Well, it's the kind of thing that I expect exists elsewhere, but I've got a thing for only in Italy.
The summer season is upon us. And for many of us, that means beach. For some of us (me included), this means trying to find a patch of sand where I'm not sharing the beach with about three million other people.
That said, in Italy, nothing says 'convenience' more than renting a sun lounge and an umbrella and squishing yourself onto a serviced beach with about three trillion other people. Personally, I'm not a fan of stabilmenti. I'm quite happy to lay my towel down on the sand and just chill, especially if it means I don't have to listen to other people's conversations and put up with their kids all day long. Thankfully I know my way around the beaches in this part of the country, but I know some of you don't.
Not from these parts? Fear not. If you want a truly Italian summer, you just need to download an app or visit a website. Not for general recommendations but for actual bookings!
You see, some genius is already two steps ahead of you. Someone worked out that there's a market for booking sun lounges across the summer in Italy. So you can now book your own chair and umbrella at an assortment of beaches using an app/website like Sunbrella.
File under "wish I'd thought of it".
How depressing. Eurovision is over for the year already.
HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?
It was a big year for Eurovision this year.
The Stockholm edition had its share of controversy, geopolitical dramas and some great moments.
For the first time, it aired in Asia and in the US in addition to the European and Australian coverage which has been going on for decades. And they even threw Justin Timberlake into the mix (though with so many contestants and an exciting new delivery of votes, no one had enough energy to pay attention to JT).
For those of us who have been watching it for years, can we be honest? Has it lost some of its kitsch appeal and become a little more X Factor-ish in recent years?
I think so. Still, I'd rather watch Eurovision than put myself through anything remotely X Factor ish.
If you felt like the contestants this year were more polished than usual, fear not. Because we still had the awkward Skype this is Baku calling moments that we just love, and they really didn't disappoint. That was where the real contest was kiddies!
The Ukraine of course took out the main title this year with 1944, a politically charged number that has Russia all cranky pants (surprise), but the crossover to their results was the real win of the night. Anything with Verka Serduchka included is an unbeatable proposition and so that made it a double win for the Ukraine this year.
In second place in the official competition of course was Korean born Aussie Dami Im, whose The Sound of Silence won the judge's round and is proving to be the standout hit from the contest as the week continues. And of course, the cross over to Lee Lin Chin replicated the final result: she was the second most fantastic correspondent reporting on the final 12 points of the Australian vote.
For those of you who don't know LLC is a newsreader in Australia and a cult figure. Eurovision is LLC in her element because she would have no issue with pronouncing all those names perfectly.
Elsewhere, serious nods for the blah blah calling should go to Iceland (thanks for bringing the dog), Azerbaijan (loved the body language), Germany (for the old school German glamour) and Lithuania (for making me rethink physics and proportion in general).
Eurovision wouldn't be Eurovision if it didn't bring the hotness too.
The girls were gorgeous, but this year, it was mostly about the boys.
Måns Zelmerlöw, last year's winner and this year's co-host, did a great job of erasing that awkward PR disaster from last year when he allegedly referred to same sex relationships as being unnatural or something before claiming that what he was saying got lost in translation.
In addition to doing a fine job of presenting, (along with Petra who was great, but clothed) Måns also got his kit off at one point in reference to Belarus' very conceptual performance which (thankfully) didn't make it into the Grand Final. Måns also made a quip about love being a crime in some countries that was widely interpreted as aimed at Russia's disgusting stance towards the LGBT community.
Did I mention Måns got down to his drawers people? Et voila, no more pesky PR awkwardness with the LGBT community. Hell, he's practically just been crowned its King/Queen for his efforts in activism and nudity. But those Swedes aren't the only ones who aren't afraid of getting butt naked, right?
Russia's own Ricky Martin (RoRM), Sergey Lazarev had hearts fluttering. I thought his performance of You Are The Only One was the night's best for showmanship, but because the song itself was so crap, I don't think he deserved to win even though he was the bookie's favourite going in. But let's face it, RoRM is a cutie. He's a superstar in Russia these days, but low and behold, some rumours have surfaced in recent days about him having a porn star past. Jesus, talk about throwing down the gauntlet to Måns. We're going to have to decide who we want to rule our Euroworld, Måns or RoRM. Maybe they need to duke it out!
