May I also take this moment to point you in the direction of my 8track mixes page, where I've upped a mix of the 8 best songs from Eurovision. I left out a couple of half decent ones, but 8 pretty much covers it:
Look, you can listen while you read!
I felt that Russia, the hosts, kicked things off in a slightly disengenuous way, with a spectacular opening rendition of last year's winning track that noticably lacked the figure skater and ripped open shirt that almost certainly won it for them. It was like: "Hey, here's that fantastic song that won it for us last year. Where's the figure skater? No... no, I definitely don't remember there being a figure skater... ah... involved. I think I would remember something like that."
I liked the final hosts a lot less than the semi-final hosts too. The semi-final hosts were borderline incompetent, but carried it with an indomitably exuberant charm. The final hosts were, eh, kinda boring. And their bad jokes just came off like bad jokes rather than so-so jokes that were fumbled into failure, then ressurected by shouting "Hello lovely audience!" Overall though there was surprisingly little dead, boring time, and barring the inevitably excruciating voting process (where the arena emptied of live audience at a hilarious pace) the whole thing held your attention pretty well. And here're the ladies and gents who held it, in order of their appearance.
1) Lithuania - Sasha Son - Love
There were a number of entries this year that provoked a spit-take when they made it through the semis into the final. Young Sasha was a rake-like gentleman who sang a simple piano ballad and concealed a hand-held flamethrower until the very end of the song. That little stunt raised my eyebrow a touch, but it was a boring song to kick things off with.
2) Israel - Noa & Mira Awad - There Must Be Another Way
An annoyingly worthy world-peace ballad, sung in a duet by a Palestinian singer and an Israeli singer. Mira changed her hairstyle drastically between the semi and the final and there was some drumming on tin-drums but it was a poor song that probably made it through on the unity gimmick. Man, I sound cynical about this whole thing, it's good that Israel can send a message of unity at the Eurovision song contest, I know! But still I laughed out loud during the results of the semifinal when the presenter yelled out "The most politically correct song goes to the final!"
3) France - Patricia Kaas - Et S'il Fallait Le Faire
As I'm sure you know, France are one of the automatic qualifiers because they're one of the biggest economies in Europe so they pay for a lot of the competition. Last year they entered Sebastien Tellier in a song that was both ridiculous and brilliant, but this year they went a lot more serious with Patricia Kaas who gave a wrenching performance of a real French torch ballad. It was intense, very French and actually pretty good. Not as good as Sebastien Tellier but better than Spain.
4) Sweden - Malena Ernman - La Voix
This was a terrible pop/opera car crash where Malena's voice soared breathtakingly into the operatic choruses and struggled for strength when she dropped to the disco verses. She seemed surprisingly self-concious to be there too, occasionally pulling goofy smiles and odd facial expressions as if to agree with the audience: "Wow! This is kinda silly and fun isn't it?" Darling. Don't ruin the magic. And you only made it to the final because you're from the same country as Abba, so don't push your luck.
5) Croatia - Igor Cukrov feat. Andrea - Lijepa Tena
Eurovision cliches that I'm sick of: the juxtaposition of white and black. Yes, as colours, they are very different, and when you dress one person in white and the rest in black they stand out. But c'mon - it's losing it's impact when Sweden, Croatia, Greece and more are all using the same trick. I was staggered that this piffling flamenco ballad got through to the final, and won't waste any more of your time with it other than to say that his boots were horrible. Just horrible.
6) Portugal - Flor-de-lis - Todas As Ruas Dos Amor
Portugal sent their hippies, and I don't much like hippies. She sang much better in the semi-final than the final too, and I was kinda sad about that. But it was no damn good, so I didn't feel very sad.
7) Iceland - Yohanna - Is It True?
I am not a big fan of ballads, but y'know this one was alright. It was "Very Disney" for sure, but it was a really well written, well sung, well produced tear-jerker that deserved to come second in the competition. I knew I could count on Iceland. Now if only Finland hadn't let me down so badly.
8) Greece - Sakas Rouvas - This Is Our Night
This one was hotly tipped and I'm guessing it was because of Sakas' god-like physique, coz it sure as hell couldn't have been the song. The performance was pretty good, involving some nice jumping and a kind of giant stapler that doubled as both a moving walkway and a raising platform, but between the semi-final and the final... Sakas was a changed man. In the semi his polo shirt and hearty physical presence (along with the instantly forgettable tune) made the whole thing seem like a keep-fit DVD. But in the final the shirt was hanging open (obscenely or invitingly, I'll let you decide) and Sakas was giving it so much extra va-va-voom I was worried he was going to do himself or someone else an injury. I prepared a presentation, look:
In a way I'm sad that being a male-stripper didn't net him much success. But again it wasn't a very good song, so not that sad.
