If Norway's Alexander Rybak's win was "predetermined" like many recent pre-contest favourites, no-one could have predicted the landslide victory which followed. Juries and televoters, from every part of the continent, awarded maximum scores to "Fairytale" (apart from the foregone conclusion of the Bosnia-Croatia, Greece-Cyprus, Azerbaijan-Turkey, Moldova-Romania 12 point love-ins, to name the most significant). It wasn't just the "Nordic bloc voting" much derided by Terry Wogan over the years....it takes much, much more than that to win Eurovision these days.
The major change this year was the introduction of jury-televoting split, to save a contest which was losing the last little bit of credibility it had, thanks to the neighbour voting which had dominated/ruined the show (delete as appropriate) in recent years.
I think it worked.
It all started with 2008 winner Dima Bilan walking in the air, catching his jacket along the way (oops) and -points deducted here - miming to "Believe" whilst auditioning for "Hole In The Wall". All together now...."Bring on the wall!!" Nice chap though.
I grew to like those postcards featuring the Russian 'Miss World', she was very pretty wasn't she?
So on with the show....
- Lithuania: Sasha Son sang this very well, but he was a good singer in need of a better song.
- Israel: It was a little contrived but a nice idea nonetheless, and I didn't hate it.
- France: Patricia Kaas did what she did best, stood on a stage and was mesmerising for 3 minutes, although my mum didn't like this. Faithful travelling companion, a self-confessed Eurovision-phobe, broke the habit of a lifetime and watched the contest this year because Ms Kaas was there. Of course he voted for her. Quelle surprise!!
- Sweden next. For some reason it still left me cold, and the wonky vocals before the big finish didn't help, although there was that big note at the end. Mum: "there's something unsettling about her, isn't there?"
- Croatia: We both hated this. And probably still do. Mum: "Baloney. Chronic".
- Portugal: this on the other hand was just lovely, she was lovely, the very colourful flowery staging was memorable, and the song was very nice and cheerful.
- Iceland: A simple song, sung in a simple style, with virtually no gimmicks. The kind of thing which used to be enough to win Eurovision, from the days before the dance routines and the drumbeats took over. This wasn't my favourite Icelandic entry of all time, but credit to Yohanna for a nice performance anyway....and a fabulous result.
- Greece, and the understated performer that is Sakis Rouvas. Mum: "Is he miming?" This also still left me cold, and by the end of it I wished he'd got swallowed up by that giant stapler.
- Armenia: They would appear to be another one of those winners-in-waiting countries, although the visual impact of this - two girls looking like something from Camelot - outweighed the song in my opinion.
- Russia: in the "defending champions trying our best not to win again" trend (Sweden 1992, Ireland 1995 for example) here was a woman dressed in a towel, wailing a load of old rubbish.
A word at this point for the BBC's Graham Norton. Terry Wogan in his prime would have been a hard act to follow, but he had gone stale and past his sell-by date in recent years, and sounded as if he didn't want to be there. Norton did well in his first year: subtle, agreeable, funny - but respectful too. Eurovision fans would have found much to like here. Back to the songs....
- Azerbaijan: this had the Swedish "Boro Boro" guy on it so post-contest top 10 success and maximum radio airplay was assured. One more thing: faithful travelling companion was very impressed by AySel. Mum: "it's beauty and the beast!"
- Bosnia-Herzegovina: I thought this had top 5 finish written all over it, although 9th is still a pretty decent position. Passionate and emotional, but not in that forced, manipulative way which had maybe characterised Balkan entries in the past. I still love this and it's one of the very few songs from this year's contest which I still play.
- Moldova: I missed most of this as I was putting my potato wedges in the oven at the time. Her visual similarity to Shirley Clamp had escaped me first time round, but it was extremely obvious here. A novelty song which did better than I expected.
- Malta: Chiara yet again. Graham Norton: "She never met a Malteser she didn't like!!" A good singer, yes, but a duff song. She needs to be give something decent to sing.
