25 May 2008

Eurovision 2008

Eurovision week for 2008 has now been and gone, with a grand total of 43 nations from across Europe (and a bit of Asia really) taking part. As usual, the contest has been overwhelmed by:
- Block Voting
- Really awful Eurotrash acts alongside credible and effective entries
- Very annoying presenters being shoved on stage by the host nation, as well as fashion sense-deficient announcers of the various televote results.
- Senseless acts getting the top spots while interesting, more Western European ones are shunned into the gutter.
- One very boring interval act
- Sir Terry Wogan's excellent commentary, keeping us Brits sane throughout.

Here's a rundown of the scorecard for your perusal:

Nation Points Position
Russia 272 1
Ukraine 230 2
Greece 218 3
Armenia 199 4
Norway 182 5
Serbia 160 6
Turkey 138 7
Azerbaijan 132 8
Israel 124 9
Bosnia & Herzegovina 110 10
Georgia 83 11
Latvia 83 12
Portugal 69 13
Iceland 64 14
Denmark 60 15
Spain 55 16
Albania 55 17
Sweden 47 18
France 47 19
Romania 45 20
Croatia 44 21
Finland 35 22
Germany 14 23
Poland 14 24
United Kingdom 14 25

UK's entry with Andy Abraham's "Even If" had its merits. I did find it a quite nice and catchy disco song, supplemented by a good backing group. I knew it wasn't great and I knew we weren't likely winners, but I still saw it as a credible entry. For it to come joint last alongside our friends in Germany and Poland was a bit depressing really. Very annoying that alphabetical ordering makes us the last placed finalist. As Mr. Wogan said in his commentary: "Thank God for Ireland!" (on their donation of 8pts). On the other hand, it appears our friendship with Malta was short-lived, following a jump from 12pts for Scooch to 0pts for Andy, which is a shame really. For those who are interested, the small principality and debut nation of San Marino gave us the other 6. Irish readers out there: I would have voted for your turkey, but UK couldn't vote for SemiFinal 1, sorry.

Prior to tonight's finale I had been watching the semi's to gauge the competition this year, and I did pick out a few favourites along the way. Finland, with their heavy metal rockers Terasbetoni (which literally translates to steel-reinforced concrete, and that on its own is worth Douze Points!), I thought would do well and possibly emulate Lordi's success of 2006. However, perhaps Europe wasn't interested in another group of Viking rockers unless they came dressed as zombies, vampires and hellcows (no offence to Lordi, but that's probably how Europe saw them in '06 and therefore gave them the comedy vote). Ye Scurvy Pirates of Latvia with their sea-shanty 'Wolves of the Sea' was the second entry I was keen to see do well, yarrr, but I suppose finishing midfield isn't bad at all. Sweden and Germany had disappointing results; I'd certainly enjoyed Hero by Charlotte Perelli (former 1999 winner for Sweden) and Disappear by No Angels (German 4-piece Spice Girls group) and put a quick vote down for them both. Sadly, neither of the last 2 finished in Britain's nationwide top ten. Those two acts certainly had unique flair. The Swedish LAZERS (pewpew!) and 5-piece synchronised psycho dance routine won me over, as did the very fit Germans in flowing dresses and wind machines.

Of the ones that succeeded:
- Russia was an interesting act: solo singer, violinist jamming away on a podium [As a side-note, he either has a very good memory of the notes for that entire piece, or he was miming along to backing track], then revealing said podium to in fact be a compact ice rink, approx. 3m diameter. And it would have been so hilarious had that figure skater crashed and burned during his pirouettes :D
Russia's victory had been somewhat predicted by Wogan, especially considering the various Slavic states we have in ESC nowadays. I think it's a case of "Hey, Putin/Medvedev, we'll give you 12pts and the contest for '09, but just don't nuke us and/or cut off our gas/oil supplylines!"
- Ukraine: a very good diva dance song, I won't knock it. Good healthy eastern bloc voting for it.
- Greece: Aqua's Barbie Girl from the 90's revamped for Eurovision. It got the 12pts from Cyprus, naturally.
- Armenia: I think this was another diva entry, not sure. Wasn't memorable that's for sure.
- Norway: Final act of the night that did surprisingly well.
- Serbia: The host nation's act wasn't very impressive, and the chorus reminded me of the Numa Numa string in 'Dragostea din tei'. The voting for the Serbs confused me. All those Balkan states - Montenegro, Albania, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia - fought tooth and nail to escape the decaying Yugoslavia superstate and Serbian oppression at the turn of the 1990's. Many of the people there still detest Serbia, and they go ahead and give 12 for a very unmemorable performance from a nation whose guts they apparently hate.
I think it's about we have ourselves another war in the Balkans. We really need to clear out the trash down there.
- Turkey started off with a huge amount of votes at the start, especially from UK, certainly mirroring last years' contest, where we gave them 12, apparently because we were told "one of the backing dancers is a Brit". They had a decent Busted/McFly pop guitarist number, with their frontman sporting some very crazy heavy eyebrows.
- Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan, if they can do it, everyone can! Oh dear this one was awful! A very visual display of Angel v Devil while singing something completely unrelated. For a debut entry they did well; I just didn't see its merits. Azerbaijan and Turkey have established a new 12pt exchange group in ESC, to go with Greece and Cyprus (and others), mainly the result of a red strip of their flag and the Crescent/Star emblem.

