Culture

Eurovision 2008: Part 1


ABOVE: Russia’s Dima Balin stunned to win Eurovision 2008.

Zeitgeisters,
As you know, the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) recap is always going to be long, but this year I have exceeded even my usual wordiness, so I have employed both mrtrivia.net and Mr Trivia’s Tract to contain this blog post’s bulging contents.

So there I was – after two nights of watching the semi finals of the ESC on the SBS, I was ready for the awesomeness of Eurovision 2008 live (delayed) from Belgrade, Serbia!

If you don’t know what Eurovision is – check the official Eurovision site, the Wikipedia and my last entry on this subject. In a nutshell, it’s a televised European song competition famous for making the Swedish pop group ABBA even more famous the year they won with ‘Waterloo’. Some people like it and think of it in a similar vein to the Sanremo Music Festival. But actually, it’s a glittering mountain of sparkling kitsch from foothills to its peak.

There you go – now read on.

For two nights I’d watched the semi finals and put up with the blatherings of the B-team BBC commentators who shall remain nameless. Now, we were at the pointy end and it was time to wheel out the finely judged ‘tude of Sir Terry Wogan. His cheery ridicule is always a highlight of the proceedings. His shtick is always the same. He’s trapped in a booth, reading poorly written and downright false publicity handouts while watching questionable filmed intros and terrible musical acts. All true, of course.

The opening act was last year’s winner, Serbia. This involved the owlish but rather good lead singer launching into an act of great energy and yet dreariness while behind her a dozen female dancers whirled around wearing a half-tuxedo/half evening gown combo. Yes, this is what we were here to see.

I blinked, or put the kettle on and now the dancers were fembots in crop tops. The song had changed also, but was no better. It seemed to have morphed from Serbian to a form of English. “Shiny crystal tear explodes…” that wasn’t right surely? “Tell me why pain is always waiting? “ Good question. I could still turn the channel.

But no.

Then our Serbian hosts appeared. The female host was Jovana, an accomplished handball player. This had been mentioned every night, so far. “She has a voice that can cut through oak,” Wogan murmured. Very true. Then she introduced her co-host Zelko who is a noted accordionist, apparently. He wore a shiny grey suit and spoke in French. Yeah, no matter what you say about the vacuousness of the ESC hosts, they always have to be able to speak French and English, the official Eurovision languages as well as their own.

Zelko and Jovana engaged in some empty banter, unfortunately this was in English so I understood every word. I zoned out and waited for the first act.

This turned out to be Romania.

01. Romania

Romania’s NICO & VLAD performed a slightly dull duet called ‘Pe-o Margine De Lume’. Vlad had missed a vital memo because he thought it was okay to show up in a suit-jacket and jeans. Nico made a little more effort in a sparkling sheath dress and matching peep-toe heels. The song improved a little and had a strong ending.

As you no doubt, know, there are four countries that stump-up most of the money for the ESC. France, Germany, Spain and UK. They are to Eurovision what the Security Council is to the U.N. They make all the big decisions. They are automatically in the finals and don’t have to go through the public voting process of the first two semi-final nights. Just like the U.N. Security Council.

02. United Kingdom

UK was the first of the Big Four acts. ‘Even If’ was their song and ANDY ABRAHAM was the singer. It was a slice of slick R&B pop. “That’s our best entry for years,” Wogan said enthusiastically. This would be one of his themes for the evening.

03. Albania

Zemrën E Lamë Peng’ or ‘Heart Trapped in Time’ was Albania’s entry. It was sung well by 14-year-old OLTA BOKA. She was one of several acts that chose the wind machine effect. This was not lost on Wogan. “Say what you like,” he said, “ but it isn’t easy to sing in a wind like that…”

04. Germany

Germany the second Big Four act and here, I believe this is where the cracks began to show in the ‘automatic inclusion of the Big Four’ concept. “Tightly corseted for your delight,” Wogan said, if only this had been an accurate description of their act. But tightly laced they weren’t. NO ANGELS was their name and they were attractive in a way that made you fearful about their musical ability. These fears soon proved to be justified by the flatness of their singing.

NO ANGELS was a Spice-Girls-esque group. They couldn’t move any better than they could sing and they had a very plodding number to sell. Consequently, the showbiz elements of their presentation had to work double-time; Lots of huge flares going off; The wind machine blowing back their diaphanous thingies dramatically. It wasn’t good.

A filmed insert appeared to introduce the next act. It featured a clown on a unicycle. “Marco is the most popular clown in Belgrade,” Wogan read out, unconvinced.

05. Armenia

Armenia’s entry was a piece of well-crafted ethnic pop by SIRUSHO. Hers was the first of three Shakira-type acts.

06. Bosnia & Herzegovina.

“This is rather special one,” Wogan intoned, “You’ll like this.” By which he meant that we wouldn’t like this at all. The song was ‘Pokusaj’ which means ‘Experiments’. Our man Sir Terry correctly identified the act as being knitting brides of Frankenstein and a loony with a clothesline. All too soon, exactly what this meant became clear as the alleged lead singer, LAKA, appeared out of a laundry basket. He wore a blue schoolboy blazer, quite irritating PVC pants and a narrow leather headband.

Laka’s style of presentation was rather fey – he probably imagined this would come across as adorable and winning, but he was something like 15 years too old to pull this off.

The brides knitted scarves. A housewife character danced with fierce enthusiasm. All the while Laka roamed the large stage like an aged toddler in need of a lie down. The housewife and one of the brides turned the clothesline around to face the audience. On the washing, on the underwear in particular, in large red letters, it said LOVE.

Oddly the crowd cheered like mad, rather than attacking these guys with baseball bats.Would Europe take a 40-year-old pixie to its heart? Only time would tell.