- Estonia: We like!! Understated and extremely hypnotic, and well deserving of its 6th place. Glad to see them doing well again after a few off-years.
- Denmark: Tonight, Matthew, Brinck is going to be Ronan Keating! Although we liked this, we maybe had played it too much before the contest and had got a bit bored with it. Vocally he wasn't at his best, "a bit pitchy, dawg" as Randy Jackson might have said.
- Germany. Oh the shame of it. As I transferred my potato wedges (McCain Salt and Black Pepper wedges, the undisputed world champions of the potato wedge IMHO) from oven to plate, I thankfully missed most of it. A low point from beginning to end, and just when you thought it couldn't get any worse..."ladies and gentlemen, Miss Dita Von Teese".
- Turkey: to use an over-used word, dare I say "meh"? This was like Turkish-Eurovision-by-Numbers, and not in a good way. "For Real" it definitely wasn't, but a top 5 placing was guaranteed. Could do better.
- Albania: She was like a rabbit caught in the headlights, and we found it so interesting that we spoke all the way through it.
- Norge! Victory for Norway! He did enough, although those dancers continued to annoy me. I liked the stage set for this one though.
- Ukraine: I never thought we'd get anything cheaper than Deutschland tonight but here you have it. Me: "She's had 'work'". Mum: "And it's not made much difference". Top entertainment though if nothing else, and you'll remember the centurions.
- Romania: Yuk. This was one of our most hated qualifiers. Cheap, tacky rubbish. Possibly the worst song of the night, on a night with a lot of contenders for that title.
- Royaume-Uniiiiiiiiiiiii!!! Wow! Now you know I famously described "It's My Time" on here as a pile of mince, but on the night it was an excellently performed pile of mince and you could hear it being cheered throughout. Yes they milked the Lloyd-Webber factor for all it was worth, but 5th place wasn't bad going for the UK (a.k.a. "no one likes us") and may just have saved this country's Eurovision future.
- Finland: I'm glad they made it to the final, but for some strange reason this lost its impact for me on the night although it was still one of my favourites. Mum: "they could have done without the flame-throwers".
- Spain: After all the bother they go to with their elaborate qualifying process, this was the best they could do? They shouldn't have bothered, and I can't really see them hanging around Eurovision for too much longer.
So then there were recaps, and Dimitry (yum!) in the green room, and an interval act called "Fuerza Bruta" which was all water and art and swimming pools and was unusual and quite breathtaking. There was an interview with ALW who was very proud of Jade Ewen's performance, while Jade herself was also very euphoric. Sir Andrew commented before the voting that "it's a close run thing and not a shoo-in for us at all".
Despite what felt like 17000 countries casting votes, the voting skipped along smoothly and I had lots of fun identifying the jury spokespersons. Sadly no Bjorn Gustafsson for Sweden this year, but look! it's Sarah Dawn Finer! Duncan James gave the votes for the UK, DMGP host Felix read the votes for Denmark and finally....that sweet little package of Norwegian cuteness, Stian Barsnes Simonsen, delivered the Norwegian jury vote. How much would I love it if he hosted the semi-finals and/or the finals next year!!
Norway were runaway winners and earned the right to host next year's contest which will take place at the end of May in the Telenor Arena in Oslo. What we know is that Georgia will be back (I liked their Putin-bashing song and it was a sad loss to the contest when it was disqualified); whilst the Czech Republic have quit due to lack of interest.
The political nature of the ESC is well documented but recently took an even more sinister turn in Azerbaijan, as recent press reports stated that Azeri citizens who voted for arch-rivals Armenia were being taken in for questioning for being unpatriotic. Hey, it's only a song contest remember????
Whether you love or hate "Fairytale" you can't deny that it was a deserved winner, and its high placings in the charts across Europe - shock horror, it even made the UK chart - proved that it was also a very popular one. Thanks to the participation of established international acts (Patricia Kaas) and songwriters (Andrew Lloyd Webber) the contest's profile has never been higher, and I can only hope that this is reflected in better quality entries next year. It'll be no time till it's "on-season" once again....