Sunday, July 07, 2013

Eurovision Song Contest 2013: The Final - Malmö Arena, Saturday 18.05.13 - Only Denmark!

So, all these weeks later, I'm finally getting round to posting my review of the final :)

Two semi-finals completed, and now...we are one.

Such a cute opening, as that little caterpillar made its way around Europe, emerging into the Malmö arena as a beautiful butterfly, heralding the start of the grand final.  Oh look - there's Zlatan Ibrahimovic welcoming us all to Malmö.  The opening musical act is “We Write The Story”, the new Eurovision anthem, a collaboration bridging Sweden’s musical past and present, written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus with Tim Bergling better known as Avicii..  Talking of bridges, this year’s finalists enter the stadium on an overhead bridge, a symbol of the Öresund bridge - but don't expect Martin and Saga to turn up here :)  The  finalists cross the bridge, walking Olympic-style behind a flagbearer.  It’s a quite spectacular and awesome start and I don’t know why that type of entrance hasn’t been thought of before at ESC.

The Happy Meal box lanterns are still dangling from the ceiling and Petra Mede enters the stage dressed in pink. 

Graham Norton thought the postcards were banal, well I’d like to disagree – it’s nice to go back to the old days when the performers appeared in the postcards rather than these being tourism commercials for the host country. 

FRANCE: "L'Enfer & Moi" - Amandine Bourgeois.

I did agree with Graham though about Amandine's visual similarity to Courtney Love, although she also put me in mind of Tina Turner.  I liked her fringey dress.  First in the draw is certainly not an ideal position, but the former "Nouvelle Star" winner delivered her song with considerable oomph and passion, although she deserved a better song.  

LITHUANIA: "Something" - Andrius Pojavis.

Now, what kind of shoes is Andrius from Lithuania wearing?  One is called love, the other is pain apparently. Mum has just realised the lyrics of "Something" and she also decides he’s not as good tonight as he was in the semi-final.

MOLDOVA: "O Mie" - Aliona Moon.

Both in the semi-final and in the final, she has been impressive and a deserved finalist, although all the talk is going to be about that dress.

Mum: Is that dress made of plastic?  It must be very uncomfortable to wear.  She's getting taller by the minute.
Laura: As Alicia Keys might have put it, "This frock is on fire!"

FINLAND: "Marry Me" -Krista Siegfrids.  

Ah, the “controversial” one.  (Apparently TRT - Turkish TV- are not screening the final in protest at the same-sex kiss at the end of the song, which is yet another indication of the country's saddening slide into dictatorship).

M: She’s better than the song.
L: This is quite contemporary and I could see it in the charts. 
M: Gets a bit monotonous after a while though. 

SPAIN: "Contigo Hasta El Final" - ESDM.

Is Spain heading into another ESC slump?  Pastora gave it her all last year but once again, Spain is back in under-achieving territory with this unmemorable song.  It starts with bagpipes.  We hate bagpipes.  The singer in this band is a very pretty young woman in a yellow dress.  Her vocals are nervous and a bit ropey.

L: The wind machine’s going mad.  Hope she’s got clean knickers on.  This song is very bland and boring.
M: Are they a proper group?
L: Yes.
M: I don't like this much. 

BELGIUM: "Love Kills” – Roberto Bellarosa.

Choreography kills, that should be.  But in spite of all that, this song has remained in my post-ESC playlist and will probably grab a spot in my year-end chart.

M: Oh I remember him.  He’s a good singer.  Doing a very good job of it.
L: This is a cracking wee pop song. 

ESTONIA: “Et Uus Saaks Alguse” – Birgit.

Birgit is an attractive young woman and is several months pregnant.  She has a very nice voice, the Estonian language is lovely, but it's a very dated song. We spend the duration of it discussing Sweden’s obsession with wind machines in song contests.  It’s not Winny Puhh (love or hate them), is it?  Now that would have been an interesting choice for Eesti.  But you know who would have been an even better choice?

I'll give you a clue: O** L******.

