(I did start writing this on the eve of the actual final… not that I got around to finishing it then… *cough*)
The annual spectacle that is the Eurovision Song Contest has concluded. This year, Norway was the host, and they seemed to do a good job. We didn’t watch the whole show, as we decided to pop to Blockbusters just before it started, but we heard a little of the broadcast on the radio in the car. It sounded like Terry Wogan had got back to his old job, but then we decided it wasn’t, and opted for Radio 2 presenter Ken Bruce – who sounds 98% like Terry Wogan!
The songs were their usual Eurovisiony selves, the hosts spoke their normal English with heavy accents… Then there was the voting, and in those 15 minutes between the end of the singing and the end of the voting, aside from the normal medley of songs to remember which numbers to call, were a couple of guys and some attempt at a flashmob around Europe. Surprised to see Gothenburg there – would’ve thought Stockholm would be the obvious choice, but nooo. Good old Göteborg! I very much approve of that. The London one, though – WTH was up with that?! They came running, as if to say “oh crap, this isn’t the street with the camera – quick! It’s ’round here!” and then they were more like running in a confused manner, wondering where they were supposed to go, rather than actually dancing like they were supposed to. Ahh, that says it all about British organisational skills. Or rather: lack thereof.
During the week, there were two semi-finals. There, everyone except the hosting nation (i.e. Norway) and those Eurovision funding giants (France, Spain, UK, Germany) had to qualify in order to get to the 25-country strong finale on the Saturday. Much to nearly everyone’s surprise, Sweden failed to get through. Now, the ESC is a huge thing in Sweden – it’s one of the most-watched shows every year – and Sweden not making the finale? Unheard of! A scandal! We should pull out of the competition altogether! Or, we could just relax and admit defeat and do a better job next year instead of waging war on Europe. But sending a sub-standard song that just wouldn’t cut it is too harmful to the Swedish ego, and we can’t have that.
My favourites were Romania (catchy) and Denmark (which was penned by Swedes, yo). The German entry was okay (surprise win! Good for them!), but I thought she tried too hard to sound like Kate Nash or someone. Her pronunciation was really strange on some words, and don’t blame it on her being foreign! She spoke English without difficulties, and besides, a German wouldn’t mispronounce words in the way she did. I’m having my hopes set on Germany letting Thomas Anders be the host. They let him give out points and show up in between things the other year! There I was, enjoyin’ me Eurovision, and all of a sudden, “let’s go to Germany and see how the party’s developing in Hamburg. Hello Thomas!” and there he was! Not just some random Thomas, but THE Thomas! Thomas Anders! My jaw dropped, followed by a really excited smile. Totally made my night. He tried to participate in the German pre-contest another year, but didn’t get through. Tsk.
Back to this year’s contest.
France sent their World Cup anthem. Catchy song, but not really Eurovisiony – definitely a World Cup song. Greece had the sexiest performance. Perhaps a liiiiittle bit gay, but hey, it’s Eurovision – it’s expected. 😉 Spain sent another strange song… and apparently got gatecrashed by someone, so they had to perform again at the end. We didn’t see the incident, as we were busy finding out the rental store had run out of all copies of Sherlock Holmes that particular day. (Boo!)
Poor British Josh ended up last with his Stock/Waterman thing, which sounded like it would’ve been better done by Steps. He gave it a go, and well done to him. Formulaic, yes. Sounds like any old Stock/Aitken/Waterman song, yes. Was it deserving of a last place, no. If Sweden can be accused of taking Eurovision too seriously, Britain can definitely be accused of not taking it seriously enough. Got so close last year (much thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber), but this time? Nooo. Not even the songwriters put their faith in the poor boy, which says a lot.
In general, I think the last couple of years, the competition has really shaped up. Before, it was just really predictable and the whole voting process seemed utterly pointless. Of course, being from Scandinavialand, a little bit of block voting never hurt anyone – as long as you’re not from Eastern Europe, that is. Then it’s an outrage. From a Scandinavian perspective, it’s perfectly reasonable to pat each other on the back, but godsdamnit if some other neighbouring countries start doing what we’re doing! Then it’s called rigged voting. (Skewed perspective, much?) Still, the way it worked before was very predictable. All the states of Eastern Europe voting for one another, one of them would emerge victorious. And we can’t have that now, can we? Not when the Scandinavian schlager hubris is threatened!
Nowadays, everyone has to qualify for the finale (aside from last year’s winner and the four big Eurovision sponsor countries, but hey, fair’s fair) – and I think that’s great. The “top 15 are in, the rest have to qualify” was unfair, because a country that was good one year might be rubbish the next. With half of a country’s vote being made up from a jury and half from the general public, the votes are more interesting as well. Now it’s not given who is going to win, and all of Western Europe (Sweden in particular) won’t automatically say “well, of course they WOULD vote for Russia, because they don’t want to get invaded” or mutter things about Yugoslavia only splitting up in a secret bid to try and monopolise Eurovision. They used to just be the one country – the one Eurovision entry – now it’s half a dozen or so, and they all participate. And it’s douze points all around! (See, it all adds up in the envious Scandinavialand minds, where Sweden always does well and no one is allowed to question it!)
No, (nearly) everyone qualifying is a lot better. It’s given the show a new lease of life. I hope they stick to this format, because it works. Eurovision is fun again.
And now if I can only remember why one of the Norwegian host ladies was so familiar…