It’s Eurovision Song Contest Party Time.
Brown and orange paint for the living room? Check!
Beige polyester trouser suit that hugs alluringly around the most manly of areas? Check!
Vesta Chicken Supreme meals, fondue, vol au vents, cheese and pineapple on sticks? Check!
Advocaat, Babycham, Cinzano, Creme de Menthe? Check!
For me, every Eurovision is the 1970s in one day.
It’s time for the Eurovision Song Contest to roll around once more and this year I’ve gone all technical and decided to live tweet the event on my Twitter at the annual neOnbubble Eurovision House Party. If you want to follow me then subscribe away there or, better, pop along to Summize during the event and follow everyone who’s everyone tweeting the spectacle.
What Is The Eurovision Song Contest?
For one evening a year wars in Europe stop. Burglars slink back to their homes. The homeless set their braziers on Cosy and gather around obsolete television sets set up on bricks. The camped crusader Captain Camp emerges from the shadows of night and casts a magical spell over the continent. Sure, some people reject the lure of the Eurovision Superhero and complain bitterly that they don’t see the point or that the whole event is ludicrously crass but the point they miss is that it really does have no point on purpose and is deliberately ludicrously crass and that’s its charm. Regardless, once Sunday blossoms and Europe returns to normalcy those who complained are typically first against the wall.
Eurovision takes the form of songs, performed one after another by each European nation to have qualified. Attempts to sing all the songs together were deemed a violation of basic human rights in the sixties. There are limits on the number of performers and tunes praising Hitler’s extermination of the Jews are generally frowned upon but, otherwise, the sky’s the limit. Ballads, gay eurobeat, transgender heavy metal, puppets on fire, and Celine Dion: anything goes!
At the end of the songs all European viewers can vote by phone for any country other than their own, the scores are tallied, and the winner is showered with praise and glory and balloons and coupons with their home country then winning the expensive honour of hosting the competition the next time around.
Eurovision Problem #1: Bloc Voting
"Bloc voting makes a mockery of the competition!"
Bloc voting is the myth that people from Latvia vote for the Lithuanian and Estonian songs and vice versa not because they’re good – because they’re never good – but because they share a common former Soviet connection and thusly have ingrained within their souls both the fear that to do otherwise would bring down the KGB upon their families and that annoying the West is fun. Likewise for Scandinavian countries, the Greek/Turk/Malta/Cyprus conglomeration, etc. Every small group of similar countries, basically, except for the UK and Ireland, of course. Oh no. Those two never vote for one another out of loyalty ties. Never. It’s only those damn foreign types.
But, as you may have inferred from the "Bollocks" reference, bloc voting is a myth. What actually happens is that people from Latvia, for example, who pick the Latvian entry to represent them despite all aural evidence to support such a decision are exactly the sort of people who would favour a similarly intolerable excuse for a tune from Lithuania or Estonia. Beats, rhythms, an understanding of notes, and a predilection for non-moustachioed women pass these people by.
Eurovision Problem #2: Terry Wogan
In the UK we watch the Eurovision spectacular with the assistance of Ireland’s very own Terry Wogan to co-mock the East Europeans and moan about the Norwegians. The major problem, however, is that the rest of Europe have to put up with their own commentators. It’s simply not fair on them.
Eurovision 2008 Entries
So who are the best of the worst for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest? Well, "best" usually tends to count for absolutely nothing so let’s look at my personal favourites instead:
- Ukraine – Ani Lorak – Shady Lady · Not only does Ani look good – real good – but the song is actually listenable too. Listenable and good-looking! In Eurovision! That’s like the Holy Grail of entries. In fact, the song is better than listenable and is upbeat with a great chorus. And Ani looks good if I didn’t mention that earlier. Real good. So how come the Ukrainians who work in my company don’t look like that?
- United Kingdom – Andy Abraham – Even If · Although I can’t vote for Andy this is one of the better songs in the competition in my opinion simply because of its infectious Edwin Starr disco sound and his Sydney Youngbloodesque voice. If my toes tap then it gets a thumbs up. Checking toes … they’re tapping! Come on Andy!
- Latvia – Pirates Of The Sea – Wolves Of The Sea · With a hii hii hoo and a hii hii hey we can safely say that this song is dreadful on every possible level but growing up in a port city instantly makes old-fashioned piracy and nautical tunes attractive to my inner sailor. Not in a gay way though. More like a mutual respect for ridiculous clothes.
- France – Sebastien Tellier – Divine · When France picked a song for Eurovision that – gasp! – had – gasp! – English – gasp! – lyrics in it the streets were filled with rioting and striking Frenchmen. Nobody noticed of course and the result is a French entry that for once doesn’t conjure up the gag reflex from the hardiest of Eurovisioneers. Sacre bleu!
- Finland – Terasbetoni – Missa Miehet Ratsastaa · The Finns love their hard rock and so Terasbetoni will be taking up the crown of previous winners Lordi and trying to convince the rest of the continent that ballads and europop are decades behind. They won’t succeed but that doesn’t stop this being an impressively tuneful metal entry relatively-speaking. Will Romanian grannies vote for it? Unlikely. Although I’ve never met one and have heard they’re wiley so wouldn’t rule it out completely.
- Bosnia & Herzegovina – Laka – Pokusaj · It’s an odd song sung by an odd-looking man but my primary reason for liking the song is his co-singer, Mirela. The Rocky Horror Picture Show look appeals and she looks like the sort of girl who’d show you her underwear if you asked. Actually, she looks like the sort of girl who’d show you her underwear all the time whether you asked or not. And I like that in a girl. I’m old-fashioned that way.
Finally, special mention needs to be made of Sweden and Russia’s entries.
Sweden’s "Hero" from Charlotte Perrelli is one of the tournament favourites. It has a lot going for it: Sweden, blonde girls, anthemic. However, the lead singer has a head too smooth to be natural and I find it very offputting. If I were dipping a forked meatball in some fondue and she appeared on screen I might risk burning my fingers with the distraction. So Sweden, no.
As for Russia and Dima Bilan‘s "Believe": it’s a good song and it’s sung by a singer who I’m sure many ladies will approve of where they might reject Vladimir Putin. That said, I think I preferred it when the song was called "Wild World" and was sung by Cat Stevens. Yes, even with the beard.