Azerbaijan unclear on concepts of Eurovision, Europe

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Pace Terry Wogan, Eurovision is not always a vote-for-your-neighbour contest. A total of just 43 people in Eurovision newcomer Azerbaijan voted for neighbouring country and traditional rival Armenia. How do we know? Because officials from the Azerbaijani National Security Ministry are rounding them up:

“They wanted an explanation for why I voted for Armenia. They said it was a matter of national security,” Nasirli said. “They were trying to put psychological pressure on me, saying things like, ‘You have no sense of ethnic pride. How come you voted for Armenia?’ They made me write out an explanation, and then they let me go.”

Disappointing news. It makes one yearn for the simpler, more innocent days of yore, when Eurovision points were allocated on the decisions of government-appointed judges, without all this pesky voting messing things up.

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?

Countdown to Eurovision 2009 (3): Prepare for Super Gipsy (rated PG)

Wednesday 13 May 2009

I’m busy right now, so here are some headlines from the official Eurovision website to give you some ideas about (a) how the contest is shaping up, (b) the shape Europe’s in, and (c) WTF.

Countdown to Eurovision 2009 (2): European Committees are Here to Help

Monday 11 May 2009

It’s Eurovision week! Previously: Meet The Losers, The Eurovision Drinking Game Rules.

Incidentally, the voting system has changed this year. Over the past ten years Eurovision voting has moved from jury-based decisions to popular phone votes in every participating country. This year, after growing disquiet over blatant block voting by particular countries, each country’s vote will now be weighted fifty-fifty between the phone vote and a jury vote.

Yeah, that’ll work. I’m sure that every nation’s appointed jury will be completely impartial and unaware of any political agenda with their neighbours, and utterly unconcerned about the gas being switched off again next winter.

Countdown to Eurovision 2009 (1): Meet the Losers

Monday 11 May 2009

It’s Eurovision week! Previously: The Eurovision Drinking Game Rules.

As always, we look to the Eurovision entrant with the longest odds of winning, in a futile attempt to seek out the most rewarding piece of kitsch before the Big Show itself*.

This year the honour goes to perpetual underdogs Slovakia, which returns to the contest after a 10-year absence. Discouraged, they gave up in 2000 after all their previous entries only got into three finals, never coming higher than 17th. Their comeback, “Leť Tmou” by Kamil Mikulčík & Nela Pocisková, is an unauspicious 150-1 longshot.

The Slovakian performers are “a group of musicians with impressive CV-s. Some of them teach in universities and some are very famous from local TV-series!” Pocisková is a “popular actress and singer”, and is joined by Rastislav Dubovský “the piano master”, and Jan Pospíšil “maestro on the cello”. Mikulčík, on the other hand, is billed merely as “the male voice on stage”, so he’s obviously neither a master nor popular but they needed a guy and he happened to be around.

Of course, this song is also the least likely to make it through to the final, so the longest odds on any country guaranteed to be in the final is, surprisingly, last year’s winner. “Mamo”, sung by Russia‘s Anastasia Prikhodko is a dubious 40-1.

Anastasia has an interesting and rarely low deep voice like that of an opera’s diva. She has graduated from a music academy, the department of folk vocal. She sings quite unordinary minor songs and folk songs in both the Russian and Ukranian languages.

A minor song, sung by a diva with an unusually low deep voice? Have economic troubles forced Russia to pull a My Lovely Horse?

* As a purist, I prefer to see all the final acts cold, and ignore the previews and semi-finals. This method of checking the betting has, to my knowledge, never worked.