BELARUS: "Solayoh” – Alyona Lanskaya.

Solay-oh, solay-oh, where the sun is always shining on ya. Presumably that's where she got the tan.

L: I have to say, I do like that shade of fake tan.
M: It’s one of those songs which we’ve heard a million times before.  

MALTA: “Tomorrow” – Gianluca Bezzina.

The good doctor Bezzina administers more of his feelgood musical medicine.

L: This is just a very nice, natural, charming song which is a change from a lot of the clinical and cynical stuff on show tonight.  I’d be very happy if this won.
M: Yes, just a nice simple song.

RUSSIA: “What If” – Dina Garipova.

One of those clinical, cynical attempts to win.  In the big finale, the backing singers chuck Valentina Monetta’s big leftover lightbulbs into the audience.

M: This is the type of song that could win.
L: Presumably “what if we stopped jailing innocent people” didn’t have as catchy a ring to it.  We then spend the remainder of the song discussing the Putin regime.

GERMANY: “Glorious” – Cascada.

Natalie gives it her all.  In those heels.  The dress is a bit more tasteful than her USFM-winning effort.  Yet it's still not quite the finished article and not the challenger to Denmark which it once promised to become.  There are timing issues and her vocals are not as strong as I thought they would be.  Will she come down those stairs?  Will she dare?  ...Yes.  She does. 

M: Look at those heels.
L: I wouldn't risk those stairs.
M: This sounds too much like everything else.
L: Last year's winning song, Euphoria, by any chance?
M: Yes, that one.

ARMENIA "Lonely Planet” – Dorians.

This one has been slaughtered in the fan community for daring to reach the final.  Yet I may be in a very small minority for thinking it's not actually too bad.  I explain to mum that it's been co-written by Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath.  She doesn't believe me.  Even Gor has the wind machine going, Some double denim and pyros going on.  They give a very solid performance of the song.  

Crash boom bang! It's Lynda Woodruff time!!  Her tour of Sweden culminates in Stockholm, mixing up the royal costumes at the Royal Palace with Abba's outfits with predictably hilarious results.  "Voulez-Vous! A-Ha!".  Of course it wouldn't be the last we saw of Ms Woodruff, (or her alter-ego) tonight.  

Petra on the Eurovision fans: "You haven't met the right girl yet!"  

NETHERLANDS: "Birds" - Anouk.

We sit in silence through Anouk's assured, less-is-more performance.  At the end I have a massive lump in my throat.  This would have been a wonderful winner, and would have been a major leap forward for the contest.  But it's maybe too understated for ESC and well, that's why birds don't fly I guess. 

Graham Norton: "In an evening of high-energy pop, that stands out".

From the sublime to the ridiculous....

ROMANIA: "It's My Life" - Cezar.

So how do you describe this?  It is, how shall I say, theatrical.  With male dancers who don't look as if they're wearing any clothes.  What's not to love?  He's even borrowed Aliona Moon's platform.  However, for me, this is a bit of a wasted entry.  Being the bitter old ESC purist that I am, I would have preferred more song and less clip-show freak-show fodder which plays into the hands of the "let's all laugh at Eurovision" brigade.

UNITED KINGDOM: "Believe In Me" - Bonnie Tyler.

Graham Norton's doing a maximum pimping job on our entrant this year.  But will Europe believe in Bonnie?  This is not the worst song we've ever sent to ESC, and the BBC have finally realised that 13 years after the Olsen Brothers, that giving the audience little lights to wave might enhance the performance of this swaying country ballad.  There's big cheers from the crowd at the beginning of the song, and I like the understated stagiing with the singing backing band, but unfortunately Bonnie's vocals often miss the mark and you get the feeling that the overwhelming impression in Europe is, "why do the UK always send singers from long ago?".  Bonnie takes to the catwalk and she ascends, Sarah Dawn Finer "Moving On"-style into the air on a raised platform, but on this performance I can't see her ascending over to the left side of the scoreboard this year.   

SWEDEN: "You" - Robin Stjernberg.