Perhaps one of the images that has surfaced may help us decide:
I don't know... there's something a little unexpected about this kind of stuff. I mean, I know Russians are an inventive lot, but a handsaw? Really? The official line from the Kremlin (bet you would've loved to be the representative talking to the press about this issue) is that the image was one used in an anti domestic violence campaign, but whispers elsewhere in the gay world suggest there are other, more straightforward dirty images of RoRM doing the rounds.
The jury is out.
Next year, Eurovision moves to Kiev. Hopefully, it will be as good a show as this year (though with some more kitsch next time round. Pleeeeeeaaaaassssseeee!)
If you think the Eurovision semi finals are fun, you don't know the half of it.
The grand final is where it's at of course. Not just because it's where the winner gets crowned, England gets humiliated and you get to watch a lot of awkward banter.
Noooo the fun part is not about the stage performances, but rather the reporting of the votes in every country. You know, by television hosts who are giving up the 12 points from picturesque piazzas.
Some of my favourites this year were: Germany (mutton!), Cyprus (when you still live at home with mum), Sweden ("we can afford another stadium." And that quip about junk in your trunk or whatever) and maybe Moldova for the Gossip Girl outfit. You know she reminded me of Dan's little sister.
I wasn't a fan of the Ukraine's song but that's okay. No rule says I have to be. In the end, they won me over simply because of their correspondents. Only Lee Lin Chen threw down the fashion challenge as much, though the Ukraine brought the headscarves and the fizz so. not even LLC can compete with that.
The new voting system at Eurovision really shook things up and there were some remarkable results. It looked like Dami Im and Australia had it in the bag, but those naughty Eurovision peeps like you to have a false sense of confidence. They love pulling a last minute switch a roo.
Firstly, I was glad to see Poland polled well because I was dying to make that sentence and it had been awful seeing Chris Cornell Jnr sitting in the bottom after the jury vote. (Happy that Bulgaria and France also did pretty well with the public vote.)
Secondly it's always fun trying to predict the geopolitical votes of each country when it comes to the jury vote but you just don't get that when it comes to the public one. It was interesting to see for example that Australia placed fourth in the public vote behind three Eastern bloc nations. I thought they would out perform Poland in the end but Eurovision is like a calling card for all the displaced Europeans around Europe.
The Eastern Bloc is the messy, political maze of votes that makes Eurovision what it is. Just like you know that Cyprus will vote Greece (oh they couldn't this year- and the allegiance has switched to Ru$$ia hmm) you know that there is always going to be an anti Russian sentiment amongst certain countries.
Russia though won the public vote- and it was interesting and awkward how it came down to them and the Ukraine. And how Australia ended up in the middle of them! More awkwardness!
But I really felt for Sergey Lazarev as he was hung out on tender hooks and the whole Russia/Ukraine situation played out in an entertainment arena. Do you support the heartbreaker (aka Russian Ricky Martin) from the bad country or the gal singing from her heart about the country the bad guys are slowly trying to strangle?
In the end not even those wings on Sergey's upper arms could get him out of the awkward place he'd ended up in. And worse, after being the favourite going in he ended up in 3rd position. Those tricky Eurovision peeps. But it says something about EV that Justin Timberlake was in attendance and no one even gives a rat's.
Busy week but today I finally found some time to catch up with this year's Eurovision performances.
Given that Eurovision can be really random, I watched all the performances without spoilers about the grand final etc. And I watched them in random order. Here are some random thoughts.
At one point I thought I was stuck amongst the debris of an exploding, mainstream gay party. You know, where they pull out anything with Loletta Halloway's vocals and a disco ball and all that's missing are shirtless, sweaty chem users. I gave Finland a 5. But four of those points were for the acqua blue catsuit and the other one for the raunchy nose ring.