We crossed to City Hall in Belgrade. Another female host (not Jovana) was dressed in a strapless gold number and had “Eurovision” painted on her back. She had enthusiasm to burn. “LET’S GET CRAZY!” she screamed, “This is the World’s Greatest Party! Tonight Belgrade is the Capital of Joy. The Capital of Happiness. So Have Fun. RELAX!”

“I don’t know who she was or what she was doing here,” Wogan said, “But I like the cut of her jib.”

07. Israel

BOAZ was the shaven headed singer. He wore a silver waistcoat that showed off his guns. Boy band backing singers suddenly appeared from thin air, like a ghostly version of The Jets getting ready to rumble. The song, ‘The Fire In Your Eyes’ was well done, but not distinctive.

08. Finland

Two years ago, Finnish band LORDI surprised everyone by winning the ESC with a very metal number. This year another Finnish band, TERÄSBETONI attempted a heavy rock assault with ‘Missä Miehet Ratsastaa’. But despite looking scarier than most of the other acts… they didn’t really bring it. Wogan liked it, though, “There’s men,” he said, “I don’t know about you but I felt they could have used a bit of conditioner.”

09. Croatia

Croatia’s song was ‘Romanca’. It had everything, really. Violins. Accordions, A double bass. A girl dancing in a flowing red dress. The song itself was a quite passable piece of folk-disco or disco-folk.

Unfortunately, Croatia also had a fella called 75 cents. The act was, in fact, KRALJEVI ULICE & 75 CENTS. The idea, I think, being that 75 Cents, despite being a septugenarian in a white suit and trilby hat was still a rapper and somehow he was 25 cents better than America’s own 50 CENT. Or maybe the name just acknowedged that he was 75. He was clearly the oldest contestant of the evening. Imagine your grandfather getting drunk at a family gathering, shouting incoherently and waving his cane under your nose. This was the weird vibe they chose to channel.

10. Poland

This was one of the wacky, but talented acts. ISIS GEE was a blonde singer wearing a sparkling blue gown that was offset nicely by an orange tan. Her teeth were awesome; she had the whitest and most American dentition of the evening.

Gee’s singing style was Celine Dionesque, but her lines kept getting lost in her “up and downy” bits. (Melisma, anyone?) Hence my inaccurate rendering of the lyrics of her ‘For Life‘.

Because you are love in mind,
I will hear your call fall.
I have no choice –
Invade your car, day two of space,
We once knew it was foresight.

I put my motions away,
because your love is fine,
your burger in wine.

Hoo gah-hooo hoo,
augh weooo – wah.

11. Iceland

EUROBAND was Iceland’s entry and their song was ‘This is my life.’

The singer was an Icelandic Ant or Dec with a little gel peak in his hair. He sang and danced around a female singer. The number was 1990s electronica. Very energetic. Very Eurovision.

12. Turkey

Turkey’s song was ‘Deli’ which means crazy and this was sung by MOR VE ÖTESI. Imagine five accountants dressed in black suits with silver lapels. This was their look and feel. To begin with it was about as ‘deli’ as balancing a chequebook. Until about halfway through when they just kicked out the jams. Yep, seriously. Big cheers from the arena for these guys.

13. Portugal

VÂNIA FERNANDES. Six of them. Five dressed in white. Singer in black. It was balladic, then anthemic. Key change near the end. ‘Senhora Do Mar (Negras Águas)’ was the song and it was a bit too bland to cut through for the win, I thought.

14. Latvia

They were called PIRATES OF THE SEA and they sang “Wolves of the Sea”. Half a dozen folk, dressed like pirates. It was Aqua meets the Village People. It was a silly, silly song. “Pirates are all we can be!” they sang. Indeed.

15. Sweden

Wogan introduced this one by calling it a shimmering delight, “but a little bit frightening”. The scary element was the singer, CHARLOTTE PERELLI , a tall woman in a tiny silver dress, wearing killer heels. There was something extraterrestrial about her. Two female backing singers in little black dresses joined her. They were of this Earth and in seconds the three were lock-stepped in some quite good choreography.

Then a couple of male Geography teachers in blazers and turtlenecks joined in. Strangely, they too, knew the choreography. Not for the first time, viewers might have reasonably asked, why do the women of Eurovision have to attain a higher hotness standard than the men, some of whom are about as average-looking as your dentist. (Sorry dentists…come back!)

The whole thing ended in a crisscrossing of blue-lasers and possibly Tom Cruise being lowered by a thin cable from the ceiling in order to hack into Langley.

We were more than halfway through the songs. Had we seen the eventual winner yet?

End Part 1. Part Two continues here on Mr Trivia’s Tract.


ABOVE: Latvia’s Pirates of the Sea

0 thoughts on “Eurovision 2008: Part 1

  1. I cannot help thinking that it would be slightly better if each country’s competitor(s) sang in Esperanto.
    Take a look at http://www.esperanto.net

    Esperanto works! I’ve used it in speech and writing = and sung in it – in a dozen countries over recent years. Indeed, the language has some remarkable practical benefits. Personally, I’ve made friends around the world through Esperanto that I would never have been able to communicate with otherwise. And then there’s the Pasporta Servo, which provides free lodging and local information to Esperanto-speaking travellers in over 90 countries. In the past year I have had guided tours of Berlin and Milan in the planned language. I have discussed philosophy with a Slovene poet, humour on television with a Bulgarian TV producer. I’ve discussed what life was like in East Berlin before the wall came down, how to cook perfect spaghetti, the advantages and disadvantages of monarchy, and so on.

    What do you think?

  2. Interestingly, one of the criticisms of Eurovision in the past was that a country that sang in English had a better chance of winning. Not so sure that’s true anymore – would the Esperantovison Song Contest make the playing field more level? Very possibly.

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