More Secrets of the Vatican Revealed

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Thanks to Bodgieman for his comments on touring the Vatican; in particular, for his reminiscence of the time he “stole a brown plastic coffee cup from the restaurant /bar on top of the dome at St Peters”. The most shocking thing about this revelation is that there’s a restaurant hidden away in the top of St Peters. I had no idea. It sounds like the sort of thing the British would do in St Pauls.
I haven’t been inside St Pauls yet, because I hear they charge admission. Mind you, they charge admission to go up in the dome of St Peters, which is why I didn’t find out if there really is a bar up there.
On the plus side, the toilets at St Pauls are free, although they use a cheap type of toilet paper you can see your reflection in.
The Bodgieman also accurately notes that “it wasn’t like tv at all where there is commentator and no-one else”. Actually, every time I watch one of those programs where some historian is happily flitting about the Sistine Chapel all to himself, I wonder about all the pissed-off tourists outside who took their one chance to see the place only to discover it’s closed for filming a poncey TV show.
Sometimes, the presenter and camera crew aren’t quite so alone as they would like you to think. I’ve already mentioned the time my visit to the Tate was thwarted by a TV crew butting in every time I’d found a nice painting to contemplate.

Pause

Wednesday 21 January 2009

The Stockhausen: Total Immersion post is finally ready, immediately below. This blog won’t be updated again until the end of next week, so in the meantime please entertain yourselves with this innovative example of Australian TV continuity from the Good Old Days:

Howdy Ho!

Monday 12 January 2009

I’m back. Sorry I haven’t updated the blog much lately but I’ve been busy what with finally getting to see the Rothko show at the Tate and gathering gossip about the impending Stockhausen gig at the Barbican, as well as preparing some new music webpages and oh who am I kidding I’ve been watching darts all weekend.
This year’s champion is the splendidly-named Ted Hankey, who made a comeback after losing it at the oche last year when Aussie Simon Whitlock’s weapons-grade mullet mesmerised him into punching the dartboard. Ted attributes his renewed success to a rigorous training regime of cutting down from ten pints before a match to three. I’m not making any of this up. Looking at his photo, it’s scary to think he’s only a year older than I am.

In case you’re worried, he’s saying “Tea Tree Plaza”.

Sunday 10 August 2008

Things are going to be quiet around here for a week or so. In the meantime I’ve opened space for advertising, so please enjoy this infomercial from the blog’s new sponsor.
If you’re in Adelaide I heartily endorse the services of Joseph’s Beauty Centre, although I think they now only have the one branch on North Terrace.