If you wanted real jumpsuit action though, you just needed to go to Azerbaijan. Golden, catchy and a bit can't you get out of my head choreography wise. I think it has a chance of polling well for the final. 8
Bosnia and Herzegovia
It's true, Bosnia was so dramatically GoT for a moment that I was waiting for Khaleesi to prise open the Sarajevo city gates and demand the freedom of any remaining slaves. Dramatic! 7.5
Oh Jüri was totally vamping it up alla David Bowie in his Berlin years but that was just the suit and the hair talking. Didn't mind the song but the lyrics were a bit clumsy in that adorable Eurovision kind of way. As they were for Georgia and Norway and a few other places. 7.5
Oh Dani Im. The Czech Republic tried to bring the year's power ballad to the party but let's be honest. It was your Bonnie Tyler meets Celine Dion power ballad and those vocals that gave everyone the chills! Loved it. In the context of Eurovision, that is. Which you should obviously win and ruin any chances that Australia will ever be invited back. You get a 9 because at one stage your outfit made me think of Björks swan dress and, had you have gotten your hands on it, your performance would have been impeccable.
Ok Latvia, let's chat. It started out promising. I liked your mala beads but I'm pretty sure your country is not known for its Buddhism. I also liked your strategically ripped skinny jeans. But I did not care for your pitchy singing. The music was kind of like a Justin Bieber take on electronica. The kind of thing you might put up with at 2 am if you're dancing away at some euroclub but, then at that point you're just dancing to burn off the alcohol. You get a 5 because I liked your floppy hair
Speaking of the biebs, if you threw him into a blender along with Skillrex, Robyn and Gwen Stefani, you'd come out with Bulgaria's Poli Genova. Her song was very Major Lazor-y at times but catchy and up, and has a bit of potential to cross over into the market I think. I think it could do well. 8 In any case it kept my spirits up after seeing a few shockers. Like Italy. I tried. But I just can't find it in me to be patriotic about them.
Listen Italy. Don't even bother. Go and play your San Remo game and leave Eurovision to the experts. Please take Macedonia and Ukraine with you this year. And Serbia, Greece, Spain and Lithuania. They were just... Subpar or confused this year.
I don't know how you think you're going to help me fly when you seem like you think you're a member of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I gave you six points for the wolves but I took them off you because I had to see you naked. It's a shame because at least you brought a real concept with you. Fine. That does deserve something. 3.5
Girlie, floral, princessy, romantic. Upbeat, dancey. You know it was nice not to bother with any English lyrics here. It was like taking an LSD trip because nothing was like I expected it to be. In the real Europe, Austria is a nasty neighbour to have. The kind of neighbour that slams its doors and gates to remind you that you can't come in and that they are pissed off. But I forgot about all that because I couldn't understand a single word of the song and because of that I finished watching it believing in love and peace and lip gloss.
There's flattering inspirations. And then there's the ones where you just know that after watching the German performance, artists like Kate Miller Hiedke don't want ANY of their stuff back. "Just keep all my ideas Germany as long as you never call me again!"
4 because she seems sweet.
I think the Jackson 5 and Bruno Mars both want their stuff back. And Beyonce's influence knows no limits. Ouuuccch 3
Robert Miles just called and said he too wants his stuff back. Maybe you can drop it off on your way in the time machine back to the backstreet boys. 3 : one point each for being Danish.
They don't need to win. It was like a golden statue almost came alive and found a voice. Almost. 4
I didn't hate it. Plus Amir reminds me of a friend of mine. But I didn't love it either. Voters will like it though. 7
Frans from Sweden obviously had the hometown advantage and pop runs through Swedish veins. Maybe if I was a 15 year old I might've gotten excited but, sorry, I felt like Sweden was a bit smug this year. I no like!! 7
The vibe. 5.
