New Music: ‘Shining Heart’ by Laurentiu Duta & Andreea Banica.

Are you ready for a brand new summer hit fresh out of Romania? Then look no further than Shining Heart, a hypnotic song that promises wild parties and steamy summer nights. Acclaimed Romanian producer Laurentiu Duta is stepping out from the studio and into the limelight for the first time as a recording artist with this track. Laurentiu is well-known as one of the country’s biggest composers, having worked with stars like Andreea Banica and Elena Gheorghe as well as being the man behind Romania’s 2009 Eurovision Song Contest entry The Balkan Girls.

With Shining Heart, Laurentiu will be fronting his own music for the first time and to great effect. However, he is not alone as Andreea Banica is on guest vocals to make a great song even greater.

The song is iconic Romanian dance pop that is both mesmerizing and hard-hitting. However, apart from Laurentiu’s silvery soft vocals, my favourite part of the song is the chorus that sees Andreea channel German group ATC with a deceptively simple but instantly catchy, sing-along hook. I believe the combination of old and new europop serves as a wonderful celebration and homage to the genre and it is easy to see why Laurentiu Duta is such an acclaimed name.

A very berry treat for the Netherlands.

I saw these and thought they would fit perfectly for a Dutch treat at a Eurovision Grand Final Party! They are strawberries dipped in a variety of different condiments to provide a rather delicious replica of the Dutch national flag. Very cute and very easy to make as well. Have a look at the recipe below:

White chocolate chips
Blue sugar sprinkles / Edible glitter (for a more camp version, De Toppers style)

1. Wash the strawberries thoroughly and let them dry completely.
2. Melt the white chocolate to a smooth, thin consistency.
3. Place the blue sugar in a bowl and set aside.
4. Dip the strawberries in the white chocolate to cover two thirds of the berry.
5. Next, dip the strawberries in the blue sugar to cover one third.
6. Place the strawberries on wax paper-lined baking sheets & then in the fridge to set.

I hope you enjoy it. Bon Appétit!

Melodifestivalen 2012: The stage has been set.

With Melodifestivalen over for another year, its nice to still get updates and ‘backtrack’ through the past edition so that we don’t make like Peter Jöback and life doesn’t feel so Hollow. I recently found this time lapse video by Gustav Nyberg depicting how the stage of the Melodifestivalen 2012 was constructed. Check it out, its pretty awesome!

Watch: Engelbert Humperdinck picks up his microphone and the Union Jack.

The United Kingdom was the last country to unveil their entry for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest and it is a warm, graceful ballad with a great sense of nostalgia and melancholy.

United Kingdom 2012: Love Will Set You Free performed by Engelbert Humperdinck

It reminds me of old Western movies from the 1950s, due in no small part to the Spanish guitar.

Personally, I think that Love Will Set You Free, performed by timeless crooner Engelbert Humperdinck, is a lot better than I had hoped for and the British public ought to be proud of their entry. Yes, there are quite a few ballads this year but none that sound quite like this. Drawn to open the Grand Final, ‘The Hump’ will no doubt deliver a noteworthy performance. And a little bit of Eurovision-geekery, the last time the United Kingdom was drawn to perform first, it was in 1976 with Brotherhood Of Man performing Save Your Kisses For Me, and we all know how that turned out.

Watch: Switzerland hopes to be ‘Unbreakable’.

The music videos for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest entries are flying in thick and fast and the latest one comes from Switzerland. Check out the band Sinplus looking better than ever:

Switzerland 2012: Unbreakable performed by Sinplus

Unbreakable is, in my opinion, amongst the best contending songs in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest and this music video only serves to highlight that. Set in a futuristic world where everyone lives in a Matrix-like state, Sinplus attempts to free everyone by harnessing the power of music and the message of their song. It is a bold, clean-cut video with a striking attention to detail and very vivid cinematography. One of the best videos this season.

All in all, the alpine nation has a really strong, tight package. I can’t wait to see Sinplus “rock, rock the place” in May. Good luck lads!

New Music: ‘World In Our Hands’ by Taio Cruz

British pop maestro Taio Cruz has had his latest album TY.O out in Europe since December but has only just now yielded a true gem in the form of World In Our Hands. Check it out below:

It’s Taio Cruz doing what he does best and that’s glossy, anthemic pop with soaring synths. With its insanely catchy hook and sleek production, we are more than prepared to forgive World In Our Hands for not being wholly original. In fact, I thought that the song was rather reminiscent of One Direction’s One Thing. I suppose that’s no surprise as they both share the same songwriters. That aside, this is a great slice of pop that deserves to see international release.