Welcome to the Belgrade! Let’s Get Crazy! Eurovision wrapup 2008

Sunday 25 May 2008

It was a quiet Eurovision night at home in the Bunker, what with the girlfriend being ill and trying to cough up her pelvis. The codes in brackets refer to the drinking game tally.
The broadcast itself began with a long, long apology from the BBC; not for last year’s Eurovision, nor the televised competition to pick the UK’s Eurovision entrant, but for last year’s UK Eurovision nomination contest. The apology was a lengthy explanation of what happened to the money viewers were charged to vote by phone, regardless of whether their votes counted or not. No apology was forthcoming for sending Scooch last year.
Thus the evening began with us feeling a little confused and depressed. That Serbian woman who won with that uncannily forgettable song last year came on and immediately caused confusion among the drinkers at home by launching into a number which seemed determined to combine every Eurovision cliche into a single, ungodly monad. Debate raged over whether her BF, DKC and ITE counted for drinking points, given that the competition hadn’t actually begun yet. I’m not sure if the sturdy woman in the suit with the butch haircut surrounded by women dressed half-and-half as bride and groom (split lengthways) was trying to tell us something.
Drinking officially began when the two hosts appeared and immediately pulled a double-Viktor by kissing each other, with a lengthy, stilted explanation about how Serbia is all about Love.
Romania: Again, a slightly confusing and depressing start. Nico and Vlad are not the singer and piano guy, as it first appears. After about a minute of dreary ballading, they suddenly have a rethink and turn into a dreary Wayne-and-Wanda style Andrew Lloyd Webber duet sung flat with a previously hidden woman, who is more likely Nico than Vlad.
United Kingdom: For a British entry I didn’t mind this too much. Of course, I liked it a lot better eighteen years ago when it was sung by Madonna and called “Express Yourself”, but the canny Brits have figured that because most of eastern Europe is still musically trapped in 1989 this inferior imitation will get them some votes (ha!). The woman singing backing vocals seems to be really playing her electric guitar, even though its not plugged in and no guitar can be heard in the music.
Albania: A solo diva surrounded by three acrobatic guys is this year’s White Suit. Accessorise with a fierce headwind and voila! Instant Eurovision act. (DKC)
Germany: Four hard-ridden hookers from Hamburg dress and sing ugly to try to distract punters from their treetrunk legs. (SR)
Armenia: Another wailing woman cribbing from Ukrainian tribal pop. All that’s missing is a couple of fake drummers on stage. (CR, SR)
Bosnia & Herzegovina: I’m sure these two countries were hyphenated last year; don’t tell me they’re going to separate too. This is the Eurovision we come to see: completely batshit insanity. A gurning leprechaun of a man and a mad woman with an afro run around a clothesline bellowing tunelessly at each other while veiled women in wedding dresses stand behind them knitting furiously. They know they’ve got a lock on the Balkan vote, so they must be taking the piss, surely?
Station break 1: LET’S GET CRAZY WITH A SHOUTY WOMAN WHO CAN’T SPEAK ENGLISH INTERVIEWING OTHER PEOPLE IN THE CROWD WHO CAN’T SPEAK ENGLISH!!! FUN TIME!!! SERBIA IS LOVE!!!
Israel: You couldn’t half tell from looking that the Israeli broadcasters have decided that Eurovision entrants must have done time in the Israeli Defense Forces. It was presumably their idea to have it sung in Hebrew too. It may or may not have been their idea to make it as grey and dull as possible.
Finland: Metal is the new pop! It worked for them two years ago, so this is obviously as long as they could wait without seeing if lightning will strike twice. Metal + Eurovision should be a natural combination, when you think about it. The only fake drummers for the night, complete with battle axes. My girlfriend thinks the lead singer is “dead sexy”, but that might just be the wind machine he’s singing into. (2CR, DKC, WM)
Croatia: A mime-woman on a Lazy Susan tries to put off an old man and a really old man called – get this! – 75 Cents. Ha! Later she pretends to play a solo on what appears to be a set of bottles partly filled with blood, which are presumably on hand if Mr 75 needs a transfusion to get through the song. Later the old guy pretends to do some scratching on a wind-up gramophone for no reason whatsoever. (2WM)
Poland: At last, a white piano. And a forgettable power ballad from a diva who looks like a former footballer who decided he wanted to be Agnetha Faltskog, wearing a dress meant to show off her tits but instead makes her look chunky. So linguistically confused she may lapsed into French by the end, we’re not sure. (ITE?, SR)
Iceland: About time there was a Eurotrash House Anthem, so 1990 you could sing along without having heard it.
Turkey: Rather than trying to catch up with the rest of the world, the Turks decided simply to wait until all indie rock sucks as hard as their own bands do. That time has arrived. (ITE)
Station break 2: OMG BOTH HOSTS HAVE CHANGED OUTFITS THIS LOOKS LIKE A NEW TREND. THEY CROSS TO TWO SHOUTY PEOPLE BACKSTAGE WHO CAN’T THINK OF ANYTHING TO SAY, SO THEY SHOUT IT!!! SERBS WORK SEVEN DAYS A WEEK!!! (2WC )
Portugal: This would be the Toilet Break Song except the singer’s fat, which means you want to stay around and watch what might happen. I don’t know how that works. She has purply hair and looks like a goth chick who’s had to dress up nice for dinner at a restaurant with her family for Mother’s Day. (CR, DKC)
Latvia: They are Pirates of the Sea! Unlike those other types of pirates. Except the biggest pirate, who looks like Geoff from Accounts Payable who was brought in at short notice and had to grab the last pirate suit in the hire shop. Apparently being a pirate consists of jumping around to bad techno while singing “With a hi-hi-ho and a hi-hi-hey, we’ll steal the show, Jolly Rogers go!” I wish I was making this up. Where’s Adam Ant when you need him? (DKC)