Sweden could have been looking at a very respectable top 10 placing if he had sacked the stylist and ditched the horrendous 'dancing'..  He's singing his butt off but any impact is being trashed by those silly dancers. 

M: I remember this one now, but as I said back then, it's too repetitive.  
L: The dancers and backing singers are killing off the chances of this by the minute. 

HUNGARY: "Kedvesem" - ByeAlex.

One of the most unlikely finalists in this year's line-up but still rather welcome.  This is different enough to make an impact and cashing in on the currently popular acoustic trend in music.  But he needs a makeover quickly.  

M: He never made much of an effort, he looks as if he's just come in off the street.  You need to dress up at Eurovision!
L: He deserves marks for being different though.

In recent years we have seen the rise of the "predetermined winner", the song which has gathered all the internet buzz.  That buzz has grown (although with some reservations) over recent weeks and after the triumphant staging of the next song at the semi-final, it entered the final at absolute favourite status.  I refer of course to....

DENMARK: "Only Teardrops" - Emmelie de Forest.

Emmelie is a very pretty young woman, in a natural way rather than in the fake, over-made-up 21st century style.  She has a very distinctive voice and a lot of potential.  As a song contest entry, this certainly makes sense, and it's a popular favourite with the almost-local crowd from the first notes of the penny whistle.  Although it would be a rather safe winner as opposed to, say, Norway or the Netherlands.

L:  This is, of course, going to win.
M: Then there's no point in watching the rest of the show then, is there?
L: (shakes head in despair).
M: I don't like this song, it's far too repetitive.

ICELAND: "Eg a Lif" - Eythor Ingi.

After the penny whistles, the drumming and the pyro-curtain of Denmark, this was simple, refreshing and rather spellbinding.  If it had been, say, the 90s, this might have done some serious damage, however yet again Iceland are waiting on the sidelines for that first big win.  

L: Iceland's one of my favourite ESC countries as you know. 
M: He's a very good singer, I prefer this to the last song (Denmark) but then I prefer male singers anyway. 
L: One day Iceland, one day!

AZERBAIJAN: "Hold Me" - Farid Mammadov.

He's very good, radiating both charm and vulnerability, and this is probably the best song they've ever sent to ESC.  But I still hate the ridiculous choreography of the gyrating man-in-a-box and then the woman in the big red dress comes on (no, not Esma), it must all mean something but the point of it totally escapes me.  Yet the staging also has the Believe-effect which will leave its mark on the voters'/juries' memories.  If we didn't know then what we know now, that would be my explanation of why the song did so well.  

L: Man in a box, woman in a red dress.
M: It must mean something but I don't know what.  

GREECE: "Alcohol Is Free" - Koza Mostra featuring Agathon Iakovidis.

This may not be to everyone's taste.  As the song goes - I don't care, I love it!  Because (a) it's catchy as hell, (b) I love a bit of ska, and (c) Greek men in kilts.  

M:  I still don't get this at all.  
L: Aww it's great fun!

UKRAINE: "Gravity" - Zlata Ognevich.

Mike Rafferty! Mike Rafferty!  As in the semi-final, the big giant bloke carries Zlata on stage, but, as in the semi-final, it's a rather pointless novelty trick.  Even though I don't like the dress, she looks incredible in it, and she is vocally perfect.  Yet the fact remains that I still do not rate this song at all.  However in retrospect I can understand its success: a highly polished and professional performance which obviously connected with the viewers/juries.  

M: This bores me to tears.
L: I don't get all the hype around this one.  Yes she sings it well, but it's not a song. The hand-snake movements annoy me.   

ITALY: "L'Essenziale" - Marco Mengoni.  

Marco is looking very lovely in a nice blue suit, making him one of this year's best-dressed ESC artists.  No Barbara Dex award for him, that's for sure.  Despite my initial reservations about his failure to make eye contact, to connect with the viewers, it's the only other performance of the night apart from Anouk's, which has really moved me.  The blue lighting is effective and the 'less is more' principle worked again.  

