They cut the obligatory heritage dance section back to the semi-finals, and filled the dead air in the final with Cirque du Soleil and some awesome Argentinian dance troup that were far more passable than the usual fare. Every single surface on the stage seemed capable of projecting an image with some spectacular results, and the wide panning shots were awesome.
Of course, what I'm learning about Eurovision (and yes, I'm learning all the time) is that every year some of the better, and some of the crazier entries go out in the semi-final stage. Because apparently no-one wants to vote for a bear-like Serbian with a bleached afro and a gravelly rapping voice. More's the pity. They'd rather just send Sweden through on the Abba ticket that says "if it's from Sweden, it must be pop gold!" That's gotta stop for a start.
So here then, a round up of the seventeen entries who made the semi-finals - when they were padding the crowd with paid flag wavers, but who didn't make the packed house of the grand final.
Montenegro - Andrea Demirovic - Just Get Out Of My Life
Kicked the whole thing off in ignominious style. A lacklustre, girl-power, dance-pop number that would go on to be outshone by any number of other girl-power, dance-pop numbers. It made me weep for Eurovision that they chose to kick things off with this. Pleasingly, this is one of those songs where you can take the title and say it back to them with far more feeling than they ever did.
Czech Republic - Gypsy.cz - Aven Romale
The first one I wanted to go through, that didn't. Comic-book, gypsy, super-hero, balkan, party-stomp thing. Oh, please ignore the terrible, terrible name - there's a special hell reserved for people who include bits of URLs in their band names. Now that the voting has been swung back in favour of Western Europe with the move to half audience voting and half "expert judges" there's little chance of one of these slightly malnourished romany bands winning Eurovision. But then again, that balkan beat is just getting hotter and hotter right now... you never know.
He can make you really sing like Gypsy. Oh yes.
Belgium - Copycat - Copycat
I think, hands down, the weirdest entry this year. A thuggish looking Elvis impersonator, singing about people trying to impersonate him and steal his "soul", and with a deranged sounding bridge where he seems to be threatening to hide and kill his "fair Priscilla". It seems to be some kind of Elvis blackout song whereby Elvis, or a psychotic Elvis impersonator, hunts and kills other Elvis impersonators.
Did Belgium really think this was going to win the hearts and minds of Eurovision viewers? Did they care? Fantastic.
By the way, I'm sorry about the long intro and clipping voice-over on these youtube vids, but they have the best quality video and audio of the songs themselves that I could find on youtube, so just skip to that bit and quit yer belly-aching.
Belarus - Petr Elfimov - Eyes That Never Lie
Check this out:
I didn't think so.
Andorra - Susanne Georgi - La Teve Decisio (Get A Life)
Girls with guitars, but... not really in a good way. I know, you're thinking girls with guitars? How can that be a bad thing? I'll tell you how. Meredith Brooks, that's how - and this was sadly reminiscent of her oeuvre. The main singer (I want to say she looked brassy... is that offensive? she had a nice smile!) put her guitar down halfway through too. Sorry Andorra, the bar is low, but it ain't that low.
Switzerland - Lovebugs - The Heighest Heights
No, not like that kite song from Mary Poppins. Are you ready for the formula? It was almost exactly like the Killers, and how the Killers REALLY want to be U2 - but with Scott Weiland on vocals. Oh, and Scott Weiland had surgery to look like Ethan Hawke. Oh and it was shit.
Bulgaria - Krassimir Avramov - Illusion
The kind of song that make the nay-sayers right about Eurovision. I was happy to put money on this as the worst song of the competition even this early on, but little was I to know that the worst song of the competition was still to come and would actually make it through to the final! This was a still shocking performance of a terrible song. It had a bit towards the end where they were all wailing and going for the falsettos and NONE OF IT WAS IN TUNE. It was like some malfunctioning sine-wave test. And look:
World's shittest LOTR cosplay winners 2009.
Macedonia - Next Time - Neshto Shto Ke Ostane
Gentlemen, you'll be the Macedonian Bon Jovi I presume? Down to the Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora back-to-back opening pose? Let me check my clipboard... hmmm... let's see here... yeah, I thought so. I'm afraid there's simply no concievable reason for you to exist! Yeah, I know, sucks for you but what can you do? Just wait on that bus over there with the Swiss Killers and someone'll take you home in a bit.
Ireland - Sinead Mulvey and Black Daisy - Et Cetera
Well, Ireland are taking steps towards taking the competition seriously again at least. This one might have even got through, except that it didn't. After last year entering a tuneless puppet, this year Ireland opted for the all-girl rock band from a 1997 TV movie about a fictional all-girl rock band and their boy troubles. Kinda like the Donnas meets the Commitments, but not very good.