Sweden: This was just last year’s song again, only with a scary stick woman instead of a MILF, struggling without the aid of a wind machine. All these 90s disco anthems are going to be back in style soon.
Denmark: Having read one too many Andy Capp comics they think they’re English, in the same cute/grotesque way that dogs sometimes think they’re people. (DKC)
Georgia: Two more mimes on Lazy Susans (no mime should be without one!) It’s grim out east, judging by this dirgey song sung by a tense woman who wears sunglasses and stands rigidly to attention, either because she’s blind or repulsively hung over. They change clothes under a tarpaulin, and generally sweat and strain to little effect. (BF)
Ukraine: Another tanned diva surrounded by acrobatic guys. That little head-jerking thing they do should be the next big thing in discos. Amazingly for Eurovision, the dancers seem to have rehearsed and manage to keep it together for the whole three minutes. (SR)
Station break 3: OMGWTFBBQ TWO COSTUME CHANGES AGAIN!!! IT IS SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO!!! (2WC)
France: They’re trying very hard to look like they don’t care, with male and female backing singers wearing fake beards and shades, while the bearded and shaded Sebastien Tellier rolls up a little late in his golf cart, dicking around with an inflatable globe of the world. Here we see why genuine, living, breathing pop singers like Tellier don’t do so well in Eurovision. His casual rapport with the audience gets lost amongst the choreographed glitz, and the cameras, used to tightly controlled stage routines, kept getting lost, treating viewers at home to random shots of his feet, a blurry arm, the floor. (ITE, LKW)
Azerbaijan: Operatic emo, complete with castrati angels and goth devil princes! They really throw themselves into it, showing the Georgians what a Caucasian backwater has to do to get noticed around here. (BF, ITE)
Greece: Another would-be diva surrounded by three acrobatic guys, although it sounds like a lot of the vocal work is being covered for her by the singers shoved ignominiously to the back of the stage. It seems a bit unfair.
Spain: OK, Spain has really given up caring about Eurovision and decided that if people are going to keep voting for crap, they’re going to get their faces rubbed in it. Some joker with an Elvis wig and toy guitar presents the Macarena’s retarded brother, with the assistance of four clumsy women wearing what seem to be, from a distance, gumboots. It feels like it goes on for about 10 minutes. You can hear all the atmosphere being sucked out of the room, the crowd get the message and start booing. Job done. (TaTu, ITE)
Serbia: The Toilet Song, two years in a row! (2CR)
Russia: Maybe eastern Europeans are really into dull, anguished ballads right now, because here’s another mopey git with no shoes and a friend pretending to play the violin with a fake emotional intensity rarely seen outside of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Then Randy Quaid appears and starts ice skating and the mopey git unbuttons his shirt. Yes, ice skating. The barefoot git is standing on the skating surface which may or not be real ice, so perhaps this is one of those Slavic toughness contests you hear about every now and then. (WM)
Norway: “Why ain’t anybody loving me?” moans this hyperventilating sad sack. It’s a woman, in case you care.
The voting: Another costume change for both the male and female hosts. (2WC) Rather than stage any elaborate half-time show, the Serbs just plonk a local wedding band onstage to do their thing until the votes are fixedcounted, which is actually a wise decision as they’re pretty enjoyable and no-one’s paying too much attention anyway. When they finish, the hosts reappear. Only the woman has changed her dress again (WC) and she barks a propos of nothing “That’s an unforgettable moment.”
OMGOMG THE SHOUTY PEOPLE ARE BACK THEY HAVE NOTHING TO SAY AND THEY ARE SAYING IT AND THAT IS EUROVISION!!! THEY MAKE A BIG DEAL OF INTRODUCING SOMEONE CALLED MR STOCKSELIUS!!! ROCK ME STOCKSELIUS!!!
Mr Stockselius peers over the top of his computer screen and announces to the world that “voting is the most exciting part” of Eurovision.
Everybody votes for the same people they vote for every year and the country with the biggest ethnic diaspora and most neighbouring countries dependent on oil and gas supplies wins. The bright spot of the evening was the return, after several years’ absence, of the generally incompetent announcers. They had been much missed.
The woman from Portugal felt compelled to stop and give a shoutout to the friends she made at last year’s Eurovision, and was given the hurry-up by the hosts. (2HU) The Czech announcer made a hash of announcing the votes (they only have to name three countries now, instead of ten like in the old days. How hard can it be?) and started corpsing. (2SS) The Swedish guy was quite obviously pissed.
MEANWHILE BACKSTAGE THE SHOUTY MAN HAS THOUGHT OF SOMETHING THE VIEWERS MUST BE TOLD!!! “SOMEBODY’S GOING TO WIN TONIGHT!!!” HE ANNOUNCES!!! THE RUSSIANS ARE OVERJOYED THEY GOT VOTES FROM BALTIC COUNTRIES WITH 40 PERCENT ETHNIC RUSSIAN POPULATIONS!!! (SF)
The woman in Denmark is also a little tipsy and tries to sing the chorus of her country’s song, but even she can’t remember it. The announcer from Montenegro gets booed by the live audience in Belgrade. Russia wins and lots of nothing happens, the camera panning aimlessly around an empty stage while the end credits music for Mario Kart 64 plays on a loop in the background.
Finally the mopey Russian guys and their figure-skating buddy appear. “You have to receive the flowers,” the lady host barks at them. Mopey git takes off his shoes and sings again while the credits roll.