M: I love to hear songs in the Italian language. 
L: This is quality.  Although I still can't move on from Italy not sending Mi Servirebbe Sapere (all together now: "shut up Laura, you've made your point....!")

NORWAY: "I Feed You My Love" - Margaret Berger. 

There's something about Margaret....her stage presence makes this one of the best presentations of a song in this year's ESC, and despite the ice-queen persona, she does come across as incredibly approachable and likeable.  And then, of course there is the dress.

M: How does she sit down in that dress?
L: And how does she keep that figure?
M: I'm not so keen on this.
L It's one of my favourites this year. 

GEORGIA: "Waterfall" - Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani.  

No offence to Nodi, as I would like him to come back to ESC some day to represent Georgia on his own, but there is no natural chemistry between them.  Even Ell and Nikki were a more believable couple than these two.  And that's saying something. It's all too "staged" and tries too hard. And are they really singing "like I am sailing on a sea of cheese?" 

Oh, and when the key-change and the pyro-curtain comes in, I just want Pastora to come on stage and sing the final chorus of "Quedate Conmigo"...which of course was also written by a certain Mr G:son.  

IRELAND: "Only Love Survives" - Ryan Dolan.

Yes! It's a good draw position however the performance is lacking in something, and there were some timing issues.  It's as if he put all his energies into the semi-final.  I still hate those backing singers too.  A brilliant draw position but with so many of the strong contenders coming before him, it turned out to be a curse rather than a blessing, in retrospect.  The last time Ireland asked "Why Me?" in Malmö, they won.  Now they'll ask it again, for a completely different reason. As with Tooji last year, I just can't understand why this came last.

Recap time, and then the first interval act - the return of last year's winner, and the reason why the contest is being staged in Sverige this year: Loreen, with even more feathers than Dana International, performing her new song "We Got The Power" and then of course the iconic "Euphoria" which as a winner will be a very hard act to follow.

Time for another recap, and then a sketch poking fun at Swedish stereotypes, including a cameo appearance from the Swedish prime minister.  Of course in the UK, the BBC in its infinite wisdom decides to screen a VT of Bonnie's Eurovision week.

"Our people are cold but our elk are hot!" sings Petra on the overindulgent but enjoyable musical number which had Melodifestivalen written all over it.  "Swedish Smörgåsbord" was an extravagant chuckle at the expense of Swedish stereotypes, with cheeky lyrics which you could never have imagined in the Eurovision days of old.  Oh and there was also a same-sex kiss!  As someone wittily remarked, I think on Twitter, "you wait 10 years for a same-sex kiss at Eurovision then 2 come along at once!".  That and Petra's little 'dancing queens' remark ...SVT for sure knows its audience.  You wouldn't have got that in Baku then, would you?   Carola being blown off stage by her wind machine was inspired.  This has been an excellently staged final mixing technical excellence with warmth and humour.  Petra has also been a revelation as solo host and like Loreen, she will be a hard act to follow.  

But Petra hadn't finished causing offence.  Oh no..  For the next part of the interval act, she took us through the history of the ESC and it was one particular remark which got everyone talking, with her remark about Linda Martin, suggesting that she was Johnny Logan in drag - "I know a drag queen when I see one".  The resulting furore however didn't do Linda any harm, culminating in her performance on an Irish TV chat show of the song of the summer - Daft Punk's "Get Lucky"!

Eric Saade in the green room: "if anyone needs to pee....".  I actually found his greenroom antics rather hashtag-annoying, if I'm honest.  Jon Ola Sand hashtag-the-boss needing a few minutes to count the votes blah blah blah.

Now I'm really enjoying this contest but there is probably another hour to go which means it won't finish until 11.30 or thereabouts, and I will really need to grab a couple of hours sleep before leaving for the airport at 3.30am!  In the meantime we have the final instalment of the interval act, with Lynda Woodruff's alter ego Sarah Dawn Finer (that's Finer, Mr Norton, not Fee-ner) singing The Winner Takes It All.

Let's get on with the voting!!

