing for homosexual players by two Premier League stars in recent months, with West Ham United’s Matt Jarvis even appearing in leading gay magazine Attitude this month.

Matt Jarvis' Attitude Cover

Matt Jarvis on the cover of Attitude magazine

Jarvis becomes only the third footballer ever to feature on the cover of the magazine after David Beckham and Freddie Ljungberg, and in a detailed interview explains that there isn’t or wouldn’t be an issue with the players or the game, but with the response from the terraces. While he stresses football fans aren’t necessarily homophobic he says: “In that tribal environment, in the heat of the moment and the heat of battle, the songs and chants just bubble up and rain down on you. And if you’re gay and out and that can be used to throw you off [your game], then it’s going to happen.”

The winger believes that a player coming out would help their game, as they could solely focus on playing to the best of their ability, without anything at the back of their minds, but he understands why no player has chosen to after the abuse suffered to the likes of Sol Campbell and Graeme Le Saux during their playing careers (despite both being straight).

“You can’t blame a player for choosing not to put himself through that. You can train, play and go back to the life you want without having to go public and face that. It’s not right, of course, it’s the 21st century, but you have to stand strong to get past that.”

Jarvis has played for four clubs in his career to date; Millwall as a youth player, Gillingham, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham, but admits he but says he genuinely doesn’t know of a gay player, nor does anyone he’s ever played with, and he himself is married. He believes it’s about time a footballer joins Fashanu and Hysén in coming out as gay and he’d receive great backing and acceptance, explaining: “There’d be support everywhere within the football community, whether it be players, fans or within the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association). There would definitely be groups of people who would be supportive and help them through it.”

Another footballer who has recently come out (pardon the pun) to discus homosexuality within the sport is Manchester United’s Anders Lindegaard in the form of an online blog post (found here (in Danish): http://betting.betfair.com/dk/ambassador/anders-lindegaard/homoseksualitet-i-fodbold-1-231112-539.html). He too has very encouraging comments on the subject.

Football needs a 'gay hero' according to Anders Lindegaard

Football needs a ‘gay hero’ according to Anders Lindegaard

His view is, like Jarvis that a player would worry about abuse from terraces, and the Danish international also agrees that no players would have a problem. He writes: “As a footballer I think first and foremost that a homosexual colleague is afraid of the reception he could get from the fans. My impression is that the players would not have a problem accepting a homosexual.”

Lindegaard adds: “A lot of football fans are stuck in a time of intolerance that does not deserved to be compared with modern society’s development in the last decades. While the rest of the world has been more liberal, civilised and less prejudiced, the world of football remains stuck in the past when it comes to tolerance.”

The goalkeeper, who confirmed he discussed his blog with his girlfriend before publishing, also stated how he felt not enough is being done, particularly in his native Denmark, making reference to a video made by the Dutch FA, saying “To turn a blind eye only indicates that one is not recognising that there is a problem. Of course there is a problem if young homosexuals, who love football, have to quit the sport because they feel excluded. That is in every way an unpleasant trend that does not belong in a modern and liberal society. Any discrimination towards people is and should be totally unacceptable, whether it is about skin colour, religion, sexuality etc.”

But of the entire blog post one comment in particular caught my interest significantly. The comment that “Homosexuals are in need of a hero. They are in need of someone who dares to stand up for their sexuality.”

If you know me, or you follow me on Twitter (@blake2108), you’ll probably know by now that I’m homosexual, and as a gay football fan I agree with Lindegaard to some extent. Whist playing the sport was never/has never been an ambition of mine, I have always wanted a player I could look up to, one proud to represent the gay community.

Of course, as in society in general, us homosexual football fans are in the minority and I know of only a small few myself, whose interest in the game is much more than twenty-two athletic men running around in shorts, but I feel it’ll only take one player, one high profile enough to make the difference and change the way homosexuality is treated (or not treated) in football.

The only current openly gay footballer - Anton Hysén came out in March 2011

The only current openly gay footballer – Anton Hysén came out in March 2011

I remember when I learnt of Anton Hysén’s coming out. I thought it was a huge milestone in the sport at the time, and I certainly did and still do look up to him in some respect. I admire him for being so brave in coming out and I know he has inspired many, many people. But he plays in the Swedish Third Division, and if truth be told we’d not know who he is if he’d have not come out. That’s what he’s known for, being gay, not for being a (talented) footballer. I wouldn’t call him a ‘gay hero’, the term Lindegaard uses in his blog.

Lindegaard’s comment is true in my case at least but for one word: need. I would love nothing more for this sport than a player coming out, should he chose to, but I don’t need one to. I’m 20 this year and have been a football fan for a long time without a gay player to idolise, and I’ve no doubt there are many fans much older than myself in the same position.

I’m very passionate about this subject for obvious reasons. I aspire to one day have a career in football, albeit as a journalist but I hope I’ll be respected like any other journalist, or fan of the game. Like I’d hope and expect a player to if one ever feels comfortable enough to come out.

I agree with a lot of what both players have said. I’d be lying if I said I believed a player would get no abuse at all from football fans if he were to come out, but it would be in the minority. I see homophobia in football as similar to racism in that respect. It’s in the minority obviously, but I don’t think it’d be something you’d ever be able to fully kick out of the game unfortunately.

I’ve only made it fully public about myself in recent weeks, and the support I’ve received in that time has been fantastic. Hundreds of football fans from all over the country follow me on Twitter, where I do make reference to my sexuality, and I’ve had no negative response from anyone.

I can’t see it being all too different for a footballer. I’d like to praise, and thank both Lindegaard and Jarvis for speaking out on the subject. Very few footballers do. Why, I do not know. But I have a lot of time and respect for them both as I’m sure their comments would be encouraging for any homosexual within the game.

If these positive comments from relatively high profile names in the sport in this country don’t help in encouraging a footballer to come out, I hope it’ll at least encourage their colleagues to talk about the subject, even in a negative light, instead of not acknowledging that the issue exists.

I do believe we are getting closer to a player coming out. Maybe my wanting of it to happen makes me believe that way, but surely, it’s only a matter of time. And when one does, I hope the positive reaction and support I’m confident he’ll receive will encourage many more to do the same.

I stress though that I would never want anyone to feel forced into it or be outed in any way. While on a personal level I know I felt a lot better about myself afterwards, finally being able to be myself and live the life I want to the full with no secrets and no lies, it took me time and it was done on my terms, which is why I understand why a gay player has yet to come out in the Premier League, or any other top division in the world.

I just hope that with recent support and backing from the likes of Lindegaard and Jarvis, and the support Hysén and fellow homosexual sports men and women have received in the last few years, it’s a case of when and how soon, and not if we will see openly gay men playing the beautiful game.

(The full interview with Matt Jarvis is well worth a read, and his issue of Attitude magazine is still available to purchase in shops and online http://www.attitude.co.uk/)

Any thoughts/comments on this post and on the subject will be very much welcomed. Twitter: @blake2108

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