The hat. 5
Those lyrics. -100
Montenegro tried to bring the rock too. At one moment it felt a bit like Depeche mode had entered the building. +15 But the blonde chick kept distracting me from that. -5 Whatever vibe they were working on got lost somewhere a minute and a half in when I stopped watching haha. -5 so, total= 5
Actually it was Cyprus that brought the real rock vibe. That fantastic 90s rock behind prison bars with a bit of eyeliner and some goth vibes. Loved it. 8
But the crowds are going to love Freddie from Hungary: good looking, raspy six packs a day voice: whistling backing vocalists and a taiko drummer. Hello, that's how you potentially win Eurovision, people. 7.5 plus an extra half for the way he had his tshirt tucked in.
The pitch problems I could almost deal with. But the key change and that awful chorus. No, no, no. And all those references to natural phenomenon. No. No. No. 4
Oh Rykka I loved your dancing! That I'm bending down to get my glass move is hotness! 6
Ira Losco gave me the Mariah Careys visually but then she did what few other Eurovision acts this year. She pulled out the big weapon. The WIND MACHINE! She got 5 extra points for that but then I had to take them off for the Miminess of her appearance. 7.5
Iceland brought out the wind machine and the shadow theatre. It was almost a bit you're frozen when your heart's not open but then it got a bit too river dance meets kanto pop for me. 6
I wanted to like it. The blue and red thing annoyed me but then out came the pole and, well, the fireworks and I got distracted. Which country were we talking about again...?
Speaking of colour then we get Michal Szpak. Do you think he's a Chris Cornell fan off stage? Anyhow, this is the kind of performance you watch Eurovision for. It's a purist moment. The jacket. The hair. The vocals. The lyrics. More eurovisionary than Slovenia managed to pull of. 7
Hovi Star, like Szpak gave us pure Eurovision. The jacket. The hair! The vocals! But, he also brought the glitter and the eyeliner. I waited and waited for that song to take off into the stars and eventually it mostly did! 7.5
But then there was the white elephant of Europe. Russia. No country used the staging better than they did. The song didn't seem like much at the beginning but it took off and the performance got more and more interesting (well, it didn't exactly start out that interesting: the wings... Again?!) but in the end it was the most entertaining and memorable performance even in the song is a bit crap. 9 for the second part of the performance and the stepping on blocks etc.
Europe has a decision to make.
Russia. Or Australia.
(im also going to say that possible chances: Hungary, France, Azerbaijan and Bulgaria).
I want to let you in on a secret.
Thom Yorke is invisible. And you should also know, in case you don't, that Radiohead mean business again!
I don't know. Daydreaming is gorgeous. Beautiful and hypnotic from the first spin and definitely more like their classic material than Burn The Witch.
But Radiohead are being so serious this time around that their music is secondary! They've got things to say, and mini movies to make. And they're here to show us that the world we live in is completely flawed, and that we (yes, you!) have some serious problems.
They are capturing the world's attention because what they're releasing is so good that everything else is kind of embarrassing in comparison.
The thing is, everyone is going to adore the video and Thom Yorke's appearance and performance. It's so memorable, partly because it's filmed in nondescript places. Everybody is going to be like, wow, if only you could get nominated for an Oscar for a music video, because that is some crazy giving it your all kind of stuff.
But can I just say, with all his cash, would it have been that hard for Mr Yorke to invest in some Pantene conditioner? Or some V-O-5? Or in some non-animal tested conditioner at the very least that you can get from those local hippy markets?
But where J.Lo operates in a world where appearance is secondary to message, the Brits live at the polar extreme.
J.Lo's feminist statement is couture feminism. Just like Beyonce's was, and just like Madge's cynical campaign for the even more cynical Dolce and Gabbana was.
But can you imagine if those ladies actually had the freedom to strip off the make up? To hang up the designer threads and go all Thom Yorke to get to the heart of what they're trying to say?
The world would probably end. Or if it was Beyonce in place of Thom Yorke in this video (and that would've been great to see) would we just be sitting there picking her appearance apart on a minute level? Hell yes. And we'd probably be calling her a rude beyish for entering into people's dwellings without even knocking. The nerve of that woman!
I know that I should feel sorry for Thom. I bet Thom looks like that cos he's always on the go. He never stops walking in and out of places. It's not as if he ever sits down and has a cuppa and puts his feet up, and if you don't take time out for yourself, then of course you're going to wear yourself out. He just gives it his all before he finally konks out in front of the fire, poor love.
