The Retreat from Moscow: Eurovision Wrapup 2009

Monday 18 May 2009

I’m cheating, I’m watching this on iPlayer, which means I’m (a) fast-forwarding through the boring bits and (b) drinking alone. As must all large-scale events these days, it begins with a warning:

Ah, for the innocent days of being fifteen again, when I couldn’t look at strobe lights without succumbing to impure thoughts and popping a boner.

And right from the start we have a Fine Cotton with the now-dreaded Cirque du Soleil setting the tone for a night of po-faced, state-sponsored whimsy. Score One for iPlayer. Then last year’s winner comes on and sings what I assume is The Toilet Song again, as the last two winning songs have been hopelessly unmemorable. The male singer looks dead earnest while pulling the same writhe-around-on-the-floor moves Madonna used to do twenty years ago. Hang on, is that a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus flag?

Keep that guy away from the Greeks!

This is the dawn of the bold, new, post-Wogan era, so sadly he’s missed his chance to bring out his old Masha and Pasha jokes one more time when the hosts take the stage. He also misses out the chance to point out that one of the hosts is your granny’s toilet roll cover lady grown to full size and come to life.

Lithuania: A stage school boy with a tragic hat sings out of the corner of his mouth to disguise his accent. So far, so blah, but it wouldn’t be Eurovision without a stupid gimmick and meaningless attempts at profundity thrown in at the last moment. (ITE?, DKC)

Israel: This much-touted Jew-vs-Arab throwdown counts as a Don’t Mention The Wall, so that’s another drink along with their tried and tested English-chorus/Foreign-verse formula. Two charming divas in requisite softcore dominatrix gear warily eye each other off before bonding over their shared love of kerosene tins. (DMW, ITE?)

France: Kicks it old-school with a standard chanteuse act, whose only concessions to Eurovision are to wobble about a bit at the end in a small bit of awkward choreography, and to have her makeup done by Tim Burton. Professional, tasteful, the crowd seem to love it – this won’t win. Bonus points for not having an accordion on stage. Points off for having an accordion in the mix. (LKW)

Sweden: Yet another Swedish disco anthem sung by a burly blonde diva. This one’s an opera singer, so they have to bog the song down with lots of high warbly bits, only to have her struggle on the normal, breathy parts. By the end, she’s swapping ranges so often it sounds like a tribute to the late Yma Sumac. Didn’t every second future-dystopia sci-fi movie in the 90s tell us we’d be listening to this stuff right about now?

Croatia: Darko and the Pantene Ladies serenade you with their smoky charms, until one of them starts wailing uncontrollably. I think it’s one of the women. The singer stage right is getting visibly annoyed with the wind machine.

Portugal: There’s a fine line between being cheerful, colourful, and sweet, and being The Wiggles. With an accordion.

Iceland: This is as standard as Eurovision gets: a mid-tempo power ballad, sung in nonsensical American English, with a Dramatic Key Change for the last chorus, and utterly incongruous visuals. First a ghost ship for all the Pirates of the Caribbean fans, and then, more perplexingly, Ghost Flipper. (DKC)

Greece: Years of hanging around Lonsdale Street and watching Eurovision have convinced me that modern-day Greece is just one giant discotheque. The singer dude shows how his country has moved with the times by leaving his shirt unbuttoned, revealing neither medallion nor chest hair. Acrobatic hijinks ensue around a bedazzled travelator that metamorphoses into the Giant Stapler of Greece. “Feel it in your heart when you are winning this race!” (DKC)

Armenia: “Chop it up! Bring the noise!” That’s just what their Armenian sounds like; their English makes much less sense. You know those old movies where the Sultan calls out the exotic dancers to entertain his guests? This is sort of the reverse, like watching an Armenian movie set in an American R’n’B club. (ITE?, DKC)

Russia: A sourpuss in a shower curtain bums everyone out with a dirge and a reenactment of The Jumbotron of Dorian Gray.