And the rest:
- Israel: poor
- B&H: made no sense
- Georgia: slightly religiously controversial with the finale showing the act members displaying Stars of David, Crucifixes, Crescents, implying that Peace Will Come between all (which it won't, not for a long time)
- Portugal: "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings", and sing the fat lady did.
- Iceland: Eurotrash, very, very Eurotrash. Also, think Little Britain's Davyf Thomas if he lost weight, was a little bit more 'camp' rather than 'out & sophisticated'.
- Denmark: reminded me of Roger Cicero's swing ballad from Germany last year
- Spain: My God was that one awful. A made-up four part dance routine, with obscure names for four already-determined dance moves, which are not shown when he actually says "Now dance it!" Also, that My Little Pony-esque mini-electric guitar round his neck was pathetic.
- France: I kinda liked this one. A Gallic bearded bloke in a suit, turning up on stage in a golf cart singing in English, very absurd, very surreal. Oh, and the (most likely female) backing singers all had the same overwhelming beard and big sunglasses. The promotional video was more impressive though, with the artist flinging the microphone to himself over (I counted) 60 individual camera shots, and a bit more of a 'divine' appearance in a white suit.

So it's going to be Moscow for Eurovision 2009. This makes it slightly more fair on the Vladivostokians tuning in to the contest, but possibly means pushing it make to 5/6pm slot in Western Europe. Oh well...

Wogan seems to feel strongly that the BBC and UK, as well as a few others from the West, should pull out for good, or branch off for our own contest that's not swamped by 20 nations in the East with the population of 1 nation of the West, but with 20x the voting power. It would certainly impact the funding of the event were the UK, Spain, France and/or Germany to up stakes and move out, but I suppose that's something that may be needed to be done to prove a point. No reason why we shouldn't follow Austria/Italy really.

It has been said that UK's popularity has gone down in Europe since Iraq and 2003, and we therefore haven't performed so well of late. However, we also put forward during this time:
- a double act whose song had epoch fail written all over it before their sound system went dead on stage
- a Mancunian rapper and 5/6 20-year old singers dressed as schoolgirls complaining that there is a thing known as education for teenagers, and that teachers care not for who they're sleeping with or what drugs they're taking. Daz Sampson's moronic entry was an advertisement for our failing state school system.
- a very Butlin's level of camp, overly patriotic song by a long-expired bubblegum pop group

Maybe Balkan/Baltic/Eastern bloc states don't vote for us on the principle that our government misled us into a prolonged conflict in the Gulf, but it's also down to the fact that what Britain produces as an entry, isn't their kind of music. This is compounded by the fact that no serious artist enters, in an attempt to maintain their career's status, because they know the general public don't support their license fee money going towards the annual circus that is Eurovision, because they know the acts put forward as the people's choice, have no hope in hell anymore. And the vicious circle continues. As well as this, some of the 'decent' entries we put forward between '98 (when we hosted and Israel won) and '03 were also disregarded by Europe (though I think we had one/two entries coming in the top 10 with a good 100+pts)

Whew, I think I covered everything. I hope people read and place their views, as this was more than a good hour's worth of my Saturday night/Sunday morning.

So, until the next time my spleen needs venting,
Auf Wiedersehen... Genossen!

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