But that's what it's like for musicians today. They have to be on the move constantly, visiting all kinds of B towns so they can earn some cash through their tours and encourage people to buy a tshirt, cos you know nobody's going to actually pay for your album.
Watch the video and tell me what you think. In the meantime, I'm gonna send Thom an email. If Radiohead mean serious business like it seems, then I think they need to open a pop up store. You know that Drake and Kanye already changed the world with theirs, but the thing is, at the end of the day, it's the indie kids that really bring change into the world (and cash into other people's pockets).
A heart felt congratulations to J. Lo.
Jenny from the block has been doing the rounds recently - car pool karaoke [loved the music video jazz hands], Vegas residencies [getting pretty good reviews], and appearing in every second Pit Bull video there is around, you know, working it J.Lo style [kind of like a cross between 90s Janet Jackson, late 90s Mariah Carey with a dash of Martika's street smarts thrown in for good measure].
There was a time when I used to see her that my brain would automatically say "don't be fooled by the rocks that I've got" and I would remember that she was Jenny from the block and always on the 6.
But every time I see her now I just want to yelp "on the floor!" or hum the Lambada chorus.
But she's back with a new song and video for Ain't Your Mama or something like that so we can remember that she's still the real girl "from the Bronx!". And now we can all go around yelling "I ain't your mama!"
And with the video, I have to congratulate her, cos she's achieved that AND gone through a music video rite of passage!
Yes! Pit Bull may have had her on the floor, but this time around she's on checkered tiles and bended knee. Yep, she's scrubbing away, and doing her bit to erase those awful, cliched 40s/50s views of women's roles. In that Mad Men kind of way. Until she gets to the 80s and gets all Working Girl on us, and then, well, she's pop back into modern times again too. Magical!
And with that important rite of passage behind her like a Bar Mitzvah, J. Lo has earned her place in the top tier of music video activism! She joins the ranks of the Queens. Queen B and the Queen of Pop [and about a million others]. And for that we should all be thankful.
Let's face it.
The Billboard charts suck these days.
No one can make heads or toes of them. You can have the week's biggest selling album but not have the No.1 spot because of streaming calculations.
You can have the highest selling single of the week but if you don't get radio airplay then it's like you're persona non grata.
There have always been problems with the Billboard charts. Remember back in the 90s how they changed their mind about physical releases and airplay every two weeks. Or how Mariah Carey basically bought a lot of her number ones.
One thing I do love about the Billboard charts is how the dearly departed come back to haunt them.
It's like they drag chains on the ground and run fingers down blackboards to remind Billboard and music buyers of what it's really all about.
The Purple one could barely get a look in in recent years, but now that's he gone, he's everywhere.
According to Billboard, Prince sold over 4 million records in the US in the week after his death. In spite all the fuss about Beyonce's Lemonade (and can I just say, it's not even a patch on Beyonce. It's a step backwards) and, groan, Drake's new album, Prince is still selling really well.
So well, that he's about to take out half of the top ten in this week's album chart, and has already taken out the entire Top ten of the Catalog albums chart.
It's a case of metrics of course: it's the first full week of sales since his death, and of course, the endless rule changes at Billboard have also made it possible. But he's dominating all kinds of charts in ways that not even the deaths of Bowie and Michael Jackson made it possible (rules notwithstanding).
And today, Nothing Compares 2 U is going to be simulcast across US radio. Prince has done the impossible! From the heavens he is going to make people actually want to turn their radios on.
All the facts and figures of Prince on billboard, at Billboard.
NELLY Furtado popped back into the digital world with a simple post on Facebook the other day. She didn't have the preceding Radiohead drama of destroying everything to get our attention. I mean, deleting everything on Twitter and social networks is the new trashing a hotel room. Every rock star and their bitch is going to be doing it.
But Nelly F, one of my favourite Canadians, is too classy for that stuff. She simply said Hi.
And she had me at hello. Well, you know what I mean.