Eurovision 2008: the pre-game warm-up

Friday 23 May 2008

The semi-finals for the Eurovision Song Contest are over, with the final happening in Belgrade tomorrow evening. What I didn’t realise about the newly rejigged semi-finals is that the selection of competing countries isn’t completely random: the Baltic and Balkan states have been deliberately split between the two heats so that they can’t all vote for each other. Even Greece and Cyprus have been kept apart to stop their annual round of mutual gratification.
The most shocking result from the semis was the elimination of Dustin the Turkey, the singing Irish puppet superstar with the self-referential song “Irland, Douze Points”. I guess that’s the penalty for not taking Eurovision seriously. And not being from eastern Europe.
After going to the trouble of pointing out the most likely losers to watch, the odds have now changed. The United Kingdom is running third least likely to win, with Germany now with the longest odds, behind Albania. The German song is “Disappear” by No Angels. Move over Elvis, move over The Beatles:

Their success story to date remains unique in the world of music and impressively illustrates that no one should underestimate girl power…

Previously, in Eurovision news:

Countdown to Eurovision: Meet the Losers

Tuesday 20 May 2008

The betting has, theoretically, been thrown wide open this year, as the top-scoring countries from last year no longer get a free pass into the Eurovision final. This means everyone has to compete in the semi-finals for a place; except of course last year’s winner (Serbia) and the four countries which pay the most fees each year to the EBU (France, Germany, Spain, the UK).
The entrant with the longest odds of winning this year is plucky little Montenegro, with the 150-to-1 toe-tapper “Zauvijek Volim Te (Never Forget I Love You)”, sung by Stefan Filipović:

Stefan Filipović was born in Podgorica, on 18th January 1987. He is a student of the Music Academy in Cetinje, but he is into music industry since the age of seven. He participated in many musical contests as a child, in Montenegro and abroad, and he even won many of these contests and festivals, as the songs he was presenting became instant hits.

Unfortunately, the Eurovision website doesn’t offer a translation of the song lyrics, possibly because the subtleties of Montenegrin poetry are untranslatable:

Ponoć nad gradom kuca
Ja ne znam gdje si ti
Srce od ljubavi puca
U praznoj postelji!

Tuga mi pjesme piše
Dok suze padaju
Jastuk na tebe miriše
A dugo, dugo nisi tu!