Azerbaijan: We’re just happy to be here, so let’s raid the TV studio’s wardrobe, grab as many flash pots as we can find, and crank the wind machine to 11! See, you don’t need a theme to make the crowd happy. (WM)

Bosnia&Herzegovina [sic]: Firstly, congratlulations to this country for entering under almost the same name for two years running. The first white suits of the night, albeit retro-uniform type things, looking a bit like Coldplay’s stupid outfits would if they weren’t colourfast. One young man furiously strums an electric guitar while a piano plaintively tinkles over the speakers. Then they turn on the wind machine. It’s a grim trudge, this one. (WM)

Moldova: A girl in purple boots does the singing-and-yelling thing to show how passionate these Slavic types are. She is accompanied by four Moldovan morris dancers who inexplicably break into the Dance of the Little Swans near the end, and a distant, shouty man brandishing a traditional Moldovan ceremonial mop.

Malta: It’s nice to see Chiara coming back every five years or so. It’s so reassuring. She stands there and sings, throws out her arms occasionally, and almost wins. With no video screens to back her up she gets lost on the vast stage, but she knows most of the voters are watching on telly and gets the nuances right.

Estonia: A Eurovision fake-violinist sitting down: is this a first? There are also two (2) cellists, also sitting, two backup singers standing still, and a lead singer standing still but ominously clutching a violin as well. In the instrumental break she stands still and pretends to play the violin a bit. This must be the most inert use of onstage prop instruments ever.

Denmark: A Danish Ronan Keating impersonator arises from his barstool to sing a Ronan Keating song. Why? Why? He keeps going into a half-squat like he’s been riding a horse too long. Does the real Ronan Keating do that? (2xFC)

Germany: Reverting to goofy kitsch again with an unappetising mélange of 20s, 30s, and 40s jazz clichés, squelched into a stiff pop ditty. In lieu of a decent song, they bring onstage legendary German pop icon Dita Von Teese (of the Friedrichshafen Von Teeses) and loudly announce her presence for the benefit of all the non-Germans who didn’t grow up watching Gummi porn. (FC)

Turkey: Haven’t they done this one before? Not that I’m complaining. The most substantial item of clothing worn by the ladies is around their ankles, for some reason. Don’t get any ideas, because halfway through a shirtless guy bounds onstage and starts showing off how he can totally kick you in the head like it ain’t a thing. (2xCR)

Albania: I’m guessing Albania got into the finals on the sympathy vote, because they’re trapped in 1983. A girl with crimped hair and a bubble skirt struggles with the English language while one of the mimes does a headspin. Oh yeah, there’s a pair of scary mimes. And Gumby, who’s become a creepy, middle-aged stalker who just won’t go away. (DKC)

Norway: A gurning fiddler is backed up by a pair of singers teleported in from the 1976 contest, and some stray tumblers from a travelling production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers who commit gratuitous violence against hats and generally looking this close to walking over and planting one on the singer. (WM)

Ukraine: A committee job, surely. Techno set? Yep. Ruslana-type chick? Of course. Lving statues? Why not. Gay Mardi Gras centurions? Uh, OK. Karen Carpenter impression? You mean she does a gratuitous drum solo or starves herself? Too soon! (2xCR)

Romania: A hen’s night overruns the Troll King’s throne. When is someone going to fling their skirts off?

United Kingdom: The Toilet Song for this year. X-Factor warbling of a dreary Diane Warren ballad. Oh god, and Andrew Lloyd Webber simpering over a white piano. Score Two for iPlayer. (FC, LKW, DKC)

Finland: If I asked you to name the two most obnoxious things in the world, you’d probably say white guys rapping and fire twirling. Guess what this trainwreck’s got for us?

Spain: Another case of “will this do?” from one of the big nations. At one stage the dancers hold up a sheet in front of the singer, usually a Eurovision cue for a costume change. Instead, she disappears completely. And then, um, pops up again a few metres to the left. This isn’t a lame magic show, it’s a lame song contest! (ITE?)

The voting: Norway wins. Why do the Israeli fans have large, inflatable hammers with the Star of David on them?