Watch: Cyprus makes a wish for ‘La La Love’.

Following France’s lead, a number of countries have started premiering proper, well-thought out official music videos for their Eurovision Song Contest entries. One of them is Cyprus, who can really give Anggun a run for her money with their artistic, fantasy tale-inspired affair. Check it out:

Cyprus 2012: La La Love performed by Ivi Adamou

This has to be one of my favourite videos so far. From its gorgeous cinematography to the high-end, abstract depiction of the tale of Snow White, we discover that the song’s message of the yearning for an all-encompassing love is a tale that is as old as time. That juxtaposition between sound and visual is really creative! Cyprus has really surprised us at every turn this year, starting from Ivi’s nomination through to the selection of La La Love and now with this really cool music video. Well done! Now I’m really looking forward to seeing the stage show.

Belgium to select their song in record time.

What will Iris sing for Belgium?

In what is hands down the worst preview of the season, Belgium presents a ‘teaser’ of its contending songs Safety Net and Would You, each consisting of exactly one second. Because discordant bursts of noise are meant to give an adequate impression of what a song sounds like. Well done Belgium. Check it out here.

On top of that, the national final ‘Eurosong 2012: Een Song Voor Iris’ is scheduled to be a whopping 15 minutes long. Again, well done. Now let’s just hope they haven’t taken leaf out of San Marino’s book and that Safety Net isn’t about Norton AntiVirus.

‘Eurosong 2012: Een Song Voor Iris’ will take place today at 20:00CET and you can catch it live (all 15 minutes of it) on here.

Dance like maniacs! Greece gets high on Eleftheria’s ‘Aphrodisiac’.

Oh, Greece. After the glamorous spectacles we were treated to from all over Europe over the past few months, a show in a shopping mall under an escalator was not how I envisioned capping off the national finals season. And then the live stream broke down five minutes in. That is a cry for help.

Despite it all, the Greeks found a really strong entry for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in Aphrodisiac, performed by Eleftheria Eleftheriou. Check it out below:

The good: it’s very catchy and ought to take Greece into the Top 10. The not-so-good: its the stereotypical female-led ethno pop number that typified the past decade in Eurovision. Another factor working against Aphrodisiac is that there are about three other similar, stronger songs travelling to Baku. It will all come down to stage performance, draw and the vibe on the night.

Nevertheless, Aphrodisiac is still a strong entry and a worthy addition to the 2012 line-up. And hopefully, this catchy, feel-good slice of summer fun will lighten the mood in Greece come May.

La canzone è femmina! Italy changes its song.

It seems Per Sempre (Forever) was not meant to last as Italy’s Eurovision Song Contest entry. Instead, the big bosses at RAI and Universal Music have confirmed that Nina Zilli will take to the stage with L’amore è Femmina  (Love is feminine). Check it out below:

Italy 2012: L’amore è Femmina performed by Nina Zilli 

L’amore è Femmina was one of the three original songs in contention to represent Italy but was intially put aside in favor of San Remo entry Per Sempre. Now the songs have been switched.

I reckon this was due to two reasons: firstly, L’amore è Femmina is exactly three minutes long, as per EBU rules so they will not have to edit and re-record it as they would have had to with Per Sempre and possibly ruining it. Secondly, L’amore è Femmina is the title track of Nina Zilli’s new album so mayhaps the big wigs thought having it as the Eurovision entry would be very good for promotion and translate into album sales. It makes sense, especially since its the next single.

Whatever the reasons, I am personally quite happy with this decision. While I loved and lauded Per Sempre, I also had a nagging feeling that it was a bit too subtle to make an impact on the televoting audience. It would have done well with the professional juries to be sure, but it may not have been enough to score a good placing this time around. On the other hand, L’amore è Femmina is much more ‘instant’ and has a hook you can immediately latch on to, without compromising Nina Zilli’s unique sound and musicality we were introduced to with Per Sempre.

Was it the right choice? I guess we’ll find out in May. But it’s very nice to see the Italians take Eurovison seriously in their own, roundabout fashion.