I love that girl. She's pop's underrated golden girl. But she's not happy with the current landscape for musos. So, on the eve of her new album (and lets hope it's not another Spirit Indestructible) she's channeled Prince, and backed Nikki Sixx and Blondie in calling for Youtube to cough up the moolah. More here.
The MET Gala happened again, and proved that it is the new MTV music video awards. It's the show where everything is put out on the line.
Beyonce was apparently the night's queen, Madge bared her butt cheeks Prince style and won equal acclaim and scorn. Solange and Katy Perry copped it in the memes (look for the Solange/bowl of crisps meme!) but the real winner of the night was @JohnDrops. Remarkable!
His garbage liner takes on the celebrity fashion clearly outdid the celebrities. I'm not on Instagram so I knicked this image from the Daily Mail, but go find the Brazilian and give him all your love.
BONO must be fuming!
In operation Vatican-Play-Nice, those Vatican hoes played host to the first ever rock musician to perform in the Sistine Chapel.
Remember how back in the 1990s everyone heaved a sigh of relief because The Edge sang Numb and it was just so refreshing to hear a U2 song without Bono's vocals for the most part? Well The Edge got the edge over Ireland and Africa's new Patron Saint. You see, it was The Edge who performed the numbers in the chapel, not Bono.
Pope Francis wasn't even there, but at the end of the day, you know that PF is going to take all the credit for the historic rock music moment, and that not even Bono will be able to say anything about it. More here.
M.I.A has been busy making epic music videos, finishing her new album and running amok as usual.
But there's a lot of lazy journalism going on right now, and the stories doing the rounds about M.I.A are purely being culled from her twitter feed. In them she's noted how she's about to deliver her new album to her label, how it's going to be her last, and how because she doesn't have a visa for the US she's not going to be able to be Stateside to promote it.
Let the girl in!
Back to the media angle. The same story has reappeared in basically the same format since Consequence of Sound first posted it, in all of its tweety gory. I guess that's useful if you're not on Twitter, or if you feel like getting all Radiohead about it.
But let's face it, you don't need a degree to be a journalist today. You just need to be able to cut and paste someone's stream of consciousness (or unconsciousness if you're Gwyneth Paltrow, and can I just say how much I hate that video I'm forced to watch of her promoting some luxury brand before I watch Judge Judy and the People's Court on youtube. I'm gonna end up in court if I watch it again because it just makes me want to get violent).
Anyhow, at least Consequence of Sound added the amazing Border video to their M.I.A article.
I like how Radiohead have moved into commentary on online life.
I've been a bit flip floppy with my feelings towards them. At one time I thought they were the greatest band on earth (The Bends, OK Computer) and at other times, they haven't really done anything other than make me feel they're overrated (most everything else).
I particularly like how in the video for Burn The Witch they have gone all Salem witch trials on our ass with more than a nod to Twitter and to Noddy.
I had hoped to also see Gumby, Pokey and Gumby's creepy sister make an appearance, but you can't have everything. We got a decent song, a timely video, and some apt social commentary.
But what I don't appreciate is how at a certain point, the video reminded me of that Safety Dance song from the early eighties. You know, when the creepy looking people were dancing around tying ribbons on the pole in that old medieval British way. That video used to ruin my day. Because when I was a kid, I used to watch telly before I went to school and they would always play a video between cartoons. And when that one came on I knew I would have a bad day.
I hated that shit back then, and I hate Burn The Witch for reminding me of it.
But, it's a good track and anything related to Salem or the Halliwell sisters works in my books.
So Radiohead have worked out the answer to the new age old conundrum.
How do you attract the world's attention when every body has a website, blog, internet presence etc.?
How do you get everyone talking about you after a period of relative indifference?
And just like that we're all sucked in and talking about them.
Radiohead marketing 1. Us schlepps 0.
My debut novel Vinyl Tiger - the story of Alekzandr, a queer pop artist from the 80s - is now available.
Visit Amazon for the three volume serialized version.
Or get the complete paperback/ebook version here.
Dave Di Vito
I'm the author of the novels #replacementsky and