If you thought Stefan’s biography was quaintly phrased because it was submitted in English by the Montenegrins themselves, then check out the elegant panegyric for the longest-odds entrant guaranteed a place in the final, the 66-to-1 “Even If” by (surprise!) the United Kingdom’s X-Factor loser Andy Abraham:

Andy is a man of mass musical talent, personal integrity… a family man. Andy is a songwriter. A man who has braved and exceeded all expectations and media obstacles over the last four years. Andy is a man who has dealt with the media spotlight with such personality that he has been dubbed the “man and voice of the people” Andy has sold half a million records in less than two years. Andy Abraham is a man of the people. There are no airs and graces. A man who has nurtured his vocal and writing talent for many years and now, on his own terms is set to move on to the world stage. Andy is the UK’s chosen representative at the 53rd Eurovision Song Contest in Belgrade, Serbia.

Judging by the grasp of language on display, it was probably written by the same people who wrote his lyrics, who – hey! – include the man and voice of the people who is a man of the people, Andy himself:

Your [sic] keeping me fascinated
No I ain’t running all over town
I feel so intoxicated
I’m struggling to keep
My feet on the ground
I’m not playing girl
This ain’t no game at all
And for the first time
I’m not looking for love
So come here baby
Listen to me
I just want cha
To believe me

The Eurovision Song Contest Drinking Game, 2008 Edition

Sunday 18 May 2008

People have been googling for it, so here is the 2008 edition of the Eurovision Song Conetst Drinking Game rules. After last year’s success, there aren’t very many changes needed to get this down to a science. Unless they change the voting again.

Phase I: The Performances
A. Every instance within a song:
I.A.1 The Dramatic Key Change. Whenever the singers dramatically shift up a key for the final chorus(es).
I.A.2 The Bucks Fizz. Whenever performer(s) sheds a piece of clothing – once only on every instance, whether executed by an individual or as a group. Finish your drink if the clothing loss is obviously unintentional.
B. Once per song only:
I.B.1 Is That English? Whenever someone notices that the singers have switched from their native language into English in an attempt to win more votes. Two drinks if they try to dodge the language issue by intentionally singing gibberish.
I.B.2 The Fine Cotton. Any appearance by mercenary singers flown in to represent a foreign country. Two drinks if they’re Irish.
I.B.3 Las Ketchup and the Waves. A country drags a legitimate, real-life one-hit wonder out of obscurity in the hope that name recognition can buy them some points. This is additional to I.B.2 the Fine Cotton.
I.B.4 The Cultural Rainbow. Every time an entrant blatantly rips off last year’s winning performance. Finish your drink if last year’s winning country rips itself off.
I.B.5 The Wandering Minstrel. Unless it’s a solo guitar or piano, Eurovision insists on backing tapes. It’s in the rules, so don’t accuse some entrants of cheating; but take a drink if performers pretend to play a musical instrument (or simulacrum thereof) in a blatantly fake way, as part of the choreography. A second drink is permitted if a subsequent, different wave of faux-minstrely rises after the first has subsided.
I.B.6 The TaTu. Finish your drink if the audience boos (on the telly, not in your living room.) Let’s hope this year’s crowd in Serbia isn’t as surly as the Greek Tragedy of 2006.
I.B.7 Don’t Mention The War. The German entrant sings something about everyone being happy. In the past few years it seems that I.B.7 has been supplanted by I.B.8…
I.B.8 Don’t Mention The Wall. The Israeli entrant sings something about everyone being happy.
I.B.9 My Lovely Horse. Any obvious indication that a country is deliberately trying to lose, to avoid budgetary/logistical problems of hosting the event next year.
PHASE I ADVANCED PLAYERS ONLY:
I.B.10A The San Remo. Any occurence of visible armpits and/or pointing at nothing in particular. Two drinks for a hairy armpit.
I.B.11A The White Suit. You’ll know it when you see it; and you’ll know it again when you see it again, and again…