9) Armenia - Inga & Anush - Jan Jan
My favourite, and I think overall the best song in the competition. It's always good when they can balance some of the sound of the country with a kick-ass pop song. It starts off inauspiciously with generic wailing; but by the end they've gone through so many sections, and thrown so many melodic and harmonic kicks and splashes in there... it's exhausting.
Plus - lasers!
10) Russia - Anastasia Prikhodko - Mamo
Russia, triumphant last year, had nothing to lose. So they put in this insanely melodramatic, screaming dirge. Awesome, and for some reason it feels so much more... Russian, than their winning entry last year.
11) Azerbaijan - AySel and Arash - Always
Yuki liked this one coz it was a fun pop song; I couldn't believe it made it past the semis. A hi-energy dance pop duet sung by an honest-to-god couple. You could understand why he was so happy - he was nothing much to look at but he got to sing on Eurovision with his super-hot girlfriend and play a little banjo-thing. Whatever dude, whatever.
12) Bosnia & Herzegovina - Regina - Bistra Voda
Again, I was surprised this made it through to the final - it seemed shockingly dull to me. The all-cream military themed costumes came across well but then when it zoomed in they all looked sickly and had stupid greasy emo hair and lame stubble. Were they meant to resemble soldiers on the front? And if so why did the girls have such perfect make-up and ruby-red lips? Ah, conceptual innacuracy, I can always rely on you to string pop music up.
13) Moldova - Nelly Ciobanu - Hora Din Moldova
This rocked for so many reasons, and probably ended up my second favourite of the competition. They were decked out in very traditional clothes, and the music again comfortably bridged that gap between their historic roots and their sci-fi future. Other reasons for awesomeness: the backing dancers were great, but all kinds of dorky; the backing singer did all thise cool "woooooaaahh!"s and tongue rolls while shaking a spear in the air; there was a bit that was just shouting, and the actual sound of the thing was great. I mean the sound production - the trumpets and drums just sounded really fucking awesome, and gave the whole thing a lot of punch.
Yeah, don't fuck with Moldova huh? He will throw that goddamn spear at you.
14) Malta - Chiara - What If We
Ok, yes, she was a big girl. But she had probably the best voice of the competition, she never seemed to be even trying to hit those notes. Not a bad song too.
15) Estonia - Urban Symphony - Randajad
This was a weirdly depressing number from some kind of chamber-pop group mostly composed of cute girls. Yuki was seriously impressed with the adorable lead singer and her adorable, adorable straight fringe. Seriously - swoon. The song wasn't that great but along with the star field projected through the stage they at least built up quite an atmosphere by the end. And the singer? Her fringe?
16) Denmark - Brinck - Believe Again
I think that Denmark wanted to hire Ronan Keating for their song. But maybe there's some sub-clause in the Eurovision rules that prevented them from doing that, so instead they hired Ronan Keating to co-write the song and cloned a slightly weaker version of him to sing it. Really, this could have come straight offa one of Ronan's solo albums (he did have more than one didn't he?) and that should give you some idea of the quality we're dealing with here.
It sucked balls.
Also he had this stupid, open-grip, action-figure pose during the choruses that made him look like he was assembled from a kit. Hey! A Ronan Keating kit!
17) Germany - Alex Swings Oscar Sings - Miss Kiss Kiss Bang
The big news in this number was that Dita Von Tease was part of the stage show, performing a burlesque while some disco-swing berks span Cab Calloway in his grave like a top. But put Dita aside for a second (it's tough, but please try) and the song already had its fair share of show in the lead singer, who: 1) ripped his shirt open 2) wore a pair of glittering trousers so tight that for the first minute I was sure he was unable to move from the spot 3) tap danced, and 4) looked like a horse. All that and Dita Von Tease and the song still sucked. Go figure.
18) Turkey - Hadise - Dum Tek Tek
Another hotly tipped favourite, this one did better, coming in 4th. It probably deserved it too, it's a good pop song in that Turkish-dance-pop style that they've bequeathed to the world now via Holly Valance. This one in particular had some nice off-key diversions and was notable in that it wasn't written for the human voice, but for the human hips.
Seriously, you don't need to open your mouth to sing that song, just... 1, 2, 3. I wouldn't have been pissed if that had won actually, and I think they fucked up the levels on the backing vocals at first. Which sucks, but proves they were singing live I guess.
19) Albania - Kejsi Tola - Carry Me In Your Dreams
Oh man, this one. For a start it suffered coz it traded in exactly the same goods as the Turkish entry, but wasn't as good. And also...