Latvia - Intars Busulis - Probka
Another of my favourites that didn't make it through, but then this one never stood a chance. A diminutive, badly dressed frontman throwing a New-Wave-Huey-Lewis temper tantrum about traffic jams. I liked the song, his bendy legs, and the way he was dwarfed by his cute backing singers. I was confused by the bit where water was flowing through the hands on the projection... the metaphor was lost on me. It's the time we spend in cars is like water... um... The song's in Russian too, which didn't seem to help him garner votes.
Serbia - Marko Kon and Milaan - Cipela
Minimal balkan comedy rap? I will buy that for a dollar. And comedy hair too? Sir, you had me at comedy rap, you needed go no further. Another one that would've made the final more interesting had it gone through. Not fantastic, but it's got a lot going for it. Kind of like an electro drinking chant with a strangely threatening melody and a billiously green stage:
Poland - Lydia Kopania - I Don't Wanna Leave
I honestly can't remember what this was or whether it was any good. My notes (yes, I take notes) say "Ballad thing - ballet dancers. Nice chords in the chorus. Bit boring." Hold on a sec.
OK, I checked it out on youtube. What I wrote there pretty much covers it. You're not missing much.
Cyprus - Christina Metaxa - Firefly
Some dude in the audience gave a hoarse, strangled yelp of "Christina!" in the silence just before the music kicked in. She was a wide-eyed ingenue, sitting on a spinning cube of light, singing a ballad about... I'm assuming the wonder and magic of the world in which we all live. Together, need I remind you. Really, she looked far to innocent to be caught up in the sleazy, sordid world of Eurovision. I can't imagine what they did to her backstage. I thought that several songs this year were "Very Disney" but this one was "Disney-rific!" You could swap it in for that Elton John ballad in The Lion King, in that scene where the two lions are fucking or whatever, and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
Slovakia - Kamil Mikulcik & Nena Pociskova - Let' Tmou
Another ballad, this one a duet by a beautiful girl and a guy who thought it would look rugged not to shave for a couple of weeks. I mean, I'm one to talk, but at least I'm under no illusions that I look like a drunk or a transient. This one made me wonder: cummerbunds? Are they hot or not?
Slovenia - Quartissimo feat. Martina - Love Symphony
So apparently, Martina has been on Eurovision as a backing singer several times before, but this is her first shot up front. Or, out back, as it were, because she spent at least half the song hidden from view. I found a snap from the early rehearsals that shows you:
While I was watching, waiting for her to appear, as the string quartet (a male Bond) prowled the stage like slightly pasty lotharios, I ran through a number of possibilities in my head. It's a terrible Spinal Tap-esque stage malfunction, that has left her trapped behind a paper sheet! She's actually really ugly, and the only way she was allowed to sing lead was if she was kept hidden from the viewers' eyes! She's not ugly but she was accidentally hideously scarred during rehearsals by a misfiring pyrotechnic and they're hiding her away for now! None of these turned out to be true, she looked nice and came out at what might have been a climactic moment, but wasn't because it wasn't a very good song.
Hungary - Zoli Adok - Dance With Me
I found it hard to hate this guile-less Euro-disco number, awful as it was. He and all his dancers wore tearaway clothes that changed them from fairly simple, classy looking dancers; to gaudy, tasteless buffoons. It had male falsetto backing vocals, and didn't deserve to go through but y'know... it was a nice reminder of Eurovision's heritage.
The Netherlands - The Toppers - Shine
Apparently this was tipped? It was a favourite? At first I had it pegged as the pub entry; as in the head of the Dutch Eurovision entry was in the pub and realised he'd forgotten to put an entry together, so he got whoever was in there at the time, gave them shiny suits and sent them to Moscow. But on reflection (look at the suits, re-read that phrase, enjoy play-on-words) they look like veteran entertainers with big hearts who were given a shot at Eurovision. I don't think the Dutch care much about Eurovision, and I'm not judging them for that, but I'm surprised that anyone thought this feel-good kiddie-pop was going anywhere.
Yeah, that lady was scratching a mixing desk thing that she was carrying around her neck. At first I thought she was dishing out snacks. I'm not sure which would be better.
- - -
So, those are the songs that didn't make it to the Grand Final. Providing my sanity, my fingers and my laptop hold up, tomorrow I'll try and take you through the twenty five finalists. You'll never make it on your own.