Phase II: The Voting
II.1 The Wardrobe Change. Each time the female host changes frocks. Two drinks if the male host changes suits.
II.2 The Gimme. When Greece gives twelve points to Cyprus.
II.3 The Old Europe. When the UK gets null points from France.
II.4 The New Europe. When the Baltic or Balkan states all give each other twelve points (may be relegated to advanced rules only).
II.5 The Sympathy Vote. When anything sung in French first gets a point, and/or the last country without any points finally gets off the mark. A special toast to any country left with zero points at the end.
II.6 The “Viktor, You Very Unattractive Fellow.” Two drinks if the hosts speak in rhyme and/or pretend to flirt with each other. Finish your drink if the flirting is serious.
PHASE II SOBER PLAYERS ONLY: The voting now moves along too quickly for most people to keep up with the following by this stage of the evening, but you can try.
II.7A The Hurry-Up. Every time the announcer from each voting country is politely asked by the hosts to shut the fuck up (“Can we have your votes please?”). Two drinks if the announcer tries to deliver a personal message to a relative watching at home.
II.8A The Sandra Sully. Each time an announcer reads the voting results wrong. Two drinks if they get so confused they have to start over.
II.9A The Sally Field. Each time they show contestants backstage during the voting looking genuinely surprised and pleased with themselves when they get the same politically-motivated votes they get every year.
II.10A The Master of Suspense. It looks like everyone’s figured it out now, so this hasn’t happened for a few years, but just in case: each time an announcer fails to understand that the pause for suspense only works if they announce the twelve points first, then the country that has won them – not the other way around.

The Wildcards
W1 A person must finish their drink if they ask: (a) why Israel is in it; (b) why Italy isn’t in it; or (c) where the hell is Moldova?
W2 A toast to the first person who expresses dismay when they realise how long the voting is going to take.
W3 A toast to the person who gets so drunk you have to secretly call a cab and persuade them they ordered it when it arrives.

Countdown to Eurovision: Could be worse, could be Des Mangan

Tuesday 13 May 2008

The Director of the Eurovision Song Contest, Bjorn Erichsen, came this close to catching a clue when he complained to the BBC this week that their choice of host is a “problem” which is undermining the contest’s reputation:

Terry Wogan is a problem because he makes it ridiculous. I know he is very popular, and maybe that is the reason why a lot of people watch… The BBC gets a very large audience but it chooses to represent the Contest in a certain way. They take it far more seriously in Sweden. They have a genuine love and respect for it.

Ah yes, it’s all Wogan’s fault that people think Eurovision is ridiculous. Apparently viewers in Sweden will be taking that singing Irish turkey puppet very seriously this year.
How dare Wogan make Eurovision a popular, high-rating show, and retain a huge viewing audience in Britain while ratings across the rest of western Europe have nosedived? What we really need is sober, introspective chin-stroking over “Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley“.

Countdown to Eurovision: Just when you thought Cliff Richard couldn’t possibly get any sadder…

Wednesday 7 May 2008

His faith may have guaranteed him an eternal reward in heaven, but that hasn’t stopped an unrealised desire from gnawing away at Cliff Richard for the past forty years. He’s still bellyaching over coming second in the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest.
But now, the hope of salvation is on the horizon*: the winning song, Spain’s imaginatively titled “La La La”, is accused of having won through vote rigging by Franco himself.

According to Montse Fernandez Vila, the director of the film called 1968: I lived the Spanish May, Franco was determined to claim Eurovision glory for his own country. The investigation, which is due to be broadcast shortly, details how El Generalísimo was so keen to improve Spain’s international image that he sent corrupt TV executives across Europe to buy goodwill in the run-up to the contest.

The two funniest moments in this report come when the 1968 Richard is referred to as a “starlet” (that can’t be right, can it?) , and that reference to “corrupt TV executives”. Apparently, duchessing is corrupt only when it is performed by TV executives, not by other businessmen, politicians, or Olympics officials.
* I know that phrase sounds meaningless, but it’s no worse than Sir Cliff saying, “I’d be quite happy to be able to say I won Eurovision ’68. It’s an impressive date in the calendar these days.” It’s a cheesy song contest Cliff, not one of your cheap, Portuguese wines.