San Marino's jury spokesman is none other than UK ESC expert John Kennedy O'Connor.  12 to Greece.
Sweden's votes are delivered by Yohio: "Hej Stockholm!...and Malmö".  12 to Norway.
Albania - 12 to Italy.
Netherlands - 12 to Belgium. "There's only love between neighbours".
Austria - 12 to Azerbaijan.
UK - 12 to Denmark, who are now in the lead.
Israel - 12 to Azerbaijan.
Serbia - 12 to Denmark.
Ukraine - 12 to Belarus.  Jury spokesman Matias, whoever he is, is a rather odd chap.
Hungary - 12 to Azerbaijan.  They're picking up a lot of 12s....
Romania - 12 to Moldova.  This one writes itself doesn't it!!
Moldova - 12 to ....shock and gasps as it's not Romania, but Ukraine!
Azerbaijan - further shocks are to follow as the ex-USSR love-in misses one particular country, namely Russia, and the 12 goes to Ukraine.
Norway - Tooji is all suited and booted in Oslo, and still smiling as he gives 12 to Sweden.  Tack Norge indeed.
Armenia - now there's nothing worse than a former ESC contestant popping up as a jury spokesperson to remind everyone of the fact.  Step forward Andre, singing "Without Your Love".  The Armenia love is not going to Azerbaijan of course and it's 12 to Ukraine.
Italy - 12 to Denmark, who are developing a strong lead.
Finland - 12 to Norway.  Norway now in 3rd place.
Spain - 12 to Italy.
Belarus - 12 to Ukraine, who are now inexplicably in 2nd place.
Latvia - 12 to Russia.  Ireland are currently in last place, and the UK is as usual near the bottom of the scoreboard.  Graham Norton is sounding very weary.
Bulgaria - 12 to Azerbaijan.
Belgium - 12 to Netherlands.
Russia - Alsou, who represented Russia the last time Sweden hosted ESC, announces 12 to Azerbaijan.
Malta - 12 to Azerbaijan.  Even before the post-contest scandal I was beginning to smell a rat about all these 12s to Aze.  Back to B'ku next year?  No thanks.  If it's between Azerbaijan & Denmark then I hope the Danes win.
Estonia - well helloooo Rolf!  Can you please represent Estonia sometime if Ott doesn't do it again?  12 to Russia.
Germany - 12 to Hungary.
Iceland - 12 to Denmark.
France - 12 to Denmark.  After that little wobble a wee while ago, it looks as if ESC 2014 is taking a very short walk over that bridge.
Greece - 12 to Azerbaijan, who are now 2nd and Ukraine 3rd.
Ireland - well helloooo lovely Nicky Byrne!  12 to Denmark, the song which sounds like an Irish entry of old.
Denmark - 12 to Norway.
Montenegro - that grumpy Montenegrin woman was good value wasn't she!  12 to Azerbaijan.
Slovenia - 12 to Denmark.  Who, by my calculations, have now won it.
Georgia - 12 to Azerbaijan.
Macedonia - 12 to Denmark.

The Denmark butterfly logo is projected onto Petra's dress, and she announces "Only Teardrops" as the winner.  For the first time I can remember, a win is officially announced before all the votes have been delivered.  I thought this was a bit of a black mark on what was otherwise a perfectly staged contest, and a bit of an insult to Cyprus, Croatia, Switzerland and Lithuania who had still to announce their votes.

Cyprus - 12 to Greece.
Croatia - 12 to Ukraine.
Switzerland - 12 to Italy.
Lithuania - 12 to Azerbaijan.

