Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer Rewind: Eurovision 2010

Two months ago, this year’s Eurovision Song Contest took place in Oslo, Norway. I realise that I hadn’t posted a full review - I thought of writing one, but given the time that’s passed since the event I decided instead on an "edited highlights" package of the two semi-finals and final, accompanied by a few pictures courtesy of http://www.eurovision.tv/.

So here, finally, is the EuropeCrazy guide to the good, the bad, the ugly (and the completely bonkers) of Eurovision 2010.

THE GOOD:

Well, how about the winner for starters? In recent years I haven’t always agreed with the winning song, but two months on, "Satellite" still makes perfect sense as the winner. It's such a catchy, contemporary commercial song - written by an American/Danish songwriting team - which still sounds great on the radio, and proof that the Eurovision Song Contest has reinvented itself for the 21st century. Of course I listen to Swedish radio stations, which are not ashamed to play the song. (Unlike British radio. Which is another matter entirely.)



Germany's win was a highly significant one - they're one of the 'Big 4' who haven't always done so well in the televoting era where certain countries have benefitted from the alleged neighbout/diaspora vote. Like last year's "Fairytale", "Satellite" simply appealed to the voters all over Europe. Lena Meyer-Landrut didn't need gimmicks, stupid choreography or novelty clothes - just a young girl in a plain black dress, dancing around in a geeky-charming way :) In other words: the triumph of simplicity over hype, even if the song already had over 3 million views on YouTube prior to the contest.

However, Germany needs to rethink its plan to have Lena defend her title next year - I don't think she should compete again, as the novelty will have long worn off and they will just end up with egg on face :(

After the shrieking screamers we’ve had to put up with in recent years, 2010's presenters Erik Solbakken, Haddy N’jie and Nadia Hasnaoui (pictured below in the semi-final) were calm, capable and professional, Erik, the man with the, um, interesting hair, also proved he had a sense of humour in some of the green room snippets (the Serbian comedy-wig and then on Thursday the Lithuanian glittery pants, for example!); Haddy was an elegant co-host and Nadia brought a sense of authority to the voting.

The postcards were quite nice this year - with the country maps generated over the audience and the flash-mobs in various capitals.
The interval act wasn't the usual band of folk dancers etc but came up with a genuinely new twist - audience participation all over the continent in one of the biggest flash-mob dance routines ever! Of course Madcon's 'Glow' - the song which accompanied the interval act, has become a pan-European hit, outwith our own pathetic ESC-hating country of course.

But what about the songs? Two months on, how many of them am I still listening to? By the way these are in no particular order.

Estonia continues to be one of my favourite ESC countries and you never know what you’re going to get from them from one year to the next. After last year’s spellbinding Urban Symphony, 2010 gave us Malcolm Lincoln with the unique and very un-Eurovision "Siren". We loved it, and I still play it despite its failure to qualify to the final.


In a horrific first semi-final, along came Belgium’s Tom Dice to save the night. "Me and My Guitar" was greeted warmly by the audience both in the semi-final and final; and young Mr Dice came across very well on screen with a charming performance of a nice, straightforward song with no gimmicks, which at least deserved its 6th placing in the final. And he had taken my advice to lose the hat :)

Despite the volcanic ash which sabotaged so many spring holidays this year, Europe didn't punish Iceland, although Hera played a little green-room visual joke! My mum was impressed with Hera’s voice, (even if the tent-styling was, again, not a good look). This may have been one of 2010's more traditional Eurovision entries, but it was also one of the best.

Romania's "Playing With Fire" was a potential winner in my eyes and totally deserved its 3rd place. Paula Seling and Ovi were just great - he's so talented, and she looked amazing in that catsuit!! Love the song - it still gets a lot of play on my iPod.

Turkey may only have to turn up at Eurovision these days for a guaranteed top 5 place, but maNga delivered something completely different from the usual Turkish fare. Could have done without the unnecessary background drilling robot woman and excessive flashing lights though.

What more does Switzerland have to do, to get to a Eurovision final? Golden boy Michael sang a good song well. I could see them withdrawing like their neighbours Austria - that would be a real shame.

I was delighted to see the Cyprus entry reach the final -although it was very unusual this year as they were represented by Jon Lilygreen and the Islanders, a very good young Welsh singer and a group of musicians from, well, all over the place! I'd liked to have seen them do better, but maybe this was cancelled out by the Belgian entry which was in a similar style although a better song.

THE BAD:
The truly horrific entries which didn't make the final - Slovenia's folk/rock hybrid - as the young folks say, OMG, (and indeed, FFS); FYR Macedonia's shockingly sleazy non-song; Poland's dramatic death-by-headlock detracting from a theatrical mess; Latvia’s song - even more horrific than the Finnish drunk-wedding-song which preceded it - sung by Aisha in a dressing gown and high heels, so not a good look. Only Mr God knows why this seriously off-key effort won the Latvian national selection this year. And then there was Sweden.

In semi-final 2, Anna Bergendahl took to the stage dressed up like a 9 year old in a little-princess costume for a fancy dress party, but the party was over. For the first year since Sweden began competing in Eurovision, they did not qualify for the final, and all the audience participation and glowstick-waving in the world couldn’t change that. "This Is My Life" is an incredibly dreary song, and got what it deserved. But will Sweden learn from this? Maybe. Or probably not.