... the performance was freakishly worrying. She was the youngest entrant to this years Eurovision, and she spent her time cavorting with a man in a turquoise, sequined, gimp-suit and two face-painted midgets. Occasionally she would stand or sit on one of the little people while the other span on his head or something. It was simultaneously everything that Eurovision can be, and everything that Eurovision should never be.
20) Norway - Alexander Ryback - Fairytale
The overwhelming favourite before the final, and the overwhelming victor at the end. And for once, I don't really begrudge him the glory - it's a pretty good song. Not too gimmicky, kind of daffy, but a lot of fun and the dancers put on a great show. At first he kind of creeped me out a little because of his ENORMOUS smile and the way he resembles a one man Jonas Brothers. But he's a lot more wholesome and less sleazy than the Jonas Brothers, and maybe he's a little simple but so what? I didn't mind this guy winning Eurovision.
Those backing singers were awesome too, they came on halfway through with their eyes fixed on him adoringly. They were all like "Oooh Alexander, make love to both of us at the same time all night! Oooh Alexander give us babies! Oooh Alexander!" Pschaw, whatever, he's too pure for them. I hope.
21) Ukraine - Svetlana Loboda - Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl)
Man, I guess they must mine that shiny, shiny metal in the Ukraine - they've covered all their performers and stage props in it for the last couple of years. Or maybe they just cut up last year's costumes to make this year's. Whatever, Ukraine never go half - they allways go hard. This disco-glam-pop abomination featured backing singers on stilts, an interlude where a drumkit was rolled out for Svetlana to play, spinning dancing poles built into three massive gear wheels on the stage, and these guys:
Cyber-punk centurion backing dancers. The song rode a beat that could've come from a Timbaland production, and by that I mean they ripped off Madonna's Four Minutes and that beat is a fucking travesty to start with. The music was borderline unlistenable, but there was so much attacking my eyes I think my brain diverted all processing power in that direction and shut off my ears completely. Good work brain, but a three minute coma would've worked too.
22) Romania - Elena - The Balkan Girls
This generic dance-pop number started off all floral, with Elena sitting on a stone throne, and her dancers wearing floaty, forest-spirit dresses; but turned out to be about how Balkan girls like to get hammered and kiss boys on the weekend. Don't let me be misunderstood, that ain't a bad topic for a song, but lyrics like "It's time for me to unwind / I'm gonna start my weekend with gin, tonic and lime" aren't the classiest way to explore it. Pretty frank though, and that I admire.
23) UK - Jade Ewen - It's My Time
I actually have no idea how people back in Blighty have reacted to us placing a miraculous fifth in the competition. I was pretty damn impressed, not with the song of course, but with the fact that we could get Europe to at least pretend like they don't hate us. The song was so-so, it sounds like what you would imagine an Andrew Lloyd Webber song written for Eurovision would sound like, or like what Andrew Lloyd Webber thinks an Andrew Lloyd Webber power ballad should sound like. I guess having him on stage earned us the "ice skater" points that Russia got last year too. Since Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the most physically unattractive beings in the world, I was worried that it might backfire spectacularly but I guess my fears were unfounded. Still it's funny how Germany put this beatiful woman on stage and take a kicking, while we put this repulsive frog-person out there and rake in the points. I wonder how these things happen? Maybe it was just the song.
24) Finland - Waldo's People - Lose Control
You know, I've always had a soft spot for Finland. Not any more. If I was amazed that some songs got through to the final, this one left me thinking I'd been taking crazy pills. Every aspect of it is wretched, from concept to execution, and I only include the video here so that ALL CAN SUFFER. It's about homelessness you know. You can tell by the flaming oil barrels and the way the singers are dressed like hookers and the rapper is their pimp. I'm pretty sure that's not the intention, but y'know - death of the author and all that...
Hahahaha! I just found that the Finland entry is so bad that the SurpriseTurk, whose fine youtube vids of Eurovision I've been embedding, didn't even bother to upload their performance from the final. He did every single other one though. Ok, I've found it now.
Look at all that fire on stage. If only some of it could be on them.
25) Spain - Soraya - La Noche Es Para Mi (The Night Is For Me)
Last year Spain entered a diminutive comedy rapper with slapstick backing dancers and were accused of not taking things seriously. This year they entered, like, a boring euro-pop song that even a stage magic trick couldn't enliven, and the world is worse for it. Boring.
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And that... is... it? Jesus wept, was that as long for you as it was for me? I think I need to go to bed now. As the hosts of every Eurovision broadcast across the world said - see you next year in Oslo!