Last year was my very first experience with the Eurovision Song Contest, and I was hooked immediately. It was so ridiculous and thoroughly entertaining. I have been looking forward to this all year long and it definitely delivered lots of great entertaining moments and a few full on nearly rolling off my couch belly laughs. I’m not sure what is the best part, how truly awful the songs are, or how political the voting system is.
If you aren’t familiar with the Eurovision Song Contest it is an annual event that has been running since 1956. Under the current platform the nations that fall under the European Broadcasting Area (which includes some countries outside of Europe such as Israel, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan) are eligible to participate and if they wish to, they submit a new original song. Every country has a different selection process. Some countries put forward their biggest stars and other countries now are creating reality shows to choose the act to represent their country.
This year there were 39 countries entered in the competition and there were two semi-final shows where all 39 entries were narrowed down to 25. Only 34 countries participated in the semi-finals as there are five countries which automatically get a spot in the finals every year. There are the “big four” countries who finance the contest so they are guaranteed a spot (UK, Germany, France and Spain), and the previous year’s winner/host country also gets an automatic spot. In the two semi finals shows 10 countries went through each night. I found it interesting to watch the semi-finals because the political nature of the contest is truly revealed in the semi-final when you see some great songs eliminated and some of the absolute worst go through.
The politics behind the Eurovision Song Contest are three fold. Obviously one contributing factor is the relationship different countries have with each other, and countries that don’t “get along” often won’t vote for each other. Also countries that have a great many expatriates living abroad all over Europe usually do quite well, citizens living abroad get around the “you can’t vote for your own country” rule and are able to vote for their own country since they are calling from outside its borders. Another factor is countries which are ethnically linked but are different nations, for example Greece and Cyprus always vote for each other and the republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro always vote for each other since in the past they entered together under the soviet “Yugoslavia” before the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and still share culture and media. Each country no matter how small has the same amount of votes to cast so many of these small countries that stick together end up doing very well.
I had a hard time narrowing down which songs I thought were the very best and which were the very worst. There were very few good ones, and an overwhelming amount of really diabolical ones. I’ll start with the good ones. I suppose I should include the winner, it wasn’t that bad but it certainly wasn’t my favorite.
WARNING: EXCESSIVE USE OF WIND MACHINES AND FLASHING LIGHTS
Germany- “Satellite” by Lena
I wasn’t crazy about this song, it was mind-numbingly simple and I also found it strange that this girl could speak perfect nearly unaccented English but her singing seemed to be heavily accented, which is fairly uncommon and it usually goes the other way around. Still, it is catchy and has a certain Kate Nash/Lily Allen quality to it so I think it was a good choice to win.
Belgium- “Me And My Guitar” by Tom Dice
I thought this guy was really good and has a good career ahead of him, he came in 6th place which was quite a good placement considering most of the top 10 got there based more on politics than song quality.
Ukraine- “Sweet People” by Alyosha
Okay, I admit this is a questionable choice and might not be your cup of tea. What I liked about it is that first of all, Alyosha has a really amazing voice, reminiscent of Amy Lee from Evanescence. I really liked that it wasn’t really cheesy like many of the songs often are and it broke far from the Eastern European “club anthem” format. It is a bit dark, but I think its a genuine effort (unlike the other “rock” entries from Turkey and Bosnia that seemed a bit forced) and something very different.
Serbia- “Ovo Je Balkan” by Milan StankoviÄ‡
This was by far the worst, and a perfect demonstation of how the former Yugoslavian countries supported each other and got their horrible songs into the final. Apparently this guy has a “cult following” and he actually placed 13th with this song.
Moldova- “Run Away” by Sunstroke Project & Olia Tira
Words can’t really describe this, but this is just marginally worse than all of the other Eastern European club anthems that made it into the finals.
Russia- “Lost And Forgotten” by Peter Nalitch & Friends
I just don’t get this, its a truly awful song. Nuff said.
Most Expensive Production: Azerbaijan- “Drip Drop” by Safura
On the surface it might look not all that expensive, but they brought in Beyonce’s choreographer JaQuel Knight to put this together. Also add to the tab her flashy light up dress, that light up staircase and other large set items. They spent into the millions of euros on this. I think it was a waste of money, JaQuel Knight must have been having an off day because this choreography definitely isn’t the same caliber as “All The Single Ladies”. This entry was the bookies’ choice to win, and ended up coming in 5th place.
Staying True to Culture: Armenia- “Apricot Stone” by Eva Rivas
Warning: This song will get stuck in your head! Its not the greatest song, but I like that they’ve got an 83 year old man playing a traditional Armenian instrument and the dancing and the song kind of tell a story that relates the the culture and heritage of Armenia. I never knew that apricots were so important to the Armenian people, so I learned something too!
Use of Props: Belarus- “Butterflies” by 3+2
When you first turn this on you will probably be wondering what on earth I’m talking about, just fast forward the video to about the 2:20 mark and you will quickly see what I’m talking about.
You might be wondering where the UK fell in the final results. Well, they came in dead last with only 10 points (Germany won with 246). I don’t blame Europe for not voting for the song, it was the most sickly sweet variety of bubblegum pop and the final performance was awful (the video below isn’t of the final, but still pretty bad). One of the background singers couldn’t seem to find the correct key and the headliner Josh missed some big notes at the end, he immediately commenced drinking glasses of wine as soon as his performance was over so I’m pretty sure he knew he didn’t have a chance.
United Kingdom- “That Sounds Good To Me” by Josh Dubovie