Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer Song 2012: Loreen’s “Euphoria”

Last year, I wrote about the importance of the summer song. Identifying a song with the summertime is part of growing up and follows us into adulthood. Hearing that one jam brings back specific memories of a time, a place, a person. You can taste, see, hear and almost feel everything around you in that place and time just by a couple of bars of that song. Think of what happens whenever you hear any of the following summer hits and see if they conjure memories: 

1986: “Venus” by Bananarama
1987: “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston
1991: “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” by Bryan Adams
1996: “Killing Me Softly” by Fugees
1998: “Ray of Light” by Madonna
1999: “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys
2002: “ Complicated” by Avril Lavigne
2003:  “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé
2007: "Umbrella" by Rihanna
2008: “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay
2011: “The Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga

One cannot predict what makes a summer jam or what will stick in the memory long after you pack away the beach umbrellas for the winter. But my choice for one of this year’s summer jams is a rarity, as it could also be crossover hit from the Eurovision Song Contest: Loreen’s “Euphoria”.

Originally a contestant on the Swedish version of Pop Idol in 2004, Loreen was born Loren Talhaoui and went on to forge a successful career as a TV presenter without releasing a proper music album. That’s about to change, as her Swedish chart-topper “Euphoria” won this year’s Eurovision Song Contest ahead of the heavily-favoured novelty track by the Buranova Babushkas.

Within hours of winning, the song blasted to the top of the UK iTunes chart. Within a week, it had topped over a dozen other music charts across Europe and was poised to make its mark on the official UK chart in the top five, giving Loreen an instant blockbuster smash single. That’s not surprising given that “Euphoria” received first-place votes from a record 18 of 42 voting countries in the contest, and only two of the 40 did not award it any points at all (and that’s only because Sweden couldn’t vote for itself).

And remember what other Swedish Eurovision champion went on to conquer worldwide charts? A little group known as ABBA, in 1974, with “Waterloo”.

Let’s examine what’s so great about “Euphoria”. It’s a trance-inspired dance track that, at first blush, sounds like just like everything else in vogue on contemporary hit radio. But listen again a little more closely, and you can see that it’s constructed so that it opens with minimal instrumentation to showcase Loreen’s vocals. She’s quietly whispering, questioning why a simple moment of joy is fleeting. But as the chorus builds, the beats kick in and the full vibrato of her glorious voice comes through loud and clear. There is no guest rap, no name-checking, no self-referencing. There is only a voice and a beat.