So it's all over.  Emmelie makes her way to the stage across the bridge, you half expect Ant and Dec to be standing at the other side waiting to crown her queen of the jungle.  But it's not "I'm A Celebrity" but the Eurovision Song Contest, and the final ritual is the awarding of the trophy and the winner's reprise.  Emmelie and her "toy soldiers" give a well-drilled reprise of "Only Teardrops" which was the overwhelming favourite and a safe winner.  Knowing what we know now, about all the voting allegations involving certain countries "east of the Iron Curtain" as they used to say, it was perhaps for the best that an "old" Eurovision country in Western Europe took the title.  "Only Teardrops" is a winner, but is it really a "hit"?  Looking at the various singles charts across Europe, the song has initially done pretty well but doesn't appear to have had the longevity of its predecessor "Euphoria".  Here in the UK, it made a very brief top 20 appearance, entering the official chart at no.15 then completely disappearing again.  Emmelie is a very talented young singer with potential to have a long music career on her own terms, and her Eurovision win will certainly provide her with the means to do that, yet I doubt if "Only Teardrops" will be remembered as a classic winner.

I was very happy when it won DMGP, thought it was the right choice.  However, as the song contest approached, the notion of yet another "pre-determined winner" turned the whole thing sour for me.  The internet is a wonderful thing which has turned the Eurovision experience into a year-round treat for us all, but in recent years it has also spoiled any chances of a surprise victory.  It would appear that the voting public really are led by what they hear and what they're told.

Anyway well done Denmark!

By the end of it all, Graham Norton sounded jaded.  And I mean as jaded as Terry Wogan was in his final year before he gave it all up.  You shouldn't sound like this after, what is it, 5 years in the job?  Maybe the BBC should give the job to someone who really appreciates Eurovision!  But then when it comes to Eurovision, don't expect the BBC to pay any attention to good ideas.  I shudder to think who they've got in mind to represent us next year.... :(((

The Aftermath:

It’s not the winning, it’s the taking apart that counts.  The post-Eurovision analysis of voting patterns gets almost as much attention as the contest itself and there was added spice this year with the alleged SIMs-for-votes scandal.  There has always been allegations of skulduggery on the voting front over the years – even back to General Franco scuppering a Cliff Richard win in 1968 – but even if you don’t believe it, you have to wonder why such a relatively new country has consistently performed so well since its debut.  Why should Azerbaijan do so well?  Did Drip Drop and When The Music Dies really deserve such high positions in the voting?  And as for Running Scared… for me that is still one of the weakest winners of recent years.   The news that the EBU will not be taking its investigation into the allegations any further, does not surprise me in the least.  

Then there is the jury voting system, revamped further for 2013, in which all juries ranked all entries.  I’m not going into deep and meaningful analysis when there are other sites out there doing it much better, but suffice to say that this new ranking system has had a significant impact on the competition: songs placing highly in the televote are killed by a low jury ranking.  My head’s hurting from all this, particularly when the allegedly ‘transparent’ EBU dig their heels in and refuse to reveal full details of the split vote. 

So what's next?  Well, we wait for the announcement of the host city, which at the time of writing will either be Herning (Boxen pictured above), Copenhagen or Horsens.  But just one thing....please please please don't bring back Dr Death and the Tooth Fairy, and their stupid rhyming couplets.  Thankfully it looks as if Parken is out of the running - I didn't enjoy the 2001 contest from there, it was one of my least favourites of recent years.  But Denmark has come a long long way since then, and DMGP has become one of the best national finals in Europe - this year's was outstanding, so I have complete confidence that wherever it takes place, DR will deliver a great Eurovision Song Contest in 2014.

The final results

1. Denmark - 281 points
2. Azerbaijan - 234 points
3. Ukraine - 214 points
4. Norway - 191 points
5. Russia - 174 points
6. Greece - 152 points
7. Italy  - 126 points
8. Malta - 120 points
9. Netherlands - 114 points
10. Hungary - 84 points
J11. Moldova - 71 points
J11.. Belgium - 71 points
13. Romania - 65 points
14. Sweden - 62 points
15. Georgia - 50 points
16. Belarus - 48 points
17. Iceland - 47 points
18. Armenia - 41 points
19. UK - 23 points
20. Estonia - 19 points
21. Germany - 18 points
22. Lithuania - 17 points
23. France - 14 points
24. Finland - 13 points
25. Spain - 8 points
26. Ireland - 5 points

1 comment:

Todd said...

This is great!