But on the plus side, we got to see Eric Saade giving the Swedish jury vote!


Norway's Didrik Tangent-Thingy impressed in rehearsals but I felt he succumbed to serious nerves during his final performance of "You Raise Me Up", sorry, "My Heart Is Yours" resulting in a very poor final placing for the host country. At this point this is where we say they should have sent (delete as appropriate) A1/Alexander Stenerud/Bjorn Johan Muri...

Ireland: they may have sent previous winner Niamh Kavanagh, a very good singer, but you wait ages for a "You Raise Me Up" and then you get two in the one contest. No that's a lie actually: I wouldn't wait any length of time for a "You Raise Me Up" :)

THE UGLY:
Azerbaijan's 'by any means necessary' campaign to win the contest. That's all very well, but the rather dull song - "Drip Drop" - wasn't worth the trouble. Eliza Doolittle-lookalike Safura ran around in her high heels trying to up the drama, but it was just laughable.

The Azeris' arch-rivals Armenia overloaded their 'song' - a load of tosh about apricot stones - with all sorts of gimmicks going on behind the extraordinarily upholstered Eva Rivas (insert gag here about having a big future ahead of her). Aargh.

Belarus’ 3+2 and their unspeakably dull "Butterflies", accompanied for some strange reason by Swedish music legend, Mr Rhapsody in Rock himself, Robert Wells...and that gimmick of the butterfly wings on the dresses, and it rendered the whole thing a tacky mess.

THE BONKERS:
Jimmy Jump's finest hour, hijacking Spain's Daniel Diges-and-his-wonderful-hair-but-incredibly-annoying-song. Mr Jump subsequently went on to have yet another finest hour, this time after Spain's triumph at the World Cup Final. Here's Daniel and his circus act, sans Jump...

Lithuania's InCulto and their Eastern European Funk. God bless their glittery pants.

Serbia - who I'm enjoying a lot more these days since they dumped the Zeljko-dirges and stopped taking themselves so seriously. Milan Stankovic was hilariously off-key and entertaining, with his blond bowl-cut hair and all-round camp wonderfulness. Not much of a song though, but as a ‘performance’ it worked!


The Netherlands' relentlessly cheerful, defiantly old-fashioned "Shalalie" and their own definition of 'organ donation' :) ....and inevitably another year that they didn’t make it out of the semi final.

Here am I, whoa! Lost and forgotten. So what if Russia’s song was a joke entry, with all that knitwear and snow and throwing the photo to the wind, the EuropeCrazy HQ jury (mum and me) thought Peter Nalitch was extremely charming and the whole thing was very sweet.
And then there was....us.

After being very well-placed (for a change) at Eurovision 2009, the United Kingdom slipped back into more familiar surroundings in the final results table. i.e. bottom of the table. Yes, last again, with only Ireland, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Albania awarding points to this shamefully dated offering. I still refuse to blame Josh Dubovie, the young singer chosen to sing our entry this year. He was a lamb to the Eurovision slaughter, and all the fancy staging and Ani Lorak-style light boxes in the world won't be enough to take away from a very obvious fact.

The. Song. Was. Not. Good. Enough.

The blame must be placed at the door of the BBC, and the Pete Waterman/Mike Stock songwriting partnership. Excuse me, Mr Stock and Mr Waterman, but check your calendars. It's not 1989 anymore, and you're not writing Jason Donovan album-track-filler. And as for the BBC, they still view Eurovision in that 1950s/1960s/1970s bubble, all boom-bang-a-bang and old fashioned countries dressed in old-fashioned clothes, singing old-fashioned songs. They refuse to accept that Europe has moved on and is setting musical trends and embracing all kinds of musical styles. An example which this narrow-minded country would do well to follow.

Apart from that time-warp, it's easy to understand why this country will never do well at Eurovision again...and it is even more apparent, two months down the line. "Satellite" may briefly have graced the Radio 2 playlist, and the song limped in at no. 30 in our own UK top 40, then completely disappeared without a trace. Over in Europe on the other hand, the song either topped the charts or made the top 5 in 15 other countries. As long as this country remains so narrow-minded about Eurovision, and European music in general, Royaume-Uni will always remain at the bottom of the heap.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

"...I'm enjoying a lot more these days since they dumped the Zeljko-dirges and stopped taking themselves so seriously. Milan Stankovic..."

If you want to see Milan Stankovic (back in 2007) perform an upbeat Zeljko Joksimovic song, watch this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQvi0r9NYFs

Laura (EuropeCrazy) said...

Thanks - I'll need to check this out! Apologies to Zeljko, I was only basing my knowledge of his music on his Eurovision-associated entries to date :)

Rachel said...

Soooo much to say about this post,but I just find myself keep going back to that picture of Eric Saade...

Keira said...

Haha @Rach. Very good review Laura! I may not have agreed with everything you said, but enjoyed reading your thoughts. Overall I think it was one of the best contests in years. Well, at least since I started watching it seriously. Bring on Hamburg(?) 2011!

Laura (EuropeCrazy) said...

Rachel: I'll need to get more Eric Saade pics on the blog eh ?? :)

Keira: nice to have you back! Hope everything's ok with you at the moment.

Yes I'm excited about next year too, and hoping that I can actually review